And we're back to Quinn's POV! I hope you enjoy. :D Also, my birthday was yesterday (same day as Hagrid's; what, what!), and you know what would be an awesome belated birthday present? Reviews! xD


CHAPTER FORTY-SIX

The elevator doors slide open, revealing the fourth floor of the hotel.

Okay, we may have taken longer to get here, considering we pushed every button on the panel and rode it all the way through, so we had extra kissing time. A few times, fellow McKinley students or other hotel guests hopped aboard the elevator, so we had to play it coy, but for the most part, it was just us, alone together (my new favorite oxymoron, bar none).

We're holding hands, walking so close that our hips are practically chaffing each other's, and we keep almost tripping – clumsiness is a side-effect of love, I suppose…well, love and high-heels.

The grand suite is located at the end of the empty hallway. It seems miles away from where I stand. I stop in my tracks, tugging Rachel to a halt with me.

"Baby," I say.

Her face brightens into a surprised, giddy grin at the pet name; it heats me up from the inside-out. "Yeah?"

"We still haven't come up with that alibi." I stroke my fingers along the side of her hand, grab her other one, swing them together between us just because I can. Touching her is like a drug; I never want to stop.

She shrugs, smile as goofy-happy as I feel. "I'm sure they'll all be too drunk to interrogate us much. We could probably convince them we were there the whole time, if we wanted."

I laugh at that. "Oh God…" I've seen our friends drunk, and let's just say, it is not pretty for most of them. "I don't think that's going to work. Because, well… I kind of made a spectacle of myself earlier."

"What do you mean?"

Blushing, I recount the tale of running over to Kurt and most of our group after the last song, demanding to know which room she and Finn had rented, and then sprinting through the hotel to find her. "Considering how damn nosy our friends are, I'm sure they're going out of their minds wondering why I acted like that."

Rachel's smiling like a fool, gazing up at the ceiling. She gives a dreamy sigh. "You really ran after me, like something out of a romantic-comedy?"

I giggle and nod, putting on my serious face. "Yes, but focus, Rachel. We're about to enter a gossip warzone, I'm sure. Now, what are we going to tell them?"

She pinches her lips together and "hmm"s, cocking her head and squinting to the side. I try thinking of something, too, but a suitable reason for why we were MIA for two hours without so much as a text of response to our friends is hard to fabricate, especially on the spot like this, and especially when I'm holding Rachel's hands and my eyes keep sneaking peeks at those plump, perfect, delectable lips that my own were tasting in the elevator not even a minute ago.

"You know," I say. "I don't want to pressure you, but…how about the truth?"

Rachel's eyes widen. "No!"

I draw back as if slapped.

"I-I mean…" She takes a deep breath. "Don't take that the wrong way, please. I just…I want to tell my parents first, okay? And I don't want to come out on prom night, to our surely inebriated friends, one of whom thinks he's still my boyfriend. When I tell people about us, I want it to be…special. Magical. Like how I feel when I'm with you." She's smiling shyly, earnestly, and any offense I had at first has melted in place of understanding and flattery.

"Of course," I say. "We'll tell them when you're ready. It definitely doesn't have to be tonight. Because, you know, I like having you all to myself, as our little secret." I grin and step into her, my fingers dancing at her hips. She giggles and blinks up at me from her long, curly eyelashes. We're leaning in for a kiss, when –

Ding!

The elevator doors pop open. I look over and give a tiny shriek of surprise, dropping my hands from Rachel and jumping a step back from her.

"What?" she demands. "Are my palms sweaty or – "

"Artie!" I hiss at her, widening my eyes and jerking my head toward the elevator.

Rachel spins halfway to face where I gesture; her eyes grow even larger than mine. "Oh."

Artie would have seen us already had he not been trying to wheel himself out of the elevator and gotten one of his wheels caught against the side. It's obvious, even from five feet away, that he's drunk. His eyes are bright but glassy behind his glasses, which are lopsided, and the mutterings under his breath are getting louder and far more…colorful.

"Should we help him?" Rachel asks, but backs away, standing beside me. She speaks in a hushed tone, staring at him with a calm posture but nervous eyes, as if he's a wild animal that's just crossed our path in the jungle.

