Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Glee Universe. No copyright infringement intended.
Waiting For a Girl Like You
All Rachel Berry can hear is now or never, now or never, now or never.
The words ring in her mind as she and Finn move into position at the courtroom's small altar. There's no time for a procession or music or anything memorable and formal. The entire thing is rushed, and it feels as if everyone is on edge; all of them just waiting for something.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. When she dreamed of her wedding day, it wasn't anything like this. She wasn't feeling as if she suddenly has no choice; that it truly is a now-or-never decision, and she hates that this is what her once-dream of what is supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life has been reduced to.
The leading man is here, sure, but the anxiety isn't supposed to be. Obviously , she thought she would be nervous, but this is something else entirely. Finn asked her to marry him, and she hesitated before finally saying yes. Finn mentioned moving up the wedding to today, and she hesitated before finally agreeing.
She's hesitating right now, and the only person she wants to talk to about it is Quinn Fabray.
But Quinn isn't here, because -
Well, Rachel doesn't know what's taking her so long. She said she was coming. She even texted she was on her way, and now Rachel is running out of time.
Time for what, she doesn't know, because the ceremony is starting and all Rachel can hear is now or never, now or never.
The officiant is speaking, and Finn has hold of her hands, his grip tight enough that he probably suspects she'll disappear if he lets go.
Float away, or run away.
The officiant asks Finn the question first, and Rachel barely hears what they're saying. The blood is rushing in her ears, and she's thinking now or never, now or never.
Then it's her turn, and all she hears is, "Do you, Rachel Berry, take this - " before she chooses never.
Her feet carry her away before she can stop herself, and then she's running from the room. Voices sound out behind her, but she can barely hear them. She ignores everything else, her sole focus on getting as far away from this moment as she can manage.
She needs to be anywhere but here, and she's quite certain she must look quite the sight when she bursts out of the building, her eyes wide and frantic, and her breathing haggard. She's sure someone is going to come after her any moment now, and she just needs to get away.
It doesn't even matter where, at this point.
She races down the stairs and into the parking lot, cursing herself for not being more proactive and coming in her own car. Maybe she can call a cab.
A cab, yeah, that's an idea, except she left her phone on one of the chairs in the back room, and -
Her heart leaps into her throat when Rachel sees it.
A red Bug, tearing into the parking lot, as if the driver is in a rush. Of course, Rachel recognises the car, and she's moving before she can stop herself, practically stepping out in front of the moving vehicle before the driver can even find a spot to park.
Quinn slams on the brakes, her eyes wide in alarm and her mouth uttering a few curses. If Rachel weren't so panicked, she would probably find it amusing. But, alas, she's about as on edge as they come.
Quinn takes a moment to register what's happening before her mouth is snapping shut and she's opening her door to climb out. She's halfway out, one leg still within the confines of her car when Rachel says, "Don't."
Quinn freezes. "Rachel," she says, looking bewildered. "I don't - what is going on? Did I miss it? Because, I swear I came as quickly as I could. There was a really scary moment while I was on the road, though, and can I just say? Don't text and drive. You look beautiful, by the way. Wait. What the hell is going on?"
Until this moment, Rachel wondered if she would ever recover from this disastrous day, but she's sure of it now. As crazy as everything seems right now, it's also painfully normal.
"I need to get out of here," Rachel says.
"Please," Rachel says. "Get me out of here."
Quinn studies her face for a moment, before her eyes drift past her shoulder, where Rachel can now hear voices. They don't have much time, if Rachel is recognising the owners of those voices without turning around.
Quinn must sense it too, because she says, "Get in," and Rachel wastes little time rushing to the passenger's side and practically stuffing herself into the small space with the bottom of her dress in tow.
She's barely got the door closed before Quinn is taking off, and Rachel catches the briefest sight of her perplexed wedding party before they're completely out of sight.
"You should put on your seatbelt," Quinn says after a moment, turning them onto some main road that leads them away from the courthouse.
Rachel remains frozen.
"Rachel," Quinn says. "Please can you put on your seatbelt."
It takes her a moment, but she finally convinces her limbs to move, shifting her entire body until she's sitting properly, and then strapping herself in.
Quinn puffs out a breath. "I'm not entirely sure what's happening," she says; "but I'm starting to get the impression you just did a runner and I'm your getaway driver."
Rachel would laugh if she weren't still in shock. "I'm a runaway bride," she mumbles to herself. "Oh, my God, I actually just ran away from my own wedding. Oh, my God. Oh, my God."
"Hey," Quinn soothes. "Hey, it's okay. Just breathe, okay? Tell me what's your favourite Michael Jackson song. Go on. Which one is it?"
Rachel turns her head to look at her, a little shocked and a lot perplexed.
"Mine's Man In the Mirror," Quinn says, her eyes firmly on the road in front of her. "What's yours?"
"Heal the World."
Quinn grins. "Figured as much," she comments lightly. "You're sometimes too good for this world, huh?"
"I'm not so sure about that," Rachel murmurs. "I just crushed Finn's heart."
Quinn winces. "Are we talking about it?"
"I don't even know what there is to talk about," she says, groaning. She tilts her head back and closes her eyes. "I don't even know what happened. One second we were there in front of all our family and friends, and all I could think about was that this wasn't how it was supposed to be."
Quinn glances at her. "How was what supposed to be?"
"My wedding," Rachel explains. "The start to my marriage. The beginning of forever. It was just all wrong, and I just - I couldn't - I had to - "
Quinn reaches over to pat her leg, but just ends up with a whole lot of puffy dress. "You don't have to explain yourself to me," she says.
The words do very little to comfort Rachel, but she does stop trying to come up with words to say, so there's that. "God," she breathes; "what did I do?"
Quinn doesn't respond, which Rachel appreciates. She just continues to drive, the music softly playing from the radio, and Rachel doesn't really pay attention to where they're going until Quinn is pulling up in front of the Berry house.
Rachel panics that Quinn is just going to leave her here, but then Quinn is getting out of the car, and Rachel scrambles to follow. "What are we doing here?" she rushes to ask. "My dads will come straight here, and I - "
"That's why we have to hurry," Quinn says, interrupting. "You need to change, and you need some clothes."
"I'm assuming you're not ready to deal with all of this, so you'll spend the night with me, and then we can figure out what you're going to do tomorrow."
Rachel stops walking, right there on her front lawn.
Quinn glances over her shoulder at her. "Rachel, we don't have time," she says, waving her hands impatiently. "Is the door locked? Do you have keys? Is there a spare somewhere? Do I have to pick it?"
It takes a moment for her to reboot, and she starts forward again. "There's a spare under the mat," she says. "You can pick locks?"
Quinn ignores her, and she doesn't say much else as Rachel leads the way into the house and up to her bedroom. Quinn just grabs the first duffel she can find and places it, open, on the bed, before disappearing into Rachel's bathroom to grab all her toiletries.
Rachel stares at her empty room for a long moment, before she peeks into her closet for something to wear. Her heart is racing, and she's quite sure her actions haven't quite hit her yet.
The adrenalin starts to fade as she's pulling out some clothes, and her body aches with the realisation she's wearing a wedding dress with no intention of getting married.
Quinn comes back into the room, dumps a few bottles in the duffel and asks, "Do you need some help?"
Rachel just nods, pathetic, and then startles when Quinn's left hand rests on her shoulder, and the other carefully unzips her dress' back. It's slow and intimate, and Rachel flushes at the idea that Quinn Fabray is the one to undress her.
She squeaks out a thanks when Quinn's hands fall away, and then she shimmies out of the garment while her back is turned. She's never been particularly shy about her body, and she's certain she doesn't actually imagine Quinn's quiet oh god.
She changes quickly, just a pair of jeans and a blue blouse. She releases her hair from its confines before slipping on some sneakers, and then grabbing all sorts of other random clothes.
When she turns around, Quinn is facing the other way, which Rachel is certain she shouldn't find as adorable as she does. "I'm decent," she calls out, and Quinn spins around, her neck worryingly red.
"Indeed, you are," Quinn says, almost absently, and her blush spreads to her cheeks. "Is that everything?" she asks, clearing her throat.
Rachel nods, stuffing her clothes into her duffel. She grabs her iPod on her nightstand and the book she's been reading. "I don't have my phone, so I should probably leave a note, right?"
"I don't think it'll be necessary," Quinn says.
Quinn reveals her phone, which has an endless number of texts and missed calls. "I think it's perfectly clear who you're with right now, so..." she trails off with a shrug.
"Right," Rachel says, wincing. "Let's get out of here."
Quinn lifts the duffel before Rachel can move, and then she's walking out.
Rachel turns to study her room for a beat, and feels inexplicably guilty at the sight of the wedding dress, just a heap of fabric on the floor. She can't just leave it there, so she quickly picks it up and lays it on the bed. It doesn't even feel as if it was on her body just minutes ago.
It's as if it belongs to someone else.
"Rachel!" Quinn shouts from downstairs. "They have a group text going. Your dads are supposed to be showing up any minute now. We have to leave."
Rachel stares at her would-be future for another moment, and then she ducks out of the room, racing down the stairs to find Quinn standing at the open door with the softest expression on her face. She wants to say sorry and thank you and ask why Quinn is even doing any of this, but she just squeezes her arm as she goes through the door, and Quinn follows.
Rachel locks the door and returns the key before she heads to the car, where Quinn is already in her driver's seat, ready and waiting to take her away from what she's just now turned her life into.
This time, she puts on her seatbelt before Quinn says to, and then they're off, once more. She slips down in her seat, feeling both nervous and relieved. She's guilty and so grateful, and she just wishes this day didn't exist.
What did she do?
"So," Quinn says after a few minutes. "We probably can't go to my house."
Rachel sighs, because of course they can't go to Quinn's house when everyone knows she's with Quinn.
