Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Glee Universe. No copyright infringement intended.
All the colours
Of the rainbow
Hidden 'neath my skin
Hearts have colours
Don't we all know?
Red runs through our veins
Feel the fire burning up
Inspire me with blood
Of blue and green
I have hope
Inside is not a heart
But a kaleidoscope
Kaleidoscope Heart - Sara Bareilles
It can't be said the news is taken particularly… well.
Rachel Berry's eyes seem to cloud over, and Quinn Fabray can see the obvious fear in them. Still, Rachel tries to stay strong for her, even though the news has the potential to make them both fall apart.
"It's going to be okay," Quinn says, trying to reassure her girlfriend by saying words even she doesn't believe.
"It has to," Rachel echoes, sounding entirely too calm, squeezing her fingers around Quinn's as the two of them take what may or may not be one of their last walks together.
They're on their way back from the hospital, where they've just received the kind of news that shifts everything about their lives into perspective.
Quinn now knows exactly how much time she has left to live.
"I can't live without you," Rachel says, keeping her eyes focused straight ahead of them as the world goes on all around them; as if they don't realise the magnitude of the blow they've both just been dealt.
"And you won't have to," Quinn says, which is a promise she really isn't in any position to make. "You'll see," she tries anyway. "They're going to find me a donor before we know it, and everything is going to work out. I'll be as healthy as I've ever been."
Rachel takes a deep breath, trying her best not to feel overwhelmed by their new reality. "Your optimism is nauseating."
Quinn grins at her, because it's always been the other way around in their relationship.
For much of their teenage years, Rachel was the true believer between the two of them, but the years since have made her harder and less willing to believe in fantasies.
Quinn kisses her cheek, hoping to rid her gorgeous face of its severity. "Don't forget about my faith, with a dollop of hope, sprinkled with rainbow-coloured belief."
"The whole package, huh?" Rachel muses, pulling Quinn along as they cross the street. She can just make out their apartment building on the corner, its façade glaringly obvious to her that neither of them have reached the highs they both dreamed of when they first moved to New York.
Still, it's home, and it's theirs.
That's better than any dream she's ever had.
Rachel can see the grocery store they always go to, and the launderette across the street from them, where Uncle Sal uses some special concoction to get the paint out of Quinn's clothing.
Everything seems so normal and, yet, after the news they've just received, everything about their sleepy lives has suddenly changed. Like, somehow, the pace of their lives has switched gears, and she can't tell if they're now going faster or slower.
Quinn goes straight into her studio when they get to the apartment, looking like a woman on a mission. Rachel just hangs up their coats while she waits, knowing that whatever is Quinn's mission will require her undivided attention.
Sure enough, Quinn comes back out with a large paintbrush and a small tray of midnight black paint. She crosses the living room towards the wall above the couch they found on Craigslist several years ago and she removes the painting that's been hanging there for much longer.
It's one of Rachel's favourites, depicting the Manhattan skyline and a starry night. Quinn painted it their first year in the Big Apple, and she had every intention of selling it to get them some extra cash, but Rachel refused.
It'll be worth millions one day, Rachel told her at the time, and she still believes it.
On the wall, Quinn paints: 6 MONTHS in large, looping letters, merely sealing both their fates.
The two of them stand together and just stare at the letters, the truth of their new reality beginning to sink in. It's almost taunting them.
"Not even enough time to have a baby," Rachel says, almost offhandedly, and they both burst out laughing.
Quinn's laughter tapers off first, giving way to a wet sniffle. "Six months until the last day of my forever with you," she says softly and it's like an arrow through Rachel's already-splintering heart. She wants to scream and yell and shout, the words don't say that and don't you dare give up on the tip of her tongue.
Instead, she sighs heavily, defeated.
"I can't live without you," Rachel tells her for what must be the hundredth time in their seven-year relationship. "I'd rather die."
Quinn looks at her then, seeing the painful and morbid truth in her dark eyes. It's clear she means every word. "Well, that would be such a waste of some very fine ass," Quinn says lightly, attempting to alleviate some of the heaviness in their conversation. "I better not die then, huh?"
"It would be much appreciated," Rachel murmurs, struggling to go along with the joke. She can't seem to find anything humorous in this moment.
Not when her world could very well come to an end in six months.
Not when she doesn't know how she's supposed to come up with the money to pay for their medical bills.
Not when everything is changing, and nothing feels right.
"What's wrong, Rachel Berry?" Quinn asks, sensing that something more severe is amiss with her girlfriend.
And, she's not wrong.
"Are you going to phone your mother and tell her?" Rachel asks, slightly wary of bringing up Judy Fabray to Quinn, when the two women still have an extremely rocky relationship.
"And say what?" Quinn mutters. "You know how you hate my girlfriend and all, yeah, well, I have six months left to live. It was nice knowing you. Have a great life, then just hang up?"
Rachel sighs, reaching out to wrap her fingers around Quinn's thin wrist. "No, not exactly like that," she says calmly, knowing it will make Quinn smile. "I just mean, well, wouldn't you want to know?"
"I would," Quinn relents. "But, then again, I would also be more accepting of my daughter's relationship. Maybe it's just me, I don't know."
Rachel sighs again. "Okay, well, at least think about it," she says. "I feel guilty for this rift between you and your mother."
"But I've told you so many times that it isn't your fault," she says, suddenly looking exhausted, as if the day is just finally catching up with her.
"I know," Rachel murmurs, moving to settle on their tired, old couch. They're both pretty tired, and Rachel has an early start in the morning. "I can't help but think that if you hadn't fallen for me, you'd still have a proper relationship with her."
