A/N: Okay, so the whole sufficient interest thing got fulfilled. :P Hope you like, and sorry for the delayed updates.
Quinn was sick of it. No, nothing in specific, really. Just it. Everything. Life.
She was sick of coming home to two parents already halfway to passed out drunk on the couch in the living room. Sick of being lectured by those same parents about the Christian way to live; as though they knew anything about it, the lushes. Sick of watching her mother swallow her pride in order to please her father.
She was sick of going to school only to get her head yelled off for the smallest of things by a woman who was convinced Quinn was some miniature version of her and therefore should be perfect at all times. Sick of taking care of Finn because he couldn't do the job himself. Sick of watching that very same boy of hers prancing around making mooneyes at a midget.
But most of all, she was sick of what one little mistake had done to her life. The one growing inside her had changed everything for her. And she meant everything. Because all of the above she had been dealing with for years without a problem. Suddenly Noah Puckerman comes along in all his smooth talking, alcohol carrying glory and everything is changed. Her perspective is flipped, and she's sick of everything.
Which was okay, as long as she had routine and control. She could loathe every second of her life and it would be all right, as long as she was expecting it. Again, Baby Pucker—ew, she couldn't even say that. Baby Hudson…but not really. Baby Fabray had to mix everything up.
At home, she was constantly paranoid that her parents would discover her, um, situation. She'd moved the ultrasound picture at least five times in the last two days, always convinced that the next hiding place was far superior to the last. She'd also gotten a ticket for speeding the other day, trying to make it home to get the mail before her mother. She never knew when the next doctor's bill would come, so she had to make a point of getting home first. She'd just been lucky there was no bill the day the cop pulled her over.
To make things even better, her father was now extremely suspicious of her relationship with Finn, because every time she had to go to the doctor (which was a lot), she excused herself by saying she was going on a date with her boyfriend. Quinn couldn't even use Santana or Brittany as an excuse because, ever since they found out she was pregnant, they'd been avoiding her like they thought they could catch it or something. Brittany probably did think that, actually.
Coach Sylvester had practically taken over her position as head cheerleader because her leg wiggled once last week. Because it just wasn't enough that she already controlled every other facet of Quinn's life. Every second that wasn't taken up for school was spent on some Cheerios duty, and she used to sincerely enjoy it. Now it was just an added, unnecessary stress that she did not need on top of being pregnant.
So, bearing all this in mind, it wasn't that big of a surprise when Quinn blew up at Mr. Schuester for refusing to let her sing a part just because it was written for a guy. She was stressed, she was angry, and she was absolutely sick of everyone else trying to control her life and tell her what she had to do. Be a good girl, go to school, get good grades, do whatever it takes to get to the top, don't drink and drive, tease but don't please, smoking kills—ad nauseum. And it made her want to scream.
So she kind of did.
"Quinn, I believe the proper pop culture reference in this situation is 'I've got a bad feeling about this.'"
And signed herself up for an entire evening of Man Hands. On second thought, what had she been thinking blowing up at Schuester like that? She didn't want to sing with IT! She was obnoxious and bossy and…small. Very small. She was like a boyfriend-stealing pixie.
No. This is just another obstacle. You are taking control. No one else. Quinn nodded absently to herself, releasing the midget's wrist in lieu of unlacing her tennis shoes. Because God forbid she walked on her mother's off-white carpet in her dirty, dirty (pristine white under the watchful eye of Sue Sylvester) cheer shoes.
Off-white was a horrible choice, in Quinn's personal opinion, particularly with how much her parents drank and subsequently spilled. She felt bad for their maid, who was usually the one left to clean up the mess to impress her father's next dinner party for colleagues or church members.
"I don't think this is a good idea," Berry was saying, hugging her arms around herself and looking anxiously around what the cheerleader liked to think of as the 'show living room.'
The ceiling was vaulted and it was furnished with white furniture (a couch, a loveseat, and her dad's armchair) and oak tables with glass tops (a coffee/scotch table, two end tables holding lamps at each end of the couch, one end table by the armchair with a bible placed strategically at the edge, the ribbon holding the page hanging off the end) that were cleaned to an obnoxious sheen, and several family photos littered the room. Every single photo held all four Fabrays, a fake but dazzling smile plastered to each and every face, not a one of them in casual clothing.
