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They say that your life flashes before your eyes in the moments before you die—that you see all your loved ones, every wonderful moment, and the not so wonderful ones. Maybe it's an electrical reaction in the brain—a rapid playback of every stored memory triggered by adrenaline—or maybe it’s the hand of God, reaching down to hold a mirror to your life before issuing judgment.

In that split second when the glass shatters, the sickening crunch of buckling metal crushes bone and rips into skin, and the air is forcibly wrenched from her lungs, Quinn sees nothing of the life that she’s lived. Instead, she sees the life that could have been.

She sees Beth, blonde and beautiful, angelic face split into a wide grin and joyful with childish laughter. She feels a tiny, warm hand secure within her own and hears a sweet little voice call her ‘mommy.’ Quinn’s heart feels painfully full, and she bends to scoop her daughter up into her arms, reveling in the solid weight of that promising, little life pressed against her chest. Chubby hands cup her cheeks and miniature hazel eyes shine brightly into her own.

Quinn has never known such a perfect moment.

A single heartbeat passes.

Another hand appears, darker than her own, brushing the backs of gentle fingers against Beth’s cherubic cheek. Quinn’s gaze follows that hand, up along the arm until she’s looking into wide brown eyes so full of love and adoration that it takes her breath away. Rachel smiles at her, soft and tender and sweeter than any smile that she’s ever given to Finn Hudson. 'My pretty girls,' she whispers lovingly, curling her other hand around Quinn’s waist as their bodies fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Quinn feels warm and safe, with Beth in her arms and Rachel’s arms around the both of them.

Another heartbeat passes.

Beth’s little arms tighten around Quinn’s neck, and Rachel’s lips grant a kiss, wet against the corner of Quinn’s mouth. 'I love you,' she hears in that melodic voice that has carried her through the last three years.

That voice that carries her.

"I love you," Quinn rasps on a broken sob—both of you, she thinks as the moment slips away and the life that could have been disappears.

And that voice carries her…

Chapter Text

"You should have been there, Quinn. It was like a nightmare.”

"I was there, Rachel. My heart broke for you.”

Rachel’s eyes sting with the tears that have been constant companions since Carmen Tibideaux callously ended her dream of NYADA and New York. She drags in a ragged breath as she stares at the floor. Quinn was there at her audition? She’d seen?

“I…I don’t know what to do,” she whispers brokenly. “I feel like I’m stuck in some horrible dream, and I can’t wake myself up.” She turns to Quinn, desperation seeping into her voice without her consent. “How do I wake up?”

Hazel eyes are shining with sympathetic tears and the sight of them makes Rachel feel sick. She’s looking down at Quinn, because Quinn is in a wheelchair. Her own pathetic failure is nothing in comparison, and her shoulders hunch in shame. She’s crying harder now because she realizes that her nightmare started months ago—with Quinn’s accident. Nothing is happening the way it’s supposed to. She can barely even recognize herself anymore, and all she wants is to be able to close her eyes and wake up at the beginning of senior year and do everything over again.

Quinn should hate her now—she should be shaking her head in disappointment and wheeling away—but instead she’s reaching out her hand, seeking Rachel’s and holding on for all she’s worth. “Open your eyes, Rachel,” Quinn commands gently. “New York is still right where it’s always been, waiting for Rachel Berry to steal the spotlight and never give it back.”

“But I blew my chance at NYADA…”

“So what?” Quinn growls. “It’s one school. Did Patti LuPone go to NYADA?”

Rachel shakes her head, “N-no, but she graduated from Juilliard.”

Quinn ignores her, squeezing her hand and leaning forward in her chair, eyes blazing with intensity. “Did Barbra Streisand go to NYADA?”

Rachel gasps, and her eyes widen. Barbra hadn’t. She hadn’t even gotten into the Actor’s Studio. She’d taken acting lessons from a friend. Quinn sees the glimmer of realization light Rachel’s gloomy expression, and she offers a crooked smile.

“You don’t need some prestigious program to become the next Barbra, Rach.”

Rachel wants to believe—she does—but it’s not that easy. She shakes her head sadly. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, Quinn, but…it’s more than getting into the school I wanted, okay? I…I just…lost it. I forgot the words and I…I couldn’t move past that moment. The show must go on, and a performer has to be able to recover from those moments, and I…I couldn’t.”

Quinn sighs and tugs on her hand, pulling Rachel closer. “Hey, look at me,” she urges, waiting patiently until Rachel brushes away her tears and meets Quinn’s eyes. “I’ve screwed up so many times, Rachel. You’ve seen me do it…seen me at my lowest…and you’re the one who’s always reminding me that I’m better that I know. Well, it’s my turn now, so listen to me. You…you are better than you know, Rachel Berry, so don’t you dare give up on yourself now. If you do,” Quinn pauses, voice crackling with emotion, “if you do, then what hope do I have?”

Rachel closes her eyes and chokes back a sob.  “Oh, Quinn…no…you…you’re getting out of here. You have Yale…”

“Because you helped me realize that my mistakes don’t define me. Yours don’t define you either, Rachel. Please don’t give up on your dreams because of one set back. You belong in New York, on stage, and someday soon, I’m going to be sitting in the front row on opening night, watching your debut on Broadway. I’ve always known that.”

Rachel stares down into Quinn’s earnest face, and her breath hitches. “Y-you really believe that,” she murmurs in awe.

“Of course I do. You’re Rachel Berry,” Quinn says with a shrug, as if that’s all the explanation that Rachel should need. Looking at Quinn—the girl who was once her biggest critic—Rachel feels her heart flutter oddly, and without even thinking, she sinks down into an awkward semi-squat and wraps her arms around Quinn’s shoulders, burying her nose into crook of her neck.

“Thank you, Quinn,” she whispers, feeling a tiny spark of hope reignite in her soul.

Quinn’s arms circle her waist and pull her as close as she’s able. “Don’t thank me, Rach. Just promise me that you won’t forget who you are, okay?”

Rachel pulls back, smiling for the first time in three days. “I promise to try, and if I have trouble remembering, I know you’ll remind me.”

“You can count on it,” Quinn vows with an odd glint in her eye, and Rachel has never believed in anything more.  

 

Chapter Text

She's halfway through her second mental performance of Don't Rain On My Parade, mildly bouncing her legs up and down in remembered choreography, when the door across from her swings open. Rachel automatically looks up, briefly catching the eyes of the pretty young brunette exiting the room. The girl looks lost and disappointed, and Rachel remembers all too well her own early auditions when she'd expected to wow every casting director every single time, only to be greeted with indifferent expressions or the tops of heads bowed over phones. She's older and wiser—maybe a little jaded these days—but she's certainly learned enough to know that you never, ever let your show face slip. At least, not until you're alone.

"Rachel Berry," comes the call from the doorway, and Rachel stands, picking up her bag and walking into the room with confidence.

"Hello," she greets with her sweetest smile in place, taking a quick mental tally of the people sitting behind the table—the ones who could finally lift her out of perpetual chorus girl status. There are two gentlemen (one most certainly gay) and a woman who could probably go either way. Rachel bends over to place her bag on the floor, and she can almost feel six pairs of eyes fastened onto her jean-clad ass. She's not above using some of her better assets to her advantage. When she stands, she sees three smiles that weren't there before, and she grins. "Would you like to hear the ballad first, or the up-tempo?" she asks.

Rachel has a really good feeling about this one.

xx

Her good feeling disappears that evening. She reports for work as usual—fifth angel in the chorus of Heaven On Earth—only to find out when she checks her messages before curtain that she's failed to get a callback yet again. She sits in the dressing room with her head in her hands while the other girls shuffle around putting the finishing touches on their makeup.

"Hey, you can't be in here," one of them says.

"Please, I own the rights to your feathered derriere," Rachel hears, and she chokes out a watery chuckle as she glances up into the mirror's reflection to see Kurt Hummel—one of the show's creators and one of her closest friends for a couple of years now. He'd be the perfect guy for her if he wasn't one-hundred and fifty percent gay.

His twinkling eyes catch hers, and his grin fades as he crosses the room and sinks down in the chair next to her. "Oh, Rachel, honey. What's the matter?"

"I had an audition this morning. I didn't get the part," she sighs, collapsing into his side when he loops an arm around her shoulder.

"Do you want to leave us?"

"You know I love this show," she says, meeting Kurt's eyes in the mirror. "I love you."

His lips curve into a knowing smile. "But the ensemble not so much."

"I just want a part," she grumbles. "I trained. I'm a trained," she trails off, because he knows. She went to NYADA. She was the rising star of her class. Her mother is a successful Broadway actress. But none of that has translated to success. "I'm not complaining," she vows sadly.

"Just dreaming. Like all of us," he says, rubbing her shoulder soothingly. "It's just a matter of time, honey," he promises. "And speaking of that," he pulls back, grin firmly back on his face, "Santana and I are working on another brilliant Lopez Hummel production, and we really need a favor."

Rachel sits back in her seat, smiling a little. "How is Santana?"

"Oh, you know her," he rolls his eyes, waving a dismissive hand, "wrist deep in lesbian drama. Dani wants to procreate—can you even imagine Santana as a mommy?"

Rachel really can't. "What do you need, Kurt?" she prods, knowing that once he starts on the gossip, he can go for hours, and she doesn't have the time. She has to be on her mark in ten minutes. Ensemble or not, she's a professional.

"We're writing a musical based on Marilyn Monroe's life, and we have one solid number that we'd like you to demo for us so we can start shopping for backers."

Rachel's interest is immediately peaked. It's certainly not Barbra Streisand, but, "Marilyn Monroe? Are you serious?"

"I know, I know. It's insane, right? But Marilyn's life is just so ripe with drama. We're going to be focusing on her early career and her relationship with Joe DiMaggio."

"You can write a baseball number," she murmurs, already picturing it in her mind.

"Exactly," he exclaims, snapping his fingers. "So what do you say? Come help us out, and I promise I'll do whatever I can to get you in on the workshop."

She knows it's not a guarantee of a starring role, but it's a better opportunity than she's been handed in a long time. It's what makes her lips curl into a slow smile. "I say when and where."

xx

The song is brilliant. Kurt sits at the piano, playing the melody as Rachel sings.

As the wise men once wrote
Never give all the heart
Well, it's easy to see
He was writing for me
I just wish I could play that part.

Santana Lopez stands on the other side of the piano, eyes closed and brows furrowed as she listens. Rachel watches the woman's face grimace a bit as she sings out the last phrase, and she stops immediately, asking, "Do you want that belted?"

Santana opens her eyes, tapping a fingernail on the piano top. "I want it to break my cold, black heart, Berry," she snaps, and Rachel frowns. "Look, you've got an amazing set of pipes. We all know that. We also know you can turn on the emotion when you want to, so stop playing it safe."

Rachel narrows her eyes. She hates it when people accuse her of being safe. "Hit it, Kurt."

xx

The video goes viral, courtesy of Kurt's prissy new assistant, Kitty. Rachel can't say she's unhappy about it, because it's her face and her voice getting hits on YouTube, and all the comments seem to be positive. Well, there are a few unnecessary references to her nose—nothing she hasn't heard a hundred times in the business—but other than those, there seems to be a genuine interest about Kurt and Santana's newest musical endeavor.

Two weeks later, she gets a phone call from Kurt, and she holds her breath as she listens to him speak. "Sue Sylvester is absolutely in love with the concept. She wants to produce the musical, but she…well, she wants us to audition Quinn Fabray," he spits the name.

Rachel bites into her lip. Quinn Fabray is probably the hottest choreographer and director on Broadway right now. She's already responsible for bringing two Tony Award nominated musicals to life, one of which is the reason that Kurt's voice is filled with contempt. They'd worked together once before, and to hear him tell the story, Quinn used every dirty trick and feminine wile in her possession to ensure that the producer deferred to her vision for the show over Kurt's. By all accounts, Quinn is a bitch to work with—a demanding perfectionist with no sense of humor—but she's also a genius. Rachel would kill for the opportunity to be in this show, so when Kurt asks her to workshop a number as Marilyn to see how Quinn Fabray will stage it, she has to count to five to stop herself from screaming yes into the phone.

xx

Rachel arrives suitably early on the day of the workshop. Kurt gives her a hug, whispering, "Thank you so much for doing this. You may need to keep me from slapping that bit…" He snaps his mouth closed, pursing his lips into an unhappy frown, and Rachel turns to look at the two women who have just walked into the studio.

She recognizes the taller blonde as Sue Sylvester, and the woman makes a beeline for Santana Lopez, slapping her on the shoulder and saying, "Hey there, Funbags. Just took a look at the latest song you lazy gays sent over, and I'm telling you, if you keep popping out those showstoppers like the octo-mom pops out kids, we're gonna have a real smash on our hands."

Rachel snickers a little at the woman's crassness, but no one can really argue with the list of hit stage shows under her belt. The bulk of her attention, however, stays on the younger blonde, standing with a hand on her hip as she surveys the room and its sparse occupants with unmasked disdain. Quinn Fabray is even more beautiful than Rachel had been told, and she isn't ashamed to admit that she takes a moment to fully appreciate the visual. Sharp hazel eyes focus on Rachel in mid-perusal, and a single tawny eyebrow arches up. Rachel feels a shiver work down her spine at the measuring look, and she hurriedly glances away.

She nearly squeals when she sees her friend Sam saunter into the room, and his face lights up in a happy smile as he rushes toward her. "Rachel, baby," he calls out, wrapping his arms around her waist and lifting her off the floor in a graceful spin.

"Samuel," she laughs, hugging him tight. "Why did no one inform me that you'd be here?"

"What? Did you think I'd miss the chance to dance in a baseball number? When am I ever going to have the chance to do that again?"

Rachel grins, patting his chest, happy to have another friend here. "You and your sports. You're worse than my ex-boyfriend."

"Oh, sweetheart. I'm so much better than him," he boasts, curling his arm around her waist and whispering in her ear, "Just ask my ex-boyfriend."

Rachel's loud laughter catches the attention of the room, and she quickly composes herself, flushing when she notices Quinn Fabray's irritated gaze back on her. The blonde shakes her head, stepping to the front of the room and clapping her hands. "Everyone get warmed up. Quickly. In fifteen minutes, I'm going to show you the choreography, and I expect you to have it learned and perfected in twenty. I don't have all day to waste."

"Oooh," Sam breathes. "This is going to be fun."

Rachel nods, smiling a little, until Quinn glares sharply at them. "You two. This isn't social hour. Flirt on your own time." She turns her back on them and paces over to the corner where Sue and Santana are still talking. Kurt is standing a bit to the side, arms crossed and shaking his head at Quinn. Quinn sneers at him, cocking her hip, and Rachel knows that the bad blood between them goes both ways.

Sam chuckles, turning to face Rachel. "Come on. Let's get warmed up before she comes over here and spanks us."

Rachel chokes back a laugh, lightly punching Sam in the shoulder. "Stop it. I'd actually like to get on her good side."

"Oh, honey. Rumor has it Quinn Fabray doesn't have a good side."

"I don't know. Her backside is fairly attractive," Rachel drawls before she can stop herself.

Sam shakes his head. "Don't even go there," he warns.

Rachel sighs, silently conceding that she'd likely never have the chance to go there anyway, even if her own romantic history has been fairly evenly split between men and women since her college days. She and Sam play catch up with their lives while they warm up—she really shouldn't have let so much time pass since she'd last seen him.

Their conversation stops when Quinn calls them all to attention. She walks up to Rachel first, eyeing her up and down before shaking her head. "Stand over there for now and pay attention. Watch me, and I'll take you through the routine when I've got your chorus line whipped into shape."

Rachel huffs, crossing her arms, but she does as she's told, standing on the sidelines next to Kurt as she watches Quinn quickly and precisely explain what she expects of the male dancers, stopping briefly to demonstrate.

"She's an inhuman robot, but she's damned talented," Kurt grudgingly admits, and Rachel hums in agreement as she watches the choreography come together.

Eventually, Quinn crooks a finger in Rachel's direction. "Time for your blocking, Marilyn."

Rachel bristles a bit, but she glides over to Quinn with a pleasant smile. If she could survive having Cassandra July as a dance instructor at NYADA, she can certainly manage to take direction from Quinn Fabray.

"Okay. I'll keep this simple for you, sweetie," she says, lightly gripping Rachel's shoulders and moving her into position while Rachel does her best not to react to being man-handled. "You'll start here, first verse, cross to center stage, but sex it up—you can sex it up, I assume," Quinn checks with that damnable eyebrow inching up again.

"Yes," she hisses in response. If Quinn Fabray wants sex, Rachel will give her sex. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

"Good, so you cross center, like this," she says, strutting to Rachel's next mark with a hand on her hip and a sway to her step that makes Rachel's mouth go momentarily dry. "Turn and pose," Quinn instructs, lifting her arm and executing a sexy half-curtsey, "then quickstep to the table. The boys will lift you. Let them do their job and follow their lead. You were watching me take them through the routine?" she asks, and Rachel nods. "Good, let's do a run through."

Rachel's eyes widen. Quinn notices, and she grins a little smugly. "Don't worry, Marilyn. First time through, just follow me. I won't let you fall on your ass."

"My name is Rachel."

"I don't actually care," Quinn says, moving Rachel back to her mark and standing beside her. "Let's go everyone. From the top." She snaps her fingers, and begins to count, giving Rachel a nudge when it's time to push off.

Rachel tries to ignore Quinn shadowing her every step, counting in her face and calling out instructions, but it's nearly impossible. Flustered, she misses a few steps, causing Quinn to roll her eyes, but the woman gently corrects her as they move through the routine. Rachel realizes that her choreography is relatively simple, designed to be carried in large part by the dancers while still making her look good. She's fairly confident that she's got it down after the first run through, and she says as much.

"We'll see," Quinn says.

Sam brushes past Rachel as he takes his mark, leaning down to murmur, "Kick some ass, Rach."

She smiles in gratitude and takes her own mark, ready to perform. "I'm not getting any younger here," Sue shouts. "Wow me, people."

Quinn turns to her small audience of Sue, Santana, and Kurt. "Imagine Marilyn in a red dress," she glances back over her shoulder at Rachel and sighs, "with blonde hair and about fifty percent less nose."

Rachel squeaks, ready to forget her manners and tear into Quinn, but the musicians are already counting off, so she forces away her indignation and focuses on blowing Quinn Fabray's mind. And Kurt's, Santana's, and Sue's, of course. Rachel really, really wants this part, and she may suddenly have something to prove to Quinn Fabray.

