Title: SLAVERY TO A PATTERN
Pairing: Quinn/Rachel, Brittany/Santana
Rating: Up to R
Spoilers: All of season 1
Warnings: Domestic Violence, Hurt/Comfort, Angst
Author's Note: Written for Glee Angst Meme, specifically the Angst section of the Rachel/Quinn Prompt Meme for the following prompt: "Rachel/Quinn - one or both of Quinn's parents are physically abusing her. Rachel finds out and tries to protect Quinn."
Author's Disclaimer: ANOTHER LONG CHAPTER IS LONG. As in, epic length. As in, again I have to break it into smaller parts and disrupt my four part plan. Also, apologies for the delay since the last chapter! This part got away from me, it started out being long and talky and I wasn't happy. Now it's long and I'm happier, but 40 pages later I'm still working, as it's taking more to get to the conclusion I want. I thought I'd post this to tide people over who have very graciously messaged me and commented to check the status. Thanks for continuing to read and show interest! It's looking like what I'm ending up with is Part 4a and 4b due to LJ length restrictions, plus I will likely add an epilogue, which I'm working on now. As usual, remember this is an angst fic about angsty things, and note that Quinn is dealing with the aftermath of some fairly dark events in this section. Sometimes, that's messy. Sometimes there are also fluffy bunnies, but be ready for some mess as well.
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV
Guest Room, Berry Household
Quinn lays on her side staring at the wall across from the bed. The color is a cheery yellow – everything in the Berry house is cheery – but it isn’t helping her mood. She allowed herself to be convinced by Rachel’s dads to stay home from school for the rest of the week and recuperate, but she isn’t sure being alone in the quiet of the Berry house is the best thing for her. Admittedly, she hurts. Her skin is raw, broken open in places from her father’s angry lashing, and the thought of walking around and spending long days in uncomfortable wooden desks is not pleasant. Still, she wishes she could get out of her own head. She’s been laying in the same spot, in the same position since late morning when Rachel’s dad George brought her home from the doctor and went back to work. She could go downstairs and watch television, she could even open up Rachel’s laptop and sink herself into one of the huge stack of dvds Rachel has left for her, fussing and fluttering around her in a blur before she left for school in the morning. Rachel offered to stay home with her, but Quinn shooed her on, said she didn’t want the company.
Now she wishes she hadn’t.
It’s difficult for her to accept comfort, to accept a convalescence, even though the Berrys all seem to think she’s deserving. In her father’s house, the belt was no reason for coddling – quite the contrary, in fact. It was a necessary tool of correction, an instrument of repair, as her father would probably say, meant to motivate and recalibrate. There was no comfort, no moments of affection or time spent in recuperation. There was pain, and pain was the point. Work, excellence, trumped whatever ailment may surface.
In the Berry household, the belt – what happened to her – was a trauma. It felt strange to Quinn to have this acknowledged. She always found it traumatic, but had always thought it was her fault; that she should have worked harder, done better, that if she were better it wouldn’t have happened. To be in an environment where everyone around her was acting in concert with her own feelings, where people made decisions and allowed her to make decisions based on her own sense of reality was both comforting and frightening. It was all too real, and now, in these moments of quiet, she was struggling to find distraction.
She looks at the clock. 2:52pm. She thinks about school, about how the last bell has just rung and Rachel, Brittany, Santana, Mercedes… how they will be going to their lockers and then straggling into the Glee practice room.
She wonders if anyone will say anything about her absence. She wonders what Rachel will tell them, or Santana.
She feels her eyes sting with tears. It hurts to think of them all there going on with their day without her. She is surprised at how much.
She moves to turn over on the bed, to shake away the unpleasant thoughts swirling in her head, but flinches at the movement, parts of her skin still swollen and tight. She reaches back and massages the soreness a moment before closing her eyes and nestling her face deeper into her pillow, drawing her knees up to her chest. She doesn’t want the tears that are clouding her eyes. She should be grateful. She’s safe – she’s away from her father, she’s with people who seem to really care about her. Things are getting better. Focusing on anything but that at this point is just feeling sorry for herself.
That thought only makes her cry harder.
Quinn shoots up in bed as if she has been caught doing something wrong, her body screaming at the jolt and causing her to cry out and lay back down just as quickly, sighing.
A glance up reveals Rachel, standing in the doorway looking at her with concern.
Quinn looks to the clock, which reads 3:20pm.
“You’re here,” she says, clearing her throat and trying to make her voice sound normal. “I thought… I thought you would be at practice. Regionals are coming up and…”
“I think practice can carry on without me for one day,” Rachel says. ”I don’t have to tell you how complacent the team can get with the strength of my lead vocals to carry them. My absence should provide a much needed reality check regarding projection and effort.”
“Oh,” Quinn says, looking down at her lap.
Rachel watches her. Her voice softens. “…and, I thought maybe you could use the company.”
“If you like,” Quinn says, her voice noncommittal.
Rachel cross the room and takes a seat at the foot of the bed.
“Did you go to the doctor today?” she asks, voice tentative, quiet.
“Is everything…” Rachel trails off after Quinn doesn’t offer anything else.
“I’m okay. It’s okay,” Quinn says, looking across the room away from Rachel. “He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. Some cuts, some bruises. No internal bleeding, no permanent damage.” She barks out a faraway sounding laugh. “I’ll live, basically.”
Quinn looks down at her lap, picking at her cuticle.
“You don’t have to do that, you know,” Rachel says, her voice gentle. She scoots closer to Quinn and ducks her head, trying to meet Quinn's eyes. “Not here.”
Quinn looks at her, uncertainty clouding her features.
“Pretend that everything is fine. That you’re fine,” Rachel says softly.
