Rachel was aware that every eye in the room was on her right now but she didn't acknowledge any of them. Her heart was breaking and they didn't know or care, so they could kiss her behind.
Despite her best intentions she caught Mr. Schuester's eye as he moved towards her and he managed to look both sympathetic and condemning.
"Rachel, maybe you should take a minute in my office."
"I'm fine right here," she said through gritted teeth. "Please just continue the lesson."
"I think the lesson should be about how you don't force your tongue down someone's . . ."
"Santana, that's enough!" Mr. Schuester snapped. "Rachel, I'm not asking. Wait in my office."
She huffed but did as she told. As she went through the door she heard him say,
"The rest of you take your seats and stay in them until I get back. Anyone who doesn't will be out of the club and I'm not kidding about that."
The door closed behind her, cutting off any remarks her fellow Glee-clubber's might have made to his threat. She didn't want to hear them anyway. She sank into the chair opposite his desk and put her head in her hands.
How had everything gone from so right just a few hours ago to . . . this? She'd really thought Quinn liked her! She'd seemed so sincere and they'd gotten on so well last night and this morning. Had it really been a lie? Had Quinn really just been using her again?
Her turning up last night had been out of the blue, and Quinn had ended up sniffing her t-shirt. And again this morning Quinn had had her face buried in her neck pretty quickly. But it was more than that, surely? They'd talked and danced and today they'd even kissed a little. Had Quinn really only done all of that because she wanted to keep stringing her along for her fabric softener? It felt inconceivable. And yet likely. Because in what known universe would Quinn Fabray have genuine feelings for Rachel Berry?
Of course it was true.
Unable to help herself, she started crying into her hands.
"Quinn, wait a minute!"
She groaned when she heard Mr. Schuester call to her. She just wanted to get away and pretend none of that had happened! Why did he have to go and follow her? She experienced a split-second of anxiety about Rachel being left alone in the room with everyone else, but she shook it off. She was feeling guilty but she was also still angry, and sympathy for Berry who if she'd just kept her freaking mouth shut could have avoided all of this was hard to find right now.
She turned where the corridors met in a wide crossroad, tennis shoes squeaking against the linoleum and her right hand landing defensively on her hip. "What?"
He'd run after her and took a second to smooth down his tie as he steadily looked her in the eye. "I know you just want to go home right now, Quinn, but I think it might be a good idea if I schedule you an appointment with Miss Pillsbury. How does tomorrow sound? I think what happened with Rachel is something you need to talk about . . . with a professional."
"I'm not interested in talking about it."
"Clearly it is something you need to talk about or else you wouldn't have sent that text to your friends."
She rolled her eyes. "I didn't send that text, Mr. Schue. Santana did. She stole my phone because she was mad at me for lying to her about something and . . . she's just messing with Rachel because that's what we do."
"Well, it was thoughtless of her to spread it around like that, but she did right by bringing it to my attention. I'll have a word with Rachel, make sure she's knows to respect your personal boundaries . . ."
Quinn's bitter laughter cut him off.
"Rachel's like, three feet tall! Do you really think she could get close enough to kiss me if I didn't want her to kiss me?"
Her message carried through, she could tell by the flicker of judgement widening his deep-set blue eyes. "Oh. I see."
"You do?" She gave that same sour laugh again. "I'm glad one of us does."
"Maybe you should have a talk with Miss Pillsbury anyway."
"No thank you. I'm never going to have to worry about Rachel being in my personal space again after that. So problem solved, right?"
She cast a glance over his shoulder towards the choir room, all she wanted was for Rachel to come after her too and yell really loudly so that they could get past this, but the hallways stayed Berry-free. She wiped a tear from her cheek with the base of her thumb.
"Quinn . . ."
Helplessly, she shook her head, having no idea how to articulate her mixed-up feelings to the teacher. "I don't want to quit Glee club, but . . .." She turned to go but stopped after a few steps and looked back at him. "Everyone in that room always seems to be out for Rachel's blood, and I don't know how to be the one person who's not."
"Rachel's strong, Quinn. She'll be okay until you figure it out."
"And what if I never do?" He didn't have an answer for that. She took a breath and asked something she was dreading the answer to. "You won't tell Finn? I know he's like your prodigy or something."
"I won't say a word," he promised immediately. "Although, given your situation, maybe you should, when you're ready."
"I don't think I'll ever be ready."
She had nothing else to add and there was nothing else she wanted to hear. With a nod, she turned and walked away.
Will walked back into the Choir Room to find everyone still in their seats as instructed but gossiping wildly about everything that had happened, and had allegedly happened.
He was still reeling from it himself. Still horrified by the idea that Rachel was capable of forcing herself on Quinn, because despite what Rachel believed he truly did respect her, for her talent and her determination to succeed. Maybe if he'd had a little more of the latter he would be a performer now instead of someone teaching other people how to perform.
Not that he didn't love being a teacher . . . except right now. Right now he'd rather be doing anything else.
It made him immensely pleased to hear Quinn's real side of the story it was a lot easier on him but his heart went out to the two girls who were obviously struggling with something bigger than either of them could cope with.
"Okay, guys, enough talking." He clapped his hands to make sure he had their attention. "Let's leave this week's assignment for today and run through 'It Takes Two' again. We still need to perfect a lot of the choreography."
"B-b-but Mr. Schue, we can't d-do that without Q-Quinn and R-Rachel."
"Of course we can, Tina. Kurt can take Rachel's part for now and Artie can take Quinn's."
