Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Glee Universe. No copyright infringement intended.
"It's simple," Sam Evans tells his fellow Glee Club members, slurring slightly from his obvious intoxication. "If a girl wants you; nothing can keep her away."
All but one head nods in agreement.
They're all sitting in Noah Puckerman's basement during one of his 'just because' Friday night parties, sharing drinks and laughter as they tend to when the rest of the jocks and Cheerios start to pass out. As some of the lower-status students in their high school hierarchy, majority are more comfortable when their bullies and tormentors aren't just in the next room over.
"If a girl wants you," Sam continues; "you'll know it. Believe me, she won't make you wait for anything."
Once again, there is only one head that refuses to nod. She just can't. It isn't that the specific member doesn't agree with Sam; it's just that the words he's saying are hitting a little too close to home. If a girl wants her... She would know.
And, the thing is. Rachel Berry does know.
Oh, she definitely knows.
The girl even went so far as to tell her. Well, she was slightly drunk at the time, but Rachel knows she remembers. It's going to take developing Alzheimers for either one of them to forget the content of that particular conversation.
Rachel remembers the entire ordeal as if it happened practically the day before - even though it's been almost six weeks. It's been almost six weeks since she stupidly went and told a girl with a boyfriend that she's hopelessly and desperately in love with her.
Just thinking about it raises her levels of anxiety.
Naturally, the girl in question was surprised by her sudden confession.
No, she was shocked, practically stunned to complete and utter silence. It was plain as day from the look on her face... that was surprisingly not one of absolute horror or, worse, disgust.
"I'm sorry," Rachel automatically said, shocked herself by her sudden proclamation. Where had that come from? "I just," she added, her heart thumping in her chest; "I had to tell you."
She blinked, suddenly looking rather weary. "Rachel."
Rachel swallowed audibly. "You're one of my best friends, so I didn't realise what was happening until I was in too deep, and now I know. I love you, and I couldn't not tell you, okay? I've just been holding it in and I can't - just - not anymore."
She just continued to blink, her brain trying and failing to process what the brunette was trying to tell her.
"What am I supposed to say, Rachel?"
In the end, she ended up saying nothing.
After a quick, I have to go, she left her standing there, and Rachel didn't hear much of anything from her for a full week. It was the longest seven days of her entire life, but the girl avoided and ignored as best she could - she was a regular old pro at it, if you ask Rachel.
Thinking she ruined one of the most important relationships in her life, Rachel was completely miserable, crying herself to sleep every night and thinking there was no for her to salvage what was left of their friendship. This was too much to look past, surely.
The girl showed up one night at the Berry home, slightly more drunk than the last time and looking about as forlorn as Rachel felt.
"How long?" she asked as soon as Rachel pulled open the door, suddenly glad her fathers were out for the evening. She was leaning heavily against the doorframe, her eyes intense yet unfocused.
Rachel's heart rate picked up at the sight of her. As dishevelled as she looked - which was a look one wouldn't normally associate with her - she was still the prettiest girl Rachel had ever seen. If ever she was unsure of her own feelings, that moment assured Rachel she was definitely attracted to her - had been for quite some time, really.
"How long what?" Rachel asked, trying to buy herself some time.
"How long have you known how you feel about me?"
As much as it pained her, Rachel didn't invite her into the house. Who was to say what would happen if they were left alone with each other? "A while," she confessed.
"How long is a while?"
"I don't know," she answered with a shrug. "Just, a while."
Somehow coming to accept that answer - for now, at least, she asked, "Why?"
"Why do you feel that? Why are you even telling me? Why now?"
Rachel dropped her gaze for a moment as she tried to formulate suitable responses to the seemingly endless questions and the lingering tone of disbelief in the tone behind them. They weren't unfounded questions - by no means - but still rather unexpected. She probably would have asked the same ones, if the roles were reversed.
But they weren't.
Rachel loved her, and she -
When Rachel looked up at her again, there were tears in both their eyes. "I just do," she replied unsteadily. "It was bound to come out at some point, so it was better it came out in a controlled way."
Even though, technically, it hadn't.
As much as Rachel tried to keep her feelings buried deep inside, they just couldn't be contained anymore, and look what happened.
She shook her head. "But why now? I need to know."
Rachel's brow furrowed. "I don't know what you're asking me."
She let out a sound that closely resembled a growl. "Now, Rachel! Why not sooner? Why not before - "
"You should have told me," she said, sounding utterly defeated. "Everything could be - " she shook her head. "You just should have told me."
"Everything could be what?"
"Different," she breathed.
Rachel frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"Did you ever think that I might have felt the same way too?"
And the sound of that totally threw her into the endless abyss of… nothing. What? No. Wait. What? There was no way.
"Before, Rachel," she said tiredly, lifting and then dropping her shoulders in a tired shrug that screamed of utter defeat. "Before."
She didn't answer Rachel. She just apologised, said she had to go again, and that was supposedly that.
Only that it actually wasn't.
She returned the next night, and asked Rachel a question to which she had no answer.
"What happens now, Rachel?"
