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these strange steps

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She's okay.

She gets a new phone, and a new TV, and a new hangover that stops her from thinking at all, because everything hurts.

Everything hurts, but she's okay.

...

She's okay, until Wednesday afternoon.

Then, in the middle of rehearsal—and literally without warning—the urge to vomit is so overwhelming that she rushes off stage, lands on her knees in front of the toilet there, and finally just dry-heaves for long moments.

Puck follows her in, and kneels next to her and puts a hand on her back, and says, "Do you need a pi—"

"No," she snaps at him, and wonders why this won't just rip itself out of her. The sensation that she's fucking it all up, and wasting precious time she could be spending building—she has no idea. A foundation? What the hell kind of foundation would it even be?

It's so much more complicated than that, but also so much more simple. Her bedding doesn't smell like Quinn, and she misses her. Her text message inbox is full of messages that aren't from Quinn, and she misses her. She ate a salad for dinner yesterday, and somehow her order got fucked up and the salad came with egg, and she missed Quinn.

She misses her.

She doesn't know how to make it any simpler than that. She just misses her, and it's not even about the sex, because—the sex isn't the way the left corner of Quinn's mouth lifts first, when she starts to smile, or the way her eyes widen comically when Rachel blurts out something vulgar without hesitating, or the way her lips squeeze together when she's concentrating like a maniac on the seven letters on her board, or the way she compulsively tugs up the sleeves on her sweaters and yet seems fine with dress shirts being buttoned tightly around her wrists.

She misses a person.

There isn't anyway to explain that to Puck, though, and after another moment of resting her head on her forearms, where they're wrapped around the toilet seat, he sinks down onto his ass next to her and sighs deeply.

"You know, back in high school, everyone … you all thought I fucked Quinn just because I could, you know, to prove that I was that big a stud, and she offered and I was just like, whatever. And I guess that was part of it, but... man, there has always been something about her," he finally says, softly.

They are not words she wants to be hearing, and she lifts her head blearily to stare him down. "Why are you—"

"Because... she told me I was an asshole, for letting you sink this deep. She told me I was a fucking asshole, and a useless friend, and like—she didn't even call me an asshole when I talked her into letting me do her without protection, and she had a baby because of that, Rach," Puck says, and then glances over with a small smile. "I know that... that probably doesn't like, change shit, or whatever, but I thought you should know."

She manages to reign it in to just watery eyes, really, and then just sighs and stares at the wall behind the toilet. "It … why did this have to happen to me now, Noah? Why couldn't she... have shown back up in my life three years ago, before … things got this bad? Why now?"

He squeezes her thigh after a second and then says, "You know—you waited around for it to be the right time with Finn for most of high school. And like, no offense, but I never really got why because you were so far out of that dude's league that it's like, y'know, Pluto."

She snorts a little, weakly, and then shifts, until she's curled up into his side, and he can sling an arm around her fully.

It doesn't really cure any of her immediate ailments, but it's nice anyway.

"I waited for Finn because I thought he was worth it. Because I was sixteen, and not at all okay with how badly I wanted Quinn Fabray to throw me down on a lunch table and—"

"Okay, seriously, stop. I've been your friend for way too many years for you to suddenly start starring in my spank bank," Puck says, grimacing, and she swats at his stomach until they both laugh a little.

"I … honestly just thought I was in love with him," she finally says, and it sounds so stupid, even to her, that she has no idea how he manages to not laugh at her.

"Yeah, well. You know better now, right?"

She shrugs a little, but they both know it's a yes.

"Exactly. So... whatever this thing with Quinn is, if it's like, real, you've just got to ride it out, Rachel. And that probably means not just... ignoring her, or whatever. It means just waiting for shit to click into place, and being a friend until it does. I learned that from you."

It's probably wrong, for him to encourage her—but maybe he's giving her the neutral perspective she needs, and for once in her fucking life, the neutral perspective is exactly the same as what she desperately wants to be told.

Maybe, he's just telling her the truth: that there is something here that is worth clinging to. That she needs to let Quinn in, for now, because it's not like she isn't anyway, and depriving herself is just... pointless, when rehab is imminent anyway.

"You know you're basically telling an alcoholic that going on that one final two-week bender until they black out is totally fine, right?" she confirms, out loud.

Puck smiles faintly and says, "Well, I'm an asshole. And a useless friend."

"Noah, you're not—"

"Dude, I don't... care what she thinks of me. I mean, I don't even know if I think she's wrong. But she wasn't here for the last five years, and I think I've..." He falls silent, and then his face contorts for a moment as he bites on his lip. When looks back at her, she feels her heart turn cold. "I think … I've literally seen you smile five times in the last year. Okay? Now ask me how many of those five times were in the last month. So like—fuck what the right thing is. I think you should get really, really drunk, if you know what I'm saying."

