this is an AU story in three parts.
dedicated to mary gael, as always. :)
based loosely on the song 'vegas' by all time low, which is also where the title comes from.
i would've married you in vegas (had you given me the chance to say 'i do')
((part one of three))
They head out on the Sunday after graduation, just the four of them in Quinn's brand new Ford Taurus. Finn's driving, Quinn in the passenger seat, her hand on his thigh, and that leaves Rachel in the back with Noah, who's already raking his hand through his Mohawk.
She can't believe she's done with high school now, just like that. And, really, there's no more fitting way to celebrate than heading out on a road trip with two of her best friends (plus Noah, seeing as he's friends with Finn and refused to be left behind).
She glances out the window as Finn pulls onto the interstate, and she watches the state of Ohio fly by.
She wonders how different California will look, how different she'll look there.
She wonders if she'll even be any different at all.
She's been friends with Finn for as long as she can remember. They've grown up together, lived next door to each other all their lives, and when Quinn moved to Lima right before freshman year, their duo became a trio. Finn became friends with Puck after joining the football team, and Rachel became good friends with Quinn.
Finn's still her best friend, though. She was kind of surprised when he asked Quinn to prom junior year instead of her (because they'd always said they'd go together), but then he and Quinn started dating, and who was she to be anything but happy for them? They're two of her best friends, after all.
Noah grunts in his sleep, one earbud falling out of his ear, and Rachel sighs. She thinks Quinn's trying to set her up with him, but Noah is hardly her type. This might be a long two weeks, but at least she has Quinn and Finn to keep her sane.
Quinn's fingers rub lazy circles on Finn's arm, and he laughs at something she says, her voice too hushed for Rachel to hear. Rachel frowns. Or maybe it'll just be even worse, having to watch Finn and Quinn in love, while she's all alone.
She's happy for them, but it's hard to be happy when you wish it were you instead.
They stop to get gas and switch drivers somewhere in Kentucky. Rachel jostles Noah awake, rolling her eyes as he wipes some drool off his chin.
"Your turn to drive," she reminds him.
He blinks. "Where are we?"
He groans, but he pushes open the door of the car.
Rachel gets out as well, stretching her legs, and Quinn rolls her eyes good naturedly when she sees Rachel's expression. "Sorry," she mouths, but Rachel just shrugs.
"Want to sit up front?" Quinn asks.
Rachel bites her lip. She'd really rather not, but she doesn't want to appear rude. Quinn's just looking at her expectantly, though, so she knows she has to answer.
"Not really," she admits.
"I'll sit in the back with you, then," Quinn says, giving her a small smile. "Finn can keep Puck entertained."
Rachel smiles back, and soon enough, Finn comes back from the gas station convenience store and the gas pump clicks, signifying the tank is full. Noah extracts the pump and recaps the fuel tank as Finn starts passing out candy and food. He holds out a bag of Reese's Pieces for Rachel, winking at her as she takes them.
She laughs, pleased that he remembers they're her favorite, even though it's been forever since she's had them. "Thanks," she tells him, and he smiles.
"You're up front with Puck," Quinn tells him shortly, taking the bag of pretzels from his hand without so much as a 'thank you.'
Finn doesn't say anything though, just opens the passenger seat door and slides on in, Noah already in the driver's seat. Rachel climbs back into the car next to Quinn, and she eats her candy while Quinn gets out her ipod, offering Rachel an earbud. Rachel shakes her head.
Quinn shrugs, turning to look out the window instead, and Rachel leans her head against the cool glass as Noah puts the car in drive.
She glances over at Finn to see that he's looking at her. He raises his eyebrows when she catches him, and she offers him some candy. He smiles, wide and slow, and she pours some of the Reese's Pieces into his hand.
"Thanks, Rach," he says, his mouth full.
"Charming," she says, but she laughs.
Quinn glances over at them, frowning slightly, and then she leans up to whisper something Finn's ear, her fingers curling against his shoulder blade. Rachel's laughter dies on her lips, and she pointedly looks away.
