Title: i'm coming home (to the place where i belong) (1/4)
Summary: You'll never love yourself half as much as I love you. You'll never treat yourself right, darling, but I want you to. | Quinn/Finn, Quinn/Santana friendship. Follows current canon, though sorta AU.
Author's Note: Got a buttload of Glee (and then Finn/Quinn) feels after I heard Homeward Bound/Home for the first time, and god. I miss the old Glee. There are a few things incanon that never happened in this universe: i.e. Lucy (should have) never existed, Finn never outed Santana and never tried to manhandle Quinn at senior prom (so basically, he's not a world-class douche), and Rachel and Finn broke up at the end of season 3 and had no contact since then.
Also, 4x08 Thanksgiving and whatever came after never happened in this universe.
What if I fall and hurt myself,
would you know how to fix me?
"Where are you from?"
She hesitates, a brief second before the clouds of fear are gone from her face; her smile is too wide and her eyes are too bright, but she doesn't care.
"Lima. I'm from Lima, Ohio."
She sits atop the bleachers, looking out over the vast expanse of green of the football field. Her palms flatten against the cold metal beneath her, cold air that bears the smell of winter tickle the hair that swings just below her shoulders. She inhales, oxygen going deep into her lungs and she keeps it there for a long moment.
There's something about the air in Lima, she thinks as she closes her eyes and lets the sensations swirl around her, enveloping her, and for a minute she forgets where she is. Forgets that she's back, back in the place where she promised she wouldn't return.
Long eyelashes lightly graze her cheeks as her eyelids fold slowly, and she sits there, stock still, with the air sweeping around her, and it makes her feel different, makes her feel that this place is different, makes her feel that she's different.
For the first time since she stepped off the train and set foot back in Lima soil, the smallest of smiles tug at the corners of her lips.
(She thinks she came back to Lima, but she didn't come home.)
Mandy, her roommate, asked her once: "Do you miss it?"
A shrug. "Home."
She almost scoffs, but she holds her tongue. "Sometimes."
She's also lying.
A finger lightly grazes the tips of hers, but she doesn't force her eyes open. She catches a faint whiff of his scent, so very familiar and it makes her chest hurt in places she's still trying to let New Haven heal.
"I didn't know you were coming home for Christmas," he says, his finger brushing across her frozen knuckles, sending tingles of warmth down her arm. She breathes in slowly, and he smells of freshly fallen snow and aftershave and rugged cologne – just insanely him that she just smiles a bit, in spite of herself.
"This isn't home," is all she says, and she knows it's not an appropriate greeting to give an old friend, an ex that she hasn't seen in almost six months, since the summer, but she feels like her tongue's stuck to the roof of her mouth, immobile, refusing to let go of the things she should have said, things she should say.
She glances at him out of the corner of her eye. He looks different; his hair shorter, his body stockier, his skin browner. His eyes, though, they look exactly the same, warm and friendly and open. He looks more tired, though. Older, even.
"It wasn't, yeah," he agrees, surprising her, "for a while. Things are so different now. Like, I dunno, I've been gone for only a couple of months and I come back and suddenly there's all this new people and stuff I don't really fit into anymore…" He tugs at the end of his tie, hanging loosely around his neck; the old Quinn would have fussed over it, tsk-ing as she straightened it and then fixed his hair afterwards. She just kind of thinks it doesn't matter now anymore, that it's something that makes him Finn, that he would just come to school tomorrow with a tie as similarly crooked, anyway.
So she just says, "Yeah" and then proceeds to stare at nothing.
"Weird, isn't it?" She doesn't look, but she knows he's watching her, observing the contours of her face with that look of intense concentration he always gets. "Being back."
She nods. His finger's still grazing hers, and she has this stupid, crazy urge to either pull her hand back or clasp his fingers, if only to get a grasp of how things felt like before she left, because things just feel so foreign now. It's stupid. She's not supposed to want to hold his hand anymore.
"But…y'know, with all the glee kids coming back here, and then you being back…" She catches one side of his lips curving upwards as he turns to look at her. "It's finally starting to feel like…home again, you know?"
