Part III: And Come To Love


As it turns out, Rachel doesn't get the part in The Glass Menagerie. Kurt consoles her with a musical comedy marathon, chocolate covered strawberries, and a bottle of wine. It should be enough, but Rachel is feeling some of that same hopeless despondency that had washed over her earlier in the year, and she still has the Winter Showcase to prepare for. After Kurt goes to bed, Rachel sits on the futon staring blankly at the screen of her laptop and swirling the last drops of wine in her glass.

The temptation to email Quinn is so strong. She's been good about not contacting her—for the most part. After all, that one little text that only said, I miss you, that she'd sent after her argument with Kurt in Lima two days ago can hardly be considered (significant) contact. Rachel reaches for the nearly empty bottle of wine and tops off her glass with the last of it. Her hand slows as she tips the now empty bottle straight, and she closes her eyes, hugging the cool glass to her chest. For the first time, she actually wills the memory to come.

"We should stop," Quinn whispered, pulling Rachel's attention from the explosions of colors painting the back of her eyelids and the wonderful tingles low in her belly. She didn't appreciate the interruption.

"The fireworks are too pretty," Rachel mumbled as she stared up at Quinn's perfect features—perfect even with the little frown on those pretty, pink lips. Quinn's mouth was so talented. Rachel's mouth was talented too. She wanted to keep exploring that talent together, so she curled her palm around Quinn's neck and dragged her down into another kiss.

Quinn was so good at kissing. She nibbled on Rachel's lower lip and teased it with the tip of her tongue while her hands wandered restlessly over Rachel's hips. Rachel threaded her fingers into Quinn's hair. She really liked it long. She'd liked it short too. Actually, she'd liked it almost every way that Quinn had ever worn it except for the ponytail. Rachel really hadn't liked the ponytail at all—though the cheerios' uniform that went with it had been kind of appealing. She decided that she liked Quinn's hair this way the best—all tousled and messy from her fingers.

She tugged Quinn closer, fusing their mouths together. The taste of her was so addictive, like sunshine and summer and honey. Well, the honey might be her chap stick, but Rachel didn't care—she just wanted more of that unique flavor, so she took it.

Her fingers reluctantly left Quinn's silky hair in order to trail down over her pale throat. Quinn moaned into Rachel's mouth and tightened her own fingers into Rachel's thighs. The sound was like music to Rachel's ears. She needed to hear that sound again, so she stroked tiny circles over Quinn's pulse point with the pad of her thumb while she gently scraped her teeth over Quinn's bottom lip. Quinn moaned louder, hiked Rachel's leg up over her hip, and pressed closer until it was Rachel's turn to moan.

She shifted restlessly beneath Quinn, pulling her closer with her leg and her arms. If she could have figured out how to crawl inside of her right then, she would have. Quinn groaned low and deep, and she tore her mouth away from Rachel's lips, gasping for air before she was drawn right back. She nuzzled into Rachel's throat, tracing her tongue across the skin, and Rachel curled her nails into Quinn's back, gasping, "You make me see stars. No…s-super…supernovas," she mumbled, tipping her head further back against the cushion.

Rachel thought that she felt Quinn smile against her skin. "I just see you," she murmured, her voice vibrating against Rachel's pulse.

Rachel's heart was pounding, and her head was spinning, and her body was warm everywhere—inside and out. She wondered if Quinn felt the same way, so she slipped her fingers just barely under the hem of Quinn's shirt, reveling in the heat of soft, bare skin against her fingertips. "We should…go…oh," she moaned at feel of Quinn suckling her neck. "Oh, my God," she cried, arching up into Quinn and clawing at the hem of her shirt until she could push the material away enough to feel more of Quinn's naked back.

Quinn shuddered against her before she raised her head to stare down at Rachel intently. "We should stop," she raggedly whispered for the second time.

Rachel struggled to catch her breath, feeling dizzy and disoriented. They should stop. She wasn't even sure what they were doing. This wasn't something Rachel was supposed to want. She'd wanted Finn—with his bulky form, calloused hands, chapped lips, and rough jaw. She wanted Brody—with his perfect smile and washboard abs. But she also wanted to taste honey-flavored lips and thread her hands into soft, silky hair. "I want you," she mumbled mindlessly.

Quinn's breath hitched, and her eyes fluttered shut. "Kurt could walk in," she worried.

"Bedroom," Rachel suggested, fascinated by the column of Quinn's throat. She stretched up and flattened her tongue against the spot where Quinn's neck met her shoulder.

"Yesss," Quinn hissed.

"No," Rachel whispers, opening her eyes to stare at the laptop again. She slams the empty bottle onto the coffee table and takes a long drink from her glass before setting it aside more gently. She pulls the laptop closer and opens up her email.

She's certain that it's completely inelegant and certainly full of uncharacteristic typos. She tries to keep it short and to the point, hoping that might be better received than her typical long, rambling emails. She starts with an apology—well, two apologies, since one is specifically for contacting Quinn when she was asked not to—and then Rachel accepts her share of the responsibility for what happened that night, admits to being confused by what she now remembers, and tells Quinn that she understands why she doesn't want to talk to her anymore.

Rachel begins to add how much she misses Quinn and really wishes that she could ask her for advice, and how her life is pretty depressing right now, but then she thinks better of it and backspaces through everything relating to how this affects Rachel. Instead, Rachel tells Quinn that she hopes they can get their friendship back. Whenever you're ready, she ends, and hits send before she can think better of it.

The next morning, there's a reply waiting for her.

I'm going home for Thanksgiving. I think it would be best if we don't see one another. I'm not ready yet.

Rachel blinks back her tears after reading it and tries to convince herself that the "yet" at the end means that Quinn will eventually be ready to renew their friendship.

She mentions Thanksgiving to Kurt. They'd already been on the wall about going home due to their lack of funds, but Quinn's email tips them over, and they agree to stay in New York. NYADA's break is short compared to other schools anyway, so Rachel's last class is on Tuesday, and it happens to be her dance class. She's mentally prepared herself to see Cassie—to not let on that the woman's head games have affected Rachel at all—but instead, Brody shows up and announces that he's taking over.