That night was the last time they spoke. It's been just over a month since then, and Rachel Berry is miserable. Beyond miserable, in fact. If she had her way; she definitely wouldn't have come to Puck's party tonight, but Brittany Pierce can be awfully convincing when she actually tries. Still, the last thing Rachel wants is to be around all these other happy people, living their happy, stupid lives.
It's Kurt who draws Rachel's attention when he asks a general question of the group.
"Did anyone hear about what happened with Miss Pillsbury and Mr Schue?"
It starts up another discussion but Rachel isn't listening. She's thinking about the girl; the girl she misses quite desperately... who, to the school's collective surprise, decided to skip this particularly party. Rachel just wants to talk to her; to hear her smooth voice; to see her gorgeous smile.
Rachel wants so much to hug her; to hold her, but she knows she can't. They decided. That same night - the last one - they made the decision to stay away from each other.
They decided to limit their interaction but, in the end, they just ceased all contact.
And Rachel hates it.
She hates every second of it.
When Mike suggests another round of drinks, Rachel doesn't say anything even though she's really not feeling up to it. In fact, she's halfway to deciding it's time for her to leave. She has quite a lot of schoolwork to get through before Monday morning anyway, with an English paper and a Calculus problem set due in her first two periods of the day.
"What are you having, Rachel?" Mike asks, forced into waving a hand in front of her face to get her attention.
Rachel blinks, surprised. "Oh, umm, I think I'm good for now, thank you," she says, offering the boy a kind, grateful smile. "I've decided to take it slow tonight."
Mike rolls his eyes at that but, thankfully, makes no comment as he moves on to the next person.
Rachel barely lets out a breath before Sam's face is suddenly in her line of vision, the blond invading her personal space. Rachel automatically leans back. "Hey, Sam," she says, smiling slightly. "You having fun?"
"So much," he says happily, sipping at his seemingly neverending drink. "I definitely needed this."
Rachel has to ask the question. "Is something wrong?"
Rachel swallows, unsure how to broach the subject. They're good friends in the sense that he's one of the members of Glee that genuinely seems to like her and actually enjoys spending time with her. They're close as they possibly can be without any lines getting blurred. "I don't know; you just seemed rather profound earlier," she finally says, deciding on a suitable approach.
"That stuff about girls?"
She nods, nervously nibbling at her bottom lip.
"Oh, you know," he says offhandedly, looking away. For a moment, Rachel's sure he's not going to say anything more, but then he opens his mouth and says words that surprise them both. "Quinn and I broke up."
Rachel's eyes bulge and her mouth drops open. Really, she feels like she's been slapped, and she knows what that feels like. They broke up? Why didn't Sam tell her sooner? Why didn't she?
Rachel knows why.
Sam hurriedly covers his mouth with his right hand, seemingly shocked by his own confession. Did he just say that out loud? From the look of horror on Rachel's face; yes, yes he did.
"You did what?" Rachel squeaks.
Sam knows he can't take it back now. It's out there. "I know she's like your best friend now or something, Rachel; but things have been rather off between us for a while now."
Rachel frowns, a pang of guilt hitting her square in the chest. "How long?"
"Probably since March."
Rachel's relief is quickly overwhelmed by her sudden concern for Quinn and her confusion at Sam. And guilt. So much damn guilt. "But why? I don't understand. When did this even happen?"
Sam suddenly looks guilty.
Rachel pales. "Sam?"
"It's been almost a month," she says quietly. "It wasn't exactly a surprise, really, but what is, is the fact that she is the one who decided it was time to end it. She was so assertive; so sure, in that very sexy Quinn way." Drunk. Sam is definitely drunk. "Because, you know, she really wanted to win Prom Queen, and our relationship was supposed to help her with that."
Rachel doesn't know how to process what Sam is trying to tell her. Quinn broke up with him. But...? "Sam," she says seriously; "what really happened?"
"There's someone else."
For a moment, Rachel is certain she actually might die. Right here, right now. Why is Sam telling her any of this if he knows? How could he even be talking to her? How can he even stand to look at her?
Unless, of course, he doesn't think the 'someone else' could possibly be Rachel Berry?
Who would, really?
"I don't think she knows though," Sam adds, merely confusing Rachel that bit more. "We've been discreet these past few weeks."
Rachel frowns heavily. Wait, what? "I don't understand."
Sam shakes his head. "I just don't think that I ever truly made Quinn happy," he says, sounding more sober than he has all night. "This is for the best."
Rachel is still a little confused. "What are you talking about, your being discreet?"
"Oh," Sam sounds, giggling slightly. Yes, he's definitely back to being drunk. She thinks he would probably baulk at the fact that he just giggled, otherwise. "I'm already seeing someone."
Rachel blinks in surprise. "You are?"
Sam nods happily. "Between you and me, I actually started to like her while I was still with Quinn." He covers his mouth dramatically, as if he's just revealed his deepest, darkest secret.
"Sam!" Rachel admonishes, seemingly automatically.
The thing is that Rachel, admittedly, feels a little hypocritical. She had fallen for another boy's girlfriend, but she's able to say that they didn't cheat. They came close, of course, that last night. It's one of the reasons they agreed to stop spending time alone together. As difficult as it's been.
All she's learning right now just makes things more complicated and less at the same time.
