Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Glee Universe. No copyright infringement intended.
If anyone were to ask, Quinn Fabray would not confess to breaking the speed limit.
It's just that this is a bit of an emergency. It counts as one, at least in her head, because Rachel Berry is about to make a life-changing mistake and Quinn won't stand for it.
She can't, physically, allow Rachel to go through with it, and she glances at the dress hanging over the back of her passenger's seat, wondering just how she's supposed to get Rachel to see reason.
There is one way. The one way she vowed she wouldn't resort to, afraid of negating her own feelings by having them come to the surface at this moment in time. She doesn't think she could handle the thought of Rachel thinking it was all a ploy; some kind of lie to get her to make a different decision.
Quinn thinks she's willing to take the risk. Maybe. If all else fails.
Her phone buzzes again, and she knows it's Rachel.
She also knows she shouldn't check it, but she has to make sure Rachel won't decide to go ahead with the ceremony without her there. That would be disastrous.
Disastrous is actually what happens next, because Quinn doesn't see the speeding truck until her phone's screen is blank once more, a brief sense of satisfaction spreading through her body.
She wakes in a hospital bed what feels like a second later.
For some reason, she thought it would hurt more, but there's really only an aching numbness in the centre of her face, and she shifts in bed to get a better idea of her injuries.
Her movements make more noise, and, quite suddenly, her mother's face appears over her, and Quinn lets out an actual yelp.
"Oh, Sweetheart," Judy says, smiling. "You're up."
Quinn blinks in confusion. Why is her mother's hair long? She could have sworn it was shorter than that when she left the house.
Wait, how long has she been out?
"Mom," she squeaks, desperately wanting information.
"Careful," Judy says, resting a hand on her shoulder. "Try not to move too much. You'll disrupt the bandage."
"There's still a lot of swelling," Judy continues. "You won't see the results for another few weeks, at least."
Quinn is so, so confused. "What are you talking about?"
Judy's expression shifts. "Your nose, honey," she says. "The surgery went well. Your doctor is confident it's going to turn out exactly the way you want."
Quinn just blinks up at her, because that - that makes no sense. Her nose? What happened to her nose? She's about to ask every other question she can think of, when her hospital door opens and her father walks in.
Her father, who is actually smiling at her.
Quinn's frown deepens.
"Oh, you're up," he says, eyes alight, and Quinn thinks she might cry. He hasn't looked at her like that since -
A heavy weight suddenly drops on her with the realisation.
Her nose. Her surgery. Her life before Lima; before the Cheerios; before Finn, Puck, Beth.
Quinn thinks she's going to be sick. Her mother must notice, because she smooths a hand over her hair.
"Sweetheart, what is it?"
Quinn can't very well tell her what she thinks is happening, and the reality of it is so overwhelming that all she can really do is burst into tears. God, what happened? What is going on?
"Oh, honey," Judy says; "it doesn't hurt, does it?"
Not physically, at least.
Quinn just manages to shake her head, her eyes closing. This is impossible. She must still be unconscious. She remembers driving, and then -
She remembers rushing to a wedding. Rachel's wedding. She remembers Rachel on stage, singing that song... to Finn. She remembers trying to accept the wedding would happen with or without her, and she remembers her panic at not being able to go through with watching Rachel ruin her life.
She remembers making the decision to do something about it, even if she ended up losing Rachel in the process. She was willing to take the risk, and now here she is.
Here she is, with something like a second chance to get it right. The mere idea of such a thing is overwhelming. Because, she knows; she knows how her life plays out in another timeline, and, God, she doesn't want that for herself again. She doesn't. She won't survive if things play out that way again.
She's able to get ahold of herself enough to ease the alarm in her parents' eyes, and she can't exactly tell them what's just happened. Did it even happen? Was it all just an elaborate, anaesthetic-induced dream?
She pinches herself, and then sighs.
If this is some kind of dream, it's a pretty realistic one. If this is some kind of dream, what happens now? Does she just recover and go on with her life as normal?
Except, none of this is normal.
Quinn closes her eyes and wishes the world would start making sense again. The heart monitor must give away her discomfort, because her father goes to get a nurse in worry.
She's perfectly healthy.
Quinn's convinced she's actually dead.
She doesn't know what's supposed to happen once she leaves this hospital. From her memories - or whatever those other almost four years in her head were - her family is supposed to move to Lima in the next few weeks. Quinn knows this nose reconstruction is just a part of her transformation from Lucy to Quinn, and she's always wondered if she would still go through with it if given a second chance.
Here she is.
As far as Quinn is concerned, this stasis is temporary.
It's why she allows things to happen as they do. She's basically waiting for the shoe to drop, a little jumpy whenever she recalls familiar things happening as they are. She leaves the hospital, takes up running and watching her diet; she starts a new face cream and listens whenever her parents praise her ongoing transformation.
Then they move to Lima.
Quinn almost kids herself into thinking it won't happen; that she's going to wake up from this dream or nightmare before she even gets a chance to see Rachel again. That's if she's even there.
The house they move into is the same one, but Quinn doesn't decorate her bedroom the same way. She's not that girl she was when they did this the first time, and there's no use pretending. If she's going to keep existing in this new world, she may as well do things differently. Better. Just, not the same.
The worst part is that some of her favourite songs haven't yet been released. She feels silly being so hung up on that, but it's really quite a horrible thing when her recent playlists were bringing her the most joy. It's a monumental effort on her part to go and find new old music to bring her comfort.
Quinn reads books again, enjoying them as much as the first and second time she read them. She writes new stories and different poetry. She contemplates investing in upcoming companies, just for the sake of it, but she can't quite shake the feeling this entire world she's found herself in is temporary.
Then her mother mentions the tryouts for cheerleading, and Quinn is faced with an even bigger decision. Can she get through high school as a cheerleader again? Can she get through it as not a cheerleader? Would she even want to?
Also, if she's going to encounter Rachel again, does it make sense to be a cheerleader?
The thing is, despite the politics of cheerleading, Quinn actually enjoyed it. The rhythm of it, and the musicality. That's something she missed when she was off the Squad, which is really what makes the decision for her.
Judy drops her off on the first day, and Quinn makes sure not to make too big of an impression. She wasn't so careful the first time around, which was really why Santana latched onto her. Quinn's suddenly keen to figure out if they would still end up friends if Quinn's popularity was tempered.
Which is really why Quinn ends up making friends with another freshman named Casey and a sophomore who introduces herself as Webb. All three of them make the Squad, and Quinn walks into her second first day at William McKinley in her old new cheerleading uniform, but with less of a target on her back.
It's freeing, just being yet another cheerleader. It allows her to sign up for different classes with no scrutiny and pick out after-school clubs that could be considered nerdy for someone like her.
She's just determined to do it all differently, if she can.
It helps that Casey is keen to do some of them with her, and Quinn wonders why she never bothered to become better friends with her the first time around.
Quinn was very different the first go at high school, and she's just enjoying the fact that she likes herself a lot more this time.
The first time Quinn lays eyes on Rachel Berry is three weeks into their freshman year. It amazes her she's been able to go this long in the same school, but they share no classes, and Quinn likes to make herself scarce when the other cheerleaders who aren't Casey or Webb interact with other students or any of the jocks.
Quinn told herself she wouldn't go looking for her, so it's a surprise when Rachel finds her instead. She's just got up from her seat at a table in the library to return a book to a shelf, and, when she comes back, Rachel is sitting in her chair.
Quinn freezes where she is, eyes a little wide.
Rachel lifts her gaze in surprise, and then in something like horror. "This is your seat, isn't it?"
Quinn nods once, taking in every inch of Rachel's face. God. Quinn almost forgot how young they were. Rachel is a baby. "I'm not overly attached to it," she says.
"Sorry," Rachel says. "I just - I don't actually know why I came to sit here. Your stuff is obviously open in front of me." She frowns at herself, and Quinn shouldn't find it as cute as she does.
