If the company hadn't been so strikingly different, Quinn would swear it was nothing out of the ordinary. She's done this before, felt this way before, is constantly being bussed to and from competitions, arriving nervous and leaving victorious. Competitions always end this way, as if she would live to tell the tale if they ended any differently. This time, the mood is the same; the result is the same, but at the same time, it isn't. The feeling is fleeting this time, as are so many happy moments in her life recently.
The ride home from Sectionals is loud and rambunctious. Finn had to drive Mr. Schuester's car back to school and left the rest of the glee club on a high from their under-dogged victory. Artie had gone with him when no one else volunteered. Quinn had been just as shocked as everyone else when Rachel didn't nominate herself to join him, but Rachel had only bitten her lip and shrunk behind Mercedes as Artie slowly wheeled himself forward.
The bus coasts down the highway, and Quinn smiles and laughs with the rest of the club. She knows that the feeling of victory that envelopes the bus is new to everyone but herself, Brittany, and Santana; it's something that none of the others, Ms. Pillsbury, or even the boys on the football team feel very often, if ever, and looking around, she can't help but feel happy for them.
Sectionals had been pivotal for all of them. Puck is sitting next to Mercedes, his arm casually draped over the back of her seat as he talks to Mike. Kurt and Tina are eagerly talking with Brittany and Santana, even though, predictably, Santana looks less than enthused and had changed back into her uniform almost immediately after the performance. The only thing that seems the same is Ms. Pillsbury, who is perched nervously on one of the seats at the front of the bus. She'd covered it entirely with plastic wrap.
Mike and Matt jump up from their seats to grab their football bags, each pulling out bottles of sparkling cider. "For you, Quinn," Mike says with an easy smile, and Quinn almost bursts into tears as nine faces turn to her and beam.
"Party at my house this weekend," Puck says. "With real alcohol instead of this shit."
Mike just laughs and slings an arm around Quinn, pressing a cool bottle into the palm of her hand. Quinn leans into him before spotting a familiar dark head and grabbing a second bottle. She makes her way up a few rows and smiles meekly at Mercedes, who rises and squeezes Quinn's shoulder as she moves to sit with Kurt. Quinn drops gracefully onto the seat, the leather cool against her shoulders, and tries to push back the feeling in her throat spawned by the barely concealed fear on Rachel's face.
"Here," she says as gently as she can, handing Rachel the second bottle. "The guys brought cider."
Rachel's brow relaxes as she takes the bottle from Quinn and pops it open. "Thank you, Quinn," she says softly, resting the cider on her thigh.
Quinn doesn't say anything else, and Rachel shifts in her seat, opening and closing her mouth a few times before calming, her fingernail scratching at the label. Quinn looks past Rachel and through the window, watching the Ohio countryside whiz by. It's early evening outside, and the sun is just beginning to set over the fields. It reminds Quinn of a more peaceful time.
"I should be thanking you," Quinn says after they've gone a few more miles.
Rachel's brow scrunches again, and she tilts her head like a puppy. "Why?"
"Everything's screwed up right now," Quinn answers, and Rachel's forehead wrinkles even further as her eyes fall to her lap. "My life is a mess, but it's better like this- being honest." Quinn trails off, and Rachel, surprisingly subdued, manages to understand the rest. She nods confidently, picking her head back up and straightening her shoulders.
Quinn regards Rachel carefully and reaches out to pat her hand. A smile ghosts across Rachel's face even as Quinn pulls her hand away to take a sip of cider.
She sits with Rachel for the rest of the ride, and neither of them say a word.
Puck had indeed planned a party for that weekend, but he'd had to relocate when his little sister came home with fourteen friends and as many sleeping bags.
"Little monsters, all of them," Puck scowled into his beer. Artie nodded in agreement, wincing as he tasted his own.
Matt's place is a surprisingly good spot for a party. The house is bathed in relaxing earth tones, the island in the kitchen is perfect for mixing drinks, and the sound system covers the entire main floor of the house. Quinn looks around from her spot on the couch. She'd sat down obediently after Puck had approached her with a drink and Santana had snatched it and thrown it at him. They'd gotten into a fight, as always. Puck hadn't won, as always.
Quinn isn't too sure when Santana had started liking her again, but as she leans her head on Santana's shoulder and the brunette actually smiles and kisses the top of her head, Quinn knows she isn't about to question it.
