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25 March 2013 @ 09:48 pm
fic: watching your world from afar  
Title: Watching Your World From Afar
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Quinn/Santana
Prompts: Nerd/Popular girl for Quinntana Week 2013
Summary: Quinn isn't going to survive doing this project with Santana Lopez.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. If I did, they'd probably go at it like bunnies.
A/N: A special thanks to Laura for the beta.



It has to be some cruel twist of fate when Mrs. Baufuss calls her name and says she’s paired with Santana Lopez of all people. A quiet settles over the room and Quinn doesn’t dare look back at the other girl. Mrs. Blaufuss is looking at her expectantly and she sighs and nods. What else is she supposed to do? She needs to do well on this project if she wants to make it into AP English next year.

The thing is, Quinn doesn’t want to be stuck doing all of the work. She’s had that happen one too many times. Popular kids just expect her to pick up the slack when they’re too lazy to put forth the effort because they know she cares about her grades. She’s not really expecting Santana to be any different, if she’s honest. The girl barely makes it to class on time and she certainly seems woefully unprepared most days. But Quinn’s also seen her slushie a number of students and so far, she’s been lucky to fly under the radar. She’d like to keep it that way.

She takes copious notes for the remainder of the class and is the first out of her seat when the bell rings. She needs to get to her locker. She feels close to a panic attack. She might have shed the pounds and the glasses and dyed her hair, but she’s still carrying around all Lucy’s anxiety.

“Quinn?” Mrs. Blaufuss erases the whiteboard as the other students leave. “Can you stick around for a moment?”

The blonde looks longingly at the door and Santana Lopez catches her eye. She has this strange expression on her face but smirks before heading out of the door. Quinn isn’t sure what to make of that, but she doesn’t have time to process because Mrs. Blaufuss is talking to her.

“I know this partnership is...not ideal, but you’re one of my best students. I think Santana could really benefit from your example.” Gray eyes gaze upon her, full of meaning and Quinn bites back a sigh.

She nods and clutches her books to her chest. “I’ll try my best.”

---

The end of the day finds Santana standing at her locker. Normally, there’s about five other Cheerios beside her and Quinn would never approach if that was the case today. Crowds, even small groups of people, make her incredibly nervous. It’s akin to being claustrophobic, but she actually prefers solitude to being with others. Only that just serves to make everyone else think she’s some sort of freak.

But this is for an assignment and it has to be done. She squares her shoulders and walks to Santana’s locker. She clears her throat and waits for the girl to acknowledge her presence.

Dark eyes flit across her face with disinterest and then turn back to the books that are being pulled from the open locker. “Oh, it’s you.”

“Yep, me...we need to set up some sort of schedule for getting together. We only have a week to get the project done and I’d rather not wait until the last minute.” Quinn’s words come out in a rush and have an edge to them. It can’t really be helped because her hands are starting to shake. She hates confrontation.

Santana slams her locker shut and regards Quinn silently for a moment. “Yeah well, I’m pretty busy because I actually have a life. So...”

Quinn bristles. She doesn’t mean to, but she can already sense where this is going. Her eyes narrow and she hitches her bag up on her shoulder. “So, you have social obligations. That’s fine, but I’m not going to do the work for you.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t going to say that you had to. So put your bitch away. I was just going to say I have some free time after practices, and Saturday after the game. Does that work for you?”

The surprise must be written on Quinn’s face because Santana gives her a smug grin. She nods and clears her throat. “I’m free those times.”

Santana’s smile just grows. “I’m sure you are.” She holds out her hand and Quinn just looks down at it, confused. “Give me your phone.”

“Why?”

Quinn’s already taking a step back when Santana rolls her eyes. “So I can program my number into your phone. Duh. God, you really are a little martian, aren’t you?” She hands her phone over, frowning at Santana as she does.

Santana’s thumb swipes across the screen of her phone and keys her number in. It’s hard for Quinn not to think this is some sort of trick. She wouldn’t put it past Santana. She has a reputation and Quinn would really hate to be the butt of one of the pranks pulled by the jocks and cheerleaders. After what happened to Rachel Berry last week, she can’t even imagine coming to school.

She takes her phone back and immediately looks at the new contact information. It looks like a real phone number. She turns off the screen and sticks the phone back into her bag. Santana’s already picking up her red and white backpack.

“Text me your address and I’ll be over after practice,” she calls over her shoulder as she heads down the hall to the locker room.

---

Quinn isn’t really expecting Santana to show up at all, let alone that very same night. The doorbell rings just as she’s finishing up the dishes. Her parents look over at her and then each other. It’s seven on a Tuesday evening. They rarely have visitors this late. Her mother answers the door and then calls to her and she’s surprised to see the other girl standing there.

