A/N: Okay, a break from sisterly drama, some Brittana, and big steps for Faberry. :) And as a nice little tease…next couple chapters are huge for them. Buahaha. (And sheesh, you guys, you'd think this story was made out of cream puffs topped with like…chocolate sauce. :P)

I feel like I should add that this story stops following canon completely after 'Duets' but I'll still include some things that did happen anyway.

Oh! And yes, I have a Tumblr now. It's linked on my profile.

Chapter 6

"I can't believe she said that to you, Q. That's awful."

"Well, that's Connie," I offer to Brittany's deep pout, and smile covertly at Mercedes when I spy Santana reaching to squeeze her distraught roommate's hand.

"I still find it hilarious that she thinks you are the vile sinner of the family," Santana says, and I've known her long enough to recognize it for what it is: a means of distraction. It doesn't work. Me and Mercedes are giggling behind our beer bottles already as Brittany's smile grows shy and Santana's hand stays over top of hers. "The only people I can think of who are more prudish than you are her and Mother Theresa."

"Which obviously means I should renounce my sinning ways and become a nun," I reply, rolling my eyes, because that's the way Connie sees it.

Anyone she views as being less virtuous than herself is automatically labeled a sinner who will burn in hell and eternal disgrace. The only way I could ever dig myself out of my black hole with her is to swear off women (and, well, sex in general) and don a habit. No freaking way that's ever going to happen, especially now that Rachel is back in my life. I may have no hope for a romantic relationship with her, but I'm keeping my options open just in case.

"Oh, but then you'd probably be the uptight one," Mercedes points out. "I'm telling you, there's no way to win with that girl."

"I don't know about that. Get her wasted, you might unleash some of those wild oats that have got to be screaming for a way out," Santana suggests with a grin, and says to a contemplative-looking Brittany, "Too bad she didn't hang around us in high school. One sleepover with us and she'd have been corrupted for good." She lofts her beer toward me. "Worked on Q."

Brittany smiles tightly and tugs her hand out from beneath Santana's, reaching for her beer instead. I can tell the reference to our high school years is what's upsetting her. As I said before, it wasn't the best time for their relationship, and the reminders only pull her farther away from finally giving in and forgiving Santana. I decide to sweep in with a rescue for my Latina friend with a shake of my head.

"You did not turn me gay, Santana," I bite out, rolling my eyes. "If anything, hearing the two of you—and I'm not just talking about while you talked about all the sex you had—had me locking my closet door shut and then slipping the key through the crack."

Mercedes laughs, but Santana just smirks. "Keep telling yourself that, Fabray."

I roll my eyes again. "Anyway, I don't think it's possible to corrupt Connie. Her oats were domesticated and placed in symmetrical rows in order of size by the time she turned three."

"Everybody has at least a little naughty to their nice," Santana counters.

"You could use a little nice to your naughty sometimes, Sanny," Brittany comments, and Mercedes and I laugh when Santana opens her mouth as if to protest before simply shrugging and taking another haul off her beer.

She grins at us when she's finished, and Mercedes clears her throat for attention.

"I've said it before, I'll say it again: the best thing you can do with Connie is just ignore her," she reasons. "She's gotta get sick of stalking you sometime, and talking to her clearly only leads to migraines for everyone. She's obviously never gonna see things the way you do."

We all pause to process those words of wisdom, and I think she's right. I have from the beginning, but I was a little too busy texting to really think about it until now. Speaking of which, I wish my phone would vibrate.

Ahem. Mercedes is right. It's always been that way with Connie, ever since we were little. She'd complain about having to do the dishes or some other stupid little chore like that by herself, but as soon as I stepped in to help by drying or putting them away or something, she could not stop nitpicking. 'You're not doing it right!' was something I heard screeched at me a lot back when I still bothered trying to please her. I don't know why I'm even thinking of trying to interact with her now, when I don't live in the same house as her, so it's not even close to being a necessity.

Family bonds, probably. Ugh.

"As in, the right way," Mercedes says suddenly, cutting into my thoughts and startling me into a laugh with all three of them.

"Cedes is right," Brittany agrees when we recover, and she shoots this huge smile at me that's already making me blush even though she hasn't said anything yet. "You should focus on happier stuff. Like Rachel."

I knew I had a reason to blush. My gaze drops to my beer so I can hide the massive grin rising up on my face, but I can still feel Brittany's eyes on me.

