A/N: I've decided that this story is all about the parentheses.

Also, this is not quality. Fair warning.

Three's a Crowd

By the time Friday evening (three weeks later) rolled around, Rachel had not only been mildly unsuccessful at initiating even the slightest interaction with the mysterious girl in her classes, she had failed spectacularly at even moving to a seat closer to the blonde.

As she walked into her bedroom, she tossed her faux-leather bag down on the ground where it landed against one of the legs of her desk chair. Then she plopped down on her bed unceremoniously, rolling over and sighing dramatically in the direction of the ceiling. A few moments passed - in which she contemplated her sudden, inexplicable lack of a spine - before she sighed again. Because she was Rachel Barbra Berry (once her middle-name name change went through), and she could be as dramatic as she pleased, thank you very much.

A knock resounded against the door in that rap, rap-rap-rap, rap, rap rap tune that everyone in the entire world knew for some reason. Rachel didn't even bother propping herself up on her elbows as she called out, "Come in." The knock was Brittany's, and the girl never hesitated before stepping inside at the end of her knock - something a naked Rachel had learned all too well just a couple mornings before (though Brittany hadn't appeared embarrassed or apologetic at all, instead launching into a description of the awesome park a couple of blocks over and how there were, like, so many adorable ducks there).

"So Rach," Brittany began as she waltzed into the room (literally, she waltzed inside). "Tina and I have decided that we're not letting you get out of movie night tonight!" Rachel let out another of her patented Dramatic Sighs and held her hand up in the air, prepared to offer a counter argument to the girl who was spinning in the middle of her floor. Pirouette, pirouette, pirouette. Suddenly (and oh-so-gracefully), Brittany stopped doing ballet spins in the middle of Rachel's bedroom. Rachel didn't even have time to squeak before the blonde literally pounced on her, pinning her wrists down on the soft comforter. Sitting atop Rachel's hips, Brittany yelled, "No, Rach! You're coming into the living room. Right. Now."

And then Rachel did squeak. Because Brittany had hopped off of the bed and easily lifted the petite girl into her arms. Rachel had no choice but to wrap her arms around Brittany instinctively to keep her ass from connecting with the hard surface of her floor. As Brittany edged them sideways through Rachel's bedroom door, Rachel huffed. "Brittany," she said indignantly, still with her arms wrapped around Brittany's neck, "sit me down this instant."

"Nope," Brittany responded.

Rachel crossed her legs from her perch in the strong girl's arms. She huffed once more. "Brittany, this is completely uncalled for. I have... I have homework and such!"

"Yeah well, it's Friday. We'll have a study session Sunday afternoon or something. Don't worry so much!"

Rachel arched her well-manicured eyebrows at Brittany's statement, tilting her head to the side. Silently, she finally allowed herself to acquiesce. Brittany had proven to be a fabulous study partner over the past couple of weeks anyway.

Tina was already sitting on the hard, lumpy, uncomfortable couch that was supplied by the university's housing department when Brittany gently lowered Rachel onto one of the cushions. Somewhere between her bedroom and the living room, Rachel's thoughts of the hazel-eyed, blonde goddess had shifted back into the recesses of her mind. She would enjoy this weekend, and that was that. Whatever would come on Monday would come, and she would deal with it then. Maybe she could culture that missing spine sometime over the weekend...

"Hey girl," Tina said with a sweet smile at Rachel's arrival.

Rachel returned the smile, and it was easy - despite the fact that she normally avoided movie night like the plague (for some reason that she now could not remember to save her life). "Hi Tina," she replied. "How was your week?"

Tina's smile grew, and she was off, "Oh, it was great! This one kid in my class was carrying around this giant - and I mean giant - fake sledgehammer thing as part of some Greek initiation and at the beginning of class he -"

And so Tina continued for quite some time. As Rachel laughed at Tina's stories and Brittany's antics of acting out said stories, she began to wonder more and more why she hadn't reached out to her roommates earlier.

Well, she knew exactly why she hadn't reached out to their fourth roommate. But that was another story entirely.

Two movies down - The Notebook and A Walk to Remember (because it was a Nicholas Sparks night, so there) - and the three girls had blissfully consumed multiple bags of popcorn. They were sitting side by side on the couch, each with their legs stretched out in front of them, resting on the edge of the coffee table. Rachel sat in the middle, and her ankles barely managed to reach across the expanse between couch and table - but she had long ago become accustomed to her short stature.

Tina picked up the box of Kleenexes, grabbed one, and passed the box down the couch. Each girl grabbed a tissue, dabbing at eyes and sniffling dramatically (in Rachel's case).

It was just nearing midnight when a key scraping against the apartment door's lock resounded in the quiet space filled only with sounds of sniffles and hiccupping (in Tina's case).

Enter roommate number four.

"Yeah yeah," she said into her cell phone that was pressed against her ear, gesturing into the air in front of her. "Tell her that I had a good time, but I'm not down for that clingy shit." A pause. "Seriously, Adam, tell her. Because I will not deal with another stage five clinger." Another pause. "Bitch, please. If Jessica wasn't stage five, she was well on her way! Alright, I gotta go." Pause. "Yeah, you too." Click.

