As soon as she was alone Quinn shoved the book off of her lap and dropped her head into her hands.
What the hell was wrong with her? She hadn't come over here for any of this! She obviously shouldn't have come at all, because now look at her, at the pair of them in fact.
They'd been having an okay time, she was feeling relaxed for the first time in Rachel's company, without having to be buried face deep in her neck to achieve it. And then she'd gone and ruined it! First with making the massive mistake of thinking Rachel was coming on to her – and really, what had that been about? She couldn't have just said 'thanks, but no thanks' instead of embarrassing herself completely? She was sure she would have been cooler about it if she hadn't been totally blindsided by the fact that Rachel was being so open and blunt about something that frankly terrified the hell out of Quinn.
Not that she had been, as it turned out!
And then . . . Mike. What the hell?
Quinn didn't do jealousy except as a motivating factor; she didn't need to because if she wanted something she just made it hers, end of story. And the last person she ever thought would be able to put a dent in her three year run of total success was a skinny Asian boy who'd only escaped McKinley loserdom because he could catch a darn football three times out of four. Mike Chang was clearly the problem here. If she could just find a way to eliminate him from the equation then Rachel would realize that a futile, unrequited crush on her was way better than an actual relationship with that boy . . .
Quinn slammed her palms into the carpet either side of her, head dropping back against the edge of the mattress. She was losing her mind, competing against a guy who should be so far beneath her notice that she crushed him under her heel without even, well, noticing, for the attention of a girl she didn't even want to want in the first place!
She was wrong, Mike wasn't the problem; she was and this was a disaster! Trying to hold Rachel close and push her away at the same time because she felt so confused. She needed Rachel to like her but couldn't give her a reason to and just kept giving her reasons to do the opposite. She was floating out of her depth and it was nice, better than nice, when she just went with it, but every time something made her remember she couldn't touch the bottom anymore she panicked and lashed out; driving even more of a wedge than ever between them.
She should just leave. Give Rachel the money for the pizza, tell her she wasn't hungry anymore and just go before she could make things any worse. It wasn't like there was anything to gain from staying. They could never be friends when she was feeling so conflicted and she was not prepared to risk another meltdown like she'd just had. It wasn't even that it was embarrassing – although it totally was – but why suffer through it when Rachel was clearly more interested in Mike Chang than her?
She found her purse and counted out enough money to cover the pizza, folded the bills and tucked them under the edge of Rachel's history homework where she would find them later.
Rachel might be hurt by her sudden change of attitude for a little while but it wouldn't be that hard to stay away. It wasn't like they were really friends anyway. They didn't hang out in school; they were by design on opposing sides of the fissure running through the middle of Glee club and Quinn would be professional and civil in American Literature.
There was really no reason for them to spend time together other than that.
Her eyes strayed to the door to Rachel's closet, thinking of the freshly washed clothes that would be inside.
'But I need her.'
She didn't need her like that. She didn't need anyone! And she wasn't going to prove Rachel right by hanging around just to . . . to sniff her clothes!
Quinn began shoveling her homework into her bag before temptation could get the better of her – any more than it already had by leading her to this house, this bedroom, this . . . clusterfuck of emotions and mistakes. Two of Rachel's pens were accidentally thrown in in her rush to get as far away from making any more mistakes as she could.
She could be home in twenty minutes, putting tonight's misadventure behind her forever. Chalking up her desire to come here as curiosity or ill-managed gratitude or even loneliness. People got lonely, it wasn't a crime, and Rachel's effervescent company could definitely be marketed as a cure for it. You just couldn't feel alone with that much personality in the same room.
A warm smile crept up on Quinn, even though she was partly sure she'd meant that last thought cruelly. Actually she wasn't sure of anything anymore, especially where Rachel was concerned. Like, what would Rachel chalk her unexpected visit up to? Or her hasty departure?
They weren't friends though, so maybe she'd think nothing of it. Or she'd think the worst and assume Quinn was being a total bitch again for no reason (like she'd ever needed a reason in the past) and Rachel would go back to acting like she was so superior for not sinking to her level.
It wasn't fair, but she wasn't going to sit her down and explain her reasons for leaving in the middle of a da . . . what the hell? In the middle of a DAY! That's what she'd been thinking. She wasn't going to explain to Rachel why she was running out in the middle of a day, the day . . . that was already past eight in the evening, kind of missing the middle of the day by hours.
