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It figures that this is what her life has become.

She gets dumped at a funeral.  Rachel Berry gets a New York City dream date.  

Somehow, Finn has scored reservations at some infamous restaurant--she’d look it up if she cared enough, but she can’t care that much--and they’re off together.  As co-captains, to talk strategy.

She’s familiar with this kind of strategy; it’s like Finn is taking a leaf out of Puck’s book, except Rachel is far too smart to start drinking wine coolers, and anyway.

It’s not the point.  It’s not the same, because Finn is apparently ‘tethered’ to Rachel in some way, and--God, who do they even think they’re kidding.

(She’s glad she’s so angry about it, because it’s so much better than the alternative; another night of crying herself to sleep while her mother’s finishing up a bottle of Glenlivet downstairs and watching Meg Ryan movies, because that’s the closest anyone in her entire family has ever come to understanding what love is like.)

The most upsetting part is that nobody else cares, leaving it up to her to point out the obvious problem (the one that concerns all of them, not just her) in Finn and Rachel absconding a day before they’re meant to be on stage, performing.

“We still don’t have songs,” she says, to everyone else in the room, when they’re all mindlessly chattering about the date Finn has planned and what Vocal Adrenaline will be wearing and how long the flight back will be.

Kurt is the first one to look up at her words, and then he shrugs.  “Knowing Rachel, she’s had some sort of opus about true love written since she was five that she can just bust out for the occasion.”

“They’re our captains.  Why aren’t they here?” Quinn grits out.

Santana shoots her a puzzled look.  “Since when do you care about Glee, Q?”

“I don’t, I just--” she starts to say, but now everyone is staring at her, and she fights the urge to sigh.  “It’s ridiculous.  I would’ve never done something like this to the Cheerios, and that’s because we were winners.  How is New Directions ever going to win anything when its leaders can’t stop thinking about themselves long enough to--”

It’s Brittany who gets up, and who pulls her into a hug without asking, and then whispers, “It’s okay if you’re upset about Finn.”

The thing is, she isn’t.

She doesn’t even really know what she’s upset about,except that Rachel blotted away her tears at Prom and told her she was worth something.

Worth getting dumped at a funeral, apparently.  Worth so much that even the person who said the words to her can’t wait to leap over her prone corpse to get back together with the quarterback.

It’s surprisingly hard to hate Rachel for that part; it’s a move so ruthless and so Machiavellian that Quinn almost admires it, except for the part where it’s Rachel doing the leaping, and she’s the corpse.

“I’m going to find them,” she says, shrugging out of Brittany’s hug with a brisk arm movement, and pulling her jacket off the chair Mercedes is sitting on without looking at anyone else.

Nobody stops her.  She’d like to think it’s because they agree with her, but she knows that it’s because they don’t think she can do anything anymore except. Well. Lose.

The tears burn in her eyes but damn it, they don’t fall.  Not now.

Not over this.

*

After aimlessly wandering around the city for half an hour, and clutching her bag to her side because no matter how hard she tries, her mother’s ridiculous statistics about robberies in large cities won’t stop drumming through her head, she makes her way back to the hotel.

She can’t face the rest of the group.  She knows what they’re like; they will have spent the last thirty minutes talking about how she’s losing it completely.  They’ll talk about how horrible a girlfriend she was to Finn the first time around, and how she didn’t deserve another chance with him.

They’ll talk about Finn, and Rachel, and Kurt will say, “You can’t stop destiny” before texting Blaine something sweet, and Mercedes will wonder where Sam is while pretending she doesn’t really care--and it pains Quinn that they think they’re not being obvious; it pains her, because they’ve both forgotten about her so completely that they don’t even remember that she knows them--and Tina and Mike will smile at each other and Brittany and Santana, from opposite sides of the room, will silently take yet another minuscule step towards doing what they both want, and--

She’s pressing the button on the elevator, and it’s 2am and the receptionist is staring at her like she’s planning to get up to no good.

She wants to turn around and tell him that she already exceeded everyone’s expectations in the “no good” department, and that she can’t possibly outdo herself given what her last year was like--not in the two days they’re in New York, anyway.

But she doesn’t; she hits the button, and waits, the dial above the elevator slowly ticking down the floors.

“Quinn?” Rachel says, behind her, right as the elevator sinks down to the ground floor and dings open loudly.

She closes her eyes and doesn’t acknowledge Rachel, and instead steps inside and hits the button for their floor.

Rachel starts talking.  God, she starts and just doesn’t stop, rambling on about how she wasn’t expecting to see anyone from the team in the lobby because it’s so late and they really should all be sleeping and if it hadn’t been for Finn’s terribly poorly timed excursion they would’ve been much better prepared for tomorrow and--

“Shut up,” Quinn says, and watches as the door closes.

