Disclaimer: For the last time, I don't own them.
Finn's waiting for her outside of Pre-Calc when the lunch bell rings.
"How was your test?" he asks, falling into step next to her, and she smiles at the fact that he remembered.
"Not too bad. You ready for yours?"
He blinks at her. "I don't take Pre-Calc."
"No, I mean in Geology. You told me you had a test today practically a week and a half ago."
"…Crap," he murmurs, eyes going wide, and she runs a hand up and down his arm. "Can you, like. Tutor me over lunch?"
"I never took Geology, Finn," she reminds him gently. Because it's Rocks for Jocks, and anyone could pass that class, she doesn't add.
"It's cool. Maybe I'll just, like. Fake a headache. Puck's been doing it for years."
"Yes, because Puck is the kind of person you should have as a role model." She rolls her eyes, leaning back against the row of lockers while Finn enters his combination.
"But, like. Speaking of me forgetting stuff… there's something I've been meaning to ask you?"
"So, um. Prom," he says, and for a split second her heart actually soars before he continues. "Should I be, like. Saving up for a hotel room? Because I can do that."
… She doesn't even know why she's surprised.
"The Junior Prom is held in the gym, Finn," she reminds him, voice hard. Hoping she can reject him without actually rejecting him. "It's not like we can just go upstairs."
"No, I know that. I just know that this is super important to you and stuff, so… I just want to make it special for you."
Special for him, maybe. But she's been down that road before, and she knows where it leads, and she just… can't. "Finn…"
"God, I just don't get you! You said—" he cuts himself off abruptly, seeming to realize for the first time that they're still in a crowded hallway, and lowers his voice. "You said I should have been your first. That you made a mistake with Puck, but you belong with me."
"I do belong with you, I just…"
He sighs when she can't finish that sentence, and reaches for her hand. "I just can't figure you out, Q," he mumbles, playing gently with her fingers. "Like, you keep saying that you want me and stuff, but then we never do anything."
"Oh my God, are you guilting me right now?" she sputters, tearing her hand away.
"What? No! Quinn, I wouldn't—I'm not like that," he says, and honestly, she believes him. She knows she's not being fair. "It's just… it can be really confusing, being with you, and I don't really know what you want from me."
Her lips twitch into a half-smile, and she stands on her tiptoes to give him a peck on the lips. "I love that you're trying so hard."
"Yeah, well," he says, pulling away from her and closing his locker with a bang, "That's not really the same as loving me, is it?"
It hurts, that he's only ever insightful when he's pointing out things she's doing wrong.
"You goin' my way, doll?" Sam asks as he swings his backpack into the space at his feet and clambers into her car.
She raises an eyebrow. "Was that supposed to be Elvis?"
"It's a work in progress," he admits with a shrug, and then looks at her closely. "Can I, uh, tell you something?"
"Of course," she says, putting the car in gear and heading towards the elementary school.
"Rachel asked me to prom," he says cautiously, and she grips the steering wheel hard, fighting the instant rush of possessiveness that floods through her. She's with Finn, and Rachel going with Sam means there's actually a slight possibility that she may leave them alone.
"And what did you tell her?"
"No, because I'm not going to prom."
He looks at her as if she's being dense. "I wish I could be there to support you and everything, but—get real, Quinn. Tux rentals and limos and stuff? I can't afford that. And watching everyone else be able to… it'll just suck. So no, I'm not going."
"Well, prom court ballots are cast in homeroom the day before, anyway, so you can still vote for—"
"She asked me if I was saying no because I was afraid of making Finn jealous," he interrupts, and suddenly Quinn loses her voice. Sam sighs. "Yeah. That's what I said, too."
"It's just—I know you love him and all, but it kind of really pisses me off, the way he treats you sometimes."
She has no idea how to respond to that. "Can we please talk about something else?" she whispers.
He looks out the window, watching the town go by. After a long moment, he says, "I think I'm gonna have to sell my guitar."
She doesn't know what she was expecting him to change the subject to, but it wasn't that. "What?"
