Quinn eased the door open, careful for it not to squeak. She didn't know how much time she had before Shepard was alerted to her presence. She needed to get in, spread the paraffin over the house and the box, and then light the match. Her stomach knotted at that thought. It all ended after that and she still wasn't sure if she was ready for that. But she was sure of one thing, if she didn't do this and the demon successfully possessed her, then god knows what it would do on this Earth and she couldn't allow that- not when she had the choice to stop it.
She took an attempted calming breath as she stepped through the weathered front door one last time. With each step she was faced with the painful memories of the faces and the life she was about to leave behind. How would her family cope with this? Sure they weren't on the best of terms but Quinn still doubted the news of their daughter's death would cause anything other than heartbreak from her parents. What about her new friends? How would they deal with this when it was all over? A traumatising, murderous ghost and a dead friend was something they would probably carry around for a long time. Quinn gulped, she felt extremely guilty and unbearably sad but she knew what she was doing was the right thing.
Swiftly and as silently as she could, she shimmied off her backpack and took out the paraffin and matches. She quickly laid a trail of the lighter fluid along the bottom floor and along the lower part of the stairs, then she doused the box of photographs and watched as the liquid soaked into the old wood. Now the final part. Quinn retrieved the box of matches and held one of the little sticks out, ready to strike it. Ready to end this once and for all.
"Quinn," a soft voice carried from the stairs. "Don't tell me you're not going to say goodbye." Quinn looked up to see Rachel watching her, those deep brown eyes a mixture of sadness and relief. Quinn realised this would all be over for Rachel too. She just hoped more than anything that this wouldn't be the end for her and the little brunette ghost.
"Hi," Quinn replied gently. Rachel held her gaze, taking in Quinn's face. "Is he here?" Rachel shook her head and Quinn's relaxed a little. She still had some time with Rachel before the mayhem started. The calm before the storm, Quinn mused to herself. "Are you ready for this Rachel?" She asked, taking in the girl's hesitant expression.
"I am. I'm just so sorry it had to come to this. You're a good, decent human being and you deserve so much more Quinn, you deserve to carry on living not-"Rachel cut herself off, feeling tears starting to well in the corners of her eyes. Quinn chewed her lip nervously. These were thoughts she herself had previously whirling inside her head, but the thought of the demon in her body, causing god knows what chaos in the world made her stomach churn. If she was going down, she'd take that son of a bitch with her.
"It's okay Rach. I've got to do this. If I don't then I die anyway and he gets my body. I don't want him living, let alone as me." Quinn spotted a trace of a smile on Rachel's lips.
"I admire you Quinn. You 're so strong and brave, I don't know how you're coping with the immensity of this situation right now, let alone whatever is running through your mind right now. I wish I had been more like you, then maybe you wouldn't be in this situation and you-"
"Shh," Quinn breathed and looked directly into Rachel's watery eyes. "Don't worry about that now, okay? We shouldn't spend whatever time we have left worrying." Rachel nodded in agreement. "How much time do we have before he gets back here?" Quinn begrudgingly asked. She didn't want her time with Rachel to end.
"Anytime now," Rachel whispered as she realised the full extent of what would happen when Dr. Shepard did return. Quinn nodded slowly and started to chew her lip again.
"Rachel, I love you," Quinn said so innocently it made Rachel's heart lurch. She held Quinn's stare, taking in her beautiful hazel eyes properly. Then she leaned in until her lips connected with Quinn's. Quinn dropped the matches as she melted into the kiss, letting Rachel's lips stay there as she thought about how much she was going to miss this girl. She knew if she'd never met Rachel then her whole life would be different. But she realised she didn't want it to be different, because if it was then she wouldn't have Rachel, the girl who despite everything, Quinn ultimately loved with her heart and soul.
"I love you too," Rachel mouthed into the kiss, snapping Quinn from her thoughts. Quinn pushed her lips against Rachel's, pulling back when she felt Rachel's tears. She wiped Rachel's eyes gently with her thumbs and cupped her face.
Quinn looked at Rachel, really looked at her. She never wanted to forget Rachel's face and the beautiful person she was. Quinn was about to kiss her again but Rachel's head whipped around; fear replaced the love in her eyes and she turned to Quinn with a look that the blonde immediately understood. Dr. Shepard was back.
As a cold, menacing chill crept its way up Quinn's back, her attention turned to the matches but they were gone. She frantically searched the area around where she'd dropped them and through her bag but they weren't there. She started to feel sick.