"And how is Ms. I Don't Have Time For Those Pesky Commoners?" Santana drawls, and something about the way she says it makes me pause.

I don't get to think about her tone much, though, because Mercedes interjects harshly, "More like Ms. I Don't Have Time For The People Who Treated Me Like Crap In High School."

I flinch, because…well, I'm most certainly one of them. I feel Mercedes rub my shoulder in a comforting motion when she realizes how stricken I look, but it doesn't help. I still feel guilty as hell, and I know I should, that I deserve to feel this way, but that doesn't make it any less unpleasant. Especially since it's been almost a week since she came back into my life and I still haven't apologized for the way I treated her. I plan to, don't get me wrong, but I've just been waiting for the right moment, and doing it over text seems like…a pansy ass thing to do.

Hey, Rach, btw, sorry for being a bitch in high school. – Quinn

Yeah, no.

And you might say that doing it over the phone is at least a little less pansy-like, but—

"And Quinn wouldn't know how she is, since it's been two days and she still hasn't had the guts to call," Mercedes outs me with a disapproving frown, and I level a glare at her over my beer bottle as both Brittany and Santana make disbelieving noises.

"But she wants you to," is Brittany's protest.

"Fuck's sake, Fabray, what happened to 'want, take, have'?" is Santana's.

I hunch to try and hide behind my beer bottle. I won't go into all the reasons this movement is ridiculous, but it makes me feel better, okay? Mercedes is arching a brow at Santana.

"Did you just quote 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'?" she scoffs.

"Buffy was kind of our thing when we were younger," I mumble grudgingly, and Brittany grins.

"We went to Puck's Halloween party as characters when we were…um…."

"Thirteen," Santana supplies gently.

"Oh, yeah." Her frown only lasts a millisecond before she's practically bouncing in her seat again. "Q was Buffy and S was Faith, and I got to be Anya."

"I'm surprised you two weren't Willow and Tara," Mercedes comments to them, and Santana scoffs.

"Like I would ever stoop to portray Willow 'I Was Evil For Three Episodes But Now I'm All Better' Rosenberg? Faith is way more badass," she says decisively.

"I always thought Tina should be Tara," Brittany ponders. "But then she lost her stutter. I wish she would've found it again."

Mercedes snorts, swiveling to face Brittany. "Wait, you had characters picked out for the glee club, too?"

"Yeah! Puck was—"

"Okay, can we not go there?" I finally speak up, and I'm rewarded with pouts from both Brittany and Mercedes. I pointedly look at Santana while I say, "We liked Buffy when we were younger, Faith's motto was kind of Santana and my thing and the inspiration for our Head Bitch attitudes, and for your information, I do know how Rachel is. She's fine, although she had a bad server at Starbucks this morning."

They all stare at me and I feel the urge to hide behind my beer bottle again. Santana is the first to break from the spell.

"Okay, first of all, the fact that you totally could've gotten out of the 'you are a damn coward' conversation if you had just shut up and let us talk Buffy, but instead went out of your way to bring Berry up?"

She gapes at me, in shock that I didn't milk that interruption for all it was worth. Come to think of it, I can't, either. What is wrong with me? Santana shakes her head, turning to Brittany as she mutters, "I can't even—" and her roommate reaches to sympathetically pat her hand, a small pout on her lips. Santana visibly lightens up as she turns back to me.

"Second, that's what you two text about? No. Lives."

"Oh, right, like you're one to talk. Stealing my phone every time we go out to lunch just to see who has called me definitely makes you the hippest social leper I know," I snark back, and she bristles, growling at me.

"No violence," Brittany cuts in firmly, just as Santana has opened her mouth to scratch back at me.

"Yeah, just chill, you two," Mercedes adds, and Santana reluctantly eases back in her seat. I fold my arms and pout, because it's been quite a while since San and I have had a good bitch fest at one another. Still, I don't add anything to further provoke her, and Santana only huffs before continuing her list.

"Third, what do you mean 'when we were younger'?" She looks completely affronted. "Buffy still kicks ass, and don't think I won't steal your phone and cut off all communications with Berry for the ninety-seven hours plus bathroom breaks it takes to get through all seven seasons to remind you of that."

Her unwavering dedication to that show is both kind of adorable and slightly creepy. Mercedes seems to be leaning more toward the latter, however, since she's wearing that look she sometimes does when Santana or Brittany or even I do something stupid or crazy. It plainly says, 'How am I friends with these pot-smoking freaks?'.