"Why haven't you told anyone yet?" Rachel finds herself asking, filing away her feelings about Sam's possible infidelity. She doubts Sam would ever have been unfaithful. But then, she has to remember that even she and the girl came close. Millimetres close. And Rachel prides herself on her own morals.
"We're waiting to tell people until after Nationals," Sam says. "You won't tell anyone, will you?"
Rachel just manages to shake her head. She definitely won't. Who would she tell anyway? The girl?
"Thanks," Sam says casually, sipping at his drink again.
"Who is it?" Rachel suddenly asks.
Rachel narrows her eyes. "This other girl."
Sam says nothing.
"Do you love her?"
Sam looks a little startled by the question. Clearly, he isn't expecting it. "Does it matter?"
Rachel sighs. Does it matter?
Of course, it does.
Love changes everything.
Love isn't something from which you can come back.
Before Sam can respond, Mike returns with a full tray of drinks. Rachel knows she's at a crossroads here. She can allow herself to immerse herself in the night in the hopes of forgetting Sam's confession, or she can go home.
Based on what she just learned from Sam, the latter seems to be the better option. Who's to say what alcohol would do to her, or even make her end up saying with Sam around?
Rachel is called a multitude of things - an old lady, a prude and a hag, to name a few - when she mentions that she's heading home. She doesn't care though. Her mind is still focused on other, more important things.
Like the fact that Quinn and Sam broke up a month ago and the cheerleader hasn't even bothered to tell her.
Rachel says her farewells, and then she's leaving, heading home at least ninety minutes before her curfew - not that her fathers will even be at home to check. She's not beyond the limit, but she's buzzed enough to forego driving home, and rather chooses to walk. It offers her time to think, and to work off the alcohol and chips she consumed earlier.
It turns into a monumentally bad idea by the time she reaches Albert Street. She's both physically and emotionally exhausted, and she's never drinking again. She's grumbling under her breath when she spots her house, her pace picking up slightly as she heads for the front door. She's already imagining getting into her pyjamas and crawling into her bed.
There she is, casually leaning against the front door and smiling knowingly at her.
Despite all the positive, overwhelming feelings threatening to erupt within her; Rachel is angry. With the girl, and with herself.
Because of it, she doesn't say a word to her, as she fishes for her keys in her bag and moves towards her front door as if she isn't even standing there, looking positively delicious in dark jeans and a forest green tailored shirt.
Quinn Fabray doesn't say a word as she watches Rachel fiddle with the lock, her hands trembling. Damn her traitorous hands.
Rachel is suddenly very aware of the heat of her.
"Where have you been?" Rachel asks, unable to resist the urge to interrogate her. She wants to kick herself for engaging but it can't be helped. Her hand remains resting on the door handle, ready to offer her a quick escape if it's needed.
"I had things to take care of," she says simply, seriously.
Rachel refuses to look at her. "What does that even mean?"
"It means what it means, Rachel," she says, her left hand moving to rest on the small of Rachel's back and sending an electric shock straight through her. "What do you want it to mean?"
"What are you even doing here?"
"There's something I need to tell you," she begins; "and I can do it only in person."
Rachel still won't look at her, despite her burning desire to see her perfect eyes. "And what's that?"
Quinn doesn't even hesitate. "I love you, too."
At the sound of that, Rachel's head snaps up and their gazes meet, hazel green claiming chestnut brown. "What?"
"I realised that I never actually said it back when you told me how you felt, because I couldn't," she explains quietly. "But, now I can."
Admittedly, Rachel is still thoroughly thrown by Quinn's words. What is happening right now?
"I've done a lot of thinking," she continues. "I was mad at you because I thought that you'd waited too long; that it was too late, but I was wrong. I was so wrong, Rachel."
"You kept talking about before," she says, mentioning the main thing that's been bothering her the past month. "What did you mean by that?"
"Does it matter?"
"Of course, it matters."
Quinn moves closer to her, practically towering over her. Rachel can smell her; so familiar, so damn inviting.
"Did you mean before Sam?" Rachel asks quietly. "Because I didn't know how I felt before. I didn't figure it out until it was too late."
"But that's what I'm saying," she says breathily. "It isn't too late."
Rachel looks at her through her lashes. "But, it is," she counters. "You know we can't do this. We'll never be able to do this. There's already too much there. We can't."
For a moment, Quinn looks stricken, but her facial expression quickly turns into a smirk. "Are you sure?" she asks slyly, and her tone of voice is almost enough to have Rachel dropping to her knees.
Rachel hesitates for a beat, but manages to hold onto her resolve. She'd known, even when she told Quinn all those weeks ago, that nothing could ever happen between them. Even now. Their lives are too complicated for that. Their lives are too entwined with the people that would get hurt by this, and she won't do that. "I'm sure," she says, her voice surprisingly steady.
Quinn moves closer to her, absently nuzzling her temple with the tip of her nose. "Rachel," she whispers.
"We can't," she says resolutely.
She huffs in annoyance. "Then why the hell did you bother telling me in the first place?" she asks harshly. "What did you expect, huh? What do you want from me?"
It's her turn to bring out her own anger and frustration. "I didn't ask you for anything," she snaps.
