Rachel had only just left her Dad's car, there was no way she could have offended anyone this mornng yet, but that definitely hadn't been a conversational 'hey' shouted from behind her.
She stopped and turned around in the middle of the broad walkway heading to the school's entrance, watching her Dad's car merge into traffic as Quinn approached her from the parking lot. She didn't stop to talk, but hissed, "Follow me!" as she walked past her.
Rachel waited a beat before complying. She followed her all the way around the school – at a twelve foot difference that she thought the blonde would appreciate – until they neared the dumpsters at the back of the kitchens. And then she stopped.
"If you think I'm going to willingly let you toss me into a dumpster, you are mistaken."
Quinn looked over her shoulder and growled, "If you don't keep up I will do that."
Once Quinn had passed the smelly food waste area, Rachel speed-walked to catch up. "Where are we going?"
Quinn didn't answer, but now they were right at the back of the school. The only thing between them and open fields was a rarely used maintenance work shop and a chain link fence. Quinn walked behind the work shop and Rachel tentatively followed.
"I really must insist . . ."
Quinn turned to her as soon as they were sheltered from sight. "What the hell were you thinking yesterday?"
"In Glee? You were just as uncomfortable as I was!"
"No, after Glee! Showing up to watch Cheerios practice like that? I distinctly remember telling you not to do that! Brittany's cottoned on and now Santana is on my ass because she thinks you like me."
"I don't like you!" Rachel said automatically.
"Yeah, well, whether I believe you or not is really a non-issue now that San thinks she knows. I can't have this, Rachel! My life's going to go down the drain fast enough when I start showing, I can't have the stigma of you liking me too."
Huffing in frustration, she spelled it out slowly, "I . . . never said . . . I liked you!"
Quinn nodded and gave her an encouraging grin. "Good, keep saying it just like that and we'll be okay."
Rachel looked around helplessly, wishing there was someone there to explain what the heck was going on right now.
"Okay, Santana's like a dog with a bone over this kind of thing but I have a way to throw her off."
Rachel shrugged, she might as well play along. "And that is?"
Quinn took a deep breath. "Okay, I admit this is going to build you up and tear you down at the same time but hear me out."
"I give you full permission to come on to Finn tomorrow. Be as blatant as you want."
Rachel smiled, "And what's the downside to your plan?"
"I'll have to kick your ass afterwards."
"I'll keep it verbal . . . maybe just a little bit of pushing."
"Well, while I appreciate your generosity, I'm going to have to decline. I wouldn't want to make Mike jealous by flirting with Finn."
"You haven't heard? That's surprising, but yes, I wasn't waiting for you yesterday, I was waiting for Mike to finish football practice."
Rachel smiled. "He found me after Glee yesterday. There is a particular dance routine he wants to try and it's outside of his usual range. So, knowing that I am trained in many genres, he came to me for advice."
Quinn was gaping at her.
"I'm sure he meant for it to be just a school based activity, but after talking for a while he asked me if I would like to go to Breadstix after he had completed his day's football training, to converse about it some more."
"And you went?"
"It was a very pleasant evening."
It took Quinn a moment to find her words. "Okay, good. That is . . . good. I'm still going to have to kick your ass though." She shrugged in a C'est la vie way and was about to leave.
"Quinn, wait." Rachel remembered her promise to Mr. Schue, not that she'd forgotten it really, because she'd been worrying about it all night. "We have to figure out a way to be comfortable dancing together. Another rehearsal like yesterday and people will start to suspect something untoward, however untrue it actually is."
Quinn shrugged again, "There's nothing for me to figure out. I felt like an imbecile yesterday when I kept stopping the dance and I'm not doing that again . . . so I'll dance with you, Berry, without complaint." Her smile turned cold. "But if you so much as lay a finger on me, your ass-kicking won't be so verbal after all."
"But how do I not mess up the routine if I'm not allowed to touch you?"
"That's for you to figure out. Stay here for ten minutes; I don't want anyone to see us together."
Rachel felt like stamping her foot. "I'll miss the bell!"
"Not my problem."
After Quinn was gone, Rachel did stamp her foot.
Quinn only saw Rachel once through school; lunch was just ending and they were both getting books for their afternoon classes. Why did their lockers have to be only six feet from each other? Why did their lockers even have to be in the same hall?
Santana and Brittany were standing with her, and she swore to God that if Berry looked over even once she was separating her stupid head from her midget clown body right here in front of everyone. Maybe Rachel was psychic because she kept her face almost inside her locker.
"So we on for Puck's Friday night?" Santana was asking.
