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Haven't Forgotten My Way Home

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McKinley House stood at the end of a long drive through the woods at the end of town. An enormous brick building, from the outside it looked like one of the Higher Academies; but Lima Ac was at the dead center of the town, and the “students” currently at McKinley House probably were no longer able to survive even a day beyond its walls.

After showing her badge and credentials to the guard, Rachel Berry wound her car through the gate and up to the parking lot that sat to the right of the House. She dug through her front seat until she found the board with its notebook paper and pen, which she always carried on these visits. Also clipped to the board was a list of names, the people that she would need to visit with. She was lucky; today there were only five, which meant she’d be able to get home early, finally kick off those insufferable high heels and relax.

Maybe there would be a musical on television.

She knocked on the door that led into McKinley House, and stepped back when it swung inward. The orderly in his blue uniform looked her up and down, and Rachel felt her body tense when his lips crooked into a sneer.

“New resident?” he said, and she rolled her eyes.

She held up her badge. “Inspections.” The thin silver band encircling her right wrist glittered in the sunlight. It gave her no amount of satisfaction that the orderly stepped back quickly and ushered her in.

“Of course, inspections, yes Ma’am, sorry, Ma’am.”

“Relax,” she said to him. “I’m not going to punish you, but you certainly do need to check your attitude; the last thing the residents here need is an orderly with attitude problems.”

“Yes Ma’am, thank you, Ma’am.”

“Where’s your director?”

“Right here.” She approached Rachel with a smile, and held out her hand. “Shannon Beiste.”

“Rachel Berry,” she said easily, taking her hand and shaking it, then holding up her badge. “Society for the Ethical Treatment of Submissives.”

SETS had been created years earlier, to do exactly what its name suggested: create an organization whose sole aim was to protect the submissives of Lima society, and ensure their proper treatment. And never was the society more necessary than in visits to places like McKinley House.

McKinley House had only been in operation for about ten years, around the time that Rachel Berry was enrolled in Lima Academy and taking her first courses that would set her on her path for life. Dominance for Beginners. The Rights of a Submissive. Praise and Punishment. Of course, there was math and English thrown in there for good measure as well, and she’d enjoyed her extracurricular time with the choir and the debate team. While Rachel was growing up and growing into her natural role as Dominant – a role she’d been destined for ever since the silver circlet had been fastened around her wrist at age three – the first bricks were being laid as the foundation for McKinley House.

Or, as its full name was, McKinley House for the Care of Orphan Submissives.

Orphan submissives. They held a particularly sad, delicate place in Lima society. The House was for two kinds of submissives: those whose Dominants had died, or those whose Dominants had proven unfit. In Lima, if you were Dominant you could choose your own submissive, or, if you were from a wealthy family, often matches were made before the first blush of new birth had disappeared off the babies. Rachel preferred the first, and thanked whatever power there was out there that her parents had left the choice up to her. Nearly all of her visits at Houses similar to McKinley were to an “OS” whose Dominant had abused him or her, abandoned them. It tore at her heart, and often it was hard to leave her work behind when she went home at night.

Occasionally there were happy stories, about an OS that could leave the home and start a new life on their own, or with a new Dominant. But more often than not, an orphan submissive would stay at the home until they died. Because though the circumstances that had brought them to the home weren’t their fault, they were, for all intents and purposes, “pre-owned.” Damaged. Their value just wasn’t high, and it took a special person to want to claim someone who had been damaged by another Dominant.

“So this is your first visit,” Director Beiste said, beginning to walk with Rachel down the hall to the wide common room. Through the doorway Rachel could see a few people sitting at long tables playing board games, or resting on the few couches that stood in front of the wide screen television hung on the wall. “I hope you’ll be pleased with what you find.”

Rachel smiled. “You needn’t worry, I don’t think,” she reassured. “My predecessor told me nothing but good things about McKinley, and he attributed all of it to your expert guidance.” She stopped and turned to the director. “I’m sorry about what brought you here, but I’m also very relieved at the care the residents receive at your hands.”

Jesse had told her that not only was Beiste the director of McKinley now, but she was also one of its very first tenants, and one of its few success stories. Collared rashly to a man who’d had no business owning animals, much less a woman, Shannon Beiste had endured mistreatment until she’d finally found the courage to apply to the Council for Release from Servitude. It had been granted and she’d lived in McKinley for a year and a half, finally breaking out on her own and resolving to return to help people who had once been like her. Now the only thing that remained to remind anyone of her previous life was the thin band of white against otherwise tan skin. The remnants of the silver collar she’d once worn.

“Thank you,” Director Beiste said, and dutifully stepped back to allow Rachel to enter the common room. Though she was no longer a collared submissive, the deference of society still remained, and Rachel was, in that respect, her superior. Not to mention she was inspecting the House, so all formalities would need to be given.

“Which names are on the agenda today?”

Rachel scanned them; four were regulars, but one, Jesse had pointed out as he was training her on the case load, was new. Rachel tapped the name with her finger.

“I’d like to start with this one first,” she said. “Quinn Fabray.”

“Uh.” Director Beiste stopped short, so that Rachel nearly ran into her. She quirked an eyebrow. “My apologies, Ma’am,” she said quickly, “But maybe you… want to speak with one of the others? It might be best to wait till last for Miss Fabray.”

“And why is that?”

“Because, well… her time here has been, shall we say, difficult.”

Ah. There was that word. It could mean so many things, Rachel knew. A problem child. A submissive who decided that topping from the bottom was the name of the game. Or it could mean one of the saddest residents of homes like McKinley: a submissive so broken and damaged there was no hope for rehabilitation. No chance for a happy ending. Rachel knew those well. The sullen expression, masking a world of hurt and pain hidden in their eyes. The lost desire to fight, crying themselves to sleep at night or not showing any emotion at all. It was this type of OS that haunted Rachel the most.

“Define difficult.”

Director Beiste seemed to struggle to find the words, and finally she just shook her head. “If you just look at her, you’ll know what I mean.” She lifted her finger and pointed, as subtly as she could. “There.”

Rachel followed the direction of the gesture, and she felt her heart sink.

The first thing she saw, rather than the girl, was the chair. It seemed to be less of a mobility aid and more an extension of her, as if the silver wheels were the girl’s legs. As it was, clad in the regulation blue sweatpants, the girl’s legs rested uselessly against the chair, and her hands stayed folded in her lap. Blonde hair spilled over the shoulders of the blue tee-shirt, and even from her vantage point across the room, Rachel could see hazel eyes that stared unseeingly off in the distance.

“Is she blind?” she asked in a near whisper.

“No.” Beiste shook her head. “Just paralyzed from the waist down. The doctor does say it’s temporary though, if we can get her to physical therapy.”

“And what is her therapy routine?”

“She doesn’t have one.”

“Doesn’t have one?” Rachel replied indignantly, turning to the director. “You just said that her recovery hinges on physical therapy, and you don’t have her in a physical therapy routine? Director Beiste, surely you understand the necessity of-“

“She won’t go, Ma’am.”

Rachel tilted her head in confusion. “She won’t go? Then what is her routine?”

“It’s… that.” Director Beiste gestured weakly towards Quinn Fabray again. “Since she came here, that’s what she does. She sits in her chair in that corner and doesn’t move. Someone brings her here in the morning; they take her back to her room at night. She barely eats, I don’t think she sleeps, and… well… she doesn’t talk.”

“D-doesn’t talk?”

“She hasn’t said a word since she was brought here.”

“Why was she brought here?”

Rachel listened, a sick feeling growing in the pit of her stomach, as Director Beiste quietly and mechanically rattled off the details of Quinn Fabray’s life before McKinley. It was one of the rules of the Home (and indeed, of Rachel’s job as well) not to get involved with a resident’s story. But still, hearing everything told in such an emotionless way, it seemed almost… cruel, Rachel thought.

Quinn Fabray was 23 to Rachel’s 22, and had been promised to a boy from the moment she was born. When she was 16, while Rachel was enjoying classes and solos at Lima Academy, Quinn was collared to the boy, called Finn. Finn Hudson was tall, strong, and entirely unprepared for a life as a Dom. Beiste’s voice took on a more mournful tone as she told the story; Rachel imagined the woman was living bits and pieces of her own life, through Quinn’s. The young girl had bravely put up with his increasingly difficult demands, his over the top punishments and outright abuse, until the one night when she’d finally had enough.

She’d placed two calls: one to the Council for Release, and the other, to her parents. The second went unanswered. The Council had advised her to stay until morning when a representative could speak with her, but Quinn was confused, and basically at the end of her leash. In her panicked state she’d run away without a single belonging, not even shoes on her feet. Blinded with fear and exhaustion, she hadn’t even seen the truck coming.

Her hands were clutching the clipboard so tightly that her knuckles were white; Rachel took a deep breath as Director Beiste finished.

“What did he do to her?” she wondered softly. She could imagine what it had been like, and why Quinn had endured it for so long. Five years. Though it was one of the main tenets of rehabilitation that whatever happened to the submissives at the home wasn’t their fault, there was still a certain amount of shame to be had from running away from your Dominant. No wonder the poor girl stayed.

“We don’t really know. She won’t tell us, obviously. Not the therapist, not any of the other residents, not even me. None of us have been able to get her to talk.”

“Does he visit her?”

Beiste scoffed. “Wrote us a letter that he washed his hands of her. I believe he said she could rot in hell.”

She fought back the wave of revulsion and anger that welled up within her. Bastard, she thought. She’d met her fair share of Doms who didn’t deserve the beautiful submissives they’d been given, but never one that had just outright abandoned anyone. Rachel nodded, finally easing up her hold on the clipboard. She smoothed her dark hair behind her ear and adjusted the simple black skirt and white shirt she wore, and then looked at Beiste.

“I’ll talk to her.”

Beiste grinned sadly. “Oh you’ll talk,” she said. “But she won’t. I guarantee it.”

“Hmph,” was all Rachel said as she walked away from Beiste and across the room to Quinn Fabray.

Up close to her, Rachel could see that the girl was strikingly beautiful, if altogether too pale and weak-looking. She made a mental note to have Quinn’s diet increased. In the meantime she reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out a small packet of apple slices. In the quietness of the corner, it seemed that tearing the package almost echoed.

“Apple?” Rachel said, holding one out.

No response.

Rachel nodded and gently laid the apple slice on the arm of Quinn’s chair.

“You can have that whenever you’re ready,” she said. “I’m Rachel Berry.”

No response. Quinn stared off into space.

Hmm. Beiste was right, this was difficult. “I’m not a resident,” Rachel explained. “And I don’t work for the House. I work for the Department of Rehabilitation Services, as part of the Society for the Ethical Treatment of Submissives.”

It was quite a mouthful, and Quinn Fabray didn’t even blink. Rachel decided to simplify it.

“That means I’m on your side,” she said softly, pausing to munch on an apple slice. She’d forgotten lunch. Again. And now she was starving. She just hoped her stomach wouldn’t growl, that was far too embarrassing for anyone, much less a Dominant. “I work to make sure that you receive the best care possible during your stay here.” She smiled wryly, realizing she made it sound less like a care home, and more like a retreat. “Are you treated well?”

Nothing.

“Do you need anything?”

Still nothing.

Rachel sat in silence then, finishing up her apple slices because she knew she’d have no chance to eat anything else for the rest of the day, until it was time to go home. She snuck little glances here and there at Quinn Fabray, and was disheartened to see that the girl was still staring off into space, those pretty hazel eyes glassy and hard.  She sighed.

Well, she couldn’t just stay there and force the woman to talk, Rachel knew. Plus there were four other residents that needed her attention. Rachel stood up.

“Eat that apple slice,” she said gently. “It’s good for you and will help you get your strength back up for when you start to walk again.”

When. Not if. Rachel nodded to herself. She walked back over to Beiste, who offered her a resigned shrug.

“She’s too thin,” Rachel said. “I want you to increase her diet. Offer her more choices at each of her meals. If she acts as if she’d like to have snacks during the day, make sure those are provided to her.”

“Yes, Ma’am. She didn’t say anything to you?”

Rachel looked down at her feet, defeated. “No,” she said. “Not one word.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I am too,” the petite brunette said, half to herself, as she made her way over to one of the other residents.

The rest of the visit passed uneventfully; it was clear the Department’s trust in Shannon Beiste hadn’t been misplaced. McKinley House was an example to all the others, Rachel thought; Carmel especially could do with a crash course in how to treat their orphaned submissives. Still, as she moved to leave the common room, her gaze moved back to Quinn Fabray, who was still sat rooted to her wheelchair in the corner. It was clear she hadn’t changed her position in the last hour and a half that Rachel had been there.

“Better luck next time?” Director Beiste offered.

Next time… Rachel thought for a moment, and then crossed the floor to Quinn again. The apple slice still sat on the arm of the chair, untouched.

“Not hungry?” Rachel asked, coming to stand in front of Quinn. She thought she detected a flinch, but it was so fleeting she knew she must’ve imagined it.

There was no response.

“All right, well, don’t leave it too long or it’ll get brown, and that will just taste nasty.” She willed her voice to sound soft, cheerful; she wasn’t really used to talking softly. Jesse used to laugh, teasing her to dial it down a notch. She couldn’t help it; she was naturally bossy and used to getting her way. But the way Quinn looked in that chair… She’d be as gentle as she’d ever been, if the girl would only say something.

“I’ll come to see you tomorrow,” Rachel said impulsively. Her eyes widened even as she said it; this wasn’t something she was supposed to do. She had reports to work on tomorrow, and McKinley didn’t need a follow-up. So why on earth would she come back?

It couldn’t be for a personal visit, Rachel knew. In her line of work, you just didn’t do that. You could irrevocably damage someone, not to mention your reputation.

But, “I’ll come to see you tomorrow,” she found herself repeating. She leaned down, fingers poised to tentatively touch the girl’s shoulder… and thought better of it.

She straightened up and brushed her skirt once more, then offered the woman in front of her a smile. “Tomorrow.”

In swift strides, Rachel Berry made her way out of McKinley House, and left the silent Quinn Fabray behind.

Chapter Text

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

That was the first thing Jesse had said to Rachel, upon learning her intentions to go back to McKinley House. She’d rolled her eyes, but he’d stopped her with a hand on her wrist. That had made her pull back and quirk an eyebrow at him, but he’d merely grinned. He was lucky they were friends. She knew he was a stronger Dom; she also knew they would never have made a good match. Though Rachel had toyed with the idea of switching, it wasn’t in her nature. Jesse was really her equal, but with more experience and, usually, a more level head on his shoulders. When he wasn’t thinking with the other one, every time his sub Noah came into the room. The young man sat the tea service down on the coffee table, and then took his place on his knees at Jesse’s feet.

“Good boy,” Jesse praised, and Rachel smiled. They’d been together for about as much time as Quinn had been with her Dominant, but the relationship couldn’t be more different. Jesse was strong, a veritable rock for his boy, and though Noah could be a brat and according to his Dominant spent more time than necessary over his lap, Rachel knew he’d move heaven and earth to please Jesse.

“I didn’t really ask for an opinion; I asked if there was anything that could get me in trouble by seeing her again.” Catching the minute scowl on Noah’s face, Rachel laughed. “Easy, Noah. I’m not yelling at Jesse, I promise.”

Jesse clapped his hand on the top of Noah’s head and wiggled it, playfully jerking the boy’s head around. “What do you think, Noah?” he asked. “If you were at McKinley House and someone took an interest in you, how would you react?”

Noah considered this, finally looking up at Jesse, then at Rachel. “I wouldn’t want to be there, Sir,” he replied. “But if the person were you, or you, Ma’am,” he added, glancing back at Rachel, “I think I would be okay. I think I’d realize that you weren’t there to hurt me.”

“See?” Rachel said. “Noah’s a smart boy, he gets it.”

“He also knows us,” Jesse pointed out. “Quinn Fabray has no idea what or who you are. She doesn’t know what your angle is. For all she knows, you could be just like Finn Hu-“ Hearing Rachel’s growl of indignation, Jesse held up his hand.

“For all she knows,” he repeated gently, “You could be just like Finn Hudson. And she’s not talking, Rachel. What do you think you’re going to do, go in there and dominate her into speech?”

“Of course not.”

Jesse rested the ankle of his right foot on the knee of his left, his blue jeans tightening with the gesture, and ran a hand through his mop of dark brown curls. “We don’t know if the damage done to her is permanent, Rach. But we know that if everyone that comes into contact with her isn’t extremely careful, they could make the damage permanent. You want her to talk again, fine. You want her to walk again, even better. You want her to be whole? You do it on her time, not yours.”

“Jesse, I didn’t come here for a lecture on-“

“Whose needs come first?”

Rachel rolled her eyes so hard this time, it hurt. It was just like being back at Lima Academy. But she answered anyway, since Noah was watching her intently.

“The submissive’s,” she answered, and she meant it. She’d known far too many Dominants who had their own best interests at heart and never once thought about the feelings of the person they had under their control. Clearly Finn Hudson had been one of them. “Everything we do, every action we take, should be for the safety and well-being of the person we’re charged with. They’re gifts, not playthings to be used at our leisure and then tossed aside when we think they’ve outgrown their usefulness.”

Jesse blinked, surprised. “Wow.”

Rachel grinned. “Why so shocked, St. James?”

He shrugged, saying, “It’s not often you find a Dominant so willing to talk about the submissive’s feelings. They sure do love talking about their own, though.”

“Jesse. Is there anything that can get me in trouble, seeing her again?”

“No,” he said, sighing heavily and shaking his head. “There’s nothing in the standard operating procedures or in the laws that prohibit seeing her. But if you even think of making a claim on her, you’d better make sure all your t’s are crossed and all your i’s are dotted, because if not, it could get ugly. For her especially. She doesn’t deserve being used twice.”

She doesn’t deserve being used twice.

It echoed in the back of her mind as Rachel made her way once more up the drive to McKinley House, again parking in the lot to the right of the brick building.

If there was one thing she’d refuse to let herself do, Rachel thought, it was use Quinn Fabray.

“Well?” she said to Director Beiste upon entering the house.

The director shook her head. “No change,” she said.

Rachel sighed, the disappointment bitter, although she hadn’t really expected anything else. She glanced over at Quinn and noticed that her hair seemed wet. She tilted her head, and then looked at the director in confusion.

“She has to have a bath,” the director explained, a note of panic creeping into her voice. “She won’t bathe herself, so one of the orderlies… she’s very gentle and-“

You’ve been forcing her to bathe?!” Rachel fairly shrieked. “She’s been brought here because a man abused her and what, you’re holding her down to wash her? What are you thinking?”

The common room had grown silent, then, and Rachel noticed that Quinn’s hands were no longer both in her lap. One was clutching at the arm to her chair. The realization slid like ice over her, and Rachel closed her eyes briefly.

She’d scared her.

Taking a deep breath, she reopened her eyes and focused on Director Bieste. “It was just an oversight that you failed to tell me about her bathing routine, correct?”

The director nodded.

“And it won’t happen again, will it?”

Shannon Beiste shook her head. “No, Ma’am. And she doesn’t force her, anyway. My employees don’t do that. It’s not like Quinn struggles. She doesn’t do anything, she just sits there.”

“Who has been bathing her?”

“Brittany Pierce. She’s our recreational dance instructor but I asked her if she wouldn’t mind helping. I didn’t feel right allowing one of the men to bathe her.”

“Is she a Dominant?”

“… no. We’re very short staffed, Ma’am, but I wouldn’t do that to Miss Fabray.”

Rachel took a deep breath and nodded. “Good. Just… don’t force her, all right? If she doesn’t want to, she doesn’t have to.”

With that, Rachel left the director and moved towards Quinn, who was still clutching the arm of her wheelchair, though her face was impassive. Rachel moved slowly, cautiously, dropping down onto the bench next to the young woman.

“Hello there,” she said, gentling her voice. It pained her to see Quinn white-knuckling the chair; she could only imagine what was going through her mind.

“I’m sorry that you heard me raising my voice back there. I was upset about something, but that’s no excuse, and again, I apologize. It will not happen again, I can promise you that.”

There was no response, and Rachel nodded, pursing her lips. She settled against the wall behind her, and suddenly kicked off her shoes. “Ah, much better,” she said, wiggling her toes. “Sometimes things get far too tense and I just need to relax; do you ever feel that way, Quinn?”

Again the young woman didn’t answer. But that was fine, Rachel thought. She’d finished all of her reports for the day, and if she needed to, well, she’d just sit there.

“I heard that someone has been helping you bathe,” Rachel said quietly. “That’s good, I’m glad that you have someone. But know that if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. No one here is going to force you to do anything.”

Her eyes were still glassy, still hard, still staring at nothing. But it seemed as if her hand relaxed, as if Quinn deflated in the chair, ever so slightly. But maybe Rachel was just hoping for too much, and imagining things.

“Have you been eating enough?” Rachel asked. “I told the director to make sure that you had plenty of choices; I know that sometimes the food in places like this can be... mediocre at best. Do you like to cook? I do.” She knew that she was probably babbling now; Rachel tended to ramble when she was nervous, though she didn’t get nervous often. It was a lie that Dominants never got nervous, but Rachel had spent enough time on the stage at Lima Academy for choir that she had gotten really good at not being nervous, or at least really good at hiding it.

“I cook all the time, so I have a really big kitchen in my house. It’s probably the biggest room, even bigger than my living room or bedroom. It’s good for when I want to entertain, which I don’t… really do at all.” Rachel laughed a little bit at herself, wondering what Quinn must think of her. “When you get better, you should do some cooking for yourself. I bet you’d like it, and it’ll help your strength, like the apple slices.”

Rachel fell silent then, thinking about her little house on the outskirts of Lima. It wasn’t actually all that little; government employment might be stressful and rote, but it paid well. Both she and Jesse were set up in nice houses in even nicer neighborhoods. The houses, though in suburbs or cul de sacs, were usually situated a reasonable distance away from each other, so no one would be disturbed by any sounds or sights coming from the home. This had its advantages, and disadvantages. Advantages because it allowed the Dominant freedom to tailor his or her life, and the life of their submissive, in the way that they saw fit, without fear of too much outside intrusion. But it was also a disadvantage because, besides the monthly mandated home inspections and welfare checks on its tenants, it was also far too easy to disguise things that were actually going on. She suspected this was why no one had ever thought to intervene on Quinn Fabray’s behalf. It was unreal to Rachel that the girl’s situation had gone on for years, but she found herself asking if she’d been assigned to do the checks, would she have even noticed?

It pained her to admit that no, she probably wouldn’t have.

She leaned her head against the wall and tried to relax, tried not to think about Quinn’s life before she came to McKinley. This was the only real dangerous part of the job, Rachel knew, the part that Jesse had warned her about as she’d left his house after tea.

“You can’t get too involved, Rach,” he’d said.

“I feel like I already am.”

“Do you really want to help her?” Jesse asked.

Rachel huffed and put her hands on her hips, but was unable to meet his gaze. “Do you really have to ask that question? Would I even be in this job if I didn’t want to help?”

“Do you really want to help her, or are you just lonely?”

That had hurt. Jesse was well aware that Rachel was feeling the pressure of being twenty two years old and not having found her soul mate yet. There’d been a prospect or two, but none of them had worked out. The ache was always there; Rachel had been taught that the ache would always be there, until she found the right person to fill it. It was the way things worked; it was part of who she was. It was why she still wore the bracelet around her right wrist; Dominants weren’t allowed to switch it to their left until they had collared someone. A silver band for her wrist, a silver band for her submissive’s neck. A symbol of their unbreakable (if things went well) bond.

She’d lifted her chin up and looked at Jesse. “I can wait,” she declared. “I’ve waited this long for ‘The One.’” Jesse grinned, watching the air quotes with amusement twinkling in his eyes.  “I can wait a little longer.”

“I just want to help her,” Rachel had added with a sigh. “It’s not fair what was done to her.”

“No, it’s not. But if you help her get better while also getting her hopes up about a relationship with you, and then you decide that’s not what you want… that’s worse,” Jesse had warned.

The last thing she wanted to be was worse.

Rachel was distracted from her thoughts by the sound of cheering; opening her eyes she saw that one of the residents had apparently won a board game. She was holding her hands up triumphantly while her two opponents either pouted or grudgingly accepted the victory. Director Beiste high-fived the woman as she passed by, a smile on her face, and Rachel grinned.

“That looks like fun,” she commented to Quinn. “I used to play board games all the time, when I was younger. And I always won, I must say.” Her drive to succeed at Lima Academy had been well-known among her peers, and it had even garnered her some unwelcome attention. She hadn’t ever really been bullied; the hierarchy of the school and of their society had prevented that, but Rachel hadn’t had as many friends as she would have, if she’d toned down her competitive streak. But that, just like being a switch, wasn’t in her nature.

“I’d be willing to learn how to lose, though,” Rachel said slowly, a plan formulating in her mind. “If I ever found someone to bea- er, defeat me.” Smooth, Berry, real smooth, she berated herself. Excellent choice of words to say to someone like Quinn. Argh. She tried to recover, and leaned ever so slightly towards Quinn.

“Do you think you have what it takes to best Rachel Berry at-“ She glanced towards the game table. “Checkers?” No response. “How about Monopoly?” Nothing. “I think they have Chutes and Ladders?”

But there was still nothing. Quinn didn’t alter her position, or her stare, or offer any indication that she was even listening to Rachel.

Rachel sighed. “All right,” she said quietly. “No board games today.” She squared her shoulders then, and looked at Quinn. “But eventually, we’re going to play. So you might want to start practicing pretty soon, Quinn Fabray.”

Rachel sat with Quinn for another thirty minutes or so, not really talking about anything. She made a few comments about activities in the room, asked Quinn if she liked the dance classes (or the instructor) that they had. Asked her what foods she liked to eat, what she liked to do in her spare time. Though that one was probably a ridiculous question; Rachel imagined that Quinn’s former Dom hadn’t given her much spare time to do anything. Did she like to read? Listen to music? What did she like on television?

“Do you like to draw?”

It wasn’t much, and again Rachel wondered if it was just her imagination playing tricks on her, getting her own hopes up that things would change. But Rachel could swear, the second she asked that question, she saw a change. A muscle twitch in the jaw line, a brief flash in otherwise dim eyes. Fleeting, and then it was gone as quickly as it had come. But it was there, Rachel knew it was. She couldn’t have just imagined it.

A slow smile made its way over her face, and she nodded, half in thought. She glanced at her watch.

“I have to go now,” she said to Quinn. “But I’ll…” She nodded again, making up her mind. “I’ll be back again tomorrow, all right?”

She didn’t know why she expected Quinn to answer, but she was still a little annoyed when she didn’t. Rachel took a deep breath and simply offered Quinn a smile, then left her.

“Pencils,” she said, going up to Director Beiste.

The woman tilted her head at Rachel. “What’s that?”

“Pencils,” Rachel said again. “Colored pencils, regular pencils, paint. Paper! She’ll need paper.” She nodded firmly at Beiste. “Make sure Quinn is provided with them, as soon as possible.”

“Uh, residents aren’t really allowed pencil and paper, they might contact their old-“

“Do you really think Quinn would try to make contact with the person who hurt her?”

“I tried a couple of times. I’m not sure you know what it can be like…”

Rachel turned, and gently placed her hand on Director Beiste’s arm. “She won’t try to contact him. If you want, you can supervise her time; just see to it that she gets those things, all right?”

“Do you think you got through to her?”

“I hope so,” Rachel said, looking back at the girl sat in her wheelchair in the corner.

“I really, really hope so.”

Chapter Text

Rachel practically bounced into the House the next day, only to have her hopes completely dashed with one glance into the corner.

“We tried,” Director Beiste said, coming to stand at her elbow. “We put her at the game table with the paper and colored pencils, like you asked. She didn’t even make a move. Some of the other residents drew, tried to get her to, but nothing. Just sat there and stared.”

Rachel sighed.

“Eventually the other residents got uncomfortable, so we took away the paper and pencils, and just… brought her to her usual spot. I’m sorry, Ma’am.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Rachel said, even though she knew it did. She’d seen it, she knew she had. A flicker of recognition, of… something. She didn’t know what it was and with Quinn Fabray sat back in her corner Rachel doubted herself once again.

But she knew it’d happened. Quinn had responded.

Which is why she kept coming back to the House, for the next week. It didn’t matter that Jesse kept telling her that she was fighting a losing battle, or that the director at one point said she felt like Rachel was disturbing the other residents by her show of favoritism for Quinn. It didn’t matter what questions she asked Quinn, or that they all went unanswered. She still came, bringing a book or her lunch. An iPod with music that she tried to get Quinn to listen to. Apple slices that she tried to get Quinn to eat.

Quinn never responded, but Rachel still came. Every day, for a week.

Friday afternoon, she was as discouraged as she’d ever felt. Once again she’d tried to get Quinn involved in a board game, but once again the young woman hadn’t responded. Maybe Jesse was right, Rachel thought. Maybe Quinn was too damaged; maybe whatever Finn Hudson had put her through had left her beyond repair. It might be easier, for both of them, just to let Quinn… be alone. Barely existing, but at least alive. Maybe by pushing her it would make things worse. Though really, she didn’t know how rambling on about her house and her dog and her school years and her parents and how she never could find good shoes in her size unless she went to the children’s section would count as making it worse.

But it was a risk Rachel was increasingly not willing to take.

“So, no board games?” she tried again.

No response.

Rachel flexed her fingers, and then put her palms on her thighs, pushing up until she was in a standing position.

“I can’t do this anymore, Quinn,” she said gently. “I really would like you to talk to me, but as I said to you last week, no one is going to force you to do anything you don’t want to do. I really wish I could hear your voice; I’m sure it’s lovely, but if you don’t want to speak, then I’m not going to make you.”

It was breaking her heart, but as she stared at Quinn and the emotionless expression still on her face, Rachel knew it’d be for the best, for both of them. Maybe, eventually, Quinn would come around and live happier than what she was. Rachel hoped so.

“I’m going to go, and I won’t bother you again. I’m sorry, Quinn. Please take care of yourself.”

Rachel waited, but when there was no answer, she nodded once, and turned to go. She made it three steps before she heard it.

“P-please don’t l-leave me.”

It was low and raspy, in a voice that hadn’t been used in months, but Rachel knew that this, this wasn’t her imagination.

She whirled around, her eyes wide, to find Quinn staring directly back at her. The girl opened her mouth to speak again, but what came out was only a rough squeak. Rachel moved back to stand in front of her and waited while Quinn licked her lips.

“I-I like board games,” she whispered. “I l-like Monopoly…”

Rachel was sure the smile that broke over her face could’ve lit up the entirety of Lima for a year. “You like board games,” she repeated. “You like Monopoly.  I can work with that. May I wheel you over to the table?”

Rachel caught the glimmer of confusion in Quinn’s eyes before the girl nodded; she tucked that back in her mental Quinn Fabray file and stepped behind the girl. Her hands secure on the chair, Rachel pushed Quinn over to the table. It was later in the day and most of the other residents had either gone back to their rooms or were watching television, so the area was empty save for the two of them. Rachel took a seat next to Quinn and emptied the contents of the Monopoly box.

Rachel pushed the twelve game pieces off to the side as she began to set up the board. From the corner of her eye she saw Quinn reach towards them, but then, seeing Rachel watching her, Quinn drew her hand back as if she’d been slapped, clutching it in her other tightly.

Rachel furrowed her brow and sat down the stack of paper money she’d been counting out. “Quinn?” she queried softly.

“S-sorry,” Quinn mumbled. “I’m sorry, you ch-choose first, you choose, I can wait, you choose, you choose first, I’m s-sorry, s-so sorry, Miss Rachel.”

Rachel took a deep breath and contemplated her next move, ignoring the slight thrill that had coursed through her at being called “Miss Rachel.” This whole situation wasn’t unlike the game she was currently trying to set up, but clearly Quinn had learned the wrong rules and now she was terrified at the consequences. But Rachel wasn’t about to send her to jail without passing go, not like someone else would have. She wondered just how many decisions Quinn had been allowed to make for herself, choices she was allowed to have.

She doubted there’d been many.

Rachel took her concentration away from setting up the board, and gathered up the game pieces in her hand. Keeping her eyes trained on Quinn, one by one she set them in front of the girl in a straight line: wheelbarrow; battleship; moneybag; man on horseback; racecar; locomotive; thimble; cannon; boot; dog; iron; top hat. For her part, Quinn’s eyes darted back and forth from Rachel’s hand to her face.

The last piece laid out in front of Quinn, Rachel smiled at her gently. “Which piece would you like to have?”

Quinn blinked, and then looked away. “Whichever piece you want me to have.”

Rachel nodded, she’d expected that. “Which piece would you like to have, Quinn?”

“I-it doesn’t matter; I’ll take any of them, Miss Rachel.”

Right. So apparently, that was one of Quinn’s rules of her former life.

Take what you get and be grateful for it.

She’d kill Finn Hudson if she had the chance. But that wasn’t what they were there for, that wasn’t what Quinn needed. So when Rachel spoke, her voice was the quietest it had ever been. Jesse probably would have been shocked; one, because her voice was quiet, and two, it was quiet while she gave Quinn a direct order.

“Choose which piece you’d like to have, Quinn.”

Quinn stared at her but didn’t move; Rachel simply sat and patiently waited, watching her. After nearly a minute, Quinn tentatively reached out, her hand hovering over the pieces, wavering from one to the other. Finally her fingers closed over the dog, and she pulled it from the others, looking at it a little as if she expected it to bite her. She turned her eyes back to Rachel.

“Good girl,” Rachel said before she could stop herself, and inwardly she groaned. That was something a mistress said to her sub, not… not something she should be saying to Quinn. But it was rule number 1 in Punishment and Praise: When a submissive does as they are told, quickly and without protest, the Dominant’s next step is to praise them for a job well done.

It didn’t matter that Quinn hadn’t exactly done it quickly. She’d still done as she was told. Rachel just didn’t know how she’d react to the praise.

Quinn wouldn’t look at Rachel, again, just sat staring at the game piece in her hand. “You have a dog?” she asked, her voice a little stronger now.

“I do.” Rachel went back to setting up the board, organizing the cards and the play money. “He’s a big lug, a husky. His name is Arnie, after Mr. Arnstein in Funny Girl. That’s one of my favorite musicals. Would you like to be the banker, Quinn?”

Quinn seemed a little startled, whether it was by the question or the information Rachel was rattling off, she wasn’t sure. But the girl shook her head, slowly. “I don’t… really like math.”

“But you like to draw.”

“Y-yes.”

Ah-ha! Rachel smiled triumphantly. She’d gotten something right, after all. “Well, maybe when Director Beiste gives you the paper and pencils again you can make good use of them.”

“I’m sorry, I d-didn’t mean to be ungrateful, thank you for giving them to me, I r-really am sorry, please don’t-“ Quinn used her hands to push the chair back from the table, looking terrified.

“Quinn,” Rachel interrupted, rubbing her hand over her forehead. This was going to be a hell of a lot more difficult than she expected. She met the girl’s gaze with her own.

“Quinn, I am not your Dominant, and you are not my submissive. Even if you were, I wouldn’t punish you for something like that. I only meant that if you want to, I can have the director give the paper and pencils back to you, if you’d like to draw. You don’t need to apologize, and you don’t…” Rachel swallowed hard.

“You don’t need to be afraid of me. I’m not going to hurt you.”

That perhaps wasn’t the right thing to say. Rachel knew there was always the potential to inadvertently hurt anyone, whether submissive or Dominant. But seeing the way Quinn was hunched in the chair, as if she was trying to curl up to protect herself, was tearing at Rachel’s heart. She’d fight with all she had not to break the girl anymore than she’d already been broken.

“Now,” Rachel said, patting the game board with her hand. “Ready for Rachel Berry to completely decimate you?” She smiled reassuringly.

Quinn hesitated, and then nodded, rolling her chair back to the table.

Two hours later, Rachel stared dumbfounded as Quinn collected the last of her money, thus ending the game. “Well,” Rachel said with a sniff, trying not to appear too much of a sore loser, “You’re apparently a lot better at this than we knew.”

There was the faintest hint of a smile on Quinn’s face as she regarded Rachel. “I used to play a lot when I was younger, too,” she said. “My granddad taught me. But after he died, Sir-“

She stopped abruptly; it was as if a storm cloud had come over them and darkened her face. Quinn’s hands trembled; she dropped the little dog she’d been holding once more, and it clattered against the tile floor at her feet. The sound pulled her out of wherever she’d went, and Quinn paled slightly. “Oh, I-I’m sorry,” she stuttered, and reached down. But the chair made it too difficult for her to retrieve it, and Rachel jumped when the girl grunted in frustration, striking the arm of the chair with her fist.

“I’ve got it,” Rachel said, leaning down until her fingers brushed the little game piece; she scooped it into her hand and sat it back on the table in front of Quinn.

They were quiet then, the fingers of Rachel’s hand drumming soundlessly on the table. She stared at the game board, not wanting to box it up, because who knew if their tentative connection would be shattered once she put it away.

Suddenly, she pointed to one of the spots on the board, North Carolina Avenue. “Green,” she said carefully. “Go.”

Moving around the board, she tapped another spot, Atlantic Avenue. “Yellow, slow down.”

She looked at Quinn, gauging her reaction. The girl’s eyes were trained on her hand, watching the motion as she traveled around the game board.

Indiana Avenue.

“Red,” Rachel said. Her eyes met Quinn’s. “Stop.” She held Quinn’s gaze for a few seconds, before her finger moved back to North Carolina Avenue.

“Green?” Rachel asked.

“Go.”

Atlantic Avenue. “Yellow?”

“Slow down.”

Indiana Avenue.

“Red?”

No response.

“Red.” Rachel tapped the game block insistently.

“… s-stop.”

“Red,” Rachel said again, with another tap.

“Stop.”

Clear guidelines must be established in any Domination and submission relationship, whether it is one of friendship, romantic, or contractual. One of the easiest guidelines is that of safe words. A Dominant and his or her submissive may find other words that suit them, but for beginners, the simplest to remember is that of traffic signals. Green, yellow, red. Go, slow down, stop. The most important color, in any Domination and submission relationship, is red.

It was one of the first chapters in Dominance for Beginners. Apparently Quinn’s Dom had missed that reading assignment. Or all of them, really.

“Good girl,” Rachel said again. This time, Quinn didn’t look away. “Good girl, Quinn.” She thought she saw a light blush rise up on the girl’s cheeks, but Rachel was getting quite used to second-guessing herself, and she didn’t want to make assumptions. That was the last thing Quinn needed.

“Do you want me to keep visiting?”

“It doesn’t matter what I want.”

“Yes.” Her voice came out sharp, and she winced when she saw Quinn flinch. “I’m sorry,” Rachel said immediately, her tone softening. “But yes, Quinn, it does matter what you want. Do you want me to visit again?”

“I… yes please, Miss Rachel?”

“Then I will,” Rachel said with a smile, and then turned serious. “But I want you to remember those words. Green, yellow, red. And anytime you want to stop, even if you just want to stop talking, you say Red. All right?”

“But I-“

“Quinn, this is non-negotiable.”

“… yes, Miss Rachel. Miss Rachel?”

“Yes, Quinn?”

Quinn looked down at her hands shyly. “D-do you have… any apple slices?”

Rachel beamed, and pulled two packets out of her coat pocket.

She stayed with Quinn for another couple of hours, and eventually Director Beiste came to remind her that the residents had a strict curfew, and Quinn needed to be in bed. Rachel fought down the disappointment and the urge to tell the director that she could visit with Quinn whenever she wanted, for as long as she wanted.

Because, as much as she wanted to, it wasn’t the truth. She had no claim to Quinn, and she needed to remember that. She also needed to remember that Quinn was at the House for rehabilitation and treatment, and that the therapists knew better than Rachel did about trying to help her.

“I know that,” Rachel said, after Beiste finished with her speech. “I know all of it, Director. But the therapists didn’t get her to talk, I did.”

“And we appreciate that,” Director Beiste said. “Now that she’s talking, perhaps we can move forward with her treatment, and enable her to start walking again. But you’re just a government employee, you—“

“Director Beiste,” Rachel said, her tone sharp. “You are coming dangerously close to the edge of propriety. You are not permitted to tell me what I am.”

“I apologize, Ma’am,” the director said with a shake of her head. “But I also know I’m not saying anything wrong. You are not her Domme, and she is nowhere near ready to be a submissive again. You must be careful, that is all I am trying to help you understand.”

“I do,” Rachel said. Quinn had already been wheeled away to her bed, and now there was nothing more to say to the director but “I’ll be back tomorrow.”

The next day, Quinn waited at the game table, Monopoly set up and organized, the cards in the right place, the money all counted and sorted for two players. At her place rested the little dog. At Rachel’s, the other 11 pieces so that she could choose the one she wanted.

Quinn sat at the table waiting for Rachel, all day. She refused breakfast, lunch, and dinner so she wouldn’t have to leave her spot. At precisely 10 p.m., an orderly came and wheeled her back to her room.

There had been no sign of Rachel Berry.

 

Chapter Text

Sometimes, there’s advance warning. A scratchy feeling in the throat, waking up sniffling because your nose isn’t quite clear. An achy feeling in the muscles, an unsettling of the stomach.

But sometimes, there is no warning at all. Sometimes, you wake up at 2 the morning before you’re supposed to visit an important person at McKinley House, and you barely make it to the bathroom.

And for Rachel Berry, the flu lasted a week. One long, miserable week of barely being able to keep anything down, being near dehydration. She was hardly able to make it up even to feed Arnie, and if it hadn’t been for Jesse and Noah coming in to check on her every day, she was thoroughly convinced she would die alone and the authorities would find her tragically gorgeous corpse on the floor.

“You’re so melodramatic,” Jesse had rolled his eyes that first day, seizing up her cell phone and switching it off, tossing it into a drawer underneath her coffee table.

“It would make a good obituary,” Rachel had croaked, rolling over on her side on the couch, clutching her stomach. “Beautiful, Talented Woman Struck Down Before Her Prime; Thousands Mourn.”

But thankfully, she hadn’t died, there was no need for thousands to mourn, and she could tuck her newly-created Funeral Playlist into a notebook on her desk. It had taken her two days to find her cell phone from where Jesse had tossed it, and Rachel furrowed her brow that Monday morning when she switched it on and found five voicemails. She dialed quickly.

Each successive message made her stomach churn, but this time, it wasn’t the flu.

“Miss Berry? This is Director Beiste, just trying to get in touch with you.”

“Ma’am? Shannon Beiste again, are you all right? I need you to call me as soon as possible please.”

“I don’t know where you are, but please call; I’m not sure what… just call.”

“Miss Berry, Beiste here. Please excuse me, but what the heck do you think you’re doing? Where are you?”

“Okay well I guess you’re not coming back until your next inspection. See you then. … She’ll probably still be here, though I doubt you care.”

The car squealed out of the driveway of her home, and ten minutes later, into the parking lot of McKinley House.

“No.”

Rachel stared at him. “Excuse me?”

The orderly folded his arms over his chest and looked down at her. She didn’t look like much of a Domme, he thought. Tiny and thin, even if her legs did seem to stretch for miles clad in blue jeans, topped with a simple blue blouse. But who could she dominate, a midget?

“I’ve been instructed not to let you in.”

“Oh really.” Rachel took a deep breath, and drew herself up to her full height. Which, okay, yes, five foot two wasn’t much, but she could make it work. She stepped forward with a smirk and felt a twinge of triumph when the orderly actually stepped back.

“I am Rachel Barbra Berry, employed by the Lima government, in the agency that is the Department for Rehabilitation Services. Do you see this badge?” She held it up, shoving it into his face so that he could well see her identification picture on the front. “This badge guarantees that no one will be ‘instructed’ not to let me in. Now you will step aside, or I will bring the full force of the government down on this House, on Director Beiste, and you.”

Rachel tilted her head and then smoothed her blouse, smiling pleasantly at the orderly and softening her voice.

“And I’ll call your Dom.”

The reaction was instantaneous; the orderly stepped back hastily and Rachel walked straight into the House.

Her first glance was to the corner, and what she saw made her heart plummet to the floor. Quinn was sat in her chair, her hands folded in her lap. Her sweatpants and tee-shirt were dirty; her hair was greasy and unwashed, her eyes cloudy and lost.

“So you finally showed up. Is it Adopt an Orphan Week again?”

Rachel turned to Director Beiste, fire flashing in her eyes. “Back down,” she said sternly, and then reached into the folder she held at her side. “Verification of doctor’s visit, showing that I have been suffering from the flu for the last week.” Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a small medicine bottle. “The medication I took this week to help lessen my symptoms and speed up the healing process.”

She turned her gaze back to Quinn, and it took all of her effort to keep tears from trickling down her face.

“She waited for you. The whole day, at the games table. She had it all set up. And you. Didn’t. Show.”

“I was sick.”

“Too sick to pick up the phone?”

Rachel sighed, and looked back at Beiste. “I made a mistake,” she said softly. “And now I’ll fix it.”

“And how do you plan on doing that? Look at her.”

“I see it,” Rachel said. “I’m sorry, Shannon.”

Director Beiste offered Rachel a half-hearted smile. “Go on,” she said, giving Rachel a gentle shove. “Now you’ve got even more to prove.”

“I know,” Rachel said, almost to herself as she walked over to Quinn. Rather than choose the bench, Rachel picked up a chair from the games table as she passed by it, setting it down in front of Quinn and taking a seat. Rachel wrinkled her nose; Quinn really needed a bath. But she ignored that for a moment, and leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees as she looked at her.

“Quinn,” Rachel said quietly, her voice unsteady. “Quinn, look at me.”

She didn’t.

All right then, Rachel thought. They were going to do this the hard way again. She could handle it. Once again she pulled the papers out from the folder and the medicine bottle from her pocket.

“Quinn… I am so sorry. I was sick, really sick with the flu. But that’s no excuse for not calling here and finding a way to let you know that I didn’t just… that I wasn’t… Quinn, I didn’t leave you.” She was aware that her voice was sounding slightly panicked, and so she cleared her throat.

“I handled this all wrong. I shouldn’t have pushed you to talk to me and then stop talking to you the moment I get a little stomachache. Although it wasn’t really a little stomachache, I swear I felt like I had been run over by-“ Rachel stopped short with a gasp, and she palmed her forehead with her hand.

“I am such an idiot,” she said, and a tear finally did streak down her cheek. She looked up at Quinn, who was still staring off into space.

“I was sick,” Rachel said again. “I was sick; I should have found some way to call. I didn’t leave you, and I am so, so sorry, Quinn. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

There was no response, and Rachel leaned back against the chair, sighing. What are you doing, Rachel? She asked herself. Why are you doing it? Do you think you can save her? You’ve never even had a submissive before. And it wasn’t like she even wanted Quinn as hers. She just wanted Quinn… to be better. To be out of that chair. To smile. To laugh. Maybe even to sing. Then again not everyone could sing. And they especially couldn’t sing like Rachel Berry. Wait, she was getting off track.

“You deserve better than this,” Rachel found herself saying. “You deserve better than this, than him, and I’m trying to… help you see what you deserve, but I need you to tell me if you want me to continue to be here. If you don’t want me to, say Red and I’ll be gone, I won’t bother you anymore and you won’t have to worry about me being sick and too stupid to call. But if you want me to stay, well. You know what to say. It’s your choice, Quinn.”

She looked up and met the girl’s eyes, whether Quinn was really looking at her or not. “It’s your choice,” Rachel repeated.

There was silence. Rachel just sat there, looking at the residents playing their board games. She remembered Monopoly, how easily Quinn had defeated her. How a little bit of light had come back into her eyes. How she seemed… if not happy, at least easy, comfortable. She glanced at the television, where some silly teen show was playing. Stay away from him, Rachel thought, watching the female lead pine after some boy. He’s not good enough for you. She wished she could go back in time, shake some sense into Quinn’s parents.

Keep him away from her. He’s not good enough.

“Green.”

Rachel’s gaze whipped back to Quinn, who was staring at her with wide, still somewhat fearful eyes.

“W-what?” Rachel whispered, barely able to believe what she’d just heard.

Quinn hesitated. “Green,” she repeated.

Rachel wiped the tear away with the back of her hand, laughing a little as she did so. “I owe you a lot of board games to make up for it, don’t I?” she joked, but smiled at Quinn. “Are you all right?” she asked. “Have you been eating? You um… clearly haven’t been bathing.”

Quinn shrugged. “No point.”

Rachel quirked an eyebrow. “There is always a point to bathing, and I think you need to rediscover that.” She stood up and moved around to the back of Quinn’s wheelchair, settling her hands on it. She could see Quinn tense in front of her, and Rachel nodded.

“I want you to bathe,” she said. “We can get Brittany to help you, or you can do it yourself, but you’re going to take a bath.” She paused. “Green, yellow, red.”

Again, a hesitation, but the answer came, soft and unsteady. “Green.”

Rachel smiled. “Good girl, Quinn. Good girl.”

It didn’t take long for Beiste to locate Brittany Pierce, as she was giving dance lessons in one of the other rooms down the hall. She moved towards Rachel on long, lean dancer’s legs, and Rachel marveled at how graceful she made the simple action seem. Her silver collar glittered in the bright lights of the common room, and she respectfully tipped her head towards Rachel as she came to stand with her and Quinn.

“Thank you for your help,” Rachel said. “I know Quinn here hasn’t let you give her a bath lately, but I think that’s about to change now.” She winked at Brittany. “I guess you wear many hats around here.”

“Not really?” Brittany said, her head tipped in confusion. “Sir doesn’t really like me in hats, and besides, they’d fly off while I’m dancing…”

Rachel blinked in confusion. “That wasn’t… really what I meant, but all right. So you have a Sir?”

Brittany nodded happily as she, Rachel, and Quinn made their way into the elevator and up to Quinn’s floor, to the bathroom at the very end of the hall. “Sam,” she said. “And he’s the best Dom ever. I love him so much.”

It always made her feel glad to hear about submissives who were happy with their Dominants; in Rachel’s line of work she really didn’t get to see that side very often. But it was nice to be reminded that there were good relationships out there, ones based on mutual love and understanding, where both parties took care of each other. The kind of relationship she wanted to have, eventually.

Rachel peeked inside the bathroom, making a small hum of approval when she saw the ample space, punctuated by an old-fashioned, claw foot bathtub in the center.  Done in classy black and white, towels lined the walls, as did all the shampoo and soap or body wash you could ever need. She wouldn’t have minded having a bathroom like this at her house. Maybe a redesign was in order…

She wheeled Quinn into the bathroom, but placed a hand on Brittany’s arm when the other blonde moved to start the water running.”I’ll do it,” Rachel said, and knelt by the tub to turn on the faucet. She ran her hand under the stream, judging the temperature with her fingertips. When it reached a level she was satisfied with, she quickly plugged the drain, and then stood up to select one of the bottles of body wash. She looked at the labels, then back at Quinn.

“What scents do you like the best, Quinn?”

“It doesn’t-“

“Quinn.”

“… berry.”

Rachel’s eyebrows flew upward, and she couldn’t help but grin. “Berry’s always a good choice,” she said. Taking the bottle, she quickly squirted some under the stream of water, and watched for a moment as the tub began to fill up with bubbles.

“There we are.” She nodded at Brittany. “Let’s get her undressed.”

“Y-yellow.”

Rachel quickly held her hand out to stop Brittany again, and moved to squat down in front of Quinn. “What is it?” she asked.

Quinn looked from her, to Brittany, and back again. Rachel nodded, understanding. “Brittany,” she said pleasantly, smiling at the girl, “Thank you for your help, but I think Quinn and I have it from here.”

Brittany shrugged. “See you later, Quinn!” she said, and then nearly bounced out of the room.

Rachel chuckled, and looked at Quinn from her position still half-kneeling in front of her. “She has a lot of energy, doesn’t she?” She turned serious then. “Would you like to bathe yourself?” she asked. “I can stay right outside the door if you need me.”

She moved away for a moment, but only to shut off the water rushing into the tub. She checked it to make sure it was still an acceptable temperature, and then Rachel wiped the suds off her hands with a towel.

“Or,” she said carefully, “I can stay and help you. I can’t lift you, so you’ll have to work a little bit, but I’ll… I’ll take care of you.”

“Y-you won’t let me fall?” Quinn stared down at her useless legs.

Rachel shook her head sadly. “I won’t let you fall,” she promised. “Green, yellow, red.”

Then Quinn nodded. “Green,” she whispered.

“All right,” Rachel said. “Good girl. I’m just going to… help you with your shirt off. Lift your arms up, Quinn.”

In seconds the blonde girl was divested of her dirty blue tee-shirt, and Rachel found herself rocked back on her heels, staring in shock. If it had been a different situation, Rachel might have noticed how pale the skin was, how it seemed to fit her. She may have noticed Quinn’s breasts, small but still beautiful – and Rachel might have commented (to herself of course) how they were perfect for hands, her hands.  She would’ve noticed how Quinn’s nipples hardened into stiff pink peaks in the cold bathroom air, how the skin around them puckered into tiny little bumps and made them stand out all the more.

But all that Rachel could see, all that swam before her eyes as best they could with the tears rushing into them again… were the scars. Quinn was thin, too thin, with her ribs prominent and over them, a few scars that crisscrossed or seemed to run down to her hips. They weren’t many, but they were long, and they were old. Clearly inflicted by someone who didn’t know what he was doing. Or care.

“Oh, Quinn,” Rachel breathed, her voice cracking. “Quinn, I’m so-“

“R-Red?”

Rachel froze, her gaze shooting to Quinn’s face. Quinn was shaking a little; she seemed to be mouthing the word, as if she was unsure she could say it. “You can,” Rachel assured her immediately. “You can say red.”

“Red,” Quinn said again. “About…” she gestured towards her chest. “Red, Miss Rachel, please.”

“Okay,” Rachel said, sniffing and blinking past the tears for the second time that day. Quinn didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe she would eventually, but not now, not yet, and Rachel wasn’t going to force her. Standing up, Rachel dared to reach down and rest her hand on Quinn’s bare shoulder.

“I need you to help me get you stood up, Quinn,” she said. Looking round she saw a metal bar on the wall nearest them, and she gestured towards it with her chin. “Do you think you can help by holding on to that, just until we get your pants and underwear off? Then we’ll get you into the tub and wash you all clean.”

“Clean,” Quinn echoed, her eyes taking on a sudden faraway look. Then it cleared and she swallowed, nodding at Rachel. “I can do it.”

Rachel beamed and maneuvered the wheelchair over to where Quinn could grasp the bar, and then leaned down again. “I’m going to put my arms around your waist,” she said, “Then I’m going to help you up.” Catching a little glimmer of fear in Quinn’s eyes, Rachel touched her shoulder again. “I will never do anything you don’t want me to do,” she reiterated. “I’m just going to help you up. Ready?”

“R-ready.”

She was so thin and weak that really, it was easy for Rachel to hoist her up, as small as she was herself. She felt Quinn waver; when she pulled back she could see the girl’s face straining with the effort.

“Hold on, Quinn,” Rachel said, her hands moving to the waistband of the sweatpants. “This will just take a minute. Green, yellow, red.”

“G-green.”

Quickly Rachel had both the pants and the girl’s underwear down around her ankles; gently she lifted each foot to pull the clothing free, and she tossed it to the other side of the room. Three more seconds and Quinn was seated back in her wheelchair, now completely naked in front of Rachel, and looking everywhere but at the petite brunette.

There were more scars on Quinn’s legs, across her hips, but Rachel said nothing. Instead she willed herself to smile. “Good girl, Quinn,” she praised. “Thank you for helping me. Are you ready to get into the tub now?”

Quinn was breathing heavily from holding herself up, but she nodded.

“Use your voice, Quinn. It’s time for you to stop being quiet.”

Her eyes widened, but Quinn immediately responded. “Yes, Miss Rachel.”

It was going to be a little harder, she knew, to get Quinn from the chair to the bathtub, especially since there wasn’t really a rim of the tub for Quinn to settle herself or anchor on. But after a few missteps and some strategy, soon she was lowering herself into the water, and Rachel giggled when a happy sigh escaped Quinn’s lips as she rested her back against the tub.

“Does that feel nice?” Rachel asked.

Quinn nodded sheepishly. “Thank you, Miss Rachel.”

“You’re welcome. I don’t have to stay,” Rachel pointed out again. “I can wait outside until you’re finished and ready to dry off.”

“P-please don’t go.”

“All right,” Rachel agreed, and then knelt by the tub at Quinn’s side. Quickly she unbuttoned the sleeves of her blouse and rolled them up past her elbows, then reached out for the cup that had been sitting on the sink. “Let’s start with your hair,” she said, dipping the cup into the water and gently wetting Quinn’s blonde locks.

She ran her fingers through Quinn’s hair; even though it was dirty she marveled at the length, at the apparent softness of it. It was as though she had, at one time, taken a great deal of pride in her appearance. Rachel wondered if that was born out of an actual want to look good, or a necessity for her Dom. She decided not to ask, and continued until every strand of hair was soaking.

Quinn’s eyes were closed as Rachel squirted some shampoo in her palm and began to work it into lather before gently smoothing it through her hair. She didn’t miss another quiet sigh that Quinn gave when Rachel massaged her scalp and temples, and so she did it probably for longer than was necessary. But Quinn was enjoying a simple pleasure, and Rachel felt like she could do it forever if it made her happy.

“You need to bathe regularly. It’s essential for good hygiene, and not only that, it’ll make you feel better. I’d really rather not visit again and find you in the state you were in today.”

“You said you’re not my Dominant.”

Rachel’s hands stilled for a moment, before taking up their ministrations again. “No, I am not. But I think in the end you will see that I’m right. I’m always right, except for that one time five years ago. It’s a very rare occurrence, my being wrong.”

Rachel giggled, and was heartened when Quinn did the same, even though it was soft and not as buoyant as her own. But that was all right; it was something.

She had to wash Quinn’s hair twice to get it clean, but Rachel’s effort was rewarded when the wet tresses took on a shine, and she wondered if Brittany had ever spent this much time bathing the other girl.

She absurdly hoped that she hadn’t, and that Rachel was the only one.

At last she put some of the berry body wash on a cloth, and gently pushed on Quinn’s shoulder. “Lean forward and I’ll wash your back.”

Quinn didn’t move.

“Quinn?”

The girl leaned forward, and Rachel’s breath caught in her throat. Rachel had seen a lot of things, in her time with SETS, but nothing could have prepared her for the mass of scars that was Quinn Fabray’s back. They had been built up over years at the hands of her former Dom, but though they were old, it didn’t make it any better.

She itched, no, Rachel craved to jump up out of that bathroom, to hunt down Finn Hudson and have him dragged before the judiciary for abuse… but two words, echoing in the stillness of the bathroom, stopped her.

“They’re ugly.”

Rachel flexed the fingers of her hands, then, as gently as she could possibly muster, she began to wash Quinn’s back.

“You’re beautiful.”

“Miss Rachel?”

“Yes, Quinn.”

“A-am I… am I a good girl?”

Rachel tilted the cup over Quinn’s back, watching as the warm water pushed away the remnants of the soap, wishing it could heal the scars. All of them. Tentatively she reached out and laid her hand, palm flat, on the girl’s skin. Feeling its roughness. She could feel Quinn flinch away from her, but Rachel’s hand stayed.

She wondered if Quinn had ever been touched gently. She wondered if she was the first. Somehow, the thought made her happy.

“You’re a good girl, Quinn,” Rachel said, and only then did she remove her hand. She moved slightly so that she could look at Quinn’s face, and was surprised to see tears streaming down her cheeks. Rachel touched her again, this time her fingers closing around Quinn’s forearm.

“You’re a very good girl.”

She’d only heard about this, she’d never experienced it herself. But seeing Noah’s interactions with Jesse clued Rachel in to the fact that some submissives needed to feel as if they were good, needed to constantly be told that a person was proud of them, a person was pleased with what they were doing. Rachel imagined that with Quinn, it was multiplied hundredfold, because she doubted that her Dominant had ever made her feel as if she was valued.

“M-miss Rachel?” Quinn hiccupped a little and wiped her eyes with the back of her other hand before turning back to Rachel, her hazel eyes glistening.

“Yes, Quinn.” Rachel said again.

“If you… i-if you have to be gone again, c-can you find... some way to let me know?”

Rachel’s eyes lit up. What was this? Was Quinn asking for something, and more importantly, asking for something that Rachel knew she could give her? This, Rachel thought, this was progress.

Even if it did make her feel guilty again for not having called the House while she was sick.

Rachel opened her mouth, about to promise that she would always call if she couldn’t make it for a visit. About to give Quinn her phone number, just in case Quinn ever needed to call her.

But then she tilted her head. “I think,” she said slowly, “I think I have a better idea.”

Chapter Text

“Rachel Barbra Berry, have you lost your melodramatic, Broadway-loving mind?!”

Rachel sighed and held her cell phone away from her ear as she navigated down one of the hallways at McKinley House. “Don’t raise your voice to me, Jesse St. James,” she said. “I don’t want Quinn to hear.”

“Fine,” Jesse growled in frustration. “Noah, you take over.”

There was the sound of scuffling, and then Noah’s calm tone came over the speakerphone. “Have you gone insane… Ma’am?”

Rachel rolled her eyes and giggled. “I’m thinking perfectly clearly.”

“You want her to come live with you!”

“I want her to come visit,” Rachel corrected. “For a week, Jesse. Only a week.”

“What will she do while she’s there, Ma’am?”

“Rest?” Rachel said with a shrug. “Sleep, watch television, eat good food, keep me company?”

“And by keep you company, you mean…”

“Stop it,” Rachel finally snapped, as she stood outside a closed door labeled PT. “I won’t have you accusing me of bringing Quinn to my home for purely nefarious purposes.”

“Sir, she’s using big words again.”

“She means she’s not going to sleep with her.”

“Oh. Well, that’s good to know, Ma’am.”

“Ugh, you two are insufferable,” Rachel said, but she was smiling. “Also adorable.” Growing serious again, she explained, “I applied to the Council for a visit. A visit only. A change of pace from the House. Beiste seems to think it will do Quinn good, I don’t understand why you don’t.” She leaned against the wall across from the door and waited for Jesse to continue his rant at her.

Hearing Quinn ask if Rachel could find some way to contact her the next time she couldn’t come to the House, had inspired several reactions in Rachel. One, she was beyond elated that Quinn was asking for something from her. What did it mean? Rachel wondered. Did it mean that Quinn was comfortable with her? Did it mean she was learning that it was okay to ask for things? Did it mean… she was getting better?

But even as Rachel was happy about such a “simple” question, she was also worried. Because it could also mean that Quinn was becoming dependent on her, and as a recovering submissive who’d been exposed to horrific brutality if her scars were any indication, Quinn already didn’t know how to separate dependency from reliance.

But warring with all of that was the reality that Rachel was slowly coming to, the fact that she really, really didn’t like the idea of Quinn being alone at the House. Quinn didn’t complain, and the few questions Rachel had asked her about the House were met with a quiet “I’m fine, Miss Rachel, I promise.” But that too, Rachel understood, was a product of Quinn’s time before the House. Before her. No doubt “I’m fine” rolled off her tongue as easily as water from a roof, because Rachel knew that Quinn wanted desperately to say it so much that it would be true. But because Rachel knew it wasn’t, because she saw how thin Quinn was and because she couldn’t bear the idea of Quinn going to sleep alone and waking up alone…

She’d gone to Beiste and requested Quinn be allowed to stay with her for a week.

And surprisingly, after asking her a few questions about her intentions, Director Beiste had agreed. She’d put in a call to the council, and Rachel placed her own. Now they were just waiting for the decision.

Quinn had seemed nervous when Rachel told her, but Rachel had also caught the fleeting excitement in her eyes that came and went in seconds. She hadn’t said much and that was worrying in itself, only asking Rachel if she thought Arnie would like her. But that was really a no-brainer, Arnie liked everyone. Rachel smiled, thinking about him and Quinn. About cooking for Quinn. Helping her bathe. Watching television with her. Taking care of her.

She thought about Quinn.

She was finding that her thoughts lately seemed to be dominated (ha) by Quinn, and what she could do to help her, to make things better. She’d wondered why Quinn was so different; Rachel had never visited a resident of a care home more than once, and certainly not with as much worry and concern as she did Quinn. A part of her wondered if it was just attraction, because she knew without a doubt that Quinn Fabray was the prettiest girl she’d ever met. But there was something more than that, something that kept drawing Rachel back to her, something that wasn’t merely physical. But she couldn’t explain it any more than she could explain why Cats had closed on Broadway.

“Do you even know what you’re doing?”

“Nope,” Rachel said with a shrug.

“Then how can you possibly-“

“But I’m a Domme, Jesse,” Rachel interrupted. “I do know something about how to treat a submissive.”

“A submissive who isn’t yours, Ma’am,” Noah pointed out.

“I concede that, Noah, thank you.”

“She’s damaged goods, Rachel.”

“Don’t you ever say that!” Rachel snapped, pushing off from the wall and pacing up and down in front of the door, gesturing angrily as she spoke. “Don’t you ever, ever refer to Quinn like that again. How would you like it if I told you that Noah was damaged goods, after what he went through?”

“Rachel…” Jesse said warningly.

“Sir?” Noah’s voice cut in. “She’s right, what you said isn’t very nice.”

Rachel knew how much work it had taken for Jesse and Noah to get to their loving, bonded relationship. Before he had met Jesse, Noah had had a hard life. His father had left his family, his mother was mostly absent, and he’d pretty much had to fend for himself, which led to a life of near-criminality, doing things he wasn’t proud of just to make sure he’d have enough for his next meal. When Jesse had “found him,” most everyone had written Noah Puckerman off as a lost cause. But not Jesse. Nearly two years of constant care, of gentle pushing and a few knock-down fights had paid off, and now there wasn’t a single thing either man wouldn’t do for the other. Jesse had collared Noah three years into their relationship, and theirs was a devotion that Rachel had only seen one other time, with her parents.

The product of a Dom who had gotten his sub pregnant, and then decided they didn’t need a child to interfere with their lifestyle, Rachel had become the daughter of Leroy and Hiram Berry when she was three days old. Rachel had grown up watching Daddy Leroy’s quiet, adoring deference to Dad Hiram, and had learned from them what a true, loving relationship could be. They never were blatant in front of her, and in fact the only time she’d seen them in the full force of their dynamic was one unfortunate incident when she was 11, after a nightmare. She’d decided the nightmare wasn’t half bad compared to walking in on that. Rachel would always say that her fathers were the truest example of how a relationship was supposed to work in their society. She knew that her fathers would grow old together, and they would die just as much in love with each other as they had been the day they met.

She envied it.

“You’re right, love. I’m sorry.” Rachel smiled at the sound of a kiss.

“I’m just saying,” Jesse resumed, and Rachel fought back a sigh. “That you have to be very, very careful. She is damaged, and if you don’t tread lightly, you could make it even worse. If you can’t love her at her worst, you don’t deserve her at her best.”

Oh for- Rachel groaned. “Did you really just say that? Jesse, this is real life, not some stupid teen drama… oh god, if you like that lead girl and her boyfriend I am disowning you.”

“We’re not related.”

“My point still stands.”

“Noah thinks she’s cute. Hmph.”

“Not as cute as you, Sir.”

“… good boy.”

“As sweet and life-affirming as this is,” Rachel said, “I have to go. There’s a girl in physical therapy I need to see.”

“Wait, she’s in therapy now?”

“Always with the tone of surprise. Yes, Jesse, she’s in therapy. Now tell me again I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Rachel pressed the End button on her phone and tucked it into the back pocket of her pants. Taking a deep breath, she knocked twice on the PT door, then opened it and peeked inside.

“Quinn?”

Something was wrong. Quinn was on the cot, stretched out so that the aide could easily begin the exercises necessary to keep her muscles from atrophying, to help them regain her strength for when she would walk again. But the aide was sat across the room on a stool in the corner, a frustrated look on his face. And Quinn’s arms were wrapped around herself; the paper draped over the cot crinkled as she trembled. Her eyes were squeezed shut.

Rachel stepped further into the room, moving so that she was stood just behind Quinn’s head. “Quinn?” she said again.

She glanced at the aide. … the male aide. Suddenly, Rachel understood. She sighed; she’d have to have a word with Beiste later. Again. But for now…

“Brody, is it?” Rachel said, reading his nametag. He had no collar, or band encircling his wrist. It was unusual, but at that moment, Rachel didn’t care.

“Yes, Ma’am,” he said, smiling easily at her.

“Give us a moment alone, would you please?”

She waited until Brody left with a respectful bob of his head, and then Rachel pulled a chair over to the edge of the cot, sitting down on it.

Leaning forward, she very carefully placed her hand on Quinn’s shoulder. Quinn flinched, but Rachel didn’t remove her hand. “Hi,” she said, close to the girl’s ear. “Quinn, I want you to open your eyes and look at me.”

This time there wasn’t any hesitation as hazel eyes met brown ones. Rachel smiled. “Good girl,” she said softly. She moved her hand to lightly rest on Quinn’s, on her stomach. “I’m very proud of you, for fulfilling your end of the bargain.”

