Title: Tainted Silver Shines Bright
Characters: Quinn, Rachel, Puck, Santana, Brittany, Finn
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. Just having a little fun.
Summary: It was her first day of high school. She had lost weight, reconstructed her nose, changed her name, and moved to a new city all in preparation for this day. But was it all worth it?
She had called her sister the night before her first day of high school to ask for advice. But at the first utterance of Lucy by Frannie, Quinn knew nothing useful was going to come from that phone call. So she had politely ended it with an I love you and a promise to call again soon.
The problem and solution all in one was that she was no longer Lucy Quinn Fabray. She was Quinn Fabray, an utterly different person from the girl who she had to forgo carbs and transfer schools to escape. And now that she finally had a clean slate from cruel nicknames like Lucy Caboosey, Quinn was going to forge her own damn path and turn that negative into a positive.
"Have a good day at school, honey!" Judy called excitedly from the driver's seat as Quinn unbuckled her seat belt and gathered her bag from the floor of the car. "Remember: first impressions stick," she continued, voice modifying until it was even and gravely serious, though held as much motherly warmth as one Judy Fabray could muster. "This is your chance to leave Lucy behind for good."
Her words sounded both reassuring and daunting as Quinn glanced at her new school, William McKinley High.
"You can be whoever you want to be, Quinn," were Judy's words, that somehow morphed into be who I want you to be, Quinn.
With a deep breath of preparation and a wave goodbye to her mother, Quinn stepped out of the car, wedged heels stomping onto school grounds for the first time. It still felt summertime warm out with an edge of fall creeping into the wind every so often. Quinn wore a pale yellow dress with a royal blue cardigan, tucking a straight lock of freshly dyed blonde hair behind her ear.
Her gaze ran critically over the student body as Judy drove away with a honk in the distance. It was rather easy to tell who was fresh meat and who had been here all along, veterans in the game already to Quinn's newbie status of playing catch up. After several seconds of surveying the crowd, she rolled her shoulders back and, with effort, stood tall. All of the freshmen were obvious with their scared, hunched backs and slouched shoulders.
Quinn would not be them. She wouldn't be the several Lucys she saw walking around.
Pulling her bag further along her shoulder, she walked toward the school with shoulders almost painfully tensed with the new way she was carrying herself, and a certain gait to her walk that made her look like she was sashaying across a ballroom floor.
She walked up the stairs toward the double doors to the school and a boy, stocky and kind of short in height, straightened from where he had been relaxed against one of them when he saw her. Quinn stopped short, eyes widening in nervousness at having caught his gaze. He was attractive, really attractive. The kind of guy who wouldn't have given her—Lucy the chance any day of the week, and she suddenly wondered if he had caught on. If he had seen through her façade and found out that deep down she was just a fat, ugly girl with no self-confidence.
"Holy shit," the same boy exclaimed, running a hand through his mohawk. His bottom jaw, chiseled and defined, dropped in some sort of surprise as he regarded Quinn. His gaze flicked down her body, then back up to her face. Then, he slouched back against the door, his legs widening into some form of rude display that Quinn recognized as something that was supposed to be hot. But it wasn't really doing anything for her. "You're hot," he uttered succinctly as if he had calculated her overall appeal and spat it back out at her like an adding machine.
Her smile was instantaneous and genuine as spots of red began to color her cheeks at the novelty of the statement.
A boy to her left made a sound of agreement and she flushed further, eyes alight in excitement. There were two girls who the boy with the mohawk had been talking to staring at her, a look of contempt quickly crossing their features. Quinn took her bottom teeth between her teeth, worrying it back and forth as she absorbed their glares, having seen the same looks of scorn directed at her less than a year ago as putrid insults were hurled at her. Just as she expected the girls to say something, they turned to walk inside the building without a backwards glance.
She held tight to her bag with two hands to stop herself from shaking like she was little more than a leaf.
"Don't worry about them," the boy told her as he pushed off the door towards her. "They're just jealous."