“Everything is fine, Rachel,” Quinn says in a flat voice. “Your house is great. I’m away from my father, I can decide for myself what to do with my baby. To feel anything but grateful for all of that would be-“
“Human,” Rachel cuts her off. “It would be human, and normal. Quinn, what you’ve been through, how you’ve been hurt… I can’t imagine. If my dads ever-“
“Your dads would never do this to you,” Quinn interrupts, her voice flat, forlorn.
Rachel looks at her a long time.
“No,” she says softly. “No, they wouldn’t.”
Quinn looks down to her lap, fidgeting the hem of her dress, her eyes stinging.
“It isn’t your fault, Quinn,” Rachel says, her voice barely a whisper. “Your dad… how he is… it isn’t because of you.”
Quinn is silent, continuing to fidget her hem, now picking at a loose string.
“Quinn,” Rachel says, scooting closer to her. “What he did – it’s horrible, and not okay. And it’s okay for you to feel horrible, and not okay. He didn’t do it because you were bad, or because there’s anything wrong with you. He did it because he’s a bully and it made him feel important.”
Rachel pauses, putting her hand over Quinn’s, stilling her. Quinn looks up at the other girl, her face damp with tears.
“You didn’t deserve it, Quinn,” Rachel whispers, squeezing Quinn’s hands. “Any of it.”
“It hurts, Rachel,” Quinn whispers, choking over words spoken too softly to carry beyond the space of their two heads, leaned together.
Rachel gathers up Quinn in her arms, flinching herself as Quinn winces with the movement but gladly wraps her arms around her. Rachel strokes Quinn’s hair as the blonde turns her head into Rachel’s collarbone and allows herself to be comforted, allows the sorrow she has held in all day to spill out of her in great, terrible shudders.
“You’re safe now,” Rachel whispers over her, a mantra, a benediction. “You’re safe, and my dads and I are going to work really hard to make sure it never, never happens again.”
Quinn looks up at her intently, eyes sparkling. She wipes her nose with her wrist. She wants to believe.
“Okay?” Rachel says, holding Quinn at arm’s length and looking back at her, matching her gaze.
“Okay,” Quinn nods, her voice watery but a smile hinting at her mouth.
Rachel grins at her.
“Good,” she says, breaking out her best business voice. “Because I’ve brought home the most recent recordings of our practice and I need a second opinion. I’m sure when you listen to what I heard reviewing these tapes you’ll agree that Puck, Mike and Matt need to step up and pull their weight in our group harmonies. We can’t have the girls overpowering our bass and tenor sections at Sectionals, it’s one of the first mistakes the judges look for…”
Quinn settles back against the bed, feeling a surge of affection for Rachel, for the subtle message in her rambling, that things can be normal, that life goes on.
McKinley High, the following Monday
By the time Quinn returns to McKinley High, the entire school has heard about her pregnancy. Santana and Brittany have prepped her for this, making nightly conference calls to report on the evolution of babygate, as Jacob Ben Israel had christened the whole affair in his blog. It had been easy to laugh over the phone about rumors that she had eloped with a 40 year old internet boyfriend, that she had died during a back alley abortion in Medina and that she was secretly a 30 year old undercover reporter who had only ever been at the school to do an expose on corruption in high school athletics.
Walking down the halls under the scrutiny of hundreds of pairs of scandalized, judging eyes was considerably less funny.
Even worse was having to face Finn, who frantically confronted her before she had even gotten to her first period class.
“Is it true?” he asked, his voice gone high pitched and anxious as he cornered her at her locker. “It’s all over the school and I have to know, is it true?”
“Is it true?!” Another voice echoes in her head. Flashes of memory. A car, a threat, a shouting voice and punishing hands…
Quinn shakes her head to clear away the images taking hold of her and focuses back to the present. She focuses on Finn, on his face, which is washed in tension and anger.
“Can we not do this in the hallway?” she asks, already exhausted, shutting her locker door and facing him.
“How can you be so calm about this?” he says, his voice going higher and louder in disbelief.
“I’m not going to do this with you now, Finn,” she says again, trying to move around him.
“Do this?” he shouts. “Do this? Come with me…” He takes her arm and drags her toward the choir room, a determined look on his face.
An angry glare, an interrogating voice, an arm, grabbing and bruising her in a vice grip.
She pulls back against Finn, startled. “Take your hands off me, you’re scaring me.”
He looks down at her, incredulous as they cross into the practice room and close the door.
“I’m scaring you? You disappear for five days in the middle of crazy rumors about you being pregnant and I’m scaring you? What the hell, Quinn?”
She looks at him, trying to find the words to start.
“Nothing? You’re have nothing to say?” He says, his voice huffy. “I looked all over for you last week, Santana refused to tell me where you were, your father slammed the door in my face, Sue Sylvester practically put out a bounty on your head. We’re supposed to be in a relationship, Quinn, so what’s going on with you?”
She crosses the room and sits in a chair. She knows there is truth in what he’s saying, but it would be an easier conversation if he wasn’t interrogating her like a criminal.
“You’re right,” she says, her voice quiet, looking down in her lap. “Something is going on with me. And I needed last week to go through it – I’m actually still going through it. And I get that you’re confused, but I’m allowed to have time to figure things out for myself, Finn. I need you to not be angry with me right now if you want me to talk to you.”
He sits down next to her with a dramatic sigh. She feels him relax, feels his posture lose its tense, amped energy.
“What happened last week?” he asks finally, looking at her.
“I… I found out something. Something bad,” she says softly. “And then my parents found out, and I needed to lay low for awhile.” She glosses over her father, the belt, the bruises.
“Is it… is it true then?” he asks, voice full of fear.
“That I eloped with a 40 year old or died in a back alley abortion?” she tries to lighten the moment. “No.”
“Quinn…” he says, pleading.
She looks at him.
“Yes,” she whispers. “I’m pregnant.” She feels tears sting her eyes when she says those words out loud for the first time, and then again watching what it does to the boy next to her.
He blows out a breath of air and leans back in his chair, staring blankly at the wall across the room.