She hates that being friends with Quinn means things between her and Finn are weird. She loves them both, but she's not so sure she loves them together. She doesn't know why, but seeing them interact and actually be a couple makes her somewhat sick to her stomach.
It's going to be a long two weeks.
They stop in Arkansas for the night. To save money, they get stay at a dingy looking motel and get one room with two beds. She's worried for a moment that she'll have to stay with Noah, but Finn proposes that she and Quinn share instead.
"Dude, I'm not sleeping on the fucking floor," Noah spits out.
Finn rolls his eyes. "Fine, I will then."
Rachel's heart swells. He's so chivalrous.
"That's so sweet of you, Finn," Quinn says instead, standing up on her tiptoes to press a lingering kiss against Finn's cheek. He turns his head to kiss her on the mouth, and Rachel turns pointedly away.
Noah catches her eye, raising his eyebrows. She ignores him as well, walking over to the window. She pushes aside the thin veil of the curtain, looking out through the glass. All she can see is the grey pavement of the parking lot, and she doesn't know why, but she feels disappointed. She expected this to be slightly more climatic, traveling across the country, but Arkansas looks the same as Ohio.
She feels the same as she did in Ohio. Shouldn't she feel different by now?
"You comin' to bed or what, Berry?" Noah asks, and she resists the urge to roll her eyes.
"We have an early morning," Quinn reminds her, and Rachel nods, stepping away from the window, letting the curtain fall into place.
Maybe she'll feel different once she gets to California. Maybe she won't be jealous of her best friend, won't have feelings for the one boy she's forbidden to have feelings for. Surely California will change everything.
It'll have to.
They eat at an IHOP for breakfast, and Quinn's the only one who orders bacon.
"What?" she says around her mouthful of meat when she notices the three of them staring at her. "How do you guys not like bacon?"
"Kosher," Noah says, stabbing at his eggs. "Berry's Jewish, too."
"And also a vegan," Finn adds.
Rachel raises an eyebrow. She hadn't realized he remembered so much. "Well, vegetarian now," she amends. "But yes, that still means no bacon. That doesn't explain why you aren't eating any, though, Finn," she teases.
He shrugs. "It's the International House of Pancakes, so I figured I should eat, you know, pancakes."
Rachel giggles, but she notices Quinn is glaring at her, so she quickly takes a gulp of water instead.
"Funny," Quinn mutters acidly, moodily stabbing at her bacon. "Can I eat my meat in piece now? Or does that offend anyone here?"
Finn frowns and Noah rolls his eyes, but Rachel just raises her eyebrows.
"No?" Quinn clarifies. "Good."
They finish their breakfast in silence, and Rachel's blueberry pancakes test less delectable with every bite. Quinn's managed to sour them with her moodiness, and she briefly wonders how she's going to get through another week and a half (at least) of this, of the mood swings and the petty fights and the foul tempers.
Then Finn shoots her a small smile from across the table, and she feels her heart pound against her ribcage, the blood rush to her cheeks. Maybe she knows how she'll get by after all: with little stolen glances and smiles meant just for her.
Rachel drives after breakfast with Noah in the front seat, and it's not long before they're in Oklahoma. He complains about her choice of music – Barbra Streisand's Greatest Hits – but she takes to blocking him out, and she finds that the best way to do so is to sing as loudly as she can, which, thanks to her impeccable voice training, is at quite a loud decibel.
She's halfway through a rather dazzling (if she does say so herself) rendition of "Don't Rain on My Parade" when Quinn points out a sign for a Cherokee trading post at the next exit.
"I'd love a little trinket," she says, and Rachel can see her batting her eyelashes at Finn through the rearview mirror. She quickly looks back at the road, but when she glances back up seconds later, she sees that Finn looks oblivious, his eyes still trained out the window. She smiles. Things like this shouldn't make her happy, but they do.
She pulls off at the next exit and the trading post is just down the road, so it's not long until she's pulled into a parking spot and the four of them are piling out of the car. Rachel tosses Quinn the keys as she passes a painted buffalo.
