Wanted: Female partner for swing dance competition. Must be under 5'4'' and have dance experience. Competitive drive a must. Open auditions this Thursday between 5pm and 8pm. Winners only. Losers need not apply.
It was perfect. It was like it was written specifically for her.
This summer, so far, hadn't been particularly active for Rachel. She, again, hadn't been cast in the seasonal musical being put up by the Lima Community Players. It was okay, there was still the fall, winter, and spring productions before she headed off to college.
It was only the end of June and she was looking to fill her schedule with something. Her dads kept telling her to take her time, to relax. Her senior year was coming and this was her last summer break before graduation. They kept using word like "relax" and "have fun."
It was kind of hard to have fun when her boyfriend dumped her for some celebrity sports summer camp in Pennsylvania. Okay, he hadn't dumped her for the camp. He'd said something about a break until school started.
She wasn't sure how she felt about it, but as long as she had a boyfriend for her senior year, she guessed she could deal with it.
For now, though, she wanted to do something. Maybe multiple things. And winning a dance competition sounded like a good place to start.
Rachel arrived at the audition location at seven thirty. It was key to either be first or last at an audition and she'd had ballet until six, which meant she was left with just enough time to run home and shower before putting on the black and white polka dot swing dress she'd pulled out of the closet that morning. The ad hadn't said anything about proper dress, but she was willing to take any opportunity to make whoever was holding the auditions see her in the role.
Once she parked, she made her way up the front walk only to find a note taped to the door that said, "Auditions in the garage." With a glance to her left, she realized the garage door was, in fact, open and as she neared the space, she could make out the sound of Moonlight Serenade. Inside the garage was a small card table, a folding chair, and a digital video camera on a tripod.
There didn't seem to be anyone in the immediate vicinity, so she called out, "Hello?" No answer.
On the card table with a small stack of audition forms, so she took a seat in the provided chair and busied herself with filling one out. She unzipped her purse, pulled out a sheet of gold star stickers, and pressed one to the corner of the page. She then stacked it neatly with the headshot and resume she'd brought with her.
"You almost missed your chance. I was about to close-" The voice stops, mid sentence, but Rachel recognized it before she even saw the figure who just emerged from the door that led from the house to the garage.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm clearly here to audition," she said, picking up her headshot for emphasis. "What are you doing here?" But Rachel already put it all together.
"This is my house."
"You're the one looking for a dance partner," Rachel confirmed. It was then that she took in the sight of Quinn and realized that she, too, was dressed for the occasion. While Rachel had taken to wearing a traditional swing dress, Quinn was clad in white suspenders, black slacks, and wingtips. She was only wearing a black t-shirt instead of a button up with a tie, but she was running this audition so she was allowed to take whatever liberties she wanted. "Monochrome suits you."
Quinn didn't reply. Instead, she ran her hands over her hair and re-secured the barrettes that were keeping her hair out of her face.
"May I ask you something, Quinn?"
"You're going to ask, anyway."
"Why not just ask Brittany or Mike?"
"Why not mind your own business?"
"I understand if you don't wish to continue with this audition. It wouldn't be the first time I was blacklisted from a performance company."
Quinn rolled her eyes and held out her hand. It took Rachel a moment to realize she was waiting for the audition form. After barely looking it over, Quinn dropped it back on the table and jerked her head toward the open space of the garage. "Well? Let's go."
While Quinn pressed the record button on the camera, Rachel smoothed her skirt and took in a deep breath. Even though she had a feeling this wasn't going to work out for her, she still planned to treat it like every other audition. Quinn switched the iPod to another song, which was more upbeat and something era appropriate, but Rachel couldn't place the name.
"Follow my lead." Quinn held out her hand and waited for Rachel to take it.
The moves were basic, but it was evident that Quinn had been studying or had some kind of experience. Some kind of ballroom dance had probably been part of her upbringing. Rachel herself had taken lessons the summer before freshman year with her Dad as a dance partner. The only practice she ever got was at home on family nights, though with glee and the general responsibilities of growing up, those nights were fewer and further between. There were times when she'd wished for a boyfriend who was less clumsy on the dance floor. Finn was great, but someone like Noah made a much better match when it came to things like that.
Right now, Quinn proved to be better than the both of them.
"I must admit I'm surprised that you're so versatile with the dance positions," Rachel commented. "Though, I suppose it's not unusual that you'd be comfortable with the lead." She realized she was still in the middle of her audition, so she focused on her footwork and mentally braced herself for when Quinn told her to shut up.
There was no vocal response. Quinn kept dancing until the song ended, then she stepped back and assessed the girl in front of her. "The competition's in August, the last weekend before school. I want to practice here at least three times a week, more if your schedule allows for it. The prize is five hundred dollars, plus a trophy. We split the cash, I keep the trophy."