"Rachel," Quinn says, climbing onto the couch and straddling Rachel's strong thighs as she forces her gaze upwards. "We both know that's not true," she says. "Baby, if it wasn't you, then something else would have made it happen, so please stop feeling guilty, okay?" Quinn leans back, looking thoughtful. "Although, I must admit, the whole guilty thing really does make you look awfully sexy."
"Trust you to find something sexual in every situation," she says, letting out a light laugh, as she places her hands on Quinn's hips, her fingers curling around the soft cotton she finds there. "Just, tell me you'll think about it."
"I have around six months to think about it, so, yes," she says, smiling mischievously.
Rachel just shakes her head before she leans in to kiss her. Once, twice. "I love you," she murmurs against soft lips.
"Definitely not as much as I love you," Quinn immediately returns. "And, yes, I win this one, hands down."
"Hands down?" Rachel asks saucily.
Quinn laughs gloriously throwing her head back as her forearms shift on Rachel's shoulders. "And you say I make everything sexual?"
"Oh, just come here." Rachel pulls her in closer, their lips coming together once more. She smiles when Quinn lets out a soft moan, her own hands sliding under Quinn's shirt to touch the skin of her warm back.
Before Rachel even knows what's happening, the kiss has heated up, and Quinn is tugging at Rachel's sweater, suddenly eager to get it off. It's the moment Rachel knows Quinn intends to take this further, and she gently pulls away.
"I have some things to do," she says slowly and Quinn immediately knows she's lying. She pulls a face, clearly showing her displeasure, and Rachel bravely asks, "What's wrong?"
"I know when you're lying, Rachel," she says, her frown more pronounced. "I just don't know why." She climbs off her girlfriend and moves to sit beside her. "So, why don't you enlighten us both and actually tell me?"
"I have some things to do," she says again, getting to her feet and stretching her arms high in the air.
Quinn just watches her carefully, already knowing the true reason, but waiting for Rachel to say the words.
Only, she doesn't.
Quinn sighs. "It's because Dr Cathcart told you I'm not supposed to stress my heart, right? No heavy exertion?"
Rachel shakes her head. "I have things to do," she repeats.
"Are you trying to tell me you're not going to touch me until I die?" Quinn asks, and there's a certain edge to her voice that reminds Rachel of the Quinn of their teenage years.
Rachel frowns. "No, Quinn, just until you get your new heart."
"What if I don't get one?" she immediately questions. "Are you just going to let me die having been starved of you for six months?"
"If you're trying to be funny; it's really not working," Rachel says, looking particularly unimpressed with the sound of Quinn's words. "Don't say things like that."
Quinn shakes her own head as she rises to her feet. "Well, I don't think you'll be able to do it," she says, and the challenge is obvious in her tone.
"Do what?" she asks, her voice uncharacteristically shaky.
"Abstain for so long," Quinn says with a sweet, innocent smile as she steps closer to Rachel and slides her hands under the brunette's sweater, lifting the fabric to expose her midriff.
Rachel looks down at Quinn's hands on her skin. She's still amazed by Quinn's paleness against her own tanned skin. "I won't be able to live without you, so I'd rather not have something happen to you," she says as diplomatically as she can, carefully removing Quinn's hands from her body.
"He meant exercise," Quinn tells her, as Rachel starts to walk towards their bedroom. "As in cycling and things that pump adrenalin."
"I love you, too," Rachel says over her shoulder, trying not to think about how difficult this is going to be for her.
It feels like no time at all has past when they find themselves lying in bed, both on their backs and staring at the ceiling. Rachel can hear Quinn's shallow breathing and she knows it's the most beautiful sound she's ever heard in her entire life.
The words: 5 MONTHS are written in large script on the far wall, and the letters are almost haunting them.
"I admit, I didn't think you could survive a week," Quinn suddenly says, cutting into the silence.
Rachel startles slightly. "I thought you were asleep," she says, her own heart rate struggling to steady once more.
Quinn just hums.
"You know you haven't made it any easier for me," Rachel murmurs in playful accusations, rolling onto her side and looking at Quinn's perfect silhouette. She's stunning, even in the dark. "It doesn't help when you insist on sleeping in practically nothing every night."
"It's your own fault," she says, rolling over to look at Rachel, as well. Merely the sight of Rachel makes her own body tingle. She has soft, tan skin and beautiful chestnut eyes that make everything about Quinn's life worth it. Perfectly carved lips and strong cheekbones that demand Quinn's attention.
Quinn even has this fleeting thought that Rachel Berry is definitely ageing well.
Quinn just wishes she wouldn't stress so much. She misses the days when they would laugh over nothing and dance in the kitchen in their underwear. She misses those moments before Rachel decided to carry the world on her shoulders.
"Quinn, have you told your mother yet?" Rachel has to ask, because it's something that's been bothering her recently.
"Rachel," Quinn breathes. "We've spoken about this."
"I know we have," she says. "And? What did you decide? Are you going to phone already?"
"I don't think so," Quinn confesses softly.
Rachel surprises herself by how angry she actually gets. Because she doesn't want to blow up at Quinn unnecessarily, she quickly slips out of bed and stalks over to the window in silence.
She looks out to the sky, and the stars comfort her, even as she's hit by memories she's not sure she wants to remember. It's been years, but she still feels the pain of loss as deeply as she did back then.
Rachel's mother always told her that if ever she needed her, she should just look up at the stars, see her in them and everything would be okay.
"I'm going to need you now more than ever," Rachel whispers to the night sky, hoping her mother can hear her. She's going to need all the help she can get, now that they're facing this new reality.
Shivers run down Rachel's spine, because Quinn's voice is close.
Rachel closes her eyes when Quinn's arms snake around her middle, and hold her against her body. She leans into the embrace, smiling slightly when Quinn's chin rests on her shoulder.
"Baby, what's wrong?" Quinn asks, her voice barely a whisper.
