Chapter 25: Like a Teenage Rom-Com
On the last day of school, Rachel walked out of her algebra final actually feeling confident about how the exam went. She hadn't deluded herself into thinking that she had become any sort of math genius since enrolling in the class. No, she knew that her success had come down to the tutelage of one Quinn Fabray.
Quinn had been helping her with algebra for most of the year, and despite Rachel's struggles with the subject, she had managed to explain things clearly enough that Rachel was able to wrap her head around the material covered on the test.
The moment the bell rang, after she handed her exam in to the teacher, she sprinted to the desk where Quinn was leisurely collecting her things and threw her arms around her girlfriend's neck with a screeching "thank you!"
Quinn tensed slightly even as her arms curled around Rachel's back. Rachel apologized with her eyes when she pulled back from the hug. She hadn't intended to exclaim her gratitude quite so loudly. She understood that Quinn wasn't ready to draw attention to the two of them as a couple, and the last thing she wanted to do was make Quinn uncomfortable. Rachel took a step back to put a respectable distance between them again while their classmates milled about.
"Sorry to ambush you. I really think I aced this test, and that's certainly thanks to you."
Quinn crossed her arms but smiled all the same. "Yeah, I really am a miracle worker." Rachel blushed when she found herself on the receiving end of a subtle wink. "You were always going to ace this thing, Rachel, you're the smartest person I know."
"Arguable," Rachel said as she let her head tilt to the side, her face dimpled with a grin, "but I'll take it."
She laughed warmly and reciprocated when Quinn adorably stuck her tongue out as they exited the classroom and parted ways for their next classes.
Rachel entered her history classroom with a sense of relief. They had been assigned a final paper in lieu of an exam, and she placed it delicately on the top of the stack on the teacher's desk before she made her way to her seat.
After attendance had been taken, the lights were turned off, and an educational film played at the front of the room. She wasn't sure if the teacher had simply taken pity on the students and decided to give them some reprieve or if he was just as burnt out as they were. Either way, she was grateful to have a break from the finals-week stress.
At the same time, she was struck with a bout of melancholy. All through that class period, Rachel felt a downward tug at the corners of her lips, knowing that under normal circumstances the glee club would be meeting for an end of year song fest before breaking for summer.
She was excited for summer vacation, of course, but the routine of school assured that Rachel saw all of her friends every day. Without that structured schedule, there was no guarantee that she would get to spend time with them.
Plus, the fact that the New Directions had had to forfeit Nationals still bugged.
Her half-sour mood continued when she arrived in the cafeteria for lunch and didn't find Quinn waiting for her at the glee table like she usually did.
Rachel slid into an open seat between Mike and Mercedes. She was received all around with smiles and cheerful greetings. Her friends lounged about the table comfortably. To her left, Mercedes cracked a joke about Puck's mohawk, and Rachel joined in the laughter that ensued. She looked around the table at her friends' kind faces, alight with cheerfulness, and counted herself lucky. Sam, on Mercedes' other side, slung his arm casually over the back of her chair, and Rachel couldn't help but shoot Mercedes an inquisitive look at the motion. She grinned, entertained at Mercedes' failed attempt at a shrug of indifference. Those two were certainly making a cute couple.
Pursing her lips, she searched the cafeteria again for Quinn's face. She wondered if, despite the fact that Brittany and Santana were dining with their fellow glee club members, Quinn had chosen to spend her lunch period with the Cheerios and football players. When she didn't find her there, or anywhere in the vicinity, she emitted a small huff and whipped out her phone.
Rachel: Hey, why aren't you at lunch? I feel like I've been stood up :(
She turned her attention back to her friends just in time to see Santana successfully toss a tater tot into Artie's open mouth from across the table. She threw her arms up and cheered along as Santana got up from her chair to do a victory dance.
Rachel bit into a carrot stick absentmindedly as the group settled down again. With a pensive expression, Brittany leaned forward into the table. Rachel watched her curiously as she raised her carton of chocolate milk and tapped her plastic fork against it to call everyone's attention.
Brittany rested her elbows on the table and looked at her friends seriously. "So, I for one, don't want to go all summer without seeing all of you. Even though I'm popular and you're not, you guys are my favorite people at this stupid school, so I think we should make plans to hang out now, before we all get too busy or lazy."
