the art of boxes (chapter 4)
[whoo! update time! i hope you guys like this one. i use "red arrow (john)" by gem club as the title and something rachel sings, so listen to it (also it’s breathtaking).
you can read (and/or review, whatevs) at my lj or ffn.]
four. and before the sea came in, i knew you were the one (catch me racing across the skyline)
“So Santana got really excited when I told her you were coming down this weekend, and I figured you’d want to see her, so we’ll meet her for lunch—or breakfast, if you haven’t eaten—as long as that’s okay with you. I didn’t know if—”
Quinn squeezes Rachel’s hand as they walk along the busy street. “That sounds nice. I’d love to see San.”
“Good. I thought so, but I just wanted to be positive that—”
“—Rachel,” Quinn says softly, tugging on Rachel’s hand. Quinn stops watching and Rachel turns to face her. “Don’t be nervous, okay? I’m sure whatever you have planned for this entire weekend will be awesome.” Rachel smiles. “But I’m really just here to see you, okay?”
Quinn sees a flash of Rachel’s hair and Rachel’s dress before Rachel’s hugging her again, and Quinn laughs lightly into Rachel’s shoulders. She closes her eyes and feels the sun, and she feels Rachel, and as the entire city moves around them—people rushing to work, cars honking, and she can smell the hotdog vendor on the corner and coffee and sewer—it’s almost like she can see years from now, feeling the same feeling of importance in a place with so many people who’d never know her at all.
In school, they’d been studying “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” by William Carlos Williams, and Quinn can feel the wings she’s constructing with wax, feathers sticking fleetingly to her skin, and she’s sure she’s going to fall, but it doesn’t really matter because right now she feels like she really could fly.
“What’s up, bitches?” Santana greets, standing from the table in the little cafe when Quinn and Rachel walk through the door. “Still aiming for the perfect blond look, I see. Disappointing. I’d thought that you’d have at least bought some pants by now, Q.” Santana hugs Quinn tightly, though.
“Nice to see you too, Santana,” Quinn says, smiling.
Santana laughs and then they all sit down around the small round table. “I ordered you a coffee, Q. And, yes, before you ask, hobbit, I ordered that disgusting combination of nonfat organic shit that you always get too.”
Quinn leans forward. “You know Rachel’s drinkorder?”
Santana rolls her eyes, blushing. “Only because it’s disgusting.”
Quinn nudges Rachel in the ribs with her elbow. “I think she actually likes being your friend.”
Rachel laughs as Santana starts to protest, but then Quinn just kisses Santana’s cheek. They all end up smiling and laughing over coffee and Rachel’s chai latte with non-fat soy milk. They order and eat lunch—when Quinn doesn’t order something with bacon, Santana and Rachel tease her, but “I don’t always have bacon, guys,” and Quinn talks about dancing with David and how she’s growing to love her English classes more and more—and Santana covers the tab with a death glare as Rachel and Quinn try to protest.
When they’ve been there for a little over an hour, Santana sighs and stands. “Well, I have to work this afternoon, but are we still on for tomorrow morning, or—”
Quinn raises an eyebrow. “You have a standing date every Saturday morning?”
Santana punches Quinn in the shoulder—playfully, though—and Rachel says, “While it’s not a ‘date,’ per say, yes, Santana and I do run every Saturday morning in the park. Santana is taking a dance class and so am I, so it’s not ever a very intense workout, but I for one want to keep my figure, and Santana, I’m sure, does as well, because Brittany—”
“—Berry,” Santana says.
Rachel clears her throat, turning away from Santana’s glare to look at Quinn, who is grinning. “We can skip a week if you don’t want to come with us, or if you don’t feel—if you’re still—”
Quinn smiles, standing lithely. “I’d love to come. And I’ll be fine. I’ve been running a few times a week since, like, June, Rach.”
Rachel wraps an arm around Quinn’s waist and Quinn watches Santana try to hide a goofy smile behind a cough.
“When you blow a lung,” Santana says, “don’t expect me to stop.”
“So this is my dresser,” Rachel says, moving around the grand total of six square feet of floor space in her brightly decorated single dorm, motioning to the wooden furniture crammed next to her desk.
“Very nice,” Quinn says, laughing, slipping off her shoes and bouncing as she sits down on Rachel’s neatly made mattress.“This place is huge. I mean, what do you do with all of this space, Rach?”
“Funny,” Rachel says, sitting down next to Quinn. “You’re just full of jokes, aren’t you, Fabray?”
“Yep,” Quinn says, leaning her head against Rachel’s shoulder. “I’m thinking of a career as a standup comedian actually.”
“You could be the next Ellen,” Rachel says.
Quinn laughs, leaning back and lying down, swinging her legs back and forth. “And you could be my first guess. Since you’ll be famous and all, you know.”
Rachel’s head is next to Quinn’s in the next moment. “Obviously. That’ll be a great start to your show.”
“Mmhmm,” Quinn says.
“Are you tired?” Rachel asks.
“No.” Her voice is rough and husky.