"Are you sold on the idea of staying in Lima?" Quinn asks, a little too casually; "because I actually have this thing I'm supposed to be going to in Columbus, and we can totally just stay at a hotel in the city."
Rachel groans. "I didn't even bring any money, Quinn," she says. "This is such a mess. I'm such a mess."
Quinn shakes her head. "Don't worry about any of that," she says. "Just, can we go?"
Rachel glances at her, eyeing the way she's nervously nibbling on her bottom lip and determinedly facing forward. "What's in Columbus, Quinn?"
Quinn blushes. "Uh, well, it's - "
"Do you remember The Mack?"
Rachel wishes she didn't, but she does, so she nods. "Doubtful I'll be forgetting her any time soon," she says. "She did want to cause me bodily harm at some point."
Quinn rolls her eyes. "Anyway, she's in this band - "
"She is?" Rachel squeaks.
Quinn glares at her. "Glee isn't the only form of music out there, you know," she says. "Anyway, the band, The Bearded Dragons, is playing this gig at this club in downtown Columbus, and I kind of promised I would be there."
Rachel smiles softly. "That's really sweet of you, Quinn."
Quinn shrugs. "I figured I owed them after I just bailed on them."
Rachel's eyes widen. "Do you mean... you were in the band?" she asks.
Quinn tenses. "Uh, yeah, for a little while."
"I told you I didn't need Glee," Quinn says. "All I ever wanted was music, and I had it, just in a different form."
Rachel turns her body to face her properly. "Then, why did come back?"
"You're very persistent," Quinn says, fondness in her voice, before it drops to disdain. "And Shelby said I had to, if I wanted to see Beth."
Rachel looks out the window at the mention of Shelby's name. She has her own issues with the woman, and she can't even imagine Quinn's.
Quinn clears her throat. "Anyway, is that something you'd be interested in doing?" she asks. "Check out what the other half sings, if not show tunes."
"I resent that," Rachel huffs. "I've sung All American Rejects, thank you very much."
"Gives You Hell hardly counts," Quinn comments.
Rachel's gaze snaps towards her. "You remember the song?"
"Of course," she says, shrugging. "I remember every song you've sung." Her eyes widen a moment later, and her cheeks go pink. "I mean, I remember all the songs we've all done, like, ever, in Glee. Everyone."
Rachel doesn't believe her for a second, but she'll let her have it. "I'd love to see this band, Quinn," she says. "It'll be a nice distraction, and getting out of Lima will definitely help."
Quinn just smiles in response, and then changes their course to get them out of Lima and on their way to Columbus. Rachel fiddles with the radio in the mean time, trying to find a different station - she really doesn't want to be listening to love songs right now.
When she finally finds some soft rock songs, she catches sight of Quinn's smile, and she wishes it were something permanent. Quinn Fabray is a girl who deserves to smile.
"What did you play?" Rachel suddenly asks.
"In the band, what instrument did you play?" she asks.
"Oh, uh, mostly keyboard," Quinn answers, making sure not to look at her.
Quinn licks her lips. "It's - I mean, I can play guitar, a little, and I dabble on the drums," she explains. "Sometimes, I sing. It's just, you know, mostly the keyboard. The band is really talented, so we could practically switch out all the time."
Rachel can't take her eyes off her. "That's amazing, Quinn," she says. "I didn't even know you could play any of those."
Quinn frowns. "You knew about the piano," she says. "From last year, and I guess I picked up the drums from Finn, and the guitar from Noah, and the singing from - "
Quinn sighs. "From you."
Quinn shrugs. "It's whatever," she says. "I mean, I do listen to you when you give me advice on how not to be pitchy or, what was it, sharp on occasion."
Rachel flushes. "I've always just wanted to help."
"I know," Quinn says. "It's just the way you say it, sometimes."
"I'm working on it."
This time, when Quinn pats her leg, she actually gets her leg, and Rachel cannot even begin to explain the way her body tingles at the brief pressure. Huh?
"Ooh, I like this song," Quinn suddenly says, and then increases the volume using the buttons on her steering wheel.
"I don't know it," Rachel confesses.
Quinn grins at her. "It's I Miss You by blink-182."
Quinn leans over slightly, and sings, "Hello there, the angel from my nightmare; the shadow in the background of the morgue. The unsuspecting victim, of darkness in the valley."
Rachel continues to watch her, marvelling at the way Quinn seems to grow more relaxed and animated the further from Lima they get. Her smile is so easy, and she seems to lose the guardedness she seems to carry as a second skin.
"We can live like Jack and Sally if we want, where you can always find me, and we'll have Halloween on Christmas. And, in the night, we'll wish this never ends; we'll wish this never ends."
Rachel's mouth spreads into a smile.
"I miss you, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you."
"Gosh, you're cute," she murmurs, and Quinn stops immediately, her eyes a little wide. "Uh, I mean, well, yip, you're cute."
Quinn ducks her head, a little bashful. "Well, thank you," she says softly, and then sings again, "Don't waste your time on me. You're already the voice inside my head (I miss you, I miss you). Don't waste your time on me. You're already the voice inside my head (I miss you, I miss you)."
Rachel's pretty sure it's her new favourite song.
When it ends, Quinn reduces the volume again, and just hums along to the next one. Rachel never thought it would ever be this easy, just sitting with Quinn Fabray. Before, she always felt the need to fill their silence, but she's since learned that Quinn actually likes the quiet, and Rachel likes the opportunity to observe her.
Study and learn.
"Hey," Quinn eventually says, many minutes and several songs later; "are you hungry?"
Quinn smiles, soft and endearing. "There's this pretty neat farm-to-table place coming up at the next exit," she explains. "We could get something there, or are you willing to wait until we get to Columbus?"
Rachel, admittedly, isn't all that hungry, but she still chooses the first option, and watches as Quinn seamlessly switches lanes. She knows they're getting away from Lima, and she knows it's only for a short while, but she feels as if she's honestly living a different life. Where she's in a car with Quinn Fabray and actually enjoying herself.
"How do you know about this place?" Rachel asks.
Quinn takes a moment to consider her answer. "Marcus brought me here."
"Older dude with the skateboard," she explains. "Apparently, people frown on stoners who date minors."
Rachel blinks. "Quinn."
Quinn's mouth spreads into a smile. "I wasn't actually dating him, you know," she says, sounding amused. "It was just funny to see how people lost their shit when they thought I was."
"Then, what were you doing with him?"
"He's an advisor at Ohio State," she explains. "Weird, I know, but we kind of just got to talking this one day at the skate park, and he eventually helped me with my college applications. I don't think I could have got into Yale without his advice, so, you know, I don't care what people say. He's been a better adult presence in my life than everyone before him combined."
Rachel opens her mouth to say something, but Quinn pulls into a gravel parking lot, and the conversation seems to be over. It's maybe a good thing, because she doesn't know what she was going to say, anyway.
"Come on," Quinn says once she's found them a spot. "They have this amazing non-alcoholic cocktail that you have to try."
It's just easier to let Quinn take the lead here, and it's such a relief to have someone else make all the decisions, even if they're based on what Quinn thinks she likes. She knows she shouldn't think it, but she can't help that she's always had to be the one to schedule dates with Finn and come up with what to do, or they'd just end up at Breadsticks, where all she can eat is a salad.
Not that this is a date.
Quinn holds the door open for her, which, yeah, not a date.
"Table for two?" a server asks as soon as they're inside the warm, dimly-lit cabin-like building.
"Please," Quinn says, offering him a genuine smile.
The poor boy's eyes widen at the sight, and Rachel suddenly feels sorry for him. "Uh, okay, welcome to Protea Fire," he says. "Please follow me."
Quinn nods once, and then hangs back to allow Rachel to go ahead of her, and this is a little weird, isn't it? It is. It has to be.
They get seated at a table on the edge of the dining area, looking out through the glass to the fields behind the main building. Their server, James, hands them each a menu, and Quinn is quick to order a bottle of water for the table, one apple and cinnamon mojito, and a spicy mango and orange infusion.
"Non-alcoholic," she reiterates. "I'm driving," she adds, and then winks. It doesn't even matter which one of them it's aimed at, because Rachel definitely feels it, and James' knees almost buckle.
"I'll get right on it," he hurries to say, and then scrambles away.
Rachel gives her a look, and Quinn laughs, smiling innocently. "You're evil," Rachel teases.
Quinn shrugs. "Boys are too easy."
Rachel almost asks about girls, but that is a question that - no, just no. "What else do you recommend, then?" she asks. "To eat."
"Well, I mean, I won't claim to know anything about what's tasty to a vegan palette," she says. "There's a whole section for you on the second last page."
Rachel turns the pages, but she can't stop looking at Quinn, who is concentrating really hard on what she's reading. Her eyes are focused, her tongue is peeking out of the side of her mouth, and she really is adorable. Rachel's sure she's noticed before, but this is the first time it's really up close and personal.
Quinn's brow creases for a moment, and then relaxes, obviously having made a decision. Rachel can barely handle herself, and her fingers twitch with the surprising desire to reach out and touch her.
She catches sight of James making his return, and she quickly skims through the list of dishes before picking the mushroom carbonara. Can't go wrong with that, right?
James presents them with their drinks, takes their food order, and then leaves them to try their fake cocktails.
"Mocktails," Quinn says with a cheeky little grin. "Try the apple and cinnamon one first. It'll blow your mind."
Now, Rachel normally wouldn't indulge in this much sugar, but Quinn is looking at her with these soft, eager eyes, and how can Rachel ever deny her? She draws the drink closer and leans forward to drink from the straw, fully aware of Quinn's gaze centred on her mouth.
"Whoa," she suddenly says; "that is good."
"Such surprise," Quinn deadpans. "Didn't you believe me?"
