Never Go Hungry Again - Part 2
"All hype, you say?" Rachel says through the darkness to her roommate, who groans from underneath her blankets.
"So I was wrong," Dani finally says, throwing the covers off her. "At least we get out of class."
Rachel shakes her head and turns her attention back to her phone. The battery is running low, and she'll need to find someplace to charge it. But first, she sends off a few quick texts—one to her dad assuring him that she's okay after the storm, despite the loss of power; one to Kurt to check in on him; and one to Elliot telling him she's going to take a rain check on breakfast. The one person she really wishes she could text doesn't have a phone, so she decides to take to the streets in an effort to track Quinn down.
To her disappointment, Rachel doesn't see Quinn on University Place, so she heads down to Washington Square Park to see if maybe Quinn is there. She has to step over quite a bit of debris from the trees, and Rachel feels her worry grow. The wind had been howling last night, and the thought of Quinn being outside in that weather terrifies her.
But Quinn is nowhere to be found, and it only causes Rachel's anxiousness over Quinn's wellbeing to increase. Still, she isn't willing to give up, so she makes a last ditch effort and wanders up to Union Square Park, but to her chagrin, there's still no sign of Quinn. Letting out a long, worried sigh, Rachel finally decides to head back home to Brittany Hall. But as she approaches the corner of Broadway and East 10th Street, she spots a pink head of hair out of the corner of her eye.
"Oh, thank God," Rachel says to herself, relief flooding her at the sight of Quinn leaning against the black, iron fence of Grace Church on the other side of the street.
Quinn catches sight of her just about the same time, and Rachel doesn't miss how her eyes light up and her lips curve into a smile. She pushes herself off the fence and grabs her things before walking across the street and meeting Rachel at the corner.
"Are you okay?" The question rushes out before Quinn even has a chance to say hello.
"I'm fine," Quinn assures her before cocking her head to one side. "Playing hooky today?"
"I would never!" Rachel shoots back, a little offended by the idea. "I don't have class today, seeing as there's no power in this part of the city. So I spent the morning looking for you."
"Yeah?" Quinn asks, looking a little awed, and her eyes take on a shine that is so familiar to Rachel, but she has trouble placing it.
"I was worried about you during the storm," she confesses, and Quinn looks touched by her concern. "Did you go to a shelter, or…"
"No," Quinn says with an emphatic shake of her head. "I told you, I don't like shelters. I'd rather stay on the street in a blizzard than go to one."
"So you were out on the street during the hurricane?!" Rachel asks, stricken by the very thought.
Quinn's eyes dart around a bit, and Rachel feels herself grow warm in embarrassment for almost causing a scene. "No, I wasn't out on the street."
"Good," Rachel says, feeling a little bit of relief. "Where were you?"
"If I tell you, you have to promise not to tell anyone," Quinn says seriously. "I mean it. Don't call 311 on me or tell the cops."
"I promise," Rachel replies, her curiosity growing along with her worry.
"See that church over there?" Quinn says, pointing at the large, gothic structure across the street. "That's where I've been."
Rachel looks at Quinn in confusion. "How?"
Quinn smirks and lifts an eyebrow. "I'm pretty handy with a nail file."
"Are you saying you've been breaking and entering, Quinn?" she asks, brow furrowing.
"Something like that," she says. "I don't do it too often because it's risky, but desperate times-"
"You could have stayed with me," Rachel interrupts, earning her a look of surprise from Quinn.
"I'm sure your roommate would have loved that," she counters. "Pretty sure she's not my biggest fan."
"When have you ever met my roommate?" Rachel asks in confusion.
"Uh, the Asian chick that's with you on Tuesday and Thursday mornings."
"Oh, no, she's not my roommate," she clarifies. "My roommate doesn't get out of bed before noon most days." She doesn't mention the fact that Dani likely wouldn't approve of how Rachel chooses to help Quinn. A vibration in her back pocket draws her attention momentarily. It's a text from Kurt telling her he's fine and has power. He also asks her if she wants to do lunch. "My best friend wants to have lunch with me," she tells Quinn. "Do you want to come with?"
Quinn hesitates and rubs at the back of her neck, clearly a little uneasy at the suggestion. "Um, I don't know."
"Come on, I promise he doesn't bite," she says with a playful smile. "Too much."
"Alright," Quinn agrees.
Rachel beams and sends a text back to Kurt telling him she'll meet him and that she's bringing a friend.
They meet at Pepe Giallo, a small, Italian restaurant near FIT that thankfully has power. Rachel introduces Quinn to Kurt as her friend from NYU. He looks at Quinn curiously, but he doesn't say anything about her appearance, which Rachel is thankful for—though she has no doubt that he'll be grilling her later.
Conversation is dominated by Kurt and Rachel, but Quinn seems more than happy to sit and listen as she eats her pasta. Although, Rachel really wishes Kurt didn't feel it necessary to bring up the "Run Joey Run" music video recreation (fiasco) she did in high school. But it does earn an amused smile from Quinn, so she supposes her embarrassment was worth it.
"When am I going to get to hear you sing?" Quinn asks then.
"Our choir is performing at the end of the semester, and there's also going to be a recital around that time showcasing us individually," Rachel replies, feeling a touch of warmth at the idea of Quinn wanting to see her perform. "You're welcome to come."
