Rachel found Quinn in the bathroom holding onto the toilet bowl as she finished throwing up what was probably everything she had eaten in the last 24 hours. Grimacing in sympathy, the little diva knelt down next to her and rubbed her back soothingly, internally she was cursing the hell out of whomever it was that wanted to hurt Quinn in this way.
"It's okay sweetheart, daddy will find out who is behind that story and sue them into oblivion!"
Sitting up with a groan, the hockey player tore off a strip of paper from the roll next to her head and wiped her mouth before flushing the lot. Sighing, she forced a half smile before reaching out to grasp Rachel's hand, needing, as well as wanting the reassurance from that simple contact.
"Look, it had to happen sooner or later, I mean, I never made a secret about my messed up past, it's not as though I didn't expect this."
Squeezing the hand in hers gently, Rachel lifted Quinn's knuckles to her lips and kissed them before she spoke.
"I know that, but…it still isn't easy to see your name splashed across the tabloids as they rake through your life. I know, I mean my past isn't as painful as yours by a long shot but I know how much of a gut punch it is when you see it in black and white in front of you."
Leaning back until she could use the wall for support, Quinn blew out a tired breath before she quietly admitted.
"I…to be honest, the news article itself doesn't bother me, I mean it hurts sure but I wouldn't expect anything less from an asshole like Russell. But what really got me…was that picture, I just…I saw it and the reaction was just instantaneous. I never wanted to see that woman again let alone see a damn picture of me in her grasp and be reminded of what a fucking weakling I was back then!"
As she spoke, her free hand curled into a fist, thumping down onto her leg angrily, something Rachel was quick to stop as she reached out and stilled the motion effortlessly.
"No…I'm not having that!"
The words were quietly spoken but no less fierce for their lack of volume, frowning, the hockey player looked up in confusion. Smiling gently, the little diva pulled on both of Quinn's hands, wrapping them around her waist until they were hugging lightly.
"You are not weak…you never were, you were a child Quinn Fabray. A goddamn innocent child who had no business being in the position she put you in, what you went through would have completely broken most people. It did not break you, in fact you found not only the strength to endure the treatment she visited upon you, but to run away as soon as you had the chance. The only person in that situation who was wrong was that…bitch!"
Eyes widening at the alien sounding curse word, Quinn pulled back and smiled weakly.
"You swore Rachel Berry! I mean, that was a genuine rude word and you don't use those words."
Grinning slightly, the diva shrugged a shoulder casually before leaning forward to steal a kiss from the faintly smiling hockey player.
"Sometimes I swear, when the situation or the person in question calls for it then I do swear. I just don't believe in the indiscriminate use of curse words to replace perfectly adequate ones in everyday conversation. That woman however doesn't even deserve the dignity of her name being used, she is most certainly a person who invites the use of swear words."
Felling an unfamiliar swell of protective affection from Rachel, Quinn's smile widened into a genuinely happy one.
"Sometimes, just sometimes, you still surprise me Rachel Berry. You don't have to protect me you know, I'm more than used to fighting my own battles."
Rolling her eyes good naturedly, Rachel reached out to tuck several loose strands of blonde hair behind Quinn's ears.
"You really can be an idiot sometimes Fabray, you know that right? I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned it to you or anything…but you aren't alone anymore and you don't have to fight your battles as though you are."
Quinn opened her mouth, whether to argue, agree or protest, Rachel would never know because she ploughed on…mostly because she knew the likelihood was that Quinn would try and explain all the reasons that this fight was one she had to face alone, when in truth she really didn't.
"I know what you're going to say and for once I am going to call bullshit, and yes I did just swear again! But honestly Quinn, you need to hear what I'm saying to you now, what your mom's, Santana and Dave have been trying to tell you since you went to live with them."
She paused and waited for the hockey player to nod, it was hesitant but it was a nod nevertheless, and smiling softly, Rachel carried on.
"You are NOT alone anymore, you haven't been for a while because I know every one of your family would stand by your side in any fight you might have to take part in. As for me, I'm not content just to be by your side for battle, in fact, I'll be the one flying the Faberry standard and charging out front to take down whomever it is that thinks they have the right to treat you badly!"
Unable to stop herself, Quinn grinned crookedly and leapt onto one of the phrases the fired up little diva had used.
"Faberry standard huh? Where did that little mash up come from Princess?"
Waving a hand airily, the diva explained.
"It's something our fans came up with, I have no idea who originally thought of it but I think it's great! I'm surprised you haven't seen the banners everywhere when we skate to be honest, even Brittany and Santana have T-shirts with it on. Anyway, this is getting off the topic Gretzky and I'm not so easily distracted when my mind is set about something!"
Rolling her eyes indulgently, Quinn held up a hand in surrender before speaking.
"Okay…but if we're going to have this conversation could I maybe brush my teeth and get dressed?"
Pretending to look thoughtful, Rachel finally nodded and standing up first, helped Quinn get to her feet.
"Of course, I love you, you big doofus, I just want you to know that, to realise that the days of Quinn Fabray fighting her corner with nothing but her own fists and plain luck are over. You have a family, two actually if you count my dad's, and despite what you think they love you as one of theirs already. But most importantly you have me, and I can be quite the formidable weapon!"
Laughing softly, Quinn leant down to kiss her partner's forehead, resting there for a moment; she held her close before whispering.
"Ya know what? I don't doubt that for a minute Princess, now let's get sorted out and get ready to go kick some ass on the ice…then we'll gather this army of mine and set about preparing a battle plan, okay?"
Grinning brightly, Rachel looked up and pressed a brief soft kiss to the hockey player's lips before patting her midriff.
"You have a deal Gretzky, now get your teeth brushed because you taste faintly of vomit."
Winking, the diva abruptly shot out of the bathroom giggling, Quinn's reply wafting out behind her.
"I never asked you to kiss my vomit mouth you know!"