Jealous. Of her? Why one Earth would they be? Was she really that pretty? Granted, she had chosen the best nose that was offered for her rhinoplasty, but she had expected to come out of that surgery and weight loss looking average at best. But if girls as pretty as the ones who had just snubbed her were actually jealous, then…
"What's your name, babe?"
"Quinn," she replied automatically before a hint of doubt and second guessing could come into play. This was a new life, and the time to start the foundation was now.
"Quinn," he replied around a smile, sticking his hand out. "I'm Puck."
She giggled in amusement, wondering if he was lying as well. "What kind of name is that?"
He shrugged. "My real name is Noah Puckerman. I prefer Puck."
Her laugh turned into another genuine smile at the fact that her whole secret identity thing wasn't as uncommon as she had originally thought. "Well…Puck, it's nice to meet you." She felt kind of stupid calling him such a thing when Noah was actually a name and kind of suited him. But out of respect born of their shared rejection of their own names, she would always call him Puck for as long as she knew him.
He smiled and leaned back against the door once more. "I'll be seeing you around."
It sounded like a promise, one that she wasn't too sure how she felt about as she walked towards the other door and inside the school. On the one hand, he was a good looking boy, clean cut, shaven, and had a nice body. On the other hand, she was uninterested, and the thought of him evaporated, leaving only his compliment lingering in her mind as she walked down the hallway.
"As I was saying, the expression 'that's gay' is offensive to people who are gay. As you may not know seeing as this is my first day, I have two gay dads, and…" a shrill voice rang out in the hallway. Quinn winced, a scowl pulling her lips downward without her consent as she peered several feet in front of her to a girl who was running her mouth a mile a minute. She was painfully short with dark, thick hair.
"Yeah, yeah," one of the boys that the girl was talking to muttered. "Motor-mouthed freak." He and his friend beside him walked away after that and a flicker of hurt flashed across the girl's strong features. Her shoulders hunched forward, making her look both insecure and like a freshman. Apprehension twisted in Quinn's gut at the look on the girl's face, but she couldn't bring herself to look away.
Her nose was rather large, Quinn noticed with lament, remembering how her nose was very much the same months ago. The girl was…pretty, but by no classical meaning of the word. She was the type of pretty that took a while to warm up to, was what Quinn picked up on. And, as Noah Puckerman, Puck, passed by the girl without a glance in her direction after calling Quinn pretty, a form of dark amusement swirled within Quinn, sudden and without explanation, at the fact that she hadn't yet been the butt of jokes here at McKinley High. There was someone who was seemingly below her. And as Quinn grabbed her bag more firmly, chin jutting out with something akin to pride as she passed by the little girl, she vowed that whoever that girl was—she would always be lower than Quinn herself, because Quinn Fabray would never again be a Lucy.
She had found her first class, Spanish, with minimal issue and slid into the empty classroom with eagerness. She had never taken a language before and looked forward to the possibility of being fluent in another language aside from her native tongue. Plus, her father told her that speaking a second language would make her more marketable for future employment. Quinn walked to the third row of tables and took a seat. It was far away enough from the front of the room to ensure that she wouldn't be the teacher's pet that her peers had accused her of being in middle school. Yet close enough that she would be able to see…as long as she kept wearing her contacts.
The class began to file in shortly after—a mix of freshmen and upperclassmen trying to get their language requirement in before graduation; Quinn was able to notice in their different postures and attitudes. There were the eager ones who sat at the front. Sympathy that Quinn would have had for them withered as she watched them take seats.
No one had ever shown her sympathy, and she was reluctant to extend any.
Moments later a tall, long-limbed blonde walked into the room. She was graceful looking with a swan-like neck, wearing fashionable high waist shorts with large, decorated buttons fastening them, and a billowing floral top. She seemed to dance her way to Quinn and plop down next to her with a giant smile. "Hi," she greeted, smile widening into a grin at the stunned expression on Quinn's face. "I'm Brittany! Are you a freshman, too?"