Puck pokes his head out from kitchen, his white shirt stained yellow, and holds out a bottle of orange juice. Santana growls. "It was just orange juice! I swear!"
Quinn giggles and follows Santana's eyes over to the corner of the living room where Brittany, Kurt, and Tina are dancing to "Single Ladies." Again. Brittany is far better at holding her alcohol than either of the other two, who are tripping and laughing and looking more like Britney post-head-shaving than Beyonce.
Finn is playing video games with Mike and studiously not looking at Quinn. Quinn assumes that it's half because he doesn't want to and half because he's even more afraid of Santana than Puck is. Rachel is sitting on Mike's other side looking altogether uninterested in the computer-generated violence on the screen. She's holding a red cup in her hand, bottles of vodka and cranberry juice at her feet, and Quinn sighs, wondering what sort of alternate universe she'd landed in where Rachel Berry is drinking with football players and she's sitting sober on a couch.
She nudges Santana and stands, draining the rest of her water and heading into the kitchen. Puck sees her coming and launches himself out of her way to sit with Artie and Mercedes, and part of Quinn wishes that she could train Puck as well as Santana can. She hears soft footsteps following her, and she knows it's Rachel even before the girl launches into her soliloquy. Quinn turns once she finds the orange juice Puck had abandoned and waits for Rachel to begin.
Rachel Berry never misses a cue.
"Quinn, I'd planned on making you my famous 'I'm Sorry' cookies to show you how sincere I was being before, but when you said you weren't mad at me, I didn't know if I-"
"Yes, Berry?" Quinn smiles as she says it, and Rachel seems to relax once more.
"I got you something instead," she says simply, taking a small package from behind her back and thrusting it at Quinn.
Quinn looks at her and shakes her head. "Rachel, I-"
Quinn wonders if Rachel's puppy eyes are working on her because she's pregnant or if, at long last, Rachel Berry is finally growing on her. She takes the package and carefully unwraps it. Rachel's grin takes up her entire face. The tissue paper unravels, and Quinn pulls out a soft white piece of fabric. Her heart clutches in her chest when she sees it. It's a baby onesie, impossibly soft, with 'Nothing but treble' in pink loopy writing curved around a treble clef. She can't think. She can't breathe. And Rachel's smile is gone.
"I'm not keeping it."
Rachel sputters, and Quinn can see the beginning of tears along her bottom eyelid. "I- it's a girl, right? Maybe-"
"I'm not keeping it." Quinn's fist clenches around the small piece of clothing, and Rachel turns away, fingers covering her mouth.
Quinn turns to leave the kitchen when she feels tears prick her eyes, but Rachel's wavering voice calls her back.
"Quinn, I'm so sorry."
The blonde breathes deeply, wanting to be someone the baby could be proud of, even if they'll never know each other. She turns around. "It's okay," she says tightly. She pats Rachel's hand and nods. "It's fine. Thank you for thinking of me."
She leaves the gift on the counter and takes her juice, finding her way back to the couch and Santana's concerned face.
Quinn lies in bed awake that night thinking of babies and little tiny shoes and socks and fingers. She thinks about high school and college and alcohol. She thinks of strollers and Puck and Rachel Berry, and she just can't go to sleep. Her phone buzzes, and she flings her arm out to grab it. She doesn't know the number, but she flicks the phone to life, opening the message and sighing as its sender becomes painfully obvious.
Are you allergic to nuts?
She saves the number in her phone and returns to the message, shifting to plant her foot against the mattress and raise her knee in the air.
Stop making me 'I'm Sorry' cookies.
She's only half serious, because the thought of cookies immediately sounds amazing, but she still doesn't want Rachel to apologize. Again. Her phone buzzes.
You have no proof.
Quinn laughs, despite herself, and decides that maybe Rachel Berry isn't so bad after all.
Rachel finds Quinn just before lunch and holds out a tupperware container full of cookies. Quinn smiles graciously and peeks under the lid.
"Thanks, Rachel," she says, and Rachel beams. "You have nothing to be sorry for, though, really."
Rachel looks nervous. "Are you sure?"
"Can I still have them if I say yes?"
The sound of Rachel's laughter rings in Quinn's ears, and Quinn finds herself laughing along.
"You're still coming to practice, right?" It's five minutes before the bell for last period, and Rachel's found her again.
Quinn hadn't really thought about it. She's grown to like glee, and going to practice has become part of her routine, much like going to Cheerios practice once did. Now that she's thinking about it, really thinking about it, she's not sure if it's such a good idea. Rachel picks up on her hesitation and steps forward. Quinn prepares herself for a speech. She doesn't quite get one.
