A/N: Final chapter. Here we go. As one small favor to me, please don't skip to the end to see if Quinn lives or dies. It'll ruin it for you.
Chapter 10: Fate
Nothing but the steady tick of the secondhand exists. Nothing else has meaning. Nothing matters.
She has lost everything.
And she only has herself to blame.
Quinn still breathes.
Her chest rises and falls. Her blood rushes from her heart to her fingers and toes.
Quinn lives in the most basic meaning of the term. Machines hum around her, keeping her suspended in life.
But there's nothing.
The official diagnosis hasn't been made. The clinical tests indicated a lack of neurological functioning. But the confirmatory tests have yet to be performed. The doctors made it clear—Quinn is more than likely dead. Not unconscious. Not a coma. But dead. Lacking all electrical impulses in her brain. Her body viable, but without response. Nothing of Quinn present. Only flesh and bone.
The stark delivery of those words wrecked her.
There were emergency personnel already at Grand Central Terminal. They stabilized her within moments. Quinn was at the hospital and on life-support in just a few minutes more. It happened in a commotion of sound and movement and a sickening sensation rising through her gut and lungs and throat, blackening everything in its wake. Her insides charred to the point of ash, and whatever is now left rots and festers.
It hasn't even been a day.
It feels like forever.
She knows her traitorous heart keeps beating, but she can't sense it. She sees, but it's dark. She hears, but it's muted. She's exhausted, but she can't sleep.
She can't feel anything but the ticking of the secondhand ever circling and giving meaning to death and life.
Every time she closes her eyes, she hears Quinn's scream and sees her fall. She's stuck in a permanent nightmare of her own creation. It's agony. And it's the least of what she deserves. She's a wretch. A reprobate. A sinner of the highest order.
She chose Quinn's life. And she would make that choice every time. But she wanted everything too much. She dreamed too much. She was too weak. And now she has nothing left.
Because there is nothing that is worth Quinn's life.
Nothing excuses what's she done. Nothing. No matter how she's been torn asunder between two fates. No matter the temptations that have been laid in front of her. She is pathetic. Despicable. And Quinn is the one who pays the price.
Beatrice sits beside her. Rachel's not even sure when she arrived. She runs a hand up and down her back. Rachel deserves none of her companionship, but Beatrice ignored her when she cried out as much. She figures Seth or Garrett must have called her after Rachel screamed at them. She vaguely recalls the words spilling out of her mouth, angry and raw and incomprehensible. They're still here, sitting a few rows over. They're giving her space after her rage. But none of it was truly directed at them. They've lied. They mislead her. And Mason is an agent. Money is his business no matter how well intentioned he may be.
But this is on her. It's all on her.
She sits in a desolate haze. A pinch of hope, but despite it—that frail human optimism—she knows the worst is coming. Like standing on a frozen pond and hearing the ice start to break beneath you. Like going down a set of stairs and starting to feel your feet slip. Like turning your head and seeing headlights bear down upon you. She's suspended in these moments. She only knows that hours pass. The only meaning is the tick forward of the secondhand as it grows closer and closer to the ultimate punishment—confirmation of Quinn's death.
In her heart of hearts, where hope has been truly ravaged, she knows.
After the voice in gray. She knows that is all that can possibly remain.
"Rachel?" comes a broken utterance.
She forces herself to hang on a little longer as a body settles into the vacant chair next to her. On her other side, Beatrice grips her shoulder briefly, before standing up and quietly treading away. Rachel takes in the blonde hair and neatly pressed attire. Then there's the red-rimmed eyes and pronounced stress lines.
"Ms. Fabray," she chokes. She can't call her Judy. Not now. Her heart feels as if it's being squeezed, tighter and tighter. The only relief would be a complete rupture, the truth of everything surging out with her blood.
"Quinn's been living on borrowed time hasn't she?" Judy says softly. It stops the impending rupture.
It stops everything.
Rachel is frozen.
"Back then, the doctors said there was no way she should have survived that car accident. That she did was miracle. That she recovered like she did was a miracle. Everything that's happened since… They tell me there is no way her body should have been able to recover from so much trauma so easily each time. But she does," Judy says, her voice growing tight with each passing word. "I keep hoping and hoping… But fate is cruel."
