To say that Rachel Berry's summer had been underwhelming was an understatement. The inability to reconcile her romantic connection with Finn had propelled her away from all masculine contact other than her fathers, and into the welcomed companionship of her girl friends -and Kurt, of course. She and Finn had agreed that distance would be beneficial for the both of them. They would refrain from seeing each other until the new school year, when they would try their hand at friendship.
The first three weeks had been spent in the company of Mercedes and Kurt, holding marathons of Broadway movies in Rachel's bedroom, dissecting and analyzing the musicals for future reference -and probable use, as well- at that year's Nationals. The following two weeks flew by in Mercedes' room, where Tina tagged along -Mike was again at Asian camp, alone-, and they watched re-runs of Friends. It was then that Mercedes and Tina decided to educate the petite brunette in the film genre of romantic comedies -Rachel had hated those.
Regardless of the perpetual mild tone they had fallen into during those few weeks, Rachel had been glad that there was a moment in her life when she could take a breath without worrying about or being overwhelmed by drama. High school drama, Glee drama, Nationals drama, boyfriend drama. She had needed a break from all of that so desperately, that she had deemed this change in the emotional atmosphere around her to be immensely welcomed.
However, the first dent of a surprise in the comfort of her newfound routine came one Tuesday morning...along with a text from Santana. The Latina had requested that she, Mercedes, Tina, and Kurt meet her and Brittany at Santana's house. Of course, Rachel had been skeptical, ranting off to Mercedes about possible reasons why Santana would use that set up to secretly poison her drink or murder her and hide her body, yet Kurt had reassured her that there was nothing Santana would do any longer to get rid of her. Rachel caved in, eventually, since despite their brawl after Nationals, things had gone back to civil between her and Santana. Besides, Rachel figured, Santana wouldn't try anything on her as long as Brittany was there.
And so, Rachel found her drive had somewhat improved when, about a month after that first day spent by Santana's pool, Brittany had mentioned something that had ignited the short diva's curiosity: Quinn had shut everyone out. She had managed to decipher from Brittany's slow ramble that the other blonde had been too quiet since the end of their junior year, that she had stopped talking and had started showing up at Santana's pool with a book. She had found out that a book had turned into a stack of them in a matter of days, and that afterwards Quinn had just simply stopped showing up at the Latina's, most likely in favor of staying home to read.
Truthfully, she had never seen Santana wear that expression on her face before. That day spent laying about the backyard and lounging by the pool, Santana had stared at some distant point in space, frowning deeply, as she relayed what she knew about Quinn's shift in behavior. Rachel had felt terribly guilty afterwards, when Brittany had mentioned that the haircut had been their way of helping Quinn to get over her break-up with Finn. And, Rachel thought, perhaps if she hadn't complied to Finn's every wish and whim, maybe Quinn wouldn't have been so heartbroken and, therefore, wouldn't be acting out now. Santana had agreed with Kurt, though, when he hypothesized that her break-up with Finn had had nothing to do with Quinn's issues.
The rest of the summer had gone by without a hitch, except for a tiny voice constantly droning Quinn's name in the back of her conscience, begging for attention. By the time the Sunday before classes had arrived, Rachel's curiosity had reached a peak she could no longer ignore. Her mind worked relentlessly analyzing all the possibilities, all the scenarios that could have made Quinn shut everyone out. To her surprise, despite the seemingly infinite amount of reasons, she still came up empty. She went to bed that night determined to talk to Quinn, inquire what had prompted her change in demeanor.
Rachel strolled along the hallways of McKinley High along with Mercedes -and Brittany and Santana, who seemed to be attached to them constantly these days- with a smile on her face, clutching her books to her chest. None of them had spotted Quinn throughout their classes that day, and she briefly wondered if maybe the blonde had transferred and not told anyone. But then she remembered that Quinn was one of the smartest people she knew, and was devoted to her education, so most of the classes she took were AP ones. That thought renewed her confidence as they approached the choir room for their first Glee meeting of the year.
For one of the first times in her life, Rachel was rendered entirely speechless as she set foot inside, stopping in her tracks at what she saw. Quinn was already there, sitting at the back of the room completely silent. But what caught the tiny brunette's attention was the blonde's outfit: a clingy, oversized grey t-shirt with no sleeves, ripped black shorts, black fishnets, and black, ankle-high boots. Then her eyes fell on the inscription on the shirt: "Hell is so hot right now." God, what had happened to Quinn? To Rachel, this seemed more out of character than her Gaga and Rocky Horror outfits put together.
Rachel labeled that day as "the first Monday" in her mind and it signaled the blonde's drastic wardrobe replacement.
The blonde's head was bent -as per usual- over a book. But that was no surprise to Rachel, she had caught the taller girl entirely involved in her reading several times during the time they'd shared in Glee Club. And then Rachel realized that the group around her had stopped to stare at the same thing. She exchanged looks with Santana and Mercedes, and they seemed to be as shocked as she was. They definitely had not been expecting this. But then again, if no one had known about this change, or even about the possibility of this happening, who had Quinn been talking to? They all knew she had distanced herself from the gleeks, but she must have been talking to someone, right? Or had she gone through this change by herself?
