"It was a dark and stormy night," Rachel said, her voice echoing across the open space.
"What are you doing?" Quinn asked, stepping out into the small outdoor amphitheater in their Chichen Itza base.
"You won’t tell me how your visit with the Queen went, so I’m writing my own version," Rachel said. "It’s very dramatic, if I say so myself."
"It wasn’t anything very exciting," Quinn said, stopping in front of her. "She just wanted to thank me for saving the Ambassador’s daughter."
"It was our Clan’s first meeting with Earth royalty," Rachel said, shaking her head. "It was exciting."
"There isn’t a lot of Earth royalty for us to meet," Quinn said. "At least not any relevant to our plans. Most of them are just figureheads or run small countries that have no global influence."
"It’s good PR," Rachel said. "When we visit Japan, our first stop will be to see their emperor."
"They still have an emperor?" Quinn said.
"Quinn!" Rachel said.
"Sorry," Quinn said, winking at her. "Of course we’ll drop in and say hello when we’re there. Wouldn’t miss it."
"Good," Rachel said. "Now, go away unless you want to tell me what really happened."
"Fran and Shelby invited us to dinner tonight," Quinn said. "I’ll tell you then so I don’t have to repeat myself."
"You better," Rachel said. "Did they ask us to bring anything?"
"Just you," Quinn said, backing towards the main exit. "The four of us."
"No Brit or Santana?" Rachel asked, following her out into the square.
"Brittany is taking Santana dancing. Some new club she’s discovered in Perth," Quinn said.
"Good for her!" Rachel said. "Santana’s been working hard on plans for her base down there and needs a break."
"We don’t have permission to build there yet," Quinn reminded her. "It’s not like the Yucatan, where we can claim prior ownership. Australia is a sovereign land. They aren’t just going to give it to us."
"It’ll work out. Brit is good at convincing people," Rachel said. "What should I wear tonight?"
"It’s just us, so whatever you want," Quinn said.
"Okay," Rachel said. "Come on, you can help me pick it." Grabbing her hand, Rachel dragged a surprised Quinn across the square and past the hall housing their private quarters.
"Aren’t all your clothes at your fathers?" Quinn asked, easily keeping pace.
"Yes, that’s why we need to hurry," Rachel said. "The shuttle to Cancun leaves in a couple minutes."
"They’ll wait for us," Quinn said. "We are in charge."
"Not the point," Rachel said. "They shouldn’t have to. They’re our people, not just random minions we picked up in some space bar. They deserve respect and consideration. We shouldn’t be making their jobs harder."
"I know they aren’t minions," Quinn said, when they stopped at the ground shuttle waiting patiently for them in the main courtyard.
"Uh, huh," Rachel muttered.
"You don’t feel like minions, do you?" Quinn asked the others waiting as she followed Rachel onto the shuttle.
"Sometimes," Jayna, one of Blue Team’s techs, said, her short blue streaked, blonde hair waving as she spoke. "Whenever one of the team really bangs up their suit and wants it fixed in a hurry, even though we have to get parts from the fleet. Then we’re very miniony."
"See!" Rachel said triumphantly. "You need to do something about that."
"No, ma’am," Jayna said. "It’s just traditional pilot/tech relations. It’s always been like that. They forget they're wearing our suits. But they know better than to take us for granted. Without our suits, they’re just using primitive boring weapons that anyone can use. Like rocks. And anyone can do that. No offense intended, Lady Q."
"None taken," Quinn said. "We can’t upset their routine, Rachel."
"Well, I don’t think it’s right," Rachel mumbled. "There will be songs written!" She was quiet for the rest of the trip to Cancun, occasionally humming something under her breath.
"Thanks for caring, Lady M," Jayna said, towering over Rachel, before she stepped out of the shuttle, when it stopped in Cancun’s entertainment district. "We do appreciate it. But we can’t all be hotshot pilots like Lady Q. Someone has to clean up after them."
