This is in no way related to Friends With Benefits. I haven't seen the movie so any resemblance is coincidental. Spoilers up until whatever episode Glee is up to.

Happy reading! :)

I own nothing.


1.

This is the story of how friends can never be friends with benefits.

This is the story of how emotional detachment can never be applied to sex.

This is the story of how Rachel Berry fell in love with Quinn Fabray.

This is the story of how Rachel Berry will do almost anything to fall out of love with Quinn Fabray.


When Rachel turned nineteen she was staring at Quinn from across the room and wondering if there was any way she could be the glass that was currently in Quinn's hand. It had the privilege of being licked and bitten, and when she takes a sip from it her tongue slightly darts out to taste its contents before swallowing. Just that thought alone allows her brain to roam freely, and by roam freely it roams to the image of Quinn between her legs, Quinn's hands holding her down, Quinn's tongue—so magical.

Rachel checks her watch. It has been thirty minutes. Thirty minutes of socializing. Isn't it about time these people leave her apartment so she and Quinn could continue their rendezvous from earlier? Thirty minutes seems like a reasonable enough time to have socialized with college friends who were kind enough to throw her a birthday party. Well, if she lived on Mars it would seem reasonable. Didn't time move faster on Mars? She probably should have paid more attention in Astronomy.

For the majority of the night, she spends it looking back on events that led to this moment. At first she maintains that it started when Quinn had said, Rach, what do you think of this shampoo? But then she argues to herself and realized it started when she and Quinn had their first real conversation. Then she thinks to herself that if she was to take a broad view of things, it really began with Santana Lopez. If Santana hadn't slept with Quinn at Mr. Schuester's wedding (or the wedding that didn't happen), Quinn would have never visited a second time. Of course, if Santana hadn't moved in in the first place, Quinn would've never needed to visit their apartment—because what on Earth would possess Quinn to visit Rachel? But that's beside the point. The point is, if it wasn't for Santana, Quinn would've never visited and Rachel would've never needed to analyze her feelings. She would've continued to be blissfully unaware of how empty and unsatisfying her life had become and that was okay because anything was better than realizing how satisfying her life has become now that she was in love with Quinn Fabray.

•••

Nine months earlier.

One thing Rachel's fast learning is that self-pity is fatal; and today of all days was no time to dwell on the fact that she's gone from smugly oblivious girlfriend of a male prostitute to sleeping with her ex-boyfriend at a wedding to a pregnancy scare to shell-shocked single in a matter of some gruesome months, and she's not remotely acclimatized. It's like she has been banished to a galaxy far, far away, without enough warning to pack so much as a spare pair of underwear and a toothbrush.

But today of all days, there's no time for dwelling. She has an audition for Funny Girl, a shot at a job that might provide some comfort for her personal life gaily nose-diving off a cliff. If she could win the lead role, it'd make the years of dance and singing lessons, slushies and enduring high school all worthwhile. She childishly crossed her fingers as she stood under the shower. She didn't know much about jobs, having never worked in her short eighteen years, but what she did know is that she wanted this job more than anyone has ever wanted a job in the whole history of job-seeking.

She deliberated hard about her outfit, even though she had another hour to perfect it. Her bedroom already looked like a junk shop, piled high with half a house of useless possessions. She wished she knew the casting directors she was going to audition for. She wasn't a harlot (though if she were, she'd be a very, very unsuccessful one, having slept with a grand total of two men), but there's no escaping the fact that making herself pleasing to the eye would be no bad thing.

It was when she squashed herself right up to the mirror in an attempt to establish a closer inspection of her behind, that Santana appeared, elegantly clad in a pair of rose-pink pajamas. They appeared to have a corsage pinned to them, like she was expecting someone to invite her to a tea party at three in the morning.

"What in Satan's name are you doing?" She asked, quite reasonably.

Rachel peeled her eyes away from the mirror. "What do you think of this as an audition outfit?" She striked a pose. "Is it too much?" She self-consciously pulled down the hem of her dress. Her legs looked far too exposed.

Santana cocked her head quizzically, her brown curls bounced pneumatically around her pretty face like a cloud of bubbles. "The dress looks great, it's just... you don't look very comfortable in it. You look like you're wearing a costume."

She looked again, observing herself from a critical distance. Sometimes her whole life felt like a costume she was wearing, like she was stranded at a creepy Halloween party with swingers and no one will call her a cab. But it doesn't end, this party, there's no going home.

"Rachel," Santana's voice was strangely soft and welcoming. "You're going to be great."

"Is your psychic Mexican third eye telling you that?"

Santana shrugged, leaning against the door. "It doesn't work this early in the morning. Especially not before my morning cup of coffee. Which you haven't made for me,"

"I'm not your mother," her voice came out all high-pitched and screechy. "Besides, it's Kurt's turn this week,"

"He left early,"

"Well, maybe you should learn how to use the espresso. You're not handicapped."

Rachel dabbled with her make-up to give herself something to do and from her view in the mirror, she saw Santana roll her eyes and mumbled something indecipherable, stuck her tongue out and vanished down the hallway.

She took one last look at her ill-judged dressed and caught a cab downtown to the theater. She arrived even more hot and bothered than she started out. She gave herself a five second pause, taking a peek through the large doors, looking onto the stage, the brightly lit room filled with hundreds of seats. Her dress felt like it might disintegrate the second she entered such a temple of chic, but nevertheless she forced herself over the threshold. She felt like she entered a war zone. Men were tearing around setting up the lighting, a few people were hurrying in and out with scraps of paper in their hands, the three men sitting in the front seats were yelling nonsense at everyone around them, threatening to upend everyone with their every word. Of course it's frantic, but there was something more she picked up. There was a note of fear, a mania about the way everyone's working. She approached a grim-faced man at the end of the row of seats and tentatively put a hand on his arm.

"I'm here to audition."

He turned towards her and said in a cut-glass voice, "You must be Rachel Berry."

What she remembered from the audition was feeling faintly desperate. She wanted so badly to prove to them that she was the person they needed. She couldn't bear to be defeated, not ever, but certainly not now. She sauntered across the stage. She moved closer to the edge. She was sure she seemed casual, innocuous. But when she thought, Okay, time to sing, she opened her mouth and was met with silence. She started to count down.

In five seconds I'm going to sing. Fivefourthreetwoone!

And again, silence. Her vocal chords were trapped.

All right. This time. Fivefourthreetwoone!

Nothing.

She looked at the clock on the wall. She had been silent for ten minutes.

She sighed. It had to be done. She wanted this. There was no other choice. She thought of the cheers, the claps, the vast congratulatory words from her friends.

Fivefourthreetwoone!

She sang.

By the time she realized how strained her voice sounded, her momentum was carrying her forward and it was too late to stop.

At the instant she gave a final almighty tug at the last note, her throat squeezed down and the note slipped away from her. And as her voice fluttered around her ears and down to her shoulders, she felt a huge sense of relief, and sadness, that the audition had failed, that the whole thing was over. The whole room had gone quiet and everyone was looking at her. The three men at the front had screwed, tight appearances. She felt like she was a camera and everyone around her were the extras, told by the director to stare intently until he called out cut. She was a camera. What a nice thing that would be.

"Sounds like we're done." One of the men said, admitting to failure on her part.

"Um—" She started; only to be cut off.

"There are other candidates, Miss Berry. Thank you for coming." He said, quite authoritatively.

"Thank you for seeing me." She said, rather awkwardly. She walked off the stage and headed to the door as fast as she could, muttering expletives to herself like a mad old tramp. The march down the stage and across the hard wood floor was a never ending walk, everyone parted before her, and the camera thing happened again. She would do the same herself. Stare, that is. She always loved a good drama. Although, she didn't feel good about being Moses like that.

She walked the five miles or so through the freezing afternoon city, back to the apartment, in her ungodly high heels and didn't feel the least bit of pain on her feet. When oh when, will all roads stop leading back to this most pointless of destinations? She trudged up the stairs. Stomach cramps were beginning to cut in, she held her coat tightly through her overcoat pockets. She swung the door open hoping to be met with an empty apartment. What she got instead was Quinn Fabray peering at her from the top of a magazine sitting comfortably on her couch. Really, it was hers. She paid for it with her fathers' money.