"You didn't have to," she snaps right back. "Dammit, Rachel! What did you expect to happen? Do you think this is what I want? To be here like this, knowing how difficult it might be for us?"
"There is no us," she says pointedly.
"But there can be," she counters. "Now."
"I heard about that," she says curtly. "Thanks for telling me."
She sighs heavily, resisting the urge to pinch the bridge of her nose in frustration. "What would you have thought if I'd just shown up here straight after?"
"You still should have told me."
"I'm telling you now," she says hotly. "I want to be with you, Rachel. I want you. Now. Forever."
And then Quinn closes what little distance there is between them, slipping one hand into Rachel's hair, the other claiming her hip and pulling her flush against her taller body.
There's a moment where Rachel gasps in surprise, but then Quinn's lips are crashing down on hers and, well, that's pretty much that about that. Rachel's immediate response is to kiss her back with urgency enough to match Quinn's, her lips fierce and demanding. She leans into her, winding her fingers into blonde hair and grasping tight handfuls.
Quinn trails the hand at Rachel's hip up her side, and then back down, eventually sneaking it under the hem of her top. The second her fingers touch Rachel's soft skin, the brunette moans into Quinn's mouth, ready to lose herself in her.
But, a moment later, Rachel comes to her senses and immediately detaches her lips from Quinn's, hurriedly pushing her away.
Quinn looks almost as dazed as Rachel feels.
Rachel shakes her head, forcing Quinn further away and severing all contact. She needs to think clearly, and Quinn's proximity isn't helping. "We can't do this," she says breathlessly.
"Why?" she asks.
"You know why."
"I don't," Quinn automatically argues, her heart thumping in her chest. "Tell me."
Rachel shakes her head again and turns back to open the door. "Go home," she says softly.
"Go home," she says again. "I will see you on Sunday." And then she disappears into her house and shuts the door, locking it automatically.
Rachel's heart is positively racing as she leans her back against the door, desperately trying to calm herself. She suddenly feels hot and bothered, like she's wearing too much clothing. She feels like she's been burned.
Quinn has burned her.
God, she hates Quinn for doing this to her.
But she loves her.
Rachel hears a slight thump behind her, what she assumes is Quinn dropping her head onto the door.
"Rachel," Quinn whispers. "Please open the door. Please let me in."
She closes her eyes, her heart stilling from the sound of the pleading in Quinn's voice. It hits her in parts of her body that she didn't even know she had. She isn't even surprised that it's Quinn who is able to do this to her.
She squeezes her eyes tight. "Go home," she says one last time, and then pushes herself off the door and moves further into the house, not wanting to hear any more. She can't handle any more.
Rachel goes straight upstairs, closes herself in her bedroom, and doesn't emerge until the next morning, feeling terribly weary and deeply emotional.
She spends all of her Saturday ignoring everything to do with the conversations she had with Sam or with Quinn. It's unhealthy, sure, but she isn't ready to face whatever is or isn't happening in her suddenly complicated love-life.
So, it's a rather anxious Rachel Berry who arrives at the auditorium for Glee rehearsal in preparation for the following weekend's Nationals on Sunday morning. She has a plan. She's going to try to steer clear of Quinn as much as possible. She's going to make sure not to be anywhere alone with her. It's simple - all she has to do is execute it.
At least until she can figure out what's wrong with her.
Also, because, well, now that she knows how it feels to be kissed by Quinn; she's almost desperate to do it again.
"Rachel, it's so good to see you," Mr Schuester says as soon as he spots Rachel's approach. "I was worried you wouldn't make it after Sam mentioned you weren't looking too well on Friday night."
Rachel offers the man a reassuring smile. "Oh, I was just feeling a bit tired," she explains. "It was a long week."
It's enough of an explanation for him, because he ushers the brunette towards the stage to greet everyone else with a half-serious warning about not overworking herself before Nationals.
Rachel resists the urge to roll her eyes. She's going to take care of her voice. He doesn't need to worry about that.
She's a little hesitant as she greets the few students who are already present, her eyes refusing to take in the room in its entirety. She says hello to Mercedes, Kurt and Blaine, and makes the decision to head towards Tina and Mike, but -
But then there she is.
Quinn is standing with Joe, Sugar, Santana and Brittany, and they are all talking animatedly about something or the other.
Well, she isn't.
Instead, Quinn is looking at Rachel. Seeing her.
Suddenly feeling overwhelmed, Rachel spins around and hurries away, intent on finding a quiet place to calm her racing heart and school her thoughts. The last thing anyone needs is Rachel Berry turning into a blubbering mess from imagining Quinn's lips on parts of her body that aren't limited to only her mouth.
What Rachel doesn't anticipate is the Head Cheerleader following her.
She's just opened the door to the bathroom when she feels Quinn's presence. Quinn follows her through the door, and practically slams it shut behind her, surprising them both.
Quinn smiles innocently. "Sorry about that."
Rachel can't help but glare at her, suddenly feeling inexplicably enraged. "What are you doing?"
Quinn makes quick work of locking the door, and then turns to look at her, eyes serious. "We need to talk," she finally says.
