What if I went and lost myself,
would you know where to find me?
Quinn wonders whether Santana can hear her breathing a little too much, a little too heavily. She can feel her hands shaking, so she presses them against her body, hoping Santana wouldn't notice. She can feel her hovering behind her, watching her with wary eyes. She doesn't want her to be here right now to witness this, to witness her breaking down, but she feels relieved, all the same, that she's not alone.
"Your mother," Russell continues, without preamble, sounding like the jackass that he is, "was downtown today, and was found blacked out on a stool of some godforsaken bar. Naturally, the barmen took her to the hospital and called the emergency contact that was on her ID. I got the phone call while I was at a meeting in Columbus this morning, and I'd had to drive all the way to Lima because they all knew her daughters weren't in town and no one could take care of her."
She feels her heart stop beating. Her father was in Lima? Oh god. She was just in the hospital, with her mother's doctor, pushing Santana against the wall, and if she had run into her father there –
She takes a shaky breath, and she feels rather than sees Santana step closer to her, feels her friend's hand on her back, like an anchor, keeping her steady.
Russell clears his throat again, and she wonders, in a brief, fleeting thought, what her mother ever saw in this man, why Quinn herself failed to see what an asshole her father really was. "I was there this morning, but I only signed some paperwork for formalities. I had to leave again immediately; business to attend to, you know, I'm a busy man. Your mother's–" he laughs, and Quinn feels this overpowering blind rage building up inside of her; she just wants to be able to punch her father in the nose to wipe that smugness in his voice. "Your mother's swell, Quinn. Really swell. She just adds more and more embarrassment to the previously respectable family name, and it's already had enough embarrassment to last a lifetime. I need to fix things. I've had enough."
She swallows, flexes her fingers, and she feels Santana rubbing her back, soothingly, comfortingly, like she knows how much she wants to go to Columbus and hit her father's face.
"So I hear you're at Yale now." Russell coughs a little, and she hears it, she hears how his voice shifts, how there's a tinge of bitterness in there. "My granddaughter with you?"
He – how are he – who is he to ask –
"He has no right," she can hear herself whispering, her mind numbingly blank with rage, and she doesn't care about how Santana's there witnessing this anymore, doesn't care about the hands gripping her trembling shoulders. "He has no goddamn right to mention her!"
She doesn't know when she shoves the phone away from the table so hard it slams against the wall – she just knows her hands are shaking too hard and she needs some air and she's done with him, she's just so fucking done with him–
She runs upstairs, nearly falling all over the cold steps. She hears her father's voice fade behind her, followed by a long, loud beep.
She feels cold, all of a sudden.
She ignores Santana's voice, just fumbles for the doorknob and stumbles inside her room, blindly groping on the wall for the lights. She goes straight to her bathroom and takes a long shower, letting the hot water burn her skin, soak up her anger and drain away her tears.
When she emerges, her eyes are tired and sore, her skin rubbed red and raw. Delicious smells are wafting from the kitchen, and she finds that Santana's prepared food downstairs. Quinn doesn't know how long she was in the shower, but she already feels a little better.
"Hey." She shuffles into the dining room, shyly wrapping her arms around herself, as if to shield herself from Santana.
"Hey." Santana smiles at her tentatively, dropping the last spoon on the table and gesturing to it. She doesn't ask if she's okay, for which Quinn is grateful. "You should eat."
"No, I–" she shakes her head, moves towards the door. "Thanks, but I need to go to the hospital. My mom–"
"My dad's taking care of her, okay?" Santana's voice is gentle, and she walks towards Quinn, her arms raised hesitantly. "He says he's taking care of all the paperwork and he'll personally drive her home in a couple of hours. Okay? You don't have to take care of her all the damn time. I know she's your mom, but she's not–"
"I don't – let's not talk about this right now," she says, and Santana sighs like she expected her answer.
"Okay, but you really need to get some rest first, okay? You look like shit."
Her sudden laugh surprises both of them, and Santana's lips curve into a cautious smile again.
