Chapter 30: Rock and a Hard Place
Quinn kept her face determinedly stony as she entered the kitchen on Sunday morning. Both of her parents were already in the room, coexisting without interacting. Quinn had been giving them both the silent treatment since she had been forced to sign Coach Sylvester's contract.
Her father stood by the counter, scrolling through emails on his phone and watching the coffee pot brew with one eye. Her mother sat daintily at the kitchen island, perched beside a pristine stack of pancakes and bowl of fruit that looked straight out of an old homemaker's magazine.
The coffee finished brewing, and Judy stood to pour herself a mug only after Russell had doled out his own. Steam wafted from the mug as Judy lifted the pot and lowered it again, observing the translucency as the stream passed through a beam of sunlight from the window.
When Judy turned to the fridge to add milk to her mug, Quinn took the cup of coffee for herself and leaned back haughtily against the countertop, daring her parents to challenge her.
When Judy saw that her cup had been reallocated, she merely pursed her lips and retrieved another mug from the cabinet and began her coffee preparation anew.
Russell, on the other hand, scoffed and shook his head from the other side of the island. His voice was gruff when he said, "You can pout all you want kiddo, but acting like a brat isn't going to change my mind about the Cheerios. I know I made the right decision for you."
Quinn managed to stop herself just short of physically rolling her eyes in response. She set her cup down with a thunk and clasped her hands together in a small but pointed display of sarcastic obedience.
"You're right, Dad. Total isolation from all my friends is really great character building for me."
Russell's eyes squinted menacingly, and Quinn caught herself rubbing at the fading bruise on her wrist with one finger.
Quinn felt herself growing tenser by the second, until Russell let out a condescending chuckle and said, "You're just sad you don't get to spend your afternoons with that boyfriend of yours."
It took Quinn several moments to remember who he was even talking about. His reality blinders were clearly fully in place.
Quinn often forgot that she never told her parents when she broke up with Finn. He was so removed from being someone she consciously thought about, it was always a bit of a shock when he came up in conversation.
Judy chimed in, smiling just a bit too brightly over the lip of her coffee mug, "You know, it's been a while since we've seen Finn around here. We should have him over for dinner soon. Next Saturday, maybe?"
Annoyance bubbled up inside Quinn, but she could see clearly in her mother's eyes that she was merely hoping to make a little peace.
Quinn poked her tongue into the side of her cheek. She would rather take a bath in hot lava than spend an evening alone with Finn and her parents, but it wasn't like she could just come out and say that. And if she were honest, he did seem to charm her parents somehow the couple of times he had met them in the past. Maybe he could help her convince them that glee was a worthwhile activity and a suitable substitute for cheerleading.
But damn it if Rachel wouldn't absolutely abhor the idea of her using Finn as a beard.
She knew Rachel would never ask her to come out before she was ready, but Rachel was also raised in an unimaginably different home environment than Quinn. There were some aspects of Quinn's family dynamics that Rachel wouldn't ever be able to relate to or fully comprehend.
Not to mention she and Rachel had plans to hang out next Saturday. Rachel would most certainly not be happy with her for canceling when they already got so little time together these days.
Quinn hated that when they did manage to see each other now, they always greeted each other with an "I've missed you." It weighed on her more heavily than she would have anticipated that her time with her own girlfriend was so limited. She clung to every moment she could get with Rachel.
Quinn cleared her throat. "Actually, I was going to spend next weekend with the girls-"
"Speaking of your little girlfriends-"
Russell cocked an eyebrow when Quinn choked and spluttered on her sip of coffee but otherwise carried on with what he was saying without pause. Quinn's palms grew slick with involuntary nerves.
"I hear you've been spending a lot of time with that little Berry girl."
Quinn opened and closed her mouth several times before she could make words come out.
"W-what makes you say that?"
Russell shrugged, still intermittently taking casual sips of his coffee.
