Title: One Degree of Separation
Pairing: Quinn Fabray/Rachel Berry
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. Just having a little fun.
Summary: One sober, one drunk, one degree of separation. Rachel tries to connect to Quinn as best as she can with a telephone line, two ex-boyfriends, and an adoption between them.
The sound of Defying Gravity blares around and bounces off the yellow walls of a soundproof bedroom. Underneath a mound a blankets, a small body stirs but otherwise doesn't move. The phone continues to ring then, suddenly, it stops. A few minutes later the phone dings with a voicemail. Rachel groans.
She gropes around her nightstand for the offending object. Her hand encases it and she brings it closer. Blurry eyes open to peer at the screen of her flip phone. A call from an unknown number. She dials her voicemail and presses the phone to her ear. There's some muffled noise in the background. And then words are spoken almost incoherently into the speaker.
The message ends right there. Rachel's blood runs cold—those two words, that familiar, low and dangerous voice sends shivers of trepidation down her spine. She bites her lip, weighing her options. To call or not to call? She can easily turn over to fall back asleep and simply forget this entire moment and enjoy the remaining two months of her summer vacation before her senior year. But determination was always a Rachel Berry quality. What she's determined about right now though, she isn't sure.
She pulls up her missed call list, stopping at the most recent number and clicks redial. It's picked up after the first ring.
The voice sounds cold and guarded. Rachel's throat bobs with a tight swallow of anxiety. She leans over to fumble with the lamp on her night stand, that voice creating Boogey Men and monsters under her bed. She musters up whatever strength she has and addresses the person on the other line.
"You called me, Quinn."
"No, I didn't."
Her jaw drops in shock. She's no expert on Quinn Fabray's voice—though she can tell you what Quinn's vocal range is, what songs suit her voice and what songs tend to make her go pitchy—but she's pretty sure the person that called and left a voicemail was definitely the same girl that had tormented her for the majority of her high school career.
She pinches the bridge of her nose. Her eyes wander to the clock on her nightstand as she listens to the even breathing on the other line. It's twelve seventeen in the morning—a Friday night party. A Noah Puckerman Friday Night Party which, judging from Quinn's current speech pattern, included alcohol. That would almost explain why Quinn is calling. She's drunk.
"Have you been drinking?" she asks patiently.
"It's a party," is the flippant reply. "That's what you do at those, Stubbles."
"You haven't called me that in a while."
Quinn doesn't reply. Rachel checks her clock again. Twelve twenty. She sighs. Tomorrow she has to wake up for her elliptical routine and she has a dance class to attend. Sure, after those activities she has quite literally nothing else to do aside from perfecting My Heart Will Go On and recording a video for her Myspace—a video that will only have one view and one comment. Ironically enough, both coming from the person she's on the phone with. Her eyes scan her room, fixating on the chipped paint in the upper corner of her wall. She sighs again. "Listen, Quinn, if you haven't a topic for us to discuss then I really must bid you good nigh—"
"I hate you."
"I said I hate you, Rachel."
The fact that Quinn has actually used her first name completely flies over her head. It pains her. And it surprises her how much her heart is able to split open and bleed from simple words from a girl that she should have decided from day one means nothing to her. But it could never be that way. Quinn would never let their tormenter-tormentee relationship go long enough for them to be nothing to each other. Even when the blonde joined glee club full time and buried the hatchet once and for all after slapping Rachel across the face during junior prom, she still found ways to remain a fixture in Rachel's day to day school life.
Whether it was baiting Finn or criticizing animal sweaters and knee socks, Quinn was always there. So, naturally, instead of forgetting Quinn Rachel thinks about her fairly often. If Quinn will actually like what she's wearing whatever day in school, if Quinn will like the song she performs—even though she performs them almost exclusively for Finn, she often wonders what Quinn thinks of her talent—has wondered since they were paired up to write a song for Regionals. What thoughts that go on in that pretty blonde head of hers. If Quinn is jealous of her relationship with Finn. Occasionally, rarely wondered how Quinn managed to fit into such a tight Cheerio unif—
She clears her throat and contemplates hanging up. Her schedule is busy for the earlier part of her day tomorrow and she'd like to be able to exercise and dance freely without a certain someone's hatred for her burdening her heart.