Rachel shrugs, and then has another sip before Quinn initiates a swap. Rachel can't even explain the way her brain short-circuits at the idea of Quinn's mouth, and Quinn's straw, and, whoa there, Berry.
She closes her eyes when she tries the spicy mango and orange infusion, and then says, "I'm keeping this one."
"Sure thing, Rachel," Quinn laughs. "You can keep it. For now."
Quinn's head tilts to the side, her expression open and soft. "Sure thing, Rachel," she says again.
Rachel shifts in a her seat, because why is Quinn looking at her like that? Like she sees her, and she knows, and it doesn't matter that Rachel is running away from something or that she's such a ridiculous mess right now.
Because it does.
Of course it does.
"Quinn," Rachel breathes, and Quinn immediately looks away.
"I hope you don't mind that I ordered a steak," Quinn says, her voice a little high. "I probably should have asked if you were comfortable with that before I did."
"I don't mind," she says, which is a surprise, because she usually minds when Finn does it. But, then again, that's probably because they're actually somewhere her options aren't so limited. She has choices here, and Quinn is being so considerate.
Quinn gives her a sceptical look, and then asks, "You're not going to try to convert me to veganism?"
Rachel shakes her head. "I wouldn't ever dream of attempting such a thing."
"Oh?" Quinn muses, smirking; "I thought that was, like, your thing."
Rachel rolls her eyes. "That's a horrible stereotype, Quinn."
Quinn shrugs. "Well, Sweets, I'm a judgmental person."
"No, you're not."
Quinn startles slightly, because Rachel sounds so sure. "I'm not?"
"No, you're really not," she says. "I get the feeling you only pretend to be."
Quinn looks away and clears her throat. "Well, anyway, you've been a vegan a while, right?"
Rachel allows her the subject change, nodding once. "Since I was twelve."
"Why did you become a vegan?"
Rachel hums, because the only people who've been curious enough to ask her about her veganism are her parents. Jesse found it a nuisance, Noah probably doesn't even know, and Finn forgot half the time. "I watched this documentary," she explains. "About the treatment of animals in industry. I was a vegetarian first, but then I read about bees, and I just… couldn't anymore. And, I swear maple syrup is the more superior condiment, anyway."
Quinn just smiles at her, her expression unreadable in a way that makes Rachel want to ask what she's thinking.
"It's difficult to go out to restaurants in Lima," she says, frowning slightly.
Quinn frowns. "That can't be true," she says. "There are at least five restaurants that cater to vegans, and two are actually decent."
Rachel matches her frown. "Why do you know that?"
"Why do you know about the vegan restaurants in Lima?"
Quinn leans back, looking a little alarmed. "Uh, well, you know, I looked them up," she explains. "For, uh, a post-Glee celebration or whatever. I wanted to make sure you would be able to eat something."
Rachel has no response to that, and Quinn looks relieved about it. They can move on, thankfully, but it does give Rachel a lot to think about.
More to think about.
Quinn just sips at her drink before her eyes drift outwards to the rolling fields. Rachel can't stop looking at her, eyes tracking every move she makes, as if this is the first time she's ever seen her.
When their food arrives, Quinn doesn't say a word, and Rachel is left feeling as if she's stumbled onto something without meaning to. She eats her food slowly, trying to stomach it after the rollercoaster of a day she's just had.
It's really good, which is all she ends up saying throughout the rest of the meal. It's not that Quinn is ignoring her, but she can't help it that she feels as if Quinn has put up some wall. It hurts, a little, and she's sorely tempted to ask Quinn to take her back to Lima, because she obviously regrets her decision to let Rachel tag along.
But then Quinn sneakily reaches for the spicy mango and orange infusion with a tiny smile, and Rachel can't even bring herself to be mad when Quinn looks that adorable.
Things are okay.
They're not, of course, but things are okay.
Quinn seems to resettle after that, the tension in her shoulders fading and her smile coming easier. She switches through topics of conversation quite rapidly, as if she's determined to learn very specific things about Rachel while still keeping her suitably distracted.
Once they've finished their meal, Quinn asks if she's keen on dessert, which is a hard no after the drinks they've consumed. She feels full and comforted and happy in a way that seems both temporary and permanent.
Quinn orders a cappuccino for herself, while Rachel nurses some water as part of her recovery from such a rich meal. She has questions she'd like to ask in turn, but it's so comforting just sitting here and existing in this bubble with this confusing girl.
Quinn drinks her cappuccino with half a sachet of brown sugar, stirring it in so delicately that Rachel wonders if everything Quinn does is this purposeful. Without even asking her questions, Rachel feels as if she's learning so much about her.
When she's done, Quinn asks for the check, and Rachel can't even protest who pays, because she has no money. No money, ID or means of communication, and she's honestly never felt so safe and comfortable.
It's weird. She should be feeling lost and out-of-touch, but Quinn is sitting right in front of her, looking terribly amused at the way James' fingers fumble with the card machine in the face of Quinn's rather obvious display of, "Oh, I'm paying. Always have to treat my girl," with one of those dangerous winks.
Rachel's stomach bottoms out at the implication, but she forces herself not to think about it. Quinn is joking. It's just for fun; to mess with James.
But, God, just the idea of being Quinn's girl.
Quinn drives them straight to the hotel once they get into Columbus. She's already made a reservation, apparently, and the request for a double room when they check in goes rather smoothly, even if the woman behind the desk gives them a rather knowing look.
Rachel glares at her, because that's completely unprofessional and inappropriate and so way off base.
She hovers just behind Quinn's shoulder, her duffel bag at her feet, and she wonders just what they look like to the other patrons. Two teenage girls, randomly checking in to one hotel room for a single night.
Quinn seems undisturbed by the aesthetics, and she smiles when she gets handed their key cards. "Shall we?" she asks, and Rachel nods, already inclined to follow as Quinn leads the way to the elevators.
It's another moment that feels as if it belongs to someone else. Almost mindless, she allows Quinn to direct them to their room, her head somewhere in the clouds.
Quinn opens the door and shuffles her inside, looking a little dazed herself. There are two beds, and Quinn sets her own gym bag on one of the beds - packed long before she even decided to attend the wedding… that wasn't.
"I'll be right back," Quinn says, and then disappears into the bathroom, the door clicking shut behind her.
Rachel moves to the second bed, automatic in her motion as she sets her bag on the duvet. The room is suddenly very quiet, even though she can hear Quinn moving around and a few honking cars. Her hands don't feel as if they're her own, and she just wants to -
"Hey there," Quinn says, and Rachel immediately turns to look at her to find she's casually leaning against the doorframe to the bathroom. "You okay?"
Rachel frowns a little, because, yeah, she actually is okay. "I think so," she answers, turning to face her. "Just got caught in a little thought bubble."
Rachel smiles softly. "Can be, yeah."
Quinn pushes off the doorframe and moves towards her. "So, I have an idea," she says.
Rachel follows her movement with her eyes. "I'm listening."
Quinn's smile is a little lopsided. "We have quite a lot of time to kill before the band goes on, so I thought we could go exploring for a little while," she offers. "The hotel, and the surrounding blocks. There are some neat shops around, and we can get some coffee or - "
"It sounds like a great idea, Quinn," Rachel gently interrupts.
Quinn breathes out. "I just - I want to make sure you have a good time, okay? I don't want you to think about Lima. Not today. That's tomorrow's problem."
"So, just stick with me," Quinn says. "I promise I'm going to show you a good time." She blanches at the sound of her own words. "Wow," she says. "Let's just pretend I didn't sound like a douche trying to pick you up, okay?"
Rachel laughs, already out of her own head. "Sure, Quinn."
They start in the hotel, exploring the various floors for the pool and the gym and the spa, which Quinn gets adorably excited about.
"Maybe we can do something before we leave tomorrow," she offers, and then they're on their way again. Quinn is a little non-stop, her hand constantly reaching for Rachel's as they move through the afternoon.
They do stop at a small thrift store, and Quinn buys her a iron chain that she uses to hang the ring she forces herself to take off her finger. It's terrifying and cathartic, but Quinn is right there, a strong presence that's still foreign to have in her corner.
There's still so much to deal with, but Quinn plops a ridiculous hat on her head and asks if she looks like Madam Longbottom, and Rachel laughs embarrassingly long and loud.
"I think I'm going to be okay," Rachel says when Quinn is trying on a red waistcoat that clashes terribly with the green shirt she's wearing.
Quinn glances at her. "As if it was ever in doubt," she comments, and then decides she's buying the waistcoat.
"It's ugly, Quinn," Rachel tells her.
Quinn laughs, and Rachel thinks she might have made a comment about her Argyle sweaters and knee socks in another life, but she remains quiet.
This time, when Rachel wants to touch her, she does. She just reaches out to fiddle with the buttons of the waistcoat with both hands, and Quinn grows very still.
"Quinn, it's suede," she points out.
"I like it."
Rachel lifts her gaze to meet Quinn's, and this moment seems inexplicably important for some reason. "You like red," she murmurs.
"I like red."
Rachel tugs on Quinn's buttons, and she takes an involuntary step forward. What is happening? What is this?
Quinn breathes steadily. "Rachel," she says, careful and with a hint of warning in her voice.
It's enough to snap Rachel out of whatever haze she's managed to sink into, and she drops her hands immediately. "If you like red, you should get it," she says. "But it is suede, and it's seriously ugly."
Quinn playfully pushes on her shoulder, putting some space between them, and the severity of the previous moment evaporates to nothing.
Well, not nothing, but Rachel already has enough with which to deal without adding Quinn Fabray and her general person to the mix. She's too young for that kind of emotional forestry.
Quinn steps away and turns to face the mirror again, which gives Rachel the chance to breathe air that doesn't smell like her. She's never even noticed how Quinn smells, some mix of apples and cinnamon and something decidedly Quinn, and what is happening? Seriously.