"Are you saying I've landed the role?"
"You're a wizard with context clues. Email me your schedule so I can set up our rehearsal times."
"Of course. Thank you for choosing me. You won't be disappointed."
Quinn shrugged as she pressed the button to stop the video camera. "To be honest, you're the only one who showed up."
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. From six to eight on the weekdays, two to four on the weekends. Plus any additional time they set up in between. This was their rehearsal schedule for the next six weeks.
To anyone else, this probably seemed like a lot of practice time for an amateur dance competition, but Rachel fully appreciated Quinn's dedication. She also understood that this was likely some kind of personal goal, set to counteract the loss of prom queen. It wasn't uncommon for Rachel to do similar things for herself. Whenever she wasn't cast in a local theatre production, she found herself signing up for open mic night down at the teen center. The fact that she was clearly better than everyone else always gave her an emotional boost.
Rachel had high hopes that she and Quinn could spend the combined thirty-six (or more) hours together without killing each other. They managed it in Glee Club, but other people were generally around. The only time they'd been left alone was when they'd worked on their original song. Their first meeting had gone fine, but the second had dissolved into disaster.
However, at this point, Finn was a non-issue. At least, he was out of sight (and state), and out of mind. He wasn't anyone's boyfriend and she was pretty sure Quinn was over him. Again. This time.
When she arrived on Saturday, the garage was closed so she made her way to the front door (no note, this time) and rang the bell. She was a little early (okay, twenty minutes), but she was eager to get started.
The door opened and Quinn stared at her. "I said two."
"I know. I was just ready and waiting at home and figured I'd come over."
There was a moment where it looked like Quinn might shut the door in her face, but instead, she opened it and motioned for Rachel to step inside. Quinn was dressed similarly to what she'd been wearing at the audition, only her suspenders hung down at her sides and her feet were bare. Rachel just wore what she normally wore to Glee Club dance rehearsals, which translated to yoga pants and a tank top. She hadn't even thought much about it until she noticed Quinn was staring at her clothes.
"I thought you'd be, you know, in character."
"Was I supposed to dress the part?"
"Whatever, it doesn't matter. But remember next time, because it's important for movement."
"I can run home and get a dress. Or..." She was about to suggest she wear one of Quinn's but she wasn't sure if it was appropriate. She wasn't used to having girls as friends. Not that she and Quinn were friends.
Quinn, however, must have been thinking the same thing. "I might have something that fits you. Stay here."
Rachel stood in the middle of the living room and watched Quinn bound up the stairs. She set her bag down next to the couch and took in the sight of the Fabray home. The audition had been the first time she'd been to Quinn's house and that had only been a trip to the garage.
Everything around her looked pristine, untouched. Except the piano. The key cover was open, the bench was pushed back, and half a glass of what looked like ginger ale rested on top of a coaster next to the music stand.
Her fingers slid over the keys and she noted that it was a Steinway. Carefully, she played the first few bars of The Entertainer and noted that the piano was well tuned, which meant it was probably regularly used.
"I thought I said not to touch anything." Quinn was back and she held a navy blue dress in her hand. "Try this. The bathroom's the second door on the right."
"You said to stay, you never said anything about touching." Rachel took the dress and moved for the hallway.
Quinn apparently felt a momentary wave of hospitality, because she asked, "Do you want, like, anything to drink?"
Rachel turned back to face her. "I'd like a ginger ale, if that's okay."
"I think all we have is 7UP. And Vitamin Water."
"Oh." Rachel glanced at the drink on the piano. "Vitamin Water sounds fine."
When she came back from the bathroom, Quinn's suspenders were up over her shoulders and the glass was empty.
"Looks like it fits," was the conclusion as the other girl circled around her.
"It's a little long, but I think it will serve the purpose for today."
"Help me move this table," Quinn said as she grabbed one end of the coffee table that sat in front of the sofa.
"We're not working in the garage?"
"It's too hot. Anyway, we need to work on basic footwork, first. We can do that in here. We just can't wear shoes on Mom's rug."
Rachel had already removed her sneakers when she'd changed, so she set them down next to her bag with the rest of her clothes. "Is your mother home?"
Something about Quinn's tone suggested Rachel shouldn't ask any more questions.
The living room didn't have an iPod dock, but it did have a stereo with a turntable. Quinn sorted through a stack of albums until she settled on a Benny Goodman record. Before Rachel even had a chance to inquire about anything, Quinn just said, "I like to keep it traditional."
That was something Rachel could understand. There was actually a lot about Quinn that made sense to her, even if she didn't know what to expect from her most of the time.
