Quinn was on the sidelines fifteen minutes earlier than necessary, staring out across the empty field. Behind her the noise level rose as the stands steadily filled up.
There would be twice as many people here tonight than usual because it was the Homecoming game. What had she been thinking?
She was trying to breathe through her nerves but was closer to hyperventilating than calming down.
Until Santana and Brittany appeared on either side of her.
She glanced at Santana and knew she couldn't show any weakness. "Yeah, it's just a big game, you know? I'm nervous for Finn."
"You should be, he sucks!"
"He does not!"
"Oh look, Mercedes and Tina are here!" Brittany squealed, jumping on the spot as she waved to them.
"Is Ra . . ." Santana's sharp eyes were still focused on her. ". . . at really necessary, Britt? They're not our friends."
The rebuke was like bathwater off a rubber ducky's back to Brittany. "They're kinda our friends. We have classes together and we hang out nearly everyday after school."
"That's for Glee club, not for pleasure," she staunchly reminded her, ever aware of Santana's watchful gaze.
"So you don't even enjoy it a little bit?" Brittany asked all innocently, with a teasing curl to her lips that had Quinn blushing in the cool night breeze.
The Titans were coming out on the field now, giving her a chance to turn away and hide her discomfort. She jumped up and down a little and cheered for Finn specifically when she saw him. He turned and gave her a huge, excited grin, but it fell into confusion when she scowled, not realizing that she'd just spotted Mike behind him. Puck slapped him on the back to get him moving again and then the boys were in a huddle around the bench.
Santana finished cheering for Puck and bounced over. "So what's your beef with Chang?"
"No beef. Just residual Team-Berry irritation."
"I don't get it, but that chick's really gotten under your skin."
Quinn couldn't deny it. There was no point anyway, her actions had been speaking for her too much lately.
"Yeah, well tonight I'll be scratching that itch."
Brittany was cheering for Kurt and he turned around and bowed, giving Quinn a reason to laugh and jump away from Santana. She turned to the crowd, pom-poms waving wildly as she encouraged them to cheer. She went through the motions but her eyes were scanning the bleachers up, down, left, right, looking for her.
She wasn't there.
The drive to school was mostly silent, Rachel's barely verbal one-word answers discouraging her Dad from making conversation.
She didn't mean to be rude, but biting her tongue was the only way she could stop herself from requesting he turn the car around and take her home.
Why was she doing this anyway? Curiosity didn't feel like the right answer, although she did have plenty of it. Not wanting to let Quinn down felt more like the truth but she didn't want to admit that even to herself. She shouldn't care about that and she couldn't figure out exactly how not attending the football game would be letting the blonde down anyway.
Yet here she was, three blocks from school already and feeling sick to her stomach.
"Did you not bring a dress to change into for the after-dance?"
"I won't be going to the dance, Dad."
She hadn't been invited to go with the group and Mike had obviously rescinded his invitation the moment Quinn's slushie had hit his face. The idea of going stag when no one was speaking to her and having to watch Quinn and Finn slow dance together all night was too unpleasant to consider.
Although she had for a few minutes earlier that afternoon, because what if Quinn wanted her at the game because she wanted her at the dance too? She had promised to make it worth her while. Maybe she was hoping to spend time with her at the dance, which was why she'd insisted all of Glee go together so it wouldn't look odd if they were sharing the same table? Or maybe Quinn was worried that a bout of morning sickness would ruin her perfect evening with Finn and her friends and she wanted Rachel on hand for a quick fix in a bathroom stall. She didn't know if she really believed that but it was hard not to be cynical when it came to Quinn's motives.
"Okay, baby-girl, just give me a call when you want to picked up."
Rachel hadn't even realized they'd pulled up in front of the school already. "I might want to leave as early as half-time. Is that okay?"
"Whenever you need," he promised. "Although if you're making the effort anyway it might be a good idea to at least try and enjoy yourself."
"I'll try." She didn't have much hope though. "Thanks, Dad."
She slipped from the car and gave him a wave through the window before making her way around the school to the football field. It was a crisp evening, much colder than the day had been and she pulled her jacket around her tighter, wishing she'd thought to bring her scarf. She still hadn't worn it in school yet, some part of her had been keeping it safe and unfamiliar in case Quinn needed it again. That wouldn't be an issue in the future; she wouldn't be helping Quinn out like that anymore. Rachel made up her mind to wear it to school on Monday, breaking the habit once and for all.
