Busy life is busy. Also, I put off writing this because I don't like writing endings. Anyhow, thank you all for reading, reviews, and favorites. Do enjoy and you might be seeing the Fabray triplets return. Thanks again.

Part VIII

Dana leaned against the brick of the convenient store, finger tapping impatiently on the elbow of her crossed arms as she waited. The morning was already a blaze of a coming summer heat, but Dana ignored it. She'd ignore anything if it got her out of Breakfast at home.

She was glad to be home. She was happy to be just a trip across the hall from Charlie, but she never dared cross those boundaries. Just like she didn't dare bring her eyes up to meet her mother's during late dinners, and just like she tried to leave as early as possibly after breakfast and stay out as late as she could to avoid the awkward tension.

The looks Judy gave her set Dana off. They slithered down her back and sprouted off into her stomach and into her chest with an array of feelings. She could see the pleading apology, and she could feel the overwhelming sadness. She could sense the discomfort Judy had every time she saw Dana and Charlie in the same room and she could almost hear the shocked gasp when they'd accidently brush by each other.

She could even pick all of it up when Judy tried to remain neutral when she came into Dana's room a couple nights ago asking,

"Dana, may I speak with you," Dana had no other choice but to nod and allow her mother to walk into her room. A room that Dana still felt like a guest in. "This is hard for me," she had gone on.

Dana didn't hesitate. "I'm in love with her, mom,"

Judy looked down into her lap, smoothing out her blouse as she recovered from that slap. "You know how I feel about this,"

"If you didn't want me to stay, you could've let me go."

"What kind of mother would I be?" Both pairs of eyes flickered up, meeting with the same unspoken words between them. What kind of mother was she to let her be taken away in the first place? To let Russell put his hands on them that way and bruise their skin?

It was there, the question that Dana had asked herself so many times, but then she remembered. She remembered the control Russell had on Judy and on all of them. Regardless, it still hurt Dana. It made her want to run up to the woman and scream in her face to open her eyes, and make her get over her fears and take action. But Judy had, in that the last moment, she had come through when Dana hadn't been expecting. And maybe that - that small thing - would heal the wounds her mother had left on her years ago.

"I was never aware of the things your father was doing behind my back. Had I known I-"

"Mom," Dana said, softly. "Can we- When you stood up to dad-" she gritted her teeth, frustration washing over her at her inability to speak. It had been that way when Judy asked her to tell her everything. From the night Russell found out to her return to Lima. She had tripped over her words and fumbled over everything.

Dana shifted her weight, leaning against her room door. She hadn't felt right to sit in the chair at the vanity. It was too close to Judy and she wasn't sure how close she could get yet.

"Why now?" she asked and looked away before she could see the instant drop of her mother's face that had always been done up to its optimum best with not a single flaw.

Dana had been seeing those hidden flaws in the past couple of days. She could see them just as plain as she saw them on each of their faces. The Fabray's were a broken wreck and it was almost impossible for them to keep up the façade of being together.

Judy kept her eyes away. "Even parents have huge regrets, sweetheart,"

"Does that mean you cared?"

"I have always cared about you," Big, blue eyes found Dana appalled. She almost felt sorry for even asking it. "All of you."

"But never me as much as Charlotte and Quinn,"

"Dana-"

"Mom," Dana looked up into watery eyes, feeling her own wanting to do the same. She blinked them back, tongue running along her bottom lip to distract from the unshed tears. "Can I ask you one thing?"

"Anything," there was no hesitation and because of it, Dana regretted even bringing it up.

"Do you- I see the way you look at me. I know it's wrong but," her eyes fell, staring down at the floor in distaste. They had even changed the carpet in her room. She gritted her teeth. "Do you think I'm disgusting?"

The room fell silent just as Dana expected it to. She had already accepted the silence as the answer. That, yes, Judy thought she was vial. She might've had her heartbroken over the mistreatment Dana had received, but that didn't keep the bile from lifting in her throat at the thought of her.

But then Judy broke the silence. "Do you think that you are?"

"That's not an answer,"

Judy sighed, folded hands clenching tighter in her lap. "Do you think what you and Charlie have is disgusting? I know you think it's wrong, and I won't lie and say I approve or find it okay, but do you think what you feel for Charlie is vial?"

Immediately, "No," and she believed that.

It was wrong, it was something that never should've sparked between them, but it never felt like something dirty. It felt pure, and fresh, and sweet. She had only love for Charlie that was the one thing that kept her going. People could say what they wanted and Dana could tell herself a thousand times that they shouldn't have done what they did, but none of that could keep her from feeling the way she did.

Judy's hands relaxed where they sat on her lap. Dana shifted her eyes away from them to look back at the floor. "Then I will do my best to try and see it as such."

"Don't lie to me," Dana said, quickly forcing herself to look into Judy's face. "I can't take it anymore. Not from you."

"Having my daughters back is more important to me." Judy winced, her eyes fluttering to keep tears from streaming down her face. She sniffed once, pushing off the bed and headed for the door. "Welcome home, Dana,"

Judy gave her a small smile before walking out of the room. Dana fell back into her mattress, feeling her heart give a tiny swell at the tiny welcome home. But still, she could see the torn guilt and burden Judy carried for the husband Dana knew she wished she would've acted against sooner. But she hadn't, and because of it, they were all subject to the horrible mess that was Judy.

