Here's the last chapter. It feels a little rushed but I think it's okay. I hope you enjoy the final installment!
"That's rich, Q."
"Come on, S," Quinn pleads. "I'm stuck here."
"Fine," Santana sighs dramatically, as if it's a careless and ridiculous waste of her time. "I'll pick you up. After I pick up Britt. And breakfast for me and her. And maybe get my car cleaned—"
"I can have someone else drive me," Quinn grounds out impatiently. "Because you're so busy."
"Nah, it's okay."
"Don't make us late for class," the blonde orders, and hangs up before Santana can reply. Stealing some of Mandy's coffee on the counter when her back is turned, and wandering into the living room, Mandy finds her mug missing and curses quietly. Following her sister, she sees Quinn packing her bag, squinting agitatedly at the sunlight through the window. Mandy smirks.
"Still hungover, sis?"
"Yes. I tried to convince Mom that she had a really vivid dream but it didn't work," Quinn mutters mutinously.
"Only idiots like you would fall for that one."
"You need new insults, Quinn. I have plenty to work with," Mandy grins. "I can start calling you President Lincoln, or First Officer Fabray of the Seven Seas. Nice, huh?"
"Oh my God," Quinn grumbles, embarrassed. "Please let that go."
"What?" Quinn jerks her head so fast she nearly gets whiplash. "Really?"
"I have a condition," Mandy remarks, retrieving her coffee. "Not too bad, and I'll stop right away."
"What is it? Laundry?"
"You have to kiss Rachel," Mandy says simply.
"Take it or leave it."
"I can't just go up and kiss her," Quinn protests. "She's still mad and I don't think she even likes me. She doesn't know yet, if at all."
Mandy grins. "Not knowing means sort of. Which means you two can totally go—"
"I'm not listening to this," Quinn splutters, blocking her ears.
"Fine," Mandy yells as Quinn runs out the door, "don't forget to be honest with her, Abe!"
When Quinn's gone to wait outside for Santana, Mandy types a quick message on her phone.
Alice has left the building. White Rabbit, you're up.
"Thanks, San," Quinn says, settling into the backseat. Santana continues to text on her phone.
"She says you're welcome," Brittany offers happily when Santana doesn't reply, well-versed in Santanaspeak, which usually means reciting politeness when Santana refuses to give any. Santana rolls her eyes, stowing her phone away. Stupid code names. Stupid Berry. Stupid Quinn.
"I should be thanking you," Santana chirps, flipping off another driver with a saccharine smile. "I'm Head Cheerio now."
"If you two don't mind me asking, where are your uniforms?"
"Britt," Santana interrupts smoothly, while Brittany nods, realizing her mistake. "Remember I told you I organized a day where we could wear anything we wanted? Quinn, I decided to give the squad a much earned a day off. There isn't a game, so there's no point to be cold at school, you know?"
"Wow," Quinn answers, impressed. "That's really nice of you."
"I've turned over a new leaf," Santana lies. Brittany grins.
"So, uh, that's a nice sweatshirt, Britt," Quinn notices, confused. "Why is it so big?"
"I like it like this," Brittany says before Santana could stop her. "It's comfy."
Santana drives the three of them to McKinley with the radio blaring, as her phone sends a mass text.
Latina Rabbit here, Alice is on the move. Berry, if you're reading this, I'm going to kill you.
"She's on the way," Rachel urges. "Noah, is Phase One ready?"
"She's ready," Puck snickers. "I gave her all the dip I had and my mom's Nyquil."
"I would scold you for that, but if it keeps her happy..."
"You can 'scold' me all you want, Rach," Puck flirts, waggling his eyebrows.
"Not now! She's coming, let's go."
Puck saunters off toward the drop-point and Rachel hitches a smile on her lips as Santana leads Brittany and Quinn through the front doors, looking haughty and annoyed. Santana silently motions for Brittany to distract Quinn, and approaches Rachel with a scowl adorned on her face.
"I'm offended, Berry."
"You promised to kill me," Rachel points out, hands on her hips.
"I can't believe you gave me the codename 'White Rabbit'," Santana persists. "I'm a minority student. How do you know there isn't black rabbits? Or Latino rabbits? Or Chinese rabbits?"
"It correlates with the story and my plan, not racism," Rachel hisses. "It wasn't intentional."
"Whatever. I'm just yanking your chain. What's next?"
"Your job is to escort Quinn to the choir room. Puck is already there to keep them both inside."
"This plan is genius," Santana admits grudgingly before stalking off to find Brittany and Quinn.
Quinn looks a little lost as Brittany babbles about lawn gnome conspiracies until Santana returns.
"Hey, Q. Come with me."
"Okay," Quinn agrees, confused. The trio walks leisurely through the halls, which part obediently for Santana, and Quinn becomes even more bewildered along the way. The jocks have their jackets zipped up, the Cheerios are wearing unflatteringly bulky sweatshirts, and everyone seems to hide their chests from Quinn's view (not that she's looking, it's just a noticeable trend). Puck is standing outside the choir room when they arrive, whistling.
