Girls Over Flowers
Chapter 11: Actions Speak Louder
"She kissed me." Rachel was staring distractedly down at her best Mary Jane's the Saturday evening of Holly Holiday's Welcome Home celebration. "She was—I was speaking to her and she just—"
Rachel eyes glazed as she remembered just how close she was to Quinn Fabray at that moment. How she could map out the light freckles on her cheeks, and count the dark pigments in her hazel eyes. How she should have noticed that Quinn's attention had shifted to Rachel's lips. How Quinn's eyes slid shut as she swayed forward and she—
"Oh my God. She kissed me."
"You've been saying this over and over since the day it happened. Your state of disbelief is getting old." Tina was tapping her fingers against the steering wheel as Rachel finally clicked her seatbelt into place.
"Quinn Fabray kissed me."
"I know. Address?"
Rachel absentmindedly typed out the address into Tina's dashboard GPS. She only memorized it due to the number of times she re-read the invitation. "But she hates me."
Tina rolled her eyes. "As we've discussed many times." She glanced at Rachel before reversing out of her driveway. "You look nice by the way."
Rachel smoothed down the knee-length polka dot dress and fingered the crimson belt around her waist. "Is it really okay? It's not too much?"
"You look great." Tina reassured.
Rachel bit her lip as she drummed her fingers against her thighs for a beat. "Why do you think Quinn did it?"
She heard Tina sigh. Rachel knew that she had asked Tina this question more times than she should have, but she couldn't, for the life of her, understand why Quinn would—would—press her against the tile, tilt her head, and press her very, very warm lips to—
"Just ask her. It would save us from ever having this conversation again."
Rachel shook her head, half-thankful to Tina for interrupting her thoughts. "And have her 'red card' me again? I don't think she'd be too happy about that." Particularly since Quinn bolted from the bathroom like hell itself was on her heels when Rachel pushed her away out of panic.
"You know what I've noticed though?"
Rachel looked curiously at Tina, whose eyes were focused on the road.
"You've been asking about Quinn's motivations, but you've never really talked about how you felt about the kiss."
Rachel wrapped her hands around her seatbelt. "There was nothing to feel."
Rachel turned her gaze to the window. She remembered being entirely too upset with Quinn right before it happened, but when she just leaned forward and claimed Rachel's lips…
"Everything just happened so quickly, I—" Rachel eyed her hands in her lap. "It was a blur, actually."
Rachel remembered everything, and judging by the look on Tina's face, she knew this as well.
Rachel remembered her limbs locking up, as anyone would do with unexpected intimate contact. She could physically feel her mind short circuit when Quinn pressed her lips against hers, and just as suddenly, her senses were heightened to an incomparable degree. She remembered registering the ice cold tile against her back, and the warmth that radiated from Quinn in front of her. She remembered Quinn's soft hair brushing against her cheeks and the waxy film of Quinn's lip gloss. She remembered Quinn's hazel eyes slipping shut just after releasing a warm sigh, and the light scent of Quinn's undoubtedly expensive perfume.
But Rachel's eyes were wide open, and her arms frozen at her sides in a strange state of numb, yet heightened, awareness. It wasn't until Quinn angled her head so that Rachel's bottom lip was lightly trapped between her own did she feel her mind begin to buzz back into working condition. She felt her heartbeat stutter, and then her arms were pushing against Quinn's chest of their own accord.
When Quinn finally opened her eyes, she seemed dazed; her eyes cloudy with an unreadable expression and still on Rachel's lips. But when Rachel called her name, with her hands still just beneath Quinn's collar bone, Quinn blinked, her eyes filling with clarity, then widening in panic.
Quinn was out of the door before Rachel could call her name again.
Tina called her out on her fib immediately. "You're lying."
Tina peered at Rachel the moment she stopped at a red light. "Lack of eye contact."
Rachel looked guiltily to her lap.
"And your answers are short for someone who is notoriously long-winded."
Rachel crossed her arms with a huff. "Certainly because there's not much else to say."
"Right." Tina breathed out as she continued to drive. "But are you going to talk about the fact that she stole your first kiss?"
"No." Rachel balled her fists and snapped a bit too quickly. "Can we change the subject please?"
But there was no need to. Tina was hunched forward, peering through her windshield at the brightly lit Fabray mansion before she could formulate an appropriate response. She let out a low whistle as she pulled to a stop just before the wrought iron gates. Rachel fared no better. Even though she had been to Quinn's home before, the structure was even more magnificent as a willing visitor. Rachel's eyes widened as the iron gates began to slowly creak open, and Tina slowly made her way up the stone drive and around the extravagant water fountain at its center.
"You weren't kidding about this place." Tina murmured, pulling into the nearest available space near the massive stone steps that lead to the home's entrance.
Rachel peered through her passenger window and gulped audibly at the sight of the countless number of limousines and various shiny high-end vehicles. At the corner of her eye she saw Tina's face redden, presumably at the state of her own dusty, compact car. They looked on in awe at the attendees who were helped out of their vehicles by white-gloved valets. The women, in silky ball gowns and shoulders wrapped in expensive furs; the men dressed in pressed black tuxedos and sharp over-coats.
Rachel and Tina glanced at each other then down towards Rachel's polka dot dress in unison.
"Take me home." Rachel spoke first, but Tina overlapped her sentence.
"You'll be fine."
