A/N: I have a small obsession with WWII, but by no means am I an expert. If I get anything horribly, awfully wrong, feel free to let me know! I've worked a few details around to make this story work for Faberry. Also, Memorial Day, remember the fallen and their families. It seemed appropriate to post this today.
Sun Showers: Chapter 1
If Quinn focused hard enough, and shut her eyes tight enough, and pressed her hands over her ears because everything was just so loud, she could pretend the beach she was sitting on was home. The sand looked the same, where it wasn't streaked with blood, and the sound of the waves was comfortingly familiar.
Quinn never thought she'd want to go home, mostly because she wasn't sure where home was. Maybe all the beaches of the west coast? San Onofre? Del Mar? She'd drifted down to Baja once, which had been nice. It had been quiet, at least, and Quinn liked that.
She shook her head and gave herself ten more seconds of sitting in the sand. And then she said a short prayer for a family who no longer cared for her, kissed the faded cross around her neck, and opened her eyes.
All the sound came rushing back at once.
"Fabray!" Somebody was calling her name. "Fabray!"
Quinn grabbed her gun and whirled around, staying crouched behind the sandbags and shuffling over to make room for the woman who dropped next to her and knocked roughly into her side.
"They were expecting the second wave!" Santana yelled in her ear. Quinn could still barely hear her over the artillery bombardment, but she thought what Santana was saying was pretty obvious. She twisted around to glance back at the shore. Quinn could see the Texas and the Savannah in the distance, and then the twelve troopships and destroyers up closer to land.
The nine thousand troops of the 60th Infantry Regiment were still pouring onto the beach. Sixty-five tanks would soon join them with the goal of securing the airfield over the hill.
Quinn was glad she was on land. She could hear the guns of the Jean Bart clearly. Somebody was obviously having problems subduing it.
"We're getting air support, but we need to keep pushing!" Santana shouted, steadying herself with a hand in the sand. "Disregard the water contingent and focus on land. They've got snipers all up the ridge and we're open targets."
Quinn nodded. She just kept nodding. Move forward. Keep on moving. It was all the same. Just don't stop.
She spat because there was sand in her mouth which she just couldn't seem to get rid of. She pushed her hair back under her helmet and clapped a hand roughly to the pack on Santana's back.
"They have four 190s and four 130s up along the cliff, and then mortars coming from somewhere beyond that." Quinn informed loudly, eyes darting around, and then ducking at an explosion to her left. Her heart seized up, but the smoke and sand cleared and nobody had been hit. "I'll-I'll go first. We're moving east for more cover."
Santana nodded, wiping the sand from her face and the sweat from her eyes. Quinn tilted forward so that her helmet leaned against the sandbags and screamed as loud as she could, in frustration or anger or adrenaline she didn't know.
And then she gripped her gun securely and took off in a controlled run for various points of cover. She spotted her field director crouched next to another pile of sandbags, sending the landing troops to the east. She had blood on her face, but she was yelling as loud as ever.
Everything was just so loud.
"Take cover and wait for air support!" Quinn's director yelled. "French have no infantry! It's all artillery!"
Her eyes were slightly crazed, but her movements were urgent and calculated.
Quinn filed the information in the back of her brain. Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, had only started that morning. Nobody had been expecting French resistance, but Quinn watched an explosion rock the small boats on the shore and knew that it was definitely present at Port Lyautey. She hoped the other landings were going better.
Quinn stumbled in the sand and clutched her rifle tighter. Her legs were burning and she still had sand in her mouth, but she kept on moving. She listened for any sort of intelligible shouts or instruction, but everything was just a garbled mess of noise.
A dotted landscape of green hats and smoke.
She kept spitting. She just could not get the grit off her tongue or her teeth.
And then Quinn ran right into an explosion. Probably a mortar. Sand was blown up into her face and ringing replaced the noise in her ears as she was knocked backwards onto her side. She sat still, elbows in the sand, dazed and wondering if she'd gone deaf.
"Quinn! Quinn!" Santana was yelling. It was faint, like a dream.
Quinn looked up with blurry eyes and saw another soldier catch Santana around the waist as she rushed past more sandbags. Quinn frowned.
God, there was so much sand in her mouth. It never went away. But she was glad for the quiet, and she told herself to stand up. She was on one knee when another explosion hit. Right next to her. And her eyes rolled up to the beautiful blue morning sky before everything went dark and quiet, and it was like she was lying on the beach at San Onofre and listening to the waves.
It was peaceful. Quinn liked this place.
Rachel was used to the noise by now. The never-ending rumbles in the distance and the shouting and the perpetual state of anxiety. Sometimes they reminded her of New York. Crowded city streets and loud bars and jovial exclamations and music.
