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these strange steps

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She wakes up the next morning from a tentative, half-drunk dream that involved Quinn sliding off that hat and letting her hair tumble down her back, arching over her like some sort of hellion and then saying something—she can't remember what, though.

Her head is throbbing and she almost immediately and blindly reaches for the nightstand to take some Aleve, but there isn't any there; there's just Kurt, sitting on it primly and staring at her.

"Holy hell," she exclaims, watching as he almost laughs at her, before sobering again quickly.

"Puck told me that—you might not be in the best form today."

"Which is an excuse for you to just wander into my bedroom? There could've been someone—"

He arches an eyebrow at her, and she sighs, rubbing at her eyes.

"Okay, so there couldn't have been someone here, but that's still no reason for you to just show up here when I'm dead asleep."

Kurt clears his throat gently and says, "Do we need to call your therapist?"

"No," Rachel says, softly, before sitting up a little bit more and stretching, her comforter scratching at her skin uncomfortably. "I'm okay. It wasn't—it's not what you think it was."

"A little more explanation wouldn't hurt, Rachel. According to Puckerman, you basically hightailed it out of the bar you were at and then spent ten minutes hyperventilating and throwing up by the car."

She directs a sharp look at him and says, "Sometimes, I feel like you forget that all you manage is my career."

Kurt looks very unimpressed with her. "And since when is your career separate from your life?"

They stare at each other. Rachel looks away first, which is nothing new.

"I didn't have an episode," she finally says. "I had an unexpected encounter with … with a fan, who sort of invaded my personal space, and I'd had far too much to drink."

"Okay then," Kurt says, uncrossing his legs and sliding off her nightstand. "I'll go and get us some smoothies for breakfast, and then we can talk about that interview you're giving a few days from now about your show. The critic from the Post is coming to watch next week, remember? It's time for some positive publicity—and it would be great if we could sustain the momentum this time."

"Of course," she says, though it's clear to both of them that she really couldn't care less.


Rehearsal that afternoon is a disaster.

Not because she's hungover, because honestly, that's nothing new. No, it's because the middle part of the show involves this number in which all the female dancers around her cross-dress in dark grey, pin-striped suits, and then slowly start taking them off as she sings.

One of the girls, Layla, used to do burlesque shows and can lift her legs in ways that Rachel has only ever seen Brittany do. She's also blonde, and wearing her head up in the same kind of small French bun that Quinn had in place underneath the fedora last night.

She forgets words.

It's the first time in her life, and when she makes her way off stage, mumbling something about needing the bathroom, it's like her high from the night before finally wears off all at once.  She's suddenly almost throbbing with repressed memory: Quinn's cheekbones, angular as ever and set into sharper relief by that whorish shade of red lipstick she'd been wearing; her eyes, dark and moody and impossible to read, not least of all because Quinn still has the longest eyelashes she's ever seen on another woman; her legs, which, honestly, Rachel doesn't even know if she's ever seen that much of them before, Cheerios skirts notwithstanding. And the shirt, with crisp white tails loosely swaying in front of Quinn's torso, occasionally showing glimpses of perfectly round, hard-nippled breasts.

She can't think of this Quinn as a grown-up woman who's had a child; and this is not Quinn Fabray, eighteen and beautifully angry at the world, either.

This is a wet dream, coming back to haunt her.

She locks herself in the bathroom closest to the stage and leans against the stall door heavily, working her way through a breathing exercise that sometimes is enough to stave off a panic attack, but the problem is that this isn't panic. It's just mind-blowing, unfiltered want.

Her motives for going back to Rapture are altruistic. Her motives for sliding a hand up her thigh and working her fingers inside her panties, in the middle of a goddamned rehearsal for a show that's supposed to bolster her CD sales enough for her to actually be able to take a six month break afterwards—

No, there's nothing altruistic about the way she pictures Quinn's knowing, dismissive smirk—the curve of her lips, the burning in her eyes—right when she comes all over her fingers.

It's downright selfish, when all she really wants to do is take Quinn away from a position where anyone ever gets to buy the right to see her like that.


Because she is, at the end of the day, a consummate professional, nobody bats an eyelash when she comes back and cites food poisoning; except Puck, of course, who mimes a drink at her and raises his eyebrows.

Well. It's probably better if they all go home thinking she's turning into an alcoholic. It's not like the press didn't get into that particular brand of speculation ages ago, so whatever.


Masturbating while thinking about Quinn Fabray is not a new thing for her.

