Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Glee Universe. No copyright infringement intended.
AN: This was meant for Saturday, but I feel a little guilty after the emotional ringer that was yesterday's update, so here is an almost palette-cleanser.
AN2: The song lyrics used are taken from You Love Me by Kelly Clarkson.
You're Something Else
It's almost inevitable that Rachel Berry is the one who finds her.
It isn't as if Quinn Fabray is actually trying to hide or anything ridiculous like that, but she did hope that everyone would have already left while she drowned in her utter humiliation and… general confusion.
The thing is, she's quite sure that she's actually sad and angry and severely pissed off, because Finn has no right to do this to her.
Do you even feel anything anymore?
What kind of question is that, really? Hasn't he been paying attention? Hasn't he seen what she's been going through in the past two years? How can he even question whether she feels anything?
She feels everything.
Which is what she's feeling as she sits on the curb in the church's parking lot after - she thought - everyone left following the end of Jean Sylvester's funeral.
Quinn is already emotional from that; from seeing the stoic, unflappable Sue Sylvester break down in front of them, and she really doesn't need all of this just adding to it.
Finn pursued her.
He went out of his way to convince her he wanted her again, and she stupidly gave in, because she's never really been able to be happy with what she has. She liked to think that, after everything she put Finn through in their sophomore year, she almost… owed it to him to try again. She hates that she ended up hurting Sam, because he's kind and decent, but Finn wanted her, and she's always wanted more.
Maybe it's a Fabray trait that never allows her to be satisfied. She can't just accept what she has. Her father has instilled in her that nothing is ever going to be enough.
Quinn doesn't deserve to be happy, maybe. She's self-destructive at the worst of times, and she's never really hesitated to drag others down with her.
Funny that Quinn can't reliably remember the last time that elusive more she so desperately seeks has made her happy. It's probably because she's suppressed all memories of Lucy, and that was probably the last time she felt anything worth mentioning.
Quinn won't cry.
She can feel the tears prickling behind her eyes, but even she knows they're not for Finn or for their relationship that, really, was more a farce than anything. She twisted herself into something ugly to hold onto him, and the boy has the nerve to dump her.
At a funeral, no less.
It's not fair, she reasons. Why does he get to decide what he wants, and then just get it? Just because he has that seemingly-innocent, dopey smile; he can get away with going out of his way to get her, actually getting her, essentially lying about it, finally being with her, and then deciding she's actually not who he wants.
It's not fair, because she's still going to be painted the villain in all of this.
And, okay, Quinn can acknowledge her part in this entire mess, but she's not the only person who's done questionable things. She's just done… the most, probably. She's just not shy about having her past actions aired. She doesn't hide them anymore.
She has nothing left to hide.
Lucy is… out there, and the great big world hasn't exactly fallen to pieces around her. Keeping that a secret was about the most exhausting thing she's ever done - besides giving birth.
If anything, Quinn feels less tense now that the unfortunate truth of her past has been revealed. Less burdened. It's not a secret she has to keep anymore, and she finally feels as if she can exhale some of that breath she's been holding since the day she stepped into William McKinley as Quinn Fabray.
And, if she's being entirely honest, the fact that she's no longer with Finn is almost a relief. She told Rachel of the life she was probably going to end up living, but Quinn doesn't really want that. She's not entirely sure what she wants, but she knows it's not that.
She's just so tired of trying to live up to other people's expectations. It was expected that she be cruel and vindictive, so she was. It was expected that she be perfect and unblemished, so she tried. It was expected that she be -
Just, so many expectations.
Quinn chuckles to herself when she realises she's failed at all of them. It's almost comical how much has happened in her miserable life to get her to this point. She can feel the self-pity creeping in, and she can almost hear her father's voice in the back of her head yelling about what it means to be a Fabray.
Sometimes, she just wants to disappear.
It's unlikely anyone will miss her.
The second the thought crosses her mind, Quinn freezes. She hasn't really entertained thoughts like that since…
Well, okay, she hasn't thought of them seriously since Lucy, probably.
So, of course, when she has those morbid thoughts about disappearing from her miserable excuse of a life, Rachel Berry finds her.
The girl emerges from the church, having stayed behind to help with some minor cleanup, and then talking to the Reverend about the large organ that still has her fascinated even as she walks out into the fresh air.
Quinn doesn't register her approach until there's a shadow over her, and she looks up to see the ultimate bane of her existence looking down at her with an expression that's curious, but laced with concern.
Quinn suddenly feels sick, and she immediately looks away.
"You're still here," Rachel says, but it's more of a question.
Quinn wants to hold onto her anger; possibly even lash out, but she's just so tired of fighting.
Fighting for her parents' attention and love.
Fighting against the bullies at school.
Fighting for control.
Fighting to hold onto what she has.
Fighting for what she doesn't have.
"So are you," Quinn says quietly.
Rachel, who can sense Quinn's melancholy, bravely moves to sit beside the blonde. She's close enough to be… comforting, without being too close. "The funeral was lovely," she says softly.
Quinn breathes out. "It was," she agrees. "She sounds like she was a wonderful person."
Rachel hums in agreement.
Quinn glances at her. "What do you want, Berry?"
Rachel audibly swallows. "I'm not sure," she confesses. "I just - I mean - you were just sitting here, looking so sad, and I - I couldn't just keep walking."
Quinn makes a derisive sound. "I've been sad before," she says; "it's never stopped you then."
Rachel tilts her head to the side. "I think you're sad all the time," she says; "normally, you're better at hiding it."
Quinn shifts uncomfortably. "Well, yeah," she murmurs, unsure how she's supposed to respond to that. "Whatever."
Rachel blinks. "Are you okay?" she asks, and her tone is so sincere that Quinn has to close her eyes to stop her tears from falling. "What are you doing sitting out here? I thought you would be home by now."
Quinn blanches at the mention of 'home.' Where she's going to have to explain to her mother that she's single, once more. Not only did she manage to lose Prom Queen, but she also got dumped by the quarterback at a funeral.
And then left behind.
Quinn does a quick calculation of how long it'll take her to get home if she walks, and she's both horrified and relieved by the near ninety minutes it'll probably take her to get to the house she shares with the woman who gave birth to her.
"I didn't want to go home yet," Quinn eventually says, which is the truth.
Quinn sighs. "Jesus, Berry, just ask the question you know you want to."
Rachel huffs in annoyance, but then does just that. "Where is Finn?"
Quinn looks at her. "I'm guessing he's at home," she says. "I don't know, and it's not my job to know, anymore."
"Because you finally got what you wanted," Quinn says, and she doesn't intend to sound as bitter as she does, but she does. It's not right that Finn Hudson gets to do this to her again. "He broke up with me."
Rachel's mouth opens, and then closes, doing a rather impressive impersonation of a fish.
If Quinn weren't so… whatever it is she's feeling right now; she would probably find it amusing. She can't remember a time Rachel has been speechless, but it's obvious the brunette doesn't know what to say, and that just irritates Quinn even more.
"Well," she presses; "aren't you going to say something?"
Rachel hesitates. "Honestly, I have no idea what to say," she confesses.
"That's surprising," Quinn returns sarcastically. "You always seem to have something to say about Finn."
Rachel still looks stumped.
Quinn shakes her head, deflating slightly. This time, when she opens her mouth, it all just comes spilling out.
"I don't even know whether to laugh or cry at this point, you know? I'm so… furious, but also unsurprised. Like, I knew it was always going to end this way. I fought so hard for something that was inevitably going to end, because I'm far too proud.
"I thought, you know, if he could forgive me for what I did to him last year, and actually want to be with me again, then I was worth the forgiveness. That I changed enough, became a better person, which is ridiculous now, because once a cheater, always a cheater, right?" She scoffs at herself. "But, that all means nothing, because Finn is probably more shallow than I am. At the height of his supposed popularity, he wanted the most popular girl, and then he set out to get her.
"It's my own fault, I guess. I fell for it, believing this time we would actually get it right." She rolls her eyes at the sound of her own words. "But I was wrong. It was never actually me he wanted. This whole time, he's believed he's tied to you. So, it just makes me ask the question of what he's been doing with me this entire time? If he's so convinced he's tethered to you; why - why would he put me through all of this? I mean, he's too Finn to do it all as some kind of revenge, right? He's not the vindictive one. We are."
If Rachel has a rebuttal for that, she doesn't voice it because, sure, at times, she's been as terrible as the worst of them.
"I guess it doesn't matter," Quinn says. "He barely even thinks he's hurt me, because he's convinced I don't feel anything." She laughs humourlessly. "Just because I don't wear my heart on my sleeve like the rest of you stupid souls; doesn't mean I don't feel things. I feel a hell of a lot, thank you very much, and I'd just rather not let anyone know. I don't get what's so wrong with that." She rubs her temple with her index and middle finger, feeling a migraine coming on.
Rachel says nothing.
"So, yes, you get what you wanted," Quinn says. "You win, Rachel. I'm just so sick of fighting over a boy who doesn't even want me. Who doesn't even know me. I was so convinced about this path my life was going to take, and I thought I was being the self-sacrificing one between the two of us, but I'm done now. If you want Finn Hudson, you can have him. By all means, you can be the one tethered to him for the rest of your unhappy lives, because I'm done trying to make you see reason. If you won't listen to me; that's your problem. Find someone else to send you on your way.
"Just, you know, give me a few days before you leap into his waiting arms," she says, and her voice drops in volume. "I think you've humiliated me enough, don't you think? If I get nothing else out of this entire horrific situation other than my past being exposed and my reputation questioned; then at least give me the courtesy of allowing our breakup to register before you two jump into yet another ill-fated romance."
Rachel, honestly, can't think of anything to say, so all she does is nod.
"I don't get it," Quinn whispers, almost as if she's speaking to herself. "It hurts, but it also doesn't. Or, it hurts for all the wrong reasons. Or the right ones, I don't know." She glances at the brunette. "I used to envy you, you know," she says. "How strong you were, to be able to withstand everything we threw at you. It fascinated me, and angered me, because I buckled. As Lucy, I failed every day to stand up and keep going, and maybe it's really to do with our home lives, I don't know, but I just wanted to break you the way I'd been broken. It just never occurred to me just how much damage I would end up doing, both to you and myself."
Quinn shifts uncomfortably, realising she's revealed a little too much. She just wants to sit here and wallow and, all of a sudden, she wants Rachel to leave.
"You should go," Quinn says. "I'm sure your fathers are wondering where you are."
And, the thing is, they are. Rachel can feel her phone repeatedly vibrating, but there's a part of her that knows she shouldn't leave Quinn. The… sadness in those hazel eyes is almost paralysing, and Rachel doesn't even want to think about what emotions are swirling around inside of her.
Still, Rachel produces her phone and cringes at the number of missed calls and text messages. It makes her feel a bit sick to see Finn's name on the list, and she immediately makes to put the phone away before Quinn sees.
But, unfortunately, she's too slow.
"Wow," the blonde breathes. "He sure does move fast, doesn't he?"
Rachel feels cold all over. "Did - did he just leave you here?" she asks, her own irritation with the boy spiking.
Quinn shrugs. "It was obvious he didn't actually want to, but he did offer to take me home," she admits. "I just - I wasn't ready for that, and there wasn't exactly anywhere else for me to go. I - I don't exactly have… people to talk to. Which, I mean, is my own fault, but I guess it's just as lonely at the top as it is at the bottom." She snorts. "And, I would know, wouldn't I? I've been both places."
For a dangerous moment, Rachel wants to reach out and touch the girl beside her, but she's sure Quinn won't be receptive to that.
Not from her, at least.
Quinn clears her throat. "You should go," she says again. It's a request; a plead, and Rachel is going to oblige.
Still, the brunette asks, "Are you going to be okay?"
Again, Quinn isn't sure whether she wants to laugh or cry. She decides on neither. "Of course," she says; "I'm Quinn Fabray; I'm always okay."
That does nothing to settle Rachel's uneasy feeling. "Quinn?"
"I'll be fine, Berry," Quinn says. "I'm not going to go on some destructive warpath, if that's what you're afraid of. You're safe. You don't have to worry. You'll be able to be happy without worrying about any backlash from me. I told you I'm done with all the fighting."
There are so many things Rachel wants to say, but she can't think of much more than, "I'm sorry."
Quinn's head snaps up.
"For what it's worth," Rachel says; "I am sorry."
Quinn sighs. "Well, yeah, me too," she says, and that's that.
Rachel slowly rises to her feet. "Are you sure you don't want a ride somewhere?" she asks.
Quinn offers her a small, grateful smile. "I'm sure," she says. "I - I just need to think, but thank you."
Rachel nods once, choosing to accept Quinn's words at face value. "I know I'm the last person you'd want to talk to, but you can, if you need to," she says. "Just call. Even if you don't want to talk, or just need a ride, you can call me, okay?"
"Okay," is all Quinn says, and then Rachel is walking away.
Her footsteps grow quieter the further away she gets, and Quinn feels something heavy settle in her chest at the growing silence. She thought this part of her life was over. She thought she managed to overcome everything and come out unscathed, but she was wrong.
Quinn glances up when Rachel starts her car, and she almost smiles at how tiny the girl looks behind the wheel. She can barely see over it, and trust Rachel Berry to inadvertently make Quinn Fabray feel even slightly better.
It's a talent, Quinn reasons, and the brunette is extremely talented.
Rachel lingers a while, just watching Quinn. She's waiting for something, and the sheer idea of what that could possibly be eludes her.
Eventually, Rachel just waves.
It takes Quinn a moment, but she does wave back. It's a simple movement, but Rachel seems to relax at the action, and it's all she needs to shift her car into gear and drive out of the parking lot.
Quinn watches her go, her eyes tracking the car's motion until it's completely out of sight. She feels strangely empty when she realises she's finally alone, and she has to resist the urge to reach for her phone and call Rachel to come back.
That would just be pathetic, and she already feels as useless as she's ever felt before. All she has left now is her pride.
Which means nothing when she realises that Rachel finding her was a lesser evil than the person who next stumbles upon her brooding form.
"Well, Fabray, you look even sadder than I do, and I'm the one who just said goodbye to her sister."
Quinn's head snaps up, and she squints into the sunlight.
Sue Sylvester is standing to her right, looking down at her with an unreadable expression on her face.
Quinn sighs. "Hi, Coach," she says sadly. "I didn't know you were still here."
"And I thought everyone left," Sue returns, frowning slightly. "What are you doing out here, Q?"
Quinn drops her gaze to her lap, her neck starting to ache. "Just thinking," she admits.
Against her better judgment, Sue moves to drop down beside the much younger blonde. The two of them have a tumultuous relationship at best, and she reasons her presence is particularly unwelcome, but the teenager doesn't say anything.
"And, what are you thinking about?" she asks, barely resisting the urge to make a snide comment about the blonde possibly hurting herself from thinking too hard.
"Life, mostly," Quinn replies, surprising them both with her honesty. "Relationships, too." She glances at the older woman. "Do you have regrets, Coach?" she asks.
Sue thinks it over. Before today, she probably would have said no. She's lived her life unapologetically for far too long, and she's never felt remorse for any of the things she's done. She's too young for regret, but even she can see that this teenager reeks of it.
"Just one," Sue eventually responds. "I wish I'd spent more time with my sister."
Quinn smiles sadly. "She sounds like she was one of the better people of this world," she says.
"She was," Sue agrees. "Very different to me."
Quinn rolls her eyes. "I think, if we're going to use you as a benchmark; then everyone is different to you."
Oddly, Sue appreciates the girl's candidness. If anyone ever asks, she'll deny this conversation ever happened, but it seems like something they both need. Sue might have lost her sister, but Quinn seems to have lost herself.
"It's always been that way, though," Sue says, sounding nostalgic. "Even when we were little. Our mother used to say that we got along so well because we balanced out each other. Jean was kind and gentle, and I was loud and abrasive. To this day, it baffles everyone that we were as close as we were."
"I couldn't take care of her anymore," Sue confesses quietly, and it sounds like a deep confession. "I tried, of course, because there was nobody else, and I would do anything for her, but there came a point when I had to realise I wasn't the best thing for her anymore, and I had to let other people take care of her."
If Quinn squints hard enough, she can almost liken Sue's words to her own situation with Beth. Her decision to give up her baby still haunts her, and she wonders if there will ever come a day when she accepts that she did the right thing.
"It's probably the hardest thing I've ever done," Sue says; "and you wouldn't believe the things I've done."
"Don't worry," Quinn quips; "I make it a rule not to."
Sue laughs, and it sounds so foreign, given the day and the setting - and the person. "It's only because we're currently in the Twilight Zone that I'm going to let you get away with that."
Quinn merely shrugs. She's not worried about anything at this point. She's no longer Head Cheerleader. She's no longer dating the quarterback. She knows what it's like to be pregnant and homeless. Really, there's nothing scarier than that, and she has very little to lose at this point.
"What does a seventeen-year-old have to regret?" Sue asks, oddly curious. She'll cite temporary insanity if this ever comes up again. She just can't bring herself to muster up any appropriate insults on the day she said goodbye to the single most important person in her miserable life.
Quinn huffs. "Too many things."
"And, what do you plan to do about that?"
Quinn looks at her. "I think I'll probably call my sister," she says. "We - we haven't really spoken since - since I got kicked out."
Sue bites the inside of her cheek, choosing to say nothing.
Quinn sighs. "I guess I regret never truly doing anything for myself," she says. "I changed my appearance for approval. I became a cheerleader to make my parents proud, and possibly show up my sister. I started dating the quarterback because it was expected of me. I even joined Glee to hold onto said boyfriend, and because you told me to. I tried to get everything back at the start of this year, and essentially ended whatever few, tentative friendships I had.
