Author's Note: A three part story. Alternate Season 4, breaking from canon after 4:04, The Break-Up. This one was inspired by lrbcn. Sorry it took so long to write. Happy Valentine's Day.

Thanks and cyber-hugs to Skywarrior108 for being an awesome beta.

Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or the characters - if I did it would have ended after season 3 - I just like to play with them…strictly non-profit.

This Is How We Tried To Love

This we were, this is how we tried to love,
and these are the forces they had ranged against us,
and these are the forces we had ranged within us,
within us and against us, against us and within us.
~Adrienne Rich, Twenty One Love Poems, XVII

Part I: The Accidents Happen

It's the third week of October before Quinn Fabray finally makes use of that Metro North pass that she'd gone to all the trouble (and expense) of purchasing back in June. The fact that she's using hers before Rachel is not lost on her—it's always been this way. Rachel Berry says jump, and Quinn's traitorous legs automatically react, even as her brain screams at them to just walk away. Rachel is a force of nature, storming through life with an unchangeable course plotted and completely oblivious to anyone who steps into her path to be swept up, blown away, or left shaken and shivering out in the cold.

Quinn sighs, rubbing at her temple and attempting to shake off the uncharitable comparison. She and Rachel are friends now, more or less—maybe less than she'd expected or hoped for. There have been texts and emails, a few phone calls, and even a singular Skype session, but they've been brief and shallow and so very easy to forget once Quinn puts away her phone or turns off her computer. She actually prefers it that way.

She's happy at Yale. It's exactly the fresh start that she wanted. She's having fun, making friends, and dating again, but it's free of expectations and any deep emotional investment. She'll leave the dreams of fairy tale love to girls like Rachel—girls that pine for idiots who don't call them for four months and insist that they aren't broken up with said idiots when they very obviously are and yet still somehow manage to catch the interest of another guy without even trying.

Girls like that.

In Rachel's world, she and Finn have been officially over for two weeks—although by Quinn's count, it's been five months, one week, and two days—and Quinn can't quite get a read on Rachel's mood this time. Back in June, Rachel had done more than her fair share of crying, clinging to the hope that Finn would change his mind right up until the moment that he left for basic training in Georgia. She'd finally taken off the engagement ring a week later. Quinn has been catching little glimpses of Rachel's changing emotions for months, from devastation to anger to denial, but in the last two weeks, her brief interactions with Rachel have been strangely calm. It was only during their last phone call—the first actual verbal conversation that they'd had in more than a month—that Rachel casually (or not so casually) suggested that Quinn should come visit her this weekend.

Quinn has a paper due on Tuesday that she really should be finishing, and she'd had tentative plans to meet for coffee on Saturday morning with one of the cute, youngish, non-tenured professors in the psychology department that she'd met at a clambake a few weeks ago, but somehow she's here on a train to New York. She blames it on those passes that she'd stupidly bought with her own savings and the lingering frugality that she'd acquired during the months when she didn't have a home to call her own. She knows that's only a small part of why she's here—the bigger part is Rachel. Always Rachel.

She's not completely oblivious to her own feelings. Quinn can admit that she's been nursing a little crush on Rachel for a while now. Their high school drama notwithstanding, Rachel is one of the few people to consistently reassure Quinn that she's a good person—one with value and worth that extends beyond her appearance and transcends the monumental mistakes that she's made. So yes, she spent several weeks last winter lamenting the fact that Rachel Berry was determined to tie herself in marriage to Finn Hudson, of all people, at the tender age of seventeen, and that Quinn would never even have a chance to explore her suddenly-not-so-clearly-defined sexuality with Rachel, but she's mostly over it now. The fact that she doesn't have to see Rachel everyday is certainly helping her to move on.

Quinn is pulled from her thoughts by the squealing of the wheels against the metal rails as the brakes slow the train to a crawl along that last quarter-mile into Grand Central Terminal, and her heart rate picks up. She hasn't been to New York in more than a year, and she can't deny that she's a little nervous about the sheer size of the city. She fishes out her cell phone and types a quick text to Rachel, hitting send as she chews on her lower lip. The device buzzes in her hand almost immediately, and she glances down to see: Already at the gate. Can't wait to see you. :) ~R

She smiles to herself at the fact that Rachel's only concession to 'text-speak' is dropping her pronouns and signing her name with an initial. She's oddly comforted to know that, despite all the dramatic changes that Rachel has made in the last few months, there are some things that will never change.

The train jerks to its final stop and Quinn watches in amusement as everyone around her jumps up from their seats and begins to juggle their luggage in a fight to get off the train as quickly as possible. She stays seated, sinking as far back as she can so that the woman next to her can maneuver out. Once the aisle is relatively clear, Quinn stands, stretching her stiff back and legs as well as she can before she reaches for the bag she'd tossed up onto the luggage rack. Slinging it over her shoulder, she shuffles through the car and down the steps, sliding into the crowd of commuters and tourists as she makes her way off the platform.

She glances around the busy terminal as she walks, looking for Rachel, and she immediately catches a blur of black and white and brown heading straight for her with a wide smile. Quinn only has a few seconds to register the sight of impossibly short shorts and a skintight shirt—and Jesus, are those Go-Go boots?—before she has all five feet and two inches of Rachel Berry pressed against her body.

"Quinn," Rachel squeals excitedly, wrapping her arms around Quinn's shoulders and squeezing tightly. Quinn is thrown off balance for a moment, but then she's holding onto Rachel's waist and fitting her chin into the curve of Rachel's shoulder and inhaling the faint scent of honeysuckle. Everything comes rushing back in those ten seconds, and Quinn sighs, silently admitting that she hasn't moved on from her crush nearly as well as she'd believed.

"Hi," she breathes, willing her muscles to relax. She drops her arms and steps back to place some much-needed distance between them. Rachel is still smiling and bouncing a little on the balls of her feet. Quinn's eyes dart down the length of her body, and yes—there are black, (faux?) leather high-heel boots encasing her calves. Her thighs are on full display between the tops of the boots and the end of the barely-there shorts. The sight of those legs is undeniably enticing, but Quinn suddenly feels as though she's stepped into some alternate universe where Rachel Berry has decided to go into the escort business instead of pursuing her Broadway dreams, and she frowns. "You look different."

Rachel's smile widens, and she nods. "I told you I had a makeover." She spins in a perfect circle, showing off her new look from all angles. "What do you think?"

I think you look like Santana and Puckerman's sexed-up lovechild who's turning tricks on the side, Quinn wants to say, but she bites into her tongue to keep the words from spilling out. That one Skype call hadn't prepared Quinn for this version of Rachel, and she can't honestly claim to like it. She'd liked the old Rachel.

As it happens, Quinn doesn't actually have to say anything because her silence gets the message across loud and clear. Rachel's eyes dim, and her smile falls away in increments until she looks ready to cry. "You hate it," she whispers brokenly.

Quinn hisses out a breath from between her teeth. "I don't hate it," she lies, plastering on a fake smile. "I just need some time to get used to it. I mean, with the hair," she unconsciously gestures to her own longer blonde locks, "and the makeup, and the clothes, and just…everything," she finishes lamely.

Rachel watches her with wide eyes, visibly swallowing and nodding her head ever-so-slightly. She reaches up with her left hand and begins to self-consciously twist her hair around her fingers. "I…I wanted a fresh start. A new me," she explains timidly.

Quinn feels her stomach sink unpleasantly, and she lets her gaze wander over Rachel again. She supposes that the outfit is stylish enough, even if it isn't something that Quinn would ever think of wearing herself, and Rachel doesn't really look bad—actually she looks gorgeous and sexy—she just doesn't look like Rachel anymore. Quinn feels as if she's lost something that she never even had, and it kind of makes her want to cry.