"I am not going in there."
"The invitation didn't specifically say that it was a black tie event. Maybe people from Dalton just like to…show off."
Rachel dropped her forehead to the palm of her hands. "I should have known." Her voice was muffled. "I shouldn't have come."
"Rachel, you—" But Tina was interrupted by a soft tap on Rachel's window. A white-gloved valet was attempting to get their attention. Rachel looked at Tina with shining eyes in a last ditch effort, but the door was opening before it could have its proper effect.
"I wish you would come with me."
Tina's smile was sympathetic. "Babysitting. Duty calls. You know I would if I could."
Rachel sighed, and ignored the valet huffing impatiently with his hand outstretched to help her out of the car. "Tina," Rachel twisted her hands together. "Thank you so much for the ride. I'll let my father know when I'm ready to be picked up and—and I'll call you when I make it home safely, okay?"
She watched as Tina nodded silently. She knew that Tina's previous plans didn't allow for her to pick her up after the party, but with her car still out of commission, and her parents working late, Tina was the only person available to do her such a favor. Yet she wished with all of her heart that Tina would have been able to attend with her.
Was it normal to feel this terrified of attending a party? She knew that she felt self conscious about the way she was dressed. Understood the shrinking feeling of inadequacy. Shivered at the tendrils of insecurity curling through her stomach. But she also recognized the low thrum of excitement coursing through her veins at the thought of attending her first real party, and the heighted adrenaline pumping through her ears at the fact that she was personally invited by Holly Holiday. She compressed the small thought at the back of her mind that Quinn would undoubtedly be in attendance, as well.
Rachel felt the valet tug her gently out of the vehicle, but she felt an even sharper tug at the back of her dress. She looked to Tina expectantly.
"Rachel," Tina looked down to her lap, then back at Rachel with a ferocity that was rarely seen. "You go in there and you show those blue bloods exactly why Holly Holiday personally invited you." Rachel nodded sharply, her heart swelling in gratitude for such a friend. "You are a great person, Rachel Berry. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."
Rachel knew she was being dramatic, but she couldn't stop tears from welling up in her eyes, but for once she did not let them fall. No matter how fitting the display of emotion would be for the current situation, she refused to destroy her hard-spent hours of makeup application.
She waved goodbye to Tina, and she was getting escorted up the stone steps and through the large doors of Château Fabray before she could watch her best friend drive away. She felt her frock being tugged from around her shoulders and was shuttled down a familiar hallway towards large double doors leading to a grand ballroom.
Rachel's mouth dropped open in awe.
With marble floors so polished that the large crystal chandeliers hanging on the room's towering ceiling reflected perfectly off of its surface, and an imperial staircase at its rear made of polished dark wood and intricately designed steel railing, Rachel hardly noticed the low hum a live orchestra, nor the approach of a sneering, ill-meaning trio until they blocked her vision of the room.
"Well, look who finally decided to make her appearance." A familiar nasally voice mocked.
Rachel's face stretched into a grin that didn't quite meet her eyes. "Good evening to you too, Sugar. I hope all is well?"
"It must be normal for commoners to come late to exclusive events." Harmony added thinly.
Another girl, one that Rachel recognized as Kitty—daughter of the current Chief of Police—scanned her dress with narrowed eyes. "And apparently doesn't know how to dress for the occasion."
Rachel's face heated in a blush. She knew that she was not dressed in the most appropriate fashion, but there was no turning back now. Yet she couldn't help the stutter in her retort. "I-I read the invitation quite thoroughly a number of times a-and it didn't state that this was a black tie—"
"Are you slow, Berry?" Sugar interrupted. "The invitation didn't have to say anything."
Kitty huffed out a humorless laugh. "It's a weekend event after 6pm-"
"Hosted by a Fabray." Harmony finished. "What did you expect? Some low budget house party?"
The girl's giggled in unison as Rachel's face reddened even further. Regardless, she held her head up defiantly. "Your advice has been received. If you would excuse me…" She trailed off as her eyes scanned the room for familiar faces. She spotted Mike, Kurt, and Blaine Anderson (he was introduced to her as the heir to a high-end bowtie line and Kurt's significant other during their time at Gershwin's) dressed smartly in black tuxedos and conversing near a fountain of punch; Mercedes and Artie giggling near the imperial staircase; Sam leaning against the far wall, looking right back at her…
But her eyes didn't stop there. Rachel couldn't help but to have her eyes drawn to the three throne like chairs in the far corner which seated none other than the F3. Brittany and Santana were scanning the room and speaking lowly with their heads tilted toward one another, and Quinn, in a lovely black dress, bright red lips, and curled hair peered around the room in neutral observation.
But just as Rachel looked in her direction, Quinn's eyes slid over to her own.
Rachel's breath hitched.
Then she let out a huff in relief—perhaps even disappointment—when Quinn's eyes only continued their journey across the room. There was no form of acknowledgement in her gaze. No form of recognition.
Rachel should feel relieved about this, shouldn't she? This was all she had been asking of Quinn since her Red Card status had been revoked; to leave her alone and pretend that Rachel did not exist.
But why did she feel the familiar sting of neglect when Quinn failed to acknowledge her, even though she was the one who kissed her without warning just days before? Perhaps she was beginning to get spoiled by all of the attention as of late. Other than the undying love and affection from her fathers, Rachel was often ignored or heavily ridiculed for the high amount of dedication to her art and sometimes overzealous personality.
