possibilist fanfiction—20, give the bruises out like gifts. also currently: queer & post-colonial theory, extra dry decaf skim cappuccino, champagne, mason jars, callused knuckles, all of the quiet ghosts in bloom. (& quinn fabray.)

upper hand (the a team)

[a history of quinntana. because i had unresolved quinntana feels after the last ep. it’s faberry/brittana for sure, although some of the early lines are blurred. title from ed sheeran (like, who hasn’t listened to him?). listen to "my oldest friend" by andrew belle to increase the feels.]

upper hand (the a team)

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people are screwed up in this world. i’d rather be with someone screwed up and open about it than somebody perfect and ready to explode.
—ned vizzini, it’s kind of a funny story

one. there are two tragedies in life. one is to lose your heart’s desire. the other is to gain it

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The first time you meet Quinn is at cheer camp, before Freshman year. You notice her right away, because she’s striking—literally, the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen—but she’s also talented. Right away, Coach puts her into a group with returning Varsity seniors, and then she puts Brittany into that group, and then she puts you in it too.

Within the first two days, Quinn doesn’t say a word. She nods when given directions, but at water breaks or after camp ends, she just sits by her stuff silently, playing with a fraying little pink ribbon tied on the end of one of the zippers on her duffel bag, tucking a loose strand of blond hair behind her ear with gentle, thin fingers.

On Wednesday, Coach calls the group of girls obviously on her radar for Varsity to sit down in a circle after camp has supposedly ended. Quinn sits by Brittany, primly, criss-cross-apple-sauce, her back impossibly straight, and only looks up when Coach starts barking out orders.

“We’re going to get to know each other. Tomorrow we’re starting stunts, so state your name, your age, your favourite fictional character, and your favourite movie. I don’t care about these things but you all seem too, and the only thing worse than your sniveling faces right now is your sniveling faces after one of you drops someone else. Play nice,” she finally instructs, then marches off somewhere else.

Margaret, a senior and the obvious shoe-in for captain, goes first, then the rest of the girls in the circle go in order. They like A Walk to Remember and Mean Girls, and most of their favourite characters are from Twilight.

When it’s your turn, you say, “I’m Santana Lopez. I’m fourteen years old. My favourite character is Daisy Buchanan, and I like The Breakfast Club.”

Quinn smiles at your choices. It’s the first time you see her make such an expression. It’s breathtaking.

Brittany goes next, and she giggles and says some nonsensical things, but she’s Brittany, so it’s charming.

Then Quinn clears her throat. Her eyes get a shade darker and she raises her chin slightly, and the change is incredible. “My name is Quinn Fabray,” she says, and her voice is commanding. “I’m fourteen. My favourite character is Janie Crawford from Their Eyes Were Watching God, and my favourite film is Hitchcock’s Rear Window.”

Everyone in the circle looks captivated and then entirely disinterested, and Quinn goes back to staring at the floor.

They finish and then Margaret dismisses you, and you stand, grab Brittany’s hand, and move to leave, but Quinn’s breathless, “Santana, wait!” and then her warm fingers against your arm cause you to stop breathing for a second.

You turn around and glare at her, and the shy smile on her face disappears in a second.

“You—you’ve read The Great Gatsby?” she asks.

You roll your eyes. “I saw the film. Mia Farrow was excellent.” Your tone is biting, and Quinn mumbles an oh, but you realize minutes later in Mrs. Pierce’s car that that probably wasn’t really a deterring response for Quinn, because you said ‘film’ and knew Mia Farrow’s filmography.

And then you silently acknowledge that Quinn really does look like Grace Kelly and that that makes your heart race and your breath catch, and you almost hate her for it.

What you hate her for more is the fact that you desperately want to be her friend, mostly because you just hate desperately wanting anything.

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The first time Quinn sleeps over at your house is after she injures herself on a cold day in November. Brittany’s there too and when your dad comes home from work, you ask him if he can look at Quinn’s back.

He does, gently and patiently, as she grimaces when he presses near her left shoulder. She’s strained a muscle, but nothing more, he concludes, and he gives her three Advil and an icepack from the freezer to keep there for twenty minutes.

You order a pizza and then go downstairs and put on Rosemary’s Baby.

Brittany says, “San, I hate this movie.”

Quinn quietly says, “But this is Polanski’s finest. And, you know, Mia Farrow,” and then Brittany just kind of grins at you. She understands. She always has.

