A/N: I'm getting kind of predictable in my cliffhangers, aren't I? Hmm…I will have to ponder more creative ways to torture you all. ;)

Part 3/3

Rachel's eyebrows shot up to her hairline and her eyes went wide enough to rival Ms. Pillsbury's. Er, Mrs. Pillsbury-Howell. How can you possibly care about correcting yourself right now? Quinn Fabray is kissing you!

Right. About that…. First of all, um, why?

It wasn't that it wasn't nice (more than nice; God, her lips are so soft), or that she wasn't enjoying it (uh, duh; your knees are practically about to give and you're hotter than a bonfire in Hawaii). It was just…she was a little…confused.

Was it the mistletoe? Because she didn't really have to—oh, wow. Quinn let this gusty sigh go against her lips, washing them with the heat of her breath, and then she captured Rachel's top lip between hers, as though to renew the kiss, and the brunette couldn't help it any longer. Her eyelids fluttered to a close and she started to give a little back to the kiss that had previously asked nothing of her—tentatively, because she didn't want to break this spell the blonde seemed to be under.

To Rachel's relief, Quinn only seemed encouraged by the response, lifting a hand to caress her cheek while the other gripped lightly at her forearm that was still between them, holding the slippers. The blonde's lips moved delicately over hers, soft and gentle, but there was a heat behind her motions that the brunette had never felt before, and it sent tingles shooting over her, responding to Quinn in a way she hadn't known her body was capable of. She found she would've been content to stay like this forever, even if they didn't deepen the kiss—enjoying each other's lips and the sticky mix of their lip-gloss and hot breaths, and the cheerleader's warm hand against her cheek.

It was only when that hand dipped beneath her ear that things changed. Long, pale fingers burrowed into Rachel's silky locks and all at once, she found her mouth opening to Quinn with a moan because, God, that felt amazing and she dropped the slippers, going to wrap her arms around the blonde's neck—but she didn't make it there.

Quinn jumped when the slippers hit her own feet, knocking their noses together, and then she gaped at Rachel in something resembling…panic. It made the brunette's stomach twist and she went to comfort the blonde, reassure her—of what, she didn't know, but she couldn't just stand there—but her mind was still in a haze from the kiss and she failed to beat the taller girl to words.

"Oh, God," Quinn gasped, pressing her hand over her mouth briefly before she stammered, "I-I'm so sorry! I didn't mean t—I—"

And then she ran for it. Literally, she ran from her.

Rachel was unstrapping her heels before she could think twice about it and she didn't even care that she was going down to that basement with ugly brown slippers on. Because Quinn could not just do that to her. She couldn't give Rachel the best, most romantic, erotic kiss of her entire existence thus far and then just walk—run—away.

She whipped open the basement door, not bothering to swing it shut behind her as she shoved her way past the couple that was still making out on the steps, scanning the mass of people for that blonde head. Brittany and Santana were still in their corner, and there was Finn with his cheerleader at the snack table, and—

Rachel had been certain she'd filled her quota for Christmas torture this evening. She had been certain that almost nothing (besides losing a Broadway role) could break her heart more than finding out Finn lied to her about Santana and his virginity. She had been wrong on both counts, she guessed, because Quinn was curled up on Sam's lap, head buried in his neck, and Rachel felt the disappointment and the devastation and the frustration and anger hit her all at once and before she knew it, she was crying for the third time that evening.

She fought the onslaught of tears, leaning her head back to coax them back to where they came from, but it was no good. Her lips trembled and she felt a warm streak of wetness go down her cheek and she just had to get out of there. She turned abruptly, remaking the path she'd just taken and ignoring the drunk guy laughing about her 'granny shoes.' The couple she'd shoved past three times now yelled something about being rude and when she finally reached the door, she slammed it shut as hard as her little frame could manage, heaving great, shaky breaths as she tried to calm down from the emotional rollercoaster she'd just been on.

The brunette rubbed her eyes angrily. This evening wasn't supposed to turn out this way. Not at all. She wasn't supposed to cry over Quinn Fabray. And she certainly wasn't supposed to cry harder over her cuddling with her boyfriend than over Finn making out with some cheerleader. But then, Quinn wasn't supposed to kiss her, either. And it wasn't supposed to be good when she did. And Rachel wasn't supposed to feel something for Quinn Fabray other than indifference. She wasn't supposed to want her.

