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these strange steps

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She's been listening to the original recording of Chess in the dark for the last three or so hours, when the doorbell rings and she drags herself off the bed and blearily opens the door.

Puck gives her a small smile. "Just wanted to see if you were okay."

She shrugs, and lets him into the house because he's a fixture. He might as well be a chair that she sometimes sits in. That's a terrible thing to think, probably, but she doesn't really have the energy to do much else.

She's America. Quinn is Russia.

"So," Puck says, gently sitting down in the comfortable chair in front of the never-on fireplace. "That was a fucking disaster, right?"

She looks at him for a long moment and then starts laughing.

He mimes wiping some sweat off his forehead. "There we go. Better."

"Oh, my God," she exhales slowly and then rubs at her face. "The last thing I needed was to have an episode after my manager and my... fuck buddy duke out which one of them is screwing up my life more."

"Quinn won that round hands down," Puck says, leaning back a little and stretching out his legs. "Which—you know. I've fucked a lot of buddies, but I wouldn't say any of them ever leapt into the fire for me like that."

She gives him a look, but he's not prying; he's just saying, and then glances out the window for a moment.

"You think it'd be okay if I like—talked to her about Beth, some time?" he finally asks.

Her not-really-sister is a topic of non-discussion.

Relevant NDAs have been signed by Shelby, her fathers, and anyone else who knows and who they could find, including Jesse—currently starring in a revival of Aida, as far as she's aware—and Mr. Schuester. Who probably is Will to her now. Or he would be, if she had any intention of ever taking him up on his repeat Facebook invites to come and show a Glee club how it's really done.

"With Valium and zero enthusiasm, kids!" isn't really the pitch he's going for, and so her decline is considerate, not dismissive.

She doesn't think about Shelby, much. Losing the mother she never have barely even blips in relative comparison to the things that have faded from her life that she did once have. That baby is literally nothing to her, even though she's seen pictures from time to time, when Puck flips open his wallet to pay for gas or a bag of vegan crisps before she can slip him money.

Although, calling her that baby—she's close to being nine years old now, if she's not nine already.

Quinn has a nine year old.

She forces herself to stop dwelling, because Puck is waiting for an answer, and finally just sighs. "I don't know."

"But—would it be okay with you if I asked her? I mean. I'm guessing I'll see her again, sometime," Puck says, tentatively.

She clamps her lips shut and finally just says, "I don't know. I'll try to find out. If and when she calls."

Puck doesn't do anything but look at her for a long time, and then reaches forward for the remote and says, "The Browns are playing."

"I hate baseball, Noah, you know that," Rachel says, tiredly.

Puck laughs and moves around the coffee table to sit down next to her. "That's fine. Ohio's best football team probably won't care if you don't give a shit about baseball."

She hates football too, actually, but that's not really the point.

What she doesn't hate is Puck's legs up on her coffee table, explaining the rules to her for the ten millionth time, and after the first ten minutes of playing time (which in reality take almost forty minutes to pass) she half-heartedly calls out, "Go Browns!" when some … running guy … runs.

"Dude—he's running away from goal. We just lost ten yards," Puck tells her, with a hilarious look that just says girl, please, before shaking his head. "I can't believe people actually believe for real that we're dating sometimes, you know that?"

She chuckles and leans into his side, and then says, "Seriously, though—go Browns, right?"

"Go Browns," he agrees, and kisses the top of her head.

She's drifted off, at some point during the evening, and when the doorbell rings she has no idea what time it is; there's a note on the table from Puck that suggests he left a while ago, but he covered her with a blanket and it's nice, the sense of routine that comes from that.

This is what they tend to do, in New York, when they're just hanging out. Puck is really the closest thing to family she has left, and so she yawns and ambles over to the door, fully expecting him to say he forgot his wallet or his keys.

"I'm going to buy you a chain," she says, when she opens the door, before straightening abruptly.

"Hi," Quinn says, wringing her hands together.

Rachel has absolutely not even the barest inkling of how she's meant to react to this. She glances at Quinn's watch, noting it's after midnight, and then looks at what she's wearing; sweat pants, a hoodie, and her hair is still damp.

It's nice, that Quinn showered after... work. It's probably not a courtesy to Rachel at all, but it makes it a little easier to not slam the door shut in an unexpected urge to ... to what?