Her only reply was another giggle, shaking her head in amusement, Quinn realised that not only had Rachel managed to calm her rattled nerves, but she had also successfully gotten her to feel like not only could she kick ass but that she really wanted to as well. Letting out a sharp bark of laughter in recognition of her Princess's amazing talents, the hockey player set about making sure her mouth didn't taste even remotely of vomit. An hour later the newspaper incident had almost been pushed to the back of their minds as they set about getting ready for the compulsories, as usual Quinn sat through the makeup and costume proceedings with a half grimace. Rachel was ecstatic to be getting ready to perform again and was chatting animatedly at a mile a minute, that alone caused Quinn to laugh softly. Jason, who was busy working on her hair at that moment, shook his head softly.
"You two are almost too cute together, do you know that?"
Unused to being described as cute, Quinn shifted in her seat a little, until Jason scolded her into stillness.
"What do you mean cute, I mean I've been called many things, but cute…really not one of 'em!"
Grinning wickedly, Jason rubbed more wax into the blonde locks as he explained.
"Well okay, when you're on your own you're handsome or chivalrous, is that better?"
After the hockey player's satisfied nod, he carried on.
"However, when the two of you are in the same room both of your edges seem to soften, I mean it's well known that Rachel, as much as I love her, can be quite the bitch when she wants to be, but since you came along…she's been a perfect angel. The two of you in the same room are just adorable, it's like watching a romance novel play out, you always look at each other, even when you don't know you're doing it. Sometimes it's not direct, it's through the mirror but it's like…well, it's just amazingly sweet."
Blushing a dark red, Quinn cleared her throat and muttered gruffly.
"Do me a favour and keep that to yourself huh? Reputation to protect and all that…"
Jason laughed before assuming as serious a face as he could under the circumstances, nodding gravely, he finished off the Bond hairstyle with a flourish.
"As you say Mr. Bond, and…voila! You're all set to go and get up close and personal with Miss Onatopp over there."
He gestured to the already made up Rachel and grinned, remembering the final scene between Bond and Xenia in the film Goldeneye, Quinn found the blush, which had just started to fade, heating up her face again and couldn't resist muttering.
"I can think of worse ways to go."
Tutting her in a scolding manner, Jason slapped at her shoulder lightly.
"Stop being so perverted, I'm young and innocent and you'll end up corrupting me!"
There was a laugh from behind the divide and Isaac stuck his head round the corner, one eyebrow raised in disbelief.
"That is such a lie Jason McTigue! You were corrupted a long time ago, before even I met you in fact…actually, come to think of it I think you were the one that corrupted me!"
Squawking in outrage, Jason aimed a swipe at Isaac who successfully ducked out of the way with a giggle; Jason called after him.
"If you aren't careful Mister, you wont be corrupted any further for an extremely long time!"
His only answer was the faint sound of a raspberry being blown, smirking to herself, Quinn slunk off to snatch Rachel into a hug. Giggling, the little diva allowed herself to be spun around lightly for a moment, when safely back on her own two feet she raised an amused eyebrow.
"I take it you're feeling much better?"
Shrugging casually, Quinn nodded.
"Yeah, this amazing chick gave me an awesome pep talk that just cleared a few things up for me."
Raising an eyebrow, the little diva stepped back and folded her arms as she played along.
"I see, should I be jealous of this amazing chick?"
Pretending to think about it, the hockey player eventually nodded with a mischievous grin.
"Well, she is extraordinarily hot…"
Raising both eyebrows, Rachel's spine stiffened, with a haughty sniff she moved forward and grabbed the lapels of the towelling robe Quinn had on while they waited for their costumes. Yanking the surprised hockey player forward, Rachel assumed her most challenging gaze and murmured.
"I see, well can she kiss like this?"
So saying, Quinn found herself not just being kissed but being KISSED, unsure whether her feet were actually touching the floor or not, the hockey player actually found herself weak-kneed at the way Rachel gently, but incredibly thoroughly, set about claiming every single inch of her mouth. In fact, she was pretty sure she would have passed out if it hadn't been for the timely intervention of Isaac clearing his throat pointedly.
"If you two don't mind, I'd like to see about getting you into your costumes…before you end up putting on a live show that most certainly does not belong on ice!"
Both of them were flushed bright red and breathless as they panted for air, the most they managed was a nod and vague wave in his direction as he walked away giggling. Smirking, Rachel smiled innocently and reiterated her question.
"So…about this awesome chick…?"
Blowing out a breath and spinning one hand around airily, Quinn murmured faintly.
"I have no idea who you're talking about, the only chick I need is you!"
Smiling happily, Rachel leaned in to place a chaste kiss on the hockey player's cheek (which was immediately cancelled out by the cheeky butt grab she simultaneously executed) before saying.
So saying she literally skipped off to allow Isaac to help her into her costume, leaving a somewhat flustered and flummoxed Quinn behind her. Shaking her head in amusement, the hockey player raised an eyebrow before speaking to Brad the Chihuahua.
"I get the feeling I just got expertly played huh?"
Tilting his head to one side, Brad let out a yip then started chewing on the edge of his bed, taking that as agreement Quinn made her way round to the dressing area where Rachel was putting the finishing touches to her simple outfit, for once they were wearing something very similar. Unlike most of the Bond based ice dances that revolved around James and one of his many women, they had decided to take a chance and do something a little different. So instead of the usual routine, they had decided to go for a dance interpretation of one of the fights between Goldeneye's Bond and Xenia, ending in her trademark leg squeeze, which for them would be their own unique take on the neck spin and lift. Blowing out a breath, Quinn took her seat as Isaac finished creating magic with Rachel. Her outfit consisted of black leggings with stitched pockets to resemble combat trousers, this was topped with a black v neck t-shirt that was now a particular favourite of Quinn's (well it was tight), and boot style toppers that would fit over the skates much as Quinn's pirate ones had done, and black leather effect fingerless gloves. It was finished with light touches of makeup and an up-do with strategic curled locks falling down on either side of her face. Grinning slightly, the hockey player looked at Isaac rather than Jason as she commented.
"She gets to keep that outfit right?"
Unable to help himself, Isaac roared with laughter at both Quinn's unrepentant expression and Rachel's embarrassed flush.
"Honey, you guys can keep whatever you want, just don't tell me what you do with them!"
