Chapter Nine: The Comfort of Friendship

I woke up to the quiet sounds of gentle sobs and sniffles. I reached up to rub at my eyes, hissing a bit in pain as they stung and throbbed from the tears I'd shed. I blinked rapidly to try and bring the room into focus as the beeping sounds of Rachel's monitors spilled into my ears to layer atop the sobs that I had yet to identify, and the steady beeping quickly reminded me where I was. My reality slammed into me all over again with that realization—hospital…attack…rape…Rachel. Rachel. Rachel.

The room was darker, but light still streamed in from the hallway through the open door. I looked down to see that I was still in Rachel's hospital bed, only now I was nestled into her side, her head resting gently atop my shoulder. The sight made my heart explode in my chest and I suddenly had the urge to run my fingers through her long, dark hair but I resisted as I quickly realized that the sobs I had heard weren't coming from her. She was still soundly asleep, so after taking in the sight of her a moment longer and letting myself feel relieved by the peace that decorated her features in that moment, I finally looked away and that's when I discovered the source of the crying.

I turned to my left and my stinging eyes landed on ruffled and familiar blonde locks. Quinn was curled into a chair just next to Rachel's bed. She was bent over, her face pressed into her hands and her head resting against her knees, trying desperately to lessen the volume of her crying. I could see her body shaking with every sob as she wept into her hands, and seeing her that way made my chest feel tight and constricted. My throat burned fiercely as I swallowed and forced myself to move.

I slowly and quietly lifted myself up, carefully moving Rachel's head from my chest to lay it back against her pillow before I carefully slipped off of her hospital bed. When I gently rested my hand on Quinn's back, I heard her breath hitch, but she didn't lift her head. She only cried harder, and so I just acted without really thinking. I bent down, wrapping my hands around her shoulders and pulled her up just long enough to get her out of the chair. I then quickly took her place, settling down into the surprisingly comfortable chair and sighed at the warmth that still lingered in the seat before pulling Quinn back down with me. She dropped into my lap and I carefully hooked an arm under her knees and pulled her legs up into the chair, too. She curled up into a ball in my lap, her hands digging into my shirt and her head burrowing against my shoulder and into my neck.

I didn't really even think about what I was doing. I just followed my instincts, trying to give my best friend what I thought she might need in that moment, what I knew I would want if the roles were reversed. Sometimes, the world could just make you feel so fucking small. When things got scary or hard or just plain horrible, it only felt natural to revert back to childhood, to crave the closeness and comfort of crawling into someone's lap like a damn toddler and just letting yourself be held. Sometimes, it was the only thing that helped.

I rested my head on top of hers and rubbed small circles into her back as she sobbed in my neck. I did my best to rock her back and forth as I felt the wet heat of her tears soak into my shirt and into my flesh, and though I had no fucking clue what to say, I tried anyway. "I've got you," I whispered because I just wanted her to know that I did, that she wasn't alone, and that we would all get through this together, or at least I hoped we would. I don't know when the hell I became the comforter as opposed to the one being comforted, but I knew that Quinn needed this, needed me just like I had needed her before.

Her fist clenched, digging further into my shirt as my words drifted into her ears and reminded her that it was okay to cry, it was okay for her to not be everyone else's strength for once. Quinn had had to grow up so fucking early that it was like she'd forgotten that she, too, was still just a kid, that she was allowed to scared; that she was allowed to cry or to scream or to do whatever she needed, so I just tried to remind her that she could. She was allowed to not be okay, to just be broken like the rest of us.

As she continued to sob into my neck and I continued to rock and soothe her, I glanced up and over to Rachel's bed and I nearly yelped in surprise as I saw her wide, chocolate eyes locked onto me through the shadows of her hospital room. She didn't say anything and she didn't move, just watching me as I securely held and comforted our best friend in the dark. We stared into each other for a long time, and it was like her eyes were trying to dig into me, trying to move past the surface and down into my soul. It was working, because I swear I could feel her in there, in my soul, stirring around and igniting a wild fluttering in my chest.

We stayed that way for what felt like hours before I saw Rachel's eyes slowly close again and that was when I realized that Quinn was finally quiet and was moving in my arms. I shook my head quickly and looked down just as Quinn was lifting her head and adjusting so that she was now sitting up but still securely in my lap. She swiped her hands across her cheeks, chin, and neck to brush away the tracks of her tears and a heavy, heart-wrenching sigh stuttered across her lips when she turned to look at me. I ran a hand through her disheveled, blonde locks, and she smiled sadly at me.

"I was wondering when you were going to let go," I whispered to her, unsure of whether or not I should try to talk to her about what she was feeling, but deciding to try anyway just in case it was, in fact, the best thing to do.

I wasn't as heartless as everyone always thought I was, but it was certainly no secret that this, all of this….feelings…they weren't my thing. I didn't really know how to navigate through my own, let alone someone else's, but for Quinn and for Rachel, I would try. They were the most important people in my life now, and I wasn't going to fuck that up by failing them when they both needed me.

