Rachel arrived at school Monday morning with a new sense of determination . . . masking the familiar sense of foreboding.
After crying so many tears last night that she was surprised she hadn't woken up in a puddle, she felt . . . calm.
Yes, that was the word. Calm. The worst had happened and was now over, Tornado Quinn had ripped through her life and, remarkably, she was still standing after the storm.
So Quinn didn't return her feelings that could only be considered a good thing. Why on earth would she want to set her sights on the uptight, prudish, holier-than-thou, intolerant, shallow, popularity-driven, bullying not to mention pregnant Quinn Fabray anyway? For goodness sake, didn't she have more self-respect than that? Did she really think that the self-proclaimed Head Bitch of McKinley, the cruel and vindictive captain of the Cheerios, was an ideal candidate for a romantic interest? Did she think they'd just click and everything that had happened in their shared past would just melt away so that they could embark on the greatest and most epic of love stories ever?
Rachel Berry and Quinn Fabray?
Clearly not. She'd gotten caught up in the notion of it all and her intrinsically dramatic way of looking at the world had turned a series of, admittedly unusual but perfectly innocent and platonically explainable, events into some quixotic wonderland where she and Quinn were meant to be.
'Be what?' Rachel scoffed to herself as she opened her locker. 'Am I going to take Finn's place at the top of William McKinley's food chain? Or is Quinn going to join me at the bottom, hiding in corners with me to avoid slushie facials?'
No and no!
The only thing they were meant to be was enemies, as Quinn had made quite clear the night before, and Rachel was okay with that. She had to be, when the alternative was clearly madness.
So here she was, with a bright smile and a fresh outlook on life, ready to start the new week with a brand new and much more rational state of mind. Quinn was a Glee-mate and no more than that, as it should be. Rachel felt confident that as soon as she came to terms with that this ridiculous and ill-conceived feud between them would die out and things could get back to normal. So cue olive branches and doves because she was so ready to put the last few embarrassing weeks behind her.
'We did click though.'
That was not a helpful thought! It became even less helpful when she allowed it to distract her from her usual hallway vigilance.
Someone called her name in the crowded corridor and she made the rookie mistake of turning from her locker to see who it was. Matt was coming towards her fast and his normal friendly smile was not in place.
One icy slap to the face later at least it wasn't the manure she'd been expecting! she wiped grape slush out of her eyes and turned back to her locker to retrieve her fresh outfit. She was going to have to start bringing spares for her spares at this rate.
Okay, so it would perhaps take a little more time than none at all for the heightened attack level to go back to normal, but she wasn't going to let that get her down. She was still on the right track to putting this outlandish state of affairs between her and Quinn to bed. She just had to remain calm and . . .
Her locker door slammed, only narrowly missing her fingers as she reached for her plastic bag of clothes.
"A word, Stubbles?"
She cut her eyes to the seething, heavy-breathing head cheerleader hovering over her and picked one out of the air. "Psychotic?"
"Don't play with me!" Quinn growled, stepping forward into her personal space. Her foot slipped on the crushed ice pooling at their feet bringing her even closer and she had to brace herself on the bank of lockers, accidentally trapping Rachel between her gorgeously-toned arms. "I want to know what you've said, right now."
Rachel was forced to stumble back and naturally her own feet lost purchase in the slippery wet purple mess on the floor. She was going to land on her butt in the puddle, which would have been embarrassing enough, but, she realized as her feet were already too far between Quinn's to save herself and her arms were flailing uselessly at her sides to avoid touching the other girl . . . she was going to land on her butt in the puddle with her head approximately level with the bottom of a scandalously short Cheerios skirt.
'This might put a slightly different spin on Operation: Fresh New Outlook!'
Quinn made no move to save her until the very last moment. A hand shot out, slapping into her chest and snapping her shoulders back against the metal wall. Rachel didn't bother to thank her. She was too scared. She could see in those hazel eyes that this wasn't 'Smack you with a magazine for potentially embarrassing me' Quinn, nor was it 'I have to rough you up but just stand there and think of Barbra and it'll be over before you know it' Quinn. This was 'I am actually going to beat you within an inch of your life for -insert reason here- and there is not a damn thing you or anyone else can do about it' Quinn.
As if to back this up, Quinn leaned even closer, hissing in her face, "Tell me what you told them."
"First of all, I have no idea what you're talking about. And second of all, now isn't really the best time to be doing this, and by now I also mean here." Rachel's eyes darted around, not looking for help so much as trying to convey to the other girl just how many witnesses they had. "Perhaps we should have this conversation at a later date?"
Quinn looked over her shoulder and saw that they were in a semi-circle of gawking and openly gossiping students.
"Do you mind? This is a private smack down!" she snarled angrily enough that at least half of the onlookers suddenly found going to class more interesting.
Quinn actually grabbed her by the scruff of the neck, fingers slipping into and fisting the back of her sweater, before yanking on it to get her marching down the hall. They'd only gone a few steps, not even far enough that Rachel had had a chance to try and pull away yet, when she spotted the rest of Team-Berry at the other end of the corridor, just watching them come in fear.
Quinn noticed them too; Rachel could see her satisfied smirk out of the corner of her eye. Not loosening her grip on her sweater, she cocked her other hand on her hip as she addressed them.
"Not rushing to save your fearless leader? You're seriously just gonna stand there and let her take the heat for what you were all a part of?" They said nothing. "Come on, losers, it's four on one, you might even stand a chance." Still nothing, although they did look maybe a little more guilty than before. "That's what I thought."
Quinn swung her around until they were marching in the other direction. "Nice friends you have, Berry."
