A/N: This idea came to me while I was at work. It's kind of a hybrid of some other things I've done, some things I've read, and some things that have been floating around in my mind. Like when you watch a bunch of movies on the same day and go to bed and have crazy mash-up dreams. I know I'm the queen of WIPs, but this is one of those I intend to knock out in a few days. If anything, it's my hiatus project. I'm also very much in love with it and I've been wanting to do something like this for a while, I just didn't have anything past the initial concept. And if you really want to enhance this experience, open up Pandora and use the title (the Billie Holiday version) and Moonlight Serenade as your station seeds. Happy reading, lovers.
Quinn isn't sure who's talking and it's a difficult task just to force open her eyes. She has what feels like an impending migraine and her body aches the way it used to after the first few months of Cheerios practice.
"Pal! Can you hear me?"
Her eyes finally open, but focusing is a whole different task. It's dark, but there seem to be streetlights nearby and her eyes begin to adjust to the dim lighting. Where was she before this?
"Hey, look. He's coming to. How's the girl?"
She has no idea who they're talking about, but there's a guy in a suit leaning over her. Her muscles rebel when she first tries to sit up, but with some effort, she's able to force them into commission. As she looks down at herself, she sees that she's wearing a vintage men's suit.
What was she doing before this?
Come on, Quinn. Think.
"You got a name, kid?" asks the man who's been kneeling in front of her.
"Quinn," she answers, but her voice is hoarse, like she's been cheering for eight hours straight. She clears her throat and tries again. "Quinn Fabray."
"Quinn," he nods. "You're lucky we were cutting through, here. Otherwise, who knows how long you would have been out here."
She still has no idea where "here" is.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
"Um..." She brings a hand to her face and presses it over her eyes. The last thing she remembers is... "The big band benefit concert." She doesn't even know where it comes from, but it's suddenly there. With it comes something about Blaine, but she can't figure out why.
"So, you two were out dancing?"
Dancing. Yes. Dancing. There was dancing. She can see it, the school gym with the lights turned down and the combined jazz and marching bands set up like something Ricky Ricardo would conduct before Lucy came in to stir up trouble. The memory is suddenly full force and it's almost too much all at once. It's the benefit night for all the school arts programs and they're doing a big swing number choreographed by Mike and Brittany. And Blaine... Blaine's supposed to be Rachel's dance partner, but he has the flu. Quinn's one of the better dancers, so she's standing in for him, especially because the height difference between herself and Rachel is just right. That's why she's wearing the suit. That's why Rachel's wearing the-
Quinn yanks her hand away from her face and looks around. There, not six feet from her, is Rachel, lying on the ground. She doesn't appear to be conscious. The second guy, the one who's been talking to the man next to her, is leaning over Rachel.
It dawns on her that she has no idea who either of these men are. "Hey! Get away from her!" She lunges toward guy number two, but she doesn't get much momentum from her seated position on the ground. Also, her body response is sluggish, at best.
"Quinn, buddy. We're on your side." The first guy grips her shoulder. "Do you know what happened? Is that your girl?"
So many questions and so little time to process much of anything. This guy keeps referring to her as buddy and pal, so he must think she's a guy. Right now, she isn't going to argue, given that she's apparently been unconscious in an alley for who knows how long.
Past Rachel, she can see a city street and beyond that are bright lights and what look to be theater marquees. Given that the dress style of both men is very similar to what she's wearing and that the cars passing by are all mid-century American models, she would normally assume she was sound asleep and dreaming. But the way her head hurts and the clarity of the city sounds around her seem to suggest she's very much awake.
Which is impossible.
Impossible or not, awake or asleep, there's one thing Quinn Fabray does when she's desperate to push herself ahead of everyone around her.
"Y-yes. She is." For some reason, she feels like they're both safer if these men think Rachel's spoken for.
Her hand instinctively moves to push her hair aside, something she does when she's on the spot, but in addition to the pomade that's holding the hairstyle in place, the cut's shorter than usual. Apparently, "Trust me, my mom's a beautician" doesn't necessarily mean someone actually knows what they're doing. Or Mack was just dead set on cutting Quinn's hair too short for her own amusement, which is entirely possible.
She breaks away from the man's hand on her shoulder and crawls toward Rachel, who's breathing but offering no other signs of consciousness. "Rachel." Gently, she shakes Rachel's shoulders, but there's no response.
The second guy, the one who hasn't done much talking, finally speaks up. "You were still out cold for a good few minutes after we found you. No telling how long you've been out here. We should get her to a doctor. Frank, what's the nearest hospital?"
