TheRequest: AU Fic: COWBOYS! (I'm sorry, I give this prompt in every fandom I'm in but I don't care, it's my kink.) Rachel is trying to make her way to the big city to become a singer, but her Stagecoach is held up and she's forced to stay in a tiny nowhere town, taking a job as the 'entertainment' in the Saloon. Quinn is the town Sheriff since her daddy died. One night, some men make trouble in the Saloon and Rachel needs savin'…

She wasn't even sure how she managed to fall asleep. The stagecoach rattled and shook and the seats were not all that comfortable. Perhaps it was the heat. The heat and, possibly, the fact that this was day number three on the road. Whatever it was that had put her to sleep, there was no confusion over what startled her awake.

It was a gunshot, along with whooping and hollering coming from all sides.

The coach pitched from one side to the other, then there was thunk and scrape that came from the front of the carriage. She clutched at the songbook in her hands, then got up the courage to peek out the curtain that covered the small window next to her.

Bandits. Real live bandits rode alongside the stagecoach, guns in hand, digging their heels into their horses.

She moved away from the glass, for fear that they might see her and get ideas. Currently, she was the only passenger, the polite minister and his wife had only gone as far as the previous stop.

There was another crack and, suddenly, everything inside the carriage slammed against the right side wall. It wasn't until everything came to a stop that she realized the coach had tipped over. She could hear the bandits laughing and shouting at each other. Instinct told her just to curl up and be quiet, maybe they wouldn't know she was inside. Another horse approached and there was shouting, more gunfire, then the sound of horses as they galloped away.

She listened, carefully, unable to make out anything else. With shaky legs, she stood, her five foot two frame easily fully upright, even in the coach's sideways condition. The door to the carriage opened and a face loomed above. Out of instinct and experience growing up on her father's farm, her fist struck out quickly and in full force. The door slammed shut.

"Ow!"

"Don't you try anything!" she shouted. "I… I have a knife! I'll use it!"

"Ma'am! I'm a deputy."

"You think I'm a fool?"

There was a knock on one of the windows and through the glass she could make out the frame of an upper torso with a badge pinned to a rather broad chest. "My name's Deputy Finn Hudson. I'm from McKinley. It's the town just over the ridge. I'm going to open the door again and help you out. Please don't hit me. Or cut me."

Slowly, this time, the door creaked open and the deputy was silhouetted against the sky. A strong arm reached down into the carriage and lifted her out. Once out into the open, she fully saw the damage that had been done. The stagecoach horses were gone, as was her trunk. One of her dresses lay on the ground, covered in dust and torn in several places. Before Finn had a chance to warn her, her eyes fell upon the driver's lifeless body. She realized she was very lucky to be alive.

Immediately, she climbed back into the coach.

"Ma'am?"

The few belongings she'd kept with her were strewn about, but she quickly gathered them, then hoisted herself back up out the opening. "If you'd be so kind, Deputy Finn Hudson, I think I could use a ride into town."

Finn tipped his hat to her. "I'd be much obliged, ma'am. Mind if I ask your name?"

"Rachel Berry."

"Well, Miss Berry, let's get you into town."

Even though McKinley was "just over the ridge" it was still about an hour on horseback. Rachel sat in front of Finn, his arms wrapped around her to hold the reigns.

"I guess I'm lucky you came along."

"I'm just sorry I didn't get there sooner. Certainly would have been a tragedy if anything had happened to you."

"That's sweet of you to say."

"Once we get into town, I'll take you to see Sheriff Fabray. There's not a good chance that we'll get any of your things back, but the Sheriff will make sure you're taken care of."

"Is the the Sheriff as good-looking as you are?"

"Oh, much better-looking, Miss Berry. Much better."

McKinley was a small stopover town with the basic necessities for anyone heading to and from the West. As they rode through the center of town, Rachel saw the standard post office, saloon, and general store, but the combined blacksmith and laundry seemed a bit odd.

Finn sensed the confusion, as it was common for newcomers, "It's a father and son operation. The senior Hummel does the blacksmithing and the junior does the laundry. Best tailor in three counties. I'll bet he could even salvage that dress."

"If he can do that, I'll kiss him."

Finn chuckled. "You can try."

