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strange attraction (spreads its wings)

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This really, really was not how this day was supposed to go.

She was going to join the cheerleading squad, and perhaps some other societies to bolster her CV—the abstinence club would be a good bet, actually, for a lot of reasons—and find herself a boyfriend.

The girl she saw in the mirror these days was just that: a girl.

A now beautiful, if slightly enhanced, girl, who would be ruling this new school in no time, with that combination of cheerleading (and no, she didn't question just where she got her athleticism from, because it didn't matter; she worked hard) and looks.

That was the plan, with which she'd arrived at school early in the morning.

Exactly five minutes after seeing some—some incredibly short, obnoxiously eager girl sing the National Anthem at the first assembly of the year, however, she looked down at her lap and saw—

She saw something.

Fuck, she thought, sure even her mental processing of the situation was so loud that all of her new schoolmates would immediately see right through all of the external fixing she'd committed to over the last two years, and would see what she was:

Abnormal.

Her binder covered her lap, even though they were in assembly and nobody needed it, and she thought about the things that would make this year bearable. She was Quinn. She could be a cheerleader, and make the top of the honor roll, and find a boyfriend.

That was the plan, with which she'd transferred to McKinley.

All she had to do was keep that binder there and make sure that what was happening to her would never happen again.

...

Her parents had agreed, had committed to Quinn, over the summer following ninth grade.

She herself had realized years ago that she was to be a Quinn and not a Quentin, but in the medical world, apparently those decisions could not be taken until she reached a certain age, and her chromosomes and hormones would announce themselves more clearly.

Exactly two months ago, she'd sat in her doctor's office and had proclaimed, firmly, that that thing between her legs was a biological accident and meant absolutely nothing to her, and that she was in fact developing breasts and that she was, following some minor surgical and hormonal adjustments, a decidedly good-looking girl.

Her doctor had wanted to know if she'd had any wet dreams yet, and she'd sputtered about the impudence of that question—would he be asking other girls if they'd—

"I'm sorry," her doctor had said, with an apologetic look on her face. "We have to monitor your development, Q, particularly in light of your testicular growth and—"

She'd stared at the wall and tuned out the rest of a familiar, horrifying speech, and focused instead on that one letter.

They'd been calling her Q for years now, so that she could choose. Her mother chafed at the idea, of her not having a real name, but of course her birth certificate read Lucy because they hadn't actually noticed her—her abnormalities—until a few years further down the line.

Lucy at school. Q at home. It didn't even begin to explain her.

"It doesn't respond to anything," she said, stiffly, as her mother looked out the window and probably wished for a glass of scotch and her father rubbed at his forehead. "It's just there."

Her father cleared his throat. "When will she be old enough—"

"I must stress again, surgery really would be a last resort," the doctor said, quietly.

"An answer, please, Doctor. We've been living with... this … long enough now," her father said, even more tightly.

This too was familiar, and Quinn pulled her legs up to her chest and looked at a picture on the wall.

She was what, in clinical terms, would be known as a Prader 5 if she suffered from CAH.

But she didn't. She had testes, and consequently the picture of Prader 5 didn't just mean externally male, but it would've meant actually male, in her case.

According to science, she was actually a Quentin. That notion really didn't accurately represent the immense gap between her and that picture on the wall of a normally developed penis.

Surgery wasn't a last resort. It was the difference between Quinn Fabray, who would be trying out for the Cheerios, and someone who would never be either Quinn or Quentin.

She headed to the bathroom after assembly and considered calling her doctor.

It might help. Words, sometimes, helped. But in fifteen years, nobody had ever managed to make her feel normal, and her first run-in with sex ed over at Belleville had actually made her so upset that she'd been pulled out of school for a week.

People thought she was some sort of puritanical Christian afterwards. She preferred that idea to the truth, and started wearing a cross around her neck, just so that nobody would even bother asking Lucy questions anymore, about why she was absent from swimming lessons and excused from health class.

Now, she was a beautiful girl, ready to try out for the cheerleading squad, who was fingering the cross around her neck like it could stop her from drowning, and—

She had an erection.

She knew she had to tell her doctor, because they were monitoring her condition and this? This was part of her condition. This was not part of her.

A bell rang distantly in the background when she closed the cubicle door behind herself, and lifted up her dress and felt around for the now-stretched tape that was—keeping everything exactly as it should look.

It hurt. It hurt, but so had fixing her nose, and she'd worked her way through that.

The door opened behind her and she heard footsteps marching up to the sinks, and held her breath—like someone with x-ray vision had stepped into the bathroom and could see the—

The most frustrating thing, about being an almost-Prader-5-but-with-testes, was that even for someone who had ambiguous genitalia she wasn't normal. She peed like she wanted to, like a girl, sitting down, after several surgeries when she was younger to ensure that her bladder function wouldn't be impaired. She did what she could to not have to deal with the fact that she could pee standing up at all.

But now, she was having to deal with something. It was right there, poking upwards obnoxiously against the tape, and she wanted to tear it off, but couldn't.

Whoever else was in the bathroom was crying, she realized after a moment, and then a voice called out.

"Whoever else is in here—could I please ask that you—that you leave me to my humiliation without comment," the other bathroom occupant requested, with a slight hitch.

Quinn held her breath, and stared at her waist, and then pushed against the tape again; the pain worked, to an extent, and she felt everything go back to—

Calling it normal was laughable.

A quick yank on her panties and her spanky pants later, and her dress slotted back in place, and she was fine. She was Quinn, and Quinn could flush the unused toilet and then step outside.

As soon as she did, her steps halted again, and the girl in front of the mirror—who was the girl at the assembly, who'd sung and who had caused all of this—shot her a tearful look.

"I don't know—" she started saying, and then bit her lip, shaking her head.

Blue crap was running down the girl's face, and for one second, Quinn almost blew up at her—for daring to be concerned about herself right now. Didn't she know what she'd done? What she'd ruined, before Quinn had even had a single day of enjoying it under her belt?

The only thing she had under her belt was—

She chomped down on the inside of her cheek and touched the cross again, and then said, "Who did this to you?"

"The cheerleaders," the girl said. "Or, well, they made their boyfriends do it, but—they said I was... they said I was awful, and should go back to whatever tranny hellhole I'd come from."

Quinn fought not to react. In some way, the plasticity of her new face helped, because her muscles still didn't react entirely as they should—apparently it was going to take time, for new and old to blend together.

She struggled for something to say, and then ended up just walking over to the paper towel dispenser and pulling a few towels out, before walking over to the girl and standing next to her, handing them over.

The girl took them, and wiped at her face and the ends of her hair, and then took a deep breath and actually managed a smile.

"You're new here, aren't you?"

Quinn nodded, and then—she almost swooned, when she realized this was it. She was going to have to—she was going to get a chance to—

"I—should probably warn you that this isn't like most other schools, and it's best if you're not seen associating with me or my friends; we … we're not very popular, and well, you're extremely attractive so you probably will be," the girl was saying.