The music begins, and Rachel lets herself become Marilyn Monroe as she sings, dancing her way through the choreography with every ounce of sexuality she possesses.

So run me 'round the bases,
Put me through my paces,
And teach me all the things a slugger's lover
Should know!

Quinn stands in the corner of the room, watching the performance with an unreadable expression, but her gaze keeps coming back unerringly to Rachel. Sue is grinning widely, Santana looks happy, which is actually somewhat of an accomplishment, and Kurt seems reluctantly impressed. Rachel's smile grows a little more confident, and she relaxes into her role, losing herself to the joy of performing. It's been such a long time since she felt this kind of rush.

Before she knows it, she's belting out the final lines of the song.

Yes, my style and my fashion'll
Elevate the national
Pastime!

Rachel and the dancers strike their final pose, and Santana lets out a loud whoop, clapping enthusiastically. "That was great. Wasn't that great, Kurt," she nudges her partner.

He grins tightly, nodding, "It was nice." She elbows him, glaring, and he rubs at his side. "Yes, great," he says to everyone.

"Nice work, everyone," Quinn concedes with the first trace of genuine smile that Rachel has seen on her face all afternoon. Santana goes over to speak with her as Kurt approaches Rachel.

"You were really great," he murmurs, bending to kiss her cheek. "Thank you so much for putting up with that and still being fabulous."

"I've worked with more difficult directors," Rachel shrugs. "And you can't argue with the end result."

"You're too nice," Kurt tells her.

Rachel frowns. "I simply have a healthy respect for talent and hard work."

She notices Quinn packing up her bag and getting ready to leave, and she makes the decision to try to end the experience on a positive note with the person she hopes will soon be her director, despite her somewhat abrasive personality. She walks over to Quinn with a friendly smile, clearing her throat slightly to get the woman's attention. Quinn's eyes meet hers, and Rachel swears there's a spark of something close to interest in them, and a tiny curve to pink lips that almost seems like an answering smile.

"I wanted to tell you what an honor it's been to work with you," Rachel says amiably.

"Yeah, " Quinn breathes. She reaches out to cup Rachel's shoulder, and their eyes meet for a strange, tense moment before Quinn pulls her hand back like it's been burned, mumbling, "thanks, Rachel." She shoulders her bag and heads for the door, leaving Rachel to stare after her with a frown.

Kurt comes up behind her, shaking his head. "I told you. Not even human."

Rachel nods distractedly, thinking that it has to be a some kind of accomplishment that Quinn Fabray finally addressed her by name. She steels her shoulders and nods again, more firmly, suddenly even more determined to get this part and prove to everyone, including difficult, (gorgeous) frustrating directors, that Rachel Berry is destined to be a star.

Chapter Text

It was all Sam's fault.

Of all the people that Quinn might have expected to rally around a heartbroken and despondent Rachel Berry, Sam Evans was at the very bottom of the very short list. As far as she'd known, they'd spoken to one another what? Four times in two years? Yet Sam had somehow become Rachel's new, very bestest friend. Ugh!

"We just have this connection, Quinn," he'd told her one day in mid July after she'd tracked him down at the Hummel's and demanded to know why she'd seen him outside of the Berry house with his arms wrapped around Rachel's diminutive form. Not that Quinn was being all creepy stalker or anything—she'd just happened to drive over there hoping to finally talk to Rachel because the girl hadn't answered her phone or replied to any of Quinn's text messages since she'd gotten back from her brief trip to New York. Seeing Sam there almost caused Quinn to drive her car up over the curb and into a mailbox.

"You wouldn't understand," he'd added, managing to piss her off even more in the process.

"Try me," she'd demanded, crossing her arms and glaring at him. "Or better yet, why don't we call Mercedes and see if she understands."

That's when Sam had slumped against the sofa, dropped his head into hands, and mumbled out a dejected, "We broke up."

Guilt settled into Quinn's stomach at the admission. She hadn't known. In fact, she hadn't talked to Mercedes or Sam at all since they'd all seen off Rachel at the train station last month. Sinking down next to him, Quinn tentatively placed a hand on his shoulder. "What happened?" she'd asked gently.

Watery green eyes came up to meet hers. "She's leaving for Los Angeles next week," and his tone might have been just a little critical, like Quinn should have known this already. "She doesn't want a long distance relationship."

"Oh," Quinn breathed out, feeling sympathy for her friends, and, "Oh," she said again as she began to understand his new-found friendship with Rachel.

"Yeah," he sighed on a nod. "I sort of get what Rachel's going through, and we kind of…bonded. Over…stuff."

It was the "stuff"—and Quinn's inability to let the new Samchel friendship continue to develop unsupervised—that had gotten her into trouble. Now, somehow, here she was, dressed in the black pleather (because Rachel was all about PETA) pants and slightly modified jacket that they'd used back in junior year for their mash-up, a red cape draped over her shoulders, and a big, foam hammer in her hands, standing in the middle of the Columbus comic convention and surrounded by a thousand and one costumed geeks. She felt like a fool. How in the hell had she let them talk her into this?

"Quinn, while smiling might be considered out of character for Thor," Rachel said, lightly tapping her shoulder to get her attention, "perhaps you might try to look a little less…ah…murderous."

She glared at Rachel—who Quinn really wished looked a little more ridiculous in her own black pleather cat suit and red wig. "I don't understand why I couldn't be Black Beauty."

"Because Black Beauty is a horse," Rachel huffed in a very offended tone. "I am cos-playing Black Widow, and you aren't because you don't even know who she is," she growled with her hands on her hips.

Sam, dressed as Captain America, chose that moment to bound over and wedge himself between them, wrapping an arm around each of their shoulders with a wide, boyish grin. He'd forgone the mask, but his shield pressed uncomfortably into Quinn's biceps. "This is the coolest thing ever," he gushed. "I am so psyched." He landed a sloppy, enthusiastic kiss to Quinn's cheek. "Thanks so much for doing this with us, Quinn." Quinn couldn't help but grin at his antics, until he bent down to ghost a softer, lingering kiss to Rachel's cheek. "And thank you for being awesome and making us these costumes," he murmured in a disgustingly besotted voice. "You're the best, Rachel."

Rachel blushed as scarlet as her wig, and Quinn remembered exactly why she'd agreed to come.  Captain America was not going to win this one. 

Chapter Text

Even after all these years, Quinn still hates the puckered, pale lines that crisscross her body. The stretchmarks that she’d dreaded at sixteen are invisible beneath the angry map of scars left by broken glass, twisted metal, and a surgeon’s scalpel. Every mirror that she passes has been her enemy for years.  

No matter how many times Rachel has told her that she’s still beautiful, inside and out, or reverently kissed each and every scar on her body and whispered words of gratitude that Quinn is still here, stronger for being broken, Quinn has never quite believed her.  

Until now.

Quinn's lips trail a slow, careful path along the six inch scar that mars the otherwise perfect skin of her wife’s belly, and she trembles, remembering the fear and helplessness that had paralyzed her as doctors had urgently spoken of fading vitals and emergency surgery—as what should have been a happy event turned life-threatening. Rachel breathes beneath her, sifting her fingers through Quinn’s hair as her belly rises and falls steadily under Quinn’s fervent kisses.

The soft coos of their precious, two-month old daughter tickle their ears from the crib in the corner of their room, and Quinn finally understands the beauty of a single scar.

Chapter Text

The first time she sits down for a honest to goodness interview, Rachel is twenty-seven, and she’s sitting right next to Quinn Fabray. She knows that she’ll remember the moment exactly because it’s about to be recorded for all of posterity. The lights in the studio overhead are blazing hot, and she’s sweating beneath her make-up, and she feels like she might just throw up. A glance over at Quinn tells her that she’s not the only one feeling nervous, so she attempts to smile because they’d both agreed to do this together. Quinn inhales deeply, letting her eyelids flutter closed for just a second, before she meets Rachel’s eyes with confidence and reaches over to take her hand, entwining their fingers.

The last few weeks have been simultaneously wonderful and terrible. The Tony Award on her shelf is wonderful. Quinn Fabray in her bed every night is even more wonderful. The constant swarm of paparazzi and barrage of gossip magazine exclusives since their backstage kiss had gone viral is not wonderful at all. Through it all, Quinn has insisted that she’s never been happier, and Rachel can’t do anything but believe her when she’s gazing into those gorgeous hazel eyes. Still, this isn’t quite the way that Rachel had imagined her star shooting to instant fame. She’d gone from a tiny taste of Broadway famous to national notoriety practically overnight, and almost every person that she and Quinn had gone to high school with had crawled out of the woodwork, selling a story about their past to make a quick buck.

So now they’re going to set the record straight, as it were. Rachel would certainly have preferred her first appearance on a talk show be centered solely around her own accomplishments and fantastic talent, but she’s become something of an expert at adapting to unexpected changes in her plans, and as far as those go, Quinn is absolutely the best detour that she’s ever taken. She doesn’t regret a moment, except perhaps the moments that they’d wasted on their way to this point. So when the cameras begin to roll, and Robin Roberts smiles and welcomes them, Rachel smiles right back, unashamedly keeping her hold on Quinn’s hand and ready to tell the world how completely Quinn holds her heart.

She doesn’t care if America falls in love with her or not, because Quinn already has, and that’s all that matters.   

Chapter Text

Quinn hates waiting. That doesn’t mean that she’s incapable of doing it, of course. In fact, most people, after getting to know her and discovering little snippets of her history, would probably conclude that she possesses an endless wealth of monumental patience. This isn’t entirely because she happens to be married to Rachel Berry, who some would argue is anything but patient herself and, therefore, requires at least three times the normal level of perseverance to endure. People who actually have the nerve to say that in Quinn’s presence usually regret it pretty quickly. No, Quinn had learned to bite her tongue and bide her time during a childhood of enforced solitude as she’d quietly planned a thorough transformation from chubby to cheerleader and then committed to the long, painful process of shedding her skin. Then she’d relearned it during the long, painful years when Rachel had been firmly in her heart but completely out of her reach.

Quinn is capable of being extremely patient.

Sometimes, it pays off in the most wonderful, unexpected ways. Rachel is hers now in every way imaginable.

But Quinn still hates waiting.

She clearly remembers the nine, long months of waiting for Beth to be born and her body to become her own again. Before that, she’d endured the five agonizing minutes it had taken to discover whether or not her life would be completely and irrevocably changed forever. That was worse than waiting for the period that never came.

It’s amazing what time can do to change your perspective on things, even if those five minutes aren’t any easier the second time around.

For one thing, this moment has been fully planned for months in advance. Of course, that’s pretty much a necessity since they’re both lacking one key piece of equipment to make this happen naturally, no matter how often they’d attempted it.

For another, there’d been no lonely, nerve-wrecking drive to Findlay this time—instead they’d made the purchase together with Rachel obsessively reading and rereading every word on every box for every brand of test that their local drugstore carries.

They’d bought three different kinds at Rachel’s insistence because, “It never hurts to be thorough, Quinn.”

Rachel’s natural impatience had manifested itself the moment that Quinn had opened the box. Well, to be honest, Rachel has been bouncing off the walls for the last six days, and Quinn couldn’t really argue with her insistence to find out as soon as possible when they both really, really hate to wait.

So here they are—Quinn sitting quietly on the edge of the bed, praying for the opposite result than she’d prayed for when she’d been fifteen, and watching her wife re-categorize her vinyl collection in an attempt to distract herself from their bathroom where three little, plastic sticks are sitting on the counter and waiting to decide their future.

Rachel freezes when the alarm on her cellphone rings, nearly dropping her original Broadway cast recording of Hair in the process. She looks at Quinn with wide, nervous eyes, and Quinn imagines that she’s probably looking back with the same expression.

“Quinn,” Rachel whispers uncertainly.

“Yeah.”

“We…we should probably,” she trails off, nodding toward the open bathroom door.

“Yeah,” Quinn repeats, but her body suddenly feels incredibly heavy and weighted to the mattress.

Rachel doesn’t move from her spot. Quinn doesn’t know if she’s ever seen her wife be quite that still.

“Um…are…are you going to look?” Rachel finally asks after a long moment.

“Yeah.”

Quinn shakes her head in silent frustration at her sudden inability to function. She might as well be fifteen again when she drags herself up onto trembling legs, heart racing and dizziness overwhelming her, but this time, Rachel is there to catch her hand and squeeze it tight. They step into the bathroom together, and Quinn can feel Rachel practically vibrating next to her, but before they look at the tests laying across the counter, Rachel stops her.

“I love you,” she says simply. “No matter what the result…we’ll still be us. And we’ll be okay.”

Quinn smiles, feeling some of the nerves ease, though the butterflies are still going crazy in her stomach, and she unconsciously presses her hand there. “I love you too,” she murmurs, leaning down to catch those soft, familiar lips in a chaste kiss. For luck.

She turns to the counter again, glancing down at the tests as Rachel hovers next to her, tucked into her side. She turns her face into Quinn’s shoulder. “I can’t look,” she mumbles.

Quinn can.

And she does.

She sees three identical results before they blur behind her tears. Rachel’s head comes up from her shoulder when a gentle sob shakes her body, and Quinn is immediately pulled into her wife’s arms. “Shh, Quinn, it’s okay,” Rachel murmurs soothingly, stroking her hair with one hand as she rubs a gentle circle on her back with the other. “We…we can try again,” she promises with a telling catch in her voice.

Quinn smiles wetly into Rachel’s neck and hugs her closer before she gazes down at her tearful wife. She shakes her head, takes a breath, and tastes the words on her tongue as they fall out—sweet where they’d once been bitter.

“I’m pregnant.”

Once upon a time, those words had felt like the end of her life. Now they feel like a beginning.

Quinn doesn’t have to wait a single second for the joy to illuminate Rachel’s face. It mirrors the joy in her heart. If she gets to see and feel this for the next nine months, for once, she might not mind the waiting.

Chapter Text

“Oh, my god. Oh, my god. I love you so much. Casey is my absolute favorite character ever!”

Rachel tries not to roll her eyes as she listens to the girl continue to gush over her wife. She and Quinn had been on their way out of the restaurant when they’d been recognized by three teenagers. The boy, tall and gangly with acne peppered on his forehead, had been the first to approach, with a timidly excited, “Excuse me, Ms. Berry. I just wanted to tell you that I adore your album. Your voice just gives me chills.”

He’d been so polite about it that, of course, Rachel had gladly stopped to bask in his accolades and give him an autograph. That had been all the invitation his two friends had needed to come over to join him. The blonde girl was too shy to speak to either of them, though there’s been an awed smile on her lips the whole time as she looks back and forth between the both of them with her autographed backpack (that her friend, Stanley, had asked them for on her behalf) clutched tightly between her fists.

The brunette, on the other hand, had barely spared Rachel a cursory glance before she’d zeroed in on Quinn. She’d held back just long enough to take pictures of her friends with both of them before demanding that Stanley take her picture with Quinn. Just Quinn.

Rachel is trying to pay attention to Stanley as he continues to tell her how he can’t wait until she’s back on Broadway now that he’s (barely) old enough to see a show, but she can’t keep her ears from tuning in on Quinn’s—

“…biggest fan, I swear,” the girl says. “You have such amazing chemistry with Ben,” she points out, using the name of Quinn’s costar instead of his character’s name. “I’ve seen every video and interview of the two of you. That one from Chicago, when you guys were filming on location, where he, you know, puts his arm around you and gazes deeply into your eyes and says you guys are soulmates…I just about died.”

Rachel frowns at that, ignoring poor Stanley and the blonde completely now. She’d hated that interview and Ben Easton’s stupid flirty banter with her wife.

“Yes, well, Ben is…fun to work with,” Quinn responds flatly, darting her eyes over to Rachel. She knows how Quinn really feels about her costar, but they’re onscreen lovers, so she has to pretend that she doesn’t think he’s a sleazy womanizer when she’s in public.

“He’s just so gorgeous. And charming,” the girl continues enthusiastically.  “You’re, like, the perfect couple. I was so happy when you finally, finally kissed on the show. It was so hot. It didn’t even seem like it was scripted at all. Do you guys just go for it?  ‘Cause it looks so natural.”

Quinn’s eyes narrow. “It’s completely scripted. And our director tells us what to do down to the position of our heads.”

“But it’s so believable. I thought you guys were really a couple for the longest time,” she admits with a certain lilt in her voice that makes Rachel think she still believes that, despite the fact that Quinn is very much married—and married to a woman at that!  

“That’s why they call it acting,” Quinn grits out with a fake smile.  

Rachel can almost see the bitchier retort forming on Quinn’s lips, and frankly, she’s not feeling overly inspired to stop her. But Stanley and shy blonde girl seem really sweet, and Rachel really doesn’t want to watch Quinn’s twitter mentions explode with negativity if she goes off on an overeager fan, so she gives the other two kids an apologetic smile and steps closer to her wife. “Quinn, baby, we really need to go now.” She gives the girl a sharp look—she’s sure her own mentions later will be enough to trend Rachel Berry is a diva. Again.  She doesn’t care. “If you’ll excuse us.”

“Oh, yeah,” the girl mutters with a frown. “Anyway, it’s been such an honor to meet you, Quinn. Thank you so much for the picture. Give Ben a kiss for me.”

Rachel slips her arm around Quinn’s waist possessively and glares at the girl while Stanley and the blonde girl each tug on one of their friend’s arms to get her moving. “Thank you, again, Ms. Berry. Ms. Fabray,” Stanley calls after them as they drag the brunette away.

Rachel hears the blonde hiss at her friend, “I can’t believe you said that in front of Rachel.”  

“Whatever,” the brunette mutters audibly. “They won’t last. Fabston forever.”

“Shut up, Chrissy!” the blonde snaps, casting one final, adoring look back in their direction. “Faberry is the best ship. And they’re real!”

Rachel’s brows lift as she turns back to Quinn, who’s shaking her head in annoyance. “Faberry?” Rachel asks. “Is that what the kids are calling us?”

Quinn shrugs, a smirk forming on her lips. “At least it’s not Quinchel.”

Chapter Text

She’s been fidgeting nervously on the chair for ten minutes now, and all Quinn can do is stare at her, feeling her stomach coil with every silent second that ticks by. It’s not unusual for Beth to stop for a visit, but she’s normally all smiles and chatter about whatever she’s doing in school or some humorous adventure that she’s had with her friends. The unusual quiet is really disconcerting for Quinn. 

