Summer after freshman year, New Directions past and present gather for a weekend at the Motta's vacation house on Put-In-Bay. It's a good half day's drive from Lima, and Quinn consents to ride shotgun in Santana's car, a little skittish still of being behind the wheel herself. It's stupid, but then again, it's not; she still wakes up in the dead of night sometimes, body aching with a pain it shouldn't remember so clearly, reminding her all over again of hours of fear and physical therapy and the agonizing process of relearning to walk. Santana obviously knows this, and lightens the mood by playing dustep remixes of songs they sang together, once. Quinn finds herself grinning, and then laughing, and by the time they pull into the crowded gravel driveway, she's ready to let loose for awhile.
The Motta parents spoil Sugar; this isn't news, and Quinn isn't surprised to find they've got the house to themselves. It's huge, sprawling over a lawn that's grown half-wild towards the sloping, sandy hill that leads to the lake. There are certain rooms that have intense locks on the doors, that Sugar ushers them all away from.
"He's in the mob, you know," Santana confides, low, clearly looking for something to do that isn't meeting Brittany's eyes. They're fighting, not that Santana will admit it. "Mr. Motta, I mean."
"Is there anyone who doesn't know that?" Quinn asks, and Santana rolls her eyes and nods towards the living room, where Rachel Berry is asking slightly tremulous questions about the gun rack on the far wall. Quinn bites the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling and goes upstairs to choose a bedroom, leaving Santana to the mercies of patching her shit together on the rationale that she'll have to do it sometime>.
They start drinking at two in the afternoon, because of course they do. Quinn, who has spent a full year getting an Ivy League education in intoxication (the rules of which turn out to be very simple: drink as much as you can without compromising your ego) has learned better than to be an angry drunk, and better than to mix her alcohols, too. She claims the best bottle of tequila in the liquor cabinet as her own--the right tequila, she has discovered, tends to leave her happy and warm as opposed to vicious and cold--and makes herself a Sunrise, and then another, and then a third. By the time night blows over the lake, Puck and Sam are narrowly avoiding burning themselves on the grill and everything is suffused with a dull orange glow.
It's nice, that first night, and most of the next day, too--nice to watch Brittany and Santana work their way back to comfortable, nice to watch Kurt and Blaine settle into old habits, nice to watch Artie's latest short film and the way he beams with pride at their applause. She spends nearly two hours talking to Puck, who's spent the last year working for Kurt's dad and is thinking, surprisingly, about rabbinical school; she spends another hour blatantly gossiping with Mercedes, and knows they're both only doing it for the novelty value. There are younger kids here that Quinn doesn't know, and she shouldn't avoid them, but does anyway--there's no point setting down new roots in a place she's still in the process of escaping. Old roots, though, always do better for a little tending, and she lets herself sink into the familiarity of it, the easy back and forth, jumps into a duet when she's asked to, has fun.
But by the second night…well. By the second night, Quinn's watching a game of quarters she's got no interest in playing, and Quinn's bowing out of a game of Kings that's too stupid to engage in, and Quinn's thinking longingly of the kind of parties she goes to at school, the ones that are more about flaunting your brain than flashing your breasts. By the second night, Quinn's watching these new kids run rings around each other and thinking of Shelby's warning ("It goes away, you know--not the pretty, you'll always be pretty. But the young,") and feeling two old for nineteen and then some. She takes her drink down to the water eventually, buries her feet in the sand and watches clouds drifting overhead, and is less surprised than she should be when Rachel settles down next to her, clearing her throat in that casually theatrical way she does.
Quinn bites down on a smile. "Hi, Rachel."
"Hi," Rachel says, sounding nearly shy. She's drinking something with a little pink umbrella in it, and Quinn would bet good money she brought her own supply of those. "It's good to see you."
"You too," Quinn says, instead of Is it? You've barely said two words to me all weekend. "How's New York?"
"Oh, you know," Rachel says, waving a hand. "It's…well, it's amazing, honestly, I can't wait to go back, but that's not what I came out here to talk to you about."
Guess we're skipping the pleasantries, then, Quinn thinks, but she doesn't say that either. If she's learned anything at Yale, it's the art of time and place, the careful balance between what should be said and what needs saying. She takes a long sip from her drink, considering, and then settles on, "Oh?"
