Disclaimer: Unfortunately the characters do not belong to me, I'm just borrowing them for fun.
Authors Note: This is just my imagining of Faberry in college without a certain person around to control and poison those around him.
Quinn Fabray and Rachel Berry were nestled in a corner of a coffee shop, meeting up for the first time since graduation. Conversation flowed faster than Rachel's coffee and, to her delight, Quinn had been the main culprit of gasped interruptions and animated stories. Quinn seemed different to Rachel. Relaxed. Free. Everything she hadn't been for the majority of high school.
Had it really been six months since they'd last seen each other?
Due to her body language and the way she carried herself with such confidence, Quinn looked several years older than she was. She looked like a woman. Rachel had to smile when she noticed that. After everything that had happened between them, she was proud of Quinn, of everything she was accomplishing at Yale.
Their bi-weekly phone-calls made sure that each other's voice was always fresh in their minds, but after a while, looking at this new grown up Quinn while she spoke was as disconcerting to Rachel as it was thrilling.
It had been too long since they'd last seen each other if Quinn had changed that much. They couldn't let it happen again. Not now that they were getting along so well in person too.
Quinn was in her element, even if she wouldn't admit it openly. People had been drawn to her since the end of her Lucy days so she had no concerns over being a loner in college, but she actually had people she trusted in her life now without all that baggage from high school. She was at one of the best schools in the country—enjoying it, no less. She had friends, she had freedom, and she had Rachel. Rachel could see the progress she was making every day and never hesitated to tell Quinn how proud she was of her.
Someone who knew all of her flaws and still didn't hesitate to express their pride of the person she was becoming made Quinn feel a foot taller every time she heard it.
Rachel nodded in commiseration at Quinn's story of the time she was given negative feedback for an audition she'd been perfect for, all because one of the other girls were giving the writer late-night favours. She hadn't seen it with her own eyes of course, but the source was apparently well-respected and Quinn hadn't matured that much yet. It made her feel better, more secure in her own talent.
Quinn's story stopped abruptly, eyes fixed on Rachel.
"Okay, when did that happen and when were you going to tell me?"
Rachel's leg crossed over the other. "What?"
"Well," Rachel said, "Nineteen years ago—"
"I take it back," Quinn laughed. "You haven't changed."
"No," Rachel agreed. "It's unlikely that I ever will. But you... you've changed, Quinn. You look so liberated. So much older," she shrugged. "I like you best like this."
"No," she stressed with a nudge. "Happy."
Quinn studied Rachel. "You grew up, too."
Rachel scrunched her face and settled against Quinn's side on the plush leather sofa they'd been hogging for the past several hours. "When did that happen?"
"Maybe the same weekend I got old."
"I thought I'd let you know that, um, they say that the best kinds of friends are the ones who evolve with or because of each other."
"Who says that?"
"Me." Quinn's smile was lazy and Rachel found herself asking, "Is there anything specific you want to do this weekend?" They'd been drinking coffee for hours. As good as it was, Rachel's hands were beginning to shake from the caffeine and she'd been too caught up in stories to even think about decaf.
"Two things," Quinn declared very seriously.
"I'm shaking with anticipation."
They both laughed when Quinn looked down to see Rachel's fingers trembling because of too much coffee.
"I better be quick? Okay. The first thing; scream at me in the street. It's part of a dramatic script I'm learning and I can't get this one scene down. I've run lines with some girls in class but I can't get past wanting to punch them —Kirsty and Genevieve, remind me to update you before I leave, and my roommate is worse than Puck at Mattressland. SoI figured, buy coffee for the best performer I know and say 'please'..."
"You haven't said it yet."
Rachel smiled. "What's the second thing?"
A bottle of wine and karaoke at her apartment wasn't exactly a new weekend tradition for Rachel because her fathers restocked her (small) wine rack every time they visited, but she couldn't remember the last time she'd had so much fun. She only wished they'd filmed the reaction they got from the crowd when they were screaming at each other in the street, and Quinn's face when she realised they'd also fooled a police officer into believing their fight was anything but scripted.
Quinn was golden. She could even do the single tear.
The weekend passed in a blur.
They had spent Saturday sight-seeing the real New York and Saturday night with Rachel's friends. Everyone was as nice as Rachel assured her they were and, as soon as he spotted her, Kurt talked Quinn's ear off just as Rachel suspected he would. When Blaine joined them it was like a mini New Directions reunion and Rachel pulled her camera out of her purse.
Quinn made sure to squeeze Kurt as tightly as his arms were squeezing her. When Quinn and Rachel returned to the apartment Rachel made a demand. A minute later, Quinn made one of her own.
Goodbye at Grand Central was a little like graduation all over again. The uncertainty of when Rachel would see her again. But they hadn't had that weekend then, or regular Skype meetings. They hadn't been close back then.
"I'm giving you two weeks," Quinn said, pulling her case closer until it bumped against her shoes.
"To find your way to New Haven."
Rachel smiled. "Okay."
"Thanks for having me," Quinn said, sounding so dorky that Rachel had to laugh.
"Of course." It was time to ask the question burning a hole through her tongue. "Okay, give me the cold, hard truth. How did you like the city?"
Quinn's inflection was coy. "It was okay."
Rachel stuffed her hands inside her coat pocket. "You know, besides my dads, you're the only person who's made it out here when they said they would," she said. "I know people get busy... but I'm glad you were the first."
"The city is amazing, Rachel. I had a great time."
The traffic had been worse than they'd anticipated that morning and the train arrived before they knew it. It wasn't the echoing announcement that gave Rachel a familiar edge to her behaviour, but the cacophony of the train coming to a stop. The one taking Quinn home.
She stepped forward and wrung her hands together. "So, be good," Rachel found herself saying. "A-and don't talk to anyone who looks homeless. Sometimes there's this guy who gets on at 125th wearing a blue jacket. You'll smell him before you see him. Just... politely cover the seat next to you with your coat and don't make eye-contact otherwise you'll be stuck talking to him."
"Now I'm scared."
"Besides his body odour, he's actually harmless. I just thought you should know."
