the art of boxes (chapter 5)

[whoo! this is my favourite update so far. title from broken bells’ “the ghost inside.” quinn sings mumford and sons’ “sigh no more”.

you can read this here, on my lj, or at ffn.

part 1.       part 2.
part 3.       part 4. 

five. she gave up the ghost inside


"You’re moping," David says, sitting down at the coffee table Quinn has managed to cover with a few books and notebooks as well as her laptop.

He hands Quinn a cup of tea. “I was an idiot in New York,” she says, taking the lid off.

David smirks. “So you kissed her then?”

Quinn rolls her eyes. “Not even close.”

David hands Quinn cream.

"Now you’re moping," Quinn says, watching the cream spring to life throughout her tea.

"I wanted you to kiss her and have hot lesbian sex because I have a feeling you’d be more fun if you were happily in love. Like Sabrina.”

Quinn laughs. “Audrey is the best still though. Right now if I was making a souffle, I’d forget to turn the oven on. A woman unhappily in love.”

David pats Quinn’s shoulder. “So, fair lady, what happened?”

Quinn tells him: about how she and Rachel held hands and each other, how Santana and Rachel were friends, how bright and vibrant and Rachel she seemed, and then Quinn tells him about Finn.

David purses his lips. “And then you just left?”

Quinn nods. “I couldn’t—”

"Oh, honey," David says, "did you ever think that maybe she and this Finn—your names rhyme, did you know that?—are still just friends?"

"I just—" Quinn’s voice breaks and she closes her eyes so she won’t cry. "I want her so badly. But it’s like catching a ghost."

David frowns and then offers Quinn a bite of his brownie. “You can cry. If you want.”

Quinn takes a deep breath, then laughs a little, opens her eyes. The brownie is good. “Now I just feel like an idiot because she has no idea about any of it and she probably just thinks I’m mad at her.”

"Are you?"

"No," Quinn says. "No. I’m not mad. I mean, she didn’t do anything wrong."

"It’s just confusing, huh?"


"I understand." David scoots his chair closer and hugs Quinn to him with one arm when her face starts to crumple again. "Do you want to be a part of her life, no matter what?"

"Absolutely." There is no question or hesitation for Quinn in this.

David nods. “Have you talked to her since then?”

"I texted her that I got here safely, but no. She’s mad at me."

David kisses the top of Quinn’s head. “How do we grovel your way back into her heart, then? Paris, the rain, never, ever carry a brief case?”

Quinn grins. “Singing. Rachel’s a feelings-through-song whore.”

David laughs. “Well, then, we have a song to pick.”


That night Quinn dreams of glass walls and glass ceilings and the air growing so hot inside that the walls crack under the expanding pressure, splintering and dissolving in waterfalls of temperance.

She recognizes the tinkling noises from car accidents, but this time it also sounds like singing.

When everything has crashed down around her, when the walls and ceiling lay on the floor, dazzling in heaps that remind her of piles of diamonds, Quinn walks from her place in the middle of the glass house. Her feet are bare and there is blood all over the glass, but the red reminds her of rubies. It doesn’t hurt.

At the end of her dream there is a dock. She can’t feel her legs but this time it doesn’t scare her, and when she jumps into the blue of the ocean, she dives down for as long as she can.

Things get blurry but she doesn’t panic. She just breathes in lungfuls of water and watches the swirling red of her blood float up all around her.

She hears pounding in her ears. Waves, ghosts, sirens, she doesn’t know, but she sees the moon far above her.

She wakes up and she can’t decide if it was a nightmare or not, but Santana’s words ring in her head: Maybe Rachel’s the ocean. She always seems to catch you after you fall.


When Quinn gets back from her class on Wednesday afternoon, Hazel flings a large envelope at her. “You’ve got mail,” she says in an automated voice.

Quinn rolls her eyes. “You’re bizarre,” she says, reading her sister’s name on the front of the package with a smile.