"Definitely," Rachel said with a laugh, poking Quinn. "They’d be hopeless without us."
"I’m not messy," Quinn said, frowning.
"Keep telling yourself that," Rachel said, sitting back in her seat for the rest of the trip to the beach.
"You don’t need to wear anything fancy," Quinn repeated, leaning against Rachel’s bedroom door and watching her dig through her closet. "I’m not."
"That isn’t fancy?" Rachel said, turning around to glare at her. "Everyone on the shuttle, even the driver, was drooling."
"Even you?" Quinn asked, curious.
"I’m immune to your dazzling beauty powers," Rachel said smugly. "Though I didn’t know you owned anything like that. Who picked it out for you?"
"I can’t pick out my own clothes?" Quinn said, frowning.
"You do seem to handle selecting casual and formal clothes well," Rachel said, "but clothes to drive them crazy with your sexiness? Nope. You obviously had help."
"Okay," Quinn said. "Brittany might have suggested this dress."
"For tonight?" Rachel tilted her head to get a better look.
"We were supposed to go dancing when we were in London last week," Quinn said. "But something came up. I kept the dress."
"It does look good on you, but I’m not sure I have anything that really matches," Rachel said, pouting.
"How about that?" Quinn asked, stepping around Rachel. Reaching into her closet, she pulled out a shimmering dress.
"Seems a bit too revealing for a family dinner," Rachel said, trying to take it from her.
"It’s adjustable," Quinn said, gripping the dress and causing it to darken. "Just need to change the setting from seduction to normal."
"How’d you do that?" Rachel said. "I didn’t know it could do that! That must have been what Brit meant when she gave it to me. I thought she was just kidding about it being for all occasions."
"She has a wicked sense of humor," Quinn said. "Sometimes it’s hard to tell if she is serious."
"Definitely," Rachel said, rummaging through a dresser drawer. "Don’t go anywhere." Taking the dress from Quinn, she slipped into the bathroom.
"What shoes do you want?" Quinn said, over the sound of the shower. Getting only a low mumble back, she opened the door slightly. "What did you say?"
"The sandals I had on earlier will be fine," Rachel said, sticking her head through the shower’s water shield.
"How do I adjust this?" Rachel shouted, standing in front of her mirror. "I can’t wear it like this. It’s almost invisible! You can see everything under it. That’s not appropriate for dinner."
Blushing, Quinn stepped completely into the bathroom and stood next to her. "It’s controlled by your mind," she said. Reaching over, she touched the neckline of the dress. "Just put your hand there, and visualize how you want it to look."
"Not quite what I want," Rachel muttered as she followed Quinn’s directions and the dress turned into a solid impenetrable black sheath. "Looks like I’m going to a funeral for someone I don’t like." She gripped the collar again and frowned in concentration. The dress returned to its earlier state, silvery in a soft see through material, before shifting again. No longer see through, it draped across Rachel’s body in soft waves. "That’s better, though I think next time I’ll wear something else and keep this for special occasions. Might need to experiment a bit."
"It looks good that way," Quinn said, fingering the material.
"Not too much showing?" Rachel asked.
"Nope," Quinn said. "Perfect for family."
"Good," Rachel said. "I think I do need to get a dress like yours for dancing."
"Okay," Quinn said. "We don’t go out that much, not like Brit and Santana."
"They’re in a relationship," Rachel said. "They do all sorts of couples things like dates. We’re just friends. But we can still do things together, if you want."
"Of course," Quinn said. "We have lots of fun doing things together."
"Good," Rachel said, peering at her in the mirror. "But first, let's get going. Don’t want to be late for dinner."
"Definitely," Quinn said. "We’d never hear the end of it."
"Right," Rachel said, putting the final touches of makeup on her face.
"There’s nothing to be nervous about," Quinn said, watching Rachel. "It’s just dinner."
"With just us," Rachel said. "Not my Dads, not Brittany and Santana, not even your mother."
"My mother is spending some time with her mother," Quinn said. "She hasn’t seen her in years."