It's more than a little ridiculous, her reaction, and I would laugh at it…if my own heartbeat wasn't quickening and making me kind of jumpy. "I think he's got it," I say, and we watch as he dislodges the wheel from its snag and proceeds out of the elevator. There's a bottle-shaped brown paper bag in his lap, sticking up from between his legs at an angle that makes me giggle, maturity be damned. I nudge Rachel in the side, pointing at it as Artie passes us, not even noticing we're there.

Rachel bursts out her own giggle; her hand claps over her mouth too late.

Artie stops and, with jerky, exaggerated movements, turns himself around to face us. He blinks a few times, pushes up his glasses, squints, blinks again… Finally, recognition dawns on his face. A slow, lazy grin spreads up his face like melting butter. "Quiiiinnn! Rrachel!" I recognize that slurring voice from one of my voicemails earlier. I think drunk people stumble a fine line between amusing and annoying, but I can't help but to smile back at Artie. He looks so happy to see us – albeit confused, too, as if he just woke up from a long nap. "Wherrre 'ave you two pretty ladies been all – hiccup – night?"

He wheels toward us, too fast, stopping just before he runs over my foot. I wince at the pain that could have been and take a step back; Rachel follows. Drinking and wheeling should be illegal.

"Wow, Artie," Rachel fans the air at his alcohol-fumed breath. "You sure know how to hit the liquor."

He lifts up the brown paper bag, smiling proudly. "Fourth bottle t'night."

Rachel is appalled. "For yourself?! You could get alcohol poisoning!"

"Chill, lil' mama," he says, and gives an indifferent pffft – which unfortunately saturates our immediate area with more of his breath. Rachel and I exchange half-amused and half-disgusted expressions. "This is for erryone."

Rachel reaches over and snatches the bottle from him. "Nope, sorry, but I'm cutting you off."

"Hey! That's not – hiccup – that's…" He blinks to himself, forgetting his train of thought mid-sentence. "Yeah." He scratches his nose and nearly pokes an eye out.

I can't help it; I'm snickering. And relieved. He's far too wasted to interrogate us over where we've been all night. Maybe the rest of the group will be this way, too. Which also means we won't have to stay but for a minute or two, and then it's back to our private room. Mmmmm…

"Come on." I seize the back handles of Artie's wheelchair and spin him around so I can push him forward. "We're going to get you some water and try to sober you up."

"If that's even possible," Rachel says, holding the bottle of champagne or wine as far as her arm will stretch, as if it's a snake that could strike any minute. "He's drunk as a skunk."

"Aw, a drunk skunk!" I coo. "That would be so cute to see! I wonder if they have that on YouTube."

"Quinn! That is animal cruelty! Forced inebriation, unlawful behavior, not to mention if the poor thing is underage – "

I snicker. "Chill, Rach. I'm joking."

We've reached the hotel suite by now.

"You ready for this?" I ask. "Time to face the music."

Rachel nods, brave-warrior-woman face hardening her countenance. "You betcha."

"Hey!" Artie's never sounded more indignant… or bewildered. "Where's my bottle?!"

I pat the top of his head.

Rachel shakes her head and rolls her eyes. "Gee, I hope we don't have more of this to look forward to in there."

"If there is, we'll leave early."

"In that case," a wicked grin, an eyebrow bounce, "I hope we do."

I laugh. "Just knock on the door, Casanova."

She does. My heart pounds, hands tighten around Artie's handlebars. Here we go, the moment of truth…

The door swings open to reveal…Blaine. Mid-dance: his hips swinging, fingers snapping, head bobbing. A goofy but admittedly adorable grin on his face, eyes squinted so that I can't detect them for sobriety level. His diamond-encrusted bowtie is loosened at a jaunty angle, as if even it's a little tipsy and has been partying hard. Music pounds behind him, not loud enough for a noise complaint, but just shy of so. It's all bass beat, the thumpthumpthump matching my heartbeat, beating into my bones. I find my foot tapping.

Blaine's eyes open enough to take us in; they're not bloodshot, but not entirely lucid either, and I don't know if I'm grateful for that or not. "Hey, guys!" I don't think he's drunk yet, but from the red Solo cup (what's a party without them?) filled with what looks like bubbling champagne, he's on his way to getting there. "It's about time you got here!" He's looking at Rachel, his triangle eyebrows high up his forehead, grinning at her like 'well?!' I don't understand why he's so expectant, curious, excited, as if they share a secret.

"Here," she says in lieu of explanation, thrusting the brown paper bottle at him. Blaine takes it, pulls off the wrapping to reveal some cheap pink-colored wine lurking beneath.