Hazel sits up from bed and walks over to Quinn, peeking over her shoulder. “What’s it say?”

"I haven’t opened it yet."

"Get on it, then, Lucy Quinn," Hazel says, then smiles when Quinn glares.

"I should’ve never told you that," Quinn grumbles, sliding her finger to rip the seal.

Hazel pats the top of Quinn’s head. “It’s cute, Lucy.”

Quinn shakes her head and tries to hide a little smile, because Hazel is laughing and the name from her teasing lips holds no malice. She pulls out a sheet of paper folded in thirds, and there’s something tucked in the middle.

Quinn unfolds it and then reads:

What’s up, little sis? I heard you, one proud Yale student, were in need of a little cheering up (I promised I told Santana I wouldn’t tell you that, but what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her). Anyway, here’s a round trip ticket to come see Robert and I over fall break in San Francisco. You can go shopping for all the vintage dresses your little heart could ever possibly desire, promise. And you should probably get a haircut soon, so you can do that if you want to as well. And I’ll even let you taste wine at dinner if you behave yourself.

I love you so much, Quinn. I can’t wait to see you.


Frannie x

P.S. And the ticket is for Southwest because I figured you didn’t need to fly first class. Don’t worry about money, either. Mom paid for some of this, but I wasn’t supposed to tell you that either.

Quinn simultaneously wants to laugh and cry, and Hazel takes the ticket gently from her hands and reads it.

"Lucky duck," she says. "I love the bay area."

Quinn settles on smiling and Hazel hands the ticket back. “I’m going to tell her.”


"My sister. I’m going to come out to my sister."

"Well, you’ll be in San Francisco. I think that’s a stellar plan because while you’re there you can feel uninhibited to then hit on hot girls."

Quinn laughs. “Exactly.”

Hazel sits down on the edge of Quinn’s bed. “Seriously, though, I think you’re just super strong.”

Quinn sits next to Hazel. “Thanks.”

Hazel shakes her head. They’re quiet for a few seconds before Hazel says, “C’mon, Lucy Quinn. Let’s go get dinner.”


They lie on the floor of David’s dorm. “How about a Fleetwood Mac song?” Hazel asks.

Quinn shakes her head. “We already did those in high school.”

David hits himself over the head with his iPhone. “Did you sing every song ever in high school?”

Quinn shakes her head, the lights on the ceiling streaking across her vision. “Only every single lame one.”

Just then, Marcus walks in, and Quinn hears his footsteps stop as soon as she’s sure he sees them. “Is this some weird orgy, or can I come in?”

Hazel says, “If this is an orgy, I’m out.”

David laughs. “We’re trying to find a song to help Quinn apologize to a girl she likes who lives in New York because Quinn acted like an idiot when she was there and now they’re not talking.”

Marcus sits down next to Hazel. “Is she hot?”

Quinn blushes.

David says, “Yep. Quinn also says that the pictures she’s shown me don’t do her justice.”

Marcus nods. “I’m in then.”

Hazel rolls her eyes. “Also, you should know that Quinn and this girl—”

"—Her name is Rachel, guys—"

"—Were in glee club together in high school."

"And they sang every ‘lame’—" David air quotes— "song in it."

Marcus puts his chin in his hand seriously. “How about ‘Sigh No More’ by Mumford and Sons? He’s my name buddy.”

David and Hazel look to Quinn. She runs through the lyrics in her head. “That’s perfect.”

Hazel gives Marcus a high-five and David puts his head in his hands. “Mumford and Sons? That’s all it would’ve taken?”

Quinn sits up, gives Marcus a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you.”

Marcus frowns. “It’s really not fair that I just found a song to help you get with another girl and then you kiss me.”

Quinn laughs, standing. “She’s hot, remember?”


Quinn talks to Santana on Thursday. “I’m going out to San Francisco this weekend to see Frannie.”

"Are you—"

"Yeah. I’m going to."