Rachel is still upset about the whole thing, and she doesn't feel like dealing with him right now, so she heads for her bag and bends down to pack it up.

"Is there a problem?¹" Brody asks.

Rachel puffs out a breath, wondering why everyone keeps asking her that. "Well you know, everyone here pays, like, thirty-thousand dollars a year to be taught by a professional and not a TA, so,¹" she trails off, jamming her water bottle into the bag.

"I'm sorry. Are you angry at me about something?¹"

Rachel stands up and turns around to face him. "You mean besides the fact that you slept with Cassie?¹"

"And why do you care who I sleep with?¹"

"Do I really need to answer that?¹" she asks incredulously, ignoring the little voice in her head that sounds too much like Kurt reminding her that she really doesn't have the right to care.

"Hey, I'm the one who came on to you, remember? You broke off our date to see another guy,¹" he reminds her.

"Yeah, well that's over now,¹" and it feels closer to the truth than ever before.

"So, I'm supposed to have retroactively known that was going to happen and not slept with Cassie?¹" he asks lightly before turning to call the class into session.

Brody grabs Rachel's hand when the music starts and pulls her into a foxtrot. "Look, you're not in high school anymore. We're adults making adult choices. You made yourself unavailable. Don't be that crazy girl," he warns, causing Rachel to snap her gaze to him, "who expects people to read her mind.¹"

"Well, I'm sorry, but you don't have to be a mind reader to know that she is my mortal enemy," she hisses—well, this year anyway. "Did it at least suck?¹"

"Are you kidding? It was amazing. Have you seen her ass?¹" he asks lecherously, and Rachel's lips twitch despite her ire. She has seen Cassie's ass, and she can't deny that it is very nice. Quinn's is better, whispers through her thoughts unbidden.

"Look," Brody says, leading Rachel into a dip, "I know we're friends, and I don't want to hurt you," he lifts her back up and continues moving her through their dance steps, "so it won't happen again. Okay?¹"

He seems sincere and rational, damn it. Rachel isn't used to guys acting this way. She's not used to acting this way, but part of being in New York is leaving behind that clingy, desperate girl that she used to be, so she nods and whispers, "Okay,¹" before she gives him a little smile.

"What are you doing for Thanksgiving?¹" he asks, easily changing the subject and moving them past their little spat. This maturity thing is a nice change from what she's used to, so she tells him that she and Kurt are having an orphan's Thanksgiving here in the city. After landing a joking insult to her cooking skills—and okay, so she caught one little dinner on fire, would no one ever let her forget that?—he offers to come over and cook for them

"Yeah, that would be great,¹" she says, certain that Kurt will be grateful for the extra help in the kitchen.

Brody grins, cocking his head to the side. "Do you mind if I bring Cassie?¹"

"Oh, shut up," she smiles and grips his hand, straightening her posture and pushing him back into motion, "and just dance with me.¹"

The next day, she and Kurt brave the local supermarket to buy supplies. As it turns out, Kurt had invited his boss to dinner as well, so he's actually grateful for the addition of Brody and his cooking skills, especially when Brody provides them with a list to work from so that they're not shopping blind. They both make a mental note to never, ever go shopping the day before Thanksgiving ever again—it's insane, and they both get shoved aside and cursed at by rabid last minute shoppers so many times that they lose count.

They eventually haul their groceries home and dance around one another in the kitchen as they put things away. Then Kurt pauses to glance at his phone. "Ooh, more updates from Tina on Sectionals," he trills, sinking down into the chair while he begins to read them out loud. Rachel tries to smile and act casually, but her heart is beating a little more quickly as she anticipates a mention of Quinn.

Kurt laughs. "Oh, Santana got assigned to mentor Marley. Poor girl," Kurt comments. "And apparently, the Unholy Trinity graced them all with an impromptu performance." He glances up at Rachel almost guiltily, undoubtedly gauging her reaction.

Maybe her smile trembles a bit, but she's happy that Quinn is there with her...her friends, having a good time and singing again. "It's okay, Kurt." Rachel slides the can of cranberry sauce into the cupboard, fingers tracing the label absently as she imagines the taste of cranberry and vodka. "Did...did Tina say anything else?"

"Hmm, oh yes, let's see, she says...oh," Kurt stops abruptly, and Rachel turns to look at him, noticing the odd look on his face.

"What?" she prompts.

Kurt shakes his head and places his phone screen down on the table. "Nothing. It isn't important."

"Kurt," she growls, taking a step forward and reaching for the phone herself, but Kurt quickly slaps his palm over it and slides it closer to his body. "Tell me," Rachel demands.

He sighs, shaking his head. "Are you sure you want to hear this?"

"How can I know that unless you tell me?" she asks irritably.

Kurt purses his lips and nods. "Well, Santana told Brittany, who told Tina, that Quinn is," he pauses again.

Rachel leans on the table, glaring at him. Her mind is busily completing that sentence in a dozen unpleasant ways. "What?" she snaps again.

"Quinn is dating her thirty-five year old psychology professor," he rushes out.

Rachel stares at him stupidly before she barks out a laugh. "Get serious."

"He's married," Kurt says very seriously, and Rachel's laughter dies. She sinks down into the chair beside him.

"But she...she said..."

"That she wants to move on," Kurt reminds her gently.

Rachel isn't sure how she's feeling right now. Quinn is dating a married man. Woman? She doesn't even know—she supposes it could be either—but she can't make her mouth form the words to ask. Why would Quinn...? A married professor? She's so much better than that! She's young and smart and beautiful, and she can have anyone.

Not anyone, Rachel, she reminds herself. She can't have who she originally wanted.

Kurt places a hand over hers on the table, ducking his head to catch her eyes. "Moving on is a good thing. Admittedly, it would have been better with someone slightly less midlife crisis-y," he muses with a little grin that Rachel doesn't return. "You should be relieved."

He's right. She should be. Quinn is dating an older, married man—or something—so she's obviously not pining over Rachel in misery. Instead, she's home for Thanksgiving, visiting all her—their—friends, but she still doesn't want to see or talk to Rachel. It isn't fair, and Rachel isn't relieved at all. She's angry.

