She isn't surprised when she gets slushied between third and fourth period. She was actually expecting it, given what she knows Artie's gone through over the past couple of years, and because she knows that everyone gets a kick out of her life's story, especially this latest turn of events.
Even so, it still sucks.
The ice cold drink hits her right in the face and she gasps; her hands abandon their places on the wheels on either side of her and fly up to wipe away the grape flavored mess, but she can already feel it dripping down her shirt and pooling in her lap.
She wants to roll as fast as she can to the nearest bathroom because she feels way too vulnerable in the middle of this hallway, post-slushy, but the sticky mess in her eyes is blurring her vision and she can feel her eyes stinging but she's not sure if it's from the slushy or impending tears.
She ends up trying to clear off her face the best she can but she's shivering, or maybe she's just shaking from anger and frustration because so help her God, if an ounce of slushy drips into her cast—
Suddenly her wheelchair is moving and she jumps and her hands scramble to grip the wheels, but then there's a gentle hand on her shoulder and she turns to find Rachel standing behind her.
"Quinn," she murmurs, giving her a small smile, "It's just me." Rachel begins pushing her down the hall and they reach a bathroom less than thirty seconds later, and by some miracle, it's empty. Rachel wastes no time yanking paper towels from the dispenser and running them under the faucet before handing them to Quinn. "Are you okay?" she asks quietly.
Quinn sniffs and hurls a now-sticky paper towel in the general direction of the trash bin. "Yeah, I'm great," she mutters. "My pain meds make me really drowsy so I'm glad somebody took it upon themselves to wake me up." The second paper towel bounces off the rim of the trash can.
Rachel hands her another one. "I'm sorry," she whispers, and Quinn notices that the brunette can't meet her eyes.
"It's not your fault." The moment the sentence slips from her lips it drops to the floor and shatters into a million pieces, because they both are thinking about the same thing.
If Rachel and Finn hadn't been getting married, Quinn wouldn't have been driving to the courthouse. If Rachel hadn't been texting her to hurry up, Quinn would have seen the truck coming. If Quinn had seen the truck coming, her left tibia and fibula wouldn't be broken.
She studies Rachel's expression, sees her trying to control the trembling of her bottom lip, sees the wet shine in her eyes, and she rolls herself a few inches closer. "Rachel."
The girl looks at her briefly before averting her eyes again. A single tear rolls down her cheek.
"I don't blame you."
Rachel swallows thickly and at last meets Quinn's gaze. "I blame me." She takes a shallow breath. "If I hadn't…if I had just trusted that you would be there soon, i-if I hadn't kept distracting you with the texts—"
"Rachel, stop," Quinn interrupts, rolling forward until she's directly in front of the brunette, and her eyes are hard. "I didn't have to respond to your messages, and the other driver didn't have to blow through the stop sign, but I did and he did and here we are, so there's no point in either of us exhausting ourselves with regrets."
Rachel is silent for a while. "Can I tell you a secret?" she finally asks, and her voice is heavy, like she loathes herself for what she's about to say. Quinn just looks up at her. "Whenever I see this ring on my finger," she begins, fiddling with the metal band as she struggles to suppress her tears, "I think…" She pauses and lets out a shaky sigh. "I think about you. And the accident. And how scared I was when Sue told us what happened." Her face is crumpling. "How scared I was that I might have lost you forever." A breath shudders through her lungs and Quinn can see her hands shaking. "I don't think about Finn. Not even a little."
The look on her face is killing Quinn, so much so that all she wants to do is hug Rachel and never let go, but since she's physically incapable, she settles for taking the girl's hand in both of hers and brushing her thumbs gently over the back of Rachel's palm. After a moment Rachel's other hand joins and they stay like that for the longest time, holding on to each other tighter than either of them thought possible.
When Quinn starts shivering because of the slushy mess still covering her shirt and lap, Rachel gives her the smallest of smiles and squeezes her hands once more before releasing them.
"We should finish cleaning you up." She picks up the used paper towels from the floor and tosses them into the garbage. "I have some extra clothes in my locker—"
"Actually," Quinn says, cutting her off again, "I brought some of my own. Just in case." She twists around in her chair and unhooks the straps of her bag from the back, then rifles through it and pulls out a pair of Cheerios sweatpants and a red WMHS t-shirt. For a moment she fiddles with the hem of the shirt. "My mom's been helping me get dressed in the morning," she mumbles, licking her lips before glancing at Rachel shyly.