To protect herself?

The thought is laughable.

"Why are you here?" she asks, quietly; she sort of braces herself against the door in a way that means it's definitely not open right now. She can't explain why. She's just so... tired.

But then Quinn hasn't done anything wrong. She just hasn't done everything, and...

She hates herself, sometimes. Those histrionic, overly dramatic little girl reactions she still has, whenever she gets pulled out of her comfort zone... Her fathers thought she'd grow out of them.

They really did set their hopes too high.

She hangs her head after a moment, and then steps aside. "Come in, I guess."

Quinn follows her, for a change, into the living room, and then lingers awkwardly before sitting down in the chair Puck also chose earlier that night.

Rachel sits on the edge of the sofa and studies her—in all her awkward glory—for a moment, before asking the obvious question again. "What are you doing here?"

"Checking up on you," Quinn admits, after a moment.

"And that's something you'd do for all your … friends?" Rachel asks, a little pointedly.

Quinn's self-assuredness, already at an all time low, seems to disappear completely at that question, and she takes a few deep breaths before pressing back up to her feet. "I should have called first. This was a mistake, I'm sorry—"

"Don't you dare," Rachel says, also shooting to her feet; the tears in her eyes are instantaneous.


"No, Quinn, I can't do this right now. You want us to be just be friends who fuck? Fine. You made it perfectly clear that I slot into your life when and how you need me to, and I accepted those terms. But you can't just waltz in here and start blurring all the lines because you're having some crisis of conscience about leaving your poor little drug-addicted friend Rachel alone after she had a melt-down over sashimi."

She doesn't even know how angry she is until the words slip from her mouth, and then watches as Quinn shuts down. Completely. And then coolly says, "It was the responsible thing to do."

"Oh yeah? Is that what they teach you over at psychology school, Dr. Fabray? Because to the best of my understanding, the responsible thing to do here is probably to not get involved at all."

Quinn's jaw muscles twitch violently, and for one terrible moment, Rachel thinks she might get slapped in the face. Which, well, talk about history repeating itself. But then—

Something changes. Something changes, because Quinn's lip quivers for just a flash, and then she turns away and says, "You're right. I should go."

Rachel deflates. The anger—that kind of passion is so hard for her to hold onto these days. She knows it's a sign that she's actually seriously depressed, the fact that she can't even manage fury when she should, but for now it's probably for the best. She runs a hand through her hair, and pulls it up into a tie, and then sits down on the sofa again.

"No, please, I'm sorry. I've... Let's start over. I don't want to fight with you right now. ... hello, Quinn. How was work?"

Quinn's back straightens and then she turns around again and says, "Yeah, how about we don't talk about that when we're both already—"

"No," Rachel says, simply and then stares at Quinn until Quinn sinks down into the chair again and stares right back at her. "I don't think so. Because—you're here. And yeah, a friend would probably check up on me. Puck was here earlier. But you're not Puck, and we're not friends."

Quinn actually looks a little hurt at that assessment. "I thought we were—"

"Getting along?" Rachel asks, and then has to take a deep breath before shaking her head. "Yeah, Quinn. We are getting along. You're charming, and funny when you want to be. You're fascinating. I want to know anything and everything there is about you, and the fact that you're so reticent with any information about yourself only makes me crave it more. If this was high school, I'd be making you a matching calendar set so you could tick off the days when you're busy and circle the days when you have time to swoop into my life and screw me into submission. It's gotten to the point where I miss you when go to the bathroom, but then you start singing songs from The Sound of Music and—"

The look on Quinn's face is abruptly terrifying, because she looks so terrorized. Like she's about a heartbeat away from running off. It's almost a relief when she just tersely says, "What are you saying?"

Rachel doesn't look away. "I'm saying we're not friends. We can't be friends, because I'm in love with you."

Quinn actually flinches, and God, it hurts. It hurts even though she could see it coming from miles away.

"You don't even really know me, Rachel. All you know is—"

Rachel shakes her head. "Don't you dare diminish this just because you're aware, in some abstract way, that I had a thing for you back in high school. I barely knew myself back then, let alone what I wanted from other people. You were—an ideal. You were just a face that I could pin my clumsy, adolescent desires on to. This is not that."