Quinn wanted to cringe at the sight, because it was all so formal and fake, just like the rest of her family life. It was almost embarrassing to have Berry see it. But then, having Rachel Berry at her house in general was basically the definition of mortifying. What had she been thinking, again?
Oh, right, control.
At least the Yeti looked just as uncomfortable as Quinn felt every time she entered this room. It felt like a museum, and not a lot of people picked up on that. Berry, however, looked like she wanted to whisper every single syllable, and the way she was hugging herself was very telling.
"Quinn? This isn't a good idea," Berry said again, at last focusing her gaze solely on the cheerleader, who rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, I heard you the first million times you said it," she retorted sharply. "But I don't recall asking for your opinion, so shoes off, Yentl."
At first, she thought the dwarf might actually obey. She hesitated, glancing down at those awful Mary Janes she was always sporting, but then she steeled herself. Her spine stiffened, raising her to her full height (which wasn't much, but still), and smacked her heels together. Her brown eyes narrowed and flashed with anger, and Quinn tried not to let herself feel that strange thing she had when they argued before and Berry's eyes did that. But it was there again, tugging at her, and she folded her arms defensively, swallowing down the weird sensation.
"As you yourself pointed out, Quinn, this song is a duet which means two people partake in it," she said thinly, raising her chin in that irritatingly defiant way. "If you expect me to do my part, I suggest you present a better case for why I should even consider working with someone who regards me with such disrespect, rather than simply expecting me to leap to do your bidding like one of your flunkies. If you can't do that, then I'll be on my way."
Quinn tried not to let her jaw drop. She wasn't used to people standing up to her that way. One of the many things that irked her about the little twerp—she wasn't afraid to in the least. But damn, the midget had a point. But this wouldn't be that hard. Berry was desperate; she would leap at any opportunity to showcase her talent (at least it was big enough to go with her head), even if it meant working with someone who loathed her very existence.
"You want to do the song, right?" she said, not belying her inner uncertainty. "I'm giving you a way. Take it."
"Not good enough," Berry said simply, and turned on her heel.
Quinn panicked. Of all the obstacles she'd considered, the dwarf not agreeing to it was not one of them. Now she had to convince her to sing with her? Had she stepped into an alternate universe? Any other time, the roles would absolutely be reversed. Now the head cheerleader had to basically beg the biggest freak in school to agree to sing with her? Had her pregnancy really made her so undesirable that even the Slushie Queen wouldn't spend an evening with her? This was humiliating.
Nonetheless, she snatched the hobbit's elbow and wheeled her around—still keeping her shoe-covered feet safely on the tiles for the time being.
"All right, fine. Tell me why this isn't a good idea, and I'll…argue my case," she grumbled begrudgingly.
Berry practically glowed with triumph and Quinn fought the urge to grab the nearest lamp and throw it at her. After all, if she was unconscious, she couldn't sing. Besides, she hated to think of the fit her parents would have. And she really didn't want to make the maid clean up more than she had to in this house.
"Well, setting aside the logistics for now, as Mr. Schuester was trying to tell you, this is a tremendously romantic song which you would be singing with me, a girl—whether you would like to acknowledge that I am or not. Even forgetting that this is a number that may be used at Sectionals where there would be hundreds of people to watch us, we would be performing it in front of our fellow glee club members, who aren't particularly good at keeping their mouths closed," she replied pointedly, raising her eyebrows at the end.
Quinn blinked. "What's your point?"
The midget heaved a dramatic sigh and tossed her hair, which was not eye-catching in the least.
"If we sing this, people are going to think we're gay," she explained, as if to a two-year-old, before picking up the pace when she continued, "which I personally have no problem with, but I know for a fact that you would, considering your religion's stance on my parentage."
I don't care that your dads are gay. It was on the tip of her tongue. Quinn had to bite it in order to keep it from coming out, because if it did, Man Hands might think she like…liked her a little more than she actually did. Which was not at all. She detested the girl, not her parents.
It was her father who had the problem with gay people, actually. Quinn was of the mindset that if she didn't have to see it, it was fine with her (Brittany and Santana did not understand this rule of hers at all). Which went for straight people as well, actually. The couples at school who deemed it necessary to participate in foreplay in the middle of the cafeteria had always disgusted her. It was never more tempting to slushie someone than it was at those moments.
She shrugged lightly. "A little rumor that'll be squashed under the heel of my big whale stomach as soon as it appears."