"You are relieved, right?" Kurt checks with a raised eyebrow.

Rachel flashes an insincere smile. "Immensely." She rises from her chair with a dramatic flourish. "If Quinn Fabray wants to ruin her life by dating yet another person who is obviously absolutely wrong for her, then I'm happy for her. I have Brody, after all, and he's perfect for me."

She ignores Kurt's look of surprise and turns back to the counter, haphazardly shoving the loaf of bread into the bread box and smashing it slightly in the process. When Kurt tries to continue the conversation, she claims to have forgotten to buy the brown sugar and makes a hasty retreat out into the chilly November air, shoving her hands in her pockets as she stalks through her neighborhood and vowing not to care that Quinn is obviously back to making horrible, self-destructive decisions again.

On Thanksgiving Day, Rachel doesn't think about Quinn. She and Kurt watch the parade on television, promising each other that they'll actually go stand in the crowd one day and see it live. When Brody arrives, Rachel focuses her attention on him. He's gorgeous and charming, and he can cook. He even offers to teach her, showing her how to baste the turkey—and really, it's a little disheartening to be touching a dead bird, but having an attractive, available man flirt with her while she's doing it is really nice. She's supposed to feel this way.

"When you two are done using that turkey as a courtship device, would you put it the oven? Because it's almost five o'clock,¹" Kurt points out. He's been looking at her strangely all day—well, since yesterday really—but it's gotten more pronounced since Brody arrived.

Rachel chooses to ignore it, at least while they have company, and soon enough their apartment is full of music and people—Isabelle brings some friends—and it becomes a spontaneous party. It's only much later, when everyone is gone, and she and Kurt are cleaning up, that Kurt asks her, "Are you sure that you know what you're doing with Brody?"

She doesn't ask what he means by that, she just says, "I'm moving on, Kurt. Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?" She tosses her rag onto the counter and leans back, crossing her arms. "He's single and interested. I'm single and getting over...Finn. It doesn't have to be anything else."

Kurt stares at her for a long moment, eventually nodding in silent acceptance.

xx

Rachel wins the Winter Showcase. She kisses Brody again, and it's good. His lips are a little too firm, and maybe he's a little too tall, but she's used to kissing Finn so that shouldn't matter. She wishes for fireworks, but they don't come.

She emails Santana because she can't email Quinn. They were almost friends by the end of last year, and they're Facebook friends now. True that neither of them have ventured past liking a few posts, but she knows that Santana isn't really happy at Louisville. Rachel keeps it light, saying very little about herself, but being certain to ask Santana the appropriate questions in order to relay the appearance of genuine interest. It isn't until the last paragraph that Rachel casually asks Santana if she's heard from Quinn.

The answering email is full of snark and familiar insults, but there's not even one mention of Quinn. Santana does suggest that the next time Rachel feels the need to ramble on about nothing in particular, she might as well call and save Santana the eye-strain. I'm already used to tuning out your annoying voice, she types.

Five days later, Quinn finally contacts her again.

Congratulations on your Winter Showcase. I told you that you were meant to be in New York. I'm still not ready, but I'm getting there. Wishing you a Happy Hanukkah. ~Q

Rachel saves the text, and then she risks replying with a simple, Thank you. Merry Christmas. ~R

She goes out with Brody once before winter break. He takes her to dinner, and they go ice skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park. It's fun and easy, and it keeps her mind off of other things. She's getting used to kissing Brody—it still doesn't knock her socks off or make her heart feel full, but she likes him well enough.

Rachel and her dads had made plans months ago to take the Rosie O'Donnell gay holiday cruise. Rachel used to go with them all the time when she was younger, but she hasn't been on one in years. She's excited to spend time with them, but being stuck on the ship for two weeks is bothering her for reasons that she can't articulate—although she is looking forward to the Jesse Tyler Ferguson look alike contest. Maybe it's because she's meeting her dads here in New York, where the ship departs, and thanks to her last phone call with Santana (who actually seems to appreciate the effort to improve their friendship), Rachel knows that Quinn is planning to spend her holidays in Lima, but since Rachel and her dads won't be there, there won't even be a chance for them to accidentally run into one another over the holidays.

The cruise is both wonderful and terrible. Rachel is surrounded by happy couples and families of every sexuality and gender identity. She's happy enough to be there with her dads, but part of her feels more lost and alone than she ever has before. Her eyes keep straying to the women who are openly holding hands and kissing one another, and her mind keeps wandering to Quinn. She knows it's only because of what happened between them—the knowledge that she's been with a woman in a sexual way (though she's remembered enough by now to be relatively certain that there wasn't technically any penetration involved, even if there were mutual orgasms). Rachel isn't attracted to any of the women who wink and smile at her suggestively—not even the gorgeous blonde with the phenomenal body who asks her to dance during the disco party because she mistakenly assumes that Rachel has been staring at her all night. Rachel informs her that she's merely a straight ally and then dances with her anyway—just to be polite. It's...not unpleasant.

It's a relief to go home to her apartment in New York. Two days before her classes resume, she's browsing through the upcoming auditions that NYADA posts on their website for both on and off campus productions when her phone buzzes to life with the melody of Keep Holding On, and Rachel's heart stops. She nearly dumps her laptop onto the floor in her haste to answer her phone, fumbling with the screen until she finally manages to accept the call. "Hello," she answers breathlessly.

"Hi, Rachel," Quinn says softly through the line after clearing her throat.

"Quinn, hi. It's so good to hear your voice," she says earnestly, cradling the phone closer to her ear as she shifts back on the futon. "How are you? How was your holiday?"

"Good. I'm," there's a hesitation, and Rachel can perfectly imagine the wistful expression on Quinn's face before she says, "good."

Rachel closes her eyes, biting into her lips before she admits, "I've really missed you."

"Yeah. I...I don't really know why I'm calling, to be honest. It's still kind of hard to hear your voice."

"Oh," Rachel responds dejectedly.

"But apparently, it's harder to not hear it," Quinn admits softly.

Rachel's breath hitches. "Oh."

"I've been thinking a lot about everything. It wasn't exactly fair of me to drop my...feelings on you when I knew how much you'd had to drink and then expect you to not to freak out."