Kurt clapped excitedly while Santana looked dubious.
"You expect us to spin around on that?"
"Hey, these wheels were made for spinning, baby!" Artie did a spin in his chair to prove it.
"Call me 'baby' again and I'll put you in a spin."
"Just make it work, guys. I'll be back in a minute."
Inside his office Rachel stood up as soon as she heard the door and turned to face him. Her eyes were red from crying.
"Mr. Schuester, I know you don't think all that highly of me but you have to believe that I am being falsely accused!"
"Just take a seat, Rachel."
She didn't. "You can't kick me out of Glee! Even if I had made improper overtures to Quinn which I did not! you can't hold that against me. I'm a teenager! We misunderstand signals all the time. Noah makes inappropriate advances on girls every single hour of the day and nobody reprimands him!"
"Rachel, it's okay. Please calm down. I just spoke to Quinn."
"You can't believe a word that comes out of that girl's mouth, Mr. Schuester! She's been out to get me since the day we met."
"She told me the truth."
"I highly doubt that."
"I promise you, she did." At least he couldn't imagine that what she'd told him was a lie. "She feels bad about what just happened."
"I hope she does."
"She implied that what happened in the bathroom yesterday didn't happen the way it was explained."
"Oh." Rachel exhaled harshly and sat down. "And?"
"Like I said, she feels bad."
"Maybe you should talk to her about it."
"I have nothing to say to her. She humiliated me. I hope she feels bad about it for a long time."
"Is that really how you feel?"
He didn't believe her, but didn't push it. "Okay. Well, Rachel, this isn't a punishment by any means, but I think you should go home now. The session has been disrupted enough and I don't think you should have to go through any more today."
"I will not be run out!"
"I'm not running you out. I expect you back here tomorrow ready to perform your assignment piece." He smiled at her. "But for now, I think you should call it a day. Let everyone, including yourself, settle down a little. You're important to this club, Rachel, but we need twelve members, that means everyone has to be comfortable here."
"Quinn's not going to come back."
He didn't tell her that he knew better. "Hopefully she will when she calms down. If not, we still have six weeks to find a twelfth member."
"And an eleventh," she reminded, head bowed. "Mike."
He didn't think the boy had left the club so much as just the room anyway. And he hadn't even been aware of any relationship between Rachel and Mike before today so they couldn't be that serious. Mind you, he hadn't been aware of any relationship between Rachel and Quinn either and look how that had blown up out of the blue.
"I'll talk to him," he promised. "And maybe you could try explaining things to him."
"I wouldn't even know where to start." She shook her head like she really meant that. "And if I did try it would probably just cause Quinn to spout more lies."
"I'm not condoning her behavior today, but I honestly think Quinn is just very confused."
"And that makes it okay to treat me like . . . like this?"
Will shook his head but his words were neutral and textbook. "Sometimes people lash out where they're scared. It doesn't make it okay, but if you two are friends maybe you can try looking past it."
"We're not friends, Mr. Schue. We never have been and we never will be. But thank you for trying to make me feel better." Rachel stood up, gathering her bag from the floor and pulling the strap over her shoulder. "I think I'll take your advice and go now. But I will be back tomorrow!"
He nodded, "I hope you are." She was at the door before he added, "I understand why you've been so distracted recently now. I know this must be hard for you. If you want to talk to me or Miss Pillsbury about this just know that both of our doors are always open."
"I appreciate that, Mr. Schue, but honestly I'm fine. If anything it's a relief to find out that Quinn can't change her spots sooner rather than later. I don't need that kind of negative energy in my life."
"Rachel . . ."
But she was already gone and the door closed softly behind her.
Cruel and derogatory catcalls followed Rachel as she walked across the Choir Room. They mostly came from Santana, with a few sexually explicit comments from Puck and a:
"Damn, Girl, you gotta turn everything into a histrionics parade, don't you," from Mercedes.
Rachel ignored them all as she walked to the door, head held high, but every single one bit deep.
Quinn had walked out of the school and across the parking lot wanting nothing more than to go home and cry, and possibly eat too much low-fat peach ice cream, and then cry some more.
She honestly couldn't tell how or when she had become so hung up on Rachel Berry, but it had happened! And now that Quinn had crushed her underfoot like a bug, she wanted comfort food - a lot of it - and a big blanket to hide under until this feeling went away.
Even though the confrontation in Glee had felt like it lasted for hours long, school had only let out twenty minutes ago. Most students left the second the final bell rang, but the parking lot wasn't completely empty and that's why she was within ten feet of her car before she noticed something was wrong with it.
Something really wrong.
Like it had no wheels.
Crap! With everything that had happened since, she'd forgotten to move her car. Now it was up on blocks and totally tireless.
She hated Rachel Berry.
What did she do now? Finn obviously hadn't followed her when she'd stormed out and she didn't want to wait around for another hour and half until Glee club ended because then everyone would see she'd been made a fool of, again. She thought about calling her Dad, but he'd still be at work and probably wouldn't appreciate the interruption. More importantly, he'd want to know why someone had taken the wheels off in the first place and would cause a big fuss until he found out.
She didn't want her Dad finding out that she was the victim of a prank. Even more she didn't want her Dad finding out she was the victim of a prank at the hands of Rachel Berry's loser friends. Even more than that she didn't want him finding out why Berry's loser friends were pranking her in the first place.
'It's all just foreplay, Daddy, no really.'