Quinn's mind reeled. He obviously hadn't been chatting with the Misters Berry over tea, so who the fuck blabbed to him?
It wasn't like her parents socialized with any of the glee kids' parents, either, aside from essential whereabouts information when she was out with the group. And she trusted her friends not to let it slip about her and Rachel to their own parents anyway.
Sure, she and Rachel were together as often as they could be, but when they were at school they were always surrounded by at least a couple of other glee kids. But the way he singled Rachel out with that comment meant he probably wasn't talking about the New Directions in general.
Quinn swallowed hard.
This didn't make any sense. They were so careful, all the time. She and Rachel had basically become experts at sneaking around at this point, and there were hardly any times they had the opportunity to be alone in public places these days anyway.
Who could have spotted them? Had the rumor mill somehow randomly churned out a made-up story that just happened to be true?
Then it hit her.
Quinn had written off that moment in the hallway as just another creepy leering from a smarmy high school guy. But Quinn knew better than most that one comment from a jock like him could spread around to the whole school and surrounding community faster than wildfire.
If it had gotten back from him all the way to her parents, half of the town must be talking by now.
How many random gossips were whispering in her dad's ear? Twisting the truth? Unknowingly turning her family against her?
Russell squinted at her as he topped off his coffee and blew away some of the steam that wafted out of his cup. His expression seemed almost like a challenge.
Like a threat.
Quinn felt her body fill with a cold fear. His gaze was scrutinizing in a way that made the hairs on the back of her neck raise. More so than usual, Quinn felt an uncanny sense of actual danger.
Avoiding trying to directly defend herself to him, Quinn turned back to Judy.
"You know what, Mom, having Finn over sounds like a great idea."
"I need you to be my boyfriend again."
Quinn cornered Finn in the hallway by the boys' locker room after school, having made absolutely sure that no one would sneak up and overhear or see anything this time. She was grateful for once that he could be counted on to be late, and all of his teammates were already through the door and in the process of changing for football practice. They were definitely alone.
Finn looked around, even more confused than he was on any given day. She could see the gears struggling to turn in his head as she faced him authoritatively with her hands on her hips. He actually brought his hand up to scratch his head as he worked to put the various puzzle pieces together in his mind. Eventually, his lack of understanding made itself known.
"I thought you said we wouldn't ever work out as a couple. And wait, aren't you and Rachel, like, together? Did you guys break up?"
Quinn took a long breath and pinched the bridge of her nose. She had almost forgotten the aggravation of having to explain things to Finn.
"No, we didn't break up. My parents are getting suspicious, and I don't exactly come from the most gay-friendly family, so I need to you pretend to still be dating me at dinner with my parents this weekend so they don't freak the fuck out and send me off to a monestary to live the rest of my life as a nun. Can you handle that?"
A desperate please got caught in her throat on the way out, so she just gazed up at him, hoping that her tone of voice communicated the potential gravity of the situation. As much as she loathed having to come to him, she was backed into a very sharp corner.
If he didn't agree to be her beard, her parents would only grow more likely to scrutinize her personal life and discover her relationship with Rachel, and there was no telling what awful consequences might come for both of them if that happened. She couldn't bear the thought of her parents putting Rachel through any kind of torment.
She needed him.
Comprehension dawned on Finn's face.
"Oh, you want me to be your mustache."
Quinn puffed out her cheeks, drawing on all of the patience she had left inside her.
"Close enough. So you'll do it?"
Finn frowned, clearly apprehensive.
"I mean… I don't know, Quinn. Don't you think it would be a little weird-"
"You owe me, Hudson." The desperation and residual resentment lunged out of Quinn before she could stop it. "You screwed up with everyone in glee. Royally. You were misogynistic, possessive, and violent, but somehow everyone else has managed to forgive you. I haven't yet. If you really want to earn my trust back, this is your best shot at it."