You snuggle up on the couch with Brittany and Quinn looks slightly out of place, sitting so stiffly on the soft, plush furniture, until Brittany says, “Come here, Quinn,” and Quinn nods and settles into Brittany’s other side a little awkwardly, but perfectly nonetheless.

And then Brittany pulls both of you closer and says, “We’re, like, totally best friends,” and Quinn just smiles so happily that it breaks your heart.

.

One day at practice in April Quinn messes up three times in a row, an easy routine that she never normally would make a mistake on. Coach screams at her and then makes everyone run four extra suicides, and you’re seething by the time you catch your breath and wobble into the locker room.

“What the hell’s your problem, Fabray?” you ask, even through Brittany tugs at your arm and whispers, “San,” into your neck as you stalk towards Quinn at her locker.

“I’m sorry,” Quinn says, wiping tears from her cheeks and pulling a sweatshirt over her head.

“Quinn, what’s wrong?” Brittany asks.

Quinn shakes her head. “Nothing. My dad, just—nothing.”

Brittany looks at you and she looks confused, and then you stare at Quinn carefully.

“Do you need somewhere to stay tonight?” you ask gently—it surprises you how gently—and Quinn’s face just crumples as she nods.

Brittany hugs Quinn and you stand there, awkwardly patting her back.

That night, you don’t ask any questions, and you don’t say anything in the morning when you wake up wrapped around Quinn in your bed.

Sometimes people need to be held, that’s all.

two. we run with outstretched arms toward an object of love until we’re standing there snot-nosed and teary and the sun sets fire and all that is left is to ponder the cruelty of our finest season

.

You never tell her this—you’d never be caught dead telling her this—but Quinn’s kind of cute when she’s pregnant. Her face gets a little rounder and her eyes get softer, and her clothes are perfect and so very Quinn that you almost want to laugh at her. It makes you smile when she eats carefully proportioned lunches, when she takes a vitamin seriously.

But then you also know that she’s an orphan, and that people are awful to her all the time, and that she has a stack of medical bills that she has no way of paying.

You invite her over one Saturday night after a football game for a sleepover, and of course Brittany’s there, too, and Quinn easily slides into her side this time when you put in Sixteen Candles.

About an hour into the film Quinn shoots up from Brittany’s side and it scares the hell out of you, because both of her hands go to her swollen stomach and her eyes are unblinking and huge.

“Are you okay?” you ask quickly, hating how frantic your voice sounds.

Quinn nods, and she starts to cry, and then she says, “She kicked.”

Quinn’s eighteen weeks pregnant (you keep track), and you know that that’s right on schedule (you asked your dad). She looks up at you and then takes your hand and puts it against her stomach.

The flutter against your fingers makes you want to cry.

You don’t, but you do smile.

.

When Quinn is thirty weeks pregnant, you’re both laying on your bed, drowsy from an AP World History practice exam that you failed and Quinn aced.

“Santana?”

“What?”

Her voice is careful when she asks, “Why do you sleep with Puck?”

You shrug. “Why not?”

She pats her very pregnant stomach with a little, broken smile.

“I didn’t really mean that,” you say.

“You did,” she says, then shrugs. “It’s okay. I just mean—”

“—What?”

“You and Brittany are like—you and Brittany sometimes—I just, you guys—”

If she wasn’t blushing so furiously beside you—and if she wasn’t Quinn—you might be pissed, but instead you say, “Brittany and I have sex, yes.”

“Do you—you’re—”

“God, Quinn, does being with child remove your ability to speak coherently?”

She sits up and drags fingers through her hair, shaking her head. Her shoulders slump.

“I think I’m probably gay,” you say.

She nods. She turns towards you. “You should really stop sleeping with Puck,” she says. Her mouth opens to say something else but then she clamps it shut.

Neither of you say another word and she lays back down.

“You’re the first person I told that to,” you say.

She takes your hand, squeezes. “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” you say.

“When did you know?” Her voice is so small.

“The first time I kissed Brittany,” you say. You don’t say And the first time I saw you, but it’s true anyway.

.

Quinn comes over the day after she has Beth, after she gets discharged from the hospital. She’s already noticeably thinner and it’s weird, because it’s all over with now and Quinn just seems empty.

She cries and cries that night—which you hate, and you make fun of her for a little while until it doesn’t seem to help anything, and Brittany isn’t there, so then you just do your best to stroke her hair and mumble things in Spanish—until she calms down a little.