"What did you expect them to do? Attack a pregnant girl? They're not Neanderthals like you!"
The fist in the back of her sweater twisted tighter, not painfully tight but it was clearly a warning of just how tight it could become.
"And is there a reason they couldn't say: 'Hey, Quinn, don't take it out on Rachel when we were all involved.' Or just 'Hey, leave her alone!' No there wasn't, and the only reason they didn't is because the second they saw that I'd caught you, all they could think about was making sure I didn't catch them too. They don't care about you and whatever you've told them, they're going to use it against you too once they've brought me down."
"What are you talking about?" Rachel insisted, getting sick of being propelled down the corridor by the lunatic cheerleader. The halls were emptying now but still kids turned to look at them. "And where are we going? We've passed three bathrooms already and I need to get cleaned up. I'm already going to be late for class, Quinn!"
"We're going somewhere we won't be disturbed."
Rachel's heart skipped a beat but it wasn't clear to her whether that was down to the little thrill of intimate possibility that ran through her or because she wasn't so sure she wanted to be anywhere with Quinn Fabray that didn't include a lot of witnesses.
"Quinn, please be reasonable, I'm covered in sticky corn syrup!"
Checking there was no one near this end of the hall, Quinn used a master key on a nondescript door and then yanked it open. A tug on Berry's sweater forced her inside.
"Hey, you can't lock me in here now! My face will stay purple for a week!"
Quinn stepped into the small cupboard after her and swiftly pulled the door shut behind them . . . and, okay, her move was dramatic enough but not as well thought out as it should have been. Quinn's heartbeat kept pace with Rachel's frantic, ragged breathing as she realized what she'd just done.
"Why are we standing in a pitch black janitor's closet?" the fear in Berry's voice was laced with a slightly hysterical amusement.
It took her a minute to answer because she'd suddenly become very aware of that fact too. The cramped space had forced them close enough that she could smell the grape slushie on Rachel's face not unpleasant but not as nice as how she usually smelled.
That was a good thing; her morning sickness, while not too rampant today, was nevertheless in attendance and she didn't want to risk sending mixed signals with accidental sniffing incidents. There would be no more sniffing Rachel-freaking-Berry ever again. She couldn't believe that was even something she had to say once, let alone keep repeating to herself.
She was close enough she could even feel the coldness left behind from the frozen drink coming off Rachel's skin and that told her they were too close, that all she'd have to do was raise her hands or step forward and they'd be touching, and maybe it was the dark playing tricks on her or maybe it was the fact that she'd just realized that she could feel Rachel's anxious breath on the base of her throat but it was too much and her mind went blank. She couldn't even remember why they'd come in here; she just knew that they were . . . and that she really wanted to step forward.
She felt dazed. "What?"
"Why are we standing in the dark?"
"I-ah-I. . . " She bit her bottom lip to keep it occupied and tried to blink away any sign of her thoughts before she let the other girl see her. "Don't get any ideas! I just forgot to put the light on before I closed the door."
She reached up and over her left shoulder for the dangling cord of the light. Fingers catching it lightly, she gave it a tug and the bare overhead bulb flashed to life. She almost turned it straight back off again because seeing Rachel only a few inches away, looking up expectantly, was even worse.
It reminded her of the bowling alley and the look Rachel had given her that had nearly led to a severe lapse in self-control. Anger ripped through her, anger at the way she was feeling, anger at the conclusions she finally couldn't hide from any more and anger at how scared she was for admitting them out loud (on screen) the night before.
She was just so angry and buckets clanged like dull bells and mops fell with a clatter as the utensils were forced aside by Rachel's stumbling feet when Quinn pushed her back against the wall.
It was extremely disturbing how much she enjoyed doing that but now was not the time to focus on it.
What was she saying? Never was the time to focus on it.
"If you've told those losers one thing about last night . . ."
Rachel was cowering back but her eyes were defiant Quinn loved that too as she cut her off. "Why would I tell anyone about last night? Do you think our conversation is something I would really want to share?"
"Why wouldn't you? I'm pretty sure they'd all see it as big news. They might even genuinely like you for, oh, five minutes if you handed something like that to them."
"News? You think anything you said was news? They already know it, Quinn!"
She shook her head, refusing to believe it. "Stupid rumors aren't the same as having it confirmed."
"Rumors?" Now Rachel shook her head. And how dare she look so innocent and confused? She'd started this with her stupid experiment and her even stupider crush! "Why are you so upset anyway? I thought this was what you wanted?"
"Are you out of your mind?" Quinn nearly shook her. "I never wanted any of this!"
"Then why go out of your way to make it happen?"
"I didn't. I didn't! I haven't done anything. Nothing's happened!"
She was panicking. Did Rachel remember the kiss after all? Oh God! She stepped back, suddenly feeling her childhood claustrophobia rise up.
"So it's all my fault?"
"And what did I do to make you act this way towards me? Seriously, Quinn, tell me." Rachel pushed herself off the wall, stepping closer to her. "Tell me what I'm doing to make you act this way towards me and I'll stop."
Quinn stared into her eyes, she was too close again, and then her gaze dropped unwittingly as Rachel anxiously licked her lips. She could feel the pull of them, of Rachel, and it was so strong she couldn't handle it. She wouldn't handle it.
"I can't!" She didn't recognize the screech as her own voice as she pushed Rachel back, hard enough to make the buckets chime again. "Just leave me alone!"
Ripping the door open, she bolted out of the cupboard and just ran.
Rachel was still completely bewildered by what had happened in the janitor's closet when she entered her fourth period Home Ec. class.
