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just like the river

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Quinn Fabray always knew that Rachel Berry would ruin her life. She’d known the moment Rachel laid eyes on Finn Hudson sophomore year, maybe even before that.

They didn’t talk much prior to Glee, but there was always something about her. There was the way she’d clench her jaw right before she got slushied, and the way she’d always just move on. Brush it off. There was the flicker of determination she got every time someone insulted her. How that same jaw would set, and her brown eyes would glow, almost fucking sparkle like she was some cartoon character.

There was: Ru Paul, Man hands, Freak, That thing, Stubbles, Treasure Trail, Troll, Hobbit, Dwarf, Hobbit. And there was Rachel acting like none of that mattered.

There was the superiority she somehow managed after everything.

Rachel has always known she was going to get out of this stupid fucking town. She’s always known that she’s better than this place, better than the people.

Quinn tried to break her. There were times where it looked like she might just succeed. That big mouth would go silent, and brown eyes would glisten, and her jaw would slacken. But she always bounced back.

Rachel Berry is fucking invincible. Trying to break her only left Quinn with a shattered fist, metaphorically speaking.

Quinn used to think God was punishing her, but looking back on it all, it was probably just karma.

Quinn takes in a deep breath and closes her eyes, opens them, and then punches her wall. It helps keep the edge off. She looks down at her hand, now red and covered with flecks of black paint. It stings, and she can already see the slight discoloration of a bruise forming.

“Honey, are you okay?” her mother asks from downstairs. Quinn doesn’t answer. She runs her left index finger over the inflamed knuckles of her right hand. Maybe she should have just smoked a cigarette. This is the third hole she’s put in her wall this month.

“I’m only asking because I heard a loud noise,” comes the follow-up.

Quinn rolls her eyes, grabs her backpack and leaves her room; making sure to clamp down the padlock on her door so her mom won’t try doing her laundry again. “I’m fine,” Quinn says as she walks downstairs. “Shouldn’t you be at work?” she asks as she walks into the kitchen. Her mother is scrambling up eggs. Both of them jump as the toast pops up.

“I thought I’d go into the office a little later. It’s your first day of senior year, after all.” She smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach her eyes, which are currently flickering up and down Quinn’s outfit. Her mother hates Quinn’s new look. Like, a probably prays about it in church kind of hatred. The good thing is since she’d been such an awful bitch last year with the whole letting Quinn get kicked out thing, she doesn’t really have a leg to stand on concerning Quinn’s wardrobe. Her mother has always hated confrontation, that plus the emotional blackmail makes it pretty easy for Quinn to get away with whatever she wants.

Quinn manages a tight smile. “Thanks, but I have to get going.” Quinn grabs a hot piece of toast and fumbles with it in her hands for a few seconds. The dexterity in her right hand is still a little rigid after the wall.

“Really, Quinn?” her mother says, and for a moment Quinn thinks that she’s about to challenge her. “I just thought we could have breakfast. This is the first day of your last year, after all.”

Quinn is already headed for the door. “Don’t make it such a big deal,” she says. “I have to pick up The Mack.”

Her mother’s smile falters.

Whenever Quinn’s father used to do something that her mother didn’t like she would give him a very specific look. A blank stare accompanied by knitted eyebrows and pursed lips. Most people had no idea that was a sign of her mother’s disapproval. She never said anything, and most of the time her father didn't even notice it; but Quinn always did.

She’s giving Quinn that look right now.

Quinn pauses in the doorway. “Thanks again,” she says quietly before leaving the house.

Once she’s outside she can breathe again. But it’s then that she remembers that she’s going back to school.

And Rachel is at school.

She curls her fist, wincing at the pain. She can’t punch walls at school.

“Let’s skip,” she tells The Mack once they’re both situated in the car.

The Mack rolls down her window and lights a cigarette. Quinn follows her example, and let’s the Mack light hers up.

“Can’t. Selling Jacob an illegal shipment of Kinder Eggs I got the other day from the imports driver.” She flicks her cigarette against the window seal to get rid of some building ash. “And after that I was gonna beat him up and steal the eggs back; then sell them to Lauren Zizes.”