The elevator lurches, and Quinn closes her eyes and counts to ten; slowly, envisioning sheep, because this is one of those old, folding-door style elevators, and it shakes its way up the elevator shaft towards their floor, and--the walls aren’t actually closing in on them, but--

“Are you okay?” Rachel asks, after a long pause.

The elevator jolts to a halt and Quinn blindly reaches for the “doors open” button, pressing it down hard with her thumb, but nothing happens.

Rachel next to her takes a deep breath and says, “Oh, shoot.  This is why I normally take the stairs; research has shown that three out of five elevators in these old city buildings haven’t been serviced in the last twenty years and frequently go out of commission, and--”

Quinn’s eyes shoot open, and she looks at the dial above the door.

They’re between the fourth and the fifth floor.

And they’re not moving.

*

The panic doesn’t set in immediately.

She has too much self-control for that, and anyway, whatever mild anxiety is there, she can obviously keep inside.  Her doctor would argue that it’s totally normal for her body to react, but if her body reacted to the things that happened to her on a regular basis, she would’ve tumbled off a pyramid and cracked her skull open years ago.

Instead, she can keep it inside, and take a step back--not touching the wall, because it’s there but she doesn’t need to know that it’s there right now--and watch as Rachel hits the emergency button.

It literally falls off.

“Well, damn,” Rachel mutters, and Quinn blinks at her a few times.

“Now what?”

“I thought all elevators had to have a phone in them just in the event that...” Rachel mutters, craning her head back and staring up the wall.

“Yeah, well, I doubt they’d hang it from the ceiling,” Quinn snarks, before she can stop herself.

There’s another minor burst of panic when nothing moves; literally nothing.

“Do you have your phone?” Rachel asks, quietly.

She checks her jacket pocket, but what with the shrill and hurried way she left the hotel earlier--

“No,” she says, closing her eyes for a moment.  “I don’t suppose--”

“I didn’t want any distractions during our captaincy meeting,” Rachel says.

Quinn snorts unwillingly.  “Yeah.  Of course you didn’t.”

“Quinn--”

“No, seriously, Rachel.  Keep telling everyone that you went to dinner with Finn for the team.  I’m sure you just slipped on the first thing you could find, right?  And it meant nothing?”

Rachel is silent for a long moment and then says, “I met Patti Lupone tonight.”

“Who?”

When she opens her eyes again, Rachel is staring at her with an unreadable expression.  “You know, if you know enough about Broadway to know that Cats closed years ago, I’m going to assume you’re feigning ignorance because you don’t want to talk to me.”

Quinn purses her lips and sighs.  “Congratulations, I guess.  She’s a legend.”

It’s like flicking a switch; Rachel goes from sullen and a little disappointment to 40 watts without even a second’s hesitation.  “It was... amazing.”

Snide remarks about how Finn isn’t much for planning dates lie at the tip of her tongue, but they’re all so pointless that they die down before she can choose the most cutting one.  “Did you two figure out songs for us to sing yet?”

Rachel glances away for a second and then shakes her head.  “No.  I...”

“Didn’t get around to it between mooning at each other?” Quinn asks.  She’s not really loving how bitter she sounds, but she can’t help it; everything about this situation is terrible and they’re stuck like this.  That needle above the door isn’t moving.  It’s a quarter past two in the morning, and it’s a week day, and even the city that never sleeps has limits to when people are moving around.

Also, after this fiasco, she guesses that most regulars at the hotel are intelligent enough to use the stairs.  So--

“It wasn’t a date.  Not to me,” Rachel finally just says.

“Not to you?”

Rachel’s cheeks flush briefly and she takes a step backwards until she’s leaning against the elevator door.  “He--he tried to kiss me.”

Quinn doesn’t know whether to laugh or sigh.  “Of course he did. I mean, why wouldn’t he. It’s been a whole week since we broke up, and that’s being generous, given that he hasn’t been with me for weeks now.”

Rachel looks like she’s going to apologize, and if she’s actually stupid enough to do it, Quinn recognizes the tension in her arm as another warning that she’s not really keeping it together all that well.

“The team comes first,” is what Rachel says, instead, and it’s so Rachel that Quinn feels sick all over again.

“To you, maybe.  But to him?” she mutters, and then the walls start closing in, just like that.

“I’m so--” Rachel starts to say, but then stops and takes a hesitant step forward again.  “Are you okay?  You’re becoming an unnatural shade of pale and--”

“I’m claustrophobic,” Quinn about manages, because the first place the walls squeeze is her lungs, and she has to gulp in air and close her eyes to not actually start panicking--not like this, not in front of Rachel, who’s already taken everything else from her but she has this last shred of dignity intact--that sure knowledge that Rachel will always be a little intimidated by her even though she shouldn’t be.  “I’m--I need to get out of here--”

“Shit,” Rachel says, and it’s so unlike her that unwanted laughter bubbles up in Quinn’s chest, adding to the pressure already there.  But, of course, she’s with Rachel.  Who has a contingency plan for every disasters, and starts rummaging around in her purse for something.  “Here.”