Quinn could do little more than nod as Brittany twisted in her seat until she was facing her. She regarded Brittany coolly for a moment, trying to figure out her angle. Though there didn't seem to be much going on behind clear blue eyes; Quinn felt she could see right through them into…nothing. "I'm Quinn," she finally uttered.
"Awesome!" Brittany turned away to grab her bag. She unzipped it and pulled out two plastic wrapped treats. "Want one?" she offered with a warm smile as she handed one to Quinn.
On instinct, her nose turned up and she leaned away in mistrust at the offering. It looked to be a honeybun. Her eyes widened in horror. "I can't eat that," she said quickly. She had sworn off sweets of any kind months ago in order to lose weight and there was no way she was going back—not when she still felt like there was too much going on in the thigh department for her liking. She had finally made it under 140 pounds and she was determined to keep going.
A look of confusion crossed Brittany's face. "Why not? They're in season, promise. The bees in my yard used the last of the honey to make it."
She wasn't…very bright. Quinn reasoned that was why she didn't see much going on in Brittany's eyes besides an overwhelming happiness that didn't seem real. Her mousey features were impish, playful in a way that reminded Quinn of her childhood, and her lips slowly pulled into a small smile at the innocent frown on Brittany's face. "Brittany, bees don't make honeybuns," she said patiently.
"Sure they do," Brittany insisted, brow furrowing. "Don't they?"
"No, they—" she trailed off—the overhead lights of the classroom having been eclipsed by a rather large shadow—and looked up, and up, and up to find an equally large, lumbering boy staring down at her. He shifted from foot to foot in nervous energy, one hand clutching the strap of his backpack hanging from his shoulder, his other hand jammed deep into his pocket as if he had a parking meter to pay and needed change.
Quinn was immediately disinterested. She was learning that freshmen as a whole had nothing to offer except for targets on their backs. The only reason she was still entertaining Brittany was because the girl reminded her of herself…several years ago when her mental faculties were limited by age.
"Hey, uh—" he began, his jaw twitching, eyes narrowing into a look of constipation. "Hey…this seat taken?"
But he was staring at her the entire time, looking almost mesmerized, and Quinn almost smiled. "No, it's not."
He nodded. "Oh." The one word utterance hung awkwardly between them.
Brittany giggled from beside her and Quinn did smile this time. She had had no idea going into this tentative association with her fellow blonde that Brittany indulged in amusement at other's expense. It was a delicious sound, laughter directed at someone other than herself.
"He keeps staring at you," Brittany whispered, loudly enough for the boy to hear.
At her. Yes, he was indeed staring at her.
"What's your name?" Quinn asked him, lowering her voice in ways she had seen old school Hollywood actresses do in films, a la Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity. Stanwyck had convinced her insurance salesman to kill her husband—Quinn was sure she could at least coax the glandular challenged boy in front of her to give his name.
"Uh—my name—I'm Finn," he said, easing into the seat behind him to sit and face Quinn. "It's my first day and all."
A surge of incredulity at him as an overall person swept over her and her eyes rolled without her consent. It was so quick and jarring that Quinn recoiled slightly against the cold action, expecting Finn to do it back, or something far worse like stand up and embarrass her in front of the whole class—surely she wouldn't be able to get away with this act. She had been taking liberties the last half hour or so; everything felt like it was snowballing and that she was eventually going to collapse into this immovable object that was going to knock her flat on her ass and humble her once more.
Only, Finn gave this weird demure shrug that didn't fit right on his body and said, "I meant I'm a freshman."
"Us, too!" Brittany piped up, looking excited to finally be in the conversation. "What's your next class?"
They thankfully fell into their own bubble of conversation that Quinn pulled away from them, drawing in on herself. It was only the first day, the first class and she felt like she was changing. She couldn't decide whether it was good or bad, only that she felt lighter, knowing that she wasn't the outcast, the loser, the social leper…yet.
Quinn hadn't taken lunch into consideration.
