Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Glee writers and creators.

A/N: Don't worry, I'm not working on stuff other than my WIPs, this is just another thing I've been sitting on for a while and, well, I want feedback. This was my first exercise in Brittana/Faberry friendship…ness. So let me know what you think. :)

AU: Quinn was never pregnant; no one is dating Finn.

Part 1/3

Rachel was in love with Quinn. Which was quite disturbing, on many levels, in her opinion. Before this, Rachel had never thought herself as one prone to masochistic tendencies, though she did tend to surround herself with people who were bound to hurt her in one way or another. Like Finn, or Brittany.

Not that Brittany could ever actually intentionally hurt anyone, but Santana would—and not just emotionally. And the two were sort of a package deal, so when Brittany started sitting with Rachel at lunch, Santana came, too—however reluctantly.

The new habit had surprised Rachel (the first day she'd brushed it off as a one-time occurrence), but when Quinn joined them, her cosmos was off-kilter for several disconcerting days. She even went sharp once. It was not good.

It wasn't as though Quinn or Santana were suddenly her B.F.F.s, of course. That was apparently Brittany's new duty, or so the girl told Rachel once when they were skipping down the hall a la The Yellow Brick Road (Santana and Quinn had refused, but the brunette just couldn't resist that pouting face). In fact, Quinn wouldn't even talk to her at first, and the only thing Santana ever said was, 'Man Hands.' Or a variation on that.

Still, just the fact that they would deign to sit with her had Rachel's head spinning. She spent many weeks trying to figure out what their angle was, what they could possibly be getting out of it. But in the end, she concluded that the only person getting anything out of this new arrangement was her. She had a new friend, and she wasn't going to ruin that over her built-in sense of paranoia when it came to people wearing Cheerios uniforms.

So there it was. Rachel and Brittany talked and chatted and hung out—even went shopping once—and Santana and Quinn tagged along with many eye rolls and folded arms. Until the day Santana and Brittany didn't show up to lunch.

Rachel was far from innocent, despite what her clothing style suggested to many McKinley High students, so when Quinn sat across from her—the other Cheerios nowhere in sight—she could guess what the two were up to. The sour look on Quinn's face only confirmed it. After a few minutes of silence following the usual grunt the blonde gave in response to the brunette's greeting, Rachel told her she could leave if she wanted to. Which was apparently a mistake.

Quinn had taken Rachel's offer as a personal insult, thinking she was trying to make her leave. It took several minutes to clear this up. And then the blonde asked her why she let people walk all over her the way she did, which was how Quinn and Rachel started talking. Like, really talking. Again, they weren't best friends—hardly friends at all, really, since Quinn refused to call her by her actual name and wouldn't be seen talking to her outside of the cafeteria—but they did talk. Civilly, even. And it opened a door that Rachel now desperately wished had been kept shut.

It still didn't hit Rachel for several weeks. Brittany had to say something before she realized what had happened. All it took was that small comment, though. The blonde had leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Do you like Q?" Rachel stared at her, flabbergasted, and demanded, "What?" And Brittany added, "You're looking at her like San looks at me when we're going to skip lunch."

Rachel's cheeks had gone flaming red and she hadn't been able to look at Quinn for the rest of the day, because Brittany's comment had done the magic trick. She tried to fight it, of course. For several days, she observed her reactions to Quinn, Quinn's reactions to her, and made lists. Lists of things she didn't like about Quinn and things she did.

Sadly, the latter was about two pages (front and back) longer than the former—and that was only half a page, all consisting of things like 'slushies.' And she hadn't actually finished the second list. When it started coming down to things like 'how her thighs quiver when she's been at Cheerios practice,' she'd decided that what she had was sufficient.

And after all that effort, the evidence piled up against Rachel and she was left with that inevitable truth: she was in love with Quinn.

Her next step was to decide what to do about this—which the gutter part of her brain that every teenager is imbued with took great delight in. Again, Rachel made extensive lists of her ideas, and then came up with multiple scenarios based on those, none of which ended well. She mulled her options over for two more days before she came to a simple conclusion. She would have to tell Quinn.

This didn't seem like the wisest decision Rachel could've made. In fact, when put plainly like that, it sounded a lot like suicide. But what the brunette was counting on was Brittany.

