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A Song is a Weapon

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October, 2011

Lima, Ohio

 Excerpt from Yale application essay by Quinn Fabray:

 “Ultimately, the opportunity to attend Yale University will be a culmination of my academic and athletic talents, as well as my interest in drama and the arts. My father attended Yale University, and I can think of no finer way to better myself than by following in his footsteps.”

 Santana actually cackles. “This is fucking perfect. You get to use your dad’s status as an alumnus to get in, and he can’t say anything against it without admitting that he’s an asshole and left your family. Well played, Fabray. Well played.” She raises her hand for a high-five, and gets one.

Quinn reaches for the popcorn bowl in Santana’s lap, smirking a little.
Curling herself around Santana’s arm, Brittany frowns. After taking a handful of popcorn, she says, “I don’t get it, are we playing a game? Can I play?”

Quinn smiles serenely. “Sure, B. You can be on my team - we’re totally gonna win.”

 

Late August, 2012

New Haven, Connecticut

The air isn’t as stuffy as her dorm room, but a dense humidity still hangs over Yale’s student organization fair. Upperclassmen sit behind tables with half-assed posters and sign-up sheets, trying to get new people to join their clubs. Most of the people meandering through the tables are freshmen like her, but there are some awkward-looking sophomores walking around who must not have found anything to be a part of last year.

Pushing past a throng of people, Quinn breaks away from the tables and finds a bench on the other side of the sidewalk. She sets a fistful of quarter-paper fliers down next to her, and tucks a shock of flyaway hair behind her ear. Her hair is finally past her shoulders again after she’d cut it short at Nationals, junior year.

A flier for the girls’ a capella group is above the one for the Lutheran church’s choir. She isn’t interested in actually joining any of these, though.

An attractive boy who reminds her of Sebastian Smythe approaches her bench. Her first instinct is to grab her cell phone and start texting Puck in order to make her disinterest clear, but then her eyes fall on the crest sewn on his jacket, and she thumbs her phone back off.

The boy walks right up to her and sticks his hand out, smiling at her and doing his best to ooze charisma.

“Quinn Fabray, right?”

Quinn has met a lot of people the last two weeks, but she knows that she has not met this boy before. Fixing a bemused expression on her face, she shakes his hand. “And what’s your name, Mr. Psychic?”

“I’m Nick, but I’m no psychic,” he says, his smile almost wider than Sam’s but with way more teeth. He taps the insignia on the front of his coat. “Your dad was in Skull and Bones. Like me. Did he ever tell you that?”

“Yeah, but we d--” she stops herself, and also forces herself to not bite her bottom lip. “Yes, he was.”

“Skull and Bones doesn’t have a table here, but I can talk to you about joining, if you’re interested.” He offers his hand to her, and she takes it, pulling herself up. The quarter-page fliers get left behind on the bench.

 

One Week Later

New York City, New York

Kurt shifts his paper grocery bag to his left hand while he sticks his key in the hole and attempts to enter his apartment. Rachel had thrown the dead-bolt, though.

He lifts his eyebrows and gives a big smile to the peep hole while he waits for her to unlock the door.

“Sorry Kurt, I beat you home today.” He hands her one of the bags.

“It’s fine. So long as you don’t ever fall asleep and leave me out here on the stairwell…”

“Never! I would never do that to you, Kurt!” she laughs. “That would be pretty funny, though…”

Seeming appropriately chastised by his quick glare, Rachel changes tack. “Let’s see what the haul is today,” she says, setting his bags on the counter and opening the cupboard to get clean plates.

"Sliced beets, cut-up turnips, sprouts, spinach, garlic scapes, and cherry tomatoes," he says, toeing off his shoes. "I'm so glad that you work at this place," says Rachel, referring to the hipster deli that is a vegan oasis in Manhattan. "Fresh vegetables are so expensive here, otherwise."

"Me too," Kurt says, smiling. "Even if I have to wield a spork of justice to fight my co-workers for the leftovers."

He slumps on to the couch, loosening his tie while Rachel arranges their salads on plates. Kurt picks up her cell phone from the arm of the couch, still slid open with the keypad out.
"Quinn text you back yet?" An awkward silence follows, and Kurt realizes that Rachel had been humming, but has now stopped.

"No," she says briskly, handing Kurt his plate, which has a cloth napkin underneath even though neither of them ever spill.

Feeling sympathetic, he eyes her carefully, munching a beet drizzled with vinegar and olive oil. "You know, sometimes after graduation, some people just end up totally cutting everyone off…Quinn had a rough time in high school, maybe she just wants--"

"I appreciate your concern, Kurt," she cuts him off. "Quinn's different," she adds, shortly. “The whole club was all really close…especially by the end of senior year. Quinn and I hung out all summer.”

Kurt carefully sucks on the tines of his fork. Sometimes Rachel needs to be pushed, and sometimes she reacts like a feral cat on steroids.

"Well, maybe you could just double check? Call Santana or something. See if it’s just you, or if she’s really trying to cut her ties." Rachel exhales deeply, and Kurt becomes worried that she's finding it necessary to try meditative calming exercises during this conversation. (He doesn’t know many people who claim to practice meditation, but he’s pretty sure that Rachel is its most intense practitioner, and that nostril flares are not actually supposed to be part of the calming breathing.)

