Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Glee writers and creators.
Friends Like These
Rachel was in love with Quinn. Which was quite disturbing, on many levels, in her opinion. Before this, Rachel had never thought herself as one prone to masochistic tendencies, though she did tend to surround herself with people who were bound to hurt her in one way or another. Like Finn, or Brittany.
Not that Brittany could ever actually intentionally hurt anyone, but Santana would—and not just emotionally. And the two were sort of a package deal, so when Brittany started sitting with Rachel at lunch, Santana came, too—however reluctantly. The new habit had surprised Rachel (the first day she'd brushed it off as a one-time occurrence), but when Quinn joined them, her cosmos was off-kilter for several disconcerting days. She even went sharp once.
It wasn't as though Quinn or Santana were suddenly her BFFs, of course. That was apparently Brittany's new duty, or so she told Rachel once when they were skipping down the hall a la The Yellow Brick Road (Santana and Quinn had refused, but Rachel just couldn't resist that pouting face). In fact, Quinn wouldn't even talk to her at first, and the only thing Santana ever said was, 'Man Hands.' Or a variation on that.
Still, just the fact that they would deign to sit with her had Rachel's head spinning. She spent many weeks trying to figure out what their angle was, what they could possibly be getting out of it. But in the end, she concluded that the only person getting anything out of this new arrangement was her. She had a new friend, and she wasn't going to ruin that over her built-in sense of paranoia when it came to people wearing Cheerios uniforms.
So there it was. Rachel and Brittany talked and chatted and hung out—even went shopping once—and Santana and Quinn tagged along with many eye rolls and folded arms. Until the day Santana and Brittany didn't show up to lunch.
Rachel was far from innocent, despite what her clothing style suggested to many McKinley High students, so when Quinn sat across from her, the other Cheerios nowhere in sight, she could guess what the two were up to. The sour look on Quinn's face only confirmed it. After a few minutes of silence following the usual grunt Quinn gave in response to Rachel's greeting, Rachel told her she could leave if she wanted to. Which was apparently a mistake.
Quinn had taken Rachel's offer as a personal insult, thinking she was trying to make her leave. It took several minutes to clear this up. And then Quinn asked her why she let people walk all over her the way she did, which was how Quinn and Rachel started talking. Like, really talking. Again, they weren't best friends—hardly friends at all, really, since Quinn refused to call her by her actual name and wouldn't be seen talking to her outside of the cafeteria—but they did talk. Civilly, even. And it opened a door that Rachel now desperately wished had been kept shut.
It still didn't hit Rachel for several weeks. Brittany had to say something before she realized what had happened. All it took was that small comment, though. Brittany had leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Do you like Q?" Rachel stared at her, flabbergasted, and demanded, "What?" And Brittany added, "You're looking at her like San looks at me when we're going to skip lunch."
Rachel's cheeks had gone flaming red and she hadn't been able to look at Quinn for the rest of the day, because Brittany's comment had done the magic trick. She tried to fight it, of course. For several days, she observed her reactions to Quinn, Quinn's reactions to her, and made lists. Lists of things she didn't like about Quinn and things she did.
Sadly, the latter was about two pages (front and back) longer than the former—and that was only half a page, all consisting of things like 'name calling.' And she hadn't actually finished the second list. When it started coming down to things like 'how her thighs quiver when she's been at Cheerios practice,' she'd decided that what she had was sufficient.
And after all that effort, the evidence piled up against Rachel and she was left with that inevitable truth: she was in love with Quinn.
Her next step was to decide what to do about this—which the gutter part of her brain that every teenager is imbued with took great delight in. Again, Rachel made extensive lists of her ideas, and then came up with multiple scenarios based on those, none of which ended well. She mulled her options over for two more days before she came to a simple conclusion. She would have to tell Quinn.
This didn't seem like the wisest decision Rachel could've made. In fact, when put plainly like that, it sounded a lot like suicide. But what Rachel was counting on was Brittany.
As much as Quinn liked to pretend she didn't care about anyone but herself, she was actually very protective of her fellow blonde, and now that Brittany and Rachel were friends, being cruel to Rachel would only upset her. Which Quinn wouldn't do, even without the threat of Santana hanging over her head.
So Rachel could be sure that when she told Quinn, the result would be a near death experience, rather than a complete loss of life. And it would incur just enough cruelty from Quinn to make this uprising of unwanted feelings go away.
Rachel decided she would need to have a speech prepared, and she would have to go in fully armed with a list of possible reactions from Quinn. So, during her free period on Monday, she burrowed into her favorite cubby of the library with several pens, scrap paper, and a notebook, and began diligently scratching down her ideas.
This was how Santana and Brittany found Rachel when the bell rang for lunch—hunched so far over her nose nearly touched the page, eyes screwed tight to focus on her words, and hand cramping very, very badly.
"Jeez. Forget to finish a project, Two Shoes?" Santana asked as she plopped into the chair across from Rachel.
'Two Shoes' was a new special favorite of Santana's, ever since she found out Rachel was still a virgin. It was far better than the repeated insults to her womanhood, so Rachel let it slide. Not that there was much she could've done about it had she actually minded.
She jerked up and groaned aloud when her back cracked several times with the movement. The cheerleaders exchanged a glance as Brittany eased into the chair next to Rachel, who was currently trying to unclench her hand from around the pen she was holding.
"You okay, Rach?" Brittany asked worriedly.
She had that adorably concerned look on her face where her brow crinkled and she kept worrying her lip between her teeth. Rachel hurriedly offered her a weak smile and a nod.
"Yes, I'm fine. However, I've been writing since the start of my free period, which in hindsight may not have been the wisest decision. Ow." She stretched her fingers and winced.
Brittany brightened almost automatically. "What are you writing?"
Occasionally, Rachel would write short stories for Brittany. Usually about ducks, of course, and never very long, but Brittany enjoyed them and she was the only one Rachel would allow to read them. Santana knew this, of course, but evidently today she didn't care, because she snatched up Rachel's notebook.
Rachel screeched in horror and lunged across the table to steal it back from her—and promptly gutted herself on the sharp corner of the table. It knocked the wind right out of her, and she dropped back into her chair, holding her throbbing side and mentally cursing Santana.
Santana ignored the groans of pain across from her in favor of flipping through the pages, brow hiking higher and higher as she read. Brittany absently patted Rachel's arm, but evidently she was far more interested in whatever it was Rachel had been writing than in her newly bruised abdomen.
"What is it, San?" she asked, bouncing in her chair. "Is it a duck story?"
"Nope," she muttered.
Rachel shot daggers at her, but Santana didn't make any further comment, much to Brittany's disappointment. Santana tired of reading it in short order and tossed the notebook back down in front of Rachel.
"Quinn would never say that. Or if she did, she wouldn't use that many words," Santana advised, and then proceeded to crack her knuckles.
Rachel gaped at Santana. Of course, she hadn't expected her to be repulsed by the idea of two girls—for obvious reasons that were currently manifesting themselves in the form of a sensual smirk on Santana's face as she eyed the blonde to Rachel's left—but when one of them was Rachel and the other was her best friend, well…she was expecting more of a reaction, to put it nicely.