He tugged on the reigns and the horse slowed to a stop in front of the sheriff's office. Rachel gracefully slid down to the ground with Finn's assistance and stepped onto the wooden sidewalk. Wanted posters flanked either side of the door. Rachel stopped to take a look at the surly figures portrayed in pen and ink, wondering if they were responsible for the stagecoach robbery.

Inside the office, a large desk took up one corner of the room with a smaller desk across from it in the opposite corner. Two barred cells took up the rear space of the building. Both desks were vacant, but someone reclined on a bunk in one of the cells.

"Puckerman!" Finn called out.

The body jolted upright. It was a man, his clothes wrinkled and hair askew, as if he'd been in the cell all night.

Behind the large desk was a photograph of a broad shouldered man with a sheriff's badge pinned to his chest. Rachel took a good look at his face and determined that certainly was not better looking than Deputy Hudson.

Finn was currently back at the bars, talking to the man he'd called Puckerman. "Where's the Sheriff?"

"Stepped out. Next door, maybe. Can you let me out of here?"

"Twenty-four hours for drunk and disorderly. You know that."

He looked past Finn and shouted to Rachel. "Sweetheart!"

Rachel turned to look at him, but didn't answer.

"Yeah, lady, I'm talkin' to you. Do I look dangerous?"

She took two steps closer, as if she wanted to get a better view. "Well, you are screaming at me from behind bars."

"Sorry about that, ma'am. Gettin' locked up tends to make a man forget his manners." He gestured with a wave. "Name's Noah Puckerman."

Finn shook his head and walked away from the cell. "Don't let him fool you. He had no manners to forget in the first place."

"That just isn't fair. I'm tryin' to make a nice impression on the lady."

"By shoutin' at her?"

"I apologized!"

Rachel interjected. "Excuse me, Noah, is it?"

"Yes'm."

"You don't look dangerous. But you do certainly lack ettiquette."

Noah eyed her through the bars. "You givin' lessons?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize I was running a matchmaking service." A voice said from the doorway.

Rachel turned, her skirt swishing against the desk, and found a woman, taller than she and wearing denim pants, boots, and a Stetson over a blonde braid. There was a gun belt draped over her hips, with a six shooter nestled in the holster, and a shiny star pinned to her shirt. The star said "Sheriff". She was certainly better-looking than the deputy.

"Sheriff, this is—" but Finn was interrupted.

"Rachel Berry," Rachel stepped forward and offered her hand.

The woman took her hand and accepted it, briefly, before letting it go. "I'm sure my deputy has filled you in on who I am." She moved around to the back side of the desk.

"He actually hasn't."

"In that case, I'm Sheriff Quinn Fabray. What can I do for you?" Quinn sat in the wooden armchair was positioned behind the desk.

"Well, my stagecoach was robbed—"

"Karofsky?" Quinn was looking past Rachel at Finn.

He nodded. "I think so."

Her attention refocused on the woman in front of her. "I'm very sorry that happened to you. The next coach is due two weeks from tomorrow. In the meantime—"

"Two weeks? But I'm due in New York by Tuesday."

"New York will still be there, ma'am."

"But I have a very important audition."

"Audition?"

"Yes, well, I'm a singer."

"That so?"

"Yes. It's so. That's why I said it in the first place."

"Singer or no singer, the next transport going anywhere near New York won't be through for two weeks." Quinn picked up a newspaper that sat on her desk and spread it open in front of her.

"What do you suggest I do until then?"

"That's entirely up to you."

"Nearly everything I own in the world was just stolen on your watch." Rachel snatched the paper up off the desk. "And you'd rather read last week's news than help me?"

Quinn rose to her feet and leaned over the desk, her hands flat on the desktop. "Miss Berry. There's nothing I can do for you, right now. We're a small town, low on the priorities of the state or the county, so we don't get much traffic or attention. In the meantime, I would recommend that you head over to Ms. Pillsbury's boarding house, get a room, and wait it out. And, since you were robbed on my watch, I'll cover the cost. If you get an itch for entertaining, the saloon right next door, here, might be willing to let you sing a few numbers, maybe even for pay. I can't promise anything, because that's really up to Madame Sylvester. Now, is that enough to get you started, or would you like me to draw you a map of the town and list all our resources alphabetically?"

