She held Rachel firmly against the lockers, feeling the fast beat of her heart under her palm and the swell of a breast against her pinky finger.
Rachel didn't seem to mind; she smiled, twirling a yellow straw in her tall glass of lemonade turn turn Quinn felt dizzy.
"If you don't dance with me everyone will know."
"If I dance with you everyone will know."
She could smell the lemonade, it was sweeter than the lemony scent she now associated with Rachel but it was still good. She wanted it. Her mouth was dry and she needed that cool liquid on her tongue to calm her down. She watched Rachel's lips close delicately around the straw. She wanted it.
"You mean I'll know?" Rachel asked, still sucking on the straw.
"And I'll know."
"Which would be worse."
She didn't know if it was her or Rachel who said, "You're Quinn Fabray, you can have anyone you want, so if you want the damn lemonade that much just take it."
She was leaning in to claim the straw, still tucked between Rachel's pursed lips, when the bell rang.
Jerking awake, Quinn slapped her hand down on the top of her old fashioned alarm clock, silencing its shrill clanging, and groaned. She had never been so happy in her whole life to wake up before she could do something stupid, but being ripped from the dream like that guaranteed it would haunt her all day.
Still groaning, she rolled out of bed. She would not dwell on it. People dreamed crazy stuff all the time and it didn't mean you actually wanted it to happen. It was just . . . pregnancy hormones or something messing with her. There was only one way to handle this: stay away from all things Berry. If she didn't see her, talk to her or smell her for a few days this weirdness would all go away.
She was successful all day, spending History in the nurse's office, lunch in the bathroom behind the gym, begging off Gym with monthly cramps biggest lie ever and the lack of them was actually the only good thing about being pregnant and skipping Glee altogether.
A few times she had to dodge the girl in the halls but she managed it smoothly enough that no one asked 'Why are you hiding from Rachel?' Because really, what would she say to that? She didn't even really know herself.
All she did know was that her morning sickness had lasted all day and was worse than ever and she'd had nothing to relieve that horrible feeling even for a minute.
It took most of the triumphant feeling out of her success, especially when she doubted she'd be able to go another day without giving in.
By Tuesday morning Rachel was a bag of nerves. She'd barely slept over the weekend and then after Quinn's total avoidance the day before she'd had to add another night to her insomnia record.
She made sure to be in American Lit. early so that she didn't have to walk towards their shared desk looking like she was a bag of nerves but it backfired on her a little when Finn once again decided to join her at the back for a few minutes.
He didn't take Quinn's seat this time but squatted down in front of the desk and with his ample height he was still half a head taller than Rachel.
"It was okay."
She didn't think she'd made it sound that way. "How was yours?"
"Quiet, you know. Me and Quinn hung out Saturday night and I spent Sunday playing Mario Kart with Puck."
Rachel nodded until she registered that Quinn had just entered the room. Her eyes shot to her for a few seconds before returning to Finn's.
"I've never played Mario Kart before."
"Seriously?" Finn looked shocked. "You totally have to come and have a tournament with us sometime. Right, Quinn?"
The cheerleader was just sliding into her seat, frowning at them. "What?"
"Rachel's never played Mario Kart!" He turned to her again. "Quinn is like the best player. She can even beat me sometimes."
"Have I ever lost to you?" Quinn smiled sweetly but the expression darkened to a scowl almost at once as she jerked a thumb over her shoulder. "But I am not playing with her."
"And I'm not playing with you either," Rachel shot back, determined to get the last word.
She didn't. "Good!"
Finn was looking back and forth between them as if they were freaking him out.
Rachel smiled, reaching out to touch the back of his arm. "But perhaps you could teach me sometime and then, if one day Quinn can't make it, we can play together, just the two of us?"
"Are you actually coming on to my boyfriend while I'm sitting right here?"
Quinn was glaring at her, her eyes blazing, and while Rachel had to admit that it scared her, it was better than last week when Quinn had barely looked at her at all.
"Would you prefer me to do it behind your back?"
"If you wanted a nice, neat suicide, you should have sucked on a shotgun, because now I am this close to fucking you up, Berry!"
"Maybe getting fucked is exactly what I'm looking for, Fabray!" she shot back angrily and it was only Quinn flinching that made Rachel realize what she'd actually said. "I-I-I was obviously still talking about my untimely death and. . ."
Looking both smug and highly uncomfortable, Finn's large hand covered her own briefly, before he tilted his head to look at her earnestly. "Look, I'm really flattered, Rach, really, I mean it's not every day a girl wants to . . . uh . . . but I love Quinn, you know, so that's never gonna happen. So I guess I'm saying thanks," he flashed her a big grin," but no thanks."
Rachel heard him speaking and enough of the words registered that she felt a little offended on Quinn's behalf he should have shot her down at once not rambled around the issue trying to let her down easily, not in front of his girlfriend but he was blending into the background noise because her eyes were still locked on Quinn's and they were still glaring and any second she was expecting Quinn's hand to come around and slap her cheek.
"I should go sit down." He was probably staring at Quinn, waiting for a response, but he didn't get one. "Right then."
