Never Asked To Feel Your Halo


Chapter Five: If I Sang Out of Tune, Would You Stand Up And Walk Out On Me?

Thursday morning Rachel once again felt sleep-deprived but at least it was for a good cause this time. After staying up an hour past her usual bedtime to work on the Glee assignment, she had been wide awake again by five-thirty a.m. so that she could complete her usual routine (elliptical workout, shower, breakfast), her new routine (wash Quinn's towel, have minor panic attack about washing Quinn's towel incorrectly, spend far too long wondering why she was washing Quinn's towel in the first place) and get to school thirty-minutes earlier than normal so that she could stand in the auditorium and envisage their performance on the stage.

It was going to seem very large with only the three of them up there, especially as Mike would only be dancing, but her own commanding stage presence would hopefully be enough to make up for it. She tried to remember the level of Quinn's dancing ability but she really hadn't had much opportunity to assess it yet. Still, she was a cheerleader and you only had to look at her body to see that she was extremely athletic – and obviously she had looked at her body! – and she was about the right height to make the perfect dance partner for Mike. Perhaps, with Quinn's occasional tendency to go sharp, it would be better to have them both dancing around her while she took care of the vocals by herself.

She looked down at the page of notes and diagrams she'd made, trying to decide the best course of action. As interesting as she'd found the idea of being grouped with Quinn for this assignment yesterday, now it was becoming plain that she had drawn, or rather been assigned, the short straw. Obviously it was a wonderful opportunity to showcase her talent of directing under difficult circumstances, but with such a short timeframe she wished it wasn't going to be quite this difficult.

She was still scribbling down notes and amendments to those notes when the bell rang and she realized with some alarm that she was going to be late for American Lit. again.

She ran through the school, down increasingly empty corridors, until she reached the classroom door and then paused for a moment to compose herself before breezing in and calmly (and professionally, she felt) offering her sincere apology.

"I am so sorry I'm . . ."

"Hudson, I saw that. Front of the class!"

Surprised at being shouted over, Rachel indignantly blurted, "What did he do this time?"

Mr. Laxforth eyed her disdainfully. "Late again, Miss Berry."

"As I was saying, I'm very . . ."

"Just take your seat." She took fast steps to the last chair in front, meaning to get there before Finn did. "Not that one. That's Mr. Hudson's seat for the rest of the semester."

"The rest of the semester!" Finn groaned and Rachel mentally echoed him as she dragged her feet to the desk at the back, feeling her still bruised knees throb at

just the thought of taking that seat again.

Perhaps it would be prudent to purchase some form of padded protection if she was going to be forced to sit beside the demon cheerleader all semester.

Quinn didn't look at her as she sat down and, mindful of the rules, Rachel didn't glance at her either. She did want to break the rules though, if only to ask why Finn was once again in trouble, but whispering wasn't a viable option because Mr. Laxforth was reading to them from the The Call of the Wild and he had ears like a bat. And so she sat there, trying to take notes on the chapter like most of the other students, while feeling as tense as a violin string; and like a violin string she seemed to be reverberating inside every time Quinn plucked her . . .

She felt her cheeks get warm at her internal and accidental innuendo.

Mentally plucked her, obviously, and by plucked she meant every time Quinn moved or cleared her throat or breathed or . . . Why was she explaining this to herself? She just had to stop thinking about her altogether!

She reverberated all over the place when Quinn not only shifted in her seat but also used the subtle movement to push her notepad an inch across the desk. Rachel looked automatically, registering that there was a question on the page before darting her eyes back to her own paper. Was the question for her? It wasn't as if there was anyone else here to read it but if she assumed wrong . . .?

In the end curiosity won out and she glanced for a little longer at the notepad. There were two paragraphs of notes on the chapter so far – more than Rachel had managed to write – and then after a couple of blank lines were the words:

Why are you blushing?

Rachel's eyes darted once more to her own mostly white page. After a few seconds of breathing funny, she carefully wrote back:

I'm not!