"I'm surprised you're not offering to sing for her right now," Kurt teases, causing Rachel to blush.
"I'm less inclined to burst into song at the drop of a hat," Rachel explains. "I prefer to have musical accompaniment these days."
"Well, I eagerly await the chance to finally hear you sing," Quinn replies with a soft smile and that same look in her eyes that Rachel saw earlier this morning. Out of the corner of her eye, she notices Kurt's lips curving up into a smirk.
Lunch comes to a close shortly thereafter, and Quinn bids them goodbye, and Rachel tells her that she'll see her tomorrow. Kurt and Rachel then head to his dorm room so she can charge her phone while they watch a movie.
"So tell me more about Quinn. Who is she, and why does she look homeless?" Kurt asks with a playful grin as Rachel plugs her phone into his charger.
Rachel sighs, hesitating for a moment over whether or not she should tell him the truth before deciding she should. After all, Kurt is her best friend, and keeping secrets isn't something they've ever done. "Because she is."
Blue eyes widen in shock as his smirk is wiped from his face. "I was expecting you to tell me she's attending Tisch and is really into method acting."
"I wish I could tell you that," Rachel says, plopping down on Kurt's bed beside him. "But, no, she really is homeless." She then proceeds to tell Kurt everything she knows about Quinn's situation and what she's been doing to help her.
"Is she taking any steps to find housing or a job or anything?" Kurt asks.
Rachel shrugs. "All I know is that Quinn isn't fond of shelters for some reason and doesn't want me to call 311."
"So she's just, what, mooching off of you?"
"It's not like that," Rachel insists. "We're friends."
Kurt shakes his head. "You don't know anything about this girl, Rachel—not really. She's not some lost puppy that you can rescue. She needs to help herself."
"Well, sometimes people need help from others in order to do that," she argues. "I care about her, Kurt, and I cannot just sit idly by and do nothing."
He stares at her with a scrutinizing gaze, and Rachel feels herself bristle under it, scowling at him. He sighs and shakes his head again. "I know better than to try and talk you out of this. Just be careful, okay?"
Rachel's conversation with Kurt spurs her to do some research online to see what options might be available in terms of housing for the homeless. She's almost a little ashamed that she hadn't thought to do so before, but now that the colder months are upon them, Rachel is determined to help Quinn get settled somewhere. She doesn't care that Quinn has survived more than one New York City winter on the streets or that she isn't above breaking and entering into houses of worship to stay warm and dry—she needs a home.
After spending an hour at the Department of Homelessness Services website and making a few phone calls, Rachel feels a spark of hope—certain that she's come up with the perfect plan to help Quinn get back on her feet. She creates a power point, and then immediately realizes she doesn't have any way of showing it to Quinn. Unless…
She turns to look at the printouts of hers and Dani's respective schedules that are taped to the wall next to her desk. Rachel's last class gets out at 1:05 p.m. on Friday, and Dani's first class of the day starts at 2:00 p.m.
Perfect, she thinks with a growing smile.
They're at Eva's again for lunch when Rachel decides to pop the question. "So, I hope you don't mind me asking, but do you have an ID?"
"I do," Quinn confirms. "Why do you ask?" she asks, eyebrow raising and a smirk playing at her lips. "Want me to buy you some booze?"
"What? No," she denies, although now she's wondering why she hasn't asked Quinn this before, despite the fact that Dani and Tina have fake IDs, so getting alcohol is no problem. "I have something I want to show you, but you need to come to my dorm, and I'll have to sign you in."
Quinn's smirk falls then, transforming into something much warmer as her expression morphs into one of curiosity. Rachel can't help but return Quinn's smile with one of her own before digging back into her lunch, eager to bring Quinn to her room and hopefully get her on track to turning her life around. She doesn't miss how Quinn's gaze lingers a little longer before she, too, goes back to eating her sandwich.
As always, Rachel pays for their meal with her NYU card before the pair heads two blocks north to Brittany Hall. Once at the front desk, Quinn slips her backpack from her shoulders and takes out a worn, rubber Superman wallet from it, causing Rachel's brow to furrow a little. "I didn't know you were a Superman fan," she says.
Quinn shakes her head slightly as the edges of her lips quirk up. "I'm not," she explains, pulling out a state ID. "But an old friend of mine from back home was a huge comic geek, and this reminds me of him." Before Rachel can ask more about this mysterious friend, Quinn's attention is back on the security guard behind the desk, slender fingers sliding her ID across black marble.
Rachel finishes signing Quinn in before leading her through the lobby and toward the elevators. "Your friend," she starts, unable to hold back her desire to know everything about Quinn. "When did you last see him?"
"When I was sixteen. His name was Sam, and he was my only real friend," Quinn admits, her voice wistful as they step onto the elevator. Rachel presses the button for the third floor, but her attention is completely on Quinn. "His family moved to Tennessee the summer after our sophomore year."
Rachel frowns, thinking how awful it would have been if Kurt had moved away halfway through high school. "I'm sorry."
Thin shoulders shrug. "It's what it is." The elevator dings as it comes to a stop. "So what is it you have to show me?" Quinn asks as they make their way to Rachel's room.