God, the music. Rachel probably missed that the most.
But she was proud of what she was doing. And peoples' lives were more important than Broadway.
The airfield had been secured by the time the flight nurses landed at Port Lyautey, and Rachel could see a crowd at the northeast corner, probably awaiting triage. There were bodies lined along the ground, most of them moving, some completely still, and Rachel swallowed over the twisting in her gut.
She stuck with her two friends, nurses Pierce and Jones, as the boat came ashore. They wore matching navy blue skirts, jackets, and caps, along with similar expressions of reproach and anxiety.
What awaited them this time?
They'd been sent down from Fedala, where the sea battle was still raging. The L'Alycon was the only French destroyer still operational, but submarines still stalked the fleet.
The nurses moved to help the most severely injured soldiers and to assess the damage before their temporary canvas shelter was even constructed. The sun was dropping in the sky and Rachel hurriedly wound her way through the crowds with the rest of the first-aid team.
It was definitely not the worst she'd seen. But that wasn't saying much.
Rachel tried to ignore the cries for help and the painful moaning to listen to Nurse Pillsbury.
"Pierce, go with Jones. They've got a man who's losing his leg at the end of the line." The head nurse instructed. She stood on top of a slight dune on the beach and waved her hands in the direction she was referencing. "Rogers, take your team down there as well. Berry-, "
Rachel straightened up when her name was called. She smoothed her skirt and made sure her sleeves were rolled up so they wouldn't get in her way.
"There's a woman inside; you need to check her out and stitch her up." Nurse Pillsbury pointed towards the canvas shelter and Rachel started moving before she'd finished speaking. "It looks like it's mostly surface injuries, but her arm may need to come off."
Rachel grimaced. She didn't know if she'd be able to do that.
She grabbed her kit and rushed over to the edge of the tent, pausing just outside to breathe in the cool sea breeze for a moment. It would do no good to vomit all over herself right now.
Rachel moved into the half of the tent that was fully constructed and strode down a line of beds swarming with nurses and various military personnel. They were mostly men. Rachel hummed to herself and offered a small smile to everybody who made eye contact with her.
And then she came across a woman in one of the beds with some kind of awful injury to her arm. And her face. Maybe the whole left side of her body.
Rachel could barely tell where the wounds were. She observed for a minute, not wanting to dive straight in and further harm the woman. The label next to her bed said "WAAC, third officer Quinn Fabray."
She was blonde, as far as Rachel could tell, with shaggy hair and sand around her lips. She wore pants instead of the standard issue Women's Army skirt, and Rachel wondered how she'd pulled that off. Her jacket was nowhere to be seen, her white sleeves were rolled up, and the tie around her neck was loose and ripped.
And every bit of her clothing on the left side of her body was soaked in blood. Half her face was bright red and raw, and Rachel sort of wanted to cry.
Quinn Fabray looked so small. Rachel wondered how she'd ended up here.
"Okay, honey." She whispered, mostly to herself as she moved up to Quinn's head. She brushed the sand off of the woman's face and away from her mouth. "It'll be okay."
She worked quickly, untying Quinn's tie and unbuttoning her shirt, missing the curtains that sometimes surrounded the beds. But they hadn't had time to set those up yet. Rachel pulled out her scissors so that she wouldn't have to move Quinn's arm around, and she cut both sleeves of the shirt and dropped the bloodied clothing in a heap on the floor.
The soft, pale skin of Quinn's abdomen was marred with bruises and blood. Sand clung to every wet surface, and Rachel tried to wipe a bit of it away to see where all the blood was coming from.
Quinn's shoulder was a mess. So was her face, but that wasn't bleeding as profusely.
Rachel dunked her cloth in the hot soap bucket and then wrung it out over Quinn's shoulder. The water droplets left trails through the blood as they ran down her arm. Rachel did the same thing with alcohol next, glad that Quinn wasn't conscious to experience this. She found a massive gash running from Quinn's shoulder, down her collar, and around her side.
The rest of her shoulder was raw, like the left side of her face. As if the top layer of skin had been burned away. Rachel draped a cool alcohol cloth over Quinn's cheek while she worked on her arm.
She kept talking the whole time, figuring that if there was the slightest chance that Quinn could hear, she'd be absolutely terrified.
"You…must be very brave, Quinn Fabray." Rachel murmured slowly, quietly. She pulled out her needle to stitch Quinn's shoulder back together and ignored the noise around her. It was quieter, but the naval battle still sounded like drums in the distance. "To be out there, to be fighting…You're very pretty. I don't know what you're doing here, but you'll be okay. I promise."
