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Rough Beginnings

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Rachel rocked back and forth on her heels as she wrung her hands nervously. They were on the stage in the auditorium, but there was nowhere to sit because the A/V club had cleared away everything for one of their projects. So the two girls were left to just stand there uncomfortably in front of each other.

"Are you really okay with Jesse helping us? You were kind of trying to burn holes in his head with your death glare for a while."

"I'm fine," she replied curtly. "He's talented. We need the help anyway."

"Oh. Good!" Rachel chirped just a little too brightly. "G-great even."

"Plus he totally smashed Finn into the floor...which was awesome."

Rachel laughed. "I knew you were going to say that."

"It's true!"

An awkward moment of silence fell between them. Rachel scuffed the floor lightly with the toe of her shoe while Quinn just kept her hands clasped in front of her.

"So you wanted to talk..."

"Yes. Talk."

"So talk."

She took a deep breath. "What happened with Sam was wrong. I was high and out of my mind, but on some level, it was still me. I can't explain it to you any more than it didn't feel like the wrong thing to do at the time. It was just Sam, and Sam was sad, and I, in my twisted state, thought it was only natural to want him to feel better, that I was being a good friend."

"Okay..." Rachel said warily.

"Even though it meant absolutely nothing to me, that I felt nothing, it was still wrong and I hurt you."

"Yes, you did." She nodded.

"I can't take it back, since you won't let me." She quirked a smile which Rachel rolled her eyes at. "But I can promise you something."

"The moon?"

"I'll work up to that."

"A starring role on Broadway?"

"You don't need me to promise you that; it's already destined."

Rachel smiled shyly.

"I can promise to never kiss him again."

The brunette watched her for a moment. "You're going to break up with Sam?" she asked tremulously.

Quinn winced. "No...I can't. It's still...I-I can't." She shook her head helplessly. "But I can swear to you that my lips will never go near his again! We barely do it anyway, but I'll make it so it never happens again."

Rachel wasn't surprised, but the disappointment stung all the same. It was a dull aching pain by now, a chronic condition that she lived with on a daily basis.

She sighed and turned her back as she took a few steps away. Maybe this wouldn't be as hard if she wasn't looking at her.

"If you're dating him, how are you not going to kiss him?"

"I don't do PDA. Besides, it's not like anyone's going to notice Sam and I not making out under the bleachers when we never did that to begin with."

Rachel looked at Quinn over her shoulder curiously.

"You're really never going to kiss him again? Not even so much as a-a peck?"

"Not even a peck," she assured her. "Barring some life threatening situation where it means someone dies if I don't kiss Sam Evans, then yes. Never."

"Just let them die," she sniffed.

"What if it's you?" Quinn countered.

"Oh, right." She frowned and turned around again to face her completely. "Okay. On the off-chance that my life or yours hangs in the balance, then that's your 'get out of jail free' card."

Quinn tilted her head thoughtfully, peering at Rachel. "You're going to spend the rest of the week thinking up scenarios where that could actually happen, aren't you?"

"That's just silly," she said, frowning. "I'm not that crazy, Quinn!"

"You so are! You've probably even thought of three by now!"

Rachel glared at her but Quinn only stared back knowingly until she finally relented with a huff.

"I hate that you know me that well," she grumbled.

The blonde grinned victoriously.

"Are you serious about this?" Rachel asked again, just to be sure, just to hear it one more time. "Never?"

"Never. My lips are yours and only yours, Miss Rachel Berry."

She ducked her head with a blush. "I like the sound of that."

"Does that help make it better?"

Rachel thought about it. "A little bit."

The blonde took a deep breath, allowing a tremulous smile. "Okay."

It wasn't much - they both knew that - but it was something. And right now? They really needed that something.



"I'd very much like to have that kiss now. You know, the one we didn't have this morning?"

"Thank God." She exhaled in relief and closed the distance between them in a heartbeat. "I've been dying to do this all day."

Rachel was still smiling long after Quinn's lips met hers.

She didn't get a chance to tell Rachel until later that day because they'd gotten distracted, but Quinn had also bought tickets for them to see Idina Menzel perform on tour in Cleveland. Wicked was one of Rachel's favorite musicals and the reaction she got when she finally told her made the loss of two month's allowance more than worth it. She wanted to see Rachel smile like that every day and prayed that she would be able to make that happen.

She definitely wasn't going to mention how scarily similar Idina Menzel and Shelby Corcoran looked. They could have been twins separated at birth.

That was just too weird.

It was one of those rare nights when Judy insisted on 'quality time' and Rachel's fathers coincidentally had her tied up with family obligations as well and the girls were forced to forgo their usual nightly meetings. Rachel didn't help by whispering into the phone all the things she would have wanted to do to Quinn had she been there. The blonde almost tossed her phone out the window out of pure sexual frustration, but Rachel was too good to resist. So she endured the pain. Instead of taking an ice cold shower as she typically would, she pushed herself to keep practicing what Rachel had asked of her those months ago. It still wasn't the easiest thing in the world for Quinn to adjust to, but she was doing better. Having Rachel talk like that certainly made the transition simpler, so instead of heading into the shower, Quinn let her hand slip between her legs. It wasn't an adequate substitute by any means, but it helped a little.

She'd have to tell Rachel about it tomorrow.