She could hear the crowd before she turned the corner of the Phys. Ed. block and could see the lit-up stadium. It was loud! Louder than it had been at the last game she'd watched. She could see why when she approached the steps to the bleachers – they were packed, all around was filled with students, teachers, parents and miscellaneous spectators from both schools.
The game was already ten minutes in – Rachel had deliberated so long on her decision that they'd left late, but she was okay with that – and nobody noticed her as she scanned around for a rare spare seat. She saw Team-Berry sitting together halfway up, right by the steps so that Artie could sit with them, his chair on one of the flat areas between levels. There was no space to sit with them, even if she thought she would be welcome, and she didn't want to walk by them so she found a seat in the middle of the third row. There was a little girl in the chair in front of her, giving her a perfectly clear view of the field.
It also gave her a perfectly clear view of the back of Quinn's head, almost directly in front of her. Sighing in frustrated defeat, she opted for closing her eyes rather than trying to find a new place to sit.
She couldn't sit with her eyes closed for the entire game though! She should just leave, this had been a stupid idea anyway. She didn't want to have to look at her, bouncing around down there, cheering on Finn, looking so happy, when she felt so miserable inside herself. It was a punishment too cruel.
She was half out of her seat again when Quinn twirled around, pompoms in the air, over-wide 'cheer' smile on her face. Rachel froze, hoping she wouldn't be spotted, but she was sort of standing up, making her extra noticeable, and when Quinn froze too all hope was gone.
Quinn's arms stayed in the air when their eyes met, like she'd forgotten they were up there. While the other Cheerios jumped about around her, Quinn's feet stayed firmly planted in the short grass.
Then she smiled. She'd already been smiling, obviously, but Rachel could see the difference; it softened, and then it was excited and real.
It was heartbreaking because Rachel knew she only looked horrified and scared at being seen. Quinn didn't let it bother her; after holding her eyes for a few seconds she remembered what she was there to do and went back to whipping the crowd into a frenzy of excitement.
Beaten by the blonde's smile and her own feelings, Rachel sank back into her seat. She would stay at least until half-time. She wasn't going to spend the whole time watching Quinn though. No. Quinn had asked her to come and see the game and that was what she was going to do. She wasn't going to take her eye off of the ball for a second!
She was here. She was here. Shit, she was here!
Now Quinn had no choice but to go through with her plan. Not that she'd ever intended to back out. Well maybe, just a little bit. Now she couldn't.
As she jumped about on the sidelines, her smile much more natural now than it had been, she reminded herself over and over why she was doing something this frightening.
She had two choices: forget Rachel ever existed and move on or do the only thing that would make Rachel forgive her and give her another chance.
She couldn't forget. She wished she could, she wished it was that easy. She'd spent the better part of the last month wishing that, but now . . . she just couldn't. It was still hard to admit, but no one had ever made her feel the way Rachel did. None of the boys she'd dated since becoming Quinn had even come close, and there hadn't been any before that. Finn supposedly loved her, Puck desired her, but neither of them made her feel like she could be herself and still be important, or even maybe special, to them.
Maybe they'd tried, maybe they really had, but it didn't feel like it. She wasn't comfortable enough with them to feel it. She wasn't didn't want to let them in. She'd given them both pieces of herself, but she couldn't give them her all. Even with Finn she'd kept herself at arms length most of the time, physically and emotionally.
Honestly, she'd just always assumed that was normal. That studying together and sitting beside each other in class and holding hands at the movies was as good as it could get in teenage relationships; and occasionally you'd have to make out with them too just to keep the them interested. She'd resigned herself to that because it was what all the other girls did and it was nice, really nice, to have a boy want you to be his girlfriend. Obviously her night with Puck had switched things up a bit - clearly they'd done more than make out - but he was the exact opposite of Finn. Her attraction to Puck was purely physical; she had no urge to be in a relationship with him or even get to know him more than she already did.
But Rachel. Rachel was everything, the whole damn package. And studying with her, sitting beside her in class and holding her hand wasn't just as good as it could get, or maybe it was, but only because she couldn't imagine anything better. It wasn't settling, it was reaching for the stars and actually grabbing them in her hands! And it had the physical side down too! They'd shared a handful of barely there kisses and Quinn couldn't wait for more. Couldn't stand the thought of never getting to feel her lips again.