She threw all questions about Quinn to the back of her mind and focused on whatever boring lesson Mr. Schue was imparting that day. By the time Glee club was over and she had made up her mind about talking to the blonde, she noticed that Quinn had left unnoticed before everyone else. And Rachel was puzzled.
The following day went by quickly, what with no Glee rehearsal and all her focus set on finding her own song for the assignment. She didn't cross paths with the blonde all day long. By Wednesday, when Glee class rolled around again -and her shock was beginning to wear off-, she stole glances at the blonde now and then, catching glimpses of black nail polish, a spiked bracelet, and silver necklaces. And somehow Quinn still managed to walk out of the choir room before Rachel even had a chance to notice and go after her. She didn't see Quinn again that week.
The second Monday, Rachel followed Kurt to the choir room to present the previous week's assignment. She saw Kurt disappear before her as the distance between them grew, and she realized that, once again, she'd stopped walking. After looking around the room -and seeing Brad at the piano for the first time that year, which made her lips curl into a tiny smile-, she saw that the rest of the group sported looks that ranged from preoccupation to sadness, from shock to horror, and Rachel's smile turned into a frown. The blonde she had been hoping to find here was nowhere in sight. Instead, she followed the gazes of her friends and her eyes fell upon a bright pink head.
How she had not noticed the neon mess of strands before, she wasn't sure. Had Quinn transferred? Her spirit was relatively shattered for a moment. Yet before the realization that she wouldn't be able to talk to Quinn dawned on her, the pink haired girl turned around quietly. The latent void in her chest turned into roaring astonishment when she faced a neon pink haired Quinn Fabray. Rachel had been rendered speechless once again as she shuffled silently to sit between Kurt and Santana.
"As hard as it may be, you might want to consider picking up your jaw," Kurt whispered in her ear, eyes wide as saucers. She was mildly confused by the use of the plural, but upon turning sideways, she saw that Santana's expression resembled her own, though with the addition of pain in her eyes. Rachel figured that she was probably offended that the former blonde hadn't gone to her to talk about whatever was going on with her that had made her undergo such a blatant transformation.
That following Tuesday, Rachel stalked Quinn's locker before class. She flinched when the former blonde dragged her feet up to her without even acknowledging her existence and pulled out a stack of AP textbooks. She was infuriated when Quinn turned around to walk away, so the diva wrapped her fingers around the taller girl's wrist, grazing the edge of what she supposed was yet another spiked bracelet.
"Quinn," she began, "the delicacy of your hair shall not be underrated. This reckless decision of yours will dry out the roots and then your hair won't grow with as much strength and brightness as it always has. If you are inclined to it, I can offer you a variety of pamphlets and catalogues regarding the damaging effects of hair dye and the proper products for hair care you would have to incur in if you desire to keep your hair healthy. I could also prepare a list of therapists I deem highly efficient if you so wish to talk about whatever is influencing this metamorphosis of yours. And why would you choose neon pink of all colors?"
If Quinn was bothered by the short brunette's trademark rant, she wasn't showing it. Rachel had expected a reaction. She wasn't certain of which one: a snarky remark, a sarcastic insult, a pained confession. Anything but what she actually got in return.
The pink haired girl turned to face her calmly, and it almost scared Rachel when Quinn spoke to her quietly, almost carelessly, "Berries are of various colors, Rachel. Red would have been too gory for my taste. Blue and purple would have been too dark and contrasted too much with my skin tone. Lilac would have made me look like something straight out of Peter Pan or Sleeping Beauty. And I saw your pajamas at Nationals, remember?"
Rachel was baffled by the reply. In fact, such was her confusion that it took her so long to retort that Quinn had simply walked away from her. She watched her disappear in the crowd of students as Santana suddenly appeared by the shorter brunette's side, "She's definitely lost it, hasn't she?"
By the time the third Monday came, Rachel had gotten no other reaction from Quinn after having expressed her concern for the ex-cheerio subtly by disguising it under the pretense of concern for her hair. And Quinn's reply was the most anyone had received from the former blonde since she had stopped showing up at Santana's during the summer. The tiny brunette wandered the halls of McKinley High pondering on another approach. Because, surely, there had to be some way to get Quinn talking about whatever it was that had affected her, prompted her into acting out on herself.
She needed to find something. She needed to find some way to be closer to Quinn, develop a bond, a friendship-anything that could serve as help. At the same time, she had no idea of why she cared so much. Everyone else had given up on the former head Cheerio. Quinn now went by almost completely ignored in the hallways, except for those who were just now realizing that the girl with pink hair was actually Quinn Fabray.