Quinn stopped her, without meaning to, by holding out her hand. "I'm—I don't care. I'm Quinn. I'm sorry they—what did they even throw at you?"

The girl lowered the hand that held soggy paper towels until it was dangling by her side, and then very cautiously took Quinn's hand. "A Slushie. It's an off-brand Big Gulp. They're—cold, and wet. They sting like hell, actually."

Their hands connected, and Quinn squeezed firmly, because—she was Quinn. Quinn had now met someone new, and—tears welled up in her eyes before she could stop them.

"That really sucks," she said.

"Yeah, it does, but—it got me a new friend, didn't it?" the girl said, with a half-dimpled smile, and if not for the fact that she was shaking so hard—terror, relief, she had no idea—Quinn would have resented that little indentation with all of her might, because—

She liked it.

That wasn't part of the plan, either.

"I'm Rachel," the girl said, quietly. "Rachel Berry."

"Why did they—why do they call you that?" Quinn asked.

Rachel's eyes shot up a little fiery. "Because they're small-minded. Not that the Neanderthals at this school would understand this, but—my fathers are gay, and I just absolutely can't stand it when anything to do with LGBTQ issues is used as a weapon, somehow."

Quinn felt her mouth fall open slightly, and then closed it again, words lodging in her throat.

Rachel eyed her curiously for a moment, and then retracted her hand. "Do you have a problem with gay people?"

"No," Quinn blurted out, because—well, it wasn't untrue, because while it wasn't part of Quinn's plans to be gay, she—she—

She could barely form a thought.

"First days are always the worst," Rachel said, more to herself than to Quinn,, and then pulled on the sleeve of Quinn's dress. "Would you like a tour? There isn't much to show, but—"

"That sounds great," Quinn said, before things could get any more awkward, and she could ask Rachel any—any revealing questions about this LGBTQ thing she'd brought up.

Quinn had met someone, and that someone was now saying, "We can go to the choir room. Nobody will bother us there."

Quinn had made a friend.

It was almost worth the incident in the auditorium.

When she got home, later that day, her mother gasped at the sight of her.

"What on earth—"

"It's nothing," Quinn said, wiping a finger down her cheek and coming away with bright orange. "It's—some hazing thing."

Her mother looked at her with almost-sober concern and said, "Did—did it go okay?"

It would be a long time before anyone would spontaneously call her Quinn, she knew, even though she'd just come away from eight hours of Rachel dragging her all over the school and introducing her constantly as, "This is Quinn; she's new and might have a wonderful singing voice, but she hasn't let me hear it yet."

She shouldn't find that charming, but she kind of did. Nobody had ever said anything of the sort about either Lucy or Q, who were deemed a failure and a work in progress respectively.

"Yeah. It went okay," she finally said, and watched as her mother almost made as if to hug her, but—

They weren't really that kind of family, especially not towards the boy children, and for a very long time now, everyone had thought that Q would end up as one of those.

Rachel's passion in life was singing.

Quinn liked music, as much as any person did, but never liked it quite so much as in the moments when Rachel would lose herself in it completely; twirling around a piano in the choir room that Quinn could play—they'd hedged their bets, in her younger years, with a few female hobbies and a few male ones, resulting in the peculiar combination of lacrosse and piano lessons until she turned twelve—and singing like her life depended on it.

Nobody disturbed them in the choir room, during their free periods. Rachel's friends seemed to love Quinn primarily because Quinn didn't seem to tire of Rachel's performance hunger the way they all had, and socialized with them sometimes but rarely, outside of shared lunch periods.

At least twice a week, they ended up washing each other's hair in sinks in the second floor bathroom, with Rachel noting that grape might've been the hardest to wash out but it sure tasted the best, and Quinn noting absently that she might want to cut her hair, if this kept up.

Honestly, the assembly incident would've been forgotten about completely, if that one innocuous comment hadn't made Rachel pause, reach for a strand of her hair, fold it back, and then study her for so long that Quinn stopped breathing.

"I think you'd look good. With shorter hair."

"What, like a boy?" she'd bitten out, bitterly, unable to stop herself.

Rachel blinked at her curiously for a long moment, and then smiled softly. "You could never look like a boy, Quinn. You're far too beautiful."

Her mouth had dried, both at the words and the softly appreciative look on Rachel's face, and then she'd turned over and doused her head under the sink, because of building pressure against the tape on her thigh.

It wasn't a one-off.

She wasn't sure if she was appalled at herself or—

Well, she wasn't gay. Because she couldn't imagine—

She closed her eyes, and felt Rachel's hands run through her hair, and realized she would have to talk to her doctor sooner rather than later.

Her doctor sat down on the edge of her desk and leaned down with a concerned look.

"I'm not okay," Quinn said, and crossed her legs. Ignoring that it was—slightly uncomfortable, because of the tucking.

She was used to ignoring that.

"I'm not okay with this happening. I'm not okay with why it's been happening, either. I—made a decision on how to proceed, and I chose to be—no, damn it, it's not a choice. am a girl. So what—"

She didn't have further words, and just sighed deeply and stared at her shoes.

"I understand that this is a very unexpected and mostly unwanted realization, so your reaction to it is very normal, okay?" her doctor said, and offered her the tin full of lollipops.

She'd been eating those exact lollipops since she was seven, about, and they'd found a specialist who could deal with her problems, and—

She took one. Something in her life had to stay the same.

"I'm not gay," she finally said, when she'd eaten sucked about of it, slowly. "But I'm also not a straight guy. I'm—"

"You're just you, Quinn," her doctor said, and it was at the use of the name she'd chosen, for herself, that she looked up and felt her eyes water. "I know that your parents think that surgery is—"

"It's not just them," she said, clearing her throat and sucking on the lollipop again. She resisted the urge to wipe at her eyes. It didn't matter. She'd cried here more than she could say. "I just want to be normal. Is that so much to ask for?"

"What's normal, though?" her doctor asked, gently.

Quinn laughed unwillingly, and said, "My best friend—she says that normal is what's inside of her head, and it's just the outside world that can't adjust."

"Quinn, this is—you're going to be upset, at me asking this, but I want to get an honest answer, okay? This isn't about biology, anymore. This isn't just about a screw-up in nature that we can fix. I want to talk about you, now, for a moment."

She looked up at her doctor and said, "About what?"

"Have you ever touched yourself? I don't mean cursorily, while showering or while dressing, but I mean—have you ever—"

A bubble of anger burst in her chest. "I don't see why—"

"Because we are trying to find out what you need. And I don't know, at this point, if you act like your penis isn't a part of you because it doesn't fit the standard biological ideal, or because you actually want it to be gone—because you actually feel like it's not a part of you."

Quinn felt air catch in her lungs, harshly, and then felt new tears run down her face. "I don't know what the difference between those two things is."

