Title: Make a Wish
Pairings: Minor allusions to canon Quinn/Finn.
Spoilers: Through "Journey."
Word Count: 2433
Summary: A look at five birthdays in Quinn Fabray's life.
Notes: Started pre-finale, tweaked a bit to fit the finale.
When she turned six, she wanted a pony.
Every little girl went through what her mother termed the "pony years," and Quinn was no exception. It had all started with an equine display at the town library – something about the pictures the librarians used had stirred something within Quinn, age five. A pony was what she wanted; a pony would be what she'd get. She was determined.
She begged, and she pleaded, and she offered to eat all of her vegetables – except corn, because corn was yucky – and she put her leftover lunch money in the offering plate at church, all to better her case for a pony. She even said an extra prayer at night, after her mother turned out her bedside lamp – "now I lay me down to sleep, and I want a pony named Nibbles for my birthday, and if I should die before I wake, then I'll never get to ride Nibbles, amen."
After all, her parents always told her that God listened to her prayers.
Her parents noticed, or they seemed to at least, and as her birthday approached, she began to wonder if her prayers would be answered. There were hushed whispers of "but it'd be so expensive," and "we can afford it, the Abramses do it for Arthur," and "maybe if she was older." She'd straighten up against the wall and pretend not to have been eavesdropping when her parents would shuffle by, but as soon as they were out of her range of sight, she'd hide a small grin behind her hands.
On her birthday, she didn't hear the telltale signs that would give away a pony. But, as she rationalized to herself, ponies couldn't be kept in houses!
It was only after all the wrapping paper littered the floor, books about ponies and horses stacked up next to her, a herd of toy ponies riding off into the wallpaper sunset, that she realized – there was no Nibbles awaiting her.
She fell asleep that night, still dressed in her frilly pink dress, clutching onto one of the pony figurines her sister had given her. It wasn't enough, but, for now, it was all she could cling to.
When she turned nine, she wanted a scooter.
Even though she couldn't remember when the last time she rode her bicycle was, there was nothing Quinn wanted more that year than a brand new, shiny scooter. She'd clip out the weekly ads from the newspaper and place them beside her mother's cereal bowl each morning. And unlike the pony fiasco of three years before, Quinn was fairly certain that her mother would be actually listening to her this time.
At her birthday party, many multi-colored packages were scattered throughout the room, from well-meaning classmates – or their mothers, more likely, seeing as how she wouldn't have invited some of them herself. There was one that appeared as though it could be what she wanted, so she tore into the packaging eagerly, ripping it to shreds. Inside the wrapping lay a scooter, a pink ribbon wrapped around the handles. Not a new, shiny one from the store, but instead, one that had been dulled over time, perhaps, loved by someone else at one time.
Artie blanched and looked away, almost as though he was going to be sick to his stomach.
It was only later that evening, after everyone else had gone home and she lazily spun the blue and white speckled wheels that she realized there was a name was engraved on the bottom.
The scooter, like countless pony figurines purchased by a well-meaning mother years before, ended up gathering dust in her closet. Somehow, it had lost its luster.
When she turned twelve, she wanted makeup.
Santana had been the one to suggest it to her – one day, in the school restroom, she cornered Quinn against a sink and brandished what appeared to be a pocket-sized torture device of some sort, all black and bristly. "This," she said, in a half-sneering voice, "is mascara. If you want the boys to notice you –"
Quinn arched an eyebrow and began to inch away. "My mother –"
"Screw what your mother thinks," Santana said, waving her hand dismissively and rifling through her purse, "I think this shade of pink would bring out your lips."
"Fine," Quinn said, grabbing the tube from Santana's hand and swiping it across her upper and lower lips in two quick strokes, "do I look presentable now?"
"It's a start. Find your sister's makeup, and then we'll talk."
She raided her sister's vanity that night. For being a senior in high school, Wendy Fabray didn't have much in the way of makeup – the only things she could find were a pink and green tube that, upon closer examination, was the "mascara" thing Santana had referred to earlier, a crusty tub of glittery purple lip gloss, and a powdery substance that stained the pads of her fingers a light pink.
It was better than nothing, but Santana's mildly disgusted reaction the next morning when presented with the findings spoke volumes – "shit, Quinn, this is growing mold," she said with a disapproving sneer, as she dropped the lip gloss into the trash can.
During English class, Quinn felt herself getting poked between her shoulders with a folded-up sheet of paper. She grabbed the note and read it inside her textbook – it was written in Santana's distinctive gel pen, in a reasonable imitation of Quinn's own handwriting: an impeccably researched list of makeup, subdivided by color, brand and variety, with the title of "Quinn's Birthday List."
Only after she finished reading the note did she wonder for the first time how Santana knew about all this stuff to begin with. Hadn't they just been playing with dolls the summer before?
She pinned the list to the bulletin board, next to a flyer about a church rummage sale, and avoided her father's disapproving gazes over dinner for the next few weeks.
She was going to be twelve; it was time for her to begin to show it. This was the first step.
As she made her way to the kitchen on her birthday, she saw a small pile of gift-wrapped presents sitting in the living room, all various sizes and shapes, decorated with festive ribbons. The pile had shrunk over the years, as her wishes became smaller and more expensive.
It took all of her willpower for her not to tear open all of her presents before the last bites of blueberry pancakes and bacon were over. When she got home from school, she stole a glance at her birthday cake before running upstairs. The anticipation was suffocating.