As much as Quinn liked to pretend she didn't care about anyone but herself, she was actually very protective of her fellow blonde, and now that Brittany and Rachel were friends, being cruel to the brunette would only upset her. Which Quinn wouldn't do, even without the threat of Santana hanging over her head.

So Rachel could be sure that when she told Quinn, the result would be a near death experience, rather than a complete loss of life. And it would incur just enough cruelty from the blonde to make this uprising of unwanted feelings go away.

Rachel decided she would need to have a speech prepared, and she would have to go in fully armed with a list of possible reactions from Quinn. So, during her free period on Monday, she burrowed into her favorite cubby of the library with several pens, scrap paper, and a notebook, and began diligently scratching down her ideas.

This was how Santana and Brittany found Rachel when the bell rang for lunch—hunched so far over her nose nearly touched the page, eyes screwed tight to focus on her words, and hand cramping very, very badly.

"Jeez. Forget to finish a project, Two Shoes?" Santana asked as she plopped into the chair across from the brunette.

'Two Shoes' was a new special favorite of Santana's, ever since she found out Rachel was still a virgin. It was far better than the repeated insults to her womanhood, so Rachel let it slide. Not that there was much she could've done about it had she actually minded.

She jerked up and groaned aloud when her back cracked several times with the movement. The cheerleaders exchanged a glance as Brittany eased into the chair next to the brunette, who was currently trying to unclench her hand from around the pen she was holding.

"You okay, Rach?" the blonde asked worriedly.

She had that adorably concerned look on her face where her brow crinkled and she kept worrying her lip between her teeth. Rachel hurriedly offered her a weak smile and a nod.

"Yes, I'm fine. However, I've been writing since the start of my free period, which in hindsight may not have been the wisest decision. Ow." She stretched her fingers and winced.

Brittany brightened almost automatically. "What are you writing?"

Occasionally, Rachel would write short stories for Brittany. Usually about ducks, of course, and never very long, but Brittany enjoyed them and she was the only one the brunette would allow to read them. Santana knew this, of course, but evidently today she didn't care, because she snatched up Rachel's notebook.

The brunette screeched in horror and lunged across the table to steal it back from her—and promptly gutted herself on the sharp corner of the table. It knocked the wind right out of her chest, and she dropped back into her chair, holding her throbbing side and mentally cursing Santana.

The Latina ignored the groans of pain across from her in favor of flipping through the pages, brow hiking higher and higher as she read. Brittany absently patted Rachel's arm, but evidently she was far more interested in whatever it was the brunette had been writing than in her newly bruised abdomen.

"What is it, San?" she asked, bouncing in her chair. "Is it a duck story?"

"Nope," she muttered.

Rachel shot daggers at her, but Santana didn't make any further comment, much to Brittany's disappointment. The Latina tired of reading it in short order and tossed the notebook back down in front of Rachel.

"Quinn would never say that. Or if she did, she wouldn't use that many words," Santana advised, and then proceeded to crack her knuckles.

Rachel gaped at the Latina. Of course, she hadn't expected her to be repulsed by the idea of two girls—for obvious reasons that were currently manifesting themselves in the form of a sensual smirk on Santana's face as she eyed the blonde to the brunette's left—but when one of them was Rachel and the other was her best friend, well…she was expecting more of a reaction, to put it nicely.

Brittany was glancing impatiently between them. "Well? What is it?"

"Nothing!" Rachel yelped immediately. It did her no good.

"It's a 'List of Possible Comebacks' Q will have to RuPaul having the hots for her."

The brunette glared and opened her mouth to say…she didn't know what exactly, but it was going to hurt. Fortunately, Brittany saved her from having to think of anything.

"Really? Let me see."

The blonde reached for the notebook and Rachel leapt to grab it first, but Santana's glower stopped her in her tracks and she could only watch on miserably as Brittany read. She'd only gotten about halfway down the page when she turned mournful eyes on the brunette.

"Poor Rachel," she said softly.

Rachel's spine stiffened and she set her jaw. If Brittany started getting gushy on her, she wouldn't be able to hold it together. Thus far, she'd been able to avoid the dreaded box of Kleenex, and she was determined to stay strong through the rest of this, too. Even if Quinn stomped on her heart and left her for dead.

