A/N: Thought I'd jump on the Faberry bandwagon, considering how much I love the pairing, no matter how unrealistic it is. This is something I thought of a while ago and thought it'd be nice to put it down and share it with y'all!
Disclaimer: Not mine. Wish it was though! I'd be a bazzilionare right now!
It starts just after Rachel finishes singing the opening song for Sectionals.
Quinn stands behind her with the rest of the club, poised and ready for their cue as the audience roars with applause, and even though she can't see Rachel's face she knows she's beaming with a smile from ear to ear, because she's standing in front of hundreds of people that are confirming what she's been trying to tell everyone all along – she's fantastic.
It only lasts a few seconds. Rachel stands there soaking it up, her shoulders heaving and her body shaking and Quinn wonders if one of them should throw something at her to remind her that they're all still standing there. But she finally remembers herself and with a booming voice she announces the New Directions with a dramatic gesture behind her.
And then she whirls around on the ball of her foot, and Quinn sees her face for the first time since they left the green room.
Her cheeks are flushed, her hair is ruffled and her chest is still heaving, and just as Quinn guessed there is that smile, like she's just been offered the lead in every Broadway production, and told she could direct them, produce them and organize the choreography if she likes. Quinn has seen her smug, embarrassed, sad, wistful, angry, impatient and every other emotion under the sun that Rachel usually either had to problem expressing, or simply didn't know how to hide, but until that very moment she's never seen her so completely, absolutely, and uninhibitedly happy.
They lock gazes for only a split second, and Rachel's smile doesn't dissipate because she never hides what she's feeling, and before Quinn realizes what's going on they are singing the intro for the next song.
After they're all done and waiting to hear the results from the judges, Quinn realizes she already knows they're going to win.
The next time she feels it is during their little recon mission to one of the Vocal Adrenaline rehearsals.
It's Mercedes idea. She approaches Quinn after Glee practice, takes her arm in that way they're becoming comfortable with, and pulls her aside.
"I'm thinking of a road trip to Carmel,' she murmurs, 'you down?"
"I beg your pardon?"
Mercedes smirks. "Look, we need to see where these Vocal Adrenaline players are at. All the rehearsing and 'shaking things up' in the world isn't going to be worth a damn if we don't get an idea of what we're up against."
"I thought you all went to their invitational months ago."
"That was before Sectionals, and they had their spies there checking out our moves – Jesse told Rachel he was there, and I'd bet a million dollars he wasn't the only one. Mr. Schue is worried, even if he doesn't want to admit it, and I think we'd be bad Glee Clubbers if we didn't help him out a bit."
Quinn exhales a soft laugh, but doesn't respond right away as a flash of brown over Mercedes shoulder catches her eye. Rachel is standing a short distance away, looking through sheet music, but her eyes are unmoving and her posture is stiff.
Mercedes shifts her weight to her left leg impatiently. "Come on, you know we're the only ones who can do this with any kind of subtlety. Artie maybe, but who's he kidding, trying to sneak in anywhere? No offense."
Rachel has lifted the lid of the piano and is peering inside thoughtfully.
Quinn sighs irritably. "Eavesdrop much?"
The piano lid closes with a snap as Rachel practically drops it in her haste to join them. "I wasn't eavesdropping, but I couldn't help but overhear your conversation…"
"A conversation we were having, away from everyone, in hushed tones?' Mercedes asks tersely.
"… and I really have to advise against you both on going over to Carmel."
"Says miss 'I was just doing a background check on Vocal Adrenaline...' Quinn snaps. Usually Rachel doesn't even have to say anything for her to be irritating, but as soon as she opens her mouth…
Rachel gives Mercedes, who snorts at Quinn's retort, a reproachful side-long glance. "That was different. That was only a few phone calls, and I was only hanging around outside for a few hours until they called security."
Quinn imagines two burly security guards jumping Rachel out the front of Carmel High and hauling her off campus, and smiles.
"So you want us to stay here, all scared and nervous of making waves and just let Vocal Adrenaline kick our asses because we didn't have the guts to sneak into their practice?"
"No, I'm saying I want to come with you."
There was only a moment's shocked pause before Mercedes stated, "Oh hell to the no. Absolutely not! Girl, you couldn't sneak into a deaf man's house!"
"I can be stealthy if I need to be, thank you very much, Mercedes. I'll have you know I have successfully snuck into eleven choir rehearsals in my time as a performer. "
Mercedes looks more disturbed than impressed.
"Two people can get in more easily than three,' reasons Quinn.
"But if you get caught I can provide you with a valid excuse for being there. We can simply say we were there looking for something Jesse left behind."
"Weak-ass excuse if you ask me,' mutters Mercedes.
"Well then what would your excuse be?' retorts Rachel, looking typically superior when Mercedes doesn't answer.
"For goodness sake, fine! Just come, will you?'
Quinn's invitation startles them, but she doesn't retract the offer. She knows that Rachel's rants can go on for nearly twenty minutes if left to her own devices, and Quinn has neither the patience nor the bladder control to stand there and listen to her yammer on.
"I don't think this is such a good idea,' says Mercedes, giving Quinn a look.
"She knows the layout better than we do,' reasons Quinn. She gives Rachel's surprised smile a look that says 'I'm not doing this for you'. 'Let's put her stalker experience to use. Besides, if we leave her here she'll just go snitch to Mr. Schue."
They're talking like Rachel isn't standing right there. But Rachel says nothing, not even denying that's what she'd do, too used to this treatment by her fellow club members to apparently care.
"We don't have time to bat this around,' Quinn continues. 'If they're really that good at the Invitational then there's no doubt they've gotten better. You're right – we need to see what we're up against."
Rachel's eyes go slightly out of focus and it's clear she's remembering that day, the Invitational. A strange expression comes over her face, an expression Quinn has only seen cross her features once before – when Mercedes challenged her to the lead at Sectionals and sang 'And I'm Telling You'. Quinn suppresses a shiver; even just thinking about it still gives her goosebumps.
Mercedes purses her lips, puts her hands on her hips and looks Rachel up and down. "If you come can you keep your mouth shut?"
Quinn snorts. She doubts Rachel stops talking even when she's sleeping.
Rachel draws herself up to her full height, looking insulted. "I'll have you know that I…"
"Yeah yeah, sure. Come on then, I got Mom's car today."
Mercedes leaves without a backward glance, leaving Quinn aware of how close she and Rachel are actually standing. She heads for the door but turns back when she realizes Rachel isn't following. She's still standing in the same spot, her bottom lip caught with her teeth, like she's having a sudden case of conscience.
Quinn sighs, grabs her arm and pulls her. "If it helps, just think of it as strategic information gathering or something. We're just going to see where they're at so we know how hard we have to work to be at they're level."
Judging from the way Rachel stops resisting and falls into step, it does help.
And forty five minutes later, Quinn's ears ringing from having to listen to Rachel's incessant talking in the ride over, they're up in the balcony of the Carmel High auditorium, bent low to avoid detection.
Vocal adrenaline are rehearsing their number, and Quinn feels nervous, but Rachel is banging on in her ear about technique and lighting and costumes, and where she would normally feel the urge to smack the brunette in the face to shut her fat mouth up, it's calming her down. It's reducing the competing club's performance to nothing but an analysis; a review of their flaws, faults, errors and tiny idiosyncrasies that Quinn has never been able to spot before Glee Club and still has trouble doing now but Rachel does by habit and without effort.
Then their director calls them to stop, talks about emotion through singing, and gets up on stage to show them 'how it's done'.
Rachel mutters something about Barbra Streisand in Quinn's ear, but she's not paying attention. The woman starts to sing Funny Girl, and it's beautiful. Quinn shivers. She remembers this song from the hundred times her Mom has watched the movie, knows practically all the lyrics, and she's never heard anyone sing it like this. Even Rachel has stopped talking.
Quinn looks at her. She's looking down at the stage in awe and confusion, and Quinn supposes her brain is quietly exploding from the realization that someone can sing Streisand better than her. On the other side of Rachel, Mercedes is smiling lazily, like Carmel's director could sing her to sleep.
Then Rachel gets up.
For a split second Quinn feels amused, assuming Rachel is about to do what she usually does when she finds something to be a personal injustice – storm out.
"What are you doing?' hisses Mercedes, looking panicked.
But one look at Rachel's face tells Quinn this is different, and sure enough she walks toward the stairs as if in a dream, her eyes still on the woman singing.
"Get back here!" snaps Quinn quietly.
Rachel ignores them both and keeps walking, and Quinn and Mercedes are unable to do anything but stare, frozen in shock as Rachel drifts down to the stage just as the song ends.
"What do we do?' whispers Mercedes.
Quinn doesn't even get a chance to think of something. Rachel's voice can carry all the way down the hall at school, so they have absolutely no trouble hearing her from all the way up here when she says,
"Miss Corcoran? I'm Rachel Berry. I'm your daughter."
Ten minutes later they're back in the car, on the way to Rachel's house to drop her off first. She's in the front passenger seat because she gets carsick, and even though she can only just see her profile, from the back Quinn has been watching her.
Her eyes have been on the road the whole time and she's still hugging herself gently. She hasn't said barely two words since meeting them back out in the parking lot and announcing they needed to leave. The atmosphere is decidedly different from the way there, and Quinn actually wishes Rachel would say something, anything, if only to break the tension.
"Are you sure you're alright?' Mercedes asks uncertainly for what seems the millionth time.
"I'm fine,' mutters Rachel.
Quinn isn't the least bit convinced. For all Rachel's gushing about how she's a spectacular performer and can cry on cue or whatever, she's a terrible liar.
"Don't give me that. I mean… this is big news." When Rachel doesn't respond to her cue, Mercedes sighs. 'Wanna go to the record store on Lincon? Bit of retail therapy always helps me out when I'm… moody. I read in the catalogue that West Side Story is half-off this week."
"I already have the movie soundtrack and original Broadway cast recording on my iPod,' Rachel mutters. She finally looks at Mercedes. 'I'm sorry, Mercedes, I appreciate what you're trying to do, really, but it's unnecessary. I just need to go home."
"Well… if you wanna talk about it…"
"I don't, thank you."
Mercedes looks relieved.
They finally pull up at Rachel's house – the awkward silence of the trip making it feel like they've been in the car an eternity – and Quinn is surprised at how average it is. It's not big and flashy or expensive, just an average house on an average street just outside Lima. Quinn feels it to be almost ironic, considering how loud and expressive Rachel is.
Rachel gets out of the car without a word and walks around to Quinn's door. She pulls it open, and Quinn finally sees the expression on her face. It makes Quinn flinch, and it's only when Rachel finally speaks that she realizes Rachel is waiting for her.
"My bag, please?' she almost demands, her hand outstretched.
Quinn retrieves it from the seat beside her hand hands it to Rachel wordlessly.