Judy sniffs, and Rachel stays frozen. She feels her heartbeat now. And it's painful hammer in her chest.
"Now that I've arrived, the doctors have started running the final tests to…to make sure that there is no brain activity. That there's nothing still left of her."
The words hang between them and Judy trembles.
"Even though they haven't absolutely confirmed…brain death…yet they asked me to start considering organ donation. I think Quinn would like that. She was always so caring when it really mattered. I don't know where she got that from—certainly not from me, and certainly not from Russell."
There's a measure of self-loathing in Judy's words. Rachel is achingly familiar with it. It sears and burns in her blood. Judy has ignited everything again—and she remembers why she went numb in the first place. Because it hurts. It's unimaginably painful. It presses and presses and presses. Crushing her. Scarring her.
Because it's all on her. She's responsible for Quinn's suffering.
…For Quinn's death.
"I haven't always done right by Quinn. In fact, I've been a terrible mother," Judy continues. Her voice is little more than a whisper. "But I like to think I've been better. I thought we would have more time. I can't—I never imagined that I would bury my own daughter. But…I want to thank you, Rachel."
"Thank me?" Rachel says thickly.
"She was always a sad child. I… I failed her so much. But I've never seen her so happy as she was then when she was with you. You made her feel loved. You made her happy. Thank you. Thank you for giving her all the beautiful things that life has to offer."
"I… I…" Rachel says, quivering. She's on her feet. It's hard to breathe. It's hard to think.
Judy is talking in the past tense. Like Quinn's already dead. She is, she is, something dark hisses in her mind, and it's your fault. You killed her. But Quinn's not dead yet. She's not. They're still running tests. She still breathes even if it's with the aid of a machine. Even though the doctors said she lacked response to any external stimuli. There could still be something! Anything! All it takes is one small electric pulse of activity, and…
But Rachel knows. She knows.
That's all that can remain after the gray voice's proclamation.
Judy watches her with forlorn eyes. Rachel backs away. She needs… She needs…
She needs Quinn to hold her.
…But she can't.
She won't ever again.
Her phone rings into the quiet space left between them, and Rachel flinches. She scrambles forward, quickly grabbing her bag, which she left at the foot of her chair. She stumbles backwards, unable to escape Judy's tearful gaze. She finally gains the strength to turn only to bump into a solid figure. She recoils.
It's only Nathan. He grabs her by the shoulders, steadying her. He doesn't say anything, merely gives her a sad, soulful stare as Rachel's phone finally falls silent. He releases her with a pat on the shoulder, striding quickly toward Judy, speaking something in a low, soothing voice as she descends into tears.
Rachel is left standing in the middle of the waiting room.
She's never felt so alone. So hollow. So worthless.
Her phone rings again. She starts. It was just a distraction at first. Something to use to get away from the Judy Fabray's glimmering eyes. But now she fishes for her phone, clutching it in a tight fist. She peaks at the screen, and her blood screams in her ears at the sight of "Santana Lopez."
She shakes as she answers. "S-Santana?"
"I-I heard. My mother said… Is… Is she okay?" Santana's voice is weak, wary.
The words sit on the tip of her tongue. The truth, all of it, stands on precipice. She wonders in sick fantasy if Santana's rage would make her feel a shred better—if it would make her feel something other than the crushing weight against her and the hollowness in her heart. But then she thinks she doesn't even deserve that.
As she hesitates, she spots them. Quinn's doctors. They march purposefully toward Judy and Nathan.
Their expressions say it all.
As miserable as she's been, Rachel thought she was as ready as she could be to hear the likely verdict. She grossly underestimated herself. Nothing could prepare her for the lacerating groundswell of emptiness. Nothing. She hurts in such ways that she thinks she'd rather die than feel like she does now.
"No," she sobs into her phone.
Rachel stares at the door to Quinn's hospital room.
She can't stop trembling. She can't stop the bludgeoning beat of her heart. She can't stop the void crawling over her skin.
She aches. She hurts. Her soul howls in agony.
