Leaning on the open door, Quinn planted a loose fist on her jutting hip as confidently as she could as she asked, "Well?"
Her friend looked over her shoulder with a jubilant grin, "No way, just letting it see what it's getting."
"If you're going to hit me, just hit me."
"Oh, I'm going to hit you, Midget."
"Then get on with it and stop wasting my time."
It was impressive how Rachel could look so terrified – Quinn could see her shaking from here – and still hold her head up defiantly. It took balls to stand up to Santana – there were three hundred pound jocks who quailed at just the tone of her voice – and here was Berry giving just as much attitude as she was getting, even if she was about to wet herself at the same time.
"Why would we want to rush this?" she asked with a cruel smirk. "We have all lunch to make you suffer."
"Quinn . . ."
"Shut it, Manhands. You don't get to use my name unless I give you permission." She nodded at Santana. "Keep her sweating until I'm ready."
As Quinn came back out of the stall a couple of minutes later and moved to the sinks to wash her hands, Santana's phone beeped with a text alert. The girl looked at her bag on the counter beside Quinn.
"Want me to get it for you?" she asked as she dried her hands.
"No, just come and hold the freak."
Okay, that had come out nastily enough but she probably should have picked a less eager word. To make up for it she took Santana's place by grabbing Rachel's upper arms hard and pressing them back against the wall. The move forced them too close and she had to fight the urge – almost a habit now – to drop her nose to the other girl's shoulder.
She'd have trouble explaining that one to Santana.
Rachel stopped shaking and started trembling instead. Quinn hoped it wasn't a reaction caused by a more intense fear. One glance into dark eyes filled with hurt made her regret looking and afterwards she kept her eyes on Rachel's mouth instead while schooling her expression into something cold and hard and appropriate for the situation.
Santana cursed in Spanish.
"What is it?"
"Her team of losers have Britt cornered in the lunch room."
Quinn shrugged, "Brittany can handle herself."
"Yeah, but she won't!" Santana slung her bag over her shoulder. "Come on, we gotta go kick some ass."
"What about . . . ?"
"Bitch can wait."
Santana was halfway out the door when Quinn called after her.
"Shit, I'll catch you up. Being this close to Berry is making me need to hurl again."
She caught the 'Sure, whatever!' before the door was fully shut.
Quinn kept up her punishing grip on Rachel's arms for a few more seconds to be on the safe side before releasing the girl and stepping back. They stood there looking at each other until Rachel's breathing had returned to normal.
"Don't you have to be sick?"
"Not urgently. No more than usual for the last few days anyway."
Rachel looked confused.
"I'm going to lock the door, okay?"
Rachel looked even more confused as Quinn used her master key. She left it in the lock; not wanting to make Rachel feel trapped.
"Because when Santana finds Brittany," she explained, "she's going to be pissed."
Quinn held up her friend's phone. "Britt's."
"What . . .? Oh." Rachel smiled but it didn't last long enough. "Why?"
"Because Santana hits a lot harder than I do and I know you had nothing to do with that slushie."
"What makes you think that?"
"Okay, maybe you did. I don't care. I didn't want her to hurt you."
Quinn groaned, "Would you stop asking that?"
"I will when I get a satisfactory answer."
"And what answer would you find satisfying?"
Rachel's eyebrows quirked a little at that. "The truth?"
Dream on! "I want to revisit our conversation about my . . . needs." Now Rachel groaned but Quinn ignored her. "Obviously the handkerchiefs are gone and even if I could get them back I can't be seen using them now so . . ."
Rachel moved to the sinks to look in the mirror. Quinn recognized it as a way to put some distance between them while being able to keep an eye on her; she'd employed the same tactic after Rachel had kissed her ear.
"I've already made my position on this perfectly clear."
Quinn carried on as if she hadn't spoken. "I was thinking that if I gave you an article of clothing every day you could wash that instead and then meet me before school each morning so that I can change into . . ."
Quinn kept calm. "Obviously I will start reimbursing you for the fabric softener . . ."
Rachel turned away from the mirrors and leaned back against the sinks with her arms crossed tightly over her chest.