Rachel paused her stitching to sprinkle sulfa powder in Quinn's wounds. She brushed the blonde hair back off Quinn's head and admired the sharp set of the woman's jaw. She really was beautiful.
"I'm sure somebody's missing you." Rachel continued quietly, stitching carefully. "So we'll get you home to them. To your mom. Or maybe you've got a sweetheart?" Rachel shrugged to herself. "You probably do."
Rachel stayed silent for a few minutes to focus on stitching. She brushed the sweat out of her eyes and wished that the breeze could reach them inside of the tent.
"Do we need to take it off?" Nurse Pillsbury called from a few beds away, bandaging a man's leg. She gestured at Quinn's arm. Her voice was a little shaky, obviously nervous that Rachel may say yes.
"No. No, definitely not." Rachel assured, shielding Quinn's body from the attention that the nurse had called to it. "We'll just have to watch for infection. And then…scarring is a given."
It was a shame.
Nurse Pillsbury nodded and went back to work. She was an immaculate leader, but even her blue Navy cap had slipped sideways during the chaos.
"So, Quinn," Rachel started again when she was finished with the stitches. She began laying alcohol cloths over the rest of the raw skin, occasionally sprinkling sulfa powder over everything. "I wonder how you got these pants." She said, almost smiling. Quinn must've stolen them or convinced somebody to trade with her.
Rachel unbuttoned the sandy green trousers and started to pull them down Quinn's strong legs, wincing at the wounds she uncovered. "Did you trick somebody?" she asked in a shaky voice, trying to be positive. "With your face I'm sure all you had to do was ask and they gave you the pants, right?"
Rachel dropped the trousers on top of the white shirt and reached again for the alcohol. "Is there a man walking around in a Women's Army skirt?" she murmured, glancing at Quinn's face like she was expecting an answer. Quinn was breathing more deeply now, which was a good sign. Maybe Rachel was relaxing her.
"Because I'd like to see that." Rachel said with a smile.
She easily bandaged a small gash on Quinn's pale thigh and then draped wet cloths with alcohol on them all the way down her left leg. She wiped the rest of the sand off Quinn's torso and her other leg and out of her mouth, ran a warm cloth through her hair, and administered morphine so that Quinn wouldn't be in too much pain when she woke up.
Rachel was surprised she'd done it all without vomiting. She hadn't been so lucky when she'd first gone overseas.
She settled a light blanket over Quinn because all the woman was wearing was a bra and underwear, and Rachel wasn't comfortable with covering the raw wounds with clothes at the moment. She kissed Quinn's forehead, left the tent to get some air, and ran right into a tussle happening in the sand outside.
"No! I can't let you in there!" Nurse Pierce proclaimed, not unkindly, blocking the way of a female soldier. She had darker skin and hair, and she was still wearing her cap and her jacket, though it was unbuttoned. "It's crowded enough without healthy people wandering around as well."
The soldier's eyes widened and she tried to barge right through the nurse. "Oh no-you-just tell me if she's okay! Just tell me!"
"I'm sorry, I can't-"
"Brittany." Rachel interrupted, moving to stand next to the other nurse. "What's-"
"Quinn Fabray." The soldier yelled again. "Quinn. Fabray. My name is Santana Lopez and I need to know if third officer Quinn Fabray is alive."
Rachel's mouth dropped open a little bit. She pushed Nurse Pierce's shoulder gently and whispered for her to go and tend to the other patients. Santana watched the blonde nurse disappear and then looked expectantly at Rachel, shoulders heaving from exertion.
"She's alive." Rachel assured immediately. "I can't let you in there, but she's alive, and she'll be okay. I promise. She lost a lot of blood, but I stitched her up myself, and she'll have scars, but she'll be okay."
Santana's eyes locked onto Rachel's, testing their honesty. She trailed down and eyed Rachel's bloody clothing, grimacing a little bit and clutching her stomach. She seemed to accept Rachel's answer because her shoulders slumped and she sighed heavily in relief.
Rachel held out her hand and smiled hesitantly. "My name's Rachel Berry. I'll take care of your friend."
Santana stared at her, and then nodded shortly before taking her hand. Rachel understood. Random acts of kindness in the middle of the invasion of North Africa were probably rare. Or unappreciated. Rachel thought that a war-torn beach in Morocco was the best place for kindness.
"Thanks." Santana said lowly. Then she straightened up and turned away from Rachel to trudge through the sand towards camp.
Rachel went back into the tent, glad that the noise was dying down and eager to help with whatever she could.
