Never Asked To Feel Your Halo


Chapter Thirty-Four: Rumor Has It

Quinn was physically and emotionally exhausted Wednesday morning. She didn't even know how she managed to back her car out of her drive without falling asleep at the wheel, let alone drive to school. She'd had close to zero sleep thanks to the whirlwind of thoughts spinning through her over-active mind.

The resulting tiredness hadn't stopped her from leaping out of bed twenty minutes before her alarm was due to wake her. Why just lay there thinking when she could get a head-start on doing? Not that she knew exactly what she was going to do she still wasn't convinced it was a good idea to do anything at all but her blood was singing in her veins, pumping her full of energy and the time for action was now . . .

Or something a little less 'Die Hard' lame.

Her suspiciously awesome mood took its first hit on the way to school and it was probably a good thing.

She was driving when the text came through and with one hand holding the steering wheel steady, her other dug around in her bag, groping between books and pens, hairbrushes and make-up to find her cell phone. With the finesse of long-term practice she pulled into the school lot and shot straight into her Cheerios designated parking spot while opening and reading Santana's message.

Britt wants to know what's wrong with you. Told her it's just the preggo hormones making you suck so bad. Quit playing for both sides. You really want to be against us, Q? Do you really think that's your best option?

Quinn scoffed at her phone because she could see her two 'best friends' standing up at the top of the steps by the entrance and it was hard to tell if they'd noticed her arrive from there. She wasn't taking any chances, because inside she was worried. This was exactly the kind of thing she had been dreading, and the exact reason why she couldn't be friends with Rachel. If Santana felt spurned this could easily turn into a three way war with Team-Fabray caught all alone in the middle of Team-Berry and Team-Lopez and, really? . . . surely the fact that she was even thinking in dorky terms like thatwas a good reason for never speaking to Rachel Berry again.

That coaxed a smile from her, one that grew and birthed an idea.

Get a life, San. I really have more important things to worry about. But for the record there is no 'against you' there is only 'against me' and I really don't think you're ready to go there.

Not that it would take the girl long to get ready, probably less than half a day to secure the allegiance of enough people on the squad to ensure her captaincy was in name only and meaningless. It would only take Coach Sylvester one practice after that to see how ineffective she'd become and then she wouldn't even have that much.

This could become a nightmare.

She watched as Santana received her text; even from here she could see the narrowing of her eyes and the tight smirk on her calculating face. A few seconds later her phone beeped.

Guess we'll see where the chips land today. But I don't look up to anyone who doesn't deserve it and if you don't come correct about this sick Berry obsession of yours I will be looking down on you in the extremely near future.

Impressive. She'd managed to set her heart racing in fear with a direct Rachel reference and get her blood boiling with the thinly veiled threat to her position as head cheerleader. Santana really should know better than to try so hard.

Please. Do whatever you want. We both know that whatever happens I will ALWAYS top you. And as for Stubbles, you're the one who has a weird interest in getting your hands on her all the time.

She hit send and then, mind racing even faster now that the bar had been set higher, thought of a way to deflect all of this unhealthy attention for a while.

Wait, are you jealous because I took the dwarf on that fake date for Finn? God, that explains so much.

The reply was about as immediate as it gets.

Screw you, Fabray!

She laughed for real, sending back a quick LOL as she watched Santana begin ranting emphatically to a taken-aback Brittany.

Despite her bravado she knew she couldn't risk Santana calling her bluff, because being on the Cheerios was the only stable thing in her life right now. She wasn't losing it, or the power that came with it, for anything and certainly not to create an even bigger mess than she was already in.

Nothing and nobody was worth that.

She had to get a grip on this situation and that began with resetting the natural order. She'd been fairly passive in the Glee Civil War so far, letting Santana take charge because Quinn had been more focused on not throwing up her baby and whatever Rachel drama she was dealing with at the time. Obviously that had been a mistake and it had gone to Santana's head. So the first thing she had to do was initiate a new wave of attacks against Berry's band of losers. If she was proactive then Santana would, for a while at least, just back off and enjoy the show, which meant she could keep the worst of the heat off of Rachel. She couldn't spare her completely obviously because that would be suspicious, but better for her to find a bacon sandwich on her pillow than to find Santana's fist in her eye.

