Disclaimer: Okay so I don't own any Glee characters, that's a given.
Author's Note: So this chapter is (first half of it anyway) the first one that has been written outside of the original Hardwired chapters. Everything else was previously written just not constructed in the same format and not completely posted. I do thank everyone for their reviews. I don't wish to belabor any points so I won't address anything specifically, but I do thank everyone for sharing their point of view.
Work real hard. Work every day and use it as an excuse. Let work be the reason why conversations are pushed off. Let work be the reason why time spent apart is okay. Let work be the answer and the question. Let it be the excuse. It works as an excuse. It always works because work springs from a childhood dream. And no one wants to be responsible for smothering someone else's dream.
It is no different for them. It has never united them. It never allowed them to cross a great divide. It was always a separate thing until they made it something they could do together, which was a decision made for all of the right reasons. It allowed for their nomadic love to find a stable home. But now, it is used as a wall and not a bridge. It keeps Rachel working late and makes Quinn go to bed early. It lets them avoid each other even while sitting in the same room.
It has always been exactly what they make of it. Nothing more and nothing less. It is not a magical cure nor is it a natural disaster. It just is because they are not their characters. They have never been false archetypes played upon the screen with a script to accompany each action. There is no pause for applause or marks to be hit with unerring accuracy for the camera lens.
That they have at times taken their roles too seriously is an understandable fact since each is a perfectionist in her own way. That they have at times taken home the characters on screen is not unheard of since leaving work at work is sometimes easier said than done.
So with work being such a big part of who they have become, it is especially poignant that they now think nothing of it. Neither of them is rushing off to make it an excuse to separate. Because, for the first time in a long time, they are in the moment and have no desire to pull away. They have stayed the entire night sitting next to each other on their bed, staring ahead at nothing in particular.
They are not fighting. They are not callously picking at wounds too sore to yet properly heal. They are doing nothing but sitting with each other in silence. The sun has long since taken over the night and a phone call or two has been missed, but still they sit. Neither is backing away.
"Are you hungry?" Rachel eventually asks as she sees the subtle shaking starting to take over her wife's limbs.
"I don't think it's food that fixes this," Quinn mutters with a self-deprecating grin. This is not the first time her wife has seen her in this state—though she does always hope it is the last.
"No," Rachel softly agrees, "I guess it isn't. But you should eat something anyway."
"Is that the first thing you want to do?" Finally their eyes meet and they are drawn in to each other. Things are simpler when they are like this. They have always been stronger when they are not exposed to the world. "You want to fatten me up?"
With some of the layers of pain stripped away, Rachel is bold enough to reach out and run her hand across her wife's cheek. "You need it." There is no reason for her to mince her words or pretend like what is so apparent is false. They are past pretending. "When is the last time you ate?"
Quinn shrugs knowing that her answer won't win her any favors. It is easier to stay silent than to admit to the things that she still isn't quite sure how to talk about. It is especially easy since the things she doesn't admit to are the things that will hurt the most to say.
"It doesn't matter, Berry," her voice is rough with the affection it is unused to displaying.
The grip Rachel has on Quinn's face tightens slightly. She is used to being pushed away—it seems more like habit now than an active request. "It does matter, Quinn. Your health has always been very important to me."
"Is that why you walked away?" It is an honest question said with more want for knowing than anything asked in recent memory. "For my health?"
Taking a chance on words meant taking a risk in falling back into the ways that pushed them apart instead of focusing on what brought them together. "I didn't walk," Rachel admits trying to hold back the bitter pain that comes with her memories, "As I recall, I was pushed."
To voice any denial would be a lie, and Quinn isn't quite strong enough to tell one. "But you still left."
"And you've always been terribly good at isolating yourself from everyone and everything around you." Rachel doesn't want to take responsibility for her own flaws, at least not yet. She doesn't want to admit to how easily she was pushed.
An inarticulate mutter takes the place of the curse that Quinn actually wants to say. She knows, from the very depth of her being, that her Rachel doesn't ever unwillingly walk away. Her Rachel always finds ways to stay and fight. Her Rachel always keeps grounded even when Quinn so eagerly is set to fly away.
But, Quinn took advantage of her Rachel. She took it for granted that the person who so readily and eagerly stood beside her loved her—completely—even in the broken places.
Quinn looks away from her wife and then down to her shaking hands. They serve as a ready reminder of exactly what roads she's taken to make it to this point. "I guess I could eat," she acquiesces because at some point she must simply give in. At some point, she can no longer look at her wife and see an enemy.
