"The Hardest Part About Saying Hello is Goodbye"
or The Ex-Cheerio Former Teen Mother Motown Jammin' Time Traveler's Lady Wife

NOTES: So, this... just happened. It was born out of a line in my other fic. Except, in that line, Quinn was decidedly the wife. This is, obviously, based upon the premise of The Time Traveler's Wife. Anything super brilliant is likely cribbed directly from the book. I did my best to mesh the worlds together while staying true to Ms. Fabray and Ms. Berry and also the voice of the book. This story ends much earlier than the story of Henry and Clare DeTamble, and is, therefore, happier.

Thanks to meggygurl for sneaking peeks at the Google doc while I was writing and making comments and general squees about what was going on. Thanks to grdnofevrythng for the first part of the title. Because it's perfect. But definitely too short for a Fallout Boy song. Which is why I added the second part. ;)

I hope you like it. I hope it reads all right. And I thank everyone for their enthusiasm over this. It's been a hoot to work on. It's also eaten up my life, so my lady is probably glad to see that it is finished. ;)

The First Time Quinn Met Rachel

September 2, 2008 (Rachel is 14, Quinn is 15)

RACHEL: The halls are smaller than I'd expected and the smell from the cafeteria lingers, even though A lunch isn't for another two hours. It is the first day of school, freshman year. I keep my eyes open for her, knowing she'd be here, somewhere. Even if she wouldn't acknowledge me as an actual human individual until next fall, I am still beside myself. I am convinced, determined, to meet her with a smile, no matter what happened. And, to be fair, she's prepared me for the moments to come, apologetic and remorseful over what would happen.

I don't care. This is Quinn, after all. Even if she was a self absorbed younger version of the caring woman I've known nearly all my life.

All those words and warnings and still, when that first Slushie hits me in the face, it stings. It isn't the icy chill of the slush that drips from my face, all over my brand new cardigan, the one I'd bought just for today, just for her, even though she insisted I not do something stupid like dress up to impress her. It isn't the way the corn syrup slightly burns when it seeps into my eyes. It is the laugh. Harsh and cruel and uncaring and unlike any sound I've heard from her before.

After that day, I take her advice, keep my head down, don't seek her out. I just wait. Until she is ready to come to me.

-

The First Time Rachel Met Quinn

July 3rd, 2000 (Rachel is 6, Quinn is 31)

QUINN: I'm at the summer cabin, waiting down behind the boat house. There are no clothes waiting for me in the old rowboat that's been beached high on the shore since before either of us first came here. So, I wait, naked and grateful that it must be mid-summer, because winters by the lake are harsh. The absence of clothing makes me wonder if this is a time before Rachel and I have met, or even a time before she's born. This has happened before and is inconvenient. There aren't many options for a naked woman in the forest, especially one who doesn't know how long she's staying.

I tug on the latch to the boat house door. It opens and I slip inside, hoping that there is at least a beach towel inside so I can, at the very least, pretend I'm a long distance skinny dipper from the far side of the lake. I do find a towel, several of them, stacked neatly next to the life preservers. I manage to wrap myself up in a terrycloth tribute to The Little Mermaid just as the sound of small feet beats down the path toward the lake. After a moment, she appears outside the boat house window as she climbs on the old rowboat. She stands near the bow of the boat, facing the lake, and begins to sing. Although it's muted through the walls of the boat house, I can make out "This Land is Your Land".

She is young. The youngest I've seen her, which means she must be six years old. Her hair is in pigtails and her sun dress is red, white, and blue. This in conjunction with the song suggests it's close to the Fourth of July holiday.

I don't know if I should approach her or just observe. Although, I am here, which means something. I don't really have time to evaluate the best option, because she's now seen me through the window and is suddenly pushing open the door. I hide behind the boat.

"Who's in here?"

I try to make it light, not wanting to scare her, and call out from my hiding place. "I come in peace."

Being Rachel, she was not unprepared, and came armed with a pine cone, which was promptly chucked the direction of my voice, and whizzes over my head. I stand up, and manage to catch the second pine projectile with my forehead, just above the right eye.

"Please, stop doing that. I'm not here to hurt you." I'm still fairly blocked from her view, since she hasn't moved from the doorway to investigate any further.

"Who are you? Why are you hiding?" She stands on her toes, trying to to seek me out.

"It's Quinn, Rachel. I won't hurt you." I ease out from behind the boat until we're facing each other, with the span of the boat house between us.

"How do you know my name?"

There's no point in lying. There never is. Even to people I don't know. "I'm from the future."

"What, like a time-traveler?"

"Yep."

"No. That's impossible."

"Can't be. I do it all the time."

"Prove it."

"I will, when I leave."

"What happened to your head?"

I gently brush my fingers over the scratch along my eyebrow. "You threw a pine cone at me."

"Sorry."

I sit on the small bench under the window. She doesn't move from her spot.

"I'm not allowed by myself in the boat house," she explains, even though I didn't ask.

"You're not alone."

"You're a stranger, you don't count."

"Okay. But, in the future, we're friends."

"We are?"

I nod. "Very good friends." I don't have the heart to tell her about the fact that I'll torture the poor girl with insults and dessert drinks before I come to my senses.

