Author's Note: There was such an amazing response to Acceptance, and I want to thank everyone who reviewed for sharing your thoughts. Many of you wanted a continuation of the story, and many others liked that it ended where it did. I don't plan to continue the storyline—we all have our own imaginations for that—but I did think that maybe Quinn's life and motives during the same period were worth exploring a little, so I hope that you enjoy this companion piece.
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or the characters, I just like to play with them…strictly non-profit.
Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul.
Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.
~Pamela Vaull Starr
The first time it happens, Quinn is twenty-two. She knows that she will always remember the moment exactly, sitting in a plush blue seat in the Nokia Theater on a late Sunday afternoon in August. David's fingers are lightly resting over her own on the armrest between them to keep her from fidgeting too noticeably.
She's nervous and nauseous and a little constricted by the bodice of her dress—a blue Versace. It had looked so gorgeous when she'd first tried it on, and she'd let David convince her to wear it tonight even though she'd known that she'd be more comfortable in something a little less revealing. Even after three years, she's still not used to being a sex symbol, and she can't even bear to Google her name on the Internet anymore for fear of what she'll see. Somewhere deep inside, poor little Lucy is crying out in sorrow at being so thoroughly replaced. Quinn still lives in fear of the day when someone from her tumultuous past will decide to resurrect Lucy Caboosey and Quinn's biggest nightmare will come true in front of an audience of millions. So far she's been lucky. It's amazing what the Hollywood PR machine can make disappear. She wishes that she could make all of her lingering insecurities disappear half as easily.
Quinn still can't quite believe that she's here, waiting to learn if she'll be taking home an Emmy. She'd fallen into stardom in the most cliched way possible, even if she had studied theater for a year at Yale. It wasn't a passion or a lifelong dream. It was hardly anything more than familiarity—a necessity. After all, Quinn Fabray had been nothing more than a character that she'd played for four years at McKinley. A manufactured image—one that she'd created for herself at the tender age of thirteen. She never has quite managed to make it feel real, but her agent and the network are all too eager to continue with the charade.
She still remembers sitting in that coffee shop in Los Angeles on a dreary summer afternoon, lost and confused because her life at Yale wasn't what she'd imagined it should be, and crying into her caramel latte because her ex-boyfriend and her kind of friend were getting married two thousand miles away. It was ridiculous and pathetic, especially because Quinn still hadn't understood at the time just why she'd felt such an acute sense of loss.
She remembers glancing up from her lukewarm drink to see a middle-aged man with keen blue eyes slide into the chair across from her to tell her that she cries beautifully. She'd thought that he was some crazy pervert and told him to fuck off. He'd just smiled, said, "You're perfect," and slipped a business card with the name Christopher Mitchell emblazoned in gold across the worn table, telling her to call him to set up an audition. Quinn had scoffed and shaken her head, only to nearly faint when she'd eventually discovered that he was for real—a television producer looking to cast a role for his latest series.
Two weeks later, she'd been rushed into a screen test, fawned over and praised, and then thrown into production on a pilot for Fox called Bethany Hall, playing a character that was disturbingly similar to who she'd once been—minus the teenage pregnancy. And now here she is, nominated for an Emmy for doing little more than playing the very worst version of herself.
Quinn glances past David, down the row that she's seated in, and briefly catches the eyes of her female co-star—her character's roommate, rival, and occasional friend. Jennifer offers her a supportive smile before turning her attention back to the stage. Quinn tries to smile back, but she can't help thinking that she doesn't belong here. She can't help thinking about someone else who does. It doesn't surprise her anymore that her thoughts turn in this direction. Fate has landed her on a television series about two strong, opinionated young women who clash and argue and compete over trivial things but still end up gradually changing one another for the better. How can she escape the memories of Rachel Berry? Rachel Hudson, she sourly reminds herself.
She closes her eyes and remembers where she comes from. She thinks about where she might have been if she hadn't left Lima, if someone hadn't told her that she is more than a shallow, pretty girl who would peak in high school, if someone hadn't stopped her from ruining her life and the life of her daughter. She thinks about that moment senior year when she'd told Rachel that she needed to let go of her past and embrace her future in New York City, hoping that Rachel would take her advice but knowing deep down that she wouldn't. She thinks about how jealous she used to be of Rachel for having so much talent and someone to love. Quinn still prays that someday, someone will love her—for all the good and the bad—and not just because she's Quinn Fabray. She knows that she's fighting an uphill battle to find that now because this perfect, artificial shell of a woman is never going to completely disappear.
