A/N: I believe someone asked in a review of one of my stories if it's typical for my updates to be so far apart. Well, they wouldn't be if I didn't have five classes this semester, including a voice class (eek). I would love to update more frequently, but right now I will have to update things whenever I can. Thank you guys for your understanding, and if it makes you feel better, think of my voice class as research. ;)
This chapter totally went in its own direction…I had like nothing to do with it. :P
Quinn fought hard to retrieve her Head Bitch In Charge attitude before she reached the two cheerleaders waiting at the end of the hall. It was the only way she'd be able to defend herself against their onslaught of questions and, well, Santana. She didn't know what it was about Berry that got her so flustered these days, but it wasn't good. It left her too vulnerable.
It seemed to take forever to get to them, and when she did, the Latina folded her arms and promptly arched a questioning brow. Brittany smiled at her. Quinn ignored both responses, shoving between them and marching determinedly toward the locker rooms.
"Well, let's go," she snapped over her shoulder—just for good measure.
Brittany was at her side in an instant, bouncing happily along. Quinn brushed that aside again and waited for the second response, bracing herself for whatever snide comment her 'best friend' was about to make. It didn't take long.
"Oh, no, no, no. You don't get to do that," Santana said sharply, and Quinn had to pull up short when the Latina circled in front of her, blocking her path.
The blonde glanced to Brittany, at her right, but there was no help forthcoming. The other girl just smiled at her and stood there with her typical far-away look. Quinn set her jaw, meeting Santana's gaze with a steely one of her own. The Latina folded her arms, and the blonde responded to that with a cocked hip.
"Do what?" she retorted, pushing that nervous edge out of her voice.
God, what was with her lately? First the pity, now almost nonstop nervousness? It had to have been the stupid pregnancy hormones. She'd never had this many feelings before getting pregnant. One more reason to hate Puck's guts—not that she needed more.
"Don't play stupid," Santana bit back, rolling her eyes. "What are you doing talking to RuPaul?"
The blonde felt her cheeks go hot and her fists clench. Which was ridiculous, since, as she'd reminded herself many times, she could be friends with Berry if she wanted. And she wanted, so Santana would just have to deal with that. She steeled herself.
"None of your damn business."
Quinn went to the left—since Brittany was still blocking her right—but Santana cut her off. She huffed.
"What?" she hissed.
"What are you, my mother?" Actually, it probably would've been more appropriate if she'd said 'father.' Santana did share his gruff nature—she decided to keep this observation to herself. "I don't have to explain myself to you. I can do whatever I want. Now get out of my way."
The Latina opened her mouth to protest, and Quinn took advantage. She bowled into her shoulder, taking her by surprise, and hurried down the hall, hoping that if she went fast enough, she'd get to the field first and practice and Coach Sylvester would drive thoughts of Berry from her friends's minds.
"Jesus Christ, don't tell me you were actually talking to it," Santana exclaimed suddenly.
Quinn froze, fists clenching and unclenching. Her palms felt kind of sweaty.
"I told you I didn't see a slushie," Brittany commented brightly.
"Yeah, but I at least thought you were insulting it or something," she replied incredulously.
Quinn's nails dug into her palms and she turned on her heel. Embarrassment was gone—replaced by something warm and familiar. Something she could actually deal with, thank God. She narrowed her eyes on Santana, who responded to the anger emanating off her best friend with a raised chin.
"First of all, she is not an it," Quinn growled. Santana's eyes went wide. "Second—"
The Latina's nose wrinkled. "Oh, my God. You like Man Hands."
The blonde's stomach twisted, but she didn't let her anxiety show. She could not, however, stop her cheeks from warming—she hadn't exactly thought about the fact that to want to be friends with Berry, she'd have to like her. She sniffed superiorly to make up for the oversight.
"And?" she prompted, affecting a bored tone.
Santana shook her head, snorting her disgust. "Besides the obvious? You're already about to pop right out of that uniform. Why the hell would you want to help your downward mobility by befriending the Troll Queen?"
Quinn closed her eyes and focused on the sensation of her nails digging into the tender flesh of her palms, willing herself not to do what she was aching to: beat the shit out of Santana. Even Finn's stupid baby name hadn't made her this angry, but Quinn was too busy talking herself down to worry about that. She's your best friend, Brittany is standing right here, she's your best friend, you don't need a suspension on top of everything else, she's your best friend.
When her eyes snapped open, Santana was looking at her like she'd grown an extra head. Brittany smiled at her, which helped calm the waves of aggravation. Quinn took a deep, cleansing breath.
"I can do whatever the hell I want, Santana," she repeated—firmer this time. "And I don't have to explain myself to you, or anyone else, for that matter." She tightened her jaw. "And stop calling her names."
"Never used to bother you," she retorted, but her voice was quieter than before—dangerously so.
"Well, it bothers me today, so knock it off," she barked right back. "And hurry up. We're late."