She swallows down the bitter pill of disappointment, forcing her lips into a trembling smile. "You look beautiful," she murmurs, and the truth of her feelings seep into the words, coloring her voice with enough sincerity to make Rachel believe. Those dull, brown eyes begin to sparkle once again, and Rachel's lips curve into a shy smile.

"Thank you , Quinn," she says, and Quinn can almost feel the feather-light caress of those eyes roaming over her face. Rachel's grin suddenly widens. "Your hair has gotten so long," she comments.

Quinn rolls her eyes dismissively. "I keep forgetting to make an appointment."

"Well, I like it. You look lovely."

Quinn can feel her cheeks heat, and she glances away, letting the buzz of Grand Central Terminal distract her from the warmth of her skin. She's been on a train for nearly two hours, and she isn't exactly as fresh as a daisy, but Rachel has a knack for making her feel beautiful even when she knows she's at her worst. Shaking her head, Quinn looks back at Rachel with a smirk. "So are you going to show me this amazing apartment of yours or what?"

That's all it takes to reignite all of Rachel's enthusiasm until she's practically vibrating with energy again. She reaches out to tuck her arm under Quinn's elbow, gently guiding her into motion. "You're going to love it. Well, maybe you won't love it love it, but I certainly hope you'll like it. Kurt and I have really fixed it up. Oh," she stops, glancing over at Quinn with a small frown, "we'll need to take the subway to get there. Or find a taxi. You'd probably prefer the taxi," she nods, starting to change direction.

Quinn laughs and stands her ground, pulling Rachel back with their linked arms. "The subway is fine, Rachel. Lead the way."

Rachel smiles and nods again, launching right back into her endless chatter about the converted warehouse, the affordable rent, and Brooklyn. Quinn allows the musical cadence of Rachel's voice to wash over her and hopes that she'll make it through the weekend with minimum damage to her newly found peace of mind. She's already struggling to keep her emotional distance.

Rachel doesn't stop touching her as they walk through the terminal. She only lets go of Quinn when they reach the subway, and then only to swipe her metro card, gallantly signaling for Quinn to go through the turnstile. Quinn hesitates, wanting to pay her own way until Rachel reminds her, "You bought us train tickets, Quinn. The least I can do is pay your subway fare." Quinn doesn't have an argument, so she mumbles her thanks and steps through to wait for Rachel.

They take the 4 train, but Rachel warns her that they'll have to transfer at Union Square. The train is crowded with people of every shape, color, and style—business suits and dresses, ripped jeans and tee-shirts, designer clothes and tattered hand-me-downs—and Quinn feels conspicuous in her inconspicuousness. There aren't any seats available when they board, but Rachel promises it's a fairly short ride. "If you feel the need to sit, I'm certain that I can persuade someone to accommodate you," Rachel offers, glancing around the car with calculating eyes.

Quinn purses her lips, puffing out an annoyed breath through her nose. She knows Rachel means well, but Quinn really does wish that everyone would just forget about her accident the way she has—well, for the most part. "I'm fine, Rach," she promises, and Rachel smiles in relief, reaching for the overhead bar. Quinn does the same, bracing her legs for the train to lurch into motion. She watches the concrete and metal outside begin to speed past in a blur.

When the train stops at Union Square, Rachel grabs onto Quinn's hand and doesn't let go as she leads her through the crowd toward the platform to wait for their transfer. The L train is just as crowded, and this time Rachel doesn't even ask before she practically strong-arms a seat for Quinn, citing her recent recovery from a spinal injury to plead her case. Quinn ducks her head in embarrassment and wishes that she could sink into the floor of the train, but when a gentleman smiles at her and offers his seat, she feels compelled to take it.

Rachel stands guard over her, providing Quinn with a perfect view of her breasts encased in that tight, white shirt. Quinn can see the faint outline of her bra, and as grateful as she is that Rachel is even wearing one, she prays that the subway ride will be a short one. It isn't, and for the next twenty minutes, Quinn does her best to avert her eyes from inappropriate places until Rachel finally leans down to tell her, "Our stop is next."

The train jerks, and Rachel is thrown off balance, tipping forward into Quinn. Quinn makes the mistake of reaching out to catch her, but she ends up with her arms around Rachel's waist while Rachel nearly straddles her thighs with her chest pressed awkwardly into Quinn's shoulder and her face buried in Quinn's hair. Quinn hisses at the contact, and Rachel squeaks, scrambling to right herself and muttering apologies. "Oh, God, I'm so sorry, Quinn. Did I hurt you?"

"No," Quinn mutters, "no, I'm fine. It's okay, Rachel," she grits out, keeping her hands on Rachel's waist to hold her steady. Rachel sheepishly smiles down at her, covering her hands and patting them gratefully as she regains her balance. When she lets go, she makes sure to have a firm grip on the overhead railing until the train glides to a final stop. Quinn reluctantly drops her own hands into her lap.

Rachel makes a grab for Quinn's bag, shouldering it while Quinn protests and leading her out onto the platform at DeKalb Avenue. She tucks her arm back into Quinn's elbow as she guides her away from the other debarking passengers and out along the sidewalk. Rachel's apartment is several blocks from the station, and Quinn happily follows Rachel as she takes in her first glimpse of Bushwick. Rachel watches her glance around at the scenery, and she smiles almost apologetically. "I know it's not the heart of Manhattan, but it's a pretty nice neighborhood, all things considered."

"Do you make this commute everyday?" Quinn asks, suddenly realizing that the NYADA campus is somewhere in Midtown and this is one hell of a trek. Of course, she might be spoiled by her own compact campus where she can roll out of bed thirty minutes before class and still have time to shower and grab a bagel without worrying about being late.

Rachel shrugs a little. "It obviously isn't ideal to live so far from campus, but Kurt is a much better roommate than the one I had previously. Anyway, I've already decided to devote a chapter of my future memoir to the interesting people that I've met on the subway."

Quinn grimaces, envisioning Rachel cozying up to some mugger or rapist with one of her wide, welcoming smiles. "Just be careful."

"I always am, Quinn," Rachel swears with a reassuring smile, "and Kurt and I try to travel together whenever possible."

Quinn isn't entirely comforted by the revelation, since she's pretty sure that Becky Jackson could beat Kurt up with one hand tied behind her back, but she nods indulgently and silently vows to start checking in with Rachel more often—just to ease her mind.

When they reach the apartment, which is really just a glorified warehouse, Rachel happily gives her a (very brief) tour, and Quinn pastes a smile on her face as she eyes the place warily. It's big, she'll give them that, but the shabby brick walls and battered wooden floors don't much impress her, and the place feels about ten degrees cooler than the autumn air outside. She hopes it's because they haven't turned on the heat yet, or they'll be in for an uncomfortably cold winter. "It's nice," she mutters, attempting to act sincere. She doesn't want a repeat of earlier—she hates seeing Rachel upset.

Rachel beams proudly at the small compliment, and Quinn realizes that it doesn't really matter if this isn't somewhere that she could see herself living, because it's the place that Rachel and Kurt have made into a home for themselves. She supposes that she's a little a proud of them for that. The decor and the furniture are pretty sparse, but she can tell that Rachel and Kurt have done their best to make it appear shabby chic.

"Make yourself at home," Rachel instructs, ever the good hostess.

She deposits Quinn's bag on the floor of one of the makeshift bedrooms, and Quinn frowns, taking in the ugly green curtains that are meant to serve as both a wall and a door. She wonders if that's where she'll be sleeping, and then she realizes that there are only two beds in the apartment, a really uncomfortable looking futon, and a lot of hard, empty floor space. She has no intention of sleeping on the floor or the couch—her body might be mostly healed, but her back will never forgive her if she deprives it of a mattress—so she'll either be kicking someone out of their bed or sharing it, and she's not sure that she's comfortable with either option. Warmth prickles over her skin when her mind involuntarily conjures up the image of sleeping next to Rachel. Thankfully, her imagination takes pity on her by keeping Rachel in flannel, heart-covered pajamas instead of slinky lingerie.