Rachel maneuvers so that she can look into Quinn's eyes. She needs reassurance that she is not being dismissed or handled. Her breath hitches as she sees something that has been too long hidden away—she sees her wife and not just the mirage. "Baby," she whispers, as tears spring forth from the edges of her rising hope.
There is no need for Quinn to question why her wife's eyes are suddenly filled with tears. She knows that the one person who knows and sees her completely would easily recognize that she is pulling out her proverbial sword to fight this…thing that has taken over. "Let's not make a big deal of this, okay?" She warns.
Warm hands move to cover Quinn's shaking ones. "No," Rachel gently denies, "this is a big deal." It has always been something bigger than either of them were previously willing to admit to. Life was easier when they didn't admit to it. Pushing it away meant Rachel could avoid her guilt and Quinn could avoid her weakness. It was easier…until it wasn't.
"Well, let's not make a big deal of it now." Quinn knows that the commitment to recover is too fresh to not risk being rescinded.
Rachel's agreement falls from her without her complete consent, but she is happy for it nonetheless. In this, her most important second chance, she wants to get everything right. She doesn't want to walk away feeling like something else has been swept under a façade of contentment. "I'll let you know when the food is ready," she says when she finds no other words at her disposal.
Before Rachel can fully remove her grasp from Quinn's, her hands are held tighter still. "This isn't all on you," Quinn admits. "Don't think I don't get that."
Rachel leans over ever so slowly. Before her lips make contact with Quinn's, neither can help but wonder if a kiss between them will feel different now. Each considers pulling away, not quite sure if they are pushing too far too quickly. Warning signs erupt from the houses of their doubts and they are on the verge of retreating, but suddenly they are too late.
Their lips meet and everything is different. Their kisses have always been and will always be a dare—a dare to stay, a dare to possess, a dare to be possessed, a dare to be, a dare to love.
As they pull apart, both realize that they have been stuck waiting. They went about this whole thing all wrong. They thought they broke apart and came together like every other couple in existence, but they are not other couples. They are the women who decided marriage was the answer to stop from breaking apart. They are the women who thought living their lives in secret made them more honest than anyone else. They are the women who lived apart for years because living together might tear them apart.
They are not women who can be like everyone else. That is not how they work. That is not how they live and that is now how they love. They cannot wait to be made right.
"I love you, Rachel Berry," Quinn admits for the first time in a long time.
Rachel let's Quinn's words wash over her, easily reminded of the first time her wife confessed her love—also done in a moment of crisis. She was relieved then like she is relieved now, because there is still some part of her that believes Quinn will announce that their relationship is over. One day, Quinn Fabray will realize she is married to Rachel Berry and suddenly everything will be over. Poof. Gone.
Perhaps that is why she so easily stopped trying. She saw Quinn deconstructing their life and considered herself to be collateral. It was easier for her to move on than to be told to leave.
And her insecurity has brought them this.
"I love you, too, Quinn," Rachel says and it is her recommitment to believing that they will not disappear. They will not fade away.
Maxwell Richards felt that life should be wrapped up in a warm fuzzy blanket of simplicity and gratuitous entertainment. He hadn't become an actor to revolutionize the craft or to commentate on social schemas. He cared little about the things people often told him he should care about, because he was a simple man. It was a lifestyle choice, made under the past weight of the world resting on his shoulders.
Hardwired was his chance to redo all the things he had previously mucked up by believing in a deeper meaning. The television series was his lucky break number two and he damn well was going to make sure it lasted. He had no plans to go down in a blaze of glory. So, he took exception to having seen his lucky break hovering over the open flame of Rachel Berry's and Quinn Fabray's impending disaster.
The acrid smell of his burning dream had begun to make his nostrils flare when Quinn Fabray had been made an addition to the cast of Hardwired. Maxwell was one of the very few who saw the news in a less than savory light, but he had the advantage of knowing things that others did not. He knew that Rachel Berry, their current lead, and Quinn Fabray, everyone's new favorite co-star, were married. The two women were together in the same sense that his grandparents had been together for over sixty years—wrapped up in the tropistic nature of love.
His grandparents had a wonderful story, and Maxwell had grown up believing that kind of love was just another thing lost to the new generation. He padded his belief with the fact that life was no longer solely about growing up only to marry and settle down. There was more opportunity afforded the youth than a cycle stuck on repeat, and that made it simple for Maxwell to choose his ego over any chance of love.
