Title: Queen Elizabeth I
Pairing: Faberry - with references to Finchel and Brittana
Rating: T - for language and slight (very very slight) sexual undertones.
Summary: When Quinn drops off the face of the Earth during the summer, Rachel takes matters into her own hands to find out what's going on in her life.
Spoilers: Season 3, Episode 1: The Purple Piano Project
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, nor am I in any way affiliated to Glee. Everything you'll find here is the product of my imagination.
A/N: Before you start reading this, I'd recommend watching the Season 3 premiere, otherwise, the last chapter won't make much sense. Also, I'd like to give a shout-out to vondrunkaton for being a lovely beta (and incredible author).
Leaning back against a wooden table overflowing with discarded plastic cups and a handful of empty bottles of beer, Rachel stared down at her own cup. Her face scrunched up in a disgusted grimace as the little bubbles rose and popped in the beer. She traced the rim of the cup with her fingertip, wondering why she had even been handed beer. She had been absolutely serious when she had made her pledge, in front of the entire Glee Club, to never consume alcohol again. But of course, she sighed, no one had taken her word seriously.
She looked up and let her eyes scan the party going on around her in Noah's backyard. Despite their loss at Nationals, everyone in the club had been beyond welcoming about this impromptu celebration. Sure, they had lost; and yeah, it had been Finn's fault -and, by extension, hers as well-, but they had been to New York, they had been to Nationals, they had proven themselves in front of thousands, and that meant that Glee would be around for another year without risk of being shut down. Now the school year was over, and the sense of relief that had washed over all of their shoulders had been almost palpable. Yes, this party had been a good idea.
She was somewhat secluded from the group, and no one seemed to really notice her absence. Then again, she was almost one hundred percent sure that everyone was drunk. Summer brought on heat, and heat brought on thirst, and that led to a bunch of kids getting drunk in less than an hour. She surveyed the group, a tiny smile curling on her lips. An exceedingly happy Tina was sitting on Mike's lap by the stereo, her face buried in his neck while he tried to play DJ -which actually consisted of searching for a new song on the iPod on Tina's lap, which was connected to the stereo, whenever the song that came on wasn't good enough for dancing. Finn was sprawled out on the grass, his eyes seemed closed, but she wasn't sure -they were regularly squinted in a variety of situations, so this might not be the effect of the alcohol. He was moving his hand around while pointing at the sky, probably seeing some character from Call of Duty that wasn't really there. Mercedes was sitting by his head, a dopey grin on her face as her fingers were buried in Finn's hair, laughing loudly whenever he said something. Kurt and Blaine were sitting by them as Kurt rambled on and on about how hard it was to get his hands on the latest Vogue and i-D in Lima while Blaine listened to him -and, Rachel noted, Kurt was prim and proper even while under the influence. To the other side of the yard, Brittany was juggling bottles of God-knows-what and playing bartender while she danced around Santana, who kept handing out drinks for Noah and Lauren to try out. Sam kept fiddling with the handles of Artie's wheelchair as they both badgered the cheerful blonde to give them drinks, too. And Santana seemed to be getting along with Lauren a lot better than she had in the past -which was always a good thing, because their interactions had scared the hell out of Rachel on occasion.
Something seemed off, though. And she couldn't really put her finger on what it was until she glanced a little bit off to the side of the group. Ah, there it was. Quinn was standing with the group, observing their interactions from up close. There was a cup in her hand, too, but she didn't appear to be half as drunk as everyone else. From what Rachel could tell, her entire body language seemed defeated and tired. And when her eyes connected with the blonde's from across the yard, she felt a pang in her chest at the sadness she saw oozing from them.
Here they were, all of them, celebrating, and Quinn looked like she was masking her kicked-puppy attitude. But why? Why was she hiding? Why was she so sad? With a frown and a huff, Rachel looked away from her and into her cup again. She couldn't stand seeing Quinn like that, and she needed something other than beer to quench her thirst. With a heavy sigh, she wandered into the house.
She had been to Noah's house a handful of times, so it was accurate to say that she knew her way around. She padded towards the kitchen and opened the door of the fridge, quickly searching for any non-alcoholic beverages. Ah! Apple juice. Success! She tilted her head with a dazzling smile to herself. That was perfect. She could drink as much as she wanted, she could stay sober, and -considering the state everyone was in- no one would bother her about not drinking beer. She was sure that no one would notice the lack of bubbles in their drunken stupor. Pulling the jar out of the fridge, she closed the door and poured the now lukewarm beer down the sink. She refilled her cup with the juice and took a long, cool sip. She turned around to lean against the counter, revelling in the refreshing feeling that spread in her mouth and throat.
