Title: Ensnared by Despair (Let Love Set You Free)
Pairing: Quinn Fabray/Rachel Berry
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. Just having a little fun.
Summary: AU. Quinn broke up with Rachel during Nationals their junior year and Rachel hadn't the slightest clue why. When Quinn falls off the radar all summer and returns to school with a new look and attitude, Rachel has a feeling things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.
A/N: Every time I finish a story it's a bittersweet feeling. Sweet because it's over, finally. But bitter, because I feel a personal connection to all of these characters, especially with this story. I'd like to say thank you to everyone who's ever taken the time to review this story. It's been interesting to read your feedback and it's nice to hear your internet voice.
To ReaperLuca:Thank you! You're too kind. I've actually enjoyed writing this story more than WDMO. Maybe because this one actually has a plot—I'm not too sure, because while I certainly love WDMO, this story has a special place in my heart and I'm glad you've enjoyed it. Oh, and Hindsight should be updating soon now that I've managed to finish one of my WIPs. :)
Leroy grunted as he and Hiram switched directions, a giant box in their hands, as Hiram backed into the narrow doorway, Leroy following. "Geez, Quinn, you couldn't have packed lightly?" Leroy complained, sweat beading his brow much to his chagrin.
Quinn winced as the two set the box on the ground, doubling over to rest atop it. "Sorry, guys. I have some water if you want it."
Hiram nodded hurriedly. "Yes, water—please."
Quinn looked around to the mountain of boxes resting in her dorm room. It was late August, eighty degree weather in New Haven, Connecticut, and Rachel and her parents had been kind enough to travel to Yale to help her move in, Rachel from NYADA and Leroy and Hiram from Lima. "Umm…I don't know where anything is," she admitted. Maybe labeling the boxes like Rachel had suggested would have been a good idea.
"Oh, come on," Hiram wheezed.
Rachel breezed into the room past everyone in a flowery dress that flowed behind her. "There's a water fountain down the hallway," she announced, placing the potted plant in her hand she had bought as a housewarming gift on a desk closest to the window. She spun around to find Leroy and Hiram racing out of the room, leaving Quinn in the center surrounded by boxes. The light from the window hit Quinn's shiny hair, creating a halo on her head, her angelic appearance amplified by the simple white dress she wore. Rachel was going to miss those little dresses, that bottle blonde hair. Her bottom lip jutted out, and Quinn's eyes widened.
"No, oh, no—we are not doing this right now."
"But, Quinn," Rachel whined.
"No." Quinn lifted an eyebrow. "I don't want to see tears right now."
Rachel frowned and skulked over to Quinn, scuffing her flats on the floor.
Quinn spun around, thankful for the distraction, to find Judy leaning heavily against the door, two bags on both of her shoulders. Quinn hurried to her, grabbing the bags with a frown. "Why didn't you give those to dad?" she asked.
Judy waved her off, wheezing. "I made your father grab the TV. So, I decided to take those."
Rachel stepped forward to place a supportive hand on Judy's shoulder, a true testament to how close the two most important women in Quinn's life had become. Rachel had never had a mother and was reluctant to call Shelby one. But the relationship she had fostered in the recent months with the former Mrs. Fabray provided her with enough one-on-one girl time with an older woman figure, complete with baking and gabbing about Quinn, two of her favorite things aside from Broadway. "I can walk you down to the water fountain if you'd like."
Judy looked towards her with a grateful smile. "That'd be great, dear," she panted, following Rachel out of the room.
Quinn hoisted the bag higher along her shoulder, walking them further into the room and away from the door.
"We're totally younger than Quinn's dad," Hiram told Leroy as he backed into the room with yet another box.
"Well, you know I'm a former dancer," Leroy commented offhandedly, though he had the same smug look on his face that Rachel often had when she was trying to pass as humble. "Those muscles and agility never leave."
"Tell that to our bedroom, honey."
"We sing I'm the top for a reason, honey."
Quinn bit her lip to stifle a grin as Leroy and Hiram bickered, slightly grossed out by the conversation. It was like listening to her father and…well, father talk about their sex life.
"I'm the pitcher," Hiram announced.
"You mean catcher? If so then, yes."
"Uh, guys?" Quinn cut in, wanting to be somewhere, anywhere other than here listening to this conversation. "Where exactly is my dad?"
"He was just making it to the second floor when we passed him," Hiram told her.
Quinn walked towards the door, hesitating by the doorway. "Try not to kill each other before I get back," she told them with a playful grin.
She hopped down the stairs to find her father at the top of the second flight, hunched over the flat screen TV Judy had told him to haul up. She approached him slowly. "Need help?"
He straightened immediately, casting a glance at her. "Was just reacquainting myself with the scenery." He flashed a roguish grin that looked a lot like Quinn's. "Your old man spent a lot of time in these dorms."
Quinn rolled her eyes. Hard. "Yeah, well, reminisce on your own time, will you? I think we'd all like to get the last of my things moved in in a timely fashion."
"Everything's moved in," Russell announced. He patted the TV beside them. "Just waiting on this."
