Chapter 1: i - v
Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Glee Universe. No copyright infringement intended.
i. who was i to make you wait.
On the morning of Quinn Fabray's sixteenth birthday, she wakes to the sound of a sneeze.
All she knows, as she comes to, is that it's not her own, and there's nobody else in the room with her. She panics for only a moment before she accepts it was probably part of a dream she doesn't remember.
Which is a theory that gets shot to hell when it happens for a second time.
Quinn jerks into an upright position, her heart rate speeding up in her accelerated panic. "What the - " she says to the empty room.
For a moment, during which Quinn develops a painful headache, there's just silence. She can feel something there, like a door has been opened somewhere in her mind, and she's just waiting for someone to -
'Oh, my God. I didn't mean to scare you.'
The breath leaves Quinn's body because, honest to God, what is happening right now? She covers her ears with her hands as if she can block out the voice, but she's smart enough to know it won't work. As much as she would like to play ignorant in this situation, she just can't.
'You don't have to be scared,' the voice says. 'This is completely normal. It's what happens when you turn sixteen, remember? Happy birthday, by the way.'
Quinn starts to shake her head because, no, this can't be happening.
This can't be happening.
'I can feel your disbelief. Are you sure you don't know what's going on? I thought everyone was supposed to attend classes to prepare them for the day they meet their - '
'Shut up!' Quinn snaps, and the voice immediately falls silent, which makes Quinn cringe in both guilt and embarrassment. 'Look, I'm sorry. Just give me a moment, please.'
Quinn can't seem to get a hold of her breathing and, frankly, she's convinced she's dying. She knows what this is. She knows full well that, on your sixteenth birthday, the connection to your soulmate opens.
Whether or not their connection has opened is another story, and you're more than likely made to wait months, or even years until contact is made.
Quinn knows all of that and, as a result, she's been both terrified and excited for her birthday. But, right now, all she wants to do is rewind to yesterday when she didn't have this to deal with.
This cannot be happening.
Her soulmate is not a girl.
Quinn refuses to accept it.
There has to be some mistake.
The Universe is broken.
'Are you okay?' a hesitant voice asks.
Before Quinn can respond, her bedroom door flies open to reveal her father, halfway dressed for work, with a crazed look in his eyes. "Dad," she squeaks.
"You screamed," Russell Fabray says, scanning the room for the culprit.
Quinn blinks rapidly. "Oh, umm, there was a spider," she lies.
'You should know I can feel when you're lying.'
Quinn clenches her jaw, making a mental note to figure out how to shut whatever door that seems to have opened as soon as possible.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Russell asks, looking concerned, because his daughter looks rather pale. It's no secret to him that she's scared of spiders, but this reaction does seem a little extreme.
Quinn runs a hand through her bed hair. "It was kind of on my face," she explains. "I don't know where it went."
"You sure you didn't swallow it?" he teases, walking into the room.
He chuckles when she rolls her eyes. "Want me to search for it? Give it a stern talking to?"
"You're enjoying this far too much, aren't you?"
He just shakes his head as he gets close enough to drop a kiss onto the top of her head. "Happy birthday, Sweetheart," he murmurs.
Quinn breathes out, half in relief and half in… desperation. She needs to hold onto this moment, when her father is this. When he's kind and affectionate and just her dad.
Sometimes, he lets the stress of being Russell Fabray get to him, and it manifests in not-so-nice ways, but today looks like it's going to be a good day.
It's her birthday, after all.
"Your mother's downstairs," Russell says, straightening. "Up you get. I do believe she's making your favourite."
Quinn beams at him, not even a little bit embarrassed by the way she's soaking up the positive attention. She'll figure out the whole 'your soulmate is a girl' thing later. Right now, her family is having a good spell, and she's going to relish every second of it.
Russell pats her shoulder once, and then leaves her room, closing the door behind him. Quinn can only watch him go, her rising panic threatening. She knows this is going to ruin everything; it's going to break this fragile position they all find themselves in.
Quinn lies back against her pillows, her breath leaving her body. The voice in her head is, mercifully, silent.
The voice in her head is also unmistakably female, and that truth almost makes Quinn cry.
She's been trying to convince herself she's not gay.
She can't be.
She's been fighting it off, keeping herself focused on her studies and cheerleading and her boyfriend. Who, incidentally, hasn't yet made contact with his soulmate.
And, as far as anyone is concerned, neither has Quinn.
Nobody is ever going to find out.
Nobody is ever going to know that her soulmate is a… girl.
Quinn buries her face in her hands, the tears prickling at her eyes.
This isn't how it's supposed to be.
This can't be happening.
Not to her.
She's not gay.
But, she is.
Her soulmate wouldn't be a girl if she wasn't, because the Universe doesn't get these kinds of things wrong, and the certainty of such a thing is enough to get the tears she's desperately trying to suppress to fall.
In a town not too far away, one Rachel Berry sighs sadly, unable to ignore the feelings of utter heartbreak flowing through the connection that hasn't yet been properly closed. She's sitting at the kitchen table with her fathers having breakfast, but she's decidedly not hungry anymore.
LeRoy Berry casts a curious look at his husband, Hiram, who just shrugs, silently inviting him to be the one to ask the question. "Rachel, honey," LeRoy starts; "Is something wrong?"
Rachel pouts slightly, unsure how to explain. "It's - it's my soulmate's birthday today," she says, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Oh, that's wonderful," Hiram says, actually clapping his hands. "I assume this means you've made contact? Do they have a name?" He's careful not to use any gender pronouns, because he knows his daughter has expressed attraction to both.
"We made contact," Rachel says sullenly. She feels considerably years younger than her sixteen years. "Well, I made contact. It was such a surprise, really. I mean, it's something that's just been there since I turned sixteen, and I was almost used to the silence. And then I sneezed, and I felt them, you know?"
Both men do know. They've been hearing and feeling each other since Hiram became of age, just seven months after LeRoy.
"I didn't know I could feel fear so strongly," Rachel confesses softly, and both men stiffen. "At first, I thought it was just because I startled her, but it's more than that, isn't it?" She looks up at them. "It's because I'm a girl."
Neither man knows what to say.
"She's terrified," Rachel explains; "and I can feel her sadness. I can feel her determination to deny this, for herself and for me. I - I don't know what I'm supposed to do with that."
"Maybe she just needs some time," Hiram offers kindly. "It must have been a shock."
"It's more than that."
LeRoy sighs. "Then, the best thing to do really is to give her time to come to terms with it," he reiterates his husband's words anyway. "If she's going through anything that I did when I first made contact, then you have to understand how life-altering this must be for her. Particularly if she comes from a family that is unaccepting of same-sex soulmates the way mine is."
He's speaking from experience, Rachel knows, and that just makes her feel even worse. Because she knows her father's story, and she doesn't want that for her soulmate.
She doesn't want it for anyone.
With all the sadness already swimming inside of her, Rachel can't stop her tears even if she tries, so she doesn't. She just crumples in her seat and buries her face in her hands.
"I'm sorry," she says out loud.
And then, in her head, she says: 'I'm sorry.'
She receives no reply.
Quinn spends her entire birthday on edge. She's noticeably tense, but she's able to brush it off with a casual explanation of: Coach Lavigne was especially brutal at practice this morning.
Her best friend, however, sees straight through it, and Quinn isn't sure how she's supposed to explain that her life as she knows it has pretty much ended. She realises she might be acting a little melodramatic, but she knows what's going to happen if her family ever finds out.
God, what if the church finds out?
She heard from her older sister, Frannie, that Jerry Mallow from St Jude's was sent to some 'special' facility to help him with his 'illness' when it was discovered his soulmate was a boy.
Apparently, there's some kind of treatment for this particular affliction, and the soulmate connection has even been known to sever under extreme stress.
Quinn shudders to think about the levels of distress one would have to experience to ensure that happens. She doesn't want that. She just wants to stay at home with her parents and pretend none of this is happening. She was doing well with that before the girl sneezed.
Gosh, it was such a cute sneeze.
She's so screwed.
LeRoy and Hiram allow Rachel to stay home from school because, really, neither man is heartless enough to send their clearly-heartbroken daughter to school when she's so distraught.
Neither man asks any more questions, but it becomes clear that whoever is on the other end of the connection has managed to shut Rachel out. Being the only one of them who knows what it feels like to deal with the silence, Hiram spends the morning with her, and tries to reassure her as best he can.
If LeRoy can come around, then so will Rachel's soulmate.
It just makes her cry harder.
After lunch, the men swap out, with LeRoy taking the afternoon off and Hiram going in for the later hours of daylight. Hiram can't help his relief, and he pats his husband on the shoulder in a silent gesture of good luck.
Thankfully, for all of them, Rachel spends a few of those afternoon hours asleep. It's time that LeRoy doesn't have to witness his daughter deal with the pain of two girls.
Instead, he's forced to recall his residual guilt from when he first shut Hiram out. It was difficult for them both, and LeRoy hates that he tried to sever the connection himself.
He knows that, if he could just get through to the girl on the other end of Rachel's connection, then he would be able to tell her that it's pointless and impossible to try. He would tell her that it hurts physically, and she'll regret every second of it. He would tell her that she has options, even if she can't see any of them right now.
The time Rachel is asleep is also time that Rachel doesn't have to acknowledge that the one person she's destined to have immeasurable happiness with doesn't want her.
Instead, Rachel dreams, not of pictures, but of voices.
A very specific voice.
Now that she's heard it, it's likely she'll ever forget her soulmate's voice… even if she never speaks to her again.
"Seriously, what's up with you?"
Quinn looks up from her homework, her eyes resting on her best friend's face after a quick check around the library. Nobody seems to be paying any attention to them. "Nothing," she says softly.
"Quinn," Sadie Michaels says. "I know you far too well for you to start lying to me."
She sighs. "It's really nothing," she says. "I just - I guess I'm kind of disappointed."
"Because there's no connection?"
Quinn just hums.
"Don't worry about it," Sadie says, very sympathetic to Quinn's situation, because she too hasn't made her connection and she's been sixteen for a few months already. "It just means, whoever he is, he isn't yet ready for you. There's nothing wrong with that."
Sadie claps her on the shoulder. "Come on," she says. "Cheer up a little, will you? It's your birthday."
Quinn just about manages a smile, even though it feels as if her heart is breaking.
"So, Lee, how was work today?" Hiram asks over the sound of cutlery against crockery as the three of them eat dinner at the kitchen table.
Well, while he and LeRoy eat dinner, and Rachel just shifts her food around her plate.
LeRoy casts a worried look at his husband, but Hiram looks just as helpless as he's sure he does. "Oh, it was all right," he says. "We didn't have anything particularly exciting come in, but there was a - " he stops when he hears Rachel gasp.
The girl's eyes are wide. "She's scared again," she says, her voice sounding strangled. "I thought she closed the connection."
"Maybe she doesn't have a lot of control over it," Hiram offers as an explanation, even though his own research into soulmates has led him to the conclusion that, for the fear to be coming through a halfway-closed connection, it has to be strong.
Rachel tenses in her seat, her hands gripping the edge of the table until her knuckles turn white. "She's - she's so scared," she mumbles, her eyes searching for something on her father's face. "Daddy?"
"So, Quinnie, we didn't get a chance to ask, but have you heard anything from your soulmate?"
Quinn should know she was always going to be unable to avoid her parents asking this question, and she instantly panics.
For some reason, she thinks they already know, and they're just asking the question to determine if she's going to lie.
"Well?" Russell prompts.
Quinn's fists clench under the table, and her heart is thundering in her chest. They must be able to hear it, because how can they not?
After forcing herself to take a deep breath, Quinn plasters a smile on her face. "No," she says; "I haven't yet heard anything."
The confession is met with silence, and Quinn holds her breath as she waits.
"Oh, well, that's okay," her mother says, lifting her glass of wine and taking a sip.
Russell grumbles. "That means he'll be younger than you," he says dismissively. Then: "I suppose that's better than what's happened to the Sheffields."
Quinn blinks, her heart rate refusing to slow. She actually feels a little faint, merely anticipating what her father is going to say.
"Their daughter, Abigail, is connected to a Jewish boy," he practically spits, and Quinn flinches.
She can barely breathe. "What - what are they going to do?"
"What can they do?" Russell says distractedly as he sips at his Bourbon. "Short of killing the boy, they have to sever the connection."
Quinn audibly swallows, her panic rising. "Kill him?"
Russell laughs as if he's just made a joke. "I'm kidding, Quinn," he says, waving a dismissive hand. "Murder is a sin. You know that." He sighs, his gaze drifting to the side. "Well, so is crossbreeding, but what can we do?"