Still, Rachel had had plenty of experience with being invisible in the past and, in her book, a day when she went by ignored rather than slushied was a perfect day. So why did she care if Quinn threw her entire wardrobe out of the window and replaced it with shreds of fabric that flaunted disturbing captions? Why did she care that, even though she seemed to suddenly be a ghost in the hallways, her bright pink hair should have brought attention to herself? More importantly, why did she care to fix Quinn when the former blonde seemed to have no interest whatsoever in connecting with anyone and went through the motions by customizing her appearance?
As she shut her locker door, she saw Finn stand by her side out of the corner of her eye. She turned around fully to pay attention to whatever he appeared to have trouble saying, and give him what she hoped was a look of encouragement. When he finally stopped fidgeting, he focused on her expectant face, "I think we should do an intervention," he said.
Rachel's brows furrowed, "An intervention..." she repeated, prompting him to explain himself.
"Yeah, like, for Quinn. I mean, I've never really been able to know what's on her mind, and she's always been a little scary. But this is crazy. And despite everything that's happened between us, I still care about Quinn, you know. She's never had anyone. And," his eyes widened as his hands shot up defensively, as if whatever he was going to say could possibly irritate the petite girl in front of him, "I know you care about her, too. At least a bit. So I think we should help her," he finished, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans.
Rachel sighed and closed her eyes, and Finn waited silently for her to say something. She looked up at him and scratched her temple, "I know, Finn. And I do care. Trust me, I've been thinking about it for a while now," she paused as he nodded, "But honestly? I don't think she'd pay attention to any kind of intervention. Surprisingly, this new attitude of hers scares me more than her angry outbursts in the past. Terrifies me, actually," she mused out loud. Then something occurred to her, "Wait, what do you mean she's never had anyone?"
Something flashed in his eyes, as if he had said too much, but then he spoke regardless, "Well, her parents were always kind of crazy with all that religious stuff. I think her mom tried, you know, but she never really paid attention to what Quinn said. And she lost all her friends. Like, I'm not even sure she ever had any. And then I dumped her and this happened and no one even knew about it-" she stopped listening after that. Instead, her entire brain came to a screeching halt as she witnessed the scene going on behind Finn, right in front of her eyes.
Quinn Fabray strutted down the hallway, looking more confident than she had in the past few weeks. Rachel had absorbed the change in wardrobe quite easily, and she had almost wrapped her head around the idea of the pink hair, somewhat having grown used to it, but this, this was taking the mess in her mind to yet another level. Quinn Fabray strutted down the hallway, pink hair ablaze in a mess of tangled short strands as combat boots clacked on the linoleum floor with each thump of her feet. She was wearing jeans, something Rachel had never seen other than during performances, though these were tight, and black, and had more holes in it than she could count. Her t-shirt was fitted to her upper half, and Rachel almost cringed at the twisted, gory art on the front -were those flesh eating zombies? Aviators were perched coolly on the bridge of her nose, shielding her eyes from everyone. But no, what actually blew Rachel Berry's mind and rendered her speechless once again -this seemed to be a common happenstance whenever Quinn Fabray was involved these days- was the former Cheerio's mouth.
Quinn Fabray sported a brand new lip ring. Rachel's mind scrambled trying to process that thought the moment it entered her brain. Quinn Fabray. With a lip piercing. There was a ring circling the side of her bottom lip snugly. Quinn Fabray had a lip ring.
Finn must have noticed that she wasn't listening anymore, because he waved a hand in front of her face. Upon her lack of response, he turned around to find the same thing that had Rachel spellbound and mute. He stomped away right after that without a word. The tiny brunette stood by the row of lockers as Quinn approached, and she could have sworn that her lips had curved into a smirk right before passing her by.
Yes, Rachel Berry needed to do something about this situation with Quinn Fabray.
By the time Glee practice rolled around, everyone in the choir room was talking about it. It didn't surprise Rachel, really. They were all gossips after all. She remained silent as she sat down quite far away from everyone, wishing to be alone with her own thoughts for a while. Somehow, her interest had shifted from Glee and singing and solos, to figuring out the mystery that Quinn had further become.
She had almost dragged herself to the confines of her mind when the object of her thoughts strutted in with Mr. Schuester in tow. Ah! Judging by the expression on his face, Rachel figured he was just now noticing the changes in Quinn aside from the hair. However, a shiver crept up her spine as the taller girl fell onto the chair right next to hers -away from everyone else as well-, and drew the aviators away from her eyes to set them to rest comfortably atop her head.
Rachel couldn't help it, really. Her head snapped sideways to stare at the silent girl blatantly. The ring was on the side of her lip that faced the brunette, and she took a moment to gauge how it looked. Clearly, it seemed to be well taken care of and, she had to admit, it actually looked good.
Mr. Schue ranted on and on about one ancient song or another, and Rachel found it much easier this time to retreat into her own thoughts. Upon organizing them mentally, she realized that there was actually a pattern to them: there was one single new change every week. First the clothes, then the hair, now the piercing. She still had to figure out why she was so drawn to this new version of Quinn Fabray, but she decided that she liked it. Yeah, she liked it. Especially the piercing. It made Quinn's lips look so much more plump, and soft, and tempting. She was suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to tug on that pierced lip with her own.