The group nodded and hummed in agreement.
Tina offered, "My family's got a pretty sweet pool in our backyard. I'll have to double check with my parents, but I'm sure we could do a pool party at my place. Next weekend?"
"Absolutely. Count me in," Rachel answered right away. Everyone else jumped on the bandwagon as her phone vibrated with a message.
Quinn: Sorry, didn't mean to leave you hanging! Got caught up with something - promise I'll make it up to you! We're still on to hang out after school right? Meet you in the parking lot?
Rachel: I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder…
Quinn: I'll take that as a yes?
Rachel: Guess you'll have to wait in the parking lot after school and find out
Quinn: Suspense! I'll be on the edge of my seat all afternoon
Rachel grinned to herself. She looked up from her phone screen at the sound of the bell to find that the conversation around the table had come to a halt and all of her friends were watching her with matching smirks.
Rachel fumbled under their knowing gazes. "Okay, I, um, I don't know what you're all looking at but that was the bell, so…" Her cheeks became ruddy when they started snickering, not unkindly, all aware that she had been text-flirting and amused by her effort to save face. She shook her head. "Well, I, for one, will be making my way to my next class now. I suggest you all do the same."
She got to her feet and strode swiftly through the cafeteria, leaving her friends to follow idly behind, sporting entertained looks. Rachel smiled into the books she carried in the crook of her elbow as she left the lunchroom. She knew that even as her group of friends relished in making her squirm, they all supported her and were happy to see her happy.
With the sound of the day's final bell, Rachel shot up from her desk, hastily visited her locker, and marched briskly toward the building's exit. As she neared the door, a hand reached out and caught her by the wrist.
She spun around to find Puck, rubbing agitatedly at the back of his neck. Other students, all eager to start their summer breaks, rushed past them into the outside world.
"Noah," she blurted, a bit surprised to see him.
"Hey, Rach," he said, looking about as uncomfortable as she felt. Things had remained strained between them since she'd rejected him and subsequently started dating Quinn. She watched him fight to find a sense of composure and waited patiently for him to meet her eye.
Puck was one of her closest and longest friends, and that would always be the case, despite the weirdness that had floated around between them recently.
He seemed to be on the same page. "Look, Rachel, I know things with us have been off lately and everything, but I just want to say, as far as I'm concerned, you and I are cool."
Rachel blinked. "Really? Just like that?"
He shrugged. "Yeah, I mean, it definitely stings a little that you don't want all up on this, but…" he cocked his head, "I guess I can't blame you for choosing the hot cheerleader. I think anybody in your shoes would've done the same. And I don't want to lose you, so I'll just," he heaved a sigh, as if the words were physically difficult to force out, "get over myself and go back to being the best thing that ever happened to you in a friend way."
Rachel rolled her eyes but appreciated the sentiment all the same. She ducked her head with a small chuckle then stuck her hand out.
"You're a good man, Noah Puckerman."
"You're pretty okay, yourself, Rachel Berry."
He took her hand and they shook, letting an amicable silence pass over them.
With a nod and a salute, Puck left, citing some big plan to start the summer right, and Rachel was free to focus on the first of her own summer activities.
She pushed through the double doors and scurried out to the parking lot. By then, most of the student body had cleared out.
Rachel scanned the parked cars for Quinn's and frowned when she didn't see it in Quinn's usual spot.
She jumped and her hand flew to her chest in surprise when Quinn's Jeep came flying out of nowhere and screeched to a halt by the curb in front of her. The top was down in the warm weather, and Quinn's upper body came popping up into the space usually covered by the roof. She had changed out of her Cheerios uniform and was instead wearing a simple white tank top tucked into high waisted, army green shorts.
"Hey, Berry! I was starting to think you really were going to leave me sitting on my hands out here."
Rachel approached the car, hands on her hips and unable to hide the smile that was creeping its way across her face.
"And who's to say I still won't?" When Quinn exaggerated a pout, Rachel relented and leaned against the open window on the passenger side door. "So, what's the plan? Afternoon at The Annex?"
Quinn hopped back down into the driver's seat and opened the passenger door for Rachel from the inside.