She doesn't know, but it's Finn, so she smirks, then hides her smile, anyway.
He invites her out for dinner ("Just between friends, of course"), and she rolls down the window of his truck, her hair getting caught and tangled in the wind, but she doesn't mind; just breathes in the evening air with her heart in her throat. She doesn't take her eyes off the road, her fists automatically stiffening on her lap. Flashes of screeching tires and blood in her hands and shattered glass and searing pain on her back and numbness in her legs – they all burn into the backs of her eyelids, and she wants to thrash against her tightly-fastened seatbelt, wants to scream, wants to sob and cry, and she tries to stifle the whimper that inevitably leaves her mouth.
He glances at her but doesn't say anything, just puts on Mumford and Sons as he drives (really, really slowly) through the dark streets of Lima.
She doesn't admit it, but she's grateful.
"I've been back home since the beginning of October," he tells her over dinner, eyes hesitant and fork hovering over his steak. "I'm taking over glee club while Mr. Schue's gone." She almost laughs, but then realizes he's serious. She still has an urge to laugh, anyway, because this is the stupidest idea Mr. Schue's ever had, and that's saying something. "He's coming back in a week, just in time for the big winter festival at school, right before Christmas break. I really hope you can come. We're doing a bunch of Christmas songs and everything."
She draws in a breath; her food lies there, barely touched. "I want to, I really do, but I'm trying to avoid McKinley," she admits, finally, but she doesn't meet his eyes still. "I just – the football field was the nearest I could go, and – things have just been going so well for me at Yale, I don't want…"
She stops, because talking about high school is painful.
He looks like he understands, though, and she supposes that's one of the main reasons why she used to like him so much.
"I loved high school," she would tell her friends from Yale, while they're lounging in this great coffee place near her dorm that she frequents to study. "I had the best time. I was head cheerleader, I dated the quarterback, and I was a member of the glee club. We won nationals last May. I graduated valedictorian, and when I got the letter from Yale, I knew where my life was headed."
People from Yale eat it up, look at her with respect, even adoration.
Clean slate, and all that.
She doesn't tell Finn the real reason why she's back, just lets him drive her home, her lips lingering on his cheek, as if to savor the moment but really just dreading going inside the house.
"Thanks for dinner," she says softly, lips still ghosting the stubble on his chin. "I…it was really nice hanging out with you again." She means it. It was. It still is.
He smiles, this stupid, lopsided smile he always used to do when he knew he was being stupid and didn't want Quinn to be more annoyed than she already was. She totally doesn't find it adorable anymore, though. "How long are you staying in Lima?"
She glances up at the house, tries to hide the sigh that heaves from the bottom of her chest. "Um." She doesn't look at him. "I've got three weeks off from school."
"Great," he exclaims, and she honestly doesn't understand why he's grinning a little too widely at the prospect. "Do you have dinner plans tomorrow night?"
There's a surprised shout, and then Santana's a blur of green and black when Quinn enters Breadstix, the skirt of her red dress swinging just above her knees and a book clutched against her chest like a lifeline.
"You ass!" Santana exclaims in lieu of a greeting, nearly crashing into her, arms wrapping around her neck like her life depended on it. "We were texting just last week and you didn't even tell me you were coming home!"
Her shoulder lifts in a shrug. "Surprise, then? Should I have told you I was coming?"
Santana huffs into her neck, "Bitch," but Quinn can feel her best friend's lips curve into a smile against her shoulder. Her arms tighten around Santana's back, and she breathes in the familiar scent of her, all strawberry and lavender, clinging onto her hair and skin.
Puck tells stories about picking women up along Sunset, and Mercedes rolls her eyes, complaining about how Puck would show up at her apartment at the worst times to see if she wanted to hang out and get drunk at one of the karaoke bars downtown. Mike's eyes are bright and excited when he tells them of the dances he's learning at Joffrey Ballet, about how he has the most amazing teachers and how they tell him he's getting better and better every day.
Santana is quiet from beside Mike, laughing at all the right moments and injecting insults directed towards Finn from time to time, but Quinn notices the way her hand clenches around her fork when Puck hollers very inappropriately about how fun college is.