Brittany, on the other hand, is definitely leaning toward the former, and I want to smile when I spy her looking at Santana with big sparkling blue eyes and a smitten smile. I don't, though, because I don't want to die.

Instead I say seriously, "Buffy still kicks ass," before taking a swig of my beer.

Santana mutters something that sounds suspiciously like 'whipped already' before saying, louder, "And fourth, you are a damn coward."

I glare at her. "I am not a coward, I've been..." I squirm. "Busy."

Santana blinks at me, but Mercedes is the one to glance around our table and say dryly, "You're right. You are so busy. I don't even know what we were thinking, suggesting you call her when you're clearly so swamped."

Brittany and Santana are snickering and I grunt irritably.

"What are you so afraid of?" Britt asks gently, when their giggles have died down, and I'm about to answer her seriously, but Santana cuts in with more of her bitchiness.

"You need somebody to hold your hand?" she mocks, then reaches across the table. I instantly lean back. "Here, give me the phone, I'll call the midget."

"Ah, ah," Mercedes cuts in. "Rachel said she wanted Quinn herself to call. No funny business."

"It's the dialing part she seems to be having a problem with, though," Santana retorts and I sneer at her.

"Don't feel bad, Q. That took me a while to figure out, too," Brittany says comfortingly.

Oddly, this doesn't make me feel better.

Santana shoots Brittany a soft smile that lasts only a fraction of an instant, but it's enough for her to get serious when she looks back at me. Or, well, as serious as Santana Lopez gets. She's no softie, I'll have you know, and I'm in for some tough love.

"Look, Q, you're gonna have to grow a pair soon if you—"

"Hey, I don't mean to interrupt."

Yay Interrupting Dude! You are my he—oh, shit. He's looking at Brittany with that sly smile guys get when they're about to ask you out. They'd like you to think it's shy, but I've learned from years of watching Puck in high school that it's really the smile of 'I'm thinking something sleazy about you and I like it.'

Santana notices, too, and she's instantly bristling, raising up in her seat and pinning him with her laser gaze. His eyes are on Brittany's sparkling blue.

"But do you wanna dance?" he asks, and Brittany gives him a once-over.

I know this isn't to ascertain whether she finds him attractive, but rather to see if he's a suitable partner. Brittany has this thing about dancing with people who don't know what they're doing, which is why she often refuses to dance with anyone at Echo but me or Santana. But this guy looks like he might be buff and lithe enough for her to accept.

"Sure," she says chipperly, and hops off her stool. She smiles at me and Mercedes. "Be back, guys."

Mercedes and I offer her awkward smiles as she trots off with the smiling asshole, unintentionally leaving us with the biggest conversation sucker the world could ask for. Seriously, whenever this happens, Santana becomes this black hole, a vacuum of everything happy or bright in the universe. It's like coming face-to-face with a Dementor.

Why am I such a dork?

Santana is glaring down her beer bottle, looking as though she might crush it in her fist if she was strong enough to break the thick glass, and I exchange a glance of worry with Mercedes. She leans forward hesitantly and I follow her lead, smiling sympathetically at our angry friend.

"Hey, it's just a dance, right?" Mercedes says gently.

"It's nothing, S," I add firmly. "She wants y—"

"I don't know what you bitches are talking about," she snarls, and then she's up and off her stool, leaving it wobbling in her wake as she disappears into the crowd with her half-finished beer. Mercedes sighs.

"My turn to stay and make sure she gets home safe," she mumbles unenthusiastically. "Great."

Oh, yeah. Another perk of Brittany dancing with someone else or dating someone else—Santana likes to get so trashed she can't even remember her own name. Mercedes and I have split the duty of staying at the bar to keep an eye on her and get her home since I got to New York. She'd apparently been shouldering the duty herself for quite some time.

"I'll stay if you want," I offer, shrugging. It's no big deal to me, not like I have a girlfriend at home, and this week my homework load has been surprisingly light.

"No, Santana was right," she says and locks me under her fiercest diva stare. I want to hide behind my beer bottle again. "You need to suck it up and call Rachel, and I think we both know it'll be a little easier with some liquid courage in you." She glances down at my bottle meaningfully.

I gulp and look down as well, abruptly deciding to toss back the rest of it, but she sees my intent and snatches it away. When I gape at her, affronted, she says, "But not too much liquid courage. We don't need a repeat of what happened to Mr. Schuester."

