You never noticed before but Quinn is a creature of habit, and combined with predictable unpredictability, you find her a truly complex human being. Not that you didn't already think that before, but it's just another layer that gives form to the beautiful person for whom you have come to care.
It's almost eleven o'clock at night and normally you would be asleep because anything less than eight hours of sufficient sleep and rejuvenating R.E.M. stages is not conducive to a healthy lifestyle — but it's the first Friday of summer before senior year so you allow yourself some leeway.
You've spent the last hour going through the (lovingly) worn sketchbook that Sam had brought to you and Quinn had allowed you to take (or at least, she didn't stop you from leaving with it). You've looked through it well over one hundred times since you brought it home (and hid it from your Dad and Daddy because it feels like something so intimately private that its secrecy (or what's left of it) ought to be preserved). Every sketch takes your breath away, every time — even the ones of leaves and flowers and the three-legged dog that lives behind the Pick'N'Save. But the ones that make your heart skip a beat?— are the ones of you. You may falter in your self-esteem regarding your appearance every now and then, but for the most part, you know you're untraditionally pretty. In these drawings however, you look more beautiful than you would ever dare to think and some part of you cannot believe it is Quinn Fabray who sees you this way.
With all the pornographic drawings and caricatures, you never expected, well, this.
You wonder what else Quinn has been hiding beneath all that bravado, buried in what is probably years of pain, and you vow to be an even better friend to her.
You've visited her every day that you're allowed and she finally leaves the hospital tomorrow. You notice the distinction when she says it; she isn't coming home; she's just leaving the hospital. And even though it's just semantics to anybody else, it has meaning to you because you heard Quinn say it. You know it is Judy Fabray who will be picking up her daughter and taking her back to that large and lonely house, and you realize it is far from the home for which Quinn yearns. You make another silent promise to yourself to give her some good memories to fill the rest of her time of high school (you'd say even after that, but you don't know what comes next for Quinn, though you do hope it isn't a settlement of family with Finn and a real estate company).
You checked your calendar, of course, hoping to throw a party for the blonde, but were severely displeased upon realizing that tomorrow, Tuesday, is the day your Daddy took off work from his very important job to go to a music store in Columbus. You'd been begging for a real piano to replace that keyboard you'd gotten for your ninth birthday, and he had finally agreed.
You couldn't not go.
You know you can't really make up for your (really) inexcusable absence, but you can try (because you're Rachel Berry and determination should be part of your middle name beside "Broadway starlet" and "Barbra").
The art store doesn't have much but it does have sketchbooks, pens, and pencils, and you carefully match sketchbook types to the one in your possession and kindly request (demand is such a strong word, thank you very much) assistance in determining the pens used for the sketches within. You finally find a suitable few and purchase them with a beaming smile before returning home where you thumb a gold star sticker into the upper right-hand corner of the first page. You wrap everything together with Cheerio red ribbon with an even bigger smile.
With a little help from Santana and Sam, you manage to get the gift into Quinn's house and place it on her bed before darting out with words of "arrest" and "trespass" and "Oh, God, oh God" on your lips. Santana rolls her eyes; Sam just laughs.
When Tuesday rolls around and you're sitting in the back seat of your Daddy's car while your Dad fiddles with the (unacceptably) broken radio, you think about Quinn leaving the hospital and you wonder if she has arrived home yet to receive your gift. You hope it will help her with what you two discussed in the hospital; finding beauty in everything, even when it seems like there's none at first glance.
You hope that observations of beauty might give Quinn a better reason to stay alive.
Your phone buzzes and you scramble to find it in your bag, not wanting to miss the text you think is from Quinn. Your face falls when you see it's from Finn and you hesitate to open it but you do so anyways It takes a second to decode his horrible text-speak but you come to understand that Quinn broke up with him after he had waited for her to get home with flowers and chocolates in his outstretched arms.
You sigh. When both Sam and Kurt told Finn not to go to the hospital, he had been confused but followed their advice. It seems, now that he has no idea what he did t wrong to make Quinn wish not to see him (because getting into a brawl with Jesse St. James at prom is absolutely acceptable, even they had both been lucky not to get kicked out).
You write a quick text to Kurt about the situation and he promptly responds, assuring you that he and the other glee boys are taking care of the situation. You trust Kurt's judgment and mediating skills.
Your Dad gives you an odd look in the rearview mirror when you sigh again, louder this time, but you shake your head and he shrugs and looks away.
Your phone vibrates again this time, and you aren't quite as anxious to look at it. When you realize it's from Quinn, you hold back the squeal of excitement, you quickly open it and it takes all of your self-control (and then some, probably) not to call her at that exact moment and inquire about her well-being.
The text was only seven letters long but it brings a smile to your face.
I love it, Quinn had written.
The next day, you go to the Fabray house and find yourself slightly intimidated this time around because instead of sneaking through the back with Santana's help you're standing at the front door nervously wringing your hands. This is the house that belonged to a man that took every opportunity to take a jab at your fathers and your heritage. You pause to remind yourself that he no longer lives here, but when the door opens after your firm but polite knock and there's a blonde that is neither Judy nor Quinn, you're confused.