Brittany was glancing impatiently between them. "Well? What is it?"
"Nothing!" Rachel yelped immediately. It did her no good.
"It's a 'List of Possible Comebacks' Q will have to RuPaul having the hots for her."
Rachel glared and opened her mouth to say…she didn't know what exactly, but it was going to hurt. Fortunately, Brittany saved her from having to think of anything.
"Really? Let me see."
Brittany reached for the notebook and Rachel leapt to grab it first, but Santana's glower stopped her in her tracks and she could only watch on miserably as Brittany read. She'd only gotten about halfway down the page when she turned mournful eyes on Rachel.
"Poor Rachel," she said softly.
Rachel's spine stiffened and she set her jaw. If Brittany started getting gushy on her, she wouldn't be able to hold it together. Thus far, she'd been able to avoid the dreaded box of Kleenex, and she was determined to stay strong through the rest of this, too. Even if Quinn stomped on her heart and left her for dead.
"I'm just trying to prepare myself," she replied at length, slipping the notebook from Brittany's hands.
"Then prepare yourself right. Quinn isn't going to give you ten paragraphs worth of reasons she doesn't want you," Santana barked. "She's going to slice you down in a few words."
She bristled with irritation that she couldn't keep out of her voice when she retorted, "I know that! I just…I have difficulty coming up with proper insults. It's not something I've had a lot of practice with."
Santana snorted. "Really? You'd think you'd have picked up something after all those years being a freak."
"You're the one with experience. Why don't you try coming up with something?" Rachel snapped back.
"How about 'I'm not into bestiality, Dog Breath'?"
They scowled at each other for several moments while Rachel processed that and Brittany glanced between them, frowning deeply. And then the light bulb went off over Rachel's head and she couldn't help the grin that claimed her lips. Santana shot out of her chair.
"No fucking way, Berry," she snapped.
Rachel stood with her, blocking the door. "Please? Santana, your insults are superlative—you made our math teacher cry once, for heaven's sake! You're the only person who can properly prepare me for what Quinn might say!"
Her eyes narrowed. "You can't flatter me into helping you," she snarled.
"This isn't flattery; this is fact," she said intensely. "I need your help. This is the only way I can get over Quinn, but if I'm not well prepared, she may just break my heart into a thousand pieces instead of inadvertently helping me to move on healthily from an infatuation that can only be detrimental to my emotional wellbeing."
Brittany frowned, but Santana rolled her eyes.
"You are such a sap, Man Hands."
She decided to ignore that comment. "What do you want? I'll do anything. Organize your room, do the Cheerios' laundry for a month, cover for you and Brittany with Mr. Schuester sometime, pay you—anything, just please help me!"
"No. Fucking. Way!"
"San," Brittany whimpered.
Santana's cold eyes shot to her and Rachel saw her melt a little bit. Rachel wasn't one to count her eggs before they hatched, but if that look was any indication, she had already won. She bit back a victory grin, though, waiting for Brittany to finish wearing her down. It took a little while, but eventually Santana growled, threw her hands in the air, and returned to her seat.
Rachel grinned gratefully at Brittany as she sat back down as well, scooping up her pen again. Brittany returned it, and they both turned to face a scowling Santana.
"I'm only doing this because it means I get to insult you for the rest of lunch," she grumbled irritably.
Rachel smiled. "I entered into this with no other expectation."
"Where the hell have you three been?" Quinn hissed angrily.
Rachel felt a twist of guilt when she realized they had, in fact, abandoned Quinn and left her to her own devices during lunch. She exchanged a pleading glance with Brittany and Santana as they sank into the chairs to their fellow cheerleader's left. Of course, no help was forthcoming from Santana—she just rolled her eyes and faced Mr. Schuester. Rachel dropped into the spot next to Brittany, who winked at her.
"San and I had alone time today," she told Quinn brightly.
Santana groaned, but Rachel smiled appreciatively at Brittany. It always disgusted Quinn when the two of them made innuendos about their sex life—it was the perfect excuse to knock her off the scent. Rachel avoided Quinn's sharp eyes, instead pulling out her glee notebook and turning her attention to Mr. Schuester at the front of the room.
Her bones turned to jelly when she heard the head cheerleader growl, "And you?"
The blood drained from her face. Damn Quinn's intelligence. Actually, it was really hot—no! Bad line of thought. Rachel forced herself to meet her eyes, which were trained on her unwaveringly. She wracked her brain for an excuse, but her head had turned to jelly with the rest of her, and her jaw flapped soundlessly. Quinn's nose wrinkled with sudden disgust, and she glanced between Rachel and the other cheerleaders.
"Don't tell me you thr—"
"NO!" Santana bellowed at the same time as Rachel yelped it.
The room froze, and the blood rushed back to Rachel's face and neck as she felt everyone's eyes on them. Quinn rolled her eyes in annoyance, but there was relief in place of disgust in her expression now.
"You have a sick mind, Fabray," Santana snapped accusingly, apparently unaware of the attention they were receiving from the nine other people in the room.
"Is there a problem, ladies?" Mr. Schuester cut in with a frown.
Rachel cleared her throat, gathering her wits. "No, sir. We're sorry for the interruption. It won't happen again. Please, continue."
He nodded uncertainly and slowly turned back to the room at large. When the room had quieted save for Mr. Schue's lecturing, Rachel felt it was safe to pull out her pen and began jotting notes on what he was saying. She had just gotten her mind back on track when Quinn completely ruined any chance she had at maintaining any sort of focus at all for the rest of the day.
It was purred in her ear, from behind, and Rachel jumped and shuddered simultaneously, and she could suddenly feel hot breath on her neck and ear, and goose bumps shot along her arms. She glanced furtively toward the seat Quinn had been occupying. It was empty. Rachel squeezed her legs together and tried her hardest not to squirm.
"Hm?" It was the only thing she could get out that wasn't completely unintelligible.
"I asked you a question. Where were you at lunch?" she repeated, the edge of irritation back in her voice.
Uh oh. She couldn't think of anything! Rachel glanced at the girl next to her, but Brittany was oblivious to her plight. She tried to send out a telepathic message. Brittany! Help!
It didn't work. Evidently her psychic ability still hadn't reached its full potential.
"I had a..." Meeting? Flu bug? Slushie emergency? That might've worked if she had actually changed her clothes since this morning. Quinn was waiting. Say something. Anything. Any words at all. "P-p-project." Thank God for Santana and her assumptions. Rachel heaved a sigh of relief and let her mouth finish the job. "I needed a reference from the library for my English project, so I was—"
"Got it. I don't need the novel every time, Berry. The CliffsNotes version will do."
Rachel breathed to release the tension in her shoulders when Quinn moved back to her seat. It came rushing right back seconds later, when she realized she had lost the ability to concentrate on anything but the fact that her neck was still warm where Quinn had been breathing on her. Thus, she missed an entire lecture of glee for the first time in the club's history, and it was all Quinn Fabray's fault.
They were all preparing to head to their next classes when Rachel felt someone nudge her in the ribs—and she knew it was Santana, because it was slightly harder than necessary. She glanced up at her as she stuffed her blank notebook back in the bag, already slightly on edge.
"What?" she hissed.