"And now I'm sitting here, alone, and everything I've ever done has amounted to nothing. I mean, I wouldn't even know where to start to fix this." She shakes her head. "I've spent so many years trying to be what other people want me to be; I barely know how to be myself. I don't even know who I am."
For her part, Sue doesn't say anything untoward. She has no idea how she ended up in this surprisingly civil and oddly emotional conversation with her former head cheerleader.
This entire day is surreal.
They sit in silence for the longest time, both of them content in the other's presence. It's not that it's comfortable, but it's not uncomfortable, and that means something.
"Did you like being a cheerleader?" Sue suddenly asks.
"I didn't like who it turned me into," is Quinn's immediate response.
"But, did you enjoy it?"
"You mean, when you weren't trying to kill us?" Quinn throws back, and then sighs. "I guess I did, yes," she says. "I think I liked the purpose and routine and fitness that came with it. But I hated what the popularity expected of me, and it breaks you, you know? It really does."
"If you had a do-over, would you do things different?"
Sue clears her throat. "This is a one time offer, Fabray, so listen carefully. My squad didn't make it to Nationals for the first time in my entire tenure, and I have been fielding endless phone calls about how I've lost my touch, and that is not okay with me."
Quinn listens in silence.
"While the Nationals competition is out for this year, there is another national cheerleading competition during the summer, where I will get to prove to all those miscreants that Sue Sylvester does not lose her touch. That's just preposterous." She shakes her head. "Besides the bragging rights a competition like this could garner, there is a hefty monetary prize as well as the opportunity to appear in one of Taylor Swift's music videos."
Quinn raises her eyebrows.
"Her music is my guilty pleasure," Sue admits.
Quinn just smiles, and then nods for her to go on, already knowing where this is possibly going.
"My squad, however, is lacking," Sue says. "They lack talent and drive and leadership. They're abysmal, and they will never win in the state they're currently in. Of course, had I the time and the correct personnel, I'm certain I could whip them into shape in time, but my plate is so full at the moment."
Quinn almost rolls her eyes, because there's no way Sue Sylvester is going to admit that she may or may not need Quinn Fabray. "I see," Quinn says. "Quite the dilemma you've got for yourself."
"I could hold tryouts," Sue continues; "but we're coming up on the end of the year, and who really has time for that? Training is time-consuming."
Quinn bites on her bottom lip to stop herself from smiling widely. It's not part of the script. "I'm sure you could find people easily," she says.
"You think so?"
"I could ask around," Quinn says.
Sue cocks her head to the side. "And you could convince them?"
Quinn waits a beat. "On a few conditions."
"Glee is off limits," Quinn says. "Mr Schuester isn't. We both know you would both go stir-crazy if you weren't constantly at each other's throats. But the club is to be left alone. Including the people in it. I think they've gone through enough, don't you?"
Sue doesn't acknowledge the question. "What else?"
"Don't make your new members choose between their extracurriculars," she says. "It's not fair, and it's not right."
Sue has no comment on that. She's never really concerned herself with fairness and rightness.
"No sabotage. If you're going to win that cheerleading competition, it has to be done fairly, and without possibly causing any bodily harm to anyone."
Again with that 'fair' word. Sue resists the urge to scowl.
"I need your assurance that your students' sexuality will never prove to be an issue," Quinn says, thinking about Santana and Brittany, but also about several other possibilities already on the squad. "With you, with the school and with your sponsors."
"Is that all?"
Quinn ponders it for a moment, and then she nods "I believe so."
Sue returns her nods. "Come to my office first thing Monday morning. Bring your minions."
"Sure thing, Coach."
Sue regards her carefully. "I know I've said this before, but you really do remind me of my younger self." She sounds oddly wistful. "If you're worried about what your returned position will turn you into, don't be. Think more about what you can turn the position into." And that's really all she's going to say.
Quinn can tell the conversation is over. They'll probably never speak about it again and, come Monday morning, real life will resume and everything will go back to normal.
Sue pats Quinn's knee in some form of solidarity, and then she struggles to her feet, grumbling to herself about getting old and ageing joints.
Quinn smiles, despite herself, and then she's once again left on her own to ponder her life's choices. She did allow the pressures of being Head Cheerleader to dictate a lot of her actions, but it can be different this time around.
She's different this time.
It's not about the popularity. That was kind of thrown out the window the second she saw Lucy's face on the walls.
Losing Prom Queen also helped.
And slapping Rachel.
God, if ever she thought she couldn't feel any lower; it's having the girl you just physically assaulted comforting you about said slap… and then telling you that you're more than a pretty face.
Quinn even cried herself to sleep when she got home, and she wonders how Rachel can even stand to look at her. It was one of many nights when Quinn looked in the mirror and didn't recognise herself.
She's sure she'll see someone new if she were to do it now.
Eventually, Quinn decides she'd better start heading home if she intends to arrive before dinner. It's doubtful her mother is really worried about her whereabouts, but Judy Fabray will end up calling her if she's not back to sit at the table with her at seven o'clock without an actual excuse.
Does 'my boyfriend dumped me at a funeral and left me behind' count? Does 'I think I'm having some kind of existential crisis' count? Is 'I'm probably, definitely, having some dangerous thoughts about my mortality' a suitable excuse?
Quinn starts her walk, slow at first. She's not in a rush, practically strolling as she attempts to get a handle on her thoughts. She's fine. She's going to be fine.
She's a Fabray.
There's no other way.
It's late when Quinn finally gets back to the house. The porch light is on, and the sun is just starting to set. She pulls out her keys and carefully slides the correct one into the door. Everything feels foreign to her. Even her entire body doesn't feel right, and she's unsure what to do about that.
It's a surprise and also not to find her mother on the couch in the living room with a bottle of wine on the coffee table, watching trashy reality television. Quinn stands in the archway for a long moment, taking in the scene with thinly-concealed anger, disappointment and general heartbreak.
She just got dumped and she should be able to come home and have her mother take care of her. It's not supposed to be the other way around.
Judy does eventually notice her, sitting up slightly. "Hello, Darling," she says.
Quinn visibly cringes, and Judy stiffens at the sight. "Hi, Mom," she forces out.
"How was the funeral?"
Maybe Quinn should give her some credit, because she's obviously trying… to the best of her ability. Which, admittedly, isn't all that much. Russell Fabray really did a number on the both of them.
If Quinn can't bring herself to believe she's recovered, how can she expect her mother to have either? Sighing to herself, Quinn goes to sit next to Judy, surprising them both.
Judy blinks repeatedly, as if Quinn is some kind of apparition.
"It was sad," Quinn says, talking about the funeral. "I've always admired Coach Sylvester for her ability to… switch off her feelings, or not have any at all. Not show them, essentially, and it was really disconcerting to see someone who's usually so unflappable break down like that."
It's probably the most Quinn has said to her mother at any one time, and it takes Judy a long moment to formulate a suitable reply. Too long, maybe, because Quinn keeps talking.
"And, it seems I'm kind of like that, as well," she says, sighing. "It's the Fabray way, isn't it? To be calm and composed and unfeeling and… cold. It's why Finn thinks I don't feel anything, right? Because I've always acted like this heartless, soulless bitch, and - and I suppose I learned that from the best."
She gives her mother a meaningful look and, if Judy were completely sober, she might mention something about her daughter essentially referring to them both so harshly.
Judy reaches for one of Quinn's hands and gently squeezes it. It's the most contact they've had since… well, since Quinn gave birth, probably. Their family has never been physically affectionate, and Judy absently wonders how different their relationships would be if they hugged more.
"I'm sorry," Judy says, and she's apologising for everything and nothing at the same time.
Quinn looks at her. "Your words mean nothing to me," she says as plainly as possible, because it's the truth.
Judy audibly swallows, seemingly expecting that response. "What do you want from me?"
"I want you to be my mom," Quinn says; "not my roommate."
Judy flinches at the matter-of-fact tone of Quinn's voice. She's not really asking for much at all, but Judy feels as if she's requesting the world. "I've never really been your mom, have I?" Judy murmurs. "I'm not sure I know how."
Quinn takes a deep breath. "How about we try to figure it out together?" she offers, because she really doesn't want to be alone in her misery.
"Where do we start?" Judy asks, her voice small and childish.
Quinn almost smiles. "We start with that," she says, pointing at the wine on the table.
Judy looks, and then sighs. Quinn is right. Of course she is. "I don't know if I can," she confesses quietly.
"All you have to do is try," Quinn says. "We'll work on the rest as it comes, okay?"
Judy looks particularly helpless, but she still says, "Okay."
Quinn does smile now, but it doesn't reach her eyes. "Do you want some coffee?" she asks. "Maybe some water?"
Judy doesn't say anything. Instead, she wraps her arm around Quinn's shoulders and just hugs her daughter.
Quinn is tense for a few moments, before she relaxes into her mother's foreign embrace. It's comforting, and she doesn't know how that can be, because she honestly can't remember the last time she was hugged by the woman.
It's too much, all of a sudden, and Quinn moves to pull away, but Judy just holds her tighter, and it's enough to open the floodgates. Quinn doesn't even know how it happens, but the tears surprise her, and she finds herself burrowing into her mother's warm body and crying.
She doesn't even know what for.
It makes her feel awful and weak and needy, and she hates it. But, then, Judy is rubbing her back and kissing her hair and murmuring reassuring things, and Quinn feels something simultaneously break and repair within her.
It doesn't take much more to get Quinn talking. All she does is open her mouth, and everything that's been happening spills out from between her lips.
From doing everything she possibly could to lose the baby fat, betraying Santana to get her spot as Head Cheerleader back, dating Sam, cheating on Sam, dating Finn in secret, quitting the Cheerios, the Prom campaign, Lucy, the Slap and getting dumped.
There's a lot more she throws in, and it just accentuates how much Quinn has been flailing without help and guidance. She's only seventeen, but she's been raising herself ever since her sister left for college and just never came back.
And, Judy listens.
She listens and she holds Quinn, and she makes a silent vow to be better. She's still unsure how she's going to accomplish that, but she's going to try, because that's all Quinn is asking of her.
Eventually, Quinn yawns, and then sighs. "I think I need that water now," she says, almost self-deprecatingly.
Judy kisses her forehead. "How about I make us some bacon and eggs for dinner?"
Quinn perks up, secretly surprised that her mother remembers that she likes having breakfast for dinner. Really, bacon can be its own meal, for all Quinn cares.
"I can help," Quinn says.
And, it's a start.
A strong start.
It's what's running through Quinn's head as the two of them chat over whether to have scrambled or sunny-side-up eggs. It's still there as they eat in front of the television and laugh at the antics of a family possibly crazier than theirs: the Kardashians.
Quinn is still thinking about how everything is changing when she finally calls it a night the second her head starts to hurt from all the emotions and tears of the day.
She kisses her mother's cheek, bids her goodnight, and then heads upstairs to her bedroom.
A bedroom that doesn't quite feel like it belongs to her.
As she gets ready for bed, she makes a mental note to talk to her mother about possibly redecorating. They could make it a project of sorts, possibly even bond over it.
It's almost eleven o'clock by the time Quinn crawls into bed, and she's physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. She's just glad it's not a school night, and she secretly hopes that her mother won't wake her to force her to go to church in the morning.
Because she's not going.
If she has her way, she'll never return to her family's church ever again. The glares and judgmental looks are easily avoided if she just doesn't show up. She'll practice her Faith in private. Her relationship with God is her own, anyway.
Maybe she and her mother can find a new church entirely.
Quinn slides into bed, brings the covers up to under her chin and relaxes into the mattress. It's a lovely bed, she'll concede to that, and she shifts slightly to get more comfortable.
Before she turns out her lamp, she checks her phone to see if she's missed anything important. It almost gets her crying again when she sees she has several SPAM emails and only one text message.
From Rachel Berry.
Sent almost five hours ago.
Berry: Hello, Quinn. It's Rachel Berry. I was just checking to see if you made it home okay, particularly after the events of the day. My offer still stands if you want to talk. About anything, really. I think you'll find I'm quite knowledgeable in several subjects, and I am capable of maintaining deep and meaningful conversations about some truly arbitrary things. Anyway, please let me know that you're safe, or I'll probably spend the night worrying, and I need my required eight hours to function. I hope your day has improved since we last spoke. *
Despite herself, Quinn finds herself smiling, because she honestly read the text imagining Rachel saying the words - probably, without even taking a breath. It's totally patent Berry, and Quinn is a little charmed by the girl actually checking on her.
Quinn knows it's late, but she still sends a reply.
Quinn: Hello, Rachel Berry. I did make it home safely, thank you for checking up on me. It's been an enlightening day, that's for sure, and I hope yours also managed to get better. We'll talk, don't worry. Goodnight, Rachel X
Quinn, admittedly, doesn't expect a reply, but it arrives, and her smile only grows, because Rachel is just so Rachel.
Berry: I can only hope that 'enlightening' is a good thing. I'm going to hold you to that, Fabray ;) Goodnight, Quinn, sleep well *
And, okay, if Quinn is still smiling as she slips into slumber; she'll never actually admit to the true reason why.
Rachel stares at her phone's screen with her bottom lip caught between her teeth and her mind debating her next course of action. She wasn't lying to Quinn when she mentioned she would probably worry all night, if Quinn didn't reply, but she finds she's still worried now that Quinn has.
It's a horrible Catch-22.
Eventually, Rachel forces herself to set her phone on her nightstand and get ready for bed. She's had a long, emotional day, and she's still unsure how she's supposed to feel about any of it.
With a sigh, she proceeds to complete her nighttime routine, her body moving without her brain having to pay all that much attention. It's practically all muscle memory at this point, and she's predictably proud of that.
It's almost midnight when she finally crawls into her bed, exhaustion seeping into her bones and her eyes drooping. She checks her phone one last time, ignoring Finn's numerous texts and making sure her alarm is set. She's not planning on being up too early, but she also isn't one to waste the day away, like she's sure plenty of her classmates are.
With the little productivity that was Saturday, she's going to put in extra hours on Sunday. She has homework on which to catch up, and she has to practice for an extended time, now that Nationals are right around the corner.
She's also going to attempt to write another original song. 'Get It Right' was surprisingly therapeutic, and she hopes the barrage of emotions she's currently feeling will help with her creative process.
It's with that thought that she slips into a restless sleep.
She tosses and turns, her mind plagued by the saddest hazel eyes she's ever seen, and the most sombre voice she's ever heard. It's nightmarish, and Rachel wakes with a start to the sound of her alarm, feeling as if she hasn't slept a wink.
She rolls onto her back and groans, keeping her eyes tightly shut as the rest of her senses wake to the day. It's slow going, but she eventually feels alert enough to begin her day.
Rachel Berry has a strict routine. It's been part of her life since she was old enough to do things on her own. Granted, she attempted to reach full independence long before she was actually ready, and her fathers did all they could to humour her.
It's probably one of the reasons she's still obsessed with her animal Argyle sweaters. She loved them when she was six years old, and her tastes haven't really drifted too far. She's comfortable, and she appreciates about herself that - bar that makeover fiasco with Kurt - she hasn't allowed herself to change to please anyone else.
And, she supposes, that's the way she and Quinn are different.
In other ways, though, they're remarkably alike, though she'll never admit that to Quinn. She values her life, and she has a feeling the blonde is five seconds away from completely losing it.
It's unsettling for Rachel to realise that Quinn has always been so close to the edge, and today is the first time she's allowed herself to acknowledge it.
She also gets the feeling Quinn has, as well.
Rachel doesn't know what that means for any of them.
After an hour on her elliptical and a long shower, she heads downstairs for some breakfast. She probably has another hour before her fathers are up and about, so she settles on some fruit and a hot cup of chai while she waits for them, so they can have a proper meal together.
She takes her food back upstairs, settles herself at her desk and prepares for a day full of productive activities - hopefully. First, though, she sends a simple good morning text to Quinn, wishing her a good day. It's nothing profound, and she's proud of how few characters she uses to get her point across.
She's still here if the girl wants to talk. Rachel means it, of course, but she's also particularly wary of it. If ever Quinn actually decides to take Rachel up on her offer, she worries if she'll be prepared or even equipped for it.
Still, she'll try.
Rachel gets the feeling that's all Quinn would want from her, anyway.
Rachel contemplates over what to tell her fathers about the events of the weekend. She's always been able to talk to them about just about anything, and they're both very in the loop when it comes to her situation with Finn and just life, in general.
Because of them, she's also very aware of her own… wrongs and shortcomings when it comes to pursuing another girl's boyfriend, and she feels even worse now that she knows it's worked… again.
It doesn't feel as satisfying as she thought it would. She had a vague idea that Quinn would, maybe, end up hurt, but she didn't really spend too much time thinking about it.
All she saw was Finn.
And now she can have him.
So, when said boy shows up on her doorstep in the middle of the afternoon with flowers and a sheepish smile, she honestly can't explain her sudden, irrepressible urge to shut the door in his face. Her fingers actually tense on the door, her ire peaking at the sheer audacity of Finn Hudson to show up here after everything that's happened.
"Hi, Rach," he says, and his voice sounds so hopeful, even sure, as if he's expecting nothing but a positive outcome from this conversation. The nerve of him. "Can I come in?"
Rachel, admittedly, is curious. Maybe he'll surprise her, and this actually isn't what she thinks it is. It could be Nationals related, or maybe he just needs to talk to a friend after the breakup. It would be incredibly insensitive to want to do that with one's ex-girlfriend, but she's trying not to judge him. He is a teenage boy, and she's choosing to reserve judgment until he explains himself.