"That's my towel."

"I'll give it right back when I'm ready to go."

"It's okay if you use it. For now." She's closer to me, now, at least two steps in through the doorway. "I know all the songs from the movie. And all the other Disneys."

"I know. You're a very good singer."

She beams at this, because, even in this mini-sized person package, she is still Rachel Berry, Gold Star performer. "Do you want to hear my song? I'm singing before the fireworks tomorrow. It's not a solo, but Daddy says I have the strongest voice out of the whole group."

"I would love to hear it."

She smiles and plants her feet, the early stages of voice lessons already evident. Her voice is not yet the powerhouse it will become, but it's already on the way. At the end of the song, she curtsies as I applaud.

Whatever rule she was previously abiding before is now broken, as she plants herself next to me on the bench. I suppose, in her mind, we are now friends, because I liked her song. On her wrist is a beaded bracelet, the same trifecta of colors as her dress.

"That's pretty. Did you make it?"

"I did!" She fingers the beads and lightly tugs at the elastic. "I could make one for you, if you want."

"That's very nice of you, but I wouldn't be able to take it with me."

"Why not?"

"Well, if time traveler's took stuff with them all the time, lots of things in the world would end up in the wrong place and it would just be a big mess."

She pinches her face together as she imagines this particular state of the world. "I guess. Could you hide things? Like a pirate? And dig it up later?"

"I could."

She nods, once. "You should bury a treasure."

"That's a great idea. But I don't really need treasure. I need clothes. This mermaid towel is really nice, but I do like to wear more than this. Pants are always nice."

Her eyes are wide. "I can try to get something from my dads."

"I don't need them now, but if you can bring them next time, that would be nice."

"Next time?"

I nod and scan the shelves of the boat house until my eyes settle on a dusty logbook with a pencil tucked between the pages. I grab it and flip to the back page, where I print: SATURDAY JULY 8, 2000 AFTER LUNCH. I hand her the book, which she takes and studies. The pencil slips from my hand as my equilibrium fails.

"It's a secret, Rachel, okay?"

"Why?"

"Has to be. I have to go. It was very nice to meet you. And break a leg, tomorrow, with that number." I hold out my hand, she gives it a firm shake, and I disappear.

-

March 16, 2024 (Rachel is 30, Quinn is 31)

RACHEL: It's late, well after midnight. There's shifting on the bed and Quinn is there, facing me. She kind of screams, but nothing too loud, not really scared, just disoriented. I jump at the scream and then we both laugh. This is not the first time we've spooked each other when she's come back.

There's a scratch on her forehead, just over the right eye. I grab a tissue of the nightstand and dab at it.

"What happened?"

"You threw pine cones at me."

I don't remember doing that, although it isn't altogether unlikely. "I'm sorry." I kiss the spot just above the injury and pull her close to me.

"It's okay, I earned more than a few shots to the face from you."

I don't want to relive the worst of high school and neither does she, so we distract each other with kisses and make-up sex for fights we had half our lives ago.

-

July 8th, 2000 (Rachel is 6, Quinn is 29)

RACHEL: The "I Love Lucy" calendar in the kitchen says today is the same day the lady wrote down in the boat book. This morning, while Daddy made eggs and Dad read the newspaper, I asked if I could have some old clothes. Daddy wanted to know why and I said I wanted to play dress-up. Dad put down his paper and told me it was okay if I felt more comfortable in boy's clothes. I said he was silly and I just wanted to play down by the old rowboat.

Daddy took me to his closet and let me pick out some clothes he didn't wear anymore. I chose an old pair of red jogging pants, one of his big soft camping shirts, and a t-shirt with rainbow on it. Daddy asked me if I wanted a bag to put them in and I said yes, but I didn't get time to go down to the rowboat before we left to go into town.

Dad said we were going to a Farmer's Market, but I didn't see any farmers, just regular people. The people sold fruit and vegetables that are supposed to be better than the ones at the store because they are organic. I don't know what that means, but it's good for you.

We came home for lunch, and Daddy made grilled cheese with tomatoes he bought in town. After lunch, I ask to be excused so I can go play and Dad reminds me not to go in the boat house or past the rowboat because that's too close to the water. I tell him I already know that and I grab the shopping bag full of clothes and run down the path to find the lady but she's not there. I climb into the boat and sing my song from the Fourth of July, hoping she'll hear it and come out, but I finish and she's not there. I think I just might leave the bag in the boat so she can have the clothes and I start to climb out of the boat. Then I hear a crash from behind the boat house and someone says a curse word I'm not allowed to repeat.

QUINN: I slam into a wall, that I momentarily recognize as the boat house by the lake. My shoulder stings from the impact and take a few seconds to steady myself. It's mid-day, maybe early afternoon. The view across the lake is gorgeous and I can see several boats on the water. It must be peak season.

There's a shuffle and possibly a giggle emanating from around the corner of the boat house. I investigate and discover a shopping bag with clothing inside. The weather and the tourist activity on the lake lead me to believe it's the week of July fourth, shortly after our first meeting. I dig through the bag to find a pair of track pants, a flannel button down, and a gay pride t-shirt. I slip on the pants and the tee, saving the flannel for later, in case I'm here after the sun goes down.