She stayed leaning over the desk, not wanting to accidentally catch Quinn's eye, but pushed the pad forward a little so that her answer could be seen.

Quinn was clearly taking notes again and after a few seconds Rachel, assuming that was the end of their communication, allowed herself to breath easily and concentrate on the reading. That lasted until Quinn's pad was edged to the side and she couldn't help but look right away.

You're blushing even more now. What are you thinking about? Even as Rachel was reading it Quinn added, Eager much?

Rachel sighed, knowing she was definitely blushing now. She was eager, because no one had ever exchanged notes with her in class before. It was exciting and, even if Quinn was only doing it to mock her, it felt good.

I'm not aware of the correct etiquette for note swapping. Is there a specified time I'm supposed to make you wait for a reply?

Obviously so, because Quinn made her wait for a couple of minutes before she read it. Rachel's nerves were taut the entire time but she knew when the note had been read because Quinn clucked her tongue in disapproval. Rachel deflated; that was the end of that then.

A few seconds later, under another two paragraphs of pleasant penmanship, Rachel was allowed to read:

LOL

She stared at the tiny acronym, hardly able to believe it was there on the page. Maybe Quinn hadn't been so disapproving after all. Smiling to herself, The Call of the Wild was now completely forgotten as she scribbled out,

I was wondering what Finn did wrong this time?

There was a pause, but not because Quinn hadn't read it right away; Rachel had seen her eyes flick to it almost at once, and not because she was busy taking notes on the chapter either because her pen remained hovering over the page. She was clearly giving her answer some serious thought.

That's what you were blushing for? You were seriously thinking about Finn while sitting next to me? I think I'm a little offended, Berry ;)

It was hard to convey tone on a piece of paper so Quinn had helpfully drawn a winking smiley too. Never mind the teasing; Quinn was drawing her smileys! Rachel could feel her heartbeat getting faster, not just in her chest but everywhere it seemed. Her hand trembled as she responded, making the first couple of words a little shaky.

I was actually just wondering what led to me having the pleasure of sitting next to you for the rest of the semester.

That sounded too forward, didn't it? Friends wouldn't throw words like 'pleasure' around with such abandon. They would just say . . . What would they just say? Whatever, girlfriend! Frowning, head shaking at her lack of aptitude in this, she dismissed that idea all together. Even if it had remotely fit the question she couldn't call Quinn 'girlfriend'; that was asking for her to get the wrong idea.

Intending instead to just black out some of the words to make it less enthusiastic, Rachel reached into her gold star encrusted pencil case for a black marker but, guessing her intention, Quinn displayed reflexes like a cat to reach under her arm and pull Rachel's pad into her view.

"No!" She realized her mistake at once.

Mr. Laxforth looked up from the book. "Is something wrong?"

Suddenly Rachel realized the benefit of sitting at the back of class – the teacher could hear but not see disturbance.

"I'm afraid my pen is out of ink but it would seem my alarm was premature because I appear to have another." She was proud of her quick thinking even if her voice was shrill enough to give away her panic. "Could you possibly just read that last paragraph again please?"

And there was the benefit to being an attentive student – usually – because while Mr. Laxforth didn't seem to like her, his annoyance at her interruption was apparently mollified by her eagerness to learn. With a nod he went back to the book and began to re-read.

Rachel's notepad was pushed back to her and under her own handwriting Quinn had written:

Smooth.

Was she referring to Rachel's note or the way she had handled Mr. Laxforth? And there wasn't a smiley this time leaving her no indication of just how derisive Quinn's reply was meant to be.

Under the guise of catching up, Rachel bent her head again and scribbled fast.

If you're referring to my note, I mis-spoke, however, if you are referring to my quick thinking in a dangerous situation, then that is because I am an excellent improv actress.

A few seconds passed before Quinn offered a look at her notepad.

Not sure what worries me more – You mis-speaking, or you thinking that was a dangerous situation.

Again Rachel had to read it several times before she could formulate a reply.

