I'm so sorry that it's taken me months to finish this. I have no excuses except laziness and my muse disappeared. Anyway, happy reading!

I own nothing!


2.

So here's how it happened. Here's how Rachel could no longer deny she was in love with Quinn.

They crossed the roads back to the apartment after a night out with Santana, Kurt and Tasha. Quinn lagged back at the tail end of the bunch with her hands in the pockets of her jeans, brooding over something. Everybody was quite talkative; Santana was super-hyper from the large amount of sugar she consumed over dinner. Rachel dropped back till she was walking beside Quinn and she could see there was some thought Quinn was worrying over in her mind.

"What's wrong?" She asked.

Quinn turned to look at her and opened her mouth to say something, then closed it when she saw how Rachel was looking at her. Then she said, "I wanted to win the talking duck for you," in a weak sort of way.

She wanted to tell Quinn not to fret about it, that there was always next time, and she was just about to come out and say it when Quinn raised her head and sped up to where everyone was walking and slapped Santana on the back. Rachel didn't make a sound and stood rooted in her spot, shaking uncontrollably for a few seconds. She had to hurry to catch up to her friends, and the run made her heart ring a high, excited pitch in her head. Even in the apartment she still heard that sound her heart had knocked ringing, though her heart had slowed back to normal. The sound reminded her of how she used to feel standing on the stage during Nationals, watching the audience stare back at her, waiting for her cue to sing. The ringing would build and build till she didn't think she could contain it; she felt that same feeling right now, and felt the same wild stomping-up-and-down impatience.

Quinn came up beside her to place a cup in the sink and Rachel didn't miss the seductive way Quinn's fingers ran down her forearm. Quinn had a flushed look, her eyes were green stipes under the white light and they remained intently on Rachel. She was certain any minute Quinn was going to do something crazy, like sweep her off her feet and carry her to the bedroom. She gripped down on the edge of the counter and waited, scared it would happen, and, she began to realize, just a little scared it wouldn't.

Then Tasha's voice broke through,

"We should get going, Quinn, if we're going to catch the ten-thirty train."

Quinn kept quiet and watched Tasha say her goodbyes to Santana and Kurt, and before she could swing herself around to join them, Rachel kissed her like she meant it for the first time in weeks, holding onto her tightly enough to have Quinn's smell on her for days. Quinn kissed her back, seemingly perplexed.

It was quiet for a couple of minutes when they left. Santana was adjusting the pillows on the couch and Kurt was putting away the magazines, they both swung their eyes at her for just a second as if to check to see if she was still alive and breathing. Santana took a seat on the newly adjusted couch, her hands in her lap and drew a deep breath.

"It's time you admit that you're in love with her." Her hand went up to stop any interruptions that might come and she said, "We've waited this long to say something hoping the two of you would get your shit together and take it upon yourselves..."

Rachel was half listening to her talk; she was more focused on how to face up to the reality of her problems.

"You must've been able to see that?" It was Kurt talking now. "You can't put on bread and water." What does that even mean? "If there is no discussion on the ruling, the two of you should elope and run away in the sunset together."

That delirious ringing in her head was now on a high fevered pitch.

She caught a glimpse of her friends sitting stiff in their positions, holding her gaze, challenging her to deny it. Round and round they continued talking amongst themselves and asking questions she had no answers to. They wanted to know how many times she and Quinn had sex (no comment), where in the apartment (no comment), what was it like (no comment). Eventually, they became annoyed at her unusually quiet demeanor and gave in to the need to sleep. It was while Kurt was pleading to Santana to not take an hour to brush her teeth, and Rachel was cozily tucked into her bed, her phone gave a fatal beep. She moved like lightning, grabbing it from her bedside table: X. A single X at two in the morning.

That was it.

The ringing in her head had stopped.

•••

Rachel began to see Quinn differently: she was seeing more to Quinn than just smooth hands and blonde hair and a perfect nose. She'd see Quinn do things that didn't fit with her face or hands, things like fixing the terrible plumbing with only a screw driver and no manual to tell her what to do, or like hammering the nails on the wall to build a book shelf. How could a woman who looked like her know how to stop the water from constantly overflowing the basin or know how to hold a hammer, or be upset and worried like Rachel had seen her when the shelf wasn't aligned to the wall?

There were times during the past few weeks when she'd hear that full-throttle laugh, watch Quinn scratch her belly and stretching and yawning and leaning back to wink at Rachel for whatever reason, everything coming to Quinn just as naturally as drawing a breath, and Rachel would forget about their arrangement or the consequences of what they were doing. She'd think, maybe this is something extraordinary. Maybe they could have the fairy-tale ending she'd always wanted.

Quinn entertained her for hours. They'd sit and talk and Quinn told her all kinds of stories like how she made a thousand dollars in one month going door-to-door selling Avon products, or how during a carnival in New Haven she and Tasha persuaded a guy into riding a mechanical bull while he wore a blindfold: "Not the bull, I mean, the guy had on the blindfold." They told the guy that the blindfold would keep him from getting dizzy when the bull went to spinning; then, when they got a bandanna wrapped around his eyes, they sat him on the bull backwards. Quinn told the story various times, throwing her head back, she'd laugh and laugh, digging her thumb into Rachel's ribs to get her to laugh too.

Rachel kindly stated that she had been successful due to her scary Quinn persona and Quinn mumbled something like, I hate you, proceeded to tickle Rachel until she couldn't breathe, then planted a kiss on her forehead which left her speechless and giddy for days.

The heart is such a contradictory thing, the way you can hate someone and still love them at the same time and neither cancels out the other. She hated Quinn simply for the fact that she had to be so perfect and met Rachel's every expectation, and now she's in love with her and she can't have Quinn. She really can't. But don't we always want what we can't have? Yet again, love has turned her into a walking, talking cliché and she no longer has the strength to fight it.

Her only option is to overcome it.

•••

If you ask her, downtime's overrated. Rachel doesn't know what to do, so desperate she is to distract herself from thinking about Quinn and her pretty face and the softness of her skin, and why hasn't Quinn updated her Facebook in two days, or even been on Facebook for that matter, because she needs to know what Quinn's doing and where she is at all times. Rachel thought that if she refreshed Quinn's Facebook page every two minutes the answers will magically appear. It's pathetic, really. Instead of practicing her lines for the Spring musical, she's spending her downtime stalking Quinn's Facebook page. No, not stalking. Observing.

Somehow at some point she thought that being apart from Quinn would change things. She began going for long runs to try and keep her musings at an intellectual level that didn't require thinking about Quinn being naked. With the new school year just beginning, she gave NYADA all of her time, reading four chapters ahead in her textbooks and staying late on campus to finish her homework. It was easy to focus on an outside solution. The theory went like this: if she spent less time with Quinn, she'd no longer be in love with her.

But she got caught a little unawares. Rachel discovered that when she didn't hear anything from Quinn for one whole day, it was a bigger habit than she imagined.

She realized she was going nowhere in the stopping department. She tried and tried, and kept saying tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll stop checking Quinn's Facebook. Tomorrow I'll stop texting Quinn. Or she thought she'd call Quinn today because they hadn't spoken in a week and that's something of an accomplishment so she'd reward herself. Start small, then stop all together. Something like that.

Time flies. She only managed to stop all contact with Quinn for one day, and that was a hard task in itself. Quinn's Facebook was on her most visited list. They exchanged two-hundred and thirty-four texts. A month had passed and one night Quinn's Facebook status read: College boys are so cute—with Tasha Andrews and 4 other people at East Rock Park.

A persistent noise was bugging her. She opened her eyes and realized she was grinding her teeth. She felt like she was standing naked and cold in the middle of a vast forest at night and wolves were moving in. She could hear her shallow, panicked breath above their baying.

The big problem for her was not so much her incapability of getting rid of these feelings. The real bummer was that they hadn't seen each other in a month and Quinn continued to be Quinn. Sweet, loving Quinn who texted her good morning and good night and remained so sarcastically lovable it annoyed Rachel to the point where every time she heard her phone beep she jumped at the excitement of seeing Quinn's name. Not once did Quinn ask to see her, not once did Quinn mention anything about wanting to have sex. It was like Quinn was testing out the theory that this can be something more than just sex.

So she thought, anyway. Then the status happened.

She vowed to herself then and there that she was going to stop this sooner rather than later.

And what better way to end this than by Googling: how to stop falling in love with someone. Ah Google, you have the answers to everything.

•••

Write down why it'll never work and keep the list with you.