"Quinn," Puck greets. Santana and Brittany hover silently behind Quinn, waiting.
"Have you seen Rachel?" Quinn asks, having not seen Santana's discussion with the diva only minutes before. "I need to talk to her."
"I think she might be practicing in there," Puck says, when the four hear the clank of piano keys.
"I'll see you later, Quinn," Santana says, "go ahead and talk to Berry."
Quinn sidesteps Puck without further comment and goes inside, and Puck carefully locks the door from the outside.
"Give them a half hour," Santana commands, and Puck nods, grabbing a chair from an empty classroom and pulling out his Nintendo DS from his pocket.
Santana stares, and Brittany giggles.
"What? It's going to take a long time and I'll be bored," Puck insists. "Gotta play my Mario."
Santana rolls her eyes, and extends her hand to Brittany, and both disappear down the hallway.
Meanwhile, Quinn enters the choir room and is dismayed to find not Rachel Berry sitting at the piano, but a familiar blonde, far shorter and with a distinctive Southern twang to her sentences.
"You," Quinn mutters.
"Me," April Rhodes exclaims delightedly.
"Why are you here?"
"Streisand called me...or no, it was the Puckasaurus, but it was Streisand's idea," April says, and distractedly gestures to the door. "You're locked in here, Q, by the way. It's all part of the plan."
"Okay, Joker," Quinn grumbles, seeing Puck guarding the door with his back to her. "Why are you here? Since I can't leave, Rachel called you?"
"Yep. Heard through the grapevine that you've been headin' down the wrong path."
"The 'wrong path'?"
"The pills," April drawls, looking certainly as if she was restraining herself from asking for a few, but doesn't. "It's not a pleasant road, and believe me, I know 'em all. Then Santana's heard from your sister that you were downing the giggle juice. Trust me, getting hammered isn't the way to spend your time in high school. I messed up, I let myself do what's fun instead of what's right. Quinn, getting wasted and high as a kite might be a grand ole time, but when it becomes a habit, it's hard to kick it."
"Uh huh," Quinn mutters.
April sighs, patting her hand. "They called me to knock some sense into you, silly! Nobody wants you to turn out like me. At first, when the Puckerone called me up, I thought it was for a booty call. But when he explained the situation, I jumped at the chance to stop somebody from screwing up like I did."
"That's...surprisingly generous of you, Ms. Rhodes," Quinn offers.
"Call me April," April trills. "Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. Don't use drugs or alcohol when you're down in the dumps. Talk it out. Talk to somebody, anybody. Your mom, Streisand, Puckasaurus, you can even talk to me! Just don't let yourself spiral like I did when I was here."
"Okay," Quinn nods. In April's twisted way, it makes sense. And she wants to. She wants to open up, especially to Rachel, about everything. Today. Where is Rachel?
"Good...and since we'll be here for another twenty minutes or so," April whispers conspiratorially. "Do you have any of those pills with you? I could use another pick-me-up."
"Then my lesson is officially learned," April applauds, pleased. "So...how's Will lately?"
"That man is gorgeous," April gushes. "I could think about him all day..."
Quinn silently counts each minute until she can escape, turning red at every inappropriate and dirty dream April recounts about Mr. Schuester.
She really doesn't need to know.
Alice officially distracted by Caterpillar. White Queen, what's next in your awful mission?
Excellent work. Phase One is complete.
Berry, I swear...
Santana, I am merely keeping to my plan. Do not offer comments unless they are useful.
Yes. Now get going, you silly Rabbit!
I'll punch you later. By the way, Britt is now the Rabbit. I'm picking the Queen of Hearts.
I made a detailed Powerpoint on this! Darn it, fine...and if you must, avoid the nose.
"April Rhodes," Quinn remarks when Puck unlocks the door. Puck cracks a grin.
"April Rhodes," he muses. Quinn doesn't appear to be angry with her 'intervention' and simply appears to take it in stride.
"She explained to me all the nasty things she'd do to Mr. Schuester."
"Yup," Quinn admits. "I won't be able look him in the eyes anymore. I just can't."
"She's a goddess," Puck says dreamily.
"I have to get to Chemistry. See you later?"
"Sure," Puck replies, and watches Quinn turn left down the corridor and vanish.
Dialing a number on speed dial ("I'm your fellow Jew, as you say, I deserve a speed dial") and lifting the device to his ear, Puck waits for Rachel to pick up, drumming his fingers on his knee.
"Red King," Rachel greets.
"White Queen," Puck rolls his eyes. "Honestly, this is so lame. I'm with Santana on this."
"I didn't ask for your input, Noah," Rachel chides, aloof. "Has Quinn gone to class?"
"Good. Are our moles installed in the classroom?"
Puck makes his way to Quinn's classroom, where Tina sits in the back with Kurt, as both meet his eyes and nod once.
"Dodo's there, and so is...Mad Hatter?"
"Excellent. They'll get Quinn and we'll able be ready soon."
"Why is Tina called Dodo again?"
Rachel sighs heavily, like it's a personal insult. "Dodo stutters. Tina used to stutter. Comprende?"