Her head snapped towards the girl beside her. Surely, there was the ring staring back at her as Quinn stared down at her lap, a book spread wide open atop her thighs. Oh God, she had just thought of kissing Quinn Fabray. The idea that this crazy transformation was contagious suddenly seemed too possible to her. She needed to talk to her fellow Glee clubbers.
The fourth Monday brought yet another change.
As per usual, Rachel had major difficulty finding Quinn these days, and only did so at Glee club, for she suspected that whenever they crossed paths in the hallways, it was all Quinn's doing. She had gathered most of the members of Glee club in the choir room a good twenty minutes before practice. She figured that would be enough time to express her concern for Quinn's behavior.
The tiny diva relayed the information she had gathered and waited for the reactions of the group before her with her arms folded across her chest. To her surprise, practically everyone began talking at the same time, expressing their opinions and thoughts on the development.
"I said it before and I'll say it again, she's gone ape shit crazy, okay?" Santana began from her spot next to Brittany.
"Maybe she just turned murderous and is planning to butcher everyone who has been a bitch to her," Puck offered.
"The only thing she's butchered is her hair, though I have to concede that I sort of hate her for rocking it so nicely," Kurt retorted, raising a hand to pet his own hair meticulously into place.
"Maybe it's a religion crisis, I mean, she was super religious," Finn suggested, to what Tina shook her head as she sat on Mike's lap, "Though that would make sense to a point, what about the boots, and the hair, and the piercing? Maybe she's just depressed."
"Well, she's always been kind of quiet, but now she's just downright mute," Kurt went on, and Mercedes interrupted him, "Yeah, all she does is read." Kurt eyed her and resumed his thoughts, "And I can vouch for that. We have AP Chemistry together, and lately she seems to know more than the teacher himself. When she's not correcting him, she's reading and not paying an ounce of attention to him."
"Yeah, but still, what about the hair, and the piercing?" Santana asked, somewhat defeated, and everyone fell silent, unable to find explanations for that. Despite her best efforts to focus on what her friends had said, Rachel found herself thinking once again about the former blonde's lips, imagining them sliding over her own. She shook her head. No, she would not think about what it would be like to kiss Quinn.
As if on cue, the girl in question walked into the choir room, rendering whatever murmur that had been going on completely silent. Rachel observed her curiously as Quinn slid the aviators over her face to their usual spot upon her head, and the brunette's eyes widened. The ex-Cheerio's eyes were completely rimmed in thick layers of black eyeliner.
Rachel's initial reaction was to wonder when had Quinn decided to resemble a raccoon. But as Glee progressed, that original thought evolved into what she deemed a warped sense of attraction. She noticed that the heavy make up made the bright hazel of Quinn's eyes stand out against everything, even the neon pink of her hair, and Rachel felt the breath be knocked out of her lungs at the beauty those eyes were.
She couldn't deny it any longer: she desperately wanted to kiss Quinn Fabray square on the lips.
There was still the issue of what had triggered all these changes, but she felt that she was getting closer to something, even though she didn't know what exactly. She was pulled out of her thoughts when Quinn rose from her seat to stand before the group as per Mr. Schue's request, apparently.
Her temporary confusion dissolved when the band started playing some tune that Rachel did not recognize at first. She watched Quinn with profound interest, beyond willing to find a connection between the song and the developments the former blonde had undergone. Hazel eyes remained closed throughout the first chords and lines of the song, and the moment she began singing, Rachel recognized it instantly. How Quinn Fabray had stumbled upon The Birthday Massacre's In the Dark, she had no idea whatsoever, but she wasn't going to question it.
To say that Rachel was blown away by the performance was an understatement. Quinn's voice had taken to a more-than raspy quality and huskiness that the brunette had never heard before, and that had somehow managed to soften the harshest tones of the song. But this begged the question: where had Quinn Fabray been hiding her aptitude for performing rock songs? Rachel was surprised by the fact that she wasn't as concerned about the where as she was about the fact that Quinn's singing had actually turned her on.
As Rachel had predicted, Quinn left the choir room the moment her performance was over, leaving Mr. Schue praising her retreating form. But it wasn't until Brittany spoke that half of the puzzle clicked in Rachel's head, "She's free," the blue-eyed blonde had whispered with a smile, as if it was the most natural thing to say.
She needed to take immediate action. She would not allow herself to be this attracted to this new Quinn Fabray when she didn't really know what this Quinn was like. So she was going to fix that.
The fifth Monday, Rachel was frustrated. Every single one of her attempts to make some sort of contact with Quinn had failed miserably, and Rachel Berry did not accept failure.