Then, he had seen Rachel Berry and Quinn Fabray together without the benefit of not knowing the truths they purposefully avoided while in public. He saw them, and he couldn't look away. He couldn't un-see the things he saw. He had already tried and failed to not notice that even in a room filled with people somehow Rachel and Quinn managed to stand alone. He failed to not recognize the silent ways they communicated without much care to who else might have a say.
Then, he convinced himself that their love spelt disaster for anyone else caught under its influence, because it could ruin everything. If the news got out that the two stars of the show were cuddled up and cozy then Hardwired would turn into a battleground of insinuation and political agendas. There was a blatant statement in the fact that two women who played enemies on screen shared a bed in real life. Even if Maxwell couldn't put a name to the exact statement it made, he knew that it wasn't something that would be looked upon with neutrality or disregard.
Quinn and Rachel couldn't even look at it with indifference, though he was sure they tried to hide whatever personal emotion they felt. But, he saw their feelings written across their beautiful faces. He saw it even as he stood across from Quinn and had to lean in close to seal their onscreen attraction with a lustful kiss. Quinn's character had just finished convincing his character that her recreational use of cocaine was to only make their humdrum life a little more exciting. She played his temptress and he let her lead him to the river Styx.
It was a pivotal moment in their character's development since he so willingly disregarded his unfulfilled love for Rachel's character, Leah. This was the beginning of the secrets and lies that would drive the season, yet as he leaned even further towards Quinn he saw her eyes drift over his shoulder and Max didn't need to guess at who was standing behind him.
Rachel Berry wasn't in the scene. There was no reason for her to be present as an actor, but as a producer she was overseeing production.
"Cut!" Their director, Helena, yelled frustration leaked into her voice. This was their third attempt at the kiss. The first time Maxwell had kissed Quinn like he was being forced to make out with his brother's wife. The second time Quinn had accidently kicked Maxwell in the thigh as he guided her to the couch. The third, well the third had Quinn looking more interested in what their producer Rachel Berry would say instead of enjoying her victory of winning the man her nemesis desired. It was Helena's daughter's birthday and she wanted to get home at least before midnight. "Okay everyone take a break. Quinn, take a walk with me?"
Maxwell and Quinn disentangled their limbs, and then Quinn followed Helena as she walked away to a safe distance apart from the crew. Rachel stood cemented to the floor trying to decide if she was supposed to join them. She was saved from the choice when Maxwell grabbed her by the hand and requested her input on his botched performance.
When they were far enough away from anyone who would want to listen in he unleashed his frustration. "You need to go home," he hissed.
"No, I need to be here," Rachel quickly rebuked though she was glad to be away from the scene she had had to stand through for the last hour.
Maxwell gripped at his temples. He had no real qualms about yelling at his boss, since he knew Rachel's power was held in check by Leona Conroe. "Your woman is hot, Berry," he freely admitted. "She's every straight guys dream come true and I get to make out with her."
Rachel's hands lifted to rest on her hips. "I don't think this conversation is appropriate."
"It's not," he quickly agreed. "We shouldn't be having this conversation but we are because I can't live out every man's fantasy with you here. Do you get what I'm saying?" He finally released his temples, his arm swinging wildly to his side. "I am supposed to deliver the fantasy and I can't and Quinn can't because you're standing over our shoulders."
Rachel's eyes widened at the mere insinuation that she was preventing her wife from properly doing her job. "Quinn is a professional. I expect you to be as well." Denial was noticeably absent from her words. She couldn't deny the fact that in the last take Quinn had been looking at her. There was no denying the small clinch of pain in her stomach as she saw Quinn's lips making contact with Maxwell's.
"When we go back in there," Maxwell pointed in the direction they had come from, "I'm going to make out with your wife. I'm supposed to enjoy it. I'm not supposed to feel like I'm making out with my coworker's wife while they watch on in the distance silently pointing a gun at my back."
"Gun?" Rachel tried her best to sound appalled by the insinuation. "There is no gun."
"No," Maxwell agreed, "no gun. But it's my career and I would hope that you respected me enough to not ruin it."
Rachel opened her mouth to protest, but quickly decided to keep silent since she was standing on crumbling ground. She was, in a word, selfishly possessive. It had always been a muddy reality of their profession when she or Quinn had to become physically intimate with another. They hadn't ever invited the other to oversee the scenes nor had they spoken much about them. It was simply another thing that happened throughout the course of their day—not something to be pointed out or more than casually mentioned.
