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Neverland

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CHAPTER ONE

Never say Neverland:

 

When the sun is out in the city you can see everything. The homeless men and women scavenging on the sidewalk, the children running in and out of side shops and boutiques with their parents not exceptionally far behind. The millions and millions of people going about their everyday lives unaware of the bustling new world around them; but most of all, what Quinn loves about this city, is that everyday she feels as if anything is possible. Because, New York City, more than any other place in the world, is the city of dreams.

She wears her leather bound oxford boots with waist high black jeans. Her shirt is an old seersucker blue, and comfortable. The sleeves rolled up around her forearms with the collar tucked down underneath her black leather jacket. A quick tuck of blonde hear behind her ear before she re-positions her knit cap over her side bangs carefully while she makes her way quickly down 64th and Broadway. The satchel at her side knocks loosely against her thigh as it swings with her forward motions. She can't help but smile as the sun peeks out over the city lights, while the morning ebbs.

There is a small bookstore on 66th, its small front filled to the brim with old classics and new treasures. There are old piano sheet notes, and violin maintenance guides. Quinn stops here whenever her time affords it, and like today – she most likely finds her way here at the break of morning, mid-stride on a weekend. The door jingles when she opens it, and she breathes in the deep smell of dust and rustic paper with an old nostalgia.

"Quinn, long time no see."

Andie is tall and thin; her glasses hang loosely across her freckled face. She's unmistakable with wild shoulder length curly brown hair, and penetrating light brown eyes. She has to be pushing forty, and while this bookstore isn't hers in name, it might as well be. Quinn catches her on a ladder, putting away old editions, and smiles slowly as she passes down the aisle – she leaves Andie with a soft reassuring pat of the leg as she nods in acquiescence.

"I know, too long I think…got any new books for me?"

Quinn trails her fingers lightly over spines of varying widths and age, brushing over embossed lettering as she scans the rows of literature, waiting patiently for Andie to give her a new lead.

"You know I always have something for you Quinn. You've been coming here religiously for the past five years…of course I could never let you go without."

Andie descends her ladder quickly, and Quinn smiles while she follows the taller woman down a smaller aisle toward the back of the store. The lighting is fairly dim, and the walking space has dwindled as the books have literally taken over residence here. She feels as though she's in a restricted section and raises an eyebrow – her love for Harry Potter obviously never lost. She follows quietly, trailing her fingers again against the novels and graphic books as they pass in silence.

"I've got the perfect little treasure for you Quinn. It just came in on a whim a few weeks ago, and I've been holding onto it for somebody special."

"And…how am I special Andie?"

Quinn laughs – and she watches as Andie finally stops her walking and reaches forward toward the aisle to their right. There are stacks and stacks of books surrounding them, and the brunette reaches for a pile, picking up a small journal in an enclosed leather case. The binding is dusty, and the book looks completely unremarkable as Andie blows air on it to clear the embossed lettering off of the cover. She raises an eyebrow in true fashion, and hands the book over quickly – her stance patient and waiting as Quinn simply calculates.

"Read that…and then tell me I haven't just handed over the best damn thing you'll ever find. You'll thank me later - for now, no questions. Take it home. Read it. Cherish it. It breaks my heart to give it away, but…when fate lays a hand it's better to shake it then to just stand there waiting for him to shake it first."

Quinn is even more confused as she turns over the leather bound black book in her pale fingers. It's small, no more than five inches or so in length, and she has the sudden temptation to open it; one small leather bound string at a time. That is until Andie snaps at her, and grabs the book out of her hands quickly, tucking it into the back pocket of her satchel before Quinn can take it back.

"Tsk, tsk…my only request? Wait until you get home, you'll savor it more. I promise. Now get out of my shop blondie. And no sneaking peaks until you're back in your ridiculously overpriced and unnaturally small and under furnished apartment, okay?"

"As you wish…god, you're weird sometimes."

Andie laughs – and Quinn can't help but smile as the older woman takes her by the shoulders and leads her out of the back towards the front exit of the bookstore. Quinn grabs for her wallet out of her satchel, and Andie shakes her head playfully as she pushes Quinn out of the front door and back onto the bustling street with an eyebrow raise to rival the blonde's very own.

"I said no questions…no wallets, no money. Just read the book. Now get out of here before I change my mind."

And Quinn has never had a hard time following directions. And with a well-refined obedience, she simply shakes her head and smiles thankfully with a small wave before she gets swallowed up into the early afternoon crowd.

It takes Quinn half an hour to get back to her apartment. She lives close to the Columbia Medical Center at the outskirts of Washington Heights. It's not the nicest area at all, but it's cheap…and Quinn's a student, and it's all she can really afford off campus while she works – and so it was either beg and grovel her estranged parents for the funds, or make due on her own. And she's been able to make ends meet – and she's proud of it.

The 1 drops her off close-by, and when she finally makes it up the five flights of stairs of her building, she drops her jacket on the hardwood floor by the living room and heads for her bedroom. She closes the door to a sliver as she drops onto the comforter. Smiling as T.K. ambles out of his hiding place and lays across her lap, nuzzling his head into her abdomen softly as he mewls for attention.

She lays a hand on his head before grabbing her satchel for exactly what she's returned home for. The small book is still light in her hands, but she can't deny the heaviness that lingers as she turns it over in her fingers. She works quietly at the leather tie, and the straps fall open listlessly as Quinn opens the leather bound –cover. And she can't help but gasp as her fingers follow the ink on the worn page.

Peter and Wendy

By: J.M. Barrie

Copyright 1911, NY

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

Printed in the United States of America

Her finger stops below the publisher's mark, and she traces a faded calligraphic scrawl across the margin. It had obviously been post –scribed by the giver and or receiver of the book, and Quinn steadies her hand as she follows the worn lettering, and rustic ink.

"Let this tale follow you to Neverland my dear, and never, ever look back."

- K.L. Goldberg

Beneath the note, the page is blank save for publisher's marks and a short list of content. Quinn flips the page and gasps as her hands find yet another inscription; this one much fresher on the paper, the ink still bold and indelible against the contrast of the steadily worn parchment.


"Neverland is witH me everywhere I go my sweet, QUIet, savta g'dolah. And Now, let me take WeNdy on a journey of my own making. Follow me to Neverland, Ms. Darling…For I imagine playing your Peter. And, I certainly don't fancy growing up,


- P.S. …take my hand. TRust me."

The ink is bold, and fresh, and Quinn can trace the ballpoint of the modern ink. She knows that this inscription is new in all of the ways that something can be. And she is intrigued no doubt, her eyebrows furrowing even further as she reads the two notes over and over again – finally opting to copy them down into her small notebook. And it is upon transferring the second note into her journal that she notices the underlined words and the capitalized letters.

She stills her hand, ignoring T.K's mewling as she shoos him off of her lap. Perhaps it was way too many late night showings of National Treasure on basic network cable that has her interest piqued. But she can't ignore the obvious traces of identifiable markers. She looks at the notes, re-transcribed in her small journal, and directly below she copies the underlined letters in a row of capitalizations:

H I , Q U I

N N . F O L L O W M

E T O N E V E R L A N D, R

Her fingers pause as she traces the last letter sloppily against the lined paper, and she freezes. Her mind catching up to her heart, as the letters make sense. And this book has been calling to her in more ways than one – her name is permanently inscribed within it.

"Hi, Quinn.

Follow me to Neverland,

R"

And before she can grip her chest and heave and stumble over her now labored breaths, she closes her eyes. Remembering a time not long ago now – but it seems like forever – when life was simple, and easy, and she understood what it meant to have love in her life. And all that comes to fruition across the insides of her stained eyelids is an image of a lovely brunette, laughing up into the Ohio summer air, palm outstretched, and lips puckering to blow out seedlings of a dandelion. Words whisper soft, toppling out of softer lips as endless brown eyes hold her captive.

"I feel like I'm in Neverland. Whenever I'm with you…"

And all at once, Quinn is opening her eyes quickly. The image she doesn't understand how she could have possibly forgotten now emboldened against her eyes.

Rachel Berry.

And suddenly, she faints.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWO

I Found It In a Bookshop:

 

When Quinn resurfaces from the floor where she's fallen, her head and lower back ache dully. Her feet are tangled beneath her, and for the briefest of moments she has no recollection as to why she's suddenly woken up in this strange position against the cold hardwood flooring.
It is when she turns her neck slowly to find T.K.'s solemn face staring back at her expectantly that she remembers the book. The inscriptions. The hidden messages. Her name. And much too suddenly, the impending blackness.

Rachel Berry.

She groans as a hand comes up to grip her forehead, as the images assault her once more. She can remember the mapping of birthmarks on a tan cheek as if cartographed by her own hand. The smells of that summer, five years lost, ring against her nostrils almost as if she's there. And she feels like crying.

She is crying.

Because she remembers.

The lump in her throat rises from her chest and as the grainy pressure behind her eyeballs builds up, she has no power over the tear ducts that begin to work valiantly against her emotions. It's quite wonderful what five years, and a heady talent for stowing away painful emotions can do in the realm of forgetting. But what no one told Quinn Fabray is that the longer that things are hidden away in secret – the worse the memories are when they finally come fighting back.

And things like this, memories like Rachel Berry – they always find a way to break the binds that hold them stowed.

Quinn wipes at her ruined cheeks and reddened eyes and rises slowly from the floor. Shaking away her disorientation with a fierce resoluteness as she grabs for the small book and her even smaller journal. Both still resting precariously on top of the bed, just as she'd left them. She grabs for Peter and Wendy By: J.M. Barrie first, closing the cover, and gripping it tightly between whitened knuckles. She pauses as she stares at the open pages of her notebook and the letters that bleed in blue ink from the lined paper. T.K. jumps up onto the comforter and walks around her hand, dancing and weaving between the sheets. He finally stops, his front paws landing directly on top of her opened notebook, and he stares at her expectantly. Meowing quietly at her as she waits.

"I know T… I've got a Neverland to find…"

She shoos him off, and grabs for her little notebook, tucking it carefully into her satchel along with the old book. She re-settles herself into her leather jacket, and she dons a knit scarf to go with her cap. Her metro card weighs lightly in her pocket as she once again exits her apartment, walking out into a New York City afternoon with very much on her brain.

 

New York City afternoons are in essence, very remarkably different from New York City mornings. Quinn's pace is set as she emerges from the Subway station along Broadway. And what her eyes settle upon is a much different atmosphere than the one she walked into earlier in the day.

The street vendors are aplenty, and their lines are long – the children she saw earlier are no longer running too and fro, but they are younger, sleepier, and carried swiftly between two wheels and a stroller by indifferent nannies. The smog burns deliciously, and the air isn't quite so crisp as she stumbles her way through the bustling mid-afternoon crowds towards 66th and Broadway.

When she arrives at the familiar bookstore, she opens the door quickly, grimacing at the jingling of the bell as she searches for familiar brown curly waves. She can hear shuffling towards the very back by the stacks, and Andie's familiar voice rings out softly from the darkness.

"Hello…be with you in a moment!"

Quinn follows the direction of said voice and finds Andie re-stocking books by the Mystery section. Her glasses have slipped down to the tip of her nose, and Quinn can smell the dust on the brunette's fingers, and before Andie can turn her head to whomever is standing directly in her light, Quinn is thrusting the copy of Peter and Wendy into her working hands.

"I said I'll be with you in a mome – what…is this?"

Those light brown eyes peek up curiously before her free hand pushes the bridge of her lenses back up to rest on her freckled face. Quinn is staring back expectantly, and Andie can see the tearstains that the blonde failed to hide away. She can see the red puffiness under hazel eyes, and she has the sudden urge to pull her into a crushing embrace – even though she is a vendor, and Quinn, although revered, is nothing more than a familiar acquaintance and a client.

"Quinn…? What are you doing back here so soon? You can't have left more than a few hours ago."

Quinn bites her lip and nods quickly, pushing Andie's words to the recesses of her mind as the images of Rachel Berry refuse to surrender. She grips her eyelids painfully and inhales deeply – collecting dust into her nostrils as they flare.

"A-Are you alright…?"

Quinn opens her eyes again, and they're bright and glistening with the light film of tears – the kind that have yet to spill over and cause a scene of sadness – but taunt you all the same.

"Where did you say you received this book?"

"I didn't say."

"Let me rephrase then. Where did this book come from? You said you've only had it for a few weeks, was it donated?"

"I-I… I'm not sure if that information is even particularly necessary."

Quinn sighs lightly and opens the cover from between Andie's outstretched hand. She trails her shaking finger down the cover page to land lightly on the timeworn impression on the page. Her nail skids down the name, K.L. Goldberg, and she raises her eyelashes determinedly to bore them into russet pupils.

"Again. Where did you get this book from? Was it donated by someone? Did someone drop it off here?"

"I honestly don't remember Quinn…I couldn't tell you. I can check our record log if it makes you feel any better though….can I ask you something?"

Quinn's eyes lock on Andie's and she nods patiently.

"There is obviously something wrong here. You've been coming in here for five years, and I've never seen you so wired…and it's not finals season. So, what about this book has you demanding answers regarding its origin?"

"Turn the page."

Andie does as she is told and her eyes land on the new inscription. Quinn watches her eyebrows raise in slightly piqued confusion.

"Well…obviously this little note is new. I'm not a paleography-head but that definitely looks like the work of a ballpoint pen. But again, why is this important?"

"Follow the underlines..."

And Andie agrees, sighing tiredly as she pushes her glasses back onto her nose. She's sure that what she'll find will be insignificant, and Quinn can see the disbelieving waves etched into her face, and in the way she exhales impatient breaths through her nose as she re-scans the page.

"Alright, let's see…H…I, I think that's a comma. Q…U…I…N…N…what does that mean? H, I, pause. Q, U, I, N, N."

And Quinn watches Andie's freckled face widen in shock. Her eyebrows scrunch up as her mouth rounds around the air she's just expelled.

"Hi, Quinn."

It's a faint whisper and Quinn has to strain to hear her, but she does. And suddenly the older brunette understands the desperation in the blonde's demeanor and tone of voice.

"Well Quinn, you can't possibly just assume that this is you…you aren't the only Quinn in the world, it's probably just a simple coincidence. You're most likely freaking out over nothing."