Quinn didn't want it to have to come to that. She wished that she could claim mastery over forgiveness and take the high road with Finn, but if he didn't go along with this, she was screwed.
If her parents started to really catch on to the relationship she had with Rachel, if they pushed and found out what was really going on, there was no doubt in Quinn's mind that not only would she find herself subject to some horrible, punishing fate, but Rachel would find herself on the receiving end of their hatred as well. Not to mention Hiram and Leroy, who were some of the most welcoming, kind, and thoughtful people Quinn had had the honor of knowing; they were sure to be targets of any number of accusations and harassment if her parents were to figure out that she was actually dating their daughter.
It broke Quinn's heart to even think about it.
No, she couldn't let anything happen to Rachel. She wanted to protect her and their relationship.
What they had together was beyond what Quinn thought was possible for real-life couples. There was a safety and a comfort and a contentment and an excitement that, until she let herself embrace her feelings for Rachel, Quinn believed was nothing more than a beautiful lie that the books and movies concocted.
But it was fragile.
Her parents' reaction to finding out about them would likely break them, and that wasn't something Quinn was willing to risk.
Looking smaller than Quinn had seen him since his growth spurt, Finn relented. "Okay. I'm in."
Quinn breathed a deep sigh of relief.
"Great. Saturday at seven. My house. Wear something nice." She turned to leave, stopped, and twirled back to him again with a grimace. "Oh, and could you, um… not tell Rachel about this? I just haven't… I need some more time to figure out how to explain this to her."
"Remember, we're just a normal, straight, God-fearing teenage couple. Whatever manners you've been taught, tonight is the night to put them to use. Don't speak unless spoken to. Don't make too much eye contact. Just get in, make a little small talk, eat the dinner, and get out. Clear?"
"I'm not a baby, Quinn-"
"You've met my parents, Finn. Please, just sit there quietly so we can get through this and be done with it. No sudden moves."
Quinn deftly adjusted the lapel of Finn's sports coat in the foyer of her house. He had managed to dress respectably, and for that she was thankful.
She had practically pounced on him as soon as his first knock came at the door. She wanted to get to him before either of her parents could start in on their questioning so that she could brief him on how the evening should go and make sure that they were on the same page.
She looked him over again, confirmed that he was clear on the fact that he was to speak as little as possible, and took a couple of deep, not-so-calming breaths.
He was as ready as he would ever be.
God, she hoped this wouldn't all blow up in her face.
Quinn led Finn into the lavish dining room, where Russell was already seated, cocktail in hand, reading the newspaper. She tried not to wince when Finn's rarely-worn dress shoes squeaked on the hardwood floor.
"Daddy," she said, announcing their presence, "you remember Finn."
She clasped her hands together nervously as her father lowered his reading material and regarded her fake boyfriend, who fidgeted uncomfortably.
Quinn swallowed harshly when Russell remained silent, a frown firmly set in the wrinkles on his forehead.
The lack of speaking in the room quickly became palpable, but Quinn was glad that despite the discomfort that sat between the three of them, Finn remained quiet.
The two teenagers both visibly relaxed when Judy breezed into the dining room with the last plate of food for dinner and a bright grin on her face.
"Finn! So glad you could join us. Please, take a seat. We don't want any of this food getting cold."
Quinn and Finn both smiled at her gratefully and did as they were told.
The first few minutes of the meal were spent in relative silence as platters and bowls of food were passed around the table. Quinn kept her eyes trained intently on Finn, wordlessly begging him to play the part of polite boyfriend so she could stop worrying about her parents catching on to her secret for a while.
Once everyone's dinner was served, Russell kept his head down and ate in his usual stoic manner.
Quinn idly pushed her food around her plate as she anxiously watched her would-be beau dig into his food. She tried not to wince when he didn't switch his fork to the correct hand to take his bite of chicken after slicing it off with a meticulously polished knife.