“Oh,” is all Quinn says. Understandable.

“Why do you wanna skip? It’s only the first day.”

Quinn shrugs. “School is lame.” She lets her cigarette fall out of the window.

The Mack sniffs a few times. “Your car...did you wash it?”

Dammit. “My mom did while I was touching up my roots.” She tried to leave McDonald's in her car overnight to get rid of the pine scent.

“It’s awful,” The Mack says, flicking her wrist to let the cigarette fly outside of the car. “It’s making me itch. Smells like fucking Christmas.”

On the upside, The Mack’s stench might be enough to get the scent of pine out of her car. Right now she can barely smell anything that isn’t raw onion. If someone told Quinn a year ago that she would be hanging out with someone who permanently smelled like weed and expired salsa, she would have laughed.

Now she finds it freeing. Not having to care about her appearance, or her future, or people, or Rachel Berry.

As Quinn walks through the hallways, she takes in the stares and whispers. This isn’t new for her, but the reason is. She ignores it.

Who cares, she thinks; and then Quinn smiles.

It’s all so much easier when she doesn’t care.

She doesn’t even care when Santana and Brittany practically beg her to come back to the Cheerios and Glee.


They’re still caged, and she’s free.

But that all comes fucking crashing down when Rachel fucking Berry visits her in the fucking faculty parking garage. She’s so annoying. The type of annoying that physically hurts. This tiny rattling thought that’s so loud. The blood is rushing to Quinn’s head and she doesn’t know if she can even think properly.

“Hey Quinn.” A pause, and Quinn’s heart is beating a little faster. She takes a quick drag of her cigarette. “Hello...skanks.”

“Your friend stinks of soap, Quinn,” Ronnie says. It’s true. Quinn can smell Dove mixed with body spray - probably something like: sea shore dreams.

It’s comforting. Not Rachel smelling nice, but the fact that the skanks are there with her. Still, she does a quick once over of Rachel and it makes her slightly dizzy.

“We were friends once,” Rachel says, in a way that’s so painfully raw that it has to be true. “Okay, and maybe when you cut off all of your hair last year and thought it would solve all of your problems, I should've spoken up. Maybe when you dropped out of society and started dating that 40 year old skateboarder, I should have said-”

“I’m not coming back to glee club.”

But Rachel doesn’t stop. She never fucking stops. Quinn wishes she had a wall.

When Rachel talks, it’s like everything builds up in Quinn at once. She’s annoying as hell, and she never gets to the point, and she’s overly insistent. And yet, Quinn always listens.

Even now.

Quinn tells herself she doesn’t care. That’s why she’s here with the skanks. But the way Rachel is pleading with her makes Quinn want to care for a moment. It also makes her want to run away.

It’s different than Santana and Brittany’s talk with her.

Rachel isn’t a sucker.

Rachel is Rachel.

But Quinn is Quinn.

“I’ll give you ten bucks if you let me beat her up for you, Quinn,” The Mack says, but Quinn doesn’t acknowledge her.

“I’m sorry you’re so sad, Quinn, and maybe you’re not going to believe me because we were never really close, but I’m sad not seeing you in the choir room and we’ve all been through so much together, we’re a family, and this is our year to get it right.”

Quinn feels the mask slipping. She tilts her head to the side and wonders what makes Rachel try so hard. Her chest is tight, mouth and lips dry. Get it right. She’s never known how to do that. When they were sitting together and writing songs, even then she wasn’t sure what she wasn’t doing.

“We would love to have you back in the Glee club, whenever you’re ready, okay?”

Why does she just assume that Quinn will ever be ready? Quinn licks her lips and swallows the lump forming in her throat. She then opens her mouth the tiniest bit, just to say something - anything that will come.

Rachel gives her a quick nod and walks away.


Quinn turns around sharply to look at Sheila. “What?” she says, taking a drag out of her cigarette.

“I don’t care how bad Mrs.Clean wants to go down to kitty town, if she comes here again I’ll stab her.”

“It’s the school parking lot,” Quinn says, lazily. “And what the hell does that even mean?” She takes another hit from the cigarette and shakes off the ash. “She won’t come here again.”