Quinn stepped down from the final step, the hem of her dress smacking against the backs of her calves. "Let me help. We'll get it up there faster."
He looked as if he wanted to protest, but after a moment he sighed tiredly and gestured for her to come closer. "It's heavy," he told her.
She took to her side and slid both hands under it with a grunt as it lifted off the floor. "No kidding," she wheezed
Carefully, the two of them began their ascent up the last flight of steps. Quinn looked around them for something to talk about, not wanting this entire ordeal to be done in the silence around them except for the occasional whistle of breath in the oppressing heat. When she found nothing to talk about, she turned back to him. "So, you spent a lot of time in here?" she prompted.
The smirk was back on his face, and she almost laughed. "You father liked them smart back in the day."
Quinn frowned. "What are you trying to imply about mom?"
"You didn't let me finish." He grasped the TV more surely and stopped, Quinn nearly stumbling on the step behind her as he looked up towards her. "I liked them smart…and completely shallow. Your mother—" a memory seemed to grip him as his eyes lost focus. "She was the only one to actually be with me with a want completely separate from the money she knew I would end up making. You know?"
Surprisingly, she understood him, could relate to him. Quinn had spent her high school career dating guys and having them date her because it was mutually beneficial for popularity. She largely considered Rachel to be the only one who didn't give a damn about her popularity, who would have probably preferred if Quinn hadn't ever been popular at all.
"She loved me," Russell said faintly. "And I loved her." His gaze lowered to the TV as he hoisted it back up again. "But love is such an impractical emotion."
"But it's needed," Quinn argued, lifting the other end of the TV and taking a cautious step back to the rising step.
Russell leveled her with a contemplative look, his gaze heavy and seeming to weigh down Quinn's steps as she walked backwards. "I suppose it's a moot point considering love is something that can't be helped."
Quinn looked away, feeling her chest ache and expand for some reason as long buried memories of sitting in the backseat as a child while her father drove them to the store assaulted her mind.
They continued in silence until they reached the top of the stairs, twisting to get into the doorway.
Rachel stood just inside the room with Judy, watching in awe as Quinn and Russell cooperated with each other.
"I never thought a day like this would come," Judy whispered with a small smile.
Rachel could do little more than nod.
Quinn turned to look at them both once she sat the TV down. "What?" she grumbled self-consciously, daring either of them to say anything.
Leroy walked up to Russell, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Looks like the old man needed some help, huh, Russell?"
Russell shook the insult off with a good-natured chuckle. "I was simply taking a stroll down memory lane. That's all."
Hiram stood from the chair by Quinn's desk. "I don't mean to cut this moment short. But I'm gonna need time to exfoliate before bed, which means Leroy and I are going to need to leave now." While a collective 'aww' of sadness fell over the crowd, Hiram used the opportunity to be the first to hug Quinn goodbye. He hurried over to her and grabbed her by the shoulders, Quinn's eyes widening in shock.
Hiram stared at her for a moment, trapping his quivering lower lip between his teeth. "So young," he whispered. "Such innocence. Such potential."
"Any time before we all die of old age, honey," Leroy remarked.
"Just one sec," Hiram told Quinn, swiveling around to face Leroy. "I want a moment with my second daughter and I'd appreciate if you didn't ruin it."
Quinn's eyes widened at the statement, a smile touching her lips.
"Ah, carry on," Leroy told him, then grumbling, "You're the one who said you wanted to leave. Just saying."
Hiram pointedly ignored him, turning back to Quinn to pull her into a hug. "Be safe up here, Quinn."
"I will," Quinn mumbled.
Rachel's eyes softened as she watched her father embrace Quinn so fondly.
"And take care of my baby," Hiram continued.
"And just, you know, try not to have too much sex. Study, too."
The tips of her ears burned red as she hoped her father didn't hear that. "Yes, sir," she felt she had to say.
"Alright, alright, my turn," Leroy chimed in, tackling Quinn in a hug from a different angle.
Judy watched the sight before her, before turning to Rachel. "I suppose it's time for me to say goodbye as well." She placed a hand lightly on Rachel's shoulder before pulling her into a hug. "Take care, dear."
Rachel almost laughed at the generic statement though she knew Judy meant it from the bottom of her heart. The Fabray clan was an interesting bunch as far as expressing emotions was concerned. "Thank you, Judy," she said sincerely, wrapping her arms around her. "And I just want you to know that these last few months have meant a lot to me. It was wonderful getting to know you."
"Oh, dear," Judy sighed. "I think you're trying to make me cry."
Rachel chuckled out a sigh as she felt her own eyes mist over. "I mean it," she said quietly. "And I can't wait to visit on holidays to bake with you."
"By then I'll have new recipes," Judy said, eyes alight with excitement when they pulled back. "Quinn thinks she's too much of an adult to bake with me now."
Rachel shook her head adamantly. "You're never too old to bake with family."
"That's what I told her." Judy sighed, casting a glance in Quinn's direction before turning back to Rachel. "Take care of her, dear."
"I will," Rachel said surely.
"She's quite difficult," Judy admitted. "But when she finally lets you love her, you find you'll never be able to stop."
Rachel smiled fondly. "I would say that's a pretty apt description."
