It was the baby's fault, stealing nutrients and vitamins from her and making her weak, that was why her knees felt wobbly all of a sudden and she had to lean a hand on the slick tiles beside Rachel Berry's shoulder to keep her balance. The chill under her palm brought her back a little focus, that was good. She needed focus because she should be saying something right now, some sharp retort that would strip Berry's voice of that maddening self-satisfied tone.
"Scared of permanently damaging my eyesight. Those outfits you inflict on us are detrimental enough without ever having to see what's beneath them."
"You're the one who wanted to look!"
"I was teasing you, you freak! I didn't mean for you to actually flash me; who does that?"
"My eyes are down here, Quinn."
She laughed out of nowhere because, oh God, if she didn't she'd cry or something instead. "Yeah, your eyes and everything else. My eyes like it up here just fine, thanks."
But why was she still staring at the white tile an inch above Berry's head? Why was she still standing here at all? With a shake of her head she was about to push off of the wall and go back to her shower.
"It's okay to be curious, Quinn."
Okay, so moving was out for another minute. "Curious about . . . what, exactly?"
Had she really just asked that?
"Of other girls. It's perfectly natural, with our burgeoning sexualities and changing bodies, to be curious and to want to engage in comparing and contrasting our own development against theirs. Personally I find myself fascinated with boobs right now; I think it's because I never had a chance to bond with a pair in my formative years that has me so intrigued now. What do you think?"
"How should . . .?" Quinn glanced down as she was answering, and then she looked back up again really fast!
Oh God, Rachel Berry was staring at her breasts. She wasn't making a move to touch them and she wasn't leering at them or anything either, but she was showing unmistakable interest in her breasts! She'd pinch herself and wake up from this nightmare if she could actually move right now. Only her heart still had that capability apparently, and it was making up for the rest of her by beating twice as fast as usual.
"Well?" Berry was impatient for an answer.
"I, uh . . ." Get it together! "I honestly can't tell if this is you coming on to me right now or if you actually think this is normal social behavior."
"Neither actually. Even if I had any such interest in you I would never be foolish enough to think this was the opportune time to inform you of it. And of course this isn't normal social behaviour, we're teenaged girls and you mentioned yourself the rules that govern the occasions that require our nudity. 'Don't ask, don't tell!'"
Quinn frowned. "I thought that was for the military."
"It is, but I think it works much better in our situation, don't you?"
"I really don't have any idea what you're talking about."
And she was starting to get cold; the showers had stopped running and the steamy humidity was dissipating and this conversation was getting too confusing to keep up the effect it had originally, whatever that had been. Best not to think about it and just move on with her day.
"You didn't ask and I won't tell."
"That we . . . looked."
Apparently she still needed the wall for balance but she braced on her fingers to put some distance between them and pointed accusingly with her other hand. "I didn't mean to look, that was your fault."
"I wasn't talking about before, I'm talking about now."
"I'm not looking now."
"I know, but you can if you want to. What I'm saying is, I don't mind, if you want to look at my body to satisfy any curiosity you might have."
Well, she wasn't feeling so chilly anymore. The cold shower block had turned into a sauna on her.
"What? I don't . . .?"
Berry gave her a patient smile. "I can only imagine it will do your self-esteem more good than mine . . ."
Yeah, really not so much.
". . . but I'm confident enough in my figure to not be threatened by your undeniably although rather obvious stunning cheerleader physique . . ."
She should be insulted by that but she was too busy sucking in her stomach in case Berry was already looking – she had no idea if she was or not because with every word out of her mouth Quinn's gaze was going higher and higher up the tiles instead of down to where she . . . where Berry seemed to want her to go.
"Of course I'm not quite as, um, groomed as I would have liked to have been for my first nude scene, but it's not like I expected it to be today . . ."
This was not happening.
". . . in the future, I may have to include a Gillette Venus lady razor in with my emergency slushie kit, I really should have thought about it before but as I said you've caught me on the hop here so if you want to look down there you'll have to take me as I am . . ."
Why was this happening? Shoot her now! Better yet, shoot Berry right now!
". . . I expect you're a little different, though. I mean, you always look so meticulously flawless that I can only imagine you are as fussy about your appearance down there as everywhere else . . ."
"I'm not fussy!"
". . . which seems like a lot of hours wasted really when you think of how your position on the Celibacy Club severely limits the amount of people who are going to see and appreciate it . . ."
"Does it look like I waste hours on bikini waxing?" Berry's head tilted forward and Quinn slapped a hand over her eyes. "That was rhetorical! Don't actually look!"
Even having her eyes covered didn't shut her up. ". . . My Dads have of course spoken to me at length about personal grooming . . ."
"Your Dads have spoken to you about it?"