Rachel shakes her head in denial, even though Quinn can't see her. "No, Quinn, it wasn't your fault."

"I didn't say it was," Quinn counters, mild amusement evident in her tone, "but obviously I had unreasonable expectations regarding what happened, and while I did need to distance myself from you for my own sanity, I'm sorry that it hurt you."

"Apology accepted," Rachel says quickly.

There's a light chuckle on the other end of the phone. "You still do that too easily, you know?"

There's a flutter in Rachel's belly. "I don't have any other choice with you."

"See, you can't," Quinn begins to say, pausing to take an audible breath. "Rachel, look, I want to be your friend, but you have to stop treating me like I'm...I don't know...some compass you can use to measure your success. I hate feeling like you have me on this pedestal. It messes with my head, and...and my heart." Her voice trembles a little at the end, and Rachel digs her nails into her own thigh. She hates the idea that Quinn might be crying.

"It's not like that," Rachel argues gently. "I...I care about you, Quinn. What's wrong with me thinking that you're a wonderful person with so many incredible things to offer?"

"Nothing, but God, Rachel, sometimes you just send me so many mixed signals, and I can't deal with those anymore. If you want to be my friend, then be my friend, but please stop telling me how wonderful I am when you don't mean it the way I want."

"The way you want," Rachel repeats, honing in on the last part of Quinn's speech. "I thought you were dating someone."

"We're not talking about that," Quinn tells her sharply.

Rachel frowns. "But..."

"Rachel," Quinn cuts her off sternly. "Look, let's just take this slow, okay? I do miss you, and I want to know how you're doing with school and your auditions without having to go through Santana."

"You ask Santana about me?" Rachel wants to know, cursing the girl under her breath—prying information about Quinn out of Santana is harder than getting Kurt away from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Quinn ignores the question. "But I still don't want to talk about who you're dating or who I'm dating. Do you...do you think we can do that?"

Rachel bites into her lip, because she really, really wants to say something about Quinn's professor, but she doesn't want to torpedo their progress right away, so she sighs and says, "Yes. Yes, absolutely."

"Good. That's good," Quinn says, obviously relieved. "Look, I have to go, but we'll talk again soon, okay?"

"O-okay," Rachel agrees, and then Quinn is saying goodbye, and Rachel mindlessly echoes her. She cradles the phone against her chest and smiles because Quinn is talking to her again. She's in such a good mood for the rest of the day that Kurt asks her if she's gotten into their wine stash again. She giggles and kisses his cheek before dancing into her bedroom.

xx

Things with Quinn progress slowly. They email back and forth, but the exchanges are mostly focused on their classes, or impersonal anecdotes about their respective days. Rachel lets Quinn set the pace because she knows it's what Quinn needs, but that doesn't stop her from wrestling a few personal details out of her weekly phone call with Santana. Apparently, Santana's misery over finding out how serious Brittany and Sam have gotten has left a few holes in her defenses, and Rachel is able to stealthily manipulate the conversation in order to ascertain that Quinn is no longer seeing her creepy professor, but that she's been, quote-unquote, serial dating. Rachel hates that term—even more when Kurt points out that Quinn is young and single and entitled to date however many people she wants.

Conversely, things with Brody progress quickly, and one night in late January, they're in her bedroom, and Kurt is out with his friend Adam, and Brody is on top of her, kissing her and letting his hands wander her body. It's nice, but...

"Wait…wait," Rachel begged against Quinn's lips.

"Hmm, what?" Quinn muttered, absently chasing her mouth.

Rachel clumsily shuffled backwards, pulling her hands away from Quinn's body in order to attack the button of her own jeans. "Too many clothes. We…we should take some off." Beside her, Quinn whimpered and tightened her hand on Rachel's thigh. Rachel giggled, shaking her head. "Just…just my pants…and…and your skirt. It's all twisty," she complained, nodding toward the bunched material.

Quinn hummed her agreement and reached around to undo her zipper. She shimmied out of the skirt and tossed it across the room before Rachel had even managed to work her jeans down over her hips. Rachel's hands stilled as her eyes fastened onto creamy, muscled legs, and then she pushed clumsily at the material of her stupid, too-tight jeans and growled in frustration. Quinn laughed and crawled over her, gripped the denim in her hands, and pulled them down over Rachel's legs until her bare legs were free. Quinn carelessly dropped the jeans off the side of the bed and licked her lips. "Your legs should be illegal," she mused reverently as she brushed her fingers over Rachel's calves, slowly drawing little circles over the skin as she worked her way toward Rachel's thighs.

"Nope...yours should," Rachel argued dumbly as she reached for Quinn. She twisted her fingers into Quinn's shirt and pulled her up, wrapping her legs around Quinn's waist as Quinn slid up her body and settled her weight on top of Rachel. "You make me so hot," Rachel murmured, pushing her hands under Quinn's shirt on a quest to feel as much of her skin as she could. Under the shirt, over the bra—that was the rule. Rachel didn't know how she knew that, but she was pretty sure she had it right. She had to follow the rules, after all.

Quinn smirked before she dipped her head and dragged her lips across Rachel's throat. "How hot?"

"Hotter…uh," she groaned when Quinn nipped beneath her jaw, "hotter than…than anything," Rachel gasped out between ragged breaths, "or anyone," she groaned, mindlessly rocking her hips up against Quinn. "I want you so much."

"Quinn," Rachel whispers, eyelids fluttering against the memory of the last time she'd had someone in this bed with her.

Brody stops, lifting his head in confusion. "What did you say?"

Rachel digs her nails into his shoulders, eyes widening in horror. She can't be thinking about that now. She has a gorgeous, sexy, aroused man on top of her, and she's young and single and straight.

"N-nothing," she stammers, determinedly cupping her hand around his neck and pulling him back down for another kiss. His hand slips to her skirt, loosening the zipper. Rachel pulls her mouth away from him and stares up into his eyes, waging a silent war in her mind before she finally makes a decision. "Do you have a condom?"