As if Dana, Charlie, and Quinn were any better. It was in those moments where the tension was too great and the atmosphere was claustrophobic with anguish and stress that Dana needed out. She just needed out and she sometimes wished she still had Shelby's place to call a home. If only because it was close to home and it was a place she could think and not feel like she was imposing on a family that felt she was adopted into instead of a family that should've been there all along.

Dana pushed off the wall as the scraggily truck driver she had emptied her pockets to, giving all her money and a near full pack of gum, came around the corner with a plastic bag. He handed it to her, sipping out of a can of red bull.

"Thanks," she said, counting the packs of cigarettes.

"Tell Mak I said hey,"

"Uh huh," Dana waved back to him, stuffing the bag in her backpack and hurried off towards Mak's place with the collateral.

Dana knocked and was greeted with a long look down Mak's nose as she unwrapped a stick of Wrigley's and started chewing. "You must got some big cojones to come here."

Dana rolled her eyes. She had avoided the Skanks since she found her pink hair swirling in a pool of dirty, toilet water. But Mak was different. Mak left her high horse when she wasn't around Ronnie or Sheila. Mak was easy to manipulate.

"I need a ride," she said.

Mak snorted and popped her gum, leaning against the doorjamb. "And I want to win the lottery,"

"It's your lucky day," Dana slung her bag around, digging for the bag of cigarettes and tossed it into the Skank's chest. Mak dug out the four packs with a smirk of satisfaction. "Your sleazy truck driver says hey."

She nodded, rolling up the plastic bag around the precious cigarettes. "Let me get my stuff,"

"I'm not going to school," Dana informed her. Mak shrugged, disappearing inside before emerging with her bag and keys.

Dana kept her eyes out the window, her mind hardly registering the usual smacking coming from the diver's seat or the heavy cloud of smoke disrupting her vision. Her attention was drawn to the intimidating building of Carmel High

drawing closer and closer until the car was pulled to the curb on the street and she climbed out of the car without a backwards glance.

Shifting her bag on her shoulder, Dana hurried across the street, walking down the long sidewalk until she reached a side door and snuck inside. Eyes of students snapped to her instantly and Dana cursed her pink hair. Either that or her face because she was sure half the Carmel student body knew whom she belonged to with that face.

She kept on, keeping a quick pace and following the signs that led her to the auditorium. She could hear the music playing from the early morning rehearsal before she even opened the door.

Dana was presented with a vast theatre, lights dimmed except for the ones beaming onto the stage where Vocal Adrenaline rehearsed. In the house, Dana saw Shelby sitting at a table, leaned back in her chair. She called out something to the group that had each mouth yank back into smiles that glittered in the spotlights.

She walked slowly down the aisle, getting to Shelby's row and took to a chair a couple seats down from the instructor just as the number ended.

"Guys, you're slacking. We are not slackers. Are any of you slackers?" Shelby sounded bored and irritated as she spoke into the table mic. No one said a word. "I didn't think so. Do it again, and this time, don't make me have to tell you to smile. Smile people. Be the cure for cancer."

"Assertive," Dana snipped a measure into the music intro as the dancers began to move again.

Shelby did a double take before her eyes widened, taking her in. "Dana," Shelby gaped. "What're you doing here?"

She shrugged, moving from the seat she was in to take the one next to Shelby. She could feel chocolate eyes watching her every move. "I'm back home,"

"That's good?" Shelby asked, uncertain. Dana nodded. It was good, in a way. It was very good but then it wasn't. "I'm glad to hear."

They fell silent. Dana looked away from Shelby's unsure gaze, as if she was preparing herself for Dana to lash out again. She stayed quiet, watching as the performance on stage winded down to the end and Shelby peeled her eyes away from Dana to dismiss the group just in time for them to get changed and make it to first period.

With the last shuffle of feet exiting, Dana took a breath. "I came to apologize,"

Shelby paused in straightening a stack of sheet music. "You really didn't-"

"Just accept it," Dana pressed.

"Apology accepted," Shelby smiled sadly, stuffing the papers into a folder. The first bell sounded in the hall as she turned to face Dana. "How are things at home?"

Dana hesitated.

Things at home would never revert back to how they were. Too many things had changed. Too much had happened. They weren't the same triplets that they had been before. They each carried a weight that was only intensified by Russell not being there and Dana still felt the coldness to her return. Though Charlie accepted her with open arms and Quinn gave her tiny, apologetic smiles here and there, a distance still resonated in the house.

Her room wasn't really her room any more. Her seat at the dining table wasn't really her seat. Her turn in line for the shower felt out of place. Nothing seemed right.

"They're fine," Shelby pursed her lips and Dana faltered. "Things suck. Better?"

"Hardly," Shelby deadpanned. She yanked a satchel off the floor to put away various folders of sheet music. "You didn't have to leave. I shouldn't have pushed you the way I did knowing your home situation wasn't good."