"Things just don't make any sense. This isn’t me being a stalker, or making up a friendship that isn’t real, Kurt. We hung out all summer long. She texted me pictures of her dorm room every day after move-in until a week ago. Quinn isn't like…the rebellious girl who leaves for college and starts getting drunk every night just because she's away from her parents. She basically didn’t have parents for most of high school. I’m really worried about her. Like ready to call the police worried." she finishes.

"I don’t think the police should be your first call," he says mildly, taking her empty plate back to the sink.

He leaves her frowning on the couch, and ends up smiling at soapy dishwasher when he hears her ask Siri to call Santana.

--

Santana hesitates before picking up the phone. She’s already washed all of her makeup off her face, but sometimes Rachel has good stories and isn’t calling to ask her to ride three subway stops to their place. Like the time she called to tell her that Kurt had cornered her and asked if she had a terminal illness because she was shedding so much hair, as he couldn’t remember ever sharing a bathroom with a woman. They had laughed for ten minutes straight, while Kurt huffed in the background that cancer actually wasn’t funny.

She picks up the cell and thumbs it on.

"What?" she snaps into the phone. “I don’t have time to hang out tonight.”

"Santana, I know that our friendship has only recently started blossoming, so perhaps it's irritating for me to be calling--"

God, why use 5 words when you could use 57? "Spit it out, Berry."

"I just.... have you heard from Quinn lately?" Rachel asks.

"Q? We talked last week, before she was going to her school's club fair, or whatever the fuck it was. I haven't heard from her since then, but I just figured she was busy." It’s actually super weird not to hear from Q at least once every few days, but she doesn’t share this.

"Right," says Rachel. "I just wonder.... have you ever gone this long without talking to her before? I'm worried that---"

"Yes," says Santana acidly. "I've gone this long without talking to her before. What'd you say to her that set her off? Bitch is really sensitive, did you try talking about her dad? Beth?"

"What? No!" Rachel squawks. "We've never gone this long without talking before. Since graduation, I mean."

"Well, aren't you two special, then. Look, I haven't heard from Q, but it doesn't matter. She goes into bitch mode sometimes and there's fuck-all anybody can do about it. Just leave her alone for a few more days and she'll text you like nothing happened. Don't cry to me every time you're not the center of her world. Go walk around NYADA. Get laid. Get Kurt laid if you're saving yourself for Fabray. Just don't bother me about this again."

She hangs up before Rachel can start crying, and then sighs deeply. Britts would be mad at her if she had heard that conversation. Quinn hasn’t responded to Santana’s texts in about as long as she hasn’t replied to Berry’s. Sometimes Q goes MIA, but never to all of them at once. Glee people are overwhelming little shits, though. Santana doesn’t blame her for trying to meet some new people and turning her fucking cell off so that she can focus on starting new friendships.

That’s what she would be doing, if she hadn’t been a dumbass last year and not applied to any schools. (That’s not going to happen again next year. Santana pushes her big toe against the color-coded application instructions for colleges in New York City, which Rachel had arranged chronologically arranged by due date.)

And good for Berry if this is the first time she and Quinn haven't talked every second of every day. But Quinn and Santana fight all the time. It doesn't mean anything, just that maybe Quinn likes Berry more as a friend lately.

The fuck?

She brushes it off, and stands to take her toiletry basket into the bathroom with her for the evening facial regimen. This entire apartment is about the size of a closet, so the bathroom is just a shower, a sink, and a toilet, with no cupboards.

Her phone buzzes and she picks it up, contemplating how to threaten violence against Rachel using emoticons. Instead, it's a text message from Puckerman:
"What crawled up Quinn's ass and died? Bitch hasn’t texted me back in over a week."

Her irrational frustration with Rachel dissipates instantly. She sets the phone down and frowns at it.

 

3 Hours Later

Kurt calls Santana around 10:30pm - Rachel had disappeared from their apartment. Her packet of train tickets was lying in the middle of her bed, with one ticket torn out.

“Are you three meeting up in New Haven or something? Rachel didn’t call anyone else after you, but she left, and some of her train tickets are gone.”

“No,” says Santana. “God, she’s such an annoying piece of shit. I told her to leave Quinn alone, so what does she do? Packs a bag and runs after her. Quinn could be hooking up with a guy! And now Berry will show up at her dorm asking why she won’t return her asinine texts.”

Kurt lets all of the swipes at Rachel pass, knowing that if he starts something, Santana absolutely will not focus. “Actually, I don’t think she packed a bag. Her day bag is still in the bottom of her closet. Anyway, I just assumed that you were going, too, and I wanted to check to make sure that’s where she actually went. If you want one of her tickets, I could meet you at the train station….. They’re cheaper out of the package than if you buy them there.”

Santana’s quiet for a moment, and Kurt waits. Santana had left her cheerleading scholarship for New York City, using her mom’s money. She had refused to live with Rachel and Kurt, and at his advice Rachel hadn't badgered her about it. Even though she Skypes with Brittany every night, loneliness has made her a frequent visitor at Kurt and Rachel's. Still, he knows that any verbal acknowledgment of feelings will cause her to lash out.

“Whatever, Hummel. Meet me at Grand Central.”

Kurt let his smile seep into his voice. “See you in 10, Santana.”