At least Quinn isn't actually wearing the waistcoat when they leave. She rather tucks it into her messenger bag that's slung across her body, and then leads them away from the thrift store and even further from the hotel.
Rachel can't really pinpoint what she's feeling in this moment, because everything feels both heavy and light at the same time. This Quinn is someone she's never experienced before, and she can't quite decide if it's her own fault, or Quinn's.
Quinn hasn't taken out her phone even once while they've been out and about, and Rachel wonders if it's because it's probably still blowing up with texts and calls. There's also something to be seen in the fact Quinn is very present. Her attention is right here in this moment, and Rachel appreciates her for it.
"Ooh," Quinn suddenly says, almost skipping in place. "Let's go in there."
Rachel barely has time to register the enclosed soccer pitch before Quinn is practically pulling her through the gate towards where a group of girls are huddled together, clearly about to start a scrimmage. They're maybe eleven years old, possibly twelve, and their coach looks about Quinn and Rachel's age. Perhaps a little older.
Rachel feels severely out of place as Quinn approaches the group, smiling easily and saying some convincing words to the girl in charge, because, before Rachel even knows it, she and Quinn are actually participating in the practice.
Now, Rachel didn't even know Quinn could play soccer. And, she actually can. It's not like Rachel, who can maybe kick the ball and have it actually go in the semi-correct direction. No, Quinn has control of the ball, and it always seems to end up where she intends it to go.
It's fascinating, just watching her interact with the little girls, tracking the way she moves around the pitch. She's obviously happy and smiling, and she's quick to encourage and guide. Who is this person?
Rachel's fascination must show on her face, because Quinn grins at her a little sheepishly when the coach, Steph, calls for them to have a quick water break.
Quinn says, "My parents made me choose." She ducks her head a little. "Soccer or cheerleading, and I knew automatically which one they wanted."
Rachel feels the need to touch, the two of them just standing there on the side of the pitch, too many things hanging between them. "Which one did you want?" she asks.
Quinn smiles a little sadly. "Isn't it obvious?" she murmurs, and then jogs away.
Rachel watches her intently as she gathers a group of girls for some high-fives and quite a bit of eager nodding. Quinn is so different when she's out of Lima, and Rachel wonders which girl is going to end up returning with her?
Is Rachel even ready for this Quinn?
"Your girlfriend is really good with the kids," Steph says, moving to stand at Rachel's side with a soft expression on her face. Her eyes are also on Quinn, who is now bent on one knee and talking to Number 14, both of them giggling over something.
Rachel almost sputters, but she controls her reaction to merely the tensing of her body. "Oh, she's not - we're not - there nothing going on... between us."
Steph looks over, eyebrows raised. "Really?" she asks. "I could have sworn I was picking up on something there."
"Nope," Rachel squeaks. "Nothing, like, at all."
Steph nods thoughtfully. "Well, I mean, in that case, do you know if she has a girlfriend?"
"Quinn," she says. "Is she seeing anyone?"
"Uh, not that I know," she confesses, supremely uncomfortable with the idea of Quinn dating someone. "And, I mean, I don't think she, um - "
"Dates girls," Steph offers.
Steph looks at Quinn again. "There's a vibe I'm getting," she says. "It's pretty obvious to me, so I don't think it'll hurt to try. Might strike out, or I might not."
Rachel wants to say something else to dissuade her, because Quinn definitely isn't - there's no way -
Quinn launches the ball in their direction, and Steph easily stops it with her foot. "Oi," Quinn calls out. "Tired already?"
Steph just grins, and then takes off with the ball at her feet.
Rachel watches Quinn for any kind of reaction, but the blonde rather just steals the ball from Steph and makes her way over to her, which is -
Quinn dribbles right to her side, obviously hiding something behind her back. "Give it another few minutes, and then we can head out?" she asks.
Quinn ducks her head slightly. "I brought you something," she says, and then very purposefully reveals the single gardenia in the palm of her hand.
Rachel's breath gets stuck in her throat.
Quinn regards the flower closely. "I don't know why, but it's my favourite flower," she explains, a crease in her brow. "Annie and I found a few in that bed over there, so I picked one for you, because you're going to be okay and everything's going to work out, and you deserve a pretty flower."
Rachel almost starts crying.
Quinn hesitates for a moment, before she carefully tucks the flower behind Rachel's ear and smiles at her handiwork. "Perfect," she says.
Rachel has no words, and she's saved from a response by Steph, who calls Quinn's name, and then she's off again, the ball stuck to her feet, leaving Rachel in her wake. Rachel's heart is beating too fast, and her mind is whirling.
What is happening?
She takes a step back, right off the field, and stumbles a little until she finds a bench and drops onto it. Maybe this is the moment the events of the day really hit her.
Her left hand lifts to run her fingers over the flower behind her ear, her smile automatic. Her eyes drift to where Quinn is now standing, with Steph. They're standing unnecessarily close to each other, and Rachel's eyes narrow when Steph touches Quinn's arm.
She shouldn't care.
It's just, you know, Quinn isn't -
Did Quinn just put her number in Steph's phone? That's - that's unexpected. It doesn't mean anything, though. Right? Because Quinn is walking back towards her, a thoughtful look on her face.
Rachel tracks her approach with curious eyes, and breathes out in some kind of relief when Quinn sits beside her, their arms brushing.
"Ready to go?" Quinn asks.
Rachel can't resist asking, "Don't you want to hang out with your new friend a bit more?"
Quinn glances sidelong at her, and says, "No, I don't. I want to hang out with you."
"But - "
"She asked for your number, and you gave it to her," Rachel observes.
"Believe me," Quinn says; "it was a surprise to me, too."
"Well, first, she asked me to get coffee, like as a date," Quinn explains, looking a little bewildered. "She thought I was interested."
"But, you're not?"
Quinn raises her eyebrows. "Are you actually asking?"
Rachel traps her bottom lip between her teeth and nods.
"I'm not interested in her," Quinn says, tone careful. "I always figure I'm rather obvious when I am interested in someone."
Rachel fiddles with the hem of her blouse. "Do you really think that?"
Quinn shrugs. "It would help if I found someone I was really interested in, huh?" she says, not meeting Rachel's gaze. She sighs softly, and then gets to her feet. "Come on," she says; "I saw a little bakery on the way here, and I think I just burned enough calories not to feel too guilty about a cupcake."
Rachel doesn't move until Quinn holds out her hand, and she can't resist linking their fingers as she gets hauled to her feet. Quinn doesn't let go of her hand as she tugs her forward, intent on saying a quick farewell to Steph and the girls.
Their hold eventually breaks when Quinn gets buried in a group hug, and Rachel really wishes she had her phone to snap a picture of her.
Steph does it for her, and then moves to stand at her side, looking thoughtful. "I'll send the pic to her, and she can send it to you," she says, and then laughs at Rachel's perplexed look. "It's obvious all over your face that you wanted a snapshot of this moment."
Rachel bristles at the idea she's so easy to read.
"She seemed surprised that I noticed," Steph goes on to tell Rachel as she pockets her phone. "As if she's so used to hiding it that she expects nobody to figure it out."
Rachel doesn't ask what she's talking about, even though she's sure they shouldn't be having this conversation. It seems so uncouth; so violating, to Quinn, who would probably hate that they're discussing her this way.
"I don't know what's really going on here," Steph says, gesturing between Rachel and Quinn with her finger. "She called it complicated, and I believe at least that much, but I think I would regret not giving you this very important advice I'm about to give you."
Rachel audibly swallows, saying nothing.
"If a girl went out of her way to pick a flower to put in my hair, I would wife her in a heartbeat."
Rachel flinches at the word 'wife,' because she was so close to being exactly that, today. To someone else.
"Complicated or not," Steph says; "it's obvious to me, which means it'll be obvious to others, and, frankly, there's going to be a day when she'll say yes when a girl asks her to get coffee." She makes a point of looking at Rachel, right in her eyes. "Are you going to be that girl?"
That is a severely complicated question. It would be easy to answer, sure, but the baggage that comes with being Quinn and Rachel on this particular day is overwhelming.
Steph doesn't wait for a response as she moves away again, and Rachel is left with her thoughts. They're too many and they're too jumbled, and -
"Hey," Quinn says, suddenly in front of her. "Don't do that."
"Don't do what?"
"Stay right here with me," Quinn says, taking hold of both her hands and gently squeezing. "Right here. Stay right here."
"With you," Rachel murmurs.
Quinn sways forward, and Rachel holds her breath. "Everything is going to be okay," Quinn whispers, right near her ear. "I promise."
"That's a lofty promise, Quinn," Rachel forces herself to say.
"You don't yet know this about me, but I'm really good at keeping promises," Quinn says, and Rachel believes her. "Now, I really want a cupcake."
Rachel doesn't let her go too far, keeping hold of her hands. "Wait," she says. "Just, why am I just now learning all these things about you?"
Quinn gives her a look. "You already know the answer to that question." She releases one of her hands, and then turns to lead them away, their fingers remaining linked.
Rachel falls into step beside her, her brow creased in thought. "You claim you're obvious when you're interested in someone," she says, almost to herself. "Are you sure about that?"
Quinn chuckles. "I'm sure, yes," she says. "Is it so foreign to you that I could be obvious and subtle at the same time, given you bulldoze right into the people you're interested in?"
Rachel squeezes her fingers. "I'm just curious," she says. "How would you show it? Because, I mean, sure, I don't know how to be subtle with my interest… unless I don't actually know I'm interested."
"As in, your subconscious is interested, but you actively don't know it?"
Rachel nods. "Isn't that trippy?"
Quinn shrugs. "I think it's more common than you think," she says. "It's kind of like that idea of a little boy pulling on the pigtails of the girl he likes because he doesn't quite understand why he even wants her attention."