"What about you?" Rachel asked. "When was the last time you saw your grandmother?"
"It’s been a while," Quinn said. "I think I was ten the last time we all went to see her."
"We should do that," Rachel said.
"Go see your grandmother, silly," Rachel said. "She lives in a small town, right? It’d be like going back to Lima, but without all the badness."
"No," Quinn said firmly. "We’re not going to Hooterville. It makes Lima seem sane."
"You were ten," Rachel said. "I bet it's different than you remember it."
"No," Quinn said. "If you want to meet my Grandmother Douglas, we can bring her down here, or visit her when she’s in her apartment in the city."
"City? Which city?" Rachel asked.
"The one with Broadway, of course," Quinn said. "You’d like her. Her family was Hungarian royalty."
"You never mentioned that," Rachel said. "So, you’re royalty yourself? How did that work when you met the Queen?"
"I think my grandmother met the Queen before she was the queen," Quinn said, "but the Queen wouldn’t know that, since she thinks we’re aliens, remember? So it never came up."
"Oh, right," Rachel said. "Does that mean we can’t go see your grandmother since she’d think we were aliens?"
"She’s a bit… different," Quinn said. "I don’t think she would care."
"Let’s go see her!" Rachel said, turning around.
"I think you’ve stalled enough," Quinn said, turning her back. "They aren’t going to bite."
"You noticed?" Rachel asked. "What if they have bad news?"
"What kind of bad news could they have?" Quinn asked.
"I don’t know, but it could be something that they didn’t want anyone else to know," Rachel said.
"Maybe they’re getting married," Quinn said. "To each other."
"Don’t even kid about that," Rachel said. "That would be horrible."
"It’d be weird," Quinn said, "but I’m not seeing the horrible in it. They’re great friends. They go everywhere together. If they were a couple we’d say they were dating."
"But what about us?" Rachel said. "What would that do to us?"
"We’d still be friends," Quinn said. "Why would that change?"
"Friends, right," Rachel said, an expression on her face Quinn couldn’t quite place. "Okay let’s get this over with. You first."
Quinn held out her hand. Taking it, Rachel followed her down the path to dinner.
“Come in,” Fran said, excitedly answering the door. “Dinner should be ready in a few minutes,” she added, guiding them into the small dining room.
“How are you,” Rachel asked. “We haven’t seen either of you all month.”
“We’re doing well,” Shelby said, entering the room and placing a large dish on the table.
“That’s mostly our doing,” Quinn reminded her. “They’ve been here, we’re the ones who’ve been traveling.”
“I’m just being polite, Quinn,” Rachel said. “I think you spend too much time with your troopers. They think being polite means not knocking over the punch at a party.”
“That is important,” Fran said, giggling. “Seeing her hard core soldiers cry because the booze was spilled can be disturbing.”
“Ha, ha!” Quinn said, pulling out a chair for Rachel to sit in. “Don’t expect to be invited to any more parties, sis.”
“Quinn’s troopers are very well behaved,” Rachel said, winking at Quinn. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a rude one. We had a nice chat with one of the suit techs on the way here, though I don’t recall ever meeting the tech who keeps yours in order,” she said, frowning up at Quinn as she pushed in Rachel’s chair.
“You haven’t?” Quinn gave her a surprised look. “Master Tech Jantel is my suit tech.”
“Oh, then I take it back,” Rachel aid. “I’ll have to thank her for keeping you alive the next time I see her.”
“I keep me alive, Rach,” Quinn said, pouting.
“I assume it’s a joint effort,” Shelby said, putting down one last dish and taking her seat across from Fran. “Your Tech keeps your tools in excellent condition, and you use them like the trained warrior you are.”
“Thank you,” Quinn said, blushing. “This smells wonderful.” She took the dish handed to her by Fran.
“Santana’s cousin has been teaching us some wonderful local dishes,” Shelby said. “I think they turned out very well.”
