Author's Note: This is another little addition to the Don't Blink 'verse - a prequel, if you will. Set before Don't Blink You Might Miss, Steady Your Hand and Diamonds Along the Way. Feedback is appreciated.
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or the characters, I just like to play with them…strictly non-profit.
My Life Before Me Undone
I saw it coming like summer rain
Incoming ocean, oncoming train
I veered in circles to get off your path
I tried to warn you
That this would be the kiss that counted
The one that mattered
My life before me undone
This would be the kiss that counted
The one that shattered my defenses
Bringing me emotion
~Kiss That Counted, Catie Curtis
Rachel Berry loves Thursdays. It may seem like an odd day to choose as her favorite. Most people love Fridays or Saturdays and Sundays because it means the end of another dreary week of hard work and the opportunity to sleep late, lounge around with a cup of coffee, and leisurely read the newspaper before engaging in more entertaining pursuits, but Rachel's profession of choice doesn't give her that luxury. Weekends are the high attendance days in the theater, but Thursday is the day that her show is dark—the day that she gets to relax and unwind before resubmitting to the demands of two shows a day, six days a week.
Thursday is also the day that she gets to spend quality time with Quinn Fabray.
Rachel dodges and weaves through the traffic on her way to Central Park, checking her watch and scowling when she sees that she's running behind schedule. She took entirely too much time getting ready today, which is completely ridiculous and unforgivable because it's Quinn. Quinn has seen her at her very worst—no makeup, messy ponytails, in track pants and sloppy sweatshirts with a tear-stained face—on multiple occasions. Rachel frowns as she runs down a mental list of all those many occasions, and her stomach drops unpleasantly—because really? Quinn has seen her like that far too many times. When did she let herself get so comfortable around Quinn Fabray? How can she even begin to think that Quinn could ever actually want—
She shakes off those thoughts and focuses on her destination. She probably should have caught a cab, because all the work that she put into making her casual attire and appearance look slightly more attractive than normal is being completely ruined by the light sheen of perspiration gathering on her skin. It's such a nice day though, and her apartment in Sutton Place is only about a mile and a half away, and Rachel has made this walk more than a dozen times already since Quinn moved to New York last June. Has it really been a year?
Quinn graduated magna cum laud from Yale with a degree in English and a job as an assistant editor already lined up at HarperCollins. She'd packed up all of her belongings, caught a train to the city, and crashed on a pull out couch at Santana's apartment in Morningside Heights until she'd lucked into a reasonably affordable one-bedroom in Turtle Bay.
At the time, Rachel had been in the ensemble of her very first Broadway show and her only free day had been Tuesday. Needless to say, Tuesday used to be her favorite day. That's when her weekly standing date with Quinn had started. Quinn had been the one to suggest them as a way to keep their friendship strong amidst their increasingly hectic schedules. Rachel suspects that it's also meant to appease her jealousy of the time that Quinn and Santana are able to spend together.
Quinn typically works Monday through Friday, and she has her weekends free to unwind. She and Santana have gotten into the habit of meeting for a few drinks on Friday nights, sometimes dancing, usually at the latest trendy gay bar. Rachel has rarely been included in those excursions.
Her day with Quinn is something that no one else gets to share. It used to be Tuesday, and then it was Sunday for a few months when Rachel was in between shows, and now it's Thursday. Quinn works a few extra hours the rest of the week so that she can leave an hour or two early on Rachel's day off, and they catch a movie or just have dinner at whatever restaurant they've been wanting to try, tour a museum, browse the shops on Fifth Avenue, or stroll through Central Park.
The park is by far Quinn's favorite place in the city. She's not much of a jogger (ever since the accident that Rachel can't stand to think about) and if she walks too far or for too long, the slight limp that's barely noticeable under normal circumstances becomes far more pronounced, but Quinn never complains.
She and Rachel have spent many afternoons exploring the zoo, crossing the Great Lawn, climbing the narrow steps of Belvedere Castle, and singing Strawberry Fields Forever in the Strawberry Fields. Well, Rachel had been singing anyway. Quinn had been laughingly trying to clamp a hand over her mouth to stop her.