"Rach," she hears Finn call behind her, and she stops. "Come here." He's standing by the buffalo now, and his finger is crooked, beckoning for her to come stand next to him. "Take a picture with me," he says easily, slinging an arm around her shoulders. "Best friends in Oklahoma."
She laughs, and it feels just like old times. She looks over to see Noah with a camera. She wraps an arm around Finn's waist, and she smiles, even though she can see Quinn scowling by the door of the shop. There's a click, and then Noah says he got the picture.
Finn doesn't make to move his arm that's still currently around her shoulders, and Rachel revels in it for a moment. It feels nice, to be close to him. She can smell his cologne in the soft, summer breeze.
She can feel Quinn still glaring from next to the door of the shop, so she pulls away, but she walks next to him as they head inside, his hand pressing lightly against the small of her back as he follows her in. She heads toward the charms in the corner as Quinn grabs Finn's arm and steers him toward the turquoise necklaces.
They're all so tiny and delicate, and she's thinking about getting a necklace with a small wooden star dangling from the chain. It's only ten dollars, and she thinks it would be nice a souvenir. Plus, the star would be a metaphor for the star she will inevitably become, and metaphors are important.
She takes the necklace to the woman behind the counter and gets out her wallet to pay, but before she can, a hand closes around her wrist. "Let me," Finn says, and Rachel raises an eyebrow.
"But—" she protests.
"I'm already buying Quinn a necklace, so let me buy you one, too, alright? It's the least I could do."
She knows she should say But Quinn's your girlfriend, and she's about to, it's on the tip of her tongue, but he's looking at her so earnestly that she can't say no. She just nods weakly, stepping aside so he can pay.
Quinn drums her fingers against the glass of the counter, her eyes never leaving Rachel as Finn gives the woman her money. It makes Rachel feel uncomfortable, and she knows that Finn is Quinn's boyfriend, but she's friends with Finn and she's friends with Quinn, so it shouldn't matter, right? Friends can pay for things. This isn't weird.
Quinn's eyes don't leave hers, though, and Rachel wonders if Quinn can sense her feelings for Finn, the feeling's she's fought so hard to keep from rising to the surface. She wonders if she can smell them on her, or if they're written on her face.
Finn finishes paying then, and Noah mutters, "Finally," as they head out of the shop. It's raining when they get outside, big, black clouds heavy on the horizon, droplets already streaming from the sky.
Quinn shrieks, running for the car, her flip flops splashing in the puddles that have already formed. She covers her head with her hands, and Finn just laughs. He doesn't speed up at all, and neither do Rachel or Noah. They just take their time, letting the rain drench them thoroughly.
Rachel thinks this is what freedom feels like. For the first time, she feels truly on her own.
Quinn's already in the driver's seat when the three of them finally make it to the car. "What took you so long?" she snaps, turning the keys in the ignition.
"Lighten up, Q," Noah says from the passenger seat.
Quinn just frowns, punching the preset buttons on the radio in an effort to find a station. She finally finds an oldies station, and she pulls out of the parking lot with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" filling the car.
"Yeah, I'll tell you something / I think you'll understand / When I say that something / I wanna hold your hand."
Finn hums along, his voice deep and low, and Rachel can't help but give him a small smile. "You're really good, you know," she tells him.
"At what?" he asks lightly.
"Music." She remembers he plays the drums, has ever since he was little, but he can sing as well, something she didn't know until now. Judging by the way he's blushing, however, he doesn't think so.
"Nah, that's you, Rach," he says.
She frowns. "You are good," she tells him. "I don't just say that to anyone, as I'm sure you know."
His lips twitch into a smile. "I know."
She wakes up when they stop to switch drivers just outside of Texas, her head on Finn's shoulder. It's stopped raining, but the sun is still hidden by clouds. She sits up abruptly, but Finn just smiles at her.
"Have a nice nap?" he asks.
"You could have woken me up and told me to move," she mumbles.