Her shoulders slumped in a moment of doubt and self-loathing, and then she finished packing her book-bag with renewed vigor.
Just as she was trying to get the damn zipper to do as it was told, a soft thud on the other side of the bedroom door made her look up. It had been too soft for a knock but Quinn panicked for a heartbeat anyway, terrified someone had come to call on Rachel and would find her somewhere she wasn't supposed to be (i.e. in Rachel's room).
A dozen excuses ran through her head, none of them good, so her face melted into relief when the door opened wide enough to reveal that only Rachel was on the other side. A large pizza box was in her hands, so large she probably couldn't reach around it and had used the corner to push the door wide enough to enter, explaining the thud.
Quinn only surmised all of this as she watched Rachel freeze in the doorway long enough for the door to drift back the way it had come until it bumped up short against box. Her relief diminished with every second Rachel just stood there, staring at her in disappointment. She hated that, feeling like a disappointment. Like she couldn't even go one da . . . evening without letting her down.
What would Rachel chalk her hasty departure up to? Quinn could see the answer plain in her eyes: running away! From something she'd probably never guess right in a million years – Rachel was exceptionally clueless about that – but that's how she'd see it. Quinn had come over, had her fun at Rachel's expense and now she was running away from the scene of the crime.
Something like that anyway and it pissed her off that even Rachel Berry no longer cared enough to scratch the surface, choosing to take her words and actions at bitch-face value instead of always hoping for and digging for a greater meaning behind them.
Well, to hell with that. If Rachel wanted her to stay and fight, Quinn was more than battle ready.
She steeled herself, propping a hand on her hip even though she was half-kneeling on the carpet, and stared at Rachel. She may have been the one looking up, but her arched just-perfectly-so eyebrow let there be no mistake that she was still the one on top here as she waited for the other girl to break the awkward silence.
"Um, why are you stealing my history textbook? I'm pretty sure it doesn't smell like me."
Okay, she wasn't battle ready for that. The bizarre accusation surprised a laugh out of her and she said, "You caught me. I was desperate."
"No, Rachel. I just put it in there by mistake." She fished the big book back out and set it neatly on top of Rachel's homework pile. "I was . . . tidying."
Rachel knelt back down beside her, pressing the pizza box carefully to the floor with a little too much attention to detail. "So you weren't leaving?"
A faint smirk worked its way over Quinn's lips, a normal reaction to being right, before she pulled it between her teeth in a beat of insecurity. Rachel's tone had been so hard to read she honestly didn't know if the other girl would have preferred that to be the case.
"Why would I be leaving? The pizza just arrived," she tested the water.
"I thought maybe I'd upset you by talking about Mike, it was insensitive of me. I know you're not keen on him, although you've never explained why."
Was she serious? No, Rachel had to be messing with her, calling her out. Surely. Rachel apparently had a giant blind spot where Quinn was concerned but nobody could be that oblivious to what was right in front of them.
What should feel like a blessing was starting to get frustrating. Still, she buried it deep and played the part she had to.
"You didn't upset me. And, Chang isn't significant enough for me to not be keen on . . . or to be keen on, or . . . anything." That sentence had been cooler before she'd given it oxygen to live and an icy edge. "He's just a boy." That didn't make it any better. "And I was just messing with you."
"Oh." Rachel's thumbs stroked the straight edge of the box. Quinn's fingernails dug half-moon dents into her palm. "What do you mean?"
"I . . ." Could she admit she'd been jealous? And then what? Declare her everlasting love? Right, not happening. "I. . . I was . . . messing with you. Sorry, I didn't think you'd take it so seriously. Mike probably just wants to go to the arcade with you or something tomorrow. And as far as I know he's never even had a girlfriend so I may have overplayed his experience a little."
Rachel nodded slowly as she flipped the pizza box open and fragrant steam filled the space between them. "Why?"
"I don't know. I guess he's shy or something."
That earned her a soft chuckle. "No, why were you messing with me?"
Quinn took a breath and let it out slowly while she came up with a reason. Lying seemed to be working for her so far so she went with it again.
"Because messing with you is my favorite pastime, Berry. I thought you would have realized that by now. I just took it too far this time."
Through gritted her teeth, she pointed out, "I'm trying to apologize here."
"And I accept, for this time. I don't know why you like messing with me so much though. It's been three years, am I really that much fun to torment?"