She doesn't need this guilt; she doesn't need a sudden awareness of how her life hasn't just been empty to her, but that the fact that she's been walking around like a shell of a person is something that's been eating at Puck—God, it's more than she can handle, and all she can think to do to drive it away is hug him tightly and whisper a thank you in his neck.

He knows her better than anyone. He'll know what she means, even if she has no idea what words to attach to that sentiment.

Maybe it's something they can help her figure out, once she's in treatment.

Puck isn't the only person she owes words to, she's pretty sure.

She's switched from a black to a white iPhone, which seems nice and symbolic except that none of her big life changes will come for another two weeks, and so instead of the phone being some goddamned metaphor about her life, she mostly just keeps forgetting that that phone is hers.

Not so much after the show on Wednesday, though. It's an okay performance. She struggles to keep concentrated through parts of it, but cracks an impromptu joke in the third set and actually seems to be charming the audience once. When Kurt congratulates her on her humor, she doesn't confess that she has no idea what she said.

It's not even the pills, really.

It's that her mind is on that white phone, and what she's now given herself permission to do with it—and how that will be received.

Quinn is a stickler for rules, and the last time they saw each other, they agreed they'd take a break. They said the weekend.

But God, the weekend is so far away. It's too far away.

She can't handle another four days like this when they don't have to be like this. That's not the same, as not being able to handle them at all.

She's proven now that her life will go on, and that's what she needed to do, and now?

Now, she's going to stop fucking thinking about how all of this—all of it, even the ability to look at Quinn across a room—is going to be taking away from her in virtually no time at all.

She doesn't want to think. She just wants Quinn.

Her out loud justification for making the call—the one that ignores the fact that it's more of a pressing need than a choice—lies in Thursday. It lies in Quinn, on the porch on Sunday, stuttering about taking steps, and—yes. The friendly, responsible thing to do, would be to check. And make sure that—any hiccups in their plans have not somehow displaced these.

God, she's starting to be exactly as good at spouting off denial-heavy bullshit as Quinn is, she thinks, and stares at the green button on her phone again.

It's close to eleven thirty, and she's already curled up in bed, with her Kindle and an iPod full of music she doesn't want to hear, and it's as if all the signs are pointing go, simply because they're all pointing at the fact that the only thing she's interested in is Quinn.

It's wrong, but … what isn't?

Her thumb presses down.

"Go for Fabray," Quinn says, a second later.

It's like a physical shift. Rachel feels her entire body relax, just at that one soft, joking murmur, and it doesn't matter that Quinn clearly isn't expecting Rachel on the line, at all. All that matters is that Quinn is there, and fine, and—

"Hey," she says, softly, closing her eyes.

"... Rachel?" Quinn verifies, and then is silent for a moment—probably to pull away and look at the display, with that confused, owlish expression she sometimes gets. Rachel has missed that one, too.

"I'm sorry. I'm breaking—well, the rules, I know, but—"

"No, that's... calling is fine, obviously," Quinn says, slowly. There's a rustle of fabric, and—she'd be picturing Quinn in bed, if she had any idea what to picture. Her mind conjures up black satin sheets, automatically, and she almost slaps her palm against her own forehead because—good lord, they're not living out some sort of S&M cliche together.

"Am I interrupting?" she finally just asks, when Quinn stays silent.

"Not really—sorry, I thought you were Fiona; we're supposed to be making dinner plans for tomorrow, but—"

"I can go, if you need me—"

"No, please, it's okay. She can leave a message. I was just..." Quinn says, and then falls silent.

Literally a hundred disconnected thoughts fire through Rachel's brain at once, most of them centering on, is she with someone else?, which—well, sweet Jesus, of course they've never discussed monogamy, they're not even dating, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't feel that wave of sick that's been playing around in her stomach all day crest again.

"If you—if you have company I can go," she forces out.

Quinn is silent and then laughs, stiltedly. "Wait. You think I'm with someone? No... I'm being hedgy because... I'm currently engrossed in a Pretty Little Liars marathon."

"Wait—the … the ABC Family show? With Lucy Hale?" Rachel asks, blinking a few times. "Aimed at … fifteen year olds?"

"No, the intelligent documentary on climate change," Quinn says, in a tone of voice that drips with sarcasm. "Obviously. Hence why I'm embarrassed that you caught me. Global warming is so infantile."

The heinous awkwardness of the conversation slinks off, just like that, and after a second Rachel laughs. "You know, I know her."