Even while he ignored everyone else at the table, that was the kind of thing her father was likely to notice. It was a small thing - the kind of thing most people would think little, if anything, of - but Russell loved to pinpoint and nitpick any shortcomings he could find.
Quinn took a long gulp from her water and tried to subtly wipe the nervous sweat from her palms on the hem of her dress.
When the silence got to be too much, Judy plastered a smile that was just a bit too wide onto her face.
"So! Finn, how is school going for you this year? Your junior year is very important in deciding what your options will be for college."
Finn cleared his throat awkwardly. Judy was clearly making a big effort to be bright and friendly, and though Quinn could tell she was mostly just putting on a show, Finn would still be expected to indulge her.
He grinned sheepishly and shrugged, clearly struggling in his head to find a way to sugarcoat the fact that he was carrying a straight C average. He tugged unconsciously at his shirt collar.
"It's, um, it's okay. I've never been that great at school, but I'm not, you know, failing or anything…"
Quinn gripped the napkin in her lap in a tight fist. She bored her gaze into Finn and pleaded with her eyes for him to turn it around, change the subject, anything.
Judy graciously offered him an opportunity to redeem himself.
"Well, I'm sure it must be difficult to balance your studies with football. Extracurriculars are just as necessary as good grades."
Looking relieved, Finn nodded enthusiastically.
"Oh, yeah! Football's been going great. I think I have a good shot at making junior captain by the end of the semester."
Judy looked impressed and shot Quinn a pleased glance. Quinn almost let herself breathe until she saw that her father's eyes had risen from his plate; he was actually paying attention to the conversation after all.
Please, just let Finn keep talking about football. This is safe territory. This is the straightest conversation possible. This is fine.
"And I hear McKinley has a new coach this year. Is it true you're already on a winning streak?"
"Yeah, we're winning a lot this season! And Coach Beiste is awesome. She's actually-"
Russell sneered over the top of his cocktail glass. "What does a woman know about coaching football?"
Quinn clenched her jaw as her eyes darted back and forth between Finn and her father.
Finn blinked several times, caught off guard.
"I-I don't know, but we're already doing better with her than we ever did with Coach Tanaka. She's tough but still great at motivating us. Like, she started playing classic rock over the loud speakers during practices to get us pumped up. It was actually Mr. Schuester's idea. Seems like Coach Beiste wants to make the most of the skills us New Directions guys are learning in glee-"
Finn's face crumpled in pain and surprise when Quinn, less than subtly, stomped on his foot under the table.
Russell's lips pursed slightly as he leaned back in his chair and fully regarded Finn for the first time that night.
"So you're the one who's been encouraging our daughter to split her focus between her priorities and this… singing club, then."
Quinn had never seen anyone look more like a deer in headlights than Finn did in that moment. He looked at her fearfully before attempting to respond to Russell.
"Oh, um, I, uh, I don't, we-"
"I'll take that as a 'yes.'" Russell crossed his arms. "Now, I don't know what your goals in life are, young man, or if you even have any-"
"Russell," Judy cut in, hoping to quell the building tension in the room, but he continued on as if she hadn't.
"But my daughter has a future, and I won't have you or that godforsaken group of nonsensical, limp-wristed-"
"Now hold on!"
Finn looked like he shocked even himself when he interrupted Russell's mounting rant and asserted himself, but his indignation won out.
"Look, I get that you don't like the glee club. You can have that opinion if you want. Honestly, I don't know what your problem is with it, but that's your business. But my brother is gay. Some of the best people I know are." He shot a blink-and-you'll-miss-it look at Quinn. "And it took me a while to understand, but there's nothing wrong with it. I can't just sit here and let you dump all over them. People like you saying things like that is the reason kids commit suicide every year! If you could just get over yourself and realize that other people are people, you would realize that. I've been working really hard to be a better person recently, and I would be going back on all of that if I pretended like those kinds of comments aren't wrong and offensive."
