After The Fact

- mermaiddrunk

"There's supposed to be breathless laughter, shy kisses and desperate touches. There's supposed to be gratitude. She's the white knight, damnit. She's supposed to get the girl."

The road stretches out in front of them like a dusty brown ribbon, long and straight and seemingly endless. They pass the faded blue 'Now Leaving Lima' sign and she keeps her eyes on the road ahead. There's no point in looking back. Not now, not when they've come this far. Except, when she really thinks about it, it isn't far at all.

Beside her, her companion shifts slightly and there's a rustle of white satin and organza. It's all there in her peripheral vision.

She feels like Rachel's always been in her peripheral vision.

They pass a gas station, a convenient store and two motels before the silence, a silence that's become something of a thick viscous barrier between them, is broken.

"Can you pull over?" The voice is so small and scratchy, it's practically unrecognizable. But there's no-one else in the car with her, so it must belong to Rachel.

There's a truck, red and menacing coming from behind and she waits for it to pass before swerving over smoothly. They're on an open, dry strip with nothing but desolate field on either side. The emptiness is somehow symbolic.

She wants to say something, but quite honestly, she's talked out. She's said it all. The dialogue she anticipated has thus far proven to be a monologue initiated by her. She's left waiting, anticipating, anxiously hoping…while her silent companion does little more than breathe.

And she can't look at her. Not when looking at her means feeling. This isn't how it was supposed to go. There's supposed to be breathless laughter, shy kisses and desperate touches, there's supposed to be gratitude. She's the white knight, dammit. She's supposed to get the girl.

But the girl in question can't even face her. And guilt, guilt swims through her stomach like tiny little fishes.

"Did you mean what you said?"

Her head snaps to her right so quickly, that her neck makes a little cracking sound. Rachel's still facing forward, seemingly transfixed by the pale blue horizon.

She swallows and says nothing and Rachel speaks again, her tone more insistent this time. "In the dressing room, did you mean it?" And then, without a flicker of warning, those emotive brown eyes catch hers and she sucks in a breath.

"I wouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it, Rachel." The words come out sharper than intended. She doesn't know what more to do or say to prove her worth. And she's tired of fighting so hard for what she wants.

"I just don't understand," Rachel is saying in that quiet, confused tone, that begs for patience and sympathy. "You can't…" It's a relief when she breaks eye-contact to find horizon again. Those eyes ask for too much. "You can't love me," she eventually whispers. "You can't feel that way. You've never..." she lets out a frustrated sound. "You've never said anything."

It's patronising. Sitting here, in the middle of goddamn nowhere, Rachel telling her what she can and can't do. She feels like a child. She feels like she's done something bad.

The tears that rush to her eyes sting hot and she struggles to blink them away. What was she supposed to say before now? How was she supposed to say it?

"If you believe that, then why did you come with me?" She wonders if Rachel can hear her heart beating. It's so loud in her own ears, she can barely hear anything else.

"I-" Rachel's tongue comes out to wet her dry lips. The make-up she had painted on for the ceremony is slowly beginning to fade. "Because you were right. I was doing it for the wrong reasons. And it wasn't—it's not fair to…anybody." When Rachel turns to look at her again, those brown irises are a misty blur. "I am grateful to you, Quinn."

She looks away, because god, this isn't how it's supposed to go. This isn't the way gratitude is supposed to be expressed.

"Yeah, well." She can't keep the bitterness from her voice. She doesn't want to.

Rachel lets out a sigh that sounds like a sob and she turns to make sure she isn't crying. She doesn't know if she could deal with actual crying right now. "I can't just," she looks down and tugs at the neckline of the white dress as if it were constrictive, "I can't just stop loving him. Just because I didn't go through with it doesn't mean that I..." she trails off a little pathetically before saying. "You confuse me. This shouldn't be so confusing, but when I'm around you-"

"Rachel," she cuts in because she really doesn't want to hear her talk about him. "I don't expect anything from you, okay? I meant it when I said that you deserve a bright future. I didn't mean…" she sucks in a breath as she prepares to lie. She's always been a good liar, there's no reason that should change now. "I didn't mean that future had to be with me."

"Just not with Finn."

It's a statement, not a question and she feels her stomach turn.

"I just want you to be true to yourself." She looks down at her lap and feels suddenly ridiculous in her bright pink dress, picked out by the young bride-to-be.

When Rachel looks at her again, it's with a sort of wonder and she feels herself begin to tremble.

"How long have you felt this way about me?" It's a question laced with no narcissism, only curiosity and yet it's one she cannot answer.

"I don't know," she says, her eyes on her hands in her lap. "I don't know when it became this real." And when she looks up, it's with a surge of boldness. "But it is real, Rachel."

"I believe you," is the quiet response.

Another truck zooms by and she rolls up her window to escape the fumes. It creeps into the car anyway, poisoning their air.

"Do you," Her heart begins its incessant thud against her already bruised ribcage. "Do you want to go back?

When Rachel looks at her now, there are dark mascara trails, like a road map across her cheeks. "I can't go back, even if I wanted to."

They have to turn around at some point. They both know this. Rachel's still got New York, she's still got Yale.

Nothing has changed.

Except the sun, which is slowly dipping below that horizon.

"Where do we go from here?" she asks as she swipes her thumb under each of Rachel's eyes, wiping away tears and Maybelline Midnight Mask eyeliner.

"I don't know," Rachel answers, breathing deeply as she allows her cheeks to be cleaned. "Just…just drive," she finally says.

Quinn turns her trembling hands to the steering wheel and tightens her grip. "I can do that."