"I'm sorry I shoved you. Back at the hospital."
"It's okay. We both did get into an all-out brawl in the middle of the hallway two years ago. A fucking genius slapper, that's what you are. I know I was such a bitch to you. I didn't mean it." Quinn smiles a little because she speaks Santana's language, and to her that's the best apology she's ever going to be willing to give.
"I know," even though she only half-does.
When Santana says, "Quinn," Quinn stiffens, bracing herself. She knows that tone, it means that Santana's about to say something serious and heavy again. "Your dad–"
"Hasn't changed a fucking bit."
"He's still the biggest jackass I know, to be honest."
"I don't – don't want him near me. Or my mom. I don't ever want to see his face again."
Santana clears her throat a little. "My mom's a lawyer, you know. She can–"
Quinn nods. "Yeah, I know." She does. She knows what Santana's trying to say. They stand there for a minute, studiously not looking at each other.
"Seriously." Santana takes a step closer, touching her gently on the elbow. "You do look like shit," and Quinn smiles. Santana gestures towards the table again, where the food's beckoning at her, making her mouth water; she realizes she hasn't had a meal all day.
"Are you sure that I won't die from your cooking?" she asks, and Santana's foot kicks hers under the table.
"Ass," she says, and Quinn laughs.
Santana offers to help a tired Judy to bed while Quinn talks to Dr. Lopez in the living room, trying to keep a brave, dignified face on when all she really feels like is crumbling and hanging on to him; she just wants to plead and beg him to help her, to help her mother, to take her mother away so she wouldn't have to deal with her. And Quinn knows that that's horrible and wrong and selfish, but Quinn has only been in town for a few days and she's already tired from trying to look after her.
She's already tired from trying to look after a 46-year-old woman who drinks herself to sleep every other night. She's tired of acting like the adult, tired of trying to take care of her mom and failing, tired of trying to take care of herself and failing, as well. All she wants to do is crawl under her blankets with some hot chocolate and a good book after a warm bath, trying not to think of her parents or college or her messed up life.
She's nineteen. She's only nineteen, but sometimes she feels like she's 90. She's so very tired of all of it – and she just wants somebody to take care of her now.
Santana comes back to the living room and perches on the arm of the couch Dr. Lopez is sitting on. Quinn watches as Dr. Lopez doesn't even stop talking as he reaches out an arm to curl around his daughter's waist.
Quinn remembers her own father, barely four hours earlier, how he insulted her mother, taunted her, made her wish she was born to a different family. She wonders why her life is so fucked up and she knows she played a big part of making it become so.
Finn arrives at seven thirty on the dot, while Quinn and Santana are watching an episode of Friends, just fifteen minutes after Dr. Lopez left. Quinn peers through the curtains, then hisses, "I don't want to see him," as she hurries upstairs to hide.
Santana's confused, but she complies, opens the door complete with a bored expression and a tone of voice to match. "You're at the wrong house, Hudson."
Finn frowns, and Santana rolls her eyes. "Um, I'm here to pick up Quinn. We're supposed to go to dinner tonight. What are you doing here?"
"Q's my homegirl, that's why," she says matter-of-factly. "Who says she wants to go to dinner with you? And since when are you friends with Q, anyway?"
Finn scratches the back of his neck, genuinely looking confused. "I…we've been going out to dinner since she came back."
"God. Finn! Stop – god, she just came home and you're already – is it Finn and Quinn season all over again? Is it two years ago?"
Finn sighs. "Santana, it's not a date. We're just going to dinner as friends."
Santana snorts. "Again, since when are you two friends? And besides, she doesn't want to see you right now."
"Did I…" Santana kind of feels sorry for him a little right now, though not very much. "Did I do something wrong?"
She sighs, then starts pushing the door closed. "No, it's just Q being Q. She's had a long day and she's not feeling so hot. Leave her alone, Manboobs."
"Wait!" Finn's palm is on the door, pushing it back open. "What's wrong? What happened?"