“The local cuisine offers some interesting variations on the original Clan dishes,” Rachel said, nodding as she spooned a small portion onto her plate. “They didn’t have access to the proteins we have in the fleet, and had to find other things to replace them, but a lot of it is good none the less.”
“What are the two of you doing with your free time?” Quinn asked. “It’ll be another six months before we allow the borders to be completely opened.”
“As much fun as lounging on the beach or exploring the ruins you haven’t ‘rehabilitated’ yet is, we’ve been working with several of the local colleges,” Fran said. "Your friend Artie, the AI? We’re working with her and Lady Shadow to put together a unified educational system that meets Clan standards."
"This does include music, right?" Rachel asked. "I’m sure Brittany wouldn’t forget the importance of music and dance in our culture."
"Of course," Shelby said.
"It’s fascinating," Fran said. "Getting the public and private schools together to agree on teaching techniques."
"There have been some culture clashes," Shelby told them. "The private schools were all controlled by the Church, so they expected us to leave them alone. Most of the public schools were barely funded. Getting them to work together has been an interesting challenge."
"Aren’t we paying for all education now?" Quinn asked, looking at Rachel. "So we don’t need private schools?"
"Yes, eventually," she said. "But it’s a complex problem. We can’t just throw the old system out."
"Did you solve the teacher problem? Weren’t a lot of the upper level professors out of the country when we took over?" Quinn asked.
"You didn’t read Brittany’s report on that, did you," Rachel said.
"Might have been busy," Quinn admitted.
"Hanging out with royalty," Rachel said. "And you still owe me a report on that for the archives. So give."
"Yes! My little sister meets the queen while we’re all here slaving away building her brave new world," Fran said, giving her a stern look. "So, details!"
"How did it happen in the first place?" Shelby asked. "I understand the four of you are meeting world leaders to get them behind your plans, but the Queen of England doesn’t have that kind of political power does she?"
"Her support will be helpful," Rachel said.
"Umm… it wasn’t anything special," Quinn said.
"The Queen obviously thought so," Rachel said. "It happened early in our whole takeover," she told them. "One of the local drug cartels wasn’t too happy that we outlawed their products and made it impossible for them to sell them here."
"All they had to do was lay low until we opened up the borders and then they could have gotten away," Quinn said. "We weren’t really looking for them. But they wanted to keep their power over our lands and people, spread their drugs, and we couldn’t allow that."
"How did the Queen get involved?" Shelby asked.
"One of the cartels didn’t get the message and invaded a hotel, taking hostages," Quinn said. "We rescued the hostages."
"And Brittany bought the hotel," Rachel said, as an aside. "She likes doing that."
"One of the hostages was the British Ambassador’s daughter," Quinn said. "And the Ambassador is related to the Queen. So, she appreciated our actions. But really, we were just doing what needed to be done."
"Does Grandma Douglas know you’re alive?" Fran asked.
"Not that I know of," Quinn said, "but Mother is visiting her right now, so I could be wrong. Why?"
"She’s a friend of the Queen," Fran said.
"Quinn mentioned that," Rachel said. "That could be a useful connection."
"Not now," Quinn said. "Maybe some day, when we get outed."
"Some day, people will discover we’re really from Ohio," Rachel said. "Brittany has this huge plan for when it happens."
"Ah," Shelby said. "So, it’ll all work out then."
"A Brittany plan? It can’t fail. Might get messy but failure isn’t an option," Rachel said. "But I want to hear more about this meeting with the Queen."
"Me too!" Fran said.
Quinn frowned. "It won’t be that easy when people find out we aren’t who they think we are," she said. "Brittany plans usually work but they do require some effort."
"And when does Brittany predict this will happen?" Rachel asked, although she already knew the answer.
"We have five years," Quinn said. "That’s how long she thinks she can keep a lid on where we come from."
"And by then, it won’t matter if we’re originally from Ohio or Las Vegas," Rachel said. "Now, back to the Queen. How’d that go?"