Quinn feels as if she's in a cold sweat and, okay, she's actually not being melodramatic. She's going to have to close the connection herself, and ignore everything as it is. She's rather adept at it, but it's going to require extra effort on her part to keep it up, because she can already feel the strain.
She has no choice now.
It's later, when Rachel is lying in bed, her mind quiet and her heart aching, that she feels it. It's everything all at once: desperation, anger, fear, anguish, determination, disgust, disappointment, heartache, longing, frustration, curiosity and just so much.
Rachel actually gasps, and then she hears a tiny, sorrowful voice speak.
Rachel sighs, just knowing what those words mean for both of them. 'Me too.'
ii. i feel like I'm drowning in ice water.
The next few weeks are difficult for Quinn.
It's a constant, desperate, energy-sapping, physical and mental struggle to keep her end of the connection closed, and she can feel herself unravelling with every day that passes.
Well, every night, more likely.
Because, at exactly ten-thirty, when she's lying perfectly still in bed, she feels a slight tingle in her mind, as if the other person behind the door is merely knocking, asking to be let inside.
It's a comfort for Quinn, but she feels such guilt about taking anything from the warm presence just waiting behind the door she's forced closed, patient and understanding.
There's such a gentleness to the action, lacking in expectancy or desperation, that Quinn cries herself to sleep. She's undeserving of such kindness, and she hates herself even more for it.
It takes Rachel almost sixteen days to wrap her head around the fact that she's going to have to be patient, which has never been her strong suit.
Of course, it hurts, but LeRoy helps her understand. They talk about it nearly every night, either at the kitchen table, or when she crawls into his lap after dinner like she's still a six-year-old seeking comfort after a nightmare instead of a teenager.
It's in that position, weeks after she's come to accept her new reality that she reaches a realisation that startles her.
"She doesn't have this, does she?"
LeRoy hums in question, lifting his gaze from the medical journal he's reading. Rachel's face is very close to his, so he pulls back slightly to catch her gaze.
Rachel waves a slow hand over their positions, absently smiling at the comfort she finds in her father. "This," she reiterates. "She doesn't have it, does she?"
LeRoy hums again, and then sighs. "Maybe," he allows. "Or, maybe she does, and she's just too afraid to lose it. You can't know, Sweetheart."
"I wish she would tell me," she mumbles, burying her face in his chest. "I just wish she would talk to me. I want to help."
LeRoy's hand rises and he gently rubs circles on her back, unable to find the words to make any of this better for her. Of course, he's tried to guide her as much as possible, and she's even confessed to joining a few online support groups for people dealing with the pain of a closed connection.
This situation isn't wildly uncommon, and he hates that it's happening to his daughter.
"I feel her sometimes," Rachel murmurs, closing her eyes tightly and breathing slowly. "When she doesn't realise it. Sometimes, she slips up, and I feel this - this sadness and this self-loathing, and I worry for her, Daddy. I worry so much."
LeRoy hugs her close. Just hearing about it makes his heart ache, so he can only imagine what Rachel is going through.
Or, what this unknown girl, who holds the key to his daughter's happiness, is having to endure.
Quinn's resolve wavers in mid-April, when everything she's trying so desperately to hold onto starts to slip through her fingers.
God, she's tried to do everything she possibly can to make it go away, but it's still there.
The gayness is permanent.
The gender of her soulmate merely proves it.
The morning starts as normal, with Quinn going through the motions at home. They're having a 'bad' spell. Her father is stressed out at work, and it follows him home, creating a stifling, suffocating atmosphere. Every little thing about Quinn is picked at and berated, and Judy just spends hours out of the house with the other housewives and her trusty friend, Chardonnay.
Quinn isn't expecting anything different to happen today. She likes routine, and she prefers to have control of every little thing in her life.
And, until this very moment, she was convinced her boyfriend was also one of those things.
Declan Marx, whose smile should set her heart alight, is just part of the carefully-constructed exterior she uses to keep her secret. He's sweet enough, and he's somewhat respectful. He hasn't pushed for much from her - not that she would give it - and she knows he does it only because they both know they have an expiration date. One of these days, his soulmate is going to turn sixteen, and that'll change everything.
Just from the utter relief and happiness she sees on his face when she gets to school, Quinn knows that today is that day.
Declan meets her at her locker, and immediately starts to babble about his soulmate, Rebecca, who is just so lovely and perfect, and every word he says feels like a weight settling on her already-battered heart.
The moment Declan catches onto her facial expression, he stops speaking, and then blushes. "Sorry, Quinn," he says, and he sounds sincere about it. Stupid, sweet Declan. "I'm just so happy. I can barely contain it."
Quinn drops her gaze.
"Look, we both knew this was going to happen," he says, sounding slightly morose. "We're all around that age, so it shouldn't be long for you now."
She almost tells him, but she bites the inside of her cheek to stop herself.
"It's doubtful I'll be meeting Rebecca any time soon, but I still think we should break up," he says. "I care about you, but we both know it'll never be the love we're destined for. It'll never be what we deserve."
To her utter horror, Quinn actually tears up.
Declan pulls her into a hug. "I promise it's going to be okay," he assures her. "We're still going to be friends, and I'm going to be like the fifth person you tell when you make your connection."
Quinn just cries harder, wrapping her arms around his waist and holding on. The second he lets go, she has to, essentially, face the music, and she's not ready for that. This new development probably isn't going to go down well with her parents.
Not only does their sixteen year old daughter not have her soulmate, but she also hasn't managed to hold onto her boyfriend until then.
They're supposed to understand.
But Russell needs any excuse, really, to let out his stress and frustration.
And, after the fifth hit, both he and Quinn are crying when he pulls her into his arms and whispers apologies into her hair.
They're crying for different reasons, sure, but the pain is all the same.
Rachel actually jerks when she feels it, and her hand flies to her cheek in both shock and anguish. She experiences a flash of complete horror, and then the connection slams shut hard enough that it leaves an echo in her mind.
"No, no, no," she cries, shaking her head as she drops to her knees. "No, no, no." She eventually curls into a ball on the floor of her bedroom and just sobs.
It's not supposed to be like this. She's supposed to make her soulmate's life better. They're supposed to work to find happiness together.
This is how Hiram finds her, minutes later, when he goes upstairs to call her for dinner. She's borderline incoherent when she tries to explain what's happening, and he desperately wishes his daughter wasn't one of those people who feels things so strongly and acutely.
For a selfish moment, he almost wishes the connection would just be severed, just to save his daughter from all this heartache. Possibly, to save them both from the lives they'll be forced to live if they don't at least try to build something. Hiram acknowledges that not all soulmate pairings do end in happily ever after, but those relationships always remain good.
The idea is that your soulmate will always, essentially be your person, and he never wants to imagine a world where he doesn't have LeRoy.
Rachel is feeling this, and she's barely even spoken to her soulmate.
Maybe, just maybe - and he feels guilty even thinking it - that's best for now.
Quinn lies perfectly still in her bed, her left hand resting over her right on her abdomen. She breathes steadily as she tries to slow her mind enough to get to sleep. It's almost ten thirty, and the numbness she's been feeling since she removed herself from her father's trembling arms and went to her bedroom hasn't managed to dissipate.
It's everywhere, and she can't escape it.
She also has a rather nasty bruise on her left cheek, and a cut just below her eye where his Championship ring caught her skin a little too well. She's only slightly concerned about what she's going to say to explain it in the morning, but she just wants to get some sleep.
It doesn't take a genius to guess that's unlikely to happen.
When she feels it, Quinn's heart stutters. It's gentler than normal, almost defeated and resigned in a way, and Quinn's chest clenches tightly.
Quinn takes three slow breaths, and then she opens the door.
Just a little.
'I'm sorry,' Quinn says, and she's immediately flooded with surprise and relief and gratitude and concern and sadness.
'Are you okay?'
'What can I do?'
'I don't know.'
'Do you want to talk about it?' There's an amused pause. 'Well, think about it, really?'
Despite how terrible she feels, Quinn actually smiles, which turns out to be a bad idea when her cheek protests at the sudden movement, and she grimaces.
'Are you in pain?'
Quinn chuckles darkly. 'I'm always in pain.' Then: 'But, no, I'm really okay. Just a little scratch.'
'On your cheek?'
Quinn freezes. 'How do you know that?'
'I felt it.'
'Oh.' Quinn closes her eyes. 'I'm sorry you had to - '
'Are you in pain?' the voice asks again, cutting off her apology.
Quinn sighs, unsure how to answer that particularly tough question.
'And, remember, I can tell when you're lying.'
'In general, how do relationships even survive that? It sounds terrifying.'
'Well, I think the best relationships are based on honesty, anyway.'
Quinn hears something that's almost humming.
'Also, don't think I didn't notice your attempt to deflect,' the voice says. 'Is it bad?'
Quinn's heart beats a little faster at hearing the obvious worry in her voice, and she can feel what's almost a caress against the barely-open door.
'It's not bad,' Quinn says. 'It just surprised me.'
'Do you want to talk about what happened?'
Quinn risks yet another smile.
'Just, you know, if ever you do want to talk about it, or anything, really, I'm right here.'
Quinn feels this warmth settle over her body. 'Thank you.'
The voice is quiet for a moment. 'I'm Rachel, by the way.'
'Hello, Rachel. I'm Lucy.'
iii. tell me all the ways to love you.
'Is it just me or is this world just full of complete idiots?'
Rachel chuckles to herself, hearing the obvious disdain in Lucy's voice. She enjoys these moments, when Lucy sounds light and unburdened, and Rachel's come to realise that Lucy talks to her only when she's in one of these moods.
Which, subsequently, isn't all that often, but Rachel will take what she can get.
'It's not just you,' Rachel says, absently reaching for her calculator. She hates Math with a burning passion - it's not going to help her in her career, surely - and every second of it is torture.
A few days ago, Rachel learned that Lucy actually enjoys it, so she's keeping her own personal tutor on hand while she endures the torture of her homework.
'I think people woke up this morning and were like 'I'm going to be an idiot today.' It was some kind of collective decision. It's a conspiracy, I'm telling you.'
Rachel can't help her smile. 'Tough day?'
'Every day is a tough day,' Lucy says. 'Today was just especially filled with idiots doing idiotic things.'
Rachel chuckles. 'Gosh, you're adorable.'
Her words are met with silence, and she actually palms her face because, of course, she has to put her foot in her mouth. They're just having an easy conversation because they're trying to be friends, and friends aren't supposed to find other friends 'adorable.'
Rachel really wouldn't know. She doesn't have many friends, if any.
'Sorry,' Rachel says, 'it kind of just slipped out.'
'You find me adorable?'
'But you've never even met me.'
'Are you trying to tell me you don't have any opinions about me?'
Lucy laughs softly. 'Oh, I have plenty.'
'Care to share with the class?'
'That's not fair.'
'Life isn't fair.'
'And that's precisely the attitude that's going to ensure it stays that way.' Rachel can practically feel Lucy's amusement, and it's some kind of balm to her, soothing and comforting.
'I think you're very special, Rachel,' Lucy says. 'I'm starting to count myself lucky that I get to know you.'
Rachel practically swoons, her heart rate picking up. 'You are adorable.'
'I suppose I am.'
Quinn's life gets infinitely better the moment she fully opens the door to Rachel.
They call it the 'Power of the Soulmate,' which is just completely ridiculous to her. Apparently, it's an actual thing, and she now understands that goofy, I'm-so-happy smile Declan is always wearing these days.
The two of them have remained friends. In fact, he's probably her closest friend at the moment because Sadie has grown… distant.
Quinn suspects she's dealing with the same kind of soulmate pressures as well.
Both their parents can be unreasonable. It's not as if the teenagers have any control over the Universe. It's not as if they can decide when their connections open.
Or who ends up on the other side.
Quinn knows her parents are also getting antsy. The more weeks that go past, the more they worry about how it will look if Quinn's soulmate is all those 'weeks' younger than her.
Quinn just knows that nothing will be good enough, and it's all a little heartbreaking whenever the realisation creeps up on her.
Her father has been especially nice to her, though.
It's part of the cycle.
Russell gets stressed out, takes it out on her and Judy, apologises, and then buys them things in an attempt to make up for it.
Quinn hates it.
She despises it.
The only thing that seems to make it even remotely better is the bright voice in her head, constantly telling her that everything is going to be okay, and that things are going to get better.
With the connection comes shared feelings, which means that Rachel senses when Quinn is scared and terrified and feeling especially cynical. She always has something perky to say, which manages to lift Quinn's mood, if only for a moment.