Quinn was going to pay for this later. Santana didn't take well to being ordered around, and though she hadn't said anything yet, the blonde could see the anger swirling in her eyes. Her jaw clenched, like she was holding back a biting remark, and Brittany stepped closer to her, as though trying to soothe her. Quinn sighed as she whirled on her heel and stormed down the hallway.
Yep, she was definitely going to pay.
"So what were you and Quinn talking about?"
It was an inevitable question. Kurt and Mercedes were incurably curious. Pathologically nosy, as it were. And the fact that it had been Quinn at Rachel's locker and not, say, Artie or Tina—or even Finn or Noah—made the mystery all that more attractive. Like moths to the flame, in a sense.
Rachel shook her head of her musings, meeting the impatient gazes across the table. Kurt had even abandoned his moisturizer for the time being. She might've felt honored if his interest hadn't had everything to do with Quinn—much like every other boys's interest in her.
"I'm not quite certain, to be perfectly honest," she said at last, thinking back over the rather disjointed words the blonde had been sputtering at her.
Quinn Fabray—stuttering. That was a new one. Really, did she find it that distasteful to have to compliment Rachel in order to achieve whatever goal Coach Sylvester had set for her? The obvious answer was, of course, yes. And why Rachel would ever think differently lead her to the disturbing thought that she may, in fact, be losing her mind.
"You don't know?" Mercedes prompted, lips quirked with amusement.
Rachel shook her head minutely, lazily raking her fork through her salad.
"Okay, walk us through it, hon," Kurt said then, leaning forward interestedly. "What did she say?"
The brunette reviewed their brief interaction once more. She'd been putting her books away and readying her History notes for when she returned, and then Quinn had said hello. Rachel had been pleasantly surprised with the greeting yet again, but that was quickly dashed when she saw that the blonde had her hands behind her back—again. This usually meant one thing: slushie. So she'd tried to take off, and then….
"Well, she said hello, and after I returned the greeting and made to leave, she called me back. When I inquired as to what she wanted, she started…talking about my hair…or something," Rachel said slowly, frowning her disbelief even as she repeated it.
The two exchanged a glance, and then Kurt raked his eyes over her—not leeringly, she knew, but in examination.
"Well, it does look a little frizzy today. Did you change condit—"
"Not insulting it," Rachel said severely. She rolled her eyes. "She was complimenting me."
Two jaws thudded to the floor. Rachel smiled sympathetically. That had been her initial reaction as well. Granted, she had had slightly more control over her facial expression, and she'd moved on to the next logical step far quicker than they had. But that was to be expected, she supposed, since neither Kurt nor Mercedes had had the years of training in acting as she had.
Once the two recovered, they exchanged yet another of those mysteriously brief glances that seemed to communicate so much. Rachel brushed by-now familiar longing aside, instead focusing on Kurt's now-skeptical expression.
"What do you mean 'complimenting'?" he asked, even quote-marking in the air with his fingers.
"I mean complimenting," she replied flatly. "She said something or other about how it's lovely and appreciating the color and waviness. I think. She was stuttering quite a bit, so it was difficult to understand." She shook her head again. "It doesn't mat—"
"Quinn was stuttering?" Mercedes gasped, eyes bugging.
"Hard to believe, I know, but it's true," she said plainly. She shrugged her shoulders. "As I was saying, it doesn't really matter what she said, since it was likely a ploy to butter me up in order to force me to unknowingly participate in a cruel prank of some sort."
Rachel didn't mention her other suspicion, the one that bothered her the most. She didn't want to believe that Quinn would knowingly destroy glee club from the inside out, but why wouldn't she? With the remnants of her old life slipping through her fingers, she was likely ready to do anything to clutch onto the last shreds of it—which meant that the Cheerios and, therefore, anything Coach Sylvester wanted was her top priority right now. The rumors were just confirmations of that suspicion.
And even though she didn't like it—and refused to allow the head cheerleader to sucker her into inadvertently aiding in whatever endeavor Ms. Sylvester had set her on—Rachel felt she mostly understood it. Control was very important to her, as well, and she couldn't imagine herself taking the loss of it well. In fact, she would probably have handled it with even less grace and poise than Quinn had.
In any case, Rachel wouldn't tell her fellow glee club members and risk turning them on Quinn. They were already being less-than-supportive about her pregnancy—Brittany's comment from last week was still irritating the brunette, for some reason—and she didn't want to encourage that behavior. When Quinn fell, it was going to be hard, and Rachel was going to make sure glee club was there to catch her. Until then, she would have to do whatever it took to forestall the fall.
Rachel grimaced and tore her eyes away from the leering little rat a few tables away. Disgusting creature. At first, the brunette couldn't understand why she cared enough to do what she'd done. It wasn't as though she owed Quinn anything. But then she realized—Quinn was part of the team now, and Rachel would do whatever it took to take care of her team. Although, she had to admit, if it had been Santana? She probably wouldn't have given the underwear away.