The thing she least expected, though? Looking forward to spending her summer afternoons and evenings with Quinn Fabray.
The first week of rehearsals when smoothly. Rachel was on time and appropriately dressed for each and everyone. That, along with the fact that she knew how to dance, seemed to placate Quinn.
The fact that they weren't in public was also probably a factor.
On their second Saturday, in the middle of a tuck pass, that Quinn said, "Brittany's at dance camp and Mike won't be here for the competition dates."
It took Rachel a moment to realize that this was the answer to her question at the audition. "Noah would have been a practical choice."
Quinn pulled Rachel back in. "I would have had to give him all the money. And who knows what else. Plus I wouldn't be able to lead with Puck."
Rachel wasn't sure if that was supposed to be a joke or not, so she just moved the conversation along. "You're quite good at it."
"You're not bad, either." Rachel was pretty sure that was one of the nicest things Quinn had ever said about her.
The song ended and Quinn immediately released Rachel to pick a different album. While she waited, the shorter girl lifted the key cover to the baby grand. "What do you like to play?"
"What makes you think I play?"
"We wrote a song together, I've heard you."
"That wasn't anything."
Rachel hummed in disagreement and sat on the bench. She knew how to play, because what self respecting Broadway hopeful didn't know how to accompany themselves on at least half a dozen standards. Her fingers fell into place to play the opening notes to Dream a Little Dream, which earned a glance from Quinn, even if it only lasted a few seconds.
Quinn dropped a Tommy Dorsey record on the turntable. "Come on, we have work to do."
Wednesday of week two wasn't as pleasant.
They'd moved to the garage to allow for full range of motion, which meant Rachel's foot (complete with shoe) was given full range to slam against Quinn's shin in a move that went wild.
After that, all they did was argue about every other step.
"Are you even paying attention? You're not following me."
"Perhaps you're going the wrong way."
"How can I go the wrong way? I'm leading."
"Not very well."
That had been the end of Wednesday.
On Saturday, Rachel showed up at two, but it took Quinn ten minutes to answer the door and that was after being sent three text messages. Rachel's initial concern had been that she was still upset about their tiff during their previous rehearsal.
She was wrong.
"Oh my god, Quinn. You look..."
Technically, she looked the same. Slacks and suspenders, as usual, but strap one was up and one hung down. She had on two different socks and held one of her wingtips in her hand. Her hair wasn't brushed and her eyes were barely open. There was also the added accessory of the black rimmed glasses that rested on her face, which was something Rachel had never seen before. "I just need to finish..."
At first glance, it seemed like maybe the girl had just overslept, but Rachel took her by the hand and immediately led her to the couch before pressing a hand to Quinn's forehead. "You're running a fever."
"I'm fine." The statement was followed by a series of coughs and a light wheeze.
"Is your mother home?"
"Is she ever?"
Rachel took that to mean that Judy wasn't present. "When does she get back?"
Quinn bent down and tried to put on her shoe. On the wrong foot. "Later. Maybe eight."
That was hours from now. Rachel took the shoe out of Quinn's hand. "You need to rest."
"We need to practice."
"Quinn, you know I value every available moment of preparation of any performance, but we can't dance if you're in a coma. We still have a month before the competition. You can spare an afternoon."
"Fine. You can go." Quinn slowly leaned back until she was huddled in the corner of the sofa.
"I'm not leaving you here by yourself." Rachel grabbed Quinn's feet and pulled them over her lap so she could remove the mismatched socks.
"Then we should practice." Quinn looked like she was thinking about moving, but her body didn't budge. She could barely keep her eyes open, let alone move her legs.
Rachel figured the best way to handle thing was to humor Quinn. "I'm going to get you something to drink and you're going to rest for a minute, then we'll discuss practicing, okay?"
"Mmmkay." Quinn lifted and dropped her head once, in affirmation.
By the time Rachel returned from the kitchen with a Vitamin Water and two Advil she'd found in the cupboard nearest the sink, she had to nudge Quinn awake. "Hey. Take these and then you can go back to sleep, okay?"
"Just for a little bit." Quinn took the pills and a hearty drink of Vitamin Water, before resting her head back against the side of the couch.
"Just a little bit," Rachel assured her. She reached over and pulled the glasses off, then set them on the end table. It was odd, because after the Lucy Caboosey prom poster incident, it was obvious that Quinn must wear glasses, but she'd never once seen her in them. Why would she?
With Quinn stretched out on the couch, Rachel took up residence in one of the armchairs. The Fabrays had the same dish company she had at her house, so she knew how to work the remote. She watched half an episode of Mythbusters before giving in and looking over what was stored on the DVR. Her expectation was that of Fox News shows and maybe a documentary or seven about the life of Jesus. What she found was a Lifetime reality show, some episodes of Seinfeld, and some old movies. One of the movies was Swing Time, an old Rogers and Astaire musical.