An inhaler is held in front of her face.

“I don’t have asthma,” she says, feeling like she’s going to throw up.  It’s meant to come out sharp and angry as everything else she directs at Rachel does, but it merely comes out weak.  She’s weak.  She’s so weak, and now Rachel knows.  “What the hell do you expect me to do with--”

“Try it.  Please,” Rachel says, urgently.  She looks like she’s not sure what else to do, which makes Quinn wonder for a second what this all looks like to someone else; she feels like she’s dying, but does she look like it, too?  And if she does die, everyone will assume that it was an accident; it would be the opposite of what happened if she was found standing next to Rachel’s corpse hours later, once the elevator opened.  

How stupid is that?

She takes the inhaler before Rachel can force it down her mouth--she wouldn’t put it past her--and triggers it.  The stale air in her lungs makes her cough, but it doesn’t make the elevator any bigger, and it doesn’t make her heart slow down any either.

She almost throws the inhaler at Rachel’s face.  “I don’t have asthma,” she says instead, almost coughing the words out, and then thrusts it back at her.

“What helps?” Rachel asks, taking it back without any drama--which is surprising--while looking at her with probing eyes.  “Does anything help?”

“The door--it needs...” Quinn says, and then clenches her fists together.  “I just need to get out of here.  Don’t you get it?  I need to get out, and you need to not be here with me because I can’t stand you and you have what you want now so why are you even here, Rachel?  Why aren’t you with him like you want to be?  You could have anything at all and yet he’s what you want and now you have him and--”

She doesn’t see it coming, but it snaps her out of it completely.

“Sorry,” Rachel says, clutching her hand; she sounds sheepish and terrified.  “I’m so sorry.  It was instinct.  I--did it help?”

Quinn brings a hand up to her cheek and swallows hard, before saying, “I guess we’re even now.”

Then, she slumps down and scoots backwards until she’s touching the wall.

Her eyes are already closed when she can hear Rachel doing the same thing, and really--all she can hear is breathing.  It’s quiet enough to be confused for the hum of an air conditioner, so as long as she doesn’t open her eyes--

*

Rachel manages to be quiet for a whole fifteen minutes, if Quinn’s wrist watch is still running, and why wouldn’t it be?  It’s been an hour in an elevator.  Not a lifetime, even if it feels that way.

“I don’t want Finn more than I want the stage,” she says.

It’s exactly the kind of ridiculous opening statement that Rachel would come out with; like they’re mid-conversation, like they’re friends or confidantes or something.  Like that ridiculous breakdown Quinn had at Prom meant something, other than that Prom was one of the lowest points in her life, and that’s considering the baby.

“Don’t do this,” she says, in response, blinking her eyes open to look at Rachel, legs primly crossed on the other side of the elevator.

“Don’t do what?”

“Don’t talk to me.  About anything, but especially not him.  We’re not friends, Rachel.”

“You were out looking for me,” Rachel says, narrowing her eyes a little.  “Because you care about the team, and I guess about me, in that capacity at least.”

“I was out looking for you,” Quinn says, slowly, and then fishes her camera out of her pocket, “so that I could take some pictures of how much you were violating the rules before showing them to Mr. Schue and then quitting the team.”

Rachel actually looks disappointed.  “Oh.”

“You didn’t really think that--”

Rachel glances at her own lap and smooths out the pleats in her skirt.  “I try to always assume the best in people.”

“And that’s why everyone walks all over you,” Quinn notes, before tipping her head back and staring at the roof of the elevator.  It’s a little bit further away than the opposing wall.  It’s--not much, but it will have to do.  

“Kindness is rewarded with kindness,” Rachel says, softly.

“I don’t know what world you’re living in, but kindness is what got you at the bottom of the food chain to begin with, and your relentless desire to please everyone is what keeps you there.”

“I don’t--”

Quinn takes a deep breath.  “Finn is going to start wanting me again the minute you give in to him.  You know that.”

Rachel doesn’t say anything in response to that, and for a few blissful minutes, Quinn thinks that she’s actually smart enough to just leave things be.

“Did you ever even love him?” is Rachel’s next question, though, and Quinn’s nails dig into her palms all over again.

“Why does it matter?  He never loved me.  Not the way he loves you,” she says, and directs a sharp look at Rachel.  “None of them do.”

“If that’s really how you feel, why were you with any of them?” Rachel asks.

Quinn doesn’t answer, because they’re not friends, and anyway, she’s only been asking herself the same thing for the last two weeks without coming to any bright conclusions.

She closes her eyes again and tries to sleep.

It doesn’t work.

*

Rachel starts humming right around 3.15, and when Quinn shifts and looks at her, she stops abruptly.

“Sorry.  I'm trying to think of songs.  I was going to spend the entire night writing, but--”

“Ever heard of the expression ‘too little, too late’?” Quinn asks.  She’s too tired to be as mean as she wants to be, which is again a sign of weakness she wouldn’t have had last year.  She wishes she had a book on her.  She wishes she had anything at all to distract herself with.