"I presume you're looking for these?" A cruel voice echoed from the top of the stairs, making the bile rise in Quinn's throat. Dr. Shepard held up a little cardboard box. That bastard had the matches. Quinn suddenly vomited and she crouched down, feeling dizzy. Rachel rushed to her side and rubbed her back soothingly. Dr. Shepard laughed. "It won't be long now Quinn, just under an hour and I'll finally get to live again. You can feel it can't you? You can feel yourself getting weaker and weaker. You're dying Quinn. That's what you're feeling."
"Shut up!" Rachel snapped at her father, pouring all that stocked up hatred she held into her her voice and her expression. Dr. Shepard was at first surprised and then his face darkened.
"You do not get to talk to me like that, girl. Remember who I am," he snarled through gritted teeth as he started to descend the stairs. "If you're not careful with your mouth, I'll make your afterlife a living hell."
"As though you haven't done so already?" Rachel retorted and Quinn started to panic when she saw Dr. Shepard lunge for Rachel, his fist impacting the side of her face with so much force it through her off her feet. Rachel felt no pain but the action as enough to separate the two girls. Shepard turned his attention to Quinn and picked her up by the collar of her jacket so that their eyes were level.
Quinn narrowed her eyes and spat in his face. "Fuck you," she growled. Shepard threw her against a wall and she crumpled to the floor, crying out in a mixture of pain and shock. She watched the demon, waiting for him to torture her more but he stood there, still. Then he dropped to the floor, as though he'd been shot. Rachel ran up to Quinn, helping her on her feet. "What's going on Rach?"
"I don't know but we shouldn't waste this opportunity!"
Quinn took the hint and ran over to the body, pulling the matches from his hand. Just as she plucked a match, ready to strike, her hand stopped. She couldn't move it, no matter how hard she tried, it wouldn't budge. It was as though she'd just lost all control over it. She laughed, but it wasn't her. It was her voice but it wasn't her laugh. Then she realised. "It's over Quinn. I'll be the only one inside this vessel in a very short amount of time. You've already lost the ability to control it," she found herself saying. She couldn't talk, though. When she tried, nothing happened. Panic started to set it. "Don't be afraid Quinn," the demon mocked, feeling Quinn's emotion. Quinn then felt her body turning around and her gaze settled on Rachel. "Whilst we wait for you to leave this body, I'm going to teach my daughter the manners and respect she should have for her father." Quinn stalked over to a very scared and confused Rachel who looked at her in disbelief and despair.
"Quinn!" Rachel yelled.
"It's no good girl, she's almost gone. She's too weak to fight me off now." Quinn was horrified as she desperately tried to stop herself from hurting the girl, but she couldn't. No matter how much she willed herself not too, the demon was too strong. Dr. Shepard slapped Rachel and then kicked her to the floor. Rachel knew these weren't Quinn's actions but seeing Quinn doing this, even if was someone else in her body was still heart-wrenching and she wondered if the emotional pain would outweigh the physical pain if she could have felt it.
"No, no, no! Stop this you bastard! Stop it!" Quinn yelled internally but it was in vain. Dr Shepard ignored her.
"Quinn this isn't you, I know. It's okay. You tried Quinn, you tried and I love you. Please know that," Rachel choked out in between beatings. It was then that Dr. Shepard stopped. Quinn couldn't let this go on. She couldn't let her body lash out at Rachel, she couldn't let this bastard do that to her and she couldn't let him win. With every ounce of strength and anger that was driving her newfound energy, Quinn made the demon's hand stop and then she, herself, made it move. She was back, for now. But she could feel him, crawling back to the surface and she knew she didn't have much time. "Rachel, go, get the matches and do it now, you have to do it now!" Rachel nodded silently, still cautiously regarding Quinn as she found the matches on the ground. She struck the match and looked at Quinn as it set ablaze. Quinn nodded and signalled her to do it. She felt tears sliding down her cheek- It was time. As Quinn watched the match fall from Rachel's fingers, she breathed, "I love you too."