"Actually," Quinn drew the word out for emphasis, "I had something else in mind." Rachel lifted an eyebrow when Quinn glanced around the emptying parking lot and leaned closer conspiratorially. "I thought, if you're up for it, we might go out on our first real, official date."
Rachel's jaw dropped. She searched Quinn's eyes for any indication that she was joking. When she found none, she practically leapt onto Quinn's lap, screaming "Yes!" admittedly at a volume that was probably too high.
When she managed to settle herself down and slide back into her own seat, Rachel clasped her hands together in excitement. "Our first real date! So, where are we going?"
Quinn shifted smugly at the wheel as she put the car into gear and pulled out of the parking lot. "What, and ruin the surprise?"
Rachel crossed her arms. She hated not being in the know.
"Can I at least get a hint?" She reached over and ran her fingers along the back of Quinn's neck the way she knew she liked. She felt Quinn sigh pleasantly under her touch, even as they reached the highway and started picking up speed. "Please?"
"Okay, okay, fine. One hint." Quinn glanced at her briefly out of the corner of her eye. Wind blew through their hair, making it dance haphazardly around their faces. "I know you've always wanted that quintessential, high school rom-com kind of romance, so we're going somewhere that'll hopefully help fulfill that fantasy."
Rachel opened her mouth to inquire further but thought better of it. She would find out soon enough.
"So, you've been silent since we got out of the car. Knowing you, that either means I picked the perfect first date activity or I really, really misjudged your taste in affordable teenage romance clichés."
Rachel looked up at Quinn as they moved up in the ticket line. While, deep in her heart, she had secretly hoped that Quinn had somehow managed to purchase Broadway tickets and was taking her off on a roadtrip to New York, she knew that it wasn't exactly a feasible fancy. She was in no way disappointed with the reality.
"It's perfect, Quinn." She looped her arm through the space at Quinn's elbow. "I can't wait to get inside!"
The woman at the booth waved them forward as the group in front of them collected their tickets and entered the grounds. The faint sounds of laughter and chatter reached them from the other side of the chain-link fence that enclosed the event.
"Welcome to Putnam County Fair," the woman said in a bored monotone. "Entrance tickets are twenty dollars a pop, food and drinks are cash only inside."
Before Rachel could even think about reaching for her wallet, Quinn shelled over the bills, snatched the tickets from the counter, and pulled Rachel through the entrance gate by the hand.
She squeezed Quinn's fingers enthusiastically. "I've never actually been to a carnival before."
She let her eyes wander over the different rides and games and kiosks. There were flashing lights, striped awnings, children screaming merrily, and all around them people's faces sported bright, carefree smiles. When she looked back to Quinn, she found the blonde grinning proudly at her. Yes, she had picked the perfect first date activity.
After a moment of contented silence, Quinn slung her arm loosely around Rachel's shoulders and walked them further into the fairgrounds. "Well then, as the carnival newbie, you should pick what we do first. Anything appeal to you right off the bat?"
Rachel, in turn, brought her arm to rest around Quinn's waist. It was a friendly enough gesture that no one was likely to give them a second glance, but it was still a thrill to be publicly displaying affection. She suspected that was part of the reason Quinn had chosen to take her a county over for their date; they were much less likely to run into people they knew out here. Still, she was careful not to let her hand on Quinn's hip fall into territory that could be considered more-than-friendly.
Rachel turned her head as she considered the many options.
They ended up doing nearly everything the fair had to offer.
Quinn proved not to be nearly as adept at the ring toss as she insisted she would be, and, after laughing heartily at Quinn's inability to throw a ring onto a bottle, Rachel ended up winning her a small stuffed lion rather than the other way around.
They wandered around the food stalls and filled up on free samples of maple cotton candy, fried dough, and kettle corn.
They rode the rides, and Rachel was grateful that Quinn seemed to find her shrieking at the big drops and fast turns charming and not off-putting.
Over the course of the day, she had squealed and laughed and jumped with joy. And better than that, Quinn had too. With every stop they made around the carnival grounds, Rachel's heart grew more full.
Rachel hadn't considered her fear of heights when she suggested they take a spin on the ferris wheel. Halfway to the top, she had her eyes squeezed shut and a hand clamped tightly around Quinn's thigh.