Berry was momentarily silenced by her surprise, but recovered in record time. Quinn was mildly impressed, but the feeling went away as soon as the dwarf opened her mouth and started squawking again. Then the irritation was back.
"Regardless, you'll still be singing the song with me," Stubbles emphasized, placing her hands on her hips as though to showcase her point. "You've made no secret of the fact that you absolutely loathe me, which directly contradicts the message of this song. You will have to set aside your deep-seated disgust with my very existence and convince a roomful of people who know the truth that you are hopelessly, head-over-heels in love with and can't imagine your life without me." She paused. Probably for purposes of dramatics, Quinn thought. "Do you think you can pull that off?"
"Can you?" she shot back, a sneer tugging at her lips.
To her surprise, Berry wasn't fazed. She simply raised her chin and said, quietly, "I've already told you I don't hate you, Quinn."
This did not make Quinn feel warm in the middle of her chest at all. She was not about to smile, and if it looked like she was, it was because baby hormones were making her crazy.
She scoffed. "Whatever. Aren't you the one who's always going on about 'living truthfully in the moment' when you sing a song? It's not like I really have to like you, I just—"
"You were listening?" Berry inquired suddenly, sounding like a five-year-old girl who had just been told that Santa Claus was coming early this year.
Or…wasn't Berry Jewish? Okay, like the Jewish Santa was bringing her a menorah. Quinn shook her head and tried not to blush, both at her thoughts and at Treasure Trail's question. Baby hormones, ugh.
"Whatever. I'm sure Finn has everything you've ever said memorized," she growled, rolling her eyes.
The brightness of Berry's eyes faded and that little smile that had been threatening to burst into the hundred megawatt Rachel Berry beam dove back into hiding, leaving a solemn frown on her pouting pink lips.
"Actually, no," she replied softly. "In fact, he doesn't seem to listen very much at all when I talk."
That was a dumb thing to tell Quinn. It was something she could use to her advantage in so many ways. She could slap a vicious insult her way this very instant and crush her. But instead she found herself softening, even if it was only the tiniest bit. Only because she sympathized, of course.
"Yeah, to me, either. I think it's a high school boy thing," she mumbled halfheartedly, and Berry's eyes got so bright she wished she were wearing sunglasses. "What else?" she barked, hoping to regain her superior ground and get that warming smile off her.
"Wha—oh!" Berry cleared her throat, ducking her head for a few brief moments as she gathered herself. "I'd hoped I wouldn't have to bring this up, but there is the very important factor that we simply don't have chemistry. I can't—"
Quinn was suddenly livid. She rounded on the midget, eyes ablaze and growl already present in her throat.
"What?" she snapped. "You think we don't have chemistry?"
Brown eyes had gone wide, and the blonde was almost proud to see her leaning back a little in trepidation. A few consonants tripped out of her plump lips before she managed to get out, "You do?"
She rolled her eyes, throwing up her hands. "Well, yeah! We argue all the time!"
This time it was Berry rolling her eyes, and Quinn blinked in surprise at that before the midget folded her arms and began calmly, "Okay, first of all, defending oneself from relentless daily attacks hardly counts as arguing."
The blonde rolled her eyes and folded her arms again, pursing her lips when the brunette scowled at her with a look that said, 'Are you done?'.
"Second, regardless of what Hollywood would have us believe, the chemistry of true love does not sprout from constant bickering. Two people who truly love one another do not spend all their time aggravating each other for no good reason." She paused, then rolled her eyes. "Unless they're a five-year-old boy. Banter is one thing; that actually does create the perfect blend of playfulness and sexual tension. Arguing is entirely different; it implies a conflict with the other person, a desire to change them, and it does not make chemistry, it makes hatred."
Berry took a deep breath, holding up a hand to indicate she had more to say, and Quinn tapped her foot impatiently while the diva gathered her thoughts for what felt like the hundredth time today. They were wasting precious time that could've been spent rehearsing, after all, because whether Berry liked it or not, they did have chemistry.
She was startled from her thoughts when Berry pinned her with her intense chocolate gaze and said, "Third, even if we did have the smallest shred of chemistry, it isn't what works for this song. This song isn't about clashing personalities or the social hierarchy, Quinn. It's about passion of the deepest, most powerful kind. It's about an electric, overwhelming love that sweeps you off your feet, makes you weak at the knees, and steals your breath away. A connection to another person that is so deep you can feel your hearts beat together, your souls touch, and every breath you take is for that person. You live for them, you'd die for them—do anything for them if it meant that they would be happy, because that's all that matters in your world."