It took her two days to complete the list. It was hard. Because when you're in love you don't want to think about the things that could end it.

To test out her immaculate list she met up with Quinn for lunch. She was nervous about the prospect of seeing Quinn again, it might be why she took the long way around to the restaurant, her eyes alighting on a gorgeous red dress in a shop window that she knew she could never afford. Just for a second she wondered what Quinn would think of her in that dress and she cursed her emotional amnesia. Another reason was that Quinn most probably would be late anyway.

Number seven on her list is: Quinn has no respect for punctuality.

To her shock, Quinn was waiting for her at the table closest to the bathroom, and when she saw Rachel she waved her hand in the air with a bright smile. It formed a knot in her stomach. There was still that mix of love and hate, hot and cold, a relief at seeing Quinn and then a high that far exceeds the low as she's reminded of what Quinn's suddenly become—the love of her life.

Quinn bent down to kiss her cheek when Rachel reached the table, and Rachel stared at her, stricken. "How are things?" She said, trying for nonchalance. "How's Yale?"

"Oh, you know, same old," Quinn said. "You're late. Fifteen minutes to be exact,"

"I'm surprised you're early,"

Quinn shrugged while she said, "I figured it's about time I was punctual. How are you?" She added, holding Rachel's gaze.

"Oh, fine!" She said. "Though it turns out I'm not very good at plumbing," she attempted a casual laugh but it sounded more like she chocked on a fly.

She remembered number two on her list: Quinn never pays attention to me.

"I have an image of you trying to stop the sink from overflowing with a towel," Quinn said just as the waiter came and placed a hot mug of mocha and a small plate of tiny marshmallows on Rachel's side of the table, took their orders and left.

Before she had the chance to ask, Quinn answered, "I ordered it for you because every time we're out that's all you'll drink. Even when we went to Adam's birthday party you said, I would kill for a mocha right now, while everyone else drank alcohol like normal teenagers."

Rachel didn't remember ever saying that. Quinn leaned across the table and placed five tiny marshmallows into her mug. "I know you like the marshmallows separate. You're anal like that. Five right?"

It could only be a second that Quinn's hand brushed against hers, but the second seemed to stretch and expand. She could smell Quinn's soap, vanilla and mango extracts, mixed with a smell that's peculiarly hers. It's so familiar, that smell—it conjures up six months of her life way more powerful than hours of reminiscing ever could—and she moves her seat backwards further away.

What she should do is leave, but while part of her strains to, another part wondered if this is the last time she'll see Quinn.

Number fourteen on the list is: Quinn is remarkably infuriating and sometimes I want to slap her.

"So why were you saying you weren't very good at plumbing?" Quinn asked like she's coaxing for a funny answer.

"Oh, nothing," Rachel mumbled.

Quinn slid her foot up Rachel's thigh and it made her stumble further backwards from shock. There was that stupid grin on Quinn's face. Infuriating. Yes, finally something on her list that was true.

"Come on, Rach, what'd you fix? The sink, the toilet? Did water splash on your face? I imagine it would." And she laughed to herself in that ridiculously cute, contagious laugh that she has.

The most humiliating thing is that Quinn's infuriatingness (is that even a word?) were laced with love when she was being infuriating which made her infuriatingness not infuriating. She wondered briefly whether that made any sense. She found this version of Quinn so sexy and she had no idea why. She never found anyone sexy, and certainly not females with that inbuilt arrogance that Quinn displays when she knows she's pushed Rachel's right buttons.

"You know, if you had called I would've fixed it for you. The screws were probably loose again. You look very pretty today, by the way."

Now the floodgates have opened, looking at Quinn was making her insides dance the tango. Quinn switches back to the sweet, loving version of herself effortlessly without any warning.

Rachel forced herself to make eye contact. "Thank you. You look lovely, too." She fumbled for the fork when their food arrived, feeling a blush creep on her cheeks.

"Berry, are you blushing at the food or because I complimented you?"

What was Quinn doing? Was she flirting, or was Rachel flattering herself? She gave up trying to work it out when she realized Quinn was waiting for her to speak.

"Um... both?"

Another infuriating thing Quinn did was talk with her mouthful. Rachel found this habit grotesque. She remembered yelling at Finn to change his mannerisms various times when they were dating, but when Quinn said, "It makes no sense why you would blush at the food. You're so weird," in-between mouthfuls of bread, she found it endearing. Suddenly she was thinking about crawling under the table, pushing Quinn's skirt up and tasting her. Eating Quinn would satisfy all her needs right now.

Thinking about number one on her list took her mind away from thinking about her face between Quinn's legs: She doesn't have feelings for me.

Quinn gave her a slow smile like she knew about the raunchy things that were going through Rachel's mind, and it made her insides curl on in themselves like a snail heading home. She felt those tentacles of love creep around her heart.

"Try this," Quinn said, delivering a saucer of avocado gloop onto her plate.

The taste erupted through her mouth like a fireworks display, a rich green mulch, rendered interesting by the judicious use of a few fresh herbs. "It's perfect," Rachel told her, suddenly hit by a sexual sledgehammer. Who knew that avocado was the food of love (or at least intense, inappropriate, unrequited love)?

"Your birthday's coming up," Quinn said.

Rachel mumbled a low, "Yeah..."

"Are your dads coming to visit?"

"Probably,"

"I was thinking maybe we could do something."

She felt unexpectedly chocked up. Quinn has breached on an untouchable subject. "You—what?"

Rachel had just a second to brace herself before Quinn said, "Is it so strange at this stage in our relationship to want to spend time alone with you on your birthday?"

The moment Quinn uttered the 'R' word a change seemed to come over both of them. Quinn probably only meant it in general terms, Rachel told herself, but Quinn's gaze caught hers and she couldn't seem to look away. There was a spark of something that felt a lot like longing. Yes. Longing, and a strong blast of startled desire that flared in Quinn's gaze, warming her all over.

"That, um... that would be nice."

They finished their meal in record time and watched as the waiter cleared their plates and bought two glasses of water. The water was wonderfully refreshing. Quinn's dessert came and Rachel couldn't stop being so aware of Quinn as she watched her eat. It's not just love she's feeling—it would be safer if it was—it's more a complex kind of fascination. Its compulsion shot through with fear.

Quinn paid the bill and Rachel, still in a daze, didn't fight her for it like she normally would. They walked back to her apartment talking sporadically, or not at all. Quinn began telling her a story about this girl in her dorm named Elaine or Ellen (some name beginning with 'E') and how she wasn't a very nice person. She made the mistake of mentioning to Quinn that she was afraid of clowns. So she and Tasha printed out creepy pictures of clowns and put them inside the girl's fridge, the closet, the bathroom and her laptop screen. That night when she got home from wherever she had gone to that day, Quinn could swear the entire building shook when Elaine or Ellen screamed bloody murder and didn't recover for a week.

"That's very mature of you, Quinn," Rachel commentated. "I hope you won't use my biggest fears against me,"

"If I do it's because I do it out of love."

Rachel tried not to look at Quinn while all her thoughts raced back to those moments in Quinn's arms. But she looked anyway and Quinn seemed weary, as if she had said something she wasn't meant to. She unconsciously clasped onto Quinn's arm as they ascended the stairs to her apartment. Ping-pong emotions were doing their thing again, and the touch threatened all her good resolutions and determination to keep her unwelcome feelings away.

Number nine on the list sprang to her mind: Quinn is interested in other people, namely those "cute boys" she posted on her Facebook status.

Her insides wrapped themselves up like a poisonous snake as she finished the thought. "Did you have fun at the party?"

"What party?" Quinn asked, taking off her jacket and crossing the room towards her.

"The party you went to with Tasha and posted about college boys being cute." The silence that filled the room was laced with her embarrassment that she sounded jealous. A heart beat later, she cleared her throat to say casually, "I was only wondering."

"Are you jealous?" Quinn's flirting, Rachel can't deny that.

She held back the avalanche of anger that had poised to engulf her any minute. "No, I'm not jealous, Quinn. You are allowed to see other people,"

Quinn's eyes lowered to her mouth, to the lips she had just worried with her teeth. "Why were you stalking my Facebook?"

"I was not stalking," she nodded, sounding flippant. "I happened to have been on Facebook and your status appeared,"

Quinn gave her a half-smile, obviously thinking what a horrible liar she is. Rachel didn't entirely blame her—she knows she's down-playing the impact—but she can't quite help herself.

"You were stalking," Quinn finally said.