"I'm failing Spanish, you know. And good choice for Hummel. All those prissy hats he wears."
"I don't care!" Rachel shouts so loud Puck blanches and holds the phone away. "Noah Puckerman, you will not ruin this for me! I worked for hours on this plan and if you mess it up, I swear to God you'll regret it! I'll tell your mother about your escapades with cougars! I'll tell your sister every swear word you utter in a lady's presence! I'll tell Rabbi Greenberg—"
"Relax, alright!" Puck hisses. "Calm the fuck down."
"That's one for Hannah," Rachel warns.
"I'm going, I'm going...where I am off to next?"
"The Cheerio copy room, and ignore Ms. Sylvester's sign on the door. Go to the computer," Rachel instructs. "When you get there, open the fake credentials I sent to your email, print them out, and file them away in the Main Office cabinet, 'Substitutes'. She'll be our 'supervisor' when we need it."
"Got it. Ten-four."
"The proper term is 'over and out', Noah. Please adhere to proper code and my guidelines."
"Over and out, for the love of God."
"It seems our gym teacher has taken a nasty fall," Figgins mutters. "We'll call a substitute."
(A nasty fall included a narrowly avoided run-in with a wheelchair bound boy, unfortunately swerving to plunge backwards down a flight of stairs, throwing out the teacher's back. Tragic.)
The secretary nods, and pulls out the first file, reading the applicant's name.
She dials the written number, and sometime later, a pretty blonde waltzes into the office, smiling.
"Hey, I'm the substitute," Amanda Fabray says brightly. "Bring on those gym classes!"
The secretary gives a rigid, disapproving smile, and hands her the attendance sheet.
"Great," Mandy exclaims. "You have a good day."
"You too," and when Mandy's already skipped out of the room, the secretary adds, "hooligan."
"How long did Rachel slave over this plan?"
Tina pauses in her notes. "A plan of this direction, meticulousness, and insanity? Four hours. Probably five. Rachel's adamant about this one. She threw herself into it."
Kurt eyes Quinn, sitting in the front of the room, dutifully paying attention to the lesson. "I see."
"She deserves it, you know," Tina muses, also looking at Quinn. "She should be happy."
"And we'll make her happy," Kurt says, and promptly stands up. "Quinn Fabray, you are a cheater!"
Phase Two, underway, Tina texts.
Superb. Do you know what to do?
Yes. We'll get her there.
Quinn, the entire class, and the teacher whirl around in confusion.
"What?" Quinn blurts out. "Kurt, what are you talking about?"
"Mr. Hummel, what is the meaning of this?" The teacher demands.
Kurt tosses his head dramatically, and points to Quinn as if she's a fiend. "I can't stand this anymore! I saw Quinn Fabray cheat on our last Chemistry test! There! I said it!"
"What are you talking about, Hummel?" Quinn yells, red-faced. "What the actual fuck?"
"Ms. Fabray!" The teacher exclaims, as the rest of class sits, bewildered.
"Quinn, I will not help you accomplish a perfect grade with less than responsible means!" Kurt shrieks. "If you cheat on an examination, I will be forced to report it! You are a fucking liar and a bitch for even trying to! I will not keep your cheating a secret!"
"Relax, Damian," Quinn sneers. "Slow your roll."
"Both of you, stop the shenanigans this instant!"
"Stop being the Queen Bitch, Quinn!" Kurt continues in a wail. "I fucking hate you!"
"That's it, both of you to the principal's office!" The teacher commands, disgusted.
"What?" Quinn shouts. "I didn't do anything!"
"I'm not going anywhere with that whore!" Kurt screams.
"Go or I'll be forced to call security!" The teacher bellows.
Quinn rolls her eyes and stalks out, Kurt hurries after her. The teacher straightens her dress.
"Now, as I was saying, electrons can be shared between atoms in several different ways..."
Tina meekly asks to go to the bathroom and is allowed. When writing her slip, she signals the rest of her class, who nod obediently, not as 'bewildered' as they originally appeared. The person closest to the door, a Cheerio, shifts slightly, getting ready. Tina finds Kurt and Quinn in a heated discussion near the lunchroom.
"Wait, you didn't mean any of that?"
"Of course not," Kurt insists breezily, unapologetic. "I had to get us out of class."
"We have to take you to the gym," Tina interjects, grinning. "Come on."
Before they can move, other students appear from all sides, running out of classrooms. Muffled protests from the teachers are heard over the din of laughter and yelling, and chairs are wedged under doorknobs, locking the teachers inside. Students howl gleefully and sprint as a raucous herd for the gym, and Quinn turns to Tina, mystified, while Kurt waves rudely to the trapped teachers. "What is going on, you two?"
"It's a surprise," Kurt snickers, and holds out his arm for her to take, Tina taking his other.
Quinn, utterly lost for words, sighs and interlocks their arms, where Kurt jovially escorts his two companions to their destination, which reveals to be the gym.
Tina types out a message.
Phase Two, complete. Card soldiers are on the march to Wonderland.
Fantastic work, Dodo.