Why would my mis-speaking worry you?

She watched out of the corner of her eye as Quinn put pen to paper and then forcefully crossed out her first few words before starting to write something else.

Rachel held her breath in anticipation – would Quinn's response reveal some clue as to the progress of their budding (or soon to be budding hopefully) friendship? Would it explain some of the mystery behind Quinn's inconsistent yet undeniably thawing attitude towards her? Would it offer a perspective of what it truly meant to be within Quinn's inner circle?

No, was the answer.

When she could finally see the pad she sighed in frustration. After the scribbled out sentence were the words,

I bet you're really wondering what I wrote first, aren't you?

She wrote Yes and then put a single line through it before writing No, I'm not that interested.

Hearing Quinn chuckle under her breath made Rachel smile so hard she had to duck her head again and hide behind her curtain of hair so that Quinn couldn't see. She'd made her laugh twice! Okay, so the first time had only been on paper but she was still counting it.

Quinn had time to write one more note before Mr. Laxforth finished reading.

You are so interested it must be embarrassing for you.

"Okay, class, I'm going to hand out the questions on today's chapter. As usual you may discuss the answers amongst yourselves, but quietly please, and if I hear any conversations about what happened on American Idol last weekend or the like, I will be handing out detentions. Okay, go to it."

Rachel had always worked through the questions alone, sitting at the front by herself with nobody paying any attention to her whatsoever. She smiled knowing this time would be different. She had Quinn to talk to about them and, as the cheerleader had probably paid much more attention to the reading than she had, that could only be a good thing.

Her hopes were soon dashed. As soon as Quinn passed the stack of work papers to her she took her chair and moved it across the aisle and Charity and Reena, the two other Cheerios in the class, were treated to Quinn's insight on the chapter instead.

Refusing to be upset, after all she should have expected it, Rachel got to work. The first five were easy enough but the second five she struggled with – she really hadn't been paying any attention at all to the latter half of the chapter. Casting many annoyed glances at the back of Quinn's head, she racked her brain to remember anything that would help her answer correctly.

She was still dithering over question six when Mr. Laxforth announced that they had ten minutes left.

Quinn moved her chair back into place, glancing towards Rachel's paper as she did so, and she didn't know how it was possible but Rachel heard her roll her eyes. Sitting comfortably back in her seat, she left her own work in clear view.

Looking only long enough to see that all of her answers were neatly filled in but not long enough to read any of them, Rachel hunched over again. Surely a few snippets of the reading had made it through her excitement at passing notes with the head cheerleader?

"Don't be a hero, Berry," Quinn muttered.

"I'm not going to cheat off of you," she muttered back. "Even if it is your fault I wasn't listening in the first place."

"Don't blame me; I didn't force you to do anything."

Quinn's voice was strangely lacking in emotion, in fact it sounded positively dead. Rachel gave her a fleeting look. Quinn looked even paler than usual and her brow was damp with sweat.

"I believe we have a no looking rule."

They did, but Rachel ignored it. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. I answered all of my questions, didn't I?"

"Yes, but . . . you don't look very well."

"I'm fine!" Quinn insisted but her eyes dropped to the desk and she swallowed hard. "Do you have something for me?"

The question surprised her, "I'm sorry, what?"

"You were going to do me a favor in return for me not telling everyone your little secret," Quinn prompted; the harsh tone she was going for lost as she had to swallow again.

"Oh! Yes, I have it with me. I didn't have time to go to my locker." She reached to grab the plastic bag propped against her backpack.

"Under the desk!"

Rachel passed it from one hand to the other in front of her knees and then Quinn snatched the bag from her and dropped her pen between them.

"Do you want me to . . .?" Rachel was already bending to retrieve it.

"Don't!"

She shot back up and watched as, when Quinn reached for the pen, she pulled the towel half out of its plastic confines and took a long sniff of it at the same time. Rachel's eyes darted nervously from Quinn's hunched form and around at the rest of the class, wondering what everyone else was making of this bizarre behavior, but her classmates were all rushing to finish their work papers and not paying them any attention at all.