“Whatever,” The Mack says. “There are more important things to discuss.”

“Like?” asks Ronnie.

“Our roles,” The Mack says with a quick roll of her eyes. “Since Dani graduated I think it’s clear that Quinn fills the repressed, tortured lesbian.”

Quinn’s eyes widen at that. “Wait what?”

The Mack sighs. “You gotta be tortured to be a skank. Keep up, Quinn. Ronnie is the tortured foster kid.” Ronnie nods like this is a completely normal conversation that they’re all having. “Sheila is the tortured probably serial killer. I’m the tortured mother who had to give up their kid.”

Quinn shoots up her hand to interject as she’s reminded painfully of Beth. “I had to give up my-”

“Yeah but I was here first,” The Mack says, cutting her off. “No doubles. That’s tacky.”

Quinn drops her cigarette, stomping it out with a twist of her foot. “Isn’t the entire purpose of the skanks not to have labels?” she says, and then adds, “Besides. I’m not a-” she doesn’t finish.

All of a sudden it feels like she’s on the Cheerios, sabotaging girls to get to the top of the pyramid.

They’d never discussed roles over the summer. They didn’t discuss much of anything, really.

“Hey. It’s not a big deal, Quinn. Just gotta establish ourselves.”

“I’m not establishing myself as a tortured teenage lesbian,” she grits out. The whole reason she joined the skanks was so that she didn’t have to think about this.

About the way Rachel Berry makes her feel sometimes. Like the world is too much, and too little all at once. Thinking about that make her dizzy. It makes her make rash decisions like cutting off all her hair and dying it pink and getting a nose ring and joining a gang called the skanks.

“We don’t care,” The Mack says, sympathetically.

“My hamsters are gay,” Ronnie says.

Quinn doesn’t want to talk about this.

“But whatever,” The Mack continues. “You can just be the tortured former catholic. That might be even better.”

“I was Presbyterian”

“We don’t care about your diet either,” Sheila says with a look that Quinn thinks is supposed to be soothing.

Quinn’s just content that the conversation has shifted.



At the end of the day Quinn goes into the auditorium from the back. The Glee club is there, happy and singing. Rachel is there. With Finn.

She leaves as fast as she came.


It’s later that night when she’s in her room, staring at the hole in her wall, that she hears the doorbell. She ignores it, of course.

“Quinnie!” she hears from down stairs. “You’ve got a friend.”

Quinn doesn’t ignore that. None of the skanks would bother with the doorbell.

She stares at the hole again, and thinks about doubling up on the spot. Instead she takes in a deep breath and slumps back down. “Tell them to go away.”

“Okay, I’m letting her up now!”


There is a knock on the door, and then: “Quinn? It’s Rachel.”

The wall has never looked so tempting. That feeling comes back, where everything is swarming her thoughts and making her feel absolutely fucking crazy for a moment. It isn’t anger, it isn’t love, it isn’t excitement. It’s just. Everything.

“Um. You weren’t in geography, and I was supposed to give you the syllabus. I didn’t want to do it earlier in front of um...your skanks.”

“Go away, Rachel.”

“Quinn your education is imperative to the foundation of what you’ll do next in life. It may seem like it’s just a syllabus, but I think you’ll find that it’s a slippery slope when it comes to ignoring academia. My dads once showed me a statistic that read 67% of students who don’t actually read through their syllabus go on to get depression in later years of life - and I know that you’re sad right now, but-”

Quinn opens the door just to shut Rachel up. It works, but then she’s face to face with a wide-eyed Rachel. Rachel looks at her, and then behind her. She spots the holes in the wall, and the opened window with an ashtray resting on the seal.

She sniffs the stale air of Quinn’s room, and her eyes nearly bulge out of her head. Rachel lowers her head, and asks, “Are you smoking ...marijuana.”

Quinn rolls her eyes. “The Syllabus.”

“Okay Quinn, I know that you’re going through some things right now - but marijuana is a gateway drug.”

“Yeah, meth is next,” she says.

“Quinn!” She pushes her way into the room, shaking her head. “Marijuana is the fifth leading cause of female balding patterns before 26.”