And Quinn has to laugh this time. It's an empty hollow attempt at mirth – but her lips quirk up nonetheless, before quickly falling into a complacent frown. She brings her hand up to scratch at the back of her neck as she pauses, and catches the tag of her leather jacket on a finger. She pulls away and gasps – remembering something so faint that her heart aches at the loss. She pulls off her jacket quickly, and scans the name on the tag – her eyes focusing in on what she's realized has followed her all along.

"Neverland Thrifts & Goods

843 Goodman Road

Lima, OH 43554"

 

Andie stares at her intently, and now Quinn knows she has no choice but to continue.

"You see this tag on my jacket?"

Andie nods curiously.

"Neverland Thrifts and Goods. It's a small thrift store in Ohio, the town that I grew up in. I'm not even sure if the place still even exists…"

"I'm sorry Quinn, but what does this have to do with the book. I'm trying to connect the dots here but I've got nothing."

"My girlfriend bought this jacket for me… I was only seventeen. It was an early birthday present. I can remember the day as if It happened a couple of hours ago – I had been obsessing over this motor bike I found at a garage sale, and I convinced myself that I could teach myself how to ride it. I studied my ass off for the driver's test, and…I drove away out of the BMV parking lot a few hours later with a temporary license, a shitty motorbike, and a ridiculously proud girlfriend perched behind me, and gripping onto my waist as she laughed into my ear…"

Quinn pauses her speech, her hands gripped tightly into the worn leather.

"And you see…when I came into your shop this morning I hadn't thought about that girlfriend for at least five years. I still wear this goddamn jacket, and it doesn't even cross my mind that she used to steal it from me and wear it to school and smile when I would catch her in it during first period…I hadn't even thought about Rachel Berry until you placed this book into my hands. And you're telling me, that it's a coincidence? I don't think so. Now let me ask you one more time before I break down into an emotional train wreck on your beautifully cluttered carpeted floor. Where did you find this book?"

And Andie nods, perhaps she finally understands the magnitude of the dilemma, or perhaps she's been awakened to the magnitude of Quinn's curious plight. She carefully sets down the things currently occupying her hands save for the mysterious copy of Peter and Wendy. And her eyes are wide and calculating as she looks up one last time, her jaw working quietly as her lips steady into a fine line.

"I'll see what I can do…give me fifteen minutes."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THREE

You've Got Me Hooked:

 

It takes Andie five minutes to locate the donations log in the back storeroom, hidden among the files and boxes of paperwork and mailing. It takes her another two minutes of rifling through the large binder to find a trace of what she's looking for. There in black ink, and type-printed on the carbon invoice is the name and date of their most recent benefaction. She scrolls down the list of names and organizations, skimming over irrelevancies quickly until she finds exactly what she thinks she's looking for.

FROM:

Lost Boys Children's Foundation

588 Avenue of the Americas

New York NY 10011

INVOICE:

Donation of 12 books to The Harrison Book Annex as of: 9/13/17. Invoice received by Marissa Harrison. Books listed as:

- "Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?" – Dr. Seuss

- " Slam!" – Walter Dean Myers

- "Bud, Not Buddy" – Christopher Paul Curtis

- "The Catcher In the Rye" – J.D. Salinger

- "Lord of the Flies" – William Golding

- "The Grapes of Wrath" – John Steinbeck

- "My Name Is America: The Journal of Ben Ushida"

- "My Name is America: The Journal of Biddy Owens"

- "The Things They Carried" – Tim O' Brien

- "The Call of the Wild" – Jack London

- "Peter And Wendy" – J.M. Barrie

- "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" – Jules Verne

She tastes the small victory sweetly on her tongue as she unclips the binder and photocopies the invoice in the small storage room. The name of the foundation from which the book arrived oddly lost on her quickly moving fingers. In another three minutes she's emerged from the back room victorious, brow gleaming with the perspiration of desperation as she clutches tautly to the Xerox sheet.

She finds Quinn exactly where she left her, only the blonde is now perched quietly on the carpet, her legs tucked underneath her Indian-style, her back leant up against a wooden stack, her hands still gripping onto the same worn jacket. Her eyes staring at the tag as if glancing into a far away land where the answers are all there and waiting for an absolution that the blonde is sure will come.

"I think I've found it…"

Andie's words are whisper soft in the silent book shop, and yet it feels as if her lungs are screaming the words, expelling them from her body as she hands over the paper. Quinn looks up and her face pales. She snatches the paper quickly, her eyes raking over the invoice with an unbridled fervor. And now she's laughing – quite mirthfully while a hand rakes through the tufts of hair that have fallen out of her cap. She's laughing so hard that her sides are beginning to hurt, and Andie is looking at her with a hyper accurate sense of concern. As the brunette should be – because who goes from dramatic crying to hysterical laughter in the span of fifteen minutes quite so effortlessly? Quinn Fabray does apparently.

"I don't understand, what's so funny about an invoice?"

"Nothing. Actually it's quite the opposite."

And Quinn is still clutching at her ribs while she attempts to catch her breath. Andie is staring at her wide-eyed, and the blonde suddenly feels likes she owes the woman an explanation for her uncalled for amusement.

"The invoice says the books were donated by the Lost Boys Children's Foundation. That's one of the biggest abandoned youth homes in Manhattan."

"I'm aware…"

"Well, the book you gave me is J.M. Barrie's Peter and Wendy. If I recall, J.M. Barrie also fashioned a horde of youthful minions to accompany Peter on his adventures and conquests through Neverland…and their collective name was...?"

And suddenly Andie is gasping and clutching a wrinkled palm to her chest. And Quinn has to smile yet again at the sheer brilliance of her current mind's obsession.

"Well then…this is seeming to become less and less coincidental as the time passes."

Quinn smiles halfheartedly, grabbing for her jacket and satchel off of the floor. She silently reaches for the book out of Andie's hands before slinging the satchel over her shoulder and placing gloves onto her slender fingers. She folds the Xerox pristinely into quarters before tucking it carefully into the breast pocket of her seersucker oxford. And just before she turns to leave - her eyes land sadly on Andie's expectant russet ones.

"How easily the ignorant are swayed…"

Andie sighs and bristles before settling her piercing light brown eyes on hazel once more. This time there is a transferal of understanding passing between them. Of course, Andie can never truly understand Quinn's plight – and the blonde is much too prideful for sympathy - yet Quinn cannot, and does not directly tear her eyes away.

"Good luck Quinn."

Andie remarks quietly from her position, and Quinn nods silently before her hands are gripping the large oaken front door and swinging it ajar with a new purpose, and even more questions than answers swirling around in her restless head.

 

The train takes much too long when you're in a hurry Quinn decides as she pushes her way through the Subway car doors, ascending the underground steps towards the freedom of the New York City evening sunset. And once again, as Quinn makes her final trek home for the day, she is assaulted with how different New York evenings are from New York afternoons.

The atmosphere is dim, and the energy is electric – but instead of the coffee laden, early morning rushers – she is confronted by the night owls, emerging from their caves to wreak havoc among the wide streets and city blocks; The children from earlier yawn into their mothers' waiting arms as they are carried up to apartment buildings for dinner and rest.

She can smell the presence of food swirling into the decaying air, and as she finally makes it up to her apartment – Apartment B54 – after five flights of grueling stairs she groans when she opens the door, collapsing into a frustrated and ubiquitously tense heap atop her sofa.

She would have fallen asleep if it weren't for T.K. jumping onto her back and clawing the back of her sofa like a scratch post. She shoves him off before he can destroy her simple furniture any further, and then she reaches for her cellphone in her jean pocket – the necessary phone calls she needs to make announcing themselves softly as she boots up her Macbook solemnly.

When she opens her browser her fingers grace the keyboard purposefully. She searches for "Neverland Thrifts & Goods" and finds an unavailable link. She calls the number listed on Google and gets the familiar beep of "I'm sorry, the number you are trying to reach…" in a monosyllabic androidian slur. She tries , and upon reading both savory and unsavory reviews that should be of no concern to her, she finally finds something that could be of help.

Posted: 1/06/2013 by: ThrifterMan
So, I used to go this thrift store ALL the time when I lived out by Lima. I luckily moved out of Ohio (thank goodness) but I have to admit that Neverland had the best steals and bargains. So, I was in the area a little while back visiting a friend, and I decided to visit all of my old haunts, and sadly Neverland wasn't there anymore! I was flabbergasted. There's still a thrift store there now, but I think it's called "Hook and Sinker thrifts and tackle" or some shit like that now. Either way, it was a total let down."

This user rated Neverland Thrifts & Goods at: **** four out of five stars

Quinn rallies with the new information, turning it over in her mind, carefully and calculatedly before searching the new name. She finds a new webpage with the same contact address, and she calls the number. The phone rings three times before an older sounding man is answering on the receiving end of the line; His voice deep and brusque, as though he's spent a lifetime chewing tobacco and smoking cigars at his elderly leisure.

"Hello, Hook Thrift's and Tackle."

"Hi…I—I um. I'm calling from New York City but I'm actually from Lima, and I haven't been back in a while. I was wondering if you could tell me anything about Neverland Thrifts & Goods and what happened to it?"

"Ma'am we're just about to close right now and that's kind of a long story if I do say so myself. We're a thrift store ourselves, so I am sure we can assist you with whatever you're looking fo—"

"I'm sorry. I should have clarified. I was just calling to ask a question, not to buy anything, and if you've got the time, I've got the time."

"…Uh…I guess I can do that."

Quinn can hear the older man take a tired sigh on the other end of the line and she suddenly feels sorry for taking up so much of his time at the end of the workday. She hopes that the information he's about to give her is worthy of their surely shared exhaustion.

"Alright well, Neverland was this shop before they closed out back in mid-2013, early 2014 or so. I came in thinking that the store folded what with the bad economy and all – but from what I hear, it was actually bought out by a private investor, and whoever bought it packed up and left, but not before leasing us the property."

"Huh…that's interesting."

"You got that right. Well, the lease price was good. And at the time we didn't think too much of it, cause we figured it was a financial decision. It wasn't until we signed all the paperwork to actually lease the place that we realized that whoever bought out the property had some demands of ownership."

"Demands of ownership?"

"Well, it isn't technically our property. We're leasing it, and when you do that you have to meet city specifications and owner specifications. And my, oh my – did we have some weird little specifications to adhere to. But don't get me wrong, this is a great place, and great owners, it's just kind of weird if you ask me."

"Like what, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Well for starters, we didn't pick the name. We loved it since we're a tackle shop, but 'Hook' seems kind of campy. We're stuck with it now…and secondly there was a lot of stuff stored here that we keep stored from after the owners bought the place. And all the boxes have a name on 'em. Fab- something, I don't remember."

And Quinn's eyebrows scrunch forward as her fingers tap out a rhythmic beat against the grain of her coffee table. She's quite certain that she wants to hear the rest of this information, and she can't help the flashes of brunette hair and auburn eyes that assault her wavering vision.

"Is the name Fabray?…"

"Yea, yea that's it. Fabray. There's some special box that we've been keeping especially. And we've been told to hand it over as soon as this young lady pays us a visit. The name starts with a Q-something, but that's irrelevant really since you –"

"Quinn."

"—Can't possi – wait? How do you know that name?"

The old voice on the end of the line is gruff with confusion. Quinn can almost smell the cigar on his tongue as he breathes heavily into the receiver.

"Because it's me. My name is Quinn Fabray, I'm twenty two years old, I graduated from McKinley class of 2012, and somehow… someway… I'm calling you right now."

"Well I'll be damned."

Quinn glances curiously at her jacket again, face scrunching up in scrutiny of its origins and its significance in her short life. She brushes an errant strand of hair behind her ear as she listens on her end of the line for the old man to continue – her eyes widened with rapt attention.

"We've been waiting for your phone call for damn near five years…. If you don't mind my saying, there's something very special waiting for you here…the name's James by the way. But all the guys around here call me Captain for short."

"It's a delight to meet you…Captain."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOUR

Goldberg, Stein and Berry:

 

The phone call to Ohio lasts another ten minutes, and Quinn is suddenly looking up plane tickets on Orbitz.com even though she's fully aware that she has graduate classes at Columbia full time. Minutes ago a plane ticket anywhere seemed completely out of the question but "Captain" agreed to use some of the store funds to help pay for her flight. As she stares at the blinking laptop screen and the confirmation number for a ticket to Lima, Ohio sitting pristinely in her gmail inbox she begins to feel her lungs start to cave in.

Her eyes prickle, and she's struggling for breath as the world comes crashing down at her feet. Because what the fuck is this? Twelve hours ago she was fine. She was confident in her assurances, she was Quinn Fabray, first year graduate student at the School of Law at Columbia in New York City. And now…

Well now she doesn't know who she is…

And the only thing that she knows for certain is the reality of love and kindness that once belonged to her. She is assured of the infinite layers of compassion dripping off of tan fingertips, and the presence of steady deep brown eyes that anchored her with the force of their unyielding gravitational pull at one time or another.

Rachel Berry.

The name comes back to her in the midst of her mild panic attack, and the very thought of auburn hair and coffee laden eyes has her heart puttering down to a steady hum – beating peacefully against her pale chest.

And still, the memories were only coming to her in pieces. The jacket was like sparking a match to a flame, and igniting a fire so bright and luminous that Quinn can hardly breathe. Only now… she feels as though the Oxygen is beginning to run out, and the once bright fire is left to bristle lightly as the heat is slowly but surely extinguishing before her hazel eyes.

But Quinn doesn't want to forget again.

She wants to hold on the image of a brown haired, beautiful girl serenading her mellifluously atop a bed of grass while they watch the meteor shower descend like tiny golden stars upon them in the Lima night.

She wants to remember the feel of small hands running around her hips, securing her so solidly to an assurance and a kindness that she's never known anywhere else.

And Quinn can't help but want all of those things, and she's frustrated beyond comprehension that she isn't completely sure if Rachel Berry is even attainable. What became of her, what happened when they graduated? Why is Quinn's memory so faint, so lost on her when all she wants is a freedom that she wishes she could afford?