Finn's not much different, his smiles looking forced and pained, even though he claps Puck on the back and tells him how he's "really happy for you, man."
"How about you, Quinn?" Mercedes asks, and Quinn notices how her friend's voice adopts a gentler tone. "Is Yale everything us little people can only dream about?"
She smiles, folds her hands neatly on her lap, eyes bright.
"It is," she laughs. "I'm happy."
(Only she's not, not really).
She pushes open her front door, stepping cautiously into the dark, silent house. She doesn't call out her mom's name, knows she's probably passed out on the couch in front of the television again, like she's been since the day she first came back.
She finds Judy just like that, one arm dragging on the floor, fingers clasped loosely around an empty bottle of vodka Quinn swears she hid under the laundry just the same morning.
She sighs, grabs the afghan off the back of the couch and throws it over her mom's drunken form, pries the bottle away from reluctant fingers and tosses it into the trash.
She remembers her father's email, angry, with no single trace of concern: "I will not stand for this humiliation. If you don't do anything about your mother I will personally come to Lima and take care of her myself!" She remembers slamming the top of her laptop down, hands shaking and blood rushing in her ears. She thinks about coming home and seeing her mom, dressed in an old nightgown and sitting in front of a blank television, eyes glassy and body weak. Broken, lonely, alone.
She remembers her bags dropping on the floor as she rushed to catch Judy before she tumbled on the ground, trying to reach her. "Quinnie," her mother had mumbled against her chest, the words struggling to come out despite her stubborn tongue, her harried brain. "Quinnie, I missed you. Quinnie, you came home."
Months have passed and the Fabray household has been the same way she's always known it to be, with the stench of expensive alcohol lingering in the stale air.
Finn arrives at her doorstep the next morning, but she keeps the curtains drawn as she peeks behind the door, trying to smile back. She hopes he doesn't come any further, hopes he doesn't smell the vodka she just poured down the drain on her hands and clothes.
"Hi," Finn says, smiling at her like the big idiot that he is. "Do you want to go have coffee with me? We could walk to The Lima Bean, if you don't want to go for a drive. I don't have to be at McKinley for another hour, so."
He looks so stupid like that, in his big grandpa sweater and his hands shoved into his pockets, grinning at her like they've been doing this for months, like there's nothing at all weird about him randomly showing up at her house at seven thirty in the morning.
"Um." She reluctantly opens the door halfway, feeling self-conscious about only being in rumpled sweats with her hair in disarray. "I don't think I – now's not really a good time, Finn. I just woke up and I have a lot of errands to do until the afternoon, so."
"Oh." He has the decency to look a bit disappointed. She wishes she doesn't care. "Right. Sorry, I wasn't thinking… I just. Um. You know. I know you're only staying for three weeks and I wanted to spend – I mean–"
She wants to laugh, because this all feels so familiar yet surreal. "Um," she lets out a breathy laugh, anyway, tucking unruly strands of blond hair behind her ear. "How about…dinner later, instead?"
"Are you sure? I mean, you don't have, like, plans or something?" She peers at him, checks to see if he's being a jerk about it, like she's not allowed to not have plans for the day, but he's watching her expectantly, like he genuinely wants to know.
"No, Finn," a tiny laugh leaves her lips. "I'm free by six. Just give me the time and tell me where to meet you."
She tries not to think too much of the grin that spreads on his face. He looks like a freaking puppy. "Breadstix, eight o'clock?" Finn's eyebrows are quirking, and – god. She can't believe he still remembers, so she agrees. You know, for old time's sake.
She ignores Santana's texts and goes to see her mom's doctor after lunch, talks with him until late in the afternoon; she describes the assortment of bottles in the kitchen cupboards, talks about how her mom leaves in the morning to have brunch somewhere with the WASPs in town and to run errands before picking up her daily supply of alcohol and coming home, alone.
Dr. Martin slides a piece of paper across his desk, and her eyes flick downwards, catching sight of the words St. Rita's Addiction Services in his untidy doctor-like scrawl, beckoning at her from the top of the lined paper.
