This is the story of how Rachel, Quinn, and Jesse end up in a polyamarous relationship with each other. It's an attempt to be genuine about this kind of dynamic and the hardships and joys that come out multiple partners sharing in their love for each other.
She's being handed a ladle the first time she sees him, again. It hasn't really been that long since Nationals in Chicago, but that was part of high school and she's in college, she's at Yale, and everything already seems so drastically different. Even being back in Ohio for Thanksgiving has been a little bit of culture shock. She feels a little worldly, steeped in academia. Or something.
"Quinn," he says, giving her a courteous nod of the head. "Lovely to see you, as always."
"It's good to see you, too." And it is, actually. Jesse's smile is bright and contagious, so it's only seconds before she's grinning right back at him. "What brings you to the Allen County Shelter on a night like tonight? No big family events?"
"Well, my parents are in..." He squints as he recalls the name of their latest destination. "Caracas? And I'm an only child." Another staff member places a serving spoon in his hand and it's almost as if they're preparing for some kind of surgery with all the instruments being passed around. "Anyway, it's so important to give back."
She's about to agree that, yes, it is important, but an ancient but gruff-looking man approaches the serving line and grunts, "You're a looker."
"Thank you. Gravy?" she asks, dipping her ladle into the pot that sits in front of her.
"Who's Gracie?" asks the man.
"Ah," Jesse interjects, "you're dealing with none other than Grace Kelly, sir. The one and only."
The man narrows his eyes as he studies Quinn. His response is another grunt and a shrug and once he's been distributed a serving of turkey gravy, he moves on to the pie table.
"Didn't Grace Kelly die, like, fifty years ago?" she asks.
"He didn't seem to care."
"You're going to start making people think they're seeing ghosts. I don't know how that will go over."
"Not ghosts." He leans closer to her. "Spirits." Her elbow finds his ribs and he puts some space between them. "Ghosts or no ghosts, Quinn, you're absolute grace, through and through." His hand moves to his ribcage. "Even if that jab leaves a bruise."
"If you bruise from that, you need more iron in your diet."
They dish out a few more servings before Jesse speaks again. "How's the Ivy League?"
"It's incredible." She doesn't bother to ask how he knows, because she's sure he still talks to Rachel and Rachel is the person she probably text messages more than anyone else in her contact list, right now. "Going from this to that... it's... incredible," she repeats.
"Do they... have thesauruses at Yale?"
"Not my particular forte."
"Would you rather I said my Yale experience has been both riveting and seductive?"
"I would. And then I would request that you tell me more about this seduction. Typical college co-ed pillow fight seductions? I'm a man of refined tastes, but I'm also... a man."
"It's not-" She shakes her head at him. "I was talking about my education."
"There's more to education than books, Quinn." He laughs and places a perfectly manicured hand on her arm. "I didn't mean to offend. It's possible I'm just a little jealous of your foray into higher education."
"What? Jesse St. James, Ohio's leading show choir consultant, jealous of me?" She can't help but feel smug about it. But then, she's not looking to outright make fun of him. "You're doing really well, though, last I heard."
"Keeping tabs on me? Or just following my Twitter account?"
"I'm friends with Rachel. She's like a constant feed of whatever's going on with anyone she's ever known."
He accepts the explanation with a slight nod. "Well, she hasn't told you the latest breaking news about my next big production, because I haven't told anyone, yet. So, this is an exclusive update."
Even though she knows he's talking himself up, she's a little caught up in whatever this revelation is supposed to be. "Please, go on."
"In a month, I will be making my directorial debut."
This genuinely surprises her. "Really? Jesse, that's incredible. Congratulations. What show?"
"Oliver!" He turns to dig into the inner pocket of his sport coat, which is hanging off the back of a vacant chair. "If you'd like to come, here's the flyer."
She accepts the paper and reads the details, only to slap him in the arm. "This is at an elementary school!"
"Our youth need artistic expression, too, Quinn," he counters, rubbing the spot where she hit him. "And the school has a budget to actually pay me, so it was something I really couldn't pass up. Also, is it always your instinct to inflict injury on others?"
"Seriously, Jesse, more iron. And maybe some calcium supplements." She's back to looking at the flyer, then there's a glance up at him. "I'd love to come see it."
"You would?" His expression is one of genuine surprise.
"Of course. And Rachel will be in town, so we can drive up together. Maybe we can all go out afterward. Unless you're having an intense cast party."
"Juice boxes and those store-bought sugar cookies with the diabetes inducing icing. Those kids will be absolute animals."
"Oh god, now I want one of those cookies."
"I think they have some over there at the dessert table."
"Don't let me near them."
"As in, physically restrain you? Because if I agree, you should know I'm a man of my word."
"All right, but if you start pinching or anything, I'm not above throwing you over my shoulder and carrying you out of here."
