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

A/N: Happy Valentine's Day, even though I hate this holiday.

Part 1

As with most adventures in Rachel Berry's life, this one began with a plan. A very simple plan, really. Nothing too detailed, very basic, but still. She was actually rather proud of it, particularly the name, since it had the rare quality of rhyming. Usually she found herself at a loss in selecting a rhyming title and had to rely on other literary devices, like alliteration (such as in the case of finding Finn a job two years ago to support his baby, 'Funding Finn's Fatherdom'). They always left something wanting, in Rachel's opinion.

This one, however, was perfect: Woo Quinn Fabray on Valentine's Day.

Rachel was well aware that her success rate was…not good, to put it delicately. After all, the two had only struck up a friendship approximately one year ago, following some rather unfortunate circumstances involving Tic Tacs, mono, and (of course) Finn Hudson.

Quinn had fallen into a secret affair with Finn after a couple of especially fresh kisses, and after Santana cleverly outed them with the ultimate kissing disease, Rachel took it upon herself to personally deliver 'Get Well Soon' cards and a batch of her famous sugar cookies to each of her ailing teammates. Quinn was naturally annoyed by her presence at first, and especially by her persistent questioning of how the affair began, but when Rachel explained that the reason for Finn's minty breath was merely that she had once demanded he begin to use some sort of breath freshener if he expected to go anywhere near her mouth again, she…well, she cracked up.

The girl literally could not stop laughing, and thus the affair with Finn ended and a tentative alliance sprung up between the two girls, which gradually blossomed into what their relationship was now. Rachel could truly consider Quinn to be her one, only, and first best friend.

She knew this because the blonde had used the two words to coerce Rachel into not only attending Noah's annual Halloween party, but also into coordinating costumes. The brunette was still a little put-off that she had had to spend the entire evening getting her ass squeezed in her far-too revealing Catwoman suit, while Quinn had only had to put up with a few wolf whistles in her Supergirl costume. Though Rachel had to admit that Quinn's grin upon seeing her in the costume had made it…mostly worthwhile.

Anyway, they had only been friends for a year, and officially best friends for approximately three months and fifteen days. This was hardly the time to attempt to enter into a romance with Quinn, particularly when she had shown no particular interest in the little diva whatsoever. Or in women.

Not that Quinn had expressed much interest in men, either, in the time since they had become friends. She swiftly ended her affair with Finn after discovering her interest in kissing him sprouted from the fact that his breath wasn't as horrid as most other high school boys's, and she and Sam broke things off due to the cheating. Since then, Quinn had mainly been flying solo, though Rachel knew that all three of her previous flings had expressed interest in trying again. Even Noah, who at one point was of the opinion that he and Lauren were destined to be together, had been making passes at the blonde again.

In any case, Quinn hadn't shown any particular interest in anyone, but the only person she had plans with on Valentine's Day was one Rachel Berry. And she figured this had to give her some kind of leg up on the competition, even if the evening was only supposed to be a girl's night in with silly romance movies and excess boxes of Kleenex. Santana and Brittany, after all, claimed that this was the perfect in, and they were practically experts on matters like these.

The duo, while once skeptical of forming a friendship with 'Man Hands', had eventually accepted Rachel into the fold after discovering that she wasn't quite as vile as they once thought. However, spending an excessive amount of time with the perceptive pair led to the last thing Rachel had wanted—someone finding out about her infatuation with a certain blonde. At the time, she didn't even want to admit (or accept) her underlying feelings for Quinn to herself, and as a result, she came near to passing out when Santana confronted her about the issue.

Surprisingly enough, though, it turned out to be one of the best things that could've happened. Santana and Brittany were amazingly supportive, and though the Latina never stopped making cracks and jabs at the diva, Rachel had since learned to recognize when her insults were coming from a place of affection. The two became her closest confidants when it came to Quinn, helping her to accept her sexuality despite it making her a teen cliché, and offering her advice, such as in the case of this Valentine's Day.

Santana's theory was that Rachel was planted firmly in the friend zone, having never shown Quinn a shred of her (deeply buried) sexual appeal. Luckily for Rachel, this could serve as an advantage, if she played her cards right. Valentine's Day was unarguably the most romantic day of the year, and Quinn specifically wanted to spend it with her. Possibly grousing about boys, but that was beside the point. Little gestures of affection wouldn't be unwarranted, and if Quinn kept responding well, all Rachel had to do was keep stepping it up. If she didn't, Rachel could call it all off without doing any unnecessary damage to their friendship. This was all according to Santana, of course.

And, well, as insane as the idea seemed after…everything, Rachel trusted the Latina. On this, anyway. Never alone in her room with her closetful of argyle and shelves full of Barbra.