Rachel thinks that over for a moment. "What else?"
"What else would I potentially do if I was interested in someone without knowing it?"
Quinn glances at her, eyes curious. "I can't know for sure," she says. "I can go off only my own experiences."
"I'm still curious to know," Rachel presses.
Quinn breathes out slowly. "Well, in my experience, you would find yourself thinking about them, always, even when you really don't want to," she explains. "You come up with all sorts of excuses to see them, interact with them, just talk to them, even if whatever you end up saying is completely inane or even antagonistic. You track their movements, always wondering where they are. You find yourself jealous of the people who get to interact with them, even just friends, because you want their attention on you and nobody else."
Rachel feels something uncomfortable unfurl in her chest, because Quinn is saying words that shouldn't mean as much to her as they do, but they do.
"You start doing the ridiculous thing and doodle their name in your notebook, surrounded by hearts and all those other embarrassing things," Quinn continues. "You imagine conversations you could possibly have together, and you even go so far as to place yourself in situations where you get to do just that. You overthink everything; every word and touch and look. You get excited to see them, and want nothing more to spend all your time with them. You imagine your future with them, away from this place, just being together and happy in a place where you get to be exactly who you are."
Later, Rachel will accept this is the moment she realises her feelings for Finn don't quite compare to what Quinn is describing. She feels no rush of excitement with him. She rather feels anxious and heavy, and isn't being in a relationship supposed to lift you up and not weigh you down?
Quinn chuckles, almost to herself. "You'll do anything to make them happy," she says. "Literally anything, Rachel," she reiterates, something nostalgic in her voice. "You would give them anything, even if they didn't ask for it. You would hurt your own self, just to see them happy, crack all the worst jokes just to make them smile and fall over yourself to protect them from harm, even if that harm is yourself." Her voice cracks at the end, and Rachel wishes she could say something to -
She doesn't even know.
Quinn sighs. "Maybe it wouldn't be obvious to you," she says, and Rachel would wonder if that was some kind of accusation if Quinn wasn't smiling at her. "But I like to think I've been pretty obvious to myself."
There's something there, in her voice, but Rachel doesn't have the chance to question her about it, before Quinn is suddenly tugging on her hand towards the bakery she mentioned earlier.
Rachel can't shake the feeling Quinn has revealed far more than she intended to, but Rachel can't figure out what. As if she expects that, based on her words, Rachel is just supposed to know in whom she's interested.
Quinn moves towards the display case, a happy little smile on her face. She releases Rachel's hand at some point, but Rachel stays close, studying the pastries on offer with curiosity. It's doubtful there will be anything vegan in here, but they're still pretty to look at.
"I know I said I was wishing for a cupcake, but I think I've changed my mind," Quinn says, biting the inside of her cheek. "I mean, just look at that brownie. It's like it's speaking to me. And it comes with ice cream. What am I doing with my life?"
"Live a little," Rachel offers.
Quinn gives her an unimpressed look, and then moves towards the barista. Rachel goes to find them a table while Quinn orders, and she feels a little charged at the idea that Quinn -
That she -
Rachel can't quite figure out what her mind may or may not be trying to let her know, given what she's learned from Steph, and from Quinn herself. There's this unspoken truth hanging in the air that Quinn probably wouldn't be against the idea of dating a girl, and Rachel is definitely not ready for what that could possibly mean for her, and for them.
Quinn joins her eventually, a little disc with a number indicating their order held in her hand. She slides into a chair opposite Rachel, a tiny smile on her face. "How are you doing?" she asks softly.
Rachel feels guilty for how okay she actually is, but all she says is, "I'm doing all right."
Quinn nods, not looking entirely convinced. "Your face just did something," she points out.
"My face is always doing something."
Quinn just raises her eyebrows, quietly expectant.
Rachel sighs, her fingers fiddling with the ring hanging around her neck. "I'm really doing all right," she says. "Which, I mean, sounds... terrible. I know."
Quinn shifts in her seat, her eyes kind.
"It seems almost... insincere," she tries. "Like, shouldn't I be more devastated? Because I'm not, Quinn. I'm more relieved than anything."
"I can't tell you what to feel, Rachel," Quinn says. "Believe me, I struggle enough with my own feelings."
Rachel fiddles with her fingers on the table. "I am relieved," she says. "I'm also feeling guilty and a little sick to my stomach at the thought of having to deal with everything I've left behind in Lima." She looks at Quinn's fingers for a moment. "I know you've purposefully avoided looking at your phone, which means it must be bad, right?"
Quinn's smile is a little sad. "I haven't really checked since we arrived at the hotel," she explains. "But, yes, it kind of blew up. They mainly wanted to know you were okay, and that you were safe."
"Which I am."
"Some people find it hard to believe you could ever be those things when you're with me," Quinn points out.
"Well, then, they're idiots."
Quinn raises her eyebrows.
Rachel flushes. "And, yes, I'm suddenly aware I was about to marry one of those idiots, thank you very much."
Quinn's smile grows. "I told you that you don't have to deal with any of it today," she says. "By my calculations, you still have several hours to enjoy this limbo of relief before the great big world demands your attention, once more."
Rachel isn't sure what to say in response to that except for, "Thank you, Quinn."
Something happens to Quinn's face right then, shifting into something soft and tender, and Rachel is sure she's never seen that expression before. She's beautiful like this.
Well, she's always beautiful.
Quinn's eyes are locked on Rachel's face, and she tries her best not to be the one to look away first. She's here, and she's staying, with Quinn, who seems to be revealing more and more of herself in a way that makes Rachel want to reach out and hold onto her for dear life.
Quinn's attention is finally stolen by the arrival of her coffee and brownie - and a vegan hot chocolate she apparently ordered for Rachel.
Quinn just thanks the waiter, who reclaims her numbered disc, and then it's just the two of them again, left to interact, without touching on those ticking time bombs she knows are bound to explode if left alone for too long.
Quinn steers clears of Lima and of talk about Steph or whom she's possibly interested in. Rather, she talks about getting back on the cheerleading squad and preparing for Yale.
"I can't wait to get out of here," Quinn says, and Rachel feels her chest tighten at the upcoming separation. It's so ridiculous, but she can't help that the idea of having Quinn in New Haven - just, not near Rachel - is overwhelming. "Lima sucks."
Obviously, Rachel agrees with her, but her own future is still up in the air. Lima might end up being all she ends up with, which, yes, she knows sounds morbid. She's just trying to be realistic here.
Somehow, she just knows Quinn won't settle for that line of thinking, and it's such a comfort to her just knowing that Quinn has always believed in her, even if she's had a warped way of showing it.
Quinn eventually moves on to talk about the place they're headed to tonight, her face lighting up in a way Rachel just now associates with music. She wonders if she should be feeling some kind of jealousy, because Quinn should only feel this happy and relaxed about Glee, right?
Though, even Rachel has to acknowledge that even she hasn't truly felt happy and relaxed when in Glee. Ever.
It's selfish to force Quinn back into that, right?
God, she's just as bad as Shelby.
"Hey," Quinn says, frowning at the new expression on Rachel's face. "What's wrong?"
Rachel sighs, silently abandoning her hot chocolate. "Do - do you wish you were still a part of the band?"
Quinn appears caught by surprise at the sound of the question. "Sometimes," she eventually admits. "It was... different. I miss it, sure, but they still let me rehearse with them when I have some time."
"Do you regret coming back to Glee?" she finds herself asking, suddenly not sure she even wants to know the answer.
Quinn doesn't immediately respond, which is probably telling enough that Rachel doesn't even need her to speak. "Sometimes," she finally confesses.
"When don't you?" Rachel asks, and there's a part of her that already knows the answer to the question.
Which is why Quinn doesn't respond. She just sips at her coffee and takes a bite of her brownie, but her eyes are loud with the word you you you.
Later, back in the hotel, Rachel forces herself to stop thinking about what's been left unspoken between her and Quinn.
Which, okay, lasts about as long as it takes them to get ready to head to the gig.
Because, then, Quinn is stepping out of the bathroom wearing the tightest black jeans Rachel has ever seen, with casual rips in the knees and a gentle fade in the denim. She's in a pair of studded black boots that make her just that bit taller, and she's wearing a deep red blouse that she's tucked just into the front of her jeans.
But, God, the hair is what really makes Rachel lose her breath. It's loose and a little wild, as if all she's done is run her fingers through it and let it decide just what it wants to do.
It's not even fair.
Her eyes are dark, the makeup accentuating the hazel of her irises, and her lips match her blouse. Rachel's fingers twitch at her sides with the desire to reach out and touch, which is becoming an increasing problem she's in no rush to address.
"Almost done?" Quinn asks, running a hand through her hair and forcing the breath from Rachel's lungs. "We should start heading out if we want to say hi to the band before they take the stage."
"I'm almost ready," Rachel assures her, before turning back to the vanity mirror and touching up her own mascara. She's acutely aware of Quinn moving around behind her, searching her own bag for something and then dousing herself in perfume.
Rachel watches her through the mirror's reflection, marvelling at the way Quinn appears so unapologetic all of a sudden, as she picks out her identification and bank card from her purse, and then sticks them into her... bra.
Rachel refocuses on her makeup, and she's finally ready to go a few minutes later. Quinn stands near the door as she waits, and then smiles when Rachel approaches.
"You look lovely," Quinn says, eyes a little wide and so sweetly tender. "Are you warm enough?"
Rachel steps closer to her, tempted to move right into her personal space. "I am," she confirms.
Quinn lifts a hand to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear, and her fingers linger. "Time to enhance your music knowledge," she says.
Rachel rolls her eyes. "I know more than the average person, Quinn."