And then she kisses you, timidly and hauntingly soft.

She tastes like rose lip balm and mint toothpaste.

When she sighs a little into your mouth, you kiss her back.

three. i just want to feel good and happy and alive

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During June, in the middle of a make-out session on your bed after a summer run when Brittany’s out of town, while you’re straddling Quinn, your hands buried in her sweaty hair, she asks, “What do you think of Rachel?”

You sit back, your knees pressing against the sides of Quinn’s hips, your weight balanced against her pelvis. “The hobbit? Annoying as fuck.” She sucks in a breath when you run your fingers against the bare skin of her constantly thinning stomach below her blue sports bra. “Talented, though, I’ll give her that.”

Quinn shakes her head. “No, I mean, do you think she’s, um, like, pretty?”

You shrug. “If you have a thing for short beings that don’t wear shoes and come from the Shire, sure.”

“You do realize it’s nerdy that you know all of that?”

“It’s common knowledge.”

Quinn laughs. “Okay, San.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

Your brows raise. “Why do you care what I think about Rachel?”

Quinn blushes—you see her blush. “She’s captain of Glee Club?” she suggests.

“Right.” You roll your eyes, then kiss Quinn again. “She’s pretty enough.”

.

You don’t see Quinn a lot after that and before school starts, because you have surgery and because Brittany’s there and because your entire chest hurts and you don’t even want to begin to examine why, so when you see her that first day of school, you really try not to acknowledge how good she looks.

And then you fight in the hallway a few days later and you allow yourself to hate her.

It’s just so much easier that way.

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She dates Sam, which is nauseating. He’s, like, a puppy, and the way he looks at Quinn makes you want to smack him.

Because you see the way she looks at Rachel. You see her, and that’s maybe the scariest realization of them all.

.

You do hurtful things. Quinn does hurtful things.

You’re both vindictive. You’re both smart.

You hurt, but for lots of reasons that aren’t like Quinn’s expanse of pain.

You take Sam from her because she has Finn and right now you’re both devolving. She dates boys for the same reason you do—you’re scared, Lima’s an awful place to be gay—but Quinn’s situation is different too (she’s already been kicked out once). So you know that Quinn is messed up.

But she goes from damaged goods to, like, really messed up, when one day at cheer practice she purposefully messes up one of her stunts—you can tell, because she’s never done it before, and it’s not a mistake she would ever make randomly; Quinn is a perfectionist. She falls painfully on her left hip, and she gets up with a limp, shaking everyone off when they try to talk to her, make sure she’s okay.

You let it go then, but after practice, you catch up to her on the way to the locker rooms. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

Her brows knit together. “What?”

“You fell on purpose.”

“That’s crazy, Santana.”

“You’re crazy,” you bite out. “Fucking certifiable, you know that?”

“What the hell, Santana?” She straightens up to a few inches taller than you, crossing her arms over her chest.

You tug up the hem of her uniform top. You’d seen the way she’d been guarding it earlier, one arm across her abdomen. You suck in a breath when you see there’s a line of bruises along her stomach. Some of them are green—healing—and some of them are almost black—new—and they look like she’s been pinching her skin. “Why are you hurting yourself?” you ask. Softly.

Quinn yanks her top down, slaps your cheek suddenly you don’t even retaliate. She’s crying as she says, “I don’t feel anything.”

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You don’t know what to do. You don’t want to tell anyone but you can’t just let Quinn—beautiful, broken Quinn—keep living (or not) like this.

So you research online. You go to your dad’s office and read all of the pages in his DSM-IV on depression.

And then you go over to Quinn’s house. You’ve been there a few times before, but not for too long (because it’s awful) and Judy answers the door.

She’s drunk, and Quinn comes downstairs in a hurry, shooing Judy away before directing you out onto the porch and sitting down on a swing there.

“You’re fucked up,” you say, sitting down next to her.

“I’m fine.”

“God, Quinn,” you say, and you’re so frustrated you run your hands through your hair roughly, “you’re not fine. Saying that won’t make you fine, either.”

She swallows. She looks at you. Her eyes are hollow.

“You need to get help,” you say, as gently as you can.

“Fuck you, Santana,” she says, then goes back inside.

You don’t even bother to ring the doorbell again.

You cry as you drive home.

.

When Quinn says, “I just want somebody to love me,” you know she means more than that.

She wants her mother to love her. She wants her father to love her. She wants her daughter to love her, and her sister, and her friends.