Realization dawns on the brunette's face. "Do you need me to help you change?"
Quinn wants to say she can do it on her own because she hates asking for help, hates being dependent on people, but she can't get the word "No" out of her throat.
Rachel's expression softens and she takes the shirt and pants from Quinn. "Just tell me what you need me to do."
Quinn thinks for a moment and then eyes the door warily. "Can we…can we go in the handicap stall? I don't want somebody to walk in."
The brunette nods. "Of course. Whatever makes you the most comfortable." She holds the stall door open for Quinn and then follows her in and locks it behind her.
Quinn positions her wheelchair in the corner. "Can you lock the wheels for me?"
Rachel crouches down to toggle the metal contraptions and Quinn takes her shirt off—she might as well start here since it's the only thing she doesn't need assistance with—and when Rachel stands back up, she clears her throat like she's about to choke on something.
"Hand me my shirt?" Quinn asks, and she trades the soiled garment for the clean one while Rachel's eyes remain determinedly on the floor. "Okay, here's where I kind of…" She doesn't finish her sentence; the phrase "I need help" has tasted sour on her tongue ever since she was a little girl, a product of her Fabray upbringing.
But Rachel is already in front of her again, holding out a ready hand, and her expression is warm and kind, rather than the pitying looks her mother has been giving her since she got out of the hospital.
Quinn grips the metal bar on the wall next to her with one hand and takes Rachel's with the other and slowly heaves herself into a standing position with as much grace as possible. She steadies her weight on her right foot, her hand moving to clutch Rachel's shoulder as she does so, and tries not to grimace at the stiff pain that ricochets down her casted leg.
She lets go of the girl's shoulder while still holding on to the bar and uses her newly freed hand to begin to pull her pants down; it's awkward not being able to use both hands, but she's not about to ask Rachel to do it for her.
Once the waistband hits the top edge of the cast, however, she has no choice. "Can you…?" she asks, once again unable to finish the question, and she can feel a blush creeping over her cheeks.
Rachel nods and licks her lips as she kneels in front of Quinn, who holds on to the girl's shoulder as she hooks her thumbs inside the waistband and pulls. Quinn lets out a deep breath of relief as the cold, soggy material separates from her thighs and tries not to over-think the fact that Rachel is seeing her so intimately right now.
"Lift?" Rachel asks when she gets the pants down to her ankles and Quinn carefully obeys, lifting her injured leg a few extra inches until it's completely out of the pants, and then she sits back down in the chair and takes care of the rest herself.
Rachel grabs the clean pants without prompting and bunches up the left leg so Quinn can stick her foot through the hole. "This must be really frustrating," she says suddenly, letting Quinn take over pulling the pants up to her knees.
"I'm trying not to think about it too much," she mutters. She pulls herself upright one more time with Rachel's help and gets the pants on all the way then all but collapses back into the chair; between the meds and the physical strain of standing up and sitting down, she's exhausted.
Rachel gathers the slushy-covered pants and shirt, opens the stall door, and goes to put them back in the bag. Quinn makes to follow her out but when her hands try to roll the wheels she realizes her chair is still locked. Her heart begins to race and her breath catches in her throat and her eyes are burning again and a part of her really hopes these frigging meds are just making her overemotional. "Rachel, wait," she blurts, her voice unsteady and frantic, and the brunette is in front of her in seconds.
Quinn swallows. "Can you unlock the wheels?" she chokes out, and she's gripping them so tightly that her knuckles are white.
Rachel obeys and the moment she feels the locks release, she rolls out of the stall as fast as she can and has to jerk herself to an abrupt stop before she collides with a sink. She grips the porcelain in front of her, her head down as she tries to steady her breathing, and after a moment there's a gentle hand on her back.
"Quinn?" Rachel says softly.
Her lungs shudder a little as tears begin to fall from her glassy eyes. "I feel so trapped," she whispers through the lump in her throat, and Rachel's hand begins to move back and forth. She waits for Rachel to say something but the brunette remains silent. She sniffs and closes her eyes. "Thank you."
The girl's hand briefly pauses on her back. "For what?"
Quinn sits up and wipes away some of the moisture on her cheeks before finally facing Rachel. "For not saying sorry again."
Rachel looks miserable again. "Quinn, I…"
Quinn plants her right foot on the tile floor, heaves herself up using the edge of the sink for support, and plants a firm kiss on Rachel's lips. She pulls away and looks her square in the eye. "Don't even think about it."