DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is slightly AU and based on the idea that Quinn never got pregnant. Everything is still the same, Quinn joins Glee, etc. etc. She's just not carrying the spawn of a studly Jew. Also, Anna, Ben, and Eli are all Original Characters (yes, the capitalization is necessary) who belong to me. Or whoever would like to claim them. All poetry quoted belongs to Pablo Neruda and is from his book "Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair."
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

It's Water And Bridges Now
By gilligankane


Lima, Ohio

June 2012

At graduation, people are shuffled around and camera flashes blind everyone within striking distance so when Quinn ends up pressed into Rachel's side and the brunette's arm is wrapped low around her waist, she just smiles in the direction she thinks the camera is and holds the pose for a few seconds.

She doesn't fidget in Rachel's hold; over the last two years, between Glee and classes together, Rachel Berry has become a friend.

"I don't think you've had the pleasure of meeting my dads," Rachel half-shouts into her ear over the dull roar of McKinley's Class of 2012, which is weird because she's been friends with Rachel for almost two years now, and she really never has met the other girl's parents. She feels herself being pushed forward and then two men are grinning down at her and Rachel is yelling again, about her dad and her daddy and she's running on autopilot, shaking hands and forgetting names as quickly as they come, but Rachel keeps talking in her ear.

The crowd pushes them to the left, away from Rachel's dads and Quinn almost loses her grip on Rachel's graduation gown, but the shorter girl tightens her arm around Quinn's waist and they end up on the outskirts of the surging mass where they can hear themselves think.

Rachel smiles and looks around. "Hey, are your parents here?"

Quinn's face breaks into the first real smile since she was handed her diploma and, consequently, her quasi-freedom, because if there's one thing she's ever really talked to Rachel Berry about, it's her parents and her fear that she would disappoint them. "They're around here somewhere," Quinn says, craning her neck up and over the crowd. She flashes a guilty frown. "I got swept up in the crowd before I could get to them."

Rachel frowns too. "Well, it would probably be best if you found them," she says softly. Her eyes dim a little, but a smile grows on her face. "We need to make sure we plan an appropriate number of activities together this summer. I intend on seeing everyone before we venture off to our futures."

Quinn doesn't get a chance to laugh or protest or agree, because Rachel suddenly squeals, pointing over Quinn's shoulder, and takes off into the crowd.

She turns and JewFro waves at her before heading in the same direction as Rachel and Quinn thinks that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Except, the summer goes by in a blur: keeping Santana out of trouble; the Chemistry class she's taking to avoid it in the fall; working at the Applebee's on Main Street. Rachel – according to the text messages she receives bi-weekly – is in a two-month long workshop called "Fame" so meeting up is harder than they thought it would be.

By the time Quinn manages to surface long enough to breathe, Finn tells her that Rachel is gone to New York, choosing the chance at stardom over a continuing education, and she'll call when she hits it big.

Time goes by but Rachel never calls. Quinn – who thought that they were better friends than Rachel did, obviously – only smiles and nods when Finn tells her that Rachel got some small off-Broadway gig and tries not to think about how much it hurts that she's hearing everything secondhand.

Lima, Ohio

July 2013

At Puck's little sister's birthday party, during the summer after her first year of community college, she's perched on the edge of the picnic table in her backyard, helping Puck pass out cake to the moms and dads when he leans over and whispers in her ear.

"Did you hear that Rachel came home?"

She pauses, mid-pass, because she hadn't heard that at all. In fact, the last time she heard anything about Rachel Berry was New Year's Eve, when the clock struck twelve and even then, nothing was said. She was in her living room when her phone lit up and a polytonal version of "I'm Bringing Sexy Back" echoed through the living room. It was Rachel, she was drunk, and Quinn – stuck in Lima; stuck in Ohio – wasn't in the mood to deal with the girl who seemingly abandoned them all without a second glance back.

"To visit?" Quinn asks when her motor functions start working properly.

Puck shakes his head. "To stay."

"What about New York?" But Puck shakes his head again and smiles at his neighbor who thanks him and giggles. Quinn rolls her eyes, but Puck winks at her with a look that says "please, like I would ever get with that."

This could have had the potential to be weird, but their friendship was something that came easy after they realized they were the last of the Original Gleeks left in Lima, attending Lima Community College until they could get some credits under their feet.

"Finn told me she bottomed out, hard. Said that things didn't pan out the way she thought they would."

Puck actually sounds sorry when he tells her this, and when he drops the knife onto the cake tray to toss his sister over his shoulder, Quinn can't see any trace of Noah Puckerman circa 2009.

She changes the subject when he comes back to the table; tries to forget that Rachel Berry existed and that she even mattered in the first place and how confusing the feeling of anger and betrayal is.

Chicago, Illinois

October 2016

"Quinn!" She turns at the sound of her name and grins wide when she sees Ben sticking his head out of his room at the end of the hallway. "Come down here for a second?"

Stepping back across the threshold of her dorm room, Quinn tosses her hoodie and her backpack onto her bed, taking another disdainful look at the other – empty – side of the room before going down the hall, sliding to a stop in front of the last room. Ben, in his computer chair, has his feet up on his desk and is clicking a highlighter pen furiously.

"I saw the new girl," he practically shouts as he catches sight of her. She scrunches the cuffs of her Dad's old Yale tee-shirt in her hands and quirks her eyebrows but he stays silent.

Ben just grins and taps the tips of his fingers together.

"Oh, out with it already," she snarls.

"I heard she's a total diva; I mean, she even looked like a diva. So," he drawls, "you two should get along great."

Quinn rolls her eyes. "If anyone here is a diva, Benjamin, it's you."

Ben clicks his tongue. "Now, now – do you want the dirt, or not?" She nods and holds back her sigh when Ben takes a deep breath. "She's not wholly unattractive," he starts, "so congrats on not being saddled with the ugly roommate. But she's only a second-year transfer. She did her general education credits somewhere else. Got them all done in two semesters, too," he adds, clearly a little impressed.

"How do you even know that?" she questions, pushing his feet off the desk and sitting, her feet barely touching the ground.

"Honey," Ben laughs, "I'm a social butterfly."

"Right," Quinn says skeptically, as if Ben's tendency to talk is the only reason. He rolls his eyes back at her and sighs.

"Fine. I started talking to her because her sweater was just fabulous," he huffs. "By the way, did you practice your lines for that monologue test yet?"

Quinn feels her face flush and she groans. "I forgot about it."

Ben makes shooing motions with his hands. "Scram. Get out of here and get studying. I need someone smart to copy off of."

"Oh, so you're sitting next to me again? What happened to what's-his-name, Jack?" Ben throws his hands against his forehead and mutters something Quinn can't hear. For the hundredth time since she met Ben, she can't help but think about Kurt Hummel and where he is and how he's doing now. They seem like almost the same person, she thinks. Maybe that's why I gravitated towards him she wonders, because Roosevelt University CCPA in Chicago is 200 miles from Lima, Ohio and lonelier than she thought it would be, and any connection helps when she's lonely.

"You're prettier to look at than he is," Ben says out of the corner of his mouth, rising from his chair and prodding Quinn out the door into the hallway. He smirks and points over her shoulder. "Besides, your new roomie is here, finally."

There are boxes stacked in the hallway and from where she is, all Quinn can see are two tanned arms reaching out and taking a box, then disappearing into her room.

"Mysterious," Ben quips, pushing Quinn down the hall. "Get the scoop and make sure to Facebook me later."

Hesitantly, she starts down the hallway. Last year, her roommate burned incense and chanted in a language Quinn had only heard on Buffy, during Season 6 when Willow went all black-eyed, and it got to the point where Quinn stopped sleeping; just stared at the ceiling, waiting for her roommate to kill her, curse her, or cut her in her sleep.

Fingers crossed, she thinks, that she's normal this time.

When she got to the doorway, she stops short, peeking her head around the molding and then she pulls back with a frown, disappointed, because she can't see anything. Over her shoulder, Ben is making hand motions at her but she doesn't move again until he stomps his foot, the noise echoing down the hall. She rounds the corner fully and steps into the room boldly, a smile plastered on her face.

"Hey, I'm-" she trails off as the smile on her face drops quickly. Her shoulders stiffen and her arms cross defensively over her chest and she shifts all her weight to her left leg, the right tapping against the ground incessantly. "What are you doing here?" she grumbles.

Rachel shrugs her shoulders, but doesn't say a word.

Well, Quinn thinks, this is shit.

She leaves the room, panicking, her fingers clumsily opening her phone and hitting 'send' when she finds Puck's name in her contacts list.

He picks up on the third ring.

"Well, if it isn't Miss Chicago," he says. She can picture his smirk. "How's it going, Q?"

"Why doesn't anybody tell me anything," she hisses.

"Quinn, what are you talking about?"

She takes a deep breath and shoves her shaking hand into the pocket of her jeans. "Rachel Berry is here. At CCPA. In my room. Because she's my new roommate."

There's silence on the other end of the line. Quinn counts – in her head – to three before she speaks again, a little calmer.

"Puck," she says gently. "Why didn't anyone tell me that Streisand decided to go to CCPA?"

"Well," he starts off. "We didn't want to concern you?"

She laughs, humorlessly and short. "I could care less what she does with her life."

Puck scoffs harshly in her ear. "Oh, come on, Quinn. We both know how pissed off you were when she spilt for New York without saying goodbye."

Quinn doesn't try to argue it, because it's not even worth it. She was pissed off when Rachel left for New York; she had though, stupidly, she later decided, that they were friends, or something, and that Rachel would have said something to her about it. She was pissed off when Rachel came back to Lima and never took Quinn's phone calls and sulked around Lima, cutting corners like a ghost so that Quinn couldn't catch her.

"Yeah, well, you could have told me," she says weakly.

"Hey, Quinn?"

She sighs. "What, Puck?"

"Rachel moved to Chicago and is now going to the Chicago College of Performing Arts."

Quinn grits her teeth. "Noah Puckerman, you're an asshole."

"Aww," he coos. "You love me." His voice grows deeper, serious. "To be honest, when she told us where she was going, she had no idea you were already there. In fact," he adds, "I think that she was freaked out a little by it. She left Brittany's house real quick and her dad told me that she was thinking about rescinding her application."

She drops the back of her head against the wall and lets out a small moan at the contact. "How do you even know the word rescind, by the way?"

Puck laughs. The sound is like home and Quinn listens to it, filing it away for the next time she gets homesick.

"College Writing II, babe," he says, his mouth probably turned up. He doesn't even say "babe" like he did in high school, and Quinn can't help but smile lightly at the boy she thought was nothing more than a meathead, who turned out to be someone entirely all together different.

"Whatever, Puck," she sighs, not unfriendly. "I've got to go, fix this, I guess."

