from the ground up
[weekly headcanon time! yippee! while these episodes were actually, like, enjoyable, and while i could watch an entire two hours of dianna dancing with less than zero objections, honestly, there are so many issues that they just leave entirely unaddressed with quinn. don’t worry. i address them. also, faberry.
title from sleeping at last. (awesome music 101). in addition, i cried like 5648043 times tonight, because of nostalgia reasons, so all references are from shel silverstein poems. listen to "home" by daughter because everyone who ships faberry just wants to feel like home now.]
from the ground up
yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
and we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
for the children, they mark, and the children, they know
the place where the sidewalk ends
—shel silverstein, “where the sidewalk ends”
one. i tripped on my shoelace and i fell up
There are things she tells herself, after she finds out, after she wakes up.
Things like: You will walk again.
Things like: One day you’ll be brave enough.
Things like: It doesn’t really hurt anymore.
Things like: You deserve love.
But sometimes she’s sure that her thoughts are lies, because she doesn’t really believe them at all.
Rachel comes two days after the accident—without Finn, without anyone else—and sits by Quinn’s bed.
Quinn’s sure she’s been there before—she seems to know the layout of the room—but this is really the first time Quinn’s been aware of it, although her words still slur when she talks and her vision isn’t necessarily all that sharp.
Rachel takes her hand.
“I like your glasses,” Rachel says.
“Oh,” Quinn says. “I forgot I was wearing them.”
Rachel smiles a little and then sits back, comfortably quiet.
“Do you want to know something?” Quinn asks.
“When I crashed—” Rachel closes her eyes— “like, I blacked out. But then I woke up.”
Rachel whispers, “Quinn—”
“—And what was weird was that my radio was still working. Like, my entire car was all smashed, and I couldn’t move and I was, like, coughing up blood and I couldn’t breathe, but the radio was still playing. My CD player, actually. I was listening to ‘Home’ by Daughter. Have you ever heard it?”
Rachel shakes her head, refusing to look at Quinn.
“Well it’s a sad song, but it kind of fit. It’s about going home and everything.” Quinn rubs her nose. “And I’ve never known that here on the planet. So I thought it was kind of a nice song to die to.”
A sob makes its way through Rachel’s body and she stands quickly. “I’m so sorry,” she says, then sort of walk-runs out of the room.
Quinn falls asleep to the same song, only in her head, it’s Rachel’s voice that’s singing it.
It still gives her nightmares.
Her first physical therapy session consists of literally just sitting in a chair by her bed.
It physically hurts—a lot—because her back aches along the surgical incision, and her lung burns, and her ribs still pierce her side, and every other bruise and little stitched, bandaged cut at least exists.
But what brings real tears to her eyes is that she can’t even sit up in a chair for more than twenty minutes without losing pretty much all of her muscle control and starting to slump over.
Her physical therapist says that she did great, compliments her because after an accident of that severity, the fact that she’s out of bed four days later—let alone actually alive—is absolutely remarkable.
But she’s Lucy Quinn Fabray, so her thank you is laced with apology. For what, she still really isn’t sure.
The next day, her physical therapist explains the “90/90/90” convention surrounding spinal cord injuries: 90% of patients experience 90% of their recovery in the first 90 days.
Quinn asks Judy to bring her a calendar and she starts counting down immediately. She’s already wasted five days just trying not to die, and the little red Xs she marks with a Sharpie almost feel like defeat already.
She still dreams she’s Lucy sometimes. A part of her in her dreams feels happier, because she’s still a child and mostly because Lucy had still believed that she really could have a better life.
With hard work, and diets, and a nose job, and hair dye, and boys, and makeup, and intense determination.
With a complete denouncement of herself, things could be better.
Lucy believed those things. Quinn isn’t so sure anymore. Not at all.
two. tried on the dancer’s shoes
Judy smiles when Quinn comes down the stairs Monday morning, clutching the banister but managing to make it down the entire staircase without stopping or stumbling once.
Neither of them say anything, and Quinn sits and eats her yogurt and granola and drinks her coffee and reads her subscription to Atlantic peacefully as Judy does some banking online in the other room.
Then Judy kisses the top of Quinn’s head and says, “Are you ready to go?”
Quinn pops the six pills—muscle relaxers, antibiotics because of her recent lung infection, Advil for good measure—next to a glass of water into her mouth, swallows, then nods and stands from the table—a little shakily, but relatively steady—and smiles gently when Judy steadies her. Quinn grabs her bag from the back of her chair and then follows Judy out to the garage, climbs into the passenger seat of Judy’s Lexus SUV.
Judy idly chats about Quinn’s packing for Chicago, about how her studying for the upcoming APs is coming, and Quinn knows she does so only so Quinn doesn’t have a panic attack.
Quinn answers everything and focuses entirely on the feeling that she’s safe, but driving to and from school—to and from anywhere, really—are by far the worst part of her days.
