Actions

Work Header

Once and For Real

Chapter Text

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


I

Rachel Berry looks at her phone for the time again, and frowns in irritation that it's only been a minute since she last checked. She doesn't exactly have that long of a lunch break before she has to be back at the theatre for rehearsals, and she's already nervous as it is without her lunch companion being late.

Quinn texted a few minutes ago, letting Rachel know she was running behind schedule, but she's definitely on her way, which strangely makes Rachel feel that bit more nervous.

She's been second-guessing herself ever since the absolutely-crazy idea popped into her head while she was lying in bed a few nights ago. It's probably the most absurd idea she's ever had - which is saying a lot, because she's Rachel Berry - but she sees no other way.

It's worth a try, she thinks.

What's the worst that could happen, right?

Rachel checks her phone again and sighs. It's been only another minute, and she's irritated by her own impatience. Quinn is normally very punctual, and she imagines the blonde is equally distressed by her own apparent tardiness.

Seven minutes.

They're only seven minutes behind schedule.

Rachel senses the moment Quinn arrives, which is such a cliché. The restaurant almost seems to grow still the second Quinn steps through the door, and all eyes turn towards her. Rachel almost laughs at the way Quinn barely notices the effect she has on the room, looking thoroughly unaffected in her graduate school getup of dark jeans, green blouse, black boots and grey peacoat.

She looks wind-swept and completely stunning, and Rachel hates her a little bit for it. Rachel watches as Quinn's eyes search the crowd for her, and she just barely resists the urge to raise her hand. It would be juvenile, she thinks, and she's trying not to be too extra these days.

Rachel's traitorous heart skips a beat when Quinn spots her, her face instantly lighting up in both relief and excitement, and Rachel feels the instant envy directed her way. This blonde bombshell is here for her, and she can practically feel the judgment from the other patrons.

Quinn makes her way through the restaurant towards her, and she finds herself sitting up straighter in her chair. She smiles back at Quinn, because she can't resist. Quinn's smiles are dazzling.

"Hey," Quinn says when she's near enough. "Sorry I'm late." She moves straight towards Rachel, bending to give her a quick, potentially-awkward side-hug and brief kiss to the top of her head, before she settles into her seat opposite the brunette.

"It's okay," Rachel says, because it suddenly is. "Hi."

Quinn's smile is easy, almost happy. "Have you ordered yet? I know you said you didn't have a lot of time."

Rachel shakes her head. "I was waiting, though I did peruse the menu. They have a rather nice salmon dish."

Quinn frowns at her, her fingers lifting the menu that's at her side. "You're vegan, Rachel."

"For you, Quinn," Rachel says, rolling her eyes slightly.

Quinn's frown only deepens.

"I know you like salmon," Rachel says, flushing slightly; "and I thought the dish sounded good for you."

"Oh." Quinn gives her a curious look. "Well, thank you," she says. "I'll definitely consider it."

Rachel drops her gaze, and takes a sip of her water. It doesn't have to be awkward, does it?

Well, not yet.

Once they've placed their order - Quinn choosing the salmon and Rachel getting the vegetable paella - Quinn gives her an expectant look, clearly waiting for her to approach the topic of this lunch… meeting.

Rachel folds her hands in her lap, and forces herself to breathe. Quinn could say yes to her proposition, or she could say no.

No harm, no foul.

"So," Rachel starts.

"You said you had something to discuss with me."

"I do." She sips at her water again. "It's a little… out there, so I'm going to need you to have an open mind about it. I imagine you'll have questions, and I ask that you hold them until I've stumbled through my request."

Quinn just nods, waiting patiently.

"As you know, I've just landed the role of a lifetime," she says, and she's never sounded less than enthusiastic about her accomplishment than in this moment. Her awarding of the role has been… tainted, as it were, and that's still something she's trying to wrap her head around. "It's my big break," she continues; "and I thought I got the role based on my talent alone, but I discovered recently that may not be entirely accurate."

Quinn's eyes harden, and Rachel wonders if her sometimes-best-friend has a spiel prepared about how her talent should be enough. Either way, Quinn doesn't say a word.

"It turns out," Rachel starts; "that my apparent sexuality may or may not have played a factor." She can't bring herself to look at Quinn's confused expression. "As you know, Santana accompanied me to the callbacks, and she was complaining about her recent conquest a little too loudly, and I believe the production team might have read into our conversation a little too much, and now they all think I'm actually a lesbian."

The sides of Quinn's mouth tick upwards, and Rachel knows she wants to laugh.

"It's not funny, Quinn," Rachel says, pouting. "The director feels comfortable enough including the sapphic kiss they were still considering writing into the show because he knows I wouldn't be against it. It's like a thing now, and my Understudy is such a bitch, and I'm under a lot of pressure and I've been struggling with what to do."

When the silence stretches on for a little too long, Quinn asks, "Why are you under pressure?"

"Megan, my Understudy, keeps yapping about how I make an unbelievable lesbian," she says with a huff. "She claims I'm only doing it because of the role, but I didn't even know being comfortable with a same-sex kiss was even part of the criteria of the role." She scowls. "Did I mention she's a bitch? Her range isn't nearly as extensive as mine. And she wonders why she didn't get the part."

Quinn still looks slightly amused. "She sounds like a piece of work."

"She is."

Quinn reaches for her own glass of water and takes a sip. "Rachel, not that I'm not sympathetic to your plight, but what does any of this have to do with me?"

Rachel presses her lips together. "Well, you see, I'm not a believable lesbian."

"Because you're not actually one."

"And, I reason that I kind of need to be."

Quinn's eyes widen in surprise. "What?"

"Well, I mean, just for a little while, you know," she says, explaining herself. "Just long enough to get Megan off my back, and solidify the impression that I am." She looks at Quinn's hands, suddenly feeling very vulnerable. "What if they take my role away, Quinn?"

Quinn leans forward. "They wouldn't do that, Rachel."

"But, how do you know?" she questions, sounding more unsure than she intends. "I'm just starting out. They could just as easily find someone else who hasn't led them to believe this one thing about them, purposefully or not, and there are far more talented people out there, and what if they find out that I unintentionally misled them and decide I'm not trustworthy or something like that?"

"You're being ridiculous."

"Am I?" she counters immediately. "The world of Broadway is… different. I don't want to take any chances, and I don't want to be considered a fraud before I've even made a name for myself." She's aware she's borderline distraught now, because these are all her fears rising to the surface and she hasn't really spoken about them to anyone.

It's almost fitting Quinn would be the one on which she would unload.

Quinn reaches across the table and takes hold of one of her hands. "Rachel," she says, ever so calm; "just breathe. It's okay. It's going to be okay."

"Is it?"

"Of course," Quinn says. "This isn't the end of the world, okay? It's just a lot of assumptions and misunderstandings. You don't have to pretend to be gay to have a successful career, the same way gay people shouldn't have to pretend to be straight."

Rachel sighs, thankful for Quinn's words, even if they aren't exactly making her feel better.

Quinn squeezes Rachel's fingers. "If it bothers you that much, you could just casually mention that you're actually bisexual, and nobody would be any wiser when you continue to date men."

Rachel nods at the sound of that. It makes sense. Why didn't she think of that?

"See?" Quinn says, taking her hand back and making Rachel miss the contact immediately. "There's nothing to worry about."

"I'm not entirely sure about that," she admits with a slight grimace.

Quinn notices. "Oh, Rach, what did you do?"

"It wasn't my fault," she says, leading with her excuse. "I told you Megan is a bitch, and she was… goading me, I guess, and I kind of fell into her trap, and now I apparently have a girlfriend."

Quinn buries her face in her hands to stop herself from laughing at how helpless Rachel looks. "God, is Broadway like high school?"

"It's worse."

Quinn can't imagine that, but she doesn't say so. "Is that why I'm here?" she asks. "You want me to find you a pretend girlfriend? You could have just asked Santana for help with that, you know? She has a Little Black Book."

Rachel doesn't immediately respond, just nervously nibbles on her bottom lip.

Quinn picks up on her hesitance. "That's not why I'm here, is it?" She leans back. "Rachel, why am I here?"

Rachel audibly swallows. "Well, I was thinking, you know, that - " she stops, suddenly unsure. It made so much more sense in her head, but saying it out loud sounds silly. "What are your thoughts on - " she stops again. God, why is this so difficult? "Would you be willing to - I mean, could you perhaps - "

"Rachel," Quinn interrupts before the brunette hurts herself. "Are you trying to ask if I would be your pretend girlfriend?"

Their server chooses that exact moment to show up with their meal, and the two women use the opportunity to take a breath and reevaluate. Quinn isn't even sure she's hungry anymore, and Rachel lifts her fork but doesn't start eating.

The silence stretches on for two full minutes before Rachel breaks it.

"Yes."

Quinn sighs. "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why me?"

Rachel opens her mouth, and then immediately closes it.

"Is it because I'm gay?"

To this day, Rachel is still fascinated by how comfortable Quinn is with her sexuality. Now, at least, because Rachel understands it's been a long journey to get her to this point in her life.

"Partly," Rachel admits. "I mean, I assume it'd be less uncomfortable for you than for a straight person," she says. "But, it's more than that. I know you, Quinn, and I know I can trust you with… all of this. The cast and crew kind of already know everyone else in my life, and, I mean, you're ridiculously stunning, and I want to shove it in Megan's prissy face that I can land someone as pretty as you."

It's a lot for Quinn to digest, and she's quiet for long moments as she finally tries her salmon. It is good. "Rachel," she finally says, deflating slightly. "You do know there are other ways, right?"

"I've given it a lot of thought," Rachel says. "I know there are other ways, but I don't feel… secure with any of the other options."

Quinn blinks. "And you would feel… secure with me?"

Rachel nods, no hesitation in sight. "I told you that I trust you, Quinn, and I know you would never use something like this against me."

Quinn focuses on her food for a while, and Rachel attempts to do the same. The silence is almost unbearable, because Quinn's face is unreadable, and Rachel just wishes she knew what the blonde was thinking.

"What - what would I have to do?" Quinn tentatively asks, which Rachel delights at, because it's not an immediate rejection.

"Not much," Rachel says, straightening slightly. "Just, show up at the theatre a few times, maybe have lunch with the cast. It doesn't have to be anything special, Quinn. Just enough to show you off and get Megan to eat her words, and then we can schedule a painless, mutual breakup, and nobody will ever have to know."

Quinn just watches her for a moment, and Rachel feels smaller than she has in a long time. "You have given this a lot of thought, haven't you?"

"I've imagined many ways to wipe that smug look off Megan's face, yes, and this is probably the least violent way."

Quinn risks a smile, but she still looks apprehensive. "Can I think about it?" she asks.

Rachel beams at her, because she's still not saying no. "Of course, Quinn."

"Can we meet for dinner on Wednesday?" she offers. "I'm sure I'll have an idea whether I'm willing to take on this acting challenge with you by then."

Rachel's smile barely falters. "Don't lie, Quinn," she says teasingly; "it wouldn't be acting at all, because we all know you're secretly in love with me."

Quinn stares at her for a beat too long, and then she laughs this low, throaty sound that makes heat rise up Rachel's neck. "Keep telling yourself that, Berry."


"Absolutely not!"

Quinn shifts the phone away from her ear for a moment, grimacing at the volume of the voice on the other end of the line.

"Are you insane? There is no way you can do this, Q! You're just going to set yourself up for disaster and heartbreak, and I am not dealing with that again."

Quinn merely rolls her eyes, and her red pen makes another correction on the paper she's marking. She's not exactly paying attention to the words she's reading, but she needs to be doing something to offset the growing headache from Santana Lopez's apparent dressing-down.

"Quinn," Santana says, sounding calmer. "You know I love you, right? I care about you, and I don't want to see you get hurt unnecessarily. You can't sit there and tell me this isn't going to end badly for you."

"She needs me, San."

"No," Santana immediately argues. "She's just convinced there are no other options, and she finds safety in you." Then: "Fuck. Don't let your hopeful heart latch onto the shit I just said. Berry is boy crazy. This'll all be over in a few weeks, and then you're going to have to deal with what it feels like to have her but not have her, and it fucking hurts, Q. Trust me, it hurts in ways you can't even imagine."

Quinn sighs, instantly deflating. "I just want to help."

"I know, babe," Santana says softly. "We both know that, but I won't let you hurt yourself just to make her happy, okay? You've been doing that for far too long."

"I've moved on, you know," Quinn points out.

"I know you believe that, but you haven't been in a relationship since Julia."

Quinn grits her teeth. "And we both know why that is."

"She's a gigantic bitch, yes, we know," Santana says. "I swear, if I ever see her again, I'm going to punch her face."

"I think you'll have to get in line."

"Who's ahead of me?"

"Rachel."

Santana cackles, and Quinn finds herself smiling. "Berry's dainty little hands won't even leave a mark."

Quinn takes a deep breath, bringing them back to the topic at hand. "What am I supposed to tell her?"

"Tell her you can't do it," Santana says. "You're busy with school. Or, there's a girl you have your eye on, and you don't want to do anything to jeopardise that."

It sounds believable, even to Quinn's ears. "Do you think she'll believe it?"

"She respects you too much to think you're lying," Santana points out. "And, plus, don't think I didn't notice how your eyes lingered on my friend, Alessia."

Even sitting in her office on the phone, Quinn can't stop herself from blushing. "She's pretty," she says.

"Do you want her number?"

Quinn sighs. "Not today, San," she says. "Let me deal with Rachel, and then I'll… see how I feel."

"You have far too many feelings, Q."

"I know," Quinn says sadly. "It's one of my many, many problems."

"Let it be known that you're the one who said it."

Quinn chuckles softly, setting down her pen and leaning back in her chair. "What options does she have if I don't agree to it?"

"That's not your problem."

"I don't think I'll be able to handle watching her pretend to date some other girl, Santana," she points out.

"Chances are, you won't even see it, Q," she says. "How often do you even see Berry, anyway?"

Quinn sighs. "Not often enough," she grumbles, mostly to herself.

Santana still hears her. "And, that's exactly why this would be a terrible idea."


This time around, it's Rachel who arrives late for their Wednesday dinner. She's predictably nervous, because she doesn't really have a Plan B if Quinn doesn't agree to her crazy request. She suspects she'll have to ask Santana for some help, or just accept defeat and let Megan win.

Quinn is already in a booth at the little diner, a favourite spot of the blonde's, now that she's embraced New York City and all its wonders.

Its saving grace is that it serves vegan pancakes, and Quinn has always been a fan of breakfast for dinner. She's already ordered for them both by the time Rachel slides in opposite her.

"Sorry I'm late," Rachel says, huffing out a breath and scowling with irritation at her cast mates' tendency to run over time during rehearsals.

Quinn just arches an eyebrow. "Hello to you too, Rachel," she says, which has Rachel scrambling back out of the booth to give Quinn a hug.

"Sorry," she says, breathless as her arms tighten around Quinn's form. "That was rude of me," she mumbles as she releases the blonde and returns to her seat. "I'm just terrible tonight, apparently. I've been a bit of a nervous wreck since our last conversation, and then I almost hyperventilated when you texted to confirm our plans for tonight."

Quinn traps her bottom lip between her teeth, feeling like the worst friend imaginable.

Because that's what they are.

All they are.

They're friends, and Quinn has accepted that.

The same way she accepted that her sophomore year crush on very straight Lacey Pennridge, her Teacher's Assistant for Intro to Screenwriting, would never go anywhere… and didn't.

Santana's voice rings in her head, and Quinn knows what she has to do.

Which isn't exactly what she wants to do.

Quinn Fabray always has been a bit of a masochist.

Rachel lets out a slow breath, trying to calm herself. There's an iced drink sitting in front of Quinn, and she smiles up at their server when the girl brings Rachel a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice that Quinn also ordered for her.

Her favourite.

"How was your day, otherwise?" Quinn asks, trying to distract Rachel.

Rachel smiles warmly. "I had breakfast with Kurt," she says. "He's so busy these days; I have to take any opportunity I can get to see him."

"Did you tell him about this illustrious plan of yours?"

Rachel bites her bottom lip, and then shakes her head. "Not yet," she says. "I wanted to hear what you had to say first."

Quinn nods her head, still noncommittal.

She's still debating with herself.

"How was your day?" Rachel asks, turning the question around.

Quinn's shoulders relax slightly, her posture still impeccable. "I had a meeting with my supervisor this morning," she starts; "and we had a long, hard discussion about the reality of getting my thesis published."

Rachel's eyes widen. "Quinn!" she squeals, almost leaping out of her seat to bury Quinn in another hug. "That's amazing!"

Quinn blushes. "Nothing's written in stone yet," she preemptively says, waving a dismissive hand through the air. "It still needs a lot of work, and we actually have to find someone interested in publishing it."

"It's still exciting," Rachel presses, beaming at her. "I'm so happy for you."

"Thank you," Quinn says, her cheeks still red as she considers her next words. "It's going to be… a lot of work. I'm going to be really busy trying to get it perfect."

And, dear, smart Rachel realises what she's trying to say immediately. "Oh."

Their server chooses that moment to bring Rachel her vegan, blueberry pancakes, and Quinn's full house breakfast, that garners different reactions from the women.

Quinn's smiles widely, and Rachel crinkles her nose in mild disgust.

"If that plate wasn't an insult to everything I stand for as a vegan, I would be sympathising with your poor arteries," Rachel says.

Quinn ignores her, says a quick prayer and immediately digs into her eggs and bacon and "Oh my God, this French toast is so good, Rachel."

Despite her horror at the sight, Rachel finds herself smiling because Quinn is just too adorable sometimes.

Okay, a lot of times.

Rachel pours some maple syrup over her pancakes, and cuts off a piece just as Quinn cuts up her French toast.

It's always fascinated her watching Quinn eat. Breakfast is the only thing the blonde truly seems to enjoy, and Rachel knows Quinn has had issues with food in the past. So, to see her actually enjoy her food is amazing.

So is the way Quinn seems to cut up her food into various bite sizes, and then builds the perfect mouthful on her fork before indulging. Rachel noticed it only when they were already in college, with Quinn visiting her, Santana and Kurt in New York a few weekends a semester, and it's been something she finds so terribly endearing.

Quinn even counts them, trying to keep the number even, so she doesn't end up with unmatched leftovers.

It's stinking cute, and a little strange, but it's one of Quinn's quirks, and she loves it.

"I'm going to have to go for an extra long run tomorrow morning," Quinn says between mouthfuls. Even though her meal is greasy and… messy, Quinn looks so perfectly put together, carefully dabbing at the sides of her mouth with her paper napkin.

And, Rachel thinks, there it is, the second those words leave Quinn's mouth.

Overcompensation for indulgence.

Rachel smiles, though it's a little sad, and Quinn reads it wrong.

"I'm sorry," Quinn suddenly says. "I don't know if you were counting on me or not, but school is crazy, and - " she halts, dropping her gaze.

"And what?" Rachel presses, frowning at Quinn's uncharacteristically unfinished sentence.

"I just - I just can't, Rach," she says, deflating. She doesn't want to bring the potential of someone else into this flimsy excuse. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Rachel immediately says, because it looks as if Quinn is actually devastated not to be able to help. "Really, Quinn, it's fine. It was a long shot anyway. A completely crazy idea." She shakes her head, sighing. "I'll probably have to take Santana up on her Little Black Book."

Quinn shifts uncomfortably, thoroughly hating that idea.

"I guess I could pay someone, right?" Rachel muses. "And have them sign some kind of confidential agreement or something. I don't want something like this coming back to bite me in the ass years from now. I can just see it now, you know? Five days before my Memoir is scheduled to release, Perez Hilton will publish an article about how I tried to fake it to get career favours." She buries her face in her hands at the thought.

Quinn shakes her head. "God, you're literally the most dramatic person I've ever met."

"And you're the prettiest," Rachel immediately throws back, making them both smile softly at the memory of their disaster of a Junior Prom.

It feels like a lifetime ago.

"I'm sorry," Quinn says again.

"It's okay," Rachel reassures her. "I'll figure something out."

"I really do wish I could help," Quinn says, and she means it. But Santana is right. Just sitting here with Rachel is difficult enough, discussing potential pretend girlfriends. She forces herself not to imagine what it would feel like actually to be the one who -

No.

Quinn stops thinking about that immediately.

She's accepted this.

She's over Rachel.

If she says it enough times, Quinn's sure she'll start to believe it.


Rachel has to admit that there's a large part of her that was convinced Quinn really would say yes to her crazy proposition. It seems just like the thing Quinn would jump at, testing out her acting skills and possibly getting to torture Rachel in the process.

They're definitely in a better place these days.

While she and Quinn graduated from high school no longer wanting to kill each other, college wasn't exactly smooth sailing for their friendship. Quinn has always been guarded, and Rachel went through a handful of changes her freshman year of college that made her unrecognisable even to herself.

The two of them didn't make use of the Metro North Passes for anything other than a nude scene intervention and a pregnancy emergency until well after the New Year, and Quinn initially came to have a very heated conversation with Santana about something or the other.

Rachel learned later that Quinn was telling Santana to get her act together if she wanted to be with Brittany. (Rachel found out only later that the two of them also discussed a certain night spent together after a certain non-wedding, and she's still unsure how she feels about it, to this day. Quinn assured her it was merely experimentation at the time, settling some of her curiosity, and it meant nothing. They're only friends, and that's all they'll ever be. Rachel feels relief whenever that's reconfirmed, and that confuses her.)

And, then, Quinn started coming more often, to spend time with all three of them. It's Kurt's friendship with Quinn that still surprises them all, but the two of them share an odd bond - perhaps based on fashion, who knows? - and Rachel tries not to feel too jealous about it.

It wasn't until Quinn was well into being a Sophomore that she started to wonder that maybe her experimentation with girls wasn't just that anymore, and she went through a year-long journey of acceptance that Rachel finds truly beautiful to this day.

Then, there was Julia.

Quinn's roommate turned girlfriend and potential love of her life.

Rachel hated her from the moment they met, both of them standing over Quinn's hospital bed as the blonde recovered from delayed complications from the car accident and subsequent surgeries.

As much as Rachel tried to hide her dislike of Quinn's significant other, Quinn picked up on it easily enough, which resulted in quite a few heated arguments. Rachel just knew something was off about the girl and, as much as she enjoys being proven right, she hates that it came at the expense of Quinn's beautiful and fragile heart.

Rachel still remembers the call she received from Quinn, her voice broken as she tried to explain what she didn't even understand.

Julia Fairchild better stay wherever she is, and never show her face again.

And, then, Quinn graduated top of her class, moved to New York to work towards her MFA at Columbia, and they've been working on their friendship ever since. It's been more than a year now, and they're still going strong.

As Rachel considers it, lying in bed well after she said goodbye to Quinn with a hug and a kiss to her cheek on the sidewalk in front of the diner, she feels unsettled.

Like, she's done something very wrong.

Sighing heavily, she reaches for her phone on her nightstand and pulls up Quinn's contact. It's late, she knows, but she has a feeling the blonde isn't yet asleep. It's the only reason she feels comfortable enough to call.

And then immediately regrets it when, five dial tones later, a sleepy Quinn Fabray says, "Rach?"

Rachel closes her eyes. "You're sleeping."

There's a bit of rustling, and Rachel can just imagine Quinn attempting to prop herself up against her pillows. "Nope," she says, and then immediately yawns, which is just the cutest sound in the entire world. "I'm totally awake," she says. "What's up?"

Rachel sighs. "I wanted to apologise."

Quinn waits a beat, her breathing even. "Uh, not that I don't appreciate a Rachel Berry apology, but why exactly am I getting one?"

"I - I feel as if my proposition was… insensitive," she says. "Inappropriate. I'm sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable, Quinn. It was never my intention, but I don't think I considered your feelings on the subject enough before I brought it up to you." She sighs. "I would never dream of… exploiting your sexuality that way, and I feel as if - "

"Rachel," Quinn gently interrupts. "It's okay."

"No, it's not," she argues, tears pooling in her eyes. "I mean, I don't even know if I would have made the same request if you were straight."

"I probably would have reacted differently if I were," Quinn admits, and it's the first acknowledgment of the Quinn Fabray of old. Regardless of her acceptance of her own sexuality, she's still deeply religious, and she's faced a lot of vitriol for it. "Look, Rachel," she says; "I'm not insulted or anything, okay? You asked a favour of a friend who would be slightly more comfortable of said favour, and that's it. There's nothing to worry over. I'm fine. We're fine."

Rachel sniffles.

Quinn sighs. "Please don't cry," she says. "Rachel, we're okay. I promise we're okay."

"You don't hate me?"

"Of course not," she says. "I've never hated you, and I never will."

"Promise?"

"I promise."

Rachel releases a steadying breath, daring to believe her. "Will you still let me make it up to you?" she asks, so softly that Quinn barely hears her.

"There's nothing to make up for," Quinn tells her, and then adds, "What did you have in mind?"

"Can I take you to lunch tomorrow?" she immediately offers. "My treat. And I won't even make a comment about the poor, defenceless animals you insist on consuming."

Quinn rolls her eyes hard enough to be heard through the phone. "I repeat that it's not necessary, but fine," she says. "I'm free from twelve until two."

"There's a new restaurant that popped up near the theatre. Alec said it has some of the best Pho he's ever had, and I know how much you like that particular Vietnamese delicacy."

"Uh, who's Alec?"

"One of my co-stars."

"Right."

"The one who uses far too much aftershave, Quinn."

"Oh," Quinn says, remembering him from Rachel's stories. "Should I meet you at the restaurant at, say, twelve thirty?"

"Okay," Rachel says. "I'll text you the address."

"Cool."

Rachel waits a moment. "I'm sorry, again, Quinn," she says. "For that thing, and for waking you up."

"I was awake."

"You're a terrible liar."

Quinn chuckles. "Goodnight, Rach."

"Goodnight, Quinn."

"See you tomorrow."

And, really, Rachel hasn't heard words sound so good in her life.


"I didn't expect it to be such a little hole in the wall," Quinn comments as she opens the door to the restaurant, silently inviting Rachel to go ahead of her.

It's something Rachel hasn't noticed until this moment, but Quinn does it all the time.

"Though, it's these kinds of places that serve the best food," Quinn muses as they get shown to a tiny table in the corner.

Rachel just hums in response, half-listening to Quinn as they get settled with their menus. Of course, she doesn't understand half the things on it, but that's why she has Quinn.

Quinn orders for them both, the Beef Noodle Pho for herself and the vegan equivalent for Rachel, and then they settle into a conversation that has nothing to do with propositions and sexuality.

"It's not even a debate," Quinn says. "Harry and Hermione were supposed to end up together."

Rachel just laughs as she sips at her water. "And I'm not disputing that, Quinn. I just think that we can't completely disregard J.K. Rowling's canon universe."

"I'm not," Quinn defends. "It just irks me that she missed out on so much potential. It was right there. She wrote it, but she stuck to her guns because she decided, when her characters were still pubescent, that Hermione was not meant to be Harry's love interest."

"Quinn."

"I will go down with this ship," the blonde sings softly, and Rachel's heart warms. Quinn doesn't sing too often these days, so, when she does, Rachel enjoys every second of it. "I do respect canon," Quinn adds a moment later; "but I've been doomed to love an OTP that isn't real."

"And you claim I'm the dramatic one."

Quinn pauses, her devilish eyebrow arching. "Make no mistake, Berry," she says, entirely too seriously; "my ire at the infamous 'Epilogue' proves nothing of the sort."

Rachel rolls her eyes, thoroughly enjoying this side of Quinn. It doesn't come out very often, because Quinn is generally very controlled, guarded in some of the most infuriating ways. But, when she gets animated like this, Rachel wants nothing more than to be her sole focus.

Which she eventually has to split with their food when it arrives.

Quinn makes the most adorable, happy food sounds as she eats, and Rachel can barely concentrate on anything else. She's barely even tasting her own food. It seems so unimportant in this moment.

"So, Santana and I are going to do some spring cleaning this weekend," Rachel says, even though they're nowhere near Spring. They're actually moving into Winter.

Quinn raises her eyebrows. "Does Santana know about this?"

"Not yet."

Quinn laughs. "God, please put me on the phone when you tell her."

"You could be there, you know," she says.

"Oh, no," Quinn immediately says. "I know what you're doing, Berry, and it's not going to work."

Rachel pouts. "But… Quinn…"

"No," Quinn says firmly, even if she is wavering. She's powerless to the pout, and Rachel knows it. It's actually pathetic. "Rachel, don't you dare. You stop that, right now."

"Yes, Rachel, you should definitely stop that."

Quinn blinks up at the person who's spoken, and Rachel immediately tenses, silently cursing her rotten luck. She knew this day was too good to be true, and now she has to deal with Megan Porter in front of Quinn.

Quinn, for her part, immediately knows who's standing over their table, practically towering over them, to show some form of dominance. Quinn almost laughs because, yeah, Broadway is kind of like high school. The woman even has her hands on her hips, in some kind of power pose.

"Megan," Rachel says curtly.

"Rachel," Megan returns, flicking her red hair out of her eyes in a way that almost makes Quinn roll her eyes. She doesn't, though, because that would just be adding fuel to an already-stoked fire. "I see Alec told you about this place, too."

"He did," Rachel says, wanting desperately to rise to her feet. Megan is already taller than her, but she would feel better if she were standing as well.

"And you decided to bring your… friend here, I see?"

Megan seems to take stock of Quinn for the first time, and the steady stare she receives in response is enough to unnerve her.

"Right," Rachel says. "Quinn, this is Megan, my Understudy." And, yes, so what if Rachel gets way too much satisfaction introducing her that way? "Megan, this is Quinn, my - "

Megan gasps dramatically, cutting off Rachel's introduction. "This cannot be the girlfriend, Rachel," Megan says, faking to the maximum. "Even you can't level up this high."

Quinn clenches her jaw, and Rachel seems to shrink into herself.

Megan smirks at Quinn. "Quinn, is it?" she says, holding out her hand. "That's a pretty name for such a pretty face. What on earth are you doing with this troll here?"

And, Quinn thinks it must be the sound of the derisive name that she once called Rachel herself, or it might be something else entirely, but there's a cosmic shift in the air the moment the words leave Megan's mouth.

Because, at the sound of them, Quinn's demeanour shifts, and Megan suddenly knows to be wary.

"Does that actually work for you?" Quinn asks, and she sounds so bored. "Because, honestly, if that's the best come-on you've got, it's no wonder you're merely my girlfriend's Understudy."

The silence that follows is deafening.

"Also, I'd thank you not to flirt with me in front of her," she continues easily. "Not only is it rude and inappropriate, but it's entirely unwanted and misplaced. Believe me, you don't want anything to do with me. I would destroy you, and I would get entirely too much satisfaction watching you crumple and wilt into utter obscurity."

Megan just blinks at her, her mouth hanging open.

"Now, I'm trying to have a pleasant meal here, and your gibing is interfering with that," she says. "Kindly leave us alone." She offers such a sickly sweet smile that Megan's teeth could possibly rot from it, and then actually fall out.

Quinn pointedly looks away from the other woman, her eyes landing on Rachel's shocked face. If she weren't still in HBIC mode, she would probably laugh at her facial expression.

But, it's not the time, yet.

It takes Megan a full minute to get her body working again, and she stutters out some kind of excuse before she stumbles away, clearly not having expected Quinn to say anything like that.

Quinn watches Rachel carefully, her own heart slowing as Rachel's face regains its colour. "You okay?" she asks gently, ignoring her food for the moment. "Did I overstep? If I did, I'm not apologising. She's a piece of work, and I may or may not have gone overboard, but, honestly, she pushed the wrong buttons, and the Head Bitch came out to play."

Rachel still doesn't say anything.

"Did I break you?" Quinn asks, equal parts amused and concerned. "Rachel? Rachel Berry? Don't make me pinch you, because I will. Rachel? I'll… tickle you right here in this restaurant. I'll do it. I don't care. I'm not the one who's going to be famous on these streets. What if - "

"You called me your girlfriend," Rachel blurts out.

Quinn pauses. "Oh," she sounds. "I suppose I did."

Rachel continues to stare at her. "I thought you said…" she trails off.

Quinn shrugs. "I wasn't just going to sit here and let her talk about you like that," she says. "We're supposed to have grown out of all of that, and I hate that you still have to deal with it. If I have to move some things around and - " she halts. "Look, I just don't want her talking about or to you like that, and I will happily put her in her place, should the occasion require it."

Rachel audibly swallows. "She's going to tell everyone she met you," Rachel points out.

"Let her."

"This changes things."

"So it does."

Rachel breathes out slowly. "So, you're in?"

Santana is going to kill her. "I suppose I am."

Chapter Text

AN: Just, in terms of Quinn's postgraduate studies, I'm sort of basing the premise of how the Masters and PhD programs work on my own. Cool.


II

"I don't know what part of say no fucking way you didn't understand about what I told you," Santana lectures as she furiously dusts at the mantlepiece above the fireplace she shares with Rachel. "Honestly, Fabray, you're supposed to be a genius. How the fuck did you mess it up so spectacularly?"

From her position on the couch, her iced tea in hand, Quinn knows it's wise not to respond when Santana is in this mood. The woman is purposefully cleaning. It's terrifying.

"Quinn," she suddenly says, spinning to face the blonde, and it's serious because she uses the blonde's actual name. "You are going to get hurt."

And, the thing is, Quinn can't even dispute that assumption. It's practically a given, at this point. A prediction. Quinn is going to get hurt, one way or the other, but there's nothing she can do about it now.

Still, she says, "It's going to be fine."

Santana scoffs.

"I'll just book some extra appointments with my therapist," she adds.

Santana levels her with such a glare that, if Quinn were anyone else, would have her flinching. But, alas, Quinn is Quinn, and she just glares right back.

"It's going to be fine," Quinn repeats.

"Don't come crying to me when she breaks your heart."

"Fine," Quinn huffs; "I won't."

Santana sighs, easing up on her ire. "I don't mean that," she says. "I mean, you can come to me, of course, but I don't want your heart to get broken. I need you, like, on fire, or something. My wing-woman. What am I supposed to do if you're, like, lack lustre?"

Quinn sets her glass on a coaster on the coffee table and rises to her feet. She approaches Santana slowly. "I love you too, San," she says, placing her hands on the Latina's shoulders. "You know you're my best friend, and I'll always be your wing-woman. Nothing about this situation changes that."

"Promise me you'll still visit me when this inevitably blows up in all our faces?"

Quinn smiles through her unease. "Of course," she says. "You're stuck with me for life, Lopez. You've tried and failed to get rid of me how many times now?"

"I'm obviously a glutton for punishment."

"Asshole."

Santana shrugs her hands off. "Don't just sit there," she says. "Make yourself useful and fluff those fucking pillows before the Munchkin gets back with the grub."

"I don't understand why we didn't just order in."

"Really?" Santana pushes her away slightly. "Berry would use any opportunity to get out of the cleaning she requested. God, she's a diabolical menace."

"You love her."

"Shut up."

Quinn laughs. "She's special to you," she sings, dancing around the living room. "You can't imagine living without her."

Santana just shakes her head, choosing not to point out that the same things apply to Quinn, in much more dangerous ways. "Just fluff those fucking pillows," she grumbles instead, and that's how Rachel finds them: Santana dusting, and Quinn sprawled out on the couch with her hands and feet in the air.

Rachel frowns at the sight, and Santana just shrugs when Rachel shoots her a questioning look. "Quinn," Rachel calls softly as she makes her way to the kitchen to deposit their food on the closest surface she can find. "What are you doing?"

"Fluffing," is the response she receives.

After setting down the food, Rachel returns to the living room. "Fluffing?"

Quinn lifts her head to look at her. "You're back."

"What are you doing?"

Quinn drops her legs to the ground, and slowly sits up. "You have a very interesting ceiling."

Rachel looks incredulously at Santana. "Is she drunk?" she asks, because that can't be. Rachel hasn't been gone that long. "Is she high?"

Santana just shrugs again.

Rachel moves to stand in front of Quinn, her palms pressing against the blonde's rosy cheeks. "Quinn, honey, are you okay? Are you having a stroke?"

Quinn lifts both hands, palms facing forward, and smiles widely.

"No stroke, then," Rachel says. "Are you messing with me?"

Quinn nods.

Rachel shakes her head in annoyed amusement as she draws Quinn into a hug, pressing the blonde's face against her abdomen for an inappropriately long time.

"Okay," Santana says, interrupting the extended moment. "I'm fucking starving. You guys can practice being fake girlfriends later."

Rachel grumbles something under her breath as she releases Quinn, and Quinn shoots Santana a dirty look, to which she just smirks. If she's going to have to deal with the aftermath of this atrocious plan, then she's going to have some fun with it.

The three of them shuffle to the kitchen, and Rachel starts removing the containers of food from their bags. "Animal carcass for you," she says, setting Santana's cheeseburger in front of where she's now sitting at the breakfast bar. "And, animal carcass for you." Quinn's is a New York Strip and roasted vegetables, and it's as if she doesn't even hear Rachel's complaints.

"And boring plant food for you," Santana snickers.

Rachel rolls her eyes as she moves to gather two plates for their food. Santana doesn't believe in using crockery, and Quinn won't eat her steak out of anything but a ceramic plate.

Quinn still has her glass from earlier, and she tops herself up with more iced tea, retrieves a can of Red Bull for Santana and then realises Rachel is probably just going to drink from her glass, regardless of what she gets for her.

Typical.

"Where are we eating?" Santana asks, popping a French fry into her mouth. "Here? Lounge? Bathroom?"

"Where haven't we cleaned yet?"

Santana rolls her eyes. "Does it matter? We're pitiful cleaners, Berry," she says. "Which is why we hire a maid's service."

Quinn raises her hand. "I don't," she says, entirely too smugly.

"That's because you're neat and tidy, and have much too much patience," Rachel points out.

"And you live alone," Santana adds.

Quinn shrugs. "Still."

Santana eats another fry. "You know, if anyone were to question which one of the two of us was the messier one, they would keel over to learn it's actually Rachel."

"I'm very busy," Rachel weakly defends.

Santana laughs. "I'm a medical student. I win."

Quinn just grins at them both, struggling to figure out what her life would be like without the both of them. She's so glad she gets to be a part of this.

"I don't know about you two," Quinn says; "but I'm going back to the couch." With that, she lifts her plate, glass and cutlery and heads to the living room. She sets everything on the coffee table, and then reaches for the remote to turn on the television.

"We're totally watching 1000 Ways to Die," Santana declares as she comes in, still chewing her latest fry victim.

"No, we're not," Rachel immediately argues. "We should watch Say Yes to the Dress."

Quinn takes it back. She's not glad at all. They bicker like old women in a nursing home, and Quinn is five seconds away from -

"Oh," Quinn says, clearly surprised by what she finds on screen. "Let's watch this."

And, really, neither brunette has a word to say about the choice of Bridesmaids.


Rachel considers herself lucky every rehearsal she gets through without Megan saying a word to her, and it lasts for exactly five days. It's obvious the redhead is… curious, and it's also obvious that she's mentioned to a few people that Rachel does, indeed, have a girlfriend.

Who is so ridiculously pretty and super smoking hot.

That's what Alec claims, at least, and Rachel wouldn't dream of correcting him, because Quinn is especially lovely to look at.

But, really, it's just Megan's word at this point, and Rachel's cast mates want more information on the elusive girlfriend Rachel has kept hidden from them (because she didn't really exist a week ago.)

"You remember that Tom is having a party Friday night for all the cast and crew, right?" Alec says, reminding Rachel and, inadvertently, Frankie about said party while they stretch out their bodies after a strenuous set of dance rehearsals. "You should totally bring your lady with. I know I'd like to meet her."

Rachel thinks she hides her panic well, but Megan - stupid, stupid Megan - must notice from where she's standing just behind Alec, and she attacks like a bloodhound.

"Unless she's otherwise engaged, of course," the redhead says. "I imagine Quinn is too busy to accompany you to something as unimportant as a cast party, right?"

Rachel clenches her jaw, and breathes out through her nose. "She is generally quite busy," she says; "but I'll still ask her and see what she says."

"How domesticated," Megan sneers.

"Yeah, and where's your significant other?" Frankie shoots straight back at her, and Rachel sends the man a mental thank you.

"Whatever," Megan says. "I look forward to seeing your girlfriend there."

"I'm sure you do," Rachel finds herself saying. "She asks about you from time to time."

And, okay, Rachel gets way too much satisfaction in seeing the way her eyes widen in panic for a moment.

"Oh, yeah?" Megan asks, recovering. "She looking to upgrade?"

Rachel laughs. "Sure," she says. "I tell her all about your endearing qualities and how well we get along. She knows exactly how much of a catch you are."

Megan scowls at her, and Rachel just continues to smile. "Whatever," she says again, and then stalks off.

"What a Grade A bitch," Frankie grumbles.

Rachel shoots him an amused look. "You're not too bad, Frankie Bonucci."

"Ain't that a winning endorsement."


When Quinn receives the text It's happening from Rachel late Wednesday evening, even she can't mistake the nervous flutter in her stomach.

She knows what's coming.

She's going to have to pretend to be Rachel's girlfriend in front of other people.

She's not ready for this.

Quinn: What exactly is happening?

Rachel: I'm coming over.

Quinn outwardly groans, tilting her head back for a long moment. It's not that she doesn't want to see Rachel; it's that she's already in her pyjamas and makeup-free and five seconds away from turning in for the night.

Even if it is just barely nine o'clock.

Quinn forces herself to get up from where she's sprawled across her very comfortable couch and takes her empty bowl from her dinner of broccoli soup to the kitchen. She washes it immediately, dries it, and then returns it to its rightful cabinet.

Next, she does a quick sweep of her apartment, checking for anything glaringly out of place or embarrassing on display.

Once she's satisfied, she throws herself back onto her couch, drapes the TV blanket over her body and settles in to wait for Rachel while she finishes up an old episode of Criminal Minds.

Derek Morgan has just apprehended the suspect when there's a knock on Quinn's door. Rachel has a key for emergencies, but she doesn't like to use it. She thinks it's an invasion of privacy, even though Quinn happily waltzes into the apartment Rachel shares with Santana whenever she wants.

Quinn opens the door to find a particularly dishevelled Rachel Berry waiting for her. "What happened to you?" is the first thing that comes out of her mouth.

"Well, hello to you too, Quinn," she grumbles, pushing past Quinn to get into the warmth of the apartment. She shivers as she stands in the centre of the living room.

Quinn closes the door slowly, her eyes on Rachel. "Hi," she says. "Do you want a blanket?"

Rachel shakes her head. "I'll take a hug, though."

Quinn willingly gives it, wrapping her arms around Rachel's tiny body and offering as much warmth as she can muster. "Do you want some hot chocolate?" she asks into Rachel's hair.

"Do you have soy milk?"

"Of course."

Rachel squeezes Quinn once more, and then releases her. She feels much warmer now, and she even moves to remove her coat, which Quinn immediately takes from her.

"Go to the kitchen," Quinn gently instructs. "I'll hang this up and meet you there."

Rachel does as she's told, starting to feel more and more settled with every second she spends in Quinn's presence. Quinn makes her feel safe, which is such a contrast from their high school days.

"Hey," Quinn says, coming in behind her and gently nudging her towards the breakfast bar. "What has you so lost in thought?"

"You."

Quinn's steps falter as she makes her way towards the stove. "Oh?"

"Just, you know, how I always feel better when I'm with you," Rachel says, sliding onto a stool and keeping her eyes on Quinn. "And, how that wasn't really the case when we were teenagers."

Quinn snorts, and it's still such a delicate sound. "Dude. If we're handing out understatements."

Rachel giggles. "I just - I'm glad I'm here."

Quinn's features soften, even as her heart starts to thud uncontrollably in her chest. "Something happened?"

Rachel sighs, her gaze dropping to her hands.

Quinn uses the opportunity to start on the hot chocolate, giving Rachel plenty of time to work through what she may or may not want to say. She won't push, because she recognises this is one of those times that Rachel came to her for a reason.

"Quinn, do you remember Regionals sophomore year when everything was falling apart and there was nothing we could do to stop any of it?"

Quinn glances at her. "I definitely remember Regionals, Rachel," she says, because it's the day she gave birth to Beth.

Rachel sighs again. "I'm, more or less, referring to the hopelessness we felt about the end of Glee," she says. "I think Beth was the only good thing to come out of that day."

"Isn't that day also the first time Finn told you he loved you?"

"Like I said," Rachel says; "Beth is the only good thing."

Quinn doesn't comment on that - she stopped saying things about Finn a long time ago - as she continues making their vegan hot chocolate. Quinn isn't really a fan, but she'll suck it up and drink it from time to time.

"I - I feel like that now," Rachel quietly confesses, and Quinn frowns in confusion. "I have this amazing part in this amazing show, and I know I earned it, but it all feels so… vulnerable. Like, it could get taken away at any second, and I keep having this nightmare that I'm going to get a phone call from the show's backers, and they're going to tell me they made a mistake and I'm actually the wrong choice. And the voice sounds oddly like Coach Sylvester."

Quinn stops what she's doing immediately, switching off the burner, and moves towards Rachel. She draws the brunette into another hug, resting her left cheek atop Rachel's head. For the longest time, she can't think of anything to say, because she knows she's had a part to play in Rachel feeling as if she's undeserving of the part she's earned.

Years of verbal abuse will do that to you.

Quinn would know, though that's not something she willingly talks about.

"I'm sorry," Quinn whispers, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. Then, "That Megan chick is really in your head, isn't she?"

Rachel sags against Quinn. "She just won't leave," she mumbles into Quinn's Yale sweatshirt. "She's relentless, cutting through everything I say and do, and it's like the producers are just waiting and watching to see if I buckle." She sniffles. "What if I do, Quinn? They already keep saying that they're taking a chance on me, a relatively young newcomer, and it's a huge risk putting an entire production on fresh shoulders. My entire career could be over before it starts if I mess this up."

Quinn runs a hand along her back. "You're under a lot of pressure, aren't you?"

Rachel just nods, her face pressed against Quinn's warm chest.

"Rachel?"

"Hmm?"

"Tell me what you need," she says. "What do you need from me?"

Rachel shifts backwards, her wide eyes on Quinn's face. "I just need you," she says, and she's never meant words more than those in her entire life.

Quinn audibly swallows, her heart skipping a beat. She tries to keep her reaction under control, and she blinks a few times. "I assume Megan told the rest of the cast about me?"

Rachel nods, pinching the fabric of Quinn's sweatshirt between her fingers. "There's this party Tom is throwing on Friday for everyone involved in the production, and their significant others," she says. "They, umm, kind of invited you."

Quinn's smile is gentle. "More like demanded, huh?"

"Suggested."

"Commanded."

"Offered."

"Instructed."

Rachel grins at her. "Are you free?" she asks. "It's okay if you're not, of course, because I know how busy you are, and I wouldn't dream of taking you away from a prior engagement if you - "

"I'll be there," Quinn says, interrupting. "Of course, I'll be there. Apparently, one beatdown wasn't enough for this Megan character."

Rachel giggles. "I think she's genuinely afraid of you."

"Good."

Rachel reaches up to tuck a lock of hair behind Quinn's ear. "Thank you, Quinn."

"For what?"

Rachel shrugs. "Does it matter?"

"I've learned, in the years we've known each other, to ask about apologies and thank yous," she says. "Tell me, what have I done to deserve such gratitude?"

"You."

"Huh?"

"Thank you for being you."

"Oh."

Rachel smiles softly at her, and then winks. "Now, I think you promised me some hot chocolate."

Quinn is definitely in trouble.


Rachel: We have an emergency, Quinn.

Rachel: We don't have a back story.

Quinn rolls her eyes at what Rachel refers to as an 'emergency.' Honestly, Quinn was ready to run out of her tutoring session when Rachel's name flashed on her phone the first time.

Quinn: Fuck, Rach. You REALLY need to reevaluate your definition of an emergency.

Rachel: Where are you?

Quinn lifts her messenger bag from her desk and hangs it off her right shoulder. She's a little exhausted after the long week, and she's looking forward to her Friday afternoon nap.

Quinn: I'm headed home. Just finished up with tutoring.

Rachel: Oh, good. Meet me at the Starbucks that we both know has the BEST Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher in fifteen minutes.

Quinn groans, tilting her head backwards as if she's praying for patience.

Quinn: I'm tired, Rachel. I want to go home.

Rachel: It'll be quick. I promise.

Rachel: Please.

Quinn is such a goner; it's actually pathetic.


"You better be buying me one of those Berry Refresher things," Quinn says the second she sees Rachel's face. "I could be napping."

"We have so much to discuss," Rachel says, grabbing her hand and dragging her into the line.

"Feed me first," she says. "I want an almond croissant."

Rachel glances at her, clearly amused. "Is this what our relationship is going to be like? My buying you food?"

"Yes," Quinn grumbles. "You haven't even hugged me."

Rachel feels a smile spread across her face, and she pulls Quinn into a comforting hug that they both sink into. There's something so… natural about the way they just fit together, but Rachel's trying not to think about that too much.

When they get to the front of the line, Rachel orders for them both, adding on a vegan bagel for herself. She's not exactly hungry, but she's feeling nervous, for some reason, and she needs a distraction.

"You do realise it's freezing outside," Quinn says after Rachel's received her monetary change from the barista. "Why are we getting Refreshers?"

"Because they're so good," she offers as an explanation.

"True."

Rachel pulls Quinn off to the side, her eyes studying the blonde's face. "How was your day?" she asks.

"Exhausting," she says. "How's yours going? Do you have to be back at the theatre?"

Rachel nods. "We're doing a lot of blocking today," she says. "It's boring and everyone's kind of miserable, so there's a lot of excitement about Tom's party."

"Oh?"

"A lot of excitement about you, as well."

Quinn just smiles. "What have you told them about me?"

"Not much, to be honest," she confesses. "I've been purposefully vague, which has been driving them all crazy. It's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about, though. What are we supposed to tell people when they ask about us?"

Quinn mulls that over in silence until they're seated at a table with their drinks and treats. She was halfway joking about the croissant, but she's relieved to have it. She can't remember if she actually ate lunch. Better not mention that to Rachel.

"I think we should stick to the truth as much as possible," Quinn eventually says, dabbing at the side of her mouth with her napkin. "That way, there's less of a chance of getting caught in a lie."

Rachel swallows. "Okay."

"I'm me," Quinn says. "I attend Columbia, am a Masters' student, all that spiel. Nothing wrong with that, right?"

"Of course not," Rachel immediately says. "They're going to be so insanely jealous of my super smart, Ivy League girlfriend."

Quinn's heart stutters, and she curses internally.

Rachel sips at her drink. "So, how long have we been together?"

Quinn leans back. "Rach, let's stop pretending you haven't already come up with every aspect of our fake relationship," she says, entirely too knowingly. "Just tell me what I need to know, and I promise I'll do my best not to mess this up for you."

Rachel reaches out for Quinn's closest hand, her fingers curling into Quinn's palm. "I just realised that I didn't even say please, when I asked you to consider doing this."

Quinn chuckles. "How rude of you."

"I know," Rachel says with a soft smile; "My dads would be dismayed at my lack of manners."

Quinn squeezes Rachel's hand. "So, tell me, how long have we been dating?"

"Coming up on three months," Rachel answers without hesitation.

"Okay."

Rachel takes a deep breath, and then proceeds to speak. "We went to high school together. We weren't exactly friendly at first, but we worked through our issues, sort of. It turns out that I've always had a secret crush on you, but I was never brave enough to tell you. We remained friends throughout college, and then you moved to New York, and I could no longer deny myself the shot at giving it a chance."

Quinn just listens in silence, her heart going a mile a minute.

"So, about three months ago, we were hanging out at your apartment, just watching TV, and I leaned across the couch and kissed you, and we've been dating ever since. Well, first we had a good, long talk, cried a little, and then we started dating, and we've both never been happier."

Quinn blinks, a certain hurt building in her chest. Because, honestly, it's something that could be true, and Quinn knows with absolute clarity that this entire pretend situation is going to ruin her.

"We decided to keep our relationship on the down low while it was still in its infancy because we're both in the same friend group, and we didn't want to shine a spotlight on our budding romance. Still, some of our friends don't yet know, but we're sure about where we stand now, and we spend most nights at your apartment."

"Why?"

"Santana is a nosy bitch."

Quinn arches an eyebrow.

"I'm also a screamer."

And, okay, Quinn can't stop the image from forming in her mind if she tries. It's embedded in her brain, and just the thought of Rachel out of control is enough to set her blood boiling. She sips at her drink to keep herself cool, but the image is almost too much to handle.

Rachel hums in thought, thinking over the next few sentences of their brief relationship history. "You're a hopeless romantic," she says, because her experience tells her that Quinn truly is, and she can't wait to be on the receiving end of it.

Even if it is all going to be pretend.

"I think that's all the important stuff," Rachel eventually says. "Though, I should ask how comfortable you are with PDA."

Quinn almost chokes on her drink. "Excuse me?"

Rachel shoots her a curious look. "As you know, I'm a… touchy person by nature. It's one of my love languages, so I'm probably going to be unable to keep my hands off of you tonight."

Abort.

Abort mission.

"Oh."

Rachel smiles at her. "It won't be any different to how we usually are," she says. "Just, you know, it might be more, in quantity. Don't worry. I'm not about to jump you."

Quinn can't shake the feeling that she would be entirely unopposed to such a thing happening.

Even though it might just kill her.


Rachel has been unprepared for many things in her life, and she's performed under undue stress numerous other times, but even she can't quite get a grip of herself as she waits for Quinn's text.

They agreed, when they parted ways after their brief coffee date, that Quinn would just meet her at Tom's place because Rachel left the theatre with her other cast members after they got ready together.

Patrice even helped her with her makeup.

Rachel can feel her body buzzing with nerves as she stands with Frankie, Alec and Kira in Tom's large living room, slowly sipping on her drink. She's tempted to down the strong liquid, just to help her get through the night, but she knows she has to be on her A-Game if she and Quinn are going to pull off being a couple.

She jumps slightly when her phone buzzes in her hand.

Quinn: I'm downstairs.

Rachel can't stop her smile.

Rachel: On my way.

Alec's grin turns almost predatory when he sees her face. "Is she here?"

Rachel's smile widens. "She's downstairs."

"Well, go get her," Alec says, shooing her slightly. "Don't keep her waiting."

As if Rachel would do such a thing.

With an added bounce in her step, Rachel slips on her coat, leaves the gorgeous apartment and heads to the elevator. She's excited and nervous and, even though she saw Quinn a few hours ago, she finds that she's missed the blonde.

Rachel finds Quinn standing just inside the building, casually chatting to the concierge about the weather, and her smile grows at the sight of her. It practically takes over her face when Quinn spots her and offers a smile of her own.

"Hi, Bradley," Rachel says to the concierge. "This lovely lady is with me."

"So she says," Bradley says, chuckling. "She tried to charm her way up."

Quinn pouts. "He's totally gay, though."

Rachel laughs. "Oh, how the mighty have fallen."

"Shut up," Quinn grumbles, and Rachel goes in to give her a hug and a kiss to the cheek. "Hi," Quinn says when Rachel pulls away.

Rachel beams at her. "Did you have a good nap?"

"When I eventually did get to it, yes," she mutters, and Rachel has to kiss her cheek again.

"I'm not sorry," Rachel murmurs.

"I got that."

Rachel rolls her eyes, and then looks at Bradley. "Are we good to go up?"

"By all means," he says with a knowing smirk. "Enjoy your night."

Rachel slips her hand into Quinn's to lead the way, and Quinn is the one to link their fingers. The action, itself, is enough to settle her nerves, and she's struggling to figure out what she was so worried about in the first place.

"Are you nervous?" Quinn asks once they're in the elevator, the doors closing behind them.

"A little," Rachel admits. "Tom is quite an important financier, and he has a lot of say in everything that happens with the production. A lot of the cast has been asking about you quite endlessly, and I worry about throwing us both in with the wolves, for lack of a better analogy."

Quinn squeezes her fingers. "It's going to be fine, Rachel," she says, and her tone brokers no argument. "If anything, we're just going to act like two really close friends who pay a little too much attention to each other."

Rachel giggles softly. "I had a thought that it's kind of like roleplaying," she says. "We're both, technically, actresses, and this is just an acting challenge."

Quinn blinks, ignoring the vicious pang in her chest. "Yip."

Rachel nods, putting her game-face on. "We've got this."

"Of course, we do."