Santana scowled. "What do you think? You gonna do it?"
She frowned impatiently and jerked her head toward Quinn, who was packing her things up as well. Rachel's stomach rebelled and she shook her head rapidly.
"Wuss," Santana muttered.
"I'm not ready yet," she said defensively.
She glared. "So I spent my entire lunch hour helping your ass just so you could chicken out?"
"No, I will tell her," Rachel replied sharply. Santana looked dubious. "I will. When I'm ready."
"Fine. But if you don't, I will."
She paled, staring wide-eyed up at Santana. And even though she knew she so would, she gasped, "You wouldn't."
She smirked. "You wanna take the risk?" That vicious gleam entered her eye. "By Friday, Two Shoes. Or I tell Goldilocks myself."
And Santana proceeded to execute a Head Bitch exit. It was reminiscent of the diva storm-off, Rachel reflected. Just stiffer, and with less hair-flipping. She abruptly decided to keep this observation to herself, because she really didn't want a black eye on top of being in love with Quinn Fabray.
Brittany tapped her, and they started the trek to their next class together. "San's just trying to help," she assured her, smiling.
Rachel smiled back gratefully. "I think I've had all the 'help' I can stand."
"Are you sure? I could tell her," she offered, brightening.
She laughed. "Thank you, but I need to do this myself. If I allow anyone else to do it...well, first of all, that would be simply cowardly of me. Besides, I need to see—and hear—her reaction in person. It won't set in properly if I don't, and then instead of moving on, I'll be locking myself in my room, blasting depressing music, and crying myself to sleep every night for the rest of my life."
"That's awful," Brittany sympathized, drooping so much Rachel wanted to hug her.
She linked their arms instead, which cheered her up a bit.
"Don't worry. I'll tell her before Friday, she can reject me, and then we can all move on from this."
It was Thursday. Thursday afternoon, to be precise. Throughout the entirety of lunch, Santana kept up a steady glower at Rachel, emphasizing her point with occasional head jerks toward Quinn. Rachel tried to pretend she didn't notice anything, but when it occurred to her that Santana hadn't specified whether she meant Friday at the beginning of the day, or Friday at the end of the day, she quickly spiraled into an obsessive state of pure panic.
Rachel had tried telling Quinn over the past couple days. She honestly had. During lunch, she would shift a little closer on the bench, open her mouth to speak, and then she'd look up into quizzical hazel eyes that sent her stomach twisting and had her rushing to throw away her lunch before she'd actually finished it. On Wednesday, she managed to ask Quinn if she minded if she asked her something personal. When Quinn just shook her head, Rachel asked if she liked peas.
Yep, peas. All that build-up, and that's what came out. Santana looked like she was going to bang her head against the table—repeatedly. Or possibly Rachel's, so she made a point of scooting a bit further down the bench and out of the aggressive Latina's range. Brittany perked up and exclaimed that she loved peas, and Quinn laughed and nodded her agreement. Rachel fled as soon as possible so she could search for a deep, dark hole to disappear into forever. Her search was unsuccessful.
During glee and classes, Rachel would promise herself that she would gather the guts to talk to Quinn, ask her to stay after and practice with her or something. She didn't even need the hazel eyes then. All it took was looking at Quinn—whether from across the room, or right next to her with the other Cheerios—and Rachel was out of there.
Rachel tried to remind herself—several times over—that the rejection was necessary. She needed to go through with it in order to get rid of these feelings. And she wasn't afraid of the rejection, she realized. She was afraid of losing Quinn as her semi-friend, so she was savoring every moment she could get with Quinn before she ruined it. In the end, though, Rachel was ten times more frightened of Santana—and the way she would undoubtedly paint her infatuation—than of losing Quinn's friendship.
Because Rachel could deal with Quinn avoiding her and hating her and making fun of her—she'd already experienced that. She couldn't deal with Quinn thinking she watched her from outside her bedroom window and had a shrine dedicated to her in her armoire.
So Rachel steeled herself. Through glee, she ran over her prepared speech in her head over and over again, avoiding Brittany's concerned gaze, Santana's glower, and Quinn's glances as she sang along distractedly. She considered asking Santana to expound upon her threat, but really, what would be the point? If Santana had actually meant Friday at the end of the day and Rachel pointed out that she could've meant at the beginning, she would likely hastily change her mind in order to appear more vicious. So Rachel decided upon the wiser course of action—just get it over with.
Santana elbowed her in the ribs when Mr. Schue dismissed them—the still slightly sore side she'd impaled herself upon on Monday. Rachel hissed in pain.
Santana was unsympathetic. "Well?"
"Yes, all right?" she grumbled, rubbing her abdomen soothingly. "I'm going to tell her right now."
Brittany patted her on the back. "We'll wait for you in the library."
Santana scowled. "We will?"
Rachel smiled gratefully, knowing they would despite Santana's protests.
"Thank you. But please be at last halfway decent when I arrive," she added hastily, shuddering at the mental image of walking in on...that.
Santana growled to herself and Brittany seized Rachel in a hug.
"Good luck!" she whispered in her ear, and then tugged Santana along behind her.
Rachel sighed, again massaging her side where Santana had elbowed her. She would probably have a light bruise now that Santana had aggravated it. Really, she needed to learn the range of her formidable strength. Or possibly to control her impulses. Rachel might've suggested anger management to her had she not feared having a much larger bruise in a more noticeable location.
Rachel jumped and clutched her chest, trying to slow her racing heart. It was just Quinn, after all. Which made her heart race for entirely different reasons. She nodded sheepishly at Quinn, who was eyeing her critically.
"Yes, fine. Santana isn't fully aware of her capacity to grievously injure petite persons such as myself," she replied, shrugging.
Quinn smirked, and Rachel wondered if she was amused by her, or just taking pleasure in her pain. Best not to think about that, she supposed.
"Yeah, well." Quinn shrugged her backpack higher on her shoulder. "See you."
She brushed past her, heading for the nearest exit, and Rachel took a breath. This was it. Either tell Quinn or let Santana. She swallowed down her fears and ignored her wildly twisting stomach.
"Quinn?" she called, and winced when she realized how vulnerable she sounded. She cleared her throat to strengthen her voice when Quinn turned. "Can I talk to you about something?"
Quinn glanced at the clock. Rachel winced. She would've told her never mind, that it wasn't important, but there was Santana, in the back of her mind, pushing her to keep going. Quinn sighed and plopped her backpack on the piano.
"Sure," she said disinterestedly, and Rachel appreciated the lack of insults added to that very apathetic answer.
Rachel wrung her hands as she approached, unconsciously placing the piano between them. Quinn leaned against it, shooting sideways glances her way, though those hazel eyes continuously trailed to the clock high on the wall. Rachel sighed. This was what she'd been expecting, hoping for, even—rejection. Complete indifference followed by disgust. So it shouldn't hurt like this.
Focus, she told herself. The speech was the important part. She ran through it again in her head while Quinn waited with growing impatience.
"Well?" she asked sharply.
Rachel stroked the piano keys once—for good luck—and took another deep breath. "Quinn, I have something I need to tell you. The last thing I want is to ruin the tentative friendship we've developed in the past few months, but after some reflection, I've realized that it would be disrespectful to that friendship if I kept quiet." Which was all true, if not the whole truth.