Rachel thinks that they must have explored every bridge, arch, and hidden pathway in the park, not to mention every statue and fountain. She remembers watching Quinn surreptitiously wipe away a few tears when she'd read the plaque at the statue of Balto and then claim it was just her allergies. She loves seeing that side of Quinn.
She loves seeing every side of Quinn.
She loves Quinn.
And she's absolutely terrified of what that means because this wasn't supposed to happen. She isn't supposed to feel this way about her best friend—her best female friend. Her best female friend who's been an out lesbian for four years and has never once expressed any romantic interest in Rachel. And why would she? Quinn is beautiful, intelligent, talented, brave, and sexy, and she's dated women who make Rachel look like—like a troll. A short, irritating, big-nosed troll.
Rachel's steps falter near the 61st Street entrance to the park, and she pauses by the wall, leaning against it for support and taking a shaky breath. She closes her eyes and tries to dig for her confidence again, but it's fairly pointless. Quinn has always been able to do this to her, reduce her to a mess of insecurity and anxiety just by existing and— sweet Barbra! How has it taken her this long to figure out why?
She desperately wishes that she could reclaim her own ignorance, go back to those days when she believed that the flutter that she feels in her belly whenever she sees Quinn is nothing more than happiness to spend time with her friend. When she honestly thought that the reason she dislikes every woman that Quinn meets is because none of them are good enough for her. When she could go out on a date with a guy and not spend every minute comparing him to Quinn.
Rachel doesn't know exactly when her feelings for Quinn started to change, but she's pretty certain that she's already in too deeply to get out with her heart intact. Whatever happens, losing Quinn's friendship is absolutely not an option. She already feels like she's made things awkward between them these last few weeks, ever since she'd finally realized why Quinn Fabray is the one person whom she just can't live without.
She's practically ruined their last two outings. Last week, she'd prattled on about her Tony nomination and her potential acceptance speech all through dinner to the point that she knew Quinn was getting irritated with her. And the week before, Rachel had insisted on a movie so they wouldn't have to talk much at all. That was two hours of awful, badly scripted, pseudo-entertainment that they'd never get back.
Rachel isn't particularly skilled at playing it cool when it comes to relationships. She never has been. She'd made a fool of herself in high school over every little crush, and she shudders to remember all of the things that she'd done to get and keep Finn Hudson. Her track record in college wasn't any better. Her last serious relationship had grown out of yet another infatuation with a leading man in a summer theater troop and had ended when he'd picked his career over her. She's actually grateful that her current leading man is capital-gee gay, although she's not even sure if his sexuality would make a difference to her now. Her feelings for Quinn are kind of getting in the way of giving anyone else a chance, and that's exactly why Rachel knows that she can't just ignore this thing and hope that it will go away in time. It's simply not in her genetic makeup to let go of something that she wants without a fight.
She just doesn't know if she's brave enough to risk ruining her current wonderful relationship with Quinn over the possibility of something more. She's driving herself crazy trying to remember every interaction that they've ever shared in an attempt to determine if her newly discovered feelings might be at all reciprocated, but she's afraid that she's projecting her own desire onto perfectly normal, friendly behavior.
She's gotten better at reading Quinn over the years, but there are still moments when the blonde effectively shuts everyone out and Rachel can only guess to what she's thinking. Maybe friendship is all that Quinn will ever want from her—and if that's all that she can have, she'll have to learn to let it be enough. Rachel likes to think that she's learned how to accept rejection, but she somehow doubts she's learned to do it gracefully.
Rachel sighs and straightens off the wall, brushing away the dirt from her stylishly distressed denim shorts, tightening her low ponytail, and tucking the loose tendrils of her grown out bangs behind her ears. She starts back up the path that leads to the café at the entrance to the zoo where she and Quinn typically meet. As she comes upon the buildings, she instantly sees Quinn sitting at one of the small tables. Her breath catches, those damned annoying butterflies start dancing in her stomach, and her heart trips over itself in the rush to push her body closer to Quinn. Now that she recognizes the reaction for what it is, she knows that it's been happening for the better part of the last year—possibly even longer.