He grins and nods, and Rachel pushes Quinn out of her thoughts. Much later, after Brody quietly slips out of the apartment, Rachel cries herself to sleep.

xx

Rachel doesn't tell Quinn about what happened with Brody. Even if Quinn was at the point where their romantic lives were allowed back on the list of acceptable conversation topics, Rachel wouldn't be able to tell her about this. Quinn's last email is sitting unopened in Rachel's inbox, and she can't bring herself to read it, although she doesn't completely understand why. She almost feels like she's somehow betrayed Quinn, but that's completely ridiculous because they aren't anything other than friends—who'd kind of had sex once.

Instead, she gets insecure over Brody standing her up the next day because she's certain that the sex was just awful and now he's blowing her off—and who can blame him? Her heart wasn't really in it, and neither was her body, but then he's knocking on her door, and he says all the right things, and Rachel wants this to work. She wants it because it can't work with Quinn. So when Brody mentions moving closer to Bushwick in order to see her more, Rachel spontaneously asks him to move in with her and Kurt.

Kurt isn't happy, and he tells her. "You have to stop this, Rachel," he growls, staring her down like an angry parent.

"Stop what?"

"You know exactly what," he warns, waving his hand around in agitation. "You're throwing yourself at Brody like he's a Valentino gown on the sale rack at a thrift shop."

Rachel bristles, crossing her arms defensively. "That isn't true."

"You asked him to move in with you the day after you had sex for the first time."

She shrugs, darting her eyes away. "It's more practical than him renting a new apartment."

"Practical would be Brody staying at his dorm and you dealing with the fact that every major development in your relationship with him has been reactionary to something Quinn Fabray has done to upset you."

Rachel flinches as his words hit home, and then she unfolds her arms and waves an angry finger in his face. "This has nothing to do with Quinn."

Kurt visibly clenches his jaw, crossing his own arms and shaking his head. "Rachel, sweetie, I've tried not to push the issue. I've been quietly supportive of you these last few months and let you deal with your…issues in your own time, but I draw the line when that involves you shacking up with your rebound guy in our apartment."

"I thought you liked Brody. You encouraged me to go for it with him," she reminds him.

"I do like him," Kurt concedes, "but that doesn't mean I want to share a bathroom and an apartment with him. Especially when we don't have any actual doors on our bedrooms," he says wryly. "I just thought you needed to get over Finn."

Rachel tips her chin up defiantly. "Well, I am."

Kurt sighs, taking Rachel's hand lightly. "But you're obviously not over Quinn."

She jerks her hand away. "I don't need to be over Quinn. We were never together."

"You were together enough for mutual orgasms and a three-month gay panic."

"This is not a gay panic!" Rachel denies hotly, the accusation turning her stomach sour. "I'm not gay panicking. To have a gay panic you have to be gay. I'm not."

Kurt purses his lips and narrows his eyes as he stares her down. "You're also not exactly straight as an arrow," he points out haughtily.

Rachel stumbles back a step, dragging her hands through her hair. She feels dizzy, a little shaky, and sick to her stomach. "Why are you doing this?" she asks in a broken voice. "I thought you understood. What happened with Quinn was…it was a stupid, drunken mistake that nearly cost me a friend that I'm still trying to make things right with."

Kurt pushes a hand through his own hair. "Rachel. You have to know that faking domestic bliss with Brody won't magically fix your increasingly ambiguous sexuality."

"Stop saying that," she begs in desperation, feeling her eyes well with tears. "I'm not gay."

He takes a deep breath, shaking his head and reaching for her hand again. Rachel tries to back away and shrug him off, but he's persistent, and he carefully leads her to the futon where they both sit down. He turns her toward him, even though she stubbornly refuses to meet his eyes, and takes both her hands in his. "Sweetie, I hate doing this. I swore to myself that I would never force anyone out of the closet before they were ready, but watching you repeatedly bang your head against the inside of the door is just too painful." Rachel shakes her head, not wanting to listen to him. She tries to pull her hands back, but he holds tight.

"As much as this pains me to admit, because two years ago I was very much convinced otherwise, apparently bisexuality does exist," he tells her with a self-deprecating grin. "At least, that's what Brittany repeatedly preached to me during her ill-fated tenure as my campaign manager. And frankly, watching you tear yourself apart over Quinn Fabray is proof enough for me that sexuality isn't as black or white as I used to believe."

"Mine is," she stubbornly insists, finally freeing her hands, only to angrily brush at a stray tear. "I have a life plan, Kurt. And yeah, m-maybe it's been slightly altered from when I was fifteen, and the guy that I initially pictured standing beside me on the red carpet isn't there anymore. And maybe I won't have the husband, two Tonys, a Grammy, and an Emmy by the time I'm twenty-five, but all of those things are still going to happen," she insists. She doesn't know what order she'll get them in or when she'll meet her perfect leading man, but she hasn't lost faith in those things.

"I'm going to be a star, and…and my memoir will tell an inspirational tale of triumph about a girl who overcame adversity, and…and criticism, and growing up as the daughter of two gay men in a small town where everyone thought that she was just some Broadway-obsessed freak," she spits bitterly, "but still went on to have an amazing, enviable life with an equally amazing career and a…a loving, stable marriage."

"With a man," Kurt finishes flatly, understanding flashing in his eyes.

Rachel's shoulders tense, and she straightens her posture. "Yes, okay? With a man," she defends. "What's so wrong with that? Why shouldn't I be able to have something normal for once? Something I don't have to justify at every turn? Something that won't automatically create yet another huge obstacle in the way of my dreams," she rambles, holding her hands out. "Because it would, Kurt. You know it would. It...it wouldn't matter how gorgeous Quinn Fabray might look next to me on a red carpet," she chokes out, closing her eyes against the stunningly brilliant picture of it in her mind, "or how she's always believed in me with unwavering certainty, or how she just understands my craziness without having to ask, or what a wonderful woman she is, because she is a woman," Rachel cries, feeling a desperate hysteria work through her body until she's trembling with it. "We'll always have to defend our relationship against stupid, homophobic assholes who…who think that there's something wrong with us...that we're some kind of abomination against their God...just because we fell in love with each other."

Kurt's breath hitches a bit. "Did you?"

Rachel sniffles, brushing at her wet cheeks. "W-what?"

"Fall in love?" he asks gently.