Quinn's brow was arched—one of her most popular defense mechanisms. She shifted uncomfortably in place against the piano, but still nodded for her to go on. "Okay..."
Another deep breath. "Over the past few weeks—and after a revealing comment made by one of our mutual friends—I have been observing our interactions with one another with keen interest in an attempt to decipher what my feelings for you actually are. And..." Breathe. "In light of several revelations—including the observation that I'd rather sing for you than an entire auditorium full of people, and the automatic thought that my day is better when you enter the room—I've come to the conclusion that I..." Swallow. Breathe. "I'm in love with you."
Santana shoved open the library doors and gestured Brittany through first, itching to get to Berry's 'cubby.' If Quinn kicked the midget to the curb, she only had so much time before Two Shoes rushed into Brittany's arms, wailing like a little girl—and Santana didn't plan on wasting one minute. Because, seriously, this could be the last time she'd get laid in a while.
After the subsequent bawling like a baby, Britt would be her sweet little self and not want to leave Berry to fend for herself—and of course she'd stop talking to Q, so it wouldn't be like Santana could convince her the losers could keep each other company while they were gone. And she'd be stuck with Third Wheel Berry for however many weeks it took her to get over Barbie, with no opportunity to ditch her for a bit to get her mack on.
"We're closing soon, ladies," the librarian barked from her desk.
Santana flipped her off. Bitch.
It didn't take long to get to the study room at the back, and Santana kicked the door shut behind them and got right down to business, kissing at Brittany's neck and fiddling with the zipper on her Cheerios skirt.
Brittany's arms came up around her and she sighed contentedly, and Santana reveled in the moan she felt vibrate against her tongue when she let it come out to play. But then…as always, for some reason, Brittany wanted to talk first. And it wasn't that Santana didn't like the talking—it was perfectly peachy. But she didn't see why it couldn't wait until after the more important stuff got done.
"Do you think Q and Rachel will want to go feed the ducks with us?" Brittany asked cheerfully.
Santana sighed, sagging in her arms a bit before she perked up at a thought and nipped at Brittany's pulse point. She squeaked a little and pressed her own kiss to Santana's hair, squeezing her sides encouragingly. Relieved, Santana went back to work, sweeping toward her collarbone.
"Oh! We could go on double dates!" Brittany exclaimed suddenly.
She sighed again. "B…."
She hugged her tight, suddenly concerned. "Are you okay, S?"
"Yeah…fine. It's just…." Santana grumbled to herself. Was she really going to do this? Give up on the chase in order to talk? Seemed like something a pansy would do, but…gah, she was so whipped.
She tugged at Brittany's arm, pulling her to sit in the chairs by the table she'd had so many plans for. Hopefully this little chat would go quickly. She sent up a quick prayer, even though she was pretty sure she'd filled her quota by now. If God kept quotas. Maybe she would ask Quinn about that later.
Santana shook her head—hard. She was spending too much time around Brittany and Berry, she decided.
"Look, B, I don't want you getting your hopes up too high about Q and Two Shoes, okay?" she said sternly, meeting blue eyes.
A pout quickly formed on Brittany's lips, and Santana leaned in to kiss it away, but she dodged her.
"You don't think they're gonna get together?" she asked sadly.
Santana heaved another sigh. "I'm not sure."
"Why wouldn't they?" Brittany perked up suddenly, a light in her eyes. "They give each other happy looks all the time, just like you and me. And Q isn't cranky when Rachel is around; she likes when she's there. It was her idea to invite her shopping, remember?"
"I know, I know. But…." Santana frowned, gathering her thoughts. She wasn't sure how to put this to Brittany without upsetting her too much. "Do…you remember the first time we got it together?"
Brittany's megawatt grin had Santana smiling, too, but she pushed it away hastily when she remembered the reason she had brought it up in the first place. Her gut twisted and she dug underneath her nails for invisible dirt, wishing that guilty feeling wouldn't interrupt her recollection of that night—just once.
"And…do you remember the next morning?"
The grin was gone in a flash and Santana thought she might be sick, but she held it together. Brittany gazed at her sorrowfully, dipping her chin in acknowledgement. Santana impulsively reached for her hand, squeezing it in hopes that it conveyed all the protectiveness and affection she was feeling. She smiled triumphantly when she saw Brittany's lips quirk upward.
"I was a Grade A asshole, and it was all because I was scared shitless," Santana explained, and sighed. "And Q is just as big a cowardly idiot as I am." Which was exactly why that list of insults Berry had wanted were a good idea, she mused. Not that she would ever admit that to the little diva—her head was already big enough.
Brittany gaped at Santana in a panic. "But—poor Rachel! What if—"
"I'm not saying that's exactly how this is gonna play out; I just don't want your hopes up too high," she cautioned, squeezing her hand again.
Brittany considered that. "But they can be up?"
She couldn't help but grin. "Yes, they can be up."
Brittany's smile returned and Santana's grin turned wicked as she leaned in to occupy her girl's lips, this time without being evaded.
Silence. It took Rachel a moment to realize that she was staring at her feet. She'd just declared her love for her Mary Janes, apparently. She nearly rolled her eyes at herself before dragging her gaze up—her chin was heavier than she remembered it being—and slowly, hesitantly, met hazel eyes.
Quinn was staring at her. Wide-eyed, unblinking, and shocked. That was the only thing Rachel could read in her expression, and she decided to take advantage of that shock to move on to the next part of her speech—she'd prepared it especially for this possibility, actually.
"I apologize for any trauma this information may cause you, but I promise you that you don't have to worry about my affections becoming any more obvious than they've been over the past few weeks," Rachel assured her hastily. "I'm well aware of the limits your sexual orientation and religion place on you, not to mention your hatred of me, so I expect nothing more from you than either further displays of that hatred, or, if you're not too uncomfortable, the friendship we've established in spite of it." She cleared her throat.
More silence. That was all Rachel had prepared to say, and now the silence was unnerving her. She hated silence. It bothered her more than those alleged child prodigies—who would lose their voice from overuse in a few years—the media shoved down the public's throat.
Even more unnerving was the way Quinn was still staring at her, unmoved from her previous pose. The shock hadn't faded one bit, and the only thing that had changed was that her perfect pink lips were slightly parted now. Rachel did her best not to stare at them.
She shifted, and she waited as long as she could. Quinn really did deserve time to absorb this before she went about the business of rejecting Rachel, but she wished she would hurry the process up a bit. The silence and the staring and the anticipation of rejection were all proving to be too much for her. So, after about thirty seconds of silence, she broke down.
"Please say something," Rachel begged quietly.
Even more silence. But the stillness didn't last as long this time. Quinn gradually straightened, adjusting her Cheerios uniform about three times, but she never broke eye contact with Rachel. She shifted her position again. Rachel was losing hope that she would ever get her volley of insults to knock her mind off the gorgeous cheerleader.
Then, finally, Quinn licked her lips and spoke. "I don't hate you."
Now Rachel was staring. Her jaw flapped several times before a single word came out, "What?"