"Shut up, do you really?" Quinn asks, sounding for all the world like one of McKinley High's Cheerios, gossiping about the new boy trying out for the football team.

It's the first time in a long time she's name dropped, because she knows a lot of people and they're all basically just people, but because Quinn didn't even ask, she's a little more willing to go along with this. "Mmhm. It's a small world for those of us who can both sing and act. We run into each other at auditions from time to time."

"Oh my God," Quinn exhales. "That's so cool."

"I also know Justin Bieber," Rachel says, barely managing to keep her laughter in check.

"Oh my God, why are you just telling me this now? I could've—well, I don't know, what do you do with information like this?" Quinn asks, after a moment.

"Sell it to the Enquirer?"

"It needs to be a little more salacious than that if you want me to sell it to the Enquirer," Quinn says; there's a loud crunch on the line a second later, and then a muffled, "Sorry".

"Are you eating a carrot?"

"Maybe," Quinn says, before chuckling. "Shit, if you tell anyone I just got excited about you knowing Justin Bieber, I am going to murder you."

Rachel smiles a little. "I'm surprised you don't have your own list of … well, people who are people, that you know."

"Ah, because of the dancing?" Quinn asks, and then makes a noise. "Yeah, we have a few... prominents, but for obvious reasons I'm just going to dodge this bullet altogether. Also, none of them are Justin Bieber. That's on a whole different level."

Rachel smiles a little, and flips over onto her side, and … there's sort of a natural pause in the conversation after that. For a moment, she considers just … blurting out what's on her mind, but—maybe that's the wrong tack to take.

"Anyway," Quinn says, moments later. "Since you've named me and shamed me, I'm going to find something adult to watch now..."

"I'm not sure Buffy counts as adult, exactly," Rachel says.

"Spoken like someone missing out on the greatest show of all time," Quinn says, with another crunch. "Hey, before I forget. Did you … call for a reason?"

"I just wanted to... show some support," Rachel says, wondering if it's worth lying. It never has been, to date, and so after a second she just sighs. "At the risk of sounding like an egomaniac, I wanted to... encourage you to go to your session tomorrow, no matter what is going on between us."

That leads to a terrible, gut-wrenching pause, until Quinn softly says, "I meant it when I said I'm not doing it for you, Rachel."

"Okay," Rachel says, quickly, because she really, really just can't handle anything else heavy right now. Just for a few days. "That's—okay. Good. I'm glad."

She has no illusions that any deliberate light playfulness can stretch on indefinitely, when there is so much else going on. But just for a few days—God, surely the universe owes her that, after everything the last few years have done to her?

Quinn finishes the carrot, and then says, "How has your week been? Are you..."

There is no ending to that sentence. Better definitely doesn't apply, and after a moment Rachel just sighs softly.

"Ask me something easier," she finally says.

Quinn pauses, just for a few seconds, and then asks, "Do you get FX?"

"I... yeah, probably."

"Okay. Then... consider this the start of an education. Turn on your TV, and get ready to be wowed by the best show on television."

It's unbelievable, how quickly Quinn manages to go from deadly serious to stupidly charming, but Rachel has also missed that.

...

She'd protest watching TV over the phone, really, but it's kind of nice.

The physical space gives them both a much-needed lack of tension and urgency, and Quinn has this hilarious habit of preceding every single joke on the show with "Oh—wait, this is a good one", which...

God, she's stupidly in love if she's not just shushing her; this kind of thing has gotten boyfriends and beards alike sacked from her life, because if she's stuck with people in spite of her own desires, they at least should adhere to the cinema viewing code.

Apparently, that code doesn't apply to Quinn, at all, and... well, the show isn't terrible. Rachel's not entirely sure she gets the appeal after an hour of Buffy yelling at her soldier boyfriend, but Quinn's relentless ardor is a little infectious anyway.

Honestly, she'd start reading manga if Quinn asked nicely enough, and she only knows what manga is because Sam Evans and Finn Hudson once had an hour long discussion in front of her about the relative merits of manga and superhero comics.

That was a very, very long time ago—but clearly, torturous in a memorable way.

When the credits wind down and Quinn hums along to the theme song, Rachel finds just about enough courage to asks the question she's really been meaning to ask all night.

"Are you nervous?"

"About..." Quinn asks, slowly, and then says, "Oh, tomorrow?"

"Yeah."

There's a lull, and then Quinn sort of hisses out some air between her teeth. "Yes and no. Yes because... it's therapy. No because, I know exactly what I'm getting myself into, and it's not like any of the usual psychoanalytical bullshit will be tried with me, because I know the tricks."

"Should know the tricks?" Rachel asks, carefully.