Dana snorted. "If that doesn't scream pedophile,"

"Dana, please," Shelby sighed, fingers pressing against her temples. "I wasn't trying to run you out,"

"Yeah," she muttered, kicking the chair in front of her with a converse.

Dana refused to meet Shelby's eyes that looked down at her in concern. She didn't want Shelby to know how much it had hurt to be pushed out of another place. Though this time it had been productive. She had been let back inside, but Shelby's place still felt like that place of salvation to her. And Shelby was still that woman who took her in and treated her like a normal person and she missed that.

Shelby cleared her throat, getting up from the table with her things. "I have to get to my class,"

Dana pulled up her legs to let Shelby walk by. "Is it cool if I hang out here for a while?"

"As if skipping school isn't bad enough, you're not even a student here. You can get into a lot of trouble."

"I won't tell if you don't," Dana smirked.

Shaking her head, Shelby slid a key off the ring and tossed it to Dana. "There's a dressing room backstage. As long as you're out before the end of the day-"

Dana snatched the key up off the floor where it had fallen out of her hands. "No one's going to find out about us,"

"Dana!" Shelby ticked just as the late bell rang. "Just leave the key on this table when you leave."

"Right," Dana got up, slinging her own bag over her shoulder. Her eyes scanned the giant auditorium she was sure was bigger than McKinley's by far. Dana could get lost in this place. "Carmel's nice,"

Shelby's eyebrow tweaked. "It's not too far from where you live,"

"I'd need a car,"

"That's what buses are for," Shelby laughed, making her way up the aisle. "As long as you don't think you're getting as much as a try out for Vocal Adrenaline, I don't see why not."

"Please," Dana rolled her eyes, hoping onto the stage. "I'm shit at singing,"

Shelby's laugh echoed in the auditorium as she made it to the top and turned around. "If thing's get too much, you know where I keep the spare key,"

Dana stared into dark eyes from across the auditorium. Charlie was great. Charlie was the one she was in love with and Dana didn't think that would ever change, and if it did, not anytime soon. But there was a peace and escape in Shelby that Dana needed. Until the storm was over, she'd need that.

"Want Breadstix tonight?" she asked.

Shelby shrugged with a nod. "You're buying,"

-/-/-/-

Quinn found Judy in the study, phone in hand and voice low and frantic. She could catch bits of the conversation just as she had from others Judy would have with a persistent Russell who called none stop. But other conversations had made Quinn smile because her mother was still holding strong. She would cut him off and hang up. But this one was disheartening because Judy was faltering.

Quinn could hear it in the way she tried to convince her husband that they didn't need his paycheck to survive - that they would do what they could. That Judy would rather starve than let him put his hands on her girls again. But her argument wasn't convincing, and because of it, Quinn knew very well her dad would constantly punch at those very things until Judy gave in.

Quinn whipped around the corner, ignoring the shock on her mother's face as she took hold of the cord on the phone dock and yanked it out. Judy's mouth bobbed in surprise as she pulled the phone slowly away from her ear.

"We can go to the phone store tomorrow and get his number blocked on your cell if we need to."

"That won't be necessary," Judy placed the dead phone back in its place. Quinn made a mental note to unplug the one in the kitchen as well. They could use some silence.

Drawing up a chair, Quinn sat down, watching her mother. She had never taken the time to really stop and examine the stress lines that marked her face or the bags under her eyes that peeked from under a layer of make up. Quinn had always been too worried about fixing herself, keeping Charlie a float, and keeping dad pleased that Judy faded to the back burner.

Quinn didn't think much about how her mom felt about everything, because to her mom and dad were synonymous. Whatever Russell decided so did their mother. Quinn was still reeling over the night Judy kicked him out. She still could hardly wrap her mind around it.

"We can make it without him," said Quinn after a moment.

"I'm not sure,"

Judy kept her eyes fixed on the phone. The conversation must've been tough. Quinn could see the deadened look in Judy's eyes and the fine press of her lips she'd always see her mom carry after her parents had a stiff argument. Arguments that had Russell gone for hours and Judy in the kitchen, cleaning and scrubbing and polishing.

"Mom, we have to," Quinn pressed, pulling her mother's attention back to her. She hesitated in the next thing to say, because Quinn wasn't sure. "Unless you think you did the wrong thing."

She wasn't sure and the way Judy's neck snapped over to her made Quinn question even more. She knew their mother had stood up for them, had kept them home, but it wasn't until she saw the bruises. It wasn't until she had seen the extent of the hurt inflected to the point it was showing physically instead of the mental destruction they all faced. And it worried Quinn.

"You are all staying,"

"Are you sure?" Quinn's eyebrow cocked, eyes darting around Judy's face.

Quinn knew how hard it was for her knowing about what Charlie and Dana were doing. In the past, it pained her every night she heard the doors open and shut. It was a swift punch every time she saw Charlie walk out of Dana's room in the morning to get ready for school. It filled her with a mix of disgust and wonder and confusion when she had sat on the steps down to the basement and watched Dana take Charlie.

It had been so much then and it wasn't until recently that Quinn had made peace with it. Even though she didn't agree, even though she wished it never started and that she had been better and stopped it before it could, she had made peace with it. Because it meant they were all back and that's all Quinn ever wanted.