"I'll keep a lookout," Quinn smiled. The way in which she wrapped her arms around Rachel wasn't quite like she'd done it a hundred times before, but it didn't have any ounce of hesitancy to it. Their embrace was warm and comfortable, just like it had been the first time at graduation and two days ago at the same station. "Two weeks, Rachel," she said when she stepped back.
Rachel's smile was watery and she cursed herself for it. "I'll be there."
Quinn received the e-mailed copy of the photograph taken in Rachel's apartment by the end of the day. It was printed and framed by the time she went to bed.
It took a month for their bi-weekly calls to turn into every other day and Quinn always had to smile when she walked past the first photograph they'd taken in the city. God, she had been so drunk that night and it was never difficult to tell when photographic evidence was involved. Quinn never paid attention to the way her roommate would frown curiously whenever more pictures were added to frames, hung or placed wherever there was space.
Quinn would receive a phone call from her mother once a month.
Judy Fabray would call her daughter one Thursday each month and ask her questions like, "How are your classes?" "Are you learning anything?" and Quinn would think that no, she wasn't learning as much as she thought she would at Yale because it got harder to answer those impersonal questions every single time.
Judy would always ask if Quinn had found a church she liked yet.
When Quinn had first arrived in New Haven, she had looked, researched and attended several services. None had made her feel the way her church back in Lima had used to as she'd sit next to her father and smile, shaking her head at him whenever he would look her way and wink with that proud smile that lit up his entire face. Of course, that had been before everything went to hell, almost literally.
Quinn didn't think she would ever get that feeling back.
She still kept her cross. Kept safe in her jewellery box, Quinn she would touch it every Sunday morning but her relationship and attachment wasn't as strong as it once was. It hadn't been the same since before Beth. God helped her through a difficult time after that but there wasn't that blind faith she'd once had anymore.
Quinn's relationship with her mother had been forced for years before the pregnancy scandal. It was prim and proper and perfect, creating a thick atmosphere in the house that Judy and her father seemed to breeze through. Sure, they'd talk sometimes; about boys, make-up, clothes, how to cook a perfect roast chicken. But Quinn was never asked about her dreams. She was never asked important questions.
As soon as news of Russell's affair spread, Judy made an effort. Quinn couldn't imagine getting through Beth's birth without her mother there; concrete evidence that her body wasn't going to split in two, and an older, comforting presence that only a mother could provide.
It took two weeks for Judy's newfound warmth to revert back into a semi-functioning alcoholic who pulled off an impressive amount of pot-roasts without ever setting the house on fire.
College meant that Quinn didn't ever have to deal with that again. She didn't have to smile and agree to everything her mother said. She didn't have to bite her tongue every day anymore. Only once a month, when Judy would contact her.
The final question of the phone call would always be about Quinn's love life and the gentlemen that Judy could only imagine were studying beside Quinn day after day, desperate for her to notice them. It would also be the only time to guarantee a genuine, light laugh from Quinn.
Guys noticed Quinn from the first day. She had casual dates with gorgeous, smart men every now and again but none of them were the type to sit beside her and wait for her to notice them. They'd been the type to do anything to gain her attention. No sane man would wait around for Quinn Fabray's attention.
Train stations became familiar over the next few months. There were visits to New Haven and visits to New York every two weeks.
Quinn and Rachel visited each other so regularly now that sometimes Quinn made plans with Kurt and Blaine without needing to okay it with Rachel first. It was a surprise to Quinn that Rachel got along with her roommate so well because Jamie reminded her of Santana sometimes. Jamie wasn't on the same level as Santana, though. She knew how to be tactful.
Rachel knew where everything was in Quinn's apartment now —sometimes better than Quinn did, and Quinn always managed to make a meal out of whatever crap was hiding in Rachel's cupboards and fridge without asking where anything was kept. It was nice, to be that familiar with each other's homes.
They talked through where they drew influence and inspiration from in their performances, papers that refused to get out from their heads and on to the computer, bad television, rumours from back in Lima, old school friends, what they were going to buy with their first big pay-checks, or arguing over which one would apply to Breadsticks or Mattressland if they both failed their attempts at a career.
It was coincidence that they shared the same phone service provider but it was a blessing that there was no time difference between them, especially those times when they were dying to call.
Quinn was throwing crumpled balls of paper at Jamie, her roommate, sleeping on the living room floor with her boyfriend. She didn't stop until they both flinched awake.
"Paying half the rent means you have a bedroom. Use it." Quinn smiled. "Please."
"Paying half the rent means I can tell you to screw yourself," Jamie responded in a half-asleep whine, rolling on top of her boyfriend. "Make her go away," she said to him.
Connor opened his eyes and smiled. Quinn was cool. She knew how and when to act like a lady and when to relax and let go. He also thought her movie collection was better than his as long as he ignored all of the girly movies. And if there was one thing Connor was sure of, it was to not choose sides when it came to Jamie and Quinn. He'd done so once, during the first and only fight Jamie and Quinn had ever had —he didn't remember what it was about now— but the second he'd rushed to his girlfriend's defence, Jamie had turned on him and threw him out of her and Quinn's apartment. His calls went unanswered for days.
"We were studying," Connor explained.
Quinn's eyes trailed down his naked torso until they reached the blanket covering his hips. "I see that. I also heard, so, if it isn't too much trouble..."
"Let's go to bed," he whispered to Jamie. "You mind?" Connor motioned for Quinn to turn around while he stood up.
Jamie hooked her arms around Connor's neck when he lifted her into his arms. At least she'd thrown her clothes back on last night while Connor passed out almost right after their cuddle time. She wasn't shy to be naked but Quinn was and she was careful now. "It's eight in the morning, Quinn. Why can't you sleep like a normal person?"
"You're the bear," she retorted. When her cell-phone rang, it was a sign. "See? Everyone else is awake." Quinn answered it without looking at the caller ID. "Hello?"
"Quinn, is that you?" Rachel whispered.
"I— yeah," Quinn said, momentarily confused at hearing Rachel's voice so early and without warning. She generally stuck to text messages until eleven a.m. "Did you mean to call me?"
Rachel sighed in despair and Quinn heard a door click closed and then running water. "Thank God. I need your help. I've done something so, so stupid and I can't call Kurt for advice because he's such a blabbermouth and I would hate for this to—"
Quinn sounded amused. "Did you murder someone, Rachel?"