"Talking of articles of clothing, where is my scarf? Did you just throw it away when it stopped being of use to you? That was a gift from my Daddy, you know!"
"Of course I didn't throw it away! You slushied it last week, remember?"
"Oh." Rachel looked sorry for her accusation and annoyed with herself. "I guess I ruined it."
"No. I took it the dry cleaners with the Cheerios uniforms. They were pretty confident they could get the stain out. I'll find out this afternoon when I pick them up."
Rachel smiled. "Oh. Thank you. That was . . . nice of you, considering I'm the one who threw the slushie."
"It's fine. You know, we could just use that."
"I could bring it by tonight and hang out while you washed it."
'Please say yes! Please say yes!'
"Why would I need to wash it if it's just been dry cleaned?"
"Because it won't smell right if you don't."
Rachel finally understood what she was saying. "So you'll spend forty-five minutes tonight with me if I wash the scarf for you?"
Quinn really didn't like her tone of voice. "Well, I wasn't planning on setting a timer or anything."
"But you're only planning on staying for the duration of the spin-cycle, aren't you?"
She hadn't been actually, but that tone really was pissing her off.
"With you in this mood why would I want to stay any longer?"
"My mood is the problem?"
"Right now, yes!"
"Then I'd hate to force you to endure it for even forty-five minutes. You may still bring the scarf to my house though."
Quinn didn't dare hope yet; the change of mind had been too sudden. "And you'll bring it into school for me tomorrow?"
"No, I just want the scarf. It is mine after all."
"God, you are so infuriating!" she snapped, taking a step closer while her fists balled at her sides.
The two weren't linked, she was just really frustrated right now, but Rachel didn't know that and quickly slipped away from the sinks to the middle of the room before Quinn could corner her.
"I appreciate you protecting me from Santana, Quinn, but now I'm going to go and make sure your actions haven't just endangered the lives of my friends in my place."
"They're not your friends!"
Rachel slumped at her snarled words but quickly drew herself back up. "Be that as it may . . ."
"No, Rachel, you need to hear this! Those losers don't care about you. You should be happy if they are getting their asses kicked right now!"
"I'm not you!"
Quinn grit her teeth but pressed on, repeating, "They don't care about you. Do you think any one of them would have done what I just did? Santana is going to be more pissed at me for tricking her than she is at you. Don't you understand that I just put myself on the line for you? That has to rate me above those user losers of yours."
Rachel shook her head helplessly. "I don't understand anything any more."
"So just stay in here with me and we'll figure it out," she said softly.
She didn't know what she was asking, really, or offering for that matter. She just didn't want Rachel to storm out on her because it hurt more than she was prepared to deal with. She was suddenly determined to have things be okay between them, to make Rachel like her again, before this lunch period was through. She'd win Rachel over somehow so that they could be secret friends again or . . . something . . . even while their war raged around them.
"Figure what out exactly?" Rachel asked just as softly, clearly thrown by her reply.
Quinn wished she could just tell her everything that had just run through her head but it wouldn't be forced out loud. She was left with the only reason she was comfortable giving voice to.
"How we can get past your stubbornness about the scarf."
Rachel laughed in a not very nice way. "I should have known!"
"Look, you think I'm using you, fine! I'm sure we can come up with a solution where you are getting just as much out of this arrangement as I am. Will that make you happy?"
"There is nothing you can give me that will make it better," she scoffed and moved to the door. "Goodbye, Quinn."
Quinn rushed her, grabbing her hand before it could grip the key and turning her around so that her back met the wall again.
"I won't do as you say so you're going to beat me up after all?"
"No, I'm not going to beat you up, but I'm not going to let you leave either until we've talked about this."
"We have talked about it!"
"You didn't even give my suggestion a second of thought, that's not talking about it."
"Okay, let's talk about it? What could you possibly give me that will make this alright?"
Considering she'd started this conversation and had been completely serious about it, Rachel's direct question made Quinn pause. What could she give her? What did Rachel want . . . exactly?
'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.'
She swallowed her sudden nervousness as discreetly as she could and lightly shrugged. "Whatever you want."
Rachel looked up at her with a mixture of defiance and a sort of hopeful fear that Quinn could definitely relate to. She had to force herself not to back away in a panic.
