Just off the Key of Reason
Chapter 1: You are the Dreamer
Hi, this is Quinn, your new roommate. I moved my stuff in this morning; I guess you were at work, but, you know, I wanted to leave you a note so you didn't think someone did…the opposite of rob you. Or something. Anyway, I went to get groceries. –Quinn
Oh, and if you aren't Rachel Berry, please tell her. Thank you.
Well…the note on Rachel's fridge was certainly unique. She had to admit, the first thing she'd thought when she caught sight of all the new stuff scattered around her apartment was ohmygod somebody broke in and gave me all their belongings! Then she'd regained her ability to think rationally and remembered that her new roommate was joining her today, and dear God, she'd left one of the stove burners on that morning after breakfast.
Her new roommate was Quinn Fabray, who apparently wrote in a childish scrawl that floated up and down the page, even on lined paper. She had drawn an elephant doodle in the bottom right hand corner and stuck the note to the fridge using a mini stuffed horse with magnetic feet that Rachel had never seen before. Of course, Rachel approved though; adorable things were her forte. She patted it on the head with a smile.
The building's landlord had been the one to find Rachel a roommate, as she was too busy with rehearsals to scour the streets of New York for somebody to fill the space of her ex-roomie. She knew she had driven the previous occupant around some sort of bend, what with her singing and talking and purchasing of a hyperactive golden retriever puppy with an affinity for shoes. In the end, either Barnaby or the roomie had to go, which is why Barnaby was now bounding out of Quinn's room, tongue lolling and eyes bright.
Oh God, Rachel thought. He must've destroyed something.
Rachel didn't really want to enter Quinn's room. She wasn't some nosy spy or anything; really, she was just loud and annoying, according to other people. But, she definitely didn't want her new roommate to come home and find her most prized possessions in slobbery shreds on the bedroom floor.
So she pushed the door further open and stepped inside.
Right into fucking Wonderland.
Quinn had obviously completely unpacked, as no boxes were present. But holy mother of God, how could a room be so cluttered when it had been occupied for less than a few hours? Rachel stood in the doorway, dazed, just taking it all in and patting Barnaby absently on his happy head for not wrecking anything.
Rachel took in the patterned and colorful bedding, full of blue and green and orange and yellow. There were matching purple lamps on the desk and side table, and there were- yeah, okay, shit- there were four bookcases along the walls, filled to critical mass. Rachel actually feared for Quinn's safety; she didn't want to be awakened in the middle of the night to find her roommate dying under a four-ton bookcase full of crap.
Rachel couldn't resist walking closer to examine the "crap." Most of it was actually books, multiple copies of classics that looked well-worn and falling apart. She counted Gulliver's Travels and Alice in Wonderland, everything by C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl and Dickens, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Black Beauty and Sherlock Holmes. Rachel moved on, trailing her fingers lightly over their spines, and looked at the rest of the clutter.
She briefly wondered if Quinn was a hoarder. Her eyes widened; oh God, they'd end up on TV and Rachel would be the clueless roommate who had enabled Quinn to live in an unsanitary mountain of junk for an inordinate amount of time. She'd be the one breaking down into tears convincing Quinn to just let that damn napkin go!
Except, Quinn's stuff really wasn't junk. It was…fantastic.
Rachel loved the shelf full of snowglobes and hourglasses and pencil sharpeners. She loved the collection of hacky sacks and the small, blue piggy bank on the desk; the flock of miniature ceramic animals watching from one of the bookcases reminded Rachel of her own childhood. She smiled softly when she caught sight of the worn, faded, and slightly balding teddy bear sitting in the center of the bed, covers pulled up over him.
Rachel had never jumped so high in her life. She spun around, clutching her heart tightly, to find a woman with choppy blonde hair standing in the doorway, now looking slightly anxious and apologetic.
"Sorry." Quinn said, smiling nervously and petting an ecstatic Barnaby on his head. "I didn't mean to scare you."
Rachel didn't know where her words had gone. She did have a fully functional vocabulary, really, it had just vanished. Quinn was shifting back and forth, now focused solely on Barnaby. She wouldn't look Rachel in the eyes.
