Author's Note: Number Sixteen in the Don't Blink series, set after Under Every Scar and before Don't Blink You Might Miss. It's pretty much fluff.
As always, thanks and cyber-hugs to Skywarrior108 for being an awesome beta.
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or the characters, I just like to play with them…strictly non-profit.
Every Hour Has Come To This
Time stands still, beauty in all she is
I will be brave, I will not let anything take away
What's standing in front of me
Every breath, every hour has come to this
~A Thousand Years, Christina Perri
A black vertical line blinks mockingly in one-second intervals against a stark expanse of white. Quinn Fabray stares at that snide, little bastard until her eyes blur, and then she growls in frustration, removes her fingers from the keyboard of her laptop, and slams the lid shut so she doesn't have to look at that damned blank page for one moment longer. "Stupid book," she hisses, dropping her head into her hands in frustration. She pulls off her reading glasses and presses her fingertips hard above her eyebrows in an attempt to ward off her impending headache.
Writing her first novel hadn't been nearly this frustrating. Of course, she supposes that she'd had the benefit of not actually being paid to write it, since it had more or less been a two-year hobby to occupy the empty hours when she'd been waiting for Rachel to get home from the theater. Quinn smiles at the thought of her girlfriend and how she'd encouraged Quinn to really get serious about her own writing again instead of just editing other people's books. She'd dabbled a bit in those early days of their relationship, writing a few pages here and there of a vaguely autobiographical story that she'd had in her head since college, but she hadn't really made any progress with it until those awful six months when Rachel had taken the role of Éponine in the touring company of Les Misérables, and Quinn had needed a distraction from their empty apartment, lonely bed, and her own restless mind.
Sighing, Quinn leans back, pressing her foot against the floor to absently twist her chair back and forth as she glances lovingly at the photograph on her desk. It's one of her favorites—Rachel, wearing a soft, content smile and reclining in Quinn's arms. It had been taken on a perfect spring afternoon in the first year of their relationship. They'd been enjoying a picnic in Central Park with Kurt and his flavor of the month, Quinn's visiting college friend Josie, and Santana, who'd had a rare day of rest in the middle of her first major clinical year. Santana had sneakily snapped the picture in between teasing them about their disgusting domestication and flirting shamelessly with Josie. Quinn rolls her eyes at that particular part of her memory, but it doesn't stop her from grinning even more when she thinks about how her life has turned out.
She has a gorgeous, talented, successful girlfriend with whom she's very much in love, a small group of close friends, a decent relationship with her daughter, a novel published last month to some critical praise, and a three-book deal that has her already working on her second—or staring at blank screens trying to get chapter five off the ground. Quinn is even scheduled to start a book tour in two weeks, although she's actually not looking forward to that part so much. She and Rachel really haven't spent more than a day or two apart since Rachel's contract with Les Mis had ended. Quinn's editor would have had her traveling the country already, but she'd refused to go anywhere further than New Jersey before Rachel's opening night as Fanny Brice—which is tomorrow.
Rachel has been bouncing off the walls with nervous energy for months—ever since she'd first heard the whispers about a workshop for the long awaited, repeatedly delayed Funny Girl revival. She'd been determined to get that role come hell or high water, and that's exactly what she'd done. Despite getting her career off to a promising start in West Side Story and working pretty consistently for the past three years, Rachel has yet to relay that first Tony nomination into an iconic role or an instantly recognizable name. Funny Girl could change all of that. No, it will change all of that. The show is amazing. Rachel is amazing. Quinn can't wait to sit front row center tomorrow night, right in between Kurt and Santana—assuming Santana doesn't get stuck at the hospital.
The last dress rehearsal is today, and Rachel left their apartment bright and early this morning, more nervous than Quinn has ever seen her—scattered and stuttering and pale. She's almost afraid of what Rachel will be like tomorrow in the hours before the premiere, and Quinn honestly doesn't know why she's suddenly acting like this is her first show, especially when they'd already gotten rave reviews on the previews in Chicago last month. Quinn had been there for all of those performances and a fair number of rehearsals before that. There are some definite perks to being paid for her writing instead of being bound to her office by a nine to five schedule. The negative is—well, now she has to actually write something worthwhile in the next six months in order to fulfill her end of the contract and keep getting those nice little advance checks.
Quinn drags her eyes away from the photograph and onto the copy of her first book that sits on the edge of her desk—A Perfect Thing. Writing it had been cathartic in a lot of ways, but now Quinn worries that she might be a one-trick pony. She picks up the hardback and flips it over to examine the picture of herself on the back of the dust jacket with a critical eye. It had been Rachel's idea for her to wear her glasses—"They make you look more intellectual and so sexy,"—but using the penname Lucy Quinn had been all her own idea. She wants to keep her public image as separate from her private life as possible, even though being with Rachel might eventually blur those lines a little. So far, it hasn't been much of an issue.
