kids that i once knew (they had lights inside their eyes)
[my last weekly headcanon reparations of the season. because faberry deserves their space on the page, and you deserve a fitting beginning of their continued story. i hope this does them justice.
title from "dead hearts" by stars (which is amazing, listen). because it’s the last one, bonus song rec: “atlas hands” by benjamin francis leftwich.]
kids that i once knew (they had lights inside their eyes)
we can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. sane or insane. saints or sex addicts. heroes or victims. letting history tell us how good or bad we are. letting our past decide our future. or we can decide for ourselves. and maybe it’s our job to invent something better.
—chuck palahniuk, choke
one. watch the skies, everywhere. keep looking. keep watching the skies
When Quinn says goodbye to Mr. Schue, she doesn’t think of when he never acknowledged how sad she was at the beginning of Senior year. She doesn’t think about how he ignored her sometimes, or how he said stupid things a lot of the time. She doesn’t think of his double-standards, how he supported Rachel and Finn’s (almost) marriage.
Because today she stands. She walks. She gives him a hug. She says, “Thank you.”
She thinks only of the Glist, and how he hadn’t told Figgins, and how, maybe that one time, he really had saved her.
He told her that she was Quinn Fabray, and that she could do anything.
Today, he tells her, “You’re amazing.”
“You helped make that happen,” she says.
He laughs. So does she.
It’s weird, when she kisses Puck. She’s a second away from telling him, from coming out to him—she’s been a second away from it for a year now—but then it dawns on Quinn that tonight isn’t about her.
Tonight is about Puck, and tonight is about PuckandQuinn, QuinnandPuck. But mostly, tonight is about Beth.
So she bites her tongue and smiles. She kisses him, for luck, for confidence. Mostly she kisses him because she knows the feeling of the desperate need for someone—anyone—to care.
Puck doesn’t taste like Santana, or Brittany, or the pretty girl who goes to Ohio State that Quinn had met over the summer at the mall. He tastes, mostly, like mistakes, but Quinn believes in him anyway.
A few days later, when he gets a C-, she is genuinely happy. She is genuinely proud.
He whispers in her ear, “We could be great together.”
She shakes her head, squeezes his forearm. “You don’t need me to be great.”
She gives the ticket to Rachel.
“You know everyone keeps talking about staying in touch and I want to make sure we do,” Quinn says, and Rachel hugs her.
Rachel tells her, “Thank you.”
In Quinn’s mind, that Metro North pass is like the needle on a record player. It’s small, but it’s the key to knowing everything, it’s the integral part of connection. It’s precise, a perfect fit.
Besides, Quinn loves vinyl.
It’s probably the thing that Quinn is surprised by the most, how emotional she gets when she says goodbye to Sue. Because that girl with that Ryan Seacrest tattoo and that girl lying about the father of her unborn child is still part of Quinn, and Sue never flinched away from that.
“I’m going to miss you,” she says, and she means it.
Mostly because she remembers falling in Cheerio’s practice, and Sue making her get up, time and time again.
She supposes that’s why she’s standing today, why she was strong enough (in every capacity) to fight through having paramedics shove a needle into her spine to administer a corticosteriod, and three surgeries, and weeks in the hospital, and lung infections, and pneumonia, and countless hours of excruciating physical therapy.
It’s the first time Quinn Fabray hasn’t felt mortified of crying in front of Sue Sylvester, because she’s sure that now, she has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
Judy helps her get ready for graduation, brushing gentle fingers against the scar that runs down Quinn’s lower spine before zipping her dress.
“I know that people probably tell their children this all the time on graduation day,” she says, helping Quinn into her gown, “but I mean it. I’m so proud of you.”
The red fabric is haphazard around Quinn’s shoulders still, but Quinn turns around and hugs Judy to her fiercely.
Quinn cries and cries, because it’s the one thing she’s always wanted to hear.
“I should’ve been proud of you all along,” Judy says.
Quinn should agree—she should, because it’s true—but when she says, “It matters more to me that we finally got here,” she knows that it’s enough.