Why did Quinn have to confuse everything all the time? She took away Rachel's control, her reason. It was like the brunette's world was a snow globe—and Quinn enjoyed shaking the hell out of it every chance she could, mixing it up and tossing the pieces around, inspiring complete chaos, and Rachel had to scramble to get everything back in order. Just to have her do it again.

Like tonight. Her world had finally been righted on its axis after her breakup with Finn, and then Quinn had to come along and be friendly and nice and caring. And then, just to top it off, she had to kiss her and proceed to completely wreck the first December 25th that may have actually ended in something positive. As if Rachel's life wasn't already miserable enough.

And when they returned to school, Rachel knew she would have to go back to wearing her raincoat for at least a week. Because there was no way Quinn was going to let things go after something like that.

As the brunette reached her car on the other side of the street, she stopped to glare up at the sky, arms folded to protect her from the bitter chill of the night and tears still streaming angrily down her cheeks.

"If this is your idea of a joke, it's not fucking funny!" Rachel shouted, and she hoped God heard, because she couldn't show Him a PowerPoint of reasons it was poor manners to torment someone like this every Christmas.

Not to mention, playing with someone's feelings this way. It wasn't fair to play with her head. Make her think she had some kind of chance with Quinn for the first time since the brunette realized the girl gave her butterflies, only to rip it away from her like that. It just wasn't fair.

And with that thought, as Rachel turned on the engine and prepared to drive away from that misery-inducing party, the anger melted away and all she was left with was her broken sobs as she leaned against the steering wheel.

XXXXXX

Sam knew as soon as he saw Quinn come bolting down the stairs like the devil was after her that something…not good had happened. And if he hadn't known then, his suspicions were confirmed when she plopped herself in his lap and proceeded to bang her forehead against his collarbone, punctuating each hit with a mantra of, "Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid."

He replied with his own mantra of, "Ow, ow, ow, ow."

She still didn't seem to notice that her skull-collarbone collision was actually kind of hurting him until he started rubbing her back and said, over the music, "Uh, Quinn? Are you going to tell me what happened, or just keep trying to break my collarbone? Because if you are, I'm going to have to ask you to stop. I broke it once when I was younger and it's…it's not fun, Quinn."

The blonde's motions and words gradually came to a stop then, until she was just leaning her forehead against his chest and breathing deep, in and out, calming herself. He smoothed his hand up and down her back comfortingly, waiting for her to gather herself enough to either tell him or ask if they could go.

Mercedes was looking over at them concernedly from where she was dancing with Anthony, so Sam smiled reassuringly, mouthing, 'She's tired.' Quinn really didn't need the hassle of talking to someone new about her feelings while she was dealing with whatever bad thing had happened with Rachel. He breathed a sigh of relief when Mercedes nodded understandingly and turned back to Anthony with a bright grin.

His attention was torn away from the diva when he felt Quinn's head start to lift from his chest. His heart clenched in sympathy at the absolutely miserable look on her face, and he squeezed his arm around her as she gradually changed positions, leaning her head back on his shoulder. She sighed.

"You wanna talk about it?" he prodded gently, and she bit her lip.

"No."

"Okay," he said easily. "Do you want to go?"

Quinn shook her head.

Sam frowned in thought. "Uh…okay. What do you want to do? Cause I'm kind of at a loss he—"

"I kissed her."

He froze beneath her and she only sat there, chewing on her lip occasionally. Well. That was certainly brave. Up to tonight, Quinn had been absolutely convinced there was no chance in hell Rachel could ever like her after their history. And now she was going around landing big ones on her. He wondered briefly what had changed her mind about her chances before casting the thought aside. He was sure she would tell him later.

"I take it it didn't go well," he prompted, and the blonde flinched. He frowned, about to ask what was wrong, but she beat him to it.

"Oh, it did."

"Um, what?"

Quinn craned her neck to look at him, expression simultaneously serious and stunned, as she said, "She kissed me back."

Sam grinned before he could think about it. "Well, that's great! I told you she had some repressed les—"

"And I ran away," she cut in, and then whipped her gaze away and shrank in on herself, as though she knew exactly what was coming.

His grin flipped upside down and suddenly he was scowling at her profile with all the force he could muster. He was proud of himself when he saw her wince and burrow further into herself.

"You…I'm sorry, you what?" he demanded. She opened her mouth, but he wasn't finished. "You mean to tell me that you freaked out after the wedding, weeping in my arms and telling me how sorry you were that you were gay, asked me to keep pretending I was with you and help you out, and proceeded to spend the next month pining after her only to run away when you finally got your shot?"