Quinn responded with a strong arm around her shoulders and reassurances whispered in her ear. By the time they reached the wheel's crest, Quinn coaxed her into opening her eyes.
When her eyelids fluttered open, Quinn husked, "Perfect timing, the sun's just about to set."
Rachel looked across the land that surrounded them to the rapidly reddening sky. It was a magnificent view. Though, not nearly as magnificent as the view of Quinn's face, peacefully taking in the ethereal pink light of the tail end of golden hour. Suddenly, being so high up in the air didn't seem so frightening.
At the very top, where no one could see them, Rachel dared to lean over and plant a soft kiss on Quinn's lips. She slid her hand up Quinn's thigh to rest at her hip and smirked a bit when Quinn's breath hitched at the movement. She pulled back soon after, not wanting to get carried away with so many people around. Quinn bit her lip, and Rachel was sure her own pupils were just as wide as the ones that obscured the hazel in Quinn's eyes.
A few minutes later, they reached ground level again and exited the ride as if nothing remotely scandalous had been consuming both of their minds mere moments before.
Rachel cleared her throat as she tried to shake some not so family friendly thoughts from her head. In a reticent tone, she gazed softly at Quinn and said, "Thank you for taking me on this date, Quinn. It's even better than I could have hoped for."
"My pleasure." Quinn brought her in for a simple hug, and Rachel let herself fully sink into her arms. It was sweet, and comfortable, and Rachel doubted a better first date had ever been had. When they separated again, Quinn asked, "So, what do you want to do next?"
Rachel thought it over, then, with a bump to the hip, she raised her eyebrows to Quinn.
Quinn nodded and Rachel had to stop herself from literally skipping over to the bumper car enclosure. She was positively giddy. Running around a fair with a significant other was definitely the kind of thing one of her more specific daydreams was made of. There was something undeniably romantic about the freedom and child-like fun to be had at events such as this, especially with company as beautiful and thoughtful as Quinn Fabray.
The giggles died in her throat when she heard a familiar voice in the line behind them joke, "'Bumper?' I hardly know her!"
She and Quinn whipped their heads around simultaneously to see Puck, along with the rest of the New Directions, queueing up in their wake, laughing amongst themselves. They hadn't seemed to notice that she and Quinn were there.
They both faced forward again, hunching down to hopefully be lost in the small crowd of people between them and their teammates.
Quinn turned to her with wide eyes and her mouth open. "Okay, as much as I love our friends, I did not tell them we were going to be here. I mean, I told Santana I was planning a date for us, but in the interest of us actually, you know, getting to have that date…"
Rachel nodded. Quinn's face said it all. She took Quinn's hand and snuck a peek back at their still-oblivious friends. She let a mischievous glint into her gaze as she met Quinn's eye again. "Want to sneak out of here and pretend we never saw them?"
The giggles between them returned with fervor, and, hand-in-hand, they crouched low and scurried around the other side of the line and made a bee-line for the carnival's exit.
"I should've known a carnival within an hour's drive of Lima would be a hot spot for the first night of summer break," Quinn reprimanded herself as they got back in her car.
"Quinn, don't worry about it." Rachel laced her fingers with Quinn's and kissed her knuckles in the safety of the car. "We had a whole afternoon packed with first date fun. The only thing we missed out on was bumper cars. All things considered, I'd say we definitely ended up with a net positive."
She gave Quinn a light poke in the side, which elicited an acquiescent grin.
"Okay, you're right. Overall, not too shabby. Besides," Rachel's interest was piqued when a gleam entered Quinn's eye, "we should be moving on to our second destination, anyway."
Rachel leaned back against her seat as Quinn started the car. "Second destination?"
Quinn's lips quirked up, clearly pleased with herself at having pulled off a second surprise. "Oh, I didn't tell you? This is a two-part date."
Rachel's slightly gaping mouth stretched into a smile. "A two-part date? It really is 'expect the unexpected' with you today, isn't it?"
Quinn shrugged innocently, beaming. "Just trying to keep you on your toes."
When they arrived at their second location, night had fallen, though the sky was as yet still too light for the stars to be visible.