She'd had sex with Puck, but he'd never made her feel as ready for it as Rachel did by just breathing nervously near her ear.
So that was why she had to do this. Why she had to go all out. She'd tried lying, manipulation, sweet-talking and just barreling straight through their issues to win Rachel over and they hadn't worked. It was time to try honesty, because surely if she was prepared to lie and cheat her way to what she wanted, she could use the truth just as easily. It was just another tool and the only one that could possibly help Quinn achieve her goal this time.
There were boys throwing a ball around. More often than not one of the boys got knocked to the earth by another boy before the ball could be thrown far. Most of the boys getting knocked down were wearing McKinley uniforms. That was about as much as Rachel could process of the game, despite keeping her eye on the ball at all times.
Oddly enough, the Titans appeared to be winning. She knew this only because of the scoreboard and by the way the crowd was getting extra-excited around her, and not because she was understanding anything of what was happening on the field. She also knew this was unusual, from hearing people talk at school and Finn's continuous lamenting about how bad the team was doing. So Rachel did her best to cheer them on when everyone else was, but her heart wasn't in it.
Her heart was down on the sidelines, watching Quinn jump around and do cheers, even though she wasn't watching with her eyes. Well, they did stray there from time to time, because when a pyramid of Cheerios suddenly pops up it was hard not to look. Quinn was never in her usual place at the top though.
Rachel did her best not to wonder why, did her best not to care why, but she was concerned all the same. Was Quinn feeling sick? Should she take her shirt off and throw it down to the sidelines to offer some relief?
She could just imagine how well that would turn out.
Without realizing it her eyes had left the ball and settled on Quinn. She didn't look sick, she looked full of energy, but obviously something was holding her back. Was it her? Why would it be? Quinn had been eager to show off for her last time and after practically begging for her attendance Rachel had assumed she wanted to show off for her again.
So what was stopping her?
It was hard seeing Santana on top of the pyramid, but Quinn knew she had to save her energy levels. It would be worth it soon enough. So she bounced about, waved her pompoms and let the other Cheerios take the glory for now.
She turned a few times but Rachel was never looking back at her. That was okay; she could spot a deliberately fixed stare when she could see one. Rachel wanted to look back, she just wasn't. That would change.
And suddenly it was time for that change to happen. The whistle was blown and Quinn's perspiration-damp skin went cold and clammy with fear.
It was time for the halftime show.
As the players trooped off of the field Brittany caught her eye. Quinn gave a nod and then the other blonde was subtly sneaking away towards Coach Sylvester.
Santana came over. "Still sure about this?"
She'd worked out the timing to the last second. As soon as the whistle blew the players would leave for the locker rooms and most of the crowd would either head to the rest rooms or the concession stand. Half-way through half-time most would be on their way back and the Cheerios routine would pull in the stragglers. A few minutes after that the players would come back out, throwing the ball to each other as a warm up and smack-talking the other team. If everything went to plan the routine should finish with just under three minutes left until the second half. Phase two would last just under two minutes if she could force herself to speak slowly and clearly and didn't rush her words out in a panic. That was perfect; she didn't want to give the crowd too long to dwell on anything after she'd finished.
"Go and get the music set up." Santana glared at her. "Please!"
After seeing Brittany sneakily place something under the commentator's desk, Quinn turned her back to the bleachers and readied herself for the 'show'. As the intervening minutes ticked by the other Cheerios drifted into formation.
Quinn felt sick.
"Not a good time," she murmured, hand pressing to her stomach. "Just find something in there to hold on tight to with your freaky little webbed hands and trust me. I got this." She lightly patted her tummy, wondering if the vibrations were as soothing as she hoped or if it felt like an earthquake to . . . it. "And if you get the urge in the triple somersault to come out of my mouth? Don't! Just remember, it's you who got us so attached to Rachel-freaking-Berry in the first place, okay?"
Santana was the last person to take her place beside Quinn. "Ninety seconds."
"I can't believe you're making me do this again! Just learning it this afternoon wiped me out. At this rate I'm going to be too tired to screw Puck at the dance!"
"Suck it up, Lopez, I'm cheering for two!" she muttered back. "And, eww!"