Judy blinked away from Quinn as she answered. "Yes," But that yes was laced with all the things Quinn had felt back then. She could only pray they could make it another year and a half. A year and a half and they'd be graduated. They could leave.

"We have to make it right with Dana," said Quinn, shifting gears. She couldn't simmer in that place for too long. "How I treated her when she came back, I- I didn't know what else to do."

"You were doing what you thought was right,"

Quinn felt the slap of Dana's words strike across her again. Doing what she thought was right. Just like dad. He always thought he was doing right and they always thought he was right. But he wasn't and Quinn wasn't and-

"I'm no better than dad,"

"Don't say that," Judy reached out, touching Quinn's hand that rested on her knee. "You are nothing like him."

"Yes I am," and she would've been the one sitting on that couch instead of Aunt Kris telling her parents that Dana needed to go.

She had that plan in mind the day she left Dana crying on the restroom floor. She would've made sure Dana was gone. She thought it would fix everything and it would've gone though if Rachel hadn't come up, reminding her of what was really important. It was Rachel who pushed her into saying something to Russell again and it was Rachel who had given her the confidence to do it.

"If that were true, your sister would still be living on the streets," said Judy, reassuringly. "Sweetheart, you are nothing like him."

"I guess," Quinn looked down at the hand that covered hers. It had been too long since she had felt such a comfort in her mom's hand being there. She sighed. "Mom, about Rachel-"

The hand drew back leaving Quinn's feeling cold. "Please, Quinnie, not now," Judy glanced to the dead phone again then to the picture of her and Russell sitting on the study desk. "I have too much on my mind with your sisters and your father. One battle at a time."

"Okay,"

"I'm sorry, but I know you're strong." Watery blue eyes found Quinn again. "I'm so sorry I couldn't be the mother you three needed me to be."

"This isn't your fault," Though she'd like to blame a lot of it on her mother.

She'd like to, but there was no need to throw blame around anymore. It had been all of them in some way. Blame didn't need to matter anymore because it was time to try and rebuild what had been demolished and bombed for four years too many.

"If only- oh, never mind. This isn't something I should be discussing with you." delicate fingers dabbed away the few tears that started to run down Judy's cheeks.

"Mom," Quinn hurried over, wrapping her arms around Judy's neck, holding her in a hug. She held her, waiting seconds before her mother pulled her own arms around her and pulled her in close.

They were arms Quinn had needed all this time and slowly they were coming back. Now the goal was to get them to embrace Charlie and Dana in the same way. It would take time, but Quinn knew it would happen. Just like it had the night when they crumbled all together on the floor in front of the door holding each other and crying. It was that moment that told Quinn that maybe this would work. Together, they could do it.

"Thank you," Quinn said into her shoulder.

"I'm proud of you, Quinnie," Judy croaked, rubbing circles across her back only to trigger Quinn's own tears.

"I love you," she muttered. "We can do this without him. We have to. For Dana, we have to."

-/-/-/-

The clock read well past two a.m. when Charlie heard Dana's door click open and shut. It was a sound Charlie had been accustomed to hearing various nights through age fourteen. She always knew it was Dana because Dana's door didn't creak the way Quinn's did and hinges never stuck so the shut was never harsh like her parent's.

It was the sound of that door that always had Charlie's pulse racing even before she slipped out of her own and ventured down to the basement a few minutes later. Even now, as Charlie heard Dana pat down the hall, steps fading the further she got, Charlie felt the skipping beat of her heart. So she didn't wait.

She got up, quietly closing her door and hurrying to the stairs just as she heard the back door slide shut. Skipping down the steps, Charlie crossed the living room, into the kitchen and pushed aside the curtain to see Dana walking across the backyard.

Her steps took her to the edge of the pool where she stood, staring down into the water so the light from beneath casted a soft glow onto her face. Charlie didn't like that face. It was the look Charlie wasn't supposed to see, or anyone for that matter. But Charlie had caught it during dinners and she'd see it slip on when Dana would rush out of the house before breakfast. It always left Charlie aching. It left her feeling helpless because she didn't know what to do. She didn't know how to make Dana feel like she completely belonged again.

Charlie slid open the door, squeezing her way out before closing it. Dana didn't even look up from where she stood, though her face skewed into it's normal emotionless mask. Or so it was emotionless to others. Charlie had been able to read between the lines always. She walked slowly over the cobblestone, heart in her throat and nerves tingling as she reached her. She needed no words to turn Dana around and kiss her.

They never needed words for things like that. They never had to hesitate and they never needed to ask. It always felt perfect in the wrongness and maybe it was that that kept Charlie from drifting away so easily. Because, some days in those years of Dana's absence, when she'd sit on her windowsill and stare at the street hoping to see that black car bringing her sister back, Charlie would always ask how could something so wrong feel so perfect.

But it didn't then at that moment. Charlie sensed it instantly at the timid way Dana kissed her back. Like they were back in the first days when Charlie would cry because, why? Why did it feel so right but her mind screamed wrong?

Charlie drew back just enough to see into Dana's eyes. They had hardly had a moment to just be alone together since Dana returned. The hazel dominated the green now, making her gaze darker along with the way her pupils remained large. So Dana did still feel it. She did still feel an overwhelming sense of love and desire when Charlie was near her, so why had it felt so…off?