Rachel squares her shoulders as the elevator reaches the correct floor. The doors open and Rachel steps out, pulling Quinn along behind her. The blonde's hand is warm in hers, even though she's just come in from the cold, and Rachel quietly marvels at that as they head towards the door to the large apartment.

Rachel pauses before she opens the door, her heartbeat slowing. "Quinn?"

"Hmm?"

"Thank you for doing this," she says.

"Anything for you, Rachel," Quinn immediately returns, and Rachel's sure her heart grows in size.

And then she opens the door.

Rachel wouldn't say the main living room falls silent, exactly, but there is a general hush that befalls the patrons, and she rolls her eyes internally. She hears Quinn chuckle softly behind her and, yeah, she really has nothing to worry about, does she?

Rachel helps Quinn remove her coat, which nobody is prepared for. Quinn is wearing a deep blue, form-fitting, sleeveless dress, and Rachel doesn't think she's seen the blonde look so stunning before.

It's understated.

All so minimal, and still so… mesmerising.

Powerful.

Quinn's short hair - she's kept it that way for years, giving off this look of regality - is hanging loose just above her shoulders, styled simply. Her makeup isn't dramatic. It's barely even there, merely to enhance, rather than dominate.

"Good God," Rachel murmurs.

Quinn looks at her. "What?"

Before Rachel can say another word, Alec is at her side. "Damn, Rachel, your girlfriend is fucking hot."

Quinn arches an eyebrow at the interruption, and Rachel flushes instantly, but neither woman truly acknowledges him. Rachel hangs up Quinn's coat, and then lets out a surprised sound when Quinn helps with hers.

And then there are arms around her waist from behind, warm and strong. She feels a press of lips against her cheek, and then the heat is gone.

She immediately misses it.

Quinn's hand is back in hers, and Rachel knows it's now show time.

Of course, because Alec is standing right there, she introduces him first, and his eyes flit between the two women as if he's trying not to imagine them in the throes of passion.

Rachel punches his shoulder, hard. "Stop being a pervert, and get us some drinks."

"Yeah, yeah," he says, waving a hand. "What would you ladies like?"

"Merlot," they say at the same time, and Alec's grin grows into a ridiculous smirk.

"Amazing," he says entirely too knowingly, and then practically saunters away.

Quinn looks at Rachel. "He's like a slightly more deranged Puckerman," she says, and Rachel laughs.

"I don't know if that's insulting to Noah or not," she says, and then tugs on Quinn's hand to get them moving. There are many, many introductions to be doled out.

It goes well, for the most part.

It's entirely too easy to gush about Quinn, whose hand leaves hers only to shake others in greeting. Quinn is so well spoken, attentive and focused, but the thing that truly seems to throw people is the sincerity behind her eyes.

With people as confident and assured as Quinn, they can come off as insincere, but everything about Quinn is genuine. Including the way her eyes constantly look at Rachel's face, as if she can't keep her gaze away for too long.

Quinn meets Rachel's directors and producers, the writers and other musicians and actors involved with the show. It's a whirlwind of names and faces and, if she's getting overwhelmed, the only way it manifests is in how tightly she holds Rachel's hand.

Rachel waits to introduce Quinn to Frankie, who's probably her favourite person involved in the entire production. They just… get along, and there's a tiny part of her that feels irrationally guilty about lying to him about Quinn.

Well.

"She's really my best friend," she tells him, and then smiles indulgently when Quinn's arm slides around her waist. It amazes her every time Quinn willingly touches her, fingertips pressed against her hip.

Rachel leans into her, because how can she not? This is a Quinn she doesn't normally get to experience, and she wonders how Quinn truly is in a real relationship. If she's this overwhelming when she's faking it, how does anyone survive the real thing?

Frankie asks all the standard questions about how they met and how long they've been together, and Quinn answers them flawlessly, even throwing in a joke about how she missed all the signs because Rachel is so short.

Frankie laughs when Rachel pokes Quinn in the ribs, and then he sighs dreamily when Quinn whispers an apology and kisses Rachel's hair with closed eyes. The action, itself, is beautiful. Simple.

And heartbreaking.

They're still talking when Tom joins them, his wife at his side. Rachel knows her as Denise, but everyone calls her Denny. Rachel tenses for a beat, but then relaxes when Quinn squeezes her lightly.

"Are you an actress as well?" Tom asks, and he's directing his question at Quinn.

"Technically, no," Quinn answers. "I Minored in it during my Undergrad, but I'm actually a writer, now."

"Oh?"

Quinn nods, her smile in place. "This one has been trying to get me to write about her for years," she says, tilting her head in Rachel's direction.

"You've known each other that long?" Denny asks, her eyes darting between the two of them.

"Since high school," Rachel answers for them.

Quinn nods. "We've definitely come a long way since then," she says, which draws curious looks from both Tom and Denny.

"Oh," Denny says, her eyes lighting up; "there's definitely a story there, isn't there?"

Indeed, there is.

It's easy to tell it, once they get started, talking over each other and filling in blanks as they fall seamlessly into the extended tale of their crazy relationship.

Because it's all truth, really.

Everything with Finn and, well, the baby. Everything with their parents and an almost-wedding and a near-fatal car accident and Rachel's almost-failed dream and Quinn's journey to finding herself.

It's all true.

This is the lie.

"And then, in a moment of what must have been insanity at the time, I just leaned over and kissed her," Rachel says.

"It definitely caught me by surprise," Quinn says, shaking her head with eyes shining with amusement. "I was terrified at first. It's not as if I didn't know she's this amazing, adorable person, but I just couldn't allow myself to entertain the idea of wanting her. She was finally my friend, and we had so much history that I still feel guilty over a lot of things that have happened between us, but…" she trails off, feeling her heart start to pound in her chest. It's all hitting a little too close to home. "I just couldn't deny it anymore," she finally says. "She wouldn't let me hear the end of it, even if I tried."

Tom and Denny laugh at that, but Denny has tears in her eyes, and Frankie is five seconds away from practically sobbing. He claims to be a metrosexual man, but Rachel knows better.

"But, I'm thankful every day that she's so stubborn," Quinn continues, careful not to look at Rachel's face. "It's one of the reasons why I love her."

Rachel's sure her body has forgotten how to function. Breathing and blinking just seem as if they aren't happening, but she knows she has to hold it together, because none of this is real.

But.

Rachel didn't know Quinn was such a good actress.

Because she's acting, right?

Denny reaches out to touch Quinn's forearm. "You should write that story," she says. "That's something I would definitely read."

"Or watch," Tom adds, smiling warmly.

Quinn chuckles, and it sounds… wet, as if she too is teary. "Maybe," she says, and there's something oddly melancholy about her tone. "One day. If she ever agrees to marry me, because it might go straight to her head, otherwise."

And, Denny laughs.

Tom, too.

Frankie's eyes are on Rachel, who hasn't spoken in a few minutes. She looks shell-shocked to him, lost in her own thoughts, and he wonders if she's ever actually heard Quinn talk about her that way.

Because, it's obvious.

It's obvious this is the first time Rachel has heard Quinn use the word love.


They don't encounter Megan until much later.

After Quinn has realised that Rachel has fallen silent and borderline unresponsive. After they've left Tom and Denny to mingle, and after Frankie excuses himself to find Jasmine and Khanh, two of their fellow cast members.

Quinn's arm slips from around Rachel's warm body, and she turns to face her fully, her expression pinched in concern. "Rachel?"

"Quinn," she breathes, and her eyes can barely look at the blonde's face. "You're beautiful, did you know that?"

Quinn frowns slightly. "Are you okay?"

Rachel waits a beat, before she's reaching up and snaking her arms around Quinn's neck, pulling her into a hug that she definitely needs. "You are so very beautiful," she whispers into Quinn's ear.

Quinn, sensing something severe, just hugs her back, her eyes closing at the simple act of just being able to hold this beautiful woman.

And, that's how Megan finds them.

"Something the matter?"

Her voice cuts into their moment like a blade, and both of them tense at the silky voice.

Quinn breathes out slowly, attempting to keep herself calm. She's confused over Rachel, worried she might have pushed this entire… situation too far, and now Megan.

Of course.

Quinn pulls back carefully, her left hand sliding down Rachel's back until it settles at its small. The touch is comforting to them both, and Quinn allows herself to turn her piercing hazel eyes on the unsuspecting redhead.

"Ah," Quinn says. "I was wondering when you were going to come out of the woodworks and show yourself."

Megan stares at Quinn for a moment before her gaze settles on the hand hidden behind Rachel's back. "So, it's true, huh?"

Quinn's fingers curl around the fabric of Rachel's dress, but she says nothing.

Rachel merely stares at her, suddenly unflinching, her eyes steady. "Was there something you wanted?"

"No," Megan says, practically sneering. "You have nothing I want."

And, Rachel laughs.

Like, properly laughs, loud enough to turn heads, and Quinn can't stop her smile because she's always loved that sound.

"Oh, Megan," Rachel says, bolstered by Quinn's presence; "you're a lousy liar." Rachel leans into Quinn's hand, and the blonde's arm promptly slides around her waist, once more. "I have everything you want, and you can't stand it. So, you're bitter and mean and borderline cruel, and you should know that it's not going to work. Not over here."

She forces herself to take a deep breath. "I've faced things far scarier than you, you know, and, maybe, one day, we can all look back at this fondly. Or, I will, at least, because, the longer you keep up with this attitude of yours, the higher the chances you fall right through the cracks and into obscurity. Do you really think people will want to work with you at all, if you keep this up? So, right now, I'm going to ask you to leave us alone, because you're actually acting like a frigid bitch, and I've dealt with enough of those for one lifetime, thank you very much."

Taking a page out of Quinn's book, she turns her head dramatically, and then rests her forehead on Quinn's sternum.

Quinn waits while Megan fumes, and then stalks off in a huff.

Quinn can't help her chuckle. "Remind me again why on earth you even needed me," she teases.

Rachel groans in embarrassment, but she doesn't move away. She'll happily stay right here, thank you very much.

Quinn almost doesn't hear Rachel's next words, but she does.

"I always need you, Quinn."

Screwed.

She's totally screwed.

Chapter Text

III

It's weird.

It really shouldn't be, but it is.

Rachel can't seem to shake just how out of sorts she feels because Quinn is not touching her. After Friday night - which was a resounding success, Rachel thinks - and after being so in tune with Quinn, Rachel can't seem to wrap her head around why Quinn is sitting so far away.

Well, technically, she's lying so far away, sprawled out on the couch while she chats quietly to Santana about whatever the two of them have decided to watch on television.

Rachel isn't paying attention to any of that. Her eyes are on Quinn - casual, relaxed, stunning Quinn - who has been on her mind constantly since they parted ways on the sidewalk outside Tom's apartment building late Friday night. She remembers the feel of Quinn's lips against her cheek, and then she was gone.

And, yes, Rachel is being weird.

Silent.

It's very unlike her, and she doesn't miss the brief looks Santana and Quinn send her way from time to time. She has no actual explanation for it, so it's a good thing neither of them actually brings it up. Her mind is elsewhere, dangerously so, and she can't stop herself from wanting to crawl into the curve of Quinn's body and just lie there.

"Alessia asked about you," Santana suddenly says, cutting into Rachel's thoughts.

Quinn quirks an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"I'm pretty sure she was fishing to find out if you're available," Santana adds, and Rachel feels something awful twist in her gut.

Quinn sighs. "I already told you I'm not interested," she says.

"And, I'm calling bullshit."

Quinn throws a cushion at her. "I'm revoking your 'Bullshit-Calling' powers," she says. "I'm not having this discussion with you again. I'm not interested. I have school and I have the book and I have - " she stops herself, eyes flicking Rachel's way.

The brunette is already looking elsewhere.

"I'm not interested," Quinn repeats, and it's never sounded so much like the truth that Rachel feels her heart drop into her stomach and fly up into her throat simultaneously.

"Whatever," Santana mutters, but she casts a worried look between her two (best) friends.

It's weird.

Santana was expecting Quinn to be the one who struggled with their evening of pretend, but it's Rachel who's been acting as if she's in the Twilight Zone.

It's been two days of this slightly-dazed expression and, when Santana questioned Quinn, the blonde was less than forthcoming.

"I thought it went well," Quinn said. "She got a little emotional somewhere in the middle, but we pulled out of it, and the night ended great. I don't know what's happening, right now."

And, she still doesn't.

Sunday afternoons are usually spent like this. Quinn goes to church in the morning, meets Rachel, Santana or both for a late brunch or early lunch, and then they spend the afternoons together.

Sometimes, they go to museums, various fairs or markets, or they just come to one of the apartments and hang.

Sometimes, Quinn cooks or Rachel bakes, and Santana is their designated taster. Other times, they meet up with Kurt and Blaine, who live together a few blocks away from Quinn.

But, today, it's just the three of them.

Or two, given that Rachel is definitely elsewhere, even if she's sitting in the same room as them.

Eventually, Santana declares that she's going to catch a nap, exaggerating a yawn and a stretch, and Quinn rolls her eyes before muttering to her, "this is why you chose medicine and not acting."

"Shut the fuck up, Fabray," Santana throws right back. "Sort our girl out. I think you broke her."

And, really, Quinn thinks she actually did.

She waits until Santana is out of sight, safely behind her bedroom door before she gets up from the couch and crosses the room to where Rachel is still looking introspective. Without asking permission, she spreads her body over Rachel's, forcing her gaze to lock on hazel eyes.

Rachel looks startled at first, automatically squirming before relaxing and giving in to her fate. "Quinn, what are you doing?"

"I didn't know how else to get your attention," Quinn complains.

"Believe me, you have my attention."

Quinn frowns slightly, unsure exactly what is being implied by those words. "Why are you so sullen?" she asks. "Did - did something happen that I don't know about? Do I have to get Santana to beat somebody up? Because I will."

Rachel lets out an unexpected laugh, and then sighs. "I guess I'm just caught up on… Friday night."

"Oh." Quinn shifts slightly, painlessly elbowing Rachel in the ribs. "What about it?"

"I think I feel… guilty," she starts. "My conscience is acting up about our… lies, and my mind is trying to wrap around what was real and what wasn't."

Quinn wants to scream It was all real, but she just waits patiently as Rachel attempts to figure things out for herself.

Unfortunately, Quinn can't really help her with this part - whatever it is.

"What if this is just the start, Quinn?" Rachel asks. "What if this is just the beginning of my downfall? I mean, I know this is just a… little lie, but where does it end, you know? If I'm ready to sell parts of myself now - even if it's just my soul - just to keep a part, then what would I be willing to do in the future? Am I really that desperate enough to fake an entire relationship just to keep the producers happy? What kind of person does that make me, Quinn?"

Quinn rolls to the side, off of Rachel but pressed against her side. "Is this a… Sunshine situation?" she asks. "Because, if I recall correctly, you've never truly felt all that guilty about that."

"I don't know if it's like that," she says. "Maybe, I think, what if it's because you're involved?"

Quinn waits, perplexed.

"I don't think I should have involved you in this ruse," she says, sounding so sad. "Now, it's always going to be this thing between us."

"Rachel," Quinn says, trying to be understanding when she's just as confused as Rachel is. "It's better that it's me, remember? I'm totally fine with selling my soul. You know that."

Rachel shakes her head in amusement. "What happens when all this is over?"

"Nothing changes," Quinn says, and she can feel how the lie tastes like acid in her throat. Things are already changing. "We'll 'date' for a few weeks, and then we'll break up, and all your cast mates will marvel at how amazing we are for being able to stay friends after all we've been through."

"All we've been through," Rachel echoes in a whisper. "I didn't even ask, but were you actually okay sharing… everything with Tom, Denny and Frankie?"

Quinn pauses. "I didn't really think about it, if I'm being honest," she answers truthfully. "It was all in the moment, and I felt like I was someone else entirely."

"You were acting," Rachel says, and her voice drops in volume because, of course everything was an act.

"Well, yes," Quinn says. "But, it is something I worry about, you know. People finding out about Beth. And, if ever I do get my book published, there's a possibility my life will be looked at a little too closely, and I want to protect her from that." She reaches for Rachel's hand, linking their fingers. "Do you worry about that as well?"

"That all my dirty little secrets are going to be revealed when I'm famous?"

The second the words are out of Rachel's mouth, she knows they're entirely the wrong ones to say. Quinn immediately tenses, and her hand slips free.

Quinn is much too composed to scramble to her feet, but Rachel still feels as if she's running away, hiding her heart behind the walls Rachel's been chipping at for years.

"Quinn," Rachel says; "I didn't mean - "

Quinn just raises a hand, silencing her. "I don't know what's going on with you right now, and I want to help. It's all I want, and you know that." She breathes out slowly. "But, I swear to God, Rachel, if you ever refer to Beth - my fucking daughter - as anything but the wonderful fucking miracle she is again, then you and I are done. Real relationship or not."


"So, I may or may not have done a thing."

Santana just sighs tiredly as she rolls onto her back and stares at her bedroom ceiling. "Did Q leave?" she asks, even though she heard the front door close. It would never slam. Quinn is far too controlled for something as pedestrian as that.

"She did," Rachel mumbles, and then crosses the room and climbs onto Santana's bed. She curls into a tight ball, her eyes on Santana's profile.

Santana doesn't look at her, resigned to her fate. "What did you do?"

And, Rachel tells her.

It's one of the things about their relationship that developed after the 'Brody Incident' their freshman year of college.

They tell each other the truth.

Always.

Santana pinches the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger when Rachel is done with her explanation of events. "What is wrong with you?" The question isn't asked as an accusation. It's more out of curiosity and concern. "It's not like you to make that kind of faux pas. Least of all in front of Q-Ball."

Rachel closes her eyes. "I don't know, San," she says.

Santana finally turns her head. "She knows you didn't mean it the way it came out," she says, needing to assure her roommate. "Of course, she knows. You love Beth, and she knows that."

"For some reason, I get the feeling I've insulted her in a different way, though," she says. "Like, I've done something so irreparably wrong, and I don't even know what it is."

Santana has to look away because, God, this is all kinds of fucked up. What was Quinn doing agreeing to this, and where does Rachel get off even asking?

"San?"

"Hmm?"

"Have you ever felt as if you're losing pieces of yourself, and there's nothing you can do to stop it?"

And, the thing is, Santana has. She felt it every day she was with Brittany, losing parts of herself willingly, until she just stopped belonging to herself altogether.

It almost destroyed her.

Which is why she doesn't want this for Quinn.

Or, for Rachel.

It's barely even started, and they're already hurting each other.

Santana reaches for Rachel's hand. "I have felt that, yes," she says, whispering the confession.

"What happened?" Rachel asks, even though she's sure she already knows the answer.

"I lost myself completely."


Rachel: I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry.

Rachel: I honestly didn't mean it the way it sounded, and I understand why you would be angry with my wording, which was highly insensitive and said without thought.

Rachel: I miss you.

Rachel: Lunch today? Tomorrow? Right now?

Quinn lets out a heavy sigh as she stares down at her phone. She feels childish and embarrassed by her own reaction to Rachel's offhanded question. Quinn knows it wasn't meant the way it sounded, but her heart and head weren't quite on the same page the moment the words registered.

Beth is not some dirty little secret.

Rachel knows that.

Of course, Rachel knows that.

Quinn suspects she's really going to have to schedule extra appointments with her therapist because, honestly, it's barely been a week of… whatever this is, and she's already out of sorts.

With another exasperated look at her phone, she starts to type.

Quinn: I know, and I'm sorry I overreacted. And then left the way I did.

Quinn: I miss you too, Berry.

Quinn: Can't meet for lunch today. What time are you done at the theatre? Maybe we can get dinner instead?


Rachel's performance post Quinn's replies is flawless. The relief she feels eases all the tension in her body, and the rehearsal goes off without a hitch, which is sufficient to draw enough attention that their director, Elliot, and Tom even pull her aside to comment on it.

"Is - is that a bad thing?" she asks, genuinely concerned, because they both look so serious.

"No," Tom says with a soft laugh. "It's wonderful."

"You're continually proving to us why we were right to take this chance on you."

And, there it is.

The words are always said so casually, but the men have no idea how crippling they can be to Rachel's psyche, general belief in herself and in their decision. Her face falls slightly, but neither man seems to notice.

"I think that's it for today," Elliot suddenly calls out, and Rachel is relieved for the reprieve. Her heart is beating a little too fast, and it absolutely has nothing to do with the dinner she's scheduled to have with Quinn.

Rachel showers and gets dressed at the theatre, and then meets Frankie and Jasmine on her way out. They're chatting about where to get dinner, and Frankie pauses to invite her along.

"I can't," she says. "Thank you, though."

"Got any special plans?" Frankie asks, and he wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.

Rachel blushes, and she can't even be sure why. "I'm meeting Quinn," is all she offers, which isn't a lie. She's decided to do as little of that as she possibly can, now that the foundation of her relationship with Quinn has been laid.

"Ooh," Frankie sounds; "and, how is our favourite blonde?"

Rachel smiles at him, because it sounds as if he's genuinely interested. "She's been a bit swamped with school, but she's well, thank you for asking."

"Well, tell her we say hello when you see her," he says, and then sends her on her way.

Rachel doesn't have to be told twice, and she catches a cab to Murray Hill, which is where Quinn lives. The blonde likes to joke about it being such a (relatively affluent) Graduate student cliché to live there, but Rachel knows she loves the area.

There are just things about Quinn that she knows.

And plenty she doesn't.


It's just after seven-thirty when Rachel arrives at Quinn's apartment door, her hand automatically lifting to knock. Rachel knows it irritates Quinn, and she scrunches her face up adorably, which is the number one reason Rachel never uses her key. She loves that face.

"It's open," she hears from behind the door, and she rolls her eyes before entering the homely apartment. It truly is very Quinn. Calm. Understated. It's got a bit of a rustic feel to it, even though it's deceptively modern.

It's the Judy Fabray in me, Quinn once explained. I can't seem to shake it.

Rachel removes her coat once she's closed and locked the door behind her. This is New York. One can never be too careful.

"Quinn?"

"In the kitchen."

Rachel follows the sound of her voice and the clattering of pots and pans to find Quinn standing over her stove, gently mixing some kind of rice dish.

"Quinn," Rachel says, exasperated. "I explicitly told you not to cook. We're supposed to order in, my treat, and I'm supposed to pour my heart out in apology."

Quinn smiles sheepishly over her shoulder, her eyes twinkling. "I would apologise, but I'm not sorry," she says. "I had a craving, and I know how much you like my vegetable rice."

And, okay, Rachel can't dispute that.

"I'm going to throw in extra mushrooms for you but, dear God, I'm having steak."

Rachel doesn't even comment.

Quinn's smile merely widens at her forced silence. "Help yourself to anything from the fridge," she says. "I picked up some of that horrific tomato juice you claim is the Second Coming."

Rachel could comment on that, letting them fall into easy banter, but that's not what she wants to do. Instead of moving towards the fridge, she heads in Quinn's direction.

With little preamble, she wraps her arms around Quinn's waist from behind and presses the front of her body against the blonde's back. Her eyes slip shut as she buries her face between Quinn's shoulder blades.

"I'm sorry," she murmurs, and she feels Quinn steadily exhale. "Please say you forgive me."

"There's nothing to forgive," Quinn says, and Rachel can feel the vibrations in her chest. "But, if you need to hear it, then you're forgiven."

"Thank you." Rachel holds on for a few long seconds more, not wanting this moment to end. If she can help it, she'll spend the rest of her life touching Quinn in some way.

But, she's forced to let go eventually, and Quinn continues with preparing their food while Rachel hovers just to her left, the forefinger of her right hand hooked into the belt loop of Quinn's jeans.

If Quinn finds it strange, she doesn't say so.

Rachel just watches as Quinn removes two thirds of the rice from the pan into another, and then adds diced mushrooms to one and strips of seared steak to the other.

Rachel almost swoons when Quinn makes sure to use two separate spoons.

"I figure you can take some home for Santana," Quinn says, adding in some dark soy sauce to both pans. "She's been nagging me lately, and it'd be nice to shut her up with some home-cooked food."

Rachel giggles softly. "What's she on your back about?"

Quinn doesn't immediately respond. "A few things," she eventually says. "But they're unimportant. Tell me, how was your day?"

Rachel debates prying some more about the Santana situation, but she really doesn't want to be discussing their Latina friend right now. "It was… good," she says. "I think."

Quinn gives her a questioning look.

"I think there's something wrong with me."

"I've been trying to tell you this for years."

Rachel pokes her in the ribs, and Quinn lets out the most amazing shriek that Rachel has to hug her again. This time, Quinn wraps an arm around her shoulders and presses a kiss to the top of her head. Rachel hums in content.

Quinn chuckles softly. "Are you okay?" she asks.

Rachel just nods, pressing her face into the juncture between Quinn's arm and shoulder. "I just really missed you."

Quinn decides not to comment on that as she stirs the first, and then the second pan with her free hand.

"How was your day?" Rachel asks. "I want to know everything."

"Including what I had for breakfast?"

"Definitely."

Quinn shifts to release Rachel, and the brunette lets her, her finger returning to the designated belt loop. "Well, if you must know, I had granola muesli and yoghurt for breakfast."

"Nutritional."

"I even threw in some dried cranberries for added texture."

Rachel grins at her. "You actually braved the berries?"

"As long as they were buried in something else," Quinn says, playfully rolling her eyes.

It's something all their friends like to tease them about. Quinn hates every kind of berry fruit in existence. She just can't seem to stomach them, though she likes the flavour. Santana jokes that that's the real reason Rachel and Quinn never got along in high school.

Quinn's irrational hatred of berries.

Rachel's fathers crack up about it whenever Quinn visits, and the blonde just takes it in stride, claiming there's only one very specific Berry she can't live without.

Always said so casually, but with so much truth.

Now that Rachel's paying attention, Quinn tends to make those kinds of declarations a lot.

Her gaze intense.

Her tone serious.

"I also watched three proposal presentations today," Quinn continues, seemingly oblivious to Rachel's thoughts. "Two were for PhDs."

Despite her distraction, Rachel can hear something very specific in Quinn's voice. "Is that something that interests you?"

Quinn bites her bottom lip for a moment. "I've definitely been thinking about it," she says. "I talked to my mom about it, and she supports me either way. My supervisor wants to hold onto me." She lets out a small chuckle. "He'll probably offer me all the funding I want if I manage to get published by the time I'm scheduled to graduate."

Rachel tugs lightly on Quinn's belt loop. "When do I get to read what you've been working on?"

Quinn glances at her. "You read plenty of my stuff."

"But you've kept everything about your actual thesis so quiet," she points out. "What are you writing about, Fabray? Is it something scandalous? Is it Fifty Shades vibes?"

Quinn throws her head back as she laughs, and Rachel finds herself staring at a long, pale neck that is so delightfully perfect, it's not even fair.

"Of course not," Quinn says as her laughter tapers off. "It's just, well, it's deeply personal," she explains. "I'm not ready for any of you to read it yet. It has to be perfect, for one, and there are things in it that… nobody is ready to know."

Rachel perks up. "Like the fact that you're a complete sucker for Westlife?"

Quinn glares at her. "I told you that in confidence," she accuses.

"Actually, you sang that in confidence," she snickers.

"I was drunk," she says with a pout.

Rachel reaches up and gently tugs on Quinn's ear, her own eyes shining with affection. "You're adorable."

"Yeah, yeah," Quinn dismisses. "Make yourself useful and get us some plates."

Silently, Rachel does just that, setting two places at Quinn's breakfast bar. It's Quinn's favourite place to eat in her own apartment, though Rachel's never really been told why. It never seemed important before, but now Rachel wants to know.

She's struck by the sudden, almost irrepressible urge to know everything.

Quinn is the one to dish out their food, careful not to cross-contaminate. The one time she did that, she received an hour-long Rachel Berry lecture that gave her a splintering migraine and an earache.

She wouldn't dream of mentioning the latter to Rachel, though.

"Are you having your blood juice?" Quinn asks, her head in the fridge as she retrieves a bottle of water for herself.

Rachel chuckles. "Maybe later," she says, which is code for I'm going to be drinking half of your water, Quinn.

Quinn is resigned to her fate as she settles in beside Rachel. She says a quick prayer, crosses herself, and then digs in. She's vaguely aware of Rachel eating next to her, but then the brunette starts openly staring at her.

"Is the food not good?" Quinn asks.

Rachel shakes her head. "It's divine."

Quinn glances up, noting the slight crease in Rachel's brow. "What's wrong, then?"

"I called Shelby today," Rachel says, and it's the absolute last thing Quinn is expecting to hear. "Just to talk, I guess. I wanted to speak to Beth, really, because I felt…" she trails off. "I didn't know she was such a fan of baking. We talked about shortbread for literally half an hour."

Despite herself, Quinn finds herself smiling. "It started when she baked bread in class at school," she explains. "Her Christmas list has expanded to include all sorts of baking goodies."

"Are you bummed she's taken to baking rather than cooking?"

Quinn can hear the teasing in her voice. "As in she's more inclined towards you, huh?"

"Baking is far superior, Quinn," Rachel says with an air of supremacy. "Accept it."

Quinn just returns to her food, her smile firmly in place. This part is… easy. Just being with Rachel. Talking to her. Experiencing her.

It's the part that comes after that always manages to trip Quinn up.

Because, regardless of what Quinn has managed to convince herself she no longer wants, Rachel leaves. She goes home. Back to her life.

Where the easiness of their relationship is simply… not real.


Things, somewhat miraculously, seem to settle as the week scuttles along.

Quinn and Rachel are in a… good place. They haven't had to stretch their acting muscles and play the doting couple for a few days, which helps.

It just lulls them into false security, as it were.

When Denny, visiting the theatre on a rare occasion, mentions the mass barbecue/picnic they're planning on having for the cast, crew and family at Pelham Bay Park the following week's Sunday; Rachel's stomach rolls unpleasantly.

It's supposed to be a bonding experience before they go into the last few weeks of rehearsals prior starting their full dress rehearsals and Previews.

Denny makes it especially clear to Rachel that Quinn is definitely invited, and she would love to see her there. The weather is supposed to let up, and it's supposed to be good fun with tasty food and a few organised games to bolster the group's dynamic.

Rachel says they'll be there before Denny can even finish explaining the reasoning behind throwing the barbecue.

Now, all Rachel has to do is bring it up to Quinn, which is what she does that weekend while they're supposed to be getting ready for a night out with Santana, Kurt, Blaine and some others that Rachel definitely isn't paying attention to.

Because, well, she's a little distracted.

By Quinn.

Who is in a dress that is positively… sinful.

It amazes Rachel, really, how Quinn can make her 'little black dress' look so sexy and tasteful, simultaneously. It's practically unfair, and Rachel finds her train of thought wandering more often than not.

"A barbecue, huh?" Quinn asks, slipping in her hanging earrings.

Rachel nods from her position sitting on the end of her own bed. "Next Sunday."

"Afternoon?"

"Yip."

Quinn smiles all too knowingly. "Santana isn't going to be happy we're both ditching her."

Rachel's eyes snap up from where they drifted down to Quinn's legs. "You'll go?"

"Of course."

"And Santana will get over it," Rachel says; "she'll probably welcome the opportunity to nap all afternoon."

Quinn hums in agreement, her eyes on the mirror in front of her. "She's had a pretty tough week. No wonder she wants to go out and have a wild night."

"Not too wild, I hope," Rachel quips as she rises to her feet.

At that exact moment, Santana bursts into the room, yelling, "It's time to go loco, putas!"

Quinn and Rachel exchange a look, and then both burst out laughing.

"What?" Santana asks. "What's so funny? Are you laughing at me?"

"No, San," Quinn says. "It's something else."

"Is this one of those inside fake relationship things?" she asks, her gaze pointed as she studies the two of them. "Because that's totally on pause tonight, okay? Q, you're my wing-woman, and you may or may not have to take one for the team if the lady I set my eyes on has a less hot friend."

Quinn rolls her eyes, because that's not happening, and Rachel forces away the sudden churning in her gut. It's not as if the brunette can actually say anything to make sure none of that happens, but she desperately wants to.

"Can we please go?" Santana says, impatient. "I need some booze."

"You need something," Quinn mutters under her breath.

"What was that, Tight Ass?" Santana immediately throws back.

"You wish your ass was as toned as mine."

Santana gasps, and then turns around, showing Rachel and Quinn her posterior. "This ass is fine," she says. "Berry, tell her. It's so much better than hers."

"I'm not getting involved in this… ass-off," Rachel says, raising her hands in innocence. "I think you're both exceptionally beautiful young women."

Santana rolls her eyes. "Jesus," she says. "All I wanted was a demeaning compliment on how hot my ass looks."

"You won't find that here, Santana," Rachel says.

Santana glances at her. "Well, obviously not from you," she says. "And, that's why we're going out."


As, technically, the only straight person in her immediate friend group, Rachel expects to get lumped in whenever Santana, Quinn, Kurt and Blaine go hopping from one gay bar to the other. It's something she normally enjoys, really. It's always given her a certain thrill, and tonight shouldn't be any different.

But, it is.

It truly, truly is.

Because, for starters, it's not just the five of them on this little bar adventure. And, okay, Rachel would normally be okay with that as well, because the rest of them obviously have other friends, but tonight is something out of the ordinary.

Except, not really.

Rachel is the one not acting… normal.

She was fine.

After leaving the apartment, they met up with Kurt, Blaine and another man, Gavin, who they've met a handful of times, at the first bar. It was already packed, and they were already drinking, and Rachel was fine.

She started up a conversation with Gavin, happily discussing their favourite songs at the moment, and Quinn was sitting close to her side, their thighs pressed together.

Then, Quinn leaned into her, whispered something about going to dance with Santana, and Rachel made the mistake of letting her go.

Now, they're on to their third bar, and Rachel is sulking. How was she supposed to know that dancing with Santana was going to graduate to dancing with Alessia, Santana's friend who has the hots for you?

And, Rachel thinks she would be okay if it was just dancing, but it's not. They're practically grinding against each other, right there, in front of everyone, and Rachel can see their mouths getting closer and closer.

She feels nauseous, and she can't really figure out why.

It's why she stopped with all the bubbly drinks more than an hour ago. She's sipping at a Vodka Cranberry, which is, incidentally, one of Quinn's favourite drinks. Second maybe to a Whiskey Sour.

Sometimes, Rachel hates that she knows Quinn so well.

"What's got you all mopey?" a voice suddenly asks, and Rachel's head snaps up to see Kurt sliding into the booth with her. "Not having a good night?"

Rachel resists the urge to glance in the direction of the dance floor. "It's fine," she says.

"We always worry you don't actually like coming with us to gay bars," he says, tilting forward. He's drunk, but not too far gone.

"It's not that," she immediately says, because it's not really. She wouldn't even be able to explain if she tried, so she doesn't even want to bother.

"I'm sure we could find you a few people to dance with," he says, wiggling his eyebrows. "Take a ride on the wild side."

Rachel shakes her head, because she's not really feeling it. "I'm okay," she says, sipping at her drink. "I think it's just been one of those weeks, you know?"

Kurt nods in understanding.

He has many, many of those weeks now that his fashion career is starting to take off, but even he knows it's something more with Rachel. There's something deeply melancholy about her and, as tempted as he is to ask, he realises tonight might not be the best time.

Either way, his next response is stolen from him when Blaine approaches, immediately reaching for his hand and dragging him away. He just manages to mumble something over his shoulder, but he doubts Rachel's even paying attention.

She's not, because her eyes are back on Quinn, who's front is pressed so tightly to Alessia's back that it's impossible to tell where one starts and the other ends.

Rachel downs her drink in one go.

And, then, she does something really, really fucking stupid.

In her defence, she is a little drunk and she's rather heartsore, for some reason, and her fingers are dialling the number before she can stop herself.

In the morning, she won't remember the conversation at all, but she must say something because, exactly twenty-five minutes later, Quinn is right in front of her, her heated expression one that doesn't fully register with Rachel until the blonde speaks.

"What the hell, Rachel?" she practically hisses.

Rachel blinks once, twice, and then smiles widely when she looks past Quinn's shoulder. "Frankie, Jazz, you came!"

Quinn shoots her such a dirty look, but Rachel misses it completely as she scrambles out of the booth and throws herself at Frankie, and then at Jasmine.

"I'm so happy you're here!" Rachel practically screams at the newcomers. "You have to say hello to everybody. Come, come, come." She grabs hold of Frankie's arm and drags him away, Jasmine following after shooting an amused look at Quinn.

Quinn is not amused. She's the furthest from amused, in fact.

If Rachel's brain registers it, she doesn't show it. Instead, she drags Frankie and Jasmine to Santana, who's wrapped around a particularly leggy blonde, and then to Kurt and Blaine, who are in the middle of the dance floor.

She doesn't bother with anyone else.

They all end up back at the booth, anyway, with Kurt and Blaine asking drunken questions of Frankie and Jasmine. Santana gets the newcomers both drinks, and then squeezes herself in between Alessia and Quinn, because she obviously needs to now that Frankie and Jasmine are here, and they think that Quinn is Rachel's girlfriend.

The murderous look Quinn approached Santana with might have made her laugh if this were any other situation, and she's nothing if not a firm believer in keeping her one best friend from castrating the other.

Rachel is playing with fire.

Quinn sits stiffly beside Rachel, her face slightly pinched as she tries to figure out just what is going on. It's borderline impossible for her to salvage this night, and she imagines it's highly unlikely whatever she and Alessia were building up to is going to go anywhere now.

Because, apparently her fake girlfriend decided to -

To what?

Quinn doesn't understand. Why would Rachel invite Frankie and Jasmine when she knows what it would mean to Quinn's night?

Unless.

Unless, she did know, and she wanted to thwart it, somehow?

But, why?

Quinn sighs. This is giving her a headache, and the alcohol is helping her hold onto her latent anger. It also doesn't help that Alessia keeps shooting her curious, questioning looks over the top of Santana's head.

Quinn doesn't have any answers for her. Rachel's the one with all the power here, apparently. They probably, definitely, should have discussed exclusivity when they started this whole… farce.

Her fingers tighten around her glass for a moment, and then she relaxes. It's fine. She's a trained actress. She can pull this off, and then she can deal with Rachel Berry.


Rachel's hangover is… extreme.

It hits her the second she opens her eyes, and she's forced to snap them shut when the light hits. She lets out a groan and rolls onto her stomach, burying her face in her pillow.

She suddenly lifts her head, gasping at the nausea that rolls through her.

This is not her pillow.

Struggling to get her bearings, Rachel forces herself to sit up and take in her surroundings.

Quinn.

This is Quinn's pillow.

Her bed.

Her bedroom.

"What on earth?" she murmurs to herself.

Rachel turns to Quinn's nightstand to find Advil, a glass of water and her phone neatly lined up, and she feels deep, deep affection fill her chest with warmth. She immediately downs the painkillers and gulps down the entire glass of water before she resettles against Quinn's pillows.

She closes her eyes in an attempt to recall just how she ended up here, dressed in Quinn's sweatpants and t-shirt, in her bed.

Without her.

Frankly, Rachel's too scared to leave the room, or even check her phone. She imagines something very significant had to have happened for her to end up here.

She's even too afraid to find out what the time is.

Rachel ends up drifting off back to sleep, which does wonders for her hangover but very little for her anxiety.

When she wakes again, still alone, she sucks it up and checks her phone, where she has several text messages and one missed call from Kurt.

She decides to check them systematically.

Dad: Hi, Sweetheart. Do you remember where we packed the scented candles when we moved?

Rachel rolls her eyes, because of course that's the thing her father is going to ask. She types a quick reply that isn't at all helpful, and then moves on to the next set of texts, from Kurt.

Kurt: Okay. What is going on?

Kurt: Why does Quinn look like she wants to kill you?

Then, two hours later.

Kurt: Are you dead?

Kurt: Jesus, Rach, if looks could kill… you really would be dead.

Kurt: Call me.

Rachel feels unease creep further up her spine. What on earth happened last night?

Choosing not to reply to him just yet, she moves on.

Frankie: Rachel, I don't want to put you on the spot or anything, but are you and Quinn okay? Some things seemed to be going on, and I wasn't brave enough to ask in front of her. Is everything okay?

Rachel closes her eyes.

What the hell?

God, what happened?

Quinn: If you leave before I get back from church, you and I are going to have a very serious problem.

Quinn: Drink a lot of water. I left breakfast in a container in the fridge for you. I need you to have as little of a hangover as possible when we talk.

Okay…

Santana: Dude. You're in such deep shit.

Wait, what? What happened?

Santana: Fucking prepare yourself.

And, yeah, okay, maybe she should try to remember what the hell happened last night before she faces Quinn.

Chapter Text

IV

Rachel manages to shower, brush her teeth with the toothbrush she keeps at Quinn's place and locate some of her own clothes from some time in the past before Quinn gets back.

Rachel is in the kitchen sipping coffee and nibbling on a slice of avocado toast when she hears Quinn arrive, and she immediately tenses, because she still doesn't really remember what happened last night. She can't even recall why Frankie would even be texting her.

She didn't even see him, did she?

She thinks she's prepared for Quinn but, the second the blonde moves into sight, she realises she's not. She hasn't seen that expression on that pretty face in some years, and she's immediately thrown by the anger on display.

"You're up," Quinn simply says, moving towards the fridge to deposit some leftover something from wherever she probably had brunch with Santana.

"Hi," is all Rachel can manage.

Quinn closes the fridge door, and then shifts to the opposite side of the kitchen. The hardness of her features is in such contrast with her pale yellow dress and white cardigan, and Rachel visibly tenses when she braces herself against the counter and folds her arms across her chest.

Rachel takes a sip of her steaming coffee.

"How are you feeling?" Quinn asks.

Rachel audibly swallows. "Uh, I don't feel as if I'm dying," she says. "Thank you for the Advil. And the breakfast."

Quinn says nothing.

Rachel can't handle the silence. "Quinn, I'm sorry."

Quinn arches an eyebrow. "And, what exactly are you sorry for?"

It's the tone of voice, Rachel thinks, that sets every one of her nerve endings on edge. She hasn't heard it directed at her in such a long time. "I - I don't know," Rachel says, because she honestly doesn't. "But, I get the feeling something bad happened and I should be apologising."

"Something bad," Quinn echoes, her eyes narrowing. "What's the last thing you remember?"

And, the thing is, Rachel has been trying. Desperately, almost, but she just can't remember much of anything. "Uh," she starts; "probably until we arrived at the second bar. When, umm, the others showed up."

"The others," Quinn says. "As in Giovanni, Pedro, Dana and Alessia?"

Rachel twitches at the sound of the last name, and an image of Quinn dancing with the woman flashes in her mind. She shifts uncomfortably, and some things start clicking into place. Santana was mightily unhelpful with providing details, and she's not even going to attempt to talk to Kurt before all of this gets sorted out with Quinn.

"Is that when things started to get foggy in your recollection of events?" Quinn asks, her tone razor sharp.

"I - I think so."

"Oh, good, then this all makes much more fucking sense," she says and, okay, she's definitely at some other level of angry. "Firstly, I don't even know where you get off pulling stunts like that. If you have a problem, you come to me and we talk about it. I thought that was this new feature of our friendship, Rachel, but it seems I'm mistaken."

Rachel knows now is not the time to ask questions, even though she's seriously confused.

"Perhaps it's my own fault," Quinn says. "We should have discussed exclusivity before we embarked on whatever this is but, God, Rachel, what the fuck were you thinking?"

She doesn't know.

She honestly doesn't know.

"You called Frankie and Jasmine to join us when you knew I was hitting it off with Alessia," Quinn accuses, and Rachel shrinks back, frowning. "Colour me surprised when I'm in the middle of the dance floor with a woman who isn't my girlfriend and I spot the familiar faces of two of your cast mates in the crowd, and I have to drop and roll before they spot me with my hands on some other woman's ass."

Rachel resists the urge to cringe at the image.

"And, you invited them," Quinn says, almost growling. "And, then, you were too drunk to hold it together enough to help me save face, because, right now, Alessia thinks I'm the kind of bitch who dances suggestively with her while 'my girl' just sits and watches, utterly heartbroken."

Rachel's eyes widen.

"Yes!" Quinn hisses. "I don't know where in your drunken mind you decided I was really yours, but now I'm some kind of dirty player in Alessia's eyes, and I actually kind of liked her." Quinn's voice catches slightly, and Rachel feels an ache bloom in her chest at the sound of those words. She can't be sure if it's because Quinn is hurt by her actions or if it's because of her quiet confession.

Perhaps it's both.

Whichever one, it hurts Rachel too, and she's unsure what to say in response.

"Quinn - " she starts.

Quinn just raises a hand to silence her. "I really don't want to deal with what you have to say right now," she says, and there's no room for arguing. "Particularly when you don't even know what you did. God, Rach, I've never been so humiliated in my entire life. I know I've cheated in relationships before, but I'm not like that anymore. I'm secure with myself, and I'm happy, and you made me look like some kind of vicious user, and now Alessia probably hates me, and I'm sure your friends think I hate them."

Rachel has to look away, because the anger is slowly dissipating from Quinn's eyes, only to be replaced by hurt and confusion. Rachel can't handle seeing it, and it's even worse because she's the cause of it.

Quinn clears her throat, seemingly gathering herself, and then levels Rachel with such a glare that the brunette feels it in her very bones. "You don't get to do that to me," she says. "If this thing is going to work; if our friendship is supposed to survive the aftermath of this pretend relationship, then you don't get to do things that are going to make my life difficult when you decide this is over."

Rachel's heart skips several traitorous beats, and she can't be sure exactly why. She doesn't want it to be over. Ever.

"For now, I don't want to see you," Quinn says. "I know we spend Sundays together, but I think we need some time apart or I'm really going to end up saying something I'll regret." She clenches her jaw, and it looks as if it hurts. "I'm sure you're capable of seeing yourself out," she says, and then walks out of the kitchen without looking back.

Rachel quietly finishes her coffee and toast, washes her dishes, dries and replaces them, and then she gathers her things and leaves.

Even though every part of her is screaming for her not to.


"So, you did a thing."

Rachel barely even registers Santana's words as she makes her way further into the Latina's bedroom and climbs onto the bed beside her, curling up and facing her.

It's not as if Santana was going to be able to get any sleep, anyway.

"I did a thing," Rachel says miserably, tears already pooling in her eyes. "How - how bad was it?"

"On a scale of one to ten?"

"Mmhmm."

"Fifteen."

Rachel closes her eyes. "Oh, God."

"It was fine at first, I guess," Santana says. "Quinn kind of resigned herself to the fact she wouldn't be getting it on with Alessia last night, but that didn't immediately rule out any other night. No, that didn't happen until you got drunk enough to start regaling stories to your theatre pals about how happy Quinn makes you and how you always feel so safe, but now she doesn't seem to want you anymore. And, then, at some point, you started yelling at Alessia to leave your girl alone, and that Quinn is yours and she doesn't stand a chance."

Rachel buries her face in a pillow, groaning.

"And then Quinn was put between a rock and a hard place, because she couldn't exactly explain the situation to Alessia with your peeps sitting right there, and she also looked like a right tool to them because you gave the impression that her eyes were straying."

At this point, Rachel can't stop her tears.

"So, yeah, it was bad," Santana concludes. "Also, Kurt and Blaine are fucking confused."

Rachel just silently cries into Santana's pillow, her headache and her heartache adding to the torment. "She must hate me."

"No, she doesn't," Santana says, used to her roommate's dramatics. "She's just confused. As am I, to be honest. What exactly were you thinking?"

"I don't think I was," Rachel admits.

"Were you feeling left out or something?" she asks. "Because that's eating into me a little bit. Quinn's always felt a bit guilty about it as well, and Kurt mentioned that you were looking a little down."

It would be so easy to say yes.

All she has to do is agree with Santana's theory, but the two of them don't lie to each other, so Rachel says nothing.

"That's Quinn's theory, anyway," Santana says. "I have another one entirely."

"Which is?"

"You just like the attention." It isn't said with any affection, which makes it sound like an insult.

And, possibly, the truth.

"How did I end up at Quinn's place?" Rachel asks, sidestepping Santana's theory.

"Well, when we were leaving, you were kind of… hanging off of her. Everyone was around, and she couldn't exactly peel you off, so she took you to her place. I don't know what happened after that, but she texted to say you both made it home, and that you were out for the count."

Rachel breathes out slowly. "I don't remember any of it."

"Maybe it's a good thing," Santana says sympathetically, reaching over to pat Rachel's hand in an action that's slowly seeped into their odd relationship. "Why don't you try to get some sleep," she suggests. "You can do damage control when you're feeling better."


Damage control involves sending about fourteen apology texts to Quinn and receiving one reply of not now, Rachel.

It involves calling Kurt and scheduling a lunch date on Tuesday, so she can attempt to stumble through a suitable explanation for her ridiculous behaviour.

And it includes a coffee date with Frankie before they have to be at the theatre for rehearsals the next day.

Rachel's hangover is largely gone, but she had a restless sleep and Quinn still isn't replying to her properly - this morning's text received a good morning back, but that's it - and Rachel is anxious and slightly irritable.

Rachel cuts straight to the chase once she and Frankie are seated. "We were fighting," she starts. "It was… a bad one."

Frankie just nods, silently inviting her to continue.

"I, uh, get clingy when I drink too much," she explains; "and I get paranoid."

"Ah," he sounds; "that explains you threatening to chop that other woman's hair off if she so much as looked at Quinn again."

Rachel's mouth drops open. "I said that?"

Frankie looks slightly amused. "Oh, yes," he says. "Your threats were very… colourful."

Rachel sips at her coffee, frowning slightly at the still-hot liquid. "Quinn isn't too happy with me," she says, almost whispering.

"Still?"

"It's only Monday," Rachel says weakly. "I think there's more to it than she's telling me, but I'm not sure how to get her to talk about it without us getting into another argument."

"Well, I don't know Quinn too well, but she seems like the type that needs a bit of time and space to make sense of things, and then she'll talk," he suggests, trying to be helpful. "I wouldn't worry too much about it. It's obvious she loves you."

Rachel can't bring herself to respond to that, because all she wants is to yell Is it?

Frankie watches her carefully. "You do know that, right?" he questions, sensing hesitance on her part.

Rachel audibly swallows, unsure how she's supposed to have this conversation when there are none of those feelings involved in her relationship with Quinn.

Obviously, they care about each other.

Rachel feels deep affection for Quinn, maybe even loves her the way she would a friend. That's all it is, and she really doesn't need the added confusion of the potential of something else.

"Oh, Rachel," Frankie says. "That woman is head over heels for you."

And, okay, there's no possible way Frankie could know that. "Be serious," she finds herself saying. "You've only met her twice."

"I wouldn't even have to know who she is to know the truth of it," Frankie says. "If you could just see the way she looks at you. People spend their entire lives waiting for someone to look at them the way Quinn looks at you."

"And, how does Quinn look at me?"

"Like you're the sun," he answers, barely missing a beat. "Like, there isn't a person in this world who could possibly shine brighter than you, and that's definitely something to behold, Rachel Berry."

Rachel wants to tell him he's wrong. Quinn doesn't look at her like that. She can't, because none of this is real.

But the words don't come because, on some level, her subconscious can accept some truth to it. There is something very specific in Quinn's gaze that Rachel's never quite been able to figure out, and she wonders if this is it.

No.

It's impossible.

It has to be.


Rachel: Quinn, I get that you're probably still mad at me, and you're also probably sick of all my apologies, so I decided to attempt to make it up to you.

Rachel: Firstly, Frankie and Jasmine adore you. Don't worry about them, okay? I used my extensive imagination and said I was drunk and emotional and projecting, and you're actually the best girlfriend I could ever ask for. (Provided we're still doing that. I wouldn't be surprised if you wanted to call it quits.)

Rachel: Also, I asked Santana for Alessia's number. I called her and explained MOST of the situation to her (I'm sorry, but I still have my fledgling career to protect.) She was confused at first, but she was quite receptive to the truth. (You're apparently a great friend for doing this for me.) She likes you and, if you actually like her, then I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you called.

Rachel: I promise I'll be more careful with my alcohol from now on - I might even stop entirely. I'm sorry I hurt you, Quinn. I still don't remember much of anything, but thank you for taking care of me.

Rachel: Can I treat you to lunch some time this week? (If you've forgiven me, that is.) I really miss you.


"You asked her to do what?"

Rachel casts a quick look around them to be sure nobody else seems to have heard Kurt's exclaim. "Calm yourself," she admonishes. "We're in public."

"Oh, I'm sorry, did your best friend just tell you she asked her former nemesis to enter a fake relationship with her to convince her production team that she's a lesbian?"

"Keep your voice down, Kurt," she hisses. "What is wrong with you?"

"What's wrong with me," he echoes incredulously. "Do you have any idea how insane you sound? Why would you ever ask that of Quinn?"

Rachel blinks. "What?"

"God, you're an idiot."

Rachel frowns. "What are you even talking about?"

Kurt forces himself to take deep, calming breaths. He's far too young for all the stress his friends put him through. Honestly, he's starting to go grey, he's sure of it. "Rachel, honey, what in heaven's name possessed you to think this was a good idea?"

Rachel has no answer for that, so she doesn't even bother.

"What did Quinn even say?"

Rachel relaxes slightly. "Well, she was apprehensive at first," she explains. "She asked to think about it, and then she eventually said she couldn't do it, and then we encountered Megan - the one I'm constantly complaining about - and then Quinn went all Head Bitch on her, and maybe called me her girlfriend, and here we are."

Rachel is aware she's blushing a little too late, and Kurt quirks an eyebrow in question.

"It's much better to witness the HBIC than be on the receiving end of it," is all she says in response.

Kurt presses his lips together for a moment. "So, she said no?"

"Yip."

"And then yes?"

Rachel nods.

"And then?"

"Then we went to a cast party together, and she was amazing."

Kurt hums. "Yes, Sweetie, Quinn is the bee's knees, but what happened after that?"

Rachel drops her gaze. "Well, I may have said something untoward, and she reacted poorly, and then we made up again. Then we all went out on Saturday, and Hell descended on Rachel Berry in the form of vodka."

Kurt chuckles. "You really should learn to control yourself."

Rachel sighs. "I don't really know what was going on with me."

Kurt eyes her critically. "Oh, I think you do."

And, okay, maybe, just maybe, Rachel has an idea, but it doesn't mean anything. It's not real. She's merely seeing what she wants to see, and she's not about to stand in the way if Quinn is going to find happiness elsewhere.

"Rachel?" Kurt's voice is soft, soothing. "Sweetheart, are you okay?"

"I don't think so," she confesses. "I don't think I'm ready to deal with all of… that, right now. I just want Quinn to talk to me again. I - I miss her, and it's so stupid because I literally see her all the time, you know?"

"Do you?"

Rachel blinks. "What?"

"How often do you see Quinn?"

"At least once, maybe twice, a week," she says. "We spend Sundays together."

"Every Sunday?"

Rachel thinks back. "I think I've missed a few, but yes."

"Just the two of you?"

"Santana is usually there." She frowns. "What are you getting at, Kurt?"

"Nothing," he says, but he makes a mental note to check in with his blonde friend. He can't imagine any of this has been easy for her and, based on the way Rachel is falling apart at the seams, he has a feeling it's going to get worse before it gets better.

If it ever does.

"What do I do?" Rachel asks, and she just barely stops herself from actually whining.

Kurt sighs, absently lifting his glass of water to his mouth. He takes a small sip, trying to buy himself time. He's the last person who should be giving advice on women, but he's willing to try. "It's Quinn," he says; "so you should just give her some space and let her come to you when she's ready." He pauses. "But, you already know that, so what are you really asking me?"

Rachel is silent for a long moment, absently pushing a slice of cucumber across her plate. She finds that she doesn't quite like anything she orders to eat when she's not with Quinn. "Kurt?"

"Rachel?"

"What if… what if I do?"

Kurt raises his eyebrows. "What if you do what?"

She lets out a long breath. "What if… what if I don't want it to be fake? What if I want it to be real?"

Kurt's stomach does a flip because ohmygod ohmygod. He maintains his composure outwardly, but his mind is exploding with so many possibilities. "Well, if that is the case," he says; "for starters, you're definitely going about it all wrong."


Quinn finally texts Rachel back Wednesday morning when she arrives at her office at campus. Admittedly, she's still smarting from the weekend's events, but she misses Rachel, and she thinks they've both stewed enough.