"I've always got my phone on," he says so softly she has to press the phone to her ear hard to hear him.

She smiles, even if he can't see it. "And that's why I could have loved you."

Quinn debates scrambling down to Ben's room and complaining to him, but there's history there, like her Mean Girls-esque relationship with Rachel, and things she can't explain, like Glee, and things she just doesn't want to remember, like crying into Rachel's shoulder because she felt like she was going nowhere in life.

Instead, she steels her shoulders and decides that by the end of the day – the week, at the most – she'll be able to get rid of Rachel Berry.

It should be easy enough; Rachel clearly wanted out of her life before, this time should be no different.

Quinn's body starts to ache because of her prone position and her eyes are heavy and stinging and she can feel them going cross-eyed, but she doesn't turn away from Rachel. She continues to sit on the very edge of her Cheerios red comforter, staring at the prank being played on her.

Finally, she opens her mouth, but closes it again because she's just not sure what to say.

Ben strolls by like he isn't snooping on them. "Quinn!" he calls cheerily. He bounds across the room and lands on her bed, bouncing so hard that Quinn almost drops off the mattress, catching herself at the last second.

Rachel remains eerily silent.

"New girl," Ben coos, smiling at Rachel. Not being able to resist – because no one can resist Ben and his little boy smile – Rachel gives him a hesitant smile and continues straightening out the poster of a gold star she's been trying to hang for the last ten minutes. "Quinnie, aren't you going to introduce your new friend?"

Instinct kicks in – because she's Quinn Fabray, and her mother taught her well – and she motions stiffly between Ben and Rachel. "Benjamin Culler, RuPaul. RuPaul, Benjamin Culler."

"You two know each other?"

Quinn sighs. "Unfortunately," she mutters under her breath, but Ben catches it anyway. "We went to high school together," she says, louder.

Ben rolls his eyes and nudges Quinn with his shoulder. "You can call me Ben," he pauses and then "Rachel," he says, leaning forward to read the name off a picture frame, turned so that Quinn can't see it. He says 'hmmm' under his breath and grabs the frame off the dresser, pulling it close to his face to inspect.

For a moment, Quinn thinks he's checking his reflection, and she lets him, but he keeps staring at the picture, tilting it for more light and when he finally looks back up, he's smirking at her.

"You were so precious in high school," he squeals.

Quinn lunges forward and pulls the picture out of his hands, eyes scanning the 5x7 and there she is, on the left, hand curled possessively around Finn's arm, smiling something so fake and glassy. She's angry that Rachel has this picture, and then she's just angry that Rachel has this picture when there are so many others she could have chosen from.

"Please," she says out loud. "I was a child."

"A precious child," Ben corrects. "And you didn't tell me you were in Glee club."

"It was a fluke," she lies, unsure of why, her words pressing into her heart a little harder than she thought they would.

Rachel scoffs. "Fluke," she mutters under her breath.

"Excuse me, Manhands?"

Rachel huffs and lets the poster flutter to the ground, squaring her shoulders towards Quinn. "You and I both know that Glee wasn't a fluke."

"Yes it was," she argues, for no reason. It's not like she's the only person at CCPA who was in Glee club, it's just that she's only ever been able to do two things when it came to Rachel, and verbal sparring was the one she was always better at. "Who would want to be in that stupid club anyway?" Quinn snaps, rising off the bed and taking a step forward.

Rachel smirks. "You, for one."

"On that note," Ben interjects, because he's heard Quinn snap before and couldn't look her in the eyes for a whole week afterward. "I'm going to go. And Quinn's coming with me," he continues, pulling at the hem of Quinn's shirt forcefully. "Let's go, tiger."

Letting herself be dragged, she glares at Rachel and hopes the brunette can see the fire in her eyes. She'll have to stop by RPS and see about getting a new roommate and sending Rachel to live in the janitor's closet in the far corner of the library.

"See you around, Rachel," Ben says brightly, waving.

Rachel gives him a small smile and Quinn nearly growls.

When she comes back, she has a roll of masking tape.

She ignores Rachel's curious look and tugs at the roll, pulling a strip off as her starting point. She makes sure to be fair about it; Rachel get's one half of the door, and they each have closets on their own side of the room so that's taken care of.

She's really only protecting both of them: from Quinn, who might snap and scream at Rachel for making her feel like an idiot every time Finn asked "Have you talked to Rachel this week?"; from Rachel, who always managed to sneak past Quinn's carefully calculated defenses without really meaning to.

Quinn's halfway across the room when Rachel catches on.

"Quinn, this is ridiculous," she argues. Quinn doesn't say anything, just squints to make sure the line is straight. "I don't need to be penned in like some type of animal."

Pausing, Quinn looks up with one eyebrow quirked. Rachel blushes. "You know what I mean," she mumbles under her breath. "Anyway," she says louder, "Why can't we just be civil and live like adults."

Quinn stands and spins so violently, she needs a second to regain her balance, but once she's sure the floor isn't spinning under her feet, she points a finger in Rachel's direction. "Listen, I don't know why you're here and personally, I don't care. As long as you stay on that side of the room, don't talk, don't touch any of my stuff, or generally annoy me, we'll be fine."

Rachel opens her mouth, but Quinn jabs a finger towards her and she snaps it shut.

Quinn rips off another strip of tape.

"Back on your side of the room, Sasquatch," Quinn says without looking up from her Chemistry book. She hears the scrape of a wooden chair against the carpet and out of the corner of her eye, she sees Rachel looking at her, but she can't figure out the other girl's expression, so she flips to the next page.

She thinks she hears Rachel say something, but Quinn doesn't care enough to ask her to repeat it.

She thinks about talking to Rachel sometimes – asking Rachel what happened in New York; what happened during that summer that made Rachel pull away; what made Rachel want to come to CCPA; what happened that stole Rachel's heart and soul away, but every time she opens her mouth, a barrage of insults comes out instead, like high school all over again.

Except it's not high school, because Quinn dresses in jeans and moccasins and goofy, threadbare Trix t-shirts instead of that terribly tight cheerleading outfit that barely met the constantly overlooked dress code of McKinley High School.

It's not high school, because Rachel doesn't write her name with gold stars anymore and the air of self-confidence that seemed to seep out of every pore and radiate out in a five foot parameter is simply gone, replaced by cautious glances and pauses in her sentences and while it still shows up in sporadic spurts – like the giant star poster in the corner that Rachel takes out and stares at for a little while every couple of days that was never really hung up when she first moved in – it stays hidden away.

It's not high school but Quinn resorts to high school tactics because she's hurt by Rachel and her silence and the fact that she never called and told everyone else what was wrong, but won't look Quinn in the eyes.

She thinks about talking to Rachel sometimes, but she's too much of a coward.

"It's been a month," Ben growls – as much as Ben is capable of growling. It's oddly similar to a kitten trying to growl: completely ineffective and it just makes Quinn want to reach over and scratch his tummy. "A whole month and all you've done is call her names."

"You wanted to know what high school was like for me: this is it."

"So you were an evil, classy bitch in a too-small cheerleader's uniform."

Quinn snorts. "I sure was classy."


Quinn cuts him off with her hand in the air. "Listen, I know you want me to 'rise above it' and all that happy crap. But here's the thing: I don't like Rachel Berry anymore. We had our time, back in high school, where everything seemed to kind of fall into place, but that was high school and we're different now. Now," she says humorlessly, "I remember exactly why we were never friends in the first place."

"From what she's told me, wires got crossed and by the time she realized it, you weren't speaking to her," Ben says gently. "But I'm on your side," he says quickly when Quinn frowns. "I just think you should give her a chance, is all."

Quinn looks away, focusing on the small TV screen in the corner of Ben's room. She sighs when she can feel him staring at her and turns onto her back, facing the ceiling with her eyes closed.

"I'll try," she breathes out.

It's a lie, obviously, and Ben doesn't call her on it.

Quinn lies in bed at night and watches her computer cast shadows on the wall and wonders what Rachel dreams about – if she dreams of graduation, the way Quinn does, and that Glee Club photo they took where Rachel leaned over and asked Quinn shyly if they could still be friends even with high school over – or if Rachel is lying in bed, wondering the same thing about Quinn.

One night, she thinks about rolling over and calling out "Rachel" into the dark room, but something on the other side moves and Quinn loses her nerve.

Rachel is sleeping when Quinn stumbles in with some toned, lean guy from the theatre department attached to her mouth, stumbling over her computer chair and hitting the edge of the dresser. She doesn't know his name; he mentioned it a couple of hours and a few wine coolers ago, but Quinn forgot it in between leaving the party and sliding her key into the room lock.

When Theatre-Boy bends her backwards, trying to find the bed, and they slip, hitting the ground with a loud, muffled 'thump' Rachel stirs on her side of the room.

"Quinn?" she asks in a sleepy, husky voice that Quinn shouldn't find remotely attractive, but can't help. "Are you okay?"

"She's fine," Theatre-Boy says, but it comes out more like "s'fine" and Rachel must not really believe him, because she crosses the room in the dark and flips on the overhead light. Quinn lets out a small shriek and pushes her shoulder blades against the carpet, squirming until her head is under her bed and the light is gone. She can't see much, but the hands around her waist disappear at the same time Rachel's footsteps stop, and there are low, hushed tones and the door is slamming shut. She thinks she hears Rachel kick a chair, but she doesn't have time to dwell on it, because warm hands are grabbing right above her knees and pulling her across the carpet, back into the room. She groans and blinks hard a few times and Rachel is standing over, hair mussed and eyes heavy but concerned.

"Quinn," she says softly, "Are you okay?"

Quinn rolls onto her stomach and pushes up into a kneeling position, her hands immediately landing on the bed to steady herself.

"I think I'm" hiccup "drunk," she admits. Rachel stifles a laugh, but Quinn can hear it anyway.

"Well, let's get you into bed," Rachel says gently, her hands moving in slow, calming circles on Quinn's back.

Quinn thinks about protesting, but Rachel's motions are soothing and comforting and all she really wants to do is get out of these jeans and under her covers, so when Rachel's hands hook under her arms, she tries to lift as much of her weight as possible to help the other girl out. She slides to the far edge of the bed, pressed against the wall and Rachel sits down, absentmindedly tucking in a corner of her bedspread.

"Berry, get out of my bed."

Rachel waits a minute before she complies, but instead of going back to sleep, she opens the mini fridge and pulls out a bottle of water, uncapping it and forcing it into Quinn's hands.

"Drink it." Quinn looks to the bottle, then at Rachel, and then shoves it back at Rachel, frowning. "Quinn, drink it. You're going to regret it if you don't."

"You're going to regret it if you don't get out of my bed."