She sinks onto the (yes, very uncomfortable) futon, smoothly crossing her legs and exhaling on a long breath. "Can I get you anything?" Rachel calls over. "Water? Iced tea?"

"Water is fine," Quinn answers absently. "So where's Kurt anyway?" she asks, hoping for a distraction from the awkward reality of being alone with Rachel in her apartment with no one to act as a buffer.

Rachel crosses the room, handing Quinn a bottle of water before sitting down next to her on the futon. "He went to the market to pick up a few supplies. We've kind of been living on oatmeal, rice, and noodles," she admits with a sheepish grin.

"That doesn't sound very healthy," Quinn comments.

"But it is very cost effective."

Quinn nods in sympathy, twisting the cap of her bottle and taking a sip. Yale isn't exactly doing any favors for her savings account or her mother's, but it's so worth the price. She suspects that Rachel and Kurt feel the same about New York.

They chat for a while about safe topics—all the mundane college things like classes and dorms and roommates. Rachel doesn't mention Finn or that Brody guy, and Quinn doesn't mention any of the arm candy that she's been sampling.

When Kurt eventually breezes in, his arms are full of two big, brown paper bags. "Honey, I'm home," he calls out playfully, and Rachel rushes to meet him, relieving him of half his burden. Quinn watches their comfortable interaction, thinking they'd be the perfect couple if Kurt was straight. He'd even dated Blaine, who was pretty much Rachel's male equivalent.

Kurt's gaze finds Quinn as she pushes herself up from the futon, and he smiles widely. "Rachel, darling, we seem to have acquired a very attractive blonde person to class up our humble abode."

Quinn laughs in response, accepting Kurt's one-armed hug and the brief kiss he places on her cheek. "You look amazing," he coos.

"You don't look so bad yourself," and it's true. Kurt has an added aura of maturity and sophistication surrounding him that wasn't present just a few short months ago. He hasn't changed nearly as much as Rachel, but it's clear that he's quickly leaving his teenage awkwardness behind. "How are you?" she asks gently, conscious of the fact that he's dealing with his own breakup, or break, or whatever is going on with him and Blaine.

The sparkle in his blue eyes dims slightly, and he shrugs. "As well as can be expected." Then he smiles—though it's tight around the edges—and says, "Now tell me all about Yale. Have you already managed to accumulate a legion of admirers to worship you?"

Quinn recognizes the slightly patronizing question as an attempt to move the conversation away from his relationship troubles, so she shrugs off her mild annoyance and begins to tell him a little about Yale. Rachel sets the bag on the kitchen table and begins to unpack the groceries, chirping in on the conversation even though Quinn has already told her some of what she's sharing with Kurt.

Apparently, the plan is to cook Quinn dinner. She immediately tells them it isn't necessary, but they both insist that they're feeding her, so she offers to help—more a means of self-preservation than politeness since she honestly doesn't remember either of them ever being able to actually cook. "Don't be ridiculous, Quinn," Rachel chides, gently pushing Quinn down into a chair. "You're our guest."

Quinn shakes her head and chuckles, again watching them dance around one another in perfect domestic choreography as they chop vegetables and boil pasta. "So what's on the menu?"

"Vegetarian angel hair primavera with a side salad," Rachel tells her matter-of-factly with her back turned to Quinn as she rinses off the lettuce.

Quinn knows that she failed to keep her face from betraying her misgivings when Kurt stifles an unattractive snort of laughter. "Don't worry, Quinn, it's completely edible," he assures her with a grin. "I'm in charge of the sauce, and Rachel will be restricted to salad duty."

"Hey," Rachel huffs, turning around to glare at them both, "there's nothing wrong with my cooking," she defends.

"If you like all your food well-done to the point of being charred," Kurt quips, winking at Quinn, who does her best to suppress a giggle.

"One time," Rachel argues, waving her knife around. "It happened one time."

Kurt chuckles. "One time too many. It took me three days to scrub the scorch marks off the wall," he tells Quinn with a shake of his head. "Needless to say, Rachel isn't allowed near the oven unsupervised."

Scowling, Rachel picks up a piece of cucumber and flings it at Kurt—at least, Quinn assumes it's aimed at Kurt since it actually sails wide to the right and lands harmlessly in the middle of the floor. Quinn and Kurt both dissolve into breathless giggles. Rachel harrumphs indignantly, turning her back on both of them as she resumes chopping up the salad with vigor bordering on violence.

"Wait," Quinn says when her laughter eventually ebbs, "vegetarian? I thought you were vegan."

Rachel's hand pauses and glances over her shoulder with a sheepish grin. "Unfortunately for my convictions, maintaining an affordable vegan lifestyle in New York isn't really feasible at this point, so I've made some minor compromises."

"She fell off the wagon with cheese and couldn't go back," Kurt tattles. Rachel gives him a shove and goes back to her task.

They fall into comfortable small talk, and Rachel is all smiles again. Quinn does manage to convince them to let her set the table after she asks them where their plates and silverware are hidden. Rachel places the salad on the table and begins filling the plates with a generous serving of pasta. Quinn has to admit that it smells delicious, and her stomach growls in agreement, reminding her that she hasn't eaten anything since breakfast.

Kurt sprints into one of the bedrooms and reappears with a bottle of wine that he uncorks with a flourish. Quinn eyes him suspiciously, asking, "How did you manage to get that?"

He grins slyly as he pours her a glass. "I have connections."

Rachel laughs and slaps his arm, turning to Quinn with twinkling eyes. "There's a guy at the magazine who's trying to woo him, and Kurt has been unfairly using that to his advantage."

"Says the girl who had an upperclassman bringing her bouquets of roses and bottles of wine," Kurt counters with an indulgent roll of his eyes. Rachel's smile droops, and she glances down into her glass. Kurt sighs dramatically, obviously regretful of causing the shift in mood. "In any case, we have somehow managed to acquire a nice little wine collection in a short amount of time."

He lifts his glass into the air. "To old friends and new experiences," he toasts. Quinn's gaze remains on Rachel as she lifts her own glass and touches it to Kurt's, silently echoing the sentiment. Rachel smiles back at her, although it doesn't quite reach her eyes, and adds in her glass.

The rest of dinner passes without venturing back into taboo topics like Finn Hudson, Blaine Warbler, or Rachel's new potential leading man, and Quinn is pleasantly surprised to discover that she actually likes vegetarian primavera. She even asks Kurt for his recipe, which makes him preen and makes Rachel start in on a lecture the benefits of converting to a meat-free lifestyle.

Sometime after midnight, Kurt bids Rachel and Quinn goodnight, claiming to need his beauty sleep. He actually has to go into work on Saturday. Well, he doesn't have to, but because his boss apparently adores him, she's invited him to go watch a photo shoot at a private mansion in upstate New York that's meant to spotlight a hot new designer. Kurt absolutely couldn't say no. Quinn kind of wonders if his daylong absence is part of the reason that Rachel issued the sudden invitation to visit. As far as she knows, Rachel hasn't spent a single day alone in the apartment or the city since Kurt moved here.

It bothers Quinn that she might be nothing more than a backup plan for Rachel—a perpetual second choice—when some stubborn part of her heart keeps wanting to be put first, but she broods in silence. She doesn't want Rachel to prove her right.

Rachel seems to notice Quinn's somber mood, and her face shifts into an all-too-familiar expression of worry colored with the tiniest hint of fear (and Quinn hates this particular look so much because it reminds her of a time when Rachel had every reason to fear Quinn) as she hesitantly asks if anything is wrong.

"Just tired," Quinn says with a shrug.