"Do you hate that it's there because of what other people will think, or because of what you think?" her doctor asked, giving her a carefully raised eyebrow.

She dug her palms into her eyes, and then tried to give an answer, but she didn't honestly had one.

"It's normal, for girls your age to sexually experiment, Quinn, and you might find it very instructive in this case. As for—how other people will react—would you want to be with someone who thought you were abnormal, or undeserving, because of how you were born?"

It was hard not to flash immediately to Rachel's fiery rant against Dave Karofsky from a few weeks ago about how gay parents actually raised more emotionally stable and well-functioning children than straight parents did, statistically, so his arguments were both ignorant and invalid.

She'd been shaking, by the time she'd been done, and had then looked at Quinn and somehow just—calmed down.

They'd been double-Slushied about three minutes later, but she'd been so proud, at the time. The idea of herself standing up to someone like that, defending something she believed in—

"Can I have another lollipop, for the drive?" she asked, suddenly no longer willing to argue with someone who was just trying to get her to find out answers on her own.

It was a world away from her parents, who had carefully kept their third child's problems a secret and had paid for all the care she'd needed and would probably pay for any care she'd need in the future, but—ultimately didn't seem to be able to consider that this wasn't an either/or.

On the drive home, she let herself consider, just for one moment, that perhaps Quinn Fabray was someone who just was a girl and had a boy's genitals and—

Anxiety swirled heavily in her stomach, but then Rachel texted something about meeting up after Glee club, and it disappeared again just as quickly.

Thirty minutes later, she was in front of a mirror in just her underwear, and closed her eyes for a long moment before pulling it down, and then—looking.

She'd seen it, before, obviously. It was hard not to, because it was external, but she'd never really taken in the whole like—

"What are you—" her mother asked, behind her.

She yelped, in a pitch that only a girl really could reach, and then scrambled for her underwear, only managing to get it up after a very long time.

Her mother stared at her with a horrified look on her face, and it was only about five minutes later that Quinn stopped screaming, "Get out."

Rachel could tell something was wrong, later that night, when they were having dinner together at Lima Saigon, the ludicrously named Vietnamese place that actually had enough vegan options on the menu for Rachel to be able to eat with some variety.

Quinn was picking at her flaming beef, and couldn't get over the—the way her own mother, who had nursed her and clothed her and bathed her for years, stared at her body.

How was she supposed to be okay with it, when that was—

"Q—what's up?" Rachel asked, so carefully that it felt almost unusually cruel for her skin to crawl at the—at the affectionate nickname.

Her heart hurt, even though Rachel meant nothing by it. "Please don't call me that."

Rachel's eyes widened slightly, and then she lowered her eyes. "You know, I don't—want to pry, but you never talk about your old school and—I just want you to know that if you want to, you can. I obviously understand bullying, and—I promise nothing I hear would make me think less of you."

The candle on their table was cloying, in its scent, and Quinn covered her nose and her mouth for a moment until a horrible truth wormed out.

"Don't say things you don't mean, Rachel."

The wounded look on Rachel's face made her want to vomit. "What—"

"You have—you can't promise that nothing I will ever tell you will change your opinion of me. That's not how this works," she snapped, her voice thick with fears.

For years, now, she'd worried that her voice was going to go through puberty with her, which would have brought the teasing and judging to an unacceptable level, but instead some small mercies had blessed her with a mostly-inactive half-penis and a soft mezzo-soprano voice that could only ever belong to a girl.

That voice was failing her, now.

Rachel looked down at her rolls for a long moment and then nodded. "You're right. Let me try again; no matter what you tell me, I promise that I will take the time I need to process it, and our friendship won't end over it."

"What—what are you even fishing for right now, Rachel?" Quinn asked, wiping at her eyes with her sleeve; the tears burning there were angry. "I'm just having a crappy day; I'm not—I mean, what do you think I have to—"

"I don't know," Rachel said, quietly. "But I wish you'd talk about it, to someone, because whatever it is, it's eating at you. And I know what it's like to have a secret that eats at you, Quinn. It … it hurts."

Quinn swallowed hard, and then lowered her arm and looked at Rachel again. "Nothing eats at you. You're—you say exactly what you think, about everything, even if it gets you into trouble and makes you unpopular. You're—like the most honest person I've ever met, Rachel, so I really have no idea what—"

"I'm gay," Rachel said, quietly, and then took a shaky sip of water. She didn't raise her eyes again, while Quinn felt the floor bottom out from under her.

"I'm—what?"

"Please don't make me repeat myself. You're the first person I've told, other than my dads, and your reaction is already—not ideal and—"

Quinn's hand shot out across the table and reached for Rachel's immediately. Her fingertips burned, where they touched. "No, I mean, Rachel—that's—why are you not—"

"Because it's just such a cliché; the daughter of two gay men, being gay," Rachel said, in a particularly small voice. "I don't—the opinions of our peers are negative enough without me handing this over like—like some pointless fodder, not to mention that... there is hardly any point in being out anyway."

Their hands slowly curled together more, and Quinn scooted in closer to the table, watching Rachel through the flicker of the candle.

"What do you mean, there's no point?"

Rachel looked up at that, and then gave her the saddest smile. "I'm fairly sure that the person I'm in love with is—not interested."

Quinn blinked a few times, and then said the only thing that came to mind. "Who is this undeserving idiot? Let me—please tell me it's not one of the Cheerios, because Rachel, that's just—I mean, not that I'm saying you have bad taste, and it's obviously fine if you are gay, there really isn't anything wrong with that—"

Rachel interrupted the most incoherent blithering that had ever come out of her mouth with a soft chuckle, and a squeeze to her fingers. "Quinn—please stop."

"No, seriously, if I need to go and threaten someone—"

Rachel's eyes shifted, just once, and she stopped talking abruptly.

Her hand went limp, without permission, and Rachel leaned back, her fingers tracking back across the table, and then said, "I shouldn't have said anything."

Quinn felt too many things to process, all at once. This wasn't—well, she'd given up on the plan months ago, and didn't think she'd ever revisit it again, because the Cheerios were bitches and all she'd really wanted was—friends. And she had them now, in Mike and Tina and their DDR outings to the local arcade, and in Artie and Mercedes and Kurt, who sang beautiful harmonies together and liked talking about movies and music, and in—

"Rachel—" she finally just said, because it was the only word that really mattered.

"I think I should probably—"

"No, please. I will take the time I need to process this, and I promise our friendship won't end over it," Quinn said, ignoring the light tremor in her voice.

Rachel sighed after a moment, and then looked at her again. "Can we go, either way? I don't—I've lost my appetite, and—"

Quinn flagged down a waiter and handed over her debit card before Rachel could protest, and signed sloppily and quickly—the QFabray not bothering her the way it normally did—and then tugged on her coat before following Rachel out of the restaurant.