"I don't want anything."
"Yes you do. What is it?"
Rachel shook her head and her eyes darted to the door beside them.
Quinn pressed her forearm against the wall, blocking her view of it as she leaned into her.
Rachel remained mute so Quinn guessed and gently took her hand.
"Is it this?"
From the way Rachel's fingers remained rigid instead of curling around hers she figured not.
"What then? Tell me! Another date? Is that what you want? A real date? Candlelit dinner for two at Breadstix followed by a movie? The Phoenix theater is having another of their classic film festivals right now. They're showing The Wizard of Oz this week, I think."
Rachel's eyes widened and she started to smile shyly. Her fingers squeezed in a gesture of childlike excitement and Quinn was already smiling, knowing she'd cracked it.
It wasn't even something that would be difficult to give the girl. Finn could obviously never find out which meant she'd have to make sure there was no one at the restaurant they knew but that was really the only hurdle. Maybe she could organize a Glee night out to the bowling alley or something but then cry off at the last minute with morning sickness. Nobody would question Rachel not being there, if they even noticed her absence. That way she wouldn't have to ruin the date by constantly looking over her shoulder. She could just relax and enjoy Rachel's company.
She was already half-planning what she was going to wear and was about to ask what night Rachel wanted to go out when the other girl interrupted her.
"You can't have a romantic meal at Breadstix. The place is so brightly lit you wouldn't even be able to see the candle light!"
Quinn grinned, feeling easier now, "Okay, you're right. Where would you like to eat instead? There's a new French restaurant on West Market that I've been trying to convince Finn to try . . . I could take you instead."
"The French eat horses, Quinn!"
"So, I'm sure they have other stuff on the menu too."
"Yes, well if you want to risk it, you'll have to work harder at manipulating Finn into going because I'm not going on another date with you. I don't believe in making the same mistake twice."
Quinn wanted to scream as she realized her invite was being rejected. What did she have to do? She hadn't had to try this hard to get what she wanted in years and of all people to finally give her a run for her money it was Rachel.
"For God's sake, Berry, now you really are making me feel like throwing up! Just give in already!"
"Arrrgh!" She dropped her nose to the shoulder of Rachel's blouse and inhaled instinctively. That was better. She did it again. Much better. "Mmm."
"Yes. If you won't wash anything for me I'll have to take it straight from the source."
"You're just making it harder," Rachel breathed as Quinn's nose travelled up to her loose collar.
She shivered at the warm breath in her ear.
"Making it harder for whom? I'm perfectly okay with this." Rachel tilted her head to the side as Quinn dragged her nose over the collar, letting it brush her neck. Better and better. "And you don't seem to mind it that much either."
"Really? You don't sound too certain."
Quinn pressed her nose to the crook of Rachel's neck; amazed at how much self-control she needed to stop her lips from reaching for the citrusy-smelling softness too. It would be so easy to place a kiss just there, or open her mouth, let her tongue press to the hot skin . . . Rachel was breathing so hard in her ear, fingers trembling in her hand that she knew this was still mutual despite Berry's protests.
She pulled back to look at Rachel.
Yes, judging by the look in Rachel's eyes this was very much still mutual. She'd never before seen anyone look so confused . . . eager . . . terrified. She'd be two for two though if she turned to look in the mirror.
She couldn't believe this was happening. Not that anything was happening, no way. They were both just very . . . yes, exactly, they were confused. If she ignored it, it would go away. It had to. Until then she had to set an example for both of them and carry on as normal and pretend it was no big deal, because then it wouldn't be.
She covered the quiver in her voice with a smile. "That's it, isn't it?"
"What's . . ." Rachel had to clear her throat. "What's it?"
"The reason you won't help me out . . . you're jealous!"
Rachel's eyebrows practically knit together in the middle. "Huh? Jealous of what?"
"The third party. You just want to make it so I can only get my fix straight from you."
"Admit it, Rachel; you're as addicted to being the sniffee as I am being the sniffer."
"Certifiable!" but her lips quirked up at the edges.
"Face it, we're both junkies."