Quinn was even paler than usual and her eyes were wide with panic, but she nodded—albeit meekly, and with a self-deprecating wince. Sam flicked her in the head.

"Ow! Hey!" she yelped, sitting up sharply to glower back at him.

He shrugged unapologetically. "I'm sorry, but that was just…even Finn is smarter than that."

She literally growled at him, and he leaned back into the cushions of the chair, feeling suddenly uneasy. Fortunately, she managed to calm herself down enough that she didn't kill him. Instead, she just huffed and did a great deal of sighing before she finally burst with an explanation.

"Look, I didn't even mean to kiss her! I just—she was just standing there looking so adorable and gorgeous and I-I couldn't help myself, okay? So I did. I kissed her and she kissed me back and I just got so caught up and then the slippers fell—" his face twisted with confusion and she waved a dismissive hand "—long story—and I-I got startled and…I panicked." She bit her lip sheepishly.

Sam sighed, cursing his inability to withstand the pout of one Quinn Fabray. Those eyes were always what did him in, really, and he found himself squeezing her shoulders in sympathy. She smiled a little, relieved that he didn't seem to be angry with her anymore, and leaned back into him.

"Okay…so, I just have one question," he said at length, stroking a hand over her hair.

She shifted a little. "What's that?"

"What the hell are you still doing here?" he asked, bending to catch her eyes. She bit her lip again. "Why didn't you run after her or something?"

"After what I just did?" she retorted, scowling. "I don't think so. She probably hates me right now."

He huffed. "Yeah…hence the running after her. Apologizing, explaining, you know, the whole winning her over thing?"

Quinn was pouting again. "I'm sorry; I just got…scared. I've never done this side of things before. Usually other people try to win me." She sighed, slumping against him. "She's probably halfway home by now anyway."

Sam sighed. Damn that pout.

"Yeah, you probably have a point there. But still. I fully expect you to find a way to fix what you mucked up this weekend when we go back to school," he said sternly, and she nodded agreeably.

"Yeah. I'll figure something out…."

And he couldn't help a smile when he saw the determined glint of the Head Bitch In Charge enter the blonde's eyes.

XXXXXX

Rachel wished she could train herself to wake up later than six in the morning on December 26th, but the habit was so ingrained that she didn't even need the alarm to do so. Usually it wasn't a problem, because usually she was just so relieved that she'd survived another Christmas that she didn't even care if she was in the hospital or surrounded by a sea of Kleenex. This year, however, all she wanted was sleep.

Sleep was good. Sleep didn't let you remember the horrible things that happened the previous day. And even if she'd had some rather…interesting dreams featuring a certain blonde cheerleader last night (fueled, no doubt, by an infusion of real happenings; not because any repressed feelings had been unleashed), she didn't remember the outcome of that kiss in the dream. She was free to enjoy Dream Quinn without reality barging in and ruining her fantasies.

But sadly, as per usual, Rachel couldn't make herself sleep once she'd woken up. She spent the first few minutes of the day rubbing her tear-stained cheeks and willing herself not to cry all over again. And then she stared at the clock for approximately thirty-three minutes, watching the neon green numbers change, and trying not to think of the previous night.

When she finally dragged herself out of bed and into the cold, cruel world, the first thing she did was toss Noah's mom's slippers into the wash. She had walked in the street with them, so it was only polite to clean the grime off. After an hour on the elliptical, during which time she mostly just stared ahead and tried to see how little effort she could put in while still making the machine move, she decided a shower would take too much effort. She just wanted to lie in bed all day, after all, and showering was a standing activity.

So first, the brunette switched the slippers into the dryer, and then she drew herself a bath. In which she stayed until the dryer buzzed from across the house, dragging her from a light doze. She toweled off and threw on some sweats before making the trek downstairs to grab the slippers on her way out and back to Noah's house.

She didn't really want to go back there so soon, but it was only fair that she deliver the slippers, since she had taken them. Besides, Noah was probably experiencing a wretched hangover and it wouldn't be safe for him to drive. Not that Rachel was much less of a danger to those around her. The daze she was in nearly had her blowing off a stop sign.

