Rachel rounded the corner and looked down the wide airport walkway that lead to terminals C, D, E, and F. Newsstands, coffee shops, tourist hubs, a bar, and a series of bathrooms flanked either side of the main walk, where a crowd of what usually seemed like thousands earlier in the day had thinned out to just a few hundred. She walked towards terminal E in the slow, ambling Ohio way that so often got her elbowed or tripped over angrily by native New Yorkers. Nobody seemed particularly concerned right now, though. After six the flights were less frequent and spaced further apart. By now, almost eight, there were only a few red-eyes coming and going at any given time.
She found Quinn exactly where the text message she had earlier received—Terminal E, 8, bring sushi—had directed. In the six months since she'd moved to New York, she had seen Quinn five times. She did not know why, but it was something they never spoke of. Kurt did not know Quinn had stayed in their apartment the weekend he was with his dad and Carol during the end of winter break. He did not know that the long weekends Rachel had spent at 'Brody's place'—a place she had only been to once, after their attempted move-in fell apart—were actually spend wandering the narrow streets of New Haven. And she knew from Santana that at Thanksgiving, Quinn had denied going to see Rachel at all since moving to Connecticut. She didn't hold it against her, because she was doing the same thing—denying, hiding, telling half-truths, lies of omission, whatever you might call them.
Rachel never asked, and Quinn never offered, which was very like Quinn but very unlike Rachel. She was not one to be secretive about anything in her life—her thoughts, her feelings, her desires. She was the kind to belt them out from a stage, or wear them like a skin-tight leather suit. She had never been a secret-keeper, until now. Now everything was hidden. Her whole life was a half-truth. She didn't know if she liked it or not.
She saw the back of Quinn's head, sitting in a row of seats in terminal E, staring out through the wide windows into the night sky. Nearly the entire wall was made of glass so that while you were waiting you could watch the planes come and go. The sun had fully set and the tarmac was lit up with rows of bright lights illuminating the landing strips. As she came closer, Rachel could see ramp service men in reflective vests with bright orange wands waving the planes in and out. Giving them permission to fly, or land.
"Hey," she said, taking a seat next to Quinn. She smiled in greeting, and Rachel pulled a takeout box from the plastic bag she had hung on the crook of her elbow. "Two New York rolls and a Dragon roll, no soy sauce, extra spicy mayo."
"Perfect. Thank you," Quinn said, wasting no time in setting to work on her dinner. Rachel opened up her box and they sat in silence for the next ten minutes, tending to their respective meals and watching ramp service flag planes in and out. Even the way Quinn ate sushi was an art form to Rachel—the grace with which she pulled the chopsticks out of the paper envelope, the way she carefully picked up each piece, dipped the edge of it, wiped the excess away carefully on the rim of the plastic cup, and popped it delicately into her mouth. The idea of eating sushi as an art was so silly that it made Rachel smile, which made Quinn smile, in that half-there, corner of her eye sort of way.
"Hmmm?" she asked, taking a sip of her drink and still granting Rachel only her face in profile.
"Nothing," Rachel responded, chewing on a veggie roll and imagining that she did not look even half as lovely as Quinn did when she ate. She sounded like a horse inside her own head. Chompchompchomp.
The sky around the city never entirely darkened, but the lights grew brighter against the dark urban scenery. It was a lit-up kind of blackness, one with no stars that seemed burnt somehow by the glow of a million orange dots and yellow windows underneath. Like holding a flashlight beneath a blanket and watching the light try to escape the tightly-stitched fibers. Like something living under there. It was a different kind of sky than the one Rachel and Quinn grew up under. A different sky now than before.
Rachel reached down to the ground between their feet and picked up Quinn's drink, swirling it around and listening to the weak, watery remnants of ice slosh against the Styrofoam walls. Even before she brought it to her lips she knew it would be tea, sweetened. Someone got her hooked on it up at Yale, she'd never been a tea drinker it in Ohio—and besides, nobody in Ohio took their tea with so much sugar. They often found things like that in each other now, hiding with a flashlight under the blankets, or watching planes come and go. Quinn's tea habit, Rachel's new addiction to shrimp sauce, the way Quinn learned from her new roommate to roll a boiled egg on the counter before trying to peel it. Rachel scrunched her nose and laughed the first time Quinn showed her the new trick—it was so fresh for her, something her mother would have never allowed, food on the counters like that. It made Quinn laugh in that deep, tickled way that always seemed too big for her small frame, as if she were a palace of a woman hiding in a cottage. (Really, she was.)
"What?" Quinn asked again, with open lips this time. Her box was empty. Rachel smirked.
"Nothing," she repeated. "I was just thinking."
"Stuff." A half-truth.
"Stuff?" Quinn asked, keeping her face straight but unable to hide the lilt in her voice.
"You." A whole-truth. Her cheeks flushed and they both looked away, bashful, to the runway stretching out before them, just beyond the glass. They were still not talking about it, whatever it was, which meant comments like these were so very close to the edge. Like pressing their faces against the glass and holding their collective breath when a plane took off, praying that the engines wouldn't falter, and that the moment the tiny wheels peeled away from the asphalt the wind would catch the flaps on the wings just right and, nose pointed to the heavens, they would fly.
Quinn didn't breathe the entire time the plane trundled down the runway. Rachel noticed that after their second or third night here. The plane would wobble in the sky for a moment, then turn in an elegant curve and soar confidently towards the sun's last sighting. Then, and only then, Quinn would let go of a breath she did not even know she was holding.
"I like this," Quinn finally responded. She did not gesture or specify, but Rachel knew what she meant—this, this place, this eating and watching and breath-holding. This place that was not a place, a coming-and-going place, a neutral place where they could just be without having to be anywhere at all. Because you don't say you're at the airport—you say you're going to, or coming from. You're almost there. You're on your way. They could just be in this almost-there place, and nobody knew the difference.
"I do, too," Rachel agreed. She set the drink down, and when she sat back up, leaned into her seat and crossed her arms comfortably over her chest. Quinn mimicked her, leaning back, both of them watching the sky, or pretending to. It offered a beautiful excuse to stare quietly.
In a moment where Rachel really did find herself watching the sky for a blinking red dot she knew to be the next flight in from Burlington, she felt something graze the back of her upper arm. She did not look directly up, but down and to the left. She saw Quinn walking her hand up the side of Rachel's arm, so lightly she almost did not feel it at all, no more than a piece of stray hair falling away from her neck. She could see, barely, the upturned corners of Quinn's mouth, though neither of them were looking directly at one another. It was a half-look. An almost-look.
Rachel uncrossed her arms and let her left hand fall into the space between them, palm up, fingers loose and easy. Quinn very slowly walked her two fingers down the length of Rachel's arm, towards her palm. As she reached the crook of her arm and moved downward, laughter bubbled up in her chest, which she did not bother restraining. Quinn's half-smile turned into a whole-smile, and when her fingers finally found their mark in the middle of Rachel's palm, hers did too. They laced together and fit that way—not almost, not half-way, but whole-way.
Then, and only then, did Rachel let go of a breath she did not even know she had been holding.
A/N: Yet another writing prompt between Mar (willowtreemuse) and myself. :) This time the prompt was the song "Places" by Blue Merle. You can check hers out on her tumblr, beneaththewillowtree. She's pretty awesome so I recommend it! Anyway, your thoughts? Review and let me know what you think! :) It's great karma.