Rachel folds her arms over her chest and sits down again, pulling her legs up onto the pillows near the end of the bed. "Drink the water or I'm getting under the covers," she threatens.

"No," she hisses. "I don't want to."

Smirking, Rachel responds by lifting one edge of the sheet and sliding one leg underneath. Quinn stares blankly so Rachel shrugs again, sliding her other leg in between the sheets.

"Whatever," Quinn groans, burying her face in the pillow. "Sleep there for all I care."

The last thing she hears is Rachel whisper "goodnight" and then there's nothing but blackness.

Two things hit her at the same time the sun hits her eyelids, pulling her out a dreamless sleep: one, her mouth feels like she licked a cat; two, said mouth is pressed to someone else's body.

She tenses and feels the arm wrapped around her shoulders slide a little down her arm. Quinn groans slightly: the button of her jeans is digging into her skin, her right arm is numb and somehow, she's not wearing any shoes.

Her head tilts back a little as she stretches, eyes still closed, and when it returns to its original position, she purses her lips. The neck underneath her mouth is warm and soft and smells like vanilla mixed with the Sour Apple Pucker she was drinking last night. Quinn shifts her body a little higher and kisses again, then a little higher and higher until she reaches a pulse pointing, beating wildly under her touch. Her tongue moves – on its own accord – and laves against skin and jawbone and then the hand that was on her shoulders but shifted to her middle back flexes, grabbing her shirt and then relaxing. She can hear breath catch, but it's not her own and she knows the body under her own is suddenly awake, humming almost, but incredibly rigid.

"Quinn?" Rachel's voice is hoarse and Quinn thinks maybe she's heard it like this before, because the tingles that rush through her body are familiar and good. "Quinn, are you awake?"

Quinn scrunches her eyes together even tighter and tries to breathe normally. Rachel's body relaxes and then Rachel's hand is wrapping around Quinn's, lifting it, and Rachel's warmth is gone from the bed.

"Oh God," she hears Rachel mutter and, opening one eye, she watches as Rachel runs her hands through her hair.

She wonders if Rachel has always been this good-looking in the morning, or if she's just been oblivious up to this point; because standing in the middle of the room in a t-shirt and shorts, with her hair in various directions and her eyes half-closed, Rachel suddenly makes her heart beat a little faster. It feels like the noise echoes through the room, but Rachel doesn't notice it and instead, grabs a towel off of her closet door, her shower caddy and leaves, shutting the door softly behind her.

Quinn remains in bed. She can't understand why she suddenly wanted Rachel to undress here, instead of the bathroom.

Rachel, when she comes back with shiny eyes and a fresh-scrubbed face, doesn't mention anything: not the open, completely full bottle of water sitting on Quinn's nightstand; not sleeping in the same bed; not the morning wake-up call.

Rachel doesn't say much of anything, just gives Quinn a small smile, mutter something about a study group, and takes off to the library.

Quinn's fine pretending it never happened anyway, for now.

Pushing the basketball up towards the ceiling, lying on her back on Ben's bed, she waits until the ball comes back down before turning on her side, propping one hand under her head and asking the question she's been thinking about for the last four days.

"Making out with a girl's neck doesn't make you, like, gay, right?"

Ben chokes on his soda. "Excuse me?" he sputters when his face isn't red anymore. "Whose neck were you making out with?"

To his credit, Quinn thinks, it takes Ben only a few seconds before his eyes light up and a smile starts growing in the corner of his mouth.

"I knew something was going on with you two!" He jumps knees-first onto the bed, bouncing up and down. "The tension between you two was so thick I swore I was going to drown in it. So," he starts, winking at her as he stops bouncing, "were you guys totally shacking up in high school, or what?"

She opens her mouth to tell him "no, this was the first time and all I did was molest her neck with my tongue" but he keeps talking.

"Oh, I can picture it all now. She wants to run off to New York after high school but you can't give up your dream of going to Chicago College of Performing Arts, and she certainly give up Julliard for the Windy City, so you go your separate ways, bitterly, and vow to never speak again. Then, in a moment of desperation, she comes here, hoping to find you and clearly, it was only a matter of time before you found your way back into her bed."

She stares, slack-jawed, at Ben, waiting to see if he's kidding and when it becomes clear he's not, she reaches out and smacks him against the chest.

"What soap opera are you living in?"

"Days of Our Lives," he sighs.

"I'm not, nor have I ever been, sleeping with Rachel Berry," she roars.

Ben smirks. "But you want to be."

She doesn't try to deny, because he's annoying and almost, sort of, kind of right. Almost, because she doesn't want to sleep with Rachel Berry, she just wants to know if her mouth tastes the same as her neck, or if skin hidden behind her t-shirt is as soft as the skin she felt against her face.

It's not like she wants to date Rachel, or anything stupid like that.

She just wants to kiss her.

If she's honest with herself – well, with eighteen year old Quinn more than twenty-two year old Quinn – all she's ever wanted to do is kiss Rachel.

Lima, Ohio

April, 2012

"Did you get the new song list?" Rachel asks, dropping into the red plastic chair on Quinn's right. Quinn looks up from her book – Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda, for her English class, she tells everyone – and smiles.

"The Beatles, huh?"

Rachel nods, her face contorted in thought. "I think it's cliché."

Quinn snorts and thumbs one of the pages of her book. "Of course you do. Mr. Schue thinks it's catchy. And relatable."

"Why do we care how relatable our music is?"

"Because all judges aren't closet Streisand fans, that's why," Quinn says drly.

Rachel shrugs and plucks Quinn's book out of Quinn's hands, skimming over the page. "But you, cloudless girl," she reads, "question of smoke, corn tassel. You were what the wind was making with illuminated leaves. Behind the nocturnal mountains, while lily of conflagration, ah, I can say nothing!"

"You were made of everything," Quinn finishes softly.

"I didn't know you read Spanish," Rachel says, eyes glancing over the other side of the page, alternating her gaze between the Spanish original and the English translation.

"I don't," Quinn admits, sheepishly. "But I did memorize the English versions."

Rachel is quiet for a moment, closing the book to check the author – but keeping her thumb as a place mark, Quinn notes with satisfaction – then giving it back to Quinn. "I didn't know you read poetry either."

There's no use telling Rachel "I don't" because the pages are watermarked and folded at the corners and the binding of the thin book is cracked down the spine, so she nods her head slowly and only just a little bit.

"What's your favorite one?"

"I really like 'Almost Out Of Sky'" Quinn says, pointing to the open page. Rachel leans over her shoulder, breathing the words as she reads them.

"Oh to follow the road," Quinn says out loud as Rachel reaches the end of the poem. "That leads away from everything, without anguish, death, winter waiting along it with their eyes open through the dew."

"It sounds like a dream," Rachel finally says, her chin dangerously close to resting on Quinn's shoulder.

"It's my dream," Quinn admits. "Someday."

"As soon as we graduate," Rachel finishes.

Quinn turns in her chair and Rachel moves back, settling into her own chair. "You're going to New York, right? Someday?"

Rachel's smile is wide and bright and full of assurance. "Of course I am. I'm going to be famous, someday soon. It's on my life plan chart. You can come visit, if you want," Rachel offers.

Rachel looks so hopeful, so terrified to be offering, and, simultaneously, so completely sure of herself that Quinn feels something melt inside of her – something that had hardened when she lost her innocent view of the world after being tossed to the social pariah's and her parents' obsessive view of Christ, Our Lord, and became Quinn Fabray, head bitch, completely jaded, always suspicious of the good in people and golden hearts. It melts the ice covering her heart and Quinn likes the feeling so much that she nods hard.

"I'd like that."

Rachel, too, looks sincere. "Me too."

Chicago, Illinois

October 2016

Theatre-Boy – Derrick, she finds out – corners her outside of her Macroeconomics class. Ben winks at her and stretches his legs a little longer to catch up with the interest of the week – Brad or Chip or some other sexually repressed All-American charmed by Ben's smile and overall feminine attitude.

"Hey. Quinn, right?" He has the decency to look hesitant and his smile is shy, but warm.

She smiles brightly, hoists her backpack higher on her shoulder and dips her head a little. "Right."

He sticks his hand out and when she takes it, it's just as warm as his smile and he's cute, in a goofy, Finn Hudson sort of way. "Derrick," he tells her. "I tried to get your number after Jill's party, but-"

Quinn groans and covers her eyes with her free hand, vaguely aware that one of her hands is still wrapped in his. "My roommate," she finishes.

He smiles sheepishly, dropping her hand to run his own through his hair. "I don't think she liked me."

Quinn shrugs. "She doesn't like me either, so at least we have that in common."

He gives her his number, asks what she's doing Friday and smiles when she says completely free.

"Oh." Rachel looks surprised to see her standing in front of the dresser, peering into the small mirror hanging on the wall.

Quinn looks back over her shoulder as Rachel puts her bag down, narrowing her eyes a bit when the brunette finally looks up.

"Sorry," Rachel says hurriedly. "I just thought that you were with Ben, or something."

"Why? Planned on having sex tonight?" she asks, her mouth turned low in disgust. "Sorry to ruin your evening," she sneers in a way that sounds completely insincere.

Rachel doesn't take the bait. "I just thought you'd have plans," she repeats quietly.

"I do. Just not with Ben." She pauses and applies another layer of eye shadow, her hand shaking a little because Rachel is just staring at the back of Quinn's head and Quinn can see it in the mirror. "With that guy, from the other night."

Rachel's reaction is what she was hoping for: eyes go round, her mouth drops open a little, and then the shock disappears off her face to be replaced by something Quinn thinks – hopes – is anger.


Or, at least, the expression is something between confusion and disbelief.

"You remember him, right? Tall, dark and delicious?"

Rachel snorts. "You don't even know his name."

"Derrick," she says quickly, her tone matter-of-fact. "His name is Derrick."

Rachel stares at her with an unreadable look in her eyes and eventually shrugs. "Well, that sounds like a nice name.

Quinn gapes. "You have nothing else to say?"

Turning back from her desk, Rachel frowns. "What did you want me to say?"

Anything, Quinn thinks, then shakes her head, because she really doesn't want Rachel to say anything at all.

When Derrick walks her back to her dorm, she says she has a headache – which isn't all that far from the truth – and kisses him chastely on the cheek, much to his disappointment.

She drops his number in her trash and deletes him from her cell phone as soon as she's locked safely away in her room, and flops down onto her bed, staring up at the ceiling. It's a plain white ceiling with no visible discrepancies, like her ceiling at home used to be, before she let Rachel and Brittany talk her into redesign.

"You're going to be so surprised," Brittany whispers as she clamps her hands down over Quinn's eyes. Brittany's hands are cold, but Quinn lets herself be guided up the stairs – Brittany's grace must rub off on her, because Quinn can't make it up these steps without tripping once, with her eyes open – and down the hall, into her room.