His departure diffused the tension in Quinn's face and she turned to take her notepad out of her bag, muttering, "I can't believe you said that."
Rachel looked down to where her hands were fiddling with her pen. "I can't believe I said that either. I don't say things like that."
"But you were talking about Finn, right?"
"O-of course, who else would I have been talking about?"
Quinn nodded, her mouth pressing into a thin line for a second. "Okay, good, let's just forget about it then."
Rachel nodded along, before looking at her curiously, "I'm sorry, what?"
"No harm, no foul. Stop looking at me like that. He turned you down. Let's move on. Seriously stop looking at me."
Rachel turned away. The lesson still hadn't started and the other students were making the most of Mr. Laxforth's absence; balled up pieces of paper were flying about and the noise level was akin to the cafeteria at lunch time. Rachel and Quinn were the only two not participating in the mayhem, sitting quietly and facing the front as if a lesson actually was in session.
"I don't understand."
"It means keep your eyes to yourself; I don't want to feel them on me."
"Not about that. You were ready to kill me two minutes ago and now you're just letting it go."
"Because as much as I should punch you in the face for what you just did . . . and said," Quinn shuddered, either with anger or revulsion. "I'd much rather just have my handkerchiefs back." Or morning sickness, Rachel realized. "So, if you could just give them to me we'll call it even . . . for now."
Rachel was already reaching for her bag when she remembered. Her face fell. "I don't have them."
"What? I . . . I . . . Rachel."
At the desperate hiss of her name Rachel heard the phantom clang of her back hitting a locker and her body tensed the way it had with Quinn leaning over her, pinning her in place with her eyes as much as her hand.
"I carried them around all day yesterday but I didn't see you. They're in my locker. We can go and get them after . . ." One look at Quinn's clenched jaw and the hand that was subtly holding her stomach beneath the desk had Rachel rising from her chair. "I'll get them now."
Two steps towards the front of class Mr. Laxforth breezed in, offering a generic apology as he brought the mayhem under control with practiced ease and ordered Rachel back into her seat without a glance.
"Sir, please, I just need to . . ." she was still inching forward.
"No, Miss Berry, sit down. We've already lost ten minutes of the lesson."
"That's hardly my fault," she pointed out. "I've been here since the bell rang."
Mr. Laxforth looked up coolly. "Take your seat, Miss Berry. And start looking forward to lunch time detention."
"But . . ."
"Sit down!" he yelled and Rachel's feet carried her back to her chair before her brain could try and argue anymore.
"Sorry," she murmured, noting that Quinn was looking even paler than before and there were beads of moisture making her forehead glisten now. "Is it really bad today?"
"It's been really bad for two days; I think it's now moved into uberbad."
"This is what you get for avoiding me yesterday," Rachel smiled. "Also, if we were the kind of people who hung out together on weekends, I could have given you the handkerchiefs Saturday."
"Can you save the 'let's be friends' pitch for a time when you haven't just come on to my boyfriend and I'm not about to throw up all over the desk."
Rachel's eyes widened, "You'd be susceptible to such a proposal in the future?"
"No, but it's just really not helping me keep my breakfast down right now."
Rachel would have thought she was just being mean for the sake of it if Quinn hadn't quickly covered her mouth with her hand, fingers pressing down on her lips. Her throat moved as she swallowed hard.
"Why don't you tell Mr. Laxforth you need to see the nurse? He can't stop you from doing that."
Quinn moved her hand from her mouth to her cheek, leaning on it so that her head was ducked towards Rachel and the students on the other side of the aisle couldn't see her face or the fact that they were murmuring to each other.
"I already went yesterday; if I go two days in a row she'll start asking questions. And too many people have seen me sprinting into the bathroom between classes as it is. I had to tell Santana I have a UTI, but on top of the food poisoning story she's starting to get suspicious." Quinn covered her mouth for a second again as she swallowed.
"Well, vomiting in class isn't going to defer anyone's suspicions. At least if you . . ."
"Is your hoodie clean?"
"Of course, it was laundered last night . . ." Rachel's mouth went slack as she caught up and then her teeth clacked together before she hissed, "You can't be serious. We're in class! You can't sniff my sleeve here!"
Quinn's warning glare clearly said Shut Up! "I don't plan to. Take it off."
Rachel could only stare at her, momentarily lost in a fantasy where Quinn Fabray was asking her to undress.
"Take . . . it . . . off!" she repeated slowly, half growling the words, and that really didn't help. She could feel her cheeks reddening. Quinn frowned, "I really don't want to know what you're thinking right now, do I?"
That was enough to bring Rachel back to reality and her eyes darted around the room, mostly to get away from Quinn's but also to check to see if anyone was paying them any attention.
"I don't see why not. I was only trying to come up with a solution to our problem that wasn't as insane as yours."
"And did you?"
Rachel unzipped the green and white argyle-patterned hooded jacket and slipped it from her shoulders. "Unfortunately not. Do you want me to pass it under the table?"
She heard Quinn sigh, "I think clutching your hoodie like a blanky under the desk will raise more questions than decorating the class with regurgitated wheat crackers and orange juice. Just give it to me."