Though, her patience is going to go only so far, because she's been unable to get Quinn's defeated tone or the image of her sad eyes out of her head. They've been haunting her, following her around throughout the entire day. As a result, even the songs she's been practicing are sad and melancholy, stretching her range to heartbreaking levels.
Rachel and Finn sit awkwardly in the living room, her fathers having gone out to the Farmer's Market to spend their Sunday as an actual Sunday. She pouted when they left her behind, but she does have a lot of work to get through before she steps into McKinley on Monday morning.
Now, here she sits with her recently-single ex-boyfriend, and they've never felt more worlds apart than they do in this moment. If Rachel weren't so disturbed by it, she would find it amusing, but it's the first time she thinks that maybe she doesn't know him all that well.
Or, at all, really, because the moment she thinks that the Finn Hudson she knows would never have cheated; she stops herself, because he did.
While he still believed Quinn's baby was his.
And then after.
There are far too many wrongs; she doesn't think they could possibly cancel one another out to make anything right. She wouldn't even know where to go from here, and she doesn't even know where here is.
"Do you want something to drink?" Rachel offers, trying to cut into the awkward silence, because it's obvious Finn isn't ready to say whatever he came here to say.
Finn straightens. "Uh, no, I'm good."
Rachel sighs internally, and they fall into another long silence. Maybe Finn finds it disconcerting that she's not filling the quiet with her own voice, because it is weird. Under normal circumstances, she probably would have buried him under a heap of questions, but her head and heart just aren't in it.
Maybe it's the recent death that has her acting more subdued, or it's Quinn's sadness seeping into her. That type of feeling is contagious, she's come to learn, and Rachel is definitely catching.
It also doesn't help that Quinn hasn't replied to her morning text. She doesn't want to bombard the girl, so she hasn't texted again, but she can't help her worry, and that has her mind occupied enough not to make this conversation easy for Finn.
Eventually, she clears her throat. "What are you doing here, Finn?" she asks.
He perks up, gratefully taking the cue. "Well, you know, we haven't really hung out as much lately," he starts; "and you, umm, weren't texting me back."
"So, you just decided to show up here?" she asks.
Rachel just stares at him until he starts squirming in his seat. "But, why?" she asks. "I mean, you said it yourself, we haven't… hung out in so long. Why now?" She thinks she asks the question to see if he's going to tell her that he broke up with Quinn, and she's slightly wary of what she'll do if he doesn't.
Or, if he does.
Rachel leans back slightly, clasping her hands in her lap and waiting patiently. If it's one thing to be said about Rachel Berry, she can have a lot of patience, and this boy in front of her requires a lot of it.
Finn frowns slightly. "Right, yeah," he says; "well, you know, I've been so busy with football and Glee and, uh, other things."
It's obvious he purposefully leaves Quinn off the list of things he's been busy with, and she raises her eyebrows in question, unsure what she's actually feeling. If Finn had showed up at her house before Prom, she probably would have fallen into his arms. But, now, after everything that's happened with Quinn, and with Jesse, it just doesn't feel… right.
"Well, I've been busy too," Rachel says. "With school and Glee and… Jesse." She says Jesse's name, because she's unafraid to mention her potential significant other.
They're not together.
Of course, they're not, and, while she knows she might have gone to Prom with him probably out of convenience, the fact that it made Finn jealous was a bonus.
Which makes Rachel feel even more awful, because Quinn got caught up in all of that, which is something she didn't really think about until the girl's palm was against her cheek.
It was a devastating moment for them both.
Finn's face falls at the mention of Jesse, which might have been by design. If she can use him as an excuse to stay out of this conversation, then she's definitely going to. She's not prepared for it, and she doesn't think Finn is, either. He's barely been single a full day, and he's already here.
It's obvious he expects something from her, but she's not going to give it. She might think it's unfair, her showing interest, and then suddenly just stopping when he's ready to reciprocate, but she's done feeling guilty about that.
Her guilt lies elsewhere at the moment.
With a particular blonde, apparently.
"Right," he says, nodding once as his face twists into a slight grimace. "Are - are you two actually together?" he asks, and the tone of his voice is unsettling.
Rachel wants to say yes, but she won't lie. There have been too many of them, as well as misunderstandings, and Rachel doesn't actually want to lie.
But, she also wants not to be having this conversation.
"Why are you asking?" Rachel questions.
"I don't like him," Finn immediately says, and Rachel's brow furrows.
"Well, yes, you've made that explicitly clear on a handful of occasions," she says. "He's not much of a fan of you, either." She almost laughs, because that's an understatement if she's ever heard one.
"I don't really care what he thinks of me," Finn says, and he still sounds particularly sour about the entire thing. "He's not good for you, Rachel."
Rachel's patience is wearing thin. "And, why is that?"
Before Finn can break into what Rachel assumes is a righteous speech about Jesse's past actions, they hear the key in the front door, and Rachel is both relieved and horrified by her fathers' arrival.
She doesn't know how to explain Finn's presence, but she could shower them in kisses for the timely interruption.
Rachel jumps to her feet the second one of her fathers - LeRoy - moves into view and immediately goes to hug him. "Daddy," she whispers into his ear. "Please help me get rid of him."
LeRoy chuckles for a moment, and then he shifts into Father-Mode the second Rachel releases him. "Mr Hudson," he greets in a monotone, and Finn predictably shifts in his seat.
"H-hello, Mr Berry," Finn stammers.
"It's actually Dr Berry," LeRoy says.
Finn pales. "Right, yeah, I, uh, forgot," he says, trying to smile, which looks more or less like a pained grimace,
LeRoy glances at Rachel. "I wasn't aware we were having visitors," he says. "Why weren't we informed?"
Rachel blinks once, twice, and then follows the cue. "I'm sorry," she says, sounding contrite. "I know we have plans this afternoon."
Finn, trying to be a gentleman, says, "It's not her fault, Sir. I just showed up."
"Oh?" LeRoy says; "do you normally make a habit of just showing up unannounced to people's homes, Mr Hudson?"
Finn swallows audibly. "Umm, not really," he says. "I just wanted to talk to Rachel about something."
"Ah, and what is it that couldn't wait?"
Finn's eyes widen, because he's definitely not going to bring up the topic of a potential relationship with Rachel while her father is standing right there. "Uh, you know what, it can probably wait," he says, quickly getting to his feet and almost stumbling right back. "I, uh, didn't mean to mess up your plans." He looks at Rachel. "Sorry for just turning up."
Rachel just about manages to smile at him.
"I should probably go," Finn says, shifting awkwardly. "I'll see you at school tomorrow, Rach."
She just nods.
"Will you text me later?"
Agreeing is the polite thing to do, so she does, and then walks him out. She accepts his hug when he offers it, and everything about it feels different than she expected it would. This is the boy she's sure she loves, and yet he feels like a complete stranger to her.
When she returns to the living room, she's met with LeRoy's questioning eyes and Hiram's confusion. He's just come in from putting away their groceries in the kitchen.
"Hi," Rachel says uneasily.
LeRoy raises his eyebrows. "Sweetheart, do you want to tell us why Finn was here? And, possibly, why you wanted him to leave?"
Rachel contemplates playing it off as nothing, but she suspects she needs their advice in order to make sense of whatever she's feeling. It's just such a foreign feeling to her, and she's worried it won't go away until she unpacks it properly.
And, who better to talk to about this than her fathers?
"It's a long story," she eventually says.
"We have time," LeRoy says.
Rachel offers them both a tired smile, and then launches into her tale as the three of them settle on the couches to work out what all this is about.
Later, when she crawls into bed, it doesn't even cross her mind that she still hasn't texted Finn back.
But the fact that Quinn hasn't texted all day sits heavily on her mind.
If Rachel feels as if anything is going to change about her life on Monday morning after her long talk with her fathers, she's relieved when it doesn't. She has a lot to think about, with regards to herself, to Quinn, to Finn, and to her respective relationships with either of them.
It's a lot to think about.
She wants to get in an early practice at the auditorium, so she leaves home half an hour before she usually does, and heads straight to her locker to put away her books.
The lethargy from the weekend hasn't dissipated at all, and she reasons that getting in some singing practice will help with that. Finals have been taking over her life, and preparing for Nationals has the potential to drive her up the wall with how much they haven't prepared.
They don't even have any songs, for Barbra's sake.
She's spoken to Mr Schuester about it numerous times, but he seems far too distracted by something. She's tempted to take it all on herself, because Jesse's presence really hasn't been conducive to group morale. She's partly to blame, she knows, and she needs everyone to be focused on New York.
She just doesn't know how she's going to manage that with all this new relationship drama. She supposes it's even worse now. Quinn probably hates her, and Finn is probably going to pursue her.
Rachel is surprised by how much she wants both of those things not to happen.
Her musings are interrupted by the sound of squeaking shoes on the linoleum, and she looks up just in time to see Santana and Brittany walking down the corridor in her direction. Neither of them is speaking, and Santana looks particularly tense in Brittany's presence.
Brittany notices Rachel first, and bounds up to her, a beaming smile on her face. "Hi, Rachel," Brittany says before wrapping her in a tight hug. "What are you doing here?"
"Hi, Brittany," Rachel says as brightly as she can this early in the morning, especially after her whirlwind of a weekend. "Just getting in some practice; how about you?"
"We're meeting Coach."
Rachel blinks. "As in Sylvester?" she asks, looking to Santana for some clarification.
The Latina shrugs. "Q texted last night that Coach wanted to see the three of us early this morning," she says.
Rachel feels her chest tighten. "Quinn texted you?"
"That's what I said, isn't it?"
Rachel merely nods, unsure how she feels about the fact that Quinn was clearly texting people that aren't her. She knows it's something she should have expected - they're not exactly friends - but it still hurts.
Rachel clears her throat. "Well, let me not keep you," she forces out. "I hope whatever Coach Sylvester wants doesn't affect your status with Glee."
Santana rolls her eyes, and then starts walking.
Brittany lingers, eyeing Rachel carefully. She surprises them both when she says, "Q can spook easily. You just have to be patient." And then she's gone, leaving a very confused, slightly-heartsore Rachel behind.
Like anyone else would, Rachel obsesses over why Coach Sylvester would want to have words with the Unholy Trinity. As selfish as it makes her, she hopes that whatever it is goes badly. She doesn't want anything to interfere with Glee, and she just knows that Coach Sylvester will use any opportunity she can to crush them.
So, while Rachel thinks endlessly about the possibilities, the one thing that seems to slip her mind is this: Quinn Fabray walking into their shared Calculus class dressed in her Head Cheerio best.
The entire classroom falls silent at the sight of her, and Quinn looks like she loves it. She actually looks borderline unreal, as if she's some kind of apparition, and Rachel is one of the only ones who can see her.
What surprises Rachel the most - besides the obvious, of course - is that Quinn actually offers her a tiny smile when their eyes meet. It's barely there, but it is, and Rachel sucks in a sharp breath, because the usual HBIC probably wouldn't acknowledge anyone as low on the totem pole as Rachel Berry.
Quinn walks with purpose, and then slides into the seat beside Rachel, which is unprecedented, but not entirely unwelcome.
"You're a cheerleader again," is the first thing Rachel's traitorous mouth says.
"I am," Quinn quietly agrees, absently taking out her books and preparing for the upcoming lesson.
"It's kind of a long story," she says; "but Coach and I got to talking after you left on Saturday, and we worked out a few things."
"Like Glee," Quinn confirms. "I wouldn't have rejoined if I didn't make absolutely clear that you were off limits."
Quinn arches a perfectly-manicured eyebrow. "The people in the club, Berry."
Quinn clears her throat. "I want to say thank you," she starts.
"For caring," Quinn says. "Not many people do."
Rachel has no idea what to say to that, so she just keeps her mouth shut.
"And sorry," Quinn adds. "For not texting back yesterday. My mother and I decided to spend the entire day together and by the time we got home, it was too late to text you 'good morning,' let alone 'goodnight.'"
Rachel, honestly, wasn't expecting more than a grunted greeting when Quinn took her seat, but Quinn is actually explaining herself, and it's so much more.
More of what, exactly, Rachel doesn't know, but this moment feels important.
"I was worried," Rachel admits. "Yesterday, I mean. Especially after our conversation on Saturday."
Quinn's features soften, and Rachel wonders if she's ever looked more beautiful than she does in this moment. "I'm fine," she says. "I mean, I'm not fine, but I probably will be." She shifts slightly. "Maybe we could do something. Like, hang out or…" she trails off with a nervous smile. "I talked to my mom about all of this. It's the first time we've really talked in such a long time, and she - she wants to get better, and so do I, and where better to start than with the person whose life I made miserable just because I wasn't strong enough to deal with my own?"
"Quinn?" Rachel squeaks.
Quinn glances to the front of the class where their teacher is just calling for order. "Just think about it," she instructs gently, and those are the last words they exchange until it's time for Glee.
Which, if Rachel is being honest, she probably would have skipped if she knew what a disaster it was going to be.
Firstly, she has to deal with Finn's wounded looks, that sometimes interchange with his pining looks.
Secondly, they all have to deal with what it means that Quinn, Santana and Brittany are back on the cheerleading squad, which really turns into a bit of a riot.
Mercedes and Kurt shoot accusations at the girls, and Quinn very calmly tells them they have nothing to worry about.
"Of course, we have to worry," Finn argues. "You're just going to try to sabotage us again."
Quinn honestly looks perplexed. "Why on earth would we do that when we chose Glee over Cheerios in the first place?" she asks.
"What if she made you do it again?" Mike asks, his voice soft and understanding in a way none of the boys have mastered.
"She won't," Quinn says. "And, if we're all going to play the blame game or whatever, the only reason we even had to choose is because Mr Schuester said that, if we didn't perform in that halftime show, which, incidentally, was not a school-sanctioned event like, say, cheerleading Regionals, then we were out of Glee. So, if anyone actually forced us into choosing, it was Mr Schuester."
Said teacher has been trying to stay out of the conversation, but the second his name is brought up, all eyes turn to him, and he has no idea what he's supposed to say.
Quinn is right.
"I bet Coach Sylvester told you to say that," Finn says.
"What happens if you do have to choose again?" Artie asks, again bringing it up.
"And, why would we?" Quinn counters.
"She could make you."
"No, she couldn't," Quinn says, and she sounds so eerily calm. "Part of our deal is that she can't make any of us choose. It's that simple."
"It's never that simple with you," Finn grumbles.
Quinn's eyes narrow. "Do you have something to say, Hudson?"
Finn glances for a beat at Rachel, who has been suspiciously silent this entire time, and then squares his shoulders when he looks at Quinn. "I think this is all some master plan you have going with Coach Sylvester," he says. "You'll rehearse with us and plan for Nationals, and then you'll withdraw at the last second and leave us unable to perform."
Once he says the words, the seeds of doubt are planted in everyone's minds.
Santana scoffs. "You're a moron," she says. "Why on earth would we do that?"
"Because Quinn's just mad that I dumped her," Finn says, somewhat smugly.
Quinn stiffens, and everyone turns incredulous eyes on her, before flicking back to Finn for confirmation.
"Dude," Puck says.
Finn nods. "We all know she does something crazy when - "
"Stop it," Rachel suddenly says, and all eyes turn to her, now. "Stop it, all of you. This isn't helping with preparations for Nationals."
"That's what we're saying," Finn says. "I think they should choose. It's too much of a risk. And, plus, where are you going to find the time to do both, now that we're going to New York?"
Santana glares at him. "What have we been doing for the past two years, Finnept?" she asks pointedly. "And, who are you to make that kind of decision, anyway?"
"I'm captain," Finn says.
"Co-captain," Mike corrects.
Finn glances at Rachel. "I'm sure Rachel would back me up here, right, Rach?"
Rachel stares at him for a moment, and then looks at Quinn, whose own gaze is steady, if not a little guarded. If Rachel didn't know any better, she's sure the blonde actually looks hurt by the accusation that it's all some kind of trick, after all she's done to ensure Coach Sylvester leaves the Glee Club alone.
"Actually, no," Rachel says. "I believe them."
"What?" It's Kurt who leads the exclaim, and his eyes are wide in disbelief.
Rachel nods. "We can't ask them to choose. That isn't fair, and doing so would make us even worse than Coach Sylvester. Students are allowed to participate in as many extramurals as they can fit into their schedule, and there have been very few clashes so far. I trust them to make it to Nationals with us, and actually help us win."
"You can't be serious," Mercedes says.
"Asking them to choose now is like asking the boys to choose between Glee and football."
"We've already done that before," Mike points out.
"And you chose Glee," Rachel says, and then looks at Finn. "Well, most of you did, anyway."
Finn ducks his head in embarrassment.
Rachel sighs, and then meets Quinn's gaze. "I believe you," she says directly to the girl. "I trust you." The moment feels too heavy, all of a sudden, and she clears her throat, pasting on a smile. "So, now that that's sorted, can we please get back to work? We're performing in exactly five days, and we don't even have any songs."
It takes them a moment, but they manage to get back on track.
Rachel glances at Quinn a few times, trying to get a read on her mood, but the blonde gives very little away.
At some point, in the middle of a squabble between Mercedes and Santana over the merits of including a potential swear word in their original song, Rachel feels her phone vibrate. She's not usually one for checking her texts during what she still believes counts as class, but she breaks her own rules because this is just exhausting.
She's surprised to find that it's a text from Quinn. She glances up towards the blonde, but she's engaged in figuring out some kind of dance step with Mike.
Quinn: Thank you for earlier. I didn't know it meant a lot to me to know you believed me until you said the words. … Have you thought about it yet?
For a second, Rachel is confused by what she means, and then she remembers and flushes, because Quinn was serious.