Rachel stiffens, reflexively shaking her head. "N-no. I…we...oh God," she whimpers as she fully realizes what she's said.

She can still see the vision of Quinn standing beside her on that red carpet so clearly, wearing a green dress—to match her eyes—with her hair swept up and diamond earrings dangling from her delicate, elfin ears. She's smiling that smile—the wide, genuine one that she'd worn that Sunday morning—and her fingers are entwined so comfortably with Rachel's as she listens intently to her talk about whatever project she's nominated for with Ryan Seacrest—and later they'll laugh in private about Quinn's unfortunate tattoo. Rachel is hit with a wave of longing unlike anything she's ever felt before. What's even more terrifying is that she can see Quinn just as clearly in the front row of the theater at Rachel's Broadway premiere, or dancing around Rachel in their kitchen as she slaps her hands away from any of the important cooking tasks, or cuddled in bed with Rachel on a lazy Saturday as they trade sweet and sensual kisses.

"Oh, God," she whispers in horror, eyes flying to Kurt's face, "I…I think I'm in love with Quinn."

Kurt lightly rests his hands on her biceps and offers an encouraging smile. "I know, sweetie."

"It's not fair," she complains, squeezing her eyes shut and collapsing into Kurt's arms as her own emotions begin to overwhelm her. He holds her tightly as she sniffles against his shoulder. "It's not. I didn't want this."

"We don't always get what we want."

"Please don't start singing," she begs, twisting her fingers into the fabric of his shirt.

"I would never," he promises with laughter in his voice, "but in this case, it could be considered fairly apropos. Perhaps you've finally found what you need."

The truth of it makes her head spin—like she's been wearing blinders for years, but suddenly she's seeing the world with an unobstructed view for the first time and it's too much to take in all at once. "But Quinn doesn't need me. And even if...even if she wanted me before, she's moved on, first with her stupid professor, and now who even knows?" Rachel whines pathetically. "She's probably dating dozens of rich, Yale men…or…or women. Everyone wants Quinn."

I want Quinn, she thinks, still stunned by the revelation.

"Maybe you should talk to her," Kurt suggests.

Rachel lifts her head, drying her eyes with the backs of her fingers. "You say that like I haven't been trying."

Kurt tilts his chin down, raising an eyebrow. "But you've been saying the wrong things, Rachel."

Rachel considers this, but her relationship with Quinn is still on shaky ground, and she doesn't know how to get them from where they are as email buddies who have only spoken on the phone twice in the last month—and never about anything really intimate—to a confession of newly discovered (or newly admitted) feelings on Rachel's behalf. And that's not even dealing with the fact that Rachel may be willing to admit that she loves Quinn, but it doesn't change any of the reasons why she's terrified to be with Quinn. She still doesn't want to become a statistic to be used as proof for the nurture versus nature argument on why gay couples shouldn't have children, and she doesn't want to jeopardize her career before she's even gotten it off the ground. She's fully aware of how selfish that is—but that doesn't make her any better equipped to suppress her most basic instincts.

She doesn't talk to Quinn—at least not about her feelings. She does finally open that email that she's been neglecting, smiling when she sees the picture that Quinn has attached of a stuffed bulldog, wearing a blue and white sweater and sitting on a snow-covered stone ledge somewhere on the wintery Yale campus. Apparently, Quinn is going a little crazy from battling the New Haven weather.

Rachel manages to type another superficial email—even if she has to delete entire paragraphs filled with long, emotional confessions before she sends it. She also breaks up with Brody—or, well, breaks it off, since they weren't technically dating. Of course he asks why, but she only tells him. "I'm not in love with you, and I guess I'm just not cut out for casual sex."

He's surprisingly understanding—or maybe Rachel shouldn't be surprised at all considering Brody's casual attitude about relationships—and he tells her that they can still be friends. And as her friend, he advises her to agree to the student film in which she's been offered a part, even though it requires her to go topless.

Kurt is appalled. "Rachel is a serious actress, Brody. She doesn't do nudity.²"

Brody shrugs. "As performers, that's a question that we're all gonna have to face. If you want to win an Oscar, you have to show your boobs," he tells Rachel. "Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connolly, Kathy Bates.²"

It's an oddly compelling argument, and in light of Rachel's current crisis of sexual awakening versus career aspirations, it's enough to tip her into agreement—against Kurt's advisement. He's still a little miffed that she hasn't taken his advice to talk to Quinn.

"So now, instead of Brody, you're going to throw yourself at any tacky opportunity to become a star while you pretend that you're not in love with Quinn," he accuses after Brody leaves with the small box of personal items that he'd left scattered through their apartment during their brief courtship.

Rachel scowls at him. "I'm not pretending anything, Kurt. This has nothing to do with how I feel about Quinn. It's a legitimate opportunity to...to hone my acting technique and step outside of my comfort zone."

"By doing a porno?" he asks incredulously.

"It's not a porno," she defends. "It's a good script," well, a decent script—okay a passably decent script—but she'll be the star of an actual film that might even go to Sundance or something. "I'm going to do it," she tells him, getting up from the table, "with or without your support.²"

Two days later, Rachel is in the middle of rehearsals for the film. She still isn't decided about Quinn. She's on her way back to the apartment after getting waylaid by her eccentric neighbor, and she's already venting before she even gets the door open. "Kurt, the hipster downstairs with the curly-cue mustache wants to borrow your Russian hat.²"

She sees Quinn immediately, standing just inside the apartment and looking typically beautiful in her burgundy dress with her hands shoved into the pockets of the skirt. She's smiling a little nervously, but she is smiling, and Rachel instantly smiles back. She's just so happy to see Quinn. When she'd imagined this moment, she'd half-expected to burst into tears or to stutter awkwardly, but all she feels is elation. "Oh, my God," she trills, "what are you doing here?²"

Quinn shifts her weight anxiously. "Kurt called begging me to do an emergency intervention.²"

Rachel's smile slips away. "On who?²"

"You,²" Quinn says with a tentative half-smile.