Her category is announced, and on cue, Quinn pushes away all of her insecurities, all her regrets and doubts, and pulls on the mask that she wears like a second skin. At least now she gets paid for it. She doesn't really expect to win, but she knows that the camera will try to catch her in a moment of weakness, and she can't afford to give anyone the satisfaction. She's going to smile politely and applaud for whomever wins.
She's still smiling when her mind finally catches up to her ears, and she registers the sensation of David's arm around her shoulder and his rough lips on her cheek. Her jaw drops open, and her heart nearly races out of her chest. For a moment, she's afraid that she's going to pass out—or throw up, and she prays that she won't do either on camera for everyone to see. She presses trembling hands to her face, taking a deep, calming breath behind the momentary curtain of cover. David whispers his congratulations in her ear, but her mind echoes with another, hauntingly familiar voice, telling her to put on her show face, and Quinn has no choice but to comply. She smiles and pretends that she really deserves this award and that someone like Rachel Berry is proud of her, and for the first time in a long time, her wide smile turns genuine.
Quinn carefully stands on weak knees and measures every step to the stage, mind frantically piecing together fragments of an acceptance speech that she never really expected to have to give. She grips the envelope and the statuette tightly to her chest as she stands behind the podium, and she draws in a deep breath and flashes a watery smile as she tries to order her rambling thoughts into words.
"I...I never expected any of this," she says honestly, fighting the urge to cringe at the sound of her breathy, tremulous voice ringing through the auditorium. "Five years ago, I couldn't even win prom queen."
She hears the laughter, and she wants to cry—she is crying—because it really isn't a joke. That crown used to be the pinnacle of her existence—the brightest accomplishment that she'd ever expected to have—and now she's holding an Emmy in her shaking hands, and she doesn't know how she even came to be standing here right now. "I really don't deserve this," she admits. She knows it, and she knows that more than a few people in the audience feel the same way.
"I didn't even consider becoming an actress until...until just a few years ago really, and I know I've been so, so lucky to have been given this opportunity. Every woman nominated tonight deserves this award more than I ever could, but I'm not giving it back," she attempts to joke, though she knows that she's never been particularly adept at humor. "I'm so grateful and honored to be given this award just for doing something that I love," and that, at least, is the truth. Quinn may not have always dreamed this particular dream, but she has come to love the catharsis that comes from releasing her emotions through a character and then leaving it all behind in an empty sound-stage at the end of the day. It's more than she expected to have, even if it's less than she still hopes for.
"And I want to thank Christopher for taking a chance and casting me as Lily. And David for supporting me and always pushing me to be a better person. I love you, sweetie," she says, focusing her eyes on his smiling face in the audience. In the short time that she's known him, he's become her best friend, second only to Santana, and one of the few people in Los Angeles that she actually trusts. And he knows exactly what she wants to say next, even as she offers the expected gratitude to her cast. He gives her a little nod of encouragement, and she takes one last breath and concentrates on keeping her voice even as she finally says the one thing that she's always promised to say someday—even if this isn't exactly the way she'd imagined it would happen.
"And finally, I want to thank Rachel Berry for making me realize that I am so much more than just another pretty face. I finally got it right."
The second time it happens, Quinn is twenty-five and she's exhausted from working nonstop and suffering massive jetlag from the constant travel on the Red-Eye between Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, where she's currently shooting her next film, but she wasn't about to pass up the Golden Globes this year. The moment the script for The Perfect Illusion had fallen into her hands more than a year ago, Quinn had been determined to win the role of Kylie. It had been an uphill battle because the director initially hadn't felt that Quinn had the acting chops to tackle such a serious role. Her television character had been bitchy and over-the-top, and the two roles that Quinn had taken since leaving her series had been nothing more than the stereotypical, pretty-but-uninteresting love interest. Eventually, she'd proven to everyone that she had the depth to play Kylie, though she knows that the character is really just a mixture of Lucy, Quinn, and a strong dash of Rachel Berry. Rachel Hudson, she silently amends with a frown.
Maybe she'd had more than a few ulterior motives for wanting the role.
