Rachel breathed in the warm curve of Brody's neck, his own hot breath warm against the top of her head. He hummed and pulled her in closer with the arm wrapped around her without opening his eyes. She squirmed slightly until she fell comfortably into his side, and they were still. It had to be near three in the morning, but she could still hear voices shouting in the street below, the errant firework shooting off down the street. Probably a firework, anyway; it didn't sound quite like a gunshot. Rachel sort-of smiled to herself—she never thought she'd see the day when she could almost tell the two apart.
She traced shapes on his chest through the sheet, feeling it rise and fall gently. She could feel his heart beat beneath her fingertip. She hated him for it.
Quinn stared up at the ceiling fan whirring silently overhead, so slowly she could pick out individual fan blades and follow them in dizzying rotations. The apartment was uncomfortably stuffy, despite the deep freeze falling over New Haven, and she hung one leg off the side of the bed, skimming her toes along the cold wood floors beneath. The other half of the bed was weighed down by The Professor, his dark, tousled hair half-obscuring his sleeping face. He had a name, but tonight he just felt more like The Professor, glasses sitting askew on the edge of his pillow, desk on the far side of the room covered in stacks of half-read books, lecture notes, and graded finals he had yet to get rid of.
The middle of the bed was cold, and she felt like they were like bookends, holding straight the empty stories between them. She understood why his wife had stopped touching him years ago. She took a deep, steadying breath and brought the weight of her foot down solidly on the ground next to them, shifting herself towards the edge of the bed. Predictably, he did not stir. He was half-asleep even when he was awake; of course he wouldn't wake up now. Two glasses of chardonnay had been the extent of his New Year's Eve celebrations.
"Downtown? Why on earth would you want to do that?" he asked when Quinn proposed the idea at dinner, peering over his glasses at her. She shrugged, feeling small.
"I don't know, just to see what's going on," she said. He gave her a look of mirth mingled with distaste as he drained the last of his glass.
"Nothing worth our time, Quinn," he said airily, in his way that always seemed to know more about the world than she did. At first she had found it admirable, secure even; now it made her feel very much patronized, and irrationally angry. "It's juvenile, really." Nope, that made her feel irrationally angry, that word. Next to 'irrational', 'juvenile' was the one word he could say that could boil her blood in under a minute.
If she wasn't being irrational, she was being juvenile, it was always one or the other with him. But you keep me young, he simpered, leaning in to kiss her temple as he took her plate to the sink. She was nineteen, she wasn't exactly sure what of her thoughts and feelings wouldn't be juvenile to a man old enough to remember the Challenger explosion, vividly.
She swung her other leg off the edge and touched down on the ground soundlessly. She stepped over his pants on the way to the door, and left them there. Once upon a time she might have picked them up, folded them smooth, and hung them over the back of the chair. Tonight she was content to leave them. Him. Them.
"Hmm?" Brody murmured, half in question, half in protest, as Rachel extricated herself from his grip. Damn it. He was a notoriously light sleeper, but she thought a six pack might have dulled his senses a little.
"Glass of water," she whispered. He hummed in pleasant confirmation and rolled into the warm place in the bed that she had just vacated. She was quite certain that by the time she made it into the kitchen, he was already asleep again.
It was only an hour ago that they had left the party full of Broadway hopefuls and drunkenly stumbled back home, but Rachel already felt completely clear-headed, as if the party had been hours ago, or days. Or years. She ran frigid water into a glass, and found it so cold she could not drink it. She set the glass down and sat in one of the tall, spindly-legged chairs standing at the new dinette set Brody had bought her for Christmas. It was too much, she said, but he assured her that it was as much a gift for him as for her and Kurt—he was tired of eating take-out on the floor.
Kurt wasn't home yet—she was glad to see he was out having a good time, not home pining over Blaine. The clock over the stove read 3:29—three and a half hours into the new year. Rachel was never one to make resolutions; if she wanted to change something, she would change it right away, she didn't need a new year as an excuse. At least, that's how she had always been. That's how she thought she was. She stared at the cracked bedroom door like it pained her. Sometimes Rachel felt like she wasn't the person she used to be, and not necessarily in a good way. Somewhere along the line she was afraid she might have traded passion for security, and now did not know where to find either.
Quinn lied. She had used her train pass three times since moving to New Haven. Rachel had been to visit twice. That made five encounters in almost as many months.
The first time had been awkward but ultimately good, as they had ended the last night of their long weekend by getting egregiously drunk and sharing (safe) secrets like middle school girls. The second time Rachel took her to a Broadway show, and Quinn told her something to the effect that in five years' time, she expected to be watching Rachel on a stage like that. She blushed furiously, and they spent a late evening in the park, drinking coffee and sitting so close their cold, white breath mingled. Rachel took Quinn's arm in the crook of her own, and despite the settling autumn frost, she felt very, very warm.