"Can I help you?" she asks you.
You're Rachel Berry, however, and this will not deter nor startle you.
"I'm Rachel Berry and I'm here to see Quinn Fabray."
You don't miss the glint that seems to take to her eyes as she leans casually against the door. She's not much taller than you, an observation you find interesting; the resemblance to the other Fabray's is there while the stature is not. You take the opportunity to study her further since she seems to be doing the same.
"Come in. Quinn's in the library," she finally says, sliding away from the door to open it more for you to slip inside. You follow her through the foyer, and you notice a distinct lack of family photos—or any family artwork, really. There are some rather pretentious paintings lining the wall, you note. The blonde in front of you seems to read your mind.
"A little bare, I know. Mom's in the process of planning a redecoration to wipe this damn house of all that was Russell Fabray." She casts a glance over her shoulder at you. "I'm Frannie, by the way. Quinn probably never mentioned me."
"I didn't realize she had a sister," you admit and you see the back of Frannie's head bob in a nod.
"Q has always been pretty quiet around here," she shrugs. You're not quite sure how to take that statement as the Quinn you know from school is anything but soft-spoken.
You catch yourself before you run into Frannie's back as you stop in front of two large doors, which she pulls open with a dramatic flourish; any other day or under other circumstances and you'd probably appreciate the theatrics.
"The library," she says in a faux-servant's tone and you smile gratefully at her. As you step beside her to enter the room, she catches your arm and a serious expression has overcome her features. "Be careful with her, okay?" she whispers and you nod a silent promise in her direction.
Quinn is curled up on an oversized armchair near one of the tall windows, the book in her hands worn and loved like the sketchbook tucked safely away in your room. The sketchbook about which you have a thousand and one questions that you won't ask because Quinn needs you now and this is about her—not you.
In the soft morning light betrays nothing of the harshness that you once associated with the name Quinn Fabray; warmth seems to swathe her features as she appears entirely engrossed in her novel.
You take the moment to study her; she's wearing glasses and her hair is shorter. She must feel your eyes on her because she looks up, but her eyes seem far too tired to be angry and your heart aches a little more.
"Hi, Quinn." The words are whispered, and your feet seem frozen to the spot on the rug covering dark, mahogany floors.
"Rachel." Even as a whisper, your name sounds so cordial falling from her lips, but you think it's tiredness again that keeps any venom from her tone. Then again, after looking at that sketchbook—you're not so sure anymore.
"May I sit with you?" She hitches her chin and her shoulders rise in fall in a shrug of nonchalance, and your feet finally remember how to move as you move toward the chair across from her. You observe her as she pulls her arms a little closer around her body, and you realize she's still wearing a sweater indoors despite it being summer. You can't help but frown a little but you turn your attention elsewhere. "You cut your hair."
She ignores your diversion. "You were at the hospital every day last week," she says, staring at you as nimble fingers draw across the aged pages of the book you still can't discern.
"I was, yes." You know where this is going and you're going to prolong answering for as much as you can because you can't really explain it to yourself, let alone Quinn.
"Nationals were last week," she continues.
"Yes, they were."
You wonder if you've irreparably stretched the bottom hem of your t-shirt with all your worrying and fidgeting with it.
"You didn't go."
"Some things… some people… are more important than a show choir competition." You're amazed at the words leaving your mouth because you just had a conversation the other day with Kurt about how you know your dreams and you wouldn't risk them for anything or anybody in the world. You're even more amazed because it was you who argued against competing anyways without Quinn if you could find somebody to act as filler for her position on the roster. You're amazed because the words you just spoke aren't a lie at all, and when you look to Quinn, you know they couldn't be truer.
"Brittany said it rather succinctly, and though I don't think I can quote her verbatim—not to mention, none of us are quite sure how Brittany became so adept at reading into a situation—she made a point by saying that we're family. We may lie and cheat and try to steal each other's boyfriends and girlfriends and be overall entirely histrionic—myself included, I'll admit—that's what family does, and we care for each other regardless. We're family, and we weren't going to leave you behind, especially at a time like this."
You realize you've been staring at your hands this entire time, which makes you want to scold yourself for being unable to deliver such a heartfelt speech without appropriate eye contact, but then you remember that not everything can be about acting or performing or Broadway—you being here proves that. You look up to see Quinn staring out the window, and you think you might see her eyes shimmering the slightest with tears but you don't want to point it out.
"Quinn?" you chance after the silence has become near unbearable.
"Thank you. For the sketchbook," she whispers and you can only nod. "Can you go? I'd really like to be alone now."
The words sound familiar, and your mind returns you to the moment when Finn learned he wasn't Beth's father and you were the one to go after Quinn instead of Puck or even Mercedes. This time, like then, you nod and stand without objection. You're at the door when you hear her call your name again.
