It feels like a biting sting brimming just above your bottom eyelashes. A glossy film, building and rippling into puddles – waiting to spill over the edge. The frog in your throat is dry and it hurts – it hurts so much to swallow…but you watch her anyway. Teetering between "goodbye" and "see you in another lifetime" because for some of you…this really is the end, isn't it?
"Rachel." You whisper softly once she's hugged Mike – a long embrace, rife with more tears and a quick goodbye twirl for those dancing feet's sake. She spins right into you, her eyes wide and red- rimmed – her smile falling into something calm, something quiet…like you're the only thing worth waiting for in her grand, grand world.
And a tear spills over, a vagabond among the rest.
"Why are you crying?" She asks softly, that hand of hers reaching out tentatively to touch your cheek, to wipe it away – but she stops herself just in the nick of time. A blush working itself into her already flushed skin. She lowers her eyes – remembering the world around you.
"I could ask you the same thing." You smile softly. You think that you have a smile reserved just for her – you aren't sure until this moment – when she lifts her gaze and gives you that soft "Special Quinn Fabray Smile" of her own. And then you're sure…you've got it bad. You've got it terribly, even.
"Train 4267 Boarding for New York City." The announcement is loud, and it breaks whatever spell the two of you have found yourselves in. In an instant you see Finn – teary eyed and pulling Rachel away from you into a firm hug. And it seems to you that you'll have that biting pull in your chest for the rest of your life if Finn Hudson takes away the only thing you've ever truly wanted for yourself. He smiles at you softly over Rachel's shoulder as he lets her go —- and you grimace a smile in return. How could you be so selfish, you wonder.
And within moments there she is…walking away from you. It hurts more than you could have possibly imagined. And all you can do is cling into the arms of Santana – because she knows – and you let her ground you to the cement. You let her whisper into your ear that everything will be all right. And you nod your head, and wave your fingers into the biting chill of the air as you watch that train make its farewell departure.
"You aren't the only one saying goodbye, Quinn…and really, this is only farewell, we're just beginning."
And you smile something watery and broken as Santana kisses you on the cheek, nothing cheeky or fresh – just a simple understanding, and a compassion not often exuded between the two of you.
"And when did you become the token word for the wise, Santana…?"
"When I realized that I had to leave a piece of myself behind too…we're not so different you and I."
You nod your head, chancing a glance at Brittany not twenty feet away – waving to a departing train. And you see the tears in your best friend's eyes…and you understand. You'll need each other more than you know – You're tumbleweeds left to float in a weightless world – all desert and valley and sand. But you wipe those dreary eyes and smile brightly at Santana Lopez, because what they never tell you at goodbye…is that sometimes.
Hope springs eternal.
II. Loose Leaf:
"Letters are for old people."
Your hand stills on the page and you drop it away, huffing out a breath into the air of your dorm room as you spin around from your desk to stare at Santana, who seems to be much more interested in painting her fingernails at the moment.
"I like letters."
"Yea my point exactly… you count as 'old people.'"
"Santana, I'm 19 for God's sake."
"Age ain't nothing but a number chastity queen."
You fold your paper quickly, tucking it into your desk drawer amongst your stationary. You'll finish it later, sometime tonight beside the warm light of your bedside lamp – like a journal entry, but really it's so much more.
"What where you writing anyway?"
"A letter to Rachel."
You see her stop brushing to look up at you curiously, her brown eyes boring into your hazel ones as she looks down at your drawer and then back up to you again – a show of sympathy, a sadness seeping into the air between you.
"Quinn, don't keep doing this to yourself –"
"—They got back together, maybe we were just naive once upon a time. Maybe I was wrong about her—"
"Fuck, Santana…I said don't."
You rarely, if ever swear – and this quiets her tongue. She bites her lip and you swallow thickly – the frog making an unwelcome entrance, a pang loitering about your chest. And just behind your eyes – clenched shut – you feel them, waiting to fall. Waiting to tarnish whatever strength you've tried to hold.
You open your eyes – and they fail you, falling to the carpet and to your lap below. Hot and salty…. despicable, really after all this time.
"You have her. You have Brittany…you have your 'happy ending' in New York – you transferred into SUNY, and Brittany just…she dances. A year you waited, and she came for you. And what do I have, San? … A few letters, and a couple of expired train passes on the Metro from here to the city. An invitation to a wedding that was never supposed to make it…nothing…I have nothing to show for any of it."
"They aren't married yet Quinn. Finn's in California on duty – they won't be married until next summer at the earliest… with Rachel in school. The Quinn I know doesn't fucking give up."
"The Quinn you know could only live through this once…please don't ask me to do it twice."
"Yes. Yes you were."
And that's the end of that you think as you get up to leave your dorm room, leaving Santana behind to wallow in the sadness piled up and around you like a ridiculously bad aura.
III. Cat's Cradle:
Maybe it's bad luck, maybe it's serendipity…but you see her one morning during your morning jog on a windy Saturday in Central Park. She's standing at the bridge you're passing, letting flower petals fall out of her hands and into the cold winter breeze. You haven't seen her in quite a while—in person at least. What's it been? Two years? …You've lost count of the days.
She turns in a panic, catching her cap before it can fly away as she spins around and falls into your body unexpectedly –you're brought back to earlier memories of goodbyes and train stations – memories you'd rather not think about.
She latches onto your arms to steady her balance as she ducks to stare into your eyes, scanning your flushed face and your hair – which has fallen away from your ponytail. She reaches out a hand to touch your cheek, and this time she doesn't pull away as she lets her thumb stroke your skin. And like old times, the world ceases to exist around you, halted in its revolution.
"Hi, Rachel." You whisper.
"W-What…you're not in New Haven anymore?" You smile at her naivety… finding it adorable as you shrug your shoulders. You see her left hand, and you don't miss the absence of a ring. You bite your lip as you furrow your brows.
"You and Finn Hudson not attached at the hip anymore?" You quip. And she nods…a sad smile on her lips as she backs away from you, letting her fingers fall.
You miss that.
"Touché" She whispers.
"Hey, I'm sorry – I…I was just finishing my run, do you like coffee?"
You see her blush and nod her head. Her eyes gazing up to look up into the sky – and you remember why you fell in love with her all those years ago. In this moment, at twenty-six — you should hate her. You should want nothing to do with Rachel Barbra Berry, after all that she's put you through. But you can't help the way your heart flutters when she looks at you; you can't help but wish for the world with her.
"I love coffee." She breathes. You hum an approval.
"For old times sake?"
You reach out, and you take her hand – warm and light. It fits perfectly in yours, like you always knew it would.
"For old times."