Disclaimer: I don't own any of this; just playing around. All in good fun.
Author's Notes: So, once upon a time—and by once upon a time I mean right after Rumours came out—I set out to write a fic about Quinn helping Sam babysit, because I thought that dynamic would be really interesting to explore. Somehow, this evolved into a massive exploration of all of Quinn's issues three months in the making. I have no regrets.
The title is a lyric from Gold Dust Woman, off the Rumours LP, because—well. Relevant.
"… As Christians, we have a duty to God and to one another," Reverend Andrews concludes, "and I hope we will all come together as a community to help the Evans family through this difficult time."
Sam stares at the floor, grinding his teeth.
It's just not freaking fair. It's not fair, and he can see Quinn moving towards him out of the corner of his eye as the rest of the congregation gets up to leave, and he can't think of worse torture than this.
He broke up with her. Isn't that supposed to mean that he's the one who gets to keep his dignity?
He gets up to meet her halfway, because his parents still don't know why they broke up, and because whatever it is Quinn's after, he doesn't think he wants his kid brother and sister to hear.
"Anything you have to say, just save it, okay?" he mutters, drawing her aside. "You've got ammo against me, and no good reason not to use it, and fine. Do whatever you want. But not here."
She actually looks hurt by that for a second, drawing her hymnal up to her chest like a shield. That kind of pisses him off, because she has no business being upset by how he treats her now, but before he can make a comment her neutral mask is back in place.
"I was just going to ask," she says slowly, voice barely above a whisper, "if there's anything I can do to help."
"I don't need anything from you, Quinn." He doesn't mean for it to come out quite so sharp, but whatever, he's allowed to be bitter. She blinks back a flinch, knuckles turning white against the book in her hands.
"I deserved that," she admits, voice eerily calm. He's familiar with that tone; it sets his teeth on edge. "But seriously, I'm not taking no for an answer. Tell me how I can help."
"You wanna help? Don't tell anyone. My rep's damaged enough as it is."
The corner of her lip twitches in the ghost of an understanding smirk. "I can do that."
And that's that.
Or, it should have been.
It's just that she feels responsible somehow.
She knows, objectively, that that can't possibly be true, but… in the long run, she's done so many things to ruin Sam's life that figuring out what is and is not her fault barely seems worth the effort.
So yeah, maybe she decides to sort of keep an eye on him. And if it feels a little unfaithful to be thinking about Sam so much when she's with Finn now—or she's trying to be—well, it's not like the fact that she's a terrible person is news.
Least of all to herself.
There was a time, not too long ago, when it felt like his every waking moment was dedicated to figuring out the mystery of Quinn Fabray.
He's been good at not thinking about her, lately. Getting kicked out of your house goes a long way towards putting your priorities in order, and also Santana's a really good kisser. But thinking about Quinn is kind of like Inception, and once he gets started it's impossible to stop.
It just sucks, because he has all these random puzzle pieces—tiny, stupid things that he knows about her—and no idea what to do with them all. He doesn't have a clue what the finished picture is supposed to look like.
Still, he keeps trying.
He knows that sometimes Keep Holding On gets stuck in her head, but whenever she catches herself humming it she gets in a really pissy mood. That she secretly loves baseball, but hates the Cleveland Indians. That on days when she was stressed, she'd get really intense about her ponytail being completely straight, and would compulsively untie and retie it between classes.
He knows she has calluses on the tips of her fingers, because the first time he taught her chord progressions she never winced, not once, and he uses steel strings on his guitar. Maybe that's from cheerleading or something; he's hardly an expert. (Or maybe her hands are exactly as soft as they look, and she just doesn't believe in showing signs of weakness.)
He knows there's a super sensitive spot on her neck guaranteed to make her squirm, but that it's a gamble to go there—sometimes it made her melt against him, weak in the knees, and sometimes it made her bolt upright and jump halfway across the couch. He doesn't think he'll ever understand that—why she pushes away the things that make her feel good.