She kept on drinking greedily from the cup, chugging down the liquid until the cup was practically tilted over her face, her head thrown back. She was surprised to find Quinn sneaking past her in the kitchen as she set her cup down. Upon noticing movement beside her, Quinn froze mid-step and turned towards Rachel, her expression softening into an almost imperceptible smile. Rachel blinked at her, wondering what her reasons were for leaving behind the party in favour of the silence of the house. They stayed quiet for a moment, simply looking at each other in the deserted kitchen.
There was nothing that Rachel wanted more than to ask the blonde what was wrong, why she looked so sad. But she refrained from doing so. She knew that, with her luck, someone would interrupt them before Quinn had a chance to answer. Instead, she smiled brightly at Quinn, "I know it's not beer, but... Apple juice?"
Quinn snorted, "No, thanks," she paused, fingers fiddling with the fabric of her summer dress. Then, calmly -almost too calmly, if Rachel thought so herself-, she continued, sculpted eyebrow raised in true Quinn Fabray fashion, "How do you think I stayed sober all night?"
Rachel could swear there was a hint of a smirk lurking behind Quinn's expression, but she wasn't really sure. She nodded silently as she looked towards the jar, noticing for the first time that it was only half full. Silence overcame them again for a few minutes, until Quinn glanced down frowning mildly. Confused, Rachel let her be, and waited. The blonde looked up at her -again with that hurt look lingering behind her eyes- and spoke softly, "Have a good summer, Rachel."
And with that she was gone.
The following week, the news of Sam's departure was what all the gleeks talked about. So, naturally, Rachel knew Mercedes was hurting. Sure, she hadn't told Rachel about her and Sam, but Rachel just knew. She did have a sixth sense after all. Somehow, though, she had a feeling that the rest of the club weren't as oblivious about the former couple as she had originally thought they were, for both Tina and Noah -of all people- had called to ask how they could cheer Mercedes up.
She had to stop herself from rolling her eyes when Noah suggested yet another party at his house. Despite what everyone else thought, she knew Noah was actually a good guy, and she had Lauren to thank for bringing that out in him. She also knew that he was offering his house again only because it was the only parent free house, since his mother had travelled up state with his little sister to visit their aunt.
Rachel pondered over the idea while she worked out on her elliptical that morning. A part of her believed that a party wasn't exactly the best idea, since -in her mind- parties were meant to be celebrations, and the last thing Mercedes would want to do was to celebrate that her clandestine boyfriend was gone. Yet another part of her was glad that her glee mates were bonding this well and were genuinely trying to make Mercedes -and, Rachel suspected, probably themselves as well- feel better about the fact that such a nice guy as Sam had moved away. Besides, she hated to admit it, but she was kind of looking forward to plotting a way to sneak around again to avoid the preposterous consumption of alcohol that she knew everyone would be indulging in if said party took place.
She stepped away from the elliptical and picked her phone from her bed. She had made up her mind. Quickly typing out a message to Noah to confirm the party and to let everyone else know about it, she made her way to the bathroom to take a quick shower.
That evening, she was overcome by a sense of déjà vu as she leaned against the same wooden table as the week before. Except that this time there was apple juice in her cup, and Quinn was mysteriously absent. She chuckled bitterly to herself. Why was that the first thing she noticed?
Because it was weird. It was simply odd that Quinn wasn't there for Mercedes, whom Rachel had thought was close to the blonde. Or had been, at some point. What was also strange was that she was so concerned about that at a time like this. She was in a party with people she could finally call friends, with people who had finally included her and made her feel chosen and special. She had become incredibly close with Kurt in New York, and she could now call him her best friend. She finally had Finn as a boyfriend, the boy she had been pinning after for years and who now wanted her back, despite everything they had been through. And yet, all she could do was bring up theories on Quinn's absence. She made a list in her mind of anything that could have led to this.
Quinn had always been somewhat of an introvert, so analysing her possible feelings was sort of out of the question. Except the sadness. There was always sadness. It seemed to haunt Rachel whenever their eyes connected. Then there was the fact that Quinn had distanced herself from everyone except Brittany and Santana in New York. That wasn't particularly strange, since they had had that odd kind of friendship for as long as Rachel could remember. Quinn hadn't seemed to be interested in Finn the previous week, so avoiding him was out of the question. So what could it be? What could have made Quinn pass out on being there for Mercedes?