Rachel Berry was a dramatic person. Quinn knew this, witnessed it a hundred times, and yet somehow she wasn't prepared for this. That tugging sensation that had made itself known a couple times already was now tightening something low in her abdomen and sending electric tingles shooting up and down her arms, leaving goose bumps in their wake. Her throat had dried, making words impossible, and she couldn't tear her eyes away from the brown inferno in front of her for anything. She was fairly certain a bomb could've gone off and she wouldn't have been able to rip her gaze off of those hypnotizing eyes.
The shorter girl took another breath at long last and said, "I honestly don't believe we have the chemistry to make the audience feel that."
Finally! Words were possible again. Quinn scoffed and sneered at the same time and said, proud of herself, "And you and Finn do?"
She was expecting Rachel to immediately leap to the defense of her relationship with Finn and claim they had some deep connection that Quinn could never understand or something ridiculous like that. She did not expect the midget to hesitate and avoid her eyes, and after the blonde recovered from the shock of that reaction, she smirked, because she could use this.
"Take your shoes off," she ordered, gesturing to the mat on which she had set her tennis shoes earlier.
Berry's eyes shot to hers and her brow furrowed. "But we haven't—"
"I know. I'd just like to show you something," Quinn said persuasively, smiling a little to milk the charm factor.
The diva blushed. Blushed. She was doing all kinds of unexpected things tonight. She also did not look cute when she blushed.
Berry carefully toed off her shoes next to Quinn's, and the cheerleader instantaneously snatched her wrist and dragged her through the living room. No, it wasn't really necessary to do this, but she rather liked steering the normally domineering little midget around. Besides, she'd probably want to look around and they simply didn't have time for that.
"Don't touch anything," she snapped over her shoulder.
There was no need to tell Berry that she only said this because her mother would literally have a hairy conniption if she found out there were fingerprints on her things, and not because she didn't want Man Hands's germs infecting her house. Quinn sometimes pondered introducing her mom to Ms. Pillsbury. She usually ended up deciding that that much germaphobia in one room might be one of the signs of the apocalypse, and she didn't want to be responsible for that.
She tugged the brunette up the stairs and whipped the door to her bedroom open, feeling a breath of relief escape her, as it always did when she arrived in her only refuge in this house. She released Berry's wrist and tossed her backpack to the end of her bed, marching determinedly to her laptop and whipping it open. Her fingernails drummed the oak of her desk as she waited for it to load, and then she opened Firefox, navigating to YouTube. It would have to do for now, because she needed to get Berry good and convinced and soon.
While the karaoke version loaded, Quinn turned on her heel and faced the diva, who was clutching the straps of her backpack while she scanned the room with interest, gaze lingering on the montage of photos cluttering a corkboard. She could only assume the midget was looking at the pictures of the blonde and Finn, because she looked away hurriedly when she was finished, a guilty frown on her face.
"Do you have your music?" she asked harshly, and Berry jumped before nodding. "Get it out."
She swung her backpack off her shoulder and set it gently next to her feet as she fished out a rainbow binder—Quinn rolled her eyes—and whipped out a copy of the sheet music. The blonde snatched it from her—she knew the girl had this memorized by now—and stepped over to her laptop, clearing her throat a couple times in preparation before she clicked play. The music started up and she stepped back to Berry, standing across from her with an expectant scowl.
Brown eyes went wide. "But I haven't warmed up proper—"
"This isn't a performance, Stubbles. Just belt it," she growled, rolling her eyes.
Berry promptly huffed and clenched her jaw angrily, tossing her hair in that very non-eye-catching way, but she sang her opening lines. With absolutely no intonation, just flat singing. Quinn practically fumed at her, but she held back, because the song was coming around to her part and she was going to prove to that little twit that they had chemistry, once and for all.
When she finished singing, the dwarf folded her arms and raised an almost challenging brow at the blonde, who took it to fuel herself and started cooing her lines. But instead of looking at the music, she met Berry's eyes dead on, singing just to her and isolating them from everything else in the room. She put as much of that anger into the words as she could, but transformed it into intensity, and when her part was finished, she raised a challenging brow right back at the now contemplative-looking brunette.