She shrugged her shoulders and somehow still managed to make it look graceful in that strange ballerina way that Quinn had somehow always had about her, even when she was pregnant, and I almost laughed as that thought spilled through my head. Anything even remotely familiar just felt so fucking good in that moment. I wanted to latch onto the sarcastic bitch in my head and let the familiarity of it comfort me, but instead, I pushed aside my own need to fall back on my old, defensive habits, and just continued to be the supportive best friend that Quinn needed me to be right then. "I was just trying to be—" she started, but I quickly cut her off.

"Strong," I finished for her. "Yeah, I know, but you don't always have to be, Q." I swallowed thickly before saying, "If you need to cry, just cry. I'll be here."

We stared at each other for a long moment, both of us communicating in that silent way that'd we always been able to, and I could see in her eyes what she was trying to say to me. Thank you. I kept my gaze locked with hers and nodded subtly. You're welcome.

We stayed that way for a long time, just broken and together and surrounded by only the sounds of Rachel's deep breathing and the monitors beeping steadily before I quietly asked, "What time is it?"

Quinn squinted down at the watch on her wrist, trying to read it through the slight shadows of the windowless room. "Close to 9 AM," she told me and I sighed heavily as exhaustion gnawed at my fucking bones and I just wanted to crawl back into Rachel's bed and go back to sleep. "I came down here about an hour after you left the waiting room and you were both asleep, so a nurse brought me a small chair so that I could stay with you guys. Rachel's dads were here for a while too, but they left a little over an hour ago. They were going to NYADA to talk to Rachel's teachers and get her some time off."

"Oh," I said quietly, nodding as she continued to speak, her raspy voice like a lullaby that only made me more desperate for sleep.

"Yeah," she said. "Rachel woke up not too long after I got here because she was in pain. I called the nurse in to give her some more morphine or whatever, and the nurse was going to wake you up. She said that it'd be better if you weren't in the bed with Rachel because her wounds were still really fresh and there was a chance that too much movement could rip her stitches, but Rachel practically bit her head off and told her to leave you alone."

My eyes instantly locked with Quinn's at those words and I couldn't help the fluttering that ignited again in my chest as I whispered, "Really?"

Q smiled softly at me and nodded, and then she actually laughed a bit which was like sweet fucking music to my ears because I had been feeling like none of us would ever laugh again. "Yeah, she was pretty scary," she said, and we both laughed at that. Oh god, that felt good. Laughing…and not just laughing, but laughing with my best friend—it was the best feeling I'd had in hours, and I was so thankful for it that my laughter nearly dissolved into tears as the gratitude and the reprieve of that moment swelled in my chest and in my heart. "Her HBIC glare was almost scarier than mine."

We laughed harder at that and it was like we were suddenly possessed, because we just lost it and starting cracking up uncontrollably. I didn't have a clue what was happening and it didn't seem like Quinn did either, but neither of us cared in that moment, because it just felt too good, like for just a few minutes the weight of the world had finally been lifted from our shoulders; like we were breathing for the first time in years.

Quinn then turned and locked eyes with me, snapping on that glare that I'd seen a thousand times before in high school, and in her best (and surprisingly accurate) imitation of Rachel, she cleared her throat and said, "You will not touch Santana, nor will you move her. While she was not wounded, she still requires just as much rest as I, and if she chooses to acquire that rest while surrounded by the comfort of a friend, then neither you nor I are going to deny her that choice. Surely as a medical professional, you are aware that over-exhaustion and lack of sleep can lead to severe health issues and even depression, and surely, you would not, as a medical professional, wish such hardship on anyone; so perhaps you should simply provide me with the pain medication I require and allow us to continue resting. Oh, and my friend Quinn, here, requires a more comfortable chair if you wouldn't mind providing that as well."

"…or something like that," she finished and by that point, I was laughing so hard that my ribs were screaming in pain. Q had lost it as soon as she'd finished speaking and was now gasping for air between rounds of laughter. She leaned into me and I wrapped an arm around her back as we wheezed and giggled and just let ourselves be free of our pain for a few glorious moments. It was beautiful, and it was…god, it was exactly what I needed.

"Well, it got you a more comfortable chair, didn't it?"

Rachel's voice broke through our laughter and Quinn and I instantly snapped our mouths closed, turning to look at the small girl in the bed next to us. She opened her eyes for only a moment, and I let out a heavy sigh of relief as I saw the tiniest hint of joy in those deep, chocolate pools. A small smile stretched Rachel's lips, and Quinn turned back to look at me. We locked eyes and then, before either of us could say anything, we both just burst into laughter again. It was perfect.

When Quinn was finally able to speak, she said, "That it did, Rach. Thank you." Rachel only rolled her eyes and smiled at us again before her eyes fluttered closed once more, and we watched as she seemed to fall back to sleep. However, just as we resigned to think that she was resting again, her quiet, beautiful voice drifted over to us once more.

"I love you both," she whispered softly, and I felt my heart clench tightly in my chest, a lump rising in my throat. I heard Quinn take a deep shaky breath before I felt one of her hands slip into mine and lace our fingers together. With her other hand, she reached over and clasped one of Rachel's hands, lacing their fingers together as well.

"We love you, too, Rachel," Q said quietly and I heard her voice crack a bit as she softly added, "so much."