Rachel’s humming stops, and then there’s just a deep sigh.

It’s boredom that prompts her to ask.  Nothing else.  “What?”

“I’m a terrible songwriter anyway,” Rachel says, and then rubs at her eyes.  “I mean--talented as I may be at performing, this is a wholly separate skill, and the only time in my life I’ve ever written a song that was worth a thing was...”

The sentence trails off between them and Quinn stares at the floor for a moment.

“It was a good song,” she finally offers, tersely.  “Even if I disagreed with the subject matter, what with you singing about how much you wanted to get together with my boyfriend.”

It’s quiet for a long few beats, but then she unwillingly looks at Rachel’s face, who stares at her uncomprehendingly.

“You thought that song was about Finn?”

She’s too tired for this.  “Um.  Yeah.  I’m not really sure who else you’d be singing a song that’s all about second chances and fixing things you’ve done wrong to.”

Rachel shakes her head a little.  “You’re--God, Quinn.  Are you being dense on purpose?”

The weight of the words settles on her a moment later, and she thinks about the lyrics again; there’s one line that says my best intentions keep making a mess of things and--

“You’re kidding,” she says, staring at Rachel again.

“It’s not a love song,” Rachel says, picking imaginary lint off her top.  “At least, I didn’t expect anyone to interpret it that way.  You--made me think about the last year.  With the baby, and my mother... I just always thought that... if I figured out how to talk to you in a way that you could appreciate, we could...”

“After everything we’ve done to each other, you still want us to be friends,” Quinn says, cutting her off.  “Are you--what is wrong with you?”

Rachel bites her lip for a moment and then says, “In the grand scheme of things, we haven’t done an awful lot to each other at all, Quinn.  And--the way things are between us now, I won’t even remember you five years from now.  But there have been moments where...  Well, you’re right.  It’s silly.”

Quinn looks away.  “That whole--high school doesn’t matter thing.  Is that part of the Jewish faith somehow?”

Rachel makes a surprised noise.  “Um.  Not that I’m aware of.  Why?”

“No reason,” Quinn says, and shakes her head.  “I don’t even know what to tell you.  You think that just because once or twice, we’ve actually told each other the truth about some things, we’re destined to be best friends forever?”

“No,” Rachel says, with a little more bite than what’s normal for her.  “If we were destined to be anything, we wouldn’t be spending all of our time fighting about Finn.”

“Well, no argument there,” Quinn mutters.

The silence drags between them again, and the room swells and contracts around them; Quinn focuses on a cuticle on her ring finger to stop from thinking about it, and then Rachel says, “You’re the only person other than my dads who’s ever told me that I will make it.  Not that I might, but that I will.”

Quinn pulls on the cuticle hard; it hurts, but it distracts her right about enough.  “The fact that everyone else we know is too occupied with their own drama to state the utterly obvious doesn’t mean we can ever be friends, Rachel.”

“Well, what does, then?  Why can’t we be friends?” Rachel asks.

She looks almost angry when Quinn glances at her.

“I don’t like you,” she says, softly.

“You don’t know me.”

“I know enough about you--”

“Let me guess--that I steal your boyfriends?  That I’m obsessed with musical theater and can’t say anything in less than four thousand words?  That I’m too ambitious and loud?  That I’m self-centered and dramatic?”

Quinn squeezes the cuticle and watches a drop of blood appear underneath it.  “Your words, not mine.”

“And you think that’s all I am?” Rachel asks, and then actually laughs for a moment.  “That’s like summarizing your entire existence by calling you a mean Christian cheerleader who had a baby last year.”

The words hurt, even though Rachel’s only using them to prove a point; the exact opposite of what she’s accomplishing.

“Maybe that is all there is to me,” Quinn says, before sticking her finger in her mouth and sucking on it.

Two seconds later, a band-aid is being slid across the elevator floor towards her.

“Good God; are you carrying an entire pharmacy in there?” Quinn asks, before she can stop herself.

Rachel smiles faintly and then says, “The two second summary of you doesn’t mention that you have a sense of humor, sometimes, and that you care enough about the people who are there for you to help them no matter what is going on.”

Quinn has nothing to say to that at all, and focuses on wrapping the band-aid--riddled with stars; of course it is--around her finger tightly.

“What are you reading right now?” Rachel finally asks.

The Robber Bride,” Quinn says, when the band-aid’s attached and it once again becomes clear that she can’t just ignore Rachel forever.

“I haven’t read that, but I really enjoyed The Blind Assassin,” Rachel says, after a pregnant halt in the conversation.

Quinn doesn’t have the energy to hide her surprise anymore.  “What?”

The Handmaid’s Tale is... a little overrated, in my opinion,” Rachel adds, and then smiles tentatively.  “But I’m willing to debate that point.”

