Chapter 24: And Lightning
Quinn strode slowly over the turf of the football field, the tiny black pellets and fake grass absorbing her footsteps. She was keenly aware of Rachel walking beside her. It seemed they were both a bit lost in their own heads. The late afternoon sun shone gently over their heads. The field was quiet; the rest of the club was long gone.
She glanced at Rachel out of the corner of her eye. She wanted to say something. The way Rachel was looking at her when she sang under the bleachers had stirred something in her, but the idea of broaching the subject explicitly had her words failing her. The connotations of Rachel's song were unmistakable. And yet, Quinn couldn't shake that last pinch of doubt that lingered in the simmering pot on her mind's back burner.
Fortunately for her, Rachel broke the silence as they neared the center of the field. "Are you okay? I can't imagine having a confrontation with Finn after everything that's gone on recently was easy."
Quinn looked at Rachel with a soft smile to dispel the concern that was evident in her question. She didn't even have to think about her answer. "Yeah, I'm just glad it's over with. I knew I was going to have to talk to him eventually after everything that happened. Honestly, it's nice to have that chapter of my life finally officially closed for good." She shrugged. "Plus, it helped that you were nearby and ready to put him in his place if things got out of hand."
Rachel breathed a quiet laugh and shrugged in return. Even as Rachel turned her gaze to her shoes, Quinn couldn't take her eyes off her.
Her body trembled a bit as she worked up her nerve.
It was time. She needed to know.
"So, that last song… that was a hell of a performance back there."
Rachel's cheeks reddened, and she ducked her head with a grateful quirk of the lips, tucking her hair behind her ear. Quinn cracked all of the knuckles on her left hand skittishly before she spoke again and took a moment to compose herself. Her palms were definitely sweatier than she would have liked. Her hopes had shot up when it seemed that Rachel was only looking at her while she was singing, but the heartbreaking fear that she might have misread the situation made her scramble internally to get those hopes under control.
She cleared her throat and shoved her jitters down. If Rachel was choosing her other potential suitor, Quinn wanted the band aid ripped off.
"It looked like Puck enjoyed it."
Rachel let out a half-hearted chuckle. "Yes, well, he's always been a fan." Quinn's breath stilled in her chest until Rachel faced her deliberately. "But he wasn't the one I was singing for."
She stopped their walking by grabbing Quinn's wrist.
Her heart was slamming against her ribcage. Quinn peered at her imploringly. She needed to hear the words. Rachel obliged.
"I sang that song for you."
Quinn was breathless. She couldn't believe this was happening. It felt like a dream. She had to stop from physically pinching herself.
"You did," she exhaled, barely above a whisper. It was almost a question. She had felt Rachel's song in her bones, and part of her knew what Rachel had been saying with it, but the walls around her heart were reluctant to let her fully believe it until now.
Rachel seemed to sense what she was thinking. She took both of Quinn's hands in her own. "I did." Her chest rose with a long, sure breath. "I have feelings for you, Quinn. I've never felt the way I feel when I'm with you, and I'd really like to keep feeling this way. I thought it was about time you knew."
Quinn took a moment to take Rachel's declaration in. Suddenly, she felt a little light headed. Then she blurted, "I really want to kiss you right now."
Rachel beamed up at her through a round of ecstatic blinks that Quinn could tell were holding happy tears at bay. Rachel's eyes were sparkling like she'd never seen. The shorter girl started to lean in.
Quinn stopped her. "But I'm not going to."
Rachel emitted a strange, strangled chuckle and cocked her head in confusion.
Quinn explained, "It's just… Well, I've been telling myself that if and when I ever got to kiss you, it would be after I pulled off some big, romantic gesture. You kinda stole my thunder."
Rachel chuckled heartily. "Oh, I stole your thunder?"
"Yeah, as a matter of fact you did."
Rachel cocked an eyebrow, poking fun as if they'd been having these kinds of conversations their entire lives. "In that case, you have my sincerest apologies." They both shook their heads, smiles wide across their faces.
Rachel bit her lip, and Quinn sucked in a shaky breath. Rachel continued in a low tone, "So you've been thinking about kissing me?"
Quinn faltered a bit, flustered. "Uh, I mean, yeah maybe… but so have you!"
Rachel acquiesced, her blush burning as brightly as ever. "You got me there."
They stared at each other for a moment. Quinn poked her tongue against the inside of her cheek. "So… what happens now?"