Second order of business, she had to shut things down with Berry. She already knew she'd been an idiot to let it get this far, to a point where she was spending time with her outside of school and, you know, almost kissing her. This was her wake up call, her cold cup of coffee to the face, and she was happy for it. She had a legitimate reason (beyond being scared to death) to push this thing between them into a dark corner and never acknowledge it again. It wasn't cowardice if you had a valid need for walking (running) away.

She would have to cancel their friend-date that afternoon. She was torn on how she felt about that. She'd been looking forward to it, which made it suck, but she'd been looking forward to it a little too much and that was worse.

Obviously she would let her down as gently as she could, explain the situation as it was, and Berry would understand because she was that kind of person, and providing Quinn didn't leave any wiggle room she'd get the message that it was completely over. Not just for now, but forever. Quinn would move on from this, quickly, because she hadn't been lying about already having too much to deal with, and a few weeks down the line when this nightmare was behind her she'd laugh in disbelief from the top of the pyramid over how she'd ever given Berry brain-time in the first place.

It was all going to be fiiii. . . Rachel was walking in front of her car.

She was several spaces away as she passed along the walkway dissecting the parking lot between the drop off point and the entrance to school, but most kids didn't walk that purposefully so she was kind of distinctive. Also most kids didn't wear tartan skirts that were only half an inch longer than their lightweight Fall jacket. It was the skirt Quinn may have mentioned she liked and it crossed her mind that Rachel had worn it for her. It was only a flash of a thought and she felt silly for even thinking it but it brought that stupid, embarrassing, goofy smile back to her face instantly.

Rachel hadn't noticed Quinn sitting in her car and she only just kept from honking her horn to get her attention along with everyone else's! At the same time, she realized she was full of crap. Last night had opened that damn can of worms and now she was up to her neck in them. There was no way she could walk away from this feeling and there was no way she was letting Rachel down . . . or, if she did, it probably wouldn't be gently.


Rachel was feeling surprisingly bouncy for so little sleep as she entered the school. She didn't even mind that she'd entered it head first thanks to Santana's slyly positioned ankle.

Picking herself up with a bright, care-free smile, she dusted off the debris from the floor, retrieved her bag from the trampling feet of her fellow students and headed for her locker.

She stowed her gym bag right at the back bringing her first grimace of the day as she remembered how much fun the last class had been and checked her lesson planner. It was needless because she already knew her schedule back to front but it was a part of her routine and it never hurt to double check. She removed her biology text book and placed it into her bag, making sure it didn't rumple the history homework she'd brought from home. She wasn't sure what kind of mark she could hope for considering many of the answers were a good part nonsense but it cheered her to know that Quinn's answers were just as bad although not identical because neither of them were stupid.

She was meticulously tidying her locker while absently humming 'Taking Chances' in the hope that she might get a glimpse of Quinn arriving at her own locker before the bell rang when she was cheerfully greeted from behind.

"Hello, Rachel."

"What's up?"

Mercedes and Kurt joined her on her left and right side respectively. She looked to them long enough to give them each a tight smile before turning her attention back to straightening out her folders.

"What did you do last night? Anything interesting?"

"Yeah, spill, Girl. What exactly goes into making Rachel Berry's best night ever?"

Rachel's smile grew. She didn't mind that they'd only come for gossip. After all, wasn't that what friends did with one another?

"My social engagement last night was a private affair, thank you very much. How was Breadstix?"

"Breadstix is . . ." Mercedes waved a hand in the air. "You eat breadsticks, it's boring. Tell us about this affair."

"Yes," Kurt leaned closer in a conspiratorial way but didn't actually bother to drop his voice. "Anyone we know?"

Rachel glanced furtively around as if she was . . . glancing furtively around, not that she was actually planning on giving them any details, not even vague ones. Quinn was at her locker now, with Finn beside her. Santana and Brittany were at the blonde's locker at the other end of the hall. Apparently there was still a rift between the three Cheerios this morning.