So she employed Step One: The Card.

"Rach, you're here early!" Quinn shot her a bright beam and dipped in for a one-armed hug before twisting to face her locker. Those sparkling hazel eyes flickered over to Rachel, who was still in a slight smile-and-hug induced coma. Honestly, Quinn's smiles were a health risk, and her hugs? God, the smell of Quinn was delectable. Rachel was convinced she was trying to give her a heart attack.

Especially when she caught sight of her outfit for the day. A red headband stood out in her blonde locks, which were wrung in curls past her shoulders today, bobbing with every graceful movement of her head. A dark grey sweater covered her pale arms, but opened in the front to reveal a moderately low cut scarlet dress that flared out a little at her knees and stopped, leaving those gorgeous, long, toned pale legs on display for everyone's viewing pleasure. She was also wearing strappy red heels, which Rachel thought was just slightly ridiculous considering the weather. Her toenails were very purple, and not from nail polish.

"I decided it would be prudent of me to put in some practice time in the auditorium this morning, considering our evening plans will render that idea impossible later on."

Rachel was barely aware of what she was saying; her eyes were glued to Quinn's exposed legs, every inch of pale skin making her throat dry up a little more. Fortunately, her exceptional eyesight allowed her to catch the movement of blonde hair whipping about as Quinn turned to face her, a bright grin suddenly on her face. Yes, she was most definitely trying to give her a heart attack.

"I can't wait for tonight," the blonde said delightedly. "Just you and me, girl's night in. It's been so long since we've done that, don't you think?"

"Yes, too long," Rachel agreed, though she distinctly remembered having a girl's night in on both Saturday and Sunday, just the two of them.

"Definitely." She closed her locker once she had all of the appropriate materials for her early morning AP Calculus class, and the brunette cleared her throat, fingering the card tucked close to her chest. Butterflies arose in her stomach almost instantly. This was it. If Quinn didn't like the card, or didn't take it well, all bets were off and the rest of her plans were over. She steeled herself. Now or never.

"I, um, got you this," Rachel mumbled. She was shocked at her own lack of eloquence. It's a card, not a ring; speak up, woman! She cleared her throat again. "Happy Valentine's Day, Quinn," she said strongly, and handed it over with a nervous smile. Better.

"Oh, God, I didn't get you one," Quinn replied morosely, and Rachel shrugged. She really hadn't been expecting her to, but the blonde looked absolutely distraught about her oversight. "Um, I'll stop on the way home and get you one; I just hope they still have some in stock."

She smiled. "That's really not necessary. I—"

"No, it is. You got me one, I'm returning the favor," she retorted, and swiftly cut her off when she opened her mouth to protest. "Nope. I don't care what you say. I'm doing it."

Rachel rolled her eyes playfully and huffed out a mock exasperated 'fine', eliciting a smug smirk from the blonde, who carefully slit open the red envelope. Her name was in cursive on the front, where Rachel had (barely) suppressed the urge to draw a heart instead of a dot over the 'i.' She could still see the little curve where she had changed her mind at the last second.

Quinn's chuckle of delight disrupted her musings. The card was pretty simple: a smiling, blue-eyed teddy bear holding a heart (a simple heart card would've been too generic; this looked like she put in more effort, according to Brittany) and on the inside it just said 'Happy Valentine's Day.' Though Rachel had added, after a painstakingly long debate with Santana, the inscription 'to my beary (berry) best friend. Hugs, Rachel.' The Latina claimed the line was far too cheesy for anyone to fall for unless they were in kindergarten.

However, judging from the expression of utter jubilation on Quinn's face and in those sparkling eyes, Santana had been wrong this time. Rachel allowed herself to hope, smiling uncertainly.

"I love it," Quinn said simply, and pulled her into another one-armed hug, their binders and books squashed between them.

It wasn't as good as a real hug, but the brunette still found her eyes fluttering closed just at the sensation of being held by her best friend. Step One down, and a check in the well-received column.

Quinn pulled away with a grin and returned to her locker, instantly going to tape it up inside. Rachel felt her heart swell at the gesture, and she was about to offer to walk Quinn to class when a large, looming shadow fell over her. Only one person could make a shadow that big.

"Hey, Quinn, Rach," Finn said cheerfully.

"Finn," Quinn acknowledged, but her hazel eyes were pinpointed on the card, trying to center it perfectly.

Rachel glanced at the undeterred boy, his beady eyes focused on the blonde like she was…well, she had hoped to use a more sophisticated simile, but frankly the boy was looking at Quinn as though she was a ball and he was just begging for it to be thrown. Her smile dropped, along with her gaze, which abruptly went to the floor. Did the janitor mop at all the previous night?

"Hello, Finn," she said quietly.