Rubbing her jaw with one hand, the hockey player shot a wink at Isaac courtesy of the mirror as she slipped out of her robe and into the outfit. Hers was very similar to Rachel's this time only in olive green as opposed to black, the trousers were slightly baggier and the top was styled as a shirt as opposed to a T-shirt. Instead of the fingerless gloves, Quinn had a khaki coloured utility vest to finish off her ensemble, standing up she regarded herself minus the skates and nodded an approval.
"Damn fine work as always my man, can't wait to see what you have worked out for the final version of our next dance's costumes… I also can't believe we have to do it tomorrow though, I mean I can see why it's stretched out but it's annoying, you're keyed up and ready and you just want to get it over with, ya know?"
Leaning in closer, the older man couldn't help but tip her a wink as he drawled.
"Well now not everything can be rushed Miss Fabray, some things are much better if you take your time and get it right?"
Trying not to trip over her own feet, Quinn flushed as she retreated to the safety of Rachel's arms, Isaac chuckled to himself and set about cleaning up the dressing area. Once safely back with her little diva, the hockey player rested her head on her shoulder and inhaled the faint trace of her Armani perfume.
"You smell gorgeous as always princess…um, I just wanted to, well, thank you for this morning. I didn't expect to react the way I did and it totally span me out."
Gently nipping the tip of the hockey player's nose, Rachel smiled.
"That isn't something you ever have to thank me for Gretzky, I'm sort of gonna be with you constantly from now on in fact, so you should most likely get used to it."
Smirking, Quinn pretended to look thoughtful for all of thirty seconds before whispering.
"I can think of far worse fates Rach, and I know I don't have to thank you but I'm not going to stop, to me it's amazing that you can come and just calm my crazy with a few simple words. I just don't want to scare you off, because I'm fairly sure my reaction to, um, to that woman is always going to be that violent."
Shrugging, Rachel pulled her closer so she could nuzzle into her shoulder and whisper her gentle reply.
"And every time you do I'll be there, that woman is nothing but evil and if I ever meet her I can't promise you that I won't be the one having the violent reaction!"
Chuckling slightly, Quinn admitted.
"There's a part of me that would actually find that so amazingly awesome…but the other part of me insists that risking a charge for assault isn't worth the satisfaction of watching you lay her out."
Filing that away for future reference, Rachel was about to reply when Will called out and halted any further conversation.
"Come on guys, time for team Faberry to get out there and show just how much you've improved since the last competition."
Winking at the diva, Quinn held her hand out for Rachel's, once their fingers were intertwined tightly they headed out onto the sidelines of the rink to lace their skates. Kurt and his partner were just winding up their performance with a spectacular death spiral, they had obviously been training hard since the last competition and looked amazing. Quinn raised an eyebrow and glanced across to Rachel who blew a silent impressed whistle before bending to double-check her laces. The hockey player could feel her guts churning horribly again but thanks to the newspaper incident earlier that morning, there was nothing for her to throw up. Swallowing reflexively, she was suddenly aware of the reassuring warmth of Rachel leaning into her to whisper.
"We're going to be fine, you're going to be fine!"
Puffing out her chest proudly, Quinn thumped it before assuming a macho tone.
Rolling her eyes, the diva tugged on Quinn's arms gently.
"I was thinking more that you're an amazingly talented figure skater, and that we're about to make Jesse cry when he see's how damn good we are and what he's actually up against!"
Laughing, Quinn inclined her head downwards to steal a quick kiss, much to the enjoyment of the members of the crowd nearest them, who hadn't missed the gesture of affection and aww-ed loudly. Flushing a faint red, the hockey player pulled back to duck her head for a moment in order to compose herself. When she looked up again the crowd were on their feet and applauding Kurt loudly, all of which meant the pair had only moments before they were due to skate out onto the ice. Sure enough the official turned and gestured to them, keeping their hands linked they skated out onto the ice and a round of applause. Inhaling and then exhaling slowly to the count of six to calm and centre herself, Quinn took up her starting position which had her crouched on one knee looking towards Rachel. Opening her eyes, she broke into a spontaneous smile as she saw Rachel get ready in her own starting position which was ten feet away. Staring ahead towards Quinn with one skate forward and the other slightly backwards with the toe pick dug in, ready to burst into action, the diva very discreetly winked. Assuming an appropriately concerned look for her 'character', Quinn focused in on Rachel and Rachel alone, seconds later the music started up and she was one hundred percent invested in the routine.
Although in the film, this particular scene had been choreographed to a musical score, both Quinn and Rachel had decided the theme tune to the film fit much better. As Tina Turner's iconic Goldeneye drifted out of the speakers, the two dancers flowed towards each other. Quinn, as Bond, moving more cautiously as Rachel's Xenia moved with the intensity of purpose. In a move that went against both convention and the usual make up of their partnership, it was Quinn that ended up closer to the ice when they met in the middle of the rink. Holding herself up with the weight of her body evenly spaced on the skates, Rachel leapt up as they came together, and resting her knees either side of the blonde's hips, simulated the move Xenia had used to knock Bond over. As they moved fluidly into their sit spin at the point of contact there was another round of applause, moving from the spin both ice dancers separated, Quinn skating backwards as Rachel carried on forwards again, the two of them matching each other in their step sequences as they did so. The hockey player's confidence swelled as applause broke out to signify that they had done them seamlessly, smothering her grin to stay in character they came to meet in the middle again for another simulated tussle/lift.
Leaping up from an axel, Rachel landed neatly on Quinn's shoulder in a swan lift, skating smoothly in a circle, the little diva exited the lift with Quinn's help and the two of them took off round the rink side by side with another step sequence. They were just launching into the oft practiced and hard to nail triple axel when it happened. The take off was perfect, it was synchronised, smooth and the turns themselves were bang on target…however, the landing didn't go quite as well. Up until that point Quinn had forgotten the morning's problems and the newspaper report, she was simply enjoying the thrill of competitive figure skating. As she came out of the third axel to land she caught something, or thought she did, out of the corner of her eye, she definitely registered Jesse chatting away animatedly with a tall blonde woman in a track suit. What she wasn't so sure of was whether or not she had, in actual fact, caught a glimpse of Laura just behind them…or whether her imagination was running riot.