Rachel murmurs her thanks to Quinn, then to Mercedes for the ride, and then turns on her heel and marches off into the house.
"Wow,' Mercedes says as Quinn gets into the front seat.
"I know,' Quinn agrees as they drive off, 'I didn't even think it was physically possible for her to stop talking for more than a minute."
Mercedes gives her a look. "You know that's not what I meant. Rachel's never even talked about her Mom, and she talks about everything. Do you think we should have walked her inside?"
Without thinking about it, Quinn rubs her swollen belly. "You're actually concerned about her."
"'Course I am. Did you see the girls face? Just 'cause I wanna slap her around most of the time to get her to stop being so overbearing and obnoxious, doesn't mean I'm not there for her when stuff goes down – or for anyone in Glee, for that matter.'
Mercedes gives Quinn another look. Quinn purses her lips in a tight smile.
"Obviously their reunion didn't go the way she's always imagined it would."
"She probably imagined them running slow motion toward each other with arms wide open and soppy music playing the background." Quinn says, deadpan.
"Probably," Mercedes chuckles.
Quinn is surprised to find that she is a little concerned, but convinces herself it's only because of the precarious situation this new development now puts them in.
Rachel's mother is the Director of Vocal Adrenaline? And she's dating their former Golden Boy? If Rachel decides that these were all signs that she should cut her losses and jump ship, New Directions is going to be well and truly be screwed. Despite the fact that Rachel is the most annoying person on the planet, she is talented, and they will suffer without her.
"We'll work something out,' Quinn finally says.
Mercedes nods and turns the radio on. Quinn starts humming along, hoping it will take away the image of Rachel's expression from her mind.
Quinn is in Math when it happens.
She's trying to focus on Trigonometry but Beth (Quinn calls her this even though she's trying not to get too emotionally attached) is pressing against her bladder again and it's making her very uncomfortable. Not to mention Trig is her least favorite thing in the word next to capsicums.
She raises her hand. She hates doing this, knowing the reaction she'll get, but she's busting.
"Mr. Anderson? Can I have the bathroom pass?"
As she expects, the class erupts in a fit of giggles. Quinn ignores them, although it's hard, and makes her way up to collect the slip of paper Mr. Anderson is holding out for her. She snatches the pass out of his hand and darts out of the room, letting the door slam on her sniggering classmates.
One day their day will come, when Karma will do more than just throw slushies in their face. She hopes its sooner rather than later so she can be there to see it when it happens.
The bathroom is blissfully empty, and Quinn takes her time in there, enjoying the relief. She'll be glad when her baby is born and she doesn't need to do this every fifteen minutes – although having to leave Math isn't so much of an inconvenience.
Five minutes later she's walking back out into the hall and slowly back to class when she looks out the window at the parking lot and sees them.
Rachel is standing in the middle of their circle. They have her surrounded… but she doesn't know it yet – she's too busy staring doe-eyed at Jesse. And there's no question about who 'they' are. Quinn only takes a moment to admire how stupid they are, showing up in their uniforms, when she closes the distance between herself and the window to get a better look.
The next moment the air catches in her throat as she watches Vocal Adrenaline pitch eggs at Rachel.
Unexpected rage courses through her veins, making her skin crawl and her whole body flinch, and it takes a moment for Quinn to realize her forehead is against the window pane, as if she's trying to push her way through it to get outside. All she can think is 'how dare they… how dare they… if anyone is going to humiliate Rachel Berry, it's going to be me…why is Jesse just standing there?... how dare they…' and she knows she should go tell someone, or go down there herself and intervene, but she's rooted to the spot in shock and anger.
Then Jesse finally steps forward. Relief floods through her. He's come to save her, come to tell his fellow club members to go crawl back into the hole they came out of, to preserve some of Rachel's dignity…
Quinn stands there seething for a few seconds after Jesse cracks the egg on Rachel's forehead; just long enough to watch him get back into those stupid SUV's with his friends and drive off. Rachel doesn't move, just hugs herself tightly, and even though she has her back to Quinn, she can imagine that she's in tears.
She's down the stairs and halfway down the hall when Mr. Schuester steps out of the staff room, almost colliding with her, and when he asks her with concern etched into his forehead what she's doing out of class, is everything alright and is it something to do with the baby, she blurts out everything she's just seen, and Mr. Schuester only pauses long enough to tell her to go back to class before he's running off in the direction she herself was just headed.
When Quinn finally sees Rachel later at Glee practice, still looking withdrawn, not saying much at all while the boys rage about going over to Carmel and getting even and the girls all look on sympathetically, not sure what to do, she feels that rage again, and assumes it's because someone else has taken the role of 'torturer' in Rachel's life… another thing Quinn looses from her identity.
She also knows when she sees Jesse St. Jerk again she's going to kick him in the wiener.
But later when they do the Funk number, after she dances her ass off and sings her lungs out just like everyone else, crowding around Rachel, giving Jesse and the rest of Vocal Adrenaline the musical finger; when she sees the look on his face, she knows she doesn't have to.
Quinn stiffens, hearing that familiar voice behind her. She pulls the rest of her books from her locker and snaps the metal door shut before turning around. "For something in particular, or just for being around in general?"
Rachel's back straightens. "For not going to the hospital with you – when you were having Beth."
She hopes Rachel takes the hint when Quinn says nothing and stalks off, but all too quickly Rachel is falling into step behind her.
"There's nothing to apologize for. Someone had to stay behind to make sure they didn't think we were all bailing out because the pressure, right?"
"Right. Of course."
Quinn casts a glance at Rachel out of the corner of her eye as they walk to History; one of the few classes they have together. Rachel looks remorseful and guilty and is trying not to let it show, but of course she's terrible at disguising what she's feeling.
"Okay, just stop right there,' Quinn demands.
"I didn't say anything."
"Thank God. And you don't have to – it's written all over your face. Stop feeling guilty. I didn't even notice you weren't there."
It comes out sounding more harshly that she intends, but Rachel doesn't seem to take offense. Interesting, Quinn finds, considering everything she used to say to her seemed to wound her.
Rachel just nods and mutters, "I understand.
Quinn stops and looked at her. Really looks at her. Rachel seems a little taken aback – Quinn supposes she's used to chasing people down the hall trying to get their attention, not having them stop and actually look at her like they see her.
Before she realizes, she's asking, "Are you okay?"
Rachel blinks, as obviously confused as Quinn feels. "What?"
"About… you know… this whole situation with Miss Corcoran?"
Rachel nods and swallows, not looking at Quinn. "It was the right decision for everyone. Everything worked out just fine."
Quinn doesn't push it, because she's not sure how and she's embarrassed for asking in the first place.
"Why are you being so nice to me?" Rachel asks. 'I've expected you to trip me down the stairs or throw Molotov cocktails into my bedroom by now."
"I could punch you in the face if that would help,' she replies threateningly. It's bad enough she's getting looks from people as they pass them in the hallway – her lack of pregnancy and reinstated position as Cheerio has her popularity out of the gutter, but still not on top like it used to be, and she'd like it to continue to climb, but standing and talking with Rachel seems to be taking her two steps back down the ladder.
"I'm the reason you and Finn broke up. I'm the reason you had to go live with Puck for those last few months until you moved in with Mercedes. I've done nothing but screw up your life."
"Well in that case…"
Quinn raises her fist and laughs when Rachel flinches. Her books are up in front of her face with lightning speed – her reflexes are so sharp from all those slushies to the face over the years. The satisfaction of seeing that is enough, and Quinn lowers her hand.
"Did you knock me up?"
Rachel blushes and looks at the floor.
"Then shut up and stop trying to apologize to me – it's embarrassing.' When Rachel doesn't look convinced, Quinn irritably grabs her arm and pulls her closer to mutter, 'I don't hate you, alright? You're annoying and arrogant and ninety percent of the time all I want to do is gag you and throw you in the trunk of my car… but I don't hate you. I've already told you this. Why don't you believe me?"
"Well you're not especially nice to me."
"No-one is especially nice to you. Surely you're used to it by now."
Quinn wishes she hadn't said it… at least to her face, because the look that crosses it is heartbreaking. But only lasts a second, before Rachel rips her arm from Quinn's grip and takes a step back.
"Yes, I am. And yes I'm abrasive and loud and dramatic, partly because its what's going to get me noticed at auditions… mostly because I don't know how else to be – but I'd like to think I can change… but to be honest, why should I even try and make an effort when no-one else is going to do the same? I don't see anyone in Glee inviting me out to the movies or to the mall or to sleepovers. How can I learn to change when you all don't give me the chance?"
And in typical Rachel style, she juts her chin out indignantly, turns on her heel and storms off. Quinn sighs and follows, dragging her feet, and by the time she gets to class Rachel is already seated by the window and organizing her books and stationary.
The room is filling up quickly, and acting on impulse Quinn strides forward and wordlessly takes the empty seat next to Rachel.
"I'm copying your notes, just so you know,' she says before Rachel even asks.
She occupies her attention by flipping through the pages of her History texts, but she can still feel Rachel's gaze on her. She's dying to look, but before she can give in to temptation Miss Lithgow walks in, announcing a pop quiz, and Quinn's never been happier to see her.
The first time Quinn actually consciously feels it however, is on a Thursday night after Glee practice.
She's sitting in Mercedes bedroom, painting Mercedes nails while listening to her talk about Mike Chang and Tina's duet, but she's only half listening because she's got Rachel's voice stuck in her head and it's driving her mad.
Earlier that day Rachel had decided she'd sing, Thinking About You by Norah Jones for some reason that Rachel had explained in great detail but Quinn had not been listening to, because Puck had been drumming his fingers on his knees and tapping his feet along with music only he could hear and it had been incredibly distracting. But the song had pulled her in, kept her there until the end of the final note died away, and since then she has not been able to get it out of her mind.
"Here,' Kurt had thrust his little purple iPod into her hands after practice with a knowing smile, 'just listen to the song again, then another completely different song of a different genre. I recommend my Wicked playlist, but with caution – 'Popular' does have the tendency to stick in your mind too."
She had tried it. It hadn't worked. But he had asked to borrow the Wicked album so as to add it to her own iPod.
"… telling you there was something more in that song than just a groovy bass line and suggestive lyrics, don't you think?"
Quinn blinks and looks up. "Sorry?"
Mercedes sighs. "You haven't heard a word I've said, have you?"
"Of course I…' Mercedes gives her a look. 'Alright, no I haven't. But not because I'm not interested. I'm just… distracted."
"You got 'Popular' stuck in your head?"
To stop the barrage of questions she knows she'll get, Quinn simply smiles and nods.
Mercedes laughs knowingly, shakes her head with a roll of her eyes and says, 'Worst thing I ever did was borrow Kurt's iPod. I had 'Dancing Through Life' on mental replay for five days straight."