"Don't worry about it," Quinn assures her, feeling a little out of sorts herself. The only reason Quinn even sits in that particular chair is because it was Rachel's chosen spot in the library in her other life. It's only fitting Rachel would find her way back to it, but it's still a little odd.
Rachel still looks uncertain as she gets to her feet. "I literally just sat in your seat without knowing why, and you're just okay with it?"
Quinn nods slowly. "I mean, it's not like you set fire to my books or anything," she says. "Things happen."
"You're not going to order a slushy facial on me, are you?"
Quinn blinks. "Uh, no."
"Really," Quinn confirms. "I don't - I wouldn't do that."
"Everybody else does," Rachel points out, and her eyes drop to take in Quinn's cheerleading uniform. There's no other meaning to the movement, but Quinn still flushes at the scrutiny.
She really is gay, isn't she?
Of course, she's known for a while, but she's never really been faced with it. Rachel Berry is standing right in front of her, and Quinn knows she won't be able to ignore it anymore. If this truly is a second chance, then she's going to do it right. She's going to make sure Rachel knows she's an option.
Just, not right now.
Quinn clears her throat. "Don't worry," she tells Rachel again. "You're safe from me."
Rachel tilts her head a little, gaze meeting Quinn's. "Okay."
Quinn offers a small smile, says, "Okay," and then watches Rachel walk away.
Today isn't the day, but there is a some day.
Some day arrives the week before Thanksgiving.
It's a Tuesday when Finn Hudson asks Quinn out in the middle of a corridor, right in front of everyone, and Quinn has no option but to reject him. She's tried so hard to stay off everyone's radar, so she's more irritated by his attention than anything.
It is the talk of the school by the next period, and Quinn decides to hide in the library to escape the scrutiny - and the way Casey keeps giggling at her expense.
She finds Rachel Berry in her favourite seat, little crinkle in her forehead as she scribbles into a notebook, and Quinn feels something come over her. This overwhelming urge to have someone understand.
To have Rachel understand.
Quinn freezes where she stands, heart pounding in her chest, because she suddenly knows what's going to happen. Today, tomorrow, some day, she's going to end up telling Rachel Berry everything and that is a terrifying thing.
Rachel notices her a beat later, and she goes still. "I'm not sitting in your seat again, am I?"
Quinn's smile is involuntary, her worry slowly bleeding away. "No, you're okay," she says. "I'll find somewhere else to sit."
Quinn doesn't move. "Um."
"Is something wrong?"
"You're Rachel Berry, right?"
Rachel blinks in surprise. "Um, yes." She shifts in her seat, looking awkward. "And you're Quinn Fabray."
Quinn's smile grows, because it's been so long since she's heard Rachel say her name. It sounds lovely to her ears, and she wants Rachel to say it again and again. "I imagine you've heard some things about me."
"One could say that."
Quinn resists the urge to roll her eyes, because that's a bit of an understatement on this particular day. "I've heard a little about you, too."
Rachel doesn't bite; just sits perfectly still.
"It's actually why I wanted to talk to you."
Here, Rachel's brow creases. "You were looking for me?"
Quinn won't admit that much, but she saw Rachel and she just knows that this is going to be a significant moment in the trajectory of her own life, regardless of how it's intertwined with Rachel's. This is where things differ from the life she was living before; in that other world. Because that Quinn Fabray would never open up like this.
"I assume you've heard about the whole thing with Finn," Quinn starts, and something rather significant happens to Rachel's face at the mention of his name. In the other world, Quinn didn't think they were really aware of each other at this point.
Even Quinn wasn't all too aware of who Rachel was until sophomore year.
"I have," Rachel says, voice tense.
Quinn can't figure why the idea amuses her so much, but she gets immense pleasure in watching Rachel's eyes widen when she slides into the seat opposite her.
"What are you doing?" Rachel squeaks, looking around in slight panic.
"You're Rachel Berry," Quinn says, hands clasped on the table. She drops her voice a little when she says, "You have two fathers."
Rachel's expressions falls, before it shifts into something hard. Defensive. "So?"
Quinn can't help her smile. "I - "
"Are you about to make fun of me?" Rachel asks quite suddenly.
"No," Quinn says. "I'm trying to ask if - " she stops, suddenly nervous. It's one thing to want to give of herself this way, but another thing entirely actually to do it.
Just the sound of her name in Rachel's voice is enough to ground her; settle the whirlwind of emotions in her chest. "I - I don't want to go out with Finn," she says. "I never would."
Rachel gives her a curious look that slowly shifts into understanding. "Oh," she says. "You want to ask if you could talk to my fathers."
Quinn looks at her hands, absently trapping her bottom lip between her teeth. "Yes."
It's some kind of confirmation, and Quinn is just relieved she doesn't actually have to say the words out in the open like this. Knowing her truth is one thing, but telling it to others is something else entirely.
Quinn blinks at her. "Okay?"
"I can text them right now and see if they're free tonight," she says. "Do you take the bus?"
"I - yeah, okay."
Rachel smiles at her, and it's a smile Quinn recognises from before. It's a smile she's just now figured out has always been reserved for her.
Hiram and LeRoy Berry are different to what Quinn remembers. They're predictably surprised to have Quinn Fabray in their house, but Rachel must have warned them about what this may or may not be about.
Hiram makes them a snack and pours glasses of milk.
It takes Quinn nineteen minutes of awkward small talk to blurt out the words, "I like girls." And then she immediately bursts into tears.
It's the first time she's ever admitted it out loud, in either of her worlds, and her heart pounds in her chest. Rachel sits beside her as silent support, and Quinn is both relieved and terrified because of it.
It feels good to talk about it; to voice her fears and her hopes for the future she wants for herself. She might make the mistake of glancing at Rachel - honestly, she can't help it - and she watches Hiram's eyebrows rise.
That's not a secret she's willing to tell.
Not yet, at least.
While Quinn considers what it would mean to come out; she ultimately decides against it. She doesn't tell her parents, and she doesn't tell Casey or Webb. The only person who knows at school is Rachel, and Quinn is perfectly okay with that. Most of the time. It allows her someone to confide in, but being friends with Rachel Berry is always going to be tricky.
It has nothing to do with the fact she's a cheerleader and Rachel is... not. And everything to do with having the girl she likes pay so much attention to whom she may or may not have a crush on. Honestly, it's as stressful as it sounds.
Rachel is convinced it's Casey for two weeks, before she switches to Webb. Even Santana, for a horrifying moment.
Rachel cycles through all of the cheerleaders, taking some kind of perverse pleasure in making Quinn sputter around each of her dismissals. She always says something along the lines of, "I mean, she's pretty, but, um, no, I don't like her like that."
"You must like someone." It's Rachel's go-to, her head tilted to the side as she tries to figure out Quinn. It's only been a few weeks of this back and forth, Rachel's birthday, Hanukkah, Christmas and the New Year coming and going. Quinn's managed to learn things about Rachel she didn't know.
Like, she has pet ferrets, and her obsession with stars was borne of a star stencil kit her late grandmother once bought for her. Quinn learns that Rachel is actually a quiet person, and she wonders what happened in her other life that she felt the need to make her voice heard all the time. She learns - though she's probably always known - that Rachel Berry is persistent.
Especially when she wants information.
Quinn will blame her distraction on the algebraic expansion she's trying to complete for what she says next, but the words come out regardless. "Of course, I like someone."
Rachel goes as quiet as the library they're in.
Quinn looks up, a little confused by the silence. There's a certain look on Rachel's face that Quinn's sure she's seen only once before. In her other life. She can't recall exactly when it was, but it felt important then in a way that she realises must be important now.
"Rachel?" Quinn asks.
"Who is she?"
Quinn shakes her head. "I - I can't tell you that."
Rachel's face falls. "Oh."
Quinn winces. "I'm sorry."
"You don't have to tell me, of course," she says. "I just - I guess I wanted to help. Crushes aren't easy."
"No, they're not," Quinn agrees.
"You can talk about her if you want to," she says. "Without telling me whom she is."
