Part II: Release Your Inhibitions


Quinn starts the spring semester with a(nother) new outlook on life. She isn't planning to run through the campus shouting that she's gay, but she's no longer afraid to embrace her own desires. When her eyes catch on lush curves and shiny hair and shapely legs, she lets them linger.

She feels obligated to tell her roommate that she's gay, reasoning that she'd want to know if the situations were reversed. The words don't come easily, and Quinn is apprehensive of how Megan will react. Megan has a few friends that seem to ping, like Josie, but Quinn thinks it might be different to find out you're living with a lesbian. She gathers up the courage to broach the subject the second week of classes, and Megan only tilts her head in confusion, asking, "You're not, like, attracted to me, are you? Because, as gorgeous as you are, I don't swing that way." Quinn assures her that she's not, and Megan nods, "Then we're cool," and that's the end of the discussion.

xox

One Tuesday in mid-February, Quinn is shuffling books and hot coffee as she breezes into her favorite student lounge to get some early reading done for her European Literature class. She's just about to arrange herself at an open table when she happens to notice Josie sitting across the room. She falters for a moment, nervously biting at her lip, before she decides to walk over. Josie, consumed by whatever she's working on, doesn't notice Quinn until she's standing over her.

Quinn quietly clears her throat, and Josie jerks her head up, recognition lighting her eyes. "Hi," she murmurs.

"Hey," Josie responds with a nod.

"I…um," she drags in a breath and offers a meek smile, "I just want to apologize for, you know, last semester."

Josie leans back in her chair, gazing up at Quinn with a faint smile. "Don't worry about it."

Quinn shifts her weight back and forth, pressing her books against her chest like a shield. "The thing is, I…I wasn't completely honest with you," she confesses awkwardly, glancing at a point over Josie's left ear. "You know about…ah," she shrugs, daring to meet those attentive blue eyes again. "I wasn't really…out yet."

Josie chuckles. "Yeah, I figured." She gestures for Quinn to sit down, clearing off some of her papers to make room. Quinn hesitates, uncertain whether she should. She's never done this before—talked to a girl that she's maybe-kind-of attracted to who might actually be maybe-kind-of attracted back. She decides that she needs to start somewhere, so she sets down her books and coffee, shrugs her bag off her shoulder, and slides into the chair.

"This is all pretty new for me," Quinn shares.

Josie smiles sympathetically, leaning forward and propping her elbows on the table. "Look, Quinn, I'm not sure if you've looked into it," she keeps her voice low in an appreciated attempt to be discreet, "but Yale's got a pretty awesome LGBTQ community."

"I looked at the website," Quinn admits with a little shrug. She knows there's a resource center on campus, and that there are peer liaisons available to talk to her. She's read about the Co-Op and checked out the schedule of events, including weekly group meetings, but she has yet to make an active effort to get involved. "Do you participate in all of those things?" she asks, hoping that she doesn't sound as wary as she feels.

Josie grins. "Well, I don't really do the weekly meetings, but I go to a lot of the other events. The cabaret last fall was a blast. You know, there's actually a dance party scheduled for next Friday night. You could come with me and check it out. No pressure," she quickly assures, no doubt having noticed Quinn's eyes flash with the nervous uncertainty that she's feeling, "It doesn't have to be a date or anything. Some of the students that show up are completely straight. They either have friends or family members that identify, or they're just supporters who want to have a good time."

Quinn reminds herself, again, that this is what she wants now, to start getting comfortable with her sexuality, and meeting people—women—that will make her forget about Rachel Berry. She smiles at Josie, "I'll think about it."

xox

She ends up going to the party. They aren't calling it a date, even though it kind of feels like one. Quinn meets Josie in the common room of Quinn's dorm, and they walk across campus together. They've had a few conversations since that day in the lounge, and Quinn has found out that Josie is from Massachusetts, that she's in her second year and studying Anthropology, that she identifies as bisexual, that she's been out since she was fifteen, and that her family supports her unconditionally. Quinn hasn't really shared much about herself in return.

The party isn't what Quinn is expecting—she's not sure what she was expecting—but it feels just like any other college party, except that most of the couples on the dance floor are openly, comfortably gay. Josie introduces her to a few people as a friend, and Quinn can't quite decide if she's disappointed or relieved. She makes a little small talk—her major, where she's from—but no one really asks about her sexuality. They either assume that she's gay or don't care if she's straight. Josie tells her that it's like that at Yale; that the community here is pretty well accepted these days, almost to the point where everyone is complacent about issues that so many gay students face at other colleges. "We call it the Gay Ivy," she explains.

They dance together, but without the alcohol in her system, Quinn can't seem to relax into the motion the way she so easily did the first time. Sooner than she likes, she feels the tell-tale ache in her leg and back that signal it's time to stop pushing her physical limits. She makes an excuse to Josie—she hasn't told anyone about the accident she had last year—and finds a seat at the edge of the room, content to simply people watch for a while.