"Thanks, Rachel," I mumble, glad to have clothes on hand that I didn't have to steal.

"You're welcome," comes the reply, because she's there, peeking around the other corner of the boat house.

She's so small, even though Rachel will never be huge in stature, she will grow to have a very commanding presence. But right now she is a little girl with the presence of a little girl.

"Hi, there." I smile at her and she waves, but doesn't come ay closer.

"Hi. I can't go past the rowboat."

I nod and carefully make my way, barefoot, over pine needles to her side of the boat house. "You did a very good job with the clothes."

She smiles, pleased at the praise. Even in this miniature state, she is certainly Rachel. She bounds back over to the boat, her safe haven, and plants herself on the bow. "I thought you might not come back."

"What's the date?"

"July eighth. Two-thousand."

"That's helpful. Thank you."

"How come you don't know that?"

"Because I just got here. A few minutes ago, I was at home, making tea and it was a February winter in 2022."

"But you told me to be here. You wrote it down."

She reaches into the front pocket of her jumper and pulls out a folded piece of paper from what looks like a ship's logbook. There, in my own writing, is the day's date.

"Well, I guess I did," is my response. And I wonder just how I'm going to explain the details of my condition to a six year-old. "You like movies, right?"

"Yes."

"And the movie happens from beginning to end. That's the story."

"Uh huh."

"And that's how life is. I'll bet this morning, you got up, brushed your teeth and had breakfast."

She nods.

"And then you..."

"Went to the farming market. Then came home for lunch."

"Okay. Right. So, one, two, three, everything in a row. You didn't just wake up at the market, did you? And then find yourself at home brushing your teeth?"

She giggles. "No."

"Well, that's how it can be for me. I might be in one place in the movie and all of a sudden decide to go back to a part before, then jump forward to a part ahead. Make sense?"

"Kind of."

"Okay, so that's a rough analogy. But the point is, I sometimes get lost in time and don't know when I am. So I have to ask."

"Are you going to stay over? We have a sofa bed in the living room. I can ask my parents."

"Thank you very much for asking, but I'm not allowed to meet your Daddies until later."

"Why?"

"Time-travelers aren't supposed to change anything when they move around. It's best not to tell too many people about us." This isn't necessarily my opinion, but it's the simplest way to explain things at the moment.

"You're talking to me."

"You, Miss Berry, are a very special little lady."

Another grin spreads across her face, then her head turns. One of her fathers is calling for her. "I have to go inside."

I can't help but notice how much she looks like our daughter, even though that's impossible. "Okay."

"Will you be back?"

I think about this and conjure up the next date from The List in my memory. "July twenty-third."

She nods at this. I repeat the date.

"And bring your Dora the Explorer notebook and a pen."

Her father calls again, and I repeat the date one final time. She waves to me before disappearing up the path toward the lake house. Once she's out of sight, I slip into the boat house, scrounging around until I find a beat up pair of yellow flip flops in the compartment under the window bench. I take a walk around the lake until it's time to go.

-

January 17th, 2009 (Quinn is 15 and 16)

QUINN: I'm in my bedroom with myself. She's here from next June. We're doing something that probably qualifies as a sin, twofold. Yet, somehow, the both of us justify it, despite the fact that we are both in the running for president of the Chastity Club. She just started dating Finn Hudson, and wants to perfect her kissing style. Not that we haven't kissed other guys before Finn, but there's something about practice that makes perfect, especially with someone who knows you so well.

It, in no way, means I'm a lesbian.

Even if we've progressed past kissing and are now working our way down the list of baseball metaphors. Given the chance, who wouldn't try it if the opportunity arose?

There's a sound in the hall, outside my room, then the doorknob turns and there's Mom in the doorway. Even though my other self has managed to pull my bathrobe around her, I'm not as quick. Nor am I prepared for the look on her face. I can tell she's been drinking. It's Saturday evening, so she's had at least three refills of Johnny Walker Black Label.

She just shakes her head at me and pulls the door shut. I jump off the bed, pull on my WMHS warm-up suit, and chase after her down the hall. Dad's not home, so it could be worse. She's already in their bedroom, the door closed. I knock, but there's no answer.

"Mom?" Nothing.

I make my way back to my room and shut the door. "This is your fault. You could have warned me. You knew she'd walk in. You know how this family is and how they react to things."

She sits in my desk chair, head in her hands. "Just stop."

"I won't stop! All you had to do was say something--"

"It wouldn't matter! We can't change things. If I had said something, somehow, it still would have happened." She rises from the chair and opens the closet. "We're not superheroes, Quinn. We're not X-Men. We're not supposed to make a difference when we travel. I think the only time we can make change is in the present." She retrieves an old pair of jeans, ones I stopped wearing during the winter because I always gain a couple pounds after the holidays, and a hoodie. "Mom won't mention it, anyway. Tomorrow morning she'll pretend she doesn't remember."

"Maybe she really will forget."

She shakes her head, and I know she's right. "Mind if I borrow these?" In her hands are my old Adidas sneakers.