Jamie's leg hooked around the doorframe. "Wait," she murmured to Connor. "I want to listen."
"I wish," Rachel said. "No, this is worse. Much worse. I can't... I was so drunk and he — God, Quinn, he was saying things that sounded so perfect at the time, but now I realise how gross and creepy they were."
"Who are y—" Quinn's jaw practically unhinged. "You had a one-night stand?"
Jamie covered her mouth in a desperate effort to keep quiet. It muffled an outraged squeak. Connor leaned in close. "Aren't they together?"
"Yes!" she mouthed. Her face contorted with self-doubt a second later. "I think?" Jamie gripped his shoulder tighter and pointed over it. "The pictures? Lesbian! Right?"
Quinn's laugh managed to make Rachel smile even if she did pout afterward.
"What has that city done to you? Who was it?" Quinn pried. Rachel's response was mumbled. "Say that again."
Quinn's roared laughter produced two reactions. The first was an eye-roll; the second was more of a confused grimace than anything else.
"The weird guy from your class who speaks with a British accent, even though he's from Pennsylvania?"
"Yes!" Rachel hissed. "Look, this isn't the time to mock my choice of suitors. I need help!"
"That much is obvious."Quinn heard the words get stuck in Rachel's throat and relented for the time being. This would be perfect to bring up again at a later date. "What can I do?"
"Help me get rid of him!" she shrieked. "He won't move. He's lying there like a very annoying, inconvenient oaf who refuses to take a hint."
"Are you sure you didn't kill him?"Quinn's hand clapped over her mouth. "That slipped out."
"Are you quite finished?" Rachel asked. "Because I called you under the impression that you'd save me from further humiliation, not add to it."
"I'm sorry. All right, let's think about this."
Jamie was knocked sideways. Where had she woken up? What was this place? Were Quinn and Rachel really just friends? The phone call sure was making it seem that way. But the visits, and twice a month? She'd seen them interact, heard the way they spoke to each other. Jamie had a gay cousin. She knew how this worked. Didn't she?
Rachel raised her eyebrows expectantly. "Well?"
Jamie appeared at Quinn's side with a sigh, pulling the phone out of her hand. She put it on speakerphone. "Rachel, you screwed that freak?" She didn't know the guy but she'd heard enough.
"I— that is a private matter that I wish to stay betwee—"
"We've all been there, okay, so lose the armour. My older sister slept with the guy who voiced T.J from Recess a few years ago. She'd heard his voice before but couldn't place it until they were rolling around in his bed and his voice went all high. She said the worst part was that she finished, twice."
"Oh, God." Rachel was horrified. Her head shook. "How does that help me? He's in my bed! Quinn, are you still there?"
"I'm here. Tell him your dads are on their way over," Quinn said.
"Genius," Rachel muttered in awe. "Why didn't I think of that?"
"Turn your speakerphone on." Quinn called Connor over when he was dressed. She thrust the phone into his hand. "Pretend to be one of Rachel's dads. He won't know they're not visiting."
He stared at Quinn blankly.
"Rach, sweetie, your father and I are bringing breakfast over. Can you buzz us in?" Quinn prompted him.
Connor had to admit that the panicked, "Oh, shit!"from dear Timothy half a minute later was satisfying. His blue eyes stayed on Quinn the entire time but he'd never been very good at reading people. He couldn't tell if emotion flashed through her eyes or they'd just caught the early-morning light.
A week later, music was blaring from inside the apartment and Quinn was on her fourth cup of wine (glass shattered and she had better things to spend her money on), talking to Max, one of the guys who lived next door. His lap was the only available surface unless she counted her bed but she didn't want to move just yet. She knew everyone in her apartment and plenty of them were worth talking to but it was just that Max was comfortable and her fingers were tapping the beat to the song perfectly against his shoulder.
"They're contacts, right?" Max shouted over the music and voices of the other sixty people in the apartment. His eyes stubbornly refused to look anywhere but Quinn's.
Quinn leaned forward until their heads met. Staring deep into his eyes, she said, "Shut up."
"What? I'm serious! They're gorgeous."
Across the kitchen, Connor leaned down to Jamie's ear. "You said she was getting better."
Jamie's tone was defensive. "She is."
"She's drunk. She was drunk on the third cup. Lightweight."
"If you count the first few times, she's actually a middleweight now."
She sighed. "Is the plan still in motion?"
There had been several times where they thought they'd invited too many people. The apartment wasn't exactly big and God, how many times would they have to turn the music down so the neighbours wouldn't complain again?
Connor got the text two minutes before there was a bang on the door, barely audible over the music. He looked over to Quinn, now dancing by herself or with one of the guys from next door, he couldn't tell, and cast a glance to Jamie who rushed past him for the door.
Rachel's shoulders visibly relaxed. She looked tired. Her hair was flat and the cold had flushed her cheeks on the walk from the train station. "It's nice to see you, Jamie."
Connor frowned at her appearance and leaned down to pick up her bags. "I wish you would have let me pick you up. Quinn will kill me."
Rachel smiled. "You're not afraid of her, are you?"
"Not if you tell her I walked with you."
"I can do that," she agreed. Rachel followed them inside and looked around for Quinn. Her heart was beating strongly. "Why did you throw a party without inviting anybody Quinn knows?" she asked, rolling her eyes at the ridiculousness of it. Clearly she needed to visit more. Living in New York had taught Rachel how to throw a spectacular party.
"We're idiots," Connor and Jamie said over each other.
"Well, I suppose I'm here now," Rachel said. "And unless either of your behaviour has done anything to jeopardise—"
"She's expecting you at six p.m. tomorrow, just like usual," Jamie said. "She even mentioned cleaning up by midday just in case, because you're like Monica Gellar with your apartment."
Rachel couldn't really argue with that.
Her eyes scanned the living area again and finally spotted Quinn. Her eyes were stuck watching Max's hands grip Quinn's ass, pulling her tight against his thigh that was shoved between her legs.
Jamie watched Rachel carefully, determined to figure her and Quinn out by the time the weekend was over. Rachel had looked entertainingly embarrassed at first, but then fairly detached.