When Quinn awoke, it was to the unmistakable sensation that the left side of her body was being torn apart. She let out a loud cry before dampening it and turning it into a long, low groan of pain.
She didn't know where she was. Her first instinct was to stay quiet.
Rachel sprang out of the small wooden chair she was sitting in next to the bed and hovered over Quinn's head. Quinn's eyes were shut, and she looked about ready to bite through her lip. Rachel didn't hesitate in administering more morphine, and she brushed Quinn's hair back while she waited for the drugs to take effect.
Quinn's muscles gradually relaxed and she finally blinked up at Rachel, glad that there wasn't sand in her mouth anymore. Maybe the nurse had gotten rid of it. Quinn wanted to say something, but needed to take stock of all her limbs first, trying to block out the pain.
"It's not broken." Rachel whispered, putting a gentle hand on Quinn's left upper arm when she saw the haze of confusion on the woman's face. "But there's a pretty bad gash. Sixty stitches. I put it in a sling to keep it immobile."
Quinn blinked. Her face felt like it was on fire.
"And…you're burned pretty badly." Rachel continued quietly. "All up your left side. Mostly your arm and your face because they were exposed."
Quinn felt a lump forming in her throat. She gazed into the warm brown eyes of the nurse hovering over her and wished again that she was back home. Those eyes reminded her of home. And the voice. She didn't know why.
Rachel watched Quinn struggle for words and ran a soothing hand through her blonde hair. "My name's Rachel." She whispered, wiping away a tear that dripped out of one of Quinn's hazel eyes. All Rachel could see in them was fear. And longing. "You'll be okay. I promise." She said soothingly.
Quinn tried to reach for Rachel with her left hand, but winced and devolved into a series of low moans with the pain that it caused.
"No, no, no, honey." Rachel murmured, quickly moving around to the other side of the bed. "Here." She took Quinn's right hand and held it softly, rubbing her thumb along the back of it.
Quinn squeezed and swallowed thickly and glanced around. It was dark, except for a few lamps, and all she could see were Rachel's shiny eyes and the white of the cot next to her. "It's…quiet." She observed, voice raw and unsteady.
Rachel smiled slightly. "The beach was secured this afternoon. Not all of Casablanca yet, though. There's an ongoing naval battle, but the ground forces retreated. I believe you'll be staying here until Oran and Algiers are secure as well."
Quinn's eyes were wide and confused.
Rachel stopped talking and squeezed Quinn's hand. She chided herself for spewing too much information. "It is quiet. It's nice." She encouraged gently.
Quinn nodded slowly, and then clenched her jaw because that hurt. Rachel brought a cup of water to Quinn's mouth and helped her take a few sips, maneuvering the cup so that Quinn had to move her head as little as possible. She still managed to dribble a bit down her chin.
"My face hurts." Quinn said thickly, eyes closed. "And my…everything."
Rachel's heart clenched. She wished there was something she could do. She watched sympathetically and squeezed Quinn's hand, sitting down in the chair which she'd scooted right up against the edge of the cot and leaning towards Quinn.
"Where did you get those pants?" Rachel asked quietly, trying to get Quinn to focus on something other than the pain. "Is there a man walking around in a skirt wherever you came from?"
Quinn's brows furrowed. It took her a few seconds, but she finally realized what Rachel was talking about, and she glanced down at herself to see that yes, she was mostly naked. She flushed, but it wasn't visible in the darkness. Or against her raw skin.
She probably had bigger things to worry about.
Rachel was pleased when the corner of Quinn's mouth twitched.
"I, um…I came straight from Fort Des Moines." Quinn said, wincing at how hoarse her voice was. She didn't really want to cough or do anything to fix it because she already felt like her face was being ripped off. Or lit on fire. "We came with an infantry regiment, and one of my…friends on the ship gave me his extra pants. My director allowed it. My skirt was ripped, not that I wanted to wear it anyway, and we were going into combat and I said I needed to be practical."
Rachel smiled softly, watching the fear fade slightly from Quinn's eyes. "So you sweet-talked your way into the pants."
Quinn exhaled sharply through her nose and her lip twitched again, but she didn't try to smile. "Shut up." She said without any malice, squeezing Rachel's hand. Her tired gaze lingered on Rachel for a moment. "I'm Quinn." She said, though it came out sort of mumbled.
Rachel just smiled. "Hi, Quinn. It's nice to meet you."
Quinn sighed, gaze dropping to her feet at the end of the bed. "It's not so nice."