I just got a new pair for Christmas. "Go ahead."

"What about a coat?"

I roll my eyes and find a bulky jacket in the back of the closet. It's a hand me down from my sister that I've always hated. Quinn makes a face, but puts it on, anyway. She picks up the Fossil tin on my desk where I stash any cash from Christmas and birthdays and takes thirty bucks.

"Hey!"

"I can't just wander around in the middle of winter."

She's right. "Maybe try the movie theater?" I offer.

She shrugs, then moves for the door. We quietly progress down the stairs to the front door where I watch myself step out into the cold night.

-

September 23, 2009 (Quinn is 19 and 16)

QUINN: I'm in the McKinley high school girl's locker room, which is empty for the day, except for me and the other me. I've managed to slip on one of Coach Sylvester's track suits, which I found on the hangar, fresh from the dry cleaner. I try not to think of whoever will bear the brunt of her anger when it ends up crumpled on the floor once I depart.

My younger self stands at our locker, the open door blocking any view of me. She's quietly singing Beyonce's "Single Ladies" to herself, myself, and doen't notice that someone has moved down the row of lockers and is now standing just on the other side of the hinged metal.

I know this was a difficult time for me. I remember, I lived it. I also know I was an insufferable bitch. This dictates my next course of action.

My hand reaches out and slams the locker shut, eliciting a scream from my doppleganger. She recovers, quickly.

"Leave me alone."

"I don't know how long I have, but there is one thing we're going to get straight, right here, right now. Stop tormenting Rachel Berry."

She narrows her eyes at me, arms crossed in front of her. "You're not real. I've decided none of this traveling is. You're a demon."

I remember the speech from this moment, the first time. I'd spent a week at Christian Summer camp, praying and looking for logical answers to this thing that sent me bouncing through time.

"How do you explain when you go somewhere, Quinn?"

"Fine. It's a hallucination. Maybe I have a brain tumor. But whatever you are--" she steps up to me, "You're. Not. Real. None of it is. So, leave me alone." She turns to scoop up her bag, ready to storm out, a signature Fabray exit.

I'm not entirely sure of the date, but I risk it, "Even if I'm not real, that baby is."

The bag drops, hits the floor, but she doesn't turn. "How can you know that? I haven't told anyone, yet."

"You know the answer to that, already."

She's silent before she turns to ask, "What's going to happen?"

But I'm already gone.

-

August 7, 2006 (Rachel is 12 and Quinn is 32)

QUINN: Rachel and I are playing cards out on the Franklin's dock. Mr. and Mrs. Franklin left to go back home to Cleveland last week, so property is vacant and we can be alone. She's humming as she studies her cards. The tune is familiar, but I can't place it, at first. Then it hits me.

"Is that from High School Musical?"

She glances at me over the top of the cards. "Yeah. You know it?" She seems surprised. Probably because I'm so old to her.

"I had all three soundtracks on my iPod, once upon a time."

"Three?"

"Oh. Yeah, there's gonna be two more."

Her eyes sparkle at this. "Really? Is Zac Efron in all of them?"

"Yeah. Why, you like him?"

There's a toss of hair before she discards. "He's a solid vocal lead."

Her gaze is fixed on the discard pile, but her attention is elsewhere. She's thinking about Zac Efron and it's making me jealous. Which is ridiculous, considering I had a poster of him, in full Wildcats garb on the back of my bedroom door right that very moment, back in Lima.

"If you're into that, then he's dreamy, I guess."

Brown eyes have redirected from the cards back up to me. "Who do you like?"

I can't very well tell her the truth to that one, so I counter, "You mean, when I was your age?"

"Yeah." She thinks about this. "When were you my age?"

"2005. I'm only a year older than you."

"You're way older than that."

"I mean, in regular time, I'm a year older. Right now, me, I'm thirty two. But somewhere, out there, is me at thirteen."

Her eyes squint as she thinks about this. "There are two of you?"

"Really, there's one of me, but I sometimes move around in time to where I already am. So, I guess you could say there's two of me."

"How come I never see more than one?"

"You will."

"In the future?"

I nod. "Yep."

"So, who did you like in 2005?"

"I had a crush on Drake Bell."

She makes a face. "Why would you like him?"

"Why would you like Zac Efron?"

"He's talented. Gin!"

"You want to play, again?"

She takes the cards and begins to shuffle. "Who do you like now?"

"In 2006?"

"No, now. When you're thirty-two."

I consider just telling her, but twelve still seems awfully young. I don't want to interrupt her dreams of talented Zac Efron and his vocal abilities. Why is she asking about this, anyway?

"Quinn?"

"Yeah?"

"Are you married?"

"Yes," I admit.

"To who?"

"Someone very talented and very beautiful."

"Oh." Her face is tucked down and she deals the cards.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing. Am I married?"

"I already let it slip about the three High School Musicals."

"Come on, I just want to know."

"If you're married to Zac Efron?"

Her mouth is tight like she's trying hard not to smile at that. "How did you meet your wife?"

I don't even question how she knew that much. "It's a secret."

"Were you time traveling?"

"No. We met in high school." I wonder if this is too much information.

