A/N: Whew! So, one of my reviewers drew it to my attention that I haven't really paid much attention to the fact that this thing only has 3 chapters and there are already 100+ reviews. Let me just say…I am so stunned, I don't know what to say. I've loved reading every single one of your reviews and I look forward to seeing what you'll say every update. I seriously love all this support, and if I could, I would bake every single one of you your own batch of cookies cause just…wow. I love ya guys. :)
So now that I have rambled about how awesome you all are…this chapter covers 'The Rhodes Not Taken'. Level of Faberry: Low. Sorry, guys—but, next chapter, I promise there is some real, honest-to-God Faberry interaction. :D Just hang in there.
Quinn had learned a lot in the little time she'd been single, and not all of it was pleasant. In fact, she would go so far as to say that 99.7% of her new, single life was just plain annoying. Still, that was far better than the 99.9% of annoyance her old, taken life had had. It was just that there were all kinds of new things to be annoyed about.
For instance, in place of Finn stalking her, there was just about every boy in the school doing so. Not that they were as bad as Finn about it—she didn't have anyone trailing her to classes or anything—but she couldn't walk down the hallway anymore without feeling like a piece of meat. When Finn had been her boyfriend, there was a six foot three inch wall protecting her from the innuendos and drooling mouths.
Now Quinn had to rely on her wit—which wasn't difficult, since the Neanderthals were easy to insult—but it was tiring. After a couple days, she had taken to stonewalling them. Santana approved of the new method, since that meant she got to watch the idiots make even bigger fools of themselves while Quinn simply stood there with a scowl on her face, the boys growing paler by the second.
Not that Quinn blew off all of them. The ones with decent appearances and a Christian heritage were given at least one conversation to prove themselves worthy of replacing Finn. But that, as it turned out, was impossible. Right now she only had three prospects, and she had her doubts about all of them. Stan had been slushied once (it was by accident, but still); David was an inch shorter than her; and Kyle…well, he was the most promising, to be truthful.
And yes, Quinn knew she was being high maintenance and picky, but if she settled for anything less than the best, she wouldn't be Quinn Fabray, would she? So the fact that Kyle had sandy blonde hair instead of the usual dark brown she went for was reason enough to push him back to David and Stan's level, in her opinion.
Another annoyance was the empty slot on her Friday nights. There was the occasional party to attend and football games, but the rest of the time Quinn was left at loose ends. Attempting to hang out with Santana and Brittany was futile. For some reason, they were extremely protective about their Friday nights, and as a result, Quinn was left lying upside down on her bed watching old 'Friends' episodes more evenings than was healthy.
And then there was Finn himself. Despite his rather unconventional win the other week boosting his spirits, the boy was still constantly shooting her puppy dog looks. Like right now. Honestly, did he think singing 'Don't Stop Believing' with her was going to magically mend their relationship? She fought the urge to roll her eyes.
Surprisingly enough, the only reasons her new, single life was that .2% less annoying than her old, taken life were glee…and Man Hands.
Glee was turning out to be more fun than Quinn had initially realized. As cheesy as it was, singing and dancing really did make her feel less stressed, and for the hours she spent in the auditorium or the choir room, she could forget about the boys wolf whistling at her, and Finn and Puck's puppy dog eyes, and her empty Friday nights, and that ounce of fat still plaguing her despite cutting down on how much she ate again, and the drinks constantly present in her parents's hands. Instead, she was focusing on her dance steps and her pitch and just…relaxing.
Granted, glee did have its annoying points. Puck and Finn were two big ones, but then there was that Goth girl and the boy in the wheelchair. They weren't that bad, truthfully, but every time Quinn even looked at Goth Girl she started stammering. And the guy in the wheelchair, she found, had a tendency to roll his eyes a lot. She didn't appreciate the attitude. The gay boy and Mercedes (Quinn still really wanted to finish her name with 'Benz' every time she said it) were the really annoying ones.
Now that IT had gone on to greener pastures, they had no one to argue with for solos but each other—and Quinn. She tried to put a stop to that around the third rehearsal of the two grumbling about the 'Don't Stop' part, but that only led to a red-faced Gay Kid and the intensifying of the headache Quinn had had for the past week. She would never understand how RuPaul managed to get them to back the hell off.
Which brought her to the second reason she was feeling a little less irritated. Quinn never thought she would ever see the day when IT was making her life less annoying, but she was managing it. Of course, she also managed to pull that colossal voice out of that tiny little body, so Quinn probably shouldn't have been too surprised by any other miracles the Yeti managed to perform. Even more amazing was that she wasn't less annoyed because IT wasn't in glee anymore (if anything, that just gave her more reason to be annoyed, but that was clearly the fault of Gay Kid and Mercedes-Benz).
