Disclaimer: Don't own Glee or any of its characters. Don't own any game or song mentioned here either.
A/N: Hey everyone, long time no read. I'm sorry I haven't written in this section for so long, but I've been pretty busy. I spent the last three or four months on my back recovering from respiratory illness (it started as one illness then evolved into multiple sick bouts) while juggling personal affairs and the unfortunate death of my computer. My hiatus, unfortunately, is not over. I'm still VERY busy, but I've been finding time to pen something here and there. This is something I worked on before I became ill. I finally finished it up, so I wanted to deliver it for your viewing pleasure.
I plan on offering some options regarding Just A Kiss (no, I am NOT cancelling it, you can rest easy) which I'll post in an author's note or a chapter update (when I get around to it).
Until then, here's The Librarian, a short, sweet little fluff piece I wrote up. Please let me know what you think in a review. Thanks much, all.
Quinn never wanted to be a lawyer.
She'd wanted, for the longest time, to perform. To act on stage or in front of a camera. To immerse herself in a role and lose herself in the imaginings of some up and coming writer in Hollywood.
It'd been her dream for as long as she could remember. Something precious and untouched in her memories. Something to keep to herself, unlike a majority of things.
She wanted to be an actress.
But what Quinn wanted didn't matter. It never had.
Fabrays didn't indulge in such delusional fantasies.
Fabrays were a strong, powerful line of successful men and women sent to the finest colleges in the nation. They became businessmen or took their place in the family law firm.
Women returned home after marriage to a respectable man and settled near the family home in Lima, Ohio. They kept house for their successful husbands and had children.
Then the cycle started all over again.
Russell Fabray did all the right things. He went to school at Harvard, graduated with a law degree, joined the family firm, and became a successful lawyer in criminal law. At 24 he married, at 25 had his first daughter, and at 28 had a second child on the way.
He was a god fearing, kind-hearted man with the perfect family- a dutiful wife, a successful daughter (Frannie had done all the right things and played the game the right way since birth), and a perfect baby girl.
Quinn was his pride and joy.
Beautiful, venomous Quinn who terrorized her way through high school as resident Head Cheerleader and president of the Celibacy club.
The perfect daughter.
…Until he'd come home one day to find Quinn splayed across the couch, grasping desperately at the decidedly feminine curves of their pastor's daughter, lips locked.
He'd thrown furniture and hit Quinn across the cheek hard enough to split her lip. In the midst of his rage, 'dutiful' wife broke a whiskey bottle upside his head.
Several sets of papers after, Judy Fredricksson found herself newly divorced with weeping, inconsolable Quinn in her custody.
Judy accepted her daughter's... Preferences in stride. She made an effort to attend PFLAG meetings (Quinn found pamphlets about 'safe sex' strategically placed on her desk after cheer practice). She might not have been comfortable when Quinn brought girls home, but she'd gained a strange sort of understanding.
Law school was Quinn's way of apologizing. Making good on the Fabray family name, despite the fact that her father had all but disowned her.
Perhaps she hoped, in some small way, her father would love her again if she salvaged the last bit of the family legacy. Maybe he would speak to her again... Someday.
She went to study law at Columbia after receiving a bachelor's degree in Philosophy from University of Ohio. It wasn't Harvard, but it was a prestigious school and she HAD been at the top of her undergraduate class.
(It didn't hurt that New York was decidedly more accepting and liberal in its acceptance of those of her lifestyle, Quinn supposed-she could get married, have children, and hold onto her... Father's dreams in New York).
Quinn forged some sort of life in New York.
She had her favorite coffee shops. Her favorite bakeries. Her favorite places to sit and eat.
But she missed companionship. She missed having someone to eat her meals with, someone who cared.
Her boyfriends had been, by no means, the brightest men in the world. But they loved her, cared about her. She might not have loved them as much as she should have, but she'd loved them enough…
Like brothers or good friends.
She spent most days in the library, studying amongst the letter bound law titles, buried in her notebook, reading case records. It stanched the loneliness a bit.
Till one day, she appeared.
Quinn studied near an open window in the furthest reaches of the library. She stared out into the cold, leafless expanse of the trees, reading tax law from a leather bound volume.
The creaking of a book cart moving across the carpeted floor drew her attention from the small print.
At first, she saw only the high reaches of the shelves stretching into the ceiling. Hazel eyes drifted across the endless tomes.