She just gives him a look, one she's honestly surprised he seems to get. "Go away, Finn. She'll talk to you in the morning."
"Um." He thrusts a bouquet of flowers through the open crack of the door. "Can you just make sure she gets these, then?"
She shrugs, taking the flowers. Just before the door closes, she sees him mouth, "Call me, okay?" and she nods.
Quinn's sitting cross-legged on the bed thumbing through a ratty old book when Santana goes upstairs, knocking softly on the door. She hands her the flowers and Quinn burrows her nose in them, taking deep whiffs of their scent.
"Friends with Finn, really?" Santana says finally, breaking the silence. "Finn Hudson, really? What is this, Finn and Quinn one-thousand-point-oh?"
Quinn rolls her eyes, stands up to place the flowers in the empty vase on her bedside table. "Shut up, Santana. We're actually friends now."
Santana scoffs. "Right."
She shrugs, not turning to her, fiddling with the arrangement like an obsessive-compulsive freak. "He…I don't know. It's nice being just friends with him for a change."
Santana sighs. "Q. I just don't want–"
"Santana." Quinn sighs, too. "We're friends. I actually like that we're friends. I know what I'm doing, okay?"
She doesn't say anything else about the matter.
The next day officially marks that Quinn's been in Lima for a week, and it's when Santana drags her to McKinley to watch Cheerios practice.
"I overhead that bitch Kitty saying she's gonna bring the Cheerios back to nationals this year," Santana says once Quinn's settled in the passenger seat of Santana's car, groaning loudly about being forced to go against her will, "and it'll be so much fun to go mock her and how they're falling apart without us. Britt's the only good thing about Cheerios right now ever since our fine asses graduated from that hell hole."
So they're sitting on the bleachers, laughing while Sue screams at an oblivious Brittany and toasting their Snickers bars together.
"I'm so glad to be off that fucking Cheerios diet," Santana says, leaning back against the metal seats and closing her eyes. "I still kind of miss being a Cheerio sometimes, though. Not that I don't like cheering now, in Louisville, it's just – I don't know."
Santana grows quiet, and Quinn doesn't say a word, just stares out at the field as Kitty's thrown into the air, her perfect form silhouetted against the dying embers of sunlight, spreading streaks of purple and red against the backdrop.
She stares down at her legs and remembers things – like how she cried in the hospital when she discovered she couldn't feel her legs, like how her heart broke when her doctor told her she'll never be able to do those stunts ever again.
She brings home Chinese takeout for dinner.
Her mom's sitting across from her, and they're eating quietly; she's thrown away everything left from her mother's alcohol stash and she knows her mom was embarrassed by what happened yesterday that she didn't dare go out today to get her fix. She knows Judy's having a hard time, but she really doesn't care. They haven't even talked about the whole fiasco and it's driving her insane.
When her mom offers to do the dishes, Quinn says, very, very quietly, "Dad called yesterday. Left a message."
She's not really sure what kind of reaction she's expecting. Her mom just freezes, then recovers and moves to take away her plate. "Oh?"
Quinn clenches her hands in her lap, feeling the anger building up inside of her. Was she really going to pretend like that was nothing? Like nothing happened at all? "Mom, we haven't even…"
"Let's not talk about this today, honey, okay?"
"But we never talk about anything!" Quinn stands up abruptly, her chair toppling to the floor. She knows her eyes are blazing, threatening to drop tears down the slopes of her cheeks. "Every single bad thing that happens in this house gets swept under the rug. We've never really talked about Beth or my accident or how you have a problem and trying to pretend like you don't. You pretend everything's fine but it's not. It's not. Dad's gone, Mom. He's gone, but this house is still the same."
"Quinnie, I–" Judy closes her eyes as she lets out a breath, then says, "I can take care of myself, I don't need you to look out for me–"
"But you make it my business, Mom! Ever noticed how Frannie never comes home? I'm the same. Ever since I set foot in Yale I was dead-set to never come crawling back. I'm finally…I'm finally starting to figure things out there; I can breathe again, I can forget how my life turned into hell when I was sixteen. If it weren't for you and your drunken ass I wouldn't have come back." She fumbles, grips the edges of the table to steady herself, feeling everything all too much all at once. "This isn't home. This wasn't home for the last three years."
