Never Asked To Feel Your Halo


Chapter Thirty-Two: Rising With The Heat

So this was embarrassing. Not that Rachel wasn't used to her throwing up but she'd really been hoping that tonight wouldn't be about that. It wasn't a surprise though, seeing as she'd been feeling nauseous ever since she'd senselessly tackled Rachel down onto the bed.

She'd really overfilled her quota for 'embarrassing' today, huh.

One thing she wasn't surprised about was Rachel following her in – although she did respectfully knock first (and then didn't wait for an answer).

"I'm uggay," she gurgled, hoping Rachel would leave before she witnessed anything gross.

"You're a gay? Well, again I appreciate your honesty but this isn't something we have to discuss right now."

If she could have glared at her she would have done; she settled for swiping an arm back and hitting Rachel's knees. The other girl laughed and sank down behind her.

"You're okay, I understand. And if you'd rather be left alone just say the word. But if you'd rather not, I'm not squeamish."

At the feel of a small hand rubbing her lower back in just the right way Quinn lost all heart to tell her to get lost. She still wanted to, because she really didn't want Rachel watching her regurgitate pizza, but she wasn't strong enough. Between the tumultuous night they'd shared and Rachel's soothing hand on her back and even more soothing voice in her ear, she was beyond vulnerable and that made her beyond the point of pushing Rachel away.

"I'm not going to be sick," she muttered, feeling the dizzying wave pass, probably thanks to Rachel's proximity. "Just the pizza and the dancing and, um, everything . . . I just need a minute."

Her mouth was watering like crazy and she spat into the toilet bowl. "Sorry."

"It's okay. Do you want me to get you a t-shirt or something?"

She had to spit again. "Sorry." And then looked down at herself. "Why, did I dribble again?"

"No, I thought you might want to, uh . . . you know?" Rachel trailed off with an embarrassed chuckle.

"Oh." She had to spit again. "Sorry. No, it'll pass on its own eventually."

"Stop apologizing."

"Sorry." Spit. "Sorry. It's just, I can't say I've ever been a fan of you seeing me like this but now, after . . . well, it's worse." Spit. "Sorry."

The rubbing on her back went away as she felt Rachel stand. "Where are you going?"

"I'm going to get you a glass of water and a t-shirt."

"I said I didn't want a t-shirt." She leaned further over the bowl as the baby growled its disapproval. "That's not why I'm here."

Rachel filled a glass at the sink and kneeled back down behind her, offering it forward. "If it helps, Quinn, I don't mind."

"Yes you do." She spat again before taking the glass and sipping from it.

"No, I don't. It's not like I think you spent the entire evening with me just so you could . . . Although I can't help noticing you aren't actually being sick right now."

Quinn rolled her watering eyes. "If it'll convince you I didn't come over here to steal your fabric softener I'll stick my fingers down my throat and still not touch one of your damn t-shirts."

The rubbing came back. "That won't be necessary. I'm sorry."

Quinn retched a little as she tried to reply. "Sogay."

"I'm not ready to label myself yet, Quinn."

And again, "Ragel!"

Rachel chuckled and Quinn felt soft fingertips brushing a strand of loosened hair behind her ear.

It was soon clear nothing was going to actually come up, which was a relief – and not just because Rachel wouldn't have to witness it. After a few more sips of water Quinn let her body slump backwards away from the toilet, and half against Rachel.

"I think I'm okay now."

"You're still very pale."

"Still feel gross, but the danger period seems to have passed."

Rachel's hand made another two slow circles on her lower back. "Are you ready to go back into the other room?"

Actually she was quite happy where she was but she couldn't stay leaning against Rachel forever. "Yeah."

Rachel took the nearly empty glass from her and stood up to refill it at the sink. "Come on then."

Quinn gingerly got to her feet, feeling another wave hit her as soon as she upright. She paused for a moment, wondering if she should sink straight back down but Rachel's concerned eyes made her fight against it.

Back in the bedroom, Rachel gently coaxed her to sit on the bed and handed her the glass again.

"Do you want some crackers or something? They're supposed to help with morning sickness."

Quinn urgently held up her free hand. "No food."

"Okay, um . . ."

Rachel looked around her room, clearly at a loss as what to suggest next. Quinn saw her eyes dart to her closet and put a stop to that right away.

"No. I didn't come here with an agenda, remember? I'll be fine in a minute."

A minute passed. She didn't feel fine. Not that she felt like she was going to lose her dinner at any second, but she definitely didn't feel fine. The nausea that had been plaguing her on and off all day was completely on now. She should probably go home so that she could take comfort in hugging her own toilet. Not that it was a toilet she wanted to be hugging.

She voiced her thoughts aloud – well some of them – because she was clearly making Rachel anxious. "I should probably go."

"Do you think you can drive okay?"

She thought about it. "Maybe not. I can sit in my car though."

