Author's Note: My apologies for the cliffhanger, especially because this part probably won't be exactly what you're all expecting.
Part II: Resolution
Life can change in a moment. Quinn has learned this lesson repeatedly. One moment, one too many drinks, one mistake in judgment, one bottle of hair dye, one cigarette, one tattoo, one text message.
One application for Friendzone.
Quinn doesn't watch the episode when it airs in October—there's no reason when she experienced the real-time version of it. She knows that some of her friends watched it right away by the incredulous messages posted on her Facebook. Mercedes thinks it's all an elaborate joke, and leaves three messages to that effect before she finally gives up and asks 'why Rachel, of all people.' Kurt apologizes for telling her back in February that she didn't understand true despair, nine months too late in her opinion, before he stupidly welcomes her to the 'club.'
Sam comments that their whole relationship suddenly makes sense to him. Joe apologizes for his inappropriate advances. Puck is surprisingly less crude than she'd expected, all things considered, and tells her that it kind of makes sense now why she never really wanted to give him another go in the sack. (Neither of them mentions her temporary bout of insanity last fall.)
Quinn is endlessly grateful that there are no television, phone, or computer privileges allowed in boot camp. If anyone has bothered to inform Finn that his ex-girlfriend appeared on television to proclaim her love for his ex-fiancée, at least he hasn't wasted what little downtime he does have on sending off some illegible letter full of insults and whining about how Quinn is always trying to hurt him.
Santana offers words of encouragement, and promises that it really does get better. She's been repeating different versions of the same sentiment since Lucas and his crew packed up and left Lima for their next destination, and the next poor person hoping to change their title from friend to lover. In true Santana fashion, her support comes wrapped in colorful euphemisms, but Quinn takes comfort in her words anyway, feeling oddly settled in the knowledge that one relationship in her life will never change.
Judy Fabray calls six days after the show airs, and Quinn is honestly impressed that it even took that long for the news to find its way to her.
She's livid; absolutely horrified that Quinn would go on television and proclaim to the world that she's in love with another woman. Quinn sits stonily on her little twin bed in New Haven, and stares unblinkingly at the wall as her mother yells about her reputation, and cries about Quinn's inconsideration. Judy is angry. Judy is embarrassed. Judy is afraid to answer her phone because all of Lima is gossiping about her.
Quinn cries silently and waits to be disowned. Waits to lose the only family she has left. Waits to be told that she's a sinner.
"Why did you have to come out so publicly, Quinn?" Judy cries. "Why couldn't you have just kept it quiet?"
Quinn presses a fist to her mouth, stifling a sob. "I'm tired of pretending," she manages to choke through the tears that burn in her throat and sting her eyes. "I wanted everyone to know who I really am."
Judy doesn't say another word, but Quinn can hear her crying through the phone. She doesn't hang up, and neither does Quinn. She's afraid that the moment the call disconnects, she'll no longer have a mother.
She's not entirely unprepared for this moment. She has a job in the campus bookstore, and she's quietly made some inquiries into possible additional financial aid. Her first semester tuition is paid, and she has enough money saved to make it to her second without starving. She's fairly certain that she can find a way to finance her next semester. It will be hard, and she'll be on a tight budget, and she'll probably need to find another job that she can work on weekends, but she's determined to stay in college. If she can get up and out a wheelchair in three months, she can sure as hell find a way to graduate from Yale.
Judy sniffles across the line, and Quinn hears some shuffling before her mother finally speaks again. "We'll discuss this further when you come home next month."
Quinn catches her breath, "You...you still want me to come home?"
She hears a frustrated sigh, "Of course I do. You're my daughter, Quinnie," she sobs again, "I may be very angry and disappointed with you right now, but I still love you."
Quinn's tears come harder, and it takes her a moment to be able to speak around the tightness in her chest, "I...I love you, too, mom."
"Please don't come home with a buzz cut, or any more tattoos."
Quinn chuckles through her tears, "I won't. I promise."
When she disconnects the call, she feels lighter than she has in—well, her whole life, really. She doesn't even remember a time when her shoulders weren't tight with tension, and her mind filled with countless lists of dos and don'ts, constantly calculating every word and every step and every smile to make sure that no one would ever see the scared little girl underneath her façade.
For the first time, she's been stripped bare, and there's nothing left to hide from anyone anymore, and she feels—God, she feels free.
Quinn wipes away her tears and inhales deeply. Exhales.
Breathes freely. Finally.
Thanksgiving break begins after her last class on November sixteenth. Quinn considers not going home right away, but she hasn't seen her mother since she'd moved into the dorms, and their telephone conversations since the big reveal have been short and stilted, covering the basics of health, grades and finances. Judy can't bring herself to ask about Quinn's personal life, and Quinn doesn't volunteer any information. Going home to Lima is going to be a strange, uncomfortable thing, but it has to be done.
The good thing about Yale's Thanksgiving break is that it starts early enough that Quinn will be able to get a jump on the heaviest of the travel madness. She packs a little bag, mostly filled with her basic necessities and a few books—also basic necessities for Quinn—because she has enough clothes left at home to get her through the week. She shares a cab to the airport just outside of Hartford with her roommate, Leslie, who's flying back to Pittsburgh.