"Well…" she says, turning the key in the lock and flicking on the lights, grateful that Dani is, indeed, at class as Quinn follows her inside. "It's something on my computer," she explains with an eager smile as she turns to face her guest fully. "But I thought maybe you might want to take a shower first."
A look of surprise flickers across Quinn's face. "I… are you sure?" she asks uncertainly, wrapping her hands around the straps of her bag.
Rachel nods. "Of course I'm sure," she replies, moving toward her bed and kneeling down to pull out the large plastic bin containing her extra sheets and towels. "Put your things down and make yourself at home." She turns to see Quinn hesitantly place her bag on the floor and remove her coat. "Here," she says, offering Quinn the towels, who takes them while gazing at Rachel in astonishment. "The Dove products are mine, so feel free to use those."
"Thank you," Quinn says gratefully, and Rachel beams, happy to be able to offer her this.
After Quinn disappears into the bathroom, Rachel settles down at her desk and wakes up her computer. She opens her power point presentation and then patiently waits for Quinn to finish—or at least tries to be patient. It's not exactly her strongest suit. She tries to busy herself by straightening up her desk and making Dani's bed, realizing that will be the optimal seat for Quinn to view her screen.
Not ten minutes later, Quinn steps out of the bathroom, fully dressed and toweling off her head. Rachel smiles at the sight. "How do you feel?"
"Honestly?" Quinn replies. "Amazing."
"I'm glad. I should have thought to offer to let you come here to do that sooner," she says with a thoughtful frown.
"In fact," she continues, not letting Quinn rebuff her as she steps into her space. "There are quite a few things I should have thought to do sooner."
Quinn's eyes widen slightly, and Rachel notices her throat bob up and down as she swallows.
Rachel bites her lower lip, feeling a slight shift in the air between them and temporarily forgetting what she was about to say as she stares up at Quinn.
"Like what?" Quinn finally asks, moving away from Rachel to hang up her towel and breaking some of the building tension.
She blinks and mentally shakes her head. "Like really helping you get back on your feet," she replies, earning a look of confusion from Quinn as she gently guides her over to Dani's bed, instructing her to take a seat.
She then settles down at her desk and shakes her mouse, turning off the screensaver and displaying the cover page of her power point—a simple drawing of a house with a gold star in the middle of it and the words "Finding a Home: A Step-by-Step Plan, prepared by Rachel Berry," which she reads out loud before moving on to the first slide.
"Step 1: Apply at a DHS intake center," Rachel recites. "As a single woman, there are two locations available to you—HELP Women's Shelter in Brooklyn and Franklin Shelter in the Bronx."
She turns to see Quinn's reaction, hoping to see the same spark of excitement she first felt when learning about DHS's program. But to her dismay, instead she sees Quinn's body stiffen as her eyes narrow at the screen.
"What's wrong?" Rachel asks worriedly.
"I had a really bad experience with DHS before," she replies, her voice laced with bitterness. "I don't trust them."
She clenches her jaw before finally saying, "I don't want to talk about it."
"Okay…" Rachel trails off, wringing her hands together, feeling badly that she's inadvertently brought up bad memories for Quinn. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you."
Hazel eyes widen as Quinn is seemingly snapped from her anger. "Hey, no," Quinn assures her, looking a little guilty. "Please don't apologize. You didn't do anything wrong," she insists, her eyes taking on a slight shine. "I… the fact that you're trying to look out for me, it means so much. It's more than anyone has done for me in years. Maybe ever." She averts her gaze for a moment, as if steeling herself, before looking back at Rachel. "You can finish your power point, if you want."
Rachel wonders if Quinn will ever stop breaking her heart. "Not if it's going to make you upset," she declares with a small shake of her head, closing the lid on her laptop. "We'll figure something else out," she says then, feeling herself grow more determined at the thought. Surely there must be another way. "In the meantime, there's something else I intended to show you today," she finishes as she comes to stand, certain that it will be better received by Quinn than her power point.
Inquisitive eyes trace over her face momentarily, but Quinn dutifully follows after Rachel, making sure to grab her bag and coat on the way out the door. They take the elevator down to the first floor, and as soon as the doors open, without thinking, Rachel clasps Quinn's hand in hers and tugs lightly, leading Quinn down the hallway and toward the music room.
"Where are we going?" Quinn asks, her voice taking on an almost breathy quality that sends a pleasant shiver through Rachel.
"It's a surprise," she replies, her smile growing wider with every step. She's so excited to give Quinn this experience again.
Short moments later, they finally arrive at their destination, and as they cross the threshold, Rachel watches Quinn carefully, not wanting to miss a moment of her reaction.
Hazel eyes glisten as they take in the sight of the baby grand situated along the left side of the music room. Quinn's mouth opens as if to say something, but no words come out.
"Come on," Rachel says softly but excitedly as she pulls Quinn further into the room and over to the piano. She reluctantly lets go of Quinn's hand in order to go grab the drum stool from behind the kit on the other side of the room before bringing it alongside the piano.
Quinn once again sets her things down on the floor, eyes darting between the piano bench and Rachel's face before taking a seat.
"Play something for me?"
"I… it's been so long," Quinn says, nervously biting at her lower lip as she brushes her fingertips across ivory keys.
