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A Matter of Timing

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Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Glee Universe. No copyright infringement intended.


AN: This story is definitely AU, in several different ways. (They're still in Lima, though). Umm, let's see... Rachel remains an artist, obviously, but her 'Art' is something different, which is a rather large plot point. The rest, I guess, we'll just figure out as we go along.

I realised that I've yet to explore an unrequited love from Rachel's POV at any in-depth level, so that's what this is. It's not particularly pretty. Sorry in advance.


I

If anyone were to ask Rachel Berry how or when it happens, she probably wouldn't be able to say.

The why is much, much easier.

It's Quinn.

There's really no other explanation needed.

If she were more of a romantic, she might even call it inevitable, but that's one of those fanciful words for those with purer hearts.

Still, though, she thinks she's going to have to figure out some way to explain to her best friend that she broke up with her boyfriend because she's just now come to the conclusion that she's probably been in love with said best friend for longer than even she can admit.

It's borderline pathetic, really, that it's all happening now, just two days before the start of their senior year of high school, and doesn't she just have the worst timing?

It's just that she's spent most of the summer with Quinn, enjoying every minute Quinn wasn't working or being her annoying, cryptic self just hanging out and barely even noticing that she was constantly picking the girl over Jesse without even giving it a second thought.

She thinks, maybe, that's why his eyes started to stray, but she's not going to dwell on that. She broke up with him, and that part of her life is over. Well and truly.

Now, it's time to take this next step and tell Quinn how she feels. She made the decision to do so before she even ended things with Jesse, and then she waited to make sure she wasn't just delusional.

She's not.

She's very much in love, even if Quinn has been acting a little weird these past few weeks. She gets this way around the start of every school year, though, because she just likes to stress herself out unnecessarily. She almost imagines all this pressure and these expectations that only she puts on herself, and Rachel hasn't really been able to convince her it's all in her head.

Quinn's stubborn.

So is Rachel, apparently, because today's the day.

Rachel woke this morning just knowing today would be the day she would confess to feelings that she's newly discovered. God. Is it supposed to be this hard?

This is Quinn: her best friend in the whole wide world. They've been inseparable since Quinn arrived in Lima when they were both in the fourth grade.

Quinn was shy and quiet, and Rachel was not. At all.

To this day, both their parents still can't figure out what made them click in the beginning. Rachel has always been an extreme extrovert, capable of walking up to strangers and introducing herself without a second thought. Quinn is the type to stand, awkward and unsure, in the corner until someone like Rachel comes along.

And, well, that's essentially what happened.

Now, all these years later, very little has changed. Rachel is popular and well-liked, and Quinn is her best friend.

Whom she loves, and has loved and is now in love with.

Well.

Rachel thinks those three things have overlapped for longer than she's been able to calculate. She would give herself a headache trying to figure it out. Maybe she'll ask Dani to do the Math, on one of those days she claims she's bored enough to plan a murder. It's a lesser evil, actually.

Normally, Rachel tells Quinn she loves her all the time. It started when they were still young, the words still relatively meaningless. Girls say it to each other all the time, but Rachel hasn't been able to say the words all summer without breaking into a sweat or having her heart rate rise at the anxiety the sentiment causes.

If that wasn't a sign enough, Rachel also had to deal with her sudden reactions to seeing her best friend in a bikini. It was... a bit much, and Rachel spent more hours flushed and flustered than not whenever they were out by the pool.

She thinks Quinn has picked up on the fact something is bothering her, which is why she agreed as soon as Rachel texted to ask her if she could come over because there was something she needed to tell her.

Which is why they're sitting here, on the faded couch in the Berry basement, an odd tension between them. Quinn is almost bracing herself for what's to come, and this is the first time Rachel wonders if Quinn thinks this is bad news.

Will it be bad news? Does Quinn even think about her that way? Rachel accepts that Quinn could possibly manage to like her, merely because Quinn publicly came out two years ago, but Quinn could also just let her down easy.

What happens then? What does Rachel do if Quinn doesn't actually like her back? God, how naïve is she, really? Quinn probably doesn't even like her that way. Rachel would have noticed, surely. Or, Quinn would have told her. Maybe.

"Rachel."

Quinn's voice is soft, almost soothing, even if there's a hint of confusion, concern and something else that makes Rachel want to reach out and smooth the crease in her brow.

"What is it?" Quinn asks. "You know you can tell me anything." Her mouth quirks upwards ever so slightly, trying to ease them both. "You usually do."

Rachel rolls her eyes. "Getting my period was exciting," she defends. "And horrifying."

"Definitely the latter," Quinn says, her eyes shining with mirth. "Please tell me we're not about to have a conversation about menstruation."

Rachel frowns. "What?"

"You aren't pregnant, are you?"

"Oh, my God!"

Quinn raises her eyebrows. "What is it then?" she asks. "You're being jumpy and fidgety, and you can barely look me in the eye."

Have you seen your eyes?

Rachel shakes her head, trying to clear it. "I've been thinking," she starts, trying to recall some of the speech she prepared. She had an index card, but she figured that would be too much. It would also be a little too like Quinn.

"Ouch."

Rachel slaps her arm. "Shut up," she says; "I'm trying to tell you something serious."