She walked out of the lunch line with a tray of fruits and stared at the sea of people sitting and chattering loudly. Everyone looked like they had a friend. Her gaze swept to the left where she saw a group of people in red, white and black letterman jackets. They were the jocks, Quinn quickly realized. The football players who had tried out over the summer and the cheerleaders from last year who still had their positions on the squad. They snickered and giggled and the jocks high fived each other, looking so carefree and in charge, and dominant over everyone else.
"I'm gonna be a football player," a voice whispered into her ear. She pulled away and swiveled around to find a familiar smirk being directed toward her.
"Puck, right?" Quinn asked, a smile teasing her lips. The tension in her shoulders eased at the fact that she now didn't look like a lonely loser with him talking to her. She gestured toward the people she had been staring at on the other side of the cafeteria. "You're going to be a jock?"
"Trying out next week," he declared proudly, puffing out his chest unconsciously and Quinn's grin widened. She decidedly liked the fact that Puck was potentially going to be a part of the dominant social group in the school. "You should totally be a Cheerio."
"Excuse me?" she blurted out in confusion.
He laughed at the look on her face, then gestured back to the jocks. "The cheerleaders. They're called Cheerios."
Quinn looked over at them. They wore their hair in tight ponytails that gave them cat eyes with short, red pleated skirts, and tight tops with "WMHS" splayed provocatively along the chest. She liked it. And the more she stared at it, the more she liked it, wanted it, suddenly began to covet it in the most sinful way. But she was skeptical.
She had just come out of gymnastics, was flexible and had cultivated great hand-eye coordination, but she wasn't sure if that was enough in order to be among the elites in this school.
"I'll think about it," she sighed absentmindedly, already losing hope in herself.
"Cool. See you around, sweet thang." He flashed her one last smile as she rolled her eyes for the second time that day, that month, probably. Then Puck spun around and jogged away. "Yo, Hudson, wait up!" She watched him run off to…Finn, surprisingly, and the two walked away, getting lost in the crowd.
Quinn turned back around, lonely once more as she began walking around the tables of people. Several tables away, eating by herself, was the same small girl Quinn had seen hours ago. She was hunched over a tray of food, tossing some peas around with her spoon. The loud-mouthed, proud looking girl from hours ago looked quiet and meek now as she sat down at the table. Docile was a good look on her, Quinn decided. She was less annoying that way.
Suddenly, a hand latched onto her arm and a years-born urge to cower was stomped down with effort as Quinn attempted to square her shoulders to appear stoic. "You're coming with me. I got a table over here," the girl uttered as she pulled Quinn along. Quinn passed a last look at the girl sitting alone at the table, cursing herself for the fact that she was actually about to consider sitting with her as she was pulled along by another girl. She turned around to look at her. The girl had long, black hair trailing down her back, with clear tan skin, thin arms and legs, and about an inch or two shorter. She was thinner, Quinn noted sardonically as she was pulled along.
They arrived at an empty table and the girl sat down across from Quinn, motioning for her to do the same. "I'm Santana," she said brusquely. "A freshman. Just like you."
Quinn was offended at having been pointed out as the very thing she had been trying to avoid all day, the very bottom, last, the weak link—a freshman. "Quinn," she replied with more bite than she had intended.
Santana nodded absently. "You knew that guy?"
It took Quinn a while to catch up to the abrupt, almost rude way Santana was talking, but eventually she nodded, recalling her previous conversation with her newfound associate. "Puck. Yeah."
"He's…a nice guy."
"He's hot," Santana reiterated, eying Quinn suspiciously.
Quinn shifted, not liking the critical, narrow eyed way Santana was watching her. She was thinking, and Quinn didn't like being sized up and judged. "You gay?"
"What?" Quinn hissed out angrily, cheeks flushing pink at the question. "No! Don't ask me that again!"
It was true that she had never been attracted to a boy, really, but she was still young, only fourteen; so not being attracted to Puck, or Finn for that matter, right now did not mean she was gay. Maybe she was just a late bloomer. Things like sexual awakenings took time.
