Author's Note: Another prequel in the Don't Blink 'verse. Set before My Life Before Me Undone. It covers the Finchel break-up, and poor Quinn has a little angst, too, but just remember that she does eventually get her happy ending. Feedback is appreciated.

Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or the characters, I just like to play with them…strictly non-profit.

She Will Be Next To Me

In the end everyone ends up alone
Losing her, the only one who's ever known
Who I am, who I'm not, and who I want to be
No way to know how long she will be next to me
~You Found Me, The Fray

When Quinn Fabray gets off the bus at the Port Authority Terminal in Midtown, Kurt Hummel is waiting for her. He's leaning against a nearby wall, wearing the latest Marc Jacobs with his hair perfectly styled, arms crossed, and nose wrinkled in disdain as he passes silent judgment on the rumpled travelers dragging past him. He looks exactly the same as always, and that isn't entirely a good thing. They're not the best of friends—more like polite acquaintances. They've hardly been in touch since graduation last spring (and really why should they be?), but they do have something in common, and her name is Rachel Berry.

Kurt catches sight of her, and he straightens away from the wall, losing a bit of his superior attitude as he smiles in relief. He walks toward her and they meet awkwardly in the middle. "Thank heavens you're finally here," he says dramatically, reaching out for the bag that she's lugging over her shoulder without even asking. Quinn lets him slide it down her arm without complaint, because even if it isn't that heavy, it's still a burden that she doesn't particularly want to juggle on her weary legs as she navigates through the crowds of New York City.

"Nice to see you too, Kurt," she drawls sarcastically. "I had a lovely trip, thank you for asking."

He huffs indignantly, rolling his eyes. "Honey, your clothes are wrinkled, your hair is a mess, and you smell like cigarettes, stale beer, and whatever other unfortunate substances were embedded in the seat of that bus you were stuck on for two hours. That," he waves his hand up and down her body, "is hardly the result of a lovely trip."

Her eyes narrow on his smug, little baby-face. "Do you seriously want me to punch you right now?"

"It is wonderful to see you again, Quinn," he admits with a genuine smile, and she lets a bit of her annoyance slip away. She sags a little, pushing her hands through her (agreeably) messy hair before tucking it back behind her ears. She's tired, hungry, and loathe to admit that Kurt is right about the stench of sweat and grime that's clinging to her skin and clothes from the bus. She must be crazy to have instantly put her life in New Haven on hold in order to come to New York, but she just couldn't stay away.

"How is she?" Quinn asks quietly, trying her best to ignore the knots in her stomach that have been pulling steadily tighter for the last two days.

Kurt shrugs and shakes his head. "She keeps saying that she's fine, but she was a sobbing mess Wednesday night, and she's skipped all of her classes for the last two days." His frown deepens and his blue eyes glisten with concern. "She just won't talk to me about it at all," he frets.

"Do you blame her?" Quinn snaps unthinkingly, regretting it the moment the words leave her mouth. She takes a steadying breath and focuses on her acting skills—unaffected indifference. She's a master by now. "He's your stepbrother, Kurt. Your loyalties are kind of split."

"Not nearly as much as you might think," he informs her, sighing heavily, "but I know that's how Rachel is probably feeling right now. Which is why you're here," he reminds her a little bitterly, spinning on his heel and taking off through the masses, presumably in the direction the exit. Quinn rolls her eyes at his little hissy-fit, but follows behind him without a word. She knows that Kurt is upset and feeling helpless right now, unable to really help two of the people he cares most about because he's firmly stuck between them.

Quinn doesn't have that particular problem. No—her role in all of this is far more complicated, just like her current relationship with Rachel.

She tugs her jacket a little tighter around herself as they exit the Port Authority. It's late March and the weather is growing steadily warmer, but the wind still has a bite that sends a chill racing through her. Kurt flags a taxi, and she sighs in relief, grateful that she won't have to walk uptown to the NYADA campus. The city's pretty manageable on foot, even more so by subway, but Quinn's endurance is still a bit thready after— well, the last year has been really hard for her, in a multitude of ways.