"Hey, listen, uh, do you think we could maybe, like, talk later?" Finn asked, ignoring the brunette's greeting entirely in favor of panting at the blonde. "There's something I kinda want to ask you."

Rachel leaned her back against the lockers, using her new vantage point to peer at each of them through her long lashes. Quinn had finally put the card where she wanted it, and she was pursing her lips at Finn, her brow knit the way it always did when she was genuinely puzzled about something. Finn looked like the ball had been tossed to another hand and he was just waiting for it to go airborne.

The bell shrieked and all three of them jumped.

"Uh, yeah, sure," Quinn said, her split-second decision made, Finn delighted and bounding off to class after the ball, and Rachel deflated against the lockers.

She was really going to talk to that Neanderthal? Didn't she get what he wanted? If she didn't, boy, was she in for an unpleasant surprise. Worse, if she did…that meant she wanted Finn back, too, and the rest of Rachel's plans would have to go completely unfulfilled. She wouldn't even have gotten to Step Two, and—

A gentle hand rested on her shoulder. "Rach, you okay?"

She jumped as tingles shot down her arms with the contact, allowing her smile to come off genuine when she looked up into concerned hazel eyes.

"Yeah, fine."

Quinn smiled. "Come on, I'll walk you to class."

"But you're going to be late," she protested halfheartedly, even as the blonde linked their arms and led her down the hallway.

She shrugged. "I am, anyway."

They exchanged grins, one playful and the other bashful.

XXXXXX

Lunchtime fortunately brought about the opportunity for Step Two: The Gentleman.

Santana had argued the naming of this step vehemently (of course, she had argued with Rachel over naming the steps at all, or even having a step-by-step plan, but she especially hated this name), claiming it should be called something like 'Chivalry' or something to that effect. This way was apparently sexist, but luckily Brittany liked the name, and so the issue was dropped.

Which was definitely good, since this step was going even more splendidly than the first, if Rachel did say so herself. She had met Quinn outside her class as she did every day before lunch, only today she took her books for her, and the blonde was so distracted with complaining about the way teachers reverted to treating them like preschoolers on Valentine's Day that she hardly seemed to notice. Nor did she, apparently, when Rachel opened the cafeteria door for her, or picked up her lunch tray and carried it to the table for her, or pulled out her chair for her.

People accused Rachel of rambling quite often, but when Quinn got into a rant, she got into a rant. It was almost as though she completely blacked out, and for however long she was talking, she had no idea of the events occurring around her. Which was just fantastic for Rachel, particularly when they sat across from an amused-looking Brittany and Santana, and the blonde suddenly noticed that she had somehow gotten to her seat without doing a thing.

Her smile turned even brighter and she thanked Rachel, who just shrugged modestly and gave a subtle nod to the others that things were going well. Santana look particularly pleased, while Brittany made a point of telling her she didn't ask anything.

"Okay, we can watch 'Funny Girl' once, but one thing I am absolutely not giving on is 'Sleepless in Seattle,'" Quinn was currently arguing. "It is the ultimate Valentine's Day movie."

"Oh, no doubt. Letting a year pass without viewing it is practically blasphemous," Rachel agreed, and the blonde brightened.

"See? This is why you are my best friend, and not Freddy Krueger over there," she replied, tossing a disgusted frown Santana's way.

The Latina held up her palms defensively. "Hey, Valentine's Day is the perfect slasher movie occasion. I don't know what y'all are thinking watching lame ass romance movies when you could be getting a little action from a terrified girlfriend." She waggled her eyebrows, and Brittany giggled.

They didn't need to see the hand to know what it was doing, and the two exchanged a look of revulsion.

"And really, the one time I watched that thing cause Q said it was either that or she'd put my 'Saw' movie in the microwave, I did not see the appeal. There's, like, no action in that piece of shit."

Rachel squeaked indignantly at the description, but Quinn beat her to words. "Are you crazy? It's one of the best movies of all time! With parts like, 'Winter must be cold'—" Rachel joined her in mock-sobbing the lines here, and they grinned at each other "—'for those with no warm memories. We've already missed the spring.'"

Brittany and Santana stared at them, owl-eyed, as they leaned into each other and giggled helplessly, Quinn placing a hand on Rachel's knee beneath the table. Santana rolled her eyes and dipped a fry in ketchup.

"You fruity freaks really are perfect for each other," she muttered.

Before Rachel could recover enough to realize what the Latina had said and properly chastise her for coming so close to revealing the entire plan before it was completely underway, a shadow loomed over the table. The two girls slowly sobered and Rachel's smile instantly dropped when Quinn's hand left her knee and she spied Finn standing there with that too-eager, waiting for the ball to get dropped look on his face.