She talks to her AP English 12 teacher last out of everyone, going back a day after she’s officially graduated. Mrs. Summers is grey-haired and lively, barely taller than Rachel, funny and full of life, with red horned-rim glasses.
When Quinn walks into the room, Mrs. Summers smiles, standing from her desk and giving Quinn a hug.
Quinn returns it in full-force, and she only backs away because she’s going to start crying again.
She clears her throat and smiles, presents Mrs. Summers with a book. It’s an antique copy of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, and Mrs. Summers says, “Oh, Quinn, you didn’t have to—”
“—I wanted to,” Quinn says. “And I know we didn’t read this in class, but we did do Death of a Salesman, and this is just—I told this person I like about what I wrote my Yale essay on, you know.”
Mrs. Summers smiles. “Taking the stones away?”
Quinn looks down, suddenly feeling shy, nodding. “But, this whole year, you’ve taken the stones away too.”
“Quinn,” Mrs. Summers says, and Quinn lifts her eyes again. They’re watery. “You have an incredibly special brain.”
Quinn almost laughs when they both start messy crying mixed with a few giggles. “Thank you for everything.”
Mrs. Summers reaches back on her desk and hands Quinn a book. It’s called 642 Things to Write About. “It’s a prompt journal,” Mrs. Summers says.
“I can’t, I mean—”
Mrs. Summers shakes her head. “I always get a gift for my senior with the highest grade in my class, and, even though you missed three weeks, you still managed to achieve that.”
Quinn shakes her head good-naturedly, bites her bottom lip. “I’ll fill the whole thing out in about a month, you know.”
Mrs. Summers grins. “Just promise me you’ll send me a signed first edition of the first book you write,” she says.
Quinn laughs, but she says, “That sounds like a plan.”
two. how many times have we slept side by side, a thousand miles apart?
That summer is a quiet one. Quinn hangs out with Santana and Brittany every few days, going to lunch or watching a film, swimming in Quinn’s pool.
Once or twice she sees Joe for coffee, but Quinn’s honest with herself (if silently), so she doesn’t let it become anything more than that.
She still has physical therapy twice a week, but by the end of May she’s running two miles or doing yoga (or dancing) on the days in between. She feels better.
Every Friday night she and Judy have dinner together, just the two of them.
One Friday, in June, Judy says, “I’m really going to miss these.”
Quinn nods. “I’m going to miss you too, Mom.”
She flirts with a girl at Barnes and Noble one day. She’s pretty, with red hair and freckles and green eyes, and she bumps into Quinn on accident, and then they start talking. It’s not really anything substantial, they just stand and discuss the merits of Murakami and whether or not anyone actually understands James Joyce—and if that equates to demeriting meaning—and it ends with waving goodbye and Quinn blushing.
She never even gets the girl’s name, let alone her phone number, because she can really only think of Rachel the entire time, but it’s nice to feel wanted anyway.
Quinn volunteers at the library with an elementary school reading program. She knows it’ll look good on whatever applications she has to fill out next, but she really does it because she wants to.
One day, towards the end of June, Norah, a chubby, mousy brown-haired little girl with glasses—which makes Quinn constantly want to hug her on the spot—comes up to Quinn and shyly hands her a card.
It’s decorated with stickers of orange cats and yellow stars, and when Quinn opens it, the inside says—in careful, neat ten-year-old handwriting, Thank you Quinn. You’re cooler than Hermione. I like when you read books to us.
Quinn doesn’t cry then, although she wants to. She only kneels down and says, so seriously, “Norah, can you promise me something?”
“Promise me, no matter what, to always remember that you’re amazing, and that I love you, okay?”
Norah’s entire face lights up and throws her arms around Quinn’s neck.
Quinn smiles and hugs Norah back.
Lucy, right now, is very, very proud.
Rachel’s in New York, studying at NYADA for the summer, but she and Quinn are almost in constant contact with each other. They mostly text, but some nights they Skype or talk on the phone.
