Chapter 10: Scotch, Sisters, and Scraped Knees
Everyone knows what the morning after is supposed to be like. When you wake up after a night of drunken craziness, the aching hangover effects are to be expected. The pressure and pounding in your head, the sensitivity to light (the "dear fucking god, why is the sun two inches from my face, I can't see"), the fuzzy tongue that's suddenly too big for your mouth, and most importantly, the complete lack of memory of all of the idiotic things you did while intoxicated the night before so you'll be willing to go out and get drunk and do stupid things all over again.
That's what's supposed to happen.
When Quinn woke up the morning after the party, her first thoughts consisted mostly of questions as to why she had to be alive at that moment. Blood rushed and hammered against the inside of her temples. Her brain pushed against the barrier that was her skull and threatened to burst forth at any moment. She cracked one eyelid, battling the mounds of crust (she liked to call them "eye boogers"), only to snap it closed again; the sunlight that filtered into her room was blinding, despite the fact that there was a thin blind between her and the closed window. Her eyes were actually in pain. She tried to groan some of the discomfort away, but ended up emitting a sort of hoarse, frustrated growl.
Everything seemed to be going as expected. That is, until Quinn thought back to the reason behind her hangover. There wasn't a moment from the night before that she couldn't recall in as crystal clarity as a night spent without a drop of alcohol. She remembered every last blood boiling and humiliating detail. She let out another snarl but smothered it with a pillow over her face.
There was a light knock on the door (though it sounded much harsher to Quinn's ears post-intoxication), and her mother entered the room bearing a glass of water and a rattling bottle of Advil.
"Hi, Quinnie." Her mom's voice was soft and gentle as she perched on the edge of her daughter's bed, pulled the pillow away from her face, and smoothed out the frantic hairs on her forehead. "How are you feeling this morning?" Judy held out the pills and water for Quinn to take.
Quinn didn't know what to say. She didn't even know what to think. She had drunk dialed her mom at two in the morning and asked for a ride home, not only revealing that she wasn't, in fact, sleeping over at Brittany's, but also that she was at a party with lots of horny boys and several lawsuits' worth of underage drinking.
Mrs. Fabray had gotten up and driven to get her daughter with surprising composure. After ensuring that Quinn was all right, she didn't say a word and Quinn fell asleep in the car on the way home. "Honey, I'd like to say a couple of things." Maybe it was the calm before the storm. "I think you already know that I am extremely disappointed in your actions and the decisions you made last night. You lied to me and your father about your whereabouts. You put yourself in a situation that had you surrounded by older boys who would have had no problem taking advantage of you. And to top it all off, you were more buzzed than your father was after his open-bar office holiday party. I know you know better than that, Quinnie." Judy sighed. "But at the same time, I can't help but be a little proud of you. I know any number of those other drunken kids would have offered you a ride, but you had enough of a head on your shoulders to not get in a car with any of them. So. That movie you wanted to see with Brittany and Santana? You can forget about it. However, since it looks like the hangover is teaching you your lesson, I don't think we need to tell your father about this." She placed a kiss on Quinn's forehead, patted her leg, and stood from the bed. "I'm making pancakes if you think you can get up in a few minutes."
Pancakes. Pancakes sounded like the epitome of perfection. Quinn tried to crawl out of bed, literally, and ended up sprawled on the floor next to it in a heap. "Be down in a second."
"Oof, not your slickest move, Quinnster."
Quinn shot her sister her best I am not amused look. Franny had only gotten home a few hours previously and she was already laughing at the disastrous tale of her only little sister's first night of summer vacation. She spent the first fifteen minutes after her arrival going over the trials and tribulations and triumphs that made up her final year of college, followed by twenty minutes on the excitement that awaited her at the job she was set to start at the end of the summer all the way out in San Francisco, and another fifteen on this great guy who interviewed her for said job, who was allegedly Joseph Gordon-Levitt's long lost twin or something. After that she turned the spotlight on the baby of the family. Quinn got about halfway through her brief recap of the past school year before Franny called her out and made her admit to still being hung over and demanded all of the dirty details. Quinn tried to clean up her overview as she recounted the events to her big sister, but she ended up spilling everything anyway. When she finished relaying the facts of the evening prior to her, there was a beat of silence before Franny spluttered and burst out laughing at her sister's misfortune. Quinn winced.
"Fran? Do me a favor and stop making sounds."