Rachel's lips pressed into a tight line. "That's fine. Thank you. And was that so hard?"

"Suppose not." Quinn grabbed the newspaper back. "And, out here, last week's news is the most current thing we've got."

Emma Pillsbury was a very sweet woman, but she certainly had a lot of rules for her boarders. She wasn't so concerned about curfews or issues of personal conduct. Instead, she was very specific about cleanliness and order.

Rachel didn't mind. She rather liked having a specific routine and had no qualms about living in a place that positioned cleanliness above godliness, rather than just next to it. Sure, the Pillsbury woman may have been a bit over-zealous about certain things, but Rachel took comfort in it. In fact, some of the woman's quirks reminded her a lot of home and the way her uncle preferred things to be tidy and organized.

Once she was settled into her room, she examined the damage done to the single dress the bandits left behind. This, aside from her traveling outfit, was the only clothing she now had. She was thankful she always kept her songbook in her handbag, along with personal essentials like a hairbrush and a small photo of her family in a silver frame. The frame now sat on the dresser in her temporary room. Maybe it was best to write a letter home, to let her father and uncle know she was delayed in her journey to New York. Of course, by the time it got to them, she could easily be on her way, again.

She wasn't in the mood to write, anyway. Instead she decided to take the dress down to the tailor. If Deputy Hudson was right, maybe this Mr. Hummel could repair it.

A quick stroll down the main street led her to a building with Hummel & Son / Blacksmith & Laundry painted across sign that hung over the entrance. There were two doorways. To the left was a wide barn type door that stood wide open. On the right was a standard door, with a curtained small window and a sign that read, "Yes, we're open!"

Rachel turned the handle and stepped into the shop. The air inside was heavy, humid, and carried the scent of soap. At the counter was a woman, with dark hair and dark skin, drawing sketches on bits of paper. As Rachel neared closer, she saw that the sketches were of clothing, outfits with unusual cuts and bizarre accessories. It reminded her of the catalogs from Paris that her father occasionally received in the mail.

"Hello."

The woman didn't look up from her sketch. "Hello."

"I'm Rachel Berry and I'm in from out of town for several days…"

This was enough to pique curiosity away from the drawing. "Well, I'm Mercedes Jones and I don't believe we've met."

"No. We haven't. As I said, I'm in from—"

"Out of town. For several days. Heard you the first time." Mercedes reached out for the dress in Rachel's arms. "You keep your wardrobe in the stable?"

"Stagecoach robbery."

"Really?" Mercedes leaned back toward the doorway the led further into the laundry. "Kurt! New customer!"

"I was really very lucky to make it out alive."

"What a shame."

"I'm sorry?"

"Oh, not you making it out alive. I meant the dress. Shame it had to suffer."

A thin, well coiffed man emerged from the doorway behind Mercedes. He wore a waistcoat and trousers, his sleeves rolled up past his elbows. He must have been at work in the back, yet everything about him was crisp and tidy, despite the dampness hanging in the air.

"Kurt, this is Miss Berry. From out of town."

"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Berry." Kurt briefly took her hand, then began to run his fingers over the damaged dress. He picked up a pencil and jotted numbers down on a pad of paper. "This is what it'll cost to repair, plus the cleaning charge."

"Sheriff Fabray said she'd pick up the tab." Rachel realized that wasn't really true, but since it was a result of the robbery, she was sure she could convince the other woman to take care of it.

Kurt stepped around the counter to fully take in the sight of Rachel Berry, as if she were on display at an art gallery. "Hmm. Well, if she said she would, she will." And then he was back behind the counter. "You can pick it up day after tomorrow."

Once the brunette was out of the shop, Kurt leaned against the counter, his arms crossed, his mouth pressed into a tight smirk.

Mercedes raised an eyebrow. "What?"

"Nothing."

"You're up to something."

"I'm not up to anything. I just never miss an opportunity to generate my own gossip."

"You think she's…"

"Oh, I know."

"How can you know?"

"It's an art."

Quinn reclined in her desk chair, feet propped up on the desktop, newspaper spread open in her hands. Midway through an article about nest of rattlesnakes that had been rounded up two towns over, she folded down the page and looked over at her deputy. Finn was in a similar position, but his hat was pulled down over his face.