Rachel knows it's not fair of her to ask this of Quinn, but she doesn't want her girlfriend to have any regrets. "Please can you just tell her," she starts, clearly referring to Judy. "Please talk to her. Please make things right."
Rachel feels Quinn tense behind her, and she hates that her own voice sounds so desperate. It's unbecoming, and she's supposed to be handling this better. "If I had the chance, I would do it," she finally says.
Quinn hugs her closer, gently kissing his neck. "I'm sorry," she says slowly. "I didn't even think about what this must be like for you."
Rachel breathes out tiredly, as she turns in Quinn's arms, so she can see the hazel eyes that have claimed her for more years than she would dare to admit. "I know my relationship with Shelby was vastly different to the one you have with Judy, but I think this is something every mother should know about her child."
Quinn just nods, not providing an answer either way. "I love you."
"I love you, too." The words are heavy with meaning, and Rachel thinks they're telling each other something else entirely.
And, when Quinn leans in to kiss her, she knows there's no chance of her fighting it. Not tonight. She didn't know it was going to be the last time she makes love to her girlfriend, the last time they did, so she has every intention of savouring every moment of this.
Rachel backs Quinn up to the bed, her own heart pounding in her chest. "This is the final time," she says, already breathless, as she reaches for Quinn's camisole and proceeds to peel it off. "This is it, baby. Okay?"
Quinn nods, her hands fisting around Rachel's pyjama top and pulling her down as she falls back onto the bed. "So, make it last," she whispers.
"What are we defacing next?" is the first question Quinn asks when they get back to the apartment from the latest doctor visit. She strolls right in, Rachel still struggling with the key in the lock, and disappears into her studio to retrieve her paintbrush and tray of paint.
"The bathroom," Rachel says when Quinn comes back out. Then, because she's spent years reading about the strangest things while waiting for Quinn in hospitals, she adds, "Did you know that an average person spends at least three years of his or her life on the toilet?"
Quinn just shakes her head, looking amused. "And, why did you know that?"
"The same why I know an average person spends at least two weeks of his or her life waiting for the traffic lights to change."
Quinn laughs prettily. "Wow, where on earth did I find you?"
"You took a picture of me, remember?"
"The greatest picture I think I've ever taken," she says with a firm nod, and then frowns. "I should paint on the wall, right? Not the tiles. It might come off with the steam?"
"Well, I wouldn't mind if four months washed off," Rachel quips as she makes her way to their small kitchen; "because, it means I would have this month for that much longer."
"Aren't you so adorable?" Quinn practically purrs, walking towards Rachel and putting her hands out to touch her, and then frowning when the brunette steps back and out of reach.
"Nope, you can't touch me, sorry," Rachel says slowly. "Not right now. I'm kind of sensitive."
Quinn frowns for a beat, and then her face spreads into a wide smile. "So, it would be awfully wrong of me to take advantage of this, right?"
Rachel stares hard at her for a moment. "Quinn, I really wouldn't appreciate that at all," she says calmly. "Not at all."
Quinn sighs in response. "You're no fun."
"And you're acting like a five year old," she says, searching through the kitchen drawer in which they keep all their useless trinkets.
"What are you looking for?"
"Noah sent me a number and I wrote it down somewhere, but now I can't seem to find it."
"What number is it?"
Rachel hesitates, but she and Quinn have tried to maintain full disclosure in their relationship. "There's a job for me," she says carefully. "The payment is enough for the medical insurance for this month. We can't afford to slack in that department, otherwise we have to pay for your operation ourselves."
Quinn eyes her thoughtfully, and then asks the question Rachel really wishes she wouldn't. "What sort of job is it?"
"Just some thing," she says matter-of-factly, avoiding eye contact.
"It's just a job," she says dismissively.
And, well, Quinn knows exactly what she's not saying. "Rachel," she says slowly. "I told you I don't want you getting involved in that kind of stuff anymore."
Rachel feels a flash of annoyance, that's coupled with hurt and genuine hurt. "What?" she snaps. "Just because I don't want to tell you what I'm doing, you automatically assume I'm about to do something illegal, huh?"
Quinn looks caught off guard. "Rach?"
"No," Rachel says, slamming the drawer shut. "It's just a job, Quinn. We need the money. I don't understand what the problem is. All I want to do is go out there so I can earn some money, so you don't have to, okay? Is that too much to ask?"
Quinn doesn't say anything for a good minute, just allowing Rachel to calm herself. It doesn't seem to be working though, because the brunette's breathing is still laboured and her eyes are still shifty.
"Rachel, baby, what's wrong?"
"What do you mean what's wrong?" Rachel immediately counters, starting to sound exasperated.
Quinn takes a breath. "I can tell something's on your mind. Just talk to me."
Rachel's eyes narrow. "Really?" she snarks. "You want to know what's on my mind, huh?" She doesn't even give Quinn time to reply. "Well, let me tell you. That doctor said four months today. Four months, Quinn. Which means that if they don't find you a heart, you're going to die. You haven't moved up the donor list at all and your time hasn't been extended. It's been two months since he said six months, which means you're on course. Now, tell me what's right about that?"
"No, Quinn, I can't have it!" she practically screams. "Don't you get it? I can't continue waiting around and pretending things are just going to happen. I need you to live; I need you to be alive and breathing. I can't have just four months with you. It's not enough time. Don't you see? It's not enough."
"Everything is going to be okay," Quinn tries to say, tears springing to her eyes.
Rachel shakes her head roughly. "No, don't you dare say that to me!" She looks helplessly at Quinn, her own tears threatening in her eyes. "What if it isn't?" she asks, her voice catching. "What if I lose you? You don't know for sure, and I don't want you to stand here and potentially lie to me, okay? So, don't say stuff like that!"
"Rachel, baby, it's going to be okay," Quinn still says, moving forward and wrapping her arms around Rachel when her first tears fall.
