A/N: This chapter deals with suicide. Section is denoted with ******. Please let me know if you want a summary of the chapter with this section excluded. More at the end.
Quinn sighs, and squeezes the rose-colored bear close to her chest. She holds it to her face, and takes a long inhale and then exhales slowly. It smells like rose, lavender, and just a hint of garlic. It's a scent that shouldn't be comforting, but it is. It's the scent of home. She hugs the bear close, then gently places the stuffed toy back on its small white rocker bed.
She glances around the room. It's clean and the floor is empty expect for her neatly packed overnight bag. She and her mother will leave early tomorrow. They'll cut across eastern Ohio, through Pennsylvania, and New Jersey and New York before entering Connecticut. She doesn't know if she should be afraid or excited.
Outside her window, the Sycamore rustles in the breeze. It makes the muggy august night almost bearable. A car passes down the street, then another. The engine cuts, and it reminds her of Before. When she was a little girl, she'd wait anxiously for the sound of her Daddy's car in the driveway, and scamper down the stairs to greet him. But, it is Before no longer, for so many things. Maybe another little girl waits for her dad. And, maybe that dad will actually live up to his larger than life persona.
She's not expecting the faint knocking, or her mother calling her down. "Coming!" She calls, taking the stairs slowly and holding tight to the banister.
Sebastian is standing there, waiting for her. "I wasn't sure if you'd left yet, or not." He says, quietly. It sounds like the declaration of a lover. "And, I wanted to say goodbye."
She glances at her mother. Judy is pretending to be very interested in something else. "Do you care if we go out?" She asks, quietly.
Her mother smiles, tiredly. "Don't stay out too late." There are all sorts of other don'ts held in that statement. Don't do anything stupid. Don't trust people who aren't worthy of it. Don't go crazy and dye your hair pink. Don't eat carbs; it's after seven pm. Don't sleep with him. Don't let him text while he drives you. All her mistakes are clearly laid out for her mother.
She smiles, sweetly. "I won't," she promises.
Sebastian gallantly offers his arm to help her down the two steps at the front of her house. It's a casual gesture, but it's a nod to the accident. Quinn feels a little betrayed by the gesture, although mostly she's just glad that the plywood board is gone from the steps. That glaringly obvious symbol of her disability has at least been taken away.
In the car, Sebastian drives and she fiddles with the radio. Taylor's Swifts threat that we will never, ever, getting back together seems strangely apropos for this trip. They pass through quiet, residential neighborhoods, where mothers and fathers call in their children. They pass the house where Rachel's dads live (but not Rachel anymore) and Artie's home with its sloping walkway instead of concrete steps.
They find an all night dinner just outside of Lima. It doesn't seem so much "find" and that Sebastian makes the split second decision and makes a tight left turn into the parking lot. The restaurant practically glows in the illumination of its noon-bright fluorescent lights. The lights reveal everything in harsh relief, never mind that noon is still a good fourteen hours away. The booths are clean; they have to be in that brightness. The hostess leads them to a cheery table that smells faintly of fry oil and bleach. The patronage is typical of late night diners everywhere: a few high school or college kids too young to drink, but old enough to be out late, a few drunks trying to sober up before they went home, and a few workers on their meal break, whatever they called it at that hour.
The waitress leads them to a small booth in the center of the restaurant. They settle, and she gives them a smile. Quinn supposes that there is an underlying assumption with them: two good looking kids, out late at night. When they place their order, Sebastian gets a plate of the stringy fries covered in cheese and a milk shake. She starts to order a salad and a diet soda when he gives a slight shake of his head. "Order the chocolate milkshake." She does.
"How did you know?" She asks once they're left alone again.
Sebastian grins, rakishly. She's not sure how he ever passes as innocent to anyone. "I brought you mochas for two weeks straight, and once watched you eat an entire bag of Dove squares by yourself when you thought no one was looking."
She blushes. "I hadn't eaten lunch."
"That would be a reasonable explanation, except that I know there were a bunch of free sandwiches in the break room a few feet away." He grins at her. "Face it, Quinn, you're a chocoholic."
She shrugs. "Its one of my more minor vices."
He leans back against the booth. "And, what, pray tell, are the others?"
She's not sure if he's serious or the comment was in jest. "Haven't you heard? I'm part of McKinley's unholy trinity. Between the three of us, the only deadly sin we don't have covered in poor fashion sense, and the only virtue we manage to maintain is tooth brushing?"
He raises his eyebrows. "Tooth brushing?"
"In our family, efficiency was a virtue on part with modesty, voracity and tooth brushing." She paraphrases Cheaper by the Dozen, which she must have read fifteen times between the ages of seven and twelve. She'd wished that she, too, could be a Gilbreth.