By the time her father came home from work and the four of them shared a quiet birthday dinner, her anticipation had died down somewhat. Instead of ripping the wrapping paper to shreds, she gently guided her finger along the folds, snapping off the tape and creasing the paper back into place as soon as she was done unwrapping her gifts. There was the CD she had told her sister she wanted, and a new stereo to play it on, and a pink blouse – she had an identical one in white, but wanted the pink one as well.
It was the last present that looked to be the one she wanted, and as she opened it up, a small blue cosmetic bag fell into her grasp.
Inside was a tube of flavored lip gloss – "strawberries, your favorite, Quinny," her mother said with a smile - and a bottle of glittery blue nail polish. The only indication that her – no, Santana's, she mentally amended – list had even been taken into consideration was that the final item was a small tin of rouge.
She thanked her parents and said good night, and went upstairs, stashing the lip gloss and nail polish in an empty shoe box and shoving it under her bed. When Santana would ask at school – and Quinn knew her well enough to know there was no way around it – she'd tell her, and then, Santana would probably dismissively hand wave it.
Besides, Santana would forget about it in a month. Two weeks, if she was lucky.
When she turned fifteen, she wanted everything to stay as it was.
It wasn't that she didn't have tangible things she wanted – it was that she already had everything she could ever want. Her family adored her, she had a small gaggle of friends, and as she fluttered her fingers along the edge of her Cheerios skirt, she was the cheerleading captain after an unfortunate incident involving the former captain, a few of her cohorts, and a particularly scandalous MySpace video. After ascending to the title, she had also earned the title of McKinley High's Queen Bee. She was at the top of the world, and everything she could ever want was within her grasp. What more could a girl ever ask for?
The vanilla cake with the hand-piped pink frosting, the one that always caught her eye in the bakery window, sat in front of her. Fifteen tiny flames illuminated the room and the faces around her in a smoky orange light. She'd have one small slice, forgo the rest – she didn't want to draw the ire of Sue Sylvester, not now.
She blew out the candles, and wished for the next year to be as amazing as the year that had just passed.
When she turned sixteen, she wanted to be normal again.
Every morning when she woke up, she instinctively felt her hands roaming to her stomach – although, as she told herself, she had given birth already, there was no swell to speak of anymore. No piercing wails to break the silence; it'd be Shelby, Shelby would be the one waking up at odd hours of the morning to tend to Beth's every need. Not her, she had given up that right.
Her days were a foggy haze anymore. All she wanted, she mused, was to be normal. What she wouldn't give to go back a year, pretend as though none of it had happened. She'd still be Sue's special pet Cheerio, possibly still a dedicated girlfriend to Finn, if Rachel hadn't gotten her claws into him first, that is.
It didn't even faze her at first that it was her birthday, until Mercedes, wrapped in a soft robe and a towel around her hair, came out of the bathroom. "Happy birthday!" she said, enveloping Quinn in a hug. Upon seeing Quinn's startled reaction, she hastily added, "Today is your birthday, isn't it?"
Quinn blinked. "I guess it is," she said, after a moment of hesitation, "I hadn't thought about it."
Mercedes nodded. "Hurry and get dressed. Class starts in forty-five minutes."
She really, really didn't want to be at school that day. The school lunch tasted even more bland than normal – and as she poked morosely at what appeared to have been tater tots in a previous life, she wondered if it was worth bothering with the rest of her classes.
Feigning normalcy, when all she wanted to do was curl up in her own bed at her own home and stare at the ceiling for hours, was hard work. She could go back, she could take her mother up on the offer to move back home - but, as she told her mother, after the whole birth thing was over and she could think in things other than panted screams, "I've moved enough for one school year."
The offer stood indefinitely, but she was unsure of whether or not she'd take her up on it.
The rest of the day passed in what seemed to be seconds instead of minutes, and as the final bell rang to release her from physics and head back to the Joneses' for another afternoon in which she would pointedly avoid the subject of birthdays, cakes, parties or anything related to such topics, she felt her phone vibrating with a new text message.
"meet me in the glee room in 10 - m"
She threw her physics textbook into her locker and made her way over to the room that had become somewhat of a surrogate home-away-from-home the past year. There was no need for rehearsal, not anymore, not with their dreams of nationals smashed; she spent most of the walk over puzzling over why Mercedes would want her to come.
The room was dark, and she hesitantly opened the door. "Hello?" she called out, tiptoeing in and leaving the door open. "Mercedes? You there?"
Someone coughed - she thought it sounded like Kurt's cough, but she wasn't entirely sure - and then, a burst of song. "Happy birthday to you."
The lights came on, and she turned to see Emma standing by the light switch with a smile, and in front of her was the entirety of the people she had grown to consider - if not friends, at least acquaintances - smiling at her as they sang. A small table was set up with what appeared to be cupcakes frosted in a Cheerios color scheme, unlit candles stuck in at strange angles.
"Happy birthday to you."
Will began to light the candles as Mercedes and Puck each took one of Quinn's hands and walked over to the table.
"Happy birthday, dear Quinn."
She took in the faces of the people surrounding her, and sucked in a deep breath. Each of them had changed her life, to some degree - from flipping her world upside down like Puck did, to edging her into asserting herself like Santana did a few years before, to the effect Artie had on her life without even realizing it, and that was only scratching the surface of what each of them had done for her.
"Happy birthday to you!"
Tina leaned in, close enough to Quinn where she could almost smell whatever body spray it was that Tina used, and said, in a low whisper, "Make a wish, Quinn."
Quinn bit her lip and blew out the candles in one solid breath.
It was a new kind of normal, she thought to herself as they divided up the cupcakes and laughed and celebrated, but she figured it might just continue to work. At least for another year.