A/N: Sorry for the wait! Please enjoy and review. It would mean so much to me.
Disclaimer: Still don't own any of the Glee characters. I also don't own the song featured here.
Everything seemed different in the harsh light of day. Quinn sat staring at the empty space next to her, the left side of the bed already cold. She had told Rachel they couldn't be together.
"I know," was all the brunette had said. The space between them grew thick with tension and then Rachel had dressed and gone downstairs, suddenly anxious to leave. Quinn offered to drive her home, it was the least she could do.
It was a beautiful, sunny day outside, a direct contrast to the sombre interior of the car. Quinn pulled up outside Rachel's house and killed the engine. For a few minutes neither girl moved.
"Quinn," started Rachel, cutting through the silence. Quinn looked at her for the first time since leaving her house.
"I will let you go but, you have do something for me," she said slowly.
"Anything," breathed Quinn.
"We can't be friends, and being adversaries is what got us here in the first place." She forced a laugh. Quinn listened intently, fighting to keep her hands in place in her lap instead of on Rachel, where they longed to be. Rachel kept her head down, hiding her face behind a curtain of hair so that Quinn wouldn't see the tears she couldn't quite hold back.
"I want to be invisible to you," she said with obvious effort. "I don't think I could bear to have you look at me when I know I can't have you. So please, just ignore me." Quinn flinched like Rachel had struck her. She didn't want to just throw her away.
"But Rachel, you hate being invisible," she argued, knowing she could never agree to this. But Rachel had already made up her mind.
"I'd rather be invisible than an embarrassment," she lashed out, grinding her teeth against the words.
"That's not what this is about," said Quinn, hurt by Rachel's assessment. "I'm just not like you," she tried to explain. "I'm not brave."
"Then you're right. We can't be together." Rachel climbed out of the car, slamming the door with finality.
Rachel took a deep breath and tried to rearrange her face into something that would pass for human. She stared at her reflection in the small mirror that hung in her locker and took inventory of her face. Her empty eyes were still glassy from the buckets of tears she had regularly been shedding; the lacklustre colour of her complexion; and the dark circles under her eyes that poked through even under the concealer she was wearing. Quinn Fabray has ruined me, she thought with a bitter smile. She gathered her books and closed her locker.
Rachel ghosted through the hallways of McKinley High, barely acknowledging the abuse being hurled at her through stares and whispers. Even her morning slushie facial hadn't stung as the icy goo hit her face and trickled down her neck. Rachel was numb. And she was tired of not getting what she wanted. First Quinn, then a Glee solo, and now she could feel the lead role in the play being snatched away from her by Mr. Ryerson.
Quinn was desperately trying to respect Rachel's wishes. It was becoming more and more difficult, especially when she passed the shell of a girl in the hallway, barely recognizing that it was Rachel. Every fibre of Quinn ached at the miserable sight, knowing that she was to blame. Even if Rachel hadn't looked so damaged, Quinn knew she would still have felt that heavy ache. She pulled her eyes back towards Finn, who was talking animatedly about the new flavour of donuts that had just become available. She fixed what she hoped was an interested smile on her face while she pretended to listen.
"Anyway, I'm so excited about singing with you Quinn. Glee's really awesome, right?" said Finn, moving in to kiss her.
The mention of the Glee Club snapped her back to attention.
"Yeah, it's great," she said, trying to push her guilt aside. Quinn had joined Glee to be closer to Finn. At least that's what she had told everyone. But seeing Rachel perform momentarily dulled the ache. It was amazing the way she could sing out her frustration and pain. It was the only time Rachel looked alive. But now that she had defected to the play Quinn hardly saw her; and when she did it wasn't really Rachel anymore.
Quinn buried her face in Finn's neck, trying to bury her feelings for Rachel in the process. They were making out on her couch that evening, something that had become a regular pastime now that Quinn was trying to make things work with her boyfriend. She tried to ignore Finn's clumsy hands as they began to travel further up her skirt. She tried hopelessly to enjoy his tongue flailing wildly around in her mouth. She failed at both. She pushed at his chest until he opened his eyes in realisation and eased off her.