A moment is all she needs, anyway.
As a result of Quinn's openness, she also feels Rachel's emotions quite acutely. During the school day, her mood shifts in a sinusoidal wave enough to give Quinn whiplash. There are so many highs and lows, elation and loneliness and hope - that's usually dashed - and abject horror, but Rachel doesn't really talk much about that.
Quinn thinks she knows what it is, but she won't push Rachel to talk about it until she's ready and willing. She'll do Rachel the same courtesy the girl affords her.
In the evenings, Rachel's emotions shift completely. There's a certain warmth that emanates from her, and Quinn knows it's because she's at home with her fathers. Who love and adore her with no expectations or conditions.
The first time she experienced Rachel's emotions, Quinn felt jealous and tried desperately to force the connection closed before Rachel could sense it. It didn't work, and Quinn's apparent mortification was mollified by Rachel telling her it was okay.
'I understand, Lucy. They're good dads, and I know I'm lucky. I don't think any less of you for your feelings, okay? We're in this together, remember?'
Quinn started crying moments after that, and the two of them just cried together for almost an hour.
Quinn hasn't tried to hide anything from her since, even though there are still things they don't talk about.
Like Quinn's father.
Like the fact that Quinn hasn't told her parents that she's met her soulmate.
Like the fact that nobody knows her soulmate is a girl.
Like the fact that she still can't quite accept that she's gay.
Like the fact that her name isn't even Lucy anymore.
Rachel's heart always beats a little faster whenever Lucy is the one to start a conversation. It's happening more often now, and it doesn't matter what mood she's in. The connection remains unabashedly open, and Rachel can practically feel herself falling in love.
With a smooth voice.
With a gentle laugh.
With a beautiful cry.
'Guess who just got an A+ on her English paper?'
Rachel smiles to herself as she walks down the corridor of William McKinley High School, her attention half on where she's walking, and the other half on a girl a world away. 'Who?'
'Can I tell you something?'
'You know you can tell me anything,' Rachel assures her. 'I'm always going to be here to listen.'
Lucy is silent for a long moment. 'I missed you,' she says. 'I don't know how that could be when we've never even met. I mean, I don't even know who you are, but I can barely imagine a day when I don't get to talk to you, and I can't help feeling… clingy when all I want to do is talk to you. Constantly.'
Rachel swoons, and she makes the mistake of letting it show on her face.
It happens so quickly, she barely sees it coming.
She doesn't have time to make an attempt to block it, and she just manages to close her eyes, though her mouth is still open when the freezing slushy hits her face.
Rachel jerks in surprise and anger and then… apathy. She's embarrassed, of course, because everyone is now laughing at her.
At the sound of Lucy's timid voice, Rachel lets out a whimper, and then scrambles out of the corridor towards the nearest bathroom.
'Rachel, did something happen? Are you okay?'
Rachel doesn't want to tell Lucy about this. Rachel's supposed to be the strong one. She's the one who's supposed to be helping Lucy with whatever she's going through, and she shouldn't be adding to -
'Talk to me,' Lucy practically whispers. 'You know you can tell me anything,' she says, echoing Rachel's earlier words. 'I'm always going to be here to listen.'
Rachel stares at her face in the bathroom mirror, looking and feeling utterly pathetic.
She sighs. 'Do you have bullies at your school?'
Lucy is quiet for a long moment. 'We do, yes. I think it's generally a thing among high schools.'
Rachel picks up on something in her voice, and she turns ice cold - well, colder than she already is. 'You're one of them, aren't you?'
'I - I was,' Lucy admits, and Rachel feels her heart clench. 'I've been both, actually, and I was blinded by determination not to be the one I hated more.' She sighs. 'I've made mistakes. I know that. I'm trying not to be that person anymore.'
'What person is that?'
'The type who causes others pain to distract herself from her own,' Lucy confesses sadly. 'I'm trying not to be my father.'
Rachel sucks in a sharp breath. Lucy doesn't really talk about her family, and definitely not about her father, so Rachel needs to pay attention.
'I'm trying to be better than him,' Lucy says. 'I'm trying to be loving and accepting and kind and thoughtful. I'm trying to be better, Rachel. For you, and for myself.'
And Rachel is back to swooning, her brain practically melting. It's the only explanation she has for the next words she thinks. 'Is it too early in our relationship to tell you I think I'm in love with you?'
Rachel starts to panic. 'Lucy? Lucy?'
Quinn is sitting in Calculus when Rachel first says the word 'love,' and the entire world stops… and then shifts a number of degrees that she has to concede is life-changing, before starting up again.
It just feels as if everything she's ever found so desperately important in her life just isn't anymore, and she has to smile at that, drawing a curious look from Sadie, who's sitting at the desk beside her.
Quinn snaps to attention. 'Sorry,' she says, sounding apologetic. 'I'm here. You just caught me a little off guard.'
'I'm sorry. I rushed it, didn't I? I went too fast and, for that, I apologise.'
'Rachel, please don't apologise,' Quinn practically pleads, her face twisting into something uncomfortable. 'Did - did you mean it?'
'Oh.' Quinn sucks in a breath at how sure the other girl sounds. 'Well, then, it's definitely not too early.'
'No, it's not.'
Quinn actually jerks in surprise at the onrush of elation she feels. It's coupled with surprise, apprehension, joy and just this burst of love that results in Quinn's smile being practically blinding.
Sadie nudges her with her elbow. "Okay, seriously, what is up with you?"
Quinn can't even bring herself to respond. The happiness flowing through the connection is palpable. Quinn swears she can almost taste it. It's there, on the tip of her tongue, and she's reaching for it with both hands.
This definitely is the 'Power of the Soulmate.'
Sadie regards her carefully, searching the blonde's face for something. Anything, really. Quinn doesn't really talk about anything, so it isn't as if Sadie is disappointed that whatever's bothering her friend is still a secret.
But then she sees Quinn smile, and her eyes light up slightly. And, it's when her cheeks flush from… literally nothing happening around them, that Sadie figures it out. She's seen it on others before.
"Oh, my God," she squeaks, and their teacher shoots her a look of reproach.
Quinn ducks her head, suddenly embarrassed.
'Oh, no. What happened?' Rachel asks, clearly sensing it.
'I'm sitting in class and grinning like a complete fool, Rachel. What do you think happened?'
Rachel laughs warmly. 'I bet you look adorable.'
If it were possible, Quinn goes an even deeper shade of red. 'You should know that I always look adorable.'
'I don't doubt that, Lucy.'
Sadie gets her attention before she can reply, mere seconds having past by. "You're totally talking to your soulmate right now, aren't you?"
Cue the panic.
It floods through her, and her breath catches sharply.
Quinn ignores Rachel in favour of looking at Sadie. "What?" Her voice comes out a little shakily, and she curses herself.
"Why didn't you say anything?" Sadie asks, her expression difficult to read.
Quinn presses her lips together. "Because I remember what it felt like when Declan told me he made the connection," she says, which is true. "And I didn't want that for you."
Sadie's facial expression softens. "Oh."
Sadie smiles slightly. "Will you tell me about him?"
"Later, I promise."
'What happened today?'
Rachel can't resist asking the question. After the 'Love Declaration' - as she's come to call it - Lucy was fine, and then she just wasn't. After the flash of fear and panic, the connection closed, and that hasn't happened in a few weeks now.
Now, at ten-thirty, the connection is open again, and she can feel Lucy's apprehension and guilt. It doesn't sit well with Rachel, because she was under the impression they were taking strides forward, and she's more that a little hurt to learn that might not be the case.
'My best friend found out about you.'
Rachel closes her eyes. She's known her existence was something Lucy was keeping a secret, but the confirmation of it hurts a little too much.
'I'm sorry,' Lucy immediately says. 'Please don't be mad.'
'I'm not mad.'
'You are,' Lucy counters gently. 'I can feel it and, believe me, I know anger better than most.'
Rachel clenches her teeth. 'What does your best friend know?'
'That the connection is open. That we're talking. That your name starts with an 'R,' and that you make me very happy.'
'Very much so.'
'But she thinks I'm a boy?'
'She does, yes.' Lucy sighs, and it sounds painful. 'I haven't tried to correct her pronouns. I'm sorry.'
'No, I get it.'
'Do you?' Lucy asks. 'Because, sometimes, I don't think you do, Rachel.'
'Maybe,' Rachel allows, because she's nothing if not self-aware. 'But I'm trying.'
'I know, and I appreciate it,' Lucy says, sounding sincere. 'I can't imagine this has been easy for you, and I really wish things were different. I wish I wasn't such a terrified coward, and I wish I didn't come from such a messed up family.'
'Have you told your friends about me?'
Rachel smiles sadly, accepting the quick topic change. 'I don't really have friends.'
Lucy is quiet for a long time. 'I know what that feels like,' she says. 'Sometimes, I don't actually think Sadie is my friend. I think we just both come from families with impossibly high standards, and we find some sense of kinship in the other.' She's quiet for a moment. 'She's actually kind of a bitch.'
Rachel laughs out loud, and then sobers to something serious. 'Lucy?'
'About what I asked you earlier…'
'I love you,' she whispers, and she's immediately flooded with positive emotion. She can't stop her smile if she tries.
Lucy lets out a tiny, happy laugh, and thinks words that confirm everything for them both. 'I love you, too.'
iv. i'm climbing up these walls; i'm invincible.
In the following weeks, Quinn's anxiety… builds.
Sadie asks about 'R' all the time, as if she's enjoying living vicariously through Quinn and, while it should make Quinn feel good about her connection, it just makes her even more wary.
Quinn can't help feeling as if Sadie is searching for something. With their summer vacation coming up, she honestly can't wait for some respite. She's going to have to make a decision about what to tell her parents soon.
Things are becoming increasingly tense at home, and she imagines things are only going to get worse when her sister returns for the holidays.
Her sister, Frannie, who's already met and fallen in love with her real life - total douchebag of a - soulmate is expected to visit for an extended period of time. Why, Quinn doesn't know, but she just knows she's in for it.
The two of them are sickeningly cute, and Quinn hates them a little bit. They're literally a match made in Heaven - if Frannie would ever exist there - and they're unafraid to let the entire world aware that they know it.
'Someone's in a mood today.'
Quinn automatically smiles. 'I don't know what you're talking about.'
'Isn't today supposed to be the last day of school? Aren't you supposed to be overjoyed and possibly jumping from the rooftops and all of that?'
'I don't think "jumping from the rooftops" is the term. It's actually a terrible thing, if you allow yourself to think about it.'
'Oh, hush, you,' Rachel says, the smile in her voice. 'Why aren't you ecstatic?'
'I am,' Quinn weakly says. 'I just have a lot on my mind.'
'Care to share with the class?'
Quinn's smile widens. 'I really miss you.'
'I'm right here.'
'I know. I just, it doesn't ever feel like it's enough.'
Rachel sighs. 'You know, I have all these fantasies of holding your hand.'
'Is that all your fantasies consist of?' she practically drawls.
Rachel laughs until she's coughing. 'Lucy! I'm at school!'
'So? I am, too.'
'I need to concentrate.'
'Not blushing like a complete and utter fool.'
Quinn giggles softly. 'I think I have you beat there.'
'I wish I could see it.'
Quinn breathes a defeated sigh. 'Yeah, me too.'
'Do you want to watch a movie together?'
Rachel startles at the voice, and the question, because she's in the middle of doing laundry, and isn't Lucy supposed to be at church?
'What?' Rachel squeaks.
'Hello, to you too, dear.'
'Lucy? Are you okay?'
'I'm fine. Why?'
Rachel sets down the sweater she's attempting to fold, and sighs. 'You just sound… odd. Did something happen?'
'Wouldn't you have felt if something happened?'
'I suppose,' she allows. 'You just seem a little… frustrated.'
Lucy remains silent.
'Umm, what's this about a movie?'
'I was thinking, you know, we could watch a movie together. Like, the same movie at the same time, and we can almost pretend we're not separated by… everything. How does that sound?'
'Lucy, are you asking me out?'
Lucy chuckles nervously. 'Well, technically, I'm asking you in. But, yes, I guess I am.' She sucks in a breath. 'I realise there's very little we can actually do. Dating isn't exactly easy when it exists entirely in your head, but this is something we can actually do, you know? We can pick a movie to watch, and we can chat about it. I can even pretend you're hogging all the popcorn.'
'I would do no such thing,' Rachel interjects.
'Sure, you wouldn't.'
Rachel laughs. 'Okay, I'm in.'
Lucy mumbles something to herself. 'Um, I'm just getting home now, so, in about an hour?'