"Yes. At least, I think that's what they were speaking about. With all the talk of private landscaping and lady gardens they may have been talking about actual yard maintenance and personally I think we're a little young to worry about advanced topiary . . ."
"Stop!" Quinn begged.
". . . although I'll admit to having wondered how it would look to have a star shaped out of my . . ."
"Okay, okay, you win! Promise never to talk to me about lady gardens or star shaped topiary again and we'll . . . you can . . . uh, satisfy your curiosity."
Berry beamed while Quinn's stomach flipped a few times and she wondered how safe it was to run away on the wet floor. She only noticed the big smile had fallen into a pout when the other girl put her hands on her hips.
"This isn't going to work if you don't stop blocking my vision, Quinn."
Quinn dropped her hand to her side, curling it against her thigh. It was hard to resist covering her stomach, even more so than anywhere else, but she did by clenching her fists and shifting her gaze to a different tile above Berry's head.
"You have to look too."
"I'm not that curious."
"Yes you are."
She just shook her head.
"It's really okay. It doesn't mean anything and I seriously doubt looking at me is going to make you gay. Looking at a girl like Santana might, possibly, but not looking at me."
She smiled at Berry's self-depreciating chuckle and then . . . what the hell, right? She was curious, she'd always been curious and it was only Berry. Her eyes dipped to the other girl's chin before she lost her nerve and looked up again.
She swallowed hard and made it as far as a clavicle before she had to swallow again. She felt stupid for being so nervous but years of training herself not to do this were hard to forget.
"This stays between us?" She hadn't meant to phrase that like a question.
"Absolutely. I can't imagine any of our peers understanding the innocence of what we are doing. They would undoubtedly assume it was borne of some sexual inclination on our parts when in reality this exercise is purely an extension of natural childhood learning, processed through exploration and observation . . ."
Quinn tuned her out until it was just a soft babble of noise as her eyes gradually drifted lower and lower. She wasn't sure how much observing she was really doing considering it felt like her brain had thrown its hands up inside her eyes so nothing could scare it too much, but a vague thought that went something like 'Boobs!' filtered through at some point.
Now she was staring, unseeing, at Berry's belly button and having a quick chat with the man upstairs while Berry continued to go on and on about the importance of having a fully developed something of something.
'This isn't a sin, right? I mean, it's just looking and it's not like its going to lead to me suddenly coveting Berry's . . . anything. This is actually sensible, if you think about it, it'll, like, lessen the temptation for the forbidden fruit . . . or something. I mean, everyone knows when you're not allowed something it just makes you want it even more – slight design flaw there, by the way, if you don't mind me saying – and if I just get it out of my system I'll be able to be that much more devout in the future. Case and point, I am never having sex before marriage again!'
. . .
'Honestly, just trust me. I'm going to look and realize I've been building this up into something out of nothing all this time and then we're both going to be happier with the way I live my life. Okay, here goes nothing.'
Berry was still talking. "But our fellow students are hardly enlightened enough to understand that this has nothing whatsoever to do with sex."
"Yeah," she murmured and, like pulling off a band aid, dropped her eyes another six inches and satisfied her curiosity.
In a dusty recess at the back of her mind, Quinn heard a balloon pop.
"Oh, you're not a natural blonde."
For some reason that disappointed Rachel. Not that it mattered to her either way really but she had always aspired to Quinn's natural beauty and to find out it wasn't all natural, well she felt cheated in a way.
She didn't have any longer to dwell on it because Quinn abruptly pushed away from the wall and walked away.
"I didn't mean to offend you."
"I'm not offended. Show and tell is over. Bring that stuff out when you're done." She waved at the bottles of shampoo and conditioner as she left the shower room.
Rachel stayed against the wall for another moment or two before shaking herself and going back to finish her shower. She was quite pleased that she'd had the courage to initiate what they'd just done. It had always been a bit of a mystery why people were so scared of showing their bodies, especially as her Dads had always instilled in her a sense of pride in her own. Oh it wasn't like they were nudists or anything, heaven forbid, because there was certainly a time and place for letting it all hang out. But to be ashamed of the body God had given you, especially if you looked after it like she did, and obviously Quinn did too, it just made no sense. And she'd always found the female form to be more sensual than a male's, if not nearly as arousing, although Quinn did give that theory a run for its money . . .
She blinked herself out of that train of thought and focused on washing and how it was nice of Quinn to share her toiletries with her and how inappropriate thoughts were not the correct way to repay her kindness.
By the time she was entering the locker room, dripping all over the floor and shivering a little in the cooler air, Quinn was already in her underwear and was towel drying her hair.
She looked up for a half a second and then jerked her eyes away. "Let me guess, you don't have a towel in here either?"
"No, I'm afraid not."