“The bargain” had been when Rachel told Quinn that in order for her to visit, she’d have to start her physical therapy. Rachel wasn’t above playing dirty when she had to, but really she just wanted Quinn out of that chair, and the doctor she’d spoken to had reiterated what Beiste had said the first time Rachel met with her. It was only a matter of Quinn applying herself and doing what she needed to do, for her to get better. At least, physically.

Still, Rachel wouldn’t push, and she’d left it up to Quinn. Quinn’s answer had been simple.

“Green.”

“You didn’t expect the aide to be a man, did you? Director Beiste didn’t tell you it would be.”

Quinn shook her head, her teeth worrying her lower lip. “No, Miss Rachel. I-I’m sorry I just didn’t know, I-“

“Shh,” Rachel said, and squeezed Quinn’s hand. She blinked when Quinn turned her hand over and squeezed back. Rachel didn’t let go.

“I know you’re scared, and I’m sorry that no one told you. I didn’t know either, or I can promise you I wouldn’t have left you alone in the room with him. But you know what?”

“What?”

“I’m here now.” Rachel squeezed Quinn’s hand again. “I’m here now, and you don’t have to be scared. You can do this. You’re going to do this.”

“But-“

“We had a deal, remember?” Rachel smiled at Quinn. “Arnie really wants to meet you, Quinn.”

“I r-really want to meet him,” Quinn whispered. She hesitated. “You’ll stay?”

Rachel nodded. “I’ll stay. Green, yellow, red.”

“Green.”

“Brody?” Rachel called out. The young man peeked his head around the door, and Rachel grinned.

“Work your magic.”

Quinn held tight to Rachel’s hand the entire time Brody worked with her; Rachel was glad to see that the aide was calm and gentle, and each time he had to change position or do something different he’d pause, first looking to Rachel for permission, it seemed.

“All right,” Brody said finally, stepping back and smiling at both Rachel and Quinn. “Think we’re ready to try some walking?”

“N-no,” Quinn said, at the same time Rachel exclaimed, “Yes!”

Brody quirked an eyebrow in amusement.

Rachel squeezed Quinn’s hand. “You can do it,” she whispered quietly. “I believe in you.”

Quinn was silent for what seemed like forever, and then finally nodded.

She clung to Rachel’s hand when Brody lifted her, as easily as if she was a feather, and he gently stood her up on one end of the bars. He positioned her hands on either side and stood behind, his own hands slightly on her waist.

Rachel saw how pinched and white Quinn’s face was, how scared she seemed, and wondered if this was a good idea. Maybe she was pushing too far, she thought. Maybe this wasn’t the way to do things. Maybe she should just… back off and leave Quinn alone.

But then Brody was saying, with a sly grin on his face, “Miss Berry, maybe you ought to stand at the end, that way your girl can walk to you.”

“Oh, she’s not….” Rachel looked at Quinn. “I’m not…” She sighed, and took her place at the end of the bars, on the other side of Quinn. She took a deep breath.

Come on, Quinn. You can do it.

But Quinn wavered, struggling to hold herself up on the bars, sweat beginning to drip down her face as she tried to maintain her balance. She looked at Rachel helplessly.

“I-I can’t…”

“You can, and you will,” Rachel said, and she winced at the sharpness in her voice, but the effect on Quinn was almost instant. The girl’s eyes locked on Rachel’s face, as if Rachel was the only thing she could see, the only thing in the room.

This, Rachel knew, was the mark of a submissive. When a submissive was spoken to be a Dominant – but not just any Dominant, one they trusted – indeed, there wasn’t anyone else. Quinn’s eyes were clear, focused, and Rachel knew she was both in the moment, and not. She’d seen it before, in the demonstrations at Lima Academy and in the films they were made to watch. How a submissive and a Dominant would slip easily into their “other,” but most true selves, into their natural state, and all that mattered was the connection, the bond, the orders given and being followed. The mutual cause and effect that the Dominant knew what he or she was doing, and the submissive could trust that it was okay to follow their lead.

Rachel put her hands on the bars and leaned forward slightly.

She believed in her.

She took another breath, and gave the order.

“Come here, Quinn.”

She could almost see the battle going on inside of Quinn; Rachel knew what it would take for this moment, for Quinn to let go and follow her. She’d followed once already, and been let down, so horribly let down. But it wasn’t Rachel, and Rachel would never-

A step.

Rachel’s eyes widened. “Yes,” she breathed, watching as Quinn’s foot unsteadily touched the ground. She smiled broadly. “You can do it, Quinn,” she encouraged. “Good girl, Quinn, come here.”

Another step.

Her muscles strained with the effort; there was a look of utmost concentration on Quinn’s face. But her eyes never left Rachel’s, as she took yet another step.

“Good girl, that’s it! You’re almost there, Quinn, you can do it.”

Rachel was practically vibrating with excitement as she watched Quinn slowly, carefully bring herself closer towards her. Her steps were small, unsteady, and not so much walking as dragging her feet forward. But Rachel didn’t care. She’d told Quinn to come to her, and Quinn…

Quinn was obeying her.

The feeling was exhilarating.

Quinn was so close now that Rachel could really see her eyes; she could see the determination in them, the way they flashed with little flecks of gold in the green. It would be easy to get lost in those, Rachel thought. It would be so easy to want those eyes to be the only ones she’d ever see. To see them looking at her with love. With want. With submission. To see them rolled back in ecstasy, or cast down as she knelt…

One step.

Two.

Three.

And she was there, and she was falling, and Rachel had promised not to let her fall. In an instant her arms were around Quinn and she was laughing, holding her up and holding her close.

“I-I did it,” Quinn was stuttering. “Miss Rachel, I did it.”

“Good girl, Quinn,” Rachel said, feeling Quinn tuck herself under her chin.  Her hand was in Quinn’s hair and she smelled clean, like berries. “You’re such a good girl, that’s my good girl.”

She froze. She thought she felt Quinn tense in her arms, and Rachel reached up to gingerly pat her back.

“Good girl,” she said quietly. “Good girl, Quinn.”

Maybe they could just forget what she’d said.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door, and Director Beiste came into the room. She looked at Rachel, a quizzical expression on her face.

“Good news,” she said, still staring at Rachel. “The council approved the visit.”

Rachel smiled a little.

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.

But a bargain was a bargain. She squeezed Quinn tighter, and was glad when Quinn relaxed ever so slightly.

“I guess next stop… Rachel Berry’s house.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Rachel Berry’s house stood directly in the middle of Carnegie Street, a fitting place for it, she thought. It wasn’t that it was particularly big; just a two-story house with pale green siding, framed by trees on either side. It certainly wasn’t glamorous; though the inside held a music room slash library with more books and Broadway records than were probably healthy, she really didn’t have anything fancy. Her government job paid well enough for her to be comfortable, and that was good for her.

But as she pulled into the driveway and cast yet another semi-worried glance at her passenger, Rachel was glad she lived in the center of her street. It was metaphorical, almost; symbolic of how she wanted her home to be the center of her existence, because home meant love. Safety. Security. Home meant a relationship.

… Whenever she got one, that is.

She’d been ready for a while, Rachel mused to herself as she put the car in park in front of the garage. Her bed, for one thing, was huge, king-sized. Too much of the time she felt small, terribly lonely, sleeping in it herself, but she knew one day she’d be curled up in the middle with her arms tucked around someone who needed her. Of course, the two metal rings at the top of the headboard gave her other thoughts. So did the things tucked away in the bottom drawer, or hung in the closet. She’d gotten couple of them for her sixteenth birthday – which would’ve been embarrassing if it hadn’t been the way their society worked. In fact, a person’s sixteenth birthday was about more than just celebrating. It was a week-long rite of passage, in which Rachel had been submissive to a Dominant friend of her fathers. It was designed with the idea that to be an effective, caring Dominant, you must first learn what it is like to be submissive. There were strict rules in place to guarantee her safety, but Rachel had been a sub for all intents and purposes, and had been punished for a misstep. She’d hated that part, of course, but it was necessary. She was Dominant, but she needed to know how “the other side lived,” so that she would never, ever abuse the gift she could eventually be given.

And now, looking across at Quinn sat in her passenger seat, with her hands folded tightly around the papers in her lap – instructions to bring her back to the Home three times that week for her physical and emotional therapy – Rachel felt the tears rush to her eyes, remembering. It’d been painful enough, that ten minutes of punishment when she was a teenager. She could imagine what it had been like for Quinn, every day…

She pushed that thought aside and reached out to lay her hand on top of Quinn’s. She was trembling. Rachel squeezed gently. “Ready?” she queried softly.

She didn’t know why she was so nervous. She knew why Quinn would be, of course, but Rachel kept telling herself that it was a visit. It was just a visit, and she needn’t worry about anything. But that wasn’t entirely true. It had taken another week for the Council to get the paperwork completed for Quinn’s visit; a week of Rachel spending every available moment at the House watching and spending time with Quinn. Physical therapy had become a little easier; Brody was nice and though Quinn was still tense and scared around him, Rachel was always there. In the back of her mind was always the fact that she’d called Quinn “my good girl,” but Quinn hadn’t mentioned it and Rachel wasn’t in any hurry to.

Quinn wasn’t hers. Rachel had no claim to her, wasn’t thinking of making a claim on her. Though she’d be lying if she said she hadn’t had at least one dream, in which she came home to find Quinn naked and kneeling at the door, waiting for her. But Quinn wasn’t hers, so there should be no reason for Rachel to be so worried about their visit. But she was.

What if Quinn didn’t like it? What if she didn’t like Arnie, even if Arnie loved her because he was a baby and loved everyone? Rachel knew Quinn was becoming more confident in her interactions with her, and they’d dropped the “Green, yellow, red?” questions for more mundane things, but what if Quinn didn’t like something and refused to tell her? What if Rachel somehow overstepped her bounds and tried to dominate Quinn without a claim? She’d never do that, Rachel knew, but still, her house, her rules…

“Ready,” Quinn said next to her, and Rachel’s gaze snapped back to the girl. She was staring up at the house, her teeth worrying her bottom lip. Rachel quickly recalled one of the lessons she’d learned during that day on her knees years ago. She’d been scared, to the point of almost being sick, and the Dominant had sat in a chair with Rachel gagged and bound at her feet, talking softly to her and stroking her hair. Just by her gentleness, when Rachel had been expecting much less, Miss had made her point quite clear.

If you’re not strong when she needs you to be, she’ll never feel safe.

She squeezed Quinn’s hand again. “Good,” she said, her voice steady as she pushed open the car door with her other hand. In seconds she was at Quinn’s side. “Chair, or do you think you’d like to walk?” Quinn’s therapy had made her legs stronger, and though she was still weak on her feet she was making enough progress that Brody had confessed to Rachel that he’d never seen anything like it.

Rachel had beamed with pride, and her smile only grew larger when Quinn had flushed pink and ducked her head, her eyes lowering.

“I think I can do it.”

“Walk it is, then,” Rachel said, taking the papers from Quinn and tucking them into her pocket. Reaching out she took Quinn’s hands in hers. “Legs out of the car, easy now.” Quinn shifted, concentration on her face until both feet were on the ground. Rachel smiled. “You’re getting so good at this,” she said. “Soon you’ll be better than me!”

Quinn shook her head, her voice low as she said, “I could never be better than you, Miss Rachel.”

Rachel wasn’t sure how to take that. To someone who didn’t know Quinn, it could be taken as devotion, as a compliment, as Quinn saying that she appreciated all that Rachel had done for her and maybe all that she would do, during their week together at Rachel’s house.

But it was what would come after that week that had Rachel second-guessing what Quinn said. She knew that when their week was up, Quinn would go back to McKinley House to continue her rehabilitation. And though the psychiatrist wouldn’t tell Rachel what was divulged in their confidential sessions, Rachel didn’t need the psychiatrist to know Quinn’s opinion of herself. It was in the way she carried herself, the way she moved, cautious while always glancing at the person with her – whether Beiste or Brody or Rachel. She’d had her ability to walk taken away from her, and yet from the time she was sixteen years old, Quinn had never viewed herself as on equal footing – with anyone. No matter who came into contact with her, Rachel knew Quinn would view them as better than she was.

She tugged gently, carefully, until Quinn was standing next to her, and Rachel slipped her arm around Quinn’s waist. “There we go,” she said. “Good girl. Let’s go meet Arnie, shall we?”

Damn, she thought as she and Quinn approached the front door of her home, she’d forgotten the steps. Three little steps that were so insignificant to Rachel, as she took them every day without thinking. But she saw the concern in Quinn’s eyes, and suddenly the steps loomed like mountains as the two women stood at the base.

Rachel took a deep breath, and her arm tightened around Quinn’s waist. “One at a time,” she said firmly. “You can do this.”

“I-I don’t know if-“

“I do.” Rachel turned her head and met Quinn’s eyes. “Three steps. Just three steps, and I’m right here. I’ll help you, and you’re going to do this. And-“ she said, seeing Quinn opening her mouth again as if to protest, “I won’t let you fall.”

Quinn hesitated, staring at Rachel, and then nodded. With Rachel stood next to her, her arm firm around the girl, she lifted her foot awkwardly, and in seconds was on the first step.

Rachel stepped up beside her, the grin nearly splitting her mouth. “Only two more to go,” she said. “I’m so proud of you.”

It seemed to Rachel that with those words Quinn grew a little bit taller, a little bit stronger, and it was no time at all before they were on the porch, the front door was opening – and Quinn was rocked backwards by a mass of fuzzy, wiggling, barking madness.

“Arnie!” Rachel said in exasperation as she struggled to both hold him off and hold Quinn up. “Get back, get back, you crazy animal. Arnie, back!”

But then there was a sound, something that made Rachel’s hand fall away from Arnie and her mouth drop open in shock. She watched as Arnie stood on his hind legs, his tongue happily licking away at Quinn’s face, and her ears were full of the sound.

Quinn’s laughter.

It rumbled out of her, low and uncertain at first, but Arnie was a force to be reckoned with and soon Quinn’s laughter was all high-pitched and breathless little girl squeals as she both tried to get away from him and met his affections eagerly. Rachel wanted to stay in that spot forever, just watching as Quinn’s hazel eyes lost that… lostness, and took on a sparkle, a happiness that for a split second made Rachel jealous of a dog. But Quinn’s footing wavered, and Rachel seized Arnie’s collar with a firm hand.

“All right, all right,” she said, pulling him off Quinn and setting him at her knee with a pat to his head, “Good grief, Arnie, you’d think we’d been gone for days – and you’ve never even met Quinn!” She smiled at Quinn. “I told you he’d love you.”

“I love him already,” Quinn said, still smiling, and Rachel felt a particular ache in her stomach that she hadn’t before. It was an ache that told her she’d be willing to do anything if that smile would stay on her face.

And that… that probably wasn’t a good thing to be feeling about someone that wasn’t yours.

“Come on, you two,” she said. She released Arnie and he quickly bounded into the house, stopping to glance back to see if they were following. She squeezed Quinn’s waist tighter.

“Let’s go inside.”

The front door led into Rachel’s living room, a spacious area in a calm blue, with a soft couch, two comfortable armchairs, a television and stereo in the center of the floor. Dotting the walls were two Broadway posters, pictures of Rachel with her fathers, pictures of Jesse and Noah, and probably far too many of Arnie. Quinn’s eyes were darting this way and that, taking it all, trying to see into the kitchen on the right side. Rachel smiled a little.

“You’ve done a good job walking,” she said. “And now it’s time for you to rest.” She led Quinn over to the couch. “Sit down.”

Quinn stared, but made no move. Rachel tilted her head. “Quinn?”

“S-sit?”

“Yes?” Rachel said, confused. “Sit down.”

“On the couch?”

“Well where else would you sit?”

She realized that was the wrong question the minute she felt Quinn tense, and the girl’s head dropped, her gaze landing on the floor. Instantly Rachel understood.

“You’re used to being on the floor.”

“Not sitting.”

“Kneeling.”

She nodded.

“For how long?”

Quinn didn’t answer. Rachel sighed and, as carefully as she could, gently pushed and lowered Quinn onto the couch.

“In my house,” she said, as quietly and carefully as possible, “My guests, who are not claimed, sit. On the sofa, at the kitchen table, on the bed. Especially guests who don’t need to be kneeling for long periods of ti-“

“Sixteen hours.”

Rachel stopped. “What?”

Quinn wasn’t looking at her. Rachel had begun to recognize that expression that told her Quinn had gone off somewhere in her mind, the cloudiness in her eyes that let her know Quinn was reliving something. Rachel waited quietly for her to come back.

“I’d upset Si- him. He’d been watching TV, and I asked for permission to use the bathroom. When I came back he made me kneel and told me not to move. He went to bed. Next morning he got up, and left for work. Sir didn’t- He didn’t even look at me. And when he came back he-he seemed surprised to see me. He’d… forgotten I was there.”

Rachel’s hands tightened into fists at her side, but she took a deep breath and flexed them. Leaning down slightly, she placed her hand on Quinn’s shoulder. Quinn’s eyes cleared, and she blinked at Rachel. “Sit here,” Rachel said. “I’m going to fix us some lunch.”

She knew Quinn hated being alone, but Rachel had to get away from her, if only for a minute, because she knew the anger she was feeling right now at Quinn’s previous owner would only serve to scare her, and that’s the last thing Rachel wanted to do.

“O-okay, Miss Rachel,” Quinn stuttered a little. “Okay.”

She looked so different out of the House, Rachel thought as she began to pull out pots and plates, ingredients to make lunch. Most of it was probably because the House-issued sweats were gone, and the simple yellow dress and cardigan Quinn wore made it look as if she was almost glowing. It was the only clothes Quinn had, and even those had been borrowed from another resident. She looked healthier, anyway, not as thin, and with a flush to her cheeks that Rachel… really liked.

Maybe she’d take Quinn shopping tomorrow.

Rachel peeked from the doorway of the kitchen and saw Quinn sitting stiffly on the couch, hands held tightly in her lap once again. Would she ever relax? She wondered.

“Quinn?” Rachel called, and the girl’s head shot up and turned in her direction. Rachel smiled encouragingly. “You can see me, right?”

“I… yes, Miss Rachel.”

“Good. I’m right here.” She hesitated, and then added, “I’ll always be here.”

She could see Quinn watching her from the living room; she nodded. “Thank you, Miss Rachel.” Her voice was barely above a whisper, but Rachel could see her body already relaxing. She smiled to herself, and quickly began to get lunch together.

A half an hour later, she snatched up two plates of pasta and two glasses of water balanced on a tray and began to make her way to the living room. She stopped short in the doorway, and her eyes widened. There, curled up on the end of the couch asleep, was Quinn. Arnie was draped across her lap, also asleep, and her hand was resting, relaxed and comfortable, on his head. Rachel really wished she had a camera, but she supposed Quinn wouldn’t take well to that.

Crossing the floor, Rachel set the tray down on the coffee table and nudged Arnie with her hand. “C’mon, big boy, your new friend needs to eat lunch.”

Immediately Quinn sat up with a gasp; Arnie jumped off and padded over to flop down on his mat that Rachel always kept in the living room. Quinn’s face was frantic, and that old sinking feeling came back to Rachel’s gut.

“I-I didn’t mean to fall asleep, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again, I-I’ve just been tired and w-walking and but that’s not an excuse, Miss Rachel, I’m so sor-“

“Quinn!” Rachel interrupted, sitting down next to the girl. She dared to reach out and put her hand firmly on Quinn’s knee; Quinn flinched and jerked away, drawing herself as far into the arm of the couch as she could. Rachel swore under her breath and quickly held up her hands, palms out towards Quinn.

“It’s all right,” she said, as softly as she could. “I’m not mad, it’s all right. I’m not going to hurt you. I brought your lunch, are you hungry?” Quinn stared at her with wide eyes, and then nodded. Rachel reached down to grab one of the plates, then held it up and out towards Quinn.

“I hope you like pasta. I’m not angry at you, Quinn, I want you to rest. But I want you to eat as well. All right?”

Once again there was hesitation before Quinn took the plate. “Thank you, Miss Rachel. I’m sorry.”

“Quinn,” Rachel shook her head and tried to choose her words carefully. “I’m not your Dominant. You don’t have to apologize to me for falling asleep, for talking; you don’t have to apologize for anything. I’m not going to punish you. I don’t have the right to, because I’m not your Dominant.”

Her position with the government, as well as her training as Dominant, meant that the rights of submissives had been drilled into Rachel’s brain from the time she was a teenager. Legally, both parties in a relationship – the Dominant and the submissive – had the same rights: the right to food; the right to shelter; the right to health; the right to not be abused, among other things. But morally and in terms of society, Rachel knew, the submissive was often given rights that were much, much less. Cases against Dominants were rarely prosecuted, and if they were, punishments weren’t very stiff, or in some cases, weren’t given at all. Many cases had been dismissed outright. In recent years, though, Lima had been struggling to change that. If a submissive brought a case against his or her Dominant they could be assured that the charges would be investigated thoroughly.

Maybe she’d have to bring that up to Quinn, at some point…

“What if I want you to be?”

Rachel nearly choked on her dinner. She quickly took a swallow of water and stared at Quinn, who was picking at the food on her plate. “W-what?” she croaked.

Quinn wouldn’t look at her. “What if I want you to be my Dominant?” she asked. “I mean, that’s why you brought me here, isn’t it? To test me, see if I’m worthy?”

“Of course not!” Rachel replied hotly, setting her plate down. She took a deep breath to calm down.

Where had Quinn gotten that idea? She wondered. She did guess that it was her fault; after all, she wasn’t a counselor or rehabilitator. She was just a government stooge, who had taken a more than passing interesting in a submissive recovering from a bad relationship. Rachel felt sick, realizing how it must look. Quinn clearly thought Rachel was going to take advantage of her. Jesse had warned her about this, and she just hadn’t listened. She’d hear it from him later on in the week, when he and Noah came over, she just knew it.

“Maybe I should just take you back,” Rachel mused, half to herself. She looked at Quinn then away again, not able to bear the horrified look on the girl’s face.

“I don’t want to be your Dominant, Quinn. I can’t be. You’re at the house for a reason. Someone hurt you. Brutalized you. Broke you. And I might be a Dominant but the last thing I’m going to do is try to dominate someone who has been so utterly destroyed. Not before she’s built back up.”

“But you could build me back up-“

“By being your friend,” Rachel said, smiling a little sadly. She reached out and brought her hand onto Quinn’s knee; this time, the other woman didn’t flinch away. Rachel looked into her eyes. “I brought you here because I thought you might like a change from the House. I brought you here to take care of you… as a friend. That’s all, Quinn. Nothing more. I will not dominate you, I will not try to own you, and I will not try to claim you. I promise. You don’t need to be afraid of me.”

There was silence for the longest time, and then Quinn nodded and resumed eating her dinner. “I understand,” she said softly. “I know no one will want me like I am. It’s all right, Miss Rachel.”

For the first time in her life, Rachel Berry wanted to hit something. More accurately, she wanted to hit him. She wanted to find him, hit him, and make him pay for what he’d done to the meek, trembling, self-hating young girl that sat on the couch with her, eyes never leaving her plate while she took the smallest bites of her food. No doubt he’d said stuff about her weight, too, as Quinn put it back on the table, half-finished. Part of Rachel wanted to scream that of course someone would want Quinn as she was, because she was beautiful. But there was the other part of Rachel that didn’t want anyone else but her to want Quinn.

And that was not something she felt. Because she didn’t.

The rest of the day passed by in awkward near-silence. Rachel tried to make small talk, but her guest only answered her with one or two words, or didn’t say anything at all. Quinn seemed ill at ease, nervous, but when Rachel again mentioned that she’d maybe be happier back at McKinley House, she turned almost hysterical, begging not to have to go back. So they ended up sat on the couch all night, watching Rachel’s favorite trashy television shows (She had a particular affinity for Real Bratty Subs of New Jersey), and Rachel made dinner again. Pizza this time, and she was surprised when Quinn let out a little moan at the first taste. Rachel quirked an eyebrow and Quinn grinned a little, blushing and ducking her head.

It was so cute when she did that.

Rachel felt herself getting tired when the clock approached midnight, and a glance to her left showed that Quinn was already halfway there again. Arnie for his part was snuggled up at Quinn’s feet, snoring loudly. Rachel smiled, and reached out to gently shake Quinn’s shoulder.

“Quinn,” she whispered. “Come on, let’s go to bed.”

Quinn whined and batted away Rachel’s hand.

She laughed quietly to herself, and then tried again. “Bedtime now,” she said, a bit more firmly. “Come on, little one, let’s go.”

She felt every muscle in her body tense. It had slipped out so easily, so naturally… and then Quinn’s eyes opened. Rachel prayed she hadn’t heard. She nodded sleepily.

“Bedtime.”

Quinn changed in the bathroom into the pajamas she had borrowed – they really needed to go shopping, Rachel decided – and then stood holding onto the door, looking at Rachel. She smiled and led Quinn to the room across from hers, the one reserved for guests.

Done in a light shade of purple, she’d made considerable effort to fix it up even nicer for Quinn’s impending visit. There were books on the nightstand, even if they were about musicals. She had no idea what Quinn liked to read; she’d need to find that out. She’d also put on the nightstand a pitcher of ice water, as well as a glass. Water had always helped her if she was feeling unsettled or sad, so she wondered if it would do the same for Quinn. The light was on in the guest bathroom, though she kept the door shut, in case Quinn didn’t like the dark. The bed was done up with the comfiest sheets and blankets (new and washed) that Rachel could buy, and even a teddy bear rested against one of the three pillows against the headboard. Rachel caught Quinn smiling widely at it, and inwardly she cheered. She’d gotten something right, for once.

“I’ll just be across the hall,” Rachel said, as she helped Quinn into bed and tucked the covers around her. “If you need me, just call for me, and I’ll be here before you can even call again, all right?”

Quinn nodded. “Thank you, Miss Rachel. Good night,” was all she said.

Rachel pursed her lips, and nodded in return. “Good night, Quinn.”

Rachel lay in bed for what seemed like hours, thinking about things. She couldn’t believe what she had called Quinn, especially after she’d made a point of telling her that no, she wasn’t intending to be her Dominant, and that she in fact didn’t want to. She wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize Quinn’s recovery. She wanted the woman to be whole again, whether it was with someone or not. That’s all anyone should ever want, Rachel kept telling herself.

But again she was trying to fight off the images that kept dancing her head, pictures of Quinn kneeling for her. Serving her. Kissing her, coming for her. Coaxing sighs and moans from her, feeling Quinn’s skin tremble and stretch under her striking hand.

No. No, she couldn’t think of that. She’d think of Broadway. Broadway and Barbra, all of her favorite shows. Cats. Les Miserables. Wicked. Quinn would make a good Glin- no!

Frustrated with herself, Rachel threw the covers off and got out of bed. Maybe watching some television would distract her well enough. Quinn’s door was open; Rachel glanced inside and stopped short. She’d been worried Quinn wouldn’t be able to rest well, being in a strange place, but it wasn’t Quinn sleeping that suddenly had Rachel slowly, quietly walking into the room.

Because Quinn was fast asleep… curled up at the foot of the bed, against the bare mattress, her arm wrapped around the teddy bear. The pillows were still at the headboard, and the blankets had been pushed off into a pile on the floor. Had she been forced to sleep like this? Rachel asked herself. At the foot of his bed, like a dog, with her hair splayed out in golden tendrils on the sheets. Did he say that she was lucky he let her sleep with him, instead of on the floor?

Or maybe he made her sleep on the floor…

The thought was too much for Rachel. She sprang into action, as quietly as she could retrieving the blankets from where they lay. She draped one over Quinn, and then grabbed one of the pillows. Willing Quinn to stay asleep, to not wake up and discover her, Rachel gently, carefully, easily lifted her head just enough to tuck one of the pillows under. Quinn murmured as her head touched the cotton and Rachel stilled, her hands in midair, until soft sighs told her the girl was still dreaming.

She should go back to her own bed, she thought. She should… but she didn’t. Instead, Rachel maneuvered herself onto the guest bed, seizing up another pillow and moving so that she was lying with her head at the footboard, close to Quinn’s. She pulled the thin blanket around herself; that would keep her warm enough for tonight, and her concern was only for Quinn’s comfort, anyway.

Rachel breathed out slowly and closed her eyes, listening to the sound of Quinn’s own breathing. Almost of its own volition, Rachel’s right hand snuck out from under the blanket and crept forward until it covered over Quinn’s.

She’d keep her safe. If she was her Dominant, she could make sure she was always safe…

But she couldn’t be. Quinn wasn’t ready. And neither was she. She didn’t know if she’d ever be ready. That was the last thought Rachel had as she drifted off to sleep.

Hours later the sun began to creep over the Lima horizon, its rays shining into the window of the guest bedroom and causing Quinn to open her eyes sleepily. For a moment she panicked; the bed and room she was in was unfamiliar. But her hand was curiously warm, and as she looked, she realized that she was in Rachel’s house, and Rachel had come into her room. Quinn distinctly remembered falling asleep at the foot of the bed. It was what she was used to. Well, no, she was used to sleeping on the floor, but she knew Rachel wouldn’t want her anywhere but the bed. So she’d compromised by sleeping at the foot, without anything comforting – except the teddy bear. She was still there, but now she was warm and comfortable, with Rachel’s hand on hers.

Carefully, Quinn turned her hand over, and locked her fingers with Rachel’s. She watched Rachel’s face, watched a dreamy smile spread, but she didn’t awaken.

It was still early, judging by the clock on the wall.  She didn’t have to get up to make breakfast or “service” her Sir. She didn’t have to kneel at his feet and accept his slaps on her face, or lean against the wall and take the lash until she cried.

All she had to do, she realized, was sleep. Sleep, with Rachel’s hand in hers.

“Little one is glad you’re here,” Quinn whispered, and closed her eyes.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

To a casual observer, one not involved in their society (and indeed there were a few groups around the country who did not embrace the way they chose to run) Lima could appear just like any other that had existed long before. The city prided itself on being a private society, for the most part, and the more solid, formal routines of a lifestyle were left behind closed doors. As Rachel walked along the mall shops with Quinn, only a few things would tell a person of the different ways members of their society interacted with each other. Only a person who knew what they were looking for could see it.

A certain tilt of the head. A chin lifted in the role of Dominance; eyes cast to the floor with the deference of a submissive. A girl following two steps behind, always, carrying the purchases of the day. A young man with a glittering silver collar stopping to ask his Miss if she was tired and needed to sit for a moment. A Dominant holding up a dress to his boy with a merry, evil glint to his eyes. The quiet dance of the question-and-answer, in a language all its own.

“Hold this, pet.” “Yes, Master.”

“Did I tell you to speak?” “You did not, Ma’am, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t let me forget to buy milk.” “Milk, yes Sir.”

It was mundane, really. At home there might be people on their knees or all fours, games, punishment, a driving sexual dynamic… but in public it was all about remembering the milk and the pet food, and where to go for lunch.

Rachel stopped in front of a restaurant that was advertising Italian food. “This might be…” She stopped, reading the sign.

No Leash, No Lunch.

… Some places were less subtle than others.

“Moving on,” she said, rolling her eyes and slightly behind her, Quinn giggled. Rachel giggled herself and moved back to Quinn so that she could push the wheelchair. They’d decided not to risk Quinn walking all day, though Rachel had decided that she could at least walk in any of the clothing stores they visited, so that Quinn could get some of her practice in, and try on some of the clothes.

As mundane as their society could be, though, there were still those who felt like they had something to prove. Perhaps they’d just entered into their new relationship, or perhaps there was an underlying sense of inadequacy that sent them over the top. Rachel shook her head as a man walked by her and Quinn, a girl crawling behind him with a gag in her mouth.

“Come, slave!” he barked, just as he passed them, and Rachel sighed.

“Newbie,” she said to Quinn, and gently patted her arm, because Quinn’s face was white and nervous as her eyes scanned back and forth between the Dominant and his girl.

Rachel had woken up first that morning, and it had taken her a moment to adjust to the unfamiliar surroundings of her guest bedroom, and to remember why she was there. And then she had glanced down, and seen Quinn’s fingers wrapped in hers. She’d stared at their interlocked hands for the longest time, before her gaze wandered over Quinn, slowly. She realized that she’d never really taken the time to just look at Quinn. To notice her blonde hair, the way the strands shone with the sunlight filtering in through the window. The long eyelashes that fluttered against her cheeks as she slept. Her pink lips were parted in a little smile, and the fingers of her other hand, long and graceful, were still held tightly around the teddy bear in her arm. Quinn’s face, her form, was so graceful it reminded Rachel of actresses in her favorite black and white movies. She wanted to trail her hands over every inch of Quinn, to memorize every dip and curve and manipulate each part of her until Quinn was a quivering, undone mass beneath her. She wanted to touch her, to taste her, to claim her…

Rachel got up to make breakfast instead.

She wasn’t in the kitchen for ten minutes before the frantic call had her back in the guest bedroom.

Miss Rachel?!”

Quinn was sat up in bed, looking around for her, and Rachel cursed herself for being so thoughtless. Immediately she sat down next to Quinn.

“Hey there,” she said, her voice light and reassuring. “I should know better than to go where you can’t see me, especially when you’re just waking up, shouldn’t I?”

“I’m sorry,” Quinn said, and Rachel realized she was beginning to hate those two words. “I just panicked, it was dumb.”

“No, hey.” She reached out and put her hand on Quinn’s knee, glad that the girl wasn’t flinching as much when Rachel touched her. “I know you’re used to waking up alone at the House, but here I should pay more attention to what you need, all right? No apologies, except from me. I’m sorry.”

While Rachel was stood making their breakfast, Quinn had ended up on the floor of the kitchen playing with Arnie. Rachel wasn’t sure she liked that arrangement, given what Quinn had told her the night before, but she couldn’t help admit that Quinn seemed happy, even comfortable, at her feet. Of course, part of that could’ve been Arnie. He was completely, madly in love with Quinn, that much was clear. Rachel was past being jealous about it. Almost. The smile on Quinn’s face helped.

Twenty minutes later, Rachel sat at the table and giggled as Quinn had devoured a plate of bacon and eggs. Gone was the timidity with food, at least for once, and it made Rachel happier than she’d been in a while, just that simple action of enjoying breakfast. “I should fix you bacon more often,” she’d teased, and Quinn had just grinned at her, a mischievous look in her eyes that had made Rachel’s heart skip a beat.

“Miss Rachel?”

Lost in her thoughts, Rachel had been walking absently along when Quinn’s voice called her back.

“Hmm?” she stopped and turned. Quinn was looking into a shop from the doorway. A bookstore.

“May we-“ Quinn shook her head. “What shops would you like to go in?”

Rachel stepped back over to Quinn, her hand coming to rest on the girl’s shoulder. She looked into the store. It was your average bookstore, with comfy chairs and benches scattered throughout. People sat on them, laughing and talking, or milled about the shelves, drinking coffee and tea from the little coffee bar set up in the back.

“Do you want to go into the bookstore, Quinn?” Rachel asked.

Quinn shrugged.

“No,” Rachel said, her voice firm. “Use your words, Quinn. Would you like to go into the bookstore?”

Quinn was looking at her, wide-eyed and once again biting her lower lip. “Y-yes, Miss Rachel.”

“Good girl,” Rachel said, her tone softer. She smiled. “Let’s go see what we can find.”

They wandered slowly, stopping here and there, with Rachel paying close attention to which sections seemed to catch Quinn’s attention the most. They paused at the art section, Quinn’s hand lingering over the spines of books on how to draw human anatomy, books on cathedral architecture, on famous artists. Next was the classics section, Dickens and Carroll and Poe. Quinn glanced casually at the magazines, but somehow they didn’t hold her interest, and Rachel found herself scanning through the books on New York in the geography section, but there wasn’t anything new that she desperately had to have.

“Where are we going next, Miss Rachel?”

She looked up in surprise. “But you haven’t picked any books.”

Quinn shrugged again, and it was on the tip of her tongue for Rachel to lecture her again, but she was stopped by Quinn’s voice. “I don’t need anything, Miss Rachel.”

Rachel nodded to herself. “But is there anything you want?”

“I-I don’t have the money, and I don’t need any books.”

“Come with me,” Rachel said suddenly, and she walked quickly back to the art section, with Quinn following behind. She pointed at the shelves. “Do any of these books interest you?”

Quinn looked at her, confused. “Yes, Miss Rachel?”

“Which ones?”

Quinn hesitated, before her finger reached out and tentatively pointed to one of the architecture books, and another on drawing for comic books. Huh, Rachel thought, comic books. “I like those two…”

“Then ask for them.”

“I don’t need them.”

Rachel sighed, and took hold of Quinn’s chair, pulling her off to the side. “Quinn,” she said gently, “You wanted to come into the bookstore, and you clearly want books. Now, I could make the argument that everyone needs books, and it would be a very effective argument, substantiated by visual aids with evidence to prove my point.” Seeing Quinn stare at her with a dazed expression, Rachel hastened to explain herself.

“You may not need these particular books, but you want them. You want something, and that, Quinn… that’s perfectly fine. That’s okay. It’s okay for you to want something, and it’s especially okay for you to ask me for it.”

“But you shouldn’t buy me-“

“Quinn, that is somethingI want to do.” Rachel squeezed Quinn’s arm gently. “I can buy you a couple of books, and some clothes, Quinn. I want to.”

Quinn hesitated, and it seemed like she was going to object. But Rachel waited, and finally Quinn nodded. She took a deep breath. “Miss Rachel, may I have those two books? I-I want them.”

Rachel smiled, recognizing what an effort this was for Quinn. At that moment, she couldn’t be more proud of the girl. “Yes, you may, Quinn,” she said. “Good girl.”

She pulled the two books off the shelf and tucked them under her arm, looking up at Quinn, who was staring at her. “Are we ready?” Rachel asked, feeling a little unsettled under Quinn’s gaze.

“I…” Quinn hesitated. “Miss Rachel, those posters you have in your living room?”

“Yes?”

“They’re Broadway, right?”

“Yes!” Rachel exclaimed, excited that Quinn understood. “Wicked and Funny Girl, my favorites.”

Quinn nodded, seemingly lost in thought. “May we go back to the New York section? I’d like… I want to get a book on Broadway.”

“You want a book on Broadway?”

“T-to know what you like,” Quinn said, panic beginning to cross over her features. “So that we can talk… about it and I can know what you like, it was a stupid idea, I’m sorry…”

“Whoa, whoa,” Rachel said, her hand once again coming to rest on Quinn’s shoulder. She couldn’t believe that Quinn wanted to research musicals, to learn about Broadway, so that she’d know about something Rachel loved so much. No one else had ever done that, except for maybe Jesse, but he was a Broadway addict much like herself.

“Quinn, I’m not angry, I think that’s incredibly, terribly sweet.”

“Really?” Quinn said, looking at her through long lashes.

“Really,” Rachel said, patting her back. “But believe me, I have enough books at home to give you a very good education on Broadway and musicals. When we get back I’ll let you pick a couple out to read. For now, let’s pay for these and then find you some clothes.”

There was a smile on Quinn’s face as they left the bookstore, the bag with her new books swinging from the back of the chair. It didn’t take long before she stopped in front of a clothing store, and turned to Rachel.

“May we go in here, Miss Rachel?” she asked, her eyes as wide and excited as a child’s at Christmas.

The clothes in the store seemed casual but dressy at the same time, full of light spring and summer colors that Quinn would look perfect in. Rachel smiled.

“This is a very good choice, Quinn,” she praised. “We’ll go inside and see if there’s anything you like.”

Quinn’s gaze flew to her shoes; her face flushed pink once more as the corners of her mouth quirked up a little. “Thank you, Miss Rachel.”

They left Quinn’s chair with one of the salesclerks, with instructions that they’d come back for it once they were finished. Rachel was excited, glad that Quinn could at last get some clothes that weren’t borrowed, or issued from the House. She’d be able to feel more like herself. But as they made their way through the store, with Rachel stopping here and there to suggest a dress or shirt she thought Quinn might like, Rachel noticed that the girl with her seemed to wilt, to curl inside herself and keep her distance. Rachel thought she had a good idea why, but she decided to wait for Quinn to tell her on her own. She didn’t have to wait long.

“You should try this on,” Rachel said, holding up a dress. “The green matches your eyes.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Quinn said, barely even glancing at it.

“But you didn’t even look.”

“It doesn’t matter, I’ll still be ugly.”

Rachel hung the dress back on the rack, and turned to Quinn. “I’m sorry, what did you just say?”

The air around them seemed to still, and Quinn hung her head. She mumbled something, and Rachel stepped forward, closer to her.

“Quinn. Answer me.”

When Quinn met her eyes, Rachel’s heart lurched to see that her own were filled with tears.

“I’m too fat.” Quinn’s words began to come out in a rush. “I’m too fat; my b-butt is big. My breasts aren’t that great and my thighs are huge, a-and my face is just average.”

It occurred to Rachel, listening to Quinn speak, that the girl was reciting a litany of herself. A long line of things that she perceived were wrong with her, things that had been said and repeated so often that Quinn had memorized them, taken them deep inside herself and now she could offer them back as if they were a prayer.

When Quinn had finished, Rachel stepped even closer, and though her eyes became a little fearful, Quinn didn’t step back. Rachel raised her hands to lock them carefully on Quinn’s shoulders.

“He was wrong.”

Quinn blinked. “W-what?”

“He was wrong,” Rachel said again, firmly. She sighed, and cupped Quinn’s cheek with her hand, thumb running lightly over the skin. Quinn flinched, ever so slightly, and Rachel pulled away. “Quinn, you are beautiful. You are beautiful, and I am so sorry that he ever made you feel like you weren’t. I know you don’t trust me right now, because you don’t see yourself the way I do, but you will. I promise.”

Rachel moved back, and tried to smile reassuringly at her, even though she was struggling not to cry herself. “And we’re going to start by getting you some new clothes, all right?”

Quinn nodded, watching her. “All right, Miss Rachel.”

Quinn tried on a few outfits, and by the end she was even having a little fun, buoyed by Rachel’s praise and happiness at seeing her in ones she liked. At one point she twirled around, the dress spanning out around her waist and she laughed, and then grabbed Rachel in a tight hug. She’d let go almost as quickly and both girls smiled awkwardly at each other, once again blushing to the tips of their ears.

Rachel was stood at the counter, paying for Quinn’s clothes, when Quinn’s voice reached her ears, high pitched and frightened.

“No, I don’t want to, g-go away.”

 “I’ll be right back,” Rachel said to the sales clerk, and quickly went in search of Quinn. She found her in the jewelry, nearly pressed up against one of the racks, a taller woman next to her with a smirk.

“Why not? I don’t see a collar on you, pet.” The woman leaned closer. “But I could put one on you…”

“I think not,” Rachel said, coming up next to Quinn. “Leave her alone now, please.”

The woman glanced at Rachel, and then turned back to Quinn. “You don’t own her. Like I said, I don’t see a collar. Mm,” she breathed, “What I wouldn’t give to get my hands on you.”

Rachel had had enough, and stepped in front of Quinn. She froze momentarily, because Quinn had gotten as close as she possibly could to Rachel, and was now clinging to her. She recovered herself quickly and fastened her gaze back onto the woman, glaring.

“I have asked you nicely,” she said, in a tone so sharp that even the salesclerk witnessing the exchange shivered. “I will not ask you again. If you proceed in this manner you will need to decide how you will get your hands on anyone after you have lost them.”

The woman stared at Rachel, and then snorted. “Whatever.” She turned to go. “I don’t need a fucking head case anyway.”

“Ugh.” Rachel turned to look at Quinn, who was still holding on to her. She could feel her shaking, trembling violently as she held on. “Quinn,” Rachel said, but there was no answer. “Quinn,” she tried again.

“Y-yes, Miss Rachel?”

“Okay,” Rachel soothed, quickly jumping into comfort mode. “It’s okay.” Taking Quinn’s hands in hers and looking around, Rachel met the eyes of the salesclerk, who was staring at them with sympathy.

“Might I borrow-“ Rachel tilted her chin at the dressing room, and the salesclerk nodded. “Thank you.”

Holding on to Quinn’s hands, Rachel maneuvered them both into the dressing room and closed the door. She hesitated, then sat on the bench and without thinking, pulled Quinn onto her lap.

“All right,” she whispered, holding her close. “You’re all right.” It was awkward, the two of them scrunched together in a dressing room made for one, but it would have to do, and anyway, Quinn’s face buried in her neck felt really… wonderful.

That probably wasn’t what she should be focusing on right now, Rachel thought.

She rubbed Quinn’s back gently, talking softly to her, until gradually the trembling began to subside. Soon Quinn looked up at her, a little fear still in her eyes.

“I’m sor-“ Rachel placed her finger over Quinn’s lips, and Quinn smiled slightly. “I-is she gone?”

“She’s gone,” Rachel confirmed, and hugged Quinn tightly. “Are you okay, sweetheart?”

Will you ever stop saying stuff you’re not supposed to? Rachel asked herself with annoyance.

“Sweetheart…” Quinn mumbled, and then nodded. “I’m all right, I just…” She trailed off.

“You just what?” Rachel prompted, trying not to think that as awkward as it was, it was also the nicest thing she’d ever felt, to be sat with Quinn on her lap.

“I just feel stupid.”

“Well, you’re not,” Rachel declared. “She overstepped her boundaries. You might not be collared, which yes, it means you can be approached, but you said no. Quinn, look at me.” When she did so, Rachel continued, softly. “I’m proud of you, for saying no.”

“Proud of me?”

“Yes.” Rachel hugged her again. “You can always say no, sweetheart. Just try to remember that.”

Rachel paid for Quinn’s clothes and retrieved the wheelchair; once Quinn was seated back in Rachel noticed she looked tired. They’d had a big day; perhaps it was time for them to get back home.

As they made their way towards the exit, Quinn said, “Miss Rachel, wait.”

Rachel stopped. “What is it, is there something wrong?”

“No, Miss Rachel, but can you… wait here?”

Rachel watched as Quinn wheeled herself over to a vendor, one who was positioned in the middle of the mall selling flowers. She was confused, her head tilted while she saw Quinn speaking to the woman, who smiled and handed Quinn a selection from the bunch on her cart. Rachel frowned.

What was she doing? Did Quinn like the vendor? Maybe she thought she was pretty. She was… reasonably attractive, Rachel decided. Tall and with dark black hair. Good bone structure, and a perfect nose. Rachel sighed inwardly. Her nose was always her undoing. Well, if Quinn liked her, that was good. She was getting better, she could like whomever she wanted to, and if she got the vendor’s phone number… Rachel could just watch movies while they talked. Or something…

“Miss Rachel?”

Rachel’s head whipped back over to Quinn, who was wheeling over to her with a shy smile on her face.

Yeah, she liked her. Rachel fought back the wave of disappointment. “I see you have a flower.”

“No,” Quinn shook her head. She plucked the flower out of her lap and held it out to Rachel. A gardenia, its white petals soft and alive.

“I-it’s for you.”

Rachel stared in shock. “What?”

“I don’t have any money…” Quinn fidgeted, seeming uncertain. “But I talked to the vendor and she gave it to me, since I-I told her there was someone special I wanted to have a flower. Y-you’ve done so much for me, and this is the only way I can say thank you.”

“Someone special…”

“You don’t like gardenias.” Quinn’s face fell. “I can choose something else.” She started to wheel away, but Rachel grabbed the chair, stopping her.

She leaned down and pulled Quinn into her arms. Quinn had given her a flower. Quinn thought she was someone special.

“I never thought about gardenias before,” Rachel admitted, still hugging Quinn. “But now I think they’re my very favorite. Thank you so much, sweetheart.” She didn’t care that she probably shouldn’t keep calling Quinn that; she was just so happy that Quinn wasn’t interested in the vendor, that she had given her a flower. “Thank you.”

She pulled back up and smiled at Quinn, who was now beaming at her. “Come on, let’s get out of here, you need to rest.”

“Yes, Miss Rachel.”

Once home, Quinn quickly fell asleep on the couch in her brand-new jeans and white top, with Arnie at her feet. Rachel covered them both with a blanket and glanced at the gardenia, now in a vase on the coffee table, and went to find some Broadway books for Quinn.

Chapter Text

“And don’t speak too loudly to her; she doesn’t like that, of course. Don’t touch her, she flinches still and I don’t want to upset her. Don’t make any comments about the chair because I know she’s self-conscious, and really she’s been doing a good job with learning to walk again. She’s gotten a lot of her strength back so I really don’t think it’s necessary to—“

“Do you think perhaps we could continue this lecture while I am not standing in your doorway? The chairs in your living room are very comfortable and I’d be most happy to let you ramble on from there.”

Rachel stopped mid-sentence, her mouth open slightly, before she flushed pink and nodded. “Come in, Jesse, Noah, I’m sorry.” She stepped back from the door, allowing them entrance, and then shut it behind them.

“Put the wine in the refrigerator,” Jesse said to Noah, and then moved to sit on one of the aforementioned chairs, staring at Rachel with an amused expression on his face. “Are you always this nervous?”

Rachel huffed and sat on the couch opposite Jesse. “Thank you, Noah,” she said to the man, as he nodded at her with a smile, then dropped to Jesse’s feet in front of the chair. “I’m nervous,” she admitted, “Because she’s nervous. She’s terrified you two won’t like her.”

Quinn was still in the bathroom getting ready; she’d been in there for the last thirty minutes and Rachel had decided to give her just a little while longer before she retrieved her. Quinn had been apprehensive all morning, so much so that she would barely eat and Rachel had had to remind her more than once to finish her breakfast. Then it had been another two hours while she had tried to decide on what to wear, and finally, though she wasn’t entirely comfortable with it, Rachel had picked out the outfit. That had seemed to put Quinn more at ease, though not by much. Rachel had tried to calm her down, but no amount of reassurances she could offer seemed to work. Finally she’d just let Quinn hole herself in the bathroom so she could fix her hair and talk herself into the headspace she needed.

She was a little worried about that headspace.

“Well, she needn’t be nervous,” Jesse said, reaching down to run his head over Noah’s mohawked head. “Any friend of yours is a friend of ours, right, Noah?”

“Yes, Sir,” he readily agreed. “Except that one guy. We don’t like him.”

Rachel rolled her eyes; “that one guy” had been a stalker that had followed her home one night, begging for her to claim him. She’d called Jesse, and after 5 minutes alone with him… she’d never seen the guy again.

“Let me go get my girl.”

“Your girl?” Jesse raised an eyebrow. “Rachel…”

“It’s just a phrase, Jesse,” Rachel said hastily. “Just a phrase, that’s all.”

She avoided him saying anything else by walking quickly to the bathroom down the hall, and knocking on the door. “Quinn?” she called softly. “It’s time to come out.”

“Don’t want to,” came the muffled response.

Rachel sighed. “I know you don’t, but really, the bathroom can’t be all that cozy.”

“Yes it is. You have very nice tile.”

Rachel thumped her head on the bathroom door and tried not to laugh. “Quinn Fabray, open this door right now,” she commanded gently. “We have guests, and I don’t want to keep them waiting.”

A few seconds passed, and finally the door swung inward. Quinn looked at Rachel, anxiety written all over her face. She was beautiful, Rachel realized again, wearing her new yellow-and-white striped sweater and blue jeans, with a white bow holding back her hair on the right side.

Rachel smiled softly. “Look at you,” she said. “I think you must be the prettiest girl I’ve ever met.”

Quinn blushed, ducking her head. “You think so, Miss Rachel?”

“I know so,” Rachel declared. She reached to put her arm around Quinn’s waist and pull her into the hall, shutting off the bathroom light. “Now, do you want to use your chair?”

Quinn shook her head. “No, Miss Rachel. I can walk.”

“Good. Ready? Green, yellow, red.” Quinn was so nervous Rachel couldn’t help but fall back on the old system, even though they hadn’t had to use it in nearly a week. But it seemed to steady Quinn immediately, and she took a deep breath.

“Green, Miss Rachel.”

“Good girl,” Rachel praised in a whisper, close to Quinn’s ear, and she was both surprised and pleased when she felt the woman shiver in her embrace. She walked Quinn slowly into the living room.

“Rachel!” Jesse said, springing to his feet. “Noah, stand up when a lady enters the room.” Rachel stared at him, wondering what he was up to as Jesse waited for them to sit at the couch, and Noah stood to his feet. “Rachel, you told me Quinn was beautiful, but you didn’t tell me she was a goddess.”

Rachel rolled her eyes again. First of all, she hadn’t told Jesse much of anything about Quinn, just a few details here and there because she knew Quinn probably wouldn’t feel comfortable having Jesse know too much about her. Secondly, if Jesse started hitting on her girl… Her friend. Not her girl.

Definitely not her girl.

“My dear Quinn Fabray,” Jesse was continuing, grinning from ear to ear, “I am Jesse St. James, esteemed best friend of your Rachel, there—“ He winked as Rachel mouthed “’Your Rachel?’” to him. “And allow me to say that I have never seen someone as absolutely stunning as you.”

“Hey!” Noah said, trying to appear irritated, but he too was grinning.

“Of the female variety, pet, relax,” Jesse said to him. “But yes, Quinn, you are simply exquisite.”

“I, um… thank you?” Quinn said, and Rachel squeezed her waist.

“Let’s sit down, shall we?” She sat on the couch and pulled Quinn down to her, the other girl nestling so close Rachel thought she was trying to get into her lap. Jesse and Noah resumed their normal places, and Rachel saw Quinn eyeing Noah with open curiosity. For his part, Noah gave Quinn a thumbs-up, and Rachel giggled.

“Miss Rachel?” Quinn whispered into her ear, and now it was Rachel’s turn to shiver.

“Yes, Quinn?”

Quinn looked at her worriedly. “Do you want me at your feet?”

“What?” Rachel’s eyes widened and she shook her head vigorously. “No, of course not, Quinn, why would you—“ Her gaze fell on Noah, who had his head leaned against Jesse’s thigh, a contented look on his face, and Rachel immediately understood.

She shook her head again. “Guests who are not claimed sit in this house,” she said, repeating what she had told Quinn that first day. “They sit in chairs or on the couch, not on the floor.”

“But you might like it if I did…”

Rachel glanced at Jesse, who looked as if he was trying hard not to listen to the conversation, and at Noah, who was in complete bliss with Jesse’s hand lazily stroking his head.

“No,” Rachel said firmly, but cuddled Quinn closer to her to soften the word. “I like you just where you are.”

She felt Quinn hesitate for a split second, just before she nodded and rested her head on Rachel’s shoulder. Rachel smiled, tucking her head on top of Quinn’s and breathing in her scent.

Jesse smiled at them both. “You really are a lovely girl, Quinn,” he said, and Rachel felt like hugging him for the gentle, complimentary way he was speaking to her. “It really is an honor to meet someone who has captivated Rachel so.”

“I don’t know about captivated,” Quinn said softly.

“Oh, I do,” Jesse affirmed, nodding. “Just look at her, she’s positively glowing in that… sweater with the bow on it, really, Rachel, where on earth did you get that?”

Rachel opened her mouth, about to speak when Quinn beat her to it, saying indignantly, “I like the sweater. Miss Rachel looks beautiful.”

Rachel smirked even as she blushed crimson, and Jesse laughed. “Defending Miss Rachel already, now I know I really like you. What do you think, Noah Puckerman St. James?”

“Don’t you mean Noah St. James Puckerman, Sir?” Noah asked, but the light tone indicated he was teasing. Submissives in Lima, once claimed and collared, were required to take on their Dominant’s name, either before or after their own.

Rachel wondered whether it had been Quinn Fabray Hudson. She perversely hoped it had been the other way around.

“I like her,” Noah was saying. He smiled at Quinn. “Miss Rachel seems happier with you.”

She wanted to point out that she wasn’t with anyone, but once again Rachel was interrupted.

“Care to tell us anything about yourself, Quinn? Where did you attend school?”

Rachel felt herself tense, and she glared at Jesse. This wasn’t an interrogation, she wanted to say. This wasn’t a girl on her first date, submitting her intended to her fathers for approval. Her dads really ought to meet Quinn, though, Rachel thought, then pushed that out of her mind. She knew what Jesse was doing, knew that he was observing them both and making sure neither of them was doing something detrimental to the other, but she wanted to scream at him that it wasn’t his place, even if he had been her best friend for years. But she was surprised when Quinn answered him.

“I didn’t go to school,” she said quietly. “My father believed that it wouldn’t prepare me adequately for… life with S- him, and so I had tutors. Mostly it was about, you know, but one of my tutors, Miss Sylvester, she brought me things that I liked. Music and pencils and paper so I could draw. Comic books.”

Ah ha, Rachel thought, so that’s where the love of comic books had started. She’d have to find out which ones Quinn liked. She tightened her arm around Quinn, and Quinn smiled gratefully at her as she continued to answer Jesse’s questions.

None of them were as nosy as they could have been, just casual questions about her family and what things had been like when she was a child, and Rachel suddenly realized what Jesse was doing. He was just… talking to her. Talking to Quinn as a man, as a Dominant, as someone who was kind and non-threatening, and genuinely wanted to hear and learn about Rachel’s new friend. And in the same way, the easy way he spoke to Quinn seemed to make her want to talk more, and Rachel found herself learning more about Quinn than she had in previous days. She felt a sudden surge of love for her best friend, as she kept her arm around Quinn, and continued to listen.

Quinn’s voice was low, quiet, as she spoke about her parents. Mr. Fabray had been distant and cold, while her mother, though loving, had been bound by her husband’s rules and thus unable to care for her daughter as well as she would have liked. Quinn found her respite with her grandfather, a kind man who “reminded her of Santa Claus,” Quinn said, and Rachel smiled, hugging her close. Quinn’s weekdays were filled with learning about the life she had been meant to live since she was a baby, bonded to a boy she’d met only a few times. She fell short of elaborating on Finn and moved on to describing the weekends with her grandfather, days full of laughter and going to the park to draw or watch the birds, then home to eat whatever she wanted to and play board games.

“I wish I’d known you were such an expert before I challenged you to Monopoly,” Rachel muttered, then blinked in surprise when Quinn giggled and nuzzled her neck a little. Rachel flushed pink, and stuck her tongue out at Jesse’s knowing smirk.

But things had changed just before she turned sixteen, Quinn said, a heaviness creeping into her voice that made Rachel sit up and wrap her arm tighter around her. Her beloved grandfather had passed away suddenly, and she hadn’t even had time to grieve properly, to recover, when all too soon it was her 16th birthday and she found herself on her knees in Finn Hudson’s house.

She trailed off then, and Rachel shot Jesse a warning look; he lifted his hands, palms out, at her, and she nodded, relieved. The last thing she wanted was for Quinn to relive those days before she was ready. She’d done some poking around and discovered that while Finn had been arrested months ago for what he’d done to Quinn, he was currently free and happy on bail, awaiting trial. It would come soon enough, and Rachel wasn’t sure Quinn would ever be ready to face him.

“Did you have any friends?” Jesse asked, smiling encouragingly at Quinn. “Any girls with whom you could tell your deepest, darkest desires?”

He was teasing her, Rachel knew, but still her lips curled in disapproval. It was fine for her to have friends, but she should only be telling her deepest, darkest desires to… anyone she wanted to. You’re being an idiot, Rachel scolded herself, and reached down to pet Arnie, who had just padded into the room and flopped down in front of her.

“Not really, no,” Quinn admitted, not looking at Jesse. But she was no longer as curled against Rachel, which gave the brunette some satisfaction. Quinn was slowly becoming more comfortable in her own skin, in Rachel’s house, and Rachel knew that meant progress.

She should have known that it wouldn’t last.

“I had a few girls who Si- he permitted me to talk to, every now and then. They were collared to some friends of his and they were allowed to come over, I c-couldn’t leave the house.” Rachel squeezed Quinn gently; Quinn smiled sadly at her before continuing. “But they weren’t really friends; I think they were jealous and just wanted to get me in trouble…”

“I know what that’s like,” Noah said sympathetically. “Maybe not jealous, although who wouldn’t be jealous of the Puckasaurus?” Jesse snorted, causing his boy to grin up at him. “But yeah, guys who only wanted me to get in trouble, so Sir doesn’t like me to talk to some of them anymore. Man, Alex just did not get that when he called last week.”

If Rachel had been paying attention to anyone but Quinn, she would’ve noticed that Noah had suddenly turned white, and Jesse’s expression hardened as he looked down at his submissive.

“There was one so-called friend who—“

“Excuse me, Quinn,” Jesse said, “I apologize for interrupting, but…” He was staring down at Noah, and his voice was cold.

“You spoke to Alex?”

Oh dear. This was not good, this was very bad. But when she felt Quinn tense and began to shake a little at Jesse’s tone, Rachel hastened to hold her closer.

“It’s all right,” she whispered into her ear. “It’s okay, Quinn.”

But judging by the look on Noah’s face, it was anything but okay. He was instantly in his space, with his head down and his eyes lowered.

“Y-yes, Sir,” he answered. “But it was last wee-“

“Have I recently given you permission to speak to Alex?”

“No, Sir, but he called-“

“And you’re unfamiliar with his number, is that why you pressed the Send button on your cell phone? Because you didn’t know who it was?”

“No, Sir. I knew.”

Jesse was Rachel’s best friend, and so she knew a lot of what Noah had been up to before he’d been with Jesse, details that sometimes she wished she didn’t know at all. She knew that Noah had been on the streets, and that he’d chosen some less than stellar ways to survive. Some out of necessity, and others… because he could. Dealing had been the quickest way for him to earn money, but it could’ve also landed him in prison if Jesse hadn’t found him, and given Noah help in turning his life around. He’d even agreed to help some of Noah’s friends – a decision Rachel hadn’t been exactly happy with, but, as Jesse said, “Love makes us do crazy things.” Some had accepted the help and two of them had even found their own relationships. But some, like Alex, refused to be helped and in fact kept trying to lure Noah back onto the streets, back to his old “job.” So Jesse had made it a rule that Noah wasn’t to speak to them.

A rule that, apparently, Noah had broken.

“Right, then.” Jesse nodded, his jaw set. He turned to Rachel, saying apologetically, “Rachel, I am sorry to have to cut our evening short, but as you can see I have a situation to deal with.”

Once again, Rachel was only paying attention to one person in the room, so she wasn’t able to see Quinn’s own face grow pale, or to feel the girl’s breathing become rapid and shallow in her arms.

“Of course, Jesse, I understand.”

“Aw, come on, man,” Noah protested, and Rachel almost gasped in shock. She didn’t think she’d ever heard him address his master that way. “It wasn’t that big a d—“

In seconds Jesse was on his feet, and so was Noah, his collar grasped in Jesse’s fingers.

“You will not,” Jesse said, sounding deadly, “Speak to me that way, boy. Have I made myself clear?”

Noah nodded. “Yes, Sir, I’m sorry, Sir.”

“Then I think now I will—“

“Stop!”

“Quinn, don’t!” Rachel said, but it was too late.

The blonde girl had hurled herself at Noah, knocking him out of Jesse’s grasp and holding on to him. Shielding him. She was shaking violently, her eyes lost and wild as she clung to him.

“Don’t, don’t, don’t,” she babbled, her words coming out in a rush. “Don’t hurt him, he didn’t do anything wrong, it’s okay, i-it’s my fault?”

Rachel drew back in confusion. Why on earth would she say… “Quinn, sweetheart, let go,” she tried, but Quinn either couldn’t or wouldn’t hear her.

“Don’t hurt him, he doesn’t deserve it, don’t beat him!”

“Quinn!” Jesse reached out to grab her arm, and Quinn cried out in terror, wrenching away.

“Jesse, stop!” Rachel commanded, panicked for the blonde girl.

He snapped back, staring at Rachel and running a bewildered hand through his hair. “I don’t know what—“ He managed, then stopped.

Noah, who had been standing helplessly, his hands flailing a little as Quinn clutched him, cleared his throat. “Sir?” he said softly. “May I speak to her?”

Jesse shrugged, and Noah nodded. Slowly he moved so that his hands were on Quinn’s shoulders, and gently he lowered them both to the ground so that he was kneeling with her.

“Quinn, uh, hey, what’s going on?” He said, feebly shrugging at Jesse, who grinned a little.

“I don’t want to see him punish you,” Quinn said. “You don’t deserve it.”

Noah shook his head. “Yeah, I do.” Quinn drew back and looked at him in surprise, and he offered her a half-hearted smile. “And you wouldn’t see anything? Sir’s going to take me home. Your uh… your guy did a number on you, huh?” Quinn looked away, and then nodded. “In public?”

Quinn’s eyes met Rachel’s before she looked back at Noah. “With his friends. He said I shamed him in front of them, so now they deserved to watch me be shamed.”

Jesse slipped an arm around Rachel and hugged her as she growled.

“Well, he’s a dick,” Noah proclaimed, and Rachel had to fight back a giggle as Quinn’s mouth dropped open. Noah shrugged. “He’s a dick, but Jesse? He’s not like that. He’s mad, but he has a right to be. I broke a couple of rules. And man I am going to get it when I get home,” Noah groaned, and Jesse nodded at him.

“But know what else I’m gonna get?” Quinn shook her head forlornly, and Noah actually pulled her into a hug. “After it’s done I’m going to get cuddled and loved and all that sappy shit he insists on afterwards. Just between you and me I kind of love it too, but don’t tell him that.” Jesse rolled his eyes, and Rachel playfully punched his shoulder. “He loves me, and he doesn’t want me in trouble. He’s my Sir.” Noah’s chest puffed out proudly. “He’s my Sir, and he’s the best Sir.”

“Don’t start crying now, St. James,” Rachel muttered.

“Shut it, Berry.”

“He doesn’t beat me, Quinn,” Noah said seriously. “At least not the way things happened to you, okay? You don’t have to worry about me. There are bad ones out there, but there are good ones too. Like mine. And like Miss Rachel.”

“She’s the best,” Quinn whispered.

“Don’t start crying now, Berry.”

“Shut it, St. James.”

“Eh, she’s all right,” Noah said. “Really bossy for someone so short, but uh, you know, not too bad,” he added quickly, as Quinn began to glare at him. He grinned and waggled his eyebrows. “Seriously, little Q, it’s all good. I can take what he dishes out. Just have a few pillows ready for me when I come visit next time, okay?”

Quinn looked at him, then up at Jesse, considering. “You’re good to him?” she asked.

Jesse nodded. “As good as I can be.”

She stood up then, and walked over to Rachel, who instantly wrapped her up in her arms. “All right.”

Noah stood up as well and moved to Jesse’s side; Jesse clapped him on his back and kissed him, which made Noah grin in spite of the apprehension in his eyes for what awaited him when they got home. Rachel noticed that Jesse’s hand was strong and capable against the back of Noah’s neck as he led him out Rachel’s front door.

“Just for that,” Rachel heard him say as she shut the door behind them, “You’ll only get 24 instead of 25.”

“Gee, thanks, Sir.”

Rachel chuckled to herself and turned to Quinn, who was sat on the couch petting Arnie.

“It’s been quite a day,” she said, sitting next to her. She smiled at Quinn and gently patted her knee. She could tell Quinn had things on her mind, but she’d wait for the woman to tell her, on her own time. “Do you want some dinner?”

Quinn shook her head. “Not yet, Miss Rachel.” She glanced over at the stack of Broadway books that Rachel had sat on the table against the wall in the living room.

“Do you want to read?”

Again Quinn shook her head. “Do you think you could read to me?” she asked shyly. “I don’t… I don’t want to be away from you right now, Miss Rachel.”

Rachel’s heart swelled a little, both at the request and the fact that Quinn had felt comfortable enough to make it. Quinn needed her, and was telling her she needed her. “I can do that,” she said, then got up to retrieve one of the books.

She thought for a moment, and then sat back on the couch. “Come here,” she said, drawing Quinn forward so that they were both lying down, Quinn on her back between Rachel’s legs, her head on Rachel’s chest.

“There we go,” Rachel said quietly, daring to nuzzle the top of Quinn’s head gently.  “Now, let’s see.”

She opened the book, holding Quinn in her arms. “’How can a book even begin to describe that wonderful, magical world, that fifteen mile stretch of road in New York known as Broadway?’”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Days later, the morning had dawned bright and sunny, but there was the distinct air of something dark as soon as Rachel had woken up. She and Quinn hadn’t slept in the same bed since that first night, and Rachel was far too used to seeing Quinn’s bleary-eyed, sleepy but smiling face first thing when she made her way to the kitchen to fix their morning coffee. Today, though, Quinn sat quietly in the living room, staring down at her hands. She looked, for all intents and purposes, exactly as she had that first day Rachel had seen her in McKinley House. Oh, her hair was washed and she was clean, wearing one of the simple pastel-colored dresses they’d bought when they’d gone shopping, but she wouldn’t look up even as Rachel sat a cup of hot coffee in front of her on the table.

“Quinn? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, Miss Rachel.”

Rachel wasn’t inclined to believe that, not one bit, but she didn’t want to push, so she had to be satisfied with quietly worrying as she cooked and served up Quinn’s second favorite breakfast of the week: French toast with whipped cream and strawberries. She worried for exactly 40 minutes and 15 seconds, eating her food and watching as Quinn barely touched hers. So Rachel tried once again while Quinn stood at the sink and helped her wash the dishes.