Despite the deal, she wanted everything. And because of her weakness, she has nothing.
She's not sure how long she stands there. She's not sure how long she waits. She can still feel the tick of the secondhand echoing through her. The nurse asks her if she's okay. Her words sound muffled. Rachel nods her head. The nurse hovers around her. The doctors come and go.
She waits for her turn to say goodbye.
Nathan emerges from the room. He shadowed Judy in to give her support. Rachel avoids his eyes. She can feel the sympathy radiating from him. She isn't worthy of it.
Judy follows some time later. Rachel isn't sure how much time passes. But Judy appears years older. Nathan wraps her up in his arms, leading her over toward the doctors. The nurse that's been watching over her says something, making a gesture toward the door.
Rachel's footsteps are unsteady. Her breathing is faint. She leans against the doorway and closes her eyes.
She dreams of Quinn performing at Nationals. Free and happy at Yale. Twirling her in Millennium Park. Kissing her under the Jacobs' marquee. Watching her in her black dress and pale skin. Smiling at her as she wakes. Dancing with her at Seth's birthday party. Coming undone in her arms.
She breathes, opens her eyes, and steps inside the room.
She wasn't sure what she expected, but Quinn looks like she could be sleeping. Her chest rises and falls. There is even a faint tint of color to her skin. But Rachel knows that's just the wonders of modern medicine maintaining the perfect balance to sustain a human body's physical life. There is nothing behind Quinn's closed eyes.
Rachel approaches slowly. Each step forward sends of a surge of pain ringing through her body. She reaches Quinn's side, and thinks that it should be her because she has nothing left.
"I'm sorry," she cries. "I'm so sorry."
The rest of her words, her thoughts, her feelings are drowned by her tears. It wasn't supposed to be like this. It wasn't ever supposed to be Quinn that suffered. It wasn't ever supposed to be Quinn that paid for her weakness.
She hesitates, reaching out. But she can't resist touching her one final time.
She takes Quinn's hand, interlocking their fingers and unexpectedly falls into gray.
The gray remains infinite. She breathes in its never-ending expanse.
There's a hand in her own.
Quinn floats beside her, clad in her black dress. Blonde tendrils hover, weightless. Even here, in this otherworldly space, Quinn's eyes remain closed.
But beyond Quinn, beyond herself, there is no beginning and no end.
Her heart races.
A sliver of hope.
This is fate.
"Change it!" she cries out. "Please! Let Quinn live! I want a deal!"
Silence. Only gray.
"Please! Please! She doesn't deserve it!" Rachel screams into the endlessness.
There is nothing. Nothing.
"Please," she begs. Her heart drops. Why is she here? Why doesn't Fate answer? "Please! I would give everything for her."
"It is broken. You chose your future Rachel Barbra Berry."
Her heart jolts. She trembles. The voice is everywhere and nowhere at once. Hope bubbles through her.
"I never wanted this! I don't want my future!"
"You knew the terms of the agreement. To change a person's fate is no simple task. To change it, another's must be changed in turn. To give, something else must be taken away. Equilibrium must be maintained."
"I want her to live. She needs to live! She deserves life. She deserves happiness," Rachel says. Her desperation is a living, breathing thing.
"Lucy Quinn Fabray was not meant to live beyond the accident. Her life was to be extinguished. You surrendered your future for her life. You took your future back and her death is all that remains."
Rachel looks at Quinn. In the curve of her body, the contours of her features, Rachel sees the end of all things. She sees the beginning of all things. A torch blazes in her heart.
"I want a new deal then. To give something must be taken away? My life for Quinn's."
There is silence. Her heart pounds. She squeezes Quinn's hand. This is the only absolution that remains. Her death. Quinn's life. An equilibrium.
This is what she can give.
"You were granted an exchange. No more shall be given."
The words slam into her. They leave her breathless.
"No! No, You must!" she chokes on her tears. "I die. Quinn lives. It's balanced! It's fair! Don't punish her for my sins!"
"It is not punishment. It is fate."
"I don't care about fate! Quinn should live. Quinn needs to live. Please!"
