Quinn slowly blinked awake Friday morning and stretched out comfortably beneath her sheets and blanket and . . .
. . . six minutes after that she was throwing up.
As she stepped into the shower, tilting her head back and opening her mouth to wash out the foul taste, she knew it was going to be a bad day. For starters, she was still feeling sick despite having just emptied her stomach.
She stayed in the shower for a long time, and when she finally turned the water off she bypassed the towel waiting for her on the rack and instead walked back into her bedroom to grab the towel draped over her desk chair.
The scent was fading fast now but there was just about enough left to make her feel a little better as she breathed it in. Right now she hated the idea of needing anything from Rachel Berry – just what had she been trying to accuse her of yesterday, anyway? – but not enough to turn down the material comfort the girl offered. She couldn't actually wait to get to school and have this day old towel replaced with a fresh one.
Which did not translate in any way to her wanting to see Berry . . . she just really wanted her fabric softener.
Rachel was sitting in first period History, head bent studiously over her textbook; although really she was jotting down extra notes for their performance that afternoon. She didn't have to be so stealthy – the lesson had yet to start and it wasn't like anyone ever sat in the empty space next to her – but the teacher was only a few feet in front and she didn't want to be caught breaking the rules.
Talking of rules, she instantly broke one when the chair beside her was pulled out and someone sat down. To be fair though, she hadn't known who was planning to sit down when she'd looked up. Her startled expression quickly turned to one of pleasant surprise.
Quinn did not smile back. "Lose the puppy dog look. Do you have something for me?"
"Excuse . . . Oh!" It was obvious what Quinn was referring to. "I'm sorry, no."
"Is it in your locker?" Quinn asked impatiently.
"No, I didn't wash one this morning. I didn't think you'd want me to."
Quinn's face fell and then hardened. "Bitch!" she muttered vehemently and then her chair was scraping back sharply as she stood and walked to her usual seat.
Mouth open in surprise, Rachel turned to stare after the cheerleader but when Santana sneered and gave her the finger she quickly turned back to the front. What the heck had that been about? Again Rachel worried for Quinn's mental health while at the same time wishing she hadn't talked herself out of grabbing a dirty towel the day before. But how was she to have known? It wasn't as if they had parted on the best of terms in the auditorium.
She was hurt by the harshness of Quinn's words but that paled in comparison to her concern. What was the big deal about the towels? Now she felt guilty for going against her instincts and she didn't like feeling guilty. It wasn't something she usually had to deal with; her single-mindedness in achieving her goals sort of made guilt a moot point, but, for some reason . . . she felt worse about not washing a towel for Quinn than she did about kissing the cheerleader's boyfriend – it was all extremely confusing.
Once the lesson started she did her best to pay attention but her mind was too caught up in other thoughts and for once they weren't about herself. She had to get to the bottom of this.
Second period for Quinn was Biology and thank God they weren't dissecting anything today. Mind you, the pictures they had to look at were disturbing enough – no girl should ever have to see what the inside of a boy's penis looked like, even if it was just a printed diagram.
As Finn sat beside her, taking turns at giggling uncomfortably and making crass jokes with Puck, she cursed him and the damn nausea that just wouldn't abate today. For good measure she cursed Puck too; after all, it was all his fault anyway.
"Are you okay?" Finn asked quietly in a too rare moment of boyfriendly concern.
"You look a little green."
"I do not look green!"
"Well, not really green, just, you know, sick and stuff."
"It's called morning sickness, Finn," she whispered. "It's what happens when idiots like you get someone pregnant."
He cast his eyes to the desk, all humor gone. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize. Can I do anything to help?"
Great, now he was making her feel guilty. Or more guilty, whatever. "No, it'll pass."
"Are you sure? I can skip third and go get you a burger or something if that'll help?"
Quinn had to place her hands flat on the desk and breathe evenly so that she didn't throw up. "Are you stupid? Don't talk about greasy food."
"I'm sorry." He really sounded it. She hated that. "Something else? Anything else? I can, uh, hold your hair back if you need to, like, barf, if you want."
"I'm not going to barf!" she snapped, although that might not be true for long.
"Okay, sorry." His eyes were focused blankly on his textbook. "But if there's anything I can do . . .?"
She considered asking him to break into Rachel Berry's house to wash a towel for her but thought better of it. Not only did she not particularly want him being anywhere near Berry's home – Rachel might be into her more than him now, but she was still a little worried Finn was holding a candle for the freak and she wouldn't put it past Berry to accept his advances just to get back at her either – but also he'd probably blow up the washing machine or something and she just knew that would come back to bite her on the ass.