Sweet Hanukkah, it was Quinn! The sweetest of all the meanest people she knew!

"Quinn! What are you doing here?" She felt a surge of warmth in her chest.

"I'm here to visit—" Though visit who she didn't say, and hugged Rachel. "It's great to see you again."

Rachel collapsed on the couch and took off her shoes. "How did you get in?"

Quinn sat beside her, looking deep into Rachel's eyes as she said, "Santana and Kurt were here. They left to get some food."

"You would not believe the day I've had."

And Rachel recalled the day's event.

Quinn carried with her a new air of great nobility. She has been riding high on the crest of a great start to the semester, and with some time off decided to visit the city for a day. She looked every bit as picture perfect as the girl Rachel remembered from their last encounter, and with a thorough inspection as they sat talking, Quinn has developed a hard-bodied look which screamed bi-weekly gym sessions. She's neutrally beautiful as always, and her face remained almost mask-like, that is, in the sense that she wasn't going to give anything away down to an art form.

When Rachel finished telling her what happened at the audition, she leaned her head back and sighed. She didn't want to seem like an ungrateful wrench when Quinn got her a glass of juice and doggedly assured her that there were plenty more auditions in the sea, or something like that. It helped, it definitely did, but now that she was on the other side, she was suddenly aware of how much she built this job up. It's a bit like being asked out by the hottest boy in the school, before getting unceremoniously dumped on Sunday night. Right, she's boring herself now, and possibly Quinn to death.

She poured herself another glass of juice. "I'm sorry for talking so much. Tell me what's been happening with you. Anyone special in your life?"

"No," she replied, convulsing. "I was seeing this professor but he became too demanding and college boys aren't mature enough."

"What about the seniors?"

"Haven't met any," as she said those words, Rachel caught a blazing gaze of grey and green and yellow in her eyes. Her face was tight. A muscle twitched at the base of her jaw. "I heard about you and Brody."

"You did?" She squeaked the words and had to clear her throat. "Did Santana—"

"Yeah, she was worried about you."

A reluctant huff of grim laughter passed her lips. "She was actually worried?"

"Well, you know, as worried as Santana gets." Quinn's fingers squeezed her elbow. It was merely an impersonal touch, so there was no need for her to feel all tingly and warm.

"Has she mentioned anything else?"

Quinn shook her head. "Like what?"

"Nothing." She mumbled, thinking about the pregnancy scare.

"Rachel," Quinn's expression hardened. "Are you okay? Brody didn't give you any STDs, did he?"

"No!" Rachel watched Quinn from the corner of her eye, she seemed irritable. "Nothing of the sort happened." Somehow the phrase, I was worried I might have been pregnant, didn't sound like the right sentence.

"You're pregnant?"

Nor did blabbing out her internal monologue on the topic, but it was too late for that now, wasn't it?

"Um," she fisted her fingers into balls in her lap. "I'm not pregnant."

"Whose is it?"

"I'm not pregnant, Quinn," she rephrased. "It was a pregnancy scare."

Quinn slumped back on the seat and turned to Rachel, green eyes baleful, and she was suddenly hit by a wave of compassion. Not the artificial version that's equal parts self-satisfied condescension, the genuine compassion for the fact that they have come a long way since high school, sharing boyfriends and now sharing pregnancy stories. Although, there was a big difference in the situation. Quinn's was real; Rachel's was an error.

She wanted to voice her feelings but Quinn said, "Aren't you meant to space your bombshells out a bit, not just drop them all at once?"

"I only actually dropped one bombshell on you. The rest you already knew."

The gold and green depths in Quinn's eyes was asking her a question. She opened her mouth to voice the question but Santana and Kurt's voice could be heard before the front door slid open. Rachel caught the words: you have got to be kidding me. You slept with Quinn? When the door did slide open, Santana had her hand clamped over Kurt's mouth, the bag of groceries fell to the ground. Kurt was mumbling, his shrill scream covered by Santana's hand, his eyes were wide in shock darting from Santana to Rachel.

Rachel was used to running into walls, but falling into traffic was another matter.

So, in that split second she had expected to crash head first into the ground. The only impact that came was Quinn's hand on her forearm, and the contact hit her from all angles. She felt held tight in arm-locks and leg-locks and neck-locks. Her limps felt twisted in every direction. At one point she thought she was horizontal to the floor but her whole body remained vertical on the couch.

"You slept with Santana?" She shivered in her position, chilled to the marrow of her bones. It was due to the cold, that was it. She made a note to turn up the heating.

There was a bit of a commotion from the doorway about, Can't you ever learn to keep your mouth shut, Hummel? and, I cannot believe this, how drunk were you? Quinn, slept with you? How many times? The voices went on, a cacophony sound in Rachel's head, but one thing came through clearly,

It was only a two time thing.

The blunt statement from Quinn took the breath out of her, and Quinn didn't even crack a smile. Rachel watched the play of emotions across Quinn's face, denial wasn't one of them. Rachel reacted to the situation with absolute silence. She sat there, a formidable dark shadow on her face, her brown eyes trying to see into Quinn's soul as she flicked back and forth analyzing the verbal ping pong between Quinn, Santana and Kurt. Rachel's stillness was as complete as her silence, which in a way unnerved her, she had never been silent for this long, but at least no one was telling her she was crazy. She wished they would tell her she was imagining things.

Shaking with reaction, she stayed where she was, watching Santana pick up the groceries, strut over to place them in the cupboards. Kurt sat with his elbows on the table, his chin in his palm and staring at Quinn as though she were a shiny new toy.

"Oh, before I forget, Quinn's staying here for a while."

"This isn't a crack house for people with mental confusion regarding their sexuality. It's an actual apartment with two rooms and rent to pay—"

"Shut up, Hummel, it's only for a couple of days."

"What's wrong with your dorm?"

"My roommate got a new boyfriend. It's been—loud."

"Where will you be sleeping?"

"With me on the couch."

"It's bad enough that a prostitute has lived here, we don't need the two of you having sex on the couch. I have to sit on it. At least I don't have to sleep on Rachel's bed."

She didn't know who verbalized what or if that was even the correct dialect, it went something like that in her head. Months later, when someone explained to her the meaning of love and challenged her on the fact that she has never known what romantic certainty tastes like, it would be this singular event she would think of—a kind of brilliant summary of things. She's had the obligatory high school boyfriend, whom she organically and politely shed after graduation, but until this moment she's never had anyone who's made her feel like she's got some exotic illness that makes her want to stick pencils up her nose and see the world in technicolor.

But for now, none of that matters. She had been silent for maybe an hour and still didn't even know why. Fury filled her, tightening her stomach into knots, and the urge to lash out overwhelmed her as she stood and slammed her fist right into Santana's face.

That didn't happen, by the way.

Santana was sitting happily next to Kurt at the table, munching on something crunchy. It sounded like a carrot stick. Were those her carrots? Santana tended to eat everyone else's food rather than buy her own. It was difficult to think over all the commotion. Her thoughts kept scattering, chasing memories she could not afford to dwell on. And Quinn's hand was still on her forearm, rubbing light strokes back and forth. Why was Quinn doing that? She felt the purest thrill go through her shoulder blades. She wanted to curse as her body reacted with lust-filled intensity to the gesture.

Rachel cut through their chatter and said, "I'm going to shower."

Under the warmth of the water, she shuddered, and remembered that she had already showered this morning. Being hygienically presentable didn't do any harm to anyone. And why was everyone suddenly staying over without as much as asking the owners of the apartment a simple question such as, Would it be okay if I stayed here for [insert amount of days]? It was proper etiquette, after all. She should charge her friends for using the apartment as a safe-house. A hundred dollars a night is a reasonable amount. A hundred dollars a night for five nights and soon she'd be able to purchase a new bed.