"It is fate. Lucy Quinn Fabray was not meant to live. You took back what is yours, Rachel Barbra Berry. Thus, Lucy Quinn Fabray is given back what is hers. Death."
"Then why am I here!? Why is Quinn here this time!? Why did I even get a deal in the first place!?" Rachel shouts, her voice hoarse. She's falling apart all over again.
"This one knows the path those are born to. This one guides those on their path. This one appears to those who have beckoned through the ages. But this one lacks omniscience."
"So there is nothing for me here," Rachel whispers. She shatters. "And there is nothing for me there."
"You have taken back the fate you were born to."
"There's no meaning to it anymore!" Rachel screams. She swallows. Each heartbeat pounds through her body, an angry reminder of life with nothing left that truly matters. "I can't! I can't set foot on a stage because I know all I will ever see is Quinn. I've lost everything. My future. Quinn's life. I have none of it anymore."
"You were born unto your fate. You changed your fate for Lucy Quinn Fabray. You have since reclaimed your fate. You have your future."
"I've lost Quinn," she cries. Her heart shatters, littering shards of her soul. And Quinn is splintering, being claimed by the gray. Rachel holds her hand tighter and tighter because this is it. "I've lost everything. Don't you understand? After what we've had together—I have no future. I can't sing. I can't dance. I can't perform. Not after what I've done."
The gray is suffocating. The gray is silent. She thinks she will drown in its boundlessness, but even if she doesn't, Rachel is eternally crippled. Without a heart. Without part of her soul.
"Can't you see? Can't you see how Quinn has changed me? Can't you see how love has rewritten everything?" Rachel says in heartsick earnest.
"This one knows Lucy Quinn Fabray was yours as you were hers. This one knows that it enveloped you both. But this one cannot see all."
The gray is overwhelming, and in this place, Quinn is evanescent. All Rachel knows is the shattering is almost complete, and there is nothing without Quinn.
"She gave me an equilibrium," Rachel says softly and more to herself than anything. "You can understand that. A balance between an independence to chase my dreams and a need to be by her side. I can't chase any dream—I can't have my future—if Quinn's life is the price!"
"You are unable to follow the path of your original fate?"
The voice remains as composed and as androgynous as ever, but there is a hint of something.
"I can't. It comes at Quinn's life. Her life. I love her, yet I am the one that killed her," she says, anguished. "No matter her fate, her life is on me."
"There are fates that people are born into. There are fates that this one can create. You denied the fate this one created. In your heart of hearts, do you deny the fate you were born to as well?"
"It's not a matter of denying," Rachel says thickly. "It's not a choice. I'm incapable. I can't take that fate because Quinn has changed everything."
There's a pulse. The gray shudders. Rachel trembles. She pulls what is left of Quinn to her. She falls to her knees, cradling Quinn to her chest and certain that everything is going to come crashing down.
"There are fates brought about by equilibrium. Fates that this one cannot see because they are a human creation."
Quinn is fragmenting.
"These fates are rare."
"These fates are exceptional."
"These fates are formed only under a heart and soul's influence."
And Rachel is certain she is too.
She thinks about how Quinn could see the gray. She thinks about how Quinn is here with her now. She holds Quinn as the gray digs through her skin, claiming her once and for all. She cannot look away, even as it claims her too.
"You have no fate you were born too. You have no fate that this one changed. You have only a fate of your own creation. This is your fate, Rachel Barbra Berry."
The gray quakes.
Quinn is whole in her arms.
Hazel eyes open.
And the very first thing she knows is that there is a hand squeezing hers.
Adrenaline flies through her blood as the world around her shines with color and song. At the center of it all, are sleepy hazel eyes.
It is the single most beautiful thing she has ever witnessed.
Rachel cries. She clutches Quinn's hand, desperate and engulfed in the absolute pinnacles of relief, guilt, and love.
Quinn grips her hand back. Warm, strong, and very much alive.
The door breaks open, filling the room with white coats and scrubs. Everything descends into chaos. But Quinn's eyes never leave hers.
Later, after dozens of tests, after tears and excitement, and after proclamations of miracles, there is a moment of peace. But during it all, there was no resounding tick of the secondhand. There was no gray.