Rachel's expression slides from worry to guilt in the blink of an eye. "Oh, of course you are. You had classes this morning, and then all that time spent traveling, and Kurt and I have kept you up talking. Why didn't you say something sooner?" she demands.

"Because I was having fun," Quinn answers honestly, but there's no denying that the day caught up with her at least an hour ago.

"We'll have more fun tomorrow," Rachel promises, reaching out to take Quinn's hand and tugging her up from the futon. "It's late, and we're going to bed."

Quinn's stomach dips and twists. She knows Rachel doesn't mean those words to be anything but platonic, but they still conjure up less than innocent images in Quinn's mind. Even after she forces them away, she's still left with the tempting reality of sleeping in Rachel's bed. Or, "Does this futon actually fold down?"

Rachel cuts her an appalled look. "Don't be ridiculous, Quinn. No guest of mine is going to sleep on the couch."


"No," Rachel insists, pulling Quinn into her bedroom. "Besides, it only folds halfway down. Kurt actually found it on the sidewalk in someone's garbage pile."

"Ew…and you didn't tell me this before I sat on it," Quinn screeches, cringing. Her skin suddenly feels like a hundred little bugs are crawling all over her.

"We scrubbed it down with a gallon of disinfectant and had the cushions professionally cleaned," Rachel assures her, eyeing her strangely as she scratches at random parts of her body.

"I'm using your shower," Quinn decides, picking up her bag.

"But the pipes rattle. You'll wake up Kurt."

Quinn arches an eyebrow and stares Rachel down. She just spent several hours on a secondhand—or thirdhand (God, who even knows!)—futon after being crammed on subway trains with sweaty, smelly strangers for close to an hour. She's damn well going to wash the grime off and be thankful for it, especially if it keeps her from having to lie down next to Rachel on that not-nearly-wide-enough bed for a little bit longer.

Rachel's gaze wavers and she sighs, "I suppose Kurt will understand."

Ten minutes later, Quinn finds herself feeling a little bad about Kurt because Rachel wasn't kidding about the pipes. At least the noise helps distract her from over-thinking the sleeping arrangements, and the bathroom itself is pristine, even if the small space is close to overflowing with the combination of His and Hers personal products.

Quinn takes her time in the shower, letting the (mostly) hot water cascade over her weary body. When she's finished, she meticulously dries her skin and her hair. She brushes her teeth. She pulls on flannel pajama bottoms and an oversized sweatshirt. She takes a fortifying breath and quietly pads back to the bedroom, hoping that Rachel is already asleep.

The lamp casts a soft glow over the bed, and Quinn pauses. Rachel is tucked under the covers with her hands folded demurely over her belly, and her dark hair spreads out in a silky halo over the pillow. She's still awake enough to grace Quinn with a sleepy smile, and for one indulgent moment, Quinn imagines what it would be like to see this every night—to be able to slide into bed and curl into Rachel's body like a lover would. She catches her breath and shakes off the silly notion, slipping onto the mattress at a respectable distance.

Rachel shifts beside her, turning off the light and pitching the room into darkness. "Goodnight, Quinn," she whispers.

"'Night, Rach," Quinn returns into the stillness.

It's a long time before sleep finally claims her.


When Quinn wakes up, it's to the sound of the pipes rattling, and she can hear the water running in the shower. She rolls over, expecting to find an empty bed but instead practically rolls on top of Rachel, who at some point during the night managed to sprawl into Quinn's space and come dangerously close to spooning her. Rachel grunts at the contact, and Quinn shifts away quickly, muttering an awkward apology.

Rachel's eyes pop open and grow immediately wide, and she shuffles back across the mattress, untangling a hand from beneath the sheet and running it self-consciously through her hair. "Umm…I…I'll go put the coffee on," she mumbles, scrambling out of bed and scurrying out of the room, but not before she manages to flash Quinn with a glimpse of impossibly long, toned, tan legs and a pair of flimsy sleep shorts that cover next to nothing.

Quinn collapses back against the mattress, staring at the open ceiling and willing the ugly scenery to replace the very vivid picture of those legs and the fantasy of them wrapped around her. A frustrated groan slips out, and she eventually forces her body out of bed.

She chances a peek in the mirror and frowns, instantly diving for her brush. When she finally deems herself presentable and emerges from the bedroom, a fresh looking Kurt is chewing on a piece of toast. The pipes rattle to life, and Quinn realizes that Rachel has hopped into the shower. She shakes her head and stifles a grin. "Doesn't that get annoying?" she asks Kurt, slipping into the kitchen and tipping the coffee pot into the empty mug that someone conveniently left on the counter.

"Very, but at least we'll never accidentally walk in on one another in the shower," he comments optimistically. Quinn chuckles into her mug.

Kurt glances at his watch with a frown and gulps down the rest of his coffee. "I really have to get going," he says, depositing his mug in the sink before grabbing his jacket and bag. "I'm not sure what time I'll be back tonight. It may be late."

"No problem," Quinn tells him. "Have fun today."

He flashes a wide smile. "Oh, I will. You, too. Please don't let Rachel drag you all over the city without asking you what you want to do," he instructs on his way to the door. "You know how she can be."

She nods, laughing, "Don't worry. I know how to handle Rachel Berry."

An odd expression flits over his face, and he hums thoughtfully. "Have a wonderful day, Quinn," he tells her before he's on his way.

Quinn finishes her coffee, waiting for Rachel to be done in the bathroom. It takes longer than she anticipates, and honestly, by the time the door finally opens and a robe-clad Rachel comes strolling out, Quinn is wishing that she'd held off on the morning drink. She ignores Rachel's surprised squeak as she races past her to answer nature's call.

Feeling markedly better, Quinn freshens up, brushing her teeth and putting on her makeup before she heads back into the bedroom to get dressed. Rachel's already beaten her to that and is seated at the kitchen table with her own coffee and toast, reading the paper. Quinn is mildly surprised to see her wearing blue jeans today, although the sweater is still a little on the tight and revealing side. Her shoes seem to be more sensible, and Quinn suspects that's because Rachel is, in fact, planning to drag her all over the city. She grins at Rachel's predictability as she pulls the curtain to the bedroom closed and picks out her wardrobe for the day.

When Quinn emerges again, the odd tension from earlier is gone and a little bit more of the old Rachel peeks through when she whips out an itinerary custom created with Quinn's interests in mind. Quinn laughingly rips it out of Rachel's hand and tears it in half, an act that Rachel loudly protests as she makes a fruitless lunge for the shredded paper.

"Let's just be spontaneous," Quinn requests. Rachel gazes forlornly at her ruined itinerary until Quinn wraps an arm around her shoulders and gives her a comforting squeeze. "Show me your city, Rach."

Rachel is more than happy to comply, and—after another subway ride that at least allows them both a seat—Quinn finds herself back in Manhattan, walking the busy sidewalks next to Rachel. There's a frenetic energy to the city, even on a weekend, and just being in the middle of it is almost as exciting as the promise of visiting some of the famous landmarks. Even without a written list, Rachel seems to have mentally mapped their day, and Quinn decides to humor her a bit, obediently following her to the Empire State Building. "A tourist must," Rachel insists.

Quinn can't say that she enjoys the line or the waiting, or damn it, the tiny crowded elevator that makes her grip Rachel's hand as she closes her eyes and tries to breathe. Rachel squeezes back, leaning close and whispering, "Oh, Quinn. I'm sorry, I forgot."

"It's fine," she grits out through clenched teeth. She feels Rachel huddle closer. Her free hand rubs soothingly against Quinn's forearm, calming her, and then the elevator doors slide open and there's air and space and wow—the view.

They make their way to the outdoor observation deck, and the wind whips through Quinn's hair. Rachel and her tiny body maneuver into a nook right next to the edge, and she reaches back for Quinn, pulling her close until Quinn is pressed into her back and her chin hovers over Rachel's left shoulder. Quinn catches her breath at the intimacy of the position, but Rachel doesn't seem to notice. She's too busy pointing out over the city and telling Quinn to look. "Isn't it beautiful?" Rachel asks.