Between first which she'd been extremely late too much to her chagrin and second period, most of Team-Berry had made a point of finding her and apologizing. They didn't sound sincere but she accepted them anyway, what else could she do? They were still more on her side than Quinn Fabray wanted to be.
She had no idea what had scared Quinn so badly that she'd run away. Was the prospect of even trying to be her friend really so daunting? And if so why had she been so angry at the thought of Rachel telling anyone that Quinn wanted nothing to do with her?
On the surface she told herself this was just one more reason why trying to be close to the cheerleader was a bad idea, but deep down she couldn't help worrying about her too. Either way, she wasn't going to let it deflect her from her plan to stay strong and ignore the blonde as best as she could.
So she groaned when she saw that a few of the opposing Glee members that usually weren't in this class, were today. Mrs. Hagberg explained the reason why as she had them shuffle seats around to make room for everyone on the long benches. Thanks to a substitute teacher selfishly fleeing the school in tears at recess, two lessons had been joined together.
After an initial glance of surprise Quinn didn't look her way again. Typically, there was no one on Team-Berry in this class with her, but Finn was there. He gave her a lopsided 'hello' grin until Quinn dug her nails into his wrist and then, with a frown at his girlfriend, he looked away. Puck openly glared until Rachel took an end seat at the front bench, facing away from him.
The lesson was well underway without mishap when Mrs. Hagberg made it to her station at the end.
"Rachel, you cannot make a sponge cake without eggs and butter," the teacher argued with her.
"Then I'll make whatever I can make without eggs and butter," she replied.
"It will be inedible!"
"Half of the things we make in this class are inedible anyway," Rachel argued, her mixing arm displaying her determination to continue her own way, "but at least my creation will not have to rely on the exploitation of hens and cows to be so."
"Jeez, Manhands," it was a Cheerio who spoke but not Quinn. "Why can't you at least try to be less of a freak?"
Rachel ignored her completely. It was true she wouldn't be able to make anything at all with just flour and sugar and vanilla essence but she already knew how to bake cookies and it wasn't as if this class was going to further her dreams of stardom; she had no plans to become a celebrity chef.
Eventually the teacher moved on.
"Noah, why is yours so watery? How much milk did you use?"
"Just the amount you said."
"Considering its consistency I find that hard to believe."
"That's because I added a pint of water."
"Why? That wasn't in the recipe."
"Back off, Teach, I know what I'm doing."
With a frustrated sigh the teacher left Puck to his own devices to check on the other students, though she did cast him a worried look when he started to use the electric hand whisk just a little too enthusiastically.
"That's good, Quinn. Finn, you forgot to sieve your flour didn't you? Brittany, you have to crack the eggs, you can't just put them in whole."
"But wouldn't that mean breaking them? My Mom doesn't like it when I break things in the kitchen."
"Okay, I'm done," Puck suddenly announced as the electric whisk stopped whirring.
"Okay, now pour it carefully into the baking tin."
Almost over the top of the teacher's instruction Rachel heard Finn say, "Uh, Puck, what are you doing?"
Despite being curious as to how the boy was messing up the simple act of filling a baking tin, Rachel refused to turn around. Not even when she heard a sharp intake of breath coming from Quinn's seat and several tittering Cheerios.
In hindsight, that was a stupid decision to make.
She felt something wet and heavy land on her hair and even as she was throwing her arms up to protect herself the large mixing bowl was rammed down on her head. It pinched the top of her ears and nearly obscured her vision. The gloopy wet mess then did obscure her vision as it ran down her forehead and into her eyes.
"Puckerman, Figgins' office now!"
"Yeah, yeah!" A large hand clapped her on the shoulder, splattering the cake mix further still. "Payback's a bitch, huh Berry?"
Rachel didn't see him saunter off, it was some time before she managed to pry the bowl off with a wet pop and scoop enough of the sloppy mixture extra runny thanks to the water away from eyes. When she had, the only person she could see not laughing at her was Finn, the only person, because Quinn was laughing as hard as the rest of them. Even the teacher seemed to be barely containing a smile.
"You may go and clean up, Rachel."
"I may? How very charitable of you!" she glared at the teacher but refused to look at Quinn as she stormed out, even though she felt the cheerleader's eyes follow her from the room.
At least it hadn't been manure.
Quinn saw Rachel again as soon as lunch started.
She was walking towards her lockers with Santana and Brittany in their usual formation. Rachel was coming the other way with Tina and Artie.
Rachel's hair looked freshly washed for the second time that day in fact it was still damp and long, dark tendrils were curling over her shoulders. She'd removed her bright blue and white argyle sweater, presumably because when Quinn had seen her last the shoulders of it had been coated in creamy, disgusting gunk. The plain white t-shirt she'd been wearing beneath was just tight enough to cling to her modest curves.
Feeling a blush tinge her cheeks at noticing, Quinn averted her gaze for a few steps before turning back with a roll of her eyes; it was supposed to indicate exactly what she thought of the girl's 'protection detail' but her scorn was wasted when Rachel refused to make eye contact as they drew closer.
Neither trio slowed down nor changed course and Quinn made to barge straight between Rachel and Artie, shoulder checking the girl on the way, just to prove how easily she could get to her.
Rachel slipped to the side before their shoulders could connect, backing into Tina as Artie quickly rolled the other way and Quinn was smirking as the three indignant 'Hey!''s rose around her. She was already a few steps away when she heard a much louder "Hey!" and turned to see what Rachel was whining about now.
"Give that back!"
Santana had pulled Rachel's ridiculously girly pink backpack from her hand while she was distracted. "Make me."
