Author's Note: Number Eighteen in the Don't Blink series, set after Just Give Me A Little Bit More.
As always, thanks and cyber-hugs to Skywarrior108 for being an awesome beta. One week until we meet. Also, a special thank you to Shippity for inspiring the end of this one.
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or the characters, I just like to play with them…strictly non-profit.
The Only Place I Wanna Be
Every time I have to leave,
I feel like I am leaving a part of me.
You're the only place I wanna be.
Well nothing else matters, I just lose focus.
When you're not around, you're still the only one I notice.
~What Means The Most, Colbie Caillat
It's early—maybe six o'clock—and the sun hasn't yet peeked over the horizon. The streetlights are still on, casting a hazy glow across the window and illuminating the snowflakes that are falling outside. Winters in the city are generally ugly, marked with gray slush-covered sidewalks full of grumpy, shivering pedestrians dodging frozen, salt-stained cars, but in this moment, watching the snow fluttering against the glass and wrapped up in the warmth of the sheets and the body behind her, Rachel thinks that this winter morning is one of the most beautiful that she's ever seen.
She isn't sure what woke her up, but she's happy to savor these last quiet moments before the day truly begins right here in bed with Quinn. Rachel sighs contentedly into the pillow and mentally traces every curve of Quinn's body where it curls around her like a blanket, molding to match every contour of her naked skin. She can feel the rhythm of Quinn's breath against her shoulder, and she could so easily allow it to lull her back to sleep, but the ticking of her internal clock protests, and she reluctantly slips out of Quinn's arms and carefully rolls out of bed. Quinn grumbles in sleepy protest, flailing her arm across Rachel's empty pillow and snuggling into it with a frown. Rachel stifles her giggle with a hand to her lips and lovingly gazes at her adorable girlfriend.
Grabbing an oversized sweatshirt from Quinn's formidable closet, Rachel pads into the bathroom to answer nature's call, scraping her wild hair into a ponytail before quietly making her way into the kitchen when she sees that Quinn is still sound asleep. Feeling inspired, she decides to try her hand at making breakfast this morning. The coffee is easy enough—she's become an expert at that—and she's finally mastered Quinn's toaster well enough to turn the bread a golden brown instead of black. Of course, this is the second toaster that Quinn has owned since they'd started dating. Rachel may have jammed the first one and caught it on fire—but just a little bit. She occasionally indulges in delusions of grandeur that, one of these days, she'll be able to cook Quinn some fabulous five-course meal, but she knows that today isn't that day. Toast, coffee, and the grapefruits that Quinn has on hand are on the menu for this morning.
She hears movement from the bedroom and glances around the corner of the kitchen area to see a tousled Quinn blearily rubbing her eyes as she stumbles to the bathroom. She's not exactly a morning person on most days, but especially not on the weekends when she has nowhere to be. Rachel feels a little guilty about possibly waking her up so early, but they get so little time together with their schedules—really just two evenings a week and Sunday mornings. She can't help wanting to pull Quinn out of bed and spend every possible minute with her until she has to leave.
When Quinn emerges from the bathroom, she looks a little more put together—and for Quinn, that means looking like she just walked off a Paris runway, albeit one showcasing the latest in shabby chic sleepwear. Rachel can't deny that she still gets a little jealous at how ridiculously gorgeous her girlfriend is with little to no effort when it takes Rachel hours to tame her hair and make herself presentable. But then Quinn smiles at Rachel like she is right now, and Rachel blushes to her toes, feeling like the most beautiful woman in the world.
Quinn glides to a stop beside Rachel and offers her a brief good morning kiss before her smile dims a little. "Are you making breakfast?" she asks warily, glancing around the kitchen and sniffing suspiciously.
Rachel notices the slight tang of burning toast, and she curses under her breath, spinning around to press the button on the toaster. She sighs in relief when she sees that the slices of bread are only the tiniest bit singed around the edge. "I thought I'd surprise you," Rachel says, pulling out a slice a toast and nearly throwing it down onto the counter when burns her fingers.
Quinn chuckles, stepping up behind Rachel in the tiny space and gently guiding her away. "I thought we agreed that you'd stay out of my kitchen when you're here." Rachel frowns, reluctantly allowing herself to be shuffled aside while Quinn sweeps the crumbled pieces of toast into the garbage and opens her cabinet to pull out a skillet. "So, vegan pancakes or vegan French toast?" Quinn asks, raising her eyebrows in query.
"But…I made toast," Rachel says with a pout. "And I was about to cut the grapefruit."
Quinn waves dismissively. "The grapefruit will keep. How about French toast?" she asks, silently deciding on that option as she retrieves the soy milk she buys solely for Rachel and a banana to use as an egg substitute in her recipe.
"If it isn't too much trouble," Rachel murmurs, sinking down into a chair at the small kitchen table and dropping her chin onto her palm as she watches Quinn gracefully dance around her kitchen.
"It's no trouble," Quinn replies breezily. "It's nice having a reason to cook." She glances at Rachel with an odd smile. "If we had meals together more often, I'd have a reason to eat healthier. I tend to settle for coffee and a bagel when it's just me, or I grab a deli sandwich on the way home from work when I know I'm coming back to an empty apartment."
"As much as I approve of you eating healthier and staying away from delicatessens," she mumbles testily, recalling that redheaded, deli trollop that Quinn had briefly dated before her, "I feel guilty making you do the extra work for my sake."
"And again, I like cooking for you," Quinn stresses, skillfully chopping the banana and adding the slices into the soy milk. "It gives me an excuse to use all this vegan stuff I keep buying."
Rachel frowns and sits back in her chair. "You really don't have to buy anything special for me, Quinn. I'm used to getting by on salads and fruit."