Rachel supposed that her fluke of a social life since attending Dalton Academy was culminating at the night's end. The taste in her mouth went sour just by the thought.
Rachel's eyes slid over to Quinn's features once again. Being forgotten by everyone.
Rachel didn't have the time to analyze her train of thought, because the three girls that she thought she had just dismissed were pressing into her personal space. Rachel had to back up a few steps just to peer up at their faces.
"I have no idea why Franny Fabray would ever invite a bottom feeder like you," Kitty sneered, her voice dropping from saccharine to pure venom. "But I suggest you leave now to save yourself the embarrassment."
"You heard her." Sugar was now also scowling. "You have some nerve, actually showing up here."
Harmony, the tallest of the trio placed her hands on hips and ducked to Rachel's eye level. "Everyone knows she only invited you out of pity."
Rachel's gaze dropped to her shoes. She had assumed as much, but only to herself. She hated that these girls were targeting her deepest insecurities.
"Have you girls taken the initiative to greet all my guests with such a warm and personal welcome?" A silky voice interrupted their conversation. All eyes snapped up to meet sparkling hazel eyes.
The trio began to fumble immediately. Sugar stepped up first. "W-we were just showing Berry the ropes, Franny." Kitty spoke next. The sudden switch from malice to admiration in her eyes made Rachel dizzy. "It is her first high class party after all." She finished. Harmony only nodded in agreement.
"Well in that case," Franny winked in Rachel's direction. "I can take over from here."
The three girls, dumbfounded shifted their formation to allow Franny through, with Rachel's elbow clutched within her own.
Quinn felt Rachel enter the room before she could actually see her.
Not that she actually wanted to. Certainly after being so thoroughly rejected when she lost her sanity for just a moment days before. One small, miniscule, much more enjoyable than she would care to admit, moment. Despite her temporary loss of control, her pride was battered and her ego, heavily bruised. Seeing Rachel while she was still metaphorically licking her wounds would be absolutely unacceptable.
Because Quinn Fabray was not pathetic.
But when the small hum of snickers rattled around the hall, she couldn't resist sliding her eyes in Rachel's direction at the entrance. At first Quinn was irritated because—well—she was late.
For a girl who constantly preached punctuality (Quinn had overheard Rachel berating uncaring classmates on several occasions within the halls), her tardiness could not be easily excused. But then Quinn noticed her state of dress—
"…the hell is she wearing?" Quinn's eyes snapped towards Santana, sitting next to her with legs crossed in a red, off-shoulder dress. "She looks like she just stepped off the carriage in Munchkin Land." Quinn heard Brittany giggle beside Santana.
"The polka dots are making me kind of dizzy." Brittany absently adjusted the lengthy split in her white dress. "She still looks cute though, doesn't she Quinn?"
Quinn was fighting the urge to pinch the bridge of her nose.
A large part of her felt so humiliated for the girl that Quinn had the urge to drag her away from the judgmental eyes of their peers. Another part of her was so angry—and yes, hurt—by her blatant rejection that she wanted to allow Rachel to fend for herself against the wolves that call themselves socialites.
Quinn released a sigh.
She shouldn't be feeling either way about it. In fact, she shouldn't care about Rachel at all. "Why does it matter what she looks like." She finally answered Brittany as she tossed her hair over her shoulder. "In fact, I have no idea why she's worth having a conversation about."
Santana shot her an incredulous glance, but said nothing to contradict her.
Quinn chanced another glance in the direction of the entrance the moment Rachel's eyes met her own. She schooled her features to be as neutral as possible and continued to survey the room, purposefully dismissing her. It took much self control for Quinn not to smirk when she saw a flash of disappointment cross over Rachel's features at her lack of acknowledgment.
Serves the commoner right for pushing her away in the first place.
As much as Quinn wanted nothing more than to pretend that Rachel didn't exist—she clinched her fists when she spotted Franny shooing away the girl's tormentors, and scowled when Rachel's big brown eyes widened in admiration as Franny took her arm and led her further into the ball room—she wanted to confront Rachel about the kiss. She needed to confront her about the kiss.
And why she was rejected.
Because Rachel Berry is pretty damn hard to ignore.
Quinn would claim temporary loss of sanity until the day she died, but during that bout of mindless impulse, she remembered the way her stomach clenched when her lips finally touched Rachel's, and remembered pressing her own palms against the cold tile to keep herself from wrapping her arms around Rachel's waist to draw her closer. Too soon, was one of the few thoughts that echoed in her muddled mind. Rachel was frozen, taken by surprise, and her lack of response didn't bother Quinn as much as it should have. In fact, it made Quinn want to work to get a reaction even more, so she tilted her head to deepen the kiss.
Then she felt pressure just underneath her collarbone, and it took Quinn more than just a few moments to realize that Rachel Berry was pushing her away.
Her vision finally focused.
Away from Rachel's lips, up to her eyes, big, brown and wide in shock. And then Rachel's eyebrows scrunched in—resentment? Annoyance perhaps. Quinn felt hurt and angry. Both stemming from the nagging thought at the back of her mind; Rachel wouldn't have done the same if Sam were in my place. But then a less familiar feeling began to bubble in chest. A feeling that she hadn't felt since waking up next to Noah Puckerman. Her heart rate sped and her throat began to close.
