Disclaimer: This is entirely a work of fiction. These characters are not mine. I own absolutely nothing, and I hate that fact, seriously.
A/N: This fic is based from the Dodgeball promo, except, they don't really sing. Also, I've never played 'real' Dodgeball (it wasn't offered in any of the gym classes I took), just 'street' Dodgeball so I'm a little unfamiliar with the rules. I did some research, though. :)
A/N2: Big thanks to my friend Nicole for reading through this, as well as my ninja!beta. I know it's a little impromptu, but you guys still worked on it 'coz you're both awesome like that.
It's totally just a game to her at first.
There are three reasons why: one, it's all Finn's idea, which is quite stupid by the way because, hello, what a way to settle differences? But it's Finn, so she shouldn't really be surprised with that, or the fact that Mr. Schuester practically swooned over Golden Boy's suggestion.
Two, it's Finn's idea. She doesn't really want to break a nail for it, much less exert the effort he's asking for just to give him the pleasure. Nope. Never gonna happen.
And three, it's Finn freaking Hudson's idea. That alone is reason enough.
So, yeah, it's just a game.
But, okay, so, maybe there is a little streak of competitiveness coursing through her veins. But it's mainly because she knows she's up against Santana and they've been rivals since the day they were conceived, which kind of explains it.
Yet, still, it's just a game.
The feeling surprisingly amplifies as soon as she enters the court for warm-ups, but Quinn doesn't think much of it.
She goes to one corner and starts to do some stretching, although a huge part of her is hoping that she'd get to sit out the entire game; maybe watch Finn flail around the court like the T-Rex that he is.
But they're already lacking members as it is; she knows it's kind of far from happening, so she just sighs.
She stoops down, reaching her toes with the tips of her fingers. She hasn't really gone to any of her Gym classes since the time she started hanging with the Skanks (and even after she stopped), and admittedly, the sudden blood rush feels good. (She's missed it, but she's not quite ready to admit that yet.)
A series of squeaks echo throughout the gym court. From the corner of her eye, Quinn can see the rest of the players filing in. She sees flashes of red and black, the latter being the color of the opposing team.
She brings her head up, interest suddenly piqued, as she watches Santana lead the black team to their side of the court. Santana's mouth opens to talk as soon as she has had them all settled.
From the looks of it, and judging by the way Brittany is nodding eagerly, Santana is voted as team captain. But that's practically a given.
Quinn supposes Finn would be theirs, and she can only roll her eyes at that. It's a guaranteed loss because obviously, Santana outmatches Finn in wits alone; and Quinn has to ask herself for the umpteenth time why she's here again, because, really, it's a stupid idea.
Oh, yeah, teamwork, or some poor excuse like that.
(And Rachel in gym shorts, of course; but, Quinn just didn't think of that.)
Mr. Schuester finally walks in, clapping to get his team's attention—yes, he does that even outside of rehearsals, it's actually starting to get annoying.
He asks them to gather around for last minute instructions, all the while giving his best versions of a pep talk, like it's a freaking competition and not, you know, Dodgeball.
Which, for the nth time, is just a game.
"Okay, guys," he says enthusiastically; probably too enthusiastic, and it somehow borderlines into mildly disturbing. "It's time! We need to try our best and win this. Show them who's boss!"
Quinn nods stiffly, swallowing down the urge to point out that it's a freaking game and it won't really settle any differences, as much as he and Hudson would like to think so. But experience has taught her that arguing with him is quite pointless, so, whatever.
"Who's team captain?" Puck asks, and Quinn scoffs. Does he really have to ask?
She tells him that, and Puck only frowns in confusion. "Who? If you're talking about Finn, he's not here yet. We're about to start."
It quickly snaps Quinn back into attention, her half-blasé, half-competitive mood turning to full on interested because Puck is indeed right. There's no giant lumbering around when she looks, and his absence only means one thing.
Rachel is with him, and after everything that's happened the past few days, it's not a good sign, well, at least for Quinn.
A minute after, he comes stumbling into their courtside with Rachel in tow, and he's smiling that dopey smile, and he's wearing that gassy infant look that he usually has when he's done something… just something. Quinn refuses to think beyond that.
She narrows her eyes at him, but he doesn't notice. He's too busy ogling Rachel, Rachel's long, glorious, toned legs and her perfect breasts.