Again, the eerie 'squeak' of the cart sounded in her ears. Quinn flipped the tax law volume shut with a steady slam of force, leaning back in her chair and holding the tome to her chest
The cart appeared first in the narrow corridor dividing two ranks of shelves. It stood stationary for several more seconds as the 'librarian' shifted more books onto the shelf with a series of dull thuds. The cart creaked once more as the mystery person finally appeared in the aisle.
Quinn's heart leapt in her chest.
The "librarian" was a woman, Quinn observed as her eyes lit on the feminine curve of the unknown's form.
She stood out amongst the law students and employees—instead of expensive silk blouses like the law professors and the gorgeous handmade, Italian leather of the graduates' shining shoes, the woman wore street clothes. Simple dark-washed skinny jeans encased impossibly long, toned legs and ended capped with a pair of brown hiking boots. Dark, sun-kissed forearms (unusual skin tone for a New Yorker) flexed against the metal of the cart and transitioned to the buttoned sleeves of a red and blue checkered flannel shirt paired over a dark blue V-neck.
The woman's hair lay clipped at the back of the neck, stray strands falling prettily into her face. A red pair of ear buds trailed about her neck, down her back, and to the cell phone holstered at her hip. A slight smile curved on full lips as she sang, red brown eyes lit with amusement.
Quinn had never seen this woman before. Most of the law library employees were old, dowdy women or bitter young teenagers forced into the position by the mediocre job lottery. They exuded an aura of boredom of discontent and weren't particularly interesting to watch. Quinn did her best to look firmly down at the material when in the glorious presence of those cheerful individuals.
But this young woman radiated such happiness, such warmth… such kindness.
It showed in her smile—the way her lip curved and exposed a row of gleaming whites, dimpling her cheeks. It showed in her eyes—the crinkles about them.
God, Quinn didn't think she'd ever seen anyone like her.
The book of tax law fell from her stiff arms with a "thunk."
Quinn started. What had she been doing? Two tests tomorrow. Two and so little time to study. Now was not the time to act like a horny teenage boy staring at his first pair of freaking tits!
The rain of mental admonishments for her juvenile behavior continued for several minutes, slowly devolving into curses.
A soft, melodic voice broke her train of increasingly violent mental images (she thought of choking herself for her stupidity).
The nameless woman had left her cart of books against a wall of books adjacent to Quinn's desk. She stood before Quinn, a half-smile curled about her lips as she held the tax tome out to Quinn. An ear bud hung from about her neck.
"You dropped this," that smooth mezzo soprano crawled down the column of Quinn's spine.
"Thank you very much," was what Quinn wanted to say while throwing the librarian a smile.
But what Quinn wanted and what happened were two separate things.
The words lost themselves on her tongue while her mind screamed at her. Her mouth remained firmly shut as her palms began to sweat profusely.
'Say something, you moron!" her mind screamed. 'Say something so you don't seem like chugged two dozen gallons of beer before coming here!'
"Thanks," Quinn finally managed, her tongue struggling against the words. Her heart pounded rhythms against her ribs as her fingers slid against the nameless woman's.
"No problem," the librarian said with an easy smile. She threw Quinn one last friendly nod before shoving her earbud back in. She sauntered back to the cart and started on the books once more.
Quinn sat, staring into the distance before turning back to the desk and shakily placing her book down. Her brain's mental facilities remained scrambled for several long minutes.
She brought her trembling hands to her face, shaking her head.
Good God, when was the last time she'd ever been this anxious?
Freshman year of college, first quarter finals, perhaps? No, even then she held a modicum of self-control. She hadn't wanted to vomit in front of her professor during finals.
It'd certainly never been around any of her boyfriends. In fact, a majority of the time, she wanted to run away from them. They wanted things she'd never be able to give them, something that'd always made her rather uneasy.
It was a new sort of nervousness. A bit sweet in its pain. It made her heart beat faster, her cheeks flush, and her vision unsteady.
For a moment it was left unfinished, the thoughts disjointed and reasoning lost.
Till suddenly the pieces fit together in a startling revelation.
'Oh fuck,' Quinn thought numbly, 'a crush?'
On someone whose name she hadn't even gotten.
'Way to go Quinn,' she thought to herself, scowling down at the desk's mahogany surface. 'You've proven your Father's point: can't do anything the right way.
'Can't love men, can't hold up family tradition, can't be perfect,' she thought bitterly, 'hell, now you can't even like someone conventionally. Instead, you end up liking someone at first sight. Something right out of a freaking fairytale.'
Her eyes followed the woman as she stacked the rest of the books in the adjacent shelf. Quinn continued staring until the librarian wheeled the cart out of sight.
"…Screwed," she groaned.