Rachel laughs, sitting up and climbing over Quinn, snuggling into her pillows. She pats the space beside her. “While a nap wasn’t necessarily in the schedule, I think I can move some things around.”
Quinn smiles, scrambling back on her hands and knees and putting her head next to Rachel’s on the pillow. Rachel smiles and Quinn wants—desperately—to kiss her, but then Rachel shifts a little and puts her head against Quinn’s chest, draping her arm across Quinn’s stomach.
In the cool of the tiny dorm, Rachel’s skin next to her is burning, but Quinn doesn’t mind shedding her wings and falling forever as long as it feels like this.
Rachel sings a slow, soft song: We are turning in the circle of the sun; we are falling into our new forms.
That night they walk around the streets near NYADA. They hold hands.
“If someone would’ve told me when I was fourteen that I would’ve been your friend now,” Rachel says, paying a vendor for one chocolate ice cream cone and one Italian ice and handing the ice cream to Quinn, “I would’ve laughed at them.”
“Same,” Quinn says. “I might’ve actually slapped them.”
Rachel smiles. “That didn’t work, did it?”
Quinn licks her ice cream. “Not one bit.”
That night, in their pajamas, in Rachel’s room, they snuggle like earlier, because the bed is small and because all Quinn’s always wanted—as Lucy, as the girl who slept with boys—is to be torn open, shaken, to be shredded apart and laid bare, to fall and fall and fall, and then to be held anyway.
The only thing that surprises her when Rachel’s arms wrap around her waist as she falls asleep, her breath warm on Quinn’s neck, is how gently Rachel has managed to do all of that.
Rachel wakes her up early, and Quinn groans. “We’re going running with Santana, remember?”
Quinn nods and yawns and stretches, brushes hair from her eyes. Rachel grins.
“Is this amusing to you or something?”
“So you’re not a morning person,” Rachel says quietly, almost to herself.
“This is not the morning,” Quinn grumbles, but she sits up anyway.
“It’s six a.m.,” Rachel says.
“Jesus.” Quinn slides out from under Rachel’s covers, rummaging through her suitcase to find running shorts and a light jacket. “Santana actually does this with you every week?”
Rachel nods, stripping off her pajama top. Quinn looks away, stifling a groan, as Rachel quickly puts on a NYADA hoodie.
Rachel sits in her desk chair and puts on a pair of trainers, and Quinn gets her Nikes out of her bag.
Rachel’s still smiling down at her laces, and Quinn snaps, “Why are you so happy?”
Rachel looks up and says, “You’re just really cute when you’re sleepy.”
Quinn rolls her eyes and tries to coerce her hair into a ponytail. “I’d be even cuter asleep,” she mutters.
Rachel stands, bounces up and down a few times on the balls of her feet. “That’s very true.”
Quinn swallows a few times and then stands. “Ready?” she asks.
Rachel nods, taking Quinn’s hand. “It’ll be fun, I promise.”
“Right,” Quinn says, but she follows Rachel without missing a step.
Santana’s stretching by a park bench when Quinn and Rachel get to the park. It’s hot and humid already, and when Rachel takes her hoodie off and ties it around her waist, Quinn does the same with her jacket. Santana already is only wearing a sports bra.
Santana elbows Quinn in the ribs and eyes the scar down her spine as Rachel bends down to stretch her hamstrings. “You sure you’re going to be okay?”
Quinn nods with a small smile. The fleeting moments—her first few physical therapy sessions in the hospital, holding her up at Prom, before they danced at Nationals—when Santana manages to show tender concern always make Quinn feel whole, and happy. “I promise I’ll be fine,” she says.
Santana nods and then Rachel stands. Her eyes skim over Quinn’s scars—and then Quinn—but then she says, “Shall we?”
At Santana’s apartment—where they go to take showers even though the water pressure is iffy but Rachel insists that fewer days Quinn has to to shower in a community bathroom the better (Quinn agrees)—is tiny and completely dilapidated, an eighth floor walk-up.
But it’s decorated with pictures of Brittany and her family, a few of Glee club, and there are a fair number of pretty frames filled with Quinn herself.
There’s a couch against one wall and Santana’s bed against the other, and a kitchen table in the middle of everything, open cabinets and a fridge on another wall.
Quinn sits down, wearing one of Santana’s t-shirts and her shorts she’d worn that morning, on the couch after she showers—they let her go first: Santana glares and Rachel smiles—as Santana gets some yogurt out of her fridge when Rachel goes into the bathroom, handing one to Quinn.
“This is vegan,” Quinn says, reading the label as she peels off the aluminum foil top.
Santana shrugs. “Sometimes Rachel eats here after we run and if I bought non-vegan yogurt, I’d hear a never-ending lecture on the treatment of cows in dairy farms.”
“You mean you have heard it.”
“Two hours of my life I’ll never get back.” She holds up her own plastic container and licks the spoon. “This stuff is worth its weight in gold, Q.”
Quinn laughs and then Rachel comes out of the bathroom, her hair wrapped in a towel and her cheek flushed. Santana stalks past her and slams the bathroom door, but Rachel only rummages around in a drawer for a spoon and then starts making coffee, knowing where everything is.