When Quinn finishes the last coat on Mercedes final nail, she blows on it softly then gives her hand back. Mercedes smiles with a soft 'ha' and admires the work while Quinn tidies up the manicure set, all the while hearing the same lyrics in her head.
And I was thinking about you…
"Can I borrow your laptop for a while?"
"'Course! Help yourself. I'm gonna go downstairs and show mom this awesome paintjob… maybe get a sandwich while I'm at it. You want anything?"
Quinn sits herself down at Mercedes' desk and opens the Mac. "Whatever you're having."
Mercedes nods and leaves, closing the door behind her. Quinn listens to make sure she's really gone, and when she can't hear footsteps anymore she opens the web browser, types in the address and waits.
She only takes a moment to marvel at Mercedes' internet reception as the page loads almost instantly. Quinn scrolls to the appropriate link, and clicks, and then waits again.
Unable to believe she's doing this, but figuring there's no other way to get this noise out of her head, she waits a few more seconds and then presses 'play'.
The video begins and Rachel takes a deep breath and begins singing 'All That Jazz' from Chicago – a song Quinn only knows because her sister was such a fan of the movie. She watches Rachel belt it out for only a few seconds before deeming it unsatisfactory and loads the next one – 'Don't cry for me Argentina' begins.
The slower song is more satisfying, and Quinn sits back and listens. She hopes Mercedes takes a while downstairs; she can already feel the embarrassment rising at just the thought of her finding Quinn looking up Rachel's MySpace page, but it's the only thing she can think of to get her voice out of her head. Kurt told her to just listen to the song again, and that hadn't worked because it wasn't so much the song, it was the voice, and Quinn isn't going to wait until Glee practice next week… not when she has direct access now.
Quinn has been on this web page enough in the past, so much so she figures she could navigate its banners and badges and links and photos in her sleep. All those times she would write awful comments in the reviews section, Santana at her shoulder egging her on…
She looks at the reviews section for this video. There's nothing. It's a new video; she hasn't been on Rachel's site since she joined Glee Club (it had seemed redundant) and Quinn isn't surprised that Rachel still updates her site; she's no doubt expecting to become the next Justin Bieber – discovered online.
Quinn clicks on another link, and an older video starts to play, and beneath Quinn sees comments she remembers posting months earlier:
Please get sterilized.
If I were your parents, I would sell you back.
It feels like a lifetime ago; when she was the most powerful person in the entire student body, when no-one in the hallway would look her in the eye let alone sneer hateful words at her, when she wouldn't sing outside the shower and thought Glee Club was the most ridiculous thing in the entire world, next to Crocs shoes…
Rachel singing is nothing new to her – or to anyone in the state of Ohio. She's watched her dozens of times and Quinn isn't surprised to see that she's just as animated on camera as she is when someone is actually sitting there listening to her. Her whole body shudders when she draws in a quick, deep breath. Her fists clench and her back arches when she gets to the bridge. She closes her eyes and frowns when the lyrics become meaningful and emotional. She's as dramatic belting out a tune as she is just walking down the hallway carrying her books or touching up her make-up in the girls' bathroom before Glee practice – normal everyday activities you wouldn't think could be dramatic but Rachel somehow manages to.
Quinn's skin erupts with goosebumps.
Without really thinking about it, Quinn deletes all the comments.
Quinn snaps the laptop shut, her heart pounding. She hates the way Mercedes can just sneak into a room like that. Mercedes doesn't notice, just places the plate in front of her.
"Too bad if it's not, cause that's all we got,' she grins.
"Ham's fine,' Quinn breathes, seizing the sandwich.
Later on when she's finally in bed and the lights are off, she stares up at the ceiling and discovers that Rachel's voice is gone. She doesn't want to consider why the fact makes her feel disappointed, so she puts the little white buds in her ear and listens to Mercedes 'getting ready in the morning' playlist.
Quinn loves her Cheerios uniform.
Ever since she became head cheerleader again and got back in the shirt and jersey people have been treating her like they used to, with respect and caution, and she can't lie even to herself – she's missed it. She's missed people parting, dodging out of her way as she struts down the hallway, hips swaying and full of attitude.
So it's more than a shock when she practically barrages in Rachel.
"Urgh, for God's sake, Berry!' Quinn snarls, smoothing out her clothes.
Rachel is on her knees collecting the books she's dropped when she hastens, 'I'm sorry, Quinn, my mind just went blank for a second. Did my books dig into your diaphragm?"
Quinn sighs, feeling impatient and embarrassed. "Excuse me?"
"It's here,' Rachel get to her feet, reaches out and places a hand over Quinn's ribs. Quinn's skin erupts in tingles, but Rachel's hand is there just long enough to demonstrate because she seems to remember how inappropriate it is and snatches it back almost instantly. 'Because if you do damage to your diaphragm then you can't exhale properly and your singing is gravely affected, and not to sound harsh, but you can't afford to lose any more power and control over your voice."
Quinn glares at her, ready to show her just how much power her voice can have, when she notices something on Rachel's face. "Oh my God,"
"What? I did hurt you? Oh Quinn I'm so-..."
"What the hell is this?"
Rachel blinks when Quinn pokes her thumb into her left eyebrow. "I'm sorry?"
Quinn sighs, grabs Rachel's arm and drags her into the girls' bathroom. She walks her directly to the sink, dampens some paper towel, takes Rachel's books from her and hands her the soggy paper.
"Here,' she insists, 'take that crap off, you look awful."
"I know,' Rachel groans, and whirls around to face the mirror.
Quinn places the books on the bench and watches as Rachel scrubs the dark shade of purple from her eyelids. "Then why are you wearing it?"
"I ran out this morning and the first person I ran into was Tina, and I was desperate and she normally wears it so well…' Rachel shakes her head and looks angry with herself. 'I honestly don't know what I was thinking, we have completely different complexions."
"Santana would have let you borrow some."
"Santana wouldn't lend me her water bottle if I were dying of thirst.'
Quinn snorts. It's funny because it's true. She doesn't even bother to ask the 'Why didn't you just go without then?' question, because she already knows the answer – someone important could have come to the school that day, and what a disaster it would have been if they'd seen Rachel not looking her most presentable!
She reaches into her bag and retrieves her compact.
"Here,' she hands it to a confused looking Rachel, 'there should be something in there that'll suit you… at least until you can walk from the school to your Dad's car."
Rachel pursed her lips. "You think I'm ridiculous."
Quinn arches an eyebrow.
"Says the girl with fifty shades of eye shadow in her bag,' Rachel retorts, examining the cosmetics.
Quinn almost laughs, not even caring that this is one of the few times she has genuinely found Rachel amusing. It's the sarcastic, bitchy side of her she finds easy to relate to, so used to being around Santana for all these years.
Yes, surely that's it.
Quinn tunes out whatever it is Rachel is prattling on about now that she's reapplying, and instead finds herself taking a closer look at the rest of her. Again she's wearing one of those stupid sweaters (today's has an owl on it); Quinn is so used to seeing her in them that it doesn't seem so out of the ordinary anymore, but she wonders why Rachel insists on wearing them. She's seen her in their Glee costumes; Rachel isn't horribly put together. There's a decent body underneath all that itchy fabric. And why is she covering up the top half when she has no apparent qualms about showing off the bottom half? The skirts she sometimes wears… like the one she wore yesterday…
"Quinn? Are you listening to me?"
She snaps her gaze away quickly, blushing. "Of course not,"
Rachel huffs indignantly.
"Just hurry up, will you?"
"Do you finish your make up in five seconds when you're getting ready in the morning?' Rachel retorts.
Quinn looks at the floor. "Mercedes takes ages in the morning so I've learned to adapt."
Rachel looks at her suddenly, looking embarrassed. "Oh, no, I wasn't… I didn't mean…"
"Whatever,' Quinn mutters, waving a hand dismissively.
Never one to let things go, Rachel turns to face Quinn; she only just holds back a bitchy remark – Rachel has only done one eye. "How are things at Mercedes' house?"
"Have you been speaking to your Mom much?"
"No, have you?"
Quinn instantly regrets saying it the second it comes out of her mouth, not meaning for it to come out so harshly. Rachel blinks and physically takes a step back as if Quinn has slapped her, and Quinn feels guilt rise up in her chest.
"Sorry,' she says quickly, 'I didn't mean that. It just don't want to talk about it, okay?"
Rachel doesn't reply. Instead she turns back to the mirror and finishes off her other eye. Quinn hates it when Rachel goes quiet, and hates the fact that she'd prefer to be reprimanded and told off even more. She resents it when Rachel doesn't fight back; she's used to her wrenching her arm out of Quinn's grip or coming back with a long-winded retort. Even storming out with a huff would be preferable to the silent treatment.
God, what has become of her?
Desperate for any sort of response, Quinn says, "She wants me to move back in."
"And what do you want?"
Quinn doesn't answer for a moment; she's looking at the back of Rachel's thighs. Toned and brown…
"I like living with Mercedes, but I know I can't stay there forever. Her parents are great and all, but… it's my Mom."
"I think you should move home."
"Do you, now?"
"Despite everything that's happened you still love her. How could you not? Yes she made bad choices and mistakes and wasn't there for you when she should have been, but she's obviously truly remorseful. She chose you over your father."
"My father was having an affair."
"And she could have continued to keep living the way they were, just like they had been for years, but she didn't. She told him to leave so that she could start a fresh – with you."
Quinn's vision begins to blur as tears fill her eyes. She blinks them away, determined not to cry in front of Rachel. She knows Rachel sees them, but she doesn't comment on them, giving Quinn a little dignity.
"If you want my opinion… which I know you don't, but you're going to hear it anyway… I think you should give her another chance,' Rachel says, handing the compact back.
As she heads for the door, leaving Quinn standing there, Quinn says, "Would you? With Shelby?"
Rachel stops; her hand on the door. She doesn't turn when she says, "Of course."
"But she broke your heart."
Quinn stares at the door long after Rachel has gone through it, leaving it swinging behind her.
A week later, she confronts Santana after Cheerio practice.
"Why are we talking about this again?"
Quinn leans against the fence as she watches Santana continue her stretches. It's necessary post practice. The other all dash off to the showers to collapse or vomit, but Quinn stays to show that she's captain for a reason, and Santana stays to show she's captain material too and would totally rock the role of head cheerleader if Quinn broke her leg or something.
"Just tell me, would you?" Quinn is humiliated enough bringing it up at all without Santana smirking at her like that.
Santana crosses her arm over her chest, stretching her triceps out and sighs in that way that everyone knows means she's bored. "Of course no one has said anything. And even if they did I'd smack them down. People know this, I'm a total badass and I'm not to be messed with under any circumstance. I don't care what the small minded jerks in this town think – Brittney and I have fun; we're not hurting anyone."
Quinn agrees, and softly prompts, "So what's it like? Compared to boys?"