"I am not addicted to being . . . sniffed," Rachel's face was priceless at the accusation. "But even if I were that just gives me an even better reason to put an end to this behavior. I cannot go through life, Quinn, craving the inhalations of random strangers on the street."
'Oh no you don't.' As Rachel tried to take advantage of Quinn's laughter to move away from the wall, she penned her in again. "Not strangers, just me. Think of it as the difference between dropping X at a rave and smoking a joint in your bedroom with your best friends."
Rachel looked horrified. "I have no intention of ever doing either. My drug-fueled days ended when the Sudafed finally left my system."
"Me neither, it was just an analogy."
"So, should I take it that you want me to come over to your bedroom so you can sniff me at your leisure in safe surroundings then?"
Quinn started laughing again. "No, that's obviously not what I want! I want you to get over your jealousy and let me have your scarf back again."
"Oh." Rachel looked disappointed.
"Besides, even if that was what I wanted, it wouldn't be practical. I can't carry you around in my pocket all day – you're short even for a gnome, but not that short – or take you to bed at night."
While Rachel was still huffing about the short joke, Quinn mused teasingly, "Well, I suppose technically I could do the second one. Would that be a good enough compromise for you? I wear your scarf during the day and then take you to bed at night?"
As Rachel's eyes went wide and her mouth spluttered out half-formed words, Quinn grinned devilishly and pressed her nose back to her shoulder – making sure to keep the barrier of the blouse between them this time.
"Was that a yes or a no?"
The door handle beside them rattled, making them both jump, and then the banging and yelling started.
"I know you're in there, Fabray!" Santana's fist started beating heavily against the other side of the door and Quinn looked up long enough to put her finger to her lips before ducking her head back down. "You have some serious 'splaining to do, bitch!"
"Nice friends you have," Rachel quietly mocked her with her own words.
Quinn just chuckled against her neck . . . crap, when had she moved her nose all the way up there again?
"Well, I did lie to her and ruin her fun; she has a right to be pissed."
They giggled and then shushed each other as Santana became even angrier at the lack of response.
"I think I'm actually scared to go out there now," Rachel admitted.
"All the more reason to just stay right here." She nuzzled the side of her neck and felt Rachel shiver.
"I'd really prefer it if you stopped doing that."
After a few more expletive-ridden threats the banging stopped and the sound of Santana taking her frustration out on the students around her could be heard retreating into the distance.
"I guess she's gone."
Quinn switched sides, pushing dark hair back out of the way without even pretending to start with her shoulder before tucking her nose into Rachel's loose collar – best of both worlds: Rachel's neck and Rachel's fabric softener all in one hit.
"Quinn." Rachel's free hand drifted up to rest lightly in the small of her back
No pressure was being applied but she used it as an excuse to shuffle closer anyway. "Yes?"
"What if I kiss your ear again?"
Quinn cursed the excited tremble that ran through her. "We'll call it an icebreaker. Otherwise it might be awkward when I take you to bed tonight."
"Stop saying that," Rachel groaned. "And stop doing that before you force me to take drastic measures!"
"I don't think you really want to find out, just know that they will be dire."
"I'll take my chances."
When a minute had passed with no retaliation Quinn was starting to assume the threat had been empty. It wasn't, Rachel had just been psyching herself up. Tense, closed lips pressed to her earlobe. It was forced, not spontaneous like before, making it not as enjoyable – which wasn't to say it didn't still feel great to have Rachel kissing her ear.
When she didn't react she could tell Rachel was confused – by this time last time she had been on her feet and ordering the other girl to get out of her way – this time she just accepted the contact and didn't lift her face from Rachel's neck.
Rachel probably wanted to make a noise like 'Hmm?'
"Is that the best you have?" she murmured. "'Cause you kind of lost the shock factor of that the . . . okay!"
Why had she put the idea of sucking her earlobe into Berry's head?
Why hadn't she waited long enough to let her do it last time?
"Why aren't you pulling away?" the whisper sent warm air rushing over her wet lobe and she had to bite back an appreciative sigh.
"Because I'm not backing down until you give in and do what I . . ." A tongue delicately traced the shell of her ear. ". . . oh God!