"It's okay," Rachel assures her. "I just wanted you to have the chance to play again."
Quinn lets out a steadying breath as her eyes close. Her brow furrows slightly then before her fingers press against the keys, the slow arpeggio of a G chord to a B then to a C followed by a C minor.
And then Quinn starts singing, and Rachel forgets to breathe.
"When you were here before, couldn't look you in the eye. You're just like an angel. Your skin makes me cry." Quinn's voice is soft, but oh so lovely, and Rachel is almost afraid to move, not wanting to miss a note. "You float like a feather in a beautiful world. I wish I was special. You're so very special.
"But I'm a creep." Her face twists a little as her fingers press against the keys more firmly, loudly playing out the chord progression of the chorus. "I'm a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here.
"I don't care if it hurts," Quinn continues, her voice taking on a tinge of sadness as she goes back to playing chords as arpeggios. "I want to have control. I want a perfect body. I want a perfect soul. I want you to notice when I'm not around. You're so very special. I wish I was special."
"But I'm a creep," her voice rises as she pounds her fingers against the keys. "I'm a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here."
Rachel knows this song well enough to know that there's lyrics for the bridge. She doesn't remember what they are, and she'll have to find out later, because Quinn instead has decided to play the vocal line as a solo with her right hand and her left continues to bang out the chord progression. The energy and volume build before slowly leveling out.
"Whatever makes you happy. Whatever you want. You're so very special. I wish I was special," Quinn sings again, her voice washing soothingly over Rachel, and this time when she plays the final chorus, it's soft. "But I'm a creep. I'm a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here. I don't belong here."
Quinn plays the final three chords, suspending the last one as she lets out a long breath before finally opening her eyes once more, turning to gaze upon Rachel like she has so often in recent days. Rachel recognizes what it is now, and she could smack herself for not realizing it sooner. The way Quinn is looking at her is exactly how Jesse used to look at her, and she momentarily stops breathing, getting lost in flecks of green and gold.
A sudden sharp knock on the door startles Rachel, breaking the spell she had fallen under.
Quinn looks back down at her hands, and Rachel mentally shakes her head as she walks over to the door and opens it. A girl on the other side asks when they'll be finished, hoping to get some practice in. Rachel tells her that they'll be finished soon. She closes the door once more and lets out a sigh, walking back into the room.
"I should go," Quinn says then, coming to stand—her expression unreadable—and Rachel can't stop the rush of disappointment that comes over her.
"Yeah," is the only response offered.
"Okay," she agrees, somewhat confused as she reluctantly follows Quinn down the hallway to wait for the elevator. "Did I do something wrong?"
Quinn turns to face Rachel then, a look of alarm painting her features. "No," she states emphatically. "You could never. I… I just need to clear my head."
The elevator arrives then, and Quinn averts her gaze as she steps inside, Rachel just a step behind.
Nothing else is said on the short ride down to the lobby, and Rachel sighs as the doors open, sad to see their time together cut short. There's a sinking feeling in her stomach as she signs Quinn out, and the sad smile Quinn offers her before walking out the door does nothing to quell it whatsoever.
"You've been staring at that same measure for the last five minutes," Elliot observes as they sit together doing their music theory homework in the student center. "I know it's not that difficult. What's wrong?"
Rachel sighs and abandons her homework completely for the time being. "It's Quinn," she admits. "I haven't seen her in four days, and I'm going out of my mind with worry. What if something terrible happening to her? What if she fell onto the subway tracks or got hit by a maniac taxi driver?" she asks, feeling herself grow more hysterical by the second. "I wouldn't know, and she'd be all alone, and-"
"Whoa, whoa, calm down," he interrupts, grabbing a hold of Rachel's hand and squeezing reassuringly. "I'm sure she's alright. It's been a little colder out. She's probably just somewhere she can stay warm."
She wishes that Elliot's words offered the comfort and assurance intended, but the knot in her stomach only grows bigger.
Rachel doesn't see Quinn for another week, and when she finally does, Quinn isn't in one of her usual places in Washington Square Park or on University Place. Instead, she's in Cooper Square, bundled up in her ratty, winter coat with a wool hat atop her head and a weathered paper cup in hand.
Relief floods her at the sight, and Rachel quickens her pace. "Where have you been?" she demands as soon as reaches Quinn's side. "I've been so worried about you."
Quinn startles at the sound of her voice before shifting her gaze up and staring at Rachel guiltily. She looks like she's about to say something before thinking better of it, instead looking away and down at her lap.
Rachel frowns and settles down on the sidewalk beside Quinn.
"I didn't mean to make you worry," she says after a beat, once again turning her gaze upon Rachel. "I just… you've done so much for me. Too much. I don't want to take advantage of you anymore."
"You're not taking advantage of me," Rachel insists. "We're friends, aren't we?"
Quinn presses her lips together, eyes searching Rachel's with a mixture of worry and wistfulness. "I'm not the kind of person you should want as a friend," she finally says with a slight shake of her head.
"Don't be silly, Quinn."
"I'm not. Rachel, you don't…" Quinn looks away, staring straight ahead at the small park across the street. "I'm not a good person."
"I don't agree," Rachel argues, leaning in and tentatively placing her hand on Quinn's thigh. "You're a wonderful person."