"No, you've already done more than enough."
He gave her a doleful look. "You're always mad at me now," he whispered. "It's not like I meant to get us pregnant."
His use of the word 'us' touched her too much and made her feel even more unbelievably guilty, and so she responded the only way she could to keep it bay, with anger, "No, but you still did!"
He nodded and didn't say anything else. As she finally looked away from him she caught Puck's eye. He was frowning and when he noticed he had her attention he slowly shook his head.
She knew he hadn't heard their conversation because he was on the other side of the aisle and a desk ahead of them but he'd obviously realized the subject matter. She didn't feel guilty about him, because this really was all his fault, but the look he was giving her was pissing her off.
Giving him her best withering 'stay out of it' glare she stared at her textbook for the rest of the lesson. It didn't help her nausea but then she was starting to accept that nothing was going to today.
Between periods she had to grab a book from her locker. Finn had walked her there but had to leave quickly for Shop Class on the other side of the school.
So did Puck but that didn't stop him from cornering her. "You need to give my boy a break."
"That's none of your business," she snapped.
"Like Hell it ain't. Look, you chose him, which I am not down with, but if that's your choice then you've gotta cut him some slack."
Quinn finally pulled her head out of her locker. "Are you finally feeling guilty?"
"For screwing my best friend's girl? No. But for knocking her up, yeah a little. Personally I think we should come clean so you can be with me, but if you're gonna go ahead with this bullshit then you at least gotta treat the dude right."
"I do treat him alright. I'm just not feeling very well today."
Puck was instantly concerned. It made her feel sicker. "What's wrong? Is everything okay? Yunno, with the baby?"
"Everything's fine. This is normal, apparently."
"Morning sickness," he said knowingly, making her wonder for a second if he'd gotten any more girls pregnant. "I read about that."
"You read about it?"
"Sure, I'm not a complete loser. Soon as I found out about our kid I started doing research. Food can help, you know."
"Do not mention a burger!"
"I was gonna suggest a smoothie. They have, like, vitamins and shit in them right?"
Quinn stared at him. Puck wouldn't blow up the washing machine; he had the sense to just steal the fabric softener and then have his Mom wash the towel.
"I can go get you one if you want."
She could feel the onset of tears so she turned back to her locker, finally grabbing the book she needed. "No, that won't be necessary."
"I don't mind, there's a shop just a block away."
She steeled herself. "I said no!"
"Fine, be like that. But you're not doing yourself, or me, or Finn any favors right now." Puck pushed off of the lockers with a final parting shot, of,. "Sort your shit out, Fabray."
Head still buried, Quinn wiped a tear away, took a deep breath and stepped back. As she shut the small metal door she noticed Rachel standing at her own locker, trying and failing not to look.
She tried to muster a suitably cutting remark about eavesdropping but just didn't have it in her right now. Instead she wiped another stray tear from her cheek and walked away.
Fourth period was Spanish and Quinn was comfortable not paying too much attention. Her Spanish was good and Mr. Schuester was a fairly easy-going teacher. Her mind unfortunately drifted to Finn and Puck and the baby, just like it always did when there was nothing to distract her from the . . . the utter mess she was in.
What if Puck was right? Maybe she should give him a chance. But it went against everything she believed to be right to do that. Puck might not be the worst guy in the world, but he was far from being the best too.
Finn was the best, at least on paper – he was kind and sweet and good-looking and popular. Plus she sort of loved him. No! She did love him. Maybe not when they'd started dating, but they'd been together nearly six months now. If that wasn't love, what was?
Yesterday's conversation with Rachel came back unbidden. She didn't know why but the annoying dwarf had really gotten under her skin with her childish jabbering about love at first sight.
She hadn't fallen for Finn the second she'd seen him. In fact they'd been aware of each other in eighth grade and the first half of Freshman year without ever really speaking directly to one another, and then her Daddy had raised the ban on dating and suddenly she'd needed a boyfriend. She was already head cheerleader by then, leaving her no choice but to date the captain of the football team.
The fact that dating the most popular boy in school was more of a giant Fuck You to her former miserable life than the fulfillment of any childhood dreams was neither here nor there when, social-standing-wise, she didn't have much of a say in it anyway.