"While your witty and oh so original rejoinder does provide exactly the right feel for such a juvenile prank as this I am going to have to insist, Santana, that you find some of what I can only imagine is your very deeply buried maturity and GIVE ME BACK MY BAG!"
Santana took a step closer. "Did you just insult me, Manhands?"
"She yelled at you too," Brittany helpfully pointed out.
Quinn kept this eye roll to herself but almost released another when Rachel backed down.
"I apologize, Santana, I would just like my bag back."
She could understand it, Santana could be scary . . . very scary . . . but now she smelled blood in the water it was just going to make her friend worse.
"Why do you want it so bad?"
"It's my bag."
"So come and get it." Santana held it out to her.
Quinn couldn't see Rachel's face but she could tell her eyes were darting between Santana's and her bag, obviously weighing up how much chance she had of snatching it away. In the end she stupidly took the chance and dashed forwards.
"Nuh uh uh." Santana pulled the bag out of reach and smacked her palm into Rachel's forehead hard enough to knock her back a step. Quinn felt herself bristle at the contact. "It's not polite to rush someone. Say you're sorry and take it like a nice little troll."
They'd drawn a crowd again and Santana was playing to it like she always did. Why weren't Tina and Artie doing anything? They were standing there dumbly, well Artie was sitting but still. They might not have been able to do much physically, not against Santana, but they weren't even saying anything to help their so-called friend.
Not that she was saying anything either, but she couldn't. She wasn't on stupid Team-Berry.
Rachel didn't look around at the spectators, even though she could obviously see them, and her voice was perfectly calm as she said, "I apologize again, Santana." and took a slow step forward with her hand out.
"That's better, Stubbles."
Santana made as if to hand it over and then suddenly it was airborne, arching over Rachel's head. Quinn only just had the presence of mind to catch it or more to the point because it pretty much just landed in her arms not drop it.
This was so childish.
She should just give it back and tell them she was bored, or hungry.
She was about to until Rachel spun to face her, eyes flashing and wet hair whipping around her, teeth bared as she finally lost her composure and yelled, "GIVE IT BACK!" again.
Angry Berry was actually pretty freaking hot! Quinn felt her own composure slip and the only way she knew how to deal with it was to resort to her usual method of defence.
She threw the backpack back to Santana with a saccharine smile and a small "Oops!"
Rachel actually made a 'Grrr' sound as she turned back around and made the mistake of lunging for the backpack. It was over her head before she had a chance to throw up her arms.
The game of keep away went on for another few minutes with Brittany joining in too, although only when Quinn's throws went a little wide. Rachel had to be getting dizzy by now. Tina actually made a few attempts at snatching it out of the air, but she and Rachel just kept getting in each other's way.
"Okay, enough," Quinn finally said after Rachel stamped her foot much to the spectators delight and looked on the verge of frustrated tears also to the spectators delight. "I'm hungry and I'm not wasting all of lunch on RuPaul."
"Fine, just a sec."
Quinn realized she should have waited until the bag was back in her hands before calling an end to the game because now Santana was ripping open the zipper.
"Don't!" Rachel snapped out.
"Hey, Britt, didn't you say you forgot your lunch? Try this instead."
Brittany caught the brown paper bag as it was thrown to her and enthusiastically opened it up. It always amazed Quinn how Brittany one of the sweetest girls she knew was always so quick to join in bullying Rachel Berry. But maybe it wasn't that surprising, with her and Santana as her role models.
Brittany was pulling out a sandwich now. It looked nice to Quinn, actually the lettuce and piccalilli almost made her mouth water was this a craving kicking in? but the tall Cheerio took one large mouthful and then pulled a face before spitting it into the trash can beside her.
"Yuck, I didn't like that." She balled up the bag and threw that into the trash too before taking a sip from her water bottle and spitting it out to clear the taste from her mouth.
"Hey, you could have let me have the rest of it!" Rachel snapped.
"Shut it, Manhands. What else have we got in here?" Santana threw a Biology textbook into the trash with barely a glance and then pulled out a small blue box. "Tampons, RuPaul? Wow, you really believe in getting into character don't you? Here, Puck, you probably have more use for them."
The jock, standing with the crowd, caught the box but dropped them with a yelp of disgust as soon as he realized what he was holding.
"Fuck off!" Quinn didn't know if he was talking to Santana or the tampons as he kicked them down the corridor to be lost in the feet of the crowd.
"What else do we have . . . Oh, score!"
As Santana held up a faux leather-bound book for everyone to see and Rachel made another frantic dash forward, Quinn guessed what it was. She burst forward too, trying to make it look like she was there to keep Rachel away by bumping into her and knocking her to the side.
"Give me that!" she said with a wide grin, snatching it from Santana's hands.
Santana didn't look upset; actually she looked pleased that Quinn was finally joining in again.
"Let's see what RuPaul's darkest desires are, shall we?" She flicked to a page at random but didn't let her eyes focus on the words.
"Quinn, please?" Rachel had tears on her cheeks and her eyes were pleading but Quinn couldn't stop this now, the best she could do was minimize the damage.
"Okay, hmm, February 12th: Hormone replacement therapy going well. Any day now my training bra will be for more than decoration!" Quinn looked up and saw the confusion in Rachel's eyes before mockingly dropping her own eyes to the girl's chest. "Yeah, don't bet on it, Berry."
She flipped forward some.
"Ooh, May 21st: Must remember to use the girl's bathroom. Almost got caught peeing in a urinal today! Note to self: Practice sitting and tucking."
Laughter was echoing up and down the halls. She caught Rachel's eye again and while the girl looked beyond mortified and still angry she wasn't crying any more.