"No, we don't," she counters, huffing. "The last thing you and I need to do is talk."
Quinn frowns. "Why are you being so difficult?"
"Why can't you take a hint?" she suddenly snaps, heat taking over her body. Her mouth just starts to run, dangerously. All she wants is a moment of peace to compose herself, and now this. "We can't just dive into something like this and you know it as well as I do! I don't want to do this. Can't you just accept that? I don't want to do this with you!"
Quinn blinks in surprise, absently taking a step back from Rachel. "Oh," she sounds breathily. It's as if the wind had been knocked right out of her. "You didn't even mean it, did you?" she asks tiredly. "I mean, why would you, right? Nobody would ever - " she halts suddenly, her eyes turning darker. "I guess responding the way I have doesn't make any sense when someone tells you they love you, does it?" Her tone is so sarcastic and emotionless, Rachel even flinches.
Rachel swallows thickly. "Quinn - " she begins.
"Forget it," she cuts her off. "I don't know what you were hoping to achieve telling me something like that anyway, but I guess I should say thank you, right? I'm not with Sam anymore, and he's free to go and be with whoever he's been rushing off to see lately, right? So, thank you."
Rachel just stares at her. Quinn's eyes are practically glowing. No, they're burning. With rage, and something that is unmistakably a combination of desire and extreme, unbidden hurt.
Quinn runs a hand through her short hair. "Maybe I could figure out why you're resisting this so much, but you're the one who told me you loved me first. I thought - " she stops suddenly. "It doesn't even matter what I thought. Clearly." With that said - or not said - she turns sharply, and then rushes out of the bathroom.
Rachel can only watch her go, her own mind reeling. What just happened? What did she just say? Better yet, why did she say what she said? What is she so afraid of? There Quinn is, this amazing and frustrating girl, ready to give her everything she's ever wanted, and Rachel just can't allow herself to take it.
It's too much.
Is it guilt?
When she told Quinn how she felt; she didn't expect any of this. Really, she anticipated living out the rest of her life watching from afar, sitting helplessly with her unrequited feelings for a girl she was convinced could never love her back.
She never expected this.
Definitely not this.
Does she even deserve to get what she wants? She's essentially broken up a relationship. How is she supposed to get over that? How are they? And, really, what is Quinn thinking, cornering her in a bathroom like that? She thought they moved on from that after sophomore year.
Rachel leans against the counter, trying to calm herself. As much as she wants to be mad at Quinn; she's more mad at herself. Here is this perfect, sometimes infuriating girl, telling her that she wants her, and Rachel is worried about, what, the logistics of it all?
But Rachel is right, isn't she?
There's no way they can just jump into a relationship, whether it's a public one or not. Sam is one of Rachel's closest friends, and Quinn's ex-boyfriend. There's also Finn to consider in this equation. How would he feel knowing his two ex-girlfriends were suddenly in a relationship? There are just lines that you don't cross, aren't there?
But then why did she tell her in the first place? Quinn is at least right about that. Why did she tell her, if she isn't going to accept the fact that she might feel the same way?
Does she? Truly? Does she even know what she's saying; what she's feeling? This isn't something that just happens. How is Rachel expected to believe everything she's saying when no more than a few weeks ago; she was happily with someone else? A boy, no less.
But they weren't actually that happy, were they?
Rachel sighs heavily. This is too much for one day. Her head is literally spinning. She even feels a little drunk, if she's being perfectly honest. She has half a mind to go out there and tell Mr Schuester that she actually isn't feeling well, so she can go home and forget this entire day is happening.
Steeling herself, she straightens and takes a deep breath before she moves towards the door. She pauses with her hand on the handle, a thought coming to her in the worst way possible. Will Quinn, one day, blame her for this? Will Quinn look at her and see her as the reason why her relationship with Sam ended the way it did, the same way she's responsible for the end of her relationship with Finn? Just, you know, the other way around, this time?
Sure, Quinn is thankful now, but what about months from now when the reality of it all hits her square in the chest, and she realises that she would be stuck with her, Rachel Berry?
Is that what's stopping her?
Is it all a little too good to be true, and she just can't bring herself to accept the fact that her wildest dreams can actually come true? Quinn wants her. That much is obvious. But, will it be for only right now, because Rachel is already dealing in forevers here? Quinn mentioned the forever word, but can she actually mean it?
Rachel's hand drops from the handle, and she moves back to lean against the counter once more, her face dropping into her hands. She suddenly feels sick. Why is everything so complicated?
She realises she has the power to make it simple.
Gosh, what would the Glee Club all think if she and Quinn suddenly started a relationship? At the rate she's going, Rachel isn't going to be leaving this bathroom any time soon.
And, well, she doesn't.
It takes someone knocking on the door to check and see if she's all right to get her moving. Thankfully, it isn't Sam or Quinn. It's rather Mercedes, who gives her a rather curious look when she emerges from behind the bathroom door.
"You don't look so good, Rachel," Mercedes says, her sentence almost a question, as if she's somewhat hesitant to insult her when she's in this state.
"I don't actually feel all that well, Mercedes," she replies, as she closes the door behind her. "Is everyone already here?"
"Mr Schuester's just waiting on you to get started," she replies with a nod.