"Oh come on, lighten up. You called Mom, drunk, at two o'clock in the morning and told her you were, what was it, 'jamming it up at mohawk boy's rager house.' You can't expect anyone, especially your big sis, not to laugh at you for that."
"I hate you."
"You love me. Seriously, that's totally classic stuff. Also, who says jamming anymore, drunk or sober?"
Quinn pursed her lips. "I'm leaving now."
"Aw, you know I'm just messing around. Hey, come on, kiddo, where are you going? Come on, why don't you want to hang out with me?" Franny pouted a lip through her smirk.
She shrugged. "It's a nice day out. Think I'm gonna go for a bike ride."
Franny continued to fake whine. "You don't like me anymore."
"Pretty much." She winked and started in the direction of the garage.
Franny watched after her with a shake of the head and a fond grin. Just before Quinn disappeared into the next room, she turned and stuck her tongue out playfully. The elder of the pair called after her, "Okay, bye, love you too!"
Quinn entered the garage through the door in the mudroom and listened as the quiet slam of the door closing echoed once, and then twice throughout the exposed beams of the room. She smiled. She hadn't gone for a bike ride since school started, and it was kind of nice to be able to go back to the days when she could just look outside, see the sun shining, see what a beautiful day it was, hop on her bike, and go out and be a part of it.
She checked both of the bike's tires, since it had been so long since she last took it out, and pumped a little more air into each of them. She flipped the kickstand up with the rubber toe of her converse and swung her leg up and over so that she could situate herself on the seat. She pushed herself out of the garage, coasted down the slope of the driveway, and was off.
She had always loved bike rides. She had a theory that she had always appreciated the ability to ride a bike more due to the fact that it had taken her nearly two years longer than all of her friends to learn; she fell off the first time her dad tried to teach her and gave up for an unreasonable amount of time, so by the time she managed to get back on the mechanical horse, it was that much better, and never stopped being. The light strain on her calves from pushing on the pedals, the breeze in her hair, the rush of speeding down the street, it was one of Quinn's favorite feelings.
She wheeled around the generally empty and quiet streets of her neighborhood until she came to the sign she was waiting for and turned off onto the bike path. It had always been her favorite place to go on her bicycle. Everywhere she looked, she was surrounded by foliage; the tall grass came up to her elbows, the trees grew in beautiful, uneven patches along the side of the path; and flowers covered everything. On nice days the sunlight would shine down in the most gorgeous blotchy rays, and it would create little halos around every leaf and every petal.
She wasn't surprised when she saw a figure approaching a little ways down the path – most likely a runner. She had actually been rather surprised that she hadn't encountered anyone as of yet. It was the perfect day to be out and about.
She stood on the pedals and pushed a bit harder to keep her momentum when she hit a slight incline.
The figure drew a little closer, and Quinn decided that it was a girl based on the ponytail that swung around behind their head and the shape of their body.
The path leveled out again, so she paused pedaling and glided, just listening to the rhythmic clicking of the gears.
The distance closed a little further between Quinn and the girl. Quinn could make out that the girl was a brunette, and she could see the basic colors of the clothes the girl was wearing: a powder pink tank top that covered her torso, light yellow cotton short-shorts on the bottom, bright white running sneakers. She looked like pink lemonade.
Quinn pulled on the brakes as the path dipped beneath her.
The girl had a black band around the bicep of her right arm that carried some sort of mp3 player. The grace with which she ran showed that she was in very good shape; she was a natural mover. The space between her and Quinn started to dissipate.
She kept coming closer, and the girl started looking familiar to Quinn. Wait a minute, Quinn knew that tan skin. She knew that shorter-than-average physique.
She recognized that dancer posture.
Her bike kept rolling.
It was a very distinctive nose.
The girl kept running towards her. Adrenaline started to course through her limbs, but it centralized in her chest.
Oh god, Quinn could not deal with this. Crap. Not now. Not today. Shit, there was nowhere to hide. They were closing in on each other.
They were about to pass each other. Quinn kept pedaling, hoping that they might get by each other without a word, without a look, even. But wait, the path wasn't wide enough for the both of them there. Quinn's heart beat a little faster.
They were practically on top of each other.
Quinn panicked; she veered sharply as they came shoulder to shoulder. A loud gasp escaped her lips when her front tire went off the path and scraped the side of the cement. She tried to keep herself upright, but suddenly balance was a foreign concept, and she toppled over onto the ground with an unrecognizable noise of alarm and then pain.
She was all but face down in the dirt by the bike path, half covered by her titanium steed. She was more than content to lie there if it meant that the cause of her accident would keep running and not notice who she was.