She - she wants to hang out… or something.
Rachel: You're very welcome, Quinn. I really do believe you, and I mean it when I say I trust you (which I know is a little crazy, but I can't help it. I think a lot of things have changed for me after Saturday - maybe that's something we could talk about tonight?). Did you have something in mind?
She rereads the text, and then sends it, her heart stuttering in her chest. She hopes she hasn't come on too strong, because she definitely has a habit of doing that.
Her head snaps up to find Mr Schuester looking at her curiously. "Yes?"
"Artie has a potential song for us," he says.
"Right," she says with a smile, and then moves to take a seat next to Kurt, so they can listen to Artie. Her eyes catch Quinn's, and the blonde grins knowingly. Rachel can't stop herself from sticking out her tongue, and Quinn lets out a small laugh that makes Rachel feel hot all over.
"You okay?" Kurt asks as soon as Rachel is seated.
She just nods, trying to get the flush in her features to subside. "I hope the song is good."
It's not terrible, but it's not good, either.
At least they're headed in the right direction… or something.
Quinn is waiting for her, Rachel just knows, and she's unsure what to feel about it. After Saturday, and then after Sunday, she can't help but be anxious about this entire thing. The girl is giving her a bit of whiplash.
Is Quinn finally accepting her friendship? Is Quinn just repentent? Or, is this her way of making sure she stays away from Finn?
Quinn gave Rachel her blessing.
So, what is this?
Finn lingers as well, but Quinn has staying power, and he eventually has to get going to make it to the garage to start his shift with Burt. He glances nervously between the two girls, and then he leaves.
Rachel counts to twelve in her head before she looks at Quinn, who is guiltlessly staring at her. "Hi," she says.
"Hi," Quinn says, rising from her chair and walking towards Rachel. "You okay?"
Quinn shrugs. "You seem a little… distracted today," she says. "Quiet. Pensive."
"I have a lot on my mind."
Rachel offers her a small smile. "I have a lot to think about."
"Don't you always?" Quinn says, and her smile is more playful than anything.
Rachel can't meet her gaze, because this Quinn is vastly different to the one she encountered on Saturday. "I do."
Quinn steps forward. "Do you want to get some coffee?" she asks. "I know this place in Fremont that has the best beans imaginable, and they even have this vegan cheesecake that even non-vegans die for."
Rachel blinks once, twice, and then asks, "you remember that I'm vegan?"
Quinn frowns slightly. "Uh, yes," she says. "Was I not supposed to? Because I'm under the impression that vegans tend to make sure everybody knows it."
Rachel tries to glare at her, but she just ends up giggling. "We're not all like that."
"You're the exception, then."
Rachel just smiles at her, thoroughly enjoying this moment in a way she's never enjoyed before. It's not lost on her that this moment exists with Quinn, but she's trying not to think too hard about what that could possibly mean.
For a teenage girl, Rachel is determinedly self-aware. She suspects that it might have something to do with her upbringing in many ways, but also to do with whom she is as a person. Her general disposition allows her to look at this moment at face value, and she's trying not to be overwhelmed by it.
Or, read into it too much.
In another life, Quinn could be asking her out. Which is just preposterous.
Plus, she loves Finn, and Quinn is his ex-girlfriend.
"Rachel?" Quinn asks.
"What is this?" Rachel just asks. "I mean, don't get me wrong, Quinn, because this is… probably everything I thought it would be, but what is this?"
Quinn frowns. "Everything you thought what would be?"
Rachel presses her lips together, realising she's said far too much. What can she say? Finally getting your attention? Getting to hang out with you? Getting to be your friend?
They're all too heavy, so all she does is shrug.
Quinn shifts her weight uncomfortably. "I told you on Saturday that I don't really have friends," she says. "That's not a lie. Santana isn't my friend, because we would no sooner backstab each other to get to the top, even though that's something I'm trying to work on." She puffs out a breath. "I thought, you know, you could, um, be someone I could, um, talk to."
Rachel shouldn't, but she can't help but find the way Quinn looks at the floor completely adorable. She even shuffles in place, and Rachel finds herself smiling before she can stop herself.
"And you could talk to me, too," Quinn adds hastily. "I mean, if you wanted. It's not, like, an expectation or anything." She shakes her head at herself. "God, this sounds pathetic, doesn't it? I'm normally more composed than this."
Rachel's smile widens, and then she says, "I think it's cute," without thinking.
Quinn's eyebrows shoot upwards, and Rachel wants nothing more than to bury herself under her sheer mortification. She said that out loud.
"Uh," Rachel starts, and then stops, because she honestly has no idea what to say to make this better. She's bound to make it worse if she tries.
Quinn's smile is a little lopsided, and she mercifully chooses to let Rachel's words slide. "Shall we?"
Rachel just nods. "I just need to stop by my locker to get a few things. Should I just meet you in the parking lot?"
"I can walk with you," Quinn offers. "My locker's on the way."
Rachel blinks. "You know where my locker is?"
Rachel shakes her head. "You - you want to walk with me?"
"But, won't people see?"
"They probably will."
Quinn releases a tired sigh. "I - I want to do it differently, this time," she says. "The whole Head Cheerleader thing. For so long, I let the position dictate my behaviour, instead of the other way around. I want it to be better this time around, so I'm going to try."
Rachel feels her heart skip a beat. "That's all anyone can ask."
Quinn laughs softly. "Well, consider this as my trying," she says. "It's the least I can do."
"Quinn," Rachel says softly. "I hope you know you don't owe me anything."
"Not even an apology?"
If Rachel were walking, she probably would have tripped over her own feet at Quinn's question, so she's relieved when she's still standing in one position. "I - I - "
Quinn shrugs. "Thought so," she murmurs. "Now, come on, we've got places to see and people to go."
Rachel is, dare she say, charmed.
For the most part, it's not exactly awkward.
Rachel followed behind Quinn in her own car, and now they're here at Morrison's, which is a quaint little place Rachel didn't even know existed in her little Lima, Ohio.
Quinn greets the baristas as if she knows them, and then asks for Rachel's order. The brunette gives it without any qualms - partly because she doesn't think she's ever seen Quinn smile this freely before - and she realises far too late that Quinn is actually paying for her.
If that doesn't scream of a date, Rachel doesn't know what does.
Still, she follows Quinn's instructions and takes a seat at a table far from the windows. Even if Quinn is open to this new friendship, Rachel doesn't think she'll be able to handle Quinn inconspicuously glancing around to make sure nobody can see her with a bona fide loser.
In the end, Rachel doesn't have to worry about that. When Quinn looks away from the counter to spot her, she smiles this goofy smile that has Rachel questioning everything.
Quinn doesn't seem to notice anything amiss when she comes to sit opposite Rachel, a small smile on her face. "I hope you like red velvet," she says easily. "I thought we could share, instead. I'm back on the Cheerios now, and Coach's weigh-ins are enough to make people cry."
Rachel can't seem to recover. They're sharing? Still, she manages to nod. "How did you find this place?" she asks.
"Oh, I found it, um, last year," she says, looking away. "I, um, worked here for a while. After I got kicked off the Cheerios, and then out of my house." She rolls her eyes at herself. "I started while I was still living with Finn. I mean, he was working, and I - " she stops. "For a short while there, I really considered keeping her."
"Oh?" Rachel didn't know that. In fact, she knows very little about Quinn during that time. She was wrapped up in her own drama, really, and she remembers being wrapped up in Finn.
Quinn nods sadly. "To do that, I needed money, so I got a job." She shakes her head. "It was hard work, and I just kept getting bigger. When I went to live with Puck, I considered quitting because it was the first time I realised we would never be able to do it, you know? Finn was safer, maybe more reliable, but Puck… God, Beth and I wouldn't have stood a chance.
"I mean, near the end, I might have entertained the idea again, but I knew. We would never be what she needed. We were just kids ourselves, and I had nothing to offer. No family and no money. It would have been unfair to Beth." She closes her eyes. "I kept the job, just so I wouldn't have to spend any unnecessary time at the Puckerman house. His mother never explicitly said anything to me, but… you kind of just know, you know?"
"Sometimes, that feeling of being unwanted just doesn't go away," Quinn says, and Rachel's heart breaks for her all over again. "When I went to live with Mercedes, I kept the job because I wanted to contribute," she says. "They were so lovely and kind and non-judgmental, and I cried myself to sleep for a whole set of different reasons after that."
Rachel wants to reach out to touch her in some way, but she doesn't know how that'll be received.
"I just - if my family was anything like hers, then Beth would be with me right now. Some other woman wouldn't be raising my daughter, and it makes me hate my mother sometimes." She closes her eyes. "I'm sorry," she says.
"I know you have your own mother issues, and I suspect that Shelby being Beth's adoptive mother hasn't made anything easier for you."
Rachel is so surprised by the insight that she doesn't know what to say at first. "Nobody's really asked me my feelings on it," she says. "Well, besides my therapist, that is."
Quinn's smile is sad. "If it's something you want to talk about, we can," she offers. "Do you want to know why I picked Shelby?"
Rachel didn't realise she did want to know until Quinn presents her with the option. "I would, actually," she says.
Quinn just nods, and then leans back slightly when their drinks are brought, along with the largest slice of cheesecake Rachel has ever seen.
Rachel's eyes grow wide, and Quinn chuckles.
"They're really generous," Quinn says. "It's one of the reasons I love it here."
"And, the other reasons?" Rachel asks.
"It's because of you."
Rachel's fork freezes midair on its way to her mouth. "Excuse me?"
"I picked Shelby because of you," Quinn says, and she forces herself to keep her eyes trained on Rachel's. It wouldn't do to look away now that they're having this very important conversation. "I suppose it helped that she was willing, but I actually read up a bit on nature vs nurture. Based on my own experiences, I can't be sure which of my behaviours were learned or just passed down through my genes.
"With you, I liked to think that maybe Shelby was able to pass on something good, you know? Something strong. Because, you've been through so much at the hands of myself and so many others, and yet you still stand tall - well, as tall as you possible can - and that meant something to me.
"I also realised that, if Beth went to somebody I sort of knew, then there was no way I could ever really lose track of her, you know? If you knew where Shelby was, then I would know where Beth was."
Rachel drops her gaze then, and Quinn reads it for what it is.
"You don't know where she is, do you?"
Rachel shakes her head. "In the end, she said that she wasn't what I needed," she confesses softly. "Or, I wasn't what she needed. Something like that. She thought I didn't need a mother, and that it would be best if we just admired each other from afar." Her jaw tenses. "I thought, maybe, she just didn't want to be a parent, you know, and I was willing to accept that, but then - " she stops.
"But then she adopted a baby," Quinn finishes for her.
"I - I don't resent Beth," Rachel says. "I don't. I just - " She sighs. "Shelby didn't want me. She's the one who sought me out, voiding the contract she signed by recruiting Jesse, and then we met and I was ready and willing to have an actual relationship with her, but then - " she stops again. "She met me, and then decided I wasn't what she was expecting, and then she went out to get herself another kid and, yes, Quinn, I know exactly what it's like to feel unwanted."
Quinn closes her eyes for a long moment, and then says, "I'm sorry."
"There's nothing for which you need to be sorry."
"If I had known, I would have made a different choice," she says. "Right now, I wish I did, because how can I expect her to love Beth unconditionally when she can walk away from her own flesh and blood?"
Rachel presses her lips together. "I guess it's all about choices," she says. "Shelby chose to love and care for Beth, and she chose not to do the same for me. There's a difference. I don't think picking Shelby was a bad choice on your part, Quinn. Beth is safe and happy and loved, and I realise it must hurt you not being able to do those things from close up, but this was the right choice you made for your baby and for yourself."
Quinn wipes at the traitorous tears that are threatening to fall. "I try to tell myself that every morning," she says. "I can't get through the day, otherwise, if I don't remind myself that I made the right decision for all of us."
"You did," Rachel confirms. "I'll text the truth of it to you every morning as well, if you want."
Quinn's eyebrows rise. "You would really do that?"
"Of course," she answers easily, and Quinn finds herself feeling charmed all over again. "I have a brilliant mobile plan."
Quinn just chuckles wetly. "Eat some cheesecake, Berry."
"I wrote 'Get It Right' because of you," Rachel says out of nowhere, unable to meet Quinn's gaze. "I've made so many mistakes, and I thought if I could just figure things out, and maybe just get better - stronger and wiser - then I could…" she trails off.
"Get it right?"
Rachel smiles sheepishly. "You knew, didn't you?"
Quinn nods. "I think I did, at least," she confesses. "Maybe not to the level you meant it, but it's easy to think it's actually about Finn."
"It's not," she says, and it probably comes out too quickly, because Quinn quirks an eyebrow. "I mean, maybe, in part, it might have come about because of him, because he's probably the number one thing we seem to fight about, but the song, itself, is about you and me, and us, and how we can never seem to…"
"Get it right."
Rachel nods, and then sighs. "But, we're trying now, right?"
"I know I am," Quinn says; "and I figure I've been the spanner the entire time."
Rachel frowns. "The spanner?"
Quinn rolls her eyes. "In the works, Berry."
Rachel flushes. "Right," she murmurs. Then, she says, "you can call me Rachel, you know?"
She laughs. "Are you going to?"
"One step at a time," Quinn says with a small grin. "I'm only human."
It's said in jest, but there's an underlying severity to the words. "You are, aren't you?"
Quinn sobers immediately, and then looks away. "Sometimes, it's as if people forget," she whispers. "I think I would have completely fallen apart by now if - if I allowed people to see just what I feel half the time."
"You know you can show me, if you want."
Quinn eyes her. "I think out of all the people I know, you're probably the one person I've shown the most emotion to," she says. "Just, it doesn't generally come out the safest way."
"You're very angry and very sad," Rachel says, and there isn't a hint of a question.
"I am," Quinn quietly agrees.
"Maybe we need to find another, less harmful to yourself and others, way for you to deal with all of that," Rachel suggests. "I hear boxing is very therapeutic."
"Coach Sylvester would probably string me up alive if I were to get unexplained bruises on my body."
"They wouldn't be unexplained," Rachel counters.
"She'd sooner believe I was having rough sex than believe I'd taken up boxing."
Rachel can't help it; she honestly can't. All Quinn has to do is say the word 'sex' in that voice of hers, and a host of unbidden images floods Rachel's mind. She lets out a surprised squeak, and then immediately looks at her drink in an attempt to hide her blushing cheeks.
When she looks up again, Quinn is smiling at her like the cat who caught the canary.
"Oh, no," she mumbles under her breath.
"What a dirty, dirty mind you have there, Miss Berry," Quinn says, and her voice is deceptively light, even if her eyes have darkened.
"It's not my fault," Rachel immediately says, her mouth running without her consent. "Have you seen what you look like?"
Quinn looks momentarily surprised. "If you're asking if I've looked in the mirror, then the answer is yes," she says. "Also, you do realise most of my face is manufactured, right?"
"Just your nose," Rachel argues, and she really should shut up. "The rest is all you."
"Are you about to tell me I'm the prettiest girl you've ever met again?"
"Would you actually believe me if I said it a second time?"
Quinn has the decency to blush, immediately dropping her gaze. "It's not that," she starts, and then sighs. "I don't even know what it is, but it's not that I don't believe you."
"So, you do believe me?"
"I believe that you haven't met many people outside of this stupid town," she says with a soft smile. "It's just, you know, my entire life, people have put all this emphasis on how I look, and it's always been held at a level of importance beyond my academic or extracurricular achievements. I guess I just don't see how anything else can trump what I look like."
"Your outward appearance isn't who you are, Quinn," Rachel says, her voice steady and firm. "That's what I meant when I said you're more than a pretty face."
"I'm pretty sure that's not what you said."
"Semantics," she dismisses with a wave of her hand. "The sentiment is still the same. Those people are wrong, Quinn. You are wrong." She bravely reaches her hand across the table to settle on Quinn's. "You are so much more than even you think. You're beautiful and smart and funny when you're not being mean about it. You care so deeply, even though you force yourself to hide it. You're witty and sarcastic and brilliant, and I could probably go on all day if you needed me to."
"I don't," Quinn says, her voice catching as her emotions threaten to run away from her. "Thank you, Rachel."
Rachel just beams at her, visibly overjoyed at Quinn's use of her first name.
Quinn just rolls her eyes, and then slowly takes her hand back to smooth down her hair. "I still don't get how you can be so nice to me - let alone stand to look at me - after everything I've done to you."
"Are you asking me why?"
Quinn nods. "I guess I am."
Rachel shifts in her seat, trying to dispel how the lack of contact with Quinn has left her… feeling a little lost. Her fingers are even tingling from where they were touching, and that's never happened to her before.
She's not sure how to feel about that, because this is Quinn Fabray she's dealing with, and tingling feelings are reserved for people who… aren't Quinn Fabray.
Her former tormentor.
Her sometimes nemesis.
Her almost friend.
The fact that it doesn't even matter that Quinn happens to be a girl doesn't even cross Rachel's mind, which is telling, Rachel supposes.
She's Quinn before she's a she.
"Rachel?" Quinn prompts.
She clears her throat, and then says, "I always knew it wasn't really you."
Quinn's brow furrows in confusion.
"It's always been your eyes that give you away, Quinn," she says, trying to explain. "Even when you're spewing out hatred, your eyes are never in it. That part of you has never been sincere, and I could always tell that it was never truly who you were inside."
"Inside," Quinn echoes. "I don't even know who I am… inside."
"Isn't that the best part?" Rachel asks softly. "You get to figure it out alongside the rest of us. I mean, I know literally nothing about you or your life, Quinn, and yet I'm still fascinated."