“How?” he asks her. “We haven’t even…”
She says nothing. She thinks of Puck, and wine colors, and a terrible mistake. She isn’t going to go there with Finn.
He sighs again, his face a wash of confusion.
“What’s next?” he asks after a moment.
“I don’t know,” she says truthfully. “I think… I think I just need to be alone for awhile, to think about it, to figure out what to do.”
“You don’t have to be,” Finn says. “Whatever you need, Whatever you want, I’ll get it, I’ll be it.” He reaches over and holds her hand, looking at her.
“I know you will,” she says, feeling a surge of affection for the big dumb boy that he is. “And what I need is you to let me be, to just… understand, and let me be.”
He frowns. “All this time we’ve spent, everything we’ve… that’s it? Quinn, think about this. You’ don’t have to do this alone, it isn’t just happening to you…”
“Yes, it is,” she says gently. “What I’ve been through in the last week… Finn… you can’t even imagine.” A belt. A desk. Fire under her skin.
She pushes back against images she doesn’t want, won’t give audience.
“I’m not even showing yet,” she continues in a weary voice.
He looks at her. She can see the relief and sense of obligation warring in his face.
“It means something different to you than it does to me, Finn, and that’s okay,” she says gently. “I’m going to get huge and not be able to cheer anymore. Everyday people are going to be reminded of my mistake just by looking at my body, and talk about me, and whisper and judge. You’re not going to go through any of that.”
“You don’t think people have been talking about me, too?” he says. “You don’t think I heard my name in whispers all week last week when you disappeared?”
“Tell me the truth, Finn,” she says, looking wearily at him. “Since the rumors started, how many of your friends have come up and congratulated you for ‘giving’ it to me good?”
He looks down, embarrassed.
“You’re a really good guy, Finn, but this is a lot for me to go through and I just need to do it on my own. I can’t be the girl you need me to be right now.”
“I would have stayed with you,” he says quietly.
“I know,” she says. “And that’s what makes you amazing. It makes you deserve a girlfriend a lot better than me,”
They sit in silence for a few moments.
“You said…” he starts. “You said you were going to get huge. Does that mean…” He pauses. “You’re going to have it then?”
“I don’t know,” she answers, sounding small.
The bell rings for first period.
Quinn stands up, glad of it.
“We’re late,” she says, gathering her things. For a moment she feels a sieze of panic thinking about getting a detention, about missing Cheerios and Sue Sylvester and her father and more punishment. Just as fast, she exhales, remembering Rachel and her dads.
He stands up with her.
“Let me know if…” he says, trailing off.
“You’re a good friend, Finn,” she replies, and walks out of the room.
Rachel finds her at her locker later in the day.
“On a scale of one to completely abominable, how would you rate this day?” she asks, leaning against the locker next to Quinn’s while the other girl rooted around for the afternoon’s books.
“What’s worse than completely abominable?” Quinn asks, shutting her locker with a sigh. “I can’t decide if all the people talking about me all day are glad or disappointed that I’m back and only knocked up instead of abducted by a polygamous cult.”
“Impressive,” Rachel says. “I hadn’t heard that one.”
Quinn looks chagrined.
“They’re neither,” Rachel says confidently. She starts off the down the hallway with Quinn. “They don’t care what the circumstances are, they just want to eat your misfortune to satisfy their own insecurities. Don’t let it get to you.”
“Easy for you to say,” Quinn groans, but pauses as Rachel stops walking and stares at her.
“No. No, it isn’t,” Rachel says, meeting Quinn’s eyes with a pointed stare. “You’re forgetting Quinn that for the last 10 years of my academic career… pretty much my entire academic career really… it’s been me on the receiving end of those whispers.
Quinn looks up at her and has the decency not to respond.
“I’m not trying to minimize what you’re going through,” Rachel says softly. “Not even a little bit. I can’t imagine. I’m just saying you’ll feel better if you can tune it out, not take it so personally because it isn’t about you. Not really.”
Quinn sighs a long sigh. She knows Rachel is right.
But she also knows Rachel has never had to deal with Sue Sylvester.
Down the hall, Brittany and Santana round the corner ahead of she and Rachel and head towards them, pinkies twined and chattering to each other. Quinn watches their skirts flounce as they walk and looks down at her own track pant wearing, non-regulation ensemble.
Sue Sylvester makes everything personal.
Football field, McKinley High, after school
Predictably, Cheerios practice is hell.
Coach Sylvester corners her before practice even starts, sending the rest of the team to run laps around the field while she “conferences” with the captain. Quinn groans at the glares she receives from her teammates as they start off around the pitch, but quickly refocuses herself when she turns back to Sue, who has crossed her arms and is appraising her with an impenetrable expression.
“Well, Q, I’ve heard you’ve decided to cast your lot with the crew of the Titanic, and by that I mean the sinking ship that is Glee club. If that weren’t bad enough, I’ve also heard that you’ve moved out of your reasonably respectable upper middle class home and prostrated yourself as minion to the queen of gaytown - Rachel “Up with People” Berry and her Rainbow dads. I would ask you if the rumors are true but I can smell the stink of quiet desperation all over you.”
Quinn stares at her, bristling at the insult toward Rachel and her family. “Was there a question in there?” she asks after a moment of meeting Sue’s eyes without blinking, surprising even herself.
“Traces of a spine. Interesting,” Sue says neutrally.
She gives Quinn an obvious once-over, moving her eyes up and down Quinn’s outfit with scrutiny, noting the re-emergence of track pants and looking particularly hard at her stomach.
“I would think since you’re living with Queer Eye now that you’d at least demonstrate better fashion sense. Haven’t those gays taught you anything?”
Quinn continues to stare at her, unblinking. She doesn’t want to back down.
“The TRACK PANTS, Q. While I find your newfound pluck intriguing, I believe I’ve warned you in the past about the precarious nature of your position as captain of this squad, a privilege that rests squarely on your ability to represent with both talent and physical attraction the level of excellence which I require – nay, DEMAND.”