'It's a date.'
'It really is.'
Dating, as it seems, is actually a lot easier - and cheaper - when you're in your head.
Quinn discovers this quickly, as she and Rachel spend nearly every afternoon of their summer together. Sometimes they watch movies; other times they listen to music, read to each other or even go out to restaurants alone and pretend the other is sitting across the table from them.
'What do you look like?' Rachel asks her one day when they're each at a Thai restaurant in their respective towns. They've both just placed their orders, and the awkwardness of being alone at a restaurant is dispelled by the respective voices in their heads.
'What do I look like?' Quinn echoes nervously. 'Why?'
'Because I'm staring at the chair across from me and trying to imagine you in it, but it doesn't seem to be working. Right now, you're just a red balloon floating in my psyche, with a lovely, melodic voice.'
Quinn chuckles softly, earning her a curious look from the couple sitting at the table on her left. She pays them no mind as she responds to Rachel. 'Well, what do you want to know?'
'Umm, just the normal, boring things. Hair and eyes.'
Quinn licks her lips. 'Well, I'm blonde, and I have hazel - more on the green side - eyes. I'm also particularly pale. My sister loves to tease that I'm a vampire, which is ironic when she's the bloodsucker in the family.'
Rachel is quiet for a moment, clearly processing. 'You don't really talk about your sister.'
'She's kind of horrible,' Quinn admits. 'She's been particularly insufferable since she met her soulmate, and it just seems to get worse and worse every year. Sometimes, I just want to scream at them all that I've found happiness too, but I'm too scared of what's going to happen.'
'They might surprise you.'
'I'm sure they will,' she mutters sarcastically.
Rachel just takes it in stride. 'I'm a brunette, by the way. Brown eyes, too. Pretty boring.'
'I'm sure you're beautiful.'
'You can't know that.'
'I think I do,' Quinn says. 'Isn't it the soul that makes a person beautiful? And your soul is. Ergo, you are.'
Quinn's head snaps up, and her neck clicks. She panics for all of four seconds until her eyes settle on Sadie as the girl approaches Quinn's table. "Hey," she says, trying to control her suddenly-racing pulse. "What are you doing here?"
"Just picking up some takeout because Mom was having a craving," Sadie casually says, sliding into the seat opposite Quinn.
Quinn visibly cringes.
Sadie straightens. "Oh, sorry, is someone sitting here?"
Quinn sighs. "Not exactly," she confesses. "I'm kind of on a soulmate date."
Sadie's face brightens in a smile. "That is totally adorable," she squeals. "He's such a romantic, isn't he?"
'You're not even listening to me, are you?' Rachel's voice is saying.
'I'll be with you in a minute.'
'You're lucky you're so stupidly adorable.'
"So, are you any closer to meeting him?" Sadie asks, remaining in her seat.
In Rachel's seat.
Quinn swallows nervously. "Umm, no," she says.
"Oh? Why not?"
Quinn isn't sure what to say.
"Because Declan met Rebecca."
"I know," Quinn says. "He called me the other day. I was pretty sure he was going to break into song at some point. He's such a dork, sometimes."
Sadie laughs. "He's in love. You can't blame him."
Quinn nods. "No, you can't."
"So, why aren't you making plans to meet R?"
For a moment, Quinn considers telling her everything. It would just be so easy to unload all of this, because it's a lot to deal with. All this terror of what'll happen if her family finds out really weighs on her. "I can't," she eventually says.
"I haven't exactly told my family about R," she confesses.
"What? Why?" Sadie asks with wide, excited eyes.
"I have a feeling they wouldn't approve," she says carefully. "I'm trying to work up to telling them. You know how my father is. If your soulmate isn't… perfect, he'll have something to say about it."
"And R isn't perfect?"
Quinn wants to shout that Rachel is the most perfect person in the world, but those words will ruin everything. "You know my father, Sadie. Nobody would be perfect."
Sadie nods in sympathy. "You're going to have to tell them, Quinn. They're bound to find out at some point."
"I know," she breathes. "I'm going to tell them. I just need to figure out how."
"You'll figure it out," Sadie says as she gets to her feet.
"Sure thing, Q."
And, for the first time not in her own head, Quinn actually feels as if things will be okay.
v. pack yourself a toothbrush, dear. pack yourself a favourite blouse.
While Lucy tries to hide her building panic, Rachel still feels it. It builds every single day and, whenever she asks about it, Lucy changes the subject or insists that everything is okay. Even without the built-in, soulmate lie detector, Lucy is a lousy liar, and Rachel is unafraid to tell her.
'I'm not lying,' Lucy defends.
'And, there you go again,' Rachel says with a sigh. 'Lucy, what's going on?'
'I - I want to tell my parents about you,' she eventually confesses.
Rachel isn't sure what to say. 'Is that why you're an anxious mess?' She asks the question with the intention of getting Lucy to laugh, and it works.
'You could say that, yes.'
'When are you planning to do this?'
'This weekend, some time.'
'Are you sure about this?'
Lucy is quiet for a long moment. 'Do you remember last week when I closed the connection?'
'I didn't want you to feel what he was doing to me, Rachel.'
'No, just listen,' Lucy says. 'It's getting worse. The more time passes without my soulmate appearing; the worse it's going to get. It's the summer, which means that we're getting invited to all these barbecues, and everyone loves to talk about their children and their respective soulmates. My father is literally burning with something, and it'll make everything easier if I just tell them the connection is open.'
Rachel closes her eyes. 'You're not going to tell them I'm a girl, are you?'
Lucy doesn't have to answer, because Rachel can feel the anguish and guilt and frustration and hopelessness. 'I'm sorry,' she says instead.
Rachel sighs. 'Me too.'
'I feel as if all I keep doing is apologising to you.' The deep, deep sorrow she gives off is overwhelming. 'I have a plan, maybe. I can hold them off until I graduate, and then we can try to be together.' She pauses. 'Umm, only if you want that, I mean.'
Despite how helpless she feels, Rachel finds herself smiling. 'I would really like that, actually.'
'Good,' Lucy says, and Rachel can hear the smile in her voice.
And, as most things go in Quinn Fabray's life, all her plans get derailed by the mere fact that her best friend can't keep a secret.
Or, she's just a bitch.
Whichever one it is, it doesn't really matter to Quinn when she gets home from another lunch 'date' with Rachel to find her parents and sister waiting for her in the living room, looking expectant, furious and disbelieving respectively.
She freezes in the doorway, and she immediately knows that they know.
They know, and the rush of fear and panic and oh my God, this can't be happening has Rachel jumping to attention in her head.
'Lucy? Sweetheart, what's happening?'
Quinn can't bring herself to respond as she stares at her family while they stare right back at her. She swallows nervously, and she's sorely tempted to run up the stairs to her bedroom and lock herself away until she turns eighteen.
"Quinn," Russell says, waving her forward with his right hand. "Is there something you'd like to tell us?"
Wisely, Quinn doesn't respond immediately.
"Because we've just come back from a luncheon with Bryan and Julia Michaels, and they had some very interesting things to say about their own daughter's soulmate status."
Quinn just stares at him.
"Did you know Sadie made the connection?"
Quinn shakes her head, still not speaking.
"Well, she did, just two days ago," Russell says. "It turns out that her soulmate is an Asian boy from California." He says the words with such revulsion, and Quinn feels her heart rate rise to such dangerous levels. "Though, she was sure to mention that your soulmate is also less than ideal."
Quinn internally cringes.
They have no idea.
Judy tilts her head to the side. "We weren't aware you had a soulmate, Quinnie," she says. "How long has the connection been open?"
Quinn thinks she might throw up.
'Lucy, it's okay. Whatever it is, it's okay. I promise it's okay.'
Quinn blinks a few times. "I - I was going to tell you," she eventually says. "This weekend, actually."
"And, what exactly were you planning on telling us?"
Quinn wrings her fingers together, making the decision she deems the safest. "My soulmate is half-Jewish," she says, and Russell actually gasps. If Quinn wasn't so terrified, she might even have laughed.
But, alas, she's practically vibrating with fear, so there isn't even a hint of a smile on her face.
"I - I didn't know how to tell you," Quinn continues. "I remember what you said about Abigail and I - " she freezes when her father rises to his feet.
And then Russell laughs.
He actually laughs, and Quinn can barely breathe.
'Lucy! Oh, my God. What's happening?'
Russell just continues to laugh. "Did you really think you could hide this from us?" he asks, practically growling. "We were always going to find out, Quinn."
Quinn blinks back her traitorous tears. "I'm sorry," she says. "I - I don't have control over it. It's not as if I chose this. It's just what the Universe decided for me."
"Well, the Universe is wrong!" he yells, and Quinn steps back. "Where do you think you're going?" he snaps, and she backs up even more. She knows she has to get away, but her legs feel like lead, and there's a part of her that knows it wouldn't even be worth it.
He'll chase after her, and he'll enjoy it far too much.
So, Quinn ceases her retreat and straightens. "What would you have me do?" she asks, her voice surprisingly steady.
"You already know what's going to happen," he snarls. "When I'm done with you, your precious little soulmate won't even want you!"
Quinn shakes her head.
Rachel loves her.
They're going to be together one day.
He has to be.
It doesn't stop Russell from attempting to use his heavy fists and his harsh words to prove otherwise.
And, for a moment, it works.
Quinn's traitorous mind starts to convince her that Rachel won't ever want her.
Not after this.
Not after she's been beaten, bruised and broken.
"Nobody's going to want you after this!" he spits down at her, disgusted at the way she's curled up on the floor. "You soulmate isn't even going to want to talk to you!"
"No," Quinn chokes out, clutching at her stomach as her head swims from the pain. "She loves me," she whispers brokenly, which is probably the single stupidest thing she's ever said in her entire life.
She's just dazed and confused, and all she wants is Rachel.
Russell's head snaps up, and his eyes grow hard. "She?" he spits.
Quinn has enough sense to know that this is the moment.
It's the moment when he completely unravels.
It's one thing for her soulmate to be half-Jewish, but a completely other thing for said soulmate to be a she.
Russell advances on her menacingly. "Never in my life - "
And, when Quinn cries out again, reaching out for someone who isn't there, the only thing on her mind is Rachel.
And then she passes out.
The brunette has been in tears for nearly twenty minutes. Ever since Quinn's fear first spiked, practically crippling them both. She was in the kitchen putting away her leftovers from lunch when she was hit by the emotion's raw intensity that her body even seized up.
She ended up dropping the container to the floor, and then crumpling, following right after it. She curls up into a ball on the cool tiles and feels it everywhere. The fear and the loneliness and the pain. It rips through the connection Lucy desperately tries to close, but it's futile.
Rachel feels everything.
'Lucy, please! Lucy!'
Rachel can barely catch her breath from the potency of it, and her heart is beating rapidly.
'Lucy, I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!'
Rachel's own tears are blinding. "Daddy! Daddy!"
Her fathers come running into the kitchen, both of them home on a late Friday afternoon, and they falter at the sight of their daughter sprawled out on the floor, a sobbing mess.
She's reaching out for someone, and it takes them both a moment to realise that someone is in her head.
It's mere minutes later when Rachel passes out.
When Quinn wakes, she's in a car.
She registers the pain in her body, but the silence in her mind is even worse.
'Rachel? Rachel, are you there?'
"Oh, good," a voice says, and Quinn snaps her head up, biting back her groan at the agony that shoots through her entire body at the abrupt movement. "You're awake."
Quinn can barely see through her swollen eyes.
"Don't worry," the voice says. "We're going to take good care of you."
When Rachel wakes, she's in her bed. She registers her exhaustion, but the silence in her mind is even worse.
'Lucy? Lucy? Lucy! Please! Answer me, please!'
Chapter 2: vi - x
vi. you could put an ocean between our love. it won't keep us apart.
Rachel doesn't hear from Lucy.
Days turn into weeks that turn into months, and still nothing.
It's just dead silence, their connection blown apart by whatever happened that fateful day in August.
Though, sometimes, Rachel hears… something.
Barely there, but present.
Sometimes, Rachel feels… things.
They come in flashes, just bursts of emotion that she can't quite decipher in the moment. It's only later, when she lies in bed and tries not to lose herself in the memories of a girl she's unsure she'll ever hear from again, that Rachel recognises the emotions.
Fear, which has been a constant friend of hers.
But, most importantly, determination.
Rachel finds it difficult to adjust to the silence, and she compensates by throwing herself into her studies and her music. With majority of her grade having already turned sixteen, a lot of them are already acquainted with their own soulmates, which makes going to school especially difficult for her.