"Softer.' Santana looks into the distance with a tiny smile, as if picturing the experience. 'Brittney's had a lot of practice, and she's good at kissing… but it's nice. Boys are rougher, which is good too, don't get me wrong, but girls are… I don't know, it's just different. In a good way."
"Clearly. You do it enough."
Santana switches arms and looks at Quinn, scrutinizing. "Why the sudden curiosity anyway?"
"Because it's not like this is some new development."
"Has someone said something to you about me and Brittany?"
"No. I'd smack them out if they did."
Santana sighs. "Quinn, is this just your ass-backwards way of asking if we can make out?"
Quinn rolls her eyes and looks out at the bleachers. "You're a moron."
"Cause you know all you have to do is ask. Although I have to run it by Brit first. I think she'd kill me if I made out with you before she did."
Later on that afternoon, Quinn passes Rachel in the halls. The brunette has headphones on and is looking wistfully into space, hardly aware of where she's walking. Quinn looks at her mouth; her lips her full, mouthing along to the song she's listening to.
Quinn stops her, and Rachel looks up in surprise and fear; an old habit from when Quinn used to grab her arm in the halls, followed with a few choice insults.
But today, all she says is, 'Is that actually a walkman you're listening to?"
Rachel slides the headphones from her ears. "I'm sorry?"
Quinn grabs the plastic device from the hem of Rachel's pants. "I thought these were all lying in a landfill somewhere."
Rachel takes it back, looking defensive and embarrassed. Quinn tries to ignore how surprisingly cute it is when she blushes.
"What are you listening to that isn't on your iPod?' Quinn inquires.
"Just an old tape,' Rachel mutters.
Just before she gives a small smile, puts her headphones back on and walks off, Quinn hears the chorus of what she later identifies as, 'I Dreamed a Dream'.
"I still literally cannot believe this is actually happening."
Rachel adjusts Quinn's arm from second to third position. "I don't know why you won't just accept it. You're actually doing really well considering your bone structure and limited about of training… if it makes you feel any better."
Quinn glares at her over her shoulder. "It doesn't, surprisingly."
Rachel moves around to stand in front of her. She runs her eyes up and down Quinn's body. Quinn knows she's only critiquing her stance, but she still feels her cheeks burn.
"I'm not at all surprised Miss Sylvester approached me,' she continues, nudging Quinn's foot with her own.
"That makes one of us. I don't know why she came to you at all,' Quinn retorts. 'She's been choreographing Cheerios routines for nearly fifteen years and all of a sudden she decides to take a step back and let someone else take artistic license with her team? And out of everyone in the entire universe she chooses you?"
"Well, clearly my years of experience make me of course the most obvious choice. To be honest I'm a little astounded she didn't come to me sooner. Your routines are sound… what I've seen of them… but they need fine-tuning. The Cheerios have a lot of untapped potential, and it's my job to access, hone and embellish it."
A sentence Quinn had never even imagined hearing, let alone from the mouth of Rachel Berry.
Quinn sighs. "Then why am I the only one here?"
She looks around the empty dance studio, imagining the rest of her squad dressed in their workout gear, all doing stretches and ballet positions along with her like she thought was going to happen when Rachel sent her a note during class simply saying, 'After school, studio'.
"Because you're the captain,' Rachel says matter-of-factly, grabbing Quinn's shoulders and straightening her up, 'which means you need to work harder than anyone."
Quinn tenses a little from the close proximity to which Rachel is standing. Very rarely do they stand so close when they're not snapping at each other or singing on stage, and as they're both too distracted at the time Quinn notices now how nice Rachel's skin is, how her nose is a little crooked, how full her lips are…
Quinn snaps herself back to reality and rolls her eyes. "That's a line from Bring it On."
Rachel takes up a flawless third position opposite her. "That doesn't make it any less true.'
"And why Ballet?"
"Ballet teaches you control and strengthens your muscles, and having a background in dance will greatly benefit you in any sort of athletic event – it's proven."
"Where the hell is that study?"
"If you don't like it, would you rather try Funk again?'
" Now…' Rachel smiles, smug, '...do you remember the first routine?"
"I'm a cheerleader; I can remember routines better than how to feed myself breakfast in the morning. Not to mention we've been doing this for nearly two hours. Even Finn could memorize this after that long."
"Good. I've changed the song for this dance, it's slightly slower so you'll have to be more on point in the…"
"Berry,' Quinn sighs, dropping her arms and her shoulders, 'that was a subtle hint to say that I'm tired and bored and I don't want to do this anymore."
Rachel looks a little affronted as Quinn flops down in a pair chair by the door, but Quinn ignores her as she takes off the ballet shoes she's borrowed from Rachel. She throws them across the room and smiles as she watches Rachel huff and chase after them.
She comes back and gingerly puts the shoes away in her gym bag. "You know, when I was seven I would practice up to four hours a day after school."
"I'm shocked,' Quinn remarks, rubbing her feet.
"I wasn't very flexible though back then, kind of like you…"
"… but my dad bought me a yoga video for Christmas a year later and I would add that routine to my dance practice and…"
"This is a fascinating story, it really is,' Quinn holds a hand up to stop her talking, 'but I'd rather listen to alligators having sex than hear you talk about this right now, okay?"
Rachel looks reluctant, but nods and goes back over to the bar.
"You know,' Rachel says, breaking the blissful five second long silence, 'if everyone has such a problem with me talking, maybe they should take over the conversation from time to time."
"Who can get a word in?"
Rachel turns out and begins warming down. "I'm working on it."
Quinn has to admit she's been less irritating lately, but only a little. She's stopped cutting over people in Glee when they're talking about song choices for Sectionals at least. Quinn's watched her. She's looked almost bursting to say something a few times, but she seems to physically restrain herself by sitting on her hands, pursing her lips and looking at the floor.
"I went to see Shelby last weekend, you know."
This apparently wasn't going to be one of those times Rachel just shut up.
Quinn shifts uncomfortably. "Good for you."
She looks at the floor, but she can feel Rachel's eyes on her.
"Beth is doing well."
"You know what I said before about not wanting to hear you talk?' Quinn snaps. 'I meant it, and if I have to punch you in the nose to get my point across I will."
Rachel rolls her eyes and steps away from the bar. "Fine."
Quinn watches her gather her things in silence, feeling awkward and guilty. Rachel is the last person she wants to discuss something so personal with, but deep down she can't help it, she's dying to know, and knows she's the only person in the world with who she can.
"How is she?' Quinn asks, getting to her feet.
Rachel straightens up from unplugging her stereo and turns to Quinn. "Doing very well. She's moved back in with my Grandfather until she can work out what career she wants to pursue next. At the moment she's working at the family accountants' office, but that's only until she can find a musical position that both appreciates her talent and pays adequately. I met my Grandfather." She adds with a smile, as if such a thing had never happened to anyone before.
"That's… nice. I'm glad she's okay. But I was actually talking about Beth."
Rachel walks over, and Quinn wonders for a moment if she's going to try and hug her or something, and in that moment Quinn isn't so sure if she doesn't want her to. But Rachel stops just out of reach, looking patient and supportive – two things Quinn knows she doesn't deserve from her.
"She's beautiful,' Rachel's voice is thick with emotion.
And without another word, she walks around Quinn and leaves the room.
Later on that evening when she's sitting in Breadsticks with her mother, listening to the latest update on her sister, Quinn realizes it was actually quite insensitive to talk about the baby who for all intents and purposes replaced Rachel in Shelby's life with Rachel herself.
The next day in the cafeteria she apologizes. Rachel nods and gestures to the empty seat next to her, and Quinn sits next to her, not even asking to have some of her green jello before she takes a spoonful.
She feels a little better when she sees Rachel smile at her out of the corner of her eye.
It's Thursday, and Tina gets her first slushie facial.
Quinn watches in horror from the other end of the hallway as Karofsky bends over double with laughter, revealing Tina with purple goop dripping down her face, her expression nothing short of mortified. Mercedes, whom she'd no doubt been talking to seconds before, is just as shocked as Tina; she's standing there beside her, staring with her hands over her mouth, without anything to say.
She knows its Tina's first because she clearly doesn't know how to handle it. She looked like she just wanted the ground to open up and swallow her whole; everyone was staring at her – her worst nightmare.
Tina has always been invisible, and Quinn remembers how she hadn't even known Tina existed until she joined Glee Club. She was anonymous, a wall flower, a chameleon that could blend into her surroundings and you wouldn't even know she was there, despite her gothic clothing choices which, now combined with the shame of being in Glee, was finally enough to get her noticed.
"Suck on that, freak,' Karofsky jeers loudly, bumping knuckles with Azizmo.
Before she realizes what she's doing Quinn is walking forward, fury surging through her. Tina is a good person, someone to just sit with when you don't want to say anything, but don't really want to be alone either. She's kind and sympathetic and doesn't deserve the humiliation she's receiving right now. Quinn wants to swoop in and give Karofsky an ear bashing, tell him how much of a jerk he is, maybe punch him in the face if she can reach…
Out of no-where, Rachel appears behind him and taps him on the shoulder.
He turns and laughs down at her. She's so short and he's a bulking mess of stupidity.
"You want some too, Berry?' he chuckles. 'Just give me a minute, I'll have to get a refill – they're free today, you know. Warn the rest of your freak show that they'll have their turn all day."
Rachel places her hands on her hips, and Quinn waits for the lecture, but it never comes. Instead, quick as a flash Rachel swings her right leg forward and kicks Karofsky square in-between the legs.
The hallway erupts with laughter and gasps of shock as Karofsky drops like a bag of potatoes with a cry of agony, his hands clutching his privates. Azizmo is on his knees beside him, trying to help him up, but Karofsky is too busy rolling around like a turtle stuck on its back.
Quinn laughs, unable to help herself, and watches as Rachel simply steps over him, grabs Tina's shoulders and frog-marches her around the boys, through the crowd and into the girls bathroom with Mercedes hot on their heels.
Later on that afternoon, after Glee practice is finished and they're all packing up, Quinn watches from the other side of the room as everyone leaves, still fawning over Tina and making her tell them again what happened in complete detail. As the last ones out, Puck walks up to Rachel just before leaving the room, whispers something in her ear and then holds his fist out. Rachel rolls her eyes but there's a smile on her face, and she reluctantly bumps her knuckles against his. Quinn stalks over as soon as he leaves.
"So,' Quinn says, finally getting her chance to speak to her alone, 'wanna tell me when you turned into Santana?"
Rachel smiles, looking pleased with herself as she walks back over to the piano. "Actually I'd rather talk about our duet coming up. I prepared a number, I hope you don't mind, but I believe it sums us up perfectly."
Quinn snatches the sheet music out of Rachel's hands. "Talk. Now."
"You were on your way over,' Rachel says defensively, 'I saw you walking toward Tina. I just got there first."