He doesn't even catch Mr. Schuester asking where they've been. (Although Quinn prefers that it goes unanswered, because, well, for certain reasons.)
Quinn already feels like decking him for that, because, you know, if he's going to be team captain, he needs to stop openly drooling and start concentrating.
She's quite sure she heard Mr. Schue say, "For team captain," from somewhere on his spot, but everything else goes unheard because Finn's smiling again and he's tucking a lock of soft brown hair behind Rachel's ear.
Something inside Quinn snaps violently. Fuck that.
Before she even knows it, her hand is rocketing up in the air and she's almost growling when she shouts, "I'll be team captain!"
Will looks completely surprised, since it's the first time in ages that Quinn has volunteered to lead something, and be this passionate about it. "Are you sure, Quinn?"
The other Glee kids are staring at her like she's grown another head, most of them absolutely startled. But Puck just smirks at her, in a way like he understands what this is all about (even though Quinn herself doesn't know what it is), and Mike claps her shoulder encouragingly.
Oddly, it feels enough.
"This is a joke, right?" asks Finn, his eyes now staring at Quinn's raised hand. "Quinn, you're kidding, right?"
She feels more satisfied that she has managed to tear his eyes away from Rachel, than pissed at the notion that he's practically challenging her ability.
"Do I look like I'm kidding?" Quinn snaps back, her tone biting.
He doesn't back down, but he swallows visibly before he speaks. "Well I'm sorry, Quinn. But I'm already the team captain."
Quinn knows from there that she's got him scared. It just fuels her more. "Says who?"
"Mister Schue," answers Finn. "And since he's the coach, we do what he says."
Quinn's hard glare falls on their teacher, and, really, nobody would want Quinn glaring at them so Will just says, "I believe the decision lies with the team, Finn. Sorry."
Finn is about to make a protest, but Kurt gains his senses back soon enough to tell him no. Really though, if he's going to be incredibly honest, they have better chances with Quinn leading their team; and it'll be less likely that he'll die in the middle of everything.
"No offense Finn," Kurt says, "but Quinn fits the description more."
"But I'm team captain!"
"Of Glee, yes," Quinn agrees half-heartedly, smirking in such a way that she knows Finn truly hates. "But this is Dodgeball. This is my turf."
"Oh, right," Finn jeers. "How about the fact that I play football," he points proudly to himself, for effect, then, "you don't."
Quinn just rolls her eyes in response. Pathetic.
"Is that all the argument you've got, Hudson?"
"Dude, seriously," Puck groans. He's starting to get bored, and he might actually leave if the whole thing doesn't start soon. "We're wasting time here."
Finn just scowls at him, turning to Rachel for support since he thinks that if she says so, it's most likely to happen. "Tell them, Rach. I'll make a good team captain, right?"
Rachel is quiet at first, clearly in deep thought. On one hand, there's Finn and the possibility that he might be a good team captain since he plays football and has a pretty good throw.
But there's Quinn, who survived Coach Sylvester's Cheerio training with remarkable ease. There is Quinn, who runs like she's wearing Hermes' shoes and she's dodging balls like he's dodging Zeus' fire bolts. (Rachel swears she only knows this because she has shared a number of Gym classes with Quinn, and she has had glimpses of how Quinn moves. She absolutely did not stare at her too long.)
Really though, the answer is easy. But to choose it is admittedly hard. It's Finn versus the rest of New Directions and their guaranteed win. (She doesn't doubt Quinn's ability, never did.)
But a win is a win, and she's Rachel Berry, so she says, "Agility wise, I think Quinn is indeed more fitting, Finn."
Quinn smirks when she sees Finn's face fall, the kind she wears after she has managed to put someone in their place.
(And her heart may have skipped a beat or so at the compliment, but that's not the point.)
She half expected Rachel to back Finn up, but she has heard otherwise. And God, it feels so fucking glorious to have Rachel on her side.
Well, not that side, but, whatever.
Finn's frown deepens, he looks constipated; Quinn has to resist the urge to tip her head back and cackle.
"Fine," he grumbles under his breath. "You're captain then."
She just nods, smugly, and has to remind herself at the same time that he's on their team and she can't really tell him that he's going down.
Everyone turns to her for a game plan, and while she doesn't really have any, she figures that they only need to be worried about Brittany and Santana. She has played with the others before and they don't really pose any threat.