Quinn pauses and looks over at her with a stern expression. "You will not get by with me, Rachel. And anyway, you keep bacon in your freezer for me."
"Don't remind me," Rachel teasingly laments with an exaggerated grimace.
Quinn giggles, turning her attention back to whipping the batter as she licks her lips thoughtfully. "You know, between the two of us, we're probably spending twice as much money to stock two kitchens."
Rachel thinks about the various food items that she's added to her grocery list—like the bacon, and the cheese, and the real ice cream that Quinn won't give up, and how all of those are things that Quinn buys for herself as well—and realizes that Quinn is right. "Well, I suppose I could just bring some of my necessary items with me when I know I'm coming here, and you could do the same at my place. That might save us some money."
Quinn's movements slow down, and she stares resolutely into the batter before she sighs and picks up a piece of bread to dip into the mixture. "It's not about the money," she says quietly.
"Then what is it about?" Rachel asks in confusion.
Quinn sighs again, tossing the battered bread into the skillet. "Forget it. I was just thinking out loud," she dismisses with a smile that doesn't fully reach her eyes. "Why don't you pour the coffee and get some plates? This won't take long at all."
Rachel does as she's asked, only sparing a moment to wonder about that strange, momentary shift in Quinn's mood because it passes so quickly before she's back to teasing Rachel about her less than impressive kitchen skills. Breakfast is delicious—much better than singed toast and grapefruit—and they easily fall into their Sunday routine. Rachel cleans up, as she usually does, because it's something that she can do to make her feel like she's giving something back to Quinn for all the amazing, little things that Quinn does for her every day. She knows that their relationship doesn't exist on a balancing scale and that Quinn isn't keeping a tally of how far the beam tips in her favor, but Rachel has always been just a little bit insecure when it comes to Quinn Fabray and being in love with her hasn't changed that.
She can still remember the first time that she'd laid eyes on Quinn, strutting down the hallway in her pristine red, white, and black cheerleading uniform with her hands on her hips while the sea of students parted effortlessly around her. Rachel had forgotten to breathe. She should have known right then that the weird feeling in her stomach meant something more than first-day, freshman nerves, but instead she'd cataloged every perfect line, angle, and curve of the gorgeous cheerleader and set it as the standard of beauty and popularity at William McKinley High School. The passing years have changed their relationship in significant ways, first for the worse and now better and better, but sometimes Rachel still can't quite believe that Quinn actually chose her—loves her.
She knows all of the reasons that Quinn counts herself the lucky one in this relationship, but the truth is that Rachel knows better. She knows how foolish she was once upon a time, how blind, how selfish, how insufferable. She knows how close she came to losing Quinn before she even had her—not only physically thanks to that horrible accident in high school but emotionally to the woman that Quinn fell in love with in college. Rachel sometimes wonders what would have happened if Sarah Cartwright had been more willing to follow Quinn to New York City and less determined to return to Michigan at the end of her studies and convince Quinn to go with her—as if Quinn could ever be happy living in a small town in the Midwest after she'd fought so hard to escape Lima. But Rachel is forever grateful for Sarah's stubbornness, because it brought Quinn back to her—physically and emotionally—and she doesn't intend to let her go.
Which is partially the reason that, after cleaning up the kitchen, Rachel decides to continue right on into the living room, picking up the stray articles of clothing that she'd mindlessly discarded last night. Her winter coat, wool hat, and scarf hadn't even come close to the closet, and her sweater and boots are strewn across the floor. For the last few weeks, Rachel has become acutely aware that she tends to leave her belongings at Quinn's apartment in excess—probably because Quinn has mentioned it once or twice—and while she doesn't seem particularly bothered over it, Rachel isn't taking any chances, especially after their discussion at breakfast. She's been presumptuous in the past, but she never wants to do that with Quinn. She really does feel more comfortable with Quinn than she ever has with anyone else, but she's honest enough to admit that the full, undiluted Rachel Berry isn't always the easiest pill to swallow. She's already tested the limits of Quinn's remarkable patience with her on a handful of occasions, even if they have mostly worked out for the best.
Quinn is currently sitting cross-legged on the sofa, reading the newspaper and sipping on her second cup of coffee. Rachel sets her sweater aside and pads into the bedroom, opening the drawer that Quinn had cleaned out for her to use and frowning when the overstuffed clothes cause it to stick halfway. Rachel doesn't even remember leaving all of those here, and she sighs, pulling out the top layer of wrinkled shirts and slacks before carrying them out to the living room to place on the chair next to her sweater. She's certain that she left a tote bag here at some point that she can use to take some of her things back to her own apartment.
The crinkling of the newspaper catches her attention, and she glances over to see that Quinn has tossed it to the side and is watching her with furrowed brows. "What are you doing?" she asks warily.
Rachel ducks her head and shrugs, busying her hands by refolding the wrinkled clothing. "Just cleaning up. You shouldn't have to keep doing my laundry."
"I don't mind," Quinn tells her with a trace of exasperation in her voice.
Rachel shakes her head, not quite meeting Quinn's eyes. "I don't want to keep taking advantage of you," she mumbles, biting her lip.
"You're not," Quinn insists. "I like having you here…kitchen incompetence, laundry, and all." Despite the warm affection in the words, Rachel determinedly continues with her task. "Seriously, Rach. Just leave it. Most of your closet is already here anyway. You might as well move the rest of it in," she suggests with an odd glint in her eye that Rachel can't quite name.
She huffs a little, unhappily reminded that her belongings are overrunning Quinn's apartment. "That's a gross exaggeration."
"It doesn't have to be," Quinn mumbles.
Rachel squints down at her girlfriend as she tries to read her guarded expression. "Excuse me?"
