Rachel was surprised to find Finn waiting by her locker before school on Wednesday morning.
"Aren't you risking the Quinn Fabray wrath?" she asked before she could stop herself.
Finn grinned easily. "Quinn's okay, in fact she's awesome. Kinda like you. If you two would just spend some time together you'd see that."
Rachel's heart fluttered at Finn calling her awesome, or maybe it was the suggestion that she spend time with Quinn.
"I don't think that's going to happen, Finn," Rachel said, opening her locker before he could see the disappointment in her eyes. "So what can I help you with?"
"Oh, right, that. I was thinking about Mr. Schue's assignment this week, you know the one about picking a song by a band from another country to sing? But . . . I don't really know any. Well, other than Beatles, but I heard Puck and Artie both already say they're gonna do them and I want mine to stand out, you know?"
Rachel smiled, pleased that he was making a serious effort, "I'm sure you know a lot more than you think you do. The Who. The Doors. Pink Floyd."
"Oh yeah, I know them," Finn's grin turned to confusion. "Wait, they're not American?"
Rachel gave him an indulgent smile and patted his arm. "I'll print you out a list of bands that I think will suit your voice and singing ability, along with a few of their more popular numbers for you to choose from. Do you want to meet in the choir room at lunch to go through it?"
"I can't. I kinda like to have lunch with Quinn; it's the only time I really see her these days."
Rachel kept her look of distaste on the inside. After yesterday she couldn't imagine why anyone would want to willingly spend time with the mean cheerleader; she'd certainly cancelled all of her future plans (fantasies) of doing so.
"What about after school?"
"Yeah, that could work. Quinn always wants to go straight home these days anyway."
Rachel felt calculating – she hoped she didn't look it too. "Why does she need to go straight home?"
Finn looked like a deer in headlights; to anyone who knew he was so obvious. Rachel was just pleased that he knew, because she hadn't had a chance to ask Quinn if Finn was even aware he was going to be a father and now that her allegiance was firmly back where it should be – with the boy in front of her – it just made things easier on her if she didn't have to wrestle with her conscience about whether to tell or not.
"Oh, you know, Coach Sylvester works her hard, she gets tired."
"Of course. We'll just meet after school then. After you've said goodbye to Quinn," she said, closing her locker and turning towards class, adding under her breath, 'and preferably in front of Quinn too. I'll show her who has a crush on whom!'
"Did you want to hang out after school?" Finn asked as soon as he'd sat down at their lunch table, elbowing Puck for more room and sending her water bottle skittering across the table with his tray. "Do something together?"
Quinn sighed heavily; she didn't want to blow him off two days in a row but she was already on her second handkerchief of the day. She'd read Berry's magazine the night before and was starting to think this level of morning sickness might be unusual. You were supposed to get periods of nausea throughout the day, but eating light meals was apparently the cure. She'd been doing that and yet still felt sick so much. Was something else wrong? Or was it just that after finally finding something that worked, having it snatched away again just made the sickness feel that much more pronounced?
Berry was still avoiding her and she couldn't believe that that was something she had even noticed let alone cared about but . . . she had and, yeah, now she felt sicker than ever.
She quashed the thought before it could take hold, because it was ridiculous. Berry had provided her with the handkerchiefs but there was nothing more the girl could do to make her feel better.
Finn was the one who was supposed to make her feel better, and with that in mind, "Sure. If you want."
Her head snapped to her boyfriend, "What do you mean, oh?"
"Nothing! I just didn't think you'd want to."
"Really? So you have other plans?"
"No! I was the one to ask you, remember? It's just . . . Rachel offered to go through some songs for this week's assignment with me this afternoon, but I said I could only do it if I wasn't hanging out with you. But if you want to do something . . ."
"You'd rather spend time with Stubbles than me?"
"No!" he whisper-shouted again. "Didn't you hear what I just said?"
She had, but he'd irritated her by saying that name at all. "You are not allowed to hang out with that freak show!"
"Quinn, she's not that bad. She's actually pretty okay."
"As the mother of your child," she hissed under her breath. "I demand you go and get a psych test!"
"What the . . .?" she heard him begin but she was already walking away; she needed a bathroom again.