Except it wasn't. It couldn't be mistaken for foreplay when she knew Rachel would never want to come near her again. It had been that, all their feuding antics the past few weeks had been enticing them to make something of it, to push the weird spark between them further. It had been so much fun when it had all been a secret, something beyond the curtain of the Glee war, something no one else would ever guess.
Except Santana had guessed and now everything was a mess. The curtain had been torn down and their secret might still have been their own but it was tarnished now beyond something either of them could enjoy.
Quinn stared at her wheel-less car and had no idea what to do about anything.
Rachel called her Dad as she walked out of school's main entrance, half expecting him to say he was still at work and wouldn't be able to get there. After all, she was finishing Glee an hour and a half earlier than usual and it wasn't like her Dads planned their schedules around her so much now that she was in high school.
He picked up one ring before it would have gone to voicemail and she explained Glee had been cut short, but not why. Although she might tell him later. She really needed to talk to someone and she was clearly back to having no friends again.
Her Dad was just on his way out from work to get groceries before picking her up and he was happy to switch it around so she could help him shop. With a weak smile she thanked him.
She was halfway to the pick-up point when she saw Quinn. Her bright red car stood out in a sea of empty spaces. The blonde, hands on her hips, was standing beside it, frowning. Rachel planned to ignore her and keep walking but a second later she really noticed Quinn's car up on blocks, without tires.
Darn! She'd forgotten about it but now she realized what Kurt had been talking about at lunch. A surge of anger flared through her at her so-called friends playing both sides, but then Quinn turned around and their eyes caught despite the distance and her anger had a new focus.
Quinn half-smiled and made a hand gesture towards her car as if to say, 'So, yeah, it happened.'
Rachel gave one curt nod.
Quinn's next gesture was much clearer, because as subtle as she'd tried to make it the 'come here' curl of her fingers was impossible to misread.
Rachel shook her head.
Quinn made the hand gesture again and raised her eyebrow for good measure.
Rachel hesitated, because that eyebrow was like the honey to her bee. Also, Quinn wanted her to go over there! How could she resist?
It wasn't easy, but she did.
Rachel walked away. She didn't even look back. Hardest thing she'd ever done in her life.
Her Dad pulled up just as she got to the curb, which was a relief because if she'd had to wait she might have turned around.
She slipped into the passenger seat, asking, "Dad, can you change a tire?"
He glanced at her, bemused, as he put the car back into 'drive'. "They won't be hiring me at NASCAR any time soon but yes I can hold my own. Why? Do you want to learn how, Sweetpea?"
"No, at least not today. It might be useful in the future though. But right now, if it's okay with you, I'd like you to drive into the school lot, park as far away from the red car you'll see in there as you can, and then go help the owner put her tires back on."
"Okay," the car started to move forward. "Can you tell me what happened?"
"Not really. Let's just say I've made several mistakes in the last few weeks and they've led to this."
"Okay." Her Dad followed her instructions to the letter. When they were parked at the far end of the lot, he asked, "So are you going to come and introduce me to you friend?"
"She's not my friend, and no. I'd also prefer it if you didn't mention my name."
Her Dad looked more perplexed than ever but nodded. He got out and looked over at the shiny, red Volkswagen he was supposed to be helping. He frowned and stuck his head back in the door.
"Uh, Rach . . .?"
"I have it on good authority that the wheels are in the alcove behind the gym." At least that's where they'd originally planned to hide them. "But I promise it wasn't me that put them there. Tell Quthe girl, she'll know where, but don't let her lift them, okay?"
"You're not usually one for giving equal opportunities a back seat."
Her Dad nodded a few times, digesting the information. "Okay, no heavy lifting."
As he walked away, Rachel wanted to call him back with every step he took, but as much as she hated Quinn she still couldn't stand to see her suffering.
Quinn was still staring forlornly at her car. Partly because she didn't even know where her wheels were, let alone how to put them back on, and partly because of the way Rachel had just walked away from her. She knew she shouldn't expect anything more but that didn't stop it hurting.
It scared her, and not for the first time, how much she felt like she needed Rachel around. And now she wouldn't be . . . oh God . . .
Great, now she was freaking out, because Rachel really wouldn't be around. There was no way to come back from this. If she told Rachel she had been lying it would just prove how easily she could lie, and why would Rachel ever believe a word she said after that. If she went to Rachel's now and told her that everything she'd said was bull and that she really did like her, Rachel would just think it was another ploy to use her.
So basically, she was screwed.
Suddenly she could hear steady footsteps coming her way across the almost empty parking lot. They were too heavy to be Rachel's but who else could be out here with her? She spun around, expecting it to be Finn or Puck thinking they were funny by trying to sneak up on her, but instead a wiry, middle-aged black guy was approaching.
"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you."
"You didn't," she lied.
He smiled and it reminded her of someone. "Good. So you look to be having some trouble."
Eyeing him warily, she was still trying to assess why he seemed familiar even though she was sure she had never seen the guy around school before. Maybe he was the new janitor. They were typically faceless until you were forced to have a conversation with one, like about missing keys or how dumpsters weren't really designed to hold human beings (apparently all the thrashing put a strain on the little metal wheels). This one wasn't Brittany's friend, that guy was Japanese, so if he was coming over to tell her off for loitering on school grounds after hours name-dropping probably wouldn't get her out of it.
"Well, you have no tires."
"Oh, right." She felt embarrassed. Was he going to report her for using the parking lot like an auto-repair shop? "They were stolen."