"It was a private audience," Quinn said. "Her security detail was a bit nervous about the meeting. So, we wore formal uniforms without the ceremonial weapons."
"You took your whole team to London," Rachel reminded her. "Did she thank all of them?"
"They were presented to her later, yes," Quinn said. "They weren’t impressed but they were polite and answered her questions."
"Good, good," Rachel said. "I’ll talk with them later."
"She’s a nice lady," Quinn said, blushing. "Very intelligent. We talked for a little bit. She wants to meet the rest of the Council when we open formal relations with her government. She might send one of her grandsons down here to observe training maneuvers."
"Ah…" said Fran with a laugh, "that would be the blush of a Quinnie who was complimented. You never could resist talking with old ladies."
"And that’s it?" Rachel said. "No tours of palaces? No tour of the Tower?"
"I told you it wasn’t that exciting," Quinn said. "We flew in, stayed overnight at a hotel Brittany liked, met the Queen in the morning, and then headed back. No time to tour. Brittany had to leave to deal with an emergency with one of her people, so we didn’t go dancing. Which means I owe my team, because she promised them a chance to hit the clubs in London if they were on their best behavior."
"And we now own a hotel in London, don’t we," Rachel said.
"Maybe?" Quinn said. "It might be one of the ones owned by that luxury hotel chain we bought out here."
"The hotel chain she bought?" Rachel said.
"I’ve lost track of her growing real estate empire," Quinn said.
"You guys are hilarious," Fran said, shaking her head. "Meeting important people, buying property, planning for world domination. It’s like a junior telenova."
"We only do what’s necessary," Quinn said. "Security is easier if we own it. And we aren’t interested in world domination."
"Looks like it’s happening, no matter what your plans are," Fran said. "Not bad for a bunch of cheerleaders from Ohio."
"But that’s not really why we asked you to dinner," Shelby said, looking at Rachel as if sensing her protest at being called a cheerleader.
"I told you something was up!" Rachel said to Quinn. "You aren’t sick, are you?"
"No," Shelby said. "We’re not sick."
"Or pregnant, yet," Fran said. "We thought we’d tell both of you first." She held up her right hand.
"A ring? I thought you were kidding about them getting married," Rachel said, glaring at Quinn.
"I was," Quinn said. "Does Mother know?" she asked her sister. "About you two or getting married?"
"That we’re in a relationship? That’s why she’s visiting Grandma Douglas. She needed time to get used to the idea," Fran said.
"Was she upset?" Quinn asked.
"No. Just really surprised, and upset at the possible lack of grandchildren," Fran said.
"Children are still possible," Rachel said, eagerly. "I had a chat with Artie about it, since we’re a bit top heavy with female couples in the Clan. Clan medicine has all sorts of solutions to the childbearing problem. Though it’d be a bit weird if my little sister is Quinn’s niece."
"It’s a little early to talk about children," Shelby said.
"And we haven’t set a date for the ceremony yet," Fran added. "Though we’d like to have a traditional Clan commitment ceremony. We’ve been talking with Santana’s cousin, since she’s the Clan’s head priestess, about what it would take."
"Oh…" Rachel said. "I don’t recall anything about a commitment ceremony, other than a Fleet Captain can perform the ceremony to bind a couple together. I’ll have to look into it and talk with her myself."
"No rush," Fran said. "We’re not getting married tomorrow."
"Mother might be a bit upset about that," Quinn said. "Even if you think you have the grandchild issue solved."
"The 'How' appears solved, the 'Who', not so much," Fran said, "which is too soon to discuss now."
"We don’t have any new Clan babies yet," Rachel said. "But I bet yours will be so cute."
"They are actually cute together, right?" Rachel asked later that evening, as they walked along the moonlit beach. "If we ignore that one of them is my mother and the other your sister?"
"Cute? I guess," Quinn said, humming quietly to herself. "With the Clan age really is a relative thing. Both of them will be able to take advantage of Clan tech to live for centuries together if they want to. And after living in the time bubble while training and planning, we’re physically older than Fran."