A few women ask her to dance, and so do a couple of men, but she politely declines. She feels out of place when she should feel at ease, and she doesn't know why. Maybe it's because everyone else does seem so comfortable, like this is nothing at all—normal, mundane even—and she's never trusted that things can be this simple. Even inside the walls of the choir room, where she'd been welcomed at her worst, huge and homeless and miserable, the promise of acceptance had been a lie. Santana, Brittany, Puck, Finn, Kurt, Sam—they'd all turned their judgmental eyes on her at one point or another, wounding her with words perfectly aimed at her deepest vulnerabilities. Even Rachel had alternated between a strange sort of admiration and contempt. Is it any wonder that Quinn doesn't trust easily?

The party is still in full swing when Josie asks if she wants to get out of there. Quinn is tired and sweaty, and her head is pounding from the music and the tension that she can't seem to shake, so she smiles gratefully and says that she does. Josie offers a hand to help her stand, and she keeps hold of it as she leads Quinn through the crowd, grabbing their coats and heading out into the cold winter air. Quinn thinks nothing of Josie's hand still wrapped lightly around her own, at least until they pass by a small group of guys laughing and horsing around as they run through the slush covered quad. Quinn instinctively drops Josie's hand, shoving her own into her pockets. Josie looks over at her with an odd little frown but doesn't say anything. At least, not until they're back at Quinn's dorm building.

"Tonight was nice," Quinn tells her honestly. "Thank you for taking me."

Josie sighs. "Too much, too soon, though. Right?"

Quinn flushes under knowing blue eyes. "I've never been much of a party girl."

Josie chuckles. "Look, Quinn, it's been pretty obvious from the beginning that you're not really comfortable with your sexuality yet. And that's fine," she quickly assures her. "You have every right to take your time and set your own pace. I think you're beautiful and sexy and a really great dancer," she compliments with a kind smile, "but I've been somebody's dirty little secret once before, and I can't do that again."

Quinn bristles at the implication, not liking the way that sounds. "I wouldn't…"

Josie shakes her head and continues on, cutting off Quinn's protest, "I know it wouldn't be intentional. But things like tonight—the way you kept looking around at the party like you were afraid someone you knew would see you, and dropping my hand the minute we were in public—tells me you're still not ready to be completely out and open with everything. And believe me, there's nothing wrong with that. I'm just in a place in my life where I don't want to have to worry about who might see me holding hands with a girl I like."

Quinn puffs out a steamy breath, and her eyes sting unpleasantly, which is ridiculous. It's not like she's fallen in love with Josie in the week and a half they've been friendly, and tonight wasn't even a date, but this still feels too much like rejection, and it sucks. She pushes her hands deeper into her pockets, balling up her fists and digging her nails into her palms. "I get it," she mutters sullenly.

Josie rolls her eyes. "Hey, it's not like I don't ever want to see you again, Quinn. I'd really like to be your friend, if that's okay with you. I just think we should draw the line now so neither one of us ends up disappointed."

Quinn silently concedes that she's right. She's not ready to hold hands with another woman in public, let alone kiss one, at least not when she's completely sober, but she thinks she'd like to be Josie's friend. It's been nice to have someone on campus that she can talk to without censoring her thoughts. Megan is nice enough, but they don't share much by the way of personal information, and they hardly have any common interests. Santana is eighty miles away in New York, and Rachel—well, her relationship with Rachel is always going to be a little more complicated than simple friendship.

She offers a faint smile, dragging her right hand from her pocket and holding it out to Josie. "Friends then?"

A cool palm meets hers in a firm handshake, and Josie grins. "Friends."

xox

The winter passes, and it's a wicked one. Quinn eases her way into the LGBTQ community, albeit at a comfortably slow pace. She attends some of the lectures, both alone and with Josie, who proves to be a really great friend. She listens and doesn't judge. She jokingly says it's all because of that girlfriend that wanted to keep her in the closet. She's heard all of Quinn's concerns before, and she's seen first hand what fear can do, and, unfortunately, she's also experienced the painful reality of rejection and intolerance and hate.

Josie also knows a thing or two about unrequited love, the reality of which Quinn is dealing with in her own way. She's avoiding New York, but not Rachel's phone calls or emails. Luckily, or unluckily, depending on Quinn's mood at the time, Rachel can't seem to find a good weekend to visit New Haven. She's busy with dance and voice classes, a drama group that's taking up a lot of her free time, and, of course, Finn. Rachel apologizes repeatedly, explaining that Finn is working more hours—New York City is expensive—and he wants to spend the limited free time he has with his fiancée. If Rachel's voice seems to carry an edge of irritation, it isn't Quinn's place to question why.