"I was not." She repeated, uselessly. This was a good thing. That return to normality, their usual banter and how Quinn can easily irritate her, even if now the situation made her less than joyous.

Quinn was still watching her. Rachel licked suddenly dry lips. "For—forget I asked. I'm gonna call Santana and ask what time she's coming home."

"I wouldn't have teased if I had known what a sensitive flower you were," Quinn said with a smirk.

"I'm not a shrinking violet," she said, a little too acidic. "I was simply asking."

"I know," Quinn said more softly. "Tasha wrote it anyway. She was in my Facebook." As though she couldn't prevent it, Quinn's hand lifted and her fingers touched the strands of hair that had escaped Rachel's ponytail and now lay against her temple.

And before she knew it, Rachel sprung up and kissed Quinn. She should pull back now, but she wasn't quite ready to resume normal service. The world felt topsy-turvy and strange.

There was something distinctly dominating about Quinn, a sense that she can't be denied. Once Rachel gave her the green light, there was no stopping the train. Quinn kissed her roughly, deeply, slipping a hand under her shirt without much preamble. But it wasn't like Quinn was a testosterone-ridden teenage boy with no ability to pace herself. She stripped Rachel's clothes off seamlessly, kissing her exposed flesh so seductively that Rachel couldn't resist even if she wanted to. It's when they've tumbled on her bed that she's momentarily stunned. The physical realization of where this was heading sets her topsy-turvy world spinning again.

Quinn must have sensed it. She stroked Rachel's face, suddenly tender. "Are you okay?" She asked, and in doing so made everything okay.

The list proved to be a complete failure; not that she got a chance to go through all twenty of them. Although she wasn't exactly complaining, especially with Quinn's tongue doing their magical swirls. She hadn't realized quite how sexually frustrated she was until they had the sex. She hadn't realized how much she missed Quinn. Not the sex, not Quinn naked, not Quinn's pretty face and her pretty hair, just Quinn herself.

It wasn't much of a list to begin with; they were fruitful excuses that made no sense.

She'll try another option tomorrow.

Channel feelings into fuel to propel forward to something greater.

Tomorrow proved to be another unaccomplished day in her mission to stop being in love with Quinn Fabray. So did the next day, and the day after that. The next thing she knew, two weeks had passed and she's spent every day sleeping in Quinn's bed and waking up in her dorm to the smell of pancakes and coffee and Quinn would walk her to the train station so she could catch her train to NYADA, then on her way back to New Haven she'd find Quinn waiting for her in her dorm. Quinn would greet her with a kiss, and one kiss led to another kiss and another until all their clothes were shed and they lay exhausted on the bed. Quinn was like a drug, as soon as she's on Rachel, she's completely lost in it all.

The first time she heard the 'word' it was a quick, "Hey you're Quinn's girlfriend, right?" Uttered by a boy she'd seen around Quinn's campus.

The next came from a girl she now knew as Elaine who Quinn despised. The conversation was quick, just as Rachel was climbing the stairs to Quinn's dorm. "I've seen you around. You're Quinn's girlfriend, Rachel."

Tasha was the third person to say it (not that she was keeping count). "As Quinn's girlfriend and living here for free, I think you should start doing the grocery shopping," she said with a devious smile.

Rachel, embarrassed, said, "Oh, okay!" And was headed for the door when Tasha said,

"Rachel, I'm joking,"

"No, you're right—"

"About you being Quinn's girlfriend?"

"No," she replied hastily and instantly regretted it. She felt as though she was stranded on an island, partly of her own making. "Um... I meant—"

Tasha gave Rachel a small sympathetic smile to tell her that it's okay.

When it came out of Santana's mouth she could no longer deny the past three times she had imagined it being said to her.

She hadn't been back to her apartment for weeks and the moment she stepped through those wooden doors she heard the strain of Diamonds Are Forever blaring out full blast. Santana was wailing along, but she was so off-key that she could be singing a different song entirely. Jeans and shirts and jackets lay prone in the hallway and there was a pervasive odor of burnt toast.

"Santana?" She said.

Santana stuck her head round Rachel's door. "The prodigal child returns home. Did you forget you lived here?"

"What are you doing in my room?" Rachel asked curiously.

"I sleep in there," she was gulping down a glass of apple juice and making a strange gurgling sound. "Want some?"

"Why are you sleeping in my room?"

Santana slobbishly poured another glass of apple juice, tipping a large amount over the edge. "Just because you and Quinn have sex in there doesn't mean I don't enjoy the luscious comfort of the mattress."

Rachel didn't have the energy to scold at her, she was more focused on trying to navigate the mix of happy and sad that's been bubbling away inside of her. It was pretty easy to sit there and say that she has the perfect relationship with Quinn knowing it was emotionless sex. Now that her crush has blown up full force, she cursed her feelings for polluting her good fortune. It's fun, she told herself, harmless fun. The fact that she can't have Quinn is what's letting her play. Six months later, all her feelings began swelling out of proportion.

"Being Quinn's girlfriend must have untwisted your panties," Santana said coyly, and just for a minute the world appeared to have stopped.

"Why do people keep saying that?!" She said through gritted teeth.

"Because you are?"

"I'm not!" Rachel snapped back. "We're just friends who—"

"—Sleep together." Santana finished. "Blah blah, I've heard that before. You're in love with her,"

"I'm not in love with her!" She tried to control her heart rate, well aware she was making a fool of herself.

"Alright, Miss In denial, keep telling yourself that." Santana didn't sound remotely sorry.

"I'm not in denial!" Rachel seemed to be physically incapable of uttering a sentence that didn't require an exclamation mark. Santana was the last person she wanted to admit this to.

"So what if you are?" Santana plopped herself beside Rachel on the couch. "You're sleeping over, having breakfast together. Look, you're even sharing clothes. If that doesn't scream girlfriend I don't know what does..."

As she's talking, Rachel's insides turn in on themselves at the thought of taking that leap of faith again. When (and if) she does, it'll be a complicated back-flip of believing in something new while confirming that what she once believed in ended up untrue.

Not wanting to talk about this any longer, she dressed herself in a pair of mismatched pajamas and rolled into bed. It took her forever to get comfortable, too used to sleeping with another body to accommodate sleeping alone, especially in a bed that smelled like Santana. Let's face it, the only way she's ever going to get to a place of such saintly magnificence is if she started to move on. So the sex, the sex was a good thing, even if it can't go anywhere. It was time to be realistic. Besides, Quinn has shown no signs of being similarly afflicted.

And with that, she channeled her feelings into the Spring musical. It was a production of Romeo and Juliet, a modern retelling of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers. She's relieved every morning when her alarm goes off, welcoming the prospect of the familiar brutality of the rehearsing process. At least she knows where the slings and arrows are coming from. Her concentrations mainly consisted of making this the musical of the decade. Well, when she's not thinking about Quinn that's what she concentrates on. More often than not, she finds herself hypnotized by thoughts of Quinn who refuses to go away.

Frenzied doesn't remotely convey the horror of the next week. She has never rehearsed anything this hard in her life, not even during her time in Glee. Every day she comes in earlier than required, despite the fact she's secretly so tired she could sleep in a hay stack. She knew she was pushing herself too hard, but there was a manic energy pulling her through.

She never took so much as a crisp break, let alone a lunch break, entirely consumed with the tasks at hand. Everyday was frantic, hectic, messy. All the time she's trying to solve two conundrums: 1) how to showcase her talent so that it'll make the director herald her genius; and 2) forcing herself out of the emotional dilemma. She has got to stop being in love with Quinn, but being in love felt as automatic as breathing.

Line after line, song after song she sang, trying desperately to match speed with precision. She began shouting at the other students and anyone involved in the musical like a Nazi director, demanding they hit the right notes, learn the correct lines, there's no time for mistakes. When Kurt walked passed her while she was singing When Dove's Cry, she screamed in his ear to get off the stage, too hot and stressed to remember she's his friend and a nice person. It was hard to believe that the week would ever end, but when it gradually came to a close, the world stopped spinning, affording her a moment to apologize to Kurt for giving him such grief.

"No problem, Rach," he said with a shrug.

"Rehearsals have been very stressful on me and I can't seem to remember my lines properly..."

A slow, involuntary smile spread across his face, making it blindingly obviously he knew the real reasons behind her stress.

"It's not because of Quinn,"

"Sure, Rachel."

Rachel was genuinely shocked at his response, but he continued with a shrug. "How long is this going to go on for?"

"What is?" She said, summoning up a trace of casualness.