"Nah," he says, "you looked too peaceful. And I didn't mind."
She doesn't tell him that she's not worried about him minding, but that she's more concerned with Quinn. Sure enough, she looks up just in time to catch Quinn's glare in the rearview mirror, right before she throws the door open, nearly knocking it into Noah, who's already filling the car with gas.
"Watch it, Q!" he says, but she just walks around and wrenches open Finn's door instead.
"Your turn to drive," she says, her eyes narrowed as she crosses her arms, waiting for him and Rachel to pile out. "I'm napping."
She doesn't even follow Rachel and Finn inside the gas station to use the restroom, just climbs into the back seat, presumably to sleep.
Rachel uses the restroom and then helps Finn stock up on snacks, grabbing him some Sour Patch Kids and getting herself a can of Pringles. She figures Noah would like some beef jerky, and she even picks up a vitamin water and granola bar for Quinn.
They pay for their stuff and head back out to the car. Finn goes to make sure all the suitcases tied to the top of the car are still in place, tightening the straps. Surprisingly, Noah's in the back with Quinn, but Rachel doesn't really question it, just hands him his beef jerky. He nods gratefully, taking Quinn's food as well. She's already turned away, eyes shut, blonde hair caught between her cheek and the window.
Rachel just sighs, sliding into the passenger seat.
"Don't worry about her," Finn murmurs as he begins to drive. "She's just – I don't know, cranky, probably. She's not used to being in such a small space for long periods of time, you know?"
Rachel nods, and she knows Finn might believe that, but she doesn't. She and Quinn are friends, but she still remember the conversation they had when they were fourteen, when Rachel admitted that she had the teensiest crush on Finn.
Of course, two years later, Quinn was the one dating Finn, and Rachel was the one with the stupid crush, but she figured Quinn had forgotten all about that. Apparently that was not the case, judging by the way she's been glaring at her all day.
"This is a great song," Finn says then, reaching over to turn the radio up. Rachel recognizes the song, and she bites her lip to hide a smile, checking the back seat. Quinn's seemingly asleep. Her eyes are shut, anyway, and her breathing is labored. Noah's eyes are closed as well, and he's leaning against the opposite window, his fingers brushing Quinn's.
Huh. That's odd.
Finn's voice makes her look at him then, instead of the two in the backseat, because he's singing, his deep, soft voice clear and pure. "Highway run, into the midnight sun / Wheels go round and round / You're on my mind."
He looks pointedly at her then, and she giggles, knowing that he wants her to join in. So she does. "Restless hearts, sleep alone tonight / Sending all my love along the wire."
His voice joins hers, and she tries not to sing too loudly, as to not wake either Noah or Quinn, but they just sound so perfect together, like they were meant to sing together, their voices intertwined. "They say that the road ain't no place to start a family / But right down the line it's been you and me / And lovin' a music man ain't always what's it's supposed to be / Oh girl, you stand by me / I'm forever yours / Faithfully."
"We sound good," he says then, and she laughs.
"We do," she agrees, and she doesn't miss the blinding smile he sends her way.
He whistles along with the rest of the song, and she finds herself slipping back into the comfortable ease she's always felt around Finn, the ease that has sort of drifted away since he and Quinn have been together.
They find themselves talking about elementary school, about how he was her first kiss in fifth grade, by the monkey bars. She blushes a bit at the memory, but he just winks, saying he couldn't have imagined a better first kiss. She feels the red in her cheeks deepen when he reminds her that they went to their eighth grade dance together, and how, even in her heels, she was still shorter than him.
"Shut up," she says, but she's laughing as she shoves his arm lightly.
"Hey," he jokes, "I'm driving here."
The last chords of "Faithfully" fade out in the background, but he's still smiling, his eyes trained on the miles of highway in front of them. The sun breaks through the clouds then, and the sight of him is dazzling, a sliver of sunlight shining cutting across his face.
She doesn't think she's ever seen anything so beautiful, and she wonders what could possibly compare.