Real or not, the dark haired woman's presence was enough to throw the hockey player's concentration off, and as she landed her ankle wasn't at the correct angle. The result was a very definite wobble that ruined the triple axel and sent a sharp pain stabbing through her foot, swallowing down the curse, she ignored both the pain and the mistake to move straight into the next lift. She couldn't bring herself to meet Rachel's eyes as they finished their skate, despite the wobble, the applause was still very enthusiastic and Will greeted them so happily she could almost forget her fault. Until she looked up and saw them replaying it that was, at that point she let her eyes drop to her feet even as she plastered on a brave smile for the watching crowd and Rachel. As the scores started to come in she felt herself deflate slightly, it wasn't the worst skate of the day but it certainly wasn't the best and it left them in fourth place in the standings, meaning they had a hell of a lot of work to do in the free skate tomorrow in order to make it onto the podium.
The final scores were 5.7, 5.8, 5.6, 5.6. Will nodded, happy with that result given the slip up, glancing at Rachel he saw a relieved smile on her face too, but…he had no idea what Quinn thought about it as she had resorted to the blank eyed show smile he hadn't seen on her for so long that it's resurrection scared him. Glancing at Rachel, he saw the little skater nod imperceptibly and gesture to the changing area with her head, knowing that she would want privacy, he moved first to ensure that Jason and Isaac left the women in peace. As soon as the next skate started and the attention was on them and not Quinn and Rachel, the brunette took hold of the hockey player's hand and led the way back into the changing area. Sitting down next to each other on the bench to unlace their skates, Rachel bit her tongue and just waited, she knew if they were going to have this conversation then Quinn had to start it. The little diva had no idea what had caused the lapse in concentration but she did know that whatever it was it could have been a hell of a lot worse! However, knowing Quinn as well as she did she also knew the blonde would be giving herself a harder time than either her or Will ever would. Eventually the hockey player sat up and letting her head rest on the wall behind her murmured.
"I'm sorry I fucked it up for us princess…I just, my mind was playing tricks on me I guess…"
She trailed off with a guilty frown, attempting to make light of the issue with her patented half smile, Rachel however was having none of it.
"To coin one of your sister's favourite phrases…'I call bullshit Fabray'"
Eyes widening in disbelief at the combination of the cursing and no nonsense tone, Quinn swallowed and opened her mouth before closing it when she realised she had no idea how to react to that. Smiling to soften the harsh edge to the words she had used, Rachel let out a small sigh and wrapping one of the hockey player's hands in both of hers decided to explain further.
"Let me just make a couple of things clear sweetheart, firstly, everyone has the occasional slip up, it's just a part of competitive skating! And it happens to the best as well as the worst of us so you most certainly do not have permission to beat yourself up over it!"
At the faint smirk on the blonde's face she knew she had hit the nail on the head with that little guess, now for the second shot in the dark.
"Secondly, I like to think I know you, and as such I know that there was a cause to your lapse of concentration and the subsequent stumble. So rather than let you keep it inside and allow it to fester, I would rather you tell me…even if you think I might not like it."
Smiling slightly with a mixture of relief and amazement at just how much the little diva had surmised in the few short minutes since they came off the ice, Quinn leaned in close and allowed herself to be pulled in for a hug.
"You know…I think that letting you and Santana hang around so much might be a bad idea!"
At the murmured comment, Rachel couldn't help laughing, kissing the crown of Quinn's head she let out a long breath.
"Hmm, bit too late for that now Gretzky, we have that whole extended family thing going on so technically she's my sister too…hey! Do you think if I tell her that to her face she'll implode?"
Now Quinn was laughing out loud as well, after a few moments amusement that successfully dissipated the dark mood the hockey player had been headed towards, Quinn lifted her head, smiling in wonder.
"How do you do that? Know exactly what to say to just…bring me back to myself?"
Flushing self-consciously, Rachel shrugged a shoulder.
"It's not a one way thing you know Quinn, you do the same for me all the time! You know when I'm close to having a diva freak out in practice and stop it in it's tracks. You know when I'm scared at night being in a house so big and you make us those cosy nests. I think it just happens when you love someone like…well, like this."
Leaning forward to rest her forehead on Rachel's, Quinn whispered her next question.
"Like what princess?"
Smiling very softly, the diva's reply was just as quiet.
"Well, not to sound too schmaltzy but…like we're in a Disney film, the whole happily ever after thing complete with the big white wedding. Because I found my soul mate, we are soul mates, I know we are, and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise!"
Grinning widely, Quinn stole a soft kiss before nodding in agreement.
"We are definitely soul mates, and I'll tell you something else Rachel Berry, you are not the only one that would fight for what we have. On a slightly more, libidinous note, can I just say the thought of you fighting for me is kinda hot."
Rolling her eyes, Rachel slapped at Quinn's leg lightly, causing the hockey player to giggle, more at the pleased flush on the diva's cheeks than the grin on her lips. Huffing slightly and flipping her hair over her shoulder, the brunette reluctantly brought them back to the reason for the conversation.
"Although I'm pleased that you find the image appealing, I'd rather we helped you to work through what happened…okay?"
Relaxing and deciding that talking about the situation was most likely the best thing she could do, even if it did cause some unpleasant feelings, Quinn blew out a breath and threaded her fingers with Rachel's as she began to speak haltingly.
"I just…I know this is going to sound really stupid, and I also know that it's most likely a side effect of that photograph, but earlier, as we were coming out of the triple I thought…well, I could have sworn I saw…her standing behind Jesse and some tall blonde woman."
Eyes softening at how that must have made the blonde feel, especially in the middle of a competitive skate, Rachel squeezed her hand and spoke gently.
"Baby, it's perfectly plausible that you thought you saw her, I mean I'm not going to insult your intelligence by telling you that I know how you feel because I don't. I do know that seeing an image of that, woman…after so long was bound to cause you to get jumpy and you shouldn't blame yourself for that reaction one single bit. Frankly, the fact that you went ahead with the competition at all is amazing and makes me so proud of you, I want to yell at the top of my voice to all the other skaters that I have the best partner ever…but Will wouldn't let me."