You stop and turn around, and she's looking at you with a tear-blurred gaze.
"Will you come by again tomorrow?"
She sounds so vulnerable, like a child, and her voice cracks as she asks—begs for your return.
"Of course, Quinn," you smile softly before pushing open the double doors and stepping into the hallway and back the way you came.
You return the next day and Frannie is there to open the door again. She doesn't walk you to the library this time; she just smiles weakly at you before wandering up the sweeping staircase and leaving you to the walk down the long and slightly unwelcoming hallway.
Quinn is in the same chair as yesterday when you walk into the library, and for the first time you take in the grandiose room. It's like you would imagine any study in a big house with books shelved from floor to ceiling, complete with ornate rug, a small fireplace, and even its own antiquated spinning globe. The crimson drapes are lush and velveteen, and on the end table placed between the two chairs on which you and Quinn sat the previous day is a pristine glass vase with white calla lilies. It's a rather gorgeous room, you must admit.
The same book is cradled in her hands, though the glasses are missing today; she must be wearing her contacts, you assume. Her arms are still covered—a cardigan this time—but you can't see any sort of lump so you figure the bandages must be gone by now. It makes you feel mildly better.
You take a seat without asking this time, and she turns away from the window to look at you. "Hi, Quinn," you smile sheepishly.
"Rachel," she nods.
You chew at your bottom lip, not quite sure what to say, so you let the first thing that pops into your head come out (which, luckily, isn't something to warrant your death). "What are you reading?"
She closes the worn book and hands it to you, careful not to outstretch her arms to reveal her forearms to you. Once the book is in your grasp, she tugs at the sleeves of her cardigan self-consciously as she wraps her arms around her body.
The book is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and it feels so fragile that you're afraid you'll tear it as you carefully turn the cover to realize it's a first edition.
"It was my favorite book when I was a little girl," she whispers, drawing her knees to her chest in lieu of the book in her lap.
You flip to a random page, and you realize that Carroll's iconic quote is on this page, and you can't help but begin to read it aloud. "I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!"
You look up from the text to see Quinn is looking out the window again. You close the book and set it on the table next to the vase with the lilies.
"Quinn?" You slide from your chair and kneel on the rug before her, resting your hands on her knees.
She's crying without a sound, trickles of tears sliding down her cheeks and you can see her fighting to keep her composure. You want to reach for her hands, to offer a modicum of sympathy, but they're tucked around her sides.
"I needed to feel in control. Even if just for a few minutes. After being in the hospital for a week, at the mercy of those doctors and nurses and psychiatrists—" She near spits that last word. "I needed to feel in control, so Mom took me to get my hair cut."
"Did it help?" you ask gently.
She finally looks at you with those beautiful hazel eyes and you reach forward, slowly as not to spook her, and wipe away a tear with your thumb.
"A little," she admits.
"I meant what I said that night; you're beautiful, but you're so much more than that."
She shakes her head in objections but the tears are coming on stronger, and you make another promise that you'll tell her she's more than just external beauty as many times as she needs to hear it until she believes it. Because you believe it; you really do.
It becomes a routine for you two. You come over in the morning and find her in the library after Frannie lets you inside. She'll hand you the book in her hands and you'll read a chapter or two to her and then leave. You do this for a week, all the way to the last paragraph of the book.
"Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days," you read with all the proper inflections before closing the book with a smile.
Quinn is looking at you with a glazed and pensive look across her face, and you want to say something, anything really, but you don't. "Do you want to stay for dinner?" she asks, and the words are more than you've heard spill from her lips all week so you readily nod in agreement.
"I would love to," you add as you hand the book back to her. This is new; usually, you place the book on the end table and leave. Instead, she takes it from you and returns it to what you assume is its rightful, alphabetical place on one of the shelves.
Dinner is far from a quiet affair, but only because Judy Fabray seems fascinated with what your fathers are like (and how they don't quite fit every stereotypical misconception she created with her ex-husband's narrow-minded guidance) and because Frannie seems more off-beat than you and most of the glee club combined (that may be an exaggeration, you'll admit). Quinn stays quiet, rolling peas around her plate with her fork with disinterest.
You want to frown and point out her barely-touched food, but she seems to feel your gaze and know your thoughts and so she takes a bite to prove a point. The bite of food isn't want makes your heart feel a little lighter; it's the raised eyebrow that seems so inherently Quinn and not the silent shell you've been around the past several days.
She walks you to the front door after supper (which was surprisingly vegan-friendly), and her hand hesitantly falls onto your forearm before you can exit.
Something in your heart tells you that whatever words flow from her lips next are going to be momentous, and you unconsciously hold your breath in anticipation. This is an important moment.
"I'm sorry," tumbles from her mouth.
When you look at her with the words "Curiouser and curiouser" in your mind, she doesn't repeat herself. You let the two words (or really, contraction of two words plus a third) roll around in your mind a little bit before they make their way to your heart and you get it. You understand.