She tells them that, reminding the whole group at the same time that they need to take the two out as early as they could.
"Any advice?" Blaine asks. He scratches the back of his head shyly. "I'm not really good at this game."
"Advice?" Quinn raises a brow at him. She pauses for a few seconds to think, and then says, "Catch the ball. Don't get hit."
"Pretty much. Because if anyone of you gets hit, you're dead."
She's serious, they all know that she is, and she looks so scary that they actually cower under her gaze. Quinn swears she even hears Tina squeak in fright. (Or maybe that's Puck, but she really doesn't care.)
Coach Beiste blows the first whistle, signaling that they're about to start. Everyone walks inside the court, assuming their respective positions.
Quinn puts Finn front and center. Her smirk doesn't drop. It only grows wider when she sees Santana zero in on him, and she knows from there that he will no longer be a thorn on her side throughout the entire game.
Sometimes, she's honestly thankful that Santana hates the same things that she does.
Rachel's the last one to walk in, but Quinn perfectly understands her hesitation because Rachel doesn't do sports, ever. She sings and dazzles everyone with her angelic voice and her relentless talent but those aren't exactly helpful in a game of Dodgeball.
Rachel squeezes herself in between Finn and Puck, obviously for safety; Quinn thinks it's totally unacceptable because Rachel is kind of their team's weakness, and as team captain, she has the responsibility to protect the weakness, so the other team won't be able to use her against them.
"Switch," Quinn hisses. "Rachel, switch with Tina."
"Why?" Tina asks, but then figures she should just do it, especially when Quinn is glaring at her like she's Coach Sylvester's spawn or something. "Fine."
Rachel, though confused, does what she's told. A good leader is a good follower after all.
To say that Quinn is pleased is an understatement.
"Just stay close to me," she whispers soothingly, because Rachel looks genuinely terrified as she watches Coach Beiste line the red balls up.
Quinn thinks it's since she's risking her nose and all over flying balls. Really, who wouldn't be? "They're going to try and get you, so stay close to me, okay? I'd stop the balls from hitting you."
Her voice is surprisingly soft; it catches Rachel completely off guard. "Will you?" She can't help but ask, because after all, this is Quinn Fabray she's talking to here. Quinn Fabray, the girl she's never really been friends with, Finn's ex, the prettiest girl she's ever met, and now their Dodgeball team captain. And has she mentioned that she's the prettiest girl she's ever met?
"Yeah," answers Quinn. "Yeah, I will."
Her smile is soft, warm like sunshine on a cloudy day. It coaxes Rachel to return the smile in kind. "Thank you, Quinn."
"Don't thank me yet. We haven't even started."
Coach Beiste heads on to explain the rules to both teams. It's a no rules game though, so Quinn doesn't really get the point.
"I repeat," she drawls out. Her tone is tinged with undeniable emphasis. "No flagrant hitting or throwing. If I see a fist thrown instead of the ball, I'm going to grab you by the shirt and drag you out of the court."
She makes some sort of gesture with her hands and her feet. Quinn supposes that it's meant to scare them, but Coach Beiste just looks, well, awkward.
A ball is accidentally kicked in the process, but the coach is just too busy trying to get the message through to notice.
It rolls down and stops at Quinn's feet. Quinn quickly picks it up, fully intending to return it right before the game officially starts.
But Finn is unknowingly quite determined to cut every strand of Quinn's resolve, and he has to turn to Rachel and attempt to charm her by his sultry winking.
It's absolutely revolting so much so that Quinn feels like vomiting right on the spot.
"Fabray!" Coach Beiste shouts upon catching the ball that rebounded towards her. "What did I just tell you?"
"I was just trying to return the ball back to its place. It's not my fault Finn's freakishly huge and he's blocking the way."
She doesn't buy it though, since Finn is nowhere near the row of balls lined up on the front, so she says, "That's your first warning, Fabray."
Quinn merely shrugs it off. The image of Finn trying to sooth the side of his head paired with the distinct sounds of Puck's and Mike's snickers totally make up for it.
Finally, the second whistle is blown and the court turns into a blur of colors.
Puck erupts into a battle cry of his own, like he's a freaking gladiator, but hey, he's managed to get one out already so Quinn's perfectly fine with it.
