Inspiration hit me while I was listening to Love The Way You Lie by Eminem and Rihanna (a song I have a love/hate relationship with. It is also highly overused, but whatever. Even though this really doesn't have much to do with the song… I'll stop now). Enjoy!
fate wrapped in paper or plastic
They see each other for the first time in five years in aisle seven of the local IGA. He's picking up a jar of peanut butter when she reaches underneath him for a different brand. He feels foolish for staring just because she has the exact same color hair as her, and then he realizes that it is her.
They exchange pleasantries like old acquaintances, even though they were always a bit more than that. They're older and ideally wiser, though it doesn't feel like it. Because of their past, people thought they'd somehow stick together. Is it fate that they end up in the same town all over again? The same grocery store?
Noah gave up on fate a long time ago when she walked away from him, the seed of doubt planted the moment their baby disappeared. Quinn thinks fate is reserved for the privileged. Since she started sinning more than praying, she decided she wasn't good enough to deserve any kind of fate.
He tries to ignore the fact that there's a ring on her finger. She pulls on her sleeves and wonders if her make up is still hiding the black and blue on her face.
They were always so good at pretending.
They meet again two weeks later, this time in the freezer section. She's wearing a high turtleneck even though it's starting to warm up. He wants to know why she has strawberries in her basket since she's allergic to them. She replies that her fiancé likes them. Oh.
"Who's the lucky guy anyway?"
"His name is Michael. He's the head of a company in the city."
Her parents love Michael. He's an angel sent from heaven to save their blasphemous daughter from sins. He goes to church, has a good job, knows how to mingle with high society folk. Everything they could ever want for her.
She'd like to peel off her layers and scream, show them just what they really want for her.
It's what he's supposed to say. Growing up means letting people go. He thought he let her go a while ago. So why is there such a pull?
"Thank you, Noah."
Her shy smile is infectious. He remembers why the idea of being a father all those years ago didn't seem so bad. When you have someone like that with you, everything's easier.
"You can call me Puck."
She met Michael a few months before her twenty third birthday. She'd graduated from Notre Dame. He'd graduated from Harvard. Her parents knew him through friends and set them up at a dinner party.
She wishes she could say it was love at first sight, because at least that would make explaining the whole mess a bit easier. But it wasn't that way at all. He was nice enough. She'd probably say charming, but almost in an underhanded way, like he was simply manipulating you the entire time without you realizing it until later.
But that's what Michael does. He manipulates people.
It started out like you'd expect it to. They went on a few dates because she wanted to make her parents happy. He showered her with gifts and compliments, weekend trips to his family's summer house on the lake. It was all quite comfortable, until he asked her to move in with him.
She doesn't know why she said yes, except maybe because it felt like she had to. What else would she do? If she turned him down, her parents would be so disappointed. She was a college graduate struggling to pay off her loans, look for a job, and find a house. What more could she ask for?
Besides, it's only temporary. She can break it off whenever she wants.
That's when he starts to get angry without warning. He likes to throw things. Eventually, he starts throwing her. She knows it's wrong, but somehow she can't bring herself to tell anyone.
Maybe it will get better. But it keeps happening again and again. She fights back and threatens to leave, he apologizes, she stays. It's a cycle and she doesn't know how to get out.
Eventually, she stops fighting back. She lets him get angry without protest, lets him hit her as many times as he wants and still cleans up the stains in the carpet afterward. Lets him drag her to bed without a word.
Six months into it he proposes to her in front of their entire slew of family and friends. How can she say no?
It's not like she's trying to get away anymore, anyway. He knows he has her. The diamond ring now resting on her finger only symbolizes that.
Her mother cried and her father slapped him on the back and welcomed him to the family. She stood still and tried not to wince as her parents hugged her and brushed against her mangled shoulder. They're desperately looking for someone to redeem their daughter from her apparent path to hell. She doesn't understand why they try so hard. It's not like he can change her.
Well, of course he can. He already has. Just not into anything heaven-worthy.
