A series of prompt-drabbles taken from my Tumblr.
She’s never really seen him; he knows this. Actually, just about no one in this school really sees him. Mike does, to a point, because it’s pretty hard to forget a bro you’ve swapped ice cream sandwiches and old Playboys with since the third grade, but that’s it. As far as he can tell, to the rest of this school, he might as well be invisible.
Except for that weird time he kind of had a threesome with Puckerman and that boozy blonde lady, but shit happens.
Anyway, when it comes to pretty girls, he’s at a loss. It’s incredibly unfair, because he’s got moves—football moves, and keeping-his-head-above-the-waves moves, and his feet may not be as fancy as Mike’s, but there’s a grace there, too. He’s got moves, and any girl would be lucky to get up on this, but when it comes to the ones he’s actually got something of a jones for…
Of course, when you’re jonesing for Santana Lopez, it’s all kinds of wrong. Santana Lopez is everything an invisible dude should stay a thousand yards away from at all times, because Santana Lopez doesn’t exactly do wonders for your self-esteem. He should absolutely know better than that.
And yet, somehow, when it comes to Santana—sometimes he trips up. Just a little, not enough to let her really know, but enough to tighten the strings around his heart. Sometimes he forgets that she does things like sleep with the entire football team for sport, or laugh in the face of any poor sucker who misses a touchdown, or cling to the arm of her best friend like it’s the only lifeline in the whole world. Sometimes, he loses track of all of that.
Because Santana, for all her wickedness, is really, really pretty at sunset, when Glee rehearsal has run over, and they come tumbling out of the McKinley doors. When they’re all giggling, and singing bits of an old Queen melody, and Mike is twirling Brittany around, and Santana’s hand weighs mightily on Matt’s shoulder as she nearly paralyzes herself laughing at something stupid. When it’s maybe a little easier than it should be to overlook the way her eyes light up when they land on Brittany’s smile, or the all but possessive grab of her fingers as they latch, not around his wrist, but around one much slimmer and prettier.
It’s maybe a little easier than it should be to forget that she only kissed him after Brittany disappeared into the bedroom with Mike at his own party, or that she only slept with him the once, and afterward, they didn’t speak for three days. It’s maybe a little easier than it should be, to pretend like that doesn’t sting.
Santana Lopez is wickedness, and jealousy, and the kind of crazy an invisible dude like him should stay away from at all costs. But with the orange of the sunlight trickling through her eyelashes, and the comfortable smile that passes between them when Brittany does an impromptu cartwheel right there in the parking lot—he sort of forgets what at all costs can mean.
She’s never going to see him the way he sees her, or want him, or love him. He knows that. Anyone with eyes is aware of that harsh truth.
But maybe today, just this once, it’s okay to pretend like truth isn’t so permanent a thing.
Halloween is hands-down the most awesome of holidays. Not that he doesn’t love pine trees and candy hearts and, y’know, presidents, but the getting to dress up like someone you’re not thing? Getting to be a big damn hero, and to fight evil for a night? It’s his favorite. Has been ever since his mom made him that Superman cape when he was four, and his dad spent the whole night zooming his giggling Kal-El self around the neighborhood.
Halloween is the coolest, so when Quinn’s mom goes out of town and she invites the whole club—and some of the less insane Cheerios—to her costume rager, Sam makes a point of shelving his pride and checking the “attend” box. Sure, she broke his heart and made him feel like a total loser, but it’s Halloween. The season of forgiveness.
And also the season of totally badass masks.
In honor of Captain America being the coolest—and the most patriotic, which feels like a double-win for the hero side—he painstakingly builds the most accurate costume in the whole damn county. It makes him feel like a true-blue super-soldier, standing at Quinn’s front door with that mask pulled down over his eyes, one arm braced behind a replica shield he shelled out two whole paychecks for on E-bay. He is unstoppable.
When the door swings open to reveal a (not nearly as well put-together) grinning Cap, that vibe kind of dampens a little bit. But it turns out to be Mike hanging out under that hood, and Mike is too cool to get all pissy toward for something like this, so Sam grins and bumps shields with him all amiable-like. Two Caps are better than one, he figures, especially on the unlikely chance that evil actually does wind up being afoot tonight.