Quinn inhaled the towel again.

What was this? Did Quinn have some weird drug problem? Were all the cool kids snorting fabric softener now? Was the cheerleader having some kind of towel-related breakdown? None of her guesses made any sense but then neither did Quinn ducking under the desk to sniff a towel. Some kind of mental issue was the only sensible explanation . . . but did that mean that Quinn was only being nice to her because she was going insane?

Strangely the thought didn't bother Rachel as much as it should have. If Quinn was on the verge of total mental collapse then surely it must mean something that she was prepared to show such weakness in front of her. Or no, it just meant she was so insane that she didn't even know who she was showing said weakness in front of. Still, Rachel's heart went out to her.

She placed a gentle hand on Quinn's back, "Are you sure you're okay?"

Quinn flinched and raised her nose from the towel long enough to growl, "No, you're touching me!"

"So?"

"Rules!"

Rachel frowned, "You never expressed a 'No touching' rule."

"Well, I am now."

"Okay." She took her hand away. "But really, are you okay? Do you need some water? Or some air?"

She watched as Quinn inhaled deeply again and nodded slightly. After retrieving her pen from the floor she straightened back up.

"Seriously, I'm fine." She still held the towel on her lap. "Why haven't you finished your questions yet?"

"I, ah . . ." Rachel looked down at her paper, embarrassed to admit that, "I don't know the answers."

"Right." Quinn's hands were gripping the towel beneath the desk and then she brought her right hand up over her nose as if she was sniffing her palm; it was extremely weird behavior. "So, question six, what it's asking is . . ."

"I told you I'm not cheating!"

"This isn't cheating, it's discussing the questions. Now do you want to discuss them or not?"

After a brief hesitation and another glance at Quinn's hands wrapping around the towel, she nodded. They worked for the remainder of the allotted time and when Mr. Laxforth called the lesson to a close, Rachel had answered all ten assigned questions, mostly in her own words, but the only answer she really cared about was the one that matched the question: Just what on Earth was the matter with Quinn Fabray?

And surely as Quinn's future but as yet undeclared New Best Friend, it fell to she, Rachel Berry, to figure it out.


By lunchtime the morning sickness had abated but Quinn hung the towel around her neck anyway as she entered the auditorium. It wouldn't look out of place when she was learning a new routine and, as much as she hated it, just having it within easy reach was comforting.

Mike and Rachel were already in there, sitting cross-legged on the stage and talking quietly. She heard Rachel laugh and tensed before shaking the discomfort off. Sure, she'd rather be having lunch with Finn right now but she could just about handle forty-five minutes in the dwarf's company.

"This a private party?" she asked, striding confidently up behind them.

They both looked up, mid-giggle, and she was a little disappointed that Berry didn't jump up at the sound of her voice but not enough to care. Mike got to his feet first, offering his hand to help Rachel up, and she happily accepted. Oh God, he was actually interested in her! Did he have no taste?

Rachel didn't bother with a formal hello before shoving some sheets of paper into her hand. "Okay, so I spent last night thinking of how we should perform our song and the best way to express all of our talents equally and I have decided, and Mike has agreed, that it would be best if I sang and you two danced around me and joined in on the chorus. That way we'll fill up the stage with movement and . . ."

Quinn held up a hand, "Excuse me? You're treating this like a solo?"

"Not at all. Obviously all three of us will be performing, but I just feel that with my . . ."

"No."

"I'm sorry?"

Quinn knew it was like waving a big, red flag at a tiny and annoying little bull – complete with stamping hoofs right now – and she really didn't care enough about any of this so why? But Berry's superior attitude all the damn time . . . it drove her nuts and forced her to take on situations she knew would backfire on her, like,

"I think I should sing it and you should dance with Mike."

Rachel looked confused, "But surely it's in all of our best interests to play to our strengths?"

"And you think you're a better singer than I am?"