You lurch forward and wrap your arms around her, drawing her into what is, perhaps, the most intimate hug you have ever given a person because you understand her apology with a long look into those pained eyes.
'I'm sorry for hurting you. For the names and the slushies and the offensive drawings. For the shouts and the taunts and the jeers. For that night, that razor in my hands. I'm sorry. I am so sorry.'
You get it, and you won't let it go. You won't let her go.
When you get home, it takes you a moment to realize your bag felt just a little heavier when you drop it onto your bed. You notice the oddity right away once you take a look at the bag's contents; there's a sketchbook that you know you didn't put there when you left this morning.
You walk to your bedroom door and close it, and even though your Dad and Daddy are gone to some sort of benefit and won't be home until much later, you lock it anyways. With sock-covered feet, you pad back to your bed and let your palms slide over the thick cover before you flip it open. The gold-star sticker you placed is still there on the first page and it brings a bittersweet smile to your lips. The drawing on it, however, takes your breath away just as easily as all the other sketches Quinn has allowed you to see.
It's a pencil sketch of you sitting in the Fabray library with a worn copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in your hands. It doesn't seem to be a representation of any specific day but a general encompassing of the past week, and you're amazed that she was able to do the drawing from loose memory.
You turn the page and are greeted with a beautiful scene that you recognize as the Fabray's backyard, but Quinn has added such embellishments of overgrown vines and flowers and turned it into her own interpretation of Wonderland mixed with Lima (you wonder, briefly, if such juxtaposition could be considered an abomination). It's beautiful.
The next page is a fairly rough sketch of Frannie sleeping on a sofa with a large, rabid rabbit looming over her (you're rather certain that such a creature was not actually present at the scene). You can't help but laugh softly at the depiction. When you turn the page again, you frown upon realizing its blankness and you want to call Quinn and ask her why she left blank pages when she gave it to you. You refrain, of course, and decide to add your own creativity to the heavy paper.
After everything it isn't hard for you to write another original song with ease, and you hum out the melody as you draw the lines of the music of staff and pen in notes in all the right places. It feels right this time, even more so than 'Get It Right' did and infinitely more than the atrocities that were 'My Headband' and 'Only Child'.
You look back at the clock and realize it's almost midnight when you close the sketchbook and slip it back into your bag to return to Quinn tomorrow.
Your heart is thumping wildly at the thought of singing the song for Quinn, and you wonder if that's how she feels when she knows you're looking at her drawings. It feels a lot like friendship to you (though, you're not daring to try and label that something else inside of you—that same part that made you care less about Nationals than you did for Quinn's well-being). Regardless, you go to sleep content and excited for the day to come.
Nobody is home when you arrive at the Fabray house the following morning. You have to admit that you're a little baffled by the situation, and then you remember that it's Sunday again and they're probably at church. You hesitate to leave the sketchbook on the porch, and so you don't when you leave to go back home for the time being.
Finn is waiting for you when you get home, which seems like just another odd turn of events. You beckon him to follow you into the house and he looks like he's still half-asleep when he hands you a bouquet of daisies and a box of chocolates that you know you can't eat with all the inhumane dairy products tainting them with guilt-ridden mooing waiting to haunt you if you do.
You're half-listening when he explains that he knows forfeiting Nationals had to have been difficult for you (it wasn't, though, because—Quinn) and that he wants to be there for you now. He'd love to give you another shot like you're sloppy seconds after a certain blonde that has your attention these days anyways. You let him finish his speech, however, because you know how much time and effort can go into a carefully prepared presentation such as this. You let him finish before politely declining his offer to be his girl again and asking him to leave.
You wonder if he'll crawl back home, confused but still tired, and fall into bed and not give the situation another thought. It's likely, you imagine, as you watch him trip back down your sidewalk and to his car. You text Kurt and request he text you back when Finn has arrived home safely.
You're sitting at your new (old) piano, an old upright Wurlitzer from the fifties, fiddling with the ivory and ebony keys when your phone vibrates in your pocket. Your sixth sense tingles and you're sure it's Quinn (you're not disappointed this time).
'Can I come over?' you read, and your fingers are flying without a second thought with a long-winded reply, which you delete once you've finished and respond with a simple, 'Of course' instead.
You rush out of the room and into the kitchen where your fathers are having a lackadaisical brunch. "Quinn's coming over soon. Be nice." You're halfway back to your perch on the piano bench when you jolt back into the kitchen. "And don't eat all the toast. She might be hungry."
You're sitting ramrod straight at the piano, eyes flickering to the window every minute, which is making it incredibly hard to finish your current original masterpiece. In frustration and confusion at your own emotions, your forehead meets the keys in a messy chord of perturbation.
It's at this time that the doorbell rings and your jump up, nearly tripping over edge of the nearby rug as you scramble for the door. "Quinn!" you greet with a chipper tone, pulling open the door. She looks beautiful in her sundress and sweater and perhaps just as nervous as you did when you showed up at the Fabray house that first time.