Still, Rachel tries her level best not to dwell on her own situation, but she can't help it.
She misses Lucy.
She misses her friend, and she can't help her worry. It eats away at her, because she knows that whatever she's feeling is nothing compared to what Lucy must be going through.
There are groups at school for students who are going through something similar to her. As tempted as Rachel is to join and maybe share her experience, she doesn't want to give the other students even more ammunition to use against her. It's already hard enough without them knowing that even her soulmate - who is literally destined to be with her - doesn't want her.
It's late on Christmas Day when Rachel feels something different. It's something lighter, and she recognises it almost immediately as something like disbelief.
And then earth-shattering relief.
Then she hears it.
It's said softly, scratchily almost, as if the voice is rough from disuse. Rachel thinks she imagines it at first, but then it comes again, clearer this time, and she bolts upright, startling the unsuspecting kitten in her lap.
She sucks in a breath, tears springing to her eyes.
'Rachel, are you there?'
And, Rachel bursts into tears, now properly scaring the poor kitten her fathers adopted for her, thinking it would help with her depression over the sudden loss of Lucy.
'Lucy,' she cries. 'Oh, Lucy.'
'I don't even know what to say to you right now,' she says through her tears, feeling the relief rolling off Lucy in waves. She's sure she's not faring much better.
'I thought it was broken,' Lucy says, almost in wonder.
Rachel straightens, wiping her eyes. 'Are you okay? What happened?'
Lucy waits a moment, as if she's gathering herself. 'I'm okay,' she says, and Rachel can't feel any hint of an untruth. 'I arrived at the group home yesterday.'
'Ouch,' Lucy complains about the volume. 'Easy there, Rachel. You're going to give us both a headache.'
'I've been so worried.'
'You could feel it?'
'Some of it, yes,' she says. 'I'm so sorry.'
'Sweetheart, what happened?' Rachel asks, and she can practically feel Lucy warm at the sound of the term of endearment.
'My family found out, she says. 'They didn't… take it… well, and I was sent to this kind of facility where they, essentially, try to force the connection to sever.'
Rachel gasps, tears returning to her eyes. Her fathers mentioned that such places exist, and the horrors of them are almost too much to bear. People wish for death when they're there, and some of them even take it into their own hands.
That loss of connection ends up being permanent.
'But I'm talking to you,' Rachel points out.
'It didn't work,' Lucy says. 'They tried. They tried so hard, but it didn't work.'
'It's rare, but it happens,' she explains. 'Apparently, our connection is too strong.' She sounds slightly amused by this, and Rachel isn't sure how she's supposed to feel about that. 'I'm sorry. I had to keep the connection closed, so whatever was happening to me wouldn't get to you. It's how they do it, you know? Make you both suffer through the connection, so that you're both pushed far enough to destroy both doors, essentially.'
Rachel actually shudders.
'But, if you can keep it closed, then, I guess it doesn't work.'
'So, they just let you go?' Rachel asks.
'Well, no,' Lucy says, somewhat sheepishly. 'I kind of ran away.'
'Rachel, please watch the volume,' Lucy pleads.
'I ran away, and then they found me again. They had to tell my family it wasn't working, and then, well, when it was decided it probably wouldn't ever work, I was disowned.'
Rachel holds her breath, trying and failing to hold back her own devastation.
'Which makes me a ward of the state at the moment,' Lucy continues to explain. 'I arrived at a female group home yesterday, and it's the first time in such a long time that I feel I can breathe. My social worker, Holly, thinks I'll probably be here over the holidays, but she thinks she might be able to find a family for me in the new year.'
Rachel closes her eyes. 'I'm sorry,' she whispers. 'I'm so sorry any of this happened to you.'
Lucy doesn't say it's okay, because it honestly isn't, but she does say, 'I missed you.'
Suppressed tears seep through. 'Oh, Lucy, I missed you too.'
Despite her assurances to Rachel, Quinn isn't holding her breath for anything about her life to get… better. She's just been through the toughest, most painful few months of her entire life, and any sort of respite is welcomed wholeheartedly.
The group home is… nice.
It's definitely better than where she was before, so she'll take it. She isn't eagerly awaiting something else, and she's willing to suck it up and just live, if it means she never has to go back to the place that worked so very hard not only to strip her of her soulmate, but also of her identity.
The other girls her own age ignore her, and she ignores them right back. It's the younger ones that she converses with, trying and probably failing to make this holiday season a good one for the children who are so clearly unwanted.
She reads them stories and draws them pictures and she even tries to play on the wildly out-of-tune piano, just to get them to smile. She leads them through baking some cookies that they make a mess of decorating, and Quinn is just able to distract herself from the very idea that none of them has a family.
'You have me.'
Quinn can barely get over how amazing it feels to have Rachel back in her head. She's always been in her heart, but she's missed this. She's never going to take it for granted again that she can have access to Rachel just by thinking about - to - her.
'I do have you, don't I?'
'You always will.'
Quinn smiles to herself. 'So, do you have any New Year resolutions?'
'Care to share with the class?'
Rachel giggles. 'Well, for starters, I'm probably going to have to decide on an actual name for this kitten.'
'I still think you should go with Roosevelt.'
'I'm still waiting for you to tell me why.'
Quinn shrugs slightly, as she shifts in her single bed to get more comfortable. She can hear all the other girls breathing and, as wary as she is about sleeping in a room full of other girls, she much prefers it to the crippling isolation and abject silence of the facility she was previously in.
'You'll be waiting a long time,' Quinn says, sounding amused.
'I'm very patient.'
'Well, you kind of have to be if you're going to be involved with me,' Quinn mutters darkly.
Rachel sighs. 'Lucy, what did I say to you about saying things like that?'
'I don't know, you've said many things, Rach.'
Rachel is silent for a moment, marvelling over the sound of the nickname. 'I sincerely hope that wasn't a dig at my tendency to talk too much.'
Rachel huffs, but refuses to comment. 'Another one of my resolutions is to learn how to knit.'
'Why do you sound so surprised?'
'I'm not,' Quinn insists, even though a part of her actually is. 'Is there any specific reason why?'
'Well, I've been thinking about what you said about the situation at the group home,' she explains carefully. 'Short of giving away my own clothes or possibly draining my meagre savings account, I can't do much about helping out with warm clothes, save for learning how to knit. I've actually already started gathering supplies. I'm thinking of starting with scarves and then seeing how - '
'I love you.'
Rachel's ramble grinds to a halt, and Quinn holds her breath. 'Do - do you mean that?'
'I've never stopped, Rachel,' Quinn confesses. 'We're made of strong stuff. We have to be for our connection to have withstood all that I…' she trails off. She doesn't like to talk about her time at the facility, and she's not about to start now.
'Do you want to hear my next, and most important, resolution?' Rachel asks, her voice barely a whisper.
'Tell me,' Quinn replies equally as softly.
'I want to meet you.'
Quinn's breath catches.
'I want to tell you how much I love you in person.'
Lucy tells Rachel about the family her social worker finds for her at the end of January. By then, Lucy is so sick of the other, older, girls at the group home, and she's definitely ready to be anywhere else.
'It's strange,' Lucy confesses the night before she's scheduled to leave. 'I've never actually lived with a family that isn't my own. I'm worried about how I'm supposed to act and what I'm about to say. The other girls are claiming I'll be back before the end of the week.'
Rachel bristles at the sound of that. 'Don't worry about them, Lucy,' she assures her. 'Just be yourself, and this family will be insane not to love you. You have nothing to worry about.'
It turns out that Rachel is wrong.
It's not that Quinn does anything wrong, herself. It's just that the social worker failed to mention to all parties involved that Quinn's soulmate happens to be a girl before making the placement and, instead of being sent to another facility, the family has the luxury of just sending Quinn back to the home.
Quinn isn't heartbroken.
When she tells Rachel about it, the girl is irate enough for the both of them, muttering obscenities that make Quinn blush and swearing six ways to Sunday she's going to find that family and give them a piece of her mind.
'I'm fine; I promise,' Quinn tries to reassure her. 'A little disappointed that I'm back with these insufferable idiots, but I'm fine. I would much rather be here than with people who…' she trails off, still grappling with the feeling of being so 'unwanted.' As a teenager, finding placements is increasingly difficult, but Quinn won't let her unknown situation get to her. 'It's just better here, Rach.'
'I really love it when you call me that.'
'You're totally weird.'
'And yet, you totally love me.'
Quinn is quiet for a moment. 'What if I end up stuck here until I'm finally old enough to leave?'
'How can you be so sure?'
'Didn't you say your social worker already found you a new home?'
'Why would this one be any different?'
'You have to have hope, Lucy,' Rachel says. 'It's all going to work itself out, you'll see.'
While Quinn isn't optimistic by nature, she appreciates that Rachel is. One of them has to be in this relationship, and Quinn has found that she's just not cut out for hoping. It's just not who she is.
'And, if that doesn't work out,' Rachel adds, 'you're going to have to give in and come and live with me.'
'Rachel,' Quinn says with a sigh. 'We've discussed this.'
'I know,' Rachel says, 'but it's not a topic of conversation that's just going to go away, okay? Just know that you have a safe place here with me. Always.'
Quinn sighs. 'You're too good to me.'
'I'm your soulmate, Lucy,' Rachel says, and she sounds very serious. 'There's no other way for me to be.'
When Lucy tells her about the second family sending her back, she and Rachel both cry. Lucy claims she's fine, but Rachel knows better, and it burns being unable to do anything to make her feel better.
The third time, Quinn barely says more than a sentence.
Lucy stops talking about it altogether after the fourth family.
vii. i don't want you leaving me now.
"Quinn, do you have any plans for the day?"
It takes Quinn a moment to register the woman has actually spoken to her, because she's been a little lost in thought with ideas about what now. She's in her latest foster home, staying with a woman that her social worker assured her had no problems with same-sex soulmates.
Regardless, Quinn's not holding her breath.
"Not really," Quinn says flatly, absently shifting her scrambled eggs across her plate. "I still have to get some things for school, so I might go to the mall, if that's all right."
"Of course," she says, her smile warm.
It's different here, Quinn knows. She has her own room, and there are no other children. Shelby Corcoran is a first time foster parent, which is really obvious. But, so is the fact that she's clearly trying.
Still, Quinn can't help but be apprehensive.
"Would you like to use the car?" Shelby asks.
Quinn's eyes snap towards her. "Would you actually let me?"
Shelby nods with a knowing smile. "I know we're both still getting used to this, but I want you to be comfortable here. I read a book that said showing a bit of trust goes a long way with teenagers, and I really want this to work out for both of us."
Despite herself, Quinn smiles. Shelby really is trying, and Quinn appreciates that more than she can say. "You said you're going out this afternoon, right?"
Quinn has the urge to ask her where she's going, but she kind of likes it here and she doesn't want to do anything to get sent back. "Maybe you can just drop me off when you're headed out, and then I'll find my way back when I'm done."
Shelby seems agreeable. "But, I think it's best that you call me when you're done," she says. "You're still new to Lima, and I don't want you to get lost, okay? I'll pick you up, wherever and whenever."
Quinn told herself she would be the least burdensome she could be, but there's a certain tone - maybe it's care, but it brokers no argument - to Shelby's voice, and Quinn just nods.
Quinn does have a few things to get for her new start in Lima. She'll be attending a new school, starting as a senior, and she's equal parts nervous about, irritated by and relieved because of it.
"Do you have a list?" Shelby asks.
"Do you need money?"
Quinn snorts delicately, and Shelby raises her eyebrows in surprise at how graceful she makes the normally graceless action. The girl is a bit of an enigma to her, but she's ready and willing to figure her out. "I think I'll manage," Quinn says.
"Don't hesitate to ask me for anything, Quinn," Shelby says. "I'm not saying I'll always say yes, but we can talk about things, okay? I think you're old enough to be mature about this kind of thing."
Quinn waits a beat, and then blurts out. "Where are you going today?"
Shelby seems surprised by the question, but her answering smile is genuine. "I have to visit someone," she says carefully. "I want to tell you about them, and I will, but I think we have to get to know each other a bit better before I do. Is that okay?"
Quinn regards her for a moment, not sensing any lies. "Okay," she finally says.
Rachel automatically perks up at the sound of Lucy's voice. It's been a rough summer for the both of them, but she gets the feeling Lucy's in a better place, even though the blonde won't talk about it any more. She's decided not to push, because she doesn't think either of them can handle it.
'I have a quick question.'
'What are your three favourite colours?'
Rachel doesn't even have to think about it. 'Yellow, pink and green, and in that order.'