She has a point.


I can do this. I can. I can, I can, I can.

I can't.

Yes, I can. Think like Brittany. Rainbows are love, unicorns exist, cats read diaries, and I can call Rachel Berry, like…the Little Engine That Could. Only it's not a hill, and I'm not an inanimate object that was personified for the purposes of children's literature.

I am Quinn Fabray, though. Head Bitch In Charge, Ice Queen. 'Want, take, have.' 'Grab the bull by the horns.' 'Seize the moment, cause tomorrow you might be dead.' 'You think this is hard? Try catching a professional midget wrestler without spandex—that's hard!' 'It's all about the teasing and not about the pleasing.'

Though I think I've 'teased' enough, it's been two days, after all. Okay, I can do this.

I seat myself cross-legged on my new grey-blue loveseat and swoop up my phone from the coffee table, hitting Rachel's number and the 'call' button and drumming my fingers impatiently on my knee as I wait for her to pick up. 'FroMenOrah' actually ended up winning the tiger-striped couch the other day, and the shipping I had to pay was so worth getting it out of my apartment. Santana agreed so heartily with that she actually bought me this loveseat. Perk of having a doctor for a dad, I guess. She's got money just laying around, waiting to be scooped up and thrown at friends for her own benefit.

"Hello, Rachel Berry, may I ask who's calling?"

A grin splits my lips because that is just such a Rachel way to answer the phone and I've missed her voice more than I can say. My stomach is already filled with butterflies, and I fidget with the seam of the cushion as I answer quietly, "Hey, it's me."

Right, like she's going to just know from my voice. I roll my eyes at myself, but as I go to add my name to that introduction, I hear something fall on the other end and my back tightens in alarm.

"Shit!" I hear her hiss, and my eyebrows shoot to my hairline. Rachel swearing is a rarity and it's…hot.

"Is everything okay?" I ask anyway, and she clears her throat.

"Oh, yes, fine. I apologize; my brush slipped out of my hand and…anyway, you called," Rachel finishes, and her voice sounds so bright at that end part that even I have to admit she must've been really excited about this.

I grin. "Yeah, sorry it's…been a busy couple of days."

"I understand. I was just about to get into a bath myself, release some tension from the past week or so. I love the people I work with, but sometimes I wish I could tear their hair out without suffering any ill consequences," she says comically, but…she kind of lost me at 'bath.'

She is naked right now. Holy fuck.

Is this a test? This has to be a test, right? It's not a fair one, that's for sure, because every milliliter of blood in my body has just gone to my groin and I'm biting my lip to avoid groaning at the mental image of her on the other end of the line, cell phone to her ear, brushing out her beautiful tresses of brunette hair, candles in the background around the rim of a tub filled with soapy, strawberry-scented water, and—


Shit, I just whimpered. Whimpered.

I clear my throat hastily. "Yeah, sorry, I'm still here. Uh…but I-I can call back if this is a bad time."

"Oh, no, it's fine," she says easily. I can hear the smile in her voice and it makes me do the same despite myself. "You're on speaker phone, so I won't get you wet."

This is cruel.

"I-I mean th-the phone. I won't get the phone wet," Rachel corrects swiftly, and the agony I'm feeling dies just a little at the realization of her embarrassment. I'm finally not the only awkward one!

I cannot decide whether to tease her or not. It's so damn tempting, for multiple reasons, one being that it's just in my nature. Another being that maybe if I tease her, she'll flirt back and…no, better shut off that train of thought. I shake my head.

"All right, if you're sure," I say instead.

"Yep," she croaks, and I wonder if she's still feeling awkward. It makes me want to reassure her, but then I hear the water lapping in the background and my mind goes somewhere else entirely. I close my eyes and focusing on breathing for a moment, and evidently I miss an uncomfortable silence somewhere between the water lapping and my breathing evening out, because I hear her blow out, "So…."

A smile twists my lips. "How are you?"

I find it kind of cute that I have to take the lead here. She's been so confident in her replies and interactions with me so far; it's funny to see her falter. It certainly builds my confidence. Even if I am currently squirming on the cushion because I'm talking to her while she's naked and bathing.

Rachel's smile is back. "Oh, much better now, and you?"

"Same," I offer, even though I don't know if she means it's because she's talking to me now or not. That's what I mean, anyway, and it's enough for me.