Sighing in exasperation, Quinn took her keys from her bag and walked over to the supply closet. "If Coach Sylvester asks, you never saw me do this. They're only supposed to be for the squad."
Rachel took the towel that was offered to her – white with the Cheerios logo blazoned across the middle – and smiled at how soft and fluffy it was, and big! She could completely cocoon herself in it and did so to ease her shivers.
"You'll have to take that home and wash it tonight," Quinn said as she relocked the door and went back to her hair.
Rachel rolled her eyes. "Scared I'm going to give the Cheerios cooties?"
Quinn actually grinned before forcing it into a smirk. "No, I'm scared I'll get in trouble for letting you use it. And if I get in trouble . . ."
She left the threat hanging and Rachel nodded in understanding. "I'll return it to you tomorrow."
Still wrapped in the towel, she arranged her spare clothes on the bench beside Quinn.
"We've missed nearly all of last period," she said, just to make conversation because things felt awkward now that they were no longer in the small shower area.
"Good; I had Math."
"I thought Math was one of your stronger subjects."
"I'm strong in every subject, doesn't mean I want to sit through a forty minute class on any of them."
"That's not very modest of you, Quinn."
Quinn was fussing about in her locker now, but she poked her head around the door, an eyebrow raised, "You're talking to me about modesty?"
"At least my pride in Glee club is justified whereas I happen to know that you're grades in History are less than sub-par, making your statement about being good at every subject something of a lie."
"Oh my God," Quinn held a hand to her mouth. "I swear I saw you get clothes out of your locker so why are you getting dressed in the lost and found box?"
She wanted to scowl but Quinn's terrible hammy acting brought a wry smile, "Very amusing. I hope you found the retribution you needed in that comment."
"It helped." The smirk drifted away as she cleared her throat. "Uh, what happened in there never happened, okay?"
"Well, nothing actually did happen, so of course."
Quinn nodded and Rachel thought that was the end of their conversation and began to dress. Apparently not though.
Quinn closed her locker with a slight slam and asked, "So, you and my boyfriend, should I be worried?"
Rachel hesitated, "Why do you ask?"
"Don't play dumb. It's clear to anyone you're into him."
"I, uh, I . . ." She was blushing, which probably made lying pointless. "Finn and I are friends but he is, obviously and visibly, in love with you."
"Thanks for the affirmation but I knew that," Quinn sneered, "I'm asking if you want him?"
She stared at her, not knowing how to answer. Saying 'Yes actually, I've already made a few attempts to steal him away' just didn't feel right after the thing that hadn't happened in the showers. It's not like she thought they'd suddenly become friends now that they'd spent several minutes looking at each others privates but surely it had to have forged some sort of bond between them.
"I'm waiting, Stubbles!"
"I . . . I think that as the strongest female lead in Glee that it would be somewhat symmetrical if Finn, as the strongest male lead, and I were to end up together. It's true, there is a certain amount of destiny to it, but I am not under any illusion that things will work out that way."
Rachel hesitated again and then drew herself up to her full five-foot-two and a half. "Because Finn doesn't feel that way about me and even if he did I would never deliberately be his partner-in-cheating on you . . . now that I know you."
"What do you mean, now that you know me? You've known me for years."
"But I've only truly known you since today. This is the first time we've talked for longer than a few minutes and when your side of the conversation hasn't been mostly made up of insults."
"Not the point I was making!"
Rachel gulped, she had no choice but to just tell the truth and take whatever punishment Quinn saw fit.
"We've kissed," she admitted. "It was just after Finn joined the club but before you did. It was stupid, and all my fault. Please don't be mad at him."
"What makes you think it would be him I'm mad at?" Fully dressed now, Quinn approached and Rachel wanted to stand her ground but the crisp Cheerios uniform was just as intimidating as Quinn herself, and combined they forced her back until she was pressed against the lockers. "Why did you do it? Are you so desperate for popularity that you don't even care whose boyfriend you're stealing?"
"No! Like I said, it was stupid. I thought it was meant to be and . . . and Finn was being really nice to me and . . . I don't know, it was a mistake. I'm so sorry."
"Did you like it?"
"I, well, uh . . . I'm sorry, what?"
Quinn leaned in closer. "Did you like it? Did you enjoy him kissing you? Was it good?" she mocked.
"I don't know. I mean it was nice, but it was my first time, so I don't really have any kind of scale to evaluate that particular kiss on."
"Okay, let me put it simply. Did it turn you on?"
Her eyes went wide. "I don't know."
It hadn't and it had. When he'd kissed her she'd felt all fluttery and excited, but more mentally than physically.
"Does Finn, in general, turn you on?"
She squirmed against the locker a little. "I don't know. Why is it important?"