She slides into the backseat of the taxi next to Kurt and listens as he recites the address to the driver. Quinn squints at the license on display on the dashboard. She's never seen that many consonants in a name. The taxi jerks into motion, literally slamming her back into her seat, and she instinctively grips onto the door handle as the driver honks his horn and forcibly merges into the congested traffic. Kurt glances over at her and chuckles. "You get used to it."

"I'd rather not," she mutters, fighting to keep her frayed nerves from completely unraveling. Quinn stares out the window at the city, forcing her thoughts away from the motion of the car and the vehicles around them.

She shouldn't be here. Her life is in New Haven now, and she's just beginning to figure things out and get really comfortable with who she's becoming. Being this close to Rachel again is only going to stir up all of her confused feelings from high school.

Okay, that's a lie. Those feeling get stirred up at least once a week, whenever Rachel emails her or texts her or calls her. They'd spent a lot of time together over the summer, and they've been in fairly constant contact since they'd gone off to their separate colleges. They even Skype once or twice a month. Who would have thought that Rachel Berry would turn out to be one of her closest friends? The problem is—Quinn wants more. She's wanted more for longer than she cares to admit, but she's only really been able to put a name to it within the last year, beginning right around the time that Rachel had accepted Finn Hudson's marriage proposal. Just her fucking luck.

And then the accident had happened, and she'd had to deal with more important things than her unrequited feelings for Rachel and what they meant in regards to her suddenly, not-so-easily-defined sexuality. For a while, Quinn had been focused on her recovery—mending ribs, healing bones, and seemingly never-ending months of physical therapy to regain the use of her legs—and catching up weeks of schoolwork so that she could graduate with the rest of her class. The goal had been to walk again, right out of Lima and into Yale, and she'd done just that—a little shakily perhaps, but she'd done it. And Rachel had been standing right beside her for every tentative step, offering her hand in friendship just the way she'd been doing all along. Quinn used to have the strength to slap that hand away, but she doesn't anymore. Now she has to fight the desire to tangle her fingers with Rachel's and never let go.

The engagement ring usually kills that urge pretty quickly.

The ring that is (conceivably) absent now.

Because Rachel and Finn have broken up.

Quinn found out yesterday. She'd been in the middle of her Classical Mythologies class, listening to what she considered to be a very interesting lecture on the role of Athena in ancient Greek culture, when she'd received the text message, but she hadn't actually read it until twenty minutes later when the class ended. Her instantaneous, reflexive smile upon seeing Rachel's name flash on her screen had frozen in place before disappearing entirely once her brain finally caught up with her eyes.

It's over with Finn.

Her finger had landed on the speed dial before she'd even thought the action through, and it was only when she heard the first trill after the call connected that she began to question what she was even going to say to Rachel. It's not like a Finchel break-up had been completely out of the blue. For weeks—months, really—Quinn had been picking up little clues that life with Finn wasn't as wonderful as Rachel had anticipated, but she'd learned not to dwell on those fanciful notions for the sake of her own sanity. Finn and Rachel were a package deal, for better or worse—mostly worse—and while they might argue and dance around in an endless circle of break-ups and make-ups, they were never going to move on from one another.