Quinn thinks that's a terrible idea, but her mouth still opens to say, "She's perfect."
Rachel keeps her gaze on Quinn's face, eyes a little narrow.
"I mean, not quite perfect, because nobody is, and she can be a handful on most days, but I - yeah, I think she's perfect." She blushes a little. "She's beautiful, too. With eyes I want to spend hours looking into. I want to talk to her all the time; just to hear her speak. I have this - there's just - I wish I could just tell her how I feel and have it all work out."
It takes Rachel a long, long moment to speak again. "Why wouldn't you tell her?"
"I'm too scared she doesn't feel the same."
"She'd be crazy not to," Rachel comments, without hesitance, and there's something in her voice that draws Quinn's attention. "I mean, obviously. You're - I mean, you're Quinn Fabray."
"I'm not sure that means very much these days," she says with a shrug.
"Being friends with me can be a drag on your popularity," she says. "Sorry."
Quinn rolls her eyes. "It's not you."
"It is me."
Quinn looks at her homework, furrow in her brow. "I don't really care, you know? You're my friend, and I don't care what any of these idiots say about it."
"Casey adores you," Quinn says. "She just - "
"Doesn't want to be seen with me in public."
Quinn grins. "She doesn't know a good thing."
Rachel meets her gaze. "She wouldn't be the only one."
Rachel shakes her head. "Nothing."
Quinn holds her gaze for a moment, and then drops it once more. She knows she's missing something, but she's not willing to figure it out right now.
Though, she never does get the chance to figure it out for herself, because Rachel kisses her on the first Friday of their summer vacation.
Quinn is in the middle of telling her a story about the book she's just read for the third time in her dual lives when Rachel closes the distance between them and presses their lips together.
Rachel pulls away a beat later, panicked. "I'm sorry," she squeaks. "I - I know there's a girl you like, but you're doing that thing where you talk with your hands and get all animated and I just - I couldn't - why are you smiling? You're smiling at me."
"You kissed me."
"And now you're smiling."
Quinn laughs, more out of wonder and surprise. "You totally kissed me."
"You're not mad."
"Of course not." She can't stop her smile if she tries, because this is so much better than anything she could have imagined. It's unreal. Rachel just kissed her. That's probably the greatest thing to happen to her, in both her lives.
"Why aren't you mad?" she asks, frowning. "What about the girl you - "
"It's you," Quinn says. "The girl is you."
Quinn grins. "Why did you kiss me?" she asks.
"Umm, because I - I like you."
They're words Quinn never thought she would hear, in any life. Her heart is racing in her chest, lips trembling, because those words mean everything. "You do?"
Quinn's smile is shaky as it spreads across her face. For a frightening moment, she's convinced she's about to wake up from this dream right this instant. She's heard exactly what she wants to hear from the one person she wants to hear the words from, and it would be just Quinn's luck that her time in this world would end right now.
Quinn closes the gap between their mouths this time, kissing Rachel properly. It doesn't last very long, and they break apart a moment later, beaming at each other.
Rachel still looks a little dazed. "It was me?" she asks. "This whole time? You've liked me?"
"The entire time," Quinn says, and smiles to herself, because 'the entire time' is a lot longer than Rachel will ever know. It spans years. From before this Rachel even met her.
It's something Quinn thinks about quite a bit, actually. If it's all just part of her lingering feelings from her other life. It makes some sense, in a way, but this Rachel Berry isn't all that different to the other one. All the parts of her Quinn loves still exist.
Wow, okay, she definitely can't mention that to Rachel.
"It's real, right?" Rachel asks, which is something Quinn wishes she could ask of her, instead.
Still, it doesn't feel untrue when she says, "It's real," in confirmation.
If Quinn were to compare the summers after her first and second freshman year of high school, she definitely prefers this one. She spent a lot of her time in high school bitter and miserable, putting herself into a box she wasn't even aware of, but getting to be with Rachel and enjoying that for all it brings to her life is monumental.
And a little terrifying.
She still can't bring herself to come out to her parents, but Rachel accompanies her when Quinn tells Casey. Casey, who rolls her eyes and says, "Dude, I already know - the way you look at her is like... obscene."
Quinn flushes despite the relief she feels.
"Don't worry," Casey says; "your secret's safe with me."
It's the best Quinn could hope for, and she makes a mental note to talk to the first Casey if ever she gets ripped from this world. Maybe they can try to be friends.
For now, though, Quinn enjoys every second of this new life. She gets to be as true as she can manage; gets to be with Rachel in all the ways she's dreamed. They're limited by their ages, of course, because neither of them can actually drive yet, but having Rachel's parents in the know is helpful.
It's honestly the best summer of Quinn's life, and she might have cried when it comes to an end if Rachel didn't call her silly. "Not a lot has to change," Rachel promises, and Quinn holds her to it.
School isn't terribly different to before the summer, which is a relief, but Quinn experiences the first feeling that her time is running out. It creeps up on her without her consent, catching her off guard as she listens to Sue Sylvester scream at her failing Squad while Casey snickers in her ear.
It's the first time she doesn't feel as connected to the person she is here, and more linked to the one she was before the accident. It's the first time she wonders if this is what it feels to wake up.
What it feels like to die.
She can't know for sure. She doesn't want to know. She'll happily stay right here, existing in this world with this girl.
But, like many things in Quinn Fabray's life, she rarely gets what she wants.
Rachel tells her she loves her on a Saturday night, when they're lying together and watching an episode from the second season of How I Met Your Mother. It's funny enough that Quinn doesn't mind watching it all over again, but she's not paying all that much attention.
Because Rachel is tucked into her side, palm flat on the skin of her abdomen, and Quinn hasn't had a coherent thought in a full hour.
The words come out of the blue. Ted does something silly, Barney gets laid, and Rachel says, "I love you."
Quinn goes stiff with surprise, and her heart races in her chest. Okay, so those are probably the words she's always wanted to hear. Those words, directed at her. Meant for her.
She turns her head, pulling back enough to be able to see Rachel's face. "Do you mean that?" she asks, and feels nervous for the first time. Not because she's worried about saying them back - she would have said them the day they met if that wouldn't have been certifiable - but because of what they mean for after the words are put into this world.
When Quinn hears what she wants to hear, the end will come.
Rachel says, "Of course I do." She kisses Quinn's cheek. "Just thought I would let you know."
"I love you, too," Quinn says, and she hopes she never returns to a life where she wouldn't be able to say those words to this particular girl.
"Would you believe me if I told you I've already lived this life before?" Quinn asks, one Friday evening, when they're holed up in Rachel's bedroom and working on their abundance of homework.
Rachel barely even looks up from the notebook perched in her lap. "I would."
Quinn frowns. "Why?"
"Because I've figured out when you lie to me, and you're not doing it right now."
Quinn doesn't even know how to respond to that. "You don't think I'm crazy?"
"Of course I do," she says. "That doesn't mean I don't believe you."
Quinn abandons her homework and crawls across the bed, moving to hover over Rachel on her hands and knees. "Look at me," she says.
Rachel does, and her features are surprisingly open, understanding. "Did you really think I wouldn't believe you?"
"I figured I would have to do more convincing," she concedes.
"Well, that shouldn't stop you," Rachel murmurs, a little coy, and Quinn kisses her.
It's definitely not anywhere near the first time they've kissed, but Rachel always seems to look at her as if she doesn't believe it'll happen again.
Rachel's fingers slide into Quinn's hair, tugging and pulling her closer. Her legs spread to accommodate Quinn's hips, and the blonde settles her weight on her.
It is a dream, just being able to kiss Rachel Berry. Every time it happens, Quinn is convinced she's going to wake in the hospital again, because life shouldn't get to be this good. She doesn't deserve a girl like Rachel, after everything she's done.
Only, in this life, she hasn't done any of that. In this life, all she's done is be this person she wishes she'd been brave enough to be the first time around. Whether it was a dream or not, this person she is can perhaps be deemed worthy of Rachel, and that's all that matters.