"Don't be silly, Quinn. You're perfectly welcome to stay here for as long as you need."

"I'm ruining your night."

"On the contrary. Your current debilitation aside, I haven't had a night this good in . . . ever."

She found that hard to believe. Yes, she was talking to Rachel Berry which meant she had to alter her perception on what a 'good night' entailed, but surely even for someone traditionally labelled a loser the definition couldn't stretch to watching someone fight with the need to vomit.

She really didn't think she could drive just yet though, so she was left feeling more on edge by the way she was putting Rachel on edge and if she dared to glance at her closet one more time Quinn was going to lose it.

"Oh, I have something!"

"I said I'm not sniffing anything!"

"No, not that." Rachel rolled over on her bed so that she could reach into her bedside cabinet unbothered by the way she'd just been shouted at. "Something to distract you might work just as well and you seemed very interested this afternoon in certain entries in my diary."

Quinn turned to her, her eyes giving away her excitement. "About the mystery thing you wanted me to do again?"

Rachel smiled, "Yes. You were honest with me about something big earlier, twice actually, and so I think I'm ready for you to know."

Quinn eyed the book held out to her with interest but shook her head. "I don't want to read your diary. Just tell me."

"I'll be less embarrassed if you just read it. Look, I'll open it to the right page and I trust you not to read anything but that entry."

Cautiously Quinn took the book from her. She scanned the bottom half of the right page – speed-reading what she'd already seen – and then flipped the page eagerly and . . . seriously? She read the passage again for hidden euphemisms but there really didn't seem to be any. She started to laugh, and the hilarity induced by Rachel's deepest, darkest desire increased ten-fold when, from the corner of her eye, she saw the girl in question cringing. Busted. There was only one course of action: mock her mercilessly, but for once (or once again, it had been hard to tell recently) she didn't feel an iota of cruelty lacing the edge of her teasing tone.

"You wanted another thank you hug? Are you kidding me? That's all you wanted?"

"It was a big deal for me," Rachel sheepishly tried to defend herself, but she was crimson with knowing she had every reason to be embarrassed.

The worst thing was, or maybe the funniest thing, Quinn was right there with her, cheeks burning with the memory. "I almost kissed you this afternoon, Rachel!"

"Believe me, no one was more surprised than I was!"

She could believe that now. No wonder it had seemed as though Rachel was playing so hard to get; the girl must have been utterly terrified at how strong Quinn was coming on when her own demands were so innocent.

"If I'd known . . ." Quinn trailed off. She sort of felt like she should apologize, but it was still funny, she was still chuckling in fact. She wasn't quite ready to be done with the teasing yet. Nails tapping against the page, she coyly asked, "Have you written in it yet today? Can I read it? I bet it's good."

"It's the stuff dreams are made of, and no."

"Wet dreams no doubt," Quinn smirked but dutifully, if reluctantly, closed the book.

"Like you haven't had any about me." Suddenly feeling like the proverbial deer staring down the headlights of an oncoming car, Quinn gaped at having the tables turned on her. Giving Rachel her turn to laugh. "Anyway so now you know."

Quinn shook her head, still getting over how wrong she had been earlier. "I do."

As Quinn handed the diary back something slipped from between the pages and her fingers instinctively reached out to catch it for Rachel as it fluttered to the bed.

"What's this?"

"A photograph." No kidding. "Of my niece," she clarified when Quinn gave her a look.

"Your niece? But she's . . ." she asked skeptically. She'd already checked out the little girl in the photo and she was definitely without doubt, ". . . black."

"One of my fathers happens to be African American thank you very much," Rachel reminded her, annoyed.

"Oh, right," Quinn ducked her eyes back to the photo, berating herself for forgetting a fact about Rachel that anyone who spent half an hour in her company would soon come to know. "I think I knew that."

"However, she's not my biological niece. My dads' closest friends adopted her from Uganda last year. Isn't she a cutie?"

Quinn smiled down at the photo, "She's beautiful. What made them adopt?"

"Science has yet to come up with a way for two women to conceive a child together."

"Oh." Quinn handed back the photo. "I see."

"Apparently they talked about sperm donors but they couldn't agree on who should carry . . ."

"I said, I see!"

She didn't mean to sound, or feel, so defensive, but a nerve had been touched. The conversation had veered towards a path she wasn't comfortable with. Adoption she was interested in for obvious reasons, but she hadn't meant to open a door that invited Rachel to talk about, well, gay stuff (also for obvious reasons.)

Rachel looked hurt by her tone, and then angry, and then like she understood . . . but as it turned out, she didn't.

"Quinn," she began patiently, "if Mrs. Schuester wasn't an option, how would you feel about your baby having same-sex parents?"

"Why would it matter, as long as it was loved?"

"Do you really believe that?"

"Yes," she said tersely, because it pissed her off that Rachel was second-guessing her.

"Quinn?"