"Is your wife a time traveler, too?"

I shake my head. "Nope. Just a regular lady. Well, maybe regular isn't the right word."

"Does she worry about you?"

"Yes." I wonder what Rachel's doing, right now. Hopefully, she's sleeping through this particular absence and won't notice I'm gone.

"Do you love her?"

"Very much." I wait for her to play her next card, then notice there are tears creating wet spots on the wooden dock just beneath her. "What's wrong?"

I scoot next to her and put an arm over her shoulder. She leans into me, steadying her quiet sobs.

"It's just that I thought maybe you were married to me."

-

October 12, 2009 (Rachel is 16, Quinn is 16)

RACHEL: I know this is just a transitional period. I know this is just high school. I know this is simply a test from the universe, in patience, designed to make me stronger and able to strive toward my destiny. But it sucks.

I don't mind waiting for Quinn, I really don't. I don't even care that she, at this point in time, is pretty horrible to me. Or, she was until she joined Glee. Lately, she been tolerable. It also might be because of the baby. I can even handle the idea of the baby, regardless of how it came to be. I can't necessarily wrap my mind around it, but I know everything must work out, just fine.

What sucks is trying to bide my time in any seemingly normal capacity. I could just sit at home, like some kind of a nun, but I am a young woman with hormones and curiosities. And maybe I pursued both Finn and Noah because I knew they'd been important to her. She, until recently, has never given me the time of day, unless it happens to be printed on the bottom of an extra large Big Quench cup.

And, through it all, I feel the need to protect her. Especially from Jacob Ben Israel and his stupid blog.

Her hand slams my locker shut. "Listen here, Treasure Trail, we're about to have a smackdown."

I'm not in the mood for this from her. Maybe because I know how close I am to actually getting to her, real Quinn, in real time. "I don't want to have a confrontation."

"Don't," she grabs me as I try to walk away, "play stupid with me, Stubbles. I'm having Finn's baby, and you need to back off. I'm asking you as nicely as I possibly can. Leave. Him. Alone."

"You're right. I've helped not because it's the right thing to do, but because I have romantic ulterior motives."

She studies me, almost as if she knows exactly what those motives are.

I, however, feel the need to express words that will likely fall on deaf ears, "But just so we're clear, you're the one who's cheating." I know she won't get it and I know she's not even really cheating, since she doesn't know.

"Excuse me?" She's honestly legitimately offended.

I cover. "I have it on good authority that you're Sue Sylvester's mole. And you can deny it all you want, but know it's true." I wonder if I should tell her that she's the one whole told me.

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

Now I'm on a roll, because, for the moment, I'm in control and this Quinn needs to hear everything I have to say. "Sue's not on your side, Quinn. She's not on anyone's side but her own. Can you imagine what she's going to do once she finds out about your situation? She'll probably try to rip up your uniform with her bare hands. Every time you whisper in her ear, you empower her to do more damage to the Glee Club. Right now? Glee Club? Is all you have. If I were you, I'd recognize who my true friends are. And, I'd practice a little bit more, because you obviously have a lot you need to express."

"Oh, you have no idea," she huffs and the storms away from me.

She's wrong, though. I have all kinds of ideas.

-

April 27, 2021 (Rachel is 27, Quinn is 16)

QUINN: I grope around, because it's dark. But I'm indoors, wherever I am. My eyes adjust to the dim light coming through the window and the digital clock on what seems to be a nightstand. It's eight-sixteen.

I find a lamp next to the clock, switch it on, then grab the first clothes I see, which are draped across the edge of the bed in front of me. I assume they're someone's pajamas, yoga pants and a tank top, and they're more comfortable than other items I've had to use on the fly.

I'm a little nauseous and immediately realize this is the first time I've traveled while pregnant. I worry about the baby, even though it isn't really mine, in the long run. Not it. She. She isn't really mine.

I peek through the door into the hallway, but the rest of the house is dark, no one's home. This definitely ranks as one of the more comfortable trips I've made. Empty house, comfy clothes. I can easily relax and wait it out.

It's perfect, actually, considering I'm just coming off an argument with stupid Rachel Berry. She thinks she knows everything and she knows nothing. She doesn't know me or my life or what I need to do with it.

I find my way to the kitchen and find Vitamin Water in the fridge. This is the first time it crosses my mind that maybe I'm in my own apartment. There's a small stack of mail on the counter and I pick up an envelope. It's addressed to Occupant, but the phone bill underneath reads Quinn Fabray on the address line. I wonder where I've gone for the night. I wonder what I do now for a living. I wonder why the next two bit of mail are addressed to Rachel Berry.

My stomach drops and I already know the answer. It's ridiculous and it's the thing I've been trying to prevent from happening since the first day of high school. I can't possibly be in love with Rachel Berry. It's sick and it's wrong and it's a sin.

But so is getting pregnant out of wedlock. And I managed that, just fine.

There's a key in the lock on the front door, which opens. It's Rachel, maybe ten years older than the girl who just told me Sue Sylvester would ruin me, given the chance. She sees me and smiles, then pauses.

"Oh. It's you."

"You were expecting someone else?"

"No. I knew you'd be here."

