"Just where do you get off singing at me like that?" Quinn's entire body is shaking in anger and her cheeks are hot in anger. Rachel doesn't look up from the piano bench, just shuffles more papers around and hums under her breath. "Hey!" she shouts, hearing her own voice echo off the walls. She suddenly knows now why they practice here – the acoustics are really good.
"Yes?" Rachel asks, her eyes wide and innocent. Innocent, like she doesn't know just how miserable and pathetic she's been making Quinn's life lately. Like she doesn't know that Rachel Berry urging her to "hold on" for all of Glee to see jumped to the top of her "all-time embarrassing moments."
"Who the hell do you think you are, Smurfette?"
Rachel only smiles a little wider and laughs a little. "Oh, Quinn," she coos, striding past the fuming blond and out the door, leaving Quinn raging in the middle of an empty choir room.
Quinn wonders if murder, in this situation, is socially acceptable.
It's not like she has a reputation to uphold anymore anyway.
That night, she dreams that she's back on stage and the lights are blinding her and the music is too loud and there are two different people holding onto her hands.
Finn, on her left, is just standing here, with one arm outstretched, his large hand cradling hers. He looks like Finn, but he doesn't – as if he's aged ten years since the afternoon – and his shirt and his tie and his pants are too big for his body – as if he's been playing dress up with his dad's clothes again.
On her right, Rachel is smiling and swinging their hands back and forth, but she looks exactly like Rachel. If anything, her eyes are a little brighter and her smile is a little more genuine.
"Keep holding on," Finn tells her, but it sounds like a plea.
"I'm here for you," Rachel says, just like a promise.
She doesn't mean to run into Rachel in the bathroom, but her tears are sticking to her lashes because she must have bought defective mascara and for some reason – a reason she refuses to acknowledge out loud – her tear ducts have just been on overload lately, so seeing more than a foot and a half in front of her is sort of a challenge.
Rachel makes a similarly unattractive noise and even skids a little ways away on the tile floor.
"Quinn!" The brunette is on her feet instantly, reaching down and hoisting Quinn upright. Quinn can feel her heart in her throat and Rachel's hands against the bare skin of her arms and she feels a little like she did that night with Puck – like the world had stopped spinning just for a moment and she wanted that moment to last forever, so she chased it.
Last time she followed through on that particular chase, she ended up naked in the morning and pregnant a month down the line, which was just all kinds of trouble reflected at her on a small white stick that mocked her for two whole days before she had the courage to throw it out.
Which is why she pulls away – violently – and Rachel ends up stumbling a bit before she connects with the side of a stall, and she runs from the bathroom, glad that it's in the middle of the afternoon and everyone is in class, because she's crying again and weaving down the hallway wildly.
As she turns the corner, she can see Rachel standing in the doorway of the bathroom with wide eyes and confusion written all over her face, but she doesn't stop.
She thinks that stopping will just end up with her in trouble. Again.
"Hey, Quinn?" Mr. Schuester pulls her aside just as she comes into the room, tugging at her elbow.
He tells her he admires her. He tells her that at her age, in her situation, she's a brave kid. He tells her that if she needs to take a break because she's carrying the spawn of the Jewish devil, that's okay.
He doesn't say it exactly like that – because everyone thinks this kid, this girl, is the spawn of the Pathetically Adorable Sensitive Jock – but she can see the look in his eyes and the fear that she'll go into labor suddenly between a step-ball-change and a twirl and so she nods and thanks him graciously and says she'll be sure to remember it.
Mr. Schuester is too caring for his own good.
A little too dumb, too.
She has the same dream, except this time Finn isn't just begging her, he's pulling her towards him and his washed-out corporate-looking life. There's a briefcase at his feet and a name-tag on his shirt pocket that says "Ask me about our lower cost insurance – Bob's Used Cars." She feels sick and he keeps pulling her towards him; continues saying: "keep holding on."
Rachel is still smiling, but Quinn's fingers are slipping from Rachel's hand and Rachel isn't pulling back, just letting Quinn slide away toward Finn and his name-tag and his tired eyes.
"I'm here for you," Rachel says as she shrugs and let's go.
Skipping Glee for a day – just to get her bearings back – is the best idea Mr. Schuester has ever had.
"Uh, it's me," Finn's message starts. "Listen, I just want to make sure that everything's okay. I told you not to eat the school lunch, but- okay, sorry. Call me when you get this, because I thought of some more baby names and I know you hated Drizzle, but I think we can compromise, all right?"
She sighs woefully and wonders how she could have ever been in love with Finn Hudson.
In school the next day, she ducks and dives and dodges around Finn and when he yells at her down the hallway, she just talks louder, spouting off directions at Santana while Brittany skips mindlessly besides them.
"Quinn?" Santana questions sweetly, pointing conspicuously at Finn waving his arms around like an air traffic controller.
"He's annoying me," Quinn says quickly, and Santana shrugs – because she really doesn't care, Quinn knows. She's just trained well, and Finn is really, really being a nuisance – and accepts it and they continue on their way.
Santana mutters something out of the side of her mouth quietly and Quinn has to ask her to say it again. "Man-hands, approaching from the left," she repeats and Quinn's head spins like Linda Blair before settling on Rachel Berry bearing down on them.
Finn on the left; Rachel on the right.
Quinn feels the bile rise in her throat and then she's sprinting down the hall and everyone is behind her, calling her name and telling her to stop and she's breezing by Puck and Kurt and she almost takes out Artie – or Artie almost takes her out, she's moving too fast to decide at the moment – and the doors are just so close she can almost feel freedom.
The door doesn't open the first time she pushes against it and it takes her a few more desperate attempts before she realizes she needs to "pull" instead of "push."