"Oh, Artie," he tsks, swinging a pointed look down at the boy – who has been humming incoherently to himself, some song about butts. "You were supposed to get vodka, not more Strawberry Hill!"

"You're berating him not because he brought alcohol to a party for minors, but because he brought the wrong kind of alcohol?" Rachel says.

"Hey, if you're going to drink, might as well do it right," Blaine gives a carefree shrug and matching smile. He starts dancing again, in that full-body, lead-with-his-neck way he has, turning on his heel and leaving the door wide-open as he booty-shakes his way through the suite.

"He took my bottle." Artie sounds so pathetic, disbelieving how anything so cruel could happen. He stretches his upper torso so he can twist his neck to look at me, brow furrowed and mouth gaping. "He took my bottle!"

"Shhh," I purse my lips in sympathy and help him flop back into a natural sitting position.

With a push, I send Artie's wheelchair into the room, where it rolls to a stop by the fancily-papered wall. Not to sound mean or anything, but I'm not going to be his babysitter all night.

Resisting the urge to take Rachel's hand, I lead the way into the room, with her right on my heels.

As soon as she's closed the door behind us, we stop, surveying the scene.

The suite is set up like a large living room, with a door at the side that leads to the adjoining bedroom and bathroom. The big pull-out couch and four chairs have been pushed to the side, over by the desk, leaving a vast space open for a dance floor. The lights are dimmed. Somebody's iPod plays a fun, party mix on the dock in the corner. The wall-to-wall window has its curtains peeled open to reveal the view outside, which is black with rain streaking down the glass, a few twinkling lights out in the distance that might be from other buildings, might be stars.

It smells sticky, like sweat and beer and soda. Shoes have been shed, thrown in the corner, along with the ladies' (and Kurt's) purses. I spot Santana's Prom Queen roses and Finn's Prom King hat and scepter propped up on the mini bar with a reverential clean space around them, like a radius of popularity protecting the items from various plastic cups, liquor bottles, soda cans, and crinkled bags of chips.

All of the Glee Club (plus Artie's date, Avery, who is dancing with a beaded throw pillow in a manner that suggests she is just as drunk as he is) is here, in varying levels of intoxication. No one has any lampshades on their head, at least.

Most are dancing; some are standing around, talking and sipping their beverage of choice; but all seem to be having a great time. Well, all but Finn, who sits slumped in a chair, the only one sitting down. His arms are crossed and scowl is fierce.

The song changes; I think I recognize the opening beat, but before the first lyric is sang to help me place it, Tina spots me and Rachel and shouts, drowning out the music, "OHMYGOD, THEY'RE HEEERREEE!"

So, of course, everyone stops what they're doing to look at us.

An explosion of voices: the too-loud babble of drunken people and the more sober one's cheerful squeals, coming toward us in a herd of fancy dresses and penguin tuxes.

"Quinn! Rachel! You late motherfuckers!" Santana reaches us first, latching a hand to one of my and Rachel's wrists, and yanking us so hard to the middle of the room that I almost feel my shoulder pop.

"Yeah, there's a difference between fashionably late and last-season-now-seen-in-K-Mart late," Kurt scolds, top-hat still fabulous as ever on his head. He holds a bottle of water and doesn't seem the least bit tipsy…

Unlike Santana, whose eyes are rimmed as red as her dress, and whose sparkling tiara is caught lopsided at the top of her tangled ringlets, like it's trying to make a break for it. She releases our wrists; I rub mine, cringing.

"I know; I know," I say. "We're sorry."

It's more than a little unnerving, with everyone circled around us like a band of starving buzzers. Well, except for Artie and Avery; he's fallen asleep in his wheelchair, snoring softly, and Avery is still dancing with the pillow, oblivious to the group-meeting going on just two feet to her left.

I watch Finn approach and squeeze in between Mercedes and Sam, who had been holding hands and now glare at him for his rudeness. But I don't think he did it on purpose; he was too distracted, if the expression on his face is any indicator, staring at Rachel with narrowed eyes. I can't tell if he's angry, suspicious, disappointed…maybe all three.

"What took you guys so long?" Brittany demands, slinging an arm around her girlfriend's waist. Her eyes have to keep refocusing on us, like she's about to sway out of her own body. "It's been, like, two hours, and everyone is pretty much drunk right now, including me! You missed playing Twister, where my backbend won me a bag of chips. You missed chips, Quinn and Rachel! And…" She squints at her. "…other Rachel. Wait, you have a twin?!" She squeals and does a twirl, almost knocking herself and her less-than-steady girlfriend to the ground. "This is even more awesome than Doritos!"

