Title: Beating Like Moth's Wings
Rating: R (for brief language and possible triggers?)
Spoilers: all aired episodes and the pictures of Quinn from S3 Ep1
Summary: The evolution of Quinn and Rachel's relationship, over the summer before senior year.
One-shot. Rachel's POV and actions are heavily influenced by Passion Pit's "Moth's Wings." Quinn's POV and actions are heavily influenced by Laura Marling's "Ghosts." If you don't know those songs, you don't need them to understand the fic. (But you should listen because they're wonderful.) I own nothing except the mistakes, and I apologize if there are lots of them. I've been feeling a wee bit brain dead lately.
I. The first time
The first time, Rachel didn’t know it was a date until it was over.
She had been confused — rendered nearly speechless — when she opened her front door one evening in early July to find Quinn, a bouquet of wildflowers clutched tightly in her sweaty palm. Rachel smiled, surprised as Quinn thrust the flowers towards her and stuttered out “Th — these are, well, they’re for you, or, at least, for your family, and I thought — I thought — that is, I thought maybe — dinner — I mean, you have to eat and I thought — ”
Rachel laughed, taking the flowers and breathing deeply, but finding that they held no scent. “These are lovely, Quinn.”
Quinn blushed a deep red.
“Quinn,” Rachel said, “Would you like to have dinner with me?”
Quinn nodded silently, smiling faintly. “Please,” she finally said.
Rachel laughed again, putting the flowers on the hall table and calling to her fathers as she left the house, pulling the door shut behind her.
Dinner was strange, to say the least. She and Quinn weren’t friends, exactly, although they had become closer in the six weeks since Nationals. They were casual acquaintances, which, Rachel thought, was a heck of a lot better than mortal enemies, which is what they had been sophomore year, and indifferent classmates, which is what they had been the first half of junior year.
Something had changed, though. The awkward Quinn from her doorstep had been weird enough — Rachel had never seen Quinn look anything less than composed, even in the bathroom at prom as the brunette wiped tears off the taller girl’s cheeks. The new Quinn was even weirder. The stutter was gone, replaced by a quiet, calm monologue. Quinn seemed to feel the urge to tell Rachel her entire life story in the course of one short dinner. Her father, Finn, Puck, Sam, a brief dalliance with Santana in New York, Beth and Lucy — all her relationships, all her secrets, laid on the table for Rachel to examine and to question. Quinn answered her quietly, and Rachel could see the honesty shining in her eyes, along with unshed tears.
Quinn didn’t ask for anything in return. She didn’t ask for the details of Shelby, Jesse, Finn (always Finn), her fathers; she let Rachel pour over her regrets like photographs without offering any of her own.
When Quinn drops her off at home, Rachel realizes it might be a date. Rachel thanks Quinn again for dinner (Quinn insisted on paying, over Rachel’s protests), and Quinn blushes the same deep red as earlier in the evening.
“I’ll see you later this week?” Rachel asks, not sure if she’s allowed to hug this new Quinn, the Quinn who shares her darkest corners and asks nothing in return.
Quinn nods, ducks her head, and moves to step off the porch. As Rachel turns away, though, she is shocked to see Quinn practically lunge towards her, pressing a fleeting kiss to her cheek before backing away. Rachel can see in the dim light of the porch that Quinn is blushing even harder, but has no opportunity to speak as Quinn runs to her car.
When Rachel gets inside, the bouquet has already withered on the table.
II. The second time
The second time, Rachel is no less surprised by Quinn’s sudden appearance on her doorstep. Like the last time, Quinn appears with no warning, bearing a bouquet — although this time, the flowers are daisies and might have come from a florist.
In the week that has passed since the first dinner, they have seen each other four times: lunch, two movies (one at Rachel’s house, and one at the theater), and one day spent at the YMCA’s outdoor pool. They have not spoken of the kiss, and Quinn has revealed no information more personal than her favorite color.
Rachel has just finished loading the dishwasher. Her dads, setting up the DVD player for family movie night, look up when the doorbell rings. Quinn is blushing and holds the flowers out without a word.
“Quinn,” Rachel says, evenly. “I’m surprised to see you tonight. I just ate dinner but if you’d like to come in…?” She trails off.
Quinn shakes her head and thrusts the flowers into Rachel’s hands. “Would you — I mean, I’d like it if — I mean, I hoped that you could — ” She stops and breathes deeply. “Would you go for a ride with me?”
Rachel doesn’t answer, watches her as the blonde girl studies the grain of the wood of the porch.
“Okay,” she says, eventually. “But let me put these in water, first, alright?”