She wishes that Rachel was here because her wife is an expert at filling uncomfortable silences, but she’d taken Luke to their biweekly Mommy and Me playgroup. Personally, Quinn thinks that their son is still too young to care if he has other babies to play with, but Rachel insists that socializing him will provide important interpersonal skills and teach Luke how to share from an early age. Quinn can kind of see her point.   

Beth takes a few deep breaths, pulling at the hem of her sweater, before she finally whispers, barely loud enough to be heard, “I…I had sex with Paul.”

That coil in Quinn’s stomach snaps, and it feels like everything inside of her just falls into the floor. She bites into her lip hard as her mind spins back to her own first time, and—

"Are you pregnant?" comes flying out of her mouth in a hard tone. Please God, don’t let her be pregnant. Don’t let her repeat my mistakes, Quinn prays desperately. She’s only seventeen.  

"No," Beth answers with wide eyes. "I…I mean…I’m pretty sure I’m not. It…it just happened last night."

"Did you use protection?" Quinn asks.

Beth blushes crimson and looks at the floor, twisting her fingers into her sweater. “Yes,” she mutters. “Um…he…we used a condom…and…um…Mom m-made me start taking birth control last year.”

Quinn slumps in her chair, exhaling in relief as she runs her hand through her hair. Thank God Shelby had more sense than Judy Fabray ever did. But then Quinn wonders why Beth is telling her this instead of Shelby, and she frowns. “Did…did he…pressure you?”

Beth’s lips tremble, but she shakes her head no. “He…he’s been wanting to…and…I thought I was ready…so…so I said yes…but,” she trails off, shaking her head again, and Quinn feels her heart lurch. 

"You weren’t."

Beth shakes her head sadly. “It was really weird. And embarrassing. And it…it kind of hurt,” Beth admits woefully, tears on her cheeks, and Quinn slides off her chair and kneels in front of her firstborn child, tugging Beth into her arms.  

"Oh, honey. Are you okay?" she asks, stroking Beth’s hair. "Did…do you think you need to see a doctor…or...?"

"No," Beth denies quickly. "I just…I really wish I’d waited. And I…I don’t want to do it again."

"Then you don’t have to," Quinn assure her. 

"But he’ll break up with me."

Quinn clenches her jaw, silently plotting ways to murder that little snot, Paul, and where to hide the body. “If he really cares about you, he’ll understand and respect your decision.”

Beth laughs sadly. “Did Noah do that?”

Quinn catches her breath. “That…was completely different.”

"Is this how you felt?  After you were with him? Like you just wanted to go back and undo it."

Quinn doesn’t know how to answer that. “Oh, Beth. At the time, yeah,” she grudgingly admits, “I wished that I had waited. That I’d been older and that my first time had been with someone I really loved,” and definitely without the alcohol, she thinks, “but the one part of the whole experience that I never regretted was you.”  

It’s true. She’d regretted Puck, and how young they were, and how her life had fallen apart, and that they couldn’t keep Beth, but she could never regret bringing such an amazing person into the world.

Beth nods, wiping at her tears. “I’m really glad you had me,” she says. “But God, if sex with my father was that bad, then you really got screwed.”

Quinn chokes on a laugh, pulling her daughter back into her arms. “Trust me, Beth. It’s so much better when you’re with the right person.” She frowns. “But I think you should wait another five years or so to find that out.”

Beth only laughs into her shoulder, and Quinn sighs, wondering how the years have gone by so quickly. She hugs her daughter tighter and vows to hold onto every moment.

Chapter Text

Quinn can’t believe that they’re still planning to get married. After what happened (to her) at their last attempt, she was really hoping it would be a few more years before they’d revisit a wedding. Or never.  

She’s currently nursing a wine cooler in Brittany’s back yard in celebration of their Nationals win. The entire glee club is here, and Finn and Rachel are curled up on a lounge chair being all disgusting and coupley as they tell Tina all about their plans to tie the knot right after graduation—less than two weeks from now. Quinn huffs in disgust, frowning down at her bottle.

“Aw, no frownies,” Brittany chastises, plopping down next to her and wrapping an arm around her shoulder. “I can totally get you the exotic berry if you want.”

Quinn’s head comes up, eyes widening. “Excuse me?”

Brittany points to the bottle in her hand. “The berry is much better than super gross fuzzy navel. I mean, who wants fuzz in their navel?” she asks, wrinkling her nose.  

“Oh,” Quinn breathes.  “No…it’s fine.

Brittany nods slowly, her eyes darting over to Rachel and Finn. “But I guess looking at that is super gross too.”

“Yeah,” Quinn agrees. “Sometimes I wish…”

“What?” Brittany asks.

Quinn shrugs. “Just…have you ever wished you could go back and do things differently?”

“Oh, that,” Brittany dismisses with a wave of her hand. “I’m totally doing that. I’m repeating my whole senior year.”

Quinn shakes her head. “No. I meant go back in time, knowing what you know now. Like before glee club started, when I could still get anything I wanted just by snapping my fingers,” she mutters with her gaze fastened on Rachel and Finn.

“I could do that too if I want,” Brittany claims. “I have a time machine.”

Quinn stares at her for a few seconds. “That’s…nice.” Sometimes it’s easier to just go along with whatever Brittany says.  

“No. I totally do.  I’ll show you,” she insists, grabbing Quinn’s hand as she stands.  Quinn doesn’t resist—anything is better than watching Rachel coo over Finn Hudson.

Brittany drags her upstairs and into her bedroom, letting her go to dig around in her dresser until she turns around with a portable CD player and headphones and holds them aloft. “Here. See?”

Quinn gapes at her. “Um…Brittany. That’s a walkman.”

"It only looks like one on the outside. But trust me, it will totally take you back in time.”

Quinn chuckles.  “Yeah, it probably would,” she concedes, thinking that it’s a relic from the nineteen-nineties and the sheer nostalgia will throw her back to her toddler years.  “Where did you even get one of those? I didn’t think anyone made them anymore.”

“It was my mom’s,” she admits. “But I totally tricked it out like the DeLorean,” she brags, tilting it sideways so Quinn can see the weird little crystals that Brittany has glued to to top.

“Did you steal Rachel’s Bedazzler?” she asks with a laugh.

“Don’t be mean,” Brittany pouts.  

Quinn stifles her laughter. “Sorry,” she manages with a smile.

“I’ll totally let you try it if you want. Lord Tubbington uses it all the time to go back to his kittenhood and hide cigarettes for his future self.”

“Oooo-kay,” Quinn drawls before biting into her lip to keep from laughing again.  

Brittany grins, bouncing in excitement and presses the CD player into Quinn’s hands.  Quinn sits down on the edge of Brittany’s bed, looking down at the walkman in amusement as Brittany begins to rummage through a messy pile of CDs on her shelf. Quinn doesn’t believe for a minute that it’s actually a time machine, but she’s willing to play along if it means she doesn’t have to go back downstairs right away.

“Ah ha,” Brittany crows in triumph, skipping over to Quinn with a Journey CD in her hands.  

Quinn’s brows furrow. “Brittany, did you get that from Mr. Schue?”

Brittany shrugs. “He had lots of extra copies. He really has some weird obsession with them.”

Quinn sighs, suddenly less enamored with humoring Brittany.  “I’m really not in the mood to listen to Journey,” she grumbles, trying to hand the CD player back to Brittany.

Brittany closes her hands over Quinn’s, shaking her head seriously. “The song is how you pick the destination,” she explains. “Like, Lord Tubbington uses What’s New, Pussycat? when he goes back. You need to use Don’t Stop Believing. It will totally take you back to when glee club started. Like you want.”

Quinn rolls her eyes, taking the CD and slipping it into the walkman. “Fine. But I’m not singing along,” she mutters, dropping the headphones over her ears.

Brittany puts a hand over the walkman before Quinn can press play, looking her directly in the eyes and very seriously telling her, “You’re going to wake up in your younger self. When you want to come back, you need to listen to the song again. It’s totes important that you do it with headphones, ‘kay?”

Quinn chuckles. “Sure, Brittany,” she agrees.

When Brittany smiles and removes her hand, Quinn presses the shuffle button because she doesn’t really care what song she listens to. The one that fills her ears happens to be Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’, and she shakes her head as the music reverberates through in her ears. She glances down at the walkman, looking for the volume button to turn it down, but a sudden wave of dizziness overtakes her, and she clutches at the mattress, trying to look up at Brittany through blurry eyes. “Britt,” she chokes out before she can’t breath at all and the world fades away.

xx

When Quinn wakes up, it’s to the sound of Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ playing softly in the distance, and she automatically reaches for her head to drag off the headphones, only to find that they’re no longer there and the song is still playing. A headache is pounding behind her eyes, and she slowly pries them open to see a hazy, white ceiling looming over her. It takes a moment for the softness of the mattress beneath her and the sheets wrapped around her body to register.

Her naked body.

“What the hell?” she mutters groggily, jerking up as she clutches the sheet to her chest. Another wave of dizziness overwhelms her, and she falls back onto the bed.  “Brittany,” she calls out. “Jesus fuck, what did you do to me?” she wonders in a panic. She’d only had the one wine cooler—not even a whole bottle. Oh, God, did somebody slip her a roofie?  Her heart races as she prays to whatever God is actually up there that no one let Puckerman near her this time.

She hears the doorknob rattle, and she turns her head to look at the door as it swings open, but the door isn’t where she thinks it should be in Brittany’s bedroom, and before she can get her bearings, the mattress dips and bounces and something slams into her. Something small and warm and giggling.  

“Morning, mommy.”

Quinn’s eyes open wide and panicked as they focus on a little girl with messy brown curls and golden-brown eyes grinning widely at her. “B-beth?” she whispers hoarsely, thinking that she must be dreaming. She must have passed out in Brittany’s bedroom and whacked her head on the floor, and now she’s in some kind of coma, having an out of body experience.  

The little girl’s smile slips, and she frowns, putting two little hands on her hips as she kneels over Quinn. “No, Mommy. Not Beth. Ava. You know that,” she scolds. There’s something very familiar about the girl that Quinn can’t quite place.

“This is such a weird dream,” Quinn mumbles, squeezing her eyes shut and trying to sink back into the mattress.

“Are you sick?” Ava asks worriedly, pressing a hand to Quinn’s forehead. Quinn flinches at how real it feels.

“I’m going to wake up any minute,” Quinn reassures herself.

Ava scrambles around on the bed until the mattress bounces again, and Quinn hears her feet thunk on the floor and begin to run away as she yells, “Mama!  Mama!”  

Quinn chuckles to herself, pressing her own hand to her forehead. Even in her dreams, she can’t keep her kid with her. She takes a few deep breaths and wonders if she has to fall asleep in her dream before she can wake up in reality. As she’s lying there, she hears footsteps again, heavier this time, before Ava’s voice says, “See, Mama. I told you. She’s sick.”

The mattress dips again, this time on the other side, and a gentle hand carefully pries Quinn’s palm from her head. “Quinn, baby, are you okay?”

Quinn’s fly open again on a strangled gasp as she looks up into soft brown eyes, glistening with worry.  “R-Rachel? Why are you in my dream?”

“Okay, you’re really starting to worry me, baby?” Rachel murmurs, stroking the back of her fingers over Quinn’s cheek. “I know we had a late night celebrating, but you seem really out of it this morning.  Are you feeling okay?”

Quinn shakes her head slowly as she stares up at Rachel. “I don’t think so,” she whispers, finally pushing herself up off the mattress and into a sitting position. Rachel frowns, reaching out to steady her, and Quinn notices a flash of something from the corner of her eye.  

When she gazes down at Rachel’s very solid hands on her shoulders, she sees a diamond ring and matching wedding band on Rachel’s left hand. Quinn bites into her cheek as she lifts her own hand and grabs Rachel’s to examine the rings more closely, because that really doesn’t look like the engagement ring that Rachel has been sporting for the last six months. And that wedding ring right next to it?  It matches the one on Quinn’s finger exactly.  

“Holy shit,” she gasps, looking at her own hand in horror.

Rachel’s frown deepens as Ava giggles. “Mommy said a bad word.”

Quinn’s head turns to stare at the little girl again. The little girl who’s calling her Mommy. The little girl that looks just like Rachel. Beyond Ava’s gorgeous, little face is a photograph on the nightstand of Quinn and Rachel, wearing white and wrapped in a loving embrace.

“Quinn, what’s going on?” Rachel asks in concern.

“I…I have no idea,” Quinn admits. “But I really need to talk to Brittany.”

She’s still not completely certain if she’s having a really realistic dream, or if Brittany’s magical, time-travelling CD player actually works, but one thing is certain—this isn’t sophomore year of high school. This is the future, and future her is married to Rachel Berry. And for some strange reason, she doesn’t want to wake up or go home. And she’s terrified of what that means.

Chapter Text

Quinn Fabray is not in his kitchen!

She’s also not in her clothes! Kurt doesn’t quite react fast enough to avoid seeing every inch of Quinn when he breezes into Rachel’s bedroom, thinking he’ll find his roommate frantically tearing through her makeshift closet in search of the perfect outfit for her date tonight with Quinn.  

Who is naked.

In Rachel’s bed.  

Asleep.  

“Oh, my God!” he squeaks, slapping a hand over his eyes and spinning around as he attempts to blindly stumble out of the room without getting tangled up in the curtain. “Oh, my God!” he repeats, trying to ignore the shadowy image of pale skin and lady bits that’s currently burned into the back of his eyelids.    

When he unexpectedly slams into a body, he screams, thinking that Quinn has somehow caught him and is about to tackle him (naked) to the floor and beat him to death for creeping on her while she was sleeping, but a hand is immediately pressed over his mouth as Rachel hisses, “Be quiet.”

Kurt drops his hand from his eyes and stares at Rachel.  “Quih aykeh ehu beh,” he mumbles into her palm, causing her eyebrows to furrow before she slowly removes her hand.

“What?”  

“Quinn is naked in your bed,” he tells her needlessly.  

Her eyes widen, and her face turns a deep crimson.  “I can explain,” she says in a rush, trying to drag him away from her bedroom.

“The nudity is fairly self-explanatory,” he muses, finally beginning to recover from his shock. He hadn’t thought that they’d progressed that far in their relationship yet, but good for them if they had.

Rachel shakes her head. “No. It’s…  She was dirty.”

Kurt slaps his hands over his ears this time. “I don’t want the details.”

Rachel glares at him as she grabs his wrists and drags his arms down. “She was splashed by a truck on the street, and her dress got covered in sludge. It’s currently in the laundry downstairs.”

Kurt raises his eyebrows. It seems like a plausible explanation, except, “What happened to her underwear?”

Rachel blushes again. “She wanted to take a shower. I…I offered to wash her undergarments as well.”

“Oookay,” Kurt drawls. “But I’m still having trouble with the naked in your bed part. Because she is,” he reminds her with a grin.

“She…um…she must have fallen asleep when I was downstairs,” Rachel speculates, her eyes darting all around the room.

Kurt’s grin grows into a smirk. “Rachel, sweetie?”

“What?”

“You do realize that you’re currently only wearing a silk robe that really doesn’t cover much of anything?” he points out, fully taking in her appearance—complete with mussed hair.

Rachel huffs, pulling her robe tighter around her body and scowling darkly at him. “You…we…I…damn it, Kurt!  You weren’t supposed to be home for another hour,” she growls, turning on her heel and stalking into her bedroom before closing her curtain with a dramatic flourish.  

Kurt laughs, and then he decides to go back out and forage for dinner elsewhere, because he really doesn’t want to be in the apartment with Quinn and Rachel naked in the bedroom.

Chapter Text

We need your tremulous alto and your Belinda Carlisle glamour.¹

Quinn shakes her head as she recalls Rachel's words, wondering why they insist on ringing in her memory so clearly nearly a year after they were first uttered. But then, 98% of everything Rachel says seems to stay with her for some unknown reason. She supposes that remembering Rachel's favorite Wiggle and what song she sang in her very first singing competition is the price that she has to pay to know that she's the prettiest girl that Rachel has ever met but so much more than that.

And God help her, it has to be some toxic combination of that and the heat and wine coolers and Finn Hudson dumping Rachel at a train station two months ago and a summer spent being kind of friends that has Quinn standing next to the karaoke machine at Santana's pool party (because of course she owns one despite making fun of Rachel for hers) in a red, one-piece swimsuit and a sarong wrapped around her waist—the bikini is a no-go for the foreseeable future thanks to the still noticeable scars from her accident—queuing up a song worthy of that tremulous alto and Belinda Carlisle glamour.

But she'll be leaving for Yale next week, and Rachel will be heading back to New York a few days later, and who knows if either of them will ever be brave enough to use those Metro North passes, so what the hell? It's not like Rachel will ever look at her without her Finn-colored glasses long enough to actually notice what's really going on with her, and half of their friends are already too drunk to remember this tomorrow anyway.

The synthesizers kick in with the simple but catchy beat, and Quinn grabs the microphone. Her eyes seek out Rachel despite her best efforts to look anywhere else, and she's not surprised to see her grinning happily from her deck chair, her foot already tapping in time to the song. Quinn tries and fails to keep her gaze from drifting down to that ridiculous(ly sexy) polka dot bikini as she opens her mouth to sing.

"Can't seem to get my mind off of you.
Back here at home there's nothing to do.
Now that I'm away,
I wish I'd stayed.
Tomorrow's a day of mine
that you won't be in."

Quinn wonders if she's going sharp (or maybe flat) because Rachel's grin slips noticeably. She's probably mentally preparing her critique of Quinn's performance even though Quinn will likely never sing in front of an audience again once she dives into her college experience. There's no way that Rachel could actually be getting a clue at this late date over a Go-Go's song—not when she'd sat through Quinn's multiple speeches and silent begging to not marry Finn without even batting an eyelash.

"When you looked at me,
I should've run."

She really should have. Sometimes she feels like Rachel Berry has been the catalyst for every terrible decision that she's ever made, including this one.

"But I thought it was just for fun."

It stopped being fun for Quinn about the time that Rachel first set her sights on Finn.

"I see I was wrong,
and I'm not so strong.
I should've known all along
that time would tell."

She should have known that Rachel would end up causing her to fall farther and faster than she ever imagined possible.