They meet for the third time in the grocery store, wondering if this is becoming a habit. It's late at night and the place is practically deserted. He's looking for ice cream. She's in a rush and desperately needs milk and won't explain why. Her hair is frazzled and her eyes are red, fresh coat of mascara perfectly in place with a string of pearls to match.
Stressed. She's just stressed.
As she's reaching for the lowfat one percent, her shirt sleeve rides up and he spots a painted black and blue.
It seems almost impossible. Quinn's not that kind of girl. She'd walk out on a guy before he ever laid a hand on her… wouldn't she?
"Are you okay?"
She looks up. Smiles. Adjusts her sleeve.
It's that face again. That face she always used whenever she was trying to please someone, or lie, a face he got to know well. He could never forget that face. It made him want to kick himself.
"Are you sure?"
Her face doesn't falter like it would in any other cliché story. There aren't any cracks in her deception. She's too good for that.
"Puck. Don't try to meddle with things you'll never understand."
She hurries away with her milk, eyes downcast. He forgets about his ice cream and goes home, lying awake, thinking.
If that douchebag is hurting her, he'll strangle him with his bare hands.
He decides you don't have to be in a shitty place (like his dad) to be an asshole. Some people just are. The rich guys are just better at hiding because it's easy to hide behind money.
He also thinks maybe fate is there to save people from the wrong path, and walking away from fate only leads to even more shit.
Well. Maybe fate just came a-calling.
The fourth time she's sitting in her car in the parking lot trying to regain her composure. Her mascara and eye liner is running everywhere and her face and neck sting like the devil. There will definitely be a bruise in the morning. She left the house so fast she forgot to bring a jacket.
Quinn doesn't know why she's here, besides the fact that she had nowhere else to go. Maybe if she brings home groceries, Michael won't be so upset…
The florescent lights of the store outline his figure as he lights up a cigarette. She opens her door and watches as he leans against the side of the building, taking a drag. Her footsteps echo across the pavement.
"What happened to you?" he almost sounds worried, though she isn't sure why. Apparently the bruises already started to appear. She can't see them in the dark. Or maybe he's only alarmed by her make up.
"You shouldn't smoke," she says softly, staring at the bumps in the brick wall, "It's bad for you."
He blows out a stream of smoke before grinding the cigarette into the tar, reaching over and lifting her face up to the light. Gently, his fingers brush against her neck.
"Nice artwork you got here."
Maybe he won't notice the faint shape of fingers.
"Any chance this handiwork is by your darling fiancé-"
He gives her a look, eyes piercing in the light, "I'm just worried-"
He stuffs a scrap of paper with his address into her palm, "In case you need me."
She doesn't say anything. He watches her drive away until her tail lights disappear from view.
Michael just gets angry sometimes. He loves her. It's just complicated.
Except these are just excuses. She should know. She has experiences with excuses. And lies. Lots of lies.
Quinn hates every minute of the day she has to spend with him. She hates having to talk to him pleasantly, hates covering up, hates having sex with him without any say like some kind of cheap prostitute. This isn't the kind of life she imagined for herself.
But if she left… what if she never found anyone else?
What if she doesn't deserve anything better?
The fifth time they meet, it isn't at the grocery store. She knocks on his door close to eleven at night with a black eye and a bleeding cut on her cheek.
"Hi," she says quietly, timidly stepping into the room. Another thing he noticed. Before she was always soft and quiet out of politeness or regal-ness or some other shit he never understood. Now it's out of fear.
"I'm going to fucking kill him."
She sits on the edge of the bathtub while he dabs at her cut, playing with the hem of her shirt.
"I'm sorry for bothering you. I didn't know where else to go."
"It's fine. I'm glad you're here."
That's new. She can't remember what it's like to have someone want her.
"So how long has this been going on?"
She scoffs a little, "Since I met him."
He places a band aid on her cheek and holds ice wrapped in a towel to her eye, hands clenched into fists.
"You're getting angry. Please don't get angry."
"Why? Are you afraid I'm going to hit you?"