But he would. And he does.
It's the hardest Quinn's laughed in a very long time.
Winter Break 2012
The road trip from Lima to Akron takes about three hours. Rachel is beyond prepared.
"Why did you pack a whole meal? We can eat after the show. And we already agreed to stop for coffee, halfway." Quinn sifts through the contents of the basket Rachel's placed in the backseat.
"It's not a meal, Quinn. They're snack foods."
"Do you really plan to eat all of this?"
"We have six total hours on the road. I happen to know you're mean when you're hungry and I'm not risking being trapped with you in one of your moods."
"I don't have moods."
That makes Rachel laugh so hard that even Quinn can't stay mad at her. And, anyway, it's totally bullshit. Quinn has enough moods to rotate one every hour and she wouldn't work through all of them, round trip.
They're on their way to see Jesse's big elementary school production of Oliver!and he's offered the guest room of his apartment to them so they don't have to make the long drive back so late at night. There are three nights before Christmas and Quinn's only been back in Lima for a couple of days, but she's already bored and this jaunt over to Akron is just what she needs.
Besides, for as much as she and Rachel text and Facebook, they've barely seen each other at all since classes began. They've used their MetroNorth passes once, each way, but it really isn't practical to make regular visits, given how busy they both are. Which means Quinn's been looking forward to this ever since she brought it up to Rachel, after Thanksgiving.
During the entire drive, Rachel dominates the radio, having made a playlist that's to last the exact duration of their journey. It's actually a pretty decent mix of music and Quinn's surprised that only about ten percent of it is showtunes, most of which she also knows and finds herself singing along to a lot of them with Rachel. When "What is the Feeling?" comes on, Rachel immediately jumps on the Galinda part, leaving Quinn to sing Elphaba, which has them giggling between lyrics.
Quinn wasn't really sure how close they'd be after high school, because they'd never really been more than just casual friends, at best. The train passes were her effort to try and find time together, but she wasn't sure if Rachel would ever want to use them. It was kind of a hefty investment for something that was, at best, a "what if" and they still haven't maxed them out. But, being away from Lima has made them both a little homesick and, despite the fact that they're still not really neighbors, being distanced from Ohio together on the east coast has certainly created some kind of closeness between them. They Skype maybe once a week, dishing out the latest gossip about the new cast of characters that surround each of them. They trade notes on what they've learned, so far. Even though Rachel's academic track is more triple threat oriented, they're taking similar core classes related to performance and scene study.
So, it's perfect that their first in-person outing together in months is to see a theatrical performance, even if it does star a fourth-grader.
Oliver!is riddled with the cliche problems of an elementary school production. It's excessively abridged, there are missed cues, forgotten lines, kids who wave to their parents. But, overall, it's actually pretty good. Jesse's clearly tapped into something with these kids and, by the end, when the cast makes their curtain call, all smiles and the hyper energy of youth, Quinn's glad she's come to see the show.
When Jesse spots her standing with Rachel, he excitedly waves them over. "Oh, hey! Before everyone leaves with their parents, I would like you all to meet these stunning young ladies. This is Miss Quinn Fabray and Miss Rachel Berry. Both of them are studying theater at Yale and the New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts, respectively."
The boy who played The Artful Dodger raises his hand. "What's 'prespectively' mean?"
Quinn can't help butting in, because this entire scenario is so ridiculously adorable, especially since the kids are all still in their costumes. "'Respectively' means in the order something was said. So, I go to Yale and Rachel goes to NYADA."
This quickly dissolves into a question and answer session about how much they get paid and if they've ever been on the Disney Channel.
Jesse releases the cast to the care of their parents and he grins at the two women standing next to him. "So, any notes?"
Quinn laughs, but Rachel actually consults the back of her program where she's jotted down an itemized list. She's about to start reading it when Quinn snatches it out of her hand. "I'm way too hungry to wait for you to get through all of that."
"I brought snacks for a reason, Quinn."
They don't feel much like going to Denny's or Waffle House, which are the only places that are going to stay long enough for them to eat and talk and listen to Rachel's in depth analysis of grade school theater, so Jesse suggests they pick up something from the Asian fusion place and head back to his apartment.
The three of them talk well into the night and Quinn wonders just how long this could have been a possibility. Or, maybe it wasn't until now. But she's curious why she never let herself befriend Jesse while they were in school together. He's articulate and funny and intense, but somehow she seemed to miss out on that. It's possible her mind was on her pregnancy, so she doesn't let herself dwell on it for too long.
What matters is that, by the end of the night, when she's lying on an air mattress in Jesse's guest room, with Rachel fidgeting next to her, she's happy.
Even if she turns to say, "Rachel, I swear to god, if you do not stop moving, I'm pushing you onto the floor."