"D?" her head tilted, hands smoothing down the back of Dana's shirt until they stopped at the small of her back.

Heavy arms rested on Charlie's shoulders, pulling her in just a bit more so their lips brushed. There was that electric feel again intense as always. "I'm okay,"

"Then why have you been running away?" Charlie whined, tightening her hands behind Dana's back so she couldn't get away and so their bodies stayed flush together. "I thought you wanted to be home."

"I do," she sighed. "It still doesn't feel right."

"I know. Give it time, it will," She assured more to convince herself than Dana. Things had been so bad for so long. Charlie didn't think they'd ever get better. Even if they did, never to how they use to be. "But you can't keep running away from mom. She's trying."

"It's painful,"

"We all hurt, D, but we all have to try," Their noses bumped together and warm breath lapped at faces. Pink lips were at her line of sight and Charlie couldn't help but kiss them again. She'd never get enough of them.

"I just need space," Charlie went to pull away when Dana pulled her back, so her head rested against Dana's chest.

"Not right now. Not from you."

"Are you sure?" Charlie closed her eyes, listening to the solid heartbeat she use to fall asleep listening to on so many nights. It was her lullaby along with the rush of air through Dana's lungs as she breathed. "Then why do I feel like you're lying?"

Releasing her, Dana walked away, rounding the edge of the pool. "It's like we're rubbing it in mom's face,"

"What are you really trying to say?" Charlie frowned.

"I don't know about…"

"About us?" Charlie swallowed around the lump in her throat. She pulled up her arms, crossing them over her chest as she watched Dana sit down on the edge so her legs dangled into the water. "We need to talk about this,"

"Why? You know where it'll end up,"

"We were never meant to-" Hazel green blinked up to her, cutting Charlie off. They had only talked about it a few times before. In the early stages, when they were so nervous and unsure what was going on between them to look at each other over cereal on some mornings.

But those talks had ended and it just became something that they knew. They knew they weren't supposed to be more than just sisters. They could be close - they were always so close – but to do the things they had done with each other…

Charlie shook her head, keeping them from muddling her already scattered thoughts. "You were always there for me and it was enough. But now I don't- I can't stop- I feel like I can't stop with you."

"I know," Dana kicked at the water, sending drops across the pool. "Don't you think I don't know?"

"I'm only saying, D," Charlie moved, coming to fall at Dana's side. She crossed her legs, poking at the water with a finger. "I need to know what we're going to do. You're back, and mom knows, and Quinn knows we're still, you know, and I don't know what that means for us."

"Nothing changes. Not yet,"

Charlie tucked in her chin, biting on her lip to keep from smiling as her heart swelled. "Even though it's wrong?"

"Yes," A hand wondered over, pulling the one Charlie had dipped in the water to link their hands together.

Charlie clung to it, watching droplets of water seep between their fingers. It had been too long since Dana was the one to reach for her. Thinking about it brought back the night Dana busted through the door. She had clung onto Charlie then in desperation. But the way she reached for her hand and held it was different. It was just simply because.

"You just admitted it, you know," said Charlie. "That you think what we're doing isn't right."

"I've always thought it," Dana's voice dropped, scooting over enough for their shoulders to touch. "Why do you think I told you no one would understand?"

"I know. Me too. But I love you,"

"I love you too, Charlotte,"

"But?" she asked because it was there. She fought to find Dana's eyes and stared up into them. They hadn't connected with hers again how they had the night before Aunt Kris had come. There had been a glimmer of doubt in them then just as there was now. "No more secrets,"

"I don't know," Dana squeezed their hands. "I don't know anything."

"Okay. I don't want to talk about to anymore," She nodded, resting her head against Dana's shoulder. She brought her other hand up to grip Dana's arm, showing that she was just as much of Dana's strength as she was for her.

"Hey," Dana shifted, pulling her legs out of the water so she sat facing Charlie. Dana took her face into a hand, turning it so their eyes met. "This doesn't change how I feel about you."

"I know," Charlie nodded, leaning into her touch. "I'm just scared,"

"I'll always love you,"

Her head tilted back just enough to tough a chaste kiss to Dana's lips. "Like this?"

Dana's eyes stayed closed as her tongue darted out, licking across her lips. "I know you want me to say yes but I can't tell you that. You said yourself we were never suppose to be more than sisters."

"What about for now?" Charlie asked, running a hand up into Dana's hair, pulling closer.

"For now, yes," Dana breathed against her lips. Charlie brought her down with her as she leaned back, resting against the cement and Dana hovering above her.

"Then don't push me away just yet," Charlie pleaded, shifting her legs so Dana could fall easily between them.

Smiling lips captured hers, and Charlie melted. She melted into the kiss and completely back into Dana. She needed to. She needed it and she needed her. However long they would keep this up, Charlie would take all of it with no hesitation and no question.

"Don't push me away," Charlie murmured, feeling the rock of Dana's hips against her.

Dana grinned, dipping her face into Charlie's neck to kiss along her throat. "Never," she promised and Charlie shut her eyes letting hips and teeth and fingers take her away again.