The first thing she sees when she opens her eyes is Rachel in the middle of the room, wringing her hands nervously and smiling shyly.

The next thing she sees is stars.

Stars are everywhere: stars in random patterns are in the far corner of the room by the bed etched into the walls with different color yellows and they – along with the midnight blue paint – fade as they move across the room so that by the time they reach the closest door, it's like the clearest blue sky Quinn has ever seen.

Brittany bounces on the balls of her feet excitedly, looking at Rachel expectantly.

Quinn quirks an eyebrow and looks at Rachel who stares back at her, unblinking.

"Okay, Brittany," Rachel finally says, not pulling her eyes away from Quinn's gaze.

The taller blond claps her hands and jumps a little. "This part is awesome," she breathes out, reaching a long arm out to the light switch on the wall, turning the overhead light off, casting the room into darkness.

It takes Quinn a moment for her eyes to adjust to the lack of light, but when she does, her breath catches in her throat and Brittany lets out a barely audible "Told you so."

Above the bed – the way her Joshua Jackson poster used to hang over her head when she was younger – the night sky is mapped out, constellation for constellation, extending into the middle of the room. Her eyes trace over the different stars: the North Star, the Big Dipper, the Litter Dipper, even the Swan is up there.

"It was totally my idea," Brittany says proudly from behind her. Quinn can see Rachel's smile, even in the darkness.

"It was a great idea," Quinn says, her voice a mere whisper, like she's afraid of it. "You guys, this is so great."

Brittany flips the light back on and Quinn's vision returns in a startling flash, but there's Rachel, one hand pushed into her hoodie pocket, smiling sheepishly. "You said something different, right? This counts as different," she says, as if she's defending herself.

"I love it," Quinn says insistently. "It's, it's perfect."

The door opening and closing brings her out of her head and back into the present, sprawled across the lower half of her twin-sized bed, grinning at the ceiling.

"Oh," Rachel says, clearly startled at Quinn's presence.

Quinn hoists her torso up, resting back on her elbows, taking in Rachel's appearance. Since she's come to CCPA, Rachel has dressed the same way she did in high school, managing, as Kurt said, "to dress like a grandmother and a toddler at the same time," but pulling it off, because this is a performing arts school.

Tonight, though, Rachel has a long coat on, touching down against mid-shin and her shoes are high and pointed and her hair is swept off her neck, but elegantly, and Quinn's first thought is that Rachel has hit so far rock bottom that she's now a call girl; An expensive call girl.

Which is ridiculous, she thinks instantly, then hesitates. Right?

"Hi," Rachel finally continues, one hand moving to the belt of her coat, the other tossing her clutch onto her desk noisily. "I thought you were going out?"

Quinn watches intensely as Rachel's hands meet at the knot of the belt and begins to pull it apart. It's slow-motion porno she's watching as the coat parts and Rachel shrugs her shoulders, the fabric sliding down off the bare skin and hitting the floor with a dull thud. She watches Rachel's entire body move in parts – the neck roll, a shoulder lift, clenching fingers, tensing of visible thigh muscles, bending of the knees, flexing of her toes – and Quinn feels her mouth go dry.

Rachel looks like an expensive young call girl.

Quinn feels like a dirty old man.

"I did," she manages to stutter out before Rachel notices her staring. "I'm back now."

Rachel tugs at the zipper on the dress she's wearing and frowns. "That's bad?" she asks distractedly.

Quinn nods. "Sure," she breathes out.

It was bad, before, when she spent the whole night wondering how she found Derrick with an –ick mildly attractive in the first place, and she hadn't really been looking forward to coming back early to be taunted by Rachel, but suddenly, the night was getting better. Much better.

She comes to her senses just as Rachel is about to drop the dress and replace it with her pajamas.

"Where were you," she asks, her voice harsher than she would have liked.

Rachel quirks an eyebrow and gives Quinn a look that says "what do you care?" but swallows and shrugs. "I went out."

"Out," Quinn repeats blandly.

Rachel nods slowly, grabbing her sweats off the bed and clutching them to her chest, holding the dress up, the straps hanging off her shoulders around her biceps.

"Yeah," Rachel says, like she's offended – and Quinn thinks maybe she has a right to be, because Quinn didn't say that very nicely. "I was out."

"She's allowed to have a social life," Ben tells her as if he's talking to a little kid.

Quinn, spinning in his computer chair, slams her feet on the floor, stopping her motion, and glares. "I know that," she hisses. "It's just," her voice fades.

"Just what?" he asks after a minute.

"You should have seen that dress," she says on a completely different thought tangent.

Ben sighs; he's heard the same line about twenty times already and Quinn can't blame him for being annoyed.

"I bet it was all kinds of hot," he recites anyway, playing the role of best friend perfectly.

"Where was she even going in that dress?"

"Maybe this weekend, you should just follow her," Ben says dryly.

Quinn's eyes go wide and Ben starts to backtrack. "No," he says sharply. "I was kidding. I was not being anywhere near remotely serious," he insists.

"You're the best," Quinn coos, kissing Ben quickly on the cheek.

"I didn't mean it!" he shouts, but she's already moving down the hallway, making plans in her head.

Derrick calls her once on Monday, three times on Tuesday and texts her six times on Wednesday, asking her if she wants to go out again this week; why she's not answering his messages; and finally, to tell her that if she's going to be a little bitch and ignore him, she can just forget it.

It's easier than anything she's ever done in her life: Derrick becomes that guy she almost hooked up with and her attention is focused elsewhere.

She starts reading poetry again – something she hasn't done since senior year of high school – and wrestles her copy of Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair out of her desk drawer, retesting herself to see if she remembers it all.

The words come back easier than she thought they would.

"So that you will hear me my words sometimes grow thin as the tracks of the gulls on the beach," she murmurs under her breath.

Rachel looks up when she's halfway through "White Bee" and doesn't say anything, but she looks like she wants to.

She plans on Wednesday, Thursday, and during her Women's Lit class on Friday morning – an unnecessary amount of time for such a short plan, but she'll feign a headache, or homework, if Rachel asks her what she's doing; she'll wait exactly forty-five seconds after Rachel leaves before following her; she'll follow Rachel wherever she goes.

It's foolproof.

Quinn leans back in her chair casually. "Going out?"

Rachel looks over her shoulder at Quinn, pulling up her strapless dress a little bit. "Uh, yeah," she says hesitantly. "Are you?"

"No," Quinn drags out, gesturing to the numerous books stacked on her desk and the highlighted printouts in various piles. "Homework," she adds as an explanation.

"Fun," Rachel says dryly, glancing at the clock, her eyes widening slightly. "I've got to-"

"Go, go," Quinn says, shooing Rachel towards the door.

She smiles widely, leaning against the doorjamb and Rachel crosses the threshold, stopping just outside the door to look back at Quinn with her eyes narrowed and her face twisted in confusion but Quinn smiles – a ridiculous, face-splitting, toothy grin that even feels fake – and makes another hand motion.

Rachel's confusion doesn't fade, and she looks over her shoulder three more times before she gets to the end of the hallway.

Quinn keeps smiling, but as soon as Rachel turns the corner she starts counting.

Forty-five, forty-four, forty-three, forty-two, forty-one, forty, thirty-nine…

She almost loses Rachel as they turn off Michigan Avenue, but catches her crossing the street and gets a little closer than she wanted to, just to make sure she can keep up.

Rachel doesn't look back once, but Quinn is a sloppy secret agent, so she decides not to dwell on the idea that Rachel is completely not aware of her surroundings.

When Rachel stops on the corner of North Rush Street, Quinn sees her hesitate for a second. It's only a slight misstep, one that passerby's wouldn't notice, but Quinn is paying attention and she sees the faltering step.

It's unnerving that Rachel is this hesitant.

Before she can really think too much about it, Rachel is moving again, dodging the Chicago nightlife and ducking underneath hanging signs, coming to stop, staring up through the picture window into the storefront, a black awning hanging over her.

Jilly's Piano Bar it says in capital letters on every side of the awning that Quinn can see.

Rachel pulls the door open and Quinn is close enough that a blast of music overwhelms her, fading off down the street as the door slams shut behind Rachel.

Quinn moves fast, darting forward, pulling on the handle and slipping inside.

The room is large and a piano sits in the middle of floor, black and grand and the kind of piano she used to dream about playing, back when she took lessons.

"Fly me to the moon," a man is crooning.

Quinn takes a seat at the rectangle bar on the far side of the room, her eyes adjusting to the dim lighting, trying to find Rachel. She spots her in the opposite corner, leaning with her back against the wall, legs crossed casually at the knee so that the slit of her dress slides off to one side, a drink in one hand. There's a man – no, Quinn decides, a boy – sitting next to her with heavy-framed glasses, dark hair and pants tighter than any pair Quinn owns.

He's whispering insistently into Rachel's ear, but Rachel keeps shaking her head and when the boy points at the piano, Rachel's eyes go wide and she grabs his arm, pulling it into her lap violently, glaring at him, her drink sloshing dangerously to one side of the glass.

"Can I get you something?" someone behind her asks over "A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening."

She spins on her stool and glances behind the bar, then back over her shoulder. "See that girl?" she asks, pointing discreetly. The woman's gaze follows her finger and finds Rachel. A grin – one that Quinn doesn't like the looks of – slides across her face.

"Sure. That's Rachel," she explains.

Quinn nods. "I'll have what she's having."

The bartender chuckles and reaches under the bar, grabbing a bottle of bourbon and Quinn balks. Bourbon, she thinks with disgust. Rachel Berry drinks bourbon?

She must see the shock on Quinn's face because her chuckle evolves into a laugh. "I thought the same thing when she first ordered it, too. I'm usually good at reading people, but Rachel? She managed to put one past me." She sticks a hand out. "Anna, the bartender."

Quinn takes it and quickly lets go. "Quinn, the bar patron."

Anna smiles a little and slides Quinn a finger of bourbon and then points her towel at Rachel. "How do you know her?"

"How do you," Quinn counters.

"She's been coming in here for about two months now, I think?" Anna says without skipping a beat. "She gets a drink, sits in that corner and watches the singers. Nice girl."

Quinn turns to look over her shoulder and watches the boy take his hand away from Rachel and point at the piano again. Rachel sighs, her shoulders making an exaggerated motion up and down.

"Yeah," Quinn says wistfully. "When does she sing?"

Anna gives a short laugh. "She doesn't. Eli, over there," she says, pointing at the boy next to Rachel. "Eli tries to get her to sing every weekend; especially after he found out she did that show in New York. But Rachel won't do it. She absolutely refuses to."

Quinn takes Anna's words in, sipping on her drink and swallowing the urge to spit it back into the glass.