"Of course, but I'm sure you're a better dancer than I am so . . ."

"You're unbelievable." Quinn shook her head. "You haven't even heard me sing it yet and you've already decided I'm not good enough!"

"I'm sorry, Quinn." Rachel didn't sound sorry in the least. "Why don't we have a sing off right now, just in the interests of fair play, and Mike can decide which one of us is best suited to sing the song."

"Fine," Quinn snapped.

"Actually, not really fine," Mike said, glancing back and forth nervously.

He was obviously worried about having to choose between them and the fact that he wasn't automatically going to choose her, whether she was better or not, riled Quinn up further.

"Suck it up, Chang," she snapped. "Unless you want to sing lead vocals."

He shrank back, "Okay, I'm listening."

"Brad?" Rachel called out and Quinn saw the piano player raise his hand.

"Do you even know all the lyrics?" Rachel asked her.

She did, mostly, but a quick shuffle through the papers Rachel had handed her produced them anyway. "I have them right here."

"Fine. Mike, you have my notes on the choreography. Interpret them as you wish, I'm sure you'll be great."

Quinn glowered at the compliment, knowing it would sway Mike to Rachel's side. Before she could complain, Brad's intro was over and Rachel started to sing.

What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key

She was so screwed, she couldn't compete with that! Rachel might be nothing more than an annoying midget – okay, so occasionally she was a funny annoying midget – but you couldn't fault her singing. If she had one thing going for her, one thing that Quinn could admit to not hating about her, it was her amazing voice . . . and her magical healing fabric softener . . . and her boobs.

'What? That's not true. I don't think that about her . . . about her . . .No!'

Her inner-panic was apparently palpable because Rachel stopped singing halfway through the chorus (followed by Mike cutting himself off with an abrupt squeak as he realized he was suddenly singing alone) and took a concerned step closer.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she backed up and pointed a shaky finger at the other girl. "Keep them away from me. I mean, keep you away from me." Damn it! "You keep away from me."

With a nervous chuckle, Rachel glanced at Mike and then back to her, "I was nowhere near you."

"Just do as you're told, Manhands. I'm not having you win because you cheated by trying to put me off." There, that sounded plausible enough.

She bristled at Berry's muttered reply of, "I would never have to cheat to win this," but welcomed it, because at least it blew all thoughts of . . . bad stuff out of her head.

And then she called to Brad to start playing again.

What do I do when my love is away?
(Does it worry you to be alone?)
How do I feel by the end of the day?
(Are you sad because you're on your own?)

She was annoyed when Rachel joined in with her to sing every other line – she wanted a whole verse to herself – but she didn't show it and then she belted out the chorus with Mike's soft crooning accompaniment.

No I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends

As their last words died away, Rachel held up her hand to stop Brad and then turned expectantly to Mike.

"I, uh, you're both really good."

"Wuss," Quinn snapped and turned to Rachel. "So?"

"Honestly?" she hesitated, making Quinn's stomach drop, before smiling broadly. "I think it would work really well if we did it just like that."

Quinn smiled despite herself. "Me too actually."

Mike grinned happily but then turned a little worried as he asked, "But what about the rest of the song?"

Quinn looked briefly at the lyrics sheet in her hand. "We'll do the final verse as a duet and all join in on the choruses."

Rachel looked a little put out to be denied the opportunity to decide, but she nodded. "That sounds perfect. Mike, you're dancing was very nice, but I think it might add something to our performance if you danced with Quinn while I sang the first verse."

"By dance with Quinn you mean . . .?"

As Quinn watched Rachel stepped up to him, putting one hand on his waist and taking his hand in her other. "Brad?" she called and the intro started up again. As she began to sing the first verse she led Mike in a waltz around the stage. At the chorus she spun away from him while still keeping hold of his hand.

"And that's where you switch partners, I take your hand and we dance as Quinn starts to sing."

"Okay, I can do that."

"Okay, let's try it from the top."

Quinn smiled, stepping up to Mike as the intro began again. "You know how to lead, right?"

