Actions

Work Header

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Chapter Text

Theatre kids are annoying.

Sure, Rachel’s heard that word used to describe herself more times in her life than the average person hears their own name (and of course this fact was born out of complete jealousy and a pedestrian, Midwestern inability to understand a performer’s nature), but she hadn’t truly understood its meaning outside of the textbook definition until now. Everything previously believed to be annoying -- her Dad’s “no TV after 9pm” rule or a youtube singer that relied entirely on runs having a higher ‘subscriber’ count than she -- were mild irritations at best.

NYADA is amazing, but being caught in the throes of a constant state of competition is annoying. Being surrounded by peers who live and breathe their talent is a godsend (this space is reserved for gifted people doing gifted things, mediocre dullards that loiter near Kwik Stop slush-o-matics are nowhere to be found), but Rachel has grown infinitely tired of meeting girls that consider Streisand, LuPone, and Garland to be the Holy Trinity (because that was her thing), and never hearing We’ve Got Magic to Do again is becoming a life goal very close to the top tier next to EGOTing (because no one really cares how good a high school production of Pippin was), and God she would give just about anything to not have to be on all the time because it’s all so annoying.

“Run your character by me one more time, Rach. I made some minor changes to my background, and I want to make sure we still mesh.”

Eyeliner positioned mere inches away from her lashes, Rachel slightly turns her head in the direction of the bathroom door where her roommate, Fi, leans against the frame.

Tonight Rachel Barbra Berry is Genevieve Pound of the Boston Pounds. She is the youngest daughter of Lilah and Eric Pound. Her oldest sister, CiCi, is an art dealer in Willamsburg that specializes in drivel molded from the blood, sweat, and tears of men with ironic mustaches. Zelda, the middle child, will graduate Stanford in the spring and carries a deep complex about her name (“It’s the twenty-first century; ‘Zelda’ does not say Jay Gatsby, it says ‘Hyrule’.”) Her father is a dentist that spends most of his time fixing teeth in third world countries and looking very serious. Her mother is an attorney and she knows Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” by heart, and when she was a little girl, Genny (a nickname she doesn’t much care for now) would request to hear it as a bedtime song. The Pounds spend their summers in Martha’s Vineyard. Winters at a little cabin up in Big Bear. They keep Kosher.

“Dad totally gave me disappointed face when I told him I’d picked philosophy as my major, but he’s a softie underneath the heavy brow. He just wants me to be happy,” Rachel finishes and sweeps her bangs to the side with her fingertips.

“It’s good, but…Genevieve?” Fi scrunches her face around the name. “Seriously?”

“What? It’s a classic with an air of ‘old money’.” Rachel scoffs.

“It’s a shut-in that lives on a hill and hoards cats,” Fi says.

Rachel frowns. “It’s stately and dignified - you have awful taste.”

“It’s litter box smell, Rachel. It’s ‘I scream at traffic and never put the trash out’.”

Rachel narrows her eyes before turning towards the mirror to give herself a final once over. She unties the knot in the sweater draped over her shoulder and tosses it aside - it felt like too much. “We are not doing Southie.”

“Oh come on!” Fi pouts and stomps her foot for exaggerated dramatic effect. “I watched Good Will Hunting like five times a day to get that accent down. I need to try it out like I need air.”

“You said I could pick,” Rachel says smugly. “This weekend is ‘old money’, next is ‘disenfranchised Catholic youth’. We can’t flip-flop on this, Fiona as I think it would be extremely beneficial for us to commit to our pre-selected roles. You wouldn’t tell Woody Allen, ‘Annie Hall is great, but I think she’d be even better if I played her as a north London factory worker’.” With a self-assured nod at her reflection, Rachel faced Fi. “Plus, I made a chart and I don’t want to scribble all over it.”

“Fine.” Fi sighed. “I’m going to grab my purse, ready when you are.”

In the eighth grade, Mitzie Huntzinger loudly announced that she could see the outline of Fi’s pad through her gym shorts when bent over during a mandatory game of volleyball. Through the magic of social networking some six years later, Fi pretended to not still be pissed off over this incident in order to up her friend count and spy on Mitzie’s bad life decisions. Mitzie’s profile picture revealed a blonde with a bright smile sitting in front of a giant gold margarita. Mitzie’s sombrero is festive, her friends work kissy faces that have surely been perfected through yeas and years of angled pictures mirrors. Mitzie is a big fan of E! and likes all of Ryan Seacrest’s status updates. Mitzie loves profound quotes such as “dance as if no one is watching” and “if you don’t love me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”. Mitzie is a sophomore at Yale majoring in intoxicated social interaction with a minor in Political Science, and her page is a glutton of party invites so Fi thought it would be a great idea to take the train to New Haven in order to see Mitzie’s Freshman 15 in person (“think of it as a guerilla acting exercise if it makes you feel better.”)

Though the prospect of real world application excited Rachel (and she would have a detailed report for her scripting class come Monday), she truthfully only agreed to tag along to get out of another Saturday night of beers and stories about vocal ability coming before walking ability. Because bragging is immensely annoying when not being done in the sound of her own voice.

Before they leave the dorm, Rachel grabs her previously discarded sweater just in case New England turns out to resemble the 1986 Polo ad she pictures.

**

Rachel spots the auburn wig hiding Fi’s mousy curls just over Sweatervest’s shoulder. It is kind of rude, but she can’t remember his name, so she’s taken to referring to the boy in front of her that has one hand jammed in the pocket of his skinny jeans and hangs on her every word like secrets of the universe are spilling from her tongue by his attire in her mind.

Sweatervest nods at all of the appropriate intervals, is dimpled, blue-eyed, and has a pleasant timbre to his voice. He was neither lame (“Is that mirror in your pants? Because I can see myself in them”) nor snooze worthy (“So, uh you come here often?”) when he struck up a dialogue with her in front of the Natty Light cases. He has a name Rachel can’t quite remember, and an earnest look that makes her almost regret the load of bullshit she’s feeding him. Perhaps in a different time or a different place this encounter could’ve been something. As a sophomore, she is due for the great college romance of her life; someone thoroughly East Coast upper crust would make for a fantastic bookend to Finn’s All-American high school hero in her future Behind the Music episode. But, Rachel’s mentally filed away his reaction to the story about “Zelda” because her professor will be happy to know she pulled off a tale of familial resentment with a little more Igby Goes Down and a lot less Lifetime

Sweatervest calls her “Genny” and she tries not to cringe because he is just a bit player in the Rachel Berry Story, and she was very clear about that nickname being a childhood fancy Genevieve had left behind.

Rachel drums her fingers on the rim of her solo cup and inches forward to let a line of girls in sparkly tops scoot by (New Haven is not at all what she thought it would be, and her sweater now hung limply from the crook of her left arm.) “Dad totally gave me disappointed face when I told him I’d picked philosophy as my major, but he’s a softie underneath the heavy brow. He just wants me to be happy.”

Sweatervest’s smile takes up his whole face. “You’re a philosophy major?”

She nods enthusiastically. “Absolutely. If it wasn’t for my trust fund, I’d be training four years to wait tables.”

“So am I!” He swipes his thick, dark hair out of his face. “I’ve never seen you around campus.” His eyes give her the once over from head to toe. “I would’ve remembered.”

“Oh well, you know.” Rachel sips at her drink. “It’s a big campus, and I mostly like to sit in the back of the classroom.”

He nods. “Who’s your favorite philosopher?”

“Oh well, you know…” Another drink and she clears her throat to stall for time. “There’s just so many to choose from. Impossible really to pick a favorite…”

To her right, immediately after someone screams about having stepped in vomit, Rachel hears, “Leibniz” and a pit opens up in her stomach when recognition hits. She’s had nightmares like this - being caught by the perpetual cool kids pretending to be something she’s not. Back then the dreams always ended in bloodshed no matter how friendly glee practice had been that week.

“…When I brought this very subject up the other day, she couldn’t shut up about him. The girl loves her monads.”

Quinn Fabray looks strage. Not in a major physical change sort of way, but in that unexplainable air people get about them when not seen in a while. Quinn is still gorgeous, but not the seventeen kind of gorgeous. Quinn still appears aloof, but now it says ‘mysterious’ instead of ‘obnoxious’. Quinn looks settled, the planes of her face have grown deceptively mature, and they may have parted McKinley High on positive terms, but Quinn Fabray has just caught Rachel Berry in a potentially embarrassing situation, and there is a sliver of a memory of what a pain cherry slush stains are to get out of skin and clothes in the back of Rachel’s mind.

Quinn smiles at Rachel, and it’s warm but mostly strange. “I hate to be that girl, but I was hoping to pick your brain about my essay topic.” She sweetly tilts her head at Sweatervest and wraps her fingers around Rachel’s wrist. “I’ll only keep her away for the length of a cigarette. Cross my heart.”