She doesn't really think of Rachel that often anymore, just moments like this when she's surrounded by stars who shine bigger and brighter than she can ever dream—just moments alone in a house that's too big, wishing for someone to hold her hand and remind her that she's more than this Hollywood image. She really doesn't keep in touch with anyone from her old life other than Santana and, very occasionally, Puck, thanks to their permanent connection in Beth, but she knows through the grapevine that Rachel and Finn are still in Lima and that Rachel is teaching at McKinley. Quinn keeps waiting for the day when she'll have to fake a smile at the happy news of a little Hudson baby, and she's a little surprised that it hasn't happened yet.
David squeezes her hand as they make their way along the crowded red carpet. "Are you okay?" he questions softly, and she forces a smile and nods, squeezing his hand back gratefully. She's tired but excited, even though she knows that she's going to be asked a dozen times tonight if she's dating Parker Wallace, a fellow castmate in The Perfect Illusion. A couple of friendly lunches and a few strategic Paparazzi photos had put the usual Hollywood PR game into play. Are they or aren't they? Anything to help raise interest in the movie and sell a few more tickets. Quinn hates this part of the job. She hates herself for playing the game, not only to promote the film but to keep her private life from ever seeing the light of day. She hates that her public image keeps getting in the way of her every chance to find something real.
Quinn Fabray is the perfect illusion.
She smooths a hand down over the silky skirt of her red Marchesa gown and allows David to help her up the steps to the E cameras. She smiles a wide (fake) smile at Ryan Seacrest (fondly remembering the tattoo that was laser-removed the minute she signed her first contract) and answers the standard questions, cringing internally when he prods at the rumors of her romantic life. She gives her standard answer, claiming that she and Parker are just friends, and thinks about the whisper of a rumor that Ryan—that the entire entertainment industry—will never dare to address.
Quinn coolly redirects the conversation to her film, far more comfortable keeping the focus on her career. If she could, she'd make herself disappear, welcome back Lucy with open arms, and let Quinn exist only on the silver screen. Ryan catches sight of a brighter star over her shoulder, and Quinn is finally able to slip away from the cameras and blend into the crowd of designer gowns and black ties. She's grateful to escape into the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and she sinks into her chair with a sigh. David sits next to her and goes right for the champagne, offering her a glass. "I'm not drinking tonight," she warns him.
He grins and leans closer, filling her glass despite her protests. "Oh, please, honey. Who are you kidding? These things are only fun if you're drunk half off your ass."
"I do stupid things when I'm drunk, David."
"I know," he reminds her with a wicked grin. "You actually loosen up and take that stick out of your ass."
She punches his arm and scowls. "I'm not making a fool out of myself tonight," she promises, as much to herself as to David. She's had too many inadvertent life-changing events happen under the influence of alcohol, and there's a better than average possibility that she might actually win a Golden Globe tonight. Exhaustion plus alcohol equals Quinn potentially saying something that she shouldn't on national television. She isn't taking any chances.
Despite her resolution, Quinn does sip at her glass of champagne as she watches the ceremony, chatting with her peers as she mingles during the breaks. She knows that even those few sips were probably a bad idea when her category is announced and she suddenly feels dizzy. Her heart is racing and her ears are buzzing, and when she hears her name, she doesn't think that she'll be able to stand up. David releases a happy little squeak and pulls her up by her hand, engulfing her in a hug and kissing her cheek, whispering, "You deserve it, honey. Now go wow them all with your fabulosity."
She giggles softly at his words, and her eyes fill with tears as he releases her and gently turns her into the arms of Matt Damon, who congratulates her and sends her off to collect her award. Quinn can barely see the stage through her tears, and her whole body feels like a fluttering mess of butterflies. She manages to stop in front of the podium without tripping or fainting, and she doesn't drop the Golden Globe as it's placed into her hands—heavier than she imagined it would be. Everything is heavier than she imagined it would be.
"As if you all haven't seen me cry enough," she jokes. Her sense of humor has only moderately improved with age. She stares down at the Golden Globe while she gathers her wits. She's actually prepared a speech this time, and she doesn't want to forget anything.
"When I was fifteen, my life was a lot like Kylie's. I had what seemed like the perfect family on the surface, but in private, there were so many secrets that I was...that we all...were keeping, and eventually, those secrets tore us apart."
She swallows around the dryness in her throat and pushes away the memories of an unhappy, overweight little girl whose family was all too happy to let her change everything about herself—of a mother who drank to drown out her misery, a father who demanded obedience and respect while offering nothing in return, and a naturally gorgeous, self-righteous sister who stopped talking to her when she was sixteen and pregnant and terrified.