Quinn just laughs as she moves to open the door. "Oh, Rachel," she murmurs; "that doesn't mean I couldn't still teach you a thing or two."
Rachel can't figure out if 'Why Not' is actually a club or a bar. It's definitely a music venue, with a designated stage, and there's something like a dance floor, but it's also very chilled, at the same time.
It's an enigma.
Kind of like Quinn.
Who keeps their fingers linked as she guides them through a crowd of people until they find a small group Rachel vaguely recognises. There are four girls in total, and Quinn gets pulled into a group hug as soon as she's spotted.
Rachel almost expects some hostility towards her, for whatever reason, but they surprise her. Maybe everything really is different away from school and out of Lima. Quinn makes the introductions quickly, giving Rachel no moniker.
Not friend, not even 'kind of' friend. It shouldn't make her as uncomfortable as it does, but she can't resist her desire to be connected to Quinn in some way. To belong to her, in some way.
"Rach, this is The Mack, or just Mackenzie," Quinn says, smiling mischievously.
Said girl punches Quinn's arm rather hard, and she winces in pain. "Don't fucking call me that," she says, and then looks at Rachel. "It's just The Mack," she says.
Quinn just laughs, and Rachel takes an involuntary step closer to her. "This is Stella," Quinn continues, gesturing to the rest of the girls. "That's Lil, and the one with the fedora she thinks is cool is Jackie."
"You're on form tonight, aren't you, Fabray?" Jackie jokes. "Bringing out all the 'tude to impress your girl."
Quinn's eyes widen, and Rachel feels her heart stutter, because, yes, that's exactly the kind of belonging with which she'd be happy. It doesn't seem right for her to be thinking or even wanting that, so she doesn't say anything, and Quinn switches topics so quickly that Rachel almost wouldn't notice that anything was amiss.
Except she does, because Quinn shifts just a step away from her, as if she's suddenly conscious of how close she's been standing to Rachel.
Rachel frowns for a beat, and then reclaims the space Quinn has tried to put between them. She won't stand for it. Quinn has done nothing wrong. Neither of them has.
Rachel ran away from her wedding, and now she's practically hiding in Columbus with a girl for whom she may or may not be allowing herself to feel things. It's borderline disastrous, but there's really nothing Rachel can do to stop what's currently happening.
"Do you want something to eat?" Quinn asks after a moment, her attention split between making sure Rachel is comfortable and watching as the band bickers over what set they're going to play - especially seeing as Quinn is here potentially to participate.
"Not really," Rachel answers truthfully.
"I'm thinking we should just order a few snacks while the place isn't too busy," Quinn explains. "We can nibble away as the night proceeds."
Rachel finds herself nodding, anyway, because Quinn has apparently thought of everything. She just watches as Quinn makes sure to ask if the band wants anything, and then she grabs a waitress to place a rather comprehensive order for their little booth that the Bearded Dragons have commandeered.
"Are you coming up with us?" Stella asks Quinn at some point, and Rachel perks up at the sound of such a thing being a possibility.
"No," Quinn answers, barely hesitating as she reaches for a jalapeño popper and takes an immediate bite.
Stella winks at Rachel. "She says that, but we all know she'll be joining us on that stage when the time comes."
Which, okay, turns out to be true.
Quinn holds out quite admirably through the band's ribbing when it's finally time to take the stage. She just shakes her head and allows Rachel to link their fingers as she leads them towards the dance floor to get prime view of the stage.
Quinn moves to stand behind her, a warm presence at her back, and Rachel has to force herself not to lean back into her. As much as she desperately wants to.
At some point, Quinn ducks her head to whisper, "Are you okay?"
Rachel nods once, and then braves leaning back into Quinn, hearing the blonde's breath catch. She rests her temple against Quinn's cheekbone, feeling for the moment Quinn allows herself to relax. Her muscles release, but her body is still solid and warm.
"I'm okay," Rachel verbalises, because she really, really is.
Quinn massages her shoulders for a moment, before she casually holds onto Rachel's upper arms as The Bearded Dragons finally get going, The Mack introducing them and counting in the first song.
Rachel will admit she's surprised. She wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but the band is really, really good. They do different kinds of rock songs, some entirely too punk for her taste, but another that has Quinn's forearms resting on her shoulders and her voice singing softly in her ear.
Then, something magical happens, and The Mack calls to Quinn from the stage, which makes Quinn immediately shake her head.
Rachel steps away and turns to face her. "People are looking at you, Quinn," she teases. "You can't disappoint them now. Give the people what they want."
"Come on," The Mack says, calling out Quinn with a smirk. "Get up here and do your song."
Quinn shakes her head again, but Rachel presses a hand to the small of her back and urges her forward.
"You have to," Rachel tells her, far too excited about the prospect of seeing Quinn perform. Her own body is already buzzing with general enthusiasm, and she needs this.
Quinn sighs heavily, and then carefully slips out of her jacket. "Please hold this," she says to Rachel as she hands it over, and then slips through the crowd to the stage, earning herself quite a few cheers.
Based on the way Quinn currently looks, those cheers are definitely warranted, but then she's stepping up onto the stage and lifting one of the acoustic guitars into her arms, and Rachel hates that she's currently just another fan.
The Mack adjusts a microphone stand for Quinn before telling the crowd, "This is Quinn, people. She's the crazy bitch who just loved and left us without looking back."
Quinn rolls her eyes.
"But, then again, she got into Yale, so can you really blame her?"
Quinn flushes at the worlds, and then really looks bashful when she gets an even louder cheer from the crowd. Rachel even whistles loudly, and Quinn glances her way, smile widening.
"You're in for a treat tonight," The Mack says into the microphone. "This is She Talks to Angels by The Black Crowes," she introduces, and then steps back and away.
And then it's just Quinn standing there, centre stage, with a guitar over her shoulder and a rather haunted look on her face. Rachel imagines it's all part of the persona, but there's something very real and dark about her in this moment, and Rachel barely recognises her.
When the song starts, it's just Quinn playing the guitar, and Rachel wishes she knew this song. She really needs to update her music catalogue to include the kind of music Quinn likes.
She never mentions the word "addiction"
In certain company
Yes, she'll tell you she's an orphan
After you meet her family
The drums kick in, the keyboard too, and Rachel is transfixed by the scene right in front of her.
Quinn doesn't even look like Quinn.
She paints her eyes as black as night now
Pulls those shades down tight
Yeah, she gives a smile when the pain come
The pain gonna make everything alright
Says she talks to angels
They call her out by her name
Oh, yeah, she talks to angels
Says they call her out by her name
She keeps a lock of hair in her pocket
She wears a cross around her neck
Yes, the hair is from a little boy
And the cross is someone she has not met
When it hits the chorus again, Quinn's head bobs with the music, and she looks so lost in the notes that Rachel wants to take a snapshot of her and keep it forever.
She's ridiculously stunning like this, and Rachel wishes she had some sort of camera to capture this moment.
Says she talks to angels
Says they all know her name
Oh, yeah, she talks to angels
Says they call her out by her name
She don't know no lover
None that I ever seen
Yeah, to her that ain't nothin'
But to me, yeah, me
The music slows, and Quinn does a bit of a guitar solo that has Rachel very fascinated by her fingers. Huh. Why has she never noticed how dexterous they are?
She paints her eyes as black as night now
She pulls those shades down tight
Oh, yeah, there's a smile when the pain comes
The pain gonna make everything alright
Alright, yeah, heah
She talks to angels
Says they call her out by her name
Oh, yeah, heah, angels
Call her out by her name
Oh, ooh, oh, oh, angels
They call her out by her name
Oh, oh, oh, she talks to angels
They call her out
Yeah, ee, eah, eah, eah, eah
Call her out
Don't you know that they
Call her out by her name?
The resulting applause is almost deafening, and Rachel can't help her completely ridiculous smile. Quinn looks adorable and bashful and just so not-rocker-chick as she accepts their cheers with an awkward bow and a cute little wave at Rachel.
She has just enough time to return the wave before Quinn practically books it right off the stage.
Rachel clutches Quinn's jacket to her chest, absently breathing it in. She's not sure she'll be willing to part with it when Quinn returns, because that's not -
"Hey," Quinn suddenly says, appearing right in front of her out of nowhere.
Rachel immediately throws her arms around her, squeezing tightly. Quinn laughs in her ear, loud and happy, and Rachel never wants to let her go. Not now, and not ever.
Quinn eventually initiates their release, but she doesn't move too far away. "So… I'm guessing you liked it?"
"You were amazing," Rachel tells her. "You are amazing."
Quinn is still flushed from her performance, and it is beautiful. "Come with me," she says. "Lil said she can get us some drinks, if you're still interested."
Oh, Rachel definitely is.
Rachel has been drunk only once in her life, and she swore she would never do it again. This night is no different, but she knows she's just the left side of tipsy.
It's freeing, though. She feels looser, freer and less burdened by her high school relationship, the expectations of her peers or her fears about after graduation.
She's also feeling bold and brave, her hands reaching out to hold Quinn's waist as they dance. Not every band plays rock music, and not every minute is some band, so there are times the DJ plays club songs, and Rachel always drags Quinn onto the dance floor.
Quinn is back in her jacket, claiming the alcohol was making her cold, which is all kinds of weird and contradictory. Rachel just enjoys being able to have something to hold onto, and Quinn is strong and solid and here.
Quinn is always so close to her, whether they're at the bar, with the band in the booth or on the dance floor. It's not up for debate whom she's here with, and it makes her feel smug and important, because it's obvious Quinn is easily the most attractive person in the entire place. And she's here with Rachel.
"Thank you for tonight," Rachel shouts over the music.
Quinn leans in closer to hear her, and Rachel gets a whiff of that uniquely Quinn smell. It renders her a little stupid, and she grips the front of Quinn's jacket tight enough to stop herself from doing something ridiculous and licking the side of Quinn's face.