Quinn's head fell to the desk with dull "crack."
Could someone just kill her now?
Several more trips to the library filled with awkward, longing glances, semi-stalking the woman around the library whilst hiding behind a bookshelves, coupled with those goddamned butterflies in her stomach confirmed Quinn's dreaded suspicion that yes, she was, in fact, dangerously infatuated with the librarian.
More trips (filled still with more staring—all in the name of research, Quinn told herself) helped ascertain the fact that no, this feeling was not, in fact, going away anytime soon.
Now, any logical person would go and introduce themselves. Make strides in extending a hand in friendship, which might lead to (God, she hoped) something else.
But Quinn Fabray had never been a logical person.
She dated Finn Hudson, blockhead Quarterback and King of 'Me,' for a whole year of her life. That wasn't logical.
She once thought she loved Noah Puckerman, bad boy meathead of Lima and womanizer extraordinaire. That most certainly hadn't been logical.
In fact, when had she ever made a decision that made sense?
…Besides breaking up with those two idiots.
She certainly wasn't being logical now.
It'd been six weeks since she first saw the librarian. Six weeks since she first wanted to speak to her and she was no closer to gaining a meeting than the first week.
In High School, she hadn't needed to worry about ridiculous things like introducing herself.
Everyone already knew her, feared her, or wanted her. Men's eyes followed her lustfully as she strutted down the halls with her hand fixed firmly at her hip. Girls glared at her as she threw them smug smirks while their boyfriends' eyes wandered.
She had her pick of anyone she wanted and needn't have bothered seeking them out. They came to her and she made them work for her affection.
She enjoyed none of these perks at Columbia.
Women were entirely different than men. More difficult to get attention from.
Quinn buy any man's awareness with a slight sway of the hip and a sultry crook of her finger. Any one of them would go to pieces for her.
But women thrived on emotion. There needed to be a connection, an initial spark for affection to kindle.
The stereotypical tricks of smirking and beckoning might help, but they wouldn't cement the deal.
Quinn felt this "spark" when she watched the nameless woman. She felt it so acutely she might as well get a freaking neon sign stating "I Fucking Want You" to dangle above her head.
Perhaps Quinn should do that. Hell, it'd certainly be a step in the right direction if she didn't spook the woman away first.
A bit of divine intervention took place about seven weeks after their initial "meeting."
Quinn made her way across the cobblestone pathways, bundled against the cold. Her boots crunched in the thin spread of snow and ice.
The clatter of metal against stone echoed in her ears, breaking her from all thought of law.
Her gaze snapped onto the petite silhouette of someone struggling against a book cart.
As she neared, Quinn's heart thumped against her chest as the features of the book cart wrangler became clear.
The librarian let out a low series of swears as she knelt in the snow, lifting several texts from the ground. Her cheeks were red with cold, her lips turned into a scowl as she angrily shoved the books back onto the cart, shaking her head.
"Hey!" Quinn broke into a light jog, coming to a stop next to the cart. A gloved hand rose to her face, lowering her scarf from about her nose. The stinging cold brought a shiver as she continued. "Is something wrong?"
"Oh no," the woman said with an exasperated smile. "Nothing's wrong. Just a bit of difficulty handling the cart in the snow. The wheels slip on the ice."
She shook her head, giving a half grin. "They're obviously not meant to be out in the snow. I wonder if they make chains for them, you know, for librarians that need to trek through the icy winds to deliver novels."
"It certainly would help daring souls like yourself brave the Arctic tundra," Quinn chuckled. "What are you doing out here with a cart full of books anyway?"
"Book transfer between libraries," the woman huffed, shoving her hands into the pockets of her red coat. Her breath steamed in the winter air. "Normally they send someone else with me, but it's a bit short staffed today. I usually have an easy time of it."
"Send two people to deliver books?" Quinn asked skeptically.
"There's several flights of stairs to carry the cart up once I reach the library," the woman explained. "So it's definitely a two man job."
"Good God," Quinn uttered. "Don't they have someone else for that?"
"I'm an assistant," the woman shrugged. "We always get the worst jobs. Comes with the poor pay."
Quinn bit her lip, lost in thought before she looked up. "Would you like help?"
"Oh no," the woman waved her hands. "I couldn't possibly ask you to help. It's my job, not yours. I'm getting paid for it, you aren't."
"But I would like to help," Quinn replied.
"I don't want to impose-."
"You're not imposing on anything," Quinn insisted, grabbing the other end of the cart. "In fact, I could use a break. I just spent two hours in class arguing custody law. This is a welcome break from using my brain."