"I-no, it's okay. I promise I wasn't, you know, being a creeper." Rachel rushed. "Barnaby likes to eat things he shouldn't and I just wanted to make sure…well, your room is amazing."
Hopefully this was actually Quinn. This was the perfect start to a murder in a procedural TV show. Stalk Broadway star, act shy and aloof, violently kill in front of cute dog.
"You are Quinn, right?" Rachel asked, panicking for a moment.
Quinn nodded and smiled, meeting Rachel's eyes briefly before returning to Barnaby. She appreciated the dog, at least.
Rachel tilted her head and studied them. Barnaby rolled over and Quinn squatted down to rub his tummy, speaking to him under her breath.
"Have you seen Hello, Dolly?" Rachel asked, figuring focusing on the dog would be the best way to get Quinn's attention.
Quinn glanced up and shook her head.
Rachel smiled softly at her; she didn't want to scare the woman off this soon. "It's a wonderful film with Barbra Streisand. There are these two characters who sort of work together, Barnaby and Cornelius."
Rachel walked over and kneeled down on Barnaby's other side; Quinn watched her feet.
"I thought it would be a cute name for a dog." Rachel continued, waiting to see if this girl was going to speak again. "I'm glad you like him. Most strangers do, but roommates don't."
Quinn looked up and met Rachel's eyes for a moment. She looked confused. "Why wouldn't anyone like him?"
Rachel chuckled and ruffled Barnaby's ears fondly. "Well, like I said, the reason I was in here was to make sure he hadn't destroyed anything. He likes to eat shoes and pillows and…DVD players."
Quinn grinned and her teeth showed and Rachel's heart fluttered. This new girl really was beautiful.
Rachel stood up and Quinn watched her knees. "Come on, I'll help you put your groceries away. We can get to know each other." Rachel offered hopefully.
Quinn nodded and stood up, following Rachel into the kitchen where several shopping bags and a keychain with Scooby-Doo on it sat on the counter.
Rachel watched surreptitiously as Quinn quietly emptied some of the bags and started putting things away. Chocolate milk, Froot Loops, cans of Spaghetti-o's, Lucky Charms. She had to refrain from wincing at some of the dietary choices this woman was making.
"So, Quinn, what's your favorite food?" Rachel figured it was as good a place to start as any.
Quinn's voice was so light that Rachel had to focus to hear it.
"Macaroni and cheese."
Rachel lit up, spinning around with a grin. "I know how to make that! I mean, I'm a vegan, so, the vegan version, but it tastes amazing. I could make it tonight if you want? I promise you'll like it."
Quinn nodded slowly. "Okay." She hesitated and then met Rachel's eyes again. "What's yours? Your favorite food, I mean."
Quinn chuckled at Rachel's thoughtful expression.
"Pizza and lasagna. Oh, and spaghetti with homemade sauce." Rachel mused. So many options. "Oh wait! Curry from The Green Mango; it's just pure…bliss. Heaven. I don't know; have you tried it?"
Rachel was desperately trying to control her word vomit. So far it was a success, but this woman didn't seem like the type to forcibly cut her off any time soon. To just say, Jesus Christ, shut the fuck up woman, you're driving me crazy.
Quinn shook her head. "You should introduce me."
"Oh definitely. They save me when rehearsals run late; I think I would starve if it wasn't for them."
Quinn closed the cabinet and turned to face Rachel. "What, um, what is it-I mean, I know you're on Broadway, but…what do you do?" Quinn was looking at and playing with the fading green polish on her fingers while Rachel watched her calmly, lips quirked slightly up.
"Have you seen Funny Girl, Quinn?"
Quinn shook her head.
Rachel smiled at her. "Well, we need to educate you on Barbra Streisand immediately. Funny Girl is the story of Fanny Brice and Nicky Arnstein, the evolution of their relationship and Fanny's career. Comedy, romance, drama." Rachel swayed around the kitchen, hands gesturing vaguely around to make her point. She came to a stop next to an intrigued Quinn and looked her right in the eyes. "I play Fanny."