"Hey, guys. I mean, girls," he corrected, grinning sheepishly. "Uh, Quinn, do you think we could like talk now then?"

Quinn's brow knit before realization hit. "Oh! Uh, sure, I guess. I'll be right back."

She shot a puzzled frown at the rest of them, but Rachel was far too busy fiddling with her plastic fork's ends to offer the uncertain shrug the blonde was looking for. The other two did their best in place of her best friend, but Quinn still looked slightly dejected when she trailed after Finn.

XXXXXX

"So, what did you want to talk about?" Quinn asked in her sweet voice as they reached the empty hallway.

Finn admitted it. He was nervous. But he wanted to do this. He just couldn't get over Quinn, and he didn't think she gave them enough of a chance last year. He kind of let it go cause he still had feelings for Rachel, but now he knew for sure he had never been able to get over Quinn. She was totally the one, and what better day to tell her than Valentine's Day? It was really romantic.

He stuffed his hands in his pockets and crept a little closer.

"So, okay. I had this whole speech thing prepared, but I think I'm just gonna come out with it," he said uncertainly, and Quinn nodded. He blew out a breath. "I wanna be with you."

Her eyes widened.

"I really realized over the last few months that letting you go was a mistake. We're like the perfect power couple, you know? I'm the quarterback and you…well, you used to be head cheerleader, but even though you're not on the squad anymore, you're still like the most popular girl in school and we, like, fit and stuff. And I really want to be with you." He smiled. "Only you."

Quinn was silent. He was sort of starting to take it as a bad sign when she blinked a lot and then kept opening and closing her mouth, and he could feel his smile start to slide into a pained frown. His stomach didn't feel too good, either.

"Uh, look, Finn," she said softly, and his bad feeling tripled. She only talked like that when she was trying to be really nice. "I really appreciate…your offer. Truly, I'm flattered that after all this time you still care for me, and I honestly still care for you." He grinned. "You're a great guy, Finn, and…someday you will meet a nice girl who loves you and only you, like you deserve. But I'm not that girl." The grin flipped upside down and she looked at him sadly. "I'm sorry."

And then she was gone, just like that. Finn blinked. This…sucked.

XXXXXX

"What did Frankenteen want?" Santana prompted as soon as Quinn was seated next to Rachel once more. She sounded a tad too interested, in the brunette's personal opinion, but she wasn't going to complain, as she wanted to hear this, too.

The blonde frowned uncomfortably. "Nothing."

"Seriously? He pulled you out into the hallway for 'nothing'? Bullshit."

Quinn huffed irritably, running a restless hand through her golden locks, a sure sign of her discomfort with the topic. Rachel instantly took notice and shot Santana a warning look, ignoring the tongue that was stuck out at her in favor of reaching to place her hand over the blonde's where it rested on the table between them. She turned her hand over and squeezed the brunette's, sending a small smile her way, but before Rachel could even attempt to make it full-blown, the bell rang and she was left to wonder what on earth happened in that hallway.

XXXXXX

Glee was the perfect outlet for Step Three: The Song.

As…unsubtle as it sounded, Step Three was actually rather covert, in Rachel's opinion. After endless hours of arguing and searching and researching and throwing things, she had found an excellent selection that could be construed as a message of platonic love, and it wasn't too specific, so Quinn could easily think she was singing to someone else. Rachel had attempted to point out that this would be a bad thing until Santana countered that it could bring out 'the jellies.' At which point they took a break because Brittany was craving PB&J.

She was humming the tune under her breath as they waited for Mr. Schuester to arrive, running through it in her head one more time and attempting to ignore the elation she felt at seeing Finn's downcast appearance. He looked like someone had stolen the ball now. Quinn had obviously been doing her best to ignore his mood as well, which had apparently gradually become easier as time went on, because she was currently doing a little humming herself as she played with Rachel's hair and twisted part of it into a complicated braid.

The brunette always melted when Quinn did this, feeling on the verge of purring at the pleasant sensation of those long, gentle fingers stroking through her locks. The blonde seemed to enjoy it just as much, as she was always humming when she did it. And always the same tune, Rachel noted. 'The Bird and the Worm' by Owl City, she thought.

No one was put off by the sight of the two of them like this anymore. It was commonplace in the glee club by now, and the only thing that ever disturbed anyone about it now was the way Quinn would practically burn them into the ground with her eyes if they interrupted her. They could talk to Rachel all they liked during these hair-playing sessions, but talking to Quinn was like repeatedly poking a sleeping dragon.

At the moment, however, Brittany and Santana were too busy whispering and giggling with each other behind them to bother speaking to them. Kurt and Blaine were occupied with talking to Mercedes and Artie; Tina and Mike were not so subtly sneaking longing glances while Noah and Sam talked at Mike about the latest video game. Lauren was in the midst of enjoying a little Valentine's Day candy and Finn was moping in a corner, so the two were left to their own devices.