Quinn told Leslie the second day they'd roomed together that she likes girls, and Leslie had just shrugged and told her, "cool with me, but just so you know, I'm only into guys; preferably wealthy ones." Quinn doesn't really think of herself as a lesbian—not when she'd had sex with Puck and had a baby; not when she thinks she might have actually loved Sam—but she can admit that Rachel isn't the only girl that she's physically attracted to, even if she is the only one that Quinn has been in love with. Maybe she's bisexual, or maybe she's just done letting her mind dictate what her heart should want and her body should like.
"Are you nervous to go back home?" Leslie asks her, mostly to make conversation on the drive. She knows all about Quinn's fifteen minutes of fame, and how her conservative mother had reacted, and exactly what's waiting for her in Lima, Ohio.
Quinn shrugs, "A little. I'm not really looking forward to the face-to-face conversation with my mother, but at least I know she won't be setting the timer on the microwave and giving me ten minutes to pack up my things and get out." Leslie laughs, obviously thinking that Quinn is joking. Quinn doesn't correct her. "I'm more worried about," she trails off, staring out the window and watching the trees blur into a fuzzy green streak along the side of the highway.
Leslie smiles sympathetically, elbowing her lightly to catch her attention. "You'll be fine," she reassures her. "I mean, it's not like you totally crashed and burned in a fiery wreckage of humiliation. You and Rachel still talk, and everything," she reminds Quinn.
Quinn forces a smile and nods, closing her eyes to keep the ache in her heart from shining through the hazel. Leslie is right. They do still talk, but their conversations are almost as awkward as the ones she has with Judy.
The Metro North passes that Quinn was so happy to purchase sit unused in their envelopes.
The reunion with Judy is anti-climactic. Her mother meets her at the airport, and they stand opposite one another wearing equally uncertain expressions. Judy wrings her hands and tilts her head, scrutinizing Quinn's appearance as if she expects to find some outward sign of her newly discovered sexual preferences. Quinn is mostly attempting to determine if her mother is still sober.
Judy is the first to break the stalemate, offering a small, tentative smile as she steps forward. "Welcome home, dear," she whispers, wrapping her arms around Quinn in a brief, clumsy hug. Quinn squeezes her back with her free arm; the other still holding her carry-on bag. She smells lilac perfume and coconut shampoo, and blessedly, no tang of alcohol.
The drive is mostly silent, at least until they're about a half an hour from Lima, and Judy glances nervously over at her. "Have you," she clears her throat, tightening her fingers around the steering wheel, "Have you been seeing much of...of Rachel Berry?"
Quinn clenches her jaw, turning to stare out the passenger window. Leave it to her mother to avoid the whole subject for a month, and then ask the one question that Quinn doesn't want to answer.
"Oh," Judy breathes quietly. "I'm sorry, Quinnie," she offers weakly, and Quinn tips her forehead against the cool glass and closes her eyes to the world.
They don't speak again until long after they've arrived home.
Santana comes back from Louisville on Tuesday. Her break doesn't technically start until Wednesday, but Santana, being Santana, opted to skip the one class that she has on Tuesday morning in favor of flying home early.
She appears on Quinn's doorstep two hours after her flight touches down, expecting to be entertained. Judy is showing a few houses this afternoon, so it's just Quinn, and Santana, and the bottle of tequila in her hand. Quinn has no doubt that Santana would be with Brittany right now if she wasn't in school, but Brittany wants to actually graduate this year, so she isn't skipping any days—not even for her girlfriend.
Santana hates Kentucky, and she complains non-stop for the first forty minutes of their mini-reunion. She misses Brittany. If she can't be with her girl anyway, she'd rather be in New Fucking York, getting famous. An hour later, Quinn knows that she's had too much to drink when she allows Santana to grab the television remote and call up episode 3:01.
"No," she protests shakily, making an ungainly grab for the remote. "Gimme," she demands.
"C'mon, Q-Fab. It'll be fun," Santana promises, easily evading her advances and pushing her onto the sofa, remote still securely in hand. "And I look hot as hell, even though I only got like, thirty seconds of damn screen time," she complains with a glare. "What's up with that, anyway?"
Quinn shrugs, and sullenly collapses into the sofa, "Dunno. Haven't watched it."
Santana gapes at her, "Are you fucking serious?" When Quinn merely shrugs again and takes a sloppy drink from the bottle they've been passing back and forth, Santana grabs her wrist and pries away the tequila, setting it on the table. "You didn't watch it?" she demands again, suddenly seeming just a bit more sober.
Quinn shakes her head. "Wh's the point?" she slurs.
"Idiota," Santana mutters, pointing the remote at the television and cuing up the episode.
Quinn tries to get up, thinking that she'd rather be anywhere but here, but Santana tosses a leg over her lap, and half sits on her. "Just watch," she commands, and Quinn cringes when she hears her own stupidly, hopeful voice introduce herself from the television.