"I don't hate you," she repeated, firmer this time, but her voice still sounded kind of…hollow. As though she wasn't quite sure what was happening was real. As though she was a little detached from the whole situation.
Rachel was confused. Where were the insults? Where was the screaming? The disgust? The abject horror? She faltered. Had they even accounted for this as a possible comeback? She leapt into action, unzipping her backpack hastily and digging through it, hunting for the notebook with her list of comebacks, and completely missing the breath Quinn took in the process.
"Hold on. Just one second," Rachel said, holding up a finger as she found success in her hunt.
Then, as quickly as she could, she plopped the notebook on the piano, whipped it open, and started flipping through the pages, scanning them for those four words
Quinn didn't try talking again while Rachel searched in vain, reaching the end of her possible comebacks. She even flipped back to the beginning, going backwards. She held the notebook in front of her chest, like a shield, panicking now.
"That...that's not in here," she told Quinn anxiously. Quinn's brow arched and she opened her mouth again, but Rachel added, "Are you sure you don't want to say something else? Perhaps a derogatory comment concerning my status as a female?" She glanced at the page. "Or could I possibly interest you in something along the lines of, 'You couldn't be less desirable to me if you rubbed yourself on a leper'? O-or a metaphor involving my clothing in relation to my attractiveness?"
Quinn was flinching as though being repeatedly struck. Rachel panicked even more. How was she supposed to react to this? She hadn't prepared for it at all! She needed backup—and more lists—and planning. Immediately.
"I have to go," Rachel cut in, voice shaking. "I have to...yeah. Um...sorry, I'll...see you."
She snatched up her backpack, still clutching the notebook tight to her chest, and rushed from the room. Where were Santana and Brittany waiting again? Library, right. She redirected her steps and flew past the librarian, ignoring her warning that she was closing in a half hour, and straight to her favorite cubby. She flung the door open and the two girls sprang apart. Rachel thanked God that they were still fully clothed, at least.
Rachel set the notebook and backpack in one of the chairs and started pacing while the Cheerios straightened and readjusted clothing. What was that supposed to mean, anyway? She didn't hate her? Oh, hooray. That was definitely the same thing as giving a clear answer. Not. Maybe she could get over these feelings just by resenting Quinn's non-response...
"How did it go?" Brittany asked cheerfully, mind already on a different track.
Santana glared at Rachel, folding her arms grumpily.
"She...she said...she said she doesn't hate me," Rachel stammered, brow knitting.
Brittany smiled. "I knew it! Did she give you a happy?"
"What's a—" She promptly turned red. "No. That was all she said, that she doesn't hate me. And then she just stood there."
Her gaze gradually turned to the silent party in the room, who was tapping the arm of her chair impatiently. Brittany followed her example, but it still took Santana a moment to realize she was being stared at. She glanced between them, scowling.
"What?" Rachel raised her eyebrows, and Santana scoffed. "Seriously, you think I know what that means?"
"Well, you are Quinn's best friend," she pointed out, frowning.
"Yeah. Because we don't talk about sentimental crap," she retorted. "We leave each other alone, got each other's back, and we're good. Try to talk about our problems? Forget it."
"This isn't sentimental, Santana. This is a simple 'I don't hate you' response, which I should think you'd be able to decipher."
She rolled her eyes. "It probably just means that she doesn't hate you. Can't you take anything at face value, Berry? She threw you a bone, now go chew on it."
"San..." Brittany whimpered, eyes shining.
Santana growled. "No. I'm not getting involved in their shit any more than I already have. And you shouldn't, either."
Rachel heaved a sigh. Santana was right. Why did she have to overanalyze everything? Quinn saying she didn't hate her meant just that—she didn't hate her. Nothing more, nothing less. It still wasn't exactly a clear response to Rachel's declaration, but she could at least discern that Quinn didn't feel the same way, but she wasn't going to end their friendship over it, either. So the plan had failed.
Rachel would have to live on with these torturous feelings for the head cheerleader, longing for her from the suddenly too-close distance of an uneasy acquaintanceship, with the knowledge that she neither hated nor loved her. She almost missed being hated now. At least then, she inspired some kind of passionate response. She shook her head of her musings.
"All right, fine." She sank into the chair across from them. "But at least tell me what I should do next."
Santana scowled. "What am I, your goddamn therapist? Suck it up and go on with your life."
Brittany was frowning disapprovingly at her counterpart, but Rachel couldn't help a small quirk of her own lips.
"You know, for all your insults, you are strangely therapeutic."
Santana rolled her eyes.
Rachel took Santana's advice. Save for when she arrived home Thursday evening—which involved a pathetic spiral of depression, starting with the dreaded box of Kleenex and ending with a repeat viewing of Steel Magnolias to remind herself that worse things could happen, and a gallon of orange sherbet—Rachel, incredibly, managed to retrieve her cheery exterior to cover the mess inside, and bounced and annoyed her way through Friday as usual.
The only chinks in the armor came when Quinn was around. Rachel couldn't even bring herself to meet her eyes, despite the many eye rolls this elicited from Santana—who seemed to be just as irritated with Quinn as with Rachel, oddly enough. Rachel hadn't seen Quinn get smacked upside the head—apparently just for sitting down—so many times in a row before. She considered approaching Santana on Quinn's head's behalf, but ultimately decided that that would only lead to further injury to Quinn and probably herself, and instead went the safer route—asking Brittany to put a stop to it. Thankfully, the head-smacking tapered off after this.
At lunch, she suddenly found something very important regarding ducks to talk about with Brittany and linked their arms so she had no choice but to sit next to her. Which kept Quinn safely on the other side of the table.
Rachel was pleased with her brilliance until she realized that across the table was even worse, because those hazel eyes were right there, and she ended up straddling the bench in order to avoid them. She wasn't proud of what she did in glee to avoid Quinn, but if she hadn't, she wouldn't have been able to focus. So she hung on Noah's arm the entire time, using him as a human shield from hazel eyes that seemed to look her way far too often. Far more often than she'd noticed before, that was for sure.
At least Noah knew Rachel wasn't interested in more than friendship, and he didn't mind her use of his arm to protect her. Even if he demanded payment, it wouldn't be more than a French kiss, which Rachel could handle if it meant avoiding Quinn. Just as long as she didn't have to strip down or exploit animals, she could deal.
The weekend was filled with more shameful depression, the depletion of the Berry house's Kleenex supply, and endless runs to the convenience store for more icy cold comfort food.
And then Monday and Tuesday, it was back to bouncing and bossing and lots of avoiding. It might not have come down to Rachel hiding in her cubby in the library during lunch if Quinn hadn't been acting the way she was. But she kept staring her down, and every time Rachel dared to glance at her, she opened her mouth like she wanted to say something. Rachel didn't want her to. She wanted to learn to accept the 'I don't hate you' and let it be. Adding to it would only wreck her.
It worked splendidly the first couple days. During lunch, she was safe, alone, in the library. During classes, they were busy. And during glee, she had Noah to protect her. Though the first and last were seriously starting to hurt Brittany's feelings, and Rachel had a bad feeling she'd have to abandon those safety zones soon. But it was only on Wednesday that this routine of Rachel's was utterly ruined.