"I'm divulging nothing. A true lady knows how to be discreet."

"Don't tell me you had a date last night, Manhands?" She hadn't even realized Quinn was walking behind her until the acerbic comment was thrown out.

She spun to face her, books cradled protectively against her chest. "I may have. What's it to you?"

Quinn sneered, "I'm just wondering what they put in the slushies around here that turns the boys into freak-loving morons."

She snapped her head around as she passed Mike, giving him a withering glare on the last word. At the end of the corridor it only took the slightest nod of her head in their direction and suddenly Santana and Brittany were falling into step behind her again, with Santana turning to sneer over her shoulder at Rachel.

For her part, it had all happened so fast Rachel just blinked after them until Mike was by her side.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." She turned back to her locker to push the door closed.

"Someone needs to take her down a few hundred pegs," Mike continued, his voice calmer than the distaste in his eyes as he glared after the trio.

Rachel just shook her head. True, the sharp delivery and the sneer on Quinn's face had been unpleasant, but she wasn't going to let the words affect her. Why would she when Quinn had confessed only last night to being one of the 'freak-loving morons'?She was fairly sure from Kurt's curious expression that she was smiling inappropriately.

"Oh, we got that covered, right guys!" Artie rolled up, offering Mercedes a high-five.

She obliged, chuckling, "We sure have."

"What do you mean?" She felt apprehensive but at least now her bright smile didn't seem so out of place.

Tina had come up behind Artie. "W-w-we came up w-with some more ideas l-l-last night."

"Like what?" Mike didn't seem to know whether to smile or not. "It'll have to be smart. Quinn and her friends might be a lot of things, but they aren't idiots. And they're expecting you to react, so they'll be waiting."

It was both flattering and bothersome that he was so eager to join Team-Berry.

Kurt explained. "Well, to start with we thought we could slightly expand the circle of those in the know."

She didn't get it. "Those who know what?"

"Shall we say, Quinn's little predicament."

"NO!" The volume she'd used had shocked them all by the way they were leaning back from her. "That is an unspeakably cruel idea. That information is highly personal and sensitive and not something that should even be considered as fair game. How would you like it Mercedes, or you Tina, if you were in her situation and Quinn spread it around the school."

"I wouldn't like it, but I also wouldn't be surprised," Mercedes argued. "You know full well she'd do it too. So would Santana and Brittany. 'Fact I'm surprised they haven't already done it to Quinn."

"But isn't the point of all this to prove that we're better than them?"

"I thought the point was to prove we won't take their crap lying down anymore," Artie said sincerely.

"Well, that too, but spreading gossip about . . . that, is shameful and frankly I'm surprised such a disgusting idea ever entered any of your heads. You're better than that; Team-Berry is better than that."

To their credit, they each did look ashamed of themselves, if defiantly so.

"It was just one idea," Mercedes snapped quietly. "What have you got?"

Like she'd spent last night thinking up ways to hurt Quinn.

"Um?"

"We also came up with just letting slip that maybe her vow of celibacy isn't as binding as everyone thinks it is."

She glared at Artie until he looked down at his knees. Then she thought about it. "That could work for Santana though."

After all, it was true much truer than for Quinn. In fact, she didn't know how Santana managed to keep a straight face in celibacy club when everyone in Glee knew she still hooked up with Puck on a regular basis despite having ended their relationship the month before.

"And for Brittany . . ."

"We're not touching Brittany again," Kurt said quickly.

"T-t-that s-soup was really h-hot!"

She nodded, "Okay, I'll handle Brittany."

"What are you going to do to her?" Mike asked, his decentness showing through when he sounded concerned for the enemy.

She didn't actually intend to do anything, she was still hoping that all of the animosity would just fade away soon and antagonizing anyone wouldn't achieve that. But she had come up with a few ideas of how to torment the tall, blonde cheerleader the weekend before and it was safe enough to share them if everybody else was giving Brittany a wide berth.

"I plan to replace all of her textbooks with foreign language copies. That should keep her busy for a while."