The Mad Hatter and I are on the move, bringing Alice as you ordered.
Good. And Tina, I think you're the only glee club member who complies with my codenames.
They're really fun, Rachel! Anyway, we'll see you soon! I mean, we're en route, White Queen!
"Kurt, I couldn't help but notice your fashion faux pas," Quinn observes. "It's...not you."
Kurt picks nonexistent lint off his father's old college sweatshirt, scowling in distaste. "I know."
They reach the closed doors of the gym, where low giggles are heard. The windows are covered with paper from the inside, and Tina stores her phone safely in her pocket.
"What are we doing here?"
Kurt doesn't ask for permission before holding up a red scarf and tying it around Quinn's eyes.
"It wasn't my idea," he mumbles from somewhere on her right. "Now stop talking."
The gym doors creak and Quinn feels gentle hands on her back, guiding her inside the room. Tina and Kurt close the doors behind them, and two Cheerios cram chairs underneath to lock them from anyone who tries to come in. Quinn feels uneasy at the silence, and all she can hear is the squeak of dozens of sneakers on the wooden floor, light breathing, and a few nervous laughs, before quickly being silenced. Tina unties the blindfold from Quinn's eyes, and she gasps.
"What the hell?"
Emma Pillsbury is reading a pamphlet on panic attacks when Will Schuester practically trips into her room, breathing laboriously and flushed in the face. Emma tactfully ignores the potential germs her ex-fling is spreading with his panting and instead asks what happened to him to cause such an appearance.
"My kids," he gasps, "they...all, all of them...ran out, screaming, and lo-locked me in my room. I-I had to climb out my window, which was mortifying because...I fell on my ankle and had to run a-around the school to the front door...everyone's trapped in their classrooms...then I came here."
"You have to help me free everyone!" Will wheezes.
"Oh! Oh, right, okay."
Emma and Will run out of her office, pulling chairs off classrooms. They manage to free five teachers until they reach the main hallway, slide and fall together with shrieks and swears in a clustered heap on the floor.
Climbing ungainly out of the complaining dog pile, Emma leans against a wall.
"Butter on the floor," a teacher growls. "Known tactic for distraction. Damn it. I know exactly who did this."
"Puckerman," Will supplies tiredly.
"That kid is gonna end up in jail," another teacher adds primly. "We have a bet going."
"How about we focus instead on helping our fellow educators, okay?" Will snaps, struggling to get to his feet with the greasy floors and swollen ankle. Okay, he's annoyed with Puck too—hello, he could have thrown out his back like the idiot gym teacher, and come on, he has to dance for glee club occasionally, he's hip with it like that—but he doesn't approve of teachers insulting the people in his club.
"Leave her," they chorus in unison without any thought, and hobble along to find other teachers.
It's a sea of students standing in the gym, smiling at her. They match, with ugly sweatshirts and hopeful expressions, and unexpectedly, she spots her sister, dressed up like a moron.
"What are you wearing?" She demands into the noiseless room. Mandy grins.
"I'm the gym teacher today!"
Mandy's wearing high socks, shorts, an obnoxious headband, and a similar sweatshirt to the rest of the assembled crowd. Beaming, she lopes over to Quinn's side and makes her sit down on an unnoticed chair, and stands on her right. Rachel steps away from the glee club corner and smiles.
"We organized this gathering for you," Rachel offers.
"Screw that!" Puck calls from the side. "This was all you, Berry!"
Agreeable laughter escapes from the quiet herd, and Quinn sees dozens of nods.
"You brought everyone in here? Why?"
"For you," Rachel repeats, and turns slightly, raising her voice. "Alright, take 'em off!"
Quinn's eyes widen in confusion and alarm as the loud sound of zippers permeates the air, and the sweatshirts are tossed on the floor. Everywhere, on each and every shirt, is a large, red, Q, emblazoned brightly on the different types of fabric. Quinn notices some are spray painted, others are sewn on.
Rachel has her own with a regular T-shirt instead of an animal sweater, and smiles cheerfully.
"I organized this to tell you that you're not alone, Quinn," she says. "It's different from last year, you know. You were the only one pregnant, alone in whole school, and you had to deal with the taunts and insults from everyone here. But this year, we all shared an experience we'll never forget. Jacob affected all of us when he brought a gun to school," Rachel continues. "The twenty-one lost were friends, some were boyfriends and girlfriends. They were Cheerios, jocks, and some were from the AV club."
"Jacob made his home there," Santana picks up when Rachel stops. "He hurt his own friends and ours because he was so angry. He was alone—no one else would even dream of bringing a gun to school. But he was too far gone, too upset because the bullying just kept going. In some ways, consciously or unconsciously, we all let it happen. Jacob was a main center of attention, and many of us allowed it to continue because deep down, we're all scared it could be us tomorrow."
"What we trying to say, Quinn," Artie interjects, "is that it's not all of your fault."
"But it is," Quinn replies softly. "I used to run this school. All bullying was my orders."
"There's a thing called free will, or saying no," Puck counters. "We didn't have to slushie Jacob, but we did anyway. Like Santana said, it was to avoid any bullying on us."