Quinn sounds like she's smiling when she responds with, "No, because you won't be averse to them the way I am. This is like getting my teeth pulled, for me. I think with you it's more like… if you can tolerate the platform you're on, you'll always perform, if that makes sense."

It does, even if it's a little unsettling to hear herself be described that way. She closes her eyes and says, "You say that, but... I'm terrified. Of what happens when I leave here."

"You have a lot of walls that you've constructed and that you're now asking someone to tear down," Quinn says, quietly. "Of course you're scared. Anyone would be."

Rachel bites on her lip for a moment and then asks, "Therapy does actually help, right? It's not just some shit that people made up so that psychology graduates can earn a living listening to people waffle on and on?"

Quinn laughs at that, and then says, "No, it helps. It... if you're going in for the right reasons, and with the right attitude, it helps."

Rachel sighs softly. "Okay. Well. I can't say I'm looking forward to it, but—"

"Do you want to come to dinner tomorrow?" Quinn interjects, sounding a little anxious, but—mostly like this has been the thing on her mind, all night. "Because—it's just the three of us. You've already met Nic. You'd like Fiona. She's probably the only sane person I know."

"Dancer, also?"

"Nah; assistant professor in developmental psychology."

Rachel smiles faintly. "I just can't get away from you people, can I?"

"I imagine that if I ever visit you in New York, I'll be bowled over by singing artistic types, so consider this a premature revenge," Quinn says.

The spark of brightness that lights in Rachel's entire body at the idea of Quinn visiting, dropped so casually, like it's actually going to happen—oh, it's indescribable.

It also abruptly makes her realize that she's completely willing to take the added heartbreak if it means another thirteen days of coasting along like this.

"Actually, you'd probably be seeing Mike, Tina, Kurt and Puck, and … the inside of my apartment," she amends, because it's the truth, and then glances at her alarm clock.

"I don't know if that's better or worse, honestly."

The teasing tone in that statement has Rachel sinking just a little bit deeper, saved only from staying on the phone to a ridiculous hour by the fact that her battery is almost dead, and Quinn has an early appointment.

"Best to get it over with," she says, calmly, as her final word on the subject.

The differences between them bloom starkly, but she's found the ignore button, now; that place in her mind where she shoves everything she doesn't want to deal with.

It's distressingly easy to hit it, with the amount of practice she's had.

Dinner is mostly a blur.

Two people who know each other well tend to focus on their guest, as lunch with Nicole demonstrated, but—get three people who see each other daily in a room, and Rachel automatically ends up as the quiet observer, smiling slightly at the way they rib each other and reference inside jokes—usually about psychology, so even if she was in on the joke she still wouldn't get what was funny about it.

It's not until Fiona gets a phone call from her husband, about their twins, that there's a lull in the conversation and Nicole glances at Rachel briefly before looking at Quinn.

"How'd it go, this morning?"

Quinn nods slowly after a second. "Yeah, it was all right. She's very professional, Sharon, I mean. You—yeah. I think you recommended the right person. She said I was a little aggressive but not hopeless, so..."

Nicole chuckles. "She would call you out on your shit like that."

"Whatever; it …" Quinn says, rolling her eyes and then looking at Rachel, touching her knee for a second. "You knew me back in high school. Would you say I'm aggressive now?"

"I wouldn't have opted to sit next to you at a table that had forks and knives on it back in high school," Rachel says, after a moment, before taking a sip of her wine and winking at Quinn.

Quinn just points and says, "See? So—whatever."

Nicole smiles at her for a moment and then looks at Rachel. "What about you, Rachel? You don't have to answer if you don't want to, obviously, but—did our conversation help at all?"

"Yes, actually," Rachel says, swallowing a bite quickly and then taking a deep breath. "I... took your advice to heart, and opted for a … location that did both group and CBT."

Quinn glances at her plate, and after a second Rachel reaches across the space between them and tugs on Quinn's pocket, just to get her to not feel like this isn't her business.

"Good," Nicole says, topping up their glasses. "I think you'll find, though, that it's a lot harder in general to lie to someone that you haven't already spent years lying to. A change in scenery will help."

Rachel smiles faintly at that, and then looks at Quinn for a second. "Yeah. I think you're probably right."

She means it, too. No matter what the hell else happens, she can never think of these few months in Vegas as a bad thing. It was the change in scenery she needed, if not the kick in the ass to get her life back in order.

Quinn locks eyes with her for a second, and there goes the corner of her mouth, and then that crinkle by her eyes, and then she looks back at Nicole and says, gravely, "Rachel doesn't get the appeal of Buffy."

"The horror," Nicole says, with a comical look at Rachel, who laughs.