"That's-you must be really talented." Quinn said, slightly awed.
Rachel flushed. "Well…you should come and see for yourself… What do you do?"
Quinn looked back down at the ground.
"I mean, you don't have to tell me." Rachel rushed.
"It's okay. I don't… have a job or anything. My aunt's paying for me to live here."
Rachel nodded and waited, but Quinn didn't continue. She ducked her head a little to catch the taller woman's eyes.
"What do you like to do? Aside from blatantly ignoring the legendary works of Barbra?"
Quinn smiled. "Maybe she's not as extraordinary as you think."
This was a stranger; it would not do to fly off the handle in a rage. Rein it in Rachel. Keep it together. You can still save this person from their Barbra ignorance.
Quinn must've noticed Rachel's jaw drop, or her expression of pure horror, and rushed to speak.
"Or, she is. Extraordinary, I mean. I wouldn't really know. I like animals."
Rachel's expression morphed from horror to amused confusion. Were those two statements linked? "You like animals?"
"Yeah. Form and function, aesthetically…animals in every way. Also, literature."
Rachel nodded. "Oh yeah, I saw all your books. It's so cool, you have so many."
Quinn grinned and maintained eye contact. "I like old bookstores, and I sort of pick up random things from thrift stores…flea markets, yard sales. If you couldn't tell."
Rachel laughed and opened the cabinet to pull out the ingredients for vegan macaroni. Barnaby came bounding in and Quinn beamed when he jumped up onto her, rubbing up and down his sides affectionately.
Rachel smiled at them. "Do you want to take him for his walk? There's a park I go to, a couple blocks down."
Quinn glanced up; she looked nervous. "Really?"
"Sure! He loves you, obviously more than me." Rachel glared exaggeratedly in Barnaby's direction and Quinn pressed her lips together in a smile.
Rachel gladly handed over the leash and watched as Quinn hooked it carefully onto the collar, before being dragged out the door by the excited golden retriever. Rachel smiled to herself and took a deep breath.
That had been interesting.
Quinn was…refreshing. Maybe a little nervous and naïve, but kind. She seemed like a dreamer. Rachel liked dreamers. She wondered where the woman had come from. Frankly, Rachel had surprised herself by not voicing every single question that popped into her head. Why won't you look me in the eye? Why are you so quiet? Why is your aunt paying for you? Why do you look like you descended from Heaven itself?
Hopefully she refrained from scaring the first roommate she had that didn't hate Barnaby with every fiber of her soul.
Quinn came back through the door about twenty minutes later and Barnaby ran straight over to his water bowl, tail wagging wildly.
"Hey! Barnes, were you a good boy?" Rachel asked, directing her question at Quinn, who walked through the living room and into the kitchen after him.
Quinn smiled. "He was wonderful. Do you need help?"
"It's pretty much finished. It just has to go in the oven for ten minutes. We could watch a movie or something?" Rachel offered.
"Can we watch-um, no nevermind, actually."
Rachel watched Quinn fidget with her hands again.
"No, what is it?"
Quinn hesitated and looked at Rachel's feet. "Well, you're probably sick of Funny Girl, right. I was gonna say we could-"
"Sick of Funny Girl!" Rachel's jaw dropped open and her hands flew into the air. "God, no! Never! Quinn, if I ever say I'm sick of Funny Girl, I want you to take care of Barnaby for me, and check me into a nice mental facility okay?"
Rachel had visions of not-nice mental facilities giving her electroshock therapy and locking her in a tower a la Shutter Island.
Quinn snorted and then flushed, covering her nose. Rachel just laughed.
"Will you watch it with me, Quinn?"
Quinn nodded, still red in the face, and made her way to the couch with Rachel right behind.
"So?" Rachel looked expectantly at Quinn three hours later. "Did you like it?"
Rachel tried to tell herself that this wouldn't make or break their potential friendship/roommate bond. She tried, but she failed.
Quinn tapped the pens she had been playing with against her thighs like drumsticks. She smiled hesitantly. "I think I'd like your version better."
Rachel tilted her head with a grin, and Quinn flushed under the gaze.