"How did you say you knew her?" Anna asks, passing her a glass of water that Quinn takes and drinks quickly, swishing the water around in her mouth to clean out the liquor from in between her teeth and under her tongue.

"We're roommates," Quinn says distractedly, watching the boy – Eli, Quinn reminds herself – throw his hands up and slump down in his seat.

She sits there all night, switching her bourbon to "whatever you want to give me, Anna. Just give me a drink" and watching Rachel sit in the corner, continually turning and saying something to Eli, but never getting up and moving to the piano.

"So, did you get the dirt?" Ben asks excitedly, perched on the edge of his bed, hugging his pillow to his chest.

Quinn finds it endearing that he was completely against her idea and now he's acting like a schoolgirl waiting in line to see that kid who played Troy Bolton in High School Musical.

"Is she meeting an older lover?" he asks, his eyes clouding over. "Or is she really an assassin, here on a super secret meeting?"

"No," she says with a laugh. "She goes to that piano bar on North Rush, Jilly's Piano Bar?"

Ben nods sagely. "I know a guy that goes there."

Quinn rolls her eyes. "Let me guess. His name is Eli?"


"Anna, the bartender told me that Rachel doesn't even sing, she just sits there," Quinn continues, ignoring Ben. "I watched her all night and all she did was drink bourbon, which, first of all, is disgusting, and secondly, it was boring. All night! All she did was sit there."

"I want you to take a minute to process how much of a stalker you sound right now," Ben says slowly.

Quinn narrows her eyes, but inwardly she admits he has a point. "Why would she go there without singing?"

It's a rhetorical question, but Ben answers anyway. "Maybe she likes listening."

"No," Quinn says firmly, shaking her head. "You don't know Berry. All she does is sing. It's all she's ever wanted to do."

Ben shrugs his shoulders. "Can we talk about my drama now?"

Rachel is sitting at her desk, hunched over her computer, typing furiously and Quinn should be doing homework too – she needs to learn her lines for her monologue midterm – but she can't seem to focus and Rachel must see that, because she's sighing and pushing her chair back from her desk, spinning around so that her feet hang off the back of the chair and her back is pressed against the desk.

"You're making me nervous," she says bluntly.

Quinn raises one eyebrow, but doesn't look away. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"I'm serious, Quinn. Did you need something?"

"Help me with my monologue," she blurts out, almost wishing she could take it back.

Rachel falters. "Excuse me?"

Quinn decides to go with it. "I'm supposed to recite a sonnet for my teacher tomorrow and I've never practiced it in front of a live audience. Help me."

"Well," Rachel says slowly. "You could try asking me, first of all."

Quinn blushes. "Right. Sorry. Uh, Rachel," she clears her throat. "Will you help me practice for my midterm?"

Rachel sticks her hand out demandingly. "Give me whatever you're supposed to be doing."

Fumbling through her folder, cursing herself for not even bothering to study the sonnet beforehand and for not even looking like she's prepared, she finally finds it – at the back of the stack of papers – and hands it to Rachel, wondering if Rachel can see her arm shaking.

Rachel skims the page and gives a slight smile. "I had to read this senior year."

"I picked it out of a hat," Quinn says dumbly.

"Well," Rachel says after a minute, looking up at Quinn. "Go for it."

She says it slowly, stumbling on one line and completely flubbing another, but Rachel smiles at her gently, encouragingly and mouths the words she doesn't remember, prompting Quinn.

It's the most she's said to Rachel, directed at Rachel, in the two months since Rachel showed up.

"She's drunk," Ben says, dropping Quinn onto her bed. Quinn rolls over onto her back and looks up at the ceiling, smiling widely.

"I am," she agrees, slurring her words. She thinks she sees Rachel roll her eyes, but she can't really be sure.

Rachel gets up from her desk and clicks off the television. "She either did really well on her mid-term or she bombed it," she says, directing her words at Ben.

Quinn, though, sits up and throws her arms into the air victoriously. "I nailed it!"

Ben, definitely, rolls his eyes. "She didn't even stumble on 'and weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe.'"

Rachel reaches over and pats Quinn on the head gently. "We practiced for a long time, didn't we?"

"Sure," Quinn says, nodding furiously. She feels like her brain is in water, slamming from one side of her head to the other and it feels awesome. A hand grabs her chin, though, and stops her. She looks up and Rachel is standing over her, smiling gently.

"Don't," she admonishes. "You'll have a headache in the morning.

Quinn smiles gratefully, looking at Ben and pointing to Rachel as if to say "isn't she great?"

Ben quirks an eyebrow. "I'm assuming your hands are capable enough for me to leave her to them?" he asks, then immediately blushes. "I didn't mean that to sound as dirty as it came out. What I mean was-"

Rachel takes mercy on him and waves, cutting him off. "I've got it under control."

Quinn smiles shamelessly. "Yeah," she coos. "Rachel's got it over control."

"Under, sweetie," Ben murmurs, but he leans down and gives Quinn a sloppy kiss on the forehead, nodding at Rachel as he shuts the door behind him.

Quinn drops back onto the bed, and then sits up again. "I made that test my bitch," she hisses.

Rachel lets out a loud bark of laughter and nods, pulling at Quinn's sneaker. It separates from her foot with a pop, pulling down the top of her sock with it, and she giggles loudly, because there's her ankle, just exposed like that, hanging over the edge of bed.

"Let's go," Rachel huffs, still smiling a little bit as she pulls off the other shoe, tossing them onto the ground at the foot of Quinn's bed. "Into bed."

Quinn lifts her eyebrows up and down suggestively. "Will you be coming into my bed with me?"

"No," Rachel says slowly, pulling back the corner of the sheets. Quinn drops her hand down, stopping the sheet from moving any further and stares up at Rachel through her eyelashes, cocking her head to the side.

"Well," she drags out, blowing air through her teeth. "Why not?"

She thinks she hears Rachel mutter "I'm not even going to touch that with a ten foot pole" under her breath, but she's not exactly sure.

Before she can try and convince the brunette to slide underneath the covers with her, she feels the room start to spin and her head drops back into a soft pillow and then there's nothing but darkness and the sound of Rachel's voice – singing her Frank Sinatra – is the last thing she hears.

She follows Rachel through the city again, taking her time now that she knows where she's going and she makes a mental count of all the people she sees stopping to check out Rachel. She stops counting when she hits ten and gets annoyed instead, so by the time she gets to Jilly's, she almost slams her hand down on the bar to get Anna's attention.

"Hey, Blondie," Anna says with a smile.

Quinn scowls. "I need a drink."

Anna pours her one and – God bless her, Quinn thinks – never lets her glass get empty until she leaves.

Two more Fridays come and go while Quinn chats idly with Anna and Rachel sits in the corner and pouts.

She watches Rachel a lot, when she thinks that brunette isn't looking. She analyzes the way Rachel tucks her hair behind her ear when she's studying; the way she bites her lip when she's mouthing words and she loses her place; how her face glows differently every time one of her fathers calls; the way she sleeps with one hand across her face and a leg hanging off the side of the bed.

She spends so much time watching Rachel – and maybe Rachel does notice – that eventually she starts talking and it's like Watergate: things just keep coming out.

Quinn talks about her parents – she hasn't heard from them, not really, since she started at CCPA and it stings a little because they were in a good place when she left – and her goals – she wants to get a degree in theatre and maybe her teaching license and become one of those cool high school drama teachers, doing quirky plays on the side – and high school – she knows she was a jerk for a good portion of four years, but she wouldn't trade any of it for anything.

Rachel talks too, about her dads – who are still, Quinn thinks, disgustingly adorable – and why she came to CCPA – because it really is a good school and Chicago is alive with opportunities – and sometimes she talks about high school too – how she made out with Noah Puckerman once and that it was good but it would have never gone anywhere, whether or not he's Jewish.

One thing Rachel never talks about is New York and whenever Puck calls her and asks how it's going, she always brings it up and Puck always shuts her down.

She thinks it's some sad form of revenge for not letting him steal her virginity.

Derrick calls her a couple more times, but she lets the phone go to voicemail and deletes them before she listens to them, not even bothering to think that he actually exists.

Ben thinks she has a problem and no social life; Quinn thinks she's fine and tells him to find someone else to worry about.

"What happened in New York?"

The question slips out of her mouth before she can stop it, but there it is, hanging between them awkwardly. Rachel's eyes are wide and Quinn's ducking her head sheepishly, but she's waiting, expectantly, for an answer.

"Excuse me?" Rachel finally stutters.

Quinn steels her shoulders and nods – more for herself than Rachel. "What happened in New York?"

Rachel's eyes stay round and her mouth drops open a little, but like flipping a switch, her mouth turns down and her eyes narrow and she's glaring at Quinn.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," she sneers.

Quinn doesn't think that's an acceptable answer. "I was in Lima that summer you came home. I know something happened, but I don't know what happened, because you talked to everyone but me about it."


"And I don't get that," she continues over Rachel. "I mean, we were friends, right? I didn't make that up, did I?"

Rachel's eyes lose their sharp corner. "Of course we were," she insists.

Quinn throws her hands up. "So why wouldn't you at least talk to me. It didn't have to be about New York. We could have talked about anything! You didn't even tell me you were coming home, Rachel. I had to hear it from Puck."

She's not sure why this is all coming out now, or why she's this angry – except she kind does know why she's angry – but she's tired of walking on eggshells and she's tired of watching Rachel sit in a corner when she should be standing in the middle of the spotlight, singing.

"Well, I'm sorry," Rachel says softly.

"Sorry isn't good enough," Quinn hisses.

Rachel's eyes flash, bright and quick. "I don't owe you anything, Quinn Fabray."

"You owed it to me to tell me to my face that you were back," Quinn throws back.

"Why?" Rachel asks, the venom gone from her voice. "It's not like you called me while I was gone. You never called and you never made an effort to see me when I came back. Why do I owe it to you to tell you anything?"

"Because we were friends," Quinn says weakly.

"In high school," Rachel says placidly. "High school is over, Quinn. There's no more Glee club, no more Mr. Schuester expecting us to get along, and no more social hierarchy to defy. So, we don't have to pretend anymore."

"Pretend?" Quinn hisses.

"Sure." Rachel shrugs. "We're not friends now, clearly. Actually, I was thinking about getting that room change, after Thanksgiving break."

Quinn can't do anything but watch Rachel grab a few things off her desk, shove them carelessly into her backpack and leave the room, quietly shutting the door behind her.

Rachel comes back and Quinn is still sitting on the edge of her bed, staring at Rachel's side of the room, unsure of what she's even focusing on.

"The thing is," Rachel starts, sliding off her shoes and sitting on her own bed, across from Quinn, tucking her legs up Indian-style. "The thing is, I was embarrassed. I mean, I was mortified."