She’s changed out of her uniform and is dressed more respectfully than Quinn’s ever seen her, in a pair of skinny jeans, heeled boots, and a floral-printed shirt that could stand to be cut a little higher. Her mother looks at her curiously.

“Oh...hey,” she says, trying to sound more casual than she’s feeling. On the one hand, she’s happy it wasn’t some sort of trap set up to humiliate her, though the night is still early, but this is also Santana Lopez at her house. She doesn’t really know what to do with that.

“Quinnie, aren’t you going to introduce us to your friend?” Her mother asks as her father comes to stand beside her.

Quinn really hates that nickname and she doesn’t like that now Santana knows it. It was just the easiest way for her parents to remember not to call her Lucy anymore. She shoots them a look, but her mother’s very adept at ignoring those. “This is Santana. We have a project to do for English.”

“Oh of course, do come in, Santana.” Her mother opens the door wider and Santana steps inside gracefully. “I’m Judy and this is Russell. We’re Quinn’s parents.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Fabray. I’m sorry to stop by so late. I had cheerleading practice and we were running behind.” Santana’s voice is syrupy sweet and Quinn just stares at her. This is the politest that Quinn’s ever seen the girl be with any sort of authority figure.

She can practically see her mother gush. They probably think Quinn’s making new friends and are thrilled that it’s cheerleader. If they only knew. “That’s quite alright. Can we get you anything? I made brownies today.”

Quinn wants to ask her mother if Santana looks like the type of girl that eats brownies, but she thinks the inquiry will be lost on her mother. So she refrains. “Mom...”

“That would be awesome, Mrs. Fabray. Thank you.”

Her mother beams and nods. “You girls go on up and get started on your project. I’ll bring them up and glasses of milk.”

Quinn covers her face with her hand. This couldn’t be any more embarrassing.

---

“Your mom is like the ultimate Stepford Wife, you know that right?”

Quinn glances up from where she’s sitting at her desk and watches as Santana munches on brownies, sprawled across Quinn’s full-sized bed. It’s been two days and she’s still not used to seeing Santana in her room, among her things. That would be true of anyone, but it’s especially true for Santana. She just seems so out of place with her dark clothing and her smooth skin and perfect hair among all of Quinn’s antique furniture and floral quilt.

“These would be so much better with pot in them,” she comments and sits up. She pushes the rest into her mouth and licks at her fingers. Quinn finds herself distracted by the movement until Santana smirks at her.

The blonde clears her throat and looks away. “We’re going to have to discuss how our project relates to the book.”

Santana kicks her foot out and shrugs. “That would be easier if I actually understood the book. Brave New World kind of sucks.” Her expression is petulant and Quinn is amused.

“I’ll agree it’s not my favorite piece of literature either, but it is what we’re assigned. So...” She lets the word trail in the same way Santana always does. It feels foreign in her mouth, but it also feels nice.

“Yeah, well explain to me what exactly is happening. I just get really confused by it all. People were sorted into classes. I get that, but there’s pills and people not taking the pills and all that other crap.” Santana’s hands move wildly as she speaks. The only person Quinn knows that does that is Rachel and she kind of wonders what Santana would say to having things in common with the other girl.

“Well, they were sorted in order to build a utopian society. The pills help maintain the illusion of that, but the problem is, you can’t have happy without sadness.”

“That is the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.” Santana stands and walks around Quinn’s room, opening drawers and looking through notebooks.

Quinn’s skin itches in annoyance. She hates when people touch her stuff and it feels like a complete invasion of privacy. She opens her mouth to say as much when Santana holds up a picture of her...well of Lucy.

“Who’s this?”

Swallowing hard, Quinn stands and snatches the picture out of the girl’s hand, standing it back on her bookshelf.

“Me.”
---

“I have an idea of what we can do as a project.”

It’s a Thursday afternoon and the hallway is full of students eager to leave for the day. Quinn is standing at her locker, packing her bag to head to the bus. Rachel was supposed to be meeting her, but that voice, with its smooth alto quality, does not belong to her smaller friend. She turns around and Santana’s behind her, an excited expression on her face.

“I’m sorry?”

Santana rolls her eyes. She sighs and raises an eyebrow. “I said I have an idea for our project. I’d have said it in your mother language, but I don’t speak geek.”

The words are spoken without malice, but they still annoy Quinn. “Yet, you’re here talking to me in plain view. Aren’t you worried about your friends?”

