Warning: This story contains harsh language and some pretty graphic violence for the first couple of chapters. Read at your own discretion.


It was good to be back on top.

Back on top as the Head Bitch in Charge of William McKinley High School. Back on top of a pyramid at Cheerios practice, after school, on a hot and draining Tuesday afternoon.

Sylvester had let her back on the squad as soon as she'd lost the baby fat. Quinn hadn't even asked. She simply showed up in Coach's office, in her Cheerios uniform, one hand propped on her hip, the old Quinn smirk toying with her lips. Sylvester looked her up and down and waved her out of her office with a nod. Oh yes, Quinn Fabray was back in top form, and for once, Sue Sylvester decided it was perhaps not a good idea to go up against someone who had enough of her own blackmail to make Sue's life aggravating, at least.

Brittany was okay with it, Santana was pissed, but there was no use for it; the old high school hierarchy was back in play, as if she'd never left. As if she'd never cheated on her boyfriend with his best friend, never gotten pregnant with said best friend's baby and lied to said boyfriend about it. Never been slushied after Jacob's blog ripped her life wide open, never been kicked off the Cheerios. Never been kicked out of her house, or given birth to a seven-pound three-ounce baby girl with brown hair and Puck's eyes. Or given that baby up for adoption, and cried for two weeks at the loss of the little flutters in her stomach, and the soft, warm weight of life in her arms.

It didn't matter, because Quinn Fabray was back. Back to making the crowd of losers part like she was Moses at the Red Sea, when she walked through the halls. Back to noticing boys' eyes trail her body, from her face to her breasts – lingering – and then to her ass – she could feel their eyes still lingering as she walked past. And she just laughed, because, ha, boys. And maybe she wasn't back into her parents' good graces or their house (well, now her mother's house, anyway), and maybe Finn and Puck still could hardly look at her, and maybe she still got grief from Sylvester for choosing to remain in glee, but Quinn didn't care.

She had a better house, someone who couldn't stop looking at her, and glee was the best part of her day, because she shared it with the prize Quinn Fabray had won, at the finish line of the race that was her fucked-up life during the past year.

That Quinn would start dating again after the birth of Beth was a surprise to no one. The fact that she chose to date Rachel Berry shocked the entire school. But to Quinn, it was the natural progression of something that had been growing since she came back to Mercedes' house after regionals… after she'd sent Beth to her new life.

It was so weird. She'd been two for eight months, and now she was just…one. Quinn would catch herself running her hands over an empty belly, searching for a kick that would never come. And then she'd start thinking about baby soft skin, eyes staring up at her with trust and wonder, a smile on tender pink lips… Quinn couldn't stop herself from breaking down. Mercedes didn't know what to do about it; she could listen and hug, but that was it. She didn't know what it was like. And she couldn't count on Santana or Brittany to get it, either, even though Brittany's hugs were always welcome. The guys and the rest of glee… no.

So she was surprised one day, when she had been lying on the bed in Mercedes' spare bedroom, crying, to hear a soft clearing of throat. A sound she knew well, coming from the last person she ever expected to show up at Mercedes' house, and in her doorway.

"What do you want, Berry?" she mumbled, not changing her position or looking over at the doorway.

"It has come to my attention that you, Quinn, are not happy."

Quinn closed her eyes. "And what gives you that impression?"

"The fact that, although you will eventually resume your position as Cheerios captain, I'm sure, you're no longer the Quinn that we all remember, and that some of us loved. I have to say that I was not one of those people, given your penchant for throwing icy drinks at me, and really I shouldn't even bother to care, but your recent-"

"Berry!" she all but growled.

There was a soft sigh, she heard footsteps, and then the bed dipped as Rachel Berry, of all people, sat down and placed her hand on Quinn's back.

"I was in the bathroom the other day… you were too. I listened to you cry for ten minutes."

Quinn flinched. The hand on the small of her back was soothing, but the knowledge that Rachel Berry had heard her being vulnerable wasn't.

"So? What do you care?" she snapped.

"Do you have anyone else?"

Rachel's question was cutting, but truthful, and Quinn shook her head. She didn't have anyone else.

"Then the way I see it, Quinn Fabray, you need me."

Quinn snorted and rolled over to face Rachel, ready with an angry retort – which slipped away when she met Rachel's eyes and saw actual concern there. She sighed and looked away.