Raising one eyebrow, Quinn glanced at Rachel in disbelief, seeing the pout on those kissable lips however made her realise she was indeed speaking the truth. Chuckling, she leaned sideways to brush a gentle kiss across the diva's temple.
"I must remember to thank Will, not sure it would have helped our relations with any of the other skaters if you'd done that!"
Rachel smirked to herself and muttered.
"I think Puck would have cheered us as well, and Kurt of course, maybe even Tina."
Rolling amused hazel eyes, Quinn pulled Rachel back into her side and sighed happily.
"Well, now you know at least, and I'm sorry I went quiet, it's just…when things go wrong, I tend to take all the blame myself, and as you so rightly pointed out, beat myself up over it. I keep forgetting I don't have to do that any more and I'm sorry for that…but I am trying princess, I really am."
Kissing the tip of the hockey player's nose, Rachel grinned and winked.
"I know, and until it stick's, I'm here to remind you."
They sat in silence for a moment, just happy to hold each other until Quinn allowed herself to whisper the question that had been on her mind since that moment on the ice.
"You don't think it could actually have been her do you?"
Frowning at both the possibility that it might be true and the fact it was so obviously a very clear and present danger in Quinn's mind, Rachel replied thoughtfully.
"I would say no, I mean, why would she come after you after all this time, especially now you have a cop and a former cop as your parents. However, I want you to feel safe so I know how we can find out, I'll ask my dad to see who's staying in the hotel, but I doubt she is anywhere even remotely close to this ice rink…and if she is then she'll run like Hell if she knows what's good for her!"
The last was said with the same grim determination Rachel used when committing a new routine to memory, and Quinn had to admit that it worried her a little bit, she knew what could happen if you let your fists do the talking all the time. Catching hold of the diva's chin with the thumb and forefinger of her free hand, the hockey player's concerned hazel gaze locked with Rachel's simmering brown one.
"Listen to me princess, if we ever come across her you have to promise me you won't do what you want to…I don't want you going down the same path I did. Do I think she deserves a punch in the face? Hell yeah! That and so very much more, but not at the expense of anyone I love and care about, I refuse to let her poison infect anyone else…especially you. So you promise me right now Rachel Berry, promise me that you won't do anything stupid if she somehow appears in my life again!"
Sighing at the unusual but also undeniably sensible request from the blonde, Rachel nodded reluctantly.
"I promise, I don't like it because for once I actually do want to hurt someone…but I also acknowledge that what you're saying is sensible, and I promise I wont do anything, okay?"
Smiling softly, Quinn leaned in for another kiss.
"Good! Now…today is done, and through no fault or intent we are a little bit behind, however I think tomorrow's free skate can guarantee us a place on the podium, what do you think princess?"
Leaping up from the bench with a huge grin, the diva tugged on their still joined hands as she literally ran over to the changing area.
"Excellent thinking Gretzky, let's get changed, have some dinner and talk about the things we could embellish or change slightly, now the elements themselves are showy enough but what I was thinking was…"
Quinn smiled happily to herself as Rachel chattered on about what they could do that evening in regards to the way their free skate was planned. At some point Jason, Isaac and Will had returned and set about cleaning up after the women who had hung their costumes up, but not well enough for the fastidious costumier. Once the area was cleaned to a satisfactory (or OCD, if you asked Quinn) standard they headed for the exit and the hotel, the blonde trying not to wince too much at the odd twinge in her ankle. She was on the verge of mentioning it to Will, not that she believed it was serious but maybe a little physio could help, when a loud argument at the entrance to the skaters area knocked the question to the back of her mind.
"Listen up asshole, I am Quinn Fabray's sister and I happen to know she needs me. I came here when I got the call so no, I don't have a goddamn pass, just get someone to ask her and she'll tell you! How is that so difficult for you to comprehend?! Is this why you're stuck guarding a gate in a damn skate rink, because you're too stupid to work as a real cop!"
Wincing in unison, both skaters turned to each other and said the same thing.
Dropping their kit bags on the floor in their haste to get to the entrance gate, Quinn led the way until she caught the eye of her exasperated sister who must have done literally what she said she had and travelled up as soon as she got the call about the newspaper article. She was dressed in the black slacks, white shirt and tie she wore when working the bar at Frank's, relaxing when she saw Quinn, the Latina gestured irritably at the red faced security guard. Shaking her head slightly, Rachel smiled slightly at Santana before heading over to immediately soothe the guard's ruffled feathers, Quinn headed out of the gate to hug her sister. Slightly taken aback at the open gesture of affection, the Latina habitually froze for a moment before hugging back and whispering in the hockey player's ear.
"How you doing Q bear?"
Realising she had needed the presence of her adopted yet highly protective sister more than she realised, the blonde held on tight as she exhaled shakily.
"Better than I would have been if Rachel hadn't called me on my bullshit."
Grinning at the news that her young protégé was coming along nicely, Santana pulled back far enough to take in Quinn's worn and slightly wary expression. She hated to think just how far the hockey player would have withdrawn into herself if not for Rachel.
"Good, glad to see she's taking my lessons to heart! Now is there anyone I need to punch for you, do we know who the fuck is responsible for that damn bullshit article yet?"
Quinn quietly wondered to herself if her mom's' no swearing policy was getting to the Latina, judging by the surfeit of curse words she would have to say yes! Shaking her head slightly, her jaw dropped open as Rachel lightly cuffed Santana's head before raising an eyebrow.
"Language Miss Lopez!"
To the hockey player's amazement, Santana just snorted in amusement and flipped the brunette off. Rolling her eyes, Rachel linked her arm through Quinn's and led the way towards the hotel.
"And the answer is no, we have no idea who sold that story to the magazine but my dad is chasing down leads now, he loves it when he gets to sue truly nasty individuals!"
Nodding her approval, the Latina swiftly reached across from the other side of Quinn who was in the middle of them both, to bump fist's, the hockey player rolled her eyes.
"Oh boy, the last thing the world needs is for Santana to have a disciple, it only encourages her Rachel!"