"What do you want me to say, Berry? That gay parents are an abomination? That it shouldn't be allowed? That the idea of two perverts raising a baby kind of disgusts me? I'm not going to say that because despite the fact that you're nodding knowingly in your head right now that is not what I think. But it is everything I have been brought up to think so don't sit there and judge me because I blink a few more times than you think is okay when you tell me about your lesbian friends having a baby, okay!"

Rachel breathed shallowly as the silence following Quinn's impassioned outburst settled thickly in the air between them.

"I'm sorry," she tried, but it was too late, Rachel was upset and moving away from her again.

She stared hard at her knees, feeling the nausea swirl in her stomach again and the threat of tears well behind her eyes. She hadn't meant to snap; she just felt so horrible and she always hated being put on the spot. The combination had gotten the better of her and now she'd ruined things between them again.

With a discreet, self-pitying sniff, she prepared to get up from the bed and silently take her leave, only to be startled by a new photo being thrust under her nose. In a fluid manoeuvre that belied her surprise, she drew her head back and plucked the photo from its invasive place right before her eyes.

"And this is?" she asked automatically as she looked upon the two women in their mid-to-late thirties and the baby girl with adorably frizzy black hair and wide toothless grin.

Rachel was suddenly sitting close to her again, even closer than before (Quinn tried not to notice) as she used her pointer finger to identify each person captured by the lens.

"That's Nadine and Kathy. I don't have any actual Aunties but they've always filled that role. And that . . ." She caught Rachel's grin from the corner of her eye. ". . . Is Luisha. Her birth name but they're calling her Lulu for short. I have explained that while Lulu is the name of a famous singer, and so would put her in good company, Luisha is much more original and would help her to stand out from the crowd when she finally embarks on a career in show business!"

Quinn gave her a soft, disbelieving grin as she gave the photo a better look. "They look happy. Do you think my baby will be that happy?"

Rachel looked startled by the intimate question; which was fair enough because Quinn was startled that she'd even asked it.

"I'm sure of it," she said in such a way that Quinn couldn't help but want to trust her judgement. Then, naturally, Rachel ruined it, because that was all they could both seem to do tonight. "Admittedly my only experience of Mrs. Schuester isn't great, I'm not entirely sure she's sane enough to raise a guinea pig, but I'm expect Mr. Schue will be a wonderful father . . . unless, of course, your baby has any natural singing talent because then it can only expect a life of being pushed to the side to let those less talented have a chance!"

Quinn handed the photo back with a chuckle and a sigh, "I don't have a problem with gay parents, Rachel, I promise. I just have a problem with gay people in general . . ." She froze as she realized just how that sounded, "That came out wrong, totally wrong!"

This time when Rachel looked understanding, she had the actual understanding to back it up.

"I get it. Gay people freak you out, because, maybe, they make you question yourself?" She thankfully didn't wait for an actual answer. "I've been feeling the same recently. Not freaked out by gay people, obviously, that would be silly considering the homosexuals in my life are the only people who have ever really treated me decently, but I have been doing a lot of questioning since I realized I was attracted to you."

Her eyes were feeling a little glazed over by nausea again but she turned to Rachel anyway. How could she be so . . . honest? And, okay gay dads and lesbian almost-aunties aside, how could she be so comfortable with this? With them? Rachel might have made it clear earlier that she was uncomfortable with other people knowing how she felt, but she obviously didn't mind sharing it all with her. Whereas Quinn felt like a sword was piercing deep through her armor with every little confession she made.

"You still don't look very well."

"I'll be okay in a minute." She took another small mouthful of water and slowly swallowed it down

"Did the distraction not help? Can I do something else to take your mind off of it?"

"No, Rachel, nothing! There's nothing you can do, I already told you that. God, just let it go or I'm going to go."

That threat should have worked, it should have been solid, but . . .

"Okay, that's it, Quinn! Just sniff me! Stop trying to be a hero. You have a baby to think of. A baby that is clearly more attached to me than you are and I think you owe it to him or her to . . . to get off of your high horse and just sniff me already!"

Quinn's eyes widened, "What?"

Rachel suddenly propelled herself forward onto her knees, "Sniff me!"

"No!" Quinn nearly fell over sideways trying to keep some distance between herself and the crazy person.

"Can you tell me honestly that it won't help?"

Quinn made the mistake of hesitating.

Rachel flung her arms wide. "Then sniff me!"

"You're freaking me out, Rachel!" Understatement of the decade.

"I apologize, but your nausea is ruining my otherwise perfect night, and before you get defensive not because you are in fact feeling nauseous but because we both know what will help and why you won't accept it and that makes me feel like a bad friend. Friend, Quinn, not anything else, but you are one of the only two real friends I have, whether you choose to accept that or not, and I don't want to be a bad one just because of everything else that is going on."

"Okay," she said quickly, unnerved by Rachel's outpouring.

"Okay?"