As she mulled over the thoughts in her head, a sense of dread washed down Rachel's spine. There was something she hadn't really taken into account. Something about the party the previous week, something Quinn had said, but what had it- "Hey, Rach," Finn stumbled over to her with a dopey grin, interrupting her train of thought. He placed a sloppy kiss to her forehead and pulled her towards the rest of the group. And, as the music seeped into her senses -practically bursting her eardrums- all thoughts of Quinn Fabray fled her brain.
The Hummel residence was quickly turning into the go-to place for reunions. Given her blossoming friendship with Kurt, her fondness for Blaine, and her relationship with Finn, it seemed only natural for them to gather around for dinner at Burt Hummel's house, along with Mercedes and Tina. Besides, ever since their mishap at Nationals, she had insisted that Finn try his hand at friendship with Mercedes and Tina as well, as some sort of way of asking for forgiveness. She had hung out with them since they had joined Glee Club along with Kurt, but she wanted Finn to be involved in her friendships as well. It was easy, since he already got along really well with both Kurt and Blaine.
Their dinner reunions were similar to their Glee Club parties, sans alcohol and with a lot more class. Because what could be classier than Kurt and Finn -though the latter was usually verbally forced by Kurt- cooking for them a number of somewhat exotic dishes, the names of which only Kurt could pronounce. And, of course, Burt and Carole were glad that this was their idea of fun and bonding, since there was no alcohol involved, and the boys remained in the safety of their home.
They would get together two or three times a week. By the third week, when Mercedes seemed to be feeling better about Sam being gone, she suggested that they invite Brittany and Santana along the next time. Rachel gave the idea some quick thinking over, and accepted gladly. Sure, Santana could be unpleasant to her every now and then, but it would certainly be toned down if Brittany was around. She smiled brightly at Mercedes and Tina as they made their way to the door after dessert.
Once in the porch, Tina turned towards her and Finn -who was apparently, Rachel barely realized, standing behind her, holding the door open- and said with a warm smile, "Thanks for dinner, guys. This summer is really looking up."
It was then that something clicked in Rachel's mind, and her own smile faltered as Finn closed the door after Tina turned around to walk towards Mercedes' car. Have a good summer, Rachel. That was what Quinn had said. The way Rachel saw it, Quinn hadn't expected to see her again until school began again. Did that apply to everyone else in Glee Club?
Rachel turned to Finn, putting on her best tired expression, and told him she should be leaving, too. She couldn't really stay there. She needed to know what it all meant. There was definitely something wrong with Quinn Fabray, and she was determined to find out what it was and fix it.
After having gathered and organized all her thoughts in a PowerPoint presentation that night, a lot more questions had made their way into her mind. And she had no answers whatsoever. So, the following morning, she made a little trip to the one person she knew would be happy to dig up information on the blonde -or any other hot girl, for that matter-, especially if it was Rachel asking.
"Oh my God, Rachel Berry! Am I dreaming? Can I have your bra?" was the response she received as the door opened before her, even before she could open her mouth to speak.
Rachel did her best to contain her exasperation, and let out a silent huff instead, "No, you may not, Jacob. I've come to your doorstep in need of your services."
The grin that spread on his face practically made the corners of his lips bury themselves in his fro, and Rachel couldn't help but wince in repulsion at the perverted thoughts that were most likely running through his mind.
"Not that kind of services," she barked, looking up at him with a meek attempt at a glare. "I know you own several cameras, both for photographs and videos. And I know you have somewhat of an uncanny ability to track people down and discover information about them."
"That I do," he grinned, his sweaty hand all but slipping from the door handle.
"Well, I need your knack for stalking in order to investigate someone," she continued, ignoring his comment, and trying her best at being civil towards this... this disgusting creature. She knew it was a little manipulative of her to come to him, considering his very much blatant -and inappropriate- crush on her, but she also knew that -creepy as it was- his stalking would come in handy. "I'm willing to pay you cash," she added for good measure.
His grin turned curious, and he looked her up and down, "What do you need?"
She smiled, she had him in the bag. Pulling out a manila folder from her bag, she started again, and handed it to him, "I need to find out what Quinn Fabray has been doing this summer so far. Any information you gather, I expect to know: her whereabouts, her habits, her friends. Every single detail, no questions asked. And I'll pay you for everything you get, pictures, video, everything."