"Then why play surprised?"

"I didn't know exactly when you'd be here."

She drops her keys on the counter, as if she does it every day, which I'm sure she does. "You're here from that day, aren't you?"

"Which day, Berry?" I snap.

There's a half smile on her face, as if I've told on old joke she hasn't heard in a long time. "The day I tried to squash the baby story by trading underpants."

"Yeah." I screw and unscrew the cap to the Vitamin Water.

"You want to sit down?" She pats the back of the sofa.

I shrug and shuffle toward the couch. She doesn't try to sit next to me, she sits in an armchair, instead. I keep my eyes on the floor because I really don't want to know anything about this life, if I can avoid it.

"I don't know what to say."

"Don't say anything."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't."

"Don't what?"

"Don't apologize if you don't mean it."

"Are we... happy?"

She smiles. "Yeah. We are."

"This is impossible."

"So is time travel, according to most people."

I want to ask about the baby. I want to ask about us. I want to ask about Finn and Puck and Glee, but I can already feel everything slipping. This is a short visit.

I look up at her. "I really am sorry."

Her face softens, or maybe it's just because my vision's blurring. "I know."

-

October 12, 2009 (Rachel is 16, Quinn is 16)

RACHEL: We're working on our new number, "Keep Holding On". I'm early to rehearsal, as usual. I like to do a dry run, alone, on stage, before everyone else shows up. I'm not the first one here, though, this time. Someone's in the dressing room, already. I hope it's Finn, because maybe we can do the run together and I can give him some pointers.

It's not Finn. It's Quinn. I haven't talked to her since yesterday and I haven't seen her since Sue called out the pregnancy in Glee.

I don't want to be cornered by her, right now. "Sorry, I'll go."

"No." She catches my arm.

Her eyes are red from crying, which is no surprise, she practically broke down in Finn's arms in the hallway. I wanted to tell her it would all be okay, but I didn't know how, really, without getting into too much detail. Aside from the tears, there's something else different about her eyes. The way she looks at me. There is no disdain, no contempt.

I realize that this is the day, the moment when it all comes together. It's a little bit more melancholy that I'd imagined.

She looks so scared and almost frail, which, until now, I thought was an impossibility for Quinn. She's always been confident, here in school and in the past. But she was older back then.

"It's okay," I say.

I step closer and reach out my arm. Her natural instinct is to retract and shy away from it, but she relaxes and lets me pull her in, my arms wrapped around her. Her face buries itself in my shoulder as she cries and I don't know if it's about the baby or Finn or me or what. She stays there for several minutes, just letting me hold her.

By the time the rest of the club shows up, she's sitting in a chair, fixing her make-up and we haven't talked about anything.

But from this point on, everything is different. We'll have plenty of time to say what we need to say.

And, right now, I let the music do the talking.

-

April 27, 2021 (Rachel is 27, Quinn is 28)

RACHEL: I'm still folding the clothes that were left behind on the sofa when she walks through the door. Her eyes bounce from the yoga pants to me and she knows.

"Just missed me, huh?"

"Barely."

"That was a lot to digest."

"You were so sad, back then."

"I had a lot going on."

I see the guilt in her eyes, still, even now. I do my best to extinguish it with a kiss, then another, until we're sprawled across the sofa, disheveled and content.

-

February 02, 2010 (Rachel is 16, Quinn is 18)

RACHEL: I'm alone in the dance room on a Monday afternoon. Everyone's still riding the high from Sectionals, but that's been well over a month ago and it's time to start thinking seriously about Regionals.

I haven't even worked through all my stretches, yet, and the door opens.

"I've booked this room till four," I tell the intruder, even though the schedule is posted on the door, plain as day.

They don't answer, so I look up to tell them to kindly exit, but it's Quinn. She's wearing her Cheerio's uniform and, after a double take, I see that she's not pregnant. But she doesn't look that much different from the Quinn I saw when school let out.

"I thought you might be here."

"Haven't seen that on you in a while." I look over the uniform that used to represent my daily torment. I never really noticed how flattering the skirt was or the way it bounced when she walked. Or maybe I'm just sixteen and not making a lot of physical progress with my girlfriend.

She sees me eyeing the skirt and proceeds to twirl, which is probably a natural reaction. "It's Brittany's. Her locker's the easiest to get into, because the combo is always 1-2-3." Her hair is down, instead of up in that tight ponytail, which makes the uniform seem less threatening, somehow. Or maybe it's the girl in the uniform that's changed. "What are you working on?"

"Just maintaining."

She maneuvers behind me and begins to rub my shoulders. "Oh. I thought maybe you were working off some pent up energy."

My eyes are impossible to keep open while her hands are working around my neck. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Don't worry. In about a week, it'll all change."

"What will?"

She stops rubbing, but doesn't let go. Her mouth is warm against my ear. "The sex, stupid." I can hear the smile in her voice.

"The-- Oh. I wasn't... worried... about it."

"Liar." She goes back to the massage.

"Is that safe--"

"For the baby? Yes."