Quinn woke up the next morning in absolute misery for reasons having nothing to do with the lonely night without her girlfriend. Her Mom tried to talk her out of school, but Quinn refused. She would just have to suck it up and get through the day as best she could. That was the mantra she repeated over and over in her head as she trudged into McKinley. She was walking towards her locker when Sam called out to her from behind. Quinn slowed down for him, but didn't stop.

"Hey-ho, it's off to...whoa." Sam's cheery morning greeting stopped dead in its tracks when he saw her face. "You don't look so good."

"Thanks," she replied dryly, glaring at him. "Really. Just what every girl wants to hear."

"I-I just meant you look like you don't feel well," he said worriedly.

"I'm fine. Just a little under the weather, I guess. It's nothing. It'll pass."

He held a hand up to her forehead and Quinn swatted him away.

"You have a fever!"

"I do not! I'm fine. Just go away already," she grumbled.

"Why didn't you just stay home if you weren't feeling well? Get some rest?"

Quinn sighed as she opened her locker. "I can't miss Glee today. We're supposed to officially start writing for Nationals. Rachel's really excited; she talked for hours about it on the phone last night. She wants me there so we can write another song together. I don't want to let her down."

"She would understand you missing it if you're sick, Quinn," he said firmly.

"I'm not sick!" she snapped. "And don't you dare say a word to her about it. I'm fine."

"But you really don't look- UGH!"

Quinn slammed her books into his stomach and he doubled over in pain, wheezing from the impact. Without another word, she just walked off to class as the bell rang.

Someone patted Sam on the back lightly and when he glanced up, it was Brittany giving him a sympathetic look.

"Quinn's never been a very happy sick person. She gets kind of mean."

"So I've just discovered..."

Santana came storming by and whisked her girlfriend away by the arm without giving Sam so much as a glance.

She still hadn't forgiven him for that brownie disaster.

Quinn made it through her first few classes by sheer determination, which was a hell of a lot considering she had to spend an entire period convincing Rachel she wasn't sick, but by the time Glee rolled around she couldn't keep it together anymore. She felt, and probably looked, like death. The second she dragged herself into the choir room she barely managed to make her way over to Rachel before she collapsed in the chair next to her and put her head in the girl's lap.

Rachel combed her fingers through Quinn's hair and gazed down at her with a sympathetic look, but her vibe really said "I told you so."

"You need to go to the nurse, Quinn."

"No," she said stubbornly. "I just need a minute."

"Oh, Quinn," Tina said when she walked in and saw her lying there. "Are you coming down with something? The flu's been going around."

"I don't have the flu!"

"No, you just look ten times whiter than your usual pasty self," Santana snorted.

"You're kind of like one of those thingies we put gross stuff in to look at under a microscope in Chem class," Brittany said.

"A petri dish," Santana supplied for her.

"Yeah! A walking petri dish."

"A disease-infested human being that's going to get the rest of us sick. Get out of the room, Fabray!"

"Stop it!" Rachel scolded Santana sternly, still running her fingers through Quinn's hair.

Quinn wasn't listening to them; all she could focus on was the comforting feeling of Rachel's hands in her hair. It felt so good, she wished they were in a bed where Rachel would just do that for hours. Instead she had to settle for the uncomfortable chairs.

Sam walked in with a reproving expression when he saw Quinn in Rachel's lap. He sighed and knelt down in front of her.

"It's gotten worse?"

Quinn just squeezed her eyes shut and refused to answer.

"She absolutely refuses to admit she's sick," Rachel said and no one missed the pointedness of her tone.


"I'll be fine!" she tried again, but her resolve was wavering.

The rest of the Glee club was coming in now, all of them witness to Operation: Make Sick Quinn Go Home.

"Damn, Quinn," Puck said. "You look like hell. What'd you catch?"

"You're no good to anyone like this," Sam chided her. "Just go home and get into bed."

"Before you bring the whole school down with you!" Santana added.

"Quinn," Rachel leaned down to whisper in her ear, "please stop trying to deny it. I'm really worried about you. You have a fever and you're shaking." She rubbed Quinn's arm reassuringly. "Let me take you to the nurse."

"Do what she says," Sam added.

"Don't order me around," she said weakly.

He rolled his eyes and Rachel sighed exasperatedly.

"Okay, okay." She really didn't have the strength to fight them anymore and at this point, she didn't want to. She wanted her bed and to be able to sleep through this thing until she felt better, like a bear in hibernation. "I give. Just take me to the nurse's office."

Sam helped her stand, supporting her weight. Without hesitation, he gave her over to Rachel as soon as she was steady, putting Quinn's arm round the other girl's shoulder. Rachel took her waist and the two of them walked out slowly.

Sam was barely back in his seat before Finn was muttering angrily under his breath.


Sam tried to ignore it at first, but Finn kept on grumbling. So he finally had to turn around.

"All right, Hudson," he said tiredly. "What's your problem now?"

Finn sat right up in his seat. "Same problem as always, dude. The way you treat Quinn!"

Sam scoffed. "What do you care?"

"I care 'cause she's so sick she can barely stand, but you can't even bother to walk her to the nurse's office? Rachel has to do it?"

"You know, it really says something about you that the only time you ever care about either one of those girls is when they're not dating you. When are you going to let this go? You're seriously acting like a jackass."

"Says the guy who can't be bothered to help his sick girlfriend!"