"No, but come on. How can you not like Buffy?" Quinn protests.

"I have no idea, Quinn. Good thing she knows a bona fide expert who happens to own all seven seasons on Blu-ray and yet somehow still feels the need to stop on a rerun whenever she sees one on TV," Nicole says, dryly.

"You make it sound like I have a problem. I resent that; I just have good taste," Quinn says, jutting her chin up, and Rachel laughs and covers her eyes with a hand and says, "Oh, my God, no—stop it. Too many flashbacks to the head cheerleader."

Quinn relaxes immediately and then grins. "You know what makes the head cheerleader go away?"

"Well, last weekend, I think I mostly made her go away by—" Rachel starts saying, slowly.

Of course she's not planning on finishing that sentence out loud—she'd die—but her experiment pays off anyway; the way Quinn fumbles literally all of her cutlery at once before lunging and covering Rachel's mouth with her hand is priceless. As is how red her face gets, while she struggles to come up with anything to say.

"I think what Quinn was trying to get at is that maybe you should agree to watch some more Buffy with her," Nicole says, clearly trying not to laugh.

"Oh, well, sure. I'll watch more Buffy with you, Quinn," Rachel says, when Quinn lets her hand fall away and, with a high-quality sulk, pounds back the rest of her wine.

Fiona appears again a few seconds later, while they're both still grinning at Quinn, and sits down before glancing between everyone. "What'd I miss?"

"Assholes," Quinn says, stealing Rachel's wine and finishing that, too. "You missed assholes."

"Oh, okay," Fiona says, blithely, before turning to Rachel. "You must deal with a spectacular amount of them, though, in your career. Does repeat exposure to assholes make them easier to handle?"

Rachel feels a piece of tofu lodge in her throat, even as Nicole starts laughing and Quinn just covers her face with two hands and says, "I'm never having dinner with the three of you again."

When Fiona grins at her a second later, Rachel is fairly confident that both of Quinn's closest friends like her.

Part of just giving in to these last two weeks is not thinking too hard about why that matters.

So she doesn't.

Out in the parking lot, Quinn shoves her hands in her pockets and says, "You weren't actually going to tell them about—"

"Are you serious? How would I even have finished that thought? Last weekend, the head cheerleader fucked me into a coma?""

The tips of Quinn's ears turn pink, but the rest of her just kind of shuffles and then says, "Yeah, okay. I was just checking."

There are a lot of thoughts about decorum and proper behavior flitting through Rachel's brain right now, because they're outside, and—well, she's lived in New York long enough to realize that there is no such thing as out of the public eye, but then Quinn is right there, looking so hesitant and flustered and—

"Come home with me?" she asks.

And, shitit feels like the right thing to ask. It always does.

Quinn hesitates for literally a second before saying, "I'll follow you back."

And no, none of this is just about the sex, but if she's honest—the way Quinn looks at her, when she takes that first step back and then turns towards her car...

God, she's missed that look, too, more than she can verbalize. And it's the one thing that she knows she's going to lose for sure, in two weeks time.

That makes it—well, maybe not okay, to be stupidly selfish.

But it does make it inevitable.

They don't even make it to bed.

Quinn deposits her car keys onto the breakfast bar, and then—with just one glance between them—deposits Rachel onto the breakfast bar, pulls her skirt and panties off, and then eats her with such patience and focus that Rachel afterwards can only think that it's a good thing that she's leaving soon, because she can never in ten million years eat a meal at the breakfast bar again.

By the time she quivers against Quinn's mouth, her toes are almost cramped with pleasure, and she just collapses onto her back—knocking a few pieces of mail off the bar—and watches as Quinn gets back up on her feet, licking at her lips and then quickly wiping at her mouth with a shaky hand.

"Have I told you yet how good you taste?" she says, making absolutely zero move towards either shedding her clothes or heading to the bedroom.

Rachel blushes unexpectedly, and then shakes her head.

"You're—God. Maybe this is all a trick my head is playing on me, but it's like you keep getting sweeter, every time I go down on you," Quinn says, with a cute little half-smile.

Rachel honestly can't think of a single thing to say in return to that, because—how does Quinn get so explicit in these moments, when she can't even allude to sex without blushing like a fourteen year old girl in Sex Ed the rest of the time?

It sends her head spinning, that blunt switch in confidence, and all she can do is swallow hard and watch as Quinn steps in closer, her nails running up Rachel's inner thighs, until her hands fan out to Rachel's ribs and she gently tickles there, for just a second.

Rachel laughs breathlessly, and then Quinn stops abruptly and says, "Random question. How would you feel about... fucking me with a strap-on?"