The party turns out to be even more excellent than expected: Rachel is already drunk, which makes her impossibly fun to be around, and Santana has mounted Brittany on the couch, both of them dressed as slutty 50s chicks. Puck has amassed a shit-ton of booze in the kitchen, and is handing out red plastic cups like they’re going out of style, and the last time Sam spotted Kurt, the little dude was crooning Tina Turner hits into the end of Quinn’s hairbrush. Everyone is being awesome, which just reinforces the greatest truth in life:
Halloween rules all.
He’s in the far corner of the dining room, rocking out (sans shield; he’s already smacked a couple of people, including poor drunk Rachel, with the thing, and Quinn temporarily confiscated it) to Finn’s fumbling rendition of “Band on the Run” when he spots Tina for the first time all night. Tina, who he doesn’t talk to nearly as much as he probably should, and who is dressed as—he thinks—Tonks. She looks really good, her dark hair buried beneath a bright pink wig and a wand clutched between her fingers, and it’s on the tip of his tongue to say so when she stumbles right into his arms.
Instinct prompts him to shove at her arms, because—dude—this is another guy’s chick, and he’s already been on the receiving end of this bullshit once. Mike’s way too cool to do something like this to, even if Santana did dump him on his ass right after Quinn sucked face with Finn behind his back, even if Tina is surprisingly attractive for someone who barely speaks, even if—if—
There’s an awful lot of tequila in his system to finish the thought. He settles for rearing back, wobbling a little and blinking blearily down at Tina’s wide-eyed expression.
“So hot,” she mumbles, one hand groping for the back of his head beneath his perfectly-detailed mask. “M’captain.”
It’s weird, and wrong, and somewhere in the back of his mind, he is totally aware of it—but Tina is urging up on the tips of her toes, her mouth finding his again, and it’s getting really hard to think. There’s so much music, so much noise roaring around them both, and for a second, he begins to wonder where he even is. This is a world where Tina is kissing the living shit out of him—and holy crap, her tongue is rapidly shoving all other awesome things off the list of Stuff He’d Give An Arm To Have Around—and he can’t quite wrap his head around the idea that this would happen in the real world. The real world is a place where girls leave him, and friends betray him, and his dad has started whispering with his mom every time they order a five-dollar pizza, and—
Her nails scratch at his neck through thick blue fabric, her mouth opening lazily under his, and he finds himself dazedly kissing back. His fingers spread at the small of her back, cradling her for balance, and Tina gives a pleasant little lurch against him. She’s smiling into his lips, her head angling just the slightest bit left, and Sam figures that, yeah, this has to be a dream. Because Tina is totally happy with Mike—like, really happy, disgustingly so—and there is no way she’d ever pick some shaggy-haired kid like him over somebody as cool as Mike.
The only logical answer is that this is all a hazy liquor-dream, that he’s actually managed to pass out somewhere in this house—hopefully somewhere distinctly lacking in vomit—and that his brain is making this all up. And if you’re just dreaming, there’s nothing to feel guilty about. Not if it isn’t real.
He lets himself sink into the kiss, full-force, his arms looping around her middle and tugging her off the floor. She squeals delightedly into him, laughing as his tongue slides past her lips, and grips tight around his neck. She’s smaller than he thought, small and delicate and warm, and he thinks this might be the single greatest dream he’s ever had. To be Captain America and to get the girl, just this once—it almost makes up for everything else.
She breaks from him, gasping for breath, and holds his cheeks between her tiny hands. “Love you,” she says confidently, despite the slur, and he beams.
It’s only later—when some of the Jungle Juice has worn off, when he finds himself sandwiched between a snoring Puck and a wriggly, goofy Kurt on the Fabray carpet—that the haze creeps away enough to make sense of what happened. Later, when he happens to raise his eyes toward the doorway and spots her—pink hair and all—giggling into the shoulder of another Captain America. One whose shield is not being held captive in Quinn’s bedroom closet, and whose nose is just a little longer.
It all crashes into place, and Sam jams the palm of his hand against his forehead in frustration. Of course. Of course, that explains it all, and just like that, he feels kind of like a douche. A mega-douche, even, a whole castle made of doucheitude. Of course that’s why she was kissing him.
Mike catches his eye across the room and grins fearlessly, waving, and Sam exhaustedly waves back. Tina calls out a half-slurred goodnight, and he knows—the way you know things when you’re sobering up, in that startling moment of clarity after a long, giddy fog—she doesn’t remember. Not really. Not the way he does, and will for a long time to come.