Just then, Brittany Pierce walks by and shoots them a weird look, her eyes lingering on Santana. Quinn wonders if the rumors about the two of them are true. She just doesn’t feel like she knows Santana well enough to ask.

Santana shrugs. “Why? We’re doing an assignment together. What do I care what they think about that? Why should they even have an opinion?”

Quinn doesn’t actually have an answer for that. It just reminds her that she and Santana aren’t actually becoming friends. Next week, they’ll go back to not speaking when they see each other in the hallway.

“I don’t know. I guess they shouldn’t. Whatever. What’s your idea?”

The other girl looks confused for a moment and then smiles. “Oh, I was thinking we could somehow build our own version of a utopian society or whatever. My cousin, Marco, just got this miniature set last night and it gave me the idea. Blowfish will probably cream her panties.”

She has to admit that Santana’s idea isn’t a bad one and it certainly beats having to do something lame like make a poster board. Rachel had suggested a powerpoint presentation, but Quinn hadn’t been bowled over by that idea either.

“That’s actually a great idea, Santana.”

All smiles, Santana brushes off her shoulders. “Yeah, you’re not the only smart one, but shit, if you help me get an A on this, I’ll owe you. My parents have been breathing down my neck lately.”

It feels weird that Santana knows so much about her family, but she rarely talks about her own. Then again, Quinn never volunteers much information, save for Santana asking incredibly invasive questions that she sometimes declines to answer.

“I like the idea of you owing me,” Quinn admits quietly. She thinks she’s smiling and it happens so rarely nowadays that she doesn’t know how to feel.

But then Santana’s smiling back and she’s even more confused. “Deal. I’ll...I don’t know, give you a makeover or something,” Santana offers.

Quinn wants to say she doesn’t really want or need one, but Puck’s calling to Santana and she sees Rachel trying to sneak past him before he notices her. She frowns, hates that Rachel has to be afraid to walk down the hall.

No, she and Santana aren’t friends and Quinn knows they’ll never be. So when the girl says she has to go, Quinn just waves her off. She finishes grabbing her books and closes her locker. And as she and Rachel walk past the sea of red and white letterman jackets and short skirts, Quinn puts herself boldly between them.
---

It’s Saturday afternoon before they’re able to go to the store. Quinn wonders what Santana would be doing if they weren’t heading to Hobby Lobby for miniatures. Probably hanging out with her friends. Quinn, herself, would be holed up in her room, re-reading the Harry Potter books. (She likes to do that every few months, catching the foreshadowing she didn’t catch the last time she read it.)

She doesn’t go shopping often, she actually hates it. She doesn’t have a fear of crowds in stores the same way she does in school. Strangers aren’t generally looking to interact with her too often, but it does raise her anxiety level to about a four. She just doesn’t want Santana to know. So, she takes deep breaths quietly as the pull up and then unbuckles her seatbelt.

Santana’s already walking towards the store by the time Quinn’s closing her door. She hurries to catch up and misses whatever Santana said. The girl gives her a look and she realizes she was supposed to reply. So she just shrugs. Santana shakes her head and chuckles.

“You’re such a weido, Quinnie.”

“It’s Quinn,” she corrects because it’s definitely not at all okay that Santana calls her that.

Santana’s smirk transforms into a wicked one. “Why not, Quinnie?”

Quinn glares at her and tries to stroll past the girl into the store, but Santana steps into her way, managing to walk backwards without even tripping. “What’s wrong, Quinnie?”

“Stop,” Quinn says quietly, but Santana won’t. She laughs and keeps going until they’re in the store. Quinn tries to calm her agitation, but it’s getting to the point where she won’t be able to. She tries to distract herself looking at the merchandise, but Santana just lifts items and asks, “do you like this, Quinnie?”

They move down the aisles and Santana won’t stop saying that stupid nickname. Every question she asks has it tacked on in some way. Quinn’s chest starts to heave and she feels hand tremble when she lifts the first miniature. She’s angry and annoyed and Santana won’t stop. It’s too much of a sensory overload when she thinks about how if she doesn’t get the girl to quit it soon, quietly, she’ll have to confront her and demand it.

Her stomach twists painfully and she gulps in a sharp breath. It doesn’t work to stop the panic from rising. She sets the package down and all but runs down the aisle and out of the store. She nearly gets hit twice and rips through a group for teenage boys, but she doesn’t stop running until she reaches Santana’s car and leans against it.

It takes her a few moments to be calm again. She hates this, hates that she can’t just control it. She hates that she knows after this she’s going to have the worst headache and her body will just feel heavy and lethargic. She’s just want to curl up somewhere and fall asleep.