As soon as the flame made contact with the liquid, it set on fire and Dr. Shepard regained control. But it was too late. It was over and he had lost. He screamed an anguished scream as the flames engulfed the room and started to destroy everything he'd planned so carefully and worked so hard for. He directed his anger towards Rachel and made a move towards her, but the flames licked at his and Quinn's skin, forming blisters. He and Quinn screamed as the flames engulfed Quinn's body. Rachel started to cry and collapsed to the floor. She couldn't bear to watch because she knew that whatever Dr. Shepard was feeling, Quinn was feeling it too. She couldn't watch the girl she loved die. The burning was unbearable. She could feel her skin and her muscles sizzling, fire eating away at her bit by bit. She screamed and yowled out to no one, nothing relieved the pain. The fire reached her nerves and then she felt nothing other than herself fading, her body being destroyed and her spirit getting ready to leave. She felt Dr. Shepard doing the same, except his spirit wasn't leaving, it was being destroyed. Erased from existence and that thought made her think this horrendous pain was worth it. She looked at a sad Rachel one last time. The ghost was almost hidden behind flames but Quinn could see her head. Rachel looked up, realising the screaming had stopped. She met Quinn's eyes and then that was it. Darkness and weightlessness replaced her surroundings and all the pain. She felt free. It was finally over.
"Quinn honey, you're going to be late for your first day of school!" Judy Fabray's voice rang in Quinn's ears and her eyes fluttered open as she began to separate from the darkness. Her eyes focussed in on her room, her belongings; her life. She recalled everything that had happened, right down to being burnt alive and the tortuous feeling that came with it. She had definitely died. She had felt it and had been embraced by it. But here she was back in her room. Was she alive, or was this the afterlife? Either way, it sure felt real.
Tentatively, Quinn shuffled out of bed and regarded the rough texture of the floor beneath her feet. She looked around, realising most of her stuff was still in boxes and bin bags and her mother's words came back to her. First day of school. Even more questions erupted in Quinn's mind and she raced downstairs, hoping her mother could shed some light on the issue.
"Mom!" Quinn half shouted, startling Judy as she whipped around in panic. When Quinn caught sight of her mother's face, the memories of her parent's yelling at her and telling her she was sick came back to her and Quinn became tense.
"What is it? Where's the fire?" Judy joked. When Quinn didn't answer she continued, "Hurry up Quinn, you're going to be late for your first day and you don't want to make a bad impression on your first day."
"My first day? Mom, I've been going to this school for months, we moved here ages ago. Then you and dad kicked me out and sent me to a monster of a psychologist because I told you I was seeing ghosts again and-"
"Quinn are you on drugs? Are you smoking the weed?" Judy asked, her voiced laced with concern.
"What? No. Did that happen? What I just said, did any of that happen?" Quinn looked at her mother helplessly.
"If you're not on drugs, "Judy placed and hand on Quinn's forehead, "and you're not sick, then I think it must have been a very vivid dream Quinnie." Judy smiled reassuringly at her daughter, still slightly worried at how Quinn was acting, but even more worried she'd be late for school. "Now go on, go get dressed and go." Quinn nodded absent minded, wondering to herself if it really had all been a dream. She wandered back up stairs and began to get ready for what was apparently her first day at McKinley High.
As Quinn shut the front door, she had a thought. If the house was still standing then it might have very well been crazy, insanely realistic dream and if her mind made that up then she would probably have to worry about her sanity for a while.
Having much bigger issues than being late for school, Quinn started to sprint towards the house and along that familiar shaded path. Her stomach was doing flips. She had to know what the hell was going on. Her heart stammered when she came to a halt in front of a pile of charred rubble where the house should be. What did this mean? The house had be burnt down so how on earth could she wake up in her own bed after she remembered being in that blaze? Quinn shook her head as she tore her gaze away from the wreckage and on her way to school. This didn't make any sense.
Quinn stopped to catch her breath outside the doors of the school. She'd run all the way but not in fear of being late, she needed a way to burn off the adrenaline the whole situation had given her. After a minute or two, Quinn regained herself and the adrenaline kick came back with a vengeance when she spotted Santana and Brittney heading up the path, hand in hand and laughing to each other. Quinn marched over to them, disregarding their confused and in Santana's case, slightly angry, faces. Quinn concluded in that moment that it couldn't have been a dream. She couldn't have dreamt about two people she'd never met before.
"Hey!" Quinn greeted, unable to stop herself from smiling. It was pretty damn good seeing these two again.
"Um hi?" Santana said. "And you are?" Then it dawned on Quinn. They didn't know her yet, this was her first day.
"Sorry," Quinn laughed nervously as she extended her hands to Brittney and Santana. Brittney smiled and shook her hand. Santana just stared at it. "I just moved here so I was wondering if you guys could show me around?"
"Ugh, absolutely not new girl, do you know how busy we are? We-"
"We'd love to show you around!" Brittney piped up, nudging Santana's side. "I'm Brittney and this is Santana, we're unicorns." Quinn laughed at the statement. That was Brittney alright and judging by the glare Santana was giving Quinn that was definitely her.