She sighs. "He'll be terribly disappointed if I duck out now, won't he?"
"Probably." At least she's being truthful. "Do you know what's wrong with you?"
"Too many things," she grumbles. "I've just been told a lot of things in the last twenty-four hours, and it seems as though my body is refusing to process it all."
Mercedes looks thoughtful, her eyebrows rising. "Anything you want to talk about?"
For a terrifying second, Rachel thinks she knows. Which is just ridiculous. There's no way Mercedes knows that she, Rachel Berry, is dangerously in love with Quinn Fabray, her pseudo-best friend; who, until a few weeks ago, was happily dating a boy.
Jesus, no wonder she can't do this.
Even though Sam is convinced his and Quinn's breakup was coming; Rachel is still responsible for it. She's a terrible person; an awful, horrible person... how can Quinn possibly love her? Is she delusional?
"Rachel," Mercedes says, catching her attention and stopping her from winding down her whirlwind of thoughts.
"I'm fine, Mercedes," she says softly. "We should get going, shouldn't we?"
Mercedes puts out her arm, which Rachel happily takes, and she leads the way into the kitchen. There are people hanging about, waiting to be called to attention. Rachel's eyes automatically seek out Quinn, practically out of habit. She's standing near the left wing of the stage, sipping at a bottle of bottle as she distractedly engages in conversation with Rory and Brittany.
Quinn's eyes flick her way for a moment, and it's all it takes for her to feel all the hurt she's caused the blonde. It's practically reflected in those hazel eyes.
"Gather around," Mr Schuester says, his voice filling the space on the stage. "Find a spot. Sit, sit. I have a few announcements before we begin."
There's a lot of shuffling and quite a bit of grumbling as everyone finds a place to sit on the floor. Rachel notes that Quinn makes sure to sit as far away from her as possible, and the girl barely looks at her.
Rachel isn't all that present, but she does pretend really well. Mr Schuester would just ask questions, and nobody is ready for her answers.
It's in the middle of Mr Schuester's endless spiel about passion and teamwork that Sam raises his hand. Clearly, he has an announcement to make, of which four people already know: Quinn, Rachel, Sam and Sam's new person. For the first time, Rachel wonders why he's abandoned the idea of waiting until after Nationals, but she's definitely not going to ask. Instead, she just watches as he takes a deep breath, visibly steels himself and then opens his mouth.
"Quinn and I broke up," he declares, and the stage falls to complete silence.
Kurt recovers first. "What? When?"
"It's been about a month," Sam says simply. "We decided it was what was best for us both, and we would both appreciate it if you would keep all your comments to yourselves." He spares a glare for Puck and Finn before he visibly relaxes, as if a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.
Quinn looks slightly amused, though her face falls when she notices that Rachel is looking at her. Quinn looks away immediately. She won't admit it, but she's actually grateful that Rachel's confession pushed her to end things with Sam. Rachel's saved her from a relationship in which she didn't belong, but she's still angry.
Doesn't Rachel want her?
Did she take too long to get her act together?
Despite Sam's request, Finn asks him questions. The boy claims to be a little hurt that he took so long to tell him - he thought they were friends - and Quinn is able to smooth it all over by claiming that she's the one who wanted them to wait until after Nationals, so as not to disrupt things.
"But you didn't wait," Kurt points out.
Quinn and Sam exchange a look, and then Quinn speaks. "It was unfair to Sam to ask him to do that," she says, ever the diplomat. "We're no longer together, and he should be free to... mingle."
Sam shoots her a look that's more amused than heated, and everything is just too weird. Does Sam know? He's giving Quinn such a knowing look that Rachel just wants to run away again. How can they just be so... okay?
Before things can actually settle down after the announcement, and before Mr Schuester can take back control of the meeting, Rachel opens her mouth and does something so spectacularly stupid that she can barely remember doing it. If anyone asks her why she says what she says, she probably won't be able to tell them. Everything until her mouth opens is a blur that she just can't recall. Something might have possessed her, for all she knows, because the words come out and they come out in a bad way.
"I'm in love with Quinn."
That shuts everyone up all over again. All eyes turn towards Rachel Berry, who sits perfectly still, stunned by her own admission. Oh shit, she's done it again. She said that out loud.
In front of everyone.
In front of Quinn.
The blonde in question is just staring at her with wide, shining hazel eyes.
Santana is the one to recover first. "Wait. What?" she asks Rachel. "What did you just say?"
Rachel is not going to repeat it. Really, she would welcome the world ending at this precise moment. A zombie attack. Voldemort's arrival. A black hole. Really, anything.
Shit, that's Sam.
Rachel gets to her feet suddenly, just managing not to fall over herself. "Will you excuse me?" she rushes out.
And then she's gone.
She races out of the auditorium, and out of the school without looking back for a second. She has to get away as quickly as she can, before she bursts into flames or something else equally ridiculous. Her skin feels like it's on fire and, really, she doesn't think she can ever show her face at school ever again.
This is it.
She's in love with Quinn, and now she's no longer welcome at Glee. What has her life come to?
She hates how dramatic she's being. How old is she supposed to be?