Quinn flinches at the words in spite of herself, her hand ghosting unconsciously across her stomach.
The gesture is not lost on Sue.
“As I see it, one of two things is happening, based on both your recent disappearance and your inability to show up at this school in a regulation cheer uniform. Either you’ve decided that “good girl” is no longer an image that serves you and you’re stepping a failing toe in the waters of teenage rebellion or the rumors about your having a bun in the oven are true and you’re simply too fat to fit into your uniform anymore. Which is it?”
Quinn says nothing, watching Sue warily.
“I will ask you again, are you pregnant?”
Quinn remains silent.
“I will infer from your stony silence and refusal to fall at my feet and prostrate yourself for my approval that you are. It would seem, then, that we have a situation on our hands. Are you getting rid of it?”
The question takes Quinn off guard.
“I… I don’t know yet. I haven’t decided,” she answers hesitantly.
“Children are beasts,” Sue says in a confidential tone. “You’re better off to eliminate it, and while you’re at it sterilize yourself and nip any such future complications right in the bud. But that’s called family planning, and in your case the time for that has obviously passed. So here’s the juicy center of this unpleasant conversation we’re having. You need to decide if you want a future on this squad. Because if you do, you need to fix this problem that has developed, get your growing-flabbier-by-the-minute ass to the gym and sweat your way back into your uniform by the end of the week. And if you don’t, I’ll strip you of your uniform and all the power that goes with it faster than you can say ‘afterschool special.’ Do I make myself clear?!"
Quinn cocks her head.
“Yes. But let me make myself clear,” she says, again surprising herself. “I have been your it girl for two years now. I have taken your orders and your threats, I have been your spy and I’ve seen all there is to see on the Sue Sylvester inner circle. I’ve kept my mouth shut because I view it as part of what it takes to be on the top. But I’ve not forgotten any of it. I know about your kickbacks, I know about your gifts and swag and favors and nepotism. And I know a lot of people who would be interested in listening if I decided to start talking. I’m going to figure out what to do with this baby, and when I do it will be my decision. Mine. Until then, I’m coming to practice, I’m doing the routines and I’m staying on the squad. You think you have me over a barrel, but it would seem we have each other over a barrel. Coach.”
Sue is standing back from her, arms crossed, unreadable expression.
“Well done, Q,” she says after a moment. “Well done. Threats, intimidation, blackmail. You’re even more like me that I could have hoped. For now, you’ve got yourself a deal, fatty.”
Sue steps toward her. Quinn resists the urge to step back away.
“But you remember this,” Sue’s voice goes up into that deranged false cheer denoting danger in her tone. “You are a member of this squad and I am the coach. And if and when I want you gone – you’re gone. It won’t matter what you try to smear me with, no judge in this state or this nation is going to want to see a fat bellied teenage harlot with a baby ricocheting around her stomach with every back-handspring. Schuester and Figgins will be all over me crying about self esteem and being supportive and the value of a team. They’ll come asking. And when they do I’ll say it’s because you’ve besmirched the name of the Cheerios with your wanton loose behavior, I’ll say it’s because you’ve sullied the excellence that this uniform represents and I can’t have a bad example on my team but you and I will know the truth because I’m going to tell it to you now. Really, when I kick you off this team, it will be because the Cheerios are my domain and in my domain I. AM. God. Nobody does anything without my say-so. Nobody. It’s a cardinal rule, Q, and you broke it.”
Quinn feels a sting in the back of her eyes and tries to look away, to think of bunnies and kittens and the cheery yellow wall of her room in the Berry household – anything to stave off the tears she feels forming. She will not cry in front of Sue Sylvester. She won’t. She tries to remember what Rachel told her, just because people say things doesn’t make them true. She tries to divorce herself from the shame of her pregnancy rising up inside of her, to stuff it down, to hold her head high anyway.
Sue grins at her, a wicked, triumphant, gleeful grin. She won, she can see it.
She picks up the whistle jangling around her neck and blows it in Quinn’s face.
“50 laps around the field every day until you show up in a regulation uniform,” she says, turning toward the field. “And it goes without saying that you’re on equipment duty until I’m convinced that you’re still Cheerio’s material. Except, whoops, guess not since I said it.”
Sue gives her a smirk and strolls off. Quinn deflates with a big sigh, whatever vestige of pride she was clinging to departing along with Sue Sylvester.
She sniffs and blinks once, twice, three times in succession, quelling the lump in her throat. She knows that when she gets on the field, that when she lets herself sink into practice, into kicks and turns and moves and shouts that she’ll step away from the emotion threatening to overtake her at the moment. It will fade into the background, and she will be Quinn Fabray, head cheerleader, head bitch in charge, and that Quinn Fabray does not go to pieces over things. Even big things, like being 16 and pregnant and bullied by every adult she is supposed to be able to depend on.
She takes a long breath and blows it out in a big exhale. She walks toward the field, where her teammates have been called off the laps by Coach Sylvester, all of them now doubled over and panting at the exertion while Sue screams about laziness and predators and prey.
Quinn hopes the old Quinn Fabray will show herself soon, because current Quinn Fabray is shrinking under the glares everyone on the team but Brittany and Santana are giving her.
She takes her place on the field and begins to stretch, pulling first her left foot up to her waist and then her right, wincing a little at the pain as her sore skin is stretched taut along with her muscles.
She’s just starting to work herself into another serious bout of wallowing when she sees a small figure appear at the top of the stairs in the bleachers across the field. She’s too far away and too high up in the stands for Quinn to make out her features, but she would recognize those canary yellow tights anywhere.
Quinn watches as Rachel takes out a pair of headphones and a notebook and settles herself into the stands. She pauses and looks down in the direction of the field for a moment, in the direction of Quinn, before turning her attention to the notebook in her lap and starting to write. She listens to her headphones, writes a bit, and then fiddles with the control on whatever she is listening to and writes some more. Rachel doesn’t look up again, doesn’t tune in to the practice or wave at Quinn or give any indication that she is aware of anything but whatever she’s working on.