Luckily, the drive wasn't that long, and soon she was trudging up the walk to the Puckerman home, not letting her twisting stomach get to her as she drew nearer and hit the doorbell. The muffled sounds of shouting floated from inside and Rachel winced in sympathy for Noah. Not that he deserved it, but his mother was downright frightening at times, and well, after what happened with Quinn, she just didn't have the energy to be as angry with him as she was before.

She was about to ring again when the door suddenly whipped open, revealing—to her relief—Noah.

"—not my fault!" he was shouting. She blinked, waiting patiently for him to acknowledge her, and when he did, a grin split his face. "Hey, Rach, where did you disappear to last night?"

Normally she would've burst out with the whole story. Normally she would've yelled his head off for getting her stuck in his stupid little Venus fly trap. But, well…she just didn't have the energy. She never thought that would happen to her, but she guessed it had finally happened. Quinn Fabray broke her.

Rachel smiled sadly in answer and lifted up the slippers. Noah's eyes went wide as he took them from her, and then his expression crumpled, going so apologetic that she was sure she would've melted if she weren't broken anyway.

"God, those were your shoes? Babe, I'm so sorry. I didn't even realize I—"

She sighed heavily. "It's okay. I washed the slippers for your mom. Please tell her I'm sorry for borrowing them without asking."

Noah frowned, wounded. "Look, please don't be mad. I'll make it up to you, all right? I'll—"

"I'm not mad," she cut in, giving him a severe look when he looked ready to protest. "It all turned out fine, all right? Quinn found me and brought me those slippers and—"

"Wait, Quinn?" His expression darkened. "Did she—"

"—I didn't like those shoes anyway," Rachel finished, again shooting him a warning glare, daring him to push her.

His mouth was open, ready to come out with it, to question her, and they were at a standstill. The brunette pursed her lips meaningfully, and she saw Noah's scowl deepen as he read the message. She wasn't talking whether he asked or not, and he didn't like it. But he closed his mouth, accepting it, and she nodded gratefully, because Noah really was a good friend in that aspect.

"I'll see you on New Year's Eve," she said at length, fiddling with her keys. "Good luck with your mother."

She smiled, just a bit—enough to give him courage, she hoped—and headed back down the walk, not noticing Noah's frown twist with a mixture of concern and fury, and not hearing him call back into the house, "I'm heading out. I'll be back later."

XXXXXX

Puck was pissed. He didn't know if he had a right to be. He didn't even know if he was pissed at the right person, or what he was pissed about. All he knew was that something happened to his gold star last night, and that Quinn had something to do with it. And he might be a shitty friend some of the time, but he was not putting up with this anymore.

Even if it meant cutting Santana off from enjoying the Puckasaurus, he was going to get those assholes in the glee club to start acting like the friends they claimed they were to Rachel. Starting with Quinn, who had been pulling this crap for long enough. And if she didn't like that he was pounding relentlessly on her door at eight thirty in the morning the day after Christmas, then too freaking bad for her. She could suck it up.

"I'm coming, God!" he heard her yell, and he smirked.

Good. Served her right for doing whatever she did to Rachel that had her acting so…un-Rachel-like. He didn't stop pounding on the door, knowing it would irritate her even more. And sure enough, when she whipped it open, her face was flushed and her eyes were ablaze with her aggravation, and his smirk almost grew. He shoved it back down in favor glaring at her.

"Hey, your mom home?" he asked before she could speak, and shoved past her into the foyer.

This conversation would probably go a whole lot smoother if Judy Fabray wasn't there to interrupt, after all. He heard Quinn huff as the door clicked shut behind him, and he turned to face the scowling blonde.

"Sure, come on in; make yourself at home," she said sarcastically, folding her arms defensively.

"Is your mom home?" he demanded again.

She threw up her arms. "Why, are you here for a booty call? Because first, ew. And second—"

"Would you just answer the damn question?" Puck growled, and Quinn eyed him with mild surprise.

She looked almost impressed that he would speak to her that way, but she didn't comment.

"No, she's not home," she grumbled at length.

"Thank you." He took a few steps forward as he said lowly, "Now why don't you tell me why the hell you had to do it?"

Her pink lips parted, brow knitting with genuine confusion, and he huffed when he realized he was going to have to be more specific. Of course she wouldn't think about how her actions affected other people, especially Rachel Berry. When had she ever, really?

"What are you talking about?" she asked cautiously, and he was pleased when he saw he had her full attention.

"I'm talking about whatever it is you did to Rachel," he snapped, and Quinn went pale.