Rachel isn't nearly famous enough to be recognized on the streets by anyone except the most diehard Broadway aficionados. She and Quinn are just like any other couple, but Quinn knows that might change someday soon—that her presence in Rachel's life could eventually become an obstacle once Rachel begins to get noticed outside of the relatively open-minded circles of the New York theater world. Rachel getting noticed is an inevitability. She'd been at the top of the list for Funny Girl even before she'd put much effort into pursuing the role, thanks to her talent and her reputation for being a dedicated, versatile performer.
Now that Quinn is a published author, there's a bigger chance that their private life will eventually become fodder for the gossip mill. Quinn doesn't care so much for her own sake—she's proud to be with Rachel—but despite how many times Rachel has sworn that she'll never put her career before their relationship, Quinn is equally as determined to never be the reason that Rachel has to give up or lose out on any opportunity. She's perfectly content to avoid unnecessary public declarations as long as she and Rachel don't have to actually lie about anything—an open secret, as they say. Everyone knows for the most part, but no one really talks about it, which keeps Rachel's agent, Evelyn, happy enough.
Quinn tosses the book onto her desk and rubs at the back of her neck. She picks up her phone and glances at the screen. "Fuck," she growls when she sees the time, dropping the phone and scrambling out of her chair. She's supposed to meet Rachel at the theater in little more than an hour, and she still has to shower and dress. They're celebrating this evening in private, since tomorrow will be a late night full of alcohol and Rachel's cast mates regardless of how the show plays out. Rachel had suggested just meeting at the theater so that she wouldn't have to travel back to their apartment in Murray Hill to pick up Quinn in order to turn around and head right back to the theater district. They love the neighborhood—especially Quinn—and they'd gotten a great deal on a good-sized apartment.
Quinn pads to the bathroom, shedding her favorite, faded Yale t-shirt on the way and tossing it into the hamper. Her track pants follow, and she reaches inside the shower to turn on the water, rolling her eyes when she notices Rachel's washcloth hanging over the shower knob. For someone so detail oriented when it comes to plans and schedules and routines, Rachel has a tendency to be a bit of a slob around the apartment, especially in the bathroom. Quinn has learned to live with Rachel's little quirks—just like Rachel has learned to live with hers—but merging their personalities and lifestyles had taken some time. They'd argued about a lot of ridiculous things in those first few months of cohabitation.
She grabs the damp cloth and neatly hangs it on the towel rack to dry before she twists the knob and steps inside the stall. The water feels good cascading over her naked body, and she lets the spray beat against the back of her neck, rubbing at her muscles to loosen the knots that come from staring at her laptop all morning. She should probably listen to Rachel's advice about buying a better ergonomic chair—and maybe also about not bringing her laptop to bed anymore.
Quinn doesn't linger in the shower. She shuts off the water and dries her body, mentally finalizing her wardrobe for the evening. Rachel had only said that she'd made reservations somewhere that Quinn would love and warned her not to dress too casually but to wear comfortable shoes. Quinn loves a lot of restaurants in the city, but mostly she loves that she doesn't have to cook tonight. Even at age twenty-five, Rachel Berry is still something of a disaster in the kitchen when it comes to anything more complex than baking cookies, tossing a salad, or heating up a variety of frozen meals. Quinn doesn't usually mind—she generally likes trying out new recipes—but she'd learned a long time ago that if she doesn't want to constantly scrub scorch marks off the walls, stove, and cookware, she'd have to be the one to worry about preparing healthy, home-cooked meals. Sometimes it's nice to let someone else do all the work while she gets to sit back and enjoy a glass of wine and her girlfriend's company—especially when Rachel is working one of her weird show schedules and Quinn's time alone with her is lost to nightly performances.
Quinn frowns a little into the mirror as she dries her hair. She could use trim. She's let it grow out once or twice since senior year of high school, but she always eventually ends up cutting it short again. It's just so much easier to take care of—and Rachel tends to like it shorter anyway. Quinn grins, running her fingers through her hair and artfully tousling it in the way that she knows will turn Rachel on. She can't help herself—she still loves to tease her girlfriend.
She carefully applies her makeup until her freckles are covered and her hazel eyes look even more vibrant. Satisfied with the result, she heads into the bedroom, opens the closet, and shifts through the clothes hanging on her side—which admittedly is about two thirds of the closet compared to Rachel's meager third. This was another one of those things that they'd had to compromise on when they'd moved in together—and really, Quinn's much larger wardrobe is almost a job requirement, or it was until a few months ago. Maybe she should think about downsizing a little now that she doesn't need to be seen every day at the office. Of course, Rachel seems perfectly fine keeping some of her clothes in the guest room closet, so Quinn is certain that there's really no hurry to start a Goodwill bag or anything.
She picks out an emerald green, tea length dress that shows off just enough skin to be sexy but is still classy enough for whatever restaurant Rachel has chosen for their dinner. She slips into it, tugging the zipper closed before stepping into a comfortable pair of heels, and she studies her appearance in the mirror with a critical eye. Her lips curve into a satisfied smile at the way the dress flatters her figure, and she gives her hair one last tousle. Grabbing her phone, she punches in the number of her favorite taxi company and arranges for a car to pick her up. She has maybe fifteen minutes to make it to the theater, but she knows Rachel well enough to guess that she's left a nice cushion for whatever she has planned. The afternoon is still young for the most part.