Quinn doesn't say anything in response to that, and Rachel watches as her nails dig into her thighs. It's impossible to interpret that in a good way, and so she sighs and lowers her face to her hands.

"And that's why—I mean, what do you think you're doing? Are you actually going to pretend you didn't know?"

"No," Quinn says, after a long pause. "I knew. I just also know that... it's not as simple as that. For either of us."

"It'd be a lot simpler if we could just talk about—"

"You're avoiding dealing with your addiction because it means a few more weeks with me," Quinn says, quietly, and Rachel lifts her head—and oh, those words sting, because they cut right through everything else. "If I suffered from serious self-esteem problems, I would probably conclude that I'm the new Xanax. And that isn't about love, Rachel."

She opens her mouth to deny it, but then closes it again, because the only thing—the only real thing—they have between them is unconditional honesty, so far.

And Quinn isn't wrong.

When she can find words again, they deliberately switch gears. "I know what I'm doing. I know that..." She pauses, and then looks at Quinn sharply. "What I don't understand is why you're letting me do it. Because, let's face it, Quinn; the one thing that's been consistent about you all these years is that you excel at running from problems, and I think we just agreed that I am one."

The breath that escapes Quinn sounds like it's killing her. Like it actually hurts for her to sit here and breathe through it, and Rachel wishes that they had the kind of relationship where she could offer some sort of comfort. But comfort? Comfort seems to scare Quinn more than anything else, and so she has to sit and wait.

"I care about you," she finally says.

It's not romantic, and for once, Rachel doesn't swoon, because the way Quinn says it... it's like the mere idea of caring about anyone exhausts her.

"As a friend," Rachel says, flatly.

Quinn swallows visibly, rubs at her mouth for a moment, and then shrugs. "In a roundabout way, we probably were friends in Lima. I wasn't close to you, but after sophomore year, I wasn't close to anyone. So I can either conclude that I was alone, or that I had friends and that it's not their fault that I kept them at a distance."

Rachel blinks and then watches as Quinn stares off into space.

"... when I first saw you here, I had absolutely no intention of doing anything but scaring you off. I don't do history. Nobody in Vegas knows the first thing about my past, because it's behind me and I have no desire to dwell on it." Quinn pauses. "And then you came back, and you just kept coming back, and... you're not who you were back then. And neither am I."

"Well, obviously," Rachel says, quietly.

Quinn glances down at her lap and then says, "Back in high school, Brittany used to occasionally insinuate that I was obsessed with you because I just wanted to be close to you. I thought she was insane, because every single one of my thoughts about you mostly just involved cramming a sock in your mouth and stealing my boyfriends back."

It's not really funny, but it kind of is, and after a moment Quinn sighs.

"And then—in Vegas, I finally got the freedom I needed to consider what I wanted. Not what my family wanted, or what my church wanted, or what... I needed to do to prove my worth. I could think about me," she says, slowly, and then turns to glance at Rachel. "And that me? I still wanted to stuff a sock in your mouth, but only because the wide-eyed and panicked look on your face that I thought that would inspire got me spectacularly wet."

Rachel smiles unwillingly. "Sorry to disappoint."

Quinn shrugs and then balls her hands, briefly. "I forced myself to stop thinking about you after that, because there was no point. I was here. You were wherever, and straight as a doorpost. And then... I obviously went through a number of changes to try and make something of my life that I could live with."

"Like the stripping," Rachel says, quietly.

Quinn's eyes flash, and then she roughly asks, "Do you have any idea what it's like to feel like … your own body doesn't belong to you?"

Rachel hesitates, because she does—there's something about being manipulated like a doll throughout various runs of choreography and photo shoots that brings about similar feelings—but no, she doesn't actually know. Not in the sense that Quinn is implying.

Quinn takes a deep breath. "I was Lucy. For a long time. Then I was Quinn. Then Quinn became pregnant. By the time I was seventeen, I looked in the mirror and saw nothing I recognized anymore. And the idea of other people wanting to... to touch me, it was almost unbearable. That body wasn't me. It was..."

Rachel squeezes her lips together to not voice any sympathy; it doesn't quite work, because a small whimper escapes, and when Quinn looks over, it's with some reproach.