Rachel handed it over and her eyes went so wide she was surprised they didn't fall right out of the sockets when Quinn slipped it on, shaking the hood out comfortably before zipping it up to her collar bone. Luckily the jacket was loose on Rachel and therefore not so tight as to look silly on Quinn. There was just enough give in the sleeves for her to pull the left one down over her hand and lean the side of her mouth against it. Rachel watched her take a few deep contented breaths as she finally cracked open The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
"Close your mouth," she muttered, eyes on page one.
Rachel opened her own paperback copy of the classic, muttering back, "Do you feel better?"
"Physically, yes. Mentally, emotionally and fashionistically, I'm pretty sure I've just scarred myself for life. Did anyone notice me put it on?"
"Only everyone in the back row of desks."
Quinn groaned and then sighed and then nuzzled her nose against the material of the sleeve, her eyes half closing in satisfaction as she deeply inhaled. Rachel watched, smiling at her behavior; she could actually see the relief washing over Quinn's face and her body relaxing as the rejuvenating scent of lemons chased the nauseous tension away.
"You have to stop looking at me," Quinn murmured, "or people are going to get the wrong idea."
Rachel grinned; Quinn was worrying about rumors being started about them when she had just brazenly pulled on her hoodie in front of four other students. All of which had glanced over at least once while she had. She couldn't actually see any notes being passed forward from desk to desk but something as out of the ordinary as the head of the Cheerios wearing Rachel Berry's clothes was not going to stay quiet for long.
The fact that Quinn knew this as well as she did, better than she did, had to be killing the blonde and maybe it was cruel but it just made Rachel enjoy the whole thing even more. She covered her mouth with her fingers to hide her smile and looked down at her book.
"Maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing," she whispered.
Quinn's returning whisper was harsh, "How can you say that?"
"At least it would throw people off of your real secret."
Quinn was quiet for a while, she flipped the page and read a few paragraphs before muttering, "Not your secret, though."
Rachel closed her eyes, breathing out, "I don't have a crush on you."
"Okay," Quinn accepted her answer easily this time and Rachel frowned but didn't look up. "But pretending to be your girlfriend would leave me lower down the social ladder at McKinley than people finding out the other thing, so it wouldn't really be a lot of help."
That was true, although Rachel wished she hadn't felt the need to point it out so bluntly, she was just trying to help after all. That's all she'd been trying to do from the start and Quinn seemed happy to accept it, providing she didn't have to try and be nice in return. She hadn't even apologized for being the cause of her lunch time detention her first detention ever!
She fumed quietly over the unjustness of it all for the rest of the lesson. Quinn glanced over once or twice, as if wondering why their murmured conversation had stopped abruptly, but Rachel pretended not to notice if Quinn didn't want her looking at her, she wouldn't.
The use of cell phones was banned in class but someone had been breaking the rules in American Lit. Quinn had barely cleared the classroom's threshold before she was aware of the looks and comments muffled by cupped hands in the hallway.
It was ridiculous how truly pathetic the personal lives of her classmates must be that they were acting like her wearing Berry's jacket was the gossip of the decade. Despite knowing that that made her far superior to the rest of them, it didn't stop her from shaking under their collective hungry gaze as she approached her locker with as much confidence as she could fake.
By the time she'd turned her locker dial the urge to turn and shout 'It's because I got knocked up by my boyfriend's best friend, alright? Not because I'm attracted to Rachel-freaking-Berry' was almost unbearable.
Thankfully Santana's shoulder bumped against the locker next to hers before she could out her pregnancy to avoid outing anything else.
"What the hell, Q?"
Quinn turned her head, subtly inhaling the shoulder of the hoodie as she asked, "What?"
Santana blatantly stared at the jacket, raising an eyebrow. "You're seriously gonna make me spell out what is wrong with this picture?"
"Oh that." Quinn rolled her eyes and turned back to her locker, "I was cold in class so I made her give me her jacket. You should have seen her face."
"You made her give it to you? She didn't offer?"
It was all about the nuance with Santana, luckily Quinn didn't even have to lie. "Yes, I said 'give it to me', she whimpered and stammered for a few minutes until I pointed out that saying no wasn't an option and then it was mine." She shot a smirk over her shoulder. "I'm actually pissed I had to tell her twice but we can come up with some payback for that at lunch."
Santana was mollified by being included in some form of punishment. "I say we lock her out on the roof after school."
"I doubt she'd fall for that again, besides her Dads reported her as missing last time."
Quinn shut her locker and glanced over to Rachel's, searching for a way to get the handkerchiefs from her without Santana seeing, but Rachel wasn't there or anywhere in the hall as far as she could tell. Great, that meant she was wearing the stupid hoodie for at least another period.
People were still looking at her as she and Santana walked to class. Although they were the quick subtle glances that peasants once gave passing royalty it didn't make them any less maddening or, for that matter, less nerve-wracking.
"You know, if this jacket wasn't so ugly I'd reconsider my plan to burn it in the parking lot after school." She stuck her hands in the pockets and pulled it closer around her, as if she was oblivious to everyone's attention. "It's actually kind of comfortable."