Berry proceeded to belt her next lines, emotion reentering her voice and captivating the cheerleader across from her. The air seemed to turn electric, and Quinn felt her feet dragging her closer to the brunette as they sang to one another, wrapped up in burning chocolate eyes and an angel's voice. Their voices joined together and that electricity seemed to take on a life of its own, crackling between them and energizing their voices as they rose together, and by the time they finished the first chorus, they had almost eclipsed the distance between them and the sheet music was completely forgotten. They'd narrowed their focus down to each other, and it was working splendidly, how completely lost in each other's eyes they were.
Which was why Quinn was startled when Rachel waved her hands, gesturing for her to stop the music. She started and then hurried to her laptop, pausing the track before turning back with a questioning frown.
"That was good, but you're too angry," the diva coached authoritatively, putting a smirk on the head cheerleader's face. "Keep the intensity, but remember what I said. This isn't a battle; this is desperation. Love, not hate."
Quinn nodded sharply. "Fine."
"And we need to do something about the music," she pondered, stroking her chin thoughtfully.
A blonde eyebrow popped up. "Why?"
"Because, like Mr. Schuester said, the part is written for a male. You don't have the range to—"
"Would you stop insulting my voice?" she snarled, smacking the sheet music onto her desk. "What is with you and your backhanded compliments? So I go sharp sometimes, do you really have to point it out every damn time?"
Berry waited the tantrum out patiently, watching the fuming blonde before she spoke again, calmly, as though her words hadn't fazed her in the least.
"It's not an insult to state a fact, Quinn. Women and men have different vocal ranges. My pointing this out to you has nothing to do with my opinion of your voice versus Finn's, or any other man's, for that matter. This is why we use different words to describe men and women's voices. A tenor will never be the same as a soprano, nor will a baritone be the same as an alto." She paused, to gauge her reaction, she supposed, and when she only frowned sheepishly, Berry went on, "So, we need to change the key and the notes to fit your voice. Which brings us back to the logistics of this entire situation."
The brunette rubbed her forehead and Quinn's triumphant smirk flipped to a suspicious scowl. She didn't like the sounds of that.
"What do you mean?" she asked hesitantly, and Berry glanced up at her as she strode across the room, toward the chaise in the corner.
Quinn's stomach jumped into her throat.
"I mean that we have approximately—"
"Don't sit there!" Quinn yelped desperately, and the diva shot straight to her feet in alarm.
The blonde froze. She couldn't tell the truth, but she also couldn't bring herself to be downright vicious. Not after Berry sort of just agreed to work with her on this song. She deserved some kind of reward for doing what she wanted, right? She gulped, caught between a rock and a hard place. She hated that her reaction to this was to freeze like some scared rabbit in the middle of the road.
Now that the brunette had calmed down, her eyebrows were knit in confusion, and she kept glancing between the chaise and Quinn.
"Why not?" she asked curiously, cautiously.
Truth or maliciousness? "Because I don't want your germs on my stuff." Of course.
Berry's eyes went cold and her jaw tight, and Quinn was, for the briefest of moments, apprehensive of what she might do, or say. The spine went stiff and, without further ado, the diva marched to her backpack, zipped it back up around the rainbow binder she'd stuffed back in, and walked out the door while she slung it over her shoulder.
Quinn did what she did the last time the midget threatened to leave. She panicked, and took off after her.
"Berry, wait!" she called, tone layered with regret and uncertainty. She didn't bother covering it up.
"No," was the only response she received.
"Would you at least let me apologize?" she growled, and that caught the singer's attention.
She'd just hit the landing and there she stopped, turning sharply on her heel and narrowing her eyes up at Quinn, who stopped where she was about halfway.
"By 'apologize'—" and she even used air quotes "—do you by any chance mean the following: slushie, throw in dumpster, push down stairs, further ins—"
She flinched almost every other word before she groaned her frustration and blurted, "I'm sorry, okay? I am. I just…you just can't sit there. You can touch anything else in my room, sit anywhere you want. Just not there. I just can't let you." Sit where I got pregnant.
Berry was still frowning. "Apology accepted," she said shortly, and then turned around again.
"Wait, so that's what I get? I apologize for treating you like shit and you're still leaving?" Quinn barked. "Screw that."