Hazel eyes dart down at the hand on her leg, and she shakes her head once more. "I've been to prison, you know."
The confession is unexpected and rattles Rachel, and, to her chagrin, she feels a sudden sliver of uncertainty about the girl sitting next to her. She doesn't like the feeling—not one bit. "For what?" she manages to ask.
A few coins are dropped into Quinn's cup then, startling Rachel a little, and she pulls her hand back while Quinn offers a quick thank you to the man.
"For what?" Rachel tries again.
"Assaulting a police officer," Quinn finally replies, still not looking at Rachel.
Her brow furrows. She wasn't sure what she expected, but that certainly wasn't it. "Why? Why would you do something like that?"
Quinn sighs. "I didn't mean to do it. I… you remember how I told you I got mixed up with some people who weren't so good?"
"Well, a few years ago, this girl Mack, she offered me a place to stay since I was still homeless. I had just gotten a job waitressing, but I didn't have enough to put down a security deposit, so I still couldn't get a place on my own. So Mack and I shared a tiny, studio apartment in the projects on the Upper West Side. Not much, but it was a roof over my head, and things were finally looking up," Quinn explains, her eyes stormy and her body tense. "And I kind of had a thing going on with Mack, even though she had a boyfriend. So I wasn't really paying attention to things I should have."
"Like what?" Rachel asks, feeling strangely jealous over the mention of this girl Mack.
"Turns out she was taking my money for rent but never actually paying the rent. I came home from work one night to find an eviction notice. Mack wasn't there—I guess she was out with that asshole boyfriend of hers. I was beyond pissed off and in the process of packing my stuff up, I came across her stash of liquor. I started drinking and wound up prowling around on the street, waiting for her to come home so I could give her a piece of my mind.
"My memory of that night is kind of fuzzy," Quinn admits. "All I remember is seeing her and flipping out. I wanted my money back—I needed my money back. But she…" Quinn's hands unconsciously tighten around the cup in her hand. "I don't know who swung first, her or me, but someone must have called the cops on us while we were still yelling at each other. I was just so lost in a haze of alcohol and rage that I didn't know what was going on. A cop tried to break up our fight—he grabbed me from behind, and I threw an elbow into his face." Quinn swallows thickly, clearly ashamed of herself. "Hitting a cop like that… jail time was inevitable."
Rachel doesn't quite know what to say—stunned by Quinn's story—but the niggling of uncertainty that had made itself present is no longer a factor. Instead, she feels her heart going out to Quinn.
"Turns out I'm not so different from my dad," Quinn says bitterly, finally looking at Rachel once more. "So you should stay away from me, Rachel."
"Is that really what you want?"
Quinn doesn't answer, but Rachel doesn't miss the hint of longing in her eyes.
"I don't think it is," Rachel says knowingly. "Look, I know you've made some mistakes in the past, but that doesn't define you. I still think you're a wonderful person, and I want to be your friend."
Quinn stares at her, clearly conflicted. "You shouldn't be so trusting."
"I like to think I have excellent judgment when it comes to other people, and you are worthy of my trust," she counters before pleading, "Please don't push me away, Quinn."
"Okay," Quinn finally relents. "I won't push you away."
Rachel smiles, beyond relieved. "Come on, why don't we get out of the cold?" she says, rising to her feet and holding out her hand for Quinn to take. "I'm in the mood for soup."
"Soup sounds good," Quinn says softly, her eyes shining with so much affection, Rachel almost doesn't feel the chill anymore.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving finds Rachel and Quinn in the laundry room at Brittany Hall, sitting atop the washing machines and waiting for their clothes to dry. Quinn had tried to reimburse Rachel for the cost of washing and drying her own clothes, but Rachel steadfastly refused, instead using her NYU card to cover the cost of both hers and Quinn's laundry.
"I wish I could take you home with me for Thanksgiving," Rachel says with a sigh.
"I'm sure your dads would love that," Quinn says with a slight roll of her eyes.
"They would!" Rachel insists. "They love having company."
"But nothing," Rachel cuts her off. She frowns then at the thought of Quinn being alone during the upcoming holiday. "What are you going to do for Thanksgiving?"
"Probably go to the soup kitchen," she says with a shrug. "That's what I did last year."
Rachel frowns. She hates the idea of Quinn spending the holiday like that. And she hates that she's nowhere near finding another solution to finding Quinn a home. "I know you had a bad experience with DHS, but maybe you should give them another chance."
"No way," Quinn says with a scowl, shaking her head adamantly. "I don't want to do anything that involves DHS. They completely screwed me over after I got out of prison."
"What happened?" Rachel asks, hopeful that now that the truth about Quinn's past behind bars is out, she'll be more willing to explain things.
"It's sort of complicated," she explains. "I was supposed to be put in subsidized housing, but then the city decided to do away with that. So I was staying in a shelter, and my caseworker was a complete asshole. Basically, he was supposed to help me find an apartment and a job, but if I didn't accept what he found—regardless of whether or not the place was clean or safe—I'd be kicked out of the program."
"That doesn't sound very fair," Rachel says, lips curving downward.
"It wasn't," Quinn concedes. "I tried finding a job for myself, but no one would hire me once they did a background check. Hitting a cop is a felony offense, you know."