It isn't that she's never been to your house or you to hers; it's just that, well, you were always accompanied by other people or other situations. It was never about friendship or consolation or something more (like a magnetic push and pull that you can't quite yet explain but are coming to accept more and more these days). So this? It's different for you. Both of you.
You realize you've both been standing awkwardly when you quickly take a step back. "Come in! Dad and Daddy are eating a late breakfast if you're hungry."
She crosses the threshold, arms wrapped protectively around her torso (it reminds you of when she was carrying Beth just a year ago). "I'm okay, thanks," she murmurs and you see her eyes flickering all around the entranceway to your home (which is not quite as grand as the one to hers but far more homey, if you may say so). For the first time, you're almost a little embarrassed of the photo chronology of your childhood that seems to line the walls, and then you recognize that awkward silence creeping in again.
"Can we talk?" Quinn finally asks, and those are the three words that you've been wanting to hear for a while and yet now that you've heard them, a slight feeling of dread and anxiety has settled at the bottom of your stomach. But this is it, you tell yourself, and so you nod and begin the trek to your room.
You've done a little redecorating since the end of school; it felt appropriate as you embark on the last leg of your adolescence to reach for a little more maturity in your décor than that of your fourteen-year-old self. Gone are the vibrant colors, replaced by three cream-colored walls and a single accent wall of butter yellow. Your bedazzler has been resigned to the bottom left-hand drawer of your desk and ACT and SAT preparation books are shelved beside your copies of Wicked and Rent (all alphabetically organized within a genre). The Broadway posters stayed, of course. You are Rachel Berry, after all.
Quinn takes a seat on the corner of your bed, and you notice she's sitting right at the corner where her two sketchbooks jut just so from beneath your mattress. Her legs hit them, and with raised brow she reaches down and pulls them free. Her eyes soften for a split second before becoming unreadable. You cross the room slowly, hesitantly, and your fingers brush over her hands as you gently tug the sketchbooks from her grasp and sit beside her.
"Do you want to talk about these?" you ask carefully.
She shakes her head and you aren't sure if you feel more deflated or more relieved. You can tell she's on the verge of tears, and you're not quite sure how to stop them from coming, so you hold your hand out for her to take and she does take it.
"I'm sorry," her voice cracks.
You're somewhat baffled because you think you already had this conversation yesterday.
"I'm sorry," she repeats. "Everything just… the night was supposed to be perfect and then it wasn't and nothing was how it was supposed to be. Everything was broken, and I couldn't stand it anymore." The words are spilling from her lips so fast between sobs and sniffles that it feels surreal even to your drama-driven mind, so you're scrambling to keep up as the confession continues. "And I was in the car with Sam and Santana and Brittany were in the back and they just sounded so… happy, and I felt so alone because I didn't think I could ever have that. And it was just one thing after another and I just…"
The words are muffled as your arms have found your way around her and her head is buried in the crook of your neck which is now moist with snot and tears and you couldn't care less. Her body is shaking and you realize that you're crying too when her hair feels wet against your cheek.
In hindsight, you'll be forever thankful that your fathers stayed downstairs and didn't interrupt because you're not sure if Quinn would open up again if she was startled out of it.
"Oh, Quinn," is all you can manage to say right now as you coo softly to her, pressing kisses to her hair and her temple. It's in this moment that you come to understand the reason behind your confusion, behind Quinn's loneliness, and you come to realize that you're not afraid of it. Because here, in this moment, Quinn Fabray is crying in your arms and you are pretty sure you wouldn't want anybody else in your place.
You can't take away the scars you know are hiding beneath the sweater sleeves and you know you can't erase the pain of her past but you're prepared to write over it all with love—because that's what this is, you finally admit.
You awake to a gentle knock on your bedroom door and you realize Quinn is curled against you and one of your arms is asleep with her on top of it. The door creaks open and you see your Dad's kind face checking in on you. You smile softly at him to let you know that everything is okay and he nods and closes the door. It takes a moment but everything floods back to you as you remember how the rest of the morning went.
Your eyes dart to the discarded sketchbooks at the foot of your bed, balanced precariously and ready to fall to the floor at any moment. But you don't want to disturb Quinn, so if they fall, they fall, you resign.
You remember that once Quinn's tears started to subside again, she was ready to talk about the sketches and what they mean. You were ready to admit to the growing feeling in your gut (and more your heart), and when everything was laid bare, you both fell into a laughing fit.
It was peculiar, you know, that after such emotional turmoil and revelation you found yourself giggling like a child but the moment was cathartic and freeing, and as you lie here now with this beautiful girl in your arms—you're content and lighter and happier. This is the next step, you say to yourself. This could be when things start to click into place, even if they don't quite match up to your five-year or ten-year plan tucked away at the back of your closet.
You breathe in deeply, her scent, and slow your breathing to hers and will your heart to thump in time, and slowly, slowly you drift back to sleep.