Sebastian nods. "Okay, tooth brushing." He laughs and drains his water glass. He always drinks a lot of water when they go out together. She's never sure if it's a nervous habit, or because of something else. He runs a hand over his face. "So, does that mean the stories are true and you really were pregnant at 16?"
She's been waiting for this to come up. She's a little surprised it hasn't already. She's tried to distance herself to some degree from being that girl. She was the hypocritical president of the celibacy club who got pregnant by trusting a guy and abstinence-only sex education. She shudders to remember; even Rachel "Reincarnation-of-every-virgin-in-a-high-school-mo vie" Berry had known more about sex and sexuality than she had.
She sighs. She likes Sebastian, and more importantly, she trusts him. He may smirk and snark and flirt and do things to other people that should get him arrested, but deep down Sebastian is damn loyal. She knows that she can confide in him, and he won't repeat the secret.
"I was fifteen when I got pregnant." If she is going to do this, she is going to stick to the truth. "But I was sixteen when I had her."
He waits, and the words come spilling out. "Puck got me drunk on wine coolers. They're like soda, you know?"
He shrugs. "I'm more of a mixed drink person, but yeah. Sugar water with alcohol."
"Well, we might have gotten there, later. At some point, there was a cheap bottle of watermelon vodka. You don't know how much you drink when it's sweet and it's your first time drinking hard liquor." She can see him frowning, but she cuts him off. "I said yes. Noah… Puck… he wasn't a complete asshole about it. He asked me. Before and during and after. He's an idiot, he's just a considerate idiot."
She can see the thoughts flitting through his head, the questions her therapist sometimes asks. The questions that only Blaine had the sense to ask at McKinley. She was fifteen and Puck was sixteen: old enough to consent to each other. And, he'd asked and she'd said yes. They'd both been drunk… so, no. Not that.
"I believed him when he said 'Trust me', and I thought that was a good enough method of birth control. Turns out I was wrong." She gives a quick little laugh. It's loud and awkward and empty. "And then I was pregnant. And, I thought I could hide it. From Finn, from Puck, from my parents, from Sue… turns out I was wrong."
The food appears before them, and she takes a fortifying sip of her milk shake before she continues. "My parents found out because Finn sang a song to me. You're having my baby."
He groans and puts his head in his hands. "Seriously? That sounds like something out a bad TV show."
"Seriously." She confirms. "It was … special." She almost laughs at the memory. "He got about three lines out before my dad kicked me out. Finn's mom, Carol, was great. I stayed with them for about two weeks, right up until Finn found out the kid was Puck's.
"How did you know?"
"I'm pretty sure that girl is both allergic to keeping secrets and has a medial conditions which requires her to be the center of attention at all times." He bites into his burger, and makes a go-ahead gesture.
She shrugs. "I lost everything. After Finn found out, he kicked me out, too. I bounced around from place to place. I stayed with Brittany for a while." She shudders a little at the memory. "That place is like the Twilight zone. I swear Brit's cat was more involved in parenting us than her actual parents. They were sort of … Laissez Faire. I spent a while with Santana, and then I ended up with the Joneses for a while.
"My water broke in the green room… at regionals. Twenty-six hours of labor, and then they just took her away. I… I don't remember if I held her, or not. They cleaned her, and then she was gone. Puck and I, we went to see her at the nursery, through the glass. He asked me if I wanted to keep her, and I said no. I didn't, either. " She feels tired, just telling the story. It's something she hasn't confessed to anyone. After all, why would someone re tell a story everyone already knew?
"Do you know who…?" He's clearly unsure of how to begin to ask the question.
"Shelby Corcran." The name is an answer, a curse, a prayer. "Rachel's bio mom. She's not a bad lady; she let me see Beth later. Kept her name, too. Puck was the one who gave it to her." She laughs, again, nervously or bitterly, she's not sure of her own emotions. "He gave Beth her name, her dark hair, and half her DNA. And, I didn't do much better."
"Do you miss Beth?" Sebastian's question is surprisingly gentle.
She can't face him. She studies the placemat advertising Chicken strips for $3.99 intensely. "No. Yes. Every day." She feels tears prickling at the corner of her eyes. "I've spent the better part of every day for the past two years thinking about her. I know I did the right thing, for her and for me. I couldn't raise a baby on my own, and it's not like my parents would have let me keep her." She can't stop the tears running down her cheeks, but she continues anyway. "I know that Shelby is a far better parent than I could ever be, but that doesn't make it easy."
There's an arm around her shoulder, and she's not sure how it got there. No words, just a gentle arm. A pile of paper napkins appears in front of her. She cries for the baby she never wanted, the child she had and the child she was.