"It is," she says with a wry smile. "But it's not like I could prove it. Still, I knew that's what was going on. My caseworker was supposed to advocate for me, but he was pretty useless.
"Anyway, there was this woman staying at the shelter. I think her name was Lauren," Quinn continues, anger flashing in her eyes. "She would steal people's things, and one night I came back to find my books missing. I knew it was her, and I confronted her. She was a big girl, you know, with a really bad temper. She beat the living hell out of me, and yet somehow, I was blamed for the fight, and my caseworker kicked me out of the program." Quinn shakes her head, pursing her lips slightly before finishing. "I've been on the streets ever since."
Rachel, for her part, is outraged. "If anyone should have been kicked out, it should have been that woman," she retorts. "Or better yet, that sorry excuse for a caseworker."
"Yup," she agrees. "Will was a real piece of work. There were other caseworkers who were actually helpful from what I understand. Figures that I got stuck with the worst DHS had to offer."
"I'm so sorry, Quinn."
Quinn shakes her head. "Don't be," she says before letting out a sigh and rubbing at the bridge of her nose. "I'm tired of talking about me so much though. I want to hear more about you. Are you excited to go home?"
"Yes and no," Rachel replies. "I'm looking forward to seeing my family, but all of my friends are here. And I'm going to miss you."
Pink lips curve up into a warm smile as hazel eyes sparkle. "You'll be back here before you know it."
Quinn's words turn out to be correct, and after a brief trip back home to Michigan for Thanksgiving break, Rachel is back in New York City and preparing for the home stretch of her first semester. She's looking forward to her upcoming performances, but most of all, she looks forward to the time she gets to spend with Quinn.
Over the next two weeks, they fall into a different sort of routine. Not only does Rachel make sure her friend is fed, but she now brings her to Brittany Hall more often—whether to shower, wash her clothes, or just hang out in the warmth of her dorm room—unbeknownst to Dani. She wishes Quinn could spend the night—and sometimes, Rachel lets herself imagine what it would be like to cuddle up with Quinn under her blankets—but NYU's guest rules are strict when it comes to overnight stays. Even if they weren't, Rachel's not sure she's ready to have that conversation with her roommate. As it stands now, she's very glad that Dani seems to be running on a schedule completely opposite hers.
But since overnight stays are currently off the table, Rachel has taken it upon herself to make sure Quinn will stay as warm as possible when not under her watchful eye. Using campus cash, she purchases sweatshirts, socks, and the thickest, warmest blanket she can find at the NYU Bookstore. Of course, Quinn tries to refuse her gifts, saying that it's too much, but Rachel is stubborn because Quinn needs these things.
She also needs a home and a job, but to Rachel's growing frustration, she hasn't been able to find another path—at least not one that doesn't involve DHS in some way—to getting Quinn there. Still, she isn't going to give up on her. Not when so many others have done the same.
Sometimes Rachel catches Quinn staring at her when Quinn thinks she isn't paying attention. Like right now, for instance.
Rachel is currently sitting at her desk, working on her final paper for her Writing the Essay class. Quinn is laying on her stomach across Rachel's bed, arms propped up on her pillow, reading an old copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. At least, she was reading. Presently, her eye line is fixed somewhere just above the page, and Rachel can feel those eyes watching her.
There's definitely something more to Quinn's gaze—a quiet intensity and longing—and it excites Rachel. She's not quite sure when or how it happened, but she's falling for Quinn. Rachel hasn't felt this way about anyone since Jesse, and the idea that Quinn might feel the same way has her stomach erupting with butterflies.
The first Friday of December finds Rachel and Quinn lazing about in Rachel's room, lounging together on her bed. There's a comfortable silence between them—the only sound in the room coming from Rachel's iPod dock, which is currently playing the soundtrack of Once. Quinn is freshly showered and laying on Rachel's bed with her eyes closed.
Rachel watches her, focusing on her hands and the way her chest rises and falls as she breathes. Brown eyes move up and caress her face, her jaw, her lips, and, feeling a sudden swell of courage and unable to hold back any longer, Rachel leans down and brushes her mouth against Quinn's.
Quinn doesn't kiss her back, but Rachel feels her tense and take a sharp intake of breath, and when Rachel pulls away, she sees Quinn staring up at her—confliction showing in her eyes. For one, terrible moment, Rachel is afraid she's ruined everything.
When Quinn finally speaks, her voice is quiet and wistful. "Why did you do that?"
"Because you're so achingly beautiful, and I couldn't stand not to kiss you a second longer," she answers honestly.
Quinn smiles sadly. "We can't cross that line, Rachel."
Rachel's brow furrows as she feels her stomach start to twist unpleasantly, worrying that she somehow misread the way Quinn looks at her. "Why not? Do you not feel the same way?"
A doleful laugh escapes Quinn then. "Oh, Rachel, that couldn't be further from the truth. I'm crazy about you," she replies, instantly making warmth blossom in Rachel's chest, but her confusion remains. "But I'm a complete mess. Your life is just starting out—you have so many great things going for you, and you deserve so much better than anything I can give you."
"I don't need you to give me anything, Quinn," she insists, taking a hold of Quinn's hand in both of hers. "I just… I really like you, and I want to be closer to you."