Rachel wondered if it was for research. If that was the case, it wouldn't matter if she watched it, right?
Halfway through the movie, she decided she was hungry. She hadn't really eaten before she left and Quinn usually had some kind of protein bars on hand. Before she headed to the kitchen, she carefully rested the back of her hand on Quinn's forehead. She still definitely had a fever, which made sense because it had been, what? An hour?
"Quinn," she said, trying to gently wake the sick girl. "Quinn."
"You should drink more of this." She pressed the bottle into Quinn's hand. "And I'm going to eat something. Do you want anything?"
"Mmmhmm." Quinn brought her arm up and tucked the water bottle against her chest, not unlike a teddy bear.
"Very informative, thank you."
Rachel didn't really mind snooping through the Fabray kitchen, at all. She's already kind of done it when she was looking for the Advil. Anything exciting must have been stored in the bathroom medicine cabinet, because the painkillers were the only altering substance she found.
As for lunch, she settled on a can of vegetable soup. She figured it was something they could both eat, and while she'd never in a million years have considered she'd willingly be making lunch for Quinn, she figured it was only fair since she was foraging through her kitchen.
While Rachel's dads were firmly committed to takeout, she did know how to bake and she certainly knew how to cook soup. Even Finn knew how to cook soup, though in any situation where there was an option to microwave something and there was already a button with a preset time and temperature for it, that was the best way to go with him.
She wondered how he was doing at camp, then realized she hadn't talked to him in over two weeks and hadn't even noticed how long it had been. Apparently, her plan to keep herself busy was working.
As she carried the two mugs of soup back out into the living room (she hoped food was allowed out there, because she didn't need Judy Fabray hunting her down), she found Quinn sitting upright, glasses on, watching the movie that was now unpaused.
"Hey. Want some soup?"
"You watch my movie and then you steal my food?" Quinn's voice was about as smooth as sandpaper, but at least her eyes were open.
"I was trying to make use of rehearsal time. And this is for you." She handed over the soup, then considered if she should sit back in the chair or next to Quinn. The couch was much closer to the coffee table and that seemed to make more sense if she was eating.
She chose the couch.
"You didn't have to do that."
"I was hungry. I figured you were, too."
Quinn just ate her soup and watched the movie. Rachel figured it was better than arguing with each other.
"I like your glasses.
Immediately, Quinn's hand shot up and touched the frames, almost as if she'd forgotten she was wearing them. "Oh. Thanks. I don't... like wearing them around people."
"Why? They suit you."
"Because nerds wear glasses."
"That's a sweeping generalization. It's also inaccurate and based on the assumption that being studious isn't something to be admired."
"I like being studious, just fine. I just don't need to look like it."
"You're never one to hide your academic abilities, Quinn. I'm surprised."
"Can we just not do this? I'm really tired and I appreciate you making sure I don't, like, lapse into hallucinations or whatever, but can just watch the movie?"
After the movie, Quinn insisted she was feeling better and that Rachel could go home. Rachel didn't bother arguing with her, though she did insist that other girl call her at nine.
"Just so I know you're still alive," Rachel explained.
Rachel waited until ten after nine before she called Quinn.
"You were supposed to call me."
"Is your mother home?"
"I don't know. She doesn't really tuck me in."
"Yeah, she's here."
"And you're okay?"
"That's a loaded question."
"I'm positive you're aware of what I meant."
"Yeah. I'm okay."
"I'll see you Monday."
"You make a decent cup of soup."
Rachel knew that was as close to "thank you" as she was going to get.
On Monday, she got a lot more than that. She woke up with a stuffy nose, a headache that wouldn't quit, and none of her limbs seemedd to want to function on command. Around noon, she sent Quinn a text that said: I regret to inform you that, due to illness, I won't be able to attend tonight's practice session.
The return message read: Sorry about that. Get some rest.
At six, Quinn showed up at her house in a flowy cotton skirt and a t-shirt with a mermaid on it. It was different than their rehearsal clothes, but it also wasn't really what she wore at school, either.
Quinn had brought over a copy of Strike Up the Band on DVD. Rachel was pretty sure it was meant to be torture, because being unable to keep her eyes open for Judy Garland was surely a punishable offense. But there seemed to be no repercussions for dozing on and off during the course of the musical.
When Quinn left, she told Rachel to hold on to the movie and watch it with her eyes open later in the week.
On Wednesday, Quinn had to cancel their practice because Judy was sick and didn't want anyone over, so by Saturday, both girls were anxious to resume their routine.