Quinn did end up calling Alessia, just to apologise again and explain further the borderline messed up situation. It was obvious from the tone of the woman's voice that she was still interested, but Quinn doesn't feel comfortable pursuing anything at this moment. She wants to see how everything plays out with Rachel, and then reevaluate.

Chances are, she's going to end up with a broken heart, but then she'll know for sure, right?

Or, something.

Quinn: You're clogging up my message inbox, you know. Apple called to complain. Please stop apologising. I heard you the first forty times.

Quinn: Thank you for calling Alessia and explaining things. I really appreciate it, and it's nice to know she doesn't actually hate me, regardless of what I decide in the future.

Quinn: It's also nice to know your friends don't hate me, either. That would make this Sunday awkward. We're still on, Rachel. I made a commitment to you, and I intend to follow through, but I do think we need to talk before then. I have time for lunch tomorrow? Does that work for you?

Quinn: You're forgiven, and I miss you too. Xx

It isn't a surprise to Quinn when a string of replies arrives merely a minute later.

After dealing with Rachel and making tentative plans for lunch at a mutual favourite restaurant of theirs, Quinn next has to deal with Kurt.

His texts are slightly accusatory because she left him out of the loop and, really, what was she thinking agreeing to something like this?

Quinn thinks he's been spending too much time with Santana, even though she knows it's not true. Santana is too busy with school, and Kurt is buried under mountains of fabric and sequins.

Quinn chuckles to herself as she starts forming a reply for her surprising friend. They have an… odd relationship. Like with Santana, they can be incredibly snarky towards each other, compliments disguised as insults and a certain understanding that sometimes makes other jealous.

Particularly Rachel.

And, well, sometimes Blaine.

Quinn: Don't get your pretty boy knickers in a twist, Hummel. I'm fine. I think.

Quinn: I assume you talked to Rachel?

She doesn't get a reply. Instead, her phone starts to ring, and she lets out a slight groan because she hasn't even had time to have her coffee yet and she's expected in class in twenty minutes.

"Hello," she answers anyway.

"Oh, Rachel and I talked, all right," is his greeting. "How are you, really?"

"I'm pretty exhausted," she confesses. "My supervisor has me making some final edits on my last chapters, and I'm honestly freaking out about what happens when it's done."

"Does that mean we get to read it soon?"

"I'm afraid you'll get to read it when the rest of the world gets to read it," she says. "No special previews for you."

"Bummer."

"How are you?"

"No complaints," he says. "I mean, no actual complaints. It's more First World problems, and those don't really count. It shouldn't matter that the coffee sucks here and someone keeps stealing my lunch."

"Aww, poor baby."

"Oh, I can practically feel your sympathy."

"At least you can feel something," Quinn quips; "and there I was thinking you were soulless."

"Bitch."

"I miss you, K."

"We should do lunch," he says. "Tomorrow?"

"Can't," she says, grimacing. "Friday?"

"Can't."

"Fuck."

He chuckles. "Why don't Blaine and I come for dinner at your place Friday night?"

"Who do you think you are just inviting yourself over?"

He clears his throat. "I am His Royal Highness Prince Kurt Alexander Hummel, Duke of Vogue, and - "

"Okay, okay," she interrupts with a laugh. "Be at my place by seven," she says. "And bring the wine."

"No, no, I'm bringing the eye candy."

"Just bring the fucking wine, Your Majesty."


Rachel throws her arms around Quinn the second she sees her, almost knocking the blonde completely off balance.

The only reason Quinn manages to stay upright is because of the wall behind her, but her shoulder blade is probably going to bruise from the impact.

"Rachel," Quinn squeaks, the breath leaving her body.

"I'm sorry," Rachel mumbles, her face buried in the crook of Quinn's neck. "I'm so sorry."

Quinn resigns herself to her fate and just wraps her own arms around Rachel's body, squeezing her tightly. She's really missed her, and that longing feeling seems only to be growing the more time they spend together.

Or apart.

Just, time, really.

Quinn definitely isn't doing herself any favours.

Rachel holds onto Quinn for long, long seconds, but neither of them seems to care that there's a server standing right there, waiting to show them to their table.

Quinn just offers him a sheepish smile, and he smiles back, silently allowing them to have their moment.

"Rachel," Quinn eventually says. "I'm starving."

The brunette chuckles wetly, and Quinn's eyes widen in alarm.

"Please don't cry," she says. "No, no tears, Berry. What the hell?"

Rachel pulls back, wiping at her eyes. "I'm just so relieved to see you," she says. "How are you?"

Quinn just reaches for her hand and turns to their server. "Sorry about that," she says politely. "We're ready for our table now." She has to drag Rachel along behind her, their fingers linked as they maneuver through the tables.

Once they're seated, Quinn orders them some water, and then settles in to study her menu, even though she already knows what she's going to be ordering for the both of them.

Which is why Rachel doesn't even bother with her own menu. She just sits across from Quinn and stares. Unabashedly. Guiltlessly.

Quinn flushes under her scrutiny. "What's up with you?" she asks.

Rachel just shrugs, offering no explanation.

Quinn sets her menu on the table. "How has your day been?" she asks. "How are rehearsals?"

Rachel blinks once, twice, and then smiles. "It's been going well," she says. "We have quite a few scenes fully worked out. I even got to use a few props today."

"And, how did that go?"

Rachel giggles softly. "Not so well," she confesses. "I may or may not have poked Jasmine in the eye with a broom."

Quinn laughs, and it's this glorious, free sound that sets Rachel alight. "You're a walking hazard."

"I'll get better."

"I have no doubt." Quinn's eyes twinkle with something, but the moment is interrupted by their server. Accepting their water, Quinn quickly rattles off their usual order, and then dazzles Rachel with a smile. "So."

Rachel returns her smile, unable to stop herself. "How has your day been?"

Quinn shrugs. "It's all the same," she says. "Just a lot of editing and tutoring. Most of the students want to get their work in before Halloween."

Rachel perks up at the sound of that. "Speaking of," she says. "Do we - umm - do you have any plans?"

Quinn shakes her head. "As if Santana would let me do anything without her," she says, her voice affectionate. "Whatever she's doing, I'm doing, which means we're both doing what you're doing."

Rachel laughs lightly. "Kurt mentioned that Vogue is throwing a pretty big party," she says. "He could probably get us all in."

"Ooh," Quinn says; "I'll have to ask him about it tomorrow."

Rachel frowns. "Tomorrow?"

"Oh, he and Blaine are coming over for dinner, apparently."

"Apparently?"

"I have no say in these things, sometimes," she says with a slight shrug. "Though, I am looking forward to cooking a meal that consists of mostly meat."

"Ew."

Quinn sips at her water, hiding her smile. "One day, Rach."

"Never going to happen."

"You'll see," Quinn says. "I predict it. When you're pregnant with your first child, you're going to have this crazy craving for beef jerky… and you're going to give in."

She exaggerates a gasp. "Don't you say such a thing," she says. "You're going to jinx me."

Quinn laughs prettily, and Rachel's heart soars with accomplishment. "Mark my word."

"Just because you inhaled bacon while you were pregnant, doesn't mean I'm going to go back on my morals," she declares.

"I can't wait to be proven right," Quinn says, and this is getting too close to dangerous territory, because she really shouldn't be thinking about Rachel having babies. "I'm glad you could meet me."

"I'm glad you suggested it at all," Rachel mumbles. "I thought you would still be mad at me."

Quinn lets out a slow breath. "I admit that a part of me still is, merely because I still don't quite understand exactly what happened, and you can't explain it to me because you don't remember."

Rachel drops her gaze, debating with herself. "I remember more now than I did when we last spoke," she says.

"Oh?"

"I was feeling… off," she confesses. "Down, I guess. Sullen. And, yes, it did really start when everyone else arrived, and - " she stops, unsure if she can say the next part without making it weird.

She's still unsure about a lot of things regarding her own feelings regarding Quinn and their entire situation, and she doesn't want to open a can of worms they might not be ready for.

Especially after they've barely come through unscathed from this latest hiccup.

Rachel swallows. "I guess, I just got so used to having you with me, and then you weren't, and I did a stupid thing that my drunken brain probably thinks was a good idea at the time, and I really am sorry. I'm never drinking again."

Quinn reaches across the table and rests her hand over both of Rachel's, where they're twitching. "It's okay," she says. "I mean, it's not, but it still is."

Rachel curls her fingers into Quinn's warm palm, fighting the urge to hold on for dear life. She's hit by the alarming feeling that, if she lets go, Quinn is going to disappear forever.

Quinn must see the panic on her face, because her grip tightens. "Hey," she says, her voice soft, gentle. "Rach, what's wrong?"

Rachel sucks in a sharp breath. "I don't want to lose you, Quinn."

Quinn frowns. "What?"

"I know what it's like not to have you in my life, and I much prefer having you in it."

"Well, me too, Rachel," Quinn says, looking a bit confused by the declaration. "Is something wrong?"

"No," Rachel says. "Nothing is wrong. Nothing at all."

"Okay…"

The moment is saved by the arrival of their food and, as confused as Quinn is in this moment, she is starving. After a quick prayer, she starts to eat, one eye making sure Rachel does as well. The two of them come here for the wide selection of delicious soups, and today is no different.

Quinn thinks a change in topic is needed.

"So, what exactly is the plan for Sunday?" she asks, humming softly as she takes a bite of the provided accompaniment of ciabatta.

"I'm not really sure," Rachel says. "I can pick you up, or you can meet me there, or…" she trails off. "I mean, we usually have brunch anyway, so I could just… I don't know."

Quinn smiles gently. "What time do we have to be there?"

"The entire thing is supposed to start at noon, but God knows that's definitely not happening. Theatre people are too dramatic for that kind of punctuality. On a Sunday, no less. It'll be a miracle."

Quinn's smile turns into a grin. "Did you just call other people dramatic?"

"Shut up."

Quinn laughs. "Well, okay, why don't you just come to mine?" she offers. "I can get changed after church, and then we can go. Do we have to take anything?"

Rachel beams at her. "You are so lovely, did you know that?"

Quinn ignores her, blushing slightly. "Something vegan, probably. I've been wanting to try this recipe for a cold bean salad."

"I'll bake some vegan cookies," Rachel says.

Quinn pouts. "That's not fair. They're definitely going to like yours better than mine."

"Sweet doesn't always trump savoury, Quinn."

Quinn's eyes narrow slightly. "Is that who we are in this relationship?" she asks. "You're sweet, and I'm savoury?"

Rachel gives it a moment of thought, a slow smile spreading across her face. "It does make some sense," she agrees. "But, you do have your sweet moments."

"And you have savoury ones."

They stare at each other for a beat, and then they burst out laughing. Rachel even has to wipe tears from her eyes at some point.

"We are honestly so weird," Quinn declares, and Rachel doesn't have anything to argue against that. It's probably one of the things she loves most about them.


"Please can I change this God-awful music!"

Quinn sighs, exchanging an exasperated look with Blaine, who's happily perched on a stool at the breakfast bar in her kitchen. They can hear Kurt padding about in his socks in the living room, his mind set on fiddling with Quinn's iPod.

"Fine," she calls out. "Just no showtunes."

"Do you even have showtunes?"

"As if Rachel would let me not have the essential collection."

Blaine laughs at Quinn's eye-roll, and then bravely says, "You and Rachel, huh?"

Even though there's absolutely nothing going on, Quinn still blushes. "How spicy do you want your patty?" she asks, chopping a green chilli to drop into the ground beef mixture that's going to become their burger patties.

"What's the normal amount?" Blaine asks.

"Tell me, do you want it mild, medium, hot or hot-enough-to-burn-all-the-holes-off-your-body?"

Blaine laughs, even though he looks horrified. "Maybe we should just go with a safe medium," he suggests.

"Good plan," she says, dropping the chilli into the mixture and giving it a good mix. She adds in some seasoning, and then proceeds to form the patties. To keep them moist through the cooking, she presses a small cube of butter into the centre of each patty.

Blaine just watches it all in wonder, casually sipping at his wine - that he made sure to bring - and trying not to cringe every time Kurt changes the song.

Quinn is clearly in her element, absently humming to a song existing only in her head as she prepares the patties, and then checks the temperature on her pan by hovering her hand over it. She looks relaxed, unburdened, and this is a Quinn Fabray that continually fascinates him.

"Finally!" they hear Kurt declare, and Quinn lets out a soft laugh.

Quinn is just setting the patties into the pan when Kurt comes back to the kitchen, a huge smile on his face. The sizzle startles him, and Blaine laughs at his expense.

Kurt scowls at his boyfriend. "And to think I was going to ask you to dance with me," he mutters. He lifts his gaze. "Quinn, dance with me."

"So demanding," she quips, but dutifully moves into the open space of her large kitchen - for New York, at least. "Blaine, watch those patties. They burn, and I'll hurt you."

Blaine is sure she means it.

Kurt twirls Quinn, and she laughs as they settle into a dance position, her hand on his shoulder and his on her hip, their other hands clasped at his other shoulder. They step to the beat of You've Changed by Sia, and Quinn can't stop herself from thinking that she's living her best life.

Well, she's trying to, anyway.


"I think I'm going to start a herb garden," Quinn says, deftly cutting a sweet potato fry in half, stabbing both pieces and then popping them in her mouth. She made a side salad as well, but she's not feeling the greens tonight.

To counter her indulgence, her burger is open-face, with the top bun removed.

"Quinn, this slaw is amazing," Blaine compliments between bites of his burger. "If I didn't literally watch you make it, I wouldn't believe it."

Quinn blushes under the praise.

Kurt smiles at her. "So, what's this about a herb garden?"

"I think, if I weren't living in an apartment, I would probably like to have a huge vegetable garden, maybe even some chickens, but I'll have to settle for herbs in the city."

Kurt crinkles his nose. "Chickens?"

"For eggs."

"God, Rachel would hate that."

"I would treat them very well," Quinn defends. "I'm sure I could convince her."

"Oh, I'm sure you could."

Quinn rolls her eyes. "Why don't you say what you really want to say, Hummel? Your grey hairs are starting to show."

Kurt gasps, and automatically moves to pat down his hair. "You take that back, Fabray."

"Never."

Blaine just watches it all in amusement. He stopped trying to figure out their dynamic a while ago, and now he just enjoys it.

Kurt clears his throat. "What is going on between you and Rachel?" he asks.

Quinn doesn't answer immediately. Instead, she sips at her wine, lets out a deep sigh, and then says, "Nothing, really." Which is the truth. "I'm pretending to be her girlfriend to the people in the production, and that's about it."

Kurt waits a beat. "There's more," he says.

Quinn nibbles on her bottom lip. "So, I may or may not be completely over her the way I convinced myself I was," she admits softly. "In fact, I'm not over her at all. This is honestly the worst thing I could have ever done to myself." She can barely look at either of the two men. "I know it's going to end in disaster, but I can't help it. It's like watching a car accident about to happen. You know the wreck is coming, but you just can't look away."

"That's a terrible analogy," Kurt comments.

"I think it's apt," Blaine says; "though slightly graphic."

Quinn sighs, setting down her cutlery. "It just… feels so good to be with her, you know." A tiny smile tugs at the corners of her mouth. "Even if we're just having a meal or doing nothing, my entire being just hums when I'm in her presence."

"Oh, boy," Blaine says.

"This is worse than we thought," Kurt adds. He runs a hand over his hair, giving up on keeping it looking perfect. "Quinn, darling, you do realise what's happened, right?"

Quinn isn't an idiot. The furthest from it, in fact. She knows exactly what's happened, and she's at a loss as to what to do about it.

Because, she might maybe like Alessia a little bit, but she could never pursue anything real with the woman because, well, she's pretty sure she's feeling something a lot more for Rachel Berry. She's just not ready to put a name to that dirty four-letter word, but it's becoming much more difficult to ignore.

Well.

Chapter Text

V

"Don't forget to put on sunscreen," Rachel calls out from Quinn's bedroom, her voice travelling into the ensuite bathroom where the blonde is busy with the finishing touches on her appearance.

"Rach, you realise you already texted me about that last night, right?" Quinn informs her.

"One can't be too careful, Quinn," Rachel says. "You're very pale. Your skin is susceptible to a good burn, and skin cancer is one of the leading causes of cancerous deaths."

Quinn doesn't even have a response to that.

"Quinn?"

"Yeah?"

"I don't mean to rush you, but it's almost noon, and every punctual bone in my body is screaming at me to get a move on."

Quinn smiles to herself. "I'm almost done, Rach," she says. "Why don't you gather the cooler, and I'll meet you at the door?"

There's a bit of shuffling, the sound of soft footsteps, and then silence. Quinn uses the time to centre herself, clear her head and prepare for what's to come. After Friday's dinner with Kurt and Blaine, she feels more settled and hopelessly lost simultaneously, and she's so very unsure.

Does she just… enjoy it?

Does she throw herself into this role she's supposed to play, and then just suffer the consequences later?

Quinn takes in a deep breath, holds it for several beats, and then releases it slowly.

It's okay.

She's okay.

Everything is going to be okay.

Rachel's beaming smile when she finally emerges from her bedroom helps her believe it. Even within the space of the apartment, Rachel links their fingers, and then they set off for their destination.

Quinn lets Rachel get them to Pelham Bay Park, the two of them using the Subway to get to Queens. Quinn doesn't usually make it out this far. Not regularly, at least. Nobody she knows lives in this Borough, but she finds she quite likes it.

The two of them arrive just as the barbecue/picnic seems to be getting started, and Quinn shoots Rachel a knowing smirk.

"Oh, shut up," Rachel mutters.

"I didn't even say anything," Quinn defends with a laugh.

"Well, you're not saying anything very loudly."

Quinn's laughter bubbles out of her, and she gently tugs Rachel closer to bump their shoulders. "You're very special, did you know that?"

Rachel feels heat creeping up her neck, and it's the sound of Denny calling out to them that breaks their moment. With a wide grin at the woman - dubbed the Mom to the entire production - Rachel leads Quinn in her direction.

Denny is hovering near the food tables, organising dishes to make self-service more efficient. "You're here," she says, pulling Rachel, and then, Quinn into hugs. "Ooh, what did you bring for us?"

Quinn laughs softly, her eyes alight in all the best ways as she sets the cooler on some empty space on a tabletop.

Denny seems to catch herself staring at Quinn's smiling face, and then drops her gaze to the dishes Quinn pulls out.

"We have a cold bean salad," Quinn says, handing the covered bowl to Denny. "Vegan, of course." She shakes her head as if she's been personally insulted. "I also made some normal-people coleslaw. I got some rave reviews the other night, so I thought I'd try it again. Then, we also have some vegan garlic and herb rolls. Rachel is an absolute sucker for them."

"I am," Rachel interjects, her mouth already salivating at the mere idea of them.

"And, finally, we have vegan blueberry muffins," Quinn says, pulling out the last container. "This one here was initially going to bake cookies," she says, pointing her thumb at Rachel; "but then she caught a whiff of what I was bringing to the party, and she felt intimidated."

"I wanted to contribute," Rachel mumbles.

Quinn just smiles, easily slipping an arm around Rachel's shoulders and drawing her into a hug. "They smell divine, Rach," she murmurs. "I can't wait to try one."

Denny can't help her own smile as Rachel sinks into Quinn's embrace. They're just so cute. "I'll just lay these out, then," she says. "You can just pop your cooler under one of the tables."

Quinn does just that. "Do you need help with anything?" she asks, ever polite.

"Oh, no, no," Denny says, waving them off. "I've got my sister-in-law somewhere around here if I need something done," she says with a wicked grin. "You two go mingle. Enjoy yourselves. Drinks are over there, and I think Tom is about to start up the grill."

Rachel raises her eyebrows. "And, how do we feel about that?" she asks.

Denny grimaces slightly. "I'm expecting a few burns, but I think he's learned a great deal from the last time we ended up in the Emergency Room."

"Wait, what?" Quinn asks.

Rachel slips her arm around Quinn's waist. "Come on, let's go find him," she says. "I'm sure he'll love to tell the story again."

After getting themselves drinks - iced tea for Quinn and orange juice for Rachel - the two of them do just that. Tom is all too eager to launch into his tale, laughing at himself and proudly showing off his scars and burns.

"I'm a real Grill Dad now," he declares, and his gathered audience joins in his laughter.

When they disperse, Rachel and Quinn do the rounds with Frankie, and then pick up Jasmine along the way.

It's a little awkward at first, seeing as this is the first time Quinn and the two of them have interacted since that fateful night, but Quinn recovers quickly, and Rachel helps by kissing the blonde's cheek to show that all is well.

"You guys up for some Frisbee?" Alec shouts from across the way, and Quinn and Rachel exchange a look.

"Like pretty girl and the midget would ever consider something like that," Megan comments, and a handful of people roll their eyes at the predicted jibe.

Quinn shrugs. "I'm game," she says. "Rach?"

Rachel presses a hand to Quinn's back, asking the silent question about her capabilities. "Are you sure?"

Quinn nods. "It should be fine," she says. "What's the worst that could happen?"

Famous last words.

Alec separates them into two teams, electing himself as Captain of one and Frankie of the other. Alec picks Quinn first because duh, and Rachel ends up on Frankie's team.

"You're going down, Fabray," Rachel taunts, a bright smile on her face.

"Yes, she is," Alec quips, and he receives a smack to the back of his head from Jasmine. "Ouch."

Jasmine ends up with Alec as well, along with Luca, James and Liz. With Frankie and Rachel, they have Khanh, Brendan, Megan and Kira. It's a good mix, and Elliot offers to be their referee.

"Don't hurt my superstars," he warns them all, and then sends them to their respective ends of the patch of lawn they've decided to use as their playing field.

Quinn presses a kiss to Rachel's forehead, and then sends her on her way. "It's on, Berry."

"So competitive, Fabray."

"Pot, meet kettle."

"Shut up."

Quinn just chuckles to herself as she heads towards her huddled team. She's never actually played any kind of competitive frisbee before, but she knows it can get intense.

Extreme.

"I think we're going to have to go man for man on defence," Alec says. "Which one of you is fast?"

They all look at one another for a moment, and then Quinn sighs and raises her hand.

Alec smiles at her, and it's the first genuine, utterly sincere, one she's ever received from him. "I have a pretty decent arm," he says. "Think you can receive?"

As a former cheerleader, Quinn definitely can. As a recovered paraplegic, she's not so sure. Still, she nods. "Make it better than decent, and we'll see what happens," she says.

Alec grins now. "Sure," he says, and then turns to the others. "Clear the way for her," he instructs Luca and James. Then, to Jasmine and Liz, he says, "the both of you do what you can to distract them."

Liz raises her eyebrows. "And, how exactly are we supposed to do that?"

"I don't know," Alec says, shrugging. "Use your feminine proclivities."

Quinn rolls her eyes. "You're an idiot."

"I know."

Jasmine laughs. "This is going to be a disaster, isn't it?"

"Oh, definitely," Quinn says. "But, it'll be fun."

"Keep telling yourself that."


It's complete and utter chaos.

But, also, so much fun.

Frankie's team start with the frisbee, and they obviously have no idea what they're doing. They're just laughing at their own antics, and Quinn barely has to do anything to stop Rachel's progress, merely wrapping her arms around her waist, lifting her into the air and spinning her around.

Rachel's laughter is like music to her ears, and it settles every part of her.

"Hey," Alec calls out when the opposition's play falls apart. "She's the enemy, Quinn!"

Quinn squeezes Rachel tightly, and then sets her down. "Watch and learn, baby," she practically purrs, and then spins and walks away.

Well, she saunters away, and Rachel's eyes track her movement, utterly distracted by the sway of blonde hips and the term of endearment.

"Rachel!" Frankie calls out. "Focus! We have to get into position."

Rachel shakes her head to clear it, and then heads towards her team. "Well, that was terrible," she says, blinking repeatedly.

"Dude," Khanh says, looking at Frankie. "I thought you said you could throw."

"It's a lot harder than it looks."

Brendan shrugs. "We just have to make sure they don't score," he says. "Think you can manage that?"

Rachel realises belatedly that he's asking the question of her, and she flushes. If she's being honest, she doesn't think she can manage that, because Quinn is just so Quinn.

And, Rachel is smitten.

She's completely lost.

"I can mark Quinn," Megan says, looking utterly bored. "I'm not as easily distracted as Rachel."

Rachel shakes her head, absently wondering if Quinn will enjoy putting Megan in her place in yet another way. "Fine," she says. "I'll take Jasmine."

Frankie reminds them to… pay attention, and then lets them go. He's not sure what to expect from Alec and his team, but he's curious. They do look slightly more athletic, and a lot more determined.

Quinn can't help her grin when she sees Megan head her way. It's almost too predictable, and she glances over the redhead's shoulder at Rachel, who just shrugs.

"Missed me?" Megan taunts.

Quinn doesn't pay her any attention as she waits for Elliot's signal. When he blows his whistle, everyone starts to move, but Quinn remains perfectly still, waiting and watching for the perfect moment.

Megan frowns at her, ready with her questions.

Quinn glances back at Alec, and they lock eyes. It's just a moment, a decision, and then Quinn is moving. She fakes left, taking Megan with her, and then spins away and runs down the right side.

Fast.

So, so fast.

Almost everyone stops to watch, because Quinn is laughing. There's just this pure, unadulterated joy on her face, as if she knows she has them all mesmerised.

She's also just really fast.

Quinn bends her run to match Alec's attempted throw. It's not perfect, but Quinn still goes for it, speeding up and leaving Megan in her dust, before she practically leaps into the air and plucks the neon green frisbee out of the air, and lands seamlessly. She resists the urge to do a cheerleading pose because, God, no.

"Whoo!" Alec yells, raising his arms in the air. "That was fucking fantastic!"

And, yes, it really was.

So are the next few plays.

Quinn begins to enjoy it thoroughly, and the fact that she constantly shows up Megan is just the icing on the very delicious cake.

She doesn't gloat. Absolutely not. Even though they're literally wiping the floor with the other team.

But, still, Quinn should know better.

It happens after Quinn tackles Rachel for the seventh time, both of them ending up in a heap on the grass, laughing hysterically.

"God, you're sweaty," Rachel complains, but she doesn't try to move away. She can't move anyway, because Quinn is on top of her, smiling so dazzlingly that Rachel can't catch her breath.

Or, it's just that she's winded.

Quinn just kisses the tip of Rachel's nose, and then gets to her feet. She holds her hand out for Rachel and helps her up. "You suck at this, you know?"

"Compared to you, everyone does," she quips, gently tugging on Quinn's t-shirt. "Are you having fun?"

"So much."

"Good."

They stare at each other for a long few seconds, and Quinn's very being is rooted in this moment. She just can't stop smiling. It's ridiculous and pathetic, and she doesn't even care.

Alec yells for her from somewhere behind them, and Quinn rolls her eyes. "My Captain is calling."

Rachel reaches up to kiss her cheek. "Go on, then."

Quinn really should know better, but she still smirks at Megan, winking for good measure, and then moves into position.

It's subtle, Quinn supposes, but so, so dangerous.

There's a shift in Megan's demeanour that Quinn misses, and it goes downhill from there.

When Elliot gives the signal, Quinn waits, but Megan is ready this time. She takes off before Quinn does, barely a second, and then they're running together. Quinn is still faster, so she's going to get to the frisbee's projected flight first, but Megan is much closer to her now.

It's subtle.

Blink and you miss it.

Quinn takes her strides to launch herself off the ground, and Megan is just near enough that, once Quinn is airborne, the shoulder barge into her left hip completely alters her trajectory by turning her centre of mass, and there's nothing for the blonde to grab a hold of to right herself.

Somehow, Quinn still manages to catch the frisbee, but her downward arc is uncontrolled, and her arms flail as she falls to the ground, landing hard on her back, her head bouncing off the grass.

For immeasurable seconds, nothing happens.

Everyone just waits for Quinn to jump to her feet the way she usually does, and declare victory.

Only, she doesn't.

Quinn doesn't move.

At all.

Rachel sucks in a sharp breath, and then she's moving faster than she ever has before, her mind flashing with all the worst scenarios imaginable. She drops to her knees at Quinn's side, too scared to touch her.

"Quinn?" she says. "Quinn, are you okay? Quinn, baby, please open your eyes. Quinn?" With a tentative hand, she reaches out to touch Quinn's cheek. "Quinn," she says. "Sweetheart? You have to wake up."

"Is she okay?" Denny asks from behind Rachel. It's the first time the brunette notices the gathered crowd.

"I - I don't know," Rachel says, and she's fighting sobs. "She suffered a nasty back injury when we were younger. I - "

"Should we call an ambulance?" Jasmine asks. "She landed terribly."

"And her head practically bounced," Frankie says. "If anything, she's going to have whiplash when she comes to."

It's in that moment that Quinn shows her first sign of life, letting out a pained groan as her eyes attempt to blink open. She stares up the blue sky for a moment, and then flinches when Rachel's head moves into view.

Quinn groans again, pain shooting down her spine.

"Quinn," Rachel whispers. "Are you - does it - talk to me."

Quinn breathes out slowly, smiling faintly at the concern on Rachel's face. "It hurts," she manages to say.

"Where?"

"Everywhere."

Rachel doesn't smile. Instead, her mouth turns downwards. "We should take you to the Emergency Room," she says.

"What?" Quinn squeaks. "No, I'm okay."

"I'm pretty sure you were unconscious," Rachel points out.

"For how long?"

"Uh, about a minute."

"Only?" Quinn says. "See? I'm totally fine."

"You were out cold," she immediately counters. "How does that equate to 'fine?'"

Alec taps Rachel on the shoulder. "As much fun as it is to watch you two bicker, is an ambulance going to be needed?"

"Yes," Rachel says at the same time Quinn emphatically declares, "No!"

They glare at each other.

"Tell you what," Rachel says, and she's channelling Quinn; "if you can get to your feet by yourself, we're not going. If you can't, I will drag you there myself."

Rachel rises to her feet and steps back, giving Quinn space.

"The sex must be incredible," Alec mutters behind her, and she instantly flushes. She imagines it must be, too.

Quinn braces herself as best she can, first doing a mental stocktake of her potential injuries. Nothing is glaringly obvious, but she's sure her back is going to be sporting a pretty nasty bruise later. She'll probably have to make an appointment with her chiropractor and go to more yoga classes.

It's what she's thinking about as she forces herself to sit up, her entire body protesting against the movement. She glares up at Rachel, who's just standing and watching.

It's merely the sheer force of will that gets Quinn to her feet. She's aware of people cringing at the various pops they hear as she straightens, but she does stand, by herself, which means no trip to the hospital.

She smiles in victory, but can't bring herself to raise her arms. "I'm guessing we won," she says, because she, somewhat miraculously, still has the frisbee in her hand.

Alec laughs, which sets everyone else off.

Tom clears his throat. "Uh, so, the meat's ready."


It's only later, after Quinn has managed to shuffle towards one of the tables and finally sit that she asks the question.

"Where is Megan?"

Both Frankie and Jasmine shift uncomfortably, neither one of them wanting to answer the question. They'll happily wait for Rachel to return from dishing out food for both Quinn and herself.

"Frankie?" Quinn presses.

The man clears his throat. "Well, after, uh… everything, Denny kind of asked her to leave."

Quinn blinks. "And, she did? Just like that?"

"She kind of did more than ask," Jasmine says. "I honestly think Denny threatened her job."

"Or charges of assault."

Quinn's eyes bulge. "Whoa."

Frankie shakes his head. "She totally knew what she was doing, Quinn," he says sadly. "She knew she could potentially hurt you, and she still did it. It was all supposed to be a bit of fun, you know, and yeah, it sucked having our asses repeatedly handed to us, but I was having fun. You're amazing to watch."

Quinn, predictably, blushes, and has to look away. She's not sure how much she can really comment on Megan when she didn't see the incident. It could have been an accident, right?

Even as she thinks it, she knows it's not true.

"Here we go," Rachel suddenly says, setting down a paper plate in front of Quinn that's piled high with all of Quinn's favourite things.

And the meat.

So much meat.

Rachel wrinkles her nose as she settles beside Quinn. "Don't say I never did anything for you," she says, reaching over and kissing Quinn's cheek.

Quinn reaches for her hand before she can start eating and brings it up to her lips, pressing the lightest of kisses to her palm. "Thank you," she murmurs, her gaze intense.

Rachel is struck dumb, and it takes Alec's boisterous arrival to snap her out of it. Frankie and Jasmine just exchange an amused look, each of them wondering how Rachel even manages to function on her best days with a girl like Quinn who looks at her like that.

Reluctantly, Quinn releases Rachel's hand, says a quick prayer and starts to eat. It's far too much food, but Alec keeps picking at the olives she sets aside, and she concludes he'll eat whatever she doesn't finish. Where he puts it, she doesn't know, because she imagines he has abs to die for.

Well, so does she.

Quinn notices the moment Rachel shifts closer to her, and she smiles to herself when the entirety of her side is pressed against the brunette's. Rachel is warmer than Quinn, practically running hot, and Quinn just wants to touch.

She resists.

Tom and Denny join them at their table, squeezing in tightly, and Alec elbows Quinn every few mouthfuls, but she honestly can't bring herself to be mad about it. He's like that annoying and inappropriate little brother that you can't help but adore.

It also puts her a little closer to Rachel.

Denny offers Quinn some painkillers when she notices the blonde grimace one too many times, which Quinn gratefully accepts. She downs them with the water Rachel has been siphoning as they've been eating and, like usual, it just makes her smile.

Santana would probably gag.

"Did you really make these?" Jasmine asks Quinn, slicing her second garlic and herb roll into two and handing one half to Frankie.

Quinn nods.

"They're amazing," Alec says, his mouth full of a bite of said roll.

"They're Rachel's favourites," Quinn says, and she's probably ruined so many things for herself with the way she keeps going.

Really, Quinn thinks she's been ruined since the first time she laid eyes on this tiny human being, who owns her heart in all the best and worst ways.

Jasmine sighs. "You know, I thought I was happy being single, but you two are making me reevaluate my stance," she says, glaring playfully at them. "Thank you for that."

"You're welcome," Rachel returns brightly, noticing the slight shift in direction of Jasmine's gaze. Well well well.

Denny pipes up from the other end of the table. "I'm still waiting to read this story."

And, honestly, Quinn thinks she actually is.


Quinn waits until Rachel is helping to clear and clean up to move from her seated position. She's made sure to keep completely still since she took her seat, but she knows her back is swollen, and the bruise is probably bright and blue.

Clenching her teeth as tightly as possible, she pushes herself up from the bench, doing her best not to cry out at the shooting pain and the latent tingling in her legs. Tears spring to her eyes and she immediately snaps them shut as she shifts into a standing position.

It's better when she's upright, she thinks, but it still fucking hurts.

She fakes it enough to get back to Manhattan, and is convincing enough to get back to her apartment without Rachel demanding she go to the hospital again. There's a part of her that acknowledges she probably should, but she just can't.

She thinks she's had enough of them for one lifetime.

"I'm going to put these away," Rachel says once they're inside, indicating the cooler of leftovers Denny insisted they take with them. "You should probably go lie down. I'll bring you some water and stronger painkillers."

And, okay, Quinn knows she shouldn't be enjoying this as much as she is, but Rachel is here and she's taking care of her, and it's better than Quinn ever imagined.

Quinn shuffles towards her bedroom, and immediately slips out of her shoes. With little preamble she strips out of her demin shorts and t-shirt, dropping them to the floor. From her closet, she pulls out a pair of sleep-shorts and an old William McKinley t-shirt.

She struggles into the shorts, but waits with the t-shirt. She has to see what it looks like first and, frankly, she wishes she hadn't bothered to look.

The bruise is large and dark and ugly, spreading right across her lower back and along her left side. The ache is present, and there's a definite throbbing along the back of her neck. Sleep is going to be difficult to come by, and she cringes at the thought of trying to find a comfortable position even to try.

It's the sudden gasp behind her that clues Quinn into the fact she's no longer alone, and she spins around, her t-shirt automatically moving to cover her bra-clad chest, but Rachel's eyes are on the endless bruise.

"Oh, my God," Rachel says, her eyes bulging. "Quinn?"

As quickly as she can, Quinn slips on the t-shirt, and then offers Rachel a smile that she hopes is reassuring. It doesn't seem to work, though, because the tears still pool in the brunette's eyes, and Quinn curses herself for making her cry again.

Rachel makes her way into the room, depositing the glass of water and bottle of pills she has with her on Quinn's nightstand, and then moves to stand in front of the blonde.

"How much does it hurt?" Rachel asks, tentatively reaching out and pinching the fabric of Quinn's t-shirt between the thumb and forefinger of her right hand.

Quinn doesn't respond, because Rachel definitely shouldn't know the answer to that question.

"I'm sorry."

Quinn sighs. "Why on earth are you sorry?"

"I don't know," she confesses. "Megan is supposed to be my problem, and now you're hurt, and I was too concerned with you to deal with her in the aftermath, but I promise I'll deal with her when I next see her."

Quinn chuckles softly, barely making a sound. "Rachel Berry, my little warrior."

That does it, for some reason, and Rachel's tears start to fall as she fists her hands into Quinn's shirt and leans into her, her forehead dropping to Quinn's sternum.

Quinn's arms immediately wrap around her. "Seriously, I'm okay," she says, trying to sound reassuring.

Rachel just burrows into her, sniffling.

"I swear, every weekend with you is exciting," she says, trying to inject humour into her tone of voice. "If we don't end up fighting for some reason, you always seem to end up in tears. Never a dull moment with us."

"This isn't funny, Quinn," she grumbles.

Quinn just chuckles, absently rubbing her back. "I'm fine."

"You could have died."

And, okay, Quinn could tease her about being dramatic, but even she can acknowledge that she really could have landed awkwardly enough to snap her neck or something equally drastic.

And, if there hadn't been soft grass, it definitely could have been a lot worse.

"Rachel," Quinn whispers, deflating slightly. "Look at me."

It takes a moment, but Rachel does pull back, her wet eyes searching for Quinn's. "I can't lose you," she says, and it sounds so heavy.

"I'm not going anywhere," Quinn says, lifting her hands to cup Rachel's cheeks. "I'm right here. I promise I'm not going anywhere." She presses her lips to Rachel's forehead. "Where would I even go?" she questions. "Everywhere I could go, you would follow."

"And, now you make me sound like a creeper."

Quinn laughs softly, her breath warm against Rachel's skin. Her hands shift, and she wraps her arms around Rachel's shoulders, pressing their fronts tightly together.

The boundaries between their bodies and between what's real and what's not in this relationship are starting to get dangerously blurred.


Rachel spends the rest of Sunday with Quinn.

She doesn't even ask; she just does it. First, she gets the blonde situated on the couch, so she can watch television, placing the remote in her hand and kissing the top of her head as if it's the simplest thing in the world.

Rachel makes Quinn some tea, which she dutifully drinks… and then promptly falls asleep when the stronger painkillers she has in possession for just this situation take full effect. It's fascinating to Rachel witnessing Quinn slip into oblivion, and actually watching her sleep - which, okay, may or may not be considered creepy - is equally as captivating.

Rachel eventually settles on her end of the couch, her eyes slipping closed as she follows Quinn into deep slumber.

That she doesn't wake from until it's almost midnight.

Dragging herself off the couch, she checks to see that Quinn is still zonked out. It's stupidly adorable, and Rachel hates to wake her, even if it is just to say goodbye.

Instead, she sends Quinn a text that she'll see in the morning, makes sure Quinn's morning alarm is set, kisses the top of her head and then quietly leaves.

All the while unable to shake the feeling that she should probably stay.


Megan doesn't show up at the theatre on Monday, and nobody is brave enough to ask the Powers-That-Be about it. Rachel and Frankie do exchange a few significant looks, but they don't discuss it. Too many ears around.

Rachel supposes she'll take her little victories where she can get them.

During their lunch break, Rachel excuses herself because she wants to go and check on Quinn by disguising it as a lunch delivery. She picks up Quinn's favourite soup, and then makes her way to Columbia. She has to sign in as a visitor, and then weave her way through the many students to Quinn's office… that is empty of said blonde.

One of Quinn's office mates - Jason, from Rachel's memory - smiles at her, clearly recognising her from her previous visits. "She's not here," he says. "She hasn't been in all day. Called in sick."

Rachel blinks. "Wait. She's not here?"

Jason's brow furrows. "Not that I've seen, at least."

"Oh," she sounds. "Well, thank you."

With that, she leaves the office, her own confusion portrayed all over her face. She's received two texts from Quinn today. One from early this morning, a quick good morning, yeah, I'm up and then she received a second one three hours ago.

Rachel pulls up the text again, checking to see that she didn't actually read wrong.

She didn't.

Quinn: Sorry I haven't been able to reply to your texts. The office has been really busy today.

Rachel doesn't know if she should be angry or worried, but she decides to push both feelings aside until she lays eyes on Quinn. She hasn't received any replies since that last one, so she doesn't bother trying to reach the blonde now.

Instead, she starts for Murray Hill, forcing herself not to break into a run. If she knows Quinn - and she knows enough - then the blonde would stay home only if it was dire. And, to lie to Rachel about it, well, then it must be critical.

Okay, so she's a little angry with Quinn.

Irritated, maybe.

Mostly, just worried.

Something.

Everything.


It doesn't take Rachel long to get to Quinn's apartment and, for the first time ever, she lets herself into it with her key. She's unsure what she's expecting to find but, what she does, definitely isn't something she would have imagined.

Quinn isn't where Rachel left her, but she's awfully close. The blonde is lying on her stomach on the floor just in front of the couch, as if she tried to move, and just couldn't, and then ended up falling off the couch, and didn't bother to try to get up.

It's a pitiful sight, really, and Rachel feels her heart clench in her chest. She should have stayed. She should have made sure Quinn was okay, instead of just trusting this flighty blonde to diagnose herself.

Rachel hurries around the coffee table, and kneels near Quinn's head after making sure that her chest is moving. She turns Quinn's face slightly, and then gasps at the sight of blood.

"What the - "

There's a gash above Quinn's eyebrow, and Rachel leans back, surveying the situation. Her breath catches when she realises Quinn must have knocked her head against the table on her way down, and she couldn't really do anything about it. It's inevitable that tears pool in Rachel's eyes as she retrieves her phone and makes the call she really should have made the day before.

She sits quietly with a clearly-out-of-it Quinn, her hand gently threading through soft blonde hair as they wait. She forces herself not to let her thoughts spin out of control, even though it's all she wants.

Quinn.

God, Quinn.

Rachel has enough mental faculties to let the paramedics in when they arrive, and then enough brain power to answer their questions.

While they see to Quinn, Rachel packs a bag for Quinn and grabs all the relevant essentials and documents. She feels as if she's operating on autopilot, her body knowing what to do without her brain fully on board.

"Are you ready to go?" one of the paramedics - Owen, according to his shirt - asks her.

Rachel can only nod, because then they're moving. Her heartbeat hasn't slowed down since she arrived at Quinn's office to find her desk empty. Her breath is ragged, and the sight of Quinn, bruised and battered, isn't helping with anything.

"Can - can I hold her hand?" Rachel finds herself asking, once they're in the back of the ambulance.

"Of course," Owen says, smiling reassuringly. "We're going to get your girlfriend some help as quickly as possible."

And, really, Rachel doesn't think to correct him.


It's a good thing, too, because, as Quinn's partner, she's allowed to stay with the blonde for the most part. Rachel hands over the file containing Quinn's medical history, and watches as doctors work around her from the outside of the trauma room.

One of the nurses leads her away, and gets her to fill in a few forms for Quinn. It gives her something to focus on until her phone starts buzzing.

It's Frankie.

She's supposed to be back at the theatre by now.

"Elliot's freaking out," is the first thing Frankie says when she answers. "Where are you?"

Rachel blinks once, twice, and then speaks. "At the hospital."

"What?"

"Quinn," she says. "I - I went to check on her, and she was unconscious, and there was blood and I didn't even know where the blood came from and she wasn't moving and now we're at the hospital and ohmygod, what if I never see her again?"

"Whoa, whoa, calm down, Rachel," he says, hiding his own panic. "You're at the hospital now, right? They'll figure out what's wrong, and they'll fix her right up, and everything is going to be fine."

"You can't know that," she says softly, almost petulantly.

"Perhaps," he agrees softly; "but I can hope." He says something to someone away from the phone. When he's back, he sounds more calm. "Look, which hospital are you at?"

"Uh, Mount Sinai."

"Okay," Frankie says. "Don't worry about anything other than Quinn, okay? Do you need me to call someone? Kurt, maybe? Santana?"

Rachel tenses at the mention of them, and she feels inexcusably guilty that she hasn't even thought of them until Frankie brought their names into the conversation. "No," she says. "I should call myself. Thank you, though."

"Of course," he says. "Let us know how she's doing, and if you need anything."

"Okay," she says. "Thank you."

When Frankie hangs up, Rachel needs a few seconds to gather the courage to call Santana. It's Monday afternoon, and she knows the Latina has a laboratory practical, but she's sure Santana will be more angry if she didn't call.

"This better be good," is Santana's greeting. "I just ducked out of an important explanation."

Rachel closes her eyes. "Quinn is at Mount Sinai," she says, and Santana sucks in a sharp breath. "I'm not sure exactly what's wrong, but she got injured yesterday, and I found her unconscious when I went to check on her."

Santana is silent for a beat. Then: "I'm coming."

And that's that.

Rachel calls Kurt next, and he grumbles about having to leave a meeting, so it had better be important. Rachel can't help thinking that her friends are all the same. She imagines that Quinn would have answered similarly.

She explains the situation to Kurt, who immediately starts asking questions. She can hear him moving around, saying things to other people, as she goes into detail as best she can.

"Okay," he says. "Okay, I'm going to get a hold of Blaine, and then we're going to come, okay?"

"Okay."

"Hang tight."

"I will."

"Take care of our favourite blonde."

"I promise."


It's serious, but not too serious.

Santana makes the distinction based on the fact that Judy Fabray probably doesn't have to fly out to New York to see her daughter.

Quinn will recover, but she's going to be in pain for quite some time. The impact caused more damage than first appeared, and Quinn must have lost feeling in her lower extremities while she was asleep.

Rachel buries her face in her hands when she imagines Quinn waking up to that, alone. She should have stayed, or she should have checked on her earlier. There are a handful of things she could have done differently, but she knows Quinn wouldn't stand for her beating herself up about it.

Quinn.

Stupid, stubborn, idiotic Quinn.

"I swear, when she's better, I'm going to kick the shit out of her," Santana declares and, really, she's going to have to get in line.

Though, Rachel doesn't think she could ever actually harm a single hair on Quinn's precious head. All Rachel does know is that, if ever Santana finds out what really happened while they were playing frisbee, then Megan Porter better find that place where Julia Fairchild is hiding, and stay there.

"Did they say when we can see her?" Kurt asks, his eyes on Rachel. The doctors have been speaking mainly to her, as Quinn's 'partner,' and she's feeling a little overwhelmed by it all.

"As soon as they get her settled in her room, they'll let us know," she says.

Kurt's features soften. "How are you doing, Sweetie?"

Rachel isn't sure how to respond to that question. It sounds heavy and, really, all she wants is to lay eyes on Quinn. "Kurt?"

"Hmm?"

"Is it weird that I find myself missing her?"

He smiles sadly. "I don't think it's weird at all," he informs her. "Blaine can be in the other room and I miss him."

Her brow furrows. "But you and Blaine are…" she trails off. "Oh."

And, really, there's nothing more for Kurt to say.

Chapter Text

VI

Quinn regains full consciousness later that evening. They've placed her in a shared room with a woman who doesn't say a word to any of Quinn's visitors.

She's had a few.

Besides Rachel, Santana, Kurt and Blaine, some others drop by to check in with the unassuming blonde. Frankie, Alec and Jasmine visit after rehearsals let out early - the female protagonist wasn't around, so Elliot let them go with minimal grumbling - bringing flowers and a stuffed teddy bear with them.

Tom and Denny stop by a little later, with freshly-baked cookies and grim expressions.

"She's fine," Rachel has to assure them, because she can't stand the guilty look on Denny's face. The woman has taken such a liking to Quinn in the few interactions they've had, and Rachel feels even more guilty that this is all not real.

She's not Quinn's partner.

And she's starting to realise that maybe she wants to be.

Jason, from Quinn's office, stops by, after Santana sent an email to Quinn's supervisor from Quinn's phone, letting the man know of the situation.

Unfortunately, Dr Jordan Price is in Chicago, and so he made sure to let Quinn's colleagues know. He also made sure to request periodic updates on Quinn's recovery.

A recovery that's taking far too long for Rachel's liking.

She's restless and fidgety, and she needs to see Quinn's eyes. She needs to see piercing hazel looking back at her to be sure that Quinn really is okay.

But, that doesn't happen until almost nine o'clock, when Santana has fallen asleep, and Kurt and Blaine have gone to get them all coffee and something to eat. Rachel can't even think about food at a time like this, but she knows Quinn will expect her to consume something.

So, Rachel is the only one awake and around when Quinn's eyes finally open, and the relief Rachel feels is overwhelming enough to bring tears to her own eyes. She moves into Quinn's line of sight immediately, and smiles when cloudy hazel eyes settle on her face.

"Hi," Rachel whispers, settling on the edge of Quinn's bed.

Quinn blinks slowly. "You're here," she croaks, her voice rough and her throat obviously dry.

Rachel rushes to get her some water, and then positions the straw in her mouth so she can drink.

"You're here," Quinn says again, once she's drank her fill. Then, attempting to look around, she asks, "where is here?"

"The hospital."

Quinn groans. "I'm not okay?"

"You're stupid and stubborn, is what you are," she admonishes as gently as she can, because she's mad at this woman for worrying her so much.

Quinn doesn't say anything for a full minute. "I can't feel anything."

"It's just the morphine," Rachel assures her. "Everything is working, I promise. They ran all the tests. It was just a flare-up."

Quinn closes her eyes. "Are you mad at me?"

While Rachel wants to say yes, she doesn't. She says nothing, which is answer enough.

"Does my mom know?"

"I called her, yes."

"Is she on her way?"

Rachel hesitates. "No, she's not," she finally answers.

"Good," Quinn murmurs. "She'll just worry unnecessarily."

"That's saved for the rest of us," Rachel mumbles, and Quinn sighs, her eyes still closed.

The two of them sit in silence for long, long minutes, and Rachel just studies Quinn's face, starting to feel the events of the day catch up with her.

"Hey, Rachel?"

"Yes, Quinn."

Quinn's smile is lazy, sloppy. "I have a question," she murmurs; "Do short people also start their stories with 'When I was little…' or do they just say 'As I am today…?'"

Despite herself, Rachel laughs, probably from extreme relief. If Quinn is making horrific jokes, then she must be okay, right? It's not even that funny, but Rachel is exhausted, and Quinn has just put her through the emotional ringer. "I don't know," she says, answering Quinn's question.

Her brow furrows adorably. "You don't?" she asks, pursing her lips. "Why not? You're short."

Rachel shakes her head in amusement. "I missed you," she says, reaching out to smooth a hand over Quinn's soft blonde hair.

Quinn looks at her seriously, her gaze intense. "I always miss you."

Rachel leans forward. "Would it be wrong to get you to reveal all your secrets while you're like this?"

Quinn blinks at her. "I don't have any secrets."

"Liar."

Quinn lifts her chin slightly. "You know everything about me," she says.

"Do I?"

Quinn looks pensive. "If you looked hard enough, you would," she murmurs, and there's something very melancholy about her statement.

"Quinn?"

"Rachel?"

"I don't know everything about you."

"Like what?" she challenges.

Rachel smiles, her fingers threading through Quinn's hair. "What do I want to know," she muses. "What is your favourite colour?"

Quinn thinks long and hard about that one before she says, "Red," ever so seriously.

"Favourite food?"

Quinn looks almost pained by this question, but she eventually answers. "It has to be soup."

Rachel can believe that. "Okay, I'm going to ask you a very serious question, that has been up for debate for some years now."

"Uh oh."

"Tell me, Quinn Fabray, who is your best friend?"

But, it isn't Quinn who answers the question. It's Santana who speaks, having woken during Quinn and Rachel's conversation.

"Don't answer that, Fabray," the Latina says as she rises to her feet and stretches. "We both already know I'm your favourite."

Quinn smiles at her, her eyes slightly unfocused. "You're here."

"I missed a lab for you."

"Sorry."

Santana moves towards her, her fingers clasping around Quinn's closest hand. "You had me worried, Q."

"I'm okay?" she asks, more than says, as if she needs clarification from more than just Rachel that her biggest nightmare is not coming true.

"You're okay," Santana confirms. "Want to tell me what happened?"

Quinn's eyes flick in Rachel's direction for a moment, and then she sighs. "I - I couldn't feel my legs when I woke up," she says. "It was… terrifying."

Rachel wonders if it would be untoward to leave the room, but then Quinn's free hand reaches out for her, closing around the wool of her sweater. It seems like an unconscious thing, because her focus is still on Santana.

"I've - I've had nightmares like that before, and I thought, if I could just wake up, it would be fine." She blinks. "I'm guessing that didn't happen?"

"No, Q, it didn't," she says. "You gave us quite a scare."

"Sorry," Quinn murmurs.

"It's okay," Santana assures her, bending to kiss a pale forehead. "You just focus on getting better, and I'll worry about killing you later."

Quinn lets out a breathy chuckle, and the sound is so wonderful that both Rachel and Santana soak it up. "I had a dream," the blonde says.

"About what?" Santana asks.

"I was at Hogwarts," she says, and Rachel has to stifle a giggle. "I was a witch, San."

"Were you in Slytherin?" Santana asks, unable to stop herself.

"Ravenclaw, actually."

Santana snickers. "Then, it was definitely a dream."

"Santana," Rachel admonishes, but she's still trying not to laugh.

Quinn looks at her. "It was Post-War," she says, and she sounds so, so serious. "Hermione was there, and her surname was Potter. No double-barrel or anything." She grins. "Told you."

Rachel laughs now, her heart warming. "You sure did, Quinn."


Eventually, the four remaining visitors have to leave, and Quinn is given enough morphine to knock her out, once more. It takes everything Rachel has to walk out the door, but she promises to text Quinn whenever the blonde is awake.

And, said blonde is awake randomly at four o'clock in the morning.

Quinn: I have a teddy bear. I have decided to name him Ekko.

Quinn: Do you know where he came from? He's being awfully tight-lipped about his birthplace.

Despite her grogginess, Rachel can't help her laugh as her bleary eyes adjust to the bright screen in the darkness of her bedroom. She made sure to keep her phone on the highest volume in case Quinn decided to message her, and she's glad for it.

She rubs at her eyes as she considers her response.

Rachel: Hello, Ekko :) Frankie, Jasmine and Alec brought him for you, so you'll have to ask them from where he hails.

Rachel: How are you feeling? Did you get some good sleep?

Rachel settles in, expecting to have to wait a little while for a response, but the texts arrive not a minute later, surprisingly clear and without any spelling mistakes.

Quinn: Nope. He's still acting aloof, pretending not to know who those people are. Who are they, by the way? I have to thank them for my fierce little protector, Knight Ekko.

Quinn: It's dark here. I don't like it. Can I come home?

Rachel's stomach flips at the sight of the words, and she wonders just how lucid Quinn is in this moment. She can't imagine it's that much, because she doesn't seem to remember Frankie, Alec and Jasmine. But, then again, her grammar is impeccable, and it's all perfectly punctuated.

Rachel: They're members of the cast of my show, remember? They were at the picnic on Sunday. Maybe Ekko can't remember them because his life began when he met you?

Which, okay, sounds incredibly sappy to Rachel, but it's doubtful Quinn is going to remember any of this when the sun rises.

Well, Rachel hopes she doesn't.

Rachel: Of course, you can come home. I'm coming to fetch you tomorrow, and then you can have all the soup you want.

Quinn: I think you're right. Ekko doesn't seem to know anybody but me. And the nurse. She's scary. She keeps coming in to check my blood pressure. Is it high? Is that why I'm here? Am I dying?

Quinn: Tomorrow is too far away. Why can't I come home now?

Rachel is so, so tempted to get up and go fetch Quinn right this instant, but she knows that's impractical. She honestly can't tell if Quinn is okay or not. There are moments when she's… her usual self, and then others when it's obvious she's hopped up on pain medication.

She believes she's speaking to a stuffed animal. If that isn't cause for alarm, Rachel doesn't know what is.

Rachel: You're at the hospital because you hurt your back, Quinn. The nurse is just doing her job. I hope you're being nice to her.