"Yeah, totally," Quinn says softly, resisting the urge to wrap her arms around Rachel's waist and lose herself to the romance of the moment. Okay, so she's seen Sleepless in Seattle a few times. A girl can dream, can't she? Instead she shoves her hands into her pockets and gazes down at the buildings and streets and the traffic pulsing along. Up here, it's quiet and peaceful and full of endless possibilities. She likes the feeling, but eventually it has to end. Rachel's internal clock is ringing its alarm, and she's antsy to get moving.

The elevator ride down isn't as bad, probably because there are less people. When they reach the 80th floor, Rachel tries to guide her into another elevator, but Quinn resists, smiling and detouring them to the gift shop so she can buy a souvenir. Rachel pouts a little, trying to convince Quinn that she doesn't need anything, but Quinn takes her time browsing, and, soon enough, she and Rachel are laughing over some of the tackier keepsakes.

They spend most of the morning bouncing around Midtown, and even though Rachel grumbles a little every time they backtrack, Quinn thinks it might be one of the best days she's ever had. She silently ticks off landmarks from her list—like the Flatiron Building and Macy's and Rockefeller Center—but she thinks her favorite moments might just be walking along the streets in the quieter neighborhoods with Rachel's hand tucked into her elbow as they talk about frivolous things. Quinn can't remember them ever having a conversation in high school that wasn't weighted with deeper meaning. It all felt so heavy and somber. They still have those moments from time to time, but it's so nice to just be able to laugh a little.

Rachel buys her a late lunch at a little vegetarian-friendly restaurant that doesn't look like much from the outside. It's the kind of place that Quinn would never set foot in if left to her own devices, but she'd be missing a hidden treasure on the inside. She's discovering that a lot of things in life are like that, including the girl sitting across from her.

After lunch, Rachel excitedly guides Quinn through a quick tour of the NYADA campus. They end up in a karaoke bar that Rachel swears is popular among the students. Quinn raises a skeptical eyebrow but follows her inside, saying, "Don't even think you're getting me to sing."

"We'll see," she trills, leading Quinn over to one of the few open tables. They're barely settled in their chairs before a guy is standing next to their table smiling down at them. Quinn thinks he's a waiter at first glance, until Rachel's eyes spark with recognition and she murmurs, "Brody, hi."

So this is Brody, Quinn thinks, eying him up and down. She has to admit that he's pretty to look at—Rachel's taste in men seems to be improving anyway.

"Hey, I haven't seen you around much lately," he says with an easy smile.

"Yeah, I've been…busy," Rachel hedges, glancing down at the table.

"It's cool," he says, finally glancing Quinn's way. "Hi. I'm Brody," he introduces, holding out his hand.

Quinn reaches out reflexively, unable to escape the good manners that have been drilled into her since she was a little girl. "Quinn," she tells him, trying not to be impressed by his firm handshake, blue eyes, and too-white smile.

"You're the friend from Yale, right?" he asks, much to Quinn's surprise. She nods mutely, watching his smile widen. "It's nice to finally meet you. Rachel's told me so much about you."

Quinn's gaze crashes into Rachel's, and she quirks a brow. "Good things, I hope," she drawls amiably, but really, when she considers everything that Rachel might have said about her, she supposes that she might have a reason to worry.

"Of course," Rachel promises.

Brody drags out the empty chair in front of him and slides into it uninvited, crossing his arms on the table. "So how do you like New Haven, Quinn?" he asks.

"I like it better than Lima," she says with a shrug.

He chuckles. "I was up there with a friend last summer for the Jazz Festival. It's a nice city."

"And close enough to New York to visit regularly," Rachel adds with a grin.

"Quinn is a lot prettier than your last visitors," he jokes, and Quinn watches Rachel's smile disappear, and she wonders if all men have the same disease that causes them to say stupid shit. At least Brody realizes that he's done it, because he smiles sheepishly and taps his palm against the table, muttering, "Sorry. That was probably inappropriate. Why don't you let me buy you both a drink before you get back to your girls' day?"

Quinn's brows furrow. "You do know we're both underage."

"I won't tell if you don't," he says with a grin, hooking his thumb in the direction of the bar. "Anyway, the bartender here doesn't ask a lot of questions. I think he figures it's pretty pointless since all the college students have fake IDs."

"I don't," Rachel mumbles.

"Or I could buy you a soda or a mineral water," Brody offers with a smile.

"I'll take a vodka cranberry," Quinn decides on a whim. If Brody is crashing her afternoon with Rachel, at least she can get a free drink out of the deal.


"Rachel will have the same," she tells Brody, ignoring Rachel's little squeak of protest.

Brody laughs and nods, sliding his chair back along the floor and standing. "Coming right up."

He's barely out of earshot when Rachel leans forward with a frown. "Quinn," she whispers harshly. "What are you thinking?"

"Please, don't act like you're advocating temperance when you and Kurt have a mini-wine cellar stashed in your bedrooms."

Rachel blushes. "Well, yes, but that's different. I haven't sampled anything stronger than wine since that disastrous week junior year."

Quinn sighs. "It's only one drink, Rachel. Just take small sips and you'll be fine. If this place is anything like the bars around Yale, it'll probably be mostly cranberry anyway."

Rachel frowns, eyeing her skeptically. "It sounds as if you've been partaking in the full college experience far more than you've been letting on."

Quinn shrugs. "I've been to a few parties," she admits, "and I have a fake ID."

Rachel's brows furrow in concern as she nibbles on her lower lip. "Tell me you're being responsible."

Quinn should probably be annoyed, but she kind of likes that Rachel is concerned for her. "Don't worry. I have no intentions of screwing up my life again now that I'm finally on the right track," she promises. "I'm just finally having a little fun, you know? It's nice to not have to try so hard to fit a certain image."

Rachel glances down at the table. "I wouldn't know," she says quietly. "Sometimes I think I'm still trying too hard."

"What do you mean?" Quinn asks with a small frown.

Rachel's shoulder rises and falls. "Just that…I came to New York thinking that everything would fall into place. And in some ways it has," she concedes. "I mean, living with Kurt has been great, I'm doing really well in my voice classes, but…well, I've told you about my dance instructor."

"Crazy Cassie July," Quinn mutters.

"Mmhmm. It feels like no matter what I do, it's not enough…and it shouldn't bother me as much as it does because it's just one class, but then I start to wonder if maybe it means that I really don't have what it takes to make it…that maybe I should have stayed in Lima and married Finn."

"Okay, just stop," Quinn demands. "You spent the first half of this year doubting you were good enough to get into NYADA, and yet here you are," she points out, sweeping a hand around the bar. "So screw Cassandra July and anyone who tells you that you're not good enough. The Rachel Berry that I admire doesn't ever give up. This is what you're meant to be doing, Rachel. I know it. Kurt knows it. Hell, even Finn finally figured it out." Rachel sucks in a breath, and Quinn sags back against her chair, wishing that she hadn't mentioned Finn's name. "I'm sorry," she mumbles.

"I want to be over him," Rachel whispers. "I…I don't like who I turned into when I was with him…but I don't know who I am without him either."

Quinn's stomach twists, and she shakes her head. "You have time to figure it out, Rachel. You just need to forget about Finn Hudson." There's so much more she wants to say—that Rachel was amazing before Finn made her doubt herself, that she's better off without him, that breaking up was the best thing for both of them—but she doesn't, and then Brody is back at the table, juggling three glasses.

He slides the two filled with red liquid in front of Rachel and Quinn and keeps one with amber liquid for himself. If Quinn were in the mood to guess, she'd say scotch on the rocks—Russell's drink of choice. She hopes that isn't a sign.

