"Seriously Rachel? No." Santana shook her head as she watched Brittany stand up high on her toes and stretch her arms high. Her grace was something that the latina had always found alluring.
"I'm not asking you to do anything crazy. I'm just worried about her okay? I know you are too. If Britt wasn't so focused on her recital, she'd see it too. She always sees a change before we do..."
"You don't get it. We only ever talk about stuff like this when we're drunk. You want me to get her drunk?" Santana rolled her head along the back of the chair, gazing at Rachel languidly.
Rachel stretched and rolled her fingers, flicking quick jazz hands before rubbing her thumb firmly on her palm. She was becoming frustrated at the situation. The blonde had been different. For months now. The three of them, her best friends, had become accustomed to her new look and her new outlook on life without too much trouble. But this new problem...it was slowly hurting Rachel and Santana both. The singer thought that maybe Britt knew more than she was saying; and though the upcoming contemperary dance recital was taking alot of the dancer's time, Rachel somtimes caught her gazing at the singer with something akin to pity and understanding in her eyes.
"Rachel, wake up. How do you think I should do this?"
"Don't try and get her drunk. We may find out what's wrong, but she will undoubtedly shut us out afterward. That's not what I want."
Santana watched as Brittany spun on one foot elegantly.
"I'm going to talk to B. She won't wanna say anything, but this is some serious shit and I'm almost positive she knows what's going on and isn't telling me."
"Ok. I'll leave it up to you. I trust you, Santana. Please help her."
"I've got it Rachel."
They were quiet for the last ten minutes of Brittany's practice, watching her be beautiful as always. The singer's brow furrowed during that time, as she rubbed circles onto her palm with her left thumb trying to calm herself. All she could think about was Quinn. Quinn and the way she'd been looking at the little brunette lately. With nothing but pain and something else in her eyes the brunette couldn't place. They were always the same, those hazel eyes. Peircing, but empty of almost any joy. On the occasions when Quinn blessed Rachel with a smile it was so much worse. There was something so...wrong about it. A ghost of a smile that belonged to a woman that Rachel couldn't say she knew.
"Rae? Wake up. Hey...hey. Don't fret. It'll be fine" She was flashed an encouraging smile by Brittany, who crouched down in front of her, seperating her hands and holding them as she pulled her from her wall seat.
Santana placed a quick kiss to Brittany's sweaty temple as she handed her a freshly retrieved bottle of water from the machine.
Soon all three girls were piled into Rachel's Volt and on the way to the singer's house for dinner and a girls night. Quinn wouldn't arrive till nine, she'd gone to Cincinnatti for a photography trip.
In around fifteen minutes they walked in the door and Brittany ran up the stairs to Santana's room to take a shower.
"Sure. Why don't you go ahead and order? I'm going to go put my things away."
"Hey, this shit is going to be fine." Santana said when she got off the phone and Rachel had come back.
Rachel stopped on ther first stair, only her right foot rested there as she spoke. Soon she sat down on it.
"You can't say that. You don't know that. Don't you see, Tana? It's all I think about now. I can't focus. All I can think about is how she looks at me. Like...like she's given up on something." Rachel closed her eyes and slowly ran her hands through her hair, looking next to her at Santana who now sat next to her.
Brittany came quietly down the stairs after a few moments of silence, sitting in between the two.
"I just...I want her to be happy again. I want her to have that confidence and walk down the halls with that smirk on her face all day. I want her to smile. Really smile."
"Tell her Rae. If you don't tell San why, she won't really be able to help Q." The tall dancer rubbed calming circles on the crying girls back, wiping her tears away with the pad of her thumb.
2 Hours Later
When Quinn walked into the house later that evening to see Santana sitting at the kitchen island waiting for her with a hot plate of food, a cold drink, and a frown on her face, suffice to say she was more than a little bit confused. She dropped her overnight bag in a vacant living room and sat down in front of the latina, digging in to her pasta and then sipping some of her drink before speaking.
"What is it?"
"I need to talk to you. Ask you some hypothetical questions. I'd prefer you stay, answer those questions and say what ever you feel you need to. I want you, as my friend, Quinn...to be completely, really, honest with me. Ok? Can you do that?" the latina asked. She was leaned forward confidently, all ten of her fingertips meeting as she rested her elbows on the island.
Quinn stared deep into the brunettes eyes, searching for the truth of the situation, but nodded.
"Ok. So let me ask a question." Santana had thought this idea was ridiculous when Brittany mentioned it after they had finally lulled a crying Rachel to sleep. But then, they weren't really together. When the dancer dumped Artie, the two had decided to truly become best friends again before they decided to take it any further. And although they had finally decided to take that step a few days ago, Quinn had been in Cincinnatii all that time, so she wouldn't know.
Quinn nodded quietlly, chewing her garlic bread.
"If I told you I was considering dating Barb, what would you say? Remember, Q...honesty." Santana watched as the photographer tried not to spit out her food at the question. But she composed herself quickly enough.
"I would say that I thought you and Brit Brit were pretty close to being official. And that I hope this isn't some type of joke. I would ask you if you were serious." She push her half eaten food away and sat back in her chair.
"Me and Britt did say that if we were considering dating someone else or had feelings for someone we would tell eachother. It's not a joke. And yes, I'm serious."