"But it must reek of Berry," Santana sneered. "I don't know how you can stand to be that close to it."
That caused a moment's hesitation, her brain faltered, unable to grasp why anyone wouldn't wantto be this close to it. The thought scared her, more than the idea of feeling sick all day and she had to get away from it.
"Actually you have a point."
In a fast movement she pulled down on the zipper, ready to shrug it from her shoulders in time to dump in the trash can they were approaching, but it was like a trigger just the intention of removing the jacket was enough to make her feel queasy and she could feel bile surging like a wave across the top of her stomach. She was caught between the two desires, hands gripping tightly to the sides of the hoodie while she clenched her jaw and tried to close her throat.
The baby won or was it Rachel? because the hoodie remained on as they passed the trash can and walked into class. Santana was eyeing her warily as they took their seats.
"What? I said you had a point, but that doesn't stop me from being cold." Quinn glared mildly and then relaxed into a smirk. "Did I tell you I managed to get her a lunch detention too?"
Santana's face lit up. "No way! How?"
She grinned as she made something up. Loving how Santana lapped it up, not doubting her for a second now, because picking on Berry had her back in her natural element. Her life might be beyond screwed right now but it was still good to be Quinn Fabray.
By the start of lunch, news had spread and now everyone knew that Quinn had forced Rachel to give up her jacket, leaving the other girl not only shivering with cold but traumatized too. Yet another rumor was circulating about how Quinn had made Rachel cry in class and, how when she'd tried to run away in tears, Laxforth had shouted at her and given her detention.
Anyone who had been in the class with them could have, with a little thought, explained that these rumors weren't entirely true, but they were all too quick to take Quinn's side over Rachel Berry's and she wasn't about to correct them.
The salad under the hot lamps was wilting and going brown what moron put salad under hot lamps? and Quinn had demanded that one be made fresh for her. It was a tricky situation because the lunch ladies knew that Cheerios weren't meant to eat regular food from the cafeteria Coach Sylvester had them on a strict protein shake diet but she and Santana and Brittany had had them cowed for the last year and a simple glare was enough to have one of the women scurrying off to do her bidding.
While she was waiting, Berry joined her at the end of the lunch line and Quinn groaned.
"Don't worry, I'm just here to purchase food," Rachel said, her voice lackluster.
"So do it," she insisted.
"It takes them a few minutes to prepare my dish. I'm happy to wait in silence."
At least one minute of tense silence passed before Quinn rolled her eyes, "If you're angry just spit it out already."
"I have nothing to spit out. I completely understand why you felt the need to lie. I admit I am a little upset that you took the fact that I have a detention because of you and used it for your personal gain but it's not as if I expected anything less."
Quinn bristled at her tone. "Talking of detention, shouldn't you be there right now instead of bothering me?"
"I was informed that I had ten minutes to eat before I was required to be there."
At least five minutes of that must have already gone. Quinn looked away, because she wasn't going to feel guilty.
Their meals arrived at the same time and as they picked up their trays, she asked, "Why aren't you angry?"
"Because when all is said and done, you're still wearing my hoodie."
"Not through choice! Did you get my handkerchiefs from your locker?"
Rachel walked off, throwing a "No!" over her shoulder.
"Bitch!" she hissed under her breath as she walked in the other direction towards the Cheerios table.
Rachel was at her locker between fifth and sixth period, hastily switching books, when Finn found her. He stood beside her and she looked up, and up, to see his uncomfortable smile.
"Are you okay?" she asked automatically.
"Yeah, I just . . . I wanted to apologize again."
She ducked her head back to locker so he couldn't see her face. "What about?"
"This morning. I felt like I'd been rude or something afterwards and I don't want you to think I don't like you or anything."
Rachel grabbed her book, sighed, and pulled her head out of her locker to look up at him again. "Did you mean everything you said?"
He nodded awkwardly.
"Then you have nothing to apologize for, Finn."
"I sort of feel I do. Quinn got kinda mad about what happened and she's been saying nasty stuff about you. I feel responsible."
Rachel almost laughed because while his concern was sweet he really had no idea about what had happened.
"It's fine." She took a few steps out into the busy hallway; she didn't want to be late for class. People brushed by her as they walked past but she ignored them to look back at him. "I can handle Quinn."
"I . . . don't think that's true," he admitted. "No offense, but Quinn would eat you up like a breakfast burrito."
If only. The thought was fleeting and Rachel felt mortified the second it crossed her mind. She took another few steps away from him but didn't turn away.
"Honestly, if you meant what you said about loving her, Quinn has nothing to worry about. I respect your relationship and I . . ." Her eyes went wide as she saw Karofsky heading towards her, large cardboard cup in hand and grinning meanly. ". . . am about to get slushied!" she squeaked, already closing her eyes tight.
"What the hell, Manhands!" That wasn't Karofsky and he wasn't close enough yet to push her from the side, sending her three feet across the floor until her shoulder crashed into the lockers. "I told you to . . ."