And then someone pressed play!
What do you say to taking chances . . . chances . . . chances
Fifteen pairs of arms slowly rose into the air.
What do you say . . . say . . . say . . .
Pom-poms stabbed the sky in time to the quickened beat.
And then the lyrics shifted and it was on!
I felt it, the wire touched my neck and . . .
It was a shiny jump-rope actually, held by Santana and Brittany, and it went over her head and then under her feet from behind.
Then someone pulled it tighter
I never saw it coming
I started to black out and
Then someone said good morning,
I took it as a warning.
I never saw it coming . . .
After a few initial vanilla skips, Quinn switched to back flips over the jump rope and around her three other girls and one boy were doing the same.
But . . . but . . . but . . .
As the music changed again the rope holders ran, hopped and twirled until the jumpers - Quinn included - were loosely bound within the sparkling coils.
. . . what do you say to taking chances
What do you say to jumping off the edge . . .
"One, two, three," she counted under her breath before thrusting the bunched rope up and over her head and catching hold of one end.
In perfect time five lengths of red and white rope sailed outwards and rotated, the stadium lights making them glitter and flare impressively.
The five rope-jumpers all ran backwards, both to drop their ropes safely out of harms way and to give themselves a run up.
Never knowing if there's solid ground below . . .
At speed, Quinn leap-frogged over Santana. As soon as her feet were on the ground she felt Santana grab her hips and then Brittany was leaping over the both of them. Hands still on her hips, Santana gave her a boost as Quinn jumped so that she could sit on Brittany's shoulders.
Without missing a beat, Quinn leaned back as soon as she was seated and trusted that Santana's hands were on Brittany's hips now to steady them as she tipped backwards over a kneeling Santana's head, arms extended to find the ground. For a second she thought her spine might buckle as she supported Brittany's upper-body with her thighs, but Santana, underneath them, pushed up and sent them into a flawless dual backwards roll.
Or a hand to hold . . .
Brittany flipped to her feet, taking the hands of Kassie and Jenna who had just performed the same stunt.
Or a hand to hold . . .
Quinn popped up too and turned to face the crowd before taking Charity and Della's hands. She didn't look to Rachel's seat, she couldn't afford to be distracted.
Or a h-h-hand to hold . . .
Santana clasped hands with Tess and Julia.
They held the pose for three powerful, speaker-vibrating beats, before the music changed again and they sprang back into action.
My heartbeat beats me senselessly
Why's everything got to be so intense with me?
I'm trying to handle all this unpredictability
In all probability . . .
Whoa! Too many running hands springs and somersaults in too short a time. The baby was not happy! 'Keep it together, Fabray!' They weren't even close to finished yet and worse was to come.
It's a long shot, but I say why not
She launched herself up with the aid of Ricky's hands and, arms out, twirled in the air.
If I say forget it I know that I'll regret it
It's a long shot, to beat these odds
Up she went again.
The chance is we won't make it,
But I know if I don't take it there's no chance
Cause you're the best I've got.
So I'll take a looong shot!
When she went up this time she pulled her legs up straight and grabbed the toes of her tennis shoes, pulling herself into a slow backwards somersault. Brittany and Ricky caught her between them and catapulted her back to her feet at the front of the crowd.
So now I'll take a chance on,
This thing we may have started,
Intentional or not,
I don't think we saw it coming.
A few more seconds, that was all she had. A few more seconds to change her mind and opt for sanity. Sanity didn't include Rachel though. If she'd had the time to do it, Quinn would have rolled her eyes – like anything to do with Rachel Berry held any resemblance to sanity.
It was do or die; the bottom row of the pyramid was already forming.
It's all adding up to something
That asks for some involvement
That asks for a commitment
You couldn't get more committed than what she was about to do. She should be committed for what she was about to do!
I think I see it coming . . .
Ricky was launching her into the air again and she had never been so scared of over-shooting the top of the pyramid as she was right now.
If we step out on that limb . . .
Her feet found solid purchase on the shoulders of Santana and Della just a few seconds before the music cut off. There was clapping, thunderous applause actually, and Quinn stood there, perfectly balanced, and waited for it to die down. They hadn't seen anything yet.
When it had died down to a low roar, she nodded at Brittany who retrieved the article she had stolen earlier, from under the commentator's desk. Quinn caught Coach Sylvester's megaphone in her right hand as it was thrown up to her and flipped it on.