A hand grips her shoulder and she jumps away, spinning around her. Her eyes are wild as they land on Santana and she brushes her hair back from her face. Santana looks at her, face frowned in concern as she slowly drops her hand back to her side.

“Are you okay?”

She’s not, but Quinn nods anyway. She doesn’t really want to talk about. “I hate that name. Don’t use it.” She sounds angry, a lot angrier than she probably should be over a stupid nickname, but she’s just angry at herself. And at Santana for not just dropping it in a first place.

The thing is, she also wouldn’t dare speak to Santana like this if she weren’t coming down from a mild panic attack. Santana’s all right hooks and slushies, but she also has a vicious tongue. It cuts through people just as well as any blade and Quinn really doesn’t want to put herself in the line of fire.

“Sorry, okay? I won’t use it. I didn’t think it would make you spaz out.” Santana sounds bored and when Quinn looks up at her, she’s filing her nails. She’s surprised, not just because she doesn’t know how this situation even slightly makes it acceptable for her to do this mid-apology, but also because she wasn’t expecting one in the first place.

Quinn doesn’t really know what else to say. The anxiety is wearing off and she’s starting to feel a slight pounding at the base of her skull. “Thank you,” she says curtly.

An awkward silence falls over them and Quinn looks everywhere else but at Santana. The parking lot has gotten a little busier and she’s feeling even less like she wants to go back into the store, but they only have two more days to finish this project.

“Whatever, can we like go back in the store and get what we need without you acting like a total nutjob?” Santana sounds irritated and that just irritates her. She’s not going to be blamed for this.

“That depends. Can you go back in there and not act like a seven-year-old?”

Santana’s annoyance quickly gives way to a smirk. “Noted.”

---

They’ve spent the past two hours working on their utopian society model. “They” really means that she does the actual work and Santana sits across from her munching on brownies. She occasionally offers suggestions or comments on what kinds of things are actually in their perfect world. Which is just fine for Quinn because the only person who’s more OCD than her is probably Rachel or maybe Kurt. So things are put in just the perfect place.

“Man, Coach is totally going to kill me, but I can’t stop eating these,” Santana says in between bites. “Are you sure there isn’t weed already in them?”

Quinn’s lips quirk. Since they started this project, her mother has made brownies nearly everyday. It’s like she’s trying to win Santana’s friendship. “I assure you my mother doesn’t even know where to acquire such illegal substances, but maybe if I tell her how much you seem to want to have it added as an ingredient, she’ll go find some.”

Santana looks over at her like she’s trying to gauge if Quinn’s being serious or not. “Legit? Because that would make your mother about twenty times more dope than she already is.”

It’s weird that Santana seems to enjoy her mother so much. It makes Quinn wonder what Santana’s mother is like. All she can imagine is some fiery Latina woman who’d eat her mother for breakfast. The idea holds some appeal.

She starts gluing the trees down and Santana’s switching songs on the iPod. Today they’re listening to some playlist that’s mainly hip-hop and r&b, two genres Quinn isn’t familiar with, because Santana thinks she has weird taste in music. She just refrained from telling Santana that there was more to music than songs that told you to “fuck bitches and get money.”

“Can I ask what happened at the store today?” Santana’s sitting in the same spot again and her eyes are focused on Quinn. It makes her shift uncomfortably. She doesn’t want to talk about it and when the girl didn’t bring it up for the remainder of the trip, she didn’t think she’d have to.

“I had a panic attack,” Quinn answers quietly. She gets up and starts to look for a sheet of stickers on her desk.

“Okay...but like why?”

She doesn’t face Santana as she answers. She doesn’t like feeling this vulnerable, but she supposes Santana has a right to know exactly what triggered Quinn. At least so maybe she’ll think twice before doing it again.

“Normal people hate confrontation, but I can’t really handle it at all.” Her voice is quiet and she keeps looking for the sheet, trying to distract herself. “When I feel like I might have to be forceful in expressing my desires or when I think something might lead to an altercation, my anxiety level raises. I start to panic and feel like I can’t breathe.” She’s over simplifying a lot of it, but she doesn’t feel like doing any more explaining that she already has.

There’s a pause followed by another mumbled apology, but Quinn just ignores it. She locates the stickers and sits back down. She grabs one of the buildings and places one of the flag stickers on its front.

“What’s that?” Santana’s leaning forward, peering down at the building curiously. Quinn can see right down her shirt and she doesn’t mean for her gaze to linger. It’s just she can’t help but look.

Santana catches her and smirks, sitting back. Quinn’s face flushes bright, but she’s just going to ignore it. “It’s a GLBTQ community center.”