"I'd say that you should think about if you really care about her like that. You can't play with her heart. You can't hurt her. She pretends that the things people say...that we used to say...don't hurt her. But they do. They tear her up inside. Because this house was empty without us. If this is a fleeting feeling or you just want a good fuck I'm telling you to stay away."
"I'm serious, Q. I really care about her." Now that Santana thought about it, she was a pretty damn good actress. But this was no lie.
"But do you love her? Really love her? Are you in love with her? If the answers are no then so is mine. Because I won't let another person come into her life, to say they love her, and just leave. Because that's what hurts her most. Her mother left her twice, her fucking useless fathers, Finn, Puck, Jesse St. Asshole. Did you think about that? Because all along there we were, tearing her down, calling her stupid names that didn't even apply to her. You remember the weight she lost after freshman year. We had taken to calling her fat. And bam...she lost it. Maybe she thought that's why people left her" Quinn had a scowl on her face, and she leant in aggresively.
"You're talking like she's yours." Santana spoke honestly.
"She's not mine, I'm hers. You get my point. This was either a bad joke or an attempt on getting me to open up. Well done, Santana."
"Are you open?" she stared in to her friends eyes and the answer was obvious.
"Then tell me, what the hell is going on with you?"
"It's just hit me again...so, so much harder this time, that she's meant to leave this place and I'm not. All three of you are going to be accepted into Juliard when you apply and me...I'll be stuck at OSU or Cinncinatti or something, trying as hard as I can not to marry any tall, idiotic, quarterbacks." They both laughed at this, Quinn bitterly.
"You're being stupid."
"We all go to those photography gallery openings and shit with you in Chicago and Cinci. And I've never seen a photographer better than you. Never. Just think about this. You've got a 3.8 gpa, Q. You can get into any school you put your mind to. Plus the both of us are badass actresses."
The former blonde nodded her head thoughtfully.
"But forget all that for now. I need you to be honest about Rachel Q. I'm sure you know I've already assumed that you love her. That's why you've been acting like this?" Santana was talking completely normal again and it felt good, though part of all that was part of her, she exagerated it ridiculously.
"How've I been acting?"
"You barely ever smile anymore. When you do, it's only at her...and only when she's singing or talking about Streisand, broadway, new york, or something. And it's always so sad. She said there's always pain in your eyes when you smile at her."
"I'm afraid, S. I just...I love her. If I'm not good enough to get out of here I'll be just another person who told her how much they love her and then dissapeared from her life. I can't be with her and then be stuck here when you all go. I can't deal with that. I thought that if I just let it pass, these feelings, that it would be better in the long run. But I can't not be in love with Rachel. I just can't."
She talks about it, broadway and New York and Julliard...and love her for it even more...and I try to smile because i'm so happy that she's going to make it...but it kills me that I won't be there..." Tears ran freely from hazel eyes now and Santana wondered how many more crying women she'd be holding before the end of the night."
The latina pulls Quinn to her chest and lets her cry for twenty minutes before she's just sniffling.
"Listen Q. You gotta pull your shit together and do what you gotta to get to New York. Because this thing is breaking her too. Okay?" They heard creaking of the floor above their heads and the steps were so light they had to be Rachel's. Santana wiped a few tears from the pink haired girls face, seeing that she was wearing no makeup and was as beautiful as she always was.
As she was backing away to take out the trash, Santana nodded slowly. "You have to tell her."
When Rachel reached the bottom of the stairs she looked around and found the former blonde loading the dishes into the washer.
"Quinn you're home." the tiny brunette threw herself rather quickly into arms which closed around her gently.
"Missed you Rach. There's alot to explain, but I have something really simple to tell you first." They walked to the couch in the living room and as soon as the taller girl sat them down, the singer curled into her. They heard Santana come back in and head up the stairs and to her room.
"I'm in love with you, Rachel." the former blonde placed a soft kiss to the brunettes head and hugged the girl closer.
"I can't understand why you didn't just say it. I love you Quinn. I wouldn't have said no." She said, tangling their fingers together.
"That was the problem. I didn't want to be another person to hurt you because I said goodbye. I know now that I have a chance of getting out of this place with you. But before tonight...I thought I'd be stuck here."
"I would have never left you here. I've been finding it exceedingly difficult living without you being yourself lately. I don't know how I'd live without you with me at all."
"I know. I'm sorry, Rach." Soft and slow, the photographer laid her lips on the singer's.
"Will you hold me while I sleep tonight, Quinn?"
"Yea. I can do that. Come on." She pulled them up and Rachel walked behind her as they entered the singer's room.
Rachel layed down on the left side of the bed and helped the taller girl pull off and toss from the bed all her clothing until she wore nothing more than a pair of black lace panties. When the brunette was in similar dress, Quinn curled around her, holding her gently, but tight, as they both faded off into sleep.
The next day when the pink hair girl handed the brunette a folder with the words family on the cover, she opened it and investigated each carefully captured image before turning a page. It was after she'd finished that she began to understand how Quinn had seen things. Images of her, Brittany, and Santana. None of the photographer herself. So, that afternoon, they'd set up the timer and taken a photo of the whole family together.
A year or so later, in a two bedroom apartment Manhattan, that photo hung on the wall. A ghost of a real, joyful smile on Quinn's face.