God, not by a long run. The first time it happened she'd still been dating Finn, and somehow the one thing that always got her off after their awkward, clumsy make-out sessions was thinking about Finn making out with someone else—which then somehow automatically became Quinn.

She'd written it off as it just being too awkward to picture herself three-dimensionally at first, but then fantasy-Quinn had started moaning in a way that real life Quinn never would have done, at that age, and at some point Finn had just disappeared from her imagination altogether.

No, from about age seventeen and a half onwards, at least three nights a week, Quinn Fabray has been in her mental bedroom. Rachel can't even remember the last time she had an orgasm that wasn't somehow about the idea of Quinn pressing her back into the mattress, threatening her with all sorts of things—"if you're not quiet, I'll tell everyone what a slut you are", which, honestly, it's so cliche and yet somehow, with Quinn's abrasive personality, completely in character. And the in character part of it has always been what gets her wet; the idea that Quinn could turn some of that focused anger into sexual attention, because when Quinn wants something—

Masturbating while thinking about Quinn is definitely not a new thing. What is new, though, is how much she knows about the way Quinn's hips roll forward when she's simulating sex; the way Quinn's hand feels dragging down her neck. The way that small tendrils of Quinn's hair work their way out from under that ridiculous hat while she's slowly shimmying out of her clothes.

Quinn has always been in her sexual fantasies, but after that ill-fated lap dance, she's suddenly there in technicolor, vivid and present like she's never been before.

After the show, Rachel drinks half a bottle of wine straight from the bottle and fucks herself three times; by the third time, she's completely given up on even feeling embarrassed about it.

If she just gets it out of her system, she might actually be able to carry out her plan and have a conversation with Quinn, next time she sees her.


Brittany and Santana drive up that weekend, by which time Rachel feels slightly more in control.

Reality has gotten in the way of whatever else she'd like to be doing in a painful way; now, she's mostly just being plagued by the knowledge that Quinn has a lot of information on her that Kurt has been trying to keep out of the press for a very long time.


Rachel Berry goes to strip clubs.


Rachel Berry moans at the feel of another woman's breasts near her face.

She should've stayed, and talked to Quinn about her privacy. Hell, they keep non-disclosure agreements in the car at all times just in case something like this happens. (Not that anything even close to something like this has ever happened to her before, because she's normally intelligent enough to say no to Puck's harebrained schemes.)

She should've just marched back in there, demanded to see Quinn again (or whatever her stripper name is. That's a thing, isn't it? Stripper names?) and forced her to jot her Jane Doe on the page, so that she could've gone back to her house and spent the rest of her existence having tortured fantasies without worrying about when People or Us Weekly were going to out her.

The most terrifying part of all of this is that sure knowledge that Quinn, for whatever reason, could use the money that would come from selling her out.

She has legal representation coming out of her ass, thanks to Kurt, but not a single person she'd be happy to talk to about this. That's why it's great that Brittany and Santana are visiting, because Brittany's the one who knew about the club, and Santana's the one in law school.

They give her tight hugs—the kind she gets from people who secretly feel sorry for her, but she doesn't mind it so much from them—and she pours them both some Cabernet before they settle in her living room. (It's almost sterile levels of white and gray and feels more like a doctor's office than a house, which is why she's spent exactly ten minutes in the living room before now.)

"You look worse than you normally do," Santana says, wrapping an arm around Brittany's shoulder, who angles her head down and rests it on Santana's shoulder in kind.

It's ridiculous how envious she is, even of so little. "Thanks, Santana. That's—I'm glad to see you're doing well, as always."

"Hey, we're friends. Friends tell each other the truth," Santana says, with a pointed look. "If you're really as worn out as I think you are, you should've told Kurt to fucking shove this show somewhere and just taken off. Hawaii's awesome this time of year."

"It is," Brittany agrees, reaching over and twisting the band on Santana's finger. "Really pretty, and like, super relaxing."

"Yeah, well. Maybe after the summer," Rachel says, without any real feeling.

Hell, she doesn't even begrudge Kurt pushing for the tour. It's good for her career, and she doesn't know what she'd do with herself if she wasn't working. Probably just drink all the time in her apartment; listen to old Broadway classics on vinyl and forget to cook. She needs the routine of the work almost more than she needs the break.

It's easier to admit that she needs her job than that she needs help, after all.