Her eyes are pulled to the screen, even though it's the last thing she wants to see, but it's kind of like that compulsion to watch the gory bits of a horror movie through the spaces between your fingers. She just can't look away.
She sees herself staring into the camera with a sappy, lovesick look on her face, before the scene shifts to two girls walking down the sidewalk, shoulders close, as they window shop. Her heart squeezes to the point of pain as she watches how happy she and Rachel look in those moments.
"Rachel and I met in high school," Quinn's disembodied voice narrates over the perfect scene of two friends enjoying one another's company. "We've known one another for four years, but we haven't always been the best of friends."
Photos of Quinn in her cheerios uniform appear on the screen, followed by pictures of Rachel Berry in a sweater vest with a big, toothy smile.
"It took me a while to appreciate Rachel's quirks," the camera cuts back to Quinn, sporting an amused grin. "She has the most amazing voice," Quinn reveals over a clip of Rachel on a stage, wearing a red dress with black trim. The background music slowly builds in volume until the speakers are filled with the chorus of It's All Coming Back To Me Now, circa the 2012 National Show Choir Championship performance.
"She's probably the most talented person in Ohio, and she'll be the first to tell you that."
Quinn's face reappears, and she's smiling fondly as she continues to speak. "I don't doubt for a minute that one day I'll be sitting in the audience, watching Rachel Berry's Broadway debut, but she's so much more than just her voice."
The scene changes to show Rachel and Quinn in a comic book shop, laughingly squabbling over Rachel's fondness for graphic novels.
"Rachel has so many hidden layers that most people don't take the time to discover, but all of my favorite things about her are the things that she thinks I don't notice. Like the fact that she's so passionate about the things that she loves, even when they are aren't considered cool. Or that, even though she's vegan, she bakes non-vegan cookies for her friends."
The two girls are shown briefly hugging in front of a doorway, "She's the most forgiving person I've ever known," Quinn says before the scene fades back to her looking into the camera, "and she always seems to see the best in me, and encourages me to go after my dreams. And I think I do the same for her."
Quinn glances away from the camera, biting into her lip and drawing in a ragged breath. "She's going to New York in a few weeks," she finally says, "and I feel like if I don't tell her how I feel about her now, I'll miss my chance. She doesn't have a clue, and I'm so afraid to tell her, because our friendship means so much to me. I don't want to lose that, but I have to take a chance, or I'll always wonder what might have been." Quinn forces a smile, appearing cautiously hopeful, "Today's the day I get out of the friend zone."
The next segment begins at poolside. A slow pan of the camera reveals a tiny white bikini and the girl wearing it. The caption on screen reads, 'Quinn's friend, Santana.' Quinn is far more demure, in a one-piece suit and cover-up. Her voiceover explains, "Santana and I have been friends for a few years. I can always trust her to tell me the truth."
Santana glances over at Quinn with a bored expression. "Do you think you're wearing enough layers, Q? I'd hate to see your skin tone go a shade above albino."
Quinn rolls her eyes, but her voiceover continues, "Even if I don't always like what I'm hearing, I know that when everything is said and done, she has my back."
"I'm going to tell Rachel that I have feelings for her," she informs Santana onscreen.
"It's only taken you four years," Santana replies, pulling her sunglasses down with her pinky and eyeing Quinn with a smirk.
"I don't really know what to expect. We have such a great relationship right now, and I'm worried that what I'm doing is going to ruin that."
Santana shrugs, "It could happen. I mean, you know that the midg...Rachel...can be over-dramatic. She might completely freak out about this."
Quinn nibbles on the corner of her lip, appearing upset by the possibility.
"Or she could tell you that she's been crushing on you, too," Santana adds, muttering, "That would actually explain a lot. Ultimately, you're the one who has to decide if telling her is worth the risk."
"I think it is," Quinn confirms. "I really want to be with her, Santana."
There is a brief shot of Santana rolling her eyes before she pushes the sunglasses back up onto her nose. "I gotta be honest, Quinn," she adds amiably, "if that girl doesn't already have a least a little bit of an idea how you feel about her, she's more oblivious than I thought."
The scene shifts to the exterior of the Lima Bean, zooming in on the logo in the window, before pulling back to show Rachel walking up to the door. The camera cuts to a close-up of Rachel.
"Hello, I'm Rachel, and I'm going to be helping my best friend Quinn prepare for her date," she states matter-of-factly. "Personally, I don't think that Quinn needs any help. She's absolutely beautiful."
Quinn and Rachel are shown in a shop, and Rachel holds a pale green dress up to Quinn, who is smiling joyfully.
"But she's so much more than a pretty face."
The camera cuts to Quinn, browsing through a stack of used books.
"She's going to Yale, after all," Rachel proudly reveals before she reappears onscreen. "Quinn deserves every happiness, and I know she's going to take the world by storm. I'm so grateful to have her in my life," Rachel says fervently, nodding at the camera, "and I know that she'll be amazing on her date, because, well," Rachel shrugs, grinning sheepishly, "she's Quinn."
The focus changes to Quinn sitting at a table, nervously picking at the cup of coffee in front of her with a blunt fingernail. She looks up and smiles, her eyes sparkling with affection as Rachel enters.