“Your dads tell you that too?”

“It isn’t funny!”

Quinn holds out her hand. “Trust me, I’m far from amused. Syllabus.”

Rachel glares up at her, but digs through her bag nonetheless. She takes out a single piece of paper and hands it to Quinn.

Quinn thinks of using it as rolling paper just to get a reaction out of Rachel, but decides against it. She does reach for a cigarette though after setting the syllabus down on her bed.

Rachel smacks it out of her hand.

“Leave,” Quinn says, her voice low. She’s over this. She’s over being exhausted, and wound up all at the same time. She doesn’t want to fake it right now. Quinn just wants to lay down, close her eyes and rest. Maybe with a joint.

“Quinn, while you weren’t the best singer in glee club -”


“What I’m saying is, you have a lovely voice. I’m not going to let you ruin that over a stick of evil made by a company that profits from death and disease.” Her hands are now resting against her hips. There it is, that classic Rachel Berry air of superiority.

Quinn grinds her teeth, jaw and fist both clenching. “Alright, you gave me the syllabus now you can go home.” She puts her hands on Rachel’s shoulders and begins to push her out.

“Wait!” Rachel yelps, holding her ground as she digs her feet into the wood flooring.

“Are you fucking kidding me,” Quinn says. She pushes harder because damn has Rachel always been this strong? “Rachel get out.”

“No. We need to talk.”

“We talked earlier. You said what you needed. I’m never going back to the glee club, so just let it-” she grunts, “go!” With a hard push both of them are tumbling down.

Quinn is clumsily splayed on top of Rachel, her heart hammering even louder than before. She glares down at her unwelcomed guest.

“Ow,” Rachel says, eyes fluttering open. She feels the back of her head. “Quinn I know you’re mad, but trying to kill me isn’t the answer.”

Quinn freezes for a moment. Their bodies are flush, and she can feel Rachel’s breath against her cheek. She might just punch a hole in the floor at this point.

With a deep breath (where she can smell Rachel’s shampoo, and dove soap, and the faintest hint of body spray) Quinn gets up to her feet. She doesn’t help Rachel.

“Honey?” her mother calls. “You okay?”


“You want some sandwiches?”

Rachel calls out, “Yes!” when Quinn says, “No!”

Quinn shoots Rachel another glare. It’s like she wants Quinn to be a bitch.

Rachel smiles and clasps her hands together.

“Crust off like usual?”


Rachel’s eyes flit around the room once more, and Quinn thinks that Rachel will finally let her talk.

“Yes!” Quinn shouts.

“Judy is nice,” Rachel says.

“Yeah she’s a real peach when she’s not letting me get kicked out. What do you want?”

Rachel winces before letting out a small breath. “I want you to come back,” she says.

“No. Are we done?”

“No,” Rachel says with a slight edge to her voice. Quinn doesn’t understand where Rachel’s getting the nerve to act annoyed. She’s the one that’s barged into Quinn’s room. “If you’re not going to come back can you at least...can we just talk?”

“We’re talking now.”

“Quinn,” Rachel starts. “I don’t know what exactly happened to you. And I know that you’ve been through a lot. I know that you’re strong but - sometimes strong things can break. You’re better than,” she lifts her hands haplessly, “this.”

Quinn shakes her head. She has to remember to breath, once in and once out. Rachel couldn’t be more wrong.

“Maybe I’m not,” she says. “Maybe I don’t want those kind of expectations anymore.” Beautiful Quinn Fabray. Head cheerleader Quinn Fabray. Glee club Quinn Fabray. Girlfriend Quinn Fabray. Teen pregnancy Quinn Fabray.

None of it means anything.

She doesn’t want to think about the future anymore. Especially not when Rachel is looking at her like that. With shining eyes and a heavy heart.

There’s a Quinn Fabray that no one else knows.

The one who is in love with a girl. A girl she’s not supposed to want, a girl she can’t want. A girl she can’t have. And this longing in her chest that breaks her heart a million times every day.

She’s not strong.