“It’s nothing, Miss Rachel.”

So Rachel stayed silent. It was hard to do; her first inclination was always to push and prod and to be slightly annoyed, because you didn’t just not tell Rachel Berry what was going on in your head and in your heart. But she did have somewhat of a general idea, and she trusted Quinn enough that the truth would come out, whenever she was ready. Once back in the guest room (which Rachel had begun to dangerously and absurdly think of as “Quinn’s room”) Quinn finally told her what she was thinking.

“I don’t want to go back.”

Rachel finished placing the last of Quinn’s new clothes in her brand-new suitcase, and sighed.

It had been a good week. She was proud of herself; she felt like she’d gotten everything right at least as far as Quinn was concerned. Quinn seemed happier, easier; she was already so different from the person Rachel had met just a few weeks ago. They’d spent the last days of Quinn’s visit being so mundane that Rachel was partly afraid that Quinn would get bored. But she hadn’t seemed to; it was almost as if Quinn flourished in an atmosphere of grocery shopping, watching television, and making breakfast together in the mornings.

Rachel had gone through three packs of bacon in seven days.

She didn’t want Quinn to go back. She’d realized that after the incident with Jesse and Noah, realized it when Quinn had fallen asleep against her while Rachel was reading to her, and rather than wake her up, Rachel had just slept with her on the couch. In the morning they’d woken up with Quinn snuggled under Rachel’s chin and her arms wrapped around her in a death grip. It had struck Rachel how comfortable it was, even though her back would ache for days. It felt natural. In seven days they’d fallen into a routine so casual and domestic that if anyone didn’t know the story they’d be mistaken for a married couple. She didn’t want Quinn to have to go back; she didn’t want her house to return to the same emptiness and suffocation it had held before a meek, frightened young submissive had been helped through the door.

“I know, but you have to.”

Quinn looked down at her hands again, her blonde hair falling into her face and making her seem even more vulnerable, even more lost, and Rachel’s heart clenched. “I don’t see why,” she said softly. “I want to stay here. I want to be with you, Miss Rachel.”

Rachel put the suitcase in the hallway, then crossed the floor again and sat next to Quinn, resting her hand on the other girl’s. “It’s going to be all right, Quinn,” she said, and squeezed her hand gently. “I’m going to come visit you, a lot. You won’t be able to get rid of me,” she teased, but Quinn didn’t smile.

“It won’t be the same,” she said, looking up at Rachel with pleading eyes. “I like being here, I like being with you. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”

“Why?” Rachel asked suddenly. “Why don’t you want to be anywhere else?”

She felt as if she already knew the answer, having lain awake in bed for hours the night before. She’d thought about everything: about what it would take to convince Beiste and the council to let Quinn move in with her. Wondering if Quinn would want to change the colors in her room, if she’d want a different bed. If Arnie would start sleeping in her room instead of Rachel’s.

He’d already done that twice, the traitor.

But as she finally drifted off to sleep, Rachel had found the answer.

Quinn tilted her head, looking at Rachel. “I don’t understand,” she said.

“Why don’t you want to be anywhere else?” Rachel repeated. “Why is it so important for you to be here with me?”

“Because I like it here,” Quinn said, standing up and slowly beginning to pace around the room. Rachel tried and failed not to be proud that Quinn was walking much better on her own, unaided; she fought down the smile and kept her focus on the woman in front of her.

“I-I like it here, and I like Arnie.” Quinn turned to face Rachel. “I like waking up when I hear the birds and not some alarm that means I have to get up and make sure I don’t get the toast too brown because then I won’t be able to eat until dinnertime. I like knowing that I don’t have to wash the dishes three times before they’re considered clean. I like watching television with you and knowing it’s okay to laugh at the funny parts. I like to sit next to you and have you smile at me and know that y-you aren’t going to be mad at me in five seconds. I like being able to go to sleep w-without needing to find a comfortable position because it hurts.”

Rachel stood up and placed her hand on Quinn’s arm. Quinn shook her head, using the back of her hand to brush away the tears now falling down her cheeks. “I’m not alone when I’m here,” she said, offering Rachel a half-hearted smile. “I want to be with you.”

“And that’s why you can’t be,” Rachel said gently.

“But I don’t understand!” Quinn said in exasperation. “I know you don’t want me to go back to the House; y-you’ve even called me ‘little one.’ You want me here.”

Oh, she’d heard that. Rachel winced. She’d never been one for subtlety, that much she knew. Jesse liked to tease her about it, at least until she threatened to sneak into his house and shave his head while he slept. And she couldn’t deny that what Quinn said was true. After all, she’d said it, and there was nothing Rachel dreaded more than the drive up the asphalt that led to McKinley House.

“Quinn, sweetheart,” Rachel tried to say, “It’s not a good idea…”

“But why not?” Quinn asked, sounded heartbroken, and Rachel closed her eyes briefly. “I-I could be a good girl, Miss Rachel, I know I can, I-“

Suddenly, Quinn flung herself forward and Rachel just barely had enough time to catch her, before Quinn’s lips were on her own. Her eyes widened from the force of the kiss, the desperation of it, and the… sweetness of it.

Quinn was sweet, and she was soft, and she tasted… oh dear god, she tasted like cinnamon from the ice cream earlier and it took everything Rachel had not to kiss her back. Her hands, which had been flailing uselessly at her sides, now took hold of Quinn’s upper arms, and gently pushed her back.

“I can be a good girl,” Quinn whispered, staring at Rachel. “Please… I promise I’ll be good.”

How many times had Quinn said that? Rachel wondered. How many times had she pleaded it, when she was at his mercy? Had he ever shown her mercy while his hand was falling as she begged him, over and over… She took a steadying breath. She couldn’t think about that, not now, or she’d lose her nerve. She’d lose sight of what she knew was best for both of them.

Rachel took Quinn’s hand in hers and led the girl back to the bed, sitting down next to her again. Her mind and heart were still rattled, and her lips still tingled, with the kiss; she swallowed hard and tried to find the right words.

“This is not because you’re not a good girl,” Rachel said quietly. “You are a good girl, Quinn. A very good girl. But you’re also not ready.” She lifted her hands and with her thumbs gently brushed away the tears from Quinn’s cheeks.

“And I’m not ready either.”

When Quinn looked at her in surprise, Rachel smiled sadly. “If I thought you were ready,” she explained carefully, “If you weren’t just out of a horrible, horrible experience, and if I was sure that you want to be with me because you want to be with me, and not because I’m the first Dominant who’s been nice to you after him—“ Quinn opened her mouth to protest and Rachel placed her finger over the girl’s lips. “Shh. If I thought you were ready, I would claim you in a heartbeat.”

Rachel paused, and dared to pull Quinn to her in a hug. “You’re beautiful,” she affirmed. “You’re beautiful, and you’re perfect, but you’re not ready. You want to be here because you don’t want to be alone, because I’m safe, because I’m good to you.” Rachel pulled back and looked into Quinn’s eyes.

“But I’m not putting you on your knees if I can’t be sure that’s truly where you want to be.”

Now it was Rachel’s turn to look down at her hands as she quietly confessed again, “And I’m not ready, Quinn. Because I would claim you in a heartbeat, and it’s too soon. I work for the department meant to protect you. You’ve just gotten out of a horrible situation, you’re still in physical therapy and seeing a psychiatrist, and I would forever blame myself if I damaged you even more because I claimed you before you knew what it was like to be independent.”

“I don’t want to be independent!” Quinn snapped, and Rachel drew back a little, a small smile playing about her lips. Quinn, on the other hand, gaped in horror. “I-I’m sorry, Miss Rachel, I—“

“No,” Rachel said, holding up her hand. “That’s what I mean, Quinn. I want you to know what it’s like to be able to speak your mind without fear of repercussion. I want you to learn what it’s like to shop for yourself. To read a book for yourself. To take a walk somewhere, enjoy an overly-expensive but insanely delicious coffee for yourself, or an ice cream. To lie on a blanket in the park and watch the sun set. There are so many things that you haven’t gotten to do, and I want you to do them. For yourself.”

“But I want to do them with you.”

“And maybe you will,” Rachel said, moving to take Quinn’s hand again, her thumb smoothing the skin over the girl’s knuckles. “But not right now. Right now, you’re going to find out just how wonderful Quinn Fabray is. Quinn Fabray, herself, without anyone telling you who you are or who you should be. You deserve that.”

Quinn was silent for what seemed like ages; Rachel simply sat and held her hand, her heart breaking every time a tear rolled down the girl’s cheek. But finally she looked over at Rachel, teeth once again worrying her lower lip.

“You won’t stop visiting me?”

Rachel shook her head, wiping her own eyes with her other hand. “No, Quinn. I won’t stop visiting you.”

“And we’ll play Monopoly?”

“And you’ll wipe the floor with me in Monopoly.”

Quinn chuckled then, a low, reluctant sound, but it was enough, and Rachel smiled at her. “I don’t know how to be by myself,” Quinn said, picking at her dress. She shrugged at Rachel. “How do I know what to do, if someone doesn’t… tell me what to do?”

Rachel wasn’t sure she knew the answer to that herself. She’d had practically zero experience in having a sub, and her training was the only experience she’d had in being one. While it was true that for Dominants it usually came naturally, and their nature was proven by the small X birthmark (Rachel’s was on her ribs), this didn’t mean that they were automatically all-knowing, and Rachel was completely at a loss. She didn’t know who she could talk to for help, either.

Ironically, help came in the form of the director of McKinley House.

“Live with you?” Quinn asked Beiste, her head tilted in confusion.

“Why not?” she said with a shrug, looking at Rachel for confirmation. “It could work.”

“But don’t you live… here?” Rachel gestured, indicating the House.

Beiste grinned and shook her head. “Kind of, but not really,” she offered, then hastened to explain. “I have a house on the grounds. It’s isolated enough that I don’t feel like I live here anymore, but it’s close enough that I can be here at a moment’s notice whenever a resident needs me. And that’s quite often,” she added, a little sadly.

“Wouldn’t that cause a conflict?” Rachel asked. She wasn’t sure how she felt about the idea; part of her was even a little jealous of it. As much as she had given Quinn a speech about her independence, it was hard for Rachel to shut off that part of herself that wanted to wrap Quinn up in her arms, to hold the girl on her lap and take all of her pain away. But you have to do this, Rachel reminded herself. Because while Rachel knew that it could be detrimental to Quinn to jump back into another relationship, another claiming, so quickly, Rachel knew it could be just as harmful to herself. She wasn’t someone who got off on holding power over another person, making a submissive helpless and dependent; it could devastate her nearly as much as it would devastate Quinn, if she wasn’t ready.

“Not if we have Quinn cleared as a resident,” Beiste said. “She’s come so far in her emotional and physical therapy, she could be released from the house—“

“As long as she agrees to continue and complete her therapy,” Rachel nodded, remembering the policies as outlined by her department. She glanced at Quinn, who seemed to be quiet and mulling it over.

“But why would I want to live with you?”

Beiste threw her head back and laughed. “Yeah, you’re a lot better now,” she said, smiling at Quinn before turning serious.

“Because I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like, and I think I can help you. I’ve been there, Quinn.”

Quinn nodded, her eyes cast down to the floor. “Oh. Right.”

“Shannon,” Rachel said carefully, “How can I be sure that you’ll do what’s best for Quinn? Speaking as an employee of the government, of course.”

Beiste snorted, giving Rachel a knowing look, and even Quinn quirked an eyebrow at her. Rachel grinned a little, feeling the blush spread over her cheeks.

“Like I just said, I get it, okay? We have common ground. But I’ll also make sure she takes care of herself; she’ll have to continue her therapy, and even though she can go out and discover things on her own time we can keep her on the House curfew, so she’ll still have the comfort of some rules. We can do this, Miss Berry. Quinn can do this.”

Rachel looked over at the other woman, stood there with a suitcase at her feet and Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater tucked under her arm. Could Quinn do it? Rachel asked herself. Could she do it? She was already dreading that first night back at her house, alone without Quinn to play with Arnie, squealing as the dog licked her nose or pounced on her from the floor. She’d gotten far too used to having someone there, to knowing there’d be someone to see in the morning.

But once again, Rachel Berry steeled herself, and as she did so, she saw something come into Quinn’s eyes that she’d never seen before.

Resolve.

Quinn nodded, first at Beiste, then at Rachel. “I can do this,” she said, her gaze never leaving Rachel. Her voice was strong, if not confident, and Rachel felt as if she could cry.

“I can do this, Miss Rachel.”

Rachel smiled and moved forward to hug Quinn, not caring that the embrace lingered on for probably longer than was necessary. Quinn tucked her head into Rachel’s neck and drew in a shuddering breath; Rachel squeezed her gently, holding her close. Beiste had the grace to clear her throat and go off across the room to check on another resident, as Rachel finally separated from Quinn and touched the girl’s chin with her hand, tilting her face up.

“You have my number,” she said softly. “I want you to call me if you need me. Any time, day or night, Quinn.”

“Yes, Miss Rachel.”

“I’m proud of you. So proud of you.”

Quinn beamed. “Really?”

“Really,” Rachel affirmed. “Be brave for me, Quinn, all right?”

Quinn nodded. “I will. Miss Rachel?”

“Yes, Quinn.”

She hesitated, then said, uncertainly, “You know I’ll still want to be your girl, right? I-I don’t think that’s going to change.”

Rachel took a deep breath of her own, struggling not to cry. This was too soon. Far too soon, and yet… But no. She touched Quinn’s arm.

“Right now, all I want is for you to know that you… are Quinn.”

Quinn pursed her lips, and nodded. Once in the car, Rachel rested her elbows on the steering wheel, her face buried in her hands as she cried.

As she was wiping her eyes, a name came to her, and Rachel found herself grinning. Why hadn’t she thought of it earlier? Someone who could help. Who had always been able to help, no matter what issue Rachel had faced. She quickly shifted the car into gear and drove until she came to a large, opulent house on the other side of town. Rachel got out of her car and stared up at the black front door. How long had it been since she’d been here?

Too long. She should’ve come days ago, weeks.

When she’d first met Quinn.

She took the steps two at a time.

Would she be welcomed? It’d been a few months, at least. Not that she thought she’d be forgotten, but still… a few months, probably closer to nearly a year, with no contact. No letters, no calls. Not even an email or a text message. Maybe… maybe beyond that door she was no longer wanted.

But she’d have to risk it. The risk was worth it and the alternative was too much for her to think of. Rachel clenched her hand into a fist, raised it, and knocked on the door.

After a few moments she heard the muffled but distinct sound of heels on marble. A little shiver ran down her spine despite the small grin that curved the corners of her mouth, and she rolled her eyes at herself. Suddenly the door opened, and a tall woman in a dark suit peered out curiously.

“Yes, may I- Rachel!”

“Hello, La-“

She didn’t have the chance to even get the rest of her words out, before Rachel was pulled into the other woman’s arms. She smiled and allowed herself to be wrapped into the embrace, resting her head against the woman’s chest and breathing in her all-too-familiar scent, feeling the steady thump of a heartbeat against her ear.

Comfort. Strength.

She’d missed it.

The black-haired woman soon pushed Rachel back, but only to smile down at her, dark eyes glittering with both curiosity and purpose. “It’s good to see you again, little one.”

 

Chapter Text

“Five p.m., turn on the oven. Five-ten get everything out of the cupboard. Don’t burn anything. Five-fifteen prepare everything; five-thirty put the pan in the oven, set the timer. Watch the timer. Please don’t burn, please don’t burn… six p.m. take out the pan. Six-fifteen…”

She was talking to herself. Had she gone insane already?

Quinn sat on the unfamiliar bed and glanced at the darkened television in the guest room. Should she watch tv? She picked up the remote from the cluttered bedside table and turned it over in her hands, staring down at it. She didn’t know what she could watch. Real Bratty Subs of New Jersey didn’t come on until ten, and besides, she didn’t want to watch it without Miss Rachel… She didn’t really like it, but she’d never tell Miss Rachel that.

She glanced at the clock again. 5:12. Her hands trembled.

“How do I know what to do, if someone doesn’t… tell me what to do?”

Quinn’s days… before, had been regimented with almost-military precision. There were two lists, broad pieces of paper hung up in the living room. Her day and evening routines. They were instructed down to the minute, each second of every day filled with the things she needed to do in order to keep him happy. Sir- His favorite thing to do when Quinn missed a detail was to lean her against the wall, her nose pressed to the papers as he whipped her, until the black scrawl that was his handwriting faded into illegibility with her tears.

“You’ll learn if I have to beat it into you for the rest of your life.”

 She lived every day of that life terrified that she would, once again, get something wrong.

And she usually did.

But even with that fear, there was comfort. She could breathe a little easy, when he wasn’t there. She knew what was expected of her, even when she was alone. Because she knew how he wanted things – the lists told her. She knew what she had to do, what foods to prepare, how to fold the clothes, how to make the bed, how to clean the bathroom. She knew that every day at 6:15, the front door would open and he would walk in. Sometimes with a grin, which would give her some relief even as she wondered what that grin meant. Other times with a scowl, and she’d begin the mental preparations for the punishment that she knew was coming.

There was no comfort in being by herself now. At Miss Rachel’s house, she hadn’t been alone, because Miss Rachel had taken that week off from work. She had vacation time, she’d said when Quinn protested. And then she’d praised Quinn for protesting, which was just… strange. But Miss Rachel had been home, and Quinn knew what to expect. Coffee was always brewing by 9:30, and lunch was at 12:10. The television nearly always was flipped on by 8:45 and cuddles…

Well, cuddles had happened once, at exactly 8:57. Lazily, really, without Quinn even realizing she’d inched closer to Miss Rachel, and Miss Rachel’s arm had wrapped around her shoulders during a commercial break. It was only just before they went to bed (11:22) that they both noticed Quinn’s arms were around Rachel’s waist and Rachel was rocking her, ever so slightly. That was when Quinn decided that Miss Rachel was really cute when she blushed.

Even if she knew what to expect at Miss Rachel’s, Quinn also knew that the schedule was flexible. It didn’t matter if she overslept a few minutes, because Miss Rachel didn’t get mad. It was okay if lunch was late and didn’t happen until 12:45 because she and Miss Rachel had been talking. It was all right because Miss Rachel had been there.

Here, though… Beiste was back at the House. She’d helped Quinn get settled in a little, showing her where her room would be and the adjoining bathroom, where the kitchen was and how to find everything she would need. But then she’d had to go back to contend with an unruly patient, and now…

Now Quinn was alone. She toyed with the remote in her hand and set it back on the table. Beiste’s house was small, nowhere near as big as Miss Rachel’s, or even Quinn’s hou- his house. Quinn Fabray-Hudson had lived in a little white house at the end of Russell Street. She’d thought it rather ironic, that name, almost as if it was a sign, or maybe a warning. She should have known. But she’d been sixteen and hopeful, had never been out of her parents’ home, so the little house with the six steps leading up to the front door had seemed like an adventure, a new world full of excitement and maybe, if she was lucky, love.

Her new room at Shannon’s was nice, if simple. She missed the light purple of her room at Miss Rachel’s, but the blue here was quiet, comforting. There were a lot of things scattered about the room; no books, but little figures and sculptures here and there that looked as if they’d been collected from a lot of different places. It didn’t serve to make the room “homey,” but maybe that was just because there was nothing of hers in it yet. Not that she had much… Quinn looked at her suitcase, still resting at the foot of the bed. She hesitated, then stood up and grabbed it, putting it on the bed and opening it with a deep breath. She lifted the lid, and her hand flew to her mouth.

The teddy bear stared up at her with brown eyes, a green ribbon tied in a bow around his neck. Quinn picked him up and hugged him to her, burying her face in his fur. If she breathed deep enough, she thought she could smell Miss Rachel. She smiled a little and placed him on the bed up against the pillows, with a pat to his head.

One by one she hung her dresses in the closet, pausing to step back and realize how bare it was. Maybe she needed to go shopping for more… but the thought of going out in public by herself had her shivering and she had to sit back down to relax herself. Plus, she was supposed to use the little money the government had provided her after leaving the House to establish herself, not to buy things she didn’t really need, and she wasn’t going to ask Miss Rachel for more money. Could she get a job? Quinn tilted her head, considering. Sir- Finn had said that no submissive of his was going to get a job, which was interesting, because he was constantly complaining about not having enough money. But she knew his real reasons, since he’d said that no way was he going to let her out in public to cheat on him.

But how would she even find a job, Quinn wondered. What did a person who didn’t have any money… do? Did they fill out applications? Talk to people? She pulled the books Miss Rachel had bought her – and the Broadway ones – out of her suitcase and set them on one of the shelves of the bedside table. She didn’t even know how to get a job, she thought, tears rushing to her eyes. She didn’t know how to go outside.

She didn’t know how to do anything. Except serve. And now that was gone.

Her fingers fell onto a plastic package at the bottom of her suitcase, and Quinn furrowed her brow. Pulling it out, she smiled again and blinked back the tears that were still threatening to spill over. Berry body wash and shampoo. Miss Rachel must have snuck and bought it while they were out, then packed it for her. A warm feeling settled in Quinn’s chest as she slowly walked into the bathroom and placed the things on the shelf.

Her stomach growled as Quinn closed the now-empty suitcase and stowed it away in the closet. She hadn’t had anything since lunch, but would it be all right for her to eat something? She glanced toward the clock. 5:31. Maybe she should wait for Shannon… But she felt lightheaded, dizzy, a feeling that was scary and oddly comforting at the same time. She was used to it, on days when she wasn’t allowed to eat before dinner. But now… Quinn tilted her head.

Now she could eat whenever she wanted.

She made her way to the kitchen, feeling the strain because she still wasn’t as good at walking as she’d like. But Quinn had physical therapy again tomorrow; maybe Miss Rachel would be there? She hoped so. Miss Rachel had been crying when she’d left; Quinn could tell even though she was good at hiding it, or so she thought. It made Quinn want to grab Miss Rachel and hold her, tell her everything would be okay… but as she peeked into the refrigerator, Quinn wasn’t sure if it was going to be okay.

There was bacon. That made Quinn a little happier, as did the head of lettuce in the refrigerator, and the fresh tomatoes sitting on the counter next to a loaf of bread. She hadn’t had a BLT sandwich since… before her grandpa died. He always made the best ones: crisp bacon and fresh vegetables with a dash of salt and pepper, on fluffy white bread. No mayo, and never toasted. Quinn hated toasted bread for sandwiches, but that was the way he had liked them.

Her hand hovered on its way to the cabinet to get a pan, as Quinn suddenly realized… she’d never have to toast bread again if she didn’t want to.

She’d just finished plating up her food and was moving to the living room when she heard the sound of a key in the lock. That old apprehension rose in Quinn and she had to fight the urge to drop her plate and drop to her knees with her head down, waiting. But it wasn’t Finn coming in the door; it was Shannon Beiste, red-faced and breathless from dealing with the resident.

“Hey,” she greeted Quinn with a smile. “It smells good in here, what’re you eating?”

“A s-sandwich,” Quinn said, almost apologetically. “I can make you one?” Her look was hopeful, almost pleading.

Shannon shook her head, her sympathetic expression making it clear that she knew what Quinn was doing. “Nah, I can do it. I only like bacon for breakfast anyway.”

“Oh.” Quinn fell silent then, a little disappointed, and picked at her sandwich. It would’ve been so easy just to go back to the kitchen and—

“Got something for you,” Shannon said, interrupting her thoughts. Quinn looked up to see her holding out a cellphone. “Rachel dropped it off a few minutes ago.”

Quinn’s eyes widened as she took the cell phone in her hand and looked at it. “Miss Rachel?” she said. “But why didn’t she come see me…”

“I think you know why,” Shannon moved towards the kitchen and soon Quinn heard the sound of dishes clattering. “But you know you’ll see her soon.”

“I’ll see her soon,” Quinn echoed. She took a bite of her sandwich and for a split second the image of her grandfather came rushing back to her. Tall and proud, with white hair and a beard, a smile just as bright as Santa Claus. She closed her eyes and thought about his hugs, how strong and comforting they were. She reopened them and looked down at the phone. Carefully, she pressed the power button.

In seconds she was greeted by the cell phone screen, with two familiar faces as the wallpaper. She giggled a little, thumb tracing over Rachel and Arnie, beaming at her from the glass. Rachel had her arms around the dog, her chin pressed to the top of his head; Arnie’s tongue lolled out of his mouth and it seemed as if he was, in fact, smiling for the camera. Jesse must have taken it, Quinn surmised; a quick look to the side of the phone showed that she could take pictures too and she smiled. Maybe Miss Rachel would let her… Pressing the icon for Contacts, she saw that Miss Rachel had added herself, Jesse, and Noah as Quinn’s emergency contacts. Quinn quirked an eyebrow when she saw that beyond the numbers for the three of them, Beiste, and McKinley House, there were also phone numbers for several theaters, playhouses in the Lima area, she guessed. Miss Rachel’s work number was there as well. Not only that but there were two other numbers, one for the bus system and the other for the taxi service. There was that warm feeling again, when Quinn realized that Miss Rachel had given her pretty much any number she’d need to start finding her way now that she was (not really) alone.

“You look happy,” Shannon said, coming into the living room and sitting in one of the armchairs with a plate of pasta in her hand. “Good phone?”

“I’ve never had one,” Quinn said, turning it over in her hands. “All I had was the phone at my ho- at the house, and Finn had a cell phone.”

“You know, I think that’s the first time I’ve heard you call him by name.”

“Does it get easier?”

It felt wrong, not to call him Sir. To call your Sir by his name was the highest form of disrespect, or so she’d been taught. That was one thing in which she’d never slipped up, not that it ever gained her any sort of gratitude or special treatment. She didn’t expect it, either. It was just something you were supposed to do, and now, even though she didn’t have his collar around her neck, even though what he’d wanted to do was so… Quinn reached up and trailed her fingers over her neck, where the collar used to be. It still felt so strange not to have it there; it was almost as if she was naked. She was glad she’d been unconscious when it had been removed; she didn’t think she could have borne the pain of having the metal snapped from her, even if she had made her choice the night she’d run away.

“It gets easier.” Beiste nodded. “The best part of it is when you realize how easy it is to not give them that respect, because they never deserved it to begin with.”

Quinn’s eyes widened. “I-I don’t think I’m there yet…” she trailed off. Didn’t every Dominant deserve respect?

“No, but you’re a long way from where you were.”

“I don’t remember being brought to the House…” Quinn finished up her sandwich, not looking at Shannon.

“Probably best you don’t,” Shannon said with a shrug. “There really isn’t any point in dwelling on things you can’t change.”

It seemed like all she did lately was dwell, Quinn thought. In her mind she still kept wondering if maybe things had been different, if she’d been better, maybe Finn wouldn’t have been so angry, maybe she wouldn’t have had to run away…. He’d been so frustrated, it was the first time she’d heard him say that he didn’t know what to do, and that had scared her more than anything.

Because he’d always known what to do, what he had been doing. To her. Every word, every stroke, every blow was calculated even as it was reckless and frenzied. He’d always known exactly what he was doing. Hadn’t he?

“You should send her a message.”

Shannon’s words brought Quinn out of her thoughts, and she glanced at her, then down at the phone. “I should?”

“Well yeah, I mean I bet that’s part of the reason she gave it to you. You didn’t think she was going to completely cut you off, did you?”

I believe he said she could rot in hell.

They hadn’t meant for her to hear those words, but just because she didn’t talk at first didn’t mean she was deaf, and when Shannon had said that to Miss Rachel, despite everything it was like a knife through Quinn’s heart. She wasn’t sure if she believed that perhaps Finn would change, perhaps he would come to her and say that everything would be different now if only she would come back to him, come home.

Back to the little white house at the end of Russell Street. Back to a spotless clean kitchen that always had one crumb. To a bed that always had a wrinkle, with a blanket on the floor. A rule that was always broken, a look that was always wrong, a girl…

A girl never good enough.

And then Miss Rachel had walked away, with tears in her eyes, but she’d walked away just the same.

But there was a teddy bear on her new bed, berry body wash in her new bathroom, and a new phone in her hand… Quinn fumbled around with it for a few moments, and then looked at Shannon helplessly. Shannon smiled at her and took the phone, handing it back after showing Quinn how to get to the text messages.

Slowly, her fingers sliding around over the touch keyboard, Quinn typed out a message to Rachel and hit send.

I made a sandwich.

She waited for what seemed like an eternity, on the edge of her seat. She jumped at the alert sound, her face brightening when it meant that Rachel had answered.

Hello to you too :) Did you enjoy it?

Quinn giggled a little in embarrassment; she probably should have said hi first.

It wasn’t as good as yours. But it was nice.

The best part of the text messages, she decided, was that Rachel’s face appeared in a little icon next to her name. Quinn’s finger traced the outline and she smiled softly to herself. Miss Rachel was so beautiful.

You should keep making sandwiches, and then perhaps you’ll be just as good as I am!

That made her laugh, and her fingers were dancing over the screen again as if she’d been text messaging forever. She felt like a child with a new toy, and it was all because of Miss Rachel.

I miss you already, Miss Rachel. When can I see you again?

It was true. Already she missed her smile, her laugh, and her hugs. She hadn’t wanted to leave, and Quinn would be lying if she didn’t say a little part of herself was angry at Miss Rachel for forcing them apart. She couldn’t think of any reason why they needed to be; hadn’t Quinn said that she wanted her?  Why wouldn’t Miss Rachel want her, unless Quinn really wasn’t good enough? But Miss Rachel had said that wasn’t true… Quinn just didn’t know if she could trust it quite yet.

Seconds later, the phone beeped again.

Soon, Quinn. For now, you need to enjoy yourself. But I promise, I’m not leaving you.

She didn’t know what she could say to that. They always left. Her grandpa had left her; her parents had left her on the third step of that little white house and then drove away without a word, without a goodbye or a hug, even a last look through a window. Even her own voice had left her, eventually.  And in the end, Quinn had been the one to leave, the last, final realization that everything, that everyone, was gone, including herself.

She kept playing with the phone while Shannon watched television, laughing at some comedy show and trying to get Quinn involved. But all Quinn could do was flip back and forth between the text messages with Miss Rachel, and Miss Rachel’s face on the wallpaper.

I’m not leaving you. Miss Rachel’s face. I’m not leaving you. Miss Rachel’s face.

I’m not leaving…

She chose to go to bed at 11:35. Shannon had fallen asleep in her chair and was snoring, her chin resting against her chest. Every now and then she’d wake up with a start and Quinn would giggle. She hoped the other woman would make it to bed soon enough; going to sleep in an armchair meant a hurting body in the morning. Quinn knew that all too well.

The sheets were scratchy against her skin; not at all soft like the ones in her room at Miss Rachel’s, but not half as bad as the ones in her room at McKinley House, either. Maybe she’d make use of Shannon’s laundry room tomorrow and wash her sheets. Hopefully she’d have some fabric softener, but if not… no, Quinn decided, pulling the blankets up to her chin. She wasn’t going shopping. Not by herself. She couldn’t do that.

There was a quiet beep, and the room lit up in a muted color; Quinn turned over in bed and frantically scrabbled for the phone on the bedside table. Rachel’s face smiled at her from its tiny icon.

I hope you sleep well. Good night, Quinn.

She thought a moment, and then sent her own.

Is Arnie okay?

She knew what she really wanted to ask, but she wasn’t sure if that was allowed. After all, neither of them belonged to the other. But if Rachel was sad or upset alone in her house with the exception of Arnie, Quinn thought that might hurt her worse than anything Finn Hudson had ever done to her.

Arnie’s fine. We miss you.

We. It was the first time she’d smiled a real smile that day. It didn’t matter if they were apart, it didn’t matter if neither of them knew how things were going to end up, or where they were going to go. All that mattered was that Miss Rachel missed her.

Miss Rachel? Why are there theater numbers in my phone?

… Good night, Quinn. Sweet dreams. :)

Good night, Miss Rachel.

Sometime around 11:56, Quinn fell asleep in yet another unfamiliar bed, teddy bear in her arms, and her new cell phone with Miss Rachel’s smiling face held snugly in her hand.

 

Chapter Text

Rachel raised her hand, poised to knock, but before her fist had even struck the door, it swung open, inward. She took a step back.

The woman in the doorway wasn’t exceptionally tall, though by seventeen-year-old Rachel Berry’s standards, anyone was tall if they were over five foot. And it wasn’t so much her height, but the way she held that height, looking almost regal as she studied Rachel with one hand holding the door.

“Rachel, is it?”

Her voice wasn’t at all what Rachel expected, and it was a hobby of hers to study voices. She knew that not every voice was as superb and talented as hers, but a Dominant ought to have, well, a dominant voice. This woman’s voice wasn’t thin, but it wasn’t rich either. Nasally, but with a strength and command that Rachel couldn’t help but shiver as she nodded.

Wait, no. Nodding wasn’t good. She cleared her throat.

“Y-yes, Ma’am.”

There was no question in Rachel’s mind who this woman was, and the respect that she was to be given.

She smirked. “Very good. Come with me.”

She turned on her heel and walked into the house, seemingly not even caring whether Rachel was following behind or not, and Rachel realized it was because she expected her to follow behind. Which she did, and it gave her ample time to somewhat study the woman with whom she’d be spending her next few days.

She had dark hair that nearly reached her shoulders and curled in loose waves around her ears, and she was wearing a blue silk blouse with a black (very tight, Rachel noticed, and she swallowed hard) skirt. Black pantyhose and black heels completed the ensemble; her heels sounded noisily on the marble of her foyer as she stopped, and turned to Rachel.

She nodded at her. “Kneel.”

It was a simple command, one that Rachel had known to expect, the only command that she expected. And it went against everything Rachel knew about herself. This was not who she was, she was not meant to kneel for someone, anyone. But she also knew that this was why she was here, this is what she had to learn. Her cheeks flushed crimson, and she knelt.

She didn’t realize her gaze had lowered until she saw the same black heels come to rest next to her, and she felt a soft hand in her hair, stroking gently.

“Excellent, little one. Now we can begin.”

“Rachel, sit.” She turned, and, seeing Rachel’s hesitation, smirked. “Please.”

Rachel rolled her eyes and sat on the plush red couch, crossing her legs. She accepted the glass of wine that was handed to her, and smiled when the other woman sat next to her, so close their knees were touching.

“It’s so good to see you, Lana.”

“Don’t think I didn’t catch you rolling your eyes at me. That ought to land you over my lap.”

Rachel nearly choked on the wine, and fought not to roll her eyes yet again when Lana patted her back, laughing in triumph. “I haven’t been over your lap in years.”

“Well then we have a lot of catching up to do, don’t we, little one?”

“Lana!” Rachel finally laughed herself. “Stop that, or else your girl might get upset with us both.” She looked around, searching for any sign of the submissive Lana had had for the last year. “Where is she, anyway?”

“Oh,” Lana mused, running her index finger over the rim of her wine glass before taking a sip, “She’s a little tied up at the moment.” Her eyes glinted mischievously at Rachel.

Rachel shook her head, then suddenly grew serious, leaning into Lana. “I’ve missed you,” she said, a bit of disbelief creeping into her voice. She hadn’t given it a second thought, but now, sitting next to the woman, Rachel realized just how much she’d missed the comfort and companionship. “Don’t let me go another year without seeing you. I’m sorry,” she added regretfully.

Lana kissed the top of her head, a gesture left over from Rachel’s training years ago. “I could have called you just as easily as you could have called me,” she admitted. She pushed gently until Rachel sat up fully so she could look at her. “Are you all right?” she asked, and Rachel smiled to see the old concern return to her friend’s face.

Could she really call Lana a friend? She could call her her Domme, but aside from a week when she was 17, that had never been true for Rachel. She could call her a lover, but that had been over long ago, too. Maybe a mother figure, but given the other two options that was just too weird. Mentor, perhaps. Confidante. No, friend worked. It had endured ever since Rachel had first set foot (and knee) in Lana’s mansion on the edge of town.

“I’m fine,” Rachel answered, smiling to show Lana she was telling the truth, because if there was anyone who could see through her just as well as her daddies, it was Lana. “But I’m not here just as a friend. I need your help. Or your advice, something.”

It felt like she was 17 years old again, then, as Rachel sat and spilled everything to Lana: about the House, about Quinn, about Finn. One thing she loved about Lana was that Lana knew when was best to let her ramble, and when was best to interrupt her, and to her credit, she didn’t interrupt at all while Rachel was speaking. Rachel watched as she talked, saw Lana nod her head as she made soft humming noises of sympathy, and saw the woman’s hand tighten around the wineglass when she spoke of how brutally Finn had treated Quinn. Everything tumbled out about Jesse’s reluctance; Quinn’s fear of being alone with people like Brody; how she’d reacted when Noah had gotten himself in trouble with his Sir. Still, she couldn’t help but smile proudly when she told of Quinn’s progress learning how to walk again, or of them going shopping together. She found herself blushing and looking away from Lana as she recounted how Quinn had gotten her a flower from the vendor, how Quinn had said she was special. Part of Rachel was aware that Quinn just might not like her telling a complete stranger – well, to Quinn, anyway – her story, but if there was one person Rachel trusted, it was Lana. Sitting in her car just minutes earlier in the parking lot to McKinley House, Rachel had realized that of all the people in the world who might be able to help her help Quinn, it was the woman who had put her on her knees when she was seventeen years old.

Not much had changed since then; Lana was the same as ever, perhaps with more laugh lines than she used to have. But she was still strong and constant, and the connection with Rachel was such that it was like they hadn’t been apart for a year, but only a few seconds. Lana’s house was still gorgeous and rich, with its marble floors and double staircase leading to the second floor. She remembered most everything in the house, as if she’d never left it. Rachel knew nearly every room of the house – intimately – and aside from the one spanking she’d received that week, each room held a cherished memory. Rachel knew that most Dominants rarely went back to the people and places of their training, but for some reason her connection with Lana had held, even after her training was complete. And Dominants didn’t usually start love affairs with the people who had trained them, either. Still, she hadn’t stopped contact even when that had ended, two years ago. She knew she wasn’t a submissive, knew she could never be, but there was something about being with Lana that made Rachel feel… different. It was safe, a chance to be on equal and-yet-not ground with someone, a chance to be both Dominant and also taken care of by someone who knew more than she did, had more experience. It was that experience and knowledge that had her looking helplessly at Lana, as she finished telling her Quinn’s story.

“Well,” Lana said, finishing her drink and setting the empty glass on the coffee table. She shook her head and wrinkled her nose in disgust. “I’d advocate castration but it doesn’t sound like he has all that much to begin with.”

Rachel snorted. “It’s not him I’m worried about; I’ll let the government deal with him. Though we know how well that works. It’s Quinn who has my concern.”

“It’s you I’m concerned about,” Lana said, casting Rachel a knowing look. “You seem to be quite easily jumping into this, Rachel, and that’s something you can’t do.”

“I’m not-“

“Don’t interrupt me, please.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Lana stood up, beginning to pace across the floor in front of Rachel, a movement that told Rachel one of two things: she was angry, or she was deep in thought. Possibly both. She briefly wondered about Lana’s girl, who was “tied up at the moment.” Rachel hoped she hadn’t interrupted anything; that would be embarrassing. Then she wondered if Lana was using the silk ties, and she blinked, trying to return herself to the situation at hand.

“Rachel.”

And there it was, that power to make her shiver, that power that she wondered if she herself held. A power that all Dominants were told that they should hold, that they should use and be proud of. The ability to make all thoughts stop, just at the sound of a name, delivered quietly and with command. A tone that brooked no interruption, no disobedience, nothing but complete, utter compliance and devotion. It was the sound and its delivery that had Rachel ducking her head and lifting her eyes to pay attention to the woman stood in front of her, her hands on her hips.

“Do you remember what it was like, that first day with me?”

“You’re scared.”

From her position on the floor at her feet, Rachel wondered how Miss Lana knew. Was she trembling? She dared to slightly lift her hand and look at it; she was. But then Miss Lana took her hand and gently placed it back on Rachel’s knee. Form was important, she had told Rachel just a few seconds earlier, and it was even more important that it was maintained.

Rachel forced herself not to nod her answer. “I’m scared, Miss Lana,” she agreed.

“Why?”

The Dominant – her Dominant’s – voice was calm and soft, and for a moment it confused the girl kneeling for her. Wasn’t a Dominant supposed to be stern and exacting? Oh, the books from school stressed sustaining a balance, but there was also more emphasis placed on order and obedience. But this Dominant… was being nice.

“Answer me, Rachel. Why are you scared of me?”

“Because you could hurt me.” Rachel’s voice was tiny, barely above a whisper as she spoke the thing she had been most afraid of in the days leading up to her training. 

Her fathers had simply kissed her, said they would see her in a week, as they left her standing with her suitcase on the doorstep of Miss Lana’s house. She knew the rules for her training said that parents weren’t to coddle or coo over their children at the moment training was to begin, because that would set the wrong tone. But she couldn’t help wanting a hug or a kiss, some reassurance besides “see you in a week” that she’d make it out of this alive.

She was a Domme. She had the mark on her ribs to prove it, but here, on her knees in front of a couch, a strange woman’s hand in her hair, Rachel didn’t care that she was a Domme. She didn’t care that her daddies had vetted potential trainers for four months leading up to her birthday, that the three “possibles” had undergone every background and personal check known to Lima. Rachel may have been a natural Domme but here in her training she couldn’t object, she couldn’t protest unless something went terribly wrong, and she wasn’t even comforted by the safety measures that were in place to ensure that nothing would go terribly wrong.

The only thing she cared about was that she felt at this woman’s mercy, and Rachel had heard the stories of Dominants taking advantage of the trust placed in them. Rachel didn’t want to be one of the statistics in a commercial on television.

“You’re right. I could hurt you.”

The dread slid over her like ice water, but Rachel was surprised when that same hand in her hair gently pressed until Rachel’s cheek was against the woman’s thigh. The motion was soft, kind, and Rachel closed her eyes, trying to concentrate on the warmth and the feeling of fingers stroking.

“I could hurt you, and perhaps if I have to punish you, I will hurt you. Punishment isn’t meant to be nice. But it isn’t meant to be brutal; it isn’t meant for me to go over the boundaries we will set together for this week, and none of this training means I’m allowed to mistreat you. Look at me, Rachel.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” She hastened to do what she was told; Lana’s eyes were a deep brown, twinkling and almost loving as she stared down at Rachel.

“I’m going to take care of you,” Lana said quietly, and those words, coming from her, were enough for Rachel to let go of all of her fears and put her trust in this woman, this stranger who held her close to her thigh and was still playing with her hair.

“I’m going to take care of you.”

“It was silly of me to be so scared,” Rachel said with a little smile. “I should have known you’d never hurt me.”

“But you didn’t know. And what if all you’d ever known was hurt? Could you really have trusted me not to abuse you? And what would you have done if I hadn’t known what I was doing? How could you have recovered if I broke you?”

“I know, but I’m diff-“

“She can’t trust that you’re different,” Lana pointed out, sitting back down next to Rachel. “If this is what you really want, Rachel, this is going to be a long, slow road for you. I just don’t want you jumping headfirst into it, for her sake and yours, because god knows you’re impulsive and don’t think half the time.”

“Hey!” Rachel protested, even though she knew it was true. Continuing to see Quinn, bringing the girl to visit with her for a week, all of it she’d done without really thinking of the ramifications. She stared at Lana, realizing the point the other woman was trying to make.

Lana smiled and reached out to touch Rachel’s cheek with her hand; Rachel nuzzled into it, yet another feeling left over from that week years ago.

“I couldn’t bear it if I hurt her,” she admitted. “That’s why I’m here, Lana, I don’t know how to be her Dominant… I mean what if she does something wrong? How do I spank her when I know what he did to her?”

“That’s easy enough,” Lana said, taking her hand away, and Rachel was disappointed at the lack of contact. “You don’t.”

Rachel tilted her head. “I don’t punish her?”

“I didn’t say that; listen to me, little one.”

“Lana.”

“Habit,” Lana said with a smile. “But I didn’t say you don’t punish her, I said you don’t spank her.” Seeing Rachel’s confused look, she explained, “Punishment isn’t always physical, Rachel. There are a number of ways that I could have punished you, but physically, for you, was the most effective.”

“Well, I’m certainly glad for that,” Rachel muttered, remembering, then giggled a little when Lana tapped her knee.

“This is what I mean when I say you can’t jump into this. If and when you’re ready to claim someone you have to tailor your methods to their needs, to their boundaries. You know being a Dominant means you don’t have free rein to do whatever you want, however you wish to do it.”

“I know,” Rachel agreed quietly.

“And if that person is Quinn,” Lana pointed out, “You’re going to have to rethink absolutely everything you’ve learned and known up to this point.”

Rachel stood up and began to mimic Lana’s earlier action of pacing across the floor. “Even what you’ve taught me?”

She didn’t think she could let go of that. She’d centered her entire life, her entire concept of claiming and relationships, around what she’d learned at Lana’s feet. Books had only been able to tell her so much, but actually being shown, experiencing it… those were the lessons that Rachel felt like she’d never want to forget, or be able to. Lana had taught her so much, simple things like the power that came from kneeling. Who was really in control of certain situations. The importance of rules. How aftercare was imperative. Rachel had learned that knowing she’d disappointed Lana was worse than the spanking she’d received, and that forgiveness afterwards was stronger than any guilt she could’ve ever carried. It was through Lana that Rachel felt like she’d really learned her true nature as a Dominant. Letting go of that knowledge… Rachel felt like she’d be lost, and she didn’t know how on earth she’d be able to find her own way. She’d come to Lana for help, for extra guidance, and suddenly she felt as if she’d just been thrown to the wolves.

“Not all of it,” Lana shook her head. “You can find different techniques, different safe words, different ways to train and discipline and punish. But the care, the concern, you don’t ever unlearn that, Rachel. You never stop caring; you never stop making the well-being of your submissive the number one priority of your life, have I made myself clear?”

Rachel grinned a little even as the tone made her shiver again. “Yes, Ma’am.”

Lana stood up and crossed the floor to Rachel, placing her hands on the girl’s shoulder and gently kissing her forehead. “You’re a Dominant,” she said. “It’s here,” she tapped Rachel’s temple. “And you need to act with your head first, because you don’t want to hurt her. But more importantly, you have to know with what’s in here.” She gently tapped Rachel’s heart. “Here is where you’ll find what you need. And if what you need is her, then that’s where you’ll also find what she needs. Because what she’ll need, more than any discipline, more than any rules, more than anything else, is you.”

“When did you get so wise?” Rachel asked with a sniff, laughing a little as a tear streaked down her cheek.

“Right about the time two girls came into my life. You might know one of them, a loud little brunette who’s far too stubborn for her own good?”

Rachel smiled when Lana wiped the tears from her face with her thumbs. “And the other?” She grew serious as she asked, “She makes you happy?”

Now it was Lana’s turn to blush and duck her head. “Yes, yes she does,” she said, and moved with Rachel to sit back on the couch.

“Tell me about her.”

“Sure you don’t want to see her?” Lana asked with a smirk. “She won’t mind being looked at.”

Rachel’s mouth dropped open in shock. “No, no, that’s okay,” she said hastily. “I’m sure she won’t mind being looked at, but I rather mind looking.” She grinned a little sheepishly. “I’m afraid there’s only one girl I have my eye on.”

“And does this girl know you’re here?”

“Not yet. But she will.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The first thing a body will require, when it has been worn to its breaking point and is on its way back, is sleep. It was one of the things that Quinn was only just starting to realize: how tired she really was. So many years of her day starting at exactly 4 a.m. had taken its toll, and so when she glanced at the clock and saw that it was only 8 a.m, she thought “Meh,” and promptly rolled over and went back to sleep.

She’d washed the sheets and they were really soft now, and the pillows under her head were nice, if not as perfect as the ones at Miss Rachel’s. So no, there really wasn’t any reason for her to get up. Not just yet. Two hours later she was awakened with a start by the ringtone that told her she had a new text message. She tried to blink the sleep out of her eyes, and read Rachel’s 6 words through a bleary haze.

Good luck with physical therapy today. :)

Quinn furrowed her brow and sat up, her drowsiness erased by a small feeling of panic that began to rise up within her. Quickly her fingers dashed off the response and hit send.

You’re not coming?

She waited as long as she could for a response, sitting up in bed and staring at the phone for an hour, before she finally told herself that if she didn’t get moving, she’d be late. But it was another twenty minutes before she could actually force herself out of bed and move to her closet to pick out the day’s outfit.

It was strange, having options to choose from, rather than just a pair of underwear thrown haphazardly over a chair… or over her, depending on what position morning would find her in. Then there were the days when clothes weren’t allowed at all… which was hardest in the winter months. But now she could decide, would it be the blue dress with the cardigan, or the pink sweater and a pair of comfy blue jeans? Since she was going to therapy… she reached in and plucked out the jeans and the sweater.

Quinn was surprised to notice that she was smiling. It seemed stupid to smile over something like choosing your own clothes.

But she smiled anyway.

There seemed to be so many things for her to decide now… breakfast was the simplest. Cereal, she thought, rummaging through Shannon’s cabinets to find what she wanted. Shannon had already left for the House, Quinn assumed, and it was nice, just to sit on the couch with her legs sprawled out, relaxed against the pillows as she waited for the Lucky Charms sugar rush to take hold. She giggled, for a split second feeling like a fifteen year old again, before... before everything changed.

The walk to the House was short, but not short enough that Quinn felt comfortable actually walking it. Luckily there was a concrete pathway from Shannon’s front door to the back door of the House, and Quinn’s chair was already sitting outside, with no steps for her to navigate to it. She sat in the chair but didn’t move at first; instead, Quinn simply just sat.

It was a pleasant morning, not too cold and not yet too hot; the birds were still singing and flying here and there, their wings bright flashes against the mid-morning sky. Quinn found herself wondering about them, if they were bringing food to their children or perhaps to their “husband” or “wife”; she watched them eagerly, taking in their every movement and listening to their casual back and forth song. She wondered what it would be like, to be one of those birds: free to go wherever, whenever, but every time returning to the same place. And not because they had to, but because they wanted to. The birds were bound by choice, not by birth or decree, and for a moment, Quinn envied them.

She thought about Miss Rachel, then, resting the cell phone on her lap as she slowly wheeled herself towards the House, taking her time so she wouldn’t miss a minute of everything around her outside: the grass on either side of her; the trees that shaded her with their branches, the apples they dropped as food for the insects, the squirrels, the rabbits. What would it be like, she asked herself, to be free forever? To never have to answer to another person? No rules, no chance to break them. No punishment, no pain.

No Miss Rachel.

It caused Quinn to stop where she sat, halfway between “home” and the House.

Maybe she could handle the pain, if it came from Miss Rachel.

She began to wheel herself towards the House again, even as her hands trembled so hard she could barely hold on. It wouldn’t be so bad, she thought. Rachel had been sweet to her so far, but she hadn’t claimed Quinn. But if she did, and if- if she got angry when Quinn displeased her, Quinn could… she could handle it. What would she do, what rule would she break? Maybe there was a certain way Miss Rachel liked her clothes folded. She’d wake up in the morning and there would be a crease in her shirt that wasn’t there before. She’d look at Quinn, disappointment in beautifully deep brown eyes. And Quinn would know she’d failed her.

Then… the pain.

Quinn had gotten fairly good at taking herself beyond the pain; she could do that again with Miss Rachel, no matter what the other woman would choose to do to her. Or with what. Whips, belts, they were all the same. Quinn could put herself in that space where everything went fuzzy, where the sounds were muted and the blows seemed to be nothing. Her mother had told her, once, about that space; she’d described it as a kind of Heaven, a feeling of being completely in the moment and yet not, as if the only two people who existed in the world were Dominant and submissive. Where thoughts became tangled as if by rope, and where no words could break through except the ones spoken from trust, from love, from hope.

Quinn had decided about her second year with Finn that her mother was prone to flights of fancy, or was just outright insane. No, her space… her space was curled inside herself, blocking out words and trying to tighten her skin to provide the least amount of canvas possible. Then she’d be ripped out of that space brutally, in seconds after he’d grown tired of her, with just a few words.

“Get your ass up and fix dinner, I’m hungry.”

She tried to imagine Rachel saying those words. Tried to picture the petite brunette with the gentle face twisting into bitterness and hate, as Quinn got up from the floor and hobbled to the kitchen. With a blink Quinn realized that she wasn’t in a kitchen, or on a floor; instead she was in front of the door to the House.

She could do it, she thought as she pressed the code Shannon had given to her onto the keypad, and the door released with a click.

For Miss Rachel, she could do it.

Her phone vibrated in her lap while she made her way down the hall to the PT room, and Quinn paused to pick it up, smiling at the message. She sent her answer, and then hesitated in front of the door, feeling hopeful. Leaning over and pushing it open, she blinked, then felt the wave of disappointment rush over her like the water from the time Miss Rachel had given her a bath.

“Here she is!” Shannon said with a grin. She nudged Brody, who smiled politely at Quinn. “Told you she’d make it.”

“That you did,” Brody said. He’d gotten everything ready for Quinn, she could see everything laid out as he stood there in his black tee-shirt and jeans, still smiling at her with nothing but calm and pleasantry on his face. “You ready?”

“Red,” Quinn suddenly mumbled, feeling herself begin to panic.

Shannon tilted her head at her, her eyes looking concerned. “Quinn?”

“Red,” Quinn said a little louder. “I-I can’t do this, I’m sorry, Shannon, I’m sorry, B-Brody, I have to go, I have to…”

In seconds she was back out the door, wheeling down the hall towards freedom as fast as she could go. She couldn’t do this, not without… she just couldn’t.

“Quinn, wait!”

It didn’t take long, because of her ability to walk and her long strides, for Shannon to overtake her and plant herself in Quinn’s path. “Hey, what’s going on, kid?”

Quinn shook her head. “I just don’t want to,” she tried. “I don’t… feel well?”

“Yeah?” Beiste said, sounding sympathetic. She squatted down, though she wasn’t kneeling, so that she could look into Quinn’s eyes. “I bet I can guess why all of a sudden you don’t feel well.”

Quinn didn’t say anything; she pursed her lips and looked at the white walls, at the dirty green and white tiles, anywhere but at Shannon Beiste who was staring at her like she knew her innermost secrets.

“She’s not coming, Quinn.”

“I gathered that,” Quinn bit out, and she sat up, a chill running through her as she realized just how snappy she’d sounded.

What would Miss Rachel do if Quinn ever talked to her like that? Probably slap her face, Quinn surmised. Tears rushed to her eyes as she thought of it, but she tightened her hold on the arms of the wheelchair.

She could handle it. For Miss Rachel.

Why wasn’t she there?

The sympathetic look hadn’t left Shannon’s eyes as she surveyed Quinn in front of her. She was quiet for a moment, and when she spoke, her voice had taken a mournful, almost regretful tone.

“Do you know what was the hardest thing for me to learn?”

Quinn shook her head.

“How to go to the grocery store. Before, when I went, I had a list. Everything he liked, down to the brand and the price and what aisle I would find it. There was nothing on there that I wanted or liked, because he thought I needed nothing but what he gave me.”

“I don’t see what that has to do wi—“

“And so,” Shannon interrupted, “The first time I went to the grocery store, I stood there in the doorway, looking at all the aisles, all the food… and I had no idea what I needed. What I wanted. But there was one thing I wanted.”

“What?” Quinn whispered.

“To call him. To call him, to have him tell me what to get, what to do, how to do it. But I couldn’t. I stood there terrified, scared out of my mind that he’d said was feeble without him, and I wanted to believe that I couldn’t do anything without him. But I had to.”

“That’s not the same,” Quinn protested. “This is different.”

Shannon shook her head. “It’s not, though. You know she called me, asked me to be here with you.”

“But I don’t want you, I want her.”

“I know that,” Shannon laughed in response to Quinn’s horrified expression; there was no trace of hurt or malice in her voice at all. “But you’re standing in the grocery store, Quinn. You’ve got all these choices to make, and ain’t nobody but yourself can choose.”

Shannon stood up, ignoring Quinn’s confused look. “I know you don’t like being alone with Brody and so does Miss Berry. That’s why I’m here. But she’s not, and you’re going to be just fine in there without her. You’ll see.”

“I don’t think I can.”

“I know you can. And so does Rachel. That’s why she’s not here. Because she knows you can do it without her.”

“But I don’t want to,” Quinn said again, her teeth clenched. Who were Miss Rachel and Shannon to decide what she could do, and who she should do it with? But then again, to know Miss Rachel thought she could do it on her own, that she believed in her so much…

Quinn was nothing short of completely confused.

“Well, yeah, and that’s another choice. Just like you have a choice now. Go in and do your therapy like she believes you can, or we call Miss Rachel and tell her you won’t do it unless she’s here.”

Quinn scrunched up her face in disapproval, and let out the answer in an exasperated sigh. “Fine. Let’s go.”

“Welcome back,” Brody said as Shannon wheeled Quinn into the room once again, and she gave him a tight-lipped smile. “Let’s get started, shall we?”

He moved her through her exercises while Quinn concentrated on her breathing, imagining that Miss Rachel was next to her head, encouraging her with soft words and a gentle touch on her shoulder. But there were two Miss Rachels in her head now, the Rachel that was Miss Rachel, kind and gentle and… loving. And then there was the other Rachel.

Mistress.

Her fingers clenched the edge of the cot as Quinn imagined Mistress, pressing her against the wall and lashing her with anger and resentment on her face. Disappointment. She could hear the voice of Mistress, no longer lyrical and sweet, but harsh and growling as she spoke words that had Quinn’s head hanging even as she lay on the cot.

Bad. Wrong. Stupid. Disgusting. Failure.

She squeezed her eyes shut and recalled that morning in bed, with Miss Rachel’s hand held softly, tightly in hers. Warmth. Comfort. Quinn took a shuddering breath and opened her eyes when she realized Brody had stopped.

“Ready to try walking?”

She hesitated, looking at Shannon, who grinned at her. Quinn nodded.

The end of the bars was empty, without Miss Rachel standing there waiting for her. There was only Shannon, sitting on a stool off to one side, and Brody, on her other side, ready to catch her if she fell. But for a second Quinn felt as if she’d already fallen, because the wall on the other side of her was bare and white, and there was no angel in an argyle sweater waiting with her arms open.

But still the first step came.

It was almost as if an unseen force had moved her foot, and Quinn glanced down at it in surprise. Had she done that? She wondered. Brody and Shannon were grinning at her, Shannon’s fist pumping in triumph, and Quinn found herself grinning in return. Their reactions spurred her on; she took another step and it was as if electricity had filled her legs and she couldn’t do anything but move. It was an eternity and mere seconds; there was Rachel and emptiness, her hands on the bars and her feet at the edge of the mat…

On the other side.

She barely registered Shannon’s yell of triumph, or Brody clapping his hands for her; all she could think of, all she could do, was go for her phone and send a text.

I did it. I did it.

Five seconds later, the response came.

I knew you could.

Quinn was still riding the high of actually making it through therapy on her own (well, with Shannon’s help, a little bit) when she wheeled herself out the back door to the House and was met with a smirking boy leaning up against the brick.

“Hey, little Q, heard you did damn good in there.”

Quinn tilted her head. “How’d you… it was only five minutes ago.”

Noah reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, waggling it at her. “’Quinn went to therapy without Rachel! Make sure you say something nice to her about it.’ Rachel texts Sir, Sir texts me… word gets around fast.” He grinned and fell into step alongside her, walking with her towards Shannon’s house.

Miss Rachel had… bragged on her? That’s what Noah made it sound like; that she’d texted Jesse to tell him how proud she was of her… There was that warm feeling in her chest again, and Quinn blushed and ducked her head, then glanced over at Noah. “How are you um… feeling?” she asked hesitantly. “You know, since then.” She’d been a little hesitant when Noah texted her, asking if he could come over, but there was something about him… she’d wanted to check on him, and it might be nice, to have a friend. Still, it felt awkward.

He winced a little, shoving his hands back into the pockets of his jeans and shrugging. “Kind of sore, but it’s just annoying now, not really painful. Sir says I don’t need pillows anymore but he lets me sit on ‘em anyway.”

Quinn nodded and fell into silence then as she and Noah made their way back to Shannon’s. When they were almost there, though, she hesitated, causing Noah to look at her with concern.

“What’s up, little Q?”

“Can we stay out here for a little while?” She wasn’t sure she wanted to be alone in a room with Noah, despite how nice he was being to her. Besides, the sun was warm; as Noah helped lower her to the grass next to the concrete path, Quinn tilted her face into it and sighed with her eyes closed. “It’s so nice out here,” she whispered. “So peaceful and free. I don’t know if I could ever go back.”

“You talking about going back inside or going… back-back?”

Was she that obvious? Quinn shrugged. “Both?”

Noah sat next to her with his feet flat on the ground, forearms resting on his knees. “Yeah, I can see that.” Then he was quiet, as he and Quinn listened to the birdcalls, the wind rustling through the apple trees. Finally, he said, “But you know, it’s not really going back. Kind of like, going to something different. Something better.”

Quinn smiled wryly. She’d thought that, at first, and even though she was pretty sure that what she’d said the day she’d left hadn’t changed, that she still wanted to be with Miss Rachel, she wasn’t sure just how different it would be.

“I guess so; I mean Jesse’s nice even when he beats you.”

“Hey,” Noah said, a flash of anger crossing over his face before he quickly schooled it behind impassivity. “That’s not all Sir does.”

“I-I didn’t mean that,” Quinn said hastily, feeling ashamed of herself. “I-I know he punishes you in different ways, not just by hitting you. I mean, I-I guess he gives you corner time or lines or-or something that’s not hitting, I mean even though he’s harsh he’s—“

“Whoa, whoa,” Noah held up his hands to stop Quinn’s rambling. “Little Q, I don’t know what’s going on but Sir doesn’t just punish me, you know.”

“He doesn’t?”

Noah raised an eyebrow at her. “Uh, no… I mean we have some fucking good sex, that’s for sure.” He laughed as Quinn gasped a little and blushed. He nudged her with his shoulder and winked before he asked a question that made Quinn’s blood run cold.

“Did he ever tell you you’re good?”

She didn’t answer, and Noah nodded. He ran a hand over his Mohawk, his face looking like he was thinking hard – and that it hurt him to do. “Sir tells me I’m good all the time. Even after he punished me the other night.”

“Wait, he told you that you’re good after a punishment?”

“Well, yeah? ‘cause he thinks I am. I mean I fuck up, like, real bad sometimes and I know it upsets him. But he’s never, ever told me I’m bad. He actually kinda gets pissed when I say I am.”

“Do you… do you think I’m bad?” Quinn asked softly. She could hear Sir’s words echoing in her head, and she tried to push them away.

“Does it matter what I think?” Noah asked. He lay back on the grass with his hands behind his head and stared up at the sky. “I mean I don’t give a rat’s ass what other people think of me, all I care about is what Sir sees.” He glanced up at Quinn. “Kind of funny that no matter what I’ve done to screw up before, or what I’ll screw up today or tomorrow or the next day, he’ll still look at me like I’m the best thing since hair gel. Well, next best thing.”

She felt jealous of him, then, watching the dreamy smile that was on his face, the pride in his eyes as he spoke about Jesse. She tried to remember if she’d ever talked about Finn that way, and then she smiled a little when she remembered her words to Noah the night she’d panicked.

“She’s the best.” Words about Miss Rachel.

And Miss Rachel had sent a text to Jesse. Proud of her. And it didn’t matter that Brody probably thought she was a little melodramatic and crazy, or that Shannon probably got annoyed at having to coax her into the PT room. All that mattered was that Miss Rachel was proud of her. Which is why she couldn’t bear it if Miss Rachel was ever angry at her.

“But what… what does he do when he’s not punishing you?”

Now the look on Noah’s face told Quinn that he couldn’t believe she’d just asked that, and she felt her cheeks go hot with embarrassment. She looked down at her hands, twisted in her lap.

“Well there’s the really good sex,” Noah said, snorting when Quinn squeaked yet again. “But there’s other stuff too, I mean we cook together and go to the movies. We went to the theater with Rachel a couple of times, she loves that stuff.”

Theater. She loves that stuff. The numbers in her phone. Quinn’s eyes widened. Would Miss Rachel maybe… like to go to the theater with her? There’d be a lot of people and she wouldn’t really know what to do; but she could do it, for Miss Rachel…

“And a lot of times if I have a good day or week or I’ve done something like really cool, Sir lets me choose what we do. Or he surprises me with something he knows I’ll like.”

“He surprises you?”

“Yeah, Sir says rewards are just as important as correction.”

“Rewards,” Quinn echoed, lips turned downward as she contemplated.

“Didn’t get a lot of those, huh?”

She shrugged. “He said that discipline was the only thing I needed.”

Noah shook his head and sat up. “Dick. Good thing Rachel’s different.” When Quinn didn’t answer, Noah reached out and gently touched Quinn’s knee, drawing back when she flinched slightly. “Yeah, sorry about that. But you know… you know Rachel’s different, right?”

Quinn shrugged again.

He stood up and brushed off his jeans, extending his hand to Quinn and helping her back into the chair. “I gotta get back home, tonight’s spaghetti night and if I don’t make Sir’s garlic bread he gets pouty. Sometimes I wonder which one of us is the brat. Don’t tell him I said that.”

Quinn laughed and let Noah push her wheelchair to the door of Shannon’s house. He stopped then, turning to her.

“You know, I think the fact that you’re here, that Rachel hasn’t taken you… I think that should tell you how different she is. She cares about you. I know it’s hard for you to trust her, but… look at me, dude. I was a dealer. I should’ve had no chance. But look who I got now.”

Quinn smiled a little. “So think you can find me somebody to love?”

“Nah,” Noah said with a wink. “I think you’re doing that pretty well on your own. See ya, little Q.”

She replayed her conversation with Noah in her head over and over for nearly an hour; she fixed herself something for dinner and sat on the couch idly flipping through the channels before she finally turned the television off and tossed the remote onto the cushions.

Trust her, he’d said. I think you’re doing that pretty well on your own.

She looked at the phone, resting next to the remote. Things could be different. Things were different. She’d walked on her own, without Miss Rachel.

But she still wanted her.

Quinn picked up the phone.

Would you like to see me tomorrow?

The sound of ringing made her jump minutes later, and Quinn hurried to press the answer button.

“H-hello?”

The voice was sweet, pleased, and happy.

“I thought you’d never ask,” Miss Rachel said.

 

Chapter Text

Rachel drummed her fingers soundlessly on the table in front of her and checked her watch again for what must have been the hundredth time. The hands seemed to have moved only mere centimeters in the last hour that she’d been sitting in the coffee shop, and she wondered if her entire life would be made up of this.

Checking her watch. Glancing worriedly at the pedestrians outside the window. Waiting for Quinn.

It was absurd to get to the coffee shop so early, but Rachel hadn’t been able to focus on anything at home after waking up. On the phone the night before, she’d asked Quinn to meet her here, and she could hear the fear and uncertainty in Quinn’s voice over the connection even as the girl had said yes. And so Rachel was worried, because Quinn was nervous and The Lima Bean was in the middle of town, accessible by only bus or taxi. She’d wanted, Rachel had thought as she’d hung up the phone last night and tried to sleep, to tell Quinn not to have Beiste bring her, but that wasn’t her instruction to give, and if it made Quinn feel less ill at ease she could have Shannon drive her anywhere she wanted. Plus she’d had a good reason for asking Quinn to meet her here, in town. She knew that Quinn would likely never want to venture out on her own, but if it meant seeing Rachel? Arrogant, maybe, Rachel thought, but then again it might also be the gentle push the girl needed, one step out of her comfort zone into the amazing world that awaited her.

Rachel felt a little foolish, too, with the knowledge that Quinn wasn’t the only one nervous. It was silly, really, but it was one of the first lessons she’d learned during her Social Interactions class at Lima Academy: even Dominants had butterflies in their stomachs. Apparently Rachel’s butterflies were pissed that they’d had to stay in their cocoons so long, and now they were in joyous overdrive. She’d spent half the morning in the bathroom trying to ready herself, so long that Arnie had just plopped on the cold tile floor with a long-suffering sigh, and fell asleep. She’d just wanted to look nice, to make sure her hair and makeup were perfect. All of the contents of her closet had been thrown on her bed as Rachel had tried to decide between sexy Dominant-government worker-chic, or simple this-is-not-a-date-or-is-it casual. She’d decided on casual, but added her favorite pair of black heels to the blue jeans and black tank top ensemble. She knew she looked nice, but still Rachel kept tucking a loose curl behind her ear only to pull it back out again, chewing her lower lip as she watched out the window next to her, searching for any sign of Quinn.

She hadn’t been this nervous since she’d first showed up on Lana’s doorstep when she was seventeen.