"I've spent the last two years trying to figure things out," she admits, shakily. "I thought that I could give her… give Beth… up, and everything would be okay." Her voice catches at her daughter's name. "I would just lose the baby weight and the stretch marks, and I could be on top again. But, I was wrong. My mom… my mom didn't trust me anymore. And Coach Sylvester wasn't sure if she wanted me back or not. Rachel and Finn were… and then they weren't… and I don't know what happened! I tried everything to go back. But, I couldn't do it anymore. So, I tried everything to forget!" She pulls up her shirt and shows him a blue tattoo.
"Is that… Ryan Seacrest?" There is mild incredulity in his tone.
She sniffles and nods. "From my Skank stage. When I tried to get Beth back, and failed. It's funny, 'cause the person who saved me? It was Shelby. She bitch slapped me with some straight talk, and tried to convince me I was only hurting myself. I stopped. Not because of what she said, but because I figured that if a stranger knew I was breaking down so badly, everyone else would, too!
"And then, I had that accident. On the way back for Rachel and Finn's wedding at the Courthouse. They ruled it wasn't my fault, but that doesn't change anything! Everyone knows I was texting and driving! Everyone knows it was my fault!"
Her shoulders heave, and someone rubs slow, steady circles on her back. It's above where the vertebra broke and her spinal column was compressed.
"It wasn't your fault." Sebastian's voice is soft in her ear. "Write it on your fucking mirror. Tattoo on the back of your hand or the inside of your wrist. It would be better than that monkey portrait."
She laughs and looks up at him. "I think I know that intellectually, but not emotionally?" It's a question more than a statement. Because obviously, he knows better than she does.
"I bet people didn't help?" He prompts.
She shrugs under his hand. "You know the thing about being in a wheelchair is that everyone stares. I should have remembered that from when Mr. Schue made us use them for a week."
"Hummel said something, once, but I was pretty sure that I was just doped up on ketones…" He admits. "Acidosis makes you feel kind of sick, you know?"
She doesn't know about acidosis, but she remembers how out of it he was. Sebastian had been completely loopy. "Mr. Schue wanted to teach us a lesson. He wanted us to raise enough money to pay for a wheelchair accessible bus to Sectionals."
"How?" Sebastian's tone echoes the skepticism she felt.
She glances up at him, and gives him a watery smile. "Bake sale."
Sebastian bursts out laughing. "That sounds like your director."
She nods. "Yeah, but it mostly worked. Puck sold mad cupcakes, and most of the money ended up back in the cupcake fund. And we learned some valuable lessons. … Like the fact that everyone stares when you're sixteen and in a wheelchair. And people ask the most inappropriate questions, and assume they should help you. And by help you, what they really want to do is do things for you. It got worse when it was for real." She takes a draw on her milkshake. "I'd go places, and people would wander over and ask what happened. Or, this summer, I'd be out with my mom, and we'd use the handicap permit, because I was having trouble walking. And, we'd get these nasty looks from people."
Sebastian sighs, and releases her. He slips across the table so they can face each other again. The waitress comes over to take their plates, and he orders another round of milk shakes. "It's not easy," he agrees. "Some days, I think that it's harder to have an invisible disability or illness than a visible one. Because at least when people can see that something is wrong, they don't get quite so confused."
She nods. "One of the strangest things that I heard was that I looked good."
"As if pretty people can't get sick?" His smile is the same one he used to wear in the Lima Bean before he said something cruel.
She nods, and he winces. "I remember what it was like, in France," he admits, quietly.
She waits. Their small booth has turned into a confessional. Its Bastian's turn to bare his soul. Their waitress appears with their milkshakes, and plucks the artificially red cherry from a top his whipped cream before he begins.
"I think one of the biggest differences between what you've been through and what I have is that no one sees my mistakes. I mean, there have been a few times where things couldn't be swept under the rug. But, most things I've been able to hide."
"Like the diabetes?" She prompts.
"Like the diabetes," he agrees. "Although, ironically, that leaves a lot of marks. But, most people can't see them. Or, they don't know what they're looking at. When I wear a pump, most people just assume that it's an MP3 player or something. There's not much difference between the tangle of a pair of headphones jammed into your pocket and the tangle of a pump cord. And, the scars are small.
"And, maybe, because there isn't a visible mark, or you don't look sick, people don't realize how serious it can be. If you look normal, things must be normal, right?"
She laughs, and so does he.
"I think that I fought to keep up appearances, though," he admits. "There are only so many times that you can get excused in the middle of a test or sit out gym class because you're low. Because, honestly, most people want to pretend that they can accommodate you, but no one wants to go out of their way. Its too much work. So, you learn to compensate. There are little tricks to bring things back into focus and pulling yourself through. It isn't safe, but its necessary. And, because I do them as force of habit, no one has to see."