So pale, in fact, that he took a step forward just in case she passed out or something. Now he was the one frowning in confusion, though, which only multiplied his anger. She shook her head slowly, avoiding his gaze.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she murmured.

"Like hell you don't. Just tell me why you did it, Quinn. Why couldn't you, for once in your life, just let Rachel be? Instead of fucking up the one Christmas she's had that was actually sort of okay," Puck snarled, and he knew he'd gotten carried away, but she wouldn't know what he was talking about anyway.

As usual, the vulnerability in the blonde's persona was folded up and shoved aside before being covered up by the one emotion she seemed truly comfortable with: anger. Her spine stiffened and her hazel eyes were on fire again, and he remembered how much he loved watching her get like this, reminding him so much of himself. He shook his head of those feelings. This was about Rachel, not him and Quinn's screwed up relationship.

"Oh, yeah, because it was going so well for her before, what with getting glued to the floor and all," she bit out, tossing her head with a roll of the eyes.

"Oh, that is so not the point. If you hadn't found her, I would've—without completely ruining her night."

"You don't even know what I did," she retorted. "So do—"

"I don't have to know to see that whatever it was, it hurt her bad," he shot back. "She wasn't herself this morning, and I know you had something to do with that."

Quinn faltered. "Please. She was probably still crying over Finn."

"No, I had her cheered up, and she was not that bad about it last night. Now stop trying to put this off on somebody else. You did this; now own up to it." He paused, breathing heavily, and those hazel eyes scanned him, a contemplative look on the blonde's features. He grew impatient too quickly to wonder about it. "Hell, normally you'd be bragging about it, so—"

"I kissed her."

Puck felt a variety of different emotions in the seconds after Quinn said that. Disbelief, jealousy, rage, arousal—all of those were major players in his reaction. But the blonde didn't falter when she said it. She was looking him straight in the eyes now, chin lifted like she was daring him to question her. Which brought him back to jealousy and arousal for a moment before he settled on what he knew Rachel needed him to.

"Why?" he asked, frowning.

Quinn looked taken aback. "That's it? You're—"

"Why, Quinn?" he demanded again, scowling to let her know he wasn't taking any crap.

She paused, pursing her lips, and avoided his eyes. "I don't know."

"Why?"

She growled in frustration. "I just told you I—"

"No, you don't get to do that," Puck snapped, shaking his head. "Not this time. You can claim to not know why you slept with me behind Finn's back and you can claim to not know why you dumped me over the summer, but you don't get to do that with Rachel. She deserves better than that, so don't think I won't push you until you tell me the real reason you decided to mess with her head."

She stared at him vacantly for a moment, lips pursed and wheels turning in her head.

"Since when do you talk to me like this?" she prompted quietly, catching him off guard.

He couldn't answer for a moment, but when he finally got his tongue and teeth and lips in working order, he said simply, "Since you screwed with my Jew."

He was expecting…well, he didn't know what he was expecting, but not this. Quinn nodded slowly, like she completely understood his protectiveness. Like she would feel the same way. And when she finally answered him, he thought that might actually be true.

"I have feelings for her," she admitted, so softly he almost didn't hear her. But he did, and he ended up gaping, and Quinn shifted uncomfortably before pacing across the room toward the couch, though she didn't sit. "For about a month now. Maybe longer. That's just when I finally admitted it to myself. I just…didn't know how to go about it, you know? We'd been 'enemies'—" here she rolled her eyes "—for so long, I just…I didn't think she would be interested, in the least. And I…I wasn't even sure I wanted to do anything about it. I'd just gotten my life back into place and I didn't…." She sighed. "I didn't want to wreck it by coming out as a…a lesbian."

He swallowed at that heavy admission, but again, he had to shove his reaction to the side. Because this was about Rachel. She needed him to do the right thing right now.

"You better damn well be sure about Rachel," Puck said, and though he wasn't yelling anymore, he made sure his message was firm. "Because there's no way I'm letting you near her—for any reason—unless I know you're not gonna hurt her. She deserves somebody who wants her and isn't afraid of it."

His ex dipped her chin in acknowledgement, gazing at him seriously. "I know that. I'm not afraid of that anymore. I'd rather have a messed up life with her than an unhappy life without her."

It was rare that Puck ever truly wanted to hug someone who wasn't Rachel. But in this case, he wanted to scoop Quinn up and swing her around the room a couple times. Because yes, Quinn Fabray had finally pulled her head out of her ass. In a really unexpected way, but still.