For a few glorious weeks last year, Quinn had been teased with the possibility that Finn and Rachel might go their separate ways after graduation. Things between them had turned sour when Finn had actually started considering what he might want to do with his future that didn't necessarily include New York. Quinn remembers the cold looks and childish words exchanged back and forth between them, but frankly, she'd been struggling with being stuck in her wheelchair and painful therapy sessions, and she just couldn't deal with their drama at the time. Of course, they'd eventually worked it out—or glossed it over—and gone right back to being the happy couple planning their future together. So even before Rachel had answered her phone, Quinn had resigned herself to the probability that this was only a temporary snag in their epic love affair, and they'd likely be back together in a week—a month tops

Quinn still believes that, which makes her presence in New York even more masochistic, but she's here because she can't shake the feeling (maybe it's hope) that this time will be different. Kurt said that Rachel had cried when it happened, but she hadn't broken down on the phone with Quinn. Her voice had wavered a little from time to time, but after verbally repeating that it was over and admitting that Finn had been the one to end it, Rachel had insisted that she didn't want to talk about it anymore and had begged Quinn to distract her by telling her about her week instead. Quinn had felt lost and impotent, stuck eighty miles away and unable to offer her friend any real comfort, but she'd done as Rachel had asked and then promptly called Kurt the minute that she'd hung up with Rachel.

'Do you think you can come to New York for a day or two? She needs a friend, Quinn. Someone who understands what she's going through with Finn. She won't give me any details, but maybe she'll open up to you.'

Kurt's concern had been as evident as his resentment that he'd needed to ask Quinn for help. He doesn't fully understand or trust her friendship with Rachel, but Quinn doesn't care. In the grand scheme of things, it's not any stranger than Rachel's friendship with him.

"Finn is moving back to Lima," Kurt reveals into the silence, and Quinn turns to gape at him with wide eyes. She wasn't expecting that, and she doesn't know what to do with the revelation that this break-up might be permanent.

"What really happened between them, Kurt?"

He shrugs. "They've been fighting for months about...well, everything really, but mostly about how often they're not seeing one another. Neither of them will say exactly what the tipping point was, but I have my suspicions."

"Which are?"

He stares at her for a moment, seemingly contemplating how much he should say. "Rachel has been spending a lot more time with friends from school, one of whom is of the straight, male, and extremely talented variety."

"He dumped her because he's being a jealous asshole?" she asks bitingly.

"I think it might be a little more complicated than that."

Quinn curls her hands into fists and glares at Kurt. "No wonder Rachel doesn't want to confide in you, since you apparently think she's been cheating on Finn."

"I didn't say that," he snaps back with a scowl. "I don't actually believe that she's been unfaithful, but I can't deny that she's been less available to Finn since we've been in New York."

"Boo-hoo. Poor Finn, it must be so rough, not being the center of Rachel's world anymore," Quinn growls. Kurt's lips thin as he regards her accusingly, and she takes a deep breath to calm herself down, but she won't apologize to Kurt, of all people, for voicing her opinion.

"Finn is far from innocent," Kurt admits, "but he's hurting too. I think we can both agree that this was all bound to happen eventually, but assigning blame isn't going to make either of them feel any better. If you're just planning to insult Finn in front of Rachel, you might as well get right back on a bus to New Haven."

"My only plan is to support Rachel," Quinn coolly informs him, "but if she tosses out the first insult, I can't make any promises."

Kurt rolls his eyes. "Fair enough, but don't hold your breath. This is still Rachel."

"Yeah, I know," she mutters, slumping against her seat and turning back toward the window. Rachel is still Rachel, and Quinn knows that she's probably blaming herself for everything and trying to figure out the best way to apologize to Finn in order to get him back. She props her chin against her fist with a quiet huff and glares at the traffic outside.

Eventually, they pull up to the building that houses the NYADA freshmen dorms, and Kurt pays the driver as Quinn stumbles out of the car. She glances up at the building, biting her lip as her stomach begins to do nervous somersaults. She's never been here, despite the many tentative invitations from Rachel that she'd successfully evaded. The very thought of being in New York and seeing Rachel's new life with Finn play out in front of her eyes had left a bitter taste in her mouth. Now she's about to step into a place and situation that's completely unfamiliar to her.

Kurt leads her inside, sending a friendly wave to the young man sitting at the security desk and punches the elevator button. After the doors slide open, Quinn watches him press the button for two and tries not to feel annoyed that he just assumed she wouldn't be able to climb one flight of stairs. She's not that fucking broken. Not anymore.