Fuming, Sam turned around to fire back, but Santana beat him to it.

"Oh, for God's sake, shut up already, Finnoyance. Quinn wanted Berry to take her because that crazy bearded she-dwarf would browbeat the nurse into letting her stay and keep Q company, unlike Sam who would get his ass kicked out. Then she'd be sick and alone."

Finn stared at her in confusion.

"Don't go shoving your freakishly large potato head into things that don't concern you and especially when it makes you the biggest damn hypocrite." She settled back in her chair, folding her arms across her chest.

"Wha- This has nothing to do with you, Santana!"

"Look, everyone knows you've got the award for the world's douchiest boyfriend in the bag so excuse me if I don't appreciate you starting in on guppy mouth here just because he's a better guy than you will ever be."

Sam threw her an appreciative nod and Mr. Schuester walked in just then to start the lesson. It took all of sixty seconds before Finn exploded completely and stormed out without a word. Santana couldn't have looked more pleased with herself.

After futilely attempting to call the boy back, Mr. Schuester came in again and looked around the room.

"What just happened with Finn?"

The Latina shrugged. "Truth blows, Mr. Schue."

Quinn sighed when the now-warm cloth disappeared and a pleasantly cooler one replaced it. She felt the body pressing against her side while familiar fingers caressed her cheek.

"Find out this week's assignment?"

"Yes," Rachel replied softly. "Mr. Schue was inspired by Sam's use of the classic hit by the Jackson Five a few weeks ago and asked us all to come up with songs from the '50s and update them to reach a modern audience. The catch is, we can't do any mashups. They're remixes, essentially. We can change the instruments, the lyrics, the beat, but have to remain true to the feeling and intention of the song. It's actually a wonderfully creative exercise to help the group think about songwriting for Nationals. Particularly since everyone, including myself, has a tragic case of writer's block…"

"Sounds fun," she mumbled, blinking as she tried to focus in on the brunette hovering above her. It made her dizzy though and she had to stop before her stomach made good on its threat and emptied itself.

Rachel sighed and gently brushed Quinn's hair out of her eyes. "Why don't you let me take you home, baby?"

"T-they called my mom," she said uncomfortably. "She'll be here soon."

"Oh, okay." She took her clammy hand and held it in her lap. "I'll just wait with you then."

"Actually…" Quinn croaked, not able to look her in the eye, "I'll be fine; you don't need to wait. It's…it's better if she doesn't see you."

Rachel tried not to let it show just how much that hurt. But Quinn knew anyway.

It hurt just having to say it; she couldn't imagine what it would be like to have to hear it.

Unfortunately, it was always better than the alternative.


"All right," Rachel said thickly, releasing her hand, and standing up awkwardly. "I should just go now, I guess. F-feel better, Quinn."

"I'll-I'll call you," she tried lamely, but Rachel was already gone.

Quinn turned on her side to face the wall as the tears slipped silently down her cheeks.

She cursed her life for being so cruel.

There was a soft knock at the door that roused Quinn from her restless slumber. She blinked several times before she was able to clearly see the blonde boy standing by her bed with Tupperware in his hands.

"I let myself in," Sam said with a smile and held up the container. "Mom's homemade chicken noodle soup. She told me to tell you she hopes you get better soon."

"I hope so too," she croaked and turned onto her back. "Say thanks for me."

"Do you want me to heat some up for you?"

Quinn shook her head, so he just set it down on top of her dresser.

"Shouldn't you be in school?"

It was dark in her room, but she could still see strong sunlight pouring out from the corners of her curtains.

"Snuck out during lunch. I wanted to check up on you, make sure you haven't ended up in the hospital or anything."

Quinn scoffed. "Are you taking lessons in melodrama from Rachel?"

"What else is a guy to think when you won't answer your phone?" he said pointedly.

"I'm sick, you idiot," she tossed back groggily. "I don't exactly feel up for a casual chat on my cell when all I want to do is die in peace."

"Looks like I'm not the only one taking lessons in melodrama..."

Quinn sighed. "Thank you for coming over. It's sweet."

"It's been two days. Have you seen a doctor?"

"Yeah," she said tiredly and shifted onto her side again as Sam sat down on the edge of the bed. "It's the flu after all. I'll be out for the rest of the week."

"Is phone-phobia one of the symptoms of the flu?"

"Are you really that insulted that I haven't called you?"

He gave her a look. "Not me."

Quinn shut her eyes tightly. She knew what he was talking about. "I try; I swear I do. But every time I go to make the call, I don't see the point. It's just me telling her that I'm still sick and that she's not allowed to do anything. Isn't that worse somehow?"

"What do you think she's going to do? Try to come up with a cure? Hold a town-wide vigil for you? Call in a team of doctors from around the world to treat you? She just wants to talk to you, see how you're feeling."

"No," Quinn croaked. "That's not what she wants. I know her. Rachel wants to do what you just did so easily. Stop by, let yourself in, bring me chicken soup, try – pointlessly – to cheer me out of my misery. It's what I would want to do in her place. She'd even tell me I don't look as bad as I think I do."

"Uh, hate to burst that balloon, but you do look like total crap. She'd be lying."

Quinn glowered at him. "Worst fake-boyfriend ever."

"One that tells the truth. I should get credit for that."

"You don't."