She takes the ice off her face and stands up. He wonders if he went too far, immediately regretting it.
"No. You're better than him."
He follows her out into the kitchen. She slips on her jacket and picks up her purse.
"I'm sorry, Quinn. Please stay."
"I can't. Michael's waiting for me."
"But I don't-"
"Thank you, Puck," she kisses him on the cheek and steps out into the hallway, "You're sweet. But you can't fix this."
She's gone in an instant. He stays awake all night, scheming to go to her house and take her away, except he doesn't know where she lives. He only knows where she shops for groceries.
If that bastard kills her, he'll never forgive himself.
The sixth time he sees her she's picking out tomatoes in the produce section. He's not really shopping for anything, just waiting for her. He's been waiting for her since the night she showed up at his door, hoping she wasn't hurt or trapped or…
Well, he's going to figure out to stop it. Somehow.
Her cut's healed into a simple scab, and her black eye is yellowed and hidden beneath foundation.
She nods in his direction, bagging the tomatoes and moving on to peppers, "Puck."
"So. How've you been?"
She stops short. Does he expect an honest answer? How do normal people answer that question? Do they really say how they've been? How can they? No one wants to bother anyone else with their problems.
She rolls her eyes, "Yes, really."
Then he grabs her arm and squeezes, and she lets out a small yelp.
"Don't sound fine to me."
"Maybe that's because you just pulled on my arm."
"It wasn't that hard."
"I have sensitive skin."
"Yeah, sensitive from the bruises maybe."
"Would you stop trying to be a hero?"
"Would you stop trying to protect him? You're worth more than this. The Quinn Fabray I know wouldn't put up with this shit!"
She stares at him. How could he know anything about her worth? He doesn't know what she's worthy of.
"You don't know me anymore."
Did he ever really know her in the first place? He'd like to think so. He just knows this isn't the girl who fought him tooth and nail over just about everything.
"I'd like to. Come visit?"
It's a stupid ploy to get her out of the house, she knows that. Although she can't say she's unwilling. Just frightened. If Michael ever found out, she'd be a dead girl walking.
Still… the temptation's there. She's missed him, or rather, missed having anything that defines her as a person and not his.
"Michael goes out of town this weekend. For business."
His sly grin is infectious, just like old times. She prays to a God she isn't sure even listens to her that this will all work out. A tiny part of her can't help wondering if he's really here to save her, as if she deserves it.
"I'll see you tomorrow night."
Quinn decides that maybe she's privileged enough to have a fate, and maybe fate works in mysterious ways.
Maybe fate dragged her down the wrong path just to show her how lucky she was to have him.
Only now, she has to figure out how to get back to the safe place, the good place, on her own. Hopefully, she'll make it out alive.
They end up having sex. Neither of them is very surprised.
They chalk it up to being part of their history, having a baby together and whatnot. It's all they know together. But at the same time, it's all they know period. Puck's used to sleeping with people out of choice. Quinn's used to it out of forced habit.
They've both forgotten how to please someone without taking them to bed. Somehow, it works. They feel needed. Wanted.
She likes being in control. She likes feeling something other than disgust. She likes the way he skims gently over her welts, careful not to hurt her in any way. She likes how he holds her afterwards, eyes welling up with anger over the fact that her naked body is far from the pristine white it used to be, now marred with red, purples, yellows, and blacks.
As terrifying as it is, she likes having someone know. She likes having someone to care.
He is an escape, if she is ever brave enough to truly take it.
She loves him all over again, even if she isn't sure she ever really stopped, or if she ever loved him in the first place. It's not like she understands those types of feelings anymore.
He knows he loves her, and he probably never stopped. Seeing her injuries only makes him even more protective. Even more worried, even more angry. Even. More. Everything.
The most frustrating part? He can't just steal her away. She has to walk away by herself.
He doesn't want to think about it anymore. So he holds her as they drift off to sleep, something neither of them have done in a long time.
When they wake up in the morning, it'll all be different. They should cherish the moment.
Fate works in mysterious ways.