It's evening when you wake and your arms are void of a tall, athletic blonde. You panic momentarily until you see a page torn from the sketchbook in the empty space of the bed. Quinn's neat scrawl leaves a single sentence for you to read: I have a copy of Through the Looking-Glass in the library.
You smile to yourself and you know where you'll be tomorrow morning.
The routine is similar but different now, and it's how you spend the rest of your summer in a cocoon of slight solitude with Quinn Fabray as your sole companion (for the most part, anyways, and neither of you are really complaining at all).
You arrive in the morning at the Fabray house (that's slowly becoming a home with Judy's rearrangements). Frannie doesn't bother opening the door for you anymore; they leave it unlocked for you, and you step inside and lock it behind you before padding your way down the hallway, making the familiar trek to the library. You open the doors and there is Quinn, snuggled into her favorite oversized armchair and waiting for you. Instead of sitting across from her, you squeeze in beside her (usually, one of you ends up on top of the other) and take whatever book is in her hands and start up where she left off.
At first you end up talking and talking and talking a lot instead of reading. There's a lot to work through and there are a lot of apologies (needless, you tell her, but Quinn just shakes her head and plows on). When talking turns back to reading, however, you find your life filled with text adventures.
Throughout the summer, you visit Wonderland again before flying to Neverland and even stopping in the Ashdown Forest a time or two. You, of course, must show her Oz and she laughs (that laugh that feels only for your ears) when you plop down beside her with your own beloved copy of Wicked in hand.
You read for a couple hours and then Judy or Frannie (sometimes both) call you to lunch, which is usually comprised of vegan-friendly sandwiches or pasta salads (because sometimes messing with substitutes like seitan and nutritional yeast and tofu is far too difficult for non-vegans and Rachel understands that). After lunch, Quinn drags you to the baby grand piano in their sitting room and asks you to play and you do because slowly but surely, the Quinn you remember—the one that is gentle and caring and beautiful inside and outside—starts to peak out again and your music seems to help.
Usually, you leave after a few songs with a hug (sometimes peck on the cheek or a chaste kiss on the lips because while both of you have acknowledged your feelings, you're still not sure if you're ready to move forward so quickly). Sometimes in the evenings after dinner, Quinn will appear on your doorstep and the two of you will walk to the park near your home and she'll sketch until the last vestiges of summer sunlight fade away with their peach-orange hues. She doesn't always let you see, but you're content to sit with her in the comfortable quiet as the crickets and cicadas make music for the both of you.
Other nights, you wake to the sounds of pebbles against your upstairs window and while it scared you the first night, you now associate the sound with Quinn. When those clinks against the glass chime, you pull yourself from bed and tiptoe down the stairs and to the front door where Quinn is waiting in oversized sweatpants and a Cheerios sweatshirt. Wordlessly, you take her by the hand and draw her inside from the night, closing the door again before leading the way back to your room. Sometimes you're the big spoon and sometimes you're the little spoon but you two always seem to make it work. And when you wake in the morning and sleepily wander back down the stairs with Quinn in tow, your fathers have set the table for four and made extra waffles and toast.
Your first date was a picnic in the park, which ended with a good night kiss on your front porch. After several more dates, the pace is set. You move on to more than quick kisses to the lips or the cheeks because you're both teenage girls and when you realized that your Dad and Daddy and Judy and even Frannie already knew, it isn't so frightening to push your relationship to become, well, that (with all the physical implications of the word, too).
Summer, you think, is moving quite wonderfully.
One month before school is going to start again and she stops wearing sweaters and cardigans and jackets all the time. You know she's self-conscious about her scars, so you lace your fingers with hers and remind her that she is beautiful inside and out, scars and all. When words don't work, you trail kisses down her forearms, and sometimes it makes both of you cry but you always end up laughing.
You think that's a pretty good ending.
It's still hard for her, you know. You bring her little things, take her to odd places, to try to remind her of the wonder of the world that she still needs to see, to experience. With every kiss and every gasp and every moan, you try to convey that you still need her and that she is loved and you are here. You are hers. You take it day by day, but that's really all you can do, and when she starts worrying about life after McKinley, after Lima, you answer her so plainly, so simply by telling her that she's coming with you to New York. It's a done deal. You aren't leaving her behind, and she's quite all right with that.
The days to the school year's begin—your final school year—are counting down. Your calendar mocks you with the number four and you deign to add another red X to the week to mark another day gone (but never wasted).
Kurt and Finn are having a pool party on the last day of summer for all the glee kids, and you and Quinn realize your bubble of blissful solitude is about to be popped. You're both frightened all over again because you never really had to come out to your parents or your family. Now, you have to explain it to the people that watched you sneer and jeer at one another throughout high school.