"Stop saying that!" She fights against Quinn's embrace. "I don't want you just to say that. You can't! I want you to live. I need you to live." She finally gives in, crying against Quinn. "I can't live without you," she says. "I can't have a forever without you."
"You won't have to," Quinn tries to assure her. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Please don't lie to me."
Quinn just holds her tighter, her traitorous heart breaking at the sound of her girlfriend's sobs.
"I love you," Rachel mumbles. "Don't leave me. Please. Don't die on me."
"I'm not going to," Quinn says. "They'll find me a heart, you'll see."
Eventually, after what feels like five hundred hours, Rachel lets go of her, straightens and wipes at her eyes. "I have some things I need to do."
"Quinn, it's just some things," she says calmly, deftly smoothing down her clothing after her near breakdown. She's irritated with herself, because she's supposed to be strong for Quinn. "It's nothing important."
"I love you." They're the most profound words she's ever said to Quinn, sealing both their fates one hot summer night in little old Lima, Ohio. Rachel reaches up and softly kisses Quinn, inhaling deeply.
And then she leaves the apartment without saying another word.
Quinn stands for a few moments watching the space Rachel just vacated, unsure how to feel in this moment. All she can really do is assure Rachel as best she can, but that doesn't seem to be working, based on the way Rachel almost fell apart at the seams.
Quinn feels the irregular beating of her heart rising as she pictures living without Rachel. She thinks she could do it, but she would never want to.
Quinn has always suspected Rachel needs her much more than she likes to think she needs Rachel. It's more about their upbringing, she thinks. Quinn has always been fine on her own, but Rachel is really the first person she's allowed herself to need.
Without another thought, Quinn takes out her phone and dials her mother.
"Quinn?" Judy Fabray answers the phone by the second ring, surprise in her tone because she's obviously not expecting the call. "Are you okay? Did something happen? What's wrong?"
Quinn takes a deep breath and tries her best to remain calm. "Nothing is wrong," she says carefully. "I just wanted to tell you what the doctor said."
"Oh," Judy says, sounding slightly disappointed. She wants her daughter to be calling for other reasons - just because she wants to, really. The two of them haven't spoken in a few months; not since Judy tried to get Quinn to come home… alone.
Judy just wants to take care of her daughter, and she's convinced Rachel is keeping her away. "What did Edward say?" she asks.
Quinn rolls her eyes at her mother's familiarity with her doctor. Judy is the one who insisted they go to Dr Edward Cathcart when they arrived in New York. Even though the woman disapproves of their relationship, she always made sure Quinn was cared for… until she just didn't.
The last straw was when Judy held Quinn's medical expenses as an ultimatum, demanding she leave Rachel or Judy would stop paying.
Judy stopped paying.
Rachel and Quinn are still together.
None of it means anything now, though, because there's no heart. Money doesn't even matter at this point. They can't buy a heart.
"He put me on the donor list," Quinn finally tells her, plain and emotionless. "I have four months."
Judy doesn't even know how to respond. What is a mother supposed to say after hearing something like that?
The silence stretches on, and Quinn says, "Mom?"
Judy clears her throat, gathering herself. "You're coming home."
Quinn sucks in a breath. "No, I'm not," she immediately says, her voice stern. "I'm staying right here with Rachel."
"Quinn," Judy says calmly. "This isn't up for discussion."
"You're right," Quinn says. "I'm staying with Rachel, and that's all there is to it."
"Why do insist on doing this?"
"Why won't you just accept the fact I'm in love with her?"
Judy ignores the question. "You're my daughter, and I say you are coming home. I cannot have you not at home at this time, do you hear me?"
"I can't be in a house where I don't feel comfortable," Quinn says impatiently.
"Then you should just come home," her mother says, and she sounds momentarily proud of herself.
"No, you're being unreasonable," Quinn almost growls, her own anger getting the best of her. "You know, I wasn't even going to phone you. Rachel asked me to. She asked me, practically begged me because she knew I wouldn't have phoned you, and I would have just died without you even knowing."
"So, no, I'm not coming to you. I'm already at home, right here, where Rachel is," Quinn finishes.
Then she hangs up, not waiting to hear what else Judy has to say. The relationship between mother and daughter has been tremulous since Quinn was sixteen and just discovering her sexuality and falling in love for the first time.
Nobody expected that person to be Rachel Berry. Least of all Quinn, who would have fought it tooth and nail until her throat was raw, if not for the ticking time bomb her doctors told her was in her chest.
Having familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy didn't really worry her until then. It hadn't been a worry. Not really. Her childhood doctors saw no need to address it until the symptoms really started to present themselves. She gets short of breath easily, which prompted the end to her cheerleading career, and she had to go on regulatory medication even to be in Glee.
This, what's happening, it's all been a long time coming, she thinks. She's just not one of those who could have gone on living the rest of her life unaffected.
Quinn is dying, and that truth hasn't been as clear as it in this very moment.
After the emotions of the day and the exertion, she's feeling irritable, weak and another level of exhausted, so she makes the decision to catch a nap, hoping when she wakes, Rachel will be back.
Only, she's not.
Quinn forces herself not to worry, going for a long shower to calm her nerves. It doesn't help, though, and she receives no answer when she tries Rachel's phone. Seven times.
To keep herself busy, Quinn prepares their dinner, leaving a plate warming in the oven for Rachel. She even does some painting, her work having taken a backseat to her health.
Quinn, in general, finds it difficult to get to sleep without Rachel, so she tries to stay up for as long as possible. Her eyes start to drop around two o'clock from the exhaustion, and she eventually succumbs to sleep while still on the couch.