"You don't know what it's like. You've never had a child."

"No," Rachel said carefully, "But I've never had a mother, either. Not the same, but close."

And so the connection, however tentative, had been made.

For all her faults and extremely bad taste in clothes, Rachel Berry wasn't all that bad, Quinn had been forced to grudgingly admit to herself. For one thing, she brought cookies every time she came to visit. And though Quinn was wanting to be back on the Cheerios and had to maintain her weight because she knew Sue would watch her waistline like a hawk, she couldn't resist stealing at least one peanut butter cookie and swirling the goodness around with her tongue. Rachel was a good cook, and she always smiled with a little blush when Quinn's eyes drifted shut as she took the first bite.

But there was the fact, too, that even though Rachel sometimes talked enough to rival a chipmunk on speed, when she knew that Quinn needed to air out her feelings Rachel's mouth would clamp shut and she'd sit for an hour or longer, just listening. She didn't plan or offer any advice, didn't judge or laugh; she simply nodded her head and made soft sounds of reassurance or agreement, and if Quinn happened to break down – which was pretty much every day for two weeks – Rachel was there to slip an arm around her, offering tissues and gentle brushes of Quinn's hair with her fingertips until the sobs subsided.

"Rachel?" Quinn sniffed.

"Hmm?" Rachel hummed to herself, reaching over to the tissue box and pulling one out, handing it to Quinn.

Quinn wiped her eyes and looked at her. "Thank you."

"For what?"

Wait, was Rachel Berry being modest for once in her life? Quinn smirked a little. "For being here. And listening. Letting me snot all over you."

Rachel rolled her eyes. "You did not 'snot all over' me, Quinn. A runny nose is simply an unfortunate side effect of crying, and it's perfectly natural, so you shouldn't be—"

"Rachel!"

"You're welcome." Rachel smiled, and Quinn sat up a little straighter when she felt a flutter, deep down in her belly. "I'm happy to be here for you."

Quinn smiled back. "I'm happy to have you here."

And she was. Later on she would reflect that the flutter she'd gotten when Rachel smiled at her was just like when Beth would kick or move inside her, thrilling her… and she would wonder what that meant.

What followed after was a bit of a whirlwind, what with Mercedes' brother coming back from college, and Quinn finding herself homeless for the fourth time in a year. But then Rachel swooped in, her tiny body a tornado of packing, taping, and lifting, and Quinn was tucked away in a little guest room at the end of the hall, across from Rachel's, with a bed and a desk and a television – and a bathroom she would have to share with Rachel.

After a week, Quinn then had to concede that living with Rachel Berry wasn't that bad either. Her dads were amazingly kind, if a little bit… absent, she guessed was the word. And Rachel was a good cook, which Quinn knew was absolutely dangerous for her diet, but when those delicious smells would come wafting out of the kitchen and upstairs to her bedroom, she didn't give a damn. Plus there was just something nice about being able to share time with Rachel, who, though she was scatterbrained and bossy most of the time, also had those times where she just was… downright sweet. Those times were usually when they were sitting together on Quinn's bed, doing homework or going over songs for glee. Rachel wouldn't talk, much, then; she'd just sit hunched over her book or the sheet music, her eyes focused and intense. Every now and then she'd tuck a lock of brown hair behind her ear, looking up to find Quinn staring at her. She'd smile and blush, and Quinn would smile back, feeling warm and happy, before going back to whatever it is she was doing.

"Why'd you want me to move in with you?"

She thought it was funny that Rachel didn't look up at her, just continued tracing the patterns on the quilt of Quinn's bed.

"You needed someplace to go. We had a spare room. It's like a jigsaw puzzle: when the pieces fit, everything comes together."

Quinn laughed, and it felt good after having spent so much time doing the exact opposite. She poked Rachel in the side, and Rachel squealed, batting her hand away. She laughed again.

"Do you think we fit, Rachel?"

She had no idea where the question had come from, and she stilled, biting her lip.

But then Rachel looked at her, and there was a new light in her eyes, something Quinn hadn't seen before, and didn't know how to place it. She tilted her head, just staring at her, and Quinn began to feel a little uncomfortable under that intense gaze.

"You know… we just might."

"That was pathetic!" Coach Sylvester barked at them through the megaphone. "If you think that's hard, try being a midget at a urinal! That's hard! Do it again!"