"I have a situation," she finally says, folding her legs under her. The bags under her eyes feel heavy, and it took twenty minutes for Cheryl to cover them before last night's performance. She wants a haircut, but can't get one, because all the hair pieces depend on her having shoulder-length hair. Sometimes, she wishes she could just perform wearing her glasses, because she's had three eye infections in six months from her contacts. And yet all of that pales completely to what she's about to say. "This requires your complete discretion, and on top of that, I would really appreciate it if you didn't laugh."

Santana's lips already twist into a light smirk. "Damn, Berry, I'm not making any promises. What's with the secret service talk?"

"Sh," Brittany says, and then nods for Rachel to continue.

"The other day... Puck took me to this place called Rapture," she says, looking at Brittany's face.

"The strip club?" Santana asks, before looking at Brittany as well. "The one that Ashley used to work at?"

"Unless there's two of them and the other one is like, I don't know, a petting zoo," Brittany says, squinting at Rachel. "I don't think she'd be so weird about going to a petting zoo, though."

"Britt, I have to ask you something, and I want an honest answer, okay?" Rachel says, ignoring Santana's small smile and eye roll.

"Sure," Brittany says, shifting up a bit and leaning into Santana more casually. "Is it about stripping?"

"No, it's—how much do you know about the people who work there?" Rachel asks, because there's not really a better way to put it.

"Well, my friend Ashley used to. I mean, we do fusion jazz ballet together, right. She's really cool and told me about it, and then I told Puck because Puck wanted to know about things to do in Vegas. But I don't know anyone other than Ashley, and I mean, she doesn't work there anymore. Why?" Brittany asks, with a frown.

"Well," Rachel says, biting her lip, and working her way through the lines she's been rehearsing all morning. "I sort of... got a lap dance from someone. And realized after the fact that they knew who I was. And I didn't get them to sign off on it. I was hoping that you could tell me—I was hoping you'd know more about the girls that work there. Maybe assure me that if I go back with an NDA that..."

Santana laughs. "Rachel, are you dumb?"


"You can't go marching into a strip club with an NDA like four days after you got a lap dance. First of all, if that shit was going to get sold to the tabloids it already would have been; and secondly, stripping's like hooking. There's a code of honor. Whoever gave you a wettie that night, it's never going to leave that room."

Rachel looks between them and shakes her head after a moment. "No. I need more than that. This is my entire life, for God's sake. A code of honor isn't enough."

"Well, an NDA over something that's already happened isn't going to fly, legally. You sign before you find out things; not after," Santana says, finishing her wine and putting the glass back on the table. "You're going to have to go about this the old school way."

"Which is?"

"Asking nicely," Brittany suggests.

"Yeah, no. I meant bribery," Santana amends, before leaning down and kissing Britt. "Too sweet for this world, Britt-Britt."

"Someone has to be nice," Brittany says, with a shrug.

Rachel's had many similar thoughts in the last four days, albeit for totally different reasons.


By the time Tuesday rolls around, she's back to shaking. She blows off rehearsals, because it's been two weeks and the show's glued to the back of her mind already. They're making a few changes to the mid-show intermission that will hold up actual rehearsing today anyway, and she doesn't need to be there for those meetings—it's the one part of the production she has no personal stake in.

Instead, she goes to the gym and spends a good hour on the elliptical, trying to work as much frustration and anxiety out of her body as she can.

By late afternoon, she's staring at the bottle of pills in her nightstand, but—she just can't. Xanax helps, but it also turns her into a zombie. She knows for a fact that she would've handled seeing Quinn again a lot better the first time around if she'd been less out of her mind, and this is her last chance.

If it's even a chance at all.

The last time, she'd been wearing a simple black dress with flats, just because Puck hadn't told her a thing about what they were doing. Now that she knows who she's seeing—and yes, her intentions are just to talk to Quinn, but even so, she'll be damned if she doesn't look her absolute best—she's taking out a short, strapless red dress instead. The kind of thing she doesn't wear in public anymore, because it's asking for twenty million pictures on TMZ that the entire world then starts tearing apart.

She's not lacking in confidence. She's just a lot more selective about who gets to see what parts of her these days.

With the dress come five inch dark red heels that will, if she's guessing right, just about bring her at eye level with Quinn. If Quinn doesn't wear those six inch stilettos again, and they stay standing. Her gut roils at the idea that they won't be, because if they're sitting down—

There's only one chair. She looks down at the hem of her dress again, and wonders how far it will slide up if she's scoots back onto that chair, gripping it for dear life while Quinn more or less bullies her into accepting a dance she doesn't really want.