The reason was that, to Quinn's shock, Man Hands didn't leap at the opportunity to be with Finn. Not that she cared if Finn eventually got a new girlfriend. Quinn probably wouldn't even care if IT took her place (Finn's popularity level was no longer her responsibility, after all, so if he wanted to commit social suicide, he could feel free). The fact was that Streisand was actually (completely inadvertently, she was sure) helping maintain Quinn's reputation.
It would've been a train wreck if Finn found a replacement before Quinn did. People would've started speculating that he'd been the one to do the dumping—despite there having been plenty of witnesses to her blow-up—and she would've been the one suffering the pitying looks and not-so-subtle gossiping. It was already bad enough that he'd pulled a miraculous win for the team out of his ass, because now she had to listen to comments about how being dumped by Quinn looked good on Finn.
But that was bearable, if only because Finn was still giving her the wounded puppy dog looks—proof that Quinn Fabray wasn't easy to get over after all. And, again, the Social Leper was helping out by staying away from him. Now, if only IT would suck it up, get her scrawny ass back to glee, and get the Dorky Duo off Quinn's back….
"Whoa! I got you!"
Quinn latched onto Finn's arm, wobbling a second longer before she finally found her footing. Mr. Schuester was already halfway to her and Puck had her elbow. She was fairly certain his motivations lie in the possibility that he could cop a feel, which she did not appreciate, to say the least.
"Are you okay?"
"Should we take her to the nurse?"
"I'm fine!" Quinn growled, glaring around at all the concerned faces. "There was just…something on the floor. I slipped. I'm fine."
That was a big fat lie—actually, she'd had a dizzy spell. The second one in as many weeks. Frankly, that and the headache were starting to concern her a bit, but she was sure it had something to do with her menstrual cycle or hormones or something. It would wear off.
Once Quinn knew she had her balance, she forcefully shoved Puck's rough hand off of her and distanced herself from Finn, who still hadn't stopped with the puppy dog looks. Mr. Schue was looking dubious.
"All right, well, why don't you sit and rest a minute anyway? We'll take a short break and then run through it again," he said, ushering her toward a seat.
She huffed and rolled her eyes, slumping into the chair gratefully—though if anyone asked, she'd say they were just overreacting and she wasn't an invalid, for God's sake. If Gay Kid's huff was any indication, though, he was about to be, because if he bitched about the part one more time, she was going to grab Puck's guitar and smash it over his perfectly coiffed head.
Sure enough, Gay Kid opened his dumb mouth. "Can we please talk about the giant elephant in the room?"
Santana, of course, couldn't possibly let that go. "Your sexuality."
There was a pregnant pause and Santana smirked triumphantly at the blonde across the room. Quinn rolled her eyes fondly.
"Rachel," Gay Kid said, an edge to his voice now. "We can't do it without her."
The others nodded in agreement and Quinn arched a brow. For how much he complained about her, she never thought she'd hear him admit to that. Er, say that. It wasn't as though IT was the only thing that could pull this pathetic little group through to—ugh, who was she kidding? Fine, Man Hands was the best singer in the damn club and she was the only way they were going to get past Sectionals. Quinn folded her arms, pouting at her inner admission.
Mr. Schuester, ever the optimistic one, shook his head. "That's not true. We may have to layer Santana and Mercedes over Quinn's solo, but…we'll be fine." He smiled.
Quinn rolled her eyes again, but before she could speak up to point out that she was actually sitting in the room (so they didn't have to talk about her like she wasn't there) and that Mr. Schue had taken his bright outlook on life to new extremes, Wheelchair Boy interjected.
"Maybe for the Invitationals, but not for the Sectionals. And certainly not the Regionals," he said matter-of-factly.
"Wheelchair Kid's right," Puck added, and Quinn ignored the odd urge she felt to stick her tongue out at him. He wasn't supposed to steal her mental nicknames for people. "That Rachel chick makes me want to light myself on fire, but she can sing."
Brittany was frowning, but Santana shot Quinn a wicked grin over the other blonde's head. The head cheerleader knew that, eerily enough, the Latina was imagining what the hobbit would do if they came at her with a flamethrower. She abruptly decided she should memorize the location of all the fire extinguishers in the building.
"Rachel left, guys," Mr. Schue cut in irritably.