"What's wrong? What did I do?" he asked, looking at Quinn nervously. She struggled to look him in the eye.
"It's not you Finn. I've done something wrong," she answered softly. She hated herself for hurting him but it needed to be done. "I had sex with Puck," she admitted. Finn's face fell.
"What?" he stammered. His confusion only lasted a few seconds before it was replaced by anger and he sprang to his feet. He knitted his fingers behind his head and paced back and forth in front of the couch. Quinn stared at the carpet in silence.
"How could you do that to me?" he asked. His voice broke a little from the shock and the hurt that he felt. Quinn was glad he was angry. She wanted him to yell at her, call her obscene names, and make her feel awful. She knew she deserved it.
"I'm so sorry Finn," she started to say. "I never meant to hurt you."
"Well, you did. And it sucks," he yelled. He paced a little more and couldn't bring himself to look at her. "I always thought that if you were ready to, you know," he said awkwardly, "That it would be with me."
Quinn continued to stare at the floor. She didn't know what to say. "But… Puck? I know what he's like but I expected more from you Quinn." And with one last betrayed glance at her he stormed out. Quinn leaned back into the couch and tried to feel anything but relieved.
Quinn didn't bother trying to talk to Finn at school the next day. She accepted his angry scowls and disappointed looks. She was so busy beating up on herself that she flinched when Puck appeared behind her, sniffing at her like she was the last steak on Earth.
"Hey," he said smoothly, his eyes never making it past her chest. She grimaced twice over. First, because he thought she was interested in him, and a second time because she'd let him take her virginity. "Finn told me you came clean," he said with a low chuckle. "So you wanna go somewhere after school?" Quinn shook her head slowly, a look of repulsion on her face.
"Look, I get it. You want to be with me," she said. "But you don't know how to love me."
Puck straightened his stance. "Love? Who said anything about love? I showed you a good time," he said confidently, leaning in towards her. Quinn took a step back. The hungry look in his eyes made her feel dirty.
"Believe me when I say it was a one time thing. It should never have happened," said Quinn emphatically through pursed lips. She turned her back on him and walked away.
Santana and Brittany pushed past him, pinkies entwined, and followed after Quinn. "So, not quite as wholesome and pure as we thought," mused Santana, inches away from the blond captain. Quinn turned to face them.
"Finn's best friend, that's pretty bad," smiled Brittany. She and Santana exchanged a seductive glance.
"We're having a sleep over tonight," said Santana suggestively. "Eight o'clock. You should come." The invitation dripped with sex. Brittany nodded her enthusiasm before Santana dragged her away, leaving Quinn with a lump in her throat. She was surprised at the lack of slander from the two girls. She had expected more drama, but it appeared that her fellow Cheerios were only amused at the discovery that she was just like them. Quinn hugged her books into her chest and resumed her walk to class. She wondered if she wanted to be just like them.
"You suck," cried Mr. Ryerson, elongating each word into a sword to pierce Rachel. That had been the final straw. She couldn't suffer his insanity a moment longer. She missed Glee, she missed her friends, and she missed being in the same room with Quinn, even if it did wrench at her insides. It was time for her to go back.
Rachel had turned back almost nine times on her way to the auditorium. Her hand rested on the door as she took a deep, cleansing breath and put on a show face. Her fellow Glee clubbers were scattered in the front rows of the practice space. Rachel walked towards them to the sound of Mr. Schuester welcoming her back. She came to a stop next to him and clasping her hands together in front of her she looked at the faces staring back at her with mixed emotions. "It's good to be back, and I'm ready to work hard." She shifted uncomfortably under the weight of the tension within the group. Finn and Puck looked particularly miserable. She hurriedly took her seat, ignoring Quinn's eyes on her.
Quinn's heart beat so hard against her chest that it threatened to break through it. She looked longingly at Rachel and her mind flooded with all the words she wanted to say, if only the girl would look at her just once.
"What is up with you guys?" asked Mr. Shu casting his eyes around at the dejected teenagers seated in front of him. "Where's the energy?"