"A week without you.
Thought I'd forget.
Two weeks without you,
and I still haven't gotten over you yet."

Quinn's gaze is still locked on Rachel, and Rachel isn't smiling at all anymore. She's just kind of looking intensely at Quinn with a furrowed brow, and—shit! Maybe those Finn-colored glasses did finally slip off. Maybe she's finally seeing that, after an engagement and Finn and only Finn and a car accident on the way to Rachel's rushed, teen wedding, Quinn still hasn't gotten over it. This. Her.

"Vacation.
All I ever wanted.
Vacation.
Had to get away.
Vacation.
Meant to be spent alone."

Quinn refuses to look at Rachel for the rest of the song, which is just a rinse and repeat of the same lyrics, and when she's finished, everyone claps and cheers—everyone except Rachel. And okay, so maybe Quinn does sneak in one more look.

She sets down the microphone and makes a tactical retreat while Mercedes stands up to choose her own song to keep the party going. Quinn passes the cooler and snags another drink as she pads away from the pool and through the sliding glass door that leads into the Lopez's game room. She presses the bottle to her forehead in an attempt to cool off while she paces around the room with a hand on her hip and mutters, "Stupid idiot. You just had to go and sing."

"It was a very good performance."

Quinn jumps, grunting out an undignified, "Fuck," at the unexpected sound of Rachel's voice, and she nearly drops the bottle onto the floor. She spins around to find Rachel standing in front of the glass door with an uncertain smile touching her lips. Quinn absolutely is not leering at her breasts in that bikini. She's not!

Rachel licks her lips, dragging Quinn's gaze to them before she speaks again. "And the song was rather apropos, as our summer vacation is rapidly coming to a close."

"Yeah," Quinn manages, clutching the bottle tightly in front of her as if it's some magical weapon to ward off Rachel's inquisitive gaze. "Yeah, that's exactly why I picked it." It's only half a lie.

"I thought as much," Rachel claims with a nod, licking her lips again. She really needs to stop that—Quinn really needs to stop staring at them too, but that's how she sees the corners curl into a playful, little grin. "Plus, it was a perfect complement to your Belinda Carlisle glamour."

Apparently Rachel remembers at least 98% of everything she's ever said, too. "We should probably get back to the party," Quinn suggests, pointing at the door with the neck of her bottle as she takes a step forward, mentally calculating the proper trajectory to sidestep Rachel on her way back outside.

Rachel determinedly steps into her path to stop her, catching her gaze and holding it. "Quinn, I know that I have an unfortunate habit of occasionally missing pertinent social cues, but when you were singing that song, you were singing it to me, and only me," she says in a way that's far too reminiscent of Quinn's own desperate question before the wedding that wasn't.

"It was just a song, Rachel," Quinn insists, averting her eyes to the shenanigans of their friends still having fun outside. "A silly, frivolous song. I only needed something to focus on so I wouldn't get distracted and forget the words," she lies.

"Oh?" Rachel breathes, casually leaning back against the door and making it impossible for Quinn to get past her or to look at anything else. "Because for a moment, I thought that perhaps you'd chosen a somewhat unconventional method of confessing your long hidden feelings. For me," she clarifies unnecessarily.

Quinn decides to pick at the label on the bottle with a fingernail to avoid looking at Rachel. "That really would be stupid, wouldn't it?" she scoffs. "You're still waiting for Finn to change his mind and want you back. Again."

Rachel sighs and shakes her head. "No, I'm not." Quinn abandons counting the rivulets of condensation on the bottle to look at Rachel with unpreventable interest. "It's true that I...still haven't gotten over him yet," she admits with an ironic grin tugging at the corner of her mouth. "But I'm getting there."

Quinn nods automatically, processing the words. "That's…good," she reasons cautiously. "For you. Good for you," she repeats inanely.

Rachel's smile widens. "I hear that New Haven is lovely in the fall, and I have those train tickets that you bought for us," she reminds Quinn, almost shyly. "I'm certain that it won't be very long at all before I'll need a vacation from the stresses of attending NYADA." She runs her tongue across her lower lip again—Quinn is beginning to suspect that she's doing that on purpose. "One that I'd…rather not spend alone."

Quinn swallows around a suddenly dry throat and briefly contemplates downing the wine cooler that she's been carrying around in a single gulp. She decides it might not be wise under theses newly confusing circumstances. "Well, that's…that's why I bought the tickets. To visit." Certainly not to seduce Rachel Berry away from Finn Hudson.

Well—not entirely for that reason.

"I'm very glad you did," Rachel tells her sweetly, and then she completely surprises Quinn by swaying forward and lightly grasping Quinn's shoulders for balance before she rises onto her toes and presses a chaste kiss to her cheek—suspiciously close to the corner of her mouth. "Thank you, Quinn," she murmurs before letting go.

"Yeah," is all that Quinn can think to say as she stares open-mouthed at Rachel, barely resisting the urge to touch the spot on her cheek where Rachel's lips had just been.

"I'll see you back outside," Rachel says with a tip of her head.

Her grin might be just a tiny bit smug as she turns and slides open the door.

Quinn's grin might be just a tiny bit besotted as she watches Rachel walk away. She's absolutely not leering at her ass in that bikini. She's not!

Okay—she totally is, and she doesn't care who knows it.

"Thank you, Belinda," she whispers as her eyes follow Rachel.

Today just got a lot more interesting and so have all of her tomorrows.

 

Chapter Text

Rachel Berry felt as though she'd been waiting for the summer to arrive forever. The end of her junior year of high school had been both indescribably better and disappointingly worse than the end of previous years. Last year at this time, she'd been celebrating the birth of her fledgling relationship with Finn Hudson and the glee club's last minute amnesty, living to sing another day. This year, Rachel was reveling in her increasingly intimate relationship with Quinn Fabray and the anticipation of three blissful months in which they would be able to be together without classes or competitions or Sue Sylvester's sadistic practice schedule to interrupt their quality alone time.

Sadly, Rachel was also still mourning the glee club's disastrous loss at Nationals thanks to her aforementioned ex-boyfriend and his unfortunate misinterpretation of her perfectly platonic offer to run through their choreography with him one more time as an indication that she'd wanted him back again and, therefore, a perfectly acceptable reason to attempt to kiss her on stage after their duet—the one that Mr. Schuester had insisted that they perform together despite Rachel's suggestion that Santana or Mercedes might be a more vocally impressive partner for her in front of the judges. Unsurprisingly, witnessing the male lead attempt to accost the female lead on stage and her push him away in a very ungraceful manner had not impressed the judges at all.

It had taken half the club to hold back Santana as she'd lunged at Finn and cursed him out in Spanish for costing them their chance at winning. It had taken the other half of the club to hold back Quinn from scratching out his eyes for trying to kiss her girlfriend. Luckily, Finn's misguided actions hadn't damaged Rachel's relationship with Quinn, but instead of returning to McKinley triumphant with a trophy held proudly over their heads, they'd been anointed with the icy tendrils of cherry and blueberry dripping over their faces.

The slushies had become a too-common occurrence over the final weeks of school, thanks to Quinn's impromptu decision to come out with a very public kiss in the hallway. Her cheerio uniform hadn't done very much to protect her from the bigots and bullies that seemed to populate the McKinley hierarchy, though Rachel had noticed that Quinn was targeted more frequently when she and Rachel were alone together than when she was walking the halls with Santana and Brittany or the other cheerios. She knew that her girlfriend hated the slushies, but she hated not being able to protect Rachel from them even more. Rachel was sadly used to needing to keep a change of clothes (or two) on hand to get through the day, but even so, she hoped that a summer away from the pack mentality of high school would help those close-minded Neanderthals on the hockey team forget all about them come September.

Through it all, Quinn remained steadfast in her insistence that the slushies and the derogatory epithets that were occasionally shouted out at them in the hallways were a small price to pay for being free to hold Rachel's hand or kiss her at their lockers between classes or just proclaim that she loved her girlfriend whenever she wanted without caring who might overhear. Rachel couldn't really disagree that the benefits of being with Quinn far outweighed the one unfortunate negative.

Today, they were free of hallways and lockers and slushies until the fall, and Rachel was currently on her way to the Fabray residence to spend her first official day of summer vacation with her gorgeous girlfriend. Quinn had already texted her twice to make sure that she was still coming over—as if she would want to be anywhere else. She made good time on her short drive, and in no time at all, she had pulled into the Fabray driveway and parked her car. She eagerly made her way to the front door, but before she could even raise her hand to knock, it opened to reveal a beaming Quinn, comfortably dressed in cut-off shorts and a tight, blue t-shirt.

"Good morning, Quinn," Rachel greeted cheerfully.

Quinn immediately reached out to snag Rachel's hand, pulling her inside and closing the door behind her. "Hi, baby," she breathed, leaning down to press an all-too-brief kiss to Rachel's lips. A hum of pleasure rumbled in her throat when they parted. "I missed you."

Rachel grinned as she slipped her arms around Quinn's waist. "It's barely been twelve hours since you last saw me."

"Twelve hours too many," Quinn pouted before she recaptured Rachel's mouth in a kiss that seemed intended to make up for every second of those twelve hours spent apart. Rachel's hold on Quinn tightened as she parted her lips and gave into Quinn's skillful seduction. She was so in love with her girlfriend.

She felt Quinn's hands begin to stray, dipping to press against the curve to her backside. Rachel couldn't say that she really minded. In fact, her body wholeheartedly approved. "Are you planning to debauch me in your foyer?" she asked breathlessly between kisses.

A husky laugh sounded as Quinn cupped her butt and pulled her closer. "No. I'm planning to do it in my bedroom."

Quinn's mouth began to descend again, but Rachel pulled back with furrowed brows. "Your mother…?"

"Is at work," Quinn finished with a wicked smirk.

A soft, "Oh," of realization slipped out as Rachel's gaze helplessly dipped to Quinn's smiling lips, and she imagined all the lovely things that they could do to her in this big, empty house.

"Yeah," Quinn agreed, brushing those soft lips over Rachel's again. "I really love the summer," she murmured appreciatively.

Intimacy with Quinn was a temptation that Rachel wasn't inclined to resist, but, "We did promise our parents that we would refrain from being alone in any bedrooms with no one home to supervise us." Judy Fabray had been very understanding about their relationship thus far, but she hadn't quite progressed to the point of being on board with them having sex under her roof.

Quinn arched an eyebrow as she gazed at Rachel incredulously. "You want to start following the rules now? After all the times and all the creative ways you've bent them?"

"Not particularly," Rachel admitted with an easy smile, "but I thought that I should mention it. It seemed like the responsible thing to do."

Quinn laughed, releasing her hold on Rachel with a playful slap to her ass before catching her hand and linking their fingers. "You know, I didn't only ask you to come over so I could have my way with you," she conceded as she led Rachel into the living room. "It's such a nice day, I thought we could maybe go for a swim."

Rachel's smile turned into a tiny frown. Quinn hadn't mentioned the possibility of utilizing the pool when she'd issued the invitation. "I didn't bring a swimsuit."

"Skinny dipping works for me," Quinn purred seductively, her eyes traveling over Rachel's body like a lover's caress. The temperature in the room seemed to rise, making the idea of jumping naked into a pool of cool water seem even more appealing. "But I have a bikini you could borrow if you want," Quinn added with a grin. "We're about the same size."

Rachel bit back a laugh. "Forgive me if I don't entirely trust your opinion in that regard." While it was true that several of their wardrobe items had turned out to be practically interchangeable, there were enough significant differences in certain areas of their bodies to make regularly swapping clothes unwise. Rachel had no choice but to question Quinn's true motives in neglecting to mention the need for a swimsuit today.

"Are you calling me fat, Berry?" Quinn growled playfully, crossing her arms.

"Certainly not," Rachel vowed. Despite her girlfriend's lighthearted demeanor, Rachel understood that Quinn's body image could still be a delicate subject on occasion, so she placed a soothing hand on Quinn's arm. "But…well…Quinn, sweetheart, we don't exactly wear the same bra size," she pointed out tactfully. "I distinctly recall that when I borrowed your dress last month, my cleavage was practically spilling out of it."

"And this is a problem because…?" Quinn drawled in amusement.

"Quinn," Rachel chastised with a giggle, lightly slapping her arm. "I think I've turned you into a sex fiend." And, really, Quinn had done the same to Rachel, so she wasn't exactly complaining that her very hot girlfriend appreciated her body and enjoyed seeing it both in and out of her clothes.

Quinn sighed as she uncrossed her arms and reached up to brush Rachel's hair away from her face before caressing her cheek. "I think I'm just happy," she mused.

Rachel's heart soared at the simple admission. "So am I," she agreed, curling her palm around the back of Quinn's neck and pulling her into a loving kiss that was meant to convey just how happy she truly was.

Quinn's smile was almost shy when their lips parted. "So…do you want to go swimming?" she asked softly. "Or we could go see a movie if you prefer. Or for a walk. Or," she smirked again, "I could just debauch you."

Rachel laughed. "Swimming is good. For now," she decided, still enamored with the many intimate possibilities that they might explore while alone together for the entire day. "You can debauch me later. Or during," she amended with a wicked grin of her own.

"Let's get you into that bikini, then," Quinn urged as she entwined her fingers with Rachel's again, tugging her into motion, and then they were laughingly racing up the stairs to Quinn's bedroom.

The room was still as sparsely decorated as it had been the very first time that Rachel had seen it, but over the last several months, more and more photographs of Rachel and other various mementos of their dates had been appearing on Quinn's mirror and dresser and desk. Rachel grinned at the growing visual evidence of their relationship every time she came in here, and today was no different.

Quinn had gone straight to her dresser, pulling open a drawer to sift through the neatly folded clothes in search of her swimsuits, and Rachel sank down into Quinn's desk chair, content to watch the sway of her girlfriend's very enticing backside—except that her gaze caught on a splash of color on the surface of Quinn's desk, and she glanced down to see the Yale insignia staring back at her. She frowned, picking up the brochure only to find another beneath. And another. And another.

"Here," Quinn offered, suddenly standing beside Rachel with two scraps of yellow material in her hands and a grin on her face. "I think this one will fit you, cleavage and all."

"Quinn," Rachel rasped, holding up a brochure with a frown. "What are these?"

"Just some college booklets," Quinn answered with a shrug.

Rachel's frown deepened, and she jerkily waved the brochure that she was holding in front of Quinn's face. "Yale?"

"It's a good school," Quinn defended, her smile slipping as she tossed the bikini down onto the corner of the desk.

"In Connecticut."

Confusion colored Quinn's expression. "Yeah," she confirmed warily.

"That's not New York!" Rachel cried as she slammed the brochure back onto the desk. Her heart felt as though it had gotten lodged in the base of her throat. Why was Quinn looking at colleges not in New York?

"It's, like, a two hour train ride," Quinn reasoned.

"Dartmouth isn't," Rachel practically screeched, holding up another brochure.

Quinn sighed. "Rachel…"

"And neither is Duke," Rachel barked, shuffling through the brochures. "And," her stomach clenched, "Stanford is in California, Quinn!"

"I haven't applied to any of them yet," Quinn assured her.

"Yet?" Rachel echoed, hurt.

"I've just been looking at options," Quinn explained as she reached around Rachel to pull a handful of brochures to the top of the pile, laying them out across her desk. "See…Columbia. Fordham. NYU. They're all in New York City," she soothed before she pointed to a scarlet colored brochure. "And Rutgers is only twenty minutes away."

Rachel stared at the colorful brochures spread out before her, realizing for the first time that she and Quinn had never really talked about what would happen after high school. Of course they'd both mentioned their intentions to attend college in the vaguest possible sense, but Rachel had never bothered to ask Quinn where she wanted to go. She'd just naturally assumed that Quinn would know exactly where Rachel would be going and adjust her plans accordingly.

"I…I'm planning on Tisch if I don't get into Juilliard," she finally voiced. She knew admission to Juilliard was incredibly competitive, and she had a list of backup schools in Manhattan ranked by both their music and theater programs, of which Tisch at NYU was at the top. She gazed up at Quinn, briefly catching her lip between her teeth before she stated the obvious. "Either way, I'll be in New York City, Quinn."

A tiny smile pulled at the corner of Quinn's mouth. "I know that."

Rachel continued to worry her lip—she had already informed all of her friends, teachers, classmates, bus drivers, and lunch ladies in the cafeteria of her destiny to perform on Broadway, so of course, Quinn would know. "I thought you'd be coming with me," she confessed. "Not…not going to Yale. Or Stanford?" Rachel could probably accept Quinn being a few hours away from her in New Haven for four precious years of their lives if she absolutely had to, but California was all the way across the county! And there were California girls in California! At least two songs to her immediate knowledge proclaimed them to be more desirable than any other girl. Damn Katy Perry and David Lee Roth!

Quinn swiveled Rachel's chair around to face her more fully, smiling reassuringly as she knelt down in front of her. She pried Rachel's hands away from the brochures and held them lightly between her own as she looked into Rachel's eyes. "I don't know where I'm going to college yet. My mom and I just sat down one night and signed up for all these mailing lists for the schools that I thought I might be interested in. I haven't made any decisions. I'm just," she paused, shrugging, "starting to think about the future, you know?"

Rachel swallowed and nodded. "Does that future include me?" Because whenever she imagined her own future now, Quinn was always front and center.

"Do you really have to ask?" Quinn responded. "Most of those schools are on the east coast, within driving distance of New York."

"But Stanford," Rachel reminded her.

Quinn's eyebrow inched up, and she let go of Rachel's hands and reached around her to the desk to unerringly find the Stanford brochure. She held it up in her hand, making sure that Rachel had a clear view of it when she ripped it in half with one, swift motion. "There," she exclaimed, tossing the torn halves into the waste basket under the desk. "No more Stanford."

Rachel's eyes widened at the cavalier dismissal of what she understood to be a really good college, and suddenly, she felt terrible. "Quinn. If…if you really want to go there, I…I don't want to hold you back."

Quinn chuckled, placing her warm palms on Rachel's thighs. "I think that's supposed to be my line," she quipped with a grin. "But I'm kind of leaning toward Yale or Columbia anyway."

She seemed sincere enough, so Rachel offered a tentative smile. "Columbia is right in Manhattan."

Quinn rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "Yeah, I know." She tilted her head to the side, eyeing Rachel thoughtfully as she quickly ran her tongue over her lips to moisten them. "Look, Rach, we've still got a year to figure all of this stuff out. No matter where we end up for college, the one thing that I know for certain right now is that I want you to be a part of my future as much as I want to be a part of yours."