Grabbing a bottle of water out of the fridge, the newcomer turned to the living room and the girls who were sitting on the couch (with their heads swiveled in her direction). "Sup, bitches?" she greeted.

Rachel rolled her eyes. Tina chuckled awkwardly. Brittany blinked.

"That's not exactly a term of endearment, Santana." Brittany's voice was firm and smooth, but it was also quiet. Rachel glanced briefly in her direction before shifting her gaze back to Santana, marveling at the poise the blonde possessed.

Santana strutted (there was no other word for it, really) across the room and leaned one hip against the edge of the couch. "I'm sorry, blondie," she purred (again, no other word for it). "Just give me a list of things I can call you, and I promise not to deviate."

"You can start by calling me Brittany. And this is Rachel, and this is Tina. Not bitches, not dwarf, not Asian. Not anything degrading or stereotypical or hurtful." Brittany pulled herself up, standing in front of Santana and momentarily looking down at her. "Just our names," her tone shifted again, and it was calm and soothing. "Ok?"

Santana licked her lips. Rachel was certain that the feisty Latina was not used to being told what to do. But Rachel had seen the looks she sent Brittany's way - looks of curiosity and sometimes longing - when she thought no one was looking. Some weekend nights (and weekday nights as well) Santana would walk inside their apartment totally smashed. She would grab a bottle of water, and she would stare. Those times, everyone noticed it. But Brittany would mostly ignore it, hopping up and grabbing Santana's wrist, helping her into the bathroom that they shared and getting her ready for bed. Even across the apartment in Rachel's bedroom, she could hear Santana's protests to being helped. But Brittany always got the job done, safely tucking Santana away into her bed - or at least, Rachel assumed so, since the Latina would be alive and well the next morning and not some hot mess in the hallway.

Finally, she answered. "Ok." And her eyes never left Brittany's.

Brittany smiled serenely before wishing them all a good night and skipping (literally) off to bed. Santana's eyes hungrily lingered on the spot where the lithe dancer's figure had disappeared around the corner. Finally, she shook herself out of her Brittany-induced haze long enough to send a glare in Rachel and Tina's direction (because, well, they had been staring at her). "What?" she hissed. Tina shook her head frantically while Rachel just rolled her eyes again. "Whatever," Santana mumbled. "Night."

"Night," Tina piped up as Santana disappeared around the corner as well.

"Good night, Tina," Rachel said as she turned off the TV and went to brush her teeth.

An hour later - now in her pajamas with her lights off and her sound synthesizer on - Rachel found herself again staring in the general direction of her ceiling. She had been told in her dreams that she was a star, but she had never really dreamt of...that special someone. The way Santana stared at Brittany (and despite her teenage boy antics) stirred something straight down to Rachel's core. A part of her wanted to know what it felt like to be looked at like that.

Because Rachel knew exactly what it was like to be the one looking. She had been doing it for a few weeks now.

But Rachel also wanted to do more than just look. She wanted to act. She wanted to be suave and debonair and charming (even if all of those words basically meant the same thing).

Rachel wanted to meet the blonde-haired beauty who had been inadvertently threatening Rachel's microeconomics and music history grades. Rachel wanted to talk to her and learn something about her. Rachel wanted to sit next to her and ask to borrow a piece of paper when she (totally accidentally) forgot her notebook. Rachel wanted to compliment the other girl on her dress or her shoes or her marvelously strong chin.

Rachel wanted a lot of things.

And, dammit, it was time she did something about it.

Monday morning, Rachel put her meticulous timing (that she had worked out Sunday evening) to the test. The key was to arrive just on time - she couldn't be too early, and she couldn't be too late. She needed seats to fill up, but she also needed one seat in particular to remain open.

With two minutes left until Principles of Microeconomics was set to begin, Rachel made her move.

As she walked down the steps on the right side of the auditorium, Rachel resisted the urge to cheer. Because she could see the tight, perfect blonde ponytail that she had become accustomed to staring at for large portions of time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And, best of all, there were seats open on the girl's right and left! Rachel made it all the way down to the front row (why did people choose to sit on the front row?) before turning and approaching the empty seats.

Oh no, Rachel thought, suddenly panicked. Right or left, right or left, right or left. At the last minute, Rachel decided to sit on the girl's right-hand side (because the mysterious blonde was right-handed, and if Rachel leaned to her left a bit, perhaps their arms would have a better opportunity to brush against each other).

"Hi," Rachel said as she sat down (yes, she planned that one out for several hours). She smiled at the blonde as she took her seat, pulling out her notebook (she hadn't wanted to put all of her eggs in one basket) and smoothing out her skirt. Rachel quickly diverted her eyes back down to her notebook, eager to not appear, well, eager.

"Hi," the blonde replied with a light, airy chuckle in her voice. Immediately, Rachel wondered exactly how ridiculous she had appeared to the other girl. Regardless, she glanced up momentarily, smiling lightly at the girl who was (in Rachel's mind) now a little less of a stranger.