"Maybe we just have a lot on our minds," said Finn defensively. Some of the other kids nodded their heads in agreement.
"Well, that's what Glee Club's all about," said Mr. Shu. "Music is a great way to release yourself from all the things that are getting you down," he said passionately. "If you're sad, or angry or a little lost, there's always a song to capture your feelings perfectly."
"I have one," said a soft, nervous voice. All eyes fell on Quinn Fabray who had raised a shaky hand to speak. The Glee members exchanged surprised looks with one another.
"Great, Quinn. Show us what you've got," said Mr. Schuester. Quinn rose from her seat and took to the stage. She whispered her song choice to the band before taking her place in the centre of the stage. The sound of a guitar cut through the stunned silence of her audience. Quinn drew breath and sang out in a sure voice.
"When I was younger
I saw my daddy cry
And curse at the wind
He broke his own heart
And I watched
As he tried to reassemble it"
Rachel's eyes were glued to Quinn while she sang. She had never heard Quinn sing solo before and her body sighed with joy at the beauty and conviction with which she sang.
"And I've always lived like this
Keeping a comfortable, distance
And up until now I had sworn to myself that I'm
Content with loneliness
Because none of it was ever worth the risk"
Quinn kept singing with Rachel in her heart. She hoped that it would be enough to show her how she felt. She chanced a few glances at the brunette, afraid of what she would find in her lovely face. To Quinn's surprise, tears were steadily trickling down Rachel's face. The sight caught Quinn off guard.
Rachel listened carefully to each word in the song. Before she could stop herself tears were issuing from her eyes. She didn't want to feel jealous that Quinn was singing to her boyfriend. She didn't want to acknowledge that her heart twisted with a desire to take his place. She tried to feel grateful that she was here to witness Quinn sing this way, even if it wasn't about her.
"Oh and I'm on my way to believing it."
The final note hung in the air and Rachel scrambled to her feet and out the door while the other members of the audience applauded her performance. Quinn stared horrified as Rachel dashed toward the exit. She leapt from the stage and raced after her. Rachel hurried down the hallway feeling foolish and empty.
"Rachel, wait!" called Quinn from behind her. Hearing her voice threatened to dismantle Rachel's heart.
"Why are you following me?" choked Rachel through her tears. Quinn had never heard her voice so broken. Rachel was coming apart. That knowledge filled Quinn with agony.
"Why did you run?" she asked, reaching for her hand. It hadn't taken the cheerleader long to catch up with Rachel. Rachel rounded on her.
"Can't you see?" whimpered Rachel. "It hurts too much to not be with you, Quinn. It's like I'm dying a little each day," she confessed, her brown eyes glistening pools of pain. Quinn moved towards her.
"That's why I'm here," she said, trying to soothe her. Rachel blinked puzzled eyes at her. "That, in there," fumbled Quinn nervously. She gave Rachel's hand a light squeeze for courage before trying again. "It was for you," she said simply.
Rachel's head swam.
"What?" she stuttered in disbelief. Quinn smiled at her lovingly.
"I was wrong to let you go Rachel," she said as she wrapped her arms around Rachel's slight waist. "You're the – "
Rachel placed a finger against Quinn's soft lips and silenced her.
"Just kiss me," she whispered.
Quinn leaned into Rachel's waiting lips and kissed her tenderly; mending the heart she knew she had broken and promising to keep it safe, all in one action. When their lips parted Rachel snuggled in closer to Quinn, who pressed her even tighter against her body, moulding her to her shape. "It was beautiful," said Rachel proudly.
"I'm no Rachel Berry though," smiled Quinn.
"No," she admitted. "But at least we won't have to fight over solos."
Quinn shook her head at Rachel and enveloped her lips in another passionate kiss.
Quinn placed her hand in Rachel's and laced their fingers together. "Ready?" she asked, turning to look at her. Rachel looked up at her girlfriend and nodded once. Hand in hand they made their way back to the auditorium and Glee rehearsal.
**Featured song: Paramore - The Only Exception 3