And Rachel.

It’s the most emotion she’s shown in months, and it’s encouraging in a way.

So thirty minutes later, you sit with your fingers laced through hers in a salon that Brittany found on Google with good reviews and relatively sane prices.

Quinn is squeezing your hand hard. “What if it looks awful?”

“You’re hot, Quinn,” Brittany says. “Nothing would look awful on you.”

It’s completely true, but you don’t say that. Instead you roll your eyes. “Just man up, Fabray. It’s a haircut. Worse case scenario, it’ll grow back.”

She sighs. “My mom’s going to hate it.”

“All the more reason to do it,” you say, and Brittany laughs.

Then they call Quinn’s name, and she stands gracefully. You follow her and Roman, the grey-haired, trendy stylist, back to a chair and she sits down. She has incredible composure, and she always has.

Her face remains completely impassive as Roman puts a cape around her neck and washes her long, pretty hair.

“What are you looking for today?” he asks.

Quinn shrugs. “Short,” she says.

Roman studies Quinn for a minute. “Just past your chin?”

“Sure,” Quinn says, and Roman nods.

He combs Quinn’s hair and snips. You almost jump at the noise and the chunk of hair that falls to the floor, but Quinn doesn’t even blink. You don’t know what you’re expecting, as more and more of her hair falls to the floor—another breakdown, or a teary confession of all of her problems—but you’re expecting something, at least.

Instead, Quinn smiles politely when he finished and says that she loves it, runs her fingers through it. It looks good—like, really good, and her neck is mind-numbingly sexy—but Quinn is as stoic as ever as she gets out of the chair and pays.

You go back to the hotel and nothing’s different at all.

It’s the scariest thing you’ve ever known.

four. the only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive

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She gets worse. She dyes her hair pink and starts smoking and pierces her perfect nose and raids a thrift store and manages to look ridiculously attractive while doing it.

You’ve heard people talk about being paralyzed with fear. You understand now, maybe, because this is not a Quinn you know, this hard, shattered person. You don’t know what to do, how to bridge that gap any longer, and you have Brittany and your parents and your other friends, so when you go over to her house one night and Quinn leads you roughly up to her room and kisses you—she tastes different—you break away.

“I just want you to get better,” you say. This time you’re the one who starts to cry.

“Do you want to fuck me or not?” Quinn asks, her voice low and dangerous.

It makes you nauseous and scared and sad, the way she treats her body, her heart. “No, Quinn,” you say.

“Then get the hell out of my goddamn house,” she says.

You do. You think about turning back, but then you think of Orpheus.

You’re not strong enough to rescue Eurydice from Hades without simultaneously destroying yourself.

It’s not a sacrifice you can bring yourself to make, and you despise yourself for it, but really your biggest fear is that Quinn has already vanished, and it wouldn’t matter if you looked back or not.

.

A few weeks into school, she’s blond and perfect again.

This time you think of Lot’s wife, and just how many times Quinn’s turned into a pillar of salt without anyone noticing.

.

When you get forcibly outed, which is the most terrifying, awful, and simultaneously liberating experience of your life, Quinn supports you passionately.

She gives you hugs all week, makes sure you have company walking to class and at lunch. She makes sure to ask real questions when you’re alone—how you’re emotionally dealing with everything, whether or not you need somewhere to stay, how all of this is affecting your cheerleading, and your relationship with Brittany, how coming out to your parents was, how your schoolwork is progressing, whether or not you need some extra help right now—and you want to simultaneously hug her (which you always do) and slap her (which you never do).

Because you should have been asking her the same questions all along.

Quinn is a mess. You find out she’s trying to steal back Beth—steal—and only doesn’t because Rachel convinces her not to.

It should have been you, and Brittany too. You should have stopped her before it even got anywhere near that bad.

But you’re selfish and, God, it’s Quinn.

She scares you. She makes you so sad, and sometimes it’s just hard to feel like that.

You also kind of love Rachel for rescuing Quinn, because Rachel looks at Quinn too.

.

Quinn gets into Yale, and it’s the most amazing news you’ve heard in forever. For the first time in a really long time, she seems to be doing a little better.

She stops you in the hall after Glee one day. Brittany’s rehearsing with Mike, so you’re alone, just the two of you, and Quinn says, “I’m seeing a therapist. We talk about my sexuality. I’m taking anti-depressants.” She looks down.

You breathe for the first time in what feels like years. (In a way, it is.) “That’s good, Quinn. So good.”