"I like you."
Quinn's ears were crimson as she twirled the pens around her fingers. "I-thank you?"
Rachel laughed. "I mean, I think I scare people, but you don't seem like I'm driving you crazy yet. Plus, Barnes has been drooling on you for half an hour and you haven't shoved him off the couch, so…perfect roommate."
Quinn tried to control her grin for a moment. "I think I scare people too."
Rachel smiled softly, and reached over the gap between the couch and the loveseat for the pens in Quinn's hands, looking coaxingly into hazel eyes to get the woman to hand them over. Quinn did, then folded her hands in her lap.
"Why do you think you scare people?" Rachel asked curiously.
Quinn shrugged and laughed, sort of self-deprecatingly. "I don't know. People think I'm…weird…or crazy…or something. I probably come across that way."
Rachel studied the woman who was now playing with the rubber bands around her wrists, hazel eyes not meeting brown.
"You're not any weirder or crazier than me…and I'm basically psychotic, Quinn." Rachel was being completely serious.
"Really, I lost all my marbles in high school and they just never came back." Rachel continued, smiling. "I talk constantly. I sing Disney songs while I cook and dance with my vacuum cleaner. Last Halloween, I made twelve jack-o-lanterns, one for each member of my cast at the time. That's twelve pumpkins, Quinn. Everybody's a little bit crazy."
Quinn couldn't control her smile, though it was shy and close-mouthed, she met Rachel's eyes and Rachel beamed back, then yawned, scrunching up her nose in displeasure. She was having fun now; she'd missed having a roommate to pester all night.
"I think I'm gonna go to bed now. Do you want the remote?"
Quinn shook her head and stood up. "No, me too. Goodnight, Rachel."
Rachel handed Quinn's pens back to her with a wink. "Night, Quinn. Sleep well in your new room."
Rachel had said she was going to bed more out of habit than out of the belief that she would actually be getting some sleep. Funny Girl and gorgeous new roommates unfortunately weren't the cure for insomnia. This is why, only two hours after going to bed, she was awake to hear the creak outside her bedroom door.
She really didn't want to admit that her first thought was, "Oh fuck. She really is crazy."
Rachel lay still for a minute, but then she heard another creak, and the telltale signs of light footsteps down the hall. She climbed out of bed and went over to her door and opened it quietly.
Quinn was standing outside her own door down the hall; she looked anxious and unsure, not really enthusiastic about going back into her room. She had that stuffed bear that had definitely seen better days hanging from one of her hands.
"Quinn." Rachel stage whispered to not terrify the woman. She walked fully out into the hall and towards the blonde.
Quinn looked towards her with wide eyes, obviously surprised.
"Did you need something?" Rachel asked. "Are you okay?"
She was really asking, "Were you planning on killing me in my sleep?"
Rachel just wanted to help; Quinn looked so confused and scared.
Quinn hesitated, and then seemed to realize she was holding her bear and moved it so it was sort of hidden behind her back. She flushed and nodded.
Rachel noticed her movement and just smiled softly at her. "Are you sure? I know it's a new place-"
"What's that sound?" Quinn interrupted.
Rachel stopped and listened, eyes darting around. She registered a faint groaning from up above. "Oh, it's just the pipes. The building's kind of old, you know."
Quinn nodded. "Does it stop?" she asked quietly.
"I don't…think so. You just get used to it after a while. I used to have sound cancelling headphones, but they cancelled the sound of my alarm so that was a disaster."
It was actually more than a disaster. She had woken up at noon, having missed half a rehearsal, and panicked when she thought she had gone completely deaf and would never be able to sing again. It gave her chills to think about.
Quinn laughed nervously and moved to go back through her bedroom door. "Okay, sorry if I woke you."
Rachel smiled. "No worries. You didn't. Will you be okay?"
"Yeah. Goodnight, Rachel. Again." Quinn smiled at the floor and shut her door quietly.
Rachel lingered to make sure all was well before returning to her own room. And then she crawled into bed with Barnaby and tried to remember what it was like when she'd first heard the groaning of the pipes. She'd been absolutely terrified.