But she has to know.
"Why do you hate me?" she whispers softly.
"That's hardly an acceptable answer for harboring hatred in your heart for someone that has extended kindness and friendship to you time and time again, Quinn. I'm sorry, but you're going to have to give me a more suitable answer than just 'because.'" Her shoulders square and jerk forward as she sits up in bed because she's too riled up now to actually lie down and have this conversation. While Rachel can admit that she's tried time and time again, eventually succeeding at sabotaging Quinn's relationship with Finn with the knowledge that the baby she was pregnant with wasn't his, she's also tried time and time again to rectify that situation. She even wanted to befriend the troubled blonde because despite how Quinn felt and what she thought, they were more alike than they were different. Rachel often times thought looking at Quinn was like looking in a mirror—albeit a mirror that made her look blonder and in her opinion, prettier. But maybe she can't rectify their situation. Maybe there's no coming back from ruining someone's life like that.
"You've ruined my life," Quinn mutters.
She mentally groans. Just as she thought. "Look," Rachel says softly. "I get it. A-and I'm sorry that I told Finn. I truly am. That was not my place at all. Though that was nearly two years ago and I thought we had gotten past th—"
A dark, humorless chuckle floats heavily through the speakers. "You just don't get it. You never get it."
"Then help me understand," she pleads.
Quinn goes silent again. There's some shuffling on her end and Rachel strains to hear what's going on. She hears sloshing, then a heavy sigh. "Are you still drinking?"
"Maybe." Rachel can almost see the dismissive way Quinn is probably raising her shoulders.
"Don't drink too much."
"Don't tell me what to do."
She bites her lip. "I suppose this is an impasse."
"Looks like it."
"Are Santana and Brittany with you?"
Rachel visibly flinches at the scathing tone of voice. Her features soften. "I can relate to that."
Quinn doesn't say anything. Rachel looks over to the clock. Twelve thirty. She rubs her red eyes. Finally, Quinn speaks. "Sucks, doesn't it?"
Rachel chuckles. "Quite a bit, actually."
She wonders if this is why Quinn called. Because the only person that attends McKinely High that's absolutely alone and lonely on a Friday night besides Jacob Ben Israel is Rachel Berry. But what the hell is Quinn Fabray doing all alone? Or, better question, why is Quinn Fabray all alone?
"You won't be alone for long."
"How do you know that?"
"Because you're going to be in Broadway plays. You'll have your legion of fans to keep you company."
She stares off into nothing as her eyes soften. She's never known Quinn to speak of her talents and dreams genuinely. In the past when she made fun of her dreams, Quinn would tell her that she was a freak for wanting something so much, for dreaming.
"And you'll have Finn, I guess."
Rachel swallows, treading lightly. "Do you want Finn, Quinn? Is that what this phone call is about?"
There's an indelicate snort on the other line. "No."
A dark eyebrow arches in skepticism but Rachel says nothing. She doesn't want to talk about Finn. Not when this is Quinn's first time calling her and her raspy voice sounds so weary and soft and they're having a somewhat civil conversation, though it did start with the blonde expressing her hatred. She stalls, not knowing how or where to steer the conversation.
Quinn sighs heavily in the silence. "He doesn't deserve you."
"Finn doesn't deserve you," she says as loudly as she dares.
Rachel flounders, thinking of excuses to refute such a bold claim. Finn is her boyfriend; doesn't that mean she has to defend his honor? She can't say that Quinn doesn't know Finn like she does, because that's not true. Quinn's had just as much time with her on again, off again boyfriend as she has. "He's a good guy, Quinn."
"He'll hold you back."
"Why do you care?"
"I just…" She stops herself. Rachel hears a frustrated growl and more shuffling. Another gruff sigh alerts her to the fact that Quinn is still drinking. Her brow furrows. "That alcohol must burn," she murmurs.
"You're too young to drink," she points out because it's the responsible thing to do.
"I'm too young for a lot of the things that've happened to me."