"We need the cash. And I was just gonna hock it at the pawn shop, but you got way more money for my ring than I ever could, so I was hoping maybe you could… help. Again."
"Sam, that's not what I was—I'm not going to help you sell your guitar!"
"Because it means everything to you!"
"God, Quinn, grow up!" he explodes, and she swerves so badly that the honking from the other lane doesn't stop for a good ten seconds. He knows he needs to calm down, and that taking his anger out on her is a stupid, shitty move, but he can't help it. He's furious. "My family means everything to me. Okay? More than music, more than my comic books, and way more than stupid fucking prom. And if this is what I have to do, then I'm going to do it, whether you help me or not."
She doesn't say a word. He watches her face, and she just—shuts down. Sets her expression into that neutral Quinn mask that used to be her default setting, and he hates himself for putting it there just as much as he hates her right now.
"Are you done?" she finally asks in a measured, steely voice, hands frozen at ten and two, and he has no idea how this conversation got away from them so fast.
It's utterly silent in the car after that.
By the time they reach the elementary school, he's calmed down enough to realize that if he doesn't say something, she never will; by the time they see Stacey and Stevie exit the building hand in hand and start walking towards them, he's realized that he really needs her to.
He sighs. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled at you like that." She still won't look at him, so he adds, "Really. You're just trying to help, and I'm just… a dick, and really mad, so. I'm sorry."
"You're not a dick."
"Quinn, I don't have a problem admitting when I'm wrong, okay? I get in the car and say Finn doesn't treat you right, then almost get us killed for insulting you when you're trying to be a good friend? I'm not…" he frowns, then says instead, "My parents raised me to be a gentleman."
"And you are," she says, and he's trying to take the high road here but the mask is gone and her eyes are all soft again, like she's letting herself be a person, and it's so easy to relax around this version of her. "It's okay. You're… If I were under the amount of stress you are, I'd have killed someone by now. And as much as I hate to say it, you're right."
She bites her lip. "Yeah. I'll talk to Jacob Ben Israel about it tomorrow. Your guitar, I mean."
"What the hell is this, dude?" Finn shouts, storming into glee the next day. "'What blondie former cheerleader is having a secret moonlight motel rendezvous with another big-lipped blondie?'"
Quinn's head shoots up at the word cheerleader, and Kurt's at motel, but Sam's already stuttering in his own defense. "What is th—where does it say that?"
"Right on the front page of the school newspaper."
"You don't seriously believe this, do you?" she asks, grabbing Finn's elbow and forcing him to look her in the eye.
"Well why shouldn't I? Why wouldn't he do the same thing to me that I did to him?"
Because Sam doesn't cheat, she thinks, but she says "Because it's gossip, Finn."
It sounds weak, even to her.
Before she can figure out a way to get control of the situation, Santana's stalking in, screaming at Brittany, and just—this is not going to go well.
"I'm gonna punch your face off!" Finn shouts, shoving at Sam.
"Hey, you've got a lot of nerve accusing me of cheating when you're the one who snuck in and stole my girl!" Sam retorts, shoving back, and it doesn't matter how many times she says "stop it" or pushes herself between them, they don't break apart until Mr. Schue literally separates them. (Why is it that, no matter what she does, her life always, always comes back to this?)
And Finn's leaving.
"Hey, Finn, where're you going? We have rehearsal!"
"Not today," he spits.
At least he doesn't kick anything on his way out.
They have to be more careful than usual, going home that day. She leaves practically the second Mr. Schuester gives the okay, letting Sam hang back to chat with people. It's twenty minutes before she sees him turn the corner in her rearview mirror, approaching their meeting place.
"I swear, I didn't tell Jacob whose guitar it was," she says when he climbs in. "Obviously he's been watching me."
"It's okay," he says, in a dead sort of voice, and she wishes she were the kind of person who was any good at cheering people up. But he needs it, so she tries anyway.
"So. Your girl, huh?" She means for it to come out light and joking, but all she can manage to sound is tired.
(She's sick of being fought over instead of just had. And she and Sam aren't like that.)