Quinn doesn't notice her immediately, so Rachel takes the opportunity to silently admire her for a few moments. She's the picture of relaxation, soaking up the warm afternoon sun with her left leg propped up on the seat next to her and her attention completely captured by whatever book she's currently reading for pleasure.
The reading that Quinn is required to do for her job hasn't managed to sour her enjoyment of the pastime yet, and Rachel hopes that it never does. There's just something about seeing Quinn with her nose buried in a book that makes Rachel feel at home—as if everything is right in her world. Or maybe it's just seeing Quinn that makes her feel this way.
The sunlight is shining through her hair and casting a golden glow against her skin, and her pink lips are curved into a content little smile. She's beautiful—almost painfully so—and Rachel is caught between a reluctance to disturb the perfect vision in front of her and her irresistible desire to be within touching distance of Quinn.
She takes one step and then another and then, as if sensing her approach, Quinn's eyes look up from her book and lock onto Rachel. Her smile instantly blossoms into a wide grin, and Rachel sucks in quick, little breath as she steels herself against her own racing heart and quivering stomach. Rachel closes the remaining distance between them, watching as Quinn drops her book to the table and pushes her body up into a standing position.
"Hey, you," she says happily as she takes a step forward, opening her arms for their now habitual a hug, and Rachel slides right in and wraps her own arms around Quinn's shoulders.
She squeezes her eyes shut tight as she savors those four seconds of feeling Quinn's body pressed against hers and the warmth of deceptively strong arms around her back. She subtly inhales the scent of chamomile and pear that she's come to associate with Quinn, flushing with embarrassment when she registers the urge to bury her nose into silky, soft hair. Pulling away, Rachel flashes what she hopes is an easy smile.
"Sorry I'm a little late. I hope you haven't been waiting long."
Quinn waves off her apology. "It's such a beautiful day that I didn't even notice." She unhooks the little backpack that she always carries on their park excursions and shoves her book inside before Rachel can see the title. "Are you ready to walk, or do you want to sit and talk for a while first?" Quinn asks.
Rachel nervously licks her lips. She wants to talk—lord, does she ever—but she's not sure that she can without tripping over all the words that she's not quite ready to say. "Let's walk," she decides, thinking that the distraction of putting one foot in front of the other will keep her from obsessively over-analyzing every little thing that Quinn says and does.
Quinn slings her pack over her shoulder, reaches for the paper cup that's been sitting on the table, and holds it out for Rachel with a grin. "Brought you a present."
A wave of giddiness rushes through Rachel when she catches site of the little brown circle on the label that surrounds the Joe, advertising the best coffee shop in Manhattan. She eagerly takes the cup, feeling the cold condensation against her fingers, and smiles widely. "Iced soy chai latte?"
"Of course," Quinn replies with a raised brow that clearly says as if I don't know what your favorite drink is by now.
Rachel pops the tab on the lid and takes a greedy sip, savoring the rich flavor. Quinn's airy laughter tickles her ears, and she feels her cheeks flush as she lowers the cup. "Thank you, Quinn, but you really shouldn't have. Joe is out of your way."
"It's really not a problem, Rach. I like doing nice things for you," she says simply—just like that. No big deal.
And damn it—Rachel's heart does this funny, little somersault inside her chest. She tries to ignore it, because it's just Quinn being Quinn, but it's hard to overlook when none of the men that she's ever dated have been half as thoughtful or as in tune with her preferences.
She's just being a good friend, Rachel reminds herself. There's really nothing remotely romantic about soy chai.
"Well, I like having nice things done for me, which is why our relationship works so beautifully," Rachel quips, attempting to defuse her fanciful notions with humor. Hazel eyes flash with something that Rachel can't define, but the look disappears so quickly that she thinks it may have been nothing more than a trick of the light.
"Wow...I feel so valued," Quinn drawls wryly, her eyebrow inching up in silent accusation.
"You are," Rachel responds with a touch more feeling than she intends. Quinn appears to take an extra breath, and her eyes dart away to some point just over Rachel's shoulder. Rachel isn't sure whether she should read the reaction as embarrassment or discomfort—or something else entirely—so she lets it go and flashes a smile. "Bethesda Fountain or Conservatory Water?" she asks.