"Well if you insist," the woman gave her another of those breathtaking smiles. She took the her end of the cart and began pushing. "So what's the kind stranger's name?"
"Quinn," Quinn offered with a brief smile before focusing on an icy patch. "Quinn Fabray."
"Well Quinn Fabray," the woman began, "it's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Rachel Berry."
She had a name! "Rachel…" she let it slip pleasantly over her tongue. "Well, it's nice to meet you too, Rachel."
They continued in silence for a moment before Rachel spoke.
"Soooo…" Rachel drawled. "You're doing something in law, correct? I always see you in the library with a book shoved in your face."
"Yeah, I'm attending law school here," Quinn nodded. "First year in New York. I did my undergrad at University of Ohio. You?"
"Am I doing law?" Rachel asked with a smirk.
"No," Quinn laughed. "What do you do?"
"Well, I work," Rachel chuckled. "I sleep, I eat, I go to school-."
"Don't be a smart ass," Quinn said sternly. She froze for a moment, before shaking her head. "God, I'm sorry. I shouldn't've-."
A peal of laughter broke past her bumbling apologies. "It's alright, it's alright. I was wondering if you would call me out on that." Brown eyes twinkled. "As for what I 'do…' I'm a musician."
"A musician?" Quinn repeated.
"Yeah," Rachel smiled. "I'm studying musical theatre at Tisch with a minor in Jazz studies."
"Wow," Quinn breathed. "That's really impressive. You must be great. Tisch is supposed to be really competitive, right?"
"I'm alright," Rachel shrugged. "But everyone there is good. You don't make it to that level without struggle and sacrifice. We're all there to work our hardest and make something of ourselves. I'm just honored to have squeaked by."
"What do you play?"
"Piano," Rachel replied. "Guitar too, but not as well. Piano's my baby. I like the diversity of sound and the emotion you can squeeze from the keys."
They grunted as they lifted the cart down from the curb to cross the street.
"How about you?" Rachel looked side to side before continuing forward. "What is it you like about law?"
"I-." Quinn paused, searching her mind for answers. "I… I like the fact that it's logical and absolute. There aren't any grey areas. Things are or they aren't."
Her teeth clacked as she closed her mouth. There had to be something more. Some other reason as to why she'd chosen the path she'd chosen. Some sort of reason for being here at Columbia.
Rachel saved her from answering. "I'm sure there are other things. Curb." She grunted as they lifted the cart again. "Sometimes things are so great that we forget the words to describe them. That's how I feel about music, at times."
"And other times?" Quinn teased.
"Other times," Rachel grinned, "I can't shut up about music. I'm loquacious and difficult to shut up. I use strings of long words and drive people away."
"You? A motor mouth?" Quinn mock gasped. "I wouldn't've guessed it."
"Hey," Rachel warned with a chuckle. "Just because I gave you lead to be sassy doesn't mean I gave you the right to be an ass."
"Careful of your language," Quinn chided. "You might insult my delicate Catholic sensibilities."
"You don't seem the type to let your Catholic sensibilities—careful, door," Rachel stopped as Quinn turned to open the glass door to the library. "If your Catholic sensibilities exist at all, they don't seem to get in the way of you being a sarcastic fiend."
"Why, how dare you say I'm anything other than kind and virtuous," Quinn said, crossing her arms angrily. She leaned against the door as Rachel pushed the cart into the building.
"As nice as this conversation is," Rachel motioned toward the stairs. "We've got a long way to haul this up. Time to do the muscle work. You might want to save your breath. This isn't going to be easy."
The first flight of stairs had Quinn's arms aching and her chest heaving for air. She dropped her end of the cart onto the landing with a loud "clang."
"Done already, Fabray?" Rachel teased, dusting her hands off and crossing her arms.
"My God, how do you do this?" she panted.
"You get used to it," Rachel answered shortly. "You better recover a little faster—we have two more flights of stairs to go."
"Why don't they have an elevator for this?" Quinn wheezed.
"Because they think keeping the original layout is charming," Rachel chuckled. "And someone rotting in Hell thought it'd be funny to watch poor library assistants struggle up and down the stairs."
"I have a newfound respect for you," Quinn shook her head, then stood tall. "Let's—Let's get this done so I can go and do my studying thing again."
"I knew the law was the only thing you'd be able to do," Rachel teased.
They continued the rest of the way in silence, stopping occasionally to rest. By the time the books had been transferred into the library, Quinn knew she would be sore in the morning.
Rachel exchanged several friendly words with the librarian before starting down the stairs. Quinn followed at her heels.