"I just wanted to," Rachel says, and stops. "To…thank you, I guess. For last year. You tried to tell me and I just, I wouldn't listen, and then you got--"
"Don't," Quinn warns, because the last thing she wants to talk about, now or ever, is the accident. "Please."
"Okay," Rachel says, quiet now. "Sorry. I'd, uh, I just--it seems so stupid now, you know? And you said it would and I was so sure you were wrong, but I see him now and I don't have any idea what I was thinking. Or, I mean, I do, but I should've--should've--and, anyway, I didn't thank you even after…the thing we're not talking about, so I thought I probably should, and, uh. That's it."
Quinn knows that if she wasn't so tipsy, she'd be able to keep in the little snort of laughter that escapes her. As it is, Rachel turns to give her an indignant look and Quinn laughs a little harder, shakes her head. "Sorry, I'm sorry. I just…you don't have a lot of practice admitting you're wrong, do you?"
"I wasn't wrong," Rachel sniffs. "I was misguided."
"Whatever you want to call it."
Rachel's scowl lasts for almost thirty seconds; then she breaks and laughs too, a light, easy giggle, her long hair skating across the sand as she shakes her head. Quinn eyes the line of her neck, the curve of her jaw, and thinks of things unsaid. This state isn't her home anymore, and if she can help it, it never will be again; it occurs to her, fueled by booze and the soft lake breeze and that little hint of high school rebellion she never quite shook, that she might as well go for broke.
"You know," Quinn says carefully, putting her drink down, "you probably shouldn't be thanking me. There's, uh, the distinct possibility that it wasn't exactly impartial advice."
"It was still the right advice," Rachel says, ever stubborn, and then she freezes, eyes still fixed on the sand. When she speaks again, her voice is softer, nervous. Quinn swallows against the constriction in her own throat, and promptly feels fucking stupid about it. "What…what do you mean?"
"This," Quinn says, and reaches out. Rachel's face tilts up, eyes wide, and Quinn tucks the hair away from her face, kisses her as slow and soft as she used to imagine doing in the girl's bathroom at McKinley High. Rachel had been the kind of thing Quinn hadn't let herself think about too much in high school, and when she got to college a whole world of options had unfolded in front of her. She doesn't use the word lesbian to describe herself, not yet, but she's becoming increasingly aware that it's the only word that really fits.
And Rachel fits, just now, opening her mouth to Quinn's and breathing shocked agreement into her mouth, curving towards her on the sand. She tastes like whatever terrible, fruity, umbrella-clad beverage she's made herself, over-sweet and much too strong, which is about right, really; Quinn angles herself towards her and pushes them both down against the beach, not sure what she's doing and not much caring. Rachel has always annoyed her, has been too much for long enough that Quinn's discovered most other people now read as not enough, and she's going to enjoy this while it lasts, because she's got a pretty good idea that it's not going to last for long.
Sure enough, Rachel lets the kiss go on for a minute, two, before she pulls away. Quinn's got her mouth open around something snappy and bitter, something that'll somehow minimize Rachel's rejection, that will manage to pull the punch she knows is coming. But when she looks at Rachel, seeking the twist of discomfort in her eyes that will make this all easier, she sees a small, shocked smile instead.
"I," Rachel says, hushed, "I thought…I thought I was, uh. Barking up the wrong tree?"
"Well, so did I!" Quinn snaps, before she realizes what Rachel's actually said. "Or…oh. Oh! Sorry, I just, I wasn't expecting this to--"
"Go well?" Rachel says, her mouth curling up at the edge. "Yeah, well, me neither. I, uh. I actually brought ammunition, which, wow, sounds a lot crazier when I say it out loud."
"What do you mean ammunition?" Quinn says. Her hand is still in Rachel's hair, and she thinks about moving it, realizing with a spike of something that feels a bit like giddy hysteria that she doesn't have to.
"Here, hold on," Rachel says. "It's in the house--Quinn! I'll be right back, I promise. I had this whole plan, you know, about how I'd apologize and then we'd talk and then I'd show you the--but I don't have to do the plan now, I guess, I just need to run in for five minutes."