"I'm just trying to prepare myself," she replied at length, slipping the notebook from the blonde's hands.

"Then prepare yourself right. Quinn isn't going to give you ten paragraphs worth of reasons she doesn't want you," Santana barked. "She's going to slice you down in a few words."

She bristled with irritation that she couldn't keep out of her voice when she retorted, "I know that! I just…I have difficulty coming up with proper insults. It's not something I've had a lot of practice with."

The Latina snorted. "Really? You'd think you'd have picked up something after all those years being a freak."

"You're the one with experience. Why don't you try coming up with something?" the brunette snapped back.

"How about 'I'm not into bestiality, Dog Breath'?"

They scowled at each other for several moments while Rachel processed that and Brittany glanced between them, frowning deeply. And then the light bulb went off over the brunette's head and she couldn't help the grin that claimed her lips. Santana shot out of her chair.

"No fucking way, Berry," she snapped.

Rachel stood with her, blocking the door. "Please? Santana, your insults are superlative—you made our math teacher cry once, for heaven's sake! You're the only person who can properly prepare me for what Quinn might say!"

Her eyes narrowed. "You can't flatter me into helping you," she snarled.

"This isn't flattery; this is fact," she said intensely. "I need your help. This is the only way I can get over Quinn, but if I'm not well prepared, she may just break my heart into a thousand pieces instead of inadvertently helping me to move on healthily from an infatuation that can only be detrimental to my emotional wellbeing."

Brittany frowned, but Santana rolled her eyes.

"You are such a sap, Man Hands."

She decided to ignore that comment. "What do you want? I'll do anything. Organize your room, do the Cheerios's laundry for a month, cover for you and Brittany with Mr. Schuester sometime, pay you—anything, just please help me!"

"No. Fucking. Way!"

"San," Brittany whimpered.

The Latina's cold eyes shot to the blonde and Rachel saw her melt a little bit. The brunette wasn't one to count her eggs before they hatched, but if that look was any indication, she had already won. She bit back a victory grin, though, waiting for Brittany to finish wearing her down. It took a little while, but eventually Santana growled, threw her hands in the air, and returned to her seat.

Rachel grinned gratefully at Brittany as she sat back down as well, scooping up her pen again. The blonde returned it, and they both turned to face a scowling Santana.

"I'm only doing this because it means I get to insult you for the rest of lunch," she grumbled irritably.

Rachel smiled. "I entered into this with no other expectation."

XXXXXX

"Where the hell have you three been?" Quinn hissed angrily.

Rachel felt a twist of guilt when she realized they had, in fact, abandoned Quinn and left her to her own devices during lunch. She exchanged a pleading glance with Brittany and Santana as they sank into the chairs to their fellow cheerleader's left. Of course, no help was forthcoming from Santana—the Latina just rolled her eyes and faced Mr. Schuester. Rachel dropped into the spot next to Brittany, who winked at her.

"San and I had alone time today," she told Quinn brightly.

Santana groaned, but Rachel smiled appreciatively at the blonde. It always disgusted Quinn when the two of them made innuendos about their sex life—it was the perfect excuse to knock her off the scent. Rachel avoided Quinn's sharp eyes, instead pulling out her glee notebook and turning her attention to Mr. Schuester at the front of the room.

Her bones turned to jelly when she heard the head cheerleader growl, "And you?"

The blood drained from her face. Damn Quinn's intelligence. Actually, it was really hot—no! Bad line of thought. Rachel forced herself to meet her eyes, which were trained on her unwaveringly. The brunette wracked her brain for an excuse, but her head had turned to jelly with the rest of her, and her jaw flapped soundlessly. Quinn's nose wrinkled with sudden disgust, and she glanced between Rachel and the other cheerleaders.

"Don't tell me you thr—"

"NO!" Santana bellowed at the same time as Rachel yelped it.

The room froze, and the blood rushed back to Rachel's face and neck as she felt everyone's eyes on them. Quinn rolled her eyes in annoyance, but there was relief in place of disgust in her expression now.