Finn's the first one to get sent out from their team, unsurprisingly. He screams, actually screams like a girl when Santana throws the ball at him and it hits him right on his crotch.
Granted, the ball is soft, but how Santana has managed to do that, nobody knows. (Quinn makes a mental note to thank Santana for that.)
He limps out of the court, his tear-filled eyes automatically trying to find Rachel. But Rachel's too busy dodging and covering her nose alternately whenever a ball comes into her vision or soars above her head.
He ends up with Mr. Schuester awkwardly patting him on his back. Quinn can only cringe at the sight.
Rory gets hit next, right on his cheek where a nasty red mark has been left. Santana's a monster at Dodgeball though, so that's hardly a surprise.
Quinn has a niggling feeling that she should at least warn him because she knows it won't be the last. She already feels sorry for him, for having to suffer the wrath that is Santana's.
He's a nice kid and all; Quinn actually likes him. But she's got her own priorities—Rachel, and maybe winning the stupid game—and the love triangle he's involved with is just a matter she'd never touch with a fifty-foot pole.
Three minutes into the game, Puck's taken down two and Quinn has managed to get the same.
They're currently down three players, though. Namely: Finn, Blaine and Kurt.
But Quinn's not even remotely worried because Puck's going for his third and Mike's dancing his way to one more. They're so going to win this.
And best of all? She's got Rachel tucked safely behind her, and Rachel's calling her name over and over as they move, Rachel's hands clutching at the back of her shirt like she's her only hope in getting out of this alive.
They are so going to win this.
Five minutes into the game, she's shouting new instructions, commandeering an army of New Directions.
"Blind side them, Tina!" Quinn yells. Tina dutifully acquiesces.
But her voice turns soft as soon as she looks over her shoulder to check up on Rachel once more. "Everything okay back there?"
"Yes," Rachel huffs, and then rolls her eyes. But Quinn knows it's good natured. "It still is, just like after you've asked ten seconds ago."
Quinn shrugs. "Just checking."
She quickly goes back to shouting when she sees Artie dodge a perfectly good throw.
"That's it! Good one, Artie!"
Artie takes a moment to turn to her and give her an answering salute. But it's a distraction they clearly can't afford.
Quinn sees it immediately. She takes a quick dive towards Artie's wheelchair handles, wheeling him out of the ball's trajectory.
It lands dead in front of Artie's feet, causing both of them to sigh in relief.
"Thanks Quinn," he breathes out. "I owe you one."
"Close call," Quinn nods, and then taps him on his shoulder as if to tell him it's all good. "Just be more careful. Keep a good eye on the balls."
"Will do, Cap."
Quinn can't help but grin with pride. She feels so proud of their accomplishments so far. Their opponents are starting to grow tired, which means they're gaining the upper hand.
She grins even wider at that knowledge.
But it doesn't last long because Rachel's scream suddenly pierces through the air. When she looks, a ball is headed towards Rachel's way, and it's going to hit her square on the face if she doesn't move.
"Rachel, look out!" Quinn yells as soon as she can, her feet scrambling to where the other girl is standing. "Duck!"
Rachel's confused for a moment, her panic visible with the way her hands flail. Luckily though, she's able to gather enough presence of mind to do what she's told, or well, what she hears she's being told.
She closes her eyes, squats down, and prays to whoever is listening to spare her from this one.
The ball soars past her head, missing Rachel by an inch.
While Rachel's surely safe and unharmed after a quick check, that's absolutely it for Quinn.
It's a fucking war from there.
Quinn's eyes narrow dangerously into thin slits, her gaze fixed at the girl standing right behind Brittany.
Quinn sees the way she snaps her fingers after missing Rachel by a mere inch. She watches, and sees the way the girl bends to pick up another ball, her hand curving instantly, poised for another throw.
Quinn sees every movement—the flex of the muscle, how the ball bounces low against her fingers a few times.
And really, it's the biggest mistake this girl has ever made. Quinn is going to make her regret every damn second of it.
She holds the ball firmly in between her hands, and then raises it above her head. She brings it around, arms ready to spring out in full force because, no one, absolutely no one, dares to pull a stunt like that on Rachel and not expect to have to pay for it.
Quinn throws the ball across the court with Herculean strength, hitting the girl square on her chest. She stumbles a few steps backward from the impact, her hands flying to nurse the offended part because it actually hurts like a bitch.