"Good," he said gruffly, covering up his grin by wiping his mouth.

"Of course, that doesn't mean I knew how to deal with it any better than I did before," she continued wryly, an almost self-deprecating look on her face. "I just…like I said, I didn't know how to go about…changing things between us."

He nodded, understanding, and she looked relieved until he replied, "Well, repeatedly telling her you want to punch her in the face was definitely an excellent first step. Well played."

Quinn glared at him sourly and this time he didn't bother covering up his cheeky grin. Then he remembered that this wasn't really helping Rachel…of course, he wasn't sure what the right course of action here was. If she was that devastated about Quinn kissing her, he supposed he should assume that she did have feelings for the blonde. But they hadn't really talked about it before, so he didn't know.

He frowned in thought. "Okay, first thing's first. We're gonna fix this."

The blonde rose up in surprise, hazel eyes wide. "You…you're going to help me?"

"If you tell anyone I said this, I'll deny it, but…I can't stand to see Rachel like this. It hurts my heart. So yeah, I'm gonna help you patch things up with her," he said seriously, glaring when she cracked a grin at him. "Shut up."

"I didn't say anything," she replied innocently.

"I know what you're thinking, and shut up, okay? That's no way to treat the man who's helping you get your woman." He paused, frowning. "Never thought I'd say that to a chick."

Quinn rolled her eyes.

He shook his head clear. "Anyway. I hope you've already got some idea of what you're gonna do, because if you don't, this could take a while."

The blonde nodded once, biting her lip sheepishly, and Puck gestured for her to go ahead.

"What's Rachel's favorite Christmas song?"

XXXXXX

Rachel had finally gotten her wish. Lying in bed all day was a gift she was actually grateful to receive, because it meant if she laid still enough, she could empty her mind of every stray little thought that entered it. And, for a while, it made her feel better.

However, lying on her back had never been very comfortable, and she was afraid she was going to have to move again. A painful twinge in her tailbone confirmed the notion and she took a deep breath, bracing herself for an onslaught of unpleasant thoughts as she rolled herself onto her side and burrowed deeper into her pillow. She sighed with relief when the thoughts never came, and she was again left with the peace and—

Carolers, apparently. A guitar, or two, was strumming along with the singers, and Rachel had to commend them on how complementary of one another they sounded. They harmonized extremely well, and the way they had altered the introduction to the song was actually rather nice. Normally, she found herself annoyed at having her favorite Christmas song (so what if she hated the holiday, the music was still lovely) tampered with, but this was pretty good.

Except…okay, now she was annoyed. The singer, though beautiful, was completely messing up the lyrics.

"Last Christmas, I gave him my heart, but the very next day, he gave it away."

She hated to tell the caroler this, but that was not at all the way it went. Though…that voice sounded rather familiar. It had butterflies winging around in her stomach again and—it couldn't be.

"This year, to save me from tears, I gave it to someone special."

She flung aside the covers and strode to the window, feeling oddly energized by the sound of that voice, and when she unlatched the glass and leaned out, she could only gape at what she saw. The entirety of New Directions, minus Finn, Tina, Mike, Artie, and Kurt, of course, was standing on her lawn. Mercedes was standing by Santana and Brittany, who were, surprisingly enough, holding hands as they sang the 'ba ba ba's; Noah and Sam were sitting on the hood of the former's beat-up Pontiac, both playing their guitars.

But the most shocking part was Quinn, who was standing on the very top of the Pontiac, singing up at Rachel's window. The brunette bit back the urge to demand she get down from there immediately—before she hurt herself—because when the blonde caught sight of her, an excited smile took over her face and she glanced down at Mercedes, Santana, and Brittany. They all gave her encouraging looks while Rachel gawked.

And Quinn was so flustered she almost missed her cue. Mercedes had to mouth the words up to her, and the brunette couldn't help a small smile in all her shock.

"Once bitten, and twice shy, I kept my distance, but you still caught my eye," the blonde pointed up at her with both hands, grinning when Rachel felt herself blush. "Tell me, baby, do you recognize me? Well, it's been a day, it doesn't surprise me."

The brunette giggled at that alteration, and that seemed to give Quinn more confidence, as she started swaying a little with the others.

