Disclaimer: Not mine!
A/N For dirtypetrichor, as a belated birthday gift. Her request? "Quinn's a vampire and she takes care of an elderly Rachel who she's been with for decades."
"You have to get up, love," Quinn goads softly, words almost entirely lost in the fabric of Rachel's shirt where Quinn's lips move against her shoulder.
"Don' wanna," Rachel whines, and Quinn can't help but smile just a little.
"You've got to. You've got to walk if you want to keep walking; that's what the doctor said."
"Can't you just carry me like the freakishly strong person you are?" Rachel groans, but shifts to indicate that she wants Quinn to get off of her, and then puts out her hand to allow Quinn to haul her up.
Her legs shake and her steps are small, but she's still moving.
And even after over six decades together, Quinn's not even close to tired of watching her do it.
Quinn still doesn't remember being bitten. She remembers the camping trip, the party in the woods, wandering away from the tents searching for cell service because she'd wanted to call Rachel… and then nothing. Nothing until the next morning, when the sun almost killed her and she found a cave just in time.
Sometimes she wonders if it would have been better if she'd turned to ash that first day. Or if she'd wandered off on her own and accepted her new existence instead of slowly, agonizingly making her way to New York. If she's learned anything from her life, it's that Rachel doesn't need her, but—the thought of trading the memories they've made, of getting to see Rachel succeed… it's too much to sacrifice, even if it would be for the best.
Quinn's always been selfish that way.
The first few months were hard. Learning to control the thirst was one thing, but having to watch Rachel go through an artificial mourning process for the girlfriend she knew wasn't dead, while experiencing a very real mourning for their relationship as they knew it? That was hard. Having to hear about her own funeral secondhand was worse.
But trying to find the strength to say no the first time Rachel asked to be turned? That was the hardest of all, because god she wanted to. Had wanted to from the first time she saw Rachel after the transformation, and had smelled the blood flowing through her veins.
She'd already wanted to have forever with Rachel. Having it actually asked of her… well. The fact that she wanted it so badly is what ultimately made her decide it was wrong. And at least there was that. The fact that she could trust herself to be selfish, and try and fight against it.
Rachel wasn't quite so understanding.
"It's my choice, Quinn!"
"No, it's not your choice. Your choice is Broadway, and you made it long ago. Performing is your everything, and you haven't even had a chance to taste it yet. How many actresses do you know who never change? Who can't go to daytime rehearsals or walk the red carpet or attend any kind of eating function? You have a life to look forward to, Rachel. I'm not going to take that from you. Please don't ask me again."
"This isn't up for discussion, Rachel. My fangs, my curse, my decision."
"Teeth," Rachel said again, more clearly this time. "You have a condition, not a curse, and those are teeth, not fangs. I'm not afraid of you, Quinn."
Caught somewhere between you should and why not? and I am, Quinn had been unable to say anything at all.
Rachel never gave up on her vegan lifestyle, so really, she's incredibly healthy for her age, but—the human body can only do so much. Her heart is fine and her cholesterol is good, but slowly things start to fail on her. Her knees, her muscles… even her memory, a little, though she insists that it's just the fact that Quinn's always the same no matter what decade she'd been trying to think of that throws her off.
It scares Quinn to death.
They never found a way to end the fight over Rachel's humanity. So instead they made a deal: if Rachel didn't get cast in a show by her twenty-fifth birthday, Quinn would turn her.
But then she did. Again, and again, and again.
Barely four months out of college it was an off-Broadway revival of Assassins, as Squeaky Fromme. Then it was an on-Broadway revival of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. ("You'll notice, Quinn, that I obtained both of these roles due to my slight build and youthful visage. Those will leave me with time unless you do something about it." "No one is supposed to play the child or the ingénue forever. All actors age; roles change. Let's just see what happens, okay?")
By the time her twenty-fifth birthday actually rolled around, Rachel was deep into rehearsals for The Fault In Our Stars: The Musical to originate the role of Hazel for the Broadway stage. The themes of the script weren't lost on either her or Quinn, but in all honesty, Rachel's intimate acquaintance with love, death and the ephemeral nature of human existence made her perfect for the part. Critics raved about how visceral Rachel's interpretation of the character was, how weary yet emotionally accessible. How raw.
That following spring she won her first Tony for it, and it was time for another serious talk.
"Your career is on fire, Rach; if you think I'm going to ruin that for you, then you've got another thing coming."
"I wasn't going to ask you to, but we both know this is a flash in the pan. I'm a big name right now, yes, but—I may not always be. Careers can dry up just as quickly as they can get started."
"What are you saying?"
"Thirty. If I'm not working when I'm thirty, I want to."
"We're already starting to get looks when we go out together. On the rare occasions when we go out together, I should say, because we have to keep you away from cameras. How much older can I get before we have to stop being seen together at all? You're already dead to our friends, you never got a chance to make new ones, and I don't… I hate this. I hate doing this to you. Keeping you here all day, coming home to you because home is all you have. You deserve to be more than my dirty little secret, Quinn."
"Oh my god, I'm not having that fight with you again. For the last time: I'm happy to stay in the apartment. It keeps me safe, and it keeps other people safe from me. Of course I wish things could be different, Rachel, but they never will be and I've made peace with that. So what's this really about?"
It came out a desperate sob: "How long before you stop wanting me?"
"What?" Quinn had gasped, sure she'd misheard, because—what?
"Look at us, Quinn. It—it's okay now, when I'm still relatively young and can keep myself fit. When we can still pass. But you've always been the more beautiful of the two of us, by far, and what's going to happen in ten years when my hips get wider and my breasts start to sag and you could have anyone? You're dead, Quinn. You could walk away from me and have anyone. Be anyone."