A rumble of agreement sounds from the football and hockey teams.
"We're wearing these Q's for you, Quinn, obviously," a Cheerio who she recognizes to be named Jennifer, "and it means that we understand what you're going through. You blamed yourself for a long time now. Everyone could see you just...letting it get to you. Letting yourself give up and wallow."
Another cheerleader, Emily, chimes in: "You let Jacob get to you, get into your head and mess you up. You know how Coach Sylvester makes us read The Art of War? You didn't remember chapter six: weak points. Jacob knew your weak spot was blaming yourself after he insulted you and threatened Rachel's life. He said that it was all of your fault, and seeing him shoot himself cemented the deal. His death led you to believe you were the sole cause of it."
"Yeah," Mike adds. "If you said no, he would have killed Rachel and then you'd have a real reason to be blamed. Then he would have done the same thing, regardless of what he said. Killing everyone he could, Rachel, and then killing himself, it was perfect to set up the blame on your shoulders. You'd be the only survivor in that room, and if the tape got out, it'd make you look bad for not stopping it."
"Basically," Puck calls impatiently, feeling the need to simplify the conversation, "he was out for revenge, and used you as the scapegoat for the bullying here. By singling you out, you actually started to believe him, and you managed to forget that you didn't do about any bullying in those nine months aside from the Glist."
"Which is why we're starting a campaign for McKinley," Rachel says, and nods to two football players near the bleachers. Picking something off the floor, the two boys walk away from each other, extending a banner to show signatures crammed and squished into any available space.
"It's a pledge to stop bullying," Rachel amends. "We all signed it. Other schools around the country have similar agreements. Mostly, they're successful."
"That doesn't mean we won't have disagreements," Kurt says.
"Or arguments with opposite cliques, because those aren't going away," Santana adds.
"But we will try to be better," David Karofsky promises. "No more slushies."
"Or swirlies," another boy cuts in.
"Rumors have to say, though," Santana interrupts again. "Sorry everyone, but they have to. We'll all get bored without 'em."
"Throwing makeup down the toilet is out too," Brittany nods. "And no more drawings, Quinn!"
Quinn turns crimson as snickers from the girls are quickly muffled. Rachel's also embarrassed.
"I scribbled those out," Quinn squeaks, red as a tomato.
"Just don't do anymore," Brittany warns sternly. "They're really bad pictures of Rachel."
"No problem, Britt," Quinn replies hastily, and feels Mandy's curious gaze on her face.
"She's blushing," Puck yells. "I want to see these pictures!"
"Okay," Rachel claps pointedly amidst laughter, "We have a song to perform!"
The glee club and the band shuffle hurriedly from the side—fearing Rachel's impatience and probable threat of embarrassment she would befall to the slowest parties—so they're standing about ten feet away in front her, and the rest of the school moves in a collective mass, splitting to both sides of the gym. Most wander to sit on the bleachers, as Mandy remains at Quinn's side. Finn steps to the front of the club, smiling sweetly that it makes Quinn think of simpler days, when Finn was her adorable, obedient and dimwitted king and they ruled McKinley with intimidation from her and golden boy charm from him. A monarchy, Quinn realizes. Or a tyranny.
As she watches the band set up to play, and further away, sees Becky Jackson in the middle of a jock collection, the six boys around her smiling genuinely at her when she's talking, and also sees Lauren Zizes in an intense discussion with a few Cheerios about the pros and cons of reading Twilight, Quinn internally admits that maybe she and Santana and even Sue were wrong in the first place about high school. It shouldn't be a monarchy or oligarchy, it should be a democracy.
(For her to then remember that America essentially was a democracy already made her 'epiphany' a little less revolutionary and a lot more obvious. She digresses. Whoever originally believed high school to be a safe place to learn was stupid. But as Rachel said, Jacob's mistake affected them all, creating the democracy that should have existed at McKinley all along.)
"This one's for you, Quinn," Finn interrupts her musings, and nods to the band.
A familiar tune starts, and Quinn successfully manages to suppress an eyeroll—Just the Way You Are, charming, really—and sends Santana a look of death and a firm step on Mandy's foot, who's quietly grinning. Finn leads the club in a soulful, perfect rendition, all wearing happy, satisfied smiles. Rachel's glowing with pride—at her achievement and superior planning, no doubt—and holds Quinn's eyes as the song progresses, and Quinn knows without asking that she and Rachel are okay.
The song ends and Quinn and the entire gym applauds, and Quinn doesn't even realize she's crying until Rachel, having made her way over, brushes away a few tears and holds her hand.
"They're...singing," Emma breathes to the dumbstruck army of teachers, all freshly freed from their classrooms.
"It's all for Quinn Fabray," Emma says, and Will's smile almost looks painful, he's so pleased.
"The entire school's in there," Will replies with his ear against the door, listening to the clapping.
"Shouldn't we let them out?" A teacher demands, but the rest shake their heads.
"No," Will answers. "Let them be. Let's all get a coffee, huh?"