Her head droops and her eyes linger unflinchingly down to her cell phone, dropped and placed alongside her laptop on the coffee table after her phone call. She has the intention of leaving it there and calling it an early night, but her hands and her heart are beating to a much different drum, and she finds herself searching "The Lost Boys Children Foundation" on her small phone browser. She glances at the time, it's 6:35pm, and she isn't sure that luck will be on her side tonight, but she hits "Call" on the number from the Google search result page, and once again she waits quietly for a response on the other end of the line.

"Thank You For Calling Lost Boys Children Foundation, Carolyn speaking, how may I help you?"

Quinn sighs quietly before biting her bottom lip, willing her speech muscles to move along with the rampant thoughts running wild in her muddled head.

"Hello, my name is Quinn Fabray, I received a book today that was donated by your organization, and I just wanted to know a bit more about the history of The Lost Boys Foundation – particularly regarding how one would become involved with said organization?"

"I would love to help you Ms. Fabray. If you don't mind holding for one minute, I can transfer your call over to our Vice Director of Operations…"

"Thank you."

It takes a few minutes of bad elevator music for the phone to re-connect, and suddenly Quinn is met with the stern voice of a woman. Her tone is powerful and yet completely soothing – as if she knows exactly what she wants and she isn't afraid to get it, but what drives all of her motivations securely is her compassion.

"Lily Goldberg speaking, how can I help you today?"

"Hello, my name is Quinn Fabray. I was calling to mostly ask about how The Lost Boys Foundation came to be? I did a short Wikipedia search before I called but all I really got was that it was founded in the 1900's or so. But I'm doing a bit of a research project – I'm a grad student at Columbia – and today I received a book that I believe contains historical information regarding your organization. And well, I just wanted to interview your foundation first hand regarding the small discovery."

There's a short cough on the other end of the line replaced by the steady faint tapping of a pen on paper.

"Ah I see… of course. We're at the end of our day but this shouldn't take long. For the most part The LBF was founded in 1917 by my great grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Abraham Goldberg. Their parents were Jewish immigrants from Europe, and they were both raised here in New York City before meeting one another and getting started in philanthropy. Ms. Goldberg was heavily inspired by the play "Peter Pan" and later the book. It was her idea and because of that fascination that our name is what it is today. Of course at the time we only did house male youth, today we provide services for all children, male and/or female."

"And has the foundation been under family ownership since it's inception?"

"Yes it has, proudly so I might add."

"Okay… you could probably answer this question better than most Ms. Goldberg – especially since you are direct family…you wouldn't happen to know who K.L. Goldberg is? Or perhaps who those initials are referring to would you?"

Quinn can hear the silence from the pause of the tapping of the pen in the background. The air between the two receivers doesn't change, and if Quinn had known better she is sure that Ms. Lily Goldberg is unaware of her subconscious pause for air as she continues the conversation.

"Yes of course I do Ms. Fabray. K.L. Goldberg, If I'm not mistaken is my great grandmother Katherine Lily Goldberg, nee Stein. She's actually who I'm named after myself."

"Hmm…interesting. You wouldn't happen to know what 'Savta g'dolah means would you? The book of which I'm referring was found with the name K.L. Goldberg written in the margins, but beneath it there was a reference to the term 'Savta g'dolah from a second inscription."

"Oh, well that means great-grandmother in Hebrew. Perhaps the book was one of our old storage copies, we're kind of book heads in my family, and it must have belonged to one of my sisters or cousins or something."

"Well, probably not. You said you're name is Goldberg, and if I'm correct in my assumptions, the receiver of the book is a Berry."

"Berry?"

"Yes… so it's probably just some weird –"

"No, I mean. I know the Berrys. They're our cousins. My great-grandmother's sister married a man named Raphael Berry, and if I'm correct she kept in close contact with that side of the family over the years. It's quite possible that the book you're referring to, still migrated throughout the family – extended of course, but family nonetheless. Now that I think about it, I believe most of the Berry's migrated out west somewhere…"

And Quinn is suddenly pulling her computer to her knees as she hangs up the phone abruptly in Lily Goldberg's face. Her fingers flying over the keys wildly until she finds the phone book listing on the online yellow pages for Lima, Ohio and it's surrounding cities. She finds Leroy and Hiram Berry under the B's and punches out the number rapid fire before her head can process the complete and utter thoughtlessness of her actions.

And suddenly the telephone is ringing again and Quinn can't possibly breathe. She feels as if she may just suffocate.

"Hello…"

Her breath pauses and her living room flashes in front of her eyes as she struggles to catch her rapidly beating heart.

"Hi…is Hiram Berry available?"

"Speaking, who's calling? Is this one of Rachel's friends from the casting department? She said Sylvia or someone would be-"

And Quinn closes her eyes – realization evident in her pupils that yes, Rachel Berry exists out there in the world somewhere. And that maybe, just maybe – all of this isn't for nothing. Because Quinn just wants to remember, she want's to feel as if the world isn't tilting on it's axis, because since this morning, she's felt as if she's been missing an integral part of her very soul. And in all honesty – now that she thinks about it– she's been missing a lot of things, and she hasn't even realized it until now.

"N-No, Mr. Berry. I-I'm not Sylvia, I'm not quite sure who that is…my name is Quinn. Quinn Fabray actually, I went to school with your daughter. And I was just calling because I think I need your help in figuring something out…"

There's an audible gasp on the other end of the line, and she swears she can almost picture the man's eyes welling up fully with tears. She can hear it in the hitch of his voice and the wavering of the words as they expel themselves from his lips over the receiver. And Quinn just wants to cry along with him.

"Oh, Quinn."

"Yes…"

Her voice is so soft she isn't sure that he could have possibly heard her. But she isn't sure that she can manage anything higher than that in her current state. And she knows, she can just feel it in her bones that somehow she'll be making a dual stop on her trip to Lima next week. It seems inevitable in the way that Hiram is sniffling into the phone. His lips smiling – she can almost feel it through the infinitesimal satellite tether that is inadvertently connecting them together.

"Oh, Sweetheart…"

His voice is blatantly cracking as his vocal chords give out from the tears.

"I-I've been waiting for your call…"

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE

I Am No Tinkerbell:

 

Hiram Berry cries over the phone for ten minutes. And whenever Quinn tries to get answers out of him he blatantly freezes up and stammers into the receiver. She can hear an enthusiastic Leroy in the background whispering – and all of this only adds to her frustrating confusion.

She still feels like crying when she finally disconnects the phone call, but not without promising Hiram and Leroy that she'll stop by next week when she flies in. They offer to pick her up from the airport and to give her a place to stay rather then boarding in a small motel, and she can't say no – perhaps they'll provide her with more answers than questions this time around.

And as she hangs up the phone, she gets started to thinking about all of the things that have completely flipped her world on its small axis.

 

The week leading up to Quinn's trip has been rife with stress. For the last few days she's felt increasingly as if she's been pulled and stretched through the thin vortex of an hourglass, waiting for time to inadvertently slow down to a standstill as the tiny grains of sand swirl and drop around her. The day after making the phone call to the Lost Boys Foundation, she had woken up at 6:28am from lack of sleep. Her mind being much too wired for the throes of slumber to overtake her more than willing body.

And in an act of desperation Quinn has found herself on this chilly early morning, perched atop her comforter with a sleeping T.K. cuddling quietly in her lap. Her fingers at her keyboard, rifling absentmindedly through Google, IMDB, and Wikipedia in search for any possible trace of Rachel Berry of Lima, Ohio; Because, particularly after her brief conversation with Hiram Berry, surely the brunette has to be out there somewhere.

However to Quinn's tired disapproval, every link to Rachel Berry is blocked on her browser system and needs password encryption to unlock the hidden information. Initially Quinn is disturbingly outraged – convinced that someone has been tampering with her laptop in order to monitor her Internet usage. She checks all of her locks and belongings and after a thorough hour long search she successfully rules out burglary. But the unease in her chest is rampant and wild. And she can't look at her MacBook anymore without growing increasingly sick to her stomach.

Why were Rachel's search pages blocked? Quinn hadn't even been aware that she had password protections activated on her system. But in all honesty when had she ever attempted to look up Rachel Berry before?

Never.

For all Quinn knows, those protections could have been on her system for months, or years. She doesn't know. And she's sure that she'll need to take her computer to the hardware store in order to have this problem immediately and correctly assessed before her trip to Lima.

And an hour or two later with sleep grainy eyes, she makes her way out of her bed and into a pair of NYU sweatpants before heading out of the door and down to the nearest computer software and maintenance store nearby. She ends up at Beagle Noggin, a fairly new repair shop, and enters with her MacBook in tow. She's met happily by a man named George who is the owner of the place – and he happily boots up her computer to check out the security features and encryptions harboring secretly within her system.

"Alright Quinn, what do we have here?"

"I'm not sure. I was browsing the web today and I came across these heavily encrypted pages that were password protected for access. I couldn't check cookies or password block settings at all – and I realized that those encryptions are only activated when I look up certain things."

"Alright and how long have these encryptions been on your system?"

"I'm not sure, I just found them today. I guess I hadn't come across them because I had no need to search for or look up what I had been up until recently."

"Alright, give me a few minutes and I'll take this to the back and check it out for you."

Quinn nods quietly and buries her hands in her sweatpants as she leans sideways against the front counter. She's observing some of the cool gadgets in the display case when a young man comes walking out of the storage room to restock some of the computer shelves. He looks to be in his early twenties, and she smiles at him as he passes by her.

"Go to NYU?"

Quinn turns suddenly at his voice, her brows furrowed, and she quickly replies.

"Uh…no. I go to Columbia, why?"

And it's at this moment that she notices the NYU keychain hanging loosely around the young man's neck. She comes to the conclusion that he must study there – and yet that doesn't answer her question. Why on earth would he think that she studies there?

"Oh my bad. I just thought – it's the sweatpants."

And at this moment Quinn finds herself looking down and really noticing that yes, she isn't wearing just any sweatpants, but New York University: Tisch School of the Arts sweatpants. And she's confused, because as many times as she's donned them she can't seem to remember where they possibly could have come from – because like she said, she goes to Columbia. And Columbia has their own collegiate brand of lounge wear.

"Huh, I didn't notice."

And the boy shrugs quietly before finishing his stocking duties and retreating back to the storeroom. And minutes later George is emerging to take his place, his face neutral and controlled as he sets her MacBook steadily onto the pristine counter.

"Well Ms. Fabray it looks like you've got the most recently updated version of a general web monitor like StaffCop. In your case, it's GFI, it's a stealth tracker and is relegated by whoever downloaded it onto your system. Unfortunately, it's pretty secure. There's no harm to your system whatsoever, and the only things being blocked are IP's and Internet data…but there's nothing else I can really do for you at the moment."

"You said it's the most recent version? Which means someone had to download it recently onto my computer without my knowing?"

"Correct, the latest GFI update was about six months ago, so sometime in the last six months this had to have been installed."

"And there isn't anything you can do about it?"

"Not unless you want to pay me an arm and a leg to dismantle everything and weedle it out. That's gonna be pretty costly. In all honesty, the tracking system isn't doing any harm to your browser. You're bank statements etc aren't being checked, and they're protected and safe. As are your email address etc. It's mostly just random IP's that have been blocked from your access. Mainly certain Google, YouTube sites etc. General information websites and links mostly."

"Thanks George, but that doesn't really make me feel any better."

"Sorry Q."

And with that Quinn ends up back in her apartment fifteen minutes later with a bugged laptop and a dwindling savings account – her heart hammering in her chest, and her body aching to finally make it to Lima for some answers.

 

Her instructors are all oddly obliging of her last minute vacation. None of them bat much of an eyelash at her admonition the next Monday of her three-day-long trip. She promises to finish the course load as necessary and most of them say nothing, promising her safe travels and a happy return. She nods to every one of them – confused by their willingness to see her go. And yet she's sure that each one of these instructors specified unbridled dissatisfaction with poor attendance and the absolute necessity of noteworthy excuses.

She takes it as a sign. And says nothing else, as she nods her head to her law professors one by one as she makes her rounds. One of her instructors, a Mr. Chris Leary pats her assuredly on the shoulder, a look of sadness in his older blue eyes.

"Have a good time in Ohio, Quinn, it's beautiful this time of year."

And she nods, but in her head surely she's thinking. "What the fuck is he talking about? It's the fall, it's gorgeous but it's just now starting to get cold."

When she makes it back to her apartment that night she's done with all of it. With trying to figure out the encryptions on her hacked computer, on trying to make her professors care that she's even leaving at all…everything just piles on top of her shoulders and she doesn't know what any of it means.

She grabs for a water bottle out of her refrigerator and follows T.K. into her tiny bedroom, her suitcase open and halfway packed sitting messily atop her comforter. She leaves in the morning for Ohio, and she couldn't hope for the plane to arrive any faster. It takes her another twenty minutes to finish packing, and as she does so she scrutinizes every single article of clothing that she folds pristinely into the medium-sized briefcase. A shirt that she doesn't remember buying, another NYU lounge item—boxer briefs this time. She spots multiple pairs of socks with creepy looking animals embroidered on the sides and the initials QEBF embroidered into the cotton.

And she realizes that it wasn't just the leather jacket that she now stows away into the suitcase, but it was multiple items of clothing that she has no recollection of ever purchasing, but wearing day in and day out nonetheless – all cluttering her closet. The seersucker oxford from the other day – the one she wore when she was given the mysterious copy of Peter and Wendy – it's from a boutique in London, and she's never ever been to London. And yet…she wears that shirt religiously – she always has.

These small circumstantial pieces to the puzzle have been flitting away inside of Quinn's head since that book had fallen into her slim hands. Because, she doesn't recall many things – she assumed that her life had been made up of singular truths until this point: She grew up in Lima, Ohio, she graduated high school, she went to Columbia undergrad, and now she's in Columbia grad. But everything in between – all of the minute details that most people should remember…just aren't there.

And Quinn is starting to believe that perhaps they never were.

She scratches the back of her ear and feels the weight of raised skin – she bites her lip as she moves over to the dresser mirror curiously, sweeping away her hair to get a better look – and she gasps when she sees it.

A small yellow star emboldened on her flesh, it is shaded with small increments of orange and white for brightening, and she rubs at it fiercely hoping to god that it isn't permanent.

Because, she has a tattoo?