She imagined having to see Quinn every day for however many number of days she was staying for. She dreaded the thought of laying eyes on her every morning, even though the thought of never laying eyes on Quinn first thing in the morning felt equally wrong (a useless unsquarable circle, Rachel is sure you'll agree). She thought after high school they'll try and remain friends, hence the weekly emails, but Quinn had only visited once, and it wasn't as though she made any promises to visit either. Soon the email exchanges will have slowly dissipated, and there'll be nothing left to bind them, no trace of the last four years bar a few photos and the yearbooks.

Half an hour later she found herself sitting on the couch with Quinn while Santana and Kurt huddled on the floor together. She wasn't sure what had stopped her from taking a seat beside them and conversing in their hushed whispers. When she came into the living room after drying her hair, Quinn had been sitting on the end of the couch, looking at her in such a way that she'd found herself approaching without conscious violation. She very nearly sat right beside Quinn, and only a last minute spark of sanity had directed her to sit on the far end. To cover her confusion at her own actions, she spent some time smoothing over her sweat pants before looking up to survey the two occupants on the floor.

"What are you two doing?" She asked. Finally, her precious voice returned to her.

"Oh, you're back," Santana said, smugly, not bothering to look at her. "We were wondering whether you got murdered in the shower. You weren't singing that horrendous Funny Girl song. By the way, how did your audition go?"

Santana's words fell like mini-explosions into the companionable silence around the living room. "Uh, it—not well."

Santana whirled around in her position, her impassive expression gave nothing away. "What do you mean?"

"I—sort of, well—choked." As simple as Santana's question was, it was hard for her brain to form an answer in her current stressed-out state. "I choked."

Santana was beside her and she pressed her face into her chest, literally burrowing into it. "Oh, Rach, don't cry. There'll be other chances."

"I'm not crying, I'm pouting," her fingers dug into Santana's shirt. Quinn snorted on the far and the sound of it made her grip onto the shirt tighter. "It felt like NYADA auditions all over again."

Santana rubbed her back; it seemed like the right thing to do. Rachel responded by relaxing her hold on her shirt just the tiniest bit. Santana kept it up, talking to her in the same voice one would use to calm a little girl who had lost a lollipop. She used similar words, too, telling her it was all right, that there will be another one soon enough, that everything will be okay.

When she was relaxed enough to shuffle away, she got a clear view of Quinn from over Santana's shoulder. She winced. Rachel had seen snow with more color than Quinn's skin. Her brow creased, her chest was heaving. A new form of expression Rachel had never seen on Quinn—or anyone—radiated on her face. Her lips twisted cynically, and frustration gnawed at her.

"I'm taking a shower." She threw—actually threw—the magazine on the floor, startling Kurt and stomped her way to the bathroom.

Her two friends didn't seem to have noticed Quinn's uncharacteristic nature. Although, uncharacteristic may not be the correct euphemism.

Kurt rubbed her knee in relaxing patterns, and when she heard the bathroom door close she asked, "Did you really sleep with Quinn?"

"Why? Does it bother you?" Santana asked, sounding curious.

She felt ready to explode. Santana's view of her feelings and the way she actually felt were about as far apart as the north and south ends of the poles. She pressed her lips together, remaining stubbornly mute.

Santana gave a short, humorless laugh. "It was only sex. It meant nothing."

"But it's Quinn. Why would she—I mean, why—you?"

Judging by the way Santana was eyeing her, she could picture the scenario playing in her mind: gauging out Rachel's eyes with her bare hands and maybe even squeezing the life out of her heart, putting it back inside her chest and ending its life again, repeating this several times until she was satisfied. Admittedly, her chest was feeling the same way waiting for a response. She glanced down to see that, yes, Santana's hands were in her own lap and nowhere inside Rachel's chest. What was this pain?

"What the hell are you implying?" She thundered.

Rachel held up her hands in surrender. "Nothing," Santana has rage blackouts, she reminded herself. Tread carefully. "I simply meant that it's Quinn. Celibacy, Quinn. Christian-Jesus worshiping, Quinn."

"Obviously she's no longer celibate."

"How was it?" Kurt asked, his voice smooth as silk.

"Pretty good for a first timer," she answered with a huge grin. "Quinn's a great kisser."

"I'd bet," he said. "With those lips."

"Don't tell me you've thought of kissing her?"

"Once or twice, maybe five times. This was in Freshmen year when I tried to convince myself I wasn't gay. Who better to fantasize yourself kissing with other than the Quinn Fabray?"

"Uh, me?" Santana snorted a laugh. "I'm way hotter."

The nicest thing in the world would've been for them to stop talking about it, but she knew that they had broached a subject that was going to be discussed for years to come. There was nowhere that her body did not ache. Her muscles throbbed. It was finally following her heart into the pain zone. Her skin itched and she was never comfortable, not for a minute. All she gathered through the pain was that they were both extremely drunk at Mr. Schuester's wedding and agreed this would not affect their friendship. Quinn was experimenting.

Rachel found herself asking, "Are you going to continue experimenting while here?"

Santana met her gaze. "Would that be a problem?"

She cleared her throat and tried to not let the words affect her. "No." It came out as a squeak. She has been squeaking a lot today. Tomorrow she must recommence her vocal exercises. "I'm only asking."

Santana dipped her head. Rachel saw a sparkle in her eyes. "We're not going to do any of that anymore. Like Quinn said earlier, it was only a two time thing. Whether she wants to continue with someone else I have—"

"Who's someone else?" The words rushed out before Rachel could stop them.

The way her friends eyed each other and her cheerful, all-but-perfect world—if you ignored the few niggling things that weren't so perfect about it—didn't feel quite so bright and secure after all.

"Just wondering," she added, smoothing a few strands of brown hair away from her face.

Neither commented on her outburst. Instead, Kurt said, "She said she wanted to see more of the city and mentioned your satisfactory skills as a tour guide and that if Broadway fails, you should seek a career in tourism."

All she heard was that Quinn had praised her. Her heart suddenly churned with all sorts of silly feelings, the greatest of which was a completely out-of-proportion pleasure that Quinn had mentioned her at all.

The water stopped on the other side of the privacy wall and she listened to Santana and Kurt banter back and forth about whose turn it is to watch their preferred TV programs with half an ear. They both worried her sometimes. Rachel used to think with Santana being here, her life was in jeopardy, sleeping with one eye open and wondering if Santana was going to go American Psycho on her. As the weeks strolled on, she began to fear for Kurt's life. They both drove her demented with their disregard for the future and her presence, but they were also her nearest and dearest.

Quinn came into the room, her hair wet from the shower. She resumed her position in her spot and started brushing her hair out. Damp, it looked more brown than blonde, hiding the gold highlights that rippled through it when it was dry. She was too damn appealing. This was going to be a problem.

"We agreed that you get every third day of TV choices. Right, Rachel?" Kurt's voice reached her ears as she watched Quinn's movements with entirely too much interest.

Quinn's pajamas were a pair of men's boxers and a well-worn t-shirt that molded her delicious curves when she reached up to run the brush through her hair. The image was enough to make Rachel go crazy with every swipe of the brush on her hair. She forced herself to answer Kurt's question with a mild,

"Yeah."

"So you're going to take on cleaning duties this week?" Kurt sounded like he was having a hard time believing that.

"What?"

Quinn looked at her and she had to force her gaze to Kurt. "What was that?"

Stretching his legs out in front of him, he chuckled and crossed them at the ankle. His head turned slightly to Quinn for a microsecond and then back to her. He raised his eyebrows and a blush crept across her cheeks. "Cleaning duties this week. You."

"But I did it last week." Her eyes narrowed and she drummed her fingers on the couch. "It's your turn."

"You just agreed." He hummed.

She turned to Santana who smiled wickedly and shrugged. "You did, Rachel."

Rachel huffed, shaking her head. That thing she said about them being her nearest and dearest? Taking that back now. She saw Quinn tuck her rapidly drying hair behind her ear, exposing the feminine column of her neck and a shell pink ear she had the interest in tasting. Just once. No. Not tasting. Nothing of the sort. This is a thought better left in the junk heap.

