Part 6

After Rachel had thoroughly warmed Quinn up again and she had gotten redressed in a fresh sweater and jeans, the two of them went back downstairs to join the group in watching TV for the evening. It was almost completely uneventful, the whole evening, outside of having a little dinner, and a few fights over the remote, mostly instigated by Noah or Santana. But Rachel had never had such a cozy evening. Quinn let her sit in between her legs on the window seat, snuggling close around her and she was so warm and soft Rachel could've fallen asleep right then and there. She barely paid any mind to the TV, she was so busy soaking in the feeling of being surrounded by Quinn - just Quinn and her strong arms and her even breaths and her homey smell.

And they laid like that all night, too, when they all went to bed. Quinn curled around her like a blanket in their private room, spooning her and nuzzling her. Rachel could hardly take it. She stopped herself from rolling over and having her way with Quinn on more than one occasion throughout the night, reminding herself that Quinn was fast asleep and she deserved the rest. She rarely looked so peaceful as when she was sleeping, as if even a dreamless sleep was less stressful than life, and Rachel ached for her at the very thought of it, of how much Quinn had been through.

And really, she had been through so much more than anyone in the club gave her credit for. Kurt liked to insist that Quinn's problems were miniscule compared to the struggle of a gay man, and Rachel had heard her referred to as a spoiled white girl more than once, as if being rich and white made her problems any less real. Rachel had to bite her tongue each and every time, and she knew she was going to have an even harder time now, knowing what sweetness lay beneath the aloof facade, what sweetness had been buried deeper and deeper by every slight, every knock further down the rungs of Quinn's pedestal, and perhaps some of it had been necessary. Not because Quinn deserved any pain, certainly not, but to humble her and to showcase her strength, to make her who she was. But Rachel didn't think that meant she shouldn't be sympathized with. Of course, Kurt had no sympathy for anyone most of the time.

In the morning, they all jammed themselves into the kitchen for a pancake breakfast courtesy of Mr. Schuester and spent the rest of their time making sure their suitcases were packed and ready to go, or watching Saturday morning cartoons. Rachel, for her part, sat pouting on top of her suitcase while she watched Quinn getting around. She didn't want to leave. Not one bit. When they'd first arrived, she'd thought it would be a fun week, of course, but that she'd be ready and happy to go back to New York by the end. But looking across at Quinn, all Rachel could think of was how much she would miss her arms and her kisses and her gentleness.

"You look like it's the end of the world," Quinn commented when she finally zipped up her suitcase and shrugged on her jacket.

"It's the end of this world," she grumbled. The smile on Quinn's face was too impish for her tastes. "Don't laugh at me."

"I'm not." She stepped around the end of the bed and crouched in front of Rachel, settling her hands on her knees. "I'm just happy." Her eyes sparkled.

Rachel pursed her lips. "You're happy that I'm miserable?"

Quinn laughed - Rachel poked her lip out further. "No. I'm happy that for a week...you loved me. For a week, I meant as much to you as you mean to me."

Rachel couldn't not kiss her after that, and although Quinn returned it, she didn't let it last very long, so Rachel was left with just the tingling, teasing taste of soft lips.

"Waiting, remember?" she breathed, and her palms were warm on Rachel's cheeks.

She shook her head between them. "I don't want to wait. I want to be with you."

"And I want to be with you." Quinn tucked her bottom lip. "But I really think that this is the right thing to do. We're too close right now."

"I think we're the right amount of close."

She was smiling in spite of herself. "I mean, location wise. Once you're in New York and I'm in New Haven, it'll be easier for us to look at this objectively."

Rachel's brow furrowed. "Do you ever look at anything not objectively?"

She laughed again, and this time Rachel couldn't have stopped herself from grinning if she'd tried.

"Not really," she admitted, shrugging. "If I do something on impulse, I usually end up doing the wrong thing. And I'm trying to be a better person."

"You are a good person." Rachel gripped her cheeks and then her shoulders, squeezing. "Teenagers are just universally bad people, but you're not a teenager. You haven't been for a while. You know, you're the most grown up of all of us. Even Mr. Schuester." She grinned cheekily, and Quinn chuckled.

She sobered moments later. "Look, we'll see each other. We'll talk, okay? And even if you decide after this waiting period that you don't want me, I will always be your friend."

"Why do you keep saying it like that?" Rachel sighed, stroking her thumbs down Quinn's cheeks.

Her head tilted. "What?"

"You say it like this...'waiting period' is only for me. Like I'm the only one capable of changing my mind."