Quinn thought about bringing up the 'no whys' rule again but in the long run it was probably easier to just answer the question.
"You don't back down. It keeps it interesting."
Rachel smiled, apparently it was enough of an answer for her. Ripping a wedge from the vegetarian side of the pizza she stood again to turn her television on. Sitting back down with the remote in hand she blew on her slice.
"What would you like to watch?"
"It's your TV, you choose."
"But you're my guest, so you get to choose."
Quinn smirked as she finally picked up a slice of her own. "I thought I was your intruder?"
Rachel grinned again. "You are, but I'll still let you pick the channel."
And just like that it was simple between them again. Almost like they were actually friends. She sat back against the side of the bed, holding a napkin under her pizza so it wouldn't drip sauce on her Cheerios shirt.
"Anything that doesn't include sharks is fine with me."
Rachel gave her a curious look as she moved on her knees to lean against the bed too. "That's an oddly specific request."
"Finn made me watch this shark attack show earlier; it was disturbing to watch all of the little Rachel-pups get eaten alive."
Quinn hid her smile behind a bite of pizza and possibly enjoyed Rachel's curious impatience a little too much until she finished swallowing.
"Yeah, the baby seals kind of reminded me of you."
"You think I look like a seal?" Rachel was clearly offended. "I suppose that's original at least. Can I expect this to catch on at school?"
"I doubt it." She grinned, tongue sliding mischievously over her bottom lip. She knew she was playing with matches and if she struck the wrong one she'd go down in flames but God help her, she really did just love messing with Rachel. "I'm not exactly planning to broadcast that I think you're cute to anyone."
Rachel's mouth dropped open and pink crept over her cheeks as the words registered.
She still wasn't blushing as hard as Quinn, who for all her cocksure attitude couldn't believe she'd actually let that come out of her mouth. Proud, terrified, flustered, she settled back against the edge of the bed so that she didn't have to look directly at Rachel and pointed to the TV with her pizza.
"So, hurry up and pick something."
Rachel flicked through the music channels – hardly a surprise – before settling on current hits, but after thirty seconds of listening to Eminem tell the world he wanted to 'Crack a Bottle' they shared an amused frown and Rachel switched it to MTV Classic. Cyndi Lauper's I Drove All Night was halfway through and when Quinn smiled Rachel set the remote down.
They watched in silence for a few minutes, just the sound of their chewing to be heard, and all was fine. Until the first commercial break and then Quinn's earlier words seemed to be hanging heavily over her head, and she may have just been paranoid, but she was sure Rachel was fixating on them too judging by the amount of attention she was giving an advert for a drywall vacuum sander.
She searched for a lighter topic of conversation to move them on from this sticky spot. "So . . . you like Mike, huh?"
Maybe she could have chosen better.
Rachel just shrugged about it. "He's nice. He's actually amazing. He's . . . amazingly nice."
"Then what's the problem?"
Rachel turned to her sharply, "What makes you think there's a problem?"
The wishful kind? Also, just something about Rachel came across as hesitant whenever she spoke of him.
"So there isn't?"
Rachel studied a green pepper, her unnerving ability to maintain eye-contact through every confrontation deserting her for a minute. "I guess I'm just not used to guys being all that into me."
Even though she was disappointed, Quinn appreciated that that could be cause for the off-kilter vibe Rachel emitted whenever she brought up Mike Chang. Inexperience and uncertainty made this kind of thing hard, she could definitely relate.
"A-and maybe that's part of the appeal, you know?" Rachel added quietly, like she didn't want to admit it out loud.
"Oh," she murmured, because she could relate to that too, and it shed a whole new light on the Mike situation. "Rachel, you can't just settle for the first guy who likes you. I mean, if you really like him too then okay, but if there's someone you like more then maybe you should wait for them."
What was she saying? Luckily, Rachel was as oblivious as ever.
"But that's the point! No one else is interested, and I could do a lot worse than Mike Chang. He's good-looking, he's kind, he's an excellent dancer. He has star potential!"
Quinn felt her stomach turn over, but maybe it was just because she was hungry. She took another bite of her pizza, chewing slowly before swallowing to buy time before she said something stupid.
It didn't work. "There are other people who like you."
"Oh really?" Rachel's amused response was so immediate and explosive she had to raise a hand to stop pizza sauce and chewed up vegetables from spraying everywhere. After she'd swallowed, she added, "Pray tell?"