It's early September, and the weather is perfect, so Quinn decides to forgo a jacket, and she tucks her purse under her arm as she locks up the apartment. The taxi is already waiting for her—which would be why this company is her favorite—and she slides into the back seat and says, "The Winter Garden Theater, please."
The car jerks into motion, and Quinn takes a deep breath, digging her nails into the seat. She's lived in New York for more than four years and visited regularly for the four before that, and she still hates riding in taxis. It took her a while to get comfortable with cars in general after her accident, but New York cabbies are their own special brand of horrifying. On the plus side, he does manage to get her to 51st and Broadway in exactly ten minutes. She hands over the fare, stepping out of the car and onto the sidewalk. The block is crowded with the usual tourists and a few native New Yorkers, and Quinn can hear the music from inside Ellen's Stardust Diner. But the area right in front of the Winter Garden is nearly desolate compared to what it used to be when Mamma Mia was still playing, or what it certainly will be tomorrow evening, when a line of eager theater-goers will be standing outside, picking up their tickets at the box office, and waiting for the doors to open.
Quinn weaves her way through the people on the sidewalk until she's standing in front of the stage door. She gives it a little tug to see if it's open or if she'll need to call Rachel to let her know that she's here, but the door opens with no hesitation. She goes inside and is almost immediately greeted by the stage manager. "Good afternoon, Ms. Fabray," she says kindly.
Quinn smiles and shakes her head. "Hello, Rita. You know, you really can call me Quinn."
Rita clicks her tongue. "No, I really can't. As long as we're in this theater and I'm working this show, you're Ms. Fabray, same way your lady is Ms. Berry, and that rascal co-star of hers is Mr. Piper." Quinn laughs, and Rita grins back at her, nodding her head in the direction of the dressing rooms. "Go on back, Ms. Fabray. Ms. Berry is expecting you. I just need to lock up."
"Thanks, Rita," Quinn calls over her shoulder as she heads down the hallway.
People are still lingering in the backstage areas. Quinn has met most of them at least once between the rehearsals that she's crashed and the previews in Chicago, and a few of them offer her a wave or a smile as she walks toward Rachel's dressing room. One of them purposely steps into her path with a charming smile and bright, hazel eyes. "Quinn Fabray. You are an absolute vision."
Countless other women would be swooning when faced with the very fine specimen of manhood standing in front of her. Six feet two inches of sleek muscles, wavy blond hair, cleft chin, and classic good looks—not to mention the hit New York based television show on which he's had a fairly prominent role for the last three seasons. Quinn isn't impressed for obvious reasons, and she rolls her own eyes a little at his predictable line but gives him a genuine smile anyway. "Hi, Steven."
"Rachel should be along shortly," he tells her, pushing a hand into the pocket of his Armani slacks and striking an elegantly casual pose. "She's still making herself gorgeous for you, as if she isn't already," he adds with an appreciative grin. "All that and talent, too. I never should have let her get away from me all those years ago."
Quinn laughs, covertly glancing around them before she steps closer and rocks up onto her toes to whisper, "And what would you have done with her if you'd kept her?"
Steven chuckles, shaking his head. His sexuality is not at all an open secret—it's very tightly guarded by his agent, publicist, and producers. As far as the world at large is concerned, Steven Piper is a happy-go-lucky ladies man, but in private, he's a master of bearding and keeping his private life extremely private. Only a few select people know the truth, and Quinn is one of them only because of his very short-lived relationship with Rachel in college. Quinn had never actually met him back then—she'd only had to hear about how handsome and talented and romantic he was for a couple of months—but Santana did, and she'd called Quinn immediately after that dinner swearing that Rachel's boyfriend was a closet case. Turns out, she'd been exactly right.
According to Rachel, he'd flirted with coming out in college after he'd confessed the truth to her, but ultimately his career ambition (and the cutthroat agent that he'd hired after landing a critically acclaimed role in a small Off-Broadway production) had triumphed over his desire to live honestly. Rachel was certainly not his last beard—just apparently the last one who hadn't known the score up front.
"I'd have made her tabloid famous of course," he admits with an amiable shrug, referring to the parade of women that he's been "caught" with on an almost monthly basis. "All things considered, it obviously worked out as it was intended."
Quinn has to agree with that—she gets Rachel, after all. She actually feels kind of sorry for Steven, but at the same time, he made his choices and got fame and fortune out of the deal. Now he's taking some time away from his television show so that he can rediscover the musical theater roots that he'd forsaken to become an instant heartthrob. Quinn has to admit that he's fantastic as Nick Arnstein, and his musical chemistry with Rachel is off the charts.
"Well, I am prettier than you," she says seriously.
His smile widens, and he tips his head in agreement. "You'll get no argument from me on that point. Especially tonight."