Rachel: It is too far away, I know, but it'll be here before you know it. You'll see.

Quinn: I'm always nice. Ekko even says so.

Quinn: So, I can't come home?

Rachel, in all honesty, doesn't really know what Quinn means when she says 'home.' She doesn't even know if Quinn will be going to her own apartment when she gets discharged. Won't she need someone around? Will Rachel go and stay with her? Santana, maybe? Will Quinn come here?

Rachel: Ekko is very smart. You should keep him around.

Rachel: Where exactly is home, Quinn?

Quinn: Wherever you are.

Rachel sucks in a breath, her heart skipping a beat.

Rachel: Well, I'm right here, Quinn.

Quinn: Will you stay with me? I'm afraid of the dark.

Rachel, again, has to resist the almost irrepressible urge to go to Quinn. It's damning, she thinks, to want to be in the blonde's presence this badly, just to be sure she's okay.

Just to know, for sure.

Rachel: Always, Quinn.


For lack of a better term, Quinn is a… bundle of nerves in the morning. After her doctors come by to discuss her prognosis, run a few tests, and then clear her for discharge later that afternoon after the physiotherapist gives her approval, Quinn has all the time in the world to… stew.

Too much time to think.

To reflect.

To read through her late-night text conversation with Rachel and question its general absurdity. She ended up forwarding it to Santana and Kurt, hoping to get some semblance of understanding from either of them.

Santana's response was what the actual fuck?, and Kurt texted back, I didn't know you were afraid of the dark; why did I not know that?

So, yes, her friends have been less than helpful, and Quinn can't seem to make sense of her own words. Or Rachel's responses.

It's not as if anything heavy was revealed, right? It's not a big deal that Quinn may or may not have admitted to finding home in Rachel Berry. It's just a thing. It doesn't have to be made to be any bigger than it is. Because it's not. Big.

It's just a thing.

It continually plays on her mind when the physiotherapist visits, helping her ease out of bed, and then taking her on a walk around the hospital floor. It doesn't hurt, though it's uncomfortable.

Halle, the physiotherapist, suggests using a crutch for a few days, but Quinn opts for a cane. She's used one before, and she much prefers it.

Halle makes all the necessary notes, gives Quinn instructions on her aftercare and refers her to another physiotherapist for her next few sessions before she gives Quinn the go-ahead to go home.

Home.

Wherever Rachel is.

Quinn immediately texts Rachel, and then struggles through a shower. It makes her feel both amazing and horrible. She's clean but distinctly uncomfortable, and her back is tender.

Still worth it.

Maybe.

She's going to have to do things herself, so she may as well get used to it.

Quinn isn't sure how long she's going to have to wait for someone to come and get her, so she settles back into bed and answers her emails. They're mainly regarding school and work, and a few are from students who have heard she's in the hospital.

Her supervisor has given her the week off. Technically, she can work from home, and he expects edits on Monday morning. He also makes a very cryptic remark about finding a nugget of gold in Chicago, while he was speaking at a conference, and he asks her to send him a meeting request for whenever she's ready to talk.

It's both exciting and nerve-wracking, because Jordan Price is quite the character. She loves him, she really does, but he gets far too much satisfaction from being intentionally provocative. He claims it brings out the best in his students, but it just makes them hate him a little bit.

It's in that position that she receives her first visitor of the day.

Honestly, if anyone bet Quinn money on who that person would be, she would never have even thought to pull this name out of a hat.

But, alas, Quinn Fabray comes face to face with none other than Megan Porter.

Quinn freezes when she sees her, and Megan seems to hover in the doorway, seeking permission to enter the room.

The moment extends past awkwardness, and it's the sound of Quinn's roommate grunting in her sleep that jolts Quinn into motion. With thinly pressed lips, she motions for Megan to enter with a wave of her hand.

Megan is cautious with her approach, which is expected.

Quinn breaks the silence first, because it's obvious to them both that she's going to have to be the one to do it. "What are you doing here?" It's asked curiously, with merely a hint of accusation.

Megan can't seem to meet her gaze. "I'm - I'm still a part of the WhatsApp group," she says. "They were talking about… all of this."

"And you wanted to see for yourself that you inflicted the damage you wanted to?" Quinn automatically snaps, even though she knows it's not entirely fair. It's not Megan's fault Quinn has such a shoddy back, but still. She wouldn't even be here if Megan wasn't such a… sore loser.

And a bitch.

Megan visibly wilts under Quinn's glare. "No," she says. "That's not why I'm here."

"Then, why are you here?"

"To apologise, mainly," she says. "I - I got fired, you know?"

And, no, Quinn didn't know. "Why?"

"I don't think it's entirely because of what happened with you," Megan says, and she sounds sombre. "Rachel was right. My… attitude wasn't exactly making me easy to work with, and I wasn't helping the working environment." She sighs. "I suppose I pissed off Denny one too many times, and we all know she wears the pants when it comes to Tom."

Quinn can agree with that much, at least.

"I was jealous," Megan confesses, and it looks as if it pains her to say the words. "Of Rachel, mainly. She's just so… nice. Strong. Unflinching. Determined. It's almost unnerving, and I hated it about her. I wanted to see her fail, and I realise that's…" she trails off. "That's on me, and not her."

Quinn audibly swallows, a flicker of something familiar registering in her mind. "Not that I condone anything you've done, but I can understand it. I wasn't always very… nice to Rachel, either. I recognise those frustrations."

"I thought that was supposed to be misplaced sexual frustration," Megan says, and she sounds oddly curious.

Quinn arches an eyebrow. "Are you trying to say you secretly have the hots for my girlfriend?" she questions.

"Uh." And, Megan honestly looks as if she doesn't know.

Quinn almost laughs. Broadway really is like high school. "Yeah," Quinn says with a slight roll of her eyes. "Rachel will do that to you."

Megan frowns. "But, I don't - I'm not - that isn't even - "

Quinn waits patiently.

"No," Megan finally says. "I mean, no." She shakes her head. "No. Just, no."

Quinn relents. "Are you jealous of her talent?" she asks.

"Of course," Megan says, thankful for the new subject, even though the topic isn't exactly any better. "She's probably the most talented person I've ever met, and the best and worst part is that she doesn't really know just how gifted she is."

"Oh, she does," Quinn mutters.

"She really doesn't," Megan counters. "Whatever talent she thinks she has, it's exponentially more, and she's only going to get better."

Quinn thinks she's being entirely too calm in this moment because, honestly, there is a lot of Rachel Berry worship going on, and Megan doesn't even realise she's doing it. She's not sure what she's supposed to do in this moment. What does she say? Does she actually act like Rachel's girlfriend and lay down the law? Or…

"Look," Quinn says; "I don't really know what you expected coming here, but I'm not sure I can give it to you. I don't, for a second, think this is what you wanted to happen from the incident on Sunday, but it did. I am sorry you got fired, but I take no blame in that, and I won't have you blame Rachel either. I appreciate that you admire her talent and her… being, but I would really appreciate it if you would stay away from the both of us." There isn't even a hint of a question in her tone. It may sound like a request, but it really isn't.

Megan nods once. "It's all real, isn't it?"

"What?"

"You're in love with her," she says. "I thought, maybe, that it was all an act… but it's not, is it? It's real?"

Quinn grits her teeth for a moment, her heart aching. "It is for me," is what she chooses to say, and that's all there is to it. It's real for her, and she's left to wonder what 'Always, Quinn' means for Rachel.

"It's not just you," Megan says, but neither of them is allowed time to unpack that, because the topic of their conversation decides to make her appearance at that exact moment.

Quinn lets out a sigh of relief when she sees Rachel practically stroll into the room, a takeaway bag of some sort clutched in her hand.

Rachel's steps falter when she sees Megan, and then she immediately shifts into Protective-Rachel mode. "What are you doing here?" she hisses at Megan, hurrying to Quinn's side. "Are you okay?" she asks, dropping her voice, softening it in a way that's always been reserved for Quinn.

"I'm okay," Quinn tells her, her eyes unable to look away from Rachel's concerned face. She really is very pretty.

"Is she giving you a problem? I'll call security."

Quinn smiles at her, just so relieved to see her. "It's fine," she assures her. "We were just talking."

Rachel regards Megan with suspicion. "About what?" she asks warily.

"I came to apologise," Megan says, feeling two feet tall under Rachel's withering glare.

"Which," Quinn says; "you technically haven't done yet."

Megan stares at her for a moment, thinking back on their conversation. "Oh," she says. "Right, well, I'm sorry. About Sunday, and about everything else." She sighs. "I obviously have quite a bit to work on and through, and that's what I'm going to focus on while I'm, uh, unemployed."

Rachel's eyes widen, clearly proving that she didn't know as well.

Megan smiles sadly at her. "It looks like you're probably going to be getting a new Understudy," she says. "Hopefully, this one is going to be easier to break in."

Quinn can tell Rachel is a little speechless, so she decides to speak. "You make it sound as if you can be broken in."

Megan shakes her head, looking mildly amused. "Lesser people have tried."

Rachel pinches Quinn's forearm, and the blonde scowls at her.

"What's that for?"

"What is happening right now?" she asks, keeping her eyes on Quinn.

Megan takes that as her cue to take her leave. She ducks her head slightly, and then clears her throat. "Well, I should get going," she says. "Sorry, again, and I hope your recovery goes well." She looks at Rachel. "Good luck with the show," she says. "I'll be sure to come and see it when it opens."

And, with that, she spins on the ball of her foot and leaves the room, and its inhabitants in silence.

Rachel pinches Quinn again.

"Quit it," she complains.

Rachel just does it again. "I thought you couldn't feel anything."

Quinn grabs her hand before she can inflict any more pain. "Stop," she says. "Use your words."

Rachel stares down at where Quinn is still holding her hand. "Megan was here?"

"She was."

"You were talking to her?"

"I think we've reached an understanding."

Rachel squeezes Quinn's fingers. "Do I even want to know?"

"Probably not."

Rachel sighs, trying to let the unease she felt coming in here and finding Megan with Quinn subside. "Are you ready to go home?"

When Quinn looks at her, Rachel feels both everything and nothing. It's heaven and earth, and Rachel resists the urge to run.

She's not ready.

She doesn't even know what any of it is.

Real or not.


"Are you going over there again?"

Even though Rachel knows there's no accusation in Santana's question, she still feels her hackles rise.

"She just got out of the hospital," Rachel says, which isn't exactly true. It's Thursday evening, and Quinn has been home since Tuesday. She's doing well, getting around easier and being the worst patient imaginable.

It was a fight and a half getting Rachel to agree to let Quinn stay at her own apartment when she was discharged, and then another fight entirely when Rachel insisted she was spending the night.

Wednesday morning was such a mess that Quinn practically forced her to go home later that evening, because neither of them wanted to go through another disaster like that on Thursday morning.

Granted, Rachel would have been more prepared, but she got the distinct impression her hovering was starting to annoy Quinn and she was reaching her threshold.

But Rachel misses Quinn and, based on the endless number of texts Quinn has been sending about Sir Ekko - he truly is a Knight, now - and the ongoing Harry Potter marathon, Rachel doesn't think she'll survive the night without seeing her fake girlfriend.

"That's not an answer to the question I asked," Santana says, giving her a pointed look.

Rachel blushes slightly. "Yes, I am," she says, and then tracks the Latina's eyes as they drift to the small tote bag she's clutching. "I have the day off tomorrow, so I thought I would spend the night."

Santana merely nods. "Does Quinn know that?"

"She's about to."

Santana laughs, and then sighs happily, her eyes drifting to the side. "So, that means I can invite someone over?"

Rachel eyes her.

"And get freaky and loud all over this glorious, spacious apartment," she adds.

Rachel shudders. "Remind me to lock my bedroom door before I leave," she says. "Do I know this person we may or may not be inviting over?"

"I don't think so," she says, frowning slightly. "She's Giovanni's friend from work, and her name is Michelle. I've decided that I'm not getting involved with a medical student ever again. We're all going to be fucking narcissists, man."

"You're already a narcissist, Santana."

She chucks a salted peanut at Rachel, which she easily dodges. "Get the fuck out of here."

Rachel grins at her. "Anything you want me to tell Quinn?"

"Dude, they invented phones for a reason," she says, rolling her eyes. "But, since you're offering, tell her that we still gotta talk about that thing she's still being all hush hush about saying out loud, even though we all know the truth of it."

Rachel frowns. "Will she even understand what any of that means?"

Santana's smile is entirely too wicked. "Oh, believe me, she will."


And, well, if Quinn does understand what the sentence truly means, she doesn't show it to Rachel. She just pulls the brunette into a hug, and then invites her inside.

"Set your stuff down, get comfortable," Quinn says. "I'm making a fresh batch of popcorn. We're about to get started with Goblet of Fire." She does this cute, little jig, and then hobbles towards the kitchen.

Rachel can only watch her go, this odd sensation that she's witnessing her whole heart walking around outside of her body starting to take root. It's an entirely foreign feeling to her, given her tendency to throw herself head first into potential relationships.

With boys.

She imagines things are different with this particular sex, and then bucketloads different because this is Quinn. She's her own breed, obviously, and Rachel just can't seem to read her. How is Rachel supposed to know if Quinn is feeling anything like she is without actually asking her? Wouldn't she be able to tell? Is she not looking hard enough? Is she just reading everything wrong? What is real or not?

So many questions.

"Rach?" Quinn calls out. "Can I add salt? I'm skipping the butter, don't worry."

"Sure," Rachel immediately answers back. "Thank you."

It doesn't take them long to get settled on Quinn's couch, blankets draped over their bodies and their focus on the television screen.

Well, Quinn's focus, because Rachel keeps sneaking glances at the blonde.

"Look at that," Quinn suddenly says. "How does this not prove Harry and Hermione are meant to be together?" She looks at Rachel, exasperated. "She's the only one who never let Harry down. She's always stood by his side, defending him against his enemies, bullies and tormentors when nobody else did. She's always stayed, especially when Ron didn't.

"I mean, look at the way she hugs him. Those hugs, as bone-crushing as they probably are, clearly give him strength and comfort to survive whatever life throws at him. This is why, Rachel, this is why I will always ship them together. She's the only one who truly loves him, through all of it. Through the rage and confusion and self-loathing; she's always just seen him, and she's never asked him to be anybody other than himself. That's special."

Rachel regards her carefully, wondering if they're actually still talking about these fictional characters. There are certain parallels between her own relationship with a teenage Quinn especially, but it's never really been something they've unpacked together. Rachel's sure Quinn has discussed it at length with her therapist the same way she has, but there are some topics they just don't go near.

"You really feel strongly about this, don't you?" Rachel asks.

Quinn smiles sheepishly, flushing slightly at her own outburst. "I do."

Rachel resists the urge to call her adorable. "Quinn?"

"Hmm?"

"Do you want to go as Harry and Hermione to Vogue's Halloween party with me?"

Quinn stares at her for a moment, clearly caught off guard. "Rachel Berry, are you asking me out?"

Rachel can't quite read her tone of voice and her face isn't giving anything away, so she panics and says, "Frankie, Jazz and Alec are going to be there."

Quinn blinks. "Oh."

Rachel swallows. "So, is that a yes?"

Quinn clears her throat, shifting slightly. Her mouth is turned downwards slightly, but Rachel won't allow herself to think it's in disappointment. "Sure," she says. "Somebody has to make sure you don't do anything crazy."

"I resent that."

Quinn smirks at her. "I'm going as Hermione, by the way."

Rachel gasps. "What? Why?"

"I'm taller."

Rachel huffs. "That has no bearing here, whatsoever," she argues. "In the books, Harry is described as being as tall as his father, which is taller than Hermione. Daniel Radcliffe's unfortunate height should not be a factor here, at all."

Quinn just laughs.

Rachel glares at her, and then says, "I actually think you should go as Draco."

Quinn raises and drops her hands in exasperation. "Why does everyone think I would be a Slytherin?" she asks pointedly. Then, her eyes narrowing, she says, "I swear, if you go on about Drarry or Dramione, I'm going to scream."

Rachel laughs out loud. "I accept canon, Fabray." Then, because she honestly can't resist, she says, "Though, you are blonde, and Draco's blonde, so…"

She receives a throw cushion to the face for her troubles.


Rachel doesn't expect to wake draped across Quinn's body on the couch. She can't even remember falling asleep but, one look at the screen, tells her that Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix is long over and they're back at the DVD's menu.

She also doesn't know how she ended up so close to Quinn. The last thing she remembers is being on the opposite end of the couch. Right?

Wait. No. She ended up using Quinn's projectile as a pillow for her head, shifting until she was resting against Quinn's legs. And, now her head is pillowed against Quinn's abdomen. How did she get here?

She can feel Quinn's hand on her shoulder, fingers curled around her sweater, and she can hear soft breathing from somewhere above her. She has no idea what the time is, and she honestly doesn't care. She's not moving. She's entirely too comfortable, even though she's sure some part of her is going to be stiff later.

Still, Quinn has a surprisingly agreeable couch.

Quinn is also shockingly comfortable.

It's with that thought that she slips into slumber, once more.

Only to be woken by an insistent tap to her shoulder what feels like mere seconds later, but is actually a few hours.

"Berry," Quinn is saying. "Berry, you have to get up."

"No," Rachel grumbles, swatting at the tapping hand. "Five more minutes."

Quinn chuckles. "Please," she says, "I have to pee, and you're kind of pressing down on my bladder."

That does it.

Rachel practically jerks away, probably giving herself whiplash in the process. She scrambles into an upright position, her hands moving to flatten her hair and wipe her mouth. Oh, God, was she drooling?

Thankfully, Quinn just looks amused at Rachel's mortification. "As much as I want to tease you right now, I really do have to pee." And, with that, Quinn gets to her feet - slowly and, clearly, painfully - and then limps out of the room, leaving Rachel to calm her racing heart and try not to freak out.

No.

There's absolutely nothing to freak out about. She was sleeping. Quinn was sleeping. They were… kind of cuddling. Friends sleep on couches together all the time. Right?

Rachel is still contemplating her downfall when Quinn returns, decidedly not looking as if she just woke up. It's unnerving how beautiful she is, especially when she's not even trying.

"Bathroom's free if you want it," Quinn says. "I'm going to make some coffee. What do you want for breakfast?"

For a moment, Rachel is struck by how domestic this all is; how this is something she could get used to; how she finds herself wanting this. With Quinn.

Always, with Quinn.

"If you don't answer in the next five seconds, I'm just going to make bacon and eggs," Quinn says when her silence has gone on too long.

Rachel shoots her a look. "Are you asking for another lecture, Fabray?"

Quinn rolls her eyes. "No, I'm asking for what you want for breakfast, and time is running out for you to state your preference, because I want coffee, and you won't like me until I get my coffee."

"I always like you," Rachel automatically says, the words almost like a defence mechanism, but against what? She thinks she doesn't want Quinn even to entertain the idea that there's a bone in Rachel's body that doesn't simply adore her.

Quinn eyes her. "I don't know about that," she says. "I turn into quite the grumpy bitch when I don't have my coffee."

Rachel shakes her head as she gets to her feet. "Nope," she says; "I stand by my declaration. I always like you. You're just more amusing when you're on a rampage."

Quinn quirks an eyebrow. "A rampage?"

"You do realise I have seen you in the mornings, right?"

Quinn grins at her. "You're almost better than coffee, you know," she says, and then walks away.

Rachel isn't exactly sure what that means, but it feels heavy, for some reason.

A lot of things between them seem to be carrying extra weight these days, and she's just hoping she doesn't end up buckling under it all.


"Can I see?"

While Quinn has managed to get used to having Rachel around, somewhat, she still can't get over having her close enough to touch when she's inspecting her healing back. She's just emerged from a hot shower, and she's five seconds away from slipping on her t-shirt, but Rachel is here, and she's staring.

Quinn isn't sure, but she swears Rachel's eyes actually darken.

"Does it still hurt?" Rachel asks, walking up behind Quinn.

Quinn shivers when she feels cool fingers against her lower back. "Not really," she says, cursing how shaky her voice sounds.

Rachel's fingers trace the bruise. "It's looking better," she says.

Quinn wants Rachel to be touching her, but she doesn't want it to be like this. "Yeah," she murmurs, twisting away and slipping into her clothes. "Soon, it'll be like it never happened."

Rachel hums thoughtfully. "Is - is that what you want?"

Quinn turns to look at her in confusion, the mirror behind her. "What?"

"Forget it all? Pretend it never even happened?" She looks away. "It just kind of seemed like you forgave Megan, and I - I suppose I don't quite understand."

Quinn frowns. "I thought you were the one who believed in second chances?"

Rachel bites the inside of her cheek. "I suppose that's easier when it's only me involved," she admits carefully. "I find I'm irrationally and unendingly angry, because she hurt you, and I can't stand the sight of you in pain."

Quinn swallows. "I'm always in pain," she whispers, and she can't be sure if she means to make the confession or not.

Because, well, it's the truth. Whether it's physical, emotional or mental; there's always a part of her that hurts.

She's hurting right now, having Rachel look at her with all the care in the world, and not knowing if any of it is real. There's a part of her - traitorous as it is - that imagines it is; that thinks Rachel must feel it, too, but then she can't be sure, and she's not willing to risk their friendship.

Anyway, it isn't as if Rachel has given off the impression she would even be open to a real relationship with a woman. Quinn has watched carefully, waiting and observing.

But, no, Santana is right when she says Rachel is boy crazy. If anything, her rekindling her romance with Jesse St James a few years ago was answer enough, and it was more than enough impetus for Quinn to give in to Julia's advances.

And, what a lot of good that did her in the end.

God.

"Do you?"

Quinn blinks, coming back to the moment. "Do I what?"

"Forgive Megan?"

Quinn shrugs. "I'm not really thinking about her, to be honest," she admits. "I don't think it's that I forgive her. It's that there's a part of me that almost understands her."

"How so?"

Quinn hesitates. "As you're well aware, I wasn't always so comfortable with myself. I - I allowed my family's expectations to mould me into someone I hated with every fibre of my being, and it made everything about me… ugly." She closes her eyes for a moment. "I was angry a lot. Like, I was filled with this unquestionable, neverending rage that consumed me, because I knew I wasn't being true to myself. I knew I buckled, and gave in to the pressure to be a certain image. I knew I wasn't strong enough to hold onto my very essence, and it's that weakness I discovered in myself that I sought in others, as if it would help me justify my own inability to… remain Lucy, I guess.

"Which is when I happened across you, and you were just so fucking strong. It was unnerving, and I - I was so angry with the way you didn't let anything affect you. I was jealous and enraged that you wouldn't just give in, and just crumple, so I made it my relentless mission to break you, and I ended up destroying myself in the process."

Quinn can't even look at her. It's the most she's ever revealed about her teenage years. Sure, the two of them have talked sporadically about their experiences, but Quinn has spent many a session with her therapist trying to unpack the intricacies of her high school psyche.

"It sounds ridiculous now," Quinn continues. "I was such a… child, but also not, and I'm embarrassed just thinking about it. Ashamed. Horrified. But I learned, and I grew up. I mean, you kind of have to when you're fifteen, pregnant, homeless and terrified that the world is closing in on you in the worst ways.

"But, I learned," she says. "I made mistakes. I still do, and I still learn, and I'm constantly trying to be the best version of myself because I get to be. I get to be exactly who I want to be, and I hate myself far less these days because of it." She huffs out a breath. "What I'm trying to say is that I recognise aspects of that in Megan and, while I don't condone it at our age - or any, really - I can understand it."

When it looks like Quinn has finished her surprising monologue, Rachel really doesn't know what to say. It's not the first time Quinn has left her speechless, but it's the first time it feels pivotal.

Like, whichever way Rachel reacts in this moment defines the future of their relationship, and they both know it.

So, Rachel does the only thing she can think of doing. With little preamble, she steps into Quinn's space and puts her arms around the taller woman, holding her close and trying to use her body to say what her mouth is unable to.

Quinn is tense for a few moments, and then she relaxes in Rachel's embrace, hearing the words in Rachel's silence. They just hug for a slice of eternity.

No words are exchanged.

Still, so much is said.

Chapter Text

VII

Quinn makes them soup.

For whatever reason, Rachel doesn't want to be too far away from her, so she settles herself on one of the stools at Quinn's breakfast bar and watches the blonde float around her kitchen.

Quinn gives Rachel some vegetables to chop, which she happily does as Quinn prepares to make vegan croutons. It constantly amazes Rachel whenever Quinn proves how well-versed she is in vegan cuisine, and she resists the urge to swoon.

"We still have three movies of our marathon to get through," Quinn says, eyeing Rachel as she chops. They've had a few incidents of sliced fingers in the past, merely because Rachel is easily distracted.

By Quinn, mainly.

"Is that what we're doing today?" Rachel asks.

"What else did you have in mind?"

Rachel bites her bottom lip. "Nothing that can't wait until tomorrow or even Sunday."

"Tell me."

"Well, I mean, we kind of have costumes to put together, don't we?"

And that's exactly how Quinn finds herself trudging through New York City on the Friday before Halloween looking for Hogwarts robes.

"I'm almost insulted that you don't already have a set," Rachel says, glancing accusingly over her shoulder as they enter yet another costume shop.

"I'll have you know that I already have our wands," Quinn counters. "And ties."

Rachel just hums. "Could we use any kind of robes?" she asks. "I mean, they just have to look like wizard's attire, don't they?"

Quinn shoots her an incredulous look. "We're not being anything but authentic, Rachel," she says. "It would be blasphemous."

Rachel just giggles, absently reaching for Quinn's free hand and linking their fingers. The thing is that Rachel doesn't want to keep them out for too long, because it's supposed to start raining soon and Quinn is still recovering.

She's still using the cane, and that means something.

They find what they're looking for in the third shop, and they spend almost an hour trying on the robes and perusing all other accessories. Rachel needs the round glasses, and Rachel buys Quinn a Time-Turner to hang around her neck that makes the blonde smile like - like -

Rachel has never seen her smile like that.

"Harry seems like an awkward enough teenage boy to buy Hermione jewellery," Rachel muses as they start on their way back to Quinn's apartment. "I'm trying to be authentic."

"Thank you."

Rachel is starting to pick up on certain nuances in Quinn's voice that she still hasn't quite figured out. It almost feels as if she's saying one thing, but actually saying something else entirely.

Rachel knows it'll be simple enough to ask Quinn to… explain, but she doesn't think either of them is ready for whatever truths Quinn might reveal.

Also, they've already had a heavy conversation today.

Quinn moves to take a nap as soon as they get back, her medication and the general exertion of the day catching up with her in the most adorable way.

A sleepy Quinn Fabray is a sight to behold, and Rachel can barely handle it. She just wants to reach out and touch, hold on as tightly as possible and never let go.

"Are you staying?" Quinn asks through a yawn, and she pretends the answer isn't going to affect her by rolling a tired shoulder in an unconvincing shrug.

This time, Rachel sees right through her, and she realises, belatedly, that it's only because Quinn allows it. "I am," she says; "if that's all right with you."

Quinn makes a noncommittal sound. "As long as you don't hog the covers."

"Never."

Quinn doesn't say anything, but Rachel doesn't miss the smile she desperately tries to hide.


Quinn is up and ready to go early Monday morning.

She's itching to get back to campus, and she wants to get into the swing of things as soon as possible, as it were.

It was a nice break from her life, being forced to take some time and recover. It was also almost an out-of-body experience spending the entire weekend with Rachel, as if it was normal.

Because it felt as if it was.

Everything about their extended weekend was just so… easy. They just fit together in all the best ways, and Quinn knows she's only making it harder on herself. She didn't want it to end but, alas, it did, and now she's forced to face reality.

At least she no longer needs the cane.

She's still stiff, but the worst is over, and she knows she's not going to be touching a frisbee for a good few years, at least. Or any other contact sports. She'll stick to running, thank you very much.

When Quinn gets to the office, it's empty save for a vase of flowers in the centre of her desk. Her heart beats double-time at the sight of the gardenias, and she doesn't even need to read the card to know they're from Rachel.

I know you were going stir-crazy being stuck at home.
I hope you have a lovely day.
Don't work too hard, Fabray, because I'll know.

- R

Quinn smiles to herself before she reaches for her phone to text Rachel immediately. She takes a quick picture of herself and the flowers, and sends it, along with the caption and how exactly will you know?

The reply comes almost two hours later, while Quinn is working on marking all the assignments that were handed in while she and Dr Price were away. It's not her favourite part of the requirements of her position, but she does sometimes enjoy reading what the students are working on. It's just that she doesn't yet fully accept that she is in any position to dole out advice to other aspiring writers.

Dr Price thinks otherwise. He's spent endless hours trying to convince her that she has talent, and he's just around to fine tune it. He even jokes that she's going to forget all about him when she's well-known and famous.

Rachel: I have my ways, believe me.

Rachel: How's your day going?

Quinn: That's not creepy at all.

Quinn: It's going as well as can be expected. I have a meeting with my supervisor in a few minutes, which may or may not be important, so there's that.

Quinn: Yours?

Rachel: I see and hear everything, Quinn. I thought you already knew this about me.

Rachel: Good important, or bad important? This distinction is… important.

Rachel: And, my day is just starting. I'm just getting to the theatre. My new Understudy is supposed to begin today, so I may or may not end up in a body bag by the end of the day.

Quinn lets out an unexpected laugh, and Jason glances at her, his brow furrowed. She holds up her phone as an explanation, and he just smiles in response.

The two of them have a strange relationship, in that he obviously has a crush on her, and she's very much gay. She thinks they could be friends, but it's still a little too weird, and she's not about to push it.

There's also a part of her that might not actually like him at all, for whatever reason, which is why she rarely speaks to him.

Quinn: I'm not so sure about that, Rach. You're kind of oblivious to some very important things.

Quinn: I'm thinking it's a good important, but I'll definitely keep you posted.

Quinn: Seriously? How is it possible you actually ended up this dramatic in life? How do you get through the day?

Rachel: Like what? What am I missing?

Rachel: You better keep me in the loop. I'm as invested in you as you are. Perhaps even more.

Rachel: Well, you see, I have lovely people like you to help keep me grounded. Santana says she's never stopped insulting me, in order to keep my feet firmly on the ground when my head blows up from the inevitability of my upcoming success.

Rachel: Drama IS life, Quinn!

Rachel: Accept me for who I am!

Rachel: Quinn?


It's not as if it's anything odd for Quinn randomly to stop replying to Rachel's texts but, after the horror show that was the previous Monday, the silence puts her a little on edge. She does her best not to let it affect her rehearsal, and she's relieved that they're working on the musical numbers today, and not any heavy, emotional acting scenes.

There is emotion involved in the songs, of course, but the music and the lyrics lend a helping hand, and Rachel easily loses herself in it enough to forget that she's still worried about Quinn.

Which all proves to be moot when said blonde shows up at the theatre at the start of their break for lunch, a takeaway bag in her hands and a dazzling smile on her face.

Rachel is completely floored by the sight of her, and her voice gets stuck in her throat the same way her feet are frozen in place.

"There she is!" Alec exclaims, jumping right off the stage and moving to meet Quinn as she approaches them down the left aisle.

"It's hard to imagine you were in the hospital just a week ago," Jasmine says, heading down the steps from the stage - like a normal person. "You're looking much better."

Quinn tilts her head slightly. "Rachel took good care of me," she says.

"I bet she did," Alec says, and Jasmine whacks the back of his head. "Ow," he complains, and then grins at the sight of Quinn's takeaway bag. "I hope you brought something for me."

Quinn laughs, her eyes darting towards where Rachel is still standing on the stage. She arches an eyebrow challengingly, which really doesn't help Rachel at all. It takes Frankie slipping an arm around her shoulders to get her moving, and Quinn looks entirely too smug as she returns her attention to Alec.

"You're in luck," she says. "I brought a handful of burritos for the lot of you crazy drama people."

Alec immediately grabs the bag, which makes Quinn laugh.

"The vegan one is Rachel's," Quinn makes sure to tell him as he starts pulling out foil-wrapped wonders. He randomly hands one to Jasmine, and then another to Frankie when he and Rachel arrive.

Alec looks at Quinn. "Just you and Rach?"

Quinn nods. "The rest are for whoever else is here, I guess," she says.

"You're my favourite person in the world," Alec says, removing the vegan burrito and a random other one from the bag.

"Watch it, Mendelssohn," Rachel says. "She's taken."

"Yeah, yeah," Alec says with a roll of his eyes as he hands Rachel the two burritos. "The entire world is jealous of you, Berry. Bask in it."

"I will."

Quinn just shakes her head, amused, and then reaches for the front of Rachel's sweater and tugs. Rachel goes willingly, easily falling into Quinn's embrace and soaking up her warmth.

When Rachel pulls away, she can't stop her smile. "This is a surprise," she says.

"A good one, I hope," Quinn says, nervously biting her lip.

"Of course," Rachel says, and then reaches up to kiss Quinn's cheek.

Quinn looks past her at Frankie. "Hey," she says. "Sorry to gate-crash your lunch."

Frankie waves a hand, smiling at her. "I think I speak for everyone when I say it's good to see you up and about. We've been worried. Rach said you were doing well, but it's nice to know for sure."

Quinn laughs lightly. "You didn't believe her?"

"As a rule, we believe very little that leaves her mouth," Jasmine jokes.

Alec nods, his mouth full of burrito, as he's the only one who's even started eating. "She once told me she was engaged in high school," he says, rolling his eyes.

Quinn tilts her head back as she laughs out loud, and everyone has to stare. "She really was," she says, her smile blinding. "I did literally everything I possibly could to get her to see reason, even almost…" she trails off, and Rachel steps into her space, easily slipping an arm around her waist.

"It all worked out in the end," she says, and it sounds so severe.

Frankie and Jasmine exchange a meaningful look. While Frankie knows the full story, Jasmine doesn't, and he secretly hopes Quinn does write this story.

"It did," Quinn agrees, her left arm coming around Rachel's shoulders. "Makes it all worth it, doesn't it?"

"Definitely," Rachel says, her eyes meeting Quinn's. It's heavy, this moment, and she knows there's a lot neither of them is saying, but she just doesn't know the words.

Alec breaks into the moment. "Aren't any of you going to eat?" he asks. Then: "I'm totally having a second one."

Quinn looks at Rachel. "Can I borrow you for a minute? I need to talk to you about something."

Rachel tenses for a beat, suddenly wary, but there's excitement and lightness in Quinn's eyes. How can she be worried about anything when Quinn is looking at her like that? "Sure," she says, and then looks at her cast mates. "We'll be right back."

Rachel tries not to panic as Quinn turns them and leads them to the back of the theatre, Alec making obscene sounds behind them. He's such an idiot.

The two of them settle into the very last row, somewhat hidden in the dark, and Rachel absently hands Quinn her burrito.

Neither of them makes a move to start eating.

"Rachel," Quinn starts; "I have to tell you something."

Rachel braces herself.

Quinn sucks in a breath, and then releases it slowly. "I spoke to Jordan today, and - " she stops, sighing. "Jordan Price, he's my supervisor. He's been helping me make my manuscript perfect, and talking about getting it out there, and - " she stops again, and then she laughs.

Like, laugh laughs.

It's almost this unbelievable sound, something Rachel has never heard before.

Rachel stares at her, eyes wide. "Quinn? What is happening?"

Quinn reaches for Rachel's hands and squeezes them, drawing some kind of courage from the contact. "Rachel, they want to publish my book."

It takes Rachel a moment.

A moment for the words to sink in.

And then Rachel is shooting out of her seat and screaming, "What?" loud enough to draw attention to them. She doesn't even care. "What? Quinn, oh my God! Oh, my God!" She covers her mouth with both her hands, her head shaking in disbelief.

Quinn is just smiling at her. "While Jordan was at this conference in Chicago, he ended up talking to this editor from a publishing house here in New York, and he sent her a copy of the book, which she read immediately, and she wants to meet with me, and they want to publish my book, Rachel." She closes her eyes. "They actually want me." Her voice is so full of wonder that it breaks Rachel's heart.

"Of course, they want you," Rachel says, dropping herself into Quinn's lap and wrapping her arms around her. "You're a brilliant writer, and you have so many stories to tell. They would be idiots not to want you."

Quinn's own hands settle on Rachel's waist, and she buries her face in the brunette's sweater. "I still can't believe it."

"It's happening," Rachel assures her, threading her fingers through blonde hair. "It's happening."

Quinn just holds her tighter.

"What did your mom say?" she asks. "Have you told Santana?"

Quinn pulls back, frowning slightly. "You're the first person I've told," she confesses, flushing instantly. "Nothing feels real until you know about it."

Rachel immediately gathers her in another hug, merely to make sure Quinn doesn't see her face, hiding it in Quinn's hair. "I'm so proud of you," she whispers. "I am so, so proud of you; I barely even know what to do with myself."

"Just keep doing what you're doing," Quinn murmurs, and Rachel is content to do just that.

Rachel isn't sure how long they sit like that, but her stomach eventually protests the delayed lunch, and the two of them are forced to break apart.

Suddenly feeling self-conscious, Rachel slips off Quinn's lap and settles into her own seat. She can barely look at the blonde as she reaches for her burrito… that's no longer warm.

Quinn is completely still beside her, and Rachel sneaks a look at her to find hazel eyes focused on her face. "You're the first person I even thought of telling," Quinn says, and she looks slightly distressed by the admission.

"Quinn?"

"I mean, I didn't even think about anyone else," she continues as if Rachel hasn't spoken. "This is the best news I've probably ever received, and you're the first person that popped into my head." She looks so forlorn, and Rachel wants to reach out and touch her.

"Quinn," she whispers.

Quinn shakes her head, muttering to herself. Rachel catches phrases such as stupid to think and definitely not over and no denying it now.

"Quinn," Rachel starts again.

With a sigh, Quinn points to Rachel's burrito. "You should eat something."

Rachel ignores the instruction. "Tell me what's wrong."

"Nothing's wrong," Quinn says, because nothing truly is. "I just - you're more important to me than I thought, and it's a little overwhelming."

"Oh."

Quinn's smile is sad. "Eat up, Berry," she says. "I did not scour this damn city for a fucking vegan burrito, just for it to go to waste."

Rachel eyes her carefully, and then quickly kisses her cheek. "Thank you, Quinn," she says. Then, because she's Rachel Berry, she adds, "And, everything is going to be okay. You'll see."


"Is everything okay?" Frankie asks when Rachel returns from her little lunch date with Quinn. The brunette looks lost in thought, and it takes her a moment to look at him.

"Hmm?"

"Is everything okay?" he asks again, smiling knowingly. "There was a bit of noise back there. Something happen?"

Rachel blinks slowly, and then grins. "Quinn just told me some of the best news," she says. "Amazing news, really."

"Do we get to know?" Jasmie asks from Frankie's left side, sipping at a bottle of water.

Rachel looks torn. "I'm not really sure," she admits. "It's Quinn's news, so I think it's best if she tells you. Plus, she probably has to tell her mom first."

Frankie smiles widely. "Wow. She told you before her mother? Must be serious."

Rachel nods, looking a little lost again. "I think she kind of freaked out when she realised it, yes," she says, almost to herself. "She doesn't exactly have the easiest relationship with her mother, as you know, Frankie."

And, Frankie does.

Jasmine looks at him. "Why? What happened?"

"I'll tell you later," he says, patting her forearm. "Hey, Rach?"

Rachel snaps to attention. "Yes?"

"We, umm, were wondering if we could talk to you about something," he says, suddenly sounding nervous. "It's about you and Quinn."

Rachel's brow furrows and, for a moment, she looks panicked. "What about us?"

"Well, we were just talking, you know, about, well, the two of you, and Alec brought up that… you two don't really, umm, kiss." He pauses, watching as Rachel frowns. "And, I don't know if it's just who you are as a couple because you're not into PDA, but we thought we should mention that we don't mind. Jasmine thinks that you might be censoring yourselves because not everyone is accepting of same-sex relationships, but we want you to know that you don't have to do that with us. It… doesn't make us uncomfortable."

"Alec would probably encourage it," Jasmine adds in when Rachel just stares blankly at them.

Rachel takes another moment. "I've - I've never really thought about it," she quietly admits, which is the truth. "I think it's an unconscious thing, by now. As you both know, we didn't grow up in a very… accepting place. I think Quinn still struggles with open affection on most days, but it's nice to know you guys are comfortable with it. That means a lot."

"Of course," Frankie says. "We love Quinn."

Rachel glares at him. "What about me?"

"You're all right."

Jasmine giggles, and Rachel shoots her a wounded look. "We kind of love you too," she says after a moment.

"Just kind of?" she asks, a secret smile spreading across her face as she gets lost in thought, once again.

Frankie and Jasmine exchange a look, neither of them even bothering to respond.


Kurt Hummel doesn't take his role as confidante lightly. A long time ago, it started with Rachel Berry and, never in his wildest dreams, did he think it would one day include Quinn Fabray.

A very gay Quinn Fabray, who obviously has a very big, gay problem on her hands.

Kurt is sympathetic, of course, because he's suffered the indignity of having feelings for someone who is very obviously straight. It's what they initially bonded over all those years ago.

That, and he understands her far better than anyone, given his experience with Dave Karofsky.

It is different, though, because Quinn's bullying never included homophobic slurs. While she acknowledged Rachel's… parentage, she never went after it, and Kurt reasons it's because a part of her always knew she would just be attacking herself.

And her best friends.

Even though she grew up as a strict Christian, groomed to believe that homosexuality was a sin of the top order, Quinn didn't quite… believe it.

Buy into it, as it were.

She likes to joke about how it took until her sophomore year of college to figure out she liked girls more than she probably should. She's a genius, but she's awfully dumb, sometimes.

"So, you're getting published?" Kurt says, grinning madly, even though he's very calm. He panicked slightly when Quinn called him demanding that he go over to her place, because she needed to talk, and now he's glad he skipped his book club meeting for this.

He's so proud of her, he can barely formulate the words.

Quinn stares at him, incredulous. "Did you hear anything I just said?" she questions. "I told Rachel first, Kurt. She's the first person I had to tell, and there was no stopping me. I didn't think of anyone else. I'm literally so fucking fucked. How did this happen? I was fine. I was over her; I was."

Kurt sighs, reaching out to pat her hand. "Oh, Quinn," he murmurs. "Let's not start lying to ourselves now. You were never over her."

"I was," she argues. "I got way over her when she was dating St Jackass."

Kurt shakes his head. "You got angry with her," he says. "You stopped spending time with her, which was the right thing to do for yourself. Then you started dating Julia, which, at the time, was also a good thing."

"And then really, really bad," Quinn interjects.

"She was a bitch, yes," he says, scowling. He'll never forgive that awful woman for what she did to Quinn. He takes a deep breath to calm himself. "What I'm trying to get at is that you have been fighting a losing battle from the moment you heard the tiny human sing."

Quinn glares at him. "I told you never to bring that up again," she says pointedly.

He ignores her. "I think that the best thing you can do for yourself is admit this is a problem. You've identified what we've been seeing for years. You're hooked, Quinn, and you're going to have to do some difficult things to protect yourself."

Quinn blinks.

Kurt knows he has to say the words, regardless of what he may or may not know about Rachel's apparent feelings. The brunette still isn't sure, and that could potentially hurt Quinn even more.

God, sometimes he hates being a confidante. It's too much responsibility.

Who is his confidante?

"What difficult things?" Quinn asks, and her voice sounds so small; so vulnerable. "Because, if you're suggesting what I think you're suggesting; I don't think I can do that." She audibly swallows. "I know it's the best possible thing to do, but - but - "

Kurt squeezes her fingers. "You're not ready."

"I - I don't want to lose her," Quinn says, and she sounds so helpless.

"You won't."

"You don't know that," Quinn immediately counters. "You can't know that."

He sighs. "She cares about you," he says, because he knows that much for sure. "There's no way you're going to lose her. It's… impossible. The five of us, we're a packaged deal and, maybe we'll have to do some adjusting, but it's not going to be as awful as you think it's going to be."

"You don't know that."

And, okay, he doesn't, but what else is he supposed to say?

He really needs to find another role.


"I'm just saying," Santana is complaining; "I feel like I'm the last one to know, and that's not okay, Fabray."

Quinn, wisely, doesn't reply. She does feel bad, but she knows it's not the time to let Santana know that truth, or they're going to have to suffer a smug Santana Lopez the entire night.

"I mean, even Bowtie knew before I did," Santana complains, referring to the fact that Blaine was privy to Quinn's meeting with a publisher before she was.

Quinn sighs. "Look, I told Kurt when I had dinner with him last night, and he must have told Blaine," she explains. "I was going to tell you tonight. I didn't know boy wonders where going to come singing through the door with congratulations."

Santana glares at her. "And the Munchkin?"

Quinn shrugs helplessly. She won't admit that Rachel was the first person she told. Even before her mother. God, she's so far gone, it's beyond pathetic, at this point. That's what she had to discuss with Kurt, because she knows Santana's just going to say I told you so, and Quinn isn't ready for that.

"Right," Santana grumbles, realising it's dumb to think anyone would come before Rachel when it comes to Quinn. "Stupid question."

Quinn flicks Santana's arm with her forefinger. "Stop pouting," she says. "It's only cute on Rachel."

"Ew."

Quinn laughs. "I'm sorry," she says. "I was going to tell you, I promise. I came over here with that intention." She shifts closer to the Latina, a smile still on her face because Santana is doing her best not to look at her. "You have to forgive me. I'm your best friend. I'm going to be a published author. You can't stay mad at me."

"Yes, I can," she counters. "I've been mad at you since freshman year of high school."

Quinn frowns. "For what?"

"You said you didn't like the peanut M&Ms, and I still haven't forgiven you."

And, Quinn laughs. It's this easy, happy sound that transports Santana into a life where her best friend is always like this.

Quinn puts an arm around Santana and kisses her cheek.

"I don't even know how we're friends," Santana says, forcing herself to squirm away and wipe at her cheek. "Gross."

"Just be grateful I didn't lick you."

"You're disgusting," Santana says; "why didn't I never know that?"

"You love me," Quinn teases.

"Only sometimes."

Quinn shrugs. "I'll take it," she declares. "Now, finish up, Catwoman, our adoring public awaits."

Santana glances down at her costume. "I look hot."

Quinn just waves a hand as she spins and heads out of Santana's bedroom. She can hear Kurt and Blaine bickering over their costumes in the living room, and she smiles to herself as she heads through Rachel's open door. Her smile widens when she sees the brunette fiddling with her tie, and Quinn can't resist coming up behind her and pressing her fingers against her sides.

Rachel squeals, jumping up and spinning around. "Quinn!"

Quinn grins at her. "Hi."

Rachel huffs out a breath, and then throws her arms around the other woman. It isn't as if they saw each other literally fifteen minutes ago; she's missed the blonde.

Quinn hugs her back, because why shouldn't she? "Are you almost ready?" she asks, releasing Rachel. "San is ready, and the boys have been itching to go since they arrived."

"Help me with my tie," Rachel says.

Quinn immediately lifts her hands. "It doesn't have to be perfect," she says. "Harry doesn't really care about his attire. Not the way Hermione does."

Rachel studies Quinn's near-perfect tie. "You make a very fetching Hermione Granger," she says.

"Fetching?"

"I'm trying to be authentic."

Quinn pulls her into another hug because she just can't resist. Her heart is growing in size with every second she spends with Rachel, and it's so, so dangerous.

But, she loves it.

She loves everything about it.

Even if it scares the living daylight out of her.


Rachel grips Quinn's robes tightly in her left fist when they emerge from the elevator on the party's floor. The music is loud and everything is bright and light and she feels slightly overwhelmed.

Quinn must sense it, because her hand slips into Rachel's and gives it a comforting squeeze. It's odd, Rachel thinks, how in tune Quinn is with her. She never noticed it before, but it's something she can't ignore now that she's conscious of her new feelings.

At least, she thinks they're new.

Someone bumps her hip, and she turns to see Jasmine… dressed as Jasmine, and Frankie on her right side in his Aladdin getup. Their costumes are pretty awesome, if she says so herself, and Alec coming dressed as the genie is just the icing on the cake.

"I'm so glad Kurt could get us in," Jasmine says, shouting over the music.

"Me too," Rachel says. She's grateful he could get them all in, but she's a little more thankful that her cast mates are here, because it gives her an excuse to remain close to Quinn all night.

She's starting to feel… anxious that this is all going to come to an end, now that Megan is no longer in the picture. The redhead was the main reason they even started this whole shenanigan.

So, there's really no need to 'stay together' now, right?

Rachel's grip unconsciously tightens on Quinn's hand, and the blonde winces. "Sorry," Rachel immediately says.

"Everything okay?"

Rachel just reaches up to kiss her cheek. "Want something to drink?"

Quinn looks perplexed for a moment, and then she nods. "Together?"

"Sure," she says. She looks to her right, where Jasmine is fiddling with her costume. "We're going to get some drinks," she tells her. "And then, probably dance the night away."

Jasmine laughs. "Don't get arrested for public indecency."

"We'll try," Rachel says with a roll of her eyes. "Are you going to be okay?"

"Keep your phone on," Jasmine says, and then shoos her away.

Quinn's smiling at her now, gently leading her through the crowd towards the open bar. It's brave, to have an open bar, but Rachel isn't complaining. She just watches as Quinn orders their drinks, getting Rachel's order correct without having to ask what she wants.

Later, she'll recall this moment as one of many to lead up to the incredibly stupid thing she does at the end of the night.

Another one is the moment Quinn's fingers trail along her forearm to cup her elbow as she leads them onto the dance floor. That moment is closely followed by the moment Quinn's fingers curl into the fabric at the small of her back as they move to the music.

It's respectful in the beginning. They're close, but not too close.

Then the drinks start flowing, and the moments that start to drive Rachel a little crazy increase in number.

Quinn pulls her closer, and Rachel forgets that she told herself she was never going to drink again. The world disappears, and it's just her and Quinn, dancing and breathing.

Panting, really.

And, Quinn's eyes are dark; so, so dark. They're intense, boring into her in a way that should terrify her. She's never experienced anything like this. Not with Finn, Noah, Brody or Jesse. She's never felt so alive under someone's gaze before.

It's too much.

It's not enough.

Everything is terrifying, and Rachel can't decide if she wants to get closer or move further away.

Thankfully or not, the decision is made for her when Alec interrupts their… dancing-that-somehow-turned-into-grinding to tell them that they're doing shots.

"Tequila!"

Quinn just rolls her eyes, but she pulls Rachel off the dance floor. Rachel's focus is on the rapid beating of her heart and the warmth of Quinn's palm against hers.

"There they are!" Santana exclaims when she sees them. "Harmony." She laughs to herself, and then indicates the woman dressed as Wonder Woman beside her. "This is Perrie," she says. "Perrie, this Quinn, and that's Rachel."

Both Quinn and Rachel politely wave, almost in sync.

Alec guffaws. "Trippy."

"Shots," Kurt says, pointing to the tray on the table they're occupying. "Everybody!"

Quinn and Rachel exchange a look, simultaneously shrug, and then reach for their drinks. Santana counts them all down.

"Where's the lime?" someone asks, but they're all already downing their drinks. The liquid burns, and Quinn rests her forehead on Rachel's shoulder as she forces herself to breathe through the fire.

Rachel rubs her back soothingly, smiling to herself. "You okay?"

"Great," Quinn murmurs, which Kurt uses as license to grab her hand and drag her to the dance floor.

Rachel just watches, feeling an odd sense of loss settle over her.

"Don't worry," Frankie says with a lazy smile; "you'll get your girlfriend back."

Santana snorts, but Rachel doesn't say anything.


Despite Frankie's words, Rachel doesn't get Quinn back for at least an hour. She's been dancing with everyone but Rachel, rotating through Kurt, Blaine, Alec, and even Jasmine.

Rachel's danced with Frankie, mainly, but she misses the feel of Quinn's body. The heat of her skin; the smell of her breath; the look in her eyes.

She misses Quinn.

It's unsettling. She's never really missed anyone this way before. Quinn is literally in the same room as her. Her fathers are in another state, and she doesn't miss them nearly this much.

Sometimes, she couldn't wait to get some alone time when she was with Finn or Jesse, but she's been going crazy whenever she's out of Quinn's presence.

It can't be healthy.

Frankie pinches Rachel's cheek to get her attention. "Am I that terrible of a dancer?" he asks with a laugh. "You're not even looking at me. I mean, I know I'm not as pretty as Quinn, but come on."

Rachel smiles sheepishly. "No, you're definitely not as pretty as her."

They share a laugh.

"I'm sorry," Rachel says, sighing.

"Don't worry about it," he says. "If my girlfriend looked anything like Quinn, I would be pouting as well."

Rachel frowns. "Why don't you have a girlfriend, Frankie?" she asks. "I mean, you're obviously a catch, and you're handsome. Has nobody caught your eye?"

The silence she receives is answer enough.

"Somebody has," she says, looking pensive. She watches Frankie's eyes flick to the left for a moment, and he blushes. "You should ask her out, you know?"

Frankie looks nonplussed.

"I know I can be self-absorbed," she says, "but I see things. It's kind of obvious, if you look close enough. Just ask her. She's single. You're single. You're practically together already. I mean, you're like a packaged deal at this point."

Frankie sighs. "She's my best friend."

"Quinn's mine," she counters. "I don't see what the problem is. The best relationships are built on friendships."

"And I should definitely take it from you, shouldn't I?"

She shrugs, fighting off the guilt. "Definitely."


"Mine."

Quinn lets out a delighted laugh as Rachel's arms wrap around her waist. "I was wondering when you were going to come rescue me," she murmurs, her arms draping over Rachel's shoulders.

"I've watched you dance with far too many people who aren't me," Rachel says. "It's my turn."

"It's always your turn," Quinn assures her. "There's a list, apparently. Hermione Granger is popular tonight."

"Have you encountered some other Harry Potters?"

Quinn nods. "None as perfect for me as you, though," she says, her hips starting to move to the beat.

Rachel's arms loosen slightly to allow for better movement, and she closes her eyes at the feeling of Quinn. She could live in this moment forever.

Only, not everyone is on board with that, and she feels someone tap her shoulder. One glance over her shoulder brings her face to face with a redheaded man who's… dressed like Ron Weasley.

Rachel rolls her eyes at the same time Quinn lets out a laugh.

Except, well, what starts out as what could be termed a funny joke turns ugly pretty quickly. 'Ron' is obviously drunk, convinced Harry is with 'his girl' and slightly homophobic.

What should be a bit of fun turns into a full-blown brawl when 'Ron' puts his hands on Rachel, and Quinn reacts, which prompts all their friends to come out of the woodworks.

Nobody knows who throws the first punch but, after the fight is over, they all get thrown out.

Kurt's costume is probably the only thing that ensures he keeps his job.

"I could have killed a mother fucker!" Santana seethes. "How dare he touch my Munchkin?"

Rachel raises her eyebrows. "Your Munchkin?"

"Shut up, Berry," she says. "I almost broke my hand for you."

"I did break my hand," Quinn complains, as the nine of them head down the sidewalk away from the Vogue building.

"Aww, baby," Rachel says, taking hold of Quinn's swelling hand between both of her own. She's still feeling the rush, and this has been the most surprising night of her life.

"Are we calling it a night or what?" Alec asks the group. "Because, I'm so fucking pumped right now!"

After a bit of discussion, everyone else is game for a longer night, save for Rachel and Quinn.

"I need to ice this," Quinn whispers, and Rachel makes up some excuse to get them out of it. She knows Quinn is a home body and, if she's complaining about her hand, then it must hurt.

"Lame," Santana complains, and then grabs Perrie's hand to start them walking in the opposite direction. Kurt and Blaine follow, and Rachel turns to her cast mates.

"Don't have too crazy a night," she warns. "We still have rehearsals tomorrow."

Alec just grins. "Take your own advice," he says, and then they go their separate ways.

Rachel can't stop her grin when her attention is on Quinn again. The blonde is smiling lopsidedly, and Rachel practically jumps on the spot.

"That was amazing!" Rachel practically yells, her arms spread as she spins in the street with this happy smile on her face and mirth dancing in her eyes. She stops suddenly, her eyes finding Quinn's. "You," she says, sounding so serious. "You are amazing!"

Quinn's features soften at the sincerity behind Rachel's words. "I did good, huh?"

Rachel's smile slips away as she studies Quinn's face. Quinn is honestly the most beautiful person she's ever encountered, and sometimes she can't even believe it. The girl isn't real, but she is, and Rachel feels as if her entire world shifts whenever she realises the truth of it.