Her mom has tears brimming in her eyes now, but Quinn doesn't fucking care anymore. Especially when her eyes are stinging and her heart's threatening to escape from her chest, fighting to tear through skin and bone and break into a million pieces, as if it wasn't already broken beyond repair. "Quinnie, baby, I'm sorry–"
"It's too late, Mom." She bites her trembling lip, turns away and swipes a finger under her eyes. "Dr. Martin recommended St. Rita's Addiction Services for you if you want to get better. It's a good institution, not too far away from here. I'm not forcing you to go, Mom. But please, for the love of god…please do it for yourself, if not for me."
She doesn't wait for an answer; she just grabs her purse and leaves without looking back.
She doesn't really have a particular destination in mind when she guns the engine of her car that she tries to avoid at all costs, not even surprised that her mom doesn't even try to follow her. She just drives, turning up the volume of her radio and trying to blink away her tears, not trusting her mind, not trusting her heart. Not anymore.
She randomly stops the car after ten minutes of mindless driving and brings out her phone, scrolling through her speed dial list. She doesn't even realize she's holding her breath until she hears his voice at the other end of the line.
"Hey." His voice is warm, and happy, and she almost wants to hang up, doesn't want to bring him into her fucking mess of a life, but she doesn't want to see anybody else right now but him.
"Finn," she says, and she can hear his intake of breath as he recognizes the tone of her voice. "Where are you right now?"
"I'm at home… Quinn, are you–"
"I'm coming over in ten minutes, okay?" she says, then hangs up the phone.
The minute her car halts to a stop in front of his house, Finn's on his feet from where he's been sitting on the grass. The first thing he does once she's barely out of the car is hug her, arms encircling her waist to clench around her back.
"Hey," he says, his breath ghosting the hairs at the top of her head. She bites her lip, hard, and snakes her arms around him, fingers fisting the back of his shirt, almost as if she's hanging on to him, on to his heart, which is so much fuller, so much steadier and stronger and more whole.
She doesn't say anything at first, and then Finn pulls away and looks down at her with a look on his face that makes her want to cry. "I can't believe you drove all the way here without even a coat on. It's fucking freezing. Quinn," he admonishes, a tiny smile forming on his face, and she buries her head against his chest and laughs against her will.
They're sitting in her car with Finn in the driver's seat, his hoodie wrapped snugly around her shoulders, zippered all the way up to the base of her throat. She breathes in the musky smell of him, lingering on his hoodie, in the air inside the car, as she looks across the console at his profile, illuminated by the lights glowing from the dashboard. She feels her throat tighten, and she quickly averts her eyes, blaming her trembling palms on the cold.
They're sitting in her car at the edge of the cliff overlooking the city, eating takeout from McDonald's; neither of them are saying very much, just sitting in companionable silence, and it's refreshing, almost peaceful.
"It's a good thing I didn't let you convince me to get some Taco Bell," she says finally, and he looks over at her with a twinkle in his eyes that makes her heart flutter.
"Taco Bell is awesome."
"So? It's still food. Good food."
She laughs, then smiles when he offers her his carton of fries that she declines with a shake of her head.
"So," he says, smiling at her a bit shyly. "um."
She knows he's going to bring it up eventually. "Yeah."
"Are you going to tell me what happened, or am I supposed to guess?"
Something about his tone reminds her of what Santana said that day she ran out of the choir room, and it triggers something in her, a twinge of annoyance. "I don't want to talk about it right now."
"Quinn." Finn sighs. "You show up at my house, hysterical, and you never even told me why. We never…talk about stuff."
"I don't want to talk about it right now," she repeats, looking out the window, fingers stiffening on her lap. She feels like a hypocrite, the way she refuses to share her feelings, when it's the very reason why she got mad at her mom in the first place. "You said you wouldn't force me to say anything to you."