Rachel has time to form her lips around “oh” before she is dragged towards the door. She’s had nightmares about Quinn Fabray yanking her away from boys - even the ones she has no interest in. Quinn’s grip is firm, she doesn’t utter another word or bother to glance back as she steers them both through the crowd. An army of bouncing, evil pony-tails is missing, and Quinn did willingly receive several hugs before and after their high school graduation, but Rachel’s half sure there will be blood. After all they haven’t seen each other in two years and for all she knew, Inner!Peace Quinn could be gone. There could have been another accidental pregnancy and borderline-personality disorder style identity crises in that time.

Once they’ve made it to the back porch, Rachel takes in a lungful of cold air and watches anxiously as Quinn pads the pockets of her jacket.

(If a girl screams for her life while dubstep is playing does everyone just assume they’re hearing a new Skrillex song?)

“Of all the parties in all the world…” Quinn says around the cigarette now dangling from her mouth.

“I came with a friend - my roommate as a matter of fact. She’s incredible at holding a grudge, and she wanted to prove a girl she went to high school with photoshops the acne out of her Facebook pictures, and I won’t be staying very long…”

“Rachel…”

“I’m sure Fi - my roommate - will be ready to go at any minute, and besides, I don’t plan on coming up to New Haven ever again; the whole last row of the train smelled like moth balls…”

“Rachel…”

“I mean, that’s why I told Sweatervest - uh, that guy - I’m a student here. You see, Quinn, I’ve always wanted to be dreamy and elusive to someone and since I’m never coming back I figured there’d be no harm in a false identity…”

“Rachel…”

“I didn’t know you smoked - uh forget it, that’s none of my business, and I’ll pray that you don’t get premature wrinkles or cancer…”

“Rachel…”

“I’m just gonna head back inside and grab my friend and we’ll be on our way so you won’t have to worry about me cramping your style or anything. I didn’t know you’d be here, I mean, I knew you went to Yale - I congratulated you on your acceptance more than once as a matter of fact - I didn’t know you’d be here, but I turned around and there you were! How long had you been standing there anyway? No-no, don’t answer that. This is your school and it’s a free country, you can stand anywhere you’d like. It was nice seeing you, Quinn…”

 

“Rachel!” Quinn chuckles and the smoke from the Marlboro between her fingertips forms a giant cloud with the visible evidence of her breath against the night sky. “How are you?”

“Fine,” Rachel tells her with a sheepish smile. “Great, actually. NYADA is proving to be very fulfilling, and how long had you been standing there?”

Quinn shrugs. “Not long,” she says. “Genevieve is a cat lady name by the way.”

“It’s dignified.” Rachel frowns.

“Sure.”

“Well it certainly doesn’t have that old-timey staying power like ‘Quinn’ for instance, but it carries a quiet yet strong sort of elegance that I think is integral for a character with Genevieve’s background.”

“Are you seriously arguing about your fake name right now?” Quinn says taking another pull from her cigarette.

Rachel huffs. “A lot of thought went into that name.”

Quinn quietly finishes and flicks the butt into a nearby bush. “The train is gross and disturbing, but you should come back to New Haven sometime. Is your number still the same?”

“It is,” Rachel answers after an embarrassingly long pause. “I couldn’t bear to part with the Lima area code. Isn’t that silly? After all that time I spent dreaming about getting out when I finally do I still want to be connected.”

Quinn smiles. “It’s not that silly. I’ll give you a call sometime.” She trudges very carefully over the worn patch of slushed snow, puts a hand on the doorknob, and glances over her shoulder. “My number’s changed,” she says.

**

On the way back to New York, Rachel half listens to Fi talk about Mitzie’s pockmarks and Googles the New Haven area code so that when Quinn calls, she won’t answer the phone with a suspicious tone.

Chapter Text

The next time Rachel sees Quinn, Rachel is pretending to be Zou Zou Fitzpatrick from Charlestown Massachusetts.

The Fitzpatricks have a history of hard luck: patriarch, James, did ten years at Riker’s for armed robbery, while his wife April is famous for her deep love of bikers, Boone’s Farm wine, and writing bad checks. Zou Zou (government name: Molly Catherine) is the oldest of five and the first to go to college.

Zou Zou carries a deep hatred for nuns because of twelve years spent languishing away at Our Lady of Perpetual Peace. Her dark complexion is either due to a Cherokee ancestor on her father’s side or a Columbian named Rodrigo that frequented the Nathan’s Hotdog stand her mother worked at during one of James’ shorter prison stays.

“I would love to get inside of your brain for just a day,” Quinn says around the cigarette filter. “I bet it’s like a David Lynch film with show tunes.”

The only light on the back porch is the red glow of ash, so she can’t actually tell if Quinn was smiling when she said that, but Rachel kind of wants it to be the case. Rachel’s had dreams like this - she and Quinn are in a place where good natured ribbing exists; they have in jokes and furtive grins that irritate their friends not cool enough to be in the loop. Maybe David Lynch could be their “thing”. Rachel hasn’t seen a single movie of his, but she could start watching - perhaps Quinn could provide a guide to his work, and maybe a further explanation of how it is exactly that Rachel’s imagination is indicative of his style.

Rachel’s mouth opens in order to blurt, “I don’t know who that is” but she quickly shuts it. She’s starting to feel like the lamest girl in the world, attempting to manufacture what should be a natural part of friendship.

(It seems like a lifetime ago, but dreams of a real friendship with Quinn Fabray used to occur just as frequently as the ones with bloodshed, and Rachel always tries to be honest with herself which is why she’s comfortable internally acknowledging the elusiveness of a bond with Quinn bothers her to her very core. There’s a tingling at the base of her neck that feels like tonight is the birth of a possibility - it’s best to stop her uncool nature from murdering it.)

Rachel tugs the hood of her sweatshirt over her head, and leans back against the wall. “I think Zou Zou could use more fleshing out. She was originally going to be an ex meth user, but Fi thought that would be too much.”

“Zou Zou’s perfect as is. Much more interesting than Genny.”

“…Just how long had you been standing there that night?”

“Not long.”

Rachel grins. “You say that, yet you keep proving to be just as attentive as Sweatervest.”

“His name is, Daniel by the way,” Quinn snickers. “We had a few 101s together and I used to call him ‘North Face’. It took me entire year to get his actual name.”

“He’s not very memorable.” Rachel laughs.

“Not at all. Poor guy.”

Coming to New Haven tonight hadn’t exactly been a plan. Rachel found herself to be in dire need of a distraction after a horrendous week in which she had to endure both a scolding from her Movement professor (because her “tree billowing in the wind” did not “billow” with her whole body) and a performance art show using menstrual blood and spaghetti-o’s (because Fi’s attempting to sleep with a sculptor from Brooklyn that refuses to own a TV.) When a TA critiqued her diaphragm usage, Rachel spent thirty minutes crying in the shower and ultimately decided she needed to be someone else for a while.

A quick check of Mitzie Huntzinger’s page revealed a kegger at an off campus frat, and it wasn’t hard to convince Fi to practice her Southie accent earlier than anticipated. They put on track suits and hoop earrings, and caught the train.

And there may have been an extended daydream during the ride up where Quinn turned up at this party, apologized profusely for not calling like she’d said she would (she was buried under a mountain of coursework), and the two of them snuck out into the night where they laughed over diner coffee before returning to Quinn’s dorm room to watch The Parent Trap and braid each other’s hair. But other than that, Rachel really hadn’t given much thought or hope to seeing Quinn at all, so running into her while in line for the bathroom was a pleasant surprise.

“I wanted to call…” Quinn starts after a moment, and Rachel immediately interrupts.

“I understand, Quinn.” She shrugs. “I’m extremely busy, too.”

“I wasn’t busy,” Quinn says, and Rachel’s glad for the darkness because she’s feeling lame again. “I mean - I am busy, but I didn’t call because it’s so damn awkward trying to talk to someone you haven’t seen in forever, you know?”

Rachel lets out a self conscious chuckle. “Yeah, it kinda is.”

“I was actually excited to see you that night - that whole old, familiar faces in new towns thing. This is so lame, but I only came here hoping your roommate would want to stalk that girl again.” Quinn exhales loudly and flicks her cigarette butt into the backyard grass. “Talking like this seems less intimidating somehow. I dunno, I’ve never really been much of a phone person anyway.”

“Talking to me is intimidating?”

“A little bit,” Quinn says. “I haven’t bothered to keep in touch with anyone since we graduated, and a lot can happen in two years.”

“Quinn…” Rachel hesitates, “can I speak frankly for a moment?”

“There’s moments when you don’t?” she teases.

“Why haven’t you kept in touch? After graduation, I personally felt like we’d all reached a certain degree of closeness where checking in with each other on a fairly regular basis was to be expected. Last Thanksgiving, I even arranged a post-turkey karaoke session at my parents’, and I was disappointed when you didn’t RSVP. In the end it was just Brittany and I singing her favorite songs from The Muppets movie while Santana scowled in the corner, but still I would’ve loved to have seen you.”

“I wasn’t in Lima for Thanksgiving,” Quinn says. “And I thought my new start at Yale should include entirely new people, and I was cool with that, but then you know, ‘familiar faces, new town’.”

“Yeah,” Rachel says.