After school Rachel waited in the choir room but Finn never showed up and then, around ten minutes after the final bell, Quinn stuck her head around the door, as if checking she was alone.
Rachel faked a cool, disinterested look but Quinn didn't even stay long enough to register it.
Thursday morning in American Literature, Rachel studiously ignored Quinn. It was much easier this time because Quinn was ignoring her too.
"Okay, thank you. I have all of your essays," Mr. Laxforth began. "I'll mark them over the weekend. Now pass these worksheets around. This will finish our work on The Call of the Wild. You may quietly discuss the questions with the person next to you if you wish but if I hear too much noise I'm in the mood to hand out detentions."
Quinn and Rachel both huffed before starting work on their questions, separately.
"You're a jerk," Rachel suddenly muttered. She hadn't meant to but the bristling tension between them had dragged it out of her.
"Excuse me?" Quinn muttered back. "Am I going after your boyfriend?"
"I'm not going after your boyfriend!"
"Of course not. You just want to hang out with him after school to discuss music."
Berry hesitated, "He told you about that?"
"He's my boyfriend! Of course he did."
"It was just about music."
Quinn turned to her, smirking. "Why was it just about music? Finn's hot. Every girl in this school wants him. Why are you different?"
Rachel ducked her head because there was no good way to answer that. If she said she did like him – which she did, in so far as he was very good looking, perfect leading man material and, well, the only boy in school that was ever nice to her – Quinn would probably punch her. If she said she didn't, Quinn would take it to mean something else.
In the end, gritting her teeth, she settled on, "I like Finn, a lot, but I'm fully aware he has a girlfriend. And as his taste in girls is clearly abysmally cliché I'm actually quite thankful that I'm not his—" she made air quotes. "—type."
Quinn leaned in close to the side of her face, placing her hand over Rachel's wrist and trapping it against the surface of the desk. The move was executed so slowly and appeared so casual that it was ten times more terrifying than being swung into the lockers the other day.
"Let's get real for a moment, Berry, shall we?" Quinn was so close Rachel could feel the whisper wash over her cheek on a breeze of minty breath. The subtle scent of coconuts and lime that drifted over with a sway of that perfect blonde ponytail would have taken her mind to a balmy, tropical location if the ice in Quinn's tone hadn't frozen it very much in the here and now. "We both know that you would kill to be a cliche like me. I know girls like you, girls permanently stuck at the bottom that will do anything to get to the top. You want the quarterback boyfriend and the cool circle of friends and you want people to look at you, just once, like you're something special instead of a big joke to everyone . . . Which kind of begs the question: why are you playing games with me when you know that I can destroy you completely with a snap of my fingers?"
"I—games? I don't understand."
"Don't try and play dumb, Berry." She wasn't trying or playing actually. "You don't just flirt with somebody like that one day and then suddenly decide you're not interested the next."
Was she . . .? Was Quinn talking about . . .?
How warm was this room? It was only the first week of October; had they turned the heat on already? And where was the air? Why was there not more air in here? She turned her head just enough to see that Quinn's face was still startlingly close.
This wasn't . . . She hadn't . . . she hadn't prepared for this. Was she interested? Was Quinn? Was any of this even really happening?
She didn't have to pinch herself to see if she was awake because Quinn's fingers tightening around her wrist until her short nails were digging into her skin did it for her.
"And I warned you what would happen if you went after Finn again. So just bury that little crush back deep inside of you and move on."
Oh! The little air she'd managed to suck in rushed back out and she blushed hard at her mistake. "Okay."
It wasn't the response she wanted to give, far from it, but it was all that came out and it at least made Quinn let go of her and sit back.
They waited out the remainder of the lesson in silence.
When the bell rang Quinn was the first out of the door, leaving Berry as far behind as possible. Their confrontation had rattled her even though she'd been the one to start it.
She wasn't even sure where she had been going with her little speech to start with. She was just irritable and in the mood to make Berry squirm because it was way more fun than being ignored by the loser.
And perhaps she missed the attention, just a little.
But she hadn't really been thinking of Finn at all until Berry had started to breathe funny and then she'd realized that she was practically purring her words into the girl's ear and, okay, she had panicked because . . . what the hell was she even doing?