"You could be anyone in the world, and I wouldn't even know," she says, ignoring the predicted quirk of Quinn's eyebrow. "I mean, are you some secret piano maestro? Or, do you have some amazing, completely awesome collection of bobble heads that nobody knows about?"
"It's coins, actually," Quinn says, her tone of voice entirely too serious.
Rachel isn't sure if she should believe Quinn, but she rolls with it, because there's a certain lightness in the blonde's eyes that makes a foreign warm feeling spread through her body. "Oh?"
Quinn smiles softly, almost sadly. "The collection started out as my grandfather's, actually," she explains. "It was his favourite thing to talk about whenever my mother used to take me and my sister to visit him. Frannie was never really interested, but I found it fascinating. I loved to hear the stories of how he acquired each one. He would make them as fantastical as possible, and I lived for that kind of thing when I was still Lucy."
"What kind of thing?"
Rachel wants to reach out to touch her again, so she does. It's less awkward than she anticipates, and Quinn even smiles sheepishly when she turns her palm upwards and curls her fingers around Rachel's.
If Quinn feels Rachel's heart start to beat that bit faster, she doesn't mention it.
"I started to write the stories he told me in little notebooks," Quinn reveals. "Each coin is important in its own way, is what he used to tell me, so I created entire worlds around each of them. What they represented; what their stories were. It blossomed into stories about each coin's owners, and just built into this major thing that's always just stuck with me."
"Do you still write?"
Quinn appears thoughtful for a moment, clearly contemplating how much she's willing to share. "Not about the coins," she eventually says. "Not since my grandfather passed. I write about other things now."
"I'm sorry about your grandfather," Rachel says, squeezing Quinn's hand.
Quinn shrugs. "Thank you, but it was a long time ago."
"I'm still sorry," she says. "He sounds like he was very important to you."
Quinn smiles slightly, clearly thinking about her grandfather. There's something so soft about her expression like this, and Rachel can't bear to look away from her face, just knowing this moment is important for them.
"So, what do you write about?" Rachel asks.
And, to her own utter mortification, Quinn blushes. She doesn't even know why, because it isn't as if she writes anything… sinister or embarrassing. "Just… things," she says.
Quinn drops her gaze. "I write stories, mostly," she starts. "About people and relationships."
Rachel waits in silence.
"I didn't really get into it until I got kicked out," she says. "It allowed me to look at myself and my life from a different perspective, and I like to think I've grown a little bit more self-aware." She blushes again. "Most of the time. Some of the time."
Rachel giggles. "Anything I get to read?"
Quinn looks at her. "Would you even want to?"
"But, I could be the worst writer in the world, for all you know," Quinn points out.
"Doubtful," Rachel says immediately. "I can't imagine you being terrible at anything."
Quinn shakes her head. "You barely know me, Rachel," she says.
"I thought we were trying to fix that."
Quinn smiles softly. "We are," she confirms. "And, if you really do want to read something, umm - "
"You don't have to, if you don't want to," Rachel offers. "But, if you do want me to, I'd very much like to. I'm keen to learn about the inner workings of Quinn Fabray's mind."
"Brace yourself," Quinn says with a grin. "You're going to need a seatbelt, or something."
Rachel giggles. "I think I can handle it."
Quinn regards her carefully. "I do believe you can, yes." She sips at her drink. "Out of everyone I know, you're probably the only person who probably can."
Rachel holds her gaze, and something is happening. It's undeniable, whatever is growing and changing between them. If this is what being friends with Quinn Fabray is going to be like, then she's not entirely sure she'll be able to handle it.
Just having this conversation is intense, and Rachel can't help but wonder if she's ready for all this friendship could entail: extended periods of time in Quinn's presence.
Rachel breaks their locked gaze first, her heart rate rising slightly. It's already above average, and she's a little lost from the way Quinn is watching her just as intensely.
Quinn clears her throat, but doesn't take her hand back. "Do you think we're going to be able to get any songs written by the time we have to take the stage?"
Rachel sighs, choosing to nibble on some cheesecake before she breaks into a rant. "Maybe," she concedes. "I think, maybe, we just need one person to be hit by some inspiration, and then it'll come together."
"I think that's what Mr Schue is banking on."
Rachel scoffs softly. "It's so… irresponsible," she says. "At least, you know, we should have a backup if we can't get anything together in time."
Quinn nods in agreement. "You know, we could probably work on something on our own," she suggests. "Without Mr Schue knowing. We can meet up tomorrow after school and look through what we've performed this past year. We could probably put together a pretty good setlist, on the off chance that we don't manage to come up with something in time."
"That's a good idea, Quinn," she says.
"Don't sound so surprised."
Rachel giggles softly. "I mean, it's a good idea, but it won't work if it comes from me."
"What do you mean?"
"Nobody really listens to me," she says, and she sounds apathetic about it. "We'd probably spend hours squabbling about who was going to sing what, anyway."
"I could probably get them to listen to me," Quinn says.
Rachel eyes her curiously. "Would you really do that?"
Quinn nods. "Of course," she says. "I want to win as much as the next person, and the only way we can do that is if we actually have something to sing."
Rachel's fingers tighten around Quinn's, mainly because she can't think of something to say.
Quinn smiles warmly. "Why don't we come up with our own redacted list to save time," she says. "So, tomorrow, instead of wading through everything we've performed this year, we'll be able to provide the others with what we think will work best on Saturday."
Rachel can't understand how any of this is happening, but the sincerity in Quinn's voice is very telling. "Now I know why Coach Sylvester wanted you back," she says, reluctantly taking her hand back to reach into her bag for a notebook.
Quinn shrugs as she clears some space for them to work.
"No, Quinn," Rachel says once she's settled with her pen and open notebook. "Don't knock it, okay? You're a natural born leader. Embrace it."
Quinn blushes, and then says, "I thought you sounded really good on your duet with Kurt."
Rachel eyes her, letting her know they'll get back to this, and then writes Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again. Under that, she writes I Look To You, and then smiles at Quinn's quirked eyebrow.
"You, Tina and Mercedes sounded amazing."
Quinn rolls her eyes. "Whatever, Berry."
The two of them are elbow deep in sifting through their group numbers when Rachel's phone starts to ring, startling them both. Rachel offers Quinn a sheepish smile before she digs in her bag for the offending device, and then blanches at the time she sees.
"Oh no," she murmurs, and then answers, "Hello."
Quinn tries not to listen, but it's difficult when Rachel is sitting right in front of her. She busies herself with the list they have so far, reading over the songs and trying to visualise a few of them coming together.
"No, I know, Dad," Rachel is saying into the phone. "I'm sorry I didn't let you know of my plans. It seems that time just ran away from me. No, it's okay. You two can start with dinner."
Quinn taps Rachel's forearm and mouths, "We can eat here."
Rachel flashes a smile, and then says, "I won't stay out too late, I promise. Yes. Of course." She laughs softly. "Okay, Dad. I love you, too. Bye."
Quinn doesn't expect to feel… sad after hearing Rachel's conversation, but she can't help it. She hasn't seen or heard from her father in almost eighteen months, and -
Rachel's fingers find Quinn's again, and the blonde looks up, perplexed. "It's okay," she says.
"What is?" Quinn asks.
"Whatever you're feeling."
"I don't even know what I'm feeling."
Rachel just squeezes her fingers, and then changes the subject. "So… they have food here?"
Quinn nods. "It's a pretty decent menu," she says. "Let me go get some." She immediately gets to her feet - Rachel realises she might need a moment alone - and heads to the front counter. There's a boy working the register, and his smile widens when Quinn approaches.
Rachel feels something ugly twist in her gut at the sight. Quinn even stays a while, talking to the boy, and then to another girl. They're obviously familiar, and Rachel wonders which side of Quinn these strangers get to see.
It's jealousy, she realises, when Quinn offers the pair one more smile, and then makes her way back to Rachel with two menus. She can't keep the pensive look off her face, and Quinn frowns at the sight of it, easily slipping into her seat once more.
"Is everything okay?" Quinn asks, handing her a menu.
Rachel nods, opening the menu. "Just thinking about something."
Quinn eyes her for a moment, and then just nods. Rachel will tell her if she wants to, and it's obvious she's not going to, so Quinn just studies her menu, even though she already knows what she's getting.
It offers both girls a moment to think really hard about what they're doing. It's probably the longest amount of time they've spent alone, together, and they haven't fought once.
It's almost surreal.
"Are you ready to order?" Quinn eventually asks. At Rachel's nod, Quinn calls one of the waiters, a boy barely their own age, over, and he almost runs to get to Quinn. "Easy there, Peter," she says, smiling. "Don't want you to trip."
Peter just grins, exposing his braces. "Hi, Quinn," he says.
Quinn shakes her head. "Peter, this is my friend, Rachel. Rach, this is Peter, he's Mr Morrison's son."
Rachel almost swoons at the sound of her nickname leaving the blonde's lips. "The owner?"
"It's nice to meet you, Peter," Rachel says.
The boy's smile widens, and his excitement makes getting their order a taxing affair. Finally, they're able to get it written down, and then Peter skips away.
"He's adorable," Rachel says to his retreating back.
Quinn nods. "He is," she confirms. "I just worry about how McKinley is going to treat him when they find out just how innocent he is."
Rachel sighs sadly.
"But," Quinn says; "I'm going to try to make things better. I don't have much time left this year, but I've got plans. Big, big plans."
Quinn smiles this naughty, mischievous smile at her, and Rachel just knows, deep in her heart, that she's in trouble.
Big, big trouble.
Quinn pays for dinner.
Rachel doesn't realise she's doing it until it's too late, because she has her head down as she finalises the list of songs they've chosen.
But, one glance up, and she finds Quinn smiling innocently at her.
"What did you do?" Rachel immediately asks.
The blonde's smile widens. "It's getting late," she says; "we should probably call it a night."
Rachel is inclined to agree, because she's received a handful of texts from her fathers asking about her whereabouts. At least, after the talk they had the day before, it wouldn't be wildly unfathomable that she would spend time with Quinn.
She's just unsure if she's going to tell them she may or may not have a tiny crush on said girl. It's not the first time it's happened to her - there was a girl in her dance class when she was a freshman and, well, Blake Lively is alive - so it's not as terrifying as it should be.
But, well, it's still terrifying, because this is Quinn. And, dammit, Rachel loves Finn. That's the whole reason she was so hurt by the fact that Quinn and Finn seemed to go behind her back when they started dating.
If she's being honest, Rachel isn't too sure anymore, because Quinn is the one she confronted about it, and not Finn. She thought they were becoming friends, and then -
"Rachel?" Quinn says, getting her attention. "Everything okay?"
Rachel smiles at her. "Of course," she says, telling a half-truth. Then, kinking her brow, she asks, "Did you just pay for me?"
Quinn blushes, and then says, "It's not a big deal."
Maybe Quinn thinks it isn't, but it really is. It's setting some kind of precedent, and Rachel is all too quick to say, "Next time, it's on me."
Quinn's smile grows. "That's awfully presumptuous of you, don't you think?"
"Not at all," Rachel says with a small smile. "You enjoyed spending time with me; don't deny it."
Quinn cocks her head to the side. "The night's not yet over, Berry."
"Are you expecting it to take a turn?"
Quinn winks. "For the better, maybe."
And, dammit, if that isn't the coolest thing ever, Rachel doesn't know what is. She wants to reach out to touch her again, just to make sure the girl is actually real, but she holds still.
They pack up their things in silence, and Rachel finds herself wanting to prolong this moment as much as possible. This Quinn is all kinds of wonderful, and she wants to hold onto her. If they can both just take a breath and not ruin it, then Rachel suspects this friendship can turn into a beautiful thing.
It's what it is.
Quinn walks Rachel to her car, which is borderline swoon-worthy, and Rachel doesn't even know what's happening. They're not parked near each other, and she almost protests the action, but Quinn looks particularly determined.
"Thank you," Quinn says when they get to Rachel's car.
Rachel glances at her, suddenly shy. "For what?"
Quinn shrugs. "Just, you know, for coming with me," she says. "You didn't have to."
"Yes, I did," Rachel says. "I really wanted to."
"Did you actually enjoy yourself?" Quinn asks, and she tries to play it off as if she doesn't care.
Rachel thinks she's really cute like this, and she wonders why she hasn't noticed how unsure of herself Quinn actually is before. "I did," she finally says. "I had a great time."
Quinn regards her curiously, and Rachel knows her specific words haven't gone unnoticed. They're standard end-of-date words, and Rachel waits to see how Quinn is going to respond.
The blonde smiles gently, and then mumbles a soft, "Me too."
Rachel perks up. "I'm sorry; what was that? I didn't hear you."
Quinn's smile spreads across her face. "You're - " she starts, and then stops, because she doesn't even know what she's going to say.
Quinn shakes her head. "You're something else," she finally decides on.
Rachel tilts her head to the side. "So are you, you know," she says. "I really like this you."
Rachel nods. "The one who's unafraid to spend the evening with Rachel Berry in public," she explains. "The one who's actually willing to talk to me, and listen to me." She smiles slightly. "The one who actually smiles with her eyes."
Quinn blushes a mild pink, and Rachel doesn't stop herself from reaching out to touch her arm.
"This you is pretty great."
"You haven't known her very long," Quinn points out, flushing that bit more.
"Still, she seems worth it," Rachel says, squeezing gently.
"Don't forget that," Quinn finds herself saying.
"I won't," she assures Quinn, smiling. "Thank you for today, as well." She hesitates, wondering how far she can push this new dynamic between them. "I'm going to hug you now."
Quinn has barely a second to prepare before Rachel is wrapping arms around her and pressing their bodies together. She's tense for a moment, not used to the contact, but she eventually relaxes into the embrace and actually returns it, her own arms sliding around a slim waist.
As far as Quinn is aware, this is the first time they've ever hugged.
Without her consent, Quinn tightens her grip, and Rachel sighs against her neck. They hold it for a few more seconds, and then they mutually release each other, both of them blushing furiously.
"I should get going," Rachel says.
"You should," Quinn says, stepping back. "Get home safely, okay?" She pauses. "Uh, will you let me know when you do?"
"You worried about me, Fabray?"
Quinn arches an eyebrow. "Something like that, yes."
Rachel moves to hug her again, just because she can, and she doesn't offer any warning. She feels Quinn exhale, and then she hears a soft chuckle.
"I'm going to regret all of this, aren't l?"
Rachel tightens her hold for a beat, and then carefully releases her. "Oh, definitely."
As she expects, Rachel's fathers have plenty of questions for her when she gets home. She's just able to set her bag on the floor before they're dragging her into the living room to inquire about her whereabouts since school let out.
"Hold on," Rachel says, quickly typing something on her phone. "I just need to let Quinn know I made it home all right."
Hiram blinks. "Quinn?"
Rachel nervously nibbles on her bottom lip. "Oh, um, yes, I was with Quinn."
"This entire time?"
Hiram looks perplexed, and LeRoy appears to have an endless array of questions he wants to ask. "What were you doing?" is the one on which Hiram finally settles.
Rachel gives it a bit of thought, and then surprises them all by saying, "I actually think we were on an unintentional date."
Her fathers just stare at her.
"It had all the makings of one, at least," she clarifies, and she's surprisingly calm about it. "She took me to this coffee shop she loves, and bought our drinks, and we even shared a slice of cheesecake. We talked about all sorts of stuff; deep, heavy stuff that we wouldn't have talked about otherwise. It was… nice.
"She's actually quite… pleasant when she's not being openly antagonistic. She's funny and witty, and she's a little sneaky. I think there are all these sides to her that she forces herself to hide, and I - " she halts. "I was charmed," she confesses. "I am."
And, still, her fathers continue to stare, clearly caught off guard by this revelation. Especially after the tale they were told just the day before. If she's being honest, she's also surprised by her own words.
"We talked about music for hours, and she didn't even seem to get bored," Rachel continues, almost marvelling over how she's spent the last few hours. "Then we had dinner, and she was so open and engaging. She wasn't even afraid of being seen in public with me, and she paid, Dads. She paid for dinner when I wasn't paying attention, and there's going to be a next time." She sucks in a breath, and then says what they've all been thinking, "Oh, God, I think I actually like her."
She suddenly looks lost, helpless, and so much like a little kid that her fathers are thrown for a moment. It's not a look they're used to seeing, because their daughter is mature beyond her years, and it takes them a little while to kick into gear.
Hiram gets to his feet to hug her, and LeRoy asks the question.
"Like her, as in like her?"
Rachel groans, and then covers her face with both her hands. "No. This cannot be happening." She shakes her head. "I do not like Quinn Fabray like that. I don't." There's a certain ferocity to her words that surprises all three of them. "I don't," she repeats.
"Okay, Sweetheart," they say in unison, and it doesn't help with anything.
Rachel eventually makes her escape up to her bedroom. She has some homework to finish up, and she uses it as a distraction not to think about what her afternoon spent with Quinn could possibly mean.
Quinn and Finn just broke up.
Finn is suddenly interested in her again.
Rachel would probably rather spend time with Quinn at this point, which is a truly terrifying thought.
Even if Rachel… wanted… more; Quinn obviously wouldn't. So, they're friends, and that's all they're going to be. It's safest, and Rachel has dealt with more than enough heartbreak.
It doesn't help any that there's an adorable goodnight text from Quinn sitting in her message inbox when she crawls into bed.
No help at all.
It's the only way to describe it, really.
Quinn is the one who texts the group about an early morning Glee meeting to discuss their setlist, and she's the one to bring up the entire idea of having a backup prepared, just in case they're unable to write the required original songs before they take the stage on Saturday.
But, then, she makes the mistake of saying, "Rachel and I came up with a potential list," and, yeah, it's mutiny.