The class concluded after fifty minutes of shockingly intense (for Rachel) brushes of arms and corner-of-eye glances. When the blonde started to pack up her things, Rachel mentally gave herself a swift kick in the ass and opened her mouth to ask, "Have you started studying for Friday's test yet?"

When the blonde turned startlingly bright hazel eyes on her, Rachel fleetingly forgot how to breathe. She sat stock still as the other girl seemed to examine her very soul through the connection of their eyes. A few seconds passed, and Rachel started breathing again (out of necessity). "No, I haven't started studying yet. Have you?"

She was shouldering her bag, and Rachel quickly moved to follow her example. They turned and began walking up the stairs together. "No," Rachel giggled, "I haven't either." The blonde smiled in Rachel's direction. "Would you be interested in studying together?"

Rachel held her breath. They didn't even know each other. She still didn't know the girl's name! She just knew that the chiseled facial features and the polo shirt with the top three buttons unbuttoned and the tight (tiiight) dark blue jeans were completely clouding her senses and, in all likelihood, her better judgment. But then the gorgeous blonde opened her lips and she said, "Sure," and Rachel died.

"Great!" she exclaimed. Immediately, she tried to downplay her enthusiasm. "Here's my phone number," she said, reaching into her bag and pulling out a post-it note, quickly scribbling down her number with her purple pen and handing it to the blonde. RACHEL was written at the top of the page in loopy, capital letters.

"Rachel," the girl said.

Rachel nodded. "Yep, that's me." She internally cringed and arched an eyebrow at herself and how goofy she sounded.

"Nice to meet you. I'm Quinn, by the way." Rachel's eyes widened completely of their own volition as she stared at the girl - Quinn - with a newfound appreciation. There was something even more intoxicating about the situation now that she had a name to go with the face. "But I have to run to my next class, I'll text you about meeting up to study before Friday."

"Great," Rachel said, now standing in the hallway just outside of the auditorium. Quinn turned to walk away and was halfway down the hall before Rachel continued. "Thanks. Yeah. Text. Bye, Quinn."

And Rachel stood there with a ridiculous smile on her face just long enough to see Quinn stop, turning to stare back in Rachel's direction for a moment with a sweet smile on her lips, before disappearing around the corner.

Tuesday morning came, and Rachel was not yet letting herself despair over the fact that Quinn hadn't texted her.

There was always Music History in which to sit next to the blonde and further explore feelings - err... common interests.

Again, Rachel employed her waiting-until-the-almost-last-minute tactic to snare a seat next to the blonde. This time, Rachel ended up on Quinn's left. "Hi," she said brightly, pulling out her notebook (it still wasn't quite time to play the oh-silly-me-I-forgot-my-notebook-could-I-borrow-a-piece-of-paper card). She was thankful that the blonde had chosen a seat closer to the back in this class. The front row was mildly uncomfortable.

The blonde - whose hair was down in long, flowing waves today - turned and eyed Rachel with a curious expression on her face. "Good morning," she replied, and Rachel felt a tingle creep down her spine. The blonde's voice was lovely - husky and low and full of emotions that Rachel wanted to explore.

The class began, and time passed slowly. While Quinn yesterday had attentively taken notes throughout their economics lecture, Quinn today tapped her pencil on her notebook more than she actually wrote with it. Rachel tried to inconspicuously observe the blonde (and her low-cut blue dress and white cardigan), but she was terribly unsuccessful. The blonde caught her looking and, instead of turning away, flicked her eyes up and down Rachel's own form, mimicking Rachel's gaze.

Rachel blushed.

A couple of minutes later, the blonde leaned over. "This is the most boring of all of my classes. This professor should have retired years ago."

Rachel suppressed a giggle behind tightly sealed lips. "You're right," she finally managed to utter, "but I would take this over economics any day."

The other girl smiled. "I guess I'd have to agree with you on that one."

As the class ended, Rachel slid her notebook in her bag. Much like the previous day, the two girls stood and began to leave the classroom together. As they exited the door, the other girl placed a hand on Rachel's shoulder, stopping her. "Here," she said, pulling a pen out of her bag and grasping Rachel's hand. She quickly jotted down ten numbers on Rachel's skin. "Do you like coffee?" Rachel nodded. "Great. Give me a call sometime, and maybe we can get some together, yeah?"

Again, Rachel nodded. "That sounds lovely." Rachel totally ignored the fact that they were supposed to be studying within the next couple of days for economics anyway. Maybe Quinn was planning on studying at a Starbucks or something.

"I'm sorry, I didn't ever catch your name..." the girl trailed off. Rachel immediately forgave the blonde for forgetting her name from the day previous.

"It's Rachel," she replied. "Rachel Berry."

The blonde smiled, and Rachel swooned. If she didn't have such fabulous legs, she might have fallen to the floor in a puddle. "Rachel Berry. Cute name. You can call me Charlie."

This time when Rachel was left standing in place like an infatuated statue, Charlie didn't look back as she rounded the corner. But Rachel's smile was just as ridiculous and long-lasting as the day previous.

And the girl who had first seemed to be a riddle Rachel was curious to solve had, over the course of a mere forty-eight hours, transformed into a completely and utterly stupefying conundrum.