While Brittany gushed with how much fun it was going to be, Quinn merely nodded. She wasn't as in to parties as she had been before the stick turned pink, especially parties at Puck's. It wasn't like she'd been a major drinker before or anything, one or two wine coolers had always been enough to get her merry without making her stupid (obviously three had had a different result), but she couldn't even have that many now and the idea of not only being the only sober kid there, but also people asking her why she was the only sober kid there, had no appeal.
She couldn't not go though. She was head cheerleader and the most popular girl in school. If she didn't attend the social event of the week people would ask questions about that too. Not to mention, with her best friends already thinking what they were thinking, she had to quell any rumors that might get started. She had no choice but to spend the night wrapped around Finn.
As Santana and Brittany continued to discuss the party, Quinn smiled to herself. An evening wrapped around Finn wouldn't be so bad; because of her morning sickness they'd barely spent any time together out of school over the last couple of weeks and when they had she'd felt too queasy to enjoy it. She was still suffering, she'd had to dash to the bathroom twice today already, but at least now she had a cure for the constant nausea in-between the bouts of throwing up.
She'd have to bring in the used handkerchiefs tomorrow instead of Friday so that Rachel had a chance to wash them before the weekend started this time. Speaking of Rachel, what was he doing there?
She tuned her friends out completely to eavesdrop on the conversation a few lockers down.
"So I think I found the perfect song. It's the right kind of mellow but the bassline is just awesome."
"That sounds great, Mike. Do you have it on your iPod? I'd like to listen to it a few times to get a feel for it myself."
"Yeah, I downloaded it last night. Here." Mike reached into his rucksack.
"Oh, I didn't mean right now. We have class after all."
"That's okay." Mike pressed the dial of his iPod a few times before handing it over. "It's this one. Take it with you and listen when you get a chance. You can just give it back to me in Glee."
Why did she look disappointed? He was giving her his iPod for two periods! Finn got funny about letting her have his controller for a game of Mario Kart.
"There's no football practice tonight, so maybe after rehearsal we can start working on it."
Why did she look so happy? He only wanted her help to practice a dance! It wasn't a date.
"So, Q, get your people to call my people tonight."
He wasn't even her type.
"I said, get your pe . . ."
"I heard you. It'll have to be after nine. My parents have their church group tonight. Will that be too late?"
"Hardly, my parents wouldn't even be home from work before then. You ready to roll to class?"
"Yes." Quinn shut her locker and started to walk, Santana and Brittany falling into step with practiced ease.
As they passed down the row of lockers, Brittany called. "Hey, Mike, are you going to Puck's Friday too?"
Even before he could form the 'yes' Quinn's head was snapping to him. "Just remember there's a strict date code for this party."
He pulled his bag higher on his shoulder, brow wrinkling in confusion. "There is?"
"Yeah, anyone but that."
She pointed her finger at Rachel without breaking stride and this time she accepted Santana's high-five.
Rachel arrived at the Choir room nearly thirty minutes late, which was actually an achievement considering she had planned on not going to Glee at all.
Honestly, she could see no way to abide by Quinn's wishes without disrupting Mr. Schuester's routine and because she'd run out of new ways to protest against it, it had to be better just to drop out of the club altogether. It wasn't like everyone wouldn't be glad to see the back of her anyway and she didn't need Glee to achieve her goals. The buzz in the corridors was that Mr. Ryerson was coming back to produce a school musical. Hopefully he would look past the fact that she was the cause of his being fired and would allow her to audition for the lead.
She'd had to wait in school though to give Mike back his iPod and to tell him she thought the song he'd picked was perfect and that she was happy to start work on it as soon as possible. But she'd chosen to wait in a classroom too close to the Choir room and the music and singing and laughing had eventually drawn her in.
Nothing stopped when she entered the room, but Mr. Schuester looked over his shoulder.
"Oh, hey, Rachel. Get everything sorted?"
"Quinn explained you had to go and see Mr. Laxforth about an extra credit assignment."
Quinn's face remained impassive but Santana's eyes cut to the head cheerleader. Obviously Quinn hadn't given her an excuse in front of everyone. She was probably regretting giving her one at all now that Mr. Schue had blurted it out.
"Yes, thank you, everything is sorted."
"Okay, now that Rachel's here, let's head to the auditorium so we can really practice this routine!"
Rachel groaned, out loud. She was probably the only one who saw Quinn's lips twitch, smirk-like, in response.
She walked beside Mike to the auditorium, Matt on the other side of him acting like his best friend walking with the school outcast wasn't anything weird.
She handed him back his iPod. "That song really is perfect. There's quite a contrast between the beat and the melody though. Are you sure you want to start with something so complicated."
He grinned, "I can do it."
She smiled back, "I think you can too."
Walking behind them with Finn, Quinn fake-gagged.
"Uh, are you okay? Do you need to be sick again?"