"Like . . ." Quinn, who hated to think of herself as a coward, chickened out. ". . . Finn."
Rachel squinted at her. "Your boyfriend, Finn?"
"Do we know any other Finns?"
"Your boyfriend, Finn?"
"I never said I was happy about it and it's not like I'm worried about him straying." And he'd better not because she would kill him if he touched Rachel. "But if we weren't together, yeah he'd be a little interested."
"Why are you telling me this?"
Because having her crushing on Finn again was a safer option than having her hanging out with Mike, who was single and probably liked her even more than Finn did.
"I honestly don't know."
Rachel smothered her laugh with another bite of pizza. "Did you by any chance accidentally swallow a truth serum before coming over?"
"Maybe." Her mind flashed through a hundred possibilities at once and knew she was about to say something stupid again. "Maybe you should ask me something you think I'd normally lie about, that way you could find out?"
Yeah, there it was. She held her breath and only just stopped herself from closing her eyes to hide as she waited for the inevitable. It could take many forms. Do you like me? Do you want me? Who really kissed who? Do you want to make out? Will you be my . . .?
"Why do you think Mike likes me?"
Her half-excited, nervous thoughts came crashing to a halt. Mike? Again? Why was she so obsessed with him?
She felt no compulsion to be honest now but, with a sigh, "Why wouldn't he? You're smart, talented, reasonably attractive, he'd be an idiot to not like you."
"Do you really believe that?"
"I took a truth serum, remember?" Quinn allowed herself a wink. "Now stop talking through Blondie!"
Rachel smiled, turned back to the screen and ate her pizza and Quinn breathed a sigh of relief because much more of this and she really was going to spill all. She was so not ready for that.
She couldn't help but feel pleased that she'd made things okay between them again. Even if it was tentative and awkward and she was still feeling stupid-jealous. Now if she could just keep it going for more than two minutes.
"So does that actually taste like anything?"
Rachel looked down at her pizza. "Of course. It tastes great; and mostly animal-cruelty-free."
"You can taste animal-cruelty-free?"
"If you have the right kind of conscience you can."
Quinn accepted that with a shrug. "Why only mostly?"
"Ideally I'd be a true vegan, which would mean no cheese."
Quinn couldn't imagine a pizza without cheese, she couldn't imagine a life without cheese, or meat for that matter, so she asked, "What's cruel about cheese?"
Halfway (or not) through Rachel's lecture on the badness of the dairy industry she held her hand up. "I get it! So why aren't you vegan, if you feel so strongly about it?"
"There are many things I feel strongly about, Quinn, which I'm not allowed to do."
Her mind went to a place that had nothing to do with veganism, but she ignored it. "Why aren't you allowed?"
Rachel huffed, clearly annoyed, "My Dads say I can't give up dairy until I'm fully grown. Which clearly I am, however much I wish I wasn't. They feel this need to force-feed me calcium and while I've pointed out there are perfectly good supplements for that they aren't budging. I've managed to wrestle them down from twenty-one to eighteen but, and please don't repeat this, I'm not planning to wait that long."
Amused by the fierce look in Rachel's eyes she just had to ask, "So how long are you planning to wait?"
"I don't know. I haven't quite managed to narrow it down to an exact date yet, but I promise you now, Quinn, that as soon as that day comes I will be living as a true vegan."
Quinn had to smirk, because this weird intensity was why the people at school thought Rachel was, well, to put it in plain English, a total freak. She'd thought so herself, once, maybe, but she had to admit Rachel's passion, even over something like this, was more interesting than the blah-blah-blah inanities that passed for conversation with her usual girlfriends. "You do know you made that sound really sinister? You're not going to turn into some kind of militant hippy on me, are you?"
"On you?" Rachel pounced on her slip up, but despite the mild panic attack happening behind her eyes Quinn didn't jump to explain it away. "No, being a hippy looks unhygienic and as much as I'd love to play society's conscience I don't have the time right now. I plan to wait and fully embrace the opportunities in political activism that college will offer me instead. Although I suspect I'll be more suited in the behind the scenes planning department than yelling at consumers on the front-line."
"Seriously? With your voice you could convince, I don't know . . . coyotes to give up burgers." She paused, not sure how her bizarre compliment would be received. The uneasy feeling in her stomach just grew as Rachel smiled demurely, her cheeks tinting pink in pleasure. "So, uh, I wouldn't worry about that."