He gazed at her for a minute before lowering his head. "Quinn, if your Mom's at work, why not just let her come over for a few minutes?"

"NO!" she said so vehemently, she startled him.

It was too much for her and kicked off a violent coughing fit. Sam reached for the water on her bedside table and helped her sip some as it subsided. She fell back onto the pillows weakly.

"I'll never let her into this house. Never. I don't care what it takes."

Sam shook his head. "She wants to be here for you, help take care of you. It's her right to play nursemaid when you're sick and you know it."

"Until I'm out of here, we'll both just have to make do," she said bitterly.

"Are you sure about this? Maybe you're overreacting-"

The look on her face made him stop mid-sentence and he closed his mouth.

"Sam, thank you for coming over and for the soup, but I just...I'd really just like to go back to sleep now."

He sighed sympathetically and patted her leg. "Okay. I'm out." He stood and grabbed the Tupperware container. "I'll put this in the fridge. Try to eat some later, hm? You know my Mom's a badass cook. It'd be a crime to let this go to waste."

Quinn only mumbled her acknowledgment and her eyes closed as she drifted off again.

He started to leave, but hesitated when he reached the doorway. Struggling internally for a moment, he finally gave in and went back to Quinn's bedside, this time kneeling down in front of her face. He poked her nose lightly and her eyes flew open in surprise.

"Call Rachel," he ordered her sternly. "Next to my Mom's chicken soup, she's the best thing to help you feel better and you know it. Don't make it worse than it has to be just because you're angry at the way things are right now. So call her."

Quinn swallowed thickly, tears welling in her eyes, and she finally nodded. Sam kissed her forehead and left, closing the door behind him.

It took a minute or two of fumbling around 'til she found her phone.

"Hey, Rach … I'm a little better today, yeah … um, I'm sorry I didn't call ..."

She sighed and relaxed into her pillow.

"I love you too."

A week later, Quinn was finally up and about again. She actually would have gone back to school sooner if it weren't for Rachel insisting that she stay home until the doctor gave her a clean bill of health.

After Sam's talk, the ice was broken, and she spoke with Rachel several times a day. They didn't discuss what had happened in the nurse's office though it was present in both of their minds. Neither girl could bring themselves to be the one to address it so it hung there uncomfortably between them, but they pushed past it as much as they could. Having Quinn sick proved to actually be a helpful distraction in that case.

Rachel called constantly to check up on her, made sure she was resting, that she was getting enough fluids, that she tried to eat a little bit, etc. To be honest, Quinn was still delirious from a fever for most of it, but Sam was right - Rachel did make it better. Just being able to hear her voice, whether it was her concern for Quinn's well-being or listening to her rambling about her day and what the Glee club was up to, it didn't matter. Just having her voice there was more of a comfort than she could have imagined and it actually did manage to take her mind off some of the misery she was in. It gave her something to enjoy.

"The '50s assignment turned out fairly well for the most part! Tina, Sam, and...wait for it...Puck actually managed to come up with some great renditions. Trust me, it was shock all around on that one, but I do have to give him credit for it."

"So we've forgiven him then?"

"Oh, not for another decade at least, but that doesn't mean I can't acknowledge him when he's done something well."

"You always were the bigger person."

"I'm going to assume that was unintentional irony."

Quinn smiled into the phone. "Believe whatever you want, baby."

She could practically feel Rachel rolling her eyes on the other line.

"There was a problem, however, with Brittany's performance."

"What kind of problem?"

"Brittany, that was...ahem...that was definitely something, a-and I'm not saying it wasn't good, but that's not what the assignment called for."

"What do you mean? You said pick something from 50's stuff. What's wrong with 'Candy Shop'?"

"Well, when I said choose a song from the '50s, I meant the 1950s," Mr. Schuester said exasperatedly. "Not from 50 Cent!"

"Well, you really should have been clearer about that. How are we supposed to know the difference? Like, what if you said to do a song about change?"

She laughed so hard, it kicked off another coughing fit, which worried Rachel so much that she fussed over Quinn's health for another thirty minutes, but it was worth it.

Finally, the doctor gave her the go-ahead and Quinn literally skipped out the door. It'd been a week of being cooped up alone in her room with nothing but her mother and Sam's occasional visits. She missed Rachel so much, it was killing her. She knew it was going to be torture having to see her in school and not be able to run into her arms the way she so desperately needed to.

Quinn underestimated her girlfriend though. Rachel texted her minutes before she was about to walk into the school with a very simple order to meet her in the auditorium. The blonde bypassed anyone and everyone who tried to talk to her in the halls with "Good to have you back" and "Glad you're feeling better" sentiments. She burst into the auditorium and flew down the aisle, heading straight backstage where Rachel was waiting.

Quinn got to do exactly what she wanted to after all and she ran straight into Rachel's arms.

Eager to make up for lost time and desperate to get out and be active again after her solitary confinement, Quinn agreed to go shopping with Santana after school on one condition: Rachel had to join them.

Santana whined and complained and argued all day about having to "drag the diva hobbit" along with them, but she eventually had to give in because she wasn't going alone and Brittany had motocross practice. So it was either go with Quinn and Rachel or she'd have to resort to Prancy Smurf, his gel-obsessed boyfriend, and Wheezy. She ended up going with what she deemed the lesser evil.