Quinn arches an eyebrows. "Rach?" she questions. "Everything okay there?"

It's the voice that draws her closer, and she closes the space between them. She's not sure what she's doing, but Quinn is like a magnet and she's powerless, like a moth to a flame.

Quinn's eyes widen slightly. "Rach - "

Rachel kisses her.

Soft lips press together long enough for Quinn to make the decision of whether to question this, or just give in.

It's tempting; so, so tempting.

She can practically see the fireworks just waiting to explode.

But, it's not supposed to be like this.

Hating herself immensely, the blonde pulls away, frowning. "What are you doing?" she asks because, no, no, no, it's not supposed to happen this way.

And, all Rachel can do is stare into Quinn's dark eyes, finding both questions and answers in them. It's obvious she's not against the kiss, but there's so much more to it.

"Rachel?"

Rachel's ears are ringing, and her heart is pounding. She's ready, but she's not. This isn't real. None of this is real.

She steps back. "Frankie mentioned that we don't kiss enough, and they were watching," she says, and then spins on her heel and continues walking.

Quinn doesn't bother to turn around to check to see if she's lying.

Chapter Text

VIII

"So."

Santana waits, clearly realising that her best friend needs her to remain patient and silent, allowing her to say what she needs to say. They've been sitting in this cafe for almost twenty minutes; twenty minutes of Quinn sitting perfectly still as she contemplates her words.

Santana's patience only stretches so far.

It's reaching its threshold.

"Rachel kissed me."

Of all the things Santana expects Quinn to say, that is definitely not one of them. It catches her off guard in the worst way, and she almost chokes on her water.

"What?"

"Rachel kissed me," Quinn repeats.

"When?"

"Tuesday night," Quinn answers, biting the inside of her cheek. "We were already on our way home, and I think the adrenalin was still pumping from the fight or something, but she just fell silent at some point, and I was so confused, and then she just kissed me."

Santana just stares at her. "Wait, wait," she finally says. "Let me get this straight: Rachel kissed you?"

Quinn nods.

"And, what did you do?"

"Oh, uh, well, I - " she stops. "I guess you could say I pushed her away."

Santana's eyes widen. "Seriously?"

Quinn bristles at the sound of that. "I do have some self-control, Santana."

"Oh, I know," Santana says. "You've been denying yourself what you want for years, Q. Your self-control is impeccable."

Quinn sighs, wringing her fingers together in her lap.

"I'm just surprised, is all."

"By what?" Quinn asks, curious. "That she's the one who ended up kissing me, or that I put a stop to it?"

"Both, to be honest," Santana confesses. "Did she say why she kissed you?"

Quinn presses her lips together. "She claimed that the others were watching," she says. "I don't really know. We never actually discussed that aspect of our… situation."

Santana stares at her for a long time, searching her face for something. Whether she finds it or not, Quinn doesn't know, and she's too afraid to ask. She suspects Santana must know some things about Rachel that she'll never tell her, and Quinn's largely okay with that.

In the years Santana and Rachel have been living together; they've developed the kind of friendship that not many people understand.

Kind of like her and Kurt.

"How do you feel about it?" Santana eventually asks.

"Confused," Quinn immediately says. "I think I've been confused about all of this from the very beginning. Like, why did she really ask me, you know? I can't tell if any of it is real or not, and I don't want to know if Rachel really is that good of an actress."

Santana sighs. "I don't want to say 'I told you so,' but I would like to point out that I said this would be a bad idea. You're already in too deep, Q. It's time to get out."

Quinn looks genuinely distressed by that idea.

"You have to end it, Quinn," Santana says. "It's time now. It was time before it even started, but it's gone too far. Look at you, babe. You're five seconds away from falling apart, and you know it."

Quinn forces her fidgeting hands to still. "Santana," she starts.

"No," she says firmly. "It has to end. I can't watch you do this to yourself. If you want her, and you're wiling to risk it all, then it has to be done the right way, okay? You deserve that. You both do."

Quinn audibly swallows. "I - I don't even know what that means."

"It means that you're going to have to end things the way they are," she says. "That's the first thing."

"And then what?"

"And then you decide if you're going to tell Rachel Berry that you've been in love with her for years."


"So."

Kurt waits, ever patient when it comes to Rachel Berry and her unnecessarily complicated life. His role of confidante is being tested to the very limits by his friends, and he's starting to think he deserves a vacation for his troubles.

"I kissed Quinn."

Kurt's eyes widen, but he's far too composed to react in any way more than that. "Excuse me?"

"I kissed Quinn," she repeats.

Kurt takes a moment, trying to gather his thoughts. "When?"

"Tuesday night," she says. "On our way home."

Kurt closes his eyes to draw on patience and courage from some other part of his body. He's going to need all of it to get through this conversation, he's sure. "Rachel, Honey, why on earth would you do a thing like that?"

Rachel bites her bottom lip. "I - I don't know," she finally says. "We just got out of a literal physical fight and Quinn was so amazing and my blood was pumping and have you seen her? I wasn't really thinking much more than I have to kiss her, I have to kiss her, so I just kind of did."

Kurt can barely keep up.

"Kurt? Kurt, did you hear what I said?"

"I'm still caught up on the fact that you're the one who kissed her," he admits, more to himself. Why hasn't Quinn contacted him about this? She must be struggling with all of this. He suspects she must have talked to somebody… probably Santana.

"Why?" Rachel asks.

Kurt leans back, breathing out slowly. "I don't know how you don't see it," he says, again to himself. "It's so obvious."

"What are you talking about?"

He shakes his head. "What - what did she do?" he asks, suddenly wary of the answer to this particular question.

Rachel drops her gaze, feeling slightly conflicted. "I - I thought she was going to kiss me back," she confesses; "but, after a moment, she kind of pulled away and asked me what I was doing."

Kurt's mouth drops open in surprise. "Quinn put an end to it?"

"Again, why do you sound so surprised?"

He rubs the space between his eyebrows to stop himself from throwing his drink at her. If she can't see it, then she's not looking for it, which means she's not ready to accept what's right in front of her, and he won't let her do that to Quinn.

"Rachel," he starts. "I need you to answer this question for me, and you have to be honest."

She stares at him, waiting silently.

"Did - did you know how you felt before you asked Quinn to do this for you?" he asks, suddenly wary. He's not sure he wants to know the answer because, either way, it doesn't exactly look good for Quinn.

If Rachel says yes, then she used some convoluted plan to get to be with Quinn without actually being with her and, if she says no, then there's a high chance that she's just… confused.

"How I felt," Rachel echoes. "What do you mean?"

Kurt meets her gaze. "Do you like Quinn, Rachel?"

And, for the most part, Rachel doesn't really know the answer to that question. She can hear the inflection in his voice, and she knows exactly what he's asking. "I - I think so," she eventually says.

"You think so?" he questions. "So, you're not sure?"

"No…?"

Kurt closes his eyes. "Do you think you could like Quinn? Are you just curious? Is it girls you're curious about, or is it Quinn? Have you always felt - "

"Kurt," she interrupts. "What exactly are you asking me?"

"Do you think you're… not exactly straight?" he asks carefully. "Or, are you just getting confused by the fact that you've had all of Quinn's attention?"

That seems to strike something in Rachel, and she flinches at the implication. That can't be it, can it?

Kurt sighs. "You have absolutely no idea, do you?"

And, it's the way Rachel can't seem to answer that question that makes the decision for him. His two girls need to protect themselves, and the only way they can do that is if they end this right now.

And, preferably, as painlessly as possible.

"Rachel," he starts. "You can't do this. You know you can't. If this is some kind of… sexual curiosity or some kind of misplaced experimentation, you can't do this with Quinn. You know you can't. She's finally in a good place; settled and as happy as Quinn Fabray can ever be and, if you offer her something you're not even sure about; you're just going to hurt the both of you.

"Because, we both know she'll give you everything. She'll throw herself right in one hundred percent and, if you decide one day that it's not for you; that she's not for you; you'll crush her, and you'll never forgive yourself for it." He pauses. "I'll never forgive you for it."

Rachel has no idea what to say to him.

"But, if you are sure, and you aren't just going to use Quinn to settle your curiosity and confusion, then, well, welcome to this side of the rainbow." He tries to smile, but he can't be sure what he's feeling in this moment.

Rachel doesn't say anything for a long while, both of them existing in heavy silence. It takes her a while to get out the question to which she already knows the answer. "I have to end it, don't I?"

Kurt nods. "Regardless of what happens afterwards, you have to end it."

Rachel drops her gaze to the table in front of her, her mind spinning. "None of it has been real, has it?"

Kurt just manages to stop himself from screaming All of it is real! right at her face, because that would be improper. It amazes him that she can't see how real everything with Quinn actually is. He thinks it's best if they figure it out for themselves, but he's struggling with the urge just to blow the entire thing wide open and reveal all the secrets.

His hair is going grey just thinking about it.

Before either of them can say another word, Rachel's phone beeps. She lifts it off the table, unsurprised to see Quinn's name flash across her screen. Twice.

Quinn: We should probably talk, shouldn't we?

Quinn: Come over for dinner tonight?

Rachel sighs heavily at the sight of the words, and then shows her phone's screen to Kurt. "It turns out we seem to be on the same page about this."

Kurt smiles in sympathy. "At least you know she's expecting it," he offers as kindly as he can.

She shrugs. "Funny," she murmurs; "that doesn't make me feel any better."


Quinn's door is unlocked when Rachel arrives at the blonde's apartment. She feels deeply unsettled, and dread is creeping up her spine at what is expected of this evening. Even the familiar sound of Quinn busy in her kitchen does nothing to settle Rachel's nerves.

Why does she feel as if this is a real breakup?

Of a fake relationship.

Maybe she's feeling all twisted inside because she knows they haven't come out of this unscathed.

And, based on the call she received from Denny on her way over here, she knows she's about to ask something a little too much of her blonde friend. She's already asked so much, right? What's one more thing?

"Rachel," Quinn calls out from the kitchen; "Sometimes, I fucking hate that you're a vegan."

And, it's enough to bring a reluctant smile to Rachel's face. It's okay. They're going to be okay. She has absolutely nothing to worry about.

Rachel rids herself of her coat, hanging it up immediately, because Quinn will probably send her right back out of the kitchen to do it. She's a stickler for these kinds of things, and it's one of Rachel's favourite things about her.

Quinn is standing over her stove when Rachel finds her, a slight frown on her face as she concentrates on the task at hand. It's an adorable sight, really, and Rachel just stands in the doorway and watches her for as long as she can get way with.

Eventually, Quinn notices her, and a soft smile blooms across her perfect face. "Hello, you," she says. "Dinner's almost ready. Don't you want to grab some plates?"

Rachel ignores her completely, and crosses the kitchen to wrap her arms around Quinn's warm body. She goes at it from the side, and Quinn automatically lifts her right arm to hold her shoulders, her body shaking from her slight amusement.

Rachel sighs into the embrace, and then smiles to herself when Quinn presses a soft kiss to the top of her head. From what Rachel can recall, there was this kind of affection from Quinn before, but Rachel didn't really register it until she just did.

She doesn't want it to end.

"Plates, Rach," Quinn says after a moment. "I'm starving."

Rachel reaches up to kiss her cheek, and then moves away. She knows not to make a big deal about Quinn expressing her hunger, even if she's doing cartwheels inside. It's not something that Quinn generally does and, while Rachel appreciates how comfortable Quinn is these days; it saddens her to recall that Quinn has ever had body image and food consumption issues.

Also, Rachel has noticed that Quinn does it only when she's tired, distracted or trying to get herself out of an uncomfortable position.

Tonight, Rachel suspects it's a combination of all three.

They don't really start talking until they're both seated at the breakfast bar, Quinn's glass of water between them. The blonde didn't even manage to get a sip before Rachel accosted it. Some things never change.

It's Quinn who eventually brings it up and, even though Rachel is expecting it, it still catches her off guard.

"You kissed me."

Rachel blinks stupidly for several beats of her heart, and then she nods. "I did," she says. "I - I'm sorry if I overstepped."

Quinn clears her throat. "It was definitely a surprise," she says. "What did you say about Frankie not thinking we kiss enough?"

"It's not that, exactly," Rachel says. "He just mentioned that he noticed we didn't kiss when we're around them, and he thought it was because we thought they wouldn't be comfortable with such displays of affection." She presses her lips together. "He wanted to make sure we knew they didn't even care, and I guess my brain, uh…" she trails off, unsure how to finish.

"So, you kissed me because Frankie almost… expected you to?" Quinn asks, her voice surprisingly steady.

"Um, yes…?"

"Not because you wanted to?"

Rachel sucks in a breath, her heart jumping into her throat. What kind of question is that?

When Quinn sees the panicked look on Rachel's face, she immediately backtracks. "Never mind. That's a stupid question," she says, shaking her head. Of course Rachel wouldn't want to. It's all just an act.

Rachel just sighs.

Quinn lifts her glass to sip at her water, garnering very little liquid courage from it. "Look, Rach, I've been thinking," she starts. "With - with Megan out of the production, I don't really see any reason for us to keep up with all of this."

And, sure, Rachel knew this was coming, but it still makes her chest twist unpleasantly. "Oh?"

Quinn clears her throat. "I mean, I think we've proved that you're comfortable enough with women to pull off being a lesbian, but I don't think it's necessary for you to be in a relationship anymore."

It takes her a moment, but Rachel eventually forces out the words she knows she needs to say: "I agree."

Quinn freezes for a moment, a little surprised. She had an entire speech prepared, but it seems useless and unnecessary now. "Then, it's settled," she says.

Rachel bites her bottom lip in thought. "Have - have you given any thought to how you'd like to…"

"Break up?" Quinn finishes.

"Well, yes."

"Not really," she says, entirely too casually as she attempts to focus on her food. "It'll have to be for a really believable reason, won't it? I mean, we've kind of oversold our relationship, and we have to think of something really telling without making either of us look like a terrible person."

"So, no cheating, huh?" Rachel tries to joke, which fails dismally.

Quinn shoots her a withering glare, and Rachel audibly swallows. "It has to be a good enough reason that we can remain friends," she says; "because, whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me, Berry."

"I thought that was my line," Rachel says, the tension in her body easing slightly. "It's taken me years to wear you down."

"And, look at you, still chipping away," she says with an unexpected wink, causing Rachel to choke on the food she's just put in her mouth.

Quinn's eyes widen, and she's quick to rub at Rachel's back.

When Rachel has recovered, Quinn ducks her head to catch the other woman's gaze. "Are you okay?" she asks, her brow furrowed in worry.

"I'm fine," Rachel reassures her, taking a sip of water. "I think it just went down the wrong pipe."

"Oh, okay," Quinn says, leaning back.

The silence is slightly awkward as Rachel completes her recovery and Quinn tries not to sneak worried looks at her. Eventually, they both resume eating, and the awkwardness bleeds out of the atmosphere.

"We'll think of something," Quinn finally says.

Rachel just nods, and then takes a deep breath. "While we're doing that, there's, umm, something I wanted to discuss with you."

"Oh?"

"About out arrangement."

"Okay."

"I know we have to end it, and I think it's the best course of action, at this point, but I was wondering if we could go to one more event together."

Quinn eyes her carefully. "What is it?"

Rachel drops her gaze. "I - I wasn't initially invited," she explains. "It's a fancy dinner party that Tom and Denny are hosting for all their producer director rich people friends, and nobody from the cast or crew was invited." She hesitantly meets her eyes. "But, then Denny called, and she, umm, invited us both."

"Both?"

"I think you've made quite the impression, Quinn," Rachel says. "And - and this is a really big deal. For, um, my career. I could meet so many people - important people - and I wouldn't ask this of you if it wasn't… important."

When Quinn just stares at her, Rachel feels a certain bubble of nausea rise in her abdomen. Is this one step too far? Is this too much to ask?

Rachel returns her attention to her food, merely to give herself something to do while she waits for Quinn to wrap her head around what she's asking.

When Quinn finally speaks, she sounds slightly interested. "When you say fancy dinner party; does that mean fancy fancy?"

Rachel lifts her gaze, nodding slowly. Then: "What are you saying, Quinn?"

"When is this fancy party?"

"Saturday evening," she immediately says. "At their home. Some of the bigwigs are going to be there. It's supposed to be this intimate thing, and I could really make some important connections. Provided I don't make a fool of myself. Oh, God. What if I end up saying something insulting and then nobody wants to work with me ever again?"

For the first time all night, Quinn actually looks amused. "Is there something specific you want me to wear?" she asks, in an attempt to distract Rachel from her predictably spiralling thoughts.

"The red dress."

Quinn raises her eyebrows.

"The one you bought for your graduation, but ended up going with the green one, because your mother said the red was a little too risqué."

Quinn laughs. "If I recall correctly, you're the one who chose it."

Rachel's smile is a little smug. "I did," she agrees, and Rachel did it because Quinn wears it superbly well. "Do you still have it?"

Quinn nods. "You told me to save it for another special occasion," she says. "Does this count?"

"I'd say so."

Quinn reaches out to poke Rachel in the ribs. "You're so full of yourself, aren't you?"

Rachel lets out a little laugh. "I'm special, Quinn; don't deny it."

"I would never dream of doing such a thing," Quinn says, and she sounds so, so serious. "It's taken me a while, but I've come to acknowledge just how special you are, Rachel. Please don't let anyone tell you otherwise, ever again, okay? Especially me."

Rachel is a little thrown by the severity of Quinn's tone, and she feels her stomach do an involuntary flipflop at the sound of the blonde's words.

Quinn's face pinches slightly. "I don't know if you think you're anything other than spectacular because of what we did to you in high school, but I want you to know you're wonderful, okay?" Her eyes narrow slightly, focused solely on Rachel. "How did we ever think you were arrogant and overly-confident?" she asks, more to herself than anything. "It's all an act, isn't it?"

Rachel blinks slowly, clearly caught off guard by Quinn's observation.

"You really do live for applause, don't you, Tinkerbell?"

Rachel wants nothing more than to reach out for Quinn and - and hold her.

"You need it," Quinn continues, suddenly thoughtful. She pushes her plate away and leans forward, just wanting to get closer to the brunette. "You need it," she repeats. "Just come to me, okay?"

"What?"

"If ever you need to hear how wonderful and amazing and lovely and talented and beautiful and perfect you are, just ask me, and I'll make sure you know," she says, which does absolutely nothing to help Rachel with all her confusing, all-consuming feelings.

And, that's just the thing, isn't it?

She's confused.

And Quinn deserves better than that.

They can't possibly start anything if they're not sure, and Rachel can't know if Quinn is, when she's not. It's a complicated situation, and Rachel's sure she could get overwhelmed by it if she allowed herself to think about it too hard.

Which is why calling it quits is a good idea.

Just, you know, after they wine and dine and schmooze with all the theatre people who have all the money.

"Okay," Rachel finally says.

Quinn smiles at her, and it's the kind of smile that speaks volumes to the state of their friendship. For whatever reason, Rachel feels as if they're on the cusp of something.

The edge of something.

One of them is bound to fall.


It's later, when they're both sprawled out on Quinn's couch that Rachel allows herself to relax, somewhat. This is who they are: friends. It's taken them years to get here, and she isn't going to throw it all away just because she's finding herself enjoying Quinn's sole attention a little too much.

The tension slowly bleeds out of her body because, okay, this is something she can handle. This is what being friends with Quinn is all about.

She just can't shake how unsettled the idea of there possibly being someone else in the picture makes her feel. For a moment, she allows herself to imagine what this picture would look like if Quinn were dating, say, Alessia… and she just can't.

Because, for the life of her, Rachel can't see herself in the same room as them.

Rachel wouldn't be here if Quinn was dating someone, the same way Rachel was very rarely in Quinn's presence when the blonde was dating Julia. Which, of course, could have been because she and Julia just did not get along.

At all.

To this day, Rachel still isn't sure exactly why, and Quinn is also dumbfounded by it. Santana seemed to like her enough not to insult her constantly, which was kind of the stamp of approval from the Latina. Kurt was… indifferent, Rachel supposes. He didn't have much of an opinion on the woman… until he just did.

They all did.

Honestly, Santana, Kurt and Rachel actually spent an entire evening planning what they would do if ever they saw the woman again. There was a lot of alcohol involved, and their ire was fuelled by the passed-out blonde who was asleep with her head in Rachel's lap.

It's slightly comical to think about it now, but that rage exists locked away in Rachel's gut; just waiting to be let out when the time comes. A part of her hopes it doesn't, but an even bigger part does. She has a few choice things to say to that woman.

"Hey," Quinn says, interrupting Rachel's thoughts. "You okay there? You seem to be thinking pretty hard about something."

Rachel lets out a slow breath, and then smiles at her. "Tell me how your meeting went," she says. "Am I in the presence of a soon-to-be published author?"

Quinn flushes instantly. Then, looking away, she says, "You are."

Releasing an excited squeal, Rachel moves immediately, scrambling across the couch and throwing herself at Quinn. The blonde lets out a surprised breath, and then laughs as her own arms wrap around Rachel's waist.

"Why didn't you tell me the second I walked through the door?" Rachel practically screams into Quinn's ear.

"Easy there, dear," Quinn says, pulling back slightly. "And, we kind of had a few other things to discuss."

"But this is the most important," Rachel protests, her arms tightening around Quinn's neck. She's practically draped over the blonde's body, but she's trying not to think about that too much.

Quinn chuckles lightly, the vibrations in her chest making Rachel feel decidedly warm. "I was going to tell you," she says, and relaxes into the couch. Rachel's body is pleasant and comforting, and she's definitely not complaining. "Jordan and I had a meeting with the editor yesterday. Her name is Kylie York, and she's been in the business for more than thirty years. She's responsible for some of the latest bestsellers, and I was a complete dork when I met her."

"Did you fangirl?"

"No," Quinn immediately says. Too quickly, really. "Well, not really," she concedes. "I did squeal and jump around when Jordan first told me who we'd be meeting, but I managed to get it under control by the time we sat down for lunch… until I started bombarding her with her accomplishments. It was mortifying."

Rachel just laughs, shifting slightly to rest her head on Quinn's shoulder.

"Thank God Jordan was there, or it all would have gone to shit," she mumbles. "Anyway, she did seem slightly amused by it, and we were able to move on to all the exciting stuff. I think you understand when I say that talking about and hearing people's thoughts on your work is like life. It was amazing, Rach. We just started talking about the novel, the parts she liked and the parts she was curious about, and it was just magical to be able to talk to somebody who seems as invested in my work as I am."

Rachel hums in acknowledgment. She does understand that. She always jumps at the opportunity to converse with people about Broadway and music, and she imagines Quinn does the same with words.

"We spent about an hour going over the contract," Quinn continues. "Jordan said he would have one of his lawyer friends look it over to make sure there was nothing that could, I guess, potentially prove to be a problem for me. Everything should be finalised by Monday and, once I sign on the dotted line, we start work on getting the book to market."

"How does that work, exactly?"

"Well, Kylie and I are going to go through the novel with a fine-toothed comb," she explains. "Depending on how much needs to be fixed or rewritten; that could take any number of months. I'll get an ISBN number, and then go through the process of getting the perfect cover design. There's an entire marketing plan they're drawing up. When it's ready, the book will be sent to all the big reviewers before mass release, and then there's going to be a book release party. And, uh, I think, a book tour depending on how initial sales go."

"Wow."

"I still can't believe it," Quinn muses, her voice tinted with wonder. Absently, her right hand lifts up to thread through Rachel's hair. It's such a simple, thoughtless action that she's done any number of times, but it's one of the first times Rachel is aware of the intimacy of this moment.

How can she even think about not wanting this?

Of course, she wants this.

It's when Quinn starts humming a song she doesn't recognise that Rachel makes a decision. On Sunday, she's going to end this fake relationship with Quinn.

And then she's going to kiss her.

Or, maybe, she'll just ask her out on a real date, and then see what happens from there.


"What's this I hear about you scoring an invite to the Carpenters' big event tomorrow night?"

Rachel looks up, momentarily startled by Frankie's sudden appearance. She manages a smile, small enough not to show just how big a deal this is for her.

Frankie knows, though. Of course, he knows. Every one of them would kill for an invitation to Tom and Denny's dinner party.

If Megan were still around, Rachel's sure she actually would have been worried for her own safety.

As it goes, though, her new Understudy is actually quite nice. Hannah Gayle has an amazing voice - not as good as Rachel's, of course - and she's managed to pick up the choreography surprisingly quickly for someone who's just joined the production.

Elliot isn't too worried about getting her up to speed too quickly, because he has no intention of letting anyone other than Rachel perform for at least the first six weeks of their initial open run. He even made sure to get Rachel an appointment with his own physician, to ensure she was taking all the right vitamins and keeping up with a balanced diet.

She's afraid to say that she… hasn't.

She eats out far too often, and the only home-cooked food she does eat is usually a salad she makes herself or something Quinn has decided to try out. Rachel imagines that her vegan diet is her only saving grace. It's a little difficult to indulge in delicacies when there's only so many things one can eat.

Much to Quinn's chagrin.

Rachel smiles at the thought of Quinn, and then meets Frankie's gaze. "I'm just as surprised as you are," she confesses. "How did you even find out?"

"Why? Because you didn't tell me?"

She can hear the teasing in his voice, but there's an undeniable hint of jealousy. She's not going to hold it against him, because God knows how she would be acting if it were the other way around.

"How did you find out, really?" she asks.

Frankie shrugs. "I think Tom might have mentioned it to Elliot," he says, and then takes a deep breath, as if he's trying to rein himself in. "This is a big deal, Rachel."

"I know," she says, tensing slightly. "I'm terrified."

"Why?"

"What if I end up saying or doing something stupid, and I get blacklisted or something?"

Frankie lets out a short laugh, and then pats her shoulder as he moves to sit beside her on the stage floor where she's still stretching after their extended rehearsal. "I get why that's something that worries you, but I think you're going to be fine. You've handled everything else, haven't you?"

It'll be the performance of a lifetime, Rachel thinks bitterly. "Thank you, Frankie," she says.

"Of course," he says, sighing.

She follows his line of sight to where Jasmine and Alec are also stretching. Well, Alec is stretching her, and the position, while solely a stretch, is potentially sexual.

Rachel reaches for Frankie's closest hand and gives it a squeeze. She's sure she can sympathise with him because she was forced to see Finn and Quinn together, but the first image that pops into her head is rather of Quinn and Julia.

Wait.

What?

Frankie glances at her. "I think she likes him," he says, his voice so low that Rachel strains to hear him.

"No, she doesn't," is Rachel's immediate response, and Frankie gives her a quizzical look. "He's good looking and charming, I'll give you that, but he's not the one she likes. You are."

"What?"

Rachel shakes her head. "Boys are so stupid, sometimes," she mutters. "Do you remember when she said she was sick of being single?"

"I'm sure those weren't her exact words, but she did mention something of the sort at the barbecue," he says with a huff.

"Did you notice that her eyes flicked in your direction?"

Frankie just stares blankly at her.

"She's always looking at you," Rachel continues. "I'm sure your conversations flow, because it's obvious she likes talking to you, even if it's about nonsense. She teases you, which means she's comfortable enough around you. She's just waiting for you to make your move and, from the looks of things, you're going to have to get to it, because Alec isn't one to beat around the bush if he senses someone is even remotely interested."

Frankie blinks once, twice, and then shoots to his feet. He throws a thank you, Rach over his shoulder as he rushes away, and she just laughs to herself.

The buzz of her phone catches her attention, and she lifts it from its position next to her thigh.

Kurt: Please tell me why I just had to give Quinn advice on which heels pair best with her sexy red dress.

Rachel rolls her eyes, and then facepalms. As far as Kurt's aware, she's supposed to have ended all fake anything with Quinn, and she's failed to mention that they have one more event to get through before that can happen.

Rachel: Which ones did you decide on?

Kurt: Deflecting, I see?

Rachel: We're breaking up on Sunday, Kurt.

Kurt:

She chuckles softly. He's definitely one of a kind, this one.

Rachel: There's an event tomorrow night that I'll never be able to survive without her. Everything that needs to happen is going to happen after that.

Kurt: I hope you know what you're doing, Rachel.

The thing is that Rachel really doesn't. This coming Saturday evening feels different, for some reason. Now that Rachel knows that it's all going to come to a (hopefully temporary) end, she's almost desperate to hold onto every single moment between now and then.

Also, Rachel knows what it's like to kiss Quinn.

Sort of.

It wasn't much of a kiss, and she imagines they would do a lot better if it were actually a real kiss. Just the thought of such a thing makes her feel… funny. It's nothing she's ever experienced before, and she's still trying to wrap her head around everything that is and isn't happening with Quinn Fabray.

Rachel: Me, too.


Rachel's breath gets caught in her throat the second she lays eyes on Quinn. She hasn't even seen the dress yet - it's completely hidden by her coat - and Rachel already knows she's going to die.

"Hey, you," Quinn says, smiling when she sees Rachel approaching. They decided to meet outside Tom and Denny's apartment building, and they have just a few minutes to spare before they have to be inside.

Rachel Berry is nothing if not punctual. Particularly to such an important event such as this one.

Quinn pulls Rachel into a loose hug, absently kissing the side of her head. "How was your day?" she asks, releasing her, and then sliding her hand into the brunette's.

"It was all right," Rachel says, shrugging slightly as she leads the way into the building. "Yours?"

They pause to greet Bradley, and his smile is all too knowing. Rachel blushes under the scrutiny, and Quinn just winks at him. Rachel's sure the sight of Quinn Fabray winking at you is enough to make anyone question his or her sexuality.

Take Rachel Berry, for instance.

Quinn gets around to answering the question only once they're safely in the elevator. "I guess it was an okay day," she says. "I went for a run in Central Park, which was probably the highlight of my day." She pauses. "Until now, at least. You look stunning, Rach."

The compliment catches Rachel off guard, and she lets out a surprised squeak. "Th-thank you, Quinn," she manages to get out. "You're looking beautiful tonight," she says. Then, because she's totally out of her element, she adds, "not that you don't look beautiful on other nights. And days. You're beautiful, uh, all the time."

Quinn quirks an eyebrow when Rachel falls silent. "Thank you," she says, smiling at the red of Rachel's cheeks. She doesn't say anything more as they reach the correct floor, and the elevator doors slide open.

It takes Rachel a moment to gather herself, and then she's leading the way, once more. Her steps are suddenly sure, and she knows it's because of Quinn's hand in hers. If she has her way, she's never letting go.

This time, Rachel knocks.

It's different this time. It's not some cast party where they, essentially, hang out. No, this is a dinner party, with only a handful of important people, and Rachel is doing her best not to feel intimidated by that.

Denny opens the door a few seconds later, and her smile is wide and radiant. "Rachel, Quinn," she says; "I'm so happy you're here."

And, she genuinely looks it.

"Come in, come in," she says. "Almost everyone is here."

Rachel tenses. "Oh, I'm sorry," she says; "are we late?"

"Nonsense," Denny says, waving a dismissive hand, and then brightening when Quinn hands over the ridiculously-expensive wine she decided to bring. "Oh, wow."

Quinn just smiles.

"Thank you," Denny says. "We're definitely saving this for opening night, I think." Then: "Can I take your coats?"

And, okay, Rachel really does die a little when Quinn reveals her dress. Rachel thought she knew what to expect, but she clearly didn't. The dress is to die for, but Quinn is… perfection.

She's everything.

Rachel audibly swallows when Quinn turns back to her, a steady smile on her face.

"Ready?" she asks, holding out her hand.

Rachel doesn't even hesitate before sliding her fingers to interlock with Quinn's. This is the easy part. This is just Rachel and Quinn, and they can do this.

"There are so many people you have to meet," Denny tells them. "Go, mingle," she instructs; "I'll come find you with the really important people."

Quinn chuckles softly.

Rachel beams at the woman, and then the two of them are left alone. Quinn squeezes Rachel's hand, which is enough encouragement.

The main room is filled with only a few people. They're around eight, maybe more, but Quinn can tell that a few of them are definitely curious about their arrival. It makes her feel powerful, and it also isn't lost on her that the red of her dress is the most vibrant colour here.

The two of them are also some of the youngest.

"Okay," Quinn murmurs. "Plan of attack: get some wine and then do the rounds."

"Why do we need wine?"

"We always need wine, Rachel. Be serious."

Rachel decides it's best to leave this part to Quinn. She still feels slightly unsure of herself, but Quinn gives off this confidence that's undeniable. It practically radiates off of her, and the way she leads Rachel through the room is nothing short of pure… diabolicalness.

Is that even a word?

It's an art, that's for sure. Quinn knows how to work a room, and Rachel is mesmerised right along with everyone they come into contact with. People ask questions, and Quinn answers easily, prompting Rachel to do the same, and they fall into comfortable conversation with a handful of important people.

Rachel has to keep herself from jumping up and down when they meet some of the very people who have the power and the means to take her career to new heights. She learns about projects that are in the works, and a lot of them mention that they're eager to see her on opening night.

Which just adds to the pressure she's already feeling.

Quinn masterfully moves them along when she notices the conversation straying or growing stilted. Rachel wonders if it's the Fabray in her, or if it's something she's just picked up over the years in the tertiary world.

Eventually, they find themselves talking to an elderly gentleman by the name of Thomas Lightbox. Quinn is immediately entranced by the playwright, and the two of them embark on a conversation about Harold Pinter and Oscar Wilde, while Rachel watches Quinn as she talks, her eyes alight.

She can't bring herself to look away, her eyes focused on the tensing of her jaw and the movement of her lips as she speaks.

She's captivated, really.

"There you are," Denny says from somewhere to Quinn and Rachel's right.

Quinn's undivided attention takes a while to drift away from Thomas, and it's the only reason, really, that she doesn't immediately notice the woman at Denny's side.

"I've been looking for you two."

Rachel freezes at Quinn's side, and it takes another moment for the blonde to drag her eyes away from Thomas to give Denny her attention.

"There's someone I'd like you to meet," Denny says, so blissfully unaware. "This is my niece. She also attended Yale."

There's a moment - just the briefest of moments - where Quinn imagines that this is all some terrible, horrible nightmare.

But, it's not.

It's not at all.

Rachel steps closer to Quinn at the same time Denny says, "This is Rachel, our star, and Quinn, her girlfriend. Ladies, this is - "

It's Quinn who finishes for her.

"Julia."

Chapter Text

IX

It's as awkward as one imagines it would be.

Quinn's left hand curls tightly into the fabric of Rachel's dress as Denny looks between them, trying to figure out just what is going on.

Denny blinks once, twice, and then asks the predicted question: "Do you all know one another?"

"One could say that," Quinn says, suddenly tense; "but I'd wager we don't know each other at all, do we, Jules?"

Rachel shifts uncomfortably, and Julia Fairchild just stands there, staring at them. Rachel thinks she registers disbelief in Julia's eyes and, possibly, a hint of fear.

How dare she show her face in New York?

How dare she show her face at all?

Denny still looks confused. "So, you do know each other?"

Quinn clears her throat, and then looks at Denny. "Do you remember that roommate we told you about?" She waits for Denny's nod. "You're looking at her."

Denny's eyes dart to Julia. "You're the roommate?"

That seems to snap Julia to attention, and her dark hair bounces slightly as she turns to her aunt. "What?"

Denny looks confused. "I don't - I don't understand."

Quinn laughs humourlessly. "That's okay, Denny," she says. "You're not the only one."

Rachel shifts even closer to Quinn, half in an attempt to offer her comfort, and the other half in an attempt to keep herself from lashing out.

Julia catches the movement and, as if she's just remembering Denny's introduction, her eyes grow wide. "You can't be serious," she suddenly says, sounding accusatory. "You're actually together?" Her gaze falls on Quinn, harsh in the room's dim light. "You swore to me six ways to Sunday nothing was going on," she hisses and, okay, that's definitely an accusation.

It's bound to turn ugly.

Especially when Quinn turns incredulous eyes on Julia. "And, when we were together, that was true," Quinn says, and it's the calmness in her voice that makes them all aware that Quinn is serious. Even though Denny doesn't know her that well, she feels a spike of fear at what may or may not happen.

But, Quinn surprises them all.

With a small smile cast at Denny, she says, "Excuse us," and then drags Rachel away from the sight of her ex-girlfriend. She's trembling, Rachel can feel, so she goes willingly, even though she has half a mind to get her phone out and call in the 'Fucking-Mess-Up-Julia-Fairchild' team of Santana and Kurt - and, sometimes, Blaine… when he's drunk.

Rachel knows they would be here in a heartbeat, but Quinn is already working very hard at not causing a scene.

"Talk to me," Quinn says. "Please."

Rachel clears her throat, facing Quinn fully and stepping as close to her as possible without actually touching her. She's unsure how Quinn will react to that. "Frankie asked out Jasmine," she says. "He thought she liked Alec."

"Idiot."

"That's what I said," she says, smiling slightly. "Well, really, I told him boys were stupid, but that's not important."

"One of the many reasons I prefer the fairer sex," Quinn quips, her eyes focused on Rachel's face.

Rachel rolls her eyes, absently reaching out to link the fingers of her right hand with Quinn's left. "He was pretty excited when she said yes, and he's been texting me all day about where he should take her."

"What did you tell him?"

"Well, he was a little limited with the short notice," she explains. "They're going out tonight, right now, because he just didn't want to wait."

"Cute."

"They can be, sometimes."

"Still stupid."

"Complete idiots."

"You're definitely onto something with this fairer sex thing."

Quinn laughs lightly, her arms lifting to drape over Rachel's shoulders. She lets out a tired sigh, resolutely keeping her eyes trained on Rachel.

"Are you okay?" Rachel risks asking.

"No," Quinn admits. She's definitely not okay, but she doesn't really know what she's feeling, either. "I've - I've imagined what it would be like to see her again many, many times. I had all these scenarios planned out, you know? But - "

Rachel's arms wrap around Quinn's slim waist, and she hugs her close. "It's okay," she whispers. "You're okay, I promise. I'm right here, and the two of us are going to get through this evening and - " she stops when she feels Quinn's tense. Her gaze lifts. "Unless… Quinn, honey, do you want to leave?"

Quinn doesn't relax. "What would happen if I said yes?"

Rachel blinks, her resolve shifting. Right now, Quinn is the most important thing. "While I would prefer to stay and see out this evening, we would make an excuse to Denny and Tom, thank them and apologise, and then go to your place and, maybe get drunk and pig out on ice cream and/or greasy pizza - well, you would, obviously. Elliot would kill me if I did such a thing."

Quinn stares at her for the longest time, and Rachel wonders if she's said something wrong. Then, without warning, Quinn leans forward and presses the lightest, chastest kiss to her lips, and then wraps her in a tight hug.

Rachel is frozen in place.

"I love you, Rachel," Quinn whispers, the words falling from her lips in heavy confession.

Rachel's breath catches, and her eyes slip shut. "I - I love you, too, Quinn," she says, and she wonders if she means it the same way Quinn does or not.

Quinn releases a shuddering breath, and then pulls back to meet Rachel's gaze. "This evening is important to you, and I made a promise. We're going to get through it, and I'm going to be the best girlfriend imaginable, and then we can go to my place and let me self-destruct."

Rachel smiles sadly, and then reaches up to kiss her cheek. "Are you sure?" she asks unnecessarily, because Quinn wouldn't have said anything if she wasn't.

"Rachel Berry, you should know by now that I would do anything for you." She presses a kiss to Rachel's forehead. "Now, come on, I believe we have people to charm."

And, with that, Rachel feels Quinn's hand slip into hers and then she starts to lead her towards the large dining room where they're starting to sit for dinner to be served.

Rachel, admittedly, feels a little lost, sufficiently thrown by Quinn's affection and declaration.

But then she spots Julia, whose eyes are watching them critically, and Rachel wonders, once again, just how much of Quinn's actions are real or not.


It's odd, Rachel thinks, that she would ever find herself in this position.

It's almost unheard of.

And yet, here she is, with Quinn's hand resting lightly on her thigh, Quinn's ex-girlfriend staring daggers at her, Denny sending her apologetic looks and a table full of people who could make or break her career conversing all around her.

Odd, indeed.

Quinn is locked in conversation with Thomas, who is sitting on her left side, but she constantly turns back to Rachel to share a smile or press a kiss to her head. Sometimes, she just nuzzles her cheek, but it's enough for Rachel to know Quinn hasn't forgotten about her.

Rachel, meanwhile, is talking to a woman by the name of Nicole Doucet, whose apparent passion in life is interior design. Her husband, Edwin - or, Ed - is the one actually involved in Broadway, and Nicole just comes to these things for the free food. She's young, probably late twenties, and Ed is… older.

Rachel is trying not to focus on just how much older.

"You and your girlfriend are really cute," Nicole says, sighing dreamily after Quinn has just whispered the question are you okay? into Rachel's ear. "How long have you been together?"

Rachel is all too aware of Julia's eyes still on her and, while she wants nothing more than to rub this all in the woman's face, she knows that no good will come of it. "We're coming up on three months," Rachel says quietly; "but we've been friends for years."

Nicole smiles widely. "That's romantic," she says. "Just couldn't hold back any longer, huh?"

"Something like that."

Nicole glances over at her husband, who's talking to Tom and another man named Trevor Wilson. "It - it wasn't like that with me and Ed," she explains, also dropping her voice. "Ours was a whirlwind romance, a lot of fancy things and an endless number of bad decisions."

Rachel isn't sure what to say in response.

"But, we're here now, and I do love him, but - "

Rachel feels Quinn's grip on her thigh tighten, and she suddenly knows what Nicole means. Ed hasn't looked at her once, since they took their seats, and Quinn hasn't really stopped.

"How long have you been married?" Rachel asks the woman, whose lips have turned downwards slightly.

"Six years, next month."

"Wow."

Nicole rolls her eyes. "I know," she says; "I was a little lost after I graduated from college."

Rachel can sympathise with that. She remembers being in an outright panic for two months straight before she landed her first role post-graduation. "You said you like interior design? Is that what you studied?"

"Actually, no," Nicole says, shifting slightly to face Rachel at a better angle. "I actually studied Architecture."

Rachel's eyes widen.

"I know," Nicole says, sighing. "I don't look it, do I?"

"It's not that," Rachel immediately says, and then cringes. "Okay, it's a little bit that, but it's more to do with Architecture itself. Did you not want to become an architect?"

She frowns. "Why else would I have studied it?"

Rachel risks a look at Quinn, who's laughing at something Thomas is saying. She feels her heart flutter at the sight and, God, how did she end up so lucky as to know her? "I don't know," Rachel says, turning back to face Nicole. "A lot of reasons. Familial pressures, misguidance. Did you at least enjoy it?"

"It was torture."

Rachel giggles.

"I got very little sleep, and I was anxious all the time," Nicole explains. "I think that's why I went a little off the rails when I finally graduated. The… freedom… was like a drug. I was waiting on job interviews, and then I got caught up in this old fart over here, and now I'm in a lifelong commitment."

Rachel blinks. "Do you have any children?"

"No," Nicole says; "but he does. They're not too fond of me."

Rachel swallows. "The age gap?"

"His youngest son is my age," she admits, puffing out her cheeks. "It's very awkward."

"I can only imagine."

"Please, don't," she says with a laugh, carefully sipping at her wine. "I don't want you to have to imagine the horrors of our family get togethers. I don't even want to think about how much worse it'll be if we have children."

"If?" Rachel's all too aware that she's prying, but there's a part of her that just knows this Nicole woman needs someone to talk to. And, Rachel Berry is a fantastic listener.

Nicole hesitates, and Rachel realises it's because Quinn is leaning in to kiss her cheek. Rachel's smile is automatic, and she flashes happy eyes at her blonde.

"You okay?" Quinn whispers.

Rachel nods. "You?"

Quinn just smiles, and then asks in wonder, "Did you know Thomas actually worked with Arthur Miller?"

Rachel reaches up to touch her cheek. "You're beautiful."

Quinn's features pinch in confusion, but she doesn't say anything as they break apart once more. Rachel can feel Julia's eyes on her as she turns back to Nicole, who looks particularly thoughtful.

"Sorry about that," Rachel says, a little sheepishly.

"It's okay," Nicole says. "It's - it's like she misses you, even though she's sitting right beside you."

Rachel's never heard it described that way, and her heart skips a beat at the accuracy of the statement - at least when it pertains to her.

Rachel leans in slightly, dropping the volume of her voice. "My parents have a twelve year age gap," she says, almost conversationally. "It's totally weird when you stop to think that my one father was a teenager when the other one was learning to walk."

Nicole looks amused.

"But… that all means nothing to me," Rachel says, sounding somber. "They're just my dads, you know? I've never cared about their ages or their orientation or their racially and religiously mixed marriage. As their kid, all I care about is that they're there for me and they love me and love each other. All that other stuff means nothing."

Nicole sighs, clearly knowing what Rachel is trying to tell her. "Maybe I don't want children," she offers, but she doesn't sound sure at all. "Maybe I like my life the way it is."

"Do you?"

Nicole looks helpless, and Rachel bites her bottom lip, just waiting. "This - this is really heavy conversation for a dinner party."

Rachel shrugs. "It's not my fault the dessert is taking so long to be served."

Nicole laughs, and it's such a relief to Rachel.

Rachel takes a sip of her wine, and her eyes meet Julia's over the glass. The woman's eyes are hard, and there's rage brewing behind her dark pupils.

Well, join the club, Fairchild.

Quinn breaks from her conversation with Thomas and leans into Rachel, resting her forehead against the brunette's temple.

"How does it feel to know Tom and Denny made sure to cater for you, oh ye veganette?"

Rachel giggles softly. "Quinn, I'm not the only vegan here."

"But, you are the more beautiful one."

Rachel blinks owlishly, and then turns her head to kiss Quinn's cheek, though her aim is off and she ends up with lips pressed against the corner of Quinn's mouth.

A glass topples over somewhere, and both of them look up to see Julia hastily using her napkin to mop up her spilled wine. Quinn lets out a tiny snort of amusement, and Rachel is relieved that she's finding some semblance of humour in the entire situation.

Rachel's under no illusion that this isn't all going to affect Quinn in some way, and she can only hope the blonde isn't going to go on some kind of binge the way she did when she and Julia first broke up.

And, binge she really, really did.

Booze, women, series, exercise… all of the things.

Quinn was a wreck, and Rachel found herself hating Julia Fairchild more and more with every day that passed, and Quinn wasn't able to bring herself out of it.

The women were together for nearly two years, throughout Quinn's junior and senior year of college, and even made plans to move to New York together, so Quinn could pursue her MFA and Julia could… do something else.

Rachel didn't really pay attention at the time.

Or, ever.

And, then, just a few weeks after Quinn graduated top of her class and they were set to leave for New York, their apartment already leased and their new lives waiting for them; Julia called it quits.

To this day, nobody really knows why.

Santana's always wanted to… beat it out of her, which makes Rachel chuckle to herself.

Quinn glances at her. "What are you smiling at?"

"Just wondering what Santana would say in this situation," she murmurs, and Quinn's grin splits her face. Her laugh is breathy, washing over the skin of Rachel's delicate cheek.

"Something funny?"

Quinn freezes in her seat, and Rachel's head whips to face Julia, who is looking at the pair of them with a sour look on her face.

Quinn ignores her, which prompts everyone else to. It helps that dessert is finally served, and Julia's spillage is easily forgotten.

Quinn shifts in her seat, almost leaning against Rachel as she digs into her lemon cheesecake. Rachel has the vegan equivalent, and both of them are blissfully silent. It's something about them: the silence can be comfortable.

"Can I try some?" Quinn asks after a moment, her eyes on Rachel's dessert. "I've always been curious to know if it actually tastes different."

Rachel regards her carefully. "Fabray, this better not be some ploy to get an extra bite of dessert," she warns playfully, and Quinn just smiles innocently. "We can't exactly swap, now can we?"

"I'll make it up to you later," Quinn practically purrs, and Rachel's mouth goes dry. "Just one bite, Rach."

Rachel audibly swallows, and then fixes a piece of vegan cheesecake onto her fork. She doesn't think about it too much as she lifts the fork to Quinn's mouth.

To her credit, Quinn doesn't hesitate. It's not as if it's the first time Rachel has ever fed her. It's just that this is the first time it's felt so… intimate. Their eyes remained locked as Quinn leans forward and wraps her lips around Rachel's fork.

"Oh, God," Rachel breathes out, feeling her heart rate rise dangerously when Quinn's teeth scrape along the metal of her fork.

Neither of them can look away, and it takes a loud throat-clearing from across the table to break the charged moment.

Quinn smiles shakily as she turns away, chewing thoughtfully.

Rachel forces herself to focus on her breathing. It wouldn't do to hyperventilate in front of all these people.

"It doesn't taste that different," Quinn finally declares. "Although, it does feel different."

"That's your guilty conscience," Rachel manages to say, recovering. "It knows you're consuming would-be baby chickens."

Quinn smiles despite herself. "I'm never going to win with you, am I?"

Rachel beams at her. "Would you even want to?"

"And miss out on that smile, never," Quinn tells her truthfully.

"God, you two are adorable," Nicole suddenly says, and both women look at her, grinning through their fierce blushes.

"That's one way to describe it," Julia comments.

Quinn glares at her, and it looks like it takes all her willpower not to snap back with a comment of her own. She resists for Rachel, and the brunette appreciates it more than she'll ever be able to convey.

But, Nicole must pick up on the animosity, because she looks at Julia with curious, cautious eyes. "And, how would you describe it?"

Before Julia can say whatever she plans to, Denny breaks into the moment. "Is everyone enjoying the dessert?" she asks, looking slightly uncomfortable now that Julia's silent glares have become audible barbs. "Lemon cheesecake is Tom's favourite."

"She says that," Tom muses; "but it's really her favourite." He winks. "She just doesn't want anyone to know she indulges."

Denny swats at his arm as the table collectively chuckles.

Rachel uses the opportunity to regard Quinn carefully. "You okay?" she asks softly, practically whispering.

Quinn doesn't nod, because that would be a lie. She's definitely not okay.

"Quinn?"

"I'm here," Quinn whispers.

"We can go," Rachel offers. "We can leave right now."

Quinn clenches her jaw. "She's trying to get a reaction out of me," she forces out. "Why?"

Rachel doesn't have a suitable - or appropriate - response for her. So, she goes with, "Because she's a bitch," and Quinn laughs this glorious, gorgeous laugh that makes Rachel's heart sing.

"Seriously, what is so funny?"

Quinn's left hand closes into a tight fist as everyone at the table looks at Julia. The silence is awkward and stilted, and neither Rachel nor Quinn says a word.

Nicole does, though. "Is there a problem here?" she asks pointedly.

Julia makes to reply, but Denny cuts in again, shooting a pointed look at her niece. "Anybody for more wine?"

"No, no," Nicole says, clearly irritated; "I want to know what the problem is, because it's obvious there is one, and I don't think I like what you're implying about my new friend here."

Julia makes to reply, but Denny cuts in.

"That's enough," she says, and the finality of her tone renders the room silent. "Julia, a word?"

Like a petulant child, Julia scowls, but she eventually follows her aunt out of the room, leaving Tom to get the room settled and talking again.

Quinn abandons her dessert to wrap an arm around Rachel's shoulders and draw her into a loose embrace. She kisses the side of the brunette's head and lets her lips linger, absently breathing her in.

"I'm sorry," Quinn murmurs.

"It's not your fault," Rachel whispers back, turning her head and kissing the underside of Quinn's chin. "It's not."

Quinn smiles sadly. "You're doing well," she says. "Nicole seems to like you."

"Thomas absolutely adores you."

"He says he wants to collaborate."

Rachel grins at her. "It seems I'm not the only one networking tonight."

"Who knew that knowing Rachel Berry would be so fruitful?"

"I could have told you that."

Quinn laughs softly, pulling back to look at her. "This night feels surreal."

"It really does," Rachel agrees. "Good surreal?"

"Ask me again tomorrow."


If Rachel thinks they're going to be able to escape the evening without having to deal with Julia again, then she's wrong. Rachel allows herself to read far too much into the fact that Julia doesn't return to the table, and she assumes that Denny asked the dark-haired woman to leave.

She did, which is what Denny explains to them when they decide it's probably time for them to leave. The party is dying down, and Quinn mentions that it's best to leave while people are still interested, and they haven't overstayed.

Quinn times it perfectly. They leave just before Ed and Nicole, but just after Thomas. It gives them a window of ten minutes to say their farewells, and then have Denny walk them out.

Quinn helps Rachel with her coat, before Rachel does the same, and Denny's soft expression is almost too heartbreaking for Rachel to handle.

"I feel as if I should apologise for Julia's behaviour," Denny starts.

"It's not necessary," Quinn assures her. "Our history should not have had any bearing on tonight, and I'm sorry that wasn't the case."

Denny just hugs her, and then whispers to Rachel, "you better hold onto this one."

The guilt Rachel feels is almost paralysing, because she and Quinn are about to break up.

Still, she says, "I'm going to try."

Denny smiles. "Don't let Julia mess with you guys."

And, okay, Denny has just given them a good enough excuse possibly to call it quits. The untimely arrival of Quinn's ex could flare up Rachel's insecurities, and the two of them could decide that a relationship won't work if Rachel can't trust Quinn, even if she has reason to be apprehensive.

It's a flimsy excuse at best, but it could work.

"We'll see you on Monday," Denny tells Rachel, and then turns back to Quinn. "And, you, don't be a stranger."

Quinn just smiles. "Thank you for having us," she says. "It truly was a lovely evening." Ever the charmer, that Quinn Fabray.

Rachel slips her hand into Quinn's, and then the two of them leave the apartment. In the elevator, Rachel can almost feel Quinn's grip on her own control slipping, so she just squeezes her hand tightly, offering whatever comfort and support she can.

They bid goodnight to Bradley, and then step onto the sidewalk, the crisp air providing some brief comfort. Rachel shivers once, and Quinn leans into her side.

"Are we going back to your place?" Rachel finds herself asking, because she did promise Quinn alcohol and ice cream and pizza.

But, before Quinn can respond, there's another voice, and Rachel actually feels cold all over the second Julia's voice hits her ears.

"Well, isn't that just adorable?"

Quinn turns them just in time to see Julia push off the wall of Tom and Denny's building and make her way towards them.

Rachel's grip on Quinn tightens, and she does all she can to hold onto her rage. Is this woman insane? Was she really waiting for them?

For the hundredth time, Rachel allows herself to wonder just what Quinn was thinking when she willingly dated this woman for almost two years. Quinn cites insanity, and Santana teases her about her obsession with hot brunettes with legs to die for.

Now that Rachel thinks about it, Santana always used to shoot her a salacious look whenever she alluded to Quinn's preferences.

But, that's a thought for another time.

Right now, though, they're faced with a pissed-off Julia, who looks particularly scorned for someone who was actually the 'dumper.'

The mere fact that she has the audacity to feel such a thing rubs Rachel the wrong way, and the fact that Quinn is holding onto her is the only reason she's not marching right up to Julia's stupid face and giving her a piece of her mind - or a piece of her fist.

"Is this for real?" Julia asks, scoffing as she eyes them, as if there's no possible way Quinn and Rachel could be together this way.

Quinn tenses at the implication, and Rachel makes the decision for the both of them.

"Of course, it is," Rachel says, glaring at her. "Why wouldn't it be?"

Julia doesn't bat an eyelid. "Because you're not gay," she says to Rachel, and then looks at Quinn. "And you promised me."

Quinn snorts. "I'm pretty sure you promised me a lot of things, too," she says. "And, now, look where we are."

"Where are we, Quinn?" she asks. "What are you even doing here?"

Quinn just glares at her. "What are you even doing in New York?" she asks. "It was my understanding that you would never step foot in this God forsaken city?"

Julia visibly straightens. "It seems I'm not the only one who's capable of changing her mind," she says, pointedly glaring at Rachel.

Quinn shifts closer to Rachel, and Rachel is immediately grateful for it. Right now, it doesn't matter that their relationship isn't real. Julia doesn't get to do this to Quinn.

Not again.

"What do you want, Julia?" Quinn asks tiredly; "because you obviously want something. It's what you're good at, isn't it? Just taking and taking."

Julia's eyes narrow. "I live in New York now," she says carefully, knowing she's about to get a reaction from Quinn.

Quinn sucks in a sharp breath, and something within her twists painfully. The knowledge that she would probably not have to see Julia in this city they eventually decided on is one of the only reasons she's been able to adjust as well as she has, and the mere fact that Julia's come here after deciding Quinn isn't what she wants anymore throws her completely.