"You have a sick mind, Fabray," Santana snapped accusingly, apparently unaware of the attention they were receiving from the nine other people in the room.

"Is there a problem, ladies?" Mr. Schuester cut in with a frown.

Rachel cleared her throat, gathering her wits. "No, sir. We're sorry for the interruption. It won't happen again. Please, continue."

He nodded uncertainly and slowly turned back to the room at large. When the room had quieted save for Mr. Schue's lecturing, Rachel felt it was safe to pull out her pen and began jotting notes on what he was saying. She had just gotten her mind back on track when Quinn completely ruined any chance she had at maintaining any sort of focus at all for the rest of the day.

"Well?"

It was purred in her ear, from behind, and Rachel jumped and shuddered simultaneously, and she could suddenly feel hot breath on her neck and ear, and goose bumps shot along her arms. She glanced furtively toward the seat Quinn had been occupying. It was empty. The brunette squeezed her legs together and tried her hardest not to squirm.

"Hm?" It was the only thing she could get out that wasn't completely unintelligible.

"I asked you a question. Where were you at lunch?" she repeated, the edge of irritation back in her voice.

Uh oh. She couldn't think of anything! Rachel glanced at the girl next to her, but Brittany was oblivious to her plight. She tried to send out a telepathic message. Brittany! Help!

It didn't work. Evidently her psychic ability still hadn't reached its full potential.

"I had a..." Meeting? Flu bug? Slushie emergency? That might've worked if she had actually changed her clothes since this morning. Quinn was waiting. Say something. Anything. Any words at all. "P-p-project."

Thank God for Santana and her assumptions. Rachel heaved a sigh of relief and let her mouth finish the job.

"I needed a reference from the library for my English project, so I was—"

"Got it. I don't need the novel every time, Berry. The CliffsNotes version will do."

Rachel breathed to release the tension in her shoulders when Quinn moved back to her seat. It came rushing right back seconds later, when she realized she had lost the ability to concentrate on anything but the fact that her neck was still warm where Quinn had been breathing on her. Thus, she missed an entire lecture of glee for the first time in the club's history, and it was all Quinn Fabray's fault.

They were all preparing to head to their next classes when Rachel felt someone nudge her in the ribs—and she knew it was Santana, because it was slightly harder than necessary. She glanced up at her as she stuffed her blank notebook back in the bag, already slightly on edge.

"What?" she hissed.

The Latina scowled. "What do you think? You gonna do it?"

"Huh?"

She frowned impatiently and jerked her head toward Quinn, who was packing her things up as well. Rachel's stomach rebelled and she shook her head rapidly.

"Wuss," Santana muttered.

"I'm not ready yet," she said defensively.

She glared. "So I spent my entire lunch hour helping your ass just so you could chicken out?"

"No, I will tell her," Rachel replied sharply. The Latina looked dubious. "I will. When I'm ready."

"Fine. But if you don't, I will."

She paled, staring wide-eyed up at the other girl. And even though she knew she so would, she gasped, "You wouldn't."

She smirked. "You wanna take the risk?" That vicious gleam entered her eye. "By Friday, Two Shoes. Or I tell Goldilocks myself."

And Santana proceeded to execute a Head Bitch exit. It was reminiscent of the diva storm-off, Rachel reflected. Just stiffer, and with less hair-flipping. She abruptly decided to keep this observation to herself, because she really didn't want a black eye on top of being in love with Quinn Fabray.

Brittany tapped her, and they started the trek to their next class together. "San's just trying to help," she assured her, smiling.

Rachel smiled back gratefully. "I think I've had all the 'help' I can stand."

"Are you sure? I could tell her," she offered, brightening.

She laughed. "Thank you, but I need to do this myself. If I allow anyone else to do it...well, first of all, that would be simply cowardly of me. Besides, I need to see—and hear—her reaction in person. It won't set in properly if I don't, and then instead of moving on, I'll be locking myself in my room, blasting depressing music, and crying myself to sleep every night for the rest of my life."

"That's awful," the blonde sympathized, drooping so much Rachel wanted to hug her.

She linked their arms instead, which cheered her up a bit.

"Don't worry. I'll tell her before Friday, she can reject me, and then we can all move on from this."