Quinn nods, and it seems that she intends to wait on the porch until Rachel pulls her inside. She stands awkwardly, just inside the door, as she hears water running and a quiet conversation between Rachel and her fathers. Finally, after what seems like hours, Rachel gently touches her elbow and leads her outside.
Quinn drives in silence for exactly 27 minutes. Rachel has kept track, ever since her initial attempt to ask where they were going was met with a shaking head and a slight increase in speed. When Quinn turns off the engine, but doesn’t move to undo her seatbelt or get out of the car, Rachel thinks it might be safe to speak.
“Where are we, Quinn?”
“Hmm? Oh. This is Bresler Lake. My dad — he used to bring me here, before — well, just before.”
Rachel takes that in. She still has questions about Quinn’s dad, about what before means, but she knows better than to push. She knows that old Quinn would have left her here with no compunction and — yep, she checks — she has no cell service this far from town. This new Quinn, the one who brings her flowers and kisses her cheek and takes her out to dinner, might not be permanent. She struggles to find a response.
“Oh,” Rachel breathes.
Quinn glances away from the still water towards the girl at her side. This is the longest she has ever seen Rachel go without speaking, and she appreciates the time to gather her thoughts.
“C’mon,” she says after a moment spent admiring the way the moon glints on Rachel’s hair through the window. The girls head towards the water, Quinn stopping to grab a beach towel out of the backseat. She puts the towel on the grass, making sure it’s perfectly even before sitting down and gesturing for Rachel to do the same.
They lean back, still silent, and Rachel fights the urge to move closer, to take Quinn’s hand or touch her arm or otherwise make contact. She decides it’s safer not to try just as Quinn takes the initiative, grabs her hand, and squeezes once before she begins to talk.
Like the last time, she reveals secrets, reveals parts of herself that Rachel could never imagine, let alone predict. She tells Rachel about Lucy, and the transition to Quinn, and the changes that the transition had caused in her family — in her father — and how that led to Finn as a safety net and Puck as a rebellion.
She tells Rachel about her on-going — and on-goingly fucked-up — relationship with Shelby. The letters, the photos, her inability to respond , even to the invitations to come see her daughter, to come see her little girl.
Rachel soaks it in, asks questions when she needs to, and continues to wonder why Quinn is sharing these things with her. If Quinn wanted therapy, she’d get a therapist, and, besides, she isn’t asking Rachel for commentary or advice or criticism. Rachel tries not to judge (and is mostly successful) and tries to focus on the information she’s getting, rather than the reasons behind it.
It’s midnight before Quinn stops talking. Rachel waits, not knowing if the other girl has fallen asleep or is gathering her strength for another round. She blushes when she hears herself ask the question in her head, and is, once again, briefly shocked by the fact that she is stretched out on a towel holding hands with Quinn Fabray in a setting that could, under other circumstances, be terribly romantic. She wonders if this is a date, if maybe Quinn just doesn’t understand how to date and thinks that this is how it’s done.
They drive back to Lima in silence, and it’s not until they’re standing on Rachel’s front porch that Rachel feels like she can speak.
“Thank you for tonight,” she says, reaching out to lightly touch Quinn’s arm. Quinn jerks away as if burned.
“I — I — I — I — ”
Rachel smiles and ducks her head. “It’s ok, Quinn. I just wanted to thank you.”
Quinn surges towards her, aiming for her cheek, but catches Rachel’s lips briefly as Rachel turns to go into the house.
“Oh!” Quinn exclaims in a horrified tone, backing away. “I’m so sorry, Rachel, I’m so — ”
Rachel tries to stop her, to reassure her that it was okay. (Was it okay? Rachel wasn’t really sure.) She was too late, though, as Quinn was already running back towards her car, her still-short hair trailing behind her in the breeze she created.
Rachel dizzily slumps against the front door as she closes it behind her, noticing with a sigh that Quinn’s bouquet was wilted in spite of the water.
III. The third time
The third time it happens, Quinn brings orange carnations, which she now knows are Rachel’s favorite flowers. She knows this because the girls have seen each other every day in the two weeks since the evening at Bresler Lake. They’ve gone swimming, watched movies, gone to the mall, but they still haven’t spoken of the kiss — now kisses. Rachel hasn’t pushed for answers to the questions Quinn knows she must have, but Quinn has filled in some more details. She knows that Rachel now has a pretty good grasp of the basics. Quinn knows it would take years for her to give Rachel all the stories, relate all the minor — and major — heartbreaks that she has experienced. But it’s a start, at least.