"Yes, but I'm still not sniffing you, Rachel. I'm not, tonight of all nights, going to abuse your . . ."

"Quinn! So help me, I will smother you with the t-shirt I am wearing if you don't just do as you're told!"

Downside?

Uh, maybe throwing up all over her the instant she was jostled!

From the determined look in Rachel's eyes Quinn knew she had no choice but to agree or make a run for it. But there was one way she could make it a little more balanced, a little more . . . Rachel-friendly.

"Okay, you win, but I have a condition."

"And that would be?"

Quinn managed a smile. "You have to let me give you a thank you hug for it."

Rachel chuckled, "I accept your terms, but, be warned, as soon as you're feeling better I'll be expecting it."

"Why wait?" Heart racing, Quinn moved to sit comfortably on her knees and waved her open hands towards her. "Two birds with one stone, right?"

Rachel looked nervous now it was actually happening, but gamely wrapped her arms loosely around Quinn's shoulders. "Is this okay?"

"Mmm." Quinn's nose had already dropped to Rachel's t-shirt, just an inch shy from the collar. It really had to be a miracle how only a few deep breaths made the horrible sick feeling fade "You?"

"Whatever you need, Quinn."

"No, I mean is this okay for you? Is the hug okay? Did I do it differently last time or something? If you want me to move my hands someplace else just say."

There was a beat where she cringed at her words, cheeks burning, and Rachel was chuckling near her ear.

"No, this is perfect. Just relax."

She felt a hand rub soothingly between her shoulder-blades, but she still felt as stiff as a board.

"I'm trying."

She didn't know why she was feeling so tense and nervy. True, this was still weird, but it wasn't new. It was just Rachel, she'd been sniffing her for weeks! It should have been as second nature to her as a front-handspring step out, round-off back-spring step out, round-off back handspring, full twisting layout was.

Of course it might have had something to do with her stupid confession earlier. She really hated herself for that. Then again, it had led her here, back to the restorative lemon grove that was Rachel's t-shirt, so maybe telling the truth wasn't all bad. She breathed in deeply and sighed it back out slowly, waiting for it to fully sooth her agitated insides.

Rachel giggled, squirming against her. "Sorry, that tickled."

"Oh, sorry. Did you, uh, do you need me to stop?"

"No! Just, um, breathe differently maybe?"

Breathe differently? Okay then. How exactly? She was pretty much in this awkward position to breathe, it was what Rachel had wanted her to do, and now she was doing it wrong? Better question: could she actually do anything right where Rachel was concerned?

Giving up on trying to please the born diva Quinn decided to please herself instead. The smell of Rachel's t-shirt was nice and adequate for her medicinal needs, but Quinn had other needs too (not that she generally liked to admit them even to herself) and they'd been asking for some consideration since lunch.

How was this for breathing differently? Abandoning the t-shirt, she pressed her nose to Rachel's neck and inhaled deeply

"Is this better?" she murmured against the warm, soft skin.

She'd already decided that for her personally, it really wasn't. It was another error, another lapse, another temptation she'd given in to. From Rachel there was no verbal response, just a tightening of the arms around her shoulders and, Quinn was almost totally sure, a little full-bodied quiver of approval.

She didn't know how long they sat like that as she breathed Rachel in – long enough for her to ever forget that she'd felt sick, long enough for her to have a new and pressing issue she was trying to ignore – when Rachel moved, pressing the side of her head to Quinn's.

A nose nudged her ear and she panicked. "No, wait, hang on."

"What's wrong?" Rachel asked, startled into leaning back.

Finn had had his mouth all over that ear earlier and if Rachel decided to . . . well, she couldn't even finish the thought but it seemed important to swap sides. "I was getting a crick in my neck."

"Oh, I see. Ouch, I guess."

"Uh huh." Rachel was too far away. "You can, um, come get the rest of your hug now, if you wanted."

'Come get the rest of your hug? Lame, lame, lame, and could I be any more obvious? Should I drool on her neck or take off my top just in case I'm really not getting the message across?'

She was berating herself out of the situation, down the stairs and into her car when Rachel cut off her scolding monologue with a sweet smile and a 'yes, please' that managed to make her sound even more desperate than Quinn.

Just enough, at least, to keep Quinn on the bed and allow Rachel to slide back into her arms.

"Would you like me to give you a massage," Rachel murmured into her ear and if Quinn hadn't already been on her knees it would have brought her to them. "For your neck, if it's sore."

"I think that might be a step too far." The comment was vague but Rachel didn't ask for an explanation.

It both thrilled Quinn and scared her that Rachel didn't have to because she was on the same page, the same line even. A dangerous line. A thin line. Thin ice . . . and not that any of that wasn't true, but was she just reciting cliches in her head in an attempt to ignore the nose trying to nudge delicately into her hair, tantalizingly close to her ear (the safe ear). When she heard Rachel's subtle, hesitant inhale she felt it all the way down to her toes.