"Okay," Quinn says, leaning back and giving Rachel her full attention. "I'm listening."

Rachel clears her throat. "I've been thinking," she says again. "About things." She winces, because that isn't what she meant to say. "About myself, and about you and us and... things."

Quinn's brow furrows. "Rachel?"

"This summer was good, right?"

Quinn nods, smiling. "It was the best."

For a moment, Rachel is caught off guard, because Quinn gets this faraway look in her eye for a moment, and it throws Rachel off. "It was," she echoes. "And, we, uh, spent a lot of time together," she continues. "I mean, when you weren't working at that coffee shop you hated."

"I didn't hate it," Quinn hastily defends.

Rachel gives her a sidelong look.

"Well, okay, I did in the beginning, but it definitely grew on me." She gets that faraway look again, and Rachel has never seen that expression on her face before. It unsettles her in a way she's unused to, and she's not sure what to say or do.

"Okay..."

Quinn shifts in her seat. "Anyway, you said you have something to tell me."

"Oh. Um. Yes." She wrings her fingers together, gathering her courage. She's not one for keeping things bottled inside. She's never been, and she's definitely not going to start now. "See, the thing is," she says: "I kind of had this epiphany, I guess, about how I feel ab - " she stops at the sound of Quinn's phone ringing.

Quinn doesn't even hesitate before reaching for it, moving to answer immediately, and Rachel loses her thunder in an instant. It just disappears, and she suddenly just knows they're not having this conversation today.

Or, any day.

Because, it really doesn't help that Quinn answers, "Hey," with the kind of softness that makes the hairs on the back of Rachel's neck stand on end. She's never heard that tone of voice before, and -

God, what is happening?

"No, I'm almost done here," Quinn says. "I promised I wouldn't be late, didn't I? Somebody has to show you how to do it right." She lets out this light laugh that Rachel doesn't recognise, and she finds herself inching away without even realising it.

Oh.

Oh.

For a moment, Rachel rewinds to just ten minutes ago, and she wonders if she would have still gone through with it if she knew what she knows now.

Probably not.

Even though Rachel has never seen Quinn this way, she's certain she knows what's responsible. Well, who's responsible, and it's a kick to the gut and an arrow to the chest when she realises it.

Oh.

"Sure, okay," Quinn says into the phone. "I won't forget." She giggles. Honest to God, giggles, and Rachel wishes she could disappear. "Bye then. See you later."

Rachel doesn't move when Quinn hangs up. She's completely still, rigid, and she's actually afraid of what'll happen if she attempts to uncoil.

"Sorry about that," Quinn says, putting her phone back in her pocket. "What were you saying?"

Rachel focuses on her breathing, because she needs something to focus on and she also needs to breathe. It's a win-win. "Oh," she says, finding her voice. She audibly swallows. "It's - it's not important," she says. "You have somewhere to be, anyway."

"It can wait," Quinn argues, because she's too polite, sometimes.

"No," Rachel says, and her voice sounds strained to her own years. She hopes Quinn won't pick up on it. "Really, it's okay. It was nothing. I can tell you another time."

She'll need to come up with something, she thinks, and she'll need time to do that. And a clear head. That, she definitely needs, and that's not going to happen with Quinn still sitting right here, her long legs on display and her toned arms within touching distance.

"Are you sure?" Quinn asks, but Rachel can tell it's out of politeness. She wants the out as much as Rachel wants to give it.

"Yes," Rachel says.

"Okay."

It takes another two minutes, but Quinn does eventually leave, a certain bounce in her step that makes Rachel wonder how she didn't notice before. She watches her disappear up the basement steps, and she can't help thinking about how she missed the signs.

Maybe she's been so focused on her own changing feelings that she didn't even notice Quinn's. It's so obvious now. If that phone call wasn't an indicator, Quinn has been a little bubblier, smilier and a bit harder to make plans with.

The realisation is sobering, to say the least.

Rachel doesn't move for the longest time. She doesn't do anything for even longer. All she can really think is that Quinn hasn't told her. Quinn has kept this from her, and she can't figure out why.

It's not as if she's never been able to talk to Rachel about her girl crushes before. Rachel has always been willing to discuss them with her, contributing in a way that now makes much more sense to Rachel.

She could contribute because she was willing to look, too.

But, Quinn hasn't told her about this new person who's making her smile and giggle, and Rachel feels a sense of betrayal and disjoint that makes her hate this unknown person she hasn't even met.

It sucks.

It sucks even more because Rachel was this close to figuring it out. Weeks, at most, but now she's too late, and it's uncomfortable. She's uncomfortable, because she's supposed to be able to talk to her best friend about this kind of thing.

But, now, out of nowhere, she feels as if everything has changed. In the blink of an eye, the balance of their relationship has shifted, and this is not what she expected when she woke up this morning.

She envisioned them having a conversation, at least. She expected something, but now Quinn is gone off to meet some stranger, and there are things they aren't talking about.

Rachel doesn't handle secrets well. They eat away at her until she can't handle it, and it all reaches a head. They twist her insides into something ugly.

She's also a terrible liar.

Quinn is a brilliant one, though she hates to do it.