-/-/-/-

Rachel found place in her room. She sifted through a stack of CDs on her shelf and jammed one into the player hoping the smooth sounds of Etta James could calm her mind. Because her dads had spoken to her twenty minutes extra after she told them Quinn would be coming to keep her company while they were on an outing.

She had heard it during few dinners. They'd question her. They'd question why the Fabray's daughter was always crying when she showed up and why Rachel was so quick to jump to her every need. Though they had known of Rachel's crush since she admitted it to them through a cherry slush stained face and tears one day late freshmen year, it didn't calm their worry.

Rachel tried to. She tried to tell them that her and Quinn talked about it. That Quinn had a lot going on and that she was only thrilled the night Quinn text her about Dana and that's why she had bursted into uncontrollable tears on the couch. She told them that Quinn wasn't the same girl who had taunted her then, that she did forgive her and she wanted to be there for her and, she did love her. Well, she didn't tell her dad's that much and she might have exaggerated the amount her and Quinn talked about things like feelings. So far, it was only twice and each time it was shut down.

The ding of the alarm system indicating the front door opening sounded from the hall. Rachel's eyes snapped up to the clock on her wall, her heat beating double-time that of the ticking second hand. It took a few times before Quinn got comfortable with just walking into the house, though she'd only do it when her dad's weren't home. But every time, it made Rachel's mind drift off to future days of Quinn walking into their own place and Rachel greeting her with a kiss at the door.

Footsteps grew closer and Rachel waited for Quinn to wrap lightly on her doorframe with a knuckle before she turned to look at her. She felt the smile tug at her lips as she took her in from the dress that fanned out just above her knees to the warm smile on her lips. It had been weeks since Rachel had seen a genuine smile on Quinn's face. They had all been forced and slapped on in the last minute.

"Hey," Quinn said. Her smile slipped a notch, head tilted. "Is everything okay?"

"Are you okay?" Rachel took up the remote to her stereo to turn off the music. She rested her chin on the heel of her hand.

The reason why Quinn hadn't been smiling was because of her family. Even though Dana was home and Russell was gone, it still weighed on her. Quinn might not show up crying anymore and she might not have to clench Rachel's hand when Russell's name came up on her cell phone, but the burden could still be seen.

"Dana's adjusting," Quinn shrugged. "Slowly, but she is."

Rachel nodded. She knew that much. She had caught Dana one day during passing before lunch to ask how everything went. It was from Dana that Rachel got the full story. From her showing up at home and to walking away. From Charlie calling her back and Russell's attempt to throw her back out. From Aunt Kris' decision to take Dana back to Judy's threat that kept her there. Rachel had been speechless afterwards only able to croak out that she was going to hug her and hugged her tight.

Rachel blinked up to Quinn. "How are you?"

Quinn moved across the threshold, each step slow and cautious. "My mom finally got out of shock about what happened and she's trying with Dana and even more with Dana and Charlie since they're still...you know."

"They'll figure it out and your mom will pull through," Rachel jerked her head, inviting Quinn to join her where she lay. "She did for you."

"You're right," Quinn nodded, falling to sit on the edge of the bed stiffly.

"But how are you?" Rachel's head tilted, her eyes trying to catch Quinn's that settled on nothing. They just flickered everywhere. The floor, the laptop on the desk, the litter of pictures Rachel had tacked up on her wall…

"Dad keeps calling. Every hour he calls-"

"Quinn," Rachel pressed one last time. She had heard about everyone else. Now she wanted to know about Quinn. "How are you?"

She gave in, finally turning to look at Rachel. "Scared. I'm scared. My moms hardly holding up with dad calling constantly and the other night I saw Charlie and Dana. They were at the pool and-" Quinn stuttered, eyes pinching close for a moment. "I'm scared, Rachel, and I don't know what's going to happen to us."

"You'll get through it. The worst part is over, right? It'll just take time." Rachel assured her, touching a hand to Quinn's shoulder. She had to stretch her arm out all the way to do it. It made Rachel feel like Quinn was at arms length from her again and not flush close where they had found each other as on various nights.

"I guess you're right," Quinn took the hand away, letting their fingers thread together. Rachel felt heat shoot down it and into her chest, closing the distance that had been there when she walked in.

"It isn't like I said anything you don't already know." Rachel rolled to lie on her back, keeping hold of Quinn's hand on her stomach. "Who do you mean when you say 'us'?"

Quinn's jaw flexed, watching the thumb Rachel smoothed over her skin rather than her face. "M-my family," she answered tightly.

"And you and I?" Rachel bit her lip almost sorry for asking. But she needed to know and they needed to talk about it. If only for Rachel to know what Quinn was feeling towards her now.

Quinn's voice dropped down another decibel. "To that I'm terrified,"

"Why?" Rachel saw her swallow long and hard. She wanted badly to touch her face, smooth the curves of her cheek with a fingertip and erase those worry lines from her skin. Or to pull her down and hold onto her like she had many times.

"Because I see the way my mom looks at Dana and Charlie and even though she's trying to look past it, I know it hurts her to watch." Quinn winced and Rachel tightened her hold on her hand. "With you, Rachel, I don't know how she'll take it then again but I don't I can-" Quinn stopped, looking away.