Rachel squeezed her hands before taking them away to clasp them coyly behind her back. "Well, seeing as we've both just admitted to harboring romantic interest in each other, I suppose the next logical step would be for us to… date."
Quinn felt a rush of euphoria, then threw her head back in half-faux irritation. "Are you seriously beating me to asking you to be my girlfriend, too?"
"To be fair, I don't believe I phrased anything as an official question, so if you'd like to seize the opportunity, I'm all ears."
Quinn rolled her eyes and tried to take her smile down a few notches. "Rachel."
Rachel pretended not to recognize the fake-annoyed tone in Quinn's voice. "Quinn."
Quinn took a step forward so that their bodies were a hair's breadth apart, channeling all of her confidence to finally say what she had been holding hostage in her heart.
"Rachel, will you be my girlfriend?"
Rachel's face practically exploded with an enthusiastic "Yes!" She threw her arms around Quinn's neck, and Quinn, with stars in her eyes and her heart more full than she thought was possible, wrapped her arms securely around Rachel's waist. She couldn't help but appreciate how easily their bodies pulled together. She wanted this so much. She was so giddy it almost made her dizzy. Quinn had never been so happy, never thought she would get the chance to be this happy. She couldn't understand how she had gotten so lucky.
She tightened her grip on Rachel then lifted her up and swung her around in a fit of exuberant joy. They twisted together over the turf, a perfect image of youthful bliss.
When she slowly lowered Rachel back to the ground, their eyes were trained intently on each other.
Before she could think about it, Quinn let her eyes close and leaned her head down, and Rachel met her halfway.
Their lips met and slid together, perfectly matched in excitement. Their noses bumped together lightly, causing them both to giggle into the kiss. Quinn pulled back for half a second to trail her eyes over Rachel's face. She was still half convinced she was lost in some marvelous dream. It was only when Rachel's eyes fluttered open and met her gaze, an earnest reassurance evident in her expression, that she let herself believe it. This was real. This was everything.
With vigor, Quinn rushed back in and pressed her lips to Rachel's like nothing else in the world mattered. In that moment, it didn't.
Everything about this kiss was better than she could have hoped for. Quinn felt Rachel's fingers curl into the hair at the nape of her neck. She grasped Rachel by the hips and tugged her even closer. She opened her mouth just slightly to capture Rachel's bottom lip as her heart pumped pure adrenaline through every inch of her body.
When the need for air surpassed their need to keep their mouths locked together, they pulled back slowly, breathing hard. Eyes still closed, they uttered in unison a quiet, "Wow."
The second Quinn managed to lift her eyelids, she could see the elation and sarcasm fighting over Rachel's expression, whose eyes were still shut. When she finally opened them, she quipped, "What happened to waiting until you got to pull off the romantic gesture?"
Quinn chuckled and tipped forward so that their foreheads pressed together. "Rachel, you're my favorite person in the world, and you just agreed to be my girlfriend." Her voice left her throat airily. Wrapping her head around actually getting the girl was definitely going to take a minute. "I couldn't wait. Given the circumstances, I'm happy to cede the romantic gesture to you."
Rachel pouted adorably. She clearly wanted a gesture now that it had been mentioned, so Quinn went on. "For now. I promise, I'll return the favor."
With a sarcastic huff, Rachel relented. Quinn shivered when Rachel's hand glided over her neck to cup her face. Rachel's tone turned serious again. "So, we should probably discuss public displays of affection and the whole coming out as a couple thing."
The first part of her sentence flew out of Quinn's mind. She beamed down at Rachel. "Say it again."
Rachel's head tilted. "Which part?"
"The part where we're a couple."
They both giggled and continued to talk as they exited the football field, hand in hand.
They decided to keep their relationship on the downlow, for the time being at least, so that they could take some time to figure things out for themselves first.
Quinn hated that she had to ask Rachel to hide anything, but she knew her parents wouldn't react well. She was terrified of what her father might do if he found out. Her family's church didn't support conversion therapy, but she knew that her dad had friends who did.
She also needed some time to work up the courage to come out to the school. In the long run, popularity wasn't that important to her, but she was well aware of the fact that being popular afforded her a certain amount of protection at McKinley. By extension, that protection also covered Rachel. If she were to fall on the social ladder, even with her captainship of the Cheerios, they would both be targets for harassment and ridicule.