"Why?" Quinn asks. "Why?"

"My job brought me here," Julia explains.

Quinn blinks. "Your job," she echoes. "You came to New York for your job." But not your relationship, is left unsaid. "How long?" she questions.

"A few weeks."

Quinn just stares at her, unsure what she's supposed to feel in this moment. She wants to ask if Julia was even going to look her up or anything, or just wait for a moment like this to run into her.

Quinn doesn't even know if she would have wanted to be found by the woman who broke her heart for reasons she still doesn't know. If Julia didn't want to come to New York, the two of them could have worked something out. Columbia wasn't the only MFA program she got into, and Julia wasn't even working at the time.

Julia steps forward at Quinn's silence. "I was going to call you," she says, her voice low. "I just - I wasn't sure if you'd even want me to." She makes to reach out for Quinn, but the blonde steps back, out of reach. "I guess that answers that question," Julia murmurs. She glances at Rachel. "Not that you missed me or anything, huh?"

Quinn sets her jaw. "You don't get to say that to me," she says. "You left me, and I moved on."

"But, to her?" Julia says, a slight whine slipping into her tone of voice. "I mean, how many days did she even wait to make a move?" she asks. "I mean, I always suspected she had a thing for you, but you have to agree this is a little - "

"Stop," Quinn interrupts. "Just, stop. You have no idea what you're talking about."

"Oh, I think I do," Julia argues. "How long did you even wait?" she asks Rachel.

Quinn answers, without actually answering. "That's none of your business," she says. "Nothing about my life since you said 'I'm not coming with you,' is your business, so you can just stop. All of this." She takes a long, deep breath. "I would say it's good to see you, but it's really not. I would think you would have handled yourself better, and I hope you've apologised to Denny, but we don't have to stand here and take your accusations just because you seem to be… dissatisfied with what you've found all these months later."

With that, Quinn makes to turn and walk away, but Julia reaches out to grab hold of her free hand, effectively stopping her movement.

"Wait," Julia says. "I just - you caught me by surprise, that's all. I do want to catch up. I was going to call you eventually, I assure you, but I've never really known what to say. I mean, you have to admit this is a little weird, right? This is the last thing I was expecting tonight, because it's never once crossed my mind that you two would actually end up together."

She's not alone there.

Quinn doesn't react for a moment, and then she very calmly says, "Let go of me."

Julia immediately drops her hand. "Oh."

Quinn straightens. "I'm not doing this with you," she says. "Until you can actually apologise without an excuse or without putting either me or Rachel down, we're never doing this." There's a finality to her tone, but Julia finds herself still wanting to argue.

Thankfully, that's the moment Ed and Nicole come out of the building, Nicole's eyes immediately narrowing at the sight she's presented with.

"Everything okay here?" she asks, her gaze mainly on a very silent Rachel.

"Everything's fine," Julia forces out.

Rachel lifts her head. "We're fine," she says. "Quinn and I were just leaving, weren't we?"

"We were," Quinn agrees, and they're both happy to walk with Ed and Nicole until the end of the block where Ed hails the pair of women a cab.

Nicole uses the opportunity to hand Rachel her card, and Rachel passes on her own number. "Just in case my therapist doesn't answer the first time," Nicole jokes. "Or, if your home needs a makeover."

Rachel nods gratefully. "Thank you," she says.

"Also, you know, if ever you just want to talk," Nicole offers more quietly. It's doubtful Quinn can hear from where she's standing with Ed. "Something tells me the two of you haven't seen the last of that woman."

Rachel hates that she's probably right.


When they get back to Quinn's apartment, they remove their coats in silence and Rachel hangs them up. Quinn takes off her shoes and heads straight to her bedroom, Rachel following a minute later.

Without a word, Quinn hands her a pair of her own sweatpants and an old Yale sweatshirt, and then she changes into McKinley sweatpants and a fresh t-shirt, before she disappears into the bathroom to remove her makeup.

Rachel isn't sure what to do once she's also changed, after hanging up her dress in Quinn's closet. There are a number of her own clothes in there, and she smiles at the way they just mix in with Quinn's. The blonde hasn't even bothered to keep the items separated, and the mere idea of that fills her with warmth.

Which washes away the second she recalls the situation in which they now find themselves.

So much for their scheduled breakup.

Breathing a sigh, Rachel turns on her heel and leaves the room. She heads to the kitchen to scrummage through Quinn's fridge and cabinets for something the blonde could use to self-soothe.

Hell, even Rachel needs some TLC.

"Find anything?" Quinn asks, startling Rachel as she comes up behind the brunette. Without hesitation, she wraps her arms around Rachel's waist, pressing her front to the shorter woman's back and soaking up her warmth.

Rachel leans back into Quinn, revelling in the strength of the embrace. "I'm pretty sure we can order pizza from somewhere," she offers.

Quinn hums. "Or, we could just open a bottle of wine, and do this."

"This?"

"Exactly this," Quinn confirms, her grip tightening. "Just, this." She buries her face in Rachel's hair, inhaling deeply and then sighing. "Why do you always smell so good?"

Rachel feels herself blush, but she really doesn't have a response to that. "Any preference on the wine?"

"No."

It takes a while for them to get settled on Quinn's couch. Rachel pours their wine, grabs a packet of sweet potato crisps, and then practically sits on Quinn, the blonde's arm wrapping around her waist.

Rachel is tense for all of two minutes, before she feels her body relax and the alcohol take effect.

Quinn puts on the Food Network, but neither woman is watching. Rachel is so focused on the warmth of the body beneath her, and Quinn's attention is split between trying not to panic about Julia and trying not to do something stupid when it comes to Rachel.

Because, Rachel is right here, and she's everything Quinn has ever wanted.

She's right here, and Quinn wants nothing more than just to hold her, kiss her, touch her, make love to her.

It would be so easy. She gets the feeling Rachel might even be willing, and all she would have to do is press her lips to the inviting neck on display and then see where it leads.

Quinn has done this before: found comfort in another woman after the disaster that was her breakup with Julia. She found solace in avoidance and an abundance of pleasure in various forms.

But, those women were strangers.

This is Rachel.

This is actually Rachel, whom she loves in a way that will probably never amount to anything. Maybe, this will be all she gets, and maybe all she has to do is take it.

But, then, Rachel sighs against her and reaches for her wine. She glances over her shoulder at Quinn, and smiles sadly. "We're not breaking up, are we?"

Quinn sighs. "We still can," she says, and she means it. It would be awful to give Julia the satisfaction of thinking that she's responsible for their breakup, but she and Rachel made a decision, and now…

"Do you want to?" Rachel asks.

"No." It's a simple answer, and it's not a lie. "I don't want her to think she's the reason we're ending, and she will. We both know that."

"I don't want that, either," Rachel says, sliding off Quinn's lap, so she can face her properly. "I kind of just want to punch her."

Quinn lets out a small laugh. "You're cute when you get violent."

"Not really what I'm going for, but I'll take it."

Quinn reaches for her wine and downs it. "So, we're not breaking up?" she clarifies.

"No, we're not."

Quinn sighs heavily, feeling the weight of this continued lie settle heavily on her shoulders. "I finally figured out why you all think I'm a Slytherin," she says sadly. "It's because I'm a heartless, selfish, ruthless bitch, isn't it?"

Rachel sighs softly, her right hand moving to play with the tiny hairs at the nape of Quinn's neck. "No, it's not," she says. "It's because you're sarcastic and ambitious. You have a cunning mind, and such a dark and wonderful sense of humour. You're determined and curious, and you like to break the rules. Your holy time is alone time, you absorb caffeine, and you're a perfectionist by nature."

Quinn blinks. "None of those things are explicitly… good," she wearily points out. "And, seriously, did you memorise the traits of a Slytherin or something?"

Rachel crawls back across the couch to get right in Quinn's face. "I need you, and you need me," she says. "We're just going to have to postpone our breakup. It's not a big deal."

Well.


"I'm dealing with morons," Santana says; "absolute, fucking morons."

Despite the insult, Quinn can't help her small smile. She'll never get used to Santana's colourful language. She also finds it doubly amusing that Santana intends to be a doctor.

Her bedside manner is going to be atrocious.

"Santana," Quinn starts. "Believe me when I tell you that we had every intention of breaking up yesterday, but Saturday night proved to be… difficult."

Santana waits, choosing to be patient.

"We kind of ran into, uh, Julia."

It's not what Santana's expecting to hear, and she's glad Quinn waited until she set her drink back on the table, because she does a literal double-take and then says, "What the fuck!" really loudly.

Quinn flushes when several heads turn their way, but Santana doesn't seem to notice. "San," she says.

"No," Santana says, rage brewing in eyes. "Berry fucking promised me she would call the second she laid eyes on that bitch. What the fuck? Why are you telling me only now? Like, fuck. Are you okay? Did she talk to you? What did she say? What happened? Do I need to cut a bitch?"

"San," Quinn repeats. "Just, breathe, okay?"

"Q?"

"I'm fine," she says. "I mean, I think I am. I wasn't, but then Rachel spent all of yesterday with me while you were working in the labs, and I think I'm okay." She sighs. "What I mean is I'm not about to go on some destructive bender," she clarifies. "I have my life and my friends and my job and school, and I'm about to sign the biggest contract of my life. I'm fine."

"Q?"

Quinn drops her gaze. "Jules and I fought about Rachel a lot," she admits. "You know they've never liked each other, but it got worse when I got into Columbia and really started considering it."

Santana waits again, realising that this is something Quinn needs to say.

"I wanted to come to New York to be closer to you guys. I won't deny it. But, she was worried. She's always been worried, I guess, because she was convinced I was in love with Rachel. Which, let's face it, I was. I am." She breathes out slowly, because this is the first time she's actually admitted it out loud. "She made me promise that nothing would ever happen between us; she made me promise I would never try for anything with Rachel, and I did, because there was no way Rachel would even want me.

"Julia seemed satisfied, and I tried not to think too hard about what she was asking of me and what I agreed to. In my mind, I knew it would only get worse, and there would come a day when she would ask me to choose between her and Rachel." Quinn's breathing grows unsteady. "And, then, that day came, and it was the first time I considered actually doing it."

Santana sucks in a sharp breath. "You would have chosen Julia."

"It might have hurt less, in the long run," she says. "I wouldn't have to watch Rachel be with someone like St James, watch her marry him and be happy with him and have children with him and grow old with someone who isn't me."

"It doesn't work like that, Q."

"For once in my life, I just wanted to do something that would protect me, you know?"

Santana definitely gets that. It's one of the reasons she and Brittany are currently not together.

Maybe, in the future, they'll figure out a way to get it right, but not today.

Or tomorrow.

"I couldn't choose," Quinn says. "Julia wanted to give me an ultimatum, I could tell, but then Rachel started talking about how she and Jesse were discussing possibly getting engaged that night we went for drinks at Kirby's, and Julia forgot all about it."

"But…?"

Quinn sips at her water. "I don't know."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean exactly that," Quinn says. "We were fine. She started getting really excited about the move, and we started planning for New York. She found the apartment, which we both know was conspicuously far from yours and Rachel's, but whatever. We had plans, and then we just didn't."

"Something happened," Santana concludes.

"Or, she just changed her mind."

"But, why?"

Quinn shrugs. "Does there have to be a reason?" she questions. "Sometimes, people just change their minds."

"Quinn," Santana says, and her tone is serious. "Maybe some people do, sure, but not Julia Fairchild. She's an insane one, but she's never been stupid, and only stupid people let a good thing like you go."

Quinn levels her with a look that speaks volumes.

"I know," Santana relents. "I'm stupid."

Quinn sighs. "As long as you know."

"There's a reason," Santana says. "There is, and the lack of one has haunted you since she ended it."

Quinn can't even dispute that, but she wants this conversation to be over, so she asks, "How's Brittany?"

"Fuck you, Fabray."

Relationship talk is strictly over.

Chapter Text

X

"Let me get this straight," Kurt starts; "you and Quinn ran into Julia, and neither of you thought to call me?"

Rachel barely resists the urge to roll her eyes. She can only imagine what Santana is going to have to say, if Kurt is reacting this way. The lot of them have held onto - completely rational - hatred towards the woman for such a long time, and Rachel knows the only reason she didn't attack Julia is because Quinn was struggling enough with the situation as a whole.

The two of them spent all of Sunday together. Quinn didn't even go to church, choosing rather to spend the day curled up on her couch with Netflix and Rachel.

Despite the circumstances, it was actually a lovely day. They stayed in, cooked together (well, Quinn cooked, and Rachel watched her), watched movies and cuddled. Rachel doesn't think she and Quinn have had that much physical contact before, and her body is still tingling from where Quinn's fingers snuck under the hem of her t-shirt while they slept.

It honestly feels as if they're in a relationship.

Only, none of it is real.

"You and I both know you would have started a fight," Rachel says. "I was saving your precious nails."

Kurt shakes his head, choosing to let that slide. "How is Quinn doing with all of this?"

"She texted this morning," Rachel says. "I can tell she's still conflicted about it, and she's definitely hurting. Yesterday was rough, but I think she's distracting herself with work and school."

"Fuck," he mutters under his breath. "This is definitely not what either of you needs right now."

Rachel nods, because that's the truth. "We didn't end it," she confesses. "I - I couldn't, not after that. You should have seen her, Kurt."

"Who?" he asks pointedly. "Quinn, or Julia?"

"God. Both of them." She sips at her iced water, trying to keep calm. "First, Julia didn't believe we were together - which, okay, shut up - but then she had the nerve to make it awkward for everyone at the dinner table with her snarky remarks and general disdain. Denny even had to ask her to leave. Which she didn't even do."

Kurt's eyes widen. "She waited for you?"

"It was so creepy," Rachel says, nodding her head. "Like, leaning against the building, hidden in the shadows, kind of waiting for us creepy."

"Trippy."

"She mentioned something about a promise Quinn made to her about me," she says, frowning slightly. "I guess she didn't expect me to… be gay, I guess."

"But, you're not."

"Julia doesn't have to know that."

Kurt shakes his head. "Rachel," he starts; "would you have ended this arrangement with Quinn if you hadn't seen Julia?"

"Of course."

He waits patiently.

"Probably…"

He frowns.

"… Not."

"I thought as much," Kurt says, almost superiorly. "What am I going to have to say to get you to realise just how serious this is? The longer it goes on; the worse it's going to get." He wants to tell her that she needs to be extra careful, because Quinn's heart is on the line here.

It appears to him that Rachel's is, as well.

"We can't, Kurt," Rachel says. "If you think Julia is insufferable now, then imagine what she'll be like if news got back to her that we broke up the weekend after we saw her again. God, Kurt, we can't. We can't."

Kurt sighs. "I get that," he says; "but that doesn't mean you shouldn't talk about it."

"Talk about what?"

"These… feelings you're having."

"Feelings?"

"For Quinn, Rachel," he says, losing his patience slightly. He's trying to preserve one of the most important relationships in Rachel's life, and he doesn't know how to do that without revealing just how much it's in jeopardy. "You know you have to talk to her. You know this. I don't know why you keep needing me to tell you."

Rachel leans back, deflating considerably.

"It's not fair to her, Rachel," he says. "It's not fair to yourself."

And, really, Rachel already knows the truth of it.

Still, she doesn't know if she'll be able to do what both she and Kurt know she has to.


"There she is," Frankie says the moment Rachel steps into the theatre after her lunch with Kurt.

"Hey," Rachel says, just about managing a smile. She's particularly exhausted, and her heart is a little sore. She knows Kurt is right, and she acknowledges that something definitely has to be done, but messing with her dynamic with Quinn so close to opening night just seems like a terrible idea.

There are far too many of those currently in play.

"What's wrong with you?" Frankie asks.

She shrugs. "We had a bit of a rough weekend," she says, which is something she hesitated to tell him earlier, when he was gushing about how wonderful his evening went with Jasmine.

"Oh?"

She manages to smile at him. "What's going on? You look like you're waiting for me."

He indicates to a spot behind him. "Denny's here," he says. "She was looking for you."

Rachel feels her heart rate rise. Oh no. Could Julia have said something? Is this her last day? Quinn is going to go insane if Julia somehow managed to get Rachel fired.

Santana, too.

And Kurt.

Rachel's sure even Blaine will get in on that action, and completely sober to boot.

Rachel offers Frankie another, barely-there smile, and then walks past him to where Denny is talking to Tom and Elliot.

"There she is," Denny says, the second she spots Rachel, which eases some of her anxiety, because Denny wouldn't be smiling like that if the intention was to get rid of Rachel, surely.

Though, with these theatre types, one can never be too careful.

Rachel just about manages to return Denny's smile, but the older woman must sense her unease, because she immediately pulls her aside, away from the men, and Rachel breathes out a sigh of relief.

"I take it the rest of the weekend didn't go as planned," Denny says, and she sounds sympathetic.

"One could say that," Rachel agrees quietly. "Quinn wasn't exactly happy with the way the evening ended."

"Oh?"

Rachel bites her bottom lip. "It's not really important," she says, not really wanting to tell on Julia for waiting outside for them. It just seems so petty, and Rachel likes to think she's grown from her teenage self.

Still.

She feels as if she owes Quinn. If the two of them decided not to break up over this, then the more that remains quiet about the inner-workings of their relationship; the better.

For whatever reason, Rachel still thinks Denny would understand. If ever Rachel worked up the courage to approach this conversation truthfully and divulge everything, she just knows Denny would be able to help her make sense of everything.

Because, God, Rachel feels as if she's a mess.

She's struggling with what she may or may not be feeling for her best friend, and she doesn't know how she's supposed to navigate this lie they've decided to tell.

There are moments, Rachel acknowledges, when Quinn will look at her, and she feels as if there's nobody else in this great big world that the blonde sees. That's when it feels real. That's when it feels as if the two of them could actually do this whole relationship thing, and all Rachel wants to do is say yes.

Still, she doesn't think she would survive being Quinn's sole focus for extended periods of time. Her gaze is intense, and her touch is intoxicating. They've kissed (pecked, really) twice now, and Rachel is convinced she'll actually die if ever Quinn were to kiss her properly.

Maybe that's what needs to happen.

Maybe, for her to be sure about the potential of a relationship with a woman who happens to be her best friend, she and Quinn need to kiss.

Surely, that will sort out everything.

Rachel will finally know for sure, and she'll be able to take the next steps based on that. All she has to do is find a way to kiss Quinn, and then they're good to go.

Which is where Denny comes in.

"I feel terrible about the way Julia acted on Saturday," Denny says, looking distressed and apologetic. "Tom and I were talking, and we want to invite you and Quinn out to dinner, just the four of us."

Rachel feels her heart start to beat faster, practically thumping against her ribcage. "Oh?"

"Tom wants to talk to her about possibly getting her to write a script," Denny continues, and it looks as if she would roll her eyes if she were a younger woman. "And, well, I'm also growing quite fond of the two of you, and I get the feeling you're going to be a big name in this industry. We need to get in where we can." She punctuates her words with a wink, and Rachel's anxiety rises.

Rachel audibly swallows. "When did you have in mind?"

"When are you free?" Denny asks. "Tom and I are flexible."

"I'll have to check with Quinn," she says, already taking out her phone and shooting a text to Quinn. She cringes at the number of unread texts she has from Santana, and she just knows she's in for it when she gets home.

Maybe she should spend the night at Quinn's again.

It'll probably be safer for everyone. Less chance of a murder that way.

Quinn, thankfully, replies immediately, and Rachel finds herself smiling automatically, the moment her screen lights up with the blonde's name.

Denny also smiles, knowingly and happily. She loves young love, and this particular brand feels simultaneously old, as well. The two of them have obviously been through a lot and, as a person on the outside looking in, she doesn't think she's seen two people more perfect for each other.

Rachel clears her throat. "Quinn says she can do Wednesday or Thursday night," she says, conveying Quinn's message. "I can, too, so you and Tom can decide. We're flexible, either way."

"Why don't I see which night gets us a better reservation, and then I'll get back to you?"

Rachel nods. "That works."

"Will you tell her about Tom's intentions?"

"Probably," Rachel answers truthfully. "It took her a while to believe she has any kind of writing talent, and she still has moments when she doesn't quite believe she has anything worth saying."

It took Rachel and Santana quite some time to convince Quinn that Writing was a feasible career for her when she first arrived at Yale. It took even longer for her to allow them to read any of her work. She's grown into her talent, honing it with praise and practice, and Rachel finds the confidence she exudes now to be entirely disarming.

"She'll get awkward if I don't give her a head's up," Rachel continues. "It's cute, of course, but it could prove to be a strange evening, otherwise."

"She's shy?"

"She's something."

Denny laughs softly, and then sobers slightly. "You two are okay, right?"

Rachel blinks once, twice, and then nods. "We're okay," she says.

"Are you sure?"

And, for the first time, Rachel is the most honest when she says, "No."


"You little shit."

Rachel winces at the harshness in Santana's tone, and she's immensely relieved she's not actually standing in front of her. She's sure she would end up bruised in some capacity.

"Are you ever coming home?"

Rachel glances over her shoulder at where Quinn has just disappeared into her bedroom, giving Rachel the opportunity to talk to her roommate in private. She wants the blonde to come back and save her.

"Of course, I am," Rachel says. "But, umm, I'm spending the night here."

"Why?"

"Quinn asked me to."

"Why?"

"She's about to tell me."

Santana mutters something under her breath that Rachel doesn't catch, and she's certain she doesn't want to know. "Whatever, okay," she says; "just have fun without me or whatever."

"We will," Rachel confirms, and then spins around when she hears Quinn's footsteps, the blonde having changed into more comfortable clothing.

Well, almost changed.

Quinn is still putting on her sweatshirt, her left arm getting stuck somewhere, with her glasses held in her right hand as she takes slow steps into the corridor.

"Rachel," Quinn mumbles, bumping into the wall because her head is barely through the hole. "Help."

Now, Rachel would help. She really, really would, if she weren't frozen in place by the sight of Quinn's abs.

It's not the first time Rachel has seen them, of course. They've had close encounters over the years, and she's been privy to the masterpiece that is Quinn's body.

But.

This is the first time Rachel has seen Quinn's body and… reacted.

"Rach?" Quinn mumbles again, voice muffled. "Are you there?"

"Berry," Santana says into Rachel's ear, and both voices jolt her into action. She steps forward immediately and tugs on Quinn's sweatshirt, helping her get her arm through.

Quinn's head eventually pops out, hair wild and eyes wide. She puffs out a breath, puts on her glasses and then smiles goofily. "Thank you," she says happily, and then saunters off.

"Fucking hell, are you there?" Santana blasts into her ear.

Rachel immediately shifts the phone away, wincing. She needs a moment to compose herself because, God, she's attracted to Quinn.

Aesthetically, Rachel knows Quinn is pretty - she's been repeatedly telling the blonde that for years - and beautiful and just stunning. It's been a quiet admiration until this point because, now, Rachel wants to -

To what?

Rachel puts the phone back to her ear. "Santana," she says.

"What?" the Latina barks.

"I'm in trouble."

Santana sighs. "No shit."

"I - I don't know what to do."

"Why don't you start by coming home?"

Rachel turns around to look at the door leading to Quinn's kitchen, and she can hear the blonde softly singing to herself. "I can't," Rachel whispers into the phone.

"I know."

Rachel sighs helplessly. "I have to go," she says. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"That is an amazingly short list."

"Bitch."

"Love you, too, San."

She's met with silence.

Rachel smiles to herself for barely a moment, because she has a really big problem now. Before, Rachel could probably kid herself into thinking this was… nothing. It was Quinn's attention she was craving because she's Quinn Fabray, and Rachel is, well, Rachel.

The teenager in her still marvels that the Head Cheerleader is even her friend.

Her friend, who is as beautiful as they come.

Rachel hasn't managed to recover when Quinn makes her return, carrying a cup of hot chocolate in each hand with an open packet of vegan biscuits hanging from her clenched teeth.

Rachel can't help her laugh at the sight. "Haven't you heard of a serving tray?"

Quinn just shrugs, as she sets the cups on her coffee table, and then drops onto the couch with a huff, the packet of biscuits falling into her lap. "Sit," she says. "I want to talk to you about something."

"What?"

Quinn just pats the couch beside her, and Rachel immediately sits, her heart suddenly beating faster. She's been putting off talking to Quinn about all of this, but maybe Quinn intends to have her own conversation with her.

Rachel takes in a slow breath. "Is something wrong?"

"I received my final contract today," she says. "It's why I didn't get back until now. Jordan and I were discussing how it's all supposed to fit in with the rest of my MFA, my tutoring and graduation."

Rachel can't help her smile, because this Quinn is fascinating.

"Technically, all my coursework has already been completed and, now that my thesis is complete, I can hand in, and be done with it."

"But?"

"I'm Jordan's TA in two of his courses, and my tutor group runs for the rest of the semester, at least."

"So…?"

"We talked about what the best course of action is when it comes to publishing," she says. "I have to hand in the thesis, but it's also going to be published, so it creates a bit of a… logistical nightmare, as it were. How can my novel make money, if it'll be readily available as my published thesis?"

Rachel watches her carefully, sensing that Quinn has something very specific to say.

"I made a decision, while I was with Jordan, that I may or may not regret in the morning."

"Oh?"

"We're not publishing my thesis."

Rachel frowns, clearly not following.

"I mean, the book we're publishing was originally my thesis, but that's no longer happening."

"I don't understand."

"I'm not submitting the novel being published as my thesis," she says, trying to clear up everything. "It can be done, but I'm making the decision not to, because I never could have dreamed I would have the option to publish my work this way."

"I think I get what you're trying to say," Rachel says. "But, I mean, if you're not submitting the work you've been doing, uh, what happens to your degree?"

"I have all the research I've already done, and I've met all the requirements for graduation, bar an actual thesis."

"Which means?"

"Well, I could either submit something I already have written - which, as you know, is a lot - or I could write something completely new, or - "

"Or what?"

"Or, well, I could upgrade to a PhD."

Rachel blinks repeatedly.

"I'm upgrading to a PhD," she confirms. "At the rate I'm going, I could probably finish my Doctorate by the end of 2020, which is way ahead of schedule."

Rachel isn't really sure what to say at this point. What does one say? "That means you're staying in New York?" is what her brain comes up with.

Quinn laughs softly. "I was always going to stay, Rach."

Rachel just nods. "This is a big week for you, isn't it?"

"It is," she confirms. "My entire life is about to change." She sighs. "My novel deals with a topic that's… very difficult, and really dear to my heart, but I can tackle something completely different now. It - it doesn't have to be so personal, because, God, it's taken so much out of me."

That's the part that gets to Rachel, because Quinn hasn't revealed anything about what she's written about. Rachel has asked, of course, but Quinn has always been so hush about the topic.

"When do I get to read it?"

"When it gets published."

"Quinn," she whines. "Please."

Quinn just smiles at her, and then reaches for her hot chocolate. She's silent as she takes a sip, and then hands Rachel the packet of biscuits.

Rachel pouts as she takes the packet. "You're an ass."

"You love me."

And, okay, Rachel probably, definitely, does, but she can't say it's that way.

Or, it is.

The fact that she doesn't know is the only reason Rachel reaches for her own cup of hot chocolate, whispers the word, "I'm really proud of you, Quinn," and then allows them to settle in to watch a pointless movie where she doesn't have to think about Quinn or her feelings for Quinn.

Well, she tries, anyway.


"What am I supposed to wear?"

"It's just dinner, Quinn," Rachel says, rolling her eyes as she puts her key into the door to her apartment, her phone pressed between her shoulder and ear.

"But, these people are important to you," Quinn counters. "Is it, like, fancy dress, or can I get away with slacks and a blouse?"

"The purple one?" Rachel immediately asks. "It looks good on you."

"Fucking hell."

Rachel startles at the voice, her heart jumping into her throat. "Jesus, Santana!" she shrieks.

"Is that Quinn?" Santana asks, looking all for the world like she hasn't just given Rachel a heart attack.

Rachel glares at her where she's lounging on the couch. "You scared me!" she hisses.

"It's not my fault you're so lost in your Quinn-induced haze to notice me sitting right here."

"Rachel?" Quinn murmurs in Rachel's ear. "You still there?"

Rachel closes her eyes for a moment, composing herself and probably failing, because she sounds too tense when she speaks. "Quinn, just wear whatever you think is suitable, and I will pick you up in two hours, okay?"

"Uh, okay."

"Later," she says, already missing the blonde as she hangs up. Rachel sighs as she pulls the phone away from her ear and looks at Santana. "I really don't have time for your antics today," she says.

"Do you ever?" she muses.

"You're supposed to be helping me."

"I can't help someone who refuses to help themselves," Santana counters. "I don't even know what I'm dealing with here, Berry. Why are you in trouble?"

Rachel sighs. "I - I think - " she halts, suddenly unsure.

"Spit it out," Santana says, shifting into an upright position. "What's got you so bent out of shape?"

Rachel moves to sit in one of the armchairs, setting her bag at her feet. "San, have you ever been attracted to Quinn?"

If Santana finds the question odd, she doesn't show it. "You do know I've slept with Q, right?"

Rachel nods, even though she's tried to think about that as little as possible over the years.

"I realise I was pretty drunk and very heartsore at the time, but I wouldn't sleep with someone I wasn't physically attracted to." She takes a breath. "And, let's face it, Fabray is fuck hot. She was hot before, and she's just gotten hotter the more she gets comfortable with exactly who she is."

Rachel is inclined to agree with that, though she probably wouldn't use the adjective 'hot.' It's not that the sentiment is inaccurate; it's that the word doesn't really exist in Rachel's vocabulary. There are so many other, more flattering, ways to describe Quinn's physical appearance.

One thing she and Santana can agree on is that Quinn's personality and general persona make her infinitely more appealing.

Santana takes a breath, not sure she wants to open this particular can of worms. Still, she asks, "are you attracted to Quinn?" She pauses. "Because there's a difference between being attracted to someone and finding someone attractive."

Rachel hasn't really thought about it that way, and having it put like that just confuses her even more.

She doesn't know if anything will make this any clearer for her.

Well, she's still toying with the idea of just kissing Quinn. It would sort out everything, wouldn't it? Everyone would just know, and then they can all just get on with their lives.

Simple.

Only, Rachel knows it's not. She doesn't need Kurt constantly warning her about it, because she knows, the second she crosses that line with Quinn, their relationship will forever be changed.

Rachel can call it whatever she wants: an experiment, practice or curiosity, but it'll just hurt them both. If she's curious, she might have to figure things out with someone else.

Someone who isn't Quinn.

Someone she wouldn't necessarily hurt if she figures out she really is as… straight as she's always been.

"I don't know," Rachel eventually says, sounding defeated. "I don't know."

"It doesn't have to be a big deal," Santana says. "It says nothing about you, either way."

"I'm not gay."

"I know," Santana says. "You're the least gay person I know."

Rachel frowns. "Is that supposed to be an insult?"

"An observation," Santana deadpans. "You're boy-obsessed, Berry. It's difficult not to notice."

Rachel thinks that's another insult, but she doesn't say anything.

"You're not gay," Santana says; "and nobody's asking you to be. It's all an act, remember?" She laughs softly. "Maybe you're just really method, Daniel Day Lewis."

"Maybe," she allows, even though she's not convinced.

"I'll buy you one of those plastic Oscars for your performance," Santana jokes.

Rachel doesn't feel any better.

If anything, she probably has even more to think about, because she's not gay - not even a little bit - and yet she doesn't know if she just finds Quinn attractive or if she's actually attracted to her.

What does that even mean?

"I need to get ready," Rachel says as she gets to her feet.

"And, probably, text Quinn back."

"What?"

"She has to have texted you," she says; "especially after the way you ended the call with her."

Rachel feels a flash of guilt, and it must show on her face because Santana's features soften slightly.

"Just, sort out your shit," Santana says. "Preferably before it gets out of hand."

Rachel thinks they're already past that.

Evidently, so does Santana when she says, "Too late."

Rachel shoots her a glare, and then makes her way to her bedroom. She's exhausted after rehearsals and just dealing with Santana in general, and she's tempted to squeeze in a nap before she has to head to Murray Hill to fetch Quinn in time to meet Tom and Denny for dinner.

Quinn offered just to meet her at the restaurant, but Rachel insisted on fetching her. She needs a moment alone with her before they meet the older couple. She still hasn't mention to Quinn that Tom is interested in her - their - story, and she suspects it's about to blow up in her face.

Well.

Rachel drops her bag onto the floor of her room, and then throws her body onto her bed. She buries her face in her pillows and groans. It's only Thursday, and she can't wait for the weekend… which she hopes she'll get to spend with Quinn.

Quinn has been unnaturally busy this week and, if Rachel didn't spend the nights she did at Quinn's apartment, she probably wouldn't have seen her at all. Rachel suspects Quinn is throwing herself into her work to distract herself from the very real truth that Julia is in New York.

Somewhere.

There are millions of people in this city, and Rachel hopes they never run into her again, even if it's just by accident.

Though, the fact that Julia knows she can probably get to Quinn through Denny does put Rachel a bit on edge. She doesn't know how she's supposed to protect Quinn if Julia decides she wants to 'talk' again.

Everyone knows what that means, and Julia seems to have no boundaries.

Rolling onto her back, Rachel fishes for her phone in her jacket pocket and pulls it out, unsurprised to find two texts from Quinn.

Quinn: I'm not really sure what just happened. Sorry for being a nag, and I hope you're okay. See you later. X

And… who feels like the biggest bitch in the world right now?

Rachel Berry.

Rachel Berry does.

There's another text.

Quinn: I'll wear the purple blouse, just to make you feel better. Will a headband be too much?

Rachel can't even bring herself to reply, because she feels so awful. The last thing she wants to do is make it weird between her and Quinn while she tries to figure out how to deal with her conflicting head and heart and… body.

It's her body that's reacting to Quinn, which is terrifying. Her heart already loves the other woman, but Rachel has never thought she could be aroused by a woman. Not that she's ever been. She just has an unnatural appreciation for Quinn's body.

What she can't seem to shake, though, is the part of her that wants to touch and feel… and kiss. She wants to kiss Quinn, just to see.

Just to know.

She needs to be sure.


Rachel doesn't remember a time she's seen Quinn look more uncertain. The blonde usually pretends well when she's in an uncomfortable position, but Quinn just looks apprehensive and anxious as she stands in the doorway to her own apartment.

"Hey," she says, her brow slightly furrowed.

Rachel fidgets nervously for a moment, and then throws her arms around Quinn's neck, pressing their bodies together tightly enough to hurt. "I'm sorry," she whispers against Quinn's neck.

"I don't know what's happening," Quinn murmurs, sounding confused. "Did I do something?"

"No, honey, no," Rachel immediately says, pulling back enough to be able to meet Quinn's gaze. "I just had a weird day, and I'm sorry I was so dismissive. It's not you."

Quinn still looks disbelieving.

Rachel presses a kiss to her cheek. "We're okay, right?"

"We are, on my end, at least."

"And mine," Rachel confirms. "We're okay." She steps back, releasing the blonde. "You look great, by the way. Purple suits you. It makes you look almost regal."

Quinn rolls her eyes, and some of the awkwardness bleeds out of their interaction. "Come inside," she says. "I just need to grab my coat and purse, and then we can go."

Rachel just watches as Quinn turns and disappears into the apartment, leaving her to take care of herself. Rachel knows this apartment almost as well as she knows her own - she's spent more time here lately, though - and she sometimes likes it here much better.

It feels more like a home, for some reason.

She loves Santana, of course, and they're surprisingly good cohabiters for two people who were once at each other's throats. They've grown, developing a relationship that's strong and true.

Quinn isn't the only person Rachel has gained in the years since high school, but she does feel as if that relationship is more monumental. Being friends with Quinn feels like the be all and end all.

Friends.

Rachel supposes it's not really all they could be. It's not a thought she's really entertained before - not even when Quinn first came out to her - but she's been thinking about it now.

She could see herself in an actual relationship with Quinn. They could be this actual couple, and they could be happy.

The problem, Rachel reasons, is whether or not she wants… every aspect of a lesbian relationship.

She knows she's a liberal, accepting person, and nearly all her closest friends are gay or exist somewhere on the LGBT spectrum, but she's never really considered it for herself. It's not really something that should be considered.

She's never really felt the attraction before, she thinks. Sure, she's been able to appreciate other women's beauty, but she's never been curious. Santana found it incredulous that she actually managed to attend a performing arts school and didn't even experiment.

Rachel did, she argues, and then mentions Brody and the subsequent list of boys that followed that debacle of a relationship.

She experimented with boys.

And then there was Jesse, who came back into her life at what she believed was the right time. He came in as her leading man, and he offered her some form of stability that was still exciting. There was safety to be found in dating him, and she threw herself into the relationship with both feet.

At the time, she liked to think it was kismet; some kind of fate that would have her end up with her first love. They could even be considered high school sweethearts, and it's something she clung to because he fit so snugly into the plan she devised for herself when she was still pubescent.

She held on for far too long.

Even when Quinn started getting serious about Julia, and they stopped spending time together. Even when Santana warned her that Jesse hadn't really changed all that much since high school. Even when Jesse started spending a little too much time with his costar.

Even when -

"You ready to go?" Quinn asks, coming out of her bedroom with her coat hanging over her arm. She frowns at the pensive look on Rachel's face. "Everything okay?"

Before Rachel can assure her that everything is fine, her mouth says, "You didn't like Jesse very much, did you?"

Quinn does a double-take at the sound of the question, her brow furrowing. "What?"

Rachel blinks once, twice, and then says, "Never mind." She turns to start out of the apartment, but Quinn closes the distance between them in three quick strides and grabs a hold of her wrist.

"Rach?" she questions softly.

"It's stupid," Rachel says, shaking her head.

"Rachel," Quinn says, and her tone sounds so serious. "You already know why."

She stares at the blonde's face carefully, not knowing what she's trying to say. There are lots of reasons for Quinn not to like Jesse, stretching all the way back to their sophomore year, but Rachel realises that Quinn has a very specific reason in mind.

Rachel knows, if there was any time to kiss Quinn, now would be it. They're standing so close to each other, she can feel Quinn's breath on her nose. Her gaze is dark and penetrating, and there's an unspoken truth hanging in the air. This moment is charged, and Rachel is scared of it; of what it means.

"Rach," Quinn whispers, a certain wonder in her voice.

All Rachel has to do is lean forward, lift herself up and press their lips together. It's as simple as that and, for a devastating moment, Rachel thinks she could do it.

But, then, her phone is ringing, and the sound is jarring to them both. Rachel sucks in a breath, and then steps back and fishes for her phone to see Denny calling.

Rachel frowns at the screen as she moves to answer it, vaguely aware of Quinn slipping on her coat and ushering her out of the apartment.

"Hello," Rachel answers.

Denny's voice is a little crackly when she speaks. "Rachel?"

"Hi, Denny," Rachel says, smiling slightly when she feels Quinn's hand on the small of her back, leading her down the corridor towards the elevator. "Is everything okay?"

"Everything's fine," Denny says. "I'm just calling to let you know we're running a bit late. Our older son, Patrick, got into a fight at basketball practice this afternoon, and we're having a bit of a situation."

Rachel stops walking. "Oh?" she sounds. "Do you want to reschedule?"

"No, no," Denny says, laughing lightly. "You two head on over to the restaurant and get settled under a reservation for Carpenter. We'll see you in a few."

"Are you sure?"

"Absolutely."

"Okay, then," Rachel says. "We'll see you later." She feels slightly unsettled as she hangs up, looking up at Quinn's curious expression. "That was Denny," she says. "They're running a bit late."

"That's okay," Quinn says, smiling a bit. "Maybe we can get the cab to drop us off at Central Park, and then we can take a walk." She pauses. "And talk."

Rachel just nods, pockets her phone and then slips her hand into Quinn's, immediately linking their fingers. It's a practiced action now, and she barely thinks about it anymore.

Well, not until they're in the elevator on the way down to ground floor.

Rachel's palm starts to sweat, and she wants to take her hand back to wipe it on her coat, but that would just draw attention to it.

She's relieved when Quinn eventually drops her hand when they get to the sidewalk so she can hail them a cab. She just stands back and watches, her eyes tracking the blonde's movements with rapt attention. Quinn is just so graceful, elegant in practically everything she does. It's not even fair.

This isn't the first time Rachel has openly admired Quinn, but it's the first time she's allowed herself to analyse what it means, or what it could mean.

Just, none of it is fair.

Quinn glances over her shoulder at Rachel and smiles softly. "Think these cabbies will stop for a pretty girl?" she asks, winking. "Come here," she says; "they'll definitely stop for two."

Rachel blushes at the backhanded compliment, and immediately closes the little space between them. Why were they standing so far apart in the first place again?

Quinn puts an arm around her shoulders when she's close enough, and she settles into her side, tempted to burrow into her. They're good at this, she thinks. The tense moments seem to be forgotten, and they can just hold onto each other while they sort out everything else.

A cab arrives mere seconds later, and they share a laugh as they climb into the backseat. Quinn is quick to tell the driver where they want to go, and then her attention is back on Rachel, the fingers of her left hand absently drawing circles on the brunette's bare knee.

Rachel didn't know she had such a sensitive knee until this moment.

Eventually, Quinn's hand stills, and Rachel feels the weight of it as if it's pressing down on her chest. Everything feels so much heavier now, and she just wants it to stop.

But, she also really doesn't.

Her thoughts and feelings are still conflicted when they get to the park. Quinn quickly pays the driver, and then she's ushering Rachel out of the cab.

Once they're on the sidewalk, Quinn's hand immediately slides into hers, and Rachel feels all the conflict she's feeling slowly melt away.

Quinn really shouldn't be able to have this much power. Rachel is pure putty, and the worst part is that none of this is a new thing. Rachel Berry has always been powerless to Quinn Fabray.

Quinn tugs lightly on her hand, and then they're moving. It's after a full minute of walking in silence that Quinn speaks. "What's going on in that head of yours?" she asks.

Rachel clenches her jaw for a moment. "I don't know," she admits. "It's a lot."

"Anything I can help with?"

"Something tells me you're the only one who can."

Quinn's eyes widen for a beat. "No pressure, huh?"

Rachel just smiles slightly, just knowing there's nowhere in this world she would rather be than here with Quinn.

"Why did you ask me about Jesse?" Quinn asks.

Rachel breathes out slowly. "I guess, after running into your ex, I kind of thought of mine, and how he would react if we were to see him while we're together."

Quinn hums. "He'd probably panic that he 'turned' you gay."

Rachel laughs softly. "He's an idiot."

Quinn sighs. "I didn't like him," she says. "I've never liked him. Even back in high school. He was a tool then, and he's gotten blunter with age."

"You said I already know why you've never liked him," she says, bringing up Quinn's earlier revelation.

"I did, and you do."

"I do?"

"Why didn't you like Julia?" Quinn counters.

"Because she just left y - "

"No," Quinn interrupts. "You never liked her. Ever. Even when we were just roommates, you didn't like her. Before anything even started up with her, you strongly disliked her, and I've never understood why."

And, Rachel hasn't either.

She's never really allowed herself to analyse that entire situation too closely, and she doesn't think now is the time. So, she says, "You know I have a sixth sense about these things, Quinn. I could sense she had a cold, dead heart."

"Why didn't you warn me, then?" Quinn asks, but it's more of a joke.

"All I've ever wanted was for you to be happy," Rachel answers seriously. "You told me she made you happy, and I was never going to stand in the way of that."

Quinn brings her to a stop on the pavement, and turns her so they're facing each other. "You really have no idea, do you?"

Rachel frowns. "What?"

Quinn just shakes her head, mutters something under her breath, and then gets them walking again.

Rachel doesn't move, though, tugging on Quinn's hand to keep her in position. When the blonde turns back to look at her, Rachel reaches up and presses a lingering kiss against her left cheek, her own left hand cupping the other.

"I love you, you know that, right?"

Quinn lets her guard down for a moment, and Rachel is surprised by the flash of pain she sees in those hazel eyes. "I know," Quinn eventually says, smiling sadly. "I love you too, Rachel."

And, as they start walking again, Rachel can't shake the feeling that she's just hurt Quinn in some way.

Chapter Text

XI

"She's not answering."

Quinn looks from the maître d' to Rachel, who's just spoken, and then back again. "She's not going to answer, is she?" she asks the man, noticing the knowing glint in his eye. Something about him oddly reminds her of Kurt, and she can't be sure that's a good thing.

"I'm afraid not," he says, looking at Rachel, who is trying to dial Denny's number again. "We have a reservation for Carpenter," the man tells Rachel for the umpteenth time.

"For two people," Rachel says, frowning.

The man smiles. "You are two people, are you not?"

Quinn can't help her smile, that immediately widens when Rachel lets out a frustrated breath and mumbles something under her breath.

"They did this on purpose," Rachel concludes. She looks at the maître d' and asks, "They're not coming, are they?"

"All I know is I have a reservation here for two," he says. "It's a lovely tasting menu, with a vegan option, that the chef personally put together."

Rachel covers her eyes with her left hand. "I should have known Denny would try to do something like this," she says. "She feels so guilty about the whole Julia thing."

Quinn places a hand on the small of her back. "She wanted to do something nice for you."

"For us," Rachel says, and then sighs. "It would be awfully rude not to accept, wouldn't it?"

"The absolute rudest."

Rachel steps into Quinn's space and reaches up to kiss her cheek, because she just can't resist. "It's a date," she says.

Quinn just about manages a smile. "I think that's Denny's plan," she says, and then looks at the maître d' with expectancy. "Where to, Maestro?"

He smiles warmly at her. "If you'll both follow me, ladies," he says.

Quinn uses the hand pressed against Rachel's back to guide her through the restaurant, both of them ignoring the eyes that track them. It's obvious they're being led into… the kitchen.

"Oh, my God," Rachel says as they're led to what she knows is the Chef's table. The buzz of the kitchen drowns out her next few gasps as they get seated opposite each other, and presented with their menus.

"We've paired wine with the dishes," a different waiter tells them, as he fills their glasses after Quinn has deemed it acceptable in that graceful way that is so inherently Quinn. "I'll return shortly with your appetisers."

Once they're alone again, Rachel stares at Quinn with wide eyes. "Oh, my God," she says, and then casts a look around the kitchen, suddenly in awe. "Oh, my God."

Quinn smiles at her wonder, her own heart beating faster than normal. She's on a date with Rachel Berry. Sort of.

They have dinner together all the time, but this feels different. As far as everyone knows, they're on a date, and Quinn intends to play the part to the best of her ability.

She's on a date with Rachel, and never in her life did she think this particular dream would ever come true.

"This is amazing," Rachel says, and then sips at her wine. "Is this what our lives could be like when we're both famous?"

"Both of us, huh?"

"What?" she asks innocently. "I'm going to be a famous Broadway actress, and you're going to be this famous, award-winning author."

Quinn tilts her head to the side. "We'll be a power couple, huh?"

"Oh, definitely," Rachel says with a happy smile.

"So, what, I'm the famous novelist, and you're this fabulous diva, and we wine and dine on the regular?" Quinn asks, indulging Rachel in this fantasy future.

Rachel nods. "But we're still going to have time to have a big family."

Quinn blinks in surprise, and then smiles widely. "How many are we talking here?"

"At least three," Rachel answers immediately. "Two boys and a girl."

"Are you going to make me coach Little League soccer?"

"You'll love it," Rachel teases. "And I'll bake cupcakes for the team."

Quinn gives her a speculative look.

"Or… you will," she says with a pout. "I make good cookies, Quinn."

Quinn says nothing, just sipping at her wine.

"You told me I make good cookies," she says. "Were you lying?"

Quinn sounds very serious when she says, "I would never lie to you about that, Rachel."

The severity of Quinn's tone gives Rachel pause, and she asks the question before she can stop herself. "But, you would about something else?"

Quinn doesn't immediately respond. "Tell me more about this life we're going to live," she says quietly.

Rachel gives her a curious look, but lets it go for now. She's just going to add it to the list of things they still have to talk about - which is growing longer and longer by the day.

"We're going to spend our summers in our beach house," Rachel eventually says, smiling widely.

"And Winter in the south of France," Quinn adds coyly.

"But, it won't matter where we are in the world," Rachel says; "as long as we're together."

Quinn feels something twist in her chest, and she suddenly knows pursuing this conversation was a terrible idea. Getting even a glimpse of the kind of future she could have with Rachel hurts in ways she never anticipated.

They could have this.

If Quinn were braver.

If Rachel were even remotely inclined to consider anything with a woman.

If losing their friendship was worth the risk of pushing for something more when the only sign Rachel would be remotely interested is this fake relationship they find themselves in.

Quinn clears her throat. "And, you would be happy?"

"The happiest," Rachel breathes, sounding almost wistful. "I think I've learned, through everything I've experienced and everything I've witnessed in my life, that success is wonderful, sure, but finding someone to love and having them love you in return is what this life is really all about."

Quinn clenches her jaw, and wills herself not do something unthinkable and start crying or anything ridiculous like that. "More important than winning a Tony, huh?" she asks, trying to alleviate some of the heaviness settling on her chest.

Rachel just smiles at her, and they settle into silence until their appetisers arrive moments later. It's essentially the same meal for both of them, though Quinn's has prosciutto where Rachel's has mushrooms.

"Vegans," Quinn teases with a roll of her eyes.

If there's any way to keep Rachel from talking, it's by feeding her good food, which is something Quinn has learned in the years they've been friends. It's taken them a while to get to this place in their relationship, and Quinn still counts herself lucky that Rachel ever deemed her worthy after everything she put the girl through in high school.

Rachel always assures her that she's been forgiven for all that, but it's something that constantly plagues Quinn because, even all these years later, she hasn't fully been able to forgive herself.

Quinn's therapist claims she'll never really be able to let it all go until she tells Rachel the true reasons behind all her bipolar behaviour towards her when they were younger.

When Quinn was still so far in denial, she didn't even know what she was denying.

When Quinn couldn't and wouldn't accept that there was something more to what Santana called her obsession with Rachel Berry.

An obsession that's landed her right here, feeling all these feelings for a woman who is only pretending to be in a relationship with another woman.

"This is so good," Rachel says, breaking into Quinn's thoughts. "I love these beets."

Quinn smiles knowingly. "The colour excites you, doesn't it?"

"It matches your blouse," Rachel says, her eyes unwittingly drifting down to admire the way Quinn's top hugs her upper body so snuggly.

"I know," Quinn says, and Rachel's eyes snap up, a blush tingeing her cheeks. "You like purple."

"I think it's my new favourite colour," Rachel says.

"Given up on the yellow, huh?"

She looks thoughtful for a moment. "I think so," she says. "Something about it seems… childish, almost, and I'm trying to be a grownup."

Quinn winks at her. "You'd have to grow a few more feet for that."

Rachel almost throws a carrot at her. "I get enough height jokes from Santana, thank you very much. I don't need them from you, as well."

Quinn smiles this smile that has warmth spreading through Rachel's entire body, and the brunette feels as if she's completely out of her depth. She always gets the feeling there's hidden meaning in every moment they spend together these days, and she keeps losing things in translation.

She's missing something, she knows - too many people have alluded to it over the last few weeks - but she honestly has no idea what that is.

"Quinn?"

"Hmm?"

Rachel watches as Quinn very carefully dabs at the corners of her perfect mouth with her napkin. "Can I ask you something?"

Quinn hesitates for a beat, and then nods. "What's up?"

Rachel takes a deep breath. "Why did you really agree to do this thing for me?"

"What thing?"

"This," she says. "This whole… ruse."

Quinn's nostrils flare at the word choice. She can't allow herself to forget this is all just an act to Rachel. It'll be too devastating if she allows herself to get wrapped up in how it feels to belong to the brunette.

"You needed me," Quinn says.

"This isn't exactly asking for a cup of sugar, Quinn," Rachel points out. "You didn't have to."

"You're right," Quinn says, and then lets them descend into silence when their waiter returns to collect their empty dishes. The conversation is a little stilted after he leaves with their next round of orders.

"I've always been fascinated by Ratatouille," Rachel says, looking thoughtful.

"The meal or the movie?" Quinn asks.

"Both, I guess," she answers with a grin. "You know, a lot of people think the rat's name is Ratatouille, when it's not."

"I know."

"You know?"

Quinn smiles softly. "It's Rémy."

Rachel almost jumps in her seat. "You do know."

"If you recall, Rach, you kind of made us watch a cartoon marathon when you and Jesse broke up."

"Animation," Rachel corrects with a pout. "And, I don't remember your complaining."

"I didn't," Quinn says.

How could she have complained when she had Rachel Berry burrowed against her side, seeking comfort and warmth? It was some of the worst and best days of Quinn's life, and she's still not sure she's ever recovered from the jarring sensation of her conflicted emotions: elation at the end of the relationship and heartache at Rachel's obvious heartbreak.

Rachel laughs softly. "While I binged kiddies' movies after my breakup, you binged - " she stops suddenly.

Quinn quirks an eyebrow. "Women and booze?" she finishes.

Rachel blushes, and looks to her right where people are whizzing past with trays and plates of food. She finds the inner workings of things to be fascinating, and this is no different.

"I guess we just deal with things differently," Rachel eventually says.

"I guess," Quinn agrees quietly. Then, because she's always been curious, she says, "I always got the feeling you were angry with me for that."

Rachel doesn't immediately respond, and she's relieved by the arrival of their main meal. She thanks the waiter with a kind smile, and then buys herself time by tasting the food in front of her.

Quinn waits patiently. She knows Rachel knows the observation won't be allowed to be avoided, so there's no rush.

Rachel gets to eat two bites of her divine Ratatouille before she responds to Quinn's words. They're opening up a can of worms Rachel doesn't think either of them is ready for, because the truth is she was angry with Quinn.

Still, she says, "I was worried for you." She takes a breath. "And, I suppose, a little disappointed."

Quinn flinches.

Rachel sighs. "I just - I guess I thought - "

"I would handle it better?"

"Something like that," Rachel murmurs around her forkful of food.

Quinn can't bring herself to eat. "Have you ever just wanted not to feel anything?" she asks.

Rachel doesn't answer either way.

"It's all I wanted," Quinn says, so quietly that Rachel strains to hear her. "I wanted all the pain and heartache and betrayal to stop, and I didn't know how else to do that without… destroying myself in the process." She sighs. "I've done that far too much in my past."

Rachel recalls all the various ways Quinn has tried to deal with her emotions, and she has to reason that a few one-night-stands aren't the worst way to get over a devastating breakup.

Because it was devastating.

Quinn wasn't herself for several months after her relationship with Julia ended, existing in a bit of a daze. She wasn't up for doing anything more than cooking and spending the evening in the apartment she eventually ended up living in when Julia was no longer there to co-sign the lease on the originally picked place.

God, the woman really fucked Quinn over.

Sometimes, Rachel gets the feeling Quinn hasn't ever really come back from the entire thing, a certain melancholy following her around as she navigates this new life she stepped into alone in New York City.

Except, well, she hasn't been alone.

Not even a little bit.

Rachel hasn't let her be, but even she has to admit they never used to spend this much time together before they started this entire arrangement. They were just two friends, who occasionally saw each other.

Now, well, they're in this pseudo-relationship, and Rachel hasn't seen so much of Quinn since high school.

And, back then, they weren't the kind of friends who would even do this. They're having dinner together, and that's something to marvel at, particularly if one was to look at all they've managed to conquer.

"I know you don't like to hear this, Quinn," Rachel says; "but I really am proud of you."

Quinn, almost predictably, ducks her head.

"I mean it," she says. "You've overcome so much, and look at you now. Just, look at you."

Quinn hesitantly lifts her head. "Do - do you think Beth would be proud?"

Rachel's heart breaks for her in this moment, and she reaches across the table to cover Quinn's hand with her own. "Of course," she says. "I think, you could tell her you know the lyrics to every One Direction song, and she would be ecstatic."

Quinn laughs. "I do not."

"You forget, Fabray, that I know all your secrets."

Quinn immediately sobers. "Not all of them," she says seriously, and Rachel feels a chill run up and then back down her spine.

"What don't I know?" she asks, frowning slightly.

Quinn smiles this sad smile that makes Rachel want to stand and hug her tightly. Quinn can't even meet her gaze, and she feels the weight of all the lies they've been telling each other settle heavily on her shoulders.

"Quinn?"

She sighs. "Did you know I'm allergic to walnuts?"