By the end of March, Quinn doesn't need to question anything, because Rachel and Finn have broken up. She goes to New York to offer her support, and every feeling that she's done so well to manage at Yale comes rushing back to overwhelm her. There's an inkling of an impulse to pull Rachel into her arms and confess her love, but the timing is so very wrong. The timing is always wrong, but even though her heart aches just a little every time she's near Rachel, it's somehow easier to accept now that she's accepted herself. Rachel has changed her—helped her to grow into a better version of herself—and Quinn suspects that she will always be a little bit in love with her, but her future is finally full of possibilities that she's no longer afraid to embrace.

Life isn't perfect, but she's happy. Her friendship with Rachel is back on the right track, and she's visiting New York more often, so she's able to spend more time with Santana, too. Quinn gradually gets more comfortable in the Yale community, and, in late April, she meets Kylie at a lecture on Homosexuality in the Media.

Kylie is a junior, and she's gorgeous—with dark brown hair and mossy green eyes, and a tattoo of a stalking tiger poking out from underneath her sleeve. She reminds Quinn a little of the Mack, mixed with a pinch of Santana's derisive intelligence. It's an intriguing combination, but there are papers due, finals to study for, and boxes to pack for the summer, and there just isn't time for any new beginnings. They settle for coffees and email addresses and loose promises to keep in touch.

xox

Quinn makes a stop in New York before heading back to Lima. The lease on Kurt's apartment isn't up until the end of May, so Rachel is officially staying with him until then, although she's been unofficially staying with him since Finn left New York—her dorm room really was a glorified closet. Kurt's attention is slowly shifting back to fashion, and he's been looking into taking some design classes. He's always possessed a flair for the dramatic when it comes to clothes, but whether that leads him to costumes or couture remains to be seen.

Her second day in the city, Quinn finally meets the guy that Rachel's been semi-dating for a couple of weeks. His name is Daniel, and he's certainly Rachel's type, with dark hair and dark eyes, albeit a bit more fit than Finn Hudson. Personally, he reminds Quinn a little too much of Jesse St. James, but he seems genuinely fond of Rachel, and they share a comfortable rapport that Rachel and Finn never seemed to manage in all their time together. Quinn wants to like the guy, but she doesn't. Maybe it's her jealousy, or maybe it's too soon, or maybe it's that Rachel and Daniel act more like they're playing love interests than actually in love, but in the end, it doesn't really matter because Rachel seems happier, and she's clearly moving on. Quinn knows it's time for her to do the same.

"So, Daniel seems nice," she offers, only hesitating a little over the last word. They're alone in the apartment, crashing on the sofa and sharing a cheap bottle of illegally procured wine, while Kurt is out with a guy he met last week. It seems like everyone is moving on from their high school relationships.

Rachel's grin stretches wide across her face. "He is," she gushes, leaning forward to set her glass on the stained coffee table. "We get along so well. And, I must admit, it's nice to date someone who knows that Irving Berlin is a composer and not a place in Germany, and doesn't refer to Sutton Foster as that chick from Bunheads," she confesses with an exasperated roll of her eyes.

Once she stops laughing, Quinn smiles proudly, telling Rachel, "I'm glad you're moving on from Finn. You deserve someone who treats you the way you deserve to be treated."

"So do you, Quinn," Rachel responds, reaching over and laying a reassuring hand on Quinn's shoulder. The simple touch sparks an automatic response—fluttering heart, tingling skin, bittersweet pleasure. "I know there's some amazing guy out there just waiting to find you."

Quinn hides her tiny frown inside her makeshift wine glass, which is really a coffee mug with Tinkerbell in a bathrobe and sleep mask printed on the side. A wave of guilt crashes into her. "Actually," she murmurs quietly, not really meeting Rachel's bright, encouraging eyes, "I'm pretty certain there isn't."

"Quinn, you're far too young to give up on love," Rachel chides, seemingly outraged that Quinn would utter such a sacrilege. "Granted, your past romantic history has been questionable at best, but I'm convinced that it's only because you haven't met the right person yet."

Quinn rolls her eyes, letting the veiled insult go without a reaction. It's just Rachel's way, and Quinn has finally learned how to translate her actual words into their intended meaning. She sighs heavily, placing her wine on the table and worrying her lip before she swallows down her nerves and finds her voice. "Rach, look, I'm not giving up on love." She takes a breath, twisting her fingers into her skirt and meeting Rachel's eyes, "Just…men."

"I...don't understand," she mutters, brows furrowing in confusion. Quinn can almost see her silently repeating the words and trying to make them mean something other than the obvious.