Since when has she had a tattoo behind her ear? It's hidden away, and easy to miss – but Quinn is stammering into her reflection in the mirror with shock etched wondrously across her beautiful face

And then… almost like a scene from a filmstrip it comes flooding back to her…

She can see it vividly – engrained against her retinas like a filed away slideshow – a memory that she has no idea ever existed, is suddenly assaulting her system in waves of color and boldness.

She can almost hear the way the small brunette laughs above her as she lays down in a leather chair. Her hand gripping tightly onto a slightly smaller one. Those familiar brown eyes are staring at her lovingly as she suddenly feels a foreign hand tilting her chin to the side, and wiping the small space behind her ear. When the buzzing starts, the girl above her squeals and clenches her eyes shut, and Quinn remembers thinking it's the most adorable thing she's ever heard in her life.

She can almost feel the way the needle scratches into her skin like fine nails, and she knows that she is smiling in her memory as the tattoo artist finishes his work and wipes away errant ink while the girl next to her just melts into her arms like putty.

"So, why a gold star?" He had asked jovially as he taped her up, and Quinn can hear the mirth in his voice as if he's standing right there.

"I like gold stars…they remind me of someone I could never forget. And this way…she'll be with me wherever I go."

And Quinn opens her eyes to the imprint of a bright-eyed Rachel Berry burning away like kerosene into the background of her memory.

And it is with this sudden realization, and a complete upheaval of shock, that Quinn slams her palms down onto the wooden dresser top – her eyes falling on the star calendar hanging from her bedroom wall, and then dropping to the star riddled bathroom mat and shower curtain lining her master bathroom. And she clenches her eyes shut to block out the assault – her attempts failing marvelously as her brain flashes images of the star slippers in the bathroom, and the star collar hanging loosely around T.K.'s neck.

Quinn Fabray has a thing for stars. And it never occurred to her that she had swamped her apartment in their company. She could turn around and find one anywhere she looked – and now…she bites her lip as her fingers touch her small tattoo faintly. The metaphor not lost in the transferal of memory.

And suddenly Quinn is shutting her suitcase quickly, yelling at it weakly when she notices the star key chains dangling off of the zippers.

Something here is incredibly amiss, Quinn notices. And for the life of her she couldn't tell you where to begin with what is going wrong.

She expels a sigh of exhaustion as her eyes close tepidly. Her short side bangs falling jaggedly across her pale forehead. T.K. mewling softly as he dances between her legs, begging her for attention. He has a habit of cheering her spirits even in the worst of times, and she picks him up into her waiting arms and toys softly with his collar. Her lips tugging upward as she notices small engraving on the back of his tag. And why hadn't she noticed his tag before? Another question to add to the myriad of others assaulting her at the moment.

Her fingers grip the tag and flip it over to get a better look as he squirms playfully within her arms. And as she reads the name on the metal paw tag she feels lightheaded. Her legs finding the edge of the bed quickly as she falls down unceremoniously atop it. T.K. meowing spectacularly as he falls and scrambles to the floor, his tail rising up behind him in unease…

Hello, my name is:

TINK

"T.K."

If lost please contact:

(614)324-5568

Tinkerbell. Quinn shuts her eyes as images of a mischievous fairy swirl delicately around her head. And she feels as if everything she once knew – everything that just a few short days ago held merit within her life – she feels like it's all a lie.

If only she could give this game up – Because she has no clue where to begin and where to end. A hand comes to rest against her perspiring forehead as her lips whisper out a breathless admonition to the empty air around her…

"What is happening to me?"

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIX

Peter and Wendy:

The airport is crowded, and La Guardia is dirty and full of people as Quinn makes her trip past the ticket counter and into the security line. She can feel cold air whip her clothes – her striped t-shirt billowing quickly around her torso as the machine blasts her. She follows the footpaths to the end of the scanner and retrieves her backpack and shoes. She tucks her cellphone back into her pocket and her watch back onto a slender wrist as she follows the signs to her gate.

She's flying Delta, and while she sits in one of the uncomfortable seats along the far wall, she watches the bright sun peek out from beneath the clouds overhead – illuminating a city that she isn't sure she understands anymore. Twenty minutes pass at the gate before a TCA agent calls for boarding. Quinn tucks an errant strand of hair behind her ear while her music plays softly through her earphones. It shuffles to a Broadway ballad – and this is one of Quinn's favorites.

She smiles as the familiar tune floats through her like a wave. She doesn't actually know who the singer is – but she's in love with their voice, whoever they may be. And from time to time, whenever Quinn hears this song, she sometimes likes to believe…that maybe— whoever it is, they are signing this just for her.

Boarding takes half an hour, and Quinn smiles lightly at the man that she is assigned next to. He grunts without meeting her eyes, as she places her backpack in the crowded overhead bin. She sits down and buckles her seatbelt, watching intently as the last few passengers make their way to their seats. And then the plane is taxiing, and she closes her eyes to the image of a blue dressed flight attendant motioning the regulations of the airplane. Somewhere in between the life jacket simulation and the oxygen mask demonstration, Quinn Fabray falls asleep.

 

Two and a half hours later she opens her eyes to the view of the sun peeking in through the window, her eyes find a grid-mapped view of daytime in Dayton. She bites her lip as the captain makes an announcement for their final decent. The flight attendants check the rows for tray tables in their upright positions, seat-backs upright, and carry on baggage properly stowed. Fifteen minutes later, Quinn fumbles with her seatbelt as she grabs for her backpack, making her way out of the plane and to baggage claim. She turns on her cell phone, almost having forgotten, and finds that she has several missed calls – most of them from The Berry's and another from an Unknown number that she doesn't recognize.

As she's waiting for her one bag she hears a squeal in the distance, looking up it's to find a rapidly approaching Hiram Berry with Leroy on his heels. And Quinn doesn't remember the man exactly, but she just knows that it's him. His arms are outstretched and his mouth is opened into a wide welcoming grin. His eyes are bright, and Quinn knows that the man is sure to cry again in the near future.

"Quinn! You made it!"

She shrugs shyly and smiles at the two men before Hiram pounces on her. Enveloping her in a tight hug – she almost backs away, but decides to let the man continue – and she was right with her first assessment. She can feel him clinging to her like a Koala, his tears bleeding into the fabric of her t-shirt as she stands – staring softly into Leroy's warm eyes.

"I'm just so happy you made it sweetheart."

And Leroy laughs, but Quinn doesn't miss the way the larger man swipes nonchalantly at an eye before ruffling the blonde's hair playfully and heading over to the baggage claim to pick up her luggage as it makes it's rounds on the carousel.

She doesn't know these men. Quinn is almost a stranger to them – a mere acquaintance. But she can't help but feel as if she's known them her whole life, and they the same for her. Everything between them is so natural, so loving. And Quinn is suddenly jealous of Rachel Berry – for having these two men in her life.

Leroy returns minutes later with Quinn's suitcase in hand and she freezes momentarily as she studies his expectant face.

"Thank you Mr. Berry – but, wow you're good – how did you know which one was my suitcase?"

And Leroy pales as much as he can given the circumstance, smiling nervously as Hiram gives him a wide-eyed glance.

"Uh…you know lucky guess – and…" He glances down and his eyes fall on the nametag that hangs from one of the star zippers, a triumphant look on his face now.

"The nametag…"

Quinn nods in return, accepting that as a completely valid answer and she smiles quickly before Hiram is pulling her by the arm and out of the sliding doors. Into the chilly Dayton afternoon – headed of course for Lima.

 

Their trip lasts an hour and a half, as they make their way into Lima. Quinn tells Hiram and Leroy that she has a quick stop to make in town – they happily oblige her request, waiting patiently in the car parking lot while she hurries up the sidewalk and into under the red awning of Hook's Thrift & Tackle.

The store is dimly lit when she walks in and her eyes settle on fishing rods and tackle boxes piled onto dusty shelves. The place definitely has an air of thriftiness to it – but it still looks familiar. She gets eclipsed memories of Neverland Thrifts and Goods as her eyes settle on the unchanged tile flooring, and then the singing Sea Bass mounted on top of the wall. She remembers….

And some things about this place – haven't changed at all.

She rings the small bell at the front counter and a portly man comes ambling out. He's got glasses on and a slow gait, and he looks at her curiously before opening his mouth.

"Name's Smith, what can I do for you miss?"

"I was actually coming in to speak with 'Captain' if he's here?"

The man grunts in acknowledgement before returning back to the storeroom and yelling gruffly for his boss. Captain emerges within the next minute, cigar in mouth as he assesses the customer.

"I'm Captain…"

"Hi, It's me – Quinn Fabray. I just -"

And he laughs – guffaws actually before slapping Smith – who's standing to the side – on the back roughly.

"Smith, this is the gal I was telling you about – that Fab-ray girl whose stuff is stored up in our backroom."

And Quinn watches Smith's eyes widen comically – and she would have laughed If she weren't so tired, and exhausted from feeling as though everyone is on to something, and she has no clue what it could be.

"Stop standing around Smith, go to the safe and grab that package."

And then Captain turns to her – he's got a smirk on his face – but it's softer now than before, and before Quinn can say anything Smith is returning with a brown packaged box about 9X12 inches wide. Captain takes it out of the portly man's hands and places it softly on the countertop.

"I reckon, this is what you came here for Ms. Fab-ray."

Quinn nods quietly as she picks the parcel up in her hands. It is light and completely average in her slender hands as she runs her fingers over the packaging.

"Thank you, Captain."

He nods gruffly before removing his cigar from his lips with thick fingers.

"My pleasure, have a good visit now."

Quinn smiles at him politely, before gripping onto her parcel with clenched fingers. She waves at Smith and Captain warily as she makes her exit. And when she climbs into the back of Leroy and Hiram Berry's Volvo and they ask her what the package in her hand is – she simply shrugs her shoulders lamely.

Because, just like them – she hasn't got a clue.

They make their way through the town, and Quinn watches as trees and houses fly by. She can recall having seen some of these places before – but others feel as if they're only hazy memories – the type of memories where you can't be sure whether what you recall could be real or simply a dream. That's how Quinn feels all of the time now.

They pull up to the Berry house, and Quinn freezes because this place feels like home. It feels like where she belongs, and with every step towards the front door she can see a bit of herself etched into the way the shrubbery line the walkway, or the way in which a small wind chime blows against the front door. Quinn feels as though she's being magnetically pulled into this safe-haven. And somehow she knows that this is it. Perhaps she'll get all of her answers after all.

Leroy settles her bags into Rachel's room upstairs and Quinn turns to him questioningly. Because she doesn't want to intrude on Rachel Berry's space when the girl isn't here – when she hasn't seen the girl in five years and all she has of recollection are a few beautifully fading memories of a relationship she can only vaguely remember. But Leroy nods and drops her bags at the foot of the bed.

"You'll be more comfortable here honey, trust me."

And Quinn does, because how could she not. And she smiles before walking to the corners of the room and observing all of the small details of Rachel Berry that she never knew before. The walls are a faint yellow, and there are playbill scans and Broadway posters lining the walls along with several posters of Bob Fosse. She spots crates and crates of Records on top of a long desk by the window, and she smiles at the old record player sitting next to them. This room is young, and beautiful – and Quinn loves it. She runs her fingers along the wall, stopping when she reaches a small space where she can tell a picture must have once hung. The paint is clean and vibrant where the square of the frame once stood – and the edges around it are darker from exposure.

Quinn stills her hand and backs away, looking intently over all of the corners of the yellow room. She spots several more spots just like this and she furrows her brow as she walks slowly out of the room. As she makes her way down the hallway to the stairs, there are more empty picture spaces – and now it isn't just a coincidence.

Quinn is brought back to why she was in Lima in the first place – for answers. And she quickly runs back upstairs for her package. Her hazel eyes landing on empty picture spaces along the walls as she then turns around and hurries back downstairs again. She is panting furiously when she finds Leroy and Hiram sitting in the kitchen. Hiram is on the phone – and Quinn can tell that he is talking in clipped and hushed tones to someone he doesn't want her inquiring about.

Leroy catches sight of blonde hair in his periphery and smiles up at her, stilling his husbands rant into the phone with a quick, and soft hand the forearm. Hiram looks up and blanches, quickly hanging up the phone before smiling tepidly at the blonde.

Quinn chooses to ignore their suspicious behavior, and all of the missing picture frames around the house – she notices more blank wall spaces in the kitchen and swallows a thick lump in her throat. She smiles weakly and lifts up the package in her hands.

"May I have some time to look through whatever this is in your living room? I didn't want to open it upstairs – it was too quiet and claustrophobic."

Hiram smiles at her again, genuinely this time before nodding softly.

"Of course Quinn, living room's all yours."

She nods and retreats towards the living room, settling herself on the Berry's couch comfortably with her legs tucked Indian style against the sofa. She inhales deeply and shuts her eyes for much needed assurance before expelling her breath. Her fingers rip at the paper slowly and carefully. She finds a small book – it's another hardback copy of Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie – but it's much newer than her own copy. And when she opens the page, it's to find a large cut out in the center, and sitting directly inside is a small red-velvet box.

She removes the box from the false pages and before she can open it, a DVD slides out of the cover. It looks completely unimpressive, but the words written in sharpie on it give her immediate pause.

"Watch me first…save the box for last Quinn. It's much more fun that way."

She smiles at the disc, laughing at how wrong Andie truly was – this is definitely all for her. This entire adventure of sorts wasn't fashioned for just anyone else. Rachel Berry, or whoever, spent a lot of time thinking about her for this to all come together in such a way.

She finds the remote on the coffee table and turns on the TV, slipping the DVD into the player as she turns that on as well. And as the screen turns black before opening to a contents page, she smiles excitedly as she finally hits Play.

And she gasps when the image of Rachel Berry is standing in front of her from a TV screen. Hair gorgeous and long hair is fanned out wonderfully across her tan face. Quinn can see the birthmarks on her cheeks and the mirth in her eyes – and she remembers how it felt to be looked at like that by this girl at one time or another. She feels weightless, invincible – and her heart beats out of her chest as she watches the Rachel on screen smile at her as if she is all that matters in the world.

"Hi Quinn."

She speaks…and she knows her name…and Quinn wants to cry at how complete she finally feels.