"I'm not angry. I'm impressed."
"Really?" Rachel's tone is skeptical.
Quinn catches her eye, and tries to look as sincere as she's surprised to find she feels. "I've never seen you do anything like that before. People have treated you horribly in the past… I've treated you horribly… but you've always just ignored it or shaken it off and walked away. I've never seen you retaliate unless it's in song."
"I'm not a huge fan of violence,' Rachel says, sitting down at the piano. 'Unless it's absolutely necessary, of course."
"And you thought kicking Karofsky in the nads was necessary?"
"Of course I did. I do. That jerk has had it coming to him since he got Finn with that Jumbo Raspberry Rapture last year."
Rachel sighs. "Quinn, you're confusing me. Did you not so subtly wait until everyone had left so you could pull me aside and tell me you support my actions, or condone them?"
Quinn hesitates. She's not really sure why she's doing this either, if she's honest with herself. Surely a pat on the back and a few choice words about karma and justice, just like everyone else had supplied (including Mr. Schuester, albeit very reluctantly), would have sufficed?
"I just wanna know where it came from,' she admits. 'Who taught you that?"
Rachel gives a coy smile. "Puck."
"Puck? You kicked him in the balls too?"
"No!' Rachel laughs, blushing. 'He's been… teaching me some things."
Quinn envisioned Puck teaching Rachel how to smuggle out a frozen turkey from a grocery store, or shooting tin cans on a distance fence with an air rifle. It was so absurd she almost wanted to laugh.
"I'm … quite slight, and I'm going to need to learn to defend myself against the paparazzi when I become famous,' Rachel nods, 'we all know how relentless they can be. Just look at Princess Diana. I refuse to be cut down in my prime because I couldn't take care of myself. I'd suggest you do the same."
"Are you saying I'm weak?" Quinn snaps.
Rachel collects her books, not looking insulted at all by her tone. "Of course not. We both know you can take care of yourself. It just feels good – feels empowering. We spend ninety percent of our time at this school taking harassment from almost every member of the student body, and I know we like to act like it doesn't bother us, and we can fool them, but we can't fool ourselves. It hurts. Standing up to people makes us feel stronger, like we're in control – like we're invincible. Who wouldn't want to feel like that?"
Quinn shivers as Rachel passes by her on her way out and flashes her a smile.
A hand slaps on the lid of the piano, causing Quinn to just about jump out of her skin. She looks up from her sheet music, not entirely surprised to see Rachel standing on the other side of the large, black instrument, visibly shaking with anger.
"Is it true?"
"Well that's depends."
"On what the hell you're yammering about."
Rachel moves around the piano like a panther. Quinn's eyes widen and she moves around just as quickly, keeping herself out of arms reach. She knows she could take her, but still thinks it best to avoid a confrontation at all costs. She remembers what happened to Karofsky the other day, and he was twice the size of Quinn, who is almost a head taller than Rachel.
"Did you convince Mr. Schuester to give you the Doris Day solo?"
Quinn turns the sheet music face-down. "You're not right for it."
Rachel looks like Quinn has slapped her; she looks like she's never heard such a suggestion in her entire life. Quinn is pretty sure, up until she's joined Glee, she hasn't. When Rachel continues to gape at her silently, Quinn guesses she's actually going to have to explain.
"It's a gentle, subtle song. Its seductive and soft – four qualities you absolutely do not possess, but I do. You have the sensuality of a moss covered brick, so if you want to convince the judges, you might as well have someone sing it that can so naturally. So you can see why Mr. Schue agreed that I was the obvious choice and not you."
"But… it… Doris Day was not a quiet performer! Have you not seen any of her movies? Listened to any of her songs?"
"My Dad had a crush on Doris Day,' Quinn snarls, 'I've seen her movies. You're not the only person in the world who likes musicals, you know. Pajama Game, Calamity Jane, Glass Bottom Boat, On Moonlight Bay, Love me or leave me... I've seen them all. I know how she sings, her voice would be stuck in my head for days sometimes, so don't stand there presuming I'm an idiot and I don't know what I'm talking about."
Rachel looks slightly taken back, and Quinn feels a quick surge of satisfaction until Rachel quickly recovers.
"I can be subtle,' she mutters.
"Please. A bulldozer rolling through the streets of Lima is more subtle than you. You have great control over your voice…'
"… but your excitement gets the better of you, and you'll be too interested in trying to be fabulous than doing the song justice."
"Mr. Schue didn't give you the solo anyway, so stop acting like a baby and quit your tantrum. It's not like I stole it from you or anything. It was fair game."
Rachel frowns. "You knew I wanted that solo."
Quinn rolls her eyes. "You want every solo! News flash, Yentl: it's not all about you. I think you can handle losing out on this one."
"But this isn't fair!' Rachel actually stamps her foot. As if the sweater she's wearing (bunnies on the front) didn't make her look childish enough.
"Life isn't fair,' snaps Quinn, 'get used to it."
"I am used to it,' Rachel retorts.
"Then get out of my face and take your hissy fit somewhere else to someone that cares."
Rachel stares for a long moment and her expression shifts several times, like she can't quite decide what emotion to settle on and chooses instead to run through them all.
Finally, she chooses one, and Quinn is unsettled when she smiles. "You're right."
Quinn blinks. "I'm sorry?"
"You're right. Your voice is perfect for this solo, and it'll give us the edge at Regionals,' Rachel explains.
"I… don't understand what you're saying right now,' Quinn says, feeling confused. 'You want me to sing the solo now? But you just said…"
"I know, but I've thought about it,' Rachel nods, as if trying to convince herself as much as she's trying to convince Quinn, 'and you're right."
Quinn really feels alarmed now. "I am? Since when? Have you just had some sort of seizure?"
Rachel actually laughs, and Quinn wonders if anyone has recommended she take medication for Bipolar disorder. She runs so hot and cold, switching from one to the next all the time it's no wonder no-one can keep up with her. Finn and Mr. Schue try, but always seem to have this dazed look on their face after Rachel finally finishes talking and walks away, and if they can't believe what's just happened. Quinn always feels like that when Rachel talks to her.
"I'm just taking a… a step back. I'm trying to see things from your point of view, trying to see what's best for the team, and after a moment of quiet reflections, yes… I agree with you – I think your representation of the song will resonate more with the judges than with mine. I can be… overbearing sometimes – but I just can't help it! I get so into the music and the lyrics and the melody that it's like I go into this sort of trance, and I no longer have control over anything anymore, and my voice just gets too carried away and…"
Quinn has stopped listening. Rachel's eyes are flashing, the same way they sparkle when she's been told she's getting to perform another solo; like how they light up when she's excited about their upcoming competitions and she gets to see what other talent is out there and receive conformation that she's still better than they are, like how they glint with exhilaration when they're going to perform a song she loves, or how they almost seem to burn when she seething because she's being denied what she wants, which is seemingly everything.
She's so animated and opinionated and passionate and fiery and energetic and electric, and it makes Quinn's whole body tingle.
And before she realizes what she's doing, (partly because it's all she's been thinking about all week, partly because she just can't stand it anymore, but mostly to shut her up), Quinn grabs Rachel by the front of her sweater, pulls her forward and crashes her lips down against hers.
Rachel instantly stiffens, but the thrill of knowing she's actually stumped Rachel 'Always has something to say about everything' Berry only excites her more, and Quinn presses her lips just a little bit firmer.
It only lasts a few moments and Quinn's sense kicks back into gear. They break apart with a gasp, and Rachel takes a tiny step back. She's stares at Quinn in shock; she gently touches her lips, as if trying to convince herself that, yes, that did actually happen.
Quinn shivers, feeling embarrassed and nervous and turned on all at once.
"Sorry,' she finally says after a long pause, 'I'm… I'm sorry. I don't know why I…"
She doesn't get a chance to finish. Rachel has closed the distance between them again. She's pressed right up against her; in a surprised, instinctive gesture Quinn tries to back away but she doesn't get very far – two steps and Rachel has her pressed up against the edge of the piano.
Rachel doesn't say anything as she tilts her face upward, but doesn't close the contact, just stops, her lips hovering millimeters away from Quinn's as if not sure whether to continue; her big brown eyes search Quinn's face, looking for something Quinn has no idea of.
Quinn's head spins. She looks down at Rachel's mouth, her lips flushed and fuller than usual, and she remembers how soft they were, how good they felt, how much she wants to do it again…
"It's okay,' Rachel whispers. The movement of her mouth as she pronounces the last syllable causes her bottom lip to brush slightly against Quinn's.
That's all it takes.
Quinn cups Rachel's cheeks and kisses her again, this time even more excited to feel Rachel's mouth open and tongue dart out in reply. She's just as firm and reciprocating as Quinn is, and she's not surprised to find Rachel is a good kisser – she's a good everything.
A voice in the back of her head is nagging at her: what the hell are you doing? This is Rachel Berry you're kissing right now, did you know that? This isn't like kissing Puck or Finn! She's short and slim and soft and a girl… not to mention your arch nemesis, right? Right? This is a terrible idea! You hate her! So why is this making you feel so good? Why are you enjoying this so much? And where has her right hand go-… oh, there it is! Wow, not shy, is she? Of course she's not, this is Rachel Berry we're talking about! Oh my God, you're kissing Rachel effing Berry!
She stops listening.
Rachel's right hand is on Quinn's hip. She squeezes and Quinn moans and thrusts her pelvis forward, only taking a second to acknowledge that there's nothing there when she's used to feeling something by this stage, before letting her hand roam free.
She's not surprised when it ends up on Rachel's leg.
Those legs that are always making an appearance in those skirts, just like the one Rachel is wearing today. The skin of Rachel's outer thigh is soft, and Quinn scratches her nails softly against it, and Rachel whimpers ever so softly against Quinn's mouth and Quinn's body suddenly feels like it's on fire…
The bell chooses that moment to ring loudly, signaling the end of lunch, and both girls break apart like they've been electrocuted.
Quinn's heart is pounding, her pulse is beating loudly in her ears as her skin tingles and her fingertips itch to reach out and grab Rachel again. But she does nothing, just stands there, panting as heavily as Rachel is.
"I…I don't…this…' Rachel begins, but stops and looks around, as if hoping the right words to say will suddenly appear out of thin air.
Quinn saves her the trouble. She grabs her sheet music, mutters something about English, and rushes from the room, pretending she doesn't see Rachel reach out to stop her.
Santana nudges Quinn and whispers, 'Hey, hurry up, will you? Brit's and I needs to get our Breadsticks date on."
Quinn looks up from the book she's been trying to distract herself with (she's read the same sentence twice). Mr. Schuester is looking at her expectantly; he gestures to his left… where Rachel is standing.
"We're ready for you." He says.
Quinn glances at Rachel. The brunette arches her eyebrows at her and gestures to the place beside her impatiently.