She had reserved the auditorium for herself the previous week, in order to sing some of her frustration away without having someone witness it. But alas, the moment she arrived there, she couldn't find it in herself to sing, her mind was in too much of a turmoil. Sitting down on the edge of the stage -legs swinging back and forth-, she let her mind wander towards the only thing that consumed her thoughts these days: Quinn Fabray.
She had come up with a number of hypotheses in the past month, but it was now time to think about them seriously and settle on one.
The first idea she dismissed was that the cause behind the changes had been her break-up with Finn. No, that couldn't be it. That had been months ago and, after having chopped her hair off, Quinn had seemed to be doing all right. Besides, all these changes were too recent and she wasn't actively doing anything to win Finn back.
The second theory she tossed aside was that she was depressed. After all, Quinn had been through a lot. She had given up her own baby and, as far as Rachel knew, she hadn't undergone postpartum depression. Besides, if Quinn were depressed, she wouldn't have been putting so much effort into her education. Why care for her future if she didn't care for her life. No, Quinn was not depressed.
The third hypothesis she let go of was that Quinn had gone crazy. Sure, Quinn had had her ups and downs, and her angry outbursts, but she was one of the smartest and most rational people Rachel knew. The brunette was proud to know that despite everything, she was probably one of the few people who knew Quinn the best. She was no expert, but she knew that if Quinn were to actually be insane, this would never be her way of acting out.
The fourth idea was the one she threw out of the window the quickest. No matter how strangely Puck's brain worked, Quinn would never go on a homicidal spree under the disguise of indifference. "As if," Rachel laughed to herself. Quinn wasn't bothering anyone -she wasn't even talking to anyone-, she had just isolated herself. The way Rachel saw it, she didn't care about anyone anymore, she only cared about reading and Glee club -though why she cared about the latter still baffled the diva, since Quinn spent most of their practices off in her own world reading. Besides, if Quinn were to kill anyone, why on earth would she get that pink hair? It'd do nothing but narrow significantly the number of suspects to just her. Like Rachel had mentally listed earlier, Quinn was too smart for such a thing. And she was definitely not homicidal.
The fifth theory was one that seemed barely plausible to Rachel, but she still doubted it massively. Had Quinn been going through a rebellious phase, Rachel figured she'd be getting into trouble all the time, instead of avoiding it altogether. The girl had turned invisible, and the teachers only had praise to sing about the former Cheerio -though Rachel wouldn't admit that to anyone, since she had obtained such information by sneakily lingering at the teachers' lounge and eavesdropping.
The sixth theory made Rachel snort at herself. Quinn would never do all these things to her image for a boy. No. In the time Rachel had known Quinn Fabray, the former blonde had never gone that far for any of her ex-boyfriends. She had never gone anywhere for them, period. Besides, whenever Rachel saw Quinn, she was always absolutely alone. She didn't even look at other people except when she walked past Rachel. No, there was definitely no boy.
Sighing loudly upon running out of theories, the tiny diva pushed herself up and sat to the vacant piano, stroking the keys gingerly, stringing together the notes of one of the first songs she had ever learned to play. She had finally settled on a song to sing during the remaining time she had left in the auditorium when she spotted that bright pink head among the rows of seats.
Rachel ceased her musical efforts and focused on Quinn, trying to determine whether she had been watching the brunette all this time. That thought was squashed when she noticed the bent head and the massive size of the tome on Quinn's lap. Rachel frowned. Curiosity took over her, and she found herself jumping off the stage and walking up to the quiet girl.
As she stopped two rows in front of Quinn, she struggled to read the title of the book. It was an encyclopaedia about biology. What was Quinn doing reading such advanced topics? More importantly, why did finding out about this make Rachel feel so strongly for her? She was about to ask when the pink head lifted and she found Quinn looking at her.
"Hey, Rachel," Quinn smiled, marking the page and closing the book. Rachel was taken aback by the warmth that seemed to spill from the taller girl's voice.
"Hi, Quinn," she found herself stuttering. Yet then she didn't know what to say. How do you verbally approach a person that never talked and you believed to not know anymore? She settled for the safest topic possible: Glee. "If you were hoping to use the auditorium, it's alright. I mean, you can do it. It's almost five, so my time is up anyway," Rachel smiled, looking at Quinn intently.
The former blonde merely blinked and stuffed the book back into her backpack, "No, I just come here to read. The tranquility and the silence are incredibly refreshing," she smiled again, eyes beaming underneath layers of eye make-up, "but I have to be home by five thirty, anyway, so I should get going," she added as she stood up and walked up to the shorter girl, "thank you for offering, anyway, Rach," she bit her lip, pulling the piercing closer to the centre of her mouth, and nodded her head to an astounded Rachel before walking out of the auditorium.
Rachel watched her go quietly. Well, that exchange was certainly progress. She still couldn't shake the adoring feeling that the picture of Quinn reading had left her with. She was falling for Quinn Fabray version 2.0 and she was falling hard. Even worse, she didn't know how to stop it. Perhaps it was just intrigue, a need to unravel the mystery that was the girl and then it'd go away. She shook her head. No, if that were the case, she wouldn't think of those clear eyes and of kissing that pierced lip all the time. She definitely had feelings for Quinn. And yet...