Their childhood was interesting, to say the least.

Rachel is still sitting on the couch when her father comes home from work, his feet heavy on the steps as he seeks her out.

"There you are," Hiram says, his grin easy until he sees the look on his daughter's face. It's nothing he's ever seen before, and he rushes towards her, noting how pale she is. "Rachel," he says, settling on the couch beside her. "Rachel, what's wrong?"

It takes a while for her to turn her head and look at him, her gaze unfocused. "Dad," she breathes. "I - I had this plan," she forces out. "I had it all planned out, but it - it didn't - " she stops, blows out a breath and then shakes her head. "Plans never work out, do they?"

Hiram doesn't know what to say to her, because he's never seen her like this in all the seventeen years he's known her. Still, he clears his throat and says, "No, I don't suppose they do."

"It sucks."

"Yes, it does."

Rachel shifts closer, seeking comfort that he willingly gives, wrapping her in a hug he hopes will help. She doesn't say anything more, and he doesn't know what questions to ask.

So, they sit in silence and, when they go upstairs for dinner once LeRoy gets home, Rachel's eyes aren't as empty and he can almost forget his daughter is haunted by something.


By morning, Rachel is completely back to normal, according to Hiram. She's a little fidgety and he's surprised to find her without her phone, but her eyes are focused and she eats all her breakfast.

Even though it's the summer, Rachel makes a point to wake up and have breakfast with her parents before they leave for work. Sometimes, she goes back to sleep afterwards, or she disappears into her studio. On days Quinn isn't working, they usually hang out.

On this day, Rachel does none of those things.

In fact, as soon as her parents leave, she does too. It's her last day of summer and it would usually be spent with Quinn, but Rachel made up some excuse about Dani needing her help with something, and now she's sitting in her meadow, her headphones blasting and her mind blissfully silent.

She didn't get much sleep the night before, but that was to be expected. She had a plan, and it failed. It will continue to fail, because there's no way she can tell Quinn how she feels now. It's the worst timing imaginable, and Rachel needs to come to terms with the very real truth that she has feelings that will never come out.

She almost laughs, because she's not going to be coming out any time soon, either. She thinks she could be happy alone. Jesse was a distraction, and she really has all the people she needs in her life, already. Quinn is still her best friend, even if Quinn hasn't told her about whoever she's seeing.

Rachel has Dani, who's been her second sister since they were in kindergarten. Then, there's Kurt, whose mother works as a nurse at the hospital where LeRoy works. They practically grew up together in the hospital's daycare, the two of them making all sorts of trouble that Kurt's older brother, Finn, always had to bail them out of.

Not much has changed, really.

Then, there's Brody, who Rachel adores in a way she knows he's never quite been satisfied with. They're the best of friends, and Rachel knows that's all they'll ever be. She just needs to get to that point with Quinn, and then she'll be good to go.

Maybe.

Hopefully.

She just needs the day to wrap her head around it, but Quinn isn't letting her have her peace. She keeps texting, almost constantly, and Rachel is tempted to turn off her phone completely.

A Quinnundrum: Rachel. Rachel. What are you doing?

A Quinnundrum: Are you done with Dani? We have plans.

A Quinnundrum: I bought your favourite Hershey's Kisses. I'll eat them all if you don't reply.

A Quinnundrum: Seriously, what is up with you?

A Quinnundrum: Is this about what you wanted to tell me yesterday?

A Quinnundrum: If you don't reply, I'm going to start spamming Dani!

Now, that definitely gets Rachel's attention and she scrambles to reply before Dani ends up blowing her cover. Fucking Quinn.

Berry The Hatchet: You should be arrested for this spam. I'm reporting you.

A Quinnundrum: She lives. What's up? Where are you?

Rachel needs the day.

She needs it, but she doesn't know how to ask for it. She's never needed space from Quinn before. It's like asking to be doused in paraffin and set on fire.

Berry The Hatchet: Aren't you working?

A Quinnundrum: Nope. I'm officially a free woman. I can come get you, and we can drive up to our patisserie in Willowy. Cheesecake is tradition before school starts.

Rachel both loves and hates tradition, but she eventually gives in and texts Quinn where she is.

Inevitable, she thinks, and she can only hope that getting over Quinn will be easier to do than she suspects it'll be.

A Quinnundrum: On my way.


"You're awfully quiet."

Rachel has no idea how to respond to that, which merely proves the point. She sighs, glancing over the console at Quinn, whose own grip on her steering wheel is white-knuckled.

"Is there something wrong?" Quinn questions.

Rachel almost scoffs, because that's the understatement of the century. "Not really," she half-lies. "I guess I'm kind of bummed school has to start up again tomorrow."

Quinn hums. "But we're going to be seniors," she says, shooting Rachel a smile. "We're almost done."

"I know," Rachel says, turning her head to look out the window at the trees rolling by. "I think that's the part that's terrifying. We're going to have to deal with what happens after."

Quinn takes one hand off the steering wheel and pinches at Rachel's thigh. "We already knows what we're doing," she says, ever so serious. "We decided when we were twelve."

Rachel rolls her eyes. "We're not joining the circus, Quinn."

"We could," she argues. "If all else fails and all that."