And suddenly Rachel feels tears gather in the corner of her eyes because the Quinn Fabray she knows now and the Quinn Fabray she knew before the infamous pregnancy were two completely different people. It seems that she's the only one aware of the fact that Quinn seems to have forgotten how to smile. Only Rachel can see the haunted look of frustration that currently always mars a face that used to shine with youth and innocence.
"I'm so sorry…" is all she manages to choke out.
"Some things aren't meant to be," Quinn says softly.
Rachel can't help but agree. Some things—like Quinn keeping her baby and Rachel having her mother—aren't meant to be. But still, "I have hope," Rachel returns, voice equally soft. "While it is true that some things we are not meant to have, I firmly believe that you sometimes have to forge your own path towards the unattainable." She's rambling so much that she isn't really sure what she's talking about.
It still seems to manage to strike a chord within Quinn. "Unattainable," she mumbles.
Rachel nods with an encouraging smile. "Yes. Whatever you think you can't have, you have to find a way to make yourself have it."
"Like you and Broadway."
Her smile dims. "I suppose, yes. But I know I can have Broadway," she says with conviction.
"Well, that's what we were talking about, wasn't it?"
"I thought we were talking about you."
"No, this isn't about me. I've given up on trying to attain things."
"Have you ever even tried?"
"That's neither here nor there."
"Regardless, one should never give up." She doesn't even know what she's coaching Quinn on, what the honor roll student, former President of the Celibacy Club, former Head Cheerio even wants. It seems like she's accomplished quite a lot in her high school career already. What could Quinn possibly want now that she can't have? Everything Quinn wants she should have, in Rachel's opinion. "You should never give up."
She hears a quiet laugh. "Finn really doesn't deserve you."
Her heart warms over instantly. Quinn thinks Finn isn't good enough for her. Quinn thinks she's important enough for there to even be someone out there undeserving of her. Rachel smiles. She keeps reminding herself that this is Quinn Fabray. The girl she's been a little obsessed with for a little while now. Quinn just always seemed so perfect, so…unattainable.
She bites her lip, contemplating.
"Neither of us do," she continues a moment later.
Rachel stops breathing all together. Her brain runs that same sentence over and over again. It picks apart every word and analyzes it completely. It puts the sentence back together and tries again. And again. And again. And she can't for the life of her make sense of it. Her heart throbs against her chest so hard it actually hurts. She feels tingles crawl across her skin.
"What, what?" Quinn asks confusedly.
"Quinn, what does that mean?" she asks, voice tinged with desperation.
"What does what mean?"
She sounds groggy and half past sleep and Rachel's heart beats just a little quicker. She may never get this moment again. And for some reason that she can't bring herself to say right now, this moment is important.
"You said 'neither of us deserves you'. Who are you referring to in that sentence?"
"Yes, yes, Finn and who else?"
Silence. Instead of a pained sigh that indicates Quinn taking a sip of whatever strong alcohol she's drinking, Rachel just hears even breathing. She feels like pulling her hair out and she just might if Quinn has actually fallen asleep on her. Her eyes close briefly. The image of Quinn's serene face sleeping burns into the back of her eyelids. She quickly opens her eyes again. She hears a deep sigh as if Quinn is about to admit something big.
"I hate you."
It's said so softly, so tenderly that it almost sounds like a declaration of love. Rachel clutches the phone tighter in her grasp. Her wide eyes find the clock again. One in the morning and she's so far beyond sleeping. All she wants to do is talk to the drunken person on the other side of the phone until either of their batteries run out.
"Why do you hate me?"
"You've ruined me," Quinn murmurs.
"But how?" she begs. "How have I ruined you?"
"I think about you."
Rachel releases a shuddery breath. She opens her mouth but Quinn continues.
"And it's so aggravating. I think about how I'm supposed to torture you. I'm supposed to make your life a living hell. But you rise above it every single time, Rachel."
This time she does notice the use of her first name. It falls from Quinn's lips, her honey sweet voice coating her name and Rachel suddenly wants her to say it again.
"So, I left you alone for a little while. I stopped actively pursuing you and tormenting you, but I couldn't stop thinking about you. I hate that I think about you."