She looks like an idiot, but Rachel and Finn are back inside the school and it doesn't matter anymore because she's speeding through the streets of Lima recklessly with no seatbelt on and no real direction.
Watch out Lima, she thinks during a lull in the Christian Rock CD she got last Christmas. Quinn Fabray's shit has hit the fan.
Rachel appears in the doorway and Quinn's first reaction to look for any available exit.
"You're in my seat." Rachel's voice is dull and flat and it bothers Quinn so much she doesn't want to think about it, or why. It also bothers her that she wants to know why Rachel sits here, by herself, during lunchtime.
"What's wrong? Finn turn you down again?" She feels a little restoration of power inside herself, but it would help if she wasn't eating lunch hidden away in the empty classroom next to the boys locker room that smells vaguely of sweaty gym socks and something else she'd rather not put a name to.
Nothing. No reaction. Rachel doesn't blink or shrug or sneeze.
Quinn huffs and sighs and finally slides to another desk. "What's wrong with you?" she asks again, a little softer this time.
"Like you care," Rachel hisses, her arms crossed over her chest defiantly. "Why are you even in here? Shouldn't you be sucking Finn's face off or something?"
"Shouldn't you be?" Quinn threw back. "Since you're suddenly all he thinks about."
It was slightly confusing and slightly embarrassing to admit that out loud. Rachel really is all Finn can think about lately – Quinn can see it in his straying eyes and she meant it when she told him not to cheat on her with Rachel – and the fact that Rachel Beery, queen of the Neanderthals, had managed to sneak in and win over Finn Hudson without Quinn even noticing was mortifying.
The fact that Quinn was angry that Rachel was into Finn and not her was even more reason for mortification.
"Can we be done with this whole 'hurting me because you can' thing, at least until I finish my organic BLT?"
Quinn stalls and bites into her peanut butter and jelly, chewing and thinking.
Ten minutes later, to break the silence, she almost asks if Rachel wants half of her chocolate chip cookie, but Quinn can only handle so much advancement in one day.
Plus, it looks like Rachel already has wheat crackers.
Four days go by in silence – well, almost silence. Quinn can't help it if her rice cakes crack and whenever Rachel bites into her celery sticks it sounds like bones breaking and makes Quinn jump a little each time.
Four days go by and Quinn thinks about opening her mouth and saying anything that isn't a threat, or a snide comment – something that makes her sound almost human, but every time she does, Rachel takes another bite of celery and Quinn loses her nerve.
Four days go by and Quinn is disturbed to find that she actually enjoys just sitting with Rachel Berry.
Sitting, and staring.
"So here's the deal," Santana starts, pulling Quinn out of her daydream and into reality, on the inner track at Cheerios practice.
"Yeah, listen- can it wait?" But Quinn isn't waiting for an answer, because Rachel is crossing the parking lot and Quinn's too many steps behind to catch up without running.
Quinn Fabray is many things: not-a-virgin, popular, blond, witty.
One thing she isn't, is desperate.
"Rachel," she pants, as soon as she gets close enough to stage-whisper without drawing attention to herself.
The brunette looks up, but then turns away, back towards her car as she fumbles to put the key in the lock. Quinn watches her struggle for a minute before she reaches forward, over Rachel's shoulder and puts her hand over Rachel's, steadying the key so that it slid into the lock cleanly and then turns. The locked pops up, Quinn can see it in the mirror, but she holds on and Rachel doesn't shake her off or scream something about cooties or cry "abuse."
"You missed lunch," she hears herself say.
Rachel quirks an eyebrow, but keeps her gaze on their hands: tan and white, the color of coffee right after you pour creamer into it.
"I mean," Quinn tries to backtrack; to play it cool. "I just wanted to make sure you didn't tell everyone that I was eating lunch in that room with you. It wouldn't look good. For me."
Rachel scoffs. "Contrary to what you might think, Quinn, I don't care that much about hurting you the way you continually hurt me. In fact, I don't care that much about you at all."
It hurts more than it should.
Rachel must see it, because she's turning and sighing and opening her mouth to take it back.
Quinn beats her to it – bursting into tears in the middle of the parking lot with her hand wrapped around Rachel's wrapped around a key in a lock.
"Oh, gosh, Quinn." Rachel panics visibly. "Uh, don't cry. Its- it'll be okay. It'll be fine. Don't cry. I- uh, I'll eat lunch with you tomorrow, okay? How does that sound?"
To Quinn, it sounds like Rachel is talking to a sobbing toddler, her voice sugary sweet and full of promises and lucky coins and rainbows. Quinn swipes at her face with her free hand, trying to push the tears off her face, but she can't do it because she's crying harder and then she's not crying at all.
She's not even breathing; no part of her body moves.
Rachel is still whispering "don't cry, don't cry" over and over again, but she's closer now so that Quinn can see that there's no visible bottom to the dull brown eyes and her breath – which smells like, God, celery – is a hot angry blast at the very bottom of Quinn's chin. There is another hand on her face too: two fingers gently pushing her hand away and then a thumb sliding down her cheek, catching the remaining tears and brushing them away.
"Don't cry," Rachel pleads and Quinn nods shakily, silently promising to never cry again if Rachel keeps looking at her like that.
Then suddenly the sun is blocked out by a Finn-shaped shadow and clumsy man-hands – real man-hands – are pulling her into Finn's fleshy, awkward shaped body and Rachel's hand is still caught in hers.
"Are you okay? I saw you crying from the field." She doesn't answer Finn because she's staring at Rachel who is staring back her with wide eyes.
Quinn is vaguely aware that she's clutching Rachel's hand to her chest and that she's just physically defined this weird, quirky love triangle they subconsciously created. She's also vaguely aware that Finn is staring at her staring at Rachel and that this triangle just got more confusing.