While Rachel silently panics, trying to follow all the voices shouting out at her and Quinn about why they get to make decisions for them and who do they think they are and what do they have planned and all those other terrible, horrible things Rachel tries to block out; Quinn just stands, looking perfectly calm and composed.
It's not an unusual stance, but there's something very different about this Quinn. Something happened to her over the weekend, and Rachel can't bring herself to look away from her for a moment.
Something is continuing to happen.
Also, she's ridiculously stunning as she stands there, back straight and expression impassive.
Quinn just lets the noise go on and on, not bothering to respond, until the room stutters to silence.
"Are you done?" Quinn finally asks.
"Good," Quinn murmurs, and then produces a typed-up pack of papers. "I don't know about the rest of you but I, for one, don't want to head to New York with nothing." She shifts her weight, looking suitably unimpressed by all the current happenings. "Because we already knew you were going to be difficult about this, we picked out some of the better songs we've already performed this year. I think our selections are quite decent so, before you shoot them down, at least look at them." She hands out the pieces of papers with the kind of glare that will not be disobeyed, and then moves to stand near Rachel's chair while the rest of them look over their selection.
"You okay?" Quinn asks, her voice barely a whisper over the sudden murmuring among their cohorts.
"I'm fine," she says, though she doesn't particularly sound it. "Are you?"
Quinn just shrugs. "I'm just waiting to see who's going to be the first to speak up," she says.
"My bet's on Mercedes," Rachel says.
"Maybe Finn," Quinn offers with raised eyebrows. "Or, probably not, because it might take him a little longer to realise none of the duets on the list are you and him."
Rachel giggles, despite herself, and meets Quinn's gaze. "Kurt, then?"
"Could be Santana," Quinn says, not looking away from Rachel's face. "We're a volatile bunch."
"How we manage to get anything done at all defeats me."
Quinn's hand moves to her shoulder, just resting there. Her touch is gentle, warm against her shirt, and Rachel feels all her good sense begin to fade.
"We have a stubborn, determined captain," Quinn says, and Rachel blushes through it. "Otherwise, we'd be more of a mess than we are."
"Are you telling me you need me?" Rachel asks, trying to sound coy over the sound of her racing heart.
"I don't think your ego could handle the truth," Quinn says with a grin, and her hand squeezes at Rachel's shoulder before she lets go. Her gaze flits over the group as they mull over the selection of songs. A few of them are nodding to one another, which is a good sign, but Quinn still looks cautious.
Maybe it's just her default setting, given the way her high school experience has panned out.
Rachel lifts her hand to catch Quinn's fingers, wanting to get her attention, but someone says Quinn's name and she takes an automatic step forward, just out of Rachel's reach, and the brunette has to swallow her disappointment.
Well, first, Quinn glances over her shoulder and says, "Hah, it was Santana. Did I call it or what?"
All Rachel can do is grin up at her, and then Quinn is on her way. She watches her go with an odd sense of melancholy seeping into her bones, and, as soon as the discussion actually starts, Rachel wishes they could have stayed in their little bubble a little while longer.
Because, the second Finn catches on to the fact none of the duets include him, his first thought is that Quinn had something to do with it, the blonde going out of her way to ruin his life because she can't deal with the breakup.
What a self-centred asshole.
Rachel doesn't recall actually saying the words out loud, but she must verbalise them, because the entire room falls silent and every eye snaps towards her.
Finn looks more confused than anything. A lot of them are surprised, even shocked, and a handful are openly amused. Even impressed.
Quinn, though - Quinn looks proud in a way Rachel is surprised she even recognises. It's such a foreign expression, and Rachel is hit by the inexplicable desire to keep it there.
"Rach?" Finn eventually says, his voice small.
Rachel, feeling a little hardened and emboldened, does her best not to roll her eyes as she rises to her feet and moves to stand beside Quinn, silently representing a united front. "It has nothing to do with Quinn, you know," she says. "I'm the one who didn't think we sang any duets this year that are worth performing at Nationals." There's a finality to her tone that none of them has ever heard before, and, okay, what is happening to her?
Quinn turns slightly, her bare arm brushing against Rachel's. "Are there any other questions?"
Kurt clears his throat. "Not a question, but a suggestion."
Quinn just nods, inviting him to speak. The two girls can only imagine what he's going to say, but he surprises them both when he says, "I think we should definitely do Born This Way as our big group number."
Rachel lets out the breath she didn't even realise she was holding, glances quickly at Quinn, who is already smiling at her, and then agrees with Kurt.
There have been worse ideas.
Rachel isn't entirely sure how it happens, but, by the time they're scheduled to leave for New York, Quinn Fabray has become the unofficial co-captain of the New Directions. It's just that she does more for the Club in those few days than Finn has done in his entire tenure.
They're also 'those few days' that Rachel spends in Quinn's presence. They aren't always alone, given the rehearsals they're trying to sneak in without their choir director figuring out. They could possibly be using the time to write their original songs, but the only thing on Rachel's mind at the moment is how green Quinn's eyes are and how good she smells when she stands so close.
And, it seems Quinn is always near her. Standing next to her, in front of her, behind. Always, just somewhere close, surrounding her with that glorious voice and unquestionable warmth.
Basically, what started off as a harmless, innocent crush blooms into… this.
Rachel barely thinks twice about seeking out Quinn the moment they arrive at the airport in Columbus, having just gone through security. They're all buzzing with excitement, this being the first time on a plane for a few of them.
Quinn is sitting alone on one of the uncomfortable metal chairs, her backpack at her feet and her phone in her hand when Rachel settles into the chair beside her. She glances up and smiles softly, sending butterflies aflutter in Rachel's stomach.
"Hey," Quinn says. "I'm just letting my mom know we've made it through to the gate."
Rachel feels warm all over, because Quinn tells her things now. About her life and her family and just what she's thinking, and none of it is helping Rachel keep her feelings in a tightly-sealed box. She can't even say where any of it came from. Quinn just decided to be this real person, and now Rachel is five seconds away from falling over her own feet.
Apparently, nobody holds a candle to Quinn Fabray when she makes herself available.
Not even Finn, who's staring at them from a row of seats a few over. He's spent a lot of his time doing just that, visibly wallowing and pining. Rachel feels for him, slightly, because it can't be all that easy seeing your two ex-girlfriends - particularly when you basically left one for the other - suddenly strike up a friendship.
Because, it's a friendship.
That's all this is.
Even if Quinn sometimes says things that sound a little like flirting. Or if their hugs last a little too long for something strictly platonic. Rachel isn't complaining, of course, but it does make it all the more difficult to keep things… straight.
She smiles to herself. Hah.
"Have you let your fathers know?" Quinn asks, putting away her phone.
Rachel nods. "I think they're more excited about this trip than I am," she admits, and then laughs at Quinn's skeptical look. "It might have a little something to do with having the house to themselves for a few days."
Quinn scrunches up her nose, and it's the most adorable thing Rachel's ever seen. "Not really information I wanted to hear, Rach."
Rachel nearly swoons at the nickname, but quickly blanches as the meaning of Quinn's words sinks in. "Oh. No. Quinn, that's gross."
Quinn's grin is like a saving grace.
Rachel can't remember feeling any of this for Finn. She doesn't remember wanting to live in his words or his expressions or his reactions. Not like with Quinn, who she wants to keep smiling and laughing, and she especially wants to get Quinn to double over enough that she grabs for her forearm the way she's done three times before.
Wow, Rachel is a little pathetic.
"It's weird," Quinn says, her voice dropping in volume. "My mom's never really… cared before."
Rachel rests a hand on Quinn's arm, acting without thinking. "I don't think that's true," she says. "I think she's always cared. She just didn't know how to show it."
Quinn looks at her, their gazes meeting. "She's really trying," she says, smiling softly. "So am I."
"Me too," Rachel says, jumping a little in place. "I mean, I could yell at Noah and Sam for currently acting like hooligans, but, look at me… I'm sitting here very calmly and ignoring them."
Quinn's smile grows. "It's only because you're sitting with me," she says, which, okay, is the truth, but Quinn isn't supposed to know that.
Rachel squeezes her arm once and then takes back her hand. "Someone's full of herself."
"If you only knew how it feels to have your attention," Quinn almost sings, and this - this right here - is why Rachel is so confused. Quinn can't just say things like that. "And, plus," Quinn says. "Finn looks like he's going to pop an aneurysm the more time you spend ignoring him."
Rachel sighs, even more confused now. "I'm not… ignoring him," she says quietly.
Quinn sobers slightly. "Hey," she says. "It's okay, you know? Whatever you're doing. You're totally allowed to take your time and make your own decisions. If I'd done that sooner, I shudder to think about how different my life would be right now."
"Do you think we would have done this sooner?" Rachel asks.
Quinn looks thoughtful for a moment. "Perhaps," she finally relents. "I think, well, that this would only work if I was somehow willing to be better. Worthy." She meets Rachel's gaze. "I still think you forgive too easily."
"I wish you would just accept that I have," she says, only a slight whine in her voice.
Quinn smiles at her, shrugging apologetically. "I'm trying."
Rachel smiles, soft and affectionate. "I like you," her mouth says, and then her eyes widen, because, oh god, she did not just say that. "I mean, I like this new you," she adds quickly, her heart rate skyrocketing.
Quinn gives her a curious look, her eyes searching. "Not that I was particularly worried," she says; "but that's actually nice to know. I wasn't sure who I would end up being when I decided to be myself."
"You're pretty great," Rachel compliments, unafraid to say that much, at least.
"I still have a lot to work on and through, so I wouldn't sing my praises just yet, Rach," she says, and Rachel leans closer unconsciously. "I'm a work in progress."
"Aren't we all?"
"I don't know," Quinn says. "You do a pretty good impression of looking like you've got it all figured out."
"I think we're all just pretending, Quinn, because I don't think anyone has anything figured out," she says.
Something flickers in Quinn's eyes.
"Nothing," she says, quickly making a note of something on her phone. "Just had a potential song idea, I guess. I'll tell you more when I've had a chance to think about it some more."
Rachel breathes out slowly, which might be considered swooning. It's just, well, Quinn has taken this week and what it all means for Glee so seriously. She's talked music with Rachel for hours and helped her wrangle the Club during rehearsals, and Rachel thinks her little, exhausted heart never quite stood a chance.
"Are you about to put your writing prowess to a song?" Rachel asks.
Quinn blushes, ducking her head. "You're not allowed to tease me about that."
"God, you're adorable," Rachel says, and decides not to be embarrassed by it. "Quinn, seriously, you're really very good. I appreciate the fact you've allowed me to read some of your work."
Quinn peeks at her through her lashes. "I should be thanking you for actually reading what I've written," she says. "Not many people would."
"More people should."
Quinn's blush gets impossibly darker, and Rachel can only marvel at it. "We'll see," she says quietly.
Rachel wants to say more to see how red Quinn can actually get, but their flight gets called, and Quinn gets to her feet immediately, stretching her arms high in the air and rendering Rachel stupidly speechless at the sight of a sliver of skin that gets revealed at her midriff.
Quinn absently holds out her hand to help Rachel to her own feet. Rachel hesitates for a beat, and then slips her hand into Quinn's as she pulls herself up.
Quinn takes a moment too long to let go, and Rachel forces herself not to read too much into it. It's hard, though, because she's always been a hopeless romantic, and Quinn Fabray is entirely too good at making a person feel special without even trying.
Rachel can't help wondering how any of her boyfriends managed to live. Seriously. Rachel thinks she would probably forget to eat actual food if Quinn didn't eat with her, basically forcing her to consume food.
Crushes really are terrible things.
Quinn leads the way towards the line to board, and Rachel searches her backpack for her ticket. She's so focused that she doesn't notice when Finn suddenly appears in front of her and she walks right into him.
Finn puts heavy hands on her shoulders to steady her, his hopeful smile in place, and she stiffens at the contact.
Rachel looks past him at where Quinn has noticed she's no longer behind her, and she can't quite decipher the look on the blonde's face. They stare at each other for a beat, and Rachel swears Quinn's face flickers with something, before she turns away and gets into the line to board.
What was that? Anger, disappointment, jealousy?
Rachel doesn't have time to unpack it, because Finn is now talking. "Do you want to sit together?" he asks, his eyes doing that pleading thing they do these days.
Rachel blinks, taking a step back. "Oh, um," she says, looking past him again, searching for Quinn and feeling disappointed when she sees the blonde's back instead of her gorgeous eyes. "I'm actually already sitting with Quinn."
Finn frowns. "Why?"
She bristles at the question, and at the tone of his voice. "Because I want to," she says, even though she knows she doesn't owe him anything.
"But, why would you even want to?" he asks, looking entirely perplexed. "She's been nothing but horrible to you."
Rachel raises her eyebrows. "I'm aware, thank you, Finn," she says. "And you've been so stellar, haven't you?" She'll wonder why she's being so hostile later, but she really doesn't like the fact Finn talks so badly about Quinn and so openly. Just a week ago, he claimed to love her. And now?
Finn isn't sure how to respond to that, so Rachel uses the opportunity to escape this unwanted conversation. She slips away from him, her footsteps a little rushed as she makes her way to where Quinn is standing with Mike and Tina. She's not really thinking when she practically tucks herself into Quinn's side, her right hand automatically reaching for the blonde's left.
Quinn stops speaking immediately, her head turning to look at Rachel, her brow slightly furrowed. "Everything okay?" she asks, her fingers squeezing Rachel's.
"Can I sit with you on the plane?" Rachel asks, her voice barely more than a whisper, so only Quinn can hear her.
Quinn doesn't ask any questions. She just says, "Yes, of course," and then continues whatever she was saying to the couple before Rachel's interruption.
Rachel finds she doesn't mind. She actually appreciates it, giving her the opportunity to unpack her confusing feelings regarding Finn. And Quinn. Being this close to the girl isn't helping, of course, because Quinn's profile is stunning and she smells like apples, and it's all so much but not enough at the same time.
When Quinn lets out a soft laugh, Rachel starts to pay attention, and it's maybe a mistake, because Quinn is far more pretty up close. It's really not fair at all.
"Come on," Quinn says, stepping forward in the line and gently pulling Rachel along. "What does your ticket say?" she asks.
Rachel holds it out for her to see.
"Technically, I'm supposed to sit behind you," she says. "But we have an entire block dedicated to us, so I don't think it matters where we sit; just that we're in one of our allocated seats."
"Are you a window or aisle person?" Rachel asks, knowing the answer will say quite a lot about her blonde friend.
Quinn hums in thought. "Probably an aisle," she says quietly. "I'm not a fan of... being trapped."
Rachel squeezes her hand in response, unsure what to say to that. "Then, I suppose, it's a good thing I don't mind where I sit," she says. "With my parents, because it's just the three of us, whenever we travel, I usually sit in the middle seat."
Quinn laughs. "Because you're the tiniest?"
"I do suspect that's the real reason, yes," she muses; "but they always made a show of fighting over who got to sit next to me, right until the moment they decided to 'compromise' and put me in the middle. Gosh, I was seriously naïve."
Quinn smiles, her eyes a little sad. "I think it's cute," she says softly, looking away before Rachel can ask her if something's wrong.
Rachel already knows Quinn will play it off, so she rather just keeps hold of her hand as they board the plane and find a pair of seats beside Artie, who was one of the first to board, requiring additional aid with his wheelchair.
Quinn stows both their backpacks after they've retrieved their books and iPods, and then settles into her seat beside Rachel and breathes out slowly. She tilts her head back, leaning it against her seat rest, and tries her level best not to think too hard about the upcoming flight.
Rachel shifts beside her, and Quinn feels a tentative hand on her forearm. It takes her a moment to acknowledge it, and her head turns to look at Rachel, whose own eyes are a little wide and a lot concerned.
"I'm not a good flyer," Quinn says quietly, the confession surprising them both. "Actually, I'm pretty sure I'm a terrible flyer."
Rachel slides her hand along Quinn's forearm until she can link their fingers. "You didn't say anything," she points out.
Quinn shrugs, as if it's not important, even though it is. "There's really nothing I can do about it," she says. "At this point, I'm pretty used to sucking it up and enduring what the world has in store for me."
Rachel looks at her closely, hearing Quinn's words and realising they have very little to do with the fact she's not a fan of flying. It's about so much more than that. So, with a gentle squeeze to Quinn's fingers, Rachel says, "Did you know that if we were to combine both our favourite colours; we would get pink?"
"Red and yellow," Rachel says, as if it's the simplest thing in the world and entirely not off-topic.
Quinn blinks. "Rach, dear, those colours make orange, not pink."
"They do?" she asks, frowning as she thinks about it. "Oh, yes, they do." She purses her lips. "I knew that."
"No, I really did know that," Rachel says. "I mean, I do."
"I'm sure you do, Rach," Quinn says, and she's smiling a little too knowingly. "Pink, as far as I'm aware, is a mixture of red and white."
Quinn rolls her eyes. "You're so weird."
"I resent that."
"You're also a little sneak," she adds a moment later, because she's suddenly aware she's been distracted enough not to pay attention to any of the pre-takeoff formalities that usually add to her anxiety. The plane is even moving, and her focus is solely on Rachel, whose own mouth is slowly creeping into a full-blown smile.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Rachel says, maintaining eye contact with Quinn and not allowing the blonde to look away for a single moment.
"How do you even know what my favourite colour is?" Quinn asks.
"I think you'll find I know many things about you, Fabray," she says, and then winces at her own words. "Wow, that sounded way less creepy in my head."
Quinn smiles so softly at her, and Rachel wishes she knew what Quinn was thinking. "You're - " she starts, and then stops.