Quinn knows this is crazy. She knows that what she’s doing is just asking for trouble, but something about Rachel — calm, patient Rachel, whose hand is always cool in Quinn’s own, even in the sticky July night — inspires her to confess. If she were more poetic (if she were more like Rachel), she might say she felt like a moth drawn to a flame. As it is, she just says she feels comfortable with the bubbly brunette.
Rachel’s parents aren’t home when the doorbell rings. They have left for date night (just dinner and a movie, and don’t wait up sweetheart we’ll be home late).
Rachel smiles when Quinn practically shoves the flowers at her. She had left the vase out after the last time, just in case, and had almost given up hope of filling it. She feels a thrill course through her at Quinn’s appearance. These encounters — these dates, she says to herself in an undertone — burn bright in her otherwise average summer.
Rachel knows that she should be upset at Quinn’s sudden appearances, her sudden intrusions into Rachel’s otherwise well-ordered life. She doesn’t really want to bear the burden of the other girl’s pain. The numerous betrayals that make up Quinn’s interpersonal relationships aren’t her problem, and Rachel isn’t sure that she wants them to be. Rachel doesn’t think she wants to be Quinn’s one true confidant, but at the same time, she finds Quinn too captivating to resist the girl for long. When she thinks of the two, too-brief kisses, her heart races. In spite of her problems with the former Cheerio, Rachel desperately wants Quinn, in a way that she’s never wanted Finn or Jesse. She doesn’t know how to deal with that want — so acute it’s painful — so she settles for a soft smile when she sees Quinn shaking behind her bouquet.
“Hi, Quinn,” she says, softly, so as not to spook the other girl, “my parents are out for the evening. Would you like to come in for a bit?”
Quinn smiles and nods. “That — that would — ” She hesitates on the hall rug. “ That would be great. Can we, like, watch a movie or something?”
Rachel is surprised. Shocked, even. When Quinn brings flowers, it means she wants to talk, and here she is, asking to watch a movie knowing full well that Rachel requires total silence as soon as she hits “play” on the DVD menu. Flowers and a movie are a date. Rachel’s sure about this one.
“Of — of course,” she says. “Do you have a preference?”
Quinn follows Rachel up the stairs to her bedroom. “Umm, something funny? Maybe? I’m just — I’m really tired.”
Rachel hesitates. She turns and, gently, slowly, giving Quinn every opportunity to back away, lays her hand on Quinn’s forearm. She smiles and lets go when she feels Quinn’s arm tense beneath her touch.
They decide on 10 Things I Hate About You, which is funny enough for Quinn and interesting enough for Rachel. Rachel soon realizes, however, that she could have put on Funny Girl for all Quinn cares — the taller girl is asleep within five minutes, curled against Rachel with her head resting on bright pink Ohio State sweatpants. Rachel takes the opportunity to run her fingers gently through short blonde locks.
She wonders once again what Quinn wants from her. Why she comes to bear her soul, why she brings Rachel flowers and kisses her gently.
She wonders what she wants from Quinn. She’s always had strong feelings towards the other girl — feelings that didn’t match the fear, hatred, and (later) pity that she knew she should feel. She feels strangely protective of the girl in her lap; she has ever since Quinn was first slushied during the pregnancy. She thinks that Quinn is beyond damaged, way more so than she is equipped to handle. She thinks that maybe the flowers and the hesitant kisses mean that Quinn is interested in her as more than a friend. She thinks that maybe she could be interested in Quinn that way, too, if Quinn didn’t keep running away and they were ever able to actually talk about it.
Half-way through, Quinn briefly stirs. She lifts her head, blinks sleepily at Rachel, and says “You know, it’s not like I believe in everlasting love, anyway. There’s no such thing. No. Such. Thing.” She punctuates these last three words with gentle pokes to the tip of Rachel’s nose.
Rachel starts to respond, starts to argue that everlasting love is the only kind of love, but Quinn drops her head to Rachel’s lap once more and Rachel merely laughs, softly, so as not to disturb the girl asleep on her lap.
When Rachel wakes up, she sees, in the early dawn light, Quinn molded against her side, face pressed tight against her neck. She yawns and stretches, trying not to wake Quinn, who is gripping her hip tightly. Unfortunately, even her slight movement is enough, and Quinn begins to shift. She pushes even closer to Rachel and her lips brush the collarbone of her human pillow, once, twice, three times. Suddenly, Quinn jerks up with a start, muttering something under her breath and scooting backwards away from Rachel until she fell off the bed. Catching herself and standing up, she raced towards the door and down the stairs without an explanation or a backwards glance.