Rachel blinks once, twice, and then shakes her head. "I thought it was just bees?"

Quinn winces. "Those little fuckers."

Rachel giggles. "Do you remember - "

"I swear, if you mention the maple syrup incident, then I'm going to throw something at you."

She laughs properly this time. "You should have seen you."

"I almost died," Quinn says with a pout.

"You couldn't talk," Rachel says, still very amused.

"Rachel," she grouses. "It was horrible. Why are you laughing?"

"You were adorable."

Quinn huffs out a breath. "You're being a terrible date," she says, and then makes a show of returning to her dinner.

"I'm the best date," Rachel says, straightening in her seat.

"You're really not."

"Am too."

"My opinion is the one that counts here, Rach," she says; "and you're severely lacking."

"Ouch."

"I'm just saying."

Rachel looks comically wounded for a moment, and then her face takes on a determined expression. "You know what," she says; "just for that, I'm going to make this the best damn date you've ever been on."

Quinn makes the mistake of scoffing playfully and asking, "you reckon you can turn it around?" because she knows Rachel is competitive by nature.

Quinn should know she's in for it when the brunette leans forward, lays her palms flat on the table and says, "just you watch, Fabray. You're in for it."


For the most part, Quinn thinks she handles herself quite well, because, God, she is so not prepared for the moment Rachel turns on the charm.

Quinn is an attractive woman, and she's been flirted with countless times by both sexes, but she's honestly never felt so out of sorts being on the receiving end of someone's attention.

Rachel initially overshoots, asking all the cheesy date questions like so, you come here often? and what's your favourite food? but then she gets settled and their date… turns into a date.

The conversation flows easily - easier than it has all evening - and Quinn can practically feel all her good sense escaping her body as Rachel compliments and teases and lightly touches with warm fingers.

Rachel asks, "Are you going to be at my opening night?" with the kind of vulnerability Quinn hasn't heard from her since they were college freshmen, and Quinn knows she's done for.

There's really no escaping this.

She was never over Rachel - as much as she tried to convince herself - and she's definitely not helping herself by sitting here and doing this.

It's just going to make it hurt even more.

"Of course," Quinn says, smiling softly. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."

"It's almost here," Rachel says, shaking her head. "December is like tomorrow."

Quinn smiles behind her wine glass. "How are the tickets selling, anyway? I remember Tom mentioning he was a little worried, because it's a fresh face and a new play."

Rachel blushes. "I hear it's going quite well, actually."

"Do I have to buy my own ticket?"

"Of course not," she says. "I already have your ticket ready to go. Front row, with all the other important people in my life."

Quinn feels her heart skip a beat, which is just the most cliché thing to happen to her. "Are you expecting flowers?" she manages to ask.

"Of course," she says, smiling brightly. "After this super amazing date we're currently on, I would expect nothing less."

Quinn shakes her head, smiling slightly. "I'll make note of that," she says, almost secretively. "Any particular kind?"

"I'm quite partial to the gardenia."

"Oh yeah?"

Rachel smiles through a nod. "It's kind of our flower, isn't it?"

"It is," Quinn agrees.

"They've always reminded me of you."

Quinn arches an eyebrow. "Because of their meaning, or because of the way they look?"

Rachel blinks slowly. "Both," she confesses quietly.

Quinn has known the meaning behind the gardenia from the moment she Googled it after learning that Rachel was the one responsible for her corsage their junior year of high school. It was a shock, and she felt slightly betrayed by both her and Finn - which proves to be a feeling that never quite dissipates, even all these years later - but Quinn got over it.

Kind of.

"Both," Quinn echoes, suddenly thoughtful. "Purity and joy," she murmurs, and then audibly swallows because this is touching on something that's been unspoken for many, many years. "And secret love," she whispers, her voice barely audible.

Rachel feels the shift in the air, her own heart beating irregularly. "Beauty and love, too," she adds when the atmosphere grows too heavy. "Which you are, Quinn: beautiful and just so, so lovely."

Quinn wants to tell her to stop saying things like that. Even if this is supposedly a date, it hurts her when Rachel says these things to her… because she doesn't mean them.

Quinn has to remind herself of that truth, because it would be so easy to lose herself in all of this.

In this fantasy.

She can't decide if getting a taste of what it could be like with Rachel is worth all the heartache that's surely to come. Is this what Santana warned her about?

Or, was it Kurt?

The worst part is that Quinn knew what she was getting herself into. She was convinced she would be able to handle it and, yet, here she is, sitting across from the one woman with the power to -

To ruin her.

"Quinn," Rachel says softly, her hands shaking under the table. "It's not a secret anymore."

"What?"

"My love," she says, and Quinn feels the weight of this moment begin to suffocate her. "For you. It's not a secret anymore."

Quinn sucks in a breath, and can't help but think Mine is.

"You know that, right?" Rachel presses. "I love you."

Quinn closes her eyes for a long moment, willing herself not to react too… strongly in this moment.

She wants to run.

She wants to hide away somewhere and try to forget anything to do with the way Rachel Berry makes her feel.

Even if it's everything she's ever wanted.

Just, having Rachel look at her as if any of this could be real means more to her than Quinn could probably feasibly explain - even written down - and the worst part is that it's going to end.

It's not real.

"I know," Quinn eventually says. "I know, Rachel."

Sometimes, Rachel doesn't think Quinn does, but there's nothing more she can say to convince her, when she's not even sure the extent to which her feelings go.


Rachel wouldn't go so far as to call it awkward, but it is.

The entire night has been this strange mixture of tension that is threatening to reach a boiling point, and Rachel doesn't know how she's supposed to turn down the temperature without burning either one of them.

Or, both of them.

"Want to take a walk?" Rachel asks as they're leaving the restaurant, decidedly not touching each other, at all. She wants to reach for Quinn's hand, but she feels something disjointed, as if there's been some kind of shift in their relationship, and she doesn't recall when it happened.

Maybe it's been happening all along, and she's just now noticing.

If she looks hard enough, what else is she going to see?

She gets the feeling from nearly everyone that she's missing something important, but she doesn't know what it is, and she's too afraid to ask someone to tell her. She knows it's to do with Quinn, but she's always been a little wary of anything involving the blonde.

They've managed to come this far in their relationship, and the truth of that still fascinates her.

Quinn fascinates her.

"A walk?" Quinn questions softly, absently glancing at her wrist for the time.

Rachel hesitates. "Do you have an early start tomorrow?"

Quinn merely shakes her head, and then slips her right hand into Rachel's left, interlacing their fingers with the kind of ease that's synonymous with their relationship, fake or not. "We can walk," she says, and then starts them doing just that.

Rachel takes out her phone with her own right hand and rolls her eyes at what she sees. "Denny finally got back to me," she says, showing Quinn her phone's screen.

Denise Carpenter: It seems the situation with Patrick is a little more serious than originally anticipated. It seems we're going to have to reschedule, but we do sincerely hope you two had a lovely evening ;)

Quinn laughs softly. "Are all you theatre people like this?"

"I don't know if that's an insult or not," Rachel says with a pout.

Quinn squeezes her fingers. "You should tell her we did have a lovely evening," she says.

Rachel eyes her carefully. "Did we?"

Quinn's expression falters slightly. "Kind of," she confesses. "I get the feeling something is amiss, but that could just be me."

"It's not just you."

Quinn traps her bottom lip between her teeth, and Rachel finds her gaze drifting down to her mouth. "Maybe we're just having an off night," Quinn says. "It happens, you know? We did used to clash a lot, and we've been doing so well for so long, so it might be on the cards for us."

Rachel raises her eyebrows. "Are you trying to say this is like the seven-year, uh, something?"

Quinn laughs, her head titling back. "Have we really been friends for seven years?"

"Round about," Rachel says. "I count from our senior year of high school."

"Oh?"

"Where do you count from?" she asks. Then, because she's Rachel, she adds, "If you count, at all."

"Do we have some kind of friendiversary?"

"I don't have an exact date," Rachel says, sounding entirely too serious about it. Even disappointed.

Quinn can't stop herself from releasing Rachel's hand and wrapping an arm around the brunette's shoulders. She pulls her close against her side, and presses a kiss to Rachel's temple. "God, you're adorable."

Rachel feels herself blush, even as her left arm automatically snakes around Quinn's thin waist. "I could probably figure it out, you know?" she says. "There are a lot of important dates from that year."

Quinn hums thoughtfully. "Which ones?"

Rachel knows to be wary of where this conversation could lead, because their senior year is something they very rarely talk about. Too many things happened, and they definitely don't bring up Finn Hudson or the would-be wedding.

Either way, those dates are burned in her brain.

Rachel remembers the day he proposed, because it's also the day she realised that Quinn Fabray was more important to her than nearly every other person (she wasn't related to, at least).

At the time, Rachel didn't put much stock into the fact that Quinn was the first person she went to when she couldn't decide either way. There was also a part of her that actually hurt at the idea of Quinn being in New Haven and not… New York.

Rachel didn't even know how it happened, but Quinn became this person in her life. Back then, she resisted it and fought against it until -

Until the mistake she was about to make by marrying her high school boyfriend ended up with her pseudo-best friend in a wheelchair.

Now, that date will forever stay with Rachel. Every year, it haunts her in the worst ways, and she always needs to spend the day with Quinn, regardless of what she has going on.

Quinn always indulges her, dropping everything to be with Rachel.

"Do you remember the day you told me we were 'kind of' friends?" Rachel hesitantly ventures.

Quinn nods. "I do," she says. "It's really hard being a teenage girl, isn't it?"

Rachel laughs. "I think we all deserve awards for surviving those years relatively unscathed."

Quinn bumps her forehead against the side of Rachel's head. "Speak for yourself," she teases. "I've been in therapy ever since."

Rachel turns her head to look at Quinn's face. "And, I'm so proud of you," she says. "I remember how… lost you used to be, and look at how far you've come."

Quinn sucks in a breath. "I'm still a work in progress, you know?"

"I think we're always going to be, Quinn," she says. "We're still young, and there's so much life left to live."

Quinn arches an eyebrow. "Hello there, Hallmark card," she teases lightly.

"I'm just telling you the truth," she says. "Nobody's perfect, Quinn."

"And, hello there, Jessie J," she says. "Or, would you prefer Hannah Montana?"

Rachel stares at her for a moment. "Do I even want to know how you know that?"

Quinn shrugs. "Beth," she provides as an answer, and it's more than enough for Rachel.

Rachel just squeezes her gently, and they fall into comfortable silence as they walk. Neither one of them makes a move to release the other, and Quinn accepts she's just doomed to suffer through Rachel's particular brand of affection for the rest of her life.

God, is she going to feel this for the rest of her days?

Quinn reasons that it'll eventually pass. It has to, because Quinn doesn't know how much more of this she can take.

She hopes - hopes beyond hopes - that it'll fade before Rachel finds herself in another relationship, because Quinn has suffered years of watching her be with other people, and she doesn't know how she'll get through any more of that.

Particularly after they've been through all of this.

Almost without her say-so, her grip on Rachel tightens, and she has the sudden urge never to let go. Like, if she releases her now, it's going to be for forever.

Rachel feels the sudden tension in Quinn's body, and she glances curiously at her, surprised to find the blonde's expression pained. Without thinking about it, Rachel tilts her head upwards and kisses the underside of Quinn's jaw. She inhales deeply, the scent of Quinn's skin making her a little lightheaded.

It's always been something that's fascinated her. Quinn has a very specific smell, and she's always wondered about it.

"Rachel," Quinn whispers.

"Hmm?"

"What are you doing?"

Rachel shifts slightly, but doesn't move away. "I'm trying to figure out what you smell like."

Quinn's eyes widen comically. "Should I be calling you Jean-Baptiste Grenouille?"

"Who?"

Quinn chuckles softly. "Stop being creepy," she says, pecking the tip of Rachel's nose. "You're cute, but don't push it."

Rachel leans back, breathing out slowly. "You think I'm cute?"

"And, now, you're just fishing for compliments, Tinkerbell."

Rachel beams at her, her eyes lighting up. "I live for it, Fabray," she says. "It's my lifeblood."

"So dramatic," Quinn quips, glancing over Rachel's head at the slow-moving traffic.

"Don't sound so surprised," Rachel says. "You know me."

Quinn gives her a look that Rachel doesn't quite understand, and then asks, "Did you reply to Denny?"

Rachel almost reels at the subject change. "Uhm, no," she answers, fully aware that Quinn already knows she hasn't texted Denny back.

Quinn hums softly. "I did have a lovely evening," she says. "I especially enjoyed getting to meet the chef. People in the food industry have always fascinated me."

Rachel presses her lips together. "Is that a career you might have considered?"

"What? Becoming a chef?"

"Yes."

"Maybe," Quinn allows with a slight shrug. "I considered a lot things when I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do."

"Like what?"

She tilts her head to the side, and almost trips on the uneven ground. "I actually wanted to be a doctor at some point."

Rachel can't help but wonder why she didn't already know that. "Really?"

"After the accident, and after spending all that time in the hospital and in recovery, becoming a healthcare professional really interested me."

Rachel swallows audibly, hating the reminder of the day Quinn could have been lost to the world. "So, why didn't you pursue it?"

"I figured out it wasn't really my… passion," she says. "I discussed it with Santana, and the way she talked about it wasn't what I felt. I never quite viewed it the way you did with Broadway, and that was important in helping me decide."

"On pursuing writing?"

"I was always a writer," she says. "I started at a very young age, scribbling down little snippets about my various imaginary friends." She blushes at the confession. "It kind of blossomed from there, I guess. I wrote poetry and limericks, and then I wrote short stories when I wasn't journaling.

"I used to write about this fantastical life where I had a family that loved and cared about me; where I wasn't such a crushing disappointment, and where I wasn't so terrified of - " she stops suddenly.

"Of what?"

"Being myself, I guess."

Rachel gets the sense there's more to it, but she's not going to push. "And, you get to be yourself now?"

Quinn's smile is a little on the sad side. "I'm trying," she says.

"All I've ever wanted was for you to be happy."

Quinn brings them to a stop on the sidewalk, and draws her into a proper hug, the fronts of their bodies pressing together. She doesn't say anything, because she doesn't know what she can even say.

She wants to be happy too, but she can't shake the feeling that Rachel is the only one with the power to make sure of that.


"Stay the night."

For the most part, Quinn doesn't know why she says the words, but Rachel is currently standing in her living room, looking slightly unsure, and Quinn doesn't want her to leave. She doesn't want this night to end, because they'll have to go back to reality in the morning, and she just wants to pretend for a little while longer.

Rachel doesn't even hesitate. "Okay."

They've established a bit of a routine by now, and they fall into it easily. Rachel's dress gets hung up in Quinn's closet, and she changes into the sweats Quinn silently hands her. She even has her own toothbrush in Quinn's bathroom, and the mere thought of it spreads warmth throughout her body.

"Do you need anything from the kitchen?" Quinn asks as she pops her head into her bedroom, smiling at the sight of Rachel crawling into her bed.

"Some water, please," Rachel says, settling into her side of the bed and reaching for her phone. She has a message from Denny and several from Santana. There's one from Jasmine, another from Alec and a handful from both her fathers.

She's too exhausted to reply to any of them, so she just makes sure to set her alarm and then sets the phone on the nightstand, just as Quinn comes back in, a bottle of water in each hand.

"All locked up?" Rachel asks.

Quinn nods. "Lights off and everything," she confirms, handing a bottle to Rachel. Then, because she can, she says, "You better drink your own."

"But yours tastes so much better."

Quinn just rolls her eyes, and then climbs into bed beside her. It takes her a moment to get comfortable, but she eventually settles, feeling her body begin to relax, even if it's far too aware of the other person in the bed with her.

"Goodnight, Quinn," Rachel says into the dark room, her left hand searching for and finding Quinn's right between their bodies.

Quinn gives the hand she's now properly holding a gentle squeeze, smiling at the warmth she finds. "Goodnight, Rachel."

They descend into silence for a few minutes, even though neither of them is near sleep. Quinn can practically hear Rachel thinking, and she's sorely tempted to ask her what's on her mind.

Almost inevitably, Rachel is the one to break the silence. "Tell me the truth," she whispers. "Did you actually have a lovely evening, or were you just saying that?"

Quinn can hear the vulnerability in her voice, so she rolls onto her side to face Rachel, smiling even though the brunette probably can't see it. "I had a good time, Rachel," she says softly. "I promise."

"Are you sure?" Rachel asks, also rolling over and shifting closer.

"I'm sure," Quinn says. Then, because it's niggling at her, she asks, "Why are you so concerned about it?"

"I - I just want you to have had a nice night."

"I did," she assures her. "Now, stop worrying about it, okay? I like spending time with you, and the food was really good. It's not like it's a chore for me, you know?"

Rachel shifts slightly closer. "I just - I don't see what you get out of this," she says.

"Free meals," Quinn offers lightly.

"I'm serious, Quinn," she says. "What do you get out of helping me?"

Quinn sighs. "I get to help you," she says. "Isn't that enough?"

"I don't know," she says; "is it?"

"It is for me," Quinn confesses, and she can almost convince herself she means it. Maybe not today, but it's going to be enough one day, and she can only hold out for that day… that she hopes is closer than she thinks.

She needs it to arrive.

Yesterday.

"I guess, sometimes, I feel as if I owe you," Rachel carefully admits.

"You don't," Quinn says, because she really doesn't need Rachel going around doing nice things in an attempt to make it up to her or something ridiculous like that. She barely survived this evening, so she really doesn't need Rachel devoting unnecessary attention towards her.

But.

It almost feels as if Rachel wants to.

"I get to spend all this extra time with you," Quinn says. "What more do I need?"

Rachel hums quietly. "We have been spending a lot of time together, haven't we?"

"Is that a bad thing?" Quinn asks, almost playfully.

"It's the best thing," Rachel says. "I love spending time with you."

"You just like that I cook for you."

"That, too," she muses. "But, I really do just like hanging out with you. Talking to you. Not talking to you. Just, being with you."

Quinn's breath catches slightly, and she's really not ready for any of this. "You like being with me," Quinn finds herself saying, echoing Rachel's sentiment.

Rachel reaches up with her right hand and cups Quinn's cheek. "So much," she agrees. "I don't know what I would do without you."

"You'd be fine," Quinn automatically says.

"Maybe," Rachel allows. "I probably would be fine, but I wouldn't be this."

Quinn frowns. "This?"

"This," Rachel says, sliding gentle fingers into Quinn's soft hair. "Exactly this."

Quinn doesn't really need her to say the word, because she already knows.

Rachel means it.

It's undeniable.

She's happy.

Chapter Text

XII

"All I'm saying is one of you should have called me," Kurt says for what must be the hundredth time since he and Blaine plowed through Quinn's front door at eight o'clock on Friday evening, takeout and alcohol in tow.

Quinn is spread out on her couch, smiling lazily as she sips at her wine. "Kurt," she says; "stop whining, would you? It doesn't suit you."

"Makes him sound like one of the Teletubbies, doesn't it?" Blaine offers, and he's clearly very drunk, because he wouldn't normally say something like that.

Kurt gasps. "My own boyfriend!" He throws a cushion at where Blaine is spread out on the floor, but it misses spectacularly. Kurt looks at Quinn. "Now, everybody's turned against me," he whines.

Quinn rolls her eyes. "God, you're such a diva."

"I would have totally slapped her," Kurt declares. "And, then, maybe given her some kind of truth serum, so we can finally figure out just what her deal is."

Quinn downs the remainder of her wine, and then slowly shifts into an upright position. "If I'm being honest," she starts; "right now, Julia Fairchild is literally the furthest thing from my mind."

"Oh?"

Quinn audibly swallows. "Rachel… is… acting weird."

Kurt braces himself, even as Blaine asks, "Weirder than normal?"

Both Quinn and Kurt shoot him a heated look, and he winces, immediately ducking his head.

Kurt clears his throat. "What kind of weird?" he asks Quinn.

Quinn meets his gaze from behind her glasses. "It's as if she's fighting against something," she says, frowning slightly. "Fighting against me."

Kurt drops his gaze.

"Am I reading it wrong?" she asks, and she hates how vulnerable she sounds. "Everything just feels as if it's… unravelling, and I don't know what to do to stop it. What's happening, Kurt? I don't know what's happening."

Kurt feels helpless, and he hates that he knows what he knows. It would be easy to tell Quinn that Rachel is probably trying to work through her confusing feelings about her, but he knows he can't. It would be betraying Rachel, and it would be giving Quinn false hope that she really doesn't need.

"I'm - I'm - " Quinn starts and stops.

"What?"

"I'm in trouble, Kurt," she whispers.

Kurt leans forward, trying to offer her something, anything. He doesn't know what to say to make any of it better.

"Kurt?"

"Hmm?"

"What do I do?"

He's been trying to tell her - he's been telling them both - but he thinks it's too late now. Quinn won't be able to end it, which is why he's been pushing Rachel to do it. They can't keep doing this.

They're just going to hurt each other.

They're already hurting each other.

"I don't know," Kurt eventually says, which is the truth.

Blaine pipes up from the floor, recovering from his earlier rebuke, and says, "You could just tell her the truth."

This time, when Quinn throws a cushion at him, she doesn't miss.


"We're going on a double date."

Rachel actually trips over her own feet - clad in the insane high heels her character has to wear for the upcoming scene - when Frankie says the words right in her ear.

"Well, that's what Jasmine says," Frankie adds a moment later. "When are you and Quinn free?"

Rachel opens her mouth, and then closes it. Asking her about Quinn is a bit of a problem at the moment, because she really doesn't know if Quinn would be free, and she doesn't know if she can ask Quinn to do anything more for her.

The two of them haven't seen each other in a few days - since that fateful Thursday night that they went on their pretend date - because they've both been very busy.

At least, that's what Quinn tells her.

Rachel gets the feeling Quinn is actually avoiding her, but she's never going to ask. She's not brave enough to know what the answer is. Something very specific is happening between them, and she can't be sure what it is, exactly.

"Rachel?" Frankie questions, eyeing her curiously. "Is everything okay?"

Rachel just about manages to smile at him, unable to conjure up a lie to placate his worry. He should be worried, because she's worried, and she doesn't know how to go about alleviating it.

Well.

She has an idea that she may or may not see through, based on how much work they can get done today. All the scenes are coming together nicely, even with the costumes and props.

The problem Elliot seems to be having is making sure the stage transformations work seamlessly with the scene changes. The set, itself, is minimilast in design, so it should come together easily.

Rachel rather enjoys being told what to do, and then doing it. Elliot once told her she takes direction well, and she couldn't help thinking back to Mr Schuester, who would probably disagree with him.

The difference, Rachel muses, is that Elliot is actually competent as a director, and that's that about that.

"Did I tell you we ran into Quinn's ex?" Rachel starts, just trying to help herself make sense of what she's feeling. "The roommate. Julia."

Frankie's eyes widen. "Oh?"

"Things have been a little… weird since then," she confesses. "I know I shouldn't, but I can't help feeling threatened, and it's manifesting in my, uh, acting as if I don't trust her. Which I do. Of course, I do. I just - I can't help it."

"Are you fighting?"

Rachel frowns. "I think the problem is we're not fighting," she explains. "We do a lot better when we can just yell at each other, but everything that's going unspoken now, and it's just making it worse."

Frankie opens his mouth to say something, but Elliot's voice interrupts them, telling them to take their places. "We'll talk later," he assures her, and then Rachel allows herself to fall into her character, blissfully forgetting her troubles for a few hours.


Rachel and Frankie don't get the chance to talk.

As soon as Elliot lets them go, Jasmine steals him away, and Rachel gathers her things to make the trek towards Columbia's campus.

She wants to see Quinn.

She misses Quinn.

Rachel doesn't bother trying to call or text Quinn, because she suspects she'll get a reply only later tonight when Quinn is crawling into bed. It's been that kind of week, she guesses, and she expects to find Quinn buried in paperwork or hounded by students.

What she finds is neither of those things.

Quinn is in her office, yes, casually sitting on Jason's desk as she, said boy and another girl watch some YouTube video on Jason's screen. Quinn is laughing gloriously, and Rachel can't help the flash of… jealousy she feels at the sight of the other girl's hand on Quinn's shoulder.

It takes a moment for them to notice Rachel, and Quinn really doesn't react the way Rachel expects. Instead of her smile fading and her body tensing, Quinn's smile widens and she immediately slips off the desk, practically skipping towards Rachel.

"Hello, you," Quinn says, pulling her into a hug. "I didn't expect to see you. What are you doing here?"

Rachel feels a little off-kilter, but she soaks up Quinn's warmth that's wrapped around her, trying to settle herself. "I figured you would skip out on dinner, so I thought I would treat you. Think you can spare a half hour?"

"For you, of course," Quinn automatically says, and then releases her, moving to fetch her coat and purse from behind her desk. "Oh, Rach, this is Lizzie," Quinn says, almost offhandedly. "She's from the office next door. Liz, this is Rachel, my best friend in the entire world." Her grin is entirely too adorable. "Jason, Rachel, you two know each other."

Rachel smiles at the boy, even if she doesn't care much for him. She doesn't like the way he looks at Quinn. Now that she thinks of it, she also doesn't like the way this Liz girl looks at Quinn, either.

Quinn interrupts her thoughts when she appears in front of her, smiling warmly. "I'm so glad you're here," she says. "I missed you."

Rachel's focus stays on Quinn, and she doesn't know what she's ever been worried about, all of a sudden. "Ready to go?"

Quinn nods, and then glances over her shoulder. "Jase, see you later," she says. "Liz, if I don't see you, have a good night." And then they're going, Quinn's hand automatically slipping into Rachel's.

The brunette can't help feeling smug as Quinn leads her out of the office, and she even chances a glance back at the pair, unsurprised to find slight scowls on both their faces.

Because she has all of Quinn's attention, and that doesn't seem to dissipate, even as they walk a few blocks east towards one of Quinn's favourite cafés. It's also a place that has vegan options, which Rachel appreciates.

They find a booth easily enough, and the waiter greets Quinn as if he knows her. Which, in hindsight, he probably does, based on the number of times Rachel assumes Quinn comes here.

"Hi, Luis," Quinn says. "I'll just have my usual, please, and this lady over here will have, um, number three on the vegan menu. Can we also get some water? Still, please."

Luis grins at her. "I'll get right on it," he declares, and Rachel imagines he really will.

Quinn looks at Rachel. "I hope you don't mind I ordered for you," she says unnecessarily. "It just seems easier to skip to what we both know what was going to happen."

Rachel sticks out her tongue for a moment, and then smiles.

Quinn sighs heavily. "I feel like I haven't seen you in forever."

"We've been busy."

Quinn drops her gaze, and Rachel doesn't miss the flash of guilt in her eyes. "I suppose we have," she murmurs. It's silent for several seconds, and then Quinn lifts her head slightly and smiles at her. "I have something to tell you."

"Oh?"

"I think I finally decided on a topic I want to pursue for my Doctorate."

Rachel leans forward, showing her interest in whatever Quinn has to say. She momentarily flashes back to the number of times she's unconsciously moved closer to Quinn, in an attempt to -

To what?

Just, get closer.

She's distinctly aware that she's never wanted to be too far away from Quinn, and that's a truth that settles lightly on her chest. It doesn't even feel as if it weighs anything. It's just a thing - the sky is blue and Rachel likes having Quinn close - so she doesn't spend too much time dwelling on what it could possibly mean.

Rachel remembers pushing hard, but not really at the same time, for Quinn to come to Columbia for Graduate School. Santana and Kurt helped, as well, and Rachel liked to think it was always a sure thing, if only she didn't get the sense that Julia was just waiting to exert whatever power she liked to think she had over Quinn and thwart all their plans.

It bothers Rachel, sometimes, that Julia's plans not to come to New York didn't involve Quinn. She's not upset about it, by any means, but Rachel was convinced that whatever the woman had in play was going to result in Quinn not coming to New York either.

And yet, here Quinn Fabray sits, smiling lopsidedly at her with twinkling eyes and pink cheeks.

Rachel can't stop herself from thinking just how perfect Quinn is like this. She seems lighter, somehow, even happy. It's not something that Quinn generally allows herself to be, and Rachel likes to think she gets to see a lot more of it than the average person.

As if Quinn is happier when she's with her.

It's a slightly wild, conceited thought, but Rachel really can't help it. She thinks it's a thought that could possibly help her work through all her own confusing feelings about their relationship.

Their friendship.

For a second, all she wants to do is ask Quinn how she feels. It would be so easy to ask if the woman is dealing with anything Rachel is. Does Quinn have any confusing feelings? Is Quinn attracted to her? Could she be?

Rachel recognises that, even if Quinn were struggling through phantom feelings; she wouldn't have the added bonus of trying to deal with her sexuality on top of everything. Quinn is settled on that front, preferring women to men and unafraid of it.

Until these past few weeks, Rachel was pretty sure she was set for life, as well. But, apparently not, if her stomach does somersaults whenever Quinn looks at her like that.

Like this.

As if nobody else even exists in the entire world.

"I was toying with quite a few topics," Quinn says, oblivious to Rachel's inner monologue. "I've dealt a lot with… sexuality in the past."

Rachel knows this. A lot of her Undergrad was based in gay and women's rights, and Quinn wrote her final-year paper on the LGBT community at Yale. She throws herself into things so wholeheartedly, and it's one of the things Rachel admires about her.

"For my Doctorate, I'm planning on tackling mother/daughter relationships," Quinn says, looking slightly guilty again.

"Oh?"

"With a focus on, well, adoption, as well as the role it can play on those relationships."

Rachel blinks, suddenly unsure what to say. "That's…" She really doesn't know what to say, and it shows.

Quinn winces slightly, and then leans back when Luis returns with their drinks.

"Food should be out in a few minutes," he assures them, and then disappears after receiving a grateful smile from Quinn.

Rachel can't bring herself to react or say or do anything, and the silence is turning awkward.

Quinn clears her throat, and then sips at her usual cappuccino. She's going to need all the caffeine she can get to make it through the rest of the night. She has an endless amount of marking due, and Kylie has been wanting her fourth chapter edits sent in since Monday.

Quinn didn't even realise she needed to see Rachel until she saw her. She kind of wants to reach out and touch her now, reassure her somehow, but she just focuses on her drink until Rachel recovers from whatever is happening to her right now.

It takes another thirty-seven seconds, but Rachel eventually settles. She doesn't even know why she's reacting this way. She's buried all her confused feelings when it comes to Shelby and, honestly, she really doesn't need to be dealing with that when she's still trying to figure out if she finds Quinn attractive, or if she's actually attracted to her.

Looking at her now, Rachel can see how absolutely gorgeous the woman before her is. Aesthetically, she's stunning.

She's grace, personified. Elegance in every way, and Rachel has always been slightly jealous of how natural she is at everything. It's just not fair, and this is the first time Rachel acknowledges that her jealousy hasn't always been aimed at Quinn.

It's been directed at… people… around Quinn.

She remembers watching Quinn in high school, and wishing she would smile at her the way she did at Brittany or even at Mike whenever he did something dorky. She remembers wishing Quinn would link arms with her whenever she saw her giggling with Mercedes.

That hasn't changed over the years. She feels irrationally jealous whenever she hears that Quinn has had dinner with Kurt and Blaine or lunch with Santana. She thinks it's because she just doesn't like being left out, but she knows that's not it. The feelings don't arise when she knows Santana and Kurt are bitching over wine.

It's Quinn.

Of course, it's Quinn.

"I thought you wanted to tackle something not so personal," Rachel eventually says.

"I thought about it," Quinn says; "but I realised that I would lose authenticity if I were to do that, and I'm not willing to risk it. My writing is its best when I'm real and true."

Rachel has no qualms against reaching across the table and taking hold of her hand, squeezing it gently. "Did I tell you how proud I am of you?"

Quinn, predictably, blushes, and Rachel is so charmed, she can barely breathe.

Thankfully, Luis chooses that moment to arrive, and the two of them settle in to eat in silence. Rachel watches from beneath her lashes as Quinn very carefully cuts up her food and prepares her perfect forkfuls.

She's so stinking cute, absently humming to herself after every bite. Rachel's sure Quinn even does a little dance in her seat, and Rachel really just wants to keep touching her in some way.

Just to make sure she's real.

"Quinn?"

Quinn dabs at her mouth with her napkin before she says, "Yes?"

"I have to tell you something," she says, somewhat nervously. "It's about Frankie and Jasmine."

"Oh?"

"They want to go on a double date with us."

Quinn blinks slowly. "A double date?"

Rachel nods. "With us."

"What did you say?"

"That I would talk to you first."

Quinn drops her gaze, and then hesitantly asks, "Do you think that's a good idea?"

"What?" she questions. "Asking you first."

Quinn gives her a significant look, and Rachel blushes.

"Right," Rachel murmurs. "The date. Do you not want to go?"

"Don't do that," Quinn says, and the air grows uncomfortable. "You haven't even asked me."

Rachel can't tell what she's done wrong, but she knows it's something. She straightens in her seat, and looks at Quinn's face. "I did tell them I would ask you first," she says. "So, this is my asking. Would you like to go on a double date with me, Frankie and Jasmine?"

Quinn clenches her jaw, visibly thinking. "This has nothing to do with the theatre?"

"It's really just us hanging out with my friends," Rachel says. "We can even just go as friends, you know? Nothing has to be pretend."

"They think we're a couple, Rach."

"I just - I don't want you to be uncomfortable," Rachel says. "I just want to spend time with you, without there having to be some - "

"Some what?"

"Pretence," she whispers. "I want just one thing to be real."

Quinn frowns, clearly not following. "What are you talking about?"

Rachel can't actually look at her. "Please will you just say yes."

Quinn already knows she was always going to say yes. She just doesn't like the assumption, and Rachel knows that. "Okay," Quinn says.

"Okay?"

Quinn just smiles as she nods, and then returns her attention to her food. They eat in silence for a while, allowing the discomfort to bleed out of the air until Quinn feels the tension leave her body.

By the time Quinn orders them some vegan brownies to share, they're back to chatting about nothing important.

Like, whether Rachel would ever just pick up her entire life and move somewhere completely foreign, or whether Quinn would consider naming any pet she gets Crookshanks.

Rachel probably wouldn't - she's dreamed of living in New York her entire life - and Quinn definitely would - because, come on, why wouldn't she?

When Quinn eventually has to get back to her office, Rachel walks with her, their arms linked. This part has always been easy with Quinn, and she's relieved that she hasn't ruined things completely.

Rachel walks her all the way to her office door, and they can both tell the light is still on. She really doesn't want to leave, and Quinn must sense it, because she says, "Do you want to hang out for a while?" and Rachel immediately agrees.

Jason lifts his gaze when they enter, and Quinn hands him the bag of brownies that she bought for him. He's obviously surprised, but he smiles in thanks and then pretends to ignore them when Quinn steals a chair from one of the empty desks and drags it to position it right beside hers.

Rachel has always found the way Quinn concentrates fascinating. She has this intensity to her that makes her so, so attractive, and Rachel hasn't really been afforded the opportunity to study her this way before.

Quinn has her alphabetising her students' papers according to their student numbers to keep her occupied, and Rachel revels in trying to distract the blonde as much as possible. She doesn't actually say anything, but Quinn is particularly susceptible to Rachel stretching her arms across her line of sight and Rachel dragging her feet along Quinn's calves.

God, she's actually playing footsie with Quinn.

Quinn keeps pinching her forearm to get her to stay focused, and Rachel can't stop herself from kissing her cheek in response.

Quinn smiles this lazy, content smile, and then pinches her again.

They're acting like children, Rachel knows, but it's probably the most fun she's had all week. She's missed moments like this with Quinn, and she doesn't even read too much into the fact that she rests her hand on Quinn's thigh whenever she wants to get her attention.

Quinn's breathing keeps catching, and Rachel is pretty sure the blonde is blushing. She's not going to read too much into it, even if she desperately wants to.

Quinn pinches her forearm again, and then asks, "When are we going on this date?"

"I have no idea," she says, immediately taking out her phone to text Frankie. "It'll probably be some time this weekend. Are you free on Saturday?"

Quinn hums, slightly distracted by what's on her right computer screen. She has two of them. Well, she has her laptop, and then a second screen connected via HDMI.

"Quinn?"

"Hmm?"

"Saturday?"

Quinn looks at her. "Oh, yeah, uh, I can do the afternoon," she says. "Sorry, my mom just emailed about Thanksgiving. She wants me to book my ticket home to land on Tuesday morning, so she has to make only one trip to Columbus, because my sister is arriving then."

Rachel blinks slowly, because she's completely forgotten that Thanksgiving is -

Wait.

It's next week.

"You're not going home, are you?" Quinn asks.

"No, we'll be rehearsing right through," she says. "Previews are the following week, and then it's opening night. I doubt I'm going to get much more than Thursday off."

Quinn gasps dramatically. "Not even Black Friday?"

"I know," she says with a pout. "I think Kurt is going to be more heartbroken than I am."

"Oh, definitely," Quinn agrees. "He and Blaine are also staying, right?"

Rachel nods. "It's just you and San heading home, as far as I know."

"You'll get the apartment all to yourself," Quinn offers a silver lining.

Rachel still pouts. "I'm going to miss you."

Quinn looks at her properly then, turning her upper body and meeting Rachel's gaze. "I'll be back before you know it," she says, and then she's the one to kiss Rachel's cheek. "And, really, don't envy me or anything, because I'm the one who has to spend an awkward weekend with my family."

Rachel winces. "How are things with Frannie?"

Quinn shrugs. "Better, these days, but she kind of married a clone of my father, so our relationship can only go so far when her idiot husband, Doug, believes I'm a sinner and should burn in Hell for deigning to lie with a woman."

Rachel's eyes widen. "That sounds horrible."

"I almost want to invite Santana over, just to see if he'll actually combust."

Rachel giggles softly. "Oh, I would pay good money to see that."

Quinn hums. "Any word from Frankie?"

"Hmm?"

"The date."

"Oh." She looks at her phone to see that Frankie has actually replied. "Apparently, there's this open-air cinema they're hosting at Central Park this weekend. Are you interested?"

Quinn smiles. "Sounds good," she says. "But, fuck, we're going to freeze."

"I'll keep you warm," Rachel says unthinkingly.

Quinn raises her eyebrows. "Yeah?"

Rachel blushes, but still manages to nod. "Yeah."

Quinn audibly swallows. "It's the least you can do, huh?" she says, trying for levity.

Rachel pokes her in the ribs. "Be nice."

"I am nice."

"That's what you think, but I know better," Rachel says, and then immediately panics at the suddenly stricken look on Quinn's face. "What?"

"You don't really think that, do you?" Quinn asks, and her voice sounds so small.

Rachel glances nervously at Jason, who is faking actually working so hard. She suddenly wants to throw something at him. "Oh, honey," Rachel whispers as she leans in close to Quinn. "Of course, I don't."

"But - "

"Ssh," Rachel gently interrupts, her left hand lifting to cup Quinn's cheek. "You're the nicest, kindest person I know."

"I wasn't always."

"I know," Rachel says, because Quinn has never really allowed either of them to hide from the fact Quinn used to be a relentless bully. "But, you've grown, and you've learned, and I'm so proud of this person you are."

The way Quinn looks at her makes Rachel want to hold the blonde in her arms for all of eternity. She just looks so lost, and Rachel doesn't know what to do. Quinn has these moments when she reverts back to that lost teenager who was still desperately trying to figure herself out, and the guilt of her actions sits heavily on her mind.

"You're not that girl anymore," Rachel murmurs, pulling Quinn into a hug and speaking right into her ear. "You're not her, and you know exactly who you are now. The same way I do. I love who you are, even when you constantly beat me at Scrabble."

Quinn lets out a wet laugh as her own arms close around Rachel's slim waist. She almost wants to drag the woman into her lap, but she contains herself. She wouldn't be able to explain that.

"I don't appreciate your making my best friend feel anything but worthy," Rachel whispers into her ear. "She's worked very hard to accept herself, and I don't want her to doubt how far she's come."

Quinn breathes out slowly. "I'll let her know."

"Good."

Quinn smiles softly as she pulls back to look at Rachel's face. She's so close, and Quinn finds herself willing to lose herself in those chestnut eyes that seem to hold her captive.

They stare at each other for a slice of forever, and it takes Jason reaching into his bag of brownies to sever the connection.

Quinn drops her gaze, blushing furiously, and Rachel just kisses her left cheek, and then her left eyelid, and then the tip of her nose.

"I have to get back to work," Quinn eventually says.

Rachel nods. "I should probably head home, anyway," she says. "I promised San I would quiz her for her… uh, one of her exams. I think it's Physiology."

"Your favourite."

"It's not my fault all those obscure things are so hard to say," she complains with a pout. "Why does medicine have to be so difficult?"

Quinn looks thoughtful. "It makes you wonder, doesn't it?"

"What?"

"The human body," she says. "It's the most intricate, highly-functioning creation in this world. Its possibilities are endless, and I think it's amazing that people dedicate their entire lives to learning about it."

It's moments like these that makes Rachel wonder how this gorgeous, intelligent woman is still single. She's everybody's dream, in every way. The evidence of it was just in this office more than ninety minutes ago.

Jason and Liz obviously agree with Rachel.

"You actually really wanted to be a doctor, didn't you?" Rachel says, frowning slightly, because it feels like something Quinn really considered, even if she was slightly blasé about it the last time they talked about it.

Quinn nods. "For a while, yes," she says. "I think the accident could have tipped me either way, but now I just really hate hospitals. It reminds me too much of… that time. Of being powerless and useless and in so much pain, and I don't think I could face that every day."

"So, you decided to become an actress, huh?" Rachel teases, because her heart is hurting just remembering the way Quinn looked so helpless in her hospital bed.

"And, then, a writer," Quinn says. "I've pretty much been confused my entire life."

Rachel threads her fingers through Quinn's hair. "You're not confused anymore, are you?"

Quinn leans into her touch. "I'm exactly where I'm meant to be."

"Yeah?" Rachel murmurs. "With me?"

"With you," Quinn confirms, and she's trying desperately not to think about how much more difficult she's making it for herself to survive this when it's all over.

Rachel smiles at her, because this is one of those moments that will stay with them forever. Eventually, she says, "I should go."

"Hmm," Quinn says, as she gets to her feet to walk Rachel out. She gathers the brunette's coat, which she helps her put on, before they exit the office together, Rachel absently saying goodbye to Jason.

Quinn walks Rachel all the way to the nearest subway station, the two of them chatting quietly, and Quinn allows herself to lose herself in how easy this all feels.

Just for this moment.

"Thank you for coming to see me," Quinn says while they're still on the street. "I didn't even know I needed it until I did."

"Me too," Rachel says, stepping into Quinn's space and hugging her tightly. "I'll text you when I know more about Saturday, okay?"

When they part, Rachel kisses her cheek, and then heads down the stairs. Quinn makes sure Rachel is safely inside before she heads back to her office.

Jason is still there, and he lifts his gaze to look at her when she enters.

Quinn's smile is slightly tight, because she has a feeling she knows what's coming.

"I didn't know you two were dating," he says, and Quinn feels the reality of her situation settle heavily on her chest.

"Yeah," is all she says.

There's nothing more to say, anyway.


Denise Carpenter: Rachel, sweetie, I was wondering if I could get Quinn's number from you. Tom would still like to contact her about possibly working with her, and he keeps forgetting to get it from you whenever he's at the theatre.

Rachel rereads the text three times, a slight frown on her face. It's not wildly out of the blue, but there's something off about the wording.

It doesn't sound anything like Denny.

Rachel reasons it could be Tom just texting from Denny's phone. It's what she tells herself, anyway, as she sends off Quinn's contact details, which includes her various email addresses, birth date and addresses.

Immediately afterwards, she texts Quinn to let her know to expect some form of contact from Tom.

Exactly fifteen seconds later, her phone rings, and Quinn's face appears on her screen. She automatically smiles, and Jasmine pokes her cheek from her seat beside Rachel.

"You're so cute," Jasmine says. "That must be Quinn calling."

Rachel blushes. "It is," she says, as she gets to her feet. "Excuse me."

"Hi, Quinn," Alec calls out, just as Rachel answers the phone.

Quinn is laughing softly when Rachel finally presses the phone to her ear. "Hi, Alec," she says, and Rachel marvels at the idea that Quinn even recognises his voice.

"Hey," Rachel says.

Quinn clears her throat. "Hey, you," she says. "So, what's this about Tom?"

"Oh, I'm fine, and how are you, Quinn?"

Quinn lets out an amused breath. "That's good to hear," she says. "Now, what's this about Tom?"

Rachel rolls her eyes. "He wants to talk to you about possibly writing something, apparently."

"Apparently?"

"That's what Denny says," Rachel tells her. "I'm not sure about the details, but I think he's serious about having you write something."

Quinn is silent for a long minute. "Are you serious?"

"I'm serious," Rachel assures her. "I was supposed to tell you before we were meant to meet them for dinner, but… I didn't."

"I don't understand," Quinn says. "He doesn't even know if I'm a good writer. Why would he want anything to do with me?"

"Quinn," Rachel says. "You're a brilliant writer."

"Even if that were true, which I'm not saying it is, he can't know that," Quinn points out. Then, after a moment, she asks, "Rach, just how much do you talk about me?"

Rachel doesn't immediately respond, and she glances over her shoulder at her gathered cast mates. "Uh, the normal amount."

"Rachel."

"What?" Rachel says. "I'm proud of you, so I talk about you. It would be weirder if I didn't, right? You're my girlfriend, and it's easy to gush about you."

There's another long silence.

"Are you mad?"

"No," Quinn says. "Just, I don't - " she stops, sighing. "Do they know I'm getting published?"

"No," Rachel lets her know. "That's your news to tell, even though I'm so insanely proud of you I can barely contain myself." She presses her lips together. "I think - I think Tom is interested in the story we told him."

"Oh?"

"Our kind of story."

"It's a great story," Quinn says.

"It is," Rachel agrees. "Will you talk to him if he calls?"

"Of course," Quinn says. "I'm not rude, Rach."

"But…?"

"I have a lot on my plate at the moment," she says, almost preemptively. "I'm not making any promises, but I'll definitely hear him out."

"That's all anyone can ask."

Quinn hums. Then: "When am I seeing you?"

Rachel can't stop her smile. "I can come over tonight," she says. "Or, you could come over, I guess. Santana's kind of been bitching about the fact she thinks I've been hogging you."

"She misses me, huh?"

"Don't tell her I told you that," she says. "I've just about managed to get to sleep without locking my door. She'll threaten to kill me in my sleep again."

Quinn laughs, and it's this gentle, unassuming sound that makes Rachel want to reach through the phone and touch her. "I can come by," she says. "Am I cooking? We can have thin-crust Thursday or, my personal favourite, thoup Thursday."

"God, you're adorable."

"So, what I'm hearing is that you don't want some thoup?"

"You're not helping yourself here, Fabray," Rachel says. "So, so cute."

"Fine," Quinn says. "San and I will have thoup, and you can starve."

"And, you just keep going."

Quinn sends her a smooch through the phone, and Rachel blushes at the sheer idea of Quinn's lips on her skin. "I'll see you later, Rach," she says, and then hangs up.

Rachel is smiling like a fool when she eventually drops her phone, and she just knows her friends are going to tease her mercilessly for it. She's not even embarrassed.

Okay, well, when Alec starts calling her Mrs Fabray, she might be a little embarrassed.


Santana is spread out on the living room floor when Rachel gets home. She has her textbooks and various flash cards surrounding her, and Rachel has yet to get over how cool her best friends look when they wear their glasses.

Santana needs hers for reading, and Quinn needs hers for everything else. Rachel gets too confused by that whole close and far sighted spiel, so that's how she chooses to remember it.

"I come bearing good news," Rachel says as she hangs up her coat.

Santana barely looks up. "What?"

"Quinn is coming over," she says brightly. "She's going to cook for us."

Santana reacts to that, lifting her gaze and perking up as much as Santana Lopez can. "What's she making?"

Rachel groans, because she sure as hell isn't going to say the word thoup. Quinn is sometimes insane. "Something," Rachel says. "Does it matter?"

"I just want to know if I'm going to get some fucking meat," she says. "Quinn caters way too much to your soulless veganism, and it really cramps on my style."

Rachel huffs. "You've got it wrong, San," she says. "I'm a vegan, so I'm the one with the soul here. Get it right."

Santana rolls her eyes. "You've really got to stop quoting your own lyrics, Berry. It's just fucking sad."

"It's going on my album, you know," Rachel tosses over her shoulder as she heads to her bedroom. "I'm going to make it famous, Lopez. Just you wait."

"I've been waiting," Santana calls out.

Rachel just continues on her way, slipping into her room with a smile on her face. Quinn is on her way over, and Rachel actually can't even wait. She thinks she's going to have to manufacture all sorts of reasons to see Quinn every day, because the way Rachel misses her can't be normal, can it?

She's never felt this way about anyone else before. Even before all of this fake relationship stuff, Rachel just missed Quinn. She missed her endlessly when Quinn was at Yale, and she was positively miserable whenever they were actively not talking to each other.

It's something Rachel has never really allowed herself to unpack and analyse in the years they've actually been friends, and she doesn't think now is the time. Quinn is on her way, and Rachel wants to be happy and present when she gets here.

Rachel decides to take a shower, just to wash off the rehearsals and costume makeup. She wants to be fresh when she cuddles with Quinn, which she doesn't even doubt she's going to end up doing.

She ends up spending much longer than she anticipates under the steady stream, using the time to settle her mind and ease the tension in her shoulders. When she eventually emerges, she's met with a wonderful, glorious smell wafting in through her bedroom's open door.

She almost heads straight to the kitchen still in her towel, but she controls herself. She wouldn't even know where to begin to explain herself.

With a sigh, she gets dressed into her pyjamas and ties up her hair into a messy bun. She's just slipping into one of Quinn's sweaters when there's a soft knock on her door.

"Come in," Rachel calls out, slipping her arms through the required holes. She's still facing her closet, so she actually squeaks when she feels strong arms slide around her waist, and she immediately knows whose body is pressed against hers.

"Hi," Quinn whispers, gently nuzzling Rachel's temple.

Rachel hums in content, absently leaning back into Quinn's embrace. "Hello, you," she murmurs. "Have you been here long?"

"About a half hour," she says. "What were you doing in there, huh? Practicing your acceptance speeches?"

Rachel lets out an unexpected laugh, her hands resting over Quinn's on her abdomen. "I resent that, Fabray."

Quinn just presses her lips to the shell of Rachel's ear. "Come on," she eventually says; "dinner's ready."

"What did you make?" Rachel asks.

"Thoup."

Rachel can feel the vibrations of Quinn's body as she laughs behind her, and the content she feels is overwhelming and overpowering.

When Quinn makes to release her, Rachel holds on tightly, keeping her firmly in place.

"Rach?" Quinn questions, sounding so adorably confused.

"Just - " she starts. "Can you just wait here a moment?"

"Here?"

"Right here," Rachel says; "Just like this."

Quinn breathes out slowly, her body relaxing as she adjusts her grip on Rachel. "Just like this," she echoes.

"I'm really glad you're here, Quinn."

"Me too, Berry," she says softly, and the truth of her words is clear to hear in her voice.

"Don't go anywhere, okay?" Rachel asks, sounding more vulnerable than she intends.

"I'm staying right here, Rachel," Quinn assures her. "I promise I'm not going anywhere."

Chapter Text

XIII

Rachel doesn't know how it happens - she's a little hungover on far too much wine - but she wakes in her own bed… and she's not alone.

She panics for all of three seconds before she realises the body curled around her own belongs to none other than Quinn Fabray. She can feel soft puffs of air against the skin of her neck, and she can't recall feeling this content ever before in her life.

Waking up like this is what she wants.

This much she knows.

She wants it with Quinn.

With that thought in mind, Rachel closes her eyes and slips back into slumber… where she dreams of a world in black and white. The only colour she sees is the hazel of Quinn's eyes, and the dream is trying to tell her something, she's sure.

Whatever it is, she almost wants to ignore it, but, when her eyes next open, she's face-to-face with a slumbering Quinn Fabray, and she knows, without a doubt, that she can't ignore anything that's happening.

It's an impossibility now.


Waking to Rachel Berry in her arms isn't anything new for Quinn. Not by a long shot. In fact, they've woken like this more times than she can count, and it's never been able to get old.

The feeling is everything and nothing, and Quinn would give an arm and leg for it to be an everyday thing.

Today, though, feels different, for some reason. It feels like so much more, and the fact that it's not real is suffocating and heartbreaking. She wants this, but she doesn't want it like this. She wants it in a way she's not sure she'll ever get.

Rachel will never want her the way Quinn wants her, and that's about as realistic as it gets.

Which is why, once she's soaked up the feeling as much as she can, and feels it turn to something painful, she rolls out of bed and heads to the kitchen. She needs water and possibly a painkiller, and then she needs to get out of here as quickly as possible.

She knows she has to do more to protect her heart, but how can she possibly pass up the opportunity to be Rachel's anything, even in this fake capacity? She was naïve to think she could have ever said no to participating in this ridiculous scheme. She would do anything for Rachel, and everyone knows it.

Even Rachel knows it, which is probably why she came to her in the first place. Her resistance must have been amusing to them all.

If she's being honest, Quinn didn't ever think she would be this person. Based on whom she was in her youth, she can't really see where she turned into this sad, hopeless, pining mess. If the HBIC could see her now, she would be disappointed. If Sue Sylvester could see her… God.

She's known she has to end it for a while now, but the truth of it hasn't been more apparent to her than in this moment. It's going to end in disaster, otherwise, and her friendship with Rachel is too important to her to risk… an explosion, of sorts.

She's already made a habit of dealing with her repressed feelings, and letting them out of the cage now, only to bury them again is just dangerous and unnecessary.

With a heavy sigh, Quinn starts making coffee, because she's definitely going to need it to get through this day. This weekend. However she's going to manage it, one thing is clear: come Sunday, she's going to end this entire thing with Rachel. She deserves that. They both deserve better than this ruse.

Which is really the thought that sees her abandoning the coffee and leaving the apartment immediately. She has to get home to shower and change, anyway, if she's going to make it on time for her meeting with Jordan.

It's something to focus on, she supposes. Her career is about to take off, and she's on her way to an actual doctorate. It's not exactly something she allowed herself to dream of, particularly when she was homeless and pregnant, but the fact she's made it this far is humbling and amazing, if she does say so herself.

There are many things she's managed to accomplish on her own, but getting to this point in her academic career isn't something she's achieved alone. The sheer idea that she could even dream of becoming an author has a lot to do with her friends actually believing in her and her talent, and she's going to have to find a way to thank them at some point - acknowledgements are always a way to go.

Just, maybe not today.

Today, Quinn needs to take some time for herself and evaluate just what she wants to have happen once all this is over.

And, it's going to end.

It has to end.

Some way or the other, they're going to break up, and then Quinn knows she's going to have to do something.


The second time around, Rachel wakes up alone. It unsettles her in a way that makes her uncomfortable, but she tries to ignore it as she makes a start to her day, doing her best not to read too much into the fact Quinn didn't leave a note or send a text.

It's unlike her, and Rachel doesn't want to read too much into it, but she does. Did she do something while she was tipsy? She can't really recall how she and Quinn ended up in her bed, and she sincerely hopes she didn't say or do something untoward or embarrassing in the middle of the night. That would be mortifying, and Quinn is far too polite to mention otherwise.

Still, she drags herself to the theatre with the intention of shaking off the bad feeling that seems to have crept into her bones. It settles in, threatening to spread, right until the moment she comes face-to-face with Frankie and Jasmine who are both practically vibrating with excitement.

"Did I miss something?" Rachel asks, suddenly sceptical, as she makes her way through the back of the theatre. As the leading lady, she has her own dressing room, but she doesn't really use it beyond storing her things, mainly because she likes to be where the action is.

"Did you miss something?" Frankie asks, scoffing. He glances at Jasmine. "I don't get how she's not more excited about this."

"About what?" Rachel asks.

"About what, she asks," Frankie echoes, shaking his head in mock disbelief. "Are we or are we not all going on the best double date tomorrow?"

If she's being honest, Rachel kind of forgot about it. Whoops. "Of course," she says, recovering. "I thought you were referring to something to do with the production."

Frankie gives her a curious look, as if he can tell something is amiss. "Opening night is coming up," he says, giving her some respite. "Are your fathers going to be here?"