Blowing a raspberry at her sister, the Latina chose to ignore the diva's laughter and instead let herself be steered towards the foyer of the hotel so she could check into the room Leroy had booked her as soon as he had heard about the article. Watching Rachel and Santana bantering back and forth it occurred to Quinn that given her past she was in fact, one of the luckiest people on the planet. Not only did she have an amazing foster family but now, with Rachel and her dad's, that family was growing. Seeing the way they were all closing ranks at a threat to one of their own was, well, it was actually incredibly touching, not that she'd admit that out loud! Clearing her throat to get their attention, Quinn gestured with her head towards the lift's where Will was holding one for them. Half an hour later, after Santana had checked in showered and finally changed into some loose jeans and a sweatshirt, she joined the other two who were already changed and lounging on the sofa in their own hotel room. Huffing slightly, the Latina resisted the urge to flop herself down between the couple, instead she slouched comfortably into the easy chair, propping her feet on the table.
"Damn, I gotta have a word with Mr B, your room is way better than mine, I only have one easy chair!"
Smiling happily, Rachel shrugged a casual shoulder before leaning further into Quinn who had one arm slung around the diva's shoulder's.
"Well that's because we're the stars Santana, while you're more like one of the footmen."
Quinn couldn't help snorting a laugh at the outraged look on her sister's face.
"Footman?! Are you shitting me Berry? I'm more like your freaking bodyguard than anything else, here to do the ass kicking while you two look pretty on the ice…the only foot you'll be getting is mine up your ass!"
At that Quinn's chuckle turned to a full-blown belly laugh, Rachel smirked at Santana who subtly winked back at her when the blonde wasn't looking. Once the hockey player had her breath back, she wiped her eyes before asking.
"So, did we make any decisions on what to do for dinner? I know the guys asked us to join them and we can if you want, I know you're loving being more a part of the skating scene Rach."
Shrugging a shoulder as she remembered how Kurt and Puck had issued the invitation that morning, the diva just settled further into Quinn's arms.
"I'm okay just being here with you…and your loudmouth sister of course!"
Poking her tongue out, the Latina leant forward to pluck up the room service menu that was on the coffee table.
"Well then, room service it is, but they better have something decent, I'm starving after that car journey!"
Once meals had been decided on, the biggest burgers available for Santana and Quinn and vegan lasagne for Rachel, they settled down to watch a run of the original Star Trek episodes that the Sci-Fi channel were showing. Santana even managed not to tease Quinn about the fact she could mouth all the lines along with the characters on screen. They were just debating ordering a movie when Rachel's phone went off, glancing at it she almost fell off the sofa in her rush to answer it when she realised it was Leroy.
"Daddy…yes, have you found out who was responsible for the article…hmm, I see. Well what do we do now? Alright, yes…of course."
Smiling, she held the phone out for Quinn, frowning in mild confusion, the blonde accepted it, speaking hesitantly.
"Um…hey Mr B, what's up?"
There was a brief moment of confused silence on Leroy's end of the phone before he spoke.
"I was worried about you Quinn, it might come as a bit of a shock to you, but as my prospective daughter-in-law I care for you a great deal. When I found out what idiot printed this story without even bothering to check if it was true, I'll sue them until they can't even afford underpants."
Smiling at the tone in his voice, the hockey player mused.
"Well, depending on who it is maybe you should stop before the underpants, there's plenty of people out there that I would rather not see running around in the buff, ya know?"
Leroy broke into his usual booming laugh and even hearing it over the phone brought out an answering grin on Quinn's face.
"Hmm, you have a good point young Fabray! Okay I might leave them some pants but not nice ones, no boxers only briefs! But…seriously, are you doing okay kiddo? Your mom's e mailed me from the hotel they're staying at before the operation and they said to give you their love, they were due in the hospital for pre-op as you were on the ice or they would have rung you themselves."
Warmed by the knowledge that both her moms and apparently Leroy and Hiram were watching her back even from halfway across the country, the blonde felt herself smiling warmly. Glancing at Rachel and Santana who were bickering over the last few fries, she replied honestly.
"You know what Mr B…I am actually doing okay, yeah it took me by surprise this morning but, I'm realising that there are worse things than a load of lies in print from a convicted felon."
She could almost see the smile she knew Leroy was sporting.
"You got it kiddo, oh and…look, Rachel told me about who you thought you saw and I know you put it down to your imagination but I wanted to reassure you. A friend of mine has access to every guest database in the area and I can guarantee you that she is most definitely not checked in to any of them."
Her hand had tightened around the phone when he first mentioned her 'sighting' of Laura, but hearing only compassion and concern in his tone, she fought down her natural inclination towards anger and listened. At the news that he had checked guest registries' for her, even though the chances were that it was nothing more her own over active imagination, said more to her than words could and she blinked back happy tears before replying.
"Thanks Mr B, you rock you know? I mean, I know it was just seeing the picture that made me go all wacky Mc'Nut-ball about things…but thanks, for putting my nut ball mind at ease."
Leroy's reply was not just full of warmth but of love, the same love she often heard in his voice when he spoke to her about Rachel.
"Quinn, sweetheart…just as I'd go to the end's of the earth for my own daughter, I would for you too. Only in your case I doubt it would be because you got nutmeg on your latte instead of chocolate!"
The memory of one of Rachel's earlier outbursts regarding a coffee run Quinn had gotten wrong caused the blonde to laugh out loud, something she swiftly smothered when she saw the diva's suspicious look. After reassuring him that they were both okay and looking forward to tomorrow's free skate, she said goodbye and handed the phone back to Rachel so she could do the same. Looking up from the movie list the two brunettes had been looking through, Quinn realised that Santana was watching her with a soft smile.
"Okay Lopez, spill it already, something's going on behind those eyes and I'd rather know about it if it concerns me, no matter how weird it might be!"
Hurling a balled up napkin at the smirking hockey player, Santana just relaxed into her chair with a shrug.
"I just think it's good that's all."
Raising one eyebrow in an impressive arch, Quinn waited for her sister to expand on the comment, snorting in irritation she finally did so.