It takes them a day and a half to drive through Texas, but eventually they find themselves in New Mexico, and it's so, so different from Ohio. The highway's lined with the red of the sand, plateaus jutting up in the horizon. It's breathtaking; it's like nothing she's ever seen before.
Rachel thinks that if New York or California doesn't work out, she might like to live here.
They stop in a small town to check into a hotel and head to dinner. It's Noah's turn to pick, and he chooses a slightly rundown Pizza Hut. Rachel ends up next to Quinn in the booth, Noah and Finn across from them.
"I just don't understand how you can't see it, Finn," Quinn's snapping, almost like Rachel and Noah aren't even there. Rachel sees Noah shift uncomfortably.
Finn sighs. "Quinn, not now," he says, but she angrily cuts him off.
"Yes, now. You're ignoring the issue, Finn!"
He stands up them, grabbing her elbow and dragging her a little farther off. It's not far enough, however, because Rachel can still hear snippets of what they're saying.
"—your incessant flirting—"
"Quinn, come on—"
"—making goo goo eyes at her when you should be paying attention to me—"
"Quinn, please, you're being ridiculous—"
"Oh, I'm being ridiculous?" Half the restaurant is staring now as Quinn's voice rises in volume. "At least I'm not pretending to be unable to see something that's clearly there. Just admit it, Finn! Admit that you've been flirting with her, and then just say you're sorry!"
Neither one of them move for a moment, but somehow Finn's gaze lands on Rachel. She gulps, looking down at her pizza instead. Surely they can't be arguing over her, but who else could they be fighting about?
Quinn huffs, and then she leaves, the door swinging shut behind her with a slam. She sees Finn cover his face with his hand out of the corner of her eye, hears him sigh, and then he walks back over to the table, sliding into the booth beside Noah.
"Must be her time of the month," Noah mutters, but Finn shrugs.
"Maybe," he allows.
He looks at Rachel instead, though, and Rachel knows he doesn't believe that. She's the reason Quinn's upset. She doesn't know how Finn feels about that, but personally, she feels incredibly guilty. Quinn is, first and foremost, her friend. She shouldn't be flirting with her boyfriend.
Quinn's still sulking the next morning when they all pile back into the car, choosing to sit up front while Noah drives, leaving Finn and Rachel in the backseat. Silence fills the car, and it's eerie as they drive in the early morning sunlight.
Don't worry about her, Finn texts Rachel (so Quinn won't be even madder that they're discussing things without her, she figures). She's just pissed because we've been hanging out more.
Rachel raises an eyebrow, but she texts him back, fingers moving swiftly over the keys, Maybe we shouldn't be hanging out as much then…
She watches his face as he reads the message, his lips curling into a frown. Rach, he replies, we're friends. Best friends, remember? She can't dictate that.
Rachel sighs. She knows this, obviously. She bites her lip before she texts back, I know, Finn, but she is your girlfriend, and if us talking and being around each other so much makes her uncomfortable, then maybe we should respect that. I'm still friends with her, too, you know.
We're in a cramped car for hours at a time traveling across the country, Finn points out. What are we supposed to do, ignore each other?
She has to press her fingers to her lips in order to suppress a giggle. I guess that would be silly, she allows.
So… still friends?
She nods, looking up from her phone and at his eager face instead. "Still friends," she whispers.
He holds out his pinky, and she giggles, locking fingers with him.
"You're my best friend, Rach," he murmurs, and it makes her heart pound more than it should.
She doesn't know if Quinn hears, but her expression is still stony as she stares out the passenger window.
About a half hour later, they come across a large sign that says "Route 66" in silver retro lettering, so they decide to get off at the exit for a photo op. Finn helps Rachel out of the backseat – Quinn furrowing her brow as her frown deepens, watching them from behind the large sunglasses that take up half of her face. She quickly pulls her hair back into a ponytail, and Rachel considers doing the same. The New Mexico sun is already beating down on them.