When Quinn next wakes, she's in their bed with Rachel sleeping soundly beside her, looking as peaceful as ever. In the morning, Quinn is going to have a few choice words to say to her but, for now, she's content just to watch her girlfriend sleep, suddenly thankful that Rachel can get a few hours of respite.
Needing to use the toilet, Quinn rolls out of bed and rises to her feet. Too quickly. She feels the dizziness hit her first, and then the sudden heave of her chest before a sharp palm shoots down her left arm.
"Rachel," she tries to say. "Rachel," she tries again. She takes a step forward, only for her legs to give out, sending her toppling as she lands hard on the floor.
Rachel shifts in bed at the foreign sound, and automatically feels for Quinn but she's not there. Immediately, she jolts upright in a panic, because Quinn never wakes before her. It's a thing.
And, when Rachel sees Quinn lying there, unmoving, beyond the scrambling and the screaming, she knows she has to do everything she possibly can to make sure Quinn gets a heart.
"Where are you going?" Quinn asks the question, watching as Rachel slips on her coat, clearly with the intention of leaving the apartment.
Rachel pauses in the motion of buttoning herself up, and casts a nervous look at her girlfriend. "I've got some things to do," she says slowly.
Quinn's facial expression remains unimpressed, as she sits upright from where she was previously lying on the couch. "The last time you said that, you were out the whole night," she points out.
"I'll be back before you know it," Rachel tries to assure her. Which fails spectacularly.
For the most part, Quinn wants to ask her to stay. She just needs Rachel to be here. But, what her mouth ends up saying is, "I love you, Rachel Berry."
"I love you too, Quinn Fabray," Rachel automatically returns; "I'll see you soon, okay?" Her smile is small but present, and it's all Quinn really needs to let her go.
The smile slips from her face the second she's closed the door behind her, though. It's just too difficult to maintain it.
She has a job to do.
With a sigh, Rachel fumbles for her phone in her pocket and dials a familiar number. For the most part, she doesn't want to be calling him for the reason she's calling him, but she has no choice now.
She's running out of time.
Quinn is running out of time.
"Hey, Bro," Noah promptly answers, sounding a little breathless. "What's up?"
Rachel takes a moment to gather herself. "Noah, I need a favour," she says as she starts for the stairs, not wanting to use the elevator while she's on the phone.
"What can the Puckster do for you?"
Rachel breathes out slowly. "Look, thank you for helping me out with that job last month, but I need something… much bigger from you right now."
Noah obviously senses her severity, because he doesn't try to crack a joke.
"I need to know how I can get a hold of Terri Schuester," she says slowly, anticipating her friend's immediate reaction.
"Are you out of your mind?" Noah practically screeches, and Rachel winces, immediately pulling the phone away from her ear.
"Noah, listen to me, I have no choice," she starts, and she honestly believes it. "Quinn has three months. Three months. I need to find a way to get her a heart, and we both know Terri is the only way."
"Rachel, you can't," he argues. "The Honey Badger won't let you go a second time. Don't you remember how difficult it was for you to get out the first time?"
As if Rachel needs the reminder. Terri Schuester, known in certain circles as the Honey Badger, is ruthless when it comes to maintaining her illegal poker club, and Rachel had been one of her trusted… hostesses, as it were, for a few years in college.
Until Quinn took a turn for the worst, and Rachel needed out. And fast.
It wasn't until then that Rachel realised she'd sold her soul to the devil to make some - okay, a lot of - extra money. They needed the money, yes, but Quinn needed her more, and Rachel has zero regrets about that.
She does regret holding one of Terri's illicit ledgers ransom, to get herself a painless escape from the cutthroat world. And, now, she needs the woman. She needs her connections and her money. She needs the kind of help that may cost her the rest of her life as payment, and it's a price she's all too willing to pay.
Anything for Quinn.
"Noah, I can't live without her," Rachel says. "Now, can you help me or not?"
"Rachel, you know you're my JewBro, and I would normally support you, but this is too fucking dangerous. You could get yourself killed. There has to be another way."
"What other way, Noah?" she suddenly snaps, unable to contain the desperation in her voice. "There is no other way! There's no time! She can't die. She can't!"
"She's not going to," Noah says carefully, realising he has to be the calm one here. "Look, let me handle this, okay? Let me make a few phone calls. There is no way I'm letting you back into her clutches. I won't lose you."
"I won't lose her."
"You won't," he says, and he's trying so hard to sound stern. "Nobody is going to be losing anybody."
The silence that follows is one of disbelief. Still. "Thank you, Noah," Rachel says softly, her ire deflating instantly. "I'm sorry I - " she stops, sighing. "Just, thank you so much."
"Always here for you, bro."
Rachel closes her eyes, realising for the first time that she's actually stopped walking. Her feet planted on a random stair, and she shifts to the side, absently leaning against the scuffed wall.
"How are you?" she asks after a moment.
"I'm good," he answers after a beat - probably of surprise. "Work's a fucking drag, though."
"What's new?" Rachel muses, enjoying the ease of conversation for a moment. Everything else about her life is heavy with impending deaths and morbid emotion. She needs this moment.
They end up chatting for a few minutes about some of the men at Noah's work, and about the girl he's been trying to get to go on a date with him for weeks now, and Rachel appreciates him even more for it. It's felt like ages since she's laughed.
Eventually, he says, "Oh, shit, I've gotta go. Hudson's gone and fucked up again."
Rachel rolls her eyes, because of course it was Finn. "Okay, thanks again," she says. "I appreciate all you're doing."
"Anything for you and Blondie," he says, and then hangs up.
Rachel spends another minute unmoving, her entire focus on keeping her breathing steady. When she finally feels ready to get moving, she debates whether going out really is what she wants to be doing in this moment. If she ends up in Terri's clutches by the end of the week, she can only wonder when next she'll see Quinn.