He doesn't think he'll ever understand her, period.
"We're going to Berry's party on Saturday night," Santana informs him, and to be honest he'd kind of forgotten she was there. "So if your inner nerd is unleashed with alcohol and you're going to, like, start quoting Star Trek or something, I really need you to warn me now so I can bring enough duct tape to cover up that immense rift in the space/time continuum you call a mouth."
"Sure, okay, cool," he mutters on autopilot, and starts walking away.
"Hey—where are you going? It's lunchtime. I needs to get my pudding cup on, and the lunch ladies like you better than me."
"I, uh, I can't. I have to talk to Mr. Miller about getting extra credit in Chem."
(And that's another thing he knows about Quinn—that her occasional tendency to skip meals had nothing to do with Coach Sylvester's crazy Cheerios diet. That's something about her he does understand, but… whatever, it's not important. He's just being stupid.)
Somehow, she still manages to catch him by surprise.
"You've stopped eating."
"Hey to you too, Quinn," he mumbles, angling his body away from her and moving to close his locker. Her arm shoots out to keep him from doing so, open palm smacking against the metal with a resounding clang that echoes down the hallway.
(He didn't even last a week. How hard is it to avoid someone for five days?)
"You're not exactly subtle about it. You haven't gone to lunch period in at least two weeks. Finn says you're in the weight room."
"I can't talk right now; I'm gonna be late for class."
"You think I don't get it?" she hisses, hazel eyes boring right into him. "Believe me, I get it. Your life is going to shit and there isn't a single thing you can control and hey, groceries for the family are expensive enough without the big football player eating his kid siblings' snacks. Rationalize it however you want, that doesn't change what this is. I get it. I've been there. But you can't do it this way. They need you. You've got to take care of yourself."
He clenches a fist, fighting the overwhelming urge to punch her in the face, because seriously: fuck Quinn. She was supposed to be the one who understood this, who wouldn't give him shit about—
A small hand comes up to rest on his shoulder, and he deflates.
"Why do you even care?" he mutters, torn between curiosity and a serious need to get away.
"Don't be an idiot," she says harshly, and then takes a deep breath. "Look, I'm not gonna force you to hold hands and sing kumbaya about it in glee club. I'm asking you to be a man about this. Get responsible, and get responsible now."
"It's not that easy."
Her gaze softens for the briefest of moments. "I know," she murmurs, "but you're gonna do it anyway." And then she's gone.
It's not exactly the most politically correct motivational speech he's ever heard, but it's Quinn, so.
The next time he opens his locker, a still-unused gift certificate to Breadstix flutters out.
The thing about guilt is that once you've started feeling it, it doesn't really go away.
As she watches Finn and Rachel get up and give the glee club a lecture on commitment, of all things, Quinn realizes that jealousy is no different.
It physically hurts her, watching them. They're sickening. They aren't even doing anything—as far as she knows (and she's made it her business to know), they're barely even speaking to each other these days—and they're still sickening. Finn hovering like an oversized teddy bear, hanging on her every word, while Rachel runs her mouth about who even knows what… Christ. It instantly takes Quinn right back to last year, and when Mr. Schuester dismisses them for the day, she can't get out of there fast enough.
Apparently, the universe is as out to get her has ever, because on her way out she runs straight into Jacob Ben Israel.
"Quinn Fabray! Fancy meeting you here. Word on the street is, you're a scoop waiting to happen."
"Oh do tell," she spits, shoving past him to get to her locker. He follows her like some kind of demented puppy dog.
"Rumor has it you're going to be making an appearance at Rachel Berry's shindig this weekend. Care to comment on your fall from social grace? Will your impending return to that dark mistress sangria also lead to a repeat round of the horizontal hora with our resident Jewish chick-magnet-turned-chubby-chaser, because—"
She whirls on him so fast he goes cross-eyed.
"…because if it's Semites that get you hot, I can help with that," he concludes weakly, cowering away from the hand hovering two inches from his face.