"Right. Centuries of cohabitation. I wonder what that would be like," Rachel said. "Artie says most Clan pairings lasted for at least a century, if not for life, but they didn’t expect to always be in each other’s pockets like we’re used to with Earth marriages."
"Having that much time must change things. Would you want to live with me for over a century?" Quinn asked, curious.
"That’s different," Rachel said. "We have a lot longer than they do. You do realize we’ll outlive them, right? And their great grandchildren?"
"Trying not to think about that, it’s too far away," Quinn said. "But I don’t want to be by myself the whole time either. I want what Brittany and Santana have," she said wistfully. "They know they’ll be together the rest of their lives."
"How do they know that?" Rachel asked, stopping. "We’re all still so young. If we survive the next decade, this war that’s coming, we’ll have over a millennia of time for relationships."
"Because," Quinn said.
"That’s not good enough," Rachel said. "How do you know they’re right?"
"Do you really want to know their secret?" Quinn asked her, taking her hand and tugging on it to get her moving again. "You can't tell anyone that I told you. You can’t let anyone know what I’m telling you. Do you still want to know?"
"Yes!" Rachel said.
"Brittany comes from a different clan, remember?"
"She’s ours now," Rachel said. "Where she comes from doesn’t matter."
"But it does," Quinn said. "It matters a lot. Her people are special, even among the Clans."
"She’s amazing, yes. What we’re doing wouldn’t be possible without her," Rachel said. "But how special, really? How much is her people and how much is just her Brittany-ness?"
"Her people believe in reincarnation, and soulmates," Quinn said. "And she says they have undeniable proof that both exist."
"Reincarnation as in having past lives?"
"Yes," Quinn said. "And their soulmates are what we think of also. People with an extraordinary connection, as if two halves of the same being who cannot exist without the other."
"Okay," Rachel said. "Does that mean the two of them are soulmates?"
"Brittany believes they are. Her people have some kind of mystical test to show that."
"Do we believe in magic then?" Rachel asked. "I know we’ve encountered psychics such as Mother, but magic?"
"She didn’t show me how it worked," Quinn admitted. "She didn’t expect me to believe her. But she does. And that’s all that matters to her."
"And her people believe soulmates are for life?"
"For forever," Quinn said. "Through reincarnation anyway."
"Oh," Rachel said. "Lucky them, I guess. We do think they are lucky, right?"
"Mostly," Quinn said, hesitantly. "She’s so sure of herself and their relationship. I’m not certain I could handle the idea that somewhere out there the only person who can make me happy is waiting for me to find them. What if I’ve already walked past them? What if we never meet?"
"I’ll always be here for you," Rachel said. "You can’t get rid of me that easy."
"And, if you find your own soulmate? Then what?" Quinn asked. Stopping, she turned towards the ocean. Rachel wrapped her arms around her in an attempt to comfort her.
"I’m still your friend. They’ll have to share. But how do we know that we have soulmates? Maybe only Brittany’s people do? Or maybe only they can know for sure who they are." Rachel twisted around until they were facing each other. "Soulmates, reincarnated soulmates is great for them. Santana needs that kind of sureness. But I’m not giving up my friend, you."
They turned towards the ocean and stared at it for several minutes.
"But I want that kind of forever," Quinn said, once more moving down the beach, Rachel at her side. "I thought all of this had burned the romantic right out of me but hearing Brittany talk about soulmates and how much Santana needs her and how they fit together and all of that, and I envy them. I feel like Alice who grew too tall and then small again."
"You’d make a wonderful Alice," Rachel told her. "And I think you would actually catch that rabbit."
"And wring it’s neck," Quinn said. "Following him almost got her killed."
"Love is possible, soulmates or not," Rachel said. "Look at your sister and my mother. Do you doubt that they love each other?"
"No," Quinn said. "They aren’t some sappy, Hollywood love story love. They’re the real thing."