Quinn just kissed Rachel Berry.
Rachel Berry, the girl in which Quinn's sister so graciously informed her that she apparently had an attraction to, not the other way around.
An impulse Quinn would have never acted on if Franny had never came back home; if, for once, Franny would learn to shut her fucking mouth about things she has no idea about; if Rachel wasn't so damn stubborn; if Sam never showed interest in Rachel in the first place—
She remembered taking a step backward.
Then bolting out of the door like her life depended on it.
She didn't hear Rachel call her name as the bathroom door swung shut, and hardly noticed Franny's worried glance as she breezed by their table and out of the Gershwin's entrance.
This time, Quinn gave into the urge to pinch the bridge of her nose.
"I kissed her."
Quinn said it low enough that it was barely heard over the live orchestra, but Santana had the ears of a hunting dog, and visibly froze in her seat.
As if sensing the tension, Brittany waved over three champagne flutes form the nearest server. Both Santana and Quinn downed their glasses in a single gulp.
"I kissed her and—" She inhaled as deeply as possible. "Oh God. I kissed her."
"Quinn," Santana breathed out, waving over another flute. "You are an outstanding heterosexual." She took another gulp of champagne and ignored the glare Quinn sent in her direction. "Outstanding."
"Franny has no idea what she's talking about." Quinn murmured, dismissing Santana's sarcasm.
"No idea about what?" Brittany interrupted another retort from Santana with a sharp glance.
"Nothing." Quinn dismissed, eyeing her own fingernails to keep from looking around the room for someone in particular.
"Rachel looks so lost." Brittany murmured into her flute, her blue eyes softening. Quinn looked up before she could stop herself.
Rachel was standing alone in the corner, next to the hors d'oeuvre table, eyeing Franny as she flitted about the room, charming and entertaining her guests with bright smiles and gentle touches. Rachel was taking in everything with wide, expressive eyes, but her hands were clasped demurely in front of her, and her shoulders were tight, drawn, with insecure ty.
Quinn raised an eyebrow as she noticed Rachel attempt to make eye contact with familiar faces; many, recognized by Quinn who had been enjoying her company just nights before in the Gershwin Café. Even Kurt, who was as apologetic as ever for shunning Rachel while being red-carded (on his behalf, Quinn thought coldly), continued to pretend that he did not notice Rachel's presence in the ball room.
He was embarrassed. They all were.
But Rachel didn't look that bad. Her eyes were bright, her long hair, perfectly curled and constrained in a ponytail, and the dress —though inappropriate for the occasion, and okay, a little hard to look at without feeling out of sorts—accentuated her body quite nicely.
Though she just had a similar train of thought of feeling embarrassed for Rachel just a few moments prior, Quinn felt her blood boil at the fact that the coward that called himself her friend was abandoning her once again in her time of need. If anything he—everyone— should show nothing but respect towards the girl. Not one of them could say that they've stood toe to toe with the leader of F3 and lived to tell the story, and not one of them could say that they'd overcome a Red-Carded sentence with their dignity in tact.
"Someone should talk to her." Brittany continued, eyeing Santana when all she did was shrug and take a sip of her champagne. "Quinn?" Before Quinn could even think about taking Brittany's suggestion, she spotted Sam, sharp as ever in a white tuxedo, sweeping across the floor with a clear destination.
Right towards Rachel Berry.
Quinn didn't realize that she had a death grip on the arms of her favorite bergère chair. She would later be unhappy about the crescent indents in its polished wood when it was moved back to her personal quarters. She would then fire the staff member who moved it without getting it repaired.
The smile that appeared on Rachel's face when Sam greeted her made both her heart skip a beat, and her chest bloom with the now familiar feeling of jealousy.
It was unfortunate that Franny's assessment of her behavior was beginning to make sense.
Quinn had gotten anxious to the point where she could no longer stay seated, so she wandered around the hall, dismissing empty complements on her clothing; initiating shallow conversation with Fabray Enterprise benefactors that had been invited to the event; and ignoring the numerous suitors that asked her to dance.
Her eyes were on Rachel for a good portion of the night. She watched as her eyes widened whenever Sam wandered away to do his job as a family host. How she would flinch from the sneers and snide comments of her peers. How she would smile in admiration when Franny would breeze by her with a wink and smile. How she would press herself against the wall when the main floor would crowd for a periodic waltz. How she would wave off the server's offer of champagne and request a glass of water instead.
How every now and again, Rachel's eyes would meet her own, no matter what obstacles were in the way.
It was disturbing how hyper-aware Quinn was of Rachel's presence throughout the night. Which made it difficult to understand why mid-way through, Quinn lost her. She peered around the room, knowing unconsciously that a crimson belt and a polka dot patterned dress shouldn't be this difficult to find.
But Rachel just disappeared.
She wasn't panicking. She really wasn't. As a matter of fact, Quinn was hardly worried. But it didn't stop her from grabbing her sister's arm and dragging her away from a group of common circle socialites mid-conversation.
"Where is she?"
Franny raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. "Who, exactly?"
Quinn bit her tongue when Franny lifted her lips into a knowing smirk. "Don't, Fran. Just don't."