She was sweating and her hair was sticking to her face; Quinn swept it back with her hand and took a quick drag on her water bottle, tossing it against her bag. She glanced up at the bleachers and for a split second her brow furrowed. Rachel wasn't in the bleachers.

"Move it, Fabray!"

She shrugged, and got back into position.

"Honestly, Quinn, I really don't think I can stand to watch The Notebook one more time."

Quinn snickered. "You love it. You cry every time."

"It's depressing!"

"It's romantic!"

"I wonder if I'll ever find someone who wouldn't mind staying in a nursing home with me."

Rachel's voice was somber, and it tugged at Quinn's heart. She turned to the smaller girl, who was sitting next to her on Rachel's bed. I'd stay with you, Quinn heard in the back of her mind, and she shoved that down, quickly.

"I'm sure you'll find someone, Rach."

Rachel smiled then. "Of course, someone should start a Broadway nursing home. You know, like they have that hospital and nursing home for old Hollywood stars."

"A home full of old, cranky Rachel Berrys?" Quinn said, an eyebrow raised. "Yikes."

Rachel swatted her thigh, and Quinn giggled. Then she was struck with another case of what in the hell, did I just say that when she heard, "Hey, Rach? Can I stay in here with you tonight?" issue from her lips.

There was that head tilt again, and that unreadable expression. And then, "Sure."

When Quinn woke up sometime around three, she was aware, through her sleep-filled haze, of a warm arm around her midsection, and soft breath tickling the hair on the back of her neck.

She smiled, and went back to sleep.

Quinn checked her watch. Hopefully practice would be over soon and she could find Rachel. She still wasn't in the bleachers, and she was beginning to worry a little.

"What's the matter, Quinn, missing curfew?" Santana said with a smirk.

"No," she didn't even bother to call her out on the attitude. "Rachel's not here. She's usually always here by now."

Brittany hugged her and Quinn smiled against the girl's shoulder. "I'm sure she's fine, Quinn." Her eyes widened. "Maybe she's on a super secret spy mission!" Quinn laughed.

"Or, maybe she's in the choir room, breaking windows with that annoying voice of hers," Santana muttered.

Quinn would have reached out and smacked her, if Coach hadn't blasted through her megaphone again.

"I want to kiss you."

They were sitting on the couch, watching something on the National Geographic channel about… something. Rachel had insisted on it, and when Rachel Berry insisted on anything, it was best to get out of her way and let her have whatever she wanted. They had started out sitting side by side, with Rachel's hand in Quinn's, which was a new development within the last few days.

She found that she liked that, when Rachel would slide her hand across and take Quinn's hand in hers. Sometimes she'd play with Quinn's fingers, which Quinn loved - except for the time that This Little Piggy came out, and then Quinn had glared at Rachel until she'd squeaked and dropped their hands into her lap. Rachel's hands were tiny and soft – totally not like a man's, and Quinn would feel that flutter in her belly when a small finger would trace the outline of veins on the back of her hand.

Eventually they'd changed their position until Quinn was leaning up against the arm of the couch, Rachel laying on her side with her head on Quinn's chest. Her shampoo was like perfume, drifting up into Quinn's senses and making her sigh with contentment. Rachel was warm and gentle and safe, and she realized what that flutter had meant, after all.

She hadn't realized she'd said it aloud, and Quinn stiffened when Rachel looked up at her, her eyes wide.

"You… what?"

"I shouldn't have said it," Quinn blurted hastily. "It was a mistake."

"Oh." There was a hint of disappointment, and Quinn bit her lip.

"So you don't want to kiss me?"

"I…uh.. um…" God, when had she suddenly become a moron?

"What if I want you to?"

She looked at the light in Rachel's eyes, and Rachel was smiling a little and looking adorably nervous, and she was playing with Quinn's hand.

"You want me to?" Quinn whispered. This was all just so…awkward.

Rachel met her gaze, and nodded, slowly.

Quinn's breath caught in her throat. It wasn't like she hadn't kissed before: there'd been Finn with his shy, fumbling kisses that more often than not totally missed her mouth, and then there was Puck, wrestling for dominance, his teeth knocking against hers as he fought to make his claim. But this was Rachel, and even though her lips looked so warm and moist and inviting, and her eyes were a little scared but trusting, Quinn wasn't even sure if she was gay. She knew that if she kissed Rachel, there would be no turning back.