Rachel pulls back after a moment, breathing heavily. "Tell me about this other life," she says, brushing her nose against Quinn's.
"You wouldn't believe me."
"I've believed everything else," Rachel points out. "Try me."
Quinn kisses her just once, and then shifts right off her, sitting on her right side. Their homework has well and truly been abandoned, and she doesn't even care.
The thing is Quinn doesn't even know where to start. She's not proud of the person she was; only of the one she was becoming. She went through a hell of a lot to get there, and she doesn't want Rachel's opinion of her to change.
"I promise I'll still love you when it's over," Rachel tells her as if she's managed to read her mind. "I know you, Quinn. I know who you are."
"Sometimes, I don't think you do," Quinn says. "You - you don't know what I'm capable of. The things I've said and done. I don't - I used to hate myself so much."
"Now, I have you," Quinn tells her. "And I swore to myself I wouldn't do anything to make you leave me."
Rachel watches her closely. "Did I leave you? In this other life?"
"We were never together."
Quinn takes a deep breath, and then begins her story. She starts with Lucy, detailing how much she forced herself to change when she came to Lima. She talks about the bullying, eyes focused on Rachel's face. It pinches in places, but she doesn't say anything.
Then Quinn gets to Finn, and Puck. To Rachel, and eventually Beth. She talks about Shelby, which makes Rachel hold onto herself a little tightly, and Quinn has to stop herself from reaching out to hold her in her arms. It's the first time she wonders if she'll ever be able to do such a thing again.
Before Quinn can move onto their junior year, Rachel shifts closer, practically climbs into Quinn's lap, and quietly says, "you lost your baby."
Now, Quinn knows this. She's aware Beth doesn't exist in this world, and it's one of the hardest truths she's had to accept of her new reality. Beth isn't Beth in this world, and Quinn still lives at home with both her parents. She has Rachel. She has real friends.
Sometimes, it's a worthy trade-off. Sometimes it's not.
Rachel threads her fingers through Quinn's hair and kisses her cheek. "I'm sorry," she whispers. "I'm so sorry."
Quinn sighs, her hands resting on Rachel's waist. "She was beautiful."
"I sure she was," Rachel agrees. "She was part of you."
Quinn's smile is small, but she can't think of anything else to say. The grief lingers, but this is the first time she's really been allowed to talk about Beth to anyone.
"What else happened?" Rachel prompts.
Quinn holds her close as she explains their junior year, describing her rise back to the top of the cheerleading pyramid and how she dated Sam, and then Finn, and then nobody. She tells Rachel about her own relationship with Finn, and Noah, and how Santana derailed many things for them both.
Then there's senior year, and Rachel's eyebrows rise into her hairline when Quinn mentions her skank phase. Her eyes soften when Quinn explains how Shelby's return with Beth broke her in ways she's never been able to understand. She tells Rachel about her questionable decisions; about her utter heartbreak when Rachel and Finn took their relationship to all sorts of new levels, and about the way she slowly self-destructed at the news of their impending nuptials.
"Well, now I know it had to be another life," Rachel comments. "Quinn. Baby. Please tell me I did not get married to my high school boyfriend. In high school."
Quinn noses at Rachel's cheek. "I don't know," she says.
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"Exactly that," Quinn says. "I never made it to your wedding."
"I - well, I got into a car accident before I could show up, and then I ended up here."
Rachel pulls back from her, staring at her in disbelief. "You died?" she screeches.
Quinn winces at the volume. "I don't know," she says.
"Oh my God, Quinn," she says. "What if you died in that other world? Oh my God, what if that Rachel married someone else and never got to know what it's like to be with you? What if - "
"Rachel," Quinn says, cutting off her worrying ramble. "It was probably all a dream."
"Are you sure?"
Quinn waits a beat. "It's either that was a dream, or this is a dream, and I can't stand the thought of you - this you - not being real."
Rachel shifts in her lap. "I'm real," she whispers, kissing the tip of Quinn's nose. Then she blinks. "What if you're in a coma?" she asks, so very quietly.
"Then I never want to wake up," Quinn declares, and she means it with every fibre of her being.
Rachel looks like she might argue that, but her mouth closes with a soft click. Then she kisses Quinn's lips just once and says, "As long as you're staying here with me."
"There is nowhere else in all the worlds I would rather be."
Rachel asks about the other life sometimes.
Not always, but enough that Quinn can't forget that there are choices she could have made that would have led her so astray.
Would have led her down a path where Rachel wouldn't be hers.
It's only when they're alone, which isn't too often, with all their friends and Rachel's parents in the know about the status of their relationship. They both understand nobody else will hear what Quinn has experienced and believe it. They might hear it and think she's lost it completely.
But Rachel asks, and Quinn answers, and it feels monumental in a way that, now that this truth is out in the open; it signifies something.
Rachel is mostly curious about Shelby, though she never quite admits it. And them; the two of them. Their relationship through the various stages.
One night among many, Rachel asks, "Would you have told me you love me?"
Quinn stops typing her equation into her calculator - God, it feels as if she's always doing Math - and looks over at Rachel, who isn't even bothered to pretend she's working on her own homework. "When?"
"That day," Rachel says. "Any day. Would you have told me?"
Quinn turns her body away from facing Rachel's desk, but doesn't approach the girl on the bed. "I don't know," she says. "I don't know if I did."
Rachel gives her a very specific look, and they both don't believe Quinn's words. Quinn definitely loves that Rachel. "I don't want to sound super egotistical here, but you basically jumped Universes when I was marrying someone else."
Quinn laughs, Rachel's response so unexpected. "Oh, my God."
Rachel grins at her, and then uses her forefinger to beckon her over. She crooks it suggestively, and Quinn has always been powerless to her. She rises to her feet, crosses the room and crawls onto the bed, hovering over Rachel in that way she's learned her girlfriend particularly likes.
"Promise me something," Rachel says when Quinn is in position, settled comfortably between her legs, hips aligned.
"If ever you go back to that world - "
"Rach - "
"Ssh," Rachel says, fingertips over Quinn's lips. "Just listen, okay? If ever you go back to that world, you have to tell me how you feel. Promise me?"
"Promise, Quinn? Whether I get married to someone else, you have to tell me. You can't let me go on living my life without knowing this love with you could exist."
"We're different people," Quinn points out.
"In that world, or in this, you still love me," Rachel counters. "Why is it so unthinkable that I would feel the same in both, as well?"
Quinn studies her face, eyes darting over her features. "I don't want to leave you," she says, because she suddenly gets the feeling it's bound to happen. She's told Rachel. She's brought attention to this feeling that's surrounded their romance - that it doesn't quite belong to them.
It belongs to a different Quinn, with a different Rachel, and this Quinn needs to get back. She's loved this life. She's experienced this love this way, but it's not -
"Promise me," Rachel says again. "Promise me you'll make our love as real as it is in this world in that one."
"I don't want to leave you," Quinn says again, but it's no use.
"Promise me, Quinn."
Quinn shakes her head, not willing to seal her fate. Rachel's hands still her movement, fingers light against her cheeks. "If I asked, would you marry me?"
Rachel kisses her lips just once. "Tomorrow?"
Rachel considers it for a moment, and then shakes her head. "Ask me in five years," she says. "When we're twenty-one, ask me."
"Will you say yes?"
"Without a second thought."
"And mean it?"
Rachel runs her hand over Quinn's hair, gently tugging on a few strands. "Do you remember the day we met?"
"In the library?" Quinn questions. "The day you sat in my seat?"
Rachel nods slowly. "And I couldn't figure out why."
"Because we were always meant to meet," she says. "I didn't understand it at the time, but I had felt weirdly lost until that moment. Until that seat and until I was looking at you. Talking to you. Meeting you."
"Are you about to tell me we're soulmates?"
"Don't you feel it?"
Quinn smirks a little, and then rolls her hips with intent. "I feel that," she murmurs, which draws a giggle out of Rachel... that very quickly turns into a soft moan.