Of course, Quinn has made sure that it will.
The girl honestly looks like she's about to cry as she walks off the court, and Quinn cries out in victory in return.
She does a little victory dance, all the while prancing back into her assumed position. After all, the game isn't over yet and she doesn't want to risk leaving Rachel out in the open for more than a second or two.
Rachel is back to clinging onto her shirt for her dear life as soon as Quinn gets there. Quinn swears that it's one of the best feelings in the world.
She looks over her shoulder again, winking at Rachel as soon as their eyes meet. But she tries to ignore the way her heart skips a beat at Rachel's shy smile.
Play it cool, Quinn. Play it cool.
Santana tries to get her back for it, but Quinn is feeling far too invincible for anyone to be able to take her down.
She throws one for the fifth consecutive try, and Quinn fucking catches it fucking again, sending it back to her way with practiced ease in no time.
Santana manages to jump away from the ball, but it hits one of her teammates standing nearby.
There fucking goes another fucking one.
She watches as Quinn does her stupid victory dance again, gritting her teeth.
Quinn pops her shirt, dancing and taunting Santana when she misses for the sixth time in a row.
Santana goes for the seventh, misses again as the ball hits the post instead, and she almost loses it.
Almost, because Brittany is doing a cartwheel, like, right there, in front of her, with no hands; head first, since she's holding a ball in between.
Santana then forgets every other thing that isn't related to Brittany, and her cartwheeling. Fuck Quinn and her mad skills.
She can't quite decide, though, if she'd die of fear first because, well, it's a no fucking hands stunt; or sexual frustration right then and there, because, wow, Brittany's legs.
Seven minutes into the game, the red team is two members ahead of the black team. It turns into three the next minute, right after Sugar has been hit.
But Puck chooses that exact same moment to be the man-whore that he is, flexing his muscles to show off his guns; a response to that suggestive wink Sugar had thrown his way as she rested on the court side nearest to him.
"Puck," Quinn hisses. "Puck! I need you to concentrate!"
He ignores her completely, openly flirting with Sugar now, and Quinn wants to give him a hard slap at the back of his head because it's so painfully obvious that it's just a form of distraction. (Santana's devious like that, but predictable. It's common knowledge that Puck loses all of his logic whenever there's a swishing skirt around.)
So it doesn't come as a real surprise when a few seconds later, Puck falls down on his knees, cross-eyed and wincing, his hands covering the most precious thing he believes he owns.
"Puckerman!" Quinn shouts from her spot. I told you so is left unsaid; he won't get it anyway.
"Ow, shit," Puck continues to groan in pain. "Shit. Shit. That hurt."
From somewhere on the other side of the court, they can hear Santana cackling.
"Puck!" Quinn tries again. "Can you get up?"
She can't exactly go and check up on him, since she figures it's much more risky to leave Rachel's side now that Puck has been sent out.
"No. I don't think I can," he says, and then starts rolling himself out of the court. "Go on. Go on without me, Cap."
"Shit," Quinn curses in frustration. But he had been a huge help nonetheless, so she says, "You did good work, soldier."
Puck tries to smile in spite of the pain, raising a hand to thump his chest proudly.
"We can do this."
Quinn turns to her side, sees Mike with his reassuring smile, and she exhales relief. She has almost forgotten about him and his self-proclaimed ninja skills.
She gives him a firm nod in response. After all, he's still right. It's just one man down, nothing else.
"Any plans?" Quinn hears Mike say as he shuffles closer.
To be honest, she doesn't have any—she never really did. But as they both look over their shoulders, and see Tina and Rachel clinging tightly onto their shirts, Quinn knows they just have to do their best.
"Die fighting," she says, and then adds, "or something like that."
"Totally down with that."
She smiles fondly as she watches Mike press a kiss on Tina's temple, all the while secretly wishing she could do the same.
But her eyes catch sight of Rachel peeking over her shoulder, and she's reminded by things she can't believe she almost forgot.
At some point in her life, Quinn has learned to appreciate the little things, and to have Rachel this close is something she honestly has always thought would only be a dream.
"Is it safe now?" Rachel asks, taking cover again as soon as she sees a red ball somewhere along her peripheral vision.
Quinn balls her fingers into fists, resisting the urge to pat her on the head or do something equally mortifying, just because Rachel is too adorable for words. She chuckles instead. "No. But we'll keep you guys safe. Right, Mike?"