Quinn parked at the edge of what appeared to be a scenic overlook. They got out of the car, and Quinn led her over to an open, grassy area.
The surprise she had set up for Rachel was a beautiful moonlit picnic. A gingham blanket sat in the center of the clearing with an immaculate view of the rising moon. A basket rested on one corner of the blanket, filled with fruit and pastries. Beside the basket stood a crystal bottle of sparkling cider, and all of this was encircled by a string of flickering lights.
The moment Rachel laid eyes on the display, she emitted a delighted gasp.
"Quinn," she exclaimed as she took in the lengths her girlfriend had gone to. "This is…" She let her words trail off, blown away by her girlfriend and her efforts. Lovely? Wonderful? Unbelievable? Amazing? Rachel couldn't seem to find the right adjective to describe what Quinn had done for her today.
Quinn took a seat and pulled Rachel down beside her. Her smile was warm and, quite simply, happy. "Have I done the impossible? Have I rendered Rachel Berry speechless?"
Rachel feigned offense and hit her playfully on the arm. Quinn chuckled, and Rachel leaned back on an elbow. "Hardly. But I have to say, I'm impressed. I can't believe you went to all this trouble for me."
"Trust me," Quinn uttered softly, "you're worth it."
Rachel dropped her eyes as her cheeks grew red. Her heart skipped when Quinn reached across her body for the cider, bringing their chests together momentarily. Maybe Quinn was better at stunning her into silence than she thought.
Well, two can play that game.
Before Quinn could pop the cork on the bottle, Rachel took her face in both hands and drew her firmly into a kiss. Without her arms to lean on, Rachel was left fully lying down on the blanket with Quinn half on top of her. She gripped the back of Quinn's neck as their lips glided over one another. One of Quinn's hands latched on to Rachel's waist while the other braced against the ground, keeping some of her weight from bearing down completely on top of Rachel.
Their bodies were quickly flushing with heat. Rachel couldn't help but allow her tongue to snake out and taste Quinn's lips as they pressed together. They were delicious, soft and saccharine. Rachel inhaled and exhaled harshly through her nose. Quinn's hand rose slowly from her waist and over her ribcage. Rachel forgot how to breathe at all for a moment when Quinn's thumb lightly grazed the underside of her breast through her shirt. She sucked Quinn's top lip between her own, then the bottom. When her tongue came out again, it was met with Quinn's, and they pushed together adamantly, desperate to know every corner of each other's mouths. Desperate for more.
It was with some effort that Rachel eventually forced herself to come up for air.
Their chests rose and fell heavily as they both breathed hard and ragged. Rachel licked her lips when she saw how dark Quinn's eyes had become and the slightly tousled state of her hair.
As their heart rates calmed, Quinn returned to the bottle of sparkling cider and poured each of them a glass. Holding hers up in a toast, Quinn proclaimed, "To our first date."
Rachel raised her own glass and countered, "The best first date a girl could ask for."
They clinked their glasses together and drank.
"So," Rachel plucked a grape from inside the picnic basket and popped it in her mouth, "I take it this is why you were missing in action when the rest of us were at lunch?"
Quinn bobbed her head and picked apart a croissant. "Guilty as charged. It took longer than expected to set up, but I wanted to get all the details just right. I made sure to pick a spot where we'd be able to see the moon and look out over the city lights." Her blush returned when she went on, "Also, I wanted to make sure it was somewhere secluded in case we wanted to, you know… do what we just did."
"Have a super hot make-out session?" Rachel said matter-of-factly, taking another sip of her cider.
Quinn let out a shaky breath of laughter. "Exactly."
"Well, job well done," Rachel confirmed. She set her cider to the side and lay back down, looking up at the sky. "Oh, the stars are starting to come out!"
Quinn leaned over her, gazing passionately into her eyes. "The only star I see is you."
Rachel blinked at the flattery, grinning ear to ear, then pushed herself up to lay a lingering, but relatively chaste, kiss on the corner of Quinn's mouth. "That was incredibly cheesy."
She tugged Quinn down to lay beside her and nestled her head against Quinn's shoulder. Even from that angle, she could see Quinn fighting a huge grin. "It's part of my charm."
Rachel burrowed in closer and secured her arms around Quinn's middle.
"It certainly is."