"I know," he says. She can see his reflection in the windshield, and she hates the look on his face and what it's doing to her heart. "But Q…"
"I just – look, I really…like how we've been hanging out these past few days. I really do, and I've never realized how much I missed your big idiot ass until I came back. But I'm going back to New Haven in a couple of days and I don't plan on returning to Lima until the summer and nothing good will come out of this. We're just hanging out, no feelings attached whatsoever. I just…really need you to stay out of my life. Okay?"
There's silence in the car; she doesn't hear anything else but the way Finn's breathing and her own heart beating out a fast rhythm in her ears.
She looks at him. "What?"
He looks back at her, his eyes unreadable and serious. "I can't stay out of your life, okay? Why are you so intent on pushing people away from you?"
She takes a deep breath that holds all the feelings and fears she holds most dear to her heart, and averts her eyes. "I don't know."
He scoffs a little, surprising her, but he doesn't look away from her, not once. "I can't stay out of your life anymore, Quinn. Not after we're getting to know each other again. Not after we're finally friends the way we never were. I don't want us to screw this up, what we have right now. I care too much about you, okay? You can't make me stay away."
Quinn thinks he looks like he wants to take care of her again, and she kind of hates the way she doesn't want him to but wanting to admit that she can't do this alone all the same.
So, she doesn't say anything. Finn tucks a curl behind her ear and that triggers her tears, and she doesn't stop for a long time, lets everything that's weighing down her heart be lifted away in that solitary moment.
She wakes up at Santana's.
She splashes water on her face heads downstairs, hears Finn and Santana's voices floating from the we're they're having breakfast in the kitchen, discussing her quietly.
She hears Santana say, "I'm really worried about her. I don't…"
"Yeah," Finn says with a heavy sigh, "me, too."
She kind of cries because their concern for her is palpable and real; she hates how she's never even realized it because she keeps pushing them away from her, because she refuses to accept any help, because she refuses to do things any other way other than by herself.
They smile at her when she joins them, and she knows her own returning smile is sincere.
When Finn goes to his car to grab a hoodie, Santana turns to her with somber eyes.
"I'm not forcing you to tell me anything," Santana says without preamble, "but just know that I'm here for you, okay?"
She feels her heart being torn apart, leaving it open and exposed, leaving a painful lump in her throat that she desperately tries to swallow. "I hate you," she says, and she sees Santana's laugh vibrate throughout her body.
"I hate you, too," Santana says. "Don't cry on me now, Fabray, god."
She doesn't, but she hugs Santana for real for the first time since they fell apart.
Finn takes her for a road trip to Cleveland. He puts on good music and drives really slow, so she relaxes in the passenger seat and tries not to grip her seatbelt too hard, instead opting to focus her gaze on his face as he talks, tries to breathe.
They get there three hours later, and he parks at some random spot, taking out his phone and squinting at the screen as he consults his GPS. Quinn laughs at the confused look on his face, grabbing his phone from him and Googling where the best place to eat in the city is.
They're walking side by side, not really talking, not really touching, as she takes in the sights and sounds and colors of the vibrant city around her, and feels like she can breathe properly again for the first time in days.
His left arm nudges her right, and she looks up at him with a smile. "What?"
"It's nice, being here, isn't it? I wouldn't mind living here," he tells her, gesturing at the busy street. "It's still Ohio, but it doesn't feel like it's gonna swallow me up like New York does. It doesn't feel too big for me, you know?"
"It's not Lima. That's something."
"After this glee thing," he says, looking down at her with a thoughtful expression, "I think I'm going to try for college here. I think I wanna be like Mr. Schue; you know, study teaching and stuff."
"You would be good at that." He really will be, she really thinks so.
"It's just…I don't know. I know I have to move on with my life, but everything's so scary, you know? I don't want things to change yet. The way they are now. Like you guys being in Lima and everything. Being friends with you. Having dinner every night and stuff. It's nice. I still really like being with you."