Rachel was somewhat wary about what a shopping trip with Santana Lopez would entail, but after a handful of bitter insults on the drive over and a fierce tongue lashing from Quinn for Santana to be on her best behavior or she'd be abandoned in the mall, things calmed down. And once they got there, things were surprisingly okay...more than okay even. After about an hour, Rachel realized she was actually having fun shopping with Santana Lopez! Any cutting barbs thrown her way weren't so much an attack, but were almost as if the girl were joking with her.

"Oh, Santana! That dress would look perfectly stunning on you." Rachel pointed to a skin-tight, rich cerulean blue in one of the store windows.

Santana purposefully ignored her until Quinn yanked her arm and forced her to look. She assessed the dress with a frown then shrugged, heading into the store.

"I'm gonna freaking rock that."

Rachel beamed up at Quinn happily, as they followed after the Latina. Quinn only shook her head in bemusement.

After getting over the initial shock of being able to get along civilly with Santana Lopez, perhaps even more than civilly, Rachel became giddy. She practically skipped through the mall, dragging Quinn and Santana along with her as they went through each store.

"We definitely need to update your wardrobe to something resembling sanity, Berry." Santana held up an animal print skirt. "Nothing wrong with a little sex in your clothes and since your sexiness level is in the negatives, every bit counts at this point."

"Don't even try," Quinn responded lazily, "you know she's sexy. Brittany told me you think she's hot."

"She did what?" Santana shrieked.

"You think I'm hot?" Rachel gasped.

"NO, I DON'T!"

"And I happen to like her clothes," Quinn added offhandedly as she focused on browsing through the rack.

"Aw, thank you, honey!" The brunette poked her in the ribs. "But you did unfairly coerce me into getting rid of anything argyle in my closet."

"That was just me doing mankind a favor."

Rachel made a face at her.

Santana snorted. "Of course you 'like' her clothes. You wouldn't dare bite the hand that's getting you off."

Quinn spun around furiously, hissing, "Say it a little louder, why don't you?"

Santana sighed and held her hands up in apology. She turned back to Rachel with the skirt. "Well?"

"I'm vegan, Santana. I'm against animal cruelty."

"It's not real! It's not even close to resembling something faux!"

"I just wouldn't feel comfortable wearing any form of animal skin, real or replicated."

"Oh, Jesus, way to make it sound as disgusting as possible."

"That's what it is," Rachel chirped. "Besides, I don't need to change my clothes since even you find me attractive enough in them." She smirked mischievously at her before bouncing off to look around.

"I hate her," Santana growled.

"So you keep telling me. Now, what about this?" Quinn held up a white skirt.

She waved it away. "How about you buy yourself a pair of jeans for the first time in five years instead?"

"Jeans?" She frowned as she put the skirt back.

"You're not that different from Berry in the wardrobe department, Q. You need to branch out from the bag-lady-trolling-the-thrift-shops look you got going. I was okay with the sundresses, but you're going off the deep end with the old people clothes and those ugly as sin wedges. Next mall trip, Britt-Britt is coming with us. She'll find some wicked awesome stuff for you. She wasn't picked Trendiest Girl in America for nothing."

"Aw, look at you," Quinn cooed teasingly. "So proud of your girlfriend."

Santana ignored her.

Rachel came back over with a wide grin. "Hey, guys! What do you say we go to Claire's after this?" Then something caught her eye. "Oooh! That sweater is adorable!" She was off like a shot again.

The Latina looked to Quinn with a fierce glare. "I really hate her."

"We're still going to Claire's."

"Riiiight. Because nothing quite says 'whipped' like Quinn Fabray these days."

She raised one perfectly sculpted eyebrow at her. "Pot? Meet kettle."

Later, they had finally dragged Rachel out of Claire's and were in the dressing rooms of a department store with an armful of clothes for all three. Santana threatened death if Rachel and Quinn dared to try anything in there. Rachel's cheeks flamed in embarrassment, mostly because she'd been thinking of doing exactly that, but Quinn shut Santana down in a flash by tossing back how many times she had to deal with the Latina's antics with Brittany in dressing rooms. Glowering, Santana just slammed the stall door shut and muttered that she'd better not hear anything; otherwise she'll be scarred for life.

Still embarrassed, Rachel let Quinn tug her into another stall, further down the row from Santana, and only hesitated for a second when Quinn backed her up against the wall.

"I CAN HEAR YOU!" Santana's voice boomed through the changing rooms.

"DO YOU WANT TO PAGE CARL?" Quinn shot back.

There was no reply and Quinn smirked victoriously before ducking back to kiss Rachel again, but she held her off.


She chuckled. "One of the mall cops. He has a specific sort of history with Santana and Brittany here... Not to mention he's one of Santana's cousins. Reallyyyyy awkward."

Rachel laughed and wrapped her arms around Quinn. She didn't even remember if they actually tried on any clothes except in Victoria's Secret, which was, without a doubt, the highlight of their shopping excursion. Those spacious dressing rooms really were quite useful.

All three of them were pretty much done for the day, each holding a bag, though Santana had outdone them solidly with three bags of her own. Rachel asked her how she was able to afford to spend that much money on clothes, let alone anything else.

"Doctor for a Daddy here," she replied with a roll of her eyes.

"Then-then..." Rachel's brow furrowed in confusion, "why do you live in the Heights?"