"We're a week behind," Quinn said. They were in the garage, so she was working with the iPod dock instead of the turntable.
"I know. I'm willing to make up the days if you have time."
Quinn nodded. "Not tomorrow, but definitely some days next week." When she was satisfied with her selection, she stepped over to Rachel. "I figure we probably could stand to warm up since we took a week off."
The song was slower than what they usually danced to, and Quinn kept the steps simple so they were fairly close to each other for the duration of the song.
"I was thinking on Thursday we could go out," was something Quinn said to her in the middle of their warm up.
"I'm sorry, what?" Had Quinn just asked her on a date?
"Thursday nights are ballroom dance nights at the community center. It's not swing specific, but working around other people will be good practice."
Of course. A date would be ridiculous. "Oh. Sure, what time?"
"Six. I know you have ball-"
"I can skip it."
Rachel told herself she was eager to rehearse in front of an audience, that the energy of the room would be a good precursor to competition.
She told herself was why she was excited.
She almost believed it.
What are you wearing?
That was the text Rachel received on Thursday, around noon. Her previous experience with similar messages (though, they'd been written with "U" and "R" taking the place of full words) had been from Noah and she'd either ignored them or suggested he find better uses for his texting plan.
In this case, though, the message was from Quinn and she knew it was in regard to their plans for the evening.
Rachel typed out her reply: Green with white polka dots, black waist sash and collar.
Almost immediately, her phone lit up with another message. What color green? Have I seen this one?
No, it's new. Rachel had gone shopping earlier in the week for clothes in general. It wasn't as if she'd planned to buy something specific for their night out at the community center where all of the other attendees were likely over the ago of sixty. But when she spotted the dress, she pictured herself in it, sliding away from Quinn, then being pulled back, again.
You didn't answer about the color.
She considered taking a picture of the dress, but there was something about the formality of the evening and Quinn's appreciation of tradition that suggested she wanted to save the reveal for later. Instead, she snapped an image from close up, so the coloring was evident, but that was all. This color.
That was the last thing Rachel heard from Quinn until the doorbell rang at five-thirty, on the dot.
Rachel expected to find Quinn in the same outfit she'd been wearing at every rehearsal. She still wasn't sure if it was the same actual clothes every time or if Quinn had multiple pairs of black dress slacks and t-shirts.
When she opened the door, she wasn't greeted with the sight of those white suspenders, pulled up, hanging down, or otherwise.
Quinn still wore the black slacks and wingtips, but her upper half was clad in a white oxford shirt with the sleeves rolled to her elbows, a black vest, and a green and black striped tie that coordinated perfectly to a certain dress. Her hands were occupied with rotating a fedora between them.
"You look-" They'd both spoken at the same time.
For maybe the first time ever, Rachel paused to let Quinn speak first.
"You look really great. That's a good color on you." It was a genuine compliment from Quinn Fabray to Rachel Berry and it sent Rachel mouth into ramble-mode.
"It's convenient that it suits me because I truly hope to wear this color on Broadway, one day. I can only hope Wicked runs that long." Rachel realized she was off-topic. "You look quite dashing."
Quinn's eyebrow raised and for a moment, Rachel worried she'd said the wrong thing. Instead, an arm was offered to her and Quinn asked, "Are you ready?"
She slipped her arm through Quinn's and let the other girl guide her down the walk. "Do you plan to wear that hat or are you just going to carry it around all night?"
"I'm not sure, yet."
"May I see it on you?" Rachel released Quinn's arm as they neared the car.
Quinn opened the passenger door and stood on the opposite side while she waited for Rachel to sit down. "I just have to take it back off when I get in the car, anyway."
Rachel, however, remained standing until Quinn sighed and dropped the hat onto her head. The shorter girl smiled and said, "Now you're also dapper, in addition to dashing." She casually slipped into the seat and Quinn carefully shut the door behind her.
When Quinn opened the driver's side door, she tossed the fedora into the car so it landed on Rachel's lap. "Hold that for me."
On the drive to the community center, they discussed their plan for more make up rehearsals. They were three weeks away from the competition and tonight would be a good point of reference for how much more work they needed to do. Even though it was just traditional ballroom dance, they were hoping for an opportunity to showcase some of their moves. Yesterday's practice had been dedicated to a small routine they had worked out, just for this occasion.
When Quinn parked, she shut off the ignition and exited the car so quickly, Rachel assumed there was something wrong. Then the passenger door opened for her and she realized this was all part of the presentation, the tradition Quinn liked so much. On all her previous dates (not that this was one), even the ones with Jesse, there had never been a hand waiting to help her out of the car.