Santana sighed and slung an arm around Quinn's shoulders, pulling her forward as she started to walk. "Come on new girl, let's get your registration papers and get you to your first lesson in this crap hole," Santana mused.
Quinn retrieved all of her forms, just like she had the first time she'd lived this day. Everything was the same, right down to the words that Principle Figgins had said to her. It was one serious case of Dejavu. Whatever happened after the fire must have been some sort of miracle. Maybe divine intervention saved her and brought her back to before it happened? Quinn snorted, maybe that was a little too farfetched- even after everything she'd witnessed and gone through. She wasn't owed that. Other than divine intervention or some sort of Matrix crap going on, there really weren't a lot of other options to explain her being alive.
She entered through the English room door, greeted by Ms Davison and a crowd of curious and bored students, some of the very same that had bullied her. But that was in the past, no one knew her yet. Quinn was told to take a seat by the teacher so she resigned to the one she had done so previously, still unable to get her head fully around everything that was happening. Quinn retrieved her notebook and pens and started to doodle, hoping the concentration would ease her confusion. She wasn't interested in learning- she'd literally heard it all before.
A name popped into Quinn's head and she wondered what had happened to the ghost, to the girl she loved. Did she stop existing like Dr. Shepard had? Or was she finally in her perfect afterlife, finally able to be at peace and happy- but not with her. Quinn felt a lump rise in her throat but pushed it down, no matter how much it hurt, she couldn't start crying in the middle of class on her first day. That would probably be as bad as people thinking she was the crazy chick who thought she could talk to the dead. Quinn sighed, burying the sadness. She'd miss the ghost like crazy. Rachel had been her first and only love. They shared a connection which Quinn was heartbroken beyond words to have lost.
She tried to stop the thoughts about Rachel from popping up, they hurt the worst and she couldn't deal with that kind of emotional distress right now. She needed to grieve for the girl and say her goodbyes properly but now was not the time, so she threw herself into the doodle she was drawing, forcing herself to concentrate on that.
Quinn heard the classroom door go, pitying whoever it was for being late. They would probably get reprimanded for it later. She didn't look up, though, she was still too busy trying not to think of Rachel.
"Please take a seat over there," Quinn heard Ms Davison say to the newcomer. She felt the shift of the air as the person walked past them, getting a powerful whiff of strawberries. It smelt familiar. Quinn's head turned as the person sat down and her jaw dropped, her widening eyes taking in Rachel Berry. Her Rachel Berry, who was apparently in the flesh; at her school and sitting right next to her. Quinn couldn't stop staring, and then she was crying.
Rachel noticed Quinn and alarm overtook her. "Hey, are you okay? What's your name? Do you want me to get someone?" Well there went not making a fool of herself on the first day, Quinn thought, but she didn't care. Rachel was here with her, that's all she cared about in that moment. "What's your name?" Rachel asked again and Quinn felt like someone had dealt her a blow to the stomach. Rachel didn't remember or know her. The crushed feeling was quickly overridden because Quinn realised that Rachel was alive and here, so she could get to know her. This time without being trapped by a murderous demon, without being bound to that damned house and without all the hardship. This time it was just Rachel and Quinn and that thought made the blonde so happy she couldn't help but pull a surprised Rachel into a hug. Whatever had happened to her to get her here, she'd take it.
"My name's Quinn," she breathed into Rachel's hair. "It's so nice to meet you."
"You're a hugger!" Rachel said, still slightly startled, "I like huggers. Nice to meet you Quinn, my names-"
"Rachel," Quinn said, welcoming the familiarity of the other girl's name on her lips. Rachel let out a surprised laugh. "Are you psychic? Or have we met before?" Rachel asked, only half joking. Quinn let go of the girl and returned to her seat, still smiling like a complete dork. She didn't know if she was alive or dead, if this was real life or just one hell of an afterlife- but she knew one thing. Whatever it was, wherever it was, Rachel was here and as long as she was by Quinn's side, she would never complain.
Realising Rachel was staring curiously at her and waiting for an answer, Quinn replaced the goofy grin with a warm smile and said, "Maybe in another life." Rachel chuckled in amusement and Quinn melted at the sound of that enchanting laugh.
Hey everyone! I wanted to say thank you to whoever is still reading this and sticking by the story. In the time I've been writing this, two people that were very close to me passed away and I wasn't sure I had the motivation to finish this. So thank you to the people that read it and the people that left encouraging reviews, you inspired me to finish this story. I hope you've enjoyed!