Annoyance bubbles up inside Rachel at Kurt's interference, but then she watches Quinn's smile slowly fade just before she sucks her lower lip into her mouth and begins to worry it—and now that expected awkwardness is settling in. Rachel turns around and slides the door closed, taking a deep breath and steeling her nerves before she faces Quinn again. "W-what exactly did he tell you?" she asks worriedly.

Quinn shakes her head, her face serious. "Rachel, you can't do a nude scene.²"

Rachel doesn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed that Quinn is here about that and not...them. "It's not a nude scene," she corrects, stepping past Quinn toward the living room. "It's just a topless scene.²"

"It's the same thing," Quinn argues, following behind her. Rachel huffs, sitting down in Kurt's chair—being on the futon next to Quinn would be inviting too many memories that she's not quite prepared to discuss yet. Quinn steps past her, pulling her hands from her pockets and tucking the loose skirt of her dress daintily under her as she sits. "It's you exposing your...your body," she stutters with a pretty blush as she glances to the floor, "on film for anyone to see."

Rachel fidgets in her chair, playing with the hem of her skirt. Her eyes dart to Quinn and then away, in a continuous cycle. She finds that she's having as much difficulty looking at Quinn as she is looking away from her. "A lot of women find it empowering to be naked on film,²" she argues weakly.

"It's a student film, Rachel," Quinn reminds her in exasperation, holding out her hand in emphasis. "It's hardly going to win you an Oscar, and if it turns out to be awful, then it's always going to be there to embarrass you in every interview you'll ever give, and it will probably be uploaded to some online fansite for millions to watch and download and create gifs from...just like Santana's sex tape," she says with an expression of mild distaste. "You will never, ever get away from it."

Rachel crosses her arms over her breasts uncomfortably, biting her lip. She's actually seen Santana's sex tape—or parts of it—and it wasn't pretty. Well, objectively, it was kind of pret...no, that isn't the point. "I appreciate that you came all the way here to be the angel on my shoulder, despite our," she trails off searching for the right word, and then offers an apologetic smile when she sees how tense Quinn has suddenly become. "But it wasn't fair of Kurt to ask you to do this. I'm a big girl, and I can make my own decisions."

Quinn curls her hands around the edge of the futon and leans forward. "Look, I care about you so much," Quinn says, stressing the words, "and I only have your best interests in mind. Please don't do it,²" she begs with an odd hitch in her voice. Her eyes are sparkling green, and the emotion shining in them is so unmistakably Quinn that Rachel wonders once again how the hell she could have missed this for so long.

She takes a deep breath, breaking eye contact and glancing down at her hands. "Do you mean that? You care about me?

Quinn shakes her head and sighs heavily, sounding suddenly tired when she says, "You know I do, Rachel. I wouldn't be here if I didn't." She smiles thinly when Rachel looks at her and shrugs. "Kurt cares about you too, obviously."

Rachel nods. "And I'm grateful for that, but your good opinion has always been so important to me."

Quinn's eyebrow arches and her lips thin, and then she nods sharply, muttering, "Yeah, I know."

"No," Rachel says softly, "no, I don't think you do."

"Look, Rachel. I'm really trying to be your friend again," Quinn says continuing to stare at some spot over Rachel's shoulder. "The last few months have been good for me, more or less, and you and I are finally getting our feet back on solid ground. Coming here this weekend to talk you down from stripping for your pervy classmates is about as much as I think I can take right now." Her shoulders rise and fall on a silent huff, and she finally meets Rachel's intent gaze. "I'm really not up for rehashing my unenviable position as your Holy Grail of Friendship."

Rachel grins a little despite herself, tipping her head to the side. "You're not my Holy Grail of anything, Quinn," she says, and even as she does, she knows it's not entirely the truth—but it certainly isn't merely friendship anymore.

Quinn rolls her eyes. "Right. Sorry. What's the Jewish equivalent?"

Rachel bites her lip as her eyes caress Quinn's familiar face, and her heart flutters knowingly. Her mouth twitches into a trembling smile. "Bashert," she whispers shyly.

Quinn's left eyebrow arches. "Okay, if you say so," she drawls, obviously clueless.

"You know, you might have been right," Rachel says carefully, "just a little bit. I did envy you in high school." Rachel notices the muscle in Quinn's jaw jump at her admission, so she's quick to add, "At least for a while. Maybe I did originally set a goal to win you over. I wanted you to respect me, and…and then I wanted you to like me. And for a long time I didn't understand why I cared so much. I mean, you were awful to me at first."

Pained regret flashes in Quinn's eyes, and she chokes out, "Rachel..."

"No," Rachel stops her, holding up a hand. "You've apologized for that, and I've apologized for some of the unkind things that I did to you, or regarding you." Rachel presses her palms down on her thighs and leans forward in her chair. "But despite all of that, I always wanted to know where you were or how you were or what you thought," she admits with a wry smile. She inhales deeply, pulling in the mild scent of citrus and willing it to calm her nerves. This is the scary part—the part where she risks this tentative reunion and puts her own heart and future on the line. "I used to think that was because you were everything I wanted to be, but Quinn," she pauses, voice growing soft around the cherished name as she looks as deeply as she can into Quinn's eyes, "you're everything I want to have."

Quinn blinks, her lips pulling down at the corners and a little furrow forming between her eyebrows. "I don't understand," she finally mumbles.

Rachel moistens her lips. "Do you know what bashert means?" she asks, smiling a little when Quinn shakes her head. "Soulmate."

It takes a second for Quinn to process what Rachel is saying, and when she does, her breath catches, her eyes grow wide, and her knuckles turn white from her grip on the cushion. And then she scowls, shaking her head angrily. "No, Rachel. You don't get to do this now. Not when you've spent the last three months swearing that I was a drunken mistake and that you only want to be my friend," she spits, pushing up from the futon and pacing across the floor.

Rachel's stomach bottoms out, and she scrambles up from the chair, afraid that Quinn is going to walk out again. "I'm so sorry that I hurt you, Quinn. I panicked, okay?" she pleads, chasing after Quinn until she's standing between her and the door. She experiences a wicked sense of déjà vu, but it's nothing compared to the way she feels when she sees the tear trickling down over Quinn's cheek.