"And Quinn?" Artie asked.

She hid her hesitation under a 'Hmm' and a finger tap to her chin as if she was trying to decide how dastardly to be.

Kurt saw right through her. "You still want us to leave Quinn alone, don't you?"

"Told you the girl has the hots for her," Mercedes said.

"I do not have the hots for Quinn Fabray!" Several other of the still lingering students looked over at her shout but she decided that was okay; the more people that heard her declare such a thing the better. "That's completely ridiculous."

Seeing dubious looks all around, and Mike's slightly hurt look, she knew she had to be drastic. Quinn would thank her for it in the end.

"Actually I did think of taking the tires off of her car and leaving it on blocks, but I dismissed it because I didn't think any of us would be able to achieve it what with our lack of knowledge of tire-changing and upper-body strength." She shot Kurt a look so that he knew he was the target for that particular snipe. "But I guess instead . . ."

"I can change a tire," Kurt sniffed. "My dad does own a garage." But he didn't refute her other point.

"And I might look skinny, but I have the upper body strength." She knew there was a reason she didn't want Mike on Team-Berry.

"But instead . . ." she tried to continue.

It was in vain.

By the time the bell finally rang it was decided Mercedes would use Artie's chair to transport blocks from Auto shop to Quinn's car just as lunch was ending and Kurt and Mike would do the deed in fifth period, with Mercedes as look out, because they all had study hall at the same time.

All Rachel could do about it now was make sure she knew where they planned to hide the tires and hope Finn knew how to put them back on.


"So we're gonna start a rumor," Santana was saying.

Quinn was reluctantly paying attention because she had no choice. "Haven't we already started like every rumor there is about Berry?"

"No, this one will be epic!" Brittany smiled.

"And what is it?"

Santana shrugged, "That's your job. You always come up with them."

She knew there was a double meaning behind that. It was true she always came up with the slurs about Rachel but this time Santana was testing her to see if she still could.

"Okay, how about she really got Mr. Ryerson fired because she was sleeping with him and he dumped her for that boy whatshisname because he was a better singer?"

It was one she'd already had in her back pocket before things got weird between them.

"I like it. Plays into the fact that she's a tranny too 'cause everyone knows Ryerson is as homo as they come."

"Sure." Quinn shrugged. The bell rang for first period. "I'll let you get started on that then."

"Good to have you back on the team, Quinn," Santana said sarcastically as they were about to part ways.

"You forget, San, it's my team."

The rumor would be all around school by lunch time, but it could have been a worse one. She'd make it up to Berry and she already knew how and when.


By second period Rachel knew people were whispering about her. She didn't know why yet but the signs were all too familiar. As she sat at the front of History class, bad homework neatly on the desk in front of her, she did her best to pay it no mind.

Quinn walked in with Santana once most of the students were already seated but she didn't look at the blonde. She did accidentally make eye-contact with Santana who feinted towards her with bared teeth. Rachel sat back hurriedly but summoned up a disdainful glare for the girl. Quinn pretended not to notice any of it as the two Cheerios passed her to take their seats at the back.

The lesson started almost immediately afterwards and she forced her concentration on to that instead.

The lesson was half over and Quinn was bored. She'd been bored from the start by the group discussion on the Third Reich's advance through Holland but had managed to avoid being called out on it by keeping her eyes attentively focused on the front of the class.

So she wasn't looking at the teacher so much as five feet in front of him, who cared?

Not to be too obvious she did turn briefly to whichever kid had something to say before setting her eyes back where they wanted to be.

During a particularly long explanation by the teacher she made up her mind about something she had been going back and forth on all morning and opened her writing pad to a fresh page.

Meet me behind the

She scribbled that out. She didn't want to sound demanding.

Please will you

No, she didn't want to sound desperate either.

"What are you writing?" Santana hissed. "Did he say we were supposed to take notes?"

Crap, she'd been so deep into her daydream that she'd stupidly forgotten who was sitting beside her.

"I'm just making a few observations."

What do you say? You and me behind the

Was she Puck all of a sudden?

She forced herself to think about it, pen tapping her page.