So she hadn't loved him when they started going out, but she did love him now – she was almost sure of it.
So Berry had been wrong; love at first sight didn't exist. And if Manhands had just left it there yesterday . . . but no, she just had to go and say other stuff, worse stuff, and now . . . and now, she could barely believe it, but thinking about Berry's views on lust at first sight was a better alternative to thinking about Finn's hurt face in Biology or Puck's quiet anger at her locker.
But . . . lust at first sight? Seriously? Was that like going weak at the knees and hot and shaky all over and stumbling over your words just because you'd met someone pretty? Um, handsome. It sounded more like a case of social anxiety to her. And the only time she'd ever felt like that was . . . shit!
Okay, that had just been first day of school nerves, everyone got those, right? Especially when partnered with someone who wouldn't shut up for five seconds and kept asking personal questions about you. And Quinn had been a whole new person then and she hadn't really gotten to know herself yet which had made answering even the simplest of those question difficult.
She had to think about this from a different angle, because this one was about to make her stick her pen far enough up her nose to kill her brain.
Lust. Just thinking about the concept of it brought warmth to her cheeks. It's not like she didn't believe in lust, of course she did, the bible had all sort of warnings about it, but it wasn't right. You weren't supposed to feel it, at least not until you were married. Even then it was an iffy subject.
It was a sin, like gluttony – which she could definitely not be accused of (anymore) – and pride – which okay she could be accused of. Lust wasn't something she had any experience of though (because that had been nerves, dammit, and she'd go to her grave swearing that). Maybe she'd felt just a tiny bit with Puck. Although mostly that night the three wine coolers she'd consumed on an empty stomach had just made her more curious and less sensible than usual; add to that she had been having a bad day . . .
'Talk about your bad days,' she thought as she bit her lip against yet another wave of nausea.
A message came over the PA system while she was still willing her stomach to behave. "Cheerios, assemble!" and at the front of the class Mr. Schuester sighed audibly but waved towards the door. When Coach Sylvester barked through the intercom like that none of the teachers bothered to try and fight it.
Quinn was so happy for the distraction that she leapt out of her seat, grabbing her bag and rushing to the door with a few other cheerleaders.
"What's this about?" Brittany asked, easily running beside her. "Did we do something wrong?"
Quinn's steps faltered, she nearly tripped! "What? I don't know. Why?"
"You've been talking to her a lot. Are we friends with her now?"
"We've only been talking because of the stupid Glee assignment; and no!"
"Okay, well will you tell me when we are? I don't want to be rude by accident."
Quinn slowed as she approached the door to the gym. "We're not going to be friends with her."
Brittany didn't respond because she was making her way over to her position in the squad and Quinn suppressed the urge call after her and reiterate her statement.
Ten minutes later she fell from the top of the pyramid.
It totally wasn't her fault; the girl beneath her lost her balance and stooped low to grab the shoulder under her foot. While she'd managed to save herself, Quinn had no such luck and landed on the hard floor on her hands and knees. While she was congratulating herself on not killing herself, or anything else, the coach had other ideas.
"What happened, Fabray? A little turbulence and you quake? If you're that inept at being my crowning jewel maybe I should offer the gig elsewhere."
"I'm fine, Coach Sylvester." Quinn slowly stood up. "I just haven't had time for my protein shake yet today."
"This is unacceptable. If regular classes are taking you away from your shakes maybe I should have them all cancelled."
Quinn wasn't going to argue.
"But that's no excuse for today!" Coach barked. "Get back to the top of that pyramid."
Quinn sighed. Her knees were hurting and the palms of her hands were stinging but she shook it off and ran into a lift so that Ricky could swing her up to her place at the pinnacle. Arms out to the sides, her over-bright smile hid all of her pain and fear and anger but it would be a miracle if it could stop her from throwing up all over the Cheerios below her too.
Luckily Quinn believed in miracles and, perhaps as a reward for it, God helped her keep her stomach in check until the lunch bell rang. She did have to make a run for the nearest bathroom immediately after though.
When she emerged five minutes later, feeling shaky and still perspiring under her uniform, someone was waiting for her. It wasn't anyone she was in the mood to see.
"I've been looking for you."
"I thought I told you not to do that."
Rachel hugged her folder tighter to her chest. "We're supposed to be practicing."
"I need to eat first."
"You can eat after."
"I need to eat first," Quinn spelled out slowly. God, what was her problem? Couldn't she just leave her alone? She turned to walk towards the cafeteria but stopped when she noticed Rachel was trotting beside her. "What do you think you're doing?"