I lean back into her hands, more lost in the contact that I probably should be. Though, it's not cheating or anything, because this is Quinn. And it's just a massage. Except my head is tilted back and her face is right next to mine and I can't help but want to kiss her, out of habit, out of want, out of need, out of opportunity.

When I do kiss her, she doesn't pull away, and I'm no longer facing away from her, but we're both on our knees facing each other. My hands are in her hair, and it's all so very much the same and still very different than kissing my Quinn from the present. We've been taking it somewhat slow, because of the baby and because we're sixteen and because of everything. But this Quinn, she knows me, knows what I like, even if I didn't know I liked it until right now. Like whatever that spot is on my hip that she's grabbing at. Or that her other hand is pulling my hair, just hard enough.

She leans back, breaks the kiss, and says, "Try the I'm Sorry Cookies. They work like a charm." I swear she winks as she begins to fade.

Before I can even ask what I'm apologizing for, she's gone and I'm left with the uniform in my hands. I hear the door open, again. And, again, it's Quinn. Only, this time, she's pregnant and not boasting the WMHS logo on any of her clothing. She takes one look at the garment in my hands and gives me a look that tells me I'd better get home and start baking.

-

August 1, 2011 (Rachel is 17, Quinn is 18)

QUINN: This is the first time I've come back to find myself in bed with her. Though, we just recently started with the overnights, so maybe that's why.

I stare at the ceiling through the dim light and make out rustic rafters above. Her dads took Madison for the weekend and let us use the lake house. It was the first time we'd been truly alone and on our own since the baby had been born. Even before that, we were still working on our relationship. It took me some time to adjust to the fact that I really did love her, even though, in hindsight, all that passion I'd been pouring out in anger had to come from somewhere.

I turn on my side, she's facing away from me. I wonder if she even knows I left.

Her hand reaches back and finds mine. She lifts my arm up and over so I'm holding her against me. "Where'd you go?"

I guess she did notice, after all. "The dance room."

"I was in so much trouble with you."

"Not that much."

"You didn't talk to me all the way home."

"I got over it." I kiss her shoulder. "I told you those cookies would work."

"You could just ask for them."

"They don't taste as good."

"Go to sleep."

-

November 24, 2006 (Rachel is 13, Quinn is 31)

QUINN: We've been playing Chinese checkers in the boat house for the better part of an hour. There's a space heater pointed directly at us, which does a respectable job of keeping the cold at bay. She managed to bring me a good-sized portion of leftover's from the previous day's Thanksgiving feast, so I am warm and full and more than happy to pass the time hopping marbles around the playing board.

And then she asks, "What does she do?"

"Who?"

"Your wife?"

"She's a singer."

"Like me?"

"Yes."

"Who's better?"

"I can't choose."

"That's a cop out."

"You're young and you're still growing, still developing your voice. It wouldn't be fair."

"So, you're saying she's better."

"I plead the fifth."

"I've been thinking about this for a while."

"Have you?"

She nods. "And I figured it out."

"And what's that?"

"The reason you can't choose..."

I lean in, over the board, "Spit it out, the suspense is killing me."

"... is because it's me. I'm your wife."

I don't respond, because I don't know what to say. And then it comes out, "You're a smart cookie."

Hair tosses over her shoulder, classic Rachel. "I know."

"How'd you come to that conclusion?"

"I have a lot of time to kill while I'm waiting around for you. Even with all the lessons and practice time."

"Well, now that you know, are you going to let me win a game?"

"Nope."

"I didn't think so."

-

December 24, 2016 (Rachel is 22, Quinn is 22)

RACHEL: It's Christmas Eve. Quinn's been trying to get Madison to settle down and go to sleep for at least twenty minutes. I'm in the guest room, wrapping last minute gifts and mentally running over my yearly argument that Hanukkah is designed to keep kids from going totally insane because they can look forward to eight days of gifts instead of waiting through a single night for an overload the following morning. Except, this year, Hanukkah starts on Christmas Day and, therefore, negates my entire theory.

There's a light knock and she's peeking through the crack in the door. "All clear?"

All of her presents are already wrapped and under the tree. "All clear."

She pushes the door open and leans against the frame. "She's asleep. Finally."

I gather up the packages I've wrapped and hand some to her to carry out to the living room. We place these gifts with the others and she disappears into the kitchen to make coffee, decaf, because Madison will be up with the sun, maybe even before.

She sets two cups on the coffee table and we sit on the sofa, facing each other with our feet tucked up onto the cushions. I take one sip of the drink and realize she's spiked it with Kahlua. She just grins at me and sips at her own steaming cup.

"You don't have to get me drunk to sleep with you," I tease.

She rolls her eyes and sets her cup down. Now she's resting on her knees and fidgeting, then she's up on her feet.

"Don't go anywhere," she tells me, as if I'm not already as comfortable as possible in my own home.

After a moment, she's back, taking another swig of coffee, although I can tell it burns her mouth, just a little. There's something in her hand, but I can't tell what it is, at first. The second she drops to her knees, right between the table and the couch, I know.

I suddenly realize I'm not even holding the coffee cup anymore, and I worry that I've dropped it all over myself and didn't notice, but it's there, on the table, next to Quinn's cup. I look down at her, in front of me, my hand wrapped tightly in one of hers. Her other hand is holding a velvet box, just like the kind in movies and television and books and dreams.