They once again ate in silence, watching Bruce Springsteen perform Dancing in the Dark on the small screen.
"Oh my God," Quinn chuckled. "My mom used to have such a crush on him."
It was a hasty, awkward change of topic, but that didn't mean it wasn't true. Sometimes, when her mom was drunk and it was late and her Dad was out of town, Quinn could hear his records playing distantly from the other side of the house.
"I think she still does actually. Is that gross?"
"I think it shows impeccable taste actually," Rachel said earnestly. "I hope I have stage presence like he does one day. To be able to command so many fans like that? Look at the way they are screaming for him. That is true stardom."
"You might want to start working on your guns," Quinn prodded her upper arm, teasing, "if you want to pull off that sleeveless look."
"What makes you think I haven't already?" Rachel pulled a strong arm pose ensuring Quinn's next prod encountered firm muscle beneath the loose sleeve of her simple black t-shirt. "There's nothing wrong with my arms."
Quinn's favored eyebrow rose in surprise. No, there wasn't. They certainly weren't weak and noodle-y like for some reason she had been expecting. Her fingers stroked over Rachel's toned bicep with appreciation, first safely over the short sleeve and then unintentionally catching beneath the cloth to travel over smooth, warm skin.
Rachel giggled, maybe it tickled . . .
Blushing at the intimacy the move implied, she pulled her hand back with a dry, "You're still no Springsteen."
"One day you won't be able to say that. Hey, can I ask you something?"
Quinn was instantly wary of the curious gleam in her eye.
"It's just something you said earlier. I wasn't really listening at the time but now we're talking about arms again . . . what did you mean by 'the fake stretch'?"
Darn, she'd thought she'd gotten away with that. She took a large bite of her pizza and took her time chewing it, hoping Rachel would get bored of waiting and become engrossed in the music videos again. Instead she waited patiently for her to swallow.
"I don't remember."
Rachel sighed but it had an air of amusement about it. "I take it that truth serum is wearing off. I'll just have to come to my own conclusions then. Now, what were we talking about? Oh, right, you were under the mistaken impression that I wanted to make out with you and that somehow led to you . . ."
She had to intervene because letting Rachel come to her own conclusions was not a good idea. Lying through her teeth was the only good idea.
"Fine, but remember I wanted to let it go so if we get into an argument about this then it's your fault." That was supposed to make Rachel want to forget it but she just nodded her acceptance. "I was just pointing out that you were terrible at seduction; like really, really bad at it."
"That hurts a little but not as much as it would have had I actually been trying to seduce you. So go on, why was I so bad?"
"You were just . . . I thought you were just blurting it out there, that you wanted to . . . you know, whatever, like you were twelve or something. I thought it came off a little desperate and so I said it was lamer than when guys do the fake yawn and stretch thing." She replayed her words in her head and, well, it was the best she could have done under the circumstances. "I was just suggesting you work on your subtlety."
"Thank you for the tip." She couldn't read Rachel's expression, couldn't tell if she was upset or even if she believed the hasty lie. "What fake yawn and stretch thing?"
"Yes, seriously. Obviously you feel I need to work on my seduction skills and while Finn seemed to respond well to my blunt approach . . ." She paused to let it sink in and Quinn's fingers clenched around the pizza slice. She had to hold a napkin under it quickly to catch the grease about to drip on her uniform. She didn't snap at her though; she'd hurt Rachel by lying to save herself, so she could take this one on the chin. ". . . if you feel this fake stretch thing is better than my unappealing attempts, perhaps I should learn it so that I can at least be slightly less lame in the future."
"You know what it is. Everyone does."
"I'm clearly not everyone. I have had a total of zero boys try and seduce me so far. But if explaining it is making you uncomfortable I can ask Mike tomorrow night. I'm sure he'll be happy to demonstrate it for me."
Not for the first time Quinn was unsure who was playing who here, but either way Rachel had said the magic words.
"Okay, I'll show you."
Setting her squashed slice down, she wiped her fingers on the napkin. There was a foot of space between them which she narrowed considerably – smirking when Rachel started to look suspicious.
Quinn stretched for real, raising both arms high above her head as she tried coaxing the nervous tension from her muscles and when she finally dropped her arms again her left landed over hunched shoulders.