She must be more drunk than she thought.
"I haven't even done anything," Quinn says, her voice a little raised.
Rachel studies her face closely, because that's not true, at all. Quinn has done so much, and she doesn't even know it. "Sure you have," Rachel counters. "I barely even remember what happened today."
Quinn laughs. "That's probably because you're drunk."
Rachel shakes her head, her fists tightening on Quinn's jacket. "It's because you've been so..." she trails off, trying to find the words. "You're just so - "
Quinn looks amused. "Having trouble there, huh, Berry?"
"Don't tease me," she pouts. "I've had a hectic day."
Quinn's features soften, and her hands come up to cover each of Rachel's, her skin soft and warm. "Indeed you have," she murmurs. "All I want is for you to feel better, and you know I'd do anything to make sure you do."
There is something very significant in her tone of voice, and Rachel finds herself asking, "Anything?" before she can stop herself.
Quinn blinks, and then smirks. "Well, within reason," she says. "I'm not about to rob a bank or something."
"That wouldn't make me feel better, Quinn," Rachel points out.
There's an undeniable challenge in Quinn's voice, and Rachel is lost to whatever this is. Her fingers flex, and Quinn drops her hands. "Well," she starts; "you have already sung."
Quinn nods. "I have."
"And you've already bought me a drink," she continues, her palms now flat against the lapels of Quinn's jacket.
"You've already rescued me from my disaster of a wedding, and allowed me the time to decompress."
"I'm practically a saint."
Rachel meets her gaze. "I'm not sure what more you could do, at this point."
Quinn audibly swallows. "I'm sure you can think of something," she counters, almost too lightly, as her eyes flick down for a beat.
It's just enough to make Rachel risk it.
"Well, you could kiss me," Rachel says, feeling brave, and Quinn's eyes instantly darken at the suggestion.
Quinn steps dangerously close, and Rachel can feel her breath on her face. "Do you really want me to?" she asks, and it's almost as if it's not Quinn who's speaking.
"Do you want to?" Rachel asks, her hands gripping the edges of Quinn's open jacket, once again, in a crude attempt to keep herself steady.
"Rachel," Quinn murmurs; "we both already know the answer to that question."
Rachel shifts closer, bumping her nose against Quinn's chin. "Quinn," she breathes.
Quinn licks her lips. "Do you really want me to?" she asks again, purposeful in the way she's seeking explicit consent.
And... Rachel hesitates, because she doesn't know. Or, she does, but the consequences of such a thing aren't something she ever wants to have to deal with. Because, what happens from here? What happens when they get back to Lima? What happens in the morning?
Because Rachel knows a kiss between wouldn't mean nothing. It would be the start of something, and Rachel can't be sure she's ready for any of it.
Quinn sighs, and her hands lift to hold the sides of Rachel's head and tilt her face upwards. "You're heartbroken," she says. "And you're drunk."
Quinn sighs again.
"I'm sorry," Rachel says.
Quinn smiles, soft and sad. "It's okay," she says, and her shoulders slump ever so slightly. "Are you ready to get out of here? Maybe some fresh air will do you some good."
Rachel leans into her touch. "I don't want the night to end," she says, slurring slightly. "I don't want to leave. I don't want - "
Quinn shifts even closer until their bodies are pressed together and her fingers thread through Rachel's hair, drawing her into a hug.
"I don't want to face it," Rachel mumbles into her collarbone, her arms snaking around Quinn's waist and holding her so tightly. "I can't."
"Of course you can," Quinn says. "Rachel Berry can do anything."
"Except tell you she wants you to kiss her."
Quinn laughs softly, the vibrations of her chest a comfort to Rachel. "When you're sober and not heartbroken, I'm sure we can revisit it," she says, and Rachel leans back to look at her face.
Quinn smiles sincerely. "I promise," she vows, and then kisses Rachel's forehead, letting her lips linger. "We should go," she says. "You need sleep, and I'm pretty sure that last band's just given me a headache."
Rachel rolls her eyes. "This is your music, Quinn."
If the walk back is supposed to settle her, it does the exact opposite. Quinn's hand is warm in hers, and she's leaning heavily against the blonde as they make their way the few short blocks to the hotel.
The air is cold, and her head is spinning. Her heart hurts, and she can't help the embarrassment that's seeping into her very existence. She can barely look at Quinn right now, even though she desperately wants to.
Quinn squeezes her fingers. "I can hear you thinking," she murmurs.
"Easy there, Edward Cullen."
Quinn chuckles. "That's how we know you're sobering up," she says. "What other Twilight references do you have in that head of yours?"
"Says you," Rachel says. "You told me to put on my seatbelt."
"Like a person should," Quinn says, and Rachel can hear the eye-roll. "Because road safety is important."
Rachel giggles. "You care about me."
"Of course I do," Quinn says. "I've always cared about you."
"Because you're interested," Rachel points out, a little wonder in her voice. "In me."
Quinn says nothing.
"You - you're not obvious," Rachel says. "Like, at all."
"Are you sure about that?" Quinn asks. "Why else would I be here with you?"
"Because you care about me," Rachel says. "As a friend."
"Rachel, we're holding hands," she says. "You asked me to kiss you. We have never been friends."
Rachel stops walking, so Quinn has to, as well. "That's why you said 'kind of,' when I asked," she says, her eyes wide. She lifts her gaze. "How long?"
"How long what?"
"How long have you been interested?"
Quinn looks away. "Based on what we talked about earlier, you already know the answer to that question. Though, I'd wager I didn't quite know it, either, in the beginning."
It feels different, standing there on that sidewalk, with Quinn's hand in her own and those eyes focused on only her. It's unlike anything she's experienced before, and she wishes she could freeze time.
"You are not obvious at all," Rachel says again.
Quinn rolls her eyes, and Rachel sees it. "I don't know what else you would have had me do," she says.
Rachel stares at her face. "I almost got married today."
Quinn's jaw clenches. "I know," she says.
"You weren't going to come."
"No, I wasn't."
"But then you changed your mind," Rachel says. "Why?"
"Why did you change your mind? Why did you decide to come?" She frowns. "Were you going to let me marry him? Were you going to sit there and watch me tell someone else 'I do?' Or were you going to show up and pull a Taylor Swift?"
"Quinn," Rachel says seriously. "I almost got married today."
"Believe me, I'm aware."
Rachel shifts to stand right in front of her. "You were going to let me."
"I thought it was what you wanted," Quinn tells her, slightly defensive. "I asked you if that song was for Finn, and you said yes. All I want is for you to be happy, and you looked it."
Rachel steps right into her space. "You are not obvious at all," she says. "Seriously. How can you think you're obvious, Quinn? That is not at all obvious. You - you don't let the girl you're interested in marry someone else. That's - that's the total opposite of obvious."
Quinn smiles. She actually smiles. The nerve of her. "Why are you so mad?"
"We are not friends," Rachel declares.
"No, we most certainly are not."
"Because friends shouldn't want to kiss each other," Rachel declares.
Rachel kisses her, surprising them both, and Quinn allows it for a moment, before she carefully pulls them apart, her eyes dark and unreadable.
"Rachel," Quinn says, and she sounds stern. "This is - God, this isn't how it's supposed to be."
"I'm sorry," Rachel says, and she shrinks a little.
Quinn sighs, her hand holding the back of Rachel's head and drawing her into a hug. "Please," she whispers, tucking Rachel's head under her chin. "Please."
God, this isn't how it's supposed to be.
Rachel feels it, deep in her soul, and, this time, she can't possibly stop the tears. It hits her, hard, everything that's happened today, and she tucks herself into Quinn's body, sliding her arms around Quinn's waist under her leather jacket.
Rachel doesn't know how long they stand there, Rachel crying and Quinn just letting her. Her hand continually smooths over her hair while her other arm holds her securely.
In what life would she have missed out on this?
When Quinn starts to shiver, Rachel disentangles herself and wipes at her eyes, entirely embarrassed by her momentary breakdown.
"I'm sorry," Rachel says again, her voice scratchy.
Quinn just shakes her head. "Come on," she says, reaching for one of her hands again and getting them moving again.
Rachel wasn't lying when she said she didn't want the night to end, and she feels it even more now. Because, once they get to their destination, she'll have to face everything, and she's not ready for that.
She's not ready for any of it.
Still, Quinn walks, and Rachel follows. She'll follow her anywhere at this point, and Quinn guides them all the way back to their hotel room. Quinn gets them into the elevator, smiling softly when Rachel leans against her as they ride up to their floor. Her hand never leaves Rachel's, and Rachel can't help her desire for them never to be parted.
Which is just wild.
Quinn unlocks their hotel door as soon as they reach it, and then they're inside and alone and in a locked room. Rachel knows nothing is going to happen, but the air between them is still charged.
Quinn just smiles at her. "You should get some sleep," she says, and Rachel is inclined to agree with her.
Quinn moves towards her own bag to pick out some pyjamas, but Rachel can't be bothered as she flops onto her stomach on her bed and groans into her pillow.
Quinn chuckles where she is, and then Rachel hears her disappear into the bathroom with the shuffle of feet and the click of a door. Rachel keeps her eyes closed, her head spinning.
She kissed Quinn.
She wanted to kiss Quinn, so she kissed her.
She wants to do it again.
And again and again.
She yawns, and thinks hard about -
With a groan, she rolls over onto her back and blinks up at the light. Her vision is a little blurry, and her mouth tastes strange. And -
She glances down at her body to see she's actually covered in a blanket. Her jacket is off, and so are her shoes. What the -
Rachel forces herself into a seated position, and she's hit with a wave of dizziness that makes her cover her eyes with one hand and lean back on the other. It takes her a moment to gather her bearings, and she glances at the clock on the nightstand to see it's nine o'clock in the morning.