She doesn’t need to know, he decides as they bundle together and make their way out into the cool October air. Neither of them do. It’s Halloween, the season of unimaginable dreams coming true and then vanishing again into the night, and he figures he could be okay with that. If no one knows, no one gets hurt. It will be fine.
Still, before he gets home, he yanks the mask from his head and promises himself it’s time to hang up the stars and stripes. It’s hard to feel deserving of that kind of heroism when you’ve had your tongue down the throat of someone else’s great girl.
Halloween is still the greatest holiday in the world, he believes, but maybe next year, it wouldn’t hurt to set some ground rules. Fantasy can only take you so far, after all; after a certain point, evil is still evil. No matter how accidental it happens to be.
He flops down on her bed, arms covering his face, and Quinn barely looks up from her nearby chair. This has been happening a lot lately—ever since graduation, in fact, when they both managed to get hired at the same grocery store for what is turning out to be a chillingly dull summer—and she’s more or less given up on drilling him about his problems. Mike talks when Mike is ready; that’s been the sum of him as long as she’s known him. Probably longer.
“Tina wants me to come over tonight,” he mumbles after a few stretching moments. Quinn flicks a page in her book, tilting her head.
“You broke up.”
“I know,” he groans, mouth braced directly against his forearm.
“Two weeks ago.”
“Save the recap,” he begs, stretching to slap at her knee with his other hand. “She wants to talk.”
“I’m sure she does,” Quinn says mildly. He groans again.
“She wants to talk, and Mom wants me to put together a list of stuff I’ll need in the fall, and Dad wants to talk budgets and get a good look at my bank account—”
“Creepy,” Quinn murmurs. He scowls, peering over his arm at her.
“You sound so invested.”
“And you sound whiny,” she half-teases, lowering the book an inch. The scowl morphs seamlessly to a pout, made all the worse by how dark the circles around his eyes have grown lately.
“You’re supposed to be helping.”
“I am helping,” she tells him witheringly. The book drops against her knees with a flutter. He leans his head against the pillows, eyebrows drawn. “You keep complaining about what everybody else wants. What do you want? Do you want to talk to Tina?”
Slowly, he shakes his head. “Not really. Not yet.”
“And do you want to give your dad access to your bank account?”
“So don’t,” she says simply. “If there’s one thing getting hit by a truck and fracturing half the bones in my body has taught me, it’s to stop listening to what everybody else wants and start thinking about myself. The real me, not just for popularity’s sake. Life’s too short for anything else.”
He muses on this, running his fingers through pitch-dark hair. “Does it work?”
She shrugs. “Pisses people off, for a while. I mean, you remember Prom. With Finn and the whole yelling-jackass thing. But yeah, in the long run—it works. Better than playing the game for everyone else, anyway.”
She watches him sit up, scrubbing both hands through his hair. He looks a mess, all tired and frustrated and rumpled, and she thinks that this isn’t at all the boy she remembers from a few short months ago. The one who danced his way through West Side Story, and loved his girlfriend, and smiled all the damn time.
“What do you want?” she asks softly, and when he gazes back with a quietly surprised expression, she has to wonder if he’s ever asked himself that question before. He bites his lip and swivels to face her, feet dangling off the edge of the bed with an air of hesitation.
His kiss is soft and graceful, and gone just as quickly as it comes. She nods thoughtfully, fingers smoothing down the spine of her book.
“Guess that’s a start.”
He grins ruefully, and ducks away when she reaches to pat his hair down. “Guess it is.”
His is not the face she expected to crave, nor the body she expected to miss, nor the lips she expected to dream of. His is not the laugh she’s used to sinking beneath like a warm blanket, and when her eyes would close before, it wasn’t his eyes she was seeing. This—all of this—was not planned.
Too much in her life, in her career, in everything that she has become, was unplanned. She should be unhappy about it. She should be unhappy about everything.
She came to Chicago because her tiny little show—the one she worried sometimes was a fitful, exciting dream—opted to travel. She came to Chicago because, in the end, it’s not that much different from New York, and it’s good to get a little variety in while you’re young. She came to Chicago, because after Finn, and Jesse, and Finn again—that brief reunion, with him looking so strong and tall and sad in his uniform, with her stretching after feelings long gone—it really was time for a change.
She came to Chicago, and that on its own should have made her unhappy, because Chicago was never the dream. Chicago was never the dream like he was never the dream, and yet, both found a way to happen. And, at first, there was a straightforward, simple reason for that:
She needed something to keep her going.