The third time they went to Luck & Levity, had too much craft beer with fake IDs, and Quinn found out that she wasn't the only one who had the feeling that Finn was not the cause of their querulous relationship in high school, and that perhaps he was more in the way than anything. That was shortly before Halloween. They did not see each other at all during the month of November, which Quinn had spent mostly convincing herself that The Professor did not make her nearly as miserable as she had previously thought, and she definitely did not have feelings for Rachel Berry.
The fourth and fifth time had both occurred during the month of December. The stress of finals had not been enough to prevent two long weekend trips, during which Quinn found out three things. One, Rachel has a multitude of exceptional talents stemming from her mouth. Two, Kurt doesn't knock. Three, Brody is a really, really nice guy. So nice it hurt. It had been two weeks since her last visit, during which Brody had generously suggested the four of them go out to dinner, an end-of-semester treat. He and Rachel sat on one side of the booth, and Quinn and Kurt awkwardly filled up the other.
Quinn left New York after two long hours of staring at Brody's stupidly happy face, and Rachel's fake stupidly happy face, her insides gnawed by an acidic mix of guilt and anger. Guilt that she had played a role in Rachel's infidelity (and, with a lesser degree of guilt, her own), and anger that Brody was clearly not going anywhere. She knew it was irrational—there was that damn word again—for her to be angry, with Rachel or Brody, but she was. Rachel had not attempted to contact her since that night, and neither had she made any attempt. Two weeks had passed between them in silence. Tense, palpable, crackling radio silence.
Rachel read through her old text messages, an indulgence she allowed herself whenever Brody wasn't around to look over her shoulder. It had been two weeks, but it seemed simultaneously as if months and only moments had passed since the last time they spoke. Her sense of time was off lately. The party was years past, she had seen Ohio so long ago it was with different eyes, and Quinn was only a memory. The taste of her, however, was still on Rachel's tongue. She sipped her water, cringed at the cold on her teeth, and sighed through her nose.
She could just call her, or text her, or send a carrier pigeon. Something. Rachel had never been shy about initiating contact before. She had hunted Quinn down for plenty of glee club rehearsals in the past, after all. But that was different, years ago. Literal years ago. Quinn probably didn't want to hear from her anyway, not after Brody's disastrous dinner.
Quinn's skin was still hot beneath her touch—drawing lazy whirls and cryptic messages over her bare shoulder—when Rachel's phone rang. She thought about ignoring it, but then thought it would further the image of normalcy if she actually did answer. It wasn't like her to ignore phone calls, especially not during the time of the day she would only be doing yoga anyway. She could stand to be less predictable. Quinn turned her gaze up and rested her chin on her hand as she watched Rachel talk on the phone, blonde hair tousled and face nondescript. Rachel kept her eyes trained on Quinn's while she talked, trying to read something there but unable to. Quinn had never been an open book, this was no exception. She did not look angry, or confused, or hurt, or any of the things Rachel expected to find hiding in the golden-green flecks as she lied blatantly to her now-boyfriend. Nothing.
"Now? I'm kind of busy…" she trailed off, waiting for Quinn to smile, or frown, or roll away in a huff. Blank. "With what? Oh, well, Quinn came this weekend! Yeah, fun… yeah, I know, right? Two weeks in a row. Crazy, right… Yeah, just, uh, just got home from that little coffee place down the block, you know the one. Mhmm, just hanging out. … Dinner? Well, no, we don't have any plans yet…" Rachel did feel Quinn's shoulder tighten beneath her fingertip, but her face was still untouched snow. "I think Kurt is free too, yeah. Seven? Okay, I'll check with her, but I'm sure it'll be fine. Okay, we'll see you then. Alright, bye."
Rachel had fumbled her way through the rest of the evening just as spectacularly. While Brody regaled them with tales of his off-Broadway gig, Rachel smiled and laughed in all the right places, eyes flitting back and forth between Brody's jawline and Quinn's eyes. Kurt, seated catty-corner from Rachel, watched her carefully, like she might flip and spill everything right in the middle of Brody's story. He was still a little scarred from having walked in on them, but was handling the shifting dynamic surprisingly well.
When Brody leaned in and kissed Rachel's cheek, she smiled and turned a fraction, before changing her mind and turning the other way, pecking him on the lips. It was only then that Quinn gave any indication of how the entire situation made her feel—she looked down at her lap, front teeth tugging at her lip for just a moment. The look flitted across her face for just a moment, barely perceptible, but Rachel had learned over three years that those half-second flashes might be all you would get out of Quinn if she was holding herself back. It was enough. Rachel did not finish her meal, and when Brody inquired thoughtfully, she blamed it on heartburn.
"Oh, from the coffee earlier?" he asked. Rachel gave him a confused look.