"This is—beyond humiliating," Rachel said, after a moment, and then sighed deeply, her eyes welling up conspicuously. "Not that I'd ever expect someone as beautiful as you to—"

"I love you," Quinn cut her off, and watched as Rachel looked at her in shock. "You're—the only real friend I've ever had. You're the best friend I've ever had. I think I would've become—I don't know, a horrible person if I hadn't run into you in that bathroom on the first day because I was so determined, you know, to be on top. I just wanted to be better than other people because I never had been. And now I want to be better for you."

Rachel opened her mouth, and then closed it again, and Quinn reached for her face and brushed a few tears away from her eyes.

"But I don't know—if I'm … interested in girls like that."

Rachel frowned at that, albeit mildly and with little conviction. "It's not—"

"Rachel, you don't—maybe it's not for you, but it is for me, and—please, okay, just give me a little bit of time to figure this out. I don't know who or what I like, or want. I don't even really know who I am. And you're—too important for me to just... experiment with you."

Rachel fell silent for a long moment, and then gave her a watery smile; it didn't quite reach her eyes, but it was there. "I don't know how you expect me to not be in love with you, when you come out with things like this and—"

Quinn lowered her eyes and let her hands fall away, but they seemed to be reaching for Rachel's automatically, and for a long moment they just stood there—illuminated by the street light outside of Lima Saigon, with their hands clasped together.

"How does it feel, to be honest?" Quinn finally asked, glancing up again.

Rachel exhaled slowly, and then said, "Freeing. It feels freeing."

Quinn tugged on her hand, after that, and pulled her into a very tight hug—so tight that, under different circumstances, she'd have been worried, but this wasn't a night to think about anything other than just how brave Rachel was.

Maybe it could serve as inspiration, somehow.

All in all, it took her another three weeks.

She hadn't really spoken to her mother, in that time, and spent a long time looking at her hands.

Her fingers were long and slim, like a pianist's, but her hands were—well, quite large, for a girl. They were—just as much a compromise, as everything below the belt appeared to be, but she didn't hate her hands the way she hated that.

It's because her hands brought her good things—musical notes that Rachel could hum along to, hands held on walks to the local grocery store so they could pick up some vegan ice cream together, hand-stands and cartwheels and other things that made her know that she would be a great cheerleader if she didn't hate the rest of the team so much, and—the soft skin on Rachel's cheeks, that night, outside of Lima Saigon.

Her hands brought her all of that, and it made her wonder just what—the other stuff could do for her.

She was familiar with sex, in the abstract, and from a slightly nervous Googling session a few years back when she'd wanted to see examples in action.

But she wasn't familiar with the intersection of sex in the abstract and the idea that Rachel, her Rachel, wanted to kiss her.

If Rachel's lips were as soft as her cheeks—

Heat burned on her face, and then she glanced at her full-length mirror again. She was smart enough to lock her door, this time around, and then disrobed a little more slowly, focusing on the things she didn't dislike; her cheekbones, which were sharp and wonderful, now that she'd lost her baby fat (and other fat); the angles of her jaw, which was defined (but not manly, per se) and gave her an excellent profile; the gentle swell of her breasts, which would never be huge but were definitely there; the curve of her hips, womanly and soft, and—

Her underwear sank down her knees, and there it was; the heart of her.

Objectively, it was strange-looking to her, but then so was the idea of what Rachel had down there and—oh, gosh. She watched as it stirred. She thought about Rachel again, spreading her legs, and felt heat sink both up and down her body; her cheeks were blazing with heat, but something else was slowly, slowly happening to the rest of her, and then, with a deep breath and the concession of closing her eyes, she reached down and touched it.

It should have felt like—

She didn't know. She didn't expect it to feel like it connected with every part of her. She thought of it as something superfluous, like a third arm or ear that she'd just grown, freakishly, and that might or might not be removed but was otherwise irrelevant to her. But this? This wasn't irrelevant, because she could feel it—herself?—grow harder in her hand, and—

After a long moment of just gently feeling, she opened her eyes, carefully, and saw it.

It wasn't particularly large. Not that she knew what large would be like, but—Noah Puckerman liked to brag about almost poking his own eye out with it from time to time and she was in no way at risk of that.

It was, however, much larger now that she was holding it than it had ever been when she hadn't been holding it. It was—she'd guess about six inches. That—

It was suddenly very real, as was what was below it, gently—swaying. She focused on what she could only think of as a sac, for a long moment, and then let go of herself and touched the sac instead, for a moment.

She jerked, unwillingly, when her fingertip made contact and then balled her hands at her sides, squeezed her eyes shot, and looked again.

She—she—had a penis. And balls. She had a penis, and balls, and when she touched her balls she felt like she was being shocked, but pleasantly so, and when she touched her penis—and she did it again, because this was experimental and she had to be sure—when she touched her penis, she felt like—like her entire body was telling her to just push, and—

She looked at her own lower half, in the mirror, and thought about Rachel and pushing and squeezed just a little bit harder and—

"Oh, God, that's disgusting," she exclaimed, not able to quite hide the panic in her voice, even though her voice—her voice—

Yeah. It was a molten, heady mezzo-soprano, right after she'd come all over her hand and the mirror.

She didn't try it again for at least two weeks, and then—with very similar results, although this time she'd been prepared with some tissue in her other hand, at least—sat her parents down at the dinner table and watched as her mother spread haricot-verts on their plates, next to the pork chops she'd been grilling.

She was the youngest. Francine worked in Chicago now, in advertising, and Alfie was living it up at SMU, in his father's honor, and—that just left Lucy. Who was now Quinn, and who had to find some way to tell her parents what, exactly, that meant.

She cleared her throat, held out her hands to say grace, and then actually prayed during it; not in the same way Lucy had pretended to, for months, over at Belleville, but in a serious, serious way.

Don't let this cost me everything.

"So, how was school today, Q—uinn," her father asked, jovially. He just about managed to contain his old reliance on Q to a pause, and some part of her knew that he really had just wanted another son; someone to watch baseball with him.

Resentment suddenly welled up in her, because why couldn't she have watched baseball with him?

"Same old," she said, quietly, and ate a few bites of food before the will to eat escaped her altogether; she cut up a part of her pork chop, almost immediately reminded of Rachel and how much Rachel would not love this, and then put down her fork and her knife. "I—can we talk about something, please?"

Her mother looked up from the wine she was pouring and gave her a beautiful smile, the one she now imitated unintentionally. "Of course, honey. What is it?"

"I—don't want the surgery," she said, as solidly as she could.

Somewhere inside of her lived a girl who would've made a great head cheerleader, who had that kind of backbone, and even though she was buried behind a lot of layers—layers full of singing, and friends, and Rachel, and being happy instead of being popular—she could come out, when she had to.

Quinn was ready to produce her now, when her father looked at her with raised eyebrows and then said, "I thought we'd agreed that—"

"I'm still Quinn, and I don't want the surgery," she said, swallowing thickly. "You would be—cutting off a part of me, and I don't want to lose it."