Something to hold her up when the edges of her life started to go a little flimsy, when the job got rocky, and the smile felt forced. Something to keep her balanced on this tense little tightrope. She needed something—and when Mike Chang found his way into the chorus of her little show, he became the something she never thought she would want. The someone.
The someone to talk things over with at four AM, when sleeplessness was unavoidable. The someone to lean against when one drink became seven, and the ground began to dance beneath her feet. The someone with the comfortable arms, and the easy smile, and the understanding that sometimes pizza has to happen in the middle of a strenuous work day—no matter what.
He wasn’t meant to be anything steady, or permanent, or settled. He wasn’t meant to be someone she needed. He was meant to be an old friend, a familiar grin, the trickle of sanity down tangled phone lines when her head felt just shy of blowing clean off. He was meant to keep her going, and nothing more.
She lies here tonight, as on so many others, memorizing the contours of him: the dips and twists of muscle, the lean stretch of his back, the length of his fingertips as they pattern across her body. She stretches out beneath him and lets herself touch each square inch, her hands tiny compared to the broadness of him, the ripple of strength beneath his warm skin. Running her palms along his shoulders, teasing out the spaces where the muscles flex, she watches him steadily and smiles.
He wasn’t meant to be anything—not really. Just a friend. Just someone to talk to when the nights got lonely and the weight of everything she has missed, or stumbled over, or forsaken entirely grew too much to bear. She wasn’t supposed to fall in love with him. That was never an option.
But he holds her now, his mouth hot and fervently adoring against the racetrack of her pulse, and as her eyelashes flutter, she finds it hard to imagine anything else. His hands are so close to home as they weave down her arms, her chest, her stomach; his eyes are liquid strength when he watches her bend beneath him, her legs stretching to pull him in. He does these things, and she thinks that this thing that was only meant to keep her breathing until her feet found purchase once more on planet Earth is kind of big now. Kind of huge. Kind of everything.
He holds her close, his lips covering hers as they breathe together, and she thinks that plans are sometimes not all they’re cracked up to be. Not with someone like Mike, who kisses her, and embraces her, and moves in her with a grace she never knew she needed.
He is nothing she ever wanted before, and somehow, that’s the very thing that makes him greater than she ever could have dreamed.
Getting Santana’s attention is an accident; keeping Santana’s attention is an impossibility. Tina figures out pretty quickly that whole situation is one she doesn’t get much of a say in, and supposes she just ought to square away with that.
Which is easier said than done, because Santana is popular, and beautiful, and cutting, and all manner of things Tina has never in her life been, and when someone like that pays attention to you—it changes a person.
The fact that the change sparked from penning a song called “Trouty Mouth” isn’t really the point.
She doesn’t know much about Santana at all—didn’t know a damn thing when Santana first dragged her into that choir room, ranting about heterosexual awesomeness, and still doesn’t to this day. Even though Santana has developed this weird habit of just showing up—sometimes even before Tina gets home, which is equal parts flattering and fucking terrifying—at her house after school. Santana being able to do a thing like that should grant Tina a little license, a bit of insight to the inner workings of Lima’s Head Bitch—
But it doesn’t. Because Santana doesn’t want her in. Not really. Santana’s interest in her is not of the stable variety.
It hasn’t exactly escaped Tina’s attention, the fact that there’s a feud between Santana and Brittany at the moment. It hasn’t exactly been subtle. And even if her grades aren’t always the highest, she likes to think she’s smart enough to understand that Santana hangs out with her, not because of any mutual appreciation for personality or whatever, but because she’s trying her hardest to forget Brittany is even a blip on her radar.
Of course, for all the things Tina doesn’t know about Santana Lopez, the fact that Brittany is her radar has never gleamed brighter.
But that doesn’t really matter so much as the fact that, for this exact moment in time, Santana is pretending to care about Tina. Santana is pretending to be her actual friend, and even if that will wind up meaning all of nothing ten minutes down the line, Tina will take it. Because Santana is popular, and beautiful, and cutting, and all the things Tina will never be.
And Santana, for all her untruths and her secrets and her aggravations, gives attention like no one else.