"So, I meant to mention this earlier," Quinn said lowly, startling the brunette. She put a calming hand on her shoulder. "Mom has had this date set up for like a month, and I'm sort of thinking with how excited she is, she won't be coming home tonight, so we'll…have the place to ourselves."

Rachel was fairly certain she got whiplash. Quinn smiled when she met her gaze, and the diva's heart started pounding in her ears, cutting out the background noise of their teammates's chatter. They would be completely alone? Tonight? With Quinn? All alone, Quinn, Valentine's Day. Alone. And she still had more of the plan left. The brunette tried to calm her breathing, praying the blonde wouldn't notice how erratic it had become.

"Oh. Cool," she said, feeling incredibly inarticulate and more than a little nervous, and she was sure it came through in her halfhearted little smile.

The blonde's smile dropped a fraction, but before she could ask what was wrong, Mr. Schuester entered, clapping his hands for attention. The others rushed to their seats and Quinn abandoned her hair-playing task in order to give their coach her undivided attention, as per Rachel's unspoken instructions. The brunette couldn't help but smile to herself at how focused the blonde had become during glee since their friendship began.

"Okay, all right. How is everybody? Happy Valentine's Day, huh?" Mr. Schue said excitedly, grinning. "I hope everybody has a little something prepared to share with the group. How about we get this started? Who's up first?"

To everyone's surprise, Rachel did not instantly raise her hand. To everyone's apprehension, Sam leapt out of his chair as soon as Mr. Schue finished pronouncing the 't.' The Spanish teacher gave him the floor without question and Sam wiped his hands on his pants, panting and grinning nervously. Quinn and Rachel exchanged raised eyebrows.

"Okay, so, uh…this is dedicated to someone…really special to me," Sam announced, and he shot a wild grin directly at Quinn.

Oh. God. Rachel wanted to bang her head against a brick wall. Now Sam was coming onto Quinn on Valentine's Day? Really? Did someone stick a 'please declare your undying love for me today' sign on Quinn's back or something? This was getting ridiculous. She knew the boys wanted to get back with Quinn, but honestly, did they all have to do it today and take the blonde's attention completely away from Rachel's wooing, possi—

Oh, my God. Tell me he's not doing it. Rachel actually reached up to try and unplug her ears (and blinked at least fifty times just to make sure her vision was working, too), but nope. Sam was standing at the front of the choir room, unabashedly belting one of the corniest songs of all time: Whitney Houston's 'I Will Always Love You.' And he was singing it directly to Quinn.

Rachel couldn't believe it. And neither could the rest of the audience, evidently, because most jaws had just clanged to the floor. She could've sworn she heard Kurt whisper to Blaine, "I knew he was gay." It might've made her snort had she not been in such a state of shock and…well, awe. Because Sam was actually doing well.

He was no Whitney, to be sure, but his rendition was definitely good for his range and for being a guy and for singing that song. One of the most made fun of songs in the history of mankind. Rachel couldn't believe he was pulling it off. How was this possible? She hadn't thought he was that talented. And whether Quinn was impressed by Sam's vocal skills or just embarrassed as hell about the song choice, any shot Rachel's song had once had at making any kind of impact on the blonde had just been blown out the window.

She hesitantly chanced a glance at Quinn, who was staring at Sam with pink cheeks and a rigid posture, and the thing that scared Rachel was that she couldn't tell what kind of discomfort this was. Was she embarrassed because he was singing this to her in front of everybody? That he was singing it at all? Or was she…actually feeling affected by it?

Rachel cradled her forehead. It didn't really matter either way. Step Three had just been crushed under a stiletto, set on fire, and flushed down the toilet.

When Sam finished, panting and pink and out of breath, but still grinning at Quinn, the glee clubbers started clapping slowly, starting with Mr. Schue. Rachel heard Santana snickering madly behind her and spied Noah sporting an amused smirk alongside Lauren, but the rest of them hesitantly put their hands together for that just plain awkward performance and Rachel again felt like introducing her head to a brick wall.

Silence so heavy you could've heard crickets followed the applause, and Rachel counted down three seconds before Quinn broke and shot from her chair, snatching Sam's wrist and dragging him into the hallway. Whether it was to chastise or ravish him, Rachel wasn't sure.

XXXXXX

"What the hell was that?" Quinn screeched, and Sam winced.

He really hated the screechy mad voice. It was almost to glass-breaking levels. He had really thought that would work, too.