"A little bird told me they might be in the alcove behind the gym."
Quinn's eyes narrowed suspiciously and then it clicked into place. She probably had seen him at the school before but more recently she'd been surrounded by photos of him and his family.
Confidently she unmasked him, "You're one of Rachel's Dads."
"I'm apparently not at liberty to say. However, I am LeRoy Berry." He offered his hand.
She really wanted to run away and hide behind Puck's truck until the not-quite-a-stranger went away. He'd obviously come over to reprimand her for her treatment of Rachel that afternoon. Worse, what if Rachel had told him everything? What if he knew they'd been . . . well, whatever they'd sort of been doing. It was still undefined in her mind; a weird hybrid of a friendly physical comfort she hadn't known she was craving and her first real experiences of lust (which, you know, ditto on the craving).
She wouldn't run and so she shook hands politely "Quinn Fabray. It's nice to meet you."
They'd already released hands so it was only by the slight twitch of his eyebrows and the straightening of his shoulders that she could tell he'd tensed up at her name.
"Quinn Fabray. Uh, okay. It's nice to meet you too. Why don't we go and find your tires?"
If she was feeling more herself and not like she was walking around with black thunderheads hovering mere inches above her (and if she wasn't just a little bit intimidated that this was Rachel's Dad and although it was probably pointless now she still felt compelled to make a decent impression) she would have cared more about his reaction. She would have asked if Rachel had been telling tales about her out of school; or at the very least made a sarcastic crack about her reputation proceeding her. She didn't have the energy or the inclination to do either this afternoon and settled for giving him a sidelong glance as they walked across the parking lot.
"So, a certain someone I'm not allowed to name wasn't very forthcoming about what happened. Care to enlighten me?"
Mentioning feud-foreplay probably wasn't a good idea. "The Glee Club is kind of having a prank war. I guess it was my turn."
"And that certain someone is behind it?"
"No," she lied quickly. Not that he sounded like he was angry with his daughter, just surprised if anything. "Someone just got caught up in it."
"I see. Oh, look, here we are."
They'd walked around between the sports field and the back of the school to the entrance next to the gym; to one side of it was a high-walled area with an unlatched gate. Quinn didn't know what it had originally been built for, maybe to house trash cans or something, but ever since she'd been at William McKinley it had only been used for storing sports crap and making out. Not that she'd ever made out with anyone in here, but she knew it was one of Santana's regular haunts especially on game nights when apparently the background roar of a hundred booing Titans' fans gave a hook-up that extra edge.
Her tires were just inside the gate, three propped up one after the other against the wall and the fourth lying flat on its side
She squatted to deal with that one first, intending to grab and lift.
"Careful, Quinn, they're heavy," LeRoy Berry warned her.
She gave him a dubious look as he picked up one in each hand with ease. "They don't look that heavy to me."
"I'm deceptively strong."
"No offense intended, Mr. Berry, but it must be very deceptive."
He gave a laugh, a proper guffaw almost identical to Rachel's the night before when they'd been dancing like idiots and it made her smile automatically and feel like someone had just taken one of her tires and swung it full strength at her chest.
"That sounds like a challenge to me," he said as he deftly flicked the last tire onto its tread with his feet, steadying it until it was perfectly balanced. "I'll clearly have to prove you wrong, but not with a tire-lifting competition, okay?"
"The sport of kings, of course. Arm-wrestling!"
She grinned, "I should warn you then that my arms are pretty strong. I regularly lift girls bigger than me over my head."
"For fun? Well, it takes all kinds."
"I'm a cheerleader!"
"Oh, well it should be an interesting match then. For now why don't you just roll that back to the car?"
How on earth had she just agreed to arm-wrestle Rachel Berry's dad? Then what he was implying set in and she was annoyed all over again.
"Rachel told you that I'm . . ." She couldn't finish the sentence. It was still too daunting to admit the truth to an adult.
"I don't know this Rachel you're talking about it," he joked, "but, yes, I'm aware you shouldn't be lifting anything heavy."
He walked off then, back out of the alcove and towards the parking lot, carrying two of the tires and nudging the third along in front of him with his foot. After a moment she started rolling her tire with her hands and caught up with him, waiting for a lecture on the perils of neglecting the wonders of abstinence.
It never came and she was inclined to prod him for some kind of response. After all, wasn't he was supposed to be a parent? Shouldn't he be grilling her over who the father was, what was she doing about it, why was his precious pumpkin (or whatever his pet name for Rachel was and she just knew he had one because Rachel inspired pet names from everyone) hanging around such a morally bankrupt young lady? Shouldn't he be demanding her number to call her father and inform him of her situation?
They were back at her car before she could follow through on giving him any stupid ideas and, after dropping all three of his tires gently to the ground, he walked away without a word.
That was it? He'd just come over to help her find the tires. She stared hopelessly at her crippled car again. How was she supposed to put them back on? The only thing she knew about car maintenance was how to get someone else to fill her gas tank for her.
She wanted to follow him, to either beg for help or at least get a few tips, but she could see another figure in the passenger seat of the car he was approaching. A small, dark haired figure of a girl and just knowing she was sitting there made Quinn's stomach lurch in a good way and her chest tighten in a bad way and . . . this was insane! And she was not going anywhere near that car.
LeRoy Berry went to the trunk and she watched as he simultaneously pulled something out of it and had a conversation with the car's occupant. She was too far away to hear his side of the conversation let alone the other side but she ducked her head and listened hard anyway, just in case.