"I was . . . I thought we could discuss the new notes I've made while you eat. It would save time because at least then when you finally make it to the auditorium we can get right to the . . ."
"In what universe am I going to let you sit with me at lunch, Berry?"
Rachel was silent, probably trying to decide if the question was rhetorical. "I just thought . . ."
"Do us both a favor: Stop thinking about me."
Rachel laughed as Mike pirouetted around her so fast she felt dizzy. He was such a quick learner. She'd only shown him the ballet steps once and he had mastered it, improvised with it and already made it his own.
His natural talent pleased her, being equal to her own but not in competition with it. Plus they would make a dashing couple at after show parties, with his boyish good looks and her own quirky, understated beauty, she thought idly, and then slightly less idly she wondered if he was single.
"I didn't realize we were turning this into a ballet."
The unexpected voice startled her and she turned to see Quinn striding across the stage. She looked slightly healthier than when Rachel had seen her in the hall. Stopping a few feet from them, apparently waiting for an answer, she sipped from her Cheerio's water bottle.
"We're not, but we had given up on you ever joining us and decided to have some fun instead."
Quinn sighed, "It's only been ten minutes."
"Which is ten minutes of rehearsal time we'll never get back!"
"So stop wasting more of it and let's rehearse!"
Quinn's temper was even shorter than usual today. Rachel added it to her mental list of the cheerleader's recent odd behavior as she called for Brad to start playing his piano. Increased anger management issues; sickly pallor; an uncharacteristic need for multiple bathroom breaks; crying after talking to Noah Puckerman; being friendly with her, Rachel Berry, and possibly . . . possibly . . . even flirting with her? She wasn't really sure about that because the only proof that any flirting had indeed taken place was her own reaction to it and without prior experience she couldn't consider such evidence as completely reliable. And then there was the inexplicable towel obsession, which was perhaps the weirdest weird thing of them all.
She ran through the list again as Quinn sang her verse, but no matter how much she thought about it she couldn't see how it all added up to one specific malady. She'd have to go on that night to see if the website could shed any light on it.
They ran through the song together once before Rachel decided it was time to try it with the dancing again. She'd already given her new notes to Mike and now she handed a copy to Quinn.
"If I see anywhere on here that you and I are dancing together now I'm going home sick before Glee," she snapped before she'd even so much as looked at the page.
Rachel went red and glanced at Mike, but he just smiled in a confused way at her outburst. "Of course there's nothing like that. I just switched the count a little to go with what we decided after school yesterday. You make it sound like I actually want to dance with you." Quinn gave her a cold smirk. "Which I do not. Besides, I know you have problems keeping in time and I wouldn't want to suggest anything that might make that even harder for you."
The smirk turned into a glare but, with effort, Rachel kept a passive, ever-helpful smile on her face.
"So if we could just try it," she began, signalling for Brad again.
"Give me a minute." Quinn held the paper close to her face as she read the changes.
Rachel frowned; was Quinn short-sighted? She'd never seen her wear glasses or heard her complain about a contact popping out. Perhaps this was another symptom. She added 'deteriorating eyesight' to her list but then completely forgot about it because . . . had Quinn just sniffed the piece of paper?
Rachel's eyes went wide and she glanced at Mike again, convinced the evidence would be written all over his face, but he didn't seem to have noticed anything odd. Mentally scribbling out 'deteriorating eyesight' she wrote in 'compulsion to sniff things'.
"Okay, I'm ready."
Rachel nodded, still distracted by her thoughts as they took their places. She took one look around Mike to see Quinn holding her stomach and breathing in an exaggeratedly even manner before forcing herself to focus as Brad played the intro.
They ran through the full performance once. It was good, but not perfect so Rachel insisted they did it again. Halfway through the fifth run through, during Quinn and Mike's second waltz, Quinn stopped abruptly and pushed Mike away from her.
"Did I step on your foot?" he apologized, although Rachel couldn't imagine him being so clumsy.
"No, I just can't do this anymore."
"It's one song and we never even stand next to each other!" Rachel snapped. Surely if she could push aside her own feelings for the sake of the performance then Quinn could put aside her dislike of her for the same amount of time.
"I don't care!"
Quinn was holding her stomach with both hands now and her breathing was ragged. Rachel assumed it was only from the singing and dancing until Quinn threw a hand over her mouth and sprinted from the auditorium.