Another silence settles between us.

"Why do I feel like we were much more adept at communicating when we were texting one another?" she asks, and it makes a laugh trip past my lips.

"I guess because we're used to that? I mean, if you think about it, we never really talked that much in high school, so this is…new," I answer thoughtfully.

"You have a point. We do know very little about one another, besides what we ascertained through years of observation and brief interactions that were almost entirely limited to altercations concerning teenage boys we were ultimately only using as beards."

I love it when she rambles like this. I smile.

"Or at least I was," she adds belatedly.

"Me, too," I assure her, nodding as well even though she can't see me. Yet another silence takes hold, but I'm the one to break it this time. "So…."

"Apples or oranges?" Rachel asks, and I grin.


"Uh…how about…."

"I am waiting," Rachel sing-songs in my ear.

It's been at least four blissful hours, I think, though I really couldn't tell you what time it is. I've long since moved from the loveseat to my bed, where I'm curled up using a pillow to substitute as a cuddling device. I'm not sure where Rachel is, other than that she got out of the bath a while back and I think she made herself a smoothie at some point since I think I heard a blender.

Anyway, all we've done in that time is toss back and forth questions about which we prefer—of this, that, everything. Movies or books (we both prefer books), food or beverages (food for me—I can't deny my one true love: bacon, beverages for her—I teased that obviously she loves drinks, since she can hardly eat with her veganism, she giggled at that), dogs or cats (dogs for both of us, though we agreed cats would be better for both our lifestyles, and we do love the fluffy things), Sudoku or crosswords (Sudoku for me, crosswords for her, she hates math and, by association, numbers), flashlights or cell phones (we both usually end up using our cell phones to light our way, even though the flashlights are better), etc., etc., etc.

It's so much to take in all at once, and at such a late hour, but I couldn't care less. I'm making a mental book of everything Rachel and I fall a little more every time I add a new page. I never thought I could be this interested in another person, let alone never be put off by anything they say, only ever craving to hear more.

"I'm thinking," I excuse myself with a smile.

"Well, hurry up! I don't have all night, you know," Rachel teases, and I scoff.

"Right, because it's not like we've been talking for—Jesus, it's two-thirty in the morning." I blink and gape at my phone. I haven't stayed up this late since my freshman year of college. I swiftly bring it back to my ear when I hear her talking.

"Is it? Oh, wow. Four and a half hours," she purrs, and I feel a shudder go up my spine. "How ever did you manage to survive it?" There's a grin in her voice.

"Vicodin," I deadpan.

"Quinn!" she scolds, and I can't help but snicker. She isn't amused. "You almost made me spit out my smoothie, and believe me, it is not easy to get smoothie stains out of this carpet."

"Sorry," I giggle.

"Sure you are," she replies, and I hear something metal clinking before a stretch of silence and I arch my brow when I hear fabric rustling.

"Whatcha doing?" I ask curiously.

"Getting in bed. If it's two-thirty, I had better get a start on my beauty rest. I have a party to look fabulous for tonight, you know," Rachel says playfully, and I answer without thinking.

"You don't need it."

The following pause makes me fidget and the butterflies in my stomach aren't flapping in a happy way as I wait for her response. I swallow and try not to make it as audible as I feel like right now. I'm literally holding my breath, and I feel like I'll go blue soon if she doesn't speak up.

"Thank you."

It's so soft I'm sure I wouldn't have heard it if the night wasn't so still and I had been breathing. The air I was holding in rushes out in relief and I smile to myself when I realize how shy Rachel sounded as she said that. She clears her throat a moment later.

"It's still your turn," she prods me, and I chuckle.

"All right, all right. Um…trackpad or wireless mouse?"

"Wireless mouse," she says almost instantly. "The trackpad is convenient, yes, but not so much so when a great amount of scrolling is required."

"I agree," I say simply. "Your turn."

"Hmm. Chinese or Thai food?"

"Chinese," I blurt, and I blush when I hear her giggling. "I hate Thai food."

"I actually knew that," Rachel informs me, still laughing lightly.

I'm curious. "Really? How?"

"My drunken party in junior year. Finn was one of the few, the proud, and the sober—" I chuckle "—and so he used one of my takeout menus to order from the nearest place, which happened to be Thai, to soak up some of the alcohol and ease our hangovers the next morning. I remember him handing you a box, and you took one look at it and dumped it over his head, asking how he could do that to you."