She knows Finn wants Rachel and her. Or rather, she knows that Finn wants Rachel and Quinn's baby.
She knows that Rachel is freaked out by all of this.
She knows that she has no idea what she wants anymore.
"Quinn, let's go. I'll drive you home." Except she doesn't want to go home with Finn. She wants to take the keys from Rachel's hands and push the brunette into the passenger seat and drive her to this spot she found just at the Allen County line that sort of overlooks their little slice of Lima heaven, so she can tell Rachel about her dream and about the weight on her ankle that drags her down whenever Finn touches her or when she lies to her parents and how that weigh is just gone whenever she opens her mouth to sing.
"Rachel can-" but Rachel pulls away and mumbles something under her breath and opens the car door so wide that Finn has to pull Quinn back in order not to get hit and then Rachel is slamming it shut and driving off.
"I didn't know you two were friends," Finn says.
Quinn ignores how he sounds bitter about it; he ignores her silence and starts up a mindless conversation about football and Coach Tanaka and the stress of high school.
All and all, it's just like any other day for them.
When she dreams that night, she's her mother: angry and cold and bitter and there's a baby screaming in the background, but she can't find it no matter how hard she looks.
Then Finn walks in the door and drops his stuff by the door while she tidies up after him and he just flops onto the couch and demands a beer, then for her to "shut that damn kid up" so he can "enjoy his night in silence." She does, without even thinking about it and without ever finding the kid at all – the noise just stops. Finn flips on the TV, belching loudly and there's Puck and Rachel on screen, arms wrapped around each other's waists, smiling their perfect smiles into the camera.
"Huh," Finn tells the TV, frowning as the celebrity reporter leans forward and eagerly asks them how they knew they were right for each other.
Puck grins. "I told her to keep holding on, especially when people started to really notice her. I just told her to keep holding onto her roots and we'd never lose each other. And we didn't," he adds rather, Quinn thinks, unnecessarily.
Beside him, Rachel presses deeper into his side while Quinn leans forward unconsciously. "And I told him that I'm here for him, whenever he needs me to be."
"It worked," they say at the same time. The reporter giggles.
"That could have been us," Finn says mournfully from the couch.
"What? You and me? Or you and Rachel," Quinn hisses.
Finn hesitates just a moment too long.
She wakes up in a cold sweat, and when she finds out later that day that Rachel and Puck aren't just making out in her dreams, but in real life too, she feels sick.
She blames it on morning sickness and ignores both of them for the rest of the day.
Kurt – Kurt, of all people – is the one with the guts to pull her aside at the end of a terrible Glee rehearsal. "Listen, honey," he says gently. "Something's up, so spill."
Somehow, "I've been having dreams about choosing between Rachel and Finn and I eat alone every day hoping that Rachel will come sit with me in an abandoned classroom so I can stare at her, uninterrupted, for an hour and in my dreams where I'm choosing, I always want to chose Rachel" just doesn't sound like something anyone will be able to understand, so she smiles brightly.
"Hormones," she tells him.
He nods, like he understands that perfectly.
Rachel comes back after Sue takes her uniform from her and disbands her from the Cheerios all together. Quinn's alone in the corner of the empty classroom with her head down and her lunch box open, peanut butter and jelly sandwich untouched, rice cakes in perfect form.
"I'm very sorry about what happened to you, Quinn."
"I don't want your sympathy," Quinn says flatly.
"You must want something," Rachel prods after Quinn says nothing else.
"Unless you can get me my life back, I don't think there's anything anyone could ever give me."
Rachel almost looks like she's about to drop her brown sack lunch and march into Ms. Sylvester's office and demand that size 2 uniform back.
Rachel, Quinn thinks, would probably get it back through pure annoyance: she'd just sit there and talk about musical theater until Sue's ears bled dry.
Then Rachel does everything Quinn doesn't want her to. She puts her lunch down gently at the front of the room and comes down the aisle and takes Quinn's lunch off the desk and puts it behind her and then leans forward and touches Quinn's shoulder.
No one has touched her – intentionally and not counting dancing in rehearsal – since she was kicked off Cheerios; since her world irrevocably fell apart. No one has even patted her on the shoulder and this one touch from Rachel sends her spiraling so fast she almost slips off the seat.
Rachel catches her.
Rachel catches her around the shoulders as she slips and slides and Rachel just pulls Quinn towards her, so that Quinn's face is pressed too tightly into Rachel's neck and – this time, Quinn smells carrots, instead of celery – Rachel's arms are wound too tightly around Quinn's shoulder and neck and it hurts, but it's a good kind of hurt. It's the kind of hurt that makes her remember she's human and living and breathing and that everything is really real.
Everything feels real and it hurts, but it's the best she's felt since that stupid stick turned pink.
She sees Dave Karofsky carrying a grape slushie on her way to first period and makes her rounds through the halls, letting the Glee kids – her friends – know to look out for blockhead hockey players with Cro-Magnon features holding 32 ounces of Big Gulp.
The only person she can't find – because Mercedes and Artie and Tina and Kurt are huddled together in a mismatched bunch of raincoats and no one messes with Puck anyway – is Rachel.
Or Finn, for that matter.
When she has a crude, disgusting vision of them making out against a classroom door, she forces back her gag reflex and storms through the halls with one intention: strangle Finn.
"He went that way," Brittany offers, pointing down the hall. Santana swats Brittany on the arm and the blond shrugs. "It's not like he stopped and said 'Don't tell Quinn I went this way' or anything." Brittany turns back to Quinn and shrugs again. "He was arguing with Rachel."
Quinn follows the wide eyes down the hallway. People are whispering on either side of her, and for the first time in about a week, they're not whispering "Quinn Fabray has a bun in the oven."