Mike raises a fist in agreement; Quinn bumps hers against his, shaking on it.
A few beats later, Mercedes is running around the court like a mad woman, dodging red balls coming along her way.
"It's just a game!" Mercedes stops and shouts right after she collides into Brittany.
The blonde girl has just caught a ball Quinn has thrown on Santana's way, accidentally tripping on a loose shoe string, which caused her to almost fall onto Mercedes.
"Why is everyone taking it seriously?"
Finn, since he's now feeling all better, takes that chance to voice out his own protest. "Yeah, Quinn! Why are you taking this so seriously?"
But Quinn doesn't have the patience to deal with him, and he's just met with a red ball hitting him right on the face.
It's not just a game to her, not anymore.
It stopped being a game right after a red ball missed Rachel by a thread.
It stopped being a game when Artie almost got hit, and she barely made it to save him.
It stopped being a game when she was voted team captain.
It stopped being a game the moment Finn had set foot on the gym floor, with his dopey smile that makes Rachel swoon, and his grabby hands all over her.
It stopped being a game right from there.
So it's not just a game. Not anymore.
"Quinn Fabray!" Rachel hisses from behind. She firmly tugs on Quinn's shirt to get her attention, and to let her know at the same time that she's not pleased.
"What?" Quinn intones innocently, but the smirk pulling up at the corner of her mouth gives her away. "What is it?"
"I cannot believe you threw a ball at Finn!" Rachel continues. But she doesn't miss the way Quinn rolls her eyes, and the growl she swears she can hear rumbling beneath Quinn's chest. "He's already in pain, Quinn. He has unknowingly embarrassed himself for everyone's amusement. He doesn't really need any more of that."
Quinn just scoffs in response. "He did that to himself, Rachel."
"He might have. But was it really necessary to rub it in his face? That you are better than him at this?"
Quinn's whole form turns rigid. Her face hardens, in a way that makes Rachel wish she could take the words back.
"Well I'm sorry for hurting your precious boyfriend and his precious feelings, Berry," Quinn hisses sharply. "Feel free to jump back into his arms anytime now and soothe his bruised ego. I'm done babysitting you."
And just like that, the feeling of security is gone, and so is Quinn.
She's all up on the front now, away from her for about five steps, but Rachel feels like the distance is so much more than that.
She genuinely feels like crying for reasons she can't quite define as she watches Quinn move around, talking to Mike and Tina as soon as she gets the chance—to everyone, actually. Everyone but her.
The stark contrast between how Quinn acts around her now, as compared to before, doesn't get lost on Rachel either.
She suddenly feels vulnerable, left wide open for an attack. Her nose is at the very stake, and she's sure Santana won't waste the perfect chance.
Plus, the fact that they are back to Berry now and that really, really stings.
The game is down to three against two after Artie has asked to be pulled out.
"Good teamwork we had there," says Quinn as she wheels him out to the safe side.
"I'm sorry, Quinn," Artie starts to apologize. "I really tried. But I can barely move my arms."
Quinn pats him on his back for a job well done. "It's all good. Leave it to me and Mike."
Artie salutes her one last time. "Go get them, Cap!"
She nods, and then jogs back inside the court, right next to Mike.
"Yeah," rasps Quinn. Her gaze is resolutely fixed on Brittany and Santana.
He's only asking because he has felt the air shift. There's a different kind of tension between Rachel and Quinn now, and the mere fact that they're no longer joined at the hip is practically a dead giveaway. "You sure?"
It sounds final, dismissive; Mike decides to leave it at that.
Rachel knows that she really is, because a red ball is catapulting her way, fast.
It's going straight for her face, her nose to be exact, and Rachel tells it, during that split second of dread, that it's been good knowing it for seventeen years.
She tells her nose that she's proud of it; ultimately, steadfastly proud. That regardless of what happens after this, she still is. She's always going to be. And that she'll miss it too, if she ever ends up getting a nose job.
Rachel closes her eyes, covering her face with her hands in a poor attempt to lessen the impact and somehow leave her nose unharmed.
The ball draws nearer. It's angry—revengeful, the kind only Santana Lopez could throw.
She braces herself for the impact, sucking a lungful of air, filling her chest. A final act of courage; if she's taking a hit, she's taking it with a born Broadway star's pride.