Quinn smirks a little, because she still loves being complimented—men, women, gay, straight, and everything in between makes no difference to her. "Smart man," she says with a wink. He really is a pretty decent guy (for an actor), and even though he and Rachel had lost touch for a few years after college when his career had been taking off, she's thrilled that he's her leading man. Rachel considers him a friend, and Quinn has a feeling that they won't be losing touch so easily for a second time.
The tapping of heels on the floor catches her attention, and she glances around Steven to see Rachel hurrying toward them. Quinn's smirk turns into a full-blown smile when she sees her girlfriend, looking gorgeous in a little, blue dress that accentuates her curves and shows off her legs to their fullest advantage.
"Hey, baby," Rachel purrs as she sidesteps Steven and reaches for Quinn's hand before leaning up to brush a brief kiss across her lips. Pulling back with a soft smile, she says, "You look amazing."
"So do you," Quinn murmurs, entwining their fingers and gazing down into Rachel's sparkling eyes.
"You do make an unfairly attractive couple," Steven comments with an arched eyebrow.
Rachel turns to look at him with mock annoyance. "Why are you still here? I thought you were rushing off to a meeting with your evil agent."
"This is my version of rushing," he informs her, glancing idly at his Rolex. "Ian needs to wait another twenty minutes at least or I'll spoil him." He flashes them a wicked grin. "But no one can ever accuse me of missing a cue. Have a wonderful evening, ladies," he says, leaning down to kiss Rachel's cheek and—Quinn thinks—whisper something in her ear. Rachel's cheeks tint pink, but Steven is already backing away, offering an exaggerated bow. "Adieu until the morrow."
Quinn watches him gracefully spin around and stride away before she cuts her eyes back to Rachel with a curious frown. "What was that about?"
Rachel's skin flushes a little more, but she shrugs and waves her free hand dismissively. "Oh, it was just something ridiculous about rehearsal today."
"And how was your rehearsal?" Quinn asks with a smile.
"It went horribly!" Rachel exclaims with an odd sort of excitement, tugging Quinn into motion as they start back down the hallway. "Steven had a snafu with his cane and ended up throwing it across the stage, Trina messed up the lyrics of 'If A Girl Isn't Pretty,' and Eric tripped and fell during 'Henry Street,'" she rambles with hardly a second breath. "Oh, and one of my costumes ripped, and I more or less flashed everyone in the middle of 'Sadie, Sadie,'" she reveals with an amused grin.
Quinn listens with increasing bewilderment. "That's," awful, she starts to say before she realizes that Rachel doesn't seem at all upset. "Why are you smiling?"
Rachel stops, letting go of Quinn's hand and turning to her with an incredulous expression. "Because, Quinn, a terrible dress rehearsal is traditionally a portent of a good opening night. How can you not remember this?"
Quinn purses her lips, trying to think back to Rachel's last official opening night—but that was actually more than three years ago for West Side Story. Since then, she's taken over roles in shows already in the middle of their runs. "You know that's just a weird superstition, right?"
Rachel's eyes narrow, and she huffs. "Don't rain on my parade, Quinn."
Quinn grins and shakes her head. "Cute," she admonishes indulgently. "In any case, your opening night is destined to be amazing, unsubstantiated theater lore or not."
"Well, of course it is," Rachel agrees, tucking her arm into the crook of Quinn's elbow and taking a step forward. "If nothing else, Steven's name on the marquee will be sure to bring in the screaming fangirls for a few weeks at least."
Quinn laughs, bumping Rachel's shoulder with her own. "Be serious." She pauses, smirking evilly. "He'll bring in the fanboys too."
Rachel chokes back her own laughter, and then she sighs, leaning a little further into Quinn's side. "We really shouldn't joke about that. He actually worries about those things. You know how people like to speculate."
Quinn sobers instantly, biting into her lower lip as her own insecurity resurfaces. "Are you worried about that at all?" she asks as Rachel lets go of her arm in order to open the door.
Rachel frowns, stepping outside and holding the door for Quinn to pass through. "People speculating about Steven?" she questions softly.
Quinn breathes in the fresh—well, for New York City—air and waits for Rachel to give the closed door a little tug to make sure it's locked. "No, about you," she says, offering her arm to Rachel again. "About…us."
Rachel looks at her oddly, shaking her head as she links their arms and begins to lead Quinn in the direction of 51st Street. "Quinn, we've never kept our relationship a secret from anyone."
"Yeah, but," she sighs, looking down at Rachel with a pensive frown. "Sweetie, don't take this the wrong way, but you're not that famous yet." Rachel makes a little noise of protest, but Quinn ignores her weak show of indignation. "It's been easy to keep our relationship private, but this show…being linked to Steven Piper…is probably going to change that. It already has to some degree."
"Is this about that stupid blurb on "Page Six" again? Because Steven's agent made it clear that he and I are merely costars."