"Thanks for the help," Rachel said once they reached the bottom floor. "You made my job a lot easier."
"It was no problem," Quinn replied with a soft smile. "It's payback for keeping all the law books in such neat order."
"I'm paid to do that," Rachel chuckled. "I don't need any thanks. But I appreciate the sentiment."
They stood in awkward silence, shyly exchanging glances.
'This is it,' Quinn's mind screamed. 'This is your chance! Talk! Get her number! Do something!'
She bit her lip. Ah, hell.
"So would you-."
"I think it'd be-."
They both stopped, blushing before looking away from each other. Rachel scratched behind her neck nervously, eyes averted.
Oh Hell, she'd take the leap. Quinn cleared her throat.
"So I was wondering if you'd… I don't know, like to meet for coffee or something sometime?" Quinn asked tentatively. "I'd love to get to know you outside of the library. I don't know much about the city so it'd be great to have someone to show me around. You know, if you want to. You really don't have to. I don't want to be-."
"Quinn." Rachel's voice broke through the string of rambling. The musician's eyes were soft, that wonderful half smile taking residence on her lips.
Quinn's cheeks reddened. Gods, she must seem like a rambling fool!
Rachel reached into her front pocket and pulled a pen out. She touched Quinn's arm, holding it gently in soft, warm hands.
"I'd love to go for coffee sometime," Rachel began to scrawl out a series of numbers. "I'm free Thursdays and Fridays after two. There's a nice coffee a couple blocks from the residence halls. It might take me a while to get there from work. I can meet you there or we can walk from the library."
She gave Quinn's arm a light squeeze before taking a black beanie from her pocket and shoving it onto her head. "Let me know when's best for you. Call soon and we'll iron out the details, alright?"
Rachel stepped away from Quinn, opening the door. She threw Quinn one last grin, waving. "I'll see you around, Quinn."
Rachel disappeared in a rush of cold wind, leaving Quinn standing dumbfounded in the library's foyer. Her arm was numb and a blush stained her cheeks.
'Well,' Quinn shook her head. 'I finally got her number.'
It was a start.
Their first meeting took place a week later on a snowy Friday afternoon.
Quinn found herself nervously dialing the number the night before, stuttering out a pathetic invitation to coffee to a chuckling Rachel.
The coffee shop Rachel recommended was a hole in the wall, far off the main street. Quinn followed several suggestions from those passing by until she found it, down an alley and lit with dim, yellow light.
Quinn did not expect Rachel to have arrived yet, since Rachel's shift at the library did not end until one thirty.
She was surprised to find that not only had Rachel arrived, but singing.
The coffee shop was small and cluttered with mismatched tables and furniture. A warmth rose from a crackling fire set into a brick wall on the far side of the room. The scent of coffee and chocolate mixed in the air, warming Quinn's cheeks.
At the front of the room on a raised stage, Rachel sat on a wooden stool with a mahogany guitar balanced on her knee. A small crowd sat arrayed about her, eyes locked on her.
Quinn watched in awe as Rachel's fingers wandered over the guitar's strings. The musician's eyes remained closed as a low, melodic hum echoed from closed lips.
"If all the flowers faded away," a soft, rich voice echoed across the shop. Chills flooded down Quinn's spine. "And if all the storm clouds… decided to stay. Then you would find me each hour the same… She is tomorrow, and I am today."
"Cause if right is leaving, I'd rather be wrong," Rachel's voice lowered to a pained whisper. "She is the sunlight… the sun is gone."
With the next verse, Rachel's voice crescendoed til it burned its way into Quinn's veins. The sadness, longing, and desperation ached in Quinn's heart and played across every facet of Rachel's features.
God, Quinn'd never felt this strongly. Never heard the story in the music play its way through her heart and immerse her.
The last strummed chords of the song made the fever of the music die slightly in her blood. Quinn stood, teary-eyed as the audience clapped for Rachel.
The singer smiled, then stood and bowed briefly. Her eyes lit on Quinn, a grin making brown spark and twinkle. Rachel motioned to a table in the corner, mouthing 'one moment,' before turning to speak to the crowd.
Quinn perched herself into a chair and stared down at her hands, shaking her head. Her heart had not calmed from the emotion in the song. It made her tremble about the shoulders.
So that was what it looked like when you loved your job.
Rachel looked like someone different. She hadn't smiled, the brightness that hung about her gone. Instead she looked pained, drawn, and utterly lost. The lyrics left her mouth with agonized knowing.
Rachel became the song.