Noah and Sam hopped into the song then, startling Rachel out of her admiration of the gorgeous blonde serenading her, "I wrapped it up and sent it, with a note, saying—"

Quinn continued, locking bright hazel eyes on the singer in the window, "'I love you', I meant it. Now I know what a fool I've been, but if you kiss me now, I'll never fool you again."

The beautiful blonde's expression turned sorrowful and sincere with that last line, and Rachel felt her heart completely melt. She noticed in her peripheral vision that Brittany was also melting, because Santana had joined Quinn for the last part of the verse. She was happy for the blonde, but the only one she was interested in at the moment was repeating the altered version of the chorus, keeping those burning hazel eyes focused on her alone.

The references to the previous night were fairly obvious when the song continued on.

"A crowded room, friends with tired eyes, you're hiding from me, and my soul of ice. My God, you thought he was someone to rely on; me, I guess I was a shoulder to cry on." Rachel shook her head heartily at this lyric, making Quinn's beautiful, tingle-inducing smile return. "A face of a lover with a fire in his heart, a man undercover, but you tore me apart. Now I've found a real love, I'll never fool you again."

Rachel was nearing tears as Quinn and the others finished out the song, but for once on December 26th, they were happy tears. She was fairly certain that it was, in fact, the first time this had happened. She wiped her eyes and sniffled, smiling warmly down at the blonde still standing on the roof of the car as Noah and Sam played the last chords.

"Merry Christmas, Rachel!" Brittany shouted with a squeak, and the others laughed while Mercedes echoed her with a, "Merry Christmas, girl."

Even Santana added, "Merry whatever you Jews celebrate, dwarf."

Quinn shared an eye-roll with Rachel before the blonde said her 'thank you's to the girls as they retreated to their cars parked on the street. Sam was still packing up his guitar when Quinn grinned up at the brunette again, stealing her breath away, before mouthing, 'Come down?' Rachel nodded eagerly, eliciting another happy beam from the other girl as she stood and shut the window.

She darted down the stairs at a speed she didn't know she was capable of and yanked on a coat, stuffing her feet in her boots as quickly as she could before bursting out of the house to meet Quinn, who was finally off the roof of the car.

"Thanks for the help, Sam," the blonde was saying, though she quickly turned her smile onto Rachel—who was thrilled to see it go from appreciative to ecstatic in an instant.

"No problem. Hey, Rach. I mean, Rachel." He cleared his throat. "Sorry for the confusion about everything. Our pretending-to-be-together plan was kind of dumb, but…."

He shrugged sheepishly, and the brunette smiled brilliantly at him. It only grew in size when she felt Quinn's hand slowly entwine with hers, spreading heat over her skin and butterflies to her stomach.

Things really made a lot more sense now.

"It's all right," she assured him, and he smiled, turning to go. "Oh, and Sam?"

"Yeah?"

She grinned. "You can call me 'Rach', if you want."

He grinned right back, and the brunette's attention was drawn away from his retreating form when Quinn squeezed her hand lightly. She smiled shyly up at the blonde as heat coiled in her lower abdomen when her body realized her proximity.

"That was…amazing," Rachel concluded, barely able to keep herself from tackling the blonde to the snow and kissing her senseless. "I…I don't even know what to say."

Quinn's grin was blinding, particularly up close like this.

"Rachel Berry, speechless. I must be good," she purred, and the brunette couldn't even begin to blame her red cheeks on the cold.

"Damn. You two are gonna be hot together. This was totally worth it," Noah commented, and Rachel nearly leapt out of her own skin—she'd forgotten he was there. He smirked at her briefly before his gaze flickered to Quinn. "Don't let her lose that smile. I'll kick your ass, baby mama or not."

The blonde smirked right back as Noah turned to pack up and leave them alone as well, and Rachel turned her attention right back to the taller girl.

"I'm sorry about last night," Quinn said instantly, and the brunette faltered at the melancholy present in her eyes. She opened her mouth to assure her it was all right, but the blonde wasn't finished. "I know I caught you off guard, first with kissing you and then running away, and…I just want you to know that it had nothing to do with you. I mean, the kissing you did, b-because I wanted to do that and everything, but the running away was all me. I have a pretty tightly wound bolt reflex and I just panicked, and I'm sorry. I swear it won't happen again if you…if you want me."

Here her cheeks went pink and her smile turned shy, and with the snowy background in place, Rachel thought Quinn looked just like an angel. An angel she very much wanted to try a relationship with, because, well, maybe she did sort of, maybe, kind of have feelings for the blonde. She was about to announce this to the cheerleader, when she interrupted again, speaking hastily.