Quinn shakes her head, thinking how completely off base that little teaser had been by hinting that Steven Piper was renewing a college romance with his newest costar. "I don't care about that, Rachel, but if those kinds of things keep happening, and you get as much attention as I know you're going to get as Fanny Brice, then eventually our relationship is going to become more public. I mean, a few of your fans on those online Broadway chat-boards already speculate a little about you and the hot blonde you've been seen with."
Rachel's steps falter, and she stares at Quinn. "Quinn Fabray, have you been trolling the internet for gossip about us?"
"Oh, don't even pretend that you don't do it, too," Quinn scolds, despite the fact that she can feel her cheeks heating in embarrassment. So what if she'd maybe needed a distraction once or twice while trying to write and decided to google Rachel's name just for the fun of it?
Rachel blushes, ducking her head. "There's nothing wrong with occasionally wanting to know what people think of your performances." Quinn raises an eyebrow, and Rachel rolls her eyes. "Fine, yes, I've read a couple of posts, but it doesn't bother me, Quinn. They're right—I am extremely talented, you are a very hot blonde," she purrs with a cheeky grin, "and I am a lucky, lucky girl. So no," Rachel murmurs, snuggling closer to Quinn's side as they reach the corner of 52nd Street, "it really doesn't bother me."
Quinn smiles softly, deciding not to worry about the what-ifs of Rachel's impending fame unless they happen. Glancing around, she notices for the first time where they are, and her eyes lock onto the sign for Rosie O'Grady's. "Are you treating me to a steak?" she teases with a light chuckle.
Rachel scoffs. "If I were, I'd be taking you to Keens."
Quinn's smile widens, and she hums thoughtfully. "McCormick and Schmick's?" she muses out loud.
"Please, Quinn, as if I'd take you to a chain restaurant to celebrate anything."
"Well, then, it must be the Bombay Palace."
Rachel shakes her head, glancing at Quinn with a barely contained smile. "Now you're just playing with me."
Quinn licks her lips, leaning down to whisper, "Not yet, but I plan to later." Rachel stumbles over her own heel, and Quinn laughingly catches her. "Careful, sweetie. We don't want you breaking anything before tomorrow. Well, other than the idiomatic leg."
"You are a wicked woman," Rachel mutters.
"You love that about me."
Rachel sighs, "I love everything about you."
Quinn flushes with pleasure, adjusting their position so that she can take Rachel's hand as they continue their walk. "The feeling is entirely mutual," she murmurs happily, and Rachel gives her that look—the soft, loving one that Quinn adores. She swings their joined hands a little as they stroll along the sidewalk in silence, and Quinn entertains herself with thoughts of the brown butter caramel cake that she's hoping to get for dessert. Then she frowns, realizing how early it still is, and if Rachel is taking her where Quinn thinks she is, the restaurant isn't even open yet.
"Rachel, what time are our reservations?"
"Six-fifteen," Rachel answers a little sheepishly, grinning at her. "Aw, don't pout, baby. I thought you might like to check out the new photography exhibit at the MoMA first."
Quinn grins in excitement. "Really?" She's been wanting to get to the Shadows and Light display for a few weeks now, but she just hasn't gotten around to it yet.
"Yes, really," Rachel says, squeezing her hand. "You've certainly sat through enough rehearsals and previews for Funny Girl in the last several months for me spend an hour or two looking at weird photographs."
"They're not weird," Quinn defends.
In fact, they are a little bit weird. After cutting over to 53rd Street at the CBS building, Rachel uses their dual membership pass—and in Quinn's opinion, that had been the best Christmas gift ever—to get them into the museum, and they make their way into the photography gallery. She loves coming here, and despite Rachel's playful protests to the contrary, Quinn knows that she enjoys it almost as much.
Right now, Rachel's head is tilted to the side as she studies a photograph of—well, soft porn would probably be the best way to describe it, even though you can't really see any important body parts thanks to the photographers use of shadow. Rachel's expression is adorably perplexed, and Quinn can't quite decide if she wants to laugh or wrap Rachel up in her arms and kiss her. Actually, she wants to do both, but neither one is probably appropriate at the moment, so she abandons the photograph of a tipped over tricycle and moves closer to Rachel, quietly sliding her open palm along Rachel's arm until she finds her waiting hand. "You know, we can totally try that later," she murmurs lowly.
Rachel bites back a laugh and says, "I think one of us is missing a vital part."
Quinn shrugs. "We have a perfectly workable substitute at home."
Rachel runs her tongue over her lips and stifles a low moan. "You're supposed to be admiring the art."
"I can't help it if certain pieces are inspiring me."
"Well, I truly hate to stifle your...artistic inspiration, but I'm afraid you'll have to try to temper it for the next several hours."
"I can't make any promises," Quinn warns with a grin, and Rachel shakes her head, tugging Quinn over to the next photograph.
They stroll through the gallery together for a while longer, and when the museum is about to close, Quinn eagerly pulls Rachel into the Design and Book Store next door where they spend the next thirty minutes browsing through the books and playing with the gadgets. She even has to talk Rachel out of buying a set of colorful sparrow shaped clips because, "We don't have a clothesline to clip them on, Rachel. We use laundromats and dry-cleaners."