"Who's backing down?" Rachel purred.
Oh GOD! How did she make her voice go like that?
She was only aware that her lips were pressed to Rachel's neck when she had to pull back a little to speak. "Not me."
"For Barbra's sake! What is it going to take to make you understand I am not going to change my mind on this?"
Quinn pulled her head back at the abrupt change in tone.
"There is nothing you can do to make me be your . . . your bitch!"
Quinn smiled, "My bitch?"
"Well, what else would you call it when you are trying to dominate me into doing your bidding?"
Well, that certainly broke the spell.
"I honestly don't get why you are being so fixated on me making you do anything!" Quinn yelled at her. "I just want to borrow your scarf for a little longer and you know why. Do you think I got pregnant just so I could have morning sickness and use it to torment you with? Do you think I hate you that much that I would ruin my own life just to have ammo to knock you down with?"
"No, of course not," Rachel snapped. "Although I think you probably do hate me enough to do that in theory, but I know you can't help the morning sickness."
"Then why won't you help me?"
"Because every time I have so far you've made me regret it."
"What do you want from me? I'm trying! I'm trying to meet you half way, so we can both be happy."
"You're trying to make yourself happy and you obviously have no qualms about stepping on me to do it!"
"That's not true! Look, let me prove it to you. Just tell me what you want and I'll do it. Anything."
Rachel shook her head again but it was less assertive, less certain than before. "There isn't anything."
"There is! I read it in your diary. There is something I can do to make this right. Something I've done before and you want me to do again. What is it?" she insisted harshly.
"That was private!"
"I don't care. Just tell me. Rach, tell me. Is it this?"
She pulled their joined hands towards her. Rachel didn't protest until Quinn pushed her palm flat against her abs, then she tried to jerk her hand away. Quinn didn't let her, holding it prisoner – unconsciously she tensed her muscles out of respect for her so far non-existent baby bump.
"Quinn . . . please."
Rachel's eyes dropped to their hands. "I don't know why you feel the need to . . . to . . ."
"To tease me!" Rachel blurted out violently and then raised her free hand to cover her mouth as if she could stop the words that had already escaped.
"I'm not teasing you." She wished she was! "Like I said, I'm just trying to find a halfway point for us."
"And you think allowing me to do this . . ." Rachel pulled her hand down – not away, which was what caught Quinn by surprise – and pushed it just a few inches under her Cheerios top. ". . . is enough to make me subservient to you?"
Quinn barely stifled her gasp at the sudden contact of Rachel's soft hand against her bare skin. This was too much. She couldn't do this. This was too much touching! As Rachel flexed her palm Quinn had to bite her lip.
"Is it?" she ground out when she trusted herself to speak.
"I'll admit it's nice." Rachel sounded wistful. She moved her fingers, nails dragging softly against her skin. Quinn let out a shaky breath and inadvertently arched into the contact. "But knowing you're only allowing it because you are trying to manipulate me spoils it."
She pulled her hand out and let it drop to her side.
Was she kidding? Was she really that stupid? She knew she should be happy that Rachel didn't get it but it just made her want to cry in frustration.
"You're killing me here, Berry!" She really was. "What else can I offer you? What else could you possibly want?"
She tried to take her hand again but Rachel moved it out of reach so Quinn cupped her hip instead and leaned closer still. They were breathing the same air now, their foreheads almost touching.
Rachel was caught in her eyes.
Quinn was lost in hers. They were darker than she'd even seen and she wasn't imagining the longing in them.
"Tell me," she whispered.
"I don't know how to ask . . ." Rachel breathed and then caught herself and looked down.
"Do you want me to kiss you again?" she murmured, nose brushing Rachel's.
'Say yes, force me to do this,' she silently pleaded, slowly closing the distance between them.
"No." What? "I don't."
Quinn pulled her head back. "Excuse me?"
"This is a new low even for you, Quinn."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I can't believe you'd actually pretend to kiss me just to get me to do what you want!"
"How do you pretend to kiss someone?"
"You tell me. I've never used someone like that before!"
"I'm not using you!"
"So you're trying to tell me you actually want to kiss me all of a sudden?"