Santana’s voice is quiet and serious. “That’s so great, Q.”

Quinn says, “I’m scared.”

"From personal experience, nothing I say right now is going to make you less scared."

Quinn laughs. “Thanks.”

"But, Quinn, you know I’ll be here no matter what, right? Okay? I need you to know that." Santana sounds like she’s on the verge of tears.

Quinn cries. “I know. I know, San.”

Santana takes a deep, rattling breath. “Go be brave. And, Q?”


"Talk to Rachel. Please? She’s been ridiculous this whole week and if you thought normal Berry was annoying—"

"—I’m Skyping her right after you hang up," Quinn says.

"So she gets to Skype and you only call me? I see how this is.”

Quinn laughs. “I have to sing her something.”

"God," Santana says. "I really hope you two never actually get together because Lord knows you’ll be the most irritating couple in the history of the world."

"You don’t mean that."

"I do. Completely."

Quinn takes a deep breath. “I’ll call you after I tell Frannie, okay?”


"Bye, San."



"I love you so much."

"I love you too."


It takes four tries for Rachel to answer Quinn’s call on Skype, but when she does, Quinn thinks she looks tired.

Quinn thinks of oceans and cascades of glass. “Hi,” she says.

Rachel sighs. “Hello.”

Quinn bites her bottom lip. “I know we have a lot to talk about, and I’m—”

"—Save it," Rachel says. "The next time you want to use me for a few days and then just leave without saying goodbye, you can—"

"Wait," Quinn says.

Rachel raises her eyebrows expectantly.

"Please, just, I—I have a song to sing for you," Quinn says, and she blushes when she notices the corners of Rachel’s lips turn upwards slightly.

"I don’t think that’s—"

Quinn takes a deep breath and sings:

Serve God, love me and men.

This is not the end.

Live unbruised, we are friends.

And I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

Quinn watches Rachel put a hand against her mouth. “Quinn.”

"Let me finish," Quinn says. And she smiles. She sings the next verse—My heart was never pure, and you know me—and the bridge and then:

Love, it will not betray you, dismay, or enslave you.

It will set you free.

Be more like the man you were made to be.

There is a design, an alignment, a cry,

Of my heart to see

The beauty of love as it was made to be.

Rachel cries as Quinn finishes, wiping a few tears away from her face. “I was—”

"—I forgive you," Rachel says.

Quinn laughs. “All it took was one song? You’re too easy, Berry.”

"If you haven’t noticed, I happen to find it difficult to stay mad at you for extended periods of time."

Quinn says, “Yeah. I’ve noticed. I really am sorry about last weekend though.”

"Why’d you leave?"

Quinn remembers glass houses and ghosts. “You know how I feel about you and Finn,” she says simply, because over Skype and in her dorm is not how she plans to tell Rachel everything (everything).

Rachel looks down, nods. “I know and—we’re not together, you know. Not that it’s any of your business,” Rachel adds.

Quinn nods, fighting down the high tide of painful hope in her chest. “I—That’s good. But that’s not why I wanted to talk to you tonight.”

"Oh." Rachel’s brows knit together. "Okay."

Quinn rubs her nose. “I, um, I’m leaving tomorrow to see Frannie in San Francisco for the weekend, and I—” Quinn’s eyes burn with tears now— “I know that you said if I ever came out to my family that you’d be there, and I need—I can’t—I won’t be able to tell her if you’re—”

"Quinn," Rachel says, and it’s soft and gentle and reminds Quinn of the times she’d woken up in the hospital under rolling seas of pain, when Rachel’s face was blurry and when she couldn’t breathe right. "Of course I’ll be here. You’re so important to me. No stupid, rude thing you do will change that."

Quinn sniffles. “Thank you,” she says, her voice rough. “I’m really scared.”

"Do you understand how brave you’re being?"

Quinn wipes her wet cheeks, shakes her head a little.