Kurt was buying none of it. "You're in love with her. Just admit it to me. If you're afraid that Quinn doesn't feel the same way, you have nothing to—"

"Kurt!" Quinn's voice came booming from across the room before he could finish his sentence. Quinn seemed especially grumpy, even for her. There was a black brooding cloud around her that made her feel utterly unreachable. Is it the lack of attention Rachel had been giving her over the past week or could it be something she had done that made Quinn disappointed? She thought back to any missed calls, unanswered texts and none came to mind.

"Quinn, why are you—" Rachel started.

"She's here for you, Rachel," Kurt finished. "She's in—"

"You say another word and I'm gonna tell Santana to dip your collection of Jimmy Choos in cement," Quinn had a nasty smirk on her face.

Kurt took in a deep breath, trying to swallow down the swearing and stamping that was threatening to erupt. "I hate secrets." He muttered and pushed his way passed Quinn to walk off the stage.

"What's he talking about?" Rachel asked, staring at Kurt's retrieving back. Kurt looked as though he was up for a full-scale vendetta.

"Nothing," Quinn said quickly.

Rachel wasn't paying attention to her. She could hear Kurt's rumbles and moans from across the room. His face became a shade greener by the second, and he kept his attention on his new pair of Jimmy Choo's, refusing to look anywhere else.

"I'm gonna see if he's okay," she made a move to talk to Kurt but Quinn pulled her back, quick as a flash, and gathered her up for a determined kiss.

Every last bit of her body engaged in the feeling of Quinn pressed up against her. She smelt of freshly baked Oreo cookies (and tastes like it too), of a woman that's intoxicatingly sexy. The sheer softness of Quinn made her feel like she can abandon herself to it, abdicate all responsibility.

Quinn grinned into the kiss and Rachel relaxed enough to start enjoying how close she was. Quinn grew on her like bindweed, tendrils insidiously snaking their way around her heart. That guttural pull that she's in thralled to with Quinn never seemed to fail. What does seem to always fail is her rational brain, it never seems to be under control. She's supposed to be focusing on the musical and rehearsals and here she was kissing Quinn on stage in front of God knows how many people and she didn't even care. Love was supposed to be blind, but apparently desire was, too.

So much for channeling her energy into fuel. That only lasted a week. She knows that her fuel will be much better appreciated in the bedroom.

She hates her rational brain. Where can she get a new one?

Cut off all contact.

It took Rachel a long time to realize that being in love is like an addiction, and like any addiction sometimes you need to quit cold turkey. But quitting cold turkey felt a little informal. This made the rules loose. You could break loose rules. What would start with good intentions would drift into that grey area where heartache overrides everything. And then it'll start again, she'll go off and running and trying to ignore the hard fact of another failed attempt at quitting.

A few days down the track and she'll try to do it all again, try and stop. And each time her feelings for Quinn became more fierce, more intense. Each time her dedication to Quinn grew: make this relationship work. Avoid quitting cold turkey. Quitting cold turkey is bad. It's more unpleasant than almost anything and anyway, it never works. She always goes back to Quinn in the end.

But then certain events would interfere with the flow of things: Quinn's eyes would wander onto other women, she'll see Quinn flirting with the opposite sex, they never spoke about the deep and meaningful topics that mattered, and Rachel began to feel increasingly insecure, leading to her insides churning into sadness and fear. Mostly fear, which love will turn into sadness, which feels like vague nausea. She was scared; the thought of losing the person you love would make anyone scared.

Things unfolded when they had their first fight.

It was four in the morning and she had a traumatizing dream involving Quinn and Santana in bed together. Rachel (in the dream) was watching from afar as Quinn seductively said, Thanks for elbowing my eye, which made no sense because Quinn had said that to Rachel in reality that one time she accidentally elbowed Quinn's eye while they were in the shower together. And Quinn hadn't said it seductively either, she had been stiff, snapping at Rachel while rubbing her eye and in the process got shampoo in it and rubbed it even harder. Quinn's eye was red for two days.

Santana replied in a soft, arousing voice, moving closer to Quinn's ear and whispering, Dentists recommend us to brush our teeth three times a day, however I disagree due to too much time between brushing that bacterial plague can build up, boosting the risk of gum inflammation and other problems. This further confused her because in reality, Rachel had been the one to say those exact words to Quinn when Quinn had asked why she brushed her teeth five times a day, to which Quinn replied with an eye roll and left the room in the middle of her sentence. Except in this dream, Quinn's face is glowing and her eyes are twinkly the way they usually are when she sees Elmo on Sesame Street and she thinks Rachel doesn't notice.

Rachel (in the dream) stared at them, dumbfounded. Suddenly it all felt hyper-real, a love triangle built up in neon lights. They're intimately connected, however much she pretends those ties have been severed, and she can't help but feel a band of paranoia tightening itself around her body. Why did Quinn and Santana have sex in the first place? It could not have meant nothing to either of them, no matter what they have said and how they've acted. Rachel has noticed a new found respect they both have, world's apart from their previous casual rudeness towards one another.

Just as Quinn leaned in to kiss Santana (we're still on the topic of the horrendous dream), Rachel awoke immediate, snuffling uncomfortable sounds escaping from her chest. She stopped for a second to look at Quinn snoring beside her, thinking how much easier this would be if she slammed on the breaks before it got more messy than it already was. Her insecurities have boiled to the surface like a slap in the face. She needed to ask the million dollar question. No more time for dawdling: it was now or never.

Quinn stirred several times when Rachel poked her in the ribs, then she untangled herself from their embrace and moved further to the edge of the bed. Grunting loudly, she pulled the covers off of Quinn's body and kicked her in the shin.

"What the hell was that for?" Quinn said coldly in an authoritative manner.

Rachel jumped in feet first, no time for niceties. "Why did you sleep with Santana? Did it mean anything?" And that's only the half of her questions. "You both say it didn't mean anything and that you were intoxicated but the point of the matter is, sex never is meaningless," she grinded to a halt, slightly hit in the face by the shine of the moon illuminating Quinn's goddess-like figure. Rachel was insanely convinced Quinn is an alien from Krypton because no person can look like they've sat through hours of hair and make-up the moment they wake up.

Her mental hamster wheel was short-circuited by the sound of Quinn's croaky, sensual voice, "Rachel, it's four in the morning. Why are you asking me this now?" She slumped back on the bed and pulled the covers to her chest.

Again, Rachel pulled the covers away, ready to pounce on her. "Just tell me honestly, Quinn, why did you sleep with her?"

"I don't know, Rach," she paused, anger dissipating. "We were really drunk,"

"Drunk enough to do it twice," she looked at Quinn pleadingly, and Quinn's expression began to soften.

"It really did mean nothing. I don't know what else you want me to say. I was experimenting." A smile cracked her face in two like a sunbeam hitting water, and Rachel got to wondering how much Quinn felt for her. At times she got the sense it was more than a crush, other times Quinn's irritating nature told her it was a fantasy wrapped around an illusion that Quinn would ever be in love with her.

Across the room, Tasha stirred and they covered their eyes from the blinding light when she switched on her bedside lamp. "Do you guys want me to leave?"

"No," Rachel said, pushing the covers away. "I should be going anyway,"

Quinn sat up in a flash grabbing onto her wrist. "Rachel, you're not leaving,"

"I don't want to talk about this anymore,"

"We're going to talk about this because you bought it up at four in the morning and now we're gonna finish it," Quinn said sternly. "Sit down."

Pouting, she slumped herself on top of the bed, the wooden head rest thumped against the wall. Tasha, sensing the tension in the room, gathered her things and said, "I'm gonna knock on every door in the building and hopefully someone will let me sleep with them."

"Now look what you've done," Quinn said just as Tasha closed the door behind her.

Rachel couldn't deny it was her fault, but she also couldn't stop herself from blaming Quinn. "Well, if Santana hadn't whispered seductively in your ear and you hadn't leaned in to kiss her we wouldn't be having this conversation."

Quinn stared at her dubiously with a mix of discomfort. A part of Rachel was thrilled Quinn's experiencing a modicum of the unintentional pain she had caused her, but the other part wanted to take it away, it's her job to protect Quinn from all the hurt that comes her way. In sickness and in health: she keeps forgetting that they're not married and it makes her angry that they're not married. She held Quinn's gaze, refusing to be the one to speak.

"I don't even know what you're talking about anymore. Santana's a hundred miles away, therefore I can't be kissing her." Quinn said.

"Do you have feelings for her?" Rachel was asking before the question had time to process in her head.