"I-I just wanted to tell you how I feel about you," he explained, smiling weakly when she narrowed her fiery eyes at him. "Look, I realized I messed up breaking up with you about the Finn thing last year. I know things weren't totally perfect between us, but I gave up too quickly. We were great together, and perfect for each other's images." He smiled.

Reputation was really important to both of them, so it couldn't hurt to throw that card in there, especially since that's sort of why they got together in the first place. Quinn looked like she was trying to remember how to breathe properly, closing her eyes and focusing on that before she met his gaze with a slightly steely one of her own.

"Sam," she said evenly, "you're a wonderful guy, if a little…insane, but that's exactly why you deserve someone who has real feelings for you. We were only together for what you just said: our images. And you and I both deserve more than that, don't you think?" He opened his mouth, but she continued without waiting for his reply. "I'm flattered, but…I'm not interested. I'm sure you'll—" she sighed "—find a nice girl someday who loves you and wants you for more than your abs and your popularity. I can't be that girl for you. Sorry."

And then she was gone. Sam sighed. Damn. Maybe he shouldn't have gone with Whitney.

XXXXXX

Quinn plunked down in the seat next to Rachel, looking even more aggravated than she had when she returned to lunch earlier that day. Kurt and Blaine were in the midst of performing one of the last numbers of the day, as only half the club had actually prepared numbers and most of them were duets anyway. Rachel had opted out of performing, and it only took nearly going on a rant about how commercialized the holiday has become to convince the others that they didn't care why she hadn't prepared a number.

Although Santana was now repeatedly kicking her chair, clearly not getting that Step Three was off.

Quinn ran a restless hand through her blonde locks, crossing her legs and trying to center herself with steady breaths. Rachel didn't ask if she was okay. For one thing, she obviously wasn't. For another, she didn't want to get her head taken off. Instead she simply set her hand palm up on her black skirt, and moments later, the blonde took the proffered embrace, interlacing their fingers and gradually calming with the soothing touch.

Kurt and Blaine finished their performance with a sickeningly sweet kiss and bowed to their applause, hands interlocked the entire time. Rachel whistled in place of clapping, seeing as Quinn had made the feat just slightly impossible when she tugged the brunette's hand into her lap instead. She was definitely, definitely trying to give her a heart attack.

Mr. Schuester popped up once the other two were seated, grinning happily. Rachel idly wondered if he had taken a little Vitamin D this morning.

"Wow, guys, that was great. I'm really proud of what you came up with. Since it's a holiday and I'm sure you all have some special plans," he said teasingly, eyes twinkling as he peered around at all of them—Rachel shifted uncomfortably, "you guys are free to go and I'll see you tomorrow for some real work. How does that sound?" There were a few cheers before he said playfully, "All right, now get outta here."

Rachel didn't need to be told twice. She needed peace, quiet, and a room far, far, far away from Santana, who she was sure was just chomping at the bit to kick her in her nonexistent nads for not singing the song. Frankly, though, the brunette wasn't sure she could even go through with the rest of the plan now. Sure, Quinn had liked the card, she had appreciated the chivalrous behavior, and had even rejected Finn (and Sam, by the looks of it), but….

The blonde had also been propositioned twice today, and she'd been irritated after both attempts. Obviously she wasn't in the mood for romantic proclamations. Maybe Rachel should just back off, then. Accept her role as best friend, go over to Quinn's house tonight, and just watch movies like the blonde had planned all along. No flowers, no mixed CD, no chocolates. Movies.

She could do that. She could—

"Rach! Rach, hey, wait up!"

The brunette's heart fluttered and she slowed her steps immediately to allow the panting blonde to catch up. Oh, hell, who was she kidding? She couldn't do this anymore.

"You took off so fast, we didn't get to finalize plans," Quinn said hopefully, scurrying in front of Rachel to prevent any further progress down the hall. "You're coming at five, right? Or did you want me to drive you? I mean—"

The diva sighed forlornly. Why did she have to be so completely adorable? That hopeful sparkle in her eyes, the slight smile on her pink lips, the almost childlike enthusiasm that was such a contrast to her usual façade of confidence and poise. Rachel managed a small smile.

"I still have some things to pick up from home, but I'll come over at five sharp," she assured her calmly. "And Papa let me borrow the car today, so I'm all set."

The blonde flashed a grin. "Okay. Cool." She wrung her hands anxiously and said so softly the brunette nearly didn't catch it, "I'm really glad I get to spend this Valentine's Day with you."

Heart. Attack. That's what she was trying to give her. And at the tender age of eighteen, none of her Broadway dreams fulfilled, her life incomplete. Quinn smiled bashfully. Maybe it would be worth it.

"Me, too," she murmured, and the blonde's cheeks went pink.