Her eyes popped open at exactly the right time. The slushie was airborne, flying into the space she had been just a second before. The space Quinn now occupied. The head cheerleader took the slushie to the side of the head and even though most of it splattered off of her, her face was drenched in the red drink.
Quinn gasped at the icy shock and Rachel clenched a hand over her mouth to hide her nervous laughter.
Even Karofsky looked shocked by his actions and several of his goons stepped away from him. "I was aiming for that," he insisted, pointing at Rachel.
"Dude, you just slushied my girlfriend!" Finn threw a punch that missed by an inch but then the two were tussling in the hallway.
Rachel could hear laughter all around them, because as popular as Quinn might have been apparently everyone enjoyed seeing the cheerleading queen brought down a peg or two. That was enough to curb Rachel's own laughter and as Quinn scrubbed ice from her face, threw it to the ground, and then ran away, Rachel went to follow.
"Where do you think you're going, Stubbles?" It was Santana blocking her path.
Rachel barely registered her as she knocked her out of the way with her shoulder and started to run. That was going to cost her later! She reached the girls locker room only seconds after Quinn did but as she was about to follow through, Quinn turned and thrust an open palm at her chest, keeping her at bay.
"Like I'm gonna let you in here with me, Lesbo!" she snapped and the door slammed shut in her face.
A second later she heard the lock engage.
Rachel sighed at the inaccurate and, in her view, ineffective insult and then stepped back up to the door to call through it.
"I'm going to go and get the handkerchiefs because that jacket will smell of cherry slushie now."
There was a pause before Quinn said, "You need to go to sixth period before you get another detention because of me."
"I'm going to go and get the handkerchiefs now," she repeated. "I'll leave them outside the door."
Quinn sat on a bench in the locker room and waited. About eight minutes later she heard footsteps outside, they were accompanied by some scuffing sounds and an almost inaudible "That should be okay."
"You can come in if you want," she called, ready to unlock the door.
There were a few beats of silence, which seemed to stretch on for several minutes, before she heard footsteps retreating.
With a sigh, Quinn went to the door, unlocked it and cautiously peered outside. The box of handkerchiefs was nestled in the rack of hockey sticks opposite, unnoticeable unless you were grabbing one of the sticks or actually looking for the box.
Quinn snatched them up before ducking back inside the locker room. Even now she had them it was a few minutes before she could talk herself into losing the slushie-stained hoodie and heading into the showers.
Glee that afternoon was almost unbearable and Quinn wished she'd just skipped it again. If she'd thought the losers whispering out in the hall were bad, the losers in Glee were even worse. She interrupted a hushed conversation between Mercedes, Kurt and Tina when she walked into the choir room; they all clammed up immediately but shot her triumphant little smirks. It was disconcerting at first did Rachel have some kind of vengeance planned and they were in on it? Pathetic as they all were she didn't want the whole of Glee Club going Revenge of the Geeks on her but then Artie held his hand up for a high five and she got it: they were all on herside!
She ignored Artie, all of them in fact, but they continued to shoot her grateful or congratulatory smiles, like she was their champion, as if humiliating Rachel for the heck of it somehow made their lives so much better.
Santana and Puck were just as bad, although not as subtle. While Puck was regaling Matt with the completely fabricated way in which Quinn had caused Berry's detention and seriously, Matt must have been the only person in the school not to already have heard it Santana was calmly menacingly calmly telling the girl all of the ways she was going to repay her for getting Quinn slushied. Finn was the only one who didn't think she was a hero, and it was obvious in his perma-frown, but it wasn't enough to make him go and sit with the other girl.
Rachel, sitting at the other end of the risers with three chairs between her and the closest other kid, stared into the middle distance as if she was managing to completely block them out. Her expression looked serene but Quinn could see her hands in her lap clenching into such tight fists that her top knuckles stood out white and prominent.
She looked two steps from explosion and Quinn began to worry. How much more of this would she take before she threw her to the wolves to save herself? If she blurted out about the baby now Rachel was certain of a reprieve while Quinn became the center of probably just as much hostile attention. And why would Rachel take this much crap just to protect her secret? Quinn couldn't remember doing anything to earn it at least and if the tables were turned Quinn would have opened her mouth as soon as the first snide look had come her way actually she would never have kept the secret for her in the first place.
She knew she should do something to diffuse the situation not tell the truth obviously, because then everyone would just ask why she had lied in the first place, but she could tell everyone to leave Berry alone for five damn minutes. And then . . . they'd ask why.
'Because she's my plaything right now and I don't want to share.' Quinn frowned, that answer definitely needed work before she said it out loud.
Rachel surprised her and didn't break, not even when Santana said she was going to lock her in the dumpster behind the kitchens so that the rats would eat her overnight. She opened her mouth to speak up only once.
"I'm sure Quinn is perfectly capable of taking her own revenge so why trouble yourself?"
"Oh, I'm sure too that Q is gonna be kicking your ass soon, but that doesn't mean I don't want in on the fun."
Rachel sighed and went back to staring at nothing and Quinn was so happy that Mr. Schue walked in a minute later that she could have hugged him.
Until he said, "Okay, you all made a valiant effort on Friday, so I think we should use today to build on it. Let's run through the dance steps again."