Quinn was beginning to think IT just did that to him—every time she spoke, he wore that same expression on his face. The one he had now—aggravated, veiny…. Not that she could blame him. Man Hands did, as Puck so eloquently put it, make people want to light themselves on fire just so they wouldn't have to hear her grating voice or look at her ridiculous clothing. Quinn sighed. Puck really didn't need to open his stupid mouth and give her sociopath of a best friend ideas like that, though.
"She's gone," Mr. Schue continued, and Finn folded his arms, pouting at the floor. Quinn felt another eye-roll coming on. "And if we're gonna make this thing work, we can't look back."
"I hate to point this out, Mr. Schue—you have no idea how much this physically pains me—but just because IT—" at Mr. Schue's warning glare, Quinn altered her wording "—she left, doesn't mean she can't be convinced to come back."
Santana scowled at her, but Quinn ignored her co-conspirator's questioning frown in favor of continuing this nauseating speech. Really, she felt sick to her stomach admitting this out loud, but it was true. Besides, she sort of, kind of owed Man Hands for making her life less annoying lately.
"And we don't have a shot without her."
Mr. Schuester sighed heavily. "See, and as long as you believe that, we really don't."
"But Quinn's right," Finn said determinedly, false confidence seeping into his voice. "We could get Rachel to come back."
"Right. And how are you going to do that, Meathead?" Santana retorted, shooting Quinn a meaningful glare that the blonde promptly chose to ignore. "Seduce her? Hope you're ready for a surprise under those little skirts."
Brittany giggled, but Quinn knew it was only because Santana was grinning at her. She didn't really get the joke. Finn, on the other hand, did. He was almost the color of a tomato by the time Mr. Schuester also got it and intervened.
"Look, guys, no one is going to convince Rachel to come back," he said firmly, and Quinn couldn't help but pin him with narrow eyes. "If she wanted to be here, she would be; end of story. Now, let's take five."
She fought the urge to point out that that entire discussion had taken approximately five minutes when Mr. Schuester retreated into his office. There was a collective sigh and the gleeks broke formation to huddle in their respective groups. Since Santana didn't plan on taking it easy on Quinn any time soon, the blonde heaved to her feet and joined her fellow Cheerios near the door so she wouldn't have to listen to Gay Kid and Mercedes-Benz chattering about how amazing yet unappreciated their voices were.
"What the hell are you doing?" Santana growled as soon as the head cheerleader was in range. "We're supposed to be taking the club out, not advising them on how to win."
"You think they'll have a better chance with Carlotta in the mix?" Quinn scoffed, though she knew it was true. She just couldn't let Santana know she knew.
The Latina's brow wrinkled in confusion, along with Brittany's. "Who?"
"Carlotta. The prima donna from 'The Phantom of the Opera'?" the blonde prompted.
Her cheeks tinged pink as she spoke, because she knew what was coming next.
"Oh, my God, you have been spending way too much time around these geeks," Santana groaned, holding her forehead. "Maybe I need to tell Sylvester it's important that you get the hell outta here, before you start swimming in sheet music and wearing penny loafers."
"You will not," Quinn snarled, taking a threatening step forward. She wasn't going to go to all the trouble of double-crossing Sylvester and helping glee just to get yanked out of it. She wanted the club around—even if she couldn't admit it to Santana, it was true. "And if I catch you snitching on me to her, I will, I promise, see that you get a slushie from every single Cheerio every morning before practice. Got it?"
The Latina didn't answer, but Quinn could see the message had been received. She may not have liked it, but she definitely got it. Santana's lip curled in a sneer as she prepared to speak, but they were interrupted.
"I miss Rachel," Brittany sighed.
Both cheerleaders exchanged a wide-eyed glance before staring at their spaced-out friend.
"Britt, you've never even talked to RuPaul," Santana pointed out, arching a brow.
"She talks to me," the blonde replied brightly. "And she wears bunny shirts." She nodded sagely.
Quinn abruptly decided that she would never, ever know what went on in that pretty blonde head, and that she really didn't want to know anyway. Santana had apparently come to the same conclusion, because she sighed and shook her head before picking up the conversation where they left off.
"Look, you know damn well Berry can belt it. If she comes back—"
"If she comes back, the geeks will be back to squabbling over solos like hyenas," Quinn said evenly, letting a smirk twist her lips. "And Man Hands doesn't take it as calmly as I do." She arched a meaningful brow.
"So you think if she comes back, they'll argue themselves to death," Santana replied skeptically.
The head cheerleader shrugged gracefully. "Which would you rather watch? The slow draining of the geek's spirits until they ultimately lose everything at Sectionals? Or the festering dissention in the ranks that eventually explodes and wrecks their chances before they even get there?"