If you feel like facing Gym as much as I do today, meet me in our spot instead. We can have a Council of War or I can exchange a TYH for a fix ;) If you're up for it.

Her fingers were shaking lightly against her pen as she read it back. It was okay.

"Seriously, give me a look at your notes!" Santana made a snatch for them and was met by an elbow in the chest.

"No! Write your own notes and stop trying to copy from me."

"You suck, Fabray," Santana sulked.

"Deal with it."

She'd scribbled out enough tries that she was comfortable turning the page and hiding her message. She made notes for real now, just in case Santana tried to sneak a peek at them.

The last fifteen minutes of the lesson were given over to pairing up and discussing the chapter they'd worked through. She wondered why no teacher ever said anything about how Rachel was never paired up, always working alone on these things. Wouldn't it be more educator-y to make her join another pair and work as a threesome? Quinn wished she had the guts to call her over to join them, but then Rachel probably wouldn't appreciate being made to work with Santana.

"So, you ready to tell me what's going on yet?"

"You heard the same discussion as I did."

"Not about Hitler! About Berry," Santana said, voice just a whisper.

Quinn's chest hurt from the sudden overdose of oxygen. "What?"

"Don't play stupid. You ever think I might stop giving you a hard time about it if you just came clean with me?"

Quinn cut her a withering look. "No, I don't think that at all. And there's nothing to tell. I don't know why you think there is."

"Come on, Q! We're best friends. You don't think I know you well enough to notice when something's happened to turn you into a complete freak?"

Her throat hurt now too because she kind of felt like crying. She managed to keep her voice dry though. "Oh yeah, San, your compassion is overwhelming."

Rachel wouldn't even be able to hear their conversation if it wasn't for the fact that the desk behind her was empty and the one behind that had two students that were either asleep or working alone. But she could. She wished she couldn't because she was bound to hear something she didn't like. That didn't stop her from paying attention though.

"Oh yeah, San," she heard Quinn mutter, "your compassion is overwhelming."

"I'm not trying to be compassionate. I'm trying to get the dirt."

"There is no dirt!"

"Like Hell there's not!"

Rachel cringed over the desk.

"Look, I'll keep it to myself if you want, but you gotta tell me what's down between you and Stubbles."

"Santana, you're wearing my freaking patience with this! There is nothing going on with me and Manhands! Why the hell would there be? I can't even stand to be in the same room as her. I literally want to pull her hair from her head every time I see her."

Rachel hunched even lower over the desk. She knew it was lies, but it wasn't that long ago it was the truth and it was too soon to have such a harsh reminder of it. A part of her hated Quinn for saying these things within earshot; it was a sign of total disrespect.

"Q, quit playing. I've seen it, okay? At first I thought she just wanted you and I felt kinda sorry for you for having to deal with it, not that I didn't think it was hilarious, but you've been acting weird 'round her too."

"No I haven't."

"I saw you at the game last Friday."

"I honestly don't know what you're talking about."

Rachel would have believed her, if she didn't know the truth.

"And you were real eager to kiss her at Puck's party."

Quinn laughed. "I was real eager to not have her kiss Finn actually. Besides, if I'd wanted to kiss her don't you think I would have? I mean, if I was as desperate to lock lips with RuPaul as you think I am, wouldn't I have jumped at the chance to do it and pass it off as just the game?"

"I guess."

Their desk fell silent long enough for Rachel to breathe a sigh of relief. It didn't last long though. Quinn was right, Santana was like a dog with a bone, and Rachel had to admit, bones didn't get much juicier than this.

"But you never explained why you didn't come back from dropping her off for almost an hour."

"Actually, I did. I told you she wouldn't get in my car for ages and then wouldn't get out of it again at her house."

Was that true? Rachel still couldn't remember.

Then Santana changed tracks and she knew the exact moment when Quinn was about to change her story. She just didn't know what she might change it to yet.

"There is something though, and the fact that you're lying to me about it? Doesn't exactly warrant loyalty does it, Q? I thought we always stuck together but if we don't . . . if you don't trust me . . ."