Quinn goes to sit at the table, the chair scraping against the hardwood floor, and Rachel sits down after the coffee starts brewing.
“So, uh,” Quinn says, no idea what she’s going to talk about, but then Rachel takes her hand.
“We don’t have to talk about this if you don’t want to, but have you heard from Shelby lately?”
Quinn recoils from Rachel’s grasp—sometimes the sun burns—and puts her face in her hands.
“I’m sorry,” Rachel says quietly. “I didn’t mean to—I just—”
“—It’s—” And then the words echo in her head, so she says them aloud: “I’m not mad at you.”
Quinn feels one of Rachel’s hands along her back and the other prying her fingers away from her face. “Quinn, if I had a child, even if you weren’t their biological mother, I would want them to know you.”
Quinn doesn’t hear Santana come out of the bathroom, but then Santana’s hugging her on the other side, and Quinn sobs into Rachel’s shoulder and Santana’s ribs, and when they finally notice the burnt coffee a half an hour later, Santana just dumps the pot down the drain and says, “The coffee shop down the street has some pretty cool books you’d like, Q.”
Quinn sniffles and smiles and she says, “I’d like to see those.”
She and Rachel go back to the dorms and change and then spend the afternoon in the Met. Rachel listens patiently to Quinn in front of every painting—Frannie was an artist, and Quinn learned as much as she could so that she’d always understand when Frannie told her something—and when Quinn stands in front of a Monet and says, “I really want to go to Paris someday,” Rachel takes her hand.
“You’d look beautiful in Paris,” she says, and Quinn smiles.
They sit on the steps and Quinn eats a hot dog and Rachel drinks lemonade. It’s sweltering, but it’s the most peaceful she’s felt in a really long time.
That night they go to a party at an apartment of one of Rachel’s classmates. It’s grungy and filled with cigarette smoke and a mash of bodies the loudest music she’s ever heard.
It’s something she’s always dreamed of—Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Just Kids—and she dances with Rachel for hours.
Neither of them drink that much and they leave relatively early in the night, which is actually relatively early in the morning, and walk the few blocks back to Rachel’s dorm.
Quinn brushes her teeth in the bathroom while Rachel changes.
She flies closer and closer to the sun. The feathers are on her arms, and she thinks about kissing Rachel, but when she walks back into the tiny room, Rachel is curled up in bed, already asleep.
Quinn smiles softly and climbs behind her, wraps her up as if she’s been doing it forever, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
And in a way, she thinks it kind of is.
Quinn wakes up in the morning alone in bed. It’s 9:42, and she hears Rachel just outside of the door, talking.
When Quinn stumbles from the bed and out into the hallway, Rachel waves from where she’s sitting on the floor, criss-cross applesauce, still in her pajamas. Her phone is pressed to her ear, and she says, “Finn, did I tell you that Quinn is visiting me this weekend?”
And then Quinn swallows and tries to remember to breathe, ignores the pounding pressure that springs behind her eyes, just like every time she saw them together in high school.
Rachel puts her fingers over the bottom of the phone and whispers, “He only gets a few calls a month at basic training. Sorry.”
But Rachel smiles and Rachel keeps talking to him.
She remembers getting back to Finn’s house after school ended, the day after her father had kicked her out. There had been two boxes filled with her stuff sitting on the front porch, a note from her father that said I don’t expect you coming back.
So Quinn looks at Rachel and says, “I—I just remembered—I have to go.”
Quinn goes back into Rachel’s room and stuffs her clothes into her bag, changes as fast as she can. She hears Rachel tell Finn that she has to go, and then Rachel comes in the room.
“I—I thought you said you could stay until this afternoon and—I really just wanted to show you where I’m going to get to perform—” Rachel’s voice is shaky, high-pitched.
Quinn turns and slings her bag over her shoulder. She doesn’t feel angry.
She feels sad and she feels stupid, and she says, “I’m sorry, Rachel.”
She’d carried the boxes from Finn’s front porch to her tiny room and never opened them because she’d hoped her parents would apologize and take everything back.
Santana shhhs Quinn, strokes her hair as Quinn curls up in Santana’s messy bed.
“I just feel so stupid,” Quinn mumbles. “We hold hands and we spoon and I just—I’m going to fucking Yale and what the hell does she possibly see in him?”
Santana rubs Quinn’s back. “The hell if I know, Q. But I’ve seen the way she looks at you, and, like me and Britt—maybe you just need to give her a little time.”
Quinn sighs, then sits up a little so she can see Santana. “I just can’t be Icarus anymore.”
Santana tilts her head. “What?”
“The Greek myth, you know, where the boy—Icarus—makes wings for himself to fly to the sun. He makes them out of wax and feathers, and they work until he flies too close to the sun because then they melt and he falls into the ocean.” Quinn rubs her nose. “Rachel’s the sun.”
“Well, did you ever think that Rachel could be something else?”
Santana shrugs. “The ocean.”
“It seems like she always catches you after you fall.”
references. i use the myth of icarus in this chapter, so you can check out william carlos williams’ “landscape with the fall of icarus” if you want. it’s beautiful.