Quinn sighs before moistening her lips. "Wouldn't you rather not worry about where you left your favorite sweater or if your Funny Girl DVD is at your place or mine?"
"I have several well-loved sweaters, Quinn, so that's hardly a concern that keeps me awake at night," Rachel chastises, neatly stacking the shirt currently in her hands on top of the little pile that she's been building, "and I have multiple copies of Funny Girl, one of which is already here as you very well know, so that isn't an issue either."
"But it's easier to have all of your things here, isn't it?" Quinn pushes.
Rachel frowns. "Well, yes…when I'm here, at least."
It's Quinn's turn to huff, and she lightly slaps a palm against the sofa cushion. "You're almost always here!"
Rachel winces, staggering back a step as she struggles to understand what's happening. Has she really been imposing that much? "I…I suppose I could spend more time at my place," she offers shakily.
"No!" Quinn shouts, flinging her arms out to the side and flopping back against the sofa in defeat. "Sometimes you're still so frustrating," she mutters.
Rachel feels her eyes sting—thrown instantly back to high school and the awful experience of Quinn Fabray shaking the very foundation of her existence—and she crosses one arm over her stomach defensively, grasping onto her forearm and digging her nails into the skin. "I'm sorry," she whispers.
Quinn sits up immediately, back straight, and eyes Rachel uneasily. Her gaze softens, and she shakes her head. "I'm not mad at you," she says slowly. "You're just not getting it."
Rachel unclenches her fingers from their death-grip on her arm and frowns down at Quinn. She can safely agree that she isn't getting it, and she's about to ask Quinn to explain it to her when Quinn abruptly announces, "My lease is up next month," leaving Rachel even more confused. "I'm going to look for a bigger apartment," Quinn informs her, pursing her lips and steadily meeting Rachel's eyes for a few heartbeats—almost as if she's waiting for something—before she sighs and finally blurts out, "Move in with me."
Rachel gasps, eyes widening. "M-move in?"
Quinn draws in a deep breath as the tense muscles in her jaw flex. "If...if you want."
Rachel sinks down on the edge of the sofa—or tries to. She may slightly miscalculate her trajectory and be forced to catch herself from completely slipping off the edge. "You...you want to live with me?" she asks breathlessly as soon as she regains her balance—well, as much as she can under the circumstances.
Quinn swallows thickly and nods. "We...we're practically living together already. Just...not officially."
Rachel suddenly feels warm all over. She's never had anyone actually want to live with her before. Her fathers were duty bound to feed and shelter her, but she has to admit that they were just a little bit too happy to see her off to New York so that they could reclaim their freedom to throw impromptu karaoke parties in the Oscar room and travel as they pleased. She and Kurt gave sharing an apartment their best college try for a little while, but it nearly ruined their friendship thanks to their matching, high-strung personalities and conflicting bathroom routines. And while she never officially lived with Finn, the time that she spent in close quarters with him during their engagement hadn't exactly made their floundering relationship easier—in fact, it had only helped break it down faster.
After all of that, Rachel was happy to find an affordable apartment that she didn't have to share with anyone—even if the rent is only as low as it is due to the unfortunate, unexpected demise of the previous tenant. (Rachel tries not to think about that, and in any case, that particular window doesn't open now anyway). And oddly enough, she was secretly relieved when Peter mentioned in the early days of their relationship that he liked his own space and that a toothbrush and drawer should be more than enough for each of them. By then, Rachel had grown to appreciate her own space as well.
It's different with Quinn. It always has been, and that terrifies Rachel as much as it thrills her. It was so easy to migrate her things into Quinn's space, commandeer her favorite coffee mug, steal her favorite t-shirt, and snuggle into her sofa like it's home. Quinn is home, and while Rachel has felt it for a while, she's been so hesitant to verbalize it, even to herself. It's a dangerous idea—one that's gotten her into trouble in the past—but she's different now. She knows herself in a way that she didn't at seventeen (or nineteen or twenty-one), and she's ready to take the next step—and apparently, so is Quinn.
Perhaps the invitation is significantly lacking in the romance department. Rachel would have planned something elaborate—perhaps a romantic dinner at Quinn's favorite restaurant, after which, she would have either serenaded Quinn with an appropriately themed song about living together or presented her with a decorative key as a symbol of their new commitment (ignoring that they had already exchanged the actual keys to each other's apartments as a matter of convenience). But that's neither here nor there, because Quinn is asking Rachel to move in with her.
"You want to live with me," Rachel repeats in awe.
Quinn's mouth quirks into a slight smile. "I think we've established that," she says before dragging her bottom lip between her teeth. For the first time, Rachel realizes how adorably nervous Quinn is, and she starts to smile even before Quinn hesitantly asks, "So...will you?"
Rachel should probably need more time to think it over, but the possibility of living with Quinn—of falling asleep with her every night and waking up with her every morning—isn't one that she'll even consider refusing. Her grin grows wider, and she nods, flinging herself at Quinn and wrapping her up in a crushing hug while she repeatedly murmurs, "Yes," against her ear.
Quinn exhales in relief and slips her arms around Rachel's waist. "I've only been dropping hints for the last month," she complains with a smile in her voice.
Rachel closes her eyes, suddenly realizing that that's what Quinn's comments about the multiplication of her personal belongs were really about. And when Quinn had commented on the inconvenience of having to rush back to her own apartment in the mornings to shower and change, Rachel had (over)eagerly offered up her own drawers and cabinets and closet space to make things easier for Quinn. And this morning, when Quinn mentioned the expense of double groceries and wanting to cook more meals for her, it hadn't been about the money at all. Really though, Rachel doesn't think that she's entirely to blame for the miscommunication. How was she supposed to know that Quinn was attempting to furtively bring up cohabitation and not trying to reclaim her own space or worse, lay the groundwork for an impending breakup?