Quinn leans into her, kissing her as a means of distraction. She doesn't want to make a promise that'll give voice to something of an end. It feels like turning the key in the lock to the other world, opening a terrifying door, and Quinn doesn't want to go. She's happy here, safe and protected by Rachel's love and heart. She doesn't want to go back to a world where she doesn't immediately have this.
Rachel pulls away before the distraction can work, if it ever could. "No more kissing until you promise me."
"The kissing stops once I promise you," Quinn tells her.
"Not if you keep your promise."
"Can you guarantee that?" Quinn presses. "Can you promise me in return that everything will work out?"
Rachel looks into her eyes. "Baby."
Rachel hesitates. "I think what I can promise you is that it will all eventually work out," she says. "It might take time, but I think you can be patient."
"No, I can't," Quinn tells her. "I've had you. I know how it feels to be loved by you this way. Why would I ever want to go back to a world where I possibly have to watch you be with someone else?"
"You know you can't stay."
She shakes her head. "I won't do it."
"Just promise me," Rachel says. "Promise me you'll take the chance. Promise you'll tell me you love me and want to be with me. Promise me you won't let me go through life without knowing how it feels to be aware of your love."
Fingers in her hair, Rachel tilts Quinn's head up. "I know," she whispers. "I know."
"What do you know?"
"I know you have to go back," she says. "I can feel it."
"You're not mine."
Quinn breathes slowly. "Does it matter?"
"It matters when the real you isn't entirely here," Rachel says, and it feels like the beginning of goodbye. It feels like the end of something that wasn't ever truly theirs. "It matters when the real me isn't entirely here, either."
"It's all a dream?"
"Maybe," Rachel murmurs; "maybe not." She tucks some hair behind Quinn's ear. "Does it matter? When you go, I can't follow, but I'll be here." She points to the spot over Quinn's beating heart. "Always."
"Please don't make me leave."
Rachel blinks, and there are tears in her eyes. "You were never mine to keep," she says, and Quinn realises none of it has been real. Nothing has been hers. Nothing has been -
"Promise me," Rachel says again.
This time, when Quinn kisses her, Rachel allows it. She kisses her with everything she has and all she is. She kisses her as if it's the last time. She kisses her because it may as well be. She kisses her because it will be.
"I promise," she finally says, breathless and heartbroken.
Rachel smiles sadly at her. "I love you, you know," she whispers. "I'm so glad I got to meet you."
"Does that mean I'm not dead?" Quinn asks, crease in her brow.
"Does this feel like heaven?"
"It did until a few minutes ago," Quinn admits. "You are always where I would want to be, regardless."
Rachel brings her closer, hugging her tighter. "She's lucky," she whispers. "She's so lucky, and she doesn't even know it."
Quinn's eyes fill with tears. "Don't let go until I fall asleep," she pleads.
"I'll never let go," Rachel promises.
Quinn closes her eyes. "At least I don't have to finish my stupid simultaneous equations," she mutters, and Rachel laughs into her ear, lips against its shell.
"I love you," Rachel tells her again.
"I'm going to miss you," Quinn confesses.
"But, I'll always be with you," Rachel says. "In your heart, and in your head."
And, really, the latter is the part that's always scared Quinn.
Quinn wakes up crying.
She's lying on her back, completely still, and she knows, without a doubt, the world is different. She's different, but so is everything else.
Quinn knows she's in a hospital. She's been in one enough times to recognise the sounds. She's also aware she's alone, without having to open her eyes. It's cold. Rachel isn't near. Rachel isn't holding her, and Quinn is crying.
The next time she wakes, her tears remains, and her heart still aches. She's not alone, though, and she can barely contain herself when she sees her mother sitting in a chair, looking older than her memory, but exactly the same as she remembers.
The tears don't really stop when her mother notices her, or when she calls for her nurses and then her doctors. They remain when she learns she's been in a coma for two weeks - two years - and she suffered a spinal injury that could see her never walk again.
She doesn't see how anything about this world could be any better than the one she just left behind. It was just cruel giving her all of that, only to arrive back into this mess of a life. She has questions about what happened with the wedding and how the last two weeks have progressed, but she can't seem to voice them.
She can't seem to do anything.
She barely even wants to.
The thing is, also, that Quinn doesn't actually want to see Rachel, which is why she's so relieved when the brunette doesn't actually pay her a visit. It should sting, but Quinn's knowledge of another Rachel makes her question how she would react if this Rachel were suddenly in front of her.
Quinn might scream.
What actually ends up happening is probably worse. Rachel shows herself three days after Quinn wakes, and Quinn can't bring herself to say a thing to her. She just lies there and stares, because Rachel looks so remarkably like her Rachel - of course she does - and Quinn doesn't trust herself not to beg her to hold her and reassure her.
Rachel just moves to sit on the edge of Quinn's bed and takes hold of Quinn's right hand in both of her own. Quinn stares at them, pale skin against tan, and she wonders why it feels so different and yet so familiar.
Quinn breathes deeply. "I made a promise to you," she says, little more than a raspy whisper. Her voice is scratchy from disuse, but her other Rachel would hate her if she broke her promise, and Quinn can't stand the thought of that.
Rachel's brow creases. "A promise?" she murmurs. "You didn't make a promise to me."
"Not you," Quinn says.
"But you just said - "
Quinn shakes her head. "You, but not you," she says.
"I don't understand," Rachel says. "You're not making any sense, Quinn."
"I love you."
Rachel's mouth snaps shut.
"I have loved you for years," Quinn says, but she's not even looking at Rachel. She can't. Not in this moment. "I thought I could get through life without ever telling you. I was convinced it wouldn't mean anything to tell you how I felt, because you would never choose me, anyway. But I promised you I would tell you, and it - "
"I just thought you should know that I love you, and want to be with you," Quinn says, carefully sliding her hand out of Rachel's hold. "You deserve to know that you are loved, and I promised I would make sure you knew how it felt to be aware that you're loved by me."
"I just want you to be happy," Quinn says, holding her arms around her own body, keeping herself together. "You should just know that it could be with me." She smiles, gently and purposefully. "I know I can make you happy." Her smile fades as quickly as it appears. "I've done it before."
"I don't - what are you - "
Quinn closes her eyes. "I have a headache," she says. "You should probably go."
And, mercifully, Rachel goes.
Quinn sits alone for a while, keeping her eyes closed. She can hear her heart monitor steadily beating, and she can feel her pulse in her fingertips. It's almost as if she's not in her own body; like she's somewhere else. With a Rachel that apparently exists only in her coma-dreams.
"I did it," she whispers to nobody. "I kept my promise. Please can I come home now?"
And, mercilessly, Quinn stays.
Quinn doesn't see Rachel until she's been back home for a full week, eventually showing up at the house with a bouquet of familiar white flowers and a hesitant smile.
If Quinn had the option, she wouldn't see Rachel at all, but her mother lets the brunette in, and Quinn doesn't have full mobility to go anywhere Rachel isn't.
Quinn is staying in the downstairs den now, making the joint decision with her mother that it just didn't make sense to force the issue of having her stay in her bedroom upstairs. Which means there's plenty of places for visitors to sit.
And yet Rachel chooses the edge of Quinn's new bed for this particular visit. She seems nervous, and Quinn just wishes she would say whatever she needs to say, so she can go back to reading her book and moping about the life she's lost.
After four full minutes of silence, Rachel asks, "What did you mean?"
Quinn sighs. "What did I mean about what?"
"You said me, but not me," Rachel says. "What does that mean?"
Quinn studies her face for a moment. "You wouldn't believe me," she finally says, because that's something of which she's quite certain. She's still not one hundred percent sure the other Rachel actually did believe her or just humoured her.
Quinn closes her book in her lap, still a little freaked out by the fact she still can't feel the action on her legs. "You're going to think I'm crazy," she says.