She closes her book with a snap, shoves it into Santana's lap and grudgingly makes her way to the front of the room. Rachel takes a sideway step to allow her room. Quinn doesn't acknowledge the gesture.
"Okay,' Mr. Schuester announces gleefully, rubbing his hands together, 'this is, dare I say, the most anticipated duet of this assignment…'
Quinn glares at him.
"… so I won't keep you in suspense any longer. So, last but not least, I present to you, Rachel and Quinn."
Everyone applauds politely as Mr. Schuester sits down to give the two girls centre stage. Quinn says nothing as Rachel steps forward and takes a deep breath, her eyes wide and alight with that usual excitement she feels when she's the center of attention.
"For our song choice, I… excuse me, I beg your pardon, we… have chosen a number that I… we… feel adequately expresses our relationship perfectly – a song about animosity and differences and…"
"Just sing already!' Mercedes cries, throwing her hands up in the air.
The club murmurs in agreement. Quinn smirks; she knows how badly they all want to see this happen.
Rachel takes a moment to get over her indignation, and then nods at the jazz band. As they ready their instruments, Rachel looks to Quinn to begin.
Quinn clenches her jaw, indulging in one last moment of apprehension and annoyance, before starting the song.
Of course, once they start everyone is smiling, almost as if they knew it was coming – Quinn's quite sure they did. It's no secret Wicked is one of Rachel's favorites, and the odds of Quinn actually having any artistic license for this assignment is quite predictably low. Quinn glares at Rachel and receives a look for breaking character, but she doesn't care. Despite the fact that Rachel is right, and the song does suit them, Quinn still feels ridiculous.
It doesn't take long for Rachel to get into character. In no time at all she's acting the part, glaring at Quinn as if she loathes her, and it's so believable that Quinn finds herself responding with just as much animosity without even meaning to.
What is this feeling?
Burning as a flame,
does it have a name,
They dance around each other, get up in each others' faces (Quinn tries not to laugh as Rachel screws her face up at Quinn as if she's disgusted by her), and without even preparing it Kurt and Mercedes come down and join on cue, filling in the chorus.
She's doing it again, that hair-flip-over-the-shoulder thing she does when she's presenting attitude, and Quinn almost squirms because it's just too much. Her lower regions tingle as she watches Rachel's eyes flash; she's staring at her as they sing with an intensity Quinn knew she would be mirroring.
When they finally finish the song, and everyone applauds, Quinn realizes how hard her heart is racing. Rachel is beaming at everyone, including Quinn, and Quinn's belly does flips.
"Alright!' Mr. Schuester laughs, clapping. 'Great job, girls! Excellent! Very… enthusiastic! You see guys,' he turns to the rest of the club, looking excited, 'this is a prime example of what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it, despite the fact that you don't necessarily see eye to eye with your partner all the time – a prime example of why I decided to give you this assignment in the first place."
"And here we all thought you were just being sadistic,' mutters Kurt, glancing at Santana, who he had been partnered with.
Mr. Schuester pats Quinn on the back and gestures for them to sit down. Rachel casts a glance at Quinn, and then takes up the empty seat next to Finn.
Quinn's nostrils flare as she turns to Mr. Schuester. "Are we done here for the day? I have plans tonight and I want to get out of this Cheerio's uniform."
"Well I was just going to discuss Sectionals…"
"Great, see you in Spanish tomorrow."
Quinn grabs her bag from the doorway and heads off to the locker room.
She takes her time showering, and when she finally steps out, dries herself off and begins to dress she's confident everyone will have left the school by now.
So when she turns around and sees Rachel in the doorway, she jumps.
"Excuse me!' Quinn cries, blushing, trying to get her shirt on.
Rachel walks over and holds out what Quinn realizes is her red Cheerios jacket. "You forgot this."
"Thanks,' Quinn takes it gingerly and her heart begins to pound. 'Did everyone else leave?"
Quinn throws the jacket aside, grabs Rachel by her shoulders, shoves her up against the lockers and kisses her.
Rachel half-laughs, half-grunts; the sound is muffled by Quinn's lips upon her own. Her hands instantly go to Quinn's hair (she's noticed Rachel has this thing about her hair); her fingers massaging her scalp. Quinn runs her hands down Rachel's back to her hips and pushes her into the metal doors just a little more.
"They loved us,' Rachel breathes, looking smug. 'I told you that was the best song choice for us."
"Shut up,' Quinn snaps playfully, kissing her again.
She dips her head to plant kisses along Rachel's neck and Rachel's hands move down to Quinn's shoulders. She squeezes, pulling her closer.
"Of course, after you left, Santana expressed a few points of criticism…' Rachel continues, her voice shaky.
"…but I think she was just sour because her voice simply doesn't compliment Kurt's like ours do for each other – something I never thought I'd say, to be honest – and she knows their duet isn't going to be anywhere near up to the standard we just produced and we all know how much Santana doesn't like to lo-…oh…."
Quinn smirks; Rachel's knees part slightly and Quinn nudges her thigh between them. Quinn sucks on that spot on Rachel's neck and Rachel's hips roll forward. Quinn digs her fingernails into Rachel's skin; Rachel sighs and Quinn shivers.
"I thought I told you not to wear this skirt,' Quinn says, tugging playfully on the said piece of clothing. 'I nearly forgot the lyrics in the second verse with you… twirling around like that."
"Well if I had known it affected you that much…' Rachel pauses, grabs Quinn's face in her hands and smiles.
"Could have lost us the competition."
"Oh please,' Rachel scoffs. She runs the pad of her thumb over Quinn's bottom lip while her tongue darts out to lick her own.
Rachel's eyes narrow slightly, and she gets that look in her eye, the one where she can almost see herself standing on a podium, accepting her shiny award because to her the possibility of her not winning is inconceivable.
A thrill surges through Quinn's body, and she kisses Rachel again.
Since their first encounter in the choir room two weeks earlier they've had a few moments like this without even meaning to (at least at first), always with the same sort of frenzy, like they need to be touching each other.
The second time it happens, two days later after their encounter in the choir room, Rachel walks Quinn to her car in attempt to confront Quinn about what had happened, and they end up in the backseat with Quinn's hand up Rachel's shirt, only stopping when Quinn thinks she sees someone walk past the car and practically forces her out.
Four days later they run into each other at the mall, and Rachel tries talking again. They end up in gripping each others' arms tightly in the back of the sports aisle of K-Mart; trying to keep a distance from each other yet unable to help themselves at the same time, almost succumbing when a store clerk walks past and confronts them because he thinks they're about to fight over the new softball bats they just got in.
A week later, after Rachel seemingly deeming their attempts to talk reasonably to be futile, Quinn goes looking for her, ironically unable to stand the silent treatment. She finds her practicing a number with Finn. He excuses himself, thinking it simply to be 'another thing' between the two girls. Quinn doubts he really knows that 'their thing' is Rachel on the piano stool with Quinn in her lap.
When Rachel pulls back again now, looking serious, Quinn knows she's thinking the same thing.
"We really should probably talk about this,' she says breathlessly.
Her lips are swollen and she's blushing and her hair is messy and Quinn thinks that's a terrible idea.
"Have we?' Rachel arches an eyebrow. 'Have we really?"
"Yeah, we have,' Quinn runs her hands up and down Rachel's sides. Rachel shivers. 'We've tried talking and staying away from each other and it always ends up right back here."
"But why?' Rachel whispers, her lips hovering millimeters from Quinn's. Quinn leans in to close the distance but Rachel pulls away, and Quinn knows she won't be satisfied until they talk it out.
Quinn sighs and steps away completely. Rachel's knees buckle slightly and she leans all her weight against the lockers as she smoothes her hair out.
"Does it matter why?' Quinn asks.
Rachel breathes out a short laugh. "Well considering the fact that you don't even really like me…"
"I don't hate you,' Quinn rolls her eyes, feeling frustrated. 'How many times do I have to tell you that?"
"But you don't like me,"
"Well clearly I do."
Rachel purses her lips, but can't hide her smile.
Quinn looks at Rachel, trying to see past how adorable she looks, standing there, hugging herself with her hair all a mess despite her best efforts to straighten it up; how her cheeks are still flushed and her chest is still rising and falling ever so slightly as she tries to settle her body down. She looks vulnerable, and nervous, and uncertain and confused, and Quinn understands why. She can see Rachel is counting on her to provide a solution to this situation.
"I don't know what to tell you,' Quinn admits, knowing she can't be anything but honest. 'I don't know how or why this is happening.'
"And that doesn't bother you?"
Quinn is surprised at how much she means it when she says, 'No. It doesn't bother me."
Rachel folds her hands over her chest, feeling put-out. Quinn smiles, unable to help herself – it's just too adorable.
She gets to her feet and takes Rachel gently by the hips. Rachel rolls her eyes and sighs as Quinn pulls her closer, because she's frustrated that she's still confused, and irritated that she still can't help herself.
Quinn smirks, leans in and kisses her.
Rachel responds instantly, both her lips almost sucking on Quinn's bottom one. Quinn's never been kissed like this. Finn was almost too worried to try anything sensual, mostly because of her strict rules, her stance on celibacy and the knowledge that she would tear him a new one if he did. Puck was tipsy and too fervent; his lips were a little rough and too eager.
Rachel is slow and precise. She's delicate and soft but also confident and absolutely determined to give the best performance of her life. Her skin is soft and she sighs in her ear and grins against her lips when Quinn touches her in certain places, and it's so amazingly hot Quinn always finds herself unable to stop.
"But how can you not question it?' Rachel questions again, pulling away.
Quinn sighs, feeling the lust bubble burst. "Because sometimes not everything has an explanation. Sometimes things just happen, and I believe it's stupid to go around questioning every single tiny detail of life when we'll never get any answers."
"It's not like I'm trying to discover the meaning of life or why everyone in Glee hates on my obvious talent or what the ending of Lost really meant…' Rachel reasons. 'I just need to know…"
"You know what?' Quinn snaps and gathers her belongings. 'Just forget it."
Quinn bats Rachel's outstretched hand away, ignoring the urge to grab her wrist and pull her close, and storms from the locker room.
Rachel tries several times during the next week to talk to Quinn, but Quinn avoids her. She doesn't want to talk, but because she's avoiding her she doesn't get to do what she does want to do.
So when she's in the bathroom with Santana one afternoon before their last period of the day, doing their make-up as if it actually needs to be done, Quinn is only half listening to what she's saying because she's considering doing something crazy.
"… which is completely retarded, right? I mean, come on, who the hell does he think he is? And more importantly who the hell does he think I am? Just some floozy who sits around at home with nothing better to do than wait for him to call when he gets bored? The hell I am,' Santana snaps as she applies her mascara. 'No-one controls Santana Lopez… especially the Puckasaurus."