Quinn doesn’t care. She is strangely comforted by the sight of the brunette in the stands. She feels a warmth spreading across her chest, a warmth she thinks must be related to her heart.
Rachel is there for her.
Rachel, who has made a point to stay far, far away from anything remotely related to William McKinley High athletics for as long as she’s been going there, is there in the stands for her.
She thinks that might be the nicest, most selfless thing anyone has ever done for her.
Quinn covers her face to hide the grin breaking out across it.
Santana catches her, following Quinn’s starry eyed gaze up into the stands and then trains her eyes back on Quinn, smirking.
Quinn refocuses her attention back to practice.
She doesn’t care that Sue shouts at her through her megaphone.
Rachel is in the stands like a guardian angel and Quinn feels… protected.
It feels nice.
She can’t imagine that Rachel would actually do anything if Sue started a tirade, but her presence is enough.
For the rest of practice Quinn fantasizes about Rachel coming down off the stands in a flurry of rage and facing off against Sue Sylvester to defend her honor.
That night Quinn finds Rachel in her bedroom.
“It was really nice what you did today. Coming to practice like that,” Quinn says shyly. “It didn’t get off to a very good start and seeing you was really… nice.”
Rachel gives her a timid smile.
“I thought maybe you could use a little support. Sue Sylvester isn’t known for her winning charm and compassion.”
“No, no she isn’t,” Quinn agrees.
Rachel looks back down at her laptop, where she is replaying Barbara Streisand’s performance of A Piece of Sky from Yentl over and over again, stopping at certain parts and studying them repeatedly before letting the video play again.
Quinn stands at the door watching her, waiting to be invited in.
“Do you mind if I come in?” she asks after a moment.
Rachel looks up, surprised and shyly pleased.
“Of course,” she says, tucking her legs to her side to make a spot for Quinn to sit at the foot of the bed. “I would have offered but I didn’t want to be… pushy.”
Her voice is quiet, hesitant. Quinn hates the insecurity there, hates that Rachel still feels like she has to tiptoe around her, supplicate.
Quinn enters and takes the spot on the bed Rachel has made for her.
“Did you know that Barbara Streisand was discouraged from pursuing a career in show business by her own mother for not being pretty enough?” Rachel says, looking down at her laptop screen.
“I didn’t know that,” says Quinn softly.
“Her own mother told her she wasn’t good enough, and she believed in herself enough to make it happen anyway,” Rachel says in a faraway voice.
“I guess it goes to show that anything is possible,” Quinn replies, watching Rachel. “Isn’t that what you keep telling me?”
Rachel looks up at her and smiles.
“I guess it is. I certainly never would have guessed a year ago that you’d be sitting on my bed sharing girl talk with me.” She closes her laptop. “How are you?”
“I’m okay I guess. Today was hard. Finn. Coach Sylvester. Baby stuff. My mind won’t stop spinning.” Quinn looks down at her lap and runs a hand over her belly absentmindedly.
Rachel follows the movement.
“It’s a lot for anybody, Quinn. I’d worry about you if you weren’t feeling the pressure.”
“Is that why you came to the stadium today? Because you were worried about me?” Quinn asks, looking up and meeting Rachel’s eyes. “You’ve never done that before.”
“I… I thought…” she stammers, bashful.
Quinn puts a hand over Rachel’s.
“It was nice,” Quinn says softly. “I liked it. Please don’t be embarrassed.”
Rachel looks up at her. “I know Coach Sylvester is hard. I know she’s hard on you, I just wanted you to know someone was thinking about you. That… that you’re not alone, I guess,” Rachel says softly.
“Rachel,” Quinn says, looking at her. “It feels really good to hear you say that to me. I need someone in my corner right now, and I’m glad it’s you.”
Rachel smiles. “You really liked it?”
Quinn nods and squeezes Rachel’s hand.
“There’s something else,” Quinn says, holding on to Rachel’s hand.
Rachel’s expression clouds with worry but Quinn shakes her head quickly, tells Rachel it’s okay.
“I never said this to you Rachel but I'm sorry,” Quinn tells her, and means it. “I'm sorry for all the mean things I’ve said and done to you.”
Rachel looks at her, meets her eyes but doesn’t say anything. Quinn takes a big breath and continues.
“I was thinking about that today when Coach Sylvester was laying into me, how I hated it, how that’s how it must have felt to you being bullied by me and all of us. I was thinking how Coach Sylvester is a bully and my dad is a bully and I don’t want to be like them. I don't know why I acted so awful, acted the way I did towards you. I guess I was just angry and sad and afraid and wanted everyone around me to be too.”
“Thank you for apologizing,” Rachel says softly. “I know – I know some of it is my fault, too. I know I’m really annoying.” She looks down at her lap, frowning. “People tell me that all the time, that I'm pushy and too much of a know it all. I can be a lot.”
“<i>No</i> Rachel, it’s not your fault, and it’s not okay. It's good that you're so strong!” Quinn exclaims. “It's good that you trust yourself, that you don't compromise yourself, even in the face of so much criticism and bullying – you’re… you’re amazing. I wish I could be more like that.”
“It's not good when it means nobody can stand you, Quinn.” Rachel says in a quiet tone. “People just don't like me. But it's okay, I've accepted it.” Rachel's voice falters, belying the indifference she is trying to sell.
“I like you,” Quinn says, softly.
“Your like of me is situational,” Rachel says, looking at Quinn with an almost pitying expression. “We've bonded over difficult circumstances. You like me because I'm being nice to you. If you didn't need to be here you would still be calling me RuPaul and laughing at slushies in my face.”