She glared at her boyfriend to shut up. He looked confused but still concerned for her. And great, Rachel had heard him and was turning around, equally as concerned. Any second now she was going to offer her sleeve. She would punch her if she did! Quinn glared at her too – daring her to say anything because . . . damnit it would just feel good to hit her right now.
Rachel's expression quickly went from concerned to bored though, as if she'd assumed Finn was talking to someone else – yeah, right – and then she turned back to speaking with Mike.
Quinn resisted the urge to kick her in the back of her knee.
The routine was under way.
"Rachel! You only turn twice on your own. You have to take Quinn's hand so she can twirl you."
"Sorry, Mr. Schuester, I got confused."
"Okay, let's take it from the top."
"That's it, that's it, perfect Mercedes, you're well within time now."
"Thanks, Mr. Schue."
"Rachel, you're only supposed to turn with Puck once! You should be with Quinn by now!"
"Sorry, Puck just has such nice soft hands."
"No, I don't!"
"Actually you do," Mercedes narrowed her eyes at him. "What's up with that?"
Puck shrugged sheepishly. "Must be all the chlorine."
"Okay, guys, let's try it again."
"Great, well done, Tina, now . . . that's it, three steps to the left, spin, perfect Mike. You're all doing great. Awesome, Santana! Yes, yes . . . Rachel! You can't go straight from Puck to Finn!"
"I didn't mean to. Puck spun me too hard!"
"I swear to God, Stubbles, you fuck up one more time I'm going to shove your tiny dwarf body into your locker for the night!"
"Santana, Kurt, it's a difficult routine," Mr. Schuester tried to placate them. "Let's just try it again."
Rachel couldn't mess it up again – and not only because when Santana and Kurt realized she didn't actually fit into her locker she doubted they'd have any trouble cutting her up until she did fit. She couldn't take the humiliation any more. She'd had this routine down since the first time Mr. Schue had run through it, much faster than Tina, Mercedes or Santana, but she'd had no chance to prove it and now they all thought she was a clumsy, uncoordinated buffoon. All except Quinn, who knew exactly what she was doing and was taking every opportunity to laugh at her because of it.
Well, enough. If Quinn felt the need to beat her up for getting it right, she'd take the beating. Her pride would still be better off for it.
She counted herself in. Mercedes was getting overconfident and was a little fast this time but Rachel held back that extra beat so her timing would be perfect. Should she jump into Puck's arms, to prove she had the routine down? No, they hadn't practiced that yet and he would probably drop her in surprise. She spun with him – he really did have soft hands – and then turn, turn, her hand met Quinn's. Electricity! Quinn twirled her, it was smooth, perfect, awesome and then they were face to face and Quinn was smiling at her. It wasn't cold, or cruel, but it wasn't friendly either, it was something else, something entirely unexpected – something like awe, but . . . hungrier.
Rachel tried to grab her shoulder as she tripped over her own feet but missed and landed sprawled on her side in front of Finn and Brittany.
Santana was laughing, actually nearly everyone was laughing, but it was Santana who spoke, "Oh my God, Quinn did you push her over? That's fucking hilarious!"
"Santana, language," Mr. Schuester snapped, stepping forward to help her up when it was obvious no one else was going to. "Rachel, are you okay?"
Quinn held her hands up. "I didn't push her."
Although it was true, her smirk convinced everyone else otherwise.
"I'm fine, thank you, Mr. Schue. And Quinn didn't push me, although I'm sure she wishes she had. I just tripped." On her feet, she dusted herself off. "I think I've had enough for today. In fact I think you should perfect this routine without me, because, for personal reasons, I have to take a . . . take a leave of absence from Glee Club."
"What? Why?" To his credit, Mr. Schuester almost sounded upset.
"As I said, it's personal. Hopefully I'll be able to come back at some point, until then I wish you all the best of luck."
Rachel left the auditorium with her head held high.
Quinn watched her go until she became aware of Santana watching her watch her.
She rolled her eyes. "She is so selfish! And just trying to get attention. She knows we need her for the competitions."
"Aww, who needs her? We can do fine on our own."
Quinn rolled her eyes again, but internally this time. If Mercedes believed that she was delusional. Sure they all had their strengths, but they all knew Rachel was the real talent among them.
"Shouldn't someone go after her?" Mike asked.
She glared at him, "She's your girlfriend, you go after her."
Flustered when all eyes turned to him, he said, "She's not my girlfriend. We're just working on a dance together."
Quinn shrugged and turned away. "Suit yourself."
Everyone probably thought she was off somewhere crying, but Rachel was sat outside in the late afternoon sun, waiting for her Dad to pick her up, and smiling.
Oh, she wasn't very happy. Rehearsal had been humiliating for several reasons and she was upset about quitting Glee – but she seriously doubted Quinn's flirtatious smile had been premeditated; if it had been it wouldn't have reached her eyes.