"But they're so cute," she whines, holding them up and fluttering her eyelashes. Quinn laughingly shakes her head and pries the (admittedly adorable) clips out of Rachel's hand, returning them to the shelf. Quinn doesn't even try to talk Rachel out of buying the little wooden hedgehog toothpick holder.
Rachel hustles them out of the store in more than enough time to make their dinner reservation, and they walk through the urban plaza that leads over to 52nd Street. Soon enough, they're standing in front of the 21 Club with its colorful row of lawn jockeys lining the wrought iron railings. It's a ridiculous looking building if you don't know what's inside.
Rachel gives the hostess her name, and in just a few minutes, they're being led upstairs. Quinn bites her lip to stifle her giddy smile. They don't come here often—neither one of them have been so successful yet that they've completely disregarded the benefits of being frugal—but the few times that they have, they've been seated in the Bar Room. Quinn has always wanted to dine upstairs, and she takes in every detail as they're taken to a cozy, corner table. It's such a beautiful room, bright and elegantly appointed in shades of cream and beige with gorgeous murals of turn-of-the-century New York painted on sections of the wall. Soft, romantic music sets the mood and acts as a subtle soundtrack to the quiet conversations between the other patrons.
Quinn accepts her menu from the hostess and listens to the specials and the recommended wine selection. Rachel orders a glass of the Chardonnay, and Quinn decides to have the same. After the hostess leaves them, Quinn leans forward and murmurs, "When you said we were celebrating, you weren't kidding. I didn't expect this."
Rachel smiles softly, idly playing with the silver and gold heart bracelet that Quinn had given her for their last anniversary. "Well, I thought we should do something truly special to mark the beginning of a new phase in our lives."
"This is certainly special," Quinn muses, admiring the mural of the Grand Army Plaza in her line of sight that depicts the city during a much more innocent era.
Rachel hums, looking pleased with herself as she peruses the menu, and Quinn decides that it might be a good idea if she does the same. Eventually, the waiter arrives with their wine and asks if they're ready to order. Rachel glances up at her, silently deferring to her. Quinn orders the Berkshire pork chop, and Rachel opts for the vegetable tasting. She's never asked Quinn to adhere to either a vegan diet or a kosher one, although Quinn does tend to cook vegetarian meals for the both of them because it's easier, and Rachel isn't strictly vegan anymore with her rediscovered love of cheeses and dairy.
Both meals are delicious, and their conversation flows from topic to topic while they eat—from Quinn's (lack of) progress on her book to the mishaps at Rachel's rehearsal to whether or not they should invite all their parents for Thanksgiving this year or just convince Hiram and Leroy to host the event instead. They both order coffee and dessert, and the brown butter caramel cake is as amazing as Quinn remembers, although Rachel's Valrhona chocolate cake is almost as delicious.
It's a perfect evening, and Quinn doesn't want it to end, but eventually all of their dishes and glasses and cups are cleared away, their bill is paid, and they really don't have any more excuses to linger. When they finally step back outside, it's after eight o'clock, and Rachel tucks her arm into Quinn's, saying, "We can flag down a taxi on 5th Avenue, or we can walk a bit and enjoy the city."
"I feel like walking," Quinn decides as they stroll down the sidewalk arm in arm. Her leg isn't bothering her much, and it's such a nice night. The air is a little cool but still comfortable, and she feels like she needs a little exercise after indulging in such a large meal. They've barely taken ten steps when Rachel suddenly stops walking and lets out a frustrated groan. Quinn turns to look at her in concern. "What's the matter?"
Rachel worries her lip, looking apologetic as she ducks her head a little. "I just realized that I left my working script in my dressing room. Would you mind very much if we doubled back to pick it up?"
"Rachel, you've been off book since the first week of your workshop," Quinn points out with a frown.
Rachel huffs, clicking her heel against the pavement in what Quinn knows is a muted diva stomp—some things never entirely change, even if Rachel is far more discrete about them these days. "Well, yes, but all of the last minute adjustments that we've made are written in the margins, and it's imperative that I review every detail so that tomorrow's performance will be perfect." Rachel pouts up at her. "I promise I'll make it up to you later."
Quinn sighs—she never has been able to resist that damn pout. "It is a nice night for a walk," she says with a mild shrug, stepping off in the direction of Broadway. Rachel hurries to catch up, slipping her hand back into Quinn's and grinning up at her.
"You really won't regret this, Quinn. I promise."
Quinn licks her lips, considering this. "Are we going to recreate that photo after all?"
Rachel laughs, bumping into her lightly. "Just wait," she says mysteriously.
They're back at the Winter Garden Theater in about fifteen minutes. Rachel fishes around in her purse for the key while Quinn leans against the side of the building and watches the tourists wander the sidewalks. As soon as Rachel unlocks the door, she's dragging Quinn inside and locking the door behind them. Quinn starts to walk toward Rachel's dressing room, but Rachel stops her and pulls her in the direction of the stage.