Tina knows it won’t last. The desperate, pleading way Santana grips the back of her head, the burn of her nails beneath Tina’s shirt, the thrash of her tongue as it drives relentlessly between Tina’s lips—it’s all temporary. Fleeting. It’s all going to be gone as soon as she blinks her eyes, and she knows that. She knows Santana isn’t really seeing her when they do this, when her fists knot around Tina’s hair, and her thigh angles between Tina’s legs, and the harsh stutter of her breath cuts hot across Tina’s skin. She knows Santana is a million miles away, waging a private war Tina can’t hope to intrude on—and she knows she doesn’t want to. Because if there is something in this world scary enough to frighten Santana Lopez, Tina sure as hell doesn’t want any part of it. Not now. Not ever.
She’ll settle for this: for being a placeholder in a beautiful, angry girl’s life, for being a warm body to move against, and over, and through. She’ll settle for Santana’s attention while she has it, in all its cold, unrelenting frustration. She’ll settle. There aren’t many other choices, where this is concerned.
She should have more self-esteem than this, she thinks. She should have a higher opinion of herself, than to let someone use her so shamelessly. She should.
But Santana is popular, and beautiful, and cutting. Santana is everything Tina will never be. And to have that attention, even just for this one heavy moment—
It is, she suspects, enough.
The second Quinn stood from that chair, it was all over. He didn’t need to get the details, or see the end of that particular film; the obviousness was written all over it. Quinn Fabray could stand, and what little they once had in common—the brutality of it, the ugliness, the unfairness of the whole damn world when it comes to the smallest things—vanished. He imagined it all going up in flames: the way her hand once came down over his, squeezing for reassurance, and the way her smile lit up her whole body when she saw him rolling toward her locker, and the way she whispered his name one night through her tears. He imagined her disappearing, the way the best things always do, and found himself escaping to the bathroom in the middle of that stupidly lovely song just to make it all stop.
That was a week ago. He hasn’t made eye contact with her since, hasn’t bothered to even try. Why should he? Quinn Fabray can stand now, and walk, and even dance a little bit. Quinn Fabray, with her physical therapy and her dreadlocked possible boyfriend and her big, tired smile, can do all the things he gave up on two years ago. Quinn’s spine is healing, and while he hates himself for resenting that fact—
He just can’t do it again. This thing that keeps happening to him, where the women in his life aren’t anything like they pretend to be. Like Tina, whose stutter was all shy ploy, or Brittany, whose love turned out to be a distraction from the real thing. And now Quinn, whose spine is healing, and it isn’t her fault—he knows it isn’t her fault—but it still hurts. It still sends little zips of annoyance and misery racing up and down his arms whenever he spots her in the hall, limping along at her brand-new sluggish pace. It still reminds him, each and every time, that she isn’t his Quinn anymore. She is Quinn Fabray, mighty and unshakeable, and he is…
He has to be happy for her, on some level. He tells himself that it’s necessary, to be happy for her, because to wish something like this on someone like that is downright evil. It’s cruel. It’s beyond him, beyond even his capacity for bitterness. He doesn’t wish her damned.
He only wishes he didn’t feel this certain. This absolutely, definitively certain: Quinn Fabray standing again means Quinn Fabray walking away. From him. For good.
He avoids her all week long, and on Friday, she catches him at it. It’s a perk of having legs, he thinks irritatedly; you sort of get the upper hand when it comes to cornering people.
“Hi,” she says, and he winces at the exhaustion lacing that one simple syllable. She’s so tired, leaning there against his locker, a cane dangling awkwardly from her fingers. She’s tired, and that mountain of guilt that’s been growing all week long threatens to bury him, because she never looked that tired before. Not even in the weeks after Beth, when she strove to force her body and mind back into pre-pregnancy shape.
“Hi,” he mumbles, pushing his glasses reflexively up on his nose. She fondly reaches out, fingertips trembling with exertion, and readjusts the frames for him. It’s a strange habit, one she picked up out of nowhere, and it never fails to twist his stomach into pleasant little knots.
“I’ve missed you,” she tells him after an awkwardly long beat of just staring. The words echo through his bones, zinging along the threads of his gloves, the buttons on his shirt. He shuffles uncomfortably in his chair, unsure how to handle this.
The old Quinn Fabray would cut him apart for dodging her. Then again, the old Quinn Fabray wouldn’t have given a shit about it one way or the other.
Sometimes, it’s hard to wrap his head around how far she’s come from old Quinn Fabray.
“You’re walking,” he points out, and it comes off his tongue like a gross accusation. She flinches a little, shrugs.