"Um, so, Quinn," Rachel started. Quinn's gaze glazed over with a vague look. "What about school?"

"I'm not going to stay long. And it's only two hours on the train," she spoiled the severity of her tone with a yawn. "Besides, I only have class three days a week."

Rachel wondered how long Quinn had been awake for, she seriously looked like she was ready for bed and it was only six. Too bad it wouldn't be a bed Quinn would be willing to share with her.

Oh my God, what?

"Well, this has been fun," Kurt grounded out. He got up and stretched his arms in the air. "I'm going to visit Adam. Don't wait up."

Rachel forced her mind away from the erotic path it had no business travelling in. After such a horrible day, the climax of it all was really seeing Quinn. You could even say that affection, just then, was the closest thing she felt for Quinn.

•••

So, a few days turned into two weeks here at the Safe House for Friends Who Do Not Wish to Pay Rent and Staying Without Permission Until Another Alternative Comes into View, and Quinn (the only girl in the universe to look stunning at five a.m.) has so far uttered eleven words to Rachel: Stop using so much hot water and steaming up the bathroom. To be precise. She might've proceeded with 'Oi', giving her a grand total of twelve words, but it doesn't change the fact that having Quinn as a roommate made her officially exhausted and pretty soon she'd need to use toothpicks to keep her eyes open. Quinn was a ball of energy, a force of nature, and every time she's in the room Rachel can't force her eyes away, let alone squeak more than a word: Sugar? Coffee? Milk? Those vocal exercises she has been meaning to do never really took off. And when Quinn wasn't in the room, she'd wonder what Quinn was up to and she'd strain her ears at night to listen to any unusual noises from the living room. Noises similar to moans and gasps. So far, none were forthcoming. One night, she pretended to be thirsty and sprung out of the dark hallway with the intention of catching Quinn and Santana in a compromising position, but they were both fast asleep, no parts of their bodies touching, fully clothed. She didn't know it then, but she sighed out in huge relief.

To her surprise (mainly disappointment), they had completely opposite days attending college. When Quinn was at school, Rachel was free, and vice versa. Hence, the lack of words exchanged between them. The first weekend Quinn was in New Haven upon hearing her roommate was out of town and rushed back to bathe in the contentment of isolation. This weekend, they were together, just them, no Santana and Kurt in sight. Surprised? Yes, even Rachel was. More surprised than when she woke up after a nap and saw Quinn in only her underwear and her eyes might have lingered on far longer than necessarily. But hey, you only live once.

Quinn was in the kitchen doing something, she heard something slam down on the counter. She couldn't hear the hum of the TV, but she could hear Quinn humming to the tune of Ellie Goulding's Your Song. What she's gathered in the past two weeks is that whenever Quinn's doing something, be it homework or cooking, she'll hum and she'll be in the zone it was difficult to distract her. She was still repelled by Quinn's brutishness, by her sheer arrogance, but it also kept her rapt. It was probably a good thing she has only earned eleven words from Quinn: she knew she has been fumbling a lot, failing to do simple tasks like take out the rubbish, things she can do with her eyes closed, just from sheer nerves. Sheer nerves from what you may ask? She doesn't even know herself. Everything felt so unfamiliar. Quinn Fabray, in her apartment, sleeping on her couch in two items of clothing, brushing her teeth in her bathroom. Quinn has even touched her toothbrush. Not to use it. It fell on the floor and Quinn bent down to pick it up, smiled sweetly and placed it in Rachel's hand. She stared at the toothbrush for a good minute thinking, Wow, Quinn touched my toothbrush. I never want to wash this again.

No, she didn't do that. Of course she washed it again. Just not on the bottom part where Quinn's fingers touched.

"Earth to Rachel!" Quinn yelled, waving a hand in her face. "What are you watching?"

There was a lot of moaning in the distance and just for a second she slipped back into childhood, into her long-forgotten fantasy that if she can't see it, it didn't happen. But as the volume peaked, she forced her eyes to examine the TV, her eyes opening wide to a woman being straddled by another woman with a strap-on. Moans escalating higher than her pitch perfect voice.

She fumbled for the remote. "Oh my God." Instead of turning it off, she turned the volume up. "What the hell, why isn't this—"

Quinn snatched it out of her hand and changed the channel. "I didn't know you were into this." She teased.

She locked eyes with Quinn's for the first time in two weeks. She wished she hadn't. Quinn's gaze was like sniper fire, something more intimate than anger radiating straight out of her. There's an animalistic quality to her. It's as though every emotion runs through her sinewy form as fast as it runs through her brain.

"I'd never pegged you for someone who watches porn," Quinn said over her shoulder. Rachel watched her retreating back and followed her into the kitchen. "Lesbian porn no less."

Quinn effortlessly swung herself onto the table (apparently the four empty chairs weren't good enough for her) and Rachel tried to do the same. Unfortunately, she couldn't get herself up and missed, boomeranging off, before sheepishly straightening herself and sitting on one of the four chairs that weren't good enough for Quinn. She would make the world's worst cowgirl.

"I wasn't watching it," she tried uselessly to explain. "It was just there."

"Yeah, sure," Quinn licked a crumb from the corner of her mouth and Rachel wanted to follow her retreating tongue with her own. Oh God, please stop thinking such things. "Did you enjoy it?"

For the second time in less than a month, she found herself forcing her thoughts away from that erotic dangerous path. Standing, she found herself looking into Quinn's eyes. They burned through her with such intense focus her mouth went dry.

She decided to turn the tables around on Quinn. "Did you enjoy it with, Santana?"

Rachel watched her, compelled. Quinn seemed embarrassed to realize that Rachel had wanted to know such a thing. As the silence drawled on, she worked on her exit strategy, discreetly trying to step back from the heat Quinn's body was emanating. When she had stood up, it magically bought her closer to Quinn. The pointed ends of their shoes touched, and if she leaned forward, her lips would be on Quinn's in one swift motion. Just as she was about to take the literal step back before she did something stupid, Quinn said,

"It was good. I didn't have any expectations."

She tried and swallowed those words without revealing the fact that it sliced through her heart and her muscles have been incinerated. "Uh, nice to know."

"You're not jealous, are you?" Quinn said, watching her with distracted interest.

"No!"

"Liar."

She was busted, the catch in her voice clearly audible. She remained calm. "I'm not lying!" Another useless attempt at an explanation. Where did her vocabulary disappear to?

Quinn's smile could only be classified as pure, one-hundred percent sex appeal, and it did bad things to her heart rate. "Why are you yelling? I'm not deaf. I was only joking."

She felt heat steal up her neck and said the most childish words she's ever said since she turned seven, "Why are you so mean to me all the time?"

Quinn's expression turned wry. She didn't flinch as Rachel had expected her to, but watched her with hazel eyes that bore deep into her soul. "Rachel, it was a joke. If you keep up the act I'd really believe that you're jealous. And my next question will be, why are you jealous?"

Rachel waved her hand, dismissing the words. She did not feel like arguing about this illusion that she was some-what jealous. Why would she be jealous? She didn't want Quinn. Quinn was not hers. It did not hurt to think about Santana ripping off Quinn's clothing with her teeth (losing the Funny Girl role left far too much spare brain space available for lurid fantasy). Her worst nightmare suddenly bore its way into her brain—Quinn and Santana discussing the possibility of having a real relationship. Quinn and Santana discussing being in love—and before she knew it, she blurted,

"We should have sex."

Being embarrassingly young to have dated a prostitute, it's rare in the past few weeks that she's felt any form of control. There have been points since the breakup where she's felt like some kind of exotic reptile. People long to know why it ended, but they listen with no sympathy. Suggesting this to Quinn wasn't to gain some form of control, well yeah, but it wasn't just that though. She wanted to know Quinn (for the sake of turning this into an argument, let's not point out that to get to know someone is as simple as sitting down and having a nice cup of tea), she wanted to find out what's underneath, behind the über emotionally self-controlled Yale student. That tiny window she got from watching Quinn and Santana interact over the past few days has piqued her interest.