His smile remained in place, though she could see the questions swirling in that peanut sized brain of his. He seemed to ponder on the offer for a moment, and then replied with a nod, "I'll do some digging. I'll call you as soon as I get something," then his smile turned into that perverted grin again, "Can I get your number?"
She mentally scolded herself. Of course there was a flaw in her plan, she had only come up with it the previous night, and that certainly wasn't enough time to prepare everything and calculate every possibility, but she couldn't bring herself to wait. Still, giving Jacob Ben Israel her number was a small price to pay if she wanted to help Quinn. Help her with what? She still didn't know, but, then again, that's why she was here.
She handed him a tiny paper with her number scribbled on it neatly, and she could have sworn she heard him say "Wanky, wanky," after the door closed behind him.
It had been three days since her visit to Jacob, and Rachel's mind was reeling. Why hadn't he called yet? She pushed her salad around with her fork while the group around her chatted animatedly about one thing or the other, Finn's arm thrown snugly behind her back to rest atop the back of her chair.
She vaguely heard Mercedes asking Santana what brand of cigars she smoked before singing, and she barely caught a glimpse of the disapproving glance Brittany threw Santana's way. Well, that was interesting... though certainly not more interesting than her endless number of theories, all of which revolved around Quinn. She blamed it all on her worrisome nature.
She was pulled out of her thoughts by Santana, "Hey, Berry, are you going to eat that?" she asked pointing towards the practically untouched food in Rachel's plate. The tiny brunette looked up at Santana, forcing a smile on her face, and shook her head meekly. "Can I take it, then?" Santana inquired again, with what Rachel thought was a shred of uncertainty.
"Sure," she replied, lifting the plate and passing it to the other girl. Even her surprise at Santana smiling her thanks at her and being pleasant to her were trumped by her thoughts of Quinn. Here she was, having civilised dinner with people who were her friends, and people -namely, Santana- who were actually making an effort to befriend her, and yet, all she could do was think of Quinn Fabray, who had rejected her friendship over and over.
Later, when the only ones left were Blaine and herself, and Finn had pulled her up to his room -presumably to make out again-, she was mildly shocked when the tall boy sat her gently on his bed to then sit down next to her, concern written all over his face.
"Are you okay?" he asked, turning his face to look at her.
"Yeah, why wouldn't I be?" she replied with an awkward chuckle, avoiding his gaze as the grip of her fingers on the comforter tightened.
"It's just-You've been really quiet all night, and like, what's that word, introspect?" he began, half-smiling at her.
"Introverted," she interrupted. It was automatic these days. Finn would mess up on a word, and she'd correct him. She was used to lowering her vocabulary range around him, she didn't want him to feel bad about not knowing what she was talking about. Even if he still never knew what she talked about anyway.
"Yeah, introverted. You barely ate, you didn't really talk. I'm not even talking about your weird rants about whatever, but just about anything. It was like you weren't even there," he explained, and then just looked at her, waiting for an answer.
"I'm just worried, that's all," she replied, gaze downcast and voice low.
He lifted a large hand to rest on her shoulder -in what he believed to be a soothing manner- and inquired, "About what?"
Rachel bit her lip, his words barely registering, "I'm worried about Quinn."
"Why are you worried about her?" he chuckled. He actually chuckled. She knew that his comment about her long-winded rants should have hurt more than this, but she was actually offended on Quinn's behalf. Because, hadn't he been at the parties? Hadn't he noticed just how sad Quinn had been? Had he even noticed that she hadn't been at the last party? Did he even care?
"She's been distant from everyone. Don't you even care about why? Don't you worry about her?" Rachel asked, turning towards him.
"Well," he shrugged, "not really. I mean, I liked her, but she's not my girlfriend anymore, so I don't really have to listen to her," he shrugged again, "why do you even care, though? I mean, she was like, a bitch to me, and she was a bitch to you," he went on, and Rachel stared at him in disbelief, jaw slack.
She stood up to stand in front of him, anger beginning to replace the pang of hurt she felt at that moment, "But she was your girlfriend, Finn. She may have been mean to you for breaking up with her. But hasn't it occurred to you that maybe she's hurting?"
He fidgeted on the bed, "Still, why do you care so much about her? She's been horrible to you."
"She's a person, Finn. She's allowed to make mistakes and lash out at people, just like you and I are. When I'm upset, I storm out. When you're upset, you kick a chair. When she's upset, she says mean things," she explained, her anger growing with everything he said.