Max leaned in for the kill but, just as his lips had made contact; Quinn turned her head and jumped away from him. Before he could fully process what had happened, she was across the room, jumping into someone else's arms.
Rachel was sent backwards into the wall but laughed quietly anyway. "Hello to you, too."
"What are you doing here?" Quinn asked after a long squeeze. She released Rachel but remained close. "Why didn't you call me? I would have met you!"
Rachel looked at Connor and Jamie. "I didn't think you knew anyone here, but by the looks of it I was mistaken?" Her eyes ended up on Max and Quinn turned around briefly.
"That's nobody," Quinn stated. "I'm glad you're here." Her eyes lit up and she let her hand travel Rachel's arm. When it reached her hand, she frowned. "Why is your hand cold?"
"It's unseasonably cold out," Rachel pointed out the obvious.
"Did you walk? In the dark? By yourself?"
Connor's eyes widened at the lilt to Quinn's voice.
"Connor was with me," Rachel supplied smoothly, not missing a beat.
Quinn grabbed his hand with her free one and scowled. It was warm. She dropped it. "Why is yours warm?"
Rachel came to the rescue. "Mittens were invented for a reason, Quinn."
"And gloves," Connor added. As if he'd wear mittens, for God's sake.
Quinn kept her eyes on him even as she began to manoeuvre her and Rachel towards her bedroom so they could talk. "Liar," she mouthed at him.
After a quick stop at the fridge for a bottle of water, they were in Quinn's bedroom. It was dark and the window had been cracked for hours if the cool temperature was anything to go by. The empty space between the door and the bed was so familiar to Rachel now that she didn't even need the light on.
It was five steps. Four for Quinn.
The light was flipped on. It was brighter than she remembered it, but then she recalled their last Skype call and Quinn telling her that the bulb annoyingly blew on Tuesday after Jamie had made her sit through a ridiculously scary movie. Quinn hadn't been able to find a bulb with the same wattage in the miscellaneous drawer in the kitchen but this one would do.
It was just the two of them now.
Quinn's laugh was soft when she saw Rachel's eyes squint. "I know, I'm sorry. Do you want sunglasses? Sunscreen?"
"You really weren't kidding when you said it was like being on the sun."
"Am I known for my sense of humour, Rachel?"
Sometimes, Rachel thought to herself. With her, anyway. Quinn could actually be downright hilarious given the chance.
Quinn thrust her arm outward. "What do you think? Is it turning to leather yet?" she asked. "Not that I need to give you yet more material for how old I am."
Rachel's head angled down and she ran her fingers over Quinn's forearm. Soft, smooth. She'd never felt her like that before. Her lips were pulled upwards. "You're okay."
"Why are you here?" Quinn asked again.
Rachel knew Quinn was drunk the second she saw her. She expected to answer a few questions more than once.
"Jamie said you didn't know anyone here and you'd have more fun if I made it here a day early."
"Well," Quinn said. "Part of that is true."
"Who was that guy?" Rachel asked. "Dirty Dancing guy."
"Does no-one have a name?"
"Max. He's the new roommate next door."
"Pre-med, I think. Twenty-one." Quinn was distracted. Her face brightened. "Do you want to meet everyone? You know some but you haven't met those girls I hate. You know, Kirsty and Genevieve from my drama class? Jamie invited them because she wants to get them really, humiliatingly drunk until they vomit. I think she has her camera ready."
Rachel agreed because she needed a distraction. She had her hand on the door handle when Quinn's fingers settled around her arm and pulled her around.
"Hey," Quinn protested gently, tugging Rachel until she was against her. "Thank you for coming."
Rachel's arms were as secure around Quinn's body as they usually were, but she wasn't right. Quinn studied her when they separated.
"Are you okay?"
She couldn't help it, but her voice made Rachel's body stiffen. She nodded. "Fine. Aren't you going to introduce everyone out there to the next Broadway star?"
"No, hey." Quinn stopped when Rachel moved away from her touch. "Rachel..."
Rachel sighed when the door she'd managed to get halfway open was closed again, Quinn's hand firmly over both the door and the frame. She flipped the light off because it was torture and walked the five steps to Quinn's bed, sitting on the edge. The same side she slept on whenever she visited.
"That light is ridiculous," she said glumly. "We'll shop for the right wattage bulbs tomorrow."
Quinn downed half a bottle of water and sat next to Rachel on the bed. She felt blind. Going from such bright light to darkness was unsettling. She shifted backwards and crossed her legs, reaching out to hold Rachel's hand with both of hers. Quinn tipped sideways and Rachel's free hand shot out to keep her on the bed. When she was sure Quinn was balanced, she put the bedside light on. It was soft, perfect for reading. Quinn was looking at her when she turned back.
"Want me to get rid of everyone? The neighbours have already complained twice."
Rachel shook her head but was grateful for the offer. She didn't want to ruin anyone else's fun.
"What's the matter?" Quinn asked. "I know it's a whole extra day with me but I can disappear for a few hours tomorrow, take a long walk..." Rachel smiled faintly and Quinn squeezed her hand. "Come on."
"I was just reminded that people aren't always as good as I give them credit for." Rachel met Quinn's gaze and could almost see the wheels turning.
"Homeless guy on 125th?"
"No," Rachel said. "I—I think he's dead. I haven't seen him for a really long time."
"Pollyana is being cynical? Okay, this is serious."
"Why do you always call me that? Just because I can see the silver lining in most clouds doesn't mean I'm in any way delusional."Quinn didn't say anything and Rachel sighed, her skin crawling when she closed her eyes. "It's Timothy."
"What about him?"
"He told everyone," Rachel revealed. "People are talking about me like I'm a... I shouldn't— it shouldn't be bothering me like this. God knows I got talked about enough in high school. But I thought NYADA was my fresh start."
Quinn's voice was soft. "I'll be right back."
The door was closed behind her and then the music stopped abruptly. The apartment was empty, save for the four of them, in less than five minutes. Quinn didn't hold Rachel's hand when she got back on the bed but she did sit close.
"You know what I'm going to say."Rachel nodded. "So you know you can't let them get to you, Rachel. I know, okay, what it's like when people talk about you like that. It eats away at you."