Quinn folds her arms. “We bonded over difficult circumstances, it's true. But that's how I got to know you. Staying here or not, if I didn't like you I wouldn't sit in your room at night and talk with you, or watch movies with you, or heaven forbid make myspace videos with you. All the things we’ve being doing together even before my dad… this last time.”
Rachel looks up at her, hope etched in her face.
Quinn looks in her eyes, looks right in her eyes and reaches out to hold on to both of Rachel’s forearms.
“If kindness and care and gratitude aren’t good things to base a friendship on, I don’t know what is. I like you, Rachel, and that's why we get along.”
Quinn leans forward and kisses her gently on the lips. “And I'm grateful that you're my friend, nomatter how hard you try and talk me out of it.”
With that, Quinn turns and walks out of the room, humming to herself.
Rachel ghosts her fingers up to her lips and watches the empty doorway, thinking.
Berry House, 6:45am the following day
Quinn gets up for breakfast the following morning, still unused to the bustle of the Berry house at such an early hour. Though she woke at six to Rachel’s loud vocal calisthenics as she pumped her way through I Believe I Can Fly during her morning elliptical routine, Quinn doesn’t get out of bed until 6:45, savoring the feeling of the just-right temperature of her duvet, the softness of the bed and the soundness of her sleep the previous night.
When she heads downstairs, still in her pajamas, the entire family is already in the kitchen. George stands at the stove flipping pancakes while Martin sits at the table reading The New Yorker and sipping a glass of orange juice. Rachel flits around the kitchen setting the table, singing lightly to herself and giving the entire room a buzz of inviting, pleasant energy. That, coupled with the warm smell of pancakes, puts a smile on Quinn’s face even as she winces her way down the stairs, her walk still stiff and uncomfortable in the aftermath of last week’s events.
“Quinn!” Rachel greets her with a hopeful grin when she notices her in the doorway of the kitchen. “Good morning!”
She turns to Martin and shoots him a smug grin. “I told you she’d get up for breakfast,” she gloats, reaching over to arrange a placemat, plate and napkin in front of him.
“Good morning baby,” George says warmly to Quinn. “Don’t mind the diva of the house.” He pauses - potholder in one hand and batter dipped spatula in the other – to cross the room and kiss Quinn lightly on the cheek. “She seems to derive a strange energy from the belief that she is all seeing and all knowing.”
“You’re dripping,” Rachel tells him with a pretend pout, looking pointedly at the spatula in his hand.
“Well I think it must be the smell of your immaculate pancakes that has her up so early,” Martin says to George, shooting an exaggerated stage-wink at Quinn.
“Can I help?” Quinn asks softly, entering the kitchen.
“YOU,” George says with a flourish, “can have a seat at the breakfast table and fawn over what a fantastic cook I am.” He grins at her and slides a stack of pancakes onto a plate. “Rachel, baby, give Quinn a taste of the best pancakes she’ll ever eat in her life.”
Rachel grins at him and takes the plate from the counter, turning toward the table. Over eager, she turns too quickly, losing her balance. She over-corrects and keeps herself from falling down, but in her flailing knocks the plate into the edge of the counter, shattering it and sending ceramic shards and pancakes crashing to the floor.
“Rachel, butterfingers,” George teases when he hears the crash.
“IT’S NOT HER FAULT!” Quinn exclaims, jumping up out of her chair. She drops to the floor and begins to sweep up the mess with a napkin, ignoring the spike of pain she feels at moving so suddenly.
Everyone in the kitchen freezes at her frantic response to the accident.
“It was me…” Quinn says quickly, doing her best to scoop up the mess with a flimsy napkin. “She didn’t do anything, it was my fault, I bumped her…”
Martin cocks his head and smiles at her sadly.
“No, you didn’t,” he says gently, standing up and walking around the table to crouch down to Quinn’s eye level. “And it’s okay.”
He puts a soft hand on her elbow and eases her up from the floor. “ People can have butterfingers in this house,” he says quietly. “It’s okay.”
Quinn’s eyes sting with tears at the kindness in his tone.
Martin glances at Rachel, who is watching Quinn with a worried expression. He nods at her, and she nods back, turning to get a broom and dustpan to finish picking up the mess.
Martin gives Quinn a light squeeze before walking back around the table and sitting down, inviting Quinn to do the same.
“Besides, you don’t need to worry about our little diva,” George grins, placing a new plate of pancakes in front of Quinn as she sits back down at the table. “A little ribbing is good for her.”
He looks over at Rachel with an affectionate expression. “SOMEBODY’S got to keep her feet on the ground. With her head in the stars all the time it’s a wonder she has time to come back down to earth and deal with we mortals and our mundane pancakes.”
Rachel grins back and bumps his hip affectionately as she turns to empty the dustpan in the trash and wet a few paper towels to wipe the sticky from the floor.
Quinn shoots a bashful glance over at Rachel before casting her eyes down at her plate. “I think she’s really good just the way she is,” Quinn whispers beneath her breath as she picks up her fork.
Rachel turns her head abruptly in Quinn’s direction but says nothing, her bewildered expression not hiding her rising blush.
George arches his eyebrow and exchanges a knowing glance with Martin.
Rachel washes her hands in the sink and takes her place at the table.
The breakfast chatter is comforting to Quinn. She is used to getting up on her own at her house, her father generally up, exercised and out before her and her mother too hungover to get up before noon. The Berry household is alive, and Quinn feels alive being there.
After they’ve eaten, Quinn insists that they leave the dishes for her, especially since all she has to do is load the dishwasher. Martin remains in the kitchen with her while George and Rachel finish getting ready.
“Those of us who don’t cook, clean,” he says, smiling as he ties off the trash and replaces the bag in the empty can.
She smiles, clearing away the plates from the table.
“How are you feeling about school today?” he asks her. “I know yesterday didn’t win any awards for best day ever.”
“No,” she laughs, shaking her head. “But I’m okay. It’s got to be at least a little better today, because it won’t be new, right? I’m sure it will still be awful, but maybe… slightly less awful?”