But she didn't turn back.

Instead, she shifted a little so that she could cup the side of Rachel's face with her hand, then dipped her head and brushed her lips to Rachel's, awkwardly, softly… She drew back, questioning Rachel with her eyes, and Rachel nodded, a deep flush coloring her cheeks. Quinn kissed her again, more firmly this time, and a jolt ran through her when Rachel sighed into her mouth.

There was no turning back as Rachel slowly pulled herself up on top of her and deepened the kiss, searching for Quinn with her tongue, and finding her.

Thank God it was over. Coach Sylvester had been merciful for once, letting them get away with only five laps around the track. Quinn huffed over to her duffel bag, slinging it over her shoulder and claiming the water bottle with her mouth, guzzling like a frat boy at a kegger.

She heard Santana laugh next to her. "Not so easy being back in charge, is it, Fabray? Sure you can handle it?"

Quinn turned and fastened her best icy glare on the Latina. "I can handle anything," she hissed. Her eyes wandered over to the bleachers, scanning quickly from the top row to the bottom, around the stadium.

Rachel wasn't there.

"Where the hell is she?" she muttered.

"You know, you've gotten so whipped since you started doing… whatever, with Rachel," Santana said, shaking her head.

"I am not whipped!"

"Says the girl who came to school with a bag full of cough drops, cold medicine and a thermometer just because Berry had been sniffling the night before."

"Says the girl who waited for three hours outside, in the cold, the day after Thanksgiving so that you could get Brittany a singing duck before anyone else got it."

"He's just so cute!" Brittany said, grinning, and Santana shook her head, blushing – though she'd deny it and say it was because of the heat.

"Maybe she's out in the parking lot," Quinn said, trying to figure out where her uneasy feeling was coming from. "If she's not out there after we shower, I'll call her." Santana nodded her agreement, and together the three head Cheerios walked towards the locker room.

"And anyway, it's not 'doing whatever.' I'm dating her, and I'm pretty sure I'm in love with her."

"Gross."

Quinn stuck her tongue out at Santana, then stepped into the shower to wash off the day's grime and sweat.

Rachel's breath was hot on her throat, her tongue trailing down her pulse point, ending at Quinn's collarbone and sucking the tender skin there.

Quinn groaned, tangling her hands in Rachel's hair, holding her there. "God… you feel amazing…" she whispered.

Rachel smiled against her flesh. "You taste amazing."

Quinn blushed, and then felt very young, very vulnerable and awkward. "Rachel…"

Hearing the hesitation in her voice, Rachel backed off immediately and raised her head, concern tensing her features. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No!" Quinn hastened to say. "No, not at all… you're doing everything… exactly right, my God." It was Rachel's turn to blush and she looked down at Quinn's naked body, flexing her hands. "It's just… I've never… I mean… not with a girl."

Rachel bent low and kissed Quinn tenderly. "I've never," she said against her lips. "Ever."

Quinn's eyes widened at the implication. "Rachel, I—"

"Shh," Rachel quieted her with a finger on her mouth. Quinn licked it, grinning when Rachel moaned. "I trust you."

Quinn wrapped her arms around Rachel and pulled her down to her, relishing the feel of skin against skin. "I trust you, too," she whispered into her ear. "I want…" Quinn shut her eyes, wondering why Rachel Berry always made it so difficult for her to speak.

"Rachel… make love to me."

Rachel smiled and kissed her again. "I think I can arrange that."

Quinn lasted a full five minutes of Rachel's mouth on her breasts before she took the girl's head in her hands, raising it.

"Rachel?"

If Rachel was impatient, she didn't show it. She simply propped herself up on her elbows and looked at Quinn.

"What is it, Quinn?"

She felt shy, and her face was hot – and not just because of the heat currently rushing through her body at Rachel's closeness.

"Be my girl."

Rachel's eyes widened, and she smiled so brightly Quinn could have sworn the entire room lit up.

"Really?"

Quinn laughed at her eagerness, then nodded. "Yes, really. Be my girl, Rachel Berry."

Rachel eased herself back up so that she was on her side against her. She nuzzled the girl's cheek, and Quinn gasped when Rachel's fingers began teasing through wet, slick softness.