"Of course, not."

Rachel wasn't expecting that, she wasn't expecting that at all. She felt a whoosh of breath leave her like a balloon that's been waiting to pop. She nearly danced a jig of joy, but let's face it, unless you're in Riverdance it's not a good look. The spurt of satisfaction only lasted a second as she remembered that they're in Quinn's dorm room arguing at an ungodly hour and Quinn hasn't proceeded to say, I love you, Rachel. That she was expecting.

A little soft, "Oh," was all she could manage.

"Rachel—" Quinn paused, Rachel's brain was on the verge of exploding.

"Nothing." Quinn eventually sighed, running a hand through her hair.

A jab of pain hits her in the solar plexus. "That's it?" Her voice began to wobble.

"You asked me a question and I answered. Unless you have another one?"

This was her chance, her opportunity to get the answers to all the questions that swirled around in her head for the past couple of months. There's the pathetic, needy ones of the, 'Why can't you love me?/Am I not good enough for you?' variety, but there's the grown-up version topic starters like, 'I'm in love with you/I want to be with you/We can make this work' and those were the scary ones that she wasn't sure she's ready to touch upon. She has rehearsed the conversation many times and in every scenario she can't imagine Quinn ever saying, I'm in love with you, Rachel, we can be together. Mainly because she's scared of losing Quinn's friendship, that she can never afford to lose. And how would she ever trust, ever know that she wouldn't screw things up, that she wouldn't fail some mysterious test?

If Quinn was in love with her, if she felt an ounce of what Rachel was feeling, Quinn would've mentioned it, right?

She pushed down the hurt, sealed the wound with rough, jagged stitches. "No, I don't have any more questions."

Quinn could be very unreadable sometimes. She packed things up inside, squirreled them away in some hidden nook, then goes away to examine them in private. Rachel felt there was an aspect of Quinn that she always held back. In a funny way, it made her love Quinn even more, it kept her hanging on.

Quinn reached for Rachel's hand across the bed, then thought better of it. "Are we okay now?" She chewed on her bottom lip the way she did when she wanted to say something she couldn't. Rachel never pushed her; when Quinn was ready she'll tell her.

Rachel tried to regain her composure. She was more shaken with their conversation than she could afford to be. "Yes, we're okay," she said, feeling guilty.

"Good," Quinn pulled her back down on the bed. Rachel could feel her breath moving in and out, thoughts moving in tandem. "I hope we'll be able to be in each other's lives for a long time."

She sensed that Quinn was already teeing them up for the grown-up relationship that comes when you try to stay friends after a breakup ("Hi, Quinn, sorry to call you, but I was wondering whether you and your handsome, perfect partner would like to join me and my Tony award winning date to Disney World, since we're doing this exes can be friends thing"). Can she even call herself Quinn's ex? Ex. Two tiny insignificant letters that hold so much. She honestly couldn't imagine anything worse, she can't imagine it wouldn't cut into her flesh like a soft knife.

She knew now that her first two attempts at overcoming her love for Quinn has failed because she wasn't in the right head space, a part of her was hanging onto those magical words she thought Quinn might one day say. And it was clear now that she never would.

When Rachel finally had her head in the right space of mind, there was a desire for change. By the time she won the award for Unrequited Love of The Year, she wasn't expecting to come across too many people in the same situation as she was. Then she met Bryan, and was reminded that there's always somebody worse off than you.

He was known to her as Gay Bryan (how gay do you have to be to spell your name with a 'Y'?). Don't get her wrong, she hasn't metamorphosed into a hate-filled homophobe. It's just that as Bryan's so clearly gay she didn't understand why he insisted on being in love with a girl.

She grew to feel a deep camaraderie with Bryan in the short time she empathized with him. They'd be out in the evenings with Kurt and Santana, or some of their college friends and everyone would be relaxed, happy, chatting to one another, and there'd be Rachel and Bryan, sulking in one corner about their unrequited loves for the rest of the night.

They would swap stories and hints. Bryan was the one to suggest Rachel quit cold turkey, this in turn made them like a support group. My name's Bryan and I've been in love with his girl for four years. She will never return my feelings. Welcome Bryan. You've come to the right place.

Around this time she stopped all contact with Quinn by sending a text message that read: I'm going to be busy for a while (Bryan forbade her to end the sentence with a X). She never got the chance to read Quinn's response because Bryan deleted it, including all of Quinn's other texts, voice messages and disabled her Facebook, going so far as to change her password and taking her phone away altogether.

The first few weeks were hard without her phone; not only because of this one time she decided to take a different route to NYADA and somehow ended up on the opposite side of town with no way to get in contact with any of her friends, and the strangers giving her directions weren't of much help. It was harder to not ask Santana or Kurt how Quinn was doing or what she had been up to. She had dreams about Quinn. The nice ones where Quinn reciprocated her feelings and asked Rachel to marry her. They had babies, lived in a mansion and there was a room for her many awards and accomplishments.

Anyway, she's getting off topic. Being in love does that to you.

She and Bryan spent so much time together it was rare for one to be seen without the other. Ephemeral gloom has never been her thing: when she's miserable, it's specific, a clear target rather than a hazy mist of sadness. So Bryan was special, like a buddy in the sisterhood of suffering. He kept her spirits high, keeping her moving even when she thought she was going to collapse exhausted on the other side.

On the eve of hitting the two week mark, at about five in the morning she slipped out of bed to get a glass of water and heard Santana's muffled voice from the living room,

"I don't know what she's doing with him. For fuck's sake, call her and ask her yourself."

Rachel stood stiff in the hallway, gnawing on her bottom lip. Santana continued talking (more like loud, annoyed whispers),

"I'm so sick of your pathetic moping, Quinn. What the hell do you want me to do? She's not telling me anything."

She didn't have time to register Santana saying Quinn's name because Kurt's voice came booming,

"I hate all these secrets you're making me keep. I haven't had a decent night's sleep in weeks."

Santana did a loud, ssshhhh, and said a hushed, "You'll wake her up. Keep your fucking voice down. Do you want your Jimmy Choos in cement?"

They spoke so quietly afterwards Rachel had to strain her ears, and even then she could hardly hear what they were saying. She thought she heard Kurt say, Just tell her you're in love with her. But that could've easily been, Justin yell at her for the love. And by the time she tried to decipher the meaning behind both sentences, it was six a.m., the alarm blared from her room, and a thin trace of grey light leaked through the windows.

The next week or so were exactly what she needed to get her mind off those conversations. It wasn't her place to eavesdrop anyway, not that she understood a thing. She's still sad, of course, but she's also happy. It seemed to be possible to feel both things at once and actually, happy plus sad doesn't turn out to equal grey. Rather than feeling empty about the love she's lost, she tried to enjoy the love she had rediscovered with the stage. That's a bit of an exaggeration, it wasn't like she had never loved the stage and the thrill of it, but she hadn't experienced it as a living, breathing thing for a while—too caught up in Quinn and whether she shouldn't be a coward and expose her heart.

The descend began, slowly at first, but soon enough fast enough. She worked extremely hard on the Spring musical (not like the time when she channeled her energy into it only to not remember any lines and songs). She started congratulating herself on how well she'd done and how checking her phone and reactivating Facebook wouldn't really be a failure, as such, and how nice it would be to hear from friends that weren't Santana or Kurt or Bryan. You know, be social again.

She switched on her phone, which for some unknown reason took unusually longer to start up. It was most likely punishing her for abandoning it for almost a month. What she had planned was very simple. Check messages. Five minutes, that's all she needed. The screen lit up brightly. She tried to stop her stomach from rumbling in anticipation, and ignored her trembling hands as she picked up the phone.

Quinn's name appeared six times, along with other names that aren't worth mentioning. What harm could reading one message do?

I know you're busy. I just wanted to say hi

A cat humped my leg today. Thought you should know

One text turned into two, then three more.

'I want it that way' came on the radio today. It reminds me of the time you thought Howie's name was Cowie and when I corrected you, you were determined to prove me wrong. When it turned out I was right you said that you'd do anything I wanted, well I'm here to collect. Turn your phone on, Berry!

Alright, it's been 2 weeks and you still haven't turned your phone on. How long are you gonna be 'busy' for? You're missing out on all my stories

Where are you? Seriously?!

Her rational brain went away again, replaced with whatever the opposite of the rational brain is. It's saying, Well, you're almost at the finish line you might as well read the last text. No point leaving it unread.