Quinn lets out a long breath and closes her eyes as she lightly squeezes Rachel's hand. "I can't," she says, her voice pained. "As much as I want that too—to be closer to you—I can't do it, Rachel."
Rachel feels her stomach dip again, and she worries her lower lip. She doesn't understand why Quinn is being so stubborn—why she would deny them this. Maybe she just needs a little more convincing.
So she dips her head, pressing a more insistent kiss to Quinn's lips. And this time, Quinn kisses back, and Rachel feels herself fall—her toes curling and her heart soaring as Quinn's mouth moves against hers.
"Stop making this so hard," Quinn pleads breathlessly against her lips once they break apart for air. "I'm not good for you, Rachel."
Rachel shakes her head and draws herself back just enough to stare down intently into hazel eyes. "I don't care if you think I deserve better. I want you, and you want me. I know things are hard for you right now, but they'll get better."
"Sometimes I forget that you're still seventeen," Quinn replies with a shake of her head. "And incredibly naïve."
"My age has nothing to do with this," she argues, feeling a little sting from Quinn's words. "And I'm not naïve. I've always believed in following my heart, and I believe we could be so much more together, Quinn."
"I'm homeless," Quinn retorts despondently. "I'm only going to bring you down, and if you were really honest with yourself, you'd see that."
"You're wrong," Rachel insists, cupping Quinn's face. "You're not going to bring me down. Let me help bring you back up." She captures Quinn's lips in another kiss, and she feels Quinn surrender.
"You can't save me," Quinn says softly with a hint of desperation.
Rachel doesn't respond with words, and instead kisses Quinn again with every intention of doing exactly that.
"Are you out of your mind?" Kurt asks shrilly when Rachel tells him what happened with Quinn. "For starters, she's too old for you. Secondly, she's homeless."
"I don't see why either of those things should matter," she defends. "She's an amazing person who I've connected with deeply."
He sighs through the phone. "You're playing with fire."
"Why can't you be happy for me?" she asks petulantly.
"Because I'm worried about you," he answers honestly. "The way you've been trying to help Quinn is certainly admirable, but being romantically involved with her? It spells disaster. And what are you going to tell your parents?"
"I don't have to tell my dads anything right now," she argues. "And she's not going to be homeless forever. I won't stand for it."
"Sometimes there are things that are beyond your control, Rachel," he reminds her. "You don't have the means to give her the things she really needs. All you've done so far is put a band aid on her situation."
Rachel practically growls in frustration. "I just wanted to share my good news with you. I thought you wanted me to move on from Jesse."
"I did," he insists. "I did. And I like Quinn, Rachel, I do. The way she looks at you—there's no doubt that she cares about you deeply. But you have to admit, the circumstances are terrible."
"I know, but I don't care. I'm falling for her, Kurt."
"Oh, sweetie," Kurt replies softly. "I'd say she's a lucky girl, but…"
"If you were here right now, I'd smack you," she mutters before sighing. "Promise me you'll behave yourself when we all go out for my birthday next Tuesday."
"Of course I will. I'm not exactly the one you should be telling that to."
Kurt's right, she realizes with a slight wince. Tina's the one who's going to disapprove most of all. She's not exactly looking forward to that conversation.
Kissing Quinn is fast becoming one of Rachel's favorite activities. In fact, right now it ranks higher than performing, and that's something she never even imagined was possible. Quinn does things with her mouth that make Rachel's stomach erupt with butterflies and her world burst into color.
She especially likes kissing Quinn like this—a slow exploration of lips and tongues while she has Quinn's warm body pinned beneath her. Rachel knows that a part of Quinn is still fighting against this, but she also knows that with every kiss she bestows upon her, she convinces Quinn that this is exactly where she belongs.
Rachel is vaguely aware of the sound of jangling keys before registering the lock of a door clicking open. Nervousness rushes through her, and she unconsciously breaks her mouth away from Quinn's as she sits up, eyes flying toward to the now-opening door, only to see Dani returning home earlier than expected.
Her roommate's eyes alight with intrigue and a smirk plays at her lips as Dani takes in the sight of Rachel straddling Quinn, registering just what she interrupted, and heat rushes to Rachel's cheeks at being caught in a compromising position.
And then she sees who is standing right behind Dani, and a fresh wave of anxiousness hits her. Rachel blinks and swallows before glancing down at Quinn, her skin flushed and eyes blown, but looking a little uncertain herself. She realizes then that Quinn can't actually see who just walked into the room from her position on the bed—and that she's still straddling Quinn.
"Should we come back later?" Dani asks playfully, drawing Rachel's attention back to the pair near the doorway.
She's about to say yes, if only to avoid any awkwardness and the inevitable questions, when a pair of brown eyes focused on Quinn's pink head suddenly shine with recognition and then shock as lips curve downward.
Tina's eyes lock on Rachel's then, and her confusion and disapproval clear as day.
Dani seems to notice the shift in mood and looks between the two of them curiously. "What's going on?"
"I don't know," Tina replies, unable to keep the disapproval out of her voice as she crosses her arms. "I was hoping Rachel might be able to explain just what she's doing in bed with her of all people."