Rachel grabbed the lunch she'd taken to packing from her locker and ducked into the library, nodding to the librarian and grabbing a book—just for show, really—and then she heaved a sigh and opened the door to her cubby. Where Quinn was sitting.
Rachel froze for a full twenty seconds before she was able to react. She shifted the doorknob in her grasp and inched backward.
"Uh...I'm sorry, I didn't know anyone would be in here. I'll just—"
"Stop," Quinn said sharply, folding her arms. "Do you really think I'd be in here for any other reason than that I knew this was where you'd be?"
Rachel opened and closed her mouth wordlessly. She actually couldn't think of any other reason for Quinn to be here, with no lunch or books or backpack, now that she mentioned it. But this could only mean one thing—all her hard work had gone to waste. And now Quinn was going to wreck Rachel's newfound acceptance of their status as friends with some unnecessary amendment to her first reaction. She felt like crying again.
"Would you stop gawking at me and sit down?" Quinn asked impatiently, and because Rachel could see the discomfort beneath her irritability, she obeyed.
They were silent for a moment while Rachel set her lunch bag and book on the table, glancing anxiously into hazel eyes and silently begging for mercy. Quinn's jaw clenched and unclenched several times before she finally spoke.
"I'm very angry with you," she said spitefully, and Rachel couldn't help it—she gaped again.
But at least she had words this time. "You-you're mad at me? What did I—"
"Besides running off instead of hearing me out and then using Puck to avoid me?" she snapped, gnashing her teeth around Noah's name.
Well, Rachel couldn't argue with that. She did—vaguely—remember Quinn trying to say something or other at one point, and she had to admit that she hadn't really been paying much attention. And she had run off, and she had used Noah as a device, and she had been avoiding Quinn. The only thing she couldn't figure out was—
"Why are you mad about that?"
Quinn growled in something akin to frustration, throwing up her hands. "Why do you think? I've been trying to talk to you for five days, but you won't look at me, you won't answer my calls, I—"
"My phone is broken," Rachel said hurriedly. "I'm getting a new one." She smiled nervously in an attempt to placate the aggravated cheerleader.
She sighed, rolling her eyes. "Fine. Whatever. The point is, I didn't want to corner you, but that's what you made me do anyway."
She folded her arms again, slumping back in her chair, and Rachel might've laughed at the petulant way she did it—like a five-year-old girl who wasn't getting her way—if she wasn't afraid Quinn would get even more upset with her. She sighed instead, trying to figure out what to say to that.
"Quinn, I...I just wanted to leave things as they were," she said carefully, and Quinn's eyes snapped to hers. "I mean, I get it. You don't hate me, but that's as far as it goes. It's perfectly understandable, and I can learn to acc—"
"See, that, right there. That's it exactly." She huffed, shaking her blonde head. "Did you really expect something else after you caught me off-guard like that? I mean, I-I thought I was dreaming for a minute there. It was a lot to take in all at once, and the only thing I could think was that you think I hate you—and that it's not true. And when I actually knew what I was going to say, you wouldn't let me talk."
Rachel was flabbergasted. "I-I'm sorry. I just...I was a little caught off-guard, too. I was expecting you to tell me you never wanted to see me again, or...or something."
"Yes, I got that," she grumbled, rolling her eyes again.
Her brow furrowed. "What do you—"
"For someone who's supposedly in love with me," Quinn retorted mockingly, "you seem to have a pretty low opinion of me. 'You couldn't be less desirable to me if you rubbed yourself on a leper'?" Her brow arched high, and Rachel swallowed her guilt at the defensive move.
"Well…first off, that one was Santana's idea." Blonde eyebrows popped up, so she hurried on. "And second…Quinn, you have to admit that our dealings in the past haven't always been the most pleasant," she said calmly, keeping her voice low so as not to incite her wrath.
Quinn immediately looked away, grinding her teeth. Rachel was tempted to tell her to cease that, since it would only serve to mar her perfect dental record, rather than washing away the guilt she felt. But first of all, she didn't want a black eye. And second, Quinn's teeth were not the issue here. Though they were still quite lovely.
"I had to be prepared for any possibility," she added, twisting the end of her sleeve around her thumb.
Quinn nodded curtly. "I guess you forgot a few."
Rachel allowed herself a small smile, hoping that it wouldn't be completely inappropriate under the circumstances. She didn't immediately have her head taken off, so she let the smile grow a little and said quietly, "I guess so."
They were quiet again, though Rachel didn't feel quite so distressed this time. Quinn wasn't yelling at her, and for the most part, she simply seemed offended by Rachel's lack of consideration for her feelings in the matter, which was fixable. She was hearing her out now, and she'd had her reasons for behaving the way she did. If Quinn still wasn't satisfied, she could always work to make it up to her.
Before that line of thought could progress into territory that should be saved for the privacy of her bedroom, Quinn mercifully spoke.
"So Santana knew."
She looked extremely displeased with this information.
Rachel squirmed. "Yes. She and Brittany caught me trying to come up with scenarios and she read what I had—without permission, I might add." Quinn's lips twitched. "She corrected me and, after some persuasion, she agreed to help me in generating insults on par with your skills. I wasn't doing a very good job of that on my own." She sighed. "And…actually, she's quite possibly the only reason I told you."
Quinn's brow arched again and Rachel sank in her chair a little with the intensity of her gaze.
"She informed me that she would tell you if I did not, and with her self-admitted love for 'stirring shit up', I felt that it would—"
"No, I mean…why was she the only reason you told me? If you were coming up with scenarios already, then…."
"Oh, well, I did intend on telling you in order to get rid of these feelings, but I was too nervous to actually go through with it until it was almost too late, and then it was only because I didn't want you to go on with your life believing I was some crazed stalker with a mural of pictures of you lining my bedroom walls." She cleared her throat.
Quinn's lips twitched again. "I see."
Rachel nodded, and they fell into silence again; Quinn shifted a couple times, but kept her gaze on Rachel, who sank lower and lower into her chair. The unwavering attention was a little discomfiting. Not to mention, arousing. It was making her a tad bit…squirmy. She fought to regain control of her faculties.
So, they had established that Quinn still did not hate Rachel, that they were both caught off-guard and therefore handled things poorly, and Quinn had said she knew what she wanted to say. Although she still hadn't actually said it. Rachel opened her mouth to voice the query when she realized something else Quinn had said. Her eyes bugged.
"Wait, did you say you thought you were dreaming?" she blurted. The 'that I confessed to being madly in love with you' part was implied.
The corner of Quinn's mouth curved upward into a smirk resembling the ones Santana often gave Brittany, Rachel thought. Bats were suddenly flapping around in her stomach and a flush was creeping up her neck.
"It wouldn't have been the first time," Quinn purred, and Rachel thought she might just die.
She'd known Quinn was sexy (obviously), but when she talked like that, it sent heat straight to her core and—wait, was Quinn flirting with her?
Her cheeks were flaming when she stammered, "Uh…y-you said that you were going t-to say something. B-before I left, that is. I-I'm sorry I interrupted at the time, but if you'd still like to say it, I'm here and listening." She smiled sheepishly.