She laughs a little. “Being diagnosed with clinical depression is awesome.”

You smile because she really is doing better. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I know,” she says. “I just—thank you for caring.”

You hug her so tightly then, pull her close, press your eyes closed, take in her smell. “I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.”

You feel her cry but you are too, and then she finally loosens her arms around yours. “The meds are temporary, hopefully. Until I get things under control.”

You nod. “You will. I’ll help you.”

“Promise? I mean, I’m now, like, diagnosed as crazy.”

You’re serious when you tell her, “Having depression does not mean you’re crazy.” Her eyes are amused and you realize she was joking. “You’re entirely bonkers,” you tell her in a British accent. “But I’ll tell you a secret, all the best people are.”

She grins. “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” she says back.

You laugh. “I think we’ve watched Alice in Wonderland one too many times.”

She gasps. “Alice? There’s no such thing as too many times.”

five. we have so little time to say the things we mean

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It pisses you off to no end that Quinn won’t tell Rachel how she feels. It pisses you off firstly because Quinn loves Rachel. Then it pisses you off because you’re pretty sure that Rachel loves Quinn too, and that Quinn is absolutely the most attractive person you know, so that really shouldn’t be an issue. It pisses you off because Quinn’s being an idiot, but at least you can understand where her hesitancy is coming from—you’ve been there. Mostly it just pisses you off because Rachel is being an even bigger idiot by agreeing to marry Finn.

So when Quinn’s late, you have no doubts that when you say, “Quinn’s not coming,” it’s true.

When your dad calls you a few minutes later, his voice sickeningly gentle, and tells you that Quinn’s been in an accident, you curse your assuredness that Quinn would never be there.

She had been trying.

.

Rachel sits next to you. She cries and cries and cries.

You don’t want to pin this on Quinn. So you let yourself think in a lot of ways this is Rachel’s fault.

You try to hate Rachel.

But you can’t bring yourself to quite hate her. You’re angry, sure, but you can’t hate her.

You’re just tired, you decide, and Quinn wouldn’t want you to hate her anyway.

.

You try to force yourself to prepare for a world without Quinn in it. Brittany will be so sad if Quinn dies, and you’ll need to be strong.

You think of all of the special things about Quinn that you can remember: She eats her Chex-Mix in order. She drinks her coffee black but puts milk in her tea. She’s learning to play the guitar. She adores Patti Smith. She has about a million quotes memorized, and happily recites them whenever possible. She wears really cool glasses at sleepovers or on trips when she doesn’t have her contacts in. She still wears a retainer at night because she’d had braces. She uses raspberry shampoo and coconut conditioner, and she has sandalwood perfume.

You stop there, because you decide you’d miss her too much.

.

Your dad comes and tells you—and everyone else in the waiting room—all the information he knows so far: Quinn’s in surgery. She punctured her left lung, broke ribs. Her spine was compressed.

That’s scary. Those things are awful, but you can handle them.

But the world drops from underneath you when he says, “There’s bleeding in her brain. It’s not much, but we’re being careful. It should resolve on its own but if it doesn’t, there could be permanent damage, and she’ll need brain surgery.”

You can’t breathe. Quinn is so smart. So special. She’s taken six AP exams already—in the past two years, which is a record at your school; she has five planned for this May alone—and gotten 5s on all but her AP Calc and AP Physics exams (she disappointedly told you she got 4s). Her SAT score was a 2320.

She wants to be a writer.

It’s the first time you cry since the accident happened.

.

After the second time you get to see her—she’s awake for about two seconds this time, cracking open an eye and dazedly smiling when she sees you there before she grimaces in pain before falling asleep again—you go home. You’re exhausted—you’ve been cheering and going to school and doing Glee and then spending most of your free time at the hospital since four days ago when Quinn was in the accident—and you almost think you’re imaging it when you walk by your dad’s office and hear him crying.

You knock softly on the door and walk in, and he sniffles and wipes his cheeks.

“Dad?”

He shakes his head. “Everything’s okay,” he says.

You perch on the corner of his desk. “What’s wrong?” You’re starting to panic. “Is it something with Quinn?”

He takes a deep breath. “No. She’s doing well, all things considered. Her brain bleed has resolved completely and her spinal cord injury is incomplete so that’s good. I just—”

You put your hand against his shoulder.

“When the paramedics got there, she was conscious,” he says. His voice is quiet. “They used the jaws of life to get her out of the car and then the paramedics had to administer a corticosteroid to her spinal cord, to stop the swelling.”