Her hair was already loosened from the dancing and then the, ahem, play-fighting; in fact it probably looked a mess, so it really wasn't out of place to reach up and pull it free from the elastic tie she was under oath to keep it in for seventy-five percent of the day.

Rachel made a soft Oh sound as the soft blonde waves fell into her face (Good one, Fabray, why not just smother the girl of your . . . the girl to death with your hair?)

"Sorry," she said, trying not to physically wince at her too-loud, too-astute thoughts. "I thought you might . . ." For crying out loud! What was wrong with her? "It was starting to annoy me. Too high."

'Just like I must be.'

"Okay." Rachel accepted that way too easily, considering the amount of distress it had put Quinn through. She almost wanted to point out that it was a lie, an excuse, to coax a more fitting reaction from the other girl but before she could she was rewarded with a deep, contented sigh of: "I'm probably crossing a line saying this, and I'm sorry if I am, but your hair smells so good."

The tension she was feeling ebbed away on a chuckle. "I'm sniffing your neck and you're worried about crossing a line?"

"I'm not suffering from morning sickness right now."

"Neither am I, right now."

"So you're feeling better?"

Shit! She really wasn't ready for this to end. "A little, maybe, I'm not sure."

Rachel's arms tightened around her shoulders again and her nose burrowed even deeper into Quinn's hair as she murmured, "Okay, just let me know when you do."

Suddenly Quinn was pretty sure Rachel wasn't as naïve as she sometimes came across. She certainly seemed to have her number. She wanted to speak, to say words that would negate her current health status and convince Rachel that she was still feeling very, very ill. She wanted to leave no doubt. Her mouth even opened, but no words came out.

Thankfully, because what a stupid plan. She was smarter than that. Rachel had handed her a free pass. She'd just dodged a bullet she'd fired at herself! Was she really going to risk screwing her night up with a hasty lie just to save her a moment's embarrassment? A modicum of pride? A lie that Rachel might not even believe anyway?

"Okay." Instead, she pulled Rachel tighter to her, trusting it to be taken as the extra thank you it was intended as and then she kissed Rachel's neck.

Because, you know . . . fuck!

It was okay, it was okay, everything was okay. It was a silly thing to do but harmless; it hadn't even been a real kiss, more like . . . blotting away excess lip-gloss, only instead of using a piece of tissue she'd used a neck, Rachel's neck, it so wasn't a big deal. Rachel probably hadn't even realized what she'd done.

"Um, Quinn?"

Crap.

"What? I didn't do anything!"

Seriously, what was the matter with her? Was she really the same girl who'd convinced her virgin boyfriend that he'd gotten her pregnant via hot-tub? Where were her masterful skills of deception now?

"Oh, okay." Was Rachel smiling against her hair? "I thought for a moment you may have accidentally, or not, kissed my, um, neck?"

Oh hell, she might as well just go with it now. "No, sorry, wasn't me. That would have been wildly inappropriate behavior given my stance on our current state of affairs."

"That's exactly what I was going to point out," Rachel agreed, head nodding against Quinn's. "Extremely inappropriate and could perhaps be considered guilty of leading a smitten young ingénue on even, given the state of our current affair?"

Quinn smirked, "Smitten?"

"Like a kitten. Of course, as you're always keen to point out, I'm very inexperienced so it's probably just because I don't know any better. Are you not going to comment on the rest of what I said?"

She couldn't be leading her on because that would suggest some kind of pre-conceived intention for this evening when she really didn't know how she'd managed to get from making out with Finn on his bed to kissing Rachel's neck on her bed. There had been a lot of little moments in between but everything but the here and now was already half-forgotten.

"We're not having an affair, Berry," she murmured into Rachel's neck. "We're not married, middle-aged losers who need to screw the pool boy for a reason to get out of bed in the afternoon."

"So what are we doing?" Rachel asked.

Why was she whispering? It made the atmosphere feel horribly intimate. If only she hadn't muted the television. This would all be so much easier with mood music. If she wasn't so aware of how loud and nervous her own breathing sounded or how Rachel's breath seemed to skip every time Quinn's lips accidently brushed her neck she wouldn't feel so tense.

Rachel's neck, that wasn't salty like Finn's but sweet and soft and delicate and so, so moreish!

This wasn't supposed to be happening. This wasn't how things with Rachel were supposed to progress. There wasn't supposed to be any progression with Rachel at all. She was just about comfortable with the status quo – the liking, the being liked – but adding any new dimensions to this complication just wasn't conceivable.

Like a baby via hot-tub, but she'd managed that just fine. So maybe she could just bluff her way through this too.

"We're obviously not doing anything; I thought I'd already made that clear," she whispered back, letting Rachel feel the shape of the words against her skin before blotting a little more non-existent gloss.