Instead, she catches phrases, like: "Can you believe she had him by the ear?" or "I thought that whole 'chose a side thing' was last week."
Mike Chang is at the end of the hallway with his ear pressed against a door and he's shushing the people around him. She shoulders him to the side and lifts one brow in warning when he looks like – for a second – he's going to shove her right back. Some football players – the non-important ones whose names she doesn't know – pull him away, laughing about him being bossed around by a pregnant chick.
She glares at everyone still standing around like they're in line for the circus and when they scatter – and God, is she inordinately proud she can still do that – she pulls the door open quietly as Rachel's high-pitch voice almost blows her over.
"I don't care what your reasons were Finn, you left her standing there!"
"Why do you even care?" Finn asks defensively, crossing his hands over his chest in a move that looks so much like his mother, it's almost disturbing.
"What does it matter?" Rachel challenges. "When you chose football over Glee, you weren't just choosing being popular over being a loser, Finn." Her voice drops to a sad, low octave. "You were choosing those mouth-breathers over Quinn. You didn't see her face, but everyone else did. When you didn't come through that door, and Matt and Mike and Noah did, I just wish you could have seen her face."
"It's been almost two weeks, Rachel. And I came back," he points out. "So I don't see what the big deal is."
Of course he doesn't, she thinks.
"Of course you don't," Rachel says, echoing Quinn.
Then Finn steps so far forward he's almost standing on Rachel's toes, and his too-big hands are cupping Rachel's chin and cheek and he's leaning down the way he used to when he still really loved Quinn.
Quinn wants to close her eyes, but it's like watching a car crash, or Tyra Banks – no matter how horrifying or nauseating it is, she can't manage to pull herself away.
Rachel pulls away and then pushes at Finn's hands. It's satisfying – and not oddly so, because Quinn is becoming used to the idea that Rachel could be more than a doormat to her these days – that her heart rate slows down and her breathing is a little less of a pant when Rachel's hand goes back up and crosses against Finn's meaty cheek, hard.
"What the hell, Rachel!"
"I wish everyone would stop trying to kiss me when they all really want to kiss Quinn," Rachel spits out.
Quinn wonders what that even means.
Rachel avoids her for the next day. And the day after that, and the day after that.
It's like every time she almost catches her, Rachel disappears down another rabbit hole and Quinn is like a magic show audience member – simultaneously angry at being left behind and awed at how Rachel can get away so fast.
She's not really worried though, because she can always corner Rachel after Glee and finally figure all this out.
Whatever this is.
Rachel skips Glee practice.
It feels like Hell froze over and Quinn forgot to bring a parka. And winter gloves.
"Have you seen Rachel?"
"Have you seen Rachel?"
They both stare at each other until Finn finally looks away, down at his feet scuffing along the floor.
"Why are you looking for her," he asks without looking at her, but he asks like he already knows the answer, and it reminds her that she doesn't give Finn enough credit sometimes; he must have seen the way she looks at Rachel – it's the same way Rachel looks at him.
Quinn bristles. "Why are you?"
"She's been skipping Glee," Finn says, like she doesn't already know this. She has nothing else in her life to hold onto; Glee is the only thing keeping her from going Sylvia Plath and sticking her head in an oven, so the fact that their lead female singer hasn't shown up for a consecutive three days hasn't really escaped her keen notice.
"Do you know why?" Quinn finds herself asking, mentally preparing herself for the hurt that will accompany the reality that Finn knows more then she does, but Finn is already shrugging "no" before the full question is out of her mouth and they're both at a loss of what else they can now say to each other.
Finn takes a couple of steps back and frowns. "I'll see you later then."
Quinn nods unsurely at the look in Finn's eye and it takes her a minute to realize what it is: a challenge.
Who can get to Rachel first? Who can win her over?
Quinn has never backed down from a fight and Finn lacks a certain finesse when it comes to these kinds of things, so she doesn't think there's any way she can lose whatever game it is they're going to play.
She's going to get to Rachel first. She's going to win her over.
Finn and baby and Puck and Jesus be damned.
"Oh," Quinn deadpans."You do exist."
Rachel doesn't smile at the joke. In fact, Quinn notes, Rachel doesn't react act at all and it's really starting to annoy her that the brunette can just ignore her the way she does; it's starting to annoy her that Rachel can just brush her off so easily.
"Am I some game to you?"
Quinn feels like she's five steps behind, because she can only screw her face up in confusion and wait for Rachel to continue her thought.
"Is it something like 'whoever can make her feel the worst about herself wins' or, or is it something else? Is he just bored with you and he's using me, or is he really interested in me? And you. Do you enjoy berating me because you can, or because you're insecure?"
Quinn Fabray figures this is what Rachel Berry's journal probably reads like.
"He gave me a flower," Rachel says, holding the carnation delicately at arm's length, the stem clenched between her forefinger and her thumb.
Damn, she thinks bitterly. Flowers – I should have thought of that.
Rachel rises from the desk she's sitting at and walks towards Quinn, stopping briefly to drop the flower into the empty space between them. Quinn's eyes follow it to the ground and then her attention stays on a petal that broke away until Rachel speaks again.
"I'm allergic," she says, and then she's gone.
She speaks in a low tone until Jacob Israel gives her the combination to Rachel's locker and makes a mental note to tell Rachel to change it.
There's a rush she gets as she turns the dial to the right, then the left and then right again. No one in the hallway even gives her a second glance; since she's become a Gleek, no one even really sees her anymore and it kind of karma that now she's the invisible one. Karma, and useful.
The metal gives with a groan and it's like looking into the very soul of Rachel Berry. Here is all her secrets – like, wow¸ Rachel is a fan of poetry – and her not-so-secrets - like her love of Liza Minneli and all things Broadway.