"Okay, fine, whatever! I don't know why I'm even keeping it a secret anyway."

Rachel smiled, but cautiously. The idea of Quinn not keeping something a secret was great, but surely a little too good to be true. Not to mention Rachel really wasn't sure she was ready to come out about this yet.

Infuriatingly, Quinn lowering her voice coincided with the boys sat next to her laughing about something and she missed the rest of the conversation.


"It's really not a big deal," Quinn whispered, stalling until she'd gotten her words in order. "And certainly nothing as horrifying as you're suggesting."

"So what is it?" Santana leaned closer, an eager leer on her lips.

Quinn shrugged, "She found out about the pregnancy before the rest of you. I didn't tell her or anything but, I don't know, she figured it out and confronted me with it. She's been . . . sort of helping me with it ever since."

"Helping you how?" Santana asked suspiciously.

"I don't know. She compiled this whole pregnancy fact sheet for me. She gave me some tips on how to deal with the morning sickness. She . . . she's just always there!" Quinn wrinkled her nose in distaste. "It's not like I want her to be but . . ." she shot Santana a look. ". . . it's not like anyone else has been."

"Hey, I found out about it through Puck, of all people! If you wanted a little support, maybe you should have told me yourself."

"Whatever. Anyway, now you know why she's always hanging around."

"And you're okay with that?"

"Didn't I just say I wasn't? But she won't, I don't know, I can't get rid of her now."

That much was true. Quinn rolled her eyes and turned back to Santana.

"She's helpful, it's like having a seeing-eye dog through pregnancy, a seeing-eye dog with fleas and a terrible taste in collars and dog coats." She really hoped her voice was low enough to not carry to the front of the class. "But it's better than none, you know?"

"Not really," Santana drawled. "But whatever."

Quinn breathed a sigh of relief.

"She's still really obviously into you though."

Quinn took back that sigh of relief so fast. "No, she's not! That's just . . . just what she's like."

"Please, Q! No one is that nice to someone who hates them unless they have some sick infatuation going on."

She couldn't really argue with that and she couldn't explain how it was different with her and Rachel either.

"So maybe she does. Who cares?"

"I care!" Santana actually cackled. "And you should too. We just struck gold!"

"No, I don't want to . . ." she began.

The bell was ringing and Santana didn't care anyway as she jumped out of her seat, still overcome with delight.

"Don't worry about it. Leave it to me, babe."

And with that ominous statement she was gone. Quinn shook her worry off and added one last rushed line to her note before she quickly tore the page in half and folded it into a small square.

She was walking past just as Berry was standing and pushing her book into her bag. She dropped the folded paper onto the desk without looking or slowing down.


Rachel really, really didn't want to go to Gym that day, understandably after what had happened on Monday, but she also really didn't like skipping mandatory lessons.

In the end the extra 'really' won out.

She dithered over where 'our spot' might be that was after melting over the fact that they even had an 'our spot' because they'd spent alone time in nearly every bathroom in the school just recently, not to mention the locker room, but she was at least ninety-five percent sure of where was meant.

She arrived behind the workshop first and spent ten minutes alone had she picked the right place after all? She attempted to divert her fretting by re-reading the note over again . . . and again, because it really wasn't a long note. She thought the last line was possibly her favorite.

P.S. I told you that skirt would look totally hot with a green shirt! x

Quinn thought she looked hot today!

She hadn't purposefully worn the outfit because of Quinn but when she decided to wear the mini-kilt the other girl's words of advice had come back to her. The forest green shirt she'd chosen was fitted, hugging her breasts and her hips, and she was just tugging the open collar slightly wider to expose what Quinn clearly found to be her best feature her neck when the cheerleader finally came around the corner. Her hands dropped guiltily to her sides as she gave her . . . well, she didn't know what Quinn was but she gave her a bright welcoming smile and then realized she had no idea what to say.

Quinn had walked sedately around the corner but she was out of breath, so she had been running at some point. She stopped several feet away and shrugged awkwardly. "Sorry I'm late. It was hard to shake Santana. I had to actually go into the locker room with her and hide in the bathroom until everyone had finished changing."