"No!" Quinn protectively arches her body over Rachel's. "No hospitals."
"What's the matter, you kids in trouble?" Frank asks as he stands over the both of them.
"We're... from out of town. And..." Quinn checks her pockets for what she already knows isn't there. "We must have been robbed. My wallet's gone. Her purse, too."
"Robbery or not, she should see a doc-"
"It's all right, Vic, I have an idea." Frank crouches back down next to Quinn. "Look, I have a buddy who just finished med school. He's an honest fella who minds his own business... you can trust him."
Quinn doesn't want to trust anyone. She's not programmed to do it, like, ever. But Rachel could have a concussion or be in a coma and she needs help. "Yeah. Okay." She nods and suddenly Vic's lifting Rachel up on the ground and Frank's offering her a hand up. Her first few steps are clumsy, but she manages to find her bearings enough to follow the two men toward the street.
Frank hails a cab and Quinn doesn't hear the directions, because she's overwhelmed by the fact that she's standing in the middle of Times Square. She's been here before, and while there are plenty of bright lights and colorful signs, this time there are no walls of video screens. There isn't much time to look around, because Frank pushes her into the back of the cab and Vic places Rachel across the seat so her head's in Quinn's lap.
The door shuts and after a brief conversation outside the car, Frank takes the front seat and it's apparent that Vic isn't joining them. Quinn doesn't really care. She just wants to get to this doctor or med student or whoever and make sure Rachel's going to be all right.
Her mind is telling her that none of this can be real, that she must have slipped on the dance floor and she's the one who's unconscious and dreaming up this world around her. Whatever the case, this is the reality of the moment. And, again, the details tell her this isn't some state of REM sleep, because she can feel the weight of Rachel's head against her leg, she can hear the occasional static coming through the music on the cab's radio. She recalls hearing that dreams don't allow you to read the same words twice because of something about the way your memory stores information, so she takes the opportunity to read a billboard for Lucky Strike cigarettes then closes her eyes, takes a breath, and re-opens them. Every letter is exactly as it was the first time.
The arm that's draped over Rachel tightens a little. Quinn can feel Rachel's body heat, she can see the way her arm moves with the rise and fall of Rachel's chest. "Come on, Rachel," she whispers. "You have to wake up. You have to be okay." As an afterthought, she adds, "You have to prove I haven't entirely lost it." At this point, if Rachel were to sit right up and disprove her, Quinn would welcome it, because at least that would make some kind of sense.
The cab stops in front of an apartment building and Frank scoops Rachel out of the backseat. "Follow me," he says, over his shoulder. "He's on the third floor."
It's now that Quinn notices that he's maybe in his late twenties. He doesn't look like a thug or any other variation of noir criminal. Her body struggles to keep up with him but she manages to stay in step behind him as they climb three flights of stairs.
"This one. 3B."
Only after Frank stares at her for about ten seconds does she realize that he's waiting for her to knock, since his arms are full of Rachel Berry. There's no answer after the first effort, but Frank urges her to try again and they're met with a tired sounding, "Who is it?"
"Benny, it's Frank. Open up."
The door opens enough for Quinn to see a shorter man in glasses, about the same age as Frank. "It's the middle of the night." As soon as Benny sees Rachel, though, the door swings fully open. "Who is this? What happened?"
Frank moves into the apartment and waits as Benny clears the newspaper that's spread open on the sofa. "Mugging, we think. This is Quinn. He's with her." He gently places Rachel on the couch and covers her with the throw blanket that's draped over the back.
Until now, Quinn's forgotten that they think she's a man. Now that they're out of the dark, shadowy alley, she wonders how long she can get away with it. For now, though, it seems she's still passing, because Benny nods at her, then turns his attention to Rachel.
Frank steps back to let his friend assess the patient. "Hey, Ben. You still have the bourbon I brought you on your birthday?"
"Right where you left it, Frank."
Benny's not even finished speaking as Frank finds the bottle among the small assortment of liquor lined up on top of the credenza that sits on the far side of the room. It reminds Quinn of home, as does the sweet smell of whiskey when Frank pours it into two glasses. "Here, kid. It'll help with the nerves."
Quinn accepts because, as much as she actively avoids any possibility of becoming her mother, she knows this guy is right. "Thanks." She knocks a good half of it back like a pro, because this is definitely not her first time.
"Don't you worry. Ol' Benny Berry will take good care of her."
That's when Quinn chokes on her drink.