'Okay. Thank you.'
'Wait,' Rachel says, sensing that Lucy's about to fade away. 'What's that about? Stay and talk to me.'
Lucy chuckles, and Rachel almost melts at the sound. 'I can't,' she says. 'I'm shopping, and I have to pay attention.'
'What are you shopping for?'
'I promise I'll tell you later.'
'Lucy,' she whines, and then startles at the sound of the doorbell, a smile spreading across her face. 'Actually, you're in luck. Someone's at the door.'
'Saved by the bell.'
'At least someone wants to spend time with me.'
'I love you.'
And, so help her if she doesn't just swoon.
'Why does it feel as if you're down?' Quinn asks Rachel as she's putting the finishing touches on her new hair.
Shelby almost had a heart attack when Quinn headed downstairs for dinner with drastically shorter hair, and now the woman is definitely going to keel over and die when she sees what Quinn's done to the colour.
Her thinking is that, if they're already going to stare at her for being the new kid, she may as well give them a reason.
'I'm not,' is Rachel's reply.
'Try again,' Quinn says, frowning at the fact that Rachel just lied to her. 'What's wrong?'
'It's not that anything is actually wrong,' she starts. 'It's just that I was told something today that I'm still processing, and it's not really working.'
'Do you want to talk about it?'
'Well, I'm here if you change your mind,' Quinn offers.
Rachel sighs, almost dreamily. 'Thank you,' she whispers. Then, a little louder, she says, 'So, tell me about this elusive shopping.'
Quinn laughs, running a casual hand through her choppy hair. She really likes it, and she wishes Rachel could see it. 'Just some stuff for school,' she says. 'Nothing exciting, I promise.'
'No contraband, huh?'
'I'm a good girl.'
'That's what you want them all to think,' Rachel jokes. 'But I know you, Lucy.'
'Sometimes, it feels as if you're the only one who does.'
Rachel notices her the moment she enters the corridor, and she's definitely not the only one. It isn't even the hair - which is awesome, by the way - but it's her, and Rachel has never really reacted to the sight of a single person the way she's responding to this unknown girl.
It's almost physical, and she forcibly has to stop her feet from moving towards the stranger.
It's completely terrifying, and she feels both panicked and exhilarated by it.
'Rachel? Are you okay?'
Rachel practically jerks at the sound of Lucy's voice, and she drags her eyes away from the girl who is basically floating along, oozing confidence and looking entirely disinterested in anything and everything.
Rachel returns her attention to her locker, her heart thumping in her chest, and she tries to get a handle on her breathing. It's not normal to have such a physical reaction, surely.
'I'm okay,' Rachel hastily says. 'Just saw something that…' she trails off, because she's unsure how to explain to her literal soulmate that she had such a strong reaction to someone else.
'That what?' Lucy asks, and Rachel can hear the confused frown in her voice.
'I can deal with anything but spiders.'
Rachel smiles, despite herself. 'I'm a vegan. I love animals, but even I won't advocate for the continued existence of those eight-legged demons.'
Lucy laughs softly. 'You sure you're okay?'
Rachel doesn't respond to the question, because she's not sure, and she doesn't want to lie, even unintentionally. 'I'm sure I will be.'
Which is a sentence that actually turns out to be untrue.
Rachel keeps seeing that mop of bright pink hair, and her heart keeps reacting traitorously. She thinks she's going to get through all her classes without sharing one with the new girl, but she gets the shock of her life when she walks into her last period of the day and the girl is sitting in the second row.
Rachel's steps falter, but the girl doesn't notice. Her eyes are focused on her notebook, where she's scribbling something earnestly. Rachel manages to walk past without her noticing, and she feels something settle in her stomach when she finds a seat somewhere behind her.
'Okay, seriously, what's going on with you today?'
Rachel sighs. It's not as if she hasn't been anticipating this. She's been all over the place the entire day, and it would be futile not to expect Lucy to notice.
'Something is definitely bothering you,' Lucy says. 'But, it's different.'
'Have you ever found someone like really attractive?'
Lucy is silent for a moment. 'Like, Ashton Kutcher?'
'Like, insanely attractive?'
'You have no idea.'
Again, Lucy doesn't respond for a while. 'I think it's perfectly okay to find other people attractive, Rach,' she eventually says. 'Just, you know, umm… what does that mean for - '
'I love you,' Rachel interrupts, automatically reassuring her. 'This changes nothing, I promise. It's you, Lucy. Only you.'
'Well, I wasn't worrying about that until you brought it up.'
'I don't know, Rach,' she says, sighing. 'Is it?'
Rachel sighs as well, her eyes flicking up to look at the girl again. She's stopped writing, and her shoulders look tense. She's almost… pensive, and Rachel can't control her curiosity. It roars to life inside of her, and she wants nothing more than to say something.
But, this girl isn't Lucy.
And, Lucy is her soulmate.
That's a connection one simply cannot and should not fight.
viii. you've been on my mind, from time to time.
As far as first days, and then weeks, go, Quinn thinks she does quite well.
People stare at her, because they were always going to stare. She tries not to pay too much attention to it, and just goes about her days as quietly as possible.
She's shiny and new, so she predictably attracts attention, and she gets asked out seven times by the end of her first week. She declines politely because that's a part of her upbringing her hair will never be able to change.
"You should just tell them you're gay," a voice says when Quinn lets yet another boy down easy, and her head snaps towards a Latina girl dressed in a cheerleading uniform leaning against a set of lockers. "I did."
Quinn regards her for a moment. "And how did that work out for you?"
She snorts. "It didn't."
Quinn finds herself smiling. "Fishing for information, are you?"
She shrugs noncommittally. "You intrigue me."
"Maybe it's the hair."
Quinn grins. "It's new."
"I can tell."
Quinn puts her Physics textbook into her locker, and shifts aside the books she'll need for after lunch is over. She's always been a good student and, as difficult as the last year has been, she's determined not to let her grades slip.
When the girl doesn't move away, Quinn glances at her, feeling slightly exposed. "Is there something specific you want to know?"
"Your name, for starters."
"I'm surprised you haven't figured it out already."
"Are you going to tell me?"
Santana smiles, and Quinn can't tell if she should be worried or not. It makes her feel uneasy, and she feels the need to say something to make sure this girl knows where she stands.
"I'm taken," Quinn says.
"I got that," Santana says, smiling sadly. "I am, too. Sort of. I don't know. It's complicated."
Quinn's shoulders sag slightly, and she can feel the lingering pain practically radiating off of the other girl. "Bad experience?"
"Aren't they all?"
Quinn definitely has her own 'bad experiences,' but she barely knows this girl, and she's not going to reveal her secrets when she can barely bring herself to talk to Rachel about any of it.
"Why don't you sit with us for lunch?"
"Me and my… person," she says uncomfortably. "She's been asking about you."
Quinn considers the offer carefully, and then eventually agrees. She sees something in this girl that she can't explain, but she knows it's important, whatever it is. "Sure," she eventually says, and then dutifully follows Santana to the cafeteria.
"I should warn you," Santana says, glancing over her shoulder. "Brittany is kind of… touchy."
It's the sound of a squeal that gets Rachel's attention, and she lifts her head to see Brittany Pierce practically leap onto… Quinn.
Rachel learned her name the second day of school, and she's been unable to think about anything else. It's a problem, and it's not exactly something she can talk to Lucy about.
"Poor girl," Mercedes says from Rachel's left side. "Someone should have warned her to steer clear of the Cheerios. They're just going to corrupt her, and she's far too nice."
Rachel raises her eyebrows. "You've spoken to her?"
Mercedes nods. "Oh, yeah, we have Lit. together," she says. "The girl's pretty smart. Quiet, observant, but quite friendly once you get her talking."
Mercedes frowns. "Don't you have Government with her?"
"I do," Rachel says, "but she doesn't really talk in class. Mr Harris is kind of strict, and nobody bothers to ask questions when all the information's in the notes, anyway."
Mercedes hums. "You seem awfully interested in our new girl, Rachel," she says with a smile. "Something you'd like to tell me?"
Rachel shakes her head, flushing slightly. "No," she says unnecessarily, and Mercedes definitely doesn't believe her. "I'm sorted," she adds a moment later. "It's just that she's…"
"I know," Mercedes says, smiling knowingly. Then, as carefully as she can, she says, "You don't really talk about your soulmate."
Rachel nods almost numbly, because she really doesn't. She and Mercedes aren't exactly… friends. They clash a little too much for that, but Rachel knows it's more than that. She doesn't talk about Lucy for very specific reasons.
Sometimes, she's convinced Lucy is going to disappear again, and she's terrified she'll have made this person real, just to have her ripped away again.
Rachel's unsure she'll survive such a thing.
'I'm making friends.'
Quinn sounds exceptionally childish as she directs the words at Rachel, but she can't help it. She is making friends.
At least, she thinks Brittany and Santana are her friends. They eat lunch together almost every day, and Quinn feels settled for the first time in a long time. Things with Shelby are going well, and there's a certain ease about Quinn's life that she's desperate to hold onto.
'That's good, Luce,' Rachel says. 'You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear that.'
'They're a little bit crazy, though.'
'The best ones generally are.'
Quinn laughs to herself, even as she tries to work on her Physics homework. 'So, how's your crush?'
Rachel predictably groans, and Quinn giggles softly. 'You're never going to let me live this down, are you?'
'Nope. Definitely not.'
'She's fine,' Rachel says, somewhat dismissively. 'I've never actually spoken to her, and I doubt I ever will. She's fallen into a crowd that… doesn't really like me.'
'Nonsense,' Quinn immediately says. 'Who wouldn't like you?'
'You'd be surprised.'
'Then, they're clearly delusional.'
'I'm pretty sure you didn't like me when we first made the connection,' Rachel points out.
Quinn sighs, deep regret fuelling the action. 'It wasn't because of you, and you know that,' she says. 'But, once I got to know you, I realised the error of my ways. I was hooked. You caught me, Rachel, and I'm willingly staying.'
'You always say the right things,' Rachel says. 'You're also such a dork.'
Before Quinn can reply, there's a knock on her bedroom door, and Shelby immediately pokes her head inside, smiling warmly. "Dinner's ready."
Quinn easily returns her smile, because she's allowing herself to do that now. "I'll be right down," she says.
"It's your favourite," Shelby adds, knowing it'll hurry the teenager along, before she disappears from sight. She knows it'll do the trick.
Quinn knows what Shelby's up to, but she plays into her hands, anyway. 'Hey, Rach?'
'I have to head down to have dinner with my foster mother,' she says. 'Talk to you later?'
Rachel clearly can't resist, and Quinn chuckles at how predictable she is. 'You're somewhere safe, right?'
'I am,' Quinn assures her as she rises to her feet, dutifully abandoning her unproductive attempt at her homework. 'She's really nice, and we actually get along. She kind of reminds me of you in a few ways, you know?'
'I'm one of a kind, Lucy.'
'Don't I know it?'
'I love you.'
'I love you, too.'
Lucy always manages to settle the endless motion of Rachel's head and heart whenever they speak.
Rachel can't be sure if it's actually some soulmate power - she's yet to learn about it, if it is, and she makes a mental note to ask her father about it - or if it's just something unique to the two of them, but it constantly amazes her.
She settles on her bed when Lucy disappears, lying on her back and staring at the ceiling, and tries desperately to still her mind. She's thinking about Lucy and about Quinn and about the cheerleaders who have taken Quinn in and about her Calculus homework and about her next Glee performance.
It isn't long before she falls into a restless sleep, the spontaneous nap catching her by surprise, even as her brain refuses to calm.
Quinn is still smiling when she gets to the dinner table, and Shelby raises her eyebrows in question.
It's almost unprecedented that the teenager actually blushes under the scrutiny. "Soulmate," is all she offers, because she hasn't yet told Shelby much of anything about Rachel.
Shelby just shoots her a knowing smile, and then invites her to sit. "I thought that maybe we could talk," she says; "about that thing I said we would talk about when we got to get to know each other better."
Quinn can sense the severity in her tone, so she straightens her spine, and gives Shelby her full attention.
"Firstly," Shelby starts. "This changes nothing about you and me. Our relationship. Your place here will never be in jeopardy, unless you want it to, okay, Quinn? Do I make myself clear?"
Quinn just nods, instantly tense.
Rachel is silent in her head, and she's thankful for it.
"I have a daughter," Shelby says, and Quinn isn't sure how she's supposed to react. "We don't live together. I had her when I was very young, and I was in no place to raise her after…. I lost my soulmate."
Quinn's eyes widen, but she doesn't speak.