"You think she'll manage all right?" she asked him. No response. "Hudson." She chucked a pencil at him and it bounced off the arms crossed over his chest.

"Huh?" Finn bolted upright and shifted the hat back on his head. "What?"

A snort emanated from the jail cell. "The Sheriff's just looking to get a head start on some heartbreak."

"Oh. Uh huh." Finn's head dropped back down and his eye drooped shut.

Quinn didn't even bother to look back toward the man in the cell. "No one asked you, Puck."

"Well, it's a good thing I don't need an invitation to offer my opinion."

"No one cares about your opinion."

"You know, Fabray, you ride around lookin' so smug on your high horse, pretendin' you're so perfect and above us all, when I see you actin' like the rest of us when you think no one's watchin'."

Quinn Fabray came to McKinley eleven years earlier, nearly half her life ago, from Chicago. She was twelve and her mother had just passed away. In an effort to get away from their old life, her father took the position as sheriff in the small town and brought his only daughter along with him. He'd always been a lawman and Quinn had always known how to defend herself, even at her mother's protest that it was unladylike and not necessary for any woman who found herself a good husband. It was probably best that she never saw the life her husband and daughter led out in the West.

"I'm ignoring you."

"Friday nights, you head into the saloon, Scheuster pours you a tumbler full of bourbon, which you nurse for at least an hour. Then you go back for a second, which takes you half the time. By then, you've started chattin' up the girls, and by the third drink, which you throw back like a sailor, by the way, you're headin' upstairs with Brittany or Santana. And, on your less discriminating nights, sometimes both."

"It's no secret that enjoy the company of women."

"You used to enjoy the company of men."

"That time I enjoyed your company, you passed out drunk on top of me. And, anyway, that was my job, at the time."

At sixteen, Quinn worked in the saloon, as entertainment. She lasted one week before physically assaulting a patron for lewd conduct. Her father was never more proud of her than he was the moment he heard the story. She spent the next year serving as her father's deputy, alongside a young, strapping Finn Hudson. The lawman had high hopes that, perhaps, his daughter and the bright faced kid might find themselves engaged, and Finn even tried to court her. But it was to no avail.

Shortly before Quinn's eighteenth birthday, her father was fatally injured in a gunfight. It only made sense that she take his place. At first, the idea of Quinn Fabray as Sheriff was laughable to most of the townsfolk. But she was a crack shot with a mean right hook, and the laughter quickly subsided.

Puck leaned through the bars, his arms dangled outside the cell. "That aside, I'm not finished talking."

"Please, don't let me stop you."

"You spend your Saturdays holed up in here, hungover at your desk. And Sunday mornings, you're in church, praying for forgiveness for whatever you did on Friday night."

"I'm very curious how you know what happens in church, because you're never there."

"I have my own methods of worship."

"Bottles and cards?"

"Are my twenty four hours up, yet?"

"Close enough. I'm tired of hearing you, anyway."

Rachel spent the next day and a half relatively confined to the boarding house. Emma had a rather extensive and organized collection of literature that was available to her boarders, so long as they thoroughly washed and dried their hands before handling any of the volumes. Also, none of the books were actually allowed out of the designated reading room.

On Friday morning, she was halfway through LittleWomen, when there was a knock on the door to the room. She dropped a book marker into place, careful not to mar any of the pages. "Yes?"

The door opened and Quinn stood in the doorway. In her hand was a slip of paper.

"Miss Berry. It seems that Mr. Hummel is under the impression that I'm to pay for your dress repair and laundering." She handed the slip to Rachel. It was a bill.

"You suggested that you'd take care of me."

"I said I'd pay for the boarding house. That was all."

"I'm on a limited budget."

"Then I'd recommend you find a way to earn some money. As I said before, the saloon might pay for someone who can carry a tune. That is, if you're really any good at it."

Rachel straightened up at that. "Are you implying that I'm not?"

"I'm simply saying that I haven't heard you, so I don't know just what you are or are not capable of."

"I still say you're responsible for the repair charge, at the very least." She shoved the ticket back into Quinn's hand.