"This better work," she whispers to the framed picture of Liza in full pose.
Liza's silent, steady gaze is reassuring.
She places the note right in the front of the locker – where Rachel can't miss it – and closes it just as gently as she opened it, stealing down the hall before she's late for Spanish.
Mr. Schuester smiles at her and tells her to take her seat; she's just in time for a pop quiz on Spanish verbs.
When she breaks back into Rachel's locker at the end of the day, the note is still there, untouched.
It helps though, that she sees Finn walking around with his head down, carrying a bouquet of flowers around in a style that just screams "rejection."
The opening chords to "American Pie" filter through the room as Mr. Schuester passes out the parts. Rachel grins – beams, really, for the first in a long time. And Rachel might not think that Quinn notices things like this, but she does – because she has the lead, whatever it is.
"American Pie" isn't really a song that has a female and male lead, but Finn gets the baritone solo anyway, smirking at Rachel over the top of his lead sheet and Quinn is suddenly glad for Puck.
"Great," he groans under his breath. "The Wonder Twins get to blow us all away while we sway like rag dolls in the background." She smells heavy aftershave as he leans over her shoulder and she resists the urge to gag. "Hey, you got my sheet."
He grabs for it, but she's already thumbing through the eleven pages, looking for the highlighted section she knows will be there. Her eyes light up when she finds it and she turns a shoulder, protecting her music from Puck's paws.
"I'm keeping it," she declares, moving away before he can forcibly remove it from her hands and takes her place in the semi-circle they've constructed for practice – because this stuff looks easy, but it's really not; she's not just thinking that because she's pregnant, either – on the far side in between Santana and Kurt.
It's funny when Mr. Schuester looks toward Puck for his part and Quinn starts to sing in his place.
"Well, I know that you're in love with him," she croons. Heads swivel in her direction and her eyes lock unerringly with Rachel's from across the circle. "'Cause I saw you dancin' in the gym. You both kicked off your shoes; man, I dig those rhythm and blues."
She sees Mr. Schuester lift a hand to stop the reherseal and she knows if he does, he'll switch the parts back and make her sing "Now for ten years we've been on our own," but he doesn't, because the girls are humming back up and the boys are getting ready for the baritone addition to the chorus and Mr. Schuester must be thinking what everyone else is thinking: it sounds too good to stop now.
Rachel doesn't look away when Quinn takes a breath and starts up again. "I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck with a pink carnation and a pickup truck, but I knew I was out of luck the day the music died"
She holds the note for a second and then: "I started singin'…"
The room explodes into noise and she's swept up in it, the beat overtaking something in the back of her throat that makes her want to lift out of her seat and spread her arms and fly. Each singer fades out and Mr. Schuester is staring at her with that look he's always wearing whenever he talks to Ms. Pillsbury: something like awe and pride and his eyes look just a little watery.
"Quinn, that was-"
"I think we can all say that, was fab-ulous," Kurt cuts in, waving a hand around.
"It was really good, Quinn," Rachel says softly, her praise lost in dull roar of the practice room.
Quinn cocks an eyebrow at Finn, when he finally looks at her, as if to say "see, it was good."
In her dream that night, Quinn is standing outside of the gym in a pink dress, waiting, with her feet stuck to the ground and unable to move a muscle. She can see through the double doors and she can see Rachel, standing in a white dress in the middle of the dance floor, her hands behind her back and her foot scuffing against the floor in time with the music.
Finn, from the inside of the gym, comes towards the doors like he's going to close them, but instead, he storms outside, only pausing long enough to glare at her.
"I hope you two are happy together," he spits out.
Rachel smiles from the middle of the floor and Quinn can finally move again.
"You're doing great, Quinn," Rachel says, breaking the silence. Her voice is loud, like she was just learning how to whisper but failing and Quinn smirks behind her algebra book.
New Glee Club rule: if everyone isn't passing, no one is singing.
They were split into study groups of two and then Quinn did some trading and bartering until Tina finally gave up Rachel, costing her the next round of late night coffees and a hoodie she bought but hasn't worn yet and can't – not unless she wants to blatantly showcase her swollen stomach.
For some alone time with Rachel, it's more than worth it.
"My algebra is rusty," she says, feigning innocence.
Rachel smiles and Quinn feels like she's accomplished something.
"I meant your singing."
"I know what you meant."
Silence falls, but it's comfortable and easy and when Quinn slips an arm up on the back of Rachel's chair as she leans down to point out what she's having trouble with, Rachel only blushes and tucks her hair behind her ear.
Quinn smiles for the rest of the night.
Two more study sessions go by before Quinn gathers the courage to – in the middle of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" – drop her hand inconspicuously over Rachel's and leave it there.
Rachel only moves when it's time to go home.
Rachel finds her outside in the rain, wearing no coat and paper-thin clothes and shaking after Glee. It had been a horrible practice – Puck found every chance he could to lean over and whisper something about his kid growing up to be just like him. Like hell, Quinn had thought. I'm going to get my daughter as far away from you as possible. I won't let her become another Lima loser.
"The baby's Puck's," she shouts over the rain. She almost thinks Rachel doesn't hear her, because the brunette says nothing, so she opens her mouth again. "Rachel-"
"Yeah, I heard you," Rachel says louder, because she's closer and her arms are around Quinn's shoulders the way they were in the classroom that day when she fell apart and even with the weight of Rachel pressing down on her – hanging off of her, really, because Rachel is shorter than she is – she feels like something is lifted off her and gone.
She told someone.
Someone besides her and Puck know and she feels like she could sing and dance in the streets if she wanted too, except that she's tired and she really just wants to lie down because her feet hurt and her ankles are swollen, and she really wants to lie down with Rachel, because she's warm and dry underneath her raincoat and Quinn is starting to shiver.