You know it must be harder for Quinn; she refused to see most of them when she left the hospital (Sam, Santana, and Brittany were the exceptions). You know they visited and you know the others tried to, what with the gifts and the cards and the awkward voicemails and text messages you watched her ignore and delete those first couple weeks. You hope that you can be enough, and if not, that maybe Sam and Santana and Brittany can help pick up the other pieces because you can't let this girl break again under your watch. You're pretty sure the others feel the same way
You're sitting at the Fabray baby grand piano three days later, enjoying some Chopin while Quinn is on the sofa, sketchbook and pen in hand. She seems to be handling her anxiety with drawing, while you handle yours with your music, and you haven't yet broached the subject of the party and then school and your… relationship.
Your fingers slow at the end of the piece even though there is no ritardando scrawled beneath the stave and you cast a glance toward Quinn whose pen is furiously moving against paper. You know that you need to talk, and when the echo of the music finally fades, you feel hazel eyes shift to you.
"Rach?" she asks.
You take a breath. This is hard to say.
"We don't have to… we can stop this if it would be easier for you," you whisper. "So nobody else needs to know." The words crack from your throat, and they're some of the hardest words you've ever said (you think it ties with the time you told Shelby goodbye after singing that duet with her).
The sketchbook is forgotten in an instant and Quinn is sitting on the piano bench beside you before you know it. She has your hands in hers, and while her gaze falters for a second upon seeing the scars on her arms (you think she's still not used to them, still shocked, or maybe just still painfully reminded of that night), she catches your gaze with a stern but loving look.
"I'm not giving this up, giving you up, okay? I'm just… afraid, but this is what I want. I want you," she reassures. The words immediately lift the weight that was crushing your heart and you nod. "We'll tell them at the party tomorrow, okay?"
"And at school?" you push.
Quinn draws her bottom lip between her teeth and you know that move of hesitation. You weren't expecting a quick answer, but it makes your heart sink for a moment nonetheless.
"I'll make wearing raincoats inside something fashionable." It's an optimistic laugh that accompanies her statement, and you smile and nod because it's becoming a more frequent occurrence.
"I'll still keep my slushie kit handy, too," you offer, and it feels like that's that. You share a grin and then a kiss, and then she urges you to play some more when she goes back to her drawing. You think you catch a glimpse of her current work—a portrait of you at the piano. You smile wider. Only for her.
Quinn still insists on wearing a sundress and a sweater to the pool party, and you don't argue with her because you know she's not yet ready to show her scars to the world when she's still uncomfortable with them herself. Nobody pushes her to change into a swimsuit or get into the pool while still including her in conversations and festivities.
It's lunch time when you take a seat on the same chair as Quinn, waiting for everybody to settle down with their burger and/or hotdog that Finn managed not to burn (with Kurt's assistance) on the grill. You, of course, remembered to bring soy burgers and vegan buns for yourself since you know Finn wouldn't have the foresight to prepare something for your dietary restrictions. You survey the pool area, sure that everybody is comfortable before loudly clearing your throat.
"Streisand has an announcement, it seems," Kurt says, though there's no malicious sarcasm to his words as there might have been a year or two ago. It's a friendly jest, you know, as you stand from your position.
"Everybody," you begin. "Quinn and I have something important to tell you, and we would really appreciate it if you could repress any need for dramatic flair at this time because this quite a serious moment that is potentially scary for the both of us. Now—" You stop when you see Finn's hand halfway raised from his Adirondack chair near the grill. "Yes, Finn?"
"Uh, Rachel? Is this about you and Quinn dating?" he questions.
You're sputtering in confusion so you miss the double slap to the back of his head that he receives from Santana and Sam, both of whom seemed to appear at his sides the second he opened his mouth.
"You know?" Quinn finds the words for you.
"Yeah," Finn continues. "Santana and Sam told us. I'm not sure what Brittany was going on about, but—ow!" He rubs the back of his head where he's just been doubly slapped again.
Sam shifts his weight from one foot to the other and looks genuinely apologetic as he looks to you and Quinn. "We just didn't want you two to have any bad reactions when you decided to tell everybody. But we wanted to let you do it!"
"Baby Mama, we're totally cool with it," Puck chimes. "Least, I am. 'specially if you let me watch." He leers and Lauren dumps her lemonade on top of his head and it's his turn to sputter.
"Don't worry, Quinn," Kurt assures. "We've got your back."
"Yeah. We can throw you and Rachel a welcome party to the gay sharks club," Brittany adds brightly. Santana, having returns to her place at her girl's side, just pats the blonde's thigh lovingly.
You imagine the color must be coming back to your face as brain function seems to be returning. You're thankful, truly you are. It just would have been nice if Finn hadn't ruined your first attempt at properly coming out to the world. But Quinn is there, fingers entangling with yours, and you know it was for the best.
"Can we eat now? I'm starved and Ellen and Portia are old news now," Santana snarks before lifting her hamburger to her mouth and taking a bite. Everybody nods in agreement and then there are murmurs of contentedness as food finds mouths, and you look to Quinn and her hand squeezes yours and you nod.
You're glad to have friends like these guys.
The first day of school is nerve-wracking.
