Quinn was lying on her back in the study of her house.
She often came down here when she needed to think, and with her father constantly being out of town, she had claimed the location as her own at a relatively young age. Tonight she was lying down with her back against the large solid cherry wood desk, attempting to sooth her inflamed skin with the reassuring coolness of the grain. Her tank top was stuck to her back, and sticky from her sweat as she blew cool air against her neck with a mini-fan. Her brow furrowed as with each breath she took she inhaled the thick Ohio summer air that wafted in from the open bay window.
She would often bring her iPod down and hook it up to her father's stereo system while she thought, but somehow the humidity and the heat had addled her brain functions – and so tonight she settled for whatever her father had stashed in his CD case. Looking through it, at the old Beatles and Beach Boys records, she fell upon the "Etta James: Greatest Hits" album that she had found at a Lima garage sale when she was 7.
She scoffed at the memory. She was absolutely mesmerized by the caramel colored picturesque woman on the cover, and out of all of the ratty cassettes she had flung to the side while scouring in that box – that was the one she wanted. That was the first thing that Quinn had ever bought on her own, it cost 10 cents; Quinn used the dollar she had been given that morning for ice-cream in order to buy it. It scorched her sweaty skin addictively as she rollerbladed home with it, tucked safely in her back pocket.
Upon bringing it home she turned it on, and melted into the music. She was hypnotized as the raspy caramel voice behind the song came sifting through her ear canals. It wasn't until a few hours later when her father had called her for dinner and she hadn't come, that she would begin to see the world in dualities: yes and now, right and wrong, black and white. It was a memory that would ingrain itself in her subconscious henceforth.
"What are you listening to, Quinnie?" He was tall – and he had been standing at her doorway silently. She handed him the cassette cover tentatively. He looked at it, and scoffed,
"You know we don't listen to devil music in this house."
Quinn looked away from her father then, almost afraid. Afraid of what? She didn't know. When she turned back around he was gone, and he had taken her token of grace with him... she never even tried to go looking for it after that, and who would blame her?
And alas, here it was all along. In her safe-haven, where it had always been. She popped it in to the old system and let it play. And that was when Quinn climbed atop her father's desk and melted into the music as her skin trembled with heat and salty sweat.
"Something told me, it was over (Yeah).
When I saw you and her talking.
Something deep down in my soul said, "cry girl…"
The lyrics that she would never have never understood at the age of 7, somehow held a profound depth that all she could do was embrace.
"I would rather, I would rather go blind boy,
Than to see you walk away from me child.
So you see, I love you so much
That I don't want to watch you leave me, baby.
Most of all I just don't,
I just don't want to be free, no."
Quinn tilted her head to the side and closed her languid lashes as she melted into the rhythm; her mini fan still whirring cool air against her dewy skin. As she began to drift off into her own lethargy there was a scuffle by the window. The heat was too thick, and her muscles were too slack to do anything else but turn her head toward the noise, opening her hazel eyes, already knowing whom the intruder was.
She mumbled through tongue-slackened lips, they too had become dry in the heat. Santana was making her way through the open study window and now she was slumping her weight into the large overgrown desk chair alongside Quinn. She was wearing boyfriend ripped jeans and a black tank top, her skin was shiny with perspiration.
"Give me that fucking fan."
Santana was never one for niceties or hellos; she always seemed to get straight to the point. And Quinn had always loved that about her. They had been friends ever since she transferred from Fairbrook. The summer before freshman year they both were at Cheerios summer pre-camp. Santana was already well known among the younger girls, her and Brittany were everything most people aspired to be. Not Quinn, she was on a mission: to not only make the Cheerios as a freshman, but to reign as WMHS queen bee while she did it.
Only, Santana had always seen her for who she really was; a smart girl with a pretty smile and a beautiful face - just trying to fit in like everyone else. And somehow, they worked…their unholy trinity of sorts. Quinn learned things about Santana, and Santana held onto secrets about Quinn, while Brittany was their shared token of promise and grace. Santana loved Brittany fiercely – it was as if she was transcribed with love for the blonde since before birth. Quinn envied them, oh did she envy that love.
The past year had been strenuous on their trifecta. When Quinn got pregnant, it changed everything. They stopped hanging out, Santana ridiculed her in public; and Quinn cried herself to sleep too many times to count. But what most of their fellow friends didn't realize was that Santana was there. She had made a habit of sneaking into Quinn's study all of last school year before Quinn got kicked out of her house. Quinn would cry herself to sleep and Santana would sit there, she wouldn't speak. But her presence was enough.
When Quinn moved into first Finn's house, then Puck's, then Mercedes' – Santana snuck in. She would send the weary blonde texts that were seemingly random and sometimes cruel; but it was just Santana's way of loving her back. It was a friendship for the both of them, built on faulty truths and little physicality. Physicality was what Brittany was for – Santana was never one for public or even private displays of emotion, she just was.