"Thank you," she said first of all. "You guys have been great tonight."
The crowd cheered themselves and she waited again until they'd quieted.
"And how about the Titans? We might actually win this game!"
More cheering; again she waited, or procrastinated maybe. There was a fine line though between stalling and losing her opportunity altogether so she called them to order.
"Okay, most of you know me. For those that don't, I'm Quinn Fabray, head cheerleader. And I just need a minute of your time to set something straight."
"Not getting any lighter, Fabray!" Santana muttered beneath her.
Quinn ignored her. "Most of you probably know, or know of, Rachel Berry too. And you may have heard the gossip that's been going around about her this week."
There were several jeers to the affirmative. From the corner of her eye she saw the football players, her boyfriend included, stopping on the edge of the field as they came out and heard her voice.
"Whatever you've heard, it isn't true. She didn't corner me in a bathroom the other day and try and kiss me. I made that up."
Not so quiet whispers were rushing back and forth across the bleachers in front of her. Quinn's eyes were darting back and forth, trying to guess what people were saying but it was useless. She'd started this now and she had to not care what anyone thought about it. So instead she focused on Team-Berry, halfway up the stands and staring right back at her, because their reaction would probably be the most amusing anyway.
"I made it up because she has some information on me and I was scared she would tell. Call it a preemptive strike. The truth is, I needed her help with something, something important, and she refused to help because, well, you all know I've been a bitch to her for years. So I tried to play her. I thought she had a crush on me, so to get her to do what I wanted, I kissed her."
Quinn's heart was beating so hard she could feel it in her entire body and the harsh gasp that seemed to echo throughout the crowd only made it worse, but she'd done the worse now, all she had to do was wrap it up.
"It backfired, because it turns out she doesn't have a crush on me. Rachel Berry was not at all amused with me kissing her."
"Dumb bitch!" a boy in the crowd yelled out, followed by a few shouted agreements and laughter.
Quinn smiled and for the first time let her eyes find Rachel. The girl looked terrified, which almost made her laugh.
"Maybe, maybe not. The point is, I lied, she didn't kiss me, I kissed her, and I'm owning that mistake." Quinn had planned to end it there but more words were forming on her tongue. She thought briefly about not saying them, but looking into Rachel's eyes as she was made it impossible. "Rachel has actually been pretty amazing to me the last few weeks, for no reason that I've earned. And I want to thank her for not taking the easy opportunity to make my embarrassing mistake any worse. And I want to say I'm sorry for not offering her the same courtesy."
Rachel gave her a tentative smile, but Quinn didn't have time to return it. She looked up at the stands only once more to see Team-Berry in an uproar. It made her smile.
"Thanks for listening. Now let's cheer those Titans back onto the field!" Quinn threw the megaphone back to Brittany.
So what do you say to taking chances
What do you say to jumping off the edge . . .
Quinn winked at Rachel and swan-dived off of the top of the pyramid . . .
Rachel was . . . Rachel had no words for how she was.
She couldn't believe what had just happened. At least she understood now why Quinn had been so desperate for her to come to the game. Her confession was . . . unexpected to say the least. Totally unexpected. Rachel would have thought that Quinn would bite her own arm off before admitting to kissing her. And okay the truth had been weaved with lies but did that really matter? Quinn had cleared her name, taken on the blame herself and had purged any ideas the Glee club might have had about Rachel having a crush on the blonde all in one go.
Rachel had never lov . . . uh, liked her more.
Mind you, she'd felt like this before only to have it crushed right in front of her,
This was still big though! Bigger than big; with the performance and the crowd and the . . . everything.
She sat back in her seat as the second half commenced but didn't even bother to see what was happening with the ball anymore. Her eyes were on Quinn as she danced about on the sidelines, pompoms back on her hands and waving about wildly.
At some point she drifted into her own thoughts – thoughts of what Quinn's confession meant for them and whether it would last beyond the night. Was it really possible that Quinn had said all that because she wanted to make things right between them?
Maybe Quinn just didn't want her indiscretions hanging over her head anymore and so had done that to keep control of it. She had pretty much used her as a scapegoat again, after all, even while telling the truth.