"Hi, sorry to keep you waiting," she says as she slides into a chair across from Quinn. "So tell me about this big date."
The shot cuts back to Quinn, looking nervous. "I thought we could go to ArtSpace."
Rachel nods, smiling, "I think it's a wonderful idea, Quinn. You'll be able to talk as you walk through the galleries, and if you find yourselves struggling for conversation, you can simply choose some God awful piece of art to analyze."
Their joking exchange follows, and the camera pans back and forth between them as they discuss Quinn's plans. The shot changes to a close-up of Rachel's face, and she appears to be gazing at Quinn very tenderly. "Don't worry. You'll be amazing," she assures, "Who wouldn't fall in love with you?"
Quinn's trembling smile and hopeful eyes fade into black.
The next segment begins with Quinn putting on makeup for her date while her voiceover narrates, "I'm more nervous than I thought I'd be. Today is the day I tell Rachel how I feel."
"I really want this to go well," she says nervously into the camera. "If Rachel doesn't reciprocate…if she tells me that there isn't even a chance that she could feel the same way, I know it's going to hurt so much," she admits with vulnerability glistening in her eyes. "Rachel is such an important part of my life. I don't think she realizes exactly how much she really means to me, but she will." She sighs, "I hate the thought of losing her friendship, but it's a chance that I have to take."
Quinn's hopeful face disappears from the screen, and Rachel's car pulls up to the house. She gets out, meeting Quinn halfway as she walks down the driveway, and the girls share a hug before getting into the car. They chat on camera while Rachel drives them to ArtSpace, until the car comes to a stop and Rachel turns to Quinn with an affectionate smile.
"Are you nervous?"
"You shouldn't be. You're everyone's dream date, Quinn. Just go in there, and smile, and refrain from calling him a moron at any point, and he'll love you."
"Rachel, there's something I have to tell you," Quinn says, and Rachel's smile transforms into an expression of concern.
"What is it, Quinn?"
Quinn shakes her head, tugging uncomfortably at her seat belt. "Could you," she starts breathlessly, then stops, inhales deeply before slowly exhaling. "Can we maybe get some air?" she asks, looking wan.
Rachel nods, "Of course."
The scene cuts to the both of them standing in front of the car. Quinn's right arm crosses her body, and her hand is curled around her own bicep. Rachel gazes at her expectantly.
"So, I…ah," Quinn begins, licking her lips and offering a tiny, trembling smile, "I lied." Rachel frowns, but Quinn continues speaking, "I'm not meeting anyone here. All of this is for you."
Rachel's head tilts, as if she isn't certain of what she just heard, and then her eyebrows furrow in an expression of confusion. "I…I don't understand," she manages quietly.
"I like you," Quinn confesses, "romantically," she clarifies. "I have for about eight months now, and I'm hoping that you could feel the same way."
Rachel laughs nervously, glancing around them as through she's looking for an escape route. "Is this a joke?" she asks uncomfortably.
Quinn inhales sharply, lifting her chin. "No, Rachel. I…I wouldn't do that to you. I care about you so much. You've been there for me for three years now, and I feel like...like no one has ever known me as well as you do. I think you're amazing, and we could have something really special if you just give me the chance."
Rachel shakes her head, frowning, "But you're not," she begins, then purses her lips, taking a deep breath through her nose, before turning to pace away from Quinn. She stops several steps away. Her posture is closed off, shoulders hunched slightly and head bowed. She is silent for a long moment before she finally turns around, arms crossed beneath her breasts. "You like me?" she asks flatly.
Quinn nods, and her eyes are clearly glistening with moisture. "Do you…could you ever see me as more than a friend?"
Rachel glances away, clearly upset, "I…I don't know," she admits, looking back at Quinn. "I wasn't expecting any of this, Quinn. I've never…I didn't even consider that you could feel this way. It isn't fair of you to expect me to answer a question that I didn't imagine could even exist until two minutes ago."
"Just be honest with me, Rachel," Quinn begs. "Is there even a chance?"
Rachel drops her eyes to the ground, shaking her head ever so slightly from side to side, "I'm just not in a place where I can even think about this," she admits quietly, voice filled with regret. "I'm sorry."
Quinn hastily wipes her cheeks, looking away. "Okay. Okay," she repeats hoarsely. "I understand," she mumbles, clearly struggling to keep her composure.
Rachel's cheeks are wet as well, but she doesn't make any effort to dry them. "I'm so sorry," she repeats shakily. "I care about you so much, Quinn, but I…I just," she pauses, drawing in a calming breath, "You're my best friend."
Quinn nods curtly, "Can you just take me home now?"
Rachel looks startled by her detached tone, but she nods meekly, and they silently get back into the car. The camera watches the car back out of the parking space, and follows the taillights as they move away, until the image is replaced by Quinn's tearful face.
"It hurts," she confesses thinly, brushing at her tears with trembling fingers, "knowing that Rachel only sees me as her friend. I really thought there might be a chance for us," she whispers, sniffling a little, "but I can't be sorry that I finally told her the truth. At least now, I don't have to wonder how she feels about me anymore." She laughs sadly, "I can move on. And hopefully, we'll be able to stay friends."