"You do, do you?" Quinn stepped forward so she was toe to toe with the other woman. The sheriff was a good several inches taller than Rachel and looked down at her. "Well, I say, I'm not." Neither one made any move to back away. Quinn held up the laundry receipt and flicked it toward the brunette, who made no effort to catch it as it fluttered toward the floor. "I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in McKinley, Miss Berry."

That night, in the saloon, Quinn took her usual spot at the bar. She'd considered trying to prove Puck wrong about her weekend habits, and not heading upstairs with any of the girls. She decided she'd figure it out when the time came.

Scheuster set a tumbler in front of her, popped open a bottle of Old Crow, and poured three fingers high of the stuff. He slid the glass across the bar to Quinn.

"Thanks." She nodded at him, then pulled the Stetson off her head and rested it next to her drink. One hand smoothed over her hair and checked her braid, while the other brought the bourbon to her lips. It burned and tasted awful, the way it did each and every time, but it had been her daddy's drink of choice and it got the job done.

Santana and Brittany, the dancing girls whom Puck previously referenced in their conversation earlier that week, sidled up to Quinn, one at each arm. The former dark, the latter light, they made a dynamic combination both on stage and off. Brittany hopped up on one of the barstools, her ruffled skirt poofed out around her. Santana just leaned against the bar, facing the room and giving a Quinn a full view down her corseted top, if the Sheriff bothered to look.

"I hear we have you to thank." Santana lifted the drink out of Quinn's hand and took a sip.

"For what?"

The glass slid back into her hand. "Our latest act."

Quinn didn't turn around. Instead, she looked into the mirror behind the bar. From there, she could see the stage, which was currently empty. Down front was the piano, where Tinkles sat at the keys. Next to him was Artie Abrams, who had a bum leg, but could play a mean banjo.

Then, someone was there. Center stage. Rachel Berry. She wore the standard saloon girl garments, same as the two women in the Sheriff's company. This was enough to force Quinn all the way around for a better view. "She any good?"

Santana shrugged. "Haven't heard her. She auditioned privately with Madame Sylvester this afternoon."

"Is she… full service?" Quinn took a hearty swig.

"Are we not good enough for you, anymore?" Santana's tone was teasing, but her eyes shone with a touch of jealousy.

"I'm not planning on bedding her. She's just not here long term. I don't want extra complications coming out of this."

"You're the one who sent here over her."

"To sing."

Brittany leaned forward, her eyes on the stage. "Shush, she's starting."

Tinkles began to play and Rachel broke into a medley of familiar songs. Her voice was spectacular. Quinn had chalked her up as a girl with big dreams and little promise. Instead, the woman had talent and presence. At one point, they made eye contact, and Quinn felt her heart race. She downed the remainder of the whiskey a half an hour ahead of schedule.

When the set ended, Rachel bounded down off the stage and disappeared into the store room and doubled as a dressing room. Quinn rose from her stool to seek out Madame Sylvester, who currently sat at her usual table, off to the side. She wore men's trousers, with suspenders over a cotton shirt.

A cigar protruded from her mouth, clamped firmly between her teeth. "Well, well. If it isn't our local talent scout. Not enough crime to keep you busy, Fabray? Now you're seeking out young ingenues? Not that I mind. She's quite good."

"She's just stage talent, right? Nothing else?"

"If I didn't know better, Sheriff, I'd think that maybe you were trying to tell me how to run my business."

Quinn's hand slammed against the table. "Answer the question, Sue."

"If you think I'd risk ruining that voice by letting anything other that near food or water near that mouth, you're insane."

"Keep it that way." She shoved her weight off the tabletop and spun around toward the bar.

"Sorry to disappoint. I know you're always looking for a good time."

"Nice talking to you, Sue. Let's do it again, real soon."

The rest of the evening followed standard procedure. Quinn ordered two more drinks. Between sips, she watched Rachel across the room. For someone so seemingly obnoxious, she certainly had a charisma when it came to performance.

At the bottom of the third glass, Quinn thought maybe she'd even try to talk to her, but Brittany was already leading her upstairs and into one of the rooms. The dancer settled her back on the the bed and began to remove the Sheriff's boots.

Quinn sank into the mattress. "This is nice." She sat up. "My hat! It's on the bar! Someone might steal it. It's a good hat, my hat."