"You mean, if I end up some starving artist and politics ends up corrupting you?"

"Exactly."

"I suppose the fallback does sound kind of appealing," Rachel says. "I'm definitely keeping my options open. Who knows what's going to happen?"

If Quinn picks up on the sudden melancholy in her voice, she doesn't mention it. Rachel uses the opportunity to increase the volume on the radio and they drive the rest of the way in silence.

Silences with Quinn are generally comforting for Rachel, but this trip is different. This time, there are things she knows and there are things she's hiding, and it's all just adding to her stress.

Also, Rachel did the thing and cyberstalked her own best friend because she needed to be sure. She needed to know that she wasn't imagining anything.

As far as Quinn is concerned, her social media may as well be non-existent, but Rachel found what she was looking for when she went to the Facebook profile she forced Quinn to get when they were in the seventh grade.

It was there, as clear as day.

Quinn Fabray and Sofia Villanueva are now friends.

Then, Rachel took it one step forward - because she's a terrible, awful person - and looked at the girl's profile. Tan and foreign and completely gorgeous, and of course a girl like that would get Quinn's attention.

Rachel thinks it was a bad idea going looking, but she also wants to be prepared. She doesn't know what she's going to be walking into when it comes to the rest of her senior year, and she wants not to be completely blindsided.

They get to the patisserie quickly enough, and Rachel is thankful to be out of the enclosed space of the car. She needs to breathe air that isn't Quinn, and she needs to put some space between them.

She needed a day.

Just one.

But, it takes Quinn playfully ordering her a banana split when she knows how much Rachel hates bananas for Rachel to realise it's probably going to take more than a day.

It doesn't help that Quinn's eyes light up just right and her smile is mischievous. It also doesn't help that she goes on to order red velvet cheesecake a beat later, which is Rachel's ultimate favourite.

A week, maybe. Surely she can get rid of all these unwanted feelings by then. They came on just as quickly, sort of, so they should go away just as fast, right?

Rachel does her best to convince herself of it as she sits across from the most perfect girl and watches as she sips slowly at her cappuccino and nibbles at her danish she convinced herself she didn't want but Rachel still ordered for her.

She's going to end up finishing it, be blissful for a few hours, and then hate on Rachel for doing this to her.

Whatever this is.

They have a pattern. They have routine and tradition, and now Rachel did this thing by falling in love and it's threatening everything. Best friends aren't supposed to fall in love with their best friends. It's a rule written in best friend contracts, surely, because it's just going to end in disaster.

Rachel is a little assured that their lives are somewhat separate at school. She has her friends, and Quinn has her friends, sort of. Quinn is largely a loner when she's not with Rachel, but she does have two friends who she claims have latched onto her out of necessity.

Quinn believes Santana is like the wise old man nobody wanted, and Lauren constantly niggles at her, testing her patience in the worst ways.

Rachel has always found it cute when Quinn gets annoyed and, well, now she knows why. She gets this furrow in her brow and her eyes get a little incredulous, as if she can't believe there are people in the world whose sole reason for existence is to annoy her.

Oh, the woes of being an only child.

Rachel isn't the same, mainly because she's grown up with the child that is Hiram Berry, so she's learned how to tune it out when needed. Quinn makes it too easy, sometimes, and both Lauren and Santana make a game out of who can get under her skin the quickest. It's usually Lauren, even if Santana knows the exact buttons to press to get a reaction out of her.

Santana may be a pain in all their asses, but even she doesn't cross certain boundaries, mainly because Quinn has several, even if she talks about them only at four o'clock in the morning when the rest of the world is dead to the night.

Santana and Rachel haven't really ever got along, but they did bond over the fact they care about Quinn in their own ways, and that should be that.

Now, though, things have changed for Rachel, and she's still unsure what's going to happen now. If she can't get over these feelings, is she going to have to take a step back?

God, she can barely imagine her life without Quinn. It's too much even to think about. Is that what's going to have to happen? Rachel doesn't think she would be able to bear it. What would she even do with herself when she wakes from a nightmare in the middle of the night and can't call Quinn? Who's she supposed to tell when she gets inspired? That's who Quinn is in her life, and all her other friends seem to slot in all around her.

What's going to happen now?

Rachel doesn't really want to have to worry about it until she absolutely has to, but she can't help but be paranoid and prepared. Even though, technically, she's Hiram's child, she's still LeRoy Berry's daughter, in some of the worst ways, really. She's a planner. Well, she tries to be, because her most recent plans aren't really working out for her.

"Luce?" Rachel starts, because maybe they can still talk about this. She doesn't know if she'll be able to keep it all inside, given who she is, and she's going to have to tell someone.

It should be Quinn.

Quinn lifts her head. "Hmm?"

"Do you ever wonder what our lives would be like if we never met?"

Quinn's eyes widen for a moment, before she nods her head once. "Sometimes," she says. "It's more that I think about my life if I'd never come to live with Phil and Melinda. They're Lima, and so are you."

"We've been through a lot, haven't we?"

Quinn nods, smiling softly at some memory.

"We've survived many things," Rachel continues. "I mean, we've had our fights before, but we always make up, right? We try to be as honest with each other as possible, right?"