When Quinn was thirteen her father told her she was weak-willed compared to Frannie. He wasn’t cruel about it, it was just something he’d said one day. Frannie was coming back from tennis practice, and Quinn was 60 pounds overweight and reading Twilight. He told her, “You could be like Frannie, Quinn. If you weren’t so weak-willed.” He was smiling, and no one said anything about it. That’s how Quinn knew it was true.

“They’re not expectations,” Rachel says. Quinn meets her eyes, but has to look away almost immediately. “You’ll get out of Lima. And you’re going to be something great because you’re Quinn Fabray. Not because of any labels people have put on you, and not because people expect it.”

She hates this. There is this violent thing clawing away inside of her chest, and Quinn just wants to scream until it all goes away.

Both of them look at the door when they hear Judy approaching. She has a plate with two sandwiches cut in half. “They’re peanut butter and preserves,” she says before looking at the new hole in the wall. Her mother takes in a deep breath and grimaces.

Quinn’s expecting a lecture like she got with Rachel, but it doesn’t come. Her mother leaves with a polite nod.

When she’s away, Rachel continues, “You’re smart, Quinn. As smart as you are pretty.”

“What do you want from me, Rachel?”

Rachel grins. “Well, I want you to rejoin the glee club. But even if you don’t just...please don’t throw everything you have away. If not for me, for your friends - do it for yourself, Quinn.”

Quinn sucks in a quick breath and exhales slowly. “You wouldn’t understand.” Quinn almost says that it’s been easy for Rachel. But it hasn’t. She’s put Rachel through hell, along with several others at school. And still, Rachel is here.

“Then talk to someone who might,” Rachel says. She stands and flattens out her crumpled dress.

“Why are you doing this?” Quinn asks.

Rachel gives a sad, little smile. “Because you’re my friend.” She starts to make her exit when Quinn calls out her name.

“Don’t...don’t come to the lower level of the faculty garage anymore,” Quinn says.

Rachel’s eyebrows furrow as her lips form a terse frown

“Sheila kind of said she would stab you,” Quinn explains, looking down at her hands. She then looks up. “Just-listen. If you want to meet up again text me first.”

“I don’t have your new number.”

“Gimme your phone,” Quinn says. Rachel does, and she quickly types in her number and hands it back.

Rachel sucks in her lips, her face contorting into a child-like smile. “You won’t regret this.”

“Take your sandwich,” Quinn says.

“Oh I wasn’t actually hungry. I just wanted to stay a little longer. You were being stubborn.”

“Get out,” Quinn says with a sigh, but there is no malice in it.

And then she’s gone. Her flowery scent still lingers making it a thousand times harder for Quinn to think.

Quinn told herself at the start of the summer that she wouldn’t cry over Rachel Berry. She’d allowed herself one day to feel bad, one day to really let it sink in - and then she’d pushed it all away.

But now the tears are spilling without her consent, ebbing from the corners of her eyes and falling down her cheeks.

She’s in love with Rachel Berry.

Quinn sits down on her bed and holds the pillow tight to her chest. It was never supposed to be like this.

She’d first seen Rachel on her first day of freshman year.

American Literature.

She’d raised her hand 15 minutes into the class and gave a long winded speech about how she considered Funny Girl to be one of the best pieces of American Literature to date. The teacher said that it wasn’t because Funny Girl was a film; and this led Rachel to go on another long winded speech about the influence of plays and scripts in literature. She didn’t stop talking until the bell rang.

Quinn thought it was the most obnoxious thing she’d ever seen in her life. And that was saying something because her sister could be maddening.

But she thought about nothing else for an entire week. The confidence she had, the way she carried herself like she wasn’t being a complete freak. The carelessness of it all.

Rachel was someone who would be important, and it didn’t matter what other people thought.

Quinn was just trying to figure out which football player she would marry after high school.

Rachel was thinking about Broadway.

Quinn was thinking about the nuclear family. She was thinking about the idea of perfect.

Rachel made her question that idea of perfect, and Quinn sometimes hated her for it. 

Rachel was Rachel.

Quinn was Quinn.

So of fucking course Rachel would ruin her life.

Her phone dings and she goes to check it.

Rachel: You better start preparing your vocals, Quinn! <3

Quinn throws the thing across the room, half hoping it will break.