"I panicked," she repeats more calmly, holding out a hand in supplication. "I love my dads so much, and I'm so proud to be their daughter, but they've replaced the front window of our house forty-seven times because it's been broken at least twice a year since they moved to Lima." Quinn's brows furrow even more, and her lips part silently, but she's stopped looking like she's going to leave, so Rachel drags in a ragged breath and holds her gaze.

"Our garage door was spray painted with the word "faggots" three times that I know of. When I was six, they took me shopping at the mall for a new dress for my birthday, and I was walking between them, holding both their hands, and some woman said all these horrible things to us...to me...and she...she spit on me. Right there in the middle of the store," Rachel recalls with a broken sob. Quinn gasps, and she reaches out to touch Rachel's arm without thinking. Rachel presses her hand over Quinn's and closes her eyes in gratitude.

"I grew up hearing so many awful, hateful words, Quinn, and when I was old enough to understand what those words meant, I learned words like homophobic and ACLU. Please don't misunderstand...my dads were amazing," she says with a sad smile. "They kept as much of that ugliness from me as they possibly could, but every so often, I'd hear my daddy crying in my dad's arms over something or other they failed to protect me from. There were so many nights when I sat at my window and wished on the first star that I saw for our family to be safe and happy. Accepted," Rachel admits shamefully.

Quinn nods slowly, licking her lips as she drops her hand away from Rachel. "And if you're with a guy, you get to have that," she finally realizes. "Acceptance."

Well, that sounds even worse when Quinn says it, Rachel thinks gloomily. "I know it's not any kind of excuse for...for how I've been acting. I just wanted one thing about my life to be easy. And it was, Quinn. It was so easy to love Finn," Rachel says, watching Quinn huff and turn away just enough that she doesn't have to meet Rachel's eyes. "And I did love him. And I...I kind of had a thing with Brody," she confesses quickly.

"I don't want to hear this," Quinn hisses, scowling at her.

"But it's over now," Rachel rambles on, "because I don't love him and I...I can't keep using him as a way to hide from the truth. I'm not gay," she repeats for what feels like the hundredth time, "but I can't stop thinking about you, Quinn. I remember almost everything about that night, and I...I know that I felt something. No," Rachel amends quickly, catching Quinn's glistening eyes. "No, I felt everything. And it terrifies me."

Another tear escapes from the corner of Quinn's eye, and she presses a trembling hand to her throat. Rachel whimpers at the sight. She's making such a mess of this, and she crosses her arm over her stomach and curls her hand around her upper arm, digging her nails into the skin as she battles her own tears.

"I know this isn't fair to you, and that you...you've moved on, but I needed to tell you. I need you to know that it wasn't a mistake, or...or an experiment. It was real and scary and life-altering, and I did everything wrong trying to shove all of these emotions back into the nice, safe box they were hiding in, but I can't anymore," she admits, holding out her hands again and pleading with Quinn through her eyes. "You were right, Quinn. It wasn't just the alcohol. It was us...you and me," Rachel says with a sad smile, watching the colors play in Quinn's eyes as they roam over Rachel's face. "It's always been you and me. So even if I'm too late, at least you know that...that I know exactly what I lost," and Quinn sucks in a sharp breath, moving closer as Rachel confesses, "and there will never be a day when I don't regret that I let you walk away instead of just grabbing onto you with both hands and never letting..."

Her last word gets lost in Quinn's mouth—Quinn does have a habit of catching her by surprise—and Rachel sighs against the softness of those perfect lips as they coax her to surrender. Quinn's fingers sink into Rachel's hair, and she wraps her arms around Quinn's waist, pressing against her. It's different sober—so much better—and Rachel feels something inside of her finally settle into its proper place as so many vivid colors explode in front of her eyes. She tugs Quinn's body closer, slipping her hands over the small of Quinn's back while the kiss slowly grows more sensual.

Quinn brushes her tongue along Rachel's lower lip before giving it a playful nip. Rachel moans softly, pulling back just enough to gaze up into those beautiful eyes. "Quinn?"

"Less talking," Quinn murmurs, running one hand down Rachel's back and hugging her tightly, "more grabbing on with both hands and never letting me go."

"I can do that," Rachel whispers, her lips nearly touching Quinn's with every word, and then they're touching in earnest, and Rachel never wants to stop kissing Quinn—except, "So just to clarify," Rachel says after reluctantly separating their mouths, "this is you telling me that I'm not too late."

Quinn's eyes glisten with emotion, and she shakes her head, breathing out, "No," and for a moment, Rachel's heart sinks, but then Quinn lifts it back up and makes it soar when she says, "this is me telling you that I'm in love with you." Quinn nervously moistens her lips and smiles a little fearfully. "You don't have to say it back."

Rachel shakes her head, cupping Quinn's cheek reverently. "I really think I do," she says breathlessly. "I think I'm still falling, but," she brushes her thumb across Quinn's lower lip, grinning up at her. "I love you, Quinn."

She watches Quinn's smile blossom into one that's wide and completely unguarded, and her eyes begin to twinkle with carefree happiness. "You and your constant talking," she teases playfully.

Rachel laughs, running her fingers along Quinn's jaw and down her throat. "I'd promise you that my lips are sealed, but," she trails off suggestively, arching her own eyebrow, and Quinn joyfully takes the hint, capturing Rachel's lips in a kiss that promises new beginnings.

Rachel sinks into Quinn and lets all of her fear melt away—at least for the moment—as she focuses everything in her on the woman in her arms. This isn't anything that she ever expected, and Quinn isn't the person that she would have chosen, but she's starting to understand that the things you don't plan are the ones that end up meaning the most—and the people who find their way into your life when you least expect them are there for a reason. After everything that she and Quinn have been through—together and apart—from the moment that they met, Rachel finally feels like they're right where they're meant to be.


¹Glee 4x07, Thanksgiving
²Glee 4x12, Naked


Author's Note: This story was my attempt to explore the Rachel Berry that we don't often see in Faberry stories - the one who doesn't automatically realize her feelings for Quinn the moment they kiss, and who isn't immediately okay with the belief in her complete heterosexuality being suddenly challenged. It was difficult to write her so close to canon, and I hope I did this particular journey justice. If you made it this far, thank you for reading.