"I suppose I need to add chivalrous to the list." Rachel reached up and set the hat back on Quinn's head, and lightly tugged on the brim until she was satisfied with the placement. She tried to ignore the sudden fluttery feeling she got when she noticed the slight half-smile on the taller girl's face.
"Despite your reputation, I'll admit that you're well-versed in your etiquette."
"That might be the second nicest thing you've said to me all night. Or ever."
Quinn did that thing where she didn't reply and just tugged Rachel toward the recreation hall.
They were good at this. Really good at it.
The more formal dance steps kept them busy thinking about their feet and not much else, so their conversation was limited. But they moved well. So well, in fact, they'd been complimented three different times by the older couples.
The band was on a short break and Quinn had been eyeing the snack table since they'd walked in.
"No one's going to judge you if you eat a sugar cookie," Rachel said.
"I don't need it."
"Nobody needs cookies. That's why people like them."
"My ass doesn't need it."
"All this dancing and you're worried about the impact of a single cookie?"
"Will you eat half?"
"If that's what takes for you to stop ogling the dessert spread, I will."
Quinn grabbed one of the store bought iced cookies and broke it into two pieces. "Here." She promptly took a bite and a moment of peace seemed to pass over her, as if she'd been waiting forever for the opportunity.
"It's okay to like food, Quinn."
"Not in my house." She took another bite. "This is good, but I like yours better."
Rachel felt a slight flush on her cheeks, which was silly. Lots of people liked her cookies. "Thanks."
The band returned and there was so specific dance style for the next few slower songs. The girls watched several of the dance couples freely sway to the music.
"You know," Rachel found herself speaking up, "my first real slow dance was supposed to be at prom, with Jesse. But I was either performing or the other songs happened after he got kicked out."
"You danced after that. We all did."
"I know. I just always imagined it differently, I suppose."
"Yeah, well. I think none of us imagined prom was going to happen the way it did."
"I'm not talking about this, right now."
Rachel nodded. She should have know better, by now, than to bring things up at the wrong time. "I shouldn't have-"
"Come on." Quinn's hand wrapped around her wrist and pulled her back onto the dance floor.
"This song's a little slow for our freestyle, isn't it?"
"Improvise." One hand settled on Rachel's waist and their other hands clasped together.
"I can do that." It was more comfortable than she imagined it would be. Though her heart rate seemed to be more rapid than usual. "Thank you."
Quinn rolled her eyes, though it was mild compared to the standard look she issued to most people in annoyance. "Rachel, just shut up and dance." The delivery was quiet, something like a stage whisper, but with more sincerity.
Rachel complied and leaned in a little closer than was necessary, but Quinn didn't object when the brunette head rested against her shoulder and didn't move until two songs later when the band picked up the pace.
She looked up at Quinn, who had something of an unreadable look on her face. "I'm just going to get something to drink, then maybe we can show off a little?"
"Do you want anything?"
Quinn shook her head and stuffed her hands in her pockets as they headed to the edge of the dance floor. "No, thanks."
Rachel bypassed the punchbowl (too sugary) and joined a short line of people waiting for the watercooler that stood in the corner of the room.
While she waited, the woman behind her leaned in and said, "You two make quite a pair. How long have you been together?"
Rachel turned and smiled at her. She loved compliments from total strangers. "Only a few weeks. But we've been in the same show choir for two years."
"That is just too sweet. Well, you two should come back, because we could use some young blood around here."
"Thank you. We're certainly having a delightful time. I'll see if I can drag her back out, again. This was her idea in the first place, so it shouldn't be difficult." It was Rachel's turn, so she stepped up and filled her small paper cone with water, then gave the woman a small wave as she sought out Quinn.
"Can I have some of that water?" Quinn asked, the moment Rachel approached her.
"Quinn, I asked you before I went over there."
"I just need a sip."
Rachel reluctantly handed over the water. "We have another fan. And we're invited back whenever we want."
"It's a community center, we don't need an invitation."
"The sentiment is nice, though."
"I guess." Quinn crushed up the now empty paper cup and tossed it into the nearby trashcan.
Quinn looked at the trash can, then back at Rachel. "Sorry."
"I should make you replace it."
"Yeah, okay." Quinn began to move away, but Rachel grabbed her hand.
"Not now. Because this song is perfect for us." With her hand still wrapped around Quinn's, she stepped onto the dance floor. "But later, you owe me."
They didn't do anything too outrageous in their dance number. They weren't Brittany and Mike, but they were definitely well rehearsed and when they weren't doing specific moves, Rachel was very in-tune with Quinn and able to easily follow her. She wasn't sure if that meant Quinn was predictable or that they'd developed some kind of a bond. Maybe it was a little of both.