"Don't. I found a way to get comfortable, and while I accept it's not the norm, it's... dancing was what I could handle. And now, it's a way for me to ensure that I stay comfortable, and that I'll never be dependent on anyone else financially or otherwise again."

"I don't pity you," Rachel says, carefully, when Quinn's eyes drill into hers for another moment. "I think you are one of the strongest people I've ever met, but your strength has come at an incredible cost."

Quinn looks away at that, and then repeats, "I care about you. And I don't mean because I've known you for years, or because we were in Glee club together. I care about you in the sense where, the person you are now is someone worth protecting. There are parts of you that are uniquely special, and you're throwing them all away."

"Things aren't that bad—"

"Yes, they are," Quinn says, quietly but firmly, and then sighs deeply. "And for the first time in years, I find that I want to get involved. I don't... want to take my distance, and force you to stand on your own two feet, which is what my friends and I agree would be the clinically appropriate stance to take with someone with your... difficulties."

"You talk about me to your friends?" Rachel blurts out, before she can stop herself.

Quinn smiles faintly. "Even I can't internalize everything, Rachel."

"Yes, but—a therapist, surely, would be … more helpful than—"

"Rachel... most of my friends are therapists."

Rachel sighs. "Yeah. Or exotic dancers, I guess, right?"

"Sometimes both," Quinn says, before glancing at the floor. "You're right. I probably should be in actual therapy, but then again, you should be checking yourself into rehab right now, and I guess we're both just doing the best we can."

Those words stretch out between them, and suddenly the living room feels uncomfortably small, even though it's a fairly open space. If it's getting to Rachel, she can't even imagine how Quinn is feeling right now.

"So what does all of this mean?" she finally asks.

Quinn rubs at her forehead, suddenly looking very young, before saying, "This thing between us... it can't end well."

"No," Rachel agrees, even though it feels like she's cutting her own skin open, flaying it before Quinn's eyes. "It probably can't."

Quinn looks over with an unreadable expression a moment later. "Can I ask you something, and can you be honest with me?"

She nods, because—what's the point in lying now?

"Do you have anything at all to live for that isn't me, right now?"

It's the most egotistical thing anyone has ever asked her, but the way Quinn sounds and looks when she says it—so pained, and so uncomfortable—somehow negates that aspect of the question altogether.

A normal person would be offended as all get at being asked something like that, Rachel knows, but after a long moment, she realizes that she's... God, she has to actually think about the answer.

"What the hell kind of question is that?" she still asks, more for posterity than anything else.

Quinn sighs. "An important one. I can't... be everything to you. And I mean that both in the should not and cannot sense."

"Well, what am I to you, then?" Rachel asks, because this is mortifying; it's like she's completely transparent and Quinn is just digging up her biggest flaws, laying them all out there for both of them to just prod at some more. "I mean, what else do you have to live for? Dead bodies? Friends you don't let into your life? Stripping?"

Quinn shoots her a look that has her sinking back into the couch and taking a few deep breaths; God, she could really use a pill right now, which in a weird way is almost comforting, because Quinn is right there and absolutely not helping. In her list of unhealthy dependencies, there thankfully is a divide, still, and that finally lets air settle into her lungs.

"The Rachel I knew back in Lima lived for performance," Quinn finally says, ignoring her altogether.

"It's cute that you think that I don't anymore, given that my whole fucking life is a performance. The only time I'm not performing..." Rachel starts to say, and then stops, because this is going too far.

"Yeah," Quinn says, rubbing at her cheeks. "I was afraid you'd say that."

A car alarm goes off further down the street, and they both jump a little, and—they're so on edge. This isn't a conversation normal people, in love or otherwise, should be having with each other. This is ruining everything they do have, and it'll be a miracle if they'll ever be comfortable around each other again, after this.

"Are you ending this?" Rachel finally asks, thickly.

Quinn looks over sharply, and then slowly says, "I probably should. But … I won't."

"Because you're worried it'll drive me right over the edge?"

Quinn takes a deep breath. "I don't know what I've ever done to make you think of me as that selfless."

When those words sink in, Rachel relaxes—which is worrying, because it demonstrates exactly just how much she is relying on Quinn, already, but...

She bites her lip after a moment and then says, "Can you... give me some advice on what kind of treatment I should be seeking? Because the agoraphobia is probably what led to the depression, and the depression is what led to the drug dependency, and … I don't even know where to start on untangling any of it, at this point. Am I an addict, or just..."