While Quinn lights another cigarette, Rachel pulls on the strings of her hood and is struck by the feeling that she’s meant to be here nursing a beer and smelling of stale smoke just as much as she was meant to be in New York eating Ramen and moaning about auditions. This feeling collects at the base of her head, travels all the way down her spine, and Rachel digs the toes of her sneakers into the pavement to keep it from escaping.

“You know, Quinn, we could try texting. I’m a fabulous texter, and there’s no commitment to continue a stifled conversation.”

“We could.”

“If you give me your number, I’ll text you first and that way we’re over the hump.”

They lapse into an agonizing silence in which Rachel contemplates lighting herself on fire as Quinn fiddles with her phone.

“Sorry,” Quinn says, “I got nudged on Draw Something.”

Rachel’s own phone buzzes in her pocket:

203-401-3625

You should do an English accent the next time I see you. Your Mass one needs work.

“I think you’ll find my Geordie to be incredibly authentic.” Rachel grins as she types ‘Quinn Fabray’ into her contact list.

 

**

 

“Fi…”

The only sound in the train station is the low persistent buzz of the florescent lights overhead, and the occasional rumble from a nearby Coke machine. Rachel drapes an arm across her roommate’s shoulders, and she’s thinking about Quinn’s request for her to text as soon as she makes it back to New York (“so I know you made it safe”), and her toes are still tingling from the trapped possibility of it all.

“Yeah?”

“I ran into an old classmate of mine. She was kind of like my Mitzie, but now I have this overwhelming feeling that we’re going to be close. It’s silly, but I’ve always wanted to be friends with her - even when she was drawing vaguely anti-Semitic caricatures of me in the second floor girls bathroom.”

Fi smiles, inching the blonde wig off of her head. “Your Mitzie can’t possibly be anything like my Mitzie,” she says. “I’d seriously rather saw my own boobies off with a penknife than be friends with that girl.”

Chapter Text

“’Ello, Maise’s phone.”

“Hello?”

“’Ello?”

“Hello? Uh is Rachel Berry there?”

“Rachel Berry? I’m afraid there are no Rachel Berry’s here, mate.”

“…What? Uh, hello?”

There’s a scuffle around the tabletop that causes the drinks to rattle and two sets of arms to shoot out to prevent any spills (“Are you guys fucking crazy! This is an eight dollar amaretto sour!”) Quinn laughs to the point of tears because she’s got Rachel’s cell phone in hand, dangling just above the shorter girl’s head.

Rachel jumps up and Quinn further extends her arm. “Tell me, how bad does the ground shake when giants are afoot?” she asks with a snort.

“I will kick you.” Rachel tries her best to pull her face into a passable menacing scowl, but the corners of her lips keep turning up. “Your shins are in so much danger right now.”

“You’re like an angry garden gnome…ow!” Quinn’s hand drops to the now sore spot on her right leg, and Rachel, smug satisfaction etched into every corner of her face, retrieves her phone.

“Told you,” Rachel says. She plugs a finger in her ear to drown out the bar noise, shouting “Hello?” into the receiver. “Finn? Wait a sec, I can’t hear you…”

Tonight, Rachel Berry is Maise Day from Devonshire, England. Maise is an exchange student at Tisch, she loves Sherlock Holmes, and believes American chocolate to be vastly inferior. Before launching into her English accent in the middle of Penn Station, Rachel made a point to explain to Quinn in great detail that Maise’s sparse background was due to Godspell rehearsals draining not only the majority of her free time, but her creative energy as well.

Quinn Fabray reclaims her seat on a wobbly stool in a dive bar somewhere on Havemeyer St, trying to convey an air of casualness as her eyes flit back and forth from the sweaty glass of Blue Moon in her hand to the polka-dotted dress (topped off with a red beret, a bar hopping outfit like only Berry can do) that weaves itself through the crowd. It is the most ridiculous dress she’s ever seen - that thought has crossed her mind several times throughout the evening - but, Rachel makes it lovely. And the more Quinn drinks, the lovelier it becomes.

She is staring into the head of her fourth glass of beer, and when Rachel gets back, Quinn imagines herself launching into a sonnet about this dress (Shall I compare thee to an A. McQueen?) She’d compliment the fabric and sing praises of its stitching. The sound of it unzipping, she’d confess, would be a symphony.

With a mumbled “bugger”, Quinn tips the drink back and hard swallows, because she knows none of this will occur. She’s been playing this game - this dream of what she’d say to Rachel if she had more guts and lacked more self awareness - for so long that it’s second nature. Only now when Rachel Berry is lovely, Quinn’s first instinct isn’t to squash it out of the girl like an ant under her shoe.

“So…you and Rachel went to high school together?”

Quinn nods in the general direction of the boy seated across from her. Cameron is one of Rachel’s Godspell costars, newly twenty-one with no qualms about sneaking drinks for underage friends and acquaintances. He seems terribly nice, having greeted her with a megawatt smile and a hug upon introduction outside of the bar (“and most importantly, Quinn, he hates Pippin”), but Quinn is becoming increasingly too tipsy to claw her way through small talk. She sips her drink to keep her mouth full.

“And how was that?” he asks. He lets a conspiratorial smile say “was Rachel always Rachel”, and Quinn gets it - Berry is not for the faint of heart, and when taken in large doses is liable to make blood shoot out of your nose - but, as she nurses the beer he procured, she considers spitting it back at him. Getting the ’Berry Bleeds’ are second nature to her now, a minimal side-effect that comes from being in the presence of someone so devastatingly perfect. Quinn hates him for the implication that it’s too much. Quinn hates him because it’s obvious the severe Berry side-effect - feeling as though you’ve been engulfed in flames - has completely alluded him.

She forces herself to look friendly. “Sometimes it was pretty good,” she says, “but mostly it was shitty.”

Cameron chuckles. “The universal high school experience.”

When the beer is gone, Quinn excuses herself for a smoke. The bar’s patio is pleasantly less crowded, the bitter cold having sentenced most to nic-fits for the sake of warmth. She pulls her beanie further down over her ears, and lights up; for the first time tonight she feels like she can breathe.

The cigarette gets down to the filter before Quinn discovers there are three missed calls on her phone from a number that shouldn’t be there.

She hits the send button while lava bubbles behind her eyes.

“Hello?”

“Did you give out this number?” Quinn immediately snaps.

There’s a taken aback pause on the other end of the line, followed by a derisive snort. “I did write ‘for a Left Behind film marathon call Quinn Fabray’ in the bathroom stall at St. Josephs. What the fuck are you talking about?”

Quinn sighs heavily. “I - look, I’m sorry…”

“Damn right you are.”

“I know you were in Lima for Christmas and I…I guess I just freaked out.”

“I was too busy watching ‘Berry and Britts Do Jim Henson’ to worry about giving out your stinking phone number to your stinking family. Now, I’m gonna ignore this and we’re gonna start the conversation over - this time with manners.”

The line goes dead, and Quinn quickly calls back.

“Hello?”

She grins. “Hello, Santana.”

“Quinn Fabray! What a surprise! How’s the frigid intellectual indoctrination going? Boning any dudes on crew?”

“Jesus Christ, I said I’m sorry.”

“I know, and I forgive because it’s in my nature,” Santana says. “What I meant to say was, bearding for any dudes on crew?”

“Fuck you.” Quinn laughs in spite of herself. “I’ve missed you, too.”

“Of course you did. Don’t ever pull this crap on me again - when you ask me to keep something private it stays that way, got it?”

She hasn’t seen Santana in six months. While in the middle of a term paper on Kant, Quinn was suddenly struck by how much she missed her best friend (she’s always been good at ignoring feelings until they fester and explode in unexpected ways); she wrapped up page fifteen, bought a Greyhound ticket, and watched the sunrise in Kentucky. The trip only lasted a day, but it was enough to reassure her that Santana would always exist by her side (“Don’t let this college shit fool you. I’m going to New York - I just gotta have a little something to fall back on in case I get sick of playing the ‘sassy hobag’ on Degrassi or something. Getting a late start doesn’t even matter, that’s the upside to not having gringo DNA; I’m gonna age like a fine wine. You, on the other hand, are gonna look like Carol Channing by the time you’re twenty-two.”) Quinn’s head is starting to spin, and she only has one cigarette left, and more than anything she needs that reassurance again.

But a long bus ride just isn’t feasible right now, so she soaks up all she can through At&t’s reception. “Yeah, I got it.”

“Good. Listen, I’m in the middle of making popcorn for Britt because she gets confused about which side to turn up, but I do want to know how you’re doing. Keep your ass glued to that phone, I’m gonna call you back once we’ve finished watching A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.” There’s another pause and Quinn can hear a microwave beeping in the background. “I almost forgot to ask, does Berry row crew?”

“Fuck you.” Quinn shakes her head, and misses Santana like crazy. “I love you, too.”
“Tell me what is so great about those things that you are willing to stand in thirty degree weather - nineteen with the windchill - just to puff away?”

Rachel maneuvers around the swinging patio door, and rests her back against the brick wall. She looks amused, but mostly freezing as she watches Quinn tuck the phone in one pocket and remove the cigarette pack from the other.

“You have to have a predisposition for self destructive bullshit,” Quinn tells her. “You wouldn’t understand.”