Quinn remained seated in her position, her jaw hanging, looking all sentry-like. "You're kidding, right? You have hidden cameras in here, don't you?"

The hardness in Quinn's voice should've told her immediately she had overstepped the mark. She should've known better, not only because they've known each other for years but have only been friends for less than half of those. She's not proud of the fact that she tried to tactfully inquire about Quinn's rendezvous with Santana only to have it end with her ego shattered on the carpet, and now she was saying—

"It's only sex," because it was easier than asking, Why did you sleep with Santana and not me?

This time she made sure her inner monologue did not escape her lips.

Quinn gave her a half-smile, then turned her attention to the fridge, sticking her head so far in there Rachel wondered what was so interesting. Santana had eaten most of the food so there wasn't much except her vegan crackers. She assumed her offer had been rejected and headed to her room in defeat, only to find Quinn standing at the doorway when she turned around.

Quinn's gaze roved over to the city before it came back to rest on her face. As they stared at one another, Quinn's expression hardened. "What are the rules?"

Rachel's heart rate picked up and there was a new-found deep seated determination. "Rules?"

"Yeah, rules, in order to salvage the friendship. Unless you're suggesting we enter into a relationship—"

"No," she said rather too quickly, and something in Quinn's face deflated. There was a darkness of—something—in her eyes, and suddenly, Rachel felt uncomfortable, uncertain. Trapped in the beam of a pair of very unreadable eyes. "I mean, not a relationship. Just—"

"Friends who sleep together." Quinn walked further into the room, kicking the door shut with her foot.

Rachel half expected Quinn to kiss her, at least on the cheek, or touch her, anything rather than stand there in silence. Quinn's probably thinking what a bumptious little madam she is for suggesting such a thing. They were both single, and now that she knew how horrible it was to be in secure relationships with all the emotions and every one of them resulting in heartbreak, she was pretty sure she could settle for the dodgy version and replace the emotional stuff with pure physical contact.

"Um..." Rachel tried to adjust her skirt, though it needed no adjustment.

"The idea is to combine our friendship with—" Quinn paused to examine her bed. "—that." Her face was a tight mask as she spoke the words. "But this friendship," her hand gestured back and forth between herself and Rachel. "Cannot be disturbed."

Rachel looked at her quizzically. "Did you have this same conversation with Santana?"

"Actually, Santana and I just had sex and then had sex again and never talked about it."

Well, she should have expected such lack of communication and disregard for their friendship. In one corner there was Quinn who rarely showed emotion and in the other there's Santana, who only showed anger as an emotion. Add these two together and you have the perfect recipe for a Friends With Benefits relationship. This was different though. Rachel's repertoire of emotions was long enough to reach China, and she wore her heart on her sleeve. She wasn't sure this was such a good idea anymore. But Quinn was looking at her with such...

"We're inclined to call each other to request for, you know, sex, but—I don't think calling the day after should be an obligation," Quinn said.

Was this rule number one?

Quinn's hazel gaze swept over her, eyes so cold and deadly that they look scorched. Her taut body quivered with pent-up tension. It's almost palpable, a shimmering heat haze perpetually surrounding her. "I won't be staying here for long, so when I do go back to New Haven, we shouldn't feel pressured to sleep over."

Quinn is definitely listing rules on her own accord. How did she even come up with these so quickly?

She should probably add something of her own. "Spending the night is optional?" Rachel muttered, stepping towards Quinn pathetically.

Quinn's white now, and Rachel's sure she can detect fear coming off of her. Yet, not once has Quinn protested. "No kiss good night. Or good morning."

Rachel thought through the situation. Was she being a fool? Were they entering dangerous territory rather than the simple Friends With Benefits? If her darkest suspicion was right, that true love only happens once in a lifetime, maybe she could settle for something else while she's waiting for her Prince to come along: a completely honest relationship, where you get companionship and the chance of physical intimacy without the same level of risks. Not to mention, both parties knowing full well that this is an emotionally detached relationship.

"An emotionally detached relationship." Rachel said, emphasizing it to Quinn in case she didn't know herself. Quinn nodded.

(Somewhere—deep, deep, deep in her heart—a part of her died from disappointment without her knowledge.)

It's a simple desire, she reasoned, and Quinn is simply trying to strengthen their agreement by establishing the rules. The rules shouldn't have rushed across her senses. That it did was a problem, because it was one thing to have intellectual admiration for Quinn, provided she kept that admiration in the friend-zone. Anything else would be inappropriate and foolish. There couldn't be anything else. And yes, maybe she does have a bit of a crush on Quinn, and yes, Santana sleeping with Quinn before she got the chance to might have sparked some undiscovered animal to unleash itself from within her, but these facts had to stay subjugated to the power of her will and common sense.

Without the strangest clue how it happened, Quinn was standing an inch away from her and she lowered her head to whisper, "Are you sure about this?"

Rachel stood very still and forced her mind to think of those words, not their closeness. She almost succeeded. "I didn't realize how—" She broke off, blinked as though to cover her reaction. "—how different you are. When did you become so liberated?"

Quinn took a step back. Her expression hadn't changed, yet somehow, Rachel sensed Quinn had softened, as though she understood this had the potential to end horribly. "Being away from Lima changed something. We can try it and see what happens. Just don't fall in love with me."

"Did you just quote A Walk to Remember?"

Quinn snorted with laughter, her shoulders bouncing. If Rachel hadn't been concentrating on Quinn's features, she might have noticed the quadruple back-flip somersault her stomach was doing. "I felt like throwing that in there."

One part of her is saying, You should leave. She won't deny this, part of her strains to. The other part of her is saying, When will you ever get this chance again? Another part, the most reasonable of all her inner monologues is saying, WHY DO YOU EVEN WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH QUINN? That voice is so loud in her head that it almost knocked her unconscious with the sheer velocity of the question. She straightened, momentarily dazed, getting a rare glance at Quinn's sad eyes.

"We don't—" Quinn said, "This is a bad—"

Rachel had to taste Quinn's lips. Really taste them, not just kiss them. She closed the distance and Quinn's lips parted on a soft sigh and Rachel licked them, tracing the pretty pink contours before slipping in her tongue and savoring the sweetness that was waiting for her. Quinn moaned an earthy sound that went straight to her heart. Her fingers dug into the muscles in Quinn's arms, her body tense with sexual energy.

An animal-like sound vibrated through Quinn's mouth and to Rachel's lips and she pulled away to look at Quinn's passion-contorted face. Did Quinn always emanate this much emotion if there was the prospect of sex?

"That was—" Rachel started.

"Not weird."

"I know."

Her fathers have plied her with fairy tales during her childhood, even going so far to tell her that she could have the sun, the stars and the moon with sugar on top if she liked. If kissing Quinn was anywhere near as amazing as having the sun, the stars and the moon with sugar and cream and a cherry on top, she might just believe them.

She didn't want to embarrass herself by asking something stupid like, Did I bite you? so she focused on not falling prey to her feelings just because the kiss was amazing and she wanted to do it again and again and never stop. She forced those feelings away. See? All sorted. No feelings.

Except, a look of total sensual abandon came over Quinn's features and she traced Rachel's face with her eyes, memorizing it with her fingertips, and then Quinn kissed her. She heard a faint, Rachel, before their lips connected. Quinn growled something low in her throat, and suddenly Rachel found herself flat on her back with a hundred and twenty pounds of vibrating female above her.

What she's learned from Biology is that humans are fundamentally competitive, whatever we pretend, and she's not ashamed to admit that she's more competitive than most. All this comes down to competition. Not because of what Quinn looks like naked, or what Quinn looks like with mused up just-fucked hair, or even what she looks like when she comes.

Nope, none of that matters. It's competition. Just competition. Besides, who's to say this would be more than a two time thing?

•••

She was right about one thing. She and Quinn weren't a two time thing.