Sam reads something on her face, and flushes the tiniest bit. "You know I didn't mean it that way. It's like—like Mercedes. Like, you mah gurl, Quinn."
She practically chokes. "… Never do an impression of Mercedes ever again."
"Made you laugh, though," he says with a hesitant smile, and she suddenly feels a powerful burst of affection for him. The fact that they function together makes no sense, but… well, the fact that either of them function at all is kind of a miracle, when she thinks about it.
"I don't think Jacob actually has anything on us. And even if he did, making a fuss about it or confronting him will just make it worse. Finn will get over it, and… as long as we're careful, everything will be fine. I'll stop parking in the motel lot. We'll figure it out."
"Maybe you shouldn't come over tomorrow," he mumbles.
It's hard to pretend that doesn't sting. "If that's what you want."
"No, s'just… Kurt's coming over anyway to bring some of his old clothes. I'm… you shouldn't have to deal with this. Y'know?"
"Sam, I've been dealing with this for months. I'm not going to stop just because—"
"I know that. I'm just trying to protect you, okay?"
"I don't need—"
"Yeah, well, apparently, you do."
For a tense moment, they sit in silence as he watches her face. But she just takes a deep breath, and chuckles. "You're really going to wear Kurt's old clothes?"
"Shut up. If they're that bad or covered in sequins or something, I'll just give 'em to Stacey to play with." He seems to mull something over for a moment. "Would you be mad if I started calling you SeQuinn?"
"Don't push it."
(He follows her out to the porch that night, when she's getting ready to leave. Before she can ask him if she's forgotten something, he's hugging her, and—she's tired of feeling like she has to justify this. The world won't end if she lets Sam in. Hugging your friends is supposed to be routine; she thinks she can be okay with that.)
She gets mass texts from both Finn and Rachel as she's getting ready for bed the next night. They each say basically the same thing—that they're pulling rank as glee co-captains and calling a mandatory meeting at the Lima Bean before school in the morning, and that no one can tell Sam or Kurt.
Her insides turn to ice, and she's scrolling through her contacts and hitting Call before she can think better of it.
"What the hell is this?" she asks, as soon as the ringing ends with a soft click.
"I—Quinn, I'm not sure I know what you're—"
"Your stupid gossip-mongering session, Berry," Quinn hisses, already regretting not calling Finn. (But that would have been useless. If she wants to fix this, she has to go to the source.) "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Rachel takes a breath, before primly saying, "New rumors have come to light about Sam's involvement with—"
"What, and the fact that it's Kurt now means I get some kind of magical reprieve?" Quinn spits. "Gosh, I'm flattered."
"Finn and I felt that, as a good faith gesture towards your relationship, we'd give you the benefit of the doubt and let you—"
Quinn hangs up before she can finish.
The thing is, now she's stuck. She can't go to the breakfast meeting without stranding Sam and his siblings; she can't not go, or it'll arouse suspicion and make things even worse. She can't text Kurt about it, because he and Finn live together and carpool most days, which—how Finn plans on keeping him out of this, she has no idea, but she's dragged Kurt into far too much as it is—and she can't text Sam, because he doesn't have a fucking phone.
She grabs a hoodie and is out the door before her mom can stop her.
Maybe it's ironic that running is the only thing she's ever really felt good at.
It's just that… it's such a relief, to get away for a little while. Her whole world shrinks down to the pound of her feet against pavement, the burn in her chest and the even rhythm of her breathing. Everything else just fades away, and she can focus. Right, left, right, left, right, left.
She just doesn't know what to do.
Her cross knocks against her sternum with every stride, and she finds herself frowning. It's one thing for God to punish her for being a bad person, but dragging Sam and Kurt into it… she doesn't see a way to get out of this. The best she can hope for is going to the stupid meeting and praying that she can escape with enough time to drive back to the motel.
Her phone buzzes from inside her pocket.
Message from: Mom
Quinn keeps running.
She spends all of breakfast fighting the instinct to frantically check her watch. The last thing she needs is to look shifty or uncomfortable, but it's kind of hard to do that when everyone keeps looking at her like she's crazy for making perfectly reasonable statements. (Statements like "Kurt wouldn't cheat on Blaine," because he wouldn't, or "Sam's not gay," because he's not.)