Rachel rolls her eyes. “Try me.”

Cocking an eyebrow, Quinn lights the cigarette and she can feel the metaphorical trickles of blood leak from her pores when Rachel plucks that cigarette from Quinn’s lips, and slips it between her own.

Rachel inhales slowly, deliberately. As if she were studying the smoke’s very composition, and Quinn wonders if it’s possible to want to kiss someone so badly that you could die from it.

Rachel coughs and shoves the Marlboro back at her. “That is awful. Why’d you let me do that?”

Quinn laughs loudly, and she’s tipsy enough not to allow herself to second guess grabbing the hem of Rachel’s dress. “Where did you get this? It’s lovely.”

Chapter Text

“So…are you seeing anyone?”

Cheeks tinged with red, Quinn runs a quick hand through her hair and lets out an embarrassed giggle.

“…I don’t think I want to be having this conversation.”

There’s an indignant huff on the other end of the line, and she has to fight the urge to say something particularly nasty like, “boy I sure miss those days when you were too drunk to even pretend to give shit.” Construction on the emotional barrier interstate of L.Q. Fabray was a massive undertaking that started sometime around sixth grade when kids were just beginning to test the limits of their cruelty, and she had grown a bit doughy in the middle. There’s an entire bypass named in honor of Russell and Judy Fabray - a Spaghetti Junction of lack of support (that road project that began right around the time a blue plus showed up on an OB pregnancy test stick.) Quinn’s been a good foreman, hands made for pounding away at rock and dirt and four years ago she would have gone for her mother’s throat breaking new ground for an extension. But four years ago a Judy Fabray inquiry into her daughter’s love life would have meant boys (and would have come only after a second of lucidity in which her youngest wasn’t simultaneously a failure and a burden.)

Judy tries now, so Quinn tries, and you no longer have to go through a toll road emblazoned with appletini’s to get to the “I’m just a pretty face” part of the highway.

“Quinnie,” Judy teases, “don’t get bashful on me now.”

“I have nothing to be bashful about,” Quinn says with an eye roll. “I live like a monk. A chain smoking monk who will die from unrequited heartache. The Patron Saint of Second Chance Virgins.”

“You are terribly dramatic.”

“I know.”

“So there’s no girl?”

“Oh, there’s always a girl,” Quinn says. She takes a break from pacing her bedroom floor to stick her tongue out at her reflection in the dresser mirror. “But, she’s only mine in spirit not in theory.”

“That’s wonderful!”

“Thanks mom,” she snickers.

“Oh shut up, you know what I mean…”

“I have a very vague, very scary idea of what you might mean.”

“There’s a lovely girl who works reception at my dentist - she’s gay.”

Quinn bites back a laugh as a wrecking ball tears through another part of the junction. “That’s great for her, mom.”

“I dunno, I just thought that if you ever decide to come to Lima that I could introduce you two. You never know, Quinn.”

“I know I don’t want to be set up.”

“You wanna be a monk?”

“Maybe that’s what I’m meant for.” She hesitates, “Hey mom - did you give my number…hold on, let me call you back.”

“What is it?”

Quinn smiles, briefly taking the phone away from her ear to admire the way Rachel Berry lights up the screen. “The girl,” she says.

When Quinn switches over the line, she is greeted by a tiny sigh followed immediately with a watery sniff.

“Rachel?”

“I’m so sorry, I know it’s the middle of the week and I’m sure you’re ridiculously busy…” Rachel sniffs again and a lump the size of a tennis ball as formed in Quinn’s throat.

Quinn is the world’s foremost leading expert on making Rachel cry; every hitch of breath is as familiar to her as the back of her goddamned hand, she can paint those puffy eyelids from memory, and trace the bloodshot lines straight to the heart of the festering wound Rachel loves to ignore until the infection seeps. It always took so much to break the girl that Quinn used to measure her success in lip quivers and slumped shoulders (once upon an emotionally stunted time ago.) And for a while, she was quite good at being the cause of this pain, but even then witnessing the aftermath of someone else’s Berry destruction was more than she could take. It kept Quinn up some nights. It resulted in lots of embarrassing, maudlin diary entries.

Quinn swallows and it stings like hell. “What’s wrong?”

“I hopped a train. Honestly, I wasn’t thinking - I mean, you are at Yale and I suspect are drowning in coursework…”

“My head’s above water.”

“…I just, I didn’t know what else to do.” Rachel sighs again and when she speaks, she pushes the words out carefully to hold back a sob. “That’s a lie. I’m sorry again, you’re just the only person I want to see right now, Quinn. I’m a total nuisance, but could you maybe have coffee with me? Fifteen minutes is all I’ll take up of your time, I promise.”

“Don’t be stupid.” Quinn’s already toed on her shoes and grabbed her dorm key from its place on the desk. “We’ll get coffee, and then you’re coming back here for the night, and whatever’s wrong I’m gonna make go away if I have to murder to do it.”

“What about your roommates? I don’t want to impose.”

“I told you not to be stupid,” Quinn tells her gently. “I’ll see you soon.”

**
“One…two…three.”

Rachel sputtered, blinking to keep the water out of her eyes and remained perfectly still while Quinn dried her face. Post their mostly silent walk from the train station (the only bit of conversation occurring when Rachel suggested Starbucks and Quinn scoffed - her hip sensibilities affronted) the two sat on the patio of a local coffee shop. Rachel’s words were carefully measured, Quinn occasionally watched the traffic from over Rachel’s shoulder and never being one to pry, she let Rachel take on the persona of Lucretia D’Amato (former ballet dancer who never left the corps, bitter instructor to ten year olds), and paid for two lattes and a bowl of clam chowder without making a fuss.

Once in the privacy of the dorms, Quinn excused herself to the bathroom where she filled the sink, dutifully held Rachel’s hair back and plunged her face into the water.

“Ready to talk about it?” Quinn asks, draping the towel back over its rack.

Rachel’s breathing deeply, and Quinn’s watching the way Rachel’s jaw muscles clench under the weight of everything she can’t say. She watches Rachel’s eyelids flutter shut, she watches Rachel’s lips part and the slight unfurling of Rachel’s tongue, and Quinn almost swears she can see the sadness hanging in the ether - a noxious, yellowed string she wants to yank. Rachel squares her shoulders and shuts her mouth, keeping the bad trapped for now.

“What’s Scooby Snax?” Rachel traces the lipstick writing across the mirror with a finger.

Quinn shakes her head and drags her eyes over her roommate’s loopy cursive. “Emma likes to use the mirror as a memo board,” she says.

“Oh. And what are Scooby Snax?”

Quinn shrugs. “Did you ever wonder what it would be like if Zooey Deschanel and Natalie Portman’s character from Garden State got together and had a baby? I didn’t, and now I live with the perfect blend of the two. I think Emma’s cosmic retribution.”

A smile flickers across Rachel’s mouth. “Answer the question.”

Quinn’s gaze flits from the mirror (“Gone to get Scooby Snax. Make pancakes, wench. Love - EM”) to Rachel and back again. “Tell me why you’re sad.”

“You first.”

“Scooby Snax is what Emma likes to call weed.” Quinn rolls her eyes. “She keeps trying to make it happen, but it’s never gonna happen.”

“I knew it!”

Quinn snickers, easing her way out the door. “Of course you did.” She adds as she flops down on her bed, “You’re lucky you’re all teary-eyed or else I wouldn’t let you pick the movie.”

Rachel hangs back in the bedroom doorway for a moment. She whips her head back and forth as though checking for spies and says, “What if…what if I wanted to have a snack?”

Quinn pauses, momentarily stunned. “You’re not serious.” She laughs.

Rachel frowns. “I’m completely serious, Quinn. Lucretia has a small recreational drug history. Nothing out of control, of course, but she finds comfort in altered states of consciousness. I‘ve got to get a feel for the character.”

**

“This is almost ritualistic. I mean, you’ve got your little kit- and the way you gingerly remove each piece like they’re sacred halves of a whole, and did you mean to always take three turns to the right, then three turns to the left when you use the grinder? I just noticed that you did, but I couldn’t tell if it was deliberate behavior.”

“You nervous?”

Rachel looks sheepish. “A bit, to be honest. I can’t stop thinking of my D.A.R.E. essay, and now it’s becoming this symbol for all of the promises I won’t keep.”

Quinn laughs. “Just watch me,” she says. Quinn puts the pipe to her lips, flicks the lighter and touches the flame to the edge of the bowl. She inhales deeply and when she lets it back out again it‘s in one, long stream.

“How could something so simple seem so complicated,” Rachel says. With an embarrassed giggle she covers her head with her hands. “I’m failing Lucretia. Do you mind if I put on some music? I need to find my center.”

Quinn gestures at the laptop on the desk, and Rachel swings her chair towards it.

“…Girlboner Jams?” Rachel quirks a brow.

“Emma likes to get on my computer and make playlists everyday.”

“She sounds adorable,” Rachel says in all seriousness and clicks play.

“I want to set her on fire,” Quinn says. “Okay, I’m gonna shotgun it to you.”

“You’re gonna what?”