There was only one more theory that lingered in the brunette's mind. It had been there since Brittany's off-beat comment, and it had reappeared the moment Quinn had left her alone in the auditorium. Quinn Fabray was finally free. If this was Quinn being free, then that meant that this was the most real that Quinn had ever been with anyone. But free from what? Free to do what? Rachel needed the answers to those questions. And she needed them soon.
The days that followed, Rachel found herself making contact with Quinn more frequently. A smile here, a look there, a stray greeting that no one else heard. She was advancing one step at a time, and she was comfortable with it. More importantly, she felt like Quinn was comfortable with it. And that was all that mattered to Rachel.
That morning alone, they had crossed paths three times in the hallways, and they had always exchanged smiles. And the last time, Quinn had even brushed her fingers along the back of Rachel's hand as she passed her by. Sure, maybe Quinn was actually crazy, and now Rachel had become delusional as well, but something in her gut told her that it wasn't the case. She could swear that she was the only person Quinn maintained contact with. They sat together in Glee club -despite the fact that neither of them spoke-, and Quinn would blush faintly whenever Rachel sang.
Of course, there were things that still didn't make sense. But it all clicked in Rachel's mind during Glee practice that sixth Monday.
They were practicing a group number to a song of Mr. Schue's choice, and he was trying to bark out directions for the choreography. There was a particular move in which the girls were supposed to jump and twist in the air while the boys sang. Rachel thought it was a mediocre move, but hey, this was Mr. Schue's number, and everyone knew it would have to be done his way. The seventh time they were practicing the move, however, Tina dropped to the floor upon landing her twist. The choreography came to a halt instantly as Tina made sure her ankle wasn't hurt. Everyone was mildly surprised when it was actually Quinn who bent forward and outstretched her hand for Tina to take. And, as Quinn's t-shirt rode up with the motion, Rachel saw it.
Beth. The name was neatly scribbled in ink in what Rachel knew to be Quinn's delicate handwriting. The brunette barely caught a glimpse of it as Quinn remained bent over waiting for Tina to take her hand. It was situated on the right side of Quinn's lower back, almost on her hipbone. As soon as Quinn stood up, it disappeared beneath her shirt, and Rachel's eyes shot up to the former blonde's face.
The moment Tina thanked the pink haired girl before her and let go of her hand, Quinn's eyes found Rachel's, and the brunette's breath caught in her throat at the twinge of sadness she saw there. Quinn knew that Rachel had seen it. And it clicked. It all clicked.
That was what Quinn had freed herself from. That tiny tattoo represented everything Rachel needed to know. Quinn had freed herself from the repression her family had inflicted on her for years. Years of judgment and reproaches and emotional torment. She had freed herself from the guilt of having let go of Beth, the feeling of having something ripped out of her. The guilt that had come from all the mistakes she had made, and the fact that she had let go of the one thing she hadn't made a mistake about, her little girl. She had freed herself from the thoughts of the people who surrounded her, of the looks, of the whispers. She no longer cared. She did not care about the social ladder or about fitting in anymore. She had freed herself from having to stick to the social standards of it being necessary for a girl like her to have a boyfriend. She no longer cared about boys.
Quinn Fabray had managed to free herself in order to be herself. And Rachel suddenly understood that she loved her for it. She loved Quinn Fabray for who she actually was.
The days after that rehearsal, Rachel found herself falling in synch with Quinn. They'd find each other by their lockers and Quinn would wait for Rachel while she organized her books and binders. They'd walk together to their classes and part their ways only when need be. They'd go to Glee club together and leave at the same time. After everyone left, they would wind up together at the auditorium, where Quinn would read one of her extensive encyclopaedias while Rachel played the works of the likes of Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin, and neither spoke. They'd leave at the same time, and most days, Quinn would drive Rachel home.
They spent their time both together and alone, relishing in the company of each other, yet barely interacting. Rachel found that, when she was with Quinn, her verbose nature practically vanished, and Quinn was at her most relaxed when she had the space to both observe Rachel and be with her own thoughts.
That seventh Monday, however, their routine started out reversed. Rachel found herself waiting for Quinn to pull out the entirety of her books from her locker and attempt to shuffle them all into her backpack -which proved to be impossible-, so Rachel tugged one of the encyclopaedias away from the taller girl's hands and tucked her arms around it safely. Quinn smiled at the gesture, and proceeded to walk Rachel to all of her classes, which the brunette only realized had actually happened when Quinn smiled at her at the door to English Literature on fifth period.
Unlike the rest of the days, Quinn followed Rachel into the cafeteria at lunch time. Yet what baffled the brunette was the fact that the former blonde ordered for the both of them the exact same food that Rachel had always ordered. They ate in silence, and, from what the diva gathered, no one dared sit at their table. Oh well, she appreciated that. That way she could spend more time with Quinn by herself.