Quinn arrived early at your house to partake in the grand breakfast your fathers prepared as your senior year send-off. They even bought bacon for Quinn, much to the annoyance of your veganism and your kosher diet. You sighed, though, and figured it was a one-time occasion and let it pass. Quinn was kind enough to brush her teeth after eating it before she tried to kiss you, which is a sentiment you can appreciate.
But now? Now you're climbing out of Quinn's little red car and staring at McKinley High School like it's quite possibly hell on earth. Quinn's looking like she feels the same way. You take the first few steps forward and make your way to Quinn's side where your hand easily, instinctually, finds hers. It's time for you to be strong. You're good at that, even if you're only saving face to cry in a bathroom stall alone at a later time.
Together, you pull open the doors and step inside, and nothing goes up in flames and no icy, sugary drinks come your way. You let loose the breath you were holding and you think things might actually go smoothly today as you walk Quinn to her locker and then her first class (which you sadly do not share). Brittany's waiting at your locker when you arrive to drop off a few books before making your way to the choir room where you plan to spend your first free period.
"Santana said I should come check out your outfit to see if you're still dressing like a granny toddler, but I really think she wanted me to check on you to make sure you're okay," she says in monotone.
You give the girl a sweet smile as you spin the combination to the lock and tug it open. "Thanks, Brittany, and tell Santana thank you, too." She pulls you into a sudden and surprising hug but then she's gone a second later, ponytail bobbing behind her as she skips down the hallway in a direction you know is not toward her first class. You shake your head in amusement before setting aside the textbooks you won't need and walking to that familiar hallway that has become somewhat of your sanctuary.
When you get to the choir room, you pull out your phone and see a text message from Quinn just as the bell gives its shrill final ring. Love you, the letters spell out. You return the message in kind and then set to work on deciding the first songs you think the glee club should practice this year once you have the first meeting next week.
The day goes by quickly and easily (and you're not complaining at all).
You make sure somebody is with Quinn in the hallways from class to class when you can't be, and Santana never seems to be far away, as well. You're not as worried about yourself; you can handle some bumps and bruises and dropped books and frozen beverages (not that you've had to endure any of those just yet, knock on wood). At lunch you sit together with hands entwined and while you receive a few second glances and curious stares, nobody has yet seemed malign to the idea (only a fair bit confused for understandable reasons).
When the final bell rings, you're first from your seat and out the door (which is a Rachel Berry oddity since you usually like to speak with the teacher to be sure you correctly understood the material of the day's lesson, even if it's only the first day of syllabi and introductions). You smile to yourself because you made it through the day.
Your smile falters when you see a group of people gathered at the set of lockers where you know Quinn's is located. Your feet pick up speed, even in your less tactile for linoleum floors Mary Jane's and you drop your books somewhere outside the crowd when you realize Quinn is pressed against the lockers by a varsity hockey player who has his hands gripped entirely and unacceptably around her wrists.
Your brain isn't even registering the jeers as you push through the crowd, and you're too slow when he fists her cardigan and she pulls away in a way that slides it from her body. Everybody's staring now at the visible lines that stretch from wrist to elbow on that perfect, porcelain skin.
"Couldn't even off yourself, dyke," he sneers.
You'd wail on him yourself but you're more concerned about Quinn whose eyes are shining with tears and becoming glazed and distant in a way that is not okay. You see a flash of fiery Latina in your peripheral vision, followed by the sound of fist against bone and the crack of a nose as you slip an arm around Quinn's waist and a hand in hers, guiding her away from the scene.
You're well-knowledgeable in which bathrooms are least occupied at certain times of the day, so you it isn't hard for you to lead her into an empty bathroom and jam the door closed. She goes limp in your arms with sobs and shakes and you hold her close and tight, carefully lowering her to the floor with you as her legs give out. The sentences are incoherent as they come out choked between snot and tears, but you get the gist; she's wishes the scars were gone; it's bad enough that she can feel them in her memories.
They make her feel even uglier.
You shake your head, willing yourself not to cry with her this time as you trail kisses up and down each of her arms, tracing the line of each scar with your lips. You remind her again that she's beautiful and that she's still so much more than that. You repeat the action again, and you tell her that you love her scars and that they're beautiful. You whisper that sometimes the most wonderful things can come from the most painful. And with a final kiss to her lips, tasting salty with pain and sorrow, you breathe that joy has come from them too because they brought you together, and that's something more exhilarating than words can describe.
It strengthens this bond that you've nurtured with all your heart, and as you work through this moment, together, you know that you will overcome and surmount this. You look upon the girl in your arms with love and adoration, and you draw her to you again for another kiss. The words are on your lips, "You are beautiful, Quinn Fabray. So beautiful, inside and out, and I love you."
The moment isn't a fairytale ending and it's not even your fairytale beginning, but it marks another turning point in your life together. You're reminded again of the fantastic that can draw from the horrific, and that sometimes the greatest tragedies can come together to form the greatest loves.
You think the Duchess in Wonderland might have had some nonsensical morals but you know at least one feels true. "Oh, 'tis love, 'tis love that makes the world go 'round."