"What do you think about?" Rachel interrupts.
Quinn doesn't continue.
"What do you think about?" she asks again.
"You've ruined me…possibly more than my own baby. I can stop thinking about her, Rachel." Quinn says nothing for a very long time. Rachel imagines that the tormented blonde has just been assaulted with the little memories of Beth that she has. She hears a quiet, pained sound escape Quinn before she speaks again.
"I can put those memories and feelings away until I want to deal with them, but with you," she pauses. "I see you every damn day at school, Rachel. I can't not think about you."
A very distinct shiver rolls down Rachel's spine because she knows. She knows exactly what that feels like.
"I think about you, too," she admits.
Quinn laughs cruelly. "You don't."
"I do," she says firmly.
"What do you think about?"
She tenses, suddenly uncomfortable. This is about Quinn, not her. Now that the spotlight's on her she ironically doesn't want it. But she soldiers on because just maybe, what she thinks about Quinn is the same thing Quinn thinks about her. "I think about how you are—your well-being. Because I care. I sometimes wonder if I—if I can make you smile because you just look so sad all the time, Quinn."
The only reply she gets is a soft hum, almost as if Quinn is pleased with her.
"I think about…I think about how you were with Finn, your relationship with him. I –I asked him how it felt to kiss you." She hears Quinn inhale deeply and she stops.
"Why?" Her voice sounds lower than it did before.
"I don't know," she whispers. "He said he saw fireworks."
Quinn snorts. Rachel decidedly pictures her rolling her eyes.
"And I'm curious about it. About your kiss," Rachel continues. "But I don't know what that means."
"You're curious about how I kiss?"
"Yes," she breathes.
"Do you think that I'm a good kisser?" Quinn wonders with a touch of curiosity in her voice.
Rachel blushes, fidgeting with the threads of her pink comforter. "Well, Finn said he saw fireworks, so…"
She hears that humming again, almost like Quinn is purring. Rachel grasps her bed sheets tightly in her hand. She feels an all too familiar heat wash over her and suddenly the comforter bunched around her slim waist gets pushed down tan thighs.
"So, you think I'm a good kisser?"
"Given the evidence from Finn's own words—"
"Can we stop talking about Finn?" Quinn interrupts abruptly.
Rachel's mouth clicks shut. She regroups. "I would assume you are quite skilled in the area of kissing."
She flushes hotly because Quinn Fabray—former Head Cheerio, former President of the Celibacy Club, and for all intents and purposes in Rachel's mind, straight as an arrow, Quinn Fabray—is on the phone with her, drunk, asking if Rachel thought she was a good kisser and wondering the same about her in return. Her heart pounds erratically. "I—I don't really know, Quinn. How does one know if they're good—"
"Well, has anyone told you?"
She instantly thinks of Noah Puckerman. She was so thrilled that a boy as experienced as he complimented her technique when he told her, Damn, Berry. For a chick that's probably only made out with her stuffed animals and Finn, you're a hell of a kisser. She was beaming the rest of the night, lips tingling as she thought about how much he enjoyed it as his erection constantly rubbed at her thigh.
It was good. It was practice and although her trysts with Puck were nothing more than a simple physical attraction that had gotten out of hand, he had taught her a lot. Such as how to properly French kiss without leaving a large trail of saliva. Quinn's pretty awesome at this, he had told her out of the blue. And suddenly his kisses had turned more aggressive and although Rachel had been pretty positive that his new found vigor was spurred by the thoughts of a certain blonde head Cheerio, she was surprised to find out that after learning that little tidbit of information about Quinn, her kisses had become just as forceful and needy.
A flush creeps down her neck at the memory. "Yes," she says a little breathlessly. "I've been told that I'm a good kisser."
"Oh," is all she hears back, coupled with labored breathing.
"Do you ever—" Rachel bites her lip nervously. What she's about to ask could very well end this entire conversation if Quinn becomes uncomfortable and chooses to simply hang up on her. "Do you ever wonder…about how I kiss? Or about…kissing me?"
She hears Quinn sigh. It doesn't sound pained like she's taken another swig of her drink, or tired like she's about to end this conversation and leave Rachel hanging. It sounds wistful.