It's not that Quinn has been intentionally hiding her sexuality from Rachel, but she can't really deny that she's been procrastinating like a pro. For the past four months, most of their conversations have been overflowing with discussions about their respective projects and performances, some new local discovery that one of them had made, the antics of certain friends, or Rachel's breakup with Finn. It was very easy for Quinn to back burner her own confession and simply enjoy her friendship with Rachel. She certainly would never have dropped this kind of bomb over the phone, and she's nervous to do it now, wondering if Rachel will finally connect the dots and realize that Quinn has had romantic ulterior motives in regards to her for quite some time.

She takes a very deliberate breath, steeling her resolve, and very clearly says, "Rachel, I'm gay."

Rachel's expression doesn't really change much, but she does blink a few times. "You...you mean gay, as in extremely happy," she carefully asks after an agonizing moment.

Well, now she's just being purposely obtuse, Quinn thinks irritably, clicking her tongue. "No, as in lesbian," she clarifies.

"Oh," Rachel breathes, nodding slightly. She turns her head to face forward, placing both hands demurely on her lap and staring down at the floor with stiff shoulders.

Quinn waits. Her heart is racing, and her head is starting to pound. The wine was probably a bad idea. She stares at the side of Rachel's face, drilling her gaze into the smooth skin of her jaw and willing that mouth to open and let Quinn know what's going on in her head.

It doesn't happen.

"Okay, you're not talking, and it's really freaking me out," she finally snaps.

Rachel flinches, dragging in a ragged breath, "I...I'm sorry," she finally says, glancing back at Quinn. "I'm just...surprised. Extremely surprised," she stresses with a nervous laugh. "You...you've never indicated that you were even questioning your sexuality."

"Because I wasn't. I was actually going out of my way to never question it," Quinn explains with a rueful smile. She feels a little better now that Rachel is looking at her again, those dark eyes attentively locked onto hers. "You have to understand, Rachel. I didn't grow up in the kind of accepting family that you did. My parents had certain expectations for me, and I guess I had them for myself, too," she admits with a shrug. "I didn't start to let go of them until this past year, and I'm still trying to figure everything out."

Rachel's eyes have grown softer over every word, and now they're sparkling suspiciously. Quinn hopes the emotion she sees in them isn't pity. "Am I the first person you've told? Or…?"

She shakes her head, "I told Santana over winter break."

"That makes sense," Rachel observes with a distracted nod. "She's your oldest friend, and I suppose she can identify with what you've been going through."

Quinn grins as she remembers just how helpful Santana has tried to be. If she'd had her way, Quinn would have bedded a dozen women by now. Santana mostly needles her about how prudish she's being about the whole thing, but "Talking to her has helped," she admits. "I told a couple of people at Yale, too," she feels compelled to add. "My roommate, Meg, and her friend, Josie. Josie is involved in the community at school," she quickly explains when she notices Rachel's face shift ever so slightly, "and she's kind of been helping me get more comfortable with everything."

Quinn has known Rachel for five years now, and she's spent a good portion of that time studying her when no one else was watching—a habit born of learning her enemy back when she'd been looking for ways to break Rachel's confidence. As a result, Quinn has a developed the ability to recognize a broad spectrum of Rachel's facial tics. Right now, her jaw is marginally tighter, the vague curve of her lips is drawn into a thin line, and that tiny little wrinkle between her eyebrows is making another appearance. She's seen this particular expression a handful of times, and she knows exactly what it means.

"Wow, okay," Rachel shakes her head, crossing her arms with a frown, "I guess I was kind of low on your list of people to tell," she deduces, the tiny tremor in her voice betraying her hurt feelings.

"No, Rach, it," Quinn puffs out a breath, silently counting to five. "I didn't want to do it over the phone or Skype," she explains calmly.

"Or during any of the half-dozen times we've visited one another, apparently."

The sarcasm rubs Quinn exactly the wrong way, and she feels the fraying edges of her patience finally give way. "Are you seriously making my coming out about you?" she asks incredulously. She shouldn't be surprised. Anything that so much as brushes up against Rachel Berry's world gets sucked into her gravity and forced into orbit around her phenomenal ego.

Quinn shoves trembling fingers through her overlong hair, springing from the sofa and pacing to the wall. She feels like the room is closing in around her, and she wants to scream, punch the wall, and then shake some sensitivity into Rachel Barbra Berry. "Jesus, Rachel," she curses, spinning around and pinning the girl with her tearful gaze, "this hasn't been easy for me! I haven't even told my mother yet, and she's probably going to disown me when I do. So I'm sorry if you feel slighted because I decided to wait to tell you about something very confusing and personal in my life," she thumps her chest angrily, "until we actually had some time to spend together without college stress or your Goddamn relationship drama getting in the way," she yells, flinging out her hands.

Rachel blinks up at her, posture curled in on herself, and brown eyes glistening with tears. "My," she whispers brokenly, before she nods, straightening her shoulders even as she turns her face away from Quinn's hard eyes. "Okay," she agrees, nodding again. "I…I'm sorry."

