Author's Note: Quick one-shot written for Faberry Week, Day 6, College. Inspired by lrbcn's gifset - lrbcn dot tumblr dot com / post / 25725456809
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or the characters, I just like to play with them…strictly non-profit.
Absence Makes the Heart
Life without love is a shadow of things that might be.
By some bizarre twist of fate (that Quinn Fabray is secretly convinced God orchestrated solely to amuse himself between tending to the real disasters that mankind unleashes upon itself,) Rachel Berry and Santana Lopez end up becoming roommates in New York City. Neither one of them intended it—it just sort of happened.
Santana moved to the city in late July, determined to pursue her goal of becoming famous by whatever means she could. So far, the extent of her fame runs to the regulars at Ellen's Stardust Diner, where she's managed to stay employed (so far) as a singing waitress. Quinn still isn't sure how being a member of the service industry works out with her sparkling personality, but then, she's managed to live with Rachel for the last five months without strangling her in her sleep with a knee-sock, so Quinn supposes that miracles can happen.
As for Rachel, she's living with Santana because she couldn't manage to share a dorm room with the roommate that she'd been assigned by NYADA freshmen housing. To be fair, Quinn had met her former roommate once—because once was more than enough—and she made Rachel seem easy-going, self-sacrificing, and, frankly, sane by comparison. Quinn honestly suspects that Rachel was mere days away from shipping her roommate somewhere far worse than an inactive crack house before Santana stepped in and offered her tiny second bedroom (which was really a glorified walk-in closet at best) in exchange for Rachel paying half of her rent. It's proving to be a beneficial arrangement for both of them, and it certainly makes Quinn's visits more entertaining.
Or, maybe made is the better word.
Quinn hasn't been to New York since the last weekend of January. It's March now.
She claims (to anyone who asks) that she's been slammed with a heavy workload at Yale, and it's not entirely a lie. The classes that she's taking this semester are hard, and she's had dozens of research papers to do, but that's not the reason that she's been avoiding New York. The truth is that she can't stop thinking about her last visit, and the endless shots of tequila that Santana had kept pushing in front of her, and the feel of Rachel's soft hands as they'd constantly sought contact with any part of Quinn they could reach, and waking up in Rachel's tiny twin bed with that curvy, little body pressed against her and their legs tangled together.
The sweetest torture.
Nothing inappropriate had happened that Quinn needs to regret—just two (best) friends passing out next to one another after a night of drinking, incoherent rambling, and laughter, and a good bit of crying over absent lovers (Santana over Brittany back in Lima, and Rachel over Finn, enlisted and shipped out to Iraq.) Nine months later, and Finn Hudson is still an ever present shadow darkening Rachel's incandescence. It's what keeps Quinn from wandering too close to the flame.
She's cursed to want something that she can never have, and on that last visit, with the excess of alcohol in her system, she'd come so achingly, frighteningly close to confessing things that she shouldn't. It's taken her more than four years to become Rachel's friend, and now that she's experienced how amazing that position is, she isn't about to jeopardize it for something as uncertain and volatile as love.
She's not that brave.
It's better to keep a little distance between them, and she's managed that for two months—save the emails and phone calls and texts and Skype sessions—but Santana has other ideas. A fact that she makes known when she calls Quinn one Friday morning.
"You're coming to the city this weekend," she commands without preamble.
Quinn sighs, "Santana, it's really not a good time. I..."
"I'm gonna stop you right there," Santana cuts in, her tone snapping with undisguised irritation. "I've had enough of your 'I'm too busy' bullshit, Fabray. You managed to cart your extra-wide, bag-lady-skirt-covered posterior to New York twice a damn month through freshmen orientation, midterms, finals, and winter break without complaint, and suddenly you can't spare one fucking weekend. I'm not buying it."
"I don't really care, Santana. I can't get away this weekend," Quinn insists tiredly.
A lengthy silence is her only answer before she hears Santana's angry huff of breath. "Not even for Rachel?"