Quinn froze; throat locking with fear, head spinning with feeling's she had no experience of dealing with.
"Just what I thought." She let Rachel push her away. "Quinn, while I can appreciate your mind games in this Team-Berry versus Team-Fabray war on a purely objective level, I have to ask you to not make them so personal in the future. The last ten minutes have been extremely embarrassing for the both of us I feel and I'd rather not have a repeat of it."
"You're embarrassed?" Quinn managed to keep her tone pretty light-hearted considering how she felt.
Rachel only heard the words. "I do have some dignity, you know? Despite your best efforts to strip me of it."
"Rachel . . ."
The other girl held her hand up to stop her. "I'm going to go now but I will give you the answer to your relentless questioning out of courtesy. The only thing I would have required for my agreement was a single gesture of honesty and trust between us. Your offers of fake friendship and desperate proposals of false sexual intent mean nothing to me, but for one ounce of sincerity I would gladly help you out in any way I can again."
'They were sincere! Both of them! How could . . .? Dear God, have I really damaged her self-esteem so much in the last few years that she can't tell when someone actually likes her?'
"If you're waiting for that I guess we'll both just have to suffer," she snapped.
Rachel shrank back before twisting the key and leaving the bathroom.
'And there's my answer. I suck.'
You kind of do.
'Thanks for the vote of confidence.'
You should be more worried about Rachel's confidence right now.
There was no reply from the great beyond and Quinn blew out a frustrated breath.
Rachel's final two classes for the day passed in a blur. She couldn't concentrate on anything. Her mind was a whirl of accusations and confusion.
Why was Quinn so mean? Why hadn't she let Quinn kiss her? Why did she still want Quinn to kiss her so badly after everything she had done? Why did Quinn seem to want to kiss her? Surely no one would go that far just for fabric softener? Quinn could have just asked for the brand and scent and gone to the store after school to get some herself. Instead she had been desperate to the point of nearly kissing her to get Rachel to wash the scarf.
It just didn't make sense!
She saw the object of her affecti . . . thoughts after school while they were both at their lockers. For once Quinn wasn't surrounded by Santana and Brittany. Mercedes and Kurt, however, joined her as soon as they'd finished at their own lockers down the hall.
"You ready to go?" Mercedes asked, shooting Quinn a wary look when the blonde glanced over.
Rachel was, but pretended she wasn't. She didn't know why she wanted another confrontation but Quinn's constant glances were intriguing.
"I'll be another minute. If you two want to go ahead . . ."
"No, it's fine," Kurt said. "Obviously it's not safe for any of us to be alone right now and friends stick together, am I right?"
He was talking about her getting dragged into the bathroom by Santana – which none of them seemed to realize had come to nothing – and he, Mercedes and Artie being subjected to bowls of tomato soup being poured over them by Santana after she'd arrived in the lunch room to defend Brittany. From what Rachel could gather, they'd only been sharing a table with the cheerleader, but after Quinn's fake text Santana hadn't bothered to ask questions first.
"Friends, right!" she said cheerfully, not missing Quinn's pointed, but unnecessary, glare. "Then let's head to Glee."
Their 'friendship' apparently still didn't extend to them sitting near her in the Choir room. While she took a seat at the front, Mercedes and Kurt went right to the back as they usually did. Artie wheeled himself up to the side and she supposed it wasn't his fault that he was still three chairs away from her but when Tina sat on the chair closest to him, still two away from her, it was clear the camaraderie was limited.
When Mike came in he took the seat beside her and she smiled at him, she even smiled at Matt when he took the chair between Tina and Mike. She didn't get a chance to see if it was returned however, because she was too dumbstruck by Quinn taking the seat on the other side of her.
Quinn didn't look at her as she pulled Finn down beside her and Rachel could only assume that she was sitting so far from the other Cheerios because Santana really was angry over what had transpired earlier.
"Stop looking at me or I'll move," Quinn muttered as Mr. Schuester started the session.
It took a second for the words to sink in and then Rachel dragged her eyes away, but not before she noticed Quinn was holding Finn's hand like she was drowning at sea and he was her only floatation device.
"Okay, so we had Artie, Puck and Tina yesterday. Who's up for singing today?"