And here the two of them were a year later. Still friends – but different somehow: although their system had never changed.
Here Santana was, without call or hesitation at 11:30pm, sneaking into Quinn's study, just to be there on this sweltering Lima evening. The song had changed since Santana had arrived, and now "A Sunday Kind of Love" was making its way through the room. Quinn sighed as she dropped her lashes.
"I want a Sunday kind of love,
A love to last past Saturday night,
And I-I-I'd like to know
It's more than love at first sight,
I want a Sunday kind of love..."
"I'll need that fan back soon, San."
Santana scoffed. "Never loser. Finders fucking keepers."
Quinn rolled her eyes, "Bullshit, you stole it from me. There's a difference."
Santana smirked as she fanned herself rigorously with the little appliance. "Not in my book there isn't."
Quinn exhaled sharply and turned her head away in agitation, letting the lyrics of Etta James flow over her hot skin.
"And, on that note. What is this fucking music you're listening to anyway, honestly it feels like a morgue in here." Santana was so charming, Quinn thought sarcastically as she rolled her eyes between half lids.
"You're such a douche-bag." Quinn quipped. Santana was stretching out her tank top and fanning her midriff underneath as she replied. "And you love me for it. No but really who is this?"
"Etta James. I found it once at a garage sale when I was little. I haven't heard it since I was about 7 or 8 and decided to play it." Santana was still fanning herself absentmindedly while she made insulting puppy dog eyes. "Aww how sweet, Quinnie."
Santana loved their friendship – she did. But lately she was noticing that Quinn was crawling back into whatever shell she had recently began to slowly recede from. It was heart breaking. She watched Quinn, and studied her; taking note of the nights she would cry herself to sleep silently wishing no one could hear or question her. She caught the questing glances through the hallways at a particular brunette. She could hear the strain in Quinn's voice with every snarky remark she uttered nowadays – they were never meant, and almost always instantly regretted. Something was wrong with her Quinn – she wasn't okay. And so that's why Santana kept coming back, she needed to be there because aside from Brittany no one else could be – and frankly no one else fucking cared.
Santana sat up purposefully in the large ornate chair. The fan tracing a pattern of cool breeze against her melting skin; she furrowed her brows and braced herself, because if she didn't ask Quinn now, would she ever find the courage to ask her again?
Quinn looked up from her desk and leveled her hazel freckled eyes with Santana's. The dark haired Latina was staring back up at her – with, something akin to resolve brewing beneath her purposeful eyes. Quinn heard her nickname and instantly met eyes with the resolute girl.
When they were fourteen in summer cheer camp Brittany decided that she needed to give her two best friends their own special terms of endearment – names that no one else would know or connect too. And instead of re-using recycled words, Brittany created her own terms: and inadvertently she and Santana had been named after rather unremarkable inanimate objects: Turtle, Bug, and Waffles. But the name was one that sparked fervor in her – and she answered to it every time with love and fondness.
"Bug… This has to be the beginning of a serious conversation if you're resorting back to our old cheer camp names." Quinn smiled softly, and laid her head back down against the wood, but the smile didn't reach her eyes. It never reached her eyes anymore.
"This is important Q."
"You have to tell her Turtle. I won't always be here to crawl into your room every night and pick up the broken pieces. I watch you – I watch her."
Quinn rolled her eyes in faux indifference as she turned her face away from Santana, secretly hoping that her face wouldn't give away her utter lack of emotional resolve.
"Stop Bug, I don't know what you're talking about." Always the denial type Santana thought. And it angered her; it lit fire to whatever she was always holding back for Quinn's sake. And she had just doused that fire with god damn lighter fluid – and now she was burning. And she was burning like kerosene.
"God Damn Bullshit Q, and you know it! You need to fix whatever it is that's broken or else you won't ever be okay – you'll always be broken. And I can't sit around and watch you fucking flounder Q. I won't do it."
Quinn's chin began to tremble against her uttermost protests. Her resolve was crumbling like the walls of Jericho. Her sweaty palms clutched at polished wood not finding purchase. And her eyes squeezed shut hoping to dam the flood of tears that was so close; too close. She couldn't fall apart. She couldn't fall apart. She couldn't fall apart.
"Rachel Berry, Quinn – I know. I've always known. And you need to tell her. Do it, or I will. I can't watch you drown yourself anymore – I can't be your life vest forever. And I don't deserve to be."
She fell apart. She opened her cloudy eyes and didn't flinch as the tears followed. They ran down her flushed cheeks, and ignited the sweaty heat they found there as they trickled down cheeks and neck. Hot skin.
She loved Rachel Berry, she had since she was fourteen – but god, was she lost. She wasn't gay. She needed to let her go. She couldn't. Her heart cracked open, and she wept, she wept as her comfort and affection handicapped friend watched her from a bowed head from a few feet away. And she clutched at her sweaty skin, hoping for a goddamn release that wouldn't come.