"I am your girl," Rachel whispered against her ear.

Quinn dried herself off and quickly changed into her street clothes – jeans and a tee-shirt that she knew Rachel loved because it was a little tight-fitting. Rachel would lecture her about wearing such a tee-shirt in public, but Quinn also knew that the minute Rachel saw her in it, that little pink tongue would dart out and she'd lick her lips before pulling Quinn in for a kiss.

They had established an after-school ritual, which was why Quinn was more than a little irritated that Rachel hadn't been waiting for her at the bleachers. If Quinn had practice, Rachel would always wait for her (Coach Sylvester once remarked that Rachel was like a very loyal – yet lesbian – puppy) and she looked forward to nothing more than seeing Rachel smile and hear her utter that shy, quiet "Hey, beautiful" that she always greeted her with.

When Quinn didn't have practice and they just had glee, they had their own separate ritual for that, too. It was an unspoken agreement between them that because of Finn and Puck, they wouldn't sit together at glee, or act too… well, couple-y. Plus, as far as they knew, they were the only truly out lesbian couple at WMHS, since neither Santana nor Brittany seemed inclined to get their heads out of their asses and declare they'd been madly in love with each other since third grade. So they tried to keep a minimum on public affection. When Schuester was done giving his "life lesson of the day," Quinn would just wait in her seat until Rachel was finished animatedly talking to him about her next big idea. Then Schuester and the rest of the glee kids would be gone, and she would lean down and kiss Quinn, running a hand through her hair.

"Ready to go home, beautiful?"

Quinn was always ready.

"Santana?" Brittany said as they walked out towards the parking lot.

Santana linked their pinkies. "What?"

"I want a dog."

"We can't have a dog, Britt."

"But I want one."

"How about I get you a stuffed puppy dog?"

Brittany squealed and managed to clap her hands while still holding onto Santana's pinky.

"Can it be a weenie dog? I want a weenie dog!"

Santana smiled and shook her head; Quinn fought back a smirk.

"Whatever you want, Britt. We'll stop by the toy store on the way home."

"Yay!"

"Whipped," Quinn muttered out of the corner of her mouth.

"Fuck you," Santana muttered out of the corner of hers.

"I heard that, Santana," Brittany admonished.

Quinn's laughter faded as they made it outside to the nearly deserted parking lot. She tilted her head to look around, but didn't find the brown hair and deep brown eyes that she was looking for. Her brow furrowed with confusion. She pulled out her phone and checked her messages.

1 new message.

Hi, baby! I'm headed to the bleachers now. – R

Quinn felt a little surge of worry.

"Rachel ditch you?"

She shook her head. "She sent a text saying she was coming to the bleachers. But…"

Brittany looked around, then pointed ahead of them. "Hey, isn't that Rachel's backpack? Over by the dumpsters?"

Quinn didn't waste time answering Brittany's question. Her bag hit the ground with a thump and she was running. It was Rachel's bag, and there was… red…

Oh, god. Oh, god no… Rachel…

Then she was crying out for her, scrabbling to lift the dumpster open. Her hands trembling, she looked in.

"Rachel!"

Santana would tell her later that Quinn's scream was nothing like she'd ever heard before, and as badass as she was, it sent a chill down her spine. It was animalistic, like the cry of a wolf that has lost its mate. Quinn was desperately trying to jump into the dumpster, but was crying and shaking so hard she couldn't get a footing to hoist herself up.

She barely registered Santana rushing past her and leaping into the dumpster.

"Dios mio," she whispered at the sight of Rachel's battered, bloody form crumpled on top of a week's worth of garbage. She crouched down and brushed red-spattered hair out of Rachel's eyes, and Rachel moaned. "What did they do to you, Rachel? Brittany!"

"Rachel," Quinn sobbed, taking in blood trickling from Rachel's forehead down into her eyes, bruises on her face and on her stomach where her shirt had ridden up.

Brittany was there, then, one arm around Quinn's waist and her other hand held to her mouth.

"I, I don't know if I should move her," Santana said, her hands lightly scanning over Rachel's arms and legs. "I don't feel anything broken but—"

"Get her out of there!" Quinn shouted.

Santana slowly slipped her arms underneath Rachel's body, wincing when the girl moaned again in pain. "Hang on, Berry," she said, her voice surprisingly gentle, for once. "Quinn, call 911, god damn it! Brittany, help!"