Franny gave her the look. The same look when she knew that Quinn was lying when she told her mother that it was the latest butler that broke her prized vase. The same look that she gave when she was caught Quinn kissing Matt Rutherford, then Mike Chang, in the hallway closet when she was in the 6th grade. The same look she gave when she told Quinn that she might have an attraction to one Rachel Berry.
Quinn placed her hands on waist, and focused her attention on anything that was away from Franny's knowing gaze.
"Last I saw her was…" Franny eyed the hors d'oeuvre table, then the nearest wall. Her vision then shifted to Sam, who was talking to a few classmates, with Rachel nowhere in sight. "She's probably—oh!" Franny snapped her fingers. "Check the patio. She might have wanted to get some fresh—"
Quinn was walking towards the patio before Franny even finished her sentence. The double doors were wide open, and the glow of the Olympic sized pool gave the outdoor area a surreal radiance, but the sight that met her eyes was less than appealing. A small crowd was gathered by the shallow end of the pool, and the sounds of splashing water were almost drowned out by the distinct laughter of Kitty, Harmony and Sugar Motta. Quinn only had to shove a few people out of the way before the crowd knew that it needed to part for her.
Rachel, soaked to the bone, was clinging to pool's edge by her forearms, gasping for breath. By the look on her face, Rachel's dip in the pool was unintentional, and judging by the amusement dancing in the three girl's eyes standing front and center, it certainly wasn't an accident.
Quinn was moving forward to help Rachel out of the pool until she felt a rough shove against her shoulder and saw a tuxedo of pure white.
"Rachel! Are you alright?" Sam's voice was full of concern, and was pulling off his jacket to wrap around the now shivering Rachel Berry. Her lips were blue and trembling, and she could barely get a response out to Sam before she was being ushered through the crowd. Quinn could only look on helplessly.
Brittany and Santana were by her side in an instant. Franny appeared just a few moments later.
"What the hell just happened?" Her sister's tone was of full barely concealed disapproval. The growing crowd seemed to collectively look down in guilt, but Franny received no response. "I'm waiting for an answer." Her tone was now no-nonsense. Harmony was the first to hesitantly step forward.
"We were—" Harmony pointed to herself, then Sugar, then Kitty. "We were getting some fresh air, and we noticed Rachel standing much too close to the pool."
"We tried to tell her to get away from the edge, but you all know just how stubborn a commoner can be." Sugar added.
"So we went to go and help her and the poor girl fell in." The smirk on Kitty's face caused Quinn to growl lowly in her throat. She felt Santana put a warning hand on her shoulder. "Good thing she was able to swim. I didn't know commoners even bothered to learn." She finished with a shrug of shoulders.
Franny looked at them for moment, her eyes icing to a subzero degree. Quinn smirked when noticed that the three girls went pale by the look alone. "It's quite chilly," Franny spoke to crowd, her eyes still on the trio in front of her. "Everyone should head back inside." As the patio began to clear, Quinn felt the bit of jealousy at how skillfully and efficiently Franny was taking control of the situation, bloom through her chest.
"Brittany." She was by Franny's side in an instant. "Follow Sam and get Rachel cleaned up. Allow her any of my clothing that may fit. I'll be up in a few moments." Brittany nodded and pranced after Sam. "Santana." She let out a low hum to show that she was listening. "Keep things running smoothly in the Main Hall." Santana sauntered away through the patio door, shooting Quinn a questioning look on the way.
"I'm going to go check on Rachel."
"No," Franny answered carefully. "You're not."
Quinn raised a challenging brow. "Excuse me?"
"Your responsibility is in the Main Hall with Santana."
"Says me." Franny's tone hardened even further, temporarily turning away from the three girls now trembling next to the pool. She lowered her voice enough so that only Quinn could hear. "As you are responsible for these girl's behavior in the first place."
"I didn't tell them to do this!" Her tone was angry, but her voice just as quiet as Franny's. "Why are you putting the blame on me?"
"Because actions speak louder than words, Quinn." She stiffened at the familiar saying, one that was ground into her system from the moment she was born. "You are a leader. A leader who leads by example. An example that turned the entire school against Rachel."
Quinn looked angrily to the floor, reluctantly admitting that Franny might be correct in her statement.
Franny's voice softened, but held a sense of seriousness that caused Quinn to remember just how much she respected her older sister. "Whatever attraction you may be feelingfor Rachel Berry, she will always see you as the person responsible for her torturous experience at Dalton Academy. No matter how your personal view of her changes, your past with her can't be easily dismissed. And her opinion of you can't start to change until you begin to take responsibility for your actions."
Franny took a deep breath. "So now, it's time to get your head out of your ass, be a leader, and get to the damn Main Hall." Franny turned away from Quinn, dismissing her, dismissing their decidedly one-sided conversation, and said in level of voice meant for the three girls by the pool to hear, "Because there's a few things I'd like to discuss these young ladies, alone."
Quinn let out a silent snarl and stalked towards the patio doors and back into the warmth of the Main Hall. She also planned to give those girls a piece of her mind come Monday morning. Dalton Academy was much more familiar terrain, after all.
She approached Santana silently, neither having to say a word to one another, and began to traverse the ballroom. Their rounds once again consisted of shallow conversations neither would remember by the night's end. Light flirtation with the hapless sons of wealthy investors. The occasional dance.
And before Quinn knew it—she glanced up at the large clock hanging just above the imperial staircase—forty-five minutes had passed. With still no sign of Rachel Berry.