Her mother mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like oh my God and then pounded back a glass of wine, which was both comforting and not; at least she was reacting true to form.

Her father, meanwhile, just looked on uncomprehending. "So—"

"I want to stay—like this, and I want to be Quinn," she repeated, wavering on the words a little. "I want to be—"

"A girl with a dick," her father said, tightly.

She flinched, not so much at the words but at the look on his face; the look that said, this isn't what we had planned, Quinnie.

No. It isn't what they had planned, but she was only starting to realize how much of the plan wasn't her because she had a best friend, who was brave and strong and true, and who looked at her shyly from time to time when she thought she couldn't be spotted, and—everything in Quinn wanted to be good enough for that girl.

Not small-minded.

Not cowardly.

Just Quinn.

"Yeah," she said, after a long moment, already pulling her napkin off her lap, in anticipation of—what, she couldn't say. "I guess that's what I am, at the end of the day."

Her father's cheeks whitened, then went almost puce, and he finally just shook his head. "We'll go back to the clinic and—"

"Dr. Matthews already knows," Quinn said, quietly. "She offered to tell you herself, but I thought I would do it, since—I know you both love me and will respect my decision. As it doesn't change anything about me."

Her father's nostrils flared, and her mother shakily topped up her wine glass again. "Quinnie, this is a difficult time for girls—I know that your hormones are probably starting to wake up and it's confusing but if you just let us talk to you, with Dr. Matthews, we can—"

She tuned her mother's half-drunk ramble out, and looked at her dad, who looked like he was losing both his son and his daughter in one move.

"You're—what have we done where—"

"Where what, Dad?" she asked, with a level of calm she didn't know she had. "Where I'm okay with myself, like this? Where I don't hate myself? If I can be honest, you haven't done an awful lot to make me feel that way. It's been other people, really, who made me realize that this doesn't define me, and that I shouldn't let anyone tell me what is or isn't—"

"It's an abomination," her father rumbled, his entire frame shaking with barely restrained anger. "We have spent years guiding you, and shielding you, all to provide you a better future and—you are spitting on it, right when it's yours for the taking."

She swallowed and looked back at him. "I'm not having the surgery, and I'm not Quentin. I will do anything else you two ask of me but—"

"You're not my daughter," her father exhaled.

The heartbreak on his face mirrored her own, and she pushed her chair back and, with trembling hands and barely working legs, stood up and said, "I hope—I hope one day you'll realize that I am, and you'll actually love me, but—"

"Russell, don't—let's not do anything hasty," her mother said, reaching for her father's hand.

Their hands didn't connect, though, and after a moment her father said, "You have thirty minutes to pack. When the microwave timer goes off—"

"I already packed," she said, her voice cracking like a pre-pubescent boy's on the last word, and then walked away from the table before they could see her cry.

They didn't deserve her tears.

Rachel did.

She was soaking wet and shaking, with her old gym bag on the steps next to her, when Rachel opened the door—already in her alligator print pyjamas and her night-time facial mask, and Quinn bit down on her lip until the pain made it possible for her to stay.

"Can I stay here?" she managed, through chattering teeth.

Rachel pulled her inside, hugged her—even though it would get her wet, too, and both of them sick—and then said, "Go upstairs, and shower, and I'll—I'll make us some cocoa, okay?"

"Your dads—"

"Shh, we can talk to them tomorrow. Go—get warm," Rachel repeated, with so much concern and care that Quinn dragged her wet sleeve across her face again and then nodded.

She showered, until the hot water scalded her cold skin, and then sunk down on the corner of the shower for a while, locking her legs together, because as always, her parents had made her wish that she wasn't exactly who she'd been born as.

A knock on the door, a good ten minutes later, made her lift her head and say, "Yeah?"

"I have a towel, you didn't—" Rachel said, before clearing her throat. "Can I come in? I won't look behind the curtain—"

Quinn felt her heart pound out of her chest, abruptly, and then gravitated between standing up—everything would be on display—or staying in the corner—Rachel would worry—and finally just said, "Okay", barely audibly, but as always, Rachel had been listening for her.

The towel was passed around the curtain, and Quinn wrapped herself up in it as the door closed behind Rachel again.

She looked at herself in the mirror for a long time, when she'd toweled off, and then pulled on her underwear again and the sweat pants that Rachel had left for her—a good length, and so probably from her father's collection.

Then, she headed back to Rachel's bathroom and said, "Can you—can you help me cut my hair?"

Rachel looked distraught, but after a moment did exactly what Quinn knew she would: she didn't patronize, she didn't assume, but just got off her bed and said, "I'm not sure we have the right kind of scissors for this, but I'll do what I can, okay?"

It wasn't until a good thirty minutes later, with Rachel's hands brushing through her hair throughout, and strands of hair that her mother had insisted on falling down her shoulders, that Quinn finally felt like she could breathe again.

She looked at Rachel, in the mirror, and then said, "I used to be fat."

Rachel glanced at her, and said, "You must've gone on a very diligent diet. I admire that kind of commitment to exercise, as you well know."

Quinn almost smiled, but then added, "I also used to have—a gigantic nose."

"Like mine?"

"God, no, your nose is adorable," Quinn said, without thinking, and watched as Rachel smiled almost to herself before snipping off a little bit more hair. "Mine was—grotesque. And I was fat, so it was the first thing you saw on my face. Aside from my glasses."

"Glasses?" Rachel asked, acting like she wasn't absorbing any of this.

Quinn had never loved her more.

"Yeah, big ones. Really out of style, because my prescription was so heavy that I couldn't wear better frames. Now I wear contacts, obviously—"

She stopped talking when two firm, but gently arms wrapped around her torso and squeezed her tightly.

"What else?" Rachel said, softly.

"Bad acne. Really bad. I didn't know how to dress, because nothing fit me, and I was graceless and friendless," Quinn finished, looking at them in the mirror; herself with a half a haircut, and Rachel with her eyes almost closed, holding her like this was actually all going to be all right.

"You know what all of those things say about you?" Rachel murmured, after a long moment.

Quinn stayed silent, and watched as Rachel pressed a kiss to her temple—on the side where her hair was now short, and Quinn—and then said, "Nothing."

They cut the rest of her hair in silence, and then Quinn took a deep breath and said, "My parents threw me out. I have nowhere else to go, Rach."

"What—no, I'm sorry, I won't pressure you," Rachel said, chewing on her lip for a moment, and then offering a stern look of support. "Whatever the reason, you don't deserve it."

"I could've murdered someone," Quinn said, after a moment.

Rachel ruffled her now-short hair and said, "We both know the only reason you'd kill anyone is if they said anything truly terrible about me, and since I'm fine—"

Quinn reached for the hand running through her hair, held it tightly, and said, "I'm going to tell you my secret. Not now, but soon. Please—please do what you said you would. Okay?"

Rachel's eyes focused on her sharply at that, and then she just nodded.

For a girl with so many words, her real talent lay in knowing when or when not to use them.