Except that's a lie.

She's going to be sober this time, and it would be fucking torture, but Rachel accepted a long time ago that being tortured by Quinn Fabray is something that holds a lot more appeal for her than it should.

Why the hell else would she have put up with it for so long in high school?


The drive over is smooth enough; traffic hits an early evening lull in Vegas that is wholly unfamiliar to someone used only to endless jams out of LA and a complete lack of desire to own a car in New York, but she's at Rapture by seven thirty, which has to be the weirdest time on earth to be entering a strip club.

The bouncer looks at her and says, "Welcome back", which—she gives him her best haughty glare, but he just looks amused by her. She can't blame him; she probably looks positive provincial right now, what with that baby rabbit look that she knows is all over her face.

Still, she shakes her hair out and formally asks, "I apologize for asking what is probably a very strange question, but do you serve any vegan food?"

The bouncer laughs. "You're not here for a dance, are you."

She smiles almost despite herself. "Not... immediately, anyway."

"Kitchen does things on request, so if you can explain your vegan food, you're good to go."

It's how she ends up eating a tofurkey burger while watching three strippers talk about their hair extensions in preparation of their eight pm show.


Her appetite isn't what it should be, but she makes her way through most of the meal anyway, rolling her eyes when the waitress leans down extra far to ask her how it was.

"Delicious, thank you," she sort of murmurs, before sliding a twenty up the girl's hip and snapping her panties against it to keep it in place.

"Is there anything else we can do for you?" the waitress asks, with a small smile at Rachel's pretty serious blush.

"I—a vodka tonic, please. Double."

She might not want to be out of her mind right now, but she's not going out back completely sober, either. Not when back there, in that room, Quinn holds all the power and she can at best just hope to not make a fool out of herself two weeks in a row.


Her handle on the situation drops abruptly when she makes her way over to the entrance to the back area and finds a different girl manning the table there, around nine pm.

"What can we get you?" the girl asks, a little gruffly, and Rachel feels a twinge of guilt at the reminder of what all of these girls are doing here.

Still. She's the exception to the rule, because honestly, she really is just here to talk, tonight.

"There—you have a girl; she's blonde, about 5'6... likes suits," Rachel says, fumbling over the words.

"Oh, right," the girl says, scanning down the reservation list in front of her. "You mean Rachel."

"I—what?" Rachel asks, blinking at her.

"Blonde in suits, nice ass, right? Rachel. She's with someone right now, but she's free in about half an hour. How long do you want her for?"

Rachel hesitates. "... thirty minutes."

"You got cash for that?" the girl asks. It's a fair question, because fifteen minutes is two hundred dollars.

Rachel smiles wryly and says, "I don't suppose you take American Express."

Seconds later, her card is swiped through a terminal and she's signing her name off on a bill that says, quite clearly, private services as the purchased item. God, the amount of physical evidence—Kurt would kill her if he ever found out.

Something about the look on her face must tip off the girl in front of her, who chews her gum loudly for a second and then reaches for her hand. "Hey—don't worry. I know who you are, as does everyone else in here, and nobody's ever going to be told by us, okay? We all have secrets we'd like to keep."

Rachel takes a deep breath and nods, handing back the pen, and running a hand through her hair just to have something to do.

"You can go on ahead if you like. She'll join you when she's done," the girl says, holding the curtain open again.

Rachel thinks she's marginally more ready for what's going to happen next this time than she was the first time.


Unlike the first time, Quinn's hair is down tonight; curled lightly at the edges, but otherwise flowing the way she used to wear it when she'd quit the Cheerios the second time around.

The impression of what Rachel expects to see and what she is seeing, absolutely overlapping for a change, is almost too much for her to handle.

"You have got to be kidding me," Quinn says, pausing in the doorway, one foot off the floor like she can't honestly decide if she wants to come in further to kick Rachel's ass or just turn around again and decline her payment.

"I'm—" Rachel hesitates, scanning up and down Quinn's black skirt suit. It's hemmed just above the knee, and weirdly, it looks like a real suit. Not the kind of fantasy fodder strippers would wear. Her collared shirt underneath the jacket is skin-tight and baby blue. The outfit is topped off by another skinny tie, this time tucked snugly under the jacket, and honestly, if she didn't know better she'd think Quinn was on her way to some sort of Young Republicans fundraiser.