Rachel narrowed her eyes. "You don't think you can what?"

"Ignore how I feel-" Quinn sighed, pulling her legs up onto the bed. She crossed them, turning to face Rachel. "Did it scare you? When you realized you had feelings for me, did it scare you?"

It was Rachel's turn to swallow. She felt suddenly small and intimidated by the intensity that Quinn was staring down at her with. It almost kept her tiny, "Yes," from leaving her throat.

And Quinn asking her, "What did it feel like?" kept took away her ability to speak in that moment.

What did it feel like? It felt like a lot of things. It felt terrifying because Rachel had never found herself drawn to one person before the way she was to Quinn. It felt hopeless because Quinn was on a level that Rachel had never even scratched at and she was constantly pummeled with slushies just to remind her of that. It felt depressing because Rachel couldn't veer her feelings off Quinn to someone else or take the time to consider someone else. All in all it felt,

"Like I had been handed a book that would tell me everything about my life. Past, present, and future but when I opened it, all the pages were blank." Because without the other person, it felt like there was no reason to have endured everything from before and keep walking on into what was to come.

Quinn held her eyes for a second after that and looked away but didn't speak. She just sat there, eyes shifted down to the floor and once again Rachel felt like she was arms length away. She felt that fear of Quinn's rejection press back into her like it had that time Rachel found her in the locker room and she was sure Quinn would run her out.

It brought back the conversation with her dads. Of them telling her that she was wasting her time on Quinn. That Rachel was a thing of convenience to Quinn because of everything that was going on in her life and she was desperate for someone – anyone – to cling onto. They told her that there would be others that would come along and they didn't want to see their little girl get hurt by this same girl again. But everything that they told her didn't prepare Rachel for what Quinn said.

"Does that mean I love you if that's how I feel every time I picture us together?"

Rachel felt her jaw drop open and quickly brought it back up shut. "I- I don't- I'm not sure,"

Quinn's gaze flickered to their linked hands then slowly brought them back up to Rachel's face to peer at her through thick lashes. "I think you are,"

"In regards to you, Quinn," Rachel swallowed to wet her drying throat. "I am hardly ever sure about anything."

"Except that you're in love with me,"

"Y-yes, I suppose that one thing I am sure of. "

"Then show me," Quinn slowly brought her eyes down. They landed on her lips before moving back up. "Show me how it feels to love me,"

The request snaked down Rachel's spine and flicked on every nerve it could find, and Rachel moved. She moved instantly because when asked by Quinn Fabray you had no choice but to comply.

She saw her fingers shake as she brought her hand up, letting it rest on Quinn's cheek. Hazel eyes fluttered shut, the softest of sighs leaving Quinn's lips as she waited. Rachel stared at pink lips, slightly parted and awaiting hers. They were lips Rachel had heard such terrible taunts fall from but they were also lips that spoke sorrow and worry and need that was all for Rachel. It was always all for Rachel, and now finally she could give those lips what she always wanted.

Rachel sat up, closing the chasm of a distance between them. She felt Quinn's breath warm and gentle on her face as she leaned in, tongue darting out to lick her own lips before they met the awaiting pair.

"Rachel," Quinn breathed in that syrupy voice, sending another jolt through Rachel. "Show me," Rachel pressed their mouths together, slowly and carefully but it was just enough to make whatever it was that had swam down her spine to erupt in her stomach. And she was lost.

Her hand slid back, hooking around Quinn's neck to crush them closer. But it still didn't seem like enough. Just like Quinn only needing her had never felt like enough. She had wanted her, always wanted her, and now was her chance to show just how much.

But it was Quinn's tongue that grazed across Rachel's lower lip, willing them open and permission to taste. Rachel bit back the sound that threatened to rise up in her throat and sing as their tongues touched. It was so much. It was too much. Rachel felt a grip on her hips where Quinn had grasped on, holding her rooted or else Rachel was certain she'd float away.

Silky blonde hair seeped between her fingers as she held on, mapping out the cavern of Quinn's mouth with tongue. Learning how sharp each tooth was and the way it made Quinn's hands tighten and chest hum when Rachel lapped the roof of her mouth.

It was the mouth Rachel had known and never really knew and she wanted to. She wanted to know all of it, of the hands grabbing her hips, and of the tightness she could hold onto Quinn's hair until she hissed.

"Rachel," Quinn hummed, grasping tighter onto Rachel's hips as her fingers scratched Quinn's scalp.

Every bit of Rachel was singing. She could hear her blood, could hear down even to her bones, lifting up some sort of song that bubbled, forcing something, anything, to her lips. It forced something out because something needed to be let go. It needed to ring and so Rachel allowed her body to take control and herself to part just a breath away from Quinn to mutter,

"I love you," Quinn said nothing. "I love you," Rachel repeated. Quinn only kissed her again, sucking those words off her lips and devouring them.

Rachel let her. She let Quinn kiss her and kiss her deep. She let Quinn feel how she had felt about her for so long. It was such a deep affection Rachel was certain had Quinn asked her to explain it, Rachel couldn't. She couldn't put words to it just the same as she couldn't for her dads. But this, Rachel thought as she felt her eyes start to water in the euphoria of it all, was everything she had been trying to say and never could.