In July, Rachel calls her at about 3:58 in the morning. Quinn answers with a mumble of incoherent words and then Rachel’s crying.
She says she’s homesick, that she misses Finn and her dads and Kurt. And Quinn. “Mostly you,” she says.
Quinn’s mostly still asleep, but she still hears that, soshe starts singing the first song that pops into her head, “Dead Hearts” by Stars.
Rachel quiets, and Quinn just keeps singing until she falls asleep.
In the morning, when she wakes up, her iPhone is still tucked under her ear and when she looks at the screen, she sees that their call had lasted approximately two hours and forty-one minutes.
She smiles at the knowledge that she and Rachel had fallen asleep on the phone together, and that when she gets a text a few minutes later from Rachel that says, Thank you, for last night. I don’t feel nearly as alone anymore, Quinn knows it’s only the first time of many.
She texts back right away, even though she isn’t quite sure what to say.
She dreams in static sometimes. She has yet to figure out what it means, but it’s not an unpleasant noise.
three. that time was like never, and like always. so we go there, where nothing is waiting; we find everything waiting there
Santana helps her move into her dorm, carrying the heavy boxes with a glare because, “No way in hell am I letting you hurt your back again. You’re too pathetic in a wheelchair.”
Quinn shakes her head but smiles softly. “Love you, too, San,” she says.
Her roommate’s name is Hazel. She’s majoring in biochemistry, and she’s from Phoenix, Arizona. She has light brown hair and pretty blue eyes, and she’s about twenty pounds heavier than Quinn and an inch shorter.
The first night they’re there, they’re in their respective beds when Quinn says, “I just—I’m gay, and I wanted you to know in case—”
Hazel shakes her head gently. “It’s cool. I’m not, just so we’re clear, but thanks for telling me.”
Quinn lets out a deep breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. She very nearly cries.
“So,” Hazel says, propping herself up on an elbow and looking at Quinn. “Any girlfriend?”
Quinn shakes her head. “Not yet. I mean, there’s a girl I really like, but—”
Hazel waggles her eyebrows. “Should I help you make a super secret plan?”
Quinn laughs. “I think she already knows.”
Hazel pouts. “That’s not half as fun.”
“Not for you, but for me—”
Hazel covers her face with a pillow. “I’m going to walk in on you two, aren’t I?”
“I’ll put a sock over the doorknob,” Quinn says, crossing her heart seriously.
“You’re a very considerate roommate, Fabray.”
Quinn smiles. “As are you.”
As she falls asleep, she thinks of Marilyn Monroe and the beginnings of great friendships, and she also thinks that Yale is a really nice place already.
Rachel visits the second weekend Quinn’s in New Haven—“I just really want to see you but I want to make sure you’re settled a little first, because I don’t want it to be overwhelming…”—and Quinn goes to pick her up at the metro station.
Rachel looks almost exactly the same, and they hug for a long time.
Quinn smells Rachel’s perfume and her skin and her hair and her clothes, and she just lets herself feel that Rachel’s really here, and for some reason she hears static.
It’s nice, though, because it’s soft and quiet and Quinn smiles as Rachel steps back and takes her hand instead of letting go.
Hazel raises her eyebrows when Quinn introduces Rachel—Quinn knows she blushes—but Rachel doesn’t seem to notice because she’s already launching into her current coursework at NYADA when Hazel asks about her week.
When Rachel’s in the bathroom that night, Hazel rolls her eyes and says, “God, Quinn, you really know how to pick them.”
Quinn shakes her head. “You should watch her perform.”
Quinn pulls out her laptop and goes to Rachel’s Facebook, clicks on the link to a video of their performance at Nationals.
By the end, Quinn is mesmerized again, and Hazel tries to wipe tears from her cheeks without Quinn noticing.
Rachel comes out of the bathroom and asks, “What are you guys doing?”
Hazel asks, “Can I have your autograph?”
Rachel blushes and Quinn laughs.
Hazel says, “What? That thing’ll be worth some money one day on eBay.”