Quinn blinks for a few moments and then narrows her eyes at Rachel.  “Are you the one who has the hold on Oryx and Crake that precedes mine?”

Rachel’s smile widens a little. “Possibly.”

“Well, do you have a hold on it or not?  Because--who else in Lima is reading Margaret Atwood?”

Rachel clasps her hands together loosely in her lap and says, “I don’t know, Quinn.  But I see your point; we couldn’t possibly be friends, what with the absence of having a single thing in common.”

Quinn sighs.  “So you read.  Congratulations, but I still don’t like you.”

“Has it ever occurred to you that I don’t like you much either?”

It hasn’t.  “Then why do you want us to be friends?”

“Because you’re the only person I know who will be honest with me no matter what I’m doing; and I’m the only person you know who is even willing to look past.... well.”  Rachel flushes abruptly and then gestures awkwardly at... Quinn doesn’t even really know.  Her entire body?

“I think everyone’s looking past it after what Lauren did,” she says, and then smiles wryly.  “And to think; we could’ve had something else delightful to bond over--the recovery time involved in a nose job.”

Rachel scoffs and says, “If you really think that you’re any less beautiful just because you had some work done to--feel better about yourself, you’re not as bright as I thought you were.”

“Yeah, well,” Quinn says, because this is not a direction she wants to be going down.  It leads to terrible questions, like, how do you cope with not having any friends, and then the sure confirmation that Rachel is a bigger person than she’ll ever be.  

She already knows that much. She doesn’t need it to be reiterated in this tiny, enclosed space.

“How are you holding up?” Rachel asks.

Quinn hesitates and then says, “Distracting me helps.  Unless you’d rather keep slapping me in the face every ten minutes.”

“You didn’t look like you enjoyed it quite as much as I did,” Rachel says, neutrally.

The laughter surprises Quinn, and she clamps down on it fast, but then Rachel laughs a little as well, and--maybe it’s a lack of oxygen, but they both laugh for about a minute.

The Handmaid’s Tale is kind of overrated, but still really important,” Quinn finally concedes.

Rachel’s laughter tapers off into a gentle smile and then she says, “Maybe we should start a book club.”

“I think a club requires more than two members,” Quinn says, dryly.

“I think you might need the illusion of a club to keep talking to me,” Rachel says, pulling her knees up to her chest and tipping her chin onto it.  “And I don’t mind.  It would actually be kind of nice to talk about feminist literature with someone other than my gay male father.”

Quinn smiles unwillingly again.  “Yeah, well--at least he understands what feminism is.  My mother’s still stuck on the idea that it’s undignified for a woman to deal with car trouble, so--”

Rachel’s smile falters for a moment.  “How--I mean, I know this is probably too much too soon, but--how are things at home?”

Quinn stares at her disbelievingly.  “Really?”

“What happens in the elevator stays in the elevator,” Rachel says, with an embarrassed shrug.  “It’s not like I have anyone to tell.  Or that I would, anyway.”

Quinn swallows with some difficulty and then says, “Try me at like.... six am.  If we’re still stuck here, then.”

“What happens at six?” Rachel asks, genuinely curious.

“Apparently, I lose my mind,” Quinn says, rolling her eyes at herself.

Rachel just smiles.

*

Of course Rachel has pocket Scrabble in her purse.

“Yeah, we can play,” Quinn says, with a sigh.

“I’m surprised you passed up on the obvious Hermione Granger joke,” Rachel says, unfolding the miniature board and then tipping all the letters over into the lid of the box.

They turn them upside down silently, and then Quinn says, “I always identified with her.”

“Me too,” Rachel says, and when they look at each other a moment later, Quinn almost knocks the entire box over.

“Is there--are we even getting air anymore?” she asks, glancing up at the ceiling.

“Don’t worry; I know mouth to mouth resuscitation, and anyway, there is a small flow coming from the door,” Rachel says, and the stares at the board.  “Now--I feel like we should agree on a set of rules beforehand so as to avoid any conflict, but--”

“It’s Scrabble, Rachel,” Quinn says, and glances at her watch.  “And four am.  So--unless you want me to not play with you, how about we just wing it."

Rachel’s hand hovers over the instructions, but then folds onto her lap again.  “... this is making me deeply uncomfortable, but--we’ll try.”

“Wait, did you just actually compromise on something?” Quinn asks, and presses a hand to her heart.  “Why isn’t anyone here to see this moment?”

The slap to Quinn’s knee is completely unexpected, a massive violation of her personal space, incredibly audacious and--it somehow doesn’t bother her in the slightest.

“Hush,” Rachel says, and then starts picking up her seven letters.

Quinn waits for her hand to be out of tiny box before getting her own.

*

“I’m sorry--what?”

Quinn glances up.  “It’s 97 points--triple on the B and the triple word.”

“It’s--is that even one word?” Rachel asks, staring at the board.