Where they were pressed close enough, she felt Rachel tremble against her and it echoed along Quinn's spine and into the tingling pit of her stomach. She heard a murmur but the word was lost in her hair.

"What?" she whispered, and Rachel shivered again and so did she when she felt lips against her ear.

"I said, Oh."

"Oh." Her smile pressed to Rachel's neck.

She knew she shouldn't be pushing this, encouraging such conduct between them but when Rachel's lips lingered near her ear she knew what she wanted and the anticipation was driving her crazy. "Um, you can, uh, do that . . . thing, you, uh, did earlier, I mean if you want to you could."

"What thing?"

"That, uh, like in the bathroom, at school." And to think she'd accused Rachel of sounding desperate earlier.

"You want me to kiss your ear?" Rachel's whisper sounded more surprised than seductive.

"No! I mean, only if it was something you wanted to do. I just want to make this arrangement as mutually beneficial as possible."

Rachel chuckled in her ear and Quinn felt it all over, she smothered her appreciative noise (okay, fine, it was practically a moan) with Rachel's neck.

"You weren't actually supposed to enjoy that, y you know. I was trying to gross you out so you'd back off."

"Oh yeah?" Quinn chuckled now. "How are you going to gross me out next? Put your tongue in my mouth?"

It had been a joke, clearly, and she would have so kept her mouth shut if she'd known it would make Rachel pull away to look at her incredulously.

"I suddenly find myself in an awkward position."

Quinn rolled her eyes before casting them to the side. "No kidding."

Arms dropping away from Rachel she was about to say she was feeling all better now before extricating herself from the situation as quickly as possible, because this really was awkward – she'd been kissing her neck! And then she asked her to, sort of, kiss her ear again . . . and Rachel was clearly not comfortable with it. Yes, so very, very awkward.

"Yes, because I don't know if I'm supposed to take that at face value, and assume that it would gross you out, or if it was your not-so-subtle, subtle way of telling me I'm allowed to kiss you again."

"Oh!" Cheered immensely, Quinn smiled, and then panicked at the thought of allowing Rachel to kiss her, properly, like on the lips. "Um, neither, sorry, it was just a joke."

"I see."

"Sorry."

"It's not something you have to apologize for, Quinn. I've just been hoping I'd get to do it again one day, so that I might actually remember the experience, but I don't want to push you to do something you don't want to do." When she'd pulled back, Rachel's hands had slid to her shoulders, but now she slipped forward again back into the embrace. "Especially as you've already given me license to do this."

At the feel of soft lips closing daintily around her earlobe Quinn closed her eyes and the gentle sucking that followed made her grab fistfuls of the back of Rachel's t-shirt and hold on tight, unconsciously squeezing Rachel harder against her.

"Oh God!" she breathed against Rachel's skin. "I never said I didn't want to."

It wasn't something Rachel was supposed to hear but they were so close.

After her lobe was released Rachel moved a fraction higher. Quinn's hips pressed in of their own accord when the tip of a tongue flicked into her ear and the warm flow of words after sent a strong current of pleasure searing through her nervous system.

"Then why aren't you letting me kiss you?"

"Rachel," she sighed.

"If you're saying my name like that in an effort to deter me, I feel it's only fair to point out it is in fact having the opposite effect."

She tried to hide her sudden nervous laughter in Rachel's neck but the actual result was just an unadulterated sweet, smooth mouthful of it. She'd been doing such a good job at keeping her rebellious lips firmly closed until now too.

Rachel tensed as, "That's not going to work either!" was squeaked into her ear.

She sucked lightly, feeling Rachel's hot breaths in her ear speeding up and really this wasn't good because now they were just feeding off of each other.

She enjoyed the feel of a hand tangling in her hair and stroking the back of her head, for a few seconds before drawing her lips closed until they were pursed against Rachel's skin. After a few last pecks she allowed herself just enough space to whisper.

"You really want to kiss me?"

Rachel's voice was shaky. "Yes."

"We shouldn't."

"I know."

"We shouldn't be doing any of this."

"I know."

"It'll just make everything harder."

"I know, but I don't care."

Neither did she; not when all she could think about now, like literally the only thing, was how good kissing Rachel had been before and how she'd been fighting for weeks against how much she wanted to do it again and how that same 'jumping off the edge' feeling was coursing through her only so much stronger this time because her body was already on fire.

She wanted to do this but still she hesitated. She tried swallowing her nerves but it didn't help. If she kissed her now there was no going back. Rachel wasn't going to conveniently forget. The fact that they'd kissed, willingly and without agenda, would be forever in their personal history book and it might not be as bad as Nazis but it was still really scary.

Rachel was just waiting patiently for her. Quietly eager for the first time since Quinn had met her and she knew it was because the other girl was just as nervous as she was, well not just as nervous because all she had to do was wait for Quinn to make her move. There was no trepidation on her part because she was just waiting. If it didn't happen it wasn't her fault, and likewise if it did it wasn't her fault.