She bites her lip a little, kicks at a pebble on the pavement, watches at it rolls and drops haphazardly in the middle of the street. "Why are you telling me all this?"
He shrugs, hitching up the zipper of his hoodie. "I don't know. I don't know who else to tell. I mean, aside from Puck, but it feels weird 'cause it's like he's got his life kind of figured out. Not totally, but I mean, he's not at a total loss anymore like he once was. And I just want to share things with you. This all feels so real, you know? What I'm feeling."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know," he says again, and she feels her heart beating loudly in her throat. "Too many things are happening. All at once. I'm feeling too many things at once. Do you feel like that sometimes?"
"Sometimes," she says after a beat. She doesn't say that sometimes she doesn't feel anything at all.
They go to Whole Foods because Finn gets a text from Carole to pick up a few things, and Quinn watches as Finn tries to race this five-year-old kid with his shopping cart. The little boy with a Captain America backpack is giggling as they push their carts down the aisle, and Quinn hurries after them, her purse swinging against her hip, hissing at Finn to stop or they'll get thrown out of the store.
Finn looks over his shoulder and grins at her, and she tries to deny that there are butterflies in her stomach, tries to ignore the way they're fluttering upwards towards her chest.
They're walking around the Historic Little Italy Museum, and she's watching his profile as he talks, even though she's barely listening and she's barely paying attention to the art. He glances down at her and his dimples deepen when he smiles, and everything comes tumbling out of her mouth before she can stop herself.
"I had a huge fight with my mom."
Finn stops mid-talk, stops walking altogether, and turns to stare at her. "What?"
She sighs, then proceeds to tell him everything.
"It's not your fault, Quinn," Finn says, as they sit on a bench outside the museum, eating ice cream cones from a street vendor. "It's not fair that your mom's holding you back. You came back here for her and she doesn't even want to get better, or take care of herself. For you and for herself. You know?"
"I know," she says. "But I still feel bad all the same. She fucked up, I fucked up. I shouldn't have told her all those things."
"It's actually…good, you know?" he says, looking down at their hands resting on the bench side by side, not really touching. "That you didn't shut yourself out from your mom."
There's a pause, then his hand reaches out, his fingers closing the spaces between hers. She doesn't find it strange or out-of-place anymore. It just seems so familiar, and it scares her how it doesn't really scare her at all.
He buys her dinner, and they talk about Yale on the drive back to Lima. She's so tired, from walking around the city, from visiting all those museums and parks and shit, from ripping her heart open and exposing it for Finn to see. She's so tired, but she doesn't want to go back to Lima yet. She doesn't want this day to end, even though she's literally sitting in the passenger seat of his truck with her eyes half-closed, her left hand sitting on the console, loosely tangled in his like it's completely natural and real.
"It's nice," Finn says, after her story about the all-female secret society on campus that tried to recruit her, "how you're talking about stuff so openly."
A shoulder lifts. "I kind of like college. I can breathe there, you know?"
His dimples appear again, and she has this strange urge to reach over and run a hand on the creases on his cheeks. "I'm really glad you're having a good time at Yale. I'm glad you're figuring things out. It's not easy, but you are. You deserve this, Quinn. Probably more than anybody I know."
She smiles a little, and she tightens her hold on his fingers, but she doesn't say a word.
"I've really liked hanging out with you these past few days," Finn continues. "This is probably the healthiest non-relationship we've ever had," and she laughs because he kinda has a point there. He looks at her and his smile is different, almost sad. "I'm really gonna miss you when you leave."
That stupid lump is in her throat again, her blood rushing in her ears. "I still have over a week left."
"I know," he says, "but it's not gonna be the same."
From my count, the next chapter will start with day 10 of Quinn's stay in Lima. I swear I never meant it to be this long! I think I underestimated my Finn/Quinn feels. There are two more chapters to go; my writing got a bit sidetracked because I'm currently on a Pitch Perfect-slash-Anna Kendrick kick (meh, I'm not even sorry).