"I'd rather die," she says, but all she can hear is Finn saying Sometimes I wish you were more like Rachel. She cares about me. She cares about my feelings. She sticks up for me. She sticks up for the both of us. She gave Jacob a pair of her underpants to stop him writing the story about you, and Sam's face just won't get out of her head, and all of a sudden she hears herself saying, "We need to talk."
(She doesn't even know. Just… okay? Stop.)
Rachel's party is exactly as excruciating as Quinn anticipated it would be.
Alcohol does absolutely nothing to stem the crippling awkwardness of it all, no matter how much of it she drinks. And either way, her sobriety levels aren't going to change the fact that she can't get anywhere near Finn, because they're trying to avoid arousing suspicion; won't change the fact that Puck's wearing Lauren Zizes' glasses, dancing around her like she's some kind of pagan statue he's worshiping; that Rachel's bouncing around like a drugged out hobbit on stage with Kurt's Dalton man candy, or that Sam and Santana are making out in the corner, and no matter how badly she wants to, Quinn just can't stop staring.
And these are supposed to be the times she'll look back on fondly.
Before church the next morning, Quinn sidles next to him and slips a wad of cash into his hand.
"Quinn, what the hell—" Sam starts, before checking himself. He's still super hung over from last night, but talking about hell in church just doesn't seem like a good plan. "What do you think you're doing?"
"I hocked your ring."
"Your ring. The one you gave me. I… anyway, the money's yours." She doesn't seem like she's much in the mood for talking, which: he is all over that, but if she thinks she can just drop this on him and walk away, she has another thing coming.
"How did you…?"
"Look, we both know you need the money, so forget it, okay? I figured that just giving the stupid thing back to you would send the wrong message, so I talked to Jacob Ben Israel. He asked me some extremely disturbing questions about what I was doing with my fingers while I was wearing it which I really don't want to repeat in church—or ever—and when I threatened to break his nose he gave me a hundred fifty bucks to take it off my hands."
"… It was costume jewelry. It only cost, like, eight dollars. Tops."
"Then it's a good thing I did things my way."
She looks even more like hell than he does, is the thing. And, like. Even though there's bright light coming in through the stained glass windows, she keeps eye contact with him anyway. It must hurt like a bitch.
He stumbles forward to shove the cash back into her hands. "Quinn, I can't take this."
"Are you stupid? That's like a week's worth of groceries!" she insists. When his eyes flash dangerously, she sighs. "Look, I'm just trying to do the right thing here. This isn't about pity, Sam, it's…" she trails off. It's an apology.
He doesn't think he's ready to accept one, is the thing.
She feels like shit.
She doesn't know why she's surprised; the last time she was as drunk as she got last night, she ended up impregnated. But in a way, being hung over in church feels exactly like the divine retribution she's had coming to her for a while now, and—well. Reverend Andrews' sermon is all about forgiveness, and it just feels kind of like a sign.
And maybe, if Sam's listening, things might finally start to go her way.
Sam finds her, after.
"Look. About what you said… last week."
"I got a job, delivering pizzas. I start Wednesday. Only Dad's working at the Circle K right now, but he's on the late night shift so he can job hunt during the day, and Mom…" he trails off, unsure why he's suddenly explaining all of this to her. "Anyway, Stevie and Stacey will need someone to look after them."
"I can't promise you, like, a lot, but anything I make in tips can—"
"I don't want your money, Sam."
"And I don't need your charity."
She looks at him with steely resolve. "It's a favor for a friend," she insists, and only Quinn Fabray could make that sentence sound so… unfriendly.
"We're not f—" he starts, but then he clamps his mouth shut and inhales deeply through his nose. Neither of them are in a position to turn down a friend at the moment. "Yeah."
They're both still too wrecked to be able to discuss it with any more detail, but it's the closest they've been to solid ground since they were dating.
She'll take what she can get.
A/N Next chapter should be posted around this time tomorrow.