"I'd walk you out, but I have to talk to Artie real quick," she said, voice stronger again and now tinged with irritation for some odd reason. "I'll see you later, though?"

Rachel nodded, and Quinn unexpectedly pulled her into a full-body hug. It lasted only seconds before the girl released her and bounced off down the hallway, leaving the brunette to her heart palpitations and excessively large grin. Maybe a go at Step Four couldn't hurt. After all, everyone likes flowers.

XXXXXX

After the drive home, an Olympic speed shower, and selecting the perfect outfit should her plans actually come all the way to fruition (a Valentine's Day red v-neck and three-quarter length sleeves, black skirt, ankle-high red socks and her Mary Janes), Rachel set out to fulfill the next step—Step Four: The Bouquet.

Most people went with the generic red roses, usually a dozen (less if they couldn't afford it), but this was Rachel Berry. She wasn't about to do anything halfway, particularly not when it came to one Quinn Fabray, who obviously deserved the best of the best. So when the cashier at the local flower shop (the only one in town, actually) automatically lifted up a bouquet of roses for her to purchase, the brunette waved them off and promptly demanded his assistance in collecting the selection of her choosing, much to the exasperation of the many husbands who had evidently forgotten about the holiday and were seeking to fix their oversight directly after work.

Rachel had, of course, done extensive research on flower meanings, right down to color, on the internet and so she was well-versed in her decisions. The daylily, representing great enthusiasm, and the hyacinth, expressing her sincerity, along with Quinn's favorite flower: the yellow tulip. Which incidentally meant 'hopelessly in love.' Appropriate was an understatement.

After many groans and complaints from behind her in line, Rachel put off signing the card, considering it her own special Valentine's gift to the poor men, and paid before driving off to Quinn's house. She arrived at precisely 4:59 p.m., at which point she pulled out the little card the cashier had given her to go with the flowers and, after much deliberation, simply signed it, 'Love, Rachel.' It was perfect in its vague specification, she thought.

And it was a good lead into steps five and six: The CD and The Chocolates, both of which were already tucked in her purse, ready to be whipped out at a moment's notice. She triple checked herself and the time before sauntering up to the door and pressing the bell, fiddling with the wrapping paper around the stems as she awaited the answer.

Moments later, the door swung open and the flowers flew behind her back as Rachel was greeted with the friendly smile of one Judy Fabray.

"Oh, hello, Rachel!" she said delightedly, waving her in. Rachel was careful to keep the flowers out of sight, front to Judy at all times. "Happy Valentine's Day."

"You, too," she replied, smiling nervously.

"Quinn is up in her room with a visitor right now, but you can go right on up," she said cheerfully, and physically ushered her toward the steps.

"O-okay."

But the woman had already taken off, apparently still in the midst of getting ready for this oh-so special date of hers. Rachel arched a puzzled brow at her behavior, but decided to put it to nerves. After all, she was feeling spectacularly out of sorts herself, not knowing how Quinn would take this rather large step. She took a bracing breath and hurried up the steps, pausing only when she heard the low hum of a voice. Her steps faltered and she padded the rest of the way, only to freeze at the doorframe when she recognized the voice as Noah Puckerman's.

Her jaw dropped.

"I know our history isn't all that good. I've fucked up, I'll admit it," he was saying frankly, and Rachel's breath hitched. "But that's over now. I wanna be with you, Quinn. For real, this time. I'll do whatever it takes, whatever you want. I won't even cheat. That's how much I want this, and I know you do, too."

Silence fell between the three as Rachel clutched her beloved flowers to her chest, awaiting Quinn's reaction with bated breath. The longer she was silent, the more the brunette lost hope.

"I…."

"We made a baby together. You can't just forget that."

Rachel nearly tripped and broke her neck three times on the way down those stairs. Tears streamed down her cheeks in rapid succession as she processed the realization that it was over. Her chance had passed by. Or maybe it had just been stolen by one dark and handsome bad boy who before now had never wanted to give Quinn all this. Why now? Why did he have to offer her everything she wanted to hear now? Wasn't it Rachel's turn?

She stopped at the door, hearing Judy humming somewhere in the recesses of the house. Her fingers came up to toy with the petals of a tulip, gently caressing it. 'Hopelessly in love.' Definitely hopeless.

After only a moment of hesitation, Rachel tore the card from the bouquet, crumpling it in her fist as she sniffled and dug out the CD and chocolates, placing them haphazardly on the coffee table before gently settling the flowers on top. A last look and she rushed from the house. Quinn still deserved the best, after all.

XXXXXX

Quinn met Puck's eyes sharply at his almost harsh reminder. He was right; she couldn't forget that. They had made a child together, a life, but it was one night. That night was a mistake, even if she wasn't.

