Author's Note: So I asked a friend of mine to give me any pairing that he knows I ship, to get back into writing more frequently, and I'd write a quick one-shot for them. This was the end result. Vague S3 spoilers, although nothing for anything that hasn't aired yet.
Yale is everything that Quinn wanted for her future.
The doctors at her therapy clinic say she's still making great progress, and she doesn't have to make as frequent of trips as she used to. She still has a cane by her bed at night, just in case she needs the extra support, and her wheelchair is folded up in her dorm room closet for emergencies, and she's made accommodations for herself in her daily life.
She's fitting in. She thinks.
Her roommate is Carrie-from-Albany who spent every summer in Costa Rica building homes for people and running a food pantry for the homeless during the school year. By comparison to Carrie-from-Albany, Quinn feels like her high school career, those days of cheerleading competitions and Glee Club nationals and - yes, giving birth at the end of her sophomore year - was a complete waste of time.
But other than her obvious disconnect from her roommate, there were other people that she'd gotten to know and like. Ayanna from her literature class somewhat reminds her of Mercedes; after class, they usually go out for coffee and then study the intricacies of Henry James over cappuccino and biscotti. Ayanna's probably her best friend in Connecticut. She's surrounded by some of the greatest minds of her generation. And yet, as she carefully walks along the sidewalk one windy November day, she realizes something: she knows why she's here, but she misses the absurd simplicities of Lima.
She can't make it back to Lima over Thanksgiving, what with exams to study for and a freak snowstorm that shut down all transit out of New England. So her, Ayanna, Carrie-from-Albany and Carrie's new boyfriend Jeremy make snowmen outside their dorm and warm up with hot cocoa when they're done.
It's almost enough to make her forget about what she misses about Lima. There's no impromptu songs or inane lessons. It's just her, in her element, with people who may or may not be the future leaders of America, as compared to the future, well - entertainers - that she left behind? Maybe both her and Carrie-from-Albany are warming up to the new environment, because once she mellows out a bit, Carrie - no longer from Albany, just her roommate Carrie now - actually isn't that bad of a person. Just hyper-organized and focused, and she's learned something new about human rights at least once a week from her.
And then, the day before finals week begins, as her and Ayanna walk back to her dorm room, she notices someone sitting in the lobby of her dorm. Someone familiar. And he turns, and it's not just an optical illusion or a trick of the eye.
It's Puck. In Connecticut. His hair has grown out just a bit, and he's bundled up uncomfortably in a new-looking parka and gloves, but it's unmistakably Puck.
"Some dude - Jeremy? - said this was your dorm," he says, and Quinn can only blindly nod in recognition of the fact. "You're kinda famous around here, Q. Ask enough people for a Quinn Fabray and they point me right in your direction."
"And here I thought you had a homing device wrapped around my ankle," she says with a laugh, and Ayanna looks confused at their dialogue. "Ayanna, Puck. Puck, Ayanna. Puck was one of my high school boyfriends, and Ayanna is my best friend here at Yale."
"Pleased to meet you," Ayanna says, sticking out her hand. "Is this the one who's dating your former arch-nemesis, the one who's still in high school, or the one who knocked you up?"
Puck meets Ayanna's handshake with a high-five instead. "The-One-Who-Knocked-Quinn-Up, at your service."
Ayanna nods and turns to Quinn. "I think I'll let you two catch up. See you at the lit review session tomorrow?"
"Sure. See you." She turns back to Puck and frowns, as they walk up to her room. "What are you doing in Connecticut? I thought you had moved to Los Angeles and were going to make your fortune cleaning pools. I thought the closest you'd come to being on a college campus, let alone at Yale, was as a member of the janitorial staff."
"I tried to be out there. The MILFs were smokin' and the money was good, but not great. And it had to be great to live there. And -"
"And you weren't there. You're here, not there."
"Puck. Don't do this." They're getting out of the elevator, and she sees Rebecca-from-Two-Doors-Over looking angrily at her from over the top of her History of the Holocaust book, as she walks back from the common area to her room. Quinn glares back and quickly unlocks the door. At least Carrie has a late class today; they won't be bothered any time soon. "We weren't dating when high school ended. We barely dated at all." She sits on her bed in a huff.
"I love you, though. And you know I do." He sits backwards in Carrie's desk chair, and she doesn't have the heart to correct him for it. Though, whether she'd correct him for his statement or for his seating position, she's not sure.