"Well, you suck at it," Rachel tells her, pulling back to look at her girlfriend with a faint grin.
That perfect eyebrow lifts into an elegant arch. "Or you suck at catching them."
Rachel hums dismissively, choosing not to argue the point—even though Quinn knows perfectly well that she was too preoccupied with creating the perfect first Christmuhkah experience for them, not to mention the fact that she hasn't yet been offered an extension on her contract with West Side Story, to pick up on such vague hints. She leans forward, catching Quinn's lips in a gentle kiss that Quinn immediately tries to deepen, but Rachel's thoughts are already drifting to everything that will need to be done. They'll need to collect some boxes, and she'll have to find someone to sublet her apartment to until her lease expires, and most importantly—she pulls away from Quinn, ignoring her disappointed groan and reaching around her for the abandoned newspaper, and she shifts back on the sofa and begins to flip through the pages.
"Rachel? What are you looking for?" Quinn asks testily.
"The apartment listings, obviously," Rachel answers distractedly.
"Obviously," Quinn echoes in amusement, sliding closer to Rachel and lazily gliding her fingers in tiny, enticing circles along Rachel's side as she looks over her shoulder.
Rachel jerks her gaze to her girlfriend. "Really, Quinn. We don't have time to fool around. We have less than two months to find the perfect apartment." She gently shoos Quinn off of her. "Get to work."
Quinn stares at her grumpily for a few moments before she sighs and gets up to retrieve her laptop, and they spend the rest of the morning compiling a list of potential apartments until Rachel has to leave for the theatre.
The next several weeks are hectic as they both attempt to squeeze apartment hunting into their schedules, trudging through the snow and slush from building to building. Rachel takes note of every crack, chip, and rattling pipe, joylessly crossing apartments off the list until they stumble over the perfect one—or as close to perfect as they can get within the limitations of their current budget. Murray Hill isn't the most prestigious part of the city—in fact, it still has a bit of a reputation for attracting the fresh-out-of-college types despite its recent influx of young professionals and higher class restaurants—but it's affordable, relatively safe, and close to the theater district. Quinn instantly falls in love with the renovated two bedroom, and Rachel falls in love with the look on Quinn's face—and, admittedly, the very convenient location. The details are haggled, the lease signed, the boxes packed, and now, all they need to do is actually move in.
They probably could have planned all of this better. Quinn's apartment is a mess of taped boxes and deconstructed furniture with barely enough room for the two of them to navigate. The last week has been particularly stressful with everything that needed to be done, and Rachel's production manager isn't thrilled with her for the number of shows that she's missed—and will miss. Well, she isn't exactly thrilled with him either, considering the fact that it's becoming increasingly clear that neither she nor her leading man, Brian, are going to be asked to return to the show after April—if the show even continues its run. Ticket sales are down.
Rachel had packed up her own apartment in small increments over the last two weeks, sorting her belongings into boxes for Goodwill, boxes for storage, and boxes to take with her to their new apartment—those of which are currently stacked up in Quinn's apartment along with Quinn's contribution to the cardboard metropolis that they've built. If Rachel never sees another box or roll of packing tape in her life, it will be too soon. She just wants to get everything moved in so that she and Quinn can get settled, because these last few weeks have been tense and unpleasant for both of them. She's even been a little worried at times that Quinn is having second thoughts, at least until the morning of their scheduled move-in day when, right in the middle of the nightmarish forest of boxes, Quinn wraps her arms around Rachel from behind, drops her chin onto Rachel's shoulder, and just holds her.
"Are you ready for this?" Rachel asks quietly, tracing her fingers over the backs of Quinn's hands.
"So ready," Quinn murmurs, turning her head to ghost her lips over Rachel's cheek. "Moving is a pain in the ass, but it will be worth it."
Rachel smiles and melts back against Quinn's body, enjoying their last moments in this place where they've made so many incredible memories. She barely suppresses the urge to squeal with excitement (again) when she thinks about their brand new apartment—theirs, where they'll make new memories and a home together.
Her thoughts start to slide off track when she registers the soft temptation of Quinn's mouth trailing butterfly kisses down her neck while those elegant, skilled fingers pluck at the button of her jeans. "Don't start something you can't finish," Rachel warns.
"We have time," Quinn whispers seductively, but the sudden, staccato tapping at the door says otherwise, causing Rachel to wince in surprise and Quinn to groan.
"No, we don't," Rachel counters sadly, extricating herself from Quinn's arms.
"You two bitches better not be naked in there," Santana yells through the door. "I'm not touching any boxes that have wet spots on them."
Rachel feels her cheeks heat as she hastily re-buttons her jeans, watching Quinn tuck her hair behind her ears as she weaves her way through the cardboard obstacle course to let in their friends.
"Santana, can you be anymore crass?" comes Kurt's muffled voice.
"Yeah, actually I can." There are two loud bangs against the door. "Lucy Q, get your fingers out of the Berry jam and open the damn door."
"Oh, my God," Quinn growls as she yanks open the door and is almost immediately run over by an irritated Santana bundled in a leather coat with a dusting of snow still melting in her dark hair. An equally bundled up Kurt follows her inside, rolling his eyes in exasperation and generally looking too dapper for manual labor, as he leads in a nice looking young man that Rachel has never before seen and who must be the muscle that Kurt had promised to bring.
"I'm just grateful that my fathers aren't here yet," Rachel grumbles, also grateful that Quinn had only loaned Santana the key to the building and not the one to the apartment as well.
"Like they don't know what you two get up to in that double bed," Santana fires back, unwinding her scarf from her neck and unzipping her coat.
"Sometimes I wonder why we're still friends," Quinn muses, gently pushing the door closed.