Quinn's head tilted as she considered the brunette across from her, and Rachel promptly crossed her legs. Why did she have to keep looking at her like that?
"Stand up," Quinn ordered, doing so herself.
Rachel flapped her jaw. "What?"
She'd wanted to tell her to stand up? That didn't make very much sense. She'd already been standing and—
Twisting her shirtsleeves anxiously, Rachel obeyed the command, sliding her chair back in out of habit and smoothing out her skirt. She nearly leapt out of her skin when she realized how close Quinn was now standing to her, the proximity sending another wave of heat over her body and goose bumps over her arms. She was suddenly thankful for her cardigan.
Quinn kept edging closer, and Rachel backed the little space she had left until her thighs hit the table behind her. She grappled at the edge of it and peered nervously up at Quinn, who was leaning toward her. The action may not have seemed menacing except for the predatory smirk on Quinn's lips that Rachel had come to fear. She leaned back as far as she could.
"Wh-what are you doing?"
She really hated stuttering, and it was all she seemed to be doing today. Quinn's smirk grew.
"I've always been more of an 'actions' person," she said lowly, and Rachel only had about a nanosecond to try and figure out what she was talking about, because Quinn eclipsed the distance remaining between them and kissed her.
It took Rachel a moment to realize that that was what was happening. After all, it wasn't every day that Quinn Fabray cornered her in a library cubby and kissed her. Hell, it wasn't every day that Quinn Fabray kissed anybody, let alone girls. Let alone Rachel Berry.
Fortunately, the fact that Rachel had confessed her love for Quinn rather recently seemed to have given her the confidence she needed not to be put off by Rachel's lack of response; her lips stayed firmly against Rachel's, working until she suddenly seemed to realize what was happening and pressed back into Quinn with gusto. Rachel quickly hooked Quinn in her arms, swinging them around her neck and keeping her in the kiss—though she didn't really seem to be planning on going anywhere, since her hands were currently squeezing Rachel's sides and tugging her flush against her body.
When Rachel grew bold, slipping her tongue along the seam of the perfect pink lips she'd been fantasizing about for…well, ever, Quinn moaned into her mouth and Rachel thought it was the most beautiful sound in the world. Until Quinn stepped back, out of the kiss, and she panicked immediately, wondering if she'd moved too quickly. The feeling was multiplied when Quinn turned away, toward the door, and Rachel was just about to apologize when Quinn pushed it shut and then turned back to her with that predatory smirk and glint in her eyes. The sight of it sent a shudder down Rachel's spine and she was struck speechless for quite possibly the first time in her existence.
She had no idea it was possible to feel this happy. Or this aroused. She was practically humming with both emotions, and if the slightly goofy, crooked grin Quinn shot her before she dove in for another scorching kiss was any indication, she was feeling just about the same way.
This time it was Quinn who was looking to deepen the kiss, and they both moaned when their tongues met. Quinn searched for dominance immediately, and Rachel willingly gave it up to her, only asserting herself with a nip to the lip when her counterpart pulled away for air. Quinn's eyes darkened at the gesture and she made a sound that Rachel thought sounded fairly similar to a growl, and it sent another chill down her spine. She went to soothe the spot with her tongue, but before she could get close, she felt firm hands grabbing at her rump and lifting her onto the table.
She yelped, but the sound was muffled when Quinn yet again claimed her lips and then tugged at her thighs, bringing tanned legs around her waist until they were flush against each other. Rachel moaned at the feeling of Quinn pressed tight against her heat and squeezed her with her legs. Quinn moaned again, as she had when Rachel slipped her tongue along her lips, and she decided to classify it as Quinn's 'happy' moan. It sounded distinctly delighted. And Rachel wondered how on earth this was actually happening.
She definitely wasn't dreaming. The nails scraping lightly up and down her back, underneath her shirt; the insistent lips and tongue worshiping and devouring at her mouth; the silky tendrils caressing her fingers as she wove them through; and the warm body pressed tight against her were all evidence to suggest that this was, in fact, really happening. The question was how. How had Rachel Berry gotten lucky enough to have this, the least likely of all of her dreams, actually come true? She knew she shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but God, really? Quinn Fabray was kissing her? And would probably be doing a lot more in the near future if the sounds she was making were any indication?
It was then that Rachel realized that they were moving fast—extremely fast. They hadn't even gone on a date yet. Unless…maybe Quinn didn't actually want a date. Maybe this was her way of telling her she was attracted to her and she was looking for a one night (or one lunch, in this case) stand. Maybe—
"Is this clear enough for you?" Quinn suddenly purred, and Rachel shuddered as she felt her breaths washing over her lips, just centimeters away.
She wanted to say 'yes, please God, don't stop kissing me,' because God. Quinn's lips were even more amazing than she had imagined them to be. She was beyond perfect, and Rachel wanted her so much it was becoming a physical need, or at least it felt like it. But she hesitated, because…well, she didn't want to be a quick lay, and even though it was clear Quinn really did feel more than friendship, it wasn't clear what her intentions were.
Quinn sensed her hesitation, and that happy smirk she'd been wearing faded a tad. She backed off—not out of Rachel's arms, but just enough for Rachel to be able to breathe, at least. Rachel smiled gratefully, feeling her cheeks heat even more when Quinn started caressing her hair out of her face. She felt a grin coming on, but swallowed it back in favor of regaining her breath.
"What does this mean, Quinn?" she asked quietly, and Quinn sighed, running her fingers through the hair at Rachel's temple.
"I like you. I…." She dropped her hand and her gaze, swallowing audibly. "I might…l-love you."
Rachel's heart swelled and she felt a grin blossom on her face, despite that 'might.' Quinn could actually love her back. This was positively the best day ever. Including when she saw Wicked with her fathers in New York and saw Idina Menzel going into the bathroom afterward.
"I can't say that's what it is right now, but if the way I feel when you smile at me means anything, then it's definitely heading in that direction," Quinn said hurriedly, her cheeks going an adorable shade of pink. She winced. "Please don't tell Santana I said that."
Rachel grinned, and her heart felt like it was going to burst right out of her chest when Quinn smiled back. She stroked blonde hair that she'd decidedly messed up, trying to pet it back into place.
"Your secret is safe with me," she assured her teasingly.
Quinn's smile widened, and she leaned in for another kiss, lingering for a moment before pulling back just enough to look into brown eyes. She nudged their noses together lightly, bringing a smile to Rachel's face.
"So, you like me. I love you," Rachel said, seriously considering both statements and what that meant.
It took her a moment to notice the blindingly gorgeous grin Quinn was giving her. She couldn't help but smile back.
"Just…that. You saying that to me," she said shyly, blushing again.
Rachel felt another goofy grin coming on. "Well, it's true. I love you."
She was expecting another of those beautiful smiles. Instead she was nearly knocked back onto the table with the force of the kiss Quinn landed on her. She had to abandon her hair stroking duties in order to keep herself from falling back to the wood with a thud. And from squashing her lunch. She was kind of hungry, come to think of it.