"I'm sorry." She leans down to whisper her apology into Rachel's ear.
Quinn shook her head from side to side, sending raindrops off her eyelashes to the left and right. Rachel nodded, then nodded again and jerked her head towards the parking lot. "I say we get out of here."
"Where are we going to go?" Rachel shrugs and then Quinn remembers. "Never mind, I know a place."
It stops raining by the time they get to the county line – here it wasn't raining half as hard as it was at school – and as she puts the car in park, she suddenly understands what Finn meant by Drizzle.
"You know how awesome it is when it's drizzling outside, but it's not really raining, so it smells like rain but you don't need an umbrella to go outside," Finn has said.
It makes sense, oddly enough, because on this bluff overlooking everything, the whole world looks like its right in front of them, covered in a light drizzle and Finn was right, because it even smells like rain and it looks like rain but she can sit on the roof of her car and not worry about catching a cold.
For once in his life, Finn made sense and she has a bout of internal conflict when she thinks about telling Rachel and claiming the idea as her own, but then she thinks that maybe Finn told Rachel the whole story already and then Quinn would come off as the insensitive girlfriend carrying the child of another boy.
Oh, wait, she thinks bitterly, biting her lip to keep from talking out loud. I already am that girl.
"It's pretty up here," Rachel says, pulling her knees closer to her chest. "You can see everything."
Quinn nods silently, but she's not sure what she can really say right now.
"Does Puck know he's the father?" Rachel's voice is low – as if there are shadows hanging on the edge of the conversation waiting for their secrets to spill out so they could be devoured and shared with everyone.
Quinn bristles and wraps her arms around her waist tightly. "Yes," she whispers, then tilts her head back against the cold metal of the roof, letting the drizzle splash against her face.
"Finn wants to name the baby 'Drizzle,'" she chokes out, a sob catching against her resolve in the back of her throat.
Now she gets it. She's having Noah Puckerman's baby, but Finn thinks he's the father and now she's falling stupidly in love – or lust, or something – with Rachel Berry. Now she gets it. Puck is the father of her baby and she's stringing Finn along so that he play second fiddle, because Rachel is the only thing that matters now.
She gets it all now: when this is all said and done, she's going to have successfully ruined five lives and she's going to have left five people emotionally scarred and stunted and stolen.
"Oh, God, Finn wants to name the baby Drizzle, and I don't even want her and what if she looks like Puck and there's nothing I can do about that and one day when she's older she'll ask me questions I can't answer her and-"
Rachel's hand covers her mouth and muffles her words. She's close to Quinn – too close – and her eyes are darting around, covering Quinn's forehead, her nose, her ear, her eyes, and Rachel's hand covering Quinn's mouth. Rachel waits until she nods, then slowly pulls her hand away, letting it hover in the empty space to the side.
"Quinn," Rachel instructs, taking that hand and moving it through their bodies, around Quinn's arm so that she can feel the side of Rachel pressed against her, molding to the side of her body like they're fused together, forever inseparable. "Just sit here and breathe. Don't think about the baby, or Puck, or Finn," and to Rachel's credit, she hardly even stumbles over the name. "I mean, we're on top of everything here. Enjoy it."
Rachel meets her at her locker the next morning, leaning up against the wall like it was something she did every day and when Quinn looks over, hoping for an explanation, Rachel shrugs.
"Were you waiting on someone else to walk you to class?" Finn, is the unspoken question, but Quinn shakes her head and Rachel's mouth stretches wide in a smile that makes Quinn smile back.
Being Rachel's friend is harder than being Rachel's enemy.
It's weird, she thinks – and tells anyone who will listen – because it should be easier, right?
It's hard because Rachel doesn't have a filter and Quinn is hormonal and naturally cynical. It's hard because at first they spend more time defending their friendship than they do actually having one and because Finn leaves a room every time they walk into together and it's such a tangled web they weave that Quinn can't see through it to the light.
It's hard because they're toeing this line between friendship and something else and every touch is hesitant and every word is mulled over for minutes before spoken and because Finn won't talk to QuinnandRachel but he'll talk to Rachel and when he does, Quinn gets territorial and moody and won't talk to Rachel until the brunette goes to wash her hands and her mouth. Rachel says nothing happened; nothing will ever happen but Quinn isn't taking chances.
It's hard because every time Rachel leans in, Quinn holds her breath, waiting for a kiss.
It's hard because Quinn really doesn't want to be Rachel's friend.
She wants more.
She feels like a teenager – and yeah, she's aware that she is a teenager, but that's beside the point. Specifically, she feels like a teenage boy.
Her palms are sweaty and her heart is racing and her blood is pumping somewhere south of the border all because Rachel is lying on one half of her bed with her arms pillowed on her head and her eyes trained on the TV at the foot of the bed. But more importantly, Rachel is within reaching distance and everyone went home hours ago leaving them by themselves for the rest of the night.
Just do it, one side of her brain says.
She'll freak out, the other side argues.
One side taunts: You'll never know if you don't try.
Don't say I didn't warn you, is the last thing she allows herself to think before she slides one sweaty hand across her pink bedspread, stopping inches away from Rachel's thigh. Forcing herself to keep her eyes on the movie – and it's a real testament to how deep in she is when it comes to Rachel, because Evita is playing right now – she lifts her hand and drops it back down on Rachel's leg, her heart rate increase terrifically.
If Rachel freaks out, she's going to lose it; she's going to lose it all and people will spend weeks scraping the brain matter off the ceiling and the walls and from inside the vent, because she'll just explode.