Quinn tilts her head slightly to the left and purses her lips as she considers her options. Rachel already knows what Quinn will choose, and she's proven right when the blonde announces, "Conservatory."
Rachel waves her arm dramatically and gives a little half bow. "Lead the way, oh captain," she commands, feeling light and giddy when her silliness causes Quinn to giggle.
"Do your fans know what a geek you are?" she asks with an amused roll of her eyes as she practically skips off onto the path.
"Hey!" Rachel exclaims, scurrying to catch up with Quinn and match her longer strides. "All evidence to that nature has been skillfully buried by my publicist, thank you very much."
Quinn smirks wickedly. "So all those old high school pictures that I have of you wearing owl sweaters and knee socks will be prime blackmail material one day."
Rachel flushes at the reminder of her sixteen-year-old self's wardrobe choices. "I wasn't that bad," she defends with a mock pout.
"Well, your fashion sense gradually improved anyway," Quinn admits, glancing over at Rachel with a grin. Their eyes meet, and both of their smiles widen. "Kurt," they say in unison, breaking into laughter.
They walk along in comfortable silence for a time, their steps in perfect sync and arms brushing together every so often. Rachel's eyes covertly roam over curves that are lovingly encased in Capri pants and a formfitting shirt. The breeze is playing in Quinn's shoulder length hair, and her face is tipped up slightly, like a flower under the sunlight. She looks so peaceful, enjoying the late spring weather, and Rachel realizes that she could happily spend the rest of her life just walking next to Quinn Fabray.
Needing to do something to quell the urge to tuck her hand into the crook of Quinn's elbow, Rachel hooks her thumb into the pocket of her shorts instead, curling her fingers into the denim covered top of her thigh. It really doesn't help, and she knows that she's in so much trouble.
"I wish I could do this every day," Quinn comments, her words echoing Rachel's recent thoughts so closely that those familiar butterflies in her stomach go crazy. "I hate being cooped up in a stuffy office," she adds, and the butterflies die from disappointment.
"At least you get some flexibility with your schedule, and you genuinely like your job." Rachel frowns a little as she studies Quinn's profile. "Or has that changed?"
Quinn turns to look at her and smiles reassuringly when she notices the genuine concern on Rachel's face. "No, I like it…mostly," she shrugs. "I guess I've just got a bad case of spring fever. Some days I feel like I'm not really accomplishing anything, you know? I mean, I read some of those manuscripts, and they're really awful, like laughingly bad, but some of them are so amazing, and I take them to my boss, thinking that the story has so much potential, only to have her toss them aside like they're incoherent drivel. It's so frustrating. I really hate mailing out rejection letters to writers who I think are really talented."
Rachel nods in understanding. "I can see how that could be disheartening. What about your own great American novel? You're still writing, aren't you?" she asks, truly curious. Quinn used to let her read some of her short stories in college, and Rachel had loved every one of them—amazed that her friend could evoke so many emotions with her carefully crafted words—but it's been so long since Quinn has even mentioned working on any stories of her own.
Quinn chuckles. "If you define writing as typing and deleting the same two sentences for an hour before calling it a night."
Rachel's frown deepens. "Is it that bad?"
"It's just hard to feel inspired lately," Quinn says, staring off into the distance with a pensive expression. She shakes her head and shrugs again. "I've always been kind of hot and cold in the creativity department anyway. Sometimes I can turn out a dozen pages in one sitting and other times...nothing. The last few weeks have been falling on the nothing end of the spectrum."
"Well, you never know, inspiration could be right around the next corner," Rachel encourages, gesturing around them to indicate the beautiful day and the smiling people frolicking in the park and—oh, the obnoxious teenagers practically having sex on the lawn next to the Conservatory Water. She flushes, glancing at Quinn with curiosity to see if she noticed, and Quinn catches her eyes with an amused smirk before they both giggle.
"Public indecency aside," Quinn comments with a roll of her eyes, "I hope you're right."
Rachel grins, forgetting herself for a moment as she reaches over and curls her hand around Quinn's biceps. "I'm always right, Quinn."
Quinn laughs. "And obviously still living in that fantasy world of yours."