When Rachel focused on the here and now once more there was only about ten minutes left of the game. That wasn't the first thing she noticed though. The first thing was that Quinn was no longer on the sidelines with the other Cheerios. She scanned left and right, but Quinn was nowhere to be seen.
Where was she? Was she okay?
Santana was pumping a pom pom into the air with one hand and taking a surreptitious gulp of her water bottle with the other. Tonight was going to kill her and the real fun hadn't even started yet.
She glanced over her shoulder at Brittany jumping up and down tirelessly.
"Where's Q, Britt?"
Brittany's jumping slowed some. "She felt baby-sick."
The blonde's expression was even more stoic than usual. Santana knew that expression.
"Really? Are you sure?"
"Yes. She went to the bathroom."
She wasn't going to call her best friend a liar, but Santana really doubted Quinn was going to the bathroom because she felt sick. Quinn's little speech tonight had not been what she was expecting, at all, and she was more than a little pissed about that fact to start with.
Now she had plans to head into the bathroom and catch Quinn out at whatever she was really doing, but not until the game was over though. It would be stupid to miss a chance to outshine Quinn Fabray in front of Coach Sylvester.
Rachel was walking in the dim light beyond the bleachers to the door of the gym, looking over her shoulder every now again to make sure no one was watching her go, when hands came out of nowhere and grabbed her from behind.
She screamed. It was the sensible thing to do when one was being assaulted! Or sexually attacked! Or murdered! Or all of the above! But how would anyone hear her screams over the noise of the crowd! Where was her whistle? She struggled valiantly to get away but her assailant was taller and stronger and . . . and where was her fudging whistle when she needed it? Despite the futility, she screamed again, "Aiee-glfl!"
Or at least tried to; a hand closed over her mouth as she was dragged sideways into utter darkness.
"Stop yelling. It's me!"
Rachel froze at the sound of that voice husking directly into her ear.
"So did you like the half-time show?"
The hand was removed. "Sorry. So did you?"
"What the heck were you thinking, Quinn! You scared ten years off of my life!"
"Shhh. So did you?"
Quinn sounded so hopeful and nervous but Rachel's heart hadn't stopped thudding much too hard yet from her fright.
"If you wanted to speak to me alone you could have just asked like a civilized human being!"
"Fine, yes I was very impressed with the half time show. You are a phenomenal cheerleader, Quinn, and while I spent most of the time fearing for your health, the routine was every bit as spectacular and awe-inspiring as I imagine you were hoping it would be."
Although the darkness in . . . wherever they were . . . was severe and she could only make out Quinn's outline right now she knew the other girl had deflated at her words by the soft sigh that rushed against Rachel's face and broke over her, boy, they were standing that close.
"Thank you, but that wasn't really the part I was asking about."
Rachel softened. "The other part was . . . nice too. There were a few historical inaccuracies, but all in all it was, yes, nice. Nice of you, I mean."
"Did it work?"
Of course it had, but Quinn admitting that she hadn't done it to be kind but only with an ulterior, self-motivated goal in mind was a little . . . well it was a little Quinn. Or a lot Quinn in fact. It was Quinn all over. Then again,
You knew I was a bitch before you started crushing on me!
And that was true and it wasn't like Quinn's actions that night had been mean or bitchy or anything. They'd actually been honorable; she'd done exactly as Rachel had asked, even if it was just to get what she wanted. Although as what Quinn wanted was her, in a manner of speaking, maybe she shouldn't be seeing that as a negative.
It definitely wasn't a negative!
Still, Quinn had kept her dangling often enough in the past month so she didn't feel bad about returning it.
"Where are we anyway?"
"In the alcove by the gym, where do you think?" Quinn whispered impatiently. "And watch your step because there's crap all over the place in here."
"I can't see my step to watch it, but I don't think I'm going to fall over anything when you're gripping me this tight!" Quinn had never loosened her hands after the initial grab.
"Yes, well I'm not letting you go until you answer me."
Rachel grinned, "That knowledge isn't going to get me to answer any faster."
Quinn chuckled and released her arms. Rachel was disappointed until she felt hands slide around her waist and then laced together behind her back. "Answer me."
"It worked. I forgive you."
When Quinn still didn't move away despite getting her answer, Rachel hesitantly brought her hands up to Quinn's shoulders. The Cheerios shirt was damp with perspiration and she idly wondered how much of it was due to the blonde's exertion in the routine and how much came from the fear she must have felt giving her speech in front of so many - or any, in fact - spectators.