 

New Haven, Connecticut

 Rachel steps off the train. As the other passengers slowly tug their luggage down the steps, she walks quickly away, almost bouncing. She has traveled with a wallet and her cell phone, and nothing else. She hadn’t even left a note for Kurt. Her phone hums, and she whips it out, hoping for Quinn. She is at first disappointed as she reads:

 

Kurt Hummel, 10:13pm

Santana’s following you on the next train. She’s jealous because you’re important to Quinn. If you tell her I texted you this, I will kill you.

 

The last sentence makes her laugh, even if he’s being flippant. Kurt seems to think Rachel had taken the train to Yale for a sleepover, or something. She tucks her phone away again. Countless conversations with her dads and her therapist float through her mind, reminding her about overreacting and jumping to conclusions.

She balls her fists. She doesn’t want Quinn to be in any kind of trouble, but she knows that something is very wrong, and that nobody will believe her or help her unless she gets proof.

Filing a missing person’s report was out of the question, though, at least according to Kurt. “Oh my God Rachel, you haven’t even tried calling her mom. Just because she hasn’t texted you or Santana doesn’t mean that she’s dead or missing. It just means that she’s meeting new people at college. That’s NORMAL.”

Rachel will ride a train to New Haven, but she is not about to try and have a conversation with Judy Fabray.

They haven’t visited each other yet, but Quinn had sent her specific instructions on how to get to her dorm even before she’d moved to New Haven. Rachel had been wondering how to get inside of Quinn’s building, but it turns out not to be a problem, as some undergrad leaving the building smiles and holds the door open for her, as though she lived there too.
This is exactly how Quinn got abducted! Think about the security of your fellow dorm-mates! She smiles at him instead, and slips inside. She doesn’t want to make a scene.
Yet.

 

A conversation with Quinn’s roommate Stephanie reveals that Quinn hasn’t been in her room or in class for the last 6 days. Some girl down the hall had been the last one on the floor to see Quinn and she’d seen her at the student org fair, talking to a boy in Skull and Bones. Stephanie had talked to their floor’s RA, who had told her not to worry, that it’s normal for people who join Skull and Bones to go on frequent retreats, and that her schoolwork wouldn’t suffer.

Rachel has no idea how much Quinn likes her roommate, but given how long it takes Quinn to open up (if ever), Rachel tries to make it seem like she’s concerned, but not overly worried, so that she doesn’t freak her out or cause awkward conversations later.

“Well,” says Stephanie, “I’m going to a party that one of the girls down the hall is throwing. If you want to leave Quinn a note, go ahead.” She smiles at Rachel, seeming unperturbed at leaving Rachel alone in her dorm room: something Rachel would never do.

“Skull & Bones, do they have a house somewhere, like a frat?” asks Rachel.

“No, but this guy and I spent one of our classes looking them up on Wikipedia. They have an island about 6 hours away that they use for retreats, and there’s a tomb on campus that they use for meetings. It’s kind of weird, but I guess the tomb isn’t as creepy as it sounds. It’s on this block, actually, just south of here.”

Rachel nods, memorizing every detail but pretending to not be very interested.

“Anyway, I’m going to that party. Nice meeting you.”

“Yes, you too!” says Rachel, as Stephanie slips out the door. It’s pretty apparent that Stephanie thinks she’s made out on a single room, and doesn’t give a rip about Quinn.

Rachel touches Quinn’s bed, straightening the pillow. Her eyes fall across Quinn’s desk, all of which is in order. There’s a pile of CDs she can’t live without in case her computer crashes. There are three neat rows of well-loved paperbacks, plus a few that look brand-new, obviously for her classes.

There’s a handwritten letter lying next to a closed laptop, addressed to Tina. Rachel chews her bottom lip and then reads it - typical, details about classes, the campus, and how much she misses Glee. She asks Tina to say hi to Mr. Schuester and Ms. Pilsbury for her - the same instructions aren’t included for Artie or Sam or Brittany, because Rachel knows she still talks to them and it’s unnecessary for Tina to do it on her behalf.

There isn’t really anything else to look at. A closet full of Quinn’s clothes. A basket with Quinn’s toiletries for her trips to the communal bathroom. A collection of makeup and hair accessories. Jewelery.

She flips Quinn’s laptop open. The screen asks for a password, though. Rachel tries Beth, and a few other names. Her favorite songs. Nothing.

She only has one clue. It’s 11pm on a Friday night, but she’s already here at Yale, and she doesn’t want to go back to New York unless she’s done everything she can.

She texts Santana:

 

Rachel Berry*, 11:15pm

Santana, Quinn’s roommate hasn’t seen her in a week but her RA downplayed it. Meet me on the bench outside her dorm room when you get here.

 

She hesitates, and then sends another text before Santana can write back:

 

Rachel Berry* 11:16pm

If something happens to me, I’m checking out Skull & Bones; Quinn was last seen with one of their members. RA think she’s on a S&B “retreat.”

 

Rachel gets up to leave. She almost walks through the door, but then she steps back and takes one of Quinn’s necklaces. It’s a cross, but Rachel doesn’t really care. It’s Quinn’s. She fastens it around her neck.

 

There’s an ominous-looking tomb half a block away, just like Stephanie said there would be. Nobody is standing around outside of it, so Rachel slips through a creepy (but unlocked) wrought iron fence, walks right up to the weathered, painted wooden door, and knocks on it.