Rachel’s visit with her former Domme and lover had been just what she’d needed to regain perspective, as always. Their dynamic after Rachel’s week of training as a teenager had been a strange one, and it still perplexed Rachel that even now Lana could, for the most part, make her obey and listen with a simple word, a shift in the inflection of her voice. It annoyed her to a certain extent, but at the same time every now and then she wanted to get lost in the safety, in the chance to let go of the worries of her everyday life, if even for just a couple of minutes. But she liked the moments when they could connect as equals, more than anything else she and Lana had ever shared. It had been good, to sit and “share notes,” as it were, and for Lana to smile at Rachel and say, even as she cautioned her against moving too quickly, that she was proud of her for wanting to work so hard with Quinn.

Even Dominants like to have someone proud of them.

At 12:15, Rachel’s attention was caught by a taxi pulling up outside the coffee shop. She sat up in her chair when the taxi door opened and a blonde haired girl with hazel eyes stepped out on uncertain feet. She smiled a little when Quinn started towards the door of the coffee shop, only to be called back by the driver. She watched as Quinn reached into her pocket and pulled out money, pressing it into the driver’s hand. She moved towards the door, and Rachel couldn’t help but chuckle as yet again Quinn was called back to the taxi, this time to collect her change.

There was no trace of the wheelchair, and by the time Quinn made her way into the coffee shop, relief flooding her face at the first sight of Rachel, the brunette met her standing.

And perhaps it was too soon, perhaps they should have shunned any kind of physical contact because of the situation they had found themselves in, but their arms folded around each other and Rachel smoothed her hand over Quinn’s back, feeling the girl’s trembling flow strength into her. She held herself straight and solid as Quinn’s face nestled into her neck, and Rachel squeezed her gently. Finally she pulled away, holding Quinn at arm’s length to look at her.

The first thing she noticed was how rested Quinn seemed; her face didn’t have the same thin, exhausted look of the first day they’d met, and Rachel was glad. She’d checked in with Shannon, who had said that Quinn was most definitely not sleeping in the floor or at the foot of the bed, and that in fact she was a bit of a blanket hog, having had shyly asked for two extra ones. Two extra blankets, for a girl who’d previously had none.

Ugh, she really had to get this urge to cry under control, Rachel thought. So she settled for smiling awkwardly.

“Hi,” she said, and was glad when she and Quinn shared a quiet giggle, because honestly they must look ridiculous to the other patrons, two women clinging to each other in the middle of a coffee shop.

“How was the taxi drive?”

The other thing she noticed was, once again, just how pretty Quinn was. With the rested expression of her face came a certain sparkle in her eyes, that matched the light green tee-shirt she wore (and Rachel smirked a little, proud at having picked that out) atop a pair of grey pants. Her hair was clean, shining and berry-scented, and Rachel didn’t know that the first time Quinn had used the shampoo at Shannon’s, she’d closed her eyes as the perfume took over the steam-filled bathroom. She didn’t know that Quinn had leaned against the shower, comforted, and thought of her.

Quinn smiled, her eyes lighting up with a little bit of something Rachel hadn’t seen before, something a little like… pride. “I didn’t think I could do it,” she said, “But I did. Even if I did forget about the money.” She flushed pink and bit her lip.

“Did you never go out when you were younger, before Finn?” The words left her mouth before Rachel even had a chance to think that maybe it wasn’t a question she should be asking. There was just so much about Quinn she was realizing she didn’t even know. Luckily for her, Quinn didn’t seem angry, just startled and regretful.

“I went with my dad and mom to a few parties, and my grandfather used to take me out sometimes,” she said, a faraway expression on her face. “But we always had our own cars and after a while…” She paused, and Rachel noticed the slight shiver. “Well, you know. After a while there wasn’t any need for me to go anywhere.”

Rachel nodded, and then said, hoping to bring a smile to the girl, “Why don’t we get that coffee now?”

She purposely hung back, letting Quinn go up to the counter first. Quinn looked back at her like a deer in the headlights, all wide-eyed and staring, and Rachel smiled. Quinn glanced up at the menu. Rachel caught the barista rolling her eyes and looking bored; Rachel waited until she had caught her gaze and glared at her. Immediately the barista stood up patiently; Rachel smirked.

“I think I’ll have that tea with the cinnamon… the chai,” Quinn finally said. The barista nodded and moved to charge the order, only for Quinn to stop her.

“Wait, wait. And… a cookie! One of those chocolate chip ones.” Quinn pointed to the little glass case. “Not that one, there’s not enough chocolate. That one… yes. That one. Please.”

Standing behind her, Rachel laughed. Quinn turned to her after paying the barista, looking a little hurt, and Rachel shook her head. Placing her hand on Quinn’s arm, she said, “Do you realize you just asked for exactly what you wanted? Not only that, but you knew exactly what you wanted?”

Quinn flushed an even deeper shade of pink, her hands trembling only slightly as she clutched the cookie in its little paper wrapper. “I… really like chocolate.”

Rachel smiled and moved to place her own order. “One salted caramel mocha, please.” She paid the barista, and then looked back at Quinn. “And I really like you.”

Quinn’s mouth dropped open a little and Rachel cleared her throat, feeling the heat rise to her cheek as she and the girl collected their drinks then sat back at the table where Rachel had been waiting before. Had she just… flirted? Yes, yes she had, Rachel decided, and felt like slapping herself. This was not what she was supposed to be doing.

But then Quinn offered a quiet “I like you, too,” and Rachel thought they were four of the most beautiful – and also confusing – words she’d ever heard.

“Do you really?”

Quinn tilted her head. “Yes? I thought that was obvious,  d-did I say something wrong, Miss Rachel?”

“No, no,” Rachel hastened to reassure her, taking a deep sip of her drink and sighing happily. “I just meant, well… I wasn’t sure you liked girls.”

It was probably a dumb thing to say; after all, hadn’t Quinn kissed her? But for Rachel, it all went back to the fact that Quinn wasn’t ready for a relationship – of any kind. Did Quinn kiss her because she liked her, or because she didn’t want to be alone? Still, the atmosphere around them was suddenly uncomfortable that Rachel wondered if she’d messed everything up.

“I was promised to a boy,” Quinn finally said, softly, not looking at Rachel but out of the window at the passersby. Her fingers traced the ridges of the sleeve wrapped around her coffee cup, almost reverently, as if she was touching the farthest reaches of her memory – and telling herself it was okay.

“I was promised to a boy, and even if I had told my parents that…” Quinn took a deep breath and looked at Rachel, hazel eyes meeting Rachel’s brown ones measure for measure. “Even if I had told them that when I was out with my grandfather I was always looking at the-the mistress who had a girl, and w-wondering what it would be like to be that girl, to be able to hug and kiss and love my Dominant…” Quinn shook her head. “My female Dominant… it wouldn’t have mattered. Girls in my family weren’t allowed to like girls, and even if we were, I was promised to a boy. So I didn’t tell.”

“That must have been lonely for you,” Rachel said gently.

Quinn smiled a little wryly. “I like girls, Miss Rachel. I like you.”

It didn’t escape Rachel’s notice that Quinn hadn’t really answered her observation; still, it wasn’t as if it was brand-new information. From what little details Rachel had gleaned from Quinn, her life had been lonely. Her grandfather was apparently the only bright spot, and that had been ripped away from her far too soon. It made Rachel’s heart ache.

“What about you?”

Rachel looked up. “Me?”

Quinn nodded. “What about you? I-I mean I think I know you like girls, and I know… some other things.”

“Oh really?” Rachel teased, one eyebrow raised. “And just what do you know about me?”

Quinn tilted her head, thinking. “I know apple slices are your favorite snack. I know that Funny Girl is your favorite musical. You have gay fathers; you have a dog named Arnie. You were in the choir in high school and everyone always got angry with you because you didn’t like to share your solos. You love to sing more than anything and you should be in New York right now but one of your daddies got sick and so you choose to stay in Lima and work for the government so you could be near him. I know that you love to cook, and your kitchen is to die for, and I know that you can barely reach the top shelves even when you stand on your toes, which is adorable.”

“Hey!” Rachel said, but she was grinning. There was a peculiar feeling in her chest, listening to Quinn rattle off everything. “You um… you really did listen to me while I was talking to you,” she said in a tone of wonder. “Even when you weren’t talking back to me, you listened.”

Quinn smiled, a genuine one this time, as she finished off her tea and slid the empty cup off to the side. “I should get another one of those,” she remarked, then said to Rachel, “I listened. I-I didn’t understand why this short little noisy girl wearing argyle wanted to talk to me but… I listened.”

“You’re one of the few people who do,” Rachel admitted, not even bothering to feel affronted at “short little noisy girl.” “Between my fathers, Jesse, and Lana, no one made it a habit to listen to me all that much.”

The cookie stilled on its way to Quinn’s mouth. “Lana?”

… crap. That wasn’t really the way Rachel had intended to bring her up. “She’s my former Domme,” Rachel said carefully. “A-and by that I mean… when I was seventeen years old part of my Dominant training was to submit for a week. Lana was the one chosen by my fathers for that week.”

“O-oh.” Quinn’s voice was quiet.

“And…” Rachel wasn’t sure if it was the best thing to do, but she knew that no relationship – friendship or otherwise – could stand if it wasn’t based on honesty. “We were lovers.”

She watched Quinn’s face suddenly become pinched and sharp, and Rachel sighed inwardly. She knew how it must sound, how it must seem. But there wasn’t much that Rachel could say; it had happened, starting when she was 18 and lasting only two years. But it had been enough to establish a lasting connection, one that she wouldn’t readily let go of.

“We’re not together anymore,” Rachel explained, hoping that bit of information would erase that look from Quinn’s face. “It would have never worked as an actual relationship; we’re both far too dominant for that to have been healthy. But she’s a very good friend, and a very important part of my life.” The last part was firm, a statement and not a request. She didn’t know where her relationship with Quinn was going to go, but Quinn needed to know that Rachel’s with Lana wasn’t going anywhere.

Quinn nodded; when she spoke, she sounded uncertain. “Is there anyone else you want to tell me about, Miss Rachel? In your past or… n-now?”

Rachel smiled a little at the girl’s fear. “No, sweetheart,” she said gently. “There’s no one.”

Quinn’s next reaction stunned her. She sat up straight in her chair and looked at Rachel. “Good,” she said resolutely.

Rachel raised her eyebrow again. She’d thought Quinn was uncertain and nervous, but… was she… jealous? Judging by the light blush that crept over her cheeks, Rachel had to fight back the urge to giggle. Yes. She was jealous.

It was cute, really; with anyone else Rachel probably would have bristled at the possessiveness. She was a Dominant, after all; no one could tell her what she was allowed to do or who she was allowed to see. But from Quinn… it felt secure. It felt good. It felt… almost as if she was claimed. Rachel nearly rolled her eyes at the absurdity of it, but was stopped by Quinn asking her a question.

“You have two dads… you’re adopted?”

It wasn’t an unexpected question, even if it did startle her a little bit. But it was nice, knowing that Quinn was taking an interest in her – even nicer than that she’d remembered Funny Girl was her favorite musical. She couldn’t even get Jesse to remember that, though she suspected it wasn’t that he didn’t remember, he just pretended to forget every time movie night rolled around. Rachel finished up the last of her coffee, keeping her eyes on Quinn as she explained.

Shelby Corcoran had also been promised to a boy at birth, but theirs was actually a successful, loving match. They complemented each other, yet another one of those couples that would grow old and grey together and probably would pass away minutes apart, because neither one of them would be able to bear living without the other. Shelby and her Dominant were content in their life, in their nice home and their comfortable jobs, in their love.

Rachel had been an accident.

Shelby’s Dominant worked with Rachel’s father Leroy, and when he had come in one day upset and concerned over how he and his submissive would care for a child that they’d never intended to have, Leroy had offered them a suggestion. He and Hiram had been discussing having a child for months, and were just about to initiate the adoption process. If, Leroy suggested, Shelby and her Dominant decided to give up the baby, perhaps Leroy and Hiram might be considered as fathers.

“They had dinner together a few times,” Rachel said, watching Quinn for any kind of negative reaction. Even in a society such as theirs where same-sex attraction was valued, there were always a few who longed for things to go back to “the way they were.” And given Quinn’s family… Rachel shook it off and continued.

“Eventually Shelby and her Dominant decided that the best thing would be for me to be adopted. I’m so glad they chose my daddies.”

Quinn smiled. “I’d like to meet them sometime,” she said softly.

“Maybe you will,” Rachel said, trying to stave off the wave of euphoria that coursed through her at the girl’s words.

“Did you ever meet Shelby and your father?”

Rachel winced and glanced at the window. It was rush-hour now; had she and Quinn been sitting at the coffee shop that long, just talking? It had only seemed like a few minutes. “Once,” she said, her voice thick with hurt. “I think Shelby regretted it, and so she found me. But when it turned out that I was a grown woman and not her baby…” She shrugged, laughing a little to play it off.

“I haven’t heard from her in a few years.”

“Her loss, Miss Rachel,” Quinn said, reaching out to grasp her hand and squeeze it.

Rachel squeezed back, but frowned a little. “Quinn, I need you to do something for me.”

She saw it, even as she was sure Quinn hadn’t known she was doing it. The tension that suddenly flowed into her body, the stiff way she sat in her chair. It was as if every muscle, every emotion in Quinn’s body was on high alert, even as she said “What, Miss Rachel?”

Rachel sighed inwardly. “I need you to stop calling me Miss Rachel. I want you to just call me Rachel.”

Quinn turned white, and immediately Rachel felt alarmed. The woman across from her clutched the edge of the table with both hands, as if she was trying to hold on for fear of drowning in whatever was rushing through her head at the moment.

“Quinn?”

“Why?”

“Because I’m not your Dominant,” Rachel said, wondering why it needed to be explained. Still, she kept the irritation out of her tone, because it was Quinn, and the last thing she wanted to do was upset her any more than she already seemed to be.

“I’m not your Dominant, and you and I are on equal footing right now, Quinn. You’re not a submissive, you’re not claimed, and there is no reason why you and I should not meet on common ground, without any terms of respect necessary.”

“No.”

Rachel stared in shock. “Excuse me?” She said with a blink, unable to keep the slight edge from her voice.

There was a terrified look in Quinn’s eyes at Rachel’s reaction, and she hastened to comfort her, but Quinn spoke first.

“I am a submissive,” she said, her voice wavering so that Rachel had to lean forward and listen close to understand her. “I-I am unclaimed, but I’m still who I am.” Quinn shook her head and Rachel’s heart dropped to see tears dotting her eyelashes. “Everything… everything is gone,” Quinn added quietly. “My routines, my schedules, my life, my- my Sir, even though…” She trailed off and shook her head again. “Everything’s gone, and I need to have… you have to give me that. At least that. Please, Rachel.

Quinn looked sick with the inflection she gave Rachel’s name, as if she felt like she’d just broken some hallowed rule that had left her damned where she sat, and Rachel’s best intentions went flying out the window into the warm Lima afternoon as she reached out and covered Quinn’s hand with her own.

“All right,” she said softly, and the relief was palpable. “All right.”

“Thank you,” Quinn said as she turned her hand over and locked her fingers with Rachel’s.

They sat there in the coffee shop, holding hands, until Rachel noticed that the barista was putting the chairs up to prepare for closing, and once again she marveled at how easily time passed when she was with Quinn. Pulling her hand away from the woman despite the disappointment she felt, she smiled at her.

“Would you like to walk with me a little ways before you take the taxi back home?”

Quinn nodded. “Back to Shannon’s.” The emphasis was clear, and Rachel’s smile faded a little.

“Back to Shannon’s,” she repeated, and held the door open for Quinn, who grinned at her surprise. “Chivalry is not dead, even among Dominants,” Rachel teased.

Quinn giggled. “And yet I always imagined myself as the knight,” she said, looking at Rachel with a piercing gaze. “Forever in the service of my lady, completely devoted, needing nothing but her banner, her claim.”

Rachel swallowed, scarcely able to breathe at the sudden rush of heat. “Y-you would make a very good knight,” she finally said, adding, “You would certainly look smashing in the armor.”

Quinn’s loud burst of laughter was like music to Rachel’s ears as they walked along downtown Lima. She watched as Quinn looked up at the sky, and sighed happily. “I love it here,” she said, “Outside. I love the birds.”

“The birds?” Rachel asked.

She smiled to herself as Quinn told her of the day before, wheeling herself to therapy and then outside on the grass with Noah. How she had marveled at and envied the birds, at the freedom they had to fly anywhere and everywhere. But yet they always chose to come back home, because what awaited them was far better than anything anywhere else.

“I want to be like that, Miss Rachel,” Quinn stated, glancing at Rachel. “I want to know that I can be free if I want it, but I don’t want it because what’s waiting for me at home is so much better.”

It was so much that Rachel couldn’t help but stop and turn to Quinn to hug her, to hold her close. “You’ll find your home,” she whispered into Quinn’s ear. “I promise you, Quinn, someday you’ll find your home.”

And as Quinn dared to kiss her cheek and both of them separated, blushing, Rachel was becoming even more aware of just where she wanted Quinn’s home to be.

Chapter Text

There were numbers for everything and everyone that Quinn Fabray could possible need, including three theaters, on her new phone.

There was also Angry Birds, which she was perfectly willing to blame for the fact that it took her an hour and a half to text Rachel back after her “Good morning :)” message. It felt a little strange, when she realized it, that she didn’t feel panicked as she normally did when she took so long to do something. But that was probably because when she texted back a hello and an apology (blaming the game) for being delayed, all she got back was another smiley, and a cheerful “Hope you’re having fun!” What little uncertainty Quinn had had vanished with that response, replaced with a warm feeling that maybe, just maybe, sometimes it was okay to do things on her own time.

But now, the game aside, Quinn sat staring at her contacts list, or, more importantly, at those three theater numbers. Her thumb settled over one, labeled Lima Playhouse, and she pressed it, then the call button.

Two rings, then, “Lima Playhouse?”

Quinn hung up.

She tried the next number. And hung up as soon as they answered.

Quinn sighed and got up from the couch in Shannon’s living room, where she’d been lounging around, and began to pace the floor. Miss Rachel had done so much for her, Quinn thought. She wanted to do something in return, and not only that but she wanted to see her again. It had been two days since she’d seen Miss Rachel. She’d told Quinn she had to do some travelling for SETS, a seminar she needed to attend. And though Quinn knew Miss Rachel had a job to do, it didn’t stop her from feeling a little lost in her absence. Quinn had spent the time watching television and going to her therapies at the House. She’d talk to Shannon in the evenings when they had dinner, but as much as they shared in common, it still wasn’t the same as being with Miss Rachel. Quinn had yet to venture back out into town, even though Shannon had let it slip that they were running low on food supplies. That had made Quinn feel guilty, even as Shannon had hastened to explain that she was just trying to help Quinn go out, not that she blamed her for anything.

The one bright spot had been last night’s phone call before bed; Rachel had called her to let her know she’d be home the following day, finally. Quinn had lain in her bed with the cell phone pressed to her ear, smiling at Rachel’s quiet questions. Had she been taking care of herself? Had she been eating enough? Was Shannon being good to her? Did she talk anymore to Noah? And then her gentle laughter when Quinn had turned the questions back on her. Both of them had reassured the other that yes, they were taking care of themselves… and yes, they missed each other.

So Quinn wanted to do something when Rachel came back the next day, to show her that she had missed her, and that she was glad she’d come home. And she knew Rachel loved the theater, so…

It was time for her to plan a date. But there would be no planning, and no date, if Quinn couldn’t even talk to a stranger on the other end of the line.

She stared once more at the phone, before selecting a number, and dialing.

“Hey, little Q, what’s up?” There was some shuffling, then Ask her if she’s okay in the background, and Quinn smiled. “You okay?”

“I’m all right, but I do need your help.”

“Ooh, if it’s help you need, I’m your man. Toilet stopped up? Creepy attic needing exploring? Any assholes from a former life that maybe need tracking down and—“

“Noah Puckerman-St. James.”

That was Jesse, and Quinn giggled.

“Sorry, Sir. Really though, Quinn, what’s up?”

“I need to know about theaters in Lima.”

“… Sir? I think you better take this one.” She could hear Jesse chuckling, then a sound as if Noah’s phone was put on speaker. “I don’t know anything about the theaters except Sir and I went with Rachel a couple times, like I told you. I never pay attention to what’s showing; I just know that we have to get front row seats because Rachel gets cranky if someone tall sits in front of her.”

“She could always sit on my lap if that happens.” The words were out before she could even think, and Quinn clamped her mouth shut. Stupid, she told herself. Stupid, stupid, she’s not even your Mistress.

There was a pause, and then Jesse’s voice came over the phone, dry and amused. “She could indeed. Quinn, why the sudden interest in theaters? She didn’t put numbers in your phone, did she?”

“Yes?”

“Ah, as she did when she picked up mine one day. Sneaky girl, our Rachel.”

Quinn turned pink at “our,” and said quickly, “I want to take her on a date. To the theater. But I.. I don’t…” She trailed off.

How did you tell a Dominant – a male Dominant – that you didn’t know how to do something? Those words had never been good for her; they’d never gotten her anything more but a slap and a disgusted “Well you’d better learn.” But there wasn’t really any way for her to learn; Sir didn’t allow her on the internet and it wasn’t like she could call up her mother and father to ask them. That would have been awkward enough if all contact with them hadn’t been virtually cut off the minute she turned sixteen.

Russell and Judy Fabray had also been an arranged claim. Their pairing, however, had been a little later than Quinn’s; Russell Fabray had wanted to establish himself in the business world first, as his father had done before him, and so he finally claimed Judy when he was twenty-three. By all accounts theirs was a good match, at least in public. Judy was classy and graceful; Russell stern and proud, always ready with a smile and a glass in his hand. When Quinn was born, she was paraded in the parties and in town as the product of how “old society” worked, and was better. She was the perfect example of arranged claims done right.

But away from the parties, Quinn had grown up as a shy little girl in the stifling air of the Fabray household. Her father was loving and firm with his submissive when they were out of the public eye, but in the privacy of their home, he was indifferent at best, and cold at the worst. Judy drowned her sorrows in the alcohol that her husband kept readily available for his clients, and Quinn was fairly certain her mother suffered for that transgression once the bedroom doors were closed.  But in the mornings her mother would put on a brave face, even as she moved a little stiffly, and told Quinn how wonderful it would be when she was in the arms of her own Sir.

Quinn had doubted it, and now, she knew her instincts had been right.

Finn had gradually taken away her contact with her parents; she had initially called them once every few days to catch up, though her father would immediately hand the phone to her mother after a few cursory pleasantries, and her mother always seemed to be in a hurry to fix dinner, or get to a social gathering, or anything that would let her hang up the phone as quickly as possible. But Quinn needed to call, needed that last tenuous hold on the life she’d left behind, even if it had been less than ideal. Finn, however, seemed to have different ideas, and every weekend or holiday she was to spend with her parents, something always came up and she was to remain at home. Finally, the opportunities to see them had just faded away… and her parents never made the effort.

The last time she tried to call was that night.

“You don’t know how to set it up.”

Quinn turned her attention back to Jesse, whose voice was soft and understanding. She nodded, and then rolled her eyes. He wouldn’t be able to see that.

“Yes. I mean no, no, I don’t. Can you… help me?”

She felt the panic rising up within her, and Quinn clenched her hand, not holding the phone, against the heat that began to course down her upper arms, the signal that she knew all too well. Her jaw was tight and she clutched hard to the phone with her other hand, waiting for what she knew would inevitably come. Because it always came: derision, laughter, irritation, anger.

“Of course I can help you.”

Quinn blinked. Well, that was unexpected. “You can?” she said, wanting to be sure. Maybe it was a trick, some kind of trap designed to lure her into a false sense of security.

“As I said, of course I can. Why don’t you and I meet somewhere and we can discuss options?”

And there it was. The snare, the net, the cage. Maybe he was one of those Dominants that wanted another pet; Si- Finn had often hinted that he wanted another, someone who was “easier to live with.” Then again, he’d also told Quinn that she could be replaced. She felt that familiar dread within her, that waking moment when she’d lay in bed and wonder was this it, the day she’d be out on the street with nothing and no one to protect her?

It was strange, Quinn thought briefly, as she began to stutter out her objections, that in the end, she had walked into the street with nothing, and no one to protect her.

“N-no, that’s all right, I’ll figure it out, I-I’ll just call and ask and m-maybe the theater people will—“

“Hey, little Q,” Noah interrupted. “Do you like ice cream?”

Quinn furrowed her brow. “Yes?”

“Cool, so do I. And Sir promised I could have ice cream after I finally learned that Fiddler On the Roof isn’t a metal album. Hey, maybe I do know something about musicals. Anyway, why don’t we go get some ice cream? You, me, Sir? In the park? Public place, and we can talk about these big plans you have to sweep Rachel off her feet.”

“I don’t know…” Quinn said slowly.

“It’s a public park, Quinn,” Jesse responded gently. “There are usually quite a lot of people around this time of day, and I assure you that neither Noah nor I will keep you from going home if you want to. Also ice cream cones.”

“Ice cream is good,” Quinn found herself giggling. She took a deep breath. Could she trust him? She’d been with Noah and that was nice, but… Noah was submissive too. He could probably do whatever he wanted to Quinn just as easily as Jesse, but…

“What time do you want to meet?”

The taxi this time was easier, especially since Quinn remembered to pay the driver, and accept her change back. That didn’t extend to her actually conversing with him on the ride over to the park; he’d given up after the first five questions were met with just a stare. She probably was being rude to him, Quinn knew, but she didn’t know him, and he wasn’t Miss Rachel, so she wasn’t obligated to answer him.

It was strange, being out and about in Lima. Quinn had grown up here, had spent her entire life here, and yet she didn’t even know the city. She looked around the park; not seeing Jesse or Noah yet, she sat on a bench nearest the pond, feeling a little nervous. She smiled at the children who darted this way and that, playing ball and yelling back and forth to each other. What would their lives be like in a few years, she wondered. Would they be bent and broken, as she was, or would they stand straight and (fairly, if she was wearing heels) tall like Miss Rachel? Their parents, those were the ones that gave Quinn the most pause. It was interesting that she couldn’t really pick up on who was in their respective roles: the man who ran his fingers through the woman’s hair as she rested her head on his lap, reading from a book; the woman who gripped another’s hand tightly as they walked along the periphery of the pond, both of them smiling warmly at Quinn as they passed. She returned the smile, only to have it fade as a man passed by her with a curt nod. She shivered a little.

It had taken her a couple of days to stop looking over her shoulder. The day she’d been brought to the House, after the hospital had released her, two people employed by the council had come to see her. They’d sat as Rachel had, trying to ask her questions, trying to force her to answer, thinking if they spoke louder the answers would come. They hadn’t, and when Beiste had seen Quinn’s arms wrapped around herself, the girl shaking violently in her chair, she’d sent them away. They meant well, Quinn knew, in spite of everything, but she thought they’d have sent her back to Him. After that, every new person who had come into the House she was convinced had been sent by Him. Every time the phone rang, she was sure it was Him, calling to have her brought home.

It had taken days for her to realize that she wasn’t going back. And even longer for her to realize that he was no longer Him. Every time she had thought of him in the past, each day that she rose and slept again under the rules that he had established, every detail that she had gotten wrong no matter how hard she tried, every blow of the whip that he kept stowed in a trunk in the bedroom, he had always been mentally capitalized, the God of His home and of her life. He was Sir and she was… words that stuck in her throat and hurt her chest. He was Lord and Master and she was little, and only now with Rachel’s quiet “little one” uttered with affection, or Noah’s “little Q” offered with a smirk and a wink, was Quinn realizing that that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. He was him, and she… she was Quinn.

She heard her name, then, and she glanced up to see Noah headed her way with Jesse following beside. She flexed her fingers in and out, and jumped a little when her phone vibrated, signifying a text. She quickly opened it.

I bought you a present! I can’t wait to give it to you!

It made her feel a little guilty, amid the excitement of a present from Miss Rachel. She’d already given Quinn so much… but the date, Quinn thought as she stood up to greet Noah. The date would be her way of saying thank you.

“Hey, Quinn,” Noah said easily. He grinned and nudged her a little. “Look at you, no chair. That’s awesome.”

Quinn blushed a little. “I-I still can’t walk for long periods of time, I might have to sit down…”

“Then sit down we will,” Jesse said with a smile. “You look positively radiant, Quinn. Please wear green all the time, it ma—“

“Matches my eyes, I know,” Quinn said, and then froze. Oh no, she’d interrupted him. Would he be angry? Please don’t yell at me, she thought, as she added hastily, “Miss Rachel said that, she picked out a lot of green things for me to choose from while we were shopping…”

If it was possible, Jesse’s smile only grew wider as he surveyed Quinn in her light green dress, the small hair clip holding back one side of her hair. “It’s good to see that Rachel has taste in clothes, or, well, someone else’s, at least.” He must’ve seen Quinn’s eyes flash because he laughed, throwing his head back. “I’m teasing, I promise. Rachel’s style is unique, and completely her own.”

“I’m still not sure that’s a compliment,” Quinn muttered, but she was so relieved that Jesse wasn’t angry at her that she decided to let it go.

“Shall we walk?” Jesse said, offering his arm to Quinn, Noah taking his place on her other side. When she started to walk without accepting it, he pulled some brochures out of his back pocket without missing a beat. “I brought the brochures for the theaters that you have in your phone; it has lists of everything that’s playing this year. We should be able to decide on what Rachel would most like to see, using these.”

Quinn nodded. “Thank you. So you think she’d… she’d like to go to the theater with me?”

Jesse looked at her; once again his eyes were kind. “My dear Quinn, I think Rachel would be over the moon just to stand in the same room as you.”

“You’re such a sap, Sir,” Noah groaned. “Let me translate for you, Q: she’ll love it. Not because it’s the theater, but because it’s the theater with you.”

“Now who’s the sap?” Jesse said, sticking his tongue out at his sub. “I’ve rubbed off on you.”

“Oh, I’d like you t—“

“So, those brochures?” Quinn held out her hand, and Jesse gave them to her with a wink. It didn’t unsettle her as much as it should have; she wasn’t worried about what people would think as she walked through the park flanked by two men. If anything, it gave her even more protection; even in a progressive society like Lima, men were treated with far more deference than women, and so most people wouldn’t have thought twice about Quinn walking with Noah and Jesse. And besides, there was always that casual, exciting dance of the unclaimed waiting to be claimed, a world of first glances and smiles, first kisses and first dates. All leading up to that blissful moment of knowing someone was yours, and you were theirs. No doubt if anyone did look twice at Quinn, they’d think her extremely lucky, to either have two subs, or be one of two.

“I don’t… know what all of these are,” Quinn confessed quietly, staring down at the lists of show names she held in her hands. “I don’t know if Miss Rachel would like any of them…”

“As I said, I think she’ll be quite happy with anything you choose, simply because you are the one who did the choosing. But might I make a suggestion?” Jesse asked.

Quinn nodded, and Jesse pointed to one of the names in the brochure.

“Wicked?” She’d heard of it, Quinn thought, a long time ago when she was still at home. Something about it being the new big thing. Maybe it had been on the news that she’d watched while keeping an eye on Judy, passed out drunk on the sofa.

“One of Rachel’s favorites. It’s a pity Funny Girl isn’t on tour at the moment, but perhaps one day you two can go to New York and see it. Wicked is a good introduction to the world of musicals, and something Rachel knows far too much about, and she’ll be only too willing to share every single tiny detail with you until you are absolutely bored with it.”

“I don’t think I could ever be bored listening to her talk,” Quinn said softly, her head reeling. Wicked… Funny Girl… New York? Would she ever get to go to New York… one day? And with Miss Rachel? Jesse seemed to think so. Quinn blinked, realizing she had been staring at him with wide eyes.

“Now all that’s needed is for you to call,” Jesse pointed out. His smile to her was confident, reassuring.

Quinn paused for a moment, then pulled out her phone and dialed.

“Lima Playhouse?”

She took a deep breath. “I’d like to reserve two tickets for a show, please.” She didn’t have a credit card, but Jesse waved his at her, nodding when she promised to pay him back.

Minutes later she hung up the phone, giggling a little when Jesse and Noah whooped in triumph, clapping their hands. She’d done it. She’d just set up a date for herself and Miss Rachel. It made her stand up a little straighter, walk a little better. She couldn’t wait until Miss Rachel found out what she’d done.

“Noah,” Jesse said suddenly, leaning slightly across her to address his submissive. “Are you feeling well, pet? You’ve completely let us forget about the ice cream.”

“I didn’t forget, Sir,” Noah said with a shrug. “But it seemed like working out the musicals thing for Rachel and Quinn was more important.”

“Hmm,” Jesse hummed. “I might just have to take your temperature when we get home.” Quinn saw Noah roll his eyes; luckily Jesse grinned. “Why don’t you go get ice cream for us while Quinn and I talk?” Quinn tensed, wanting to grab onto Noah, but he was already moving away.

“What kind of ice cream do you want, Quinn?” he asked.

“I-I… vanilla,” Quinn said, and Noah quirked an eyebrow as he walked off, backwards.

“Huh, nobody around here really likes vanilla. But okay, back in a second, Sir!”

He turned around, and Quinn was left alone with Noah’s dominant. Her hands shook a little.

Jesse regarded her carefully. “Public park, Quinn,” he reminded her, but there was no trace of anger or frustration in his voice. “We’re just two friends, two good friends – two best friends, you’ll get that after you see the show – who are walking and talking. That’s all, and you’re free to go whenever you like.”

Quinn hesitated, still watching after Noah, before nodding. “All right.”

They walked in silence for a few minutes before Quinn felt herself growing tired. She’d been on her feet since Noah and Jesse had arrived, and now she was feeling the strain. “I think I need to sit down…”

“Of course.” Jesse led her back over to the bench she’d sat on earlier, and then sat down beside her.  He was quiet, and then said, “Rachel seems to be quite taken with you.”

Quinn smiled a little. “I’m… quite taken with Miss Rachel.”

“I believe one can see that easily by the way your eyes light up when you say her name,” Jesse said with a smile, but his next words were serious. “I worry about Rachel.”

“W-worry? Why?”

“Rachel is a very strong person,” Jesse said, looking as if he was choosing his words as wisely as he could. “She’s had to be, with her father’s illness, and her biological mother toying with her feelings the way she did. But she’s also very susceptible to hurt and becoming overwhelmed with her emotions. Luckily she had Lana to help with—oh but you don’t know about Lana…” Jesse stopped, looking suddenly annoyed with himself.

“I do, actually,” Quinn said. “Miss Rachel told me about her. That Lana trained her, and that they were… lovers.”

“Were,” Jesse reiterated, relief on his face that he hadn’t told Rachel’s secret. “But yes, Lana helped her with that, but sometimes Rachel still wants everything too much and she’s easily… hurt. I don’t want to see that happen to her.”

“I-I don’t want that to happen either.” There was a sick feeling in the pit of Quinn’s stomach. Was he going to take Rachel away from her? Forbid Rachel to see her, or forbid her to see Rachel? She wouldn’t let him do that, Quinn suddenly decided. He wasn’t going to tell her that she couldn’t see her Miss Rachel.

Her Miss Rachel…

“I’d do anything to keep from hurting her.”

“I don’t want to see you hurt either,” Jesse said, and Quinn’s eyes widened in surprise. “Not that I think Rachel would consciously hurt you, but you’ve been through so much, Quinn. Things that no one ever deserves to go through, and if I could find him right now and punch him without messing up my hair I would.” Quinn snorted in spite of herself, and Jesse grinned at her.

“Both of you deserve much happiness, and if it’s meant to be the two of you together, then it’s meant to be. But Quinn, please be careful, for Rachel’s sake and yours. You’re only just discovering what you want, and there’s so much of the world for you and Rachel to find separately and together before you jump into something that has the potential to hurt you both.”

Quinn nodded slowly. “I-I know,” she said.

“And listen; if you two do end up together please… tell her argyle gives you headaches. Or that you’re allergic to bows. Something. Anything. I’m begging you.”

She couldn’t help but laugh then, and Jesse joined her, as Noah came up with the ice creams and a confused look. She felt easy, light, as they sat together on a bench at a public park in Lima, listening to the birds and enjoying ice cream cones.

She felt free.

And she couldn’t wait for Miss Rachel to come home.

Chapter Text

Rachel parked her car in the lot, and practically skipped up the walk towards Shannon’s little home behind McKinley House. Ever since she’d come home from the seminar that morning she’d felt like she’d been walking on air. Then again, that may have started the night before, when Quinn called and asked her out on a date.

Rachel had always thought she’d be the one to ask Quinn out on a date. It would be romantic, possibly in the park. They’d walk together around the pond, hand in hand, not saying anything but simply being together. And from her research Rachel would know that the sun would set at exactly 5:39 p.m., and she’d watch the sky for the first blush of pink to appear before she would turn to Quinn with a soft smile on her face and ask the perfect question, at the perfect moment.

“Quinn Fabray, will you go out with me?”

Not that she’d been thinking about it, or planning it, of course.

And ordinarily if anyone had beaten her to the punch and disrupted her carefully not-planned romantic gesture, she would be upset. But the quiet, nervous and halting way in which Quinn had asked her, just before they’d said good night…

“Miss Rachel, I w-was wondering if you’d m-maybe like to go out on a-a date with me…”

That trailing off, that soft uncertainty, of being so unsure of herself and what she thought Rachel might feel... Rachel had found herself saying yes, yes, absolutely, of course, without even a second thought to her own plans and sense of melodrama. Quinn had cast the line in her own way and Rachel was hooked. Not only was she hooked but she was sunk, because Quinn had sounded so relieved, so shyly proud of herself when she’d refused to tell Rachel where they were going, only saying that she’d fixed everything already and Rachel only needed to wear something casual but comfortable, and would she please mind picking Quinn up?

So there was a present wrapped in white and tied with a green ribbon waiting in the car, and Rachel was wearing a pair of checkered shorts under a black top, with knee-high black boots to match, her heart was fluttering wildly as she knocked on the door to pick up her date.

But it was Shannon who answered the door, not Quinn, and she grinned at Rachel. “Before I let you in, I must ask you, what are your intentions with my houseguest?”

Rachel raised an eyebrow, and Shannon laughed, throwing the door open wider. “Come on in, Miss Berry, Quinn’s been running around the house all morning a nervous wreck waiting for you.”

“I have not.”

Rachel turned and the heart that had been fluttering skipped a beat. It amazed her how in even jeans and a shirt Quinn could look beautiful, but this time she’d done her hair up instead of letting it fall on her shoulders, and somehow she looked even more breathtaking than usual. She smiled at Rachel, a light blush on her cheeks as Rachel simply couldn’t stop staring.

“Do you like it?”

“Oh, I adore it,” Rachel said. She moved forward and wrapped her arms around Quinn in a hug.

“I’m so glad you’re back. I missed you, Miss Rachel.”

She’d missed her too; it had surprised Rachel just how much. She was used to being alone, at her home and in the hotels for seminars, and it hadn’t ever bothered her, not much at least. She had her albums and Arnie, her TV shows and Jesse and Noah, her dads. But then Quinn had come into her life and made a home in a little piece of Rachel’s heart, and now the house seemed too big, the hotels dirty and lonely, and the albums of love and longing had taken on even more meaning.

It wasn’t that during the few days she was gone she thought about Quinn constantly; she had a job to do and it was easy enough for Rachel to get distracted even without Quinn in the picture. But if she didn’t actively think about her except when calling, texting, or buying her gift, Quinn was still ever-present in the back of her mind, a quiet safety or security that was almost like the bracelet Rachel wore around her wrist.

Twice during the seminar when she was supposed to be paying attention, Rachel had found herself playing with it, and wondering what it would be like to switch it to the other side.

Rachel let Quinn go and smiled at her. “I missed you too. Don’t you want to tell me where we’re going?”

Quinn pretended to consider it, and Rachel nearly rolled her eyes; this one had a bit of the brat in her, apparently. “Nope,” Quinn finally said, sounding merry. “You’ll find out soon enough, Miss Rachel. But we should go so we’re not late.”

“Late for what?”

“Nice try.”

“Have her home by midnight!” Shannon called after them, and Rachel shook her head, but couldn’t help but laugh when Quinn did.

Rachel held open the passenger door for Quinn then made her way around to the driver’s side, grinning a little when she climbed in and saw Quinn eyeing the present. “That’s for after our date,” she said, and this time did roll her eyes when Quinn pouted. “Good things come to those who wait, Quinn.”

“I think I’ve waited long enough…”

Rachel glanced over, and moved her right hand off the steering wheel to rest on Quinn’s knee. It was sobering, really, how quickly a happy moment could be overshadowed by him, like a spectre that they couldn’t stop from hanging over them. She briefly wondered if the evil that was Finn Hudson would always be there, or if they’d ever make it past him.

“But you know,” Quinn added, her own hand coming to rest on top of Rachel’s, “Some things are worth waiting a lifetime for.”

“When did you get so romantic, Quinn Fabray?” Rachel teased, relief flooding her.

Quinn smiled. “Right around the time I met you, I think,” she said. “Please turn left here, Miss Rachel.”

It was cute, the way she framed her requests; Rachel could tell by the slight way Quinn’s hand clutched the car door that she wasn’t fully comfortable still, with asking things or giving “orders.” But there was also a determined look on her face, as if she was going over the directions in her head, focused on getting them to wherever they were going successfully.  And that only made Rachel more eager to know exactly where they were going.

“So you had a good time at the park the other day with Jesse and Noah?” Rachel asked, keeping her eyes on the road while remaining hyper-aware of Quinn’s fingers lightly curling around the hand on her knee.

“I did, yes, Miss Rachel,” Quinn nodded. “I think… I don’t know, I- he-“

Rachel glanced at her. “Quinn?”

“Jesse’s a good Dominant,” Quinn blurted suddenly, then chewed her lower lip. “He… he’s really good. Turn right here.”

This was the same route Rachel took when… hmm. The excitement grew a little bit stronger within her; could it be that Quinn had… But she pulled her thoughts away from their date and back to the words the woman next to her had spoken. She’d said it with so much wonder, such surprise, and it pained Rachel to think of just how much Quinn expected every Dominant she came into contact with to be like her former one. But it was worse when the person was male, because it was a man who had inflicted every inch of pain on her body and every flicker of hurt into her heart. For Quinn to start realizing that maybe, just maybe not every male Dominant was a bad one… Rachel felt that peculiar warm feeling again, and she turned her hand over, locking her fingers with Quinn.

“He really loves Noah.”

“He really does,” Rachel agreed. She paused, and then added, “It’s amazing how beautiful our lives can be when we have someone to really love us.”

Quinn nodded with a small smile, and then her eyes lit up. “We’re here, Miss Rachel.”

Rachel’s mouth dropped open as the theater came into view. The marquee for Wicked seemed to shine like diamonds in the afternoon sun, and if she hadn’t been driving she would’ve clapped her hands like a child in her excitement. “Wicked?” she exclaimed. “We’re going to see Wicked?”

Quinn’s smile grew as she watched Rachel in amusement. “Yes. Jesse helped me decide and I ordered the tickets…”

“But how did you know I love the theater?”

“You… put the numbers in my phone.”

“Well, yes, but I wasn’t hinting or anything.”

Quinn raised an eyebrow at Rachel.

Rachel shivered a little. “… Are you sure you’re not Dominant, because that eyebrow.”

“Do you know where to park?” Quinn asked, laughing a little.

“Of course I do,” Rachel said with a huff, still scarcely able to believe that Quinn had been able to pull all of it off. Mixed in with the excitement was no small amount of pride, that Quinn had orchestrated the whole thing without much help. Still, she’d have to give Jesse a high-five later; he always knew exactly what Rachel liked even if he pretended not to.

Rachel parked on the upper deck and turned the car off, moving to exit but stopped, because Quinn was rooted to her seat and now clinging to her hand. Rachel’s brow furrowed in confusion before it cleared with the realization. Quinn may have organized their date, ordered the tickets and gotten them here successfully, but the parking deck was full. Which meant a full theater, which meant a lot of people, which meant… terrified Quinn. Rachel shut the car door and turned towards her, holding her hand gently.

“You didn’t have to do this,” she said quietly. “We could have had a picnic somewhere, or played board games at Shannon’s. This is a lot for you to take on, Quinn.”

“I-I know,” Quinn stuttered, her voice shaky, “But I wanted to. You like the theater and I… I like you. You’ve been so good to me, Miss Rachel; I wanted to do something good for you. But I’m scared.”

“And that’s okay.” Rachel sat in the car, silent for a moment, before finally saying, “How about this. We’ll go in and have a look around, and if we decide we want to stay we can. I’ll be right there with you, and I’m not going to be upset if you can’t do it. All right?”

“You promise you won’t be mad, Miss Rachel?”

Rachel squeezed Quinn’s hand. “I could never get mad at you for that. And like I said, I’ll be right there with you. I know you can do it.”

Quinn hesitated, and then nodded. “Okay. I really do want to see it. From the description it sounds as if Elphaba isn’t evil, only misunderstood.”

“Keep talking like that and I might fall in love with you.”

“Did you know that the Clock of the Time Dragon’s wingspan is the same as a Cessna 172?”

“Stop it.”

Quinn giggled and fell into step with Rachel as they walked towards the front of the theater. They paused at the ticket counter, and Quinn swallowed hard, taking a deep breath.

“Two tickets, reserved under Quinn Fabray.”

A second went by as the man pulled up their account, then handed the tickets to them with a smile. Rachel beamed at Quinn, who grinned back.

Once at the door, Rachel stopped and looked at Quinn. She held out her hand, saying nothing, only smiling.

Quinn took her hand, and they walked into the theater together.

Instantly Rachel felt at home. The theater was swamped, but these were her people, her family in addition to her dads and Jesse and Noah. It was where she felt whole, complete. It was where she knew she belonged. She’d spent her life preparing for a life in New York, to be a Broadway star bolstered by her talent and the love of the submissive that would be waiting for her after every show. She’d been accepted to one of the premier drama schools just prior to graduating from Lima Academy, and Rachel Berry knew her star was on the rise.

And then her dad had gotten sick.

Hiram Berry’s illness hadn’t been fatal, and both Rachel and her other father had thanked God about that, but it was enough to keep him out of work for almost a year, and since Leroy Berry couldn’t quit his job to care for his husband, the task had fallen on Rachel. Well, she’d actually volunteered, refusing to even entertain the idea of some strange nurse coming in to care for her father. As a spoiled only child doted on by her daddies, Rachel had felt it only fair – and necessary – that she stay behind and temporarily postpone her dreams of going to New York.

Her father hadn’t been sick again ever since his illness had faded away, but Rachel’s New York dreams had been postponed ever since. Jesse had helped find her a job within the government, and now Rachel’s life was wrapped around SETS.

So she craved every chance she got to go to the theater in Lima, or occasionally to a show in Columbus. For a few short hours it was a chance to immerse herself back in that life, to imagine what if. What if she was in New York? What if she was just finishing up a show, and was opening the door to her dressing room to find Quinn there, kneeling in wait for her?

She felt Quinn’s hand tighten in hers and Rachel came back to the present, pulling the woman slightly closer to her. “You’re all right,” she reassured gently. “No one’s going to hurt you, I wouldn’t let them.” Quinn nodded at her, her face pinched and white as her eyes darted here and there, looking at everyone and everything before finally settling on one of the souvenir counters.

“Do you want to go look?” Rachel asked. “You might find something you like.”

Quinn gasped, her eyes widening. “I forgot to bring money,” she said, sounding heartbroken.

“Hey, that’s all right,” Rachel soothed, hating the way Quinn’s eyes were tearing up. “I can buy my own souvenirs, and I tell you what, if you want anything, I can get it and you can pay me back, okay?”

Quinn chewed her lip, seeming uncertain, but she nodded. Rachel walked them over to the souvenir counter, her own eyes wide with green and pink, the Grimmerie, snow globes, the Emerald City glasses…

The Emerald City glasses. Quinn was staring at them, an excited grin on her face, and Rachel fought back a giggle. Out of all the things, the sunglasses were what captured her interest? She poked Quinn’s arm lightly.

“Do you want those?”

“No, that’s all right, I forgot to bring money.”

Quinn rolled her eyes as Rachel turned to the woman behind the counter and said “One pair Emerald City glasses, please, thank you.”

“You look adorable,” Rachel said, once she’d made Quinn try them on. “My little Ozian.”

Quinn took the glasses off and looked at Rachel, her gaze searching. “Your little Ozian?”

“Yes, well. Ahem.” Rachel cleared her throat, feeling awkward, but was saved by the gentle tone sounding through the lobby that told them it was nearly show time. “We should find our seats!”

It didn’t take them long, because Quinn had reserved them fourth row seats, and Rachel was absolutely not ashamed that she squealed when she discovered this. Still, her happiness was short-lived (and she’d forever hate that pun, thank you very much) when she sat down and realized that the person immediately in front of her would prevent, by virtue of his ample height, any good view of the stage. She sighed and rested her elbow on the arm of the chair, leaning her chin on her hand.

“Miss Rachel?” Quinn said, glancing at her. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothing,” Rachel said, and then waved her other hand in the general direction of the man in front of her. “I’ll just have a nice muscle strain after this is over from attempting to see the stage.” She offered Quinn a small smile, hoping that she wasn’t sounding ungrateful. “I’m perfectly used to it, being five-foot-two does have its disadvantages.”

Quinn nodded, looking from Rachel to the stage to the man, then back at Rachel again. “You could um… no, never mind, it’s stupid.”

“I could what?”

“Sit on my lap? T-that way you could see, and I’m taller so I’d be able to see just fine too, and… but it’s a dumb idea.”

It was cute, the way Quinn sat nervously with her hands in her lap, a few loose tendrils of hair falling into her face and making her look even more gorgeous than she already did, if that was possible, Rachel thought. But she also thought that this wasn’t the way things were done. Dominants weren’t supposed to sit in the laps of their submissives – but wait, Quinn wasn’t even hers. So maybe… she glanced at the back of the head of the person in front of her, then over at Quinn.

In seconds she had moved over and was sitting in Quinn’s lap.

“O-oh,” Quinn said, startled, slowly moving her hands up so that her arms wrapped around Rachel’s waist, holding loosely. “Are you… comfortable, Miss Rachel?”

“Very,” Rachel said, taking a deep breath and relaxing so that she leaned back against Quinn. She felt Quinn’s chin come to rest on her shoulder, and Rachel smiled, once again feeling warm and happy. She opened her mouth to speak when a sarcastic voice at her left stopped her.

“Don’t you need to get into costume, munchkin?”

Rachel tensed in spite of herself, in spite of being so used to these jokes. She’d been called worse, during her time at the Academy; if it hadn’t been for Jesse she wouldn’t have had any friends at all, really. She knew they all envied her talent, her ability to make jaws drop and eyes water with a simple note sung with power at the end of a song. Her classmates showed their jealousy with insults about her height or whatever else they could think of, and despite her best efforts to not let it bother her, some days were easier than others.

“Sir, I think you might want to be quiet so that you’re not asked to leave.”

Rachel craned her neck around to look at Quinn in shock. Quinn’s eyes were dark with anger as she regarded the man that had spoken rudely to Rachel.

“Oh, really, and why is that?” he sneered.

“Because,” Quinn said calmly, “As you can see, there are children here, so no dicks are allowed.”

Rachel nearly choked as the man turned almost purple with rage, before finally turning around and focusing his gaze back on the screen. She began to shake with the effort of trying not to laugh out loud, and shivered when she heard Quinn’s voice in her ear, low and uneven.

“Have I displeased you, my lady?”

She should warn Quinn against calling her that. She shouldn’t be thinking about Quinn as the knight who had just defended her honor. But Rachel was helpless to do anything except shake her head no, because Quinn sounded so nervous and worried, so she said with a little giggle, “You’ve been around Noah too long.”

“Maybe,” Quinn said, “But you need protecting, too.”

“And you’ll be the one to do that?”

There was a pause of what seemed to be an eternity, before Quinn at last said, her voice down to a whisper, “I want to be.”

The fanfare of No One Mourns the Wicked saved Rachel from once again disappearing too far into her own thoughts, and the excited way in which Quinn clutched her only made her own excitement grow stronger. Rachel had seen the show many times, and knew all the lines by heart, especially Elphaba’s, since it had long been her dream to someday play her on the stage, and so she was able to concentrate more on Quinn’s reactions. She was happy that Quinn laughed in the right places, applauded after all the songs, and it seemed to Rachel that it was natural for the woman who held her, that Rachel herself wasn’t the only who might be right at home in a theater.

“Do you need to leave?” Rachel asked as Quinn breathlessly dragged her off to the restroom at intermission, words spilling out of her about how wonderful the actresses were, how fantastic Defying Gravity had been.

Quinn stared at her as if she’d grown three heads, and Rachel laughed, squeezing the girl to her. Their faces were inches apart, and it would be so easy to just…

But no. Not in a bathroom, for goodness’ sake.

They stood on their feet in raucous applause through the curtain call, and for once in her life Rachel made the decision to forego autographs at the stage door. She had more important things to attend to, she thought, even if for a split second she wondered if she’d gone insane; what could be more important than stagedooring?

But one look at Quinn’s face as Rachel drove them towards the coffee shop was enough for her to know she’d made the right decision. She took the wrapped package into the shop with them, laughing and ignoring Quinn’s pouts until they’d both ordered – and Quinn had gotten chocolate chip cookies again – and sat at a table far in the back away from prying eyes, before sliding the present across to Quinn.

“For me?” Quinn said, taking off the Emerald City glasses and resting them next to her coffee cup.

Rachel shook her head. “For you, little brat.” She smiled. “Open it, whenever you’re ready.”

But Quinn simply stared at the package, running the tips of her fingers over the paper and the ribbon, seemingly lost in thought. Rachel was beginning to know that faraway look well, the expression that told her once again Quinn had slipped into the past, to a memory she might not have wanted to revisit.

She reached out and captured Quinn’s hand with hers. “Are you all right?” she asked.

Quinn smiled at her slightly. “I just… haven’t had a present in a long time, Miss Rachel.”

“Not since…”

“He let me sleep on the bed once, for Christmas. At the foot. For a few hours anyway; he said he wouldn’t have enough room to be comfortable if I was there all night.”

Maybe she could hire Noah as a hit man… Rachel squeezed Quinn’s hand again. “Well now you don’t have to worry about that, and maybe your friends will help make up for that lack of presents.”

“Friends,” Quinn echoed, giving Rachel a strange look.

“Open it, Quinn.”

She did, slowly and reverently, and Rachel realized with a grin that Quinn was going to be one of those people, who opened every present as slowly as possible, while making sure not to tear any of the paper or ribbons, because they wanted to save them. It gave her a little thrill, though, thinking that maybe Quinn would want to save the paper and ribbon in a scrapbook. A reminder of the date they’d first shared.

Rachel watched in nervous anticipation as Quinn lifted out the sketchbook. Her eyes fell on the front cover, her mouth opening in a little “o” as she read the inscription.

A bird does not sing because she has the answers. She sings because she has a song.

Quinn said nothing as she opened the book and began to leaf through the empty pages, and Rachel began to worry that she didn’t like it. Maybe she should have gone with a necklace. Or a charm. But all of those… those were gifts a Mistress bought for her girl, and even though things were probably going a lot faster than they needed to with Quinn, Rachel knew they weren’t ready for that yet, if they would ever be.

But then Quinn looked at her, and the tears fell down her cheeks as her lips trembled into a smile. “It’s g-gorgeous, Miss Rachel, I—“ She stopped then, unable to speak.

Rachel let out the breath she’d been holding. “Really?” she said. “You liked it? I-I just know you love to draw and, well, you’ve got paper and pencils but I wanted you to have something that you could use to keep all of your sketches together. And I know you like birds, so when I found a book with the quote on it, I thought maybe…”

“I love it. Thank you, thank you so much.”

They sat together in the coffee shop talking until the sun had slipped under the horizon. Rachel told Quinn about her father’s illness, about how she’d been meant to go to New York but hadn’t, and how much she loved the theater.

“Do you ever want to go?”

“To New York?” Quinn nodded, and Rachel shrugged. “Sometimes I do wonder if I am past my time for that,” she answered honestly.

“I don’t think someone like you could ever be past time to do what you want, Miss Rachel. Maybe you can sing for me sometime, and let me decide that.”

Rachel blushed. “Maybe I will.”

They drove back to Shannon’s house in silence, both women happy and warm in the glow of first date bliss. Rachel was bound to chivalry as usual and insisted on walking Quinn to the door, both because it’s just what was done, and also because she knew Quinn was tired, and she didn’t want her steps to falter on the way. So she walked beside Quinn, watching for any sign of a stumble, then stood underneath the lamplight when they reached Shannon’s door. The house was dark and Rachel was relieved; she’d half-expected Shannon to be watching for them out the window.

“I had a wonderful time,” she said to Quinn. “I’m really, very proud of you for doing all of this. For doing it for me. Thank you so much.”

In the dim light Rachel could see Quinn turn pink as Rachel hugged her. “It was for me too,” Quinn confessed. “I just want… more time with you, Miss Rachel.”

Rachel pulled back then, no longer hugging Quinn but still holding close to her. Their faces were inches apart again…

Rachel leaned up on her toes and gently, softly pressed her lips to Quinn’s. Once again she pulled back and waited, her eyes searching Quinn’s.

Quinn’s arms wrapped around her as her lips met Rachel’s in another kiss. These kisses weren’t like the first one Rachel had shared with Quinn; frenzied desperation had been replaced with gentleness, and with Quinn’s hands splayed across her back and Rachel’s hands held safely, securely around Quinn’s waist, Rachel knew that wrong or not, too soon or not…

As somewhere in the dark she could hear a bird sing, as they kissed over and over in the lamplight, Rachel knew there would definitely be more time with Quinn Fabray.

Chapter Text

“Come here.”

She shook her head. “Please, Sir, I don’t want to.”

Her eyes were fixed on what he held in his hand. The end of it glowed white hot, casting an eerie shine on his smiling face. Feral.

His smile left in an instant. “I said, come here. You’re my bitch, you do what I say.” He waved the rod. “And this will make it permanent.”

She scrambled backwards, scarcely able to do so with her wrists bound to her ankles. She was nearly hogtied, helpless, and there was nowhere to go except further back into the wall that she pressed up against. She wished with all her might that it would open up and swallow her.

The wall didn’t open up, but her mouth did. “No.”

Time stood still. The earth froze and so did he, so did she, locked in the staring of disbelief and anger. He advanced towards her.

“You stupid slut.”  Her head rocked sideways with the force of the slap, then back as he sent another. “You will never, ever say no to me again.”

His hand to her throat held her against the wall as his other hand brought the rod closer. She felt its heat touch her skin like a kiss from the devil himself.

Quinn screamed.

“What do you think you might like for dinner?”

She shrugged. “Just whatever.”

From the doorway of the kitchen, Miss Rachel turned to look at her. “Are you all right, Quinn? You seem rather tense.”

“I’m fine.”

The nightmare had woken her up at 4 a.m. The morning before that, it had been 2 a.m. And before that, three. And each time, Quinn hadn’t been able to get back to sleep.She’d talked to her therapist about them before, but no amount of deep breathing exercises, no warm milk or bath, no calming music had been able to stop them. Although the calming music might have been a problem; she’d asked Miss Rachel for some cds, and maybe going to sleep to Seventy Six Trombones wasn’t helping.

The nightly phone calls and texts from Miss Rachel, though, those did help. After every nightmare, when she’d lay in her bed at Shannon’s unable to sleep, Quinn would grab her phone and read the texts with a small smile on her face. Full of smiles, good cheer, and little stars, Miss Rachel’s messages were comforting, and Quinn would soon find herself curled on her side with the phone held close to her. It wasn’t Miss Rachel’s hand in hers, like that first night, but it was something.

But she was tired. She sat on the couch in Miss Rachel’s house, aimlessly flipping through the TV channels, trying to settle on something, and she couldn’t. Her eyes burned, her hands shook as she held the remote, and her mind was full of the images from her past. Images that weren’t forgotten, but had mercifully been pushed back in favor of Jesse and Noah, Arnie and Shannon, soft pillows with warm blankets tucked around her and Miss Rachel’s lips on hers.

They’d kissed more since their “first date” a few days ago; shy, awkward brushes of lips against lips, Quinn never having known what a gentle kiss felt like, and Miss Rachel afraid to cross already tenuous boundaries. It frustrated her even as it made her feel safe; there were things going on in Quinn’s mind and heart (and her body, if she was being honest) every time she kissed Miss Rachel that confused her. But Miss Rachel always had the power to bring her back to herself with just a touch of her hand on Quinn’s cheek. With a smile.

A smile that now seemed strained as she came back from the kitchen and sat next to Quinn on the couch. She glanced out the window, at the rain that fell hard and heavy against the glass. “It’s a day for comfort food,” she announced. “Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, what do you think of that?”

“Like I said, just whatever.”

If she’d glanced over, Quinn would have seen a twitch in Miss Rachel’s face as her jaw tightened, but she didn’t tear her eyes away from the television as she finally paused on cartoons. She’d always liked them when she was little, and the fact that Finn had liked some of them too, and she’d get to catch a glimpse of them every now and then, was one thing to be grateful for.

The only thing.

Yesterday, Quinn’s therapist had warned her against getting “too far inside her own head.” “It’s good that you’re thinking,” Miss Holliday had said, “Good that you’re starting to work through things. But remember to put aside past Quinn sometimes and just be Quinn.” She’d tried to drive home the point by making Quinn write a list of things she liked, now that she was on her own and could discover for herself. Quinn had come up with five things. Miss Rachel. Miss Rachel’s cooking. Miss Rachel’s house. Reading books with Miss Rachel. Seeing Noah and Jesse with Miss Rachel.

Holly had looked at the list, and then brought out another blank piece of paper. “Now write things you like that don’t include Miss Rachel.” Quinn had glared at her, but the message was loud and clear.

So was Shannon’s message about the grocery store, when yesterday Quinn had found herself standing at the door of one, staring in at the seemingly endless aisles of things she didn’t know. Her first instinct was to turn around and get back in the taxi, because it was too much; she had no idea where to get started. Her heart thumped wildly and her breath came hard and fast as she’d walked through the sliding doors.

She’d come home with a pack of bacon, a box of Lucky Charms cereal, and a bone to give to Arnie the next day. Shannon had hugged her, beaming and effusive with her congratulations. Miss Rachel had chuckled on the phone, telling her that Arnie was going to get far too spoiled. And Quinn had felt awkwardly proud, and more than a little scared.

“What would you do if you let go of all the pain he’s caused you, all of the memories, and just gave in to the happiness?” Holly had asked her.

Quinn didn’t have an answer.

“If there’s something else you’d rather have, Quinn, you can tell me. I assure you I won’t be offended if you reject my culinary offering.”

Quinn couldn’t help it; she rolled her eyes. She loved Miss Rachel’s voice more than anything, and she couldn’t wait for the time when maybe, maybe, Miss Rachel might sing for her. She’d heard little snatches of it in the last week, Rachel humming in the kitchen or singing softly to herself as she did paperwork for the department. And her voice was… magical. It was as if everything stopped for her when Miss Rachel spoke, or when she heard those soft little tunes sung absently around a pen jammed in her mouth.

But Quinn was tired and Miss Rachel sometimes used a lot of words to say, well, not much of anything.

“I said it was fine, Miss Rachel.”

“And it’s clearly not,” Miss Rachel said, and this time her lyrical voice had an edge to it. Quinn tensed with a little shiver running up her spine. “You’re clearly not fine, and I’m just trying to make sure you choose what you want.”

“Well, I don’t want to choose,” Quinn snapped before she could stop herself. “Maybe I just want you to fix something and not force me to make up my own mind.”

There was silence, and out of the corner of her eye Quinn could see Miss Rachel pinch the bridge of her nose. She heard a breath of frustration being let out, and finally, Miss Rachel said quietly, “Quinn, sweetheart, I know you’ve been having a rough week but I really don’t think taking it out on me is the solution, for either of us.”

“Then do something about it.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said, do something about it. Punish me.”

What was she doing? Quinn asked herself. This was too much, she’d pushed too hard. Images began to flash through her mind again. Herself, bent over. A belt, lashing across her bottom and her thighs. A rough hand in her hair, holding her in position as the belt was relentless in its cuts. Only when she lifted her head, when she forced back against the hand holding her to look, it wasn’t Finn behind her. It was Miss Rachel. Quinn felt herself begin to shake; she wrapped her arms around herself.

She turned on the couch to face Miss Rachel, who was staring at her with her mouth slightly dropped open. Quinn steeled herself, not sure if she should wait for harsh and angry words to come tumbling out that same mouth, or if Miss Rachel was going to drag Quinn over her lap.

“Absolutely not.”

Quinn blinked. “What?”

Miss Rachel stood up and then sat back down, shaking her head and running a hand through her hair. “I am not going to punish you.”

“So you’d just let your submissive speak to you that way?”

Miss Rachel looked at Quinn, and the expression on her face made Quinn swallow hard. “You can be sure,” she said evenly, “That if my submissive were to speak to me with the manner in which you’ve been speaking to me today, they would learn a swift lesson about why it’s unacceptable.”

“Well, then—“

“What would you have me do, Quinn? Get out a paddle?” Quinn froze; she stared wide-eyed at Rachel. “Do you want me to drape you over the back of this couch and whip you? Put you in the corner? Humiliate you? Because if that’s what you’re hoping for, if that’s what prompted this behavior—“

“It’s not!” She felt suddenly frantic; this wasn’t what she’d intended at all, and now Miss Rachel was acting as if Quinn had manipulated her. But she’d thought it was just a simple request… “I wouldn’t do that to you, Miss Rachel. I’m just… you said you wouldn’t let your submissive talk to you that way.”

“You’re not my submissive.”

“Yes, I’m aware of that,” Quinn bit out, her hands clenching into fists and digging into her thighs. “You keep reminding me of it at every point.”

She saw Miss Rachel close her eyes and reopen them, before she reached out and gently untangled Quinn’s hands, holding them in hers. “Sweetheart,” she said, and the tears sprang to Quinn’s eyes at the softness of the word, at the care and the small touch of disappointment in it.

She’d made Miss Rachel disappointed in her. And that was worse than any blow, any mark. Miss Rachel had been so good to her, and Quinn had been a complete brat, just because she was tired, just because she was cranky.

“Quinn, I know that this dynamic is strange for you. It’s strange for me too, it’s very hard for me to… well, not be dominant with you.”

Quinn tilted her head and looked at Miss Rachel; she imagined it looked a lot like Arnie, when he was confused. “It is?”

“It is,” Miss Rachel nodded. “But sweetheart, you’ve been through some of the most horrific experiences a person should never have to go through. You’re still learning about yourself, about what you like and what you want. I want you to see what life is like when you can have your own choices.”

Quinn let out what sounded like a growl and got to her feet, beginning to pace around the floor. “Everyone keeps saying that. ‘Make your own choices, Quinn.’ ‘Do what you want, Quinn, not what someone tells you to do.’ ‘A good Dominant would never be like him, Quinn.’” She whirled around to face Rachel again, her fists once again clenched.

“How do I know what a good Dominant is if no one will dominate me?”

“Quinn—“

“No!” The word spilled out of her with more force than Quinn had ever felt, except for that night months ago. She began to shake again, but she tensed her muscles and held her ground. She took a deep breath… and deflated immediately. The tears began to course down her cheeks.

“Everyone keeps telling me what a good Dominant is. What a good Dominant will say, what a good Dominant will do… and then they tell me – you tell me, I can’t have one. I have to choose, everyone says. You, Shannon, Jesse and Noah, Miss Holliday. I have to choose what I want. But to do that I have to ignore who I am.”

Miss Rachel was silent, staring up at her, and for a split second Quinn was confused. Why wasn’t she saying anything? Quinn was stood there, the words tumbling out of her in a rush and all Miss Rachel was doing was watching her.

… listening.

No one had ever really listened to Quinn before, except for maybe her grandfather. And that had seemed so long ago. Her parents hadn’t, Finn certainly never had. But now, here was Miss Rachel, looking at her and quietly waiting… It hit Quinn like cold water, and then it was as if she’d never be able to give voice to all of the thoughts coursing around in her head.

“I’m not your submissive, Miss Rachel, I understand that, I do. And I-I would never manipulate you into dominating me, I’m not like that but I am submissive. And… and nobody seems to remember that.”

Miss Rachel shook her head. “It’s not that we don’t remember, Quinn, it’s just that you’ve had your choices taken away for so long—“

“But what if that is my choice?” Quinn protested. “What if at the end of… all this,” She gestured around Miss Rachel’s house. “What if at the end of my time at Shannon’s, after all my therapy, maybe when I move into my own place and-and I don’t know, get a job, what if I still want to be submissive? What if my choice is to be dominated, to be punished when I’m bad—“

“Hold on,” Miss Rachel held out her hand, palm up. “I’m going to stop you there for a moment. I know that he said horrible things to you, but let me say this now: no matter what behavior you exhibit, you are not bad. Your choices might sometimes be unfortunate, but you are not bad.”

Quinn wasn’t sure she believed that. How many times had she heard Finn say those words to her, while he was beating her?

Bad girl.

Bad slut.

Stupid, bad bitch.