"Not so much anymore," Rachel replies with a wistful smile.
There's an awkward silence as they stroll past the pond, and Rachel becomes uncomfortably aware of Quinn's tense muscles under her fingers. She slides her hand away, sneaking worried glances to her right as Quinn thoughtfully chews on her lower lip.
"So, does that mean that Peter the Great is still in the doghouse?" she finally asks, and Rachel nearly trips over her own feet.
She looks at Quinn sharply as she processes the facetious moniker that Quinn had bestowed on Rachel's last boyfriend, who'd very recently moved back to New York. She hasn't heard the nickname fall from Quinn's lips in more than a year, and she'd honestly forgotten all about it until now.
Rachel had met Peter Kendrick three years ago, and she'd fallen for him pretty hard at the time. He was different than the other men that she'd dated—talented, of course, but also kind, intelligent, and fairly soft-spoken. Their relationship had lasted fourteen months and had only ended because Peter had been offered an irresistible opportunity to star in a show in London.
Quinn had never liked him and Rachel hadn't understood why, because Quinn and Peter actually had so much in common, down to their taste in literature. Too much in common, as it turns out. Rachel just hadn't realized all of the similarities until recently.
Three weeks ago, Peter had called Rachel and asked her to dinner to catch up, or so he'd said. She'd been excited, thinking that they might have a second chance at their relationship—possibly her healthiest one to date—and that was exactly what Peter had wanted as well. Except seeing Peter again had only made Rachel realize that she was very much over him. In fact, she'd spent the entire evening comparing him to Quinn and had the frightening epiphany that she'd initially been attracted to him all those years ago because he'd reminded her so much of Quinn.
Quinn—who'd never liked Peter and who'd told her that she shouldn't jump back into his arms just because he was back in New York. Quinn—who apparently still expects Rachel to take Peter back, despite already having been told otherwise.
Rachel's heart is racing and her mind is spinning with the possible implications. Could Quinn be jealous? Or is she just projecting her own desire again?
"Peter isn't in the doghouse," she says evenly. "We're friends."
Quinn scoffs, "You dated him for more than a year, Rachel."
"And we've been broken up for more than a year," she reminds Quinn, carefully watching her expression, but Quinn is still far too skilled at keeping her mask in place. She won't meet Rachel's eyes though, and that gives her a little hope that she isn't just imagining Quinn's displeasure. "We're different people now, Quinn. There's...no spark anymore."
Quinn does look at her then, and her eyes betray all of the emotions that her face won't reveal. "Oh," she says simply, glancing away again, but Rachel's breath catches anyway, and she knows that she can't let this go.
They're standing at the Alice In Wonderland statue now, and Rachel turns and heads for an empty bench. With her back to Quinn, she closes her eyes briefly and bites into her lip, calling upon all of her courage to initiate a conversation that could potentially damage their relationship forever. Blowing out a cleansing breath, she opens her eyes and schools her features as she sits. Quinn follows her silently and takes a seat beside her, reflexively reaching down to massage her left calf.
Rachel stares at the statue, smiling a little at the kids posing for pictures. She glances at Quinn and sees her doing the same thing. "So, how did your date with deli girl turn out last weekend?" Rachel asks mildly. "Erin, was it?"
"Karen," Quinn corrects automatically, shrugging a shoulder, "and it was kind of a bust. Turns out that flirting over sandwich meat is about as stimulating as the conversation gets with her."
"Sorry to hear that," but really she isn't. She was a little worried about the pretty redhead that Quinn's been chatting up for the last month. If she's being honest—and she's trying to be these days—she's always a little worried that Quinn will meet someone amazing, fall in love, and start a life that no longer has any room for Rachel. Quinn's been out with a number of women since she moved to New York, but she never has more than two or three dates with the same one, and she hasn't been serious about anyone since college.
"I'm just sorry I have to find another place to get lunch now. Their pastrami on rye was to die for," Quinn says with a cheeky grin.
Rachel licks her lips, takes a breath, and purposely says, "I keep telling you that you should go vegan."