Quinn purses her lips for a long moment, before stepping into the room and closing the door behind her.

"I didn't buy a dance," Rachel says, getting up off the chair just to make that really, really clear. (She only sat down on it because fifteen minutes is a long time to be pacing.) "I came to apologize, and then—"

Quinn stays silent and unmoving.

After another deep breath, Rachel adds, "I was hoping we could talk."

"My conversational skills aren't for sale," Quinn says, sharply.

"I'm not here for pleasantries, Quinn," Rachel says, feeling the conversation slip from her grasp. "I don't want to catch up on the last seven years or bond over how much we both loved Finn Hudson in high school."

Quinn says nothing to that; just leans back against the door and raises an eyebrow at her.

Good God, that look makes her weak at the knees. Even after all this time.

"I'm—" Rachel starts to say, and then looks at the floor, licking her lips and gathering her thoughts. "As far as the rest of the world knows, I'm in a relationship with a man."

Quinn makes a small sound that clearly means and I care why?

"There are many reasons as to why we perpetuate that myth, but the foremost reason is that there just isn't a lot of money in being the female lead in romantic comedies as a lesbian," Rachel says, a little more firmly, before glancing back up at Quinn. "And you know that romantic comedies have always been my forte.  If I make it in Hollywood, it will be in that genre."

Quinn's blank expression shifts to understanding within seconds. "You're here to make sure I don't tell anyone you went to a strip club."

"Yes," Rachel says.

"And moaned loudly at the feeling of another woman sitting on you. Touching you," Quinn says, before pushing off and away the door.

Rachel says nothing, but swallows hard at the almost predatory look on Quinn's face.

"Well. I can't say I saw this coming," Quinn murmurs, stepping into Rachel's personal space without any hesitation whatsoever. Rachel abstractly wonders if there's even such a thing as personal space in this job, but then Quinn continues with, "You have the entire world wrapped around your finger, Rachel, and yet here we are, with me holding your future in my hands."

Rachel closes her eyes unwillingly and says, "I would really appreciate it if we could both be adults about this."

Quinn laughs softly and says, "Yes. Because that's what you and I have always excelled at. Being adults together."

"High school was a long time ago, Quinn. I've put all the shit you've done to me beside me, so maybe you can get over your issues with me as well, and we can just... shake on it," Rachel says, forcing herself to angle her head just enough to look into Quinn's eyes.

Quinn's expression slackens for a second, and then she demands, "Tell me, Rachel. What part of it did you get off on last time—the fact that you finally had one up on me, or the fact that you could finally touch something you've apparently been wanting to touch for seven years?"

Rachel feels herself blanch. "I don't know—"

"We're all friends; the other girls and I," Quinn says, with a small but mean smile. "Tracy said that you might as well have held up a picture of me when you… requested the dance."

"Why are you doing this?" Rachel asks, quietly.

Quinn says nothing in response to that, but thankfully does take a step back. "If I was going to try to ruin your life, I would have done so three days ago."

"Why haven't you?" Rachel asks, exhaling slowly and willing her legs to stop shaking. "It's not like we were ever friends. It's not like you owe me anything. And you clearly need the money, so—"

Quinn stares her down, and Rachel bites her lip at that look; it's the one that, in every single one of her fantasies, precedes Quinn shoving her up against a wall, or a mattress, or a tree, or anything, and then taking her without even asking if it's okay.

This isn't a fantasy, though, and so Quinn just says, "You know what my rates are. So you must know I don't need the money that badly."

Rachel flushes heavily. "You're—I mean, I would make a joke about how you're overpriced, but—"

Quinn snorts dryly and then asks, "How long do you have me for?"

Rachel almost swoons at the question, but then sobers immediately when she remembers that it's not an offer of something more. It's just a statement of fact.

"Thirty minutes," she says, feeling incredibly ashamed of the words and their implication. "And I meant what I said, I don't—"

"Are you sure?" Quinn asks, her hands already moving towards the front button on her jacket.

"Quinn, you're—you might not be a friend, but you're not a—"

"A whore?" Quinn says, dryly, with a small smile.

"I was going to say purchase, but—" Rachel says, before swallowing the rest of her sentence.

Quinn's smile lingers when she says, "I suppose you're going to insist I keep the money?"

Rachel makes a strangled noise and sort of halfway nods. It's the best she can do.

"I told you before that I don't do charity," Quinn says, calmly.