"My name is Rachel. Rachel Barbra Berry, as I'm sure you've probably already figured out since you are watching this video in the first place. You're so smart Sweetheart – you're the smartest girl I know, and I knew you'd find me…"

Quinn swallows as her eyes fill up with tears.

"I made this video about a year ago. And I've been waiting for you for quite some time now. You see, it hasn't been five years since I last saw you. In fact – you aren't even twenty-two anymore, and neither am I. It seems as though somewhere along the line we lost each other. We already had done it once. We fell in love in high school, it was a secret, and it didn't last – but I knew then that you were my everything."

Quinn can't help but feel vulnerable and confused – she doesn't understand the words coming out of Rachel's mouth because she is 22, and she hasn't seen Rachel since graduation. Those are truths – at least for Quinn, they are.

"And when I was at NYU, you were at Columbia – and you found me. Since then we've been inseparable. I couldn't imagine living a life without you in it Quinn. And it surprises me that for these past twelve months I haven't completely given up without you here to ground me."

"12 months...?"

Quinn whispers brokenly at the monitor.

"In order to understand Sweetheart I have to start at the beginning. We fell in love for a second time when I was twenty one and you had just turned twenty two – I don't think a few months difference makes you my elder but you always call me "kiddo" anyway…

And well – we were happy. We are happy."

The Rachel on the TV screen has tears streaming down her face now.

"We've been together for four years, I love you with all of my heart... You got sick over a year ago,you had been coming home from work one night to surprise me with a quiet dinner. You never made it. I waited for two hours, and you never came home. I got a call from the NYPD an hour after that, you were in the OR, undergoing emergency surgery after getting hit by a drunk driver off of 43rd. I was waiting for you while you needed me. And I'll always regret that it was you instead of me. And as the months have gone by since that day – I fashioned this adventure for you. It's your favorite book Quinn. It always has been. And I thought that maybe…just maybe…if I worked hard enough, somehow you'd come back to me.

I can't answer the rest right now, but I will in time. I love you with all of my heart – and before I say goodbye, I need you to open the small box I sent with this video. It means everything to me – and it has hurt more than you can possibly imagine to see it boxed up in a dusty storage room for so long. But it belongs to you…and it's time that I return it.

I love you so much. My sweet, sweet Quinn."

Shaky fingers trace the velvet of the small box, the tears on Quinn's cheeks are unrelenting and painful, and her heart is breaking in her chest as she sniffles loudly amidst the haze. The clasp falls open sloppily, and Quinn wants to keel over right then, her trembling fingers reaching out to trace the emerald and diamond ring sitting pristinely against the cushion.

And when she looks up again, her face red and puffy from her incessant crying; it is to find Rachel Berry in the flesh.

Standing right beside her. Her small hands reaching out to gently cup a tender chin. Her eyes are pained and bright, and the tears coating her cheeks are raw – much like Quinn's own.

And the blonde notices a silver chain around Rachel's neck, she is clutching on to it fiercely, her fingertips tracing a white gold band laced onto the chain. Her voice is soft, and breaking, but it is beautiful as she recites the engraving so pristinely etched into the white gold wedding band – her other hand moving to slip a matching one onto Quinn's trembling finger.

"You know that place between sleep and awake; that place where you can still remember dreaming? That's where I will always love you. That's where I will be waiting."

And as Quinn takes a shaky breath, her heart beating within her chest – she stares at the gorgeous face before her – her eyes catching a sobbing Hiram and Leroy Berry in their periphery, a cell phone clutched in his trembling hands – and she clenches them shut, rejoicing in the smell of her. In the taste that she so vividly remembers now – she can feel her hands against her cheek and it's liberating – because as she is anchored to the ground – she remembers. She remembers. Not all, but what matters- and as she opens her eyes to stare at her wife she knows that this is all the answer she'll ever need- and she bites her lip as another tear escapes down her captured cheek.

"Rachel…I've missed you."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVEN

Mrs. And Mrs. Darling:

 

The air is warm and stifling in her dressing room, and she can feel light brown eyes settling on her from the main doorway. They are soft and calculating – and before she can turn around to greet them, she already knows to whom they belong.

"Andrea."

Andrea Lohmann is one of Rachel's earliest friends from her move to New York City almost nine or ten years ago. At 28, the city has grown on Rachel substantially – equating to become all of the things that she loves most in this world. Her wife being the most important of them all. And speaking of Quinn - Her wife is going about her day somewhere in this vast city, while she in turn preps for her opening monologue, the butterflies in her stomach wild and ruthless – and, cruelly – but heartbreaking all the same, her wife has absolutely no clue that Rachel even exists.

She expels a hard breath, and lets her lip turn up into a small welcoming smile, beckoning for Andrea to join her at her vanity. A small wallet sized photo from her wedding day stuck into the side of the mirror. She can't help but catch it with her deep eyes every time she moves to turn her head.

Andrea shakes her curly hair in the negative and leans resolutely against the doorframe. Her eyes warm but distant – they used to intimidate Rachel, long ago when she was just a freshman music theory student at NYU, but now – her retired favorite instructor is simply stoic, and comfortable.

"Is there something wrong, Andrea – you usually sit with me whenever you come to visit before a show."

"You know I hate it when you call me by my government name Rachel – can't you be normal and just call me Andie for once?"

"I'll leave the nicknames to Quinn, thank you v—"

And she pauses, the words thick in her throat, like a heady roadblock. How could she have let herself slip up like this? She closes her eyes and takes deep breaths like her therapist instructed of her. Her fingers ring together as her brain is assaulted wondrously with all of the images of the love that she so cherishes. Blonde hair, and hazel eyes bright from the sun – pale cheeks turned up in a sweltering smile. She calms, and stops her fidgeting – letting her eyes open to Andie once more – whose face is holding in a frown, a look of worry ingrained against her freckled brows.

"I'm sorry Rachel."

"It's not your fault, I just sl-slipped up. What were you saying?"

Andie doesn't miss the way that Rachel clenches on the chain around her neck, her fingers toying absentmindedly with the wedding band as she trains her sad eyes on light brown once more.

"I actually have news for you, I think you'll want to hear this."

And the brunette stills her fingers and her eyes widen as she waits for the curly-haired brunette to continue.

"You know how you have me keep an eye on Quinn? She comes into the bookstore often, and I think she's doing better Rachel. I think she's remembering – at least – subconsciously. She came in the other day and asked me about Peter Pan. Well, she asked me if I had ever read the book – it was totally out of the blue…and I instantly froze."

Rachel is frozen in her seat, her eyes cast downwards now to stare at the rug by her feet.

"And what did you say?"

"…I didn't say anything. But it was what she said next that really got me racing…"

Rachel doesn't say anything and Andie blinks before she continues.

"She asked me who it was written by. She looked…perplexed. That's the best way that I can describe it, and when I shook my head in shock, she just remembered – she smiled at me and shook her head and said "J.M. Barrie" as if she'd known all along, and that it was absolutely ludicrous that she could have ever forgotten…

"And when she looked up at me again, she was confused. She opened her mouth and closed it a few times in thought before she finally asked…"

"Barrie…that name. Does it sound familiar to you? I almost want to spell it like the fruit now that I'm hearing it within my own head…like a berry you know? …I rather like it. I like it quite a bit… it reminds me of someone."

And now Rachel understands the gravity of Andie's words. She understands. And she realizes it like a blow to the heart that her sweetheart, her love, her goddamn soul mate – is finally remembering. After a year of waiting, and of broken hearts, of suffering, and of torture –Quinn Elizabeth Berry-Fabray is finally beginning to remember their love.

And Rachel drops her head into her lap and she just sobs – her make-up smearing against her cheeks and palms, and she couldn't give a damn as her shoulders tremble with the weight of her happiness – and of her relief. She composes herself minutely after a few minutes, the tears still leaking tepidly from her lower lashes as she looks up into Andie's freckled face.

"I have something… that I need for you to do for me."

"What is it?"

"Have you ever been to Neverland?"

 

It takes two weeks for Rachel to make the phone calls necessary to her distant cousin Lily Goldberg. The woman doesn't even know Rachel as family – she simply marvels at the name that she's seen so many times on billboards and playbills. On the covers of Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide. And Rachel would cringe at the half-hearted sympathy afforded her of her plight – but she is determined. And when she donates a quarter of a million dollars to the Lost Boys Children Foundation under an anonymous beneficiary, Ms. Goldberg is more than happy to fulfill her small requests. The books are donated within the next five days, one of them being one of Rachel's most prized possessions – poured over and read countless times to her as a child by her fathers,and later read quietly to her beloved.

"Lily, you're family…however distant. And I'm asking something of you that I need accomplished above all else, do you understand?"

Lily Goldberg nods, her brows furrowing in intrigue as she watches the small, beautiful brunette – a distant cousin, dictate to her from the other side of her large wooden desk.

"This task of mine will require you to send this book in with the rest when they are donated to The Harrison Book Annex on Wednesday morning. This book is more important than you can possibly imagine. It is everything."

"Of course Ms. Berry."

"It's Berry-Fabray."

Rachel's answer is soft, and almost whispered – but Lily Goldberg hears her from her perch behind her desk, and she nods once as she watches Rachel go; she watches the brunette toy with a gorgeous ring around her neck as she makes her hasty retreat. Lily's hand settles purposefully on the special edition hardened copy of Peter and Wendy that has just been placed within her care.

Rachel receives a call on Wednesday morning from Andrea about the book's arrival. Her heart palpitates within her chest as she ends the phone call with trembling fingers. It isn't until two weeks later when she gets a call from Andrea again. Quinn has returned to the bookshop, and Andie is moving on with the plan as executed. Rachel hurries from her publicist meeting without so much as a second glance. And as she exists her stifling cab, she walks slowly to the large glass windows of Harrison's. Her fingers splayed across the glass as she watches her beautiful wife pause and smile at the rows and rows of books that assault her.

And while her hair billows out across her face in the New York City morning breeze she rests her forehead against the glass and closes her eyes. Hoping that someway – somehow. Today will be different.

She barely hides behind the back of the brick building in the alley before Quinn walks out of the doors. Her hair is peeking out of an old knit cap, and Rachel recognizes her old seersucker Oxford draped around a slender form. She remembers picking it up at a small boutique in London around a year and a half ago during a particularly thrilling run on the West End. She bites her lip to stop the onslaught of tears as they build up behind her lashes. Because as much as Quinn doesn't remember – Rachel can see herself in everything that the blonde does; in the way that she dresses in her familiar clothes – in the way the she still dons that leather jacket. In the way that she still carries a star shaped key-chain with her wherever she goes.

She scurries into the bookshop when Quinn is out of sight, her large sunglasses dark as the dim lighting assaults her. Andie is already waiting at the front counter, and when Rachel attacks her with a large and broken hug, Andie just rubs her back soothingly. Quelling her fears.

"It'll work Rache, you have to believe in her. It will work."

And Rachel just shakes tremulously within those grounding freckled arms – wishing above all else that they were Quinn's.

She goes home and takes a small nap on her – their – bed. Hoping that the apartment that she and her fathers had picked out for Quinn post hospital and neurological testing and therapy, is fitting. She remembers the day when Quinn's analysts and therapist had sat her down and told her of just how much, and in how many ways their lives would change…

"Mrs. Berry…"

"It's Berry- Fabray."

They look at one another timidly before continuing. The room is cold and distant, and Rachel wishes that she could leave – because she knows that she will get no good answers here.

"Right, Mrs. Berry- Fabray. As you know, your wife Quinn, sustained serious head trauma and brain-dysfunction as a result of her car accident almost three months ago. As a result – she suffered from swelling of the brain, and direct damage to her Hippocampus sector…"

Rachel wants to shove this analyst out of her chair – and while Rachel is not violent in nature, and thoroughly looks down upon the use of said means of retribution and communication, she can't help but see reason in their multiple forms of utilization now.

"I'm aware of my wife's condition Dr. Baird."

She hears a throat clearing, and she directs her eyes to the window. Staring out at a rainy cityscape that she once loved – but now, all she can see is the gray tones in between.

"Well as you know…she suffers from what we assume to be a temporary form of graded retrograde amnesia with certain instances of isolated amnesiatic symptoms. This diagnosis is subject to change as her recovery continues but in the long term Mrs. Berry..."

"Berry-Fabray."

"Yes…well in the long term. It's best that you don't keep continual contact. She doesn't remember you the way that she once did. And your continued influence and presence within her life, along with your potentially high profile career, could be conflicting and traumatic to her recovery. It would be wise to meet with our therapist and life coach/advisor Dr. Redding – who we've brought along – in order to discuss possible transitions that are bound to occur once Quinn is introduced back into society.

Rachel nods as she stares out into the falling rain, a few tears escape her sallow eyes, and she suddenly feels a warm and reassuring hand on her shoulder. When she turns, it's to see the therapist who hasn't spoken one word – meeting her tired eyes. Her touch is warm, and comforting and reassuring, and for the first time in a long time. She feels as if at least someone…understands.

She calls Evelyn Redding the moment she wakes from her nap. She knows that Quinn must have the book now, and she wonders if everything will pan out the way she's hoped it would for months and days and tireless nights on end. The phone picks up on the second ring, and when she hears her and Quinn's therapist on the other end of the line she immediately calms.

"Dr. Redding? It's Rachel Berry-Fabray…"

"Hello Rachel, how is everything going today? Is the show going well?"

"Yes, yes. It's fine. Wonderful reviews, tony talk, yada yada ... as per usual."

"That's fantastic. So what can I do for you this afternoon?"

"Dr. Redding, I believe Quinn is remembering…"

"I can't disclose all of her information from our sessions, but I can't help but agree with you—at least partially. She is showing signs of temporary memory recovery, but much of her memory loss remains extensively categorical. She might never remember the life she once had Rachel, at least in the capacity that you do."

"But Dr. Redding, that's what they said when her doctors told me she would never be able to work again, but two months later she was remembering applying to Columbia Law School and getting in. She was remembering her first semester and the life she had up until that point – she remembered everything Dr. Redding. Save for me. But you can't look at the life she lives know – a life where she is a full time law student again – despite the fact that all of her instructors are the exact same ones she had when she was a student her first year in grad school over four years ago—and have been requested and briefed specifically on her condition by the University since she is a special needs student. But, you can't say that she has surpassed all of our expectations in spades… what if she does remember? What if she can remember me? Remember us?"