And then, she waits.
It never comes.
There's a loud thud. When Rachel opens her eyes, the first thing she sees is Quinn sprawled on the floor; Quinn's hand is clutching her other shoulder. She's groaning in pain, and her face is all sorts of twisted from the agony.
Rachel's initial assessment is that Quinn fell on her side, which explains the way the girl is holding onto the offended shoulder tightly.
But to hear it, actually hear it from Mike's lips, the confirmation that Quinn did, it only fills Rachel with dread and regret.
Because it would mean that Quinn took the hit. After everything, Quinn still did, and Rachel's brain doesn't exactly know how to process that bit of information.
"Come on, Quinn," she hears Mike say, "up you go."
He helps her to stand up, carefully avoiding the pained shoulder. He slings the good arm around his neck, and then tells Quinn that they're going to go to the clinic and she can't complain.
Quinn just huffs at that, then grunts. But she doesn't really have a choice, does she?
"Quinn," Rachel whispers. It's too soft for Quinn to hear.
A hand reaches up to her retreating form, hesitating, but Rachel brings it down in the end since there's really no point.
Down on the floor, a red ball rolls slowly, stopping dead as it hits the tip of her shoe.
Quinn has been finally sent out, a fact that the other team rejoices, and Mike has walked out with her, which leaves Rachel up against Brittany and Santana.
It takes one look at her for Coach Beiste to arrive at the decision. She declares The Troubletones as the winner.
Rachel knows that she should feel bad about the loss, especially if it means settling differences. But as she watches Quinn's back disappear around the corner, she realizes that she cares about none of it anymore.
It gets worse.
The feeling drops at the pit of her stomach, heavy and unsettling, when Finn wraps an arm around her shoulder and kisses the top of her hair.
It only gets worse, because Finn is whispering in her ear that it'salright, but Rachel feels exactly the opposite, all the while staring at the corner Quinn has turned, still.
"They've called your mom. She's coming to get you."
Quinn groans as she shifts on their clinic's bed, trying to find a more comfortable position. The last thing she needs is a worried Judy. Not that she's ungrateful or anything, just—it takes some getting used to, and she's only halfway there.
"Quinn?" Mike's hands are hovering above her, ready to help. But he doesn't really know which spot isn't in pain, or if he's even allowed to touch her at all. "Are you sure you're going to be fine?"
"I'm fine," she grunts. She's trying hard not to flinch so he'd stop worrying, but it's hard work.
"You had a pretty bad fall," Mike states. "And I mean, really bad. What were you even thinking?"
"Yes, Quinn," a voice interrupts from the doorway. But it's absolutely familiar, and Quinn feels her heart beat wildly beneath her chest at the sound. "What were you even thinking?"
Mike tries to hide his smile when Quinn rolls her eyes.
Rachel takes small, deliberate steps towards the bed, her fingers wrapping around the metal pole as she reaches the foot.
This time, when she asks Quinn, it's soft, no more than a whisper. She honestly just wants to know. "What were you thinking?"
Mike takes it as his cue to leave, slipping quietly out of the room.
Quinn fixes her gaze at a tainted spot on the white ceiling. She doesn't speak, but Rachel hears the way Quinn's breath hitches as she takes a couple more steps, shuffling closer.
"I'm sorry," Rachel says. She figures it's best to get the apology out first before anything else. She at least owes Quinn that. "I apologize for my actions earlier. I should not have said those things, Quinn."
Quinn coughs twice, effectively clearing her throat. "It makes sense. He's your boyfriend after all."
And really, it does. The thing about Rachel is, she cares a lot for the person she likes, and defending him to the rest of the world comes as second nature. She can't blame Rachel for that.
If only Finn realizes how incredibly lucky he is to call Rachel his.
"But it doesn't justify my actions and my words," Rachel argues, shaking her head, "if anything, I should be thanking you because you've been trying to keep me safe, all the while working hard to get us that win."
"It's my job," to keep you safe is the sentiment but Quinn can't exactly tell Rachel that, so she goes with, "as the team captain."
"I know. And you've done well," Rachel says. "You've done very well."
She slides a hand under Quinn's and squeezes it gently. "I'm really sorry, Quinn. I hope you can forgive me."