And just like that the answer to her stage fright was obvious.

"No, you have to kiss me this time," she whispered.

Ha, there it was! Rachel's eyes widened and she visibly gulped. "Um, okay."

Rachel leaned in so slowly Quinn nearly shattered with the anticipation of it all.

"Wait, this time?"

Quinn didn't understand. Rachel's lips were right there, less than an inch away, but they'd stopped. She'd granted permission and they'd still stopped. Why? What was wrong? Why weren't they kissing already? Did Rachel have any idea how hard it was for her to let them get this far? How easily she could bolt instead if her brain was allowed to catch up with her wayward body?

She kept most of that inside, only letting out a breathless, impatient, "What?"

"You said, this time. Why would you say that?"

Damn it, busted. Time to bluff, bluff, bluff.

"I don't know." Yes, she was going to have to do better than that. She went with a partial truth. "I thought it sounded, um, sexy? . . . or something." And now she was blushing, which made her feel self-conscious. "I don't know, Berry, I was being cocky I guess. I wasn't really analyzing what I was saying. Who does that just before they're about to kiss someone? Trust you to overthink yourself out of a kiss again. I thought you would have learned that lesson after Puck's party, but I guess not . . ."

"But I did kiss you after Puck's party."

"Sure you did," Quinn rolled her eyes derisively. "Was that before you shouted at me for touching you when I had to catch you from face-planting the floor! Or after you pulled out the world's smallest violin to play at your pity party because you didn't want to think about things you couldn't do to my face anymore?"

Rachel blushed a complimentary shade of red as her drunken misdeeds were read out. "I, I don't remember any of that." It was totally adorable, really, enough so that Quinn was going to forget everything and kiss her anyway. Until . . . "So, I take it I didn't kiss you after all?"

Shit! Quinn kept her mouth firmly shut.

"So we never kissed? You really did make it all up to use against me?"

That hurt, that Rachel could still think her capable of it, and she blurted. "No, of course not!"

Rachel seemed at a loss, but it only lasted a moment before that accursed pointing finger made an appearance, accompanied as always by that doom-laden tone: "Quinn Fabray, you kissed me!"

"Um . . . excuse me? What illegal hallucinogens did you have to take to arrive at that crazy theory, Berry?" she tried.

She failed. It was probably something to do with the fact that she couldn't seem to maintain good eye-conduct at the moment. Whatever the reason, Rachel didn't buy it for a second.

"Why did you instigate the kiss and then lie about it, Quinn?"

Her cell phone ringing from the floor spooked them both, the moment they were sharing so intense they jumped and butted foreheads at the sudden interruption. It was too softly to hurt, but Quinn had other reasons to curse. It was Finn's ringtone blaring.

Guilt rushed through her and then jealousy when Rachel breathlessly said, "Is that Finn?" whilst rubbing her bumped brow. How did she know what ringtone was dedicated to him? And then frustration and annoyance when she added, "You should answer it, he'll be worried if you don't."

She didn't want to answer it but more than that she didn't want Rachel to want her to answer it. She dutifully left the bed to retrieve it though.

"Hi."

"Hey, I called your house to see if you were okay? 'Cause you, like, left in kind of a hurry. I figured you were feeling sick again or something, but nobody answered. Did you go someplace else instead? Is everything okay?"

He didn't sound annoyed that she might have lied to him, only concerned. It made the guilt ten times worse and, really, how much more guilty could she handle being over him.

"Uh, no, I'm at home," she lied, glancing (guiltily) at Rachel, who had moved to sit cross-legged facing the muted TV. "I was napping in my room. I guess I didn't hear the phone."

"But you're okay?"

"Yes, I had a touch of morning sickness a little while ago but I found a way to make it stop super-fast."

She saw Rachel smile before the other girl ducked her head to hide it.

"That's awesome. What is it?"

Sniffing the neck of your little crush . . . and my major crush. "It's really simple actually, I can't believe I didn't discover it before today, but the scent of lemon fabric softener really does the trick."

Rachel rolled her eyes.

Finn laughed, "That's kinda weird. Hey, you know what we should do? We should get my Mom some so she can wash my clothes in it and then I can be your morning sickness cure. That way we could spend more time together."

Her nose wrinkled. "I don't think that will work, Finn. Besides, I'm not just going to start sniffing people, even you."

Rachel clapped a hand over her mouth just in time to muffle the snort of laughter, and if Quinn wasn't feeling 'The Guilt' she would have walked over and sniffed her neck just to get that reaction again.

"No, I guess that would be really weird." She kept her offended 'Hey!' behind clenched teeth. "But you know whose clothes always smell kinda lemony? Rachel's!" Quinn's breath caught in her throat and suddenly it wasn't so funny anymore. "You should totally, like, sit next to her as much as you can, in Glee and classes and stuff, 'cause it might help. See, this is just another reason why you two should be friends."