"Well, you are. So brave. Like, I might have to sing to properly express how brave."

Quinn laughs.

Rachel smiles. “I promise I will be right here.”

"You have no idea how much that means to me."

Rachel puts her hand to the screen. “I love you a lot.”

Quinn presses her fingers against where Rachel’s is. The screen is warm and more of Icarus’ feathers melt from her skin. “I love you too, Rach.”

Rachel says, “And Quinn?”


"I missed your voice."


On the flight to San Francisco, Quinn falls asleep. She dreams, but this time, the floor is glass, and when it shatters, Quinn drops straight into the ocean.

She’s bleeding all over in this version, her blood rich and violently red, the edge of a ghost swirling around her. She looks up and she sinks down and she doesn’t fight.

She doesn’t close her eyes because the moon this time is closer and more vivid, and when she wakes up, she can’t decide if it was because she didn’t fall as far or if the moon is in a different phase entirely.


Frannie hugs her at the airport, squeezes her tightly and then takes Quinn’s suitcase.

"Walking like an old person isn’t fashionable on the West Coast, you know," she says, but her green eyes are concerned. She has on pink skinny jeans and a grey Bob Dylan t-shirt, her short hair combed neatly to the side.

"Sitting for that long makes me stiff," Quinn says, and Frannie just squeezes her hand with a sad smile.

"Well, Robert is at home, slaving away over a wonderful dinner, so you can eat that and then take as many meds as you need. What happens in San Francisco stays in San Francisco, right?"

Quinn laughs. “Exactly.”

They take a cab to Frannie and Robert’s apartment in the Mission. The sun is setting and the fog makes everything cold, but Quinn thinks of her favourite noirs and doesn’t once think to question again why Frannie had fallen in love with the city.

There’s an elevator at Frannie’s apartment, but Frannie says it’s broken and Quinn doesn’t think to argue because it looks terrifying, so they walk up ten flights of stairs and then Frannie unlocks her door.

Their apartment is beautiful and cramped, drenched in the setting sun through west-facing windows in the living room. The walls are painted a simple, light blue and the floors are dark mahogany. The furniture is a mismatch of vintage things, but it’s charming and perfect. It smells like oranges and Robert yells, “Quinn!” when they walk in, hurrying to give her a hug.

"Hi, Robert," she says, then tugs at the tied string of his apron. "This is a good look for you."

"Gender roles in society are harmful," he says, "because, let me tell you, your sister is a horrendous cook."

"I am not," Frannie says.

Robert goes back to into the little kitchen and stirs what smells like an alfredo sauce. She is, he mouths, and Quinn nods with a smile.

"Come here, Quinn," Frannie says, directing Quinn away from the bright kitchen and living room and into a little bedroom. "Our room is right over there." Frannie points over her shoulder. "And I’m pretty sure this was actually a closet, but we fit a bed in here, and it’ll be better than the couch, so—"

Quinn hugs Frannie tightly and says, “It’s perfect.”

Frannie laughs a little. “You’re too easy to please.”

Quinn backs up and shakes her head. “No. I mean, I’m just really happy to be here.”

Frannie smiles, kisses Quinn’s forehead. “I’m happy you’re here too.”


Dinner is wonderful and Robert—with his blue eyes and scruff and brown hair and perfect, large-framed glasses—is perfect with Frannie.

They have glasses of (expensive) red wine, and then coffee and dessert, and then they just talk and talk, and Quinn tells them how much she’s enjoying her English classes and how she’s going to write a screenplay for one of her theatre classes.

It’s late and dark by the time they say goodnight.

That night, Quinn dreams of huge glass skyscrapers tumbling with ease. They shatter when stones hit them, and Quinn is inside and Quinn is drowning peacefully in the ocean.

Quinn is also the one throwing stones.


In the morning, Frannie and Robert are already awake and making breakfast together—Frannie is singing an old Ella Fitzgerald song and Robert dances in the middle of the kitchen—when Quinn stumbles out of her room.