So, with a soft smile, she starts on her way back up the stairs towards their apartment. She fumbles with her keys as she approaches the door, a mixture of genuine excitement and terror at seeing Quinn swimming through her veins, now that she knows what she knows.
She freezes at the sound of a loud clatter from behind the closed door, and her mind flies to thoughts of Quinn fainting again, and she scrambles to get the door open, her heart thumping hard against her ribcage.
"Quinn?" she practically screams as she flings open the door, her eyes frantically searching the living area for any sign of her.
"Rachel?" Quinn squeaks from somewhere unseen. "I'm in here."
Rachel immediately follows the voice, her panic easing at the sound of Quinn's voice. She's clearly not unconscious, but she does sound a little breathless.
"What are you doing?" Rachel asks, going into the kitchen to find a large pot and its lid strewn on the floor and Quinn standing innocently by the kitchen wall with a paintbrush in her hand.
"Nothing," Quinn says, and she looks so much like a guilty toddler who just got caught with her hand in the cookie jar.
Rachel can't help her smile, feeling it spread across her face at how adorable Quinn is in this moment.
"I was just putting up the three months," Quinn simply says, gesturing at the wall.
Rachel's smile dims slightly, but she does her best to keep it there. "Soon, we're going to run out of rooms," she says, suddenly determined to close the space between them.
"Nope, I've worked it all out," she says with a quick shake of her head. "We're going to have exactly the right number of places; just that our bedroom's going to get lucky with two. The ceiling is practically calling out for some paint."
Rachel feels every part of her body immediately soften. Her head tilts to the side, and she regards Quinn with deep, deep affection. "I missed you," she whispers, very carefully sliding her arms around Quinn's thin waist.
Quinn arches a patented eyebrow. "You were gone for, like, literally two minutes," she points out, looking amused.
"That was more than enough time for me to miss you," Rachel informs her. "I miss you even when you're right beside me."
"Okay, whoa, you have some serious attachment issues," Quinn teases, laughing sweetly, as her arms rest on Rachel's shoulders.
"So, sue me," Rachel quips, leaning forward to kiss the tip of Quinn's perfect nose.
"What's yours is mine, Rach," Quinn says; "I would, essentially, be suing myself."
"Like a married couple," Rachel unthinkingly says, and Quinn freezes in her arms, her forehead creasing.
Rachel should almost expect what Quinn says next, but she really doesn't. "We should do it."
With a sigh, Rachel says, "I already told you that the last time was - " only to be cut off by a cold hand pressed against her mouth.
"No, you pervert," Quinn says, shaking her head. "I mean, we should get married."
Rachel blinks once, twice, and then proceeds to mumble something against Quinn's fingers. She waits until Quinn drops her hand before saying, "And, we will, after you get your heart."
It's obviously not what Quinn wants to hear from the slight narrowing of her eyes and unimpressed pout. "Why not now?"
Rachel raises her eyebrows. "Right now?"
"Because, I don't want it to be rushed," Rachel says. "I don't want it to be something we do because we're scared of what's going to happen. Also, I really want you to be able to have the perfect wedding every girl deserves, and we can't realistically do that in three months."
Quinn softens slightly, but not completely. "The only thing that makes it special is the partner, didn't you know? I don't care about any of that other stuff, Rach. We can go down to City Hall tomorrow; it doesn't matter to me. I just want to be married to you. I want to be tied to you."
"Quinn," she breathes, indicating her unwillingness to debate any part of this.
Quinn just gives her this look that's a mix between pleading and smug, because she suddenly knows she's won. She's convinced Rachel without even having to lift a finger, because, really, Rachel's wanted to marry her since they were sixteen years old.
Rachel seemingly deflates, and then very carefully warns, "We won't be able to consummate the marriage," as if it should be enough to dissuade Quinn. She should know better.
"I don't care," Quinn says. "I don't care. I just want to be married to you."
"You're serious about this?"
"I want to be Mrs Berry," Quinn says, looking immensely pleased with herself. "So, will you marry me? Will you give me this one thing?"
"I would give you the world," Rachel whispers, drawing Quinn into a lingering kiss.
"You already do," is whispered against her lips, and Rachel's resolve to do all she can to save this amazing woman is set in stone.
Like their love.
Rachel has felt helpless before, but this is something entirely different.
Normally, there are things she can actually do to rid Quinn of that lost look in her eyes and anguish on her face, but she has nothing to offer now.
"Come here," Rachel murmurs, holding out her arms and revelling in the fact Quinn immediately closes the space between them and settles into her embrace.
Still, Quinn can't stop the tears as Rachel's arms wrap around her. "Two months," she mumbles into Rachel's neck, wetting the skin with her tears. "It's not enough time."
Rachel looks over her shoulder at where Quinn just painted the words 2 MONTHS on the wall of her studio. They're just staring back at them, mocking them.
"You're right," Rachel softly says, running a hand over Quinn's soft hair. She feels so little, so frail and so cold in her arms, and she knows it's because Quinn's appetite is waning and her blood circulation is getting worse. "It's not enough time, at all." She closes her eyes to the truth of those words. "Good thing you're going to live for forever, right? Isn't that what you said? I thought you were the true believer here, huh?"
Quinn shakes her head, and then pulls back, wiping at her eyes. "I don't even know why I'm crying," she says, puffing out a breath and looking so thoroughly overwhelmed that Rachel immediately realises this is her moment. Her one chance to do what needs to be done.
She should feel guilty taking advantage of her wife's distraction and distraught state, but there's no other way, and Quinn willingly signs whatever pieces of paper Rachel puts in front of her, because Quinn trusts her above all else.
She does mumble a quick what is this?, but Rachel just mentions something about renewing their lease on the apartment, and Quinn leaves it at that.
This is going to end.
In two months, any number of things can happen, and Rachel is determined to give Quinn her best chance at a long, happy, healthy life.