"Still, why do you care about her? I'm your boyfriend, not hers," he stood up as well, "Let her friends worry about her," he shrugged again.
Rachel could do nothing but stare at him unbelievingly, "I am her friend. She doesn't have anyone else," she tried to reason with him. Instead, he just gaped at her, "I'm your boyfriend, Rachel. What is it with chicks? When I was with Quinn, we'd fight about you. Now I'm with you, and we're fighting about her. Why are we even arguing about Quinn?"
"Are you serious right now?" she questioned, her voice rising. He threw his hands up in the air and shook his head, "Of course I am. I don't understand why we're fighting over Quinn, when you are my girlfriend and I've made it pretty much clear that I love you, not her. At least you talk to me when we're together, and you watch me play video games, and let me do whatever I want. I told you, I don't love Quinn, I love you."
Rachel took a step back from him, "You think this is about me being jealous of Quinn for what you two had? This is not about whatever insecurities I may have had in the past, Finn. This is about me being worried about my friend, about your ex-girlfriend. And you don't even care about it. You didn't even stop to listen about what reasons I could possibly have to be concerned about her. No, you went straight to thinking this was about you. Not everything revolves around you, Finn," she shook her head, stepping towards his bedroom door, "Just because she broke your heart it doesn't mean that you have the right to be indifferent towards her existence, because as far as I know, you broke her heart right back when you broke up with her," she bit on her lip, trying to contain her disdain, "I can't believe you, of all people, would care so little about someone who was such a big part of your life. Goodbye, Finn," she finished, leaving him alone in his bedroom, wondering what the hell had just happened.
"Did she just break up with me?" he whispered to himself, frown deepening.
Just outside, on the doorstep, Rachel was fuming. How dare Finn think this was about her being jealous? She couldn't believe the person her own boyfriend had turned into. Did he actually think he was getting away with those snide comments he would throw in mixed with half-assed attempts at compliments? No, sir. He was her boyfriend. He should be treating her better than her own friends. And yet, he kept acting like a self-absorbed prick who seemed to believe that her relationship with Quinn extended solely to fighting with her over him. Who was he to degrade Quinn and herself like that? If only he had taken a little moment to think about it, he would have known that her relationship with Quinn had existed even before he came into the picture. Rachel and Quinn had shared some truly beautiful moments, and Rachel thought Finn should stop acting like a five year old and stop disregarding them. How could he not care about Quinn at all? She had been his first girlfriend. Sure, he didn't love Quinn anymore, but how could anyone ever stop caring for another person they had once loved? How could he talk, hell, how could he even think about Quinn as if she were simply a chair he could kick out of the way whenever he got pissed?
Right as she was about to go back inside and give Finn yet another piece of her mind, her phone rang. She pulled it out of her purse and answered it without even bothering to check who was calling her, "What?"
"It's Jacob..." he paused.
Rachel shook her head, calming herself down. Sure, the boy was inappropriate most of the time, and pretty much a pervert, but he didn't really deserve her wrath then, "Sorry. Good evening, Jacob,"
"I just wanted you to know that I couldn't find anything," he started, and Rachel's brows furrowed momentarily, "I mean, I asked around and no one knows where she's been or what she's been up to. And I haven't managed to catch her leaving her house, because I have a curfew, so I haven't really been able to follow her around to find out more," he explained and, Rachel thought, he sounded slightly downtrodden.
Rachel sighed, "It's alright, Jacob. Maybe she went away somewhere with her mom for the summer," she replied, closing her eyes as a feeling of defeat coursed through her tiny frame.
"I doubt that. I've seen her mother leave the house a handful of times, and Quinn's bedroom light is on at times," he added, to what Rachel's frown deepened. Well, that was odd.
"Oh, okay," she paused, unsure of what else to say, "how much do I owe you?"
"Nothing. I didn't get the info you requested. Besides, you're Rachel Berry, everything's free for you," Jacob stated, and the brunette could practically feel his school boy crush on her returning simply by listening to him. And who knew Jacob Ben Israel could be pleasant every now and then, as well?
"Well, in that case, thank you for trying, anyway, Jacob," she finished with a tiny smile and ended the call. She then descended the steps on the doorstep and walked away from the house and towards her parked car. Screw Finn Hudson and his childishness, she had more important things to do... like finding out what Quinn Fabray's life was like these days.