"That's okay." Rachel smiled. "So?"

"So, uh." Quinn took a few steps closer. "Did you want to discuss exit strategies?"

"I think we should, and that reminds me, you'd be wise to move your car at lunch. Preferably off of school grounds."

"Why?"

"Because if you don't it will be wheel-less by the time you leave school. Or, should I say, try and leave school."

"Okay." Quinn chuckled over it. "Whose idea was that?"

"Mine. Sorry! I didn't think anyone would go for it. Team-Berry isn't known for its physical prowess. But now we have Mike."

Quinn's eyes narrowed at his name, and then un-narrowed. "It's no big deal, I'll just move my car." She hesitated before continuing. "There's a rumor going around about you."

Rachel sighed, her sixth sense was never wrong. "I figured. What is it?"

"That you got Mr. Ryerson fired because he stopped sleeping with you for a better singer."

"He was not a better singer!" She paused to recognize how that sounded. "And I was not sleeping with that letch!"

"I know."

"Was this Santana's work? Because if so I think I have to up my game. No more Mister . . ."

"No, it was me."

"Oh."

"Santana would have come up with worse!"

"Perhaps."

"You know she would have."

"Maybe."

There was a tense, silent stalemate for a minute. Rachel broke it first, not able to take the heated look in Quinn's eyes anymore.

"So you wanted to discuss strategy."

Quinn took another couple of steps closer. "Not really."

"So your morning sickness is severe?"

"Yeah, it's bad."

Quinn looked in perfect health despite flushed cheeks.

"Well, if I can help?"

Quinn took another step closer. "I don't want to take advantage."

Rachel smiled bashfully, "I was hoping for this even before I got your note. Not for you to feel sick obviously," she added quickly. "Just, you know, to spend some time with you."

Quinn's answering smile was equally shy but she sounded confident when she said, "Lean up against the wall."

Rachel raised curious eyebrows but walked backwards a few steps until her shoulders met the rough brick of the workshop. Quinn followed her, arms sliding around her waist and nose tucking against the collar of the light jacket she was wearing.

"Is this okay?" she mumbled.

"No."

Quinn pulled backwards immediately which was perfect because it gave Rachel the room to unzip her jacket and shrug it from her shoulders she didn't need it when Quinn was keeping her more than warm.

Getting the message, and reading more into it, Quinn pulled on her ponytail tie and shook her hair out, but as the blonde came closer again the unfamiliarity of it all made Rachel bring her palms up in hesitation.

"Wait! Can we just, um . . ."

Quinn's assertiveness was hardly out-of-the-blue but it was disarming to experience in this situation. This still felt unreal, that they could do this. That it was okay to even think about doing this. That Quinn actually wanted to do this and not just for health reasons anymore. It was really hard to process, especially considering the way her excited blood was thundering in her ears and racing through her heart.

"Oh! I didn't mean to . . ."

Quinn backpedaled ungracefully as she tried to retie her hair and give Rachel back some personal space. No! She'd just needed a minute to appreciate and accept the enormity of it all but in doing so she'd accidentally rejected the other girl's advances!

Rachel caught her shoulders before she could get very far. "Where are you going?"

Quinn stopped but was still tense and there remained a foot space between them. "This is . . ." she paused and then made a good effort at meeting Rachel's eyes. "You think this is too weird, right? Unconventional at best?"

"If necessary I think it's a morning sickness cure and nothing else," Rachel said, her voice coming out much calmer than how she felt inside. "And we've already discussed how it isn't wise to deprive your baby of what it needs. And in case you haven't noticed, there's not much about me that is conventional."

A beat passed before Quinn moved closer. "I thought you were changing your mind again. I wouldn't blame you. It is weird and it's always going to be weird."

"Never, Quinn, I want y. . . to be here for you." As she cringed at her slip Quinn just nodded her head, oblivious.

Rachel leant her head back against the wall, tilting it just slightly to the side and that, and the little touch she placed on Quinn's side, was enough to have the other girl taking two tiny steps closer.