Brittany nodded. "All right, hold your horses. Stay here. I'll go get it." She opened the door to head back downstairs. On the way out, she passed Rachel. "Do me a favor? Just make sure she doesn't try to climb out the window or anything?"

Rachel glanced into the room and saw Quinn teetering on the edge of the bed. "Of course." She stepped inside and stood near the bed.

Quinn grinned at her. "Hey! You're really good."

"Thank you." The singer beamed at the compliment.

"I thought maybe you weren't. You know, before. But you are. Really good."

"… thanks."

"Hey. Hey, come here." She reached for Rachel's hand and tugged her closer, then the Sheriff carefully rose to her feet, using the other woman for balance. "You're pretty, too."

"I think maybe you're a little drunk."

"So! I can be drunk and think you're pretty. No harm in it."

"I guess not."

Quinn swayed a bit on her feet, but maintained enough balance to stay upright. She took a good look at Rachel, then leaned in and kissed her. The brunette was certainly caught off guard, but that didn't stop her from returning the kiss, if only briefly. The sheriff pulled back, one hand on the singer's shoulder.

*SMACK*

Rachel's right palm made contact with Quinn's left cheek. "That's for doubting my talent. Goodnight, Sheriff." She turned in a huff and stormed toward the door.

The lack of physical support sent Quinn tumbling back onto the bed. Brittany had just returned, hat in hand.

"Everything all right?"

"Dandy. Shut that door and get over here."

The throbbing in her head told her it must be Saturday morning. She forced her eyes open, only to slam them shut because the sunlight streaming from the window was much too bright.

Brittany sat at the edge of the bed in her underclothes. She ran a brush through her hair. The shiny strands caught the morning light, as she whipped her head around at the sound of Quinn stirring.

"Morning, sunshine." She began to pin up her hair.

Quinn grumbled in response. She slowly surveyed her condition: Boots off, pants on, shirt slightly un-tucked. Must have been an uneventful night. Though, her cheek was a little tender to the touch. "Did I… do anything stupid?"

"Other than getting slapped by the new girl for making advances on her, no." Brittany pulled her dress on.

"What?" Quinn threw her arm up over her face. "Oh, lord.

"Then you called me to bed, mumbled something about spoiled songbirds, snuggled up to me, and promptly passed out."

"You're way too good to me, B."

"Someone has to be."

"How much… did I… advance?"

"Just a kiss, I think. She seemed more upset that you doubted her—"

"—talent. I remember it now, thank you."

"Get cleaned up." She stood over Quinn and dropped a kiss onto her forehead. "I'll bring some coffee down to your office in a bit."

As Brittany left the room, Quinn pushed herself upright and swung her legs over the side of the bed. It took a little effort to pull her boots on, but she managed all right. She washed her face in the basin on the dresser, then brushed her hair out before working it back into a tight braid.

By the time the coffee came around, Quinn was at her desk, head in her hands, rubbing at her temples. Brittany set the mug down in front of her and began to rub the Sheriff's shoulders. Quinn closed her eyes and relaxed into the touch. She heard the door open, and assumed it was Finn reporting for duty.

"Sheriff?" Yep. That was him.

"Sorry to interrupt."

That definitely wasn't Deputy Hudson's voice. Quinn's eyes reopened to find Rachel Berry standing on the other side of the desk, with Finn standing behind her.

"What can I, um… That's good for now, Brittany, thanks. What can I do for you, Miss Berry?"

Finn tipped his hat to the dancer. "I'll walk you out, Miss Brittany."

Rachel waited until the tall blonde and the deputy fully exited building before she spoke again. "I think I'm being stalked."

Despite the headache, Quinn broke out into a fit of laughter. "You think… you've been on the stage all but once… and you think…"

Rachel stamped her foot. "This isn't funny!"

"I'm sorry. I just… it's not. You're right." It took another few seconds for the titters to subside.

The brunette was not amused in the slightest. She produced a small stack of notes and handed them to Quinn. The smile dropped from the blonde's face as she scanned the first few pages.

"Jacob Ben Israel."

"You know who it is?"

"Yeah, the town creep. He's generally harmless, but I worry he'll crack one day and take us all with him."