"Because who else is going to drag their ass out of bed on their one day off to help you haul your damn stuff halfway across the city in the middle of Ice Age part thirty seven below zero?"
Quinn laughs lightly, but Rachel clicks her tongue. "Really, Santana. It's not that cold outside, and twenty blocks is hardly halfway across the city. Besides, that's what the rental truck is for."
Santana freezes, staring blankly back at Rachel. "Rental truck?" she echoes.
Rachel's heart skips unpleasantly, and her eyes narrow. "The one you said you could get a great deal on," she reminds Santana, whose expression doesn't change. "The one you said no to worry about," Rachel shrieks, not even the slightest bit calmed by Quinn's sudden presence at her side, rubbing circles on her back.
"Yeah about that," Santana trails off, glancing away guiltily.
"Oh, don't let her con you, Rachel," Kurt soothes, glaring at an amused Santana. "The truck is double parked outside."
Rachel sags against Quinn, breathing out a relieved, "Oh, thank God."
"Not funny, Santana," Quinn growls.
"Not funny for you," Santana tells them, planting her hands on her hips. "And the great deal isn't so great. You owe me a C-note."
"One hundred dollars?" Rachel shrieks again. "Are you serious?"
"Serious as a med student with no sleep and not enough caffeine."
"You dumped Lorna, didn't you?" Quinn asks, crossing her arms in annoyance.
"Dumped is such a strong word," Santana hedges, shifting uncomfortably.
"Who's Lorna?" Kurt's muscled friend asks the room at large, drawing everyone's attention to him.
Kurt takes pity on him and answers, "The woman Santana was seeing who happens to work at the local U-Haul."
"I know," Kurt agrees gleefully. "It's like the punch line to every bad lesbian joke."
"Watch it, Lady Gay," Santana snaps.
"Who are you again?" Quinn asks the man.
"Oh, I'm Seth," he answers with an affable grin, giving them a little wave. "Hi."
"He's a personal trainer," Kurt gushes, running an appreciative hand over his wool-covered bicep.
"Can you lift at least fifty pounds?" Rachel questions with a critical eye.
"I can bench press three hundred," he boasts.
"Great. Take that table down to the truck," she orders, pointing out the piece of furniture in question.
Seth nods, offers a polite, "Yes, ma'am," and easily picks up the table and maneuvers it out of the apartment.
Quinn watches him go with an impressed nod of approval before turning her attention back to Santana. "So, what happened with Lorna?"
She shrugs. "Work stuff got in the way."
"Was it wearing candy stripes?" Kurt asks knowingly.
"I can't believe that you couldn't wait one more week until Quinn and I had moved," Rachel complains. It was very inconvenient—after all, Lorna had been quite fit and undoubtedly capable of lifting heavy things.
"Hey, the heart wants what it wants," Santana says by way of an explanation.
"I'm sure it was your heart," Kurt counters with a snicker.
"Wait," Rachel demands. "Who's driving the truck?"
Santana waves off her concern. "I've got it covered. Puckerman taught me a thing or two about driving a stick with massive horsepower."
"I'm not even going to touch that one," Kurt mumbles, making a face.
Quinn manages a self-derisive smile. "You're smarter than I was."
"But not smart enough to hire professional movers," Santana complains.
Rachel lifts one of the nearby boxes, shoving it at Santana. "Smart enough to take advantage of free labor."
Santana scowls at her, but gingerly accepts the box. "Oh, my services don't come free. You'll be compensating me with food, alcohol, and possibly theater tickets for the next four or five years."
"So basically, exactly what we're already doing," Rachel confirms with a roll of her eyes.
Santana saunters out of the apartment with her singular box, and Kurt glances around at the piles, assessing each one before making a beeline for the garment bags that contain Quinn's business suits. Leave it to Kurt to go for the designer items first.
He drapes the bags over his arms, but his exit is blocked by the appearance of Leroy Berry in the doorway wearing a wide grin. "Hello, my darling girls. And Kurt," he adds with a nod.
Kurt grins back. "Hello, Leroy. Hiram," he greets when Rachel's other father appears behind his husband.
"You really shouldn't leave your door open, Rachelah," Hiram chastises.
Rachel smiles at them both and rushes into their arms, giving them both an exuberant hug. "Dad, Daddy, I'm so happy to see you."
"You saw us last night," Leroy reminds her, giving her a final squeeze before he lets go.
"And you were both such a big help packing the last of our things," she tells them gratefully. "Now if you wouldn't mind grabbing those boxes over there," she says, pointing out the heavier items, "and loading them on the truck, that would be amazing."
"In case you were wondering, there's no nepotism here," Kurt teases. "She's an equal-opportunity diva."
Rachel scowls at him, clapping her hands sharply. "Chop, chop, people. We're burning daylight."
"That's my cue," Kurt says, making a hasty exit with the garment bags.
Hiram chuckles, sliding over to Quinn and wrapping an arm around her shoulder. "Are you sure you want to do this, Quinn? It isn't too late to change your mind."
"Daddy!" Rachel gasps in outrage.
Quinn smiles and blushes a little, ducking her head. "It was too late a long time ago, sir."
Rachel flushes with pleasure, both from Quinn's words and the sight of her standing with her daddy's arm wrapped lovingly around her. It had taken her dads a little while to fully warm up to Quinn in the early days of their friendship after everything that had happened in high school, but eventually they'd come to respect Quinn and appreciate how hard she'd worked to turn her life around. Still, finding out that Rachel had fallen in love with her had blindsided them more than a little, but once they'd gotten over the shock of it—which had been primarily about Rachel's sexuality and the fact that she'd never even mentioned to them that she might be questioning anything—they'd been thrilled that Rachel was finally with someone who complemented her so perfectly.