Quinn decided to select one more entry before declaring the journal boring and giving it back, she hadn't read a single actual word yet, eyes just skimming the lines in pretence, but she accidentally made the mistake of flicking to one of the last entries in the journal. Despite her best efforts her own name sprang off of the page several times.
"I, uh, September 20th: . . ." she tried to come up with something to say. "Finn got really close to me today when we were dancing. I hope he couldn't. . ."
She faltered even though the fake line was on the tip of her tongue.
. . . I wish she wasn't the way she was. If Quinn was just pretty I could count this as no more than a misguided physical attraction and move on, but now I know she's so much more than that deep down.
The times Quinn and I have spent alone together some of them anyway I see a girl I can trust and respect and more. If only Quinn was like that all of the time, but I don't imagine she ever will be now, not with me at least, and I hate how much that hurts.
". . . Uh, feel my, uh . . ."
And that makes me hate how I feel about her. I hate that my heart starts racing every time I see her. I hate that my palms sweat when I see her name online. I hate that I can't pick a song for this week's Glee assignment because every one I listen to somehow reminds me of Quinn. I hate that I can't change the way she feels about me. Most of all I just hate myself for letting this foolish crush get so far under my skin.
"Spit it out, Q!" Santana snapped.
Quinn jerked her eyes from the page. She could only have been reading a few seconds but the crowd was getting impatient and she could see by her friend's eyes she was ready to snatch the book back.
"Sorry, it's just that boring I zoned out." She resumed her fake reading. "I, uh, hope he couldn't feel my erection through my skirt . . ."
It's not like I ever expect Quinn to return my feelings, but it does feel like sometimes we're meant to be more than this, more than enemies, more than two girls thrown together by circumstance and Glee club. Sometimes it feels as if . . . as if we might just possibly BELONG in each others lives in a heroic, unforgettable if ultimately tragic life altering way and is it my fault that I so badly want to search for some form of acknowledgement of that same belief from Quinn?
I know it's insanity and even the prospect of us being friends is so far out of my reach it might as well be on Mars, but what I wouldn't do - there is NOTHING I wouldn't do for Quinn Fabray if it meant she would reward me with . . .
'With-with-with . . .!' Quinn turned the page in a hurry, but Rachel's fingers closed tightly around the top of it as she did, blocking out most of the first sentence apart from the last word.
. . . again.
Again? What again?
She let Rachel snatch the book away and blocked Santana from making another grab for it.
"Seriously, it's not worth the eye strain."
Then she flicked her eyes up to the top of the lockers and Santana got the message, throwing the backpack up there out of Rachel's reach; its remaining contents spilling through the open zipper to scatter across the locker tops.
Better late than never . . . not. Quinn rolled her eyes again as Mike pushed through the other students to get to Rachel's side.
"A little late for the Knight in Shining Armor routine, Chang," she snapped.
"Just back off," he snapped back at her, making her raise a 'are you seriously speaking to me like that' eyebrow. He ignored it, turning to Rachel. "You okay? I just heard what happened in Home Ec."
"Yes, thank you, Mike. As you can see I am physically none the worse for wear. Quinn was just falsifying my innermost thoughts." She was hugging the diary to her chest and shooting nervous looks at her.
She'd have felt more guilty if the only entry she'd read hadn't been all about her. Now Mike was glaring daggers at her too and she was seriously getting pissed off with his attitude.
"Artie, can you give me a leg up?"
Mike gestured the other boy forward and Artie rolled up to the lockers, looking grateful that he could actually do something now. Mike balanced carefully on the edges of the wheelchair, one foot either side of Artie's legs so they didn't tip, and started scooping Rachel's belongings back into her backpack.
Quinn glowered at him when he jumped down and handed it to Rachel. "There you go."
She smiled as she stowed her journal back inside. "Thank you, Mike."
Quinn glowered more seeing that smile. If looks could kill Mike Chang would be seizing on the floor and crapping his pants right now.
"They t-t-threw Rachel's s-sandwiches away too."
Mike switched his smile to Tina for a second before turning to Rachel again, now completely ignoring the three most popular girls in the school and everyone else still watching the show. "In that case, can I buy you lunch?"
"You have got to be kidding me," Quinn muttered under her breath. She was the one who'd just saved Rachel from-from, fine herself, whatever, so why was he getting the stupid doe eyes and that ridiculously coy smile?
"While I greatly appreciate the offer, you don't have to do that."
He shrugged shyly. "Can I anyway?"
Quinn was surprised she didn't actually throw up right there in the hall as her morning sickness suddenly hit her extra hard. It was because she hadn't eaten lunch yet, that was all, and now everyone was talking about food and . . .
She didn't even believe it herself as she ran to the nearest restroom with her hand over her mouth, only thankful that most of the gawping teens had already wandered off to get their own meals once Mike had shut down the show.
She left the stall door unlocked as she fell to her knees, partly because she didn't have time to lock it anyway, but also it would save her from having to reach around mid-hurl again when Rachel came to see if she was okay.
Rachel watched Quinn run off with distraught eyes. Despite the way things were between them right now, even despite everything she had endured that day at Quinn's hands, her first instinct was to chase after the blonde, make sure she was okay and offer what comfort she, or her clothes, could.
That wasn't the way forward though. She couldn't get over Quinn if she kept running after her and making herself a doormat. And she really needed to get over Quinn Fabray.
Her feet were still itching to tear down the halls to the bathroom until she caught Santana's mocking eyes. For once, though, it didn't appear to be her they were mocking.
"I wonder what's up with, Q." She ran her smirk over all four of them, obviously including them in the joke, before grinning at Brittany, "Think it was something she screwed?"