The next thing she heard beyond the traffic and bird song were his footsteps coming back towards her. He was carrying a couple of tools with him and with just a grin 'hello' he went straight to work on putting her tires back in their rightful place.
"By the look of relief on your face I'd say you thought I was about to abandon you."
"I admit it crossed my mind. Rachel would probably want you to."
"She who will still not be named just yelled at me for three minutes because she thought I was too."
Quinn's shy smile crept over her before she could stop it. She ducked her head to hide, but it was too late. She'd been caught.
"I can handle this. It won't take long. Why don't you go over there and keep her company?"
"No, I don't think so." Almost as soon as that sentence was out another followed on its heels. "Did she say she wanted me to?"
"No," he admitted. "But she's upset about something. Maybe you could get her to talk about it?"
Quinn would like nothing more. "I don't think that's a good idea. Rachel and I aren't really friends."
"I know you two have a history."
Yes, and all they had now was a history, thanks to Santana!
"I'm the reason she's upset."
"There are no tires on your car," he reminded her with a small grin.
She rolled her eyes with her own little grin. "Actually that happened before."
"And the plot thickens."
"I'd rather not talk about it, if you don't mind."
"Nope, not at all. If you're staying why don't you hand me those bolts?"
The bolts had all been left where they'd dropped and she gathered all of the ones from the near side in her hands and waited for him to need them.
It took about twenty minutes for him to get all four tires back on and tightened safely and Quinn alternated that time between helping where she could and surreptitiously watching Rachel through the rear window of his car. The other girl never once looked back, but one time she was sure she saw Rachel's shoulders hunch and shake as she dropped her head forward.
It was nearly enough to make her walk over there and rap on the window but she wouldn't be welcomed and she wasn't giving Berry the chance to tell her to get lost. Not on school grounds at least when anybody could walk past and see them. It was bad enough she was accepting help from her dad. If Santana decided to leave Glee early and saw this . . .? Santana's first thought wouldn't be that the guy saw she was in trouble and was doing his good deed for that day. And it wouldn't be that Rachel was a big enough person to help the bitch who had just humiliated her. It would be 'Oh, look, isn't that sweet? Quinn's bonding with her new father-in-law!'
And it was a distressing enough thought on its own, but it doubled when she realized she still didn't feel this at ease with Finn's mom and she'd been dating the boy six months now. Sure, she and Carol exchanged pleasantries and she'd been to a few family dinners more than Finn had been to her at her house but there was always that air of 'You're okay, but are you really worthy of my son?'
Quinn didn't mind it; honestly, she didn't even really notice it much. Besides, she knew now that she wasn't worthy of Finn so it made sense that Carol Hudson thought that, but she also knew Finn wasn't as perfect as his mom thought he was either. He'd kissed Rachel behind her back after all. Okay, so he hadn't knocked the girl up or anything, but it was still cheating.
Did the fact that she'd kissed Rachel too cancel that out?
If everyone had believed Rachel's version of the truth instead of hers, would he have dumped her on the spot even though he thought she was carrying his baby?
Did she maybe wish that had happened?
"Okay, we're all done." LeRoy was standing up and dusting off the knees of his black suit pants.
In the time she'd been lost in thought he'd removed all of the blocks and lowered her car back down on the jack so that it was once more resting on all four wheels as God had intended.
She smiled gratefully. "Thank you, Mr. Berry. I really appreciate your help."
"You're welcome." He collected his tools and sounded hopeful as he asked, "So did you want to at least come and say goodbye?"
She glanced at the car again and maybe if this time Rachel had been looking through the rear window she might have, but she wasn't.
"Okay, well, take care, Quinn."
He'd gone six steps when she blurted out, "But tell her I'll be on Facebook later." As he turned back to smile at her she shrugged lamely and added, "You know, if she's bored or something."
He nodded. "I will." He went another step or two before turning back again. "And don't think I've forgotten, you and me, a battle to determine the arm-wrestling champion of the universe!"
She smirked, "I'm looking forward to it."
And, although it was crazy, she kind of meant it.
She cast one last look past LeRoy's retreating back to the girl who was still refusing to acknowledge her.
She just had to figure out how to make it a possibility.
"You two seemed awfully chummy," Rachel snapped.
"Is that how you speak to someone who just did you a favor?" her Dad asked as he slipped back into the drivers seat. His voice was sterner than she was used to.
"Sorry. Thank you."
"Accepted. She seems like a nice girl. Why don't you want to be friends with her?"
"She's a horrible girl!" Rachel's emotions were still too raw and how could her Dad take Quinn's side over hers? "And if you want to know why we're not friends it's because she thinks I'm too far beneath her to be friends with."
"You're not beneath anyone, Rachel. Quinn would be lucky to have you as a friend."
Well, that was a little better. "Try telling her that."
"I think she wanted to come over and sit with you, but she didn't think you'd be receptive."
"Of course she did," she scoffed, quickly followed by a meeker, "You really think so?"
Her Dad smiled, looking both ways and pulling out of the parking lot. "Yes. So is there something going on between you two your Daddy and I should know about?"
His tone was playful but Rachel sank in her seat a little, folding her arms tight across her chest. "I promise you there is really not, nor will there ever be, something going on between Quinn Fabray and I."
"Okay, Sweetpea, forget I asked."
They drove the rest of the way to Walmart in silence. Rachel stayed slumped in the passenger seat. She knew she probably looked like she was sulking, but really she was just trying not to start crying again. She wasn't wasting any more tears on Quinn.