Quinn goes to New York the next weekend—despite good-natured teasing from Hazel—and sees Santana immediately when she gets off the train.
“RuPaul sent me to fetch you,” she says, giving Quinn an unabashedly tight hug.
“Don’t call her RuPaul,” Quinn says.
“Not even for old time’s sake?”
Quinn shakes her head with a little smile. “It’s nice to see you too, Santana.”
Santana rolls her eyes, taking Quinn’s bag from her shoulder. “Since when are you a normal, functioning human being?”
“What can I say? Yale’s been good to me.”
“Agreed,” Santana says, raking her eyes over Quinn’s body as they make their way to some cabs. “If you weren’t so Quinn I’d totally do you.”
Quinn laughs. “God, I’ve missed you.”
“Nice choice to wear pants, too,” Santana says, sliding into a cab. “Berry will appreciate your ass.”
Quinn just tries not to smile and then leans her head against Santana’s shoulder. Santana laces their fingers together.
“I’ve missed you too,” Santana says softly.
They go to Santana’s apartment and before Quinn even really gets to look around, Santana buzzes Rachel up. Then Quinn’s being smothered in a hug and in Rachel, a soft sweater and a skirt, and she smiles.
Santana yells, “Get a room!” before heading into the kitchen.
That night, they get drunk and laugh and laugh and laugh about high school, which for some reason is now funny.
Then Santana gets weepy and starts sobbing about how much she misses Brittany, and her parents, and even Trouty Mouth, and Quinn and Rachel just kind of sit there and wait for her to fall asleep.
Which she does, and then Rachel moves to flop down on Santana’s bed. Quinn validates joining her by citing her constant back problems coupled with the fact that Santana did only have one bed.
In the morning, Quinn jolts awake to Santana saying, “Rise and shine, lovebirds!” and the smell of coffee, Rachel’s back pressed into her front, Quinn’s face buried in Rachel’s shoulder.
Rachel groans and Quinn decides to stay not shrink away.
Rachel doesn’t either, and they wake up and stretch and Rachel smiles shyly and then they have coffee, and Santana sarcastically says, “You two are just a joy to wake up to.”
Quinn presses a soft kiss to Rachel’s shoulder, and Rachel only smiles.
“You’re pretty cool too, San,” Quinn says.
Santana rolls her eyes, but Quinn swears she smiles.
Quinn goes home for Thanksgiving, as do Rachel and Santana.
Quinn and Judy have dinner with the Lopez’s, and it’s wonderful, because Brittany’s family is there, too, so there’s a ton of people and even more food.
The next morning, Friday, Judy has the day off from work and she and Quinn go out for breakfast, then go back to their house and watch the first Harry Potter film. Quinn still has to explain almost everything, but it’s still perfect.
When it’s over, Quinn sits up. She’d been thinking about telling Judy soon, because things were about to happen with Rachel, so she takes a breath.
She doesn’t think of being kicked out. She thinks of being brave.
She says, “Mom, I have something I want to tell you because I want you to be a part of my life. I want you to know me. I love you.”
Judy nods slowly. She takes Quinn’s hands.
“I’m gay,” Quinn says.
She waits to be told to leave. She waits to be struck down by lightening. She waits for Judy to rip the cross off from around her neck.
She waits for Judy’s hands to leave her own.
But instead Judy’s hands just squeeze, and then Judy’s arms are hugging her, and Quinn feels a sob rocket through her body, ricocheting up her spine and around her lungs.
“Oh, Quinnie,” Judy whispers. “It’s okay. I love you. It’s okay. It’s okay.”
Quinn understands. “Thank you,” she says.
four. i and tangled spines
Rachel visits the week before finals, and they’re outside sledding, laughing and laughing with Hazel and some other people from Quinn’s dorm.
Quinn starts making a snow angel and then Rachel’s lying beside her and then Rachel’s mittened hand is grasping Quinn’s.
Quinn rolls over and props herself up above Rachel, and Rachel’s eyes get big, but her mouth curves—Quinn is watching her lips—into a smile.
“I love you,” Rachel says.