He zeroed in on her and she could feel the eyes of everyone else burning her skin from all sides although a quick glance out the corner of her eye proved Berry was still staring straight ahead. She hadn't meant to say that out loud, or so vehemently.
"Sorry, Quinn?" She couldn't tell if Mr. Schue was concerned or irritated.
"Ohhh-kay then, everybody get into your places."
She waited until nearly everyone was on the floor before dragging herself from her chair and taking her spot between Puck and Finn.
"This is going to be a disaster."
Tina was walking past to take her own place and overheard her mutter. "Maybe it won't be so b-b-bad today."
Mercedes rolled her eyes good-naturedly, "Easy for you to say, Girl, you get to go first and set the pace."
"The music sets the pace," Rachel said from the back of the line but her heart didn't really sound in it.
At least Quinn wasn't the only one feeling dread.
"Not until we get good!" Santana pointed out. "Until then I'm the one eating her hair 'cause she can't move her ass fast enough."
Mercedes glared like she wanted to bite back but didn't quite have the guts to stand up to Santana after all, she was no Rachel Berry. Quinn didn't like that she was suddenly thinking every thought in a way that related to that girl.
"Maybe it would help if the girls just went through one at a time to start with," Finn suggested. "That way they wouldn't be tripping over each other or worrying about getting behind. It might help it sink in a little better."
She hated it when Finn used his brain. She could see Mr. Schue about to nod at the idea, a proud smile on his face that always showed up when Finn was showing his leadership potential. Quinn didn't want that; one at a time just gave her more time to think about what was coming and would make it more obvious if something weird happened like last Friday.
"No, let's just try it altogether or else we'll never get the timing right but why don't we switch the order. Go Tina, Santana, Mercedes, Manhands instead?" The nickname was out before she'd realized it but she couldn't be entirely sure she wouldn't have used it consciously anyway. "And see how that works."
"Yes, let's try that," Rachel nodded and suddenly gestured towards her with a flourish, making Quinn step back warily "And before we start, can we just take a moment to reflect on how positively stunning Quinn looks in my hooded sweater? Don't you all agree that the delicate shades of green argyle really bring out the color of her eyes?"
Point to Berry.
When everyone, well the girls and Kurt anyway, turned to assess the truth in Rachel's statement, Quinn knew all she could do was take it on the chin . . . and then strangle Berry with the damn hoodie sleeves the second she could get her alone.
"You're right," Kurt drawled and Rachel beamed triumphantly. "She really does pull it off much better than you."
"Oh, that's," her face fell as it was Quinn's turn to smile victoriously, "that's not quite what I was saying but . . ."
Quinn bit down on her tongue to keep from laughing at the girl's cute, crestfallen face cute like a wet kitten! Not like a . . . a girl and winked. She had no idea what she was trying to achieve, but Berry apparently running out of air mid-sentence and looking sharply away with a blush was as good a result as any.
Point to Fabray.
"Okay." Mr. Schue came back from discussing the music arrangement with the piano man and waved for Mercedes and Santana to switch places. "Right, let's take it from the top."
Quinn went through the motions, which luckily was all she had to do. She twirled Tina, which was awkward because they were right up in each other's personal space and while she could objectively see that the choreography would be striking if they ever got it right, she didn't even get this close up and cozy when slow-dancing with Finn. Santana's timing was perfect and Quinn was twirling her before she'd realized she'd let go of Tina's hand, and it was way less awkward because they were friends and Santana bared her teeth in a grin while they spun together and it made her laugh. Mercedes, obviously having something to prove, was only half a step out. Unfortunately that half a step landed on Quinn's toes as she twirled her around. Mercedes' eyes went wide like she expected her to produce a slushie from thin air and dump it on her head, but Quinn just smirked and continued and the rest of their dance went flawlessly.
Quinn wanted to hold on and keep spinning around with her for the rest of the session because she knew what was coming next and it took a real effort of will to release with her left hand and reach out with her right. She had her eyes closed, hoping that would help, and was berating herself over and over for even caring about this. It was just a damn dance routine, it meant nothing! But her whole body was tingling in an unpleasant way as she waited for the contact.
It never came. What the Hell? Berry was a lot of things but out of step was never one of them. Her eyes popped open. Rachel had obviously moved forward across the room as she was supposed to but had stopped just feet shy of Puck, who was holding his hands out to her impatiently. She was biting her lip, looking at Puck's hands and not moving. Everyone was staring at her.
"Is everything okay, Rachel?" Okay now Mr. Schue definitely sounded irritated.
Rachel's head snapped to him and she smiled it looked forced. "Yes, I apologize for my untimeliness, but I need to go to the bathroom."
He nodded his head towards the door with a sigh and she scampered off. She really did scamper.Quinn rolled her eyes and stopped watching her leave.
"The rest of you guys, that was awesome. I think once we perfect it we'll be able to take Sectionals just on this routine alone."
Yeah, if they ever perfected it. With the way things were going, Quinn found that unlikely.