Hating her right now hadn't stopped Rachel from watching her in the rear-view mirror the entire time they'd been putting the tires back on the car. She'd seen Quinn look over several times, every few minutes really, but it hadn't softened the hurt inside. The lies she had told were bad enough, really bad, but the idea that Quinn had been using her again?
What was wrong with her that she kept falling for it? Did she have 'easy target' tattooed on her head, in invisible ink that only Quinn actually everyone at school could read? She wasn't a push over, she knew she wasn't, and yet she kept falling for the blonde's false seduction.
Did she really just like Quinn so much that she was prepared to be a fool for her?
Well, not anymore. She couldn't imagine what the rest of the semester was going to be like from here. Nobody had liked her much before but now they all felt they had a reason to actively hate her and it was all lies! At least for the last few weeks she'd had this thing with Quinn to make her not care so much about everyone else. Now it was all going to be horrible.
If only they could skip back time a day. Or not a whole day, she didn't want to lose last night even if it had been a lie, but just to that morning, to a time where she could still believe Quinn actually liked her. To a time where it had almost felt like they were falling into something deeper together.
To a time before Quinn had destroyed all hope of this thing between them being real.
"Oh, by the way," her dad spoke again as they were pulling into a parking space. "Quinn told me to tell you she'll be on Facebook later if you want to chat."
Rachel's thoughts came to a crashing halt at those words. "Really?"
Quinn pushed her dinner around her plate for twenty minutes before claiming she was too tired from Cheerios practice to eat much.
She hadn't had practice that afternoon but it wasn't like her parents kept a close eye on her school schedule. Her Mom did give her a concerned look as she stood and picked up her full plate, but didn't say anything. Her dad just gave her a smile and a nod as she passed his chair.
As soon as she was in her bedroom she turned on the computer, but stalled for time with a long, hot shower before logging onto Facebook.
Rachel wasn't logged on, apparently.
She checked Rachel's Myspace but there was no video.
She decided to do her homework, but spent more time checking back on Facebook and refreshing the Myspace page than actually concentrating on what she was supposed to be doing.
Rachel ate about three bites of dinner and that made her feel sick. Quinn had killed her appetite completely. Why was she surprised? Was there anything she hadn't ruined?
Her Daddy was about to comment on it, but she saw her Dad subtly shake his head to discourage him and as much as she hated being so transparent she was grateful.
"I know we were going to watch that documentary on Liza Minnelli together tonight," she began as she grasped each side of her plate ready to leave the table. "But I'm not really in the mood after all."
"You're not in the mood for Liza Minnelli?" her daddy blurted before he could help himself.
"Not tonight. Maybe we could DVR it and watch it together another night?"
She left the table without waiting for an answer and heard her dads whispering to each other in her absence. She didn't even care. She just wanted to go upstairs and not log on to Facebook.
The first thing she did in her room was go to the bottom drawer of her dresser. She pulled the year book from beneath everything resting on it and let it fall open to the middle page. She scowled at Quinn smiling back at her before picking up the sheets of paper within. Discarding the pro/con list to the side she concentrated on the letter Quinn had written her the night of Noah's party.
She read it several times. Although to be honest she pretty much had it memorized by this point. She balanced the contents of the letter with what she'd experienced of Quinn in the last few days.
Or tried to.
It just didn't add up the way she'd imagine it to. There were . . . anomalies.
Quinn had spent hardly any time sniffing her neck this morning, she'd been so eager to kiss it.
No, there was only one feasible conclusion Rachel could come to. Quinn might be confused, she might be scared, and she might be a bitch because of those two things, but she probably hadn't been using her.
Rachel slowly folded the letter up. So Quinn actually liked her . . . and had still thrown her under the bus!
How could she do that?
How could any civilized human being do that?
Rachel hated her more than ever! And she logged on to Facebook to tell her just that.
Her profile page had barely loaded before a chat box popped up.
"Hey." Quinn must have been sitting there waiting for her.
Rachel went hot all over and froze in place, and as a result she didn't reply.
"If you don't want to talk to me just say so."
Rachel stared at the screen, her hands gripping tight to the edge of her desk.
"Can you at least give me some indication that you're there?"
It took a minute of even breathing before she could make her hands move properly to type a colon and open-parentheses to form an emoticon.
"Okay. Are you upset or angry?"
Shouldn't that have been obvious. "Both. Extremely."
The reply was quick in coming. "Me too."
Rachel didn't answer, provoking Quinn to add:
"You're as much to blame as I am! You told those losers you wanted to kiss me!"
Rachel's eyes went wide in disbelief. "I did not! I said it might be worth trying to combat your team's horribleness with kindness and see if it had a better effect. Mercedes was the one who said I should kiss you, I think."
She couldn't really remember. It had just been a casual conversation after all; or so she'd thought at the time.
"Yeah, well you screwed everything up."
Rachel didn't respond.
"You shouldn't have trusted them with anything!"
"I thought I was talking to my friends!" she typed angrily. "Why is it okay for you to converse with your friends how you wish, but it isn't for me?"
"How stupid are you? I told you they weren't your friends."
"Well, I apologize for thinking I could actually have a friend or two, despite your best attempts to ostracize me from our high school peerage!"
There was no response for a while, not even a courteous brb which made Rachel even angrier.
Eventually a rather weak response appeared on the screen. "Those losers were never your friends. They were just using you to get at me and Santana and Britt."