Quinn wants to say something, anything. She's been sitting here for a couple of hours – the sun has set and left the room shrouded in semi-darkness – and she's been thinking that the second Rachel walks back through the door, she'll just unleash on her, scream and yell and maybe kick if necessary, because if anyone is going to kick Rachel it's going to be Quinn, and that's that. Rachel, though, doesn't look like she wants Quinn to talk, and that's fine, Quinn decides, because whatever she wanted to say is sticking to the back of her throat, like peanut butter.

"All through high school, all I did was talk about how I was going to get out of Lima. I was going to make it big in New York and leave Ohio in the dust, where it belonged. That workshop? I thought it was my ticket to stardom. They told me I was good. So I said 'forget Julliard. I can do this now.' But I was wrong."

Rachel looks towards Quinn, but her eyes are looking through Quinn and it's unnerving.

"I got one part, in a small off-Broadway thing, but we did only three shows before they shut us down. After that, I spent months trying to get work and then," Rachel shrugs. "I came back when I realized that I wouldn't be able to pay rent unless I got a job at the Diary Mart on the corner of my block."


Rachel waves her off. "It was just, for the first time in my life, I felt like a Lima Loser, you know?"

Quinn doesn't, not really, because staying in Lima those first two years was one of the better decisions she's made in her life – right after telling Puck to shove it that day she felt fat and he tried to offer her alcohol to soothe her pain – and anyway, it was her own choice to stay behind; she didn't just get stuck.

"I always felt," Rachel hesitates and Quinn can take a guess at what word she's trying not to use, but then Rachel says "superior" and Quinn holds back the smile that she desperately wants to show. "I felt superior," Rachel says again, "over everyone. And I failed. I crashed and burned and, God, there were so many other expressions that Finn used that I can't remember right now, but every time I close my eyes, there they are, in big, bold, black letters, just taunting me. And I had to come back to Lima with my head down, and I could feel everyone just staring at me, pointing at me, whispering 'there's the girl who didn't make it'."

"No one was doing that," Quinn says resolutely.

Rachel rolls her eyes. "Not out loud, sure. But in their heads, they were all judging me."

"The only one who can judge you is yourself," she finds herself saying.

"Huh," Rachel says, staring at her. "Think that one up all by yourself?"

Quinn blushes and looks away, finally, out the window. "Fortune cookie," she mumbles.

Rachel is quiet for a minute and so Quinn looks back up, and pulls back because Rachel is inches from her, on her knees in front of the side of the bed her eyes wide and her mouth is open just barely.

Quinn can't pull her gaze away.

"Can you fix it?" Rachel asks, her voice small and timid and nothing like Quinn's ever heard before. She wonders if this is what Rachel sounded like when she first went back to Lima; wonders if Rachel looked this tiny when she stepped off the plane in Dayton.

"Fix what?" Her own voice is just as small; just as soft.

"Everything," Rachel breathes out.

Quinn leans forward, unconsciously, and feels her breath catch in her throat but at the last moment she leans to the left, towards the desk with her left hand and fumbles with the book lying open. With her right hand, she grabs the crook of Rachel's elbow and tugs, forcing the brunette off her knees and up, then pulls so Rachel is sitting on the bed as still as a statue. Quinn leans back, propping herself up on her elbow, looking from Rachel to the pillow, Rachel to the pillow, Rachel to the pillow…

Finally Rachel gets it and moves, stiffly, so that her head is on the pillow, staring straight up towards the ceiling with her hands at her sides. Quinn thinks she might not even be breathing, but silently prays that she is before sliding further into the middle of the bed, her legs touching Rachel's gently.

She slides one hand through the pages and finds one she likes, looking down at Rachel briefly before edging even closer and finding her voice.

"I remember you as you were last autumn. You were the grey beret and the still heart. In your eyes the flame of twilight fought on."

She reads until Rachel falls asleep.

Rachel wakes up in Quinn's bed, again, but this time Quinn keeps her hands – and more importantly, her mouth – to herself.

Quinn keeps her eyes shut as Rachel sits up and climbs over her body carefully and even though she wants to reach out and grab Rachel's wrist and pull her back and do anything, she stays still, only breathing when Rachel is back on her own side of the room.

Rachel is quiet all week, nodding or shaking her head instead of just saying yes or no and they stop talking about their day and their feelings and all the things they used to say to each other.

It's awkward and Quinn decides that she likes it better when they argue, instead of just the silence.

That Friday, she gets careless and when Rachel turns around by the Subway on the corner of East Oak Street, she barely has time to duck behind a sidewalk ad and she's pretty sure Rachel stares at her across the room at Jilly's, but she looks away after a while, as if she's not sure what she's seeing.

Quinn thinks she's safe and turns back to the bar, waving Anna down and lifting her glass to signal a refill.

The chair next to her spins violently. "What are you doing here?" Rachel hisses.

Anna, in the middle of pouring, puts the bottle down and walks to the other end of the bar, muttering about fixing the sink.

She decides to play it cool and not panic and wait at least five seconds before answering any questions, because this way, she can control what she says and how she says it and she'll seem less like a stalker, she thinks, if she can do these two things.

"Hi," Quinn says, not bothering to turn in her chair. In the mirror lining the wall where the bar is, she can see Rachel's reflection: sitting with her knees towards Quinn's hip, leaning forward angrily, her face twisted and red, even in the dim lights of the room.

"Don't," Rachel says. "What are you doing here?"

Quinn tilts her drink in Rachel's direction and counts one, two, three, four, five. "Unwinding. Listening to some guy maim 'The Coffee Song' for me," she adds, noticing, for the first time, that whoever is sitting at that piano can't sing. At all.

"Unwinding," Rachel mocks, snorting. "You're following me."

Quinn counts. "It's not my fault you happened to pick the one place I actually enjoy going."

Rachel growls, much to Quinn's amusement. "Drop the act, Fabray."

"Don't flatter yourself, Berry."

They're back to last names now and stage-whispered angry words and Quinn would find this funny – because, really, Rachel just growled – but she's thinking a little too much about the way that Rachel's knee is now pressing into her thigh and it's almost painful, because Rachel's knees are unusually bony, but there's also body heat and it feels good.

"Why are you doing this?" Rachel pleads, the anger in her voice fading to hopelessness.

Quinn doesn't count this time. Her mouth just opens. "I'm sitting here and I'm drinking, Berry, dammit. Why can't you leave me alone, for like, three minutes? Some people actually come here to drink and listen and sing instead of sitting against the wall like the loser at the prom."

Rachel recoils like she touched a hot stove, her face wide with that innocent confusion that comes right after putting a hand on the burner, but hides it hurt quickly enough so that only Quinn – and Anna, who is eavesdropping, rather blatantly – see it flicker across her frown and through her eyes before her face stretches with hate and freezes that way.

"Fine," she says dangerously low. "Drink away, for all I care. Go play in traffic later," she adds. Rachel drops off the stool, taking a step away but Quinn suddenly finds herself standing in front of Rachel, blocking her exit.

"Move," Rachel demands, stepping to her left.

Quinn moves to her right. "I'm sorry."

Rachel rolls her eyes. "Quinn, move."

Anna is staring at her from behind the bar and the piano has stopped playing and that Eli kid in the corner is halfway out of his seat – not that he'd be able to do anything, Quinn muses – and the whole place seems to be watching them, so she puts her hands up in surrender and turns her body and Rachel just slides on past her, hissing when her elbow snags on Quinn's sweater.

She slumps back against the bar, pressing her forehead onto the cool wood and groans loudly. A loud thump pulls her head back up and Anna is there, dropping a bottle of tequila in front of her and placing a shot glass next to it without a word.

The first one doesn't go down easy, but after four – or maybe it's five – shots, the burn in the back of her throat tempers down to a dull spark.

Ben meets her in the hallway and it takes him a little while to untangle her from Anna's arm.

"You got some 'splainin' to do," he mumbles gently as Anna lets herself back out into the cool Chicago early morning. "She's been pacing in my room for the last two hours, ranting about some guy named Finn and the disruption of the social hierarchy and Barbara Streisand's nose. I thought I was a drama queen, but," he frowns. "Are you even listening to me?"

Quinn loops her arms around his neck and pulls his face close to her own. "Do you ever think about pulling a It's A Wonderful Life and just wishing away your existence?"

He shakes his head slowly, but Quinn thinks it's still too fast. "No, sweetie, I don't."

"That's a shame," she says seriously. "Because I think about it a lot, like, all the time."

"Quinn," he sighs.

"Like, what if I was never born? I never would have joined Glee, you know? And I never would have do anything." She smiles sloppily. "Don't you ever think about cool that would be?"

Ben is silent for a minute before he pulls away gently and drapes his arm across Quinn's shoulders, tucking her under his arm. "Well, c'mon George Bailey. Let's get you to bed."

She wakes up with cotton in her mouth and Rachel sitting practically on top of her.

"What-" is all she can get out before Rachel is clapping a hand down over her mouth and narrowing her eyes in a silent demand for Quinn to be quiet.

"You infuriate me," Rachel says bluntly. Quinn opens her mouth again, but Rachel presses her hand down harder. "You really, really make me angry. You've always managed to make me angrier than anyone else in the entire world, and sometimes, all you have to do is sit there."

Quinn doesn't even try to say anything this time.

"Ben," Rachel continues, rolling her eyes "thinks it's sexual tension."

Quinn protests now, thrashing her head from side to side until Rachel pulls her hand back and glares at her. Her mouth still feels like someone shoved a tissue in it while she slept, and her head is pounding but Ben thinks that they have sexual tension and she's suddenly awake.

"Excuse me?" she sputters, wiping at the sleep in her eyes.

"He thinks that all our loathing for one another is really just badly masked sexual tension" Rachel repeats calmly. "And he might have a point."

"But that's," she starts, then just stops. "Jesus."

"So I'm going to kiss you now. To get this all out of the way," Rachel says matter-of-factly.

Quinn scrambles back against the wall. "No you're not."

Rachel takes a step forward. "Yes, I am."

Quinn opens her mouth – to protest, to shout, to yell "Rape!" at the top of her lungs – but Rachel moves quickly, grabbing both of Quinn's wrists and pinning them on either side of Quinn's body, leaning in with wavering confidence. Quinn's eyes slide closed unconsciously when she feels Rachel's breath against her chin.

They snap back open when Rachel suddenly pulls away. "I can't," she says helplessly.

Quinn feels something like hope drop in her chest – a heavy, thudding kind of feeling. She waits a minute, closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, trying not to feel too let down, but when she opens them again, Rachel is still sitting on her bed, looking down into her lap.

"I can," she says, not even sure if Rachel hears her or not.