The camera cuts to Rachel, standing outside with her arms wrapped around herself in a protective posture, looking sad and forlorn. "I just can't believe that Quinn feels that way about me. If I'd known," she trails off hopelessly, shaking her head. "I have feelings for someone else, and she knows that. I wish I didn't. I wish I could move on, and give Quinn what she wants, because she's so special, and so wonderful," Rachel tells the camera with glossy eyes, "but I just can't be what she needs right now. And I can't ask her to wait until I'm ready." Rachel glances away, "I…I hate that I hurt her, but I just…I need time to process all of this," she muses softly, still not looking at the camera, "But we'll get through this. We have to."
The screen fades to black.
Quinn is crying openly by the time the television goes dark. The pleasant buzz of the alcohol she'd consumed fifteen minutes ago has been snuffed out, and she feels every emotion as acutely as if it happened this morning. Santana's arm is wrapped around her shoulder, but she doesn't want to be comforted.
"Why?" she sobs, pushing at Santana. "Why would you make me watch that? I lived it, Santana! I didn't get the girl! She didn't want me!" Quinn yells. "God, we're barely even friends now."
"And whose fault is that?" Santana growls. "Did you actually pay attention to what you just watched, Quinn? The part where you said you'd be able move on and be her friend again?"
"But I can't," Quinn admits brokenly, "I'm not over her."
Santana rolls her eyes, "Which is stupid and masochistic, but Quinn, Rachel isn't the one brooding and being weird—and that's saying something since Rachel is, like, the freaking Queen of Weird! The friendship thing? That's all on you."
"It's not that easy," Quinn sniffles.
"Well, no shit," Santana hisses, "but you're the one who decided to publicly tell the girl that you wanted to bone her," and Quinn cringes at the gross over-simplification. "Anyway," Santana continues, "it seems to me that it isn't so much that Rachel straight up didn't want you—she just didn't know what the hell to do with what you were telling her. And, you know, she was still hung up on that asshole, Finnept."
Quinn swipes angrily at her tears, "It doesn't matter now anyway," she argues, "Rachel is dating some new guy."
"Yeah, and I know that sucks for you, but at least she's finally over Finn," Santana reminds her, "And if you really don't want to completely wreck your friendship over this, you need to get off your ass and make some effort to actually be her friend again."
Quinn closes her gritty eyes, tipping her head back against the sofa. She remembers the tearful conversation that she and Rachel had in the car on the drive back, the one that Lucas had thankfully not filmed, with a distraught Rachel reminding Quinn that she was still in love with Finn Hudson, and that they didn't break up so much as surrender to fate, and how she couldn't just forget about three years of her life like it meant nothing.
She remembers reaching for the door handle the moment that the car had eased to a stop in her driveway, eyeing her house like it was a safe haven from every bad thing. She remembers Rachel's firm hand on her shoulder, and her tear-streaked face as she'd begged Quinn to promise that they'd talk about everything, in private, away from the cameras.
Quinn drags in a shuddering breath as she remembers how that conversation had gone. The crying and the questions from Rachel—how long had Quinn felt this way, and why didn't she say something sooner, and did she really have to confess her feelings on a tacky television show?
"I tried to tell you so many times," Quinn reveals brokenly, "but something always got in the way. I needed a way to make sure that I would actually go through with it this time."
"How did you expect me to react?" Rachel demands, her frustration evident. "You ambushed me on camera, Quinn. While the experience will undoubtedly aid me in future improvisational exercises, it's not the way a girl should be told that her best friend has feelings for her. I didn't even know you were interested in women," Rachel exclaims, tossing her hands out in a plea for Quinn to help her understand.
"I'm interested in you," Quinn corrects sadly.
Rachel's expression immediately changes into one of tearful sympathy. "Oh, Quinn," she breathes, but Quinn can barely look at her.
"Please don't pity me," she instructs weakly, turning away. "There aren't any cameras here now, so you don't have to spare my pride"
"That's not what I'm doing," Rachel insists. "I care about you so much, Quinn."
"As a friend," Quinn finishes dejectedly.
"Yes," she admits, "I can't tell you it's anything more than that...not when I'm still in love with Finn."
The reminder of that makes Quinn want to scream. How can Rachel still be so devoted to a boy who cares so little for her feelings—for her dreams? "He doesn't deserve you."
"Maybe not," Rachel concedes, "maybe he doesn't. And...and maybe you do," Rachel offers so softly that Quinn almost doesn't hear her, "but I can't change the way I feel. Believe me, I wish that I could."
"So do I," Quinn echoes, not certain if she's referring to Rachel's feelings, or her own.
"Maybe if things were different," Rachel begins, but then seems to think better of whatever she's about to say. "I don't know when, or if, I'll get over him, Quinn. If you're waiting for that to happen..."
"I'm not," Quinn snaps, just wanting this conversation to be over so she can go a lick her wounds in peace. "I get it, okay?"