Is that what it meant to be passionate about something? Losing yourself in it until your forgot about anything and everything else?
Did it mean feeling utterly at ease? Never wondering if you belonged?
'Is that what I might've been like if I'd gone after acting?' some small voice asked in whispered shame.
The sound of clinking china and the smell of coffee broke her from her thoughts.
"Hey," Rachel smiled, taking a seat as she pushed a cup of coffee toward Quinn. "I'm glad you could make it."
"I'm glad I could too," Quinn's gaze flickered toward the stage. "So that's being 'okay' at singing? Can I be 'okay' at law, then?"
A boisterous laugh broke from Rachel's lips. She leaned back in her chair. "I don't think I was that great. It was just a little performance. I haven't gotten to sing casually in a while, so I thought I'd break out the guitar and do a little something.'
"That wasn't just okay, Rachel," Quinn pressed forward. "That was amazing! You've got a real future ahead of you, if that's 'just' a performance."
"It's kind of you to say so," Rachel threw Quinn a little half smile. "Music's always been where my heart's been. Has been since I was little. My Dads said I was born with a mic in my hand."
"Dads?" Quinn questioned, curious.
"Ah, yeah," Rachel turned red, looking away. "I come from an… unconventional family, I suppose you'd say. I was a lucky girl—two doting Dads instead of just the one." She paused. "That's… not a problem for you, is it?"
Quinn almost burst out laughing at the question. "I'd be awfully hypocritical if I said it was."
"You'd be-Oh," Rachel's eyes widened. "Oh! I wouldn't have guessed it."
"And I'm assuming that it's not a problem for you?" Quinn asked with a raised brow.
"No, no, not at all," Rachel shook her head. "A person's a person. Love is love. I was taught that lesson early in my life and I'll carry it all the way through." Rachel placed her arms on the table, linking her fingers. "Are you out?"
"I came out my senior year of High School," Quinn gave a sheepish smile. "I don't actively tell everyone but I don't hide it. It's… not that big a deal."
"I hear you," Rachel nodded, sipping from her cup idly. "It's never been a big thing at home either."
"And where is home?" Quinn inquired curiously.
"Cincinnati," Rachel answered. "My Dad has a medical practice and my Father owns a law firm. You?"
"Lima," Quinn said, surprised. "I never expected to meet someone else from Ohio out here in the big city."
"There are plenty of small town girls that come to the Big Apple for a bite of fame," Rachel set her cup down. "Most of us trip and stumble and flee back home. Some of us are luckier than others and we find our niche."
She cocked her head to the side as she leaned back in her chair. "What do your parents do?"
"My mom is a real estate agent," Quinn replied. ''And my father… well… The last I'd heard, he was still a lawyer."
"Last you heard?" Rachel's voice lowered.
"My parents divorced," Quinn provided. Hazels fell and turned to a melancholy green. "I'm afraid that's my fault.
"I drove my Dad away," Quinn trembled. "I tried my best not to disappoint him after he gave me everything. But I did the second I came out. I ruined their marriage."
They sat in silence for a moment, Quinn shaking, fighting her tears. She thought back to her father's final disgusted glances over his shoulder as the police escorted him from the house.
Quinn started as a soft hand brushed the tears from her cheeks.
"Hey," Rachel's voice was low and gentle. She took up a napkin and wiped the tears from Quinn's cheeks. She held Quinn's hand loosely in the other. "Hey, it's not your fault."
"But he might still be-."
"Still be there if you'd stayed in the closet?" Rachel shook her head. "He might have been there Quinn… but would you have been happy? You would've ended up in some other place doing something else that you didn't want with someone you could never love.
"It's a struggle to be someone that people like," Rachel continued. "Believe me, I know it. When I was in High School, I measured my worth by what others thought of me rather than what I thought of myself.
"I worked so hard for so long to be someone I wasn't comfortable being," Rachel chuckled. "It was hollow—nothing I ever did made me happy. I was only happy after I had the courage to be who I wanted to be, not what others wished me to be."
Rachel lowered her hand from Quinn's cheek, putting it atop Quinn's and squeezing it. "It's a struggle. It really is, and for a long time, you won't be happy because those you love might not be happy with your choices. But it's your life and you need to measure your own worth, not let others do it for you."
Quinn chuckled, sending Rachel a watery smile. "You make it sound so easy."
"Sometimes the easiest things are the least complicated ones," Rachel nodded. "You're on the right track, Quinn. The fact that you're willing to be yourself? That you were able to tell the truth? That's courageous. It's a step in the right direction. When you're ready, you'll take another, then another, till finally you'll be walking with your head held high."