"I think she's sick," Mike muttered.
"And I think she's more of a drama queen than people think I am," Rachel muttered back, totally bemused by Quinn's behavior. Hadn't she ever heard the saying: The show must go on?
"You should probably check on her."
"I think she would probably prefer it if you did."
"I can't go into the girl's bathroom!" he hissed, looking around as if someone had just accused him of doing just that.
"Okay, fine." Rachel nodded. "I guess that means we're done for now. You were really good though, I can't wait for us to perform it later."
Mike grinned, "See you after school."
Rachel wanted to walk sedately, like she didn't really care, but found herself rushing from the auditorium anyway. The closest bathroom was just around the corner and she took a deep, bolstering breath before entering. She didn't know why though because it was probably empty. Quinn was most likely back in the cafeteria with Finn and her friends, telling them all how she just couldn't stand one more second in Rachel's presence.
She pushed the door open and stood just inside. It looked empty, but she knew right away Quinn wasn't laughing at her in the lunchroom. She'd never heard the cheerleader cry, so no clues from that, but the whispered, "Stop, stop, please, God, make it stop," was definitely all Quinn.
"You know, talking about it might help," she said, loud and clear and it seemed to echo around the tiled room.
There was a gasp and then a muffled sob. "Go away!"
She ignored the instruction and slowly walked down the line of cubicles. "I know we're not friends or anything, but you can talk to me if you like."
"Seriously, Chewbacca, get out of here!"
"I think taking my diminutive stature into account, Chewbacca is hardly a cutting insult."
"Fine, Dwarf; fuck off!"
Rachel stopped beside the second to last cubicle, literally shocked into standing still by Quinn's curse. It wasn't like she didn't know such language, she'd been surrounded by it since middle school, and her Dads had become much more lenient about what movies she was allowed to watch since she'd turned fifteen, but she'd never heard Quinn swear like that. It was almost as shocking as hearing her cry.
She stepped to the last stall, Quinn was kneeling and had obviously been in too much of a hurry to get down there to close the door. As Rachel opened her mouth to speak, the other girl gave a strangled grunt and vomited harshly into the toilet bowl.
Acting on pure instinct at seeing the girl so ill, Rachel rushed into the cubicle with her, dropping to her own knees so that she could rub her back.
"Stop touching . . . !" Quinn was sick again.
Rachel rubbed her back until she'd finished retching. "As I don't believe your hate of me would be enough to make you physically sick, I'm going to respectfully decline your insistence on being alone."
"Get . . ." Quinn was sick again. "Oh God, why can't I stop!"
"Are you asking God specifically, or me?"
There was a low gurgle that sounded suspiciously like a weak chuckle before Quinn had to duck her head back to the toilet as the retching started again. Thankfully nothing came up this time.
"If you insist on staying, you could at least hold my hair back!" Quinn snapped.
"Oh." Rachel went to do just that. "Um, it's already in a ponytail."
Quinn snorted, and then was sick again. "It won't stop," she whispered pitifully between gulps of the now fetid air. "It usually stops."
"I see." Rachel was rubbing her back again but her mind was racing through her list of symptoms. It all made sense now. "How long have you been bulimic?"
Quinn turned sharply and vomit-scented breath rushed against Rachel's face as she snapped, "I am not a freaking bulimic!"
"I'm sorry; I didn't mean to jump to an assumption. Then what is wrong? Do you have a drinking problem?"
Quinn's mouth opened to deliver a cutting reply but no words came out. Instead she was looking at Rachel properly for the first time, or more to the point at Rachel's clothes. She waited for the insult on her dress sense to come, knowing it wouldn't even hurt if it made Quinn feel better. It was pathetic, probably, but she didn't care, she just wanted to ease the distress in Quinn's eyes.
"Give me your arm."
"Excuse me?" Did she expect her to cut it off at the shoulder or something? Because while she did want to make Quinn feel better she wasn't going to dismember herself to do it. At least, she thought, not without a please.
Quinn grabbed her right arm without waiting for a yes or no and Rachel panicked, even more so when the cheerleader held it up to her mouth.
"There's toilet paper right there," she squeaked, nodding at the dispenser.