“She was awake for that?” Your chest is constricting painfully. You feel sick.

He nods.

“They ripped her out of a car and stuck a needle into her spinal cord and she couldn’t breathe and she knew what was going on?”

Your dad takes a deep breath and stands from his chair. He hugs you tightly and you cry into his chest. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m so sorry.”

You know he has nothing to apologize for, but you sense that he’s mainly just saying it for himself.

“I keep imagining you in that—”

“—Don’t,” you say. You back up and take his hand. “I’m right here.”

He nods. “I love you,” he says.

“I love you, too, Dad.”

.

You’re visiting her one day and Brittany’s fallen asleep on the cot next to the chair you’re in. Quinn is still pretty woozy, and she’s bruised everywhere, and sort of held together with little butterfly bandaids and stitches, and there’s a nasty four-inch-long gash in the middle of her scalp mended with shiny staples, and her left arm is in a sling to help lessen some of the discomfort on her broken ribs and series of chest tubes, but she’s sitting up a little in bed, watching you eat a piece of pizza intently.

“It’s weird,” she says, slurring because of the morphine, and it almost makes you want to smile.

“What’s weird?” you ask.

“Have you ever thought about how many people there are in the world, and how you’re only one of them? And how, proportionally, your death statistically means very little?” Her face legitimately looks puzzled.

“Quinn,” you say.

She shrugs as much as her broken body will allow. “And, like, eighteen years on the geological timeline is the same as, like, eighteen seconds.”

Quinn.”

She blinks. “It really wouldn’t mean anything if I died.”

You put the piece of pizza down and shoot up from your chair so quickly it scares you. Quinn’s eyes get big. “Do you not understand how important you are?” you ask.

She moves to speak but you hold up a hand.

“Do you not get it? That you dying would make my entire life sad? Sure, I’d have other people, and I’d love them, and things would be fine, but losing you—” you rake in a breath and your voice cracks— “You matter so much.”

“Santana,” Quinn says, and then you’re crying.

“You matter so much, Quinn. You’re so talented and special and, God, you just mean so much. Do you really not understand that?”

Quinn starts to cry too and shakes her head and you sit down on the edge of the bed so carefully, and you take her right hand in yours.

“All I could think about when we were in the waiting room was telling you how much I love you. One more time. It’d never be enough, but just saying it one more time was so important.” You cup her cheek. “I love you, Quinn. So much.”

She hiccups. “I love you, too.”

You kiss her forehead. “You matter to a lot of people, too.”

She smiles just a little. “I’ve always liked the humanities’ view of mortality anyway.”

“What?”

“Statistics and geology really aren’t my thing.”

You cry and laugh and shake your head all at once. “You’re such a nerd.” You don’t tell her that it’s the thing about her that maybe you love the most, because she looks kind of dazed and ready to fall back asleep, but you grab the E.E. Cummings anthology off the shelf by her bed.

You hold her hand and read a few of the poems as she drifts off, and you’re pretty sure she understands.

six. the dream is the truth

.

You say, “Stop making out with Berry,” just to embarrass Quinn, just because you can, but it’s all in good fun, really.

Then you count the votes and she wins, and you make a stab at her being in the chair, because the entire night—and the hours you spent with her getting ready and then going out to dinner—has kind of been making you feel sick. Because it’s your senior prom and you can’t dance with your best friend because she’s in a wheelchair.

You try not to think about Finn almost hurting her, and you try not to think about your dad’s gentle, patient explanation (after you’d asked and insisted on knowing the truth) of how close Quinn’s vertebrae had actually come to severing her spinal cord. You try not to think of his soft words, telling you that if the airbag had gone off a second later, or if Quinn hadn’t been wearing her seatbelt, or if the truck had been going a little faster, that there was enough force in the accident that she probably would have died.

So when Quinn wants to let Rachel win, you just agree.

Quinn’s alive, and tonight that matters more than any stupid boy, or crown, or high school function. And, really, you just want her to be happy.

You dance with Brittany all night and then Quinn stands next to you, and you automatically hold her up.

Most of her weight rests on your shoulders, but for the first time in your life, you’re certain you’re strong enough to never let her go.

.

“You’re literally like an old person,” you say, poking Quinn’s side as she arrives at school with a cane. But she’s walking—walking—so you’re both kind of smiling irrationally at the same time.