"Rachel," she whines, "what are you doing? I thought you wanted to get your script," and Quinn wants to go home and finish celebrating in a far more intimate way.
"In a minute," Rachel promises. "I just want to show you something." She pauses near one of the control boards, visibly counting the switches with her finger before she pushes three of them, and the floor lights come up on the stage.
"Are you supposed to be doing this?" Quinn asks warily, even as she allows Rachel to pull her out onto the stage. Her eyes dart around, taking in the sparse scenery. The current backdrop is Fanny and Nick's apartment, and a single table sits off to the side with two chairs and a flower arrangement that Quinn knows to be silk roses, even though the lights aren't bright enough to see them clearly.
Rachel leads her to the edge of the stage, drops her hand, and stands there with a wide smile, looking out over the dark, empty theater. Quinn chuckles, shaking her head and crossing her arms as she stares at Rachel. "What are you doing?"
"Basking in the moment," Rachel answers easily, holding out her arms. "Tomorrow night I'll be standing right here, bathed in a spotlight, looking out at those fifteen hundred plus seats," she says gesturing out in front of her before glancing at Quinn, "only, you know, filled with people. Hopefully," she adds a bit timidly.
"Definitely," Quinn assures her quickly. "This place will be filled to capacity, Rachel, and I'll be sitting right there," she says, pointing down at a seat in the middle of the front row.
Rachel turns to her and takes her hand with a trembling smile. "And I'll be singing to you."
Quinn's breath hitches, and she feels tears unexpectedly sting her eyes. Nodding a little, she smiles affectionately at her girlfriend. "Me and fifteen hundred of your adoring fans."
Rachel gazes at her for a long moment before she takes a breath and squeezes Quinn's hand. "This is everything I've ever wanted, Quinn," she says quietly. "This stage...well, the Gershwin actually," she amends with a small pout, "but this one will do. This show. This role. And you."
"You know," Quinn drawls with a half-smile, "the fact that I don't even really care that I'm fourth on that list just proves how much I love you."
"I merely saved the best for last," Rachel tells her with confidence, taking a step backwards—still holding Quinn's hand.
Quinn chuckles, following her upstage. "Nice recovery, Berry."
Rachel rolls her eyes at the teasing use of her last name and flashes a smile before she stops next to the table, setting down her purse. Quinn notices a candle and a box of matches, and she frowns, not really remembering that in any of the scenes. She supposes that they really have made some changes in the last few weeks, and Rachel probably does want to obsessively study her new stage directions all night. Well, Quinn isn't about to let that happen before she collects on her promised reward for this particular detour.
"You know, when I was fifteen," Rachel says, picking up the box of matches and tapping it against the surface of the table, "I had this fantasy of what my life would be like when I was twenty-five." She offers Quinn an apologetic smile.
"Yeah, I remember," Quinn mumbles, resisting the instinct to drop Rachel's hand and cross her arms defensively. Those memories aren't amongst her fondest.
Rachel squeezes her hand reassuringly. "The reality is so much better, Quinn. Well, except for the part where I don't have a Tony yet."
"You will," Quinn promises.
"I love your faith in me," Rachel murmurs with a soft smile.
"It's not faith, Rachel. It's just a fact," Quinn tells her. Rachel's success on Broadway is the one thing that she's always been most certain of.
Rachel bites her lip, shrugging as she lets go of Quinn's hand to fidget with the matchbox. "It doesn't even matter if I never win anything other than the two Drama Desk awards that you like to use as bookends."
"I did that one time," Quinn huffs defensively, tossing her own purse onto the table. She'd thought it would be funny—unfortunately, Rachel hadn't agreed.
"My point is," Rachel pushes on determinedly, "I don't need the awards to be happy. I...I don't even really need the stage," she pauses to moisten her lips nervously, "because I have you. Even if I never perform again after tomorrow night, I know that I'll be okay as long as you're standing beside me."
Quinn frowns—stomach dipping weirdly—because what Rachel is saying hits a little too close to her deepest, darkest fears about what their relationship could eventually cost Rachel. "Okay, sweetie, you're starting to worry me a little."
Rachel puffs out a breath. "I'm trying to be symbolic here, Quinn. Could you just...?" she trails off, tilting her head imploringly and tapping the matchbox again.
Quinn folds her hands demurely in front of her, inhales deeply, and says, "By all means."
Rachel nods, almost to herself, as she fumbles with the matchbox again, pulling out a single stick and striking it against the case. Quinn watches silently as she drops the box and lights the candle, reaching down with her free hand to shift her purse slightly as she blows out the match. For the first time, Quinn notices that the flowers in the vase are white gardenias, and that they're actually real. Her eyes dart back to Rachel in confusion.
Rachel's smiles wavers, and she swallows visibly, bracing her right hand against the table as she faces Quinn. "I'm so in love with you," she murmurs. "I love the life we've built together. I love knowing that I get to wake up every morning to the one person who knows me better than anyone and loves me for everything I am...the good, the bad, and everything in between. And I love you the same way, Quinn," she breathes reverently.