"I always thought having sex with Finn would make someone sick," Brittany giggled.
"She's your friend!" Rachel blurted before she could stop herself.
"What's it to you, Stubbles?" Santana sneered.
"How can you talk about your friend like that?"
"You think she wouldn't be saying the same about us if we'd been stupid enough to get in her position? Please, Berry, you, of all people, should know better."
With that Santana turned on her heel, linking pinkies with Brittany as they walked off together.
Rachel fumed after them for a second before Tina broke into her angry thoughts.
"So shall we go t-to lunch?"
"Yeah, I'm hungry," Artie said, turning himself towards the cafeteria.
"I just need to go to my locker. Why don't you go on and get a table."
And Mike added, "We'll be there in a sec."
She'd actually been hoping Mike would go with them because she still wanted to go and find Quinn even if she knew it was silly. He stayed with her though as she put her books away.
He shyly took her hand as they walked towards the lunch room and it felt really nice. His hand was soft not as soft as Puckerman's though and warm and it fit hers nicely and she couldn't deny that having a football player want to hold her hand was doing wonders for her self-esteem, but . . . she'd still rather be holding Quinn's hair back instead.
Rachel would come.
Rachel always came.
Quinn sat with her back against the side of the stall for long after the urgency to throw up had left and only the nausea remained. She just didn't want to admit it and leaving the bathroom would do that. She wanted to hold on to the hope that she hadn't blown the only respite she had, that she hadn't blown a lot more than that probably too.
Rachel wasn't coming.
And she wasn't coming because she hated her.
Quinn couldn't even argue her case because she had spent years giving Rachel cause to hate her. She'd just never thought she'd have cause to regret that until now.
'But what I wouldn't do there is NOTHING I wouldn't do for Quinn Fabray if it meant she would reward me with . . . again.'
What did Rachel want again? That had to be the ticket to Quinn fixing this. And she did want to fix it. Not because she thought they could be friends, exactly, or even anything else. Definitely not anything else because she didn't want that. But, with her stomach still churning she needed some kind of relief, and Berry was that relief.
Quinn needed to something to get her back.
Last period that day was gym and Rachel disliked it for many reasons.
First of all it was unnecessary for her. She received more than enough physical exercise through her morning workout routine, her many dance classes and of course Glee rehearsals. Plus with her healthy diet she didn't need to play volleyball to burn up excess calories.
Second, whatever sport they were currently expected to engage in, the Cheerios in her gym class which included, as luck would have it, Santana, Brittany and Quinn this semester would use it to humiliate or hurt her. In field hockey it was a sharp whack around the ankles with a hockey stick. In tennis it was a ball in the groin. In athletics it was her face pushed in the long jump sand or debilitating comments about her underwear as she attempted to do the high jump. In volleyball, as it had been today, it was a foam ball powered into her upturned face so hard by Santana's fist that she was seeing triple for two minutes.
Quinn had done nothing to torment her during this period, it was true, and didn't even laugh when she wobbled all over the place from Santana's direct hit, but that was probably only because the pregnant girl looked like she was about to be sick at any second.
Rachel had watched her disappear into the bathrooms at the back almost as soon as they'd all traipsed into the locker room but she hadn't gone after her, not in front of everyone.
At least Mercedes and Tina were both in her gym class and after spending lunch with Tina and Artie and Mike, not as part of some forced Team-Berry meeting but actually just eating lunch together, she was feeling like Tina was maybe her friend for real now and Mercedes liked Tina so . . .
It made her feel a little bit safer than normal as she timed stripping down to enter the showers with the two of them so that they could all go through it together. She knew they were both as uncomfortable as she was with the forced humiliation of communal showers and it felt nice for a change to not go through it alone. Hopefully they were gaining some measure of comfort from her camaraderie too.
She was down to her panties and training bra when, from her perspective, all hell broke loose.
She was picked up from behind by a tall blonde. She mistook the assailant for Brittany to begin with until her thrashing to get loose tipped her head back far enough that she could see it was Kassie Witter, another tall blonde Cheerio.
"What are you doing? Let me go!" she yelled as she struggled in her grip.
She saw Tina step up but she was barged out of the way by Santana as Quinn's second in command surged around them to grab Rachel's legs, preventing her from kicking Kassie's shins.
She heard Mercedes say, "Oh no, get the hell off of . . ."
But she was cut off and Rachel just caught a glimpse of Brittany's hand over her mouth.
"Shh, you'll just make it worse."
Make it worse? Rachel's eyes frantically met Brittany's as she tried to determine what worse was coming but she lost sight of her as she was literally carried away. She really began to panic when they hauled her through the doors of the locker room and out into the halls.
Realizing instantly where they were planning to take her, she started to scream for a teacher until Kassie's hand slapped over her mouth, silencing her.
Quinn was throwing up in the restroom off of the locker room as quietly as possible. She knew anyone coming in would hear her but if she could just stop the loud retching noises from reaching beyond these tiled walls that was something.
The morning sickness that had taken her over at lunch hadn't left all afternoon, or at least the nausea hadn't. She made it through the classes, even gym, although it had been touch and go a few times especially when she'd seen the volley ball smack straight into Rachel's nose but she'd held it together. Until now anyway.
She was making some extremely disturbing and very loud gurgling noises when she first heard the shout.
But she couldn't exactly press pause on the next train from her stomach. Leaning over the toilet she listened to more distressing sounds from the locker room even more distressing than the ones she was currently making but all she could do for a minute was breathe heavy and dry heave while she willed herself to stop shaking enough to stand up.