The diva arched a brow at her. "Do I have any reason to stay? Yes, you proved we have…amazing chemistry. But I can't work with you. Not if you're going to continually insult me and not when you're this angry."
"Fine. I won't insult you and I'll calm down, okay?" she snapped, and Berry choked out a laugh.
"You're definitely inspiring confidence here, Quinn." She smirked, then shook her head. "Why are you so angry?"
She rolled her eyes. "Have you seen my life lately? It's not exactly the poster for happiness."
Rachel softened visibly, and Quinn tried not to let the concern swirling in brown eyes get to her. The brunette stepped closer, placing a brave hand on the banister and peering up at the blonde with sympathy written all over her very not pretty face. Not pity. Pure sympathy. She tried not to let it get to her.
"This much stress isn't good for you or the baby," she said gently, just loud enough for Quinn to hear.
She nodded her acknowledgement, refusing to meet her eyes. "I know."
The shorter girl took a deep breath. "Why don't you let me help you? There's this energy treatment my dads used to practice—I don't remember the name—but it's supposed to cleanse your aura or something like that."
Quinn scoffed. "I don't believe in that stuff."
She lifted a shoulder in a halfhearted shrug. "Doesn't matter. It's still relaxing, or at least I found it to be. And anything is worth a try if it might help, right?"
The blonde eyed her warily. "Why do you care so much?" The singer opened her mouth to reply, but she cut her off with a growled, "This isn't another ridiculous attempt at getting into Finn's good graces, is it?"
Rachel didn't look at all surprised. She simply smiled softly and said plainly, "No. This is for you."
That didn't make Quinn feel warm in the middle of her chest, either. And that smile that was supposedly about to lift her lips? Twitch. She had a nervous tic. Nothing to be worried about.
"Fine," she grumbled, and Berry finally made her way back up the stairs, following along behind Quinn back into the bedroom.
The diva pulled out Quinn's computer chair after setting her backpack on the bed next to the blonde's, apparently taking her earlier words to heart, and gestured for the cheerleader to sit down. She grumbled to herself the entire time, of course, but she obeyed, sitting back and waiting for this stupid energy therapy thing to start. She was expecting some kind of chant or something while Berry 'cleansed' the air around her—something stupid that wouldn't make her feel any better.
So she was kind of startled when Rachel stepped around directly in front of her and reached to touch her face. It showed, since she jolted backward in her chair and stared wide-eyed at the other girl.
"What are you doing?" she asked, almost grimacing when she heard her voice waver.
The brunette smiled, her amusement obvious. "Relax. I'm not coming onto you or anything; this is just how it's done."
"Oh." Why did she sound disappointed? She wasn't, after all.
This time when the singer reached to place her hands on Quinn's cheeks, she didn't move, and instead blinked in surprise at how soft the hands she'd made fun of so many times were. She was swiping her thumbs firmly across the blonde's cheekbones, massaging the muscles there, while the cheerleader examined her. She was a little uncomfortable with the lack of eye contact—Rachel had her eyes focused intently on what she was doing.
She guessed it must have showed, because the brunette said quietly, "You can close your eyes if you like."
She fought the urge to nod, not wanting a thumb in the eye, and instead just mumbled, "okay," while letting her eyelids slide shut. It magnified the feeling of the singer's touch, and she was surprised to find it felt…good. Her hands were so soft and gentle, but at the same time, they did their job rubbing the tension out of her muscles, and she lost track of where the soothing touch was going. She knew there was a pattern, but she couldn't follow it when she was relishing in the feeling of her muscles releasing for the first time in so long.
Rachel's body heat was creating such a warm blanket for her to relax in, too, she thought, and she felt herself slide down in the chair a little, bumping into the other girl's thighs with her knees. She thought she heard a muffled giggle come from the brunette, but couldn't really bring herself to reprimand her when she was rubbing out the serious knot that had formed in her jaw.
"So, can I ask you something?" the singer asked eventually, and her voice was so quiet…pleasant.
Quinn shrugged. "Sure."
"Why did you want to sing this song with me so badly?"
"Because Mr. Schuester didn't want me to," she said, and she was mildly surprised at how quickly the truth came tumbling out of her mouth. It was definitely the state of utter relaxation Rachel's hands and warmth had put her in. "And I'm sick of everyone telling me what to do. My life is out of my control enough. I just wanted to do something because I wanted to."