She sighs inwardly, and then feels the urge to slap him when she looks up and sees the sympathetic look in his eyes. She doesn't fucking need his sympathy.
"I'm sorry you have to take care of all this alone," he says, still with that stupid expression that makes her hands clench into fists.
"Yeah, well," she stands, extends her hand out to him a bit stiffly. "I'm used to it. Thanks for your time, Dr. Martin."
She'd had to make dinner for her mom after she got home from the hospital, not answering her mom's faint "Where are you off to?" as she shrugged into her coat and hurried out the front door. She then had had to drive really, really slowly, her seatbelt fastened too tightly against her upper body and her eyes staring too widely out her windshield.
When she gets to Breadstix, it's ten minutes past eight and she's really annoyed when she finds that Finn's not there. She drops inside a booth and snaps at the waitress who approaches, "I'll order when I'm ready," and proceeds to send death glares at anyone who looks at her after her outburst.
There's a hand on her shoulder, and it's too big and too warm and too familiar; she already knows whose it is.
"I was in the men's room when you came in, Quinn," he explains before she can utter a word, and he smirks at her, and – god, he's so annoying. "You look really beautiful."
She's not even dressed up for this; she's just in a blue dress with a cardigan over it, her hair slightly curled at the ends, but Finn's looking at her like – like he's seeing her for the first time or something, which is stupid. Her anger's already evaporating, though, and since when did she – god. She scowls as he settles on the seat across from her, smiling at her over the menus being handed by their less-than-friendly waitress. He really is annoying.
She can smell his cologne from across the dinner table.
The smell hits her, hard, and she doesn't know why but she feels her pulse quicken. All she knows is that she's overwhelmed with feelings of nostalgia, of familiarity, of things and people and sights and sounds and smells that used to matter to her and that she sometimes wishes still do.
Finn starts talking – nervously, she thinks – his hands clumsily holding his fork and knife. He's always been the talker between the two of them, but something about today, about now, makes her actually want to listen this time.
"I don't know what I'm doing with my life," Finn says, completely out of the blue, right after his story about Burt falling asleep in front of American Pie. "I feel – I feel so useless, you know? I mean, I got kicked out of the army, I'm back in Lima, and – I don't know where the hell I'm supposed to go."
Even though she's thinking the exact same thing, she frowns, rolls her eyes. "You know what, Finn?" she says, sticking her fork in her pasta with more force than usual. "You really need to stop with this stupid pity party of yours. Not everything is about you, and frankly, it's pathetic."
Finn doesn't say anything, and she keeps her eyes glued to her plate.
"You were right."
Finn sighs as he wraps his coat more tightly around himself as they walk around town later, shoving his big hands into the pockets. "About earlier. About me being pathetic."
They haven't talked much since her outburst, and she looks at the pavement, feeling blood rush to her neck and cheeks. She knows she ruined their otherwise relatively nice evening.
"No, it's okay," he says. "I got to thinking, actually. About me. About my life. And you're right. It's not the freaking end of the world if I feel like I haven't accomplished anything, because there's still time to fix things, you know? You're actually the only person to tell the truth to my face, really. I guess I needed that. I needed that slap of reality, because let's face it, I am pathetic."
She can't help the tiny, tiny smile that forms on her face, and she can't help but feel like maybe Finn's grown up a bit. "You really are."
He laughs, shoves her lightly. "Look, I really hope you come to McKinley tomorrow. I mean, all I have going for me right now is the glee club thing, and I'm really…I don't know, it's so tiring trying to fill in for Mr. Schue and stuff, but it's – it's kinda rewarding, too, y'know? I mean, we did win Sectionals, so that was awesome. I really wanna take this seriously; I don't want Mr. Schue to come back and think he's made a huge mistake letting me take over."
She bites the insides of her cheeks to keep from smiling wider. "What's happening tomorrow?"
"I'm picking up their costumes tomorrow for the big numbers next week, so the whole club can focus on the actual performance now, and I just – I really want you to be there." He's looking at her with those big puppy dog eyes that look stupid on him but just works.
She sighs, exasperated, clumsily fitting on her mittens to shield her stiff fingers from the cold. "Fine. I'll go," she says, even though her heart's fighting to come out of her chest at the very idea of stepping back into McKinley halls.