Rachel snaps out of her pleasant post-orgasmic haze almost immediately, and looks at Quinn questioningly. "... you'd be up for that?"

Quinn hesitates, frowns a little, and then says, "I don't... know."

"Maybe—if you could... um. Ride me?" Rachel asks, after a moment. "You'd be in control, the entire way through."

Something flashes in Quinn's eyes, and she says, "Yeah—yeah, that could work. I think. Would you—this weekend, maybe?"

"I don't know, I'm kind of busy," Rachel says, rolling her eyes.

Quinn chuckles, before giving Rachel a tentative, cautious look. "I'll be honest; this would be experimental. I have no idea if I … can go through with it at all, or if I'd be okay with—well... I've just been wondering about this, but you don't have to let me—"

"Q—hey, it's okay. I … the things we do, together, they're about … trying things. And trusting each other. So—if you trust me, we'll try this, and you can always Jeffrey Dahmer, okay?" Rachel says, as gently as she can, when she's bare-assed on the breakfast bar and Quinn's fingers are still stroking her sides, but inching closer to her breasts.

It's hard to sound like a supportive friend when she's about eight seconds away from starting to hump Quinn's leg, really, but—she's given it her best shot.

Quinn's eyes narrow appreciatively for a few moments, skimming down Rachel's torso, and then lightly fingering a bruise she left over the weekend, right on the swell of Rachel's hip.

"I did that," she says, softly.

"Yes, you did," Rachel agrees, and then watches as Quinn bends down, noses the spot for a second, and then—without warning, really—grazes her teeth past it and sucks, hard.

It's not painless, but God—it's something else, too. The harder Quinn sucks, the more Rachel's vision starts to blur with spots of red, until her back starts to lightly lift off the breakfast bar.

"Oh, my God," she manages, when Quinn places a few soft kisses on the spot, and then finally stands back.

"It's going to darken again, now," Quinn says, almost like a caress, and then slowly tugs her sweater over her head; it sends her hair flying, insofar as hair that short and messy can fly, and all Rachel wants to do is sit up and reach for it—and so she does, smoothing it out with her fingers, tangling in it and pulling Quinn down into the kind of kiss that makes her insides melt like butter.

"Jesus, I have no idea why, but … I love it when you leave evidence," Rachel admits, when they break apart. "When days later, I can still see what you've done to me, and sometimes—"

Quinn nuzzles the side of her face for a few seconds, before tugging on her earlobe with gentle, blunt teeth, and then says, "Good. Because I like marking you."

They stare at each other for a moment, and then Quinn's eyes fall to her lips, and they kiss again. Rachel's not entirely sure they've ever kissed this much, before, but—it's heady. She's so fucking hot, all over again, and can already tell that coming just once more isn't going to get her done, tonight.

Her habit is growing with her, really, and—fuck, she doesn't want to fight it. Detox is imminent anyway.

Quinn breaks the kiss abruptly, and Rachel watches with short breaths as she pushes her jeans off her hips, and—this is Quinn stripping for her. Stripping; but not … as the stripper. As Quinn, stripping for her.

It's—God, the difference is indescribable, because she sort of kicks the jeans off once they're past her knees, and her eyes stay trained on Rachel's throughout, and—there isn't any flash, or glamor to it, and for just one second, Rachel teems with regret at how tawdry their original start is, in comparison.

But then, Quinn cups her chin, and says, "You—you know, yesterday, when you called..."

She looks back, uncomprehending, and blinks a few times when Quinn's eyes soften unexpectedly.

"Come on, Rachel, purely objectively, you have to know enough about me by now to realize that I'm not seeing anyone else," she then says, in barely more than a murmur.

Before she can react to that sentence, Quinn pulls her into another kiss, and then climbs on top of her on the breakfast bar. As soon as she's settled, Rachel feels like she's in over her head; this is going to be fast, no matter how slow and deep that kiss is.

It's going to be stupidly fast, because she wants it so bad, and the way little moans are working their way up from Quinn's throat as her fingers circle Rachel's clit—God, she feels wanted, and even at thinking those words consciously, she feels herself tighten around thin air. She feels so wanted, and even more so when as soon as she's come again, Quinn reaches for her hand and whimpers, "I'm—I need—"

It's at those two words, even though they're leading nowhere, that Rachel ensnares Quinn's hair and pulls her back down hard, kissing her through an orgasm that hits hard enough for Quinn to bite right through her lip.

She whimpers, and then hisses when Quinn pulls back.

She has no idea what she's going to tell Cheryl—"whoops, I fell and punctured my face"?

It's hard not to start laughing, but then Quinn gently thumbs the small cut and mumbles, "Shit; sorry."