"Of course I do. Shut up, that was embarrassing!"

She just smirked as Rachel started to sing.


They practiced for forty-five minutes of their lunch hour and Rachel only let them go then because Quinn threatened to punch her if she didn't stop. As it was she'd had to agree to return after school for another run-through.

She hurried to the cafeteria, hungrier than ever, and as she got in line Santana joined it behind her.

"Where've you been?"

Quinn rolled her eyes. "Rehearsing for tomorrow."

"Seriously? I sat through five minutes of coming up with a song and I don't plan on doing any more than that."

Quinn glanced at her. "You don't want to be good?"

"I will be good, but I'm with Elton and Matt. Don't wanna be spending any extra time with them, you know?"

"Matt's okay."

"Been there, done that, bored now. What about you?"

Her tray bypassed the hot food to the salads at the end and she pointed at the freshest looking one. "It's okay."

"Seriously? You're with Stubbles! How are you not tearing your hair out?"

"I like my hair."


The nausea came back in the afternoon. She excused herself from Spanish and went to the bathroom. Standing by the sinks, she slowly inhaled the towel held over her mouth and nose.

She half-expected Rachel to barge in on her again, because it was becoming something of a habit.

When, after ten minutes, Quinn felt the sick feeling subside she pushed the towel back into her bag and went back to class.


Rachel looked up as she heard sneakers steadily making their way across the stage. She started to say hello but then thought better of it. She didn't know if Quinn's ridiculous rules still stood when they were actively working together but far be it for her to overstep the line between them.

"Where's Mike?"

"He informed me after fifth period that he would be unable to make it due to football practice," she explained without looking up from her folder of notes.

"Right, well thanks for letting me know," Quinn replied sarcastically. She turned on her heel.

Rachel rose fluidly to her feet. "Wait. Where are you going?"

"You just told me rehearsal was off."

"No I didn't. I said Mike couldn't make it. That doesn't mean we don't still have work to do."

"But what's the point in practicing if we're not all here?" Quinn asked, exasperated.

"We both know Mike only has a minor role in this routine, and with his impressive ability to improvise his dance moves I don't think we have to worry too much about his performance. However, if you insist on singing with me then we still have much to get through."

"We ran through the first two verses a dozen times at lunch. How much more can there be?"

"Well, there's the last verse to start with and we have yet to practice the bridge." Quinn sighed impatiently. "If you had just agreed to let me handle the vocals on my . . ."

"No. You already get more than your fair share of solos."

"Fine, but it means you have to accept the extra workload that comes with the responsibility of singing."

"Fine," Quinn echoed her. "Where's the piano player?"

"Brad has a dentist appointment this afternoon but I had him record the music for us before he left." Rachel stepped across the stage to the CD player on top of the piano and pressed play. "We'll run through the first two verses again, just to make sure you haven't forgotten anything, and then we'll begin preparing the rest."

Quinn was bristling with indignation but she didn't have time to say anything before Rachel began softly counting them in. As soon as she started to sing she noticed that Quinn's annoyance faded from her face, replaced by concentration and – she hoped anyway – appreciation. They sang the chorus together and then Rachel dutifully stayed quiet while Quinn took the lead on the second verse, only joining in softly with every other line. After the next chorus Rachel hit pause on the CD player.

"That was nice but . . ." She noticed Quinn's look of annoyance came back as soon as they finished singing and so instead of launching into the constructive criticism she was about to offer, she hurried on. ". . . but now let's try the bridge. I think I should sing it."

"Doesn't the parentheses mean it's for two people?"

"What's your point?"

"That I should be singing two of the lines."

"Okay, which two would you like?" Rachel asked, getting a little annoyed herself.

"Let's try it both ways and see which sounds best."

There was really no room for arguing there and so she nodded. "I'll go first."

"What a surprise."

Ignoring that, Rachel pressed play again.

"Do you need anybody?"

"I –uh- need somebody to love."