They're standing in front of Rachel's door in less than a minute, and Quinn swallows thickly and tries to prepare herself for seeing Rachel in person for the first time since their short, coinciding visits to Lima over winter break. Kurt knocks once, twice, calling Rachel's name as he knocks for the third time, and the door finally swings open.

Quinn catches her breath at the sight of Rachel. She's wearing yoga pants and tee-shirt with a picture of a kitten on it, and her hair is pulled back into a messy ponytail. Her face is scrubbed clean of makeup, and her eyes are bloodshot and sporting dark circles beneath them. Quinn has only ever seen Rachel like this once before, and she was lying on her back in a hospital bed and pumped full of morphine at the time. Her gaze falls helplessly to Rachel's left hand as it dangles at her side and notices her bare ring finger. Her stomach tightens and her heart misses a beat, but she pushes that reaction aside quickly, because the moment Rachel registers Quinn's presence, her face crumbles and she lunges forward, throwing her arms around Quinn with a muffled sob.

Quinn wraps her own arms around Rachel's waist, fighting the desire to pull her closer. She glances worriedly at Kurt, only to see him looking ready to cry as well. She shakes her head a little and starts to rub gentle circles on Rachel's back. "It's okay, Rach," she soothes. "You're okay. I'm here."

Always. Forever. However you want me.

"What are you doing here?" Rachel mumbles into her shoulder. "You have classes today."

Quinn smiles a little, shrugging. "You're more important."

Rachel either laughs or sobs—Quinn can't quite tell the difference— before she lets go and backs away, sniffling pathetically and rubbing her eyes as Quinn steps inside the room. Rachel takes a quick sidestep and slaps Kurt lightly on the shoulder when he follows Quinn. "You shouldn't have asked her to come. She can't afford to miss classes."

"Neither can you," he reminds her gently.

"I wanted to come, Rachel," Quinn cuts in. "I'm not here because of Kurt." Not even a little bit. "I'm here because you're," so important to me, "my friend. You wouldn't talk to me about anything important on the phone, and I'm worried about you."

"There's nothing to be worried about," she huffs in exasperation, crossing her arms. "I believe that I made it perfectly clear to the both of you that I don't want to talk about what happened. Finn and I...we...we're over," and her voices catches a little there. "And of course, I'm sad about it, but I don't need you to hover over me while I mourn over my failed relationship."

Kurt shakes his head. "You obviously need something, honey." He flings out his hand at Rachel's attire. "You look..."

"Kurt," Quinn barks, cutting him off before he says something to make Rachel feel worse. For a gay man, he's about as considerate as—well, Finn. "You know, I haven't eaten anything since breakfast, and I'm a little hungry. I think we passed a Chinese restaurant on the way here, and I have a sudden craving for Vegetable Fried Rice. What about you, Rach?" she asks with an encouraging smile.

She looks into watery brown eyes and watches Rachel's shoulders rise and fall with a grateful breath as she catches her lower lip between her teeth. Rachel nods slowly. "I...I think I'd like that."

Quinn's smile turns into a semi-sneer as she looks at Kurt. "Be a dear and go get us something to eat, Kurt," she directs with a glare worthy of a former Cheerio captain.

"Fine," he grumbles, dropping Quinn's bag onto the floor and shooting her a warning look. "I'll be back in a bit."

Once he's gone, Quinn is left alone with Rachel, and she suddenly feels extremely nervous. She shoves her hands into the pockets of her jacket and uncomfortably shifts the entirety of her weight onto her right leg. Rachel immediately catches the movement and frowns. She shuffles over to the tiny, twin bed across the room and sits, silently gesturing to the chair tucked under the adjacent desk. Quinn appreciates the subtle attempt to coddle her without drawing too much attention to it, so she walks over and sits, shrugging out of her jacket and swiveling the chair to face Rachel.