By the time she staggered back out into the locker room it was to a mix of shocked hush and giggles. Quinn's eyes darted around, seeking the only person that mattered right now.
"Where's Berry?" She was surprised and pleased her voice came out so cool and yet still dangerous.
"Santana said she was in the wrong locker room," Brittany said, and even though Quinn knew the girl so well she couldn't tell if her innocent look was real or not. "She just wanted to help her be true to herself."
"What does that mean?"
She glared at Mercedes and Tina, who both just shrank back on themselves instead of being helpful. She'd have rolled her eyes if she had the time.
"Where is she?"
None of the Cheerios were speaking up, but a girl, somewhere about halfway up the social ladder, gave a nervous chuckle. "I think they were taking her into the boy's locker room."
She'd pretty much already guessed but she'd needed it confirmed before she went running in there herself.
She bolted to the door in a fury just as Santana and Kassie came back in laughing.
"Hey, Q, you'll never guess . . ."
She ran straight through her best friend, knocking her against the wall without a second thought. Ignoring the girl's angry protests, she charged up the hallway to the boy's locker room. Just before she reached the door Rachel came out, dripping wet and with Mike's letterman jacket around her shoulders. The girl looked traumatized and her feet just stopped dead when she saw Quinn.
Quinn slapped the wall and dug her toes into the floor to bring herself to a stop too. "Why are you wet?"
"Santana and Kassie ran through the showers and dropped her right in the middle."
She was surprised to hear her boyfriend's voice and looked up to see Finn hovering behind Rachel and Mike, wrapped only in a towel around his waist. He was glaring at her like it was her fault.
"I didn't know this was happening," she said, more weakly than she cared for.
"Sure you didn't," Mike sneered and Finn backed him up with that glare.
Chang's arm was protectively around Rachel's shoulders and she wanted to rip it off and beat that look off of her boyfriend's face with it.
She found a little more steel to put her in voice. "I didn't!"
"Quinn's right. She wasn't even in the room." Rachel came to her rescue but couldn't seem to look at her.
"Rachel, are you okay?"
"No, I'm mortified, humiliated, embarrassed, and I know they all mean the same thing but I want to drive home just how much I am feeling them. Also my butt hurts from being dropped on the tile floor and I don't think I'll ever be able to sleep again without being plagued with nightmares about penises."
Rachel finally met her eyes with a haunted look. "So many penises, Quinn!"
Quinn couldn't help her lips quirking in a smile. "Think of all that fantasy material."
Rachel shook her head seriously. "I'll never be able to look one in the eye again. Not that I ever have before . . . until today . . . Oh Barbra!"
Quinn didn't know how seriously to take her freak out, until Rachel met her eyes again and her lips turned up in the smallest of shy smiles.
"I don't think I want to see another penis as long as I live after that."
"Well, Santana does work in mysterious ways." The words and the accompanying grin were out before Quinn could check them.
Mike and Finn were staring between her and Rachel, clearly uncomfortable about the topic of conversation but also not knowing how to take the amicable tone they were sharing all of a sudden.
"I can't go back into the locker room," Rachel said quietly. "I know I need to hold my head up high right now but . . ."
"It's fine, Rach." Both boys tensed too as she stepped forward but only Rachel's reaction hurt her.
She stopped a foot away and settled for shaking her head like she didn't know what she was saying. Mercedes and Tina appearing in the hall behind her gave her an opportunity to get her cool aloofness back and she started to snap out instructions.
"Berry, go to the bathroom down the hall and dry off. Finn, go back in there and make sure none of your pervert team-mates snapped any pictures of her with their phones . . . " She heard Rachel curse under her breath at the thought of it. "Mike . . ." Wither and die! ". . . Go with her and stand outside to make sure no one follows her in. And I mean stand outside! She doesn't need another dick in her life right now."
Seeing Rachel's tiny scandalized grin, Quinn had to turn aside before she gave herself away by grinning too. So she missed Mike's glare but she could still feel it piercing the back of her head before he turned away to walk Rachel to the bathroom.
That just left her with her two fellow female Gleeks, and Jesus, if she hadn't been waiting for an opportunity like this.
Don't bring me into this!
'Just wait and see.'
"Don't come here, I'll come to you."
"What?" Mercedes asked with her usual bored-sounding flippancy.
Quinn was already striding towards them. "I said . . ." She backed Mercedes into the wall without touching her and smirked. ". . . I'll come to you." Without taking her eyes from Mercedes' suddenly worried ones she added, "Tina, huddle."
The shy girl automatically came closer despite a strong urge for self-preservation. She didn't have any choice. When Quinn Fabray told you to do something, you kind of did it.
"Now I'm going to ask you only once. What happened in there?"
"You know what happened," Mercedes began. "Your Cheerio friends carried Rachel out and that's all we know."
"And why didn't you step in?" she growled. "You're supposed to be her friends!"
Quinn stepped back, honestly surprised, but it didn't lessen her anger. "Well, you obviously didn't try very hard considering Rachel's in the bathroom now probably crying her eyes out!"
The two girls both looked a little ashamed, but not enough to appease her.
Mercedes next words definitely didn't appease her. "Why do you care, anyway? You hate Rachel. At least we pretend to like her."
Quinn actually wanted to strangle her with her bare hands; it was only knowing Tina was a witness that stopped her.
"I might detest the ground she walks on," Quinn gritted out, "But what Santana did is sexual harassment and whatever you say you both let it happen."
She gave them a moment to let that sink in.
"Now go and get her clothes and bring them to me, and if either one of you utters a word to any girl in that locker room it'll be me personally making your lives hell from now on."