I never thought I'd say this, Berry but I kind of miss you. Kind of, being the key word

There was something a little bit gratifying about the hint of obsession that Quinn's agitation implied.

She momentarily forgot why she had decided to cut off all contact with Quinn in the first place. Reading those texts made her beyond blissful. The rational brain reappeared and crushed her blissfulness. Put the phone away before you regret this, you idiot. Your five minutes was up fifteen minutes ago. Stop looking at Quinn's phone number. Don't you dare press the call button.

"So now you call me."

The most diabolical sound of Quinn's voice sent delicious shivers of awareness down her spine.

The opposite of the rational brain said, You might as well talk now that you've called. Her voice is like the sound of angels singing Christmas carols and could melt the heart of the Ice Queen. Don't listen to the rational brain. You have me now. Listen to Quinn's sweet voice. You miss it.

"I shouldn't even be talking to you," Quinn's voice was steely on the other end.

"Please don't be grumpy,"

"I'm not being grumpy." Quinn said in the grumpiest voice ever recorded.

She'd like to say that their conversation lasted two minutes. She apologized to Quinn, Quinn accepted. Rachel filled her in on what's been happening in her life, "Nothing much. Rehearsals, singing, dancing, exams. You know how college is". Quinn did the same, "You know, exams, papers to write, the usual stuff". But the truth is that it took Quinn ten minutes to accept Rachel's apology, Rachel's storytelling of her new friend Bryan was twenty minutes long and Quinn's mini-stories about her life added up to twenty-two minutes. On top of that, add in another sixteen minutes of in-between banter and you have a conversation that lasted one hour and eight minutes. That's not including the last three minutes:

"Are you coming to the opening of Romeo and Juliet tonight?"

"Am I invited?"

"Of course you are. I want you there,"

"I find that hard to believe considering you ignored me for the last three weeks,"

"Quinn, I said I was sorry. You can't say you accept my apology and then go back on your word."

There was more back and forth banter, and by the time Rachel realized what she had done and the bigger hole she had dug herself into, Quinn was sitting there in the third row, seat seven. Rachel had a hard time concentrating. She fumbled on a few of her lines, missed important key notes in songs, and accidentally tripped on her left foot and fell flat on her face on stage. But other than that the musical was quite flawless. She did receive a standing ovation despite it all.

As the evening dwindled on, cutting off all contact with Quinn floated further and further away from her consciousness, an abandoned helium balloon swallowed up by the sky.

She should've paid more attention to the warning signs.

Find someone else.

Not for the first time, Rachel said, "I can do this."

And Santana asked, "Do what?"

And Rachel's mouth moved on their own accord, "Get over Quinn."

Santana looked at her straight in the eye, white as a sheet, silenced for the first time in history. Rachel didn't know what she quite expected, but she would've bet on an explosion.

Instead, Santana said softly, "You're in love with Quinn?"

Suddenly she felt exposed. She's laid herself bare, her secret's out in the open. "Yes. I'm in love with Quinn. You can laugh, Santana. I know you've been expecting it,"

The long deathly pause continued before Santana delivered her response. "I'm not laughing."

"Why not?" Rachel wondered whether Santana got abducted by aliens and they erased her sense of humor. She could use a good laugh, actually. Even some sort of insult to feel a sense of normality.

"It's not funny," she said. She seemed relatively cheerful now, the blackness evaporated. "Why do you want to get over Quinn?"

This version of Santana was unsettling. She was staring at Rachel like an appetizing meat lover's pizza. What happened to the usual I-will-never-let-you-live-this-down remarks delivered Santana Lopez style with a heinous laugh?

"Are you okay, Santana?"

"I'm great, Berry. Tell me why you want to get over Quinn. I wanna help," she flashed a cheeky smile and the bizarre turn of events made Rachel want to run for the hills.

The sweetness of the gesture exploded in her brain. Maybe this was the explosion she had been expecting? There's a naked desperation on Santana's face, a profound need for Rachel to appreciate what she's offering.

She felt a bit fuzzy from such a momentous moment, but it wasn't hard to form a speech—she had already come this far in laying herself bare, no point putting her clothes back on now. "For the past few months I've been trying to get over Quinn. Unsuccessfully. But I think I can finally accomplish it this time,"

"How?"

"Finding someone else."

Santana stared at her like she'd lost all her brain cells. Then the calm left her body replaced with tremors of laughter. She crumpled, whirled around a few times on the spot, the bustling sound of her laugh filling the entire apartment; the whole building, probably. Rachel was struck, yet again, by how quickly things can flip over. This is the Santana Lopez she knew and loved. Love might be stretching it a little too far. Santana's brutal when she's like this, so unyielding. Rachel wished she could hurl Santana into the water, force a ripple from her, but she was giving nothing away—except that heinous laugh. She felt that familiar scorch of humiliation.

"Why is that so funny?" Rachel felt a crimson tide flooding her face. "You said you wanted to help me,"

She watched Santana try and pull herself together. Her face was stony and purple, then she broke into a smirk. "I do want to help you, Rachel. Have you tried talking to Quinn about this?"

And Rachel's utterly absorbed in explaining all the reasons why she cannot tell Quinn she's in love with her, the first and foremost important being Quinn does not reciprocate her feelings, to which Santana snorted and tried to cover it with a cough. She went on to say that she didn't want to lose Quinn's friendship, and what if they don't work as a couple, there's no guarantee they could ever recover from a breakup and still be known as Rachel and Quinn instead of RachelandQuinn.

Santana grudgingly considered her explanations and ventured some of her own suggestions like, You're both so pathetic you make me sick enough to want to eat a puppy, and before Rachel could ask what the hell that meant, Kurt appeared in the doorway and Santana was up on her feet and flying. She tumbled over the coffee table on her way to Kurt, but straightened herself as though it didn't happen and pulled him into his room.

Pressing her ear against the door, she tried her best to apprehend what their faint, muffled voices were articulating:

"Weshouldtellher."

"NowecantQuinnsgoingtokillus."

"Butshesourfriendtoo."

"Quinnshouldbetheonetotellher."

"WeshouldatleastletherknowQuinnsinlovewithher."

All at once, there was a commotion of shattered glass and the popping of a dozen books flying across the room. This sound mixes with the whirl and clang of pencils, chairs, DVDs and shoes falling on the floor. There's a rhythm to it, like a thundering pulse. Rachel held her breath and thought, My God this time they're gonna do it! This time they've let the hate build up too high and overloaded and they're gonna tear one another to pieces before they realize what they're doing!

She couldn't hear the sound of her own breath and realized all of a sudden it's because the commotion has gotten so loud she can't hear anything else. They're arguing but she couldn't make out the words above the measured roar rising above them. She tried to pry the door open, banged on it a few times, yelling things such as, What is going on in there what are you two doing open the door before someone gets hurt.

A crash came from inside. Then silence.

The door opened before Rachel could kick it down and there was Kurt, looking distinctly merry. His blond mop of hair sticking up at a tipsy angle, and his checked shirt was half undone. That was most likely Santana's doing. Santana on the other hand, her face was smooth, calculated and precision-like, everything working together as it should be. By the time Rachel's breath relaxed to its normal rate, Santana was smiling, calm and cold as usual.

Rachel tried to take a peek inside Kurt's room but he pushed her back out into the living room. "You see Rachel, here's the problem with Quinn. What you have is a great friends with benefits relationship but can you really have a real relationship when you know that the two of you meant nothing to each other at the start? It's time to move on, Rach, start fresh—"

"Kurt, shut your damn mouth!" Santana yelled.

It was like a slap in the face. Kurt hushed, cut off cold with his mouth still opened in a drawn grin, his hands dangling in the air. He froze this way for a second; then his eyes narrowed into sly little holes and he let them slip over to Santana, spoke so soft that Rachel had to move right up to them to hear what he had to say.

"This better work." With a loud hissing of breath Kurt turned from both girls and stomped to his room.

Rachel saw that sly fever come into Santana's eyes again; she thought Santana was going to start laughing, but instead she put her hand out towards Rachel, palm up, "Give me your phone,"

"What was all that about? Why were you two arguing?" Rachel started to tremble. "I never thought—"

"Oh relax, Berry, it was harmless—"

"Glass shattering, items falling to the floor, Kurt's hair looking like a ragged doll—it's not harmless,"

Santana's face tilted oddly, noticing the worried expression on Rachel's face. Rather than offer reassurances, a laugh came out of her mouth. She can't stop it. It got higher and higher until finally, with a suck of breath, her eyes fell onto Rachel's waiting face. "I wasn't going to kill the poor sucker. Now, give me your phone before I unleash a fury on you."