"So what were *you* using me for? I'm not so sure it's just my fabric softener anymore."
"I'm not using you, Rachel."
Despite having come to that assumption on her own already, the situation made it impossible not to needle at Quinn with it.
"That's not what you said earlier. You were quite happy to admit it. I'm sure you made Santana very proud."
"Arer yu freakign seriious" came back while Rachel's fingers were still resting on the keys. It was the typos that crashed through her momentary smugness; Quinn must be really upset. Enough so that when the next words appeared on her monitor she was more awake to them. "Are you sure, Berry? Is that really what I said?"
Yes she was sure of it! Wasn't she? Quinn had definitely said something that had left her in no doubt . . . very little doubt . . . but if that was true, why was she doubting it now? Was this more of Quinn's charm at work or . . . What exactly had she said again?
"I said: what do YOU think."
Rachel stared at the screen, re-reading the words. It did sound familiar, but it was hard to see how any point Quinn was trying to make would help Rachel see her in a better light. What was her angle now?
"Do you see your mistake?"
No, she didn't, and she was looking very hard for it.
"How would someone who actually had a little faith in me interpret that, do you think?"
Oh. Ohhhhh. Oh boy. She saw it now, but she was still indignant. How was she supposed to . . . actually, this was something that needed to be shared: "How was I supposed to pick up on that, Quinn. Hidden messages in speech rely on nuance and yours unkindly said the exact opposite."
"You left me no choice."
"Excuse me? I was the one being ganged up on!"
There was definitely no doubt about that. Quinn could have avoided the worst of the unpleasantness if she'd only continued to deny what Santana had said. Instead she'd folded to peer pressure and twisted the knife deep into Rachel's dream that they might be wasn't her fault that Quinn clearly placed Santana's friendship above her own. So none of this was her fault!
"This awful state of affairs occurred only because you prioritized Santana's expectations above your own. AND MINE. What did you even say to her this morning to make her come up with such a diabolical route of attack?"
"That you've been helping me with pregnancy stuff." No, that was too innocuous to be it. Rachel didn't doubt that Santana could spin gossip gold out of straw and dust but suspected even she'd need more than 'helpfulness' to launch an assault so incisive. Her belief was founded when more words appeared in Quinn's pale blue speech bubble. "She doesn't believe in altruism. She was convinced you have an ulterior motive, but I downplayed it. I said I didn't care, that it wasn't a big deal." A few seconds later another message followed. "And I guess she put that together with this rumor she was desperate to start and ran with it. I had to run too or it would have been knocked me down. And you? You just stood there in its oncoming path like an idiot and you wonder why everything DERAILED?"
Rachel didn't care about most of the words on the screen. Not even that Quinn was still trying to push the blame her way or the fact that she'd employed the over-used train crash analogy to describe what was happening between them (and to them). It was apt, she supposed. This conversation did feel like she was picking through the wreckage of her recent experiences. It was something else that commanded her, that stuck to her attention even while she was reading the rest, even though it was something that hadn't been said, but was definitely implied.
Rachel sat back in her chair, reading that again to make sure she had a case, and then typed, "So you told SANTANA I had a crush on you?"
There was no response, until she added: "And you call me stupid!"
"Hey, watch it!"
"Watch what, Quinn? The crash has happened. There's nothing else to see here."
"What do you want me to say, Rachel? That I'm sorry? You pushed us here. You opened your mouth first."
Well, that was rich! "It was all just speculation until you started LYING!"
"You know I can't afford that kind of speculation!"
Oh really, that was her excuse for behaving like an supercilious, self-serving bitch?
"And so because you can't handle your popularity dropping a few points it is okay to make me out to look like some kind of lesbian molester?"
The two minute silence convinced her she'd hit just the right note there, but when a reply was forthcoming it's simplicity, heck it's entire tone surprised her.
"I'll make it up to you."
Rachel deleted her first two replies of 'Really?' and 'How?' and settled on a much more realistic: "It's too late for that."
"No it's not. In fact, I've been thinking and this is actually kind of perfect."
Were they still talking about the same thing? Clueless, Rachel sent back a row of question marks.
"It is. Don't you see? After the performance we put on today no one will ever suspect a thing."
If this had been a verbal confrontation Quinn would have secured herself the victory by default of Rachel being ragingly speechless. Even alone in her bedroom she could only splutter out the opening words of sentences, each to be lost to the next half-formed resentful thought as the fury clawed its way up and stuck in her throat.
Her fingers still worked just fine though and there was just no way, no way, that Quinn could win this argument. And she wasn't going to charm her way out of it either.
"That was not a performance! It was the most humiliating ten minutes of my life. And really, I didn't think anything would top being cast into the boy's shower room in my teddy-bear underwear and training bra."
"I know it was rough but it has a good side. Rachel, we could make out in the middle of the lunch room now and just say you jumped me again ;)"
She wasn't proud of it but she did have to pause just for a moment to imagine making out with Quinn. Not in the lunch room, just . . . anywhere.
It didn't deter her from how annoyed and upset she was. "Did your fingers just slip inappropriately again or are you actually joking about this? This is serious, Quinn! As I was leaving the Choir room Santana said she was going to make sure Principal Figgins puts me on the school's sex offenders register!"
"Do we even have one of those?"
"I don't know, but I think if Santana has anything to do with it we will have by the morning!"
Gone were the sometimes lengthy gaps between replies, their messages were zipping back and forth so fast now they were probably making cyber space dizzy.