Quinn was too late to intervene and sighed when Santana got that look she knew so well. If she were a cat, she'd be hissing with all the fur on her back standing straight up. Rachel was just going to have to brave the storm she brought on herself.

"Does it matter where I live?"

"No, of course not. Only that you continue to assert-"

"Mi abuela lives in Lima-Heights Adjacent, along with the rest of mi famila," she snapped defensively. "It's my blood; it's where I was born. Just 'cause Dad got himself out of there, doesn't mean I've forgotten my roots. Money changes nothing."

"I understand," Rachel said with a gentle smile. "Believe me, Santana, I do. Family is what matters. The people you love, they make you who you are. There's nothing else more important in the world than that."

Santana hesitated at first, but seemed assuaged by this and backed off.

"Yeah. That's right."

Rachel nodded and pointed out the food court.

"How about we eat?"

That led to an easy change of subject since all of them were so hungry.

What Quinn knew and Rachel didn't (yet), was that there was an ongoing war in the Lopez family. Since Santana's father was able to get an education and make something of himself, the first of his family to go to college, let alone medical school, it created a huge divide. When he married Santana's mother, that was the breaking point. Maribel was a successful lawyer from a wealthy family that came with a lot of expectations. It was an explosion of worlds even though they shared the same ethnic roots. A lot of the family members on Santana's father's side thought that he became too full of himself, too obsessed with money and status, that he looked down on the rest of them for still struggling to make ends meet. That wasn't true at all; Quinn actually liked and respected Carlos Lopez. He was a good man and so down to earth. He loved his daughter and wanted to be able to give her everything he never had.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Lopez family didn't see it that way and a lot of them cut him out of their lives. Really, they resented him for being successful because it made them feel ashamed for not being able to do the same. There was bad blood and fierce family feuds. Santana always hated it. She hated that her family forced her to choose sides. Who was she loyal to? Who was she, a spoiled doctor's daughter or an independent Latin woman who wasn't ashamed of her heritage? That's why she always insisted on keeping the Lima-Heights attitude. She lived there as a child, and with her abuela still there, Santana always felt a duty to be more connected to Lima-Heights and that side of her family simply so that she wouldn't lose them, so that they wouldn't see her the way they saw her father.

She never wanted what happened to him to happen to her. Losing her family? It scared her to death.

Yet for Quinn? She'd lost her family a long time ago, if she ever had a family at all. She didn't have the bond Rachel had with her fathers, the loyalty Santana had to her family members. There was love there though and always would be from her, for her mother, even her father. A part of her, deep down, would always love them because they were her parents and that would never change. But it also didn't change how much she loathed them and all they stood for, all they had done to her. Quinn knew that as easily as her father had been able to turn out his pregnant sixteen-year-old daughter, she would just as easily be able to leave them behind.

It wasn't always that way, but last year changed her. Her daughter changed her. She finally started to see the world for what it was and not what the Fabray blinders made her see.

And she found Rachel.

There was no going back.

One more year.

Santana and Rachel's bickering brought her out of her thoughts.

"I'm starving! You already agreed to eat here; you can't take it back now!"

"But this food is so unhealthy. Wouldn't you rather get something on the way home?"

"No! Because I'm hungry now."

"And here everyone jokes you never eat. Will I find you in the bathroom upchucking later?"

"Okay, fine!" Santana barked, waving her hands in the air, along with her shopping bags. "It's true! It's all true! I had to do it for the Cheerios, but seeing as how I'm not on the squad anymore, I'll eat whatever the hell I want. And I want this!"

Rachel faltered at Santana's blunt admission; she obviously wasn't expecting that kind of reaction.

Quinn chose then to slip in gently. "Let's just get a snack here and then we'll have a real dinner together after we drop Santana off back home, okay?"

The brunette nodded with a sweet smile and already Quinn had forgotten about Santana's need to eat. Instead, she was thinking about how much she wanted to be alone with Rachel again. Maybe they could pick up some food and have a picnic somewhere. The weather was warm enough by now for that. She could take Rachel to the park and...

"Oh, Quinnie! I didn't know you would be here."

And her world fell apart.

Rachel heard the woman's voice from behind them and saw Quinn go white as a sheet. She looked to Rachel with the most fragmented expression. She knew then that something was about to go terribly, terribly wrong.

Santana immediately yanked Rachel closer to her, whispering harshly in her ear, "Whatever she says in the next few minutes, she doesn't mean it."

She didn't have a chance to respond before Santana stepped back with a grimace. "Look, Treasure Trail, how many times do I have to tell you that you're not allowed within ten feet of us? Walk away before I call that security guard over and have you arrested for public lewdness."

"I-I beg your pardon?"

"You look like a kiddie hooker and as a practicing Catholic that's offensive against priests so…" She waved her off impatiently.

"Santana Lopez! You will mind your manners," Judy said briskly.

The Latina put on a perfect 'reprimanded' face and backed down sheepishly. "Sorry, Mrs. Fabray."

Judy Fabray locked eyes on Rachel and looked like she just tasted something bitter. She was standing a few feet away from them with another woman whom Rachel didn't know.

"Quinnie…" she said suspiciously, looking among the three of them. "What exactly is going on here?"

She looked different than Rachel remembered when she saw her at Regionals last year. Of course, that was a woman who'd just separated from her husband and was prostrating herself before her daughter in an effort to get her to come home. Then, she was a woman asking for forgiveness.