Noah tells Rachel and Quinn to pose in front of it first, camera already out, and Rachel thinks it'll be awkward – Quinn's mad, after all – but Quinn's anger seems to melt away.
"C'mon, Rach," she urges, and she wraps an arm around her waist, grinning for the camera. Rachel smiles, too, and then it's a few seconds before Noah says he got the shot.
"Finn, get in here!" Quinn yells next, and then Finn's slipping in between them, squinting at the camera in the bright sun.
Rachel lets Noah get a picture of just Finn and Quinn then, her stomach churning uncomfortably when Quinn stands on her tiptoes to press a kiss against Finn's cheek.
Quinn tells her it's time for just Rachel and Finn next, and she feels like it's a trap, but she steps toward Finn anyway. He wraps an arm around her waist easily, and she drapes hers across his back. She smiles toward the camera, but later, when she looks back at the picture, she'll see that Finn wasn't looking at the camera at all, but down at her instead, his smile wide.
It'll explain the look that crosses over Quinn's face right as the camera goes off. She covers it up by grabbing Noah's arm and dragging him toward the silver monument instead, thrusting the camera into Finn's hands.
He looks bewildered for a moment, but he takes the picture anyway. Rachel figures Quinn's trying to make Finn jealous, what with Noah's hand practically brushing her ass, but Finn doesn't seem to mind. He just dutifully takes the picture, and the Quinn stalks toward him, practically taking the camera from his fingers.
"I'm driving," she declares, heading for the car. "Finn, passenger seat."
He just raises his eyebrows in Rachel's direction, and she shrugs. She doesn't know what kind of experiment Quinn was just trying out, but apparently, it failed. She just traipses back to the car after Finn and next to a sullen-looking Noah. It's only been four days, and they aren't even in California yet.
She really hopes Quinn's mood gets better, because she doesn't see how it could possibly get any worse.
They stop for the night in Arizona, and they splurge and decide on two rooms. At first, Rachel's terrified that Finn and Quinn will be rooming together doing God knows what, and she'll be awkwardly in a room with Noah, but Quinn tells her they'll be sharing and the boys will be across the hall.
She lets out an audible sigh of relief, earning her weird looks from both Noah and Finn. She blushes and then ducks inside the room she's sharing with Quinn.
An hour later, Quinn still hasn't returned to the room, so Rachel decides to go see where's she's gone off to. The logical place to look is Finn and Noah's room, but she really doesn't want that to be the place where she finds her, so she heads down the hallway instead. She hears a noise coming from the small room just at the end of the hallway where the ice is kept, and she creeps closer, the light from the room falling into the hallway.
She's close enough now to hear the smacking of lips, the wet sound of kissing, and she freezes for a moment. She sees the silhouettes, and she takes another step to the right, and then they're in view: two people, about her own age, fused together at the mouth, limbs wrapped around each other as they kiss furiously. She sees blonde hair, pulled back in a ponytail, and a telltale Mohawk.
She covers her mouth with her hand to keep from gasping, biting down on her fingers to hide her shock, and slowly, she backs away.
Quinn and Noah were making out in the ice room. Finn's Quinn. Her friend, Quinn. Cheating on her friend, Finn. With his friend, Noah.
She swallows thickly, hand still over her mouth, and quickly turns, heading back to her room. She lets the door click shut behind her once she's safely inside, and she just focuses on breathing for a moment: in, out, in, out.
She sits down on the edge of her bed. She doesn't know what to do. She knows she should tell Finn, but there's no telling what he'll do, and they're so far away from home. But she can't lie to him either, can't pretend that he isn't dating a cheater.
And then there's Quinn. She's her friend, too. And Quinn doesn't know that she knows about her and Noah.
Maybe she can just convince herself she didn't see anything, and if she tells herself enough times, it'll have to be true. She decides to go with that plan, because there's other option that doesn't involve hurting someone else, and this is supposed to be their last hurrah. They can hurt again in Ohio.
So, for now, she'll just pretend there's no inevitable pain, that's everything's fine, that everything's the same. Even if it's all a lie.