Quinn only shrugged. "I know what I want."

"And I don't?" Rachel scoffed. "Quinn, I know I just said you're the most grown up of all of us, but that doesn't mean you have some kind of awareness beyond the rest of us when it comes to what you've described as a 'moment in the woods,' that you aren't susceptible to environments changing and being close with somebody and getting wrapped up in all of that and not really knowing if it's what you want or if you've just convinced yourself - "

"I wanted you before this."

Rachel stopped mid-rant, mouth still hanging open for a moment or two, while Quinn just looked at her with that earnest, frank face. Waiting.

"You did?" She felt a blush coming on.

"Yes." Absolute certainty.

Rachel scooped her hair away from her face in lieu of kissing her senseless. "Well, how long?"

Quinn's gaze flickered away. "Long."

"Quinn…" She pouted, curling her arms around her neck, leaving her no escape. "Tell me?"

She shook her head. "It's not important."

"It is to me." Rachel kissed her cheek when she looked away. "Please tell me. Quinn…" She kissed her ear. Nothing. "Quinn, if you've wanted me so long, then we should just be together. Why wait any longer?"

"This is exactly why I didn't tell you," Quinn grunted.

She pulled back slightly, startled. "What? Why?"

"Because I didn't want you to choose me out of pity. I didn't want you thinking you owed it to me or to feel obligated because we've slept together. I want it...to be real," Quinn said slowly, and for the first time in probably a year, Rachel could see the cracks in the facade as her breathing started to break up. "I want to know that you are in this with me. That I'm not just your rebound."

"You aren't!" Rachel protested, drawing her closer again to kiss her face over and over. "Oh, Quinn. Please - please. When I think about Finn when I'm with you - it's not because I want him to see us together and be jealous, it's not because I'm scared for him to see us because I feel guilty. It's because I think that we, him and me, are on the same level, and you are out of my league."

Quinn stared skeptically - or so Rachel thought, it was hard to tell when she was so close to her, kissing her face all over. "What - hold on." She gripped Rachel's face, holding her away. "What are you talking about?"

She gnawed her lip, desperate to dole out more kisses, but she restrained herself, sighed. "You're so...grown up. You don't need anyone, Quinn. Not even me. Finn needs me. And if I were with you...with you right now, I feel like I need you. And that's...it's scary. To think that I'm holding onto you so tightly and you're not holding back. And I know it's pathetic to need someone, I know I shouldn't want that, but I do."

Quinn was silent, looking at her, scanning Rachel's eyes. "It's not pathetic to need someone. Everyone needs somebody sometime. That's how the song goes, isn't it?" Her lips curved into a brief, small smile. "I've needed you."

Rachel's own uncertain smile broke into a scoff. "Right. When?"

"Prom. Junior prom." Quinn lowered her hands to Rachel's, squeezing lightly. "You saved me that night. I don't know what I would've done if you hadn't come after me."

She was definitely blushing now. "I saved you?"

She smiled lightly, nodding. "I was on a downward spiral, so twisted up I couldn't think straight. And you told me exactly what I needed to hear to make it through one more day. And then...Finn broke up with me in a parking lot after a funeral and kind of ruined it, but."

Rachel gaped. "That's so tacky!"

Quinn chuckled. "It's okay. I'm kind of over it now." She winked, and Rachel's stomach filled with butterflies.

Still, she bit her lip. "But you still don't need me now."

"I'm trying not to." She shrugged one shoulder.

"Why?"

Quinn just looked at her for a moment. "I don't want to die if you leave me."

Rachel's heart twisted and she leaned closer, to hold and to kiss Quinn - someone knocked.

"Time to go, lovebirds," Santana called.

Rachel sighed in frustration, but Quinn only smiled and stood, holding out her hands to help her up.

#

The bus had arrived exactly at noon and they were loaded up and on their way home in a half hour. Finn had approached Rachel again when they were getting on the bus, but she'd only waved a hand and told him, "Not yet" and he'd gone to sit with the boys. Rachel plopped next to Quinn and snuggled up into her side. She wasn't going to waste the next few hours just because they were on a bus. Finn could wait until Rachel couldn't see Quinn anymore. For now, she would rest with her headphones on while Quinn read and, between turning pages, played with her hair, and though she had slept perfectly well the night before, Rachel drifted off again under Quinn's arm.