They agreed that they would come out to glee soon, especially considering the fact that Kurt, Mercedes, and Santana all more or less knew already. They were both well aware that they'd be unlikely to be able to keep it a secret from such a tight knit and codependent group of their friends for long anyway.
A few days after the final glee meeting, the members of the New Directions found themselves at Sam's house, or rather, in his garage. With glee club over for the year, and the loss of the garage band he'd formed with friends at his old school, Sam had suggested they all come over for a jam session. Everyone except for Finn came over straight from school. Sam had decided to be the bigger man and sent Finn an invite, but Finn had opted out, citing a need to "study or whatever."
It was an average suburban two-car garage. There was an old refrigerator against one of the walls, and a collection of multi-colored children's bicycles by the door. Plenty of room for twelve teenagers to hang out and rock out.
When Kurt arrived, Sam immediately led him over to a boy who was fiddling with a keyboard. "Kurt, this is Blaine. We used to jam back when I was still at Dalton with him. You're both gay and know how to play piano. Discuss." Quinn couldn't help but laugh at the introduction, which she overheard.
She eyed Rachel, who was at that point huddled in a corner with Mercedes, trying and failing to be subtle as they spied on Kurt's interactions with his potential new beau. She did her best to control the twitching in her lips as she fought off the urge to just walk over and kiss her.
She diverted her attention when Kurt wandered in her direction. She raised her eyebrows at him and glanced pointedly at Blaine, wordlessly asking how it went. Kurt just shrugged demurely, though she noticed a definite red coloring appear at the tips of his ears.
"So how's Finn doing?" she queried politely, silently relieved that he hadn't shown.
Kurt shrugged again, this time in annoyance. He was clearly among the majority of the club who had yet to forgive his step-brother's transgressions. "Well it's been a week since he's kicked over a chair, so I think the anger management is having a good effect on him. He's been moping around a lot, though, which is really killing the vibe at chez Hummel-Hudson, but that'll pass soon enough."
Quinn patted his shoulder sympathetically, she knew full well how much of a pain it could be trying to put up with Finn when he was in a mood.
She changed the subject, not about to let Finn ruin yet another glee get-together. "So, Sam tried to call this a 'jam session,' but he and Puck are the only ones who have guitars. That, Blaine's keyboard, and nine people fighting to sing - it's basically just an off-campus glee meeting."
Kurt smirked and ran his gaze around the room. Quinn followed suit. They certainly weren't in any shape to be replacing Sam's garage band, but everyone was enjoying each other's company immensely. Kurt put a hand on her shoulder. "Yeah. It's pretty great."
Quinn had to agree.
A moment later, Rachel came bounding over, clearly impatient with all of the idle milling around that was going on. "Hey! Why are we all just standing around here? Let's get some music going!"
The others cheered in agreement.
Before anyone else could get the ball rolling, Quinn jogged over to Blaine, whispered a song in his ear, got a nod of confirmation from him, then turned to address the group. "I was thinking I might start us off, if you guys are cool with me taking the lead." Her eyes twinkled in Rachel's direction.
Rachel took a seat on the step that led to the door that into the house. She looked at Quinn contemplatively. Quinn shot her a quick wink. Everyone else settled in around the space, content to let Quinn have her moment.
She pointed to Blaine, who bobbed his head confidently and dove into playing the bubbly notes of Rather Be by Clean Bandit. Quinn tapped her thigh to the beat then spread her hands at her sides as she sang.
"We're a thousand miles from comfort, we have traveled land and sea.
But as long as you are with me, there's no place I'd rather be.
I would wait forever, exalted in the scene.
As long as I am with you, my heart continues to beat."
As the tempo picked up, she started dancing outright. She skipped around the garage. She smiled through the lyrics as the others moved in place to the song. She smiled harder every time her view focused in on her girlfriend, who was looking at her with an overjoyed glisten in her eyes.
When she reached the chorus, she couldn't resist any longer and grabbed Rachel by the hand, pulling her up to join in the song.
"If you gave me a chance, I would take it.
It's a shot in the dark, but I'll make it."
They bopped around each other, voices melding.
"Know with all of your heart, you can't shame me.
When I am with you, there's no place I'd rather be."
Before she knew it, Santana jumped up and added her voice with Brittany right by her side.
"N-n-n-no, no, no. No place I'd rather be.
N-n-n-no, no, no. No place I'd rather be.