"The way you are with Rachel, skating, allowing yourself to be happy…the way it's all changed you, it's pretty damn cool Q bear."
Trying to ignore the embarrassed flush she could feel painting her face red from the neck up, the hockey player waved a hand dismissively. Santana however was not going to let it go that easily and said as much.
"Don't do that Quinn, don't belittle what I'm saying or how much you've changed. Everyone has noticed you know, it's what they always wanted, mom and ma…for you to be able to trust someone again, to let someone love you and help you realise that not everyone is out to hurt you. Rachel was the start but the rest came from you Quinn, you're the one taking back your life from that bitch, you're the one in charge of it…and although I hate to say it, I told you that years ago when we first met! You're letting our mom's love you properly now, Hell you're even trusting me rather than punching me and if that's not progress then I don't know what is!"
Winking slightly, the Latina chuckled and ducked the napkin as it was hurled back towards her, after a moment, Quinn spoke.
"Yeah well, if you hadn't always been such a hard ass I wouldn't have been such a jerk…just saying! But…you're right, I mean god knows I wouldn't tell you that if I could help it but you're right. Rachel was the start, she helped me to accept that it was okay to trust, that despite thinking I was letting people into my life I never truly was. And now I'm going to live my life the way I want, I mean hell…the Quinn of two years ago, well, actually even the Quinn of one year ago would more than likely have punched someone for suggesting figure skating. But something in me told me to take the chance and…I found something I love, yeah it might be seen as a sissy sport or not the sort of thing I would ever do. Now however I can't see me ever doing anything else, at least not professionally. So as much as it galls me to say it…yes, you were right, and thank you, for not giving up on me."
She trailed off with a shrug, glancing over to see where Rachel was, Quinn missed the hasty way Santana swiped at her cheeks to dash away the tears and when she looked back the Latina was her usual composed gruff self.
"Well, what can I say except my stubborn streak can way outlast yours Fabray…and you're welcome. Also, to use your own phrase, which by the way I take it you learned from Rachel, it galls me to say that it was worth the wait."
They allowed the vulnerable moment to last a second more before both abruptly looking away, Rachel came back into the room and giggled as Quinn reached out and pulled her down and into her lap. Pretending to be sickened by the display, Santana couldn't quite hide her genuine smile at how cute the two were together…although even she had a limit, and when nuzzling turned to kissing, she cleared her throat pointedly before speaking.
"Okay bitches, what are we going to do this evening huh? The movies are all old and we've seen pretty much the entire list between us! What else is there to do for fun around here, I mean obviously not drinking as you two are athletes and I cannot sit through another one of the short round's lectures on why athletes don't drink when competing!"
Mock scowling at her name being taken in vain, Rachel searched for another napkin, sulking when she couldn't find one, it was Quinn that replied.
"It's still early but you're right about the not much to do thing, there's a pool, a sauna and a gym but not much else. There might be a cinema downtown that we could head to?"
Santana mused for a moment then grinned brightly and levelled a finger at both of them.
"I noticed a sports bar two buildings over, they're playing the game tonight, 49'ers taking on the Cowboys…we don't have to drink but it's somewhere other than this room, or my much smaller one, and it has bar snacks!"
Given the choice, Quinn would much rather have just spent an hour or so in the sauna and gone to bed, but, Santana had come all the way out here for her, and she did love a good game of football. Glancing sideways, she caught Rachel's very slight nod and moved fluidly to her feet.
"Okay, you're on…I'm going to change into something that isn't sweat pants and we'll meet you in the foyer in like, twenty minutes?"
Dashing off to change into her 'hot dancing clothes', Santana waved half heartedly over her shoulder, shaking her head, Rachel pulled Quinn into the bedroom so they could try and at least equal the Latina when it came to looking good. Thirty minutes later Quinn, dressed in black jeans, red converse and a black and red check shirt, walked down the stairs hand in hand with Rachel. The diva was wearing a pair of green slacks with a tan coloured V-neck sweater, but Santana had as usual, applied her own sense of style and had outdone both of them. Both skaters had to laugh as they took in the knee high black suede boots, short leather skirt and white vest top, finished off with a leather biker style jacket and a killer ponytail. Shaking her head, Quinn slugged her sister's shoulder and gestured to several stunned and/or drooling men (and more than a few women) who were tripping over their own feet whilst staring but also trying not to look as though they were.
"Way to not go too over the top there Lopez…now let's get out of here and go see the Niner's kick some serious damn cowboy ass!"
Winking at a guy on the way out who was in his 49'ers top, Santana cheerfully led the way to the sports bar where she ordered the first round of drinks, beer for her and virgin daiquiris for the two skaters. According to the Latina, if they couldn't actually drink then they should at least look like they were drinking. After such a terrible start to the day, Quinn was pleasantly surprised at the way it was turning out, her sister had literally ridden in to stand by her when she had needed it, she had a beautiful, amazing woman at her side who made her feel complete, and the Cowboys were being trounced by the Niner's. She honestly couldn't see a single thing that could go wrong right now…which of course was the time when things inevitably do go wrong. By the time the game finished, Santana had a pleasant beer buzz going on and Quinn was full of pretzels, boiled peanuts and some blue soda the bartender had mixed for her. Rachel was just full of happiness at seeing Quinn relaxed with Santana, a situation that rapidly changed as they entered the hotel lobby.
Jesse was there, obviously having just come back from the hotel's restaurant, he was leaning on the concierge's desk waiting for something. Beside him was the tall blonde woman who had been with him earlier that day, and unless Quinn was mistaken she was wearing a dress track suit in black and silver? Nudging Rachel, the hockey player murmured under her breath.
"Am I losing it or is that woman wearing a formal track suit…and if so, how is that even possible?"
Glancing up, the diva inhaled sharply before muttering something under her breath that in any other person the blonde could swear was a curse word. Frowning slightly, she saw Rachel quickly firing off a text and stopped her walking with a hand on the arm. When she finally got Rachel to meet her gaze, she raised both hands in a silent question, blowing out a breath and abruptly tugging the hockey player and the befuddled Santana behind a nearby pillar, she spoke in a rapid fire whisper.