"So this is a role that I could identify with from the beginning for that reason, and also because I am blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life who have gone through their own coming out experiences," and so many who are still in the closet, she thinks a little bitterly, "or have had to deal with the prejudice and bigotry of those that can't understand that love is the most precious gift, regardless of what form it comes in."
Quinn imagines that her agent is probably cringing right now. He keeps trying to steer her gently away from the LGBTQ community, and she keeps digging her heels in deeper. It's a subtle push and pull, and every little gain brings Quinn hope that someday she'll be able to live her life completely on her own terms.
As she ticks off the names on her mental list of people to thank, she swiftly closes in on the last one. She's taken it out and put it back into this speech a few dozen times already, but she knows that she can't really ignore it. Five years of therapy have led her to a place where she finally understands what Finn Hudson had meant when he'd talked about tethers so many years ago. So much of who Quinn is today—of who she hopes to become—leads back to her.
"Finally, I want to thank Rachel Berry for inspiring me to take on this particular role. She taught me what pride in an unconventional family was supposed to look like."
Quinn hears the applause, but it doesn't really mean much. She's honored to be recognized and proud of her work, but she wishes that she had someone other than her gay best friend waiting to share this award with her. She hopes that Rachel Ber—Hudson—is watching and feels some small sense of pride in knowing that Quinn can still feel her influence, even after all these years.
She makes her way back to her seat after being repeatedly stopped and congratulated—some people are genuine and others had dismissed her as bland and untalented just last week. She settles next to David, sets the Golden Globe on the table, and downs her refilled glass of champagne in a single go. David snickers and scoots his chair closer. "You know, you've still got the after-show interviews to get through."
Quinn groans and drops her forehead into her hand. This is her life now.
The third time it happens, Quinn is twenty-seven, and her personal life is in such a state of disarray that she nearly skips the ceremony all together. Her agent won't let her, which honestly makes her laugh, because he'd actually advised her to turn down the role that had earned her this nomination. He'd warned her that playing a lesbian would feed those rumors, and Quinn hates that he was right. She hates that she still cares what anyone thinks, because she is so horribly tired of hiding who she really is—of pretending that the women she's spotted out and about with are nothing more than friends while the men are her latest lovers. She's so very close to saying the hell with it and just telling everyone she meets, "Yes, I like girls."
It isn't a sentence that she'd ever planned to speak, either out loud or in the privacy of her own mind—not when she was twelve-year old, overweight, unpopular Lucy and certainly not when she was the president of the celibacy club or the pregnant cheerleader or the wannabe prom queen. Not even when she was barely twenty and waking up for the first time with a woman, hung-over and in a state of horrified panic. She'd run from the truth for longer than she should have, hiding behind a string of pretty-boys that she tried to love and hiding from feelings that she hadn't wanted to acknowledge. She's still hiding, thanks to her flourishing career, but now she's hiding in plain sight.
She's learned the tricks of being discreet, of non-disclosure contracts and showmances. She's suffered through her breakdowns behind closed doors, sobbing into Santana's shoulder on more than one occasion and letting David make her smile when she's at her lowest. She's grabbed onto every little moment of happiness that she can find and soared at the highest of highs only to crash back to earth again and again.
Quinn has everything that she could want and nothing that she really needs. Her last (and longest) relationship had fallen to pieces four months ago, crushed under the pressure of too many secrets and ghosts from the past that Quinn can't seem to escape. It's the same story every time, and she's so tired of the same unhappy ending. She remembers being seventeen and finally feeling like she had a bright future ahead of her. Now it's all bright lights and fake smiles and yearning to have those moments back when she was still swaying in the background with eyes closed and heart beating to the rhythm of a perfect song. She'll never feel that free again.
She wants something real, and she feels like maybe she could be on the verge of finally having it. Winning tonight could be the start of something wonderful. An Oscar will open so many doors—give Quinn the room to maneuver that she doesn't have right now. Maybe she can say goodbye forever to the stunning, young ingenue—the girl next door and the sex symbol. Maybe she can finally break the chains of the perfect image and let people see her for who she really is, because there's a woman of real value underneath all the pretty packaging. She believes that now, as she should have always done. After all, Rachel Berry—her sources tell her that Hudson is officially gone now—never lied to her.
Quinn isn't lying to herself anymore. She does still think of Rachel, probably more than she should. She thinks of all those missed moments between them—everything she should have said, everything she could have done—to make both of their lives turn out differently. She thinks of how Rachel unknowingly set her on the path that she's taken and how mostly grateful she is for the journey—mostly grateful and a little sad, because this isn't how their story was supposed to play out.