"Sit down, Rachel. And don't bother trying to pull your dress down further. At four hundred dollars, you've earned a little thigh on thigh contact."

Rachel mutely sits down on the chair and watches as Quinn walks around it, until Quinn is standing behind her.

"Would you like some music, or—"

"God," Rachel exhales, softly.

"We're really going to have to work on rule number two with you, aren't we," Quinn murmurs.

Rachel almost asks something stupid like why are you doing this to me, but vocalizing that question would not only break rule number two; it might make Quinn stop, which is now the last thing she wants. She might be paying for it, God, and she can already tell she'll feel horrible about all of this tomorrow, but Quinn is being professional to the point where she can almost forget that much, for now.

If this is her fantasy, she'll live it out the best she can.

"I'm not good at staying quiet," she says, ignoring the way her voice cracks. "And I don't care about the music. Do what you want."

Quinn laughs low, her hands pressing down on Rachel's shoulders, and says, "You know, I can't even tell you how many times I wished someone would gag you in glee club. It's funny how things turn out, isn't it."

Seconds later, Quinn's skinny tie is slipping down over her forehead, past her eyes, her nose, and then finally settling on her lips.

"Bite down on it," Quinn says. It's not a question, and all Rachel can do to stop from moaning really prematurely is close her eyes and follow Quinn's instructions.

The tie is tied behind her head quickly after that, and Quinn moves back to stand in front of her, her fingertips trailing around the upper part of Rachel's back.

"I wish Finn Hudson could see us now," she then murmurs, softly.

Rachel's knuckles are already whitening with her grip on the chair, and Quinn hasn't even undone the second button on her jacket.

It occurs to her far too late that Quinn might simply be trying to kill her, but when Quinn starts softly humming something a moment later, glancing at Rachel's face from time to time but mostly just watching her own hands run up and down her own body, Rachel can't honestly bring herself to care.


She's breathing heavily around the tie by the time Quinn's down to her underwear—a matching black bra and panties this time—and settling down on Rachel's lap.

"You know," Quinn says, her voice still not much more than a low murmur, "I've always wondered what women get out of this."

Rachel could explain, if she wasn't gagged, and if she wasn't too busy staring at Quinn's hand, trailing down between her own collarbones and then cupping her own breast through a sheer bra.

"I mean—" Quinn says, before sliding forward just that little bit more, until her thighs are sliding Rachel's dress up the rest of the way and they're almost stomach to stomach; and Rachel can feel Quinn's hand between them, clearly plucking at her own nipple and running the back of her hand against Rachel's chest every time she does it. "It's not like you can actually feel me against anything that—matters."

Rachel inhales sharply when Quinn's mouth moves up to her ear, and continues with, "Though maybe you don't need actual contact. Maybe just the thought of me, finally this close, is enough for you."

Her heart is almost beating out of her chest and she knows Quinn can feel it.  She can tell that Quinn's enjoying herself immensely, and God, this is so high school. Not that she'd ever thought she'd be getting a lap dance from Quinn Fabray in high school, but they're still being bitchy sixteen year olds, fighting over … God knows what, at this point.

Maybe fighting just to win. All Quinn seems to want is to best Rachel, and all Rachel wants is for Quinn to realize that this isn't something she needs to be besting her at.

Well, she wants that, and maybe a hand between her legs; fuck, she'd settle for a thigh right now.

Quinn's looking at her carefully, smiling viciously at the way Rachel's pupils have blown, and the small sheen of sweat on her forehead.

"How long have you been thinking about me like this?" she asks.

Rachel makes a helpless noise, because they're not her rules and it's not her tie.

"Senior year?" Quinn asks, raising her eyebrows and running her hands up and down Rachel's arms.

Rachel shudders at the feel of Quinn's hands—soft, feminine—but is cogent enough to shake her head.

"Junior year?" Quinn asks, circling Rachel's wrists and then gently pulling them Rachel's hands off the seat.

Rachel inhales sharply through her nose and shakes her head again.

Quinn's relentless levels of satisfaction at the power trip she's on drop away a little when she leans back and says, with a frown, "Surely not sophomore year." Her thumbs are still brushing against Rachel's wrists, and Rachel's heart rate kicks up another notch at the feel of the small shapes they're tracing.

Rachel shrugs helplessly. There's no point in lying about it; she'd found Quinn unbelievably attractive before the pregnancy, but it wasn't until Quinn's life had fallen apart completely that she'd felt anything other than abstract admiration for her.