IV. The fourth time
Quinn didn’t respond to even one of the 163 texts that Rachel sent over the next week. She didn’t respond to any of the 19 emails, the 11 e-cards, the 8 voice mails, the 4 bouquets of flowers that arrived at the Fabray house, or the 3 times that Rachel came knocking on her front door, either.
The silence is driving Rachel crazy. She realizes how much she misses Quinn — how much she cares about the other girl, how comfortable she feels around her, and how (she can only just admit it to herself) she has more than a little crush on the beautiful, brooding blonde. She even misses Quinn’s monologues, although the time apart has only raised more questions for her about Quinn’s motives for her odd behavior.
In addition to being frustrated, Rachel is incredibly worried. She gets the sense that Quinn isn’t entirely stable and, although she figures she would have heard something if Quinn had done something drastic, she’s still concerned.
Finally, after eight long, Quinn-free days, Rachel thinks to check the reservoir. She waits, pacing her bedroom, until the final streaks of red are gone from the sky. With a final, determined look in the mirror, she gets in the car and heads west.
She gets lost twice on the way to Bresler Lake, but the time she spends cursing at her steering wheel is worth it since, there by the edge of the lake, she sees Quinn slouched in the driver’s seat of her red convertible.
Quinn’s head jerks up from its place against the steering wheel as Rachel throws herself into the passenger seat and slams the door.
“Quinn Fabray!” she exclaims, “I want to know why you’ve been avoiding me. Right now.”
Quinn groans and drops her head back down to the steering wheel.
“Come on!” Rachel turns fully towards the other girl, and even starts to place a hand on the expanse of toned, tanned leg left bare by Quinn’s Soffe cheerleading shorts. She catches herself halfway across the car, and drops her hand to the gearshift, sighing resignedly. “I really want to know.”
“Rachel,” Quinn says, voice muffled by her position, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Rachel looks more closely at the girl next to her. She gasps, shocked. “Your hair!” she exclaims. “It’s pink!”
Quinn turns her head and glares.
Rachel isn’t phased, but she does stay silent, contemplating her next move as she listens to the radio play three entire songs. When it seems clear that Quinn isn’t going to speak or kick her out of the car, Rachel tries again.
“Well,” she says, “would you at least consider telling me why you keep showing up with flowers and kissing me?”
Quinn groans again.
“Isn’t it obvious, Rachel?”
“Well, no,” Rachel says slowly. “If you were Finn or Puck, I’d say you liked me. But you’re Quinn! And I know we’re friends now, but you can’t possibly like me.”
Quinn laughs hollowly. “Of course I like you Rachel. I’ve liked you since the first time I saw you, the summer before freshman year at the pool. But I am so — just, I’m — so fuc — ” she glanced at Rachel and saw the dour expression on the other girl’s face “ — eff-ed up.”
Rachel feels a sudden thrill course through her. Fuck proper language, Quinn Fabray liked her.
“I like you too,” she said quietly, “and I don’t think you’re that fucked up, given — well, given the circumstances.”
The two girls sit in silence once again, as the radio plays the latest hits by Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry.
“Why have you been telling me all that stuff?” Rachel finally asks. “You know, about Beth and — and your parents and stuff?”
Quinn looks at her for a long second. “Because I — I just — I just — I wanted — ”
Rachel puts her hand on Quinn’s shoulder. “Quinn, sweetie, it’s just me. Take a deep breath. It’s just me.”
Quinn nods. “I just wanted you to know about all the things that — that made me what I am.”
“But,” Rachel says, after another long period of almost-not-awkward silence. “Why?”
Quinn takes a deep breath. “Because, eventually, you’re going to break my heart. I mean, I know it won’t last forever, because you’ll move to New York and not take me, or you’ll leave me for someone better, or… Well, I don’t know what. But eventually, you’ll break my heart. And I — I just — I wanted you to know about everyone else that’s done it.”
Suddenly, Rachel understands. She understands Quinn’s constant push and pull, the bright burn that attracts her, the flowers — all of it. She understands Quinn’s monologues, her hesitance, Quinn’s whole fucked up plan for this summer.
“Maybe,” she says, reaching out to grab Quinn’s hand from its place on the center console, “but maybe not. Maybe I’ll be the one who doesn’t break your heart.”
Quinn lifts her head and stares at Rachel; she looks at the girl who believes in everlasting love. She feels the gentle pressure of Rachel’s hand against hers. She looks at the tear track glistening on Rachel’s cheek, notices that Rachel hasn’t wiped away the tear that caused it.
“Yeah,” she says, smiling and squeezing Rachel’s hand. “Maybe.”