Finn's anger was palpable, but Quinn could see him working to stay calm even as the words spilled from his mouth. "Obviously you disagree, but there isn't anything wrong with being gay, or being in glee club. And honestly, the two don't really have anything to do with each other."
Russell finally rose from his seat and scowled threateningly at Finn. Quinn and her mother shared in a stunned silence.
Finn looked down at his plate and seemed to finally remember where he was and why he was there. His voice seemed to shrink in size. "I'm sorry if I disrespected you in your own house, sir, but…" he shook his head, "you disrespected people I care about first, and for once, I had to do the right thing."
Quinn's jaw hung just slightly open. This night had definitely taken a turn from how she had hoped it would go, but she couldn't help but feel impressed and touched by Finn's outburst. He not only told her father off for his warped beliefs, but he did so in a way that put all of the heat on himself and, subsequently, took some of it off of her.
Quinn didn't know if she wanted to laugh or cry. Probably both. The sudden turn the situation had taken was dumbfounding.
Russell ground his teeth, still glaring forcefully at Finn. "Get out."
Finn nodded sharply and pushed back from the table. The sound of his chair scraping over the wood floor was loud in the otherwise quiet room.
As Finn lumbered to the front door, Russell turned sternly to Quinn.
"You are not to see that boy anymore."
With that, he downed the rest of his drink and glowered his way to his office, leaving Judy and Quinn alone with the dishes.
Before she could even ask, Quinn received a small nod from her mother and rushed out of the room to catch up with Finn.
She found him just outside the front door in the driveway, pacing manically. He was clearly agitated. As soon as he saw her appear in the doorway he started apologizing profusely.
"Shit, Quinn, I'm so sorry. I know I was supposed to just be silent and polite and I really tried to do the thing where I count to ten before I respond to something that upsets me, but I just couldn't help it-"
His apologies were cut off abruptly when Quinn engulfed him, as much as someone her size could engulf a mountain like Finn, in a tight, genuine hug.
"You were amazing. By no means was it what we discussed going in, but… you really had my back in there. And the backs of other people who count on you." She smiled at him with a newfound affection that was more heartfelt than she ever would have expected. "Thank you, Finn."
She patted him on the shoulder and made to go back inside but paused in the threshold.
"Also, my dad said I can't date you anymore, so your… 'mustache' services will not be required in the future."
Finn allowed himself a small chuckle and nodded back at her.
"Take care of yourself, Quinn." He started walking down the driveway toward his car but turned back toward her, shoving his hands in his pockets as he did so. "Hey, just… you know I'm always around, if you need anything. Even just as a friend."
Quinn leaned against the doorframe and smiled back at him.
"I think I finally do know that."
For the first time in a long time, Quinn and Finn acknowledged each other with a real mutual understanding.
She waited until he drove away before she headed back inside to help her mom clean up. Before she could clear a plate, Judy waved her off. She had turned on the radio and was sipping wine as she brought the platters to the dishwasher in the kitchen, clearly having established a routine for herself.
Having been turned away from dish duty, Quinn climbed the stairs up to her room, surprisingly relieved at how the night's dinner had turned out. It certainly wasn't what she had been planning on going into the night, but she was content to concede that, perhaps, it had gone even better than she might have hoped.
As she entered her room and closed the door behind her, Quinn felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. A grin appeared immediately on her face.
She pressed 'answer' and balanced the phone between her ear and her shoulder as she began taking off the dress she had worn for dinner, eager to get herself into a comfortable pair of shorts and a t-shirt.
She smiled into the phone, "Hey babe, I was just about to call you. You won't believe-"
Rachel's voice was unmistakably serious, and Quinn halted her movements after she hiked a pair of athletic shorts over her hips. She tried not to let the frown that overtook her face infiltrate her voice.
The line was silent for a moment before Rachel's voice made its way through Quinn's phone once more.
"We need to talk."
A/N: Buckle up, kiddos.