Rachel rubbed her face. "It's so humiliating. At least Finn and Noah have annoyingly good looks. Timothy is so..." She squirmed. "Oh, what was I thinking?"
"You were drunk," Quinn said objectively. "It happens."
"It wasn't supposed to happen to me."
Quinn nodded. She knew that, too. Rachel was frowning deeply, headache set in even deeper. She lay down on top of the covers and inhaled deeply. There was still a small cobweb hanging on the ceiling right above that side of the bed. She'd told Quinn about it last month when she'd been there. Rachel would have to get rid of that tomorrow too. If Quinn had a stepladder she could borrow.
"It ends," Quinn said confidently, lying down in her usual side of the bed. "Sooner or later, someone in that place will have sex and wake up next to that guy or girl, repulsed and humiliated and full of regret. It's college, Rach. You'll be old news next week."
"I hope so."
"But you know the real reason for him telling everyone, don't you?"
"To be a gentleman."
"Well, sure," Quinn said. Her eyes moved over Rachel's face. "It's because you're the best he'll ever have. Like that worm will ever do better."
"You really are drunk."
"I'm serious. And okay, let's ask the most important question," Quinn began, "has that creep ruined the British accent for you?"
"No." Rachel began to smile but disciplined herself, forcing it away. "Don't. I want to wallow in self-pity."
Quinn's tongue ran over her lips. "Was he good?"
Rachel turned her head until her cheek pressed into the pillow. Her eyes hardened.
"Sorry," Quinn sighed. "I'm still new at this friends thing. I ask inappropriate questions at the worst times."
"You are not new, shut up." Rachel was quiet for a long time. "And no, he wasn't. I mean, it took a long time for me to... and he was really trying."
Quinn laughed. "Does that make it better or worse?"
"I have no idea."
"We'll go with better."
Rachel fell asleep long enough for the apartment to have no trace of a party left in it by the time she padded out to the bathroom to brush her teeth. The light was on and the door was only closed to, so she tapped lightly and pushed it open after a polite pause. Quinn was at the sink, mouth foaming as she brushed her teeth clean.
Rachel hadn't thought to get her toothbrush out of one of her bags but Quinn had done if for her. It was in the usual place, next to Quinn's holder and in front of Connor's.
"Hangover set in yet?" she asked when Quinn was rinsing.
Quinn groaned lightly and Rachel told her she'd feel better after some sleep. She brushed her teeth and caught sight of Quinn removing her make-up behind her. It was always nice to watch Quinn be Quinn, and not the perfect vision she'd had of her in high school. It wasn't like Quinn wasn't near to perfect without make-up in Rachel's opinion, but not many people saw her late at night like this.
When they were in bed a few minutes later, Rachel didn't mind when Quinn lay a little closer than usual. She switched the light off and shoved her arm back under the covers, seeking the warmth Quinn's bedroom didn't have. Closing the window would mean she would sleep badly though.
"Why are you here?" Quinn asked when Rachel turned over to the same position she always fell asleep in.
"Just for me?"
"And because you're the only person who knows how to make me feel better anymore," Rachel said, her voice soft with sleep.
Quinn would slip away from Rachel at some point during the next day to call three of her friends. Kurt got the brunt of Quinn's anger, his feeble excuses doing nothing to help matters. He promised to take better care of Rachel when she got home.
Spring came and went and summer was spent kind of like the way Lucy and Rachel had both daydreamed about as children; with best friends. They went on a week's vacation the first week and made a pact not to mention Yale or NYADA at any point. Forfeit would be something terrible. The exact punishment wasn't ever stated but they managed to make it sound ominous and, well, no chances were going to be taken.
Sometimes they were off with other friends, describing adventures as soon as they saw each other again. Quinn went to visit Brittany and Santana and Rachel spent a week with Tina, Mercedes, Puck and Mike. When conversation shifted from Finn, the army and his new girlfriend, it moved to Rachel and New York. They were all surprised to hear how close she and Quinn were. Quinn had softened in her senior year but it was nothing compared to the way she had grown up at Yale. It had changed her as much as Rachel had ever hoped. Quinn was a wonderful friend.
Sometimes Quinn and Rachel spent a couple of weeks in New York at a time, some at Quinn's apartment, exploring the city with a more relaxed pace than usual. They weren't on a timer anymore.
There were three separate days where Rachel pointed out to Quinn that if she'd have put the sunscreen on when she'd reminded her to then her skin wouldn't have been burned to a crisp. Quinn had thanked her very much —very sarcastically— for her input each time.
They got drunk the third time Quinn got burned. It was the first time either of them had had a drink in a while.
When Quinn started crying, Rachel couldn't find it within to decline her request for alcohol to numb her pain and promptly opened a bottle of wine. It wasn't anything special but it got the job done. As predicted, Quinn's eyes were glazing over after her third glass and Rachel looked at her fondly. Even she held her alcohol better. How did that work?
They got through two bottles before they were gripping the kitchen counter tightly, peering into the wine cooler Rachel had invested in at some point during the year.
"We can't," Rachel muttered.
"We can," Quinn whispered.
"Graduation," Rachel explained. "We're not wearing our gowns. It's for after."
"Graduation. You're so drunk," she chastised lightly.
Quinn scoffed. "I'll replace it. And you'll still graduate."
"What if we don't? What if we drink it and drop out?" Rachel looked indignant all of a sudden. "My dads trust me."
"Do you want to drop out, Rachel? Throw all this away?" Quinn asked, sounding like she was having a serious conversation. Her burned face and glassy eyes made her look ridiculous.
Rachel closed her eyes and shook her head. "No."
"Then it's fine."
She opened her eyes in time to see Quinn reaching inside the cooler, eyes trained on hers. Rachel frowned. "No," she repeated half-heartedly.
Quinn didn't stop. She nodded and watched Rachel bite her lip as soon as her fingers touched the cold bottle of champagne. It was costly. Quinn remembered her father's company having this at some Christmas parties. Her hand wrapped around it and pulled it out slowly, like it would shatter if she wasn't careful.
Rachel snatched it from Quinn's hands as soon as it was free.