"Okay!" Rachel says in an annoyed, authoritative tone. "By a show of hands, how many people are actually sober?"

Only Sam, Mercedes, Kurt, and, surprisingly, Puck raise their hands. Brittany raises her foot, giggles, then a look of uh-oh crosses her face as she falls over, landing on her butt. "The room is spinning," she whimpers.

"I've only had three wine coolers!" Blaine says, loudly, with an oh-so-proud smile as he thrusts out his cup, nearly sloshing its contents onto the carpet. I wince, imagining the damage that would cost.

"Blaine," Kurt scolds, grabbing the shorter boy's elbow to steady him. "And you mean four wine coolers. Plus that champagne."

"Exactly!" Blaine beams. "Only five wine coolers! Thasswhat I said!" He takes a hearty gulp from his drink.

"Oh my God." Rachel claps her hands over her face. "You guys couldn't have a fun night you could actually remember the next morning? You all had to get drunk? What a waste!"

"No, a waste is you being two hours late," Finn speaks up, his tone hard and hot, glaring at her. "We waited around for you guys for a half-hour, but neither one of you even replied to a single text." Though he addresses us both, he looks only at her; I watch her, too, for just a second, hating the guilt I see her struggling to stop from running all over her face. "You weren't at your room when I went by, and…you never came to my room, and…" He loses steam, slipping from indignity to a sad exhaustion. "Where the hell have you been, Rachel?"

"Yeah, what have you guys been doing?" Sam asks. "You could have at least brought some snacks to share or something. We're running low on pretzels."

"Tell us all the details of your adventure," a shiny-eyed Tina begs. "Did you run into a celebrity in the lobby? Did you almost get arrested?"

"And, Quinn, why did you run like a bat out of hell to get to Finn and Rachel's hotel room?" Mike 'Just as Nosy as His Girlfriend' Chang asks. No wonder they make such a good couple; they should try tag-team interrogating on warlords. "It seemed really important." He blinks. "Like…really important."

"So," Tina says, "Tell us! What have you guys been up to?"

Everyone falls completely silent as they wait for an answer.

And in possibly the worst timing ever, the song that's been playing in background can now be heard, loud and clear.

'I kissed a girl and I liked it!'

Oh my God.

Rachel bursts into laughter, and after a stunned second, I do, too, so hard that my abs shake and tears form in my eyes. We look at each other, and that makes us sober up, fast, horror at our reaction replacing the mirth on our faces as we stare out at our circle of friends. If they were curious before, they're confused, suspicious now.

I start to panic.

"What the…" Mercedes squints at us, lips pursing.

"What's so funny?" Finn looks hurt. "Are you guys laughing at me?"

I hazard another glance at Rachel; her face is pale. Lower lip is trembling. I remember what she said, about wanting to tell her parents first. About wanting to wait until the right moment to tell our friends. Not here. Not now. Not like this. In the worst possible way: outted by pop song. And not even a Lady Gaga one.

'…It felt so wrong; it felt so right…'

Oh my God, shut UP, Katy Perry!

Our friends are exchanging glances; Kurt is definitely on to us (and looks delighted about it), Blaine appears in deep thought – but at his drink, staring into its contents as if its speaking to him, Sam and Mercedes are whispering, when –

God sends us a Mohawked angel.

"It's me," Puck says, stepping forward from beside Tina and Mike. "They were laughing because I was pretending to hump Tina."

"What the hell!" Tina shrieks, slapping him on the arm.

"Not cool, dude." Mike shakes his head and pulls Tina into his side, glaring at Puck.

"Yes!" I say, nodding and sending Puck a discreet 'thank you' with my eyes. He gives a subtle nod. "Yes, we were laughing at Puck. Sorry, Tina."

Rachel releases a shaky breath.

"Enough grilling us," I say, throwing my shoulders back into HBIC mode. My eyes command the room. Puck has given me the boost of confidence I needed. "Rachel and I were working on a surprise for everyone that you won't get until sometime later in the week. And once you find out what it is, you're going to feel bad about questioning us like this and spoiling the mood. So, everybody, stop staring, and start dancing!"

The song has ended and is transitioning into another; I lead by example and begin swaying my hips and waving my arms above my head. As far as I'm concerned, this discussion is over.