Rachel only looks at her out of the corner of her eye and then back at Madonna on-screen. Then, slowly, deliberately, Rachel removes a hand from behind her head and reaches towards where Quinn's hand is and slides her own hand across her thigh until their fingers are tangled, right there over Rachel's pajama pants like it's the most natural thing in the world.
Quinn smiles for the rest of the night.
"I don't see what the big deal is." Rachel shrugs and continues to spread orange cheese on the washed-out crackers she's eating.
She's standing at the front of the aisle in their classroom during lunchtime and she's furious. There's probably steam coming out of her ears, she feels that angry.
"The big deal," she hisses, slamming her flat palm against the cool desktop, "is that Finn had his arm around you."
"We were singing the lead."
Quinn glares. "You're always singing the lead."
They're back to arguing all the time again, throwing low blows in public they way they used to when Quinn wore a Cheerios uniform and Rachel's dress code included a slushie, regardless of whether it matched her outfit or not. They're losing patience quickly and it gets easy to just retreat to who they were before, like a reflex.
"I don't want you hanging around him," she says resolutely.
Rachel frowns. "You're a very demanding girlfriend, Quinn."
The entire room stills; the air is sucked out of the open windows and the vents and the crack in the bottom of the door. Rachel pauses with her hand halfway to her mouth, one piece of celery hovering in the air uselessly and her eyes are wide and it's just too cute that Quinn has to swallow twice to hide her smile.
She decides to take it in stride and smirks, jutting one hip out and throwing her hand on it.
"Yeah, well, get used to it."
Finn corners her on her way to English and she looks around desperately for Rachel, because she threw up twice already this morning and she's cranky and doesn't want to put up with his "you-owe-me-something" speech.
He puts his hands up in the air and tilts his head down a little. "I'm not here to argue. I just wanted to tell you that I can't come to your next ultrasound because Coach has been on a warpath since Ms. Pillsbury didn't matter him and he scheduled a practice." His voice is low and soft and comforting.
Quinn sighs and smiles a little. "That's alright," she whispers.
"Okay. Uh, let me know how it goes?" But Finn doesn't seem like he really cares at all, and it doesn't bother her that he's pulling away, which is something that's different. She assumed she would want him there for it all and she was content to pull him along as long as she needed.
It looks like he doesn't need her.
He's a couple of steps away when he suddenly turns back, catching her off guard.
"You should take Rachel with you," he says with a slight smile.
It's official, Quinn thinks, moving on autopilot into her classroom, taking her customary seat next to Santana. The entire world has been turned upside down.
Rachel kisses her – once, sweetly – in the doctor's office, right after they hear everything is going great and she's progressing perfectly.
It's over too soon, but Quinn still feels like she's on top of the world.
Her entire body is lit up, on fire, screaming at every nerve ending. There's static pressure against her stomach and Rachel's hand is a blast of ice on her skin and she wishes Rachel would move her hand just a little, but it's the only thing anchoring her to reality.
Kissing. She's only kissing Rachel and she feels like this. Rachel moves forward, lifting her head from Quinn's neck and moving back to Quinn's mouth and the action results in Rachel's thigh pressing harder a place Rachel's leg shouldn't even be. It's dangerous territory; she's a pregnant teenager and Rachel's got her hands and her legs in all the (right) wrong places.
Rachel ignores her, cutting off her and sliding her free hand down Quinn's body, tracing rib after rib, then a hip bone, then down the curve of her thigh, hooking under her knee. It doesn't stay still long, Rachel's hand – and Quinn expects that, because Rachel doesn't stay still long ever; she's always running around about something – and instead of it going the way Quinn thought it would (back up her sweatpant-clad thigh and securely wrapped around her very clothed abdomen), it slides down, back towards the drawstring of Quinn's sweats, over the sensitive skin next to her hip bone.
She jumps – bucks, really – up and Rachel laughs into her mouth. "Calm down," Rachel says firmly.
Quinn jerks again as Rachel's hand toys with the tie of her pants. "Easy for you to say," she mutters, pulling back from the kiss to breathe. "Get your hands away from my happy places."
Rachel smirks. "I thought you liked my hands." Quinn rolls her eyes and tries to move again, but Rachel's legs are tented over one of her own and Rachel has gravity on her side so she hardly even budges. "Man-hands, right?"
"I take it back," Quinn says, but it's a broken sentence because Rachel's managed to undo the bow of the tie and there's a rush of cool air racing down the lower half of her body. "Rachel," she warns, voice low.
"I know what I'm doing," Rachel says, too close to her ear.
Vaguely, she wants to know exactly how Rachel knows what she's doing, but the thought is gone as quickly as it comes, because Rachel's are freezing against the care skin next to her underwear line and she's biting the inside of her cheek to keep from making too much noise.
"Calm down," Rachel says again, her breath a hot, angry blast of air against Quinn's cheek.
Rachel's fingers slip under the elastic waistband of her laundry day underwear – pink ones with little hearts and "I Love Zack Morris" embossed on the back – and don't stop under Rachel is at Quinn's ankles, sweats and panties bunched up around her toes. Quinn holds her breath as Rachel slides back up Quinn's body, pressing a bold hand to the dip in Quinn's hip, her fingertips brushing against Quinn.
Rachel's fingers move sideways and Quinn's breath comes back in a gasp, rushing out of her body as quickly as Rachel pushes in. Either Rachel's hands are that cold, she thinks, or her body is really that hot. But her hips jerk and lift off the bed and Rachel presses hard until Quinn can feel Rachel everywhere and it hurts but it's good and she doesn't feel like she's even on the bed anymore; she feels like she's floating above the room and the only thing she can feel is Rachel's hands – one on her stomach, the other three fingers deep – and Rachel's breath – against her ear, hot and shallow.