And just that easily, all of Quinn's righteous anger disappears in a puff of smoke. "Shit," she hisses, sinking back down on the sofa and dropping her head into her hands, "I didn't mean that the way it sounded."

"Yes, you did," Rachel argues weakly. "But...you...you're right. I was being petty," she admits, sniffling a little as she gently wipes under her eyes. Quinn turns to look at her, and Rachel sighs, her breath visible in the rise and fall of her shoulders. "It's just," she begins, glancing at Quinn with a sad smile, "I've told you all of these personal things about...about myself, and about my...relationship drama," she mutters shamefully, making Quinn's heart pinch unpleasantly, "and you're my best friend, Quinn. I suppose I'm hurt that you didn't feel as if you could trust me enough to confide in me about something so important in your life."

Quinn swallows down the lump in her throat. "I'm confiding in you now, Rach. I think I trust you more than anyone, even Santana, but I needed time to work through my feelings," she explains, praying that Rachel doesn't see the truth in her eyes, that it's Quinn's feelings for her specifically that kept her silent for so long. "I really need you to tell me that this doesn't change how you think of me," she pleads softly.

Rachel tilts her head, and she reaches out to lightly rest her hand over Quinn's where it's gripping the cushion. "Why would you ever think it would? Quinn, you're still you," she insists with a little grin. "I don't care what gender you're attracted to. I only care that you're happy."

Quinn bites her lip and turns her palm over, loosely curling it around Rachel's hand in a soft gesture of gratitude. "I'm...getting there."

Rachel smiles and squeezes her hand briefly before letting go. "So," she begins mildly, "this Jody person. Are you…?" she trails off, raising her eyebrows.

"Josie," Quinn automatically corrects, "and no. We're just friends. I'm not seeing anyone right now." She decides not to mention Kylie. She doesn't even know if they'll be in touch again, and she's really not ready to talk to Rachel about her potential love life just yet.

Rachel nods, quickly licking her lips before she says, "please don't take this the wrong way, but this is kind of weird." Quinn's eyebrow arches, and she frowns. Rachel's face turns a pretty shade of pink as she ducks her head sheepishly. "Asking you about girls, I mean," she clarifies. "After all, we spent two years fighting over a boy."

Quinn chuckles. "Because Finn Hudson was exactly what I was supposed to want. Quarterback of the football team, sweet to his mother, eager to please, and easily led. He was safe," Quinn says with a shrug before cutting Rachel a mock glare, "and you kept screwing it up for me." In every way, she thinks.

"I'm sorry. I suppose that I was a bit overzealous in my pursuit of him," Rachel concedes.

"Maybe a bit," Quinn says dryly. "I'm sorry, too. Well, mostly," she amends, then narrows her eyes against the jumble of memories that flash before them. "Actually, you know, he really wasn't right for you at all, so I'm not sorry I tried to get you to see that. I'm only sorry it kept us from becoming friends sooner," she tells Rachel with a smile that's instantly returned.

"Well, we're friends now, and I want you to know, despite my occasional bouts of self-involvement, you really can talk to me about anything, Quinn," she promises. "And, of course, you're obviously aware that my dads and I have been active in the Lima LGBTQ community since I was a baby, so if you're interested, I'll be more than happy to accompany you to any events this summer," she offers. Then her eyes flash, and Quinn watches the electricity move through her petite body until she's lit up like a supernova. "In fact, Columbus has an amazing pride festival. There's a picnic and an art show and a 5K run," she lists excitedly, and Quinn's eyes widen with every rapidly-fired word that falls from Rachel's lips, "and of course, the parade. We can take a road trip. You and me and Kurt, and I'm certain that Brittany and Santana would come, too, if you ask them. We'll have so much fun."

"Woah," Quinn cuts her off, face hot and stomach rolling unpleasantly, "slow down, Rachel. I really don't think I'm ready for all of that. I still have to figure out a way to tell my mother before I go marching in any parades."

Rachel's smile evaporates. "Do you…do you really think she'll disown you?" she asks worriedly.

Quinn absently runs her damp palms over her thighs, smoothing her skirt in the process. "I don't know," she admits. The question has been plaguing her mind for months, and she honestly can't even begin to guess how her mother will react. "My father would have thrown me out instantly," she puffs out a frustrated laugh, "if he hadn't already done it when I got pregnant. My mom and I have had a better relationship since she divorced him, especially after last year," Quinn hedges, noticing the way Rachel winces at the subtle reminder of her accident, "but she keeps asking me if I've met any nice men at Yale." She rolls her eyes, allowing a grin to curve her mouth. "I doubt she'll be happy when I tell her that I'm actually hoping to meet a nice woman."