“You are,” he insists, trying to filter every ounce of pride he can muster into the words. “You’re getting there. You’re doing great, Quinn.”
She tilts her head, like she wants to ask, Then why haven’t you spoken to me in days? Why did you stop returning my texts? Why haven’t we had our usual movie date? She tilts her head like she wants to call him out on it, and he knows the old Quinn would, but this new, beaten-down model doesn’t say a word. She only watches him, her breath huffing from her lips in near-inaudible pants, and waits.
Her brow furrows, her nose crinkling. “I don’t know. Good, I guess. I don’t—” Realization dawns. Her eyes widen. “Oh God, did you think—?”
This is so far beyond uncomfortable, he can’t begin to do jack shit with it all. “You’re walking,” he points out again, softly. She nods like she’s putting two and two together. Knowing her, how smart she is, how she gets people, she probably—
“I’m walking with you,” she tells him firmly, closing a hand around the back of his chair to prove it. She’s leaning awkwardly over him, the muscles in her arm straining visibly as she stretches. He stares up at her, wishing he knew what to say. How to ask that question that sits against his teeth, harsh and unsteady.
“I’m walking with you,” she repeats, and squeezes his chair. He closes his eyes.
“Walk me to the parking lot? My mom will be here soon.”
She does, silently, and when that smooth gray van pulls up to the curb, she doesn’t even ask for an invitation before clambering in. A glimpse of the old Quinn, taking what she wants without permission. He smiles when she nudges his knee, eyes almost green in the sunlight stumbling through the tinted windows.
The moment Quinn Fabray stood at Prom, Artie assumed she would walk away from him—as fast and as far as her new lease on life would allow. He assumed she would leave him, and his chair, and their awkward adventures together, behind for good. He assumed it was over.
He was wrong.
Quinn Fabray, he begins to realize when her fingers tangle with his, is not going anywhere.
It’s an accident, of course, because this sort of thing doesn’t happen to Quinn. Granted, a lot of things happen to Quinn, and most of them could be qualified as accidents in the long run, but this? This one was definitely not her call.
It’s just that things sometimes go horribly wrong—like half their powerhouse ladies running off to champion Shelby’s girl-power cause, and their last-ditch Secret Weapon of a voice getting suspended from school at exactly the wrong moment (and how pissed is she at Rachel for that, because Rachel is the one who dragged her back into this mess in the first place, Rachel is their leader, and their savior, and the one idiot Quinn opted to put up with even when so many voices were screaming to run for the door)—and then you wind up here. Standing in the girl’s bathroom on the first floor, your hands braced against the sink, your blonde-again hair looking a little washed out, a little not-quite-there in the fogged-over mirror.
Things go horribly wrong, and you realize you’re one of only two female voices that will dominate that stage—two, which isn’t very many at all, and even less when those voices are like her voice, too thin, too airy, and she feels like she can’t breathe. Because Motown is awesome, and totally her thing, and she guesses that Jackson 5 hits qualify to some degree, but this isn’t exactly belting out “You Keep Me Hanging On” in her own head. This is standing on a stage in front of everyone, and everything’s been crumbling around her, and she’s been thinking in run-on sentences for days, trying to string it all together. The Puck, and the Shelby, and the wanting Beth back, and the Santana-and-Brittany being traitors, and losing Rachel, and losing Mercedes, and what the hell is she even supposed to do with this?
She’s been through a lot these last few years, and she thinks it’s kind of qualifies her for the Lost My Mind award. Mr. Schue certainly thinks so, with the ugly little disappointments he sends her way, and Puck isn’t much better. Only Rachel has been there for her lately, only Rachel has made sense, and Rachel isn’t—
The hand on her arm is soft, and not as small as she expects, and though her mind is one thousand percent ready to turn and face mousy brown hair and big pleading eyes, she knows it isn’t Rachel today. It isn’t time for one of their legendary bathroom smackdowns, or hug-it-outs, or whatever it would be on an afternoon when every nerve in her body is jolting on high alert. This time, for once, it’s someone else.
Not Santana, either, or Brittany, because they don’t really know what to do with her anymore. Not Mercedes, because she hasn’t bothered trying in maybe a year, and Quinn thinks that’s acceptable in the saddest way. It was her own fault, after all, she’s the one who pushed that hand away when she needed to find her own feet again. It makes sense.