School was almost a relief, the next day, because nobody knew what had actually happened to her.

Karofsky and Azimio called her and Rachel dykes, and Rachel just rolled her eyes and told them to grow up, and then looked at Quinn a little shyly and said, "Sorry—it's your hair, and associating with me, even though—"

"I don't care," Quinn said.

It wasn't until three periods later, watching Rachel give an oral presentation on the Russian Revolution in history, that she realized she meant it, too.

The real Quinn Fabray didn't care about being associated with Rachel Berry, intimately or otherwise.

Q might have, but there was no Q anymore.

...

In what she'd later think of as Godly intervention, she ended up telling Rachel's dad before she told Rachel.

Although—telling him was an overstatement. She got deadly sick about two days after first arriving at the Berry household, where they had given her permission to do whatever she wanted to to the guest bedroom, and—she was thinking about it.

About whether it was a good idea to really settle in there when—with every passing day—she was becoming more and more sure of the fact that she was most definitely gay, even if that only seemed to cover her feelings for Rachel.

Those feelings were growing, and even though everyone assumed she started sleeping in the guest bedroom because she wanted some privacy to help her deal with the adjustment of finding a new home to live in, the reality of it had more to do with the effect that waking up with Rachel's arm wrapped around her waist and Rachel's hair tickling her nose had on her penis.

As it was, it was exactly the privacy she thought she had that betrayed her here, as Hiram Berry knocked on the door twice and then walked in, with a quick, "Sorry, the clean towels are in here and we're just—"

He stopped talking when he noticed the way the dark red sheets were tenting at Quinn's waist, even though her hands were above the covers and—there thus clearly couldn't be anything there.

She scrambled to sit upright, and hide—everything, but it was too late. He'd seen, and she looked at his face in anticipation of the horror that had been on her mother's.

Instead, he tore his eyes upwards to her face, took a very careful, deep breath, and then sat down on the edge of the bed.

She shook, because—not again. It had only been three days and maybe Kurt or Tina would take her in but—

"We thought you might have been kicked out of your house because of your feelings for Rachel," Hiram said, swallowing and then pushing his glasses up his nose. "Which would have also been despicable, but—"

"Please don't make me—" she said, roughly, and then pulled her knees up to her chest and lowered her head to them. "I'm sorry, I don't—I don't mean to lie about this and I don't—"

"Hey, Quinn, hey—" Hiram said, and reached over and placed his hand right next to her foot; not touching, but close enough to feel like he was still there. "No, honey, no—you have me all wrong. I didn't—"

He stopped talking, and then fell silent for a long moment, and finally said, "I find that tea always helps with talking. I'm going to go make some, and then—you can get dressed, okay, and deal with whatever you need to deal with—no judgment here, I used to do that about five times a day when I was your age—"

She burst into laughter and tears at the same time. "Oh my God, please don't tell me that."

Hiram gave her a small, kind smile and then said, "Nobody will ever make you leave this house, okay? And you don't have to tell me anything at all, but I'm going to talk to you about your chores and your extracurriculars and how we're going to make the car schedule work for all of us in the long run."

Her tears would not stop running down her face, and she used the sheet to wipe some of them away, and then finally nodded. "Thank you."

"Rachel doesn't know, does she?" he finally asked, already getting up.

She shook her head. "I'm going to tell her but—"

"She's deeply in love with you, Quinn," Hiram said, gently. Quinn raised her eyes and looked at him in confusion, and he shrugged. "She's—it's Rachel. She'd sing it off literal rooftops if she could. We've known for a few months, and we're fully in support—but this is going to be a big adjustment for her, so—give her time to adjust, okay?"

She nodded again, weakly this time, and then watched as he left the room.

Then, she got out of bed and took a shower, and put on a dress that felt like playacting all over again. Lucy wore dresses because she was fat, and the original stab at Quinn Fabray had worn them because girls should.

But this Quinn?

She took a deep breath, and wondered how long it would take her to save up enough money to buy some new clothing.

Her eyes were still red by the time Rachel got home, but she was—all right.

Hiram hadn't asked any questions, as he'd promised, but had been so okay with everything that she'd started talking; about her early diagnosis, and her parents' extended denial, and the way her siblings hadn't known how to treat her and how she'd ended up as Q. About how Q wasn't really a solution, and about how she was still really confused about what it even meant to be a girl or a boy, but—that she wanted the space to find out, just who she was.

They'd had cinnamon-flavored tea and cookies, and she'd never felt more accepted in her life—until Rachel got home, and squeezed her into a hug from behind, and then kissed her daddy on the cheek and started warbling about Glee practice.

Hiram shot Quinn a small look, and then tilted his head, and she nodded.

This was one of the men who had made Rachel who she was.

She had to believe that meant something, even though she'd rather not be associated with her own parents at all.

They were watching the Anniversary Edition of Les Mis on Rachel's bed, and Quinn paused it abruptly when it felt—

It just felt like it was time.

Rachel looked at her, a protest dying on her lips at the way that Quinn dug her hands into the sheets, and stared down at her own lap and then closed her eyes.

"I'm a girl," she finally said, as the starting point, because it was.

Rachel laughed a little shakily and said, "I know, Quinn, what—"

"I was born with... testes, and abnormal genitals, and—I've grown up to have basically no female reproductive organs but instead I have—I have—" she said, and then had to stop because it was just not feasible, to put all of this out there so starkly and medically, like it somehow came from a textbook and wouldn't throw Rachel's entire understanding of her.

She didn't dare look over, and the room fell silent for a very long time, until she realized she had to—had to—make sure Rachel understood this.

"I'm still a girl. Even if I do have—" she said, gesturing down at her own lap.

She heard Rachel inhale, and exhale, and then finally hazarded a glance at—her best friend. The girl she loved more than anything else in the world, and who was now staring at her with wide, tearful eyes.

"Your parents threw you out because you--because your genitals are..." Rachel started, wobbly and uncertainly, and even though it didn't mean a thing, it was accurate enough for Quinn to nod, her own composure tripping until Rachel was only visibly through a blurry mist.

Then, she felt arms wrap around her waist, and Rachel pulled her over, until her face was buried against Rachel's neck and Rachel's hands ran through her hair, and all she could hear was Rachel's only real reaction so far.

"I'm so sorry, Quinn; I'm so sorry."

Her grip on this conversation, and her overwhelming need to assure herself of the fact that Rachel was in fact taking this in stride, fell in line behind the rest of her, which just fell apart.

Rachel never stopped stroking her hair, and telling her she was sorry, until Quinn finally cried herself to sleep.

When she woke up, Rachel was sitting at her desk, doing—

"What—are you reading about—" Quinn said, rubbing at her eyes, because her contacts burned—and she squinted and looked at the screen. "—oh."

Rachel turned, looking embarrassed, and then said, thickly, "I'm sorry—I know this isn't about me but you gave me—a lot to deal with right now and I've just—I thought the sooner I got started on research, the sooner I could cope with my thoughts and be—there for you, as a supportive friend."