"You know I like slow death better," the Latina said airily, shrugging right back.
Quinn sighed. Apparently no matter how she explained away her actions in keeping New Directions afloat, Santana was going to find a way to be unhappy with it. Which was really typical Santana and normally that wouldn't bother Quinn, but if the Latina tattled to Coach Sylvester, the blonde was going to be in some deep shit—and much as she liked glee, she wasn't losing her position on the Cheerios over it.
"Okay, guys, break's up," Mr. Schue announced as he emerged again.
Quinn trailed her fellow Cheerios back to the group of gleeks, lips set in a deep frown. Well, as long as she didn't have another dizzy spell, she could spend tonight enjoying the .3% of her life that wasn't annoying, and she'd worry about Santana's big mouth tomorrow.
Things were really going great for Finn. Well, for having been dumped a couple weeks ago, anyway. That part still really sucked, but there wasn't really much he could do about it. Plus, he was starting to think he didn't want to do anything about it.
It wasn't that he didn't still have feelings for Quinn or he didn't have a blast when they were together, but now that he thought about it? The bad times outweighed the good a pretty big portion of the time. She was always mad at him for something, it seemed like, and the brief moments where she'd smile at him, truly pleased, weren't really worth all the snapping. He used to think Quinn was just a cranky person in general, but really, she didn't yell at Brittany or Santana as much as she did at him.
Now Rachel? Rachel never yelled unless she was really mad, and she looked at him like…like he hung the moon in the sky or something. It felt awesome, especially since she always complimented him, too. He didn't feel like such a screw-up around her. It really sucked that she wasn't in glee anymore, but he still saw her in some of his classes, so that was good.
Rachel was so patient, too. She'd kept her word and she wasn't dating anybody while she waited for him. Even though he was pretty sure she had a new male lead now, and that usually meant she would go after them. But since she hadn't, Finn guessed there was just something special about him—about them. Honestly, he was really excited for when they could go out.
Right now, he really was enjoying the single life and the friendship he had with Rachel. It would do for now, while he kept sorting out the football team. It took a lot to convince Kurt to stay on the team. Ever since they won the game, the dude was like super sensitive about stuff for some reason, and he made Finn swear a million times that he didn't just want him to stay on the team because he was a good kicker. He was totally honest about it—he wanted Kurt on the team because it would make it easier for him to go between glee and football, and it would help the team.
It was great having Puck and Mike and Matt in glee, too. Mike wasn't the greatest singer, but he and Brittany were helping Mr. Schue out when his choreography sucked so bad even he knew it. Finn didn't know Mike was so good at the dancing, but he was working on using that for football. He would make a great back-up quarterback or kicker.
And Matt was pretty awesome, Finn found out. The dude could sing—not as good as some of the other people in glee, but he wasn't awful like Mike—and he wasn't bad with the dancing. He was a great wingman on Call of Duty, too, and they actually beat Puck over the weekend—which was sweet. And? The guy could bench press like 250. Finn was working with him a lot lately, both to keep that up and to work in plays where he'd be more involved.
A bonus to all this was that Coach Tanaka and Mr. Schue were impressed with Finn's leadership skills, which meant they weren't coming down so hard on him all the time. Not that they were bad before, but Finn didn't feel quite so exhausted all the time anymore. Instead he felt kind of energized—like he could run on this steam forever. He didn't know quite what it was making him so energetic, but he thought it might have something to do with Rachel and how good she made him feel.
Or winning that free cheeseburger from McDonald's on the Monopoly game.
In any case, after he was done working with Matt, Finn planned on hunting down Rachel and trying to use his new leadership skills to get her back to glee. Even though Mr. Schue shot her down, Quinn totally had a point. It was kind of weird that she wanted Rachel back to glee, since she hated her so much, but he thought maybe she wanted to win Sectionals, too. That was pretty cool of her, he had to admit. But anyway, Quinn had had a point—nobody just asked Rachel to come back to glee. Not even Mr. Schue.
Finn was pretty confident he could get her to come back, even if it was just for him. He wouldn't mind that a bit.
"Dude, I'm exhausted," Matt called as he threw the ball back. "Can we pick up tomorrow? I've got a date with Amy tonight."
Finn caught it and grinned. "Sure. You did good work today. Just remember to keep that shoulder iced tonight."
They'd done a lot of tackling practice earlier, and Matt took quite a hit when he sacked Puck. Matt nodded and waved his goodbye as he took off for the showers. Finn had to work on clean up before he could get the smell off, so he flapped his shirt a bit to get air circulating under the sweat before he started picking up equipment. This part of being captain wasn't so fun, but since the rest of it was, he was willing to go through it.