Santana hummed and leaned back in her seat, crossing her arms. "Yeah, me neither."
Quinn released a long sigh, thankful that that was over. "Okay."
Santana nodded. "Where you from?"
"Fairbrook," Quinn responded, shifting uncomfortably. "Just moved here. You?" she continued in order to steer the conversation from herself.
"Lima Heights Adjacent," Santana replied with a neck roll that Quinn recognized was meant to be intimidating. "So, don't cross me."
"I don't even know you."
"Not yet," Santana conceded with a small smile. "But you're about to." At Quinn's perplexed expression, she elaborated. "You're trying out to be a Cheerio, right?"
Quinn watched her guardedly. "Were you eavesdropping on me? Seriously?"
Santana shrugged. "Friends close, enemies closer. You'd know that law if you had come from Lima Heights."
A flare of something—anger?—resentment?—betrayal?—competition—burned brightly through her veins as her jaw clenched, and she made up her mind right then and there. "I actually am going to try-out for a spot," she replied icily.
Just then a tall, bouncing ball of energy landed before the two of them. Quinn and Santana looked up to find Brittany holding an ice cream cone in her hand with melting ice cream on top, smiling with her eyes and lips. "Hi, Quinn! It's awesome to see you again!"
The tension in her melted away at the fact that Brittany was genuinely excited to see her, and she smiled back. "Hi, Brittany."
Brittany plopped down beside her, swiping her tongue over her ice cream cone. "Who's your friend?"
Santana straightened at the question, looking detached as she eyed Brittany. "I'm Santana."
Brittany's head bounced up and down with a nod. "I'm Brittany. I'd totally shake your hand but mine's all sticky."
Quinn watched in amusement as the corners of Santana's lips ticked upwards before she stomped down her smile. "You have another hand," Santana explained.
Brittany looked down at her left hand hanging limply on her leg in astonishment. "Hey, I do!" She smoothed it down her leg then lifted it to extend across the table. "Brittany." Santana took her hand, and they stared at each other for a moment. "You can call me Brit, Britts, B—whatever."
"I like Britts," Santana said, nodding to herself.
Brittany grinned. "Sounds like glitz, right?"
"I was totally thinking that," Santana laughed.
Quinn recoiled slightly at the way they hit it off so quickly, and engrossed themselves in conversation. She certainly didn't get an introduction to nicknames.
When she tuned back into the conversation, Brittany had already invited Santana to something Quinn hadn't heard.
"Yeah, that'd be awesome," Santana said.
"We could totally have a picnic and feed the birds."
It sounded like a date, and Quinn discreetly placed an elbow on the table to angle herself away from the two of them.
"Do you wanna come too, Quinn?" Brittany asked with innocence as she leaned over Quinn's shoulder.
But her pride was already hurt so she shrugged her shoulder until Brittany stopped breathing down her neck. Curiosity trickled in her mind in the deafening silence behind her and she turned around to find both Santana and Brittany watching her with bated breath. They didn't move and it seemed as if time stood still around Quinn, everyone and everything waiting for her to react. It was an oddly heady feeling, one she had never felt before. A few months ago she couldn't even get a lab partner to help her dissect a frog and now there were two girls staring at her and waiting to find out if she was going to hang out with them.
Lips twitching at the threat of a smile, she turned fully around to face them. "Where are we going?"
Brittany's face lit up like a Christmas tree and Quinn's smile widened. "The park! We were gonna go this weekend."
"I'd like that," Quinn murmured.
She had made it through the day in one piece. And more importantly, she was eager to do it all again tomorrow. Middle school had never felt like this, she had never felt like this. In one day she had made two friends and had a confidence boost to boot. Quinn wasn't really sure where she stood on the social ladder but she was at least prettier than the two girls Puck had ditched her for at the door this morning. And that annoying, talkative girl she had seen hours ago.