Rachel pressed pause. "There's no 'uh' in it!"

"I know that! I lost my place for a second."

"It's five words!"

"Okay, you know what . . ." Rachel thought Quinn was about to storm out, but instead she said, ". . . I'll sing the first and third line, you can take the second and fourth."

"You're willingly giving up the lead?"

"Yes."

Rachel smiled smugly; obviously Quinn was finally accepting that her talent was superior. She held the rewind button down so that the CD skipped back a couple of seconds.

Quinn's timing was a little off as she sang, "Do you need anybody?" but that was something they could fix this afternoon.

"I need somebody to love."

Quinn read from the lyric sheet as she sang, "Could it be anybody?"

Rachel smiled because she didn't have to. "I want somebody to love."

She pressed pause and was about to rewind. "Again."

"No, not again. Let's move on."

Rachel sighed as she took her finger away from the button. "Anyone would think you didn't want to be here."

"Anyone would be right."

Rachel huffed quietly, placing her lyric sheet on top of the piano as she studied it. "I thought you enjoyed Glee Club."

"I do."

"Do you not like the song?"

"The song's fine."

"So it's just the company you don't like."

"Let's see, shall we? I could be at the Mall right now shopping with Santana and Brittany, but instead I'm in a dark auditorium singing what I have only just realized is pretty much a love song with Rachel-Manhands-Berry. You don't exactly need Advanced Calc to figure out the math."

"It's not a love song, it's about friendship!"

"Oh really." Quinn read from the lyric sheet. "'Would you believe in a love at first sight?' That sounds like a love song to me."

"It's just one person asking another if they believe in love at first sight, it's not a declaration."

"I disagree."

"So you're uncomfortable singing a love song with me?"

"Uh, yes."

"Why?"

"Wh . . ." Quinn shook her head as if the question was stupid. "What do you mean, why? I'd have thought that was obvious."

"It's not. After all, even if the song does have very mild romantic undertones it is primarily about friendship, which is the point of the assignment. I'd be surprised if anyone else jumped to the conclusion you just have, that conclusion being that we are singing a love song to each other, because they would find the idea beyond belief."

Quinn's mouth opened and closed a few times.

"So unless you have a specific issue with asking my opinions on love at first sight through song then I don't believe we have a problem."

Quinn still wasn't managing to say anything.

"I do, by the way. And I also think you can see someone every day for a year and then suddenly see them in a different light and think 'Wow, I love you.'"

Quinn was just shaking her head.

"I take it you don't, believe in love at first sight that is?"

"I don't know." Apparently Quinn hadn't meant to voice that opinion because she shook her head harder now. "Love is something you grow into; it doesn't just happen."

"Perhaps you're right. It's possible that people are simply mistaken and it's not love they feel at first sight, but lust and then that . . ."

Quinn's eyes narrowed, "Can we just get back to the song?"

"Oh, of course." Rachel ducked her head back to the lyric sheet.

She'd been enjoying her first foray into 'girl talk' but she was obviously making Quinn uncomfortable with it. Why, she didn't know, because wasn't this the kind of the thing that girls were supposed to talk about with each other? She thought back to her one and only Celibacy Club meeting – she'd been disappointed with that too because surely there had to be more to the social life of a teenager than watching cheerleaders spin around in their uniforms. Maybe having friends and being popular just wasn't as exciting as she'd always assumed. She cut her eyes to the girl standing beside her or – more accurately, to her uniform – and totally without meaning to had a split second fantasy about Quinn spinning around; her skirt flying up as she twirled.

"Oh my God, did you just check me out?"

Rachel's guilty eyes shot up to meet Quinn's. "No! I was just thinking."

"About my legs?"

"No!" she said truthfully, well mostly truthfully. "I'm pressing play now. And as you seem to find the first line so suggestive, I'll take it."

She pressed play before Quinn could argue and began to sing. "Would you believe in a love at first sight?"

Quinn hesitated, making her timing more than a little off this time.