When it was finally time for Glee club, Rachel found her hand tugged towards the choir room. She stared at the back of Quinn's pink head, eyes wide as she realized that this was in fact the first time the former Cheerio had established physical contact with her -or anyone- deliberately. The tiny brunette felt the warmth of the hand wrapped around her own and, as her eyes cast downwards, she saw the stark dark blue of Quinn's nails contrast with both her pale skin and Rachel's own darker tone. Their hands remained joined throughout practice as they sat listening to the other members of the club suggest songs and mashups for future performances, and Mr. Schue going on and on about whatever this week's lesson would be. Neither of them spoke. They didn't even look at each other while the other kids sang. Yet their hands remained clasped tightly together, and they remained that way even as they left the choir room along with everyone else.
Upon reaching the empty auditorium, Quinn pulled Rachel towards the rows of seats and stopped close enough to the stage. She motioned for the brunette to make herself comfortable and Rachel reluctantly sank into the plush seat. Quinn then dumped her heavy backpack on the seat beside the diva and walked up the stage. Rachel complied silently, albeit her curiosity was piqued. She let herself relax as Quinn walked up to the piano in the middle of the stage and tucked herself on the bench.
Excitement coursed through Rachel's veins as she waited for the former blonde to begin. The piece was so softly played that the brunette barely realized it was being played. And yet, it was all she could listen to. She stared mesmerized as the pink haired beauty stroked the keys gently, her fingers seeming to do nothing more than ghost over them. The music coming from the piano was something Rachel had never heard before, but it captured her heart all the same with its loving tones and its melancholy undertones. As the key strokes reached a heartbreaking peak in the song, Rachel felt her heart hammer against the inside of her ribcage, wanting nothing more than to wrap her arms around Quinn and shield her from all the pain in the world.
By the time Quinn stopped playing and opened her eyes, the brunette realized that her own had gathered moisture as a few stray tears fell, glittering into oblivion. She could tell that the taller girl had experienced something similar, for her eyes sparkled more than usual. Her suspicions were confirmed when she heard a faint sniffle from the bottom of the stage, and looked up to see Quinn approaching her once again, fumbling with her own hands, eyes cast downwards.
Rachel waited for her patiently in her seat, and when Quinn was within range, she choked back a sob to find her voice, "That's one of the most beautiful and heartfelt performances I've ever seen," she whispered, and chuckled to herself when she realized just how hoarse her voice had come out, "and you didn't even sing," she added with a smile, to which the taller girl's face lit up and she finally faced Rachel.
Still fidgeting, Quinn bit on her lip and perched herself over the back of one of the seats, facing the tiny brunette, "I learned to play that after Beth," she offered as an explanation, and Rachel instantly knew that this was difficult for the ex-Cheerio to talk about, so she didn't want to push too hard.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Rachel offered softly, risking a glance at her companion's face. In turn, Quinn stared back at her, silently weighing her options. When she finally spoke, there was a calmness to her voice that Rachel found particularly contagious, as it quieted her rapidly beating heart.
"I've been playing that song almost everyday since Beth was born," she began, and Rachel listened to her attentively, watching the emotions play out on her features, "it's the only thing that manages to both remind me of her and break me," she furrowed her brows together, "those seven minutes are the only part of the day in which I let myself go back to who I was then and break down. I was so miserable," she chuckled, and the bitterness of the sound tugged at Rachel's heart painfully.
"What changed?" Rachel ventured. Upon seeing the confusion in Quinn's eyes as she looked up at her, she elaborated, "I mean, what made you change your attitude towards that and finally find it in yourself to be who you really are?"
Quinn genuinely beamed at that. Of course Rachel would be the only person who saw through the distractions that were the changes in her appearance and straight into the reasons behind them instead. The taller girl outstretched her arm and held out her hand. She barely stifled a giggle as the tiny diva eyed it curiously, a doubtful look in her eyes. After hesitating for the briefest of moments, Rachel covered Quinn's hand with her own and grasped it tightly.
"I'm not sure I'm entirely ready to talk about all of that," Quinn replied and pursed her lips, as if deciding on which words to say, "I can tell you that I've been doing therapy since we came back from Nationals. I can tell you that, even though I still miss her terribly, I now understand that giving Beth away doesn't mean that I abandoned her, but simply that I loved her enough to give her the best life I possibly could; and that such an action entailed my own suffering," she went on, her lips curling into a smile once again, "I know that I made the right choice, but of course, that doesn't mean that I don't have a right to miss her, or love her. I do. On both accounts. Now I just understand that it's okay to feel those things, because she is my daughter after all, even if I'm not her mom, not really," she shrugged, and Rachel squeezed her hand reassuringly, encouraging her to continue.
"My therapist used to say that changes in our appearance are merely the reflection or the portrayal of the changes our personalities undergo, of our own internal growth," Rachel offered, in an attempt to convey that she understood that Quinn's superficial changes were nothing more than the exposure of the deeper changes she had undergone. Quinn chewed on her lip, her tongue peeking out to stroke the piercing and return to her mouth, "What else can you tell?"