He sounded smug but she knew exactly how to wipe that away. She turned an arched eyebrow to Rachel as well as she asked, "And how do you know what Berry smells like?"

Rachel's eyes widened like she was suddenly scared for her life at the same time as Finn started spluttering.

"Uh, like, just from dancing. In Glee! You know, how like when we do duets together and Mr. Schue makes us dance all close." His nervous laughter was both amusing and grating.

"That better be the only reason."

Rachel mouthed, "Hypocrite much?" and Quinn glared at her.

"That's it, I swear. I mean, how else would I know?" When she didn't answer, too busy exchanging a fiery stare with Rachel he cleared his throat. "So, if you're feeling better I should probably just let you get some sleep. I didn't mean to call this late and wake you anyway, I was just, you know, worried."

"It's okay; I'm glad that you called. I'll see you in school."

"Okay. Night, Quinn."

"Goodnight." She cancelled the call with a sigh. "Sorry about that. He called the house but obviously I didn't answer."

"And he was worried about you," Rachel sounded resigned but not unfriendly.

"I guess." After a glance at the time she slotted the cell into the relevant pocket of her book bag. Finn had been right, it was late, much later than she'd thought. "I should probably go. My curfew is in half an hour."

"Oh!" Rachel jumped from the bed to look at the clock on her DVD player. "I didn't realize it was ten 'o' clock already. I haven't even recorded my MySpace video yet!"

"So skip it."

"And deprive the Cheerios of their daily amusement? That doesn't seem fair," she said wryly, and she was already clearing her homework from the floor to make space.

"Do you want me to see myself out?" Quinn asked, offended by the fact that Rachel didn't even want to talk about picking up where they'd left off before the interruption. Not that she would have done, not now the moment was over, but it would have been nice if Rachel had at least wanted to.

"No, of course not. Just give me a sec . . . why is there money on the floor?"

Quinn blushed for who knew why as Rachel picked up and looked quizzically at the fifteen dollars.

"It's for the pizza. I meant to mention it," she lied. She'd forgotten it was even there.

"Oh, well thank you, but you can have it back."

Quinn didn't take it. "No, it's fine . . ."

"Quinn, please, you paid for everything on our first date, at least let me get the pizza on our second date."

"This wasn't a date!"

"Yes, well, neither was our first. I find myself looking extremely forward to our third not-a-date though; from what I understand that is traditionally when girls let their dates get to second base."

She choked on a laugh. "Rachel!"

"Did I get that wrong?" was the all too innocent reply.

"That is so never going to happen!"

Rachel finally gave into the grin that had been curling at the corners of her lips. "You're not the only one who gets to make inappropriate jokes, Quinn Fabray."

"Whatever." She didn't stop Rachel from pushing the money into her hands this time though. She tucked it into her bag before zipping it up. "So."

"I'll see you out."

At the front door Rachel shuffled her feet and Quinn redundantly said, "So." again as a little of the intensity they'd shared before came back now it was time to say goodbye.

"Thank you for bringing my scarf over."

"Thank you for . . . well, everything."

Rachel nodded. "If you'd like to talk about the Mrs. Schuester thing again at any time, I'm here."

"Thank you."

Now there was really nothing left to do but open the door and leave. Quinn got as far as opening the door anyway before they ended up just staring at each other again.

"So." It was Rachel that said it this time.

Quinn nodded, "I'll see you tomorrow."

"I would imagine so."

It was getting cold standing around with the door open.

"I should . . ."

"Goodbye, Quinn."

She smiled, "Goodbye, Rachel."

Impulsively she leaned in to kiss Rachel on the cheek and Rachel craned her neck to return the gesture, but getting their cheeks crossed they both missed their intended mark.

Rachel's fingertips flew to her mouth as she jerked back from the accidental lip-on-lip contact, muffling her automatic apology. "Sorry, I didn't mean to."

Quinn's lips were tingling and she took a sharp step back. "Me too! I mean, it's okay. It just . . . whatever. I should go."

Rachel nodded frantically. Quinn nodded back, probably just as frantically and then tore her gaze from Rachel's eyes and walked out of the house.

Rachel was still standing there when Quinn looked up again from unlocking her car, even though she could see her shivering from here. She gave the girl a shy wave and smiled when it was returned, before sliding into the driver's seat.

She waited until she was on the road before she even let herself think.

'Fuck!'

Language.

'Give me this one. I really didn't mean to start anything and now . . .' The roads were quiet at a quarter past ten on a Tuesday night and offered no distraction. 'I just really messed everything up, didn't I?'

Do you think you did?

'I think it's not going to be easy to put these worms back in the can.'

But you want to?

'Need to. Have to. Don't know how to.'

If you're that worried about it, why are you smiling?

Quinn's smile grew as she pulled into her driveway.

'It won't go away!'


Chapter Thirty-Three

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