It works. The circle breaks away and they go back to (seemingly, but probably not really) minding their own business, dancing or drinking or, in Santana and Brittany's case, rolling around on the floor and complaining loudly that someone needs to make the room stop spinning.

Rachel slips up closer beside me and whispers right in my ear, in a faux-swoon, "My hero." Her warm breath skitters shivers down my neck.

I wink at her. "Don't thank me yet." I gesture my head toward Sam and Mercedes, who are leaning toward one another, necks bent, whispering, as they keep sneaking glances at us. "I think our more sober friends are onto us. But I don't think they'll start anything tonight."

"Yeah, you were pretty authoritative with shutting them up," she says. Her eyes dart around; apparently, nobody is watching, for she gives me a lightning-fast pinch on the butt. My eyes pop wide and I laugh, trying to look offended but finding it too cute and amusing of her. "It was really hot." Rachel bites down on her lower lip, looks up from beneath a curtain of thick lashes.

"Oh, you like it when I'm bossy, huh?" I raise my eyebrows, smirk.

She opens her mouth to respond when a large figure looms over us, smelling of cologne. "Rachel?"

We turn to find Finn, shoulders squared with his arms folded over his broad chest, a frown all over his face.

She blanches. "Y-yes?"

"Can I talk to you for a minute?" He swings hardened eyes my way; rather than shrink, I make myself taller, staring right back at him. But he's already bringing his gaze back to Rachel. "Alone?"

Rachel looks to me, a thousand emotions fighting across her face, but one is clearer above the others: she's asking for my permission.

"Of course," I say with an encouraging little smile. "I really need to go talk to Puck, anyway."

I watch as Finn leads her away, to the door that leads to the adjoining bedroom. He opens it up for her, but before she goes in, she casts one last look over her shoulder at me. I grin and give her a goofy thumbs-up, and I watch as she allows herself to smile back. I can see the giggle in her eyes from here, but then she's serious again, turning to follow Finn into the room. The door shuts, and I feel alone, even though there are people all around me.

It's okay, I tell myself. But imagining her alone with Finn, just the two of them in that room… I trust her, but I don't trust him. Not that he would hurt her, but what if he tries to kiss her? What if, when she breaks up with him, he insults her and wounds her with his words, makes her cry? All I know is, whatever happens, I will be here for here, always.

Puck stands off to the side; when my eyes find him, I see that he's been watching me. He bounces his eyebrows and grins, beckoning me toward him with a quick, crooked finger.

My mouth responds before my feet do, grinning right back at him, and then I'm walking over, feeling hit with a fresh burst of happiness.

"Heya, handsome," I say when I'm right in front of him. "Surprised to see you haven't already hit the booze."

"Yeah, that's all your fault." He wags a mock-stern finger at me. "I was waiting until you and Rachel got here before I let myself, you know, so I would be sober when we celebrated."

"Celebrated what?"

"You finally getting together with her!" he says with ample 'duh.'

"Oh, yeah, you noticed that," I dance my shoulders, put on an oh-so-blasé expression even though my lips are fighting to grin like nothing else.

"Hell yeah I did! Now tell me, what were you guys really doing for two hours?" He waggles his eyebrows. "Please spare no gory details."

I shove at his shoulder, laughing; he laughs back, grabs me at the waist, and starts to noogie on top of my head until I catch his fist, just in time.

"No way, Puckerman!" I wrangle myself out of his grip, trying to look scolding but giggling too hard.

"You know," he says, cocking his head. "You really are the worst prom date ever."

I make a protesting noise, but he holds up his hand. "No, seriously. You ditched me on the first slow dance of the night, and then on the last one, you spent the whole time staring at another girl and telling me how you love her. Then, you leave me alone for the after-party, where I can't even have a drink because I'm too busy waiting for you two horny monkeys to show up."

I smile at him softly, shaking my head. He's really something else, isn't he?

"You know what?" I say, lifting my eyebrows high but my smile higher. "I'll make it up to you right now." I hold out my hand, fingers wiggling. "Dance with me."

"You don't have to tell me twice, Fabray," he grins, takes my hand, and we start dancing like dorks as the music changes to a fast-tempo, fun song.

He twirls me around, my dress fanning against my ankles, and I close my eyes, basking in this perfect moment, yet another one to add to an ever-growing list of what has by far turned out to be my favorite night.