Quinn rolls her eyes. “Open your mouth, breathe in when you see smoke, hold it and breathe it back out again.”

“Oh.” Rachel clears her throat and squirms in her seat. “Alright.”

Quinn pulls hard off of the pipe. As the smoke trickles down her throat she watches Rachel wring her hands. As the smoke blows across the very bottom of her lungs, Quinn watches Rachel tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. As the smoke spreads to the top and her chest burns from holding it back, Quinn watches Rachel wet her lips before parting them.

With a hand on her knee to anchor her to the world, Quinn leans forward closing the gap between them. Rachel’s got her eyes screwed shut, and Quinn tilts her head and opens her mouth, and it’ll be the brief second their noses touched that’ll keep her up tonight.

**

“You ever notice how your name doesn’t go together?” Rachel leans her head back on the desk chair and spins it around.

“What?” Quinn doesn’t bother to look up from the book in her lap.

“Your name,” Rachel says. “It sounds funny all together.” She abruptly stops spinning. “How can you even read? Being awake is taxing on me right now.”

“Hanging out with the Skanks for one summer gave me the opportunity to learn how to become productive while high. Back then those skills were mostly used to bat mailboxes, but I channeled them into a positive.” Quinn tosses the book aside. “Now, what about my name?”

“Listen to it - Lucy Quinn Fah-bray. Lucy Quinn Fah-braaay.”

Each time she says it, Rachel puts a different inflection on Quinn’s last name. It makes them laugh for fifteen minutes straight.

**
"This is the best popcorn I've ever had, I swear. It's like I can taste every molecule and each one is more delicious than the next."

"Yeah," Quinn says shoving her mouth full. "Pop-Secret is the shit."

"I'm going to write them a thank you letter." Rachel runs a finger along the inside of the popcorn bag gathering butter and salt. Her eyes practically cross in delight when she licks it off.

"I'm going to help you. They need to know how awesome they are."

**

 

“I talked to Finn last week. He’s moving in with his girlfriend - she sounds very nice, and I was completely happy for him. I mean, I’m still happy because that’s the emotion you’re supposed to feel for someone you cared so deeply about being in a good place in their life. But - okay, I realize this is entirely selfish and stupid so please forgive me, what if I chose wrong? Maybe I’m just Lima good - my movement professor seems to think so what with the way she embarrassed me in front of the class today. What if I let a pipe dream ruin my only chance at true love and there’s some blonde in Gatlinburg living my life.”

“Rachel, you don’t wanna be in Gatlinburg.”

“I know, but in theory…”

“No theories.” Quinn rolls over on her side to face Rachel; she props her head up with one hand, and lets the other tug at an errant string on the bedspread. “Your professor’s a bitch, and you are exactly where you’re supposed to be. Think about it, there are over a billion people on this planet and right now I could be laying here with any one of them, but I’m not. My atoms are next to your’s - they’re supposed to be. You’re Rachel Berry by way of New York, not Lima and definitely not Gatlinburg. No one was meant to be here more than you.”

“I kind of want to cry, but my eyes are dried out.” Rachel chuckles softly.

“That’s what I’m here for.”

Quinn turns on her back. She puts one hand under her pillow and lets the other dangle in the space between she and Rachel - their pinkies touching.

Chapter Text

To Rachel, Quinn has always been something like a living Greek statue, or a Michelangelo painting she can never stop trying to find the meaning behind. Fighting sleep, she gets Quinn to expound on the virtues of her favorite philosopher simply because she is in the mood to study Quinn’s mouth.

Admittedly she’s always held a fascination for Quinn’s beauty. There was a great longing to know how it felt to enter a room and catch every eye due to the structure of your bones, not the volume of your bragging or the print of animal on your sweater, and Rachel almost had the courage to inquire once, but this moment occurred during the time when a smirk from Quinn Fabray meant awful things. She locked that question safely away behind a curtain of worshipful envy, and spent an hour every day after school washing crude marker drawings of her image off the stalls in the girls bathroom.

When the space between them grew less hostile, Rachel lived through moments where looking at Quinn made her feel a bit dizzy, and moments where looking at Quinn felt like a million tiny Brittanys were dancing up and down her spine, and moments where looking at Quinn felt as if Rachel had set herself on fire (but she didn’t lock these bits away as she found they lacked an easy definition, and on the whole were too disconcerting to inspect.)

And while Quinn tells her about the earth and everything on it being made up of monads, all Rachel can do is watch Quinn’s lips and marvel at how red they always seem to be, and there’s an ache in her body that starts all the way down in her toes, and when she wakes up the next morning curled into Quinn as though that area had been designed to fit her and only her, Rachel feels incredibly lonely. 

She returns to New York to find pictures of Finn’s new apartment all over her Facebook newsfeed. She clicks the ‘like’ button despite not meaning it.

“Dude,” Fi announces with a mouth full of tortilla chips, “we gotta get you a date.”

“What? No,” Rachel says. She closes her laptop and entertains a fantasy wherein Gatlinburg’s Vista Plains Apartment Complex is engulfed in flames. “ I’m much too busy.”

“Every time I blink, you’re in New Haven,” Fi says. “Don’t get me wrong, I like Quinn, but if you’ve got time for her, then you’ve got time to keep your lady bits from healing back over.”

Rachel pulls a face. “One: can they do that? And two: worry about your own bits.”

“I’ve got the perfect guy.” 

“Fiona, as pushy and obnoxious as you are, I love you quite a great deal, and I wholeheartedly understand what you’re trying to do- but on my first day of high school I decided that my life would include Finn Hudson. I anticipated coming home curtain call after curtain call to him, and stepping from his side on red carpets to pose for photos, and I dunno. I abandoned the idea we’d be together forever long ago, but I’m mourning anyway. Maybe it’s that Finn’s the first thing I swore I’d have that I didn’t get to keep.” Rachel sighs. “Can’t you just bring me ice cream and watch movies based on Nicholas Sparks novels like a good friend?”

“I’m not a good friend,” Fi says. “I’m a best friend, and that’s why I’m going to tell you that part of your problem is, you don’t decide on love. And his name is Harvey- don’t laugh, his mom really loved Sabrina the Teenaged Witch- I’m going to tell him about you, but you’re not obligated to do anything or go anywhere with him you don’t want to. I’m just cracking the door to a possibility.”

“Fine, fine.” Rachel waves her hand dismissively. 

Fi grins. “And, if you would like to check with Quinn on whether or not this would be a good idea, feel free.” 

Rachel frowns. “I don’t need Quinn’s approval.”

 

**

 

“Fiona’s trying to set me up.” 

It’s nearing 2am on a Thursday, and Rachel is admiring the view of the stucco ceiling from the middle of her bed with the phone cradled next to her ear. She doesn’t have class until five that evening, but she’s almost positive Quinn has a 9am; she meant to ask somewhere around the three hour mark of their conversation.

Set you up for what? Murder?” 

“On a date.” Rachel laughs. “Though, it’s incredibly sad that homicide is the first thing you think of in relation to my being set up.” 

Ohh,” Quinn drags out the word. 

“She’s so obnoxious,” Rachel says. 

Quinn’s quiet for what seems like an eternity, and Rachel pulls at an errant strand on her bed spread, and this silence, she thinks, lacks all of the comfort of a normal lull in their talks and there is a heaviness in her chest that she cannot account for. 

Well, maybe it’s a good thing. You know, putting yourself out there.” 

“You think so?” Rachel asks.

Sure, why not?” Quinn says. 

“I dunno, I was totally against it a few days ago, but Finn keeps posting pictures of his hideously decorated living room, so I’m kind of considering the offer.” Rachel pauses, swallowing thickly. “Fi said my problem is that I like to decide whom I’m going to love; I’ve decided that Fi’s full of shit.” 

Quinn’s chuckle is low and breathy in Rachel’s ear, it makes Rachel’s eyes flutter shut. In the background she hears the flick of a lighter igniting. 

“Are you smoking again?”

Maybe.” 

“I fully intend to break you of that awful habit.” 

You’re more than welcome to try, Ms. Berry.” 

It takes two minutes before Rachel realizes she’s smiling. “Anyway, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a conscious effort to like someone.”

Rachel, there isn’t a single great love story where the protagonist just decides to like someone.”

“Oh god, not you, too.” 

It just happens - it’s a force you never see coming, and you have absolutely no hope in stopping it, and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of it before you even knew it began.”

“Are you speaking from experience?”

Yeah,” Quinn says, clearing her throat. “I’m an avid reader.” 

**

Harvey shows up at her dorm, promptly at 6:30pm on an unseasonably mild Friday evening. He has cheekbones that could cut glass, and a neat part in his dirty blonde hair that reminds Rachel to put in a call to Kurt, and he smiles brilliantly and tells her that she’s been Fi’s favorite subject for two weeks.

Rachel tells him to call her, ‘Moon’.

“All of my close friends do. It’s a nickname I picked up as a kid. My mother is trying to single handedly keep the hippie movement alive, and I spent a lot of time with her growing hot house tomatoes on a commune in Oregon.”

He takes her out for coffee, and it is surprisingly wonderful discussing Steven Sondheim with a man who is not going to braid her hair during (and lord how she misses, Kurt), but mostly she is distracted by the need to text Quinn and tell her everything that’s happening. 