"Makes sense," Rachel said understandingly, and her hands had moved to rub out the tension in the crown of her head, which sincerely needed it with how tight that ponytail had to be.
"Why do you like Finn?" she asked, and wondered distantly why her voice sounded so small.
"Same reasons as you, I suppose," she replied nonchalantly. "He's honest, loyal, popular. Cute. But I probably wouldn't have been nearly as…enthusiastic about him had he been a poor singer, or if we'd had less chemistry."
Quinn felt a smirk curve her lips upward. "So does this mean you're going to crush on me now?"
Rachel laughed, and the tingling and tightening was back at hearing the musical sound from her pink lips.
"Well, while we do have magnificent chemistry and you are popular and beautiful—" Quinn's breath hitched, but the brunette appeared not to notice "—there's a rather large difference between you and Finn that's hard to overlook."
"What? You only like freakishly tall, not pregnant people?" the blonde quipped, and again the singer laughed.
"No, that's not quite it," she teased, and the cheerleader smiled easily.
She sobered when she said, again with that disappointed tone, "I'm not a guy."
Rachel didn't answer right away, and Quinn was ready to open her eyes and question her when she said slowly, "No, that's not it, either."
She frowned. "Then what is it?"
"Finn doesn't hate me."
The peaceful feeling she'd had from the massage suddenly left, leaving an acidic ache in her stomach that wouldn't go away, even as Rachel's gentle touch continued rubbing away her tension. She gradually sat up, gently taking one of the brunette's arms and guiding her hand away as she woke from the relaxed state the singer had put her in. She stepped back, bending a bit to catch her eyes.
"Good?" she prompted, and Quinn nodded.
"Yeah, good. Though I think that's what people call a 'massage' these days," she said, half-playfully, and Rachel laughed. "Could be wrong."
"Well, I couldn't imagine you being so agreeable if I had told you I was going to put my hands all over you," she teased back, winking, and Quinn felt a rush of heat spike straight through her. Why was it so damn hot in there? "My dads and I did used to take a workshop on it, though, so that part was true. And you have to admit, you do seem more relaxed."
She bobbed her head, trying to slow her breathing, which was suddenly coming in quick pants and why was she staring at Berry's hands? That could stop any time now.
"Yeah. Thank you." She swallowed, ignoring the brunette's wide-eyed look at actually being shown gratitude, and cleared her throat. "So what were you going to say before? About the 'logistics.'"
Berry sighed heavily and took a seat on the end of her bed, scooting her backpack to the side. "We have until Thursday at three pm to do this. It's almost five now. That means we have approximately fifteen hours—if we get to bed at ten, skip lunch for the next two days, and take an hour before school both days—to pull together a number that is ready for the rest of glee and Coach Sylvester to see.
"I've already had time to memorize and get the mechanics of the song down, but we'll need brand new choreography because it's just going to be you and me on stage, and your section of the song has to be worked. You may have it memorized, but to get the mechanics down, I'm going to have to transpose your music, and I'm no expert. Brad would be able to do it much quicker than I can. Then we have to pound out your part of the song, coordinate our parts, and come up with choreography that we'll then have to rehearse in conjunction with the music.
"You know all this, because we've done it a million times in glee—in a couple weeks or so. We have less than a day to do this, Quinn. It's highly improbable that we'll have something presentable by the time Thursday rolls around."
The blonde scowled. This wasn't the Rachel Berry she knew. The Berry she knew defied all odds, refused to accept no for an answer, and got the job done. She wasn't afraid of obstacles; hell, she ate adversity for breakfast. And really, with Quinn Fabray, Head Bitch of the Cheerios, at her side? She wouldn't be surprised if Father Time decided to hide under his bed for fear of rousing the wrath of the two of them.
Quinn cleared her throat and stood, eyeing the brunette with an arched brow. "Am I really hearing Rachel Berry back down from a challenge?"
She frowned immediately. "That's not what I said. I—"
"I thought you were all about sunshine and optimism, Berry. Also angels," she added, smirking. "So what is with the defeatist attitude? Don't think you can pull it off?"
A flash of anger entered Rachel's eyes at that taunting tone and Quinn fought a grin as something tightened in her abdomen again. The brunette stood, throwing her shoulders back and straightening her spine, and held out an expectant hand.
"Sheet music, please."