"I'll talk to her tomorrow." If Quinn was trying to be gallant she'd left it too late.
"And make it worse, I'm sure."
"From the way you're talking I shouldn't imagine it could get any worse."
"Yes, well we both know how much you love a challenge. I imagine one word from you in regards to me and Santana will have me dragged from the halls handcuffed to a burly police officer and charged with indecent assault."
"Fine, I won't talk to her."
"Of course you won't. God forbid you ever open your mouth to say something nice about me."
Rachel felt herself smile, well smirk really as she wondered what part of Quinn's body had sent that. Had she mashed the keys with her hands? Or was the nonsense a sign that she was frustrated enough to literally face plant the keyboard. Either way it was a small bright spot in a dismally dark evening.
"Look, Berry, your attitude is starting to piss me off. I don't have to waste my time on you, you know? You're not my boyfriend. I'm giving you the chance to carry on as if today didn't happen, so just do yourself a favor and take it."
Now it was Rachel that was two steps from repeatedly banging her forehead on her desk.
"You know that's what you want."
In theory! But it was impossible. Surely even Quinn could see that?
"How can I pretend today didn't happen? Everyone hates me more than ever."
"Finn thinks I went behind his back and kissed you."
"You did, but he's no better. He kissed you remember?"
That was true. She sometimes forgot about it now; that in a way her seduction of Finn in the auditorium was one of the catalysts for where she and Quinn had recently found themselves.
Yet even if Finn could find a way to balance out her misdeed with his own, it wouldn't solve everything. "Mike is never going to want anything to do with me ever again."
"What? You felt guilty about leading him on. Now you don't have to."
But he'd been her friend too.
Quinn was reading minds now. "You don't need friends who will so easily jump to horrible conclusions of you without even giving you the chance to explain."
Rachel sighed, that might have been sage advice coming from anyone else. "So it's better to only need the 'friends' who circulate the reasons for those horrible conclusions?"
"You backed me into a corner. I had no choice."
"There is always a choice, Quinn. You chose to lie about what happened between us to save your reputation."
"Okay, fine. Are you over it yet?"
"No, I'm not." Rachel counted to ten and then gave herself a thirty second pop quiz on the topic of how she was really feeling inside. Only when she was sure every thought and feeling were pointing her in the same direction did she begin to type again. "And I'm declining your offer to continue as if today never happened. It DID happen and on this occasion I don't think I'll be able to forgive you as easily as I have in the past. Moreover, I don't want to. I deserve better than someone who doesn't even feel I'm worthy of being friends with, let alone anything else."
She released a shaky breath on hitting the enter key. Already her mind was starting to cast doubt on her decision but she still felt good. Okay, she was a long way from good but it felt good to take back some control over her destiny.
"Whatever. You're boring me now. I don't need this crap. Good luck tomorrow, Sweetie; trust me when I say you're going to need it. Without me on your side you'll have no one."
Quinn's reply did give her resolve a wobble, but only a little one. After all, resorting to threats because she couldn't get her own way was hardly a crush-worthy attribute.
"With you on my side I already feel like I have no one. Every time I let my guard down around you I get hurt and now I have to worry about Santana and Brittany deliberately targeting me because of you too. AND now I know that you will help them if it means protecting yourself."
"We're going around in circles here."
Rachel shrugged even though there was no one to see her. "That's because there is nowhere else for us to go."
There was a long pause. Rachel dug her toes into her carpet and willed herself the strength to be proactive and claim the last word in the conversation by logging off. Instead of pitifully hoping that a reply would come.
It did come, eventually, after four minutes thirty-eight seconds of stress-related lip-chewing and finger-drumming.
"Okay." Rachel didn't understand why a single word answer warranted such a long delay, but then perhaps Quinn really was just bored now and had become distracted.
It wasn't a nice feeling, and so she echoed her in the hopes of being proven wrong. "Okay?"
"You've made your decision and you're probably right."
"I am?" She suddenly didn't want to be right. It was easier being stand-offish when Quinn was trying hard to win her back, or whatever it was she was doing. Maybe not back, just over, trying to win her over.
"Spending time with you is social suicide, Berry, especially now, and clearly you can't keep a secret to save your life. We should go back to the way things were." Did Quinn really mean that? Because suddenly it didn't sound like the thing Rachel wanted anymore. "We should just forget this ever happened. I'll live happily ever after with Finn and you can live happily ever after alone like you obviously want to."
"I never said I wanted to be alone."
"Too bad. Because that's what you're going to be after this. At least until high school's over. No boys are going to come near you now they think you're a lesbian, unless it's Puck looking for a threesome maybe." A few seconds later another comment arrived. "You know what gossip is like in school. It won't be long before everyone knows what you did."
"But I didn't do it!" she typed with tears in her eyes.
"Nobody's going to know that. Look, I'm not trying to be mean, I'm just telling you how it's going to be."
That just wasn't true! "You ARE being mean! That's all you can be. I don't know why I ever cared for you."
There was a shorter pause this time, a minute and a half and Rachel just let the tears fall without catching them.
"Whatever. I have to go now."
"Don't!" The word was on the screen before she could stop herself.
"I have to. I don't feel very well."
"Can I do anything to help?" Again the words just seemed to write themselves, Rachel's fingers just along for the ride.
"You can forgive me."
"I'm sorry, I just can't."
The next message to appear before her blurry, wet eyes was one telling her that Quinn Fabray had logged out.
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