When the song ended, the room broke into applause. Even though it was the praise of senior citizens, Rachel took what she could get. "Thank you so much! We'll be competing at the regional swing dance competition on August twenty-seventh," she announced. Given the chance, she would have also given the address of the Facebook page for the event, but Quinn dragged her out of the spotlight before she could. "I wasn't finished..."
"You need to learn to quit while you're ahead, Rachel." Quinn shook her head, but she also laughed.
"Was it too much?"
"A little. Here." They were standing in front of the watercooler and Quinn handed her another paper cone full of water.
"What if I want something else?"
"You told me to replace it. You had water."
"Maybe I want a milkshake."
"I guess you're off the hook for now, then."
The woman from earlier passed by them and looked from Rachel to Quinn then back to Rachel before giving her a wink. It was then that Rachel realized maybe the woman hadn't been asking about how long they'd been together as dance partners.
Which was silly, because that was all they were.
There was no reason to think otherwise.
They had two weeks to go and were still a day behind from the week they were both sick. It was late Friday afternoon and Rachel had called Quinn twice to see if she wanted to rehearse, but there had been no answer. Her dads were out on their weekly movie date, so she decided she wanted to go to Target, then pick up some thai food, because that was what Rachel Berry did on a Friday night when she didn't have plans (which was often, especially when she was single).
Dudley Road was on the way, so she figured she'd just drive by and see if maybe Quinn was home. It was possible that bordered on stalking, but it wasn't like Rachel cared (or had a clean record to avoid tarnishing).
Quinn's car was parked in its usual spot and the living room lights were on. Briefly, Rachel contemplated just driving away and carrying on with her evening, but if Quinn was home by herself, maybe she wanted company. And if she didn't, she'd just tell Rachel to go home. She could handle that.
As she knocked on the door, she could hear Stardust playing from what she assumed was the turntable, though she didn't recognize this particular version's piano accompaniment. There was no answer to the door, so she check to see if it was locked. It wasn't.
"Hello?" she called as she peeked her head into the house. "Quinn?" Carefully, she stepped inside and shut the door behind her.
The piano part of the song stopped, but the rest continued.
"That's a good way to get punched," called out a voice from the living room.
Rachel rounded the corner and found Quinn sitting at the piano, drinking out of the glass that generally sat on the coaster. The last strains of Stardust played out and the record needle slipped out of the final groove, giving a few more pops before the record player automatically stopped spinning.
"I... saw the light on."
"From your house?"
"From the street." She set her purse on the coffee table and brushed her hands over her plaid skirt. "I was going to Target."
The ice in Quinn's glass clinked as she dropped it away from her face. "You want something to drink?" She seemed different than usual.
Rachel took a look at the contents of the glass. "I'm assuming you still don't have ginger ale?"
"Seven and seven. It's an old man drink, but I like it."
"Quinn, are you drunk?"
Quinn shrugged and rose from the piano bench, bringing her red cheer shorts and Christ Crusaders t-shirt into view. "Does it matter?"
Rachel had always heard it was bad to drink alone. "Are you okay?"
"Did you come over here to ask me questions all night?"
"I wanted to see if you had time to practice. But you seem-"
"Right. Practice. Because that's what we do." Quinn shoved the glass into Rachel's hand and turned around to put on a new record.
Rachel took a small sip of the cocktail, but she was not a fan of whiskey in any form. "How can you stand this stuff?" She set the drink down.
"Same way I stand anything, I don't think about it, too hard." Quinn smiled at the Harry James record she pulled from the stack and set it on the player.
"Starting out slow, again?" Rachel said, one the song started.
"You're the one saying I'm drunk. Probably shouldn't be throwing you around the room, then." Quinn waved her closer. "Come on. I'm not dancing with myself."
There was something about the music that was familiar, like it was an instrumental version of something she knew, but Rachel couldn't place it. She settled into position while Quinn mostly just swayed to the music.
"Would you still have come over if we didn't need to practice?"
"I..." Rachel wasn't sure how to answer. The dance rehearsals had given her a reason to come over and without them, why would she assume that Quinn even wanted her to come by. "Would you want me to?"
"That wasn't an answer." Quinn's hands pulled her closer and Rachel really had no choice but to drape her arms over her dance partner's shoulders.
"Neither was that."
"I asked first."
"Well you- You Made Me Love You! That's the song! I'm just familiar with the Judy Garland rec-"
Quinn tasted a little bit like whiskey, but it was much more tolerable this way. Which was the way where her lips were pressed against Rachel's. That was all she got, though. A taste. Because then Quinn pushed away and rested her elbows on the piano, her back to Rachel.
"Quinn, there's nothing to ap-"
"That wasn't supposed to happen."
"You should go."
"We can talk about it."