Quinn didn't answer, she was too busy sniffing Rachel's arm and Rachel had the sudden realization that Quinn was a cannibal and obviously all of the previous sniffing of her stuff was just an appetizer for when she finally got her alone. Why had she come into this bathroom? Why had she tried to befriend Quinn? She should have stayed away at all of costs. If only she had known! Now she was going to die, eaten by Quinn Fabray in her mentally reduced state! And a small voice, surfing the wave of panic and sounding more like Noah Puckerman than herself, said, "But what a way to go!"
Quinn had been sniffing from an inch away but, apparently liking the sweet, tender scent of her, now pressed her nose hard to the sleeve of her sweater and breathed in deeply.
Rachel squeezed her eyes shut. "Please don't bite me!"
"You're not going to get that lucky." The words came out extremely muffled as Quinn took another deep lungful of her sleeve.
After the third inhale with no chunks of flesh being ripped from her arm, Rachel relaxed – a very little bit. "What are you doing?"
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Again the words were muffled.
Rachel thought about it but remained bewildered as she watched Quinn breathe in her sleeve. "I really don't know."
"Your damn fabric softener is the only thing that stops it and don't think I'm happy about that."
"Oh." That only answered one of a dozen questions though. "Stops what?"
"Don't push it, Berry."
Rachel frowned, not sure what she had pushed, but then Quinn pushing her nose higher up, into the crook of her elbow, diffused her train of thought.
"Is there anything else I can do?"
"No, just stay still." Quinn was quiet for a moment but then Rachel heard another sob. "Damn, I hate you!"
"And yet you are still . . ."
Another sob. "Please just shut up."
Rachel did so but a disturbance came from another quarter, by the door. "Q, you in here?"
Quinn's reaction was a blur as she pulled on Rachel's arm, drawing her even further into the stall, before slamming the door closed and engaging the lock. She held a finger to Rachel's lips as she mouthed, "Santana."
Rachel had already figured that out and was too busy wondering what damage had been done to her kidneys after impacting with the toilet roll dispenser to mouth a reply.
"Yes, I'm in here," Quinn's voice was frail and she looked at the toilet, gulped and then grabbed Rachel's left arm. She was hardly surprised this time when Quinn gave it a big sniff, but she was still very much confused.
"Why? Fifth period started already. What's up?"
"Find that hard to believe. Mike said you freaked out earlier and Berry came after you. Weirdly enough she ain't in class either." Santana chuckled. "What did you do to her? I bet it was good. Come on out so we can celebrate."
"I didn't do anything to her."
"Shit, I knew you'd gone soft." Footsteps echoed off the tiles. "And you keep talking to her. What's that about?"
"We're just working on a Glee assignment together. As soon as it's over this afternoon I won't be speaking to her again, trust me."
Pain and indignation bloomed in Rachel's chest and she mouthed tetchily, "Unless you want to sniff me again!"
Quinn sent her a pleading look, which was enough to mollify her even if it did feel wrong.
"Yeah, right," Santana laughed. "You're acting too weird lately for me to believe that. Are you coming out or not?"
"Um, I can't at the moment."
"Dude!" Santana laughed again. "You're totally having a nooner in there with her right now aren't you?"
It only took Quinn's hazel eyes going all big and scared for Rachel to shut down the toilet lid without a sound and hop gracefully onto it. She sat indian-style so there was no chance of her feet being seen under the door.
Quinn shot her a grateful look before forcefully saying, "Actually I'm just throwing up; but thanks for making me feel even more barfy."
"Hey!" Rachel mouthed furiously, and then nearly fell off the side of the toilet when Quinn surged forward and pressed her nose to her stomach. It certainly caused all fury to leave in an instant and she hoped her gulp hadn't carried beyond the stall.
Santana's voice came as close to concern as it ever did. "Why, what's up?"
"Bad lasagna," Quinn said, her voice muted by Rachel's sweatshirt. "My Mom was sick all night. Thought I'd escaped it, but apparently not."
"Think you need to see the nurse for a shot or something?"
Quinn finally raised her head again, looking straight up at her. "Yes, I'm definitely thinking I should seek medical attention."
Rachel stuck her tongue out and Quinn actually smiled, sort of at least, before burying her head back in Rachel's stomach.
"Okay, well I'll see you after school. And just so you know, we're gonna wipe the floor with you and Berry at the competition."
A hand silently slapped over her mouth before she could refute that statement and issue a challenge of her own. Not until the main door opened and closed did Quinn take her hand away and even then she held a finger to her lips while she quietly unlocked the door and checked outside.
Rachel was surprised when she relocked it and knelt back down. "Do you need to be sick again?" she asked, ready to jump out of the way.