But now… it was different. It existed in a transparency that hadn't been named or defined between them. It awoke once sleeping insecurities that perhaps it was possible that Rachel was not enough for Quinn and maybe that Quinn was not enough for Rachel. What part of them was acting and what part of them wasn't?
These were all questions thought of but never voiced. Rachel felt that to voice them would mean she was in some way weaker than her wife, less professional, and maybe even not much changed from adolescence.
"Do you think that Helena is giving Quinn the same lecture?" Rachel wondered aloud.
"Helena?" Maxwell raised his brow in surprise. "Does she know the secret of which we may never speak?"
Rachel couldn't help but roll her eyes at Maxwell's sarcasm. "It's not a secret," she countered, "it's my life."
Her declaration gave Maxwell a moment of stillness as his brain suddenly recognized a piece of life's infinite puzzle slipping into place. He had defined Rachel and Quinn's marriage as a clandestine thing that was hidden away for reasons he assumed mostly superficial and scandalous. He hadn't the presence of mind to consider that their marriage was something more than an awaiting scandal. It was, he suddenly realized, their lives. It was their own much in the same sense that his grandparents' love story was a piece of his life. It was a story held within his heart that was his to share or his to withhold as he saw fit.
Rachel had judged him fit to be a part of her life and Maxwell somehow knew that her trust must not have come too lightly. Sometimes he hated that he couldn't so easily maintain the simplicity he preached as his one true desire. Briefly, he mourned simplicities demise as he gave into being a complicated man.
"I'm sure Helena is asking Quinn how she got that Oscar of hers," he joked in lieu of admitting his sudden enlightenment. "I'm pretty good lookin' and she don't got eyes for me."
Rachel dropped her forehead into the palms of her hands. "I'll find something else to do." She gave in and then turned and marched away from Maxwell before he forced her to admit that she was wrong and that he was right. She blindly walked past the set and towards a destination she hadn't yet decided on.
It was perhaps fate that she ended up in the same darkened corner her wife had escaped to. She slipped in next to her wife and then casually rested her head against Quinn's shoulder. Quinn's arm swept around Rachel's waist and pulled their bodies even closer together.
"Did you get a lecture?" Quinn softly inquired. "Max looked frustrated when Helen called me away."
"He was," Rachel honestly replied. "He thinks I should find somewhere else to be."
"Do you agree?" Quinn asked even though she didn't need to. She knew that Rachel would have gone immediately back to the set if she disagreed with Max's assessment. Still, she wanted to hear Rachel's opinion since they needed to establish some new barrier.
"Unfortunately, I find that I do." She closed her eyes suddenly feeling a sort of tired she couldn't immediately identify.
"Well Helena thinks I worry too much about your opinion of me." Quinn decided to fill in her wife on the pep talk she had received from their director.
"Do you agree?" Rachel mimicked Quinn's previous tone.
"Unfortunately," Quinn smirked even though it was hidden from Rachel's view, "I find that I do."
Rachel opened her eyes and forced herself to step away from the warmth and comfort her wife offered. "I'll wait for you," she promised. "Go finish up."
Quinn took a quick look around finding them to be properly removed from anyone else and then quickly pulled her wife into a deep kiss. She let her desire build despite knowing that duty required it to remain unfulfilled. There was money being spent and people waiting for her to perform a fictional account of her more basic desires.
As they pulled apart, Quinn tried to imagine feeling so breathless and wanting after kissing Maxwell. Her imagination fell flat. She wasn't that good of an actress.
"If you kiss him like that," Rachel whispered as if reading her wife's thoughts, "I'll make you sleep in your car."
"I don't think it's possible for me to," Quinn freely admitted.
"Good." Rachel was silently relieved she was her own competition. "Now go and deliver a performance we both can cringe at."
"I love you," Quinn said in all seriousness. She had no desire to walk away from Rachel with important parts of their conversation still mostly unsettled, but she did have prior obligations.
"I love you, too," Rachel whispered.
Quinn leaned in and brushed her lips delicately against Rachel's as if she was handling a very precious thing. "I promise not to be long," she said as she pulled away.
Rachel only nodded and then removed herself from Quinn's personal space. They had already broken several of their established rules as they took the moment to settle upset nerves. It was, however, Rachel realized, a very necessary moment since it eased something much more important than their professional egos.
Quinn looked at Rachel for a moment longer and then walked away. As she arrived to the set she had successfully slipped back into the life of her character. She was an island of a girl lost in addiction and succumbing to an impending disaster.