Quinn laughed. "Oh God. This was supposed to be a nice meeting. Instead, it's turning into a therapy session. I'm sorry."
Rachel shook her head. "It's alright. I understand that it's not easy. But sometimes you have to let it all out, right?"
"Yes, Master Yoda," Quinn teased, sniffling and wiping her eyes.
"Yoda?" Rachel questioned with a joking glare. "Is this a short joke? Because I saw myself as Mace Windu. Y'know, badass with a purple lightsaber?"
"You're a geek, aren't you?" Quinn teasingly questioned.
"Not a geek," Rachel gasped. "A NERD. There's a fundamental difference. Get it right, Fabray! If you want this friendship to work, you must be educated in the ways of nerddom."
"I know enough to get by," Quinn replied.
"Then here's a test," Rachel sat back in her chair. "Mass Effect. Commander Shepard's famous line, complete the sentence, "I'm Commander Shepard and-."
"'I need to stop playing video games and start studying?'" Quinn rolled her eyes.
"I take it back," Rachel crossed her arms. "If you're going to mock the masterpiece that is Mass Effect, there's no hope of us becoming friends. I'm sorry, we need to break up. It's not me, it's you."
"I don't accept take backs," Quinn grinned. "You're stuck with me, Commander Shorty."
"You know they say dynamite comes in small packages," Rachel retorted.
"So do bugs," Quinn smirked. "And no one likes those."
"I hate you."
"I hate you too."
"We're not friends."
"I think you'll come around."
"Only if you take back your heinous blasphemy about Mass Effect."
"No, no, I don't think I will."
"Then we aren't friends."
"As I said… you'll come around. I have my ways."
Rachel, as it turned out, was a nerd. A month into their friendship, Quinn found herself in Rachel's apartment, filled to the brim with video games, anime, and books.
"It's important to get a diverse point of view," Rachel would say as she sat on the couch, headset in place, playing Mass Effect multiplayer, Portal co-op, Assassin's Creed, or some other nameless game. "Games and media provide me that world view."
They exchanged stories, likes and dislikes, and little conversations over coffee, tea, and movies. The more they spoke, the more they learned, the closer they became, and the more time they spent together.
Quinn learned that Rachel was a kindhearted, steady soul with a propensity for making rash decisions and stubbornly surging ahead. She spoke her mind frankly and did not mince words. Rachel could be funny, sarcastic, and sweet at the drop of a hat. She defended her friends fiercely and put her reputation on the line more than once to defend their good names.
The initial spark that bloomed in her heart the first time she'd stupidly dropped the book in the library hadn't gone away. Her fondness for Rachel only grew, and with it, her crush transfigured into… something.
It was a warm, constant pounding in her heart. A warmth that ignited into a dangerous blaze with each smile, touch, or word that left Rachel's mouth.
Every touch they shared, every smile, and every secret left her happier than she'd ever been. Rachel was the light of her life.
Yet with happiness came a wanting.
A wanting for more closeness, more time together…
Quinn walked a fine, thin line of friendship and something more. It made her want to rip her hair out with frustration.
When they'd been strangers, she had nothing to lose. They didn't know each other and Quinn didn't stand to lose anything.
But now that they were friends, she couldn't imagine her life without Rachel.
If she asked her out… if she dared to try to bridge the gap and Rachel didn't feel the same way, then she could lose everything she gained.
She held off for several months. Bit her tongue through January. Bit it until the wanting became too much and the wondering overwhelmed her.
Quinn Fabray never been one to take risks. She lost her father by taking a risk, and now she might lose her most precious person.
But she couldn't wonder anymore. She didn't want her life to be filled with what ifs or could haves and should haves.
The first thing she did was see an academic counselor. She inquired about the required amount of time to attain an acting major and signed up for several classes in addition to her law workload.
Rachel gave Quinn the freedom to choose. Liberated her from her father's memory and the guilt that hung heavily upon her shoulders.
It was time to take another chance and believe things would work out.
That Rachel felt strongly enough to consider giving them a shot.
Several months after their initial meeting, Quinn gathered the courage to act.
She held a bouquet of gardenias, tied fast with a soft green ribbon as a gift for after Rachel's set.
As Quinn entered the coffee shop, she removed the gray, pinstriped Fedora (a gift from Rachel) from her head and took a seat at the usual table.
She received a grin from Rachel as she sat strumming her guitar and crooning melodies to the assembled audience.
Several minutes passed before Rachel made her way over to the table, setting down two cups of piping hot coffee with a grin.