Rachel reaches for her glass, lifting it to her lips and emptying half the contents in a single swallow. Quinn's eyes widen. "Rachel!"

"Woah, slow down there," Brody advises.

Rachel puffs out a breath and smacks her lips. "It's good. Here's to forgetting," she says, raising her glass in a toast before she takes another drink.

Quinn frowns, watching her carefully as she takes a sip of her own drink. She realizes in an instant that this bar is nothing like the ones in New Haven and this bartender isn't skimping on the alcohol.

Shit, she thinks. It's a good thing they're only having one drink. Except one drink turns into two when Rachel asks Brody to, "be a sweetheart and get me another one of these wonderful drinks," and he does with minimal argument.

"Maybe you should sip this one slowly," Quinn advises when he comes back to the table.

"Or maybe we should both just relax and have a little fun," Rachel counters with a raised eyebrow, accepting the glass that Brody hands her with a challenge in her eyes.

Brody sinks down into his chair, sliding a second drink in front of Quinn even though she's only about halfway finished with her first. "Don't worry," he says, "I'll make sure you both get home safely." It sounds like a line to Quinn, and she turns her suspicious gaze on him. Brody's smile dims under her scrutiny, and he holds out his hands in supplication. "Rachel can vouch for my character," he assures her.

Rachel, ignoring Quinn's advice to sip her drink, mumbles over the rim of her glass, "I vouch."

Quinn wants to dislike him—she really, really does—but other than his willingness to aid in their underage drinking, Brody hasn't given her a good enough reason to question Rachel's judgment of him. Granted, Rachel's judgment led her to almost marry Finn while they were both still in high school with no money to their names and still living with their parents, so maybe Quinn shouldn't trust her on this. Still, she's been told just enough about Brody by both Rachel and Kurt to know he's been fairly supportive of Rachel so far, even if Quinn is almost positive he's hoping to get under Rachel's skirt.

Sighing, Quinn shrugs and takes a sip of her own drink, silently deciding to go with the flow. Brody smiles again, leaning forward and crossing his arms on the table. "Rachel said you were in glee club with her. Any chance of an impromptu performance?" he asks, tipping his head toward the little stage.

Quinn raises an eyebrow. "Only if I have at least six more of these," she lifts her glass and rattles the ice to punctuate how unlikely it is that anyone will get her to sing.

She's not surprised at all when Rachel is on stage in less than fifteen minutes. She's even less surprised that Brody is up there with her. Quinn drops her chin into the palm of her hand and tries not to brood over how effortlessly they harmonize or how good they look standing next to one another. She resolves to dislike Brody on principal—she doesn't particularly care that she has her own pool of ridiculously attractive suitors to choose from should she decide to indulge. Rachel needs to be single for a while longer.

Despite Brody's presence, Quinn can't help enjoying the performance—it's been too long since she's seen Rachel in her element, surrendering to the simple joy of singing. It's what initially drew her to Rachel in the first place, and she thinks it might even be what she misses most now that she's eighty-two miles away from her daily dose of Rachel's voice.

Most of the patrons in the bar have turned their attention to the stage by the time the duo sing their final notes, and the applause and intermittent wolf-whistles are enough to infuse Rachel with a performance high that, on top of the alcohol, keeps her onstage for another song even after Brody graciously refuses to join her again. He collapses back into his chair with a wide grin, murmuring, "She's really something."

Quinn hums her agreement, eyes unabashedly focusing on Rachel.

"You know," Brody begins, leaning closer to Quinn so she can hear him over Rachel's singing and irritating her to no end, "she'll probably drag you up there too before the day is over."

The corner of her mouth twitches into a vague smile, and she silently shrugs, refusing to look away from the stage. She has no intention of going up there and singing today or any day in the near future, but she knows that Rachel has a way of convincing her to do things that she normally wouldn't.

When all is said and done, it doesn't require six more drinks for Quinn to find herself standing next to Rachel with her face aflame and gripping onto the microphone stand like it's a crutch and a shield all rolled into one—it only requires three. Their a cappella reprise of I Feel Pretty/Unpretty (that a much more inebriated Rachel settled for after Quinn adamantly refused every other suggestion that would have required a natural talent that she simply doesn't possess) actually goes over fairly well, even if Quinn does sing the entire song with her gaze firmly fixed on the ceiling.

She feels Rachel sway into her at the end of the song, wrapping an arm around her waist and clinging to her as she giggles. Quinn stumbles a bit under the unexpected weight, but she doesn't bother to pry Rachel off of her before they attempt to step down off the stage—which is probably a mistake. She has a feeling that they're actually not walking very straight, and Quinn notices the bartender eyeing them oddly. She's not particularly in the mood to get arrested for underage drinking, even if it would be kind of satisfying to pin Brody as their "dealer." (She ignores the fact that she's spent the last two hours laughing at his jokes and stories and that he's probably as nice as he seems. It's the principle of it after all.)

They stumble back to the table, and Rachel detaches from Quinn only to practically fall into Brody's lap. She loops an arm over his shoulder to keep her balance while he reflexively grasps her waist to steady her. "Brody, tell me…you can tell me…be honest…like the…like the honest, up…upstanding guy you are," she says gravely, clumsily patting his chest with her free hand, "were Quinn and I brilliant…or simply outstanding?"

He shakes his head indulgently and flashes a wide smile. "Brilliant," he assures her, glancing questioningly at Quinn who might be leaning a little heavily against the table and glaring down at him.

"See, Quinn, see," Rachel says, blindly reaching back for her and managing to twist her fingers into Quinn's blouse, "told you we'd be awesome together." She leans closer to Brody, tugging Quinn's shirt at the same time and causing her to stumble closer to Rachel. "Quinn's a lot more talented than she knows," she says close to Brody's ear, possibly intending to whisper but failing completely.

Quinn tries to ignore the fiery trail of delighted embarrassment that's racing across the back of her neck and attacking her ears at Rachel's compliment, or maybe it's also from the backs of Rachel's fingers, still twisted in her shirt and brushing softly against her belly—in any case, it's now an inarguable fact that they've both had too much to drink.

"I think you're a lot drunker than you know," Quinn points out, gently prying the hem of her shirt from Rachel's grasp.

Rachel makes an odd sputtering sound, clearly meant to express disagreement, and Brody grimaces slightly, wiping at his cheek. Quinn presses a hand to her mouth to stifle her giggle. Rachel defiantly reaches for her half-full glass and downs the remaining liquid like a shot.

"Why don't you ladies let me pay for a taxi to get you home safely?" Brody suggests, sliding the glass from Rachel's hand and setting it back on the table. He makes sure to help Rachel get her balance as he stands.

"But the day's still young," she whines. "I'm young. Quinn's young. You're young." Rachel grins, beginning to hum a bit before she sings, "We are young, so let's set the world on fi…"

Quinn groans and slaps a hand over Rachel's mouth. "A taxi is probably a good idea," Quinn tells Brody. He nods, pressing his lips into an amused grin that shows off his annoying dimples—she really doesn't want to like him.

Brody slips an arm securely around Rachel's waist but instead of doing the expected thing and leaning into him, she grabs for Quinn's arm and curls her own securely around it. "You're coming home with me," she insists. "New…New Haven is too, too far away."

Quinn shakes her head—probably a bad idea because the bar slants a little to the left—and reminds Rachel, "I'm going back tomorrow."

"Good. Not good that you're leaving…that sucks," Rachel slurs with an exaggerated pout, "but good that you're coming." She frowns, stumbling to a stop and twisting into Quinn with furrowed brows. "You need to come visit me more," she demands. "Brody, tell her to visit more."

He rolls his eyes, humoring her. "Visit more," he echoes, gently nudging Rachel back into motion.