Every single day. Every possible moment. His words were like a mantra of negativity, a list of everything that was wrong with her. Never once had he said “good girl” to her. The first time anyone had said it to her was when Miss Rachel had given her a bath. And even though Quinn had had to ask for it, Miss Rachel had said it so many times since then, for no reason at all other than she actually believed Quinn was a good girl…

“Quinn, come sit down, please.” Rachel patted next to her on the couch.

Quinn hesitated, and then sat. “It’s all gone,” she whispered. “All of it. I-I mean I don’t hurt anymore, the bruises are gone and even the scars are fading thanks to that cream you got me but… so’s everything else.” She turned to Rachel, and smiled a little when Rachel lifted her hands and brushed Quinn’s tears away with her thumbs.

“Everything I know is gone. I don’t even have a home of my own, Miss Rachel. And I don’t have anyone to… to help me do what’s right, to teach me and guide me. I-I know no one wants me to be hurt again but how am I supposed to know what a good Dominant is like if no one will be that for me? How am I supposed to choose between being submissive and… not living that way anymore, if I don’t know what it’s like to be submissive to someone who’s good? Someone like you?”

“It’s too much,” Quinn confessed. “Choose what I want to wear, choose what I want to have for dinner, where I want to go, what I want to do, what I want to think, what I want to say. I-it’s easy for everyone else, I guess, maybe it’s just stupid—“

“You are not stupid, and I don’t want you to say that again.”

Quinn smiled a little. “I don’t have any control, Miss Rachel. And I want it. I need it. I-it’s all gone,” she said again. “My rules, what’s expected of me, and maybe I do need to learn to make choices but what if it’s my choice to be… to be little? To be taken care of, to be taught, to be controlled? I need… I need to feel safe.  I need someone to guide me. I need someone to dominate me.” She turned to look at Rachel. “I need it to be you. Please.”

Miss Rachel leaned over and kissed Quinn gently.

“No.”

“Miss Rachel—“

No.” Miss Rachel got up and stood in front of Quinn, looking down at her. She felt herself tense, and Miss Rachel smiled sadly.

“You look scared,” she said. “You look scared, and it’s just me; I would hope you’d know that I’d never hurt you. But I’m also a Dominant, and that is what scares you.” Miss Rachel shook her head. “I know that all of this is very frightening to you and unknown, but you’re doing so well, Quinn. You’re adjusting, you’re learning, and I am so proud of you.”

Quinn blushed and ducked her head. She was beginning to realize just how much she loved it, how much she craved to see Miss Rachel smiling at her with those sparkling brown eyes, telling her proud she was of her. And Miss Rachel was always so beautiful, whether she was dressed up in her work clothes or as she was now, in a simple pair of sleep pants and a tank top. This was the thing that was warring inside Quinn the most: she wanted to be like those birds outside, free to go wherever she pleased, whenever she pleased.

But then there was Miss Rachel, with her soft smile and her laugh, the gentle way she ran her hand through Quinn’s hair just now even as Quinn’s heart was breaking. And Quinn wanted nothing more than to be on her knees for this woman, arms wrapped around Miss Rachel’s stomach in adoration, doing whatever she could to please Miss Rachel, to make her happy, to hear those few words that meant everything.

You’re such a good girl, Quinn. My good girl.

“You’re learning, and pretty soon it’s not going to be so scary and you’re going to love it. You’re going to discover so many things, about life and about yourself. And if you decide you want to be submissive, then that’s okay. But right now, you’re not ready.”

“When will I ever be ready?” Quinn asked bitterly. “Everyone else seems to know I’m not ready, should I wait for them to make the decision for me?”

“And that’s exactly what I mean,” Miss Rachel said. “You want the authority, but you’re still struggling against it. You want the punishment, but the idea of me taking you over my knee or pulling you over the arm of this couch and disciplining you until you cry scares you. The very idea of a Dominant scares you, Quinn. And until it doesn’t, we can’t. We just can’t, sweetheart.”

“How can I stop being scared if you don’t give me a reason not to be?”

Miss Rachel sighed, her hand still lightly tangling in Quinn’s hair, fingernails absently scratching at Quinn’s scalp like she’d done that day when giving her a bath. “It’s quite possible I’m not the person for you, Quinn. It’s entirely possible that somewhere down the road you will find the perfect Dominant for you, the one who is everything you need and more.”

“Neither one of us know until we try.”

“And I could get in trouble!” Quinn winced when Rachel snapped, and Miss Rachel moved to kiss her quickly. “There are rules in the department against this sort of thing, Quinn,” Miss Rachel explained. “I am already on very thin ice maintaining a friendship with you while you are still in recovery; and now we’re dating?”

Quinn knew what Miss Rachel was saying was seriously, but still she felt her blush deepen at the words. They were dating.

 “The department prefers that recovering submissives stay in the company of other subs until their therapy is complete. Just because they don’t want the subs becoming influenced. If the department finds out we’re dating, that’s one thing. If I started dominating you and the department found out, Quinn, I don’t want to think about what could happen.”

“They’d hurt you?” Quinn said, her voice high and alarmed.

Miss Rachel hugged her. “You see, that’s always your first instinct, is that you or someone will be hurt. No, sweetheart, they couldn’t hurt me, but I could lose my job. And I need it.”

“You wouldn’t need it if you’d go to New York and sing like you want to.”

Miss Rachel’s eyes flashed. “We are not talking about this right now; in fact I’ll thank you not to bring that up again.”

She had told Quinn, late one night on the phone, again about how her father had gotten ill and how she had put off going to school in New York. Quinn had caught the wistfulness in Miss Rachel’s voice, had wondered what was holding her back now. Miss Rachel had only said that she had work in Lima to do. “Maybe someday,” she’d said, and quickly changed the subject.

“Why not?” Quinn countered. “Afraid that I’ll start talking about you not being ready? You keep saying that I’m not ready because I’m scared, well, you’re scared to. I don’t see why we can’t be scared together. Who knows, I might not be the only one who learns about herself.”

“We are done with this segment of the conversation,” Miss Rachel said. “And I do believe that this entire conversation needs to be closed. I am not going to dominate you, Quinn. I’m sorry, but that’s final.”

She didn’t know what to say, then. The tears had stopped but were on the edge of falling again, and Quinn stared wordlessly at the television, at the cartoon cat constantly being foiled by the mouse. She wondered which one she was in this game called her life: the cat or the mouse. She looked up when Miss Rachel’s voice found her again.

“What do you say we have those sandwiches now?”

“I think I should go.”

Miss Rachel stopped and turned, her face falling. “O-oh,” she said, sounding shaky. “If that’s what you want to do, of course.”

It wasn’t what she wanted to do. What she wanted was for Miss Rachel to tell her not to leave, to tell her to sit down and have her sandwich and stop being ridiculous. She wanted Miss Rachel to put her in the corner, or pull up her baby doll dress and spank her for being such a brat earlier. She could handle the pain, if it was Miss Rachel. She wanted Miss Rachel to pull her into her lap and rock her as she cried, to tell her that she’d been brave, she’d taken her punishment well, and that she was a good girl.

But there would be none of that.

Quinn stood up. “I-I’m just going to go back to Shannon’s and read.”

Miss Rachel nodded slowly, and Quinn’s heart sank when she saw a tear streak down her cheek. “Okay, sw- Quinn.” Quinn winced, and the pain only got worse at what she said next. “You’ll call me later?”

Miss Rachel. The Dominant. The sweet, caring, gentle, perfect person. Asking if Quinn would call her. Asking, when all she wanted was to be told.

“Maybe tomorrow, Rachel.”

There was a hitch of breath, a stifled sob, and Rachel nodded again. “Right, that’s... that’s… I’ll just call the taxi.” She did so quickly, and then came back to Quinn. “Oh, here.” She picked up Quinn’s coat from where it lay on the arm of the couch. “It’s still raining; you need to put this on.”

The tears were falling again as Quinn allowed Rachel to put the coat on her; Rachel’s hands were gentle, fastening each button and adjusting the coat’s collar against Quinn’s neck. She hesitated, then tipped herself up to kiss Quinn’s forehead. Rachel managed a smile, though it wavered, and she squeezed Quinn’s arm.

“C-can’t have you catching cold out there. I… I need you to be warm.”

“Thank you…”

They stood there saying nothing, standing together awkwardly with Rachel’s hand on Quinn’s arm, until a car horn outside signaled the arrival of the taxi.

“A-are we going to be all right?” Quinn asked, looking toward the door then back at Rachel.

“I don’t know,” Rachel said. “I hope so… but I don’t know.”

In the taxi, the driver looked at Quinn in the rearview mirror. “You okay kid?”

“Just take me home,” Quinn sniffled, not able to wipe her eyes fast enough as the tears fell. “I’m fine.”

Chapter Text

“Rachel, is that a zip drive in your hand or are you just happy to see me?”

“… no?”

“I’m not watching any PowerPoints.”

“I brought cake?”

Lana sighed heavily and stepped aside to let Rachel pass through the front door. “I regret ever telling you that cake is my weakness,” she pointed out. She closed the door and turned to Rachel with a searching look. “And I imagine you’re here to talk to me about yours.”

“Am I that transparent?” Rachel asked, sitting both the zip drive and the chocolate cake (extra icing) on the table. She sighed and sat down on the couch, then glanced up at the ceiling. “You don’t, er, have anyone tied up at the moment, do you?”

“No,” Lana smirked. “She’s gone to the pharmacy.”

“Oh,” Rachel said as her friend sat next to her and crossed her legs. “I hope everything’s all right?”

“Everything’s just fine,” Lana said, and her smirk widened into a full-blown smile. “She’s gone for a pregnancy test.”

“Lana!” Rachel gasped, launching herself at the woman and pulling her into a hug. “Lana, that’s amazing!”

Lana returned the hug, laughing. “We don’t know for sure yet, of course,” she cautioned. “But we’ve been trying for a little while and Emma’s late, so…”

“This is the real deal, huh?” Rachel said, pulling away and smiling with a wistful look. She’d known it was real when Lana had told her of her claim, but a baby… She couldn’t help but wonder what if-

“Rachel?” Lana placed her hand on Rachel’s knee, rubbing gently. Her voice was full of concern as she asked, “You’re not… jealous, are you?”

“What? No!” Rachel said, shaking her head vigorously. She willed her smile to be a little less sad, realizing that Lana had completely misunderstood the emotion behind it. “You know I love you, Lana, but you also know I stopped caring for you like that a while ago.”

She hadn’t expected for their relationship to deepen the way it did. She was young and Lana was more experienced, both in their lifestyle and in life. Most people didn’t start relationships after their training was complete, but after Rachel had spent her week on her knees learning from Lana, things had changed once she’d gotten back on her feet. In Lana she had found a caring Dominant, someone willing to take time for Rachel, to teach her things that Rachel couldn’t learn from books. And in Lana Rachel had found an equal, someone who inspired her intellectually, met her attitude measure for measure, and had been responsible for more than just one awakening.

So it wasn’t any wonder Lana was concerned about residual feelings. Rachel knew her feelings for the woman to whom she’d given her virginity wouldn’t just fade away, but she also knew that they could change. And, “It’s not really you I was thinking of,” Rachel confessed, “It’s Quinn.”

“Quinn?” Lana said, seeming relieved.

“Just imagining what it would be like to know she was going out to buy a pregnancy test. For herself, or me.” Rachel shrugged. “I guess I am quite transparent.”

“And a bit jumping the gun,” Lana said matter-of-factly. “I’m not sure either of you are ready for that leap yet. But you obviously didn’t make a PowerPoint to discuss what movies Quinn likes.”

“Wizard of Oz,” Rachel muttered half to herself, and then sighed again. “I don’t suppose you really need to see the PowerPoint, though it’s a very good one, if I do say so myself.”

“And the subject?” Lana said, getting up to pour herself and Rachel a drink and to cut the cake for them to share.

“Forty slides of reasons why I cannot fulfill Quinn’s request for me to dominate her.”

Lana’s hands stopped in mid-air, the knife hovering over the cake, and she gaped at Rachel. “She asked you to dominate her?”

“Yes.”

“And I’m correct in assuming that you said no?”

“Would I be sitting in your living room, looking appropriately and movingly distressed if I had said yes?”

“Watch yourself, Rachel,” Lana said sharply. “You know I will not accept disrespect, no matter how distressed you are, and even if you are not my submissive.”

Rachel rolled her eyes, even as she winced. She well remembered the pain in her 17 year old bottom from every smack of Lana’s hand, and then the belt. But that didn’t compare to the humiliation of seeing Lana’s disappointed face beforehand as she gave Rachel the lecture about respect, or being put over Lana’s lap with her skirt flipped up and her panties down.

“I’m sorry,” Rachel said quietly. “I just…” She trailed off and accepted the drink and plate Lana handed her before sitting down next her again.

“You didn’t want to say no.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Then why did you?”

Rachel shrugged again. “I don’t know. Because she isn’t ready. Because I’m not ready. Because she has nightmares every night of him. Because she flinches whenever I raise my voice? Because if I even say the word ‘whipped’ or ‘paddled’ or ‘punished,’ she looks at me like she’s seeing him. Because—“

“You’re scared.”

“I really hate how you put words in my mouth.”

“You hate the fact that I’m right more.” Rachel hmphed, and Lana chuckled a little. “You’re scared to dominate her, but you’re not happy with just casually dating either.”

Their society hadn’t really been built around casual dating, Rachel knew. Back when her parents were young, when their parents were young, it was unspoken that when you found a Dominant, you were claimed by them before you even thought of doing anything with them. It was to be forever, a bond that was never to be broken. Rachel had to admit that she preferred the way things were done now. If she had been born decades ago she would have never even thought about giving herself sexually first to Lana, instead of to her intended. But she was grateful for the experience, and even more glad that Dominants and submissives had the freedom to choose who they wanted to be with, and were allowed to have the sort of “trial and error” relationships that wouldn’t have been possible in the past. No longer did submissives feel as if they had to submit themselves to the first Dominant they came across, and no longer did Dominants feel as if they had to make a claim as soon as they reached a certain age.

And dating Quinn was nice… for the little time they had done it. Rachel felt a particular twist in her stomach as she wondered if she’d ever be able to feel that way again, to be excited waking up the morning of a date. The rush of kissing in the moonlight before Quinn went inside Shannon’s house. Sitting across from Quinn in a crowded coffee shop and knowing that Quinn only had eyes for her.

But Lana was right. For Rachel, that wasn’t enough. She’d always pictured herself as meeting The One – the submissive with whom she’d share that unbreakable connection. She was probably too melodramatic for her own good, she’d been raised on musicals after all; but Rachel had always imagined it would be the meeting of eyes across a crowded room. Two people gravitating towards each other, reaching out to grasp hands and… that would be it. Lover and friend, Dominant and submissive, together forever.

It was a child’s dream, and she was no longer a child. But that didn’t stop her from wishing.

“What exactly is it that you think I’m afraid of?”

“Why are you afraid of going to New York?”

“Why does everyone keep asking me that?!” Rachel snapped, slamming her drink down on the table in front of the couch. She saw Lana’s lips tighten, and Rachel took a deep breath. “Quinn seems to think I’m terrified of that as well.”

“And let me guess, you shut her down.”

“I didn’t shut her down; I merely told her the conversation was closed.”

“Refresh my memory on how that is different.” Rachel didn’t say anything, just crossed her arms over her chest and glared down at the carpet. Lana sighed. “Do you remember when I was training you, and you sassed off at me so I whipped you?”

“How could I forget? I felt it for a week afterward.”

“And what’s part of the reason?”

Rachel refused to look at Lana. “You accidentally wrapped the belt over my hip.” Lana had taken the utmost care with her, but she knew from her classes at the Academy that sometimes accidents happen. And that the most important thing was to tell your Dominant. But Rachel had wanted to make Lana proud, hadn’t wanted the woman to see her as weak when Rachel was working so hard to be good. A good submissive-in-training, a good Dominant. So she had kept quiet, even through the pain.

“And you didn’t tell me until I saw you looking at the mark in the mirror later that night.”

“No, Miss Lana.”

It felt weird, saying that, because she wasn’t a submissive and Lana wasn’t her Dominant, but Rachel hadn’t spoken to Quinn for the last three days – she hadn’t called – and Rachel had been struggling to maintain control of a life that she felt was spiraling out of her reach. Lana had always, ever since Rachel was seventeen, been able to pull Rachel out of herself and take that control, even for just a little while. Enough for Rachel to clear her head and start thinking rationally again. Sometimes it was just nice to have Lana wrap her arms around Rachel and pull her close, for Rachel not to have to think about being strong and brave and dominant.

“What did I tell you that night, once I’d made sure you were all right and after I’d apologized for being careless?”

Rachel nuzzled herself deeper into Lana’s arms, taking a deep breath and letting the worries that had overwhelmed her slip away a little. “That communication was important. That you can’t have a true relationship between a Dominant and a submissive unless both parties know they can talk freely, about anything and everything. But this is different,” she protested.

“No, it’s not,” Lana said firmly. “You’re afraid to go to New York, and you’re afraid to dominate Quinn just as much as she’s afraid to be dominated by you. You have a right to talk to Quinn about being afraid to dominate her, and she has a right to ask you why you’re so scared about that, and why you’re so scared to go to New York. And if neither of you talk about either of those things, then every fear you have right now of being like him is going to come true.”

“She’s not ready,” Rachel said, sitting up. “She tells me that she doesn’t want to have to choose all the time, but how can she say that when she’s never even had choices?”

“You know,” Lana mused, smiling a little at Rachel, “As much as I like wolves, you and the council did rather just toss Quinn out to them.” Seeing Rachel’s look of confusion, she continued, “Think about it. Quinn’s life, although harsh, was all she’s ever known. And though she left on her own, she was still ripped away from it. And now you, and the council, and everyone involved is telling Quinn that she has to do it all herself, that she can’t have any support system. No wonder she’s terrified.”

“Having a support system is a lot different from being dominated, though,” Rachel said, standing up and beginning to pace around Lana’s living room floor. “It isn’t as if she’s completely alone. She has Jesse, and Noah. Shannon and her physical therapist and Miss Holliday. She doesn’t need to be dominated; she needs to learn what it’s like to have friends. She needs to learn it’s okay to have her own needs and desires and to have all of them met. She can’t do that if someone starts dominating her just months after she got away from that… that asshole. I can still be supportive of Quinn while not being her Dominant.”

“And you can dominate her without being her Dominant, and without taking away her choices.”

Rachel didn’t see how that was possible. As much as just casually dating Quinn wasn’t enough, she didn’t think she could dominate her, either, not without the intent to claim her. And Quinn was nowhere near ready for that. Rachel didn’t know if she’d ever be ready. No, the important thing was that Quinn knew she had choices, and that she learned how to make them. Maybe then, after a few years, they’d both be ready to try.

“Plus I could get in trouble with the council,” Rachel offered, but knew by the way Lana rolled her eyes that she’d seen past the feeble excuse. She was good at that.

“The council,” Lana scoffed, shaking her head and moving to refill her drink. “The council, my darling Rachel, is nothing but a group of old men sitting around thinking that they know what’s best for the Dominants and submissives of our society. And frankly I don’t think they should be telling me or you a damn thing about how to live our lives when they probably can’t even dominate their own penises into doing what they want.”

Rachel choked on her drink and tapped her chest, spluttering. She stared at Lana in shock; her former lover simply smirked at her. “So you’re telling me to go against the council? Against what I think is the right thing?”

“I’m telling you to stop being so scared.” Rachel sat back down on the couch and Lana once again patted her knee. “Tell me, when she asked you to dominate you, what terrified you?”

Rachel thought for a moment. “How much she wanted me to punish her. I didn’t think, after all that she’s been through… I thought that would be the last thing she’d ask for.”

Lana nodded. “She probably wanted you to physically punish her too.”

“I’ll never,” Rachel said vehemently. “I’ll never do that to her. Ever.”

“Notice that you just said you will never, not that you would never.”

“I hate you and your word-twisting ways,” Rachel muttered, and Lana laughed. “I just don’t understand why she would want that. After everything he’s done to her, why would she want me to punish her? To spank her?”

“She obviously did something that made her think she needed to be punished.”

“She was being a grumpy brat.”

“Oh dear, you have met your match, then,” Lana said, sounding more than a little gleeful. “I can’t wait to see how this plays out.” Seeing Rachel’s glare, she cleared her throat and continued. “So she did something that upset you, and she wanted to rectify the situation. In Quinn’s mind, wrongdoing equals punishment. Punishment results in forgiveness, forgiveness means moving forward with a clean slate. So that sounds remarkably—“

“Submissive,” Rachel finished for her, sighing. “So it’s the not the punishment she wants, it’s something normal. Something she knows. Even if it means I’d punish her physically, she’d try to take it just so she could have that little piece of her life back. But isn’t that proof that she isn’t ready?”

“No. It’s proof that she’s trying to take control of her own life.”

Rachel blinked. “I don’t follow.”

“A Dominant doesn’t need a submissive, but you can’t dominate anyone until you have a submissive. And you can’t have a submissive until one chooses to be yours. Until someone chooses to give you that control, you don’t have it. And Quinn made her choice. She took control of her own choices, her own wants, and tried to give you her submission. Everything you would be in that relationship is because she has made the choice to give it to you.”

“I don’t know if it’s me she wants, or just… someone to be nice to her.”

“No one’s saying for you to claim her.”

“Then what are you saying?” When Lana was silent, Rachel pressed harder. “Lana, you know I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t value your opinion more than most, probably even more than my daddies’. You’re the one that taught me, and if I’m going to be a good Dominant it’s partly because of what I learned from you. Please.”

“Do you think you’re going to be a good Dominant?” Lana met Rachel’s eyes, challenging her. “Isn’t that what’s really holding you back, both from dominating Quinn and going to New York? You don’t think you’re good enough for either.”

Rachel felt the chill run from the base of her neck down her spine, and she struggled to maintain her control over the emotions that threatened to overwhelm her at Lana’s words. How many nights had she lain in bed since she was 18 years old, dreaming of New York, of Broadway, of the school where people would appreciate her, where she would feel home? It had been a long time since she felt the excitement of new possibilities, of new discovery. She’d gotten used to getting up every day, the three cups of coffee before 9 a.m. that would barely sustain her for the rest of the day. Gotten used to meeting life’s broken, the castoffs, the unwanted, and feeling powerless to fix any of it. But gradually thoughts of New York had been replaced by helping who she could; dreams of Broadway had been pushed aside in favor of being the leading actress in a play of saving the world. Or at least the Lima part of it.

And then she’d met Quinn Fabray.

Now things were different. Now Rachel got up every day not just thinking of the wounded submissives, but thinking of one. And lately the thoughts of one were overriding the thoughts of many. Quinn made her feel… awake, for the first time in a long time. Things that Rachel hadn’t felt since she was on her knees for Lana, in Lana’s arms, in Lana’s bed came rushing back to her with a force that she hadn’t known even with her former lover. And there it was, the desire to care for one, the desire to control one, the desire to bring one to her knees and then lift her back up.

The one that felt like home.

But it scared Rachel to death.

Because when she thought of Quinn on her knees, it wasn’t Rachel herself she saw behind the other woman. It was him, with his harsh words and brutal hand. But the words were in her voice, the hand attached to her arm, and Rachel knew she would rather die than be to Quinn what Finn had been. She tried to tell herself that there was no possible way she could be like him, that the very fact she’d rather die than treat Quinn badly would be the prevention of it, but Rachel knew, again, that even experienced Dominants like Lana sometimes messed up. What if she destroyed Quinn even further than she had already been? What if she punished her the wrong way, said the wrong thing, was the wrong Dominant for the girl and neither of them realized it until it was too late? What if, just like in her dreams for Broadway, Rachel suddenly found herself lacking?

What if she wasn’t good enough?

“You’re getting too far inside your own head,” Lana said quietly, a hand on Rachel’s shoulder pulling her out of her thoughts. She smiled fondly, wrapping her arm around Rachel and hugging her close again. “That’s why I almost never put you in the corner that week. I don’t know if you noticed that. But I could see that you liked to think about things far too much, and you’d end up beating yourself far more than I ever would.”

“What if I’m not good enough?” Rachel asked bluntly. “What if I do this and I’m not what she needs, what if I’m the worst possible person for her and I end up hurting her worse than even he did?”

“Again, no one’s asking you to claim her. You just need to find a good balance, something that works for both of you.”

“How do I find that balance?”

Lana smiled and squeezed Rachel. “By listening to your nature. To what’s in your heart. Rachel, you’re more than good enough. For Quinn, and for New York. You’ve been wonderful, taking care of your father and doing your job. But maybe now it’s time for you to focus on yourself, and on Quinn too. You’ll never know, you might find out you’re exactly what she needs. And she might be exactly who you need. But you never know until you try. Oh, and Rachel?”

“Yes?”

Lana hugged Rachel close to her, pulling the girl’s head onto her chest. “I am so proud of you.”

Lana’s words echoed in Rachel’s head hours after, when she lay in her bed in the darkness, idly petting Arnie and staring at the phone resting on her chest. People had told her before that they were proud of her, her fathers mostly, but somehow it was different, coming from Lana. It was almost like vindication, reassurance that the path she was on was the right one. Even if she wasn’t sure of it.

She glanced at the clock. Two twenty-three a.m. She glanced down at the phone again.

What would it take, Rachel wondered. What would it take for her to stop being scared? What would it take for her and Quinn to throw caution to the wind and trust each other? What would it take for her to find that balance, the mix of dominance and freedom that Quinn not only craved, but needed? What would it take for Rachel to be who she was born to be, and to maybe find the person she was born to be with?

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

Rachel picked up the phone and took a deep breath, pressing a button. The speed dial kicked in instantly.

One ring.

Two.

Three.

Then, just as she was about to hang up, a sleepy but panicked voice. “A-are you all right? Do you n-need anything?”

Rachel smiled a little to herself, reaching up a hand to wipe at the tears that had begun to fall.

“Yes,” she said quietly. “Yes, Quinn, I do need something.”

Chapter Text

The taxi dropped her off in front of the Lima Mall at exactly 12:15. Quinn swallowed hard, staring at the structure with the 4 pillars at the door, before finally taking a deep breath and walking inside. She stopped just mere steps beyond the door, momentarily stunned by the crowd that was already gathering, busy shoppers bustling back and forth between Aeropostale, Bath and Body Works, Gap, the food court…  Her head swam with all the options stretched out before her, and though she’d been here before with Rachel and was at least a little familiar with how things worked, Quinn’s first instinct was to run.

But she didn’t.

She glanced around at all of the possibilities, all of the people still scattered talking with each other and laughing merrily. She could do this. She’d prove to Rachel, to all of them, that she could make her own decision. She tilted her head, her eyes landing on one store. Victoria’s Secret. That sounded like a nice one. Straightening herself up, Quinn made her way to the entrance.

Five minutes later she walked out, her face red to the tips of her ears. Maybe she’d save that store for later. Much later. Although that little blue outfit in the corner, Rachel might look goo—

No. No, she would not think about that at all.

She was so embarrassed she was looking down at her feet while she walked, not paying attention, but her eyes soon snapped up as she collided with someone. Stammering out an apology, she found herself face to face with the flower seller from her previous visit to the mall with Rachel.

“Don’t worry about it,” the girl said with a smile. “How about you, are you okay? You’re not hurt or anything are you?”

Quinn shook her head. “No, I’m fine, I’m just sorry I wasn’t watching where I was going. I’m not... I don’t… I’m not from around here,” she finished awkwardly. “So I’m trying to figure out where everything is.”

“Oh, I see,” the girl said, nodding sympathetically. “Your domme not with you today?”

“My domme?” Quinn said, confused. “I don’t have a domme…”

“Oh!” The girl furrowed her brow. “Well you had someone with you the last time I saw you, and when you got the flower you said she was someone special, so I just assumed…”

“No,” Quinn shook her head and looked off into the distance. “She’s not my domme.”

It had been three days since she’d spoken to Rachel. Her nose wrinkled every time she thought of her like that. Rachel. Not Miss Rachel. It felt bitter on her tongue, even just thinking about not giving Rachel the respect Quinn felt she deserved. But then again, she hadn’t exactly been respectful to her the last time she’d seen her. She still couldn’t believe that she’d spoken to Rachel that way, acted like she had. And when Rachel had been so good to her, too. Quinn hadn’t deserved any of it. She’d let herself get tired and cranky, and as a result hurt the one person who had been trying to take care of her. Then instead of fixing it, she’d just left. And Quinn had blatantly not called her in three days, and not sent any texts. It had gotten to the point that Noah had called, asking Quinn through sniffles and sneezes if she was okay – and if she was out of her mind.

She’d told him to get well soon, and hung up without answering any of his questions.

Shannon had reserved any opinions until that morning, when she finally cornered Quinn in the kitchen as she made her breakfast.

“It’s not fair, you know,” she’d said. “I mean I don’t know what happened to you and Rachel, but I remember how upset you were when she didn’t show up that week you were sick. And now you’re not talking to her, but she’s called me twice to make sure you’re okay. And she sounds heartbroken. So whatever it is, I think you ought to fix it.”

Quinn had just shrugged, and said that she couldn’t, so it was better for Rachel if she didn’t talk to her.

“Hey, are you sure you’re all right?” the flower seller was asking her, and Quinn focused back on her. “You look really sad, and that’s not something you should look like.”

Quinn offered a half-hearted smile. “I’m all right. I think I’ll just do a little shopping.”

“Well…” the girl looked at her flower cart, then back at Quinn. “I’m going on my lunch break, why don’t you join me? I’ve always thought there’s nothing a good meal can’t fix.”

It was on the tip of her tongue to say no, but… it’d be nice, to have lunch with someone. Even someone she didn’t know. And they’d be going to a public place, so it’s not like it wouldn’t be safe…

“All right,” Quinn said. “I’d love to.”

“Great!” the girl said, beaming, and then extended her hand. “I’m Tina.”

Quinn moved to take her hand, and then stopped short, seeing the small X just above her middle knuckle.

The mark of a Dominant.

She took Tina’s hand and shook it tentatively. “Quinn,” she said softly, feeling a little tense in spite of herself. “My name is Quinn. It’s nice to meet you, Tina.”

She wondered if she ought to call her Miss Tina, but no, Quinn decided. Tina wasn’t her Dominant, and besides, it would just feel weird to give anyone else but Rachel that respect. Even if she’d never be able to give Rachel that respect again, Quinn knew it would stay buried in her heart somewhere, deep enough to never be seen but just enough below the surface that maybe, just maybe, one day…

And then Tina was speaking to her again, as they walked towards the food court. “So, what are you in the mood for?”

“Oh, whatever you—“ Quinn stopped, then pursed her lips. “Burgers,” she said firmly. “I’m in the mood for burgers.”

“Burgers it is, then!” Tina said, walking with Quinn to the nearest food station. Any nervousness Quinn might have had dissipated with the other girl’s cheerful attitude, plus the line moved entirely too quickly for her to be too nervous, as she found herself ordering and then sitting at a table in the middle of the court within minutes.

“So,” Tina said, spearing her ketchup with a french fry and grinning at Quinn, “You’re not from around here? Where are you from, then?”

“Oh, um…” Quinn flushed, feeling anxious as she wondered what would be all right to tell Tina, and what she might need to keep to herself. Finally she shrugged. “I am actually from Lima but…” She looked away, not wanting to see Tina’s reaction at her next words.

“I was living in McKinley House. I’m not now, though, but I’m still trying to figure things out.”

There was silence, even amid all the noise and chaos going on around them. Quinn sighed inwardly. Maybe she should just get up and leave. Clearly Tina wouldn’t want to be friends with someone so… broken.

But a hand on hers stopped Quinn from getting up from her seat, and she looked at Tina.

“I’m sorry,” the other girl said seriously before pulling her hand away. She shook her head. “I can only imagine why you were there, and I am really, really sorry.” She met Quinn’s gaze and asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“I don’t even know you,” Quinn blurted, then colored deep crimson. “I-I’m sorry,” she said hastily. “But I mean, I don’t even know you. Why would you want to listen to any of that stuff?”

And how do I even know you would care? She wanted to add. Quinn knew it was an unfair assumption to make, but Tina was a Dominant. For all Quinn knew the woman wanted to hear the details because of some sick pleasure of hers. Like Finn’s friends who enjoyed hearing her cry and beg him to have mercy on her, to forgive her. She shivered a little, remembering, and tried to press it out of her head.

“I don’t know,” Tina said with a shrug. “But you look sad, and kind of like you need someone to talk to. And I’ve been told I can be a pretty good friend.”

“I’m not sad because of that, though,” Quinn insisted, and then rushed to add, “And I’m not sad anyway.”

Tina gave her a knowing look, and Quinn sighed.

“I-I had… a Sir,” she said uneasily, looking around almost as if she expected him to pop up behind her, ready to drag her away by her hair. He’d been fond of doing that. “I was with him a long time, and I-I ran away.”

“Because he wasn’t good to you?”

“He was the worst,” Quinn said, suddenly angry. It scared her, the way her hands clenched around the burger she was holding, the way the blood rushed to her head and made her feel dizzy. “He was mean, and he… hurt me. Any chance he could get.” She took a deep breath, feeling the anger rise within her then fade, but only slightly.

“He just liked to… hurt me. It was almost as if… he fed on making me feel things. He’d ask me all the time. ‘Feel that?’ ‘Can you feel that?’ ‘Do you even feel anything anymore?’ Even while I was screaming or crying. He knew I felt it, and I think the more he knew I felt it, the more he wanted me to feel. It doesn’t make sense, I guess,” Quinn trailed off.

She stopped short of telling Tina what it had been like the night she left, the thing that he wanted to do to her. She didn’t tell her about saying that word, the one word that she had never spoken to him in defiance, the word that would forever break that unspoken rule, the bond between them that was meant to be forever, that she’d worked so hard to keep forever. Because she’d wanted to be his. She’d wanted him to look at her with love, to treat her with gentleness and care even as he was punishing her. She wanted more than anything to hear five words from him, and when she never heard it, she’d said the one.

Good girl, I love you.

No.

Her mind flashed back briefly to that night, to the moment when she’d realized she’d forgotten shoes in her haste to get away. It had been raining, and the ground was wet and slippery underneath her bare feet. She’d almost fallen, sliding on some wet leaves. A tree branch had smacked her in the face and she’d shrieked, for a moment thinking he’d caught up with her. She couldn’t stop looking over her shoulder as she ran; every snap of a twig she felt sure was him sneaking up behind her, every car she heard she was sure it was Finn driving up to snatch her back to the life she was so desperate to leave. She ran blindly, awkwardly, swerving here and there to avoid shadows and sounds that she was so terrified were him.

The last thing she saw was the headlights of the truck bearing down on her,  the last thing she heard was her own scream.

She’d woken up in McKinley House. To strangers. To doctors. To questions and no answers, to a wheelchair and useless legs. To being… nobody.

And then Rachel had walked in.

“Okay,” Tina said gently. “So not a good guy. I hope he’s in jail.”

“I don’t know where he is,” Quinn said, and it was true. She’d shown up to the House battered and bruised, and though she wouldn’t tell Shannon, the doctors, or any of the council members who’d come to question her any of her reasons for leaving, a cursory examination by the doctor had been enough to describe Quinn’s wounds, those not caused by the accident, as “beyond what should be found in a safe relationship,” and she’d heard one of the council members tell Shannon that Finn would be arrested. Beyond that, she had no idea.

“He could be just over there for all I know,” Quinn said, gesturing towards the far end of the food court. “My friend Jesse says there will probably be a trial, but I don’t… I don’t want to have anything to do with that.”

“Hopefully they won’t make you,” Tina said, finishing off the last of her burger and pushing the tray away from herself. “But you never know, it might be good for you to stand up to him again. Shows you’ve got the power, not him.”

Quinn finished her own lunch and took a last sip of her drink, feeling full, content, and confused. She’d never really thought of it that way. What would it be like to stand up to Si- to Finn in court, to tell him that what he’d done was wrong?

Quinn blinked.

Finn was wrong.

Maybe he was her Dominant. Maybe she’d been promised to him since birth, she heard herself explaining to Tina. But she couldn’t imagine that that meant he could do to her whatever he wanted, that she was to be used and abused like a toy belonging to a petulant child. She’d been taught that once she left her home and moved in with Finn that she was his property, that he owned her, her body, mind, and her soul. Her thoughts were not her own, her body and sexuality were not her own. Everything Quinn ceased to be, and Finn’s slut came into existence.

But Rachel was so different from Finn… But Quinn kept from saying this to Tina, instead preferring to fall silent after her little rant and study the pattern on the table in front of her.

“Not all Dominants are like him,” Tina said. “I’d like to think I’m not.”

“Oh, I’m sure your submissive doesn’t at all think you’re like that.”

Tina grinned wryly. “I don’t have a submissive. I am not-so-blissfully single at the moment.”

It was Tina’s turn to tell her story, then, about how she’d grown up in a town just outside of Lima, and attended a little school for Dominants and submissives called Carmel. She’d moved out to live on her own when she was 18, and when she was 20 she’d met a boy, a submissive. Tina’s eyes lit up, albeit a little sadly, as she described him; he was a graceful but powerful dancer, all muscle with a sharp mind as well, and eager to please. But it hadn’t worked out, she sighed to Quinn, and they’d gone their separate ways. Since then, there hadn’t been anyone to quite catch her eye.

“It’ll happen, sooner or later,” she said to Quinn, smiling to show that she wasn’t unhappy. “I’m satisfied with my life here, with my job, and I enjoy going out with my friends and having time to myself without having to worry about someone else. But at the same time, I can’t turn off that side of me that wants to dominate someone. I just have to be patient and know that I’ll find him, or her, when the time’s right.”

Quinn nodded, talking almost to herself. “That’s what I keep trying to remember, that I’ll find… that the one for me is out there. I just… I thought I’d found her already, but she didn’t want to dominate me.”

Tina raised an eyebrow. “Well isn’t it a bit early for that though? I mean you are just out of a bad claim, you need time to heal and make your own decisions.”

“I know that,” Quinn said defensively, then bit her lip and shook her head. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound disrespectful. It’s just everyone keeps telling me to make my own decisions, and I made that one – I still want to be submissive. I still need it. But apparently no one trusts me to make that decision.”

“I don’t think it’s that they don’t trust you. Maybe it’s that they care so much for you they want to make sure you’ve had time to think about it, to make sure it’s the right decision for you.”

“I know it’s the right decision,” Quinn said. “I can’t turn off who I am any more than you can, or any other Dominant or submissive can.”

They fell away from that conversation then, moving to talk about more mundane things: Tina’s job and Quinn’s life at Shannon’s, her drawings and the ridiculous shows on television. It felt good to laugh, Quinn thought; she couldn’t remember when she’d ever really laughed at Finn’s. But now it was okay to laugh, it was okay to sit in a food court with her feet up in a chair, to let Tina buy them both ice creams and not feel guilty about it. It was nice not to have to think about her life with Finn, or Rachel being disappointed at her, or how she had messed things up and wouldn’t ever be able to fix it. She thought about the birds outside of McKinley House, and Quinn realized that at that moment, that was how she felt. Free to fly and just be. She’d worry about getting home later.

But all too soon it was time for Tina to return to her flower cart, and Quinn helped her put up the trays and throw away the trash, thanking her profusely for lunch. Tina waved her off.

“I had fun,” she said. “And I… wouldn’t mind doing it again sometime.” She smiled a little nervously at Quinn. “You know, Quinn, you’re really beautiful, and if you’d like, maybe we could… go out, on a date. And I know it’s too early to do much but if you need someone to take control every once in a while… I can do that. We can go slow, and I wouldn’t be like him.”

Quinn’s mouth opened in a little “o,” and she blushed furiously. Someone was interested in her, she thought. Someone thought she was beautiful. And it was someone besides Rachel. Not to mention, this someone was offering her what she wanted, what she needed. It’d be so easy, she thought. Tina was nice, she was beautiful too; and it would be so easy for Quinn to slip back into that role, to let Tina dominate her and be everything that Quinn wanted….

Quinn shook her head. “I-I’m flattered,” she said softly, “but no. it’s just that, well, there’s—“

“That someone special,” Tina said with a knowing grin.

Quinn nodded, embarrassed. “It’s not just that I want a Dominant,” she said. “It’s, I want… her, I—“

Tina reached out and squeezed her arm. “Relax,” she said, “I get it.” Her eyes were again briefly sad. “There’s still that special someone for me, too.”

“You should call him,” Quinn said, walking with Tina back to the flower cart.

“I should, shouldn’t I?” Tina pondered this, then asked, “What’s she like?” Catching Quinn’s look of confusion, she rolled her eyes. “Your special someone.”

Quinn giggled, thinking back to that day Rachel had walked into McKinley House and planted herself next to Quinn as if they had been old friends. She’d been so sure of herself in the way she’d talked, in the way she’d offered Quinn an apple slice and spoke in a quiet and gentle voice. And though she didn’t know her, had never seen the girl in her life, she’d been disappointed when Rachel had got up to leave. Then thrilled when Rachel had returned with promises to come visit her again.

After Rachel had left McKinley House that first day Quinn had sat for a few moments, then picked up the apple slice and looked it. It was the first thing she’d been given in a long time that was completely hers.

She’d stared at it for a few long minutes before eating it. And then… she’d felt a little stronger.

“She came every day,” Quinn explained. “And I sat there and I didn’t say a word, but she was loud and bossy and sometimes wore the most hideous clothes…” She sighed and shook her head, feeling herself tear up.

“And she’s the most amazing, most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Tina beamed at Quinn and nudged her. “Then you should call her.”

Quinn couldn’t help but smile back. “Maybe I should.”

She took Tina’s number and gave the woman hers, with promises that they’d meet again for lunch sometime – as friends. It excited Quinn as she walked along the mall, not wanting to buy anything but just to revel in the freedom of being alone, being on her own, being able to handle things and to know that she’d made a friend in the process. For the first time in her life she had friends. Her own little circle of people, of Jesse, Noah, Tina…

Rachel.

She went home empty-handed but happy, and even Shannon wondered if things had worked out between her and Rachel now that Quinn seemed to be in such a good mood. Quinn hadn’t answered that and simply went back to her room to watch cartoons. When it came time for dinner she made lasagna for herself and Shannon, who had immediately fallen in love with it and jokingly wondered where Quinn had been all her life. Later that night, Quinn chose the berry body wash for her shower, along with the herbal shampoo. She decided on the blue pajamas instead of the pink ones, and laid out her blue dress and white cardigan for the next afternoon. They were tiny decisions, but the next one was major.

She set her the alarm on her phone for 8 a.m., because she knew that’s when Rachel would be awake and having the first cups of coffee to help her get ready for the day. She knew that would be the best time to call Rachel and fix the mess she had made of them both.

She’d apologize, she decided. She’d apologize and tell Rachel that she still wanted to be dominated, but that she shouldn’t have tried to coerce Rachel before she was ready. She’d apologize for pressuring Rachel about New York.

She’d ask Rachel to forgive her, and then she’d shyly ask Rachel for another date. Maybe to the theater again, or a picnic. Quinn had seen couples with their blankets spread out with food tucked inside a wicker basket, and it had looked romantic and fun. Maybe Rachel would like that.

She must’ve fallen asleep thinking about where she could take Rachel for their date, because when she was startled awake by the phone ringing loudly in her ear the bedside clock read two twenty three a.m. She grumbled, wondering who the hell would call her at such an hour, and resolving to kill Noah if it was his whiny, cold-afflicted self. She fumbled for the phone and her eyes widened at the familiar face on the screen.

“A-are you all right?” she said to the person on the other end of the line, sounding less frantic than she felt. “Do you n-need anything?” Her mind raced with all of the things that could possibly be wrong; she was so terrified that she nearly missed what was being said, softly and nervously, into her ear.

But the words made it to her anyway, and Quinn swallowed hard, brushing the back of her hand against her eyes. When she brought it away again, her skin was wet.

“Okay, Rachel,” she finally agreed, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Yes.”

 

Chapter Text

It seemed that she had spent the last three hours pacing her living room floor. Every now and then Rachel would stop and squint downward, to see if she had worn a path in the carpet. And then she would glance at the door. Finally, she’d start pacing again. It had been the same routine since eight that morning. Her mind hadn’t rested since two twenty three.

Since she’d called Quinn.

“A-are you all right? Do you n-need anything?”

“Yes. Yes, Quinn, I do need something.”

“You’re not hurt, are you? Sick?”

“I need you to come see me. So we can talk. About everything. Can you do that for me, Quinn?”

“Okay, Rachel.”

“Come to my house at eleven tomorrow morning? Not a moment later or earlier.”

“Yes.”

It wasn’t too late to back out, Rachel thought. It was only 10:50, she still had ten minutes to come to her senses and put an end to all of this. It would be so easy just to tell Quinn that she was sorry things had turned out the way they had, and that she wished Quinn luck with finding a Dominant worthy of her.

But damn if Lana’s words kept replaying themselves in Rachel’s head, over and over like a prayer.

Rachel, you’re more than good enough.

And Rachel kept seeing Quinn’s face, hurt and lost as it had been that day three days ago when Rachel had buttoned up her coat and adjusted the collar, then sent her out into the rain. Away from her, away from them. She thought of herself, how big and lonely the house felt once again, even with Arnie sticking close to her side because he was remarkably good at sensing her sadness. Rachel thought of Quinn, of kissing her and holding her close, of wanting to see those hazel eyes looking at her with love and trust.

And even before she heard the soft knock on the door ten minutes later, Rachel knew there would be no way she’d back out.

Still, her hand trembled on the knob as she pulled open the door. But if Rachel was nervous, Quinn was even more so, as she couldn’t even bring her eyes up to meet Rachel’s. But she finally did look at her after a long minute, her gaze searching and unsure. Rachel smiled, and slipped her hand down to grasp Quinn’s, locking their fingers together.

“You’re not wearing a coat,” she said softly, pulling the girl inside and closing the door behind them, locking it. “It’s cold out; I don’t want you to get sick.”

“I forgot,” Quinn said with a shrug. “I’ve kind of been anxious all morning? So I guess I just didn’t think about it.”

“You too, huh?” Rachel’s smile didn’t waver; she willed it to be more reassuring, wanting Quinn to lose that uncertain expression, because it hurt. Seeing Quinn wary of being with her made something twist in Rachel’s gut and she’d do anything to be rid of it.

“Come on, why don’t you sit down, I’ll make us a drink. Hot chocolate?”

Quinn sat and giggled a little as Arnie immediately pounced on her with licks. “Hot chocolate sounds really nice,” she said, giving Rachel a genuine smile, and Rachel’s heart fluttered.

She made the hot chocolate quickly, listening as Quinn baby-talked Arnie in the living room, and her hands shook less as she carried the two mugs back and handed one to Quinn. “Down, you big oaf,” Rachel said, gently pushing Arnie to the floor. “I want Quinn time too, I’ve missed it.”

The mug paused halfway to Quinn’s mouth. “You have?”

“I have,” Rachel nodded. “It would be an understatement to say that I have grown rather fond of you, but other words seem to fail in describing my current emotional state.”

“You could try using less of them?” Quinn rolled her eyes, one corner of her mouth turning up a little as she took a sip of the hot chocolate.

Apparently Lana had been right; Rachel really had met her match. It made her giddy, the thought of it, even as she pouted only slightly at the mild insult; but one look at the sparkle that had suddenly returned to Quinn’s eyes and Rachel realized it was going to be easy to fall fast and hard for this brat.

“I’ve missed you,” she said honestly. She took a long drink of the hot chocolate, trying to use the heat of the liquid to muster up enough strength to say what she needed to. But Quinn stopped her before the words even came.

“I’m sorry,” she blurted out, sounding on the edge of tears. “I’m sorry I was so disrespectful, I’m sorry I tried to push you, I’m sorry I was so awful, I—“

“Quinn, stop.”

This was not how she wanted this to go. The time for apologies would come soon enough, from Quinn at least, but the time wasn’t right then. Rachel set her mug down on the coffee table and shifted on the couch so that she was sitting facing Quinn. Quinn was looking at her, almost frightened, a few stray tears trickling down her cheeks. Rachel flexed her fingers, then reached up and brushed the tears away with her thumbs.

“I’m scared.”

And there it was, the two hardest words Rachel Berry would ever say in her life. Even harder than “I’m sorry,” because she’d gotten quite a lot of practice – and baking experience – out of those. They were words that she’d always felt she wasn’t allowed to admit, even though that had been the first thing Lana had stressed to her – that if you didn’t admit you were scared, you could never learn to be strong.

And the other thing Lana had taught her: If you’re not strong when she needs you to be, your relationship will never work.

“Of what?” Quinn asked, sounding surprised and more than a little confused.

“Of everything?” Rachel shrugged. “Mostly…” She toyed with her hands in her lap, and then glanced up when Quinn grasped her hands in hers. “Mostly of never getting to New York. And mostly… of this. Us. What if I mess everything up between us?”

“I’ve already messed things up between us.”

No.” Rachel shook her head. “No, you haven’t. I should have talked to you, I should have told you everything I was feeling and instead I… shut you down.” She’d have to tell Lana she was right. Again. Damn it.

“I’ve thought about New York every day since I was four. Then I turned eighteen and well, you know. I am incredibly used to doing my job and not thinking about how much I wish I was on stage. Then this blonde haired hazel eyed brat walked – well, rolled—“

“Hey!”

“—walked into my life, and now look at me.” Rachel shrugged. “You’ve made me want everything just that much more, you’ve made me want you more than anything, and I am terrified of messing everything up and ending up with nothing.”

“Or…” Quinn spoke softly, haltingly, her gaze never leaving Rachel’s. “You could stop looking at it as you doing it all. Maybe it’s… you and me against the world, Rachel, like two awkward superheroes who only win the battle if they’re together. If we have each other, maybe we’ll end up with everything.”

“Has anyone ever told you you’re a dork?” Rachel sniffed, not realizing she’d been crying until she reached up a hand to wipe at her eyes. “I mean, you’re adorable, but you really are quite a dork.”

“Just you, Rachel.”

“Well, I’ll be quite happy to be the only one.”

“So does this mean…” Quinn trailed off, and Rachel’s heart melted, seeing the hope written all over the girl’s face.

She took a deep breath. “I need you to choose a word. Or a phrase. Something that you would never find yourself using in every day conversation.”

It was now or never. Stay or jump. Sink or swim. Fall… or fly.

“I don’t understand,” Quinn said, brow furrowed in confusion.

“Just a word or a phrase, sweetheart. But I need to know what it is.”

“Um… Barbra?”

Rachel blinked. “You are not using The Streisand as a safe word, Quinn Fabray.”

Quinn gaped. “S-safe word?”

Jump. Swim. Fly.

Rachel nodded. “There are so many things we have to work out,” she admitted, “And I’m not going to use this dynamic with you anywhere but in my home. This means in public, or when you’re alone at Shannon’s or out with friends, you make your own decisions and you don’t answer to me.”

“But—“

“No, Quinn. That’s the way this is going to work.” Rachel turned one of her hands over and squeezed Quinn’s. “You still have a lot of healing to do, and… so do I. There’s a big world out there waiting for you, and I want you to discover it all. But I-I want this with you so much, and if you still do then… maybe we can try.”

She let her words rest there, as if she had put all of her cards out on the table and was now waiting for Quinn to fold. There was silence, nothing but the quietness of Arnie snoring over on his mat in the corner, and Rachel felt herself begin to panic. Maybe this had been a bad idea. Maybe Quinn didn’t want this after all and had only come over to tell her so. Maybe Quinn would leave in a huff and they’d never see each other ag—

“Ballgown.”

Rachel blinked. “Ballgown?”

“For my safe word. Ballgown.”

“Ballgown,” Rachel repeated dumbly, watching as the corners of Quinn’s mouth quirked upward into an amused smile.

“That is what I said. Ballgown.”

“You do realize I’ll never be able to see Wicked the same way again, now?”

“Yep.”

“… brat.”

“But I’m your brat, Miss Rachel.”

She gave out something that sounded between a half-laugh and a half-sob; those two words had never sounded more like the most beautiful music in the world to her ears. Miss Rachel. She hadn’t even realized how much she’d missed them. How much she’d missed her. And now Quinn was looking at Rachel with a mixture of apprehension and contentment, and Rachel moved quickly to hug her, to press her lips against the other girl’s. She’d have been happy to kiss for hours, to hold Quinn in her arms for the rest of the afternoon as they just kissed, softly and gently, but then Quinn pulled away with an unreadable expression on her face.

“Quinn?” Rachel fought down the panic, the fear that Quinn was already changing her mind.

“I was so rude to you…”

“What? No you weren’t,” Rachel said, confused.

“Yes, I was,” Quinn insisted. “When I left… what I said to you, I was so disrespectful, Miss Rachel.”

“Oh, that,” Rachel said, feeling relieved. “Quinn, we were both incredibly stressed out. It’s all right, really.”

Quinn shook her head. “It’s not all right to me. I haven’t been able to stop t-thinking about it. You’re so good to me, and I treated you that way… it’s not all right.”

Rachel thought she already knew the answer, but she asked anyway. “What would make it all right, Quinn?”

She looked away. “You know what would.”

“I want you to tell me.”

“If you punished me.” Quinn’s voice was small, taking on a tone that Rachel had never heard before, and she’d be lying if she said it didn’t send a pleasurable thrill over her skin.

“Are you sure?” Rachel pressed, wanting to give Quinn every available out she possibly could. Once they did this, there would be no turning back. There would be no chance for Rachel to stop herself from doing anything that could potentially hurt someone who was slowly becoming one of the most important things in her life.

She focused on Quinn, looking for any signs of discomfort as the girl bit her lip, but then Quinn took a deep breath, drawing herself up, and nodding.

“I’m sure, Miss Rachel.”

Rachel nodded herself. “What’s your safe word?” she asked.

This time, there was no trace of amusement in Quinn as she responded, “Ballgown.”

“Good.” Rachel thought for a moment. “Go to my room. There is a bandana sitting on top of my desk. I want you to get it and bring it back to me.”

The change in Quinn was immediate as she stood. Rachel had never seen the girl fall into herself so easily, had never seen her eyes so steady and her steps as purposeful as she said “Yes, Miss Rachel,” and walked to her bedroom.

In seconds – seconds that seemed to take too long – Quinn was back, the argyle bandana fisted lightly in her hand. She held it out to Rachel, but didn’t sit down when Rachel took it.

Rachel laid the bandana next to her on the couch, and then paused. Knowing that Quinn was watching her every move, Rachel grabbed a pillow from the couch and sat it on the floor at her feet. She looked up at Quinn.

“Will you kneel for me, Quinn?”

There it was, the last out. A request, not a demand. The chance for Quinn to leave, for her to establish a clear boundary between herself and Rachel. By the quiet inflection at the end of the question, Rachel was telling Quinn that it was okay for her to decide, it was okay for her to make the choice that what they were doing wasn’t right for her.

Quinn met Rachel’s eyes with her own, and slipped wordlessly to her knees on the pillow. She trembled, her head ducking and her hands moving to grasp her wrists behind her back.

Rachel stood up, bracing herself momentarily on the arm of the couch, because her own legs were shaking so that she could hardly stand. She stayed next to Quinn for a moment, looking down at her, studying her form, before shaking her head. Reaching down, she gently untangled Quinn’s hands from themselves and brought them to the front, resting them palm-up atop the blue fabric of her dress over her knees. Quinn’s fists were clenched and Rachel slowly, carefully unclenched them, leaving the girl’s hands open. Offering. She cupped Quinn’s chin in her hand and lifted her face so that Quinn was looking at her.

“Head and eyes up,” she said softly.

“Yes, Miss Rachel. I’m sor—“

“Shh.” Rachel touched Quinn’s lips with her index finger. “You’re doing just fine, Quinn. It’s all right.”

She stepped back a little to study Quinn again, and caught the flicker of insecurity that touched Quinn’s face. Rachel smiled and reached to run a steady hand through Quinn’s hair.

“You,” she said, pronouncing each word firmly and carefully, “are so beautiful, little one.”

“Thank you, Miss Rachel.”

The flush of Quinn’s ears to a deep pink told Rachel that she had said the right thing. She stood there for another minute, lovingly stroking Quinn’s hair, before sitting back on the couch in front of her.

“Hands on my knees, Quinn, and look at me.”

“Yes, Miss Rachel.”

Immediately Quinn did as she was told, looking at Rachel with eyes that were wide and trusting, and Rachel felt as if her heart was being shattered into a million pieces and being rebuilt even stronger, all at the same time, over and over again. She wanted to cry, to fold Quinn into her arms and hold her, but there would be time enough for that. She had to focus on Quinn’s needs, now; her own could come later.

“Limits?”

“Miss Rachel?”

“What are your limits?” There’d be time to work on a comprehensive list later on, but Rachel needed to know immediate ones.

“D-don’t hit me,” Quinn said, her voice faltering a little.

“I will never,” Rachel said quietly. “You can trust me on that, Quinn.”

“All right.” Quinn took a breath and her hands tightened briefly around Rachel’s knees. “All right.”

Rachel leaned down and softly kissed Quinn’s forehead. “Do you know why you’re being punished, little one?”

“Because I was disrespectful to you the last time we spoke, Miss Rachel.”

“That’s right,” Rachel said. She looked into Quinn’s eyes. “Do you know why that hurts me?”

The look of shame was instantaneous, as were the tears that began to fall. Rachel’s immediate instinct was to stop everything and pull the girl into her lap, but she struggled against it. Quinn needed this, needed Rachel to establish her command, and everything they did from this point on would be for naught, if Rachel didn’t take control.

“I—“

“Hush.” Quinn went silent immediately, her gaze darting to Rachel’s hands as she picked up the argyle bandana and began to fold it. “Open.” When Quinn hesitated, Rachel said, more firmly, “Open your mouth, Quinn, now.”

Quinn did as she was told and in seconds she was gagged, the bandana tied lightly but securely around her head. Her hands trembled violently on Rachel’s knees, and Rachel settled her own on top of Quinn’s.

“If you need to safe word, you will put your right hand on top of your head, is that understood?”

Quinn nodded.

“For years he took away your voice,” Rachel said quietly. “He took away your right to speak your needs, your desires, and your fears. Everything. And when I came to visit you at the House, what did I want? For you to talk to me. I came every day, just because I wanted to hear you talk.” Rachel leaned forward, saying evenly, “I will not tolerate disrespect, Quinn Fabray. When you speak to me it will be without attitude. I have not worked so hard to hear you speak, I don’t love your voice so much just to have you talk to me the way you did. Remember what it’s like not to have a voice, Quinn, and adjust yourself accordingly once this gag is removed.”

Quinn was crying fully now, the tears coursing down her cheeks and wetting the gag; Rachel blinked back her own tears as she stood up, feeling Quinn’s hands slip from her knees. “Come with me,” she said, but stopped when Quinn moved as if to crawl behind her. “No,” she said, gentling her tone and leaning down to grasp Quinn’s hand.

“Stand up and walk, Quinn.” She picked up the pillow on the floor in her other hand, and led Quinn over to a far corner in the living room. She sat the pillow down, and pointed.

“On your knees, Quinn.”

Once again it was effortless, and Rachel gently pressed her hand to the back of Quinn’s head, guiding her nose to the wall.

“I want you to stay there and think about your attitude, and how you can better express your emotions when you are under duress.”

She moved to walk away but was stopped by hands gripping at her waist, at Quinn shaking her head, garbled sounds coming from around the gag and her eyes wide with fear. Gagged or not, Rachel understood what she was saying.

Don’t leave me.

Slowly she pulled Quinn’s hands away from her and once again guided the girl to the wall. She kept one hand on Quinn’s shoulder.

“If you want to safe word,” Rachel said, “You know how to do it.”

She waited, but Quinn’s hands didn’t move from her sides. Rachel could feel Quinn shake as she cried, and her heart ached. None of her classes had really prepared her for what it would be like to punish a submissive, and all she really knew about it she’d learned as a sub, with Lana. She knew she had to be strong, unyielding if there hadn’t been a safe word, and most importantly, she had to be there.

“I’m right here, little one,” Rachel said tenderly. “You’re okay. Just stay there and think about things, okay?”

She felt Quinn go limp, felt her slump against the wall, and she smiled a little. She waited thirty seconds, and then dropped her hand from Quinn’s shoulder. She moved back, just a few steps, watching as the tension rose in Quinn’s body.

“I’m right here,” Rachel said again, and again Quinn went limp, even as she was still crying.

She was beautiful, Rachel thought. So breathtakingly beautiful, knelt in the corner with her blue dress bunched up around her knees and her slim, delicate hands once again slipping behind her back. Her eyes were closed, her lips tight against the gag in her mouth, golden blonde hair almost melding with the white fabric of the cardigan she was wearing over her dress.

She looked, Rachel thought, like an angel.

Moving back again, she sat on the coffee table, her eyes trained on Quinn. She watched as the girl grew a little restless, watched as Quinn dared to sneak a look over her shoulder. Rachel raised an eyebrow when Quinn saw she’d been caught leaving position and she snapped back around to the corner, a flush rising at the base of her neck. Rachel fought off a giggle.

“I’m right here,” she said once more.

After a few more minutes, Quinn had stopped crying, and all the tension had left her body. She was leaning against the corner now, relaxed, her breathing coming deep and shallow and for a moment Rachel wondered if the girl had fallen asleep.

“Quinn,” she called softly, and the girl lifted her head. No, she hadn’t been asleep. “Come here, Quinn. Bring the pillow with you.” Rachel didn’t wait to see if Quinn obeyed her; she knew she would, and so she got up from the coffee table and went back to the couch. By the time she had sat down, the pillow was on the floor and Quinn was kneeling in front of her.

Rachel reached up and quickly untied the gag, pulling it from Quinn’s mouth. Quinn licked her lips but said nothing, staring at Rachel. Waiting for instruction.

“Do you have anything you wish to say to me?”

“Yes, Miss Rachel,” Quinn said. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I was disrespectful to you.”

Rachel nodded. “And will it happen again?”

“No,” Quinn declared. “Never.”

Rachel just barely managed not to roll her eyes; of course it would happen again. It was one of those things that would always happen, she knew. But that was all right. They’d deal with it. In the meantime, Quinn was still staring at her, waiting, expectant, and Rachel leaned down, wrapped her arms around Quinn, and kissed her.

“Good girl,” she murmured against Quinn’s lips. “That’s my good girl.”

Quinn’s arms came to wrap around Rachel’s neck, clinging tightly as she pressed her face into Rachel’s skin, once again crying softly. Rachel tugged until Quinn came off her knees and climbed onto the couch, settling herself into Rachel’s lap. She rubbed Quinn’s back, stroked her hair, once again saying those words, over and over.

“Good girl, Quinn. Good girl.”

And then Rachel was pressed back into the couch with the force of Quinn’s sobs, loud and anguished, and she had the sudden realization that something had just broken. It wasn’t the punishment, it wasn’t what they were doing, it was Quinn feeling, lost in the fact that no one had ever held her after a punishment before. Rachel suddenly knew that Quinn was lost in memories of the past, of other punishments, and that something had awakened in her and now Quinn was… She was grieving. Grieving for the past, what she had thought her future would be, the child that was and the woman that was only now allowed to be.

Rachel kept her arms strong and firm around Quinn, remembering herself just after her first punishment with Lana, how Lana had held her close, whispering reassurances in her ear. But Lana had never dealt with this; Rachel had never been broken. And now Rachel felt helpless, powerless to stave off the sobs that wracked Quinn’s body in wails and hitched breaths, and as she kept stroking her hair and trying to whisper words of comfort, Rachel finally reached for the one thing she knew better than breathing.

“There were bells on the hill, but I never heard them ringing,” Rachel sang quietly, pressing her lips close to Quinn’s ear. “No I never heard them at all, till there was you… “ She began to rock Quinn, smiling a little when Arnie leapt up onto the couch and laid his head on Quinn’s leg, looking at Rachel mournfully. She’d have to give him a treat later.

“There were birds in the sky, but I never saw them winging, no, I never saw them at all, till there was you…”

Her voice was stronger now, clear, as if she wasn’t singing in her house but on a stage in New York, to an audience of one. And Quinn was calming, her hands fisted in Rachel’s shirt, her cries gradually subsiding as she listened.

“And there was music, and there were wonderful roses, they tell me, in sweet fragrant meadows of dawn and dew…”

Quinn had lifted her face now, hiccupping quietly, but she was smiling, and Rachel gently brushed the tears away with her fingertips, kissing her. She held Quinn’s face in her hands, smiling at her as she sang the last lines.

“There was love all around, but I never heard it singing. No, I never heard it at all, till there was you…”

She touched Quinn’s lips with hers in a soft kiss before pulling the girl’s head back down to her shoulder. Never mind that it was probably too soon to say the word love. Never mind that she still wasn’t sure what they were doing was the right thing. Never mind that there was still so much for them to talk about, rules to establish and limits to set. Never mind that she had no clue how she was going to dominate Quinn only in her own home, but not in public or anywhere else. Never mind that she felt her stomach growl and she remembered she hadn’t eaten breakfast, because Quinn felt it too and was giggling against Rachel’s neck, and all Rachel could do was hug her tighter.

She’d once thought she’d forgotten how to sing.

Now there was Quinn.

Chapter Text

Quinn blinked her eyes then brought her hand up to rub them, trying to focus. Where was—oh. She was at Miss Rachel’s, on her couch, wrapped up in a blanket with Arnie at her feet. She must’ve fallen asleep. But for how long? And where was—

“Miss Rachel?”

“Right here,” came the response, easy and comforting, and Quinn sighed with relief. She moved to sit up as Miss Rachel came into the living room from the kitchen, a glass in her hand, but one touch of her other hand and Quinn laid back down.

“What time is it?” Her mouth was dry and she licked her lips, trying to swallow.

“Nearly one, you’ve just been having a little nap.” Rachel sat on the coffee table in front of Quinn and reached out to slip one hand under Quinn’s head, holding her up and bringing the glass to her lips. “Drink.”

Water. She drank greedily, almost draining the glass before she had to come up for air. “Thank you, Miss Rachel,” she breathed, grateful to have the grainy, cotton feeling from the gag out of her mouth. “I-I’m sorry I fell asleep.”

She felt awkward, suddenly shy, but she realized she didn’t need to feel that way because Miss Rachel had soon moved to the couch and Quinn found herself again wrapped up in her arms. She wound her own arms around Miss Rachel’s waist and held fast, smiling when Miss Rachel kissed the top of her head.

“Don’t apologize for that,” Miss Rachel said. “You needed to rest a little bit, and it was good for me to just sit and be quiet for a little while. We’ve had… a rather intense morning, haven’t we?” Quinn nodded. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

Miss Rachel’s voice was soft, worried, and Quinn hastened to squeeze her tight. “I-I’m good, Miss Rachel,” she said, for her own part sounding a little surprised. “It was nice to just… be with you and listen to you sing. You have the most beautiful voice.”

“And what about… during?” Miss Rachel didn’t elaborate, and for Quinn, she didn’t have to.

How had she felt, while Miss Rachel was punishing her? The worst part had been when Miss Rachel had said that Quinn’s attitude had hurt her. Quinn had wanted the floor to open up and swallow her, along with her shame.  Quinn knew she’d take whatever punishment Miss Rachel would give her, as long as she’d never again have to hear that she’d hurt her. The punishment itself had been relatively mild, compared to what Quinn was used to, but that… still had terrified her. Kneeling there at the corner she kept worrying, when Rachel had moved away, about when the first blow would fall, even though Rachel had said it never would. So she hadn’t been able to resist sneaking a peek back, to see if Rachel was gathering up implements to use on her.

But instead, Miss Rachel was simply sat on the coffee table, watching her with a raised eyebrow. No blows came. Just Quinn in the corner, thinking about how she had smarted off to Miss Rachel and how she would never, ever do that again. Because Miss Rachel was right. Quinn had had her voice taken away by him, and now that Miss Rachel – had she really said that she loved her voice? – wanted to hear Quinn talk, she needed to make sure she did it respectfully. And she would.

So there had been no blows. Just Miss Rachel’s arms around her, and the words.

Good girl.

Then the tears.

Quinn was embarrassed that she’d fallen apart, but somehow, it had felt good too, to let go of all of it. She’d waited so long; she’d had no idea how important those words were to her until she’d finally heard them. And Miss Rachel had said them so lovingly; it was clear to Quinn that Miss Rachel had meant them, that she wasn’t saying them just because she thought that was what a Dominant was supposed to say.

Quinn had let herself cry until she couldn’t cry anymore, and over it all had been Rachel’s voice, Rachel’s song. Now Quinn felt warm, almost fuzzy, and she nuzzled her face into Miss Rachel’s neck, taking a deep breath and letting herself feel safe in the woman’s scent, in her arms. It was nice to know that she could just be quiet… and in the comfortable silence that went on for several minutes, that made her want to say everything.

“Quinn?”

“A-after he punished me,” Quinn said, her voice barely above a whisper, “He would never do this. Hold me.” She felt Miss Rachel shift, felt her arms tighten around her, and Quinn smiled a little. Miss Rachel stayed quiet, listening. “It didn’t matter if I was crying. If I was in pain, if I was b-bleeding.” There was a sharp intake of breath, then a sound remarkably like a low growl, and Quinn snuggled closer.