Chapter Text

"Jesus. Grow up, Quinn."

Quinn lets her forehead fall against the stall door, and pulls her bottom lip into her mouth to sit tightly between her teeth. There is not a single soul entering or exiting this women's bathroom in the middle of Penn Station that could give a shit about the myriad of ways she continues to be disappointed by those she shares a blood link with (and deep down she knows this), but twenty goddamn years were spent becoming the master of the internal scream, and Quinn cannot let Fran break her. Not until she's alone, in some place preferably dark and hole-like. So there'd been a hitch in her chest, and a squeak had inched off her tongue, and cutting off her feelings at the knees is a big step backwards in all of the progress she's made in even acknowledging she feels things to begin with, but perceived weakness is still a point of contention and Quinn will not look the part of a helpless throwaway with a symphony of toilets flushing around her.

"This number is private," Quinn says, steadying her voice around the ball in her throat.

"He's our father - what was I supposed to say?"

"How about respecting my wishes, Frannie?"

"I'm sorry you're so fantastic at holding a grudge…"

Quinn snorts derisively. "I really can't with you right now."

"What? Because I want this family to be ok? I've done nothing but support you, Quinn. I haven't said one bad word about this liberal, lesbian hippie thing you've got going on now - I mean, Christ I went out and got a bunch of PFLAG pamphlets because I want to understand you. Because I wasn't there when I should've been, and I'm really trying here to make things fine. I only gave Dad your number because I had faith he wanted to make things better, too. Maybe I'm just naïve - I'm not as worldly as you…"

"Frannie…"

"I just…I would like to see you at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Easter. I want the girls to know their Aunt Quinn. I want us to talk without walking on eggshells, and I know I screwed up but it came from a good place. Just…consider calling him."

Quinn lets the steady stream of liquid she's been holding back in her nose trickle down her throat, and uses her free hand to wipe furiously at her eyes. "I - I have to go," she stumbles. "I can't keep my friend waiting."

She hangs up not worrying about a 'goodbye'. She examines her eyes in her compact for any signs of redness, and obliterates her feelings into a million tiny pieces before leaving the privacy of the stall.

With her left hand, Quinn holds open the bathroom door for a frazzled-looking woman corralling two toddlers, while the right digs her cell phone out the front pocket of her jeans.

"Hello?"

"Oh, you are so cold." Rachel's voice fills Quinn's ear, and it redirects the blood in Quinn's veins so that it's no longer pounding heavy against her temples.

Quinn smiles. "You are a five year old." She takes a step to the right and Rachel loudly 'tsks' on the other end of the line.

"Unless you want to freeze to death, I wouldn't go that way."

With a snort, Quinn slowly moves her feet to the left.

"Still chilly, but you're getting there."

She spots Rachel (and her red beret) sitting on a bench - legs demurely crossed at the knee, and fingers self-consciously pulling at the hem of her skirt. With every step forward, Rachel keeps Quinn posted on how warm things are getting, and Quinn's vision blackens around the edges until there is no one, but this girl and her silly hat, and her voice carrying a melody all the way down into the marrow of Quinn's bones.

Rachel jumps to her feet, and throws her arms around Quinn's neck as though it had been a lifetime since they'd seen each other, and not just a weekend.

"You're burning up." Rachel chuckles.

Quinn pulls back with a deep breath. "Hi." She grins.

"Hi," Rachel says. She slips a hand through the crook of Quinn's arm.

"So, are you ready for a fantabulous weekend?"

"Of course."

"A friend of Harvey's is throwing this party tonight; it's in Hell's Kitchen, but I told him I didn't think you'd mind going. You don't, do you?"

"Harvey?" Quinn holds back a sigh. "Right, Harvey. No, I don't mind. That's cool."

Rachel scrunches her brows. "Are you sure? We can do something else, I just thought you'd rather get out for a while."

"I don't mind, Rachel." Quinn's smile is tightly reassuring. "I could use a drink."

*

Harvey is disappointingly nice; he opens doors, and asks Quinn an endless amount of questions in a genuine attempt to get to know her, and he is so attentive to Rachel- the ease at which he slides his fingers between Rachel's, Quinn admires almost as much as she loathes it. She takes a sip from her solo cup, and from over the top of her companion's shoulder, Quinn can see how Harvey keeps a hand in the small of Rachel's back.

"What do you plan on doing with that?"

"Hm?" Quinn's eyes dart to the girl in front of her. "With what?"

"A philosophy degree." The girl attempts a casual glance back, but Quinn catches a glimpse of embarrassment and disappointment when they are once again face-to-face. "The philosophy field isn't exactly a-boomin'."

Quinn snickers. "Did you really just say 'a-boomin'?"

The girl laughs, and Quinn knows she should feel bad for not bothering to remember names, but she just doesn't and "do you wanna get out of here" is the only part of their whole conversation that Quinn manages not to phone in.

In an apartment on 57th and Ninth with cheap beer sludging through her veins, Quinn is being guided up crowded stairs to a bedroom (far away from keg stands and boyfriends who don't mind holding purses) by this girl - this girl with beautiful brown skin and a charming laugh - and all she can do is wonder if Rachel looked back or not. This girl smells of lavender and tequila, and Quinn lets herself be kissed hard against the back of a door and she hopes Rachel tailed them with her eyes. She hopes it caused an awkward break in conversation.

This girl has her lips pressed against the skin below Quinn's earlobe, and Quinn would very much like to have her hand on the small of Rachel's back. And her jeans are being tugged at, and there'll be a bruise near her collarbone, and Quinn wishes she weren't in love all alone. Because there should be no guilt in making this girl come with her hand, but Quinn can't make her fingers slide past the waistband.

"I…I…" Quinn pants, and swallows. "I need a cigarette," she says.

"You what?"

Quinn zips her jeans with a weak shrug. "It's a really shitty habit. Just say no," she finishes sheepishly.

On the balcony, Quinn takes her first proper breath of the night while sucking at a filtered Marlboro tip.

"Our Lady of Perpetual Celibacy," she mutters.

"…Hey."

Quinn takes a long drag off the cigarette before she faces Rachel. She tilts her head back and shoots the smoke against the city lights. "Hi."

Rachel hovers near the door for a moment, tugging at the bottom of her coat. "It's really nice here, isn't it? Harvey said this apartment is rent controlled, and I now know I'm officially a New Yorker because the words 'rent controlled' came with a hallelujah chorus behind them. Dad and Daddy have stopped subtlety all together when discussions about my post-NYADA living arrangements come up."

"Yeah."

"I thought you would like Hell's Kitchen- not for the gentrification, I mean, but for the history," Rachel rambles and Quinn rests her elbows on the railing. "You know, the whole of our freshman year, Santana had me convinced that you were an Irish mafia princess?" She snickers. "Sometimes I still believe it."

Quinn knocks a bit of ash from the toe of her shoes. "There wasn't a single razorblade in her hair either."

With a soft laugh, Rachel mimics Quinn's position on the railing. She casts her eyes where stars would be if they were back in Ohio. "So…who's the girl? Not that I'm prying or anything."

"Of course you're not."

"What? I certainly don't think you're a saint. I was sure you felt attraction to someone, somewhere and that you simply chose not to display it- until tonight, that is."

Quinn snorts. "Oh, you were sure?"

"Okay, I just…" Rachel rolls her eyes. "But really, Quinn? That girl? From what I saw you didn't look very interested in her."

"I wasn't interested in conversation," Quinn tells her plainly.

The look of disappointment on Rachel's face stirs something deep and ugly in the pit of Quinn's stomach. "And who does Harvey think you are tonight?" Her tone is ice-like as she stretches forward to stub the cigarette out in a nearby ashtray.

Rachel blinks, taken aback. "No one," she says. "I'm no one."

Quinn's playing with the lighter in her pocket, and Rachel's gnawing on her bottom lip, and for a white-hot second Quinn Fabray hates Rachel Berry with every cell in her body. She'd rather let her thumb trace the back of Rachel's hand than let a gorgeous stranger shove their tits in her face, and she knows her stupid, wasted heart (long addicted to the ache) will never truly let it go.

"I'm going to get another drink. You want anything?" Quinn asks, but leaves without waiting on a reply.

Chapter Text

"I - have I done something wrong? This is not the optimal situation to discuss all the ways I could've offended you, and all the ways I'm going to be sick if nothing can be done to fix whatever it is I've done to make you go cold on me, but I feel like if I put this off, I'll get an aneurism from the anxiety. You were freezing, Quinn." Rachel exhales deeply. "And it freaks me out, and I need to talk about it." 

Rachel's head throbs in time with her heart beat, while Quinn props casually against the kitchen table. Quinn takes a sip of High Life- she crosses and uncrosses her legs, and fixes her mouth into a position that says not a fucking thing in the world could impress her. Rachel sees her universe tearing at the seams (and she wishes she were sixteen again. at least back then she knew how to deal with Quinn wanting anything but to share the same space of air. and she would rather her ghost of rejections had never received a taste of the friendship it martyred itself for.) 