Quinn is quiet the next moment and it somehow worries Rachel. But she feels it, she feels the way Quinn squeezes her hand back and it makes her feel like bursting into tears for no reason. Maybe relief or something else, she doesn't know.
"Did we at least win?"
Rachel snorts loudly, and then covers her mouth with her free hand when the nurse shushes her. "I was the last one left. My opponents were Brittany and Santana. What do you think?"
Quinn chuckles, but abruptly stops when the dull throbbing in her head makes it presence known.
"Is something wrong?" Rachel is quick to ask. "Do you not feel good?"
"It's just my head," answers Quinn with a shake of the head. "Must've hit the floor when I fell."
A wrong move, though, she realizes, wincing as the feeling gets worse by the second.
"Should I call the doctor?"
Rachel makes a move to leave when Quinn doesn't answer; for fear that she has sustained a concussion or anything for that matter.
A strong grip stops her completely; the hand wrapped in Quinn's locked in a tight but comfortable squeeze.
"No," Quinn says. Her eyes flutter close and she's silent again.
Rachel has read quite a lot—and watched enough Grey's Anatomy—to know that people who have suffered a hard fall should not be allowed to sleep or even close their eyes, just in case.
She makes another move to call the resident doctor, because she's sonervous and she doesn't really know what to do. The fact that it's Quinn lying on the bed doesn't help either.
I don't need the doctor," Quinn rasps, as if she's reading Rachel's mind. "It's just that the pain goes away when I close my eyes."
"But Quinn, you might have a concussion!" Rachel answers, clearly unconvinced. "Who knows?"
"They've already checked. I'm all clear."
"Just…" Quinn trails off into a pause, then, "stay, Rachel."
Her hold loosens, but the mere fact that it's there is enough for both of them. "Stay."
"Okay," Rachel breathes out in great relief.
The pad of her thumb unknowingly starts drawing circles on the back of Quinn's hand. "I will."
The need to ask Quinn again about what she was thinking comes back, but Rachel swallows it down because she doesn't want to break the spell she and Quinn are under.
So she just lifts one of her hands, letting gentle fingers brush the hair away from Quinn's eyes. "I never really thanked you properly, did I?"
Rachel hums in agreement. "I would really love to give you a hug, but given the current circumstances, it's not possible," she says, and then drops her head.
But Quinn doesn't miss the sudden blush that's fast spreading on her cheeks. "That sucks then," she quips, only coaxing Rachel to blush even more. "Next time perhaps?"
"Maybe," answers Rachel. Two can play this game. "Or…"
Rachel only smirks in response, and it's sly. Quinn honestly can't guess what's running through her mind.
"I can do this instead," Rachel says. The next thing Quinn knows is that Rachel's stooping, there's warm breath hitting her skin, quickly replaced by the feel of soft lips pressed sweetly against her cheek.
It stays there for about three seconds, and Quinn swears it's the best three seconds of her young, teenage life.
"Thank you, Quinn," Rachel murmurs against her ear, "for everything."
It's heartfelt. It's sincere. It's what Quinn has always wanted all this time.
It takes a good long while for her to recover, but when Quinn finally does, her mom is already being ushered by the nurse into her room and Rachel is on her way out.
Thankfully, the doctor asks to see her mom first, giving Quinn a chance.
"Rachel!" Quinn hisses. "Rachel! Get back here!"
Rachel turns around, lower lip disappearing in between her teeth. "I'll see you tomorrow, Quinn."
And she dashes out of the room without waiting for any response.
That adorable, sneaky girl.
She'll get back at Rachel tomorrow, surely. Maybe drop by her locker and tease her (the good kind) a bit.
She's Quinn Fabray after all, and she has a reputation to keep.
For now, she's contented with the fact that there is a tomorrow to look forward to.
When her mom asks, she tells her that it was just carelessness during a Dodgeball game. (It's a lot easier to explain than what really happened.)
"But I thought you hated Dodgeball."
"Nah," Quinn gently shakes her head, having learnt her lesson after the last time she did that.
She raises a hand, fingertips touching the spot on her cheek where Rachel's lips had been.
It still feels warm, which she knows is quite impossible since it's been hours already, but she has also been the Dodgeball team captain, knocked Finn Hudson twice on the head and made a girl cry all on the same day.
So, yeah, whatever; it is still warm.
Quinn feels her lips tugging into a smile. "It's my favorite game."