"We know what that's like," Leroy murmurs sympathetically, picking up one of the boxes that Rachel had pointed out to him.
The little smile drops off Rachel's face, and she plants her hands on her hips and stomps her foot. "I'm standing right here."
"Then grab a box and get chopping, honey," Hiram tells her, winking down at Quinn before he lets her go and picks up a lamp and the little end table by the door.
Rachel sticks her tongue out at him, and Quinn laughs indulgently as she reaches for one of the boxes. Rachel is quick to stop her, laying a hand over her arm. "What do you think you're doing?"
Quinn raises an eyebrow. "Grabbing a box?"
"Uh uh," Rachel denies, physically turning her and pointing her in the direction of one of the smaller packages. "Nothing over thirty pounds."
"Really, Rachel, it's been six years," Quinn grumbles in annoyance.
"Almost exactly," Rachel agrees soberly. "So just humor me, Quinn."
Quinn's eyes grow soft in understanding, and she steps into Rachel, slipping her arms around her waist and pressing a lingering kiss to her lips.
"Oh, no. No fucking way," Santana interrupts as she glides back into the apartment, causing Quinn to pull back from the kiss but not to loosen her hold on Rachel. "You don't get to mack on each other while I'm lugging boxes around. Save that shit for later."
"Language, Santana," Rachel scolds with a faint smile, staring into Quinn's sparkling eyes and completely ignoring the finger that Santana flicks in her direction.
Quinn grins and slowly drops her arms, reluctantly stepping back as the apartment fills with the noise of their friends and family clomping back inside and shuffling boxes and furniture. She dutifully lifts one of the smaller boxes, grins at Rachel, and promises, "We'll continue this in our new apartment."
Rachel bites her lip and nods, grabbing for the first box she sees before she realizes that she needs to put on a coat, and then frowning because Quinn is slipping out the door without one. "Quinn," she calls out sharply, huffing when she gets no response and blinding picking up Quinn's coat to drape it over a box before she hurries into her own and races after her girlfriend. She'll be damned if she lets Quinn catch pneumonia—she has far too many plans for them to be waylaid by anything.
Two hours later, they're finally standing in front of their apartment building. Santana had actually managed to get the truck—and them—there in one piece, and Rachel has to admit that she'd navigated the city streets like a pro. Kurt and Seth had ridden with Rachel's fathers, who had managed to find a space to park just down the block—Santana hadn't bothered with that, double parking in front of the building again, and now Seth is opening the back gate on the moving truck and lowering the lift.
Rachel steps onto the curb to stand next to Quinn, studying her profile as she gazes up at the building with a soft smile on her lips. There are trees along the street, and though they're barren now with the icy tendrils of snow lining their branches, they'll surely be bursting with new life in the spring. She quietly slips her hand into her girlfriend's, and Quinn links their fingers, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. "We're home," she murmurs, glancing at Rachel.
It's one of those perfect moments that seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things but instantly weaves itself into the fabric of life, hidden away—sometimes for years—until the memory unexpectedly resurfaces, bringing back every sight, sound, smell, and emotion as if it happened only yesterday.
Eventually, they're pulled into the chaos of unloading the truck and carrying boxes, lamps, and furniture up to the sixth floor. Quinn's eyes take on the same happy sparkle they'd had the first time she'd stepped into the apartment and seen the hardwood floors, pristine white walls, and spacious (for a New York apartment) kitchen. The view from the windows isn't exactly spectacular, but they can see part of the little park that's on the adjacent block and a line of trees that promises to provide a splash of color in the otherwise brown and redbrick skyline.
Rachel's dads are suitably impressed, and Kurt murmurs his approval after a critical sweep around the rooms. Santana eyes the place dubiously before finally offering a shrug and admitting, "It's not bad."
Despite the fact that this apartment is bigger than either of their old ones, the addition of all of the boxes, lamps, and furniture makes the space shrink incredibly fast. Rachel frowns, realizing that what she's put into storage probably isn't ever going to make it here. They'd already compromised so much on what items were being kept and what were being discarded, and somehow, the majority of the things making the move with them ended up being Quinn's—not that Rachel was particularly attached to her dresser or her tiny loveseat, and Quinn's furniture is admittedly newer and in better shape, but she was hoping to sneak in her vintage, full-length, standing mirror and a few more of her framed Broadway posters. She's still holding out hope for the mirror.
Once the truck is empty, Santana drives it back to the rental lot, and Rachel's dad volunteers to follow her so she'll have a ride back to continue helping with the unpacking. Seth proves to be surprisingly handy with the tools, putting the disassembled bookshelves, dresser, and desk back together before maneuvering them into place—and Rachel grudgingly admits that Quinn's furniture fits into the apartment seamlessly. The one new purchase that they'd agreed upon upfront is a queen-sized bed, and they'd had that delivered three days ago. It's currently buried under piles of yet to be opened boxes.
In retrospect, it probably hadn't been wise to pack the strap-on in with their undergarments in a box labeled 'delicates,' because that's the first box that Santana gleefully rummages through. "Well, well, well…guess you finally manned up, Berry," she taunts, gingerly using one of Rachel's socks to pick up the dildo by its base. "Or does Quinn get the honor?"
"Oh, my," Kurt mutters, wrinkling his nose in distaste, even as Quinn turns red and lunges at Santana.
"Give me that," she growls, grabbing the toy and shoving it back into the box before she takes the whole thing away from Santana.
Rachel blushes hotly, painfully aware of both her fathers uncomfortably clearing their throats and making valiant attempts to pretend they didn't see anything.
"I can't believe you," she grumbles, glaring at Santana.
"Hey, you wanted my help," Santana reminds her, innocently holding up her hands.