Quinn breathes. "You're something else."
"I can't tell if that's a good thing or not," she admits, and Quinn's features soften, which is all the answer she needs. "Okay, maybe I can."
Quinn keeps her gaze on Rachel, even as her head leans against her headrest again. "My heart is beating really fast," she confesses quietly.
Rachel shifts her hold on Quinn's hand to press the tips of her first two fingers against the inside of Quinn's wrist. "I can feel it," she observes. "It is really fast."
Quinn audibly swallows. "I'm starting to think it has nothing to do with the fact we're on a plane right now," she whispers, and it feels as if they're in their own little bubble.
Rachel wants to ask, but she has a feeling she already knows. If Quinn won't say it out loud, then Rachel won't, either. She doesn't think either of them is ready, anyway, so she's content to sit here with all her thoughts and feelings, just holding Quinn's hand and allowing herself to enjoy it.
Quinn settles beside her, and they fall into comfortable silence as they continue their ascent. Rachel doesn't feel the need to speak or do anything, and she's thankful she doesn't move when she feels Quinn's head drop onto her shoulder.
She holds her breath, tempted to ask if Quinn knows what she's doing, but she realises a beat later that Quinn's breathing is too even for her to be awake. Oh. Okay. That's -
That's probably the cutest thing ever, and Rachel feels her insides warm at the mere thought of Quinn's being comfortable enough to fall asleep - on her, no less. Artie gives them a look, but Rachel ignores him in favour of reaching for her novel to keep herself occupied, lest she freak herself out about what this could all mean.
For her, for Quinn, and for them.
If Quinn is adorable while she's awake, she's simply delightful asleep. And, when she's slowly waking up, Rachel's pretty sure she dies of some kind of cuteness overload.
Quinn resembles a sleepy kitten, yawning and rubbing at her eyes as the plane taxis and they begin to disembark. Rachel keeps hold of Quinn's arm sleeve to keep her walking straight, guiding her with an amused smile on her face.
Quinn eventually gets it together once they're at baggage claim, and she slips into the pseudo-role of co-captain with ease, carefully directing the Club through gathering their bags and congregating in an empty corner. She does a much better job than Mr Schuester, but Rachel won't say that out loud.
Rachel stays near her, even when her suitcase appears on the carousel before Quinn's. This entire situation is such a surprising one, and Rachel can't help thinking what she would be doing if she and Quinn weren't trying this whole friendship thing. Who would she be standing with? Who would Quinn be standing with?
They just seem to have found each other, and Rachel is trying really hard not to think she doesn't want them to be apart again. Because, wow, isn't that creepy?
Control yourself, Berry.
Mr Schuester, thankfully, has booked a shuttle to take them to the hotel, and Rachel allows her excitement to get the better of her. It's not the first time she's been in New York, not by a long shot, but this trip feels special, for some reason. It's probably something to do with Quinn, who is squished in beside her, eyes crinkling with laughter as Rachel points to everything they drive past, face practically pressed to the window.
"Oh my," Rachel suddenly says, and Quinn leans over her to see for herself. Her face is so close to Rachel's, and her heart thunders in her chest at the proximity.
"What are we looking at?" Quinn asks, and her sweet breath tickles Rachel's skin.
"Oh, uh, I'm pretty sure that man is, um, using the toilet in the bushes," she says, trying to get her brain to focus on anything other than the warmth of Quinn.
"I think that's pretty normal, Rach," Quinn quips, a hand resting on Rachel's leg as she leans further forward.
Rachel's brain short-circuits. "Uh, but, I mean, he's doing, you know, the second one."
Quinn looks at her. "Are you trying to say he's taking shit in the bushes?" she asks, an amused smile on her face.
Quinn laughs softly, and there isn't an inch of mocking in the sound. "Never change, Rachel Berry," she murmurs, and maybe Rachel isn't the only one charmed.
Quinn doesn't really mean to, but she falls asleep as soon as they get to the hotel. It's late when they finally get checked in, and she's already exhausted from the emotional week in general. Add on trying to keep a rowdy Glee Club in check, she doesn't know how Rachel even functions on a daily basis.
She's learning, though.
All sorts of things.
Quinn is trying not to overthink things, because the last thing she needs is to get too attached to someone whom she knows is going to end up leaving her. They can enjoy this closeness now, but Quinn isn't naive enough to expect Rachel not to go back to Finn eventually, and then what's supposed to happen to her?
Then she'll really have nobody, because it's only a matter of time before Finn can poison Rachel against her. Which maybe wouldn't even be poison, at all. He would just be telling her the truth, and Rachel would accept it as it is.
Quinn will deal with it when she has to.
Right now, she's going to enjoy this moment while she settles into this person she's finally allowing herself to be. Which is exhausting enough that she has just enough energy to text her mother that they've arrived safely, crawl into a bed she's sharing with goodness knows who, and then promptly fall asleep.
The last thing she remembers is the brush of fingers against her forehead and the smell of vanilla, and she drifts into a dream so sweet; her teeth ache.
Rachel is one of the first to wake in the morning, which is normal, and she rolls onto her back to stretch from her position on the floor. She and Tina were relegated to the armchair and carpet respectively, and Rachel wasn't going to try to fight it. Quinn, Brittany and Santana in one bed, and then Mercedes and Lauren in the other.
Maybe they'll consider switching it up tonight, but she's not going to hold her breath.
With a yawn, a sigh and another stretch, she gets to her feet and works through her routine of getting ready for the day. First, she does a few stretches to wake her body fully, and then she rummages through her bag for some clothes and her toiletries. They still have today and tomorrow to come up with the original songs Mr Schuester expects from them, and she's determined to get started as soon as possible.
As quietly as she can, she slips into the bathroom. She hurries her shower as much as she can, brushes her teeth, combs her hair, and then applies a tiny bit of makeup. She tells herself it's not for anyone other than herself, but she knows better.
It's when she's leaving the bathroom that she's bombarded with a half-asleep Quinn Fabray, who literally squeezes past her and squeaks, "Finally."
Rachel chuckles to herself as the door closes behind her, and she's still smiling when Quinn emerges a few minutes later, rubbing at her eyes and looking far too cute to be legal.
"You're already ready," Quinn says, yawning.
"We have a lot to do today," Rachel says, reaching for her notebook. "I'm thinking of going down to the lobby to write, maybe wait there until we're supposed to meet for breakfast."
Quinn nods, as if she's listening, and then seems to startle, the words suddenly registering. "Okay," she says, jumping a little. "Wait for me."
So, Rachel waits, watching from beneath her lashes as Quinn rushes through getting ready. It's not even fair, you know, just how effortless she makes it look. The girl disappears into the bathroom and emerges looking like some kind of superstar, and it's just not fair.
Quinn grins at her, now fully awake. "I'm ready," she declares after retrieving her own notebook, pen and phone.
Rachel spends another moment just watching her, taking it all in, and then she leads the way out of the room, making sure to grab one of the key cards on their way. They didn't really have much time to explore the hotel the night before, so she and Quinn spend a few minutes riding the elevator and checking out the pool, spa gym and Japanese restaurant on the fourteenth floor.
"'Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore,'" Quinn murmurs under her breath, and Rachel turns her head to look at her, eyes a little wide as they descend the floors to the lobby.
Is this the moment?
God, is this the moment?
Quinn glances at her when she's been staring for far too long. "Is something wrong?" she asks, nose wrinkled adorably.
This is the moment.
"No," Rachel says, breathing out. "Nothing is wrong."
Quinn smiles. "For a second there, I thought you struck gold on some song idea," she says. "Getting me all excited over nothing."
Rachel bumps her shoulder with her own. "I thought you were the one going to write our big hit," she teases.
Quinn bumps her back. "We can write it together," she finally says, and this could have been another moment, but Rachel has already had it.
One thing that truly strikes Rachel about this new Quinn is the fact that she is open. Before, there was always something guarded about any interactions she had with anyone, and, while that still remains with other people, it seems to have faded when it's just the two of them.
"Any luck on that nugget of an idea you had yesterday?" Rachel asks, eyes on Quinn, whose face is pinched in concentration as she scribbles something in her own notebook.
It's early enough that the lobby is actually rather empty. Save for an elderly couple sitting on a couch together a few metres away, she and Quinn are the only two occupying the various seats on offer. Quinn has her feet tucked under her, leaning against the side of a couch, and Rachel is sitting on the couch perpendicular to hers, matching her position.
"Sort of," Quinn says, face twisting into something pleased. "I mean, it's basically a sentence, so I wouldn't get too excited, but I swear I can hear a melody in my head."
Rachel's face splits into a smile. "Care to share?"
"Not yet," Quinn says, eyes back on her notebook; "but you'll be the first."
Rachel uses the opportunity to study her as closely as she dares. This Quinn fascinates her beyond the fact Rachel is certain her crush has turned into something more. It's just alarming how quickly it's become apparent to her… given that she's certain it's not actually anything new.
She's admired Quinn for longer than she's acknowledged what that admiration even means. Before, it was just something on the surface, because Quinn truly is something beautiful, but getting to know her - and actually know her - is making it truly apparent to Rachel that the admiration she's always felt has been tinged with something very real.
"Rach?" Quinn suddenly says, dragging her out of her thoughts. "Come here a second."
"Come sit next to me," Quinn says. "My mom wants a selfie, and I'm not being in one by myself."
Rachel hesitates for a beat, before she gets to her feet and moves to sit beside Quinn, leaving a respectable amount of space between them. Quinn rolls her eyes at her, and drapes an arm around her shoulders, drawing her into her space. Rachel ends up tucked into her side, and she has to stop breathing before she passes out from the proximity.
"Say cheese," Quinn says, positioning her phone with her free hand. "Or, uh, I guess I should be saying, um, say nutritional yeast."
Rachel bursts out laughing, because this girl is ridiculous, and that's the moment Quinn takes the picture. It ends up a Burst, so there are a few of them, and Rachel has to admit that the pictures come out rather wonderfully.
One in particular, the last one in the bunch, where Rachel is almost hiding her face in Quinn's shoulder and Quinn's head is turned to face her, a look of surprised content on her face, cheek pressed to her head, lips at her ear. It's really the first time she considers, truly, that she's not the only one who's had a moment.
Quinn stares down at the picture for the longest time, arm still wrapped around Rachel's shoulders, and her mouth says, "It almost looks as if we're…" and then trails off.
"It does," Rachel says anyway, because she knows exactly what Quinn is saying.
Quinn stares at the picture for a long, long time, remaining unmoving, and Rachel is content to stay exactly where she is. She's forced to breathe, obviously, and the scent that fills her nostrils is overwhelming.
Quinn smells like apples, and it's as if she has cinnamon in her hair.
"Do you want me to send them to you?" Quinn asks, still holding her close.
"Please," she murmurs, and she already knows she's going to save her favourite as her Home Screen. It sounds ridiculous, she knows, but this is Quinn Fabray, and even her side profile is stunning.
Quinn fiddles with her phone with her one hand, and then says, "Done."
Rachel feels her phone vibrate in her pocket, and she wonders if this is the moment it turns awkward. She's just waiting for Quinn to notice they're still in some kind of embrace and then snatch her arm away. She's prepared for it, truly, so it's a surprise to her when Quinn rather leans back against the couch and pulls Rachel with her.
Rachel lets out a soft squeak as she's forced to lean against Quinn properly, and she doesn't know what to do with her hands for the longest time. Eventually, she leaves her left arm squished between their bodies, and allows her right hand to rest against Quinn's abdomen.
Quinn's breath catches, and, yip, this is definitely not all one-sided.
Rachel knows she shouldn't, but she can't resist saying, "Quinn, can I ask you a question?"
"What colour do red and blue make?"
Quinn waits a beat, and then laughs, her arm tightening around Rachel's shoulders. "You're very special, did you know that?"
"I did know that," Rachel tells her, turning her head so she can look at Quinn. "I'm glad you've just now figured it out."
Quinn's smile slips a little, and her eyes look between both of Rachel's. "I think I've always known," she says, her voice little more than a whisper.
Rachel blinks. "Oh."
Quinn opens her mouth to say something else, but the shout of Yo startles them right out of their little bubble, and Rachel is quick to separate before Santana and a few other Glee members approach them. She shifts right away, her heart thundering in her chest, and Quinn shoots her a look she doesn't understand.
What little she does understand, though, is that Quinn's guard has lifted way up, and Rachel knows she's somehow going to have to start all over again.
To be fair, it's not Rachel's fault she panicked.
She knows she wasn't ready for any of their teammates to ask questions of their proximity, and Quinn can't blame her for wanting to preserve what little they're still trying to figure out about each other.
The problem is that Quinn must not see it that way, because she seems to withdraw from Rachel, and it confuses and hurts her. They're supposed to be getting better at the whole friendship/talking thing, and now Quinn is sitting with Brittany by the pond, leaving Rachel to try to fend off Finn's advances while wishing Quinn would just look at her.
"Finn," Rachel suddenly says, cutting off whatever he's trying to say about… dinner. Is he talking about dinner? They've just had lunch. He can't be hungry already.
She's stressed enough about their lack of original songs, and, while she acknowledges they weren't going to get any inspiration from sitting in a hotel room, the fact they're out here, effectively wasting time, is making her even more anxious.
And, God, why isn't Quinn looking at her?
She glances at the blonde, silently willing Quinn to look at her, and then startling when the girl actually does, and her own eyes widen. Quinn's gaze is steady in meeting hers, but then it flicks to where Finn is now touching her shoulder, and then she frowns and looks away.
Rachel looks at Finn, her eyes narrowing. "I don't know what about the fact that I'm telling you 'I don't have time for this' you don't understand," she says, and her voice sounds crisp to her own ears.
Finn wears that patented wounded look again, and Rachel lets out a huff before she turns on her heel and walks away, muttering under her breath and not realising she's finally got Quinn to look at her.
It's amazing how quickly the day has managed to go downhill.
Just hours ago, she was pressed against Quinn, breathing her in and relishing in her warmth. Breakfast was a disaster, where all she could eat was really fruit. Then their sit-down to write their original songs reached disaster levels when Mr Schuester essentially abandoned them and left them to their own devices.
Without Quinn backing her up - and Finn, who would have been useless anyway - Rachel had no control over the group, which is why they're now here, in Central Park, trying to find inspiration from somewhere or the other. And, you know, Rachel can appreciate that a change of scenery would allow for some creative juices to flow, but all she's feeling is tense and strange and dejected and out of control and -
A hand on her shoulder stops her fuming, and she spins around to lay into Finn, only to freeze at the sight of Quinn Fabray, eyes wide with concern and lips pressed thinly together.
They kind of stare at each other for a long moment, and then Quinn says, "Purple."
Rachel stares at her as if she's lost her mind. "Excuse me?"
"Purple," Quinn says again. "It's what red and blue make. Purple."
Rachel blinks. "Oh."
Quinn drops her hand. "Where are you storming off to?"
And, Rachel knows she shouldn't, but she can't resist asking, "What do you even care?" with all the confusion and irritation that's managed to stew within her at the failure of a morning. Her voice sounds harsh even to her own ears, and she feels just a flash of guilt.
Quinn steps back, face pinching with something she tries to hide. She opens her mouth to speak, and then closes it again. After a long, searching look, she just shakes her head and says, "You're something else," in a way that's very different to the other ways she's said it.
Rachel can just watch her turn and go.
"Trouble in paradise?"
Quinn looks up from where she working on some ridiculous song she knows won't see the light of day to see Santana leaning over her. She sighs. "I could ask you the same thing."
Santana rolls her eyes as she moves to squeeze in beside Quinn on the single armchair in the girls' shared hotel room. It's a tight fit, but Quinn actually doesn't mind. "What's up with the Midget, anyway?" Santana asks once she's settled.
Quinn looks through her eyelashes at Rachel, who is sitting at the desk and jotting something down in her own notebook. As yet, nobody has been able to come up with a decent song, and, while Quinn was aware she might have been onto something earlier, it's completely gone by now.
It seems a lot of things are evading her.
"I don't know," Quinn says, and it's both the truth and a lie.
"Reckon it's the Jolly Green Giant getting to her?" Santana asks, and Quinn sours at the mention of Finn. She knows she's given Rachel all the blessings she needs to pursue whatever that is, but she can't help but feel as if Rachel would be choosing Finn over her… in some weird way she's not ready to unpack.
Or, maybe she is.
It's almost as Rachel is the one who's not ready.
"Maybe," Quinn allows, because she did see Finn bugging Rachel earlier. Even so, Quinn is aware enough to realise she's probably to do with the bulk of Rachel's prickly mood. It's just that this morning she thought -
Well, does it even matter what she thinks? Thought.
"What about you?" Quinn asks, turning to look at Santana. "I'm guessing it hasn't been paradise in a while."
"It's shit, is what it is," Santana grumbles, looking over at Brittany, who is talking excitedly to Mercedes and Tina. Lauren is propped up on one of the beds, fiddling with her phone. 'Sexting' Puck, she said, and Quinn believes her.
Santana pinches Quinn's leg. "I don't know what's going on with Broadway over there, but, if I've learned anything, it's that shit ain't going to happen unless you make it happen. Before it's too late."
Quinn stiffens. "What are you talking about?"
Santana doesn't say anything. Instead, she practically shoves Quinn out of their shared seat, and Quinn has no choice but to get to her feet, lest she ends up sprawled on the floor.
"Santana, what the hell?" she squeaks, indignant.
Santana just uses her socked foot to kick lightly at the back of Quinn's knees. "Go," she says.