"She lives with her adoptive parents in another suburb. She's the reason I even live in Lima, and we've been trying to build a relationship since she was sixteen years old."
Quinn waits in silence.
"I don't really talk about her, because I don't want her to become this… thing." She takes in a breath. "I'm not ashamed of her, but I've been letting her dictate how things go between us. I missed out on a lot with her, and I feel it every day, Quinn. My experience with her is one of the reasons I wanted to become a foster parent."
Quinn nods, understanding that much. "Does she know about me?"
Shelby nods. "I told her as soon as you were settled," she says. "I was a little scared you wouldn't want to stay, so I waited until the first time you rolled your eyes at me to know we had a fighting chance."
Quinn laughs lightly, and then sobers slightly. "Was she mad?"
Shelby sighs, setting her fork on the edge of her plate. She hasn't even eaten a bite yet. "She didn't understand at first. I think it was linked to the belief that she thinks I might have been 'replacing' her, which is just ridiculous. You look nothing alike."
Quinn appreciates the way she's adding humour to ease the intensity of this conversation.
"But we've been talking about it, and she's come around to the idea," she says. "And, if ever you're ready and willing, I'd really like it if the two of you could meet."
Quinn suddenly feels nervous, and it must show on her face, because Shelby reaches across the table and squeezes her hand.
"You don't have to decide now, okay?" she says. "Just, please think about it. You're in my life, and you're important to me. I'd like for her to know you."
Quinn considers that, and then nods. "Okay. I think I can handle that."
The smile Shelby sends her way is blinding, and Quinn knows she's done something right. It's odd for her, because she can't really remember making someone other than Rachel smile simply for the act of smiling.
"Can I, um, can I tell you about my soulmate?" she asks tentatively. "I don't have to, if it's too hard for you or something, because I can't even imagine what it must have been like to lose your - "
"Quinn," Shelby gently interrupts. "It's okay, Sweetie. You can tell me anything you want to."
Quinn doesn't even bother with her food at this point, even though it's technically her favourite: lasagna. "I - I was terrified of her when we first made the connection," she starts. "I tried to close it myself, because I knew what my family would do if ever they found out she was a girl. It was harder than I expected."
Shelby has heard that much.
"I fell for her pretty quickly, once I gave in," Quinn explains. "I don't know if that's normal, but I was pretty powerless to her charms, and it was difficult to keep it to myself. I was kind of forced into mentioning my soulmate 'R' to my… best friend."
If Shelby notices the trip over the words, she doesn't mention it.
"I knew what would happen if my family ever found out about her," Quinn says. "I mean, I had an idea, but I honestly didn't think it would be like… that." She falls silent, unsure if she wants to dive into the various ways the facility attempted to torture the connection to sever. Still, Quinn kept it closed with every fibre of her being to protect Rachel from any of it. It was her sheer stubbornness that kept the connection from being severed.
Love, Quinn didn't even know she was capable of.
"I think I'd like to meet her soon," Quinn softly. "If that's okay, I mean. It's just, you know. This is the first time in more than a year that I've actually been settled and stable, and I think this is the me I'd want her to know."
"She's going to love you," Shelby says, smiling warmly. She has her own feelings towards Quinn's family, but she'll never tell them to the teenager in front of her.
One day, maybe.
"You think so?" Quinn asks, suddenly shy.
"She might have a few questions about the hair, but she definitely will," Shelby teases, thoroughly enjoying this side of Quinn.
Quinn just laughs. "I don't know, Shelby, she might actually like it."
ix. some things so sentimental, you make so detrimental.
'I have a question.'
Rachel smiles to herself at Lucy's immediate response. 'Wait. Aren't you in school?'
Rachel huffs, rolling her eyes when the boy beside her looks at her. 'That's kind of what I wanted to ask about. I don't even know why I haven't thought of it before, but how do teachers ensure that we're not getting help from our soulmates during tests and exams?'
Lucy doesn't respond immediately, as if she's truly considering it. 'Isn't it some kind of Soulmate Code that you can't use the connection for personal gain or something like that?'
'Are there Soulmate Police?'
Lucy laughs, and Rachel sighs dreamily. God, she's so stupidly in love. 'I love you.'
Apparently, so is Lucy.
'So, I told my foster mother about you,' Lucy says, and Rachel's breath catches. 'And I'm still living with her, so there's that.'
'Lucy,' Rachel lightly reprimands.
'She's pretty great,' Lucy continues. 'I think the chances of staying with her at least until I graduate are high.'
'That's wonderful. I'm so happy for you.'
'We also may or may not have started talking about plans for me to meet you.'
This time, Rachel gasps loudly, and several heads turn her way.
Including Quinn's, clear surprise and something else entirely on her face.
Rachel's eyes meet hers for the first time, and it's as if she's frozen in place. Quinn's gaze is practically pinning her in place, and it feels as if she didn't even exist in the great big world until this very moment.
Quinn is looking at her, and it's as if the girl is seeing everything she has on offer.
"Miss Berry?" Mr Harris says, looking unimpressed with her interruption.
Rachel clears her throat. "Sorry," she murmurs, and then drops her gaze in utter embarrassment. What is wrong with her?
'Do you remember when you asked me if I ever found someone really attractive?'
Rachel's heart hasn't managed to slow. 'Yes…?'
'I think I get it now.'
"Quinn, you have a visitor."
Shelby's voice startles Quinn from her homework, and a frown slips onto her face. A visitor? She checks her phone to make sure she hasn't missed any texts from Santana or Brittany. It isn't like either one of them just to show up unannounced.
Maybe it's an emergency.
With that thought in mind, Quinn shoots out of her desk chair and practically flies down the stairs. She's sure her mad dash has alerted Rachel to her state of being, and she's unsurprised when she hears a panicked 'Lucy' ring through her head.
'I'm okay,' Quinn says, even though it's possible she's lying.
Quinn makes her way into the living room, expecting to see one of her cheerleader friends, but instead comes face to face with none other than Sadie Michaels.
The breath literally leaves her body and she stumbles to a stop.
Shelby senses the change immediately, and she gets to her feet, moving to Quinn's side. "Quinn, Sweetheart?"
Quinn can barely breathe. "What is she doing here?" she whispers.
Shelby looks nonplussed. "Isn't she a friend from school?" she asks. "She said you go to school together."
Quinn blinks. "Went," she says. "We went to school together."
It takes a moment for the meaning to click, and Shelby's features harden as she shifts into Protective-Mama mode, which actually makes Quinn smile.
Quinn's hand touches her forearm. "It's okay," she says. "I'm - I'm okay."
"Are you sure?"
"Should I give you two a moment?"
Shelby looks a bit uncertain, but she eventually relents. "I'll just be in the kitchen," she says, loud enough for Sadie to hear, and Quinn rolls her eyes. She's really starting to love this woman.
When Shelby is gone, Quinn turns her attention to Sadie, though she doesn't move any closer to where the other girl is seated on the couch. Quinn isn't going to be the one to speak first.
When Sadie realises that, she blurts out, "I like your hair."
Quinn's eyes narrow. "What are you doing here?" she asks, and her voice is cold, unfeeling. "Better yet, how did you even find me?"
Sadie keeps her eyes on Quinn. "I, uh, I wanted to apologise," she says. "I had no idea they would - " she stops.
"They would what?" Quinn snaps, suddenly angry. "Send me away? Try to torture the connection out of me? Make me wish for death? Yeah, I bet you had no idea they'd do any of that."
Sadie drops her gaze. "I'm sorry," she says, her voice cracking. "I didn't think they would do… that, Quinn. You have to believe me. I just - they were talking about Ryan like he was nothing, and I couldn't take it, and I knew if I shifted the attention, they would - "
Sadie blinks. "My soulmate," she says, her lips curving into a small, involuntary smile. "He's not exactly what my parents envisioned, and we've had… words."
Quinn clenches her jaw. "Are you… with him?"
Sadie nods. "He's the reason I'm here, actually," she says. "He's a bit of a hacker, and he found your records, and I had to come and see you. I tried to find you after… you first disappeared, but nobody would tell me anything. Just that the soulmate problem was getting taken care of. Honestly, I didn't think they would react that way to R."
Quinn's shoulders sag. "R's real name is Rachel, Sadie," she says.
Quinn presses her lips together. "I'm gay, and her name is Rachel. I had… an idea of what would happen if they ever found out, but even I was shocked by what that truly entailed," she says. "They - they strip you of everything. The only thing I had left in the end was her."
Sadie swallows. "I'm sure she's wonderful, Quinn."
"You're not… disgusted?"
"No," Sadie says. "I told you. Ryan has - "
"Been good for you," she finishes for her. "I'm glad."
They descend into silence that is neither awkward nor comfortable, and it takes Shelby bringing in two glasses of lemonade and a plate of cookies to ease the heavy atmosphere.
"How's Declan?" Quinn eventually asks when Shelby leaves again.
Sadie smiles warmly. "He's good," she says. "He and Rebecca are going strong, but I know he misses you. He… wasn't very happy with me when I told him what I knew of what happened."
Quinn just hums, unsure what to say in response.
"Will I be able to tell him I've seen you?" Sadie asks. "Do you still have his number? I'm sure he'd love to hear from you."
Quinn resists the urge to remind her that she lost everything, and she just shakes her head and finds a piece of paper, on which Sadie writes both her number and Declan's.
It's when Sadie's leaving that Quinn cracks her first genuine smile.
"What?" Sadie asks, slightly bemused.
Quinn shakes her head. "I just realised that all three of us have soulmates whose names start with R."
Sadie snorts. "Well, would you look at that."
Quinn pokes her bicep as they stand at the front door. "I didn't know I needed to see you until I saw you."
"I really am sorry," Sadie says, and she sounds so deeply apologetic that Quinn can barely look at her. "I would take it back if I could."
"I'll make it up to you, somehow."
Quinn raises her eyebrows. "A part of me knows to be worried," she says.
Sadie smiles innocently. "I really do like your hair," she says, and then she leaves.
Quinn watches her car disappear from sight, and then closes the front door. She's not entirely sure what she's feeling about the entire situation, and she remains standing there, lost in thought, until Shelby comes to find her.
"Are you okay?"
Quinn turns to face her. "I think so," she says. "I'm still processing the entire thing, to be honest."
"I didn't mean to listen in," Shelby starts; "I just wanted to make sure she didn't say anything to upset you."
"It's okay," Quinn assures her. "Thank you, for the refreshments and the subtle support. I really do appreciate it."
"Always, Quinn," Shelby says, her hands twitching at her sides, as if she wants to draw the teenager into a hug, but she's unsure if Quinn will appreciate the gesture. "I, um, also happened to hear your soulmate's name."
Quinn smiles to herself. "You did, did you?"
"Rachel is a wonderful name."
Quinn gives her a questioning look, hearing something specific in her voice.
"It's my daughter's name."
Rachel can sense that there's something Lucy wants to talk to her about. It's this nervousness that she gives off, which makes Rachel antsy, but she's unsure if it's a good idea to push her.
'Are you busy?'
Rachel almost breathes a sigh of relief. 'Nope. I'm just working on an English essay that just isn't working.'
'What's it about?'
'We have to write about Time, and I've been toying with the idea of personifying it, him… her?'
'Hmm,' Lucy sounds. 'I like that idea. You can do a lot with that.'
Rachel clears her throat, deftly bringing them back to the topic at hand. 'But, I'm all yours if you want to talk.'
'Are you sure?'
'I'm sure,' Rachel assures her. 'What's on your mind, baby?'
'I - I think I'm finally okay,' Lucy says. 'Like, actually okay. Not in a "maybe okay," but an actual "I'm-not-falling-apart okay." I know I still have a lot of demons, and I'm probably going to have to be in therapy for the rest of my life, but I'm as sure and settled with myself as I've ever been.'
Rachel smiles to herself, sure that Lucy can feel how proud she is through their connection. 'Did something happen?'
'You could say that, yeah,' Lucy says. 'I think I've finally received some form of closure about what happened to me with - with my family, and how I ended up at the facility.'
'Baby, you know you can talk to me about anything, right?'
Rachel shakes her head in amusement. 'I, for one, am glad that you're in the best place you can possibly be.'
'Because it means you're one step closer to meeting me?'
Despite herself, Rachel blushes at the teasing in Lucy's voice. 'No,' she says; 'because you're one step closer to being the happiest you've ever been.'
x. i don't need a whole lot of anything; i just want a little bit of everything.
Quinn isn't sure what she's supposed to feel when Shelby brings up meeting her daughter again. It's been a few weeks since they first discussed it, and Quinn has, admittedly given it quite a bit of thought.