"That wasn't an invitation to paw through our personal belongings."
"Actually, it kind of was," Santana argues.
Rachel huffs in frustration. "Just...go unpack the kitchen utensils."
Santana rolls her eyes. "You know, that's actually where I keep my dildos," she informs them unnecessarily, heading toward the kitchen where they'd placed the appropriate boxes. "They're easier to clean in the dishwasher."
Kurt drops the throw pillows in his hands, looking ill. "Remind me to never touch the dinnerware at her apartment again."
Quinn, having mostly recovered from her embarrassment and safely tucked away any box containing the items not suitable for company, manages to laugh and shake her head. "Considering that she's always mooching food off of us, I don't think that will be an issue."
"Bitch, I can hear you," Santana yells from the kitchen.
Quinn rolls her eyes and digs into another box, pulling out stacks of books.
"Speaking of food," Rachel says, "what does everyone want to for lunch? Quinn and I are buying."
"We are?" Quinn asks in confusion, pausing in her task. Rachel raises her eyebrows until Quinn sighs and nods. "Yes, we are."
"Oh, darling, why don't you let daddy and I buy lunch for everyone?" Leroy asks.
"That would be great," Quinn responds with enthusiasm at the same time Rachel says, "That isn't necessary, Dad."
Rachel frowns and shoots Quinn a look of disappointment, but Quinn doesn't seem fazed.
"We want to," Hiram agrees. "Think of it as an impromptu housewarming gift since you vetoed the baby grand piano."
Santana pokes her head out from the kitchen. "I don't care who's buying as long as I gets me some free eats."
Rachel shakes her head, but in the end, she allows her fathers to pay for their lunch—even if their offer does prove to be a means for them to escape the apartment and the abundance of inappropriate comments from Santana for a little while. In any case, the break rejuvenates them all, and by the end of the day, they have all the furniture in place and all the essentials unpacked, if not fully put away in their proper places.
Of course, this does not occur without incident. Quinn has to physically hold Rachel back when Santana decides to use her Drama Desk award as a doorstop, and Rachel has to do the same for Quinn when she catches Kurt nosing through one of her private journals. And then there's the argument that Rachel and Quinn get into when Quinn neatly hangs her clothes in the closet of the master bedroom and leaves less than a foot of space for Rachel's wardrobe, followed shortly thereafter by the argument they have over Rachel's facial creams and various herbal shampoos filling the bathroom cabinets to overflowing.
"Do you really need that many products, Rachel? We don't even have any space left for a freaking bottle of aspirin!"
"If I have to deal with your endless supply of business suits chasing me out of the closet, then you can suck it up and keep your aspirin in the kitchen."
"I thought it was her ass in those business suits that finally chased you out of the closet," Santana snarks as she breezes past the door.
"Shut up, Santana," Rachel hisses, but Quinn's laughter rings out through the bathroom, and it effectively ends their argument for the moment.
It's late when Quinn and Rachel are finally left completely alone in their brand new apartment, and there are still a few boxes yet to be tackled. Rachel stands in the middle of the living room and turns in a slow circle, taking in the apartment now that it's overflowing with their belongings and smiling in satisfaction at the way everything is coming together. Well, granted, it's still something of a mess, but it's a homey mess. Quinn watches her in bemusement from the sofa where she's cleared a space to gently unpack the box of vinyl albums that they both love, looking more than a little drowsy but so enticingly tousled. Rachel contemplates the logistics of christening their new home when they're both already exhausted.
"What are you thinking about?" Quinn asks when she catches Rachel staring at her.
"Taking you to bed," Rachel answers honestly, grinning at the way Quinn's eyebrow inches up as she lets the album in her hand slip through her fingers and back into the box.
"Do you think we can find it?"
Rachel laughs, reminded that their bed is still buried under piles of clothes. She shrugs good-naturedly. "I think we can manage."
Quinn pushes aside the box, tucking it safely back into the cushions of the sofa, and stands, closing the distance to Rachel in four strides until she can wrap her arms around Rachel's waist. Rachel is happy to melt into her girlfriend's firm body and meet those perfect pink lips with a sigh. "Take me to bed," Quinn quietly commands, and Rachel answers by silently cupping Quinn's hands, pulling them from her body, and leading her into the bedroom—where she promptly stumbles over the wall of books stacked on the floor beneath the window and only avoids planting her ass on that same floor because Quinn is there to catch her.
"Sorry about that," Quinn mumbles sheepishly, pulling Rachel closer. "I'll sort those tomorrow."
Rachel glares down at the offending books. "I still don't understand why you couldn't just put those on the shelves when you unpacked them."
"For the same reason your CD collection is still boxed," Quinn reminds her. "They need to be sorted…"
"Sorted by genre and alphabetized," Rachel finishes with her. "And everyone thinks that I'm the anal retentive one in this relationship."
Quinn chuckles. "Oh, sweetie, you are. I just like to have my books in order."
"Just your books, huh?" Rachel teases with a grin.
"Like my secret organizational skills don't turn you on like crazy," Quinn purrs seductively, finding the hem of Rachel's shirt and slipping the pads of her fingers along the soft band of skin that she finds there.
"Everything about you turns me on," Rachel answers helplessly, no longer feeling at all tired anymore. Quinn effortlessly guides her back to the bed, carelessly sweeping the remaining piles of clothes—mostly Rachel's—stacked on the mattress to the floor. "You're cleaning those up tomorrow," Rachel tells her as she lays back, pulling Quinn over her.
"It will be my pleasure," Quinn promises before trailing her tongue over Rachel's pulse point. In fact, the pleasure is all Rachel's.