"You should come," is all Rachel says.
"No one wants me to be there." Quinn kind of hates herself for sounding so insecure.
"I do," Rachel says, and Quinn wants to hug her. "Santana and Brittany do. Puck, Mercedes, everyone except Finn, really."
"Look," Rachel presses on. "He's coming around. I'm talking to him. Please?"
Quinn pauses, knows she's going to say yes, but she needs a moment to process the look on Rachel's face. It's the same hopeful look that she always has, but her eyes are different, deeper, and in that moment Quinn realizes that Rachel's either a better actress than anyone has ever given her credit for, or she really, honestly wants Quinn to be there.
"Yeah," Quinn says, nodding. "Okay."
Rachel doesn't sit with her at glee. Quinn is sitting in the corner when Rachel walks in, and Rachel walks over to Mercedes and perches on the edge of a chair. Quinn slumps into her seat, but when Santana and Brittany breeze into the room, hand in hand, they park themselves next to her and she starts to feel a bit better. Across the room, Rachel's head perks up and her brows furrow. She stands and makes her way over to where the girls are sitting, sliding into the open seat next to Brittany. She smiles at Quinn before she leans in to talk to Brittany. When the blonde laughs, Santana looks over in interest, regarding them carefully before nodding once and taking her blackberry out of her bag. Quinn wonders if anyone has ever won approval from Santana that quickly.
After practice, Rachel approaches Quinn, the sheet music from earlier dangling from her hand.
"Quinn, I was wondering if you'd like to come over for a movie. No one in my family really cooks, unless it's cookies, but we could order in dinner. I think you'd really like Funny Girl."
There's that look again, hopeful and cautious, and Quinn finds it strange that not even part of her wanted to turn Rachel down. Rachel had been right. She does need glee, and even though she'd protest fiercely, Rachel needs glee just as much as Quinn does. For someone who'd never had any friends of her own, Rachel was turning out to be quite a good one.
"Let me pick the movie, and you've got yourself a deal."
Even though Quinn can tell Rachel is mulling over the idea of letting her pick the movie, the smile is back.
In the end, Quinn picks The Pajama Game and pizza, because even though she likes Rachel now, she doesn't think she can handle Rachel gushing over Barbra Streisand just yet, and lately Chinese food has been making her sick.
It's nice, sitting on the couch in Rachel's living room with a slice of pizza. She's more at ease than she's been in a while, and Rachel's smiling and giggling is so infectious that she can't help but join in.
"I love this movie so much," Rachel sighs during a lull, stretching her legs out and pointing her toes before relaxing again. She rests her head on the back cushion near Quinn's shoulder and smiles lazily. It's only been a few hours, and Quinn's already grown attached to this version of Rachel. She's calmer at home. She doesn't talk as much or use words that college professors don't understand, and she slouches when she sits. It makes Quinn feel at home.
"Me too," Quinn says, sliding down further on the couch and resting her head on Rachel's. They don't move for the rest of the movie.
When the credits are rolling, Rachel places her hand on Quinn's. Quinn is so busy looking at their hands that she almost doesn't hear Rachel's words.
"Do you want dessert?"
"Yeah," she whispers, wondering where her voice has gone. Rachel removes her hand and begins to stand up, and her voice comes back. "I'm pregnant, Berry. I always want dessert."
Rachel tosses a smile over her shoulder as Quinn lifts herself off the couch.
"Dessert it is, Fabray."
She waits in the doorway of the kitchen, her coat warm around her, as Rachel packs the leftover pizza into another piece of tupperware. The brunette flies back and forth across the kitchen, putting the pizza into the container. She snaps it shut and hands it to Quinn as they walk to the front door.
"Thanks for coming. I had a really good time with you, Quinn."
Quinn wonders how many times Rachel has had friends over and if she always says something so seemingly intimate when they leave. Quinn hopes she doesn't, and she doesn't know what to think about that.
"I did, too," Quinn says, and when Rachel's smile brightens her whole face, Quinn finds that her own smile brightens her face as well.
"I'm going to hug you," Rachel says.
Rachel's arms slide around her neck, and Quinn hugs Rachel's upper back, feeling Rachel's smooth hair slide between her fingers. Rachel squeezes her shoulders when she lets go. She stands for a moment, and then stretches up to press her lips to Quinn's cheek.