"Is that really what you think of me?" Quinn had asked, unable to contain her hurt, but then Rachel had started crying in earnest and all Quinn could do was hold her and tell her the truth. "This was never about me having someone, Rachel. It's about me having you. Wanting you. I always have. I understand what you're saying, but that's not me. If that were me I'd have let you think I was dead, just like everyone else. But when I woke up that first day, all I could think of was you. Of getting to you, of being with you, of letting you know I was okay—even if only so you could turn around and convince me of the same. And that's what you did, because you're amazing. Where else would I ever find someone with your patience, or your kindness? And even if I could, why would I want to look?"
"Because I'm not perfect," Rachel had blubbered, calmer but more morose. "I love you for saying those things, and I believe you when you say them, but I'm not enough for you. Not like this, when we're so different. You can't be like me anymore, but maybe if I were like you we could—"
"Stop. Please stop. I… if I promised to try and go out more somehow, to do more than just wait around for you, would you drop this?"
"I will. Until thirty, I will."
Quinn didn't like it, but it was enough.
One night, she feels Rachel's eyes on her, and when she looks up, there are tears swimming in brown irises.
"What? What is it? Does something hurt?"
"No, it's just—" Rachel tries to smile, but it's watery and heartbroken. "When I'm gone, who's going to take care of you?"
Quinn lets out a choking sound somewhere between a sob and a laugh, because—god. Good question.
Anyone else would look at them—Rachel using her cane now, even on camera, and next to her a spry, youthful constant companion—and think that Quinn was the clear caregiver in their relationship.
They know better.
She was true to her word, when she promised Rachel she'd, well. Get a life. (Figuratively.) The thing about never sleeping and being unable to go outside during the day is that it gives you a lot of downtime. And once Quinn set her mind to it, it wasn't hard to find some hobbies and build a life for herself online.
She actually found a community for people like her—people who tried to work around their thirst as she did, who wanted to remain who they were in life. It wasn't hard once she figured out where to look. And while she didn't exactly make friends, it was on such a forum that she got an idea on a whole new way to feed: not just preying upon the lowlifes and thugs as a makeshift vigilante as she had been, but by offering to pay homeless people for a trade. A drink for some cash, or shoes, or a place to stay. It's still not something she's proud of, but it beat hunting any day.
As for where she got that money… well. She'd gotten excellent at online poker, and she had a very popular Etsy shop. There are plenty of ways to make money without ever having to show your face to the sun, she found.
Best of all, though, was the workaround she discovered for being pent up all the time, and having to sneak around on the few times she and Rachel did risk going out in public. Once it occurred to her she wanted to kick herself for not thinking of it sooner; in hindsight, it seemed so obvious: when you have the time and the resources to become an expert in anything, why wouldn't you become an expert in prosthetic makeup?
Overnight, Broadway sensation Rachel Berry went from perpetual bachelorette to serial dater.
No one had to know that all of her flings were the same person, under several layers of silicone, foam latex and airbrushed paint.
They never forgot their agreement about Rachel's career, but then, Rachel never stopped working. Sure, there were a few lulls here and there, but she always used those to visit her fathers, or to record in the studio—sometimes singing songs Quinn herself composed during her many free hours.
It's an evolution, just as Quinn said it would be. When she gets too old to play the love interest she starts playing the young mom, and then the old mom, and now here they are: Rachel's just wrapped a sitcom where she's played the raunchy grandmother for five years. She's been a beloved staple of American pop culture for decades—the kind of career and ubiquity at an old age only Betty White had experienced before.
But Rachel's pushing ninety, now, and no one lives forever.
Well. No one but Quinn.
Not being able to attend Rachel's funeral hurts so much worse than not being able to attend her own did.
She looks around at the kitchen she will never set foot in after today, because she obviously can't stay here anymore. The only tenant anyone knows about is gone. She takes in the magnets on the fridge, the art she painted herself, the mahogany furniture Rachel had been terrified to buy because "what if you tripped and fell and dusted yourself?"
She's never known her own strength, other than knowing it's greater than any human's has a right to be, but the way the heavy, hand-crafted furniture shatters like matchsticks under her fists is… unexpected.
The relief that fucking hitting something brings is not.
She stares at the jagged edges of wood now surrounding her. She thinks about options. She thinks of one of Rachel's staff members coming in and finding this—a ransacked kitchen and… and a pile of dust on the floor.
She thinks about Rachel.
She thinks about Rachel at fifteen, in those awful animal sweaters and penny loafers. She thinks of Rachel at thirty-seven, when she got that pixie cut that she'd hated because she thought it emphasized her nose, and Quinn loved, because it did. She thinks of Rachel at fifty-four when her Daddy had a heart attack, and of Rachel at sixty-one when her Dad died of cancer. She thinks of Rachel at nineteen, telling Quinn she was in love with her.
She thinks of Rachel, and she thinks of eternity, and she closes her eyes.
There's this old Jewish saying, Rachel told her once, when they were talking about religion on the phone one night oh, so long ago now. Rachel at NYADA and Quinn at Yale. A different life. They say you're supposed to keep two slips of paper in your pocket at all times. The first says "for me the universe was created." And the second says "I am but dust and ashes." The idea is, everyone needs to find their own personal balance between the two, and you take out whichever one you need to hear most at any given time.
I dunno. Sounds like I'm one and you're the other, Quinn had joked.
Maybe that's why we're so perfect together, Rachel had said.
Maybe there was something do that, after all.
And if all Quinn has ever been is dust and ashes, then this is no kind of a death at all.