Here, Quinn's smile dims, and Rachel tries not to react to it. They're going to get to that, eventually, and it takes all Rachel has not to say I know.

"Yesterday, I was going to tell you about - "

Quinn's phone rings.

It's the Universe, Rachel thinks. The Universe doesn't want her to tell Quinn, and maybe she should listen. She has to listen, because it's also this Universe that has Quinn answering her phone immediately, that same, dopey smile on her face, and Rachel has to look away.

She tries not to listen to the conversation by focusing on keeping her breathing steady.

In and out.

In.

Out.

In.

When Quinn gets off the phone, she gets this suddenly guilty look on her face, as if she's doing something wrong. She is, obviously, but Rachel is too afraid to figure out which part of whatever she's doing she deems wrong. What if it's her? What if it's Rachel?

Out.

"You have to go," Rachel says, her eyes on the empty cheesecake plate in front of her. She doesn't even remember eating it.

Quinn winces. "I'm sorry."

Rachel didn't actually ask the day before, but she's a little more settled today than she was yesterday. "Who was that, anyway?" she asks, unsure if she wants Quinn to lie to her or not.

The second Quinn opens her mouth, Rachel is suddenly very sure. "Oh, um, just someone from work," she says, and Rachel hates her. Just for a moment, she hates Quinn, and it's the most foreign feeling she's ever had.

"A colleague?" Rachel asks, ever the masochist.

Quinn lies and lies. "Yes," she says. "They need me back at work."

"I thought you said you were done?"

"I did, and I am," Quinn says; "but I, um, there's something I forgot they needed me to do before I left."

"Oh?" Rachel asks. "What's that?"

Quinn looks caught, and Rachel wonders how much more Quinn is going to put them through before she just comes clean. "I don't know," Quinn says, raising a hand to get their server's attention to get the check. "I guess I'll see when I get there."

Rachel just nods as she reaches for her phone, where she keeps her bank card tucked away in its case.

Tradition is that Quinn always pays at this particular patisserie, so she raises her eyebrows in question when the check arrives, but Rachel ignores her and stubbornly pays for her half.

Rachel wanted the day and Quinn robbed her of it, and now she's just going to up and lie to her about where she's running off to. The nerve.

The ride home is made in tense silence, and, when they get closer and closer to their destinations, Rachel tries one more time.

"Will it take long?"

"What?"

"Whatever this thing you have to do," Rachel says. "I don't mind waiting for you, if you want stop by there without having to drop me off and then have to double back."

Quinn's grip on her steering wheel shifts, and Rachel just knows. "I - I don't know how long it'll take," she says, keeping her gaze firmly facing forward. "I wouldn't want you to hang around doing nothing."

"I could get coffee," Rachel pushes. "I could sketch. I don't really mind. We had plans, anyway. We won't be able to do things like this when school starts up."

Quinn sighs. "Rachel."

Rachel looks away.

"It's my workplace. I'm sorry."

Rachel clenches her jaw, and maybe this is the moment. The moment that breaks them. She doesn't know why Quinn won't just out with it. Why is it some big secret? "Right. Okay."

Quinn sighs again. "I'm - "

"It's fine, Quinn," Rachel interrupts. "Just take me home, and then you're free to go and do whatever it is you've been summoned to do."

Quinn looks at her - Rachel can feel her gaze on her - but she says nothing.

Quinn is a brilliant liar, but she's never really been able to lie to Rachel.

Still, just to be sure, Rachel calls the the coffee shop an hour later and speaks to Mike. She very casually asks about Quinn, but he says he hasn't seen her since she clocked out for the final time the day before.

It might be what she was expecting to hear, but it still stings in a way she can't quite fathom. She quietly thanks Mike, hangs up, heads downstairs and curls into her father's side on the couch in front of the television, soaking up some of his warmth.

Hiram, obviously, doesn't know what's going on, but he kisses the top of her head, draws her closer, and it's exactly what she needs.


The thing is they have this one very special tradition.

Well, okay, they have a lot of them, but there's this very specific one that they do at the start of every school year.

They've been doing the same thing since they first started being friends, and even LeRoy knows about it. Because of it, the man packs an extra packet of iced sugar cookies for Quinn that she and Rachel eat out front of their school as they watch all the returning students and try to pick out all the fresh meat.

It's their thing.

Even Dani and Kurt know not to encroach on the tradition, so Rachel drives herself to school a little earlier than she usually would and goes to sit in their spot, giving them a prime view of the parking lot.

Rachel won't admit her excitement to anyone. It's been better since they were sophomores, because they get to laugh at how young and fresh-eyed and hopeful the freshmen look when they first arrive. They really have no idea what's about to happen to them and, while Quinn sometimes feels sorry for them, Rachel wants everyone to suffer the way the rest of them have.

People start to arrive about ten minutes later, and Rachel has eaten only one of her 'R' cookies in that time. She's proud of her restraint.

She gets greeted as people walk passed, and she has a few short conversations with some of the ones she's closer to about how their summers have gone. She's been in constant contact with her closest friends, so she just gets a handful of waves from them. They all know she's waiting for Quinn.

Quinn's never late.