Rachel places what's meant to be a comforting hand on Quinn's knee and offers a sympathetic smile. "No matter what happens, I'll be here for you," she vows, and Quinn does her best to ignore that little ping in her heart that begs for Rachel's touch to mean more and for her words to be the whispered promise of a lover. Instead she manages a grateful smile and a soft "thanks," and the moment passes until they're once again just two friends sharing a quiet evening in New York.

xox

Quinn comes out to Kurt the next morning. It's much easier, probably because she mostly doesn't care what he thinks. Rachel is their common ground, and now maybe this as well, but she doesn't really see either of them linking arms and attending any pride rallies together—unless Rachel manages to drag them to one. When Quinn tells him, his jaw drops, and his eyebrows meet the edge of his over-coiffed hair. "You're joking," he gasps, and she shakes her head. His eyes dart to Rachel, who is sending him a half-hearted glare on Quinn's behalf. "Are we sure this isn't just some college experiment?" he asks her, as if Quinn isn't sitting right there.

She scowls into her cereal while Rachel slaps him across the arm. "Really, Kurt?"

He rubs at his bicep with a pout, "Sorry, but you have to admit, this is an unexpected turn of events."

Rachel shrugs and nods in silent agreement. Quinn tosses her spoon into the bowl with a clank, splashing droplets of soy milk across the table. "What's the matter, Kurt? Can't wrap your mind around the despair and self-loathing I might have been struggling with all these years? I mean, the world never stopped loving me, right?" She has the perverse pleasure of watching all of the color drain from his already pale face.

"I...I didn't," he stutters, dropping his head in shame.

"Quinn," Rachel chides softly, her face awash with confusion.

Quinn sighs, slumping back into her chair. Rachel doesn't understand the context of conversation between them, but Kurt does. Quinn isn't really being fair to him, she knows. After all, he'd actually apologized to her after her accident, and Quinn had brushed it off at the time, too preoccupied with more serious concerns, but she can't deny that the moment has stayed with her. Some part of her thinks that Kurt only apologized then to soothe his own guilt after she'd nearly died—that he hadn't really understood the way he'd dismissed her own personal pain as unimportant—but seeing him now, she thinks maybe he finally comprehends. He never should have presumed to know what was going on inside her head.

"I'm sorry," he whispers, lifting his gaze, "so incredibly sorry. I've been a horrible friend."

Quinn's eyes dart to Rachel, reading the distress on her face, and she reminds herself that Kurt has been a good friend to Rachel. She doesn't want to fight with him. "I forgive you," she offers, standing from the table and carrying her bowl over to the sink to rinse it out.

"What just happened?" Rachel mutters in bewilderment, looking between her two friends.

"Quinn kindly reminded me that I should attempt to be more sensitive," Kurt respectfully informs her. Rachel clearly doubts that he's telling her the whole truth, but she allows it to pass.

Kurt excuses himself for most of the day after that, and Quinn is happily left alone in Rachel's company. Rachel asks her what she'd like to do, and she takes advantage of Rachel's eagerness to let her choose their activity, deciding it will be fun to take the cruise around Manhattan. After spending ten minutes complaining that it's such a touristy thing for a New Yorker to do, Rachel reluctantly agrees. Two hours later, Quinn is laughing as she watches Rachel excitedly bounce around the deck, taking in the view of her city from the water as the cool breeze whips through her hair.

They enjoy dinner at a little vegan place near Columbus Circle that Rachel stumbled across earlier in the year, and when they get back to the apartment, Kurt is there with a bouquet of purple hyacinths and another apology. Quinn can't help but be touched by the gesture. He's still a bit of gay snob, not quite willing to believe that bisexuals exist, and though he doesn't say it out loud, Quinn senses that he doesn't really understand how she could have thrown herself so wholly into the pursuit of heterosexuality before admitting the truth. She wonders how he can so easily ignore the week he spent wearing flannel and kissing Brittany, but she lets him hold onto his moral simplicity, and he lets her know that she has one more person in her life that she can depend on.

xox

When Quinn returns to Lima, she tells her mother about her finals, she tells her about her friends, she tells her about New Haven in the springtime, and she tells her about New York. She doesn't tell her that she's a lesbian. She does go out and find a job stocking shelves at the local Barnes & Noble, thankful that it gives her something to occupy her time and a way to pad her bank account (and the immediate access to so many newly released books doesn't hurt either). She spends her free time on a constant carousel with old friends—Santana and Brittany at the mall, Mercedes for a movie, Sam to volunteer at the local homeless shelter, Rachel when she finally comes back from New York.

Quinn gets a text in mid-June, just a short, flirty message that begins with, Hi, beautiful, how is ur summer? This is Kylie, btw. ;)

She grins down at her phone for a good five minutes before she texts back. She feels giddy and hopeful, like she's finally running toward something instead of always running away. And with that thought in her mind, she gathers her courage one evening during dinner.