She glances around the small room for a moment. It's a single—funded by Rachel's fathers in a blatant attempt at bribery to delay their daughter's pending wedding until after she finishes college. Kurt and Finn are sharing a crappy apartment near the campus with the same sort of compromise—a little financial assistance with the rent from Burt and Carol as long as Finn keeps a job and is willing to wait a few years to get married—but Quinn knows that Rachel has typically spent more time at their apartment than in the dorm.

She doesn't know what the boys' place looks like, but if it's even a little bigger than this room, then Quinn completely understands why Rachel would prefer to stay there. Even sitting here now is playing havoc with her claustrophobia. There isn't a window, and the desk is crammed between the head of the bed and the door. At the foot of the bed are thin sliding doors that Quinn assumes to be a closet, but there's virtually no walking space between that and the bed. A three-drawer dresser occupies the wall next to the closet, and a small television sits on top of it. A bookshelf runs the short length of the fourth wall, and is overflowing with books and DVDs.

There's no private bathroom.

Quinn leans back in her chair, idly twisting it back and forth as she regards Rachel. "So, are you going to tell me the truth now?" she asks mildly.

Rachel's back stiffens, and she tilts her chin up defiantly. "I don't know what you mean."

The frustrated breath that Quinn puffs out tickles her overgrown bangs. She can see the pain in Rachel's eyes, the slight trembling of her lower lip, and the way she keeps absently rubbing at her naked finger. The sight is breaking her own heart as surely as Finn has broken Rachel's.

"You listened to me talk about my paper on existentialism for thirty minutes yesterday just to avoid talking about what happened with Finn. That isn't like you, Rach." While she's always interested in whatever Quinn has to say, Rachel is usually the one to dominate their conversations, chattering about her classes and whatever amazing adventure she's had in New York. The lack of that yesterday was alarming—almost as alarming as the flatness of her eyes right now. "I know you. I know how much you're hurting. Talk to me. Please," she begs, horrified at the way her voice breaks ever so slightly.

Rachel doesn't notice though, because tears slip down over her cheeks again, and her body curls into a protective posture, shoulders shaking. Quinn can't bear it, and she's off the chair and on the mattress beside Rachel before she consciously decides to move. She gathers Rachel into her arms, letting her curve into her own body from cheek to hips.

"Oh, Rach," Quinn whispers helplessly.

Rachel's right arm curls around Quinn's waist as she sniffles into her shoulder. "I…I feel like s-such…a…a f-failure," she chokes out between quiet sobs.

Quinn feels her hackles rise. "Don't. You are not a failure," she says forcefully. "You're the most driven, talented person that I've ever known. You're going to do so many amazing things, Rachel. Don't you dare let whatever the hell Finn Hudson said or did make you think otherwise," she spits out, saying Finn's name with contempt, despite telling Kurt that she'd try to be nice.

"It isn't that," Rachel begins, pulling out of Quinn's arms and wiping her cheeks with her fingertips. She exhales tiredly, staring at the wall across from them.

"He hates it here in New York. Did you know that?" Rachel asks rhetorically, voice quiet and without inflection. "He hates his job. He hates the noise of the city and the crowds. He hates riding the subway. He hates having to count every penny and skip meals and only buy the essentials in order to pay his share of the rent. Nearly every day for the last three months, I've been reminded that he's here because of me…for my dreams…and the least that I can do is make time for him. As if I haven't been," she huffs with growing emotion. "As if I didn't pass up a class that I really wanted to take this semester because it conflicted with Finn's schedule. Or stay up until two in the morning working on scenes and assignments just to make the extra hours in my day to spend with Finn."

Quinn digs her nails into her palm and clenches her jaw as she watches Rachel breathe through her frustration. There are a dozen nasty things that she's dying to say about Finn, but she bites back the urge, a little proud at how calm she sounds when she asks, "It's been that bad?"