“Oh, please, are you going to veto me because this is a dirty word?” Quinn asks, before throwing up her hands in exasperation.  “We already agreed on proper nouns; now I can’t even play--”

“I’m not arguing against blowjob as … a valid word.  I’m disputing whether or not it’s one word.  I mean... the verb is... blowing.  The job is added to signify--”

“It’s one word,” Quinn says, sharply.

“How do you even know--”

Quinn takes a deep breath and says, “Because Puck liked to text me requests for them before he and I...”

“Oh,” Rachel says, and then frowns.  “That’s funny.  He never asked me to--”

“He respects you,” Quinn says, shortly.

“You’re the mother of his child; he respects you--”

“Rachel--”

“Well, anyway, I’m not necessarily sure I’m willing to accept Noah Puckerman as an authority on the English language, so--”

“I’m not giving this up,” Quinn says, folding her arms over her chest.

Rachel looks straight at her with a frustrated expression.  “I’ll have you know that the last Scrabble deadlock I was involved in lasted almost three days.”

“I’ve held grudges for five years.”

Rachel rolls her eyes so unexpectedly that Quinn can’t quite hide a grin.

“Fine.  We’ll leave it, but only because I have no doubts that I can destroy you either way.”

In a different world, this might count as fun--but it’s pocket Scrabble in an elevator with Rachel Berry, who apparently bites her lip when she’s concentrating, and manages to shut up for whole minutes at a time while staging a coup, so--

Quinn actually snorts when Rachel adds “ery” to an “adult” she’d placed on the board a few rounds prior, but then scowls when Rachel adds it all together and says, “98 points.”

“I hate you,” Quinn says, with a sigh.

“Well, at least it’s finally for a valid reason,” Rachel says, very plainly.

It’s almost 5am, and Quinn managed to forget they were trapped for the better part of an hour.

She’s not grateful, exactly, but it is a little bit impressive on Rachel’s part.

*

“I can’t believe I met Patti Lupone,” Rachel says, when the Scrabble is left abandoned between them on the floor.  

Quinn has literally bug-all to say in response to that and instead just waits for Rachel to keep going, because--seriously, talk about your inevitabilities.

“Who would... I mean.  Obviously I’d want to meet Barbra more than Patti, but not by much, despite the impressions that people have of me,” Rachel adds, and then looks at Quinn with a curious expression on her face.  “Is there anyone you feel that way about?”

“Ann Coulter,” Quinn says, wondering if she can keep a straight face.

Rachel actually looks like she might throw up.  “Oh.  Well.  She’s... very accomplished.  In what she does.”

“I’m kidding, Rach,” Quinn says, and then blinks at herself, before adding, “I’d want to meet--George Eliot.”

“That’s going to be a bit difficult,” Rachel says, before tilting her head.  “Why?”

“Because....” Quinn says, and then sighs.  It’s been hours.  Whatever.  Maybe she can actually tell Rachel a few things that aren’t merely veiled insults and ‘get out of my life’s.  “She did the unexpected, you know?  Society wasn’t ready for her to be who she was, but she just … found a solution, and carried it through.”

Rachel mashes her lips together and then softly says, “This isn’t Victorian England anymore, Quinn.  You don’t have to take on a man’s name to do whatever it is you want to do.”

“Really?” Quinn snarks, and then sighs.  “Sorry--it’s a reflex.”

“I know,” Rachel says, simply.  “It’s easy to ignore for that reason.”

“It’s not about the name thing,” Quinn says, when Rachel keeps looking at her like there’s more forthcoming.  “It’s more that--my father will pay for college, but only if I study what he wants me to.  And it would be so easy.  He doesn’t even expect much; I could be an English major at a university with a good law program, because all that I really need to do is find... a husband.”

“Would you enjoy the degree, though?” Rachel asks.

“What, English?”  She hangs on the question, because it’s been years since she’s actually let herself think about this in a concrete fashion; it stopped being a point of consideration when she started dating Finn, who was going to OSU and then coming back to Lima to do something menial, and she was going to go into real estate just like her mother.

“Literature, maybe,” Rachel offers gently.  “I mean, I don’t know you well enough to predict what you’d like to--”

“A veterinarian,” Quinn says; her lips clamp together as soon as the words come out.  “It’s--it’s stupid.  I mean, it’s so many years of college and so much money and--”

“According to Tina, you’re first in our year in biology and chemistry,” Rachel interjects, and then says, “And possibly math, though I wouldn’t know; there’s not much need for AP mathematics at Juilliard.”

“It’s high school science, Rachel.  It’s hardly …”  

“Where do you think everyone else starts, Quinn?  This--this competition is just high school show choir,” Rachel says, sounding frustrated.  “I know it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things--but if we win this, we can keep going.  I can put it on my resume, and claim that I was something back when I was sixteen already.  And one day, it will be a footnote to everything else I’ve done, but it’s still a starting point.”

“You’re not taking it very seriously given that it’s a starting point,” Quinn points out.