"No, just . . ." Quinn again pushed her face against her stomach before breathing in deeply.
Rachel tried not to stiffen up too much, or do anything else inappropriate. "Can you please tell me what's going on?"
"No," Quinn said softly.
"Well, then can I at least guess?" Rachel's hand drifted up accidentally to ghost over Quinn's hair – it just seemed natural in this position – Quinn flinched but didn't pull away.
Rachel thought hard about her list of symptoms. She'd already ruled out eating disorders and binge drinking. What else did that leave? Crying, short temper, bathroom breaks, sickness . . .
She had a flash of inspiration but quashed it because of who she was talking about. It just wasn't possible for someone as so in control of her destiny as Quinn Fabray. She had to ask though, if only to eliminate another reason.
"Quinn," she whispered, braced for the yelling that would surely follow. "Are you . . . pregnant?"
Quinn peeled her face from Rachel's sweater, and even that was hard enough to do, but meeting her eyes with any kind of denial was actually impossible. She managed to shake her head but it was too late and from the gaping shock on Rachel's face was totally unbelieved anyway.
She felt tears rushing to her eyes again and did the only thing she could think of to stop them. She drove her face into Rachel's stomach once more. The smell of the fabric softener was even more comforting now than just the towels had been. It was probably best not to dwell on why. She rubbed her forehead against it, nose nuzzling the material.
"Is that a no?" Rachel murmured, like she really didn't want to believe the truth any more that Quinn did.
"What do you think?" Tears fell, she couldn't stop them now, and her breath hitched as she begged, "Please don't tell anyone."
Rachel's arms went around her shoulders, holding her tight.
Quinn tensed up; the embrace, the small stall, her thoughts, her life all aggravating her claustrophobia a little. And though she knew she shouldn't be encouraging this kind – or any kind – of contact between them, she just didn't have the strength right now to pretend it wasn't helping.
An hour and half later they took their place on stage. Rachel and Quinn refused to look at each other as they stood either side of Mike, the three of them holding hands while they waited for the music to start, but his stage fright was so severe that he barely noticed.
As soon as they started singing, everything changed and they couldn't stop looking at each other as they took turns at leading the vocals, each feeding off of the determination in the other's eyes. Mike grinned to himself, as he danced first Quinn around Rachel and then Rachel around Quinn, just happy that they were pulling it off despite how weird all of their rehearsals had been.
Actually, he thought, as his dance came to an end and both girls hit the final note perfectly together, pulling it off was an understatement – they'd killed it!
After everyone else had performed and a winner declared, Glee was over for the day, but Mr. Schuester collared Quinn in the auditorium to give her the Spanish homework she'd missed by leaving the lesson early. Which was why, ten minutes later, she walked into what she'd assumed would be an empty Choir room to collect her things and ended up alone with Rachel Berry . . . again.
"Okay, this stalking? It's getting old."
"I was here first." Rachel frowned but Quinn knew she wouldn't stay like that long. She almost did a mental countdown but decided it would be too freaky if she knew the girl well enough for that. "Quinn, we won! I mean, I know there was little doubt that we would, but I have to admit the combination of Noah Puckerman, Artie and Mercedes was really very strong, offering harsher competition than I'd anticipated, but don't you think that just makes the fact that we won so much more satisfying?"
Quinn acted as if she was barely listening to her heartfelt speech as she grabbed her bag; she didn't want to be listening to it. Sure winning was nice, it was way better than losing, but it was a silly singing competition and not anything that mattered.
"You know there wasn't actually a prize, right?"
"Winning is its own reward. Besides, we get to pick the next assignment and that's a prize."
"Fair enough." Backpack in hand, Quinn finally spared her a glance. "So can my contribution to that be that we don't get paired together next time?"
Rachel's face fell. "I thought that now . . ."
"Nothing has changed. I still don't want you looking at me, talking to me or . . . or touching me ever. The only difference now is that you're safe. I know a humiliating secret about you and you know one about me. Congratulations, I can't say anything about you now even if I wanted to. But if you breathe one word of what you know . . ." Quinn took a step forward and Rachel took one back. " . . . I will ruin your entire life and I'm not just talking about high school – I mean your entire life."
Rachel looked more hurt than scared. "I would never say anything."
"Then you have nothing to worry about." Turning smartly on her heel, Quinn walked from the Choir room, tossing her bag over her shoulder as she left. "And bring me a damn towel on Monday."
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