Quinn kisses her then, and she’s been waiting for more than four years to feel Rachel’s lips, to taste her. They’re chapped and warm and Rachel tastes like hot chocolate.
Quinn knows only this and the static of the snow falling.
She thinks it may be her favourite sound in the entire world.
It’s funny, because Quinn’s ridiculously nervous, although she’s met Rachel’s dads a bunch of times before. They’d even visited her when she was in the hospital, so she knows they’ve seen her in much worse states than her current pretty dress and peacoat, holding Rachel’s hand as they walk to the front door of Rachel’s house after Rachel had picked Quinn up.
But tonight’s different, because tonight Quinn is officially Rachel’s girlfriend.
Hiram and Leroy greet them warmly as they walk through the door, though, taking Quinn’s coat and making her laugh.
Dinner is a bright affair, and Quinn’s nervousness melts away as she starts talking about classes and the English department, and Hiram smiles knowingly at Leroy when Quinn mentions grad school in New York.
Before she knows it, she’s saying goodnight and giving them both hugs and kisses on the cheek, and she promises to come over again soon, this time with Judy as well.
Quinn cries on the ride home, and when Rachel looks over worriedly, Quinn just says, “I’m just so happy.”
Rachel pulls over because she’s crying too, and then they just kiss and cry and laugh and hug, and Quinn doesn’t think she’s really scared of much of anything anymore.
Rachel and Santana come to New Haven the third weekend in February. Quinn knows why—her back still hurts and she has scars across her ribs and nightmares sometimes and she’s still recovering from a nasty bout with bronchitis in January—so she appreciates knowing that they remember too, that they carry the same things with them.
Judy calls her on February 21st—a year to the day of the accident—and they say simple, important things to each other on the phone.
Rachel holds Quinn’s hand desperately the entire weekend, and Santana doesn’t tease them for it, and when Hazel says, “You’re all acting like somebody died,” Rachel tenses and Santana stands up angrily and Quinn sighs.
“Shit,” Hazel says. “This is—you told me about—I’m so sorry, Quinn.”
Quinn shakes her head and then it’s weird, because a smile fights its way onto her face. The first time she laughs surprises even her, but then she can’t stop.
It’s a desperate sort of laughter, but soon everyone else is laughing too.
“I sang ‘I’m Still Standing’ with Artie. Remember that?” she says.
Santana snorts. “The first time I saw you in the hospital, you told me four times that at that very moment, you were peeing.”
Rachel’s doubled over. “When I saw you, you kept rubbing your nose and asking me if you looked like a cat, because you were convinced you were an animagus from Harry Potter.”
Hazel nearly loses it with that one, and Quinn’s having a hard time breathing at this point, her laughter silent.
Quinn realizes how inappropriate it is, and she also knows that she and Rachel will probably spend the night frantically holding each other, but for now, she relishes the air in her lungs and the people around her, because it’ll never actually be funny.
Sometimes she’s going to laugh anyway, just because she can.
In March, Quinn visits Rachel in New York.
It’s spring, and when Quinn tugs at Rachel’s panties and asks, “Are you sure?” and Rachel nods, it’s simple.
It’s static again, flowers blooming and the rain, and Quinn isn’t surprised when all of the poetry in the world falls short as soon as Rachel’s fingers press against the most tender part of her body.
In April, Santana calls her, and her voice on the other end of the line is entirely too calm.
Santana says, “There’s been—Rachel’s been in an accident.”
Quinn panics. Literally, on her dorm bed, has trouble breathing. Hazel glances over, and she looks alarmed.
Everything is so loud, in that moment. Quinn hears every tiny sound, overbearing and cacophonous.
Santana continues. “She’s fine, totally fine, but some props fell or something and she needed a few stitches on her forehead I guess. But I’m going to the ER now but she’s fine. She wants to me tell you she’s okay.”
Quinn’s world quiets again, and she can’t help but cry a little.
“Quinn?” Santana asks.
“I’m coming, okay?”
Quinn thanks every deity she can think of when Santana knows not to argue. “Text me when you get close to Grand Central.”