She didn't need Rachel's attention. She didn't need any girl's attention. She had a boyfriend for that. And so she had blathered something about staying away from Finn because clearly the both of them had needed a reminder that he existed.
The whole encounter made her feel sick and for the rest of the day, whenever she saw Rachel in the halls or in class, she felt weak and ashamed and she couldn't even put her finger on exactly why.
'You don't just flirt with somebody like that one day and then suddenly decide you're not interested the next.'
Okay, so maybe she did know why.
Friday, in History, Quinn dropped her pen as she walked past her desk but Rachel kept her eyes on the board. It wasn't until she was putting her books away at the end of the lesson that she noticed the box with four balled up handkerchiefs inside.
She shook her head, top teeth scraping her bottom lip as she eyed the box with a mixture of disdain and disbelief. Quinn had some nerve just dropping them into her bag like that. Like . . . like Rachel had nothing better to do with her weekend than Quinn's laundry!
Not that she did have anything better to do, but that was beside the point.
She should just throw them away. It would serve Quinn right for being such a jerk all the time.
Rolling her eyes at herself, she knew she was never going to do that. It pained her to admit it but Quinn's audacity sent a little thrill through her. They still had their secret and Quinn might hate her more than ever but she still needed her too.
In Glee club that afternoon Mr. Schuester had them try a new song he wanted to put on the shortlist for Sectionals.
It Takes Two.
It was a good song, fast and punchy – even if everyone else complained it was a little dated – and Rachel knew it would suit her voice perfectly and she did enjoy duets with Finn. So it was only when Mr. Schue had them all stand up and started to explain the dance steps he had in mind that she found a reason to speak up.
"While I applaud your faith in all of our abilities, I think on this occasion you may be over-reaching?"
"How so, Rachel?"
"Well, you're suggesting very advanced choreography. I, with my years of dance training, will not find it so arduous and I'm sure that Mike and I suspect Brittany will also master it fairly quickly, but do you not think you're being a little unfair to those less skilled club members like Puck and Quinn."
"Watch it, Treasure Trail!" Quinn snapped from the end of the row. "I dance just as well as you and you don't get to be head of the top cheerleading squad in the country if you can't learn tough choreography."
Rachel had actually meant to say Finn, but then decided not to embarrass him at the last second, but that was neither here nor there because obviously Quinn hadn't realized yet what she had, her real reason for finding fault in the first place.
Mr. Schuester smiled, "I think everyone can handle it. Besides, that's why I want to start practicing it so early; it gives us nine weeks to perfect it. Let's run through it now."
It was a very sloppy affair, because you couldn't even learn the Macarena perfectly after one go, but with Mr. Schuester grabbing their shoulders, pulling them into position and occasionally guiding their hips, they shuffled through it sans lifts for the time being.
"And then Tina jumps, Puck spins," he chanted each one of them through the moves even though for now Puck just held Tina's hands and they turned together. "Tina's arms go up, slide to the floor, turn, turn, right hand in Quinn's left, Quinn twirl her, that's right, now Tina tuck in close, now spin together, arms extend, hands release, turn, turn, jump into Finn's arms, now spin . . ."
"I'm getting d-d-dizzy!"
"Nearly there, Tina, pretend to slide to the floor, turn, turn, that's it, take Brittany's hand, Brittany twirl her, perfect! Now tuck in close, that's great, now to Matt." As Tina made it to the end of the line he moved his eyes back along it. "Mercedes, you should be reaching Brittany by now."
"I know!" she snapped, she was still at the arms outstretched with Quinn part. "But you try spinning all over the place like this and see how you keep up."
"You're doing great," Mr. Schuester promised her. "And we've got plenty of time to work on speed."
Santana was the next down the line and she made the spinning and twirling look effortless.
"Looking great, Santana," Mr. Schue praised. "Just try working on smiling at the same time as dancing. Kurt get out of the line. You're supposed to be at the back with Mike and Artie."
"That's discrimination," he pointed out as he slunk back to his spot.
"And it's discriminating on me to expect me to twirl a dude in my arms," Puck said.
"Brittany and I are twirling the girls," Quinn pointed out.
"It's different, they ain't jumping you on."
