Quinn never rejoins New Directions.

Instead, she auditions for jazz band and ends up spending plenty of time with the glee club, anyway.

Rachel's bummed, at first, but once she realizes that Quinn's happier behind a guitar instead of center stage, she gets over it. They're still able to celebrate sectionals together, even if the victory really only belongs to the club and not the band. And, actually, because of all this, there's a special meeting the following Monday where New Directions honors the McKinley High Jazz Ensemble with a shiny plaque to call their own.

At this point, there are twelve days until Christmas and only a week before Hannukkah, and Quinn's been adamant about finishing her college applications before the coming weekend so she's not stressed out over them during any of the holidays. Rachel's been done since before Thanksgiving, but that's probably because Rachel's always known her post high school plans since the first grade.

Quinn's new to this whole idea of actually having a future she won't totally regret.

This doesn't mean she never considered college, particularly ones out of state, but this is the first time in a long time where she really feels like it's more than just a pipe dream. Despite her apathetic vacation at the top of the school year, she's never actually allowed her GPA to drop below a 3.5, so she's still able to lay claim to her honor roll position.

She just hopes that, along with her activities and life experience, are enough to get her accepted to Columbia or NYU or even Rutgers.

It's ridiculous. There's still an entire semester of high school left and she's already worried about what life would be like if she were away from Rachel. Not in a creepy, co-dependent way. Just in a way that it would suck to only see each other on breaks and the occasional weekend.

She gets everything sent in the mail by Saturday and the pressure of finishing is immediately replaced with the impatience of waiting for a response, but that won't happen for months. In the meantime, it's the weekend and she has a date with Rachel tonight. Except, it's only ten in the morning.

Her girlfriend has a voice lesson in the early afternoon and they're not supposed to go out until six, so Quinn's already decided to spend some time learning some Eva Cassidy covers, because blues guitar never fails to get Rachel seriously worked up. When Quinn first played Stormy Monday, the collateral damage included the button on Quinn's skirt, a snag in Rachel's cardigan, and one pair of panties torn beyond repair.

The memory leaves a smirk on Quinn's face, but it's replaced by a look of surprise when she walks back into the house to find her mother sitting on the sofa holding the Strat across her lap. She's holding it the right way, with her hands in the correct places, and she's actually playing something. The guitar's not plugged in, because the amp's still out in the garage. Quinn had been working out chord progressions while she watched some made for tv piece of crap on SyFy earlier that morning.

It takes a moment, but Quinn recognizes the strains of Time After Time and suddenly wonders why she never knew her mother had any musical inclination, at all. Sure, she was a decent singer in church, but there had never been any indication that the woman knew how to play an instrument.

Judy stops strumming once she sees Quinn in the doorway. She pulls her hand away from the neck of the guitar and stretches her fingers. "I'm honestly surprised I remembered that."

"I... had no idea you knew how to play." Quinn cautiously settles into the arm chair across from the couch, unsure about what she's just seen. This is unprecedented and she doesn't know what to do.

"It's been a very long time." Judy slides the guitar off her lap and rests it against the coffee table.

The realization comes quickly and the words rapidly follow. "That's not Dad's is it?"

"No." There's a laugh and even a smile. "Your father, if you recall, is tone deaf."

Quinn nods. Her dad was so bad, it distracted other people in church. "Did you ever, like, play with people?" Okay, totally weird wording when talking to a parental figure. "I mean, in a band or anything?"

"Yes. When I was in college, my sorority sisters came up with the idea to form a cover band as a fundraiser. We were quite popular."

"Not a surprise." Quinn can't remember the last time she actually sat and really talked with her mother about anything beyond school or where she was going for the evening. "Did this band have a name?"

"The Apocalipsticks."

"Cool." She actually means it. Honestly, if anyone had told her she'd find out her mom was once in a band, she would have assumed it was something lame. But something about the way Judy's looking at the Stratocaster and the lilt she uses when mentioning her former band name tells Quinn that, once upon a time, her mom was just a kid, like her. Okay, not totally like her. But she was young, once.

Which, yeah, everyone knows that's a thing about parents. But actually realizing it is kind of cool. And weird.

"Mom?"

"Yes, dear?"

"You think we could have Rachel over for Christmas dinner?" She knows her mother's aware of their relationship, because she hasn't tried to hide it. But they also haven't talked about it. At all. And maybe this is a mistake. Maybe her mom will drink too much wine and say something awful. Or maybe not.

"Frannie and Chris will be here." Quinn's about to interject, but Judy continues. "I suppose you should also invite her fathers. That's seven for dinner, which means I expect your help in the kitchen."

"So, that's a yes?"

Judy nods, then rises from the couch. "I need to get ready. I'm meeting with Meredith to discuss the holiday fashion show."

Quinn allows the mother/daughter moment to pass, because she knows it will just get awkward if either of them press it, too hard.


Rachel's ecstatic about the invitation, but that quickly dissolves into concern about proper understanding of holiday traditions.

"I expect you'll brief me on the order of events surrounding the story of the Nativity. I suppose I could Google it, beforehand. I'm definitely familiar with most of it, but I wouldn't want to make any missteps."

"Rach."

"Yeah?"

"It's a week away. And right now," Quinn reaches across the table and pokes the back of the menu in her girlfriend's hands, "you're supposed to be deciding what you want."

They're at Breadstix, because where else is there to go in Lima?

"Yes. Right. Sorry." Rachel's silent as she reviews the menu options, though Quinn's pretty sure she'll go with the vegetarian lasagna, as usual.

And that's when it hits her. Nothing slows down and there's no figurative ton of bricks that knocks into her. It's just a simple realization.

"I love you."

"Were you ready to order?" The waiter at the edge of the table goes entirely unnoticed.

Instead, the menu tilts until it hits the table and Quinn's no longer looking at the wine list on the back page. "What did you say?" But the smile that's spreading across Rachel's face kind of suggests she heard it clearly the first time.

"I asked if you were-"

Rachel doesn't even look at him. "Not you."

"I'll come back." And they're suddenly alone. Well, as alone as they can be in the most popular Italian place in Lima during the dinner rush.

"Great, now he's probably going to spit in our food."

"Don't you dare change the subject, Quinn."

"Were we talking?"

"You love me."

"Is that a problem?" It's bizarre, because all of her previous experience with this kind of declaration was centered around the validation of hearing it back. But this time, she's not worried. She knows how Rachel feels about her and she's fairly certain her girlfriend was well aware of her feelings before this conversation happened.

Rachel shakes her head. "No. Not at all." One hand reaches across the table to slip into Quinn's, while the other picks up the menu. After a moment, it tips back down.

"I love you, too."

Yeah, okay. The validation is totally awesome.

.

.

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A/N: That would be the end of this journey. I thank all of you who have been tagging along, especially since this was just created on a whim and I wasn't sure where I was going with it. But it all worked out.