"I want that too," Rachel breathed, cupping Quinn's cheek and leaning forward to brush a tender kiss over her lips.

"Then we'll make it happen," Quinn promised with a determined glint in her hazel eyes. "After all, we're both incredibly good at getting what we want." She lifted a hand up to the desk to reclaim the abandoned swimsuit and present it to Rachel. "Like me getting you into this bikini so I can get you out of it later."

Rachel laughed, shaking her head at Quinn's persistence. She pulled the bikini from Quinn's hand and examined it for the first time. "Really, Quinn?" she challenged skeptically, holding it up. "This bikini will fit me? It's practically dental floss."

Quinn flashed a devilish smile. "Mine's smaller."

Rachel's mouth went dry as she envisioned Quinn's perfect body clothed in practically nothing. "Why do I have the feeling that we're going to end up skinny dipping after all?"

"Well, you are a little bit psychic," Quinn teased, still smiling as she leaned in to capture Rachel's mouth and offer a taste of what she had planned for later.

Rachel silently acknowledged that Quinn was absolutely right—she was a little bit psychic because she could very clearly see exactly how today was going to play out. And Rachel's future had never looked better.

Chapter Text

 

"I would like to propose a toast to our dear Ms. Berry's triumphant return to the Broadway stage," Kurt announces, raising his Manhattan into the air over their tiny, crowded table in the corner of Call Backs.

"Off-Broadway," Rachel automatically corrects, but she can't keep the smile from her lips as she lifts her own glass. She feels good—better than she has in a very long time—with the rush of a perfect performance still buzzing in her veins, making her blood sing with excitement.

"Don't fuck it up this time," Santana adds, clinking her tequila against the rim of Rachel's wine glass.

Rachel's smile slips slightly at the blunt reminder of her first unfortunate foray into show-business, but then Brittany elbows her wife's side in silent chastisement and tells Rachel to, "Fuck your hot costar instead," immediately lightening the mood and drawing laughter from everyone. Well—almost everyone. Quinn's lips are curved into a frown, and Rachel's not sure if she's annoyed by Santana's initial comment, unamused by Brittany's crude suggestion, or slightly disgusted because Rachel's current hot costar happens to be a woman. Or maybe she's just not in the mood for jokes of a sexual nature after having ended her relationship with Noah once and for all.

"I think we've all learned from our youthful indiscretions," Blaine says, pulling Rachel's attention away from Quinn. He offers her a reassuring smile before he directs a more grateful one to Kurt and leans into him slightly. They've been married for nine months now, sharing the same anniversary with Brittany and Santana, and Blaine had certainly made his fair share of mistakes on both the personal and professional fronts before he'd finally gotten back on track, so Rachel does actually take some comfort from the knowledge that she isn't the only idiot who'd fucked up a good thing.

"Here's to us all moving onto bigger and better things," Rachel agrees with crooked smile.

Santana snickers. "Or smaller, hobbity things." The table rattles slightly and Santana barks, "Ouch. Damn it, Q!"

"Sorry. My foot must have slipped," Quinn explains with mock sweetness.

Santana's eyes narrow and her lips twist into a smirk. "Oh, you mean like that one time when your fingers slipped into my..." The table rattles again, and Santana's sentence ends abruptly on a disgruntled, "Ow," before she turns to her wife with a frown. "Britt?"

Brittany shrugs innocently. "Sorry, guess I slipped, too."

Laughing, Quinn picks up her drink and makes a point to catch Rachel's eyes before she echoes her toast with a husky, "Here's to us."

An odd little flutter happens in the pit of Rachel's stomach as she gazes into Quinn's eyes. She knows that Quinn is toasting their entire group of friends, but it feels more intimate somehow. Rachel smiles crookedly and lifts her own glass again, shaking herself out of her fanciful thoughts. They've been invading her mind more and more lately, ever since she and Quinn had started spending time together again—which just happens to have coincided with Rachel's return to New York. In fact, just last night, they'd fallen asleep together, sprawled across Rachel's bed, after talking into the early morning hours. And things like that are definitely a major contribution to those fanciful thoughts.

Rachel needs to get them out of her head, because she's certain that Quinn doesn't think of her that way. Well—nearly certain. Occasionally, she gets the sense that maybe—but, no. Quinn had seemed very happy with Noah, until she wasn't, that is. Of course, they'd spent more time apart than together, which Quinn has since admitted was part of the appeal, but nevertheless, she doesn't seem to be looking for another relationship at the moment and certainly not with Rachel. Well—probably not.

Really, it's a shame that Rachel had come around to the possibility of—how had Kitty phrased it last year?—going lesbian with a cheerleader too late to act on it with Quinn. She still has the urge to slap Santana for being in the right place at the right time to reap the benefits of Quinn's very brief dalliance with college experimentation. Luckily, Brittany usually does it for her whenever the subject comes up.

And Rachel really needs to stop thinking about all of this again.

They're here to celebrate her success. With alcohol and terrible karaoke.

And speaking of alcohol, "Another round for my friends," Rachel calls out to the waitress as she passes by.

"Now you're speaking my language," Santana approves, downing the rest of her drink to make room for the next.

Brittany's brows furrow. "I thought Spanish was your language."

"That and tequila," Santana declares with a nod, "so keep 'em coming, Second Hand Rose."

Rachel only shakes her head at the benign epithet, but Brittany leans closer to her wife, flatly reminding her that, "Her name is Rachel."

"I know. It's…" Santana begins to explain before she changes her mind, "not important," she dismisses, taking advantage of Brittany's proximity to lean in and catch her wife's mouth in a (relatively) chaste kiss.

A fond smile dances across Quinn's lips as she turns her gaze away from the happy couple to look at Rachel. "So how does it feel to be back on top?" she asks.

"I wouldn't say I'm there yet," Rachel demurs. Once upon a time—possibly last year—such a statement would have been false modesty, but after, as Santana had so colorfully pointed out, fucking up her last opportunity so badly, she really isn't taking anything for granted.

"But you will be. You were amazing tonight," Quinn assures her with unabashed pride. "I'm so glad I was here to see it."

"I'm so glad you're here too, Quinn," Rachel gushes with perhaps a tad bit too much affection, instantly blushing when she registers the almost dreamy quality of her voice. She quickly pulls her eyes away from Quinn, clearing her throat self-consciously before she adds, "All of you," in an attempt to downplay her momentary distraction.

Santana, having pulled herself away from Brittany, rolls her eyes. "Like we ever would have heard the end of it if we'd missed it."

Brittany nods in agreement. "You reminded me twenty-eight times that I didn't come to your last one, but I didn't like you nearly as much then."

Rachel frowns, and Kurt shakes his head. "Don't listen to them, Rachel. There's nowhere else we'd rather be tonight."

"I can think of a few places," Santana says, grinning wickedly at her wife.

Quinn rolls her eyes, reaching for her glass. "Keep them to yourself, please. Some of us are actually here to celebrate Rachel's success, not your sex life."

"Our sex life is pretty awesome," Brittany announces. "It really should be celebrated."

Santana barks out a laugh, lifting her newly refilled glass thanks to their exceptional waitress. "Here's to awesome sex," she cheers. "Sucks that you two aren't having any."

Rachel's mind instantly connects Santana's catty observation to an image of herself and Quinn and sex being had together, and her mouth goes dry. "We…we're," she stammers, grasping for an appropriate rebuttal.

"Pathetically single," Santana finishes for her with a smirk.

"We're not pathetic," Rachel argues heatedly. "We're merely waiting for the right person. Isn't that right, Quinn?" she asks, glancing at Quinn with an encouraging smile in the hope of lobbying some support. But Quinn is staring down at the table, chewing on the corner of her lip.

"Quinn?" Rachel prompts with a frown.

"Yeah," Quinn breathes out, glancing away. "The right person," she agrees quietly. Rachel really hopes that she isn't thinking about Noah.

"Oh, please," Santana scoffs. "You're both young and hot. You should be jumping on Mister Right Now while you wait." She flashes an evil smile. "Or Miss Right Now."

"But if you miss right now, you'd be missing me and San make the whole place want us when we do it on the stage," Brittany tells them with a grin.

Santana practically chokes on her tequila, slamming her glass back on the table and lifting her other hand to catch the liquor dribbling out of her mouth. Brittany frowns and reaches over to pat her on the back.

"You mean a duet, right?" Kurt asks warily.

Brittany rolls her eyes. "Yeah. That's what I said." She turns to her wife with an eager smile. "Come on, San. I want to sing something sexy with you."

Clearing her throat, Santana takes a breath, looking as if she's about to protest, but the hopeful expression on Brittany's face stops her short, and she sighs. "Let's go see what they have to choose from," she relents, though the offer is noticeably lacking in enthusiasm. Brittany, however, doesn't seem to mind, and she bounces up from the table, grabbing Santana's hand and tugging her along.

"My glass better be full when I get back," she calls out over her shoulder.

Kurt grins, raising his hand and snapping his wrist in a whipping motion as he makes the appropriate sound effect.

"Don't be so cocky," Blaine warns him with a grin of his own. "I plan to get you up there before the night is over."

Kurt shrugs. "I have no objections to that. You know how I love the spotlight."

Soon enough, Brittany and Santana are on the stage, and true to her word, Brittany is leading her wife into a duet of "Can't Remember To Forget You" with all the pronouns changed appropriately and sexy choreography that catches the attention of everyone in the bar.

"Oh, my," Rachel breathes appreciatively. "They're certainly throwing themselves into their performance."

Quinn's eyes are on their friends as well, and she hums in agreement. "Hopefully, they'll keep their clothes on. Brittany does have a few drinks in her already."

Rachel snorts out a laugh at the reminder of Brittany's youthful indiscretions, immediately covering her mouth in embarrassment. "This isn't high school anymore," she chides.

Quinn turns to gaze at her with an odd expression. "No. It really isn't."

Rachel wants to question whether the statement has some deeper meaning, but Quinn is already turning back to the stage to cheer on Brittany and Santana, so Rachel does the same, and the moment passes.

As the evening progresses, Blaine does get Kurt onto the stage as well, and the waitress keeps filling everyone's glasses with their alcohol of choice until Rachel is feeling more than a little buzzed. Of course, that doesn't stop her from taking a turn on stage, belting out a superb (if she does say so herself) rendition of Pat Benatar's, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot."

Quinn excuses herself to the restroom shortly after Rachel sits back down, but she doesn't think anything of it, falling back into conversation with Kurt. She's barely paying attention to the music playing in the background—something slow and mellow—until she registers the soft, smoky voice, and her head whips around to stare at the stage in disbelief.

Quinn is standing behind the microphone, one trembling hand resting on the stand and eyes cast down to the floor as she sings.

"I watched you sleeping quietly in my bed.
You don't know this now,
but there's some things that need to be said.
And it's all that I can hear.
It's more than I can bear."

Just then, Quinn's gaze comes up and unerringly finds Rachel in the audience, and Rachel nearly loses her breath at what she thinks she sees there.

"What if I fall and hurt myself?
Would you know how to fix me?
What if I went and lost myself?
Would you know where to find me?
If I forgot who I am,
would you please remind me?

"Oh 'cause without you things go hazy."

Rachel might be a little bit tipsy, but it very much feels like Quinn is singing this song to her and only her. Her eyes widen in realization at the thought, and she watches Quinn's gaze nervously dart away as she repeats the chorus, but halfway through it, those hazel eyes are drawn back to Rachel like a magnet. Rachel thinks of last night, of the intimate conversation and the easy touch of hands that sought each other's skin with perhaps a bit more frequency than expected of a simple friendship. Nothing about her relationship with Quinn has ever been simple.

Rachel is still frozen with the shock of realization when the last notes of Quinn's impromptu performance fade. The bar erupts in applause, and Quinn ducks her head, giving an uncertain nod before she rushes off the stage—and right out of the bar.

A hard shove to her shoulder tips Rachel off balance, and she turns her head in hazy confusion to find Santana scowling at her. "What are you waiting for, Berry? Get off your ass and go after her," she demands.

"B-but…? What just happened?" she asks dumbly.

Santana rolls her eyes as Brittany shakes her head in pity. "Please tell me you're not really that clueless," Santana hisses.

"It really has been coming for a while now," Kurt agrees. "You should let her down gently," he suggests sympathetically.

"Or...you know, not," Brittany counters. "Because you've been making moony eyes at her forever, and now's your chance to get some sweet, lady kisses of your own."

"If you get off your ass and go after her," Santana repeats heatedly. "Before she does something stupid, like take home some guy with a mohawk to forget you."

The shock of Santana's words have Rachel stumbling out of her chair, heedless to the fact that she's practically tipped it over, and running for the door. The blast of chilly air that greets her once she's outside finishes sobering her up, and she frantically looks around for Quinn.

She doesn't have to look very far. Quinn is standing just down the block with her back leaning against the building, head bowed and faced pressed into her hands. Rachel takes in the sight of her, feeling her heart twist and lurch and race in Quinn's direction. Every complicated moment of their past, present, and future collide to create a startlingly clear vision, and Rachel knows exactly what she needs to do.

Walking over to Quinn, she leans against the wall next to her, mirroring her stance, though her eyes never leave Quinn's profile.

"I know how to fix you," she says into the silence.

Quinn inhales sharply, dropping her hands but not lifting her head.

"And I know where to find you," Rachel adds with a soft smile, watching as Quinn finally looks up at her with questioning eyes. "And I'll always remind you," she promises.

"Rachel?"

"You're Quinn Fabray," Rachel continues without hesitation. "The prettiest girl I've ever met, but you're a lot more than that." Moistening her lips, Rachel turns to Quinn, reaching down to grasp her hand. "And...if...if you meant what you sang in there, I think...I'd like to see if you can be even more than that to me."

Quinn chokes back a silent sob, nodding in disbelief. "I meant it."

Rachel smiles, tugging Quinn's hand until they're standing close. "As much as I appreciate dramatic, musical confessions, you could have just said something."

Quinn shrugs. "I'm saying it now." She lifts her free hand to gently cup Rachel's cheek. "Without you, things go hazy."

Rachel chuckles, leaning in. "Then let me make it clear," she whispers in the moment before their lips meet for the first time.

Around them, there is nothing but clear skies and brilliant, bright stars.

Chapter Text

Rachel is trying her best not to zone out of a conversation with Gary, one of the writers of Quinn’s show, Fate Accompli. It’s currently heading into its fifth season, and frankly, Rachel thinks the writing is getting a little lazy, but Quinn is still under contract until next year, so she’s still obligated to come to the Upfronts and tell everyone how much she still loves the show even though her film career is really taking off now. And since Quinn is obligated to be here, Rachel is obligated to be at her side. Well, mostly at her side.

Quinn does have press to do, after all, so Rachel does her best to keep herself entertained in the meantime. Sadly, the conversation with Gary isn’t quite cutting it tonight. Her eyes are busily scanning the crowd in search of her wife while one ear vaguely follows Gary’s dissertation on his own brilliance when she finally spots Quinn - with Ben Easton’s slimy arm looped around her shoulder as they talk to a reporter.

Growling, Rachel barely manages a clipped, “Excuse me,” to Gary before she’s marching across the room.

She’s not jealous. She’s just really, really annoyed with that over-gelled, oversexed, egomaniac touching her wife.

Again.

As Rachel approaches, she can see the discomfort radiating off of Quinn’s tense body as she hears Ben’s smarmy voice telling the reporter, “Everyone is rooting for David and Casey to get back together. Dasey forever,” he recites with a wide smile and an irritating wink to the camera in front of them.

“Can your fans take that as a promise?” the reporter asks Quinn with a lilt of humor in her voice.

Rachel watches her wife smile - that fake, too-sweet smile meant to lead people into a false sense of security. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” she teases in saccharine tones.  “David will have to do some major groveling to get back into Casey’s good graces. All I can say is keep watching.”  

And really, Rachel knows the plan - as of right now at least - is actually for Casey to get a new love interest this season because Quinn hates working with Ben, and the producers want to keep her happy in the hopes of maybe convincing her to extend her contract.

She isn’t planning to. There are too many potential film roles coming Quinn’s way.

Rachel, conscious of being in a professional environment, barely waits until the reporter thanks the duo and the camera turns away before she moves  - just as Quinn shrugs Ben’s arm off her shoulder with a scowl.  

“Aw, don’t be like that, babe,” he coos.

“I’m not your babe,” Quinn snaps, taking an extra step away from him now that she’s able.

“She’s mine,” Rachel reminds him testily, sliding into Quinn’s side and slipping an arm around her waist - happy to feel Quinn reciprocate before leaning into her. “And I happen to know that my wife has repeatedly asked you to stay in your own personal space when you’re not specifically filming a scene between your characters. Is there a reason that you keep failing to comply with her request?”

Ben rolls his eyes. “Please. I’m just playing it up for the cameras. It’s no big thing.”

“Funny. That’s what I’ve heard about a certain part of your anatomy,” Rachel muses with smirk. “Candy, wasn’t it?” she asks, glancing up at Quinn.

Quinn laughs, shaking her head. “It was Sandy , sweetheart,” she corrects gently. “Also Paula. And Carrie. And just about every female extra who’s ever been on set.”

“Fuck you both,” Ben hisses lowly.

“No, thank you,” Rachel declines politely. “Apparently, you’re not very good at it.”

He flips them off before spinning on his heel and stalking away, chased by the music of Quinn’s laughter. The arm around Rachel’s waist tightens a bit as Quinn gazes down at her. “You really shouldn’t have done that,” she scolds, though not very convincingly. “I still have to work with him, though thankfully not as often.”

Rachel scoffs. “I’m surprised he still has a job. He obviously doesn’t take direction very well.”

“He’s an ass, but I can handle him, Rach.”

Rachel frowns. “It’s him handling you that I have a problem with.”

Quinn grins indulgently at the appearance of Rachel’s (mostly tamed) possessive streak. “You’re cute when you get all protective, but you know you’re the only one whose hands I want on me.”

Rachel’s frown morphs into a sexy smile. “I can oblige you on that just as soon as we get out of here.”

Quinn quirks an eyebrow. “Oh? Is that a promise?”

Rachel leans up and brushes her lips over her wife’s grinning mouth. “Dasey For Never,” she whispers when she pulls back. “Faberry Forever.”