Quinn leans forward like there aren't spider cracks running along Rachel's skin, and she shouts over a beat drop. "What did you say?" 

Rachel shakes her head. "Are you mad at me?" she loudly asks. 

Quinn’s eyes slightly bulge, and she grabs Rachel’s hand. Rachel used to have dreams about being dragged away by Quinn for having the audacity to flirt with life outside the walls of loserdom, and they were replaced by the much more welcome reality of Quinn’s fingers gently encircling a wrist (“Come sit with me while I smoke. Make me not feel like a total leper.”) Quinn is still gentle. She does not tug harshly, and though her legs take long strides, her steps are not obviously steeped in anger, and that’s good. That’s a good sign- Rachel measures eternity by the distance to the patio door, and even if it turns out she’s read Quinn’s body language all wrong, she’ll be okay. She’ll live. Rachel always lives; and it’s not like it would be the first time someone said they didn’t want to be her friend. She’s covered in combat wounds from trying to know Quinn Fabray, but she’ll make it.

Rachel doesn’t quite understand the look Quinn is giving her, but it ceases to matter when Quinn’s tongue trips all over, “I’m not mad at you.”

“I’m so sorry, Rachel. I was having a shitty day prior to seeing you – family shitty, and I haven’t been in a great mood. None of that is an excuse for being a jerk to you. You- you haven’t done anything wrong, my company just loves misery sometimes.” Quinn awkwardly shrugs her shoulders, and lets out a self-deprecating laugh. “I’m still learning how not to be a bitch.”

Rachel could faint from relief, her hand on Quinn’s shoulder acts as an anchor. “That’s been a work in progress for how long now?” she teases.

“It’s the rough draft of War and Peace at this point.” Quinn smiles. “I could never really be mad at you, you know?”

“Are you sure about that? My Grandma Berry once said Mother Teresa would’ve taken a swing at me after five minutes, but admittedly she’s grown super old lady mean in the past few years.”

“I’m very sure.”

“Good.” Rachel beams.

“Tell me when I suck. I promise I’ll come back to you every time.”  

Rachel doesn’t quite understand the look Quinn is giving her, but the words cause a hard thump in her chest. She laughs and jabs a finger at Quinn’s shoulder. “The jerk store called, and they’re running out of you.”

There’s a softness in Quinn’s eyes (Rachel is struck by it, and the way her eyes seem to be powered by a million-and-one pieces of the English language that have yet to be invented to describe them, and Rachel notices that when cold, Quinn has a tendency to turn her head and press her arms against her sides, and Rachel doesn’t know why she notices this, but she does and she’s happy, it’s like she woke up and now possess knowledge on how to dismantle an atomic bomb, and it’s all slightly amusing because long before she got to college, Rachel was a scholar in the study of Quinn up close and from afar, but she’s never really seen her – at least this feels like a first time – and from now ‘til the end of everything, Rachel will like Quinn Fabray just a little bit more when it’s winter.)

“So, do you want to talk about the ‘family shitty mood’?”

“I want to talk,” Quinn says, “but about anything else.”

Rachel?”

Fi’s head inches around the door; with eyes half-closed, she speaks in a drunken calm. “Hey, Harvey’s looking for you. He kept calling you, ‘Moon’ and I didn’t know who the fuck he was talking about for like five minutes.”

“Tell him I’ll be there shortly.”

You want me to say it just like that? Hey, Quinn.”

“Hey, Fiona.”

“Tell him I’ll be out in a minute.” Rachel dryly adds, “Do whatever makes you comfortable.”

A look of immense confusion passes over Fi’s face, but she waves a hand in surrender and disappears back around the corner. “Alright.”

“I can’t believe you right now!”

“Sorry, Rach. No, actually, I’m not sorry at all.”

“You know, if Kurt were here and he heard you refer to Celine Dion as a – and it kills me to even repeat this…”

Go on.”

“’Self-important, cornball weirdo’ he would chew your face off. As a matter of fact, I’m considering chewing your face off.”

“She friggen air-guitars, Rachel.”

“She is incomparable. You are a butthead.”

“Can you do smoke rings?”

“No, but I can try.” Quinn pauses for inhale, hollows her cheeks and blows. “I can only do smoke tubes.”

“I can roll a quarter on my knuckles.”

“If I had a butcher knife and wasn’t kind of drunk, I could totally show you this trick Mack taught me that summer after junior year.”

“No, but what I’m saying is, do you ever like see yourself outside of yourself? Like, how others perceive you, I mean? I – sometimes I’m so completely aware that I am a being in the world, and that my thoughts exist not only inside, but outside of myself. And maybe that’s all there is to life, an awareness of function.”

“Your brain is amazing.”

“Shut up.”

“I’m serious, Quinn. I’m sitting here all ‘streetlights pretty, weather cold’ and you are…spectacular.”

“I’m not, it’s barroom philosophy. The Tao of Jagermeister.”

“The Tao of – see, how do you do that? And don’t you tell me, you picked it up from The Skanks; Shelia needed notes on how to turn a faucet, I know they’re not responsible for this…this. Seriously, you speak in prose.”

“And my heart beats in poetry. Or something like it.”

“What kind of poetry?”

“Bukowski. Real dirty, old man shit.”

“…In a restless world, like this is, love has ended before it’s begun, and too many moonlight kisses seem to cool in the warmth of the sun… how can you not like that?!”

“I like it when you sing it. If it’s any consolation.”

“I never had a nickname growing up. It was ‘Lucy’, ‘Lucy-Quinn’ if I’d done something unacceptable, and then just ‘Quinn’.”

“My grandmother – the mean one – calls me ‘Bubby’. I didn’t have a strong grasp on my ‘l’s’ yet, and I was trying to tell her how my kindergarten teacher called my personality ‘bubbly’. Can I? Can I give you a nickname?”

“Sure. What are you gonna call me?”

“Oh, I dunno. I have to find the perfect name first. You can’t rush these things, Quinn.”

“Harvey’s so nice and all, but – oh my god, I completely forgot about Harvey.”

“Oh shit, right. Think he’s still looking for ‘Moon’?”

“Is it wrong that I just want to keep sitting here?”

Rachel leans forward, and briefly presses her nose between the bars on the railing. The ground is unforgiving, it’s cold and her legs are alternating between numb and prickly, and she’s forgotten what having a nose feels like, but she’s wearing Quinn’s beanie and watching the streets of Hell’s Kitchen below, and there’s nowhere else she would want to be.

Quinn smiles; it’s like a volume button has been turned quickly to off and back again, the way the sound dropped out in Rachel’s ears.

“If you’re here, I’m here.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

In one week she will be spending her spring break in Lima, and the look of disappointment that news brought to Fi’s face still floats around in Rachel’s mind- it turns things over, and bangs things like she’s disturbed some sort of ancient Native burial ground. Rachel had tried to convince Fi that she didn’t need Pensacola. That back home, Rachel Berry brought the party wherever she went, that once her feet touched Midwest soil, Rachel Berry was going to get high school style shitty (a schism occurred during the course of this conversation wherein she could no longer discern who Rachel Berry is from who Rachel Berry once wished she could be, and in her head she called herself ‘Barbra’), but honestly her hard partying was scheduled to involve a cotton candy eating competition with her Daddy at Cedar Point.

It’s a little past 9am, and Rachel’s only thinking about spring break because she’s been staring at the bit of Quinn’s head that’s poking out from underneath the covers. The subject had not been broached, but all signs pointed towards Quinn remaining in New Haven, and Rachel’s learned to rein herself in over the years, so she didn’t bombard Quinn with some of the more exciting activities she’d come up with on a list of ways they’d spend the break together. She settled for quiet dissatisfaction, and successfully toed the line between pouty and big, old crybaby (“I mean, spring break is coming up…I‘d like to see you as much a possible before a whole week of not seeing you, Quinn”) and never once did Rachel let her smarmy gloat face show when she picked Quinn up from Penn Station on a Monday night.

They fell asleep to Blue Velvet- she let Quinn choose a film for once, and Rachel didn’t understand a single frame, but vowed to watch it again because Quinn thinks her brain functions on a wave similar to Dennis Hopper huffing drugs through an oxygen mask (and David Lynch is maybe supposed to be their thing, so Rachel is bound and determined to get it no matter how much it freaks her out.) Rachel rose bright and early at five that morning. Her face is freshly scrubbed, her bladder is empty, her stomach retains the slight burn of two hundred sit-ups, and every five minutes or so, she digs her toes into the mattress to contend with her restlessness.

Because Rachel’s never crawled back into bed before. And somewhere in Gatlinburg, Tennessee Finn Hudson must be dying from the “fucking heart attack” he claimed would happen if Rachel ever got up past six in the morning.

Quinn turns over, and Rachel quickly shuts her eyes. Rachel slows her breathing, and keeps real still, and parts her lips just a touch. In her mind she looks at this bit of deception as a guerilla acting exercise (if Barbra skips class to hang with the cool kids, then surely she can skip a sunrise), but the truth is comprised of bits of deep-knee bends failing to hold her attention because she found herself missing the great and terrible sound of Quinn’s snoring, and the realization that not seeing Harvey in weeks elicited no guttural reaction at all. Their schedules stopped meshing, and Rachel never made time for him, and she never mourned his absence, and she never dwelled on why she just didn’t like him enough until she slipped quietly back into her room where Quinn was splayed across the bed, and as Rachel pulled the covers back, the feeling that she was on the verge of something was so powerful it made her shake.