He safely guides them both out onto the sidewalk, and the chilly evening air slaps Quinn in the face. It feels good though—sobering—and her head clears just a little. Brody lets go of Rachel, and she shifts her weight completely onto Quinn while Brody jogs to the corner and begins waving for one of the vacant taxis that seem to be constantly prowling every street in New York. It only takes two minutes for him to have a car stopped in front of them.

"You're a nice guy, Brody," Rachel tells him, clutching at the taxi door with one hand and patting his chest with the other. "I like nice guys. They're…nice. Finn was nice, too…except when he was laughing at me…or…or you know…telling me I was selfish…or…putting me on a train when we were supposed to get married and not talking to me for three months." Rachel frowns, seeming to think over what she just said. "Actually, Finn sucks." She pokes Brody's shoulder—it doesn't have much effect but seems to surprise him, and his eyebrows arch. "You'd better not secretly suck, too," she warns him angrily.

Quinn can't help laughing, and she circles her fingers around Rachel's wrist and tugs it away from Brody's shoulder. She turns Rachel toward the door and helps her into the backseat of the taxi. Once Rachel is settled, Quinn turns to Brody with her tipsy smile still in place. "If you do secretly suck, Rachel will forgive you. She's amazing that way." Her smile disappears as she steps forward, narrowing her eyes and tilting her chin. "But I'm not as forgiving," she promises.

Brody chuckles a little nervously, but he nods, holding out his hand. "It was nice to meet you, Quinn."

She doesn't say anything, and she looks down at his hand with a frown, but she still finds herself placing her own palm against his and accepting the handshake. Letting go, she attempts to gracefully slide into the taxi next to Rachel. She thinks she's done an okay job of it, but she can't be certain—she's leaning more than a little to the left.

Brody braces his hands on the roof of the taxi and leans in, glancing at the driver with a grin and rattling off Rachel's address. He hands the driver a few bills, saying, "This should cover the fare and the tip if you don't take any unnecessary detours. Make sure they get into the building safely and remember that I've got your cab number, buddy." The driver rolls his eyes and takes the cash, and Brody smiles at Rachel and Quinn again. "Goodnight," he says with a wink before he closes the door.

The taxi instantly jerks into motion, and just as quickly, Rachel is looping her arm through Quinn's and dropping her head onto Quinn's shoulder. "He really is a nice guy," Rachel mutters groggily, and Quinn hums non-committally, refusing to agree out of principle.

The ride back to Rachel's apartment is fairly uneventful, but Quinn discovers just how cuddly Rachel can be when she's drunk. She vaguely remembers flashes of Rachel hanging off Finn and Blaine and Mike Chang a few years ago, but experiencing it first hand is a little disconcerting. It's harder to ignore all of those feelings that she wishes she could make go away.

"I'm sorry I made you sing," Rachel says into the silence, stroking Quinn's arm in a way that's making her skin prickle. "I jus…just really missed your voice."

Quinn's breath catches at the soft admission. "Even though I'm occasionally sharp," she jokes around the sudden dryness in her throat, attempting to lighten the mood so the knots in her stomach won't wind any tighter.

Rachel presses impossibly closer, reaching down to grip Quinn's hand with borderline desperation as she turns wide, worried eyes to Quinn. "No! No…you're not sharp. Your voice is smooth…like honey…and…and sweet…and…you've come so…so far since I said that…and you never sang enough, Quinn! Why didn't you sing more? You de…deprived me of a wonderful audit…auditory experience. It's really unforgivable," she huffs with a pout before her eyes grow wide again, glistening suspiciously. "I'm sorry…so sorry…say you forgive me," she begs, tugging at Quinn's hand despondently.

Quinn's emotions dip and swirl with every word, and she's not quite sure where she ends up by the end of Rachel's ramble, but she purses her lips and nods jerkily, squeezing Rachel's hand. "Sure thing, Rach," she mutters awkwardly, a little horrified when Rachel nearly straddles her lap to hug her forcefully.

"You're the best friend I've ever had who isn't Kurt," she mumbles into Quinn's shoulder.

Quinn chuckles uncomfortably, lifting a hand to pat Rachel's back. There's a knee tucked a little too snugly between her thighs, and Quinn does her best to subtly shift farther back in her seat. "Rachel, could you…maybe sit back down now?" Her voice is raspier than she wants it to be.

Rachel squeezes her shoulders tighter and nods, but she doesn't actually move. "You smell like angels," she eventually murmurs.

Quinn swallows thickly, closing her eyes tightly. "Rachel," she begs huskily.

She feels the girl in her arms sigh heavily before she finally shifts away, no longer encroaching on Quinn's personal space but still close enough to keep her shoulder barely brushing against Quinn's. Quinn feels hot all over, and she takes a few deep breaths before she finally opens her eyes. She stares straight ahead and sees the driver's bemused smirk in the mirror. Quinn scowls at him.

The taxi pulls in front of Rachel's building a few minutes later, and the driver tells them that the fare is covered. Quinn steps out of the taxi and stumbles just a little, taking a moment to regain her balance before she helps Rachel up. Rachel takes this as an invitation to curl her arm around Quinn's waist and lean into her. Quinn groans and kicks the door closed as they both awkwardly stumble into the building. She notices that the taxi driver did, in fact, wait until they were inside to pull away. She's mildly impressed.

Rachel seems to catch a case of the giggles on their way up to the apartment, and Quinn grins in response. She's outright laughing as she watches Rachel make five attempts to unlock her door before she finally succeeds and they stumble inside.

Kurt still isn't back from his outing, so it's just Quinn and Rachel alone in the apartment. Quinn messily kicks off her shoes and sinks onto the chair, rubbing her feet, while Rachel disappears into one of the curtained-off rooms for a moment before she reappears with another bottle of wine. Quinn frowns at her as she brings it over to set on the coffee table. Rachel toes off her own shoes and collapses onto the futon, folding her jean-clad legs beneath her.

"I think you've had enough," Quinn says, watching Rachel fumble with the corkscrew and repeatedly miss the mouth of the bottle.

"I'm perfect...perfectly capable of deciding when I've had enough, thank you," Rachel growls, pointing the corkscrew at Quinn with a scowl. "So you can just…just stop being such a Finn."

"Excuse me?" Quinn growls, gaping at Rachel and the corkscrew wavering back and forth in midair.

Rachel puffs out her cheeks and takes another stab at the bottle—the metal point of the corkscrew scratches along the neck. "You don't know what's best for me," she insists. "You think…you think you do, but you don't. I don't need my…my best frienemy to tell me to breakup with my boyfriend…or…or that I shouldn't get married…and I don't need fiancés to breakup with me at train stations or…or leave me in the middle of the night for my own good." She flails her hands in exasperation, shaking the bottle of wine and coming very close to poking her own eye with the corkscrew as she screeches, "Who does that?"

Quinn scrambles off the chair, grabbing for Rachel's wrist to keep her from doing any damage with her makeshift weapons before she falls next to her on the futon—she doesn't think twice about its questionable origins. "Finn's a jerk," she mutters, prying the corkscrew out of Rachel's hand and grabbing for the bottle as well. Rachel surrenders it without a fight, and Quinn gently lays both down on the coffee table.

"He is. He's a big jerk," Rachel nods, "and so are you, Quinn Fabray…being all…all…Quinn," she stresses, and Quinn arches an eyebrow at that, opening her mouth to ask how in the hell she's a jerk in all of this, but Rachel rambles on, saying, "You're smarter than me…dropping anchors at Yale. And being so frush…frustratingly attractive." She pauses, reaching out with an unsteady hand to unexpectedly run her fingers through Quinn's hair. "Prettiest girl anywhere ever," she mumbles, causing Quinn's breath to hitch.

Rachel's touch is gone as suddenly as it came, and she licks her lips as she attempts to focus on Quinn, almost as if she's trying to sober up but it isn't quite working. "You're like…you…you never let anything keep you down. Even when you're dying your hair pink and getting re…ridiculous tattoos, you still… You just…make it all work…every time."