She wasn't that woman now.

Quinn opened her mouth for a moment, trying to figure out what to say, while Santana was glaring at Rachel, subtly urging her with a nod of her head to leave, but Rachel refused. She finally had the chance to introduce herself to Quinn's mother and she was going to take it. Maybe she could convince Quinn somehow that she'd been worried for nothing. She sidestepped Santana and extended her hand to Judy.

"Hello, Mrs. Fabray! My name is Rachel Berry. I go to school with Quinn and Santana. It's wonderful to meet you."

Judy pretended like she never saw it, instead she just switched her purse to the other shoulder uncomfortably. Rachel blinked in surprise but didn't let the smile leave her face. That horrible feeling in her stomach sunk even lower; it took everything she had to remain strong. She swallowed thickly and let her arm drop.

"Well, I-"

Suddenly, the casual disdain disappeared as Judy's eyes focused in sharply at something at Rachel's side. Then Quinn was in between them, her hand clasped Rachel's wrist and she yanked her back roughly.

"Listen, sweetie, I know I said I'd let you tag along with us for a little while so you could learn how more civilized people behave, but your time's up. Why don't you run along now?"

Rachel winced in pain at the tight grip Quinn had. She had grabbed her right over the diamond bracelet and it was digging deep into her skin. Any tighter and Quinn might draw blood.

She frowned. "Uh, I didn't, I mean, I don't under-"

"Just make sure you tell Miss Pillsbury about today so we can all get the credit for her after school program," Santana hissed, staring daggers at Rachel as she raised her eyebrows, trying to get her on board with the cover-up plan that had already seemed to have been formulated between the two.

But Rachel wasn't going down without a fight.

Quinn may be worried about how her mother would react to them being together, but surely even a woman like Judy Fabray couldn't be so intolerant as to reject Rachel as a person. She just had to find a way to make Judy like her; then Quinn would see it wasn't so bad after all. It would make things just a little bit easier for them. They needed that.

The way things were going, they needed it more than ever.

Rachel was trying so hard every day to keep up with Quinn, to keep up the facade, to manage the lies, to manage the pain. But when Quinn got sick, all these things that she was desperately trying to juggle were starting to fall. She'd tried to pretend that the way Quinn hid her from Judy like she was a horrible, dirty secret, didn't hurt. She'd tried to let go of the fact that Quinn didn't speak to her for two days after that. She even tried to convince herself that it was just because she was ill, but even Rachel couldn't lie that well to herself. Honestly, she didn't know how much longer she could keep all of this up.

Atlas held up the world; Rachel couldn't even bear the weight of her own life.

What did that say about her? What did that say about her life?

They needed this.

So Rachel ignored Quinn's grip and pressed forward.

"I've seen you at some of the Glee club competitions," she said to the older woman with a bright smile. "Quinn's a fantastic performer! You must be very proud."

Quinn looked deathly pale.

"She's my daughter," Judy replied with a sniff. "Of course I'm proud."

Rachel felt herself being pulled even further away before she could protest. Quinn put herself solidly in between Rachel and her mother, before finally releasing her with a shove.

"Are you about finished? We told you, we're done for today. It's time for you to leave. As in now."

"Quinn…" Rachel gasped and her hand went to her wrist to rub away the ache there.

If only she could do the same to her heart.

It wasn't what Quinn said, it was how she said it: the coolness, the lack of emotion, the way she pushed her off, the utter foreignness in her tone.

No, it wasn't foreign.

Rachel had heard it before time and time again in what felt like another lifetime.

She couldn't see the girl she loved at all. In this moment, it felt like that other girl had never even existed at all. She'd made it all up in her head. None of that ever happened. This was her life, this had always been her life. She was just starting to wake up to it again. If only she hadn't fallen asleep at all.

The hurt she could have saved herself.

Rachel looked at Santana who only had a smug expression on her face, arms crossed. Quinn was unrecognizable. Judy Fabray and a nameless woman peered down at Rachel like she was a homeless beggar trying to take their money.

She was the homeless beggar, a stranger, a loser, an outcast, a bottom-feeder. Santana and Quinn didn't have to be in their cheerleader uniforms to catapult Rachel back to a year ago when they stood in front of her in the hall, hands on their hips, so superior. Making Rachel feel as though she wasn't worthy of even breathing the same air as they did.

"Sweetie..." she remembered Quinn say, dripping with honey, but feeling as cold as ice.

And here it was again. That Quinn again that she had told herself, over and over, was gone, but she should have known. Quinn hid it well, slipping up here and there, but she'd always brushed it off because she didn't want to see it. She didn't want to admit it. How could you admit that the person you so desperately loved with every part of you, was a bad person, a liar, a phony, angry, manipulative, careless, spiteful, and cruel.

It was a lie. All of it was a lie, all this time, and she fell for it. She so pathetically, stupidly fell for it. Quinn used her, just like Quinn used everyone. Why did she ever allow herself for even one moment to think that she would be different, that somehow she, Rachel Berry, could be the exception to the rule and that this girl could have ever loved her.

Her Daddy was right. People don't change, certainly not people like Quinn Fabray.

She should have listened.

With nothing else to do, Rachel simply walked away knowing with every trudging step that she'd just had her heart broken.

In a way that never healed.

"What was that all about?" Judy turned to Quinn accusingly when Rachel was out of earshot. "Why were you with that…girl?"