She watches Quinn's eyebrow twitch, and her throat muscles convulse as her grin slips a little. Her shoulders rise and fall on a deeper than normal breath, and her eyes dart away. Rachel doesn't know what she's thinking, but it doesn't matter, because the odd moment is gone as quickly as it came, and Quinn smiles again. "Not even you can tempt me away from meats and dairy, Rach. I actually like food that has flavor."
Rachel knows that Quinn is teasing her, and she falls back into their easy habit, willing to let the conversation play out gradually. "Vegan alternatives can be very flavorful."
"We're not having this debate again," Quinn insists. "I've already tried soy ice cream and facon, purely to appease you, if you recall, and I was not impressed."
"I really do appreciate that you even tried them," Rachel confesses, struck again by how many little things Quinn has done for her over the course of their friendship that even her lovers wouldn't do.
"And I appreciate that you're willing to suffer through poetry readings and open mic nights with me."
"That's true. I have gone to more than my fair share of those, and I've never complained." Quinn looks at her pointedly, brow arched, and Rachel sighs. "Okay, I've complained a little bit, but really Quinn, you can't expect me to sit quietly by while some drunken amateur decimates a Broadway classic."
"Trust me, I never expect quiet from you."
Delighted laughter rings out at Rachel's indignant outburst, and Quinn shakes her head in amusement and angles her body toward Rachel, bending her knee and resting her elbow on the back of the bench. "Haven't you figured out by now that I drag you to those open mic nights because I know that you can't resist grabbing the microphone and upstaging everyone? Don't get me wrong, seeing Rachel Berry on a Broadway stage is amazing, but there's just something really special about watching you perform in an intimate setting, singing a song that you really love."
And there it is—the thing that Rachel's been hoping to see. For just a moment, Quinn's mask slips away, her eyes go soft, and her smile dreamy as she gazes at Rachel.
"That's...I don't even..." Rachel's mouth is dry and her words are sticking in her throat. Her pulse is throbbing so strongly than she can feel the blood coursing through her veins. She isn't imagining this. She swallows thickly and clasps her hands together in her lap. She can do this. She can.
"Quinn, you know that the Tony Awards are two Sundays away."
"Hmm, really? I don't think you've mentioned that yet," Quinn teases, propping her chin against her palm.
"Well, the thing is...I...I don't really have a...a d-date. I was originally planning to attend with Kurt, but he asked Brandon to be his escort."
Quinn's brows furrow in confusion. "Brandon's the dancer, right?"
"No, that was Sean," Rachel clarifies. "Brandon is the photographer that Kurt met last month when he was interviewed for New York Magazine." She's still a little jealous about that—proud but jealous. She's only gotten an interview in Playbill for her Tony nomination while Kurt has been featured in multiple magazines for his revolutionary costume design in a hot, new musical.
Quinn clicks her tongue and rolls her eyes. "That man goes through more boy toys than Santana does bottles of hair straightener."
Rachel nods in agreement. "Yes. Well, anyway, as I was saying, I find myself without a plus-one for my very first awards show. And normally that would be perfectly fine; I'm an independent successful woman after all," she rushes to add, "but I am nominated, and that's kind of a big deal." Rachel winces a little at how conceited that sounded, even to her, and she qualifies it with, "Well, for me."
"I know that I have a few friends that I could ask who'd jump at the opportunity to accompany me, but...but I don't just want a body to fill the seat. I want...I'd like to share that moment with...with someone who's important to me. Someone who's always supported me and believed in me. And that person is," she licks her lips nervously, and forces her gaze to meet Quinn's head on, "it's you, Quinn."
Until that moment, Quinn had been smiling indulgently, but it melts away with Rachel's words. Rachel keeps talking, unable to keep from fidgeting under hardening hazel eyes.
"You've always believed in me, even when we weren't really friends. And now...you...you're my best friend, but you've always been so much more than that. You're there for me whenever I need you, Quinn. You skipped classes and rearranged your work schedule last year just to come see my very first show, and I was only in the ensemble. You brought me yellow roses on opening night of West Side Story." Quinn goes rigid now, straightening in her seat, and Rachel feels herself start to panic a little, but now that she's started, she can't stop her words from spilling out.