She knows she probably attracts undue attention by bolting so abruptly, but… whatever, she can't stand any of those people when they're like this. And she has places to be.
"Hey," Sam greets as they all climb in. "We were beginning to worry you wouldn't show."
"Unavoidable delay. I'll explain later."
"Was there an accident?" Stevie asks.
Sam laughs. "Jeez, Half Pint, gruesome much?"
"What's gruesome mean?" Stacey asks.
"Gratuitously macabre," Quinn says, entirely for Stevie's benefit. He always has his nose in a book; she's been dropping large vocabulary words for him lately, just to see what happens. Sam rolls his eyes.
"It's, um, gross. And scary. Like… horror movies. Or when Dad tries to cook."
"I'm gruesome, too," Stevie announces.
"Sure are. I'm terrified," Sam chuckles.
"No, I mean. We measured me last night. On the wall? I'm a whole quarter inch taller. I grew some!"
"… That was excellent, Half Pint."
Quinn breathes easy for the first time in days. It's strangely peaceful, listening to them banter, and she just lets the sound wash over her as she drives them to the elementary school. The ride is over far too soon.
"Be good!" Sam shouts out the window as his siblings cross the street. "Don't make anyone cry!"
Quinn laughs. "Was that directed at Stevie or Stacey?"
"Stacey got in a fight?"
Sam snorts. "Please. She broke up with David Sullivan and he took it really hard."
"You have no idea. I fear for all of dudekind, when she hits high school and starts dating for real." He turns to look at her. "So… unavoidable delay?"
"Ugh. It's… I don't really want to get into it, it was just this stupid idea of Finn's, and—"
"Quinn… if the whole giving us rides thing is getting to be too much, my parents can… we can switch off days, or something."
"No! No. Trust me, this is exactly where I want to be. I just…" She bites her lip.
"What did Finn want?"
Her first instinct is to lie, but she knows it would be useless. "The whole glee club had a secret meeting about whether or not Kurt's cheating on Blaine with you."
"I know. I know. And I had to go, or they'd start looking at me again, and I just… I am so sorry, Sam."
He sighs. "It's not your fault. And, like… it's whatever. I'm not going to glee tomorrow, anyway."
"Yeah. Greg's dropping off the work car at school, and I'm taking his shift. And, like, if it goes well… I think I might have to quit. Glee, I mean, not my job. We could really use the money, so."
She frowns. "Sam…"
"It's whatever, Quinn."
And really, the thing she hates most is that some stupid, petty part of her wishes she could just up and walk away, too.
Growing up, you end up getting told a lot of lies. That the world, for the most part, is a fair place; that if you work hard enough, you can be anything you want to be when you grow up. This won't hurt a bit; it's good for you; everything is going to be okay. Things get worse before they get better, and it's always darkest before the dawn.
She's been waiting for things to get better for seventeen years, and on the whole, they've only ever gotten worse.
Even now, hours later, she can't get her conversation with Finn off her mind. Well, that, and the stupid bridge part on their song, but having the two of them swirling around together in her head is basically the all-time greatest migraine recipe.
She breathes a sigh of relief when she sees that Sam's parents still aren't home yet.
He smiles, when he opens the door and sees her. "Hi."
"Hey. Can we talk?"
"Uh… yeah. Everyone else is asleep," he says, stepping onto the porch and closing the door behind him, "so we gotta stay out here."
"That's fine. I just needed to…" She sighs, and closes her eyes. "I don't even know what I need anymore."
"I was rehearsing for glee with Finn. We're doing an entire song about how he doesn't trust me; it's awesome."
"I Don't Want To Know."
"Oh. The harmony's pretty," he comments, then chuckles a little at her murderous expression. With a small smile, he walks over to the porch railing and tilts his chin up.
"I know, I know," she grumbles, moving to join him. "The atmosphere."
"You and Finn gonna be okay?"
"We've made it through worse," she says neutrally.