The inclination to call each other for sex began once every two weeks, and they decided that it would only be sex. The conversations reserved for the friends aspect of their relationship continued onto emails (which were limited to once a week). It made the process easier, that if you couldn't adjust it with a big bang you could adjust in small increments. The traveling from New York to New Haven seemed like a good adventure. Granted, she has only seen the four walls of Quinn's dorm room, but she enjoyed the vast earthy surroundings that accompanied the train rides.

Like all mature teenagers her age, she blamed her crush on Quinn on everything she could think of. Her environment: If I get out of New York from time to time, this crush on Quinn would go away. The people around her: Santana thinks she's so good just because she slept with Quinn before me. And what is up with Kurt? He's parading Adam around the apartment like a Ken doll. If they left me alone this crush on Quinn will go away. NYADA: All these students are stealing my thunder. It's my thunder! Give me back my thunder and this crush on Quinn would go away. Her stationary collection: I spent two dollars on a pen and after a week it doesn't work? If you worked my crush on Quinn would go away.

She figured that once she slept with Quinn and realized how unsatisfying it was her crush would miraculously disappear. She started out with high hopes and for a while she forgot what it felt like to have romantic feelings for Quinn. She always knew it was a temporary thing, an obstacle on the other side which lay the real future. She continued to believe this long after it was obvious that these feelings had settled in for the long haul.

The problem was, sex with Quinn was never unsatisfying. Quinn had a ferocity Rachel would never have thought she was capable of, she licked and bit everywhere from her neck to her shoulders and at other times Quinn inhaled into her skin. Each movement, each touch made her head feel like it was coming off. Better than coming was watching Quinn come. Quinn exploded with nuclear proportions, making the prettiest sounds. Her body would go rigid when the pressure built, and she'd bite down on Rachel's neck at the peak of things.

For a while, for a few weeks, Rachel was on her best behavior. She was in a new city, maintaining a situation she wanted to continue till forever(?). She was under the spotlight. Certain rumors had proceeded her throughout Quinn's building block, namely her floor. It was known that Rachel was Quinn's fuck buddy (how that story got out she'd never know). There were people who cared and there were people who were jealous. She wasn't exactly seen in a favorable light. Quinn had many suitors and Rachel was known as the person with the privilege of sleeping with her. When you're typecast, when you're pigeon-holed, it's an up-hill tiring battle.

After the rumor dispersed itself throughout the building, their PR campaign involved ignoring it. Whenever Rachel visited Quinn she stopped acknowledging everyone. She just went straight to Quinn's room, said their usual exchanges, Hey how was your train ride? Good, an old man sat next to me (sometimes she'd say she stood for the entirety of the ride). Then they'd strip, have sex, and two hours later Rachel would be on the train to New York. All this is just a summary of what happens. Sometimes she'd stay for four hours. It was the most emotionally uninvolved relationship she has ever encountered, and she loved it.

One time, Quinn called her at two in the morning saying that she was outside her apartment. She frantically scrambled into descent clothing. Bananas In Pajamas pajamas was not appropriate for her age, nor was it appropriate to be seen in by her special friend. It took her almost fifteen minutes to open the front door (one inch at a time so as to not wake Santana), and another fifteen minutes sneaking Quinn into her room (one minuscule step at a time). All in all, the whole process took half an hour when it normally took two minutes.

Rachel had asked why Quinn was here so late and Quinn's response was kissing her with the intention of sending her over the edge. Quinn kissed her hard, exploring the silky, warm depths of her mouth, teasing her into a torturous need. Every time she opened her mouth to speak, Quinn's lips pressed the words back into her throat. These intimate connections never ceased to excite her, destroying everything in its path.

Afterward, they did something they'd never done before. They talked. It was very raw, very new. A real conversation. Quinn had had a bad day starting with a fight with her roommate and ending with a C minus on a paper she had spent days working on. Rachel argued that if she had spent days working on it, she couldn't very well get an A. That was the wrong thing to say because Quinn attacked her and they had sex again. She thought that if conversations like this led to sex it couldn't be a bad thing.

That conversation sparked an upgrade in phone calls and soon they weren't discussing sex anymore and emails were left rejected altogether. She was back in the land of mind-reading, that crazy-making place where you're trying to divine whether someone's experiencing the same heart-warming mix of anxiety and wants that you are, or whether this is nothing more than just sex and you become a self-obsessed person who thinks about Quinn constantly and imagining a future with babies and awards and a swing in the backyard. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could just ask these simple questions?

Somehow a two time thing had turned into a twenty-two time thing.

•••

They came close a few times to getting caught in the act. There was this one time Quinn sneaked into the bathroom while Rachel was showering and then, well, you know what happens when someone sneaks into the bathroom while you're singing to Madonna's Secret and blissfully putting conditioner in your hair? You rinse out your hair as quickly as possible and have sex with them. Especially if that person is Quinn Fabray. You do not take your time. Afterward, Rachel stepped out from the tub and Santana entered without warning, brushing her teeth and smiling at a horrified looking Rachel. Quinn hid behind the shower curtains.

When Santana finished brushing her teeth, she turned and said, "Aren't you going to get out so I can shower?"

Horrified and stuttering she said, "I n—need to shower."

"You already showered!"

"No, I didn't. I only washed my hair."

"You're all wet."

Rachel was standing right in front of Quinn so she could hear the giggle when Santana said wet. Quinn could be so immature. Rachel had to cover her giggle with a cough, argued with Santana for a few minutes about a new routine she's experimenting whereby she washes her hair, gets out of the shower for a few minutes and recommence washing her body. It was a ridiculous lie but Santana left her alone.

There was another time after dinner she was washing the dishes. Quinn came up behind her and kissed her neck spectacularly. She groaned and wriggled and felt her shirt slipping upward as Quinn tugged at it. She could not deny Quinn the invitation, allowing Quinn's fingers to glide upward, this time under the clasp of her bra to pinch her nipple. Rachel turned her head and her lips and tongue went wild under Quinn's, devouring her with a passion that seared her own insides with raw fire.

Quinn teased her nipple with her palm, then cupped her breast completely. She got drunk on the taste of Quinn's mouth and the perfect sensual weight filling her breast. Her body trembled in a way she'd never admit to as Quinn moved away from her lips and concentrated on a part of her neck, right behind her ear. She sucked in air, spellbound by whatever Quinn was doing. She arched her back, the demand in her posture leaving no doubt what she wanted.

Reaching down to lift up her skirt, Quinn wasted no time as she slipped in her fingers. Rachel spread her legs and Quinn bit down on her neck. They fought the sensual battle, Quinn pleasuring her, her body demanding more and Quinn met her demands with each movement until she could barely breathe and her chest was so tight. She let out a strangled, Quinn. It was the first time she had ever said her name during sex. Before she could say it again, they heard footsteps from the hallway and Quinn reared back so fast she tripped over a chair and fell backwards, Rachel was shaking so much the plate in her hands fell to the floor, shattering to pieces.

She stared at Quinn with pain stricken fear that was part arousal, part actual fear. What she should've done was help Quinn up from the floor, but Kurt was too quick.

"What were you two arguing about this time?" Kurt had said.

You would think that once they did get caught, it would involve sex. She had thought about it many times, and she has even voiced these thoughts to Quinn. If they did get caught, her explanation would be, She started it, she devoured me first. Quinn had rolled her eyes and called her lame, then pushed her back on the bed and devoured her for real. Okay, so she hasn't thought about it that much. How could she when she had a hard time thinking about anything other than Quinn's mouth and her tongue and her fingers.

So, when the time came and they finally got caught, it involved Quinn's underwear. She came home to find Santana standing in front of her dresser, Quinn's underwear bundled in her fists. Underwears,to be more exact.

Completely mortified, she ran over and snatched it out of Santana's hands. "What the hell are you doing going through my things?"

"I told you, it's a thing I do,"

"You agreed to stop this!" An immediate sense of violation overwhelmed her.

She didn't like the gleam in Santana's eyes or the smug smile. The one time she and Santana had gotten personal was the pregnancy and she was left completely overwhelmed. She didn't need this now, especially since it seems Quinn has been clouding her life with her extraordinary beauty and not-so-mean personality.