The word friend wasn't lost on Quinn, and she lowered her eyes after a moment. "I'd—rather you ask me, than read things. My condition is atypical and I mean, I don't know. I'm more of an expert than the internet, okay."

Rachel closed her laptop gently, and then moved back over to the bed, sitting across from Quinn Indian-style and wringing her hands together in her lap.

"I'm sorry if anything I ask will offend you," she finally said, biting her lip for a moment.

Quinn chuckled weakly, and glanced up at her through still-wet eyelashes. "My own father called me a girl with a dick four days ago, Rach. I don't—"

"What a bastard," Rachel said, shaking her head. "As if either of those are defining traits. Doesn't he care about what a wonderful person you are?"

Quinn almost smiled, and then said, "The outside matters more. It's the Fabray way."

"But—I mean—you hide it," Rachel said, awkwardly. "Nobody would know if—"

Quinn closed her eyes, and then looked up a little more certainly. "What if I stopped hiding it?"

Rachel's eyebrows shot up her forehead. "Well, I don't think that you'd—are you saying you'd walk around without pants on? Because Quinn, I'm not sure that's legal, and—"

After a second, Quinn laughed, and Rachel blushed and said, "Stop it, I'm trying to—"

"Don't worry about being respectful. I mean—" She took a deep breath and then said, "I tape it down. With surgical tape, wrapped around my thigh. It's called a tuck and tape, and it's really uncomfortable and—"

"So if you'd stop it, you'd just—pick a side?" Rachel asked.

Quinn nodded after a moment. "Yeah. I guess I would."

"Which one?" Rachel asked.

Quinn looked at her, felt her mouth open, and then laughed a little nervously. "I don't know. How do you think you'd find out?"

"I have no idea, Quinn, I don't have a penis and have also never had a boyfriend," Rachel said, but it came out sounding mostly amused. "Does it naturally gravitate towards one leg?"

"It's not magnetic, Rachel," Quinn said, wrinkling her nose.

Rachel smiled at her. "So—it's fairly normal, then."

Quinn exhaled, and then rubbed at her face. "You—come on, you must have questions."

Rachel hesitated for a very long time, and then said, "Are you okay?"

Quinn scoffed and then ran a hand through her hair, still surprised when she was through it so much quicker than she used to be, and—

"I'm... a lot better than I was a few days ago. How—are you okay?"

Rachel blew out some air and then lowered her eyes and said, "I'm a little shell-shocked. But—not because... I don't still love you, or because I think this is awful, but—I just never expected that I'd be … in love with someone who …"

Quinn froze, because—and it sounded inconceivable now, really—but that angle on it really hadn't occurred to her. She'd expected Rachel to be appalled, or disgusted; not because of anything Rachel had ever done to indicate she would be, but because—because it was what she'd been brought up to expect.

Instead, this had gone from surprised to incredibly personal, and Quinn stared at her own lap.

"Well, I mean, we're—you're my best friend, right? And you'll always be that, so I guess you should just—I don't know."

Rachel shifted, and then cleared her throat. "The last time we had this conversation you weren't—you weren't sure you wanted me. Has that—"

Quinn looked up, and the uncertainty in Rachel's eyes made her chest hurt. "It wasn't that I wasn't sure, Rachel. I've—trust me, I have a fairly clear indicator of … who and what I like," she said, with an awkward nod down at her crotch. "I just—didn't want you to—well. I needed you to know, what was, before—"

Rachel looked at her with a very serious expression. "Don't say that. You're still Quinn."

"Yeah, but... I'm Quinn with..." she said, a little feebly, and then sighed. "I don't know. I think—is it okay if I'm mostly just relieved that we're even talking about this at all? I didn't think anyone would ever be okay with this and—"

Firm fingers tickled the bottom of her foot a moment later, until she looked up, and then Rachel said, "I promise I'm okay. Just give me a little time, okay?"

She'd never been gladder that they tended to speak in canon at each other, because hearing these words directed back at her made all the difference.

Nothing really changed, between her and Rachel, but that was almost comforting with how much other things changed.

She was put in charge of the dishes and the garbage, and got the car to go to Yearbook meetings on Thursdays (which coincided with Rachel's ballet class, so she picked her up afterwards) and they ate vegan dinners together and talked about sports and new movies coming out in the Lima theater and antique fairs they could browse around on the weekends.

Issues like, what she was going to look like, in the long run, and what she and Rachel were going to do, in the long run, felt almost secondary to the idea that she was actually accepted into a family who didn't care whether or not something dangled between her legs even if she wore dresses.

They really just didn't care, and it was with that knowledge that she approached Leroy and said, "Can you maybe—take me to Target?"

"Sure—what do you need?" he asked.

She cleared her throat and said, "Loose-fitting jeans."

He looked up from the contract he was reading through, raised his eyebrows, and then said, "I'm glad you picked the right Berry for fashion advice, because those two clowns would have you wearing too-short skinny jeans and, girl, I don't think someone with your ass can pull those off."

She had no idea if she was supposed to be offended by that or not, and before she could take a decision, he'd picked up his wallet and his keys and slung an arm around her back.

"Let's go and get you comfortable," he said, and she almost managed a smile.

Of all the places to see her parents, a solid month and a half after she'd been kicked out, she wasn't expecting the Target parking lot.

Her father looked at her, an obvious grimace on his face, and then sat down in the car; her mother looked trashed, basically, and then took in her new jeans and sneakers and soft plaid shirt, and then swallowed visibly and walked over to Leroy and Quinn, where they were loading her new clothes into the back of the Volvo.

Her mother didn't say anything, once they were face to face; not about her hair, not about her clothes, and not about—the tall black man who was taking her shopping.

Instead, she just reached into her purse, and wrote a check, and handed it over to Quinn.

"It will cash," she said, with a tremor in both her hand and her voice.

It was a close to an I'm sorry as she was ever going to get, and after a moment, Quinn handed the check to Leroy.

"For my expenses," she clarified, at his look at her and then at her mother's retreating back.

"What kind of a fuck you to my hospitality is that?" he asked, after a moment of just studying her.

She laughed softly, lowered her head, and then tensed when he slung an arm around her back.

"C'mon, let's go get a non-vegan burger somewhere, while we can."

She didn't look back.

Rachel was full of compliments; every day contained at least one oh, this is delicious, Quinn, you're such a great cook or you were hardly even sharp on that note, well done!.

They tended to focus on accomplishments, rather than anything else, and so when Rachel hovered in the doorway to her bedroom, where she was sketching a picture of a bear trying to ride a lion, she expected a comment about the picture.

Instead, Rachel blushed lightly and then said, "I really—like your new clothes, Quinn."

Her pencil paused, and she sat up a little and then put her sketchpad on the bed next to her, before finally swinging her legs over the edge of the bed and moving over to where Rachel was, still outside of her sanctuary but—almost in it, nonetheless.