"Um, not to be a jerk, but, like—I kinda thought you broke up over worse."
"Not helping, Sam."
For a moment, it's just them and the cicadas in the warm spring air.
"I hate that all of this is happening because it's me," she admits.
He frowns. "What?"
"Okay, not all of this, but—the rumors. You think people would be reacting like this if it were Rachel caught being near you? If this all started because you went to Mercedes' church, not mine? It's just… it's so stupid. I know that I've made mistakes in the past. And people got hurt. But I'm legitimately trying to be a better person, here, and it's like I'm not allowed."
"If I were doing something wrong, they'd know. The first time I cheated, I got pregnant. The second time, I got mono. Seeing as I haven't contracted the plague or been stung to death by African killer bees, it's pretty obvious that I'm innocent."
Normally he'd laugh, but she looks so bitter and defeated about the whole thing that the only thing he can do is lean a little closer.
"Can I ask you a question?" he murmurs after a while.
Her first instinct is to say Of course, Sam, you can ask me anything, and she's really not entirely sure when that started being true. She clears her throat, and says, "I guess?"
He takes a deep breath, like he's steeling himself for something painful. "Why'd you do it?"
She's said it so many times, it barely even phases her. "I felt fat that day, and Puck got me drunk."
"On me, Quinn," he specifies, and she winces at his tone. "Why'd you cheat on me?"
"I…" she starts, but when she chokes on the rest, his eyes flash.
"I don't know," she whispers.
"That's bullshit. Come on, don't screw with me. Whatever it is, I can take it."
She bites down hard on her lip, and repeats: "Sam, I don't know."
He blinks at her. "You… don't know."
"I don't know why I did it. I shouldn't have done it. I don't have a reason—I don't even have an excuse. I wish I did. I wish I could tell you something that would make it make sense."
"That's… really messed up."
She laughs in an empty sort of way. "You think I don't know that? Look, all I can tell you is that after I kissed him after the football game, he started chasing me, and it felt good. Finn chasing me. Because when we were together it's like he was always looking at someone else, and I just… I'd waited so long for him to want me. But I shouldn't have let it happen, and I don't know why I kissed him in the first place. And none of that justifies what I did to you."
"…Is that an apology?"
"If it was, it was a pretty terrible one."
"Wanna try it again?" he asks, but he's smiling.
She takes a breath, and looks him right in the eyes. "I'm sorry, Sam."
"…Would it be weird if I said I'm not?"
"What do you mean?"
He shrugs. "I like what we have now. It's just… I dunno. You're like my best friend, Quinn. And I kind of like that better than when we were both using each other to be more popular, y'know?"
No one has ever said anything even remotely like that to her before, and suddenly she's really glad that hugging is a thing they do now, because she couldn't stop herself if she tried.
"Oh, hey," he chuckles, wrapping his arms around her in response, and then he just… holds her for a minute. Squeezing slightly, he mumbles into her hair, "It's cool if we have to, like. See less of each other for a little while. I don't want to fuck things up for you."
She pulls back, wanting to see his face. "No, don't do that."
"Offer me an out. I'm not going anywhere, Sam. The rumors will blow over eventually—they always do. And even if that weren't true, I'm going to stick by you. Because… you're my best friend, too."
"Well, duh," he laughs. "You're not just figuring that out now, are you? Jeez, and they say I'm slow." He hip-checks her then, grinning like an idiot, and all she can think is how, even after all this time, she'd still burn down the world for him if she thought it would help.
Everyone else in that school can go to hell; she will take Sam's secret to the grave, no matter what Finn thinks or how many rumors they start about her.
Her performance with Finn goes… well, it goes, anyway. It feels wrong, like they're airing their dirty laundry in front of the entire club, but it's not like they'd be the first.
"Nice job, guys," Mr. Schue says, awkwardly, "but you might want to… smile more, next time."
"Yeah, it was lovely, but… I prefer Quinn's duet performance of Lucky with Sam better," Rachel says pointedly, seeking Quinn's eyes. "Since you and Sam have become a lot closer lately, maybe you guys should do duets together more often."