It takes Quinn a few minutes more to settle and, by then, Rachel has swept all the pages away. Quinn's going to find out soon enough, and she'd rather they just enjoy this time together.
Quinn seems to be on the same page about that, because she dries off the last of her tears with the sleeve of her sweater and says, "I love you, Rachel."
"Not half as much as I love you," Rachel automatically returns, a slow smile spreading across her face.
Quinn shoots her a reproachful look, but her eyes are finally brighter. "So you say," she murmurs, and then steps back to retrieve something from her bag. She's had it since she was put on the donor list, but the all-important pager has been kept largely out of sight. Quinn thinks she would spend her days just staring at it, willing it to ring, if it was just out in the open.
Quinn studies the little black device in her hands, critical in her assessment. "So, if this goes off, that's it, right? Drop everything and go."
"When it goes off, yes," Rachel says. "No questions asked. I'm not taking any chances."
"We're not going to," she tells Rachel. "I'm going to be fine."
Rachel nods, because Quinn really is going to be fine. She's spent the last month making plans and getting people to do things she imagines they never would, under different circumstances. She's got contingency plans for every scenario that might occur, and, right now, it's really just a waiting game.
Quinn surprises her with her next words, a bit of a faraway look in her eyes. "We're going to have adorable babies," she murmurs, smiling to herself.
Rachel's breath catches. "What made you think of that?"
"I don't know," Quinn says, her gaze drifting back to Rachel's. "It just came to mind, I guess."
Rachel audibly swallows, because this is where all the uncertainty it. Widowed at such a young age - that's no way for their lives to go.
What if they don't get the chance to have children? What if everything they're trying so desperately hard to hold onto just disappears in an instant?
"I can't live without you," Rachel finds herself whispering, remind Quinn, herself and the Universe the very real truth of her words.
"You're not going to have to," is Quinn's automatic response, and it takes everything Rachel has not to say the two words that will shatter them all.
The closer they get to the end; the more they seem to argue. It's never about anything important, but they can't seem to help it. There's nervous energy running through their veins, sizzling in the air between them, because they know.
"I'm going to bed," Quinn suddenly cuts into Rachel's rant about goodness only knows what, frustration rolling off her in waves. She's really just exhausted, and fighting with Rachel requires too much energy; too much breath, and too much life she just doesn't seem to have.
With every day that passes, she can feel herself growing weaker and weaker. If she doesn't get a new heart soon, everything they know is going to cease to exist.
Rachel stands silently, brooding, as she watches Quinn leave the living room, disappearing into their bedroom in jarring silence. Really, she doesn't even know what to say anymore. Obviously, she hates fighting with Quinn, but it seems to be the only that makes them both feel as if they're actually living. Something more than this limbo - purgatory - they seem to find themselves in.
Like, there's actually a life beyond these walls and these truths and this end.
As much as she probably knows she should, Rachel doesn't follow Quinn. She rather waits a long while, just thinking about her life and her love, before she eventually goes to bed, silently slipping under the covers and staring up at the ceiling.
Bold and bright, 1 MONTH is beating down on her. Taunting her. Laughing at them, in the still of the night.
Then, she hears it.
The beeping sound they've tirelessly and desperately been waiting for.
Rachel immediately sits upright, her hand on Quinn's shoulder. "Quinn, baby, you have to wake up. It's time. It's time."
Quinn grumbles something, and then they're both getting out of bed. They're deathly silent as they get dressed, Rachel grabbing Quinn's bag, and then setting off into the cold of night, a pager held tightly in Quinn's right hand and hope in their hearts - even though one is slightly defective.
They take a cab to the hospital. Rachel can feel Quinn's left hand trembling in her own as they sit together in the backseat, and she does her best to stay strong, but she's struggling.
This is it.
This could very well be it.
"Rachel, what's wrong?" Quinn suddenly asks, picking up on the tension in the brunette's body.
"I'm just worried," Rachel answers truthfully.
"Everything is going to be okay," Quinn says, but her voice shakes with uncertainty. "I'll be perfectly fine."
Rachel manages to smile at her. "I know," she says. "I know, Quinn."
Here, Quinn's brow furrows, not understanding. "Then, what's the matter?"
Rachel honestly has no idea what to tell her. It might be relief she's feeling. Terror, maybe. Everything, all at once.
So, she settles on, "I love you, Quinn Berry."
Quinn gives her a curious look, but doesn't question it. She's just as terrified, really. "I love you too, Rachel," she says. "Now, do I have to remind you to stay positive and keep believing? We've been waiting a long time for this."
"I know," Rachel says, looking out the cab's window at the night lights that pass them by. She can feel them getting closer, and she hears the change in Quinn's breathing the moment the hospital moves into view.
She can't help thinking about everything she's been prepared to do to make sure Quinn keeps breathing beyond the time Dr Cathcart has given her. It actually scares her to realise that none of it will even be necessary now that Quinn is getting a heart.
She's getting a heart.
The intensity of everything Rachel is feeling can't even be put into words.
A nurse meets them as soon as they step up to the front desk, as if she's been waiting for them.
Quinn hesitates for a beat, because that's no longer her name, and then nods.
"Please can you come with me," the nurse says, already turning to go.
Quinn looks caught between going to meet her fate or staying with Rachel, and Rachel steps forward, placing a hand on the small of her back, gently encouraging her to start following.
"I love you," she says softly; "and I'll see you in a little while, okay?"
"I love you, too," Quinn says, sighing.
Rachel kisses her softly, forcing the tears from her own eyes. "I'll be right here when you come out, I promise."
It's enough, she thinks, because then Quinn is walking away from her, and she feels the weight of the world settle on her. Because of how rushed the surgery is in terms of scheduling, it's unlikely Rachel will get to see Quinn again until she's had the heart transplant, and all she can do now is wait.