"Please say this isn't going to ruin our friendship," she begs. "I don't want to lose you."
Quinn swallows heavily, forcing herself to meet Rachel's pleading eyes. "I don't want to lose you either," she admits shakily, "but you have to understand, Rachel. I need some time to get over you."
Rachel blinks, looking wounded. "Oh...okay. I understand," she nods, "I really do want you to be happy, Quinn."
It's what Quinn wants, too. She just can't seem to figure out how to get there from here.
Quinn rubs a trembling hand across her eyes. She and Rachel had avoided one another for more than a week after that moment, or rather, Quinn had avoided Rachel, too upset to face her. She'd only broken her self-imposed distance to say goodbye to Rachel before she left for New York, and wish her good luck at Nyada. They hadn't hugged. Every phone call, email, and text message that followed had been primarily focused on classes and mundane things, like adjusting to college schedules and roommates, and exploring their new cities.
Quinn knows all about Rachel's bitchy dance instructor, Cassandra July, but next to nothing about Brody Weston. Rachel knows about Yale, but nothing about the one guy and two girls that Quinn has attempted to date in the last three months.
The guy had been a complete mistake—Quinn's brief regression to that girl who needed an attractive, mildly successful guy to boost her self-esteem. The girls had been...enlightening. She's still semi-seeing one of them, but it isn't serious yet. It can't be—not when Quinn hasn't completely banished the ghost of Rachel Berry from her mind and heart. Maybe she'll be able to do that this week. She hopes so, because Santana isn't wrong.
Quinn is the reason that her friendship with Rachel isn't recovering the way that it should. She's been the one holding on to the hurt, and the disappointment, and the embarrassment of rejection, but now that she's finally watched the episode, she has to concede that it could have been so much worse. Rachel was kinder to her than Quinn likely would have been had their positions been reversed. She's grateful for that, and for Rachel's tenacity when it comes to their friendship. Anyone else would have allowed the awkwardness to eat away at them, until they simply drifted apart. Quinn knows it's time for her to give as good as she's gotten. There's an ache in her chest that has nothing to do with thwarted romance, and everything to do with missing her best friend.
Thanksgiving Day is a quiet affair—Quinn and Judy and a little turkey breast. Judy makes an effort to ask Quinn about her friends at Yale, but she still can't broach the subject of any potential girlfriends. Quinn doesn't have much to say right now anyway, so it's easy enough to let Judy ignore the big pink elephant in the room. Quinn is grateful that her mother is mostly over the initial shock and disappointment, and has moved on to the acceptance phase. She knows that acceptance for Judy Fabray will never entail her mother standing with wide open arms and a loving smile, ready to welcome Quinn and any future girlfriend she might bring home. For them, acceptance will be just this—Judy welcoming Quinn home.
She hasn't seen that many people since she's been back. Her school break is longer than many others, and Quinn spends most of her time alone, or with Santana, and Brittany. She sees Puck early in the week, and they talk a little about Beth and the latest photos that Shelby has sent. She listens to him complain about the half-brother that she never knew he had.
She sees Finn Hudson in passing on the street, grateful that he doesn't seem to see her. Apparently, he washed out of boot camp after he shot himself in the ass. Quinn didn't know whether to laugh or cry when Santana told her. She shouldn't be surprised that Finn has proven, yet again, that he's immune to maturity. Even Army discipline failed at making him into a responsible man. She can't believe Rachel ever thought that marrying him would be a good idea.
Rachel and Kurt don't make it out of New York until late Wednesday, caught between the crush of tourists attempting to get into the city for the parade, and the mass exodus of residents seeking more peaceful destinations. Rachel calls Thursday morning to wish her a happy Thanksgiving, and reminds her that she's hosting a mini-reunion on Friday. Quinn promises to be there.
She catches a ride with Santana because she still isn't driving, and also because she doesn't want to walk into Rachel's house alone. Quinn barely even places a foot on the front stoop before the door is swinging open, and Rachel is standing there with wide, excited eyes and a tremulous smile.
"Hello. Welcome, it's so wonderful to see you all," she enthuses, but her eyes are focused only on Quinn.
"Yeah, whatever," Santana grumbles, but her lips are flirting with a fond smile, "it'll be better to see you once I get my drink on," and she pushes past Rachel, immediately heading in the direction of the basement.
"Hi, Rachel," Brittany chirps as she follows behind Santana, hand locked in her girlfriend's firm grasp, "you look taller. Did the water in New York make you grow?"
Rachel opens her mouth to reply, but Brittany has already forgotten about her, instead cuddling up to Santana as the duo disappear through the door that hides the basement stairwell. Quinn finds herself smiling despite her nerves, at least until she realizes that she's on the receiving end of Rachel's full attention.
The first thing Quinn really notices is how good Rachel looks. Her hair has a few more highlights than the last time Quinn saw her, and it's curling gently around her face, with the bangs brushed back from her forehead, the way that Quinn has always secretly preferred. She's wearing a short, dark skirt and soft, yellow sweater, reminiscent of her early high school wardrobe, only far more fashionable. She does seem a little taller, Quinn realizes with a start, and she lets her eyes travel down to discover the square heeled boots that hug Rachel's toned calves. Her eyes widen slightly as she takes in the unexpected discovery.