"I understand Rachel, but we just can't be sure. There are several things that still haven't changed. When we furnished her apartment before her move-in with stars everywhere she never picked up on it… we dropped T.K. off in a box in front of her door for her to take him in with the idea that he was a stray – and yet, she didn't remember that he truthfully already belonged to her. There are millions of infinitesimal facts to Quinn's recovery. And while she is doing exceptionally well – I can't guarantee anything, no matter how much I would like to."

Rachel sighs frustratingly into her receiver and pinches the bridge of her nose tiredly. She debates whether or not she should tell Dr. Redding about her plan, and when she blinks her eyes shut and remembers a heart that once belonged to her – she shakes her head, and decides against it. Hanging up the phone to a science that has no idea what their love is capable of.

Andrea Lohmann calls her back at exactly 4:48pm of that evening with news that is capable of breaking Rachel's heart into a million little pieces of bliss, relief, hope, and faith. She's remembering.

She's remembering.

 

And Rachel calls her father's. Hiram doesn't believe her. He can't believe that his daughter-in law is recovering. He cannot. Because if all of this fails, If Quinn doesn't ever remember, he won't be able to survive looking at his daughter any longer. He won't be able to bare it when Rachel stops singing, he will die when his daughter does – because the heart can only withstand so much heartbreak. And he cries himself to sleep in his husband's arms that night, under watch of the full moon – hoping with everything that he has, and everything that he believes in – that Quinn will come back to them.

Rachel call's Hook's Thrift and Tackle next. She and Quinn had bought the place after Rachel won her first Tony. They were twenty-five and newlywed, and so so young. And the thought of owning the very place that brought them together seemed blissfully sweet, and when Quinn said she wanted it – Rachel couldn't possibly say no. She called her financiers and they wondered why on earth two mid-twenty year olds would want a thrift store in Lima, Ohio in the middle of a failing economy? And Rachel shrugged while Quinn had beamed. And within the next few months – it was theirs. Neverland had already gone under of course. But when a man called their offices going by the name of James 'Captain' Baite, they couldn't say no.

He leased the property – and all they asked was for him to keep just a bit of Neverland with him – the name Hook stuck, and when Rachel and Quinn moved their things out of her father's home after their one year anniversary – they stored them there.

And when she hears Captain's gruff voice over the line – she tells him of Neverland, and of Tiger Lilies, and of Tink, and of The Lost Boys … and when she's done, she asks him for one small favor. She tells him that he can't give everything away - and she gives him a script to abide by. And he obliges – his voice thick with a cigar, his right hand man Smith scurrying about behind him. And Rachel smiles. She smiles – at just how perfectly her journey back to Neverland is coming together.

It takes a week – and she knows of Quinn's plans. She gets a call from Captain – and she wires him the money to pay for her wife's flight. She has an interview with Harpaar's Bazaar in the next few days and she cancels. She cancels when she learns from Lily Goldberg and her father's that Quinn has pieced together the puzzle. She calls George at the Beagle Noggin, and wonders if Quinn's found the encryptions that Rachel had George install six and a half months ago before she moved in to her apartment. George tells her of the blonde's visit, and Rachel's heart beats within her chest as the puzzle pieces are rounding themselves together one by one and she wants to cry at how heavy the weight of her heart feels.

She packs a suitcase, and rips the spare key out of her keychain as she barges into Quinn's apartment. She can smell her in the air; in the way the furniture bends to the blonde's absent curve. She can smell her and feel her in the way that Quinn still purchases the same shampoo. And when she spots T.K. mewling for her on the floor she picks him up and laughs when she sees his missing collar. The fact that Quinn thought he was a girl when he was a kitten, and named him Tink, only to find out a few months later that he wasn't a she – they decided to keep the name, and thus T.K, was born. And as she strokes his fur and carries him down to her rental car to set him into his carrier – she smiles. She smiles for the first time in a year – because she is going to Ohio.

She is going to Ohio to steal her wife back.

Because … she remembers.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHT

Mrs. And Mrs. Darling

Part II:

 

Ohio mornings are crisp and clear, the clouds gray in their motions along the horizon. The sky a cerulean blue when the weather calls for it; And Rachel knows that this is not where Quinn wishes to stay – but they will both always call it home. She observes Quinn, as the blonde stares down at the ice laden roads, and the buttoned up children catching the school bus down the street – the Lima City School District routes haven't changed Rachel notices. They haven't changed in thirty years. She watches the blonde settle herself against the fence of Rachel's house – and she can see small wisps of curled blonde hair floating around her head in a mystical breeze.

"Good morning Quinn, what brings you to this side of Roger Street? I don't normally see you during my daily walks to school in the morning. Change of pace? – I do admire change quite a bit – it can be quite droll to continue with things over and ov—"

She watches the blonde turn her head up in surprise – unexpectedly steadying her gait as she realizes exactly where she's paused in her musings. Rachel can already see in her hazel eyes – she can feel it in the way the blonde bites her tongue and steadies her gaze. This was a mistake – and Rachel will never be a friend to Quinn Fabray.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean – I should go…I'll see you later Rachel."

The brunette pauses, her lips working in a fine line as she watches the object of her confusion turn around and follow the sidewalk back from whence she came, her feet hitting the curb in a trained dancer's balance – and Rachel has the sudden urge to follow. She has no idea why her legs move sans permission, and she finds her feet catching up to slender ones in front of her – scrambling to keep up with the pace.

"Why are you following me?"

Rachel ticks her head to the side like a puppy dog – and she quickly corrects the gesture, stammering in her head as she tries to come up with a suitable answer for a question she can't even begin to comprehend herself – because honestly, why is she suddenly following Quinn Fabray in the middle of the beginnings of a snow downpour on a school morning.

"I-I – well Quinn, I am rather fond of change – and in some cases spontaneity. And today you've sparked my interest – I couldn't help myself. I'm curious by nature apparently."

And she watches the profile of the blonde's face as her lip turns up in the shadows of a smile. And Rachel can't help but follow her now. Their path winds and bends around the residential homes of Lima, Ohio – and at approximately 8:14am they arrive at Merriman Park just as the first soft flurries of snow fall from the now opaque sky.

"Aren't you afraid of missing school…?"

Quinn blows air between her lips before sitting herself down on one of the mermaid spring chairs, her fingers tracing along the metal scales.

"Not really…"

"Well, Quinn…it's a school day. And…"

Rachel turns to look at her watch and stills when she takes note of the time. It is already twenty minutes into Econ, and she knows this little misadventure will ruin her perfect attendance record.

"I can't stay…I'm late. I don't know what I was thinking following you here. I am going to permanently ruin my high school record. I won't get into college because of you Quinn Fabray. You are ruining my future with your shenanigans -"

And just as she is just getting started, Quinn stills her with a finger to her lips. And when Rachel's brain finally catches up – she is struck silent, lost for words when soft lips catch her cheek in reverent pause.

"Shh…no talking for now."

"I-I don't understand…"

Quinn returns to her mermaid and sits again, her gaze lost on the full gray clouds overhead. When she turns her head down to look at Rachel after a blissful moment of silence, Rachel notices the book in her hands, and the bookmark ribbon toying between the fingers of her right hand.

"When I get stressed out – or when things are particularly difficult for me to grasp or to understand, I sit here in Merriman Park and I read Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie over and over and over… sometimes, wishing that Neverland weren't quite so far away – I like to imagine the mermaids to be real, it's my own little Mermaid cove if you will...is that lame?"

And Rachel has the sudden urge to follow that beautifully melancholy voice – and she does, taking a seat at the adjacent mermaid, letting her fingers run through it's metal skin just as the blonde had been doing before.

"Quinn, that sounds incredibly sad…"

"It isn't…at least not really."

"Peter and Wendy was my favorite book growing up – my great great grandmother and aunt's fault apparently. My copy is old…. but I would make my dad's read it to me every night. And every time I would fall asleep, I would dream of Peter and his Shadow rescuing me to Neverland in a cloud of fairy dust – because trust me I understand, Lima isn't all it's cracked up to be."

And Quinn turns to her then, her eyes are deep and soft. But Rachel can see the flow of calculated unease swirling beneath their depths. And she is intrigued to learn more about this Quinn Fabray. Because perhaps she was wrong. Perhaps, friendship was not quite so obsolete.

"Sometimes I wish Neverland was real…at least there – I could be whoever I wanted to be, and I could have my Wendy once and for all...and happy endings wouldn't be quite so unattainable."

Rachel turns then, her heavy eyes landing on Quinn's capturing ones, and there is a transportation of current between them – and Rachel is suddenly aware that whatever is transpiring between them on this cold Tuesday morning, is nothing less than magical.

"Quinn… what do you mean 'Your Wendy?'"

"I'll leave that story for another adventure."

Rachel watches her look up at the falling flurries and smile brokenly before getting up off of her Mermaid. She pats down her jeans and before Rachel can understand what is happening she feels a warm hand reach down and capture her own – and now she is being pulled up – and without any second guessing, she let's Quinn lead her to wherever she wants to go.

"Where to? Seeing as we've already missed over half of first period, I figure a life without a little bit of debauchery is quite boring."

Quinn smiles softly, and Rachel watches their intertwined hands between them as they walk in step down the wet sidewalk, their pace slow and yet not quite too languid – their fingers still intermixed.

"I-…How do you feel about an adventure?"

Rachel turns to Quinn then and she can see the mirth swirling beneath those calculating Hazel eyes. And is that fear there too? She doesn't understand what in the world could possibly scare the regal blonde at her side. And with a breath, she shakes her head in the affirmative.

"Well then…take my hand Ms. Darling – it looks like we're off to Neverland after all."

And Rachel smiles brightly as the snow falls around them as if they are encapsulated in a haze of fairy dust. The magic infusing her very tired soul. And when she sees those eyes again, and their interlinked shadows in the concrete, she can't think of anything or anywhere else she'd rather be – than on her way to Neverland in the arms of her certainly unforeseen, and yet eternally gorgeous Peter Pan.

And although she smiles when Quinn trails her up to a faded red awning of Neverland Thrift's and Goods – and shows her to the back where the rows and rows of records are hidden. She understands that every day the universe, or Allah, or Buddha, or God – offers small miracles to those in need of them. And perhaps she is Quinn's. For she knows know, after Quinn called her Ms. Darling – that she is Wendy.

And for the first time in her life – she feels, utterly, completely, and ubiquitously… complete.

The memory is bright and illuminated at the forefront of her mind as she watches her Peter Pan – her Quinn. Pore over the DVD recording she composed over eight months ago.

Her private flight had been long and difficult, and when they landed on leveled tarmac she was the first to blaze her path. And it is with a resiliently beating heart that she stands here after a reassuring phone call with her fathers. – Watching her wife discover them – really discover them, for the second time.

Of course, Quinn's memory relapses have always been subjective. After a month in a coma and two more weeks in the ICU, she had been considered a lost cause – by the third month of her rehabilitation, after hours and hours of therapy, some of the pieces of the puzzle had begun to come together. Just the outlines and the random holes of knowledge – and by month five – Quinn remembered all of the inklings of a life she had long since surpassed.

Because they were not twenty-two anymore. That time had gone. And while small victories were afforded in relation to her wife's recollection of a 'maybe' girlfriend named Rachel in the midst of the throes of adolescence. She did not remember their present.

And that hurt, more than anybody could have ever imagined.

It felt like a beating drum against her heart, confining her love to the cage of ineptitude. Because Rachel is not co-dependent – but just how do you explain to anyone else just how fully a heart can break – because she feels as if hers has simply stopped beating without her.

And in the middle of month three – during the initial stages of Quinn's recovery – Rachel fashions an idea. An idea built on merit and first loves, and tales of magic and hope. And when the familiar memory of the day when everything changed – a blonde girl playing hookie in the middle of the throes of a snow downpour…

She realizes, that the only way to bring her wife back – is if she goes after her herself. And with a passion fully re-kindled, she sets her sights in motion, and she pins her love's shadow to the soles of her feet as she moves through the motions of everyday grief. And in secret – in a dramatic reversal of the roles – she occupies Peter's once solid hideout for her own gain.

And she fashions the battle of all battles ever fought on Pirate Cove's rocky and tumultuous shores.

Because, she can't always remain Wendy – and sometimes, Peter is the one who needs to be saved.

And it is with this conviction borne into her imaginings, that she traipses quietly through her old familial front door. Staring at the spaces in the walls where she had informed her fathers over telephone yesterday about how they needed to be removed – for Quinn's benefit. She settles T.K. against the carpet and her eyes are already watery and fierce as she catches wind of her father's as they gasp into her presence. And she pushes them off warily – her eyes set solely on the blonde sat in front of a TV screen, familiar pale hands gripping onto Quinn's old copy of Peter and Wendy between whitened fingers.

And when the DVD ends – she can feel the pain that Quinn feels – the months and months of regret – although none of this was either one of their faults. And she grips the steady ring to her chest with a confidence she's never before known.

And as she touches Quinn's soft cheek for the first time in however many months – she can't help her heart from palpitating to a rhythm it so blindly remembers. And as she slips the sister to her own ring onto a tender finger, she finally catches sight of those remarkable hazel eyes, and all she sees beneath their swirling depths…

Is profound comprehension.

"Rachel…I've missed you."

The voice she remembers is soft and grainy from her tears, and Rachel kisses Quinn's forehead tenderly as her tears flow casually into blonde waves.

"Welcome home Sweetheart…"

Welcome home.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINE

I Have Found My Shadow:

 

Quinn can taste her in the air. She can feel the pressure of her petite form molding to her own like a shadow's caress, and as she basks in the essence of Rachel Berry she lets her vision assault her with all of things that she's missed.

It's like a silent film, burning into the backs of her eyes. A heady breath and she can see for the first time all of the things that she's lost. The flash of brown penny loafers astride her old motorbike – knee high's scuffing against the backs of her calves.