Pushing the peas around on her plate, Quinn waits until her mother is finished with her own meal before she takes a steadying breath and says, "I need to tell you something, and it's kind of important."

Her mother's fingers clench around her fork, and she slowly places it across her empty plate before she warily looks up at Quinn. "Are you pregnant again?"

"What? No," Quinn denies sharply. "God no. Definitely not."

Relief washes over her mother's face, and she sighs. "Good. That's good."

"You actually don't need to worry about that at all," Quinn promises, and it isn't even entirely tied to her sexual preference. She loves Beth with all of her heart, but she accepts that giving her up was the right thing to do, and lately she's considering the possibility that she might never be ready to offer another child what she'll never be able to give her firstborn daughter.

"Well, of course I worry, Quinnie. You're a beautiful young woman," her mother assures her with a tender smile. "I'd obviously prefer it if you recommitted to celibacy until you're married, but I accept that there are certain temptations when one is away at college. As long as you're being responsible this time."

Quinn's ears feel like they're on fire as she listens to her mother discuss her potential sex life so matter-of-factly, and her stomach churns, making her wish she'd done this before she'd attempted to eat dinner. "Mom, I'm…I," she huffs, frustrated by her own fear, "I'm not really attracted to men."

Her mother stares at her blankly. She wets her lips and visibly swallows, plastering a polite smile on her face. "Well, I certainly find it hard to believe that there aren't any eligible men in a college as elite as Yale, but I'm certain that you'll find someone next year."

"No, mom, I won't," Quinn denies with surprising confidence. Her mother's mask had slipped, only for a second, but enough for Quinn to be fairly certain that she isn't telling her anything that she doesn't already suspect. "There are hundreds of eligible, attractive men at Yale, but I'm not interested in any of them."

"You're being far too picky, Quinn," her mother stubbornly argues. "Although, I suppose that's a vast improvement over how indiscriminate you were with those boys you dated in high school."

"I'm not being picky," she insists, flattening her palms against the table and taking a fortifying breath. "I'm gay."

The words hang between them, heavy and suffocating. Her mother's face grows pale and tight. Quinn feels like she might be sick. Mentally, she's preparing, reviewing her possessions in order to pack efficiently, and debating whether it will best to call Santana or Rachel or both. She wonders if her mother will set the timer on the microwave.

"Don't be ridiculous," her mother hisses. "You're certainly not like that."

Quinn snaps her teeth together, biting down hard in an attempt to manage her emotions. "Gay, Mom," she spits forcefully. "I'm gay. A lesbian. Attracted to women." She's tempted to use a few of the colorful phrases that Santana is so fond of sharing, but her mother's eyes grow wider with every declaration, and she really doesn't want this to get any uglier than she knows it's going to be. She just wants to make sure her mother understands.

Her mother's right hand comes up to clutch at the Saint Jude pendant that dangles from her throat. "No…no. You…you're just confused," she stammers, ever persistent in her denial. "You've been through so much in the last few years, and you've been hurt, but that's no reason to give up on love, Quinnie."

Quinn frowns, choking on a silent, humorless laugh. "I'm not giving up on love. I'm finally giving myself permission to look for it in someone who will actually make me happy. Isn't that what you want for me?" she asks, voice cracking, "To be happy?"

Her mother purses her lips, shaking her head in disapproval. "Living that way will not make you happy, Quinn. It's…it's just not right."

Quinn stiffens, dropping her gaze and tracing the gold leaf pattern on her plate with her eyes. All her life, she's been told that she's not right. When she was younger, it was her weight, her nose, and her hair color that were wrong. Being chaste was wrong, then having sex with Puck was wrong. Getting pregnant was wrong, then giving up her baby was wrong. Being in glee club; wrong. Quitting glee club; wrong. Wanting to be prom queen; wrong. Wanting to be one of the skanks; wrong. Trying to get her daughter back; wrong, wrong, wrong. She's so tired of being wrong.

"But this is who I am," she rasps.

"You can change," her mother insists. "It's a phase, like your pink hair and the cigarettes."

"It's not!" Quinn shouts, slapping her palms on the table hard enough to rattle the dishes and stopping her mother before the next denial can form. "The boys were the phase, Mom! I dated them because I was supposed to, because that's what you and Daddy wanted," she forcefully reminds her, "the perfect, thin, popular prom queen who marries her high school boyfriend." Quinn violently swipes at the traitorous tears that slip down over her cheeks. "And God knows I tried to be that girl, but I'm not," she repeats, and then laughs sadly, realizing, "I turned out to be the girl that wants to marry the prom queen."

Her mother recoils, the last of her denial slipping away into shocked horror. "Don't say that. You can't marry another woman, Quinn. Unless you plan to move to Canada."

"Or New York," she proudly supplies, "or Massachusetts, or New Hampshire, or Vermont. Or I'll just stay in Connecticut, where I happen to go to school," she reminds her mother.