"I'm drinking from the bottle!"
They managed half of it until they were asleep in the living room. The music was left blaring until the album finished.
A week later when Rachel was telling that particular story to Kurt, who had just come back from visiting Burt and Carole, Quinn's head shot up from the book she'd been reading.
"I didn't cry!"
Rachel's fathers couldn't manage the same vacation days from work in October so Rachel flew out to see them instead. It was strange, not spending the weekend with Quinn and her friends in New York. She was so used to planning her time with Quinn in it now. When Rachel offered Quinn to fly with her, she politely declined. Quinn had so much work to get through that weekend that she doubted she'd be sleeping at any point during it anyway. She would have had to take all of it with her to New York if Rachel hadn't have gone away.
Rachel wasn't too disappointed. It was a treat to spend a full day with her Dad, and then her Daddy. She was spoiled rotten and didn't mind one bit. Of course, she didn't go empty-handed herself. She spotted celebrities frequently now that she was a city girl. Her Daddy had almost died when she handed him an autograph and told him about the time she met Al Pacino and signed him an autograph in return, leaving out his bewildered expression as she walked away.
While Rachel was watching some of her childhood favourite musicals with her Dad later that night, Quinn was at her kitchen table, slamming her laptop screen shut using just shy of the amount of strength it would have taken to crack the screen.
"Go away," she said when there was a knock at her door. Connor and Jamie were staying at his dorm room because his roommate was away for the weekend.
"You'll regret saying that when you see what I have in my hands."
It was Max from next door.
Quinn made her way to the door. "Are you being gross?"
"In front of a lady?"
She smiled. "Is it food?"
"Open the door and find out," he said.
Quinn kept the chain on, only peeking out to glance down. Max had take-out and beer. There wasn't really a choice to be made but she did tell him that all she had time for was something to eat and one beer. Limiting herself to no more than one drink, she also found that when she wasn't drunk he wasn't annoying. Max was actually sweet and funny and, if she was shallow for a second, nice to look at. He was a catch, she was sure of it.
Her mother would certainly approve.
When they'd finished dinner and had been talking for longer than Quinn realised, she shook her almost empty bottle. "You have to go."
Max looked surprised. "Now?"
"Did you expect to stay longer because you brought me dinner and drinks?"
"No, but I thought you'd warm to me after I told you three embarrassing stories. Wasn't that worth one more beer?"
Quinn smiled. "Maybe. But not tonight."
Max saw defeat. "Want help cleaning up?"
"I'll take care of it."
He held out his hand and pulled Quinn off the couch. Her skin was softer than he'd imagined. "This is where I say thanks for opening your door," Max said.
"Thanks for knocking. And feeding me."
"I wasn't sure you'd be here," he said as they walked towards the door. "But I heard a rumour that you were staying home this weekend and thought I'd try my luck. First time in a while you've been in, right?"
"It's because of that," Quinn explained, moving her outstretched hand in a circle around the kitchen table. "That big mess there."
"Well, you're all fuelled up now," Max shrugged. "Should be easier to work through. But some advice from a pre-med?" Quinn looked at him expectantly. "It's always more fun to write with two beers instead of one."
Quinn nodded curtly. "Noted."
"Goodnight?" he guessed when they arrived at the door.
"Now I know why you got into Yale."
Max laughed. "My skills of deduction are something to envy."
"Goodnight," Quinn said, tiptoeing to hug him. She realised then that she was so used to leaning down a few inches for a hug that this felt like old times with Finn. But different in the way that Max was an inch shorter than Finn and clearly worked out.
"Wait," Max protested when Quinn was saying goodnight on the other side of her now open door. He looked down to the bottle in her hand. "You said dinner and a beer. Judging from how long it's taken you to drink three quarters of that, I have, what, another thirty minutes to prove that I'm not a creep?"
Quinn smiled, bringing the bottle to her lips. She downed three-and-a-half mouthfuls in one go.
"That wasn't fair," Max said in a daze. She was perfect.
When there was a knock at her door not even thirty seconds later, Quinn laughed and picked up his jacket that was still slung across the back of one of the kitchen chairs and opened the door.
"You forgot your jacket, I kn—"
Max pulled her into a kiss before she could finish that.
Lying in her childhood bed the next night, Rachel did something she'd wanted to do hundreds of times during high school, she called Quinn.
"My dads miss you," she opened with.
"I know," Quinn said with a smile. "I got a text."
"I think they miss you more than they missed me."
"What are you doing?" Rachel asked. "Am I interrupting one of your papers?"
"I'm almost done."
"Yeah?" Rachel sounded as surprised as she felt. "I figured you'd be pulling another all-nighter. Yesterday you said you didn't even have a worthy introduction."
"My fingers have been glued to the keys for a disgusting amount of hours. I took a break last night and, I don't know, everything flowed better after that."
Rachel pulled a stuffed monkey off her headboard, cuddling it tightly as she turned over. She'd almost forgotten about Maurice in the time she'd been away. "What'd you do?"
"Dinner and drinks," Quinn said easily. "Well, one drink."
"By yourself?" Rachel smiled. "I told you that drinking alone increases the chance of depression by—"
"No, uh, Max came over. He wouldn't go away and well, he had food, so."
"Pre-med Max, the one at your party?"
"Yeah. He's, um, usually better behaved than that. He was drunk," Quinn said, sounding nervous to Rachel's ears. The way she had sounded the first weekend Rachel's fathers were in New York the same weekend she was last year.
"Did he kiss you?" Rachel didn't know why she was asking or why, in the time it took Quinn to respond, she felt the three thumps of her heart as powerfully as she did.
"What was it like?"
Quinn laughed quietly. "I don't know. Nice?"
"No, just nice."
"You kissed Max?" Rachel heard Jamie screech in the background. It almost made her smile.
"I think Jamie has a thing for him," Quinn concluded quietly after going to her bedroom for some privacy. "You should have seen her face just now."
There was some rustling and Rachel knew exactly how Quinn would be lying in her bed. She could see it without even closing her eyes.
"Will you be at my place next week?" Rachel asked.
"Unless you've changed your locks."
That made Rachel feel better.
She heard Quinn gasp before anything else.