Rachel goes straight home and locks herself away in her bedroom, burying her entire body under two heavy blankets. Maybe she'll suffocate to death. That will save everyone a lot of trouble.
She's driving herself crazy.
She tries her best to calm her mind. Overthinking everything is just making all that's happening feel like the end of the world.
She doesn't know how long she lies there, decidedly not thinking about Quinn or the feel of her hands on her skin or the taste of her mouth or the world of hurt she's caused her with her careless words. What's wrong with her? Here is a girl who is everything she wants, and she's too terrified to say yes to it all.
The thing that gets her up and moving is the sound of clattering coming from somewhere in the house. Based on the fact that her fathers are away for the weekend, foreign sounds are never a good thing, which is why Rachel emerges from her bedroom with her microphone stand held securely in her hands. She walks through her passage and down the stairs slowly, following the noise. It's clearly coming from the kitchen and, when she finally rounds the corner, she comes face-to-face with her intruder.
Quinn Fabray is digging in her freezer, clearly looking for something she's so sure is there.
She startles, standing suddenly and looking at her. "I could have sworn you had ice cream," she says, completely unfazed by Rachel's potential weapon.
"What are you doing here?"
"Ice cream," she answers simply. "Where is it?"
"I ate it yesterday," she replies.
"What are you doing here?" she repeats.
Sighing, Quinn closes the freezer door. "Well, after you left me to deal with your confession, I decided I needed some ice cream, but it seems as if you're out."
"What do you think happened?"
"Do they hate me?"
Her brow furrows. "Why on earth would they hate you?"
"I don't know," she admits. "It's just an irrational fear I have."
Now, she raises her eyebrows. "Is that why you're fighting me?"
"They didn't take it well, Quinn - what other choice do I have?"
"Who said they didn't take it well?"
She heaves a sigh as she steps towards Rachel. "We're all adults here, Rachel, though I'd wager that you're acting a bit like a child right now, running away like you did."
She drops her gaze, feeling heat rise up her neck. Quinn is right about that, at least. She is handling this all really terribly. In fact, she isn't handling this at all. "What happened?" she presses.
"Well, I was the one who had to explain things," she says; "and I told the truth."
"The simple, honest truth, of which you seem to be so terrified."
"You love me, Rachel," she says, so simply that Rachel's heart stutters. "And I love you. It's as simple as that, really."
"But it isn't," she argues.
"It can be, if you just let it," she says in response.
Rachel shakes her head. "It can't possibly be that easy."
"Life doesn't just work that way."
"Who says it can't?"
She waves her hands, exasperated. "They. I don't know. People. Isn't it going to be awkward?"
"Maybe it will," she agrees. "For a while, I'm sure. But, can you honestly tell me that's the real reason you're acting like everyone who loves you suddenly won't, just because you told me how you feel?" Quinn steps towards her. "Seriously, Rachel, what is this really about?"
"Tell me," Quinn prompts gently. "Just talk to me. It's just me. Quinn You can talk to me."
So, Rachel does.
Somehow, she manages to explain to her just what's going on in her head, as jumbled as it is. She tells Quinn her fears and her worries, fully expecting the blonde to run for the hills at her first access to the hurricane that is Rachel Berry's true mind when it comes to this particular subject matter.
But Quinn doesn't run.
She also doesn't laugh, which is one of the reactions Rachel expects.
"Do you really find it so unthinkable that I could feel the same way about you?" Quinn asks after they descend into silence.
Rachel bites at her bottom lip, trying and failing to meet her gaze. "Is it so unthinkable that I wouldn't?"
"I don't know what you want me to tell you, Rachel," she says gently. "I can only ease your fears if you tell them to me."
She takes a deep breath. "I've thought about this for so long, Quinn. I've imagined every single scenario; come up with every way my telling you would end in catastrophe. But this - Jesus, I never expected this."
"Well, I'm just full of surprises, aren't I?"
"Nothing about this is funny, Quinn," she mutters.
"I know it's not," she says, agreeing. "This is the furthest thing from funny. I know this is serious. I'm being serious here. I know what I want. Do you?"
Rachel is silent.
"You can have me, Rachel," she continues, her tone grave and oddly understanding. "You can have me. So, I'm asking you now, after the shit you've put us both through these past few weeks; do you still want me?"
There's more silence.
Quinn has said all she needs to say and that's all she will say until Rachel finds her words.
Well, there is one more thing.
"I can't believe you ate all the ice cream," Quinn mutters, huffing in annoyance, before turning away to search through the freezer once more. She rummages through its contents, looking for any sort of comfort. She'll even accept the ridiculous vegan variety.
"Okay," Rachel suddenly says, drawing Quinn's attention. "Okay," she repeats, her heart slowing and her body relaxing. It's as if everything about her is just coming to accept what is.
Quinn straightens, absently closing the freezer door again. "Okay what?"
"I want you," she says, nodding her head. "I want all of it, Quinn. I want you and all that comes with you."
"And what exactly comes with me?" Quinn asks, genuinely curious.
"Love," she says. "Happiness, safety, comfort, peace."
Quinn arches an eyebrow. "That's a lot."
"Yes, it is."
"I love you," Quinn says.