Causally picking her pizza back up in her right hand, she leant back against the bed and pretended she couldn't feel how Rachel was practically vibrating with nerves (or excitement?) against her side.
"That's the fake stretch," she said, before taking a bite.
"I get it now," Rachel nodded in understanding. "Danny does it to Sandy in Grease."
"Do boys really do it though?"
"Finn used to do it all the time until I told him to knock it off."
"I can see why. You're right, it is pretty lame."
Quinn wanted to snatch her arm away in embarrassment, but before she could Rachel settled back, trapping her limb between the back of her neck and the edge of the bed. Okay, things just got weird. She was sitting with her arm around Rachel Berry.
Her heart was hammering and she was still cringing, but Rachel just calmly started on another slice of pizza like this was the most natural position to find themselves in in the world. She just had to be faking it, but two could play at that game and Quinn suspected she had so much more practice.
"Yeah, well it's not my lame move, remember? I'm just demonstrating it."
"Of course. So what happens next?"
"Huh? What do you mean, next?"
"After Finn fake stretched, what was his next move?"
She wasn't demonstrating that! Wait, was Rachel actually asking her to? Did she want Quinn to come on to her or did she just want some inside information to make her fantasies about Finn that much more realistic? She didn't know how to ask without souring the mood between them again, so she would just have to feel her way through the awkwardness.
"I don't know, after a few minutes of thinking he'd been so suave – and that I didn't totally know what he was doing – I guess he'd start doing this."
She curled her hand around so that she could run her fingertips along the neckline of Rachel's t-shirt, just barely grazing skin. She was being a lot less handsy than Finn but it was more or less the same move.
"I see." Rachel swallowed and licked her lips – Quinn would bet it had nothing to do with the pizza she was eating. "And then what?"
"And then when I looked at him to ask him what the hell he was doing . . . he'd try and kiss me." Ignoring how fast Rachel turned her head to look at her, she pulled her hand back, forcing it to dangle limply. She'd enjoyed that a little too much. "And then I'd yell at him."
"Because it takes more than a lame move like that to make me want to kiss someone and Finn was never going to learn that without me pointing it out – loudly."
Rachel grinned and toyed with the pizza crust in her hands before looking back at her. "So what would your move be? If you wanted to kiss someone, how would you go about it? Obviously I'm only asking in the interest of any tips I can pick up to improve my own moves in future."
"Obviously," she drawled, barely stopping it from releasing as a frustrated groan.
Rachel was smiling like an innocent, eager-to-please student and not the beguiling seductress Quinn's peace of mind would love to paint her as. This was getting silly. She needed to stand up, step away and remove herself from this temptation, before it could shift from silly to down-right stupid.
Or she could sit there, gazing uncertainly into Rachel's eyes, for too many seconds too long to make a dignified and plausible retreat.
To escape now would let her nerves show, it would let slip she had anything to be nervous of in the first place, and it would give Rachel the wrong idea. And it was imperative she avoided that at all costs.
She gathered her nerves and lowered her voice to a confident, casual purr.
"I like to think I'm more subtle. I'd wait for the perfect moment, where it would feel natural yet somehow still accidental, like one minute you're just talking and then you look up . . ." she began with some deliberately flirty eye-contact. Her voice was softer still as she continued, ". . .and suddenly your eyes catch and you just can't look away."
"Like now?" Rachel whispered.
"If you say so," she murmured back, completely lost in big brown eyes.
"Oh, um, I didn't mean, um . . ." Rachel was blushing and stammering to cover her assumption.
Quinn shushed her gently. "And then . . . I'd lean in, just a little, not all the way yet because I'd want you to feel it, that same anticipation that I'm feeling, that same rush . . ."
She was close enough for Rachel's quick, shallow breaths of anticipation to mingle with her own and it was perfect until Rachel, hanging on every word, tipped her head invitingly. Quinn forced herself to blink and break the spell of insanity she'd cast over them.
"And then I'd kiss you," she finished, hoping the quiver of fear and excitement in her voice was camouflaged by her quick grin and the even quicker way she moved out of Rachel's airspace to sit back and watch the television again.
"I can see how that move would be more effective." Rachel was breathless.
"I bet you can," she teased lightly, and watched already ruddy cheeks turn even darker from the corner of her eye.
Rachel was quick on the defense, maybe she was feeling extra vulnerable. "That doesn't mean I . . ."