For school, obviously, but also never for this, which is why Rachel starts to get antsy as the minutes tick by. She considers calling her, but she doesn't want her to have to answer if she's driving. A text, maybe.

She shoots one off quickly, just a casual where are you?, but she doesn't get an immediate reply.

Probably driving, then.

Ten minutes pass.

Fifteen.

Twenty.

Twenty-five.

And then the warning bell is sounding, and Rachel doesn't want to be late for her first day. But Quinn. Where is Quinn? She checks her phone again. Nothing. Maybe she should call Phil? Just, somebody who would -

Rachel's train of thought gets derailed completely at the sound of a roar, and her head snaps up at the same time all the other stragglers turn their heads to see a motorbike - Rachel wouldn't even be able to determine what make it is from over here - tearing into the school's parking lot.

There are two bodies on it. Distinctly female, and Rachel would recognise the one on the back just about anywhere. She's grown up beside that body, watched it grow and fill out and become this person.

This person that Rachel suddenly doesn't want to see. Feels as if she no longer knows.

Still, she waits just long enough for the motorbike to come to a stop, for Quinn to climb off the back, for her to remove the helmet and wave out her hair, and for Rachel to see the blinding smile on her face.

It was a mistake to stay.

Everything.

It's all just a mistake.

She sucks in a sharp breath and turns away immediately. She has Quinn's packet of cookies in her hand, and she doesn't know what to do with them. She wants to get rid of them, but it would be a waste to throw them out, so she hands them to Puck when she sees him.

She doesn't wait for his reaction; just keeps walking and willing herself not to cry.


Quinn lets the exhilaration of the motorbike ride fade away as she leads Sofia towards the school's reception. Her heart is still racing, and she's literally never felt anything like being at the mercy of a two-wheeler in her life.

She could be addicted.

When Sofia called and offered, she definitely couldn't say no.

Once she's dropped Sofia off, she checks the Administration Board for her own homeroom, and then heads in the direction on Mr Lancaster's classroom. Her eyes are stinging a little from the wind, but it was so worth it.

Quinn gets to the classroom just behind Puck, and he mumbles a greeting around a mouthful of food as he slips inside. She frowns when a few crumbs fall from his mouth, and she's about to tell him to act like a human being when she catches sight of just what he's eating.

It's an iced cookie, with the letter 'Q' written in bright red on a white background. It's one of LeRoy's cookies, undoubtedly. It's one of hers and, the second she realises it, she freezes. Right in the doorway.

Oh.

Oh, no.

Her eyes quickly scan the room, searching for Rachel, but she's not here, and Quinn didn't bother to check what homeroom she was in, because she was late and she missed Rachel and -

"Miss Fabray?"

Quinn snaps to attention at the sound of Mr Lancaster's voice.

"Your forms," he says, holding out a small wad of paper.

Quinn blinks once, twice, and then makes her way towards the back of the class. It's at this point she would probably fill in her class schedule alongside Rachel, even over text, so they could try to get at least one class together or try to sync up their free period to be able to study together.

Would Rachel be mad enough to forsake that? Quinn pulls out her phone to check and, from the two texts she finds from Rachel: where are you? and never mind, Quinn thinks she's answered her own question.

Still, she picks her classes trying to get as much overlap as possible, though it's still unlikely, because Rachel completed all her science classes as early as she possibly could to allow herself as much time in the studio this year.

She does get a handful of texts from Sofia, and they'll hopefully end up with at least two classes together, which brings an involuntary smile to her face.

Which fades rather quickly as she shuffles through the day and sees no sign of Rachel. She doesn't generally interact with the rest of Rachel's friends - she gets the feeling they just wouldn't get along - so she doesn't think to ask them where she is in some of the classes they share.

Quinn sends a few texts to Rachel during the day, but she receives no response, which isn't much of a surprise. If Rachel is mad at her, it's unlikely she'll get a reply via text.

Class with Sofia is a relief and a pleasant distraction from her Rachel situation, and it's really the first time she realises just how little she's thought this through.

She hasn't even told Rachel about Sofia, and now the girl is here and -

"There's a lot more focus on American history than I anticipated," Sofia whispers to her, a slight frown on her face.

Quinn smiles at her. "Well, you are in America now."

"Like this class would let me forget."

Quinn is charmed, there's no doubt about it, and this girl allows her to forget that she has all these pressures and expectations of herself and a point to prove to all the foster parents who said no to her and all the people who believed she wouldn't amount to much.

This relationship has allowed her to forget; to move on. To be smart about her heart.

Sofia helps quiet her mind, and it's something she's desperate to hold onto, as selfish as it makes her. She can worry about the rest of the world later.

Or, at lunch, when she goes looking for Rachel again but can't seem to find her. She's not in the cafeteria, the library, the studio, or on the bleachers or anywhere else that Quinn can think of, and her brain hurts at the effort.

Which is why it's almost a relief when she sees Jesse standing at his locker. "Oh, thank God," she murmurs to herself when she spots him, and she jogs up to him, a little breathless from all her searching and taps his shoulder.

His eyes widen when he turns, and she feels an odd sense of satisfaction. They've never really talked before. Rachel is the only thing that even ties them together, and she's pretty sure she's the only thing they even have in common. She's never approached him before, but this is important.