She’s answered with silence. She tries the door knob, but the door is locked.

She is not leaving without knowing where Quinn is.

She knocks again, pounding with her tiny fist. “HEY! IS THERE ANYONE THERE?!” She pounds her fist a few times more. Some kids on the sidewalk across the street titter at her. Her voice isn’t as loud outside as it would be inside - and this building looks like it might have fantastic acoustics on the other side of the door.

She waits again, pondering whether belting out a song would get someone’s attention. Or maybe there’s just nobody here. Just as she’s deciding whether Don’t Rain on My Parade would be the most appropriate, the door is flung open, and a boy with a crew-cut appears, looking irritated at first, but then breaking out into a smile as his eyes fall on her.

“Hi there, beautiful, can I help you?”

Her cheeks flush a little bit - no matter the circumstance, compliments always overwhelm her. Years of slushies in the face will do that.
Focus, Rachel.

“I certainly hope that you can,” she says, smiling at him. “I’m looking for my friend, Quinn. We were supposed to hang out this weekend, but she’s not in her dorm room.”

His face betrays no recognition when she says Quinn’s name, but she waits before offering any more information to see what he’ll give her.

“What made you come looking here? And what’s your name, sweetheart?” he asks.

“Her roommate said that she joined your club at the student org fair,” says Rachel, ignoring his second question and focusing on Quinn.

“Well we’re in a meeting right now. It’s part of our welcome week for new members to Skull and Bones,” he said. “I know it’s late on a Friday night, but Quinn really is busy, so she can’t come and see you. I’m really sorry that Quinn made plans with you, she wasn’t supposed to. I’m sure she’ll call you as soon as our retreat is over.”

“Oh, perfect!” claps Rachel. “And what time this evening will that be?”

The boy is clearly becoming annoyed, now. “Not tonight. It’s going to last the rest of the weekend. It takes longer for different people.”

Rachel’s eyes narrow. There is nothing about this that doesn’t scream WRONG. She wants to get Quinn and leave, maybe even take her back to New York. Quinn had never even expressed an interest in joining a club like this. She finds it very unlikely that Quinn actually wants to be there.

Deciding that she didn’t care how much of a scene she made (and really, when did Rachel ever care about making too big of a scene?), she balls her fists and tips her head back.

“QUINN!” she bellows. There is no way that anyone inside the creepy tomb building couldn’t hear her.

The crew-cut boy smiled at her, unimpressed. “Listen, Miss, what did you say your name was? Quinn’s busy right now. She’s not going to come to the door.”

Her phone vibrates, and she ignores it.

“Quinn seems to have ‘been busy’ for an entire week. Please let me see her, I need to talk to her.”

Her phone vibrates again, insistent. Listening to her gut, she pulls it out of her pocket with two fingers.

She almost drops it when she sees Quinn’s name back-lit on the screen, and she thumbs over to read her text.

“Like I said, Quinn is busy,” the guy continues as she reads the text on the screen, sounding annoyed that she’s looking at her phone now.

 

Quinn Fabray, 11:47pm

Rachel, do not tell Nick who you are, or anything about you. Walk away.

 

She feels fear spread, hot in her stomach. She tips the cell phone toward her chest, exhaling deeply, suddenly paranoid that Nick saw the screen even though he couldn’t have.
Nick assumes she was directing the noise of frustration at him. “Look, I’m sorry I can’t help you the way you want me to.”

Her eyes rest on the crest on his shirt, which she hadn’t noticed before: Skull & Bones. Well, they have their own tomb. Of course they have their own crest. “If you tell me your name, I can tell Quinn that you were asking about her.” He smiles easily, like she should trust him.

Still, Quinn’s text. She also notes that it’s the third time in this conversation that he’s asked her for her name.

She breathes deeply through her nose. She has no idea what is going on, or why Quinn is sending her such a creepy text after a week-long silence, or WHY Quinn can’t just come outside and talk to her, but she trusts Quinn wholeheartedly.

Right, then. Acting.

Rachel smiles. “I know that you would help me if you could; you’re so sweet! I’ll just go home for the night, I guess. I’m sure that Quinn will call me as soon as she can. Thank you so much for your help! I hope that you have a good night!”

She turns and smartly walks away from the building, back toward Quinn’s dorm. It would be weird for him to ask for her name a fourth time, and borderline creepy. Still, she’s afraid that he’s going to do it anyway, so she doesn’t turn back. She hears the huge door close as he goes back inside.

Her phone vibrates again, and she thumbs it open immediately.

 

Quinn Fabray, 11:52pm

Rachel, someone is going to follow you. Don’t let them see anyone else or know your name. Don’t go to the train station. I will call you tomorrow. I’m sorry.

 

Rachel stops walking, eyes narrowing and breath quickening.

There are a few people walking back to their dorms on the other side of the street, but they’re talking normally, drunkenly. Everyone but her is part of a group. She knows it’s not midnight yet, there’s no way Santana is even here. But once she is, what is Rachel supposed to do, if she can’t go by Santana and she can’t go home?

 

Quinn Fabray, 11:53pm

Don’t stop walking. Don’t let them catch up with you, don’t let them talk to you. I’m sorry this is so weird, please just trust me, Rachel. I promise to talk to you tomorrow somehow.

 

Her first thought is distracted, noting that even though she was texting directly to her, Quinn still used her name, just as though she were speaking with her face to face. She knew it would still help calm Rachel down.