“Well, there’s something to hope for,” Martin says. He turns to the recycling, putting the latest newspaper on the stack in the bin. He eyes it for a moment, and then pulls the stack out onto the table.
“Speaking of hoping for things…” Quinn starts, her voice uncertain.
Martin pauses, holding a ball of twine and scissors he has just pulled out of a drawer.
“I was thinking… I was thinking I’d like to start looking for a job,” Quinn tells him, looking anxious. “You know, make my own money. I don’t know how long it will be before my dad shuts off my phone and stuff, and I want to be able to take care of those things myself. Maybe have a little extra money to start putting aside.”
“Are you sure?’ Martin asks her, furrowing his eyebrows. “There’s a lot on your plate already with cheerleading and school and Glee too.”
Quinn steps backward, looking down at the floor. “You’re right,” she says, shaking her head. “You’re right, it was a stupid idea. Plus I should keep time to be here, to clean and help and earn my keep.” She looks back up at Martin, chastised. “Nevermind about it, it was just a thought. I won’t mess anything up.”
Martin steps toward her and places a hand gently on her shoulder.
“It wasn’t a stupid idea at all,” he says, ducking his own head to meet her eyes and get her to look up at him. “It was a great idea. I just meant it’s a lot to take on, and you’re already dealing with so much. We don’t want you to feel pressured to keep all those balls in the air out of any sense of obligation or requirement.”
Quinn meets his eyes, looking confused.
“Quinn,” Martin says gently. “If you want to get a job, great! If you want to keep doing Cheerios or Glee too, that’s wonderful. But if you don’t want to do any of it any more, if it gets to be too much and you need to just take some time to relax, to hibernate and take care of yourself, that’s okay too. You don’t have to impress anyone or ‘earn your keep’ to stay here, and you’ve got a place in this house nomatter what you choose to do. Okay?”
Quinn nods, feeling herself tear up again. She is continually disarmed by the acceptance she feels from Rachel and her dads.
Martin reaches out and pulls her into a hug. She wraps her arms around him, buries her face into his collarbone and holds him back, sniffling.
”Hugging?! Without moi?!” they hear from a high pitched, dramatic voice in the doorway. They break apart and both grin at the sight of George in the doorway, striking a pose not unsimilar to Vivian Leigh in Gone With the Wind as she mock pouts to Clark Gable. “Oh, NO,” he says, swishing over to where they are standing and tapping his foot expectantly.
Quinn laughs, wiping her eyes and holding her arms up to George, who eases her into a warm, tender hug. “We’ve got you, baby,” he says in a diva voice to rival Rachel’s. “And we are not letting you go.”
“Don’t,” Quinn whispers, squeezing him tighter.
He squeezes against her and then holds her out at arm’s length, meeting her eyes, which are watery and red-rimmed.
He winks at her and then lets her go, turning to the doorway where Rachel is standing and watching the whole exchange with an amused expression.
“And for our other daughter!” George exclaims with a flourish and pulls Rachel into the kitchen, hugging her tight.
Rachel laughs and hugs her dad.
Quinn feels a secret thrill at the implied recognition of her place in the Berry household with George’s words, but doesn’t have long to ponder as he shuffles Rachel out of his arms and toward Quinn with a gleeful cry of “Hugs all around!”
Rachel is hustled over to Quinn and stands in front of her, Quinn leaning back a little as Rachel is suddenly far too into her personal space for normal, polite conversation.
Both girls share a moment of awkwardness at the unexpected closeness.
“Hi,” Quinn whispers, putting her hands awkwardly at her sides and waiting for some sign from Rachel that the closeness is okay.
“Hi,” Rachel says back, seeming just as discombobulated by the moment and also trying not to touch Quinn without some kind of permission.
Quinn wonders why she feels so suddenly nervous in front of Rachel when they have spent the last month giggling and hugging and generally acting like silly teenage girls together.
“So, umm, I’m going to…” Quinn says.
“We should…” Rachel answers.
They hug, awkwardly.
As they break their embrace, Quinn notices a knowing glance pass between Rachel’s dads for the second time that morning. She thinks there is something there, something important, just out of reach of her stream of consciousness, but she shakes the thought out of her head, not ready to take on any more complex issues in her life at the moment.
Rachel heads into the living room to pick up hers and Quinn’s backpacks. George and Martin roam around the kitchen collecting their various keys, briefcases and blazers.
“Girls, have a good day at school,” Martin tells them, heading out the door.
Quinn waves at him and Rachel calls a greeting from the other room.
“We’ve got Glee today, so we’ll probably be home late,” she tells George as he plants a hurried kiss on her cheek. “Be divas-“ he calls, rushing out the door after Martin.
Rachel appears back in the doorway of the kitchen with their jackets and backpacks in hand.
“Thanks,” Quinn says, taking her things from Rachel.
“You’re welcome,” Rachel says, seemingly subdued.
They put on their respective jackets and check their bags to make sure they have everything.
“Ready?” Quinn asks, slinging her backpack onto her shoulder.
“Almost,” Rachel says, taking a deep breath.
“Did you forget anything, I can run upstairs…” Quinn starts, but trails off when Rachel shakes her head.
“No, no, I’m fine,” Rachel says, and seems to gather in on herself, seems to be working toward something. “I just wanted to say something.”
Quinn frowns, thinking about their conversation the night before. She hopes she didn’t overstep, didn’t upset Rachel. She braces herself for some criticism, some scolding or redirection or boundary setting from the normally self-assured girl in front of her.
“I just wanted to tell you… I accept your apology,” Rachel says, meeting and holding her eyes.
Quinn feels the corners of her mouth turning up.
“I thought about what you said last night, and… thank you for apologizing. I accept. And I appreciate your complimentary tone.”
Quinn chuckles, suddenly feeling much less shy. She reaches forward and takes Rachel’s hand in hers, thinking how adorable Rachel looks when she’s being formal.