Rachel's smile widened at that. She knew exactly what Quinn meant. The taller girl wanted to talk to Rachel through the brunette's own talking. So she went along with it, "Well, I can tell that you don't care about certain things anymore, and have thus let yourself go. Which is why now, these past couple of months, you've been the most real you that you've ever been outside of your own head," she explained, and felt the former blonde cling to her hand as she mulled over what she had just said.
"What kind of things do you think I don't care about anymore?" Quinn inquired, and Rachel hoped that she was right about her assumptions. It terrified her to think that a wrong answer could push the taller girl away from her indefinitely. She couldn't afford that, not when Quinn was the only person who could make her heart soar.
"Like doing every single thing your parents wished you would do, like trying to satisfy everyone around you: your family, your friends, your boyfriends. Like the social ladder, or which hair color or attires are acceptable. Like people knowing that you're probably the biggest textbook nerd at this school. Like succumbing to the social standards that establish that a gorgeous girl like you should have a popular boyfriend, or a boyfriend at all, yet you are single. You know, things you used to do before, but that were for everyone else, and not for yourself," Rachel paused, taking in the wide-eyed look Quinn was sporting, "It's like you've finally learned how to be selfish," she admitted, and she held up a hand when she saw Quinn open her mouth, possibly to protest. "I know that not letting you talk right now is probably a mistake. But I can't not express this to you. Everything you've done in the past few years might have appeared to be incredibly selfish to everyone else, but we both know that that's a lie. I honestly don't know how I came to realize this, but I know that all your actions back then were executed to fulfill a purpose that you pretended was your own when, in reality, it was merely the combination of the expectations everyone in this little town had set on you," she stopped again and gripped Quinn's hand with both of her own, leaning forward to make sure their eyes were connected when she spoke the next words, "you've accomplished the one thing everyone here is too frightened to admit that they want. You've freed yourself, Quinn. You're your own person, no one can take that away from you. And I'm incredibly proud of you for being who you are without shame or regret or a care in the world. I'm proud of you, Quinn." she finished, eyes searching the taller girl's.
The smile that spread on Quinn's lips confused her somewhat, and she let her brows furrow together. Instead, the former blonde merely replied with, "Thank you," she pushed herself off the back of the seat and closer to Rachel, "but there's something else I don't care about anymore, and someone I care about more than ever."
Rachel hoped desperately that her mind wasn't playing tricks on her. She decided to risk it and lean forward with a smirk, "Oh, really? And what would that be?"
"Well," Quinn began, crouching on the floor to kneel before the brunette, "I certainly don't care about what people say about who I am anymore," she quirked an eyebrow in typical Quinn Fabray fashion, "as for the other answer..." she drifted off.
Instead, she stretched her upper half upwards, hands flat snugly to either side of Rachel on the seat, and pushed herself forward. Rachel saw hazel eyes flutter shut and felt the press of soft lips against her own. As soon as her own eyes fell shut, she felt Quinn pull away. Puzzled, the brunette opened brown eyes to focus on the blur that had become Quinn's face. The grin on the taller girl's lips startled her. And this time, when she saw the former Cheerio lean up towards her, she met her halfway.
Quinn's lips parted against her own, and Rachel wasn't surprised to find that they melded with her own like jigsaw puzzle pieces. She was caught up in the texture and the taste of Quinn's inviting lips when she remembered something that had been at the back of her mind for weeks. She smiled against the former blonde's lips -and felt them smile against her in return-, and she captured Quinn's lower lip between her own. The moment she let her tongue probe out tentatively, she felt Quinn pull her closer and, taking that as a sign of encouragement, she ran the tip over the piercing on the taller girl's lower lip to then tug the swollen lip between her own with her teeth.
Realizing that things could escalate quickly -which Rachel admitted she wished for, just not in the auditorium, but somewhere private-, the tiny brunette pulled away from Quinn and gulped some very much needed breaths. The pink haired girl did the same silently, pressing her forehead to Rachel's, and the diva couldn't help but smile at the warmth radiating from Quinn.
"So berries were a contributing factor in the process of determining a color for your hair, huh?" Rachel commented playfully and opened her eyes. She found Quinn staring back at her, laughing unrestrainedly. The sound was music to her ears, and Rachel found herself being pulled upright and away from her seat, flush against Quinn's body as the taller girl added, "And don't forget your pajamas, Rach. Your pajamas, too."
Rachel smiled at the comment, and wrapped her arms around the taller girl, allowing herself to be swallowed by the warmth of Quinn's arms around her tiny body. One of her hands crawled up into Quinn's hair, running smoothly through the strands of pink, and she felt Quinn's smile widen against her temple.
"Have you considered going back to blonde?" Rachel inquired raising her face away from Quinn's shoulder, to which she heard Quinn reply, "Someday, Rach. Someday."