"It's not like that, Mrs. Fabray," Santana reassured with a shake of her head. "Berry's a freak, but we have a volunteer program at school where we help the less fortunate. Our guidance counselor, Miss Pillsbury, assigned her to us. We didn't have a choice. Believe me..."

Santana always was the smoothest liar.

Second to Quinn, of course.

"I see…" she said nervously, looking to the woman next to her and then took Quinn by the arm, gently leading her aside and whispered, "Quinn, sweetheart, you really shouldn't even be seen with her. How it looks! Donna will be telling everyone about this tomorrow at the Spring Luncheon. I mean, just by association-"

"There's no association, Mom," Quinn said more convincingly than she thought possible of her at the moment.

All she could see was Rachel's face when she turned to walk away.

This was never supposed to happen. She was supposed to keep Rachel safe. She had promised herself that she would never let Rachel be hurt this way or any way. She was going to be better. She was going to be different.

Now she just wanted to die.

Quinn took a shaky breath. "It's just a thing for school, I had no way out of it. It's just something extra to help my transcripts for college. You know how good these things look. You can tell that to the old biddies at the luncheon if they find themselves feeling faint at the idea of me having to be around her..."

Judy wasn't the least bit amused. "All right then, but she's not bothering you is she? Because if she is, I could certainly speak to someone at the school-"

"She's just another loser, Mom," Quinn said fiercely, "barely even registers on the radar. Nothing I can't handle. Santana and I are already working on getting someone else assigned to us."

"If you're sure, then I'm glad you have it all worked out, darling." She took a step back and rejoined her friend with her usual forced, pearly-white smile. "Now, Donna and I are headed to Bloomingdale's if you girls wanted to join…?"

They both shook their heads politely.

"We were just going to get something to eat and then head home," Quinn said.

She felt like she was having a heart attack. Her chest hurt. Her body was numb. Her heart was constricting so painfully, she wanted to cry. But she couldn't. She was too afraid.

Just get her out of here. Get her out!

Her whole body was screaming it.

"But thanks anyway, Mrs. Fabray," Santana added calmly.

"Okay, see you at home later, sweetie."

Judy kissed Quinn on the cheek and squeezed her arm in such a pointed way, it made her blood run cold. She knew what it meant. Yet, the woman said nothing more. Judy merely waved goodbye to Santana and walked off with Donna.

Quinn took one look at Santana before spinning on her heel and running off in the direction Rachel left in. Santana followed, swearing in Spanish the whole way.

Please, God. Please. If you have any mercy left to spare for me, please don't let me lose her.

She had been so stupid, so selfish. All this time, she just wanted Rachel to love her, but how could she if she knew the truth? So Quinn hid all that she could, foolishly thinking what was buried would always stay buried.

It all had to come out now. She had no choice. Rachel would know everything and then she'd be gone. For a second, Quinn almost didn't want to find her, just to be able to put off the inevitable for just that much longer. To have just a few more minutes where she didn't have to face the bone-crushing reality that she had lost the most important person in her life.

But it was only for a second, because she had to find her. Maybe there was some small part inside of her that still held on to the belief that maybe...just maybe Rachel wouldn't stop loving her once she knew, that maybe Quinn was wrong.

After searching everywhere they could think of, it was Santana who suggested that maybe Rachel had just taken off since she was the one who drove. They headed to the parking lot to see if the car was still there and found Rachel sitting on a bench outside the building, staring off at nothing in particular.

Quinn's chest seized at the sight and she ran up to her, breathing hard.

"Rachel!" she cried. "I didn't mean it! I'm so sorry! I'll explain everything, I swear, I'll tell you-"

The brunette stood up immediately at Quinn's arrival and, without warning, slapped her viciously across the cheek.

Stunned, Quinn could only stand there, trembling and trying to remember to breathe. They held each other's gaze for a long moment, but it wasn't Rachel's loving eyes she was staring into. These eyes belonged to someone whom she didn't recognize, but despised her nonetheless.

Then the stranger walked away. Quinn moved to go after her; she could find her Rachel again! She had to! It wasn't gone; all wasn't lost. They couldn't have gotten this far only to lose everything.

This was the part where she was supposed to be proven wrong...

But that wasn't happening.

She felt herself crumbling under the realization and Santana grabbed her arm, holding her back with a shake of her head.

Quinn knew she was right. She watched helplessly as Rachel made her way across the parking lot, got into her car, and drove away. When she couldn't see the car anymore, she turned back to Santana.

She didn't even realize what was happening, but found herself collapsed on the concrete being supported by Santana as her body was wracked with sobs.

She couldn't breathe. Her eyes burned. Her head ached. Her chest hurt.

She felt like she was dying. Was this death?

Santana kept one arm around Quinn's waist while digging out her phone from her bra.

"Hey, Britt-Britt. Pick me and Q up from the mall? … We lost our ride. … Yeah, I know it's happened to you too. How soon can you get here? … Q's not doing so good. … She's not sick, she's sad. … Yeah, you could totes cheer her up better than me. So hurry."

She ended the call, dropped the phone on the ground, and wrapped both arms around Quinn again.

"Hey, Quinn, babe…" she said quietly, "I know this doesn't mean much right now, but you're going to be okay. Know that. You're going to be okay."

Quinn just cried harder.