Chapter Text

It's a celebration, he reminds himself, swirling the cognac in his glass as he observes them from across the room.

They've all converged here at the new and improved Breadsticks (now featuring a bar to drown one's plebeian sorrows) after attending the dedication of the Finn Hudson Auditorium. Jesse snorts quietly into his drink. No disrespect to the dead, of course, but a high school auditorium in Lima, Ohio is rather apropos for a performer of Finn's caliber. That is to say—thoroughly small town. God forbid he ever say that out loud, especially in front of his wife, because of course, Rachel had needed to be here for this, and so had Kurt and Blaine despite just having become fathers two months ago. They'd even dragged baby Dalton (and really, could that name be any more ridiculous?) along for the trip, much to Jesse's chagrin.

Oh, Dalton is a perfectly nice baby, he supposes. Objectively speaking, he's not bad looking as far as babies go, and blissfully quiet at the moment—which has so far proven to be fairly rare—but that could be because he's currently cradled in Quinn Fabray's arms. Most males are easily rendered docile by Quinn Fabray—and a goodly number of the women too.

Kurt and Blaine seem content to let Quinn have her time with the baby. After all, she's half the reason they have him thanks to her generous (insane, but then all of these people are insane) donation. Of course, it's more accurate to say that Quinn is a third of the reason they have him—the second third being Blaine's little swimmers and the third third being his own lovely wife who'd rented out her womb to facilitate his development. No—strike that. Renting it would imply that Rachel had received some form of compensation for wasting nine months of her life—their life!—on a pregnancy that's done nothing but leave her depressed and distant and out of work with ten extra pounds and unsightly stretchmarks. At least Jesse had managed to get her the one Tony before she'd torpedoed her career. Again!

And of course, Rachel is exactly where he would expect her to be right now—attached to Quinn's side and cooing over that baby like he belongs to them. He doesn't! Despite having half of Quinn's genes and being carried around for nine, long, uncomfortable months inside of Rachel's body, Dalton belongs exclusively to Kurt and Blaine.

He's wondering more and more if Rachel actually realizes that. She's certainly been hovering over them and the baby like a new mother would, attempting to influence decisions that Kurt and Blaine should be making. At least Quinn seems suitably detached—more like a cool aunt who visits occasionally with expensive gifts—though Rachel is doing her best drag Quinn further into 'the family' than he suspects she wants to be. For some reason, Jesse has noticed that Quinn can't seem to say no to his wife. Oh, she tries, of course, but eventually she just seems to cave right in to whatever crazy thing Rachel asks her to do—like being in the delivery room for Dalton's birth along with Kurt and Blaine.

Jesse had been left outside in the waiting room.

He also can't seem to say no to his wife—unless he's directing her, of course, because he rightfully deserves to have his way in the theatre.

He's suffered through all of this—the pregnancy, the mood swings, the weight gain, the strange need to call Quinn for advice or pregnancy comparisons or whatever the hell they've talked about at least once a week for the better part of the last year—because he loves Rachel and he's a supportive husband. He's supported her despite her determination to sabotage her promising career at every turn, her unaccountable attachment to certain unworthy people in her life, and her stubborn determination to get her way even when her way is absolutely the wrong way.

Now the baby is born and Kurt and Blaine have their family and Quinn has her flourishing career in Los Angeles and Rachel is (slowly) getting her body back, so shouldn't Jesse finally be able to have his wife to himself again? They should be happy together instead of just pretending to be happy in front of all of their friends.

Rachel certainly looks happy right now, he thinks darkly as he observes the way she smiles at Quinn and the baby; the way she leans closer into Quinn's space and rests one hand on her shoulder while she reaches over to stroke a gentle finger across Dalton's cheek; the way her gaze moves from the baby to Quinn and Quinn's soft expression as she gazes back with a tender smile.

A sharp stab of pain pierces his heart as he watches them, and his mind whispers the taunting reminder that his wife had wanted to wait several more years to start a family with him but couldn't volunteer fast enough to carry Quinn Fabray's baby.

"She might as well be married to her instead," he mutters.

Unable to watch them any longer, Jesse slams his glass down on the bar top and executes his far superior storm out. He doubts his wife even notices—a theory proven correct when no one comes after him.

He gives her five minutes.

Then he gives her ten.

Jesse runs his hand through his curly hair with a tired sigh when he remains alone in the parking lot, knowing it's past time that he and Rachel have a serious talk.

Chapter Text

And I'm calling all angels
I'm calling all you angels
~Train


She's been given many names in many languages through the centuries. It's a decidedly human habit that She has no interest in partaking in, even if Rachel Berry's excitable guardian rather proudly answers to Angel. Angel has taken to addressing Her as Seraphina for some unfathomable reason—the other guardian is simply far too attached to her charges and their human ways. It's the persistently irritating repetition of that name being sent out into the ether that has Her finally appearing at Angel's side with an irritated sigh.

"I've asked you not to call me that," She grumbles.

If Angel had eyes in the traditional sense, She knows they'd be rolling right now. "I suppose you'd prefer me to address you as Quinn's Elusive Guardian."

"I'd prefer you not to address me at all," She grumbles. "And I'm not elusive." She's merely been doing this for a few centuries longer than Angel and has learned that constantly hovering over the humans really does them no good in the long run.

"If you say so," Angel responds skeptically.

She sighs again. "I sense no imminent danger to my charge. So what is so important that you summoned me here?"

"Don't pretend that you're not secretly just as thrilled as I am that our charges are finally following their destiny. Just look at them," Angel urges, sweeping a wing toward their two humans.

Quinn is practically gliding down the staircase on a cloud of happiness with a wider and more genuine smile than any her guardian has ever seen on her lovely face. At the bottom of the staircase, Rachel Berry is beaming up at her with a clear box in her hands, inside of which is a gardenia wrapped with a light green ribbon.

And She has to admit, She is relieved to see Quinn so happy and alive. Quinn's destiny had been somewhat hazy for a time—an anomaly caused by the delicate balance that hinges upon human freewill and the choices they make. One path had ended abruptly while the other branched off into far too many smaller paths to be seen clearly.

Until Angel had intervened.

She still can't believe that Rachel's guardian had managed to pull that off without being reprimanded, but She's secretly (very secretly and will never admit to any being in this plane or any other) grateful that Angel had taken matters into her own wings.

She indulges herself (only for a moment) with watching their charges. Quinn is lovely in a violet gown standing next to Rachel in gold, and Quinn's mother, who is being unexpectedly supportive of her daughter (because Judy's guardian is being a bit more attentive to Judy) these days, has slipped away to give them their privacy—something Angel doesn't seem to feel the need to do.

"You look beautiful," Rachel murmurs reverently, smiling shyly at Quinn, who flushes with pleasure.

"So do you," Quinn tells her with obvious appreciation sparkling in her eyes.

The thread that binds them glows brightly, seeming to pull them closer. Angel bounces in the air next to her, fluttering her wings in celebration. The box in Rachel's hands brushes against Quinn's body before they can act out any human mating rituals, and Rachel stops with an embarrassed giggle. "I got you a corsage," she announces, lifting off the lid and offering up the single flower.

Quinn bites into her lip as she gazes at it. "A gardenia," she whispers, glancing up at Rachel with awe. "It was you," she realizes. "You told him what to get last year."

"She means the Tall Boy," Angel points out needlessly, bumping Her with a wing as if She hadn't been checking in on Quinn at all last year.

Rachel nods. "I…he wasn't always very good at the little things, and," she pauses, gazing at Quinn with tenderness, "even with the way things were between us then, I wanted to make sure you had a perfect night. I wanted you to be happy, Quinn."

Moisture pools in Quinn's eyes, and she steps into Rachel, lifting a hand to cup her cheek. "I'm happy now," she vows, leaning forward to brush her lips over Rachel's in a soft kiss. Angel flaps her wings in celebration.

"Me too," Rachel whispers when they part. She reaches up to gently curl her fingers around Quinn's wrist before bringing it down to slip on the corsage, stroking the flower absently with her finger. "I can't believe I'm taking the head cheerleader to prom," she muses with an almost smug grin.

"You're not," Quinn argues, slipping her arms around Rachel's waist. "You're taking me. Lucy Quinn Fabray. The girl you gave your cotton candy to at the fair when we were kids. The girl you stopped your ill-advised teen wedding for…"

"The prettiest girl I've ever met," Rachel interrupts with a grin.

Quinn's smile softens. "The girl who loves you."

Angel practically flies through the ceiling at the quiet confession, but She continues to watch their charges. She watches the way Rachel's breath catches as she stares up at Quinn with wide eyes, and the way Quinn's smile trembles around the edges as she nervously awaits a response. "Tell her you feel the same way, Rachel," She urges thoughtlessly before quickly pressing a hand to her lips, surprised She would let herself slip that way.

"The girl I love," Rachel says almost immediately, and Angel falls back to Her side with a gasp, staring at her charge before turning to stare at Her.

"Yeah?" Quinn whispers hopefully.

"Yes," Rachel confirms without hesitation. "Of course, yes." It's her turn to lift her hand to Quinn's cheek, gently stroking the skin. "I love you, Lucy Quinn Fabray."

Quinn's smile is brilliant. "I love you too, Rachel Berry," she says before dipping head to claim another kiss.

"You got her to say it," Angel accuses, pointing a wing at her. "I can't believe she listened to you."

"It was a coincidence," She dismisses easily. "They don't need us to make them voice what they're so obviously feeling. Now if you'll excuse me," She says as she spreads her wings, ignoring the feathers flying off of Angel in her irritation, "I do have other charges to watch over."

She allows herself an indulgent smile as she steals one more look at Quinn, whose destiny suddenly snaps into perfect focus, irrevocably joined with Rachel's. Despite the certainty that She won't be escaping from Angel for a very long human lifetime, for the first time since She'd been assigned to Quinn Fabray, She knows that her charge is going to be just fine.

Chapter Text

"Okay, listen up everyone,” Mr Schuester calls out, clapping his hands as he stands in front of the room. “Rachel has a song she wants to share.”

 

Chapter Text

Rachel attempts to distract herself from the embarrassment of having the entire glee club discover that she has unrequited feelings for Quinn and the disappointment of Quinn’s indifference by focusing on the final preparation for Nationals. She might also use Jesse as a shield to protect her from another heartbreaking confrontation with Quinn or a generally frustrating one with Finn.   

She’s acutely aware of the narrowed eyes and calculating expressions that Quinn keeps sending her way, but she’s relieved that Quinn hasn’t outright attempted to humiliate her publicly yet. She’s less relieved that Finn suddenly seems to want her back again–because she knows that Quinn already has enough reasons to be angry with her. The explosion is inevitable, but Rachel is attempting to defuse it to the best of her abilities--mostly by avoiding Quinn and Finn.

She really didn’t mean to make it so obvious that she has feelings for Quinn. She'd just wanted to share her newly realized sexuality with her fellow glee clubbers so she’d be free to–well, to explore said sexuality. In retrospect, she probably shouldn’t have made her announcement in song. That always seems to get her into trouble. 

It’s also gotten her a lot of unexpected attention from Tina–which is frankly just weird. Although she has to admit that she’s flattered by it. 

It should be easier to keep from wallowing in thoughts of her dismal lovelife once they’re in New York, but she finds it even more difficult to avoid Tina's sudden salaciousness and Finn’s hopeful pleas for a date and Quinn constantly staring at Rachel like she wants to dissect her. 

It’s in the attempt to avoid those very things, sitting in a hidden corner of the hotel’s lobby where she’s trying to compose a last minute original song, that Quinn Fabray finally tracks her down, slipping into the chair adjacent to her. 

Rachel sits up at attention, eyes wide as she stares at Quinn. Her fight or flight instincts are going haywire. Part of her wants to run–to keep avoiding this conversation like the fragile, easily broken girl she can be–but a bigger part of her wants to sink down to her knees and sing another song, bearing her heart and begging Quinn to give her a chance. 

Quinn is just so, so impossibly pretty. 

It’s not like Rachel doesn’t realize that her feelings for Quinn are ridiculously hopeless and more than a little masochistic. She really wishes that she could have stayed in the dark about them, kept believing that it’s always been Finn who’s held her heart, but when she’d chased after Quinn at prom, basically forgetting all about Finn or the fact that he’d been kicked out in her need to make sure Quinn was okay–well, it had forced Rachel to ask herself a few hard questions about why she’d gone after the girl and not the boy. 

The answer had changed her entire life, but she’s under no delusion that it will change anything between her and Quinn. Well–she supposes it might actually manage to make things worse. 

“You’ve been avoiding me,” Quinn accuses with a frown, crossing her arms. 

Rachel frowns right back at her, confused. “I…I thought you’d prefer it after,” she trails off, dropping her eyes from Quinn’s intense gaze. “Well, after my ill-advised song selection.”

Quinn’s frown somehow manages to deepen. “You’re so annoying.”

Rachel’s heart aches at the expected insult. “I’m sorry.”

Quinn huffs in frustration. “Yeah. You should be. First you sing at me. Then you avoid me. Then you hang all over Jesse St. Jackass and let Tina flirt with you! That is not how you show a woman you love her, Rachel. What happened to all those damn promises in your song?”

Rachel’s eyes fly back to Quinn in surprised confusion. “Huh?”

Quinn sighs, face softening. “I dumped Finn. Didn’t you even wonder why?”

“I…I thought he broke up with you,” Rachel mutters, perplexed. “That’s what he said when he tried to ask me out again.”

Quinn growls at the information, looking pissed. “Bastard.” She shakes her head. “And you’re an idiot.”

“Excuse me?” Rachel asks, offended. 

“When you confess to a woman in song that you see your unborn children in her eyes,” her voice cracks tellingly over the words, “and then you don’t immediately try to woo her when she breaks up with her boyfriend, she might start to think you didn’t mean any of it.”

Rachel shakes her head slowly, not fully comprehending anything she'd just heard. “Wait. I’m confused. Are you.....are you saying that you…you wanted me to…to woo you?” she stutters out in complete bewilderment. 

Quinn’s lips curve into a mysterious smirk, and Rachel’s heart begins to race. “I want you to finish what you started,” she husks, arching an eyebrow in challenge.  

“You do?” Rachel squeaks, hardly able to believe that Quinn might actually want her to–to–  

Smirk still in place, Quinn stands up and smoothes down the skirt of her dress before she plants her hands on the armrests of Rachel’s chair and leans into her space. Rachel presses against the back of the chair with wide eyes and a suddenly dry mouth, completely surrounded by the scent of Quinn’s perfume and the enticing heat of her body. 

“We have a lot we need to talk about, Rachel. So you’re going to tell Jesse and Finn to take a hike, remind Tina that she has a boyfriend,” Quinn practically growls, “and stop avoiding me so we can…” She leans even closer, close enough for her lips to nearly (but not quite) brush against Rachel’s. “Talk.” 

Rachel bites back a moan at the feel of Quinn’s breath tickling her lips, and her tongue darts out to unconsciously lick them as Quinn pulls back. She blinks up at Quinn in a stunned daze. “I…I can talk,” she all but whispers, nodding stupidly. 

Quinn giggles then, light and airy, and it’s enough to give Rachel’s heart wings. “Oh, I know you can,” she teases, the softness of her gaze erasing any bite that might otherwise have been in the words. “You can sing too,” she adds sweetly. “Anytime you want.”

A breathless laugh escapes Rachel as she gazes up at Quinn in wonder. “You realize that I’ll absolutely take that as an invitation, Quinn.”

“I know,” Quinn confirms with a wink. “And if you play your cards right, I might even sing back.”

It’s not a confession of love–not yet–but it’s more than Rachel ever expected from Quinn. It’s an opportunity, and Rachel Berry is damn well going to grab onto it with both hands. 

Chapter Text

They don't win Nationals.

They don't even place after Finn Hudson's monumentally stupid attempt to kiss Rachel on stage at the end of their ill-advised duet. Rachel hadn't reacted quite quickly enough to dodge it completely, which had only made her effort to duck away from his unwanted attention even more obvious to the judges.

Santana had nearly ripped Finn apart as soon as they'd gotten off stage, and Quinn suspects her anger and disgust wasn't entirely on her own behalf. She's seemed oddly less antagonistic to Rachel ever since Rachel had come out to them—or maybe it's not odd at all. Maybe Santana actually feels an unexpected kinship with Rachel now over their mutual attraction to the ladies (even if Santana still isn't outright admitting what everyone already knows). Or maybe she just feels sorry for Rachel for nursing a hopelessly unrequited crush on Quinn.

Quinn wonders what Santana would think if she knew that Rachel's crush wasn't as hopeless as everyone believes.

All that Quinn knows for certain is that she hasn't been able to stop thinking about Rachel since she'd serenaded her in glee, and she'd grown more and more impatient and irritated every time that Rachel had scurried away from her in the hallways or sat across the room from her in their shared classes or suddenly decided that she absolutely had to hang all over Jesse St. James everytime that Quinn tried to approach her in glee. So, of course, Quinn had needed to make it clear to Rachel that she expects her to stop acting like a frightened little mouse and start acting like—well, like Rachel fucking Berry. Really? If Rachel has a thing for Quinn, then Quinn should get the same treatment as the boys in the form of thoughtful gifts left in her locker and weird couple's calendars and loud, dramatic (and often musical) declarations of Rachel's undying affection and loyalty.

What Quinn does get immediately following the kiss that missed, surreptitiously tucked into her duffle bag in their shared hotel room, is a foil-wrapped Hershey's kiss (undoubtedly from the craft services table that had been set up for the competing show choirs) taped to a handwritten note that says, 'I'm sorry. Your lips are the only ones I want to kiss.'

Quinn feels a rush of warmth spread from her chest all the way up to the tips of her ears, and her eyes dart around the room in search of Rachel, only to be disappointed that she hasn't made her way back yet. Well, Quinn supposes that she'd actually beaten them all here before slipping away again to sulk in private over their loss. She doesn't see Kurt anywhere either, and he's been crashing in the girl's room with them.

Quinn gazes down at the note again, palming the candy kiss and catching her lip between her teeth to contain her grin—a grin that instantly disappears when Santana drops onto the mattress in front of her with a frown.

"That better not be some pathetic love note from Finnvasive." Quinn tucks it protectively against her chest. Santana's eyes narrow on the motion, but she doesn't make a grab for it. "It'd be just his style to come crawling back to you now that Berry dodged his slobbery advances in front of a thousand witnesses."