She whacks you lightly in the shin.

“Ow!”

She shrugs. “Being an old person has its advantages.”

.

She kind of freaks out when Mr. Schue tells her that she’s stepping in for Mercedes. You understand, because walking around Chicago all morning had been exhausting for her—you made sure to keep taking bathroom breaks, and she’d thankfully looked at you whenever she’d gotten to sit down—but you also believe that she can do it.

So before you go onstage, you hug her and nod.

She’s incredible.

She’s a dancer, after all.

.

She’s not well enough to cheer at Nationals—nor will it ever be safe for her to do again—but Coach lets her come as an assistant anyway.

You win, and Quinn smiles sadly and triumphantly as she falls asleep on your shoulder on the plane ride home.

“She’s so cute when she sleeps,” Brittany says, leaning over and touching Quinn’s nose. “Like a little kitten.”

You laugh lightly and kiss Brittany.

“I love you,” you tell her. You love her differently than you’ve ever loved anyone else, in the big, wonderful way that scares you.

But you’ve learned to tell her as often as possible.

She always says it back.

.

Quinn’s valedictorian.

You silently thank God when she doesn’t make any jokes during her speech about nearly being brain damaged, because you’re already crying and you just really couldn’t handle anything less than a completely perfect day.

But it’s sunny. There are no clouds in sight.

seven. sometimes i just wanted to raise my hands and stop. but stop what? maybe just growing up

.

She calls you in a rush two weeks after school gets out, one week after Rachel and Finn break up.

“I kissed Rachel,” she says into the phone.

“Quinn Fabray,” you say. “What? You like Rachel? Since when?”

“Shut up, Santana,” she says, and then you both laugh.

“So, how was it?”

“Incredible,” she says. She sounds shy, and soft, and awed.

“Took you long enough,” you say.

She’s quiet.

“I’m really happy for you.”

“Thanks, San,” she says.

“It’s true.”

.

In July, Rachel is out of town and so is Brittany, so Quinn ends up spending the night at your house by herself.

You put on Rear Window and you both smile at each other, and Quinn cuddles with you automatically on the couch.

Halfway through the film, she turns to you sleepily in the dark. “Without Rachel and Brittany, do you think we could’ve fallen in love with each other?”

“You look like Grace Kelly,” you say. “How could anyone not fall in love with you a little?”

Her lips quirk into a smile. She kisses your cheek. “I fell in love with you a little too, San.”

.

As you load her suitcases—“God, Quinn, you have so many clothes,” you make sure to grumble at least seven times—into the trunk of Judy’s SUV, Quinn stands in the driveway, arms crossed.

“I can help,” she says.

“No, you won’t,” Rachel insists, for about the millionth time. “You have strict no-heavy-lifting orders from your physical therapist.”

“And these are heavy,” you say.

Quinn sulks. “I’d be fine,” she mumbles.

Rachel squeezes her hand as you’re about to step in and Quinn reluctantly quietswith a little smile, her features peaceful.

.

A few hours later, you’re standing in the airport—driving from Ohio to Connecticut is far more than Quinn can handle—just before the security checkpoint. Quinn is crying because she’s hugging Brittany, and so you’re crying, too.

Then Quinn moves to hug you and you just try to memorize how she feels in your arms, how solid and tangible and real she is, the way her short hair tickles your cheek and how her clothes smell.

“Don’t be too much of a bitch without me,” you say.

She steps back and smiles. She takes a DVD from her purse and hands it to you. It’s a collector’s edition of The Breakfast Club. She nods and you fight back the urge to clutch it to your chest. “I’ll see you in October,” she says—you’ve already planned to visit over fall break.

“Thank you,” you say.

“Thank you,” she says. “For everything.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

You stay pressed into Brittany’s side as Quinn hugs Judy and then, lastly, Rachel, tightly and with a quick whisper into her ear.

Then she walks gracefully towards the little metal detector lines.

But she turns back once. She doesn’t turn into a pillar of salt, and no one vanishes like Eurydice.

Quinn just waves, and you wave back.

references.

.

title. “the a team” by ed sheeran.
quote. ned vizzini, it’s kind of a funny story
one. george bernard shaw
two. gary shteyngart
three. the sisterhood of the traveling pants (2005)
four. john green, looking for alaska
five. restless (2011)
six. zora neale hurston, their eyes were watching god
seven. patti smith, just kids

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    Beautiful writing, beautiful storytelling. Enjoy.
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