Quinn caught herself pacing with an irritating twitch to her wrists when she caught Santana eying her with a raised a eyebrow.
"She probably went home, you know." Santana shrugged her bare shoulder. "Hell, wouldn't you?"
Quinn didn't answer, but that didn't mean that she agreed with Santana's statement. She knew that Rachel was far too stubborn to take the easy way out.
Brittany's sudden appearance confirmed Quinn's thoughts, but Santana spoke before she could.
"Everything good with the dwarf, Britts?
Brittany nodded enthusiastically, procuring two glasses of champagne for both Quinn and Santana. "At first she was crying, you know?"A lump formed in Quinn's throat. "She really wanted to leave. But then Franny swept in and—wow, I forgot how scary your sister is when she's mad, Quinn." Quinn and Santana nodded gravely, both having been on the receiving end of that anger at some point in their lives. One more recently than the other. "Franny had to kick Sam out because he was being really overbearing and asking all of these questions."
Quinn clenched her glass so hard that she was surprised that it didn't shatter. Though it did explain Sam's earlier appearance moments before Brittany when he stalked in through the service door. He had been pacing in front of the imperial stairway ever since. "That and she had to change her clothes."
"Where is she now?" Quinn couldn't help asking.
"Fran should be finishing up her hair and makeup now. I picked out the shoes and dress—that girl is tiny and Franny is so tall. It took forever to find something that fit. She looks great Quinn."
"I hope you burned the dress she was wearing before." Santana huffed. "Silver linings, am I right?" Quinn pursed her lips at the insult. Santana only nudged her shoulder playfully in response. "Get the stick out of your ass, Q. I was only joking about your girl. Mostly."
"She's not my-" But Brittany was tapping her shoulder and pointing in the direction of the staircase before she could finish her sentence.
And time slowed down for Quinn Fabray.
She did not feel the champagne flute slip from between her fingers.
She did not hear the glass shatter at her feet, nor did she notice the abrupt wave of silence that fell across the grand hall.
She was numb to Santana and Brittany's concerned nudges and Franny's piercing gaze.
Because all Quinn could see was Rachel Berry.
Rachel Berry, getting led down the staircase by Franny, with her hair, long and brown, and so luminous that it was damned near reflective.
Rachel Berry, in a soft pink, mermaid-style gown, showing off curves that Quinn had forgotten existed under her Dalton Academy uniform, and bronze skin glowing beautifully under the chandelier lights.
Rachel Berry, with a soft blush on her features and a downturned gaze from the sudden attention of her peers.
Rachel Berry, and her already naturally plump lips touched with lip gloss and her hands, smoothing down invisible wrinkles on her torso.
Quinn's feet began moving of their own accord, her vision full of glowing coffee-brown eyes and silky tan skin.
But then her vision was filled with white. Broad shoulders and a tall stature, she recognized Sam Evans covered from head to toe in a pure white suit. He was peering down at Rachel with a half-smile on his features and his hand outstretched as a silent request to dance. Quinn's eyes fluttered when Rachel responded with a smile of her own, and then narrowed when Rachel's arms settled around Sam's shoulders, and his around her waist.
Quinn sucked in a deep breath at the sudden feeling of longing and the much stronger, familiar bloom of jealously expanding within her chest.
Time then shifted to its normal speed, the murmur of conversation, clinking glasses, and the low thrum of orchestral music startled her out of daze. Her eyes immediately sought out those similar to her own. Franny was watching her.
She had most likely been watching Quinn's reaction to Rachel's transformation like a hawk. Quinn felt the size of the room begin to shrink. She turned back to Rachel, now twirling gleefully in Sam's arms around the ballroom.
The room felt smaller.
And so Quinn left it.
Quinn didn't have to turn around from the bar to know that Rachel, of all people, was the first to seek her out. And she was the very last person that Quinn wanted to see. "I want to be alone right now Berry." She heard Rachel sigh and tried to ignore the gentle clack of her borrowed heels as she moved to stand next to Quinn at the bar anyway.
"I'm thirsty." Was all she said. Quinn huffed when she saw Rachel peer into her cup at the corner of her eye. "What are you drinking?"
"Where's Sam?"Quinn asked instead, circling the rim of her glass with her index finger and allowing bitterness to leak into her tone.
Rachel looked downwards. "Socializing."
"Interesting." Quinn murmured. "He didn't seem too keen on letting you out his sight earlier."
"I haven't seen him in at least a half hour. And the last I saw him he was doing a rather interesting impersonation of Sean Connery." Rachel finished with a light giggle.
Quinn rolled her eyes. Her cousin had been attempting to perfect his accent for years.
He was still terrible at it.
"What are you drinking?" Rachel attempted again.
Quinn huffed a humorless laugh as she swirled the yellow liquid around her glass. "Something too strong for you."
She tried not to smirk when Rachel raised a challenging eyebrow. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"It's alcoholic." Quinn hummed. "I doubt you drink, regardless." She finally turned her gaze to Rachel—which was probably a terrible mistake, because Rachel's brown eyes, though full of purpose and defiance, were sparkling under the low lights of the empty bar room.
Quinn swallowed around the lump that suddenly formed in her throat.
"You don't know anything about me."
Quinn fingered the bit of condensation that formed at the side of her glass. "I know that you were dodging champagne glasses all night. If you wanted to drink, you would have done it by now." She realized that she just admitted to watching Rachel all night, but she couldn't bring herself to care. Rachel didn't seem to notice, anyway.