"And, if they are soulmates, they’ll never know. Or even question the possibility. I can see why what Brittany and Santana have together is meant to be a secret," Rachel murmured. "The knowledge that such a possibility exists but that you might not have it with your chosen partner would be devastating."
"It’s bad enough knowing such things exist when you don’t have a partner," Quinn said. "How can you commit to a relationship under such conditions?"
"Some times you just have to take a leap without looking at what is below," Rachel said.
"I’m not comfortable with that idea," Quinn said. "It can be a long way down without a suit to stop you."
"So what do you need from me then," Rachel asked her. "I’ve already said I’ll always be with you, soulmates or not."
"I’m not asking you to marry me," Quinn said. "That’s not what it’s really about. That would be too cruel for both of us. But I’ve come to realize over the last year that I don’t want to lose you, I want you in my life for as long as possible. Your friendship gives me a balance I thought I’d lost."
"That’s simple enough for me," Rachel said. "The Clans do have the concept of a platonic bond between friends. It doesn’t prevent other relationships from occurring between bonded friends and others. But it’s recognized by the Clans for what it is. Acknowledgment of a commitment."
"Would you really do that with me?" Quinn asked.
"Good thing that isn’t a marriage proposal," Rachel said. "I could really be offended."
"Okay," Quinn said. Turning around in a circle, she spotted a large rock glowing in the moonlight. "Come over here."
"What did you have in mind?"
Quinn brushed the sand off of the rock, revealing a smooth surface. Nodding to herself, she turned Rachel so she was facing away from the rock, placed her hands on Rachel’s hips and lifted her up on the rock.
"Wow!" Rachel said, squirming to make herself comfortable. "You’re awfully strong there, Lady Hands. And very Handsie with my person."
"Hush," Quinn said. "I’m not sure how one of these is supposed to go," she said, "but Rachel?"
"Yes," Rachel said, a small but growing smile on her face.
"Would you be my friend for the rest of our lives? Through arguments and disagreements? Beyond future lovers and any children we might have? Would you do me that honor? To fill that place in my head and heart reserved just for you?"
"I take it back," Rachel said. "That’s the most romantic declaration of friendship I’ve ever gotten. Of course. I’d be honored to have that role in your life."
"What do you think, Artie?" Quinn said to the air. "Does that count? Do you think that’ll work?"
"It’s longer than normally used in such situations," Artie said in their ears. "But extremely heartfelt for a commitment of friendship."
"Good," Quinn said, "because I meant every word of it."
"And I accept the responsibility of friendship," Rachel said. "And, as your friend, I think this calls for a little celebration. I’ve got a small bottle of Antaran wine in my room, if you’d join me."
"I’d be delighted," Quinn said. "Where’d you get the wine?"
"Well, strictly speaking it’s from a small vineyard in California owned by some science fiction author," Rachel said. "But Artie, Glee Artie, thought we’d find it amusing."
"I don’t believe there’s a real Antaran wine," Quinn said. "But that won’t stop me from joining you to sample it."
"Good, because he said it wasn’t something to drink by oneself, and I gave the other bottle to Santana and Brittany," Rachel said, poking her. "Which just leaves you."
"Well, that will require investigation," Quinn said. "Shall we?" Reach over, she carefully lifted Rachel off the rock and back on the sandy ground.
"I’m really proud to be your friend," Rachel said, grabbing Quinn’s hand, and turning them back towards her fathers hut. "And not because of your scrumptious beauty in the moonlight. Because you are excellent friend material."
"Are you sure you haven’t been sampling the wine already?" Quinn asked, with a small laugh.
"What gave you that idea?" Rachel said. "All I’ve had to drink tonight is that champagne with your sister and my mother to celebrate their engagement."
"You really don’t have a problem with that?" Quinn asked.
"Well, since we’re not going to become related in ways that would prevent us from being friends, or anything else, I don’t see why there would be a problem. The Clan has broadened my outlook on family relationships tremendously."