She wonders if she'll ever get the chance to change the ending. She's been painted and polished by the Hollywood glitter for eight years now, and lately, she feels like she's coming closer to being Lucy Quinn Fabray than she's ever been. Santana thinks it's because Quinn is finally being real, taking on roles that speak to her instead of trying to be a movie star. Quinn thinks Santana is probably right.
She's walking the red carpet alone today, but David is waiting for her inside. Her publicist stops her at every camera, and she smiles politely and endures the necessary fashion talk, hearing that she's gorgeous to her face and knowing she'll probably be torn apart by the experts later. She breathes a silent sigh of relief when she can actually discuss her character and the film and how much it means to be a part of something so special to her—though she can't say the real reason why. Her publicist will never let her come out in the middle of the red carpet at the Academy Awards. She dodges every personal question and plays coy about her future projects, because so many of those answers depend on the outcome of tonight.
Always grateful to see the last of the interviews, Quinn slips away from the cheers of adoring fans and the chatter of photographers clamoring for the perfect pose. She finds her seat and smiles gratefully at David, feeling abundantly calmer just being in his familiar presence. "You've got this one, honey," he assures her, and she shakes her head in doubt. Her stomach is in knots, so she closes her eyes and wills her lingering nerves to settle.
Quinn has little interest in the opening musical number—there's only one voice that's ever really moved her—and she barely listens to the stale jokes and forced laughter that follows. Instead, she allows her mind to drift past the anticipation of awards and acceptance speeches and onto the scripts neatly stacked in little piles on the desk of her office at home. Projects of every genre—dramatic films, romantic comedies, biographies, action-adventure, television guest spots, and pilots—have been sent her way, but her main focus is on the scripts of a dozen Broadway plays, waiting to be revived with the name of an Academy Award winning actress spelled out in bright lights across the marquee. She's been actively seeking them out for five months now, waiting for the perfect moment to take a career (and possibly life) changing risk.
David squeezes her hand when her category is announced, and she flashes him a nervous grin. This is it. The moment that every actor wishes and waits for, and Quinn knows how lucky she is to be experiencing it at so young an age. She tells herself that it's an honor to be nominated, but really, she wants to win. She wants that Oscar and the respect it commands.
And then she has it, just like that.
The ripping of an envelope and a few simple words, and Quinn Fabray becomes the best actress of the year—a permanent footnote on the list of Hollywood elite. David is hugging her tightly and babbling nonsensical words of praise into her ear, and she can't quite believe that this isn't a dream.
Quinn experiences a sense of movement, but she can't quite remember how she comes to be on the stage, and, "I don't remember a single thing I wanted to say," she breathes out in shock. So many emotions are churning inside of her that she can't begin to distinguish between them. Her whole body is trembling, and her mouth is reflexively forming the names of the people who made it possible for her to be standing here, holding an Oscar in her hands, but her thoughts keep running in a hundred different directions.
There will be countless interviews to get through after this and phone calls from her agent and her management team and even more scripts rolling in from producers and directors and studios. Quinn Fabray will be a hot commodity, but it won't matter. She knows exactly what she wants to do next, and even as she thanks everyone that she can think of, she's busy plotting out everything that she'll need to take care of in the coming weeks. She smiles as she recalls how truly beautiful New York City is in the spring.
Quinn only hesitates for the briefest of moments before holding up the statuette in a silent promise. "I'm halfway there, Rachel."
Halfway to New York and new beginnings. Halfway to discovering if she can have that elusive happy ending.
It's long past time to silence the regret of what might have been.
AN: Reviews are appreciated but never demanded. This ones ends a little more hopefully, but whether or not Quinn and Rachel cross paths again, and what might happen if they do, I leave for you to envision.
I did like seeing canon Quinn finally get some closure and a well-deserved bright future. And I loved everything about that bathroom scene. Too bad canon Rachel still seems so set on heading down the path to teenage marriage and giving up on fighting for her dreams. If I had more faith in RIB, I'd actually think this was a great story opportunity for Rachel (and Finn) to grow and perhaps realize that they need to start letting go of one another and focusing on their own individual futures—but alas, they seem dead set on pushing Finchel Forever no matter how ridiculous the relationship is at this point. I'll continue to have my future Faberry headcanon until RIB undoubtedly does something to rip that away from me, too.