It's early—maybe seven o'clock—and the sun is just starting to stream in the window to cast a warm glow over the bed. It almost feels like spring is in the air, even though it's still February. Rachel stretches lazily as she wakes up, almost immediately noticing the lack of Quinn's arms around her and the coolness of the sheets next to her. She rolls her head on her pillow, frowning when she sees that she's alone in the bed—on their first morning of living together! She pushes up onto her elbows and glances around the room, seeing the books still piled on the floor, though the clothes that Quinn had knocked down last night are neatly folded and set on the dresser. She's more than a little peeved that Quinn isn't still in bed with her—she'd wanted to wake up with her this morning.
Sighing, Rachel throws off the sheets and sits up, sliding her legs over the side of the bed and standing. She pads over to the dresser and quickly browses through the clothes there, finding a suitably oversized shirt to pull over her head. She drags her fingers through her hair, not certain where her brush is right now, and her eyes casually drift around the room while she mentally plots how to maximize their space. She freezes when she looks back at the bed, seeing for the first time the frame that's leaning against the wall next to her side. She hadn't noticed it before. She gasps, pressing a hand to her heart and blinking rapidly in an attempt to clear her eyes and make sure she's actually awake. It's still there, and Rachel emits a little squeal as she rushes over to kneel on the floor, gingerly fingering the frame that holds a mint-condition, vintage Funny Girl film poster, starring the one and only Barbra Streisand—exactly like the one that she'd been trying to track down for the better part of two years.
"Oh, my God," she breathes, rearing back and scrambling to her feet. "Oh, my God," she repeats, running out of the bedroom. "Quinn!" She slides to a stop in the empty living room. "Quinn," she calls out again, spinning around and quickly checking the rest of the apartment, only to find that she's alone. The excitement over her discovery is immediately muted with the disappointment of having no Quinn to tackle, kiss, strip naked on the living room floor, and repeatedly thank in many mutually enjoyable ways. "Where the hell are you?" she grumbles.
She smells the faint aroma of coffee and makes her way into the kitchen. There are two mugs set out on the counter and a half-brewed pot of coffee, but still—very obviously—no Quinn. There is, however, a neatly penned note in Quinn's familiar script underneath her mug that simply reads:
Good morning, sweetheart. I'm hoping to be back before you wake up, but in case I'm not, enjoy your coffee while I fetch breakfast from the little cafe down the block. Love, Quinn.
Rachel sighs, unable to fight the soft smile that pulls her lips. They hadn't really brought many groceries with them, deciding to do their shopping after they'd moved in, but she'd just figured that Quinn would have woken her up so they could hunt down breakfast together and explore the neighborhood. Instead, Quinn decided to be a sneaky romantic, leaving her a present and attempting to cater their breakfast without Rachel being the wiser. It could have been the perfect surprise if Rachel hadn't woken up.
A sudden burst of inspiration strikes Rachel, and she runs back to the bedroom, foregoing the coffee because she honestly feels giddy enough without the caffeine. She haphazardly rummages through one of the boxes that they haven't fully unpacked yet—the one marked 'crafts' that's filled with miscellaneous items from ribbons to wood glue to the acrylic paints that Quinn had bought when she'd decided to repaint her book case and decorate it with a border of little flowers. Her hand closes around what she's looking for, and she jumps up, racing into the second bedroom and rummaging through one of the boxes in there for the ream of paper that goes with Quinn's printer. Pulling out a sheet, Rachel returns to the master bedroom and plots out her idea carefully before she fully commits to it.
She's pleased with herself when the brush doesn't shake—well, too badly—and she manages to complete her artistic endeavor right over the spot where her brand new Funny Girl poster stills rests, waiting to be carefully tacked up on the wall. Squealing in delight, she skips around the bed and tosses herself across it, rolling onto her back with a delighted giggle and waiting for Quinn to return home. She doesn't have to wait very long.
It's only about ten minutes before Rachel hears the lock in the door and the quiet scuffling of Quinn's shoes on the floor. Rachel turns onto her side and props her chin against her hand, watching the door until it opens and a blonde head pokes inside. Quinn takes a few soft steps toward the bed, probably thinking that Rachel is still asleep, before she pauses and her breath catches audibly.
Rachel watches those beautiful hazel eyes trace the green ribbon of paint on the white wall, curling around itself to create an infinity sign that's broken only by the flowing letters that form the word love. Then those eyes, glistening in the sunlight, settle on Rachel instead. "You're awake," she whispers needlessly.
Rachel nods and smiles up at her beautifully. "I love my present."
Quinn catches her lower lip between her teeth, glancing back at the wall with a soft smile. "I can see that."
"Do you…do you like it?" Rachel asks nervously, suddenly worrying that she might have acted too spontaneously. "Because we can paint over it if you don't."
"I love it," Quinn says with a shake of her head, sinking down on the edge of the mattress and stroking her hand along Rachel's hip. "It's perfect."
Rachel grins in relief. "I'm so glad. I really hoped you'd like it. After all, you did have a propensity for doodling on walls in high school."
"Rachel!" Quinn gasps, playfully slapping Rachel's ass. "That's a terrible thing to remind me of."
Rachel laughingly grabs her wrist and pulls her forward until she's completely sprawled across the bed. "If I'd only known then what I know now, we could have put those frequent bathroom rendezvous to much better use."
"Like we do now?" Quinn asks, shifting on the mattress until she's hovering over Rachel.
"Mmm...exactly," Rachel murmurs, closing the distance between their lips.
"Our breakfast is going to get cold," Quinn warns, even as her cool hand slips under Rachel's shirt.
"Good thing this apartment came equipped with a microwave," Rachel muses, welcoming Quinn back into her arms where she belongs. The rest of the unpacking can wait a few more hours. After all, they have plenty of time and nowhere else to be but right here at home.