Quinn squeezes her eyes shut, and sinks down onto the edge of her bed. "She doesn't need me there," she whispers, feeling her stomach sour as she utters the words.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Santana shouts. "It's her first show, Quinn. Granted, it's just a stupid NYADA showcase, but it's important to her."
Quinn clenches her jaw, curling her fingers into her palm until the nails bite into the flesh. She wants to rage at Santana for making light of something so momentous in Rachel's fledgling career. It's not just a showcase. It's a celebration of NYADA's top students, and Rachel—a freshman—has been been invited to perform. It's a big fucking deal, and Santana knows it.
So does Quinn.
She wants so badly to be there, cheering Rachel on, but, "I can't. I...I'll call her later, and wish her luck."
"Because that will make up for not seeing your face," Santana growls. "Jesus, Quinn, if I have to sit through one more goddamned slideshow of every fucking picture that Berry has ever taken of you while she gets all teary-eyed and rambles about how photogenic you are, I'm gonna personally rent a damned van, drive up to Yale, jump you while you're on your way to your boring philosophy class, bind you, gag you, toss you in the back of the van, and dump you at Rachel's hobbit feet so she can go all Gollum and obsess over you in person."
Quinn barely registers the kidnapping threat, too stuck on the thought that Rachel has been looking at pictures of her. She presses her fingers to her lips, softly breathing out, "Is she...is she really doing that?"
Santana sighs, "Yeah. So get your ass over here, Q. She misses you. It's annoying."
"I miss her, too," Quinn murmurs unthinkingly.
"I know," Santana tells her gently. "And for what it's worth, I think you're an idiot for not telling her the truth."
Quinn's heart stutters, and she drags in a shaky breath, "I...I don't know what you mean."
Santana's amused laughter rings out over the line, but it's blessedly short-lived. "Lie to me all you want, Quinn, but stop lying to yourself. Trust me, you'll be much happier in the long run."
"You can't know that," Quinn argues.
"Listen, straight up, I live with Berry, okay? She's not as unattainable as you think she is."
"Don't," Quinn rasps, fighting down the hope that's threatening to bloom.
"Whatever," Santana cuts her off. "Go for it, don't go for it—your choice, but you're fucking up your friendship right now anyway. So get your ass packed, because if I don't see you tonight, I'm'a come get you, and it won't be pretty."
The line goes dead, and Quinn drops her phone, pushing her hands through her hair. She's not brave, but she's also not strong enough to stay away from Rachel forever. Rising from the bed, she walks over to her desk and opens the drawer, pulling out her metro pass.
Three torturous hours of classes, one hour of packing, and two hours on a train later, Quinn breathes in the New York City air for the first time in two months. Santana meets her at the station, dark brows arching as she takes in Quinn's appearance—a dark blazer over a white dress, and messy, shoulder-length hair, badly in need of a trim. Santana shakes her head.
"What?" Quinn asks, raking her fingers through her hair in an effort to straighten it.
"You're lucky Rachel will be so freaking happy to see you that she won't notice what a mess you are."
Quinn glances down at herself at frowns. "I was planning to change," she mutters.
"Sorry, blondie. No time," Santana tells her, tucking her arm under Quinn's elbow and tugging her into motion. "Rachel punctual-to-a-fault Berry is already at the theater. She was pacing the apartment like a mad woman, and I may have threatened to toss her out the window if she didn't stop, so she decided to head over there extra early."
Quinn's steps falter, and she glares at Santana. "Didn't you tell her I was coming?"
Santana shrugs, "Couldn't be sure you wouldn't chicken out, so I figured it was better not to get her excited for nothing. She's already manic enough."
The nervous butterflies that have been attacking Quinn's stomach all day regroup and mount another offensive. She takes a deep breath, and slowly blows it out as Santana continues to lead her out into the busy New York streets, flagging down a taxi. Before she knows it, she's being pushed out in front of the NYADA amphitheater. Santana grabs her suitcase, and her hand, and leads her unerringly through the stagehands that are rushing around backstage, nodding to all of them. They obviously recognize her, and no one stops their progress.