She nods, thinking about the way she tried to hide her own pain. It was hard, but she thinks that if she'd been practicing for half her life, she might be better.
"I think that I'd been hiding things for so long anyway that when I started…" Sebastian trails off, and contemplates the contents of his glass. He studies the pink mixture of ice cream and milk as though it holds the secret to Life, the Universe and all things.
"When you started?" she prompts after a minute. She has bared her soul, it feels only fair that he does the same.
"I was, I am, depressed." He snaps back, finally. "Not just blue. Or unhappy. Depressed. Unable to handle any of my own emotions. For months and months and months."
"And no one saw?" She asks. She can't imagine it.
He takes a long pull of his drink, sucking hard to pull the viscous liquid through the straw. "You know how there is a stereotype that when you get depressed, you end up dropping out of activities you love? That your grades end up in the toilet and you just sit and cry a lot?"
"That didn't happen to me. I worked hard. Harder, maybe. I through myself into school and sports and everything because I thought that maybe they could swallow me, and I wouldn't have to face myself." He sighs. "And, because I wasn't showing outward signs, no one noticed when things went from bad to worse."
"What happened?" She breathes, because she knows this is as much of an opening as any.
Sebastian's cheeks color, and he mutters something into his glass. "Imightatriedtakilmyself." He looks up at her, and then glances back down again "Once in France. Sort of. I took about eight aspirin in about four hours, and then I passed out on the floor of the boys bathroom at school."
She frowns. Of all the confessions she expected this isn't it.
"And then, again, last year, at Dalton. I took too much insulin." The words are quiet, resigned, and maybe a little mechanical. "I don't know if I actually wanted to die. I was just tired of living the same shit every day."
He turns scarlet, and this time, he refuses to meet her eyes. His posture, his tone, his confession, they dare her to say something.
"Have things changed?" She asks, finally. She desperately wants to hear a confirmation that he's fine, that he doesn't want to do anything stupid.
He shrugs. "Yes. No. I don't know." Sebastian sounds tired. Even more so than when he had the ketones and was so sick. "Most of the time, I don't want it. But, then, some times, I get desperate. Everything is too much, and I just want it to stop."
Its her turn to come across and put her arms around him. "Why can't it?" She realizes the stupidity of the question as soon as she asks it.
"Because then someone would see." More empty, dispassionate, honest words. "And I think that scares me more than anything. More than dying, more than living."
She hugs him close. "I see you," she whispers in his ear. I know, and I see you."
He sighs. "I see you too, Quinn."
They finish their milkshakes quietly. Sebastian insists on picking up the check, but promises that next time, it will be her turn. Quinn likes the promise of a next time.
As he drives her back to her house, they talk about banal things: the Olympics, Blaine's hair gel addition, and whether or not the Warblers will beat New Directions this year. They're too emotionally drained to talk about serious things.
Sebastian pulls up to her quiet house, on the quiet street where she grew up, and cuts the engine. Her mother's car, packed with everything is in the driveway. It sits, full of promise and choices. Before tonight, she was planning to hide the darker parts of her past from New Haven. She was going to re-invent herself, and make the bad bits invisible. No one would see her mistakes and her failures. Now, she's not so sure that she needs to burry everything.
"I want you to promise me something," she demands.
He cocks an eyebrow in an infuriating way.
"Call me. Day or night. And talk to me before you ..."
He nods. "I promise. I already have Leesha on speed dial."
Sebastian walks her to the door. They embrace tightly.
"You're not so bad." She tells him, looking up in the yellow glow of the porch light.
That cocky trademark grin, the one that Kurt says makes Sebastian look like an evil Disney Meerkat is back. "You're not either. I think it depends on how you see things."
A/N: It has been forever! I've actually know what this arc would entail for almost a year, but I just haven't gotten around to writing it until now. (Letting me have multiple WIPs is a VERY bad idea.) This is in honor of a dear friend who used to take me to Stake'n'Shake at least once a month during college to help deal with both of our extensive series of existential crises.
I know that in The Road to Regionals Quinn is shown holding Beth. I just figure that she was tired and a little hopped up on drugs to actually remember it. This may be another liberty with cannon, but at this point, I've shot the season 3 cannon surrounding Quinn's injury out of one.
The bit about handicap accessible parking and notes on the window is based on multiple incidents that occurred in the US this summer.
In other news, I've finally figure out what "Hurt/Comfort" means. And, yeah… since there is no hook up here (Sebastian is still solidly gay and Quinn is frigid), I've decided this doesn't apply and I failed as a writer. So, I'm sorry about the false advertising.
Thank you to everyone who has gone with me on this journey, especially people who have followed, favorite, etc. Shout outs to Different Child, youdontknowme06, and get-me-out-my-mind. Special thanks to Miss Tony Stark for the prompt!