Something catches in her heart when Finn grins widely, throwing an arm around her shoulders, keeping her warm, keeping her steady. "Awesome."
Brittany knocks her into a hug as soon as she steps into the choir room, all blonde ponytail and short skirt and the familiar scent of jasmine that she's come to associate with only her.
"Quinn," she breathes, her voice muffled against Quinn's neck, and Quinn laughs.
She sees the rest of the glee club grinning over Brittany's shoulder, Finn grinning from ear to ear and Sam flashing her the stupid Avatar sign from behind with a goofy smile.
Everyone's happy to see her back, and Santana just rolls her eyes and tells everyone that "It's only Quinn, god," that Quinn just laughs, the sound vibrating throughout her body as something warm stirs in her chest.
While the new New Directions are in front of the room singing a funny rendition of Santa Baby for the grads, she observes the room, studies the excited smiles on the newbies,eager to impress; sees the contented smiles on her friends' faces, sitting beside her on the familiar red chairs on the risers she's grown accustomed to in the last three years.
She wonders whom of her friends are really, truly happy. As happy as their smiles are willing to deceive. As happy as their eyes could only wish to evoke.
Or maybe she's just looking for people who are as lonely as she is.
She stands up abruptly, almost toppling over her chair. By the time she's reached the door, the song's gone to an abrupt halt, and she leaves her friends in the choir room behind sitting in stunned, confused silence.
"Okay, what's wrong now?"
Santana's followed her out into the silent, empty hall, and she sighs, because she's not at all surprised.
"Nothing; go back to the choir room. I just needed some air."
"Stop shitting with me," Santana snaps from behind her. "Face me and tell me the truth, tell me what's bothering you. I'm tired of your shit, Quinn, and you never tell me anything, so how the hell do you expect us to help you? We can't keep following you around, trying to understand your fucking mood swings all the damn time."
"Stop," she pauses, closing her eyes, "trying to psychoanalyze me."
"You're fucking – I don't even know what to think of you, Quinn. You don't want to tell us anything about yourself but then you hate us for trying to figure out what's wrong with you. How the hell are we supposed to figure you out? We want to help you because we care about you, but you never want to let us."
Quinn barks a short, dry laugh. "That's rich, coming from you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You never bother to tell me things, Santana. And you never seemed to care before now. So why is this any different? Before I got pregnant, we were fighting over being head Cheerio. When I got pregnant, you stopped talking to me. And you never bothered to, for months. We're not friends. Why the fuck should I tell you anything?" She shakes her head, starts walking away again. "I should never have come back."
"Yeah, since you love Yale so fucking much, maybe you should have stayed there. Maybe you should have stayed with your special secret sorority and your nerdy little friends and your boring as fuck books and shut yourself away from the world like you always seem to do."
"What about you, Santana?" Quinn says, spinning to face her, her expression distorting into an ugly sneer, even though her voice is unnaturally quiet, even calm. "Why are you in Kentucky, shaking pom-poms and strutting around in short cheerleading outfits, trying not to look at all the other pretty girls' legs and trying not to get off at all them changing around you?"
"You–" She wants to take back her words the minute she's said them, but it's not like she could take a remote control and rewind time. Santana's getting red in the face, her hands fisting at her sides. "Take that back."
"No, because you know what?" She's on a roll now. She can't let Santana make her look vulnerable, and this is – only she has the balls to say what needs to be said. "You're nothing but a scared little girl who stays in Kentucky and breaks up with the love of her life because she's too scared of going out into the world to fight for what she fucking wants."
Santana scoffs, red-faced, dark-eyed, and Quinn knows, Quinn knows she's hit a nerve.
"And what about you? You're nothing but a crazy little girl who got pregnant at sixteen with her boyfriend's best friend; a sad, lonely girl with no friends and forty million problems and who sleeps with a picture of sweet little Beth under her pillow every fucking night like a–"
Quinn doesn't even think.
She's there in four long strides, and her mind's heatedly blank as her palm ricochets upwards and meets Santana's face in a loud smack.