Plus Kurt had been helping him out with it lately, so that made it more bearable.
After he had everything packed up, Finn showered off, relieved that nobody else was there. There may have been dividers, but it was seriously uncomfortable being naked in a room with a bunch of other dudes. While he was scrubbing his pits, he tried to remember that time Rachel had recited her entire daily schedule to him. He hadn't asked, but it was still good to know.
He thought she said something about an interview or something, but he didn't remember the room number she gave him until he was halfway to the auditorium. Then he had to turn back around and head upstairs, and on the way, he tried to think of what he would say. Besides, like, 'come back to glee because it's kind of boring without you.'
Seriously, it was weird going in there without hearing a lecture from her or having her storm out of the room because Mr. Schue didn't give her something she wanted. Or hearing her pretty voice. Man, he missed that. Sometimes he considered sneaking into the auditorium during the play's rehearsals, but he usually had practice. Plus, he didn't want to seem like a stalker. That would be weird.
Anyway, it wasn't like Quinn wasn't good at being a female lead. It just wasn't the same. She wasn't the same height as Rachel, and she didn't have the same color hair. Plus her voice wasn't as strong. He felt a little off-kilter without Rachel.
He just got to the room Rachel had said when that creepy Mr. Ryerson and the possibly even creepier JewFro came out. It sounded like they were talking about nudity, but he really didn't want to know. Like he said, they were creepy.
An involuntary smile sprang up on his face when Finn peered into the room and found Rachel caressing the ends of her hair out of the way, glancing down at her chest—almost curiously. He cleared his throat to battle the sudden tightness in his pants. That was seriously a problem he was going to have to go to a doctor about or…something.
"Hey, what are you doing?" he asked lightly, and she looked up so fast he was glad her neck was attached to her head.
"N-nothing!" Rachel said hurriedly, clearing her throat and hastily placing her hands behind her cute little skirt. "Just…getting the star treatment I didn't get in glee." She nodded superiorly, though her cheeks were still a little pink.
Finn smiled warmly, easing closer. "Totally."
She seemed to gain confidence at this and drew herself up for another lecture. "It's time like these where I know I've chosen the right path."
He was surprised when she didn't go on for a minute and instead ducked her head. She sounded kind of sad when she went on, and he wanted to hug her.
"I'm never going back to glee. It's clear my talent is too big for an ensemble."
Finn sighed. Well, this really wasn't going to be easy. But if he knew Rachel, and he thought he did pretty well by now, she just needed a little nudge to hear that everyone missed her, that she was needed. And maybe the missing part wasn't really true…per se. They missed her voice. But the needing part was totally true.
"You're not gonna get an argument from me."
Rachel's head snapped up, eyes wide and questioning. "I'm not?"
"No. You're like the most talented person I know," he assured her with a sincere grin. She really was. "Even more than that guy at the mall who can juggle chainsaws."
When she ducked her head again with a smile, Finn knew he was getting somewhere. He bounced on his heels eagerly.
"I just wanted to let you know that if you needed someone to run lines with, I'm available," he added with a nod. He really was now that he wasn't with Quinn…sometimes, and he couldn't believe he was saying this, but sometimes the video games got a little boring. He didn't really have anything else to do.
Rachel started to smile, but then she had that look on her face. That suspicious look. Like she'd had right before she told him she would wait for him. Finn tried not to falter, but on the inside he was cursing his luck. He knew he shouldn't have sounded so…flirty when he said that.
"Finn, while I sincerely appreciate the offer, I am perfectly capable of learning my lines by myself, and honestly, I don't think you're quite ready to spend such a significant amount of time with me." She frowned sadly, but went on. "I've seen the way you look at Quinn. You're still not over her, and—"
"No, Rach, Rach!" He chuckled nervously, waving his hands. "I wasn't saying I—I was just offering as…as a friend." He smiled innocently when she looked suspicious again. "I swear, that's all."
He decided not to say anything about glee right now. She'd probably get all mad at him for trying to manipulate her or something.
"Oh." Rachel frowned again, but it wasn't so much sad this time as embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions and—"
"No, it's totally cool." He grinned for emphasis.
She drew herself up again, smiling that big smile. "All right. Well, then I graciously accept your offer, and I will see you in the choir room tomorrow afternoon?" He nodded and she softened her voice a little. "Thank you, Finn. You're a real gentleman."
Finn was pretty sure that was a really good thing, so he grinned as wide as he could at her.
"'I'm sleeping with him.'"