With a final shake of his head, Will follows the partially disgruntled and surprised group of teachers to the teacher's lounge, leaving the students to their tribute to Quinn.
"Finally," Rachel calls over the noise, and the room quiets submissively. "David Karofsky has something to share."
Quinn's eyebrows nearly vanish into her hairline as Karofsky climbs the stage.
Her gaze finds his and he gives a tiny, imperceptible nod, his skin white and looking only a little panicky. She gapes—he's...telling? Everyone?
Karofsky extracts an index card from his jacket, and holds the microphone, slightly unsteadily.
"Hey," he says nervously.
"Hello," Becky Jackson replies automatically into the silence.
"Hi, Dave," Brittany adds from Santana's side, beaming.
"Yo! Karofsky!" A football player yells.
"It's the Fury!" Another boy shouts, and laughter erupts but fades quickly.
When Karofsky sees Quinn's soothing wave from her seat, he relaxes a little, but his anxiety doesn't leave entirely.
"I wanted to...explain a few things...about me," Karofsky admits, and in Quinn's eyes—(maybe Brittany's too, who is oblivious or uncaring to calling the boy by his surname)—becomes Dave from yesterday. "I, uh...haven't been myself lately...since the shooting. It really got to me, like it must've everyone else, stupid idea...uh, it got me thinking about what's going on with me. What I've been...not admitting."
Dave shifts his weight a bit, and glances down at his card.
"I lost my friend, Azimio Adams, that day," Dave says shakily. "It's been a hard time without him...I've known him since I was ten and we were practically brothers...we told each other everything. I...I told Azimio something the day Jacob...shot everyone and I felt like it was my fault, besides the fact that I used to bully him," Dave states, and his eyes, pleadingly, look to Quinn for help, who nods.
Quinn rises from her seat, ignoring Mandy and the glee club's gazes, and stands next to Dave, placing a hand on his forearm. Dave holds the microphone away and mutters something in Quinn's ear, who nods again, smiling encouragingly, and Dave continues with his speech.
"I told Azimio that day that...that I was gay," Dave blurts out. "Because I am. I'm gay."
Kurt promptly falls back into Sam's bewildered arms, shocked, Mandy and Brittany nod (they knew this already), the Cheerios are either surprised or speechless, the jocks are wary and impassive, and Quinn hears Rachel muttering with Kurt, both flabbergasted that their gaydars are 'broken'. Quinn tightens her grip on Dave's forearm, who struggles to find his nerve again in a school known for mocking those like himself, something he used to partake in.
"I thought God was punishing me," Dave offers sadly into the silence. "I thought, because I admitted it to myself and Azimio, that my best friend died because of me. I was raised, like Quinn here. We went to the same church and were brought up to view homosexuality as a sin and a choice, not a faultless orientation. But then I realized that God doesn't punish, he loves. God wouldn't send Jacob to hurt us all—Jacob chose to do that, Jacob chose to murder all those kids. I do take responsibility for the bullying I did to Jacob, but I no longer believe the fact that I am gay to have contributed to the shootings."
Quinn gives him a smile when he looks at her, and she isn't surprised to see Dave relieved.
"Anyway," Dave continues, placing the microphone is its holder, holding Quinn's hand with his right and holding the index card in his left, "I told you all that because of the pledge. I hope the bullying is really gone and that I won't be treated differently because I'm gay. It's still me. And I also made a list of the people I hurt and slushied...so if I forget you and your name isn't on here, I promise you can slushie me too and step on the Fury if you really wanted to."
Quinn snickers amongst the quiet laughter, and Dave squints at the card.
"Quinn, sorry for slushing you that one time and calling you names that had to do with being pregnant...Hummel, Evans, I'm sorry for all those gay jokes—there a little hypocritical now, I guess—Brittany, sorry for calling you stupid more than three times...Santana, I'm sorry for calling you, um, really offensive names like 'woman working the corner' and 'Carmen Sandiego'..."
Quinn lets go of his hand while Dave Karofsky keeps going, emboldened with his apologies. Students Quinn passes are mollified and impressed with the confessing jock. Walking back to her seat, Mandy pats her hand approvingly and Rachel eyes her before leaning down to whisper in the blonde's ear, unintentionally making her shiver.
"That was very admirable of you, Quinn Fabray," Rachel says. "But now, can we talk?"
"Yes," Quinn replies with conviction. "I'm ready."
They find a secluded part of the gym, and sit down against the wall. Dave's already done talking, and his hockey friends—astoundingly, at least in Quinn's opinion of Lima's prejudices—are clapping him on the back like he's won a big game. It's not completely picture-perfect; three hockey players and several Cheerios have turned their noses and looked away, but don't dare say anything. At least Dave will get some form of acceptance. You can't win them all, Quinn muses thoughtfully.
"About yesterday..." She hedges.
"You shouldn't worry, Quinn," Rachel interrupts. "I knew you were just upset."
"I am sorry, though," Quinn insists. "I had no right to push you. If you don't want a relationship, I shouldn't ask for one. It's obvious you just wanted to help me, that's all."