"Quinn," Rachel broke away from her, panting with hands still in her hair and eyes wide and glossy. She stared straight into Quinn's burning hazel eyes. "Be with me,"

"I don't know," Quinn grasped Rachel's wrists, holding her hands in place. "I don't know if I can right now,"

"Why else?" Rachel switched from one blazing, caramel eye to the other. "Aside from your mom and everything else, why else?"

Quinn's head dropped, her grip on her arms going slack then dropped away. "I've hurt so many people,"

"Do you love me?" asked Rachel. She took Quinn's face in her hands, bringing her head back up to look into her face. "Do you love me?"

"I need you," Quinn brushed away a stray tear. Rachel begged herself not to cry. Not right now. She knew Quinn would take it as her being hurt for the tiny rejection. But it was only because she was that much closer. "That's all I know,"

"And you needed Dana and you needed Charlie," Rachel pressed. "You got them didn't you? And you had always tried to keep them. We're no different - I'm no different. Why would you doubt yourself?"

Quinn took in a long breath, taking a moment to gather her thoughts before she said anything else. "Everything is still so confusing and things are still a mess,"

"I know," and she did know. Rachel had been watching it on the outside since freshmen year waiting. Just waiting for a moment to step in and do more. Now she could. "I'll always be here for you,"

"You always have been,"

Rachel leaned in, her forehead resting on Quinn's. Her thumbs stroked across her cheeks erasing the few tears that trickled down them. "So we take it slow,"

Quinn shook her head. "Is that even possible?"

Rachel felt herself laugh softly. "Quinn, I have waited for you to even take a moment to look my way since freshmen year. It won't kill me to take things painfully slow if it means we can be together."

Quinn drew back, so Rachel's hands peeled away from her cheeks "What if things never get better?"

Rachel took Quinn's hands again, holding them between the two of them. "Then we'll never move past first base,"

"Oh, god," Quinn laughed, face lighting up pink. Rachel felt her stomach flutter at hearing. It had been too long since Quinn laughed. "It's that easy, hm?"

She brought a hand up, brushing Quinn's knuckles across her lips. "I've already told you that I love you, and I honestly don't see that changing anytime soon. However if you-"

"Yes,"

Rachel gaped. "I'm sorry, what?"

"Yes, Rachel," Quinn smiled, sheepishly. "I'll be with you."

Warm lips were on hers again, soft and hesitant and testing unlike the first one. It was Quinn this time expressing everything in the slow way her lips moved along Rachel's and the way her mouth opened just enough, having Rachel work to gain her trust and permission to go any further.

Rachel kept her hands still as she let Quinn regain confidence against her lips. It tested her and Rachel made sure Quinn knew how careful she would go about this. She wasn't in a rush. She wasn't aiming for the lustful passion of skin on skin and roaming hands. Right now, Rachel just wanted to love Quinn in the way she had always wanted. To be there for her.

"Slow," Quinn spoke breaking from her for a moment to catch a breath.

Rachel brushed back blonde hair from hazel eyes. "You lead, I'll follow," she assured her, reinforcing it with another gentle kiss.

The ding of the doorbell caused them both to jump apart. Rachel got up, leaving Quinn in her room. Her heart beat wildly as she bounded down the stairs and turned the lock on her door and threw it open.

Rachel felt her face thumb through expressions like a flip book until it landed on one of stunned confusion. She blinked up into light brown eyes that stared down at her with worry and uncertainty. It was strange to see, because the few times Rachel had seen Shelby Corcoran, her face was always fixed into a cold and collected mask that made even Rachel shudder.

She swallowed, eyes blinking. "May I help you?"

"Hello, Rachel," her voice shook. Just barely so, but Rachel heard it. "I'm Shelby-"

"Corcoran. Director of Vocal Adrenaline, yes I know." Her brow creased, looking past Shelby to the car parked on the curb then back to the woman. "Is there something I can help you with? And how is it that you know my name?"

Shelby took turns from staring into one of Rachel's eyes to the next. Each time, made Rachel that much more anxious as they grew glossier and sad. "I have known your name since the day you were born, Rachel."

"I'm sorry?" Rachel choked, mind locking onto those words and completely missing the sound of Quinn calling her name from inside the house.

"There's no end to the laws I'm breaking by doing this," Shelby laughed uncomfortably. She looked back over her shoulder before staring down at Rachel with renewed determination. "But I couldn't stand it any longer."

"Ms. Corcoran, I'm afraid I don't understand what you're talking about."

"You were born seventeen years ago at Grant Medical Center in Columbus," said Shelby, looking down at her fumbling hands at her stomach. "You were five weeks premature. The doctor's didn't think you were going to make it."

"How-" Rachel felt the color in her face drain, missing Quinn's steps coming up behind her. "How do you know that?"

"Rachel," Shelby took in a breath, holding Rachel's gaze. "Rachel, I'm your mother,"

The last thing Rachel remembered was Quinn slamming the front door on that face that resembled hers in a way Rachel had never noticed before and slender arms catching her before her knees gave out.

fin.