"Thanks for the pizza, Rach," Quinn says.
"You're welcome," Rachel leans against the door as Quinn starts down the couple steps to the walkway.
"See you tomorrow."
"Go to sleep, Berry."
Quinn goes to Rachel's house for movies twice more that week. They keep ordering pizza because Quinn still has an aversion to Chinese food, and there's no other kind of delivery in Lima. They watch Bye Bye, Birdie and Funny Girl, and after that, Quinn declared a ban on musicals, for at least a week.
"Quinn," Rachel scolds, but she's laughing at the same time. "We're in glee club. It's imperative to your education that you acquaint yourself with the classics."
"What about movies that regular people consider classics?"
"You've chosen two out of the past three movies, Quinn."
"You've given me a selection of five movies to choose from, Rachel."
"It's important that you watch them."
"We're not watching Cabaret, Rachel."
"Yes, we are!"
"No, we're not!"
Rachel holds the film behind her back and Quinn lunges for it, trying to wrestle it from Rachel's arms. Rachel's quick and not pregnant, but Quinn's stronger and more nimble and rips the movie from Rachel's hands. She's laughing as she holds the case above her head and dances around in circles.
"You can't tackle a pregnant woman."
"Do you see me tackling any pregnant women?"
Quinn inches toward the movie rack, clutching Cabaret to her stomach. "I'm just going to take one of these movies over here. Casablanca? A classic." She takes the movie off the shelf and turns to Rachel. All of Rachel's weight is on one leg. Her arms are crossed, the fingers of one hand tapping against her elbow, and one of her eyebrows is raised. She looks adorable.
Rachel falls onto the couch and crosses her arms. Quinn pops the movie into the player and starts it. She curls into the couch and Rachel scoots closer to her, draping a blanket over their laps and leaning her head on Quinn's shoulder. Quinn rests her head on Rachel's and feels Rachel sigh comfortably.
"We don't fight like we used to," Rachel says quietly as the opening credits roll.
"We must be losing it," Quinn agrees.
When Quinn opens her eyes again, the entire room is dark. The tv is off, there's an extra blanket covering her feet, and Rachel's sleeping peacefully on her shoulder. Her back hurts, just a little, and she tries to shift without moving her shoulder. Rachel stirs and inches closer, and Quinn takes the opportunity to sit up against the back of the couch. Rachel's brow scrunches, and she slides even closer, whining softly.
"Go back to sleep," Quinn murmurs, preparing herself to stand up.
"Where are you going?" Rachel's voice comes out slurred and sleepy.
"We fell asleep," Quinn inches closer to the edge of the couch and braces her arm on the armrest.
"Tomorrow's Saturday," Rachel says. "Stay. You can't drive now."
"Rachel-" Quinn starts, but Rachel just whines and rolls toward her, sliding her arm around Quinn's belly. Quinn draws in a sharp breath and closes her eyes. As the feeling of Rachel against her sinks in, she feels the overwhelming urge to slip an arm around her, to kiss her head, and to fall back asleep. She blinks away the tears that appear in her eyes, and breathes out when Rachel sits up.
"Are you okay?"
"What?" The ringing in Quinn's head is easing, but the warmth in her neck won't go away.
"You're breathing really fast. Is it the-"
"Just a bad dream," Quinn says. Rachel reaches up to stroke Quinn's hair. "I should go."
"Quinn, you have to stay. It's too late to drive. You can go up to my room if you want, but please stay."
She knows Rachel's right. Rachel was actually right a vast majority of the time, and Quinn had been wrong when Rachel had been right before, but it never felt quite like this. Rachel had never looked at her with such caring concern, had never touched her so gently, had never made her so utterly confused.
Rachel looks relieved. "I changed the sheets this morning, so-"
"Could I stay down here?"
Rachel's mouth opens, but no words come out, and she looks like she's about to cry.
"Of course, Quinn," she says softly, pushing herself upright. "I'll just-"
"Rach, stay?" Quinn doesn't know what she's doing, doesn't think about it. She just knows she doesn't want to be alone, and she doesn't want Rachel to leave. This time she really does see tears in Rachel's eyes as the brunette leans in to hug her tightly. "Please?"
"I'm right here," Rachel whispers, and Quinn's clutches on to her, a tear breaking through and sliding down her cheek. Rachel must notice because she's cooing and stroking her thumb back and forth across the back of Quinn's head. "Okay, okay. It's okay. It was just a dream. You're okay."