Fingers move precisely, circling and pressing and brushing and Quinn shudders once, her shoulder blades digging into the bedspread as she tries to swallow as much air as possible. Rachel's hand slides out of her underwear and up over her stomach muscles and around her back.
"I told you," Rachel mutters as if she's offended. Quinn groans but smiles and twists – and kicks so that her ankles are locked in her clothes vice grip – until Rachel is trapped underneath her arms and her body and it should be awkward the way her stomach pushes out against Rachel's flat abdomen, but it's not.
"I might forget. You'll have to remind me later," she says, stealing the protest from Rachel's mouth with her tongue.
That night, when she dreams, she's standing back on the stage and there's a single spot light on her, shrouding the rest of the auditorium in darkness. Her words echo in the large room and she thinks about moving but the light doesn't move with her, so she stays where she is.
She can't find Finn.
She can't find Rachel.
Quinn feels lost and scared and she really just wants to go home – or wake up – and get out of this darkness.
She's about to give up when something behind her explodes and then all of Glee is standing there, in white, singing to her; singing with her and she's not alone anymore. They're singing to her that she'll never be alone anymore.
There's a small hand wrapped in her own and she looks down into hazel eyes, a little face that looks just like her own reflected back up at her.
"Keep holding on," Finn sings behind her as Rachel's hand slides into Quinn's free one.
"I'm here for you," Rachel finishes, whispering as she steps closer.
She's sitting in absolute silence.
The stage is quiet, almost like something out a dream and she knows she probably shouldn't be down here, with everyone in the hotel more than likely asleep, but the temptation of a completely empty stage that she could call her own, even for a few minutes, was too tempting.
Her feet dangle off the edge, hovering over the dark floor – an inky black she could dive into if she wanted to.
"I was wondering where you went." Rachel's voice is soft enough that Quinn doesn't really budge when it comes from the dark aisle. "I thought maybe I dreamed all of this."
The awe in her voice is the same wonder that's been in everyone's voice since they placed second in Regionals; something they never thought they could do, for all their bravado (Rachel), happy-ending-dreams (Finn), sheer confidence (Puck), good-guys-have-to-finish-first mentalities (Mr. Schuester) and their peppiness (Brittany and Santana).
It was never something they could do until they did.
"This place is kind of-"
"Magical," Rachel finishes for her, coming out of the shadows and hoisting herself up onto the stage. I won't be able to do things like that soon, Quinn thinks with a hint of bitterness, her hand reflexively on her stomach. "I know, that's why I love the stage. Even when it's like this, there's still this-"
"Overwhelming presence," Quinn continues, smiling and nodding. "I can feel it."
Rachel is quiet for a few moments, pulling Quinn's hand into her lap. "We're going to have be more careful, you know. We're starting to finish each other's sentences."
Quinn shrugs. "I'm okay with that," she admits, then laughs, because she really, really is.
She really is okay with Rachel Berry finishing her sentences and kissing her goodnight and calling her on her crap; she's really okay with Rachel Berry being her new white knight, even if she is loud and pushy and demanding and when they fight, people run for cover.
"Hmm, and I'm tired." Rachel yawns, as if to prove her point, and leans her head against Quinn's shoulder, right in the dip where she fits perfectly.
"Couple more minutes," Quinn whispers, dropping a kiss on the crown of Rachel's head.
Rachel nods. "Few more," she says sleepily.
When she thinks that Rachel's almost completely asleep, she pushes and prods them into a standing position, hooking one arm around Rachel's waist, pulling Rachel into her side. Slowly, they make their way out of the auditorium and into the lobby. Quinn smiles brightly at the concierge and knows she must be thinking that all these singing freaks running around will be gone soon, and she'll only have to put with visibly pregnant teenagers half-carrying, half-dragging asleep girls in cow pajamas for a little while longer. The concierge nods politely and turns back to her computer – solitaire probably, Quinn thinks.
In the elevator, Rachel leans against her heavily and it's hard to reach the panel on the wall, but she stretches and pushes their floor number and it's not until she's straightening back up that Rachel starts to slide a little against her.
"Rachel," she whispers, gently shaking the semi-conscious girl. "Rachel, just keep holding okay? Only two more floors to go until you can sleep."
"I'm already sleeping," Rachel mumbles and Quinn laughs a little.
"Yeah, I noticed."
The elevator pings and the doors open. She adjusts her grip on Rachel's waist and pulls her out into the hallway.
"Keep holding on," Rachel cuts in. "I'm not letting go."
Quinn holds Rachel a little closer. "Neither am I."
It means everything, those three words. They're not the three words, but they're the right words, in this moment, and Rachel is suddenly alert and looking up at her with wide eyes and then she's on her tip-toes, pressing a quick kiss to Quinn's open mouth.
"As sweet as that was," Rachel starts, coming back up for another kiss, "can we get out of the hallway? These aren't the most flattering pajamas."
"Oh, I think they're cute."
Rachel cocks an eyebrow but only smiles and grabs Quinn around the waist, taking backward steps down the hall towards their room. "Yours aren't any better."
"At least I don't look like bovine."
"I'm surprised you know what that means."
Quinn rolls her eyes. "I thought you were tired."
"Suddenly, I'm wide awake," Rachel says with a grin, waggling her eyebrows suggestively.
"Not a chance," Quinn says quickly, opening the door.
"Worth a shot." Rachel shrugs and shifts her weight from side to side as Quinn takes her time walking through the door. As soon as she has room to slip past Quinn, she's burrowed under the covers and her face is already pressed into the pillow and her breathing is already slowing down.
That night, she doesn't dream, but when she wakes up, she's singing Avril Lavinge and even if she's not sure why, it doesn't really matter.
Rachel kisses her good morning and Quinn feels the day shift into place.