"So, what do I do? I can't sleep at night thinking he's staring at me through my window."

Quinn couldn't believe what she was about to suggest. "You can stay with me."

"Oh. In here?" Rachel glanced around the jail. It didn't seem all that cozy. "I guess it's secure."

"I don't live here."

"You don't?"

"No. I have a ranch outside of town."

"Oh. I just assumed. Because you're always…"

"Common mistake."

"Are you sure?"

"Not really. But I think I should at least look into this to make sure Jacob's just up to his usual antics and not something else. Those letters are rather… intense."

Rachel nodded. The seriousness in which the Sheriff took the situation scared her. She'd expected Quinn to blow her off, or at least simply pretend to placate her. Instead, she was making arrangements to relocate her.

"If that's what you think is best."

"I do." And then, there it was, the smirk across her lips. "Besides, it'll save me money on the boarding house."

The first few days at the Fabray Ranch were filled with the polite conversation of two people being overly considerate of each other. Rachel proved to have rather excellent cooking skills, which Quinn was pleased to discover. Not that she didn't know how or couldn't cook for herself, but Rachel put a particular flair into her meals. In exchange for being well fed, Quinn took it upon herself to teach Rachel to shoot, starting with her Winchester Rifle.

"I don't quite see what good this'll do. I don't even own a gun."

"You know, sometimes, you're very smart and other times… you aren't." Quinn sighed. "Just think of it as another skill you can brag about."

That seemed to please Rachel. "Okay. How do I hold this?"

"You must have at least seen someone shoot one before. Doesn't your father have a rifle?"

"Yeah, but he usually makes my uncle do all the hunting."

"And you never went with him?"

Rachel shook her head. "The idea of those poor dead animals upsets me."

"Of course it does." She stood behind Rachel and put her arms around her to help position the gun. "You want to put this part against your right shoulder, with your right hand, here." She slid her hand over the brunette's and wrapped it around the trigger and the trigger guard. "Then your left hand up here. No, not around the barrel, around the forestock. Here." Her left hand slid Rachel's into the proper place.

Quinn's breath was on her left ear and it was making it very difficult for Rachel to concentrate on the instructions. But she wasn't about to give up. "Then what? Just shoot?"

"No. Never just shoot." The blonde chuckled lightly. "That's how you end up with the gun kicking back and knocking your teeth out." She felt Rachel squirm at that idea, but she held her in place. "It's okay, I won't let that won't happen to you. You're in good hands, Berry." Her voice was low and if asked for a reason, she'd claim it was concentration on the task at hand. "Now, you want to breathe. It's the most important part. Take a deep breath and sight your target. Let half the breath out, shoot, then exhale."

"That seems like a lot to remember."

"You'll get it. Give it a try."

Rachel hesitated. "Now I'm worried about my teeth."

"I told you not to be."

"Okay." Rachel took a deep breath and pointed the gun toward the old whiskey bottle propped up on a fence post. She fired, but missed.

"You're holding your breath."

"Am not."

"Are too. Try it again. And follow my instructions, this time."

The brunette sighed, and steadied herself, again. She took a deep breath, sighted the bottle, released half the air in her chest, fired and exhaled. The bottle exploded.

"It worked!" Rachel grinned.

"Told you." Quinn dropped her arms, taking the gun from the other woman before she began to wave it around in excitement.

She flung her arms around the Sheriff in a hug. "Thank you!"

"Well, you're not an expert marksman, yet. But you're off to a good start." She rested the rifle against a nearby tree so she could steady herself from Rachel's emphatic embrace.

Rachel stepped back from the hug, but her hands rested on Quinn's upper arms. Her brown eyes searched the hazel ones in front of her. She pulled the other woman into her and pressed their lips together. Quinn's hands settled on either side of Rachel's face as she kissed back, meeting, if not exceeding the brunette's intensity.

When the kiss broke, Quinn instinctively flinched.

Concern spread across Rachel's face. "What's wrong?"

"It's just, last time that happened, you slapped me afterward."

Rachel brought her hand to the blonde's face, though gently, this time. "You earned it. You dared suggest I didn't know how to sing."

"In my defense, I was drunk."

"That's no excuse."

"Guess not."

"Take me home, Sheriff?"