"'So am I.'" Finn's expression contorted adorably before he broke character and said uncomfortably, "This play's weird."
Rachel's chuckle quickly turned into a frown of disgust as she remembered Mr. Ryerson's gleeful smile every time John recited that line.
"That's Mr. Ryerson's favorite line," she told the boy across from her, trying to make it sound positive.
She'd been keeping up this cheerful façade since she left glee, pretending things were hunky dory in her comfy new role. Pretending she didn't miss glee and that this was so much better for her. The truth was, Rachel was realizing she'd made a mistake. Mr. Ryerson treated her with as little or less respect than Mr. Schuester did—and at least Mr. Schuester didn't endlessly rag on her about how boring her performance was or how badly she sucked.
And she just felt so…lonely. She'd never really been lonely before, she didn't think. Sure, she was on her own most of the time, unless her fathers happened to be home for an evening or a weekend, and it never really bothered her. It was starting to now. She missed her 'friends' in glee club. Perhaps they only appreciated her for her voice and didn't actually want her company, but they were the first people who had ever really paid her any mind, or truly wanted her around for any reason. It was slightly addictive, really, and she felt so alone in the play.
Not that Rachel could let on to Finn about this. No, glee club would have to work for it if they wanted her back. She wouldn't just waltz back…no matter what.
"You're a really good actor, Finn," she said cheerfully, wrestling her mind away from her self-induced reclusion from the club.
For a brief moment, an idea entered her mind. If Finn were in the musical with her, she would have that safety zone, that person to ease her loneliness. She cast it aside almost as soon as it arrived, however. First because she didn't want to give Finn the wrong idea—he still hadn't gotten over his infatuation with Quinn as yet, and Rachel didn't really mind—she could wait forever for Finn if need be—but she refused to be the rebound girl. He had to be good and over the head cheerleader before he could step over to the singer.
Second, because it wasn't just Finn she missed seeing. For the brief time she'd been in the club with them, Noah, Mike, and Matt had seemed cooperative and interesting enough, and they balanced the dynamic of the group. No longer was it five geeks, one jock, and three cheerleaders. With them, the geeks may have been outnumbered, but it was only by two, and when they were in glee, the stereotypes didn't matter as much.
Tina and Artie were enjoyable to be around, if only because they had less of a tendency to tell her to shut up than Mercedes and Kurt. They were polite, mild-mannered, and Rachel enjoyed them. Mercedes and Kurt, while at times irritating beyond words, understood Rachel's passion for music and they made good competitors in the race for solos. As much as she hated to admit it, their voices were superb, if a little untrained, and though she and Mercedes had completely different styles, it was a pleasure to listen to her.
Rachel could not say she missed the Cheerios as much as the five core members, though Brittany was certainly adorable in her own right. Though she didn't seem to comprehend half of what Rachel said, she didn't interrupt, and her off-topic comments were a relief in comparison to the hissed 'I don't give a fuck, RuPaul; go stalk something your own size' from Santana. Rachel could not say in truth that she missed the Latina at all.
Quinn…well, she was Quinn. Hostile when approached, tolerable when ignored, and someone Rachel didn't want to see hurt. Which, by the way, was still one of the most confusing things in the world to the diva. Why should she really care?
"Rach? Hello, earth to Rachel."
The brunette blinked rapidly and stumbled backward from the large thing waving in her face. She breathed a sigh when she found it was only Finn, waving his hand dangerously close to her nose and grinning at her. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and slumped onto the piano bench.
"Where did you go?" he asked playfully. "You were staring into space for, like, ever."
Rachel smiled and smoothed her skirt beneath her as she sank onto the bench next to him.
"I'm sorry; I was just thinking."
He nodded slowly, sobering as he looked across at her. She saw him take a deep breath, as though bracing himself, and waited patiently for him to say his piece. It took a few moments, but eventually the much taller boy turned on the bench, facing her completely, and looked at her determinedly.
She smiled encouragingly. "Yes, Finn?"
"I-I want you to come back to glee," he said bravely, and promptly gulped after the words were out and her smile dissipated. "I—we miss you, all of us. It's not the same without you in there to tell us what we're doing wrong or-or to argue with Mr. Schue. And, plus, we-we really need you." He dropped his gaze briefly, as though ashamed. "We can't win Sectionals without you, and glee will be over if we don't—and I know you don't want that to happen."
Well, this was a twist. Rachel never expected anyone to simply ask her to come back, let alone admit that they had no chance at Sectionals without her—not even Finn. She pushed the shock aside to focus on what he'd said, keeping her gaze trained on the black and white keys before them.