Quinn's expression hardens for a moment, but then she sighs.  "It doesn't really matter. I don't know why—"

Rachel swallows carefully and then looks down at their hands; at where Quinn's thumbs are still etching circles right up against her pulse points.

Quinn snaps out of whatever mood she's in and pulls on Rachel's wrists, almost crushing their bodies together, but then bringing both of their hands up towards her upper back.  Rachel can't help a little surprised noise at what she thinks is going to happen.

Quinn looks at her sternly and says, "Do it without touching skin, or we're done."

Rachel honestly doesn't know how she has any feeling or blood left in her fingertips, but they cooperate, and that's when it occurs to her that she might not just have to put up with Quinn tormenting her like this.

She's past the point of being embarrassed, because so what if Quinn knows how she feels? Quinn's the one who's mostly naked and straddling her. They're in this together, and that means that she's not the only one who can play this game.

She lets her left arm fall away, and brings her right hand up towards Quinn's bra clasp, squeezing it together with just two fingers—carefully, to make sure that she's not accidentally touching skin—and then letting it snap open.

The bra falls forward, between them, and Quinn stares at her for a long moment, not saying anything.

Rachel stares back and then tracks one strap of the bra, up and over Quinn's shoulder, to where it's mostly dangling on her upper arm now, with just the tip of a finger.

Quinn watches that finger move, until it stops right at the edge of the cup and lingers there, and then says, slowly, "I would've thrown anyone else out of the room by now."

Rachel blinks slowly and almost smiles, but she can't. Not when she finally isn't making a complete fool out of herself.

And, okay, maybe this is kind of about winning. Maybe it's about proving herself to be good enough.

"You never could follow direction for the life of you," Quinn notes softly, rolling her shoulders until her bra actually drops away, and then letting it dangle from one of her fingers for just a second, right in front of Rachel's face, before tossing it to the side. "Hands back on the chair, Rach."

Rachel abstractly wonders if it's possible for her to come without anyone touching her, which is when Quinn turns around on her lap and hooks her legs between Rachel's, then spreading them further until she can sit between them.

Her ass rocks backwards, and Rachel's moan is completely to be expected at this point, muffled as it is by the tie. Quinn looks over her shoulder and smirks before rolling her hips back again, with a sharp, "I hope you know that this is pathetic."

Rachel could legitimately give a fuck, and closes her eyes as Quinn shifts against her, again and again.


Then, just like that, it's done.

With a quick glance at her watch, Quinn's off her lap and says, "Keep the tie; you've practically bitten through it."

Rachel reaches behind her head and unties it slowly, before forcing her legs together and jolting when there's contact.

"Jesus Christ," she mumbles.

Quinn's already mostly dressed again by the time she can think clearly enough to pull her dress back down, and then stares at her with an inscrutable expression.

"I was never going to tell anyone," she says, finally.

"Trust me, neither was I," Rachel sighs, standing up clumsily, one hand on the back of the chair to steady her.

Quinn's collected expression falters for a moment as she's zipping up her skirt. "Would there be anyone to tell? Anyone I know, I mean."

Rachel takes a deep breath and says, "I can't do this, right now. We can talk, but—not here."

Quinn's face falls, for a millisecond, and then shifts to that calculated level of cold again without warning. "Right."


"Quinn, oh my God, don't," Rachel says, immediately desperate to undo this. "That's not how I meant it. I'm obviously not judging you, I just—"

"I shouldn't have asked," Quinn says, running two hands through her hair and giving Rachel a dismissive look. "We're not friends. A good tip doesn't make for a relationship."

"For God's sake, I didn't—"

"Rachel. You're a client. And I'm a dancer. Lima might as well be another planet as far as I'm concerned. I haven't been back since high school, so the reason I don't actually want an answer to my question is because I don't care," Quinn bites out.

"How did you end up here?" Rachel blurts out, because she can't help herself. "Are you—are you okay?"

"It's really none of your business," Quinn says shortly, while heading to the door.

"Wait," Rachel says, feeling around her purse for the bills she knows are in there. "Let me—"

"So help me, if you're going to try to tip me two hundred dollars again, I will do a lot worse than gag you next time," Quinn snaps at her, her hand pushing down on the handle and then pulling the door open, without looking back. "It's how I choose to make a living, Rachel. I don't need to be pitied for it."

Rachel stops in her tracks and watches as Quinn disappears around the corner, with only one thought running through her mind.

Next time?