Quinn cries because she doesn't know what this is about, but she knows it's not about some stupid dream. Rachel's voice is sweet in her ear, and Rachel's arms are warm around her, and Quinn wonders what the turning point was and how she missed it. Two weeks ago she wouldn't have stood next to Rachel, much less crawl into her arms, but she's glad it happened, because she's never had a friend like Rachel, and it feels really, really wonderful.
Her tear slow, and when she leans her head against Rachel's, Rachel presses a kiss to her forehead and pulls the blanket around them. Her hand finds Quinn's under the blanket as she snuggles closer.
"I'll be right here," Rachel murmurs. Quinn calms.
"Shut up, Quinn."
"You shut up."
Rachel giggles and intertwines her fingers with Quinn's, and Quinn falls asleep.
When Quinn wakes up again, she's in Rachel Berry's living room, and Rachel is smiling at her.
"Morning," Quinn smiles back.
"You just missed my dads, but I made breakfast. Do you like pancakes?"
Quinn's stomach growls right on cue, and Rachel smiles that big smile.
"I'll take that as a yes."
Rachel stands and holds out her hand to help Quinn off the couch. Quinn follows her into the kitchen, and the smell of pancakes is so good that her stomach grumbles again.
They eat breakfast in a comfortable silence and walk over to the sink to do the dishes together. When Rachel hands Quinn a clean dish to dry, Quinn nudges her.
"Thank you for letting me stay over last night."
Rachel looks up at her and nods. "Thank you for not driving home. I worry about you enough without you driving half-asleep at indecent hours of the morning."
Quinn sets the dish down, but doesn't let go of it as she turns her head to look at Rachel. "Really?"
Rachel looks confused and lets out a chuckle. "Yeah," she says, like it's obvious, and Quinn's neck feels strangely warm again.
She finishes drying the plate and puts it away before sliding an arm around Rachel's shoulders and squeezing, turning her head to kiss Rachel's temple. Rachel turns, and she's hugging her again. Her fingertips are pressing into Quinn's back, and her forehead is against Quinn's collarbone, and when Rachel pulls away, Quinn realizes just what that warm feeling in her neck actually means. She pauses, looking into Rachel's eyes as Rachel peers softly back up at her, that sleepy warmth still clinging to her body. She leans in, and instead of doing what she wants to do, she presses a gentle kiss to Rachel's cheek and pulls her in for another hug. Rachel's arms don't go around her this time; they rest on her hips, holding Quinn in place.
"Quinn?" The voice is soft, and when Quinn eases her head back, Rachel leans up and presses a kiss to the corner of Quinn's mouth. Rachel leans back just as quickly, and as she drops down to her heels, her bottom lip grazes Quinn's.
Rachel's mouth opens and closes a few times before she turns back to the sink. Quinn picks up a wet dish and dries it, pleasantly warm from her collarbone to her ears. She feels giddy and unsure, and when she tests it, brushing against Rachel's arm again, she feels the girl trembling.
"Do you want to watch a movie? After last night I can't stop thinking about E.T."
Quinn raises her eyebrow. Rachel never suggests a movie that doesn't have Barbra Streisand or at least five musical numbers.
"Okay." Rachel drops her dishes in the sink and disappears into the living room. By the time Quinn is finished drying them, Rachel is on the couch with the remote in her hand. She starts the movie when Quinn walks into the room. She fingers the remote nervously, avoiding Quinn's gaze, and Quinn gently plucks the remote from Rachel's hand and replaces it with her own. She's in new territory here. Quinn doesn't know much right now. She knows that while her life has been upside down for months, it's slowly starting to right itself again. Even though her life isn't going to return to where it was before, Quinn thinks with less Sue Sylvester and more Rachel Berry, her life may somehow be better than it was before. Beside her, Rachel is breathing slowing and deliberately, and as the opening credits roll, Quinn squeezes her hand.
Rachel breathes out and turns to look at Quinn, and she looks so different without her usual confidence that it gives Quinn pause. She braces herself and trails her free hand along Rachel's jaw. She kisses Rachel's cheek, and Rachel relaxes, sliding her fingers between Quinn's. When Quinn pulls back, and Rachel looks at her again, she inches forward, brushing an experimental kiss across Rachel's lips. She feels Rachel sigh against her cheek and kisses her again.
When she pulls away, Rachel's smile is bigger than she's ever seen it.