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Take Me As I Am

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Everyone was buzzed on the bus ride home from Sectionals, flushed with their first win and the evidence: a giant trophy sitting propped on the seat behind the driver, that went all the way to the ceiling. Finn’s return to the Glee club, and his last-minute heroics that everyone knew made them win, was cranking up the manically good mood on the bus, and they sang and laughed and bounced up and down on their seats all the way home.

All except Quinn. She sat alone in a back corner, head leaning against the window. Hands resting over her baby bump, rubbing lightly, as if trying to reassure her unborn child that it was all gonna be okay. She’d find a place to live, some way to take care of herself—take care of them both—until the little angel curled up inside her was born, and finally got the chance to have a real family, one who could promise her things that Quinn knew she never could. She didn’t even realize she was crying until a whisper-soft touch stroked away the tears streaming down her cheek.

“What’s the matter?” Rachel asked quietly, more quietly than Quinn had ever heard her speak before. She didn’t understand why the dark-haired girl continued to be so nice to her, every chance she got, when the ex-cheerleader had never given her anything but grief. Every chance she got. Right now, though, the impulse to reply with some cruel and biting retort died in her throat. She was too full of sadness already; she couldn’t stand to cause any more, and she didn’t want to see that pained expression of surprise in Rachel’s eyes that she was so good at producing with her malicious insults. But she didn’t want Rachel’s pity, either.

“Nothing. It’s just hormones,” Quinn replied quietly, wiping the tears from her face far more roughly than Rachel had. “Sorry.”

“You don’t have to be sorry, Quinn. You can’t help it,” Rachel replied, keeping her voice low so no one else heard over the raucous singing. Then the dark-haired girl reached out, and hesitantly wrapped an arm around the crying girl, squeezing her shoulder lightly. To her great surprise, Quinn dropped her head onto Rachel’s shoulder, her loose blonde hair spilling over and grazing against Rachel’s collarbone. The dark-haired girl tensed nervously for a moment, until she felt Quinn starting to shake with silent sobs, and the awkwardness of the strange moment was broken. Rachel tightened her grip, squeezing Quinn a little closer against her and turning to kiss the top of her head.

“I’m sorry,” Quinn whispered again, turning her face into Rachel’s shoulder so her tears soaked into the other girl’s shirt. She wasn’t just talking about this moment, but everything.

“It’s okay, Quinn,” Rachel murmured back. There was such understanding in her voice, the blonde girl wondered if it was possible that she was talking about everything, too.

The quiet, peaceful moment between the two girls was broken when Mercedes glanced back and raised an eyebrow at their intimate position in the back of the bus, and Quinn’s head shot up from Rachel’s shoulder, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

“Can you go now?” She asked bluntly, though not unkindly. “I think I just need to be alone.” Rachel nodded, looking sad now, too, though for once Quinn didn’t think she’d said anything to cause it. It was more like the dark-haired girl was absorbing some of Quinn’s heavy heart, trying to carry it for her. It was an insane thought, one that Quinn was quickly able to dismiss once she was sitting alone again. No one else spoke to her the rest of the ride home, and when they all got off the bus and ran to meet their families, no one seemed to notice the blonde girl walking off alone toward her car, parked in the far corner of the lot, and not turning on the engine once she got in.

She had never intended to let this happen, living out of her car; but then again, she had never intended to let any of this happen. She knew that Brittany or Santana would probably take her in if she asked; but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She’d already been kicked out of her own home, and then her ex-boyfriend’s when he found out the baby wasn’t really his. She couldn’t bear to be anywhere else she wasn’t wanted. And it wasn’t as if they’d offered, or even asked if she was alright. Like Rachel did, she thought fleetingly, before quickly shoving the thought to the back of her brain.

She still didn’t have any answers for how she was going to get through this; but she knew she had to figure it out on her own. She certainly wasn’t going to live in her car forever, but for now, she was managing. It was what it was. She would get through it. She would do whatever she had to do for the innocent little life that was, for now, in her care alone.

“Quinn?” Though the knock on her car window was very soft, and the voice calling her name very hesitant, the blonde girl gasped and jumped up from her reclining position against the seat, as if someone had just shouted right in her ear.