Rachel huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. Quinn's eyes flickered in attempt to keep her focus on Rachel's face. "Other than the fact that we are underage," The bartender, cleaning a glass nearby, pointedly looked in the other direction. "I'll have you know that on occasion, I'm offered Manischewitz during Shabbat."
"Kosher wine." Quinn stated in disbelief. "That's practically grape juice."
Rachel fought to hide the blush on her features as she settled her forearms onto the countertop. "I'll have what she's having, sir." She spoke to bartender, her voice determined.
Quinn tapped the countertop to get his attention as well. "Make it sweet. She might not be able to handle it."
"Excuse me, I requested for it to be exactly the same. I can handle it."
"It's strong." Or at least it would be to Rachel. Quinn has been mixing cocktails for herself since her parents' divorce when she was fourteen. That stressful time in her family's lives gifted her with a stronger tolerance of alcohol than most.
Rachel nodded her head firmly. "I'll drink what you are drinking."
Quinn was pleased to see the bartender hesitate, but decided to let Rachel learn the hard way. "Fine. Do what she says." She waved absently. After a few moments of the gentle clinking of glass on glass, he set the beverage on the table and Rachel eyed it with trepidation.
"This is—this is larger than expected."
Quinn raised her own glass to show that Rachel got just what she requested.
"R-Right." She tilted her head to sip on the cocktail straw, her straightened hair falling over a bare shoulder in the process. Quinn took a generous sip of her own drink, but only because her throat was dry, certainly not because she was fighting the urge to run her fingers through Rachel's hair. Both Rachel and Quinn grimaced, but for different reasons.
Rachel turned towards her again. "Are we going to discuss what happened at Gershwin's?"
"No." Quinn answered immediately, noticing that her cup was now empty. She motioned the bartender for another. "Nothing happened."
"Quinn, something did happen."
"But nothing of importance."
She watched Rachel rear back, shocked; maybe hurt. Good. That was exactly how Quinn was feeling now. "Quinn…you—you kissed me."
Quinn groaned into her drink. "And you pushed me away."
Rachel blinked. "You took me by surprise. I mean—The things you've put me through…Quinn, you hate me."
Something bubbled up in Quinn's chest. Was it frustration? "I don't hate you." She barked. Her brows furrowed and her tone gentled. But only slightly. "I never told you that."
"You never had to." Rachel answered softly. "Actions speak so much louder than words."
Quinn hummed. Hearing the same phrase twice within the same night struck a chord, as it was the daily mantra of the Fabray household. Judy Fabray could command the room with body language alone. Franny could enrapture an audience with an award winning smile. Quinn could freeze an entire room by just a glance.
Words were nothing without the power to back them.
"You're beautiful, you know." Rachel blurted. Her head, tilted in her direction. Quinn assumed that the beverage was beginning loosen Rachel's tongue. "Pretty. One of the prettiest girl's I've ever met." Quinn flushed, she couldn't help it. Not while she was on her second drink at the bar, and perhaps the fourth drink of the night. Or maybe the fifth.
"But I've seen you do some cruel things. Not just to me; to other people as well." Quinn stared into her glass. She couldn't help but to feel that some of the people got just what they deserved. She glanced at Rachel. Some people. "I want to believe that there's more than that to you."
"What did my actions speak of that night?" The words tumbled out of Quinn's mouth before she could stop herself. The alcohol was beginning to have its affect on her as well. She watched as Rachel took a long sip of her drink, right until the ice rattled at the bottom of her glass.
Rachel inhaled. "If you were a normal person," She exhaled. "I would think you had feelings for me." Rachel chuckled when Quinn furrowed her eyebrows even further. "That you had a misguided 'elementary school' complex, showering the person you like with negative attention to make them notice you."
Quinn didn't want to acknowledge that Rachel was much closer to the truth than she realized.
"But you're not normal, Quinn. And you—you are quite difficult to read."
They both went silent. Quinn absently swirling the ice cubes in her drink that seemed to never melt, and Rachel, poking at the bare ice at the bottom of her glass.
"You must hate me." Quinn broke the silence first. Her voice was low, and her thoughts were heavy with her conversation with Franny earlier that night.
"Whatever attraction you may be feeling for Rachel Berry, she will always see you as the person responsible for her torturous experience at Dalton Academy."
"I—I don't hate you." Rachel moved a bit closer to Quinn when she shot her an incredulous look. "I really don't. But Quinn, you're frightening."
Quinn furrowed her eyebrows. "I don't understand."
"You're frightening because of what you're capable of doing. Because of the power that you readily use without a thought. Power, that you've used against me." Quinn's shoulders fell. "And then you go on and kiss me and—you're such a confusing person, Quinn Fabray."
Quinn didn't respond, since she was just as confused by her own behavior as Rachel was.
"I want another one." Rachel was resting her chin against her forearms, which were in turn folded across the bar's marble countertop. Quinn noticed that Rachel's glass was empty, and quickly waved over the bartender to give Rachel her second drink for the night.
"Alcohol is actually really gross, you know."
"So why did you want another?"
"To prove you wrong."
Quinn chuckled. "By getting yourself drunk?"
"By showing you that I can handle it."
"You're stubborn. Incredibly stubborn."