"Why? He's my boyfriend. If I have competition I like to know who I have to crush." Quinn gave her a disdainful look up and down and Rachel wished she wasn't still in her underwear. "Not that you'll be much competition."
"I know Finn likes me," she blurted and then cursed herself because that was so not a helpful thing to say when Quinn Fabray had her trapped against the lockers.
Quinn just laughed at her, although it was high-pitched enough to be fake. "He won't when I tell him you have a crush on me."
"What? I don't . . ."
"What happened in there-" she pointed towards the showers. "-was all your idea."
Rachel felt her heart sink. "I thought that was staying between us."
"Oh, that is. If you ever breathe a word of it, I'll destroy you, but you clearly have a thing for me or you wouldn't have wanted to do it and all's fair in love and war, Rachel."
"That's not . . ." Rachel felt a little sick as she tried to explain. "I don't have feelings for you, Quinn. I swear I don't. Like I said, my curiosity was purely innocent and not indicative of anything sexual on my part."
Quinn gave her a cruel smirk. "Maybe, maybe not. Stay away from my boyfriend and maybe no one but you and I will ever have to question that."
"Maybe?" she asked, worried.
"Come on, did you really think I was the best person to try your little experiment on? We're not friends. I don't even like you." She finally took a step back and nodded at the wet towel discarded on the bench. "Make sure you wash that tonight, because if Coach Sylvester hands me my ass over letting you use it, I'm paying it forward."
There was no strength in her legs to move from the lockers yet, so she simply watched as Quinn gave her a sarcastic wave of her fingers, picked up her bag and left the room. Only then did she move to slump down on the closest bench and put her head in her hands.
This was bad on so many levels but the very worst one . . . Quinn Fabray was really hot when she was feeling vengeful. How had she never noticed that before?
She scrunched her eyes shut and clenched her fists against her forehead because . . . she had just completely effed everything up!
Rachel walked into the choir room with her head held high . . . right up until she saw Quinn sitting between Santana and Brittany on the risers. It wasn't a surprise that the cheerleader had arrived before her – considering she'd spent twenty minutes hyperventilating in the girls' bathroom before regaining her wits – but she hadn't expected to lock eyes with her the second she walked in.
She stopped in the middle of the floor, staring, her bladder suddenly getting tight to the point that she had to worry about not having another change of clothes in her locker, but then Quinn looked away to say something to Santana and Rachel found herself able to move again. She rushed to a seat at the other end but couldn't stop herself from glancing over at least three times a minute.
What was Quinn saying? Was she telling them about how she had kissed Finn? That would be bad but she could live with it. She hated the fact that she had done that, or not hated it so much, just felt really guilty about it. She'd known he was with Quinn and she hadn't cared; in some ways it had felt like vengeance for the years Quinn had spent picking on her. That had just made her feel even more terrible though when Finn had told her it could never happen again, complete with sorrowful puppy-dog eyes.
It would have been easier to take without the puppy-dog eyes.
If Quinn was telling her friends something as bad as that though it would be a miracle, there was a much higher chance that she was telling them something even worse.
Why couldn't she just have showered like a normal person instead of getting all awkward and embarrassed in front of Quinn? Why had she gotten all awkward and embarrassed in front of Quinn in the first place? Why couldn't she have stayed awkward and embarrassed instead of getting a surge of confidence and suggesting what she had suggested?
As she looked down the line of chairs again she accidentally caught Santana's eye. "What are you so curious about, Treasure Trail?"
"I, uh . . ." Words failed her as Quinn burst out laughing and Santana gave her a self-satisfied smile.
She ducked her head and was eternally thankful that Mr. Schuester walked in just a few seconds later. But obviously Quinn had already told her friends about what had happened in the locker room and the rest of her high school experience was going to be an even greater hell than she was used to.
She sighed, already steeling herself for it. So she was more of a laughing stock than usual, fine. If Quinn Fabray hadn't broken her in three years then why would she now? Let her do and say as she liked. Rachel was prepared for it now, affording her the chance to plan her counter-moves for the rumors that were no doubt about to fly through the school – not that anyone ever listened to her side of the story.
She shot Quinn one last determined glance. One the blonde happened to catch because clearly nothing was going her way today. Quinn's smug smile wavered slightly though and for just a second or two she saw the girl she'd been with in the showers; the shy, embarrassed, nervous girl who couldn't be further removed from the Quinn Fabray she thought she knew, the girl who had most definitely been just as eager to look back despite her initial protests . . .
Rachel jerked her eyes away quickly before the look in Quinn's eyes, then and now, burrowed into her brain and she had no choice but to think about it too much.
Judging from the fact that she had just spaced out for the first twenty minutes of Glee . . . it might already be too late.
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