"When you and Quinn got coffee earlier, is that it?" he asked. Rachel opened and closed her mouth silently like a fish out of water, until a smooth voice from across the table cut in for her.
"Probably," Quinn said with a small nod. "I'm not feeling great either, actually. When it sits for too long, it becomes more acidic, ground coffee beans. I guess that's what we get for having it on an empty stomach, huh?" she offered, and Brody nodded with concern.
"That's interesting, you know, I didn't know that about coffee," he said. "I guess you would know, though! Rachel says you're really big on artisan coffee, and craft beer, too. What was that place you went to in New Haven, hon?" he asked, directing the question to Rachel.
"Luck & Levity," Quinn answered for her, and Rachel's chest ached. She could see it in Quinn's smile, the lift of her chin, the way she drew her shoulders back and sat up a little in her seat. It was her cotillion face, the one she slid safely into when her real skin felt too tight, like it might rip. "It's one of the best craft beer stores in New Haven. Probably all of Connecticut, really. You should take him, next time you're up. John loves it." Quinn dropped The Professor's name, and said with her eyes what she could not say with her mouth. Rachel pressed her lips together.
"Well, gosh, it's getting late, isn't it?" Kurt interjected, hearing the ticking bomb underfoot as loudly as Quinn and Rachel did.
"It is," Quinn agreed. "I still have to catch the late train back."
"Are you sure you don't want to stay another night?" Brody asked. "Maybe you should, if you're not feeling so well." Quinn shook her head.
"No, no, I'm fine," she said. "I'll just grab a tea on my way out, it'll settle my stomach, I'm sure. I have an exam review tomorrow, can't miss it." The finality in her tone did not escape Rachel. They paid and left, and aside from an uncomfortable half-hug when Quinn left, that was the last time they spoke.
Quinn put the kettle on and leaned against the opposite counter while she waited for it to boil. Something about a watched pot crossed her mind, but she had other things there, so it did not linger. She saw her phone screen light up at the end of the counter out of the corner of her eye, and she jumped for it a little too quickly. She mentally reprimanded herself, which was quickly followed by disappointment when she saw that it was only Santana, wishing her a happy new year.
She could just call Rachel. Maybe she should. But she probably shouldn't. The dinner with Brody had only made clear what she already knew—that Rachel and Brody were very happy together, and Quinn had no place wanting anything else for either of them. One of her greater talents in high school had been breaking up couples, especially those involving Rachel, which was really not so ironic when she thought about it in hindsight. She didn't want to keep being that girl anymore, the one who wedged herself between happy people, spreading her own incapacity for contentment like a virus.
If Rachel was happy with Brody, then that was that. Why did she ever let herself think, even for a moment, that something might happen between them? It was nothing more than a fantasy, a dream, a brief indulgence in an otherwise non-fantastical life. It was… irrational, for her to think it could be anything more than that. Juvenile, even. She swallowed down a bad taste in the back of her mouth and turned off the burner as steam poured out of the kettle spout.
There was absolutely no point in calling her. It was late, anyway. She was probably out at a fancy Broadway party with Brody, or christening somebody's futon. Or asleep. Her stomach flopped at the idea of Rachel turning over in bed to pick up her phone, wrapped up in Brody's arms, only to see that it was Quinn on the other line. She poured boiling water into her mug rather more aggressively than necessary, and splashed some out onto her arm. She gasped and bit her lip, willing herself not to yelp in pain, lest she wake The Professor. That was truly the last thing she wanted right now.
Rachel scrolled up and down through her phone contacts, curled up under a throw on the couch and scrunching her nose. Calling her at almost four in the morning would just be stupid. She's partying with her Yale friends downtown, or fraternizing with her professor boyfriend at some high-end faculty soiree. Or asleep. Rachel cringed at the thought of Quinn reaching for her phone in the middle of the night, and seeing it was Rachel, and assuring him that it was just a friend from high school. Quinn had a new life in New Haven, and even if Rachel wasn't dating Brody, what place did she have there anyway?
It was almost four. Maybe she should just put her phone somewhere it couldn't harass her and go back to bed. But honestly, going back to bed with Brody was the last thing she wanted right now. She would rather go disturb Kurt's throw pillows and fresh sheets and apologize in the morning, or maybe just stay here and shiver under the thin fleece throw until she fell asleep. The more she breathed in Brody's scent, the more acutely aware she was that he was not Quinn. The more he touched her, the more she felt the difference between them, and the more she knew which one she preferred. It was just too much right now.
Quinn stepped out onto the balcony with her tea, shivering in her thin tights and one of The Professor's sweaters, two sizes too big for her. It was frigid outside, but better than the stuffy, humid interior of the apartment. The air smelled like frost and fireworks. Like a revolution.