Rachel stayed in the bathroom for as long as she deemed was acceptable before slowly making her way back to the Choir room. A glance at her watch told her she still had over an hour to endure. This was a nightmare! Glee was the highlight of her life and now she wanted to hide from it all because of one stupid dance. What was even the big deal anyway? So she had to join hands and dance close to Quinn Fabray, so what? It was for the sake of the music, for the sake of winning at Sectionals, and that should totally overrule anything else. She was a professional! She could do this!
But that didn't stop her feet from dragging as she walked through the door and saw they were setting up to go again. She couldn't use the same excuse twice and couldn't think of another one. Maybe Quinn would because she seemed just as against this happening as she was.
"Okay, ready, Rachel?"
"Yes, sorry about that. I had two vitamin waters at lunch and obviously that must have been too much for my . . ."
"Too much information, freakshow," Santana curtly cut her off.
"Here here," Kurt agreed.
"Jeez, give her a break, guys!" Every eye turned to Mike and none were more surprised than Rachel's although they all gave her a run for her money. He shrugged. "What? It's getting boring."
Rachel was even more surprised when Quinn nodded, "He's right. We're here to sing and dance. Pick on Berry on your own time and stop wasting mine."
Now Quinn was under scrutiny but she just glared at the likes of Puck and Kurt and Mercedes until they all shrugged and looked away. Rachel noticed she avoided looking at Santana who looked just as shocked as Rachel by her speaking up.
"They're right. Rachel, are you ready to try it again?"
"Of course, Mr. Schuester." Rachel took her place, her steps more assured than she felt. "Let's take it from the top."
'Think about Finn, think about Finn, think about Finn. Just barrel straight through the thing with Quinn and you'll be in Finn's arms. That makes it all worth it. Just think about Finn.'
She timed her walk up behind Mercedes and as soon as Puck let go of her stepped in to take his hands herself. She could do this. They spun in a circle together.
'Think about Finn, think about Finn!'
Turn, turn. This was it. 'Think about Finn!' Their hands met. Electricity! Just as strong as before. Quinn stiffened at the contact and Rachel felt like a robot her moves jerky and uncoordinated but they made it through the initial twirl. She had to put her arm around Quinn's neck now. She faltered and they were behind, Mercedes was already with Brittany, but she tried to power through.
Her right arm was coming around not at all smoothly to curl around Quinn's shoulders when the cheerleader yanked away and pushed her, sending her stumbling back.
"What did I do?" Her confusion was echoed by Mr. Schue.
"You stood on my foot, bitch! And it freaking hurt, okay?"
"No I didn't!"
She really hadn't. For one, she knew her rhythm was too good for that, and for two, surely she'd have felt it.
"Are you calling me a liar, Stubbles?"
Yes! She couldn't deny she was thankful for the reprieve though. "No, I'm not. I'm sorry; I didn't mean to stand on your foot, Quinn."
Quinn nodded at her tersely, accepting her apology with bad grace.
Rachel heard Mercedes mutter smugly to Tina, "She didn't fly off at me for standing on her foot."
Quinn heard too and bit her lip for a second. "Let's just try it again."
Rachel groaned inwardly but went back to her starting spot.
Quinn was on autopilot now as she danced with Tina, Santana and Mercedes, focused on only one thing, getting through this evil routine with Berry at least once.
She'd almost had it the last time, keeping her mind shut down to the fact it was Rachel she was dancing with and instead picturing her as Wendy, the head cheerleader her freshman year, the one whose shoes she'd filled, who was also a brunette and not much taller than Rachel, and while she had certainly never had any feelings for her other than admiration . . . the admiration had been strong.
It had worked right up until Berry was facing her, arm about to curl around her neck, and then the truth of the situation had come slamming back and she'd acted instinctively.
Now she had to do it all over again but she changed her strategy this time.
'It is Berry, it's okay it's Berry, it's just thirty seconds out of my life. Shower in bleach when Glee is over and it'll be like it never even happened.'
Quinn was counting down in her head. Five . . . four . . . three . . . another two Mississippi's passed and Rachel's palm was against hers. Their hands clasped and Rachel's hand was so small and warm and soft that the contact caused a warm shiver to run pleasantly down her spine and forced her to smile, on the inside at least. She twirled her and for the first time it was smooth and perfect. She could do this. Or at least she could fake it, she decided, as she tensed, knowing Rachel's arm was about to wrap around her shoulders.
She breathed through the anxiety, willing her body to relax enough to make this look seamless, but the arm never landed. A hand did instead; clutching her shoulder painfully tight as Rachel thrust herself away, breaking the contact between their hands at the same time.
For the third or fourth time the piano stuttered to a stop and everyone was looking at them again.
"Sorry," Rachel said with forced brightness, looking at Mr. Schue rather than her. "My cell phone is vibrating in my pocket and I'm expecting a call from my Daddy. I'll be back."
As she rushed from the room apparently Quinn was the only one who realized she didn't have pockets in either her skirt or her t-shirt.
Mr. Schue sighed, "Okay, we don't have much time left. We'll pick the routine back up tomorrow. Let's just run through the song instead."
"Is it worth it without Rachel?" she found herself asking. She really didn't mean to.