If Finn Hudson were here right now, Quinn would slap him. Why couldn't he have set Rachel free last year instead of dragging this all out and making it even more painful for everyone? Quinn knew this was going to happen. She just knew that Finn would end up disappointing Rachel.

"Please don't say that you told me this would happen," Rachel pleads, and Quinn inhales sharply, quickly rewinding the last few seconds in her mind to make sure she didn't say any of what she was thinking out loud. She realizes with a start that she didn't. Rachel is just that in tune with her thoughts. "Because I know, okay? Y-you told me that if I really wanted to be happy, I'd have say goodbye to Finn," she finishes on a tremulous whisper.

"Is that why you didn't want to talk to me about this?" Quinn wonders, not bothering to mask the hurt she's feeling. "Rachel, when I said all of that," she pauses and swallows heavily, trying not to remember the dizzy feeling of despair that she'd felt in that bathroom last year—the desperation to get Rachel to say no. She hadn't even fully understood her own motives at the time for wanting Rachel to end it with Finn. "I just wanted you to go after your dreams and not let anything hold you back," she says sincerely, ignoring the more complicated reasons. "And, yeah, maybe I didn't understand how you could be so sure about Finn when we're all still so young, but," and it really pains her to say this, "you were happy, and I...that's all I really wanted. I just want you to be happy."

Quinn has (mostly) accepted that she's never going to be the person that makes Rachel happy for the rest of her life. She's going to be Rachel's best friend, and they'll share snapshots of happiness that will fill pages of a scrapbook but never complete a whole picture.

Someday, Quinn will stand beside Rachel at her wedding and watch her marry the love of her life—hopefully someone that will really deserve her—and Quinn will be happy because Rachel is happy. She'll be the godmother of Rachel's children, and send them gifts on their birthdays and Christmas and watch them grow into miniature versions of their mother and adore the hell out of them for that reason alone. With any luck, Quinn will eventually meet someone amazing who will love her for all of her imperfections, and she'll let go of impossible dreams and enjoy all of the wonderful things that she does have. And one day, years from now, she and Rachel will be reminiscing about the good old days over coffee, and Quinn will confess that she used to be a little bit in love with Rachel, and they'll both laugh about it and move on.

Right now, however, Rachel is looking at her with wide, sparkling eyes, and for just a moment, Quinn lets herself imagine that the affection that she can see shining in them so clearly could grow into something more.

"I think that's what makes this even harder," Rachel confesses with a sad smile. "I know that you said all of those things because you care. I asked you for your opinion, knowing what your advice would be, and I...I didn't listen."

Rachel sighs and pushes herself back on the bed until her back is against the wall, and she tucks her feet up and wraps her arms around her knees. Quinn follows her lead, leaning against the wall but leaving her legs stretched out straight along the mattress with her heels hanging out over the edge.

"Finn and I...we were happy…for a while. When we first arrived, I was so excited to start my future…our future," she corrects guiltily, shaking her head in frustration. "I thought that we were finally on the same page. But he...he's just been...resenting me the whole time. I…I just really wanted to be that girl, Quinn," she says brokenly. "The one that a guy will sacrifice anything for…follow to the ends of the earth because she's his entire world."

Her words, infused with so much yearning, are like arrows into Quinn's heart, and she wants so badly to reach over and pull Rachel back into her arms, tell her that she is that girl—Finn just wasn't that guy. Instead, she settles for shuffling closer on the mattress and lifting her hand to gently run her fingertips over Rachel's shoulder in what she prays is a comforting gesture. "Rach," she breathes, uncertain what she could say that will make Rachel understand how truly desirable she is without laying her own heart bare.

Rachel shifts, dropping her knees and lightly knocking the back of her head against the wall. "I know. I was selfish and immature, and I can't blame Finn for feeling like my dreams are more important than his," she fires out rapidly.