"Hey, sleepyhead," Frannie says, grabbing Quinn’s hand and spinning her around. Quinn laughs.

They are happy. She sings along.


Quinn gets more nervous as breakfast goes on, even though Robert is a wonderful cook and he makes her bacon even though both he and Frannie are vegetarian. Quinn tries to remember that she’s come out to people before, and she tries to remember how accepting Frannie and Robert seem.

But it’s houses crumbling and Quinn knows that sometimes they need to fall—empires, glass castles—for real, solid things to be built.

"Fran," she says, "I—Can we talk? I’m sorry, Robert, but, I—"

Robert nods and Quinn swears he gives Frannie a knowing smile. “I should pick up those books from the office anyway,” he says, then kisses Frannie quickly, grabs a light jacket and his keys, and then shuts the front door with a wave.

Frannie scoots a little closer to Quinn. Frannie takes Quinn’s hand on top of the table. “What’s up?” she asks gently.

Quinn is sweating and her heart is racing and this time she fights the ocean all around her.

But then Frannie says, “Hey. I love you. No matter what, okay?”

Quinn swallows. “I want to tell you something because I want you to know me. You’re the first person in our family that I’m going to tell.”

Frannie nods. Her features are gentle. “That means a lot to me.”

Quinn takes a deep breath. “I, um, I’m gay.”

Frannie smiles gently and then she just hugs Quinn. Quinn feels like she can breathe better than she ever has before, and Frannie murmurs gentle reassurances into Quinn’s hair.

Frannie sits back and she’s been crying too. “Thank you so much for telling me. I’m super proud of you. I love you so much.”

Quinn hugs Frannie again. “I love you too.”

Frannie wipes Quinn’s tears. “So, do you have a girlfriend?”

Quinn smiles a little, then shakes her head. “I like someone, though. A lot.”

Frannie raises an eyebrow. “You do?”

Quinn flushes. “Rachel.”

"What?" Frannie says dramatically. "Rachel? I never would’ve guessed.”

Quinn laughs and shoves Frannie playfully.

"You have the most adorable crush face, you know. I saw it."

Quinn sniffles with a happy roll of her eyes.

"C’mon," Frannie says, tugging on Quinn’s hand and pulling her up. "Let’s go shopping and to the salon and all that fun stuff. You need to get your girl."

"Thanks for being awesome," Quinn says.

"You need to work on your pickup lines, Quinn."

Quinn laughs and Frannie bumps her hip playfully, and then she says, “You’re pretty awesome too, though.”

And Quinn remembers her dreams. She realizes that tearing down facades is important. Bleeding and drowning and destructing fragile fronts—glass house after glass house—is the only way to exist.

They spend all day exploring the city and shopping and Quinn goes to Frannie’s fancy salon. It feels nothing like New York a few years ago at Nationals when she cuts her hair, because this time she’s not fragile and she’s not breaking.

She’s falling and she breathes new air and she’s not fighting any longer.

Robert meets them for lunch at a perfect little cafe and tells her, “You look beautiful, Quinn,” and Frannie smiles when he holds her hand.

She finds a dress with tiny little animals printed on it at a vintage place that Frannie takes her to that afternoon, and she wears it when they go to the Bridge.

There’s the sea and the wind. The fog rolls away and then there’s the sun and then the moon, hazy, just over the horizon.

They walk down and sit on the shore, and then she tells him too.

He merely smiles and tells her that it’s cool with him, and Quinn breathes deeper again.

Frannie holds her hand and Quinn rests her head on Robert’s shoulder, and she feels so tangible. She is no ghost after all.

Quinn throws a stone out into the ocean and watches the ripple multiply the reflection of the moon.


the audrey hepburn film quinn and david talk about is sabrina. it’s my favourite.

also, if you want to read more about frannie, i wrote 'like a father to impress,' which is basically her headcanon involving quinn.

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