Quinn goes, her notebook hanging limply at her side as some kind of excuse to start a conversation with Rachel. The last time they spoke replays in her mind, but she forces her feet to keep moving. Even if they don't discuss songs, maybe they can talk about this morning. About how comfortable it'd been; about how perfectly Rachel fits against her; about how not panicked Quinn felt at what that one picture looked like.
She just wants to talk to Rachel.
Quinn is just about to open her mouth, when Rachel suddenly starts, and Quinn freezes, watching as Rachel reaches for her phone that's just vibrated on the desk. Quinn suddenly wishes she weren't wearing her contacts, because then she wouldn't be able to see Finn's name on the screen. Or the pleased smile that spreads across Rachel's face.
Quinn breathes out slowly, and then silently retreats.
Santana is giving her a curious look when she turns back around, and the feeling in her chest is something foreign.
"Too late," she murmurs, and then ducks into the bathroom before Santana can say another word.
When Quinn emerges twenty minutes later, Rachel is gone, and Quinn doesn't need Tina and Mercedes gushing over Finn's spontaneity to realise where she's gone.
She's okay, for the most part.
She believed it to be an inevitability, so she's fine.
Still, Santana sits close to her and doesn't say anything. "We have a song to write," Quinn says, frowning at the sound of her own voice.
It's her own fault, probably.
"Got any ideas?" Santana asks, and Quinn barks out a sudden, harsh laugh.
"I think I could come up with something."
The song is heavier than anything Quinn's ever written before, but it's a song that holds the kind of meaning that she needs to pass off as someone else's. Santana reads it over just once, and then raises her eyebrows in question.
"Can you say you wrote it?" Quinn asks her quietly.
Santana shakes her head. "Nobody would believe that. Least of all the Hobbit." She pauses deliberately. "We both know I'm not as deep as this shit."
Quinn breathes in and out, because Santana's not wrong. It wouldn't feel right coming from Santana. It wouldn't fit, coming from other than her. "We wrote it together?" she offers instead.
"It's your song, Q," Santana counters. "Isn't this what you deserve?"
"If life were about what we deserve - "
"Please don't get existential on me."
Quinn grins. "Fine," she says. "It's my song, but there's no way in hell I'm actually singing it."
All the girls are already asleep when Rachel gets back to the room, feeling even more conflicted than she did when she left. She thought, stupidly, that a night out with Finn would help clear things up for her, but she feels even more confused now that she's returned.
And it definitely doesn't help that Quinn looks so stupidly adorable as she sleeps curled up in the armchair, Tina having taken the blonde's place in the bed beside Santana and Brittany.
Rachel sighs to herself as she moves through the motions of getting ready for bed, wondering how this day got so entirely out of hand. She also doesn't yet have any idea for an original song, but she's at least comforted by the fact that have Lady Gaga ready and waiting in their back pocket.
She's just settling into her makeshift bed on the floor when she hears a faint, "Hey," and she looks up to see Quinn's hazel eyes focused on her. The lighting is dim enough that she can't see the blonde's facial expression properly, but those eyes are something like shining beacons. "You're back," Quinn murmurs.
"I'm back," Rachel echoes, just as quiet.
Quinn's smile is sleepy as she shifts in her chair. "And?" she asks. "Did you come up with anything?"
Rachel shakes her head no. "Though, I've been wondering what do blue and yellow make?"
Quinn lets out an amused breath as her eyes close once more.
Rachel waits for an answer, but they're both asleep before Quinn can give it.
In the morning, Quinn is convinced she dreamt it all.
Rachel is gone again - somewhere with Kurt this time - and there's a truth in that which hits her harder than if she were out with Finn. It doesn't help that Santana gives her a very particular look that sees her want to do something crazy.
Mentioning the idea of needing to get out and do something brings a very worrying smile to Santana's face, and Quinn makes sure to bring Brittany along, just in case Santana suggests something like getting matching tattoos.
Quinn gets a haircut instead, and she feels really, really good about it, right until the moment they get back to the hotel to learn that Mr Schuester is planning on leaving them - Glee, the school, Lima, to pursue Broadway.
And, you know, that would already be a bitter pill to swallow, if one didn't add on the fact there is already a song being rehearsed.
Written by Finn.
To be sung by Rachel and Finn, of course.
It takes Quinn an embarrassedly long time to figure out just what is happening, because Mr Schuester is now saying he's not leaving them, but they still have songs to learn, and he's immensely impressed with the song Finn has produced.
Santana says, "Finnept wrote a song? No way. I can't wait to hear this."
Then Rachel says, "It's actually really good," with a slight frown, as if she can't really explain what has those words sounding so foreign to her own ears when it comes to Finn. "Heartbreaking, really."
Finn gives her a pointed look, as if it explains everything, but Rachel doesn't look in his direction. "Well," he says, somewhat sheepishly. "I was inspired."
Rachel looks at him then, and Quinn suddenly feels as if she's going to throw up, so she has to step out of the room before she can do just that. She just needs to breathe for a moment, because this is going to be her life now.
She's going to have to get used to it.
She gave Rachel her blessing.
It's a relief that nobody's followed her out, but it still disappoints her. Either way, she's used to being on her own, and she just about manages to get a hold of herself before she goes back into the room to find the room on the verge of an actual brawl.
"You're a liar!" Santana is screaming across the room, Mike and Sam holding her back from charging at… Finn. "You're a fucking cheat!"
"Santana!" Rachel gasps.
"Santana, that's enough," Mr Schuester says.
"No ways!" Santana yells. "That shit is not his! No way!"
"Santana, please," Rachel says.
Santana just manages to break out of Sam's hold, and she grabs the piece of paper in Rachel's hand, her eyes scanning it. "Oh, hell no!" she shouts, and then charges at Finn again, only for Sam to catch her around the waist, almost sending them both toppling over. She fights against him, looking rabid, and then seems to catch sight of Quinn at the door and lets out an actual howl.
"Q!" she shouts, waving the piece of paper at her. "Q, look at this," she says. "Look at what this asshole is trying to do. I'm going to break his face! I'm going to end him."
Quinn stands frozen.
"Quinn!" Santana yells. "Take the damn paper!"
Quinn ducks under Noah's flailing arm to do just that, confused beyond belief when Finn says, "No!" and Santana says, "Just you wait!"
Quinn grabs the piece of paper from Santana's outstretched hand, and she really has to read only the first few bars to know the truth of what Santana is trying to tell her.
Still, she reads further, just to make sure, and she feels her own rage tick over, because those are her words, only in Finn's handwriting.
Thick skin, soft touch
Heart of gold but it's na-na-na-not enough
Forgiving arms, the higher road
Working hard but it's na-na-na-not enough
You say, I'm not good enough, I'm not good enough
But what you really mean is, you're not good enough, you're not good enough
You can't deliver so you turn it around
You didn't let me down, you didn't tear me apart
You just opened my eyes, while breaking my heart
You didn't do it for me
I'm not as dumb as you think
You just made me cry
While claiming that you love me
You love me, you love me
You said you loved me but that I
I'm not good enough, i'm not good enough
Stronghold, but fun ride
But rollercoasters aren't just na-na-na-not enough
She scrunches the sheet in a ball and throws it on the floor, before looking at Finn as if she's never seen him in her life. "What the hell is that?" she hisses. "Where did you even find it?"
Finn's own eyes narrow, and it looks as if this is what he's been waiting for. "It's my song," he says, and there is something very particular in his voice.
"No, it's not," Quinn says, because she knows she's the one who wrote it, and he knows it too, so why is he even trying this?
"It is," he insists. "I wrote it."
"No, you didn't."
"How can you even say that?" he asks. "How could you even know that?"
Quinn's jaw clenches. Is that what he wants? For her not to be able to own up to it, because she will. She was already going to.
"I wrote it about Rachel," he suddenly says, and Quinn's words die in her throat. "It's right there, in the words. It all makes sense."
He doesn't expect her to reveal she wrote it, given it sounds like a song one writes to someone they love.
This is a new Quinn Fabray, and he has no idea what she's capable of revealing about herself.
"I see," Quinn says. "And you're sure you wrote it?"
Finn blinks, and then nods.
"About Rachel," she says. "When was this?"
"Last night," he says; "after our date."
Quinn nods to hide her flinch at the mention of what they were up to the night before. "Okay, okay," she says.
Finn seems to sigh in relief, but Quinn pauses and very carefully asks, "I did have a question about the second verse, though?"
Quinn doesn't look to the floor where the sheet of paper remains, switched to his messy scrawl. She makes a mental note to locate her own notebook and then possibly throw it in his face. "When you say Said I'm just a sinking ship, I'm just a sinking ship/But what that really means/Is you can't handle this, you can't handle this/You couldn't win so you turn it around... What were you referring to?"
"Because, you know, when I wrote it, also last night, incidentally, I know exactly what I was talking about, and I am so curious to know if we're referring to the same thing."
There is a beat of silence, before everyone is speaking at once, voices talking over one another, and Santana again tries to break free of Mike and Sam's hold on her.
One thing, though, that filters through is Finn's very pointed question about who she could have possibly written the song about. It's either he thinks Quinn won't admit to it being about someone she's come to love, or she would be too embarrassed to confess to it being him.
Like she ever would. God.
It gets out of hand, though, because he's still under the impression she couldn't feel enough to write such lyrics, anyway, and the idea that do you even feel anything anymore? still exists in the Universe sends her right over the edge.
"It's about my father!" Quinn suddenly snaps, cutting enough that the room falls deathly silent. She levels her gaze on Finn, her eyes blazing. "It's about my damn father, you degenerate asshole," she seethes. "It's not a stupid love song. It isn't about pining over someone who doesn't want you and you would know that if you actually wrote the damn thing. It's about a man who looked me in the eye and told me I wasn't enough; that I was nothing, or have you conveniently forgotten that night? Because I can assure you that I have not, and I probably never will.
"Not everything is about you, you know? Like, what the hell is your problem?" She shakes her head in disgust. "Use the song, or don't, claim it or don't, I don't even fucking care, but don't you dare stand there and accuse me of not having any damn feelings when you're so damn ready to use them against me, anyway."
She leans back, fists clenched as she wills her heart rate to slow and her thoughts to calm.
Then she turns to Rachel, who looks concerned and confused and all those things that make her so, so beautiful.
"Green," Quinn says. "They make green."
It is deathly quiet for long, long seconds after Quinn has walked out of the room. Mike and Sam eventually release Santana, who immediately starts for the door, but Rachel reaches out to stop her.
"No," she says, "I'll go."
Santana looks like she wants to argue, but she eventually turns towards Brittany instead. The room breathes a sigh of relief, because she could still go for Finn, if he's not careful.
Rachel picks up her coat, the discarded piece of crumpled paper, and then heads for the door. Before she leaves, though, she turns back and says, "Work on Gaga while we're gone. We'll pick another group number when we get back, and we're doing this song - Quinn's song - as a solo."
Then she's gone, leaving them to their own devices and suddenly not caring if they end up killing one another in her absence. She feels ill, sick to her stomach in a way that forces her to stop walking and spend a few minutes just breathing.
What a mess.
She finds Quinn in the lobby, sitting on the couch they occupied just the day before. Quinn is on the phone when Rachel approaches, and she slows her own footsteps when she hears, "No, I'm fine, Mom, I promise. I just - I guess I just wanted to hear your voice."
Rachel's heart aches in her chest, and she moves around the couch and drops onto the seat right beside Quinn before she can even register her arrival.
Quinn lets out the most adorable little squeak, and then she laughs at herself. "Oh, no, it's just Rachel," Quinn says into the phone. "She scared me."
Judy says something on the line, which brings the most delightful blush to Quinn's cheeks, and she is very quick to end the call and then fiddle with her phone in her hand, even if she's not actually doing anything.
Rachel watches her closely, quietly marvelling at the beauty of her. She allows them to sit in silence for a full minute before her hand reaches to cover both of Quinn's and stills her fidgeting. "Can I sing your song?" she asks, voice low and careful.
Quinn doesn't look at her when she says, "I think I wrote it with your voice in mind."
"Will you help me make it perfect?"
Quinn breathes out. "I don't think you need my help for that."
Rachel slides her fingers along the back of Quinn's right hand until her index and middle fingers are pressed against the inside of her wrist. "Your heart is beating really fast."
Rachel shifts closer. "Quinn?"
"Will you please look at me?"
Quinn clenches her teeth for a moment, and then turns her head, just to find Rachel right there. "What?"
Rachel's mouth spreads into a small smile, and she quietly asks, "What about red and green?"
Quinn blinks once, twice, and then laughs softly, her head shaking in amusement. "You're something else," she says, and her tone is soft, affectionate in that way that now exists between them.
"I'm serious," Rachel says. "I have no idea. You have to educate me."
Quinn looks at her then. Really really looks at her. "Your eyes," she finally says.
"Red and green," Quinn murmurs. "They make the colour of your eyes."
Surprisingly, it isn't chaos to which Rachel and Quinn return. The group is actually rehearsing Born This Way, with Mr Schuester sitting in the corner, watching them intently.
The atmosphere shifts when Rachel and Quinn enter, but Kurt quickly crosses to the door and says, "So, we thought the best thing we could do right now is have you and I sing For Good," to Rachel.
Kurt rolls his eyes. "Don't do that," he says. "That song could win us the entire thing, and it has to be fresh in your mind."
"It's not that," Rachel says, stepping a little closer to Quinn as if she can garner some kind of strength from her, or something equally ridiculous. "It's just that I'm already singing the solo, and you guys usually put up a fuss about - "
"Rachel," Kurt says, gently interrupting. "I want to win. We all do. Can we just do that, and then we can figure out all the rest of our complicated politics?"
Rachel glances at Quinn, who is smiling softly at her, eyes glinting in that way that makes Rachel's heart stop and start. "Uh, yeah, okay, let's do that."
Quinn does not speak to anyone other than Rachel, Santana or Brittany. She's not doing it to be rude or unfriendly, but she knows herself enough that, if anyone so much as brings up the content of her song, she's going to say something cutting, and she's trying not to be that person.
And, it seems Rachel recognises that, keeping Quinn close to her side at all times. Well, at least until she has to go over her duet with Kurt, and Quinn settles into the space between Brittany and Santana to watch, humming softly when Brittany runs her fingers through her shortened hair.
Quinn catches Rachel looking at them from time to time, and she can't help her grin whenever a flash of a certain emotion shows up on her face. It all makes Quinn feel something, but she gets the impression she and Rachel are finally on the same page about what may or may not be happening between them.
All she really knows is that it's colourful.
That brings a certain smile to her face, and Brittany softly tugs on her hair. "I knew you'd figure it out," she murmurs.
Quinn leans against her. "I don't know what you're talking about," she says, voice barely a whisper.
Brittany gently tugs on her hair again, but says nothing.
She doesn't need to.
Later, when their songs have been finalised and they're supposed to be settling in for bed, Rachel slips her hand into Quinn's and leads her out of the room, both of them clad in their pyjamas and socks.
Quinn looks bemused but follows obediently, her fingers carefully sliding into the spaces between Rachel's. She has no idea where Rachel is taking them, but she doesn't even care at this point. Rachel's hand is warm in hers, and Quinn feels warm from it.
Rachel pulls her around the corner, away from anyone in their Club seeing if they possibly opened one of the doors and peeked into the corridor. Quinn realises it's by design when Rachel presses a hand to her chest and her back hits the wall.
Quinn blinks at her, feeling that warmth spread through her body. "What is happening right now?" she asks, though she's certain she already knows.
Rachel meets her gaze and gets really, really close to her, practically pressing the lengths of their bodies together. "I want to ask you something," she says, careful and purposeful.
"If it's another colour mix, you should know that my brain switched off at least nineteen minutes ago," Quinn tells her, forcing her gaze to stay on Rachel's eyes. It's just that she's invaded Quinn's space, and her own heart is beating a mile a minute.
"Quinn," Rachel says. "I'm going to ask you a very, very important question now."
Rachel's mouth spreads into a smile, and she very deliberately asks, "What am I?"
Well… that was unexpected. "Uh."
Then, without missing a beat, Rachel kisses her, and every coherent thought rightfully evades her. Her heart leaps into her throat at the first contact, but she's the one chasing Rachel's lips when she pulls away.
"What am I?" Rachel asks, looking amused at the slightly dazed look on Quinn's face.
Quinn wracks her brain for what could possibly be the answer to this question, and, when it hits her, she's the one to kiss Rachel, hands on her cheeks, fingers tickling her neck.
They're both already winning, and they haven't even stepped on stage.
When they break apart, Quinn focuses on her breathing as she rests her forehead against Rachel's.
Because, this is happening.
Whatever it is.
Rachel's own fingers play in Quinn's hair, a gentle smile on her face.
"Keep that up and I'm going to fall asleep right here," Quinn murmurs, her eyes growing heavy.
"In my arms?"
"Nowhere else I would rather be," Quinn confesses, and she means it.
Rachel kisses her again, just once, and then takes hold of her hand again to lead them back to the room to get some much needed sleep. They have a big day ahead of them, but even she knows they have big weeks and years to come.
Because Quinn has big plans, apparently.
Quinn follows dutifully, halfway convinced she's dreaming, save for the lingering taste of Rachel on her tongue and the tingling on her lips.
When they get to the room, Rachel brings them to a stop, and then frowns. She closes her eyes for a moment, and then looks at Quinn, smiling a little sheepishly. "I don't suppose you have a key card, do you?"
And, Quinn can do nothing more than laugh. She tugs Rachel closer, pulling her into a warm hug and pressing her mouth to the shell of her ear, nuzzling her loose hair.
They both shiver at the contact, but Quinn can finally answer her repeated question, deep affection in her tone of voice. "Rachel Berry, you are most definitely something else."