It's really happening.
Rachel just stares, dumbfounded, when Quinn emerges from the doors she disappeared ninety minutes before. She looks exactly the way she did going in, save for the red of her eyes and the complete despondent look on her face.
"What happened?" Rachel immediately asks, getting to her feet, confusion written all over her face.
Quinn blinks several times. "The heart," she mumbles. "The heart, it's - it's - wrong. There was a complication when they were removing it from - it's not - I'm not - I'm not getting a heart." And then she bursts into tears.
Rachel doesn't even know what to say, mainly because she's still trying to process what she's just been told. This numbness begins to creep into her bones, and -
Quinn steps forward and clutches at her, her body shaking from her sobs, and Rachel can do nothing more than just stand there, almost paralysed by what this means.
What it means.
"I'm not getting a heart," Quinn cries against her, her fists closing tightly around the fabric of her jacket.
It takes her a full minute, but Rachel finally finds her voice.
"Today," she says, finally wrapping her arms around her. "You're not getting a heart today. That does not mean you're not getting one." There's a certain conviction in her voice that slows Quinn's tears, and she lifts her head to look at Rachel's face.
"I love you," Rachel says, her eyes slightly unfocused. "Please, please remember that. No matter what happens, okay? Just know that I love you."
"I can't live without you, Quinn," she says, and her voice has lost something, and gained something else completely. "And, I'm not going to, do you hear me? I'm going to make sure you get your heart ,no matter what – if it's the last thing I ever do."
"Rachel?" Quinn is crying again, because, in the recesses of her mind, she must know what Rachel has planned.
"Listen to me, and don't you ever forget it, Quinn," Rachel says, and there's a hint of desperation in her voice now. "Do you hear me? Don't ever forget it."
"I won't," Quinn finally says. "I promise I won't."
It's a week left, and Quinn finds herself alone at the apartment, left with her thoughts and her dreams of the future she suspects she won't get to have. The reality of their lives has sunk in slowly, and here they are.
Here they are.
With all her nervous energy, Rachel has gone downstairs to the grocery store to get Quinn something sweet to eat. She has a sudden craving, which is a feat in itself, so, of course, Rachel is going to indulge her.
They're so close to the end now, and she can feel every part of her body starting to give in. It knows. She knows. They all know.
Everything is exhausting, and she has little to no energy to breathe, let alone do anything else. Dr Cathcart is going to admit her by force very soon, regardless, in an attempt to prolong her life, but it's going to be a useless endeavour and they all know it. It's the reason she's still at home - this is where she wants to die. With Rachel.
It's two hours and four minutes later that the beeper goes off, but Rachel isn't yet back, and it's impossible for her to make it to the hospital without her. All she can do is try the brunette's cell, but it goes straight to voicemail.
This is it.
This is their last chance, she knows.
But, Rachel isn't here.
Where is she?
There's another sound, beyond the beeper, and Quinn watches as the apartment door opens to reveal Noah. She has to blink a few times to make sure she's not imagining it, because her vision is a little blurry these days, even with her glasses.
It's really Noah.
"Quinn," he says, but his voice is so far away. "It's time."
She stares at him. "I know."
"I believe we have somewhere to be," he says and, if he sounds a little sad about it, she doesn't notice. Really, she doesn't notice much of anything as he gathers her things, and then practically carries her out the door, down the stairs and into a waiting cab.
"Rachel," she murmurs against his chest, her brow furrowed. "Where - "
"She's already there," he whispers. "She's already waiting for you."
Quinn just closes her eyes in acceptance.
Rachel's waiting for her.
Everything else is unimportant. It's really all a blur.
There's a wheelchair, and there are people saying all sorts of words that she can't catch. There's a phone pressed against her ear, her hand held over it, and the sound of Rachel's musical voice saying, "I love you, Quinn. I love you so much." Her voice sounds far away but still so close. Quinn can almost reach out and touch her, but she's not there.
"I love you," Rachel's voice says. "Please, don't ever forget. I can't live without you. I was never going to." Quinn can hear that she's crying, and now they're crying together. Everyone is crying. Noah? Why is Noah crying? "I'll love you forever, Quinn Berry. I'll be with you always. Please forgive me."
Quinn frowns, the phone slipping from her hand, and Noah is saying something else but she can't hear him.
"Rachel," she mumbles. "Rachel."
Then the earth is moving again, and she's being wheeled away, and everything is happening so fast but so slowly at the same time. There's a lot of white and lights are too bright.
And, then, nothing.
It's as if she's just blinked, and now she can finally breathe. It doesn't feel so heavy anymore. She doesn't feel so weighed down.
When her eyes open again, everything is different, and the first thing she does is call for Rachel, because Rachel should be here. She's supposed to be here.
"Where is she?" Quinn asks the only other person in her room. She's surprised and also not to see her mother sitting there, her eyes pooled with tears she's been unashamed to shed. "Where is Rachel?" There's panic in her voice, she knows, because she has a feeling she already knows.
"Oh, honey," Judy says, her hand reaching out to hold Quinn's.
Quinn closes her eyes, resisting the urge to snatch her hand away. "Just tell me."
"She's gone, Sweetheart."
And, while Quinn thinks she already knows this, the fact of the matter is that Rachel doesn't feel gone.
"She couldn't live without you," Judy says, and her voice catches on a sob. "A life without you wasn't worth living, and that's the sacrifice she made."
Quinn's tears leak through her shut eyes, and she can't - she won't -
She gasps when the full realisation hits her; slams against her so hard that her entire body jolts from the force of it, and her left hand shoots up to her chest where there's now a new heart beating in her chest.
A new heart.
An old one, that she's loved for so long, already.
A kaleidoscope heart.