Her eyes drift to the bed beside hers, panicking slightly at the fact it's empty. She looks around the room, catching sight of Quinn's belongings and breathing out in relief.
She yawns as she turns her body and drops her feet to the floor. She blinks a few times to clear her vision, and it's the moment she notices the small note Quinn has left on the nightstand, beside two Advil and a bottle of water.
Just popped out to get some breakfast - the hotel's vegan options are atrocious. Don't go anywhere. I'll be right back.
Rachel smiles to herself, and then drinks her painkillers. It takes her another five minutes to work up the will to get to her feet, and she shuffles towards the bathroom to use the toilet and brush her teeth. She carefully avoids looking at her reflection until she absolutely has to, and she startles at the image in front of her.
Why would Quinn want this disaster, anyway?
With another sigh, she finally leaves the bathroom, and actually yelps when she sees Quinn just standing there, having just set a bag of food on the vanity. She turns at the sound of the door, and her smile is automatic. It spreads right across her face, wide and happy, and -
Rachel crosses the room towards her before she can stop herself, crowding her space and kissing her without much thought, and -
Quinn kisses her back this time. Just briefly; just enough for Rachel to know she's not being rejected when Quinn pulls away.
"Before you say anything," Rachel says, beating Quinn to speaking. "I am sober, and, yeah, I'm still a little heartbroken, but I want to revisit this."
Quinn breathes deeply. "Revisit what?"
Rachel kisses her, just once. "Not today," she assures Quinn. "But soon."
"When you're a lot less heartbroken."
Rachel smiles a little sadly. "I don't have some kind of timeline to offer you, but - " she stops, dropping her gaze.
"Rachel Berry," Quinn says, almost coyly. "Are you asking me to wait for you?"
Rachel flushes at the question, but she's feeling brave. "Is it fair of me to ask that of you?" she asks. "Am I even allowed to?"
Quinn just smiles, absently taking a step back. "Why don't we discuss it over breakfast?" she offers. "You can explain how you plan on keeping me interested." She's grinning to show she's joking, and Rachel doesn't move.
"Evidence would suggest that all I have to do is be myself," she murmurs, holding onto the front of Quinn's shirt.
Quinn's smile grows. "You're smart," she says.
"Don't sound so surprised."
Quinn raises her eyebrows, and Rachel almost hears what she's not saying. She almost got married yesterday, which, yes, wasn't the smartest thing to do.
Rachel risks a smile. "Would you?" she asks softly, almost embarrassed. "Would you - "
"Would I what?"
Quinn looks at her - really, really looks at her - and says, "I would wait forever."
Rachel's breath catches in her throat. "You really would, wouldn't you?" she asks. "You would have stood there and watched me marry him, because you thought it would make me happy. You would have - "
"Rachel," Quinn says. "Come sit with me. Eat something. Let me tell you how lovely I think you are." She sighs. "Let me convince you that you're worth waiting for."
That there's not going to be a 'never' if there's no 'now.'
Quinn suggests the spa almost an hour later, and Rachel agrees. She's already emotionally spent, and she's keen to spend as much time as she can with Quinn before they have to get back to reality.
Real life, where she has to deal with her ex-fiancé and her parents and his parents and all their friends. The entire school.
But, she has Quinn now, who has always been in her corner, even when she didn't realise it. Quinn, who has made this quiet vow to remain there, right until the moment Rachel is ready to reach out and hold onto her for forever.
Because that's what Rachel is suddenly so sure they're dealing with.
Quinn Fabray deals in forever, and Rachel isn't quite prepared to roll, yet.
So, they descend on the spa, and it gives Rachel the opportunity to gather her thoughts about what's to come in the next few hours. She's very aware of Quinn beside her, always just there, and Rachel feels as if she can do anything.
So she does.
She kisses Quinn just once before they check out of the hotel, get in her car, and make the drive back to Lima. She kisses her only once, and it's supposed to be enough.
God, she hopes it will be.
It takes until after graduation.
It just seems easier for all parties involved to wait until they no longer all have to exist in the same space constantly. Rachel is off to New York, Quinn to Yale, and neither of them is truly overly concerned with where anyone else is going to end up.
It's been difficult. Quinn is patient and a complete saint, and Rachel has tested her in many, many ways, fluctuating between 'what could you possibly even see in me?' and 'let's just do this, already.'
But, then, they graduate high school, and Rachel feels as if she's paid her penance for dragging so many people through an ill-advised engagement and almost-ceremony.
Quinn especially, who she meets in the parking lot after the final bell trills for the last time of their high school career, and practically leaps into her arms.
Quinn catches her, because, of course, she's going to catch her. Her laughter is soft and happy in Rachel's ear, and Rachel is determined to do everything she can in this world to keep this gorgeous girl laughing for the rest of her days.
Quinn eventually sets her on the ground, hands casual at her hips. "Hello, you," she says, grinning easily.
Quinn gives her a sceptical look. "Everything okay there?"
"I have a question for you," she says, keeping her eyes on Quinn's.
Quinn smiles. "I'm listening," she says. "But, bear in mind, the band goes on early tonight, so we can't make too much of a pit stop on our way to Columbus."
Rachel shakes her head, because Quinn is ever-punctual. Quinn is so many things. Even after all these months, Quinn is still here, standing perfectly still and focused on her.
They've been through a lot these past few months.
Through the aftermath of Rachel and Finn's official breakup, and through Quinn's blossoming friendship - we're just friends, Rachel - with Steph. Through Finn's many failed attempts to win Rachel back, and through the scrutiny Quinn and Rachel's own growing friendship underwent and continues to undergo, especially after Quinn reclaimed her spot as head cheerleader.
They've been through Shelby and the drama she brings to their lives, and they made it through Rachel's plight to get another audition to NYADA. Through the realisation and acceptance that Quinn is, in fact, gay, and through the truth that Rachel does, in fact, really, really like her.
They've been through Rachel's late-night, drunken love confession and subsequent make-out session that they told each other they would talk about after, deciding it couldn't happen again until they were both ready.
"Quinn," Rachel says, and there must be something in her voice, because Quinn goes very, very still. As if she's suddenly aware what comes next is going to be important; meaningful in a way from which they can't return. "I have something to ask."
Quinn doesn't dare look away.
Rachel smiles softly at her, having replayed this moment in her mind many, many times. "Are you still interested?"
Quinn blinks. "Interested," she echoes. "In you?"
Rachel nods, forcing her smile not to falter. "In me," she confirms. "I'm sober, and I'm not heartbroken," she adds, almost rolling her eyes. "I know what I want; what I've always wanted, and I'm asking if you want the same thing too."
"Me," she says. "You. Us. I want 'us.'"
The left side of Quinn's mouth quirks up. "Is that your way of saying I'm done waiting?"
Rachel steps closer, right into her personal space. "We're both done waiting," she says. "I want nothing more than to be with you, for as long as you'll have me."
Quinn raises her eyebrows. "And, how long do you think that'll be?"
"No amount of time will be long enough," Rachel finds herself saying, and Quinn matches her grin, as if she already knows her next words. "But we'll start with forever."
And, Quinn laughs, loud and happy. Her cheeks are flushed and her eyes are shining brightly. "There you go again with the Twilight references," she points out, her hands moving from holding Rachel's own and sliding up her bare arms to rest on her shoulders.
"It's a hallmark of our relationship," Rachel points out, mouth set in a slight pout.
And... Quinn kisses her, long and slow, allowing her lips to linger and making Rachel suddenly wish they were behind closed doors right now.
"Quinn," she breathes when Quinn pulls away.
Quinn tucks a lock of hair behind Rachel's ear. "Does that answer your question for you?"
Rachel sighs dreamily, and then says, "Not really," with a mischievous glint in her eyes. "You'll have to tell me again."
Quinn chuckles softly as her arms snake around Rachel's neck and draw her into one of the type of hugs that's also a hallmark of their relationship. "I'll tell you whenever you want," Quinn murmurs right into her ear. "Whatever you want to hear."
Rachel holds onto her sides, fingers curling into the fabric of her shirt. "I never told you this," she starts; "but Finn told me 'it's now or never' on the day we no longer speak about."
Quinn waits, always so patient.
"The idea of waiting never ever occurred to him," Rachel continues; "and he seemed to make the decision for me." She leans even further into Quinn, almost burying her face in the crook of Quinn's neck. "You never gave me any such ultimatum."
"I've always been willing to wait for a good thing," Quinn murmurs, and Rachel has never been more in love than in this moment. "Seems it was worth it."
This time, Rachel kisses her, suddenly so, so ready to begin their lives together; both here and in their new places. Everywhere.
New York and New Haven aren't that far apart.
Rachel ends their kiss slowly, and asks the question she's really been meaning to ask since Quinn rescued her from her would-be wedding, drove her to Columbus, and introduced her to a future she's been daring to have since it was pointed out to her that she could. "Would you like to get some coffee with me?"
Quinn pulls back to look at her, eyes a little wide and smile automatic. "There was never a choice," she says, looking a little bewildered. "I've never even had a choice. I don't."
Rachel would be alarmed by Quinn's words, but Quinn sounds particularly amused by it all.
"Yes," Quinn finally says, puffing out a breath. "I would love to get coffee with you." She kisses Rachel again, suddenly uncaring of the great big world around them.
"I'm the girl," Rachel murmurs, supremely happy and unsure what to do with it.
"Steph," Rach says, explaining. "She once said there was going to be a day that a girl asked you to get coffee with her, and you were going to say yes. And then she asked me if I was going to be that girl."
Quinn quirks a smile. "You're the girl."
"I'm the girl," Rachel echoes.
"Who knew?" Quinn whispers, nuzzling her nose against Rachel's. "I've always been waiting for a girl like you."