Close and Far Away (I Keep You at Arm's Length.)

Insomnia has found a way into her life. She used to sleep a lot, having a hard time waking up in the mornings when she was a kid and later, falling asleep in a second, just like a cat.

Her mother used to say that High School exhausted her, that that was why she was so tired at night during the week. Quinn knew better, after a while.

She knew, knows now, that she preferred day over night. She wanted to sleep early so she could wake up early, because she wanted to live the day. Nights were lonely, but daytime offered a company she could never refuse. At night, she was alone, often enticed by a computer screen begging her to get up and listen. Day time offered the real thing, right there for her to look at from afar. Away but at arm's length, always a little close.

She made sure, subconsciously at first and very on purpose later, that she was always at arm's length. Even if it was on bad terms, she always was around, background or front row. Always a part of her life in some kind of way. Mocking or challenging, supporting or helping and, very much later, balancing and grounding, steading and loving.

It was far but close at first, and that was what her day was about. The reason she got up in the morning and got to sleep early to get to day time faster. She woke up already thinking about what animal she would see today; if it was a skirt or a polka dotted dress. Ponytail or loose hair. Cheerful and demanding or insecure and inadequate. She always trembled with impotence when it wasn't cheerful. Cheerful was default mode for Rachel, and there was something wrong when she wasn't. Quinn was close, at arm's length, close enough to see but not to know. She wasn't always able to take it. Sometimes, it became so much that she trembled with impotence and lashed out. She had to be there; background or front row, and a challenge always seemed to get the fire in Rachel's eyes that she lacked when she was mournful.

Eventually, though, she was out of options. She kept screwing up. She tried, tried so hard to be something good, to help, but it always backfired. She often found herself wondering if she could do something right. She'd been trying since she stepped onto a nearly empty auditorium and heard the sound that changed her. The one that changed everything inside her, including her sleeping patterns. New York showed her the error in her ways, taught her she had to change strategy in order to succeed.

She practiced, thought and planned all summer for a way to be closer. Not too close, but still at arm's length, able to reach. She could pretend, pretend not to want to crawl into Rachel's skin the way Rachel had crawled into hers. She could make her believe she just wanted to be close, but not too much. Time went by and, as it did, her scheme worked. She almost always seemed to achieve her purpose when it came to helping Rachel. It made sense, as it was the reason she got to sleep early, even more now. It was expected, because, even as they were apart, they were always a little close. They had always been, intentionally or not, there for each other in the breakdown or in the breakthrough. At least Quinn was aware of that, searched for it and made sure of it; close but not too much, away but at arm's length. It came the time when Rachel confided in her, and Quinn didn't have to tremble and challenge because she could listen and support and help. And as time went by, she could predict what not to say, what Rachel didn't want to hear. Rachel wanted comfort but didn't seem to seek solutions, because it was always the same problem and she refused to fix it. Quinn found out, it was always the same thing that got Rachel down, and there wasn't anything more she could do to help than listen, because she'd tried to solve the problem last year with all the wrong moves, and it was too late now to do anything else.

But arm's length became just that, over time. More and more time together made it difficult to Quinn not to reach out, and Rachel didn't seem to have a problem with touching, because she always initiated contact. As Quinn began to discover, when Rachel became comfortable, she became affectionate, and an affectionate Rachel meant touches. Arm brushes and hand holding, hair stroking and kisses to cheeks and hands; bright smiles, warm eyes and soft words. It all burned. Quinn doubted there was a part of her body that was touched by the Sun that wasn't touched by Rachel, marked with fire. She could almost see it, close her eyes at night and feel it. It was maddening, because she wasn't just inside her skin anymore; she was on it, too. It became increasingly more difficult to keep the distance. She thought to maybe show Rachel that too much touch made her uncomfortable, but the thought alone ignited her skin, like it was screaming at her all the sensations it caused that it didn't want to lose.

It became obvious, after some time, that while Rachel needed comforting words when she was down, touches seemed to work better and faster. She would appear at Quinn's house with a crestfallen expression after a fight that Rachel never worried to win, and she confided in Quinn to make her feel better. Quinn couldn't refuse, she never seemed to be able when it came to her, and as much as she'd promised she wouldn't show how much within Rachel she wanted to be, she started to crawl. Comforting words became comforting touches, and soon enough, she always seemed to comfort Rachel by melting into her body and showering her with kisses that blurred the lines but remained behind the one of friendship, because Quinn had learned (finally) that cheating only meant trouble, and besides, Rachel searched comfort but not solutions, not other options. It was pretty much implied that she didn't want to fix things, because there was only one way to fix them.

Grounding and steading was an implied job, one that, technically, belonged to someone else. Someone who didn't seem to fathom the meaning of those words, let alone use them in a sentence or applied them in his life. It was implied that it was her job, just as challenging, (friendly) mocking and comforting was now. She knew, by the looks of everyone, that they all saw beneath her surface, because it was just on her skin now, for everyone to see. But didn't matter, because the purposes for which she went to bed early were fulfilled.

It started away at a comfortable distance, but not too much as to be able to reach, and evolved into closer, close to touch. It ended, or it remained now, so close that there were no boundaries. Evolved so much that one day, Rachel decided to fix her problems and erase the lines, burn them forever. They marked with fire all the places that mattered, and the ones that didn't, too. Quinn crawled into Rachel's skin, and they crawled into each other's bones. Her schemed was reduced to shreds and replaced with something better. Close enough to feel everything, even if it never seemed like close enough.

Now insomnia has found a way into her life. She used to go to sleep early to live the day because nights were lonely. Now all she wanted was for the day to last forever, the hours weren't enough and so sleep escaped her. When day time was over, she didn't seem to be able to sleep because she wasn't alone now, and she spent the night contemplating Rachel and hearing her breathing next to her. She was afraid to wake up and have it all been a dream, and so she didn't want to sleep. But now, as Rachel turned away from her in her sleep and Quinn could trace the skin of her naked back with the tips of her fingers, sleep washed over her because she remembered; they weren't far away now, not even at arm's length but closer. She could reach out and crawl into Rachel's skin the way Rachel had done with her, and she could sleep if they were next to each other. So close that there were no boundaries or lines, so close that Rachel's warmth washed over her as she fell asleep.