Quinn realizes, as the surprisingly cool night air is sucked through the passenger's window and into her hair, that she should have known better. They're driving farther and farther away from the mall, where she assumed they would be going, as that was where she'd been taken on every other date she'd ever been on. With Finn, it had been Breadstix and a movie, or Breadstix and bowling. With Sam, Breadstix and a movie, or Breadstix and making out in a roomful of Jesus statues, which always kind of creeped her out. Wasn't he always watching? Is that really what he wanted to see? But those were dates, and they always started at the mall, and so she'd just assumed that the rest would follow. She'd even forgone her jacket. Quinn realizes, as the car climbs up a hill rounding the outskirts of town and the air gets cooler, that she should have known better.
"So um, where are we going exactly?" Quinn pulls her cardigan tighter over her midsection and turns the already quiet radio down a little further.
"It's a surprise, Quinn," Rachel says, throwing a grin in Quinn's direction before snapping her eyes back to the winding road.
Of course it is.
Quinn thinks it all happened in the last two months or so. She can't quite pinpoint the moment she realized it, whether it took a song, or a glance, or a smile before Rachel Berry was all she could think about. And she was. And after two months of dodging glances and subtle waves in the hallways and too-brief-and-yet-lingering hugs goodbye, Rachel had shown up at her locker, breathless and blushing, and with a scoop of obviously false bravado, had asked Quinn on a date. Quinn had stood there, eyes dropped down a few inches to meet Rachel's, and replayed every moment - the looks shared during songs in glee, warming cheeks, shy smiles - and after a moment of deliberation, painful seconds that had spurred a roaring in her ears, an acute awareness of her heart beating in her chest, and a few tremulous breaths, she'd said yes.
She should have known that Rachel Berry would never settle for a date at the mall.
At her silence, Rachel's grin falters, and Quinn can see the brunette swallow cautiously before parting her lips to speak again. "Is- is that okay? It's just that after dating Finn and Puck, I've had enough house salads at Breadstix to last a lifetime, and I use up all the Purell in the house every time I go to that bowling alley, and really, dating shouldn't always be so monotonous as dinner and a movie at the same restaurant, in the same movie theatre all the time."
She pauses, and Quinn is too busy trying to catch up with her ears to interrupt. Rachel pulls the car off of the road onto a flat of dirt so close to the edge of the hill, it makes Quinn squirm in her seat. Rachel shuts off the ignition, and the first thing Quinn realizes is that it's quiet. Without the buzz of streetlights and heaters, the air is silent, and Quinn smiles.
"There aren't many date-worthy destinations in Lima, and a quick internet search told me that one of the simplest, romantic dates is star-gazing, so I thought-"
"You researched this?" Quinn says, her mind finally catching up to Rachel's mouth. She feels everything she's felt in the last two months flood her chest. They haven't even gotten out of the car yet, and this girl has already done more for her before their first date really began than any of her boyfriends did the entire time she was dating them.
"Yes," Rachel says confidently, though her voice is wavering. "I picked this spot for its view of Lima and its openness to the sky. We should be able to see everything from here."
Quinn's smile grows along with Rachel's little speech, and the brunette seems to feed off it, her voice becoming stronger and stronger until she is bolting out of her door and jogging around the front of the car to open the passenger door for Quinn.
The air feels instantly cold, goosebumps prickling across the blonde's skin, and Quinn's jaw nearly drops when Rachel dives into the backseat and reemerges with her arms full of blankets piled so high her face is entirely obscured.
"You brought... how many blankets?"
"Three. One for us to lay on and two for us to lay under."
Quinn blinks, mouth agape, and she follows Rachel back to the front of the car. While Rachel fiddles with the blankets, Quinn chances a look out over the edge of the hill. Lima is mostly dark, visible only by the bare skeleton of street lights twisting their way through the town like a river. The view is lovely, Quinn realizes, framed by the trees sticking out of the downward slope that looks as if it leads straight home.
She turns, and Rachel is sitting on the hood of her car, waiting patiently. Quinn feels a flutter in her chest, a trepidation at being so close, so alone, but she hoists herself up next to Rachel.
"Are you comfortable, Quinn?"
Rachel smiles at her, eyes bright and hopeful, and Quinn nods, laying back against the hood of the car. She doesn't quite trust herself to speak yet, but when Rachel throws the other two blankets over them, murmuring quietly to herself, Quinn takes a breath and closes her eyes. She slides her hand over until she brushes the soft skin of Rachel's arm. Rachel's breath hitches as Quinn slides her hand to cup Rachel's palm, and when Rachel intertwines their fingers, it's back; the exhilaration of a stolen glance across the choir room, of a lyric sung directly to her, of brushing her hand over Rachel's back when they pass in the hallway all settles into the space between their palms. She casts her head to the side, lip between her teeth, and sees Rachel staring resolutely at the sky, eyes widened comically and unblinking.
Quinn strokes her thumb once against Rachel's and shifts her legs, trying to make it look like an accident, and Rachel has found what she's looking for. The girl points up to the sky and begins, rambling off about a specific star that Quinn tries desperately to find.
And maybe Rachel had researched this more than she thought, because the blanket is just thick enough to provide a cushion against the hard metal of the car, but thin enough to still feel the warmth flowing from the cooling engine. All Quinn can see is stars, and all Quinn can hear is Rachel.
"- and I read that constellations aren't actually groups of stars. It's a common mistake we make to think that constellations are patterns or designs comprised of stars, when really they're just sections or pieces of the sky that stars reside in-"
During Rachel's speech, her thumb strokes back and forth over the skin of Quinn's hand. Quinn lies back, eyes on the sky, and tries to remember the last time anyone went through this much trouble for her. She remembers the past week, since the day Rachel approached her at her locker, how she had seen Rachel in the astronomy room nearly every day, how she'd passed the girl in the science section of the library, the blankets, the location...
"The Summer Triangle isn't a constellation even though everyone thinks it is. It's actually used for navigation, as it points toward Polaris-"
"-which is the North Star. Each of the three stars is in a different constellation-"
"Rachel," Quinn rolls over onto her side, and she realizes that she's grown to love the sound of her own heart beating in her ears. Quinn pulls their hands against her stomach, and Rachel's breath hitches, her voice tripping in her throat before it starts again on shaky legs.
"Rach," Quinn whispers, kissing the back of Rachel's hand, and the brunette stops with a sharp exhale, her head turning slowly to face Quinn.
The eye contact shakes Quinn's confidence, but she steels herself, squeezing Rachel's hand.
"Learning about the constellations isn't what makes star-gazing romantic."
Rachel's lips part, and she's looking everywhere but at Quinn.
"Oh. I was assured by multiple websites that this was a prime example of romanticism."
"It is," Quinn whispers, walking two fingers up Rachel's arm to give herself some time. When Rachel looks back at her, Quinn leans over and presses her lips to Rachel's. Rachel is still for a long moment, and Quinn freezes, panicking until she feels the brunette's lips twitch beneath her own. She raises her free hand to cup Rachel's face, and as Rachel threads her hand through blonde hair, Quinn's heart is back in her ears, but she likes it there. She tips her chin back and watches as Rachel's eyes flutter lazily open to look at her with a half-dreary dazedness, and she thinks that yeah, maybe she could get used to this.
"That's why," she murmurs, tucking Rachel's hair behind her ear.
"Oh," Rachel says, smiling softly.
As Rachel tugs Quinn forward once more, Quinn realizes that she didn't ever expect to feel like this around Rachel Berry, but really, she should have known better.