"This is going to sound very, very odd, but give me a chance to try and explain just how insane that woman is!"
Having never heard Rachel sound quite this nervous about anything before, Quinn just nodded. Santana leaned out to try and get a look at what, or who exactly, the two skaters were talking about. Spotting the blonde woman, she raised her eyebrow but had no time to actually say anything before a panicking Rachel pulled her back behind the pillar.
"Just shush or she'll hear you! And she's all of the different kinds of insane you can think of, topped off with a few new ones that even today's top mental health professional's can't diagnose!"
Taking a very discreet look at the tall blonde, Quinn couldn't see what exactly was so scary about the woman…weird yeah, I mean who the hell in the world wears a tracksuit to dinner! Glancing back at Rachel's clearly distressed expression however, she realised that there was something very definitely off with the situation. Seconds later, Will almost flew out of the elevator in answer to Rachel's text, and had to stumble to right himself, not fast enough however to avoid the eagle eyed gaze of the tall blonde. Smirking in an incredibly cruel way, she sauntered towards the coach who looked as though he would rather be in line for a colonoscopy than taking part in the conversation he was about to.
"Well, well William, I see you're still managing to cling onto your coach's job by your fingernails, but seriously…two girls? Are you practicing for when the only job you can get is skating duet with your butterball friend at the Icecapades?"
Smiling thinly, Will drew himself up to his full height, crossing his arms before replying.
"People can underestimate my skaters as much as they like, but when they are the ones winning the awards and setting the standards, you're going to be the one that looks pathetic Sue, not me."
Chuckling lightly, Sue shook her head and walked around Will in a circle that was meant to intimidate him. As this was far from the guy's first encounter with her however, he just waited patiently.
"Really…it certainly didn't take much to throw your so called superstar's off their game this morning did it? I mean if you're going to spend time in the limelight then you have to get used to the press, both bad and good. Although if I recall correctly, bad press always throws your skaters off doesn't it. Last time it was Berry and her little dalliance with my boy Jesse here, she did the same thing didn't she, took a tumble when the story broke?"
Gritting his teeth with the effort it was taking to stay calm in the face of the woman's arrogance, Will was formulating a reply when a familiar voice interrupted, one that he was both relieved and terrified to hear as he had no idea what might happen next.
"Who the hell is this witch Will? And why is she bothering you…lost her broom?"
Turning round, both he and Sue took in the sight of a pissed off Latina and his somewhat more reticent skaters who were hand in hand behind her. Raising an eyebrow, Sue smirked as she took in the trio standing before her.
"And there are the little sideshow act, I see you're still slacking off Berry…I didn't think you could sink any lower after you defected to Schuester as a coach…but skating with a convicted felon?"
Tutting, she shook her head in a mockingly mournful way, Quinn turned from glaring at the woman she now knew was called Sue Sylvester (thanks to Rachel's hurried explanation that she used to be her coach), to realise that the diva was actually shaking with fear. Ignoring Sue for now, and trusting that Santana had their back, she turned to the little skater.
"Hey, it's okay…like you said, she used to be your coach, she isn't now and she can't do anything to hurt you, especially not with me and Santana around."
Half smiling, the diva squeezed the hand in hers and muttered so low only Quinn could hear.
"I know…just, do you remember that promise you made me make about not punching that woman? I want you to make me the same promise regarding Sue, because just like Jesse, she will try and push you into doing something stupid."
Nodding solemnly, the hockey player held her hand up in the boy scouts' salute.
"You got it!"
At the wink and half smile, Rachel giggled, which definitely attracted the attention of one Sue Sylvester.
"I'm glad you two can still find the time to laugh…given your incredible lack of attention to what you were doing on the ice this morning. Maybe you should be thanking whoever it was that leaked that story to the papers, if you're not able to cope with the stress that having your name in print brings then perhaps you should head back to your little slice of lesbian heaven. As for you Berry, despite your very, very many foul up's, I could still partner you and Jesse up and salvage your career…if you're willing to put the effort in."
Squaring her shoulders, and with her hand tightly keeping hold of the hockey player's, Rachel spoke up for the first time since coming face to face with Sue after so many years.
"I'm more than happy with both the coach and the skating partner I have…plus there is no way on this green earth or any other that I would willingly suffer through your instability!"
Sue's eyes flashed angrily and she made a move, nothing overt but it still caused Rachel to take a hasty step back. Pulling the diva closer to her side, Quinn moved slightly in front of her and assumed her old Quinn attitude.
"You heard her Sylvester, Will is a better coach than you will ever be and we're both quite happy with him."
Directing a glare at the hockey player, Sue spoke to Will.
"Then you better damn well give your skaters a pep talk about developing a proper shell with which to shrug off bad press, because something tells me today's little newsflash won't be the last when it comes to the little criminal here."
Gesturing with her chin towards Quinn, Sue smirked, the hockey player found herself chanting her promise to not punch Sue over and over in her head because right at that moment it was the only thing she could think about doing…which is why she missed what Sue was hinting at, Santana however did not.
"You! You're the one that organised for the papers to print that story aren't you? Why the Hell would you do that, do you have so little faith in your own skaters that this is the sort of shit you have to resort to?!"
Crossing her arms and smiling thinly, the blonde woman leaned forward and down so she was right in the Latina's face.
"When you're fighting a war, you use every advantage you have, you go for the opposing forces' weakness, and in this case your convict friend there is a huge weakness to Rachel and her chances of a medal."
Rachel bristled angrily at that but before she could even think of the best way to politely tell Sue that she was talking out of her ass, Santana stepped in.
Santana was angry, Santana was Quinn's sister and was beginning to think of Rachel as her second sister…and Santana had also not been trapped into promising not to throw a punch.
The next thing anyone was aware of was Sue hitting the floor with a loud thud and Santana swearing and shaking her fist out. This was followed by a deathly silence filling the foyer of the hotel, and lastly but most certainly not least, came the sound of several camera shutters firing off to break up that silence. Will sighed in resignation…it was a safe bet that one, if not both, of his skaters would be front page news tomorrow as well!