Then Rachel reflects more on what Quinn had actually said, and she feels fear. Where is she supposed to go?

Don’t let them see anyone else, like Quinn knew that Santana could be there, too, or maybe she was assuming Kurt came with her. If Santana followed Rachel’s text instructions, she was going to be waiting on the bench outside Quinn’s dormitory.

Can’t go there. Can’t go to the train station, either.

She turns away from the dorms, so that she won’t run into Santana. Unsure of what to do, she crosses the street so that she’s opposite the Skull and Bones tomb and walks like she knows where she’s going.

It’s impossible to tell if anyone’s following her because kids her age are both walking toward the dorms coming back from house parties, and also away from the dorms going home after dorm parties. She doesn’t think anyone is, though. Still, Quinn’s text said someone is going to follow you, not that someone might but someone would.

Everything is just so weird, and she wishes she could call Kurt or Santana, but if she isn’t supposed to let anyone know her name or see Santana, then she probably shouldn’t talk to anyone on the phone, either. Quinn must not want anyone in Skull and Bones to know who she is.

It’s almost midnight, and she’s alone in the dark in a city she’s never been in. If she can just get away, maybe she can find a restaurant that’s still open and text Santana to come and meet her. Restaurants will be closed, though… and she’s not going to be able to get into a bar this late at night without an ID. Maybe she should have allowed Noah to procure one for her, like he had offered in July.

Focus.

She’s beyond campus now, or at least she is beyond the dorms. It’s hard to tell if the buildings around her are businesses or buildings that held classes. There isn’t constant chatter all around her anymore - she’s alone. Hopefully.

She’s too afraid to turn around and check that nobody is behind her, because she doesn’t know what she will do if someone is following her. She pulls a hair tie out of her pocket and pulls her hair into a ponytail, drawing her hair away from her ears.

She sees a bank up ahead, with an ATM sticking out of the wall. The bank is closed, obviously, but the building is a wall of glass, with one angled panel at the end that should allow her to look behind her.

She forces herself to walk at a normal pace, not speeding up or slowing down as she approaches the bank. If someone is following her, it wouldn’t do for them to know she is about to run before she starts.

Right? Was running even the best option?

You don’t even know if someone’s there yet. Breathe, Rachel. Breathing always gives you control.

She’s at the bank. She looks, very quickly, into the angled panel of glass. She can clearly see a boy about as big as Finn and as muscular as Noah 30 feet behind her, in a suit coat like Nick’s, and jeans.

There is nothing else to do. She breaks into a sprint and turns the first corner she sees. As soon as she starts, she can hear shoes slapping the pavement behind her.

Finn had played sports, and when they went on runs together, he used to talk about going at a slower pace for a longer workout. As much as she had loved spending time with Finn, she had hated their runs together. She wanted to tear through the route and get there, be there, end the grueling ordeal. The destination was the most important part.

Which is to say. She can run and she knows she’s faster than the guy behind her, but she knows that he was built for endurance, just like Puck and Finn, and he will overtake her if she can’t find a way to ditch him.

She is deeply thankful that she hadn’t waited to pack any bags in New York. If she had so much as a purse on her right now, she would have already had to drop it.

Somehow her mind is turning these complex logical thoughts, but the rest of her body is buzzing with fear.

She should have turned toward campus to begin with, and run where she knew there were other people.

But she hadn’t, and if she did a 180 now, she would be caught.

Why is he running after me anyway?! Why would Quinn tell me where not to go, but not where to go? What a waste of a text.

“Please just talk to me,” the male voice behind her grunts. “Just need to talk to you really quick, please.”

Rachel doesn’t bother to respond - she doesn’t want to waste any air.

Air, keep sucking it down. Control comes from breathing, don’t stop, don’t waste it.

Everything in downtown New Haven is shut-up office buildings. Where were the people?! She had apparently gotten used to New York City after only two and a half months of living there. Being in a space with no other visible people makes her feel anxious, out of control. There are no spectators, no audience - nobody who can help her.

She has to be getting close to the harbor - once she gets there, she has no idea what she will do. She could bank right or left, but eventually she was going to run out of her sprint-pace, and then he’d catch her.

“I just need to talk to you, little girl. Please just let me tell you more about where Quinn is.”

Rachel’s head whips around when he said Quinn’s name. “I am not a little girl!” she snaps. While her head is turned, she doesn’t get a good look at the guy’s face, but she realizes that there is metal glinting off his hip.

Oh my God, is that a gun?! She almost trips, but catches herself, ending up losing a couple feet of distance between the two of them.

Desperate, she fakes going right, and then banks left, hard. She almost screams when she realizes that this is a dead end, and the street ends with a chain-link fence. Well, a fence and some plywood boards leaning against it that would probably support her weight, but not his.

Is there even enough distance between her and her tail to allow her to scale the fence without giving him enough time to grab her feet and pull her back down?

There’s no time to turn around and check, so she runs harder, making herself gain as much speed as she can before reaching the cheap plywood and doing her best to run up it like a cat, not too heavy. She hunches over as she reaches the top, grabbing the top of the fence with her fingers and letting herself walk her feet down the other side.

Her tail reaches the plywood and charges up, immediately punching his right leg through the plywood from the knee down.