"That's enough, Lucy Quinn Fabray," her mother demands, eyes flashing. She abruptly stands and grabs her plate, taking it into the adjacent kitchen and turning the water in the sink on at full force.

Quinn drops her head into her hands, listening to her mother slamming around the kitchen as she cleans up their dinner. She's in limbo, uncertain whether she's still welcome here. Scraping her chair back along the floor, she stands and warily carries her plate into the kitchen as her mother steadfastly avoids looking at her. "Please," she begs softly, coming to stand next to her mother at the sink, "please, I'm not asking for your approval. I'm just asking you to accept that this is who I am, and I'm still your daughter." Her mother's mouth trembles, and Quinn sees that her eyes are red and her cheeks are wet. She swallows down her own tears and concentrates on keeping her voice steady. "It's taken me such a long time to get to this place; to be comfortable with who I am, and what I want."

"You're only nineteen," her mother says quietly, shaking her head. "You don't know what you want. Last year, you wanted to be an actress, and now you're talking about declaring an English major."

Quinn chuckles a little at that, shrugging. "And next year, maybe I'll want to be a lawyer," she dips her head and catches her mother's eyes, voice gentle, "but I'll still be a lesbian."

Her mother's blue eyes blink shut, and she inhales a shuddering breath. "I don't know if I can accept that," she finally says.

Quinn steps back, trying to swallow around the thickness in her throat so that she can breathe. "Okay," she whispers shakily. "Will you at least give me an hour to pack?"

Her mother's eyes snap open, and she stares disbelievingly at her daughter. "Don't be ridiculous. You're not leaving this house, Quinn. I am not your father," she frowns, gently brushing beneath her eyes before she squares her shoulders and tips her chin up defiantly. "I may believe that you're confused right now, and that you're making a mistake, but you're still my daughter, and," she huffs, blinking again as pure agony flickers over her features, "I nearly lost you last year," she grinds out hoarsely, "and I never want to experience anything like that again." She grips Quinn's shoulders with both hands, promising, "We'll find a way to get through this…problem."

Quinn sighs. "It's not a problem, Mom. It's me," she tries again, not appreciating the way her mother keeps implying that her sexuality is something that can be fixed, like her nose or her weight. "I don't like having sex with men," she says bluntly.

Her mother flushes pink and drops her hands to her sides. "Please don't speak about those things, Quinn. It isn't polite."

She turns to pick up the dishrag again, and Quinn knows that she should be relieved that she's still welcome in this house, but her mother is just so frustrating that she hears herself speaking before she can think better of it. "So what? We just don't ever talk about this again? Just like we don't talk about Beth."

"Quinn," her mother barks out, throwing the rag against the counter top and bracing her hands there. "This is the best I can do right now," she admonishes tiredly, hanging her head. "Do you understand that?"

She crosses her arms defensively and nods, even though her mother isn't looking at her. "I'm sorry I'm always such a disappointment to you."

Her mother slumps forward slightly, muttering, "No." She straightens away from the counter and faces Quinn with tears glistening in her eyes. "No, you're," she shakes her head, gently placing her left hand to Quinn's cheek. "You've made me proud in so many other ways, Quinnie, but this," she drops her hand and sighs. "You've been through so much already. I don't understand why you're willingly choosing to do something that will make your life even more difficult."

"Because it isn't a choice," she feels the need to clarify, even though she accepts that her mother just doesn't understand that at all. She's not surprised that her mother doesn't verbally acknowledge what she's said, but just nods in that distracted way that indicates that she's heard the words, but doesn't agree with them.

Her mother dances her fingers down Quinn's arm and takes her hand, giving it a firm, brief squeeze, and she forces a thin smile. "We'll get through this," she repeats, and then she lets go, smoothing her hair back with trembling hands. "I think I'm going to go lay down for a while. I have a bit of a headache," she explains, abandoning the kitchen with Quinn still standing in it.

Quinn watches her retreat, sagging back against counter and bracing her palms against the edge. No doubt her mother is going upstairs to her bedroom to have a good cry, and probably fishing out a bottle of wine from her stash along the way. Quinn can feel her own tears leaking from her eyes. She's exhausted, physically and emotionally, and she doesn't quite know what she should do next.

She replays the conversation in her mind, slowly processing all of it, and she realizes with a start that she's still here. She came out to her mother, and she isn't packing any boxes and scrambling for a place to live. Her mother might be upset and disappointed and even angry right now, but she still thinks of Quinn as her daughter—still wants her to stay here.

Relief washes over her, and she takes a deep breath, exhaling every last pretense. She smiles, and then she laughs, because it feels good. It feels free. The future spreads out before her in pristine white, like a blank page waiting to be filled with new possibilities, and punctuated with her very own happy ending. But today—today is where her book begins.


A/N: Thank you for reading.