Quinn rubs at her thighs, dislodging the fabric of her sweats, and then says, "I don't... it's really not my area. But my friend Nicole—"

"Stripper Nicole?" Rachel asks, before she can stop herself.

Quinn's lips twitch. "She prefers just Nicole—but yes. She says she's met you."

Rachel laughs awkwardly, before covering her eyes with her hand. "Oh, geez, that's not mortifying at all. Is she... is her middle name Tracy?"

"Yeah," Quinn says, after a second. "She's in the middle of a PhD-level research project on possible psychological connections between substance abuse and sexual self-acceptance right now and—" She falls silent, and then just squints and adds, "We have a standing lunch on Friday afternoons. If you want to, you could join us. I think she might have ideas on how you should proceed. I know you don't suffer from internalized homophobia so much as shitty management—"

Rachel laughs unexpectedly. "Kurt is going to really love you, isn't he."

Quinn almost smiles, but then repeats, "Like I said, I think she might have some ideas. And … she's said she'd like to meet you, because you're apparently the first person in almost five years that I've mentioned more than once, over lunch."

That's … Rachel doesn't know where to stick that, and while she's absolutely reaching the brink of what she can handle in one night, there's just one more thing she has to know.

"Am I attending this lunch as your friend, or what?"

Quinn hesitates, and then looks at her tentatively. "How about you just attend as... Rachel?"

It's been a very long time since she's attended anything as 'just Rachel', but … she thinks she might be able to do it, given where the invitation came from.

They're both exhausted.

Quinn's body language basically screams 'don't touch me' at this point, and so Rachel sidelines Puck's request for the time being and instead just says, "The guest bedroom is further down the hall from mine. Sheets are clean."

Quinn nods, and gets up gingerly before saying, "Do you have a t-shirt I could borrow?"

"Sure," Rachel says, before adding, "Your toothbrush is still—"

Quinn cuts her off with a half-hearted smile, and then wanders off towards the en-suite, closing the door behind her.

Rachel sits down on the edge of the bed, and makes a mental tally of how many pills she's taken in the last week. Aside from the ones she should be taking, it's been … four Xanax, in seven days.

When she checks the iPhone app where she keeps note of these things, as almost a salute to her previous anal-retentive life-managing, she realizes it's the fewest she's taken since March. And March was different, because she'd taken a weekend off and had gone home to spend time with her parents, where … guilt and a pressing fear of failure meant that even during moments of shaking so badly she could barely pick up a glass, she hadn't gone for the pills.

It's hard to dredge up hope from just one incident but she forces herself to at least take it as a sign. Maybe, she can get past this, and be someone better again.

Quinn reappears as soon as she'd closed the app and checked her email, and there's a smudge of toothpaste on her mouth that Rachel aches to brush off with her thumb—or her mouth—but... it's not her place, right now, to get into Quinn's space.

Quinn has to get into hers, if she wants to, and looks like she's struggling with that decision—until finally her feet inch forward, and then she gingerly settles next to Rachel, as far away as she can at the foot of the bed.

"What is it?" Rachel asks, quietly.

"I need you to understand something," Quinn says, after a second. Her throat works, and then she glances over. "I'm... this … thing we're doing. I need it to stay private. I'm not embarrassed about what I do for a living, on either front, nor am I in any way embarrassed about seeing you, but I have... my family to think of, and Beth, and my future career…"

"You're worried that if we get media attention, your work at Rapture will be exposed," Rachel says, and after a second Quinn nods. Rachel hesitates, and then carefully says, "I'm... not a big deal in Vegas, Quinn. Short of going down on me in the middle of a casino, nothing we do will be of interest to the press, here."

Quinn bites down on her lip for a second, pulling skin between her teeth, and then says, "If there's a hint of this becoming public knowledge—"

"You're gone," Rachel says, because she knows it's the truth.

Quinn nods.

Rachel takes a deep breath, and then says, "If there's a need—I'll make a public statement that you and I are old high school friends who are just socializing while I'm in town, and that Puck and I are very happy. Kurt's been saying for ages now that we might as well announce an engagement—"

"Jesus," Quinn sort of sighs, and then rubs at her forehead. "That's great."