Of course, she had no such luck.
Maybe if she just played dead… "Quinn Fabray? That is you, isn't it?" She felt the weight of her bike lifted off of her battered legs. "Oh my god, you're bleeding! Are you all right? No, of course you're not. I'm so sorry. If I'd just been paying attention… I really do need to watch where I'm going. Or perhaps if my music had been at a lower volume I could have heard you coming, and-"
"Berry!" Rachel's jaw snapped shut and she brought her focus back to the reason behind her rant. She didn't say anything, so Quinn continued. "Look, I'm fine, okay? Just, go finish your run or whatever." Quinn wished she were anywhere else. Somewhere less awkward, like a public restroom, or health class, or middle school.
"I can't just leave you here, not in good conscience. You're obviously injured. Please, let me help you." She offered a hand, which Quinn glared at.
"I'm fine. I don't need your help." She tried to stand on her own to prove her point. She hadn't yet taken a moment to inspect her wounds herself. There was a long, deep gash on her right knee that was steadily leaking tracks of blood down her shin. The leg nearly gave out when she tried to put weight on it.
Rachel caught her by the waist, and once she was stabilized, placed a hand on her hip authoritively. "I beg to differ."
Quinn wanted to argue with her. She really, really wanted to leave this moment behind and forget about it forever. She really, really didn't want Rachel Berry, of all people, helping her hobble around the bike path.
She tried to pick her bike up off of its side on the ground and use it to keep herself upright. She found it was actually more difficult to balance on her good leg while trying to balance a two-wheeled contraption at the same time. She struggled for a minute, tried to hop away from the situation on the ball of the foot she could use, but after she moved a total of two feet down the path, she lost her grip on the bicycle and watched helplessly as it collapsed again; she stared at it, her arms still half stretched out from her attempt to catch it, before she sighed in defeat and let herself crash back onto her butt in the grass with a "hmph." These were not circumstances Quinn ever wanted to find herself in.
"Are you going to let me help you now?"
Quinn stared up at Rachel; she was sure she looked like a pouting six year-old. She contemplated refusing. If she was stubborn enough, eventually Rachel would just go away, right?
But did Quinn really want her to go away? If Rachel went, she would be all alone. She could barely limp three steps without either having to cease movement due to the pain in her knee or tumbling to the earth.
Rachel looked at her with big, honest eyes and offered her hand again. Quinn pushed herself up awkwardly, but without assistance. She stumbled forward into the tiny body before her and steadied herself on Rachel's shoulders. For her part, Rachel did her best to catch her. She braced her knees and placed what she hoped was a calming hand on the blonde's hip.
Quinn cleared her throat and exuded a small grunt that sounded suspiciously like a "thank you."
The ghost of a smile appeared on Rachel's lips. Her eyes dropped briefly to the cement just to the left of her running shoes. "Don't worry, I've got you. Here, just put your arm around me. I'll push your bike, and you just try and stay standing, okay? We'll go as slow as you need."
They traveled in silence for a while. Rachel took slow, even steps as Quinn shuffled along one-footed at her side.
Quinn turned her head to eye the girl who was holding her up. Her arm was strong and firm around Quinn's waist, and somehow she managed to push the bike with one hand as they crawled down the path at a snail's pace. She shouldn't have been here. It definitely should not have been Rachel Fucking Berry supporting her weight and helping her hop her way back home.
The sun beat down on their backs, and Quinn's hand burned where her palm had skinned the cement. Perspiration condensed on her brow from the effort of moving on only one foot. Thoughts of all the reasons Rachel Berry shouldn't have been helping her swam and criss-crossed through her mind; all of the reasons Rachel should have just kept running. She couldn't take the heat. She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand.
"Why are you doing this?"
Rachel turned questioning eyes on the blonde. "Why am I escorting you home? When you can't even take a step by yourself? Let's think…" She gave a light smirk.
Quinn rolled her eyes, almost playfully. "Seriously though. I've been awful to you. I've made an ass out of myself being mean to you. You could have easily pretended not to see me on the ground and kept on your merry jogging way. I just… I don't understand why you're doing this nice thing for me when I spent half a year hoping you'd choke on your vegan pizza because I thought you were flirting with my boyfriend. Because he was flirting with you. I was terrible, and you should be running for the hills, but instead you're practically carrying me home. I just don't understand why."
Rachel didn't say anything for a while, and Quinn started to feel foolish. She was about to say something to the effect of "Never mind, forget I said anything," when Rachel finally piped up.