"Yes. You can take lead for now Quinn."
Finally a silver lining!
Rachel deliberately stayed outside the room for ten minutes and when she came back in Quinnwas singing her share of the lyrics with Finn. She wanted to launch into a tirade about how unfair that was but found herself standing by the door and just listening instead. Quinn really did have a pretty voice when she put her mind to it.
By the time the song was over, Mr. Schuester was calling the meeting to an end and everyone trailed out of the room as if they didn't even notice she was standing in the doorway.
Sighing, she went to grab her bag.
"Yes, Mr. Schue?"
He smiled a little before looking serious again. "Rachel, is everything okay?"
"Why wouldn't it be?"
"You've been really distracted for over a week now and you're usually so focused that I can't help thinking something is wrong. This is normally the kind of song you love and you always seem up to the challenge of any choreography and yet you've been distant and uncooperative since we started rehearsing this number."
Rachel looked at her feet. "I'm fine."
"If there's something you wanted to talk to me about . . . or maybe I could schedule you an appointment with Miss Pillsbury."
Rachel wanted to spill all, she nearly did, but Quinn wouldn't be happy with her sharing either of their secrets; both of which were laying heavily on her mind.
"I'm fine, Mr. Schuester. I just have a few . . . personal issues that I'm dealing with. I promise to get it together before tomorrow's rehearsal."
"Okay, well if you need someone to talk to . . . I know some of the kids aren't always that friendly but trust me when I say they're dealing with all the same problems you are."
"So you're saying their antagonism is a result of their own insecurities?"
"I guess I am."
"That makes me feel better," Rachel deadpanned.
"Well, like I said, if you need someone to talk to . . . " He gave her a sympathetic smile before picking up his satchel and leaving the room.
She meandered to her chair, thinking about the session and everything that had gone wrong with it and why it had gone wrong. She'd promised to fix it by tomorrow but she had no idea how to do that.
Someone entered the room behind her and she froze for a second thinking it might be Quinn, even though the footsteps were too heavy.
"Oh, hi, you're here."
Rachel turned to Mike, who had stalled by the piano. "You sound both surprised and yet not."
"The guys were kind of rough on you today."
"I'm used to it," she smiled without an ounce of self pity. "It's okay."
Mike nodded, taking a step closer but keeping the piano a barrier between them.
"So I was wondering . . . are you free later?"
Rachel beamed but it soon melted into a shy smile. "I'll have to check my date-diary but I think I am."
Mike smiled back, "Cool, 'cause there was something I wanted to ask you."
"Oh, sweet Mary and fricken Jesus. It's back!" Santana groaned while they were on a five minute break from practice.
"What?" Quinn was focused on trying not to pant out loud. After she'd exerted herself in Glee with all the spinning and twirling and emotional angst Cheerios training on top of that was nearly killing her. And it burned that Santana and Brittany were taking it in stride even though she knew she had extenuating circumstances.
"Manhands," Brittany said simply, not even looking in the direction of the bleachers.
Quinn's head snapped up and found the girl immediately. It was actually a nice day so there were other people sitting up there too girls waiting for the boyfriends on the football team, guys waiting for the cheerleading girlfriends but Berry was conspicuous because she sat alone, at one end of the bleachers bent over a note book once more.
She groaned; she was going to kill her. Hadn't she told her this was unacceptable? What was the girl thinking?
Turning away, she muttered, "She's probably here to watch Finn again."
"Finn's not out there," Santana pointed out and Quinn belatedly remembered he had a dentist appointment.
Brittany smiled, "Maybe she has a crush on one of us?"
"What?" Okay, that had come out way louder than she'd meant it too.
"One of the Cheerios," Brittany explained. "She does keep watching us. Maybe it's me. She seems the type to like blondes."
Quinn was trying to choke on her spit quietly and Santana suddenly narrowing her eyes and cocking her head to the side wasn't helping. She guzzled from her bottle of water for a few seconds and wiped the dribbles from her chin.
"I'd believe that if she wasn't drooling over Finn twenty-four-seven."
"Actually I think Brit has a point."
She schooled her expression of unease into something amiable. "How so?"
"She's been hanging 'round you a lot recently, Q."
She shrugged at Santana, "I already told you why."
"What if she's lying? What if she likes you?" Santana was both amused and horrified by the idea. Quinn could relate. "What if she wants to get her girly-kisses on with you?"
Quinn's expression grew cool with just the right amount of disgust, she hoped. "Then she'll be in for a rude awakening. There's no way though." Quinn chuckled, "She hates me, I've made her life hell. Even Berry isn't delusional enough to suddenly fall for me because I was nice to her one time."
"When were you nice to her?"
"There's a fine line between love and hate, Quinn," Brittany told her solemnly. "Trust me, I've seen it. It's purple. You know, because love is red and hate is black and when they touch in the middle its all purple and stuff."
Quinn didn't know which one of them to respond to, so . . . "Coach wants us back on the field. Let's go."
As Santana and Brittany ran back to practice, Quinn looked over at Berry again. She didn't look back.
That really shouldn't have been so . . . purple.
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