Finally, they get there and Quinn opens the door.
“I love you,” Judy says. “Call me if you get tired and need me to come pick you up, or bring you the chair, or—”
And then Santana’s there, and Brittany, on either side of Quinn, holding her up with smiles. Quinn didn’t plan it, but she’s so thankful.
“I love you, too, Mom,” she says.
It’s the first day she walks at school in almost three months.
It’s exhausting, and she falls asleep on the car ride home. It’s also the first time in almost three months that her time in a car isn’t spent hyperventilating, so all in all, Quinn figures it’s worth it.
Alone in her room a few days later, she tries dancing. Her back pops about seven million times and she can almost hear it over the Santigold album blaring from the speakers.
Quinn watches in the mirror. She still doesn’t look quite like a dancer, but she manages to make it through three songs before she collapses on her bed.
It reminds her of the first time she did ballet.
She was still Lucy then, and this time the nostalgia doesn’t feel so awful.
Her dad leaves her a random voicemail. It’s generic but he says he’s been sober for four months and that he heard about the accident.
He tells her that he’s sorry. He tells her that he loves her.
Quinn cries, and then she lifts up her shirt and looks at the little scar near her bellybutton from the one time freshman year he yelled so terrifyingly that she got so scared she fell down the stairs.
That scar will be there forever.
Quinn listens to the message four and a half times before deleting it. She doesn’t even think about calling him back.
There are things she tells herself on the plane to Chicago.
Things like: You are going to dance on that stage.
Things like: People will see how talented you are.
Things like: There will be moments where nothing hurts anymore.
Things like: You deserve love.
She almost begins to believe herself when Rachel squeezes her hand as they wait for their luggage.
Almost, because Rachel lets go.
It’s sort of inevitable, and Quinn can’t fault anyone for that.
three. and she flew. her heart sang
It’s terrifying, unequivocally so, when Mr. Schue tells her to stand in for Mercedes, because “Edge of Glory” is difficult.
But at rehearsals so manages to make it through the entire routine twice without messing up.
Mercedes has one bed because she’s sick, but the other is empty by the time Quinn comes out of the bathroom. Rachel is in a pink sleeping bag on the floor, , and Brittany and Santana are curled up together underneath an extra duvet beside her, and Tina is on the couch.
Seeing them all situated and Quinn’s little lamb stuffed animal on the pillows of the vacant bed almost makes Quinn cry, and she starts to protest when Santana just mumbles, “Don’t even think about it, Fabray,” before snuggling into Brittany.
Quinn climbs into bed and her back still aches.
Her chest doesn’t though, and when she says, “Thank you,” to everyone, she really means for that.
And then she doesn’t mess up. She dances every single step and doesn’t mess up.
It’s kind of surreal, and Quinn can’t really believe it (although she doesn’t pinch herself), but she really is dancing. On stage. At Nationals. But the little red Xs on her calendar have tallied up to 86 days since the accident. Quinn knows she’ll never be better, not like she was before. She’ll probably regain about 85% of the overall function she once had. She’ll never be able to cheer again, or do gymnastics, and she’ll deal with back surgeries for her entire life, as well as recurring lung infections.
But today she’s dancing, and today Rachel is incredible, and today Quinn remembers the first time she heard Rachel sing, and the first time she fell in love with her, and the first time she realized that every song in her head sounded better when Rachel was singing it, and the first time she ever thought anything felt like home.
They win, which sort of feels like a miracle.
Lucy wanted recognition, and Lucy wanted pretty lights and stages.
Quinn just wants Tina’s embrace and Brittany’s laugh and Rachel’s happy tears.
She even picks up Santana. She forgets everything for a moment, the accident, every terrifying heartbeat of those months, so for these seconds, when she tells herself things, she actually believes them.
Things like: You are happy.
Things like: It doesn’t hurt.
Things like: You deserve love.
Quinn very nearly can’t walk the next day, her back is so sore, so she hobbles as best she can from the hotel room down to the lobby and then out to the bus. She clings to Puck’s arm for most of the journey, and the bus ride is physically hell, but it doesn’t even matter.
Rachel texts her the next morning and comes over for breakfast. Judy makes pancakes with a smile and Judy and Rachel talk about every single second of Nationals while Quinn mainly just listens, although she smiles modestly when Rachel gushes about how amazing seeing her dance was.
Quinn can’t really move until after she takes a Vicodin after breakfast to help her back, and then she’s loopy, so she really can’t be held responsible for making it to the couch, turning on Sherlock reruns, and cuddling with Rachel all day.
Rachel never protests, and Quinn’s still-slightly-coherent mind rejoices at the notion that she doesn’t, even though she could have.
four. i’ll dance on the roof. let it rain on my skin
It’s wonderful to present Mr. Schue with his award.
Quinn thinks of the past three years, of all of the times his club had saved her.
Lucy would’ve never dreamed of anything as amazing and special and meaningful as this. She never would’ve imagined the pain, either, but Quinn’s always preferred paradoxes anyway.