"That's biologically impossible given my age," Rachel said, turning to the direction of Quinn's voice. She smiled when she saw her. Quinn had cut her hair in the three days since she'd seen her face on her computer screen. "No changes with you, I see."
"No." Quinn shook her head. She pulled Rachel closer and used her hand to gauge the difference between Rachel's head and her own. "You've grown."
"It's only been a month since we've seen each other." She looked up to Quinn's eyes, the same short distance she'd always had to. "But you've obviously gone crazy without me around."
"Didn't I always?"
"And I still want to hug you," Quinn said bemused, leaning down to wrap her arms around her friend. She held on for a while longer. "I missed you," she whispered against the same part of Rachel's neck she always did.
Rachel's expression was close to neutral when they parted. "I missed you too, of course. Now, let's get going. We have to drop your things off at home and I have a hundred things I want to do today." Rachel looked up at Quinn as they walked out of Grand Central. She finally smiled. "I like your hair, Quinn."
Rachel was the insane one, Quinn decided that night when she was lying in her bed. She couldn't move without hurting. They had walked the length of the city twice and nothing would convince her feet otherwise.
Closing her bedroom door, Rachel saw Quinn's smile before she turned the light off. "I thought you said you and your feet were, and I quote, in excruciating pain?"
"I am, and they are."
"Then why were you smiling? Weirdo."
Quinn tried to move her feet but a pain shot through them. "Ow," she complained but it didn't totally remove the amusement from her expression. "Ever see Misery?"
Even in the dark, Rachel looked apologetic. And then she didn't. "I suppose I'm the crazed lunatic?"
"You did drag me all over New York in those shoes."
"Well, why were you wearing them in the first place? The vertically challenged are the only ones who should be wearing anything with a heel."
"I wanted to look nice."
"You don't have to do anything special to impress me, Quinn."
Quinn laughed. "Good to know."
Rachel was quiet for almost a full minute. When she did speak again, it was so loud and unexpected that it jolted Quinn. "Blaine carried you from the taxi to the elevator!"
"Shut up, I'm right here," Quinn said, nudging her. "And yeah, when the damage had already been done. The only reason we didn't walk back here after dinner —after you made us skip lunch— was because Kurt was practically in a food coma and insisted on sharing and paying for the ride home."
"You should have said something," Rachel said softly.
"I thought my limp spoke volumes."
"You're making me feel terrible," she huffed. "And you know I can't sleep when I'm in emotional turmoil."
"How does my pain turn into your pain?"
"You're my best friend," Rachel said simply. "What you feel, I feel. It's one of the downsides to a deep friendship."
How different this picture was. Lying in bed with Rachel Berry, being her best friend... Quinn had fought against this so hard in high school and now she had no idea why.
"I'm fine, Rachel," Quinn said quietly. "Just pulling your little leg."
"Clearly I mean a great deal to you, too."
Quinn laughed through the pain when she put her ice-cold foot on Rachel's for warmth, earning a sharp intake of breath and screeched cry. And then she was kicked in the shins.
"What was that?"
"My foot. What else is it going to be?"
"I think you need to see a chiropodist. Your circulation is horrifying."
"It's because the window is open so wide. The building isn't on fire, you know. We don't have to jump."
"My body temperature elevates at night, okay? I won't apologise for something I have no control over."
"It's okay," Quinn said, sliding her foot back over the sheets until she met Rachel's again. "This can be your penance."
Rachel cringed at the temperature but didn't give a second thought to sliding her foot up and down Quinn's after a while. It didn't fully register that she was doing it. "When was the last time you had a foot massage?"
"Probably around the time you last used pumice, so, a while ago?"
"There's nothing wrong with my feet."
Quinn didn't mean to move either but there was a warm spot right below Rachel's ankle that felt better than anything else she could imagine. It was warming her toes up in no time. "I didn't say there was."
Several minutes later when both of Quinn's feet were comfortably warm again, Rachel turned over, sliding her other foot out until it touched Quinn's.
"Just in case," she said. "Goodnight, Quinn."
It was Sunday morning when they were on their way to Grand Central once again that things changed. Quinn turned to look behind Rachel when they both heard a series of honked horns and the early-morning sun illuminated her face perfectly. It was only a brief moment in the scheme of things but Rachel's lips parted with the constriction in her chest.
That was the first time Rachel knew she was truly screwed.
Nine days later, Quinn left the bathroom in a towel and Connor politely averted his eyes as soon as he saw naked glistening skin. He couldn't quite remove his smile as quickly though.
"Quinneth!" Jamie hollered over her shoulder. She was surfing the internet on the couch. "Come here."
Quinn hesitated but held the towel tighter around her body and made her way behind Jamie. "Don't call me that, and what?"
Jamie was on Rachel's Facebook page. She had been tagged in a new album. Jamie knew it was going to be perfect the second she saw it. "You didn't tell me Rachel knew how to dance like that."
The pictures, all thirty-seven of them, had Rachel dancing intimately with guys Quinn had never met before. She frowned and her voice came out quiet but annoyed. "She told me she was sick last weekend..."
Quinn had been feeling overwhelmed and stressed with college and needed Rachel's optimism to help her get over it. Only, when she'd called, it went unanswered. A few minutes later she'd received a text from Rachel telling her that she was sick and did she call for anything important. Of course Quinn didn't tell her yes. She wished Rachel felt better soon and told her to call if she needed anything.
"Why do you think she blew you off?" Jamie asked innocently.
Quinn's face look like it had been slapped, and the smile looked to almost break it. "To be with hot guys?"
"They are pretty hot." Jamie chewed her lip, watching Quinn's face intently as she clicked through the pictures. "There's this guy coming up though, easily beats them all."
When Quinn saw Rachel's legs spread over some guy's she didn't even know, looking at his large hands all over her body with his tongue shoved down Rachel's throat, a look so cold and hard appeared on her face that Jamie's little smile disappeared.
"What are you doing?" Quinn demanded.
Jamie moved back imperceptibly and shook her head, in a state of fear and shock. "Nothing."
"No, what are you doing?"
"Quinn, I—"Jamie moved again and the laptop fell sideways, forcing Quinn's eyes to it again. She rushed to close it.