N-n-n-no, no, no. No place I'd rather be."
They spun and jumped and Quinn couldn't stop staring at Rachel.
The energy inside the garage rose. Each face donned a smile. Heads bobbed energetically, toes tapped all across the concrete floor, and bodies started to bounce of their own accord.
Holding eye contact with Rachel, Quinn started to do the Charleston, glowing with pride when Rachel clapped her hands together in amusement.
Mike and Tina strutted down the length of the space in time with the line. "With every step we take, Kyoto to The Bay, strolling so casually."
Puck and Sam pointed at each other, and Sam cackled as he mimicked Puck's signature hip thrust. "We're different and the same, gave you another name. Switch up the batteries."
Fingers snapped and shoulders shimmied.
They launched into the chorus again, and this time, everyone was up and singing along. They all moved and grooved in a wonderfully chaotic mass of hopping bodies.
Quinn took hold of Rachel's hand to keep her next to her in the midst of the hilariously cheerful mayhem. Just like when Rachel sang to her, Quinn meant every word she sang to Rachel.
She threw her head back in laughter when they reached the bridge of the song and Santana and Brittany took her and Rachel's hands, forming a little circle, each putting one foot in the middle and leaping around in formation.
With the final chorus, Quinn turned directly to Rachel. The song was perfect for the New Directions as a group; it was upbeat, it was fun, it talked all about how much they meant to each other. But ultimately, Quinn chose it because of her girlfriend.
By some miracle, all of the others dropped off for the last line, and Blaine let the keyboard fade out, so Quinn's voice was the only resounding tone as she expressed her feelings for Rachel in a way she knew she would appreciate.
"When I am with you, there's no place I'd rather be."
Rachel shook her head with a grin that told Quinn her mission had been accomplished.
The group all laughed and high-fived. Love was flowing all around them.
Quinn leaned down, letting her lips graze Rachel's ear. "How was that for a make-up romantic gesture?"
She saw Rachel shiver and smirked triumphantly. Rachel ran her tongue over her lips in retaliation, then gave Quinn an authentic grin. "It was perfect."
Then Rachel turned to the crowd of teenagers, slinging an arm around Quinn's waist. "Can we get a round of applause for Quinn? That was amazing!"
The group obliged. Santana pulled her in for a swift side-hug and flashed a knowing, approving look. Kurt appeared behind her with a sweet squeeze on the shoulder. Mercedes held up an ardent thumbs-up from across the garage. Everyone else hooted and hollered in support.
Quinn bit her lip as she took a look around at the friends who surrounded them. She peered at Rachel and whispered, "I think I'm ready."
Rachel's eyes widened in surprise, and she murmured, "Really?"
Quinn pressed her lips together in an assured grin. "I trust these guys. I can handle this much for now." She brought her hand to Rachel's shoulder. "I'm ready if you are."
Rachel beamed and pulled Quinn into a hug that quelled any anxiety that may or may not have been roiling in her gut. "Let's do this."
Once again, Quinn called the group to attention. "Hey guys! I just have a little announcement to make."
She locked eyes with Rachel for a moment as their friends returned their attention to her. She let her nose crinkle in gratification.
This was right. This was so right. She knew how excited Rachel was to share how happy they were to have found each other. And Rachel's excitement made her excited too. Being with Rachel was already making her more courageous.
Everyone watched her in anticipation. She took a deep breath and hugged Rachel to her side tighter.
"Rachel and I…" she looked down at her girlfriend, who gazed back up at her, nodding in encouragement. "We're dating!"
The garage was quiet for a moment before it detonated with cheers of support. The faces around them sported different levels of surprised expressions, but each of them showed delight for Quinn and Rachel.
Puck appeared dazed. He had most certainly not seen that coming, but Quinn could see the gears shifting in his head as her announcement started to explain a lot of the confusion he'd had in his mind. She was glad to see that with this realization, he displayed no sense of hostility. When he met her eye, she offered a friendly nod, and she was pleased, and slightly surprised, to see him return it.
The garage was still abuzz when Santana seized the moment to make a proclamation of her own. "While we're on the subject of lady love, Britt and I are also dating."
Kurt then jumped on the train, interjecting with, "Blaine and I just met today, but he and I are going to get coffee tomorrow!"
Quinn gaped incredulously. "Everyone is stealing my thunder lately!"
Rachel just laughed and pulled her in for a long, satisfied kiss.