She moves without really processing she's moving until she's sitting next to Rachel with her feet hanging off of the bed. Ignoring how cold it is without socks on – because, God, Quinn thinks, it's cold – she reaches for Rachel's hand hesitantly.

It's slightly sweaty and smaller than any hand she's ever held and she can't help but wonder why she never held hands with Rachel before, when they were actually friends, but then remembers that she was never that girl in high school; she was never like Brittany, who just wanted to touch everyone and smiled brightly.

As slowly as possible, she lifts her free hand and grabs the bottom of Rachel's chin, pulling Rachel's face around until her nose is bumping against Rachel's and then she dips her head down and purses her lips and she's kissing Rachel.

There are no fireworks or explosions of colors or shooting stars, but Rachel tastes like vanilla and her mouth is warm and Quinn sighs into it, even though she's not sure she should, because Rachel remains still as Quinn presses their mouths together and doesn't move until Quinn untangles their hands and grabs the other side of Rachel's face, holding it steadily between her hands. Then, Rachel gasps and inhales, bringing Quinn's lower lip with her and Quinn can't stop the whimper bubbling up in her throat, so she doesn't and it's mildly embarrassing, because Rachel stops kissing her for a millisecond, but she doesn't care much.

Rachel is kissing her back and that's got to count for something.

She slides her hands around to hook behind Rachel's head, pulling the brunette insistently towards her, pressing harder.

Rachel pulls back, her nose skimming along Quinn's cheek, down around her earlobe and rests along the curve of her neck, her mouth against Quinn's collarbone.

They're sitting on the edge of the bed – the edge where Quinn sits a lot; where Quinn thinks; where she stares at Rachel; where she tries to shrug off her hangovers; where she spends her time, waiting – with their knees pointed towards the other side of the room and their torso's melded together and Quinn has a mouthful of brunette hair – and even though she knows that Rachel uses Classic Clean Pantene Shampoo that tastes like nothing, it actually tastes like vanilla and day-old tequila – and it's unsexy and awkward and Quinn really pictured this going different – a "kiss-then-hands-in-happy-places" kind of different – but she likes this way just fine, too.

"Quinn," Rachel says, the name echoing into Quinn's neck.

"Hmm?" Quinn asks through hair, her lips pressing – she thinks – against Rachel's temple.

Rachel shifts in her arms a little, wiggling, but Quinn doesn't loosen her grip much, just moves with the other girl's motions.

"I think my hip is going to pop," she says, almost directly in Quinn's ear.

Quinn giggles, but it grows into a laugh and before she knows it, her stomach muscles are quivering and she can't catch her breath, but Rachel is laughing too, and they're sprawling back and Quinn's head hits the wall before she shimmies forward and they're lying there, panting and snickering and Rachel rolls over onto her side, resting her head on Quinn's shoulder.

She storms into Ben's room, throwing his door open with so much force that it slams around and hits the wall behind it. He looks up, startled, from his desk and Quinn has never seen a deer in the middle of the road at night, but she figures Ben is doing a really good impression.

"You," she starts, waving a pointed finger at him. "You, you-"

"Quinn, listen," he tries to explain.

"Bastard," she finishes, but she's smiling. "You perfect, beautiful, flaming bastard!"

She surges forward and ends up in his lap, clutching to his neck tightly and her face pressed into his extremely gelled hair – and really, why she has everyone else's hair in her mouth is unsettling – and she's squealing like Kurt Hummel at a football game.

"I, uh," Ben stutters, finally deciding just to stop talking.

"Sexual tension? It was brilliant."

He pushes her off his lap and she doesn't even care when she lands on the floor; she just smiles up at him like he's Santa Claus, promising to bring her a bike for her eighth birthday, without training wheels.

"Brilliant," he repeats. "Quinn, what are you talking about?"

Now she frowns. "What do you mean you don't know what I'm talking about?"

Ben's face twist into confusion. "You're not mad at me about using your eyeliner?"

"I, you, what?" Quinn sputters. "You used my eyeliner?"

"What does sexual tension mean?" he asks loudly over her.

She stares up at him, and then shrugs her shoulders. "We'll talk about the eyeliner later. Didn't you tell Rachel there was sexual tension between her and I?"

Ben, if possible, looks even more confused. "Quinn, I have no idea what you're talking about."

Somehow, the fact that Rachel made it all up makes Quinn even happier than when she walked into Ben's room.

Quinn looks down at her homework, the white paper reflecting her lamp light right back into her eyes harshly, then looks up and glances over to Rachel.

She's been doing it for the last twenty minutes and she's been on the same sonnet for the last half hour.

Rachel sighs. "You're never going to get your work done if you keep staring at me."

Quinn drops her head back down quickly, smiling to herself. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm getting plenty of work done.

There's a scrape of a chair against the floor and suddenly Rachel is standing over her, grabbing her notebook off the desk.

"Yeah," Rachel scoffs. "I can see that."

"It's all in my head," Quinn defends, spinning in her chair and maneuvering so that Rachel ends up standing with Quinn's legs on either side of her. She's surprised she still has that kind of dexterity, but sends up a silent prayer of thanks.

"It doesn't count if it's up there," Rachel argues, stepping in and dropping one arm on Quinn's shoulder, her hand brushing against the back of Quinn's neck. With her other hand she taps one finger against Quinn's temple. "It needs to be on paper."

In a move she doesn't remember being able to make, Quinn moves her leg so that it presses against Rachel's leg until Rachel's knee buckles and she sags to right helplessly, towards the bed, and Quinn slides out of her chair and moves with Rachel, coming to rest straddling one of Rachel's legs, her hands on either side of Rachel's head, smiling down at the brunette.

"Not right now it doesn't," Quinn says quietly before leaning down.

Rachel meets her halfway, surging up and biting down on Quinn's bottom lip. She almost can't stop herself from losing balance and falling, but at the last second she regains control of the kiss – control she lost far too easily – and slides off onto her side, pulling Rachel into her.

"I'm not sure," Rachel murmurs, pulling back a little "that this is what they had in mind they said 'get along with each other'."

Quinn smiles widely and leans back in, kissing Rachel's smile. "Who are they?" she asks, moving a hand across Rachel's abdomen. "And why are they talking about us?"

Rachel rolls her eyes and doesn't take the time to say anything – not even a snappy retort – and instead, kisses Quinn hard, over and over again.

On Friday, she watches Rachel get dressed without being embarrassed about staring at the curve of Rachel's spine or the length of her legs. Rachel smiles coyly over her shoulder and Quinn averts her eyes – because pretending like she wasn't staring is still fun – back to her book.

"Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south? Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed," she reads, ignoring Rachel stalking across the room. "Suddenly the wind howls and bangs my shut window."

"I'll bang your shut window," Rachel murmurs, taking the book out of Quinn's hands and tossing it carelessly onto the desk.

Quinn frowns. "That sounds dirty."

Rachel smirks. "Uh huh."

Quinn lets her eyes slide closed and tilts her chin upward, waiting for a kiss, but Rachel only laughs under her breath and Quinn opens her eyes and pouts.

"I didn't come over here to do that, but if you're offering," Rachel says, leaning down quickly and presses a chaste kiss to the corner of Quinn's mouth. "I only wanted to know if you're going to follow me to Jilly's or not."

"No," Quinn says, shaking her head.

She's been thinking about this question – having a feeling that Rachel would eventually ask, jokingly or not – and she's decided that she'll be avoiding Jilly's for a little while. Not only to give Rachel her space, with New York still being a touchy subject, but also because Quinn is trying to piece back together her dignity and seeing Anna behind the bar, smirking at her, isn't going to help much.

It's possible that Rachel is disappointed, but shrugs her shoulders, kisses Quinn again – a little longer, this time – and crosses back to the other side of the room.

"Unless you wanted me to," Quinn says slowly.

"No," Rachel says quickly, loudly, blushing. "I mean," she says, calmer "no. Are you going to hang out with Ben?"

Quinn grunts. "Not unless I feel like being bombarded with all the perfect qualities that his latest boy toy possesses. And the answer to that is no. No, I would not enjoy that."

"So you're going to be here, all night?"

"Thinking of you," Quinn smirks.

Rachel rolls her eyes and tosses her pillow across the room. "Don't start being all mushy. I'll stop kissing you."

"Uh huh," Quinn says distractedly, her eyes lingering on the small of Rachel's back, barely visible as Rachel pulls her coat on. She shakes her head. "You can't stop doing that," she says, suddenly catching up with the conversation.

Rachel quirks an eyebrow.

"I mean," Quinn says, slower than before "It's your call."

She tries for nonchalant, but she's sure that her facial expression – she can only imagine how wide and worried her eyes are – give her away, because Rachel is smiling out of the corner of her mouth and nodding her head slowly.

"Sure," she drawls, crossing the room one more time, grabbing Quinn's chin and pulling their mouths together, smiling into the kiss before letting go. "Don't wait up," she calls over her shoulder, winking.

"I will," Quinn answers quietly, to an empty room.

Her phone ringing in the middle of the night wakes her up and she's scrambling for it with clumsy fingers.

No good phone calls come at – she checks the clock – two in the morning.

"Uh," she says into the phone, pressing it against her ear as she puts her face into her pillow.

"Hey, Blondie," Anna chirps in her ear.

Quinn groans and rolls over, staring up at the ceiling, wishing, not for the first time, that she had some plastic stars up there. "What?" she whines.

"Just calling to chat."

"Anna," Quinn practically growls.

Anna clears her throat over the phone. "I think you should come get Rachel," she says seriously.

Quinn sits up, already throwing back the covers and sliding her feet into her sandals, then kicking them off – it's practically winter, she reminds herself – and sliding her feet across the floor until she kicks her sneaker.

"What's wrong?"

Anna gives something that sounds like a laugh, but even through the tiny speaker, it's humorless. "I just don't want her walking back on her own, is all."

"Is she-"

"She's not drunk," Anna cuts in. There's the sound of door opening and the howl of wind and Quinn knows Anna's stepped outside onto North Rush. "She tried to sing. It was," Anna sighs "like watching a car crash. She opened her mouth and nothing came out but she was just kind of frozen at the piano stand. It was, it was sad."

Quinn's moving down the hall, pulling open the door to the stairs, her shoulder holding her phone to her ear as she tries to put her zip-up on, jumping the last few steps at the bottom.

"I'm on my way," she promises.

She thinks she hears Anna sigh before she hangs up.

She pulls the door to Jilly's open and slides in before the cold follows her. Anna looks up from the register and points to the corner of the room.

Quinn can see shoes and legs poking out of the darkness and all she can think about is the house that fell down on the sister of the Wicked Witch of the West and pictures Rachel being under the house and Quinn landing in Oz in a checkered skirt, Sue Sylvester flying around her head cackling.