It wasn't that different, Rachel thought as she stepped up to Puck and, taking his hands in lieu of jumping on him today, turned in a tight circle. It was exactly as awkward in fact, she decided as she turned, turned and let her arm swing out naturally. Perhaps even more so. She was about to be sick, and not from being dizzy.
Quinn took her hand automatically and if the sudden contact had come with its own special effects sound, it would have been POW! Electric shocks didn't feel this wonderful but Rachel could think of no other way to describe the lightning bolt feeling of intense current that flowed from their joined hands straight into her blood stream.
It was . . . well, as she'd just decided it was indescribable. It was definitely something though.
Quinn froze – was she feeling it too? – and Rachel went stiff and the twirl ended almost before it began. Their hands were clasped tightly together as each one squeezed in surprise and their arms were still in the air and Rachel was side on to Quinn but she could see a look of surprise on the blonde's face out the corner of her eye.
Quinn wrenched her hand back and Rachel shook hers in the air to lose the electric feeling of the other girl's palm.
"Actually, Mr. Schue, I think Rachel has a point." Quinn took a step back from her. "This routine is too complicated for us right now. Maybe if we get through to Regionals we can try it again."
"Nonsense, you're doing great, Quinn. Really great! All of you are. We'll have it nailed by Sectionals."
"Fine, but I'm not doing it anymore today."
"Come on," Mr. Schuester coaxed. "We have time for one more run-through."
"I don't, I have to leave early. Family dinner." And with that Quinn walked over to grab her bag and left.
Rachel watched her go, vaguely hearing relieved groans as Mr. Schue agreed they could give the dancing a miss and just go through the song once more, because Quinn's harmonies wouldn't be missed as much as her place in the routine.
Half an hour later they were wrapping up for the day and Rachel was still lost in thought. She'd known her feelings towards Quinn were changing, she'd already admitted that horrible truth to herself, but she had never expected the simple act of holding her hand – in a routine no less – to affect her so much. Her palm was still tingling from the contact – they had just fit together so perfectly and all she'd wanted to do was entwine their fingers and hold on.
Is that what she had done? Those few seconds seemed like a blur of confusion now but if she had tried to push the contact . . . was that what had made Quinn react as she had? Or was just the mere thought of holding her hand repulsive enough that Quinn had freaked out? Or . . . She had one more extremely far-fetched 'or' but before her brain could fully form it Finn was speaking to her.
"I wanted to apologize for not showing up Wednesday afternoon."
"It's okay, Quinn explained it," she said automatically.
"She did? Oh, that's kind of embarrassing."
She turned to smile at him. "No, it's fine. She's your girlfriend and she loves you, it's only natural that she feels the need to warn me off. Or . . . or not me per se, but just other girls in general."
Finn grinned down at her and he really was adorable. "I just feel bad because it was my idea and then I kind of stood you up."
He hadn't kind of stood her up, he had stood her up, but she just smiled again. "It's okay, Finn, honestly."
"Hey, Hudson," Santana called over. "Party at Puck's place next Friday. Don't forget to remind Quinn she needs to get her parents to call mine."
"Quinn's parents coordinate party details with your parents?" Rachel smiled. It was sweet but unexpected from someone like Santana who seemed more like a wild kegger kind of girl.
"Did I mistakenly make you think you were a part of this conversation?" Santana sneered before adding sweetly. "Sorry about that."
Once she and Brittany were gone Finn leaned down conspiratorially. "Santana's parents won't actually be there, but Quinn's Dad won't let her go if he doesn't speak to them first. So either Brittany pretends to her Mom or Puck pretends to be her Dad."
"Oh. But neither of them sounds the slightest bit Hispanic."
"No, but they can do a good Christian when they want to and that's all that counts."
Rachel felt even more confused, "But Noah Puckerman's Jewish."
"You're way over-thinking this," Finn laughed. "Anyway I'd better go. See you Monday."
Rachel was left alone with her thoughts again as she went to collect her bag from the risers. She pushed the lyrics sheet Mr. Schuester had given them into it and saw the box of handkerchiefs again. She should really just buy Quinn a bottle of the same fabric softener her dads used and let her do her own darn laundry, she thought, but at the same time she smiled at being able to do this thing for her and remembered again how it had felt to hold her hand.
Shaking her head at how confusing it all was, she left to go and meet her Dad.
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