"Where is Sam?" Artie wonders. "Quinn and Kurt are both here today, so we know he's not doing the dirty."
"I know what you're doing," Quinn breaks in, needing them to get off this line of questioning. (Distract, deflect, defend. Protect Sam.) "You want Finn and I to stop singing together so that you can sing with him again."
"Frankly, yes," Rachel says, and Quinn fights the urge to roll her eyes. And people call her shallow? "Finn and I have amazing proven harmonies and when it comes to Nationals, I think it makes more sense for him to be paired with me."
"Well it's not happening. Not as long as Finn wants to be with me."
"Wait," Finn interjects, "I thought you said this relationship was about trust."
"Oh, I trust you. I just don't trust her."
"Quinn, I don't think you can mandate who pairs up for Nationals, alright? Vocal Adrenaline doesn't need any help from us," Mr. Schuester says.
And she's just… had it. "I love being here, and I want to win. But my relationship comes first. I'm sorry, but—Finn, if you want to be with me? No more songs with her."
She breathes a sigh of relief when no one follows her out the door.
She's vaguely aware that her little outburst didn't make a lick of sense, and that probably half of it was a complete lie—and she isn't even sure which half—but… at least now all eyes will be on her, and not on Sam.
Mission freaking accomplished.
She's regrouping in the bathroom when she gets the text.
Message from: Kurt Hummel
Nice hustle out there. Though the angry maraca shake was maybe a bit much.
Despite everything, she actually laughs.
It's not a maraca, it's a cabasa.
Message from: Kurt Hummel
Yes, well, mi cabasa es su cabasa. I'll take babysitting tonight. You need distance, and you've got more on the line than I do.
She doesn't want him to do that. Mostly she doesn't want him to be right, and doesn't want this to be a problem, and doesn't want to sacrifice her few hours of sanity for the sake of maintaining appearances, but… she can't argue with logic.
She can tell Sam has something to say to her, the next morning. The expression on his face is inscrutable, and he's completely quiet until they've dropped off Stevie and Stacey and are on their way to McKinley. "Kurt told me about what happened at glee yesterday. Quinn: not cool."
She stiffens immediately, and all Sam can think is Shields up, Captain. "It's none of your business."
"You made it my business when you said you were gonna leave the club if they sang together. They need you, and that's not fair."
"Like you aren't thinking of quitting, too."
"That's different. I'm trying to make good choices for my family. You're just being immature because you don't like sharing your toys. I don't get it, Quinn. Why do you hate her so much? Rachel's nice."
If it weren't so funny, she'd probably burst into tears. Or maybe she'd laugh if it weren't so pathetically sad, because suddenly she's lost control and Sam's all "shit, please don't cry" and she isn't even sure when she started.
What she doesn't say—what she can't say—is that that's exactly the problem. She doesn't trust Finn with Rachel Berry because Rachel's nice, and talented, and driven, and organically beautiful in a way that Quinn Fabray, by definition, can never, ever be… and even though Rachel gets crap from everyone in school for being herself, it's still obvious who the better choice is.
It hasn't been Quinn in a long time.
Maybe it never was.
(That's probably the worst part, she thinks. That it's not like she could even blame him, if something happens. Sometimes she feels like she'd leave her for Rachel, too, if she had the chance.)
She pulls over at the corner, and before she even knows what's happening Sam's unbuckled his seatbelt and is awkwardly hunched over the center console, hugging her from the side.
"Sam, stop," she mumbles, reaching around his arm to wipe at her eyes, and she can feel him snort against her neck.
"I'm just being pathetic. Things are bad enough as it is; come on, before someone sees us."
"You think I care about that right now?" He pulls back just enough to run a hand through her hair. "Yeah, Rachel's nice. But she's not you. And I pick you any day, okay?"
"Yeah, well," she mutters, "You'd be the first."
He groans in frustration and then pinches her hard in the side, making her yelp. "I'm serious. You mah gurl, Quinn."
"Oh my God, get out of my car," she orders, but she's laughing.
She doesn't think it's unreasonable to blame it all on Rachel.