Quinn's heart rate begins to speed, and she clenches her hands together tightly as her mind spins with Rachel's words—with the entire evening.
"I'm the best version of myself when I'm with you," Rachel says with such gravity, pausing to lick her lips again and take another visible breath. "So I'm standing in the middle of this stage," she gestures out with her left hand, "where all of my childhood dreams are coming true, telling you that I want forever with you more than all of the awards in show business, more than my name in lights, and more than all the endless applause of a standing ovation."
With that, Rachel finally lifts her right hand off the table to reveal a little square box held between her trembling fingers. Quinn gasps, and her own fingers fly to her lips. "Rachel, what...?" she rasps, but she honestly doesn't have the breath for more than that—she feels like she must be dreaming (and she's had a variation of this one more than a few times already).
Rachel nods her head, smiling tearfully as she opens the box. "Lucy Quinn Fabray, will you please marry me and share my forever?"
Quinn silently replays the question several times in her mind as she stares at the ring through eyes blurred with tears. She can't quite believe what she's seeing, but she can process enough to know that it's most definitely a diamond engagement ring, which means that Rachel Berry most definitely just proposed to her.
Her gaze lifts to Rachel's face, immediately noticing the wide, worried eyes and the quivering lip. Quinn chokes back a tearful laugh, nodding her head vigorously as she drops her hand and breathes out, "Yes. Yes, yes, Rachel," she reaches for her, bending down to kiss that beloved mouth and whisper, "yes, I'll marry you," against her lips.
She feels Rachel smile more than she sees her, and Rachel kisses her back joyfully before pulling the ring free of its box and reaching for Quinn's hand—which is also shaking fiercely. Quinn's stomach does somersaults when Rachel slides that perfect diamond and platinum ring into place, and God—she's so happy right now. She's wanted this for so long, but Rachel hasn't seriously mentioned wanting to get married since they'd moved in together, and Quinn's been too nervous—and okay, too proud—to bring it up until Rachel gave her a damn clue. But this is so much better.
"I love you so much, Rachel," Quinn whispers, pulling her eyes away from the ring. "Nothing will make me happier than being your wife."
"My wife," Rachel repeats with an almost drunken grin. "I really like the way that sounds," she murmurs as she slips her arms around Quinn's waist.
"Me, too," Quinn agrees, looping her arms around Rachel's neck and kissing her like she means it. She really, really means it! Quinn lifts her hand to Rachel's hair and buries it in the silken strands for a few moments before she can't resist breaking their kiss and admiring her ring again. "I also really like this ring," she says earnestly. It's Tiffany—Quinn can tell—a round brilliant with a channel-set band. And yes, she might have gone into the store and browsed a little from time to time—both for herself and for Rachel.
"Do you?" Rachel asks worriedly. "Because I really wanted to pick the perfect engagement ring for you, but if you'd prefer a different style, I'm certain we could exchange it." Rachel's mouth twitches into a thoughtful frown. "Although the jewelry clerk probably won't be very pleased to see me again," she admits huffily.
Quinn laughs, because she can perfectly picture Rachel terrorizing the poor salesperson. "You are never, ever getting this ring back, Rachel. It's perfect, and I love it." And she's going to have to find an equally perfect ring for Rachel—and she might already have one in mind that will very conveniently compliment this one—because Quinn might still be just a little bit possessive and want everyone to know that Rachel is very much taken.
"I love you," Rachel says with a happy sigh.
"Maybe you should take me home now and show me how much," Quinn purrs, sliding her fingers through Rachel's hair again, loving the way the diamond catches the flickering candlelight.
Rachel's tongue sneaks out and wets her lips, and she raises her eyebrow suggestively. "My dressing room is closer."
"Rachel Berry," Quinn chastises with exaggerated outrage, "we are not celebrating our engagement with a quickie in your dressing room. You're taking me home," she instructs, dropping her voice to a sexy rumble, "stripping me of everything except this gorgeous ring, and then you're getting naked and making love to me. All," she dips her head, and brushes a teasing kiss to the corner of Rachel's mouth, "night," she nips her lower lip, earning a low moan, "long," she murmurs, ending with sensual kiss that has Rachel's fingers curling into her lower back.
"I'm agreeable to this plan," Rachel says breathlessly when Quinn finally allows her to recover.
"I thought you might be," Quinn husks, gazing down at Rachel—her fiancée. Rachel pulls her down for another kiss—deep and joyful and filled with unspoken promises for later.
When they part again, Rachel looks at her with dancing eyes, and she bites her lips almost shyly before she murmurs, "We're getting married."
Quinn's whole body reacts, going hot and weak all at once, and she grins like an idiot, breathing out, "Yeah, we are."
Rachel tightens her arms around Quinn. "I guess I must have gotten something right, huh?"
Quinn chuckles, tipping her forehead down to rest against her fiancée's—God, she loves that word! "Oh, Rachel, sweetheart, you got everything right," she purrs.
Completely and absolutely—perfectly—right.