"It serves a purpose," Rachel says. "More than one, in this case."

They're quiet for a moment, and then Rachel picks at the duvet.

"You could also just … stop stripping," she finally says. It's a quiet thought, and one that she knows is completely out of line, but this honesty policy they have—it's non-negotiable. Quinn has the right to know that this is on her mind, at least.

Quinn straightens and sucks in a deep breath. "Let me guess—you have enough money to take care of both of us?"

The word are sharp, and Rachel cringes. "Well, no, I just meant—"

"I'm not for sale, Rachel. Not even—" Quinn says, and then just shakes her head. "You didn't mean it like that. I know. But... the summer is going to end. And then what?"

Rachel has no answer to that, and finally just sighs a little. "It's funny. If I'd had any idea how relationships worked in the real world, I probably would've never been so enamored with stage productions hinting at true love as a teenager."

"What do you mean?"

"Regardless of what you want to call it, I know I feel something for you. Something real," Rachel says, after a moment; it's a more sincere, and a less manipulative or desperate confession this time around than it was last time, and Quinn's eyes shift from disbelief to something very, very innocent and soft after a moment. "I think that... you could be everything I've ever wanted in another person. But I'm not a silly seventeen year old with cat calendars anymore, and we both have lives. Lives that are going to split back apart in a few weeks from now. I'm not staying here for you, and you're not coming to New York for me."

Quinn's lips part, just barely, and she breathes slowly. "So—"

"So, Rachel Berry is in a committed relationship with Noah Puckerman and Quinn Fabray is an old friend from high school that she's getting reacquainted with. Nobody will think to dig deeper than that, because Rachel Berry isn't gay. Kurt has made sure of that."

Quinn doesn't move for a long moment, and then in one smooth motion, grabs for Rachel's side and pulls her into a careful, light kiss that means—well, something.

She's done thinking, for now, because they're both so much better at connecting like this, and the way Quinn slowly sucks on her bottom lip after a few seconds of just touching—yeah, she has no issues reading that. They trade more kisses like that, deep and slow, and soft and tender, for a long moment, until Quinn pulls back, cupping her cheek and staring into her eyes for a moment.

Whatever it is she wants, she seems to find, and then she looks away and says, "See you tomorrow morning."

In Quinn Fabray terms... well, Rachel will take it.

She wakes up to the smell of something delicious, and then wanders into the kitchen to find Quinn frying up some latkes there, of all things.

"Won't you go to hell for consorting with the … enemy food?" she asks, after a second; her voice is still sleep-warm and rough, and Quinn responds with a small smile.

"I think that on the list of things I'm going to hell for, an awareness of Jewish cuisine is fairly close to the bottom," she then says, flipping a pancake and nodding towards the counter. "There's coffee and orange juice. I wasn't sure—"

"Coffee first, because it … Kurt is such a bastard, but I agree with him on this one; I actually have a standing contractual condition that nobody can call me until I've had at least one cup because I'm not mentally capable of decent decision-making beforehand," Rachel says.

Quinn laughs. "No."

"Yep. So, coffee first, and then juice," Rachel says, pouring herself a mug.

"I'll try to remember that," Quinn says, carefully, after a pause that isn't actually awkward.

Rachel smiles faintly, and watches Quinn putter around the kitchen, humming from time to time, while drinking the rest of the coffee. When she's done, she says, "Tell me something about yourself."

"Didn't I do enough of that last night?" Quinn asks, and it's slightly playful, but—Rachel feels a stab of guilt at just how much it must've taken for Quinn to admit any of it out loud.

"That was all serious and shit. I just want to know if you prefer cats or dogs right now, that kind of thing," she says, as lightly as she can.

Quinn pats the latkes down with a paper towel and then says, "Cats. I have a cat, actually."

"Is it black? Like your soul?" Rachel asks, grinning around the edge of the mug.

Quinn rolls her eyes and says, "Maybe I should establish a standing contractual condition that you can't talk to me, full stop."

Rachel switches her coffee for juice, and then smiles when Quinn looks over, eyebrow arched. "Seriously, though. You, and pets? I thought... you didn't... well. How can I put this without making you sound like a robot?"