"Have you seen Rachel?" Quinn asks.

Jesse looks stumped for a moment. "Uh, no," he says.

"Do you know where she is?"

"No," he says, frowning now. "Seriously, is this some kind of joke of something? I haven't seen Rachel and I don't know where she is and I'm not going to know."

"What do you mean?"

Jesse studies her for a moment, and then he clicks, looking stumped again. "Didn't she tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"Rachel broke up with me like a month ago," he says, his voice sounding odd. "Why wouldn't she tell you?"

Quinn's brain short circuits, and it takes her far too long to respond. "Oh. Right." She shakes her head. "Must have slipped my mind." She doesn't hang around as she spins on her heel and walks away, her brain trying to compute what Jesse has just told her.

Rachel broke up with him.

Almost a month ago.

Rachel and Jesse are no longer together.

Rachel is single.

Rachel didn't tell her.

Rachel wanted to tell her something the other day, but she had to -

Quinn feels a soft hand on the back of her neck and, for a moment, she imagines it's Rachel who's come to find her, but one turn of her head reveals Sofia and her dangerous smirk. Quinn feels a mixture of emotions at the sight of her, and she can only hope it doesn't show on her face.

"Exhausted already?" Sofia asks, smiling knowingly.

"I forgot what school is like," she says, grateful for the out. "Can I catch a nap?"

"I assume this place has a library."

"Libraries aren't for sleeping, Sofia."

Her smirk turns devilish. "Are they for making out?"

And, just like that, her exhaustion is gone. Everything else disappears from her brain, and it's so pathetic how much of a horny teenager she is. Between studying and this girl in front of her, she doesn't see having much more time for anything else, and she's almost relieved for it.

Wait.

Rachel.

Rachel.

She's supposed to be looking for Rachel. Apologising to Rachel.

But, then, Sofia is dragging her down the corridor, and what was she thinking about again?


Rachel takes the afternoon.

Kurt invites her to the Lima Bean for some after-school milkshakes with the regular crew, but she makes up an excuse about LeRoy needing her to do something, and then she goes home, doing her best to ignore the sight of that motorbike still sitting in the parking lot.

Great.

Just great.

Not only is there a Sofia, but there's also a Sofia who now goes to school here. Rachel even has a class with her: Art, which is supposed to be her safe place, and Rachel has never quite hated her life as much as she does in this moment.

The other students marvelled over her clothes and her accent and her story, all while this girl who's done nothing wrong doesn't even know that Rachel is Quinn's best friend.

So, she takes the afternoon, goes home, locks herself in her studio, blasts her music at a deafening level and attempts to paint away her feelings.

It helps.

God, it helps.

She feels more like herself when she emerges from her self-imposed isolation, covered in paint and her eyes hidden behind her hair. She's starving, and she's pretty sure there's food somewhere downstairs. She doesn't bother cleaning up as she heads down the steps, feeling chipper than she has since she first looked at Quinn and wondered what she tasted like.

Well.

Rachel practically saunters into the kitchen, but immediately freezes at the sight of LeRoy and Quinn sitting at the kitchen table, clearly involved in conversation.

They stop when they see her, of course, and Rachel wants anything than to be here right now.

"Hi, Honey," LeRoy says. "Thought you were going to stay up there forever."

Rachel shrugs. "I got hungry."

LeRoy looks at her hands. "Sometimes, I wonder if you actually have paintbrushes."

Rachel manages a smile. "All sorts of mediums, Daddy," she says. "I'm versatile."

"And a mess," LeRoy says, getting to his feet. "I'm not letting you putter around my kitchen like that. Go clean up while I make you a sandwich. PB and J?"

It's Rachel's boring favourite, which is also Quinn's favourite, and Rachel doesn't want that right now. "Actually, can I get a grilled cheese, please?"

LeRoy looks surprised and, if he's noticed that Rachel hasn't even acknowledged Quinn's presence, he doesn't say anything. "Sure thing, Honey," LeRoy says. "It'll be ready when you get back."

And then Rachel makes her escape, needing to get away. What is Quinn even doing here? Shouldn't she be out somewhere with her secret girlfriend?

And, okay, maybe her painting session didn't help as much as she thought it did. All she wanted was the afternoon. Why won't Quinn just give her that?

She doesn't rush washing her hands or changing her t-shirt. She ties her hair into a messy bun, washes her face and then heads back downstairs. If her father is around, it's unlikely Quinn will bring up anything that happened today or yesterday or -

But, LeRoy is a little traitor, and he's nowhere in sight when Rachel returns to the kitchen. Only Quinn sits there, a plate of grilled cheeses sandwiches in front of her and a cup of hot chocolate waiting for Rachel.

Rachel curses under her breath, and makes a mental note to squeeze the toothpaste out of her father's tube just to be spiteful.

"They're still warm," Quinn says, gesturing towards the plate on the table.

Rachel clenches her jaw, but eventually moves forward. Her heart is beating a little too fast, because she has a feeling she knows where this conversation is going, and she's not ready for it.

Resigning herself to her fate, Rachel moves to sit opposite Quinn, as far away from her as she can get away with. She sips at her drink first, and then starts to eat. She's not going to be the one to bring it up.