"Hey, don't be hatin',' Santana says hastily, holding up a hand. 'He was your baby daddy but you can't say he was ever really your boyfriend, so technically I'm not stepping on any toes…"
"No, not that."
Quinn hesitates, biting her lip, before muttering, 'If I try something, will you promise not to read too much into it? Or tell anyone?"
Santana turns to face her, leaning her hip against the sink. "Sure, I guess."
Quinn steps forward before she loses her nerve, tilts her head up and kisses her.
She isn't expecting it to last very long, but almost instantly Santana responds by wrapping her arms around Quinn and pulling her closer. She can feel Santana's tongue already asking for entry, and Quinn allows it, figuring if she's going to do this she might as well do it right. But it doesn't feel like she thought it would. Her lips aren't right, she's too tall, she doesn't smell right, her hair isn't right…
A few moments later Santana pulls away, leaving Quinn feeling akin to being softly slapped in the face. She blinks a few times before focusing on Santana, now back to the mirror, looking like nothing has happened. The only sign that it has is the smirk on her face.
"Feel better?' she asks.
"Yes,' Quinn lies.
"Wanna tell me why we just did that? I mean, I'm hot, but you've never really shown the slightest interest in me,' Santana says in a tone that implies she thinks Quinn is crazy.
Quinn frowns at the floor, feeling disappointed. It almost would have been easier if she'd felt even a smidgen of what she felt when she kisses Rachel like that. It would have been a comfort.
"Just wanted to see what all the fuss was about,' Quinn says. 'Brittany wouldn't shut up about it the other day."
Santana smiles and turns back to the mirror, looking extremely pleased with herself and, to Quinn's surprise, blushing slightly.
Quinn is doing her math assignment when the doorbell rings.
"I'll get it!' her mother's voice rings up the stairs.
She smiles and goes back to her work. Since moving back in three days earlier her mother has been determined to make an effort to be a better parent and person in any way possible. She's bringing Quinn water at night before she settles into bed, she's asking her what she wants for dinner and actually cooking it, she's been asking questions about Glee Club and trying to find out the dates of Sectionals and Regionals and Nationals (if they make it that far) so she can clear her schedule. She's taking an interest, clearly panicking that she's missed out on so much already and wants to make up for it.
Quinn would be lying if she said she didn't like the attention.
She looks up when there's a knock at her door.
"Quinny? There's someone here to see you."
The door opens and her mother comes in first, followed by an intimidated-but-determined looking Rachel Berry.
Quinn is on her feet instantly. "What are you doing here?' Her tone is harsher that she intends, and her mother looks at her with surprised concern.
Rachel steps into the room properly. "I thought we could practice runs together."
"I remember you from last year's Regionals,' her mother gushes at Rachel. 'You have a wonderful voice."
Rachel beams, her eyes flashing at the praise.
"She knows, Mom,' Quinn says irritably.
"Right, of course,' Judy laughs, waving a hand dismissively. 'You probably hear that all the time."
"Usually from professionals. Judges and teachers and the like,' Rachel actually blushes, 'but never from parents – who aren't my own, anyway."
"You two together on stage,' Judy sighs happily, looking at Quinn with the same adoration, 'you looked simply spectacular. Your whole group did, actually. I was appalled to hear you didn't win. Terrible injustice, if you ask me. I wasn't there for that Vocal Adrenaline performance, but I don't see how they could have beaten you."
"They're Regional champions for four years running for a reason, Mom,' Quinn explains. She's trying not to look at Rachel, who is trying to catch her eye. 'Didn't hurt that they had Jesse St. Jerk on their side either.
She sees Rachel wince, but doesn't acknowledge it.
"Well I'll let you too rehearse then, so you can go back this year and really show them,' Judy punches he air softly.
Quinn watches hopelessly as Judy gives them both another smile, pats Rachel on the back and leaves, closing the door behind her.
The silence is deafening. Rachel is looking around Quinn's room, her shoulders tucked in as if afraid to touch anything, no doubt going over the events of her life that had led her to be standing here.
"You shouldn't talk about Jesse like that,' she says finally.
"Why not? The guy cracked an egg on your head, after standing there and doing nothing while the rest of his team completely humiliated you.' Quinn feels a surge of anger, thinking about it all again. 'I don't understand why you don't talk about him that way too."
Rachel smiles slightly. "I appreciate your protectiveness."
Quinn sits back down at her desk, wishing Rachel would just leave, but at the same time kind of glad to see her. "Why are you here? Really?"
"You avoid me at school, you hide behind Mercedes in rehearsals…' Rachel shrugs. 'I've been reduced to confronting you at your home. Besides, I thought you might be more comfortable on your home ground."
"We could be in a five star penthouse suite at the Hilton,' Quinn says, resisting the urge to go over to her. She's actually missed her, and she's wearing one of those skirts again, 'I still wouldn't be comfortable enough to talk about… this."
"I'm not here to talk. Well, at least not now. The things I have to say… well, I don't want to confront you about it with your mother downstairs because you're likely to hit me and neither of us want to explain that to her, I'm sure."
Quinn raises an eyebrow. "Why do you always think I'm going to punch you?"
"You get that look.' Rachel says simply.
She clasps her hands together in front of her and takes a tentative step forward. It astounds Quinn how she can be so unsure when they're talking like normal everyday people, but be so confident and secure when she has her hand up Quinn's shirt and is breathing heavily in her ear.
'You've been avoiding me." she admits so softly Quinn isn't sure she hears her properly.
"Yeah,' Quinn says, not sure what else to say. She's still trying to get used to seeing Rachel Berry in her bedroom.
Rachel shrugs. "I thought maybe we could… hang out."
Quinn raises her other eyebrow. "Hang out?"
"You know… like friends."
"Is that what we are?"
"I don't know,' Rachel frowns, 'and you won't talk to me about it, and I have no-one to talk about this certain thing with except my parents and, well, they're not really experts when it comes to girls."
Quinn realizes with a pang that Rachel really doesn't have anyone to talk to – except for Finn, who she imagines is the last person on her list to discuss this certain issue with.
Rachel looks up at her through those thick lashes of hers, her big brown eyes looking hopeful. Quinn fights the urge to go sit next to her.
"I miss seeing you,' she confesses.
"I wouldn't think you'd have time to miss anyone being with Finn and all."
Rachel scowls. "What's wrong, Quinn? Jealous?"
Quinn leans down, getting in her personal space. "Absolutely not."
"Do you want me to break up with him?"
Quinn straightens up, hoping Rachel doesn't see the panic that flashes across her face. She doesn't know what to say. She knows that if she says yes, Rachel would do so in a heartbeat. She knows if she says no, Rachel will know she's lying.
"Why do you always have to talk?' Quinn says after a long pause. 'Don't you know how to just sit anywhere in silence?"
Rachel folds her arms over her chest and pouts. Quinn finds the gesture frustrating and adorable all at the same time, and when she sits next to her she finds herself enjoying the simple gesture of leaning against the other girl in a moment of quiet.
It isn't long before the lack of talking causes them to look at each other, and Quinn hasn't been this close to her in days and she's remembering how soft Rachel's lips are; how impressive she is at the whole kissing thing, and a thrill rolls down her spine as she thinks about the last time she had Rachel pushed up against the metal doors in the girls locker room and how her tiny body arched in response…
It's clear from the way Rachel abruptly leans in and kisses Quinn with sudden urgency that she's thinking the same thing.
"Wait,' Quinn breathes as Rachel pushes her back onto the bed.
"I've been waiting,' Rachel whispers.
Quinn loses her train of thought for a moment as Rachel's hand slides under her shirt. "We… ungh… Rachel, stop…"
And she does. It's one of the things Quinn appreciates about her.
"I'm sorry,' Rachel says, but her hand is still in position and she's still lying on top of Quinn.
"I want this,' Quinn admits, 'but my Mom is just downstairs, and on top of teen pregnancy, a cheating husband and an ongoing divorce… I think this would just be one thing too many for her to handle."
Rachel nods and finally slides off her. Quinn props herself up on her elbows.
"S'pose I should probably leave then,' Rachel mutters.
"Don't,' Quinn demands softly.
Rachel looks at her questioningly.
Quinn smiles and nods at her desk. "You any good at math?"
Rachel and Finn break up two weeks later after she finds out that Finn slept with Santana. Rachel accuses him of lying and betrayal. Finn retorts that she's being unreasonable; that they weren't even together when it happened, that she's being dramatic and unreasonable.
The same afternoon after school she shows up on Quinn's doorstep, looking genuinely upset. Quinn lets her in hesitantly.
An hour later, after Rachel has finished crying and pulled herself together, they're sitting at the dining table eating dinner with Quinn's mother, discussing up-coming Sectionals, because her mother doesn't know that Rachel used to be the butt of every one of Quinn's jokes, and doesn't find it strange for her to be sitting there now, eating salad and talking about Sia.
Two hours later Quinn insists that Rachel stays over because she's in no condition to be driving anywhere, and Rachel agrees because her parents are out late and she doesn't want to be alone right now.
Two and a half hours later, Rachel is breathing heavily into Quinn's ear while she touches her, whispering encouragement and words so sexy Quinn actually blushes.
Three hours later, Rachel his lying behind and up against Quinn, her arm around her middle, breathing in slow even breaths that indicate she's asleep, and Quinn is too content and tired she forgets to deny how nice it feels.
The next day, Rachel pulls Quinn aside in the halls and mutters, 'I'm sorry, we can't do this anymore."
Quinn frowns. "I beg your pardon?"
"Last night was… wonderful,' Rachel breathes, looking nostalgic and wistful for a moment before remembering herself, '… but it was wrong. I'm sorry. I was emotional and coming over to your house was impulsive and crass and I shouldn't have done it. I was upset with Finn and…' she pauses, looking as if saying the next few words are physically awkward, '… look, I'm not stupid; I know what this is. It's weird and inexplicable and something we don't like to talk about or define. We're having fun, that's all, and I understand that. But I can't keep suppressing my feelings with meaningless make-out sessions behind closed doors and in shadows. I need to take time out for me. I can't rely on you to make me feel better about myself. I need to rely on myself instead – and music."
Quinn is surprised when she realizes what she's feeling is panic. "But… we…"
"It's okay,' Rachel nods, looking determined. 'I promise I won't bother you anymore. See you in History?"
Quinn can do nothing but stare as Rachel walks off. She wants to chase after her and say something, anything, to make her reconsider. But she knows in the back of her mind this is what's best; Rachel needs space, to find out who she is, and Quinn wants that for her.
That afternoon when they're sitting together in History, learning about Genghis Khan, Quinn slides a note across to Rachel.
Come over tonight so we can talk properly.
Rachel takes a moment to read, before jotting a reply and passing the note back.
Fine, but only because your broadband is faster than mine and we need to research songs for Sectionals.