Quinn whipped open her phone, dialing the numbers, her eyes never leaving Rachel. "There's so much blood," she mumbled. "Too much blood… Rachel…"

"911, what is your emergency?"

She was almost crying too hard to talk. "Yes, um, I need an ambulance, I – oh god, Rachel – my girl… my friend," Quinn shut her eyes briefly. "She's hurt… bad… Bleeding. Oh god, Brittany be careful! I'm at William McKinley High School, the parking lot by the dumpsters. Please hurry!"

Brittany cradled Rachel in her arms. Rather than lowering her to the hard asphalt, she simply sat down, holding Rachel as gently as if she were a doll. Santana hopped out of the dumpster, breathing heavily, and caught Quinn as she went down, helping her into a kneeling position in front of Rachel.

"Rachel," she said softly. Rachel didn't move or open her eyes. "Rachel," she said more firmly. "Rachel, open your eyes for me. Baby, please… open your eyes, please Rachel…"

"Quinn?"

Her heart leapt when Rachel's eyelids fluttered and those brown eyes came into view, unfocused and hazy. "Rach, wake up," she said, taking Rachel's hand as carefully as possible. "You need to stay awake, sweetheart."

"Uh uh," Rachel mumbled, and tugged on Quinn's hand. "'m sleepy. Come back to bed… wanna sleep." Her eyes closed.

In a blind panic, Quinn shook her, and Santana's hands grabbed her forearms, stopping her. "No, Rachel, you have to stay awake, come on now, please." She felt some relief when she heard the call of the ambulance in the distance, but it was taking too long, why hadn't they gotten there yet? There was blood, so much blood, on her clothes and on her hands, in her hair because she'd been sweating and it kept getting in her eyes and she needed to see, needed to see Rachel and what they had done to her.

Who were they? She'd kill them.

"Quinn," Rachel said again, her voice sounding as if it was coming from someone else.

"Yes, baby, stay awake," she pleaded.

"'m sorry, Quinn… so sorry…. love…"

Her head lolled to the side as her eyes closed again. Quinn's wail matched that of the ambulance, pulling up next to them. She jumped up and practically yanked the paramedic out of the vehicle, staining his shirt with Rachel's blood.

"Help her," she hissed, feeling herself go limp when Santana pulled her off and held her from behind, pinning Quinn's arms to her chest.

Brittany didn't want to let Rachel go, but she let the paramedic lift her out of her arms, and place her on the board. A brace was whipped out and put on her neck, and Quinn moaned in terror. What if moving her had made it worse?

She'd kill them.

"Code three," one paramedic said to the other. He lowered his voice, but Quinn heard him anyway.

"Might be a head injury."

"What does that mean?" she begged. "What does that mean?"

But they were carrying Rachel to the stretcher and up into the back of the ambulance. Quinn rushed over, prepared to climb in with her, but the paramedic stopped her.

"No, honey, we need all the room we've got here."

"I'm not letting you leave without me!"

Once again Santana was at her side, and Brittany was holding her back. "You'll ride with us," Santana said, her face ashen as she watched the ambulance doors close, and the ambulance drive off with an unconscious Rachel Berry.

She turned to Quinn. "You need to call her dads."

Oh, god. Her dads.

Quinn let Brittany propel her to her car, put her in the front seat, and fasten her belt buckle. She kissed Quinn's forehead before hopping into the backseat. Only when she looked down at her hands and saw Rachel's blood beneath her fingernails did Brittany allow herself to cry, her head pressed against the window.

Quinn toyed with her phone, unable to move, or to get the images of Rachel out of her mind. Santana reached over and took the phone.

"I'll call them when we get there. I guess I'll have to call the school, too, to let them know Rachel's hu—to let them know what happened."

Quinn nodded as Santana started the car, then reached over to clasp her hand as they pulled out of the parking lot in the direction of the hospital.

"She'll be all right."

"We don't know that."

No, Santana thought, focusing on the road and not on her red-tinged hands gripping the steering wheel.

We don't.

She took in the sound of Brittany crying in the backseat, and out of the corner of her eye she could see Quinn, her eyes closed and mouth moving silently. She knew Quinn was praying.

Santana just hoped it wasn't too late for prayers.