Quinn must realise that, because she says, "I'm sorry."

Rachel just continues to chew, saying nothing.

"About yesterday, the day before, and about this morning."

Rachel keeps her eyes on her cup. "Nothing happened this morning."

Quinn flinches, but Rachel doesn't see it. "Exactly." She shifts in her seat. "I've been keeping something from you." She waits until Rachel looks at her. "But you've been keeping something from me too."

Quinn doesn't expect the sudden panic in Rachel's eyes or the way her hand tightens around the handle of her cup. It confuses her, because why should a breakup be this big of a deal? Is it because Quinn always made herself clear she didn't like Jesse? It's not as if Quinn would have said 'I told you so,' or anything like that. She would have thought it, obviously, but never said it.

Quinn clears her throat. "I've been seeing someone," she says, and Rachel looks away. There's a thinning of her lips and her jaw sets, and Quinn doesn't understand any of it. "I met her at the coffee shop." She smiles, mostly to herself. "It's why the place started to grow on me, I guess. She started to meet me after my shifts, and I - " she stops, realising this is probably not what Rachel wants to hear. "She's new to the city, and I started showing her around, I guess. She's... quite something, and I actually really like her."

Rachel has stopped eating, Quinn notices.

"Her name is Sofia," Quinn continues. "She goes to McKinley now."

Rachel looks at her.

No, she glares at her, and Quinn leans back in surprise, because that's not an expression she would normally associate with Rachel.

"I know," Rachel says, and her voice is hard. "I saw her this morning, while I waited for you like an idiot," she goes on. "And then again in my Art class where everyone was asking how she was settling in and all she could talk about was how she felt like she already belonged because of everything Quinn told her about McKinley." She drops her gaze, as if she's lost her sudden thunder. "Imagine my surprise when that 'everything' didn't include her best friend, Rachel."

Quinn supposes that's something more to apologise for, but Rachel seems angry about something else entirely. Angry about something that doesn't even involve Quinn.

Still, Quinn says, "I'm sorry." She sighs. "I was going to tell you."

"When?" Rachel asks. "When, Quinn? Because I had to find out just like everyone else, and I - " she stops all of a sudden. "I don't understand why you wouldn't just tell me. I thought we talked about these things."

And, Quinn knows she shouldn't, but she can't help her own flash of irritation, because Rachel is being a hypocrite. It's not as if she's told her about Jesse.

"What about you?" she asks, an undeniable edge to her voice. "Don't you have something you've been keeping from me, too?"

Rachel seems to deflate right before her eyes. "Does it even matter anymore?" she asks, and her voice is so soft, so quiet and defeated. "I don't even know how you even found out. I haven't even told anyone, and I thought I hid it well. I mean, I guess I've been kind of struggling with it all summer and you must have figured it out, but I don't want to make you uncomfortable."

Quinn frowns, suddenly wondering if they're actually talking about two different things. Just how many things is Rachel keeping from her?

"So, you weren't going to tell me?" Quinn asks, venturing to figure out what has Rachel so bent out of shape.

Rachel blinks. "I... was," she says carefully. "Two days ago, when I asked you to come over. I had it all planned out, and I was going to explain everything that happened and how I got here, but then you got that call and I - " she stops, sighing. "This is why it doesn't even matter now. You're with Sofia, Quinn, and I'm happy for you. Really, I am. It just might take me a while to get used to it."

Quinn is certain she's not hearing correctly, because Rachel is not insinuating -

There is no way Rachel is saying what she thinks she's -

"Rachel," Quinn breathes. "What are you talking about?"

And, this time, the panic in Rachel's eyes is unmistakable. "What do you mean what am I talking about?" she asks hesitantly. "You just said you already knew I wasn't telling you something."

"I did."

"Are we not talking about the same thing?"

"What are you talking about?" Quinn asks again.

"What are you talking about?" Rachel echoes, her back ramrod straight and her face deathly pale.

Quinn tilts her head to the side. "I'm talking about the fact you broke up with Jesse a month ago and didn't mention it."

"Oh." Then, realisation seems to hit and she buries her face in her hands. "Oh, my God." She sucks in a breath. "Oh, my God."

"Rachel?"

"No," she says, sudden and sharp, as she holds out a hand to get Quinn to stop. "Let's not do this, okay? We're just going to pretend none of this conversation even happened, okay? That's what's going to happen here. We're going to forget all about this."

"Rachel?"

"Please," she pleads. Practically begs. "Please, Quinn. It's nothing. It's fine. We really don't need to do this. You didn't tell me about Sofia. I didn't tell you about Jesse. You did a shitty thing this morning. You're sorry. I'm sorry. Can we just move on? Please."

Quinn still isn't sure she fully understands, but she doesn't think her heart will allow her to accept what Rachel was maybe trying to tell her. She's trying her best to move on. It's something she has to remind herself on a daily basis.

"Please."

Quinn lets out a breath. "Okay," she finally relents. "Okay, Rachel."

Rachel still can't meet her gaze.

Quinn nudges at the plate of sandwiches with the backs of her fingers. "Come on," she says; "you're letting everything get cold."