As they walk to Quinn's car together after school, Quinn see's Brittany and Santana watching. Santana looks confused and angry. Brittany looks happy.
"They think we're going home to have sex,' Quinn remarks over the top of her car.
Rachel turns and looks over. "They're being dramatic."
Three hours later, Quinn supposes that they weren't. So much for Rachel needing space.
"What the hell is going on?'
Quinn looks up from her books at Santana and Brittany standing over her. "I'm trying to read and you're all up in my face, that's what's going on."
Santana grabs the book out of Quinn's hands and snaps it shut. "I mean with you and the midget."
"Don't call her that,' Quinn snaps.
"Like we haven't called her worse? Are you to bosom buddies now or something?'
"So what if we are?"
Santana splutters, looking outraged.
Brittany places a hand on Santana's shoulder. "I like Rachel. She's small and annoying but she pulls funny faces when she sings – it amuses me."
"It's Rachel fucking Berry!' cries Santana. 'We make fun of her, not with her!"
Quinn gets to her feet, feeling angry. "She's not that bad, you know."
"Are you kidding me? Do you not remember how she stole your boyfriend?"
"If memory serves me right, Santana, so did you,' Quinn retorts.
Quinn makes to leave, but a hand grabs her. She's surprised to turn around and see its not Santana, but Brittany who has stopped her.
"If you love her, that's okay,' Brittany says in her serious monotone.
"I don't love her, for God's sake,' Quinn snarls, storming off.
Brittany's words echo in her head for days after.
Rachel is over, studying for a history exam when Quinn says, "I think Brittany and Santana are onto us."
They're sitting on Quinn's bed together, side by side, propped up against the headboard with Quinn's iPod between them, each with a tiny white bud in their ear. But the volume is down low and Rachel has no problem hearing Quinn.
She turns to look at her. "Onto us?"
"You know,' Quinn gestures between them. 'This."
Quinn gives her a look.
Rachel sighs and goes back to her notes. "What do you want me to say?"
"I don't know. I just wanted to make you aware, I guess."
There's a short pause, until Rachel says softly, 'Would that be such a bad thing?"
Quinn looks at her. "Somehow I don't think there's a right answer to this question."
"Well look at us,' Rachel says, sitting up properly. 'Clearly we're not just friends anymore. I mean, I consider you... well…'
Rachel chews on her lip before saying, "I like you more than I originally planned."
Quinn's whole body tenses. Her skin tingles and her chest feels funky and she isn't sure what it means. "Um…"
"I'm sorry,' Rachel apologized quickly. 'I shouldn't have said that. I'm always saying things like that too fast."
"It's okay,' Even though Quinn isn't sure if it is.
"You look surprised," Rachel observes. Quinn hates it when she does that. "I just don't see the problem in people knowing, that's all I'm saying,' Rachel says, although it's clear that's no-where near all she wants to say.
"It'd make things complicated."
Rachel frowns, swallowing hard. "Are you ashamed?"
"No,' Quinn says instantly. She hopes Rachel believes her. 'People think we're friends, what's wrong with that?"
"But we're not just friends, Quinn."
"It's none of their business!' When Rachel doesn't look convinced, Quinn puts her books down and looks her in the eye. 'I'm not ashamed of you, okay? I just want something for myself, is that too much to ask? I went through the better half of last year with everyone knowing my business… I just was some privacy."
Rachel doesn't look convinced, but she lets it go.
"I'm not ashamed of you,' Quinn repeats firmly.
"I believe you,' Rachel smiles.
But Quinn still feels like they're something she's supposed to say.
They're waiting in the green room for the first Glee Club to finish their set before they can go on stage and 'rock this thing' as Mercedes so eloquently put it earlier, when the intervention begins.
"So I hear you and Rachel are hooking up?"
Quinn looks up from her sheet music to see Puck smiling at her from across the room. "I beg your pardon?"
"'Cause I gotta admit… that's pretty hot.' He quirks an eyebrow. 'She's a good kisser, you know."
"Hey shut up, man!' Finn snaps. 'Don't talk about her like that."
"What? I was paying her a compliment. Not often a girl can make it to one of my top ten lists, but Rachel sure made the cut."
From the window, Santana looks furious.
"Puck, don't be absurd,' Kurt sighs, looking bored. 'Quinn would make out with me before she made out with Rachel, and I'm more of a girl than Rachel is."
Quinn's cheeks are burning as she looks around the room and sees everyone staring at her – everyone but Rachel, who has gone to the bathroom to practice her runs in a room that echoes, which is probably why Puck seized his opportunity to bring up the topic.
"Why on earth would you think something like that?' she retorts, feeling angry and embarrassed.
"Well you have been hanging around together a lot lately,' starts Artie.
"You don't call her names or put her down,' offers Tina.
"So that automatically means we're hooking up?' snaps Quinn.
"Brittany told us you were in love with her,' Puck said.
Quinn slams her sheet music down on the coffee table. "Brittany also told us there's a unicorn preserve at Area Fifty One and that the Tooth Fairy stole her Grandpa's dentures."
"It's true,' mutters Brittany, 'she came in the night and took them from the glass jar beside his bed like a little pixie ninja."
Quinn gestures to Brittany in that way that clearly implies 'see what I mean?'
Finn gets to his feet and comes over to her, looking serious. "So… it's not true then?"
"Why would you even think it is?"
"Well… Artie and Tina are right. You've been hanging around together a lot lately. You're always sitting together in class and lunch, and you're always staying after Glee to talk to her, and you take forever in the bathrooms…"
Quinn blushes, thinking of why that is.
"… and you kind of look at her differently – with that look."
"They way I used to look at you. They way Rachel used to look at me."
Quinn feels trapped, cornered. Finn is too close and too tall and she feels like he's closing in on her. She steps away from him as far as she can and takes deep breaths.
"Now listen to me, all of you – Rachel and I are nothing. You hear me? Nothing.
"But nothing, Brittany!' Quinn snarls, glaring at the blonde. 'You've said enough. You're all grasping at straws. To think any of you would even consider… it's Rachel, for God's sake! She's loud and obnoxious and annoying and…'
Quinn's voice dies in her throat as she hears the floorboards creak behind her. She turns and sees Rachel standing in the doorway, looking at her with a clenched jaw and hurt-filled eyes for only a moment before Rachel turns on her heel and dashes away.
"Now look what you did,' says Brittany, looking disappointed.
"Someone should go after her,' said Mercedes.
Quinn wants to go, but she can't. To go after her would completely discredit everything she's just tried to convince everyone of. But she feels like she's going to be sick. She hasn't seen Rachel look at her like that in so long she's lost her resistance to it. She needs to explain, but they're about to go on stage…
After a moment, Finn sighs and goes after her, and Quinn both hates and thanks him for it.
Later when they're all backstage, waiting for the curtain to raise so Rachel can go out there and sing their first number, Quinn approaches her.
"You heard all that out of context,' Quinn whispers.
"Did I?' Rachel doesn't even look at her. Her tone is hard, business-like. At least she wasn't crying anymore.
"I had to… they were all asking about us and… I didn't mean…"
"I don't care if you did or didn't mean it,' Rachel replies. She isn't angry, Quinn realizes; she's hurt and even worse, disappointed. 'If our situation had been reversed, if they'd all asked me if we were together, if I was in lo-… rather, if I had feelings for you… I would say yes, with pride. I'm proud to be with you. I know you don't think we're together,' she adds quickly as Quinn opens her mouth to protest, 'but we are – in one sense. You're not ready to be honest with yourself about us, much less with anyone else, and that's okay, I understand that – I just wish you could have told me first."
"You act like this is all so easy,' Quinn hisses. 'Like none of this is a big deal. Like it's not life altering. You don't care what other people think. You're used to it."
"And you're immune because you're head cheerleader and no-one ever speaks ill of you?'
"That's not what I mean,"
"You don't get used to it if you constantly avoid going through it,' Rachel gives Quinn a look. 'And you know what? It really isn't that hard. I've had to overcome adversity and oppression countless times – some occasions by your hand…"
"Thanks for reminding me,' Quinn rolls her eyes.
"… but you push through it because in the end it doesn't matter what people think, as long as you're doing what you care about. As long as you're with the person you care about."
Rachel just looks at her, challenging her to say otherwise. Quinn feels how important this is; this isn't like last time. They won't just end up forgetting about how wrong they supposedly are and how they should take time apart to figure out what they both want and then end up in each other's rooms two hours later. If Quinn doesn't do something now…
The audience suddenly goes quiet, and Rachel tenses.
"What do you want me to say?" Quinn demands softly.
"Say how you feel about me. I've told you countless times."
"This isn't the time!"
Quinn clenches her jaw. She can feel the words sitting in her mouth, ready to come out, but she can't say it – they're refusing to break free. Rachel watches her; as the seconds tick past her expression slowly melts.
Then the music starts, and the moment is gone.
"Forget it,' Rachel whispers.
Rachel blinks away tears, draws herself up to her full tiny height and pushes her way through the curtain and into the crowd.
It feels like an eternity later when Rachel finishes and Mercedes pokes Quinn in the back, whispering in her ear, 'That's our cue!', and they're all stepping on stage for the next number. Quinn feels like her body is separate from her brain. She lumbers around stage, somehow remembering the words to the song and all the dance steps; she's distracted, trying to catch Rachel's eye, but Rachel is determined not to look at her, instead hanging on to Finn as they sing their duet.
From no-where, a picture of Rachel and Finn living in a house in Lima with two Jewish children running around their knees, and Quinn knows what she has to do.
When they're on stage with the other two Glee Clubs, waiting to hear the results from the judges, Quinn stands behind Rachel, waiting for the moment when they're name is read out, because like last time she knows they're going to win.
Right on cue, the judge proclaims them as the winner of this year's Sectionals, and everyone jumps around as the audience applauds. Mr. Schuester is shaking hands with the boys and patting the backs of the girls. Tina and Mike are hugging, Brittany has leapt into Santana's arms, Finn is bumping fists with Kurt…
Quinn pushes past them all to Rachel, who is at the front, hugging Mercedes. As soon as they break apart, Quinn sees Rachel's smile, that all-consuming expression of happiness, and Quinn feels her chest fill with warmth.
Rachel doesn't have time to do anything when Quinn steps forward, snakes an arm around her waist, pulls her in, cups her face in her hand and kisses her.
The roar of the audience doesn't dissipate, and she can feel the eyes of her fellow singers on her, but she doesn't care. After a moment, Rachel is kissing her back, her hands in her hair, and Quinn finally realizes what that feeling is that makes her skin tingle and her chest swell.
When they break apart, Rachel is crying again, but she's smiling.
"Are you sure?' she asks.
"Do I have to show you again?"
Quinn laughs and kisses her again.
Over the audience, she can just hear Brittany's voice, "See? I told you so."