She shushed her again, because that had been fun, but she wasn't just teasing Rachel and there was only so much she could take without breaking. If Rachel had been dominant enough to kiss her instead of just waiting for Quinn to follow through on the move she'd been describing, well . . . they'd probably be rolling around together on the pizza box by now. And the damage that would do to her uniform was only half the reason why that would be catastrophic.
"I love this song," she said, in the absence of any articulate way to break the suddenly heavy silence.
Rachel joined her in watching Bonnie Tyler's video for 'Holding Out For A Hero', head nodding and socked foot tapping her carpet for a few lines before Quinn's eyes flicked to a crust being thrown into the pizza box. She tensed, waiting to be reprimanded for playing games or trying to control things again, but Rachel surprised her by rising gracefully to her feet, twisting in a way that allowed her to take Quinn's hand from her shoulder and twirl herself under it as she was pulled up too.
"What are you doing?"
"I like it too. And now I need to burn off the pizza. Dance with me?"
She tensed all over again at the 'with me' but Rachel dropped her hand as soon as they were both up and gave her all to Bonnie Tyler. Bemused, Quinn watched her go, trying to distance herself from the absurdity of Berry dancing like she didn't have a care in the world (or any dance training!) in her bedroom right in front of her, by calmly eating the last two bites of her slice.
The second verse was in full swing when Rachel breathlessly asked, "Is there a reason you're scared to dance with me with me again? I thought we were past that."
Yes, there was. There always would be. And the last ten minutes had proved they definitely were not past it!
She knew she couldn't say that and it was enough to shake Quinn from her faux indifference. She gave in and danced along with her. Lesser of two evils? Or maybe because . . . why not? Nobody was here to see her or judge her for enjoying herself for a little while.
It was surreal though, dancing in Berry's bedroom like this. She couldn't even remember the last time she'd danced just for the hell of it. Dancing in Glee was fun but because it was usually about learning the same choreography over and over again – generally under Rachel's terse instruction – it lost some of its shine. This was different. Rachel was being ridiculously free and wild, not caring when she tripped over her own feet or when her over-zealous jump in the air made her crash-land over her desk chair and it gave Quinn license to give herself up to the music too.
They sang as they danced and she was surprised again by how well their voices just fit together and she knew Rachel saw it too because when Quinn couldn't stop laughing – because of the desk chair incident – Rachel's hands were up, one waving to stop her laughing the other making an up, up, up gesture with her palm to encourage her singing.
When the song was finally dying away Quinn was closer to wanting to kiss her than ever.
"That was . . . that was . . ." Rachel was doubled over, holding her sides. Quinn realized she had never heard her laugh before, not like this, like she was about to fall to her knees from the force of it. It was infectious, as proved by the way her cheeks were aching from grinning for so long. ". . .too much exercise right after pizza."
"Suck it up, Berry. Stars don't get to keel over just because they've eaten."
"Not keeling over, just . . ."
'Baby Love' came on next and Quinn might have squealed, a tiny bit, quietly . . . or not. Sue her, she loved The Supremes.
Rachel's giggles were stronger than ever as she looked up. "Did you just . . .?"
"No, shut up. And come on."
When Rachel was slow to move Quinn grabbed her hands and forced her to at least sway from side to side as she danced about in front of her. It didn't take long for Rachel to join in, but as that included her fingers curling around Quinn's the option to let go suddenly didn't seem to be there anymore.
It was okay, it was just dancing. It wasn't like it even mattered anyway, this was how they'd learned dance steps in elementary school, when every girl had still thought boys were yucky.
She'd never really gotten over that.
Quinn continued to swing their hands between them as she sang along to the dated music video.
"Baby love, oh, baby love . . ." she sang and giggled at the same time. ". . . .I need you, oh, I need you!"
Quinn knew she still had a huge smile on her face so she kept her eyes on the ceiling above. She was putting every ounce into the lyrics and only slightly faltered when she felt Rachel squeeze her hands and draw her closer.
"Cause baby love, my baby love
Been missing ya, miss kissing ya
Instead of breaking up
Let's do some kissing and making up . . ."
Rachel was letting her sing alone this time, but Quinn was very aware of the keen focus on her. She should stop . . . it wasn't like she was singing to Rachel, but still, it must seem like it and anyway, oh yeah she was so full of crap!