Rachel handed it to her without a word, and watched her face as she began typing with a kind of puzzled wonder, looking at it like it's the first face she had ever laid eyes on. She watched as Santana's twitching and jerking slowed down and her gaze met Rachel's once again.

"Kurt's right you know," Santana said, handing the phone back to Rachel. "You're right to find someone else. I just texted Quinn saying that you're done with her and that you've met someone else."

Rachel's guts contract as she summoned up a response. "You did what?"

Santana merely shrugged. "What? You said—"

"I know what I said but you had no right to say that to her!" She was red-faced and furious, bawling at Santana like a child who had broken her first Tony Award.

Santana gave a self-satisfied smile, delighting in a hateful way. "Quinn told me that she only sees you as a..."

A text from Quinn came pinging its way through the electronic airways before Rachel heard the finishing words of Santana's sentence. Santana tried to read it, but Rachel shielded herself, ready to read the, Please Rachel, we can work this out. I love you text. What she got was: Ok I understand. I met someone not too long ago too but I didn't know how to tell you cause you've been acting very distant lately. But now I understand. I'm so happy for you, Rach. You deserve the best. We should double date soon. xx

She stared at the screen, the words spinning in front of her eyes, having a hard time computing the information. She couldn't face trying to unpick it, and having Santana looming over her wasn't helping matters either.

"Give it here," Santana said, but before they could get into the full-scale battle of who can win the cell phone, it rang.

It was Bryan.

What happened in the few short weeks after that eventful moment, Rachel couldn't remember much of it. Her memory was blurred. The thing is, she could talk about events. All those moments with Quinn, they were all events. When the events stopped and the real emotional heartache began, well she doesn't know how to talk about that. Perhaps it was enough to say: they stopped all communication with one another, and then one day Quinn sent her a picture of her new 'girlfriend' and Rachel found herself catapulted down Mental Avenue, stalking Lydia at every available opportunity.

Lydia worked at a Starbucks two blocks away from Yale. She had a nuclear-radiated beauty, a glow so blatant she could've stepped right out of the pages of a Vogue magazine. She stalked Lydia's Facebook checking for wall posts, photos, anything related to Quinn. She didn't know what hurt more, the fact that Lydia was a girl or because she was a brunette. Actually, it hurt the same.

Finding someone else was quite easy. She met Kay, a girl Santana's gaydar undoubtedly told her she was a lesbian and insisted Rachel ask her out. Some people are attracted to the kind of madness where sparks fly, to the incoherence of despair marked by nervous energy, which winds up looking like bewildered joy.

She thinks Kay was attracted to this in her.

Their date started out quite well, and then she opened her mouth and there were a few too many stories of breakdowns and misguided hope. She spent a lot of time repeating variations of the phrase, "I'm so in love with Quinn I don't know how to handle the situation," and Kay said many variations on, "Talking about your ex-girlfriend on the first date wasn't exactly what I was expecting." Finally, at midnight Kay said, "Firstly, you're a bit of an emotional wreck. Secondly, you need to sort this out with Quinn. Thirdly, I'm going to go home now." She might as well have said, "I don't want to see you again."

The morning of her birthday was a much happier affair. Her fathers came to visit. They cared too much, after the initial shock when she told them of her relationship with Quinn over the past few months. She didn't want to show any guilt or sadness over the situation, but they saw through her. When she said her goodbyes, they told her to tell Quinn how she felt, regardless of whether Quinn returned her feelings or not.

The encouragement from her fathers felt like a small typhoon. She saw it as an opportunity to jump ship, to learn to swim in a bigger ocean. She had been so afraid they didn't have a shot at the long-haul. Part of it was sheer cowardice, a fear of putting her heart back out there, but if she never took that chance this was something she was going to regret for the rest of her life.

At her birthday party that night, she thought she was going to be sick. There was Lydia, sitting right in the middle of her living room. Hateful, loathsome girlfriend stealing Lydia, right there with her attractive, lovable girlfriend Quinn. Wait, when had she started referring to Quinn as her girlfriend?

She tried to tear her eyes away but it was impossible. Besides, she wasn't sure her shaking legs will carry her anywhere. She let herself taste the sadness. It felt vivid, made her realize the entire relationship was an optical, emotional illusion. She stumbled backwards colliding with an ebullient Santana. Just for a moment, Rachel really, really wanted to hit her.

"I see you've spotted her. She's pretty, right?"

Rachel narrowed her eyes. Her head was full of conflicting emotions, mostly love and anger. "I'm going to my room,"

"It's your birthday,"

"I don't feel like celebrating."

She was only supposed to glance up at Quinn, but their gaze locked and held. There was a faint desperation in her now. She wanted to unlock Quinn, to prove to her that she's the one Quinn needs. She couldn't bear to be defeated, certainly not now. She turned away and headed to her room, trying to pull herself together. She was remotely aware of Quinn pushing her way through the crowd and following her, and soon enough, there Quinn stood in front of her Funny Girl poster, hands clasped tightly together like she's praying for benediction. She was looking at the ground, and Rachel wondered whether Quinn was rehearsing what she was going to say.

Rachel strained her eyes to calm her trembling, concentrating. She knew this was it. Her back was to the wall, she was cornered.

"Quinn, what I'm about to say may come as a shock to you I'm going to say it even though it could ruin our friendship but it's a risk I'm willing to take because I love you I'm in love with you and I want to be with you although we have many obstacles to overcome I believe we can make this work," her face and hands were moving faster than ever, a speeded film of gestures and scared grins. The more she tried to stop her rambling, the faster it went. Everything was moving faster and faster and her voice sped up to match.

"I think I've always felt this way for you not necessarily love of course but I think I've always had some kind of feelings for you over the past few months it's consumed me sometimes I feel like my whole body's—"

"Rachel, I'm in love with you, too."

"—Going to explode and I can't keep this inside anymore I don't want to keep this secret anymore and even if you don't feel the same way which I know you don't I just want you to know how I feel and what I've been keeping hidden—"

"Are you even listening to me?"

"—For so many months I've been trying to deduce the exact moment it happened I think it might have been when I found out—"

"I don't even know why I'm in love with you."

"—You and Santana slept together I'm still very jealous that you slept with her there I said it it's out in the open I'm jealous that you slept with her and not me it was the reason I suggested we sleep together except I had no idea I would fall in love with you."

She was talking faster and faster, the cords stretching out in her neck. When she stopped talking, the world was completely silent. Rachel didn't hear anything but a faint rhythm, what she figured was a tape recorder somewhere getting all of this.

Her face lost all of its color but she got control of her hands again; they flipped loosely before her. Silence reigned for a long moment. Quinn didn't look to one side or the other, but only straight ahead at Rachel's face, like there was a spiraling light there instead of features, a hypnotizing swirl. Rachel swallowed and waited for her to say something, except that Quinn didn't; it was a skill Quinn possessed, her fantastic mechanical power, analyzing the situation and giving no indication of any sort of emotion.

She wondered if it was her imagination or if Quinn herself was looking extra-mad. There was a manic quality about her, as if her body can't contain what was consumed inside of her. It was suddenly blindingly clear Quinn was angry with her. Why? Because she confessed her feelings? Something Quinn can't seem to do.

"You're angry with me now?" She asked. "All I did was tell you I'm in love with you. Some people would be flattered,"

Quinn gave her a hard look. Rachel figured the clock was ticking in her internal detonator. She should really stop talking, but she can't seem to find the off switch.

"Okay, Quinn, you don't want to express your feelings, which is fine by me. I hope we can still be friends. I want you in my life for—"

At first she thought Quinn was going to hit her when she moved closer, but she grabbed onto Rachel's face and kissed her, and Rachel lost herself entirely. The feel of Quinn's lips on hers was so utterly familiar, the smell of Quinn caught every part of her. Quinn pushed her against the wall, her hand skimming down Rachel's stomach and over her thighs, before pushing up her dress and teasing her in a way that made her body swell with feverish longing. Her legs separated of their own violation, her body greedy for the feelings Quinn could evoke.

Quinn's fingertips trailed up the inside of her legs and she breathed a soft, "Sometimes I really don't know why I'm in love with you," then she slipped her fingers inside. Rachel's eyes burned with near black fire as Quinn possessed her. It felt wild and amazing. When she was shaking with the need to climax, Santana burst through the doors yelling,

"It's time to cut the cake!"

•••

The present.