Quinn tenses beneath Rachel then, and Rachel feels her hackles rise. "How dare you?" she asks with narrowed eyes, finally moving off of Quinn, as she comes to stand beside the bed. She can already feel her body start to shake with unrestrained emotion, and reining it in is impossible now. Out of the corner of her eye, she notices Quinn come to sit at the edge of her bed, running a nervous hand through pink hair as she looks down at the ground. "Quinn is my friend," Rachel declares, "and I will not tolerate you speaking of her in a disparaging way."
"She's taking advantage of you," Tina argues, and Dani's look of curiosity morphs into one of total bewilderment. "How much money have you given to and spent on her?"
"That's none of your business! What I do with my money is my choice and my choice alone," Rachel shoots back, ignoring the fact that technically she's been spending her father's money, but Tina doesn't need to know that. "And Quinn is not taking advantage of me," she continues before turning her gaze back toward Quinn and feeling herself soften a little at the almost vulnerable way she's looking at her right now. "She makes me unbelievably happy."
Quinn offers her a watery smile, eyes shining with gratitude.
Tina stares at Rachel for a long moment, clearly conflicted. "I just don't want you to get hurt," she finally says, uncrossing her arms and looking at them both worriedly.
At that, Quinn finally looks toward Tina. "I know what you think of me," she says with a self-deprecating smile. "And I'm not going to pretend for a minute that I deserve Rachel. Believe me, I know how lucky I am to have her in my life. But I can promise you that I would never intentionally hurt her."
Rachel feels herself grow warm all over at Quinn's words, forcing her anger to almost dissipate completely.
Tina nods reluctantly then, and relief washes over Rachel. She hates fighting with people, and Tina's friendship is one she values greatly. For a moment, she was afraid that she would lose it.
"Okay, I'm really, really confused," Dani says.
"Dani, this is my… friend, Quinn," she introduces, realizing that the word "friend" seems like it's not enough, but "girlfriend" seems like it might be too much just yet. "Quinn, this is my roommate, Dani."
"It's nice to meet you," Dani says agreeably, and Quinn echoes the sentiment.
Tina steps further into the room, coming to stand beside Rachel's bed. "I'd like to start over, if that's okay," she says to Quinn then.
"That's more than okay with me," Quinn agrees, holding her hand out for Tina to take.
"I'm still confused," Dani admits watching the two of them, and Rachel knows she'll have to explain the whole story to her roommate later, but for now, she's just relieved that her relationship with Quinn is something that her friends accept.
Rachel wakes up with a smile on her face. Today is going to be a good day; she just knows it. She decides on an abbreviated morning routine, eager to start her day.
Quinn is waiting for Rachel outside, tucked into the alcove of the entrance to Brittany Hall. Hazel eyes light up as soon as they catch sight of Rachel walking though the lobby, and it makes her feel like she's floating on air. She pushes the door open, eager to spend the day with Quinn.
"Happy birthday," Quinn greets her with a warm smile that belies the cold temperature surrounding them.
"Thank you," Rachel replies with a smile of her own, pulling Quinn in for a hug before drawing back slightly to brush her lips against Quinn's in a soft kiss.
Rachel pulls away and watches as Quinn's eyelids flutter open, feeling incredibly pleased at the slightly dazed expression on Quinn's face—loving that she's responsible for putting it there.
Quinn blinks and shakes her head lightly, as if coming back to herself. "I got you something," she says then, pulling out a card and a small, white box from her left coat pocket.
"You really didn't need to get me anything," Rachel says, feeling a little guilty that Quinn spent any money at all on her, even though it is her birthday.
"I really did," Quinn insists as she hands the small gift over to Rachel.
Rachel bites her lower lip as she accepts it. She carefully opens the envelope first and takes out the card. Her lips automatically curve up when she looks at the front of it—a pink and blue background featuring four silver stars and text that reads: Shine bright. Dream big.
Flipping it open, she's taken aback by what she sees on the inside of the card. "Did you draw this?" she asks, taking in the sight of the intricate pattern of flowers and stars that surround the words "Happy birthday."
"I did," Quinn confirms.
"It's incredible," Rachel says, awed. "I didn't know you could draw." She looks up at Quinn, who is watching her with a mixture of nervousness and hopefulness. Right, the box. Turning her attention back to it, she lifts the lid. "Oh, Quinn…" she says as her eyes land on a small, hollow, gold star pendant on a thin chain.
"I know it's not much," Quinn says shyly, "but I saw it and thought of you."
Rachel shakes her head, happy tears forming in her eyes as she gazes back up at Quinn. "It's perfect."
"I'm glad you like it." Quinn smiles again, looking incredibly relieved. "There's something else… I'm going to give DHS another try. I've met a few times with the woman who will be my caseworker, and I applied for their intaking process yesterday."
"Quinn, that's wonderful!" she beams, before throwing her arms around Quinn. "I'm so proud of you," she breathes against her neck, hugging Quinn tighter.
As soon as they pull apart, Quinn takes Rachel's hands in her own and gazes at her seriously. "That's what I want, Rachel. I want to be someone you can be proud of. For so long, I've been resigned to living on the streets, but you came along and flipped my world upside down. You make me want to be better."
Quinn caps off her declaration with a kiss, and Rachel smiles into it, her body thrumming with hope for Quinn's future and excitement for their journey together. It's the best birthday present of all.