"What does it mean exactly though? I forgive you, completely, but I'm not sure why you were so insistent on having my forgiveness in the first place."
Quinn hesitated, "I, uh, what are you asking exactly?"
"I suppose I'm asking what you want from me."
"Oh. Right now?" Quinn's forehead pressed gently against her own and Rachel nearly died from the intimate connection; the feel of Quinn's breath on her lips in the darkness only intensifying the feeling. "Right now I would really like it if you kissed me, Rachel."
Okay, that was it, she was dead. Goodbye dreams of starring on Broadway, goodbye hopes of reaching her seventeenth birthday even. It was official, Quinn had stopped her heart and robbed her of her last breath with that simple, whispered request.
But if that was true, why was her chest aching from the strength of the beats within it? Why was the alcove filled with the sound of her excited . . . panting was the only way to describe the rapid breathing whooshing in and out of her open mouth. Quinn's words, her voice, sent her body into overdrive until her brain was overcome with the most delicious fuzzy blanket of white noise. Her hands slipped up from Quinn's shoulders to cup the back of her neck, her heart went stupid, her legs went to jelly and her stomach was flying through the air on the wings of a thousand aerodynamic butterflies.
And each aspect of her anatomy was shooting their own very special feelings to a central point that ended somewhere specific between her legs.
She had never felt like this before.
Quinn hadn't finished, "I understand if you want to discuss things first . . . "
But Rachel had heard enough and interrupted, "You want me to kiss you?"
Quinn gulped, as if hearing her words said back to her made nervous, or as turned on as Rachel was feeling. "More than anything."
The second one, then. "I can do that."
Rachel pulled back half an inch and was accustomed enough to the dark now that she could just make out the shape of Quinn's features. She concentrated on her eyes, holding them for a few seconds, letting the weight of what she was about to do burn into her memory, and then let hers slip closed as she leaned up and in.
Their lips met.
It wasn't the first time, or the second or third, but it felt like it. It was different and 'Oh . . . Barbra!' was it better. Maybe Quinn's speech earlier really had wiped the slate clean, maybe it was because for the first time they both knew this was more than just a stolen moment they'd need to deny later to save themselves, maybe it was because Rachel knew she had moved past 'like' now and into something greater.
Whatever it was, life just didn't get any better than this.
Until Quinn's lips moved, parted slightly, pulling hers along for the ride. And what a ride it was! Their mouths moved together, their lips sliding against each others in a dance both so tentative and yet sensual it felt unreal.
It felt like too much, even though she wanted more.
At some point she became aware that her legs were no longer capable of supporting her, she was literally hanging from Quinn's neck by her arms as they kissed, and while Quinn didn't seem to mind, it was a sign that Rachel needed to regroup.
She pulled back, dragging enough oxygen into her lungs to speak, but all she could think to say was, "Your mouth feels awesome."
It would have been embarrassing if Quinn hadn't just chuckled shyly. "So does yours."
They held each other in silence and Rachel smiled, eyes fluttering closed again when she felt a kiss pressed to her cheek.
"Your eyelashes just tickled my nose."
Quinn laughed quietly. "Why? It wasn't a complaint."
The noise of the crowd had been a constant companion since Rachel had been pulled into the alcove but now it rose to levels that completely obliterated their peaceful moment.
"I guess the game's over."
Rachel nodded, kicking herself over wasting kissing time just because she'd needed to recuperate from what Quinn had done to her senses. "I suppose you need to go now."
"We probably shouldn't still be here when everyone comes off the field. Santana might pull Puck in here for a quickie on the way to the locker rooms."
Quinn laughed at her reaction. "My thoughts exactly. I know it's too dark in here for them to see us, but I don't really want to be stuck in here listening to them."
"Neither do I!" Despite the urgency to move, neither of them did. "Plus you have to go and get ready for the dance."
She felt Quinn shrug under her arms. "I guess."
"Before we go . . ." Rachel formulated the thoughts on the tip of her brain as quickly as possible. She knew they couldn't linger much longer but she needed to say this before they parted ways. "I just want you to know that what you did tonight was very special to me. No one, other than my family, has ever cared enough about me to stand up for me, especially in such grand a gesture as you did. You didn't just restore my faith in you, you restored my faith in humanity."