He yells, “Fuck!” while Rachel turns and runs straight into some bramble, pushing forward anyway because if she makes it through, he won’t be able to see where she’s going. It’ll take him a minute or two to pull his leg out, and run around the block to her side.

Out through the brush, she stops short, realizing that after the sharp gravel decline, there’s the harbor. There’s traffic to her left, headlights following the curved road to a bridge that goes over the water.

Not sure how else to lose her follower, she slides down the gravel toward the dark water, doing her best to control her fall. She’s still breathing hard, and she can feel scratches on her arms and her face protesting against the open air.

At the water’s edge, she allows herself three panting breaths, trying to make each one as long as she can, even though she is terrified that her tail is going to appear any minute.

Solo. Let’s do this.
She sucks in a final deep breath and slips under the water (the water is freezing!), taking care not to splash, and then kicks as hard as she can, propelling herself downward into a dive, taking care not to break the surface.

She has no idea if he’s even going to think about the water as a possibility or not. If he does, no matter how long she can hold her breath, he’s going to find her easily.

She wants to surface, but she doesn’t, pushing herself further.

She can feel a burning in her chest, and panic rising.

You’re going to get air, just wait, please wait.

She kicks again, pushing her body forward as many precious inches as she can.

She finally surfaces, lifting as little of her head out of the water as possible and tries to breathe in deeply without gasping.

Her body wants the air desperately, immediately, and she forces herself to take slow, easy breaths, making as little noise possible.

This is an excellent breath control exercise, actually.

She can hear heavy footsteps jogging back and forth on the gravel. Looking up, she realizes that she has made it to the underside of the bridge.

“I don’t know where you are, little girl, but if you can hear me, just stay the fuck away from Quinn if you don’t want to die.”

Rachel focuses on her breath, every exhalation sending tiny lines of ripples away from her lips.

 

12:45am

 

Santana sits on the bench outside of Quinn’s dorm with her legs crossed, arms crossed, looking pissed off. Rachel’s first text had been clear, but her second one was fucking useless. If something happens to me, my ass. What the fuck was she supposed to do with that? How long should she wait before deciding something had happened?

She had already sent Brittany to sleep with a string of dirty text messages, some of her better work, she thought smugly. She slips her hand into her pocket, ready to thumb it on and try texting Puck.

She realizes that she can hear someone breathing heavily and approaching her.

Fuck! What if it’s some fucking weirdo. She looks around for a stick or something - there are trees around - but sees none. Fucking Yale and its well-kept lawns. There’s nothing for it. She waits, 911 dialed into her phone with her thumb hovering over “send.”

She finally looks over her should and saw a slight figure, completely soaked and dripping water all over the sidewalk.

“Christ! Rachel?!” she shrieks. “Rachel, what the fuck?”

Rachel had been using shaking hands to pull her dripping her hair out of her face. Water sluices off her nose, her chin. Her mouth is open, sucking in air. She tries to shush Santana, and then coughs harshly.

“Shhhh,” she hisses, frantic. “Be quiet, don’t let them hear you, please don’t let them come here,” she begs.

Who?” asks Santana, walking forward now to squeeze water off Rachel’s mane of hair, while Rachel uselessly bunches her soaking shirt and squeezes it, wringing the water out.

“I couldn’t text you, my phone’s full of water - it won’t turn on. I couldn’t get you away-”

Santana unzips her overnight bag and pulls out a zip-up hoodie and says, “Take your shirt off and put this on. Last thing I need is Hummel blaming me for you getting sick.”

Rachel complies while Santana arches an eyebrow to make sure nobody’s watching, shucking off her t-shirt quickly, and pulling the zipped sweatshirt over her head, further muffling her already low voice.

“I can’t....think. We need to get out of here, fast. Somewhere, I don’t know - anywhere, please San--, just take me. Quinn said - we can’t go to the dorm. We can’t let anyone see us. Don’t say anyone’s name again, please.” She’s still sucking air down like it’s going to stop being there.

Santana is seriously wigged now. Rachel is just genuine, raw emotion. There is no pretense of performance or disturbing narcissism here. Just Rachel. Terrified.

“I’ll.... call a cab, it can take us to the train station.”

“No train, we can’t go to the train station, Quinn said.” She scrubs at her face with her palms.

“Wait, so you talked to Q? Where is she?”

“I can’t… I’ll tell you everything when we get somewhere to spend the night. I need to just... fall apart. We have to tell K—my roommate, though,” she says, suddenly urgent. “If they figure out who I am. She said not to let them see me, not to let them hear my name. I can’t... he had a gun,” she says, her voice lowering back to its normal register now. “He said if I ever come after Quinn again, he would kill me.”

Santana steps forward, concerned and disturbed. She takes Rachel’s hand and rubs the back of it with her thumb while she calls a cab. Then she leads Rachel to a street bench to wait for the cab, while calling Kurt, making various threats until he agrees to her demands.

Santana hangs up and looks at Berry, who’s looking beyond the street light’s reach, flinching every time the wind moves.

“Don’t you have a bag?” she asks, wondering if she should hold her hand or something.

“I didn’t bring one,” Rachel mumbles. “I didn’t want to take the time to pack one. I thought…I couldn’t waste any time, if I could find Quinn-” her voice breaks on Quinn’s name, and Santana feels sympathetic and annoyed at the same time. What the fuck is she supposed to do if Berry cries all over her? She isn’t Kurt, or Finn. She doesn’t do emotional releases.