"I've missed you," Rachel says softly, breaking into Quinn's thoughts.
"I've missed you, too," she replies with a smile, and they aren't just empty words. "You look good," she adds, "New York is obviously having a positive effect."
Rachel blushes, ducking her head. "Thank you, Quinn. You look beau," she stops herself, purses her lips, and then smiles a little ruefully, "you look good, too." Rachel's eyes dart up and down, side to side, and she fidgets in the doorway, clearly anxious, before she takes a breath and steels herself. "I'm going to hug you now," she warns.
Quinn feels her heart break just a little, because Rachel has never felt the need to make that announcement before. She swallows thickly and forces a friendly smile, nodding and opening her arms. "Please."
Rachel's smile is breathtaking, and she practically jumps into Quinn's arms, fitting her chin into the curve of Quinn's shoulder, and holding her tightly. Quinn wishes that she could say that their embrace feels nice—natural and friendly and just like it's supposed to feel—but her body still responds to Rachel's in ways that it shouldn't when they'll never be anything more than this. It still hurts.
"I'm so glad you're here," Rachel whispers, and then pulls back with a happy grin. "Everyone is downstairs. They'll be so happy to see you," Rachel tells her, ushering her inside, and automatically reaching out to help Quinn take off her jacket.
"I'm sure," Quinn retorts dryly. She isn't exactly looking forward to the laughter and commentary that will certainly be aimed in her direction.
"You don't have to worry," Rachel promises her, as if reading her mind, "No one will say anything. They know that you and I are fine, and that's all that matters."
Quinn raises an eyebrow at that. "Are we?" she asks, legitimately curious.
Rachel frowns, "Aren't we?" Her frown deepens, and she suddenly looks frightened. "I know you said that you needed time, but I gave that to you, and you're here now. I thought," she begins, then worriedly asks, "Am I wrong? Are we not okay?"
Quinn sighs, managing a weak smile, "We're okay, Rachel," she reassures.
Rachel's smile returns, and she wraps her arms around Quinn again. "Oh, thank God," she breathes, and Quinn brushes her nose against Rachel's soft hair, inhaling the sweet, floral scent, and silently deciding that she likes this hug much better than the first one.
Quinn receives a dozen more hugs. She's passed around the room from Mercedes to Mike, from Tina to Kurt, from Joe to Blaine, and on and on. The only person she doesn't hug is Finn. She does force a friendly greeting, only to receive a constipated frown and a grunt in response. He doesn't say anything about her episode of Friendzone. Surprisingly, no one does.
She has more fun than she expects, hearing what everyone else has been up to for the last three months. Everyone but Finn, who doesn't say anything about his blink-and-you-missed-it army experience, and acts like taking over the glee club for Mr. Schuester was his plan all along. Mostly, he sits quietly in a corner, brooding and casting longing glances in Rachel's direction. Rachel, for her part, doesn't pay much attention to him beyond being a good hostess.
Quinn doesn't know how to feel about this development. She's thrilled that Rachel finally seems to be over Finn, but she's selfish enough to be upset that she isn't the one that Rachel is moving on with. She's actually surprised that Rachel hasn't mentioned Brody in any of the Nyada anecdotes she relays to their friends, but Quinn guesses that it's out of respect for Finn—and maybe for her as well.
She listens to Santana tell a colorful story about a persistent girl at Louisville who wanted a piece of her fine ass, and how she shot her down because she has the best girlfriend ever. Quinn is marveling at how Santana can mange to be disgustingly crass and sickeningly sweet at the same time, when Tina, of all people, decides to comment.
"Quinn must have dozens of girls hitting on her at Yale."
The room goes quiet, and Quinn flushes under the sudden scrutiny. "Hardly," she mumbles, hoping to shake off the attention, even though she has had more than a few offers.
"All it takes is one. Isn't that right, Q?" Santana prods with a smirk that Quinn wants to slap right off her face.
"Are you dating someone?" Mercedes asks, as eager as ever for some good gossip.
Quinn feels the hairs on her neck prickle, and her eyes unconsciously drift to Rachel, who is sitting across from her with her pink wine cooler clutched between both hands, and an unreadable expression on her face. She averts her gaze, and sighs, "I've been dating a little," she admits with a shrug. "Nothing serious."
She notices Rachel take a drink from the corner of her eye. "But they're hot, right?" Puck verifies with a leer, and Santana smacks him on the back of his head.
"Quinn obviously isn't comfortable talking about her personal life, Noah," Rachel chastises irritably, and every person in the room turns to look at her like she's lost her mind.
"Unless she's having it filmed," Finn mutters petulantly, voicing what everyone else is undoubtedly thinking.
"Grow up, Finn," Rachel snaps, acknowledging him directly for the first time in hours.
Quinn wants to laugh, but the tension in the room is suddenly very noticeable. She smiles thinly, "On that note," she starts to push herself up from her chair, "I think I'm going to…"
"No, don't go," Rachel interrupts, jumping up from her seat.