Too much thought, really.
It's also not something she's actively discussed with Rachel. While Quinn tells her soulmate everything, this feels like a Shelby thing, and Quinn doesn't feel it's her place to divulge her foster mother's secrets.
So, when Shelby brings it up again, Quinn doesn't let Rachel feel any of what she's feeling.
And what Quinn is feeling is fear.
What if Shelby's daughter doesn't like her? What if she asks Shelby to send Quinn away? What happens then? What if they meet and they don't get along? What if these are Quinn's last few days in this wonderful home?
The blonde snaps to attention, her heart jumping into her throat.
Shelby smiles softly. "Is everything okay?" she asks. "I might not be privy to your inner thoughts like your soulmate, but you're obviously anxious about something, and I would be a terrible parent if I didn't at least try to coax you into talking about it."
Quinn isn't sure what to say. She doesn't want to say anything to jeopardise her position here.
Shelby seems to sense that. "It's okay, Quinn. You can talk to me. I'm not going anywhere, and neither are you." Then: "Is it about meeting my daughter?"
Quinn audibly swallows, but says nothing.
Shelby sighs. "I told you that you have nothing to worry about," she tries to reassure, again. "She's very open to the idea of you, and she's very friendly. If both of you weren't so committed to your own soulmates, I might even consider setting you up."
And, for whatever reason, Quinn blushes. "She - she likes girls?" she asks, frowning slightly.
"Is that one of the reasons you're so okay with me?"
"One of, yes," Shelby says, smiling slightly. There's more to it, Quinn can tell, but she's not going to ask. "It helps that you're also rather lovely."
"And she's okay that you just told me that?" Quinn asks, ignoring Shelby's comment.
Shelby nods again. "She's had a difficult experience with her soulmate, but Rachel has never been shy about the fact that her soulmate is a girl, at least with her family, which is what you are. I can't speak for how she is in public, or just at school. She's given me permission to tell you, just in case you are uncomfortable with it."
Quinn blinks. "You didn't tell her about me?"
"She knows you exist, but I wouldn't reveal something like that without speaking with you first, Quinn."
Quinn's throat closes up, an emotional lump forming out of nowhere.
"I told you that you're safe here, and I intend to prove it to you." Shelby's features soften considerably when she notices the wet sheen to Quinn's eyes. "I know we've known each other only a few short months, but you're very important to me, Quinn. We're family now, okay?"
Quinn attempts to swallow the lump in her throat, and then nods.
Shelby smiles widely. "So, can I invite her over this weekend?" she questions. "She's quite curious about you."
Quinn takes a deep breath, settling herself, and then agrees. She has two days to deal with her conflicting feelings, and figure out what she's going to do if Shelby ends up going back on her word.
Because, Quinn is not going back to the group home.
'All I'm saying is that you don't have to shut me out when you're in emotional situations,' Rachel says, sounding slightly exasperated. 'I'm here. We're in this together. Baby, you don't have to hide from me.'
Lucy, almost predictably, doesn't answer immediately. And, when she does, she sounds contrite and particularly defeated. 'I'm sorry.'
Rachel sighs. 'Why don't you want to talk to me about whatever you don't want to talk to me about?' She asks the question, knowing that Lucy probably won't give her a straight answer.
'I love you.'
Or, an answer at all.
'Lucy,' Rachel says. 'Please, baby, just talk to me. I thought we were getting better at this. I mean, you even told me about your new friends and about contacting your old ones. Why does it feel as if we're taking steps back now?'
Rachel can feel Lucy there, so she waits patiently, splitting her attention between her soulmate and her Statistics homework. She's tempted to ask Lucy for help with it, but that would just offer her a distraction, and Rachel is trying to have a serious conversation.
It takes three full minutes for Lucy to start speaking again.
'Something's happening this weekend,' she eventually says. 'If - if it doesn't go well, then I may or may not be out of another placement.'
'And then I don't know what happens after that,' she says. 'I don't want to go back to the group home. It's unlikely they'll find some other place for me to go, given that I'm so close to ageing out.' Lucy sounds so defeated. 'I told myself I wasn't going to get attached, but I actually really like it here. I like her, and - '
'And?' Rachel presses gently.
'And I don't know how I'm supposed to meet you without her help.'
'It's okay,' she says. 'I just, well, I'm scared of what happens when I have to leave, and I thought I would have more time to prepare, you know? I want to see you, and I - '
'You know, Rachel, that isn't even my name.'
Rachel immediately sits up, launching the kitten that's really a cat now - okay, she ended up calling him Roosevelt - off her chest. 'What?'
Lucy chuckles. 'I mean, it is my first name, but it's not what I call myself. I gave you the name because, at the time, who I was in real life and who I was with you were two entirely different people. Now, I'm trying to be one person, and I'm actually starting to like myself.'
'Your name isn't Lucy?' Rachel repeats, clearly stuck on that.
'But not really. I actually go by my second name.'
Rachel isn't sure what to do with this information. In her head, her soulmates's name is Lucy. She can't picture her as anything else.
Unwittingly, a mop of bright pink hair works into her consciousness, and she has to force it out. There isn't enough time in the day to unpack what that could possibly mean.
'Lucy,' Rachel starts, because she has to know; 'what is your name?'
Lucy - or whatever she calls herself - doesn't immediately respond and, when she does, Rachel has the sudden urge to throttle her. 'Tell you what,' she says lowly; 'how about I tell you when I see you in person?'
'Yes,' Lucy declares. 'That's exactly what we'll do. It'll be incentive.'
'Believe me, I don't need any further incentive to meet you,' she says in response, grumbling under her breath. 'I would come to wherever you are, right now.'
Lucy sucks in a breath. 'You would?'
Lucy's smile is practically audible when she says, 'Soon, then.'
'Soon,' Rachel agrees.
Quinn, admittedly, is a nervous wreck.
In less than half an hour, Shelby's daughter is going to be here, and Quinn is going to have to face the music. She can only hope, if this girl, Rachel, is anything like Shelby, then she'll be okay.
But, until then, she's stuck in a guessing game.
Quinn preemptively packs her few possessions, expecting the worst because her life experiences have forced her to consider all possibilities. It's terrifying, and Quinn almost wishes it wasn't happening.
But, if she intends to spend as long as she possibly can here with Shelby, then she's going to have to learn to spend time with her daughter.
'I'm nervous,' comes Rachel's voice, and Quinn startles at the interruption to her own thoughts.
'Why?' Quinn asks.
Rachel is quiet for a moment. 'Did I ever tell you that I know my birth mother?'
Quinn frowns, a lingering thought niggling at the back of her mind. 'No,' she says; 'I don't think you've mentioned it.'
'Well, I do,' Rachel says. 'We're not that close. I didn't know her for the first sixteen years of my life, but we've been getting to know each other over the years. I still don't know how I feel about the entire thing, but I try not to think about it too much. Especially now that she's become an actual parent to someone else.'
For a brief, inexcusable moment, Quinn allows herself to entertain the possibility that the Universe is trying to tell her something very important.
There's no way.
'Rachel,' Quinn starts, and her voice sounds shaky even in her own head.
"Quinn!" Shelby yells from downstairs, just as the doorbell rings. "She's here!"
Quinn is frozen in place.
She can't possibly bring herself to move.
'Wish me luck,' Rachel says, and Quinn's heart jumps up into her throat.
'Why?' Quinn asks, even though she's suddenly certain she knows the answer to the question.
'I'm visiting my mother,' Rachel says, her answer coming out far too easily, even though Quinn can hear the nerves in her voice.
'You're visiting your mother,' Quinn echoes, her voice laced with sudden wonder.
'I am,' Rachel confirms; 'So, I should probably go. It's an important day for both of us.' She pauses. 'Well, for all three of us, I suppose.'
'Right,' Quinn says, and then allows the connection to fall silent.
Rachel is here.
Rachel, her soulmate, is literally downstairs.
What the fuck are you still doing up here? Quinn asks herself, and then she's running.
And then stopping abruptly.
She glances down at what she's wearing: dark blue jeans and a green sweater Shelby bought for her because she claimed it brought out the colour in Quinn's eyes, and shakes her head in disgust.
"Fuck," she murmurs to herself. Then, just before she turns around to change into something more appropriate for meeting her soulmate, Quinn suddenly doesn't care.
How can she?
Rachel is literally down those stairs.
Without another thought, Quinn goes flying, taking the steps three at time, because they've waited long enough for this moment. She can feel Rachel's worry through their connection, but she's clearly distracted.
By the sound of Quinn.
Who comes barrelling into the kitchen, where Shelby and… oh-my-God-I-know-you are standing around waiting for the kettle to boil.
Quinn's mouth moves before her brain can catch up. "You," she says, and the word comes out muffled, because she almost took a dive to the floor when she entered the kitchen.
Shelby looks at her, worried. "Are you okay?" she asks.
Both teenagers ignore her, eyes and ears for only each other.
Rachel steps forward, a slight frown on her face. "You," is what she says.
Quinn can't help it - honestly, she can't. She starts to smile, which turns into a full-blown laugh… that eventually graduates into sobs of utter disbelief.
Now, Shelby looks distressed, and she steps towards Quinn, as if being closer to her will somehow help her figure everything out.
Quinn sucks in a shaky breath, and then says, "Rachel," in as clear a voice as she can manage. And, then, in her head, she says, 'My God, you're even more beautiful than I imagined.'
It takes a moment, but then Rachel is gasping and then laughing and crying and saying Lucy Lucy Lucy.
And then she's crossing the space between her and Quinn, and it feels so much like coming home once Quinn has this lovely, amazing stranger in her arms.
Still, Shelby watches them, totally lost. "Wait," she says; "From what I'm witnessing, I'm going to guess you two know each other."
Neither teenager says a word.
"But - how?" Shelby questions the silence. "Just, how?"
Eventually, Quinn does break away from the embrace, her eyes filled with happy, unshed tears. "The Universe," she offers. "The Powers That Be. Who knows?"
"I don't even care," Rachel says, her focus on Quinn's face - Lucy's face. "It's you."
"It's me," Quinn echoes.
"It's actually you."
Shelby shakes her head. "I don't even know what's happening right now," she says. "But, I don't even care, either, because I don't think I've ever seen either of you smile this widely." She lets out a laugh. "Quinn, I didn't know you had so many teeth."
Quinn blushes, as if on command, and Rachel reaches out to touch her red cheek in wonder. She's really just checking to make sure the girl is real, which she is.
"I've imagined what you look like so many times," Rachel says, almost reverently. "I was expecting a blonde, to be honest."
Shelby frowns, hating that something seems to be going on that she doesn't understand. "Please can somebody tell me what's going on here."
Rachel, taking mercy on her mother, turns her head to look at her. "This is Lucy," she says, and the fascination is clear to hear in her voice. "She's Lucy, Shelby. You've - you've had her with you this entire time."
Shelby steps back, dazed. "Lucy," she echoes; "as in Lucy Lucy?"
Quinn raises a hand. "Hello," she says; "I actually go by Quinn now, so can we maybe stop with the whole Lucy thing."
"You have pink hair," Rachel says at the same time Shelby says, "You're soulmates."
Quinn grins, and says, "Hi," to them both.
Rachel reaches up to touch Quinn's hair. "Do you want to know something funny?"
"Funnier than this situation we find ourselves in right now?"
"You know you can tell me anything."
Rachel sucks in a breath, and then confesses, "You're my crush."
If Quinn's grin could get any wider, it does. "So, you find me insanely attractive, huh?"
Rachel blushes brightly. "And you find someone else also ins - "
"You," Quinn says. "You, Rachel."
Rachel cocks her head to the side, her heart thumping in her chest. "God, I really want to kiss you, right now."
"Uh, hello," Shelby says with a wave of her hand. "Your mother is standing right here."
Quinn winces at the sound of that. "That could get awkward really quickly," she comments. "Shelby, please don't say anything like that ever again."
Shelby lets out a nervous laugh. "Noted."
Rachel turns Quinn's head to look at her, and says in her head, 'Actually, I want to do more than kiss you.'
Quinn lets out a surprised squeak at the sound of those words, her eyes widening.
"What?" Shelby immediately asks, looking between the two teenagers.
"Oh, it's nothing," Quinn rushes to say, her eyes never drifting away from Rachel's face. "Rachel was just telling me something."
Rachel blushes, because that something is definitely not for her mother's ears.
Quinn smiles unabashedly at being able to see Rachel's flushed cheeks - instead of just having to imagine them - and then turns her gaze on Shelby for only a moment. "This is just my soul responding."