When no one volunteered themselves Mr. Schue asked, "Rachel?"
"I, uh, I'm not quite prepared yet." He looked at her like this was another sign of her spiralling depression and maybe it was. She'd listened to Kelly Clarkson's back catalogue a dozen times now but still hadn't picked out an appropriate song. "I'd rather wait until tomorrow if that's okay."
"Sure. So, anyone else? Brittany? Kurt? Quinn?"
"I need another day too," Quinn said, barely looking up at the Spanish teacher as she spoke.
"Okay anyone . . .?"
"I'll go." Finn stood up. "Okay, as you know, us guys picked Aerosmith and so, this is for you, Quinn. I, uh, hope you like it."
He looked nervous as Brad started playing the intro on his piano and while Rachel may have initially thought an assignment that gave everyone a solo was a waste of her time, now she could see the worth in it. They were all here because they enjoyed singing but only a few of them were confident doing so in front of others. Even the three Cheerios, who were arguably the most confident girls in school, had yet to perform a single solo between them. So, with that in mind, she gave Finn a giant thumbs up and a wide encouraging smile.
He returned it with a nod and a shaky kind of grin before focusing on his girlfriend again as he began to sing,
"I could stay awake, just to hear you breathing,
Watch you smile while you were sleeping,
While you're far away and dreaming . . ."
Rachel's eyes dropped though on seeing Quinn's surprised smile, it caused a real ache in her chest, but she just couldn't be rude for long. After all, this was her leading man and she owed him her support. He sang the song beautifully, mostly, only going flat on a couple of occasions and he couldn't get his voice to match the necessary high notes, but he did the best he could.
She clapped along with everyone else, glancing surreptitiously at Quinn. The blonde was clapping too but her eyes looked full of tears. Were they happy tears? The song certainly called for happy tears from her, the sentiment had been awe-inspiring, and had made Rachel more than a little jealous, but Quinn didn't look particularly happy despite her smile.
She murmured to her under the clapping. "Are you okay?"
Quinn's breath caught from her tears as she answered, "Do you care?"
Quinn gave her the smallest of smiles. "Then I'm fine."
What did that mean? She didn't get a chance to ask before Quinn was out of her seat and hugging Finn around the waist. She buried her head in his chest and Finn looked both happy and nervous as he met Rachel's gaze.
She gave him one more big, supportive smile before averting her eyes back to Mr. Schuester.
"Okay, that was great, Finn. Who's next?"
Rachel was vaguely aware of Mercedes speaking up and stepping down to the floor as the band played the opening chords of a new song, but she was more focused on Quinn sitting back down. She seemed even closer than she had before.
Rachel didn't even know where the question came from as she murmured, "What would you do if I held your hand now?"
Quinn murmured back instantly, "I don't know. Probably hit you again and then hate myself for it."
Rachel nodded and as her hand twitched, itching to test the boundaries, she was almost sure she saw Quinn's do the same.
Quinn was practically chasing her to her Dad's car.
"I just want to talk."
"No, you want to manipulate me some more."
"Fine, I want to manipulate you some more. Come on, don't you find my dogged persistence endearing?"
She did actually. This couldn't just be about fabric softener anymore. No one was this addicted to fabric softener, especially as she hadn't seen Quinn run to the bathroom once today. Plus she still had two usable legs despite having licked Quinn's ear.
Wow, she'd licked Quinn's ear.
She stopped at the pick up point because she had no choice, her Dad wasn't there yet.
"Aren't you completely ruining you reputation by chasing after me like a love-sick puppy?" she joked.
She regretted it when Quinn's face went tight, stopping several feet from her. She was about to offer a retraction when Quinn just shook her head, smiling a little.
"Completely. Now everyone thinks I'm into you. Is that enough to get you to change your mind?"
"For crying out loud, Berry! What is it going to take?"
"I've already told you."
"But how can I convince you I'm sincere when you don't believe a single word I say on principle?"
"I don't know." Her Dad pulled up with perfect timing and she opened the passenger door. "Goodbye, Quinn."
It should have felt more gratifying than it did to drive away while Quinn Fabray watched her go.
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