“Oh...” Something in Santana’s expression grows guarded.

“What? You don’t think in a perfect world people that at sexual minorities don’t need a safe space?” Maybe the rumors were wrong.

Santana’s eyes bore into herself and Quinn feels it click into place. “No, that’s really important to me...” the girl says softly.

Quinn nods. She gets what’s being said and feels compelled to admit the same. “It’s important to me too.”

Santana’s the first to break the contact, looking down at the utopia again. “But don’t you think in a perfect world, we wouldn’t even need one? I mean it wouldn’t make people stand out as different.”

“In my version of a perfect world you’d never even have to ask that question.”

---

Tuesday arrives faster than Quinn’s expecting it to. She hasn’t seen Santana since Saturday and the past two days have felt a little weird. It’s like she’s going to miss her or something. And the closer it gets to fifth period, the more anxious she feels. She chalks it up to nerves about their presentation.

Santana smiles at her when she walks in. She’d already dropped the model off at the beginning of the day because there was no way she was carrying it around to her classes. As far as she can tell, everyone else has done poster boards or other benign forms of media. Their model looks amazing among the boring crap.

She rolls her eyes at Sugar and Tina’s project. She knows, from the look on Tina’s face, who did all of the work. Sugar is barely making any sense and some of the other students are giggling. Quinn wonders how Sugar even got into Honors English II. She figures it has something to do with the amount of cash Sugar’s always throwing around.

They have to listen to two more presentations before it’s their turn, but when Mrs. Blaufuss calls them up, Quinn practically jumps out her seat. Santana strolls casually to the front, but her eyes meet Quinn’s and she can Santana’s just as proud of the work they did.

She drafted index cards for each of them before Santana left her house on Saturday, but it looks like the girl doesn’t even need them. Their presentation goes smoother than Quinn had ever dreamed of. She finds it strange that it was only a week ago that day that she was dreading even working with Santana. It somehow feels like a lifetime ago.

Mrs. Blaufuss says how impressed she is with their hardwork and gives Santana a pointed look when she speaks about people working to their full potential. Santana just rolls her eyes and walks back to her seat. Quinn finds herself watching and quickly does the same before someone can catch her doing it.

---

The end of the day comes and Quinn’s feeling a type of melancholy she hates. She knew they weren’t friends and really what’s roughly seven days out of four years? She and Santana will never have things in common enough for them to be friends. Quinn hates most of the girl’s friends and she’s sure Santana won’t be making any rounds to her lunch table of “rejects.” She just needs to make peace with this.

“Hey, Fabray,” the smooth alto voice is right next to her ear and she jumps.

“Santana, what are you doing?” she hisses, looking around. She’s not entirely sure what she’s expecting to see, but it’s like a reflex.

The girl just chuckles. “Sometimes I think you’re more worried about being seen talking to me.” She makes a big show of looking around too. “The coast is clear. No one from the nerd parade is going to see you breaking rank.” There’s about twenty things wrong with that statement and Quinn’s glare tells Santana just that. “Look. I just wanted to say thanks. Blowfish told me we aced the project.”

“You sound surprised. I told you, I like the idea of you owing me.” The words feel heavy with meaning. She can tell Santana thinks so too because there’s a slight change in her breathing.

“Yeah...about that. My schedule’s pretty busy this week...”

It’s such a let down. She knew this would happen. She just didn’t expect it to hurt this much. “It’s okay, Santana. You don’t really owe me anything.”

Confusion flashes across the girl’s face and she stare at Quinn. “I was just going to say that this weekend I can’t hang, but I’m free the next.”

“I-Oh.”

Santana flashes her a smile. “Yeah weirdo, calm down. You now have two weeks to get rid of all of those ugly dresses you love so much afores I do it for you.”

“I like my dresses. There’s nothing wrong with them,” Quinn says defensively.

“Yeah, I know. That’s the problem.” Someone calls Santana’s name from down the hall and she looks away. “I’m coming. Jesus Christ, I’m in the middle of something.” She turns back to Quinn and smirks. “I’ll see you next weekend?”

Something about the look she’s giving Quinn makes her heart beat a little faster and she nods mutely. “Yeah, I think I can manage that.”

“Good, see you later, Quinnie...” She waves and winks as she walks down the hall. She turns just before rounding the corner and shouts, “tell your mom to make those brownies.”

Quinn smiles back despite herself and shakes her head. She has no idea what to make of any of this. Rachel thinks Quinn’s being seduced by Santana’s ironic bad girl image, but Quinn thinks it’s more than that. And that’s enough for her.
 
 
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