"I mean, I know you're probably not really over Finn yet and I respect that, because it's only been like a week or something, but I really—I want to try, even if you just want to be friends right now. We can take it slow and I'll wait. Wh-whatever you want, I'm…I'll be willing to give it a shot," she said anxiously, and the brunette squeezed her fidgeting hand comfortingly. "Just don't be too mad at me if I accidentally kiss you again."

She smiled lopsidedly and Rachel chuckled, because honestly…the girl was just adorable. She could've gone on one of her famous Rachel Berry tangents at that moment, detailing exactly how she wanted the relationship to work and progress. But for some reason, she didn't want to. There was only one answer she wanted to give the blonde, and so she did.

Quinn's eyes went a little wide when the singer shifted closer, lifting a hand to the back of her neck as she simultaneously brought herself up on her tiptoes, and brought their lips together. The blonde sank into her lips with a sigh, locking her fingers with Rachel's on the hand she was still holding and bringing the other hand up to stroke through her hair, and the brunette smiled into the kiss, because she'd finally found someone she enjoyed doing that to her. She was pleased to find that the heat behind their kiss hadn't lessened, even with last night's mistakes. If anything, it had only gotten more powerful, and Rachel couldn't resist teasingly flicking her tongue out to taste Quinn's lips—briefly, before she sank back to her heels.

She grinned cheekily up at the blonde, who let out a groan of disappointment before slowly letting her eyelids reveal those bright hazel eyes to the brunette. They looked like they were sparkling, like a firework had gone off in them, and Rachel was all the more captivated by her angel in the snow.

"I'd love to try a relationship with you, Quinn," she said softly, and the beam she received was so heartbreakingly gorgeous she couldn't help but lean in to peck her lips again. "I think slow is our best course of action at the moment, because, as you say, I still have some feelings for Finn. However, what I'm feeling for you is infinitely stronger than the lingering affections I have for my first love," she explained hurriedly when the blonde started to deflate. "And you deserve nothing less than all of my heart, so…slow, for now."

She received Quinn's tender kiss with a smile and a sigh of contentment when she pulled out of it, running her soft fingers down Rachel's jaw and cupping her chin.

"Okay. Like I said. Whatever you want." She smiled, then took a bracing breath. "However, with that in mind, uh…we're pretty much going to be facing the Inquisition from Mercedes, Santana, and Brittany when we go back to school."

The brunette arched a quizzical brow and the blonde bit her lip sheepishly.

"I had to trade favors to get them to do this for me without asking too many questions on short notice," she explained, and Rachel couldn't help the chuckle that wrenched from her throat.

"And what exactly are you going to have to do for them?" she asked impishly, then winced at a thought. "Please tell me Santana and Brittany did not ask for any kind of sexual favors."

Quinn pondered this. "Sort of. I have to get them out of a Cheerios practice—and take their punishment—so they can go do whatever they do that I don't want to think about, and Mercedes gets my next solo." She shrugged.

Rachel's butterflies stirred up again and she smiled widely up at the blonde. "How did you get so sweet?"

"Eh, she ate a lot of candy while she was pregnant," Noah interrupted again, and Quinn practically growled at him.

"I thought you were going," she grumbled.

"Hey. That's no way to treat the guy who helped you get your woman," he said sternly, and smiled at Rachel. "I wanted to say goodbye to my gold star."

The brunette broke away from Quinn just long enough to give her best friend a warm hug, but her hand returned to the blonde's as soon as they parted.

"Thank you, Noah."

"No problem. Just think of me as your friendly neighborhood lesbro," he said, shrugging.

Both girls giggled at this, and Rachel's grin grew tenfold when she felt Quinn press her lips to her hair. She leaned back into her, feeling truly happy for the first time on December 26th.

"Guess your Christmas turned out all right after all," Noah called from beside his car, smirking at the two.

Rachel considered that statement for a long moment before realizing that she was incredibly cold. She tugged at Quinn's hand as she turned to trek toward the warmth of the inside, and said loudly enough for both to hear, "I still fully intend on spending the entirety of Christmas day next year in bed."

Quinn completely froze behind her and the brunette dropped her hand to take off her boots, missing the blonde exchanging a wide-eyed look with Noah. He grinned at her and the cheerleader shrugged, hurrying into the house after an oblivious Rachel.

"I have no qualms with that whatsoever."