"That's just the kind of person I am." Quinn raised an inquiring eyebrow, so she elaborated. "I'm not the kind of person to be spiteful towards someone over a few unkind words. I grew up with two gay dads. They always taught me that when kids were mean, it was because they didn't know any better. Hating you for throwing a slushy on my head isn't going to make me feel any better. I get that you were upset because you thought I liked Finn. I thought so too. You thought I was moving in on your man, so you turned into a playground bully. I get it. And if you want me to be mad at you, I can use my stern voice and lecture you until we get back to your house, but we were both in the wrong here, and you're injured, so no matter how you've treated me, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I didn't get you to safety. I'm not holding a grudge against you. I don't hate you for this past year. It's just… the kind of person I am."
Quinn stared at her with her mouth slightly open and her breath trapped in her throat as they continued to amble slowly onward. A rush of… something went to her chest, and she wasn't sure whether she wanted to cry or smile.
She blinked twice and grinned once, and they kept on in silence yet again.
They neared the end of the bike path and Quinn felt the need to say anything rise in her throat like bile. "So… you run?" Lame. So lame.
Rachel perked up. "Oh yes. My fathers got me an elliptical for my birthday this year, so I use that to work out on school days, but during the summer, when the sun is shining like this, I like to be able to get my exercise outside.
Quinn nodded. "I get that." They were quiet for a moment and she took a deep breath. "Listen, Berry… Rachel. I want to apologize. I'm really sorry for the way I've been acting towards you. We're in glee together now, there's no reason we can't be civil to each other. It's tiring, hating people."
Rachel looked pensive. "It's like this book my father gave me says. 'If there is not peace, then there will be a revolution.'"
Quinn tilted her head to the side a bit. "All Quiet on the Western Front? You never struck me as a war book type."
Rachel's eyes twinkled. "Really? You never struck me as a book type."
They both chuckled. Quinn found it was actually sort of nice to be able to laugh at her own expense. "Okay, don't tell anyone I said this, but for your information, I am secretly a giant bookworm." She raised her eyebrows in a so-there kind of manner.
"You know, I can actually totally see that."
Quinn dipped her head once. "Yeah… Listen. If you want Finn, you should go for it. He and I are done, so… And I know I yelled at you last night, but... I won't do anything, if you go out with him. I know you don't need my permission, or anything, but for what it's worth, it's fine with me. I'm okay with it." Rambling. Very nicely done.
"Thank you. But I don't think I'm going to go there."
Oh. Good. Wait, what? "Wait, what? Why?"
Rachel bit her lip. "Can we talk about this?" Quinn shrugged. Rachel stared into her eyes for several moments before she pressed on. "Well, for starters, when we kissed, I didn't feel anything. And second, I hate cheaters. I really hate that I'm the reason he became a cheater, but on the other hand, he did make that choice on his own. Most of all, though, I think that I liked the idea of him more than I liked him. Plus I happen to know that he's still totally in love with you, and I don't want to get in the middle of that again."
Quinn took it all in. "Oh… Well, believe me; you're not getting in the middle of anything this time. I'm taking a break from boys for a while. There's more to life than dating, right?"
"Right!" She giggled.
Both girls smiled to themselves, and this time when the quiet fell over them, it was almost companionable.
At last, they reached the Fabray residence. Neither of them knew quite what to say at that point. After a minute, Quinn stuck her hand out. "So, truce?"
Rachel looked at the outstretched hand and shook her head lightly. Quinn's heart started to sink until the shorter girl smiled. "I'll do you one better." And before Quinn knew what was happening, Rachel stepped into her personal space and hugged her. Quinn swore she heard a soft rush of air, almost like a relieved breath, when she brought her arms up to lightly pat the brunette on the back. Quinn had never been much good at hugs, but her body relaxed into the embrace before her mind could react.
When Rachel backed away, her eyes were closed. "I'm sorry, I usually ask people, or at least warn them, before I just go and hug them like that."
"Oh, um, don't worry about it."
She started up her driveway with a small wave to Rachel. She stopped just as quickly at the girl's suddenly small voice. "Quinn?"
She waited expectantly. "Yeah?"
"So… we can be friends?" Rachel looked vulnerable all of a sudden. Her eyes were strongly fixated on the grass in front of her whiter-than-white running shoes.
Quinn gazed at her with a curiosity she wasn't used to. She was nodding before the words could choke their way out.
"Yeah. We can be friends."