"That's the plan," she says, automatically smiling at the thought of them. If there's one way to improve her mood, it's to mention her parents. "They're supposed to fly in for it, and I'm really looking forward to seeing them, especially since I won't be able to get home for Thanksgiving."

Frankie smiles at her.

"What?"

"I just think it's cute that you still call Ohio home," he says.

She blinks. "Well, it is," she says. "It's where I grew up, and it's where my parents are. Until I can build my own family, here, I think it's always going to be."

"Do you think they would ever move out here?" Frankie asks. "I mean, if this is the place you're going to get married and have children and live, do you think they would want to be closer to you?"

"Maybe," Rachel allows. "It's not something we've ever really discussed," she says. "And, I mean, I'm so far away from any of those things happening, so there's no real point."

Frankie gives her a look of disbelief.

"What?"

"You don't really think you're that far from it, do you?" he asks, frowning a little. "I'm sure, given the chance, Quinn would wife you in a heartbeat."

Rachel blinks. Wait, what?

Frankie chuckles. "You always look so surprised when I point out that Quinn very obviously loves you," he teases gently.

"We've - we've been dating for, like, four months," she defends, weak and meek, sufficiently thrown by the sheer idea of, one day, marrying Quinn and having children with her.

Wow.

Okay.

"But you've been friends for longer," Frankie points out. "The transition to romance was natural, wasn't it? You've already got this solid foundation, and you know each other so well already. It doesn't classify as a new relationship, Rachel, not really."

"Frankie," she says, because she really has nothing else.

"I mean, you once mentioned that you might want to move out on your own, remember?" he pushes. "Was that some kind of precursor to moving in with Quinn?"

Rachel's eyes widen. "No," she says. "We're - we're nowhere near that yet, oh my God." Her heart is beating too fast, and she really can't get a handle of her thoughts, because she's now imagining how it would feel to live with Quinn.

She's only got just a taste before, and she's quite sure she could become easily addicted.

No.

It's just that Quinn would probably make a better roommate than Santana does. At least Quinn likes to cuddle.

Which, incidentally, isn't really what typical roommates do, right?

Granted, nothing about her relationship with Quinn has been remotely 'typical.' From the very beginning, they've been existing in some weird standoff, she thinks, constantly hovering around each other, just waiting for things to change.

Is this another one of those moments? Is Rachel willing to take it; embrace it? What does any of it even mean?

Frankie gives her a curious look. "Well, Rach, whether or not you're there is maybe a little irrelevant, because Quinn definitely is."

Rachel is so tempted to ask him to explain further, but they're called to attention before she can get the words out. Elliot has a few changes for them, and Rachel does her best to pay attention to what he's saying.

She makes sure to take note of the changes on her phone, because she's convinced every word the man's said has gone in one ear and come out the other. She's thinking about Quinn and what Frankie is possibly seeing and what life with Quinn could be like.

Rachel thinks she could be happy. She would be, because Quinn makes her happy. Sometimes, without even having to try. Just the mere fact she exists makes Rachel's entire life that bit better.

Much better, if she's going to be honest.

"Did you even hear a word Elliot said?" Jasmine asks, eyeing Rachel curiously, once Elliot has dismissed them to take their places for the start of rehearsal.

"No," Rachel answers honestly.

"What's wrong?"

Rachel doesn't respond, because she has no idea what to say.

Jasmine faces her fully, her eyes a mixture of kindness and curiosity. "Is this about what Frankie was saying?" she asks. "Rachel, he just says things, sometimes. He claims he sees things, but it took him a hundred years to realise I was interested in him."

Rachel just about manages a smile. "It's not just that," she admits, wrapping her arms around herself. There are people all around, casually going over the brief changes, but Rachel feels as if this conversation has shrunk the world to just the two of them.

Jasmine steps closer. "Rachel?" she says. "What is it?"

Rachel sighs. "It's really nothing," she says. "I mean, I think it's nothing, but I can't shake the feeling it's actually something."

Jasmine's brow furrows, clearly confused. "Okay…?" She takes a breath. "Are we talking about Quinn?"

The simple answer is yes, but Rachel thinks they're actually talking about her. Something's gone wrong inside of her.

Or, right.

Just, something is happening, and she's afraid she's going to do something to ruin the most important relationship in her life.

If she hasn't already.

"We've known each other a long time, you know?" Rachel says, almost talking to herself. "Since we were freshmen in high school." She shakes her head. "She was so awful. Terrible, really. The absolute worst. Especially to me. I've never quite understood why."

Jasmine blinks. "She liked you," she offers, suddenly so sure. She took several classes in Psychology in college, and she thinks it's the most obvious answer. It might have been different if Quinn's attention wasn't solely on Rachel, but it was, and that's telling.

Rachel is beginning to suspect there's truth in those words. Back then, at least. Now, she can't be too sure. Quinn would have told her, right? Someone would have. She also likes to think she would have noticed. How do you be best friends with someone and not be able to tell if they like you?

Right?

She's still confused by all of it.

"If that's the case," Rachel says; "then, what's my excuse?"

"What do you mean?"

"Even when she was awful to me, I couldn't stop myself from wanting to be in her orbit," she admits quietly, frowning at her teenage self's behaviour. "I tried so hard to be her friend, putting myself out there, knowing it would probably blow up in my face every time. Why would I keep doing that?"

Jasmine's smile is sympathetic. "You liked her, too," she says. "You just didn't recognise it for what it was." Her smile grows. "It's kind of the perfect love story."

If any of it were real.

Rachel sighs heavily, wondering if any of this pondering is even worth it. Quinn is putting on a show, surely. The same way Rachel is.

Right?

If she were to ask Jasmine, she knows exactly which answer she'll get.

But, what if she asks herself?


Quinn: So, I'm guessing a trip to the park probably requires something casual, right? Jeans and a shirt? Any colour preference? (Are we going to be one of those couples who colour-coordinates?)

Rachel reads the text several times, oddly relieved that Quinn sounds so... normal. They barely spoke the day before, Quinn citing a lot of work, but Rachel wakes to this message on Saturday morning, and everything feels right with the world.

If she finds it weird that her mood is so heavily linked to the amount she and Quinn actually communicate, she doesn't think about it too much. She'll have time to dissect it once the date is over. She's made decisions, she thinks.

Well, she's been trying to make them for a while.

Rachel: Something casual, indeed. Jasmine made sure to reiterate that part when I was leaving the theatre. (I'm sure you're going to look great in whatever you wear, Quinn.)

Quinn: Not really an answer to my question, but thank you.

Rachel: Green, maybe.

Quinn: Are you going to be wearing green?

Rachel: No, but I like the way the colour brings out your eyes.

Quinn: Doesn't distract from them, huh?

Rachel flushes instantly, her heart stuttering, because she actually managed to forget Quinn even knew about the corsage she helped Finn choose for her. Well, help is inaccurate. He used her 'suggestion' exactly as she gave it, even quoting her… or, rather, claiming it as his own.

Rachel doesn't really remember how the truth all came out, but she does know there was definitely alcohol involved. A lot of it. She can't even remember how they got to talking about their junior Prom, but she remembers feeling wistful and nostalgic, which is weird because Quinn slapped her.

Oh.

That's why they were talking about it. Quinn was apologising, again, and Rachel wished she would stop. She forgave her a long time ago, and she needed Quinn to forgive herself. To this day, Rachel's unsure if she actually has.

Rachel: As long as you're aware, Fabray.

Quinn: Kurt already gave me an actual colour palette, to make sure I never wear anything that clashes with my skin tone. It's some serious stuff.

Rachel: He has always been a little extra about his fashion. (You're probably going to listen extra hard for when you're a famous published author.)

Quinn: Don't even remind me. If it all goes well, my entire life is going to change.

Rachel: WHEN it all goes well, you mean to say.

She can just imagine the way Quinn is rolling her eyes, as soon as she sends it. She's always been Quinn's biggest believer, and vice versa. There were many a phone call placed in the dead of night to New Haven, Rachel panicking over not being cut out for any of this.

Gosh.

No wonder Julia hates her.

Quinn: And that's my cue to tell you I'm going to catch a nap now. I'm sure I'm going to need all the energy in the world to keep up with you children.

Rachel: Says the youngest one of all of us.

Quinn: Hush, you. I'm sleeping.

Rachel is smiling like a complete fool when she sends her last text, her heart beating a little erratically.

Rachel: Enjoy your nap, Q. I can't wait to see you! Xx


"You look amazing," Rachel says the moment she spots Quinn waiting near the fountain as she said she would be, the words almost automatic at this point.

Quinn blushes, her gaze dropping to take in her own outfit. "Oh, well, thanks," she says. "You don't look too bad yourself."

"Does it meet your 'casual' approval?"

"It's a little on the smart side, but it'll do," Quinn says, grinning. She's feeling a lot better after her night of mental and emotional freakouts. She's going to have to tell Rachel how she feels, she knows, and she has to do it soon.

On Sunday.

Shit, that's tomorrow.

Still.

She's already discussed it with Kurt, endlessly. She's been putting it off for long enough. Is it all wishful thinking? Does she even want Rachel to like her back? Would the brunette be able to handle the pressure of that? Could she be in a relationship with Quinn?

With a woman?

Quinn knows Rachel would let her down easy. It's not really that she's worried about. As much as the rejection would hurt - and, God, it would hurt beyond anything - she thinks she could find a way to handle it. Eventually. She's liked straight girls before and managed to get over it.

The problem, she knows, is Rachel herself. Rachel would hurt, because she would know she was hurting Quinn - that she has been hurting her - and that's what Quinn has been trying to avoid from the very beginning. She doesn't want to cause Rachel pain for being unable to give her what she just can't.

Quinn thinks she might actually need to take Jordan up on his suggestion of a semester abroad after this upcoming disaster.

And, the thing is, it's always going to be a disaster. Getting involved in a scheme such as this with the best friend you've loved for years is always going to end with someone getting her heart broken.

It's almost inevitable it's going to be Quinn, which is why it's not a surprise when it does happen.

Just, well, first she's going on a double date with the woman of her dreams and, maybe, she's going to allow herself to feel it for the last time. It's probable they won't talk for a while after this, so Quinn intends to soak up as much Rachel as she can.

Maybe Rachel can sense the decision in her, because Rachel looks a little bemused.

"Are you okay?"

Quinn just smiles, carefully drawing the shorter woman into a gentle embrace and holding on for much longer than is strictly appropriate for two friends who are pretending to be more… especially when there's nobody around to see them.

It takes a moment for Rachel to settle, but she does, wrapping her own arms around Quinn's waist. She can sense something different about her best friend, and she's unsure what to make of it. It's something heavy, suffocating in a way Quinn hasn't been since high school, maybe. Since Julia.

Just, since.

"Quinn," Rachel's mouth says, but no sound comes out.

Quinn must feel it, though, because she pulls back just enough to look at Rachel's face; to look into her eyes.

Rachel can't be sure what she sees in those hazel eyes, but it merely proves that something is happening with Quinn. For a terrifying moment, she thinks Quinn has figured her out, and she's trying to find a way to tell Rachel that she's mistaken. Everything she's been feeling is just part of the role she's been playing.

It's unsurprising that Quinn would be the one to make sense of everything.

But, well, Quinn says nothing. She just continues to stare at Rachel, as if she's somehow memorising her face, taking in every blemish and laugh-line.

"Quinn," she says again, this time audible. "Quinn, what - "

"There they are!"

Quinn doesn't exactly pull away at the sound of Frankie's voice. Her facial expression doesn't change at all, but Rachel still feels a sudden disconnect. Now, Quinn is putting on a show.

So, why does her face still look like that?

She still looks like a devoted girlfriend, who's hopelessly in love.

Whatever questions Rachel has are sidetracked by the arrival of Frankie and Jasmine, who each give them both hugs, forcing Quinn to release her. She's almost thankful for it, given the intensity of that previous moment. She uses the brief respite to calm her racing heart, carefully avoiding Jasmine's concerned eyes.

It's okay.

Everything is okay.

And, for the most part, everything is. Quinn seems to stop acting weird, easily slipping into her role and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. Rachel closes her eyes when a kiss is pressed to her temple, and she feels a weight shift within her.

She wants this.

She's sure of it.

Frankie and Jasmine have taken care of the picnic blanket and the food - Quinn made sure to remind them of Rachel's veganism in the quick Chat Group Jasmine made to make the necessary plans - and they don't have to wait too long in line to get their tickets. Quinn pays for Rachel's, Frankie pays for Jasmine's, and then the two of them grin at each other and bump fists.

Rachel thinks it's cute.

It also troubles her slightly, because she's never given much thought to the gender roles of a same-sex relationship. Why wouldn't she be the one paying? Would she, on another occasion? Would Quinn let her?

Jasmine slips her arm into hers as they walk, her eyes tracking Quinn as she walks with Frankie in front of them, their own eyes trying to find the perfect spot in the rapidly-filling space marked for this little event.

"Are you feeling better?" Jasmine asks, her voice low.

Rachel furrows her brow, slightly confused by the question.

"After yesterday," Jasmine clarifies. "You seemed… distracted. Said some things; some worrying things."

Rachel puffs out a breath. "I'm okay," she says, injecting as much confidence into her voice as she can muster. "Everything's okay."

Jasmine doesn't look entirely convinced, but she doesn't question her further. That's probably because Frankie suddenly calls out for them, claiming he's found the perfect spot for them to make out without making the other patrons uncomfortable. Jasmine lets out a laugh at his antics, and Rachel can't mistake the pure affection she sees in the woman's facial expression.

"And what about our comfort?" Rachel asks him, grinning.

"You'll be too busy making out with Quinn, of course," he shoots back, far too easily, and Rachel flushes instantly. The reaction is unstoppable, and Quinn doesn't look to be faring any better. Her own cheeks are a shade of red as she playfully punches Frankie's shoulder.

"Obviously, we're more considerate than you two are," Quinn says, laughing.

"Obviously," Frankie echoes. "You'd probably break up couples if you were to get it on in front of them."

"Oh, my God," Rachel gasps. "Jas, control your man."

Jasmine just laughs. "It'd be so hot."

Frankie punches a fist into the air. "She gets me," he says happily. "We were totally made for each other."

Jasmine abandons Rachel's side and trots over to Frankie to kiss him.

Quinn shakes her head as she makes the move the other way, carefully sliding an arm around Rachel's waist and leaning in to hide her face in the brunette's hair. "I feel like I'm on fire," she whispers.

Rachel giggles softly, her left hand moving, somewhat without her conscious brain, to settle in the back pocket of Quinn's jeans. She realises far too late, from the surprised gasp Quinn lets out, that she's basically touching Quinn's ass.

Okay.

Wow, okay.

Deep breaths, Berry.

Rachel's heart is beating far too fast and her own breathing is unsteady, which all gets even worse when Quinn doesn't pull away. If anything, she curls even further into Rachel, inhaling deeply, and Rachel's almost sure she feels a brushing of lips against the skin of her neck.

"Oi," Frankie suddenly says. "Save it for when the sun sets. There are children around."

Quinn pulls away, looking flushed, and Rachel knows she's in trouble. Something is happening. She can feel it. It's in the air, existing between them.

Something.

Once they reach their spot, Frankie unfolds the large picnic blanket Jasmine has tucked under her arm, and the four of them settle and get comfortable. Rachel sits impossibly close to Quinn - practically on top of her - and Quinn's arm wraps around her waist, fingers resting on her hip.

Quinn is warm to the touch, and Rachel finds herself leaning against her, close enough to feel the steady rise and fall of her chest and smell her alluring scent. It's a mixture of apples, cinnamon and something so uniquely Quinn that Rachel thinks she's a little obsessed.

The conversation is easy, flowing around and among them. Frankie seems to have grown into himself a little more, and Rachel credits Jasmine for allowing him that opportunity. Jasmine spends most of her time rolling her eyes, laughing or carefully explaining that Frankie doesn't actually mean that. It's cute.

When Quinn talks, everyone listens. It's just something about her. She commands attention without even trying, her words purposeful and her voice elegant. Rachel keeps her head turned to look at her, even though they're sitting so close. If she shifts slightly, her lips would brush Quinn's chin, and she can feel Quinn's warm breath against her cheeks.

Whatever's happening, Quinn isn't shying away from it either, and Rachel isn't sure what to make of that. Is she just maintaining her role, or is she feeling that something more building in the air between them as well?

When the first film begins, a certain hush falls over everyone in attendance, and Rachel feels Quinn hold on her shift, drawing her closer. She didn't think it was even possible.

Quinn rests her chin on her shoulder, and Rachel rests her own head against Quinn's, feeling her entire body relax. She's just Rachel, and this is just Quinn. They do this kind of thing all the time.

She almost has herself convinced when Quinn shifts again, absently nuzzling her cheek and releasing a puff of air that sends a shiver right down Rachel's spine.

Okay.

It takes Rachel another minute to realise Quinn isn't even watching the screen, her eyes closed, and she finds herself smiling. "You're missing the best part," she whispers.

"You're the best part," Quinn murmurs, her chest vibrating against Rachel's arm.

Rachel leans into her even more, not even using her own body to support herself. She can't remember ever being this close to Quinn before, and she just knows disengaging is going to be torturous. And cold.

"You're very warm," Rachel tells her.

"So are you," Quinn says. "Why do you think I'm practically crawling into your skin?"

Rachel blinks.

Oh.

It's because she's warm.

"You also smell really good," Quinn says quietly. "Like, if we weren't in public and it wouldn't be considered too weird, I would probably check to see if you taste as good as you smell."

Rachel squeaks. She actually squeaks. In surprise, but also something else that sparks in her belly. Wow. Okay.

"You would probably be arrested for cannibalism," Rachel finds herself saying.

"Mm," Quinn hums against her skin. "I am kind of hungry."

Rachel doesn't even know why she blushes as hard as she does, but it spreads from her cheeks right down her neck, and none of it is helped by the wink Jasmine sends her. She doesn't even know what's happening right now, but she's intending to enjoy every second of it.

It's Frankie who makes the first foray into the picnic basket he and Jasmine have brought with them. Rachel can't help her laughter when she remembers the replies when Quinn made sure to remind them about Rachel's vegan diet, receiving an oh my god, we KNOW from Frankie and an exasperated I think I'm going to kill a puppy if you tell me one more time from Jasmine.

Their friends are so dramatic.

"Mm, food," Frankie says, rubbing his hands together. "I did research, you know, on what the best picnic foods are, and the number one item on, like, all the lists was chocolate-covered strawberries." He grins with mischief. "They're also an aphrodisiac, did you know that?"

Jasmine laughs, and then says, "I don't think they need it," with the kind of voice that has the power to pull Rachel from any faraway thoughts. "They can't keep their hands off each other, already."

It's the moment Rachel becomes acutely aware of where her own hands have settled. She can feel Quinn's one at her right hip and the other curved around her left elbow.

But hers.

Well.

The right is casual as it rests over Quinn's on her own hip.

The left, though, is pressed against the inside of Quinn's right thigh, her fingers touching parts too intimate for just friends.

In alarm, she tenses, and Quinn lets out a rushed breath that could be mistaken for a moan, and Rachel's breath catches.

Okay.

She's too scared to look at Quinn, but she forces her gaze up and away from her hand, only to come face-to-face with Quinn's eyes, looking darker than Rachel has ever seen them. It's like a dream - she doesn't think she even belongs to her own body in this moment - having Quinn look at her like that.

It's maybe the only way she can explain what she does next. Maybe. Her brain shuts down, or her body just overrides everything, because Rachel does the disastrous thing and closes the minimal gap between them, pressing her lips to Quinn's with little thought.

This kiss is different to other the two they've shared before, in the fact that it's not chaste. It's not a simple peck, neither one of them is drunk and neither of them is reeling emotionally from encountering an ex.

No.

This is a kiss that Rachel wants more than anything, and she takes it, momentarily surprised when Quinn willingly gives.

It's heady and intoxicating, actually kissing Quinn, and she hums low in her throat as she opens her mouth. Quinn tastes sweet, like the wine she's been nursing since they arrived, and Rachel automatically deepens the kiss in search of more.

Her heart is beating wildly in her chest, her eyes closed and her mind wonderfully blank. She's just kissing Quinn, and it's everything and more than she could have imagined. Her left hand tightens on Quinn's thigh just as hers squeezes at her hip, and Rachel has a fleeting thought that this might all be indecent for public viewing, but she doesn't care.

It's really simple. She's never felt this way when simply just kissing someone before, and she can't decide which reason for that makes her the least uncomfortable. Is it because it's Quinn? Is it because Quinn is a woman?

"God," Quinn murmurs, her right hand moving up Rachel's side and her tongue licking into Rachel's mouth.

Rachel feels heat rising up her neck. Just kissing has never made her feel this hot and out of control before, and she never wants this to end.

But, it does.

Frankie says, "Oi, we're supposed to be eating the food now, not each other," and the two women immediately break apart, as if they're just coming back to their senses.

Quinn just stares, wide-eyed, and Rachel stares back, her expression one of wonder and disbelief.

"Rachel," Quinn says, her voice coming out a little breathless. "What are - "

Rachel kisses her again, just once, to keep her from asking the question for which they're both not ready to hear out loud. "Not now," she murmurs. "Later."

"Later," Quinn echoes with a nod, and, somehow, they manage to get through dinner and the next movie without spontaneously combusting.

Rachel is acutely aware of every place they're touching, Quinn growing slightly bolder as she settles back into the evening after their kiss. She converses easily with Frankie and Jasmine, and Rachel finds herself staring at her several times, half in awe and half in wonder.

Rachel has always found her stunning, but what she's feeling in this moment is something beyond anything she's ever thought or felt before. It's more than aesthetics, of course, and Quinn's beauty is found in the person she now allows herself to be.

If Quinn is uncomfortable with all the staring or touching, she doesn't show it. If anything, she stares and touches right back, a faint blush permanently on her cheeks. They have a lot to talk about, definitely, and Rachel makes a silent vow they're going to get to that dangerously overdue conversation tonight.

Well.

She has good intentions, at least.

It's just - well -

Quinn ends up pressed up against the wall before her apartment door has even shut behind them. She watches, dazed, as Rachel kicks a foot up to close it with a slam before pushing even closer into Quinn, mouth on her neck, guiding a firm trail up from Quinn's shoulder to her ear with her tongue.

And, Quinn, barely able to form a coherent thought, reacts from instinct rather than choice. She pushes her hands frantically under Rachel's shirt to press into the skin of her back and run up her sides, all the way from the waistband of her jeans to the rough lace of her bra and back again. It pulls Rachel even closer into her, so that she can feel the warmth of Rachel's body from her knees to her own heaving chest.

Quinn's breath comes in gasps now, as Rachel sucks and grazes her teeth over the point just under Quinn's ear. Her hands, firm on Quinn's hips and holding her in place, slip suddenly under her top. They resume the same position but now on bare skin, and Quinn feels the touch as though it's burning her, fizzling at her skin from the outside inwards.

She's not sure if it's the alcohol or Rachel's touch that's clouding her brain, making her feel almost dizzy with rough desire, with the pent up emotion of wanting to touch Rachel, and have Rachel touch her, and have that somehow be actually happening, right here and now.

Rachel pauses for a second, moving her mouth away from Quinn's collarbone to look into her eyes, slight concern in her expression. Quinn knows she needs to make that concern go away, she needs Rachel not to stop, not to ever stop touching her like this.

So, she presses forward, pushing her lips to Rachel's, and Rachel responds immediately. All Quinn can think is the chant running through her head. Don't stop, don't stop, please don't stop, as their tongues roughly slip over one another, the kiss desperate - messy and firm and breathless.

Quinn's hands slide under Rachel's bra strap so that she can continue her path further up her back. On the next trip up, frustrated by the obstruction, she pulls at the strap frantically, unhooking the two sides on her second try. The first time her hands run unrestrained up the length of Rachel's spine, Quinn can feel Rachel groan and shiver, feel how it makes her press forward again, though there's barely room to be any closer to each other, pushing a thigh between Quinn's legs.

She thinks, this is it. This is it. I will never recover from this.

And it's at that moment that Quinn - sweet, adoring Quinn, who's loved Rachel for more years than she could ever say - says the one thing that's been running through her head since -

Well, since forever.

Because, Quinn, who's brain is slowly turning to mush, says the words that absolutely ruin it all.

"God, I've wanted this for so long." They come tumbling out of her mouth, completely breathless, and Rachel freezes, all movement ceasing.

Quinn takes a moment to catch on, and she pulls back, looking so adorably confused that Rachel might actually cry.

She's going to cry, anyway.

"Rach?" Quinn questions softly; so, so softly, as if she's terrified of Rachel's response. As if she just knows her silent pleas of don't stop haven't been heard.

"I'm sorry," is the first thing Rachel says, and Quinn flinches. "I thought I could do this, but - " she stops, unsure how to go on breaking the heart of the woman right in front of her, who's been ready and willing for much longer than Rachel ever thought.

She can't.

She just can't.

"I'm sorry," Rachel says again, and then she's gone.

Chapter Text

XIV

Rachel goes straight to Santana's bedroom when she gets back to their shared apartment, but the Latina is nowhere to be found. Still, she crawls into the bed, curls into a tiny ball and cries.

It's how Santana finds her forty minutes later.

"Fuck," she says, and Rachel just cries that much harder. "Fuckity fuck fuck fuck." She removes her coat, dropping it on the end of the bed, and kicks off her shoes before she moves to lie in front of Rachel, almost mirroring her position.

Rachel just stares at her for a beat, and then takes in her outfit: a sinfully short cocktail dress. "Were you out?" she asks, stuttering through her sobs.

Santana nods.

"Why are you home, then?" she asks, but she has a feeling she already knows the answer.

"Quinn texted," she says. "Said something about how I needed to get home because something happened and you would probably need me and that she was okay but she would probably only see me after Thanksgiving." She sighs. "What the fuck happened?"

Rachel buries her face in one of Santana's pillows, her heart aching in ways she never imagined it could. "I don't even know," she mumbles.

Santana waits, drawing on patience she didn't know she had.

"We went on a double date with Frankie and Jasmine," she starts. "I just - I just wanted to spend some time with her, but - "

"But?" Santana prompts.

"But, there was something... heavy about everything," she says. "We were looking at each other too long, and holding on a little too tightly. Like she could sense it was all coming to an end. Like she was going to end it herself, and she was just going to get through one more night of pretend, and then it would be over."

Santana grits her teeth to stop herself from saying or revealing anything. Seriously. Lesbians and their fucking drama. Was she ever this bad?

"We kissed, San," she says, quiet and almost in disbelief. "Like, kiss kissed." She shifts slightly, feeling her cheeks heat up at the memory. "It's - it's never felt like that with anyone before. I didn't - I never wanted to stop, and I - I don't know if it was because - " she stops, sighs, and then closes her eyes. "Is it because she's Quinn, or is it because she's a she?"

Santana puffs out a breath. "What happened, Rachel?"

"We said we were going to talk about it," Rachel says. "Frankie and Jasmine were there, so we had to wait, but we were going to talk about it. I wanted to discuss it properly, and work out just how I felt about the entire thing."

"But...?"

Rachel flushes. "Well, we didn't really do much talking once we got back to her place."

"Gross."

"Nothing like that," Rachel says, frowning to herself. "We just - we were kissing, and it was - God, Santana, it was amazing."

"Uh huh," Santana drawls. "I'm aware she's a good kisser."

"You are?"

Santana rolls her eyes. "What happened next?"

Rachel does her best to ignore what the idea of Quinn and Santana having kissed before makes her feel, because she's already got enough to deal with.

"I know we should have talked about it," Rachel says, suddenly irritated with herself. "But, it escalated so fast, and I was so lost, and it was a lot and not enough, but then - then she said 'God, I've wanted this for so long,' and - and what does that even mean, Santana?"

Rachel looks so helpless, all of a sudden, and Santana doesn't know what to say.

"I - I panicked," Rachel continues. "I couldn't just - so, I panicked, and then I left. I just left her there, San."

Santana looks away, her heart hurting in a way that's foreign to her. Even though she knew this was all going to end in disaster, the reality of it is more devastating than she imagined.

"What does that mean, San?" Rachel asks again, desperate for an answer that isn't the most obvious thing.

Santana sighs. "Seriously, Rachel," she says. "There's no way you're actually this naïve. How can you not know exactly what that means?"

Rachel blinks once, twice, and then says, "It sounds as if she's - as if she's wanted to kiss me for - for a while."

Santana raises her eyebrows expectantly.

"Oh."

Santana still says nothing, needing Rachel to figure it out for herself.

She eventually does, and it hits her like some kind of slow wave, unstoppable and all-consuming. Knocking her right off her proverbial feet.

Her voice is tiny when she asks, "It was all real, wasn't it?"

Santana nods slowly, sombrely. "Every second."

"Oh."


Rachel spends all of Sunday trying to figure out what her next step is supposed to be. She doesn't know. She doesn't know how she's supposed to fix any of this, and Santana very clearly told her she was going to have to figure it out for herself.

I've wasted so much breath on you two, and I'm fucking exhausted.

So, she calls Kurt, but she gets his voicemail. Something about being out of commission, because he's spending the weekend off the grid with his boyfriend.

Well.

If Quinn hasn't talked to Santana about any of this and if Kurt isn't reachable; then who is she talking to? Has Rachel just monopolised their friends?

Rachel checks her phone for any calls or texts, but it's silent of all communication, and she doesn't know if Quinn would even take her calls if she tried. She doesn't even know what she would say if Quinn were to answer the phone. 'I'm sorry' just seems so insignificant, and she doesn't think it would mean anything when not in person.

She knows she needs to talk to Quinn face-to-face, but what is she even going to say? What does it mean for her that it was all real? On Quinn's side, at least?

Because.

What about her?

Rachel gets very little sleep on Sunday night, and she's a right mess on Monday morning. Santana takes one look at her, hands her the fresh cup of coffee currently in her hand, and then pours another for herself.

"You look like shit," Santana says, unapologetic.

"I feel like shit," she admits, which is probably an understatement.

Santana just hums softly as she adds some sugar to her coffee. It's less than what Rachel usually has, which is why it's odd that her fellow brunette hasn't complained about the level of sweetness. Okay, probably not that odd, given she probably has a lot more on her mind.

Rachel clears her throat as she sets said cup on the counter and takes a tiny step forward. She twists her lips for a moment, and Santana can tell she's trying to talk herself into asking the question she desperately wants to.

Santana waits, absently reaching for her phone to check her emails. She has a rather busy Monday ahead, her lecturers trying to fit as much in before the upcoming holiday weekend. For a moment, she actually forgets Rachel is even in the room, right until the moment she speaks.

"H-have you spoken to her?" Rachel asks quietly, her heart constantly aching.

Santana doesn't look up from her phone when she says, "Before all this went down, I told her not to come to me when it all fell to pieces." Her eyes finally lift up, meeting Rachel's. "It seems she's taken it to heart."

"Oh."

"I feel like a right ass about it," Santana grumbles, looking back down at her phone's screen. "She won't answer any of my calls or texts. Has she replied to any of yours?"

Rachel looks away, frowning. "I - I haven't tried to contact her," she admits softly.

Santana looks up quite suddenly. "What? Why not?"

"Well, I'm more than a hundred percent sure she won't reply to me, either," she says. "Also, don't you think she needs some space?"

"Perhaps," Santana says; "but, God, at least text to tell her you want to talk, and you're, I don't know, sorry for ducking out on her, right when you two were on the cusp of finally figuring out your shit."

"Shouldn't I be doing that in person?"

Santana sighs. "And then what?"

"What?"

"What happens after you apologise?" she asks. "Do you tell her you want to stay friends? You're not interested? You want to be with her? You don't know what you want? You need time to figure it out?"

Rachel just stares blankly at her.

Santana sighs again. "Just send a text, Rachel," she says. "God knows what kind of mess you're going to create if you actually talk to her before you even know what you're going to say."


It isn't that Rachel ignores Santana's advice. Not exactly. She does compose several different messages to send to Quinn, but none of them feels right. Too short, too long, not enough emotion, too much emotion. Just, not right.

Which is why she decides the best thing to do is visit Quinn in her office, give her little choice but to talk to her and somehow fix all of this without making it worse. It doesn't help that she's a distracted disaster for the morning's rehearsals, and Elliot looks just as confused as the rest of them.

The only person brave enough to ask her about it is Jasmine, and, even then, Rachel doesn't have any answers for her. Elliot must be able to read the room, because he suggests they run through scenes that Rachel isn't actually in - which is really only a handful - and she's able to sit in the wings and actually stew about how badly she's managed to screw up the most important relationship in her life.

When Elliot calls for their lunch break, Rachel shoots to her feet and practically bolts from the theatre. She knows the only way to get her mind settled and her heart slowed is if she can lay eyes on Quinn, just to make sure she's okay.

Well.

As okay as one can possibly be in this situation.

It's Rachel's single mission, really, and she's barely given any thought to what she's going to say to Quinn when she sees her by the time she's knocking on the office's open door and sticking her head inside… only to find Quinn nowhere in sight.

It's just Jason sitting at his desk, with the other three empty of people. Rachel knows there's another girl, Jessica, who sits opposite Quinn, but she's never really seen anyone occupy the fourth desk. It's all unimportant, anyway, because Quinn isn't where she's supposed to be.

Jason looks up at the sound of her knock, and something very distinct happens to his face. It hardens in a way it's never before, and Rachel can't help but wonder if she's been reading him wrong all along.

"Quinn isn't here," he says, neither of them bothering with a greeting. "She came in earlier, but - " he pauses, shifting in his seat. "Well, it seems she wasn't feeling so well, so she left."

There's something there, in his voice, and Rachel wonders if Quinn told him the possible reason for why she wouldn't have been feeling well.

It's her.

She's the reason.

"Oh."

Jason regards her carefully. "She didn't tell me anything, if that's what you're worried about," he says. "She doesn't tell me anything, but I don't need to be a genius to figure it out."

She clenches her jaw against the assumption.

"She'll be out of the office until at least next week," he adds a beat later, and she frowns. "It's Thanksgiving. She's going home."

Rachel flinches at the reminder, caught off guard that she managed to forget. Of course. Quinn is going home to Lima for the holiday, and she's supposed to be leaving on Tuesday. That's tomorrow.

Rachel doesn't even know why she deflates at remembering that piece of information, but something happens to her heart that she can't quite explain.

It's either she's anxious about the thought of Quinn leaving, or she's relieved to have some time apart, so she can figure out what she's supposed to do.

No.

What she wants to do.

"She loves you, you know?" Jason says, and it looks as if it pains him to speak the words. "The way she talks about you, it's - it's not even real, sometimes."

Rachel does her best not to wince at the sound of that word. Who even knows what's real or not? She clearly doesn't.

"I think you've figured out how I feel about her," he says. "Liz, too. I'm sure half her students are a little bit in love with her, but none of that even matters, because it's always been you." He frowns down at his desk, and Rachel just wants to disappear, because how could everyone have seen what she so obviously missed? "Always," he repeats. "But, I don't know why I get the feeling you don't even know."

And, the thing is that she didn't. She doesn't. "She's - she's never told me," she whispers, more to herself.

Jason scoffs with a shake of his head. "She's never needed to," he says, and the finality in his voice is enough for her to know he has nothing more to say on this topic.

She almost asks him why. She wants to know what he's seen that she's missed, but she's starting wonder if she's seen it all as well, and just not known what it all meant.

What it means.

With a sigh, she says, "Happy Thanksgiving, Jason," and then turns to leave. She's admittedly distracted, which is why she doesn't see Liz until she's almost knocked her over.

"Oh, sorry," Rachel says, blinking repeatedly.

Liz starts to apologise as well, and then freezes in place, realising who is standing right in front of her.

Rachel sighs. Well. Who else is she going to run into on her tour of Quinn's groupies? "Quinn isn't here," she says.

"I wasn't - " she starts, and then stops, abandoning the excuse they both know is pointless. Liz was coming to the office to see Quinn, and there's just no use in either of them lying about it.

Rachel steps back, unable to grasp whatever she's feeling. It's odd. She's feeling possessive in a way, but also calm. As if she knows she's never had to worry about Liz, in any way.

Because, apparently, Quinn loves her.

Which is just wild.

So, so wild.

Unbelievable and crazy, and can it possibly be true?

Maybe, maybe not.

"Well, she's not here," Rachel says again, merely a reminder to herself, because she came here looking for Quinn, as well. They've both ended up disappointed.

Just, Quinn will probably talk to Liz before she talks to Rachel, given the way they left things, and that makes Rachel deeply uncomfortable.


"Should I stay?"

Rachel knows Santana asks the question only as a courtesy, because there's no way she's altering her plans for the holiday weekend. She's going home, to see her family, and to see Brittany.

Rachel wouldn't dream of taking that away from her. Someone should get to be happy.

"No, of course not," Rachel says, just about managing a smile. She's handling herself a little better today than the past few days, but the difference is that she hasn't really been left alone.

With Santana leaving, who knows what could happen?

"Are you sure?" Santana asks, already on her way out of the apartment.

"I'm sure," Rachel assures her, getting to her feet to see her off properly. She's not dressed to go outside, but she can definitely walk her roommate to the front door.

Santana lingers a while, looking at her critically, as if she could figure out if she's actually supposed to stay or not, just based on Rachel's demeanour. Whatever she sees makes the decision for her, and she tugs Rachel into a hug.

"Be good," she murmurs, quickly releasing her again. "And, like, don't do anything I wouldn't do or anything."

"Does that list even exist?"

Santana rolls her eyes. "Seriously, can you just, you know, not be a loser or whatever?"

Rachel frowns.

"Do something tomorrow, okay," she says. "Don't just sit around and mope. Quinn'll text you back eventually, and then you'll talk when she gets back, and life will go back to the way it was."

They both know that won't happen. Everything has been irreparably changed, and it's just something Rachel is going to have to live with. Somehow.

"Promise me," Santana says.

Rachel puffs out a breath. "I promise," she forces herself to say, even though they both know she has no plans beyond catching up on sleep and wallowing about the fact it's Wednesday and she hasn't seen or heard from Quinn since their disastrous Saturday night.

Not for a lack of trying, of course. After failing to get a hold of Quinn on Monday, she took it as a sign and thought it best not to engage until she's sorted out her head. So, she took Santana's reluctant advice and texted Quinn. It was short, to the point, and she sent a similar one on Tuesday and another today.

Still no response.

Rachel is desperate, but she's determined not to show it. She's a lot heartbroken as well, but she's managed to pull it together enough at rehearsals not to draw attention to the fact her fake relationship imploded because she freaked out about wanting it to be real.

Which it was.

God.

"That promise means nothing, doesn't it?" Santana muses, and Rachel ducks her head, blushing.

"Get out of here," Rachel says, almost shoving her out of the now open door.

Santana doesn't move. "Look, I don't know if I'm going to see Quinn while I'm home," she says. "Chances are, she won't want to meet up, but I'll probably be able to check up on her in some way, okay? I'll make sure she's okay."

They both know Quinn's definitely not okay, but Rachel appreciates the sentiment, regardless. Maybe if she pretends hard enough, she'll be able to get through the next few days relatively unscathed. Maybe.

It's a good plan, at least, but it fails rather miserably. Because she's miserable. So, so miserable. She's tempted to switch off her phone, but she needs to have it nearby in case Quinn decides to reply.

She's definitely not holding her breath for such a thing, but she's not ready to give up all hope. She knows their friendship is too important to the both of them for this to be the end of it. They're going to have to talk about it at some point, and she vows to be ready when they do.

There are any number of things Rachel could be doing to celebrate Thanksgiving, but she does none of them. Several of her cast mates are still in the city, having little dinners together, and, despite the various invitations she receives, Rachel just stays locked away in her apartment with cold vegan pizza and too much wine as she binges on all the shows she hasn't been able to watch.

It's sad, but she doesn't care.

She needs this, and she's unwilling to explain exactly why to anyone brave enough to ask. Her fathers must sense something is amiss, because they don't ask too many probing questions, and Santana's simple text of happy thanksgiving, bitch! Lima hasn't burnt to the ground, so I think we're okay does very little to help.

Rachel won't even get started on Kurt, who she's decided to ignore, past her initial need to contact him. In a sense, she's embarrassed, but she also wants to leave a friend for Quinn to confide in, seeing as she's already claimed a truly unhelpful Santana.

So, Rachel spends Thanksgiving alone in her apartment, and it's mostly okay.

Until it just isn't.

There's about an hour left before Thanksgiving is officially over, and Rachel is busy shoving apple chips down her throat to battle her own heartache while she watches trashy television when her phone buzzes against her hip.

She's too distracted, which is why she doesn't bother checking the name lighting up the screen, just puts it to her ear, and hears Mercedes Jones say, "What the fuck did you do to her?"

Rachel nearly drops her phone, but just about manages to hold onto it. "Oh, uh, hi - " she starts, but Mercedes has no time for pleasantries.

"Look," she bites out; "I don't care what stupid excuse you're going to come up with. I don't even want to hear it. Quinn is refusing to tell me the complete truth, anyway, and that's fine, whatever, I don't need to know the details, but I've never - " Mercedes' voice suddenly goes sharp with emotions such as anger and confusion and something else entirely. "I've never seen her like this before, and I know it's because of you."

Rachel swallows hard. "Mercedes…"

"No," Mercedes snaps. "I said I don't want to hear it. All I need from you is not to fuck it up any more than you already have. Because, believe it or not, I care about you. Both of you - even though you've done God knows what to make her act this way - "

Rachel, somehow, feels defensive enough to say, "I know, all right! I know I screwed it up. You don't need to tell me that I - "

"Yes, I do," Mercedes snaps again. "I do, because she hasn't been sleeping and her mood has been shit because of it, and I don't know what you're putting her through, but you could have known better. You could have known because she's always been so damn obvious about it. You were just selfish and refused to see it for what it is."

The protest catches in Rachel's throat.

She bites down hard on her bottom lip; bites back the tears.

"Yeah," Mercedes says after a moment of silence. "Fucking think about it."

Rachel's hands are shaking, and she glances at her half empty bag of chips. "I need to go," she mumbles.

Mercedes scoffs. "Of course. Whatever. Just don't make - " She's interrupted by the sound of a door falling shut on Mercedes' side of the connection, and her sharp intake of breath tells Rachel all she needs to know.

Rachel holds her own breath, closes her eyes, and can picture the way Quinn has to be standing in the doorway, dressed in sweatpants and one of her favourite Harry Potter hoodies, the way she must look with her hair down, sleepy and -

"Who are you talking to?" Quinn asks in the background.

Rachel hangs up before she can hear Mercedes' answer, needing to protect herself somehow. She's breathless and aching, and she just wishes it would stop.

Just for a moment.

She needs it all to stop.


So she makes it.


The hangover is inevitable, but Rachel is determined to believe it was worth it.

It stopped.

Just for a moment.

The problem, she finds, as she's getting ready to make her way to the theatre in the morning, is that she hasn't managed to forget. Not even a little bit. Quinn is such a part of her life that she barely knows what to do with herself without Quinn's presence on the daily.

Well.

If Rachel wasn't sure just how important Quinn was before this, then she is now. Very, very aware. She misses her like crazy, and she's just cognisant enough not to send that a hundred times in a text. It's something she wants Quinn to know, obviously, but Rachel is trying not to be selfish about it. She's done enough of that, she thinks.

The show is coming together really well, and they're on their way to Previews on schedule. There are a few chinks that need to be worked out, but Elliot claims to be feeling good about it as a whole, so they're on the right track. Rachel chooses to bask in the way her professional life is holding itself together, even if it's at the cost of her personal one.

It's what she thinks about when Jasmine casually asks her if she's prepared Quinn to watch her kiss another woman on stage. It's a simple question, really, but it catches Rachel off guard, and she sucks in a sharp breath.

Jasmine lets out a little laugh. "You should probably warn her," she says with a smile. "Kira's kind of nice to have around, you know, and Quinn seems like the type who wouldn't like anyone encroaching on her woman."

Rachel manages a smile, barely, and she glances over her shoulder at Kira, who she has yet to kiss on stage, even though they've carefully blocked the scene. Rachel also has to kiss Brendan, in another scene, though it's brief. The show deals with Rachel's character's confused sexuality, yes, but it's third to the main theme of her confused parentage and confused career.

It's telling that Jasmine hasn't asked if Rachel has prepared Quinn for her kiss with Brendan. Because that shouldn't matter, right? Because Rachel is supposed to be gay. She's supposed to be happy in a relationship with a woman.

And, until a few days ago, she was.

Real or not, she was happy, and that means something.

Rachel clears her throat. "I should probably do that, shouldn't I?" she asks, mostly of herself. It wasn't something she even thought about, but it seems like it would be a good idea.

Though, right now, she's sure Quinn won't even answer her calls, and she's also unsure if Quinn will even be watching the show when it opens. The unknown and uncertainty is crippling in a way, but she knows she's going to have to do something about it.

That something almost comes out of nowhere, but she doesn't turn away from it. Which is why, when she does reach for her phone to dial a particular number, she ends up calling Nicole Doucet, instead.


Rachel knows nerves. She's dealt with them on and off for the duration of her performing career, but even this is a little paralysing. She's just spent the last hour rambling through the situation in its entirety, and now Nicole is just staring at her rather blankly.

Rachel fidgets in her seat, her fingers curled around her cup of coffee, just waiting for Nicole to say something.

Anything.

"Wow."

Rachel puffs out a breath, because she expected something else; something more.

"Wow," Nicole says again, her eyes a little wide. "I definitely didn't see that coming." She puffs out a breath. "If it wasn't your telling me; I'm pretty sure I wouldn't believe it."

"Why?"

"You were very convincing," she says. "Though, I'm starting to see it was because neither of you was actually pretending, even if you thought you were."

Rachel sighs heavily. "I don't know what to do."

"Sure you do."

"I do?"

Nicole leans forward, her gaze drifting to the side. "I think you know exactly what you want to do, and you're just scared of what it might mean for you."

Rachel audibly swallows. "I don't - " she starts, because she doesn't even know what she's going to say. She's never had to deal with something like this, and she hates - hates - not being in control of the situation.

Her situation.

This isn't part of the plan. None of this is part of the plan.

"What has you so bothered?" Nicole asks, and she sounds genuinely curious. "What are you so worried about?"

Rachel nibbles on her bottom lip, contemplating her next words. "What - what if I'm not?"

"Not what?"

She can't even bring herself to say it.

"Interested in girls?" Nicole ventures a guess.

She sighs, forcing herself to nod. "What if it's just Quinn?"

"What if it is just Quinn?" Nicole throws back, looking perplexed. "Why would that matter?"

"I don't want to hurt her."

Nicole gives her a very significant look.

"More than I already have, I mean."

Nicole seems to ponder her words. "Well, I mean, do you know why you ran?"

"Excuse me?"

"When you were supposed to be talking the first time around," she starts, and then gives it some thought. "Or the third, perhaps fourth time… why didn't you stick around and talk about it? What about the words Quinn said scared you so much?"

"I don't want to hurt her," she says again.

"What would you have said?"

"It's really complicated."

"That feels like an excuse," Nicole presses. "Though, I also get the feeling you honestly believe it."

Rachel sighs, because she was almost hoping not to do a deep-dive into her intense past with Quinn. She knows it'll help, given it's all part of her misgivings on the entire thing. She does have this entire past with Quinn, so why is this the moment everything is deciding to implode?

Rachel clears her throat. "Did you know that we weren't even really friends when we were in high school?"

"Oh."

"She was actually one of my bullies."

Nicole's eyes widen. "Ohh."

"It took us a while to become friends, and then best friends, and I'm not ready to hear just when everything changed for her," she says. "When we were graduating, honest-to-God, the one thing I was most proud of was that we left as actual friends."

Nicole leans back, looking a little bewildered.

"Yip," she says. "It's a complicated mess, Nicole. It's never going to be some conversation we can just walk into. Not when - "

"Not when what?"

"Not when I still don't know," she says. "I don't want to lose her. I can't."

Nicole presses her lips together, her eyes a little sad. "Do you know that Ed spent Thanksgiving with his children, and I spent it here?" she asks, sounding just a little too casual about the truth she's just revealed.

Rachel feels her chest twist rather painfully, and it must show on her face.

"I'm not trying to get your pity," Nicole says; "or sympathy."

"I'm still sorry," she says.

Nicole clears her throat. "What I'm trying to say is, well, I mean, you called me for a reason," she says. "There are still things you're obviously still confused about when it comes to women in general, and you care about Quinn too much to use her as an experiment."

Rachel winces at the mere idea. It would crush her to put Quinn through something like that: giving in to whatever this is and then figuring out she can't. She can't even think about what it would do Quinn. Which is why she really needs to be sure.

"I'm not really sure what you're saying," Rachel says, a little nervous, because she's sure Nicole is about to suggest something she's definitely not willing to try.

"I think you need to go out," Nicole says. "Get some experience. Figure out if it truly is just Quinn."

Rachel just stares at her, because she's definitely not saying what Rachel thinks she's saying. "You want me to what?"

"Flirt with a girl," Nicole says. "Dance with one. Just try to figure out if the attraction is beyond Quinn."

"What if it isn't?"

"Then, at least you'll actually have something to tell her," Nicole says. "Even if it goes the other way, I think it's better for both of you if you knew for sure."

"She's wanted this for so long," Rachel whispers. "I - I can't take a chance with her."

Nicole opens her mouth to respond, but, then, the last thing she ever imagined happening, happens.

Rachel isn't really paying attention to her phone when it starts ringing. She thinks she should have learned from her experience with Mercedes, but she hasn't, which is why she's far too calm when she moves the phone to her ear and says, "Hello."

"Hi, Rachel."

She almost falls out of her chair, which would be comical if her heart wasn't pounding in her chest.

Holy shit.

Quinn.

Quinn is calling her.

Nicole looks at her in alarm, and Rachel mouths the word Quinn, which gets her another look that she doesn't quite understand.

"Rachel?" Quinn asks, sounding hesitant. "Are you there?"

"Oh, hi," she squeaks. "Hey, Quinn."

Quinn breathes out slowly. "I'm sorry to call so late," she says. "I just wanted to, uh, wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, as well as apologise for Mercedes." She pauses, and Rachel closes her eyes, just basking in the sound of Quinn's voice. "She thinks she meant well, but she had no right to call you like that, so I'm sorry for whatever she said."

"It - it's okay," Rachel automatically says.

"No, it's not," Quinn says, indicating the end of whatever argument could have started. "Look," she starts; "I, uh, I'm sorry I haven't replied to any of your texts. I'm not - I have - this is - "

If the entire situation weren't so horrible and sad, Rachel thinks she might find it a bit amusing that Quinn, who is a soon-to-be published author, can't seem to find the words.

Quinn clears her throat. "I think we need to talk," she finally says. "I haven't been ready or willing since - " she stops suddenly, and Rachel feels the anguish deep in her chest. "But, I think I'm ready now. I'm still embarrassed - I don't think that'll go away easily - but I think it's important you know I never meant for any of this to happen. The last thing I ever wanted was to make you uncomfortable, or possibly force y - "

"Quinn, no, you di - " Rachel interrupts, only for Quinn to interrupt her right back.

"I get back to New York early Sunday afternoon," she says, her tone a little rushed, as if she's reaching the threshold of how much she can currently handle when it comes to Rachel. "Would you be willing to meet somewhere to... talk?"

Rachel doesn't even have to think twice about it. "Yes."

"Okay," Quinn says. "I - I should get in at around three, so I'll text you once I'm in New York, and we can figure out where to meet."

If Rachel feels anything about the fact Quinn won't suggest meeting at either one of their apartments, she says nothing about it. It's probably the best way to go, but she can't help thinking about why Quinn wouldn't want to be alone with her.

"Okay," Rachel says, always knowing she was going to answer in the affirmative. She's never going to say no to this opportunity.

"Okay," Quinn echoes, and then promptly hangs up.

Rachel can't even feel aggrieved Quinn didn't say goodbye, because Quinn called.

Quinn actually called.

She looks at Nicole in a bit of disbelief. "She called," she whispers. "She actually called."

Nicole smiles so widely that Rachel wonders if her face might crack. "See," she says; "and you were so worried."

Rachel rests her phone in her lap. "I am still worried," she says, because she is. "She wants to talk, and I still have no idea what I'm going to say."

Nicole gives her an expectant look, and they both already know what's going to happen.

"Okay," Rachel says, breathing out slowly. "We'll go out. I - I need to know for sure."

Nicole grins knowingly. "Oh, this is going to be lots of fun."


It all seems like a good idea right until the moment Rachel and Nicole arrive at the one gay club Nicole insists is the best for whatever adventure they seem to be on. It helps that Rachel has actually been inside before, but that's usually with her gay squad of best friends.

Now, though, she has Nicole, who looks as straight as they come, and Rachel doesn't think her getup offers anything different, either.

"This is a terrible idea," Rachel says, so tempted to turn right around and forget the ridiculousness of Nicole's suggestion. She can still go home, put on her pyjamas and watch reality television until she passes out. That seems like a much better idea, actually.

But, now, Nicole is pressing a hand to her back and guiding her forward.

"You can do this," Nicole says, gently encouraging. "It'll be worth it, you'll see."

Rachel glances over her shoulder at her, slightly aghast. "This could very well end in disaster."

"But, then, at least you'll know," Nicole says, and she sounds entirely convincing.

Still, Rachel doesn't quite believe it, but she tells herself she's going to try. It would be a disservice to both herself and Quinn if she didn't take this time apart at least to figure out some things. The last thing she wants is to go into her conversation with Quinn and have nothing to offer. If she can just figure out that she can like girls, then the fact Quinn is a girl becomes a non-issue.

Then, well, the problem is just Rachel.

Nicole stays somewhat close, offering silent support whenever Rachel manages to have any kind of conversation with a woman at the bar.

Rachel doesn't drift too far away from the counter, not willing to dive into the thick of it when she doesn't have to and finding comfort in the presence of the solid wood behind her back. Just in the short amount of time she's been standing there, she's entertained enough women that it's obvious she's looking.

At some point, Nicole even encourages her to go out onto the dance floor at some point, but Rachel isn't that brave.

Which is why she ends up having to come to Rachel.

It happens just minutes after Petra approaches her at the bar, drink in hand and smile more of a smirk. The realisation Rachel has been waiting for. It helps that Petra is tall, dirty blonde and beautiful, with a certain intelligence behind her eyes. She would remind Rachel of Quinn, but the spark isn't quite there. Rachel's not excited or nervous or truly interested.

But she is attracted, and, the second she recognises it for what it is, she beams so widely that Petra actually startles.

"Everything okay?" Petra asks, eyes wide.

Rachel nods, elated, because there's no mistaking this feeling. There is an extremely beautiful woman standing right in front of her, essentially making eyes at her, and the only person Rachel wants to see in this moment is Quinn Fabray. She wants to be talking to her, and flirting with her, touching her, possibly even kissing her.

Quinn.

"Everything is great," Rachel says, and maybe it isn't really yet, but it's going to be. "Everything is just perfect."

"What's going on here?" she asks, looking bemused as she indicates between the two of them with her forefinger.

Rachel nods again. "I just figured something out."

"Oh?"

"It's not just Quinn," Rachel says, more to herself than anything.

"Excuse me?"

Rachel lets out a happy little laugh. "Thank you," she says. "Truly, just, thank you."

Now, Petra just looks bewildered, which only gets worse when Rachel surges forward and hugs her tightly. She squeaks in surprise, and Rachel immediately releases her, blushing in a way she hasn't before.

"Sorry," she says. "I normally ask before I do that, but I'm just so happy."

"Okay…?"

"And I'm in love."

"Whoa," Petra says, stepping back. "We just met."

Rachel shakes her head, sobering slightly. "What, no, not you," she says, laughing unexpectedly. "Someone else."

"Oh?"

Rachel smiles again. "And, you've just helped me figure it out."

"Oh," Petra says, blinking repeatedly. "Well, uh, you're welcome, I guess."

Rachel nods once more, and then points her thumb over her shoulder. "I should - I've got to go."

"Right, uh, okay."

"It was very nice to meet you," Rachel says, resting a hand on Petra's forearm. "You're really very pretty, and I hope you have a wonderful night."

"Oh, uh, thanks," she says, shaking her head in what looks like amusement. "Good luck with, uh, your whole being in love thing. It - it's not worth it, if you ask me."

Rachel's smile widens that bit more. "That's where you're wrong," Rachel says, already backing away to go in search of Nicole, so they can get the hell out of here. "She definitely is."