She's laughing her ass off, and I can't help but smile at the sound, even though I'm also blushing like crazy.

"It was better than the idiot deserved, all things considered," I say a little harshly, forgetting for a moment that they were friends back then.

But all she says is, "What do you mean?"

I frown. "Lying to you about his virginity? Leaving it up to Santana, who proceeded to publicly humiliate you with the information, to tell you the truth? Remember any of that?"

Rachel sighs heavily in my ear, deepening my frown. "To be fair, I had kissed Elizabeth once when I was still with him, though shortly after that we…parted on amicable terms. It was better than I could have hoped for."

I am absolutely burning with jealousy right now. Elizabitch. I like Santana's name for her a little too much, I think.

"You couldn't have hoped for a better boyfriend?" I growl.

Rachel's smiling a little, I think, when she says, "It was a long time ago, Quinn."

I grumble my agreement and a now-comfortable silence settles between us, allowing the burning in my chest to fade and give way to a much lighter warmth. I'm completely happy right now, snuggling close to my pillow and listening to Rachel's steady breathing, which is interrupted by the occasional muffled yawn. I hear her shift and smile lazily as she breathes a sigh of contentment.

"Tell me a secret," she murmurs, and I think it's the most adorable thing I've ever heard.

My eyelids droop and my smile stretches, though it goes back down as I try to think of something to tell her and can think of…nothing. My biggest secret from her is one I'm not willing to part with, even if she has spent the last four and a half hours on the phone with me. That doesn't mean she feels the same way, so I'll keep it close to my chest until I'm certain. If I ever am.

"You first?" I offer, hoping she won't be upset.

Rachel is silent for long enough that I know she's thinking, as I was, and then she answers, so quietly I almost don't hear her again, "I didn't always want to be on Broadway."

My eyes are wide open now and I gasp in actual shock. She's silent. Rachel Berry, not want to be on Broadway? I…almost can't even process this information.

"Alert the presses!" I tease, because I literally can't think of anything else to say.

"I'm serious," she chides softly, and I realize she must be sensitive about this.

I shift the phone to my other ear and sigh, pleading gently, "I'm sorry. Tell me?"

Rachel sighs again, and I think she won't answer, but again she speaks, and I'm ready to listen intently. "My, um, my family isn't all that big. My dad has one sibling, his brother, who is the father of the little cousin I told you about once?" I nod into empty air, recalling her cousin they feared had Tay Sachs. "His family lives in Nebraska, so we don't see them very often. My grandparents on that side have long been deceased, and on my daddy's side, there are no aunts or uncles or cousins for me. He was an only child and my grandparents…." I hear her swallow and unconsciously grip the pillow tighter, wishing I could comfort her instead. "They were Catholic, and…didn't approve of their gay son.

"As a result, I never met them. It-it's part of why I've always been so thirsty for a connection to someone, family. Shelby. Anyway, that's not the point. When I turned seven, my grandmother sent me a present. I don't know why or how she even found out where we lived. I suppose she realized that 'the sins of the father' anecdote applied, though she would be sorely disappointed in me now." I want to chuckle at her tone, but only release an amused breath so as not to be disrespectful of what she's sharing with me, which seems to spur her on. "It was the first present I had ever received from anyone other than my fathers, let alone from a relative, and it was…it was a yellow sweater with this fluffy horse on it.

"I instantly became obsessed. I insisted that my fathers get me riding lessons, and they were completely caught off-guard because, up to that point, I had demanded I only receive lessons in areas that would help me achieve my goal of one day lighting up Broadway. But they gave in, and I was dedicated to the lessons for about ten months. My lesson horse was this…chestnut, beat-up mare named Bunny." I smile at the way she says it, so much affection in her voice. "I immediately fell in love. I spent every second I could at that barn, walking her around the grounds and grooming her and riding her, and she was…she was perfect. She was my best friend. Unlike so many people I had met, she would let me talk for hours on end with no impatient huffs or eyerolls. Her ears perked up and her eyes got so bright when I sang to her. And she would let me do anything: crawl beneath her, climb on her back, hug her legs.

"And I had these dreams of becoming a driver. Not like a carriage driver, but in races, like the ones my daddy and his family loved to watch. Harness racing." Rachel sighs and sniffles, and I tighten my arms in alarm when I realize she's crying. I want to comfort her, say something, but she continues, rushing to the end of her story. "But then, um…then Bunny…she colicked and died and I just…I couldn't do it anymore. It broke my heart. So I went back to Broadway."