Rachel doesn’t cry, though. After her voice cracks, she just covers her lips with the tips of her fingers, and falls silent. She leans into Santana, though, eventually resting her sodden head on her shoulder.

Santana doesn’t shrug her off, figuring the girl’s had enough for one night.

Finally, the cab pulls up. The wash of the headlights reveal how pale and strung-out Rachel is. The cab driver is looking slack-jawed, so Santana says,
“Oh my God, roofies and then this bitch fell in the water. Guys are such pigs. Can you take us to a motel? There is no way we are sleeping at my boyfriend’s frat tonight and that asshole is the one who picked us up from Columbia.”

“Uhh, yeah, sure.” The cab driver shifts the car into drive.

In the motel room, Santana leads Rachel to the bathroom while Rachel tells her in a dull monotone everything that happened that night. Santana has no idea what to think, let alone what to say. But Rachel’s body is freezing and it’s really creeping her out to hear Rachel talking and not feel annoyed, so first things first.

“You’ll feel so much better after you shower. Just do it, and we’ll figure this shit out in the morning.”

Rachel stares at the shower. Santana frowns.

“Berry. Shower. You got this?”

Rachel’s eyes focus. She looks at Santana and just breaks, sobbing. “Oh my God, Quinn.”

Santana hugs her once, firmly, and then helps her tug her wet clothes off. She tries not to look at Rachel because: so not the time - also, Brittany. But. God, the girl is like, all legs.

Get it together, Santana.
She clicks the door shut behind her as she looks for a spot to hang Rachel’s jeans and bra to dry.

Berry showers, and then Santana uses the bathroom just to scrub her face (it was a waste to re-apply her makeup to come here, apparently).

When Santana pads back into the room, she can see Rachel’s back shaking under the sheet, although she isn’t making any noise. Santana slips under the covers. She hesitates. The only person she’s ever comforted before was Brittany, and Brittany was all about physicality and touch. Inhaling just a bit, she slides her arm over Rachel’s stomach possessively, keeping her hand well away from Rachel’s underwear. Her lips are touching Rachel’s hair while she whispers, “Shhh, baby. It’ll be okay.”

At first, Berry cries harder. Then she draws some shaky deep breaths, and then some calmer ones. Her breathing evens out and Santana assumes she’s drifted off, but Rachel turns over so they’re facing each other. Santana draws her arm back quickly.

Rachel has on her pre-competition Glee Captain face.

“Quinn is our teammate and our friend. I don’t understand what Skull and Bones is, or why she’s with them, but we’re going to get them somehow. All of them! I don’t want to be afraid of them.”

Santana smiles broadly. “Thatta girl, Berry.” She leans forward to kiss her forehead, and Rachel’s eyes close as she does. They fell asleep that way, curled toward each other.

 --

Finn picks up his phone at the ass-crack of dawn. The name display says“Kurt Hummel,” but after an initial “FINN OH MY GOD,” it just sounds like an angry bird squawking.

“Dude! Slow down. I can’t even understand you.” He can almost hear Kurt rolling his eyes.

“Quinn went missing....”

“What--”

“Just wait. It gets better. I mean not better, but more complicated. Quinn stopped responding to text messages. I thought she was just trying to move on and make new friends, but Rachel went to New Haven to try and find her. And Santana. Someone told Rachel they’d last seen her with someone from Skull and Bones...”

“Like that horrible movie you made me...”

“With Joshua Jackson and Paul Walker, yes. Rachel tried to go to get into their creepy tomb - THEY HAVE THEIR OWN TOMB, WHO DOES THAT - and her questions about Quinn were apparently not okay. BECAUSE THEN SOME GUY CHASED HER INTO THE HARBOR AND HE HAD A GUN.” Finn tries to interject, but Kurt won’t let him. “Santana found her somehow. They’re staying in a motel tonight, Santana paid cash. But they threatened her, Finn. And we still don’t know where Quinn is. Santana forbade me from calling the cops, everything is so weird. She’s convinced there’s some kind of conspiracy....I’m waiting for them to come home so that everything will make sense.”

“Is…is Rachel okay?” he asks.

“I think so,” says Kurt. “I’ve only talked to Santana. It was so weird talking to her, she didn’t insult me or Rachel for the entire phone call! But it’s so scary, God. She told me to lock the door and not leave until she gets here. She told me to tell work that I have mono! She said they might be watching the apartment waiting for Rachel!”

“Oh my God… Will Rachel be okay?”

“I don’t know, FINN, but I’m sure that you are concerned about my well-being as well.”

“Dude. Of course I’m worried about you. But like…do they know who Rachel is, or something?”

“I don’t know. But this is the scariest I’ve ever heard Santana. She said if I’m not here when she gets back with Rachel, she’ll kill me herself. We are out of soy milk!

“Umm. I guess you’d better just do it. They’ll probably be there later today. Santana is really scary. But maybe she’ll chill out once she gets there?”

“Finn, what if she’s right? What if this is real?”

He hesitated. Then he said, “Look, if you want me to come there, I will leave right now and do it.”

“Don’t do that. I know you can’t leave until Thanksgiving.”