There you have it. The past nine months of her life. She wasn't sure whether that was the end of the conversation between Quinn and herself. When Santana interrupted them, Quinn did nothing but look at her for several seconds with a yearning in her eyes. Then she kissed Rachel on the forehead and left the room. Since then, Quinn's been engaging in conversations with everyone else except her in an unusually cheery manner. Quinn probably just wanted to give her one last orgasm so she'd never forget about their many rendezvouses. She was evil like that.

She looks across the room at Quinn playing strip poker with a few other people. All of them had removed at least four items of clothing and Quinn was still fully clothed. She could watch Quinn play all night, the way she dealt and talked her way out of stripping, or the way she talked the others into stripping. She throws her head back and laughs at the way everyone else is annoyed that she has yet to lose a game. That laugh radiates throughout the apartment, and all the time Quinn was dealing she was joking and talking and the others couldn't help but laugh along with her.

As Kurt yelled, "Yes, finally! Quinn, take off your sweater," and a grumpy Quinn had no choice but to comply, it came to her as a kind of surprise that Quinn told her she loved her. The words repeated themselves over and over again. She thinks back to that moment and what they were talking about and it was near impossible to believe. She has to keep reminding herself that it had truly happened, that Quinn actually said those words. She feels so good thinking about this that she gave a yell and swooped down on Bryan and gave him a hearty kiss on the cheek. How could she have missed it then? Oh, right, it was because of her rambling and egotistical nature.

She's glowing and grinning and staggering like a drunk. "Quinn loves me. Quinn's in love with me!" She says to Bryan. He looks at her bright-eyed and full of confusion.

Rachel turns around to find Quinn staring at her. Quinn makes no attempt to pretend otherwise, smiling at her with a look of cool appraisal. Rachel still gets that rush from simply laying her eyes on Quinn, she has permanent butterflies in her stomach, and her heart jumps out of her chest like a frisky fish jumping out of the river every time Quinn smiles at her like she's the only person that exists.

Seriously, how could she have missed it? She knows she's egocentric, but she had no idea she was egocentric to the point that she completely missed hearing Quinn say, Rachel, I'm in love with you. And she said it three times, no less. A surge of relief floods through her as the words sink in.

She spots Kurt giving her two thumbs up with a wide grin and Santana's leaning against him and the puzzle pieces start falling into place. Rachel walks stiff over to them and Kurt's smile drops. He doesn't have a chance to escape before she grabs a hold of his collar, her other arm clutching onto Santana's wrists and she's pulling them into the quiet space of their kitchen. She shrieks at Billy who's eating cookies over the sink to give them some privacy.

Rachel steps closer to Kurt, shaking her fist at him. "You knew! And you—" She turns to Santana. "You told Quinn I was in love with her,"

Santana doesn't flinch. She smiles and pats Rachel's arm. "It all worked out for the best,"

They stand there looking at each other before Rachel hurl's herself at Santana once more. "You're supposed to be my friends—"

"Quinn's our friend too, you know,"

Rachel ignores the statement. "We live together, we share the same bathroom, we eat dinner together every night—"

"No, we don't!" Santana says, looking at her like she's an alien. "We've hardly eaten dinner together in a month,"

"Well, most nights," Rachel rephrases. "But that's not the point," she raises her voices. "You knew Quinn was in love with me and you never said anything but the moment I tell you I'm in love with her you go off and tell her—"

"Rachel," Kurt cuts in. "I had no choice. Quinn accused me of eavesdropping and said if I told you she'll ruin my Jimmy Choos and you know how scary Quinn can be." Kurt's searching her face, pleading for forgiveness. She's not quite sure whether she feels sympathy towards him or offended that he chose his shoes over her.

She glares at him a second, then turns back to Santana. "And you? What's your excuse for choosing Quinn over me?"

Santana's eyes take on that sly, fevered skittishness as she smiles. "Quit your temper tantrums, Berry. Quinn loves you, God knows why. You're together now. What's the big deal?"

Rachel's eyes flick towards Quinn, expecting to find her immersed in playing strip poker, but Quinn's moved to the couch, staring at the three of them with complete absorption. Quinn gives her a sheepish smile and Rachel struggles to hold onto her anger. There's something so utterly melting about Quinn's vulnerability, about the fact that she can build walls so high to hide her emotions one minute, then breaks them down the next, letting Rachel see everything.

As you can see, Rachel's slightly unhinged, every single emotion ten degrees more than it should be. Last week she was dealing with the fact that Quinn has a new girlfriend. This morning she was determined to confess her love knowing full well that it would end in her heart shattering, only to find out that's not the case. She can't really justify it. Quinn's never shown her any interest, not one clue she's felt the same way for months. If anything, Quinn acts like she wants to hit Rachel over the head with a sledgehammer most of the time. And now Quinn's looking at her like she's the Queen of the World (that's not true but she'd like to think Quinn thinks she's the Queen of the World).

They remain in the kitchen while Kurt is telling her an enthusiastic story she can't recall because Quinn's walking over to them. Quinn puts her arm around Rachel's shoulder, the warmth of the touch spreading right through her body. She takes in the trembles and jitters of her involuntary inner body movements, suddenly conscious of how Quinn makes her feel.

Santana stands straighter and says that their company is boring her and she's going to resume playing strip poker. Kurt's still telling them his enthusiastic story. Suddenly Santana grabs onto the front of his shirt and drags him away. Rachel can hear her mumbling, No one cares about your shoe collection, Kurt.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Rachel asks when they're alone. As alone as you can be while your friends are celebrating your birthday in the living room.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Quinn looks nervous, fidgety.

The tension rushes out of her like a water bomb. "Touché."

Quinn smiles down at her and for a second, she forgets about the other people in the apartment. "You were acting really weird sometimes. Distant and then needy, and I don't know, Rachel, you gave me a headache trying to figure out how you felt about me,"

"You're not innocent either, Quinn, I was just as confused by your actions," she says, feeling a sudden nostalgia for those teenage relationships where the most complicated part was sneaking a boy past her fathers so they could lie down on her bed and have a kissing session. She's venturing into a grown-up relationship now, full of complications and mind games. "I didn't want to ruin what we had. I was scared I would lose you."

"Come here," Quinn says suddenly, pulling her into a hug. She feels a funny wriggle go straight through her at the sweet gesture.

Rachel buries her face in the nape of Quinn's neck and asks, "Can we really do this? What if we ruin it?"

"Nothing's gonna change." There's not a hint of doubt in her voice. "We've been acting like we're dating anyway. Unconsciously we just didn't know it."

"And Lydia?" Rachel's heart does a flip-flop, snuggling closer to Quinn, afraid of the answer.

Quinn looks around, most likely looking for Lydia. She turns back to Rachel and smiles at her ruefully. "She's just a friend, Rach. It was Santana's idea for me to tell you she was my girlfriend to make you jealous. And once you were I was to proclaim my love to you,"

Rachel's not the least bit surprised, that's exactly the kind of cunning games Santana likes to play. She can't help but feel irritated. Why can't Santana learn to stay out of her business? "Tell me why we're friends with Santana again?"

Quinn doesn't say anything to that, she just smiles and takes Rachel's hand, traces the lumps and bumps and calluses. It feels like they stand like that for an eternity. Quinn tells her about her trip home to Lima to visit her mom, and Rachel listens intently to all of it, even her triumph at catching a fish. She does feel lighter, her filter on the world's changed, like she's taken off a huge pair of dark glasses and finally noticed the sun. The idea of being Quinn's girlfriend floods her with pleasure.

Santana interrupts their intimacy once again, shouting from across the room for both of them to join in on the karaoke. She smiles up at Quinn, a sort of joyous toastiness overflowing her senses. Quinn grabs onto her hand and once they've joined everyone she expects Quinn to drop it, but she doesn't. Instead she interlaces their fingers, giving it a squeeze. They've held hands before in the past, even smiled at each other with twinkles in their eyes, but now it feels new, more intense, more powerful, and when she leans over to plant a kiss on Quinn's cheek, the Earth opens up and she's in a new world of paradise.


That was the story of how friends can never be friends with benefits.

That was the story of how sex can never be emotionless no matter how hard you try.

That was the story of how Rachel Berry fell in love with Quinn Fabray.

That was the story of how every time Rachel Berry tried to fall out of love with Quinn Fabray, she failed.

But let's be honest, she never even really tried.


I've tried to write Quinn's POV but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. I'll revisit it in the future, for now I think there's a kind of ambiguity in what Quinn's thinking.

Thanks for reading. You're all awesome :)