Quinn's fingers tighten around her biceps. "Stop! Just...stop right there," she demands with a frown. The tone of her voice draws Rachel's attention like a siren. "What dreams has Finn Hudson ever had? Dreams that mattered enough that he actually put some effort into them?" she clarifies angrily. "God, he''s not your fault that he can't figure out something better to do with his life than...wait tables at some shitty restaurant," she growls.

Rachel bites her lip. "Actually, it's an excellent restaurant and the tips are quite impressive."

Quinn ignores the weak defense, drilling her gaze into Rachel's eyes in the hope that it will force her words through. "Finn has to find his own path to follow, Rachel. Maybe it'll run parallel to yours or maybe it won't, but you can't drag him along behind you any more than he can stand in your way. Anyone who's ever known you knows that you belong here, in New York…on stage and doing what you were born to do." Quinn's hand slides down Rachel's arm until her fingers can curl around Rachel's hand, and she squeezes. "If Finn really loves you, he...he should want to lift you up and help you soar, not tether you to the ground."

Rachel is looking at her with that look again—the one that makes her stupid heart do back-flips and her mind conjure up fantasies of the two of them walking hand-in-hand through the park and kissing under a clear blue sky. Impossible dreams.

"I still love him," Rachel whispers wretchedly, destroying the moment.

Quinn draws in a deep breath and swallows down her emotion. "I know you do, sweetie," she chokes out, keeping her voice as even as possible. "Maybe...maybe you just...need a break, and after some time could..." She's trying so hard to be encouraging—to tell Rachel that there could still be a chance for her to work things out with Finn—but the words just don't want to pass through her lips. And then Rachel saves her the trouble.

"He cheated on me."

The words are barely audible, but Quinn hears them loud and clear. "What?" she asks incredulously.

Rachel swallows heavily, sniffling back another round of tears. "He...he had...r-relations with a woman he works with at the restaurant. He admitted it."

"Fucking bastard! I'll castrate him," Quinn growls, slipping her hand out of Rachel's so that she doesn't accidentally dig her nails into her friend's skin while she imagines forcibly relieving Finn fucking Hudson of his man-bits.

Rachel lets out a short, sad laugh, shaking her head. "He swears that...that it only happened once. That he got caught up in a moment. That she made him feel...special."

"He actually said that to you?" When Rachel nods jerkily, Quinn hisses, "Asshole!" Rachel wraps her arms around her midriff and squeezes her eyes closed as she fights to stay composed, and Quinn's heart twists. She can't help herself—she slips an arm around Rachel's waist and tugs her closer, happier than she should be when Rachel curls into her side and rests her head on Quinn's shoulder.

Rachel cries for a good five minutes, and Quinn rubs her back and mumbles soothing words, straight from her heart, though Rachel will never realize. She tells her how beautiful she is, how special, how stupid Finn is, and that he never deserved her. When Rachel finally calms and her breathing returns to normal, Quinn whispers into her hair, "Are you okay?"

Rachel shrugs. "I'm probably less of a mess than I should be, all things considered."

Quinn thinks that she's a beautiful mess. She only hopes that Rachel will finally be able to let go of Finn Hudson, once and for all. "Wait," Quinn mutters with a frown. "If Finn is the cheating bastard, then why is he the one that broke off the engagement?"

Rachel laughs then, albeit a bit weakly. "You wouldn't consider an admitted infidelity that your fiancé claims is the result of your own inattentiveness to be an effective way of ending an engagement?"

Quinn doesn't answer, and Rachel sighs. She lifts her head but doesn't move out of Quinn's embrace. "I...I asked him how he could do that to me. How he could want someone else when he's supposed to be in love with me. He claims it was because I haven't made him feel wanted in months. Then we argued again about how much time I've been spending with...with other people and how he wishes we were back in Lima, and then we both said some things that we really shouldn't have said, culminating in Finn saying that he doesn't like the person that I'm becoming and he no longer believes that he can marry me."