“I always had to just get up, you know, and go on with my day. He’d get angry if I tried to find some comfort, if I tried to get him to hug me just so I could feel… better. Forgiven. He never said I was forgiven, never said I was a g-good girl. But then, he’d get mad if I didn’t show any sort of emotion and the next time he’d… hit me harder or faster or try to mark me deeper. Because he said he wanted a-a… well, he said he didn’t want a robot. I couldn’t ever win with him, Miss Rachel.”

“I don’t think it was you, little one,” Miss Rachel said softly. “I think, from what you describe, that perhaps there was no submissive, no girl or boy, to make him happy. You didn’t do anything wrong, Quinn.”

“I just kept thinking i-if I cried differently, or clung to him a little lighter, if I held my position longer, bent over more… gracefully, I don’t know, it’s stupid.” She shook her head against Miss Rachel’s neck.

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Rachel repeated, gently pushing Quinn back so the girl was looking at her. Quinn stared, wanting to believe it was true, but even though she’d said it to Tina the other day… it was hard, not to have those doubts.

“We should eat,” Rachel said, lightly caressing Quinn’s cheek with her hand. “What do you say to a little bit of brunch, hmm?” She leaned up and kissed Quinn.

Quinn smiled. “I think I’d like that very much, Miss Rachel.”

“Excellent,” Miss Rachel beamed at her. “Let’s go into the kitchen then.” She followed Miss Rachel in, and the woman began to pull pots and pans out of the cabinets. “Set the table, please.”

“Yes, Miss Rachel.” She had been given an order. Quinn moved quickly, grabbing the plates and setting them on the table, the utensils, the cups, the napkins. She began to fuss over the placement; maybe the forks needed to be here and the spoons here. Or the plates should be a little further to the edge of the table, or centered? Were there placemats? She hadn’t seen any but—

“Quinn. Perfection is not expected at the moment, and may in fact be impossible to attain.”

“I’ll remember that the next time we’re watching one of those singing competitions on television, Miss Rachel.”

The words were out before Quinn could think to stop them, and she froze. She’d sassed Miss Rachel; what would she do? Her hands gripped the back of the chair where she was standing, and she dared to sneak a glance over her shoulder again. Miss Rachel was standing at the stove, a spatula hovering in mid-air as she stared at Quinn. Oh God, Quinn thought. Less than two hours into being her submissive and Quinn was already being a bad one.

But then Miss Rachel smiled and rolled her eyes. “Met my match,” she muttered to herself, before turning back to the eggs. “Sit down, Quinn. Brunch will be ready shortly.”

She sat down, and waited. Maybe a little bit of attitude was okay, Quinn thought to herself. She hadn’t really said anything disrespectful, she’d just been teasing…

“You’re thinking too much,” Miss Rachel said after a few minutes of silence, coming over and serving the food onto their plates. She put the pans in the dishwasher before returning to the table and sitting down, reaching out to squeeze Quinn’s hand.

“Perfection is a nice thing to try for,” she explained, looking at Quinn. “Goodness knows I am a perfectionist when it comes to my singing. But I don’t want us to be doing this with you always afraid you’ll be punished for not being perfect. I expect you not to be. I expect you to always try, but it’s okay if something isn’t perfect. All right, Quinn?”

She nodded, though her head was reeling. So much had changed in such a short time, everything was different now. And Miss Rachel was so different from him… it was all so exhilarating and frightening at the same time, and her voice trembled when she spoke. “Y-yes, Miss Rachel.” She picked up her fork, grateful for the food, and then hesitated.

Did she wait for Miss Rachel to eat first? Wait until Miss Rachel told her it was okay to eat? Shouldn’t she be at Miss Rachel’s feet instead of sat next to her at the table? Or… eating from a plate in the corner?

Not eating at all?

She blinked and looked up when she felt a gentle touch on her hand. “Eat your food,” Miss Rachel ordered softly, and Quinn felt her cheeks turn pink when Miss Rachel waited until she started eating to begin herself.

“I think,” Miss Rachel mused, almost half to herself, “That once we’re finished eating, perhaps we’ll establish some rules.” She smiled at Quinn. “That way, you don’t have to be uncertain about what I expect, and I can be assured of your needs.”

“My… needs?” Quinn said after she’d swallowed her food. Miss Rachel was the most amazing cook, she thought to herself. Quinn wasn’t used to being cooked for, she’d always made the meals. But as much as it was awkward, as much as she wanted to fix Miss Rachel a seven-course feast, this was nice. She felt… cared for.

And now Miss Rachel was talking about her needs? She may as well have been speaking a foreign language, Quinn thought, but Miss Rachel was nodding, a little sadly.

“You haven’t had many of your needs met,” Miss Rachel said, “Other than the basic ones of food and shelter. I want to make sure that you’re being taken care of, emotionally.”

Quinn felt like she’d never stop blushing, as Miss Rachel slid the hand not occupied with a fork over to Quinn and gently took hers.  They sat that way throughout eating, just holding hands. Loosely, but to Quinn it felt like the tightest bond that could ever exist.

After their lunch, Quinn watched in fascination as Miss Rachel quickly cleared everything away from the table, loading the dishwasher. She turned a little and smiled, flushing a little, catching the girl staring at her.

“I don’t want to start off bossing you too much,” Miss Rachel said, “Plus I don’t mind cleaning up.”

Then there was another flurry of activity as Miss Rachel dashed into her room and came back with a notebook, two pens, and several different-colored markers. Quinn quirked an eyebrow.

“Color coding. Red for hard limits, blue for soft limits, green for perfectly acceptable activities.” Miss Rachel stopped, biting her lower lip, and Quinn couldn’t help but laugh.

“You’re pretty thorough, you know?”

Miss Rachel rolled her eyes and moved to the couch in the living room. “I want to make sure everything is set up so that we understand each other. That means being incredibly thorough.” She sat down on the couch and patted the cushion next to her.

Quinn hesitated.

“Quinn?”

“M-may I kneel for you?”

Miss Rachel shook her head. “We need to talk as equals for this, Quinn. I don’t want you to think that we’re not, and I don’t want you to be on your knees and afraid to speak your mind.”

“But that’s just it,” Quinn protested. “I’m not afraid to speak my mind to you, even on my knees. I just… I want to kneel for you, please.”

Miss Rachel considered this, and then finally relented. “But only for a little while,” she said, and quickly placed a pillow at her feet, off to the side. “And only if you kneel on this.”

“Yes, Miss Rachel.” Quinn knelt quickly, putting herself into the position that Miss Rachel had indicated earlier: head up, eyes up, hands open with her palms up and resting on her knees. She was rewarded when Miss Rachel smiled her approval, but then she reached down and carefully lifted Quinn up on her knees, wrapping her arm around her and cuddling her close.

Quinn sighed happily, resting her head against Miss Rachel’s side and closing her eyes. Once again she found herself thinking about how different it was, how much nicer it was to be in this position. Actually, she’d never really been in a position like this. Finn had had his preferred ones, and most of them involved her never daring to look at him. Because if she did, it would result in a slap. Or other things, if he was feeling particularly vicious.

But this time… this time there was only Miss Rachel, her arm soft and warm around Quinn, and for once Quinn’s knees didn’t get tired or start hurting. It was as if the quiet way Miss Rachel spoke to her as she asked her about rules and limits held Quinn up, gave her strength she’d never had with him. One of Quinn’s arms was draped over Miss Rachel’s knees, and she felt lulled into a state that was half between sleep and being hyper-aware of everything around her, like the questions and what she was agreeing to, the rough scratch of Miss Rachel’s markers against the paper.

The rules were simple. Respect was to be maintained at all times. Questions were to be answered Yes, Miss Rachel, or No, Miss Rachel. Quinn would arrive for her visits promptly and call if she was to be late. She would do as she was told as long as it fell within the limits they had set. She would tell Miss Rachel if anything bothered her or made her feel uncomfortable. Communication was a requirement. The rules page was short, but clear on what Miss Rachel wanted. And at the bottom, Quinn’s one and only rule, which made Miss Rachel tear up.

Please tell me I’m a good girl.

“We’ll work on some more rules for me,” Miss Rachel had said, which surprised Quinn. She hadn’t ever thought that she’d be allowed to establish some rules for Miss Rachel. But then, Miss Rachel wanted her to set limits, and she supposed they went hand in hand.

The limits were the hardest thing for Quinn to come up with. She’d always been told that she wasn’t allowed to have limitations, that she had to do whatever he wanted. But Miss Rachel said that the limits were more important than the rules, and that if she was going to keep Quinn safe, she needed to know.

It was hardest to come up with the things that Quinn didn’t mind, like the gagging. Blindfolds. Being tied. Being scolded, lightly humiliated. She didn’t think she could come up with any others, and Miss Rachel had just hugged her and said they’d work on that more later, too.

Hard limits were the easiest, and they flowed off Quinn’s tongue like water. No hitting. No physical punishment of any kind. No hard humiliation. Nothing involving bodily functions. (“Thank Barbra,” Miss Rachel had said in a relieved tone, and Quinn giggled.) In just a few short minutes the entire page was full, and staring at it Quinn felt guilty. Miss Rachel shouldn’t have to deal with someone so damaged, so hurt and so broken. She deserved someone better. Someone who knew how to be a submissive, someone who was good at it, but Quinn… just didn’t know how. All she had known, all she had been taught… was him.

And so suddenly it all began to come out of her, as she knelt there at Miss Rachel’s feet feeling safe and secure, but indescribably guilty. Every last thing that Finn had ever said and done to her. Quinn was only slightly aware that she was speaking so rapidly that she probably could barely be understood, but she knew if she didn’t speak then she’d never. And hadn’t Miss Rachel been right, that now that she had a voice she needed to use it? He’d taken that away from her.

And now Quinn was taking it back.

Her speech slowed then, because she knelt up a little straighter and Miss Rachel’s hand was strong against her back, holding her close. She told of how he would beat her, how she would go to bed every night aching and there was never a comfortable spot on the floor, a position that would help her get sleep. She spoke of how he’d drive her to the hospital and take her in, hand rough around her arm, and she would smile and laugh at what a klutz she was, tripping down the stairs or running into a door. The bone in her arm would be reset or the cut in her leg sewn up, and then it was back home to fix dinner or service him in bed.

She talked about him shoving her out of the bed afterward to sleep on the floor. She’d lie there alone in the corner, hugging the sheet to her and burying her face in the pillow, trying to find warmth as she drowned her sobs against the fabric. She would wonder what it would be like to leave, to find her own way, but then morning would come after she would worry what he’d do to her if he ever found her, and there was breakfast to make and chores to do.

She was quiet and mournful as she talked about that first night, how she’d been so breathless and shy and happy with him. Nervous and eager to please. She talked about how it hurt, how rough he was, how he never stopped to make sure she was okay.

How he never stopped to make sure she was okay.

How it was merciful that he never really lasted long anyway.

The best times were when he wasn’t there, because even though she had things to do and she was constantly worried about if he’d be pleased with her when he came home, he wasn’t there and she could breathe. She’d walk around their little house and redecorate it in her mind, adding little touches of things she remembered she liked when she was little. Sports trophies would be replaced with drawings, sketches of landscapes or still lifes. Dark foreboding curtains would give way to bright colors, yellows and greens and maybe even some pink in a guest room. And books. Rows and rows of books, in every subject.

But always he would come home. Usually angry. And dreams of her own life would fly out the window so she could preserve the one she was already living.

She cried as her rambles turned to her grandfather, how he would pick her up when she was little and swing her around. How they’d dance together in his living room and he’d tell her that someday, someday, his little Quinnie would have a Sir to love her as much as he loved her grandmother.

Quinn confessed to Rachel that it was the only time her grandfather had lied to her.

She was practically laying over Miss Rachel’s lap now as she cried, a position she knew well, but again Quinn was struck at how different it was. Because instead of her hand descending rapidly and hard, Miss Rachel’s hand was still soft, light, whether her fingers were running through Quinn’s hair or her hand lightly rubbing her back in smooth, gentle, comforting circles. The dam didn’t stop then, brought on by Miss Rachel’s very kindness; it was as if every motion of her hand, where Finn’s had only drawn cries of pain, drew just cries from Quinn, of release and hurt. She spoke of her parents, how much it had confused and devastated her that night when she’d called to ask if she could come to their house, come home… and the phone had just rang. It had rang and rang, and there had been no answer. The two people Quinn had always thought she could count on, and no one had been there.

She was clutching at Miss Rachel’s skirt, fisting the material in her hands and holding on as if it was the only thing that could keep her from drowning in the tears and the memories, and then her blood ran cold when she heard Miss Rachel ask the question.

“Quinn, why did you leave?”

She raised her tearstained face to Miss Rachel’s, her lower lip trembling still. Miss Rachel was crying, too; her cheeks were streaked but she didn’t bother to wipe them away. Quinn shook her head but Miss Rachel gently tugged her up again until, as she had been earlier, she was settled on Miss Rachel’s lap.

The command was simple, but final.

“Tell me.”

She tucked her face into Miss Rachel’s neck then, not knowing if she could bear to see the look on her face as she told of how he’d gone out with his friends yet again that night. He’d come home drunk but happy, almost euphoric as for the first time in their relationship he’d told Quinn that he had a present for her.

She’d been excited, but wary. And it turned out she had reason to be suspicious.

It was a cold night, late autumn, and she had a fire roaring because he’d told her to make it before he left; he couldn’t stand the cold, and he hadn’t brought out the extra blanket for her yet. She remembered the heat well, how it tingled her skin as she knelt in the middle of the floor in front of it, and waited for her Sir.

Her mind was alive with wondering what her present would be. A dress? She hadn’t had a new dress in years. A necklace? Probably not that, since the silver circlet around her neck made a necklace unnecessary. A ring? She’d loved rings when she was a little girl and had always wanted one. Or maybe a book. That idea excited her the most.

And then he’d come out of the bedroom carrying it, and everything in Quinn screamed. He’d been threatening it for months, and now as he brought out the rod with its broad, flat end,  the smirk on his face just as broad, she knew he was about to make good on his promise. She knew why he’d told her to have a fire ready.

The two letters on the end of the brand were clear. FH.

“He… he wanted to…” Miss Rachel’s voice sounded odd, strained, almost strangled. She was holding on to Quinn so tightly that the girl could hardly breathe, but she didn’t say anything or move Miss Rachel’s hands away.

Instead Quinn only nodded as she said that it was the first time she’d ever really told him no, the first time that her protest had actually had some weight behind it. The first time she’d ever realized that anything would be better than being with him. Even being alone, being lost, being dead. And so she’d run away.

“It’s illegal,” Miss Rachel spat out, and Quinn shivered a little at the anger. “It’s illegal, and it’s barbaric, and if I saw him right now I’d… I’d…”

“Miss Rachel?” Quinn whispered. “Please?”

It was… sweet, Quinn guessed, to hear Miss Rachel so angry and ready to do battle on her behalf, but it wasn’t really what Quinn wanted, not at that instant. Her arms had come to wrap around Miss Rachel’s waist and she held fast, not wanting to let go. She knew it was getting late and by all accounts she could get back to Shannon’s house. Even if the thought of being alone in her room made Quinn feel sick for the first time since she’d woken up in McKinley House and there’d been no one there.

She’d felt so lonely… she’d wished for Him.

But then Miss Rachel picked up the phone and by the way she talked, Quinn knew she was talking to Shannon. Telling her that Quinn would be home sometime tomorrow. Yes, she was fine, it was just late and Miss Rachel didn’t want her out by herself. Yes, she’d tell her to rest. No, they weren’t going to do any hanky-panky and Miss Rachel resented the idea that she would take advantage of Quinn that way.  Apology accepted, and Quinn smiled a little.

Then, without so much as a word, Miss Rachel was leading Quinn into the guest bedroom, where a pair of Quinn’s pajamas was still tucked into a drawer. She undressed and redressed quickly when Miss Rachel went to her own room to do the same, then came back to Quinn with a smile.

“We should sleep,” Miss Rachel said. “Shannon’s right, you do need your rest.”

When Quinn moved to pull back the sheets Miss Rachel stopped her, instead doing it herself. She motioned for Quinn to climb in; she did, snuggling her head against the pillow with a soft sigh. Miss Rachel pulled the covers up around Quinn and stooped to press a kiss against her lips before climbing in next to her. Quinn blinked in surprise; she’d expected to sleep alone. But Miss Rachel pulled Quinn into her arms, pressing Quinn’s head to her chest, and it was clear to Quinn that Miss Rachel meant to stay there with her. The tears sprang to her eyes and she cried quietly as Miss Rachel stroked her hair and sang low in her ear.

She must have drifted off because when she woke again it was dark. She jerked up in bed, frightened, having momentarily forgotten where she was. But then the gentlest hands she’d ever known lightly lowered her back to the bed, and she found herself safe in Miss Rachel’s arms again.

“Miss Rachel?” she queried, and once again the answer came, as it had several times during that day.

“I’m right here, little one.”

I’m right here.

Chapter Text

Rachel liked the freedom of living on her own. She liked being able to leave her clothes lying around if she wanted to – which she didn’t. She liked being able to have dessert first sometimes – which she did, frequently. And she liked being able to decorate her house the way she wanted to, stay up as late as she wanted, play her music as loud as she wanted and sing along with anything and everything, even the television commercials.

Which she didn’t do.

Not often, anyway.

But every now and then… sometimes it was nice for Rachel just to go home. To the place she was born, where she was raised. The place where Rachel Barbra Berry first discovered just who, exactly, she was.

Leroy Berry threw open the door and immediately wrapped his arms around Rachel, pulling the girl inside. “I’m not letting you go,” he said, hugging her tightly. “I haven’t seen you in forever.”

Rachel rolled her eyes and carefully disengaged herself from him, returning the hug nonetheless. “Thanksgiving was just three days ago, Daddy,” she said happily. “I don’t think that constitutes forever.”

“It does in Daddy-time,” he said, then looked past Rachel, above her head. “And who’s this?”

Rachel half-turned, extending her hand with a smile to the blonde-haired, nervous submissive hovering just behind her. Quinn took it and offered her own, albeit smaller, smile. “This is Quinn, Daddy. She’s… my friend. I told you, remember?”

Quinn looked at Rachel’s dad shyly, but didn’t say anything, and Rachel squeezed her hand...

“That you did, that you did,” Leroy said, stepping over to study Quinn, looking warmly at her. “But you failed to mention that she’s beautiful, Rachel. It almost hurts to look at her; it’s like staring at the sun with no sunglasses.”

“Daddy, stop, you’re embarrassing her,” Rachel said, lightly punching him in the arm. “And you’re going to make Dad jealous.”

“Yes, stop, my boy,” Hiram said, coming into the living room and standing beside his husband. “You’re giving me a complex.”

“He forgets I only have eyes for him,” Leroy said to Quinn, who rewarded him with a grin and a blush. “This is Rachel’s friend, Quinn, Sir.”

It was only now that Rachel was grown and out of the house that her fathers were more comfortable with their dynamic in front of her. As a child she’d known it existed, because it was the way things were. But her fathers were intensely private, and so their dynamic was often revealed in more subtle ways to their daughter. It was through her fathers that Rachel learned a dynamic could be established with just a single word. The raise of an eyebrow. The fact that her Daddy was always the one who made dinner and that Dad was the one she had to ask about a raise in her allowance.

The full force of her fathers’ dynamic, and their love, had become apparent when Hiram had gotten sick. Used to Hiram making the rules, Leroy had nevertheless become the rock of the family, holding his Sir and Rachel together as he cared for the man he loved. Their rules had all but gotten thrown out of the window, and it was interesting to see, if only for a short time, the dynamic shift, in a way. Hiram had had difficulty giving up some of his control, especially since that was even out of his control. And it was Hiram who had the biggest problem with Rachel giving up the New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts to help take care of him, but Leroy was the one who voiced it, resulting in the biggest argument Rachel had ever had with her fathers.

Every now and then they would bring up NYADA, but it was very easy for Rachel to push away that conversation by telling them that she had work to do in Lima, and that if she didn’t do it, no one else would. Rachel knew that her fathers were proud of her, but she also knew that there was sadness that she hadn’t yet realized her dream, and probably no small amount of guilt from Hiram. Rachel had repeatedly told him that she didn’t blame him, and she didn’t, but she knew neither of her fathers would be truly happy until she was in New York.

Hiram regarded Quinn seriously before smiling just as warmly at her, even as his eyebrow rose at Rachel. She felt herself flush and shrugged slightly; her father was always able to see right through her.

“Welcome to our home, Quinn,” Hiram said, stepping back and leading the girls more fully into the house. “Do you want anything to drink, something to eat?”

Rachel watched Quinn carefully, then practically beamed as Quinn said, “I wouldn’t mind a drink if it’s not too much trouble, Mr. Berry.”

Quinn’s eyes were wide and inquisitive, almost like a child’s, as she took in her surroundings. The Berry house was small, smaller than Rachel’s even, but it was comfortable and it was clear that, unlike Quinn’s childhood home, Rachel was sure, that people lived and loved there. Everywhere in the house was evidence of a happy family: from the pictures of Rachel and her fathers on the wall, to Rachel’s numerous singing awards as a child, and both Hiram and Leroy’s work accomplishments. Leroy was chief of staff at a hospital outside of the city, and Hiram’s skill as an accountant kept him in high demand at tax season. Rachel was proud of her fathers, and proud to be their daughter.

“Please, call me Hiram,” he said, before tipping his chin at his submissive, who quickly went to the kitchen to fetch drinks. “And as gushing as my Leroy is, he’s also right. You’re absolutely beautiful.”

They sat on the couch with Quinn close to Rachel, who briefly touched Quinn’s knee reassuringly. The gesture didn’t go unnoticed by Hiram, who seemed to have been staring at his daughter ever since he’d entered the room. She felt exposed under his gaze; she knew he could read her like an open libretto, and that he’d no doubt start asking her questions as soon as they were alone, but she wasn’t sure she was ready for that, at all. She didn’t have to answer to her fathers when it came to her personal life, Rachel knew, but she also knew that they were used to her tendency to leap without a parachute.

“Thank you, Mr.- Hiram,” Quinn said softly, losing some of the tension in her muscles as Leroy brought her a drink and handed it to her with a smile. “It’s really nice to meet both of you.”

“Speaking of meeting,” Leroy said, snuggling up to his Sir on the couch, “How did you and Rachel meet?”

“Oh, I-I, um…”

“Through work,” Rachel said, gently squeezing Quinn’s knee. “I saw her across the room, said hello, started talking—“

“Wouldn’t shut up…”

Rachel blinked, looking at Quinn, who smirked at her.

Leroy grinned. “That’s our Rachel,” he said. “She’ll talk your ear off if you’d let her.”

“Oh, I’m sure the ears are just the first things to go.”

Rachel gaped and as Leroy and Hiram laughed, Quinn leaned into her to whisper.

“No rules outside the house, Miss Rachel.

“Might have to rethink that,” Rachel muttered in return, but she wasn’t annoyed. No, the reaction she was having at Quinn’s smart little moment of defiance was… inspiring a completely different reaction in her. She coughed and took a sip of her drink to distract herself from thinking about it.

… Was this why Lana liked it so much when Emma was a brat?

But it was dangerous, too, this game Quinn was playing with her, in front of her fathers. Rachel had told her before the visit that they would have to be careful.

“Are you ashamed of me?” Quinn had asked her, and the question had cut Rachel to the core.

“Of course not,” she’d hastened to reassure the girl. “But little one, I don’t want to jump into this too quickly, and you know why it’s important not too many people know about us right now.”

“Because you’re still scared,” Quinn had said, and Rachel hadn’t been sure she had an argument against that.

But there would be no way she could be ashamed of Quinn. It had been a week since they’d made steps towards setting up their dynamic, and slowly but surely both she and Quinn were making progress in discovering what they both liked, and what neither of them wanted. Rachel was quickly learning that Quinn craved instruction almost as much as she craved reassurance. It was a delicate balance, for Rachel to tell Quinn things like “go get this,” or “bring me that,” and have it be within the context of their relationship and not just her being overbearing or controlling. But Quinn seemed to be thriving with it, and even Shannon had remarked that Quinn acted much happier than she had before. Rachel had declined to give Shannon a reason for it.

For herself, Rachel was discovering that one of her favorite things was just to cuddle with Quinn at the end of the day. She’d been worried about having Quinn on her knees so much, but it didn’t matter if she insisted Quinn sit next to her on the couch; inevitably Rachel would find that Quinn had slipped to her knees at her feet, and her head was resting either on Rachel’s lap or against her side. And Rachel would just hold her, stroking her hair, and watch for that quiet look of contentment to appear on Quinn’s face.

That was the one thing that Lana had repeatedly stressed to Rachel during her training: watching was a necessity. Watch for happiness, for pleasure. But more than that, watch for any sign of hurt, any sign of discomfort, any sign of loneliness. And it didn’t matter if Quinn was curled up to her or stuck with her nose in the corner, Rachel wouldn’t stop watching, guarding against any misstep, terrified to make a mistake. Because for Rachel it was a huge thing, finally having a submissive.

And having one that had been completely broken before, at the hands of another? Delicate wasn’t a word Rachel would use to describe Quinn, but it was the only way she knew to treat the girl. There was a danger in that, too, Rachel knew, though she didn’t think Quinn would ever be one to take advantage of it.

Even if she was a brat.

But her fathers were asking Quinn more questions, much like Jesse had that first time, and Rachel quickly turned her attention back to them. She was content just to sit and listen to Quinn’s voice as the young woman described everything from her parents to things she liked to do in her spare time… describing anything but how she and Rachel had really met, how she had been promised to an abusive boy at the age of 16, the fact that she had ended up at McKinley House.

And as much as Rachel remained ever watchful of Quinn, even as they sat there with her fathers, she knew that Quinn was also watching, watching the interactions of Hiram and Leroy. It was only the second time she’d seen the way a positive relationship worked, and Rachel thought it was cute, the way her eyes were wide and taking everything in. And there was a lot to see; Rachel’s fathers, while not outwardly affectionate like Jesse and Noah, were very much in love. It was evident in the way they looked at each other, in the way Leroy refilled his Sir’s drink without even being asked, in the way that Hiram offered his hand to help Leroy off the couch. Rachel had giggled quietly to herself when Quinn’s mouth had dropped open a little, the first time Hiram had said “thank you” to his submissive for bringing him something.

“I’ll be right back,” Rachel said, when she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket for the third time that evening. She was worried that it might be something for work; even though she had prescribed hours during the day, she was always technically “on-call” at night, and she knew all it would take is one case like Quinn’s, and she’d be out the door and on her way to McKinley House.

But she furrowed her brow when she saw that the calls were not from work, but from Jesse, and he hadn’t left a voicemail.

“Huh,” she said quietly to herself, just as Quinn slipped into the kitchen.

“Everything all right, Miss—“ Quinn caught herself and cleared her throat. “Everything all right, Rachel?”

“I hope so,” Rachel said. “Jesse’s been trying to reach me, I’ll have to call him in a little bit and make sure nothing’s happened with Noah.” As much as she loved her best friend it was always in the back of Rachel’s mind that she’d get a call like this, that Noah had done something to hurt himself, or worse, Jesse. She knew Noah was working hard to escape the demons of his past, but she also knew how easy it was for the demons to catch up.

She turned back to Quinn, and, noting that her fathers were talking together in the living room, reached out to cup her waist, pulling Quinn to her. She kissed her gently, and then whispered, “You’re being an absolute brat right now. I can’t believe you told them I snore louder than Arnie when I’m napping!”

Quinn giggled, a blush spreading over her cheeks as she tucked her head on Rachel’s shoulder. “But you can’t put me in the corner here,” she teased. “Remember your rule? The only place you’re Miss Rachel is in your home.”

Rachel rolled her eyes, running her hand through Quinn’s hair. “Am I only Miss Rachel at my house, though?” she asked softly.

Quinn shook her head, her breath tickling Rachel’s neck, and Rachel shivered. “No. You’re my Miss Rachel no matter where we are.”

She didn’t know why that made her arms tighten around Quinn, but it did, and Rachel gently kissed the top of Quinn’s head. “Then maybe we ought to reconsider that rule.”

Quinn pulled herself up and met Rachel’s eyes. “I could be okay with that,” she said, and her gaze was steady, clear.

“Even if it means you’re going straight to the corner when we get back, my little obnoxious one?” Rachel said with a grin.

Quinn smiled, flushing an even deeper shade of pink. “Even if it means that, Miss Rachel.”

From behind them Rachel heard her father clear his throat, and she and Quinn jumped apart. Hiram smiled at them both, though it was strained even as he politely said to Quinn, “Leroy is breaking out the family photo albums, I imagine you might want to see them?”

“I- yes,” Quinn said, seeming reluctant to leave Rachel. “I want to see just how cute… Rachel was as a baby.”

Rachel groaned and covered her face with her palm, shaking her head, as Quinn headed into the living room. She grinned at Hiram. “Photo albums are things you show girlfriends, Dad.”

“Which is maybe why Leroy wants to bring them out, Rach,” Hiram said, leaning against the counter with his arms crossed over his chest.

Rachel sighed.

“Want to tell me where you really met Quinn?”

She should’ve known that Hiram would see everything, from the way she looked at Quinn to the little touches they’d both shared, here and there throughout their conversation with Rachel’s dads. For Rachel it was the casual affection that was easy with Quinn, for Quinn it was the constant need for reassurance but also, Rachel was beginning to learn, the desperate need for her. Rachel should’ve known that something like that wouldn’t be easy to hide.

“I did tell you. We met at work. I just didn’t tell you… that she lived at McKinley House.”

Hiram shook his head. “McKinley House? Rachel…”

“I know, Dad, all right?” Rachel snapped, and then took a deep breath, moving to stand next to her father. “I know.”

Hiram slipped his arm around his daughter’s shoulders and hugged her close. “So some jackass was mean to her, then. It’s a shame; she’s clearly an amazing young woman.”

Rachel smiled to herself, nodding. “She’s not perfect, but she’s the closest to it I think I’ve found. With the exception of yours truly.”

“Is she good to you?”

“I don’t think that you and daddy could choose anyone better for me, if you were into that sort of thing.”

Rachel spilled it all, then, hoisting herself up onto the counter like she used to do when she was little and she’d watch her Daddy cook while her Dad sat at the table poring over his work. How Quinn had grown up, how her claim had been arranged. Her dad made all the right gestures, all the right sounds of anger and indignation as Rachel described Quinn’s abuse at the hands of Finn, and how she had ended up at McKinley House that fateful night. She could hear Quinn laughing in the living room, no doubt giggling at the picture of two year old Rachel in the bathtub with a soap beard and a plastic microphone in her hand, and it made Rachel tear up.

She’d had so much happiness in her life, despite her father’s illness and the lack of NYADA. And even though Quinn had had her grandfather, she deserved so much more…

“Is she submitting to you?”

Rachel hesitated. “Yes.”

“Are you being good to her?”

“Dad!” Rachel said indignantly, and Hiram held up his hands.

“I love you,” he said, “and you’re my daughter. I know you’ve seen the way your father and I act with each other, and I know Lana trained you well. But I also feel just a little protective towards that young lady in the living room, and just as much as you deserve someone to be amazing with you, she does too. Maybe even more after everything that’s been done to her, Rach.”

Rachel nodded and hopped off the counter to lean against her father, who automatically wrapped his arms around her. “I try,” she confessed. “I really care about her, Dad, and I-I want to be good for her.”

“Do you love her?”

“I think… I’m starting to.”

“But you’re scared.”

Rachel shrugged. “Everyone seems to know me better than I know myself.”

“I’d be scared if I was you,” Hiram said, “And all Leroy and I had to contend with were his parents thinking he should be with a woman instead of your old dad, here.”

Rachel nodded again, remembering how her Daddy’s parents had never met her, never made the effort to contact her or her father. She thought they were somewhere off in California now, but she couldn’t be sure. Daddy didn’t like to talk about them.

“But I also know that if Quinn deserves anybody, she deserves my sweet, compassionate, occasionally loud and very opinionated Rachel Barbra.” Hiram cupped Rachel’s head in his hands and kissed her forehead.

“I always knew you’d make a good mistress,” Hiram said, then tilted his head. “Is that an awkward thing for a father to say to his daughter?”

“Very,” Rachel declared, laughing, then hugged her father fiercely. “But thank you, Dad.”

“Why didn’t you want to tell us?” Hiram asked. “You’ve never hidden anything from us before.”

“I know,” Rachel said, feeling guilty. “But it’s just… work, and I’m trying to be careful for Quinn.”

“You haven’t technically done anything wrong, Rach,” her dad said, and Rachel shrugged again.

“She wants me to go to New York,” she said suddenly.

“In that case how soon can we make her a part of the family?”

“I-is everything okay?”

Rachel moved to once again reassure Quinn, who was standing in the doorway looking like a deer in the headlights with one corner of her cardigan twisted in her hand, but Hiram beat his daughter to it as he asked Quinn, “Quinn, would you mind if I hugged you?”

She paused, giving Rachel a strange look, but when Rachel smiled, Quinn nodded. Hiram hugged her quickly, gently, before drawing away and holding her at arm’s length.

“You’re a beautiful young woman, and you deserve to be happy,” he said seriously, then looked back at Rachel. “I hope you two take care of each other.”

“He knows?” Quinn asked when Hiram left for the living room, and Rachel could tell his subtle warning about taking care of his daughter wasn’t lost on her.

“He knows, little one,” Rachel said; when she took a deep, shaky breath Quinn came to her immediately, wrapping her arms around Rachel and holding her close. Rachel closed her eyes, absorbing Quinn’s comfort, her strength, before reopening them and smiling faintly at her.

“And surprisingly, he’s okay with it. I think as long as I’m happy, and you’re taking care of me, and I’m taking care of you…”

“Good,” Quinn said, and surprised Rachel by kissing her, deeply, right there in her fathers’ kitchen. It left Rachel feeling dizzy, and she had to put her hand back on the counter to brace herself. Quinn’s own eyes widened, and Rachel saw her swallow hard.

“W-wow,” was all Quinn said, and Rachel grinned a little.

“Wow is right,” she agreed, trying to force out all of the images that had rushed into her head with the ferocity of Quinn’s kiss. Images that involved a bed, restraints, and the two of them, very, very naked…

“Do you want to go back into the living room?” Quinn asked. “I think your dads have more pictures they want to show me.” She stuck her tongue out at Rachel.

“You are definitely going into the corner when we get home,” Rachel said, and thought that the living room was the last place she wanted to be at that moment. The bedroom would be much nicer… Her phone vibrated again.

Rachel looked down at it. Jesse.

“Let me just answer this, little one,” she said, “Then we’ll go back so that I can be humiliated some more.”

She pressed the button on her phone. “Jesse?”

“Noah,” he said.

Rachel furrowed her brow. “Noah? What’s going on, why are you using Jesse’s phone?”

“Well… let’s see, how do I say this? Sir’s, uh, terrified to talk to you right now, Ma’am.”

Now Rachel was even more confused. “Terrified to talk to me? Why? Put him on the phone, Noah.”

“Can’t do that, Ma’am, he’s working on a case right now. That’s kind of why I’m calling.”

Jesse had been promoted to Advocate within SETS, a liaison of sorts between Dominants and their submissives or former submissives. He wasn’t a lawyer or a counselor, but he did act to ensure that his clients received the fairest treatment under the law and the government. His promotion was to defense advocate, helping to defend those who were accused of abusing or mistreating their partners, a decision that Rachel had found distasteful, and she’d told him so.  

“It pays more,” Jesse had said honestly, “And you know as well as I do that sometimes the ones getting accused aren’t at fault. Look at Noah.”

“I’m not really sure why you have to call to tell me about Jesse’s case? Quinn and I are my dads’, and we’re kind of busy right n—“

“I know,” Noah interrupted, and Rachel would’ve been angry at being interrupted, if he’d given her a chance to, but instead he kept speaking. “And that’s also kind of why I’m calling, because Sir has a new case, it starts next week, and I really think you need to know about it. And you should also know that he’s really, really sorry.”

“Sorry?” Rachel said, exasperated. “Why on earth does Jesse need to be sorry?”

“Because he’s defending Finn.”

Chapter Text

Miss Rachel held fast to her hand – discreetly – as she and Quinn walked down the hallway of the administrative building, toward the room where Lana said she would meet them, along with Quinn’s advocate. Quinn’s eyes darted this way and that, at all of the people passing by them, feeling a little nervous that someone would stop and ask her just what she was doing with Miss Rachel. She still didn’t really understand how Miss Rachel could get into trouble with their relationship, yet she was determined to protect her as much as she could. Quinn didn’t think she could be taken away from Miss Rachel, but that didn’t mean she was going to test that theory. But Miss Rachel strode forward, her jaw set and her eyes determined, as if she was on a mission.

It had taken Quinn two hours to calm Miss Rachel down after the phone call from Noah. She’d been alternately angry and inconsolable, pacing up and down her fathers’ living room floor, gesturing wildly as words Quinn had never heard before came spilling out. She wanted to go to the council and demand that Jesse recuse himself, but really there was no precedent for that. Jesse wasn’t a lawyer, he could choose to advocate for anyone he wished. That didn’t make it right, Miss Rachel had snapped, when Leroy Berry had pointed it out. Her fathers had tried to talk to her, giving various reasons why Jesse would’ve chosen to represent the man who had hurt Quinn, but Miss Rachel had been so personally hurt that she couldn’t stop ranting enough to listen to their arguments.

At one point she had turned to Quinn.

“Why aren’t you angry?” she’d asked simply.

And Quinn had just shrugged. “I-I’m used to it?”

That had sent Miss Rachel on another bout of tears, and Quinn ended up sat on the couch in the living room, cuddling her close and stroking her hair. That she wasn’t used to, but it was nice, to feel like for once she could be the comforting one, even if what she had said was true. She hadn’t been all that surprised to hear that Jesse would be assisting in Finn’s defense. Quinn knew that Miss Rachel was taking it as some sort of betrayal, but for Quinn life before had been a constant expectation of betrayal.

It was hard to be let down when you believed that’s the way things were always supposed to be.

And now three days later, it was time for Quinn to start her case against the one who had let her down the most.

She was filled with nervous energy, and also a kind of dread. For the last few days she’d been trying to imagine what it would be like to finally face him. Each time she thought of it she’d ended up shaking, and had to find something to calm herself down. Miss Rachel had tried to talk to her about it once or twice, but each time she’d had to cuddle Quinn and whisper soft words to her, or sing to her, to keep the girl out of her own head.

The door at the end of the hall read 108. Miss Rachel squeezed Quinn’s hand with a smile, knocked on the door and opened it, stepping inside with Quinn hanging back a little.

“Rachel!” the dark-haired woman said, standing up from the desk. Quinn quirked an eyebrow, sure that Lana didn’t actually work there, but Lana was certainly acting like she owned the place in the way that she came around the desk and walked over to them.

Lana was smartly dressed in a black suit, with perfect hair and a casual, almost smirk on her face as Miss Rachel accepted Lana’s hug, allowing herself to be folded up and held for entirely too long, and Quinn felt something rise in her stomach that she’d never felt before.

“And this must be Quinn,” Lana said warmly, at last separating from Miss Rachel and smiling at her. “I’m Lana; it’s wonderful to finally meet the girl Rachel constantly talks about.”

Miss Rachel had told Quinn all about Lana, about her training and how that had blossomed into a romantic and sexual relationship. She’d been completely honest about everything, and careful to reassure Quinn that those feelings were long gone, replaced by something maybe just as strong but completely different. She wasn’t a mother, Miss Rachel had explained, because that would be just awkward; but she was more than a friend, too. Quinn wasn’t sure she understood it, and so she found herself looking from Lana to Miss Rachel, and back again.

“Mine,” Quinn blurted out, pointing to Miss Rachel, and Lana’s eyebrows rose. “M-mine.”

The sound was instant, like a gunshot in the quiet room.

Miss Rachel snapped her fingers, and then pointed to the floor, and Quinn sank to her knees. She found the form Miss Rachel loved, with her hands open resting on her thighs, but she couldn’t bring herself to look up.

They’d discussed this earlier, when Miss Rachel had talked to her about Lana, and also about Quinn’s relationship with Miss Rachel not being limited to just her home. Quinn hated public punishment, because all she had to go on was what Finn had made her endure in front of his friends. But Miss Rachel had promised her that if it was ever needed, she’d only correct her in front of Lana behind closed doors, and Quinn knew Miss Rachel would never take advantage of it the way Finn had. So she had agreed.

“You thought to embarrass me by speaking to my friend that way?” Miss Rachel asked, and Quinn’s cheeks flooded hot with shame, even as Miss Rachel’s hand was soft and gentle on her shoulder.

Touch was important, they’d discovered together. Quinn craved it, needed it, and no matter what was happening, whether she was being punished or they were playing a game or fixing dinner, Miss Rachel was sure to touch Quinn frequently. It was usually just a hand, resting steady on her, or sometimes a light brush of her hair or cheek. It didn’t matter what it was; it meant Miss Rachel was there. And it even made punishment not so bad.

Not so bad.

“No, Miss Rachel,” Quinn said. “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t need your apology,” Miss Rachel said, and reached down to lift Quinn’s chin so that she was looking directly at Lana.

Quinn nodded, the implication understood. She shifted a little on her knees, and then sighed. “I’m sorry, Lana,” she said quietly. “I was disrespectful to you and embarrassed Miss Rachel. I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right, Quinn,” and she glanced at her in surprise, hearing the slight tone of amusement in Lana’s voice, coupled by a twinkle in her eyes. Quinn had expected anger, harshness, not… near merriment. “It’s evident Rachel has told you about us, and believe me, I can understand how you must feel.”

Quinn nodded miserably. It was strange, this feeling that what if Miss Rachel wanted Lana instead of her, especially when Quinn knew she’d be nowhere good enough… She found herself breaking form, reaching her hand up to her shoulder. Miss Rachel’s fingers grasped hers and squeezed, before releasing.

“Hand down, little one.”

“Yes, Miss Rachel.” Quinn looked back at Lana.

“You don’t have anything to worry about,” Lana said; she moved to place her hand on Quinn’s head, but was stopped when Miss Rachel’s hand came to rest there instead.

“Mine,” Rachel said.

Quinn fought back a grin. It was okay. They were okay.

“Rachel and I are no longer lovers,” Lana continued, with a roll of her eyes. “I love Rachel, but not like that. I’m with someone now, someone wonderful, who is pregnant with our child.” Behind Quinn, Miss Rachel squeaked, and Lana’s smile grew wider. “So you needn’t worry, Quinn. I believe wholeheartedly that Rachel is, in fact, completely yours, and that she doesn’t want it any other way.”

Quinn ducked her head, smiling down at the carpet as the shamed blush of her cheeks gave way to Lana’s gentle reassurances. She nodded. “Thank you, Lana. I really am sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it. You can get up now, Quinn.”

She stayed on her knees.

Miss Rachel lightly stroked Quinn’s hair. “You can get up now, little one,” she said, and Quinn rose to her feet.

Lana chuckled, and there was a smirk on Miss Rachel’s face as she regarded Quinn. “Good girl,” she said, and gave her a quick kiss. Quinn searched her face and saw no sign of anger; Miss Rachel cupped her cheek with her hand.

“You have nothing to worry about,” she reiterated, looking into Quinn’s eyes, and Quinn nodded. Miss Rachel kissed her again and hugged Quinn close.

“Well, Lana?” she said over Quinn’s shoulder. “What do you think?”

“Does it matter what I think?” Lana had moved to sit on the edge of the desk with her legs crossed as she looked at Quinn and Miss Rachel. “All that matters is what you and Quinn think.”

“I still want to know,” Miss Rachel insisted, and Quinn looked at Lana.

Lana smiled. “She’s beautiful. And apparently takes orders from no one else but you.”

“That’s right,” Quinn said, lifting her chin.

Miss Rachel laughed and pulled Quinn over to one of the leather couches up against the wall of the office. They sat down and Miss Rachel wrapped her arm around Quinn’s shoulders. “I like it that way,” she said. “And I like to be the only one giving the orders.”

“Noted,” Lana said, laughing, and Quinn decided that she liked her.

“I’m proud of you, Rachel. By what I’ve seen just now, you’re taking everything I said to heart. You’re really coming into your own.”

“Thank you, Miss Lana,” Miss Rachel said, and as foreign as that sounded to Quinn, she recognized the dynamic that was still in play between the two of them. She guessed Lana was something of a mentor, and there was a connection that Quinn couldn’t hope to understand, a connection she’d probably never share with Miss Rachel.

But it didn’t seem to matter, because Miss Rachel had said “mine.”

Claim or not, Quinn was hers.

Rachel’s former Dominant turned her attention back to Quinn. “Rachel says you’ve been improving with your therapy, I’m glad to hear that.”

Quinn looked at Miss Rachel, wondering what else she’d told Lana, but it didn’t really matter. Miss Rachel was smiling with pride at her, and it made Quinn feel suddenly shy, made her want to bury her face in Miss Rachel’s neck.

“It’s hard,” Quinn admitted, “Sometimes it still hurts to walk and I get tired easily, but I haven’t used the chair in a long time. Brody says my strength will come back the more I walk, and Miss Rachel makes sure I get plenty of rest.”

As she’d done yesterday, after Quinn had gone out to lunch with Tina, she thought with a small smile. Tina had had the day off and so they’d stayed away from the mall, preferring instead to go to a little Italian restaurant on the other side of town. They’d ended up lingering for a few hours and probably annoying the waiters, but it had been fun. It was nice for Quinn to finally have someone to talk to, but she couldn’t deny that a part of her felt strange about being friends with a Dominant, someone who wasn’t hers. It was weird to not have any formality with Tina, even though Quinn tried to stay polite and respectful, because she expected that of herself, whether Tina was her Domme or not. That was the hardest part of navigating this “new world,” for Quinn. For so long it had just been Quinn and Finn. With Finn’s friends he was Sir, if she had to go for medical treatment he was Sir. He was the only Sir. Her interactions with anyone else had been limited to necessity, or the people he wanted her to come into contact with. She was constantly on her guard, trying to keep from angering him by showing even the tiniest amount of disrespect to him or to his friends. Other than that, the rule had been don’t talk. Ever. And if you were spoken to, use the smallest amount of words possible. Now every day she was expected to talk to people, from Miss Rachel to Shannon to Tina to the waiter who had taken their order, and for Quinn it was a constant war in her head, trying to figure out how she was meant to talk to everyone.

Tina for her part had been happy and breathless, because she’d called her old boyfriend Mike the day before, and they’d arranged a date. Her excitement was infectious, and Quinn couldn’t remember the last time she’d been able to laugh and giggle with someone that wasn’t Miss Rachel, and so it had been a good day.

But she’d been overwhelmingly tired when she finally made it to Miss Rachel’s for the evening, so much so that Miss Rachel had nearly sent her back to Shannon’s to sleep. But Quinn had begged, and finally Miss Rachel relented. Quinn had fallen asleep a half hour into the visit, with her head on Miss Rachel’s lap. When she woke up the next morning, she discovered that Miss Rachel had slept sitting up on the couch, so she wouldn’t have to move.

“Well, you need to preserve your strength,” Lana was saying, and her smile had disappeared as she gave Quinn a sobering look. “Are you ready for this?”

She felt Miss Rachel’s arm tighten around her as Quinn considered Lana’s question. Was she ready for it? The idea of facing Finn chilled her, and Quinn shivered. But the chance to finally, maybe see him own up to what he had done? She didn’t know if he would though. Part of her said that Finn would never admit to it, that he would never realize he’d done anything wrong. And part of her wondered what she would do if he did admit to it, and apologized.

Pigs would fly before that ever happened, she knew.

So Quinn shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Well then we’ll just have to help you get ready,” Miss Rachel said soothingly. “That’s why we’re here. And… someone else is not.” She looked at Lana.

“It’s been a rough morning.”

“Is a submissive really representing me?” Quinn wondered aloud, her eyes wide.

It seemed almost incomprehensible to her, even though she knew that submissives worked, that they had jobs. Leroy was chief of staff of a hospital, for goodness’ sake. Still, the idea of a submissive helping her stand up to Finn…

“Well, she’s not just any submissive,” Lana said, once again smirking. “She’s—“

At that moment the door flew open, so hard that it bounced off the wall on the opposite side, and the blonde woman entering the room glowered, her hands on her jean-clad hips, at the three women who had been waiting for her.

“All right,” she said. “A parasite the size of a pea has kept me throwing up in the bathroom for the last two hours, and yesterday Madam made me start drinking decaf. How soon can we kill this Finn bastard?”

Quinn blinked. “I-I think she’ll do.”

“Emma,” Lana said drily, indicating the woman who immediately crossed the floor over to her and accepted a kiss. “My love, one of the mothers of our child, and my brat.”

“If I promise not to be a brat for the rest of our daughter or son’s natural life can I please have a coffee? A real one?”

“No.”

“Coke?”

“No.”

“Coffee bean? Just one?”

“Emma.”

“Fine, just for that I’m a brat.”

“I didn’t expect anything less. And I made you some decaf.”

Quinn watched, her mouth open a little, as Emma grinned and kissed Lana soundly on the lips. “Thank you, Madam,” she said, her voice softening into a slightly more submissive tone. Going behind the desk she made quick work of pouring out coffee from the thermos, and then looked at Quinn.

“He was a dick,” she announced, and Quinn briefly wondered when Emma had had time to talk to Noah. “And we’re going to shrink it down a few inches.”

“Emma,” Lana said again with a shake of her head. “Why don’t you tell us all how you plan to help Quinn, instead of indulging in your vulgar fantasies?”

“That wasn’t a vulgar fantasy,” Emma said, taking a drink of her coffee. “You want vulgar fantasies wait till I get you alone, Madam.”

“Is she always like this?” Miss Rachel asked, laughing at Lana’s snort of exasperation.

“All day, every day.”

“I’ve read your file,” Emma said to Quinn, moving to sit on the floor in front of the couch and look up at her. She tilted her head back toward the desk, where a manila folder was resting, unnoticed earlier. “It’s from when you first arrived at the House. Gave me a pretty good indication of what the fucker did to you. Scars on your back and legs, think they called that ‘evidence of being severely beaten, possibly as a result of improper use of implements.’ He broke your right arm. Twice. When that truck hit you, you already had a broken rib that had never reset properly. And under emotional trauma, ‘unknown, most likely severe and damaging.’”

“I-I don’t want to hear anymore,” Quinn stuttered, shrinking back into Miss Rachel, who kissed the top of her head and made soft noises of comfort.

She both wanted to see the file and burn it, to read the black and white account of what he’d done to her, and watch it filter up in smoke so she could pretend it never existed.

“I know,” Emma said sympathetically, and she reached out to touch Quinn’s knee. Quinn didn’t flinch, and Emma smiled at her a little.

“But you’re going to hear that and worse at the trial, kid. I’m just trying to prepare you.”

“How bad do you think it’ll be?” Rachel asked.

“Now that your best friend is helping to represent him, it’s not going to be pretty, and that’s the best I can give you.”

“Emma’s the best advocate you could have, Quinn,” Lana said, and Emma shot her a grateful look. “And I’m not saying that because she’s my girl. I’m saying it because she’s good, and she’s not afraid.”

“I-I’m not either,” Quinn said, sitting up a little straighter, and once again Emma patted her knee.

“Yeah, you are,” she said, and raised her hand when Quinn started to object. “I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but you are scared, and you’ve got damn good reason to be. I had a rough relationship or two before I met Madam, but they were nothing like what you’ve been through.”

Emma stood up and walked back to the desk, picking up Quinn’s file. “Nothing like what’s in this. So if I were you I’d be scared.” She threw the file back onto the desk and rested her palms on the wood, leaning forward. For a split second Quinn thought she almost looked like she was readying herself for a spanking.

“But I’m not scared,” Emma said, and Quinn knew she was telling the truth. “I’m not scared of Finn Hudson, and you’re going to have your day in court, Quinn. When I get through with you you’re going to be able to look him in the eyes and let everyone know what he did to you. He’s not getting away with it, Quinn.”

Looking at Emma, and hearing the confident way in which she spoke, made Quinn almost inclined to believe her. Here was a submissive, strong and bratty, secure in the relationship she had with her Dominant, but more importantly, secure in herself. It was apparent in the way Emma walked, in how she talked, her take-no-prisoners way of interacting with life and everyone around her. Quinn didn’t think she could ever dream of being that bratty with Miss Rachel, but for Emma it seemed to be easy – because she knew what to expect from Lana, and she knew that… Lana wouldn’t be mean to her? For Quinn, being with Miss Rachel was still something like navigating a minefield. Every day she grew a little more comfortable with their dynamic, but still in the back of her mind was always that worry, that fear that she’d do something wrong. But with Emma… it was almost like she knew she’d do things wrong, but that was okay. Because the relationship she had with Lana made even getting things wrong… not that big of a deal.

“Because they confront it and move on,” Miss Rachel said later that night when Quinn talked to her about it, and she snuggled Quinn closer on the couch. “Discipline and correction doesn’t mean that I can remind you of it two weeks after the fact, Quinn. I’m not going to punish you and hold it over your head months later, unless you repeat the same behavior that you were punished for initially. I don’t hold grudges, little one, and they don’t have any place in a relationship like this.”

“H-he’ll bring up everything I did wrong,” Quinn said, her arms tight around Miss Rachel’s waist. “And everyone will hear it and they’ll know—“

“They’ll know that none of this was your fault,” Rachel said firmly.

“But what if they don’t? What if all they see is me and everything he says and—“

“Come with me.”

Miss Rachel stood up suddenly, and Quinn pouted, annoyed at the lack of warm contact, but also more than a little worried. Miss Rachel’s voice had taken on That Tone, and Quinn wondered what she had done that warranted punishment.

“Miss Rachel? I-I’m sorry?”

“Shh.” Miss Rachel took her hand and led Quinn into the guest bedroom, stopping just in front of the wide mirror on the wall that spanned the width of the dresser underneath it. She stepped behind Quinn and turned her to face the mirror.

“What do you see?”

Quinn shook her head and looked away. “I don’t want to…”

“I know. What do you see?”

Quinn sighed, and looked. She made a face, watching as her reflection wrinkled up its nose. Her nose. “I don’t like my nose,” she said. “Finn always said it was too big. And… my chest is too small; he always said there was nothing for him to do anything with.” She let her eyes scan her body, and she shook her head. “My skin is all wrong, my butt is too big. My thighs, I… can we stop, I don’t want to do this anymore.”

“In just a moment,” Miss Rachel said, and moved so that her arms were wrapped around Quinn’s waist from behind, and her chin rested on Quinn’s shoulder.

“Do you want to know how I see you?”

Quinn nodded, and Miss Rachel kissed her cheek. “I see a beautiful young woman. I see a perfect, cute little button nose.” She reached around to bop it with her finger, and Quinn giggled. “I see the most striking hazel eyes I’ve ever seen, and your chest…” Miss Rachel cleared her throat, and Quinn thought she detected a faint blush on her cheeks. She grinned in spite of herself. “Let’s just say that your chest and your rear end are absolutely lovely, and he had no clue what he was talking about. Your skin is beautiful, your smile is gorgeous. Everything about you, Quinn, is amazing.”

“Yes, but—“

“I’m not finished,” Miss Rachel reprimanded, and Quinn snapped her mouth shut. “Our image of ourselves is always going to be different from what is reflected to others. Finn saw you as one thing. I see you as something completely different. There are people at that trial who are going to see Finn’s side. They’re going to be idiots, but that’s beside the point. I know you think it’s all your fault, but there are those of us who know that it isn’t, and you’ll find out at the trial that more people will believe you than you think. They’ll see you for the beautiful woman I know and love.”

“Love?” Quinn whispered, staring at Miss Rachel’s reflection in the mirror.

Miss Rachel smiled, though it seemed a little sad. “Just try to trust me,” she said, and kissed Quinn’s cheek again.

“Now come on, you can help me fix dinner.”

“Yes, Miss Rachel.”

Hours later, Quinn lay in her bed, words coursing through her head and keeping her from sleep. Strength. Trust. Trial. Finn. Fear.

But most of all, Miss Rachel.

And love.

Chapter Text

Jesse had found Miss Rachel in the courthouse, as she and Quinn sat in the office after an even more productive meeting with Lana and Emma.

Quinn was slowly warming to Lana, due in part to seeing how much Miss Rachel cared for her as a friend, and also how much Lana cared for Emma. Emma was unlike any other submissive Quinn had ever known – and she hadn’t really known that many. Emma was loud and brash, bratty and smart-assed. And Lana was completely, hopelessly devoted to her. She accompanied Emma to all of the sessions with Quinn – as did Miss Rachel. Ordinarily Quinn would have been annoyed at the lack of privacy, but during the harder conversations it was nice to sink into the warmth of Miss Rachel, to feel her steadying hand against her back. Not to mention that it was nice to see her fear justified in the angry face of Emma, the harsh whispers from her lips as Lana calmed her down, even as a storm also raged in her brown eyes.

But as well as being her advocate, Emma was fast becoming a friend to Quinn as well. It had been two weeks since their first meeting, two weeks of tension and wariness on Quinn’s part, and patient questions and offers of coffee from Emma. Quinn had answered the questions, quirked an eyebrow, and made sure the barista gave Emma decaf. Emma had rolled her eyes one afternoon, but emptied the cup in nearly one gulp. Then she grinned and put her hand on her stomach.

“I hope it’s a girl,” she’d said. “Maybe tough like me, but gentle like Madam.”

“Why do you call her Madam?”

“What do you want to call Rachel when she claims you?”

Quinn’s mouth dropped open a little and Emma grinned. “Come on, kid, anyone with eyes can see that coming from a mile away. I’ve never seen anybody look at a girl the way she looks at you.”

“Why do you call me kid? We’re the same age, or at least close.”

Emma shrugged. “You remind me of a kid.” When Quinn huffed – she’d learned that from Miss Rachel – Emma held up her hand. “It’s not a bad thing. You just haven’t learned it’s okay to have fun even if it means you get in trouble. To, I don’t know, spoil your dinner, ask to stay up ten more minutes so you can finish this chapter, miss your curfew, get caught with your hand in the cookie jar.”

Quinn wasn’t sure she knew what that meant, so she changed the subject. “I’d love to call her My Lady…” she said softly.

“But?” Emma prompted.

“But it’s old-fashioned?” Quinn said. “It’s.. fairy tales, stories for children.”

“And you think Rachel won’t like it.”

Quinn nodded.

Emma shrugged again. “Never know if you don’t ask.” Checking her watch, she looked up at Quinn and her eyes glinted. “Come on, kid, let’s go raid the cookie jar.”

Quinn had gotten “caught with her hand in the cookie jar” three times in the last week, causing Rachel to call (while Quinn was knelt in the corner with her nose to the wall for the FIFTH time that week) and ask Lana just what the hell Emma was teaching her girl. They weren’t major offenses, really: once for smarting off to Miss Rachel, once for failing to call and let her know she’d be late, and for doing what currently had her sitting in the office at Miss Rachel’s laptop, scrolling through images.

She looked up when she heard the door open, and her eyes widened as Miss Rachel’s face hardened, seeing Jesse and Noah poke their heads in.

“Oh,” Jesse said, stepping back a little, and Noah shot Quinn a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware this office was occupied.”

“Well, no worries,” Miss Rachel said, her voice taking on a cheery, sing-song tone that chilled Quinn. “I wasn’t aware that this office was available for traitors to use.”

“Rachel, come on,” Jesse said, as Noah cautiously sidled over to Quinn and looked down at the laptop.

“PowerPoint?” he whispered, and Quinn nodded.

“What for?”

Quinn sighed. “Why I Will Never Again Ask If Barbra Streisand Isn’t Slightly Overrated, by Quinn Fabray.”

Noah snorted. “I did that once. Well, no, I actually said she was overrated. Sir dragged me out of the room by my ear. Later I realized he’d saved my life.”

Quinn managed to grin a little, and then saddened once again watching Miss Rachel and her former friend glare at each other.

“You can’t just not talk to me,” Jesse was saying. “You have to at least hear my side.”

“You don’t have a side that isn’t marred by your warped sense of justice and astonishing inability to determine character. No, Jesse, I don’t want to see your side.”

“Fine,” Jesse said through clenched teeth. “Then you and Quinn may wish to leave because my client will be here in ten minutes.”

The sound of the laptop slamming shut nearly echoed in the small room, and Miss Rachel extended her arm to wrap around Quinn’s waist when the young woman rushed to her. Still, “Be gentle with my things, Quinn, that was expensive,” she admonished, and Quinn nodded, whispering her apology. Miss Rachel turned her attention back to Jesse.

“So, what’s his defense?” she bit out. “Let me guess, he’s pleading insanity? Or is that yours?”

“Please don’t talk to Sir like that,” Noah said, coming to stand next to Jesse. For a split second Quinn felt proud of him, before she felt her own defenses rise as he confronted her Rachel.

“I mean I don’t get it either but he’s not insane. At least not about that.”

“Noah, darling, don’t help,” Jesse said with a small smile. He sighed then, and it seemed to Quinn that he was aging before her eyes as he looked at Rachel.

“Do you know why I’m defending him?”

“Of course I don’t, I have no idea why you’d defend that monster.”

It was still hard for Quinn, to hear her former master referred to as a monster. He hadn’t been completely terrible, and she’d told Miss Rachel such. Yes, he was harsh and abusive, and she had never been able to do anything right for him. But there were occasional moments when he’d seem apologetic, when he’d buy her favorite ice cream at the store or when he’d sometimes – every once in a very long while – hand her a jar of cream to take some of the sting away from her aching skin. She knew that those moments were few and far between, that the small moments of half-thought remorse were completely outweighed by every other moment, but it was at least something, Quinn had told Miss Rachel. A way for her to make it through, to believe that there had to be good left in Finn Hudson. She no longer hoped he would love her, but she still hoped he’d perhaps… be able to love someone else.

She knew Miss Rachel didn’t understand it, maybe never would, but Quinn had to try.

“Do you know who’s presiding over the trial?”

“A judge, isn’t that who usually presides over a trial? I’m hoping for Jones, or Rutherford, maybe even Anderson.”

“Schuester.”

Miss Rachel choked. She actually choked, caught somewhere between a gasp of horror and a disbelieving laugh, and Quinn moved quickly to tap on her back, trying to calm her. “Schuester?” Miss Rachel said, her beautiful voice coming out strained and defeated.

Jesse tipped his head, a gesture that clearly said “See? I told you so.” “Now do you understand?”

“I-I don’t?” Quinn interrupted, looking from him to Miss Rachel.

“The Honorable William Schuester,” Miss Rachel said, and now there was venom in her tone that Quinn had never heard. She would’ve drawn back if Miss Rachel’s arm hadn’t been anchoring her close. “A firm believer in The Dom Can Do No Wrong – as long as it’s a man.”

“So we’re… going to lose,” Quinn said, feeling herself shrink. She shook her head. “There was no point to any of this, then. He’ll always win.”

“Not necessarily,” Jesse said.

“You’re going to throw the case?”

Jesse rolled his eyes. “Honestly, Rachel, not everything is an overly-dramatic television series starring actors too old for the roles they’re playing.”

“Well, then what?” Quinn asked.

Jesse regarded her seriously. “I saw Schuester’s name on the docket when Finn’s case came across my desk. I was going to say no,” he insisted to Miss Rachel, who looked as if she’d never again believe anything her former best friend ever said. “I was going to say no but then I saw Schuester’s name. You know what he’s like. You know how many cases he’s had where the men have gone free no matter what they’ve done, simply because in his eyes they can do nothing wrong. There is no way Quinn will get a fair trial.”

“So you’re telling me it’s hope-“

 “Not unless she’s got the best team with her,” Jesse interrupted, “And only if Finn has the best defense. The best defense, with no errors. Nothing that will get him off on a technicality. I’m the best advocate for him, Rachel, you know this. If everything in that trial goes by the book, if there are no errors, then the only way Finn gets off is if Schuester lets him. And then you have grounds to go after Schuester.”

There was silence for a long minute, and Quinn fought desperately not to interrupt it with a giggle, because Noah was unsubtly pointing at Jesse with his chest puffed out, as if to say “See how awesome he is?” Finally, Miss Rachel spoke, slowly.

“So you’re taking on the case… to make sure that Finn doesn’t get off for some stupid reason, and so that… in case he gets off anyway, we can take down a corrupt judge?”

“Well, when you put it that way, why yes, Rachel, I am awesome, thank you.”

Jesse grinned, waiting expectantly, only to gape when Miss Rachel slapped him across the face.

“Hey!” Noah said angrily, and Quinn put out her hand to stop him advancing on her.

“Don’t you dare touch her!”

“You stupid idiot why didn’t you just tell me?” Miss Rachel snapped.

“I would have, but you never gave me a chance!”

“Because you’d just committed high treason in our friendship!” Miss Rachel stopped, her lower lip trembling, before throwing herself at Jesse.

He shook his head, bewildered, wrapping his arms around her and hugging her loosely. “New York is the perfect place for you, you know,” he muttered.

“Shut up,” Miss Rachel sniffed, and Quinn glanced at Noah, who grinned and shrugged.

Jesse extracted himself from Miss Rachel, smiling at her, before turning to Quinn yet again with a serious look.

“Don’t think I’m fooled by him,” he said softly. “He has his reasons, some of which I know and think are valid, but most of which are crap.  I’m defending him, but I still believe you.”

“I know,” Quinn said softly. “Thank you.”

“Now go, really,” Jesse said to Miss Rachel. “I don’t want him to see either of you talking with me, because then everything goes down the toilet.”

They were walking rapidly, Miss Rachel’s heels a quick staccato against the wood floor of the courthouse, but they saw him anyway. At the end of the hall, wearing a suit and tie instead of his usual shirt and jeans. His hair was short, as if he’d had it cut in the military, and Quinn had to once again fight off the urge to laugh even as she felt sick.

His eyes landed on them, and Miss Rachel let her breath out in a sharp almost-hiss when she realized Finn Hudson was walking their way.

“No,” she said firmly, and wrapped her arm around Quinn’s shoulder. Quinn was sure Miss Rachel could feel her shaking, and indeed, Miss Rachel pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Come on, love, let’s go.”

Once outside the courthouse, in the car, Miss Rachel turned to Quinn and brushed a strand of hair back from her face.

“And how is that PowerPoint coming along?”

Quinn couldn’t help but laugh, and the brief glimpse of Finn was all but forgotten.

“Quinn,” Miss Rachel said to her when they made it back to her house, “I need you to put my laundry in my room, please. Just set it on the bed and I’ll get dinner started.”

“Yes, Miss Rachel,” Quinn replied dutifully, and went into the laundry room to grab the basket perched atop the washer.

It was a simple, mundane task, something that she’d done every day when she was with Finn, but for some reason, it was more enjoyable when it was done for Miss Rachel. Quinn was beginning to allow herself to dream, to entertain “what-ifs” about a life with Miss Rachel. She could see herself doing the washing every day, lovingly folding Miss Rachel’s clothes and her own, stowing them away in shared drawers. Making dinner, cuddling on the couch, moving to the bedroom for more…

It was that imagining that had Quinn flushing pink as she started off toward the bedroom, basket in hands. Kissing Miss Rachel had changed in the last few days; they’d become more urgent, with gentle, tentative touches giving way to deeper kisses, tongues caressing, touches in places that made Quinn’s skin flame and chill at the same time. Miss Rachel was cautious, never letting things get out of hand, and indeed there’d been a few instances where Quinn had started to shake, memories of the past rising to the surface to haunt her. And Miss Rachel had done nothing but stop, pulling Quinn into her arms and holding her close with reassurances and steady hands. But still, late at night, Quinn would dream. She would dream of being bound to Miss Rachel’s bed, with Miss Rachel’s lips and breath and tongue and touch everywhere on her body. In the morning Quinn would drag herself to a cold shower, and then just a few hours later she’d be right back where she started with nothing more than a look from Miss Rachel. She’d had a spell put on her, Quinn thought, and Miss Rachel was the witch.

Quinn had never been in Miss Rachel’s bedroom before, though she’d seen it multiple times coming and going down the hallway. Now, stepping inside the door, she was surprised at how understated and calming it was, whether it was because of the silence or the realization that this was Miss Rachel’s bedroom. This was her sanctuary, the place where she slept, and, if she was being honest with herself, the place Quinn hoped she would sleep someday.

Green seemed to be the preferred color, from the green and white-striped comforter on the bed, to the green throw that covered the armchair over in the corner. Only three pictures were on the walls: a black and white drawing of a flower, a picture of Rachel and her daddies, and a poster of Wicked, which fit well with the green theme of the room. Rachel had made the corner into a small reading nook, with the armchair and a table littered with books about Broadway. Another small table was next to her bed, and Quinn smiled when she saw the framed picture resting on it.

Two birds, cuddling in a nest.

“Quinn, that bird has argyle wings.”

“Huh, I guess it does.”