Quinn pivoted around. "There's nothing to talk about. It's..." She looked down at her shorts and t-shirt. "You know why I made you change that first day?"
"Into the dress? Yes. For movement. You told me."
"Well, it was crap."
"It actually made a lot of sense."
"Can you just stop talking for five seconds?" Quinn shot back.
Rachel was somewhat inclined to tell Quinn to watch her tone, but a lot had just happened, so she let it go. For now. "Please, continue." She was also incredibly curious to find out what Quinn was trying to say.
"If we're dressed up, if we're in costume, then we're just playing roles. It's not really us. And whatever we do... it's fine, because it's a show."
There was enough of a pause for Rachel to assume it was safe for her to talk. "Even though we're alone for all of our rehearsal time?"
Quinn nodded. "Especially then."
"But I'm not pretending to be anyone else when I'm here. As much as I treated this as a role when I auditioned, it's always been me dancing with you."
"I know." Quinn swallowed and rubbed her bare foot across the carpet. "That's what's freaking me out."
"Are you saying you haven't been yourself all those times?"
Quinn shook her head. "No."
"No, you have, or, no, you haven't?" Rachel couldn't help the slight lilt in her voice, because it was a little bit funny.
It was enough to break the ice a little, because Quinn said. "I... no, I have."
"So, then what's the problem?"
"I just really need to win this thing, okay? I don't want to screw it up."
"I kind of just want to be by myself, okay?"
That part, Rachel didn't understand so much. But she left, anyway.
The next day, Quinn was the same as she was at every other rehearsal, but she wasn't much for small talk. With the pressure of the competition hanging over them, Rachel didn't really care. She wanted to win as much as Quinn did, so she was willing to focus on dancing and nothing else.
Still, there was a tension between them. Not like the kind they used to have, where it felt like Quinn was waiting for the ideal moment to claw out Rachel's eyes. It was more like a sadness. She chalked it up to the fact that the summer was ending and once the competition was over, they wouldn't be hanging out, anymore.
But that was ridiculous. If anything, they'd gotten to know each other better, so why would they stop being around each other?
She told herself she wanted to talk to Quinn about it, but suddenly the competition date was looming in front of them and they still hadn't had a conversation.
"We should talk," was the first thing out of her mouth when she opened the door to find Quinn on the porch, ready to take her to the dance contest.
"We can talk in the car."
They'd decided to go with black and white as a theme. Quinn wore the same pants and vest she wore to the community center, but with a black button up, instead of white. This time a white tie hung hung around her neck and provided just the right amount of contrast. It all perfectly coordinated with Rachel's black and white polka dot dress, though she was wearing red shoes for flair.
"Hold on." Rachel put a hand on Quinn's arm to keep her from moving. "Don't move," she said as she pinned a red carnation to the vest.
"Presentation is key, right?"
Just like before, Quinn was all chivalry and manners. Rachel really needed to have this conversation with her, but the entire drive was take up with reviews of moves and a little mutual pep talk.
After they signed in, there was still a half an hour before the competition began, plus they were number eight, which meant there were seven acts to go before them. Rachel figured this was probably her best window if she wanted to get this out before they performed. Though, she wondered if she would wait until afterward, because she didn't want anything she said to impact their routine.
"I know it was you," Quinn said, before Rachel even had a chance to decide what she was doing.
They were sitting side-by-side in the least comfortable metal folding chairs of all time.
"What was me?"
"Considering you watched me put it on that-"
"Not that one."
Gardenia. With a light green ribbon wrapped around it to match her eyes. "How?"
"People suck at keeping secrets around here."
"Is that what you're worried about?"
Rachel turned to face Quinn. "Tonight doesn't have to be the last time you dance with me. We can always go back to the community center. They already think we're..."
"I know. One of them gave me twenty dollars to take you out to a nice dinner."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because you would have made me take you out to dinner."
"Quinn Fabray. You're a con artist." Rachel shook her head, both annoyed and amused. But she needed to stay on track. "But, this thing with us... it doesn't have to stop."
"What is this thing with us?"
"What do you want it to be?"
"Can you ever just answer a question?"
Quinn leaned forward in her seat. "I want it to be..." She took in a slow breath, then let it out. "I want it to be the kind of thing where it doesn't matter if we win this or not."
"That would mean this whole summer was just... for us."
Rachel nodded. "Yeah."
This time, Quinn tasted like Carmex and Doublemint gum. This time, Rachel had a chance to actually savor the moment, because it wasn't over in half a second. It lasted at least ten full seconds before she pulled back.
"But, you still want to kick ass at this thing, right?"
Quinn nodded. "God, yes. Of course, I do. I'm not insane."
They spent their prize money on more records and vintage clothing. In the end, the albums ended up getting more play than the outfits.