His slip-of-the-tongue was rather telling. The rest of them did not, in fact, miss her—just her talent. It was needed, as he said, to get past Sectionals. She shouldn't care if glee failed now, but she knew deep down she did. It was a refuge for people like her and the other four core members. Outcasts, losers, who were able to come together in a safe place and work as a team, unified as they were unable to be without glee. Rachel did not want to see that end.
However, she couldn't simply come running back to glee because Finn asked her to. He was clearly the only one who truly wanted her back, but she couldn't allow her feelings for him to get in the way. It would've been a different story if it were someone else who had asked…like perhaps Quinn. Yes, if Quinn asked, Rachel wouldn't hesitate, because that would mean she was needed, that someone biased in the exact wrong direction could admit that she was an integral part of the team.
But Quinn wasn't asking (and never would). This was Finn, and if Rachel scurried back to glee at a moment's notice after he asked, it would give the wrong impression. Besides, she had her dedication to the play to think of. Despite her adamant and growing dislike of Mr. Ryerson.
"Rach?" Finn prompted quietly. She met his gaze silently, and he added, "Please. It would mean a lot."
Rachel sighed heavily. Why did everything have to be so complicated? Her emotions were always so strong, and they were all pulling her in different directions. Her pride was yanking her toward the play, her disgust with Mr. Ryerson and her love for glee were pulling her back. And, of course, her feelings for Finn were pushing her both ways.
Finn was still pouting at her, and she knew she had to give him some sort of answer soon. She sighed again.
"I'll think about it."
His face immediately lit up so brightly she couldn't help but smile back, but their moment of happiness was interrupted by the sound of the door opening.
"Don't I know it?" a voice with a strange, almost Southern drawl to it announced as they came in.
Finn sped off the piano bench as though he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and Rachel eyed him for a moment before turning her attention back to a grinning Mr. Schuester and the thin blonde woman who had entered the room. Her cocky swagger put Rachel off almost immediately, but she decided not to pass judgment until she'd properly met the woman.
"Hey, Rachel," Mr. Schuester greeted, still beaming like he'd won a Tony. "April Rhodes, Rachel Berry."
Rachel stood quickly and offered a hesitant smile back to Ms. Rhodes when she saluted her. The brunette thought that handshakes were more customary when meeting someone new, but the woman did seem a bit…eccentric.
"Hey, can you give us the room, Rachel?" Mr. Schuester asked as she started gathering her script. "We need to teach April the cues for 'Don't Stop Believin'.'"
Rachel froze and felt Finn do the same beside her. Huh. Funny how Finn had forgotten to mention some wannabe cowgirl—or should she say cowwoman?—taking her place in his little speech about how much glee club needed her. Guess they didn't so much after all. Unless this woman could really sing, though Rachel still doubted she could do the part as much justice as even Quinn could.
Honestly, it was ridiculous how Mr. Schuester tossed that part around so flippantly.
"Wait, she's singing the female lead?" Finn asked, and Rachel glanced up to find him pouting apologetically at her.
She bristled and directed her gaze to the other two, hoping it would cool her down. Finn probably just had the same doubts about this woman as she was having. He wasn't trying to manipulate her by leaving it out, he was merely downplaying the woman's importance. That was all.
"She's in glee club?" she asked Mr. Schuester, raising a skeptical brow. He nodded blankly. "She's…ancient."
Sometimes Rachel doubted the existence of Mr. Schuester's brain. How could he possibly justify a woman of that age prancing around the stage and singing (possibly romantic) songs with children half her age? Besides, if she could really sing, shouldn't she be on Broadway or recording labels? Not stealing the spotlight from teenagers trying to earn their way.
"Talent don't age, sweetheart," Ms. Rhodes said with a wink.
Rachel's brow furrowed of its own accord. That really wasn't what she meant. Of course talent didn't age. Look at Betty White, or Kristen Chenoweth. Granted, the latter example wasn't that old, but would Mr. Schuester let either of them into the glee club simply because they had talent?
"That's Rachel's part, Mr. Schue," Finn said, just as Rachel shook her head to dismiss Ms. Rhodes and directed her next comment at Mr. Schuester again: "Isn't that Quinn's part?"
Mr. Schuester looked bewildered, and Finn was looking at her with bug eyes, as though he couldn't believe she'd just said that. Rachel sighed and stacked the rest of her binders, gathering them to her chest.
"Never mind. It's none of my business anymore, right?" she asked with a pointed look to Mr. Schuester. He frowned, almost sheepishly. "Just be sure you don't trample on other people's talent because of one person."