Rachel waited, never far, but oscillating between the crushing weight of guilt and the pure weightlessness of relief. And now, as the nurse files out, shaking her head and smiling, and Nathan takes Judy outside for some fresh air, it's just Rachel and Quinn.
"They want to keep me a few more days to be sure. I'm just hoping they don't turn me into some sort of lab rat," Quinn says. Her voice is strong; her features warm and bright. Almost all the machines monitoring her have been disconnected. She smiles, and it's like she's everywhere but in a hospital bed.
Rachel tries to return it, but it's too much. She swallows heavily, trying to hang on to her control.
"Come here," Quinn says gently, holding out her hand.
Rachel hovers at the end of the bed.
"Rach," Quinn says softly, "come here."
So she approaches, and she breaks. "I'm sorry. I was so weak."
"No," Quinn says emphatically, reaching for her. "No. You had two fates fighting for you. Rachel…you…you made a third."
"You saw…?" Rachel says thickly as Quinn pulls her onto the hospital bed with her.
"I woke for a moment in the gray. And when I did, I knew everything."
"It shouldn't have ever had come that," Rachel says weakly. "You suffered so much. All because of me. I don't know how you can stand to look at me."
"No. Rachel, you are so strong. You warred with your fate. You warred with my fate. You saved me. You aren't weak. You're the strongest person I know."
Rachel is silent. And it still hurts. It still crawls through her—the guilt, the shame, the absolute sin. But somehow, she knows, it's going to be okay.
Quinn leans in closer, eyes searching Rachel's own in wonderment. "You changed the world for me."
~ 10 Years Later ~
She waits in the wings for her cue from the assistant director. She watches the monitor as Seth, still boyishly handsome and infinitely charming at 30, finishes up a segment. He gives a wicked grin as he delivers the punchline of joke, which stretches even wider as the audience eats it up. When the laughter dies down, he continues. "Our guest this evening is an old friend of mine, who as rumor has it, helped to make sure I got this job a few years ago. She really needs no introduction. You all know her, but please welcome Ms. Rachel Berry!"
It's amazing how she can still find applause to be overwhelming after all these years. She walks out with genuine smile and a wave. Seth greets her in an enthusiastic hug.
Rachel laughs as she takes her seat. "That was a better greeting than the one you gave me when I arrived on set!"
The audience titters behind the lights.
"I was busy," Seth says to her. He then looks toward the camera, talking to the people watching instead. "Doing important pre-show things!"
"Right, and your greeting out here has nothing to do with hanging on to my coattails for fame?" Rachel says with a teasing smile.
Seth waves a finger at her, and then holds out his arms. "I don't think I need it. Am I right guys?"
There's a cheer of approval from the audience, and both Seth and Rachel laugh.
"Alright, alright, let's get to business. New movie? New TV show? Musical? Album? Book? Announcing your leadership of the world? Why are you here? You're so busy I can't keep track these days," Seth says.
"Hmm," Rachel says, playing along. She might have talked to a few producers when this opportunity opened up two years ago, but there was a reason Seth got the job despite being relatively unknown. He's good. He's candid, and he's never once held an awkward interview. The ratings have skyrocketed since he's taken over. "I think, I think it's a movie this time."
"A movie, yeah. That sounds right. I might have heard something about that. And how you're pretty much guaranteed an Oscar."
"Oh no, there are so many great actresses with great roles this year," she says genuinely. "I know there's talk, but it's much too early."
"Well let's check out a clip? As your friend, I promise to give you an honest opinion. No brown-nosing from me. Not anymore anyway," Seth says, winking. "Can you tell us a little something about what we're going to see?"
"I can't say much without giving important plot points away, but the story is about fate. About whether we truly have any choices in our actions. In this clip, you'll see the moment where my character begins to question herself and everything she knows."
The video starts playing a short scene from the movie, and, just like applause can still be overwhelming, her heart still hammers at seeing herself on screen.
At the end of the clip, the audience whispers, titillated, and Seth looks at her expectantly.
Rachel laughs. "There also might be some mystical elements."