“I meant what I said, Rachel,” Quinn says easily. “I like you, and I’m glad you’re my friend. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s anything wrong with you.”
“Thank you,” Rachel says again, obviously disarmed. “Again. That’s nice to hear. And I’m glad we are too. Friends.”
Quinn leans forward and kisses Rachel’s forehead before letting her hand go with a gentle squeeze.
“So… school now?” she says, watching Rachel, who is watching her with a curious expression.
“School. Yes,” Rachel answers, seeming to snap out of her momentary brain fog.
She adjusts her pink rain slicker and smooths her skirt. Quinn makes similar adjustments to her own outfit, thinking that her Cheerios top is starting to feel uncomfortably tight. She thinks she might ask Rachel’s dads if they can help her let it out some, or maybe take her to get it altered.
She focuses her attention back to Rachel and follows her out the door, smiling as Rachel begins to chatter to her about Glee practice in the afternoon, and her thoughts on Sondheim options for their next assignment.
For awhile, everything is normal.
Or at least as normal as can be expected, under the circumstances.
Quinn’s bruises fade, and with them some of the stress of Cheerios and Sue Sylvester breathing down her neck.
Some of the talk fades too – with Quinn back on top of the squad and not yet showing, the gossiping masses turn their attention elsewhere.
More specifically, to Rachel’s love life.
It starts, as most important things in her life have over the last months, in Glee Club.
Mr. Schue has assigned them mashup assignments for the week, to go with some stupid rap song from his past. She and Rachel have stayed up late into the night several days that week listening to music and giggling over the most outrageous possibilities they can think of, but so far neither they nor anyone else in Glee Club has come up with anything remotely realistic as a possibility.
Mr. Schue is giving them grief over this very thing, threatening to show them how cool his ridiculous song can be by breaking out his dance moves when it happens.
Puck, to everyone’s surprise, stands up and announces that he has a song he’s been working on.
The reaction in the room is as if they are operating on battery power that ran out as one by one the laughs and words die on their lips and they turn toward Puck, shocked into temporary stasis.
Puck walks across the room and borrows a guitar from the jazz ensemble.
”This is my personal tribute to a musical Jewish icon,” he tells them, and strums out the opening bars to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”
Quinn is initially pleased by his performance, pleased to observe Puck being a joiner, getting off his high horse and investing in Glee. She has always known there was a gooey center beneath his bad boy image. She rolls her eyes a little bit at his dramatic Jewish intro, given that he’s the least religious person she knows, but she can overlook it because he looks so earnest and cute as he sings.
After a moment though, something… shifts.
Quinn realizes as Puck sings that he’s strangely focused. He isn’t working the room, isn’t looking at all of them and bringing the group into his song.
Instead, he’s strangely focused on one person.
As he sings, Puck steps closer to her, and closer still, strumming his guitar.
She looks at Rachel, who, rather than bobbing her head and singing along like everyone else in the room, is holding stock-still and looking at Puck with a disbelieving, hesitantly hopeful look on her face. Quinn recognizes that look. It’s one that she has shown Quinn in their moments of quiet conversation or affection.
Quinn looks back at Puck. He isn’t hiding his interest, and steps right into Rachel’s space, looking down at her, meeting her eyes and singing earnestly.
Rachel gives him a thousand watt smile and bats her eyelashes, mouthing the words to the song coyly.
Quinn deepens her frown and feels a pang of jealousy prick her heart.
She thinks she might be going crazy, that she’s seeing something that just defies the parameters of the space-time continuum as she knows it. A glance around the room reveals that the rest of Glee club has sensed the shift too, the strange parallel universe feeling that accompanies Puck serenading Rachel. Mercedes giggles and exchanges a scandalized look with Kurt, who leans forward to raise his eyebrow at Tina, who nudges Artie, whose mouth is hanging open in unabashed shock. Only Brittany is grinning and bopping her head as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on.
Santana is the only other person in the room who seems as upset by the situation as Quinn. She sits stiffly in her chair, holding tightly to the seat with both hands and glares daggers at Puck.
Quinn wonders if her own expression is as venomous as Santana's and checks herself, trying to clear any ugly emotion off her features.
She’s not even sure where the emotion is coming from. She doesn’t even have a thing for Puck. Especially not after…
She rubs a hand absently over her belly.
She gets why Santana would be pissed – Santana and Puck have an… arrangement. As much as she likes to play it casual, when it comes to people that end up on her “tolerate them enough to keep their company” list, Santana is a ferocious tiger ready to tear out the throat of anyone who threatens her relationships. Quinn doesn’t really think there’s any chance of Rachel replacing Santana as Puck’s new 1 am phone call, but his interest in her is just… not right.
Puck is dirty pickup trucks and porn on his computer, kids in dumpsters and piss filled balloons. Rachel is argyle socks and stuffed animals, cupcakes and pink wallpaper. Watching Rachel get sucked into his overt seduction feels to Quinn like watching tinkerbell shoot up heroin.
Rachel needs to be with someone who will appreciate her softness and be sensitive to her inexperience and naïvety. She isn’t tough enough for Puck and his opportunistic approach to dealing with girls. She isn’t… who Quinn should be thinking about.
The realization hits Quinn like a mac truck.
She’s sitting in Glee club feeling jealous and possessive feelings about Puck showing interest in Rachel and it’s because of her, not him.
The song finishes and Puck gets down on one knee in front of Rachel and grins.
She claps with delight and for a moment everyone else in the room seems to fade away. Quinn can see the sparks passing between them.
She leans back in her chair.
She thinks about Rachel’s dads, and their knowing looks every time she and Rachel share a moment of affection.
She thinks about the territorial feelings rising inside of her and how the thought of Rachel dating Puck… dating anyone, maybe, makes her feel a clench around her heart.
She stands up and walks purposefully out of the room, needing space to calm her racing heart.
ON TO PART 6