"Anyway," Quinn begins, ignorant to Rachel's distress and impatience, "I want to talk about everything."
"Everything?" Rachel wonders, temporarily skipping the 'relationship' discussion.
They do. Quinn starts from the beginning, her own childhood, feeling it necessary to emphasize her way of thinking and how it started. She explains her father's strict parenting, complied with her mother's inability to intervene due to blinding love for her husband, fear of her husband's influence and wrath, and the urge to drink her troubles away. Quinn adds how she used to envy her sister for being braver than she and 'escaping' their family for college quicker than she herself could. Quinn moves on to high school, describing the automatic 'necessity' to become popular, which included insulting Rachel to avoid the spotlight on any of her hidden imperfections (Rachel nods at this, understanding, knowing already how sincerely sorry Quinn is about it) and how Cheerios provided a safety net of protection from slushies and other ridicule.
In regards to her pregnancy, Quinn explains how difficult bridging the gap between herself and other teenagers was. She, like other girls who become pregnant, had to grow up faster, which isolated her from idle teens and their silly mistakes. She learned to be more careful, but not quickly enough. Being more mature than other students at McKinley didn't make her stop the bullying altogether, so it essentially was too little, too late when Jacob brought the gun to school that day.
After the shooting, Quinn tells Rachel of how harder it was to assimilate into normality again. How could anyone expect a witness of such a horrific, awful sight to jump back into a schedule without feeling negativity and hopelessness in their heart? Quinn enforces the choice to use the Vitamin D pills—she just wanted to learn how to get back to a routine while skipping the coping and moping period. It was a hasty decision and poorly thought out, but Quinn did usually ignore her own problems.
"Why couldn't you speak with anyone?"
(Rachel leaves out the me in her question.)
"I just...couldn't. It was like a wall was built up. I'm only saying all of this now because it's easier to admit everything all at once," Quinn answers. "Think of a dam, and then think of the dam breaking, and all the water rushing out because it's finally free and can run steady. That's how I felt."
Quinn later apologizes for her repeated rebuffs of Rachel and Leroy, because she avoided her issues and instead focused on keeping them underwraps, hoping they would eventually go away.
"They wouldn't have."
"Gone away," Rachel clarifies. "They would've stayed inside you and distorted you from the inside out until you were more bitter and angry than you are now. Talking helps."
"It does," Quinn agrees, and continues.
She still isn't better, but talking about everything leading to this point—growing up to high school to post shooting to a student organized assembly on stopping bullying—makes her feel freer, lighter. Rachel simply listens patiently and silently, and Quinn keeps going, talking about anything she can think of that relates to her situation, especially hopes for the future. When she's done talking about the shooting, she explains how her feelings for Rachel (to be listened without judgment, and she misses the frustration on Rachel's face) manifested in summertime and only grew stronger as the months passed.
"I know you've read about relationships not working because of shared traumas," Quinn says. "But I want you to know that if you ever wanted to be with me, I'd just...you know, wait in the wings. McKinley has apparently dropped the bullying, so I'm sure it would have been okay. But I expect you're probably waiting on Finn," the blonde concludes a little wistfully.
"Why would I do that?"
"I thought...you chased Finn forever," Quinn returns, puzzled. "Haven't you waited long enough to get back together with him?"
"Yes, and then we broke up a few months ago because he chose popularity," Rachel answers impatiently. "God, Quinn, you're so dense sometimes. I don't want Finn."
Rachel rolls her eyes, like she's praying for patience, and uses her kissing method, which ultimately fails.
"I wasn't nervous," Quinn tells her quizzically when Rachel's leaned away, ignoring the fact she liked it, yet again.
"I just told you that you're incredibly dense, and no, I don't want Finn, I want you!" Rachel nearly shouts, looking disgruntled. "Did getting drunk lower your intelligence?"
"Santana tell you that?"
"Yes. She told me that. Quinn, please use proper grammar next time. Secondly, I want you, not him."
"I heard that point," Quinn insists. "But you said you didn't know yesterday. How on earth did you figure it out in twenty-four hours?"
Rachel slaps her own forehead, and exhales deeply.
"Well, now I do."
"Honestly, I think you need more time."
"Honestly, Quinn, I think you need a brain transplant."
"Well, if you are saying that you do want to be with me," Quinn says, leaning over to kiss Rachel before pulling away, "then you feel something when we kiss, right?"
"Yes," Rachel exclaims indignantly. "I do, obviously. I like you. Are you sure you haven't gotten a blow to the head?"
"Don't think so," Quinn replies, grinning. "I just said most of that to make you angry."
Rachel fumes and refuses to speak for a few minutes, unless to mumble offensive phrases under her breath, and Quinn meets Santana, Mandy, Kurt, Sam, and surprisingly, Dave's eyes from all the way across the gym, who are all snickering and imitating her dopey grin and Rachel's irritated expression.
Quinn rolls her eyes and pokes Rachel's hip, who squeals and bats her hand away.
"I was not 'sulking', Quinn."
"Okay, whatever you say."