Smiling ruefully, she danced in and pulled one of her hands free, settling it on Rachel's shoulder instead.
"All of my whole life through
I never loved no one but you
Why you do me like you?
I get this need . . . She skipped a beat when Rachel's free hand tentatively closed around her waist, fingers lightly pulling at her Cheerio's shirt, but she knew this song like the back of her hand and it didn't slow her down for long.
"Ooh, ooh, need to hold you
Once again, my love
Feel your warm embrace my love
Don't throw our love away
Please don't do me this way
Not happy like I used to be
Loneliness has got the best of me . . ."
The pleasure she was taking from Rachel's starry-eyed look as she sang to her (and let's face it, there was no one else here!) was inspiring and disturbing all at the same time. She felt high and amazing and terrified as she sang the last few lines.
"Don't throw our love away, don't throw our love away."
Maybe it had something to do with how close they were dancing.
She deliberately killed the weird mood by throwing her arm out and twirling Rachel at the end, catching her completely by surprise if the way she fell against her, giggling uncontrollably again afterwards was anything to go by.
"I can't breathe!" she wheezed, still leaning against her.
Taking advantage of a commercial break, Quinn stooped down for her last slice of pizza, but her hand was back on Rachel's shoulder as soon as she straightened up and it hardly did anything to displace the way they were leaning against each other.
"You sang that really well," Rachel panted, little giggles still escaping. "You should sing it for Glee sometime."
Quinn smiled, happily surprised, because Rachel generally hated anyone but her and Finn having the spotlight. "Really?"
"Yes, definitely. You went sharp a few times of course. You should really stop reaching for the high notes because you don't have the training for them and it weakens your performance over all, but if you stuck to a lower register throughout you could really pull it off."
Quinn stiffened, her previous high deflating. "Thanks so much. I'm honored to get constructive criticism from the great Rachel Berry."
"Criticism?" Rachel looked up at her, confused. "That was a compliment."
"It was supposed to be."
"Then maybe it's something you need to work on because you were a little sharp."
"Oh." Rachel stepped away. Quinn let her. "I was just trying to help."
She sighed, because that was the stupid thing about it: "I know." She'd just never taken criticism well.
Dark, angry eyes jerked back to meet her own.
"Then if you know, why did you have to be so mean? Why be like this?" Rachel stepped back into her personal space as she ranted, not even flinching when Quinn straightened up to meet her verbal attack. "Did the wind change? Did Witching Hour begin early? Or is it because we were getting along, I'm finally chipping through the Great Wall of Quinn, and your only escape is to push me away again before I can break through to the real you we both know is in there somewhere?"
"Great Wall of Quinn?"
"Don't laugh at me!"
"I wasn't!" Laughing couldn't have been further from her mind.
"Then tell me what is going on!"
"I don't know!"
She took a step back. Why were they shouting at each other? And what exactly was Rachel talking about? You know, exactly, because she was already confused by this entire evening and she didn't want it to get worse.
"That's not an answer! I never know what is going on with you. One minute you hate me then we're dancing together and then there's singing and now here we are, yelling at each other again and, frankly, it's getting exhausting, Quinn!"
"You!" Rachel yelled.
That was it. The insinuation that this was all her fault? Too much. Too far. She snapped. It was almost like a physical sensation and she just couldn't hold back her words.
"Did you really think this thing was ever going to be easy, Berry? Are you really so naive that you thought it would all just to click into place because you want it to? Don't you think I want that too? I would love for this thing to be easy but I knew it wouldn't be and I'm still here so stop yelling at me like this thing is all my fault."
"What thing, Quinn?"
"Our thing! Us. Me and you? There is no script or lame move or carefully choreographed routine for you and I, Rachel, so deal with it!"
The air felt too heavy as she drew some into her quivering chest. Time stopped. The Earth stopped too, with a sudden jolt that sent her legs wobbly. She wanted to put her arms out to steady them, but the only thing close enough to grab was Rachel. She wanted to run but with her Bambi-on-ice legs she'd probably careen straight into the floor at Rachel's feet. She wanted to pray but with only profanities racing through her mind it didn't feel very respectful.
"A-are you saying what I think you're saying?" Rachel finally checked in a timid whisper.
Quinn could only breathe back at her until the rigid fear of everything she'd just let go of faded enough to ease the tension in her back and neck muscles.
And then she nodded.
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