Because, really. If she hadn't done that stupid song, with Finn and Puck—and seriously, is Quinn the only person who remembers Run, Joey, Run?—then Quinn wouldn't have had to defend herself, and then none of this—
"Don't you think it's maybe a little inappropriate that you chose to sing a love song to my guy?"
"You're such a hypocrite, you Little Miss Perfect Prom Queen. You're a cheater, who cheats in cheap motels with Sam!"
"Nothing is going on between Sam and I!"
—would have happened.
It's almost funny, how quickly the situation spirals out of control from there. And what really kills her? Sam doesn't even try to put up a fight. He just sits there and takes it and lets the truth spill out.
All of their hard work, down the drain.
For a long moment, she just feels frozen. Nobody speaks, as Sam stalks out the door, and she can't quiet the noise in her head long enough to tell herself to move.
"Quinn—" Mr. Schuester starts, and she just… no.
"Not now," she barks. She stands up, gives all of them the most acidic glare she can muster, and runs out after him.
Sam's already rounding the corner by the time she gets out into the hallway; as she chases him down the hall, her phone chimes with the first of what she assumes will be many text messages.
"Sam—Sam, stop, wait up."
He doesn't say a word, but whips around, lightning-fast, fist slamming hard into the nearest row of lockers. She flinches at the sound.
She's never seen him like this.
"Sam?" she whispers, inching closer to him, and he startles.
"Shit, Quinn, I—sorry. Sorry. Shit, I'm so sorry," he babbles. (Only Sam would try to apologize for scaring her at a time like this.) "I'm just—I don't—"
"You should put ice on that," she murmurs.
"I should—what?" he asks, and then looks at his hand as if he's seeing it for the first time. "I… shit. Shit, that hurts. God."
"What do you need?"
He sighs, defeat written all over his features. "Can you please just take me home?"
Her phone starts vibrating in her pocket; she ignores it. "Of course."
She loses count of the number of times her phone goes off on the drive back to the motel; it's the only thing that breaks the quiet in the car.
"They're going to ask questions," she says softly, pulling into an empty parking space. He doesn't respond. He doesn't move. "Sam. How much should I tell them?"
"Doesn't matter. Secret's out, right? Tell them whatever you want."
What she wants is to tell them to mind their own fucking business, but her being cagey about it now, when everything's supposed to be out in the open, will only make them suspicious again. "Sam…"
"I just want to be alone for a little while, okay? Thanks for the ride."
Some best friend she turned out to be.
She checks her phone—three missed calls, seven texts. The only one she bothers to open is Kurt's, which simply says SOS.
She doesn't owe them anything, but she does owe Kurt. The least she can do is rescue him from the lion's den.
When she gets back to school, everyone's still in the same basic position as when they left.
"Kurt's told us the basics, but he said… he said you'd know more," Finn says, not making eye contact. Good. Let him feel guilty. He should.
"Since when is it your problem?" she snaps, unable to stop herself. Mr. Schue gives her a disappointed look.
"Glee club is a family, Quinn. We take care of each other."
"Then where were you two months ago?"
"Where were you?" Rachel asks quietly, from her chair. Quinn whips around. "How did you even get involved in this?"
"I…" Quinn stops, and takes a deep breath. "I was just in the right place at the right time."
"Then stop holding it against us that we weren't," Tina says. It's still a shock, sometimes, when she asserts herself—Quinn's too blindsided by it to find an argument. "We're all just thrown for a loop by this, right now. And now we want to do the right thing."
Santana stares resolutely at the floor, studying the patterns in the tile. Quinn hopes she feels guiltiest of all.
"I can't believe they're living in a motel," Puck mutters, looking at his hands. "That shit's messed up."
"It's not just that," Kurt sighs. "It's…"
"Everything," Quinn finishes, seeing his helpless look. "Everything's gone. He gave up his phone—"
"… Dude told me he lost it," Mike murmurs.
"—he sold his comic books, he hocked his guitar—"
Mercedes sucks in a breath. "He what?"