“Why does that one have pink feathers?”

“Maybe she just thinks they look cool.”

“And are they kissing?”

“Looks like it.”

She sat the laundry basket on the bed, taking in all of her surroundings and breathing in the scent of Miss Rachel that lingered in the air. Maybe it was a bit creepy, Quinn thought, but this place was Miss Rachel, and Quinn never wanted to leave it. She glanced at the closet that stood half open, at the skirts and blouses that hung there, shoes lined up perfectly straight on a shelf at the bottom. This was Miss Rachel’s personality, displayed in this room. Calm and green, with soft pillows and blankets everywhere, bright clothes hung neatly on racks and Broadway just on the outside, always present and important.

Quinn’s eyes fell on something else in the room, a cabinet up against the wall alongside the closet. It too was partially closed, but only because something was sticking out of the door, making it unable to be shut properly. Quinn shook her head with a half-smile and crossed the floor to open the cabinet, intent on putting whatever it was away.

She opened the door, her hand touched leather, and Quinn froze.

It was a storage closet, and what that closet stored were things well known to Quinn. Her fingers ran the length of the first belt in front, feeling the stiffness of the leather – it had obviously never been used. The paddle to the right of the belt was black and heart-shaped, probably a gift from a friend with a sense of humor. Jesse, or maybe Lana. Quinn felt sick again; had Lana used it on Miss Rachel? She shut her eyes against the onslaught of images: Miss Rachel bent over, her hands fisted in bed covers, her eyes squeezed shut as she cried and yelped with pain. Quinn felt her own pain, and she realized it was because she was digging her nails into her palms. She stretched her fingers out; against her better judgment she allowed them to trail over the implements that hung in the cabinet.

A riding crop, stark and unyielding. Its sting was immediate, a slow burn that glowed white hot within seconds. A cane, resting against the back wall. Its pain was deferred, like a devil that preferred to wait until you least expected it, the welt rising pink and thin, electric stripes that sizzled with each whoosh.  A small hairbrush hung by a hook on the door, light shiny wood with its bristles removed. The pain would be dull, spreading further more quickly, a steady throb that would give way to fire in seconds.  The last in the closet was a strap, the tapered handle giving way to a wide swath of red leather, a color appropriate for the red it would give skin. Red that would swell to deep blue or purple, black. If you were lucky in a few days it would slide away to green, to yellow; if you weren’t so lucky for the next few weeks sitting would be a tearful memory, sleep would be elusive as you shifted on the floor to find a comfortable – comforting – position, and none would be found.

Quinn’s ears alerted her to a strange noise in the room, a low, stuttering sound, and she realized it was her hand, clutching the smooth wood of the cabinet, the door rattling with the force of her trembling. More images were flying by her closed eyelids: a face, angered and unyielding. Herself, bent over a chair or a bed, leaning against the wall. Tethered, unable to move or escape. And always the pain, the never-ending, always growing pain.

Gradually his face melted away to be replaced by another. Miss Rachel, infuriated. Brutal words falling from her lips as she rained blow upon blow down on Quinn, mercilessly, unforgiving. But she’d thought… she’d thought… Quinn tried to find the words, tried to shield herself, tried to understand why… and then another sound.

A voice.

Calm in the silence that had been interrupted by the violence of her shaking against the cabinet.

“Quinn.”

She opened her eyes to see Miss Rachel stood in the doorway looking at her with a mixture of disappointment and anger, arms crossed over her chest.

“I-I’m sorry,” Quinn said immediately, but she knew as soon as she said them that they wouldn’t be enough. They would never be enough.

“Living room,” was all Miss Rachel said. “Now.”

She stood back to let Quinn pass, choosing to remain in the bedroom while Quinn walked. The way seemed miles long now; she stood in the center of the floor and waited, wondering what Miss Rachel would bring to her, what punishment she would mete out.

She prayed for the cane. At least it would be over quicker.

But it wasn’t to be the cane. It wasn’t to be just the cane. It was to be the cane, the hairbrush, the paddle, the crop, the belt – all held in Miss Rachel’s hands, along with a pair of leather cuffs and a bandana, as she walked into the room. She settled them onto the coffee table, and looked at Quinn.

“P-please,” Quinn stuttered, feeling the panic rise. “Please don’t, I didn’t mean to, I only—“

“Hush.” She clamped her mouth shut; Miss Rachel’s sharp voice was like a knife into her gut.

In an instant there was a pillow on the floor; the instruction was clear. Quinn knelt.

“Hands behind your back.” She did so, and in seconds they were cuffed, held firm.

Tethered. No chance of escape.

Miss Rachel seated herself on the coffee table; Quinn was forced to not only look at her, but also the implements that stretched alongside her. She glanced away, but Miss Rachel’s voice quickly brought her back once again.

“What did I instruct you to do in the kitchen?”

“To take your laundry into your bedroom, Miss Rachel.”

“And where were you to put the laundry?”

“Onto the bed, Miss Rachel.”

Miss Rachel’s entire demeanor had changed in just a few short minutes; there was no softness or gentleness in her now. She didn’t seem exactly mean, Quinn noted, but that was little reassurance when she could see the set line of Miss Rachel’s jaw and the glare in her eyes as she regarded the girl knelt, shamefaced, in front of her.

“And what other instructions did I give you?”

“You didn’t, Miss Rachel,” Quinn answered miserably.

“So you took it upon yourself to snoop through my things when you weren’t specifically told to do so, is that correct?”

Quinn wanted to point out that she hadn’t been specifically told not to, either, but she knew which battles were worth fighting, and so she shook her head. “No, Miss Rachel.”

“Right.” Miss Rachel stood up and reached for the bandana. “Do you know why it upsets me that you invaded my privacy, that you went through my things? If you were curious, Quinn, all you needed to do was ask.”

Quinn hung her head. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “Please don’t b-beat—“

“Hush,” Miss Rachel said again. She reached out toward Quinn and Quinn gasped softly as color and light, as Miss Rachel’s hair, her clothes, her eyes were replaced… with darkness. Miss Rachel fastened the bandana securely around Quinn’s head, blindfolding her completely.

“Since you thought to see things not meant for your eyes, I think this is only fair for a little while.”

Quinn choked back a sob, wanting to reach out blindly – literally – until she found Miss Rachel, to cling to her for reassurance. But instead there was nothing, nothing but the merest touch of Miss Rachel’s hand on her shoulder.

But then Miss Rachel moved away, and Quinn knew there had been no comfort in the gesture. It was the calm before the storm, the false reassurance between the inevitable pain, because once again there were sounds.

Metal clinking softly, the harsh scrape of… something that she couldn’t figure out. She tilted her head, straining to hear, to know, and her knees ached as she knelt in the middle of the floor waiting for her punishment. Everything was foreign to her, the crunching, the rhythmic almost-echo of things being placed, arranged, and a steady hum that quickly escalated into crackles. Quinn’s brow furrowed at the noise that seemed to now permeate the room; she felt sweat slide down her forehead and she realized she was hot; the whole room was hot, as if somehow she had died and descended into hell.

Maybe this was hell. Maybe she’d escaped Finn only to be taken into a different kind of hell, one that had started with softness and love and now ended in… whatever this was.

Her knees were aching even more now; how long had she been kneeling there? Two minutes? Ten? Eleven? There was never any way to count time; at least with blows you knew how many there had been, even if you didn’t know how many there would be. There was at least some comfort in being able to count off, in being able to imagine the end.

Was there an end with this?

Suddenly the world flooded with light again; Quinn blinked as the blindfold was removed. She moaned low in her throat, sagging forward as the realization hit her, and she wished she was blind again. Miss Rachel’s hands were on her shoulders, pulling her up on her knees as Quinn only had eyes for one thing.

The fire.

It glowed and roared in the fireplace, with the paddle, the belt, the crop, the cane, the hairbrush and the strap all lined neatly in front, like shoes on a shelf. The light cast eerie shadows on them, little demons dancing back and forth, tiny flickers of torment.

Quinn sobbed.

If she had been able to see through her tears, she would’ve seen the frustration and irritation on Miss Rachel’s face vanish, to be replaced by an expression of heartbroken concern, but it was lost on Quinn, erased by the realization that she’d failed. Since she was sixteen years old she had failed, in life and in love, failed when faced with Finn, failed when faced with a truck, failed when faced with the one person she’d began to trust would love her. Everything was over, she knew that now. Maybe Miss Rachel would show her some mercy. Maybe there’d be some cream to ease the pain, or more than one blanket on the floor. Maybe there’d be a pillow to sit on, or at least one kind word. Maybe. Maybe.

She’d thought Miss Rachel would be different, maybe. But now Quinn knew, she was wrong.

“There’s a lesson you need to learn,” Miss Rachel was saying, and if her voice was shaking a little Quinn didn’t notice because she was crying too hard. “And I didn’t want to have to do something this drastic, but it’s clear that it’s the only way to get through to you, the only way for you to understand.”

Miss Rachel stood up.

“Please,” Quinn whispered. “Please…”

“Hush, Quinn,” Miss Rachel said again, and Quinn still couldn’t see her face, the tears that were sliding down Miss Rachel’s cheeks as well. All she could see was Miss Rachel walking over to the fireplace, see her lean down to pick up the paddle – or was it the crop? The cane? Which one was it?!

It didn’t matter because she was picking something up and Quinn steeled herself, readied herself for the pain but the resolve wasn’t there, it had melted out of her like skin against hot iron and at the same time she heard the crash and waited for the pain the word came.

“Ballgown!”

It came from her lips like poison, an utterance that would have left her fallen face-down on the carpet as at the same time she heard a crash, and she was grabbed and lifted up; Quinn screamed the word into the air, clenching her eyes tight.

“Quinn! Quinn!”

She said it, over and over, knowing that the pain would come, knowing that she would be scorned and scourged for being so weak, but not caring. The pain would come either way, at least with this perhaps there would be a respite, even for a minute or two.

She felt cloth in her hands, felt herself grasping and pulling, heard a rip as she clung and she had the tiniest awareness of When did my hands get uncuffed? But then her hands were grasped and she felt – not pain.

Not pain. Not pain, but softness. She felt herself, rigid and yet broken, being pressed into softness, being held.

And Quinn moaned again because Miss Rachel was holding her, rocking her, saying her name over and over atop the word until Quinn grew silent, until she grew small and lost and weary, sat there on the floor in Miss Rachel’s lap.

“Open your eyes,” Miss Rachel said gently, after they had sat there for what seemed like hours.

Quinn shook her head.

“Open your eyes, little one,” Miss Rachel said again, and the endearment was so tender, so loving that Quinn sobbed again, and Miss Rachel peppered her eyelids with tiny, soft kisses.

“Open your eyes.”

She lifted them, full of tears, and Miss Rachel pressed her lips to Quinn’s briefly, then grasped Quinn’s chin with her hand and turned it towards the fire.

Quinn gaped.

There, in the midst of the fire, lay a pile. A smoldering, stinking lump of leather and wood, plastic and metal.

A paddle. A cane. A hairbrush, a crop, a strap, a belt.

Her breath was coming out in hitched gasps; she watched the implements burn as Miss Rachel rested her chin on Quinn’s shoulder and cuddled her close.

“That paddle,” Miss Rachel said quietly, “was a gift from my fathers on my eighteenth birthday. I told them that it was the most awkward gift anyone had been given in the history of ever. But in its own way it had its allure, its hope, its promise of something I might have in the future. A relationship, a submissive, love.”

Quinn shook her head and turned herself again so that now her head was buried against Miss Rachel’s shoulder; Miss Rachel kissed the top of her head and stroked her hair. “Over the years I have obviously accumulated various things, from various people. Implements of my nature, my status as a Dominant. In other drawers, in other closets I have collars, cuffs, silk, rope. And I had what you discovered, implements of punishment and correction.”

“I-I don’t—“ Quinn started.

“I don’t normally enjoy the rule of speak only if you’re spoken to, but for now I think it’s a good idea.”

Quinn nodded, murmuring, “Yes, Miss Rachel.” She fell silent, and waited.

Miss Rachel continued minutes later. “So many times a Dominant can be bound – if you’ll forgive the bad pun – by the materials. The tools we use to establish our authority, the things to keep our submissives bound and owned. But then sometimes, someone comes along who needs different tools, a different way of being held and anchored, and the old things… need to be let go. Do you understand, Quinn?”

“No, Miss Rachel,” she admitted, shaking her head.

She’d ripped Miss Rachel’s shirt, and her finger trailed along the open seam as she cast her eyes down, humiliated.

Miss Rachel lifted her chin again. “I will never beat you,” she said clearly, and Quinn swallowed hard.  “I used to think those things were what I would have to use to teach my girl, to show her my care and my love. But for you… they can burn.” She kissed Quinn quickly, fiercely so it took the girl’s breath away.

“I don’t like that you went through my things, and you’re not to do it again. But what I care most about is that you trust me. That you know I would never intentionally hurt you, and that you know it is always safe for you to use your word if you need to stop. And if the only way for you to feel safe is for me to no longer have those things… they’re just leather and wood, Quinn. You’re flesh and blood, and you’re… you’re my heart.” Miss Rachel shrugged, and Quinn lifted her hands to brush the woman’s tears away with her fingers.

“You’re my heart.”

“And you’re mine,” Quinn said, not caring that she’d spoken out of turn.

“I promise you I will never hit you,” Miss Rachel reiterated, and she tangled Quinn’s fingers in her own, holding tightly. “There are going to be times when I’ll have to come up with new ways of correction and I might- I might make a few mistakes, Quinn. But all I need is for you to be patient, and we’ll learn together. Can you do that for me?”

“Yes, Miss Rachel,” Quinn said, and she slumped against the woman in relief, feeling a thousand pounds lighter. “I’m really sorry…”

“Shh.” Miss Rachel was rocking her again, holding her close. “I know. Your apology is accepted. You’ve been sufficiently punished, and now we move on. Okay?”

“Okay,” Quinn whispered. “Okay.”

They sat in the floor together, just snuggling and being, until Arnie came over and flopped next to them with a snore, causing both women to break out into giggles.

“Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?” Miss Rachel asked, when Quinn once more fell into silence.

Quinn shrugged, and then cleared her throat. “Not really. It’s just a lot to take in.” She looked at Miss Rachel. “I just… never thought I could be this lucky.”

Miss Rachel smiled and kissed her forehead. “I think I’m the luckier of the two, little one,” she said. “I never thought I’d meet someone as amazing as you.”

Quinn blushed and raised Miss Rachel’s hand to her lips, kissing the knuckles.

“Why don’t you go and finish up our dinner, I have to clear things away in here.”

Quinn was grateful for the time alone in the kitchen; the sounds of Miss Rachel in the living room was comforting now instead of frightening, and it was good for her to be able to think and make more sense of things on her own time and in her own terms.

She wasn’t going to be beaten. Ever.

The implements of her potential and previous torture (sort of) lay molten and in ashes in the living room. And her savior, instead of a knight in shining armor, was a tiny little Domme with a big voice and an even bigger heart.

There was a smile on Quinn’s face as she plated up two servings of dinner and carried them to the living room – only to stop short in her tracks.

The fire in the fireplace was gone, and instead, what seemed like hundreds of candles glittered from everywhere. The mantel, the tables, the shelves, every nook and cranny was full of tiny light. And in the center of the floor, the living room had been turned into a fort, complete with soft blankets and pillows. Miss Rachel sat inside the fort, petting Arnie and looking up at Quinn with nervous eyes.

“When I was little I was scared of thunderstorms,” she said, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. “And so my daddies made me a blanket fort. They said as long as I was inside the fort, nothing could hurt me. I never felt safer in my life than I felt inside that little fort with my Broadway books and the people that loved me.”

Miss Rachel shook her head. “It’s a dumb idea. I should take it down.” She moved to stand up.

“No!” Quinn said, and maneuvered herself into the fort – a bit difficult to do with two plates in her hands and a dog who suddenly decided he’d never been fed before in his life. She carefully pushed Arnie out of the way and handed Miss Rachel one of the plates.

“It’s perfect,” she said to Miss Rachel, and kissed her. “You’re perfect.”

“So we’re perfect together,” Miss Rachel sang, and Quinn rolled her eyes. “Born to be forever…”

“Dancing through life?” Quinn finished, and then looked around at the lights, the fort. The dog, the girl.

Her Miss Rachel.

“I can live with that.”

 

Chapter Text

She had expected the courtroom to look… just like that, a courtroom. A vast expanse of rule and punishment, dark woods and a high bench in the center from which the judge would condemn them all.

She had probably watched way too much television, Rachel decided, or it could be because only the major cases were tried in the main courtroom down the hall. Most, such as domestic disputes or “severed claims” (such a distasteful phrase, Rachel thought) were heard in 203Left. It was little more than a boardroom, with 3 tables pushed together in an open-ended square, and the gallery was three or four rows of metal chairs sat towards the back of the room. Two members of the council sat in the very back row, a presence Rachel noticed with a slight tinge of fear.

“Are you sure I can’t go up there with her?” she whispered to Lana, who was sat beside her in the first row.

She looked so vulnerable, Rachel thought, flanked on either side by her lawyer and Emma… and him directly in front of her.

Finn Hudson didn’t look like a man capable of making a young girl’s life a living hell, and that, Rachel knew, was because Jesse had done a good job prepping him. Clean-shaven, hair cut short and slicked back. His suit was dark, but not so dark as to give off the impression of “bad guy,” impeccably tailored and well-fitting. He sat ramrod straight in his chair, his fingers drumming lightly against the wood table the only indication that he was the accused.

He looked, Rachel thought, like a little boy in a man’s clothes. And that, she knew, was what had started it all.

She shook her head and turned her attention back to the girl who mattered most, the girl who was staring at her with eyes wide and somewhat fearful. Rachel smiled reassuringly, wishing with everything she had that she could go up there to her, to hold her in her arms and whisper that it was all going to turn out all right.

Except she didn’t know if it would.

Emma had helped Quinn dress for the trial as well, a move that Rachel knew was just as calculated as Jesse’s. She didn’t like it, because the white short-sleeve peasant shirt and black pants, along with a simple pair of black tennis shoes and Quinn’s hair held back on one side by a bow-shaped clip, made Quinn look even younger, smaller, more lost than what Rachel knew she was.

Even if, just two nights ago, she’d been afraid Quinn had become lost to her forever.

Rachel had known, from the moment she’d walked down the hall to her bedroom and found Quinn staring at her collection of punishment implements, hand held fast but shaking against the cabinet door, what the young woman had been thinking of. It had tempered Rachel’s anger, somewhat, at her things having been gone through without permission, but it had been exacerbated, too, by the fact that Quinn still didn’t trust her.

It had made her irrationally frustrated, in those few short seconds standing there watching Quinn struggle with her own emotions, that after all this time, after all the care and devotion Rachel had thought she’d provided, Quinn was still afraid of her. Hadn’t she done well? Rachel thought to herself, after Quinn had gone to the living room and she was gathering up the paddle, the belt, the strap, the hairbrush, the crop in her hands and walking back down the hall herself, formulating the plan in her mind. Hadn’t she praised Quinn at every turn, hadn’t she made sure to call her good girl after every punishment, hadn’t she held her and loved her after every punishment, made sure that Quinn knew it was a clean slate, that everything was forgiven?

Hadn’t she been unlike Finn Hudson at every possible opportunity?

She’d wanted to call Lana, to call and ask what she should do, because why should she have to keep proving herself over and over again? But she knew what Lana would say, yet another lesson Rachel had learned while kneeling at the woman’s feet.

A Dominant will prove herself worthy every day if her submissive needs it. Because the submissive deserves nothing less.

Rachel hadn’t meant for things to be as intense as they were with Quinn’s punishment. She’d even momentarily forgotten the significance of the fire, until she’d taken the blindfold off Quinn and the poor girl had reacted to it with a heart-rending moan. Rachel would have ended it right there, but she had to prove a point; she had to make Quinn see that Rachel was determined never to be like him.

And then Quinn had safe worded.

Later that night, after dinner and as they lay together inside the blanket fort, Quinn had become uncharacteristically quiet. They had been talking and laughing together, making plans for the next day, but then Rachel had lain down and taken Quinn into her arms. What she had thought was blissful, comfortable silence was apparently Quinn lost in her own thoughts, thoughts that she wasn’t inviting Rachel to share. Rachel had waited patiently, content to hold the girl close to her, rubbing her back gently and offering the occasional soft kiss, but still Quinn said nothing.

“Out with it,” Rachel had finally ordered gently. “What’s bothering you?” Quinn shook her head.

“Quinn.” There was a note of warning, an edged reminder of the consequence of defiance.

“I’m sorry.”

“I know,” Rachel said, tipping her chin up to kiss Quinn again. “And I said you were forgiven for going through my things.”

“No. Not about that.”

Rachel tilted her head. “Then…?”

It hurt when Quinn rolled over on her side, away from Rachel, drawing her knees up and curling in on herself as if she was remembering being asleep on the floor, with nothing but a thin sheet for comfort. And then Rachel was alarmed, because the quiet sniffling even as she reached out for Quinn told her the girl was crying.

“For safe wording.”

She didn’t pull Quinn back around to her; instead, Rachel wrapped her arms around the girl’s waist and scooted herself closer so they were pressed back to front. “Why,” she asked softly, nuzzling her chin onto the girl’s shoulder and breathing in the scent of the shampoo that still lingered, “Would you apologize for that?”

“Because i-it made you angry.”

Now Rachel was even more confused, and she wanted to roll Quinn over so that she could see her face, search her eyes for something, anything that would be the reasoning behind the girl’s emotions. But she knew Quinn, knew her boundaries, and knew the girl was lost inside something that it would be dangerous to pull her out of too soon, so Rachel simply held her.

“I couldn’t be more proud of you for safe wording,” she explained. “You finally understand that it’s okay to safe word, that you have that right, that you will always have that right. And that makes me so happy.”

“I wasn’t a good girl.”

“What?”

Quinn drew herself up further, so that her knees were practically at her chest. “You always say I’m a good girl… after. This time, you didn’t. Because I’m n-not a good girl.”

“Quinn, no-“

“I safe worded. I’m weak, I didn’t trust you. I’m a b-bad girl.”

No.” This time, Rachel did turn Quinn over in her arms; Quinn didn’t protest, her limbs slack like a rag doll’s, and Rachel sighed inwardly. She moved up against the pillows so that Quinn was laid a little lower than she was, with her head against Rachel’s chest; Rachel tightened her arms. She took a deep breath, letting go of the thoughts of how could I have been so stupid? and allowing her nature to flow through her, to take control. The need to dominate and care, to protect and train. She ran her fingers through Quinn’s hair, loosely, lovingly.

“For a person who has never had a safe word,” she said firmly, “and who has always been afraid to use a safe word because she thought it might result in worse punishment, to actually use a safe word…” Rachel shook her head; this was no time for a lecture with big words.

“You’re the bravest girl I know,” she whispered, lowering her lips to the top of Quinn’s head, holding her close as the girl shook with silent sobs. “You’re the bravest girl I know, and the strongest, and I am so proud of you.” She cupped Quinn’s face in her hands, raising it so the girl was looking at her. “Don’t ever let me hear you say you’re a bad girl again, is that clear? That is unacceptable. You may be naughty, you may make bad choices, but you are never bad. Do you understand me?”

Quinn swallowed, her eyes locked on Rachel’s. “Yes, Miss Rachel.”

“I am so sorry for forgetting to say it,” Rachel said, regret coating her voice. “Even a Dominant can make mistakes, and forget things. I am so sorry. Can you forgive me?”

Quinn was looking at her with an expression of wonder; Rachel knew it was because a Dominant actually apologizing was a foreign concept to her. Still, she nodded, slowly. “I forgive you, Miss Rachel.”

Rachel smiled, and kissed her. “What a strong, brave, good girl you are,” she affirmed, and kissed her again. Quinn offered her a watery smile in response, and Rachel brushed the tears away from her cheeks with her thumbs. “Good girl,” she cooed, tucking Quinn’s head back against her chest. “My good girl. My good, good girl.”

“She’ll need you more after than during,” Lana said, watching Emma with no small amount of pride on her face. “You know, she’s so hot like this.”

Rachel rolled her eyes. “Now is really not the time, horndog,” she said affectionately, then paled when Lana turned to her with a glare in her eyes. “Sorry, Miss Lana,” Rachel squeaked.

Really, it was ridiculous that that woman could still make her feel like a 16 year old sometimes.

Lana smirked, and patted Rachel’s knee.

Both women tensed when the door to the front of the courtroom opened, and The Honorable Judge William Schuester entered to take his place at the head table.

Rachel knew as soon as she saw him that all was lost.

It wasn’t that he was particularly menacing or intimidating; in fact, with his sweater vest and his unruly, curly hair he looked more like a high school teacher than a judge. But it was in the way he walked, in the way he smiled and greeted Finn Hudson hello while merely nodding at Quinn, in the way he seated himself and rustled through the papers but not even giving them so much as a glance that told Rachel he had most likely made up his mind before he’d even walked in the door.

“Right then,” he said, settling back in his chair and uncapping his pen, tapping it annoyingly against the table. “This is case oh three four dash three two six. I’m Judge William Schuester; let’s have the introductions, please.”

“Sugar Motta and Emma Morris-Mills, representation and advocate for Quinn Fabray, plaintiff, Your Honor.”

Rachel wasn’t too sure about Quinn’s lawyer; the woman had her hair up in pigtails and was wearing an outlandish jacket topped with a feather boa. But Emma insisted she was the best, and Lana insisted that Emma knew what she was talking about. So Rachel pushed aside her nervousness and smiled when Quinn managed a glance and subtle wave at her, then she turned her attention to the men sitting on the opposite side.

“Blaine Smythe-Anderson and Jesse St. James, representation and advocate for Finn Hudson, defendant, Your Honor.”

Rachel fought back a giggle as she caught sight of Noah, sat just behind Jesse’s table, pointing at his Sir and mouthing “He is so hot.” She shook her head at him and he grinned, giving a thumbs up before quickly slipping into what he termed “behave mode.”

Her nerves were quickly getting the best of her though, as the introductions ceased and it was time for the trial of Quinn Fabray-Hudson v. Finn Hudson to get underway. They were going to lose, she was sure of it, and everything Quinn had to go through would have been for nothing, because Finn Hudson was going to get a slap on the wrist.

“Right,” Schuester was saying, sounding bored. “Finn Hudson, defendant, Quinn Fabray-Hudson, plain—“

“Fabray, Your Honor,” Ms. Motta interrupted, her tone clipped and determined. “Her name is Quinn Fabray.”

“Mm,” Judge Schuester hummed. “Fabray-Hudson, plaintiff. Let’s beg—“

“Objection!”

All eyes turned to her.

“Rachel, what in the hell do you think you’re doing?” Lana hissed. “You can’t object; you’re not part of the trial!”

Jesse looked as if he was about to come out of his seat at her; Rachel sank down into hers, watching as Quinn raised a single eyebrow at her.

That eyebrow was really, really hot.

“There will be silence in the gallery,” Judge Schuester reprimanded sternly, glaring at Rachel. “Unless you are—“

“Oh I’m not a lawyer,” Rachel explained hastily. “Though I have played one in a local theater production.”

Lana dropped her face into her palm as Emma snorted.

“There will be silence in the gallery,” Judge Schuester said again with a sigh of exasperation. “Are we clear?”

Rachel nodded, embarrassed that she’d let her nerves get the best of her so soon. “Yes, Your Honor, sorry.”

He looked at her for a long moment, and then nodded. “We will proceed. As is always the case, the defense shall be presented first.”

Rachel managed not to groan; she hated that so far, efforts in court reform had been rejected by the government, and so trials nearly always ended up skewed towards the accused. Proponents of the current system said it actually worked in the plaintiff’s favor, because theirs was the last testimony heard, and would therefore remain fresher in the judge or jury’s mind, but Rachel wasn’t so sure she bought that. She only hoped it would be true, for Quinn’s sake.

She noticed that Finn was leaned forward, his hands clasped on the table in front of him, and his eyes glued to Quinn. She for her part wasn’t looking at him; she was staring down at the table. Rachel wondered if she’d ever been permitted to really look at Finn.

“Hold on, angel,” Rachel whispered. “Just hold on.” Lana shot her a look, and Rachel quieted so she could hear the questions from Finn’s lawyer.

“Will you tell us, please, Finn,” began Smythe-Anderson, “How you feel about your submissive?”

“She’s not yours,” Rachel muttered. “She’s mi—“

“Rachel, shut up,” Lana said softly. “Remember, everything has to go perfectly.”

“I didn’t—“ he paused, as if fumbling for the words. “I never meant to hurt he—“ Finn Hudson stopped again. “Quinn. Quinn, look at me. Look at me.”

She didn’t, and Rachel felt her heart swell as instead, the girl looked at her. She nodded at Quinn, who reluctantly turned back to Finn.

“I never meant to hurt you,” he said, and Rachel rolled her eyes, only to have her mouth drop open in shock at his next words.

“Quinn, I love you.”

Rachel felt sick. She had to lean forward a little, her arms pressed against her stomach; Lana laid a reassuring hand on her back. The words were… everything Rachel knew Quinn had wanted to hear from Finn. Rachel knew the power behind those words, knew how much she wanted to hear them herself. But would it make everything okay, she wondered. Would Quinn… leave her and go back to Finn, forget everything he’d put her through, just because he said he loved her? She sniffed, unaware until then that she was crying; she swiped the back of her hand over her eyes.

“Easy,” Lana murmured. “It’s not going to change anything, Rachel. Easy now.”

“Do you deny doing the things that you are accused of?”

Finn Hudson shook his head. “No,” he said, and Rachel heard herself gasp. She’d never expected him to actually admit it.

“But I never meant to hurt her, I thought I was doing the right thing, I thought—“

“What did you think justified your treatment of someone you say you love?”

This was what Rachel had been waiting to hear. The explanation, the reasoning behind it all. Not that it would change her opinion of him, or make it all right, but if she didn’t get to hear it she’d be wondering for the rest of her life what had led Finn to be so brutal to one of the sweetest creatures she had ever known in her life.

She still wanted him to suffer everything Quinn had suffered, but more than that, she wanted to know why.

“I—my dad was a sub,” Finn said with a shrug. Before Rachel had a chance to blurt out what’s that got to do with anything? he continued. “My dad was a sub, and my mom was his Dominant. I mean yeah that’s how it works so of course she was but… and he was a good sub, when he was around. At least what I can remember, I was pretty young when he left.”

“He left?” Mr. Smythe-Anderson pressed, one hand scratching notes onto the pad in front of him, the other playing with the bowtie at his neck.

“Yeah he… got into some stuff, drugs I guess? I don’t really know, I was just a kid. He’d… go out all the time, come home… different. And my mom, she tried, you know, she’d punish him. Spank him, make him do chores, not let him leave the house. But she was kind of soft, she didn’t like punishing him and he got away with a lot of stuff. So he’d leave anyway.”

“And one day…?”

Finn shrugged, twisting his hands together as he looked at Quinn. “I love you,” he said, the words sounding gentle. “I love you, and I’m sorry.”

Rachel fought back the urge to retch; Lana’s hand was soothing against her back. He didn’t mean any of it. She knew he didn’t. Not after all this time, not after everything he’d done to her. Don’t believe him, she tried to send to Quinn. Please don’t believe him, I love you…

“Finn.”

“Right, sorry.” Hudson took another deep breath and went on with a glance at Jesse, who smiled encouragingly at him.

For a split second, Rachel hated him again.

“One day he… went somewhere. Told my mom he was going shopping. ‘I’ll be back with dinner, Mistress,’ he said. ‘Take care of Mom,’ he said.” Hudson struck the table with his fist and everyone jumped; Quinn let out a whimper and in a heartbeat Emma had her arm around the girl, whispering words into her ear. Rachel clenched her hands to keep from jumping out of her seat; Lana slipped her arm around her shoulders.

“Be strong, that’s what she needs right now,” she soothed. Rachel swallowed around the lump in her throat and nodded.

“We waited for hours,” Finn said through clenched teeth. “Mom paced back and forth, kept saying that this time he’d learn his lesson, this time he’d see that his place was at home with his family. And me, I just sat on the steps watching the door. Must’ve fallen asleep ‘cause when I woke up it was morning and I was still on the steps. Mom was on the couch crying and he never came back.”

Smythe-Anderson nodded, looking thoughtful; Judge Schuester was staring as if he wanted to cuddle Hudson on his lap. “Can you explain,” Finn’s lawyer said, “How that affected your relationship with Quinn?”

“My mom… she was such a pushover, you know? She let him get away with everything. She’s the Domme, she’s supposed to be in control, show him who’s boss, but she kept letting him walk out. And I’m just 16, you know? I’m a 16 year old kid and my mom was so obsessed with finding him that… I didn’t know much. But I knew I wasn’t going to do that with you,” he said to Quinn, and she glanced away.

“I’m not weak. I’m the Dom, I control you and you’re going to do what I say. I love you, and I have to keep you safe. She didn’t keep him safe, and now he’s gone. We don’t even know if he’s still alive. You’re not safe out there, you belong to me and your place is at home, and if I have to beat and burn that into you every day then I’m going to fucking do it.”

She’d had enough. Rachel jumped out of her chair and ran into the hall, with Lana right behind. She barely made it to the restroom, dropping to her knees in one of the stalls and emptying her stomach of all the contents from breakfast earlier that morning. Lana knelt behind her, holding Rachel’s hair back with one hand, again rubbing her back with the other.

“How,” Rachel croaked, shaking slightly, “How can any of that justify what he did to her?”

“It doesn’t,” Lana said matter-of-factly. “I don’t care how much of a scared, fatherless 16 year old boy he was, there comes a point when immaturity stops being an explanation and it becomes a get out of jail free card, an unfair justification for despicable behavior. Hey, I can imitate you pretty well, can’t I?”

Rachel smiled weakly and stood up, brushing off her clothes and accepting the mint gum Lana held out to her, then allowing herself to be pulled into the other woman’s arms.

“We’re going to lose,” Rachel said softly, leaning in.

Lana sighed and squeezed her. “I know.” She pushed back and looked directly into Rachel’s eyes. “Which is why I said she’ll need you more after. Come on, it’s almost her turn to testify.”

“I don’t know if I can,” Rachel admitted, tugging at the black skirt she wore and nervously adjusting the white top. It occurred to her that she and Quinn had somehow managed to color coordinate, though neither of them had discussed what they were going to wear.

It was… hopeful, she thought.

“Yes you can.” Lana had already turned away from Rachel and was walking out the door, her heels sounding loudly on the floor. Rachel shook her head slightly, recognizing that the encouragement was also an order, and she quickly followed her back into the courtroom.

Quinn looked worriedly at her as Rachel settled back in her seat; Rachel just winked at her and waved slightly before realizing that Schuester was speaking to her.

“I trust there will be no more disturbances during these proceedings?” he said, once again sounding bored. “Honestly, if you were going to be this emotional you ought to have stayed home.”

Rachel growled low in her throat, but managed to sound pleasant as she said, “No more disturbances, Your Honor, you can continue.”

“Well, thank you for your permission.” Judge Schuester turned to Quinn’s lawyer. “Miss Motta, are you ready to cross-examine the defendant?”

“Ready, Your Honor.”

All doubts about Quinn’s lawyer’s qualifications disappeared as soon as Sugar Motta leaned forward in her seat, her eyes boring into Finn’s as she asked “Mr. Hudson… just who the hell do you think you are?” Rachel smirked, and she even caught Quinn smiling slightly. Every question was on-point, every counter of his answers left the young man squirming in his seat, and Rachel began to think that maybe, just maybe, they might have a shot at winning. By the time Motta said she had no further questions, Finn Hudson had been reduced to stuttering his answers.

“Miss Motta, are you and Miss Fabray-Hudson ready to present your own case?”

“Fabray, Your Honor.”

Rachel’s head shot up at Quinn’s voice, even as a slow smile began to spread over her face.

Judge Schuester regarded her coolly. “I’m sorry?”

“It’s Quinn Fabray,” she said, her voice low, but confident. “My name is Quinn Fabray.”

Sugar Motta was smiling; Rachel caught Emma pumping her fist under the table and next to her, Lana chuckled.

“Very well, then,” he said, with a dismissing wave of his head. “Can we get on with this?”

“I believe we can,” Miss Motta said. “Quinn?”

Quinn hesitated, and Rachel’s heart filled with pride as she looked at her, then nodded. “I’m ready.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

She hadn’t known what to expect for the trial. She’d thought that she’d have to sit in a little box, with a judge towering over her and yelling questions. Or maybe they’d let Finn ask the questions, even though both Emma and Sugar had told her that wasn’t the way these sorts of trials worked. She didn’t know; she’d never been to one before. She’d watched a court show or two when she was younger, at her parents’ house, but she was pretty sure even then that that wasn’t the way real life worked.

Then again, Quinn was growing ever surer that her own life wasn’t the way real life was supposed to work.

She certainly hadn’t expected for Finn to be this close, so close that she could smell his cologne and the underlying hint of soap. So close that she could see his eyes, the nervous, uncertain way they would flick in her direction then back down to the table again, as if he was afraid – or ashamed – to be caught looking at someone who was “beneath” him. She hadn’t expected the fear, the revulsion that had welled up within her at knowing that the man who had tormented her for years was now, once again, within mere feet of her.

She hadn’t expected to find herself hating him.

The only thing that gave her comfort, even more than sitting with Emma on one side and her lawyer on the other, was knowing that Miss Rachel was also a few feet away, sitting in the gallery with Lana and watching her with kind, proud, protective eyes.

Miss Rachel had kept the blanket fort up for a few days, and she and Quinn had slept in it the night previously – but only after Miss Rachel had bought an air mattress.

“You’re not sleeping on the floor,” she’d said, a determined look in her eyes that made Quinn fall in love with her just a little more.

She hadn’t really been able to get much sleep; she’d tossed and turned with images of the trial not letting her close her eyes for more than a few moments. Finally Miss Rachel had had enough – they both needed to rest so they would be in top form, she’d said, her voice gentle but authoritative. She’d held Quinn close in her arms and sang into her ear, softly, soothingly, until finally Quinn was able to settle down and get a few hours of sleep.

Nothing had really prepared her for seeing Finn in the courtroom. Even having Rachel on one side, Emma, Lana, and Sugar on the other, did little to quell Quinn’s nerves. The moment she saw him, it all came rushing back.

And then, listening to the reasons for why he had done what he had… was that enough? She found herself wondering. Would it all excuse what he had done to her? She hated that for a brief moment while listening to Finn’s testimony, her heart had ached for him. The little boy, his family in turmoil and ultimately being abandoned by the father… She could only imagine what Finn had gone through, what he had thought, how he must have blamed himself. For just a few minutes, Quinn could see the scared boy that Finn had been. And yet, the boy that he had been was quickly overshadowed by the instruments he had used, the angry scowl of his voice as he beat her. The pain, the bruises, the broken bones…

 But at least that’s why she was there – to give voice to her own worst memories.

They had decided that, rather than having Quinn prepare her own statement, she was better at questioning, a call-and-response testimony that kept her head clear and focused, and her answers concise. So Sugar Motta’s voice was soft, gentle as she asked the first question.

“Quinn, what was it like when you first met Finn Hudson?”

She hadn’t been sure about Sugar at first. There was something too flighty about her, a goofiness that had made Quinn wonder if the thin lawyer with the outlandish clothes was really dedicated to her case. But Emma had sworn by her, and the loud chomping of gum while she pored over the notes to Quinn’s case was offset by the look of sheer determination in Sugar’s eyes, and that had made her feel better. Plus she had seen the tender way Sugar had interacted with her submissive when her boy had brought them all lunch one day, and that had done even more for Quinn’s trust.

“He was nice,” Quinn admitted, toying with the hem of her shirt and looking down at the table. “I saw him… a couple of times when we were kids and he always seemed nice. Really… tall.”

Across from her, Finn snorted, and Quinn smiled a little.

In another life, would they have known each other? If they hadn’t been matched up by her parents and his – before his father left – would they have ever run into each other? On the street, or in a crowded supermarket. Would she have been charmed by his eyes, by the smile that only seemed to lift one side of his face, by his awkwardness hidden under a sense of false bravado?

Or would she have known to stay away from him? Would she have known that he wasn’t a “nice boy,” as her mother had said; that instead he was a spoiled child who made himself out to always be the victim? That he would try to sway Quinn to feel sorry for him even as he was hurting her, that it was, and would always be, only about Finn’s happiness, Finn’s dreams, Finn’s goals (or lack of), everything Finn wanted?

Perhaps she would’ve met Miss Rachel first. Quinn glanced back out to the gallery and smiled, seeing her in the front row again, watching them. Quinn had been scared when Miss Rachel had run out, afraid that she wouldn’t come back. It didn’t matter that Emma was on one side of her and Miss Motta on the other; Quinn only ever felt really safe knowing Miss Rachel was there with her.

“Can you tell us what your first day with him as your Dominant was like?”

She’d known this was coming. Emma had held her as she cried, the first time she’d described what that day had been like with him. But it was different, telling one person. How was she meant to describe it to a room full of people? But Quinn took a deep breath and focused on Miss Rachel, who gave her yet another reassuring smile.

“He was nice, at first,” she explained. “We were both… nervous. I mean we were just sixteen and I don’t think he was very sure of himself so I knelt d-down and I said that I would help him as much as I could, that I was there for Sir, that I was his.”

“And what did he do?”

Quinn shook her head. “I-I can’t-“

Emma’s hand closed over hers and squeezed, and Quinn glanced at her gratefully. She wasn’t Miss Rachel, but it helped.

“We need you to,” Miss Motta said gently. “What did Finn do when you knelt for him and expressed your desire to help him?”

She closed her eyes.

“He slapped my face and said he didn’t need my help. Then he adjusted my stance because he didn’t like the way I was kneeling, and I had to stay that way for a while. An hour or two.”

“Will you tell us what your life was like, from that day on?”

Quinn sighed. “Have you ever felt,” she said quietly, “like no matter what you do, you’ll never get it right? No matter how much of a g-good girl you try to be, it isn’t good enough? I tried so hard, and I always made a mess of things. I didn’t kneel right. I didn’t cook his favorite things well. I was too smart, then too dumb. I talked too much, didn’t talk enough. Didn’t cry, screamed too loud, I was too n-needy. Nothing I ever did was good enough for him.”

“Okay,” Miss Motta said, carefully stopping the flow of words that threatened to send Quinn out of control. She breathed in, shakily, and concentrated on the table again.

She was glad that Sugar had said she wouldn’t ask any sexual questions; Quinn wasn’t sure she could handle those, not yet anyway. It was hard enough to talk to Miss Rachel about things like that, even if things between them were growing steadily more intense with each passing day. It was getting even harder for Quinn to deal with her emotions, things she’d never felt before, wasn’t even sure she was allowed to feel. Things like need. Desire. Miss Rachel was always telling Quinn to be open with her feelings, but sex… wasn’t anything that was ever discussed in the Fabray household, and in the Hudson household it was more of… a chore. Something that had to be done to keep him happy.

To close her eyes as he always took her from behind, because he said looking at her face ruined the mood.

At least it had never lasted long. At least he had never lasted long.

Miss Motta moved on to the questions about Finn’s physical treatment of her. The beatings, the broken bones (and here she offered into evidence numerous medical reports), the missed meals. Kneeling for hours on a hard tile floor. Sleeping in a corner of a dark, cold bedroom with little more than a sheet for comfort. Being humiliated in front of his friends.

Quinn told it all.

Everything she had held inside herself, kept hidden for years… it didn’t matter that Miss Rachel wasn’t sat right beside her. Quinn looked out into the gallery, locking her hazel eyes with the soft, tear-filled brown ones that she loved… and told it all. She took a deep breath, dug deep and quietly repeated the words to herself, the words that first Emma had told her when she’d sobbed in her arms that day, and then Miss Rachel had reiterated hours later.

It’s not your fault.

“Why did you never use your safe word?”

Quinn cocked her head at Miss Motta. “Safe word?” she repeated, feeling a little dumb.

Sugar Motta nodded. “The safe word that you and Finn agreed upon.”

“But we didn’t,” Quinn said, confused.

“You didn’t have a safe word established?”

It was one of the tenets of their society, Quinn knew. Well, she knew that now. Before, she hadn’t known that safe words and contracts, mutual agreements, were actually a thing. Growing up she had always been taught that her Sir was to be pleased, he was to be obeyed, and her own needs would be met if she did those things.

She wasn’t told what to do if those needs weren’t met.

“No, I didn’t have a safe word,” she answered, and once again her eyes met Miss Rachel’s. “Not with Finn.”

“So your contract didn’t establish the usage of safe words?”

Contract. An agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified. An agreement enforceable by law.

Miss Rachel had told her that just a year before Quinn had been “matched” with Finn, the government had established that contracts were “necessary and advisable” within their society. Every couple, once a claim was made, was required to go and file a contract, with an itemized listing of rules and regulations, the safe words that were to be used, and punishments that would be enforced within the context of the relationship. It was meant to facilitate stronger protection for submissives; Miss Rachel’s voice had grown sad when she said that she wasn’t sure it had worked. If it had, there wouldn’t have been a need for places like McKinley House.

Quinn shook her head. “We didn’t have a contract.”

Sugar’s hand paused over the paper on which she was scribbling notes and she glanced at Quinn, then at Finn. “No contract?”

It was all for effect, Quinn knew. They’d been over this before; Miss Motta knew there had been no safe words, no contract. Nothing in writing to establish Quinn’s role in the relationship, nothing that outlined how Finn ought to care for Quinn, and how she should respond in kind. It was Sugar’s plan of attack: show that Finn, while not caring for Quinn and being abusive, had also actually broken the law. This, she said, would virtually guarantee their win.

Quinn wasn’t sure about that; Judge Schuester looked like he was ready to fall asleep.

“No contract.”

“No safe word?”

“No,” Quinn said again. “I had no safe word, and no contract. I didn’t… have anything.”

“So how did you keep safe?”

Quinn sighed, and shook her head again. “Obviously I didn’t,” she said, unable to keep the slight edge from creeping into her voice. She looked over at Finn, and her heart plummeted a little when she saw the smirk on his face.

It was the smirk he always wore, just before… she curled her fingers against the table, grasping lightly and reminding herself of the other thing Miss Rachel and Emma had told her.

He can’t hurt you.

“So you lived in a relationship with a man who broke the law by refusing to employ a contract and safe words, and subsequently abused you frequently? We could even say, every day of your life with him.”

Quinn nodded. “Yes.”

Sugar Motta gestured toward Mr. Anderson-Smythe, effectively ending her questioning of Quinn.

She steeled herself as he smiled at her. He was pleasant enough, Quinn decided, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t still the enemy.

“Miss Fabray,” he said easily, “Could you tell us about the house you shared with Finn Hudson, please?”

She resisted rolling her eyes, wondering if every lawyer was an expert in redundancy. “He was never happy,” she began to explain again. “Nothing I ever did was right, no matter how ha—“

“No,” Finn’s lawyer interrupted, and Quinn flinched slightly at his raised voice. “I am referring to the house itself. What was it like?”

Quinn drew back a little, confused. “Okay, I guess?” she said uncertainly. “A little small?”

“Not as nice as the one you grew up in?”

“No,” Quinn answered, suddenly a little nostalgic for the large house with its big rooms and soft couches, even softer beds with snuggly blankets. She still wasn’t sure where Anderson-Smythe was going with his line of questioning, but she already wished he’d stop. The last thing she wanted to remember during a trial was her former home. Her parents – she hadn’t heard from them in years. And her grandfather…

She missed him so much. He’d have protected her.

“So the house was small.” Quinn was sure that the man with the perfect hair and dapper bow tie meant to be kind, but his voice was condescending, as if he were talking to a small child. You’re probably a bratty sub, Quinn thought, and not the kind Miss Rachel seems to like. Probably one that throws a temper tantrum every time something doesn’t go your way.

“Was it also comfortable?”

“Yes?”

If Blaine Anderson-Smythe detected any malice in Quinn’s answer, he didn’t let on as he continued. “Warm in the winter, cool in the summer?”

“Yes.”

“You stated that Mr. Hudson would sometimes make you sleep on the floor.” Quinn nodded, not bothering to verbally respond. She’d already stated as much. “Were you naked when you slept on the floor?”

“Sometimes.”

“But the house was warm.”

“Yes.”

“Were you given a pillow, a sheet?”

“A pillow. And a sheet. Sometimes a blanket in the winter.”

“And you stated that every now and then he’d let you sleep on the bed.”

“The foot of the bed,” Quinn clarified, adding in a mutter, “Like a dog.”

Anderson-Smythe nodded, seeming thoughtful, and then smiling at Quinn again. “Were you ever homeless, Miss Fabray?”

Her brow furrowed. “I don’t understand—“

He interrupted her again, leaning forward, and Emma put a reassuring hand on her shoulder as Quinn scooted her chair back an inch.

“In the time that you were with Mr. Hudson, did he ever force you out onto the street, were you ever homeless?”

“No?” Was there a point to all this, Quinn wondered.

But then, with Blaine Anderson-Smythe’s next question, his defense of Finn Hudson became clear.

“Quinn, would you ever say that you deserved your punishments?”

Her mouth dropped open a little. “W-what?”

That same damned smile, mirrored by the smirk on Finn’s face. “You’re a submissive,” his lawyer said smoothly. “Your dominant owns you; his duty is to train you, to make you your better self, to punish you whenever you don’t live up to his expectations. Did you live up to his expectations?”

“I-I didn’t deserve it,” Quinn said shakily. “Not that- not what he-“

“So everything you did was correct?” his lawyer pressed. “You were always good, always obedient, you never smarted off to him, you never broke a rule, and you never left him dissatisfied?”

She could feel the panic start to rise, the endless doubt that had been ever present each day for the last few years, that had only just began to fade, with the persistent gentleness and care of Miss Rachel. The feeling that she was always wrong, that she was bad and disobedient, a horrible sub, because she could never do anything right.

“I-I tried,” Quinn said, hearing that her voice was bordering on pleading. “Every day I tried, to do what he wanted to, and I couldn’t—I never—“

“So you admit it, then?” His smile seemed almost feral now, menacing, and when had he stood up, leaning forward on the table, almost towering over her despite how short he was?

“You admit that you were a less than acceptable submissive. You admit that Finn Hudson frequently had to correct you in ways he saw fit, ways that were permissible because he is your Dominant.”

Now Judge Schuester was sat up in his chair, his expression rapt as he listened to Anderson-Smythe attack Quinn with gusto.

“You admit that though he was severe, though he may have punished you in ways you didn’t like, that it wasn’t always about you, it was sometimes about Finn, as a good relationship should be. And the fact that you were never lacking for food, for clothing, for adequate and comfortable housing. And the fact that he was actually a very good Dominant, dedicated to you and your well-being, dedicated to training you in the best way he knew ho—“

“He wasn’t a good Dominant!” Quinn snapped, slamming her hand onto the table. “Not like Miss Rachel!”

She was aware that the room had gone quiet. That Schuester seemed suddenly interested in her, as did two men in suits sitting in the back of the room. That Emma had softly sworn “Oh, fuck” under her breath, and that Miss Rachel was suddenly fidgeting in her seat and Lana had placed a steadying hand on her knee.

The gesture made her irrationally jealous, but Quinn plowed forward, her trembling voice suddenly loud and echoing in the silent court chamber.

“He beat me every day,” she said. “Until I cried, until I screamed. He broke… my bones. Me. I-I didn’t deserve that. And Miss Rachel—“

“Quinn,” Sugar put her hand on Quinn, but Quinn shook it off with a glare.

“She’s good. She’s good and gentle and even when I’m ba—even when I’m naughty she’s still soft when she corrects me.  She puts me in the corner or… she made me scrub the floor two days ago but she sat in the kitchen with me. She doesn’t beat me, ever, and she won’t.”

“She’s nothing like you,” she spat out toward Finn. “I may not be a good submissive but you’re not a good Dominant either. Not like her. Not like my Miss Rachel.”

She fell quiet then, hating the way Anderson-Smythe quirked one extremely forest-resembling eyebrow and said to Judge Schuester, “I believe I have made my case, Your Honor.”

The words dismissing them for a recess while he rendered his decision barely registered to Quinn’s ears; she sat numbly in her seat as Emma and Sugar stood up and tried to coax her to go out into the hallway with them. Quinn couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d done something horribly wrong, because everyone was looking at her strangely and even Miss Rachel seemed unnaturally pale as she came up and took Quinn’s hand, pulling her to her feet and leading her out into the hall with the others.

“M-Miss Rachel?” Quinn queried softly, but the smaller woman shushed her with a finger against her lips and a tender look.

“I am so proud of you,” Miss Rachel said, and Quinn relaxed when she pulled her into a hug. Quinn rested her chin on Miss Rachel’s shoulder and breathed in, letting out most of the tension she’d felt since that morning.

“Really?”

“Really,” Miss Rachel assured her, her hand in Quinn’s hair. “You were so brave up there, and you didn’t back down.” She kissed Quinn’s cheek gently.

“You were such a good girl.”

“You did good, kid,” she heard Emma say, and felt the light thump on her back, and Quinn giggled. She nuzzled further into Miss Rachel, tightening her arms around her, enjoying the closeness and the comfort… until she heard an unfamiliar sound, a strange clearing of a throat.

She backed away from Miss Rachel slowly, feeling the panic again as they both were confronted with the two men in suits, who had been sitting in the back row.

Miss Rachel had stiffened, though her arm was still firm and secure around Quinn’s waist as she regarded the men.

“I hadn’t expected to see you here,” she said easily, casting a glance to her side as Jesse and Anderson-Smythe walked past them, Finn in between.

“She is a member of McKinley House, of course we would be here,” one of the men replied, looking down at Rachel.

She is Quinn Fabray,” Miss Rachel said, and Quinn felt a swell of pride.

She was Quinn Fabray.

The other man nodded coolly, regarding Miss Rachel, before saying, “We’ll see you tomorrow in our office, Miss Berry. I’m sure you know what we’ll be discussing.”

Miss Rachel rolled her eyes as they walked away. “Of course they wouldn’t stay for the verdict,” she said through gritted teeth. “It’s not like they actually care for Quinn’s well-being. It’s all for show with them.”

“Rachel,” Lana said, a warning tone in her voice. “Now is not the time to make enemies of your bosses.”

Bosses? Quinn drew away slightly as the realization dawned on her.

The men were Miss Rachel’s bosses at the Society. Her government bosses. And Quinn had just blurted out about her Miss Rachel…

“Oh, no,” she whispered with a feeling of dread. “I-I didn’t—Miss Rachel, I didn’t mean to do anything wrong, I’m sorry!”

“No, no, Quinn,” Miss Rachel said firmly, even though her voice shook ever so slightly. “You didn’t do anything wrong, little one.” She led Quinn over to a bench and sat down with her, gently rubbing her back.

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” she repeated. “And they can’t do anything to me.”

Quinn looked at Miss Rachel, doubtful. The way everyone seemed to be acting strange, acting worried, and the way even Miss Rachel’s face looked pinched and strained seemed to tell an entirely different story.

“Everything’s going to be fine,” Miss Rachel said, and pulled Quinn closer to her.

“Do you think he’ll… do you think I did okay?”

“I know you did okay,” Miss Rachel said. “You did more than okay.”

Quinn smiled faintly. “But do you think it was enough?”

“Quinn, Rachel,” Sugar said, coming down the hall toward the door to the courtroom, followed a few steps behind by Jesse, Finn, and Finn’s lawyer. “Come on, we’re back in session.”

Quinn sat up in shock. They’d only been recessed for ten minutes. It was too early…

Miss Rachel glanced at her, and Quinn knew that she felt the same way. It was too early.

“I guess we’re about to find out, little one.”

Chapter Text

They filed into the courtroom one by one, a nervous band of shaking hands and uncertain faces. Rachel wanted, once again, to sit with Quinn, but she had to satisfy herself with a kiss, and tucking a loose strand of hair behind Quinn’s ear, before Lana ushered Rachel off to sit in their previous seats.

It had been hell, sitting through Quinn’s testimony, especially knowing that Schuester probably was turning a deaf ear to everything the young woman was saying. Rachel didn’t know how that was exactly possible; there was nothing in what Quinn told that should lead anyone to believe she’d had a happy life with Finn Hudson. Rachel had wanted to run up to the table and take Quinn in her arms, telling her that everything would be okay. And she wanted to punch Blaine Anderson.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Rachel muttered to her.

Lana slipped an arm around Rachel and squeezed her close. “Breathe, little one,” she whispered, and Rachel didn’t object to the term of endearment. “You need to be strong for her, because if you’re not, who else is going to be?”

“I have to think about myself too, you know,” Rachel said with a sigh. The talk she’d have to have with her bosses was looming ever-present in her mind, even as she tried to shove it away and concentrate on Quinn.

Not like my Miss Rachel.

They were words that simultaneously thrilled her, and damned her. Rachel knew that morally and legally she hadn’t done anything wrong; her bosses couldn’t keep her away from Quinn. But ethically… ethically she’d broken every rule in the book. Don’t get involved with a client. Don’t give a client preferential treatment. Don’t fall in love with a client.

Jesse’s knowing face had told Rachel that he knew what was in store for her, and Rachel couldn’t help but absurdly wonder if he’d called her bosses to be there. There wasn’t any reason for them to be there, they usually never expressed interest in court cases involving clients.

“He wouldn’t do that,” Lana said when Rachel voiced her fears. “I think Jesse learned his lesson about not being upfront with you.”

“And I’m not telling you to not care for yourself,” Lana added. “You ought to know me better than that. Your first priority is to yourself. But don’t get so lost in it that you forget Quinn, too.”

“And you know me bet—“ Rachel trailed off as the door opened and she and the others stood up as Judge Schuester entered.

“Be seated,” he said. “Mr. Hudson, remain standing, please.”

His smile to Finn filled Rachel with dread as she sat down and Lana took her hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. Rachel looked at Quinn, who sat there stone-faced, as if she knew what was to come, and was steeling herself for the inevitability.

“I’m going to get right to the point,” Judge Schuester said smoothly. “Mr. Hudson, I find you not guilty of the charge of neglect.”

Rachel growled low in her throat and Lana’s hand tightened around hers.

“I find that you provided Quinn with food, shelter, and the discipline that should be given to a submissive. Since you did not have a contract outlining rules and the consequences for breaking those rules, as well as the establishment of a safe word, it is the judgment of this court that you cannot be held responsible for going beyond acceptable punishment.”

Blaine Anderson-Smythe looked startled at Judge Schuester’s words, a fact that gave Rachel no small amount of satisfaction. The man’s own lawyer hadn’t even believed in him. Jesse glanced over at Rachel, a combined expression of regret and triumph on his face. Rachel knew he’d want to start phase two of bringing down Schuester as soon as possible, but Rachel felt tired, so impossibly tired.

And she only had eyes for Quinn.

“While the court finds you not guilty of the charges of neglect, the court does find that you did not obtain a contract, including the use of a safe word, at the beginning of your relationship with Quinn, as is required by law.”

“Slap on the wrist,” Rachel muttered, and Lana shushed her.

“The court therefore sentences you to one month of probation as well as one month of Dominant education classes. Before you enter a claim with another submissive you will be required to submit proof that you attended these classes, is that clear?”

“Yes, Your Honor,” Finn Hudson replied; Rachel found it curious that instead of looking relieved, Hudson seemed more… sad than anything.

Good, Rachel thought. Maybe his conscience was finally catching up to him.

“Do you have any questions?” the judge was asking Quinn, though by his tone it was obvious any question she could ask would be considered stupid, and a waste of time.

“Do I- do I have to go back with him?” Quinn asked softly.

Rachel nearly retched; it was only Lana’s hand still gripping hers that kept her from doing so. She hadn’t even entertained that possibility. Quinn had left Finn; there had been no thought in Rachel’s mind about her having to return to him, or even still being bound to him. But Judge Schuester had insisted on calling her Fabray-Hudson…

Oh god. What if—

“Do you want to be with him?”

This time, Quinn’s voice was strong, solid.

“Not if he were the last Dominant on earth.”

Rachel smirked; next to her, Lana chuckled.

“You’ve taught her well.”

Rachel shook her head. “That’s all Quinn,” she said proudly. “I’ve had nothing to do with that.”

“I think you have, more than you know.”

Maybe, she thought to herself, but the judge was speaking again.

“If you don’t want to be with him—“

“But I want to be with her,” Finn interrupted. He leaned forward, his hands splayed open on the table.

For a moment, Rachel realized, the roles had changed. Finn was the one reaching out in supplication, and this time Quinn had the upper hand. This time, it was Quinn who had the power over Finn Hudson.

“I love you, and I’m sorry,” he insisted. “Things will be different, you’ll see. I know how to do things better now, you have to come home.”

There was a pause that seemed, to Rachel, to go on forever before Quinn answered.

“I will go home, but not with you.” She looked at the judge. “I don’t want to be with him.”

A second pause; Rachel and everyone else jumped at the sound of the gavel. When had that appeared?

“The claim is dissolved, and court is adjourned.”

The room emptied out quickly; Lana had gone off to console Emma, who seemed to be muttering swear words under her breath while glaring at the door through which Schuester had made his hasty exit. Sugar’s job was done so she felt no need to linger around after a simple touch on Quinn’s shoulder and an apologetic smile. Jesse allowed Noah to wrap his arms around him, and the two men stopped in front of Rachel.

“We’ll talk later?” Jesse asked quietly.

Rachel nodded, her gaze focused on the girl sat at the table in the front of the room.

“We’ll talk later.”

“I’ll call you.”

“You’ll call me. Jesse?” He stopped and turned back.

Rachel smiled. “Love you.”

He winked. “Love you too.”

Rachel turned back around, watching her in the silence of the almost empty room. Watched as Quinn took a breath in, out, fingers flexing against the laminate wood of the table. What thoughts were warring with themselves in her mind? Rachel wondered. She wondered if it was the same thought that kept running through Rachel’s own mind.

Quinn was free.

Free. To enjoy personal rights or liberty, as a person who is not in slavery. Pertaining to or reserved for those who enjoy personal liberty.

To make free; set at liberty; release from bondage or imprisonment.

Schuester may not have given them what they really wanted – Finn in prison, but he’d given Quinn exactly what she needed, had needed ever since she was a sixteen year old, terrified submissive.

A voice. A decision. A choice.

The claim is dissolved.

Rachel sat in her chair and watched Quinn. In, out, hands flat on the table. Lips parted, eyes ahead.

“It’s not my fault.”

The battle was raging. Rachel nodded.

“It’s not.”

“I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I-I’m free.”

Rachel stood up and moved to the front of the room, to the table, positioning herself on it in front of Quinn.

“You’re free.”

Quinn looked at her, then wrapped her arms around Rachel’s waist and rested her head on Rachel’s lap.

“I can do whatever I want.”

Rachel stroked her fingers through Quinn’s hair. It was always so soft, she thought.

“You can do whatever you want.”

Quinn let out a shuddering sigh, and Rachel hunched forward slightly, covering Quinn as best she could in a hug and kissing the top of her head. She sat back up, her hand in the girl’s hair.

“What do you think you want?” Rachel asked.

Quinn was quiet, and Rachel felt a little worried about what Quinn’s answer might be. Perhaps she’d say she wanted time. Her own apartment. Which would be nice, really, Rachel knew that Quinn was probably ready to leave Shannon’s, leave McKinley House behind. It would be absurd to think that Quinn would want to move in with Rachel; it was absurd to think that that would even be a good idea at this point.

But what if she said she wanted to see other people? Maybe she wanted to try to submit to someone else, someone who wasn’t Rachel. Maybe she didn’t want to submit at all.

But it would be her choice, Rachel knew. Her choice, and she’d stand by whatever Quinn decided. Because she was free.

“A cheeseburger.”

Rachel tilted her head. “What?”

“A cheeseburger, Miss Rachel,” Quinn said, lifting her own head and smiling at Rachel a little, her eyes sparkling with tears. Happy tears. “I’m starving.”

“Then you should get a cheeseburger,” Rachel said with a laugh, her fears a little relieved. “You certainly deserve one.”

“Why didn’t he believe me?” Quinn asked, and Rachel knew the opposing side of the battle was making its move.

“I told the truth…”

“I know,” Rachel soothed, pulling Quinn up from her lap and cupping her cheek. “I am so proud of you. But we knew how this was most likely to turn out, Quinn. Judge Schuester clearly had his mind made up before you even spoke.”

“I just thought if he heard me, if he listened—“

“He didn’t want to listen, little one.” Rachel leaned forward and gently kissed Quinn’s lips. “But that doesn’t mean that you weren’t right, that this was your fault. None of this is your fault, and you know that now.”

Quinn stared at her for a long moment, and Rachel was glad to see a new resolve appear in her eyes, and Rachel was pretty sure she knew which side had won the battle.

“I know it wasn’t my fault.”

Rachel smiled and kissed Quinn’s forehead. “Let’s go get that cheeseburger, shall we?” She had her own resolve, to put the impending meeting with her bosses out of her mind, at least for now.

He was waiting for her as Rachel walked out holding Quinn’s hand. The surprise in his eyes told Rachel that Finn hadn’t expected her to be there as well; had he expected to ambush Quinn in an empty hallway? Quinn’s hand tightened in hers.

“What do you want?”

“To talk to you.” He flicked his gaze to Rachel. “Alone.”

Rachel opened her mouth, but Quinn beat her to it. “That’s not happening.” She couldn’t help but smirk.

“We need to talk. I want to talk to you now.”

His hand was around Quinn’s arm, and Rachel sprang into action, pulling Quinn behind her and positioning herself in front of Finn.

“Are you all right?” she asked, her eyes never leaving Finn’s face.

“I’m fine, Miss Rachel.”

“Good.” She addressed Finn. “You’re going to leave her alone.”

“Says who?” he snorted.

“Says me.”

Rachel smiled at Quinn’s words, and nodded. “You’re going to leave her alone. Your claim is dissolved. You had a good thing and you cruelly, brutally mistreated one of the most beautiful things you could have ever been given.”

“I didn’t know what I—“

“You’re right. You didn’t know, and you still don’t. You don’t know that women are no longer required to accept mediocrity when they deserve superiority.” He looked confused, but Rachel didn’t bother to stop to explain.

“You are the poorest excuse for a dominant I have ever had the displeasure of meeting, and I am so sorry that Quinn ever had to suffer under your stupidity. But I’m also glad.”

Rachel reached behind her and grasped Quinn’s hand again, pulling the girl forward so that they were standing close.

“I’m glad because now she knows what she should have had, and what she still can have. So no, you’re not going to talk to her, and no, she’s not going back to you, and yes, you’re going to leave her alone.”

She stepped so that she was so close to Finn she could feel his breath on her; it didn’t matter that he could easily crush her. Protecting Quinn made her feel ten feet tall.

“Because if you don’t, I will make your life a living hell, Finn Hudson.”

For the rest of her life Rachel would consider it a personal triumph when Finn Hudson walked away with a glare, and Quinn threw back her head, laughing, as she picked Rachel up and spun her around in a hug.

Two days later, triumph was the last thing on her mind when Rachel was sat in the boardroom at SETS, facing down Bamford and Truelove. It was awkward, Rachel thought, knowing that she would have to justify her actions to someone named Truelove. She would have thought he’d understand, but his stony expression as they both stared at her told her that she wouldn’t be that lucky. Of course.

“Are you Miss Fabray’s mistress?”

Apparently there weren’t even going to be forced, meaningless pleasantries; just jumping straight to the point. “No,” Rachel answered.

“But she refers to you as Miss Rachel.”

“That’s what you heard,” Rachel said wearily. “And that’s why we’re here.”

“Rachel.” Mr. Bamford folded his hands together and leaned forward against the table, regarding her with something that was between father and executioner. “We’re here because based on Miss Fabray’s comments during the hearing, it’s clear that you overstepped your boundaries as an employee of the Society for the Ethical Treatment of Submissives.”

“I didn’t intend to,” Rachel insisted, though she knew in the end it wouldn’t matter.

“Is she submitting to you?” Truelove asked, and Rachel sighed inwardly.

It was well-known, Jesse had told her when she’d started at SETS, that Truelove’s aim was to become Bamford’s right hand man, and it didn’t matter who he railroaded to get to that point.

“Yes.”

“Are you making a claim on her?”

Rachel glanced out the window. “I don’t know.”

“So you picked a patient at McKinley House, ingratiated yourself into her life without regard to her recovery or treatment, and coerced her into submitting to you, but you don’t know if you’re making a claim on her?”

Rachel slapped her hands on the table and stood up, beginning to pace around the room.

“From day one my only thought has been for Quinn’s well-being,” she said. “I didn’t pick her as if she was at a trade auction, I did not pick her as if she were a target for some… nefarious plan of domination. Things just… happened.”

“And they’re not supposed to,” Bamford said, a measure of kindness in his voice. “Sit down, Rachel.”

She sat, still on edge, her foot tapping nervously.

“You’ve been trained,” Bamford said. “You’ve been trained, and you’re an excellent worker. You truly do have your clients’ best interests at heart, but I don’t think you can deny that you skirted your responsibilities to pursue a relationship with Miss Fabray.”