"Before you make me any more annoyed that I already am," Rachel growls, "I wanted to say that first, you are one of the most frustrating people I have ever met, Quinn Fabray, and next, I would like to try having a relationship with you as long as you tell me everything and we take it slow."
"Why didn't you just say that?"
Rachel isn't amused.
By the time everyone clears the school—their mindset was that they skipped a few classes, might as well go home—the glee club and Mandy are the only ones left in the gym. The teachers are still mingling in the lounge, and Rachel and Quinn are talking enthusiastically with the others.
"Operation was a success," Rachel announces, and immediately accepts Tina's high five.
"What operation?" Quinn demands. "The one where Kurt insulted me in Chemistry?"
Kurt turns pink and Rachel huffs.
"He had to get you out of class. But he might've gotten out of control a bit."
"Out of control?" Puck scoffs. "He didn't assign codenames."
"Yeah, White Queen," Santana remarks. "Imbecile."
"White Queen?" Quinn repeats, confused.
"Berry picked your favorite book," Santana explains irritably. "Your codename was Alice."
"You picked Alice in Wonderland?" Quinn questions adoringly at Rachel, who blushes. Mandy snickers.
"Good God," Santana grumbles. "I'm getting a cavity at this sugar sweetness."
"Maybe we can go to Carl the dentist!" Brittany cheers. "Ms. Pillsbury's dating him!"
Kurt draws Sam away from the group, a lingering question on his mind.
"You meant gaydar as something of mine that works," Kurt declares, smirking. "Didn't you?"
"Caught on to that, finally?" Sam questions, laughing. "Good."
"Have I mentioned I love you and your dorky riddles?"
"Of course you have."
"Excellent," Kurt grins. He indicates Rachel and Quinn, having also stepped away from the club and Mandy, the two whispering quietly, each wearing slightly goofy expressions. "Who do you think is going to drop the L bomb first?"
"Quinn," Sam guesses.
"Rachel," Kurt says.
Their eyes narrow, and a bet is quickly ordered.
Judy, Leroy, Shelby, and Hiram are all thrilled and only slightly surprised to find out their daughters are dating, but enthusiasm over the match is abundant and constant, along with Mandy's offensive gestures and lewd suggestions that could rival Puck's (it didn't help that they flirted at McKinley a few times until Quinn urged repeatedly about stretch marks and the gigantic age difference, making Mandy nauseated and back off), her goal at making all parties uncomfortable for her own amusement prevailing daily.
Quinn threatens to reveal something about Mandy at a summer camp. Her sister shuts up quick.
Quinn helps Rachel through physical therapy when her cast is finally removed, and the diva is immensely pleased and relieved with her recovery.
When confronted with the delicate situation about Beth, Quinn only requests that her daughter t0 be informed of her adoption when she's truly ready. Shelby agrees. Otherwise, Quinn's considered an affectionate acquaintance while Rachel is assumed into her sisterly role. It's a strange setup, but Quinn hopes Beth will someday understand it.
When Mr. Schuester and the glee club remember Sectionals is dangerously close ("How could I forget?" Rachel wails), they hop to work and the concentration of being perfect is both tiring and worth it. Quinn and Rachel practice in Quinn's room, and spend the rest of their time talking. Quinn's learning the habit of telling Rachel anything that makes her feel down, and in turn, Rachel makes her feel better about herself and assures her that she'll be okay eventually.
It's not an easy journey, but Rachel becomes Quinn's sole confidante, with some general talks with Santana and a few with Leroy, for second and third opinions and friend and psychiatrist opinions, respectively. While Leroy and Santana get watered down versions of Quinn's feelings, leaving them searching blindly in the confusing maze for a solution that they'll find with a lucky break, Rachel is the one who can navigate the darkness instantly, understand Quinn the most, finding the way to soothe Quinn's feelings just as easily as Ariadne of Greek mythology, finding her way out of the center of Daedalus's Labyrinth with her string.
They've come a long way from the first shots and the library. Quinn hears them in her nightmares occasionally, which have become few and far-between, but is helped by Rachel's presence. If she knows Rachel is around and nearby (preferably her bed, hint), her dreams are always calm and tranquil, not dark nor brooding.
Quinn allows Santana to be Head Cheerio. The chance of repeating her mistakes is high when on the squad, so she doesn't rejoin Cheerios. Sue understands.
Quinn's standing near her cue to duck under the curtain at Sectionals to begin a duet with Sam, she's shocked by a hand on her arm, only to calm down at seeing Rachel.
"Are you supposed to—"
"I wanted to give a confidence boost," Rachel smiles, kisses her once, and says, "I love you."
Quinn manages to reply with a genuine and truthful, gushing I-love-you of her own before Rachel dashes back to her place, beaming and skipping, and when Quinn steps out to start her verse with Sam, who's smiling radiantly at her, she knows everything will be okay. She'll eventually be free of Jacob's hold, and the memories will fade from their sharp, frightening clarity. She'll eventually talk out all of her residual fears and move on to a brighter future, luckily with Rachel at her side. She just has to be patient.
I'm a little sad to this end, it was so fun to write. Look out for more of my stories, if you please! :)