"Yeah?" Quinn asked, a little uncertainly.

Rachel nodded faintly, and then reached out with tentative fingers to brush past the collar of the plaid shirt. "This is—really soft."

Quinn had no idea how to continue from there, or what this even meant, and instead just stood still as Rachel's fingers traced around, before finally resting at the back of her neck and rubbing there for a moment.

"What—"

"I pride myself on—being open-minded," Rachel said, softly, and then glanced up at Quinn, so nervously that Quinn felt herself begin to sweat. "And I've always thought that I'd fall in love with a beautiful person, not a gender. I've never been attracted to a man, but—it shouldn't matter. Doesn't. Love isn't about—genitals. It's about people, and you are the most wonderful person I've ever known. You're perfect for me. And if that means that—I am one day going to lose my virginity in a more conventional penetrative sense than—"

Quinn started laughing unintentionally, and then pulled Rachel into a hug. "I don't know what to do with you sometimes. A conventional penetrative sense? Rach, we haven't even ever—I mean, I've never kissed anyone."

They stayed like that, almost swaying, for a long moment, and then Rachel pulled back, with cautiously optimistic eyes, and asked, "Do you—would you want to?"

Quinn's mouth dried out rapidly, and then she took a deep breath, a quick look around the hallway, and said, "Okay, but—come inside and close the door; people have this awful habit of walking in on me when I'm doing—stuff—and—"

Rachel's eyes darkened at that. "Stuff, Quinn?"

"Yeah, you know—stuff," Quinn repeated, a little sheepishly. "I'm sure you do—your own … stuff."

Rachel flushed a beautiful pink at that, and after a second they sat down on the edge of the guest bed together. "That's—maybe a conversation for later. Much later. For now, I just—"

"May I kiss you?" Quinn asked, because it felt like the kind of thing that—Rachel's dream girl would ask, in the right moment, with exactly this level of breathless anticipation.

Rachel's eyelashes fluttered rapidly, and then she nodded, bracing herself with one hand on Quinn's shoulder.

"Sorry if I'm terrible at this," Quinn said, taking a deep breath.

"Quinn—it's you and me; we'll figure it out," Rachel said, before closing her eyes again, and leaning forward just the right amount.

Their noses brushed together, and then their lips did, and short of having touched her balls that first time, Quinn had never felt anything like this—it was gently electric, everywhere they touched, like static energy running from the tips of their fingers to their lips, where they were gently pressing together.

After a long moment, Rachel pulled back and opened her eyes again. "That was a really good start."

"It was," Quinn agreed, and leaned in for another attempt.

They got away with kissing each other for about two weeks until Rachel's dads figured out something was up, and open door policies started being instituted and Quinn got a rather stern talking-to about safe sexual practices that made her absolutely want to die.

Rachel, like a white knight, had burst through the door to Leroy's office only to proclaim that she had every intention of staying a virgin until she'd won her first Tony and Quinn was not some savage, and Leroy had taken one look at Quinn and started laughing so hard that Rachel had stormed back out, this time in a snit.

The message was received loud and clear though, in what happened next; an arm around her shoulders and Leroy's gentle, "You're a really good kid, you know. We couldn't wish for much else for her than someone who cares about her as much as you do."

Somehow, Quinn managed not to cry, and then headed upstairs to futilely apologize to her girlfriend, who insisted on a foot rub and three nights of consecutive movie picks to make it up to her.

"I'm glad you don't think I'm a savage," Quinn said, nosing her neck during The Prince of Tides. "Though—out of curiosity, when exactly do you expect to win your first Tony?"

That earned her a slap to the shoulder and lost her another two movie picks, but given that by the end of the movie, Rachel was cuddled into her side and kissing her softly, she figured she'd more or less gotten away with it.

The school year was almost over by the time any of Quinn's abnormalities actually raised their heads again—and quite literally, in that case.

Rachel appeared to be suffering some sort of a performance high after a particularly good Glee club rehearsal, and had kissed her so furiously that she'd not really had any chance to establish some control, or distance between their lower bodies, and—because her new jeans had in fact given her some freedom, her completely natural reaction was hard to miss.

She groaned softly, when Rachel pressed into her—and it—and then watched as Rachel pulled back just enough to look down.

"Sorry," Quinn whispered, in a rough voice; she almost lowered her hands from Rachel's waist, but then Rachel reached down with a tentative hand and—

Quinn squeaked painfully when a hand not her own cupped her, and then watched as Rachel squeezed a little.

"What are you—" she wheezed out, trying very hard to keep still.

"I don't know," Rachel admitted, in a low and impressed-sounding voice. "Is this okay? Are you—"

Quinn tried to focus, and watched as Rachel kept looking at her face while—prodding around down there a little more, ever so gently—and then slowly exhaled. "You—you feel really good. Even—you know, through clothes—"

Rachel colored for a moment, and the whispered, "I like it—God, your eyes right now, they're so dark—"

Quinn pulled her lip in between her teeth and kept it there, until Rachel slid her hand back up to Quinn's hip and then just leaned in to kiss her, on the corner of her mouth.

"Sorry—I didn't mean to tease you horribly, I was just—"

"No, that's fine, that's—you're not weirded out or anything?" Quinn checked, exhaling shakily.

Rachel gave her the single most disbelieving look, and then reached for Quinn's fingers and pulled them down under her skirt and—

"No. Not at all," Rachel said, sounding a little gun-shy now that fingers other than her own were pressing up against her panties, and Quinn let her hand fall away after a long moment, and then blew up some air at her bangs.

"Wow," she said.

"Yeah, wow," Rachel agreed, burrowing into her shoulder, and holding her tightly.

This really was not how this day was supposed to go, either.

It was her sixteenth birthday, and she was supposed to be committing to a surgery that she didn't want, with the supposed support of parents who were more interested in how she reflected on them than her own feelings, and she was supposed to be—popular.

Instead, she got Slushied as soon as she set foot in school, and spent most of first period washing gunk out of her hair, until someone joined her in the bathroom and smiled at her in the mirror.

"Is it strange to be feeling strangely nostalgic about—Slushies?" Rachel asked, putting a hand on her back and rubbing there for a moment.

Quinn chuckled. "I don't know, I'd like to think we would've found each other even if you hadn't gotten Slushied and I hadn't gotten hard at you singing the National Anthem and—"

"Quinn," Rachel exclaimed, before laughing and pressing a kiss to her cheek. "Don't be such a boy, good lord."

Nine months ago, that simple turn of phrase would've sent her defenses flying, and would've had her running for the hills, but now, all she could do is watch as Rachel fished some more Slushie out of her hair and deposited it into the sink, before looking at her with a smile again.

"Happy birthday, baby," Rachel said, after a long moment of just looking at her, and then kissing her softly.

For the first time in sixteen years of being alive, Quinn Fabray realized that it actually was one.