Quinn pinches the bridge of her nose. "We sold it to Jacob Ben Israel. That's why he got suspicious of us in the first place; that's how we ended up in the Muckraker."
"Does Jacob still have it now?" Finn asks. He looks like he's working out a difficult equation in his head.
"I don't know; probably?"
"Okay. So. Okay. Everyone, pay up," Finn says, switching into leader mode. "We're gonna—we're gonna buy it back for him."
Quinn sighs. "Finn, that won't—"
"No, Finn's right," Mr. Schuester says, talking over her. "We've always turned to music in order to express ourselves and get through hard times in this club. We can't let Sam walk away from that."
"Does anyone have a hat or something?" Finn asks, looking at the group. Brittany wordlessly takes off the kitty-eared beanie she has on her head and passes it to him. He digs around in his pocket, takes out a wad of cash, and dumps it in. "Everyone. Come on."
It's equal parts gratifying and infuriating, watching them all donate to the cause when this has been her life for months, now.
"Oh, no, Quinn—" Rachel says when the hat reaches her, "don't. You've already done so much."
She's pretty sure Rachel means that in a nice way, but it feels like an accusation all the same.
"The Sky People have sent us a message… that they can take whatever they want. That no one can stop them. Well, we will send them a message. You ride…"
Okay, fine, so maybe she's watching Avatar.
She's supposed to be doing her homework, but all she could think about was Sam—replaying everything that happened in her head, wondering if she could have prevented it. It may not be productive, but dwelling upon how legitimately terrible this movie is at least distracts her from that.
(She actually liked Star Wars and Back to the Future, in a nostalgic, kitschy kind of way. This is just… Pocahontas in space, without the music.)
"Quinnie? Phone!" Her mother calls from downstairs.
"Who is it?"
"It's an unlisted number."
Quinn frowns as she gets up and walks into the hallway towards the upstairs extension. There are only a few people she can think of who'd call and ask for her from an unlisted number, and she really doesn't think she has the energy to talk to any of them right now.
"…Sam? Where are you calling from?"
"Pay phone. Sorry to call your house, but, uh, I don't have your cell number memorized, so I had to look you up in the phone book."
"It's fine, but—Sam, are you… crying?"
"They bought back my guitar. Finn and Rachel, or all of glee club, or—God, I don't know. Did you—" he chokes for a second, and she squeezes her eyes shut. "Quinn, did you do this?"
"They wouldn't leave me alone until I told them what they wanted to hear," she whispers in apology.
"No, that's not—Jesus, Quinn." He sniffles, and she can practically hear him pulling himself together. "I know you. And if you make some stupid comment about how, like, you're the evil bitch who sold my guitar and Rachel's the perfect angel who bought it back for me, I'll freaking—I'll—I don't even know, but it'll just suck, okay? I'm trying to say thank you."
And it occurs to her that it's a bit twisted, that he called her in tears and now he's the one cheering her up. She has to stop being so afraid of him judging her; for whatever reason, he just isn't going to, and it's not doing either of them any good to pretend that's not the case. "You See me," she breathes.
"I… did you just say what I think you said?"
"That's a thing, right? In Avatar? People… when you understand someone, you say you—"
"Yeah! I…" The laughter he trails off into is weak, but it's there. "I can't believe you remember that. So… look. I was thinking about Rumours. Um, the album, I mean, not the… and anyway, I know that you already sang with Finn, and that you didn't want him to sing with Rachel, and I don't want to make shit worse, but Don't Stop would probably sound awesome as a duet and I just thought…" He trails off, and she fills in the blanks.
"You're asking me to sing with you?"
"It's for Stevie and Stacey. You don't have to if you don't want to."
She rolls her eyes, even though he can't see her, because—really?
"I'll be over in ten minutes."
It's a relentlessly optimistic song. Like, nauseatingly so.
For once, Quinn kind of doesn't mind.
A/N And that's the end!
I want to say thank you, to everyone who has read and reviewed this story in the past week. It means a lot to me, and really boosted my confidence. Writing this took a lot out of me, but I do have more stories in this universe to tell, so... stick around, I guess. It's been a pleasure.