They circle around the side, where the backstage area opens to the stage and the cool pre-spring evening, and Santana lets go of her hand, physically points her in the right direction until she catches sight of Rachel, wearing a black pea coat, pacing around with a few other performers.
"Go get her," Santana orders, giving Quinn a little push forward.
Quinn swallows heavily and takes a step, but just as she does, Rachel turns and starts for the stairs that lead up to the stage. Quinn's not sure where she's going in such a hurry. The showcase isn't supposed to start for another hour, and she has a brief thought that she shouldn't be interrupting Rachel's pre-show preparation, but then she thinks about Rachel's despondent tone when Quinn had told her that she couldn't make it tonight, and she knows that she at least needs to let her best friend know that she's here to support her.
She takes a few quick steps, chasing after Rachel and calling out her name, but the girl doesn't stop. Her foot is already on the steps when Quinn calls her name again, more loudly this time. Rachel stops and spins around in surprise, eyes frantically searching until they land on Quinn, and widen.
"Quinn?" she whispers uncertainly, her mouth slowly turning up into a timid smile as she steps back down, and closes the distance between them. Quinn's breath catches, because Rachel looks...stunning. And confused. "I thought you," she begins, voice breaking as she shakes her head. "What are you doing in New York?"
"Santana called me," Quinn tells her, instantly wishing that she'd said something else, like—where else could I be? I wouldn't miss this. I love you.
The words that she fails to say don't seem to matter much, because before she knows what's happening, she's wrapped up in a familiar embrace, and she closes her eyes, and wraps her arms around Rachel's waist, savoring the sensation of coming home, and breathing in the scent that she's come to associate with happiness. "I've missed you so much," Rachel murmurs into her shoulder, and Quinn feels at peace for the first time in months.
"I've missed you, too, Rach."
Rachel's arms tighten ever so slightly, for just a second, before she finally lets go and steps back. "I can't believe you came," she says with sparkling eyes. For the first time in a very long time, Quinn doesn't see any shadows smothering Rachel's inner glow. The intensity of her bright gaze is aimed solely at Quinn, and she nervously moistens her lips, basking in the warmth of Rachel's smile. The hope inside of her chest blossoms like a flower opening under the sun, and her fear begins to fade away.
"I couldn't stay away. I never can," she admits quietly.
Rachel closes her eyes for just a moment, and her smile softens. When she meets Quinn's eyes again, there are countless unspoken promises in her gaze. "We need to talk."
Quinn nods slowly, "I know."
"After the showcase," Rachel says, reaching out and grasping Quinn's hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Promise you won't disappear on me."
"I'll be here," she promises, "and I'll tell you if you're brilliant or simply outstanding," she teases with a playful grin.
Rachel smiles again, tugging Quinn's hand until she's standing in Rachel's personal space. Quinn stops breathing, wondering what's coming next. Rachel leans in, tilting her head at the last second, to place a soft kiss to Quinn's cheek, temptingly close to the corner of her mouth. "You don't know how badly I wanted you to be here," she whispers.
Rachel finally steps back, shyly biting her lower lip, and Quinn raises her hand to her cheek. A young man calls for Rachel to go over some last minute changes to her arrangement with the orchestra, and she glances over at him and nods. "I have to go now," she tells Quinn.
"Uh huh," Quinn manages, still feeling stunned by the warm tingles dancing over her flesh from Rachel's innocent kiss.
"Tell Santana that I owe her one," Rachel says with a grin before she turns on her heel and rushes up the stairs.
Quinn gulps in a few stuttering breaths, and then she laughs delightedly, feeling light and hopeful, and so, so happy. They both owe Santana, and if Quinn knows their friend, Santana will never let either one of them forget this night. Quinn is perfectly fine with that.