And Quinn does. Hazel insists on coming with, because Quinn is kind of a mess, and Santana meets them as they get off the train. They take a cab back to NYADA and Quinn nearly suffocates in the elevator in Rachel’s building until the door opens and Rachel’s there to greet them, a Beauty and the Beast bandaid on her forehead and a bright smile on her face.
That night is the most powerful thing she’s ever experienced, because when she knows Rachel—skin inside of skin, cocoons and fluttering fingers—Quinn understands the fear that everyone must have felt when she was in the accident.
She also understands thankfulness, and she doesn’t stop praying until she falls asleep.
That night her dreams exist only in static, and Quinn relishes them.
five. now i lay me down to dream of (nothing i or any somebody or you can begin to imagine)
The next three years are a mix of Santana griping about how cute Quinn and Rachel are until Brittany gets to come to New York to dance, and then it’s mostly all of them teasing each other about everything.
They visit all the time, and when Quinn announces on February 21 of she and Rachel’s senior year that she was accepted into NYU’s Creative Writing MFA program, the day becomes a celebration.
When Rachel and Quinn go back to Lima over breaks sometimes, Judy likes to have Rachel and her dads over for dinner. She makes it a point of serving dishes that she’s sure are vegan.
The first time they’d ever had dinner together (as a family), Quinn was almost entirely sure that Judy was doing it to be polite, to show her acceptance for Quinn and for Rachel and her family.
But now Quinn knows that Judy looks forward to these dinners, because Quinn frequently gets emails asking her to Look at this new vegan recipe I found!
They’re some of the best nights Quinn knows, because, at their big dinner table, she holds Rachel’s hand and they talk about random things, and Quinn is always aware that although she lost one dad, she gained two more.
Quinn doesn’t write a novel, but she does get published in Harper’s just before she moves to New York.
She personally mails a copy to Mrs. Summers, and when she tries to write a short letter to say thank you, she can’t find powerful enough words, which she thinks is ironic. So she writes that.
A few weeks later, she gets a letter back, and it matters less what it says and more that Quinn can see smudges in the ink from Mrs. Summers’ apparent tears.
The second day she’s in New York, she finds a library near she and Rachel’s apartment that has an after-school program for middle school students.
Quinn can’t remember a time when stories haven’t saved her, and she tries to share them as often as she can, apples from Silverstein’s giving tree.
Rachel proposes the day before Quinn turns twenty-five. They’re in their apartment and Quinn’s stepping out of the shower when she sees Rachel kneeling on the floor of their bathroom, holding out a ring.
“I’m so sorry and I had it all planned but you’re just so beautiful and I couldn’t wait any longer and—”
“—Yes,” Quinn says.
“Will you marry me?”
Quinn laughs and Rachel starts crying and Quinn says, “Yes!” again.
It’s quiet and soft when they hug—even though Quinn’s still dripping wet and Rachel’s fully clothed—and their kiss is a jet roaring 10,000 feet overhead: slow and fast, leaving a little line of fuel across the sky.
“You deserve it, Q,” the RSVP card says, and Quinn smiles as she writes down Sue Sylvester next to Puck and Beth on the guest list to their wedding.
In December, on the anniversary of their first kiss (Quinn remembers), as Rachel sighs against her, falling asleep, Quinn figures out what the static means.
It’s all those years ago, really, when she decided that the Metro North pass was the needle on a phonograph.
Because loving Rachel is the sound—the static—at the beginning of a record. Like everything’s just starting, like she’s always sure something amazing’s about to happen.
Like she’s finally spinning at the right speed.
references. (for extra feels, four. is the first reference i used the first time i ever wrote these characters.)
title. “dead hearts” by stars.
quote. choke by chuck palahniuk
one. the thing (from another world), (1951)
two. “no time” by just jack.
three. Cien Sonnetos de Amor, Sonnet IVby Pablo Neruda.
four. “holocene” by bon iver.
five. “now i lay(with everywhere around)” by ee cummings.