Quinn chuckles a little. "You know that's not true, Rach. I was a mess."

"No," Rachel insists, swaying forward and gripping Quinn's shoulder. "You got it together. You kept fighting. You got out of a freaking wheelchair in, like, three months.'re an unstoppable force. Not me. I just…I just fell apart. Into tiny little Rachel-shaped pieces."

"You didn't."

"I did," Rachel shouts, releasing her grip on Quinn. "I gave up on putting me first and taking chances and…and used Finn like a…a safety-net. I was going to stay in Lima and become a housewife," she spits, grimacing. "Me! A housewife! Can you imagine?"

Quinn swallows, pushing aside the unbidden image of Rachel in an apron and not much else, and shakes her head mutely.

"No…no you probably can't," Rachel whispers, "you tried to stop me."

"You were too young," Quinn says quietly.

"Too stupid," Rachel says shakily, wrapping her fingers around the wine bottle and dragging it towards her. She tries to take a drink before she realizes that she never managed to remove the cork. Quinn brushes Rachel's hand away from the table the moment she reaches for the corkscrew again.

"You really have had enough to drink," she repeats.

Rachel huffs, hugging the bottle to her. "I just wanna forget, Quinn. I wanna forget Finn and who I was with him, and Brody being all…not-Finn, and crazy Cassie telling me I'm wasting my time, and how pretty you are even when you don't try, and how you bought me train tickets that I'm terrified to use because you're…"

She trails off, biting her lip, and Quinn grits her teeth, trying to make her fuzzy mind follow what Rachel is saying. "I'm what?" she asks.

Rachel shakes her head stubbornly, closing her eyes and tipping her head back to rest on the edge of futon. "You're not supposed to like me back," she mumbles. "It confuses me."

Quinn digs her fingers into the cushion and swallows heavily. "But I do like you," she confesses so softly that she's certain Rachel can't have heard her. She watches Rachel's lips curve into a crooked smile and knows that she was wrong.

Rachel opens her eyes and grins up at Quinn. "If you like me…you'll open this," she bargains, holding out the bottle of wine.

Quinn smiles, taking the bottle from Rachel, who releases a little squeal of giddiness, at least until Quinn sets it back on the table. Rachel growls her disapproval and sits up quickly, but despite her claims to the contrary, she really has had too much to drink already, and she falls into Quinn, grasping at her to keep from tipping forward off the futon. Quinn hisses out a breath as Rachel haphazardly grips the material of her blouse both in front and behind her left shoulder. The hand twisting at her back doesn't bother Quinn at all, but the one in front…

Rachel has a palm full of Quinn's left breast, and Quinn's body goes rigid—one part embarrassingly more so than the others. She doubts that Rachel really notices though because she doesn't even seem to be aware that she's currently copping a feel. She giggles at her own clumsiness, leaning heavily into Quinn's side and dropping her forehead onto Quinn's shoulder. Her hands don't move from their position.

"Rach," Quinn rasps, "could you...ah?"

Rachel hums, letting go of the material over Quinn's shoulder blade, only to loop that arm over Quinn's upper back and burrow closer. "You really do smell so good," Rachel slurs drowsily.

Rachel's hot breath against her shoulder causes a flutter in Quinn's belly, but she ignores it, wondering if Rachel is falling asleep on her. Sighing, she carefully curls her fingers under Rachel's left hand and eases it away from her breast. As soon as they touch, Rachel jerks her head up. Her eyes are wide and unexpectedly focused. Quinn grows still, her fingers warm against Rachel's skin.

They're close—closer than they should be—and Quinn is too aware of the sudden silence in the room. The only thing she hears is her own skittering heart, and her eyes want to linger on Rachel's parted lips, but she forces them to stay on Rachel's dark gaze instead. She tries to smile, attempting to form some sardonic phrase in her head that will bring them out of this odd moment, but it all dies on her lips when Rachel says, "You have beautiful eyes."

The way those words sound—so soft and gentle, whispered like a lover's secret—twists into her heart. She reminds herself that Rachel is drunk, and a drunk Rachel is extra clingy and unfiltered, and her compliments don't mean anything more than they ever have. Rachel thinks she's pretty. Well, Quinn knows she's pretty, and she loves having people agree with her. She works hard on her appearance, after all, but it's the fact that Rachel seems to find something worthwhile on the inside that leaves Quinn a little breathless in wonder sometimes.

"So green," Rachel adds, somehow leaning farther into Quinn's personal space.

"They're hazel," she murmurs distractedly.

"They're green when you look at me."

Quinn doesn't have the chance to reflect on the truth of that statement—not that she could ever prove it one way or another without holding a mirror behind Rachel's head, but then she'd be looking more at the mirror than Rachel, and what good would that do?—because Rachel closes those final few inches between them and brushes those lips at which Quinn had resolved not to stare at across her...


What the hell?

She's disappointed—overwhelmingly so. Kissing Rachel isn't something she's spent much time consciously thinking about for fear of where it might lead her, but that doesn't mean that she isn't achingly familiar with the particular brand of frustration that comes from moments like this. She should be relieved, because a drunken kiss between them would be so many kinds of wrong when she knows that Rachel is still rebounding from Finn, and flirting with Brody and his pretty white teeth, and at least ninety-nine percent heterosexual. Quinn never attempts to calculate her own percentage. She doubts any mathematical formula could help her figure herself out, and sometimes she thinks it's only Rachel that makes her question anything anyway—Rachel and the softness of her lips as they ghost over Quinn's cheek.

Quinn releases a shaky breath that flutters through the loose strands of Rachel's hair. Rachel hesitates, her mouth still temptingly close and her eyelids fluttering as she looks at Quinn. Her fingers curl more tightly around Quinn's where their hands are still touching, and then all of Quinn's disappointment evaporates with the taste of moist lips painted with the flavor of cranberry and vodka.

The kiss sends a shock through her system, and for a moment she wonders if this is all some drunken hallucination, but the truth is that she's feeling a lot more sober all of a sudden. She knows that she should stop this—pull away and play it off and remind Rachel that she's drunk and not in full possession of her faculties—but the devil on her shoulder whispers that this is probably her one and only chance to have a taste of Rachel Berry. It's what makes her chase Rachel's mouth the second she feels her start to pull away. It's what makes her capture Rachel's plump lower lip and twist her body on the futon so that she can snake an arm around Rachel's waist and keep her close. It's what has her tongue taking the silent invitation when Rachel's mouth parts beneath hers.

But it's Rachel that moans first, and it's Rachel's hand that finds its way into Quinn's hair, and Rachel that leans back against the futon and pulls Quinn with her.

Quinn has kissed a lot of guys. Some have been more memorable than others—some with a little more finesse, some with tenderness, some blurred in a haze of alcohol, and some sloppy and forgettable. Kissing Rachel is a combination of things, but she knows in an instant that she won't ever forget it, although she might wish she could once it's over.

Rachel shifts against her, wrapping her arms around Quinn and trying to pull her closer, and it sparks a single moment of rationality in Quinn. She breaks the kiss and pulls back, stomach flipping at the sight of Rachel, flushed and tousled underneath her. "We should stop," she whispers thickly, even though she really doesn't want to—if this is a onetime only opportunity, she wants to make it count.

Rachel furrows her brows in confusion, looking adorably dazed, and Quinn just wants to lean back down and kiss her again. "The fireworks are too pretty," Rachel mumbles.

Frowning in confusion, Quinn mentally questions how drunk Rachel is, but when she cups her palm around Quinn's neck and drags her back down for another kiss, Quinn figures that's enough of an answer for now. The devil on her shoulder agrees.

A/N: This was actually started back in late November, so any similarities to a certain episode airing are purely coincidental. As always, feedback is appreciated.