She held her breath, not sure if this was going where she thought it was. Maybe she was just feeling delusional from too much anticipation and not enough sleep. Until Quinn leaned into her. Rachel tensed even harder than before, and almost immediately relaxed just as hard, like she had received a shot of muscle relaxant directly into where that was best put directly. Eyes closed, she kind of melted into Quinn; the feeling became even more intense when arms wrapped around her, hands gently resting against her back.

"You okay?" was murmured into her ear.

Was she?

"Are you cuddling me right now?" she murmured back.

It sounded so stupid a thing to ask. Quinn was going to think she was so lame.

"Yes. Or sort of. I kind of have my arms around you. I don't know if I'd call it cuddling. I can really stop if you want?"

Was Quinn nervous? It almost made Rachel laugh. She didn't though. Her arms had been sort of loosely surrounding Quinn's upper arms. Now she slid them up to wrap around her neck. This was a gamble, but after the past twenty-four hours the odds had to be in her favor.

"Please don't."

Quinn made absolutely no effort to break away.

The tip of a nose trailed delicately across her skin, tickling her in the most delicious way, before settling in a spot and pressing more firmly. She felt Quinn inhale and it made her knees go weak and how could something so small have such a grand effect? It defied sense.

Was it too soon to kiss her ear?

Probably. She didn't want to scare her off and they were on school grounds after all. Not that that had stopped her yesterday but then they'd been in a locked bathroom, and she hadn't done it for pleasure which didn't mean she hadn't achieved a great amount of pleasure from it, but it was a lot more daunting to be so forward without an ulterior motive.

Then something occurred to her. "I suspect I'm probably wrong, but did you take me to the bowling alley because you wanted to, and not because you wanted a scholarship?"

There was a pause before Quinn answered. "I took you to the bowling alley to get a scholarship."

Oh well, it had just been an idea.

"Because if I didn't, Finn was going to and I didn't want you going out with Finn."

"Understandable, after all he is your boyfriend."

"No, I didn't want you going out with Finn!"

"Like I said . . ."

Quinn interrupted her, "Read between the lines, Berry."

She did. "Oh."

Blushing, Rachel pressed her face to Quinn's neck. It was the first time she'd done it and, "Oh, I see why you like this."

Quinn chuckled.

"Your neck is so smooth!"

"Uh, thank you."

They held each other in silence for a few minutes and Rachel sampled the same pleasure Quinn was taking from her. Quinn's neck smelled so fresh. Not that she'd expected it to be dirty or anything but so fresh, like a spring morning or an alpine forest or something.

As well mannered as always (well, often) Quinn returned the compliment. "Whatever you use for shower gel, I should bottle and sell it. We could make millions."

"I'm afraid somebody already beat us to it. They call it Citrus Blast and it's available from several retailers in the local area that have ethically responsible health and beauty departments."

A warm chuckle disturbed the fine hairs behind her ear, "I was trying to be funny."

"Oh. Maybe you should . . ."

The words evaporated with the first touch of lips on her skin and just like the night before Rachel felt her pulse quicken with the soft contact. Her arms tightened instinctively around Quinn's neck.

She thought her reaction had been subtle but Quinn made a low sound in the back of her throat and kissed her neck again so maybe not.

Rachel almost returned the gesture but then remembered how much Quinn liked the other thing. Before she could follow through on either, Quinn's phone chirped to signal a message, causing the girl to groan against her neck, the sound sending a vibration through Rachel that made her hips pitch.

"Shouldn't you check that?" she asked when Quinn made no move to.

"Probably."

"I'm not going anywhere."

Reluctantly, Quinn pulled away and delved into her bag by their feet. Pulling her cell phone out she pulled up the message as she was standing again. She froze halfway, knees still bent and suddenly shaky if it was fair to judge by the tightened grip on her upper arm. In the unusual position of being eye to eye Rachel could see that Quinn's had grown wide as they flitted rapidly from side to side, re-reading the text.

"Shit." Quinn stared at her in helplessness and frustration as her fist clenched around her cell-phone and her distress was emphasized. "Shit!"


Chapter Thirty-Five

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