"I knew something was going on. The way you two have been acting around each other, and your, which position should I fuck Quinn in tonight look. Gag-worthy." The look of approval was in direct contrast to the ugly words that came out of her mouth.

Rachel crossed her arms around her waist, hugging herself. She had made a tactical error in letting Quinn exhaust her to the point of no return last night. She hadn't had enough time to recover physically. Coupled with the fact that everyday her brain can't seem to think about anything other than Quinn, she was like an explosion waiting to happen.

"It's none of your business," Rachel forced out the words, pushed Santana out of the way and hid Quinn's collection of underwears at the back.

"Is this why you've been constantly commuting back and forth? And Quinn being here literally all the time?"

"Quinn isn't here all the time," she defended uselessly. "She hasn't been here in a week."

"Just because a new week starts on Sundays does not mean she hasn't been here in a week," she said, but it was a hollow sound. "She was here three days ago."

"What are you implying, Santana?"

"Are you dating?" She asked, dryly.

"We're—" She should probably make up a lie. Everything has been going so well. "Nothing's going on. We're friends."

Santana swallowed audibly before saying, "Bullshit. You do not keep your friend's underwear in your dresser."

"Quinn accidentally left it here." Rachel flexed her fingers, feeling the tension in her body clear in her fingertips.

"Quinn's been sleeping outside with me. Why do you have it? Does she even know you have it?"

"Of course she does—"

"Rachel, just tell me. I'm not even remotely angry. I don't care."

She blinked, made a visible effort to gather herself in, and her quivering lips formed words. "We're not in a relationship. We're just friends who sleep together."

The most diabolical sound of Santana's laughter sent shivers of awareness skittering down her spine. Apparently this was an unbelievable matter and Rachel wasn't capable of detaching her emotions from sex. She flicked her eyes over Santana's face, searching for signs that she meant it as a joke and wasn't serious. Nothing. No activity to ease her mind off the emotional upheaval she hated acknowledging, much less concentrating on.

Half an hour later, sitting with a cup of tea in her hands, she finished explaining the situation to Santana. Still, her response was the same. She laughed a sort of hyena laugh, pinched the bridge of her nose, wiped her tears and said, "Where are you living? Are you here? Are you on this planet? It's impossible, it can't be done. Thousands of years people have been trying to have their cake and eat it too, so all of a sudden the two of you are gonna come along and do it? Where do you get the ego? No one can do it, Rachel. It can't be done."

Rachel protested. "We've worked out a system."

"Oh, come on," Santana protested just as much. "You know what you're like? You're like a pathetic gambler. You're one of those losers in Las Vegas who keeps thinking he's going to come up with a way to win at blackjack."

If there was one argument she wasn't going to lose, it was this. "No, this is very advanced. We've designed a set of rules that we can maintain the friendship by avoiding all the relationship pitfalls,"

Santana gave her a self-satisfied smile, delighting in an evil way. God, she was so hateful. "Alright, alright, tell me the rules."

Rachel placed her cup of tea on the table, getting a little excited. She has been dying to talk to someone for weeks. "No calls the next day."

In her position, Santana contemplated, "You have the sex, you don't have to call." She repeated quietly, more to herself. She bit her bottom lip. "That's pretty good," she motioned with her hand for Rachel to continue. "Go ahead,"

"Are you ready for the second one?"

"I have to tell you, I'm very impressed with the first one,"

Rachel was sparkling by now. She said slowly, "Spending the night—is optional."

And just as quickly Santana threw dirt to her sparkles. "No, see, you got greedy."

"That's the rule, it's optional!"

She leaned back in her seat, cautiously eyeing Rachel. "I know less about you than—" She paused for effect. "—anyone in the world. But the one thing I do know is that when Quinn doesn't spend the night you're going to go all ape-shit and get insecure."

"Quinn hasn't once spent the night and I've been completely fine with it."

"She hasn't spent the night in your room but she's spent the night here. You know where she is afterwards even though she's not sleeping with you. You know that she didn't go and fuck anyone else," she argued. "Wait till she leaves right after."

"You're making her sound like a floozy. Quinn doesn't have anyone else,"

"How do you know that, Rachel?"

"I just do, okay?"

"Optimistic much?"

"I think you're wrong,"

"I hope I am." Several seconds of silence later and Santana said, "I have to say though, I can't get over the fact that Quinn is willing to travel all this way to have sex with you. Quinn's extremely pretty so I'm sure she's got like a million people wanting to fuck her at Yale. Instead she chooses to travel miles here twice a week."

"What are you saying? That she's in love with me?" She had to admit that the past couple of weeks with the two of them have been interesting ones. The tension was always so thick between them, it was a surprise they didn't spontaneously combust.

"Do you want her to be?"

Rachel turned away and greeted the question with silence. Why had she opened her mouth to ask such a question? She wasn't even sure it was what she wanted. She has been trying to adjust to thinking in terms of the physical and denying the emotional she hasn't realized what a failure it's becoming. She hadn't even given that thought minimal consideration and now she'd put her foot in her mouth and was choking.

"It's just sex." She finally said.

•••

From the outside, it seemed she had gotten over the hump and was beginning to feel all right. They settled down into a low-key life: weekly phone calls, weekly intimate sessions, watching movies at home, socializing with Santana and Kurt, hanging out, drinking the occasional alcoholic beverage and not discussing about the future. This situation was okay. The nervous edge was not so much a result of emotional detachment itself as the familiarity of falling in love.

The day started out as any other usual day. She called Quinn, took the train to New Haven and two hours she was standing in front of Quinn's door. Instead of being invited in, Quinn suggested they go to the mall, she needed to get some toiletries. The statement seemed to invite. It was kind of exciting, watching Quinn get prepared, catching the bus, walking around together (not holding hands). In the grocery store, she felt a little uncomfortable in the strangely domestic rite of sharing a shopping basket, but at the same time riddled with elation when Quinn asked, Rach, what do you think of this shampoo? They talked about plans for the summer and their last weeks of school. Quinn had a monologue to recite; Rachel was going to audition for the Spring musical. Quinn asked whether Santana was still hassling her about their arrangement and surprisingly, no. Santana asked the occasional, Are you in love with her yet? but left her alone otherwise. Of course, she didn't say this to Quinn.

But then the night came when Quinn got invited to a small gathering by her roommate Tasha, and asked Rachel to come along, and you know how it is, the lingering familiarity of love dominated like a thick presence in the air. Like a smell. Like a viscous fog. Gone was the thought of keeping their personal lives separate.

Rachel didn't have any clothes to change into so all she had to do was wait for Quinn to get ready. She fidgeted with her clothing and acknowledged that she felt tense, keyed up. Understandable. This would be the first time she'll meet Quinn's friends. Footsteps sounded in the bathroom, the tap of sneakers on the tiles. She wondered briefly what Quinn was wearing, and before she finished the thought, the door swung open.

Quinn stood on the other side, but it wasn't the Quinn she knew and grew up with. It was a vision of a woman with silky golden hair flowing about her shoulders, a flawless face, and her perfect figure outlined in a t-shirt that was a little too small for her, jeans and sneakers. This wasn't the version of Quinn in baby doll dresses and headbands.

"I'm ready. We're late. Tasha keeps calling me. She said she made me bacon sandwiches and I talked her into guarding them for me. She told me to hurry because they're going like hotcakes." The words tumbled breathlessly over each other, and Quinn's face flushed in a way that made her look even more beautiful. "That is, I'm ready to leave."

"I'm glad you're ready," Rachel said rather stupidly. Was her jaw hanging open? She clenched her teeth, just to make sure that wasn't the case.

"Yes," she muttered through soft parted lips. "I'm ready to beard the vultures."

"You're wearing sneakers." This was said rather accusingly. "You don't—I've never seen you in them." She forced her gaze back up to Quinn's face, and noticed a different necklace that lay in the valley between her breasts.