She's shaking when she gets home, her hands fumbling for her house keys, and she hears a car pull up on the sidewalk behind her.
"Go away, Santana," she says loudly, pushing the wrong key into the lock. She curses when she drops the key ring, and a long, slender hand reaches out and grabs it for her. She looks up into a pair of sad blue eyes.
"Hi, Quinn," Brittany says quietly.
She tries to make Brittany leave, but she's stubborn, pushes her way into the house. Quinn can't help but cringe when a gasp leaves Brittany's mouth as soon as she steps into the living room.
"Britt–" Panic rises in her throat, but she then sighs, because if she's being honest, she doesn't know how the hell to begin explaining what this is.
Brittany doesn't say anything, though, just turns to her with big eyes that are wet at the corners. "Um. Quinn, I – do you need help with anything tonight? I can…fix dinner, you know, Santana taught me how to make pasta and stuff."
Quinn laughs a little, but it's half-hearted, tired, broken. "You don't have to, B; I can just order some pizza for tonight. But thanks."
"Okay, but I'm staying over, okay?" And then Brittany's walking over to Judy, not giving her a chance to reply, and she wraps the blanket around her mom in such a tender way that makes Quinn's throat tighter than usual.
"Why didn't you tell us?"
The pizza's almost completely gone, three slices left in the box, soggy now, and cold. "I don't know, I just…I don't know. I'm kind of…I wanted to deal with it on my own."
Brittany sighs, taking Quinn's hand and placing her fingers in the spaces in between Quinn's own. "Quinn, you shouldn't – you don't have to deal with stuff on your own all the time, you know."
Quinn sighs, too, places her head on Brittany's shoulder, feeling like she's hanging onto her warmth, her gentleness, her strength. Her heart is fractured but Brittany's heart is whole.
"Britt," she says, almost chokes on the words, "I don't – I'm not – I'm so...lonely. That's what I'm trying to tell you. I'm trying to deal with things on my own, but I'm not sure if I'm doing it right because things are going so well for me at Yale but I'm not entirely happy. And then there's this and my dad calling me and trying to take over things–"
"It's okay, Quinn." She feels Brittany's lips touching the top of her hair for a long minute. "You don't have to talk about that right now. You're tired. Just sleep, okay? I'll be here in the morning."
So she does, and she doesn't dream.
Brittany leaves really early the next day so she could change for school, but Quinn doesn't go. She takes her time, making breakfast for her mom, kissing her on the cheek when she stirs in her sleep but doesn't wake.
"I don't know what I'm doing, Mom," she whispers, gently tucking an unruly strand of blond hair behind her mother's ear. "How am I going to take care of you? What do I need to do?"
She perches gingerly on the coffee table and watches her mom's chest rise and fall with every labored breath. She doesn't get an answer.
She's sitting at the park, alone, when a big shadow falls across the book she's holding on her lap.
"What are you doing here, Finn?" she mumbles, not even looking up.
Finn smiles, ruffling the top of her head as he settles down beside her; she has to bite her lip to keep from smiling as she reaches up to smooth down her hair. Finn laughs; she knows it amuses him to see how annoyed she is, with her hair all messed up like that. No one ever touches her hair.
"You weren't–" He sighs. "Do you want to talk about what happened yesterday?"
She bites her lip, plays with the corners of her worn-out paperback with her fingers. "A lot of things happened yesterday."
"Yeah, but…Q." His voice cracks, and she looks away, tugs her wrist away from his outstretched fingers. "I just wanna know what's going on with you." His voice becomes more pained, and her throat is tighter than ever, that feeling it gets when she's on the verge of tears, "Q, talk to me. Stop – stop running away from things."
"Don't try to act like you still know me, Finn. Don't try to fix me." She shuts her book with a thud and stands, gathering her belongings. She tries really hard not to look at his face; she already knows what his eyes are probably saying. "I've made it four months at Yale on my own. I don't need your help. I don't anybody's help." And she walks away without looking back.
She doesn't expect him to show up at her house at seven-thirty in the evening.