"I don't think there were that many people there today," Mercedes muses, rummaging around in her own suitcase for something or other.

"Enough for a well deserved public humiliation," Santana scoffs, crossing her arms. "If I was Berry, I'd've slapped him for trying that shit."

"Rachel is a professional," Tina chimes in with a dreamy, little smile. "I think she handled it the best way she could under the circumstances."

"You would," Quinn mutters under her breath, sending a glare her way.

"What was that, Quinnie?" Santana needles. "Why don't you share with the class?"

Quinn turns her glare on Santana. "Finn is an ass," is all she bothers to say.

Santana snickers. "True 'dat."

"He totally didn't pay attention to his cues," Brittany adds, throwing herself across the bed beside Santana. "Rachel's all about the sweet lady kisses now." She smiles at Santana, who blushes tellingly before glancing away.

"Which is still all kinds of weird, if you ask me," Mercedes says, shaking her head.

"No one did," Santana snaps.

Mercedes holds up her hands defensively. "Hey, I just mean that she's been moonin' over Finn for two years and all of a sudden she's singin' a love song to," she trails off with an embarrassed look towards Quinn. They all know who Rachel was singing to, but it's a truth that no one but Santana has been brave enough to say out loud in Quinn's presence.

"I'm surprised you're handling that so well," Santana muses with a smirk.

Quinn shrugs, mentally putting on her cool indifference like the mask it is. "It's hardly her fault that I'm irresistible."

Santana barks out a laugh. "You wish, Blondie."

"I'm sure Rachel will find someone else to focus her attention on soon enough," Tina offers with what Quinn supposes is meant to be a reassuring smile—it looks fake to Quinn.

"I guess you'd better make sure it isn't Mike," she warns Tina cattily.

Tina's brows furrow in confusion, but whatever she might have said is lost to the awkward silence that descends on the room when Rachel and Kurt step inside.

"What did we miss?" Kurt asks suspiciously after no one says anything for a solid thirty seconds.

Santana rolls her eyes. "Just our pity party for coming in twelfth."

Rachel whimpers, shrinking into herself. "I'm sorry," she whispers, her eyes cast down to the floor as Kurt wraps an arm around her and gives her a comforting squeeze.

Tina reaches out to touch Rachel's arm with a sympathetic smile. "It wasn't your fault."

"It was Finn's," Quinn grits out, scowling at Tina.

"Don't sweat it, midget," Santana dismisses with a bored wave of her hand. Rachel glances at her in surprise before gazing around the room, as if to make sure no one else is actually blaming her for this. When her eyes finally settle on Quinn, Quinn offers her a meaningful smile, subtly motioning to the note still cradled against her torso. Rachel's eyes dart down and then back up, and Quinn knows she's gotten the message by the shy smile on her face.

They don't talk about it. They can't. They don't really have a moment where they can be alone for the rest of the night or the next morning when they're all rushing for the airport and then stuck together on a long bus ride of listening to Santana take shots at Finn while Finn constantly whines about it and Mr. Schuester yells at them all to remember they're a team.

And then Quinn is being whisked home by her mother, and even if she is entertaining the notion of letting Rachel Berry woo her, she's so not letting her mother clue into anything that's going on in her head right now.

But it becomes very clear on Monday morning that Rachel has taken Quinn's encouragement and run with it. There's a gardenia with a green ribbon tied into a bow waiting for Quinn inside her locker, which is just more proof that Rachel had been the one responsible for Quinn's prom corsage.

A fact that's confirmed when Quinn tracks down Rachel in the bathroom to ask her about the flower. 

"I wanted you to have a perfect night," she admits, picking nervously at the strap of her bag.

Quinn smiles, charmed by the admission. "Because you...like me?"

Rachel swallows nervously, nods once. "And because Finn didn't seem to be very enthusiastic about something that was obviously important to you."

Quinn rolls her eyes. "I don't want to talk about him. I want to know how long you've liked me." Because this whole thing has seemed a little sudden and out of the blue. Mercedes hadn't been wrong about that.

Rachel catches her lower lip between her teeth and shrugs, looking mildly perplexed. "I'm not entirely sure. I think it's been happening for a while, but I failed to take note of it until…" Her cheeks turn a little pink. "Well, until I just did."

Quinn shakes her head, a bit perplexed herself. "I don't understand how you could. I've generally been awful to you." She'd slapped her at prom, for God's sake. "Unless...I mean, I get it if it's just a physical thing." It wouldn't be the first time Quinn had been the object of someone's dirty fantasies and it won't be the last. She's hot and she knows it. It's only natural for people who like girls to desire her. And yet the thought of that being all this is for Rachel bothers her more than she can put into words.

"That's not it," Rachel quickly denies, frowning adorably—as if she's angry at Quinn for even suggesting it. "I mean, it's obviously a factor. You're impossibly beautiful." And she blushes again, turning positively red. "But…" She runs her tongue across her lips (and why is Quinn only just noticing how often she does that and how sexy it is?) and takes a breath while she composes her thoughts. "When I told you that you're a lot more than that, I meant it, Quinn. You're smart and resilient and so much kinder than you give yourself credit for. Every time you've let me catch a small glimpse of the person you really are, I've only wanted to know more." She glances down to the floor, looking suddenly shy again. "I want to know you. To know who you are and what you're thinking. And I'm honestly not sure if I've ever cared enough to really know that about anyone else."

Quinn nearly loses her breath at that. "Not even Finn?"

Rachel huffs out a silent laugh. "I thought I did at one point, obviously, but the discovery of who Finn Hudson really is left something to be desired." She shrugs a little sadly. "I'm afraid there was only so much interest I could muster for video games and football."

Quinn bites back her smile. "How do you know the same thing won't happen with me?"

"I don't," Rachel concedes. "But I've seen the books you read for pleasure, so I suspect that you're going to keep me interested in knowing more about you for quite some time."

"More than just what it's like to kiss me?" Quinn husks, stepping closer.

Rachel's eyes widen, and she inhales sharply through her nose. "Did Finn tell you?"

Quinn frowns in confusion. "Tell me what?"

"That I asked him…" She cuts herself off, realization sparking in her eyes. "You were referring to the note, weren't you?"

Quinn's confusion disappears, and she grins ferally. Because she is smart, and she knows exactly what Rachel was about to say. "Did you ask Finn what it was like to kiss me?"

Rachel doesn't answer, but her blush does. "Why are you being so open to this? You should be telling me to stay away from you."

She probably should be, but she isn't going to. "I guess that's just one of those things you're going to have to discover about me." Quinn steps away from Rachel, shouldering her own bag before sending Rachel a wink. "Maybe you'll even get a first hand answer to that other question of yours. If you're up for it."

She leaves Rachel sputtering as she saunters out of the bathroom with an extra sway in her hips and a grin on her lips. It's the best she's felt about herself in a very long time, and if she's being honest, she thinks she's probably been mostly wooed by Rachel already. It hadn't taken much more than that little speech of hers. But Quinn isn't about to pass up the chance to be treated to more of the same.

It's really no surprise to anyone that Rachel once again has a song prepared for glee.

"Just a little something to lift our spirits after our disappointment," she explains, but there's a twinkle in her eyes when they seek out Quinn that Quinn fully understands the moment she begins to sing.

"Well you done done me and you bet I felt it
I tried to be chill but you're so hot that I melted.
I fell right through the cracks
And now I'm trying to get back."

Quinn barely stifles her giggle at Rachel's song choice. It's not exactly a standard love song, but the message is still pretty clear, especially when she's so obviously singing to Quinn.

"Before the cool done run out
I'll be giving it my best-est,
And nothing's going to stop me but divine intervention.
I reckon it's again my turn
To win some or learn some.
But I won't hesitate no more, no more.
It cannot wait. I'm yours."

Rachel's dark eyes are on Quinn while she makes her musical declaration, but then Rachel is grinning and dancing around the rest of the room for the second verse, doing a fair job of pretending this is for the entire glee club. Quinn knows better, and when she glances around the room, she sees all their friends smiling and enjoying the performance.

But at the end, Rachel's eyes come right back to Quinn for her very last—

"This, oh this, this is our fate. I'm yours."

Quinn thinks she's pretty okay with that.

And Tina can suck it.

Chapter Text

Rachel has a list.

A very thorough, carefully thought-out list.

It's divided into appropriate love songs with which to serenade Quinn, endearing gifts with which to woo her, and potential date-like activities with which to wow her should this endeavor progress to that stage of courtship.

Because that is exactly what Rachel is doing—courting Quinn Fabray.

And she might still be having just the tiniest bit of trouble wrapping her mind around the fact.

She'd honestly expected to be slapped down—quite literally.

In fairness, Quinn had immediately apologized for that unfortunate burst of temper at prom, and the guilt and remorse shining in her eyes had screamed of sincere regret. Also in fairness, Rachel hadn't been lying about appreciating the drama of it. In fact, it's quite possible that her imagination had immediately conjured up an equally dramatic kiss to follow the slap—something right out of the movies—regardless of the rather unhealthy nature of that particular fantasy. It's also possible that having that fantasy about Quinn Fabray had been one of the things to make her realize that she does, in fact, like Quinn like that.

The list of potential serenades had been drawn up as a sort of therapy for Rachel while she'd been deciding just what to do with the new knowledge that she was attracted to Quinn—and, really, to girls in general. The rest of the list—well, that had been compiled as soon as Quinn had presented her with the opportunity to pursue her attraction.

Granted, her pursuit hasn't been entirely without a few minor setbacks.

First, Finn had decided to ruin their perfectly professional (and potentially competition-winning) duet with an unwanted kiss after she'd repeatedly rebuffed his attempts to win her back with a (perhaps too) gentle reminder that she has feelings for someone else. (Really. His denial about that someone being Quinn has been very frustrating.)

Then, Rachel might have slightly overestimated Quinn's unexpected openness to her attention by choosing to sing She's Always A Woman to her in front of the club. Rachel still maintains that it's a perfectly acceptable love song. She was only attempting to acknowledge that, despite recognizing all of Quinn's flaws, Rachel is still completely enamoured with her.

Explaining that to Quinn had helped to make up for the minor snafu, along with the homemade I'm Sorry cookies and Rachel's next, much more carefully chosen serenade. Perhaps the glee club hadn't fully appreciated her efforts, but it had gotten the job done.

In fact, it had gone well enough for Rachel to jump down three spots on her gift list, breaking into Quinn's locker on their final day of school to leave a stuffed teddy bear with a t-shirt stating I Love You Bear-y Much. (Rachel hadn't been able to resist.) That seemed to go over fairly well too—at least, it did if Quinn's blush and adorable little grin were anything to go by.

(Rachel totally hadn't been lying in wait down the hallway in order to watch her reaction.)

Rachel most certainly had watched Quinn's reaction while singing I'll Be to her in glee.

It had been very favorable—even if Quinn had been trying very, very hard not to let anyone else realize it.

That's what bolsters Rachel's courage to actually ask Quinn out—or at least make some tangible plan to continue courting her through the summer.

(Rachel really, really wants to keep courting Quinn over the summer. This unexpected openness of Quinn's has opened up an entire world of possibilities right before Rachel's eyes. The girl is seriously sexy and flirty and just—ugh! No wonder Finn had kept going back to her again and again and again.)

Maybe Rachel will even get to discover firsthand what it's like to kiss Quinn Fabray.

(Please, Barbra, let her get to discover that.)

But she's getting seriously ahead of herself.

First things first. She has to ask Quinn out.

Just—

"Go out with me?"

Rachel nearly grimaces the moment she says it. She really had intended for that to come out in a far more romantic way—and a more romantic setting, though she's starting to suspect that bathrooms might just be their thing. Maybe she should have put it in song.

An amused smirk pulls up the corner of Quinn's lips, and her eyes glint with specks of green. "Do you think four serenades, a gardenia, and a teddy bear are enough to earn you a date?"

"Technically, there were five serenades," Rachel points out. "My coming out song was obviously for you," she needlessly reminds Quinn.

Quinn arches a singular eyebrow. (It's entirely too sexy for Rachel's mental health.) "There were four," she insists sternly. "We're so not counting Tuesday."

Rachel makes the calculated decision to not argue the point. Again. "Have I at least wooed you enough to earn the opportunity to continue...outside of normal school hours?" she asks, gesturing around to the empty bathroom. "Seeing that we're about to bid adieu to this place for the summer."

Quinn giggles, shaking her head. "What does it say about me that I suddenly find your weird loquaciousness cute?"

Rachel can feel a flush of pleasure crawl up her neck. "I think it says that you take advanced English with a four point five grade-point average and read a new five hundred page novel every week. Hence your easy use of the word loquaciousness."

"I don't think that's it," Quinn muses with a tender smile that makes Rachel nearly lose her breath. "Thank you for the teddy bear, by the way," she husks, stepping closer. "He's also very cute. And," she pauses, catching her lip between her teeth as she gazes at Rachel through her lashes, "kind of forward with his slogan tee."

Rachel swallows, nodding. "I...I wanted to make my case for...for our continued interactions."

Quinn chuckles. "You mean, the date you want me to agree to?"

"It doesn't have to be a date," Rachel hedges, grasping for whatever contact Quinn will allow her. "We can just...hang out. Get to know each other better."

That eyebrow inches up again. "That's generally what dating is, Rachel."

Nervously licking her lips, Rachel nods again. "It is. But I realize that actually dating me might...still be outside of your comfort zone, so I'm willing to engage in...friendly outings if you prefer."

Quinn gazes at her thoughtfully for a long moment before sighing. "Maybe I am still a little uncertain about doing all of this in public," she admits. "I mean, I can't tell my mother about this." She gestures between them. "Not yet...and maybe not ever. But Rachel, if we're going to...hang out," she practically purrs the words, "it will be a date."

"It will?" Rachel asks dumbly, heart racing from Quinn's words and her proximity.

Quinn smiles again—that sultry, seductive one that just lures a person in. "It will. And you'll be picking me up at seven. Tomorrow night," she decides. "I expect you'll plan something appropriately private so we can," her lips curve even more, "get to know each other better."

Rachel sucks in a breath. "Did...did you just ask me out?"

Quinn laughs, shaking her head. "No, Rachel. You asked me out. I just said yes." She lifts a hand to gently brush the back of her fingers across Rachel's jaw. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yeah," Rachel breathes out, nodding stupidly. She can feel the grin blooming on her face. "Yeah, you will."

Holy Broadway! She's got a date with Quinn Fabray!

She barely even registers cleaning out her locker for the year. She's too preoccupied with thoughts of her pending date. And the moment she gets home, she races to her bedroom where she obsessively pours over her list of potential date-like activities, searching for the perfect one that is private but still romantic but not too forward because she'd already mucked up asking Quinn out in any kind of romantic way and she's not about to do that again!

What she settles on is—

"Stargazing?" Quinn repeats skeptically.

Rachel grips the steering wheel a little more tightly. "It's stupid, isn't it?" she laments, frowning. "We can go to a movie instead. Or dinner. At a restaurant," she rushes out, ignoring the carefully packed picnic basket in the back seat. "Not Breadstix obviously. Maybe the Thai place on Pine Street." That seems appropriately off the beaten path.

Quinn reaches over to curl a hand around her wrist, bringing her rambling to a stop. "It's fine, Rachel," she says with a reassuring smile. "Stargazing sounds nice. We'll have a chance to talk."

Rachel exhales in relief, smiling in gratitude. "That was my thought." Also—being alone with Quinn under the stars.

So she drives them just outside of town to the OSU campus, feeling a bit apprehensive when she notices that Quinn is once again looking a little unimpressed. "Should we be here?" she asks warily as she glances around at the empty parking lot, just off Campus Drive next to a little copse of trees.

"The spring semester is over, and none of the summer classes meet on Fridays," Rachel assures her. "It's pretty dead this time of year." The students are all off campus, enjoying their weekends, and the handful of professors who teach summer courses are likely gone by now as well. There are probably only a few maintenance workers and custodians around tonight.

"One of your dads teaches here, right?"

Rachel glances at her in surprise. She didn't expect Quinn to know that—or to remember it. "Hiram," she clarifies. "He teaches computer science."

Quinn nods. "A techie. I would have guessed music or theater."

Rachel laughs, shaking her head. "He does love both of those things as much as I do, but he chose to keep them as beloved hobbies, free from the pressures of monetary compensation. I suppose there's some wisdom in that."

"But not for you," Quinn easily surmises, a fond smile dancing on her lips.

Rachel shrugs. "I can't imagine doing anything other than performing. Obviously, I'm hoping the monetary compensation will follow, but it isn't about that for me."

Quinn's smile turns teasing. "It's about the applause."

"Well, of course," Rachel concedes with a grin. "But also pursuing my passion with everything in me."

Quinn's breath hitches, and her eyes seem to darken ever so slightly "Yeah, you do seem to do that."

Oh.

She's kind of doing it right now, and she'd really like to keep doing it—which means that she really shouldn't lean in to taste Quinn's lips before they've even had a chance to really start their date, no matter how tempting Quinn looks right now.

Rachel clears her throat. "I packed a picnic." She gestures to the back seat. "It's just some veggie wraps and pasta salad." She doesn't mention that they're both vegan. "And raspberry bars for dessert." Also vegan.

"I love raspberry," Quinn murmurs with a pleased smile.

Rachel hums a vague acknowledgement. She may have remembered Finn mentioning it once in passing. It seems that she really has been quite interested in Quinn for a lot longer than she'd realized.

"There's a spot just down there," she points to the small clearing between the trees, "closer to the baseball field, where we can spread out a blanket and watch the sunset until the stars come out."

"Somewhere private?" Quinn asks, arching that eyebrow of hers.

Rachel nods. "I know it's not the most romantic place for our first date, but it's far enough away from town to cut down on the light pollution and still be publicly accessible, semi private, and...well...relatively safe."

Quinn tilts her head as she studies Rachel with a speculative look in her eyes. "You've really thought all of this out." It's not a question.

"Are you surprised?"

Quinn shakes her head, laughing lightly, and it's the most beautiful sound. "I'm really not."

She's not even all that surprised when Rachel shows her the cooler she brought along containing water (both regular and sparkling in six different flavors), three kinds of juices, and one milk. "I wasn't sure what you might like."

Quinn only laughs again, choosing a bottle of lemon sparkling water.