They pulled up in front of WMHS around six thirty, all groaning and stretching as they got out and unloaded their things to promptly load them back into their cars. Rachel didn't even want to think about lugging her suitcase at the airport again, but at least her fathers would be taking her in the morning, so she would be able to put it off for one more leg of her journey. For the time being, Quinn dropped it into Rachel's trunk for her and then went to retrieve her own things. They were all thoroughly exhausted, but decided to meet at Breadstix for dinner before they went to their respective homes, and Rachel found a seat next to Quinn again for the duration of the meal.

Kurt had given Rachel more than one odd look since she'd started spending so much time against Quinn's side, under her arm, generally clinging to her body in any possible way she could, and she thought she'd done a good job of ignoring it. At least until now, when he sat directly across from her and stared, almost unblinking, and so Rachel turned her own gaze up to Quinn's pretty profile while she talked with Mercedes, doing her best to pretend Kurt simply wasn't there. It was rather difficult. He was being a little creepy.

So Rachel poked Quinn's side softly, until she had her eyes. "When are you going to New Haven?" she whispered.

Quinn's eyebrow quirked with a smile. "Next Friday."

"I leave for New York in the morning. Will you stay the night with me? I promise I won't violate you."

The smile spread wider, but she nodded. "Of course."

Satisfied, Rachel leaned her head back onto Quinn's shoulder and nuzzled her neck - partly to keep ignoring Kurt, partly to be nearer to Quinn. Fortunately, dinner didn't last long enough for Kurt to step it up to making comments, and they all exchanged hugs and promises to stay in touch before they went off to their respective homes. Except, of course, for Quinn, who followed Rachel home.

Her fathers, too, shot Rachel a few odd looks when they walked in holding hands, but she knew that at least theirs were friendlier, that they were simply curious about Quinn and her presence. They offered tea and asked after the trip, and the four of them sat around the living room chatting about Michigan and the lakes and different trips her fathers had taken up north. Rachel spared them the more...romantic details, but otherwise gave them a thorough rundown of their adventures, while Quinn mostly sat back and listened to them all. Rachel might've thought she was annoyed, but her expression said just the opposite - she was content just listening, soaking it all in.

Still, when they retired to her bedroom, Rachel tugged her toward the bed and offered her usual disclaimer. "I'm sorry if you were uncomfortable. I know they can be a bit overwhelming."

Quinn just shook her head and sat next to her on the edge of the mattress, smiling. "They're nice."

She beamed and kissed Quinn's cheek. "I'm glad you like them. They like you. I don't know if you could tell, they can be a little weird about showing it, but. They do. In case you were wondering."

She chuckled. "I'm glad. I wouldn't want to start off with a bad impression."

"Never. They know how much I like you, so you are in the column of good." She nodded happily until she noticed Quinn's raised eyebrows. "Well, maybe they don't know exactly how much I like you…"

Quinn's grin brought Rachel to giggles, and she leaned to spread more kisses over her face.

"Mm. Rachel." She held Rachel's chin, as if about to stop her.

"You kissed my nose," she pointed out between kisses, and Quinn chuckled.

"Once."

"Your point being?"

Quinn only fell further into laughter, and Rachel grinned and hugged onto her neck until she rocked back onto the bed.

"You are an affectionate little monkey, you know that?" Quinn's arms maneuvered around Rachel's waist, until she was snug along her side.

"I'm a monkey?" She lifted her head to pout down at Quinn.

She laughed softly. "No, you're right, not a monkey. Hmm...I'd call you a songbird, but it's only the songs that fit."

"Why not a bird?" Rachel shifted to get comfortable, listening with a smile.

"Birds are twitchy." They both giggled. "You're, um. You're a kitten." She grinned.

Rachel beamed back. "I'm a kitten?"

"Yeah, you're a playful, lovey, adorable little ball of energy." Quinn's fingers picked up the thread of Rachel's hair, lightly twirling.

She sighed contently and dropped her head down to Quinn's shoulder, snuggling in. "It's funny. I always think of you as a cat."

"I guess we're two peas in a pod then."

Rachel grinned, squirming closer. "I love you, Quinn."

She completely froze, even her fingers stopped, despite Rachel's whine. "What?"

"I said I love you. So much it's going to be very easy to fall in love with you. I think I'm already halfway there. I know it might not be fair to say that right now, but. I can't help it. You're the sweetest, most wonderful person in the world to me and...I love you." She squeezed her arms tighter around Quinn, pressing herself to her chest and breathing her in with a smile.

Finally, Quinn's fingers started to loop through her hair again, but it was only when Rachel was just about to fall asleep that she whispered, "I love you, too."