“Jesus, Rachel!” She panted, a flash of fury passing briefly through her eyes before being replaced by something warm and fragile, and hard to name. The dark eyes locked on her own seemed to soften at the same moment, and Quinn wondered if the other girl was realizing the same thing she just had—that for the first time, she’d called the dark-haired girl by her actual name. Not “man-hands,” not “RuPaul,” not even “Berry,” like they were in the army or something. Just Rachel. Where had that come from?

“Sorry I scared you,” the shorter girl continued, maintaining the same gentle voice she’d used on the bus. “I just—can I talk to you for a sec?” Quinn blinked bemusedly, then with a sigh, she unlocked her passenger side door and let the little diva into her car.

“What is it?” She asked wearily.

“I…well, I don’t really know how to ask this…” Rachel was looking at her so oddly, biting her lower lip as she tried to say whatever it was she was trying to say, though Quinn was suddenly preoccupied with just how soft and full that lip was. How had she never noticed before? Again, the blonde girl grabbed the thought and pushed it forcefully into the back of her mind, along with the fluttery feeling churning around in her stomach. “Quinn—are you sleeping in your car?”

“What do you care? You got what you wanted.” The ex-cheerleader replied coldly, some of the old venom sneaking back into her voice as her defensive instincts took over. She didn’t want to be pitied by anyone, least off all a loser like Rachel fucking Berry. She was a joke. She was nothing. Why was she still looking at Quinn like that, with those big Bambi eyes?

“No I didn’t,” Rachel said slowly, finally looking down at her hands as Quinn’s sharp hazel gaze bored into her own. “I mean I—thought I did, but…I never wanted this, Quinn. I never wanted you to have nowhere to live.”

“Well congrats, you just racked up some bonus points,” Quinn retorted sarcastically, unable to stop the familiar cruelty slipping into her voice when she felt so vulnerable.

“Come stay at my place,” Rachel blurted out, still staring down at her hands so she didn’t see Quinn’s frozen, shocked expression. She finally looked up when a full minute passed without the blonde girl saying anything. The utterly confused expression on the other girl’s face made Rachel break out of her own awkwardness, and she reached out bravely for the blonde hand, squeezing her fingers. “Please, Quinn. I already asked my dads if it was okay. We want you to come stay with us, for as long as you need.”

“Are you high?!” Quinn snapped, jerking her hand back from the shorter girl’s warm grip, and instantly regretting it. “What on earth would make you think I’d want to live with you, huh Berry?” Rachel looked right into Quinn’s eyes, both of them floundering between hurt and hope.

“I…just thought it would be better than sleeping in the back seat of a subcompact,” the dark-haired girl said softly, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear as she looked down at her hands again. “You can’t keep this up much longer; you must know that. It’s getting colder every night. You’re gonna make yourself sick…it isn’t good for the baby.” It was a low blow, but it got Quinn’s attention. No matter how confused she might be about, well, everything in her life right now, here was one thing she couldn’t ignore: what was best for her baby. And clearly, right now, Rachel’s offer was it.

“Fine. I mean…thank you.” Quinn smiled tentatively, looking embarrassed again.

“You’re welcome,” Rachel smiled back broadly, causing the fluttery feeling in Quinn’s stomach to erupt again. What the hell? “Well c’mon, my dads are waiting for us.” Quinn nodded and started the car, knowing for the first time in over a week that she actually had someplace to go.

……………………………………………………

The Berry house wasn’t quite as nice as Quinn’s parents’, if you were judging purely based on money; but it had a comfortable, lived-in feeling that the Fabray house had always lacked, and it smelled like fresh-baked cookies. Quinn instantly felt at home, and when Rachel’s two dads welcomed her in, she knew they meant it, though she still couldn’t fathom why. Rachel showed her to the guest room (though she referred to it as “your room” when she showed the blonde girl in) and then immediately left her alone to settle in, though Quinn found herself wishing, for whatever reason, that the other girl would stay. She unpacked quickly—she didn’t have much, as her parents had given her so little time to pack when they’d kicked her out—and then curled up on the bed, which was very comfortable, and cried quietly until her head pounded and her nose ran. She probably would’ve cried herself to sleep eventually, if not for the soft knock on the door.