"Much obliged, ma'am."

The next week proved rather blissful, with late nights that quickly become too early mornings with not enough sleep. Despite any lack of rest, the Sheriff had a bounce in her step that didn't go unnoticed by anyone in town. Mercedes had to pay Kurt three dollars to make good on a bet they'd made.

And then, all too soon, it had been two weeks since Rachel's arrival in McKinley. That morning, she and Quinn got into an argument over how to cook eggs, even though Rachel had been cooking them the same way for the last seven days and the blonde never once complained before then.

"Is there something you want to talk about?" Rachel sat next to her at the kitchen table.

"No." Quinn sipped her coffee, but it was too hot.

"I could… stay, you know."

"That's ridiculous."

"Is it?"

"Yes."

"Quinn…"

"You're getting on that coach at noon, end of story."

"I don't have any say?"

"You really think you'll have a good life here? It's a dirty, dusty place. You don't need that."

"I need you."

"You don't."

"Don't tell me what I need!"

"It was a mistake, okay? For us to end up like this."

"So, you regret it, then?"

"You should get packed."

When they unceremoniously parted ways at the stagecoach, Quinn said, "Have a good trip. Maybe send me a postcard," then walked away before Rachel could say anything else.

"Hey. Fabray. Hey."

"What?" Quinn had dozed off at her desk, exhausted from the night she'd spent awake trying to figure out just how to tell Rachel what she really felt. A lot of good it had done, since she'd thrown it all out the window over breakfast. Was she an idiot?

"Are you an idiot?"

"Can it, Puckerman."

"I'm serious. You let a girl like that walk out of your life? You're an idiot."

"I didn't let her walk out." Quinn sighed. "I pushed her."

"Like I said. Idiot."

"You're not helping."

Puck was silent for a moment, then spoke again. "Go after her."

"I'm not taking advice from a criminal."

"Oh, shut up. You keep me in here because you need someone to talk to. You're so lonely you spend time with crooks and whores."

"I'm warning you…"

"Or you'll what? Throw me in jail?"

"Just what am I supposed to do, then? She's already gone."

"You've got a horse. Use it. They're only two hours out."

"I can't just… leave."

"Sure you can. Big head Hudson can keep order in town. People listen to him. And, hey, how about if I promise to cut back on the hi-jinx?"

"I'm supposed to take you at your word on that?"

"I swear on my mother's grave."

"Your mother's still alive, Puck."

"Well, I swear, nonetheless."

"You think she'll… No, it's ridiculous."

"Love always is."

"I don't lo—" But she did. "If I get word that you're out of control, I'll be back so fast, it'll make your head spin." She was on her feet.

"I've got the fear of God in me."

The shiny badge was quickly unpinned from her shirt and placed in the center of Finn's desk. "That and too much liquor." She gave him a wave as she exited out the door. "You're not half bad, Puckerman."

He waved back, pleased with himself. Then, "HEY! Wait! Can you let me out, first? Fabray! FABRAY!"

It must have definitely been something about the heat and the motion of the coach, because Rachel was sound asleep only a couple hours into the journey. This time, it was the feeling of the stagecoach slowing to a stop that woke her.

She hoped it was something non-threatening, like a thrown shoe, and not another robbery. There were voices outside, but she couldn't identify the source when she peered out the window.

Someone knocked on the carriage door. Rachel cautiously opened it, fist cocked, just in case.

"Hi." It was Quinn, looking small and nervous at the bottom of the steps. She held her hat in her hands.

"Hi." Rachel glanced over at her own hand, which was still balled up, ready to strike. She dropped it to her side.

"Got room for one more?"

"Depends."

"On?"

"How do you like your eggs?"

"Prepared by a gorgeous brunette who makes me weak in the knees."

"You forgot talented." Rachel offered her hand to pull Quinn up into the coach.

"I didn't forget. I just didn't say it."

"Well, you'll have to work on that. My ego needs attention."

"Really? I'd have never guessed."

"Shut up and kiss me, Sheriff."

"Ex-sheriff."

"Too bad, I really liked the gold star."

"I'll make up for it."

"With whrmph…" Rachel was rendered momentarily speechless by Quinn's lips, then managed to mumble, "Oh. That's a good start."