Oh, well. Rachel would happily go hungry for one meal if it meant she could keep kissing Quinn. Despite the fact that having three nutritious meals a day was a very important part of one's adolescent years. She wondered if Quinn had eaten yet, though. She couldn't have that. Quinn needed to stay fit and healthy for her active schedule and—wow, she didn't know anyone could curl their tongue like that. She let out a little whimper, at which point Quinn started crawling over her on the table. She pushed her lunch bag out of the way and started to give in to Quinn's pressing when a familiar voice interrupted their heated makeout session.
"Oh, hell no. If I don't get to have sex on that table, no one does."
Quinn jerked away from her lips and the two scrambled off the table, hurrying to straighten their tops and skirts while Santana and Brittany looked on with smug and happy smirks, respectively. Rachel didn't know about Quinn, but she felt about as red as a tomato at that moment.
"I knew they would get together!" Brittany squealed, clapping happily.
"Yep, you called it, B," Santana acceded gently, then narrowed her eyes at Quinn. "'Bout time you grew some balls."
Quinn rolled her eyes.
"May I just point out that that is physically impossible for any female to—oh." Rachel flushed, but it was tempered by a smile when she felt Quinn's arm slide around her shoulders.
"Did you give her the tickets?" Brittany asked brightly.
Rachel frowned. "Tickets?"
Santana huffed. "Are you a moron? Seriously?"
"Look, we had other things to discuss," Quinn said defensively, ducking when Santana went to smack her upside the head. "And would you stop doing that?"
"Would you stop being a dumbass?"
"What tickets?" Rachel blew out impatiently.
"Britt told you to do that part first," Santana growled.
"It was going to be so romantic," Brittany confided to Rachel, pouting.
Santana rubbed her arm comfortingly. "Yeah, it was going to be all corny and shit. You would've loved it. And Q messed it up. Again."
"Well, it might've been nice to have a little warning before Rachel dropped the L-bomb on me the first time I 'messed it up'," Quinn hissed, and Rachel shot her a wounded look. She hurriedly bent to kiss her cheek, almost reassuringly, leaving a smile on her face instead.
"Please, like you would've believed me? You had your head so far up your own ass—"
"San," Brittany said gently, and she huffed.
"Fine. But she's still a moron."
"I beg to differ," Rachel cut in, lifting her chin. "There are few students in this school with as many extracurricular activities as Quinn who are able to maintain such a high GPA, and—"
Santana rolled her eyes. "I meant emotionally, Two Shoes."
"It's not her fault she was raised in an environment which encouraged the notion that natural human emotions are unacceptable and—"
"I think you have a new nickname, Little White Knight."
Rachel frowned. "That is not in the least insulting, other than the obvious indication that I am less than female. However, you have far better nicknames to express that particular idea. Are you feeling well?"
Quinn let out a low, throaty chuckle and Rachel leaned into her with a happy grin. Santana, on the other hand, pursed her lips and glowered at Rachel.
"Sure it is. I'm insulting your height, of course." She scoffed. "You need that horse to reach Barbie's lips."
There was a brief halt in conversation while even Santana internally rolled her eyes at herself. Brittany grinned.
"She didn't mean it as an insult," she confirmed.
"I'm hungry," Quinn commented, ushering Rachel toward the door.
"I did, too!"
"Me, too," Brittany agreed. "Do you think they'll have noodles again?" She bounced on the spot.
"Whatever you do, don't eat the meatballs," Quinn cautioned.
She looped her arm over Rachel's shoulder again after she had gathered the book and her lunch bag. She quickly shoved the book on a shelf after a particularly frightening glare from the librarian.
"I so did mean it as an insult," Santana muttered as they left.
"Is anyone going to tell me what tickets you were all talking about?" Rachel asked impatiently.
"Took you long enough to ask," Santana replied. "I'm surprised you didn't start strip searching us."
Quinn sighed, reaching into waistband of her Cheerios skirt and handing two tickets over to Rachel. The other two peered on while Rachel quickly read over them and then promptly squealed, throwing her arms around Quinn's neck.
"Tickets to West Side Story at Mershon Auditorium? How did you get these? They were sold out when I went to the website," she said excitedly, grinning up at the blushing blonde, who glanced uncomfortably at Brittany and Santana.
Santana grinned cheekily. "Go on, tell her, Q." She leaned close to Rachel's ear, clasping her hands together mockingly. "Your wittle sweetie bear—"
"Shut up, San! I…I just went to get them after school last Thursday when I heard they were selling them. That's why I was so impatient when you asked me to stay after," she explained sheepishly. "I was going to get four tickets, but after you told me…you know, I-I thought it could be our…our first date." Even her ears were red.
Brittany squealed and crushed Rachel in a bear hug before she could do just that to Quinn. "I told you it was romantic!"
"She forgot the part where she had to drive all the way to Columbus and back, waited in line for six hours—in the cold, in her Cheerios uniform, and, oh, yeah, what else did you do? Get into a fistfight with some guy who cut in front of you?" Santana mocked, grinning wickedly. "Whipped."
"You got into a fistfight?" Rachel gasped.
"It wasn't a fistfight!" Quinn yelped, cheeks so red Rachel was a little worried. "I…he cut in front of me and I told him to get out of the way and he wouldn't so I shoved him. No big deal." She whirled on Santana. "And you said you wouldn't tell anyone!"
"Mayor Munchkin isn't 'anyone,' and you have to give me some mocking rights," Santana retorted.
Brittany smiled. "She's just making sure everything is out in the open with you guys. Plus, she thinks it's sweet, too."
"I do not."
"You are absolutely the sweetest person, Quinn Fabray," Rachel said happily, and reached up to kiss her.
After a few moments, Santana cleared her throat.
"I'm going to pour water on you like a couple of cats in heat if you don't stop humping each other in public."
Quinn rolled her eyes while Rachel blushed, burrowing under her arm.
"Can we go to lunch now? The noodles might all be gone," Brittany pointed out, a little panicked at the idea.
"Right, let's get going," Santana said, linking pinkies with her blonde counterpart as they headed down the hall.
Rachel smiled up at Quinn, pressing a quick kiss to her lips before they followed after them, Quinn with a blissful smile on her face. They reached the cafeteria doors a moment later and Rachel hesitated, tugging briefly at Santana's arm. She eyed her critically, but stopped obediently—for once. Quinn frowned back at them.
Rachel bobbed her head. "We'll be along in a moment."
Quinn smiled and bent down for another kiss. She tilted their foreheads together and whispered against her lips, "I love you, Rachel Berry," before scurrying after Brittany. Rachel's grin could've rivaled the sun's brightness. Her gaze lingered on her new girlfriend's retreating form for a moment before she turned her attention to Santana.
"All right, what do you want, Two Shoes?" she grouched. "I swear if you talk for more than two minutes, I'm going to sock you in the face. I've always been curious to see how well you can sing with a bruised lip. And won't it be fun to go on your first date with Goldilocks without—"
"Thank you, Santana."
The taller of the two eyed the other for a long moment, surprised by the briefness of that statement. Rachel smiled a little, and Santana privately thought it was the most genuine smile she'd ever seen the little diva give. Her lip quirked of its own accord, though she tried to shove it back down.
"Yeah, don't get used it," she said harshly, trying not to betray herself.
Rachel grinned. "Shall we?"
And they rejoined their girls side by side, still privately smiling to themselves.