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Rachel said, and narrowed her eyes when Truelove laughed out loud.

“Stop it,” Bamford admonished him, and Rachel refrained from sticking her tongue out. Bamford regarded her and shook his head.

“Legally, you didn’t. Morally, you didn’t. You can’t help who you fall in love with, Rachel. The heart wants what it wants.”

Rachel managed a smile as his words sank in. The heart wants what it wants.

“But we cannot have an employee who is in love with a client.”

“She’s not a client anymore, the claim has been dissolved and she’ll be leaving Beiste’s house on the McKinley grounds.”

“To move in with you?” Truelove asked; Rachel didn’t answer.

“That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that all of this happened while she was still a client. Didn’t you at any time think that perhaps you shouldn’t be dominating her?”

Rachel shook her head. “We all know why I’m here, and we all know what you’ve already decided, so why don’t you save me some precious time and just tell me.”

Bamford sighed and looked at her. “We will give you two weeks to submit your resignation. If we don’t have the paperwork in hand when two weeks are up, you’ll be terminated.”

“So quit or be fired,” Rachel translated, her hands beginning to tremble. She hadn’t actually thought it would be that bad. “Can I not just be transferred to another department?”

“So you can case for your next claim?”

“Truelove, go make yourself useful,” Bamford said. “Get me a coffee.”

He waited until his coworker had left with a huff, and then shook his head at Rachel. “If he wasn’t my nephew,” he sighed, and Rachel giggled a little.

“We can’t transfer you to another department,” Bamford said, sounding regretful. “Rachel, I would if I could but you’ve compromised the good work we’re trying to do here. Who is going to take submissives’ rights seriously if counselors, advocates, workers start falling in love with them and getting into relationships? You’re a liability.”

He laid his hand on Rachel’s arm. “I’m sorry.”

Rachel stood up and moved towards the door, then paused to glance back at her boss. “You’ll have my resignation in a couple of days.”

“I’ll probably look for another job in a few days,” Rachel said to her fathers, later as she was curled up on their couch in a pair of her old pajamas and indulging in a pint of ice cream.

Her fathers exchanged a look. “What about New York?” Hiram asked carefully.

“What about it?”

“Rachel,” Leroy admonished softly.

“Now you can go to New York.”

“I don’t want to go to New York.”

“That’s crap, young lady, and you know it.”

Rachel winced, and Hiram wrapped his arm around her, kissing the top of her head.

“It’s my fault you’re still here.”

“Dad—“

“Hush while your elders are speaking, Rachel Berry.” Rachel rolled her eyes but fell silent. “It’s my fault that you’re still here. I should never have let you use my illness as an excuse not to chase your dreams. But you’re still young, you still have plenty of time, and now you have the opportunity. You’d be a fool not to take it.”

“Then I’m a fool,” Rachel muttered, concentrating on the ice cream.

“What are you so afraid of, Rach?” Leroy asked, and she shrugged. “I know Quinn would want to go with you.”

“Quinn needs to make her own decisions about that.”

“You’re right, but is it her decision if you don’t even give her the opportunity to make it?”

“Do you love her?”

Rachel just looked at him. She had thought it was obvious, but putting it into words, that was a whole different matter.

“Do you want to make a claim on her?”

“I don’t know, Daddy.”

Wasn’t this what she wanted? Rachel thought. Everything seemed to be falling perfectly into place. Quinn was free to make up her own mind, and Rachel was reasonably certain if she offered Quinn a collar, Quinn would accept it. Though it wouldn’t be a collar she’d offer, Rachel knew. Maybe a necklace. A delicate chain with a dainty lock. Silver, and a gold star on. Or perhaps just a simple ribbon with a charm…  Maybe white. Green? And what would the ceremony be like? Would they even have a ceremony? Well, of course they would. They’d have the chance to stand there in front of everyone – well, Rachel would stand, Quinn would kneel. And Rachel would make her claim, pledging her love for always. Quinn would answer that she would be Rachel’s girl, Rachel’s little one, as long as they live. What would she wear, Rachel wondered. But it wouldn’t matter to her; Quinn could wear anything and she’d still be the prettiest girl Rachel had ever met.

She was smiling, and the look her fathers were giving each other now told Rachel that yes, she really was obvious. Rachel sighed.

It was what she wanted, more than anything. But an offer was just that, an offer. And as “reasonably certain” as she was about Quinn’s answer, an offer could be turned down. A heart open with love could be broken. And though she called Quinn hers, though Quinn was her little one, it was in words only. There was no contract, no signatures, no rules or safe words on paper. At least not officially. Ultimately the decision would be Quinn’s, and Rachel knew that a decision wasn’t always “yes.”

And New York… New York could mean too many things that were too uncertain. New York could mean success and happiness, or New York could mean endless auditions, one rejection after another, a career working as a waitress instead of on Broadway. A high-rise apartment in a great part of town, or a dumpy studio with bars on the window. And if she couldn’t provide for Quinn, what would she do then? Quinn deserved better than having to support Rachel because she couldn’t be successful. She wanted more than anything to believe that New York would be the beginning of a magical new life for herself and Quinn, but Quinn had already had her hopes and dreams shattered once before; Rachel didn’t know that she was willing to risk doing that to her again.

“You should at least talk to her,” her daddy said. “It’s not fair to Quinn for you to just shut her out of this decision. Of course it’s yours to go to New York or not, but to not ask Quinn for her input… It would seem to me that you’d be telling her all her hard work after Finn was for nothing.”

That wasn’t what Rachel wanted to do, at all. Quinn had worked so hard, she was so strong now, probably the strongest person Rachel knew. And the last thing she wanted to do was send a message to Quinn that Rachel, who had believed in her more than anyone, thought she was too weak to share in Rachel’s concerns, Rachel’s dreams, Rachel’s life.

But Rachel could handle being fired. She could handle living in Lima for the rest of her life. What she knew she wouldn’t be able to handle, was a rejection from Quinn.

“The sky’s the limit, Rachel,” her dad said quietly, squeezing her close. “The sky’s the limit, and Quinn can share that with you.”

She started to answer, but the vibrating of her cell phone distracted her. Rachel glanced at it; Quinn’s smiling face stared up at her as it had for the past ten times she had called since Rachel had left the SETS building.

Rachel picked up her phone.

“Hi, little one. I think we should talk.”

Chapter Text

The liquid burned on its way down, and Quinn winced, her “yuck” expression giving way to a cough.

Emma laughed and clapped her hand on Quinn’s back. “That’s good stuff right there,” she said, and clinked her water glass with Noah’s shot.

“If that’s good I’d hate to taste what you think’s bad,” Quinn said and settled back into her seat, glancing around.

The bar was actually, Noah had said, one of the nicer ones in Lima; he and Emma had taken Quinn to this one rather than Emma’s usual stomping ground because “Rachel would kill me for taking you someplace like that, and then Sir would kill me and really I’m too hot to die twice.”

Quinn wasn’t exactly sure what was nicer about four big-screen televisions mounted on the wall loudly blaring sports, or peanut shells on the floor, or a dark cramped booth in the corner, but the shot she’d had was already giving her a warm, fuzzy feeling and so she put her feet up on the seat across from her, shoes off and wiggling her toes.

It was odd, because when Emma had presented her with the amber-colored drink the first thought Quinn had had was “Sir would be so mad.”

That thought was followed by “I don’t have a Sir.”

I don’t have a Sir.

There had been times in Quinn’s life, when she was 16, 18, or even only 21, just a year ago, when “I don’t have a sir” would have filled her with fear and regret. As a child she had had it drilled into her how lucky she was to have been matched – only they used the word “chosen,” as if it was fate that she and Finn had been brought together, instead of casual boardroom meetings between her father and Finn’s mother – because to be a submissive alone was a sad, sad thing. Her parents had spoken to her in hushed tones, the one time she’d asked, at the age of ten, “But what if I don’t love him?” that she would learn to love him and that love didn’t really matter. The only thing that mattered, her father said as he poured himself and his wife a drink, was that Quinn was a good girl and did as she was told.

Now she wondered if her mother had ever loved her father, and vice versa. When was it, she wondered, that her ancestors had decided that the worst thing was being alone, to the point that generations after generations were joined into claims of convenience? Had anyone, throughout the entire Fabray line, ever been able to truly love, or did they just… go through the motions because that was what was expected of them? Perfection. Image. The family honor.

And now, that perfect line had broken… with her. Because of her. She hadn’t seen her parents since she was 18, not since a disastrous holiday when she’d been so nervous she’d burnt the food. They’d eaten pizza because it was the only thing Finn knew, and Quinn still remembered the look of disappointment on her father’s face… and the worry on her mother’s.

Quinn had learned never again to burn the food, but it was too late. Her parents had never returned to visit. Though most of that was because her sir had kept making up excuses for why they couldn’t come over, why he was too busy, why Quinn wasn’t “trained” enough to make him proud.

Quinn looked at the drink.

Sir would be so mad.

 I don’t have a sir.

Her next thought was “Miss Rachel wouldn’t mind as long as I’m responsible.” Because it was on their list, the one that Miss Rachel kept taped to her refrigerator. The one in varying shades of pink and green, a gold star highlighting the section titled What Miss Rachel Needs. That made Quinn smile, but then the smile disappeared.

“They’re going to fire her,” she said for the third time that night.

“Yep,” Emma answered her for the third time.

“Mm-hmm.”

“She doesn’t deserve it.”

“Nope.”

“Unh-unh.”

“She wants to sing,” Quinn said, over the cheers that erupted because some basketball team had won their game.

“She’s good at it,” Noah said to Emma, who nodded her agreement even though Quinn was fairly sure she’d never heard Miss Rachel sing. “I never thought I’d hear a voice like that come out of a midg- ow!” He glared at Quinn, who smirked as he rubbed his knee. “I never thought I’d hear a voice like that come out of someone so tiny.”

Emma nodded. “Madam’s said she’s really good. She brags on Rachel a lot. It’s… awkward.”

“Tell me about it,” Quinn said, her grin matching Emma’s as she bumped her offered fist.

“I still think it’s pretty stupid she didn’t go to New York. She could be on Broadway,” Emma said. “Madam says Rachel could play some green witch… she didn’t like it when I said she’d be the better witch. It was a compliment!” she added to Quinn’s laugh, shifting uncomfortably on her seat.

“Maybe now that they’re throwing her out on her ass she’ll go.”

“It’s my fault,” Quinn said, and sat upright when Noah reached out and knocked her feet off the seat. “What?”

“Stop it with that shit. It is not your fault.”

“Whose is it then?” Quinn challenged him. “If she hadn’t met me she’d still have her job.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s the good life,” Noah said sarcastically. “Stuck in Lima, working a job that doesn’t make her happy, not singing, which is the one thing she loves more than you.”

Quinn ducked her head, blushing. They hadn’t said I love you… not yet. But as the days ticked on, Quinn found herself wanting to say it more and more. But she was waiting for Miss Rachel – that’s the way it was supposed to go, right? Miss Rachel was the Dominant, she should want Quinn first.

At least that’s the way Quinn thought it should be. It wasn’t really like she had any experience in it, anyway. Everything Quinn had known about how relationships started and worked – or didn’t work – had been what she’d learned at the hands of Finn. Her relationship had been arranged when they were still children; she’d only met Finn a couple of times before she was sixteen years old.

The Dominant was supposed to make all the decisions, Quinn had learned. Her sir would tell her when to eat, what to eat, when to go to the bathroom, when she wasn’t permitted to.  Every decision of her life… was his. And though Quinn knew now that it wasn’t the way things were supposed to go, it was the way things had been, the only thing she had known. There was a comfort in getting up every day knowing what you had to do, and the steps you needed to take in order to do it. The only uncertainty in Quinn’s life was not knowing if she had stuck to the routine well enough, if Sir would be pleased by her efforts. Well, no, she knew he would never be, she just didn’t know which little thing would set him off.

And maybe that wasn’t true either, because she’d slowly come to realize that anything and everything would set him off.  Miss Rachel had wiped back tears, again, when Quinn had told her that there was a bizarre security in knowing that you’d never be good enough.

“If,” Quinn had said to her quietly, “you know things are never going to change, then you don’t have to be disappointed. You never have to hope and be let down, because you know that it’s pointless to hope.”

But now, things were different. Now there was Miss Rachel, and now, there was hope. Hope, fluttering in the back of Quinn’s mind like a tiny bird not yet old enough to leave its nest. And in her heart, something different. Something a little more.

Something that meant… Miss Rachel’s eyes, and the way they sparkled, looking at her as the words left her lips. “Good girl.”

Rachel’s face, relaxed and happy as they cuddled up on the couch and watched television together, or even stern when a punishment was happening. The sound of her laughter echoing through the house as Quinn did something “bratty but sweet,” which Quinn had learned – much to Miss Rachel’s chagrin – was something the petite woman with the huge voice loved. And the voice… Softly soothing in Quinn’s ears, or sharp and demanding, or lightly singing songs Quinn had never heard before… She wanted to hear every song in the world, and she wanted them sung by Miss Rachel.

Miss Rachel’s hands were small, and they fit perfectly in Quinn’s. They were strong, lifting Quinn out of a nightmare or lifting her up from her knees. She wanted Miss Rachel’s hands, in ways that were comforting, in ways that were severe, in ways that made her blush and glance away hoping that no one would notice.

And among all of that, there was another feeling, one that was well-known to Quinn. A feeling brought once again to the surface by a question from Emma.

“What do you want, Quinn?”

Fear.

Quinn tilted her head. “What do you mean?”

“Noah’s right, you saying if Rachel had never met you she’d be better off, it’s bullshit. But you know you shouldn’t even be worried about Rachel, I mean, aren’t you better off since you met her?” Emma took another sip of her water, and then made a face, glancing down at her stomach. “You’d better make all of this worth it, kid.”

She was better off, Quinn knew this. She could go to the mall on her own now, the grocery store, come home and make dinner for herself and Shannon without feeling like… it was what she was supposed to do. Now she did it because she enjoyed it, because she wanted to sit and share a good meal with her friend, and giggle when Shannon blushed as she talked about the new man in her life, the one that was good and kind and when she’d told him she wasn’t perfect he said “I don’t want perfect, I want Shannon.” He made her want to kneel again, Shannon said with a hopeful smile, and Quinn couldn’t do anything but hug her.

Quinn had friends now, something she hadn’t had just a few short months ago. Noah and Jesse, Emma and Tina, people that she could actually hang out with and talk about girl things. Well, at least until Noah made a face and said there was too much estrogen in the room.

(“How do you even know that word?” “Rachel taught me!”)

“I am better off,” Quinn said with a shrug. “But I don’t know how that’s meant to make me feel any better.”

“Because,” Emma dragged the word out as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, “Now’s her chance. Now’s her chance to go to New York like she was supposed to, now’s her chance to, I don’t know, break glass when she hits a high note – although really if you’re any good you could help her do that, screw New York.”

Emma high-fived Noah across the table as Quinn’s jaw dropped. “Well, I-I don’t know…”

Emma patted her arm and winked. “Good things come in time—“

“And so will she—“

“I will walk out of this bar if you two don’t—“

Emma cleared her throat and set her glass of water onto the table. “Serious face now,” she said, and smiled sympathetically at Quinn. “We know what Rachel wants. We know she wants to sing, we know she wants to be on Broadway, we know she wants you. The question is, what is it you want?”

“I don’t know.”

“Because now’s your chance to get it. Now’s your chance to, I don’t know, grab the bull by its oysters, the world is your horn.”

Quinn stared at Noah blankly, and Emma shook her head. “Even I know that just went horribly wrong. What Mohawk boy means is now’s your chance to decide for yourself, from now on, everything you want. If you want somebody to tell you what to do, you do. If you want to live life with your own rules, you can do that to. You don’t have to know what you want, but you do need to know one thing now.”

“What?” Quinn asked.

Emma leaned forward so that she was staring into Quinn’s eyes. “No one can tell you who you are anymore.”

Miss Rachel was nervous the next morning, when she opened the door to her house to allow Quinn in, hanging back to let Arnie get his fill before pulling the young woman into her arms and holding her close.

That was a good sign, right? Quinn thought.

“So?” she asked softly. There was no sense in prolonging the inevitable.

Miss Rachel sighed and led Quinn to the couch, both of them sitting down with Arnie flopping at their feet.

“I’m resigning. It was either that or be fired.”

“I’m sor—“

With an eyebrow quirked, Miss Rachel’s finger touched Quinn’s lips, silencing her. “No. I’m not going there, we are not doing that. This isn’t your fault.”

“But I—“ Quinn tried to mumble, but Miss Rachel’s finger hadn’t left her lips and she rolled her eyes, but quieted.

“Better,” Miss Rachel said, before withdrawing her hand. She tried to smile, but Quinn could see the uncertainty in her eyes.

“Are you all right?” she asked, reaching up and running her hand through Miss Rachel’s dark curls. This was different, too, she noted, the fact that she could provide comfort while also being able to expect it. And the reward, the payoff, was the little thrill of pride that ran through her when Miss Rachel leaned into Quinn’s hand, seeking her touch.

“I don’t know,” Miss Rachel admitted. “I’m not quite sure how I should feel. Whether I should be righteously indignant or woefully heartbroken. Normally I would make a list of two columns with the various feelings on both sides, but frankly I don’t even have the will to do that.”

She was so weird in some ways, Quinn thought to herself, but it was that weirdness, that strangeness that was just so very Miss Rachel that made Quinn smile, every time she heard the rambling, the spill of words and crazy ideas coming from the smaller girl. She caught little flashes of annoyance at it, too, and it had led to a little argument here and there, but more than anything Quinn was just glad that they could talk to each other.

And it had all started with just a slice of apple.

Yes, she was much better off.

“But I suppose,” Miss Rachel was saying, and Quinn tuned back in, “Once I find my bearings and start looking for another occupation that things will turn out all right.”

“Oh.” Quinn glanced down at her other hand, entwined in Miss Rachel’s and held on her lap. “Do you know what that… occupation might be?”

And will I be a part of it?

“Well, things are just so different now,” Miss Rachel said, watching Quinn closely. She was wearing a white button-up shirt, something that Quinn loved to see her in, and jeans – which Quinn really loved to see her in. But the whiteness of the shirt brought out the dark in Miss Rachel’s eyes, made them seem more troubled, and Quinn felt a panic begin to well up within her.

Maybe she wasn’t meant to be a part of it after all.

“There’s been a lot going on, with my dad getting sick and working at the Society. Then meeting you and the things happening with Lana and Emma, and then Jesse working for Finn and the trial… I feel as if my whole world has been turned upside down.”

“Oh,” Quinn said again, quieter this time.

This was it, then.

Finality.

Miss Rachel would probably stay in Lima. She’d find another job with the government, Quinn supposed, though not doing anything else with abandoned submissives. Quinn herself had seen to it that that would never be a viable job. She felt the shame well up within her again, and tried to quell it as best she could.

But staying in Lima didn’t necessarily mean that Miss Rachel was done with her, right? Things were different now, like Miss Rachel said. Not just for her, but for Quinn as well. Things didn’t have to mean instant rejection anymore, that life of not being good enough, of never being good enough. Maybe now there was reason to hope that this could be It for Quinn, that she and Miss Rachel could be like the princesses in those fairytales her grandfather used to read to her when she was a child.

But Miss Rachel’s tone sounded so careful, so cautious, as if she was afraid of breaking Quinn’s heart… So maybe Quinn had been right all along. Maybe Miss Rachel did blame her, and was going to wash her hands of her.

She supposed Shannon might let her stay in the house for another week or so, long enough for Quinn to find her own place.

… she didn’t know how to find her own place.

But maybe Shannon could help her with that, or Noah. No, Noah probably wouldn’t be her friend anymore after, it would be too awkward. Emma would help; Quinn didn’t think Lana would forbid it. A little apartment in town, perhaps. One bedroom. Maybe she could get a dog.

Maybe that would help her not miss Arnie so much.

And maybe, someday, there’d be… someone else?

But maybe, if Miss Rachel knew how Quinn felt, maybe she wouldn’t…  Maybe all it would take would be just a few words, one ounce of bravery, and things could change… Like leaving home on a cold, dark night with nowhere to go and no one to run to.

Having things change with an apple slice and a soft word. A bath and a teddy bear.

Maybe if Miss Rachel knew, she’d understand and maybe she wouldn’t be scared to go to New York, to grab her dreams.

Because Quinn loved her.

No one can tell you who you are anymore.

Who was Quinn Fabray?

Miss Rachel was still talking; Quinn had moved her hand and was now holding tightly to one of the cushions of the couch, trying to keep back the tears that were threatening to spill over.

“But sometimes having your world turned upside down can reveal things you might not have seen before. It helps you see things more clearly, makes it easier for you to know what  - and who – it is that you truly want.”

“Oh.”

“And so that’s why I’ve decided—“

“I love you.”

Miss Rachel stopped, her mouth open, and stared at Quinn.

The room grew still and silent, the words crashing and then dying off like waves on the beach. Arnie looked up at them then rested his head back on his paws, going to sleep with a grunt and Quinn smiled a little even as she laid herself bare.

How many times had she done that, she thought. Laid herself bare and waited for the inevitable punishment? Either way she was naked, in a silent room with her skin cold and prickling as she anticipated the next move, the next blow. There was something perverse about comparing the two, but in the reality of it, it could all end up the same. Tears of pain, a broken heart. Rejection. Another sleepless night alone.

Or, Quinn knew, thanks to Miss Rachel, it could end up so differently. Because so far, no matter what they had faced, no matter what Quinn had come up against, it had all ended differently. With a hug, a soft touch. Gentle, whispered words. “Good girl.” A smile.

“I love you,” Quinn said again. She took a deep breath, offering a half-hearted smile as the tears fell.

“I love you, and I… I want to be a writer,” Quinn nodded. “Or maybe an illustrator, or both! I like stories, and I like to draw, I think I’d be good at it.”

“Quinn, I—“

“No, wait, Rachel,” Quinn said. She stood up then, beginning to pace back and forth in front of the other woman, realizing how badly it could go now that she’d dropped the “Miss.” Finally she stopped and turned to look down at her, then sat back on the couch so that they were level, face-to-face.

“A writer,” she said again. “Or an illustrator. Or both. Or maybe I want to work in a bookstore. There are… good schools to become a librarian, I don’t know. What I do know is that I want to work with books. Creating them, illustrating them, cataloging them… owning all of them. It doesn’t matter, I just need books.”

She met Rachel’s gaze. “And… I need you, Rachel.”

In that split second, with that name, Quinn knew that she knew herself. Gone was the old Quinn, meek and abused and quiet. She had been replaced by this new Quinn, someone that she was barely acquainted with. But she sat next to Rachel, met her eye-to-eye. Free. Not just a submissive, but also an equal.

A woman who knew what was in her mind and in her heart. What she wanted, what she needed.

“And I think about everything that means and how it could end… really badly because god knows I don’t have a good track record. But then I think of all the good things and I want all of it, I want everything.”

Quinn twisted her hands in her lap and pursed her lips, taking another deep breath. “I want you. I want to… kneel for you and submit to you. I want to serve you because with you that doesn’t mean bad things anymore. With you it means safety and love and excitement. I want to make love to you and wake up with you, go for walks and cook breakfast with you.”

“Quinn—“

“Not done talking, Rachel.”

Rachel drew back, an unreadable expression on her face and Quinn bit her lip, despite thinking she detected a twinkle in the brunette’s eyes.

“Do continue, then.”

Quinn nodded, and took Rachel’s hands in hers, kissing them. A gesture of want, of supplication. “I want you to claim me,” she said clearly. “And I guess that’s not romantic or how it’s supposed to work but I want your claim. Except I want for you to be happy more. I want you to go to New York and go on Broadway, because it’s what you love. And because you’re good, and because no one’s seen an Elphaba like you yet.”

She was right; Rachel’s eyes were twinkling, though it was probably just from the compliment. But Rachel was still listening to her, not saying anything, and Quinn soldiered on.

“And if you can’t do that with me then that’s—that’s okay, I mean I’ll be okay. Because you taught me that I’m strong and I can make it on my own, even if I don’t want to. And I don’t want to. I know you’re scared and we might be really broke in New York and eating Ramen noodles every night and living in some dump with bars over the windows in a really bad neighborhood until you make it.”

Quinn shrugged, losing some of her steam and leaning back against the cushions, deflated. “But I don’t care,” she said softly. “Because one time I was so scared I ran away from home. Now… I look at you and home is all I see.”

Everything was quiet then, save for the gentle snore of Arnie at Rachel’s feet. Her hands were trembling, and Quinn clutched them in her lap.

Finally, she dared to look over at Rachel who, up to this point, had said nothing.

Miss Rachel was smiling.

 

Chapter Text

“Stop peeking, everybody’s out there already. You don’t need to worry that your audience is lacking.”

Rachel glanced back from the door and grinned at Jesse. “Actually, I was looking at two specific members of the audience.” She pointed as subtly as possible, and Jesse peered out over her shoulder.

“Who’s a good little baby?” they could hear Noah saying as he cuddled the tiny girl to his chest. “Who’s a brave baby Clara? You are, yes, you are!”

“Hey, can I have my kid back?”

“In a minute,” Rachel and Jesse heard him say as he tickled the booties-clad feet of Emma and Lana’s daughter. She giggled and kicked, adorable in pink gingham, all wide brown eyes and with brown hair that Noah had subtly shaped into a Mohawk.

Born a month early, Clara Persephone Morris had had a rough time at first, but now she was the spoiled apple of her mommies’ eyes. She had Emma’s last name, since Emma had given birth, but Lana was by law given all rights to Clara as her second mother.

“And she got to give her a weird-ass middle name,” Emma had pointed out.

“Emma, dear, you’re going to give her a complex,” Lana had said with a smile, her pinky held in the tight grip of her little girl.

“You’re so precious, you are,” Noah cooed, looking nothing like the trouble-making, drug-addicted street rat that he had been only a few years earlier.

“Ohhh, boy,” Jesse breathed softly, “I can see where this is going.” But he was smiling, and Rachel nudged him, grinning.

“Yeah, you’d think she’s precious until she’s using you as a milk machine,” Emma said, but her tone was affectionate as she smoothed down Clara’s hair. “Do you have any idea how awkward it is to kneel in the corner with a baby attached to your boob?”

“She’s still amazing,” Noah said, pretending to chew on Clara’s fingers now firmly in his mouth, then rolled his eyes at Lana as she extricated the baby’s hand and cleaned it with a wipe. “Aren’t you, monkeyface? Your mommies did a good job.”

“So did the Cryobank,” Emma said, tucking the baby into her arms as Noah finally relinquished her. “They had a good choice of frozen swimmers.”

“Oh, hey, I donate there!” Noah exclaimed, and Rachel pressed her face to her palm as Lana let out a sound somewhere between a gasp and a strangled sob.

“I swear to God if you’re my baby’s daddy I’m going to kill you.”

Rachel snapped the door shut and shook her head, smiling at Jesse and smoothing down the front of her dress where it had gotten wrinkled.

It had been six months.

Six months since Quinn had looked over at her with her heart on her sleeve, fear and longing in those deep hazel eyes that Rachel realized she always wanted to be looking at her. Rachel smiled, remembering what Quinn had said to her.

“I look at you and home is all I see.”

The tears had rushed to her eyes but Rachel controlled herself to speak quietly, firmly.

“If I hadn’t been so interrupted,” she said, the smile still on her lips, “You would have heard me say that all I want is to be with you, in New York.” Her smile grew wider at Quinn’s gasp, and Rachel reached out to pull the girl into her arms.

“My little one,” she said, kissing Quinn. “I am so proud of you, even for – especially for interrupting me.” She trailed her thumbs over Quinn’s face, wiping away the tears, and kissed her again. “I love you, Quinn Fabray. Everything you are and everything you’ll ever be. I love you.”

Still, she’d insisted on waiting, because as firm as Quinn was in wanting to be claimed, Rachel for her part wanted to be sure.  Quinn had moved out of Shannon’s and into her own small little apartment in town, though she spent more of her time at Rachel’s than anywhere else. But it had been amusing for Rachel, to watch as Quinn slowly blossomed into her own, decorating the apartment with her personal touches even as she would smile at Rachel and cheekily say, “I don’t plan on living here long, you know.”

“I know,” Rachel would say with her own soft smile, and press a kiss to Quinn’s cheek. “I know.”

She watched as Quinn grew in confidence with each passing day, going to places by herself or with friends – and that made Rachel smile the most, the fact that Quinn had friends. True, they were mostly those in Rachel’s own circle, with the exception of Tina, and she was still exasperated about the fact that Emma seemed to revel in teaching Quinn to push all of Rachel’s buttons. But it was good to see Quinn going out and having fun, whether it was to a restaurant or bookstore, or even one of Noah’s clubs.

At first it made Rachel worry, Quinn being out on her own, especially those nights that Quinn chose to spend at her apartment rather than Rachel’s house. Those nights, Rachel would sleep with her phone clutched tightly in her hand, just in case Quinn needed to call. Was she warm enough? Rachel wondered. Had she eaten enough, was she getting enough rest, was her bed as soft as the one she had at Rachel’s? But every morning without fail – as per the rules if Quinn wasn’t staying over – the phone would ring at 8 a.m. and Rachel would answer it, smiling to hear Quinn’s gentle voice on the other end.

“I slept just fine, Miss Rachel, don’t worry.”

And really, it didn’t matter if Quinn wanted to spend 5 out of the 7 nights at her own apartment, or stayed out until 2 in the morning with Noah, or walked the mall for hours with Tina – which she didn’t. For Rachel, what mattered were the two pieces of paper held with magnets to the refrigerator door. Plain white sheets with pink and purple and green ink and littered with gold stars.

Quinn’s rules. Rachel’s rules. The list they had drawn up together, the list that was growing steadily as they experimented, as they learned. Things were being added, scratched off, put into the “maybe” and “no way ever again” columns. It was a slow road, Rachel was realizing, and as comfortable as she and Quinn were with each other so far, there still had been a few missteps, one safe word that had resulted in Rachel spending the entire night on the couch with Quinn held, safe and sleeping, in her arms.

They hadn’t been fully intimate yet; Quinn had asked to wait until the actual night of the claiming, saying that she wanted it to be more special. But Rachel could see past what Quinn said to what she couldn’t give voice to, to the undercurrent of fear and hint of darkness in hazel eyes that should always be bright with happiness. It hurt her, at first, knowing that Quinn was still afraid to give herself fully to Rachel, but as always, a quick chat with Lana had been enough to help Rachel regain her perspective.

“You’re surprised that she’s scared?” Lana said over her shoulder as she hung yet another picture of herself and Emma on the wall. “After everything she’s been through?”

“Well, no, I just… thought I’d be different,” Rachel admitted. “She says I’m not like him, but it’s as if she expects me to be like him in bed.”

“You’re being paranoid,” Lana had said, sitting next to Rachel on the couch and brushing her forehead with a kiss. “You know you’re different. She knows you’re different. But this is the last… thing, the last hold he has over her. He owned every part of her, especially her body. She wants you to claim her, but she’s scared to claim that part of herself.”

“You’re too smart for your own good,” Rachel had muttered, and Lana smiled.

“The act doesn’t matter,” she’d said. “As long as it’s gentle, careful, sweet. What matters is that she knows how much you love her. Concentrate more on the emotion than the physical, and you can’t go wrong.”

As for Rachel, her dads had insisted on giving her enough money to get by for the six months until her relationship with Quinn was set, and the rest of their plans could be put into motion. Rachel had protested, but she knew her dads still felt some measure of guilt for keeping her away from New York so long, and so Quinn had encouraged her just to take it, especially since it was too dangerous to head off to the city with no money in the bank.

They would fly out to New York for a weekend to find an apartment, then fly back and Rachel’s dads would help them pack the essentials for the long drive, and ship the rest later. Rachel was excited – and terrified. But a soft touch from Quinn on her cheek, and everything was fine. All her fears vanished, and Rachel felt as if, with the young woman by her side, she’d already won a Tony.

“I’m that good?” Quinn had joked when Rachel had said that, her tongue stuck out, and Rachel had just rolled her eyes, cuddling her brat close on her lap.

“Ready?” Jesse said from Rachel’s shoulder, and she turned around to rest her head against his chest, the man wrapping his arms around her with a smile. They’d repaired their friendship after the trial; in fact now it was stronger than ever, and Rachel wouldn’t have even thought twice about having Jesse in the front row, along with her other family and friends.

Quinn’s parents weren’t there, which was to be expected since Quinn had steadfastly refused to invite them. Rachel had asked, carefully, but Quinn was vehement to the point of tears about not wanting her parents anywhere near herself and Rachel. Tina was there, though, along with the young man Quinn had heard so much about, Mike, and Shannon, who had already gone through one pack of tissues and was starting on another.

“Go on,” Jesse said quietly, pushing Rachel lightly towards the door that led to outside, and the little circle in front of the seats.

“Go claim your girl.”

It was a simple white sheet laid out on the grass, and a lattice arch laced with green leaves and gardenias. Just to the side of the arch was a table draped with a lace cloth, upon which rested two boxes, one smaller, one larger. The larger box held Rachel’s gift to Quinn, the smaller, Quinn’s gift to Rachel. They were like two children at Christmas in the days leading up to the ceremony, knowing exactly what the gifts would be but not what they would be made of.

Both of them, though, knew the meaning of what was held in those two boxes.

In between the boxes was a single sheet of paper, with two pens on top. The paper was official, with the state seal emblazoned on the upper margin, and the bottom margin held the stiff, black scrawl of the woman officiating the ceremony, April Rhodes.

She stood just to Rachel’s left, smiling at her, waiting. Two blank lines on the paper also waited, for signatures. Pledges.

Rachel took a deep breath and once again smoothed her dress. Light baby blue, and her hair was pulled up into a loose bun at the nape of her neck. The day was calm, cool, and the sun had begun to set just off the horizon. It was perfect, made all the more perfect by the trembling girl who shut the door behind her and made her way to the sheet, stopping to stand in front of Rachel with a nervous smile.

Rachel reached out and took both Quinn’s hands in hers, squeezing them gently as she leaned up and pressed a kiss to her cheek.

“All right, little one?” she questioned, and Quinn nodded, her cheeks flushing pink.

“I’m all right, Miss Rachel.”

“You’re beautiful,” Rachel said, still holding tightly to Quinn’s hands, and it was true. Quinn was wearing a green dress that matched her eyes, which were sparkling as she smiled at Rachel, the blush still evident on her fact. She was still trembling and Rachel squeezed her hands again, taking in the way Quinn’s golden blonde hair was twisted up in braids, loose tendrils falling around her cheeks and ears.

She was, Rachel thought, the prettiest girl she’d ever seen in her life.

And in just a few short moments, Quinn would be completely hers.

“Are we ready to get started?” Ms. Rhodes asked, and both Rachel and Quinn nodded their consent.

“Rachel and Quinn,” Ms. Rhodes began, “have decided to keep this short and sweet, because I’m gathering they’re quite eager to start their life together and enjoy the support of their family and friends here.”

“This isn’t something to be taken lightly,” Ms. Rhodes continued, a note of warning to her voice that gave her a sudden formidable air in spite of her small frame. “A claim is meant to be for life, two people choosing to live their life together as Dominant and submissive, with all the care and emotion that a relationship like that means.”

Ms. Rhodes looked to Rachel, then to Quinn in turn. “Have each of you decided to pledge yourself to the other, freely and willingly, with no pressure or force from family or friends?”

Rachel waited for what felt like years, a lifetime as the days and moments flashed behind her eyes. First steps, first words, first competition at a year old. School and slushies, her dad knelt by a hospital bedside. A ticket to New York, tucked away in a scrapbook, yellowed and crumbling, unused. Work and the society, a brick building at the end of a walk.

A girl with dirty hair. Two slices of apple resting on the arm of a wheelchair.

The world was silent, still, until the wind picked up and trees rustled, and it was in the wind, this gentle wind, that Rachel heard the answer that would define her life from this point forward.

Quinn’s voice was calm, resolute.

“Yes.”

“Yes,” was Rachel’s return, and she felt Quinn’s hands squeeze hers because she had begun to tremble, and for a brief moment Rachel once again realized that there was no shifting of balance, no changing of roles, because the comforter didn’t have to be left uncomforted, there was a control in subservience, and even as she waited to kneel, Quinn was holding Rachel up.

“Quinn and Rachel have decided to make their own presentations to each other rather than following the usual claiming ceremony,” Ms. Rhodes said, “And Rachel has promised not to use a lot of words.”

Their friends and family laughed; Rachel rolled her eyes when Noah let out a whoop from the front row only to be shushed by Jesse.

“Quinn?” Ms. Rhodes asked gently. “Are you ready?”

Rachel saw the subtle intake of breath, felt the trembling return to Quinn’s body, and her impulse, even as Quinn let go of her hands, was to pull the young woman into her arms and whisper comfort into her ears. But she held back, because Quinn was removing the thin bracelet from Rachel’s right wrist and handing it to Ms. Rhodes, exchanging it for the bracelet that had, for the last three days, rested in the small royal blue box.

A pillow now sat at Rachel’s feet, waiting for the moment when the collar would be placed around Quinn’s neck. But for now Rachel was distracted by the shaking of Quinn’s hands, the fumbling of her fingers around the bracelet, which slipped out of her grasp and tumbled to the sheet on the grass.

“O-oh no,” Quinn said as she knelt down on the pillow and picked up the bracelet, her voice laced with embarrassment and regret. “I messed up, I’m s-sorry…”

Ms. Rhodes moved to say something, but Rachel held up her hand, then reached down and tucked it under Quinn’s chin, stroking the skin with her thumb and lifting the girl’s head so that Quinn was looking up at her. Quinn’s eyes sparkled with unshed tears, and Rachel’s heart melted.

“Easy, little one,” she said. “You’re doing just fine, Quinn. It’s okay, you’re all right.”

Quinn hesitated for a few seconds then took a deep breath and nodded, steadying herself. She stayed kneeling on the pillow as Rachel dropped her hand; Quinn looked at the bracelet then raised it to her lips, kissing it before latching it securely to Rachel’s left wrist and holding on to Rachel’s hand with both of hers.

It was a bird, Rachel saw, and she smiled through her tears, marveling at how appropriate it was. A single silver bird in an open circle, held flat against the back of Rachel’s wrist with a silver band. Tina and Emma had gone with Quinn to help her, but she’d picked it out herself, Emma had told Rachel, and it gave Rachel no small amount of pride that her girl had chosen something specifically for her, something that she would wear for the rest of her life.

Quinn dipped her head and kissed Rachel’s hand, nuzzling it as she began to speak.

“I love you, Mistress,” Quinn said, and Rachel had to fight back the sob. “You… you know I like drawing birds a lot, and I thought this was the best thing for me to give you. Because when you found me… I was like a wounded bird, you know? Tossed out of the nest and I’d forgotten how to fly. And you… you gave me my wings. But no matter where I go, I promise, Mistress, I’ll always fly back to you.”

She was crying then, openly, barely able to see Quinn but holding on to her hands for dear life, anchoring herself with Quinn’s words. With that one specific word.

Mistress.

“A lot of stuff has happened to me, but it’s in the past now. I want to… let go of my past and start my future. Our future. Together.”

 “I know I’ll make mistakes,” Quinn said, once again kissing Rachel’s hand. “And I know you will too, even though it’ll be hard for you to admit it, because you hate being wrong.”

She couldn’t help but laugh as Quinn stuck her tongue out. Her little brat, Rachel thought. God she loved this woman.

“But I promise that no matter what happens, no matter what mistakes we make, I’ll do my best to fix it. I’m always going to be there for you, I’m always going to try to be your best little one—“

“My only little one,” Rachel interrupted with a chuckle, and Quinn smiled.

“Not done talking,” she said, and Rachel nodded. “I’m always going to try to be the little one you need, the little one you deserve. Because I love you, Mistress. I love you so much.”

And then as Quinn fell silent, Rachel knew all attention had turned to her, and the pink satin box that April Rhodes had opened and held out to her.

Quinn had asked for Rachel to not to give her anything silver, as it was too reminiscent of the time she’d spent with Finn. And so the collar was gold; thin, strong links of chain meant to be held together at the ends with a lock, and Quinn smiled seeing it, because the lock was a thick gold star of about an inch, the keyhole in the center.  Still tucked in the box was the key, a dainty little antique with an open gold star on the end.  She would carry it with her everywhere, Rachel knew, and hope that the only time the key would need to unlock Quinn’s collar was when the girl showered.

The lock was unlatched, and so Rachel pulled it from the collar and draped the chain around Quinn’s neck, the two ends dangling open over her shoulders. Rachel smiled at her reassuringly, seeing Quinn shiver slightly, and she lightly brushed her hand over Quinn’s face.

 “I at first thought I would sing to you a song expressing my emotions,” she said, and then grinned. “But for once I decided to save everyone the melodrama and just… tell you.”

“I love you, my little one,” she said, and meant it to the very core of her heart. “This collar has a gold star lock on it because, well… you know gold stars are my thing, but also, you’re my gold star, Quinn. Shining bright and beautiful every time I look at you. And no matter what happens, no matter if you’re obedient or naughty, happy or sad, I promise to always love you. Everything that you’ve been, everything that you are, everything that you will be. For the rest of my life, I love you, Quinn Berry-Fabray.”

She slipped the lock through the ends of the collar and moved to latch it, but was stopped by Quinn’s hands on hers.

Rachel’s heart plummeted. Was Quinn rethinking everything? Had she decided at the last minute that she couldn’t do this, that Rachel wasn’t the one, that maybe there would be someone better for her out there? She opened her mouth to say something but for once the words wouldn’t come.

Which was a good thing, because Quinn’s hands folded around hers, their fingers linked awkwardly, and Rachel realized with a choked sob that Quinn’s intent was for them to close the lock around her collar together.

It latched with a click, there was light applause from the family – and another whoop from Noah – and it was done.

Rachel Berry had claimed Quinn Fabray as her own.

Hiram appeared at Rachel’s side long enough to take the key for safekeeping until the day was over, and then Rachel was reaching down and lifting her submissive – her little one, her girl, her Quinn – to her feet.

She wrapped her arms around Quinn and held her close, then tilted back and lightly kissed Quinn’s lips, laughing through her tears.

“I love you,” Rachel said again, glancing down at her bracelet, and smiling when she saw Quinn toying with the lock around her neck, an expression of happy wonder on her face.

“This is so beautiful,” she whispered, before kissing Rachel again. “I love you, Mistress.”

Rachel didn’t think she’d ever tire of hearing Quinn say those words to her, and it was on the tip of her tongue to ask Quinn to say them again when Miss Rhodes interrupted once more.

“Only one thing left to do then,” and Rachel nodded, realizing that this was the most important part.

She took Quinn’s hand and turned her to face the table upon which the contract rested. Rachel didn’t really care for the term “contract,” but knew that technically the wording couldn’t be changed. “It’s a promise,” she had explained to Quinn. “A promise that I’m going to take care of you to the best of my ability, and that you’ll do the same for me.”

Indeed, the contract laid out Rachel and Quinn’s rules in simple, black script, presented coldly, almost medically, with no indication of the emotions and troubles that had led up to that point. But though Rachel knew that it was just a piece of paper, and that what really bound Quinn to her was her heart, and the gold star collar around her neck, a part of her still tensed when Quinn hesitated, the pen in her hand poised over the page.

But then Quinn signed with a steady stroke, Rachel took a deep breath and did the same, and April Rhodes was beaming as she said “Ladies and gentlemen, Rachel and Quinn Berry-Fabray!”

Finally it was time for hugs from everyone, including sloppy kisses from baby Clara and an excited bark from Arnie, who looked dapper in the green and white bowtie Rachel insisted he wear. The chairs were moved back to make room for tables, the food was brought out and soon it was apparent, as Quinn and Rachel shared a slow dance together, that Miss Rhodes had dipped into the wine and was now walking around telling everyone they’d look much better in green.

Quinn stayed close to her as a few hours went by, and Rachel kept her arm firmly around her little one’s waist while they walked around and accepted everyone’s well-wishes. The moon was high in the sky when Rachel decided that it was time to excuse herself and Quinn from the festivities. The night wasn’t over yet, and she wanted to be alone with her girl.

“Ready?” she asked Quinn softly, tilting up to brush her lips with a kiss.

She caught the hesitation, the swallow, before Quinn nodded. “Yes, Mistress.”

Rachel squeezed her hand and turned to her father, who had walked up to her and Quinn and was now offering the key to Quinn’s collar to his daughter.

“Be gentle,” he said in a low voice to Rachel as they were standing off to the side. “Be gentle, and be patient, and—“

“No, stop.” Rachel held up her hand and made a face. “You are the last person I want to give me tips about anything like that.” She smiled and hugged her father. “I’ve got it, I promise.”

The applause of their family and friends – and yet another whoop from Noah – echoed in her ears as Rachel led Quinn away from them and to her car. She giggled a little when Quinn rushed around to the driver’s side to open her door, only to stand there sheepishly when Rachel had to unlock it. Rachel pulled her into her arms for a kiss, then got behind the wheel as Quinn took her place next to her.

The young woman stared nervously out the window, and Rachel held tight to her hand, as with her other, she steered the car, and her submissive, towards home.

Chapter Text

Arnie was staying with Jesse and Noah for the night.

She was glad they weren’t going to a hotel. Quinn hadn’t asked for them not to, and truthfully she’d thought they’d go to New York. But Miss Ra – Mistress had smiled and kissed her cheek and said, quietly, “We’ll stay home.”

Mistress.

As the car wound its way through the darkened streets towards the house, Quinn found herself smiling, her forehead pressed to the cool glass. She had a Mistress. She had a Mistress, and that Mistress was Rachel. The collar was heavy around her neck, and Quinn kept reaching her hand up to play with the lock, the lock that bound her. She hadn’t had anything around her neck since… but this time was different. This time, the weight didn’t feel deadening, this time she didn’t feel as if there was an albatross dragging her down until drowning was inevitable.  It was strange, Quinn thought, but this time, the collar felt… freeing. Freeing because it hadn’t been one person locking the collar, but herself and Mistress, together, sealing the bond and promising that there would never be a time when one of them wouldn’t be cared for.

Already, things were different.

Mistress came around to Quinn’s side of the car and opened the door for her; Quinn took her hand and allowed herself to be led up the stairs and into the house.

It was the same as it had been that morning; there was a Broadway magazine tossed on the couch and one of Arnie’s bones still lay on the floor. The lights were off, except for the kitchen, and a lamp in Mistress’s bedroom. There was an eerie quiet and Quinn shivered in spite of herself and was immediately wrapped up in a hug.

“Are you all right?”

“Nervous, Mistress,” she answered honestly, and Mistress kissed her.

“I know, little one. It’s all right, I’m here.”

Mistress’s hand was strong and steady on Quinn’s cheek, and Quinn smiled. “I know, Mistress, thank you.”

“I love you.” Mistress kissed her again then stood back, and Quinn felt every muscle in her body become alight at the expression on her face.

“I want you to kneel here,” Mistress said quietly, “And wait for me while I make the necessary preparations. I won’t be long, and I’ll be just right down the hall.”

“Yes, Mistress.” Quinn retrieved a pillow and knelt immediately.

She took deep breaths to calm herself, concentrating on the sounds of Mistress moving in the other room, of shuffling, of what sounded like ice clinking in glasses. What would happen? Quinn wondered. Would it be soft and gentle, or… She pushed the thought out of her mind. She trusted Mistress.

She trusted her.

“Come here.” Mistress came back into the room and sat onto the couch, pulling Quinn up alongside her with a smile.  They were still in their dresses, but Quinn figured Mistress didn’t care if they got wrinkled as she wrapped her arms around Quinn’s waist and held the girl against her chest.

Mistress brushed a feather-light kiss to Quinn’s ear, speaking gently. “Just relax, sweetheart.” Quinn nodded and closed her eyes, focusing on Mistress’s strong arms around her, in the tender way she addressed her.

“I know you’re nervous. I’m nervous too.” Quinn lifted Mistress’s hands in hers and kissed each of them in turn. “But we’re going to be all right. I love you, so much.”

“I love you too,” Quinn breathed, tilting her head with a sigh as Mistress’s lips found their way to her neck. She shivered, her eyes opening when she felt Mistress draw back.

“We don’t have to, you know,” Mistress said. “If you’re not ready, that’s all right. I can wait until you’re ready, Quinn.”

Quinn smiled and twisted in Mistress’s arms until she was facing her, and kissed her. “I’m ready,” she said quietly. “I know I’m nervous, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want this. Or you. I need for you to claim me tonight, to make me yours.”

It had the potential to go so wrong, Quinn knew. Even as they were driving to the house she had the small fear, the little worry in the back of her mind that Mistress would slam the front door and turn to her with a glare. Quinn knew it was silly, because of course it would never happen, but Quinn knew healing was a process, that she wasn’t going to stop worrying about being disobedient, about not being good enough, about… being Quinn.

And what if she wasn’t good enough? What if she didn’t touch Mistress right, give her enough pleasure? What if Mistress was disappointed? Quinn didn’t care about anything else but wanting Mistress to feel as loved as she made Quinn feel, but she was terrified that she wouldn’t be able to do that in bed.

“You are mine,” Mistress pointed out, but she squeezed Quinn close to her for a moment, before gently pushing her up off the couch. “Come with me.”

She stood up and took Quinn’s hand, leading her slowly to her bedroom. She stopped just inside the doorway, stepping back so that Quinn could get a full look.

It seemed that thousands of candles glittered from every corner, and there were gardenias everywhere. Resting on the bedside table was a bucket with what looked like a bottle of wine, and 2 glasses alongside.  Quinn saw that in the bathroom, several bottles of berry-scented bubble bath waited on the edge of the tub, along with more candles. She smiled, remembering her first bath “with” Mistress, only a year ago. A lifetime, and yet not so far behind them yet. She turned her attention back to the bedroom, or, more specifically, the bed.

It had been stripped except for the pillows and sheets, with the blankets folded and in a neat pile on the chair. Laced through the hook in the center of the headboard were restraints of what looked like wide, soft green silk. A blindfold stood starkly out against the pillow on the left side.

Quinn swallowed hard and looked at Mistress, who had, unbeknownst to her, been watching her reaction carefully.

“Do you trust me?”

“With everything, Mistress.”

Mistress nodded, and moved to the bed to pick up the blindfold. “I know,” she said quietly, “that you want to please me.”

“I do.”

Mistress leaned up to kiss her, and Quinn gasped as suddenly her vision was taken from her, and the blindfold tightened securely behind her head. “And you will,” Mistress said. “But right now, little one, this is for you.”

“A-all right.” She couldn’t help but stutter, couldn’t help the small chills of fear that ran down her arms, only to quickly vanish because Mistress’s hands were closing around her upper arms, holding her gently and close as she kissed her again.

“Do you remember North Carolina Avenue?”

Quinn giggled a little, even as she grew more apprehensive because Mistress was behind her, working the buttons of her dress.

“Green.”

“Good girl,” Mistress praised, and Quinn’s breath hitched as her dress slowly began to pull away and a tongue traced a smooth line at the base of her neck.

“And Atlantic Avenue?”

“Y-yellow.” Her dress was down around her ankles now; Mistress guided her to step out of it and she heard the sound of it being folded up, placed somewhere.

“Such a good girl.” Mistress had made fast work of Quinn’s bra, and she wasn’t able to stop the small moan that escaped her when warm palms cupped her breasts. She snapped her mouth shut, flushing. Maybe Mistress wanted her to be—

“No,” Mistress said then, her fingertips lightly teasing Quinn’s nipples. “I want to hear, little one.  I need to hear so that I know what to do, and what not, understood?”

“Yes, Mistress,” Quinn said with a sigh, feeling something she hadn’t ever before, in all her 22 years of life – she felt her body arch into the touch of another.

“Indiana Avenue, Quinn.”

“Red,” she replied dutifully, lifting each foot in turn as Mistress helped her out of her underwear, and she was standing naked except for the blindfold.

“That’s my girl.” She was enfolded into Mistress’s arms, strongly, lovingly; she accepted the kisses eagerly and moaned again when she felt Mistress’s tongue caress her mouth.

She was nervous, self-conscious stood there completely exposed, but Mistress had seen her naked before this, and even if she would want to cover herself she couldn’t, not being held in Mistress’s arms.

“I know we have a safe word but for tonight, we’re going to be using green, yellow, and red, is that clear? I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings about what you want and need.”

“Yes, Mistress,” Quinn replied with relief. She wouldn’t be backing out, she knew, but just to have the option…

Mistress guided Quinn onto the bed, making sure she was comfortable on the pillow; Quinn tensed when Mistress raised her left wrist, intent on tying it. She could feel that Mistress was sat on the edge of the bed next to her, and she turned Quinn’s wrist over in her hand and gently kissed her pulse.

“You won’t be tied up all night,” she reassured, “Because I do intend on having your hands on me, and we will need to regain our energy at some point.” She said that last with a note of amusement in her voice, and Quinn couldn’t help but grin.

“For now though, this is how I want you. Do you trust me?” she repeated.

“With everything,” was the firm answer.

The bonds were tight but not too; she could feel Mistress tugging at the silk and testing it, making sure that it wasn’t cutting off any circulation, that there was enough room between the bond and Quinn’s skin. First the left wrist, then the right, and she was tied, lying helpless and blindfolded on the bed, once again at someone’s mercy.

And then Mistress vanished.

Quinn felt the rise of the bed that told her Mistress had stood up, felt the coldness that told her the heat had gone from her side; she strained her ears but didn’t hear the sound of a door closing or footsteps. All she could hear was a faint rustling, and she began to panic.

She could handle any pain in the world. Any blow, any cut, any harsh word. Anything.

Except being alone.

“Mistress?!”

“I wouldn’t leave you like this, angel.” Quinn drew in a shaky breath. The answer was so soft, so tender that she felt ashamed. Of course Mistress hadn’t left. She wouldn’t.

And then she gasped, because the bed dipped, and suddenly Mistress’s naked body was covering hers, skin to skin.

“I’m right here, little one.”

“O-oh… oh god.” All she could feel was heat, the warmth radiating from Mistress’s body against hers and suddenly the bonds holding her wrists to the headboard, the blindfold blocking her sight… it was maddening. She wanted to see, see what Mistress looked like bare and open for her; she wanted to touch every inch of Mistress with every inch of her, and Quinn curled and uncurled her fists until the headboard rattled a little, and Mistress chuckled.

“Not yet, Quinn,” she said, and the tone in her voice was so triumphant that Quinn realized she was doomed to be at this woman’s mercy for the rest of her life… and she craved it.

Mistress kissed her then, slowly, unhurriedly, taking in her fill of Quinn’s lips and mouth and tongue, as much as she wanted, and Quinn was helpless to do anything but enjoy it, to listen to the slick wet sounds of them moving together, to feel the way Mistress searched her, gauging her reactions and her enjoyment.

“You are so beautiful,” Mistress whispered, kissing the proud line of Quinn’s neck, sliding her tongue over where neck met shoulder, lightly sucking at her pulse point, and Quinn felt beautiful. She felt dizzy, drugged, scared and exhilarated, exotic and beautiful. Mistress was all kisses and touches and licks, careful exploration as if Quinn was a scientific experiment in love and sex. She moved everywhere; soon there wasn’t an inch of Quinn’s neck and face and shoulders that hadn’t been kissed, even her nose had been kissed gently, sweetly, and Quinn smiled.

 Each touch was careful, deliberate; sometimes gentle, sometimes a little less so, but never harsh. Every single touch of Mistress’s hands on her was another lesson that everything had changed. And it was as if her body had become hyperaware, tuned only to Mistress’s fingers, her palms, her mouth and her skin. Robbed of her sight, Quinn was forced to rely on her other senses, and it was as if they were magnified tenfold.

She let out a groan as suddenly, Mistress’s mouth closed around her right nipple and she flushed, biting her lip, but Mistress came up and kissed her again, pausing long enough to whisper, “I want to hear you.”

And it was then she understood, when Mistress’s hand was on her left breast and her mouth on the right, it was then she realized that it was okay for her to like this. That she did like this, and when she gasped at a bite to her nipple, the merest, faintest nibble because Mistress was afraid to hurt her and actually paused to question “Green, yellow, red?” Quinn shook her head and said, “Green. Green, green, green.”

Don’t you dare stop, she was thinking, but knew that giving voice to that was probably a bad idea.

Soon she was wet, and she was writhing, because Mistress was everywhere on her body, on her neck, on her breasts, on the smooth dip of her stomach, everywhere but the place that Quinn soon realized she really, really wanted her. She had no idea of how much time had passed, but it was too much and not enough, and then she felt the lightest of touches against her right hip, a touch so unlike the others. So gentle and non-sexual that it was almost… reverent. And Quinn knew her Mistress had found it.

The mark.

She almost cried when Mistress kissed the small O, the little circle that had been there for as long as Quinn could remember. It was the mark that had made her who she was, the mark that had sealed her fate – or so she had thought. That mark had meant destiny, servitude, slavery, and now it meant…

“Mine,” Mistress said, kissing it again, and then laving it with her tongue. She growled low in her throat and Quinn jumped a little when Mistress bit her hip – marked her. But it wasn’t harsh, and it didn’t hurt, and she found herself answering.

“Yours, Mistress.”

The mark meant destiny. Servitude. And now, the word – mine – the mark… it also meant care. Comfort. Being controlled and taught, but not possessed or owned. She was Mistress’s, and Quinn knew that she would have been whether she had a mark on her hip or not.

She whined a little in frustration when Mistress pulled away, only to roll her eyes behind the blindfold when she heard her chuckle. But then Mistress sat next to her and lifted her head, holding something cool to Quinn’s lips. A glass, full of not wine, but sparkling juice. She drank greedily, swirling the tartness around her tongue before swallowing, having not realized how dry her mouth had become. Mistress took the glass away and simply sat with Quinn for a moment, one warm hand on her stomach.

“Are you all right?” she asked, and Quinn understood that the pause had been for Mistress to check in with her, to understand that there was such a thing as too much, too fast, too soon, and that Quinn might need a break.

The gratitude and love washed over Quinn like warm water from a bath, and she nodded, tears wetting the back of the blindfold.

“I’m all right, Mistress, I love you.”

“I love you too.” Mistress pecked her lightly on the lips, and Quinn gasped as the young woman slid fully on top of her again.

“I want to touch you so badly,” she said with a pout, and Mistress laughed.

“All in good time, little one, I promise.”

Then she was back to kissing down Quinn’s stomach, down her thighs and back up again, and Quinn’s head tilted back as she felt Mistress gently lift and spread her legs.

“So beautiful,” Mistress whispered again. “I love you so much.”

Quinn arched her back with a moan as Mistress kissed her center, her tongue sliding easily over slick, wet folds.

She lost all power of speech and concentration then, only able to focus on Mistress’s mouth and the things it was doing to her, things that she hadn’t experienced before in all her 22 years. Her legs shook and the headboard rattled as she struggled, wanting to get away so she could hold Mistress’s head there, but she understood why she had been bound.

She had wanted to please Mistress, but Mistress knew, Mistress could see, as she always had, that Quinn Berry-Fabray wanted, needed, to feel pleasure. It coursed through her like waves, little ripples of shivers and whimpers, moans and whispers of “Mistress, Mistress,” as the woman she loved slipped inside Quinn, one thumb rubbing smooth circles over her most sensitive skin.

But as quickly as it had started, it stopped, just as Quinn was beginning to see sparks behind the eyelids that were squeezed shut, and she tensed. Had she done something wrong?

But Mistress’s hand was still on her, and Quinn couldn’t help but thrust her hips up to meet each stroke. A firm second hand on her hips stilled her.

“I want you to ask me.”

“Ask you, Mistress?” Quinn said, her voice coming out hoarse.

Then Mistress was at her ear, low and sultry.

“You will ask me for permission when you want to come, little one, is that clear?”

Oh this, this was new, Quinn thought with surprise. They hadn’t really discussed any sexual rules beyond what they absolutely would not do, and so she knew she could say no to this and it would be okay.

“Yes, Mistress.”

The heat that rushed to her core when Mistress had spoken into her ear that way had Quinn resolving that she would beg to come if she had to.

Mistress chuckled again and Quinn decided that she could be perfectly evil if she wanted to, and really it was just fine, because Mistress’s tongue was deep inside her again and she was straining against the silk holding her to the headboard.

It wasn’t long before Quinn found herself whispering, as her hips moved in tandem with the motions of her Mistress.

“Mistress… Mistress please…”

But Mistress didn’t stop, didn’t pause; her thumb moved in rapid circles over Quinn and her tongue curled into her until it hit—

“Oh god…”

She had never felt this. Never felt the little waves coursing over her, the chills rising up on her skin, never felt her thighs slick and wet. Never heard the breathless little moans and licks from someone between her legs, one hand holding her down and the other working mercilessly over the little bundle of nerves at her center. She felt nervous and beautiful and scared and like the most powerful woman in the world. This was the last hold, the last thing that was hers and to give it over meant that someone once again had all of her and could she—

“Mistress, please, I want to—please may I come, please let me come…”

“Yes.”

Quinn screamed as her hips jerked; she felt Mistress suck her clit gently into her mouth and she screamed again, trying to find purchase on the headboard with her hands. Finding none she clenched them into fists, riding out her orgasm until she collapsed, spent, onto the pillows. In seconds she felt Mistress next to her, curled into her side with her head on Quinn’s shoulder.

They were quiet for the longest time, Mistress’s hand soft and soothing as it rubbed circles on Quinn’s skin. Finally Quinn took a deep breath and turned her head to kiss Mistress’s cheek.

“I love you so much. Thank you, Mistress.”

“And you’re all right?”

Quinn kissed her again. “More than all right.” She was perfect. “But I’d be even better if I could see you. Touch you.”

“Ask me.”

“Please may I see you, Mistress? Please may I make love to you?”

Mistress’s answer was to untie Quinn’s hands, rubbing them for a moment to make sure the circulation was fine. At last she reached up and pulled off the blindfold, and Quinn stared in awe.

Rachel Berry… was beautiful. She may have been small but that meant nothing with legs that seemed as if they could go on for miles. It was cute, the way she blushed a little under Quinn’s gaze, and it was as if Quinn’s eyes were hungry for every inch of her. Her face, her breasts, the taut line of her stomach and the… oh.

Quinn reached out with tentative fingers, barely touching the faint X that rested just in the middle of Mistress’s left ribs. It was her mark, her destiny.

Who would she have been without the mark? Quinn wondered. She didn’t know of anyone who didn’t have a mark, though she had heard of some people who ignored them and chose to figure out their own path regardless of who they had been born to be. Would Mistress have still been… a mistress? Would she have gone to New York at the age of 18, would she have been a famous Broadway singer?

If she didn’t have the mark, would she still love Quinn?

Quinn turned with uncertain eyes and saw love shining back at her, and she knew. Mistress would love her no matter what.

“I-I want to…” she fumbled with her words and trailed off. “But I don’t know how, I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Mistress shook her head and lay down on the bed, pulling Quinn on top of her and reaching her hand up to release the braids from her girl’s hair.

“Just think,” she said softly. “I’ve already taught you what you need to know, little one, just now. I don’t need anything but you.”

Quinn nodded, arching down to press her lips to Mistress’s, her hands moving slowly, carefully.

It came to her then, how Mistress had blindfolded her and denied Quinn the chance at first, to see her naked. She was glad for it, as she was now able to fully take her in, to see her completely, and Quinn realized that for the rest of her life she would never tire of seeing her Mistress. And she’d been tied, unable to touch, and now her fingers were taking their fill, gently but urgently.

When the sound first touched her ears, Quinn’s eyes widened. A moan, low and needy. Was this why Mistress had said she’d wanted to hear Quinn? She skimmed her fingers over a dusky nipple and heard that sound again, and Quinn grinned. Oh yes. This was something she would always want to hear.

The air was filled with the scent of gardenia and Mistress, tart and musk and sweet mingled together in a perfume that was intoxicating and Quinn hoped to forever be drunk on it. She could taste the salt of Mistress’s skin on her tongue as she kissed her, licked her, and took a moment to worship at the X that marked Mistress hers.  She was awkward and fumbling but Mistress placed a finger against her lips when Quinn apologized, and soon all apologies and fears vanished as Quinn found her stroke, her rhythm.

And as Mistress raised into her touch, her back coming off the bed and her mouth wide and gasping as she pulsed around Quinn’s fingers, Quinn Berry-Fabray felt the tears rush to her eyes.

Mistress collapsed into her arms, curled into her, whispered “Good girl; my sweet, good girl.”

And finally, Quinn understood.

It didn’t matter if she made mistakes. It didn’t matter if she was naughty, or snapped, or didn’t say the right words or if she burned dinner. It didn’t matter what career she decided to have or not have, whether she sang too loudly or off-key (well, not too off-key) or if she laughed too much at silly cartoons.

It didn’t matter if she fumbled at sex or decided one night that she was too tired for sex. It didn’t matter if she had nightmares or woke up talking about silly dreams, or if she wanted to spend all afternoon curled up into Mistress as she read a book. It didn’t matter if she was needy for reassurance or if some days she felt that she just wanted to be left alone.

It didn’t matter because Quinn Berry-Fabray wasn’t perfect.

She wasn’t perfect, but finally, finally

She was good enough.

Chapter Text

Little Q,

Good to hear you and the loud one (I’m kidding don’t kill me) are settled in. Sir says he “finds the pictures acceptable, but please tell Rachel we need to talk about the color scheme in the living room.” (Actually had to give him the laptop.)

Back to me now. Emma’s good, her and Lana are just spending their time spoiling the monkey face. I finally have babysitting privileges, after I took the paternity test. It would’ve been nice to be a dad, but Lana’s looks are scary so I’m glad it came back negative. And Sir and I got some brochures from an adoption agency yesterday; we’re going to see about maybe a kid of our own.

Don’t worry about Rach finding a role. Sir says it’s a tough business but if anybody can break into it Rachel can. Oh, thought you’d like to know that Schuester got arrested for taking bribes from Anderson-Smythe. So now all his cases are being reviewed. Dunno what that means for yours, but Sir says not to worry, he’ll let you know. And Emma and Sugar are on top of it too.

I gotta go cause it’s roleplaying ni grefsrersl  cause Sir says so, but I’ll write again soon.

Miss you, Little Q. Love ya.

Noah

Quinn closed her laptop with a smile; she’d answer Noah later. She sipped the last of her tea and glanced out of the shop, seeing the sun beginning to slip down. It had been a good day, her first at the bookstore. Her boss was nice, a sweet little submissive who was pleased that Quinn knew so much about art and Broadway, and Quinn got a 20% discount on books. Mistress was limiting her to two books a month though – “Just for now,” she had said – because they were just starting out and she knew Quinn would buy out the store if she could.

Today was also Mistress’s first day, at an off-off-Broadway workshop, and Quinn couldn’t wait to ask her how it had gone. She knew Mistress was in a hurry to win a good role, because she wanted success for herself and Quinn, and to get them both out of the small apartment in a moderately good but still not the best neighborhood. But it would come in time, Quinn had reassured her, and after all, they’d only been in New York a month.

She was on her way, and so was Mistress.

And the apartment might be small, but it was theirs. It was on the 4th floor but thankfully there was an elevator, and Mistress had been glad that there was a doorman for a little added sense of security. They had decorated it together, though apparently Jesse didn’t agree with the shade of green they’d chosen for the living room. Quinn could only imagine what Mistress would say to that, and she laughed softly.

As if on cue, she felt someone slip in next to her and clear their throat expectantly, and that’s when Quinn realized.

The sun was going down.

Oops.

“I was supposed to be home an hour ago.”

“That you were,” Mistress said, but she wasn’t angry, and she rested her head on Quinn’s shoulder. This was Quinn’s favorite shop besides the bookstore, and Mistress knew that if Quinn wasn’t to be found, she’d usually be here, just two blocks from their apartment.

“I’m sorry, Mistress.” Quinn tilted her face to kiss her forehead.

“Mmhm,” Mistress hummed. “When we get back to the apartment, for an hour you’ll spend 3 minutes of every 10 in the corner. Perhaps that will help you remember the importance of time.”

“Yes, Mistress,’ Quinn answered, and smiled as she began running her fingers through Quinn’s hair.

“Are you sure you like it?”

“I told you I did,” Mistress said, toying with the cropped pink strands. “It’s a good look for you. And very, very hot.”

“Mm, good to know,” Quinn said, kissing her. “I think I’ll keep it this way for a while, then.”

“Let’s get home now,” Mistress said. “Arnie missed you.”

“Just Arnie?” Quinn teased, standing up and shouldering her bag as Mistress circled her hand around her wrist, holding her protectively.

“No, not just Arnie, you little Fabrat,” Mistress said with a roll of her eyes.  “I missed you too. And I was worried. I thought you’d forgotten your way home.”

Quinn shook her head and stopped in the middle of a busy New York evening to hug her Mistress, and kiss her with as much love as she possibly could.

“I could never forget my way to you.”