"Hey, you're early today," Rachel said cheerfully. "Did Professor Stuffypants decide not to waste your life lecturing about pointless things today?"
"There was a test and I finished early," Quinn supplied, chuckling at the spontaneous nickname. She extended the bouquet of gardenias to Rachel with a hesitant curve of her lip. "I picked these up on the way to celebrate another fantastic set."
"You really didn't have to do that," Rachel took the bouquet in her hands, smiling softly. "You've been coming to these for months—tonight's no different than any other night. But thank you, Quinn. It's really sweet."
Quinn bit her lip, cheeks dusted a light pink. "Well, I was hoping tonight would be… Special."
"Special?" Rachel questioned, grinning. "Now I'm intrigued."
"We…" Quinn leaned forward. "We need to talk."
"Oh no. Are you breaking up with me?" Rachel asked jokingly. A glint of concern shone in her eyes.
"I'm being serious, Rach," Quinn said with a frown. "I want to have a serious talk about something."
"Serious? Okay," Rachel waved her hand before her face. "Serious face on. I'm listening."
"Rachel," Quinn reached over and grabbed Rachel's hand. She squeezed it lightly between her own. "I want you to know that you're my best friend. I've never had a better friend than you and I'm so glad we met each other and had the opportunity to know each other."
"Quinn," Rachel's brow creased in worry. "This is sounding rather morbid. Are you alright?"
"Yes. Yes. …No," Quinn shook her head. "I need to get this out."
She gathered her strength and mustered the courage to look into Rachel's eyes. "Rachel, the past few months have been the happiest I've ever had. You gave me the strength I needed to finally accept myself and the courage to change my future.
"Because of you, I'm thinking of being an actress again," Quinn bit her lip. "I never thought I'd be able to do that before. I thought my life was set and planned out. That I'd have to wonder all my life about what'd happen if I took the paths I'd always wanted to take. Now I'm living my dreams. I have you to thank for that."
Browns softened. "Quinn…"
"No," Quinn shook her head. "I need to keep going. I need to tell you how grateful I am to have you in my life. That I love everything about you—the way you smile when you work those dumb shifts at the library, the way you throw yourself into music, the fact you get so excited over video games I can't pretend to understand-."
"I even love the obnoxious way you tell me I'm wrong about something or force me to play your goddamned video games," Quinn chuckled. She reached over and ran a finger down Rachel's cheek. "I'm… I'm not in love with you. But I think I can be. I think I could be happy with you, and I think I could love you till my dying day. But right now, I'm falling for you.
"I'm falling so hard for you, I don't know what to do with myself," Quinn laughed tearfully. "Hell, I started falling for you the day you picked up that book and shoved it back into my dumb face. If there's even a bit of a chance that you feel the same way... That we could give this a shot, I want to take it.
"So I'm asking you right now," She squeezed Rachel's hand. "Would you go out with me?'
They sat in relative silence.
Rachel searched Quinn's features for several long minutes, hand still held tight in Quinn's grasp. She slowly removed her hand, sliding it away before turning Quinn's palm over to entwine their fingers together.
"You're a strong person, Quinn," Rachel began. "It's something I've always admired in you-."
Quinn's heart sunk, gaze falling to the table.
"Hey," Rachel reached out. She turned Quinn to face her with a gentle finger against her cheek. "Hey, I promise I'm not going to hurt you. I'm not here to do that. You're my best friend. You know that, right?"
At Quinn's tentative nod, Rachel lowered her hand, resting it atop Quinn's reassuringly. "See, right now? You're doing something I'd never have the guts to do. You're putting yourself out there and you're being so brave about it. That's something I love about you."
She licked her lips and swallowed before continuing. "I need to work on myself, and that courage that you have? I want you to teach me to be as brave as you.
"We have things we can teach each other," Rachel continued. "And I think that will make us both better people. I want this to be a partnership."
Quinn's heart stopped. A slow smile started to spread across her lips. "Are you saying…?"
"I'm saying I'd love to give us, give this," Rachel squeezed Quinn's hand, "a shot."
Rachel leaned across the table. She pressed a gentle, warm kiss against Quinn's cheeks before leaning back in her chair, a blush staining her features.
Quinn lifted a shaking hand to her face, a silly, lovesick curve to her lips. "So..."
Rachel laughed. "So?"
"…Are you free on Friday? I'd like to take you to dinner."
"Why yes," Rachel grinned. "Yes, I am."
A/N: And the end. Hope you enjoyed it. Please let me know what you think.