But there he is, standing on her doorstep like some overgrown moron with a tentative smile on his face and an arrangement of lilacs and baby's breath in his hands, dressed in a sweater vest with his hair neatly combed. It makes her rethink her decision to slam the door in his face.
"Hi." He flashes her that stupid lopsided grin again. He thrusts the flowers at her, looking shy. She doesn't find him at all cute right now, no, she does not. "Um. These are for you."
She doesn't take them. "What are these?"
"They're, um, lilacs? The florist mixed them up with some baby's breath to make them even prettier and stuff. I know how much you like them because they actually smell good, and I know you don't like roses, which don't, because they're like the default flowers people like to give and I know you don't like that–"
"No, I meant–" She shakes her head; it's like she can read his mind, it's like she can see the gears in his brain whirring, like he's going off-track on purpose to distract her from being angry. "What are these for, Finn?"
He shrugs, pushing his hands in his pockets like he always does when he's nervous, and, okay. Maybe she does find him a little bit cute. A little. Maybe. "I wanted to apologize, for earlier."
"No," he says, raises a hand to stop her from interrupting. "No, it wasn't fair. We haven't seen each other since graduation and it's not fair for me to just – to just force you to tell me what's bothering you."
"Nothing's bothering me," she says, automatically.
He shakes his head at her, and – when has he learned to look so condescending? "Quinn."
She sighs. "Finn."
He stares at her for a long moment, so long that she almost wants to lower her eyes, but she doesn't, just straightens her back ever-so-subtly to remind him who's the one in control here. She hates how her hands are shaking.
"Look," he says, "I just want you to know that you can talk to me, okay? I don't know what's happening with you, Q." The last part's said in a low voice, so low that she barely hears it.
"Nothing's–" she heaves a sigh. She kind of hates him right now, the way he's standing there trying to apologize, trying to be nice, trying to psychoanalyze her when she doesn't fucking want to. He's just looking at her, his eyes somber and looking like – like he wants to do something stupid like take care of her or something. So she hates him, and she hates herself, because she kind of wants to let him. And it's so annoying, because she's not a fucking china doll that can break any second. She's not weak. She's not. She's not supposed to need anyone. Least of all Finn, who she's barely spoken to or seen before she came back to Lima.
So she just flicks her eyes upwards, trying to ignore steady thumping inside her chest.
"Why are you here, Finn?"
His smile is tentative. "I–" he laughs a little, "I wanted to see if you wanted to have dinner. It's almost eight."
He looks so hopeful and she wonders when he became so easy to like. He wasn't always so easy to like. "I didn't realize that was, like, a nightly thing."
"I wanted to make it one. You know," a shoulder lifts, "if you don't mind. I mean, I missed spending time with you."
She doesn't say, "So why didn't you even bother to call me since we graduated?" or "Why do you even care now?" even though she really wants to. It's not like they ended things on a good note two years ago; it's not like they were friends all senior year or hugged at graduation and told each other to message the other on Facebook or call or keep in touch.
So she just smiles and opens her door a bit wider. She knows her mom's in her room, watching television, and annoyed with Quinn for throwing out her last bottle of wine, but Quinn's sure her mom wouldn't dare go off on a tangent when she sees they have company. "Do you mind waiting while I go change?"
He smiles wider, touching her shoulder, and feels an inexplicable warm tingle go down her arm. "Of course not." He thrusts the flowers at her again, and she takes them this time, burrowing her nose among the soft petals. "I don't mind at all."
"Hey, Q," Finn is saying as Quinn goes down the stairs, stuffing her house keys and her phone into her purse, "I really like this photo of – oh." He's looking at her as she walks towards him, his eyes wide and his hand dropping the framed picture he grabbed off the mantelpiece.
"Oh," he says, looking flustered as he bends down to pick it up, "crap, it's not broken, is it?"
Quinn laughs, feeling a little flustered, herself. She keeps replaying the look on his face over and over in her mind; she flashes back to two years ago, when he's standing at the bottom of the stairs before junior prom, in a cummerbund the same color as her dress, looking up at her with something almost like awe. It's…been a while since someone had looked at her that way. "I never cared much for that stupid photo, anyway." She spares a glance at her thirteen-year-old self, posing at the top of a cheerleading pyramid with her arms high up in the air.