"Let's try that again." Rachel rewound the CD. "Would you believe in a love at first sight?"

Quinn came in perfectly this time. "Yes I'm certain that it happens all the time."

"What do you see when you turn out the light?"

"I can't tell you, but I know it's mine."

They sang the chorus together before Rachel hit pause. "See, that wasn't so bad."

"Don't patronize me, Rupaul!"

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that. I just meant you were really good."

"That would mean more if you didn't have a giant crush on me."

"I don't have a crush on you!"

"Whatever. Are we done here?"

Rachel grinned, "Hardly. Let's take it from the top."

Quinn sighed but didn't leave and that was all the encouragement Rachel needed to skip the CD back to the start.

They ran through it another six times from start to finish and while Rachel expected Quinn to grow more agitated with every repeat she insisted on, in fact the opposite happened.

"Okay, let's try it now with me dipping down on this line." They both poured over Quinn's lyric sheet as she pointed to where she meant. "And you coming in a little faster with the next."

Rachel nodded happily. "Okay, but I don't want to sing over you."

"You won't; it'll just be seamless."

They tried it and it was good.

Quinn made another couple of suggestions and Rachel made a few more than that, and by the time they'd run through it for the twelfth time they were grinning at each other in satisfaction.

"Okay, now we should practice it with the dancing."

"We can't. Mike's not here."

"So? We can practice our steps," Rachel insisted. She wanted this to be perfect and she felt they were so close to it now but if they neglected the dancing it would prove to be a disappointment.

"How? We both dance with Mike and if he's not here . . ."

"We'll just take turns at leading." Rachel stepped closer to Quinn, arms out ready to dance.

Quinn took a step back. "I don't think so."

"What's wrong?"

"What's right? I'm not waltzing with you, Berry."

"It's not like we're going to be doing it in front of anyone else. It's just for practice."

"Many a church formal has taught me how to waltz, I don't need practice."

"Fine." Rachel dropped her arms to her sides, hoping her disappointment wasn't evident on her face. "Then I guess we're done for the day."

She shuffled the stack of papers together and slotted them back into her folder.

Quinn didn't leave immediately, instead taking her own sweet time to carefully fold the lyrics sheet and push it into her bag. "So, I think we have the song nailed at least."

"I agree. Although . . ." Rachel hesitated.

"Although what?"

She knew it was stupid, but she blurted it out anyway. "I think you being scared to dance with me in an empty auditorium speaks many of the volumes you've been accusing me of."

Quinn went from relaxed and almost friendly to tense and deadly in a blink. "Excuse me?"

Rachel quailed under her glare. "I just meant . . ."

"I know exactly what you meant. Listen hard, Manhands, because if I have to repeat myself it will be with my fist. I have been tolerating your little crush because . . ."

"I don't have a crush!"

Quinn continued to speak over her, ". . . because it's amusing – the fact that you like me when I've spent our entire existence together bullying you; it's kind of delicious – but never ever think this is a two-way street. Because if I ever did feel anything other than total loathing for you, I would kill myself. Am I being clear?"

Rachel's head bobbed up and down. "Yes."

"Good, now go."

Rachel gathered the folder under her arm and grabbed her backpack. She was halfway to the door when she couldn't help but turn and say, "We still need to practice together tomorrow. At lunch."

Quinn stayed facing the piano. "I'll tell Mike."

Rachel nodded and left quickly then. Half of her wanted to be confused by Quinn's extreme reaction but the more aware half of her knew she'd been pushing for it. Not that reaction, obviously, but some reaction. And she'd received one, so she didn't have much room to complain.

She paused at the crossroads in the halls, looking down the one that led to the Gym. Even after only three days it felt natural to head to the girls locker room and grab a towel but thankfully logic and reason overruled instinct on this occasion. Quinn would not appreciate her washing a towel for her now. In fact, Quinn would probably prefer it if they never spoke again at this point.

Mind made up, Rachel nodded to herself and continued through the school to meet her Dad out the front.


Chapter Six

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