"Take it down a notch, Berry." Quinn laughed, but she sounded delighted all the same. "Besides, you're the first person in a long while to inspire any humanity in me, so we're even."
Rachel beamed. "I don't mean to come across so 'five year old on Christmas morning' but this has been a day of many wonderful firsts, and all because of you."
"Like . . ." she thought back. "No one's ever PM'd me before. No one's ever offered me a ride to school. No one's ever given me flowers. No one's ever made a mash-up song for me, or dedicated a cheer-leading routine to me. No one's ever stood up in front of a crowd and . . . and did what you did for me." She took a much needed breath and her voice was softer as she continued, "And certainly no one has ever kissed me and made me feel the way I do right now except for you."
"Oh yeah, and how do you feel right now?" Quinn teased.
Rachel smiled but didn't elaborate. "You've given me so many awesome firsts today, Quinn. Thank you."
Quinn leaned in until their noses were brushing. "Would you like me to give you another one tonight?"
Rachel's heart skipped a beat. "L-like what?"
"Two actually. Making out and making out in a car."
Rachel relaxed when Quinn didn't say what she'd thought she was going to say, because that was scary and too much too soon but contrarily she didn't think she could say no if it was offered. She didn't relax that much though, because . . . still wow!
"Yes, but don't you have to get to the dance? Won't Finn be waiting for you?"
"Finn never even asked me. I'm sure he assumes I'll be his date, but without an actual proposal he can't get mad if I turn up late."
"But don't you want to go? It's Homecoming, Quinn! School dances are your stage and you could be the queen of it tonight."
Quinn chuckled at her forced enthusiasm, "For the first time I think I'd rather be hanging out in the parking lot at one of these things than be inside, the center of attention."
"I . . . I . . ." Rachel breathed, but she couldn't add anything, it was way too early to finish her sentence.
Quinn pecked her lips. "Let's go."
Before they could the space outside was filled with the whoops and cheers of teenage boys. Quinn, keeping a firm grip on her, pushed her in a clear path that led them to the wall.
Like Rachel needed to be told! "I guess we won," she murmured.
"Makes a change."
The noise of the boys didn't even have time to die away before girls voices started to take their place.
"Cheerios," Quinn whispered needlessly. "Soon as they're gone we'll make a break for it."
Rachel nodded and strained her ears for the two voices she actually cared about, and by cared she meant the least she wanted to be caught by for Quinn's sake. She heard them eventually, trailing at the end and Quinn stiffened in her arms.
"If she's still being sick, San, she probably doesn't want to be disturbed."
"Nonsense, Britt. If you were throwing up wouldn't you want your best friend there to hold you hair back?"
"So we'll go catch her . . . I mean, find her . . . and help, right?"
Santana sounded altogether too gleeful to be truly concerned about Quinn's health. Rachel hugged Quinn's neck tighter.
"I know when you're mad about something, Santana."
"I'm not mad. I just wanna know why she pulled that Berry crap earlier. Her confession was lacking a whole lot of the detail she promised me. She was supposed to be tearing that freak down, not giving her absolution!"
Quinn's head dropped onto her shoulder and Rachel felt the sharp inhale against her neck.
"Feeling sick?" she murmured.
"No, just awful."
"Maybe she got stage-fright," Brittany said. "It's not easy being mean in front of that many people."
Santana's reply was faded because because they'd walked past now, but Rachel heard the words, "Bitch . . . bunch of crap . . . midget legs around her neck . . . Rupaul . . . playing me!" before the sound of the doors closing with a thud met her ears.
"Are you okay?"
Quinn's chuckle into her neck sounded embarrassed, but all she said was, "Coast is clear. You head out that way and exit with the rest of the crowd. I obviously need to show my face in the locker room. I'll meet you by my car in ten minutes."
"You really want to make out with me?" Rachel asked bashfully. It still felt hard to believe.
"More. . . " Quinn kissed her lightly on the lips., ". . . than . . ." another little peck, ". . .anything!"
Rachel grinned, "Stop the press! Quinn Fabray wants to make out with Rachel Berry! If I never get another headline in my life, I'll die happy."
"I don't believe that for a second," chuckling, Quinn captured her lips in another sweet kiss, "but I think I feel exactly the same."
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