"If you stand me up," Quinn warns, "on a beach, with the world's lamest excuse--"
"Yes, yes, I'll suffer whatever punishment, I live in fear," Rachel says, rolling her eyes as she stands, slipping effortlessly back into that more-important-than-thou thing she does so well. "Five minutes, swear to god."
Quinn thinks about timing her, but she can tell from the look Rachel gives her that Rachel knows Quinn's thinking about timing her, so she doesn't. She just traces a finger in the sand and tries not to feel anything at all. She's learned better than to get her hopes up when she isn't sure of something, and it's so hard to be sure of Rachel even in less important moments. Rachel, whose picture is next to the words "emotional upheaval" in the dictionary, Rachel who once admitted to trying to lose her virginity for acting motivation--and god, god, if this is some kind of research exercise for a lesbian role, Quinn is going to snap and murder her, she really, really is.
She tries to think back a few minutes, to sink back into her own thoughts, and ends up laughing out loud instead. To think that she'd been sitting out here feeling old--just now, Quinn feels as insecure and awkward and nineteen as she's ever felt in her life. She's almost grateful for it, which is so bizarre it doesn't bear thinking about.
"Back!" Rachel sings out, plopping back down in the sand. "Look what my dads found when they were cleaning out my room this spring."
She hands over a photograph, obviously old and badly kept. It looks like it must have spent some time trapped somewhere dark and ignored; the edges are sticky with dried dust, and there are a few odd, half-formed creases, like the thing had tried and failed to bend. There's a little hole, too, up in the right corner, the kind of thing that a push-pin would leave behind, and Quinn would wonder what bulletin board this had hung on…
…but, well. It's kind of hard to stop grinning.
"This is Allen County Daycare!" Quinn exclaims before she can help herself. "God, I didn't even know you went there--but you must've, because I know what I looked like when I was four, and god knows nobody but you would be trying to pull off an apron, star glasses and a feather boa."
"My dads said I was only there for a week or two, when I asked them about it," Rachel admits, tucking her hair behind her ear and frowning. "Apparently they…weren't great, when they realized I wasn't from a single father home so much as a double father home."
"Assholes," Quinn says absently, still staring. "Oh my god, is that Puck?"
"And Finn, I think," Rachel confirms, tucking her head over Quinn's shoulder. "I, uh. Well, you know, when they showed me, I thought 'Memoir Gold,' right away--"
"Of course you did."
"Shut up," Rachel says, but good-naturedly. "So I went down there, of course, since I was only four and it's not like I can remember specifics about what we might have been doing, and you need specifics for decent captions, everyone knows that--"
"You," Quinn says, "are crazy. You know that, don't you?"
"And," Rachel continues over her, "they said that that's the station they've set up for playing house. And I thought, well, you know, if this were a movie--"
"Which it isn't--"
"But if it was," Rachel persists, "that would be pretty perfect foreshadowing, wouldn't it? I mean. If we were to grow up and end up together, that would be the kind of story that people would tell at our wedding. And so I thought…I mean…."
"Rachel," Quinn says, surprised at how amused she is, "are you telling me you'd like to go out on the off-chance that we'll have a cute story to tell at our hypothetical wedding? Really?"
"Well of course not!" Rachel snaps, waving her hands in the air. "I've thought about you all year and I had what was, I must tell you, a truly spectacular sexual crisis--"
"Oh, god, Rachel, please spare me the details--"
"--and of course I wanted to go out with you anyway when my dads showed me, but it just…." Rachel stops, looking frustrated. "It just made it seem perfect, alright?"
Quinn looks down at the photo again, because she knows that if she looks at Rachel, she's going to laugh and ruin this before it begins. Her younger self grins back at her, fierce-eyed with a gap between her front teeth, her arm around little Rachel's imperiously thrown back shoulders. She finds that the smile crossing her face isn't mocking after all, and when she looks back up at Rachel, she doesn't want to laugh anymore.
"Alright, fine," she admits, "it's a little bit perfect," and Rachel beams at her and pushes her back into the sand, kissing her like they're an eventuality, not just a lucky surprise.