Rachel flushes and says, “Yeah, well--it’s been a difficult year.  For all of us.  And honestly, it’s not like I need to win this--not this year.  Next year, it will matter, but--”

“I don’t get that,” Quinn says, and then holds up a hand in apology when Rachel frowns at her.  “I don’t care about Glee, but I cared about the Cheerios, and--”

“Wait, you did?” Rachel asks, sounding baffled.  “Then why did you quit cheerleading for Glee?”

Quinn sighs so deeply her chest actually hurts and says, “Because I had it in my head that I needed to keep Finn away from you, and I couldn’t do that if I wasn’t in Glee.”

“You did it for Finn,” Rachel says, flatly.

“You’re hardly one to judge.”

“Yes, but--I thought you were better than me,” Rachel says, emphatically.  “That--you had a strategy, or that you wanted to round out your extracurriculars with a demonstration of other talents than cheerleading, and--”

Quinn actually laughs, painfully.  “You think that singing in a show choir would be appreciated by the people who have expectations of me?”

“It’s a perfectly respectable after school activity.”

“It’s for queers,” Quinn says, the smile on her face almost painful.  “Queers, geeks, and fat girls.”

Rachel’s face contorts for a sharp moment, and then she says, “I’m really sorry that that’s the kind of thinking you’ve been exposed to all your life.”

“Yeah.  Me too,” Quinn says, and glances at the door.  It’s obviously still closed.  She doesn’t even know what she’s hoping for at this point.

“And I’ve always admired that you’ve never let it affect you,” Rachel adds, after a moment.

Quinn has no idea what to say, and Rachel lowers her eyes after a moment.

“However ridiculous your reasons for despising me, they were never homophobic; and you’ve always been there for Kurt, which--”

Not being homophobic is hardly a quality worth praising.  Not to mention that I’m surrounded by... “ Quinn starts to say, and then hesitates.  “Well, gay people.  I mean.  Santana’s a lesbian.”

“I know,” Rachel says, and shrugs after a moment. “She’ll learn to cope with it, and Brittany will be there for her when she’s done struggling.”

Quinn can’t help a scoff.  “See, this is what I don’t get.”

“What?”

“Santana hates you.  She’s been nothing but a bitch to you her entire life, and yet you’re still sitting here, rooting for her to pull it together.  Just like you’re rooting for me to--I don’t know...”

“Get out of Ohio?  Live up to your potential?” Rachel suggests.

“Whatever it is, it’s not normal.  Why do you...”  Quinn’s hands ball in anger all over again.  “Is this just your way of making all of us feel crappy?  Because honestly, it makes more sense as a revenge strategy than as … something sincere.”

“Not all of us are preoccupied with moral warfare,” Rachel says, and then sighs.  “I don’t know.  I guess I have this stupid hope that if all of you ... find some happiness, you’ll maybe start leaving me alone.”

A better person would take advantage of this moment to apologize, but Quinn just can’t.  All she can do is say, “Well, either way.  The fact that I don’t mind that half the people I associate with are gay hardly earns me a Nobel Peace Prize.”

Rachel smiles a little and says, “You overestimate how dramatic I am.  I wasn’t going to go that far.”

The weirdest thing is that all Quinn can think to do is agree that she’s been wrong.  It’s been almost four hours with Rachel in an elevator now, and she’s not had the urge to strangle her since the initial inhaler assault.

Still; there’s thinking it, and then there’s saying it, and--the latter isn’t really an option.  She can’t even really justify why, but--

Rachel breaks through her musing by saying, “How are you doing?  You’re getting a little clammy again, and--”

“Just keep talking to me,” Quinn requests, and when Rachel bites her lip for a moment and then says, “So--rumor has it that Sue Sylvester is going to run for Congress”, it’s almost unreasonable how grateful she is for the reprieve.

*

It’s six.  

Her wrist alarm goes off, actually, because it’s her normal wake-up time for a morning jog, and Rachel--who’d been dozing a little between muttered bits of conversations, jerks up at it.

“Oh--right.  Elevator,” she says, softly.  “Geez, I really thought someone would be awake by now, but--”

“Maybe they’re trying to fix it,” Quinn says, not overly hopeful.

Rachel shifts uncomfortably, and then gets back up to her feet; Quinn closes her eyes because--short skirt, awkward angle, and but then pushes up to her feet as well and says, “Things at home are terrible.”

“What?” Rachel asks, blinking blearily and rolling her shoulders--then, she focuses, and her expression shifts into neutral so quickly that it’s almost funny.  “Oh.”

“My mother... drinks to forget.  There’s a lot more to forget these days.  My father wants to get back together with her, and financially it makes sense.  He’ll never get over what happened to me, though, and if he moves in with us again.... well.”

Rachel stares at her for a moment, and then says, “I don’t have a single platitude to offer in response to that.”