"That won't mean I won't believe you," Rachel says, and it's the first time Quinn feels as if this Rachel isn't all that different to the one she left behind. They're the same people, in essence, the same way Quinn is the same. Maybe.
Quinn manages a smile, and then says, "I was in a coma for two weeks."
Rachel's face falls. "I know."
"I wasn't just asleep," she says. "I was somewhere else. In another world."
Rachel's head tilts a little to the left.
"I woke up younger," Quinn explains; "and I had the chance to do things differently."
"You changed things?"
It's different, but also familiar to tell this Rachel about that life the way she told that Rachel about this one. It doesn't feel as if she's talking about herself anymore, which is maybe the point. She's talking about someone who isn't her, with someone who isn't this Rachel.
Then: "We were together?"
Quinn offers a small grin. "You kissed me first," she says. "Apparently, you can't resist when I talk with my hands and get animated about whatever I'm saying."
Rachel gives her a rather significant look. "Apparently," she repeats, and Quinn gets the familiar sense that she's missing something important all over again.
All she knows is she's kept her promise, and that's all she's meant to do. Now, she just has to lick her wounds and find a way to get through the next few months of her life without letting her current circumstances consume her.
"So, you like girls?" Rachel asks after a moment.
Quinn nods. "I like girls," she confirms, saying the words for the first time in this life. She's more comfortable with them, their truth not something she's planning to run from anymore. Never again.
"And - and you like me?" she asks, voice dropping slightly.
Quinn meets her gaze, steady. "I love you, Rachel," she says.
Rachel blinks. "Me?" she asks; "or the other me?"
Quinn gives the question some thought, because it's a valid concern. They're not the same, this Rachel and the other, but Quinn loves them just the same. She's loved every version of her. "You," she finally says, and she gives no indication which one she means. "It's always been you."
Rachel just studies her closely, searching her face; her eyes. "We were happy?"
Quinn takes a breath. "We were sixteen, Rachel," she says. "We were as happy as we could be."
"Were we out?"
"No," Quinn says. "To your parents and friends, yes, but I - " she stops, and feels Rachel's right hand settle over her one that's picking at the comforter draped over her lower half. "I didn't want to go through the pain of being kicked out again. Not yet, at least."
Rachel squeezes her hand, gentle and warm. "Did you tell her about this world?"
Quinn nods. "I felt compelled to, at some point," she says. "I think it waited for me to... get the full experience of what it was like to be with you, to give me something to hold onto. To help me heal. To make sure I would be okay once I got back, knowing you're - you're not mine." She audibly swallows. "She's the one who made me promise to tell you. I didn't want to, because I knew it meant I would be coming back here. To this world where I'm not yours. But she made me promise, so I did, and then I kept it, and now we're here."
Rachel nods slowly. "Here we are."
Quinn stares at their hands for a long, long moment. "I can't feel my legs," she says, softly enough that it's like a secret. "They don't know if I'll ever walk again. I should be heartbroken over it, but my heart rather aches for the world I've just left behind. A world where you're mine."
"Quinn, I - "
"Please don't," she says. "I'm sorry to dump this all on you. I'm sure that's not what you expected when you came over here."
"I just wanted answers."
"Still think you got more than you bargained for," she comments, almost rolling her eyes at herself. Because, if ever she stood a chance with Rachel, she's definitely blown it now. "Still think I'm crazy?"
"Definitely," she says, but she's smiling. "Doesn't mean I don't believe you."
Quinn smiles, maybe for the first time, and it's a smile meant solely for this Rachel. "Well, that's a relief."
Rachel releases her hand after giving it one last squeeze. "I'm sorry you had to go through all of that."
It's the first time Quinn suspects this Rachel won't ever truly understand her. Because, honestly - "I'm not."
Quinn doesn't actually learn about the status of Rachel and Finn's relationship until she gets back to school. It's been a lot of additional preparation for just how taxing it's going to be on her body, but she's determined not to miss any more school.
Thankfully, she's been able to keep up with her work from home, but there's something about actually getting to go to school that is just different.
It's Sam who tells her they didn't actually get married, though Quinn figured that much from the single ring on Rachel's finger. The engagement one. It's still there, like some kind of beacon, and Quinn has to force herself not to look whenever Rachel is within distance.
Which isn't too often.
Quinn wouldn't notice her absence if she weren't so tuned into her. At first, she thinks it's because of the confession, but she learns from Finn that it's because she always gets emotional when she sees Quinn in her wheelchair. Apparently, she feels guilty to the point that she doesn't want to overwhelm Quinn with just how much.
Truthfully, Quinn doesn't know how to deal with that, so she just lets Rachel cry when she does, gives her a hug and assures her she doesn't blame her for anything. The words are true, even with all the circumstances that got Quinn to that specific moment in time in her life.
Quinn won't say it helps, in the grand scheme of things, because Rachel always looks at her as if there's something she wants to say, and actively stops herself. It makes the moments they do interact a little stilted and awkward, but Quinn expected that. She didn't tell Rachel how she felt with the expectation things would return to normal.
They've never been normal.
Which is further proved when Quinn rolls her way into the library on a particular Thursday during lunch and spots Casey sitting at a secluded table, head buried in the textbook she's studying. Now, on a normal day, Quinn would leave her be, but she told her other self she would talk to her if she got back to this life.
It just helps they're both no longer cheerleaders. Quinn's reasons differ to Casey's, who Quinn understands just got tired of having to keep up the pretence of a certain persona to fit in to whatever mould Coach Sylvester wanted of them.
Quinn can't actually remember the last time they talked - definitely before Webb even graduated - so it's expected Casey looks surprised when Quinn rolls over. She's a little nervous, weirdly, but she's still Quinn Fabray, and that means something.
"Hi," Quinn says, internally rolling her eyes at herself.
Casey does that thing where she looks around, as if she's questioning if she's actually the one Quinn is talking to. "Hi," she finally says in response. "Um. Can I help you?"
Quinn smiles. "Actually, yes please," she says. "There's this book I need to get, but I can't seem to reach it."
Casey's eyes widen, because, yeah, Quinn can't reach a lot of things at the moment.
"Sure, yeah, of course."
Quinn manages to keep her giggle quiet, and then directs Casey towards the fiction section. Quinn points at what she knows is Casey's favourite book, and watches as her expression shifts with interest.
Casey hands it to her, Quinn says thank you, and the two of them spend the rest of their lunch hour discussing said book.
If Casey is the one part of that old life she can hold onto; Quinn will do so with gusto.
"You have moon eyes."
Quinn drags her eyes back from where they're focused across the cafeteria - on Rachel - to look at Casey, who is smirking at her. "What?"
"Moon eyes," Casey repeats. "One would think you were in love."
Quinn blushes. Honestly, she just can't help it.
Casey grins. "I knew it."
Quinn braces herself for the next expected question, but it never comes. Casey just raises a fist in the air - like a complete dork - and then continues eating her slice of thin, very dry pizza.
Quinn almost wishes she would ask, but there's a part of her that's relieved she doesn't.
Instead, the person who does ask a very particular question turns out to be Rachel, herself. Now, Quinn has seen jealousy on Rachel. It comes in various forms and for various reasons, but it's the first time she's seen it this way, and in any reference to her.
Rachel won't even look at her when she asks about Casey, and it reminds Quinn of a younger Rachel trying to figure out who Quinn's crush was.
It's just that none of it makes any sense to Quinn. Why would Rachel be concerned about her friendship with Casey?
"We were once on the Squad together," Quinn tells her, anyway. "We were better friends in the other world. I thought we might try to reclaim that."
Rachel sneaks a look at her, her hands continually fiddling with the sheet music in her lap. "Oh," she says; "so, you're not - I mean, you don't - "
"Rachel," Quinn says, and her voice is sombre. "Not that what you're attempting to ask me is at all fair to me, I feel as if I should remind you that I am in love with you."
This time, the words sound heavier. Settling between them in a way that can't be ignored. They're said while Quinn is completely lucid, on her way back to full health, and in the open Choir Room. They are undeniable.