With that, Rachel raised a meaningful brow and swept out of the room. There, that should show Mr. Schuester what a hypocrite he was being. In the meantime, she had lines to rehearse.
This was beyond ridiculous. Beyond insanity. Beyond lapse in judgment. There were no words to describe how obscenely awful this was.
Which was exactly why Rachel had to find Ms. Sylvester. Expecting Satan in a tracksuit to fix something so outrageous may have been a bit naïve, but Rachel felt certain she could appeal to the woman's evident disgust with anything and everything outside the norm and mend the damage. Though, frankly, the diva wasn't certain she'd care if it was fixed. She'd probably still want to go back to glee, despite that psychotic Ms. Rhodes and her unhealthy addiction to being a high school star.
Rachel shook her head of that. After that day in the choir room, she'd sworn she wouldn't go back, because it was clear Mr. Schuester didn't want her. Finn continued to plead with her and ask if she'd reached a decision—though no one else had approached her—and she continued to put him off, not wanting to see the look of utter disappointment on his face. Though part of her knew that her reason for waffling on her decision had nothing to do with Finn and everything to do with her desire to go back to glee.
She could handle losing a solo or two now, as long as Mr. Schuester didn't repeatedly yell at her that she sucked. She could even handle his rampant desire to destroy her career over that. She'd had so much trouble sleeping lately because of that awful little man.
Rachel shuddered and braced herself as she peered into Coach Sylvester's office, but it was vacant. The woman was nearly impossible to find, she decided, and turned back to hunt for her in Principal Figgins's office instead. She seemed to go there at least once a week to attempt to make it mandatory for every student to be able to run thirty suicides without passing out in order to pass Physical Education.
She didn't get far before she collided with someone. Whoever it was stumbled, nearly crashing on top of the brunette, but she grabbed their shoulders and held them steady. Once she was sure they had their feet, Rachel looked up and was shocked to find none other than Quinn Fabray.
The diva might've known it was her, simply because they seemed destined to crash into each other at least once every couple weeks, but Rachel was usually the one stumbling. Quinn was the one who stood there like a boulder from Stonehenge, unmoving and unmovable. The brunette took advantage of the blonde's moment of recovery to hastily observe her, just to be sure she wasn't injured.
Nothing appeared to be amiss—no brace on her ankle or knees to suggest an impairment of that sort. Although…Rachel thought she might look paler than usual. The head cheerleader was blinking rapidly and shaking her head, as though trying to regain equilibrium. The brunette suddenly had a horrible feeling in her stomach, like something was very wrong. She frowned deeply.
Quinn rudely broke her out of her trance, shoving her hands off of her shoulders with an expression of disgust.
"Keep your man hands off me," she snarled, but Rachel wasn't deterred—something was wrong here, and she was going to find out what.
"Are you all right?" the brunette asked, voice low.
The blonde pinched the bridge of her nose. "Is it any of your business?" She paused, pursing her lips, but went on when Rachel only gazed at her. "I'm fine, Mother. Thanks for asking." She rolled her eyes.
The diva sighed, reminded of her own irritation at Quinn's tone. "Would you happen to know where Coach Sylvester is? I've been trying to track her down for the better part of the day, but she is startlingly apt at eluding detection."
The cheerleader blinked. "No, I don't know where she is."
Okay, something was definitely wrong with Quinn. She didn't even insult her. Rachel's stomach tightened again and she frowned in concern. The blonde's lips started to curl in a sneer, but before she could shove her into a locker again or something, the diva shifted her expression into one of mild frustration, immediately calming the taller girl.
"If you could please tell her I'm looking for her the next time you see her, that would be much appreciated," Rachel added. She didn't want to push her luck, but this Mr. Ryerson thing needed to be taken care of. "I fear if she doesn't appear soon, the play will ultimately turn into an all-male chorus line wearing loincloths and possibly feather boas."
Again, Quinn blinked at her. Her mouth twitched, but soon it was set back straight.
"Fine, whatever. While I'm at it, I'll see how she feels about ankle monitors so you can stalk her more easily," she retorted, and proceeded to brush past her.
Rachel leapt out of the way, flattening herself to the wall in order to protect her shoulder, but Quinn didn't even glance back. The brunette breathed a sigh of simultaneous relief and concern. On the one hand, it was nice to interact with the cheerleader with only halfhearted attempts at hostility. On the other, something was clearly wrong—the stumbling, the forehead pinching, the extra pale hue to her skin. Not to mention the lack of superior insults.
Rachel set her jaw determinedly and nodded to herself. She would just have to keep a closer eye on Quinn.