"What's up, buttercup?" she asks cheerily, hopping up onto the seat next to Rachel.

Rachel makes a noise in the back of her throat.

Quinn opens her mouth, but closes it twice before gathering enough courage to talk. "Want to talk about it?"

"No," Rachel hisses. "I don't."

"Okay," Quinn says slowly, pulling the hand that was reaching towards Rachel back into her own lap. "Want to get out of here?"

Rachel turns in her seat slowly, her eyes narrowed and her mouth in a thin line. A thin, angry line. "No, of course not," she says dully. "I want to sit here and watch the sun come up, actually." She presses her hands against the seat and lifts her body slightly, glaring past Quinn at Anna. "I've been trying to leave," she says loudly. "But someone won't let me. Apparently, I need my keeper to come and pick me up."


"Just," Rachel sighs. "Can we go now?"

Rachel's already up, moving across the empty barroom floor – and there's songs written about empty bars and beautiful girls, but Quinn feels like anything she says right now is the wrong thing, so she doesn't mention it – and she turns back, sneering, when she realizes that Quinn isn't behind her.

"Let's go," she snarls.

Anna looks up with sympathy, but Quinn waves her off and follows Rachel dutifully, catching the door just as it slams shut.

The walk over was cold, but short.

The walk back feels like it's going to be long and colder.

"Don't slam the-"

Too late; Rachel slams the door and kicks her shoes off, one of them hitting the leg of her desk, the other bouncing off the bed frame.

"Maybe you should calm-"

Rachel turns violently and jabs a finger against Quinn's breastbone and it's not sexy or gentle or cute – it hurts.

"Don't tell me to calm down."

"You're being irrational."

It might not be the right thing to say. "Irrational," Rachel repeats mockingly. "That's rich, coming from you."

Quinn frowns. "Excuse me?"

"You were irrational all through high school. Now it's my turn to get angry, and I have a reason, at least. You have no idea what just happened."

"So tell me what happened," Quinn says gently, taking a step forward. Rachel takes a step back though, her mouth turned down and her eyes aren't really angry anymore, just sad. It breaks something inside of Quinn and she just wants to make it better.

"I don't want to talk about it," she says, the malice no longer in her eyes now taking residence in her voice.

Quinn takes another step forward, anticipating the step back, but Rachel surges forward and grabs Quinn around the back of the neck, pulling her to Rachel's mouth.

It's a terrible kiss: her teeth clash against Rachel's, her bottom lip gets caught and then the skin is broken, copper filling her mouth. She whimpers but Rachel pushes again, forcing her tongue past Quinn's lips.

Quinn pushes back, her hands shoving hard against Rachel's shoulders.

"Jesus," she hisses, her hand covering her mouth briefly, coming back with blood on her fingertips. "What the fuck, Rachel."

Rachel shrugs, but Quinn can see the disbelief of her actions and the regret and confusion in her eyes, and she sighs, crossing the room again to Rachel's side, taking a tissue off the desk. She dabs lightly at her lip, tosses it in the trashcan and takes another tissue out of the box. She balls it in her hand and brushes it against Rachel's cheek, the tissue growing damp.

"Don't," Rachel says weakly, but she doesn't push Quinn away.

"Can we lie down now?" she asks softly, already tugging on Rachel's arm, pulling her towards Rachel's bed, sliding her feet out of her sneakers, moving back to the wall, stretching out on her side. Rachel settles down in front of her, her back to Quinn's front.

"Quinn, I-"

She doesn't want to hear Rachel's apologies, not because she won't believe them, but because she's tired – Anna woke her up, after all – and because Rachel looks ashamed.

Mostly because she's tired.

"Sleep," she commands, running a hand from Rachel's shoulder to her hip, wrapping around and tucking her fingers under Rachel's opposite hip, her eyes sliding closed.


Quinn squeezes Rachel tighter against her. "Sleep."

"Stage fright," Rachel whispers, not rolling over in Quinn's arms. They've been up for hours – Quinn's not sure she fell asleep – but they haven't moved.

Quinn's jean-clad legs are tangled with Rachel's bare legs and she can feel the beading of Rachel's dress under her fingertips. Her sweatshirt is bulky and the entire room feels stifling, but she's been still this long and Rachel hasn't spoken until now, so Quinn decides to stay put.

"I've never had stage fright in my entire life."

Quinn can believe it, just by how Rachel's voice shakes when she says stage fright.

"It happens," she says quietly.

Rachel shakes her head almost imperceptivity. "Not to me."

"New York just," Rachel start and then trails off.

"It messed things up a little," Quinn says, trying to fill in the blanks.

Rachel nods, the back of her head bouncing off of Quinn's jaw. "Abject horror comes to mind," she mutters.

Quinn stifles a giggle, unsuccessfully. "You sound like Coach Sylvester."

Rachel huffs. "I do not."

"Abject horror," Quinn mocks. "You do!"

Rachel, laughing in her arms, goes silent. "I have a terrible, terrible case of stage fright," she says softly and Quinn feels the words against her forearm more than she hears them. "I'm afraid that I'm goin to get up there and everyone is going to laugh at me."

"They would never laugh at you," Quinn whispers.

Rachel either ignores her, or doesn't hear her. "And every time I try to do it, to get over it, I can never get out of my seat. I just sit there and watch people do what I can't." She turns over in Quinn's hold, shifting up so she's not speaking just to Quinn's neck. "Do you have any idea what that feels like?"

She does.

Up until college – real college, the kind she went away for – it was like her entire life was a stage and Quinn was afraid to take a step off her marker; afraid that if she did, the set – her parents, her house, her cheerleaders uniform and Chastity Club and Glee – would come crashing down around her, breaking into tiny little pieces and she would be standing in the middle of the wreckage, unsure of what to do with her life.

She does.

All through high school, junior high, elementary school, even Little Ducklings when she was four, all she did was play the part people constructed for her and she never dared to step outside the lines of those roles.

She does.

Except she's never been afraid to step into the spotlight, where everyone can point and stare and comment like she's some monkey in a zoo; she's always been afraid to step out of it.

Rachel looks up at her through her lashes. "Do you?" she asks again in a desperate whisper.

Quinn nods, her forehead bobbing down to rest on Rachel's forehead. She wants to say something cheesy like "I did until I met you" but it's a lie, because, if anything, Rachel made her more afraid to step down off the stage erected around her. Instead, she lifts her head and kisses the crown of Rachel's head, keeping her lips against the cool flesh for a bit.

The tension seems to leave Rachel's body, bone by bone, until Quinn is holding a boneless Rachel Berry in her arms.

"I'm sorry," Rachel whispers against her chin.

"I know," Quinn whispers back.

She does.

Quinn checks her watch. "We're going to be late," she huffs.

Ben rolls his eyes at her in the mirror. "Relax. It's, like, a ten minute walk."

"Anna can only hold the seats for so long!" She waits ten seconds then stamps her feet. "You're pretty, let's go."

"Eli is going to be there," Ben whines.

Quinn shrugs her shoulders. "You could do better."

Ben looks scandalized, but grabs his coat and waits in the hallway as she locks the door to her room.

"What song is she singing?"

They turn off of Michigan Street and dodge the early Thanksgiving travelers. Ben is leaving in the morning, Quinn and Rachel are going home – to Lima, she corrects herself – on Sunday, an early morning flight. Tonight is their last hurrah before the Hell Month starts: a month of finals, studying finals, drinking coffee via IV and hours spent screaming at textbooks and other inanimate objects.

"She wouldn't tell me."

Ben snorts, and Quinn tosses him a glare over her shoulder, but turns back forward just as quickly – oncoming traffic doesn't stop when she crosses the street. She's only a person after all and clearly less valuable than someone's Hummer.

"Come on," she says, ushering him through the door to Jilly's. Anna waves from the bar and Quinn nods but her eyes are sweeping the floor, trying to find Rachel, who isn't anywhere Quinn can see her.

Ben squeals on her left, then coughs and crossing his arms over his chest disinterestedly.

"What," she says with wide eyes "the hell?"

"Eli," Ben says out of the corner of his mouth, tilting his head conspicuously towards the back wall.

"Good God," she hisses, leaving him in the doorway. She slides into her seat at the end of the bar and waits until Anna ambles over, already setting up a drink in front of her.


Quinn downs half her glass before speaking. "Yeah. She wouldn't tell me what she was-"

Someone starts playing the piano and Quinn stops speaking abruptly, spinning in her seat with her back pressed against the bar, her eyes zeroed in on the lit chair next to the baby grand.

She blinks and Rachel is there, microphone clutched in her hand and a small hesitant smile on her face.

When she opens her mouth and the words come out low and soft and perfect, Quinn feels like she's in high school again, waiting behind the curtain that first year at Sectionals for her cue to head down the aisles and being mesmerized by Rachel; by Rachel's voice. She feels like she's on the balls of her feet, one hand on Santana's shoulder, her ears straining to catch every note Rachel is singing; straining to hear every single word and left to wonder what she's doing, if she's on stage, if she's dancing in the aisles, if she's touching Jacob Ben Israel and getting nothing in return but a sharp jab to the ribs – because Santana's always had pointy elbows and because they're supposed to be at their respective doors now, getting ready for that one line (I march my band!)

She's just as caught up in Rachel now as she was then and by the time she untangles herself from the way Rachel looks and the way she sings and the gleam in Rachel's eye, the song is over and the entire bar in on their feet and Rachel is standing at the piano with the same smile on her face that she had at Sectionals – a little breathless, a little hopeful, a little shell-shocked.

"Wow," she breathes out.

Rachel, shying away from pats on the backs and congratulatory words, ducks and dives through the crowd and ends up at Quinn's side, her hands locking together around Quinn's waist.

"What did you think?" she asks quietly as the next act starts singing – "I'll Be Seeing You" and really, Quinn thinks, don't people sing anything but Sinatra here?

"I think New York was stupid to let you go," she says into Rachel's ear, pressing her lips against the soft skin she finds there.

She can feel Rachel's jaw open under her mouth – probably to say something like "that's a lie" or "I left New York" or even "you're right" – but she doesn't really want Rachel to ruin the moment, so she manages to find her hand and grab Rachel by the chin and even though Anna is catcalling in the background and Ben is probably making out with Eli somewhere – and really, she needs to introduce him to Kurt when he comes to visit over Winter break – but Rachel's mouth is against her own and the back of Rachel's neck is just a little sweaty and it's terribly unconventional.

It's never felt more perfect.

Rachel smiles into the kiss and Quinn pulls back for a second, just to breathe, and Rachel tries to say something again, but someone is singing "A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening" and she really just wants to listen to the music and kiss Rachel.

So she does.

"Humming our favorite tune / This is a lovely way to spend an evening / I want to save all my nights and spend them with you."

The End

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