My heart aches and I feel like I'm back in the choir room, watching her pour her heart and her tears out and I can't do anything about it. Can't hold her, and it's driving me crazy. I blink back my own tears imagining a seven-year-old Rachel going through that heartache, learning what it was like for someone she loved so much to die, and then to go back into school with her head held high while she was bullied and antagonized and….

"I'm so sorry, Rachel," I breathe, and she sniffles again.

"No, it's-it's good. The stage is where I truly belong; I know that now. I just…miss her," she finishes quietly, and I smile sadly.

"Yeah." Not the brightest thing to say, I guess, but it lets her know I'm there, at least. "I know."

Rachel sniffles a couple more times before saying, tone bravely lighter this time, "It's your turn."

I can't cop out this time, that's for damn sure, not after she shared something like that with me. A big part of me wants to break this tension between us with some well-placed joke, except…it wouldn't be well placed at any point right now. I would just end up hurting her feelings, which I definitely don't want. I sigh.

"Um…when I was ten, I got in a car accident with my mom," I say, and I'm not really sure where I'm going with it, but since it's the first thing that came out, I just keep going. "She came to pick me up from school and she was late and…well, shit-faced. I was pretty used to that at home, but it was a surprise so early in the day." I hear her breathing hitch in my ear before picking up again and it soothes me, encourages me to keep talking. "I got in and she started driving and trying to talk to me, but she wasn't paying attention to the road and we were weaving all over the place. I tried to tell her to pull over, but I was scared, you know, and only ten and she just kept going, and then I saw this car coming and I-I grabbed the wheel and turned it and they sideswiped us. And she just started laughing.

"I couldn't believe…I was sitting there horrified and she was laughing like it was the funniest thing…. I remember she ended up with a DUI and had to pay for the damage on the other car, and my father was furious at her, but I was glad. I thought she got what she deserved." I swallow the growing lump in my throat. "It didn't stop her, though. Nothing seemed to stop her, until she kicked my dad out and then…I mean, now she goes to AA meetings and stuff, but…every time I pick up a beer or whatever, I just…I think about her laughing and I think, 'I'm going to be just like her.' But then I go ahead anyway, because…what's one drink, right?" I snort humorlessly, but Rachel doesn't join me.

Instead she's quiet, eerily so, and if it weren't for her breathing against my ear, I would think she had hung up on me. It's not deep enough for her to have fallen asleep, either, and I wonder what she's thinking. I'm terrified of what she's thinking. My fists clench around my pillow tightly and my pulse is running wild, and not in the good way it usually does with her. I can actually feel myself start to sweat a little bit.

"Oh, Quinn," Rachel says softly, and I press the phone harder to my ear to listen. "I'm so sorry you had…have to live with that."

I am not going to cry. I refuse. I give her a shaky sigh instead.

"Don't be. Honestly, it's couldn't be less your fault," I say, shrugging.

"I know, I just…it's always difficult to hear something painful has happened to someone you consider a friend, someone you care deeply for. That they live with something you can't even begin to imagine, or try to fix," she replies, and for Christ's sake, I'm not going to cry over this.

"Yeah. Tell me about it," I say wryly, hoping she'll get that I'm referring to what she just told me a little bit ago.

I think she does, because she's quiet and we just lay there in the silence for a long, pleasant moment until I hear her stifle another yawn. It makes me smile, lifts the tension from my chest.

"Maybe we should sleep," I suggest, even though I'd really rather just keep talking to her for…ever.

"I don't wanna," Rachel mumbles, and my God, could she get more adorable? "I like talking to you."

My grin could not get bigger. "I like talking to you, too, but I'll be seeing you at the party later, right?"

"If you're still coming."

"Of course I am. Think I'd miss out on all that crazy organized fun?" I tease.

She yawns. "Good. It won't be as fun without you."

I love sleepy Rachel. She is my new favorite.

"Then I'll see you at the party," I say with a grin. "Text me when you wake up?"

"Mhm," she chirps. "Sweet dreams."

"You, too. I'll talk to you later."


My thumb was halfway to reluctantly hitting the 'end call' button when I hear this, and I rush it back to my ear.


"Best conversation ever," Rachel mumbles.

My heart swells and I'm grinning till I fall asleep.