"I - " Rachel says. "I'm sorry. I just - I don't want you to get hurt."
Quinn's smile is tinged with sadness. "It's a little late for that."
Casey turns out to be the third person Quinn actually comes out to in this world, after both Rachel and her mother. Telling Judy was both easy and difficult, but her mother said, "I know when something is different with you, and I ignored it the first time around, so I'm not doing it again."
So Quinn told her. She likes girls. She's in love with Rachel Berry. She's gay.
Judy didn't say much of anything at first, but she did hug her and ask for some time to digest the news. From Quinn's understanding, a coming out can feel similar to losing a child in the sense that the one you've learned and loved feels as if they no longer exist.
It's the reason Quinn swipes a brochure from Miss Pillsbury about the stages of grief, hands it to her mother and says, "We can work through them together."
Casey takes it even better than the second world's one, grinning like she's always known. It seems Quinn just can't hide from some people.
Casey is definitely one of them when she says, "You're nursing heartbreak, aren't you?"
"Isn't everyone?" Quinn deflects.
Casey hums. "Perhaps," she agrees. "Though, yours looks like it hurts bone-deep."
Quinn grins. "At least I can feel only half of my bones at the moment."
Casey gives her an unimpressed look. "That isn't nearly as funny as you think it is," she says, deadpan. Then she smiles. "Okay, it kind of was."
Quinn tips her imaginary hat.
Casey watches her for a long, long moment. "There's a girl, isn't there?"
Quinn opens her mouth, and then immediately closes it.
"We don't have to talk about it," Casey says; "but you can if you want to." She leans back. "I mean, I know a bit about unrequited love. There's this boy in my Physics class, and I literally cannot bring myself to tell him I basically want to have his babies."
Quinn winces. "I told her," she admits.
Casey glances at her. "You told her?"
"I told her I love her and want to be with her and that I'm an option for her."
Casey blinks. "Then, where is she?" she asks. "Because, I might not swing that way, but even I'm not an idiot enough not to know Quinn Fabray would be my ultimate peak."
"Oh, my God," Quinn says, laughing. "But, yeah, she's - she's not interested, I guess. She has a boyfriend." Her words don't feel entirely true, because they're not. Quinn suspects Rachel has harboured a certain level of interest in her, maybe once upon a time - because she can't be that different to the other Rachel - but things are different now. In this world.
She's still engaged to Finn, after all.
Until, well, she just isn't.
It's Artie who tells Quinn the news while the two of them are practicing on the ramp installed behind the main school building. Quinn's arms hurt from exertion, but she's determined to get strong enough to be able to do nearly everything on her own and get places without any assistance.
The physical therapy is intense and more-often-than-not painful and exhausting. She's trying not to be disillusioned by her lack of progress when it comes to her paralysis, but it can dampen her mood when she thinks about it too much.
When Artie says, "Rachel isn't wearing her ring anymore," it takes everything Quinn has not to lose her grip on her wheels and demand to hear everything he knows.
It is a test of her willpower when she doesn't ask. Rachel will tell her whatever she wants to tell her, and Quinn isn't about to be conceited enough to think it has anything to do with her.
The engagement might be off, but they're probably still together. Quinn won't get her hopes up, and she won't assume anything. She's just going to get up this ramp, see out the rest of her school day, go to physical therapy and catch a long nap when she finally gets home.
It plays out exactly like that, except for the whole nap part. Because Quinn gets home from therapy to find Rachel Berry sitting on her front porch, with a bouquet of those same white flowers sitting beside her, a small smile on her face and eyes red from obvious tears.
When Casey sees her, being the one to drop off Quinn after her session, her own eyes grow comically wide. "No way?"
Quinn giggles nervously. "What is she doing here?"
"Dude, she's coming to profess her love," Casey says, but still neither of them move to get out of the car.
"No, she's not," Quinn forces herself to say, because she can't bear the disappointment.
Casey glances at her. "Are you going to get out, or are we just going to sit here?"
Quinn does sit for a while; long enough that Rachel's smile starts to fade. It's slow, and Quinn watches it happen. She just can't bring herself to move.
"What if she is?" Quinn eventually asks, voice a whisper.
"What if she's what?"
"Here to profess her love."
Casey turns her head to look at her properly. "Then what are you doing wasting time sitting here with me?"
After a moment of thought, Quinn offers her a grateful smile and then opens her door.
"There's the Head Bitch," Casey whoops, and then rushes to retrieve Quinn's wheelchair for her. They have a bit of a system now, and Quinn is able to get herself out of the car and into her chair while Casey stands and makes sure nothing goes terribly wrong.
Casey fetches her school bag for her and hangs it off the back of her chair. Then she asks, "You going to be okay?"
"I'll be fine."
"I can stay."
Quinn looks at her, and she's suddenly very grateful to that other world for giving her this. A friendship with Casey. The chance to know her properly. "Thank you, Case, but I think it's going to be okay."
"Text me later, okay?"
And then she's rounding the car and getting into the driver's seat. She waves once, and then starts to back out of the driveway. Quinn smiles in reassurance, and then starts on her way towards the front door.
Rachel, who sits perfectly still until Quinn rolls up behind her and says, "You look as if you've been crying."
Rachel turns her head to look at her. "I have," she says.
Quinn rolls towards the front door. "Come inside," she says. "I'll make some tea and you can tell me all about it."
In the end, Rachel is the one who ends up making the tea while Quinn uses the toilet and changes into some clean sweats. It's literally the most tiring thing, getting changed, and she doesn't bother to go out to the living room once she's done, rather getting into her bed and forcing herself not to fall asleep.
Rachel eventually comes to find her, two steaming cups in her hands. She sets them both on Quinn's closest nightstand and then perches on the edge of Quinn's bed, right near her dead legs.
Quinn is the one who says, "Why were you crying?"
Rachel doesn't actually answer the question when she says, "I had this dream over the weekend." Her eyes are focused intensely on the Ravenclaw symbol on Quinn's t-shirt. "It was you and me, but not actually you and me."
Quinn is suddenly aware she's holding her breath.
"We were in the library, and you were - you said, 'I've kept my promise, but you haven't kept yours.' And, in the dream, I knew exactly what that promise was. I told you it would take time, but I would keep it, and then I woke up, and I just - I didn't know what the promise was anymore."
"Is that why you're here?" Quinn asks. "To ask me what the promise was?"
"No." Her eyes meet Quinn's. "On Monday, you told me you're patient."
"When I congratulated you on all the progress you've made, you brushed it off, saying you still had a long way to go. But you're patient and willing to put in the work. You said, 'I'm patient,' and I remembered what the promise was."
Quinn just stares, her heart beating faster and faster.
"I promised you that things would eventually work out," Rachel says. "I promised that, if you told me how you felt, things would eventually work in your favour, but it would take time, and all you needed to do was be patient."
Quinn can't figure what, if anything, would be appropriate to say in this moment, so she remains silent.
"Quinn, you have been so patient," Rachel says, and her voice has now dropped in volume. "I think it's time I keep my promise."
Quinn's breath catches. "Rachel?"
"I ended things with Finn," she says, and Quinn's heart threatens to beat right out of her chest. "I - I think I should spend some time evaluating my priorities, because I - I barely recognise the person who was willing to marry her high school boyfriend just because her tertiary dreams weren't going the way she hoped. I'm going to need some time to figure that out, but - "
"I am very patient," Quinn says, finding her voice.
Rachel's smile is small but present. "Yes, you are." She reaches for Quinn's closer hand and curls her fingers around her palm.
"How are you, though?" Quinn asks. "You were crying. Are you - do you - "
"I don't regret ending it," she says firmly. "I just - it feels weird not being attached to him anymore. It was - he didn't take it well. Some nasty things were said. I just - he's angry right now, and he has a right to be, but I think this is the best thing for us." Her eyes meet Quinn's again. "For me."
Quinn feels heat on her cheeks, and she tries to stop the ridiculous smile that wants to bloom across her face.