Rachel takes a steady breath through her nose, cracks open an eye, and catches Quinn staring back at her with a smirk.

“I knew there was no way you weren’t awake.” Quinn’s voice is thick with sleep. It’s husky like she spent the previous night puffing cigarettes in a jazz bar, it tickles Rachel’s ears and wrings the most beautiful notes out of Rachel’s spine. Even with her hair standing on end, Quinn manages to be cool, and Rachel is momentarily sixteen and in awe.

“We’re playing hooky,” Rachel says. She attempts a lazy stretch as though she hadn’t already downed two cups of coffee. “I thought I’d give sleeping in a try.”

Quinn smiles, and presses her face into her pillow. “How long have you been up?”

“Ten minutes, tops. I have to say, that gentle buzz saw thing you do is far better than my alarm clock.”

“I don’t snore.” Quinn huffs and turns over on her back.

“How do you feel about ‘Lumberjack’ as a nickname?”

“I won’t hesitate to take this pillow to your face.”

Rachel laughs quietly, and Quinn rolls her eyes, but she’s still smiling.

“You’re a lumberjack, and you’re okay,” Rachel says.

“Shut up.”

“So, any ideas on what we should do today? I mean, laying in bed is…”

“Killing you softly?” Quinn chuckles.

“I was going to say ‘excellent’. But yes, if I stay in this bed any longer there’s a slight chance of blood leaking from my temples.”

Grabbing a pair glasses from the nightstand, Quinn slips them onto her face with a slight frown. “And you’ve only been up for ten minutes?”

“Tops,” Rachel says. She swings her legs over the side of the mattress, and pauses to turn around and give Quinn’s thick frames a gentle nudge with the tip of a finger. “Don’t look so gloomy when you wear these things. I like ‘em.”

*

“One day, I’m going to be able to pull out video evidence of MTV blurring my tits for my future grandkids to see, and you’re gonna what, Rachel? Entertain your family with tales of barn raising in Iowa over spring break?”

“Ohio.” Rachel gives a heavy sigh in Fi’s direction. “And, I’ve never met anyone with a barn.”

“It’s Pensacola, dude!” Fi shakes her head and side-steps Quinn as the other girl emerges from Rachel’s bedroom. “Oh, hey Quinn- you can help me out with this- Pensacola or Lima? How do you spend your week? Choose wisely.”

“New Haven,” Quinn says, flopping down next to Rachel on the couch. “Sorry, Fi.”

A deep frown settles onto Fi’s face. “Disappointments. The both of you.” Grabbing her backpack from its place on the kitchen bar, she slings it over her shoulder and mumbles her way to the door, “I just want to be drunk on a beach with my best friends, and marry Ryan Gosling. That’s all I want out of life.”

“Remember to take detailed notes today. I don’t want to miss anything important,” Rachel calls after Fi, and receives a middle finger in return.

Rachel glances down at her third cup of coffee. She brings the mug near her mouth and blows a steady breath across its long cooled surface. She can feel Quinn’s determined stare at the television even through the walls her own stare down of a patch of sunlight on the area rug is rushing to put up.

And there it is- no longer can a clumsy joke about Quinn’s staying behind be met with clumsier shrugs. It can never again be known as an inference. Rachel’s aware she’s prone to get attached to things as if their existence came to be simply because of hers (there’s an autographed picture of Celine Dion with Because You Loved Me-era hair marred with fingerprints in a shoe box under her bed, and it took Rachel until the age of seventeen to stop believing My Heart Will Go On’s wild success was due in part to Celine having been born to sing for her), so she’s been working on not being selfish, and acknowledging Quinn is a person separate from herself with her own Quinn Hopes and her own Quinn Dreams, and her own Quinn Wishes to spend the one week where they wouldn’t be separated by trains separated by 591 miles (and toll roads, and idiots who refuse to properly signal) instead is an absolute must. Rachel’s done that. She’s processed it, and the next step would be not to let her disappointment descend into anger, but she instantly failed.

“Um, how do you feel about a museum and a movie? I know it’s not exactly your skipping school fantasy, but my best days of driving to Cleveland to let drunk frat guys cop feels are behind me,” Quinn says.

Quinn Fabray just doesn’t go back home, and Rachel must accept this. She must take five calming breaths and remember that the sun does not revolve around her.

“Sounds great.” Her tone is a little short, Rachel reels it back. “You pick the movie?”

*
She’s sitting in an empty theater with Quinn, and Annie Hall is playing. Quinn knows this movie by heart and Rachel‘s learning it by watching Quinn mouth her favorite lines, and their hands have been accidentally brushing against one another in the popcorn tub.

Quinn props her feet on the back of an empty seat, and Quinn’s hand finds its way back into the popcorn, and Rachel feels salt scrape the side of her palm. “When I was a kid, I planned on dressing just like Diane Keaton as soon as I moved away.” Quinn tips her head towards the screen. “My mom caught me with one of my dad’s ties draped around my neck, and up until then I’d thought ‘throbbing forehead veins’ were just exaggerated descriptions in books.”

Rachel laughs. Loudly. With her head thrown back against the seat’s hard plastic. “My Dad was an extreme fan of Party of Five, and there was quite a long stretch of time where I believed I’d dress like Jennifer Love Hewitt when I grew up. So many crop tops. It was a travesty.”

The way Quinn says she would have loved to see that is so soft - it’s like she forgot they’re the only two people in the room, and Rachel leans so that their shoulders are touching and Rachel wants to whisper something about really admiring the cut of a bowtie on Quinn during that glee club performance forever ago, but she straightens back up and hugs her arms to her chest.

Quinn drops her jacket into Rachel’s lap. Rachel’s looking at Quinn, Quinn’s looking at the screen-lips quirked upward and mouthing Woody Allen’s dialogue- and Rachel spreads the jacket out, and there’s a faint smell of smoke when she tucks the collar under her chin.

 

*

They don’t talk much while waiting for the subway. Rachel palms the pack of Marlboros she found in the right pocket, and wonders if Quinn would be okay with her borrowing this jacket. It’s more comfortable than the ones hanging in her closet, and she could really use something light for Lima.

Rachel wonders if she has separation anxiety issues.

 

*

They’re standing in front of the Alaskan Brown Bear diorama. Rachel’s only been to the Museum of Natural History once before, when Fi wanted to trick the kindergarten teacher she was seeing into believing she loved children; Rachel spent a Saturday afternoon with a five-year-old named Molly attached to the hem of her dress, and barreled through a small existential crises when comparing her own size in the world to that of the bones of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

She likes the dioramas much more.

The tour guide is talking about the conservation of big game animals- she thinks. That’s the last thing Rachel remembers hearing anyway. She’d been thinking that maybe the museum is like Annie Hall-something Quinn swore to do once Our Lady of Perpetual Peace was in the distance of her tail lights, and that thought led to another about whether Santana knows Quinn secretly wants to wear ties and likes history (she really, really hopes Santana‘s completely in the dark about these things because for a long time it seemed like Santana was something of a Quinn Fabray Rosetta Stone. Rachel‘s working on deciphering all the meanings in Quinn‘s movements, but would still like to have an advantage somewhere), and she made the mistake of glancing at Quinn glancing at giant bears, and now she can’t stop looking. And she hasn’t heard a word the guide’s said in what feels like the time it takes to build a civilization and destroy it.

And her stomach is in knots.

And she feels like she’s drowning.

*

“You know, your mom would probably faint if you showed up on her doorstep.” This is said after a hard swallow of tofu “chicken” salad.

Quinn is casual; she rests her back against the headboard of Rachel‘s bed, and takes a bite of her pizza. “That’s quite possible,” Quinn says. “She’s so goddamn dramatic.”

“I wish you were coming with me,” Rachel says. “There- it’s out there. I’m that needy friend. You’re never getting your jacket back, by the way.”

“Keep it. It looks better on you.”

“I’ll forgive you for lying just now if you come to Lima.”

“Rachel…”

“Quinn…”

“Don’t, okay?” Quinn sighs. “I just - need some time alone to clear my head.”

‘Why can’t you clear your head with me?’ is on the very tip of Rachel’s tongue, but she swallows the sentence and stabs her fork into a lone grape. She tosses her empty plate onto the nightstand, reaches for Quinn’s and stops. Quinn is pushing her glasses up on the bridge of her nose- Quinn’s been wearing her glasses all day, she’s been…she’s been…

“You wanna get a drink later or something? I don’t have class until five tomorrow.”

Rachel’s mind is very quiet and very clear. The kiss she presses to Quinn’s lips is so quick it nearly goes unnoticed.

They’re staring at each other, and Rachel feels like giggling- maybe she is- she kisses Quinn again, and again, and again until Quinn’s got a hand in place to keep Rachel from moving away.