Rachel squeezed Quinn's forearm with her free hand. She listened to the waves for a while, letting Quinn rest her voice. She glanced around every few minutes to make sure the patients under her watch were doing alright, because she had a job to do. No matter how much she'd like to sit and talk to Quinn Fabray all night long.
Most were sleeping, glad to have an opportunity to do so.
Quinn's eyes stayed open, a little glazed over. She was in far too much pain to sleep. But it was finally quiet and she enjoyed the warmth of the hand in her own. The rumbles in the distance were like the rocks on the beach at San Onofre. Drumming along with the tide.
"Your friend came by to check on you." Rachel murmured after a while. Quinn's eyes dragged over to her. Tired and pained and still a little fearful. Rachel's shone in the dark.
"Santana?" Rachel told her. "I think that was her name. I promised I'd take care of you. She seems like the kind who would come after me if I didn't."
Quinn breathed deeply in relief. Her friend was alright. She was only one of many, most of whom wouldn't be alright, but it was enough for now. Quinn knew when she'd gotten the pants from Puckerman that there was a good chance she'd never see him again.
And then she replayed what Rachel had said and had to bite her tongue to stop herself from smiling and twisting her face up. "Why did you promise you'd take care of me?" she rasped. She didn't really want this woman to go anywhere. Ten minutes and Quinn trusted Rachel with her life.
Rachel bit her lip. She had absolutely no idea why she'd said that, actually. Quinn had just seemed like she needed somebody to look out for her. And Rachel was drawn to her. She didn't take well to the idea of other nurses treating Quinn's wounds, maybe a little less carefully, less kindly than Rachel would.
Most patients were business as usual. Rachel didn't want that for Quinn and her frightened hazel eyes. She didn't know how to explain it.
"We thought your arm would have to come off." Rachel said instead. Quinn stared at her. An eyebrow twitched like she was trying to raise it, but then she went still again. "I-I stitched you up. I have to follow through and make sure my handiwork holds up."
After all, if Quinn's arm fell, off everybody would blame Rachel. She couldn't have that happening.
Quinn hummed, amused. But her hum turned into a groan and she shut her eyes and squeezed Rachel's hand tighter.
Rachel stood up again. "I can't give you more morphine yet, Quinn, I'm so sorry." She apologized quietly, leaning over and brushing Quinn's hair away from her face. "Can I get you anything else?"
Quinn knew she was going to throw up. But she couldn't bring herself to shake her head or move her arm because it hurt so much and that just made the nausea worse. "I'm-I'm gonna-"
She groaned again. Rachel reached behind her for something, but Quinn couldn't stop it anymore and she twisted sideways purely on instinct and threw up over the blanket and the side of the bed. Rachel jumped back, but kept hold of Quinn's hand, and then stepped around the mess to reach Quinn's head.
She pulled Quinn's choppy hair back and tried to hold Quinn's head still while she retched again, singing frantically in her mind to keep it off of the vomit.
Quinn couldn't see or think clearly through the pain. Just moving her neck had turned her vision white. She could feel tears on her cheeks, but she refused to cry any harder because it would force her face to move.
"Shhh, honey, it's okay." Rachel hushed, tears pricking her own eyes at Quinn's whimpers. She collected the blanket easily with one hand and bundled it into a ball to be washed later. "Quinn, sweetheart. I'm going to let go for a minute, okay? Just to clean this up, but I'll be back."
Rachel pried Quinn's reluctant fingers out of her hand and hurried away to grab another blanket. She returned and draped it over Quinn, tucking it snugly under Quinn's right side and giving the left some air. The floor was mostly covered in sand, so it soaked up a lot of the vomit, and Rachel shoveled it all into a bucket to be disposed of.
She truly deserved a medal for preventing herself from vomiting today.
Rachel took Quinn's hand again, glad to see that she was managing to stay still. Quinn squeezed tightly. Far more tightly than before. Her shoulders heaved with the sobs she was barely restraining.
Rachel leaned forward and wiped the tears off of Quinn's right cheek, letting her fingers trail through Quinn's hair soothingly. She had absolutely no idea what to do.
So she sang. Billie Holiday's "Sun Showers."
And for once, Quinn was glad that the silence was filled. By this soft, warm, full voice like honey.
Rachel slowed the song down and hummed a bit where she forgot the words because it had been so long since she'd heard it, but Quinn's shoulders gradually stopped shaking, and her grip on Rachel's hand finally relaxed.
Rachel took a deep breath when she realized that Quinn was finally asleep. She stood up to press a kiss to her cheek. "Good night, Quinn." She murmured.
And then she settled into her chair with her head on Quinn's cot to watch over her new friend for the rest of the night.
Never mind the rain
The sun will shine again
Through sun showers