Oh for God's sake, she thought to herself, picking up her phone and scrolling down to the R's. Before she could lose her nerve, she hit dial. She leaned against the wrought iron guard rails, so cold they hurt to touch, and felt her stomach clench with each consecutive ring. After four, just when she thought the voicemail would pick up, there was a jump on the other line and the sound of fumbling, and then, Rachel.
"Uh, hi," Quinn said, suddenly struck stupid and unable to remember why she was calling in the first place.
"Hi," Rachel said back, sounding breathy and quiet, as if trying to be discreet.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Quinn said, suddenly nervous and excruciatingly self-aware. Rachel shook her head, sinking down into the couch cushions and pulling the blanket up over her face.
"No, you're not," she said. "I was just… well, I'm just up. Happy New Year!"
"Happy New Year to you, too," Quinn said, and Rachel could hear the smile on her voice. "I wasn't sure if I should call or not, I didn't want to interrupt anything, or wake you up."
"You aren't, interrupting I mean," Rachel assured. "I thought about calling you, too," she added in a smaller voice.
"Yeah?" Quinn said, holding her phone against her shoulder with her chin as she rubbed her arms vigorously with her hands, trying in vain to ward off the cold. "I thought you'd be out with some of your NYADA friends, or Brody's Broadway people." Quinn hated the way Brody's name fell off her tongue like a lead weight, and she immediately regretted saying it at all.
"No," Rachel said. "Well, we went out earlier, but it really wasn't any fun." She wasn't lying, it hadn't been much fun, not when she was so preoccupied for most of the night. Even drunk she had not been able to shake the thoughts that constantly tugged at the edges of her brain. "How about you? I thought you'd be with, er, John?" Rachel guessed at his name. Quinn laughed, with more derision than she meant to.
"He's not much of a partier," Quinn admitted. "He's asleep. I'm just… preoccupied, you know."
"I know. Brody, too," Rachel said. They were silent for a moment, and Rachel did know, exactly. Quinn took in a breath that Rachel could hear from the other end of the line.
"Okay, well, uh, I won't keep you up," she said. "I just wanted to say hi, wish you a happy new year. I hadn't talked to you in a little while."
"I'm glad you did," Rachel said, honestly not wanting to get off the phone at all, but not wanting to make it any more awkward than it already was. Then, deciding that she had unequivocally run out of fucks to give, she added, "I've missed you." Despite the fact that the tips of her fingers were numb, Quinn suddenly felt very warm.
"I miss you, too," she almost whispered, looking up, and though her voice was tiny, her hot, white breath was quite visible against the black sky. There was another moment of silence as they both smiled, and then Rachel spoke.
"Hey, what are you doing this weekend?" she asked tentatively. "I mean, if you're busy I totally understand. I just thought, maybe since break is about to be over…"
"I'm free," Quinn said quickly. "Do you want to come up, or…?"
"Yeah, I would," Rachel decided. "I need some space, some air."
"That sounds great," Quinn said. "We can talk about it tomorrow, maybe?"
"Yeah," Rachel agreed. "Tomorrow, that sounds good. I'll call you?"
"Okay," Quinn said.
"Okay," Rachel repeated, and for the first time in a while, she actually felt like it was. "Well, I'll let you go then. I'll talk to you tomorrow. Happy New Year, Quinn."
"Happy New Year to you too, Rach," she said. "Bye."
"Bye." They both hung on the line for a quiet moment, and then Quinn finally hung up.
Rachel pressed the phone to her chest and smiled, shaking her head a little. She got up and tip-toed across the creaky wood floors to Kurt's bedroom, leaving the water on the table and the blanket bunched up on the couch. She threw his tasseled decorative pillows on the floor and snuggled up in his fresh, pristine lilac sheets. He would simply have to get over it and forgive her. She knew he would understand. There were a lot of changes about to be made, if her resolve stuck, sheets being the least of them. And she knew her resolve would stick. She didn't need a new year to know that.
Quinn let herself back into the apartment, which now felt much more hospitable after fifteen minutes out in the cold with very little in the way of outerwear. She set her mug in the sink, and found a pad of paper and pen on the coffee table. She leaned back into the rich leather recliner and began to write, despite the fact that it was past four in the morning and her eyes were bleary. She had something to say, and she would be quick about it. It only took half a page, which she left on the kitchen counter.
She crept back into his bedroom and gathered her clothes up off the floor, leaving his sweater crumpled up in a pile on the floor with his other clothes. He did not so much as turn over as she dressed. She left without a word, twisting the lock behind her and pulling it with a heavy, satisfying click. Maybe irrational and juvenile wasn't so bad after all.
Happy New Year, indeed.
A/N: Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2013 is filled with wonderful things for all of you... and maybe a little revolution of your own. :) Let me know what you think!