And it makes sense that the soft hand on her arm would turn out to belong, not to any of her friends, but to Tina—because Tina is the one girl she hasn’t yet managed to alienate, and because Tina just happens to be the one girl who gets what she’s dealing with right now.
Sort of. As much as anyone can.
She sighs out a hello, and Tina’s eyes flutter in response. She’s even paler than usual, her feet shuffling anxiously against the tile floor.
“I’m nervous,” she admits without preamble. Quinn breathes, concentrating on the weight of that hand as it slips down to clutch her wrist. Nervous is the simplest of emotions, and she doesn’t do simple anymore. This isn’t about being nervous. This is totally and completely the world of being scared out of her mind, and having Tina here, admitting the same thing—
“We’ll be fine,” she bites off, because that’s who she’s expected to be now. Cold. Heartless. Steady. She’s seen the way they look at her, the way they haven’t quite stopped looking at her since getting knocked up all those lifetimes ago. But not Tina. Tina never really learned to glaze her eyes over that way, to curl her lip in faint scorn. Tina’s never quite been that person.
Tina’s never quite been any person at all.
The fingers around her wrist tighten, Tina drawing nearer like a moth to a blue-hot flame, and Quinn finds herself leaning upon the sink for support. She needs something in this moment, and she has the feeling she isn’t going to like what that something is—but, as usual, that realization does nothing to dampen the need.
Need is crazy like that. It slips in under your skin and sings through your bloodstream, and even when the last shred of sanity is screaming,no no no, the need continues to whisper, Yes.
“We’ll be fine,” she repeats, quietly this time, and when Tina moves to open her mouth, to disagree, she gives a tug with the arm being so fervently gripped. She tugs, and Tina tumbles against her body in surprise, her free hand moving to Quinn’s waist for balance.
It feels better this way, having someone hold her, even by mistake. It feels more real, like the world around her isn’t so in danger of collapsing, as long as there’s another body warm against her own. She’s tired of holding herself up all the time. Having someone else helps. In its own unsteady way.
Tina is slender, and built all wrong—not broad, like Finn, or long, like Puck, or ripped, like Sam. She’s small, and cautious, and moves with the shyest of steps, but she hugs hard. She hugs, and Quinn hugs back, and for a moment, the terror fades off.
Then she’s leaning back, and Quinn’s chin is tilting down, her hand moving to cup Tina’s cheek without will, and this isn’t what she wants, but she needs it anyway. She needs someone to remind her, just for one flickering moment, that she can do this. That she can be beautiful, and edgy, and push it all away long enough to win this thing.
Tina’s lips aren’t coarse, or chapped, or determined the way Quinn is used to. Tina’s lips are, if anything, surprised; they part in a high squeak, and it’s up to Quinn to angle her head, to press hopeful fingers to Tina’s jawline. It’s up to Quinn to tentatively sweep her tongue across Tina’s bottom lip, and any moment now, Tina could push her away, should push her away, because they aren’t even friends. They have no right to this, none at all. If ever Quinn was going to do this in a school bathroom, it should have been with—
But it’s Tina who came to her, and Tina who kisses back slowly, with the same shaky rhythm she finds when she’s allowed to command a solo. Soft, at first, and then with more technique, with more confidence, slowly building as her body urges Quinn’s more tightly against the sink. Tina opens her mouth again, intentionally this time, and Quinn strokes smoothly past teeth and tongue and terror. Quinn’s hand glides through silky hair, and she thinks blindly that this shouldn’t help. This shouldn’t help at all.
They are still the only two girls, and the only two to carry them to a hope-and-a-prayer Sectional victory, and everything will still crumble if they fail. Because this is senior year, the age of last chances, and if there’s anything Quinn needs in this world—
Tina gasps against her lips, turning her face away for oxygen, and Quinn swallows heavily. Her palm braces at the small of Tina’s back, and she thinks that they are very, very tiny together. They are small, too small to hold up something as big as the dreams of New Directions. Small, and scared, with newly swollen lips and absolutely no idea of what to say to each other.
“We’ll be fine,” Tina croaks, angling her head against Quinn’s shoulder and pressing a clumsy kiss through her shirt. “We’ll be fine.”
They leave the bathroom, arms barely brushing, and Quinn hopes, prays, that this evening won’t be the one to undo everything they’ve been working for.
There’s a time and place for everything
and I believe it’s called ‘fan-fiction’.
- Rare(ish) Pair Drabbles