"Rachel?"

Years of training and practice and performing still don't prepare me for this moment and my voice almost fails me, so I have to clear my throat. "Yes?"

"I love you. And I know you've loved me for longer than I deserved it. Will you marry me?"

"Yes... Quinn." It's uncanny, this feeling. "But, you know, really... I already have."

-

July 30, 2008 (Rachel is 14, Quinn is 24)

QUINN: We're out for a walk around the lake. She's full of pep and yammering away about the excitement of high school and her chance to build a repertoire of extra-curricular that will further pad her experience portfolio.

I'm only half listening, because I'm trying to figure out how to keep her from getting hurt. Especially by the obnoxious younger version of myself that has never been on the receiving end of a Slushie facial.

"Be careful."

"What? Is there a snake?" She freezes on the forest path.

"No, not here. You're fine." I have a lot to say about what's to come, but I'm also amused. "Have you ever seen a snake out here?"

She relaxes. "No. But we were watching Snakes on a Plane, last night. There was a limited selection at the rental place."

I laugh, then continue with my original though. "When you get to high school, just--"

"Be strong, I know. We've had this talk."

"I don't have to tell you to be strong, Rach. You have an iron will."

She smiles at the abbreviation of her name, something I don't start doing until we've been together, in real time, for at least a year. "I do pay attention when you tell me things. I have a whole notebook full of all that stuff."

"I know, but..." I try to find the right words to tell her. "Me, back then, or now, I guess, I'm really horrible. And I don't know you, yet."

"And you're mean. I remember."

"Just, don't try to find me. Let me come to you, okay?"

She nods. "Okay."

"I promise it all works out."

"I believe you."

We continue down the path. I know she hears what I'm saying, but I don't think she truly believes me. This makes my heart break, more than anything.

-

June 16, 2017 (Rachel is 22, Quinn is 23)

QUINN: I wake up just as dawn breaks across the lake. I am in a strange room and I briefly wonder if I've traveled, but then remember I'm staying at the Franklin's cabin. Despite being a seemingly un-traditional family in the eyes of certain people, the Berrys insisted that Rachel and I spend the night away from each other before today.

The big day.

I bounce out of bed, and check on the dress, that hangs, right where i left it, in the closet. It's quite simple, nothing like I'd imagined I would wear on my wedding day when I used to daydream about it in junior high. I also didn't picture the curvy brunette that only matched my height in extreme heels to be my counterpart.

But that was then and this is now, and it's finally happening.

RACHEL: It's early, but I'm already awake. I pad over to the window and try to see the neighboring cabin, even though I know there are too many trees in the way. Still, I know she's there. And I know she'll be here at eleven, because she has to be, because she can't be anywhere else.

-

August 20, 2009 (Quinn is 23)

QUINN: I'm lying on the floor of my old bedroom. I'm alone, and everything in here says I'm likely at Cheerios practice or out with Santana and Brittany.

Where and when I am not has me cursing and furious.

-

June 16, 2017 (Rachel is 22, Quinn is 30)

RACHEL: Everyone is in place, which isn't a difficult task, because it's a small ceremony. I look out at the minister and the rabbi standing out on the dock and smile at the fact that the most important day of my life is waiting for a punchline.

I wonder if maybe it all is some kind of joke, because Quinn's nowhere to be seen. We rehearsed everything last night and she knows how I am about hitting cues.

Which makes me worry.

QUINN: There are trees towering above me and I am lying naked on the forest floor. This is not a first, but definitely inconvenient. I sit up and can hear strains of music. I'm here, Rachel, don't worry.

The Franklin place is just behind me and I make a break for the back door before anyone spots a member of the wedding party streaking when she's supposed to be making her way down the aisle.

The dress is on the floor of the bathroom, in a heap, right, I suppose, where I left it. I don't have time to do much with my hair, but before now, I had just come back from a night out and I suppose it still looks fine. The dress is on, but I can't find the shoes, so I decide to go without them. Rachel will seem much taller than she is in the photos, but she likes that, so it's okay.

RACHEL: My fears are squashed when I see her, running down the path, toward me, toward everyone. She's barefoot and never been so beautiful.

She makes her way to the dock and takes my hand. I pull a pine needle from her hair.

"You made it."

"Couldn't miss it."

And we are married.

-

June 19, 2017 (Rachel is 22, Quinn is 23)

QUINN: The Monday after the wedding, we are at the Toledo City Hall, being married by a judge. Kurt and Brittany are the witnesses. Afterward, we go to dinner and Brittany decides she is the official photographer for this secondary wedding and snaps pictures on her camera phone.

"How does it feel being married?" Kurt asks me.

But Rachel answers, "I feel very married." She grabs my hand. "I wonder if I'm a bigamist?"

"I think you're allowed to marry the same person as many times as you want," Brittany offers. She's always been full of simple wisdom.

Kurt studies my face. "Are you the same person?"

"Yes. But more so," I reply.

Rachel smiles and me and raises her glass. I tap mine against hers. A wedding toast. And, for the first time in my life, we are married.