He clears his throat, extending his arm out to her, still looking at her with that look in his eyes. "Shall we?"
That same look is still on his face, and it's throwing her off.
She's just staring at him across the console of his truck as he tells random stories about his brief stint with the army. His eyes are bright, his talking animated, and – he looks happy. She kind of likes the way the lights from the dashboard reflect across his eyes, and he makes her feel like she's sixteen again.
"–so Jim was like, 'Dude, you're kind of freaking me out here,' and the drill sergeant was not happy and just stared him down. Jim looked like he wanted to piss his – what?" he stops abruptly, looking at her, sitting there in the passenger seat of his beat-up old truck.
"Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Like what?" She grins at the confused look on his face.
"Like – I don't know. Like I have something on my face or whatever."
She laughs, shaking her head just as her phone buzzed in her purse. "You don't. You just – you look different."
"Different?" He genuinely sounds puzzled. "It's been a few months since I got a haircut–"
"No, not like that. I mean, you look happier than I've seen you since I got here."
"Oh." His voice turns real quiet, and he swivels his head to look back at the street. "I don't know. Maybe I am."
"Glee's been really fun, huh?" she says, looking down at her phone.
It's Santana, texting her for the nth time the entire day. How long are you gonna keep ignoring me? Youre leaving in 2 weeks & I dont want u to leave hating me.
"I don't think glee's the only thing keeping me happy these days," Finn is saying, but she's not really listening anymore.
"That's great," she says, but she's looking out the window now, her thoughts a million miles away.
She's just met with Dr. Martin again the next day, her nose buried in papers while walking down the busy hospital hallway when someone steps in front of her, blocking her path.
"Hey." It's Santana, dressed in a leather jacket Quinn knows is her favorite, looking tentative, even anxious.
She releases a strangled sigh, though if she's being honest with herself, she's kind of maybe relieved that she's here. "Great. It's you." She tries to sidestep her, but Santana follows stubbornly. "Get out of my way, Santana."
"Q," Santana sighs, and she sounds tired, that she doesn't want to be doing this any more than she does. "Stop being a bitch."
"If that's your idea of an apology, well–"
"Look, I'm sorry I mentioned Beth but you–"
"Go away, Santana!" And Quinn does the most immature thing she can think of, and shoves Santana against the wall before striding away.
She's just slamming the door of her car when Santana's red Mustang pulls up behind her.
"Fuck, Q," Santana says, jogging to catch up with her as she walks briskly up her front path, looking as pissed as she feels. "Slow down. Listen to me, okay, I want to talk to you."
"God, Santana, I don't care!" She swivels abruptly once she opens the door, and Santana almost runs into her. "I don't care if you want to talk to me 'cause I sure as hell don't want to talk to you."
Quinn rolls her eyes, tries to close the door behind her, but Santana's persistent, walking in after her with a frustrated look on her face. Quinn shrugs off her coat, walks over to press the button on her blinking answering machine. "God, Santana, just get the hell out of–"
"Quinn," the voice on the answering machine says, and she freezes. It's the voice of a person she hasn't seen in three years. A person she'd hoped she would never see ever again. Her throat's closing up, and she can feel her heart hammering in her chest in what feels like a thousand times per minute. This is–
Russell Fabray clears his throat, and Quinn's grip on her phone tightens; she feels her palms start to coat in sweat, and she leans against the door, feeling dizzy and nauseous all of a sudden. She thinks she hears Santana call out a faint, "Hey, you okay?" from behind her, but she can't focus on anything else but her father's voice on the other end of the line.
References; title from Home by Chris Daughtry; opening lines from Rosi Golan's Hazy; summary from Little Things by One Direction (don't judge me)
So, um. This was totally meant to be a oneshot (and to be not as emotionally-heavy, so to speak), but then I started writing…and writing…and I couldn't. stop. So - I'm gonna have to break this up into probably four parts. Part two's already finished, so it will be up in a few days. Also, I have no idea how long winter break is in the US; where I live, we college kids usually get three weeks off from school, so I'm basing from that.