"Are you trying to embarrass her, because the only person who should be embarrassed is the idiot who uploaded those for everyone to see."
"No! Jesus, Quinn."
Quinn focused her intense glare on her roommate for a few seconds longer and then stormed away, slamming her bedroom door shut so hard that Connor flinched.
Jamie's mouth was hanging open. "Oh my God!" she mouthed through a laugh, still terrified. She'd never seen that Quinn before. "What the fuck was that?"
Connor had more sense than to laugh. What if Quinn saw? He raised his hands in the air. "I'm gone."
"What? You can't leave me. What if she comes back out and bludgeons me to death?"
Connor nodded towards the door. "Let's go." When they were almost through it, he gave her a disapproving look. "You know you were asking for that though, right? It's been forever. You have to let this go and apologise."
Quinn's body had dried totally by the time the nausea had gone. It was Jamie she was angry with but when Rachel called her two hours later, Quinn didn't pick up.
One a.m. that night, she decided that, no, she was equally as furious with Rachel.
Three days later, when Rachel had talked herself into such a state that she was considering hopping on a train to New Haven at close to midnight, Jamie walked into Quinn's bedroom without even knocking.
She had looked brighter.
Jamie's voice was laced with sleep. "I know you're still pissed at me but she won't stop calling, and unless you talk to her she says she'll continue to call until you do. So, here." Jamie tossed the phone on Quinn's bed and closed the door after her.
"You know I won't," Quinn heard, muffled by the comforter. Eighty miles couldn't silence Rachel, apparently.
Quinn snatched up Jamie's phone. She'd been asleep herself. "I was asleep."
Rachel sighed in relief. "Have you been asleep for the past few days? I'd have to insist on you seeing a doctor if—"
"What's up?" Quinn broke in aloofly.
"Where have you been?"
"Nowhere. Here. Where have you been?"
Rachel frowned. "Are you okay?" she asked quietly. "You sound..."
"It's late, Rachel. I'm tired."
"Did something happen?"
Quinn's glare was focused on the pillow Rachel slept on. It was almost like glaring at her. "Yeah, you woke me up."
"Is it me? Did I do something?" Rachel asked. "I don't know if it's my paranoia or if the signs really are all pointing towards you being mad at me."
"You weren't sick last weekend," Quinn responded sharply.
"What? You were too sick to talk to me but well enough that you couldn't refuse an offer to go dancing?"
"Come on," Rachel said soothingly, "you tell me everything you do?"
"No, but I don't lie about it."
Rachel's confusion was carved into her face. "But you said your call could wait, that it wasn't important."
"It doesn't matter. Who cares if I was calling you to tell you someone had died or I'd stubbed my toe? The point is you lied to me."
"Over going out," Rachel said, losing a little of her patience. "God, Quinn, why is this turning into a fight? I was worried about you."
"And Jamie thought the photos were ridiculous," Quinn said, seeing no point in fighting the urge. "Tasteless."
Rachel sighed. "Am I still visiting Friday?"
"I don't care." Quinn's answer came out so abruptly that she didn't think about it. Her face was twisted stubbornly, until the thick silence and then dial-tone left her deflated and full of regret.
She burst into Jamie's room and threw the phone at her. It clonked off her head.
"This is your fault," Quinn accused, and slammed the door shut.
Things didn't improve with a good night's sleep. Quinn's stomach twisted unpleasantly at the sight of breakfast the next morning, and then in remorse when she saw the faint bruise on Jamie's hairline. An apology was on the tip of the tongue but she couldn't make it pass through her lips.
And there was her phone, glued to her hand in case she missed a call or text from Rachel. But she couldn't initiate contact herself. God, what would she even say? Sorry I was a raging bitch without good reason. How's the weather?
The tension in the apartment was suffocating her, so as soon as Jamie went to get dressed Quinn left a bottle of water and two pain-killers on the counter next to her coffee and set out an hour early to her morning class.
The day didn't improve.
Max stopped by without an invitation that night and this time he did annoy Quinn but she returned his kiss when he leaned in. They'd been out on two casual dates since the time he'd come over with beer and take-out. This was the first time they'd kissed like this and she let him guide her down against the couch as his kisses grew deeper.
Quinn wanted this but she wanted it differently. She wanted rougher hands and harder kisses. Her teeth scraped against his neck sharply and she gripped the back of his neck when he kissed her lips the way she wanted him to, until it hurt.
It wasn't too long later that his hips were slowly working against hers.
"Do you want to...?" Max asked unsurely. Quinn hadn't pushed him away but she didn't look half as interested as he was either.
"No." Quinn seemed to snap out of something and she shook her head. "No. God, I'm sorry."
He sighed, moving off her. "Call me if you want to, Quinn."
When the apartment door closed, it was seconds until Quinn covered her face with her hands. What was she doing?
She didn't make it to her afternoon class the next day, too anxious to sit through a lecture. Rachel still hadn't tried to call or text, and the one time Quinn worked up the courage to call Rachel first, her phone died as soon as her thumb pushed the button. She took it as a sign and decided to wait, at least until her phone had fully-charged again.
Thinking about it rationally, a phone call was probably too much to ask after how strained things has become. A text would be better.
She sent it at 4.07p.m.
Are you still coming today?
As soon as ten minutes passed without a reply, Quinn gritted her teeth. Rachel never took that long to reply. She must be beyond words. Quinn didn't even want to think about how bad she'd messed up if she'd caused Rachel to be in such a state.
Mostly to keep from going insane, Quinn went to take a shower. Connor and Jamie were in the living room watching TV when she was finished.
Connor choked on a Dorito when Quinn stood in front of the TV in nothing but a towel.
Quinn's eyes were fixed on Jamie. "I'm sorry," she said, obviously in pain at being the first one to apologise. It didn't happen often. "I don't know why I've been such a bitch. I know you'd never insult Rachel like that."
Jamie smiled. "It's cool," she shrugged. "I'm sorry too. Really."
Quinn went to her bedroom to get dressed and sighed when she saw only one text message, not from Rachel.
Still, it was deserved so she would suck it up and head out to Union Station the same time she did every second Friday of the month and wait to see if Rachel would show.