"Sometimes," she admits quietly.
An agonized groan almost slips past Rachel's lips. How long has she wondered if Quinn has at least entertained the thought of her? And now she's on the phone with the object of her...obsession, affection?—for the first time in her three years in high school and Quinn is telling her that she's thought about kissing her. She's not sure how much more she can take.
"What do you think about?" she asks, going for broke.
"Just…things." She can almost see Quinn shrugging delicate, pale shoulders. She inhales deeply, willing her eyes not to close for fear that the image will haunt her. "Things I'm not allowed or supposed to think about."
"I sometimes wonder," she begins, "how soft your lips would be."
On the other line Quinn sucks in a huge breath and holds it. It's absolutely quiet. Rachel clasps a hand over her mouth, willing herself to shut up because she's said enough. She's gone too far. It'll be a miracle if Quinn doesn't hang up right now.
"I wonder the same about you," is murmured to her. Quinn's voice feels like a caress. If Rachel would just allow herself to indulge she could slip her eyes shut and imagine full, pink lips against her ear, whispering all of these things to her. She clenches her thighs together, looking at the clock. One thirty in the fucking morning and she's feeling hot all over from a simple phone conversation that shouldn't be as arousing as it is.
She's at her wits end. Not nearly as composed as she was at the beginning of their conversation. Quinn's labored breathing is wreaking unspeakable havoc on her senses. Tormenting her in a way Rachel has never known, in a way that's much more preferred to how she was treated by the blonde her freshman and sophomore year. Her mind keeps wandering, taking her places such as right in front of Quinn this very moment. If she could just see the gentle blush she knows is marring pale, milky skin, she knows it would be her undoing. Those lips parted, panting all because of her. All because Quinn has thoughts about kissing her.
"If I wasn't with Finn, would you kiss me?" It's out of her mouth before she can even think better of it. She bites her lip, wanting desperately to take it back because she is with Finn and she shouldn't be asking questions like that. She shouldn't even be having this conversation with her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend yet here she is, asking if Quinn would just kiss her already.
"Probably not," Quinn admits with a breathless laugh. Rachel knows it's true. There were times in the past that she wasn't with Finn, neither of them were yet Quinn never even showed an inkling of attraction to her.
Rachel licks her lips, deciding to play by the blonde's rules. "If I wasn't with Finn and we were alone so no one would find out and I asked you to kiss me, would you?"
Quinn makes a strangled sound in the back of her throat and Rachel melts. She's never heard anything like that. Finn and Puck mostly just grunted the entire time they made out. But Quinn. Quinn's voice sounds so feminine and needy and Rachel isn't sure she can handle that sound up close and right against her ear. She hears a small whimper as if Quinn is still thinking about it before she answers. "I—probably."
Rachel thinks she'll take that as a yes. She smiles into her empty bedroom.
She hears some Spanish and some cursing in the background and brings the phone impossibly closer to her ear. Quinn groans in what Rachel hopes is disappointment. "I have to go. Party's over."
In more ways than one, Rachel thinks to herself. She sighs dejectedly. "I hope you remember this conversation tomorrow," she mutters.
"And why is that?" It sounds playful and impish. Rachel giggles quietly. She sounds light and free and who knew Quinn Fabray would ever make Rachel Berry giggle?
"Because…this was a very important conversation that needed to be had."
"But you're with Finn. You're unattainable."
"You're going places. You don't need anyone holding you back. Including me."
"Quinn…" she says softly. "You wouldn't—"
"I have to go. Have a good night."
And just like that, the mood has passed, their bubble burst, the phone line dead. Rachel pulls the phone away from her ear, staring down at the nine digit number. And for the first time this night, she wonders how Quinn even got her number. Shaking her head, she saves the number in her phone. She looks at the clock, turns off her light and snuggles under her blankets, hoping beyond hope that Quinn somehow manages to remember their conversation in the morning despite how drunk she is. Then she smiles. She smiles because tomorrow when Quinn scrolls through her recent calls list, she's going to see the call she made to Rachel at midnight. And she'll have to remember.