"Not—I don't usually, no." She lowered her hand from the doorknob.

Rachel couldn't remember what they were talking about so she made the only announcement that was coming to mind. "Let's get those bacon sandwiches in your stomach."

Her voice sounded about an octave lower than usual. Her ears buzzed, and couldn't seem to catch her breath. A wash of warmth flooded her bloodstream as she added, "And you're not wearing the cross necklace." Brilliant conversation, Rachel. Any chance you can do better before Quinn decides that you're a complete, dithering fool? She cleared her throat. "You look very nice, though—necklace or not."

A tight feeling caught at her chest. She thought it might be panic—because this was like seeing Quinn for the first time, and she felt as though she'd missed something that was right there. And how could she have missed it for so long? Worse, why did the sight of Quinn this way have such a strong impact on her? It must simply be sexual awareness, though that had never jolted her in quite this intense, unexpected way. Heat warmed the back of her neck as she tried to batten down her reaction to Quinn. This was just another day. The clothes, the appearance, might be different, but nothing had changed between them.

Nothing other than that her eyes had been opened to Quinn.

Well, she could just close them again, couldn't she?

Quinn stopped in the pathway. Her gaze skittered over Rachel's clothing, her dark jeans, grey silk shirt, brown boots, down to her feet and up again. "I like—I like—um, your shirt. It matches the color in your eyes. Yes, you look nice too. You do. Of course." Quinn looked away. "That is, the shirt matches your eyes in the dark even though they're usually brown but sometimes they're grey."

"I don't think my eyes change colors," Rachel had never noticed.

"Oh, they do. I mean, it appears they have. At the moment—" Quinn stopped the words.

There was something in Quinn's eyes for just a moment. Interest—reluctant, unexpected perhaps—but it was there. Why did the knowledge that Quinn had studied her closely enough to notice nuances of her eyes pleased her to death?

They reached the front steps of the house and Quinn stared at her, something passed between them that heated her skin a second time. Quinn lifted her hand to Rachel's face and before she registered Quinn's desire to touch her, she dropped it away and knocked on the door. Her stomach danced an out-of-control jig the moment Quinn intertwined their fingers and pulled her inside the house.

Inside, she tried to be social. "Hi, I'm Rachel, I go to NYADA", "What about you?", "What are you majoring in?" and "I've known Quinn for quite a while". Four of Quinn's friends stated their names, occupations and interests. She didn't remember anything. She did remember reading a line from a Harpar's Bazaar that said, Based on a psychological study, a crush only lasts four months. If it exceeds, you are already in love. She has never been one to consider such a broad statement about such a subjective idea. But the words were blinking at her. For the rest of the night, her heart began thumping a lot. She didn't remember any of the conversations around her, or even eating for that matter. It was hard to concentrate when she realized that she and Quinn had both relaxed more in the past few minutes than they had in the past few weeks. And the clasp of Quinn's hand over hers—the way she unconsciously flattened them to draw patterns—changed the moment into something else as Quinn's gaze sought hers and held it.

She was going to hyperventilate if Quinn continued to stare at her like that.

She quickly drew her hand away, not meaning for it to be so rough. Quinn's focus sharpened on her. All that notice and attention, in a way that had never happened between them before. "Rachel..."

"I just remembered I have an exam tomorrow on—something important. I should really get going." She prayed that Quinn couldn't see how much she wanted to stay here, in the grip of this room full of her friends, acting so casually, almost like... a couple.

"Something important?" Quinn raised her eyebrow. "That doesn't sound important if you can't remember what it is."

Rachel couldn't handle being the focus of Quinn's attention. You may think it weird considering her whole life has been spent vying for attention from her former lovers: Finn, Puck, Jesse and Brody. Quinn was another matter. Rachel didn't want it. Didn't want to think of Quinn that way, or for Quinn to think of her that way; she didn't want this to be personal at all. Such reactions could only cause trouble.

She stood up and backed away. Literally and figuratively. And tripped over the edge of the table. She felt herself begin to pitch backward; felt heads turned as she stumbled.

Then Quinn was there, her fingers around Rachel's arm, stabilizing her, pulling her up. Quinn's hand slid along her back, her ear was an inch from Quinn's lips. Smooth words came from Quinn's mouth, something about, I'll walk you to the train. They said goodbye to her friends and Rachel fought to get the hot sting of embarrassment off her face.

They walked in silence, and then the silence stretched and her skin began to prickle. Quinn wasn't touching her, not in the way they touched each other in the house. Occasionally their hands brushed as they walked and at one point Quinn grabbed onto her wrist to pull her away from a puddle she hadn't seen and left it there. Could Quinn sense the change between them? Maybe she was only imagining it. The way Quinn was holding her wrist wasn't a sign of rejection, but it could be physical consolation for her lack of emotional attachment.

She tried not to dwell on it, but inexplicably, despair grew second by second until she could no longer stand their intimacy. She tugged her arm free, feigning itchiness. It was too much of a reminder of what she needed that Quinn couldn't give her, and she put a distance between them. The immediate sensation of being cut off from something infinitely precious and necessary swept over her in a drowning wave, and she had to bite down her tongue not to cry out at the pain of it.

Quinn's hand settled on her shoulder when they reached the train station. "Rachel, is something wrong?"

Nothing she wanted to talk about, so she shook her head. Quinn didn't ask why she stepped away, but she let Quinn tug her back into her arms. Even this false sense of emotional intimacy was better than nothing. Only a small voice in the back of her head said she was doing it again, hiding from a reality she didn't want to face, but one that wasn't going to disappear.

"Well," Quinn said. "Good luck with your exam tomorrow. Let's bet that if you get an A you can buy me dinner."

She dipped her gaze away from Quinn's, but all that did was draw her attention to a strong, straight nose, firm lips, and the vee of flesh revealed at the base of her neck by her t-shirt. "I guess I'll see you next time?" She clenched her fingers around her bag.

They stood so close that when Quinn bent her head, Rachel could feel her breath. Quinn's gaze darkened and dropped to her mouth, Rachel met her halfway. She concentrated on each individual sensation of Quinn's lips slanting over hers, the tingling sensation of her tongue prickling her lips, the taste of her... like the most irresistible nectar, the heat of her mouth, the warmth of her breath. The conflagration of her senses she experienced when they touched.

She didn't know how long they had been kissing for. Part of her was still cognizant enough to know that she should stop for the sake of her own sanity, but it was a tiny voice lost in a hurricane of physical sensations.

Why does it seem so absurd to explain this now? From the beginning it was just a hop, skip and jump. Somehow their sexual escapades increased from once every two weeks to once a week and now it was twice a week but many, many times in one meeting. Quinn was actually a perfect lover, and the more she got to know Quinn as a person, the more she realized Quinn could be her perfect person. At the beginning it didn't seem dangerous. Detach emotions, how hard could that possibly be? It was just sex. Emotionless sex. Once a week, how could that go wrong?

Suddenly it was four and a half months later.

She's lost count of the amount of times they've sex.

What's worse is that overtime they've broken all the rules. No calls the next day started with simple texts: Hey, just wanted to know whether you got home ok. One text turned into four and soon they were texting everyday at every possible minute and then one day she called Quinn because Quinn hadn't replied to her text and they talked for almost an hour, which led to talking every day. Staying over is optional began with: You should stay here. Tasha won't be back for a few days and it's late. But—. It's only for tonight, Rachel, I don't think you should be catching the train at two a.m. She woke up with Quinn on top of her, and she had the rare, new sensation of being exactly where she wanted to be. When Rachel placed the first ever Good morning kiss on Quinn's lips, everything pretty much went up in flames from there.

All that didn't register with her until now. It finally hit her that she hasn't stopped thinking about Quinn in over a month. Quinn was all she thought about, every morning and every night. She was pinned from dawn till dusk. That churning was back in her life, in her stomach. On her way back to New York, the burn in her chest was too strong, and danger flashed like neon signs behind her eyelids.

Based on a psychological study, a crush only lasts four months. If it exceeds, you are already in love.