Quinn listens to it all with a growing sense of disbelief. She's always known that Finn could be selfish and has a major problem admitting when he's wrong, but she never thought he could be quite this callously moronic. If she was lucky enough to have Rachel Berry love her, she'd do everything and anything in her power to make her happy—make their relationship work. She'd never go looking for some quickie to make her feel better about herself. No—she'd only ever done that with silly boys that she didn't really love. "I'm sorry," she finally manages to mutter.

"Do you want to know the worst part?" Rachel muses. "I actually like who I am right now. I've never felt more...comfortable with myself. And if Finn doesn't like this version of me...who did he really want to marry?"

She turns to look at Quinn with wide, questioning eyes, and Quinn realizes that it isn't a rhetorical question. Rachel really wants to hear her answer. "He wanted the girl who sang him love songs; the one who fought tooth and nail with the head cheerleader to win his heart," she says with a crooked smile. "He wanted to be the most important thing in your life, Rachel. And maybe that was enough to make you both happy in high school,'re so much more than that girl." Quinn isn't ignorant to the fact that she's echoing words that Rachel has said to her on more than one occasion.

Rachel's lips curve into a truly genuine smile. "Well, at least one really good thing came out of all the drama."

"What's that?"

"You," Rachel says simply, and Quinn's heart flips again. "You really are my best friend, Quinn."

Of course. Best friend. "Don't tell Kurt," she jokes weakly.

Rachel smiles. "I won't if you won't."

Quinn sighs, tightening her arm around Rachel's waist in a supportive side-hug. "You're gonna to be okay, Rach. You know that, right?'ll get over Finn Hudson. Trust me, I know."

"Thank you, Quinn. For...for being here. For caring about me."

"Always, Rach," she whispers around the lump in her throat.

Rachel leans a little more heavily into Quinn's side, dropping her head back down onto her shoulder and resting her hand on the top of Quinn's thigh. It's glorious torture, and Quinn closes her eyes and prays for her body not to react inappropriately. These moments are the best and worst thing about her friendship with Rachel. As they'd grown closer last year and over the summer, Rachel had gotten progressively more physically affectionate, and Quinn has become progressively more certain that she's very, very gay for Rachel.

She knows that the end of Finn and Rachel isn't going to be some wonderful beginning to her own epic love story where she lives happily ever after with the girl of her dreams. She knows this, and still she basks in those few precious minutes of holding Rachel in her arms until Rachel inevitably pulls away from Quinn, wholly unaffected by their closeness.

Quinn knows, after she tries to lighten the mood by asking Rachel about her friends at school—friends who have been mentioned in the abstract but never in detail—and the name Daniel is spoken more than once, each time with a particularly telling inflection in Rachel's voice, that perhaps Finn's jealousy wasn't completely unfounded. She knows that Rachel never cheated on Finn, but she also knows that it's only a matter of time before she'll be moving on, and it won't be with Quinn.

When Kurt eventually returns with their dinner, they sit around in an awkward triangle and talk about everything that has nothing to do with Finn Hudson, and Kurt shoots Quinn a grateful smile because Rachel is talking and laughing again. When Rachel says that she'll be okay, they both believe her. Kurt leaves a few hours later, and Quinn spends the night in Rachel's bed, surrounded by the scent of her while Rachel gallantly sleeps on the floor, wrapped up in a quilt.

It's the story of Quinn's life—so close to touching happiness but never able to bridge those final inches.

She knows that she'll spend the next two days in New York, distracting Rachel from her heartbreak while she tortures herself with the taste of what will never be hers. She will smile and ignore her unrequited feelings and promise to visit again soon. She'll keep that promise, believing that it will be easier now that Finn is out of the picture. She'll be wrong.

And when Sunday comes around, Quinn will share a hug with Rachel that lasts just a little too long before climbing on a bus back to New Haven, and she'll close her eyes and think about how far she's come and how much further she has to go.