“It’s.... now’s not the best time to talk about this, but I hate it here, Kurt. Some of the guys are really fucked up, and it’s like it’s all one big dick-measuring contest. Mom keeps talking about how messed up the tire shop is with your dad in DC. Maybe it’s better for me to leave....”

Kurt is adamant. “Finn. Don’t do that yet. Let’s wait for Santana to come back. If we need you, I will call you. I promise.”

“Umm. Can I tell Puck? He and Rachel kind of talk a lot. He talks even more with Quinn.”

“Yes... Actually, see when the last time was he heard from Quinn, I mean exact time and date. Ask him if she ever mentioned Skull and Bones. I’ll call Mercedes. And then I’ll call Tina too, just to see if she has any ideas. Ask him for…anything that seemed off about Quinn.”

“Okay,” says Finn. “Umm. This is really intense.”

Kurt laughs, but it doesn’t sound like his normal laugh - a little more breathless. “Right? I thought things were supposed to be easier after school.”

“Yeah. Well, so. Let me know what happens when they get back. And umm…. I know you don’t like to tell me things about Rachel, but I’m really worried about her right now.” He’s kicking the foot of his bed softly. Kurt had bitched A LOT about being “the informer to both sides,” and had started refusing to give Rachel and Finn information about each other. Kurt’s quiet on the other end, though, so Finn continues awkwardly,

“And Quinn. And just…everyone.”

“I know you are. I’ll let you know. I… do feel better, after talking to you.”

Finn smiles. “Hey man, we’re brothers. That’s what we do.”

 

New York City, New York


Santana and Rachel return to the Hummelberry apartment to find Kurt in an immaculate kitchen, laundry all clean, dried, and put away, even Rachel’s underwear. There are two pitchers of iced tea (one caffeinated, one herbal). He hands Rachel a Luna bar as soon as she walks in the door, which she takes with a relieved sob.

Santana and Kurt make eye contact over the top of Rachel’s head, and something passes between them.

“I’ve done my best to put everyone’s last text messages or e-mails or whatevers with Quinn in chronological order,” Kurt says briskly, putting his hand on Rachel’s arm to guide her to the couch while Santana checks the hallway before closing and dead-bolting the door. “All of the conversations seemed normal. I tried to push everyone to see if there’s anything we never knew about, about Yale or Skull and Bones, or whatever.”

“Kurt, you’ve done so much!” exclaims Rachel.

“Yes,” he smiles. “Well, I was freaking out a little, and I couldn’t leave my own apartment,” he gives a dark look to Santana. “So Mercedes and Artie had two different stories I hadn’t known about, and I think they’re more revealing if I tell them in reverse order.”

“Hit me, Hummel,” says Santana,opening up the fridge to see if any of their vegan crap is palatable. Vegan bagels are still bagels, right?

“Right. So, Artie said he was always a little weirded out by how adamant Quinn was about walking as soon as humanly possible at the end of senior year. After her accident, she struggled, and he thought all of that was normal. But every time it ever came up, Quinn would say that she had to learn how to walk again ‘so that she could go to Yale.’ And Artie pointed out that didn’t make any sense. Yale’s ADA compliant. They have an active disability center for students. And… well, Artie said that sometimes people who don’t actually know disabled people don’t understand how life can go on if you use a wheelchair or something. But Quinn was friends with Artie, and she knows that being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t go to school. So mostly… He thought her one-mindedness was pretty strange, and unlike Quinn.”

Santana automatically feels a little defensive on Quinn’s behalf, like of course she wanted to walk again, she’s a fucking Cheerio and wanted to dance with Glee, but whatever.

Rachel chews her lip. “Okay. What did Mercedes say?”

“So, Quinn and Mercedes had never talked much until Mercedes took her in after her dad kicked her out when she was pregnant with Beth. But basically, Mercedes said that Quinn talked a lot while she was still pregnant about how she was going to get back at her dad. Sometimes Mercedes would ask her what she meant, but Quinn never said. And even though she never got into specific, Quinn was pretty adamant and hardcore about it. Like, Mercedes thought it was weird, even for how much of a jerk her dad was. Then, after Beth was born and Quinn calmed down a little bit, she was always really distant from Mercedes for the rest of high school, especially given how much Mercedes had done for her.”

Santana opens her mouth, ready to defend Quinn, but ends up just saying, “Like maybe she was embarrassed?”

“Maybe,” Kurt says. “Or maybe she didn’t want her to know she was still thinking about it, so she pushed her away.”

“I don’t understand how the two stories are related,” says Rachel.

“Quinn’s dad went to Yale,” says Santana. Rachel still looks blank. “Quinn’s going to Yale for drama, but her dad was all pre-law and shit. Still, he was in Skull and Bones. I remember her being really creeped out when we watched The Departed together.”

“What does Skull and Bones DO, exactly?”

“They started the CIA,” says Kurt. “People think that they control the federal government.”

“But sometimes they get tied up in weird shit,” says Santana. “It’s like a good old boys club of assholes who get power and try to rule the world with it.”

“Okay, but why would Quinn want to go to Yale so badly if she hated her dad so much? And why did she think she couldn’t do it in a wheelchair?”

Kurt is smiling serenely, waiting for them to figure it out.

“Did she want to retrace her father’s footsteps so that she could make her peace with him?” asks Rachel.

“Fuck no,” says Santana, and her smile is feral. “Bitch is going to bring these motherfuckers down.”