"Please don't use her," she said softly, and that was all it took for him to back down. He bobbed his head. "I care about you, Puck. You are…the father of my child. You took my virginity." His gaze flickered away. "I'll always care about you because of that. But that's as far as it goes. I don't want to be with you, I don't love you. And you don't love me. I really…I'm flattered, but we both know you'll never be able to be faithful to me. You never have been. I hope someday you find someone you can be faithful to, but we both know that I'm not her."

Puck sighed and turned to face the wall, leaning his elbows on his knees as he cracked his knuckles. Quinn didn't move, simply waiting for his reaction as she allowed her fingers to fiddle with a loose thread on the blanket beneath her. The silence was killing her.

"You're right," he said at length, meeting her eyes again. She let out a breath of relief without meaning to, and a smirk cracked his stoic expression. "Guess the Puckasaurus was just gettin' lonely in the cold winter months."

He waggled his eyebrows and she punched his shoulder with a roll of the eyes.

"Pig," she scoffed, but he just grinned.

"Yeah, yeah, you love me." He winked and stood, alleviating some of the pressure from the mattress. "I'll see you 'round, Fabray."

Quinn offered him a nod as he reached the door, smiling at her one more time before disappearing. She promptly fell back on her bed with a sigh, exhausted from her third rejection of the day. Yes, third. She knew she was hot, but sheesh! It wasn't even like she had been showing any interest in them at all. What had made them think they had a chance in hell?

She heaved a sigh and craned her neck backward, spying the time upside down. Her brow crinkled. Rachel was supposed to be here by now. Perhaps her mother had detained her downstairs….

Without a second thought, the blonde shot off the bed and pranced down, only to find her mother already heading through the door. She spied her daughter and gave her the brightest, most excited grin she'd seen on the woman since they received the first pictures of Beth from Shelby. She waved.

"Night, honey! Have a good time!"

Quinn just smirked, waving at empty air as her mother disappeared into the cold world. The house was silent. She frowned and drummed her fingers on the banister, preparing to march back up the stairs when a firework of colors caught her eye from the living room. She frowned and took the last two steps with a jump, heading toward the coffee table and swooping up a bouquet of beautiful violet and yellow and fiery orange and red flowers, stuffing her nose into the mixture without hesitation and smiling. Tulips were her favorite.

She checked through the stems and found an empty cardholder, sending her brow knitting and her lips pursing. Had her mom's date brought these? Had Puck? She shuddered at the thought that perhaps Finn or Sam hadn't quite gotten the message, and the motion brought her gaze downward, where a medium-sized heart-shaped box of Valentine's Day chocolates rested next to a transparent CD case, which held (big surprise) a blank CD.

The knitting brow tightened even more as she lifted the other two items in her arms, examining them for writing of any kind to help her find the culprit. There was none, and she was just about to scour the room for the card, thinking maybe it had fallen out, when her phone buzzed in her pocket. She dropped all three gifts on the couch in her eagerness to get to her phone—maybe it was Rachel saying she would be a little late.

Quinn's lips curved downward in a pout when she saw that it was only a voicemail, and she sighed as she clicked to listen, that frown only going deeper when she heard how horribly congested her poor Rachel sounded.

"Quinn, it's me. I'm so sorry to cancel on you on such short notice, but I think I've come down with a cold. I wouldn't want to put you at risk of infection and start some sort of epidemic amongst us glee club members—that's honestly the last thing we need before Regionals this year, after all—so I've decided it would be best if I stayed home to nurse myself back into singing condition. I hope you enjoy your Valentine's evening nonetheless. …Good night, Quinn."

The blonde lowered her phone. She could only think of three words to describe today: Fuck. Damn. Shit.

Why was nothing going right? Really, the only thing that had gone as planned was walking Rachel to class this morning, and she had even ruined that by not having the foresight to get a stinking card. And then at lunch, she had been so close to having her hand on Rachel's thigh and seeing if she would freak out or something when stupid Finn had to interrupt. And then damn Mr. Schuester, ending glee before she even had a chance to protest. Granted, he didn't know that she had had a number planned, but she had just worked so hard with Artie the past two weeks and it just felt…wasted.

And now Rachel was sick, which meant she could kiss the rest of her plans goodbye, too. Quinn palmed the velvet box in her other pocket and flipped it open, sighing forlornly at the little gold star charm hanging from a silver chain. She knew Rachel already had one from Finn, but his had been sort of transparent and the brunette never wore it anyway. Quinn had hoped that having her initial 'R' etched in would make this one seem more…special.

Quinn abruptly strode toward the door, swinging on her jacket as she went, and checked for her keys one more time. There was no way Rachel would let her in the house if she was sick, but she could still drop it in the mailbox. Rachel deserved the best, after all.