Quinn shoots her a look that thankfully shuts her up. "I have intimacy issues with people. A cat isn't likely to throw me out of my house, or—"

"Of course," Rachel says, quickly, watching as Quinn transfers the latkes to the breakfast bar. "I wasn't... I mostly just meant. Oh hell, I don't know what I meant."

Watching Quinn cook is—it's really rather entrancing, and she's almost done with her juice when it occurs to her they're technically mid-conversation. "… what's the cat's name?"

"Carl Jung," Quinn says, before nudging half the latkes onto a plate with the edge of a fork. "I thought about naming him Jesus, but Jesus wasn't in the habit of carrying around dead birds as trophies."

"And what, Jung was?" Rachel asks, raising her eyebrows.

They look at each other for a long moment, and then Rachel starts laughing slowly; Quinn grins a second later, and Rachel feels her entire body warm up with something she vaguely remembers as happiness.

That feeling right there is why doing the intelligent thing isn't going to happen for either of them.

An hour later, Quinn shoves her hands into her hoodie's pockets and says, "Okay—so, this lunch on Friday..."

"You don't have to—"

"No," Quinn says, and then shakily sighs. "I know some of your friends. You can know some of mine. I mean, I ... I see what you were saying last night, but I'd still like to think that we can keep in touch..."

"When I leave," Rachel says, after a moment, forcing a small smile. "You want me to start poking you on Facebook."

Quinn rolls her eyes, but says, "Something like that, yeah."

It's awkward, because this feels like the start of goodbye, even though it's really more of a hello. The game has changed, now, and... hell, Rachel doesn't really know what to do with her money anymore. Toss it all onto the table, and hope for a lucky roll of the dice? Pocket it all again, because they're done before they can even get started?

She's not ready to be done, and neither is Quinn, and so she postpones a final decision and invests just a little bit more.

"What about after lunch, on Friday?" she asks, and shifts when Quinn raises her eyebrows; such a deadly weapon, those eyebrows. "Are you... free?"

"I teach," Quin says, after a moment, but then licks her lips slowly. "But... I've cleared all of my weekends for the rest of the month."

"Okay," Rachel says, as casually as she can; thoughts of being on the verge of orgasm for almost forty-eight straight hours run through her head almost immediately, though, and the way Quinn's eyes are focusing on her mouth...

She's not alone in this, anymore, if she ever was, and that makes her push her luck just a little bit further.

"Much as I'd like to find out if le petit mort can turn into just... mort," she says, and Quinn's lips quirk, so that's French and Japanese as languages, "... I'm only here for another four weeks, and I've seen nothing of the city, or the areas surrounding it. Do you think..."

"Are you asking for sightseeing recommendations?" Quinn asks, hesitantly.

"Not per se. I mean, most of Vegas is too densely populated during both day and night for me to explore it... but... if you want to, maybe show me the parts of the city that have kept you here for almost seven years..."

Quinn stares at her for a second, and Rachel sighs with a small smile. "Relax. I'm not asking to see your most private spaces, Quinn. I'm just asking to see a little more of the city that's made you."

Quinn's tongue snakes out again, wetting her lips briefly, and then she nods. "I'll think of something."

"If you can't, I guess we can just you know, roll around in bed all weekend," Rachel says, because—leaving on a hopeful note seems like a good idea. Not just now, but...

Quinn trails two fingers slowly down her arm, before tracing a circle on her palm, and then leans in closer, until her lips are almost touching Rachel's ear. "I think you'll find it's hard to roll around when you're on your stomach, pressed into the mattress, with your hands tied behind your back, and I'm on top of you, fucking you until you're begging to come, like the eager little slut that you are."

A wheezy whimper slips from Rachel's lips, and then she just sort of swoons against the side of her house, before looking at Quinn—no longer touching her anywhere, in some grand act of anticipatory cruelty—with some surprise she can't hide.

"You remember. That was almost verbatim; every word I said that night, in the club."

Quinn smiles faintly. "You're hard to forget, Rachel. As are your fantasies."

Rachel almost rolls her eyes at just how quickly her insides liquefy at those words, but then Quinn's lips press against her cheek and she says, "Take care of yourself, okay?"

From anyone else, it would be a casual, almost perfunctory goodbye, but from Quinn?

"You too," she says, quietly, because they're not quite at a point where they're taking care of each other—

—but, God, it's starting to feel like it's not impossible that one day, they might be.