Quinn hummed in amusement at Rachel's first, second, and third attempt to get the cocktail straw into her mouth the moment the bartender set Rachel's third glass of alcohol on to the table. By now, the Main Hall was emptying with the evening coming to an end, and the few stragglers that entered the bar room froze in their tracks and exited with every glare Quinn sent in their direction.
"Why does everyone in your family seem to like me, except you?" Rachel's tongue was loosening even further with every sip through her straw. Quinn couldn't quite figure out if she was thoroughly annoyed or immensely entertained by this.
"L-Like Sam," Quinn stiffened at her cousin's name. "He's so nice and sweet. And so, so loyal."
"Congratulations, you just described a Golden Retriever."
Rachel ignored her. "And Holly or-or is it Franny—" Quinn rolled her eyes when Rachel's unfocused eyes began to shine in admiration. "She's so kind, and smart, and beautiful."
Quinn sighed. "So I've heard."
"But you." Rachel poked Quinn in the chest. "You're beautiful, but you glare at me a lot. You're always so serious, and you're always around. But then you always want me to listen to you."
Quinn sighed into her drink. Was she really always so serious?
"You always wear nice shoes." Rachel tilted down to peer at Quinn's current footwear. "Like now, you're wearing Lou bee—Lou vee—Lou—"
"Christian Louboutin." Quinn corrected, her French pronunciation appearing out by habit.
"The one with the red soles!" Rachel snapped her fingers triumphantly. But then Rachel leaned in to whisper conspiratorially in Quinn's ear. "And you kiss me." Quinn tried not shiver when Rachel's breath hit her neck. "Sam certainly doesn't do that."
Rachel leaned back, and her mouth immediately went back to her cocktail straw.
Quinn was still attempting to compose herself from Rachel's nearness, so she tapped the counter to get the bartender's attention.
"Quinn," Rachel drawled, her fourth empty glass of alcohol sitting beside her on the countertop.
The room was now eerily quiet without the drone of background noise from the Main Hall, as almost all of the event's attendees were gone. The sounds of servers cleaning glasses and moving tables filtered into the bar room.
"Your face is pretty. Did you know that? Your face is really," She tapped a finger to Quinn's nose. "Really," She tapped another finger to Quinn's chin. "Nice."
Quinn was fighting the blush at Rachel's proximity.
"Like, I can't tell if I want your face or if I—" Rachel paused. "Or if I want your face." Rachel scrunched her face in confusion. "Does that make sense, Quinn?"
Quinn nearly went cross-eyed when Rachel leaned in even further. "I don't think you want my face, Quinn. You're so much prettier than I am." Rachel sighed wistfully, her breath giving away her alcohol intake for the night. "But from the other night—you know—in the restaurant bathroom, I'm sure you want my face," Rachel scrunched her nose. "But on your face. Get it?"
When Quinn opened her mouth to respond, Rachel pressed a finger sloppily to her lips. "Shush. Don't say anything. You're…you're so much prettier when you don't speak." Quinn narrowed her eyes. "When you—when you don't speak, you're not nearly as obnoxious."
When Quinn felt Rachel wobble dangerously on her feet, her arm wrapped around Rachel's waist unconsciously to steady her. "I think I need to get you home." She murmured, but Rachel's own response was to wind her arms around Quinn's neck.
"You stole my first kiss, you know."
Quinn's eyes widened, and tried to think clearly with alcohol coursing through her veins and Rachel's lips so close to her own. "I was—I don't believe you."
Rachel nodded firmly, her forehead nearly slamming into Quinn's nose. "You were." Quinn felt yet another unfamiliar feeling bubble up within her chest. A feeling that felt strangely similar to pride.
"Quinn Fabray. Oh so pretty. So pretty, and so smart. Yet so, so rude, and utterly entitled."
Quinn growled lowly under her breath, but the growl turned into a surprised purr when Rachel tugged her forward and connected their lips for the second time within the week.
Not that Quinn was complaining exactly.
But this time there was more. Alcohol gave Rachel the confidence she would have lacked otherwise in this situation. So when Rachel pulled back with a small pop to murmur, "Your lips are still warm," and dove back in, Quinn allowed her fingers to tighten across Rachel's back, and her lips to part to allow Rachel's tongue to tangle with her own.
All Quinn could feel was the heat beneath her fingers and the languid movements of lips, teeth and tongue.
And it ended much too soon.
Quinn felt Rachel's arms move from around her neck to rest her hands against her collarbone. It took longer than she cared to admit that Rachel was actually attempting to push her away.
When their lips finally parted, Quinn felt a surge of annoyance bubble up in her chest and leaned forward to follow Rachel as she attempted to back away. But Rachel's hands were persistent at keeping Quinn away at arm's length.
For good reason too.
Quinn blinked when Rachel dry-heaved once, then twice, then keeled over and—
"You've got to be kidding me!"
Emptied the contents of her stomach right onto Quinn's Louboutin shoes.
A/N: Once again, SO OVERWHELMED by the feedback for this story. Everyone is amazing and I really really can't thank you guys enough. Thank you so so so much TripUpStairs/justtripping for putting up with my shit. She's dealt with my procrastination, and my mental breakdowns full of crying gifs and personal complaints. And a special thanks to the folks who gave me the ass-kicking I needed to finally get this chapter completed.
Until next time,