"Okay, guys, let's pack it up," Hiram called as he began to look around for his beige cardigan.
Quinn glanced sideways towards Russell standing off from all of the affection. She approached him slowly, her hands clasped behind her back. "Guess you're leaving now, huh?"
He took a step forward to stand directly in front of her, gesturing around her. "This is where I bow out," he said quietly. "This is where you become your own person. For real this time, the way you always wanted," he continued with a quiet chuckle. His hand twitched at his side, then lifted to rest heavily against Quinn's shoulder, and she buckled right there with a faint whimper that she would never admit to, collapsing into his arms.
Russell tensed in surprise for only a moment before fatherly instincts kicked in and he tentatively wrapped his arms around her. He looked over to Judy, at a loss for what to do. A hand lifted to pet at her hair as his other arm secured her against him.
There were no words to magically fix what was broken between them in one single moment in a room full of people. It was something that would take time, so Russell settled for holding her against him until Quinn once again found the strength to stand on her own. Neither spoke a word for a long moment, time lapsing around them in the form of tears tracking down Rachel and Judy's faces.
Eventually Quinn pulled away, face dry of tears but eyes revealingly shimmering wet as she wiped her hands down her dress, nodding once and turning away. She was met with Rachel slowly approaching her from across the room, face already red and puffy and Quinn just about died.
"Don't," Quinn said weakly.
Rachel shook her head with a watery smile. "You knew this was coming. You know me." She stepped closer without another word, molding herself into Quinn like she had so many times as her arms twined around her waist. "I'm going to miss you so-so much," Rachel hiccuped against her shoulder, burying her face there and clinging to Quinn.
"I'm just gonna—"
"Yeah, we'll be outside," Hiram interjected, grabbing Leroy and walking out along with Judy and an uncomfortable Russell.
"I told you I could have gone to NYU. We could have been closer together," Quinn murmured into her hair, and Rachel just cried harder as Quinn rubbed her back softly, placing a kiss against her head.
"I know, I know. But I—this is better for you. Yale is structured and disciplined and you thrive on things like that."
"I do," Quinn admitted, kissing her hair once again and wrapping her arms even tighter around Rachel's neck, cradling her head against her shoulder.
Rachel inhaled a shuddery breath, peppering kisses all along Quinn's shoulder in an act of desperation. "This is the first time we've been apart in the four years we've known each other," she sobbed.
Quinn was floundering here, feeling her own eyes burn with tears she really did not want to cry. She grabbed Rachel by the shoulders, gently pushing her back. Then she cupped her face and wiped her tears away with a sad smile. "I know, baby." She leaned forward to connect their lips softly. Rachel surged forward, sealing them firmly together as her salty tears fell upon their lips. Quinn pulled away with a long exhale, resting their foreheads together as she licked the salty taste from her lips.
"Do you want to stay the night?" she offered warmly. "We can spend the rest of the day and tomorrow in bed together. And you can catch the train back tomorrow evening. And we can complain on the phone about the fact that you are just not making good time." She smiled as Rachel released a watery chuckle. "Then you can arrive half a minute late to class the next day because you overslept a little because I got you back so late. Then you can call me on the phone crying because your first professor of the day was a complete jackass about your attendance." Rachel nodded with a whimper as she secured her arms tightly around Quinn's waist, burrowing into her chest. "Then we can cry on the phone together because we miss each other so much." Quinn pressed a kiss to her temple. "Then I'll have to promise to call you back because I have class. I call you back hours later after a busy day of panicking because I'll get lost so much. But when I call you, it'll be better," Quinn finished with a quiet murmur. "And then we stay on the phone with each other until we fall asleep." She squeezed her eyes shut as a tear ran down her cheek. "Do you want that?" she choked out hoarsely.
Rachel nodded hurriedly as they stood in the middle of Quinn's dorm room, holding each other as their tears subsided. "I love you so, so much, Quinn," Rachel whispered as she sniffled, finally calming down.
They pulled back, staring at each other's disheveled appearances, realizing that though this was a bittersweet moment, this was the first day of the rest of their lives that they got to live on their own terms with each other.
Quinn smiled as her eyes roamed over Rachel's red puffy eyes, cheeks, and pink lips. "I love you, too," she whispered back. She wiped a tear from Rachel's eye. A thought, a fantasy that could now be reality, flittered in her mind and her smile widened. "Want some coffee?"
Rachel's eyes widened happily at the question, and the implications of things to come from the seemingly trivial offer. A second later she was tugging Quinn towards the door. "I saw a Starbucks downtown, Quinn!" she exclaimed, gaining a second wind as she dragged Quinn along.
"I'm sure we can find one somewhere that isn't so crowded," Quinn protested.
"Downtown, Quinn," Rachel reiterated vehemently.
It was of no surprise to Rachel when they opened the door and found the hallway empty. Her fathers were notorious eavesdroppers after all. They practically flew down the stairs and lost themselves in the city twice before making it to the coffee shop.
But Rachel's hand rested securely in Quinn's the entire way.
And not a single glance was casted in their direction as they strolled down the busy streets, content now that all they had were each other.