She breathes again – her hands gripping onto an old record player, wrapped up in blue paper – Rachel beaming at her as she tears at the small treasure gifted into her hands. There's a steady assault of image after image – and when Quinn settles, flipping through birthdays, and holidays and anniversaries like a flip camcorder – she pauses as she brings up a hand to run it along the small star tattoo at the back of her ear.

She had been in an accident. And while all the lines and parameters are blurred and hazy around the edges – she can feel the shift, and the fear – and the resolution that come with it. And with most things and with most elements of shock – not every line is filled in and complete, but Quinn can see the outline, and she can see the gradations of color vibrantly as the images behind her retinas burn.

"I was in an accident."

It isn't a question, because Quinn remembers. She can see the bright lights of New York City as her car winds down familiarly populated streets. She can feel the thickness of the steering wheel underneath her hand, and when she opens her eyes and blinks against the onslaught – she sees the bright lights of approaching headlights, and their proximity to her alternately traveling lane. And when she grips her phone within her right hand – the thought of her wife trailing softly from her parted lips. Her eyes widen in a sorrowful calm – as those headlights approach violently. And all she remembers…is black.

And when she blinks again she smiles warmly into the hand still cupping her face. She nuzzles it briefly before bringing her clarified eyes on Rachel's. And she wipes the tears that are streaked across her face away with the pad of her thumbs. And she sighs – her heart finally light, after months and months of darkness.

"Do you know that you were the first thing that flew through my mind, when I thought that it was all over?"

Rachel shakes her head almost imperceptibly as her breathing shallows against Quinn's exploring fingers. The blonde takes her time as she maps out all of the marks and undulations and patterns of her wife's face that she hasn't traversed in much too long.

"I could never forget you Rachel…not for long anyway. You're my Wendy, you have my heart, and you've sealed it in Neverland."

And when Rachel smiles brightly and warmly, Quinn smiles back just as brightly – the memories are still hazily swirling behind her skull – and it kind of hurts to know that she's been in the dark for so long. And her heart hurts more than anyone could possibly fathom, but with Rachel here…still here. She can't help her soul from soaring between them, and when she brushes the tears away from brunette lashes, she leans up – and in an embrace very much needed and eternally missed. She meets Rachel's lips with every ounce of grace that she's ever been granted.

And she can breathe…she is breathing.

 

T.K. although initially forgotten finds his way between their feet, and when they part, Quinn's eyes widen when she scoops up the gray tabby into her arms – confused at his presence and angry with herself that she even eclipsed the thought of brining him with her. And when she looks up at Rachel quizzically, the brunette smiles before sitting down on the couch next to Quinn her; hand reaching out to stroke the familiarly soft fur of his head as he purrs contentedly.

"How did you get here bud?"

Quinn whispers into his fur, and Rachel gives her a serious look before tucking her feet beneath her on the cushion.

"I brought him with me."

And Quinn can see the trepidation cross Rachel's face. And now that Quinn is really looking, she can see how exhausted Rachel Berry looks. Her hair is wild and in need of a brush, and her clothes don't match – Quinn can feel the absence her presence in Rachel's life has made – and she swallows the sorrow clutching at her chest, burying her lips into T.K.s waiting fur.

"I-I don't know…where to start Quinn…now that we're here. I – I was so lost without you."

And the tears are prickling the backs of her eyes as she looks up to stare at Rachel. The brunette is clutching at the ring on her neck – and in the few minutes that they've been re-united she already sees it as a coping mechanism – a tic that her absence has brought on.

"Um…I, shall I start from the beginning?"

Quinn's voice is thick and strained when she blinks her eyes, and nods her head after a short pause.

"Please…"

 

"You mean…you planned this for a year?"

Rachel's eyes are firm as she steadies Quinn's face, and the blonde knows that she is scared. She's scared that after all of this waiting and all of this hard work, that Quinn still won't come back to her. And Quinn takes her hand and leads it away from the chain around Rachel's neck. She laces their fingers together and brings their joined hands to her lips – kissing every knuckle.

"And Andie, George, Lily, your dads…they all knew?"

Rachel smiles and nods.

"Your professors too…the landlord of your building, Dr. Redding, our financiers…"

"Dr. Redding? You mean…Mrs. Redding, my advisor at Columbia? I was supposed to have Mr. Friedlander, but they told me he retired and I got placed with…"

And when Quinn sees Rachel's shaking head she stops. Recounting the entire life she thought she had up until this point as an amnesiac.

"She wasn't an advisor was she?"

"No…she's our therapist and your life coach."

Quinn hums. Understanding swirling within her deep eyes. She doesn't understand whether or not she should be angry with the lie that she'd been forced to live for almost an entire year of her life. Angry with a lie that everyone was in on but her. It hurts…because Quinn is prideful – she always has been and she always will be – but when she sees the ring sitting on her finger, she buries the sentiment down to a place where it belongs. Because all of this, this entire falsity that she's been living, it brought her right back to where she needed to be all along.

"I'm still in shock, and my head hurts from all of this new information…"

Rachel strokes an errant strand of hair out of her hazel eyes as Quinn pinches the bridge of her nose.

"God, I feel like I've been incepted."

And for the first time in a long time, she really laughs. And Rachel joins in, and soon the room is filled with their raucous and soft laughter. She reaches for Rachel, and embraces her strongly as their laughs and giggles finally taper off, and with her chin nestled against the brunettes shoulder, she breathes in her scent. Smiling into the familiar skin. Letting Rachel stroke her back warmly and comfortably as they sit there encircled together with no space between them.

And when Rachel whispers softly into her ear, she feels a shiver tickle warmly against her back. And she closes her eyes to the missed sensation.

"Peter you won't forget me…will you?"

Quinn runs the memory through her tired brain, and she remembers the letters on the worn pages like a second skin. She raises her lips to a waiting ear and whispers in return exactly what she expects Rachel is waiting to hear.

"Me? forget? Never…"

Rachel sighs shakily into her ear when the words escape her lips. And Quinn knows why – because she did forget. She did forget their love. But she rubs a soothing hand across Rachel's back. Because – in the grand scheme of all that they embody. Rachel is still there…and now, she remembers them – and she could never forget again.

"Will you ever come back?"

Quinn nods her head and smiles warmly. She knows how this part of the quote ends, and she knows that for this moment it isn't quite what she's going for. And so with a very tender conviction and a loving embrace she whispers against the tender skin she so wishes she could jut get lost in.

"Always Rachel…always."

 

It takes another hour of cries and sobs, and smiles of jubilation at the old Berry home and when Leroy looks at her and cups her cheeks before tenderly kissing her forehead, she leans into his touch – feeling the love and the tenderness he so eloquently possesses. Hiram is much less composed, and he crushes her warmly with his smaller form – his glasses foggy and wet from his tears. And Quinn hugs him back fiercely, thanking them both as she stands in their foyer…for never giving up on her.

They leave—barely escaping the clutching throes of happiness and welcome, and as Quinn sits in the passenger seat of Rachel's rental car she stares out of the window at a Lima that looks vastly different than the one she rode in on. The leaves on the trees are more vibrant, the asphalt more concrete, the sky a brighter blue – and the weightlessness in her heart is almost foreign as she feels familiar – that word…familiar – fingers intertwining with her own at her hip. And when she turns her gaze to the driver's seat, there is a gorgeous Rachel Berry waiting for her.

They stop at Hook's Thrift and Tackle and when Quinn walks in she can feel the Neverland that never seemed to ease out of this place. Captain is behind the counter, and when he sees their joined hands as they approach him – he grinds on the edge of his cigar with a faint twinkle in his warmer eyes.

"I see you got your woman Mrs. Berry-Fabray…"

Rachel turns to answer, as does Quinn. And at the simple fact that Quinn remembers that –yes- she is Berry-Fabray now, Rachel offers her a beaming smile, and a squeeze of fingers before she leans over the counter and grabs for Captain's cigar, setting it down on the counter-top teasingly and disapprovingly. And when she looks back up she nods at Captain, and he nods back, a small smile tugging on his wiry lips.

"Thank you, James."

"I'm just in it for the adventure Miss."

And Quinn watches her wife smile warmly at the gruff man before pulling them both out of the store – their store. And as they re-climb into the rented Malibu – Quinn has one last wish before they head off into whatever direction Rachel has in store for them.

"Is Merriman Park close-by?"

And Rachel doesn't nod or give an answer, she simply turns the steering wheel as if it were a second nature, and as they pull up to the familiar park in the late afternoon to sit on familiar mermaids tails. Quinn smiles as she strokes the metal scales, and she looks over peacefully at the children playing at the swings – and as her present is finally mapping out for her before her eyes – she finds herself dreaming of an even more abundant future.

Rachel smiles at her warmly – and Quinn's eyes leave the distant realms from which they've been caught. And when she settles her bright hazel gaze on deep amber – she watches her wife's hair get lost in a light breeze, swirling around her face in a sweet dance. And for that almost second – she looks seventeen again. And Quinn smiles – because it's been nearly ten years – she knows now that she isn't twenty-two. She understands that that life has gone and lived itself. She remembers that she has an established firm, and a thriving career – and most of all, she remembers the side-longs and in-betweens of a three-year-old marriage that has so much more to give.

"You're it for me, you know that?"

Rachel steps up off of her Mermaid, her feet digging patterns in the sand before she follows those eyes and walks over to sit on the tail end of Quinn's mermaid, wrapping her arms around the blonde's waist, and clasping her fingers together around her middle.

"Well, I didn't do all of this waiting for nothing Quinn. I am a fairly persistent individual with a career, and bills to pay, and a life to live. I am also rather selfish at times, and so it is with great conviction that I tell you…that had you not felt for me nearly as much as I feel for you – than everything, all of that lost time – wouldn't nearly have been quite so painstakingly heart-breaking now would it?"

"Well, when you put it like that…"

"Quinn…you are my everything. And I would sail to the ends of the earth and back for you whenever the need should arise. Because…you are and always will be it for me."

And Quinn bites her lip from a smile when she feels a warm and heavy head, land softly against her shoulder blades – and before she can properly bask in the feeling - her mermaid totters dangerously from the displaced weight, and they are falling into the sand. Lips sandy and dirt smeared, hands roaming to catch balances. Fingers following to grab at hips – and while they laugh in the sand as they clutch to one another, the sun beaming down to illuminate their still forms. Rachel trails a hand up Quinn's back and holds her close as she seals the small distance between them with a tender kiss.

 

Two days later the trip back to New York City is daunting and familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time. Quinn has spent every waking moment re-discovering herself and Rachel throughout their stay in Lima. They haven't yet traversed all boundaries of their relationship as a married couple quite yet – because things are still tentative and old, but new. And it would be best to get Quinn tested out before hopes and dreams are placed too high.

On the first day back – Quinn visits with Dr. Redding. And in a moment of differentially they meet in Dr. Redding's normal office instead of her –now Quinn realizes must have been fake – offices on the Columbia campus. She notes the potted plants in the windowsills and the gray-toned furniture and grimaces slightly as she seats herself in the unfamiliar leather.

Dr. Redding is warm and astute, and Quinn can already see why Rachel feels comfortable in her care. She can understand why she always enjoyed their advising appointments at Columbia. She feels at a loss – unsure on where she stands – because believing someone to be one thing, and then seeing them for who they really are is a challenge in and of itself – and the adaptation that Quinn feels is necessary, eludes her.

"Quinn, I'm glad to see you. As you see – we have a change of scenery today."

"I do…Ms…Dr. Redding. You have a nice office."

"Quinn – let me start there. I know this is difficult because you knew me as a completely different person in your life. You must feel me to be a rare form of liar. And in part, I am. And I am sorry. But please don't let our presently new relationship falter because we are uncomfortable. Please call me Ms. Redding. It is how you know me. And it is what makes you comfortable."

Quinn smiles – this therapist is good. Her heart swells at the thought that Rachel trusted her with Quinn's care. Her wife is amazing.

"Well then Ms. Redding, since it seems like we're on softer ground now. Where do you want to start with your assessment?"

Dr. Redding smiles warmly before dropping her pen on her desk and staring at a small plant on her desk as Quinn relaxes into the much more welcoming leather.

"This isn't an assessment, don't think of this as anything other than a session Quinn."

Quinn nods languidly into the couch as she stares out of the large window of the office.

"Tell me about your wife."

And Quinn smiles, her eyes closing to all of the things that come to mind about the perfection that is Rachel Berry. And she chuckles lightly – because surely – now, they will be here for hours.

 

By the end of the next two weeks Quinn is moving back into their old apartment. The "new" one feels oddly unfamiliar to her now – and as she moves her things back to the spaces where they once resided she smiles – at all of the memories of this space that they've made together. Happy to have them back again.

And in the midst of all of the unpacking, she stops into the bathroom in the throes of finding her wife, and she stumbles on Rachel at the sink staring fondly at Quinn's unpacked toothbrush resting in their toothbrush holder beside Rachel's at the edge of the counter.

"Watcha doing babe?"

And as Rachel turns in surprise which quickly ebbs into a sideways smile – she shakes her head before wrapping her arms around Quinn's waist, and the blonde watches her as she takes a large inhale of breath at Quinn's collarbone, and when she opens her mouth and smiles – a small admonition escapes into the air between them.

"It's so nice…to see your things, exactly where they've always belonged. It's stupid, because it's a toothbrush…but…I missed that. I missed your socks hanging under the hamper instead of inside of it, and your shampoo in the shower caddy. I missed rolling my feet under your legs to warm them up at night when it gets cold. I missed a lot of things about you that I never realized I was capable of missing. And I'm just so beyond words – to have the possibility of it all back."

And as Quinn wipes her hand over her sweaty and dusty brow from all of the unpacking she leans down to capture her wife in a kiss to say all of the things that her mouth cannot. And when Rachel leans over in the midst of the heat to turn on the shower – Quinn doesn't object – and when they climb under the hot spray, the smell of familiar shampoo and body wash shared between them – Quinn doesn't stop her hands from roaming to places she once road mapped vigorously – and Rachel lets the blonde's GPS take over. Her own fingers doing much of the same. And as they get lost in each other between the cascading hums of water – Quinn feels like she's finally made it home.