She says goodbye to Coach Sylvester and finds herself amazed that she means it when she says, “I’m really going to miss you.”
Lucy loved the idea of being popular.
Quinn loved cheering, and Sue taught her that.
Puck comes and tells her that he’s going to graduate and then he’s going to move to LA. “I talked to my dad, too, and, well, things are maybe going to get better.” He sounds hopeful.
“Have you—have you talked to Russell?”
Quinn says, “No,” and Puck bites his lip and nods.
“If you ever need someone—” he offers.
Quinn puts her hand against his arm and squeezes gently. “—I’ll call Ghostbusters.”
He laughs and Quinn smiles and the he says, “You’re going to rule the world.”
Quinn shakes her head. “I’d be happy just breathing for a while.”
He runs his fingers along her left ribs softly. “That sounds good too.”
“Bye, Puck,” Quinn says.
They kiss and that’s exactly what it means.
Quinn says, “One of the things I’ve discovered in the past few months is that learning to walk again is sort of like this weird metaphor for every day of our lives. No matter how long we may have done something, or how simple it might seem, it’s not anything to take for granted. There are good days—days where we’ll feel strong, days when our joints won’t hurt, days when everything we’ve always known will come back so quickly. But then there are bad days too—days when things hurt so much, days when it might seem impossible to get anything worthwhile done. But the thing about walking is that, even on the bad days, we’re not standing still. We’re learning and we’re trying and maybe that’s all we can ever ask of ourselves. Maybe all we can really believe in is our ability to move forward, and to move forward together. And maybe that’s enough.”
She tells herself things as she steps down from the podium to a standing ovation.
Things like: You deserve love.
She believes every single word.
five. —just listen to the voice that speaks inside
She cuts her hair short again the first week of June.
It feels nothing like that time in New York more than a year ago, because this time as she sits in the chair, it doesn’t feel like she’s trying to run away, or hide, or deny anything.
Being a decent human being is sometimes still a struggle.
But she’s learning to remember the Lucy before everything went wrong, the Lucy that believed in magic. The Lucy that believed in happy endings.
Quinn believes in earning them.
She picks up the next time her dad calls her. It’s really, painfully awkward, but he congratulates her on Yale.
She doesn’t grant him a second chance at being part of her life, not really, because she doesn’t want to see him. Maybe ever.
But after she hangs up, she decides she forgives him.
It feels like how her ribs healed—painful and sharp, but better in the long run. The bumps of scar tissue are obvious to the touch, but the doctors say that they’ll lessen in time.
A function of the body, they’ll resolve all on their own.
Rachel comes to her house one afternoon, rings the doorbell seven times in quick succession before Quinn can open the door.
It’s raining outside and Rachel is soaked, and Quinn looks and sees that Rachel didn’t drive, so Quinn figures that she must’ve walked to her house.
“Come in,” she says, then rushes to get Rachel a towel.
Rachel’s crying—Quinn can tell once she dries off a little and her cheeks remain wet—and Quinn hugs her tightly.
“Finn and I broke up,” Rachel says. “I mean, I broke up with him.”
Quinn doesn’t ask why and she bites her lip uncertainly because Rachel’s so close and she’s wanted this forever, but it has to be real.
But then Rachel just skims her fingers along the back of Quinn’s neck and whispers, “You cut your hair.”
“Yeah,” Quinn says.
“I like it short,” Rachel says, then leans forward.
Quinn meets her without any hesitation.
That night they’re in Quinn’s room, Rachel sitting up on the bed, her back up against the headboard, with Quinn curled up beneath her, her head in Rachel’s lap. Rachel runs her fingers gently through Quinn’s hair and they listen to the rain and Quinn’s iPod is on shuffle.
All of a sudden, Rachel stiffens, and Quinn doesn’t know why until she hears “Home” by Daughter floating from the speakers.
Rachel’s breathing stops, and Quinn scrambles up and says, “I’m okay.”
Rachel opens her eyes and touches Quinn’s face like she’s a ghost. “You’re here.”
Quinn smiles softly, kisses Rachel for the third time in her entire life.
Lucy wanted to be popular. Lucy wanted to date handsome boys and make her parents proud.
Lucy wanted to come home.
There are things she tells herself, when she wakes up the next morning wrapped around Rachel.
Things like: You were brave enough.
Things like: It will always hurt, but that doesn’t matter.
Things like: You deserve grace.
It doesn’t really make any sense, because deserving undeserved love is a paradox in every sense of the word, but paradoxes had always been Lucy’s favourite anyway.
Quinn loves them too.
references. (poems by shel silverstein because of reasons.)
title. “from the ground up” by sleeping at last.
quote. “where the sidewalk ends”
one. “falling up”
two. “tryin’ on clothes”
three. “mari-lou’s ride”
four. “dancin’ in the rain”
five. “the voice”