"No, I—" Rachel starts to say, and then just lets Quinn kiss her again, until her lip doesn't sting so bad.

Eventually, Quinn leans back—bits of her hair are plastered to her forehead, and her arms visibly straining, but she's not moving away and Rachel just keeps brushing her thumb up and down the same spot at the small of her back, as if to encourage her to stay—and looks at her questioningly for a long moment.

"Do... are you..." she starts to say, tentatively.

"What?" Rachel asks, when there's no follow-up.

"Should... I be worried I'm going to call at the wrong time and—" Quinn finally says, looking way again; her arms give a little, after that, and Rachel waits for her to sink back down answering.

"No. Not even a little. You might call while I'm touching myself, but it's not like you'd even be … distracting me from thoughts of someone else, really," she finally says.

Quinn stills at that information, and then deliberately asks, "How big is this... risk?"

Rachel hides a smile and then says, with a small blush, "I have a lot of fantasy fodder these days."

From what she can see of it, Quinn's expression actually turns stupid for a second, and then she lifts up and focuses on what's in front of her again—staring at Rachel so intently that it makes Rachel hold her breath for a few seconds.

"Show me," Quinn then demands, softly.

Rachel has a late morning anyway, so—why not?

...

The next morning, she wakes up in a panic, and not because she's alone.

It's because she's basically draped around Quinn.

Who is still asleep—unsurprisingly, because when Rachel glances past her at the alarm clock, it's only 5:45 and they didn't go to bed until around two—and...

Somehow tolerating this.

God, that's dangerous. That's—the kind of thing she doesn't need added to the other things she's going to miss, and so she forces herself to roll away, ignoring the virtual stab wound she feels when Quinn murmurs some sort of protest at the rush of cold air that hits her side, and then—

She makes coffee.

Nobody makes pancakes, and she heads out into the back yard to watch the sun creep along the yard.

It's unclear how long she's been out there, but eventually Quinn shuffles out next to her, wearing her robe—and it's ridiculous short and kind of hilarious—and sits down one step lower, tipping her head against Rachel's knee.

"Why the fuck are you awake?" she then grumbles.

"I'm a morning person. Always have been," Rachel says, with a small smile at how Quinn sort of rubs her cheek against Rachel's knee, and then sighs softly and closes her eyes again.

"Do you know anything about putt putt?" Quinn asks, long moments later.

"It's golf. But small," Rachel says, finishing up the rest of her now-cold coffee, and putting it down next to her. "And sometimes there are clowns."

"Are you afraid of clowns?" Quinn asks, tipping her head back a little.

The urge to just pet her is overwhelming, and Rachel shoves her hands under her thighs to just let this be what it is; two friends, hanging out, and talking about mini golf courses.

The future. If she's lucky.

"No. But I'm not a fan, either."

"Is anyone over the age of six?" Quinn asks, and then yawns quietly.

"Are you some sort of putt putt fanatic?" Rachel asks, after a long time, and watches as Quinn shakes her head.

"Nope. Haven't been in years."

"When was the last time?"

Quinn hesitates for a moment, and then says, "Lima. My dad."

Rachel lifts off one of her hands and puts it at the back of Quinn's neck, rubbing there for a second. "We … don't have to do this, you know. I have the hand-eye coordination of a blind seal, so I—"

"Rachel Berry, admitting she's bad at something?" Quinn says; a small smile plays around her lips. "Well, now I have something to tell the Enquirer."

"Hush," Rachel says, flicking at her shoulder.

They're quiet, as the sun picks up a little in heat, and they need the closeness less. Of course, that just makes it feel better, that Quinn doesn't lift up and move again, but just stays put.

A long moment later, Quinn clears her throat. "It was something he and Lucy did together. When she'd been particularly good at something. Usually school, because she didn't excel at other things the way Fran always did."

Rachel bites her lip, wincing desperately when she remembers the cut there—too late—and then squeezes Quinn's shoulder. "Okay, but—and please don't think this is me somehow condoning you separating Lucy from yourself the way you do, but I figure I'll let it slide since you've had exactly one hour of therapy—"

Quinn sort of sighs and chuckles at the same time and then squints at Rachel. "You're too kind."

Rachel takes a deep breath. "What I want to ask is, I appreciate that Lucy might have some fond memories of mini golf, but—what about you?"

She feels, more than hears, Quinn's breath catch, and then waits for a reaction.

"I … don't really have any memories of mini golf, but I thought it might be fun to do something stupid and childish with you before you leave," Quinn says, carefully.

"Can I ask a question that might sound loaded, but really isn't?"