“You’re lucky,” Quinn says, wondering why her throat feels so rough; it’s lack of use, or maybe the stale elevator air.  “Your fathers sound... amazing.  I mean, most of us are accidents, but you never have to question if you were wanted.  You really, really were.”

Rachel smiles for a second and then says, “They’re--they’ve been very good to me.  But they’re not perfect.  They both work too much, and then compensate for not being around by giving me everything I ask for.  But--sometimes?  I wish they were still as excited about my upcoming performances as they were about the first trophies I won when I was six.”  She hesitates and then says, “It’s hardly comparable, but--”

“Nobody’s perfect,” Quinn says, quietly.

“Yeah.  Nobody’s perfect,” Rachel agrees.

There’s something about the way they’re both standing, in the middle of the elevator, one of Quinn’s feet on the pocket Scrabble board, that suddenly feels completely meaningful.  Like--these are the words they’ve been meaning to say to each other all along.

“I’m not a very good friend,” Quinn finally says, in a weak effort to break through Rachel’s questioning stare.

“I suspect that I’m not either, though I can’t say I’ve had a lot of--” Rachel starts to say, and Quinn silences her with a finger to the lips.

“I got a nose job when I was thirteen because everyone hated me.  And I wanted to hate you, because you were me, but you didn’t crumble the way that I did.  You just got on with your life, and your talent and drive pissed me off like nothing else, because I didn’t have that.  I wasn’t good enough for m parents, or my peers, and I changed as much about myself as I could to become good enough.  But I’m still not good enough, because I’m not perfect, and--”

Her hand is batted away after a moment, and then Rachel’s--God, what on earth is she thinking?  Hugging is possibly the worst idea ever, what with the constant weight on Quinn’s lungs, and then Rachel’s saying, “Sorry, I should have asked, but--I didn’t want to risk you saying no”, low and right into her ear.

The elevator lurches, and they stumble into the wall behind Quinn together, suddenly pressed together even closer, and--

“You can do better than Finn.  And I don’t just mean New York,” Quin says, when Rachel pulls back a little, finding her footing again.

“You can do better than Ohio,” Rachel responds, in barely anything more than a whisper, and her eyes flicker up and down Quinn’s face.  “I... I know that when we leave this elevator, you’re probably going to stop talking to me again, and it’s fine.  I get it.  No matter what I decide to do, out there, Finn is between us, and I don’t blame you for being angry about how our situation resolved itself--I would be too, in your shoes.  But--promise me, while we’re in here, that you’ll try.”

Quinn can’t find any words whatsoever, even as the elevator starts a steady climb up to the eighth floor again, and really--all she wants to do is tear her eyes away and push Rachel off her, but it's like she just can't.

“You’d make an excellent veterinarian.  I would trust you with my goldfish,” Rachel says, completely earnestly, and it's too much; she cracks, completely.

Rachel, from where she's been shoved to the other side of the elevator, looks at her with a shocked expression on her face. "What--"  

"Don't touch me. Don't ever touch me," she breathes, harshly, and tries to stop her heart from bursting out of her chest. She’s already at the door by the time it opens, and there’s three members of the hotel staff waiting for them there, offering apologies and water bottles and a bunch of other crap that really doesn’t matter right now..

“I’m quitting Glee,” she says, without turning around, before snagging a water bottle and walking--not running, never running--back towards the hotel rooms.

“Quinn--” Rachel says, behind her.

“You can have Finn, until you go to New York.  And I won’t tell Mr. Schue about where you were last night,” Quinn says, firmly, ignoring the mild hesitation in her step--because it’ll go away again.  This will all go away again.  “But you can’t have everything, Rachel.  It’s just not how the world works.”

There isn’t anything else for either of them to say, and when Quinn unlocks the door and heads straight into the bedroom, leaving Rachel to explain where the hell they’ve been all night, she sinks against it and runs her hand over her face.

Leave it to Rachel Berry to get her to choose yet another small, enclosed space, rather than the questions that her teammates will undoubtedly ask and she won’t answer.

*

It figures that this is what her life has become.

She gets a haircut, courtesy of two people who she’d like to pretend are her friends but really have never quite made it that far.  Rachel gets kissed on stage by Finn, ruining their chances of success and, alongside it, as a secondary crime, the only feasible excuse Quinn had for being in Glee to begin with.

Everyone else is furious; she honestly can’t muster up the energy to do much beyond tell Mr. Schue that she appreciates his work with the team (which is a bold-faced lie), but she has no desire to continue as a member her senior year.

“I have colleges to apply to,” she says, which may or may not be the truth, these days.

Some days, she actually think it will happen for her; usually on those days when she sees Finn and Rachel walking down the hall, hand in hand.

The sight of them makes it easier to not think too much about the fact that Rachel left three different brochures for prestigious veterinary science programs in her locker, a few days after they got back from New York.

And really, the fact that the only person in all of Lima who knows anything about her is Rachel Berry?

She’s better off not thinking about that at all.