A/N: This was a prompt from my dear friend Mar (willowtreemuse). Hope it meets your expectations, love! :)
Quinn jumped at the sound of someone else's voice carrying through the courtyard. Most of the school had long since disappeared, leaving only a few classrooms occupied by lingering clubs and overworked teachers. Glee club had ended almost twenty minutes ago, and Quinn's mentee of questionable morals had left quickly, head down and shoulders rounded forward. They'd all made nice after the fiasco at Sectionals, with Marley in counseling and Kitty on the fringe of most of her social groups. Now with Mr. Schue back from Washington and Finn in the passenger's seat, things seemed tense, but acceptable.
Quinn felt for Kitty, in a way—she knew the feeling of never quite fitting in. She too had ostracized herself from the glee club, only to realize that her participation with them had left her outside her Cheerios circle as well. One foot in both worlds meant she didn't feel like she had firm standing in either. Fortunately she had been wrong about that, at least—she always had a place in glee club. For some reason they kept welcoming her back, no matter what she did to them. She knew Kitty would get the same treatment. Mr. Schue was like Saint Jude in his love for a lost cause, and that mean, twisted little cheerleader definitely qualified.
Admitting that to Santana had been a real bitch, though. She hadn't wanted to concede to the accuracy of the Mexican third eye, but Santana was always right about those things—Finn cheating, Karofsky's sexuality, and now Kitty's laxative sabotage. Quinn inwardly counted her blessings that she listed Santana among her friends, because she would make one hell of an enemy. Brittany helped tame her, but just.
It was actually Santana who she had expected to see standing at the top of the stairs leading down into the quad, still littered with hamburger wrappers, soda bottles (now contraband in a school that banned soda from vending machines), and a few conspicuous small plastic baggies. She felt the cold early-spring air catch in her lungs when she realized it was not Santana, but Rachel who was standing ten feet above her on the concrete steps, pea coat wrapped tightly around her small frame. Quinn furrowed her brows, but smiled all the same.
"Hey," she returned, lifting her chin approvingly as Rachel met her at the bottom of the steps. She may not be wearing animal sweaters anymore, but there was still something about her that just begged to be given a sticker for effort. "I thought you were staying in New York this weekend."
"Well, I was…" she began, in a fashion that suggested it was another long-winded Rachel Berry story. Quinn settled back on her heels, hands deep in her coat pocket, waiting for the tale to unfold. Instead, however, Rachel paused, surveying her slowly. Her eyes moved lazily up and down Quinn's shape, down from her eyes, slowly skimming her coat front, catching around her buttons and tracing the clean line of her jeans down to her heels and back up again. Quinn felt the peculiar need to swallow, and despite the late afternoon sun hovering along the top edge of the steps, she felt very warm. Finally, rather than launching into the tale, Rachel simply scrunched her nose a little and smiled. "I just changed my mind, is all."
"Oh," Quinn said softly, taking her lower lip between her front teeth momentarily before giving a little head shake and refocusing on Rachel's eyes. If she could just hold them, her own would not falter. She had an overwhelming desire to acquaint herself with the cut of Rachel's jeans.
"Seems like you've been here a lot lately," Rachel said, bringing Quinn back to the present. She swayed a little and pointing her shoulder in Quinn's direction as if to say, your go.
"I have," Quinn agreed. "Helping with the glee club. Mentoring, you know. Things got kind of crazy, Finn asked for my help. Santana, too, and Mercedes, Mike, you know," she added quickly, seeing the way Rachel's face darkened for the briefest of moments at the mention of Finn's name. It was more subconscious than anything, and Rachel quickly brightened, but it was still there. That name had always fallen heavy between them, rippling outward and pushing them in opposite directions. They stood in silence for a moment, with Quinn painfully aware of her own breath, before Rachel spoke again.
"I hope that hasn't been disturbing your, ah, thriving social life in New Haven. I hear you've been meeting a lot of important people, and seeing someone?" she posed as both a statement and question. She looked cautious. Why did she look like she was about to trip a live wire? Quinn pressed her lips together and shook her head.
"Was," she said. "I was seeing someone. I, well… it just wasn't a good idea." She ended with a voice much smaller than she had intended, and immediately hated herself for it. "Besides," she perked up, louder and brighter as if in compensation for her unintended vulnerability. "I needed some time for me. I didn't spend much time single in high school. It's good to just be me and figure out who I am, what I need. What I actually want, you know?"
"I totally agree," Rachel said, looking almost too pleased with herself. "I've been feeling the same way. I kind of started seeing someone, but… well, like you said, I need some time for me. I kind of felt like I lost myself a little with Finn. I needed time to find me again." A gust of wind blew through the quad and sent some of Quinn's hair askew. Before she could address it Rachel took a step towards her, toe to toe, and tucked the loose pieces behind Quinn's ear. The tip of her finger just barely grazed Quinn's jaw as she withdrew her hand, and Quinn felt a static ripple over her skin that had very little to do with the breeze.
"And have you?" Quinn asked, not quite sure how the words were making their way out of her mouth at this point, as her lungs seemed absolutely void of air. "Found yourself, I mean."
Rachel didn't answer, but instead, watched a mix of emotions flash across Quinn's features, almost imperceptible. She was nearly impossible to read, always had been. Trying to infer her emotions from her facial expressions was like staring into a pond—you only ever saw a reflection of yourself, or nothing; a sudden, shocking erratic shift, some disturbance breaking the surface. Sometimes Rachel wondered if Quinn even had her own distinct expressions, or if she was like water—unknowable, taking the form of whatever lay before her, turning into herself only when you were not there to see.
The only real sign she gave was in her hands, the way her fingers twisted the fringe of the red scarf angrily, as if it were not a scarf at all, but a noose. Quinn's eyes flicked from left to right, pointedly avoiding Rachel's gaze, and she would not look directly at her until Rachel reached out and placed a hand over hers. The fidgeting stopped immediately as she wrapped her hand around Quinn's, startled by the cold shock of her fingers against her own warm palm. She was wrong, Quinn was not water—she was a winter lake, caught beneath miles of deep freeze, clawing the ice frenetically for cracks.
"I think so," Rachel finally said, leaning forward a fraction, staring not at Quinn's eyes but the gentle bow of her lip. She let go of Quinn's anxious hand and rested both of hers on the lapels of the blonde's jacket, smoothing them down and quite aware of just how close she was inching towards disaster. "You?"
Quinn's breath caught in her chest and she did not speak, but leaned forward abruptly and bridged the incredibly small gap between their mouths. The first kiss was quick, more of a peck than anything, lips barely grazing before she yanked back as if she'd been shocked. Her eyes were wide and, for the first time in all the years Rachel had known her, truly afraid. The world was spinning violently, and the only feeling she was aware of was Rachel holding the front of her jacket, keeping her rooted to the face of the earth with just her small, sure grasp.
Rachel leaned into the second kiss, pulling Quinn close to her and down a fraction, smiling into the gesture. Quinn seemed to become aware of her body again, and suddenly there was no ice anymore—only water, only water, everywhere and nowhere, her lips drunk on it, body floating in it, caught in its fierce spinning, breaking the surface for air, boiling, rising, everywhere, everywhere, water.