But why did it have to be this way?
The vase shatters as it hits the floor, the broken glass unable to settle his anger. He's reaching for her again, slamming her into the wall, reopening the welts from a few days ago. Her teeth rattle inside her skull and she tastes blood in her mouth, blood falling from her lips, pain erupting through her face. Her face. Why does he always have to punch her in the face? His grip on her shoulders is too tight. All she sees is his anger, anger everywhere, and she doesn't know why but it's starting to register that this is wrong again.
She still can't fight back. But at least it's a start.
He pulls on her hair and sends her straight to the floor, straight into the remaining shards of the vase. Her arms catch her fall instead of her face, something she is grateful for.
Another quick jab to the ribs (she swears she hears something crack this time) and he's gone. The sudden, eerie silence is deafening.
She sits up slowly, eyes fixated on her blood now seeping into the carpet. Well that's going to be a bitch to clean up.
No. She's not cleaning it up this time.
First things first. Quinn attempts to pull the biggest pieces of glass out of her arms. They broke in fairly big sections, so she hopes she's okay. There isn't much she can do about her back, and she certainly doesn't want to look at her face. She might lose her nerve.
She grabs her bag she hid in the linen closet and a paper towel for her split lip in the kitchen, making sure to slam the door on her way out.
Her back and arms sting and her face doesn't feel much better, but she manages to make it to his house without dying or driving off the road. (Once upon a time expressions like that used as exaggerations would've been funny. Now that they're reality, they've lost their humor)
Puck opens the door like he was expecting her (probably was), and the look on his face almost makes her lose it and start bawling right there.
She doesn't. The salt from her tears would only make her face hurt more.
He takes her into the bathroom for what seems like the thousandth time and she explains her injuries to him. To his credit, he stays fairly calm.
"Maybe we should go to the hospital."
"No. No hospital."
"They ask too many questions."
He'd like to argue that at least someone does, but decides to save it for another day.
"Quinn, I'm no doctor. What if you got infected from the glass? When was the last time you had a Tetanus shot? Or what if you have a concussion? Or broken ribs?"
"I'll be fine-"
"You know, I'm going to ban that word from your vocabulary. Does any of this look fine to you?"
She looks down at her feet, "No."
"At least we agree on something. Turn around so I can get your back."
She obeys, moving an ice pack against her face, "Thank you."
He sighs as he dabs rubbing alcohol onto her cuts. She winces, "I just don't want to see him hurt you anymore."
She pulls her shirt back down after her finishes, adjusting the bandages on her arms. Her mouth stopped bleeding. Now it's just swollen. She can already feel the entire left side of her face swelling into some ugly bruise.
"You're not going back there."
She doesn't want to. She never wanted to. She was just too afraid to stay away. But now, she's packed her things. She's walked out. This is the hardest part. He makes it easier.
They're tangled in sheets, her naked body pressed up against his. She's missed feeling like this. Wanting someone with every part of her and having them want her back. Even though her entire body is sore, when she's with him, everything hurts a little less. When he looks at her, at all of her, she doesn't feel ashamed. She feels loved. Protected.
Could this be what she deserves?
"Do you love him?" he whispers.
She sinks deeper into his arms.
She tosses her engagement ring over a bridge.
It doesn't make a sound as it hits the water.
They're living in an apartment halfway across the country. It's been almost two months. Michael hasn't found her yet. Hopefully he never will.
Except he's still there in every way. Most of her bruises have faded, but things like this will never fade.
He doesn't say anything, just simply stares at her over his coffee.
Quinn and Puck used protection most of the time. Quinn and Michael didn't.
"What if it isn't yours?"
Odds are, it probably isn't. He knows that just as well as she does.
"Doesn't matter. I love both of you anyway."
She presses charges in August. Gets called to court in December. Gives birth in January (he's beautiful, even if half of him may be part of someone awful). Gets married in May (he's beautiful, too, and she's happy, finally).
The bruises heal. Slowly, so does her heart.
Maybe this is their fate. At least it's a damn good one.