“Can I come in?” Rachel’s voice asked hesitantly from the other side.

“It’s your house,” Quinn replied dully.

“It’s your room,” Rachel countered, making no move to open the door.

“Fine, come in,” Quinn sighed wearily. She didn’t really want Rachel to see her like this, red-eyed and pathetic; but she supposed that it couldn’t be helped anymore. And as soon as the dark-haired girl came into view, smiling gently and bearing a tray of milk and cookies, Quinn felt the sadness inside her starting to lose its grip. None of this made any sense, but she was too exhausted to keep pushing the other girl’s kindness away. Not when she was standing there with honest-to-God milk and cookies, and smiling at her like things had always been this way.

“I thought you might like a little bedtime snack,” Rachel offered, sitting hesitantly on the end of Quinn’s bed and putting the tray down on the blanket between them. “They’re fresh from the oven. My dad Jacob loves to bake.”

“Thadks,” Quinn sniffled, blushing a little when she realized how stuffy her voice sounded from crying. Rachel reached over and passed her a tissue from the bedside table without saying anything. Quinn took it and quickly wiped her eyes and blew her nose, turning away from the other girl.

“You’re the only person I know who gets embarrassed about crying,” Rachel said suddenly, apparently out of nowhere. “You really shouldn’t be. It’s perfectly natural to let your feelings out…and God knows, my dads are plenty used to it.”

“I bet,” Quinn found herself replying with a small smile, thinking of the dark-haired girl’s regular attacks of diva-drama in the choir room that usually ended with very loud, very un-embarrassed tears. Then her head gave a nasty throb, and she closed her stinging eyes with a soft groan.

“Quinn? Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Just a headache.” With her eyes still closed, Quinn was completely unprepared for the gentle touch of Rachel’s warm fingers against her temples. She should’ve jumped back, or given the other girl a nasty retort; but instead she found herself leaning into Rachel’s soft touch, which was magically relieving the pressure pounding against her skull.

“Does that feel good?” Rachel asked hesitantly, sounding suddenly nervous and shy, though she’d been so forward a moment ago. Quinn couldn’t believe she even had to ask.

“Yeah, really good,” she sighed quietly, eyes still closed. “Don’t stop.” Rachel obeyed, and for a few minutes they sat in silence, as Quinn felt the tension slowly draining out of her heavy head. Eventually, Rachel’s warm fingers withdrew, and Quinn opened her eyes sleepily, a small smile playing across her lips.

“Oh…” Rachel blushed a little, smiling back shyly. “I thought you fell asleep.”

“I don’t understand why you’re being so nice to me,” Quinn replied, her relaxed state breaking down her usual barriers between thought and speech. Rachel blinked, and her smile widened into something more at ease, more confident.

“You deserve to have someone be nice to you right now,” she shrugged, like it was obvious. “You’re going through something huge and scary…and you’re turning into this whole new person. I mean…I like who you’re turning into.” Quinn blinked and rubbed her eyes. Did Rachel Berry just tell her she liked her? Why did that make her heart thump and her stomach squirm? At a loss for words, Quinn sat up against the pillows and took a cookie from the tray between them, quickly shoving it into her mouth.

“These are really good,” she mumbled, already reaching for another.

“Yeah, they’re my favorite,” Rachel smiled, taking one herself. “Don’t forget to drink your milk, though. Calcium is good for the baby.”

“Yes ma’am,” Quinn replied sarcastically, but the small smirk playing across her lips betrayed her happiness at the other girl’s concern for her wellbeing. That, and the fact that she actually did as Rachel said, picking up the glass and taking a long drink. “Happy?” She asked when she’d finished, raising an eyebrow teasingly.

“Yeah.”

“Me too.” Quinn felt the butterflies swirling around in her stomach again as they smiled at each other. She had absolutely no idea how this had happened; but she knew she wasn’t lying. For the first time in months, Quinn Fabray was happy.