"Sure," Quinn says, rolling her shoulder where Rachel is still kneading it.

"If we were still sixteen, and in Lima, is this the kind of thing we would've done on a date?"

"We would've never gone on a date in Lima," Quinn says, immediately, and Rachel squeezes down a little harder to stop her from bolting; that tone of voice is a warning, if she's ever heard one.

"I know that," Rachel says, unintentionally harshly, and then sighs at herself. "Sorry—"

"No, it's—are you asking if this is a date?" Quinn asks, turning around more fully and frowning spectacularly. "Because I don't see why—"

"No, I know this isn't an actual, real, beginning-of-a-courtship date, Quinn," Rachel says, as reassuringly as she can; it's hard to be reassuring when she's fighting the urge to sigh and knuckle Quinn in the head, though. "I know, okay? I know because we both know the score, here, and I also know because we're not sixteen and it's putt putt. My twenty five year old standards are a little bit higher."

"So then what—" Quinn asks, now almost a little angry, and Rachel pulls her hand away and folds it into her lap.

"I'm asking if... look, not all of the fantasies we can share have to be sexual, okay, and if there's some part of you that always just wishes you could've done something like this back when you were a teenager, then—"

Quinn's expression shifts into panic so quickly that Rachel swallows the rest of her words, and just watches as Quinn stares at the ground for a long moment and then finally exhales very, very slowly; almost like she's meditating.

"I honestly… hadn't thought about it like that," she finally says, her voice so frail that Rachel feels so much guilt that it almost physically hurts.

"Okay."

Quinn turns away, and then brings a hand to her mouth, curls it into a fist, and bites down on the end of it for a moment, and then softly says, "I couldn't have done this in high school. The … the idea of acting like the guy, by not only asking you to go on a date, but also by picking you up and probably paying, it—it would've made me sick to my stomach. I would've panicked long before I could've even gotten the words out. And then I would've probably called on someone to Slushie you, and spent twenty minutes sketching a heinous and inaccurate sketch of you, just to make me stop feeling like—like I didn't just like it when I got to put you in your place. Like..."

"Does it help to know that I would've said yes? Even after the Slushie, and everything else?"

Quinn's shoulders slump after a moment, and then she says, "No. Because why the hell would you … God, Rachel."

This really is not where she expected the morning to go, but after a moment of watching Quinn gnaw on her own hand, she finally reaches over and pulls it away from her mouth, slinking down one more step to sit next to her, and not letting of her hand.

"You know what's great about not being in high school anymore?" she then finally says, and glances at Quinn from the corner of her eye. "It's that—you can ask me to go play putt putt with you, and you can pay if you want to, or not—that's also fine. And I am definitely saying yes, and when we're done playing putt putt, we can go share a milkshake somewhere; a vegan one, of course. And we can catch an early movie, if you want to, because the evening tickets are more expensive and—well, why shell out more than you have to? We can do all of those things, and you can have me home by eleven, and maybe if you're both respectful and charming, I'll let you kiss me goodnight. Maybe, though. I'm not easy."

Quinn doesn't react for a long moment, and then finally sort of snorts and says, "Not easy, my ass."

"A girl has to maintain a certain image," Rachel says, as primly as she can, and after a second Quinn looks over and sort of half-smiles.

"Okay. And what time would you like to be picked up?"

"I'd lie and say a girl likes being surprised, but that would be a lie for both sixteen and twenty five year old Rachel, so—shall we say two?"

"How do you feel about necking in cars before you're dropped off at home?" Quinn asks, after a moment.

"Oh, I'm a method actress, so if we're going on a sixteen year old's fantasy date, we'd have to keep it authentic. Under the shirt, over the bra, and no further," Rachel says, immediately, and watches as Quinn sort of chuckles and rolls her eyes.

"We're not actually sixteen, Rachel. I've taken you in positions that your sixteen year old self's head would've exploded at."

"Yeah, but—it's not teenaged if you actually get to go all the way with me. Sort of loses its charm that way, doesn't it? Come on. Go broke or go home," Rachel says, bumping Quinn gently in the side.

"So—what? This is a historic date, but not a current one?" Quinn finally says, giving her a look as if to say who are we kidding.

Rachel stares back, and then smiles faintly. "We've done a lot for me in the last few weeks, Quinn. Let me do this one thing for you, okay? It doesn't change..."

"Okay," Quinn says, cutting off all further explanation, before stretching her legs out and then rolling her neck. Apparently, this can be that simple. "What do you want for breakfast?"

Rachel smiles, and decides to go broke or go home herself.

It's not the biggest gamble anymore, when she's going home so soon anyway.

"You. Or waffles. But mostly you."