"Only because of Beth." Invoking Beth's name is like - say it three times and it's like Beetlejuice. Say it once, and his somewhat confident smirk deflates into a confusing expression: a mix of wistful sorrow and parental love. "Beyond Beth, what did we have? Wine coolers and what was probably a post-partum depression breakdown on my part?"
"You don't mean that."
"Why wouldn't I?"
"Because if you meant that, you wouldn't have told your friend about me at all. You would have said you had a kid, gave her up, and then moved onto talking about the next great brainiac adventure."
"You have a point."
"Of course I do. You're the one who got away. All the way to this fancy school with a new life and new friends who are smart and talented and everything that I'm not. I couldn't even pass European Geography without a miracle, and here you are, talking about what impact the rain in Spain has on global warming or some shit like that."
She laughs and allows herself to smile for the first time since her and Ayanna walked through those doors and saw him there. He always had a way of disarming her and bringing down her guarded walls of defenses, which was probably part of the reason they had even been in each other's orbits to begin with. "I'm the one who got away? Why didn't you chase me?"
"It was never the right time," he said. "Look, I chased you from Los Angeles to here. I left behind acres of hot babes in bikinis in December because I wanted to see you."
"Why now, though?" She's asking a million questions and dancing around the real one that's at the tip of her tongue: why me? Puck had openly dated other girls in high school. Other women, even, if the rumors about the seedy underside of his pool cleaning business were to be believed. What was it about her that made him drop his life and come three thousand miles? It couldn't just be all about Beth. Not anymore. There had to be something more.
"Why not? I wanted to see you. Is that such a hard concept for the Yale girl to grasp?" He reaches across the small divide between them, puts his hand on top of hers, and offers her a smile. "You were one of the few cool people that dump had to offer."
She flinches involuntarily at his touch. It's not that it doesn't feel nice; it's that it does. It's been a long time since they'd shared anything remotely resembling intimacy, and it was during a time in her life that she'd rather forget. She turns her hand upside down, clasping his hand in hers, wrapping her fingers around the sides of his palm and offers him a tentative smile. Unlike her previous smile, which was cloaked in laughter and amusement, this one is more driven by her emotions. It's an olive branch disguised in a simple hand gesture.
"Quinn?" he asks, looking her dead-on in the face. "Are you - ?"
What is she doing? It's hard to be mad at someone who makes such a concerted effort to be a part of her life, when most people had flitted in and out pretty fast. And his expression has changed to one - she stares at him closer, and she sees that the parental love from when Beth had been mentioned has become hope. And maybe a little bit of lust. She squeezes his hand and bites her lip, and she takes a deep breath, because what she says next could change everything. "Maybe we didn't have anything between us besides wine coolers and Beth. I don't know."
His shoulders slump forward and he nods in acknowledgment. She's not used to seeing a defeated Puck. She's used to seeing confident, take-the-bull-by-the-horns-and-forget-the-rest Puck. That's the Puck she knows.
She continues. "But I left McKinley behind. You left it behind too. The past is just that. The past."
"So - maybe we could try now? Forget about the past." She takes her other hand and gently runs her nails along his other wrist. "Maybe we can make the future work for us."
"We're not getting married tomorrow and having another kid together next week. You can still do your thing."
He rolls the chair wheels over and, throwing his arm around her waist, pulls her close to him. She can hear his heart beating fast underneath his parka. "There's always been something different about you, Fabray," he murmured, crooking his finger under her chin and tipping her face up to meet his. Their lips meet in a tender and tentative kiss. His lips ghost over hers, and she lets out a contented sigh at the contact.
It's soft and sweet at first.
It's contrary to everything she knows about him.
And then she feels the Puck she used to know take over, opening his mouth in synchronized rhythms against hers, running his tongue along the contours of her lips - and when she parts them, he slides in, and pulls her closer to him. His free hand plays with the loose wisps of hair that have fallen free from her ponytail, and it feels so familiar and yet so new all at the same time.
She hears two throats clearing in unison behind her. Carrie and Jeremy are looking at the two of them with matching glares. "So it's okay for you to make out with some random guy in our room, but when Jeremy wants to crash here so he doesn't have to cross campus at midnight, it's too much for you?" Carrie asks, tapping her foot.
"Puck, Carrie and Jeremy. Jeremy and Carrie, Puck." Jeremy and Puck nod in recognition of previously meeting each other. "Roommate, roommate's boyfriend, one of my high school boyfriends. Now we all know each other."
Carrie turns to Quinn. "So," she asks. "Which one is he?"
She looks at Puck and smiles softly as she leans against his shoulder and responds, "He's the one who got away. Until he came back."