The brunette shook her head to clear her thoughts and her vision when she realized that Mercedes and Kurt were speaking to her.
"…pretty uncharacteristic. So maybe she was being honest," Mercedes was saying, though there was a dubious frown tilting her lips downward.
"Complimenting Rachel is also uncharacteristic," Kurt countered.
"So you think she's plotting, too?" she replied, and the doubtfulness didn't leave her expression.
"No, I'm undecided," he proclaimed thoughtfully. "I think we need to do a little…investigating."
Rachel sighed when Mercedes perked up and Kurt's smile spread into a Grinch-like grin.
"Please don't," she interjected. "I already plan on speaking to her at rehearsal later, and besides, Quinn already has enough on her shoulders without your meddling."
The grin lessened in size, but the mischievous glint didn't leave his eye. Mercedes, at least, looked chastised.
"We won't be meddling. We'll just be…probing," Kurt said, beaming at his word choice.
There was no stopping a bloodhound on the scent—Rachel knew this for a fact—but she could delay him. Or at least promise to provide enough information to placate him.
"I'm talking to Quinn at rehearsal to find out what she wanted," she repeated firmly. "If I report her answer to you, will you promise to leave it alone?"
He considered her. "That depends."
"On?" she prodded impatiently.
"Her answer. If it prompts more questions, I reserve the right to probe," he replied.
Mercedes glanced at her, looking transfixed by the debate. Rachel sighed.
"You're to ask me whatever questions it prompts first, and if I can successfully answer them, you'll stop."
"Only if your answers are satisfactory."
They exchanged triumphant smirks, each winning a battle in their own small way, and returned to the business of lunch.
Quinn was exhausted. Her arms hurt, her legs hurt, her feet and hands hurt. Her head hurt. But that was mostly because Santana 'borrowed' a football from the team during practice and threw it at her head. The blonde knew she should be grateful that that was the extent of the payback she'd received, since Santana knew enough damaging information about her to ruin her, but at the moment all she was feeling was miserable.
And the last thing Quinn wanted to do was go to glee and watch Berry and Finn sing at each other for an hour. She might just combust from her combined irritation with Finn's presence, envy of the easy smile he received from Berry, the need to keep him away from her, and her ever growing confusion when it came to the midget diva.
Quinn couldn't even remember why she'd gotten so angry with Santana earlier. She'd called Berry an 'it' a time or two herself—and dubbed her much worse than 'Troll Queen.' So what was her problem? Besides being completely embarrassed by this unanticipated, unshakeable need she suddenly had to be Berry's friend. And besides being so on edge with irritation the past few weeks that she could've exploded.
Exploding at Santana hadn't done her any good. Quinn was still aggravated—especially at the prospect of glee this afternoon—and now she had a pissed off best friend and a headache to boot. Santana eased up after she'd gotten her payback, but the blonde still saw the questioning looks and icy glares she shot her out of the corner of her eye. She wasn't going to let go of this Berry thing too quickly.
Quinn sighed. She really didn't have time to worry about that. And at least Brittany was taking it…well, how Brittany took everything. At least she could count on someone to be consistent.
She rubbed the quickly-forming lump on the side of her head and hissed in pain. At least her hair would cover it. And at least she hadn't been knocked unconscious—she would've hated to have to explain to Coach Sylvester on the drive to the hospital exactly why she needed to see her OBGYN. She was saying 'at least' a lot these days….
"Are you okay?"
The voice was so quiet, gentle, and concerned that Quinn didn't immediately recognize it as Berry's. In fact, she had to stare at the Mary Janes in front of her for a moment, and then it was a matter of dragging her gaze up the petite body in front of her and finding pouting, plump lips, a furrowed brow, and worried brown eyes. The blonde stared for a moment.
This wasn't actually in her step-by-step plan of getting to be Berry's friend...why had she come to her? Was it time for glee already? Fabray…you may have a concussion. This is a good thing. Smile!
Quinn was used to taking commands, so even the one she'd given herself worked, and she was quickly giving Berry a rusty smile. The girl looked completely taken aback, but the blonde caught the corners of her mouth perk up—as if she wanted to smile back, but wasn't sure if she should. Okay. Now talk. God, you're pathetic.
"I-I'm fine." Stop stuttering. "Santana just has…good aim."
She winced and rubbed her head again. Berry winced with her, one hand unclenching the books she had to her chest, but she placed it back where it was moments afterward. Quinn struggled with the silence—she knew she should talk, try to start a conversation, but what was she supposed to say? She'd never talked to Berry before…. Maybe she could compliment her again. Right. Cause that worked out so well last time.
"Okay. Well, I…guess I'll see you in glee, then," Berry said, and before Quinn could say a word, the brunette had dipped her head and darted down the hallway.
Was that progress or not?