Clutching her books to her chest, she rounded a corner in the hallway…and bumped right into someone. A soft grunt was heard from whoever bumped into her as they both stumbled back a few steps. Her chin shifted back and forth to take the sting away as Quinn looked down at whoever it was.
"I'm-I'm so sorry! Forgive me; I was distracted by trying to recount all the homework I have tonight. It's quite a lot, you know? I wasn't paying attention to where I was going, which is so unlike me. If there's anything my fathers have taught me, it's to always watch where I'm going because incidences like this can happen with consequences far worse than the bump I'm sure I'll have on my forehead within the next five minutes, and—"
Great. Just the way to end Quinn's day. It was the annoying, talkative girl.
"Just—stop for a minute," Quinn said evenly, taking a deep breath and releasing it.
The girl looked up with wide, dark eyes, regarding Quinn surprisingly quietly for a moment. "Gosh, you're pretty," she finally breathed.
Quinn flushed at the compliment, how genuine and different it sounded, reverent. Puck had called her hot, but it had seemed like an offhanded compliment that hadn't meant much. Finn had stared at her, speechless for long moments at a time, but he never said anything. But this girl who was easily two or more inches shorter than Quinn herself sounded so completely sincere as she stared up at Quinn, looking as if she was kneeling before. Yes, meek was a good look on her.
This girl, this nobody believed Quinn was pretty.
And Quinn almost believed her.
"Thanks," she replied flippantly.
The girl before her nodded, tucking enviably—Quinn noticed with a head tilt—thick, dark hair behind her ear before extending her hand. "I'm Rachel Berry, future Broadway starlet."
Tentatively, Quinn reached out to shake her hand. Rachel's grip was firm with soft hands that held hers briefly. "You're shaking the hand of a future star, I hope you know."
"Sure." She tried to sidestep her, but Rachel was quick to catch up.
"And your name?" she asked eagerly with eyes shining in her excitement.
Quinn's gaze flickered to the double doors down the hallway and back to Rachel. She really just wanted to leave. It was only the first day, but social circles were already being formed. She needed to be sticking to Santana who was trying out for the Cheerios and Brittany who was statuesque and beautiful yet child-like and endearing. She did not need to be sticking to—
Quinn turned around to find two boys walking past them, pointing to Rachel and laughing. They looked familiar, and a moment later she realized they were the boys Rachel had been giving a long winded rant to this morning.
She turned back to find Rachel with her arms wrapped around her middle and a weak smile on her face. "Looks like I've already got a nickname, huh?" she said with a frail laugh. "I told them I have gay dads and they call me Ru-Paul—creative."
Quinn clutched her books tighter to herself, stepping away from Rachel as if she were a leper, a Lucy. "I really have to go."
Before Rachel could even say anything Quinn took off into a light jog down the hallway toward the doors and never looking back. She ran down the stairs and toward the parking lot. Her mother was already there and she ran to the car, opened the door and stepped inside.
Panting quietly, Quinn grappled for her seat belt and buckled it as Judy pulled out of her parking space.
"How was your day, dear?" Judy asked, weaving around children congregating in various circles in the parking lot. Quinn watched them all with envy, longing for the day when she could sit outside and talk with a group of friends and drive home from school.
Her mother's question weighed heavily in her mind as Judy cleared the parking lot. She asked herself was it all worth it—losing weight, suffering through recovery after a rhinoplasty, legally changing her name, dying her hair blonde every few weeks, jabbing her eyes with contacts every day, moving to Lima. Was it all worth it to hear guys call her hot and girls call her pretty, to be the center of attention for one shining moment during lunch, to have the shot at being a Cheerio, to have a shot at dating?
"My day was great," Quinn said brightly as she stared out of the window, playing the day over and over again in her mind. "And tomorrow will be better."
She didn't really have a game plan. All she knew was that she and Santana were trying out for the Cheerios; Puck was trying out for the football team; and that, by Santana's standards, he was hot, so possibly an option.
And most importantly? Avoid Rachel Berry, future starlet at all costs. Because she was nothing but another Lucy.
And Quinn had had enough of that.