They both scurried through the door and Quinn took the opportunity to lean against the wall and just breathe until they re-emerged a few minutes later.
She almost took the neatly folded pile of clothes from Tina's hands but then realized she couldn't deliver them. Rachel wouldn't want her in the room with her and Quinn really didn't need to see her dripping wet in her underwear.
"Take them to her. She's in the bathroom back there; you'll see Mike waiting outside." Once Tina had hurried off she turned to Mercedes. "Tell Mr. Schuester that Santana, Brittany and I won't be able to make Glee this afternoon."
"I'm calling an emergency Cheerios practice," was her dark response.
"Quinn, it's raining," Brittany pointed out petulantly, like Quinn holding a Cheerios umbrella over her head wasn't a clue that she was already aware of that.
She was the only one who had an umbrella, the rest of the squad all the female sophomores on the squad anyway were starting to drip from the moderate downfall.
"Yeah, Q, what's this about?"
She glared at Santana. "What's this about? What do you think it's about? It's about that stunt you pulled after Gym!"
"What about it?" Kassie asked. "It was funny."
Several of the girls laughed, backing her up.
"No, it was a lawsuit!"
"Berry's not going to say anything to her Dads," Santana sneered. "She never does."
Quinn had half a mind to call them herself to fill them in but she didn't voice that out loud.
"She might this time and even if she doesn't she could still go to Figgins."
"She won't. She's knows we'll just get her back worse."
"And you can say the same for the twenty or so witnesses, can you? Mercedes and Tina for example?"
Santana shrugged, "They're terrified of us too."
"Mike? Finn? They're not and you have no idea how pissed off they are about this."
"Well, if you can't keep your boyfriend in line, Quinn," Kassie scoffed, "that's not our problem."
"Do you want to see me make it your problem?"
She stepped forward, angry enough that she didn't even care that Kassie was a head taller than her. It wouldn't matter anyway, she was so furious she didn't doubt she would wipe that smug sneer from her face with a single punch.
When Kassie moved forward too, Santana stepped between them and even though they were on opposite sides of this Quinn knew the she had done it for her sake.
"Why are you suddenly on Team-Berry anyway?" Santana rolled her eyes as she realized she'd just used that lame name. "Since when is messing with her off limits?"
"I'm not on Team-Berry; I'm on the Cheerios and we have Homecoming at the end of the week. You all know Coach Sylvester likes to use the game to launch our competition season! If any of you are suspended because of Manhands we will look incompetent. And if we look incompetent I will look bad. And I am not going to look bad because you morons don't know the difference between funny and stupid." She tipped the umbrella back a little so that they could all see how serious she was. "Now get running. Coach gave me permission to give you all twenty laps of the track and no one gets out of the rain until they're finished."
"But Coach Sylvester isn't even out here," Charity whined.
"Are you sure about that?" Quinn nodded to where a shadowy figure was lurking just inside the open doors to the tunnel.
That was a pure stroke of luck because she hadn't mentioned a word of this to the Coach, but the skulking woman would never discourage extra fitness training and it added some nice weight to her authority. In turn, Quinn could practically feel her own status points clocking up as her ruthless leadership was spied upon.
As one by one the sophomore Cheerios began jogging towards the track, Santana and Brittany remained behind out of habit. When Quinn got out of something, they got out of it too. It was in the BFF handbook.
But not this time.
"I said everyone."
"You've got to be shitting me!"
Her glare told Santana she wasn't and, grumbling threats and shooting nervous glances at the figure beyond the bleachers respectively, she and Brittany ran to join the others.
Quinn let out a sigh. This wasn't half of the punishment she wanted to dish out to them but it would do. If she made it too personal she'd have to face even more questions about her motives.
Finn quietly joined her as she watched the girls make their sixth lap, causing her to jump slightly at his sudden presence. He was holding his letterman jacket over his head and she offered him the umbrella so that he could keep them both dry.
"I'd have made them run it backwards."
"I thought about making them do it on their hands and knees but I didn't want to be out here for hours waiting for them to finish."
He chuckled appreciatively. "Mike took Rachel home. She didn't want to go to Glee."
Quinn shrugged like she didn't care. "Can I borrow your phone? Mine's in my locker and I need to text my Mom that I'm going to be late for dinner."
"Sure." He fished it out of his pocket and handed it over. "I'm sorry about earlier. I didn't mean to accuse you like that. It's just . . . with Santana involved I assumed . . ."
"It's okay; you were just worried about Rachel."
She scrolled through his phone and found the number she was looking for. A part of her was angry that he even had her number on his cell phone, despite the fact that she was counting on it, but she honestly wouldn't be surprised if he already had it saved to speed dial too.
"Are you okay with that?" he asked.
"You thinking the worst of me because of her? No, Finn, not really."
She typed her message.
It's Quinn. Are you okay? x
"I'm sorry. She just looked so scared when they dropped her in there. And you kind of have been on her case even more than usual recently."
"She's trying to steal you from me, Finn. Would you prefer it if I just sat back and let her?"
"No of course not, but . . . it's not like you have anything to worry about. I love you."
It didn't even sound real coming from his lips and she knew she couldn't say it back, not today at least.
The phone beeped and she opened the message.
I appreciate your concern Quinn, and I do not wish to be rude, but I'm afraid I must ask you to kindly leave me alone. I really cannot handle any more today. Rachel x
She read the message twice before deleting it. Then she went into the 'Sent' folder and deleted her own message too before handing the phone back.
"Everything cool?" Finn asked as he shoved it back in his pocket.
He put his arm around her neck and his wet sleeve made her shiver but she leaned into his offer of comfort anyway. What other option did she have?
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