"What attracted you to this role?" Seth asks, "It's a bit different from your other work both on film and on stage."
"The character's journey touched me on a personal level. After reading the script, I couldn't get it out of my head."
"So do you believe in fate?" Seth asks, even though he knows the answer. He doesn't know everything, but fate is something Rachel can never get out of her head and it's come up in conversation.
"Yes, I do," she says sincerely. "But I also think it's not so simple. That we have more power than we realize."
"You sure you don't want to add philosopher on to your list of accomplishments and accolades?"
"As you said," Rachel says lightly. "I am much too busy."
"Okay, you can't use my own words against me. My show, my rules. But I digress, how was shooting this film? Any fun stuff on set? There were a lot of rumors circulating..."
"Oh everything was great! I loved working with everyone, but those rumors? About the hookups and trailer sex?"
"Yeah those! Everything is always about sex!" Seth says, goading her on with a grin as the audience laughs.
"Seth, have you seen Quinn?"
As soon as she drops Quinn's name, the audience erupts into cheers and Rachel can't keep the smile off her face.
Seth laughs. "That's fair. So ten years together right?"
"Almost eleven!" Rachel corrects. It's her turn to look away from Seth and at the camera. She shakes her head dramatically. "As an old friend, you would think he would know all this already."
"It's not my fault you two are so busy I hardly get to see you. I have to book you for my show in order to catch up these days."
"There are important issues that we've been—"
"Oh like this?" Seth interrupts.
Rachel brings a hand up to her face in an attempt to hide her chagrinned smile as a now familiar picture is brought up on the monitor. The audience buzzes and clamors. She took Quinn on a getaway the past weekend. While enjoying their short vacation, a fan recognized them and snatched a photograph. Rachel knows the photo has been all over the Internet. There's nothing obscene depicted, but it still paints an intimate picture. Quinn stands in the clear blue water with Rachel's legs wrapped around her waist. Their foreheads rest against each as they share a moment of peace.
"Is anything private anymore?"
"Well, you were on a public beach," Seth says, raising an eyebrow.
"It was a surprise trip. We took it on a whim," Rachel defends.
Seth smirks. "In all seriousness, when you're not acting and Quinn isn't writing up something fancy for The New Yorker or Newsweek Global or The Atlantic, you two have been spearheading the marriage equality campaign. In fact, Time did a report on the success and you two posed together for the cover?"
There's another cheer from the audience as the cover from the latest issue appears on the screen. Quinn's arm is wrapped low around her waist as Rachel stands close against her. It's a pose that can't be mistaken for anything but romantic.
"Quinn is the love of my life. She's my soulmate," Rachel says seriously when the cheers die down. She takes a breath. "We went through some truly difficult times early on, and we couldn't keep each other a secret even if we tried after that. I'm a performer, but by virtue of keeping our relationship open for the public eye, I've become an advocate too. Quinn and I are just doing what we can to help change how people view love."
"And by all accounts, you're succeeding," Seth says. "Maybe it's fate?"
"Maybe," Rachel says with a soft, sincere smile, thinking of Quinn.
Seth wraps up the interview, and she walks out during the break, steps light and carefree. The assistant director points her to an intern who escorts her back to the dressing room. Rachel thanks the intern at the door, waving him away as she steps inside.
"Soulmate huh?" Quinn says, a smirk playing across her lips. She stands up from the couch, where she had been waiting and watching the interview. She smooths out nonexistent wrinkles in her clothes and saunters toward her. Rachel feels her heart pick up speed at the gleam in Quinn's eyes. "I better be considering that fate has you stuck with me."
Instead of responding, Rachel strides forward, meeting Quinn in a kiss still as intoxicating as the first one they shared all those years ago. They pull back, sharing contented smiles. And Rachel believes that she has everything.
- The End -
A/N: Thank you so much for reading. It's been quite the journey. I'm happy to field any comments and questions you may have. You can find a masterpost of all my comments and notes that I made while writing this fic at my tumblr.
My eternal gratitude to thoughtsinorange/rhymesinorange who read and critiqued each chapter.
And thank you, Faberry fandom, for giving me a chance to be a part of something too.