They spread out their blanket on the wide expanse of grass behind left field, close to the treeline but away from the obstruction of any overhead branches. The trees act as as a barrier between the parking lot and the field, obscuring them from the view of anyone driving through the main campus.

It's easy to focus on the food when they first settle down. The conversation is less easy—at least at first.

"You know, I've never actually been out here," Quinn eventually says. "I guess I should let you give me the tour, since this is probably where I'll be after graduation."

Rachel drops the last bite of her raspberry bar onto her plate with a frown. "Don't be ridiculous," she chastises. "You're second in our class." It's been a continuous annoyance for Rachel that she can't seem to edge out Quinn in the battle for salutatorian. (It's pretty much a given at this point that neither of them will be able beat Mike for valedictorian.) "You'll get into any school you apply to. You could probably even get into Harvard. Or Yale."

Quinn stares at her for a long moment with an unreadable expression. "Do you really believe that?"

"I do," Rachel confirms easily. "The question is, why don't you?"

Quinn looks away, chewing on the corner of her lip. "I don't know." She shrugs awkwardly. "Maybe because...no one else expects me to be anything more than the pretty prom queen who screws up her life by getting pregnant and gets stuck in her hometown married to her loser boyfriend."

She sounds so angry at herself when she says it, and Rachel can't help but recall another very similar conversation they'd had not that long ago—only at the time, Rachel hadn't understood that Quinn's vision of her future with Finn wasn't ever meant to be something Rachel should covet. But she thinks she understands now.

"That's not who you are, Quinn," Rachel inisists, setting her plate aside. "Not if you don't want to be." Quinn looks at her again with shining eyes. "You told me I don't belong here," she recalls with brand new comprehension. "But neither do you. The mistakes you've made don't have to define you. You can do anything. Be anything."

Quinn exhales unsteadily, turning her head and brushing her fingers beneath her eyes. "What if I don't know what that is?" She shakes her head, glancing back to Rachel with a sad smile. "Not everyone is as certain about what they want as you are, Rachel."

"Maybe you don't have to be," Rachel reasons with a shrug. "Maybe that's what college is for. Or...or maybe it just happens when it happens. I don't know," she concedes, holding Quinn's gaze. "But I do know the only way it even has a chance of happening is if you open yourself up to the possibility. And while OSU Lima isn't a bad school by any means, if you have other options," she makes sure to meet those hazel eyes head on, "and Quinn, you definitely do...why not explore them?"

Quinn stares at her with a trace of wonder in her expression. "Wow. You're really taking that whole give her wings when she wants to fly thing seriously, aren't you?"

It takes Rachel a moment to pick up on the reference, but when she does, she can actually feel her face catch fire. But she tries to play it off. "I...I think that's what you should do when you care about someone in general."

Quinn draws in a careful breath. "I think...you deserve to have someone do that for you too."

Rachel does not disagree. She just can't quite tell if Quinn is speaking in generals or to a very specific someone that Rachel very much hopes is Quinn. "I actually feel like...maybe you've tried to do that a few times already. Sending me on my way, and all that," she recalls with a tentative grin. "I just wasn't understanding you at the time."

The sun is quickly sinking low in the sky, bathing the world in hues of orange and red, but Rachel is almost certain that the color she's seeing on Quinn's cheeks has nothing to do with the current lighting. "Don't give me too much credit, Rachel." she warns. "I wanted you to stay away from Finn."

"By reminding me I'm meant for bigger and better things than Lima," Rachel points out, only really considering now what it means that Quinn had chosen that approach.

Quinn shrugs. "It's true."

"You know, most people generally try to belittle my talent and tell me I'm dreaming too big...that I'll never make it on Broadway...but you never have."

Quinn sighs, her expression going soft. "I never could. No matter what else I might have felt about you before, I've always been in awe of your talent." Rachel's entire being flushes with pleasure, even more so when Quinn admits, "And it's impossible not to admire your ambition."

"Not so impossible for everyone else." In fact, they generally find her ambition off-putting—even Finn had while he'd claimed to love her.

Quinn frowns. "Well, they're stupid. And probably jealous. Don't listen to them."

If Rachel wasn't already nearly certain that she's in love with Quinn, she would be now. She almost says it, but she doesn't want to freak Quinn out. She's still stunned that she hasn't freaked her out already with everything else. "And you wanted to know how I could like you," she murmurs in awe, reaching out to touch Quinn's hand where it's resting on the blanket.

She's pretty sure that Quinn is blushing again, and she's absolutely certain the bashful smile on her face is the loveliest thing she's ever seen. And then Quinn is moving her hand, turning it over to tentatively link their fingers together, and Rachel just about loses her breath. "I think I kind of like you too," Quinn says softly, as if she can't quite believe she's saying it.

Rachel can't quite believe it either, but her heart is practically soaring up to the stars that will soon be appearing in the sky. She only smiles and holds Quinn's hand more tightly to keep from flying away.

And Quinn lets her.

Together, they watch the sun set and the stars begin to shine, and they sink down onto the blanket to gaze up at the heavens. Rachel points out the constellations, quietly reciting the myths associated with them. She has a feeling Quinn already knows them, but she seems content to listen to Rachel talk.

Until she isn't.

Quinn shifts on the blanket, turning onto her side and propping her head on her hand as she looks down at Rachel with a contemplative expression on her face. Rachel's words trail off under Quinn's intent gaze.

"Quinn? You're supposed to be looking at the stars."

Quinn's lips slowly curl into a mysterious smile. "I am. I'm looking at the brightest one."

And Rachel's heart is just gone—rocketing up into the atmosphere and bouncing around between the stars before landing right in the palm of Quinn's hand. A breathless, "Oh," is all Rachel can manage.

And then Quinn is shifting again, moving closer, and Rachel's lips part in surprise and she can barely remember to breathe because—

Oh.

Oh, her lips are so soft and warm and—

Finn was not wrong about the fireworks.

Rachel feels like she's flying apart, exploding into a million sparks of colorful light that catch the universe on fire. And when Quinn moans against her lips and deepens the kiss, Rachel knows she isn't the only one who's feeling it.

She knows without a doubt that she just found one more dream to chase, and Quinn is going to help her catch it.

Chapter Text

It's been a long, strange summer.

Strange in not bad ways, as far as Santana Lopez is concerned. She's not exactly marching through the streets of Lima waving any rainbow flags, but she and Brittany are finally together. Together, together—the way God and Ellen and the entire fucking golf team intended.

She and B are back on the cheerios for their senior year, and so is Quinn—complete with her new, short (sexy) haircut, her fucking annoying (and weird) good mood, and her mysterious blink-and-you-miss-her disappearing acts the moment she gets her ass out of practice.

If Santana didn't know better, she'd think the bitch is getting laid.

Problem is, Santana does know better, and she still thinks the bitch is getting laid.

She just can't quite figure out by who.

Quinn had dropped Finnsufferable's dopey ass last year and hadn't taken him back despite him predictably ping-ponging right back to her as soon as he finally figured out Berry was serious about trying out the ladies.

Puckerman is back to banging everything in a skirt since Lauren dumped him, and no matter how pathetic Quinn can be, she'd never put up with his two-timing bullshit.

Trouty Mouth got dragged to Kentucky by his parents, and even if he was still around, Santana doubts he'd be giving Quinn her happy since he'd been all up in Mercedes's business before he'd left.

Chang is still with other Chang, despite her weird infatuation with the midget after the big coming out.

So the only person Santana suspects it might be is the one person it just can't.

Because even if Quinn hadn't smacked Streisand upside the head for serenading her in glee last spring, she also hadn't gone running into her tiny little arms. She'd just soaked up the attention like the vain bitch she is and then gone back to pretending it never happened. It was actually kind of sad to watch.

Funny.

But sad.

Hell, Berry's take on I'm Yours right after Finn had blown Nationals for them had been kind of fun. She'd even managed to keep her ogling of Quinn on the subtle side—well, for her.

But the next day's rendition of She's Always A Woman had caused all kinds of secondhand embarrassment throughout the room. Seriously. Anyone with an ounce of common sense would have guessed that Quinn wouldn't be thrilled with those lyrics. Frankly, Santana was surprised Berry had gotten off with only a Fabray glare and a weak-ass storm out.

The following day had featured an impassioned cover of I Want To Know What Love Is that made everyone but Schuester cringe. No one should ever willing choose a Foreigner song. (Except that Quinn hadn't seemed to hate it as much as everyone else had. She'd actually seemed kind of amused by it.)

Thank God the school year had ended. Otherwise there would have undoubtedly been more serenades after Berry's final choice of I'll Be. (Which wasn't terrible. Quinn had even looked a little teary-eyed after that one. And Santana swears she'd seen her stuffing a teddy bear into her bag before taking off for summer vacation.)

Frankly, Quinn could probably do a lot worse than Rachel Berry.

Who's she kidding? Quinn's entire dating history is worse than Rachel Berry.

If Santana was wondering whether Berry's crush had petered out over the summer, she gets her answer in their first glee meeting of the new school year—right after they spend twenty minutes arguing over the best way to attract new members now that they're down two bodies.

Rachel has another song.

"To welcome us all back," is what she says, but nobody buys it when she starts making those big moony eyes at Quinn again. She'd managed to get through the entire meeting without doing it. She'd sat her ass in the front row and barked out suggestions for the year without even a glance to Quinn—or to Finn, who's still pouting over his single status. But damned if she doesn't flip that crazy obsessive switch right back into Quinn-mode in the blink of an eye.

This time, it's to the tune of the Beatles.

"Something in the way she moves
Attracts me like no other lover.
Something in the way she woos me.
I don't want to leave her now.
You know I believe and how."

Santana is sitting right next to Quinn today, so she gets the experience of having this serenade aimed in her general direction. And okay, she has to admit—only to herself and very reluctantly—that having the full force of Rachel Berry's voice and expressive eyes directed at you for a love song is pretty fucking alluring. Like, Santana doesn't even like her (much), but she'd totally bang her after this.

If she didn't have Brittany, obviously.

But she does have Brittany, so she sends a sweet smile to her own girlfriend and thinks about banging her as soon as they can get the hell out of here.

"Somewhere in her smile she knows
That I don't need no other lover.
Something in her style that shows me.
I don't want to leave her now.
You know I believe and how."

Santana glances over at Quinn, trying to gauge her reaction. She expects the same cool indifference from last year, but—well, fuck! Quinn is wearing that same weird smile that she's had on all summer—at least until she notices Santana's eyes on her, then she schools her features like the fucking pro she is.

"You're asking me, will my love grow.
I don't know, I don't know.
You stick around, now it may show.
I don't know, I don't know."

Santana thinks she knows.

Apparently the head bitch isn't as immune to Berry as she wants them all to believe. She's just a fucking closet case.

"Something in the way she knows
And all I have to do is think of her.
Something in the things she shows me.
I don't want to leave her now.
You know I believe and how."

There's some applause when Rachel is finished, but it's pretty weak, and Santana supposes it's because they'd all been hoping she would have moved on by now. Santana is thinking she hasn't moved on because she hadn't actually needed to, but Quinn sure as hell isn't making any moves to claim the girl.

"Why do you keep trying to hurt me?" Finn whines before grabbing his bag and stalking out of the room.

"Jerk," Quinn scoffs under her breath, rolling her eyes at his storm out.

"You got something to say, Fabray?" Santana taunts, arching an eyebrow.

Rachel gazes up at her expectantly, but Quinn only shrugs. "Nope."

Santana watches Rachel's face fall in disappointment, and an expression of remorse flashes across Quinn's face before it's gone again in the blink of an eye. Santana frowns, wondering just what the hell these two are playing at with their little back-and-forth, but then Schuester is calling it a day, and everyone is packing up to leave.

With one last look up to Quinn, Rachel sighs, gathers her bag, and slips out of the room. Quinn watches her go like a hawk stalking its prey, and then she's grabbing for her own bag in a rush, but Santana stops her from jogging down the risers with a hand on her arm.

"Are you seriously gonna let her keep doing that?" she demands, ignoring the impatient annoyance that radiates off of Quinn at being detained. "I mean, it was fun the first five times, but now it's just painful to watch."

Quinn scowls at her, jerking her arm away. "Why do you even care?"

"Hey, I'm just tryin' to help you out," Santana drawls with a smirk. "Unless you, I don't know, actually like Berry singing love songs at you." She'd wager good money that Quinn fucking loves it, but the fear in her eyes when Santana says it is all too recognizable. She'd seen it enough in the mirror last year, so she should probably ease up and wait for Quinn to creep out of the closet on her own. But fuck that! "I know you're a bitch and all, but I didn't think even you were cruel enough to string a queer girl along just to make yourself feel better."

Quinn takes a menacing step toward her, looking about two heaving breaths away from slapping her—or, you know, actually coming out. "You know nothing about me," she growls.

"Please don't fight," Brittany pleads, immediately stepping between them. "Santana isn't being mean. She's just worried about Rachel." And Quinn instantly deflates, the anger draining right out of her.

"I'm not," Santana denies quickly. (She is.) "I'm just bored with the daily serenades and the pathetic loves eyes. You should be too," she reminds Quinn suspiciously. "How many times does Berry have to embarrass herself in front of everyone before you finally put her out of our misery for good?"

Santana figures the question works both ways. Either Quinn is leading Berry on for her daily ego boost—something even Santana wouldn't do now that she knows firsthand what it's like to want a girl you can't have—or she's not and is keeping them in the closet to protect her own reputation while she lets Rachel sing her little heart out to everyone's ridicule and pity. Either way, Quinn needs to fucking stop letting Rachel do that to herself. This one-sided bullshit doesn't fly with Santana.

Quinn doesn't answer. She just starts chewing on the corner of her lip with this pained look in her eyes.

Santana sighs in defeat. "C'mon B. Let's go get our lady kisses on," she urges, holding out her hand.

Brittany takes it with a sad smile, walking down the risers next to Santana, but she pauses at the bottom to glance back up at Quinn. "Rachel deserves to have some sweet lady kisses of her own. If you don't want to give them to her, you should let her get them from someone else."

Santana can't resist glancing up at Quinn to see her reaction to that, smirking a little when she sees the unhappy scowl and clenched fists. Yeah—that's totally jealousy bleeding out of her pointy, little ears. So much for a weirdly happy Quinn.

Of course, Santana gets infinitely happier once she gets Brittany alone, and she doesn't think about Quinn or Berry again until the next day when it comes time for the inevitable serenade.

Except—it's not Rachel standing in the front of the choir room this time.

It's Quinn.

Santana can't be exactly sure of where this is going until Quinn says, "I present this song without comment." And then, she just knows. Because Quinn is looking right at Rachel when she starts to sing.

"Maybe I'm amazed at the way you love me all the time.
Maybe I'm afraid of the way I love you."

And yeah—there are gasps all around the room, and she's pretty sure she hears Finnsipid mutter, "What the fuck?"

"Maybe I'm amazed at the way you pull me out of time.
You hung me on the line.
Maybe I'm amazed at the way I really need you."

One glance at Rachel confirms that she's grinning like a loon.

"Maybe I'm a girl.
Maybe I'm a lonely girl who's in the middle of something
That she doesn't really understand."

And if anyone still has any doubts about what's happening, they pretty much get cleared up when Quinn moves closer to Rachel to sing the next lines.

"Maybe I'm a girl
And maybe you're the only woman who could ever help me.
Baby, won't you help me to understand?"

And Quinn—that sly bitch—smiles at Rachel and reaches out a hand to her, and of course, Rachel takes it.

Kurt fucking squeals in delight, and Brittany breathes out a quiet, "Yay," as she claps.

Mercedes looks shocked, and Tina looks kind of depressed, and Puckerman looks—well, he's obviously thinking perverted thoughts. Mike just looks confused, and Finn—

Yep. There goes the chair.

"You both suck," he screams as he stomps out of the room, cutting Quinn's serenade short.

She doesn't seem to mind. Neither does Rachel.

"You sang back," Rachel murmurs in wonder, proudly holding Quinn's hand in front of the entire club.

Quinn giggles happily, nodding. "I should have done it yesterday. I'm sorry I waited so long. I just wanted to hear you sing for me one more time before we came out as a couple."

"Wait? You're a couple?" Mercedes asks, still in shock. "Since when?"

Quinn glances at Rachel with a dreamy expression to rival any of Rachel's lovesick ones. "Since she took me stargazing on the very first day of our summer break."

"It was...very enlightening," Rachel adds with a mysterious smile.

Oh, yeah. Quinn is definitely getting laid. Santana can only imagine what they've been up to all summer.

(Really. She's imagining it pretty vividly, and it's kind of super hot. Hey! She's taken, not dead.)

"And if my girlfriend wants to keep singing me love songs everyday, she can," Quinn announces, gazing around the room with a challenging glare. "And you're all going to clap for her. Understood?" She ends with her eyes on Santana, just daring her to comment.

Santana can never resist a dare. "So I guess Berry must be really, really good at loving a woman, huh?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Quinn responds, wrapping a possessive arm around Rachel's waist. And then for some weird reason, she sends this really smug look in Tina's direction before adding, "But you won't."

"I do really love you, Quinn," Rachel murmurs, gazing at Quinn with undisguised adoration.

Quinn returns the look with a disgustingly besotted grin. "I love you too, baby."

And yeah—then they're kissing.

Santana rolls her eyes. Brittany claps again, and Kurt coos. Even Mercedes presses a hand to her heart and says, "Aw."

It's more ew if you ask Santana.

(Not really. It's still kind of hot. There's a lot of tongue and they're both really, really into it. The visuals are pretty inspiring. But she's not admitting that to anyone ever.)

"Get a room," she heckles, shaking her head.

They pull apart with dark eyes, lips slowly curling into matching smirks. Quinn arches a brow. Berry nods. And then they're grabbing their bags.

"Thank you for your continued support, fellow glee-clubbers," Rachel rushes out, gathering her things, "but Quinn and I have a very important prior engagement."

"Come on, Rach," Quinn urges, grabbing her hand and impatiently tugging her towards the door. "My mom won't be home until seven. We can practice...singing."

It's very clear that singing doesn't mean singing. It's probably more like Rachel screaming Quinn's name.

"Well," Santana scoffs, watching them go with an wicked grin, especially when she sees how green Schuester has turned from listening to the exchange. "Have you ever? Really?"

Because she certainly has. Glancing at Brittany, she knows she will be again very soon.

Yeah, she has a feeling it's going to be a long, strange (but awesome) senior year.