 

The next month is lively and lovely and perfect in so many ways. Quinn stopped her classes at Columbia the week after returning – much to her professors oblige, and when Rachel and Dr. Redding convince her to re-take the Bar at the end of the month Quinn agrees. And as she studies over all of her texts stored in bookshelves and closet storage bins – she smiles as the haziness of Law that had remained fuzzy begin to finally fill in. And by the end of the weekend she is herself. And she takes the Bar – she is not the oldest one there by far. But when she finishes the exam she salutes the small victory with nod to the test administrator.

And when she gets her results back – she's passed – just as she'd known she would once she signed her name on the first page. By the end of the next two months she's back at her practice. And she isn't handling cases quite yet, but she's advising and she's re-settling into the swing of things. And Rachel is so proud of her.

By the third month – Quinn is content. She finds herself walking the familiar streets of Manhattan to a rhythm she's known before, and before she knows it she finds herself traversing a much travelled pass. Her feet drag her to the front of a glass store, and her eyes settle on the name inscribed against the glass. She smiles, and looks up into the New York City night sky. Marveling at just how different it looks from New York City Mornings. The city lights cascade wonderfully around and between one another, melting into a painter's scene. And people walk between and around her with a different purpose than they do when the morning affords it.

And as she opens the door to a familiar jingle of a bell, and the all too nostalgic smell of dusted ink on paper, she finds her way to the back of the stacks, and when her fingers settle on the only copy in rotation of Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie, her eyes rake over the pages as they flip between her steady fingers. And as she reaches the inside flap of the back cover – her hazel eyes pause on a small inscription in blue ink left in the margin. It is new, and indented with ink, and Quinn squints her eyes to read it carefully.


"…It looks like it's happily ever after Mrs. Darling. I hope you enjoyed your travels, and I hope that Neverland turned out to be everything you expected and more. For I think…that perhaps it's time that I take your hand in return, and let you lead me on a journey of your own fashioning.


I'll be waiting…always.


-R"

And when Quinn closes the back cover of the book and places it slowly back to it's perch among the stacks – she sees Andie in the shadows smiling at her warmly before averting her gaze. And Quinn smiles as she retrieves her cell phone from her purse. And as she taps out a message to her wife – she knows that life will never get better than this because…they've had Neverland with them all along. And the magic…

It is everywhere.

And from across the city, rousing herself from a mid-evening nap Rachel awakens to the buzzing of her phone nearby, and when she unlocks the screen to read the text her heart stops in its chest and she falls in love with a girl she met in Lima, Ohio and followed and lost on the way to Neverland- all over again.


"The rabbit hole is waiting for you Alice…are you ready? Let me take you to a place where lovers soar and adventure lurks behind every valley.


Wonderland awaits, Rachel.


The magic…is everywhere my love."
And as Rachel turns to look out of the large window of their bedroom, at a New York City skyline illuminated in an effervescent glow, she smiles at the pattering of her heart. And she feels – as her fingers skim the space that is still warm from Quinn's radiant body – that perhaps…. she is already there.

Chapter Text

Epilogue

Through The Looking Glass:

 

At thirty-six, Quinn Elizabeth Berry-Fabray can say that she's been on quite a few adventures in her lifetime. And as she traipses through the office of her shared apartment, the books in the large bookcases give her pause.

She studies the worn bindings in front of her that sit on the antique mahogany bookcase. Her fingers trailing softly against their spine- and as she passes, her hazel eyes rove over every copy before her; Her mind flashing unforgettably to all of the adventures that she's left behind.

 

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

By: Lewis Carroll

She recalls a particularly thrilling moment there. Her gloved hands and top hat falling crookedly off of her hair as her bangs swirl about her face in the snow flurries. And with fingers laced between the tan ones of her Alice she remembers leading them to Wonderland under New York City lights, their feet paving a way in the pavement. And as they reach Bryant Park, under lights and reflections in the early December moonlight they watch the ice-skaters and revelers wide-eyed and mystified.

With her cheeks cold and rosy with flush. She separates their joined hands with a devilish smirk to put even the Cheshire cat's to shame, as she disappears within the throngs of passerby.

Rachel stands transfixed by the ice-skaters and revelers as she waits patiently for her hatter to return to her. And she looks up happily – heart floating amongst the clouds as she watches Quinn walk up to her moments later with apple-cider and small treats for the two of them to share. And with a crisp cold air surrounding her rosy lips, Quinn blushes warmly before leaning in closely to whisper delicately into Alice's wondering ear...

"Tea Time, love…"

 

Another glance and her fingers are pausing against a familiar title. Quinn's lips tilting up into a delicate smile as her mind wanders to the not quite so distant recesses of her memory.

 

"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"

By: J.R.R. Tolkien

The air is dark and dispersed between them as they breathe heavily into one another amidst the covers. Pale and tan legs intertwined into an intricate balance between them. Quinn can feel Rachel's breath skirting, panting into the damp skin of her torso as they lie together. Eyes closed, and chests heaving – the only visible light coming through the naked blinds from the street below and the stars above. There is desperation in the way they hold one another. And Quinn can still taste Rachel on her tongue as her mind quiets.

But before she can flutter them to a sleepy close there is a smaller, equally spent body shuffling up her body, small hands resting palm down at the sheets beneath Quinn's head. The heat still radiating between them is wild and carnivorous and Quinn can feel the fire burning behind those dark eyes as they settle on her own slowly. She feels the backs of fingertips trail over her ribcage like a skilled pianists composition and she brings her hand to Rachel's wrist to still the burning motions.

"Rachel – I'm tired…let me sleep."

There is a chuckle to the brunette's voice, and while Quinn believes to be stilling the small roaming hands she forgets that her wife is still yet capable of utilizing her mouth, and a gargled moan escapes her lips when she feels burning lips descending wickedly to envelop her earlobe in a tryst of passion. There is a whisper to the brunette's voice now, and Quinn can hear continued labored breaths with every exhalation.

"Nuh Uh…I'm not finished with you yet baby."

And Quinn knows it; she can feel it with every soft gasp that escapes her tongue as Rachel continues her ministrations.

Her wife is evil.

And almost as if Rachel had set out to convince Quinn of this fact, she reaches underneath the blonde's head beneath the pillow while her lips rise up to meet the blonde's in a languid, burning distraction.

And Quinn barely notices the small box that Rachel's occupied hand emerges with, and she's so tired, and spent, and burning with want that she barely registers the thin chain being clasped softly around her neck. And when she finally breaks away from Rachel's prying mouth with a gasp at the sudden feel of cold metal against her burning clavicle; she looks up into warm mischievous eyes in confusion.

"W-What …"

She brings a hand up to palm the chain around her neck as she sits up slowly to take a better look at it in the darkness. Her eyes flash when she sees the gold ring settled between her breasts, the engraving on the outer rim reflecting against the moonlight. Quinn looks up at Rachel, and her wife is sitting up with her now as she places a matching mysterious ring/necklace over her own neck. And as Quinn looks down to the engraving with furrowed brows she recognizes the "Black Speech." And when her eyes widen to meet Rachel's she sees her wife's impish grin.

"Happy Anniversary. I know we just came back from dinner and a private viewing of Peter Pan on Broadway…just for us. But I had one more gift for you – and as we got carried away in the post-date debauchery too many times to count…"

Quinn smiles knowingly, her chest still heaving from their last session as she reaches for Rachel's hand against the covers.

"I've decided to wait until now to give it to you. You probably already recognize it. It's one of your favorite books after all Mrs. Baggins... I took the liberty of copying the quote, but only some. I mean, I'm no Sauron, and the original thing's sort of morbid...so some of the words are different, but you love Tolkien so…"

Quinn smiles as she stares down at the inscription on her ring, noticing now that hers is different from Rachel's. And before she can ask what they each say the brunette is already answering her question.

"My ring says: 'One ring to claim your heart, one ring to find you.'

And yours: "One ring to never part, and in desire bind you.'"

"It's cheesy I know…but –"

And before Rachel can let the seedlings of doubt begin to twine together beneath her chest she feels Quinn's hand at her cheek stilling her with a soft touch.

"It's perfect..."

Quinn visibly flushes as she recalls that particular memory, letting the fingers of her left hands wrap themselves into the pocket of her jeans as she bites her lip. The ring sits nestled beneath her t-shirt and as she shifts her focus down the large bookcase, she can feel it brushing against her skin – and she smiles.

 

Her hair is wild and she still has yet to brush it this morning, but she is distracted as she runs a steady hand through it as her eyes settle on another book, and yet another adventure...

 

"The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe"

By: C.S. Lewis

"Quinn…?"

The bookstore is empty. And while the door jingles when Rachel opens it, she finds herself surrounded by dim evening darkness; the smell of parchment and dust assault her senses. It's a familiar smell, and while usually comforting – today it just makes her anxious.

A small note is trapped between her right hand fingertips, and when she had come home after a particularly grueling meeting with her publicist earlier in the day it was to find her wife missing, and a simple piece of parchment atop the dining room table. Her wife's familiar scrawl taunting her in black ink.

"Hide and Seek? Meet me at Harrison's. I'll be waiting…"

And initially Rachel had wanted to laugh at her wife's cleverness – but after arriving to an empty and darkened bookstore with no account of her wife or Andrea in sight – she feels a bit dejected. She huffs out a tired breath and begins a steady pace through the dark stacks one by one… she's tired, and not particularly in the mood for games anymore. It isn't until she reaches the aisle…that her brown eyes flash when she sees it.

A large brown door made of cardboard – it reaches to at least six feet tall, and Rachel smiles as she approaches it – her finger reaching out to open it warily.

"Quinn…?"

As the cardboard door swings back she realizes that it is a box, a very large cardboard box full of cardboard clothes hanging on cardboard hangers within its painted cardboard confines. And at the end of the tunnel, there is another door cutout with small slithers of light peeking in between.

Rachel braces her hand to her chest and closes her eyes, smiling – because she knows exactly what she'll find on the other side. And when she opens the door to see little flakes of paper descending on top of her head like snowfall she looks ahead of her at all of the people waiting for her arrival.

Quinn leads the pack, and as she reaches up to place a little plastic tiara on Rachel's head she whispers into her ear quietly – leading her wife away towards a very long table set up in a small clearing between the stacks. It is full of food and treats and wine, and at the seats sit all of their friend and loved ones.

George sits adjacent to Dr. Redding, followed by a shy smiling Andie and at least half of her cast mates from the play. And at the head of the table sit her fathers, Hiram and Leroy—and as her bright amber eyes catch theirs, the bristles of a familiar warm breath stroke her neck and her cheek, as Quinn whispers into her ear softly.

"Happy Birthday my dear Lucy…"

Rachel looks up into Quinn's eyes, just now noticing the bright lion mane cutout billowing around her face in a silly embrace. Rachel smiles, wrapping her arms tightly around her wife's middle and burying her head into her chest when the tears finally come. Because…looking out across the table at all of her loved ones – she knows.

She can feel it in the way that Quinn holds her tight and dusts fake snow out of bangs.

She can see it in the way that Quinn knows her better than she knows herself.

She can hear it in her ears. In the way that her heart beats to a lover's tune; never truly having belonged to her at all. At least since a boy named Peter took it away to Neverland for safekeeping…and in Neverland, it will always stay. Because boys in Neverland never grow up – and hearts are made to love forever.

And with gripping fingers in familiar skin she follows her silly lion to the table to blow out entirely too many birthday candles to be accurate of her age. And with a beaming smile she watches as everyone around her eats and smiles and laughs as together they all swirl in their own little world of white.

 

It is here that Quinn pauses in her musings. Her recollections slowing on the fond memory and her heart beating to a familiar happiness that she all too happily remembers. It's almost as if this has become them – this adventure. It has followed them from Lima, to the streets of New York and back again. And Quinn remembers the journey through clear eyes. She remembers the love that they've worked so hard to keep. And as she finishes trailing her fingers over the time-worn books and timeless tales, and unforgettable adventures she stills at an empty space among the ranks.

It causes her to pause and her heart to still and quicken all at the same time as she wonders where on earth the pinnacle of her collection could possibly be. It sets her into a calm panic because Peter and Wendy is her past, and her present and her future. And as she sets out through their shared New York city apartment the ring on her finger burns as she twists it around the skin worriedly.

Because where is Rachel? And where is their book?

She needs her wife – or else she will fall into a puddle of grief – because their book, their prize, her and her wife's love…it is missing. She looks for it calmly through the kitchen, the foyer, the living room, the hall bathroom. And it isn't until she reaches the landing that she hears familiar voices. They are soft and musical and sweet, and Quinn slows her steps as she reaches pale walls and a Winnie The Pooh adorned bedroom door. The hinges held open at a slight angle.

And the voices are right there now – they swell her heart and begin to ebb the panic that had moments ago settled in – because she realizes…that this is all that she will ever need.

With a soft breath she peeks inside and what she sees engulfs her dreams and sends them soaring into the moonlight. And she knows…she knows. That although time is taking them slowly – for her and Rachel at thirty- six aren't growing any younger, she knows that their hearts – their love will never grow old.

And when she sees her wife look up with those same piercing brown eyes and smile just for her she smiles back, motioning for her to continue as she takes the small steps necessary to join those two voices on the bed. One musical and sweet, the other happy and tired with play.

And with gentle hands she reaches out to stroke the softest hair between her fingers, the warm body beneath her curling into her sweatshirt as Rachel continues on. The words flowing through the three of them softly as they lie back to listen carefully...

"All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, 'Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!' This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up…"

"Momma…is this- does this story have a happy ending?"

Rachel pauses in the story, and Quinn turns to the brunette to look into her eyes – her gaze lowering to settle amongst the familiar pages of the lost book. Nestled warmly between Rachel's fingers. And with bright eyes she nods happily, a smile gracing her lips as she runs her hands through her daughter's hair over and over again. Letting the light curls wrap around her fingers as she leans down to tickle her softly before whispering into her ear.

"I think it does Alice…"

And Quinn watches Alice smile up from her curled up position next to her to smile brightly over at Rachel. Her small fingers toying with her Pooh Bear as Quinn pokes her again with a tickle.

"I like happy endings..."

And as Rachel leans over to wipe a small smudge of chocolate from little rosy cheeks, she laughs lightly at the two front teeth missing from Alice's smile. Marveling at just how similar those hazel eyes are to the larger ones right behind them.

"Me too sweetie...me too."