Her eyes had been . . . well, as into it as her smile had been as they'd tucked in close after the twirl. It had been a shock, which was why she had tripped, but Rachel had a painful bruise on her hip to prove she hadn't imagined it.
So, no, she wasn't crying. She was very confused though. And she wasn't going back to Glee until she had vanquished her feelings for the blonde once and for all. Otherwise she'd be insane by the end of the semester.
After Glee, Mike approached Puck as he was about to get into his truck.
"Hey, can I ask you something?"
"What's up?" Puck climbed into the driver's seat but left the door open.
"Your party Friday night, can I bring someone?"
Puck laughed, "I already put it on Facebook, it's gonna be rammed, so bring anyone you like as long as they're a hottie."
Mike looked at the pedals by Puck's feet for a moment before meeting his eyes again. "I was gonna ask Rachel, is that cool?"
Puck blinked a few times, surprised, but then shrugged. "Berry? Yeah, she's hot. Just don't let her talk to me and it's fine."
After she'd posted her MySpace video of the night – a haunting rendition of Where Is Love? from the Tony award winning musical Oliver! – Rachel took a shower, changed into her pajamas and had a snack of carrots and celery dip before checking the site again.
She had three comments. She didn't even have to steel herself for it anymore, the defense mechanism came naturally.
She clicked on the first.
SkySplitz: Did your Dads use a cat as a surrogate or what? That caterwauling can't be pure human.
Rachel sighed, it wasn't even one of her better ones. The rest were also left by names she recognized as anonymous Cheerios and were even less inventive than Quinn's who at least must have put some thought into it to remember her family set up.
She was about to click the 'X' to close the site when another comment popped up.
Rachelscrush: !EelG evael t'nod.
The name alone made her pause, because it was weird, and she couldn't imagine anyone willingly wanting to associate themselves with such a moniker.
After that the nonsense sunk in. Was the commenter Welsh or Gaelic? She didn't know anyone who spoke either. She read the three words over and over without any light being shed.
RachelBarbraBerry: I am afraid I don't speak your language, but thank you for the comment.
A few minutes passed before a reply popped up under her own.
Rachelscrush: !Toidi ,backward! a er'uoy esuaceb s'that.
Okay, the only word she'd understood in that had been backward. Maybe the commenter was French or Italian.
RachelBarbraBerry: I very much appreciate your patronage, but if you do not know how to write in English could you tell me what language you speak so that I can take steps to learn it?
Rachelscrush:!Resol a hcus er'uoy.
Shaking her head at the monitor, Rachel took her plate downstairs, rinsed it, and then came back up to wash her face and brush her teeth. By the time she re-entered her bedroom there was another comment.
Rachelscrush: Don't you own a damn mirror!
Okay, that was in English.
Rachelscrush: Then use it!
She stood automatically just to check her reflection in the full length mirror on the door. She looked perfectly respectable for someone about to go to bed. Obviously her commenter was insane, possibly a foreign pedophile! She should block them right away and then inform the police.
She was going back to the computer to do just that when another message popped up.
Rachelscrush: I know you're checking your reflection right now! I meant use a mirror on my messages.
Rachel grabbed the compact mirror from her drawer, scrolled up and held it to the screen so that she could see the reflection.
Don't leave Glee
That's because you're a drawkcab idiot!
You're such a loser!
RachelBarbraBerry: Quinn, is that you?"
Rachelscrush: Delete that accusation right now!
Rachel did so.
A few seconds later . . .
Rachelscrush: Thanks. This song is pretty cool btw.
RachelBarbraBerry: Thank you. Why did you look at me that way earlier in Glee?
The reply was instantaneous.
Rachelscrush: I don't know what you're talking about.
RachelBarbraBerry: Ok. Are you still planning to verbally abuse me tomorrow?
Rachelscrush: You've left me no choice.
RachelBarbraBerry: I find that hard to believe but ok. Why did you pick that user name?
Rachelscrush: I enjoy tormenting you. I'm going now and you'd better delete all of this conversation.
RachelBarbraBerry: Or else? :)
Rachelscrush: It will be no smiling matter for you Berry if you don't.
RachekBarbraBerry: Quinn, wait, I . . ."
She stopped typing because she could feel the weight of Quinn's glare through the internet waves or cables, whatever they used. Without being prompted she deleted her comment.
After a few seconds a message flashed up in the corner of her screen telling her Rachelscrush had gone off-line.
The following morning, after wriggling her mouse to shake her PC awake on the way, she came back from the bathroom to find one more new comment.
Rachelscrush: I don't want you to quit Glee because of me. But now you have to smash up your computer to hide the evidence.
Smiling, Rachel patted her monitor reassuringly and headed towards her elliptical machine.
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