Quinn pauses and lifts an eyebrow, "I was just going to use your bathroom."
"Oh," Rachel blushes deeply, "well, ah...you know where it is."
Quinn laughs and shakes her head, walking over to the stairs. Her smile dims a little more with every step she climbs. It's not that she's unhappy, exactly, but she realizes that she really doesn't want to talk about her personal life with anyone in that room. Santana already knows some of it, and she's sure Brittany does by extension, and Quinn isn't ready to talk about it with Rachel because there are still too many complications in their own relationship right now. No one else really matters enough to her.
She finds Rachel's bathroom, closes the door, and leans against the sink, staring at herself in the mirror. She doesn't look any different than the girl that graduated with all of those people last spring, but she feels like someone new—like a strange doppelganger trying to steal someone else's life. She wonders how long she can get away with hiding in the bathroom before someone comes looking for her, and then she wonders why she's thinking this way. She has no reason to hide. So she decides to make use of the facilities, and head back downstairs, except that when she eventually opens the door, Rachel is leaning against the opposite wall with her arms crossed and a pensive expression on her face.
Quinn startles, pressing a hand over her heart and calling up a weak glare, "Jesus, Rachel. Creep much?"
"Are you happy?" she asks.
Quinn frowns at her, "Um…yeah, I guess."
Rachel huffs, dropping her arms and pressing her palms against the wall behind her. "Really happy?" she asks again, "Like you wouldn't change a single thing about your life right now, happy?"
Quinn scoffs, "I don't think anyone is ever that happy."
Rachel nods in silent agreement, glancing at the floor. "But you're moving on? Dating?"
Quinn sighs, shuffling out of the doorway and leaning against the wall next to Rachel. "A little," she confirms, rolling her head to the right to take in Rachel's profile. She has missed this—these moments where she feels like she can say anything, or nothing at all, and Rachel will understand her perfectly. "I'm getting there, Rachel."
Rachel nods again, licking her lips. "I was dating someone, too," she says, "After Finn, I mean."
"Yeah, I've heard," Quinn admits, shifting her gaze to stare at the ceiling. "It's okay, Rach. I mean, I don't want to hear every last detail, obviously, but you don't have to pretend that you're living like a nun."
Rachel laughs sadly, "Even if I kind of am?"
Quinn glances at her sideways, brows furrowed, "Huh?"
"I'm not dating Brody anymore. He's sweet, and I care about him, but he wasn't," she trails off, shrugging, "It just didn't feel right."
"Oh," Quinn whispers, uncertain how to feel about this new revelation.
"I think I might have made a mistake," Rachel admits quietly.
Quinn tenses, turning to level Rachel with a sharp gaze. "Please don't tell me that you're thinking about getting back together with Finn."
"What? No," Rachel insists, "It has nothing to do with Finn. I don't want to jump back into a relationship with anyone right now," she clarifies, "but I…I feel like maybe I should have," she trails off, looking at Quinn uncertainly.
Quinn rolls her eyes in frustration, "Should have what, Rachel?"
Rachel dips her chin, glancing up at Quinn through her lashes, "Asked you to wait."
The world stops.
The soft thrum of music from downstairs fades into silence, and the hallway seems preternaturally still. Quinn doesn't even think she's breathing. She watches Rachel squeeze her eyes shut and inhale deeply, and Quinn recognizes her expression as the one that Rachel wears when she knows she's made a mistake and is about to offer up some rambling mess of excuses.
"I know," Rachel rushes out, "It's selfish, and completely not fair to you, and to be honest, I don't even know if I can promise you anything right now, but I just," she meets Quinn's eyes imploringly, "You asked me three months ago if there was even a chance that I could feel something for you, and, now I…I think, maybe there could be."
It's exactly what she hoped to hear.
Three months ago.
She doesn't know how she feels about it now. It's not a declaration of love. It's not exactly an admission of attraction. It's not anything at all, really, except a tentative maybe—Rachel having second thoughts now that she's finally over Finn Hudson, and worrying that she let something wonderful slip away from her. It's Quinn's very own private version of Friendzone.
"It's too late, isn't it?" Rachel realizes sadly.
Quinn turns her head, eyes raking over Rachel's glistening eyes, and her down-turned lips, and she offers a tiny smile, reaching over to graze her fingers across the back of Rachel's hand. "Nothing is too late until you're dead and buried," Quinn tells her honestly.
Rachel turns her palm over, shyly scratching at Quinn's until she manages to loosely entwine their fingers together. "What does that mean?" she wants to know. "For us?"
Quinn shrugs, "Whatever we want it to." She threads her fingers tighter between Rachel's, marveling at how well their hands fit together. "You still have those Metro North passes, don't you?"
Rachel nods, her lips curling into a hopeful smile that Quinn returns. She doesn't know exactly what this means yet, but it doesn't feel like an ending.
It feels like a beginning.
A/N: I felt that ending was appropriate for where they stand right now, and maybe even allows them fit into canon Glee just a little bit. Thank you to TS for the idea. I hope it didn't disappoint you too badly.
Feedback is always appreciated.