"So," Rachel says, clearing her throat. "You and Casey, that's not a thing, right?"
Quinn laughs, automatically rolling her eyes. "That's not a thing, Rachel."
"Because I'm in love with you."
Rachel squeezes her hand. "I'm sure you could say it a million times, and I still wouldn't get used to hearing you say those words."
Quinn licks her lips. "I - you haven't said how you, um, feel about, well, me."
Rachel goes very still, and Quinn mentally kicks herself for even bringing it up. "I'm going to tell you something now, but I need you to keep an open mind."
Quinn blinks. "Rach, I essentially told you about my alternate coma life where we were in a relationship and you're still here, so I think I can handle whatever you have to say."
She runs a hand through her hair, dishevelling it in a way that is decidedly non-Rachel-like. Quinn thinks she looks insanely hot. "I've had a crush on you on and off since we met." Rachel basically blurts the words, and then shuts her eyes.
"I mean, it was just a she's-so-cool thing in the beginning," Rachel goes on to explain. "I mean, you were Quinn Fabray, and I just - I wanted to be your friend. I've always wanted to be your friend. More than that, maybe. I didn't really figure out what it was until after Beth, and then things were already crazy enough, and I just knew there was no way I could ever tell you. And then things got even more out of hand - we're really a soap opera - and I love Finn, but I - "
"You don't have to tell me now," Quinn offers, worried Rachel is actually going to hurt herself.
"No, that's what I'm trying to tell you, Quinn," Rachel insists.
"Through everything, you have always been there," she says, tone heavy, and Quinn feels the words settle in the pit of her stomach. "Always, just there."
Rachel hums. "Oh, indeed." She leans forward slightly, ducking her head to meet Quinn's eyes. "Is that too much?"
"No," Quinn says. "Just enough."
Rachel smiles, looking a little nervous, because what now?
Quinn relaxes into her pillows. "Want to watch a movie?" she suggests. "Though, I'm probably going to fall asleep within the first few minutes. I'm exhausted."
Rachel just nods, and then gasps, her eyes wide.
"Quinn, we forgot our tea," she says, and then laughs. "You weren't even going to drink it, were you?"
Quinn's response is interrupted by a yawn, which is probably answer enough.
The day Quinn takes her first steps is also the day Rachel says, "I think I'm officially over Finn."
She says it so unexpectedly that Quinn almost misses the words when Rachel drives her home from her physical therapy session. It's something she does, sometimes, now that, well -
Quinn wouldn't call what they're doing dating, but it's something close. They're friend dating, with the intention of graduating to girlfriend dating in the near future. Rachel bakes Quinn vegan things all the time, and Quinn sends her book and music recommendations. They get coffee at least three times a week, and Quinn sits in whenever Rachel is rehearsing in the auditorium.
So, when Rachel says she's over Finn, it feels monumental. It feels as if they're one step closer to where they both want to be.
"What made you realise that?" Quinn asks, curious.
Rachel doesn't respond until she's pulling into the Fabray driveway and turning off the car. "It's been happening slowly over the past few weeks, but there was a moment today."
"Finn asked me how I was doing, and the first thing I wanted to tell him was that I was good. I was happy, and I would actually mean it." She turns her head, eyes on Quinn's face. "And it got me thinking about the last time I was happy, and I just couldn't remember. I couldn't remember a time I felt like this."
Rachel hums. "That's what you make me," she says, almost like a secret, and Quinn realises that it probably is. They're definitely one step closer, but not quite there yet.
It helps that Quinn is patient.
Though, Casey teases Quinn about their friend dating to the point that she actually makes Casey and Rachel officially meet, which is both horrifying and simply amazing. Because, who knew Casey was this obsessed with stars and astrology? Quinn certainly didn't.
They basically forget about her the first time they meet, and Casey says, "If you don't make it official soon, I will date her just for her knowledge about stars," after Rachel has gone home.
Despite her smile, she rolls her eyes. "I'm waiting for her to be ready," Quinn tells her. "Whenever that happens, well, your prediction is as good as mine."
"It's coming," Casey assures her. "She's almost there."
"How can you tell?"
"Well, Fabray, you're not the only one who has moon eyes."
Quinn doesn't experience déjà vu a lot, which is especially fascinating given she's lived two separate lives for a couple of years.
When she does experience it, there's little to prepare her for it, because Rachel kisses her on the first Friday after they graduate from high school.
Like in the other life, Quinn is in the middle of telling her a story about the book she's just read for the fourth time in her dual lives when Rachel closes the distance between them and presses their lips together.
Except, in this life, she doesn't immediately pull away and apologise. No. This time, she holds the kiss until Quinn leans into it, their mouths moving together for several beats of their hearts.
Quinn is smiling when they do eventually break apart. "I was doing that thing, wasn't I?"
Rachel huffs in pretend annoyance, because that is definitely a smile on her flushed face. "Apparently, I just can't resist when you talk with your hands and get all animated."
Quinn's smile turns into a smirk. "Can't resist me, you say?"
Rachel closes the gap between them to kiss her again, and Quinn gets the impression they're going to be spending a lot of the foreseeable future making up for lost time. Rachel tastes just like Quinn remembers, sweet in a way that makes her want to reach out and touch every part of her.
Rachel places hands on Quinn's shoulders, pushing her back slightly. "Go on a date with me," she says. "A proper one. With all the romance I can manage."
"You've been so patient with me," she says. "And, as much fun as it would be to lie here and make out for hours, I want to do this right."
Quinn blinks. "What you just suggested isn't necessarily wrong," she points out, which gets a laugh out of Rachel.
"Just say yes."
Quinn kisses her in lieu of a verbal response, and then they end up lying there and making out for hours, anyway.
Rachel asks about the other life sometimes.
Not always, but enough that Quinn can't forget that it existed, whether for real or just in her comatose state. It felt real. She still has moments when she's convinced she's still in that life, but then she remembers she's made choices in this life to get her to this moment.
This moment where Rachel is hers.
It's only when they're alone, in the dark of night, both of them tucked away in one of their beds. Rachel asks, and Quinn answers, and it feels significant in a way Quinn can't quite explain.
One night of many, Quinn asks, "Do you actually believe me now?"
"I've always believed you, Quinn," Rachel says, tucked right into Quinn's side and breathing into her neck. "Even if I didn't before, I do now."
"You know things about me you shouldn't already know," she says. "You know things about a freshman me that I definitely wouldn't have told a freshman you, unless we were different people."
"We were the same," Quinn murmurs.
"So, does it matter?"
"No, I don't suppose it does," Quinn agrees. "As long as you're aware I have loved you and still love you and will love you in every world we're in, I don't really care."
Rachel lifts her head, gaze meeting Quinn's in the dim light. "That's the first time you've said it," she says.
"Since we became official; that's the first time you've told me you love me."
Quinn opens her mouth to protest, because that can't be true, but she actually can't remember saying the words since the night of their first official date. "Oh." She turns her head. "It's not because I don't," she says. "I guess I was just waiting for you to catch up."
"Well," Rachel whispers; "it seems I've caught up, Quinn."
Quinn goes still.
"I love you," Rachel says, her tone serious. "You kept your promise, and now I've kept mine."
Quinn laughs, her heart threatening to burst out of her chest. "Make another one for me, will you?"
Quinn wonders if saying her next words will be a mistake, given everything, but she suddenly feels giddy and young and on top of the world. "When we're twenty-one, I'm going to ask you to marry me," she says, and Rachel's eyes widen; "promise me you'll really consider it before you say yes, okay?"
"Is this what our lives are going to consist of now?" Rachel asks, deflecting. "Lots of promises?"
"Just this one," Quinn says. "Promise me you'll give it more than just a single thought before you say yes."
Rachel breathes deeply, and then says, "I promise."
"Thank you," Quinn says, just a little cockily.
Rachel shakes her head. "You may as well just ask me now," she says, resettling against Quinn and preparing to get some sleep. "It seems we're both pretty good at keeping our promises."