She closes her eyes for a moment, basking in the light of such a confession. A dream of a confession. "I love you, too."
Quinn steps towards her, boldened by Rachel's own confession. "Now," she says; "if we're going to do this, Rachel, then you're not allowed to run away, okay? You stay and we face it together, okay? You don't get to tell me you love me and then not accept that I love you back. You don't get to close the door on me and hide. You don't get to set me on fire with that mouth of yours and then take it away. Do we understand each other?"
"Out loud," Quinn prompts.
"I won't run," she says. "I'm done with the running and the hiding. I want you, and I love you."
"I love you, too," Quinn echoes automatically. "But I also hate you a little bit for eating all the ice cream."
Rachel lets out an unexpected laugh. "Jeez, okay," she says. "Just calm down about the ice cream. We can go get some; let me just get my coat." She turns to go, but Quinn takes hold of her arm, stopping her. "What?"
"What?" she repeats.
She watches Quinn's eyes flick down to her lips and she smiles through her blush.
Quinn smiles at her flushed face before leaning in and pressing her lips against Rachel's. It's a quick peck that feels as if they've already had years of practice. "Okay," she says, releasing her arm. "Go get your coat. Maybe we can get dinner before dessert?"
"As in a date?"
Quinn shakes her head. "No," she tells her. "When we go on our first date, you'll definitely know it."
Rachel sucks in a breath, before she spins around and goes to fetch her coat from her bedroom. She doesn't even feel as if she needs it, given how hot she feels. She spends quite a while in the bathroom, trying to make herself look presentable and then heads back downstairs to find Quinn spread out on the couch. Her knee is bouncing. Is she nervous?
Quinn stands quite suddenly when she enters the room, smiling sheepishly. "Ready?"
Quinn steps towards her, putting her hand out for the coat. Silently, she hands it to the blonde and she automatically holds it out for her to slip on. Smiling contently, Rachel turns and slides her arms through the holes. Quinn shifts the coat to settle on her shoulders before she wraps her arms around Rachel's shoulders and hugs her from behind.
"Quinn?" she whispers after a long while.
"You think we could get a takeaway and just come back here and - "
"And what?" she asks quietly.
She lets out a breath. "Snuggle, you mean," she teases, absently nuzzling Rachel's temple. "Do you want to cuddle, Rachel?"
Rachel wriggles a bit, turning in Quinn's grasp so she can look at her. "What do you want to do?"
She raises her eyebrows suggestively. "I'm a healthy teenage girl who knows what you taste like. What do you think I want to do?"
Again with the blush.
"But ice cream first," she declares, releasing her. Then, she adds: "And our first date, probably."
She nods in silent agreement.
Slow and steady.
Quinn takes a step back and gestures with a hand for her to lead the way. Rachel throws Quinn a small smile before she starts for the door. Carefully, she unlocks it and pulls it open, before she realises that Quinn hasn't actually moved from her position in the living room.
"Quinn?" she questions, turning her head to look at the blonde.
At the sound of her name, Quinn seems to snap to attention, shaking her head and smiling nervously at her. "Sorry," she says, walking towards Rachel. "I just needed a moment."
"I'm better than okay," she confesses. "That's why I needed a moment."
Cue the blush.
Really, Quinn doesn't think she'll get enough of her blush, particularly when she was on the receiving end of it; the reason for it.
"Hey," Quinn says, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear.
"You'll never guess who Sam's been seeing?"
Rachel has an idea, but Quinn looks so chuffed with herself - smug even - that she doesn't want to say so. "Who?" she asks anyway.
"Mercedes," she says with a laugh. "Can you believe it?"
She can, though she still doesn't say. "How do you feel about that?"
Quinn shrugs noncommittally, placing her hand on the small of Rachel's back and guiding her through the door. She closes it behind them, her movements stilling when she recalls the kiss they shared in this very spot not too long ago. She smiles at the memory.
This is now her life.
"Everything okay?" Rachel asks, touching her arm and forcing Quinn to turn to face her.
"Everything's perfect," she answers, smiling knowingly. "Shall we?"
She nods once before she starts to walk, leading the way down the front steps.
Quinn rushes to catch up and reaches for her hand, entwining their fingers and allowing the warmth of her to spread right through her body. She's struck by how perfectly their hands actually fit together, like they were built to hold each other. Has it always felt this way?
"What are you smiling at?" Rachel asks as they walk towards Quinn's car.
"Nothing," she says. "I'm just happy."
"You look it," she points out.
"So do you."
"I told you I've thought about this for so long," she tells her. "I just didn't think it would feel like this."
"Like more," she explains. "It's everything I wished for and more."
Quinn squeezes her hand. "You wished for this?"
"I did," she says. "I wished for it, and waited."
Quinn pulls her closer and kisses her temple. "What exactly were you waiting for?"
She turns her head to kiss Quinn's lips, disrupting the rhythm of their motion. "I thought that was a given," she says.
"Tell me anyway."
She can't resist kissing her again. "You, Quinn," she whispers. "I was waiting for you. to find your way to me."
Quinn brings them to a stop and raises her eyebrows. "At least you left me a map," she murmurs.
"Oh, I left you plenty of directions."