"You remember my favorite drink at my favorite coffee shop, and you put up with all of my...my idiosyncrasies and eccentricities...and you actually laugh at my jokes. You're the first person that I call to share good news with and...and the person that I most need to talk to whenever something bad happens. I can't even imagine my life without you in it. You...you're my person, Quinn. I think...I think maybe you always have been, but I...I've just...I've been so..."
"Stop," Quinn commands harshly. "You...you need to stop."
Rachel's stomach bottoms out, and she feels her eyes start to burn with tears. Quinn is leaning forward on the bench, completely closed off, with fingers curled around the edge of the seat. Her jaw is clenched so firmly that the little muscle in her cheek is jumping violently.
"Oh. O-okay," Rachel stutters in a small, defeated tone. She slumps forward until her posture mirrors Quinn's, and she has an awful flashback to sophomore year of high school. She can only hope that Quinn won't hate her this time either.
Quinn squeezes her eyes shut and exhales on a shaky breath. "You can't say things like this to me, Rachel. You just...can't," she pleads in a wavering voice. "Not when you don't..."
The sentence never ends, and another spark of hope ignites inside of Rachel, because Quinn doesn't sound angry. Or offended. She sounds—broken. Rachel turns a little, never taking her eyes from Quinn's face as she asks, "When I don't...what?"
Quinn shakes her head, staring down at the pavement. A tear escapes from the corner of her eye and travels a reckless path down over a pale cheek. She doesn't directly answer Rachel's question. "You...you have to realize...what you said...it makes it sound like...like..."
She doesn't finish that thought either, and Rachel takes a chance and reaches out to lightly curl her left hand over Quinn's right. "Like...you're the only one that I want…and not...not just as a date for the Tonys, but...everyday?"
Quinn's head jerks up and her watery eyes lock onto Rachel's, silently begging for answers. "Rachel?"
"I...I have feelings for you, Quinn," Rachel admits quietly, never breaking eye contact, "feelings that are deeper and far more complicated than I'd realized, and I know it must seem rather sudden. A-and unexpected, considering my past romantic preferences have been decidedly...heteronormative," she concedes, albeit reluctantly. She's well aware that her dating history has given Quinn no reason to consider that she could ever be sexually attracted to another woman. Rachel's a little surprised by this development herself, but she's most definitely attracted to Quinn. Very much so.
"Although I've always considered myself to be open to love in whatever form it comes to me, I admit that I was, in fact, looking for...for a certain package." The wrong package, she thinks with an embarrassed smile. Quinn eyes are an intense green, and Rachel feels as if she's looking directly into her soul. "It's taken me longer than it should have to see what's been in front of me all along."
Quinn visibly catches her breath, and her eyelids flutter closed, breaking their intense connection. Rachel snakes her hand beneath Quinn's now lax palm and manages to entwine their fingers. "I...I'd really like to be more than just your friend, Quinn." Quinn's hand tightens around hers, but those eyes stay firmly closed, locking her out of Quinn's innermost thoughts. Rachel feels the unpleasant sting of doubt creep back in. "But I completely understand if you...if you don't reciprocate. Just...just tell me you don't feel anything more than friendship for me, and...and we can pretend this conversation never happened and I'll...I'm sure that eventually I'll...I'll be able to move on...and..."
"No," Quinn cuts her off sharply, eyes open and fierce. "I don't," she begins, shaking her head, and Rachel braces herself for the rejection the never comes. "I don't want you to move on," Quinn admits tearfully. "I've been...I've had feelings for you for so long, Rachel. I gave up hoping that you could ever," she trails off again, wiping at her wet cheeks. She turns back toward Rachel, her eyes swirling with so much emotion that Rachel thinks she could drown in them. "I've learned how to live with being just your friend, Rachel, but if we...if we cross that line, I can't...I won't be able to let you go," Quinn warns her desperately. "You have to be sure."
Rachel's entire body feels like a bottle of champagne that's been shaken and is ready to burst. She reaches up with her right hand, gently cupping Quinn's cheek and brushing away a stray tear with the pad of her thumb. Her fingertips tingle from the heat of that simple touch. She darts her tongue across her own lips to moisten them and watches hazel eyes darken as they follow the action. Her belly tightens in response, and all she can think about is closing the distance between them and tasting those tempting pink lips—so she does.
The first brush of their lips is soft, hesitant and barely there, trembling with emotion and salty with the taste of tears. Quinn breathes against her mouth and the contact is lost for one second—two—before it returns, firm and insistent. Rachel's lower lips slides perfectly between Quinn's, and she feels the power of that kiss spread like wildfire through every part of her body and soul. They move against one another in careful strokes, both afraid to push too far and frighten the other away. Rachel reluctantly breaks the connection, only for a moment and only far enough to catch Quinn's gaze when she tells her, "I'm sure."
It's all Quinn needs to hear before she's pulling Rachel back to her, slipping her hand into Rachel's hair and slanting that talented mouth over Rachel's once again. There's nothing hesitant in this kiss—it's desperate and greedy and full of long suppressed desire. Rachel parts her lips on instinct and Quinn instantly takes advantage, teasing her tongue along the seam before slipping inside.
Rachel doesn't see fireworks.
She sees galaxies of stars swirling behind her eyelids, going supernova and pulling her into permanent orbit around Quinn. It's exactly where she belongs.
When they finally part again, they're both breathless and somehow Rachel's body is now half across Quinn's lap, and she feels a flush of embarrassment at their slightly scandalous, very public behavior. Quinn looks as awed as Rachel feels, and she can't help grinning at how this is all turning out. She tucks a piece of Quinn's hair behind her ear, reiterating, "I'm really sure."
Quinn's eyes glitter with happiness, and she pulls Rachel into a reverent hug, despite their slightly uncomfortable positions. "If this is a dream, I don't ever want to wake up," she whispers against Rachel's ear.
"Does it feel like you're dreaming?" Rachel wants to know, dancing the fingers of one hand across the back of Quinn's neck while the other traces the strong line of her back.
"I don't think you want me to answer that, Rach," Quinn replies with laughter in her voice. She loosens her hold on Rachel just enough to shift them so that they're sitting more comfortably with Rachel tucked closely against her side. "I've had some pretty vivid dreams involving you," she admits with a blush.
Rachel's body is already buzzing with arousal, and Quinn's admission only intensifies it. Any lingering doubt she might have had that her sexuality is more than a little bit fluid completely disappears. There is no denying that she wants Quinn. "I'd actually like to hear all about them," she tells Quinn a little shyly.
Quinn's eyes flash with interest. "Really?"
"Yes...eventually," she clarifies. "Actually, right now, I...I'd like to take you to dinner. I think we have a lot to talk about." Like just how long Quinn has wanted her, and where they go from here.
"Are you asking me on a date?" Quinn questions softly, and her hopeful smile is the most adorable thing that Rachel has ever seen.
"I am. Are you saying yes?"
"Oh, I definitely am," Quinn confirms with a blissful smile and sparkling eyes.
"And will you be my date to the Tonys?"
Quinn looks a little less enthused than she did a moment ago, and she bites the corner of her lip in contemplation. "Do I have to walk the carpet?"
"Only if you want to," Rachel is quick to assure her. "I just really want you to be sitting next to me." Quinn really is the only person with whom Rachel wants to share the moment—every moment.
Quinn presses her lips to Rachel's temple as if she's been doing it forever. "Then I will be," she promises easily.
Rachel thinks of all of the times that Quinn has agreed to do things for her—just because she asked—all the way back to high school, and she shakes her head in disbelief. "I really have been blind, haven't I?"
She feels Quinn's arm tighten around her shoulder. "Yeah, you kind of have," Quinn agrees quietly, and Rachel can hear a touch of sadness in her tone.
She lifts her hand and gently turns Quinn's face toward her. "My eyes are finally open, Quinn, and so is my heart," she vows. She makes a silent promise to herself that she will never take Quinn for granted or let her go one more day without knowing how much she means to Rachel. All she wants from this moment on is to make Quinn happy and to see that gorgeous smile that she's seeing right now.
"Today really is the most beautiful day," Quinn whispers before pressing her lips to Rachel's once again, and Rachel really couldn't agree more.
She absolutely loves Thursdays.