Spoilers: Through 1.12 "Mattress"
Summary: After Quinn stands up to Sue Sylvester, Rachel thinks she may have found her new co-captain. She gets more than she bargained for.
The idea occurs to Rachel as she's walking down an empty hallway one day after school, whistling "My Fair Lady" and practicing step-ball-changes, when she hears two people talking in low, angry voices. The sound is coming from the not-quite-closed door of Sue Sylvester's office. Rachel hesitates, but her instincts take over and she drifts closer so that she can hear the conversation.
"Take it off." It's Coach Sylvester, muttering viciously in her awful, scary voice. "You need to get it through your head that there's no way you're getting in that photo or back on the Cheerios, end of story."
"You're a hypocrite." Rachel's eyes widen, because she knows that voice, and it's not the voice she ever expected to hear talking back to Sue Sylvester.
"I just heard that you got glee club's amateur status revoked over a mattress while you are constantly showering the Cheerios with swag," Quinn says smugly. "I've gotten free shoes, complimentary tickets, haircuts. The season tickets to Cedar Point? We sold those on eBay, for a profit. Seems to me that if Figgins found out, you would get banned from competition."
There is a long, long pause before Sue growls, "Fine. You're back on the Cheerios. I'll put you on full time dry cleaning duty and shove you to the back of the photo to hide your shame -"
"I'm not finished," Quinn interrupts. "Glee club gets a full page photo."
"That's not up to me."
Quinn raises her voice and announces, "You are giving up one of the Cheerios' six pages and you are giving it to the glee club free of charge."
Rachel's jaw drops.
"You know, Q, I'd forgotten just how ruthless you really are," Sue says with grudging admiration. "You're like a young Sue Sylvester. Now get out of my office, if you can manage to squeeze through the door without your water breaking all over my new carpet."
Rachel hears Quinn's footsteps moving towards the door, and she ducks quickly behind a bank of lockers, her heart pounding. She hears Quinn pause before exiting the office, snarling, "You know what? I don't think I want to be a Cheerio after all. I don't want to be on a team where I only appear to belong. I'd rather be a part of a club that's proud to have me. Like glee club."
The office door slams and Quinn sashays down the hallway, her borrowed Cheerios uniform swishing from side to side. Rachel gapes after her.
* * *
She finds Quinn the next day in the library, looking at old yearbooks. "Hello Quinn," she says pleasantly, sitting down across from her.
"What do you want, Man Hands?" Quinn asks, but there's no real viciousness in her tone.
Rachel takes a deep breath. "I have a proposal for you," she says. "You like control, right? And being in charge?"
Quinn stares down at the image in front of her, a full-page spread of the Cheerios from last year with Quinn herself front and center. She doesn't answer.
"You're obviously a skilled leader with popular appeal," Rachel continues, undeterred. "And you're very talented."
"Stop trying to butter me up and get to the point," Quinn snaps.
"Well, if you insist," Rachel replies, only vaguely perturbed. "I want to offer you the esteemed position of co-captain of the glee club."
For the first time since the beginning of their conversation, Quinn looks up. She appears nonplussed. Rachel smiles at her earnestly.
"You want me to be the co-captain of glee club?" Quinn repeats disbelievingly, like she can't decide whether to be flattered or utterly revolted. "You want me to be the co-captain of glee club?"
"I do. I see great leadership potential in you, Quinn, and while your boyfriend displayed an impressive lack of ability to fulfill the demands of the position, I think you'd be perfect for the job."
Quinn stares at Rachel for another moment before sighing and closing the yearbook. "My boyfriend often displays an impressive lack of ability to fulfill the demands of any position," Quinn says, standing up to reshelve the book. "That doesn't mean that I'm a good candidate. Besides, Glee doesn't need captains now. We have a full-page spread in the yearbook. We'll all be in the picture."
"The picture isn't what matters," Rachel explains. "The glee club has a tendency to flounder, if you haven't noticed. Without a strong leader to stand up and take charge, morale is low. We need someone to change that. We need direction in New Directions."
Quinn scoffs, "Did you practice that stump speech in front of your mirror this morning, William Jennings Bryan?"
"I did," Rachel replies unselfconsciously. "What do you think? About co-captaining, I mean."
"Can't you just do it yourself?" Quinn grumbles. "You're the one who cares."
Rachel purses her lips. "I'm not the only one," she says softly.
Quinn averts her eyes and doesn't respond.
"Will you at least think about it?"
The halfhearted shrug that Quinn manages isn't exactly encouraging, but it isn't an outright refusal either.
* * *
Rachel gets her answer that Thursday during practice. She's stepped up in Mr. Schue's absence to lead the group, but the rest of the Gleeks are predictably reluctant. "Come on, guys," she pleads. "Let's warm up and sing. Sectionals are coming up and -"
"Whatever," Mercedes grumbles. "We aren't going to be able to win without Mr. Schuester."
"Yeah," Puck agrees. "We might as well not even try."
"You're going to have to accept that, Rachel," Kurt tells her gently.
Rachel can feel tears gathering in her eyes and her throat starting to close up. She can't fight these eleven people who are all against her, who don't even really like her, who don't care about this whole glee club thing even a fraction as much as she does. She's about to give up when all of a sudden, Quinn, who has been sitting quietly for the duration of rehearsal, stands and addresses the rest of the group. "That's enough," she says firmly. "I want all of you whining pansies to shut up and stand up and listen to Rachel."
"Brittany!" Quinn barks, and Brittany practically leaps out of her seat. "Puck!"
"Whatever, Sylvester Junior," Puck grumbles, but he stands. Everyone else follows suit.
Quinn turns to a gaping Rachel and nods curtly. "The floor is yours."
"Um, great," Rachel stutters. "Let's start with a mid-range warmup, shall we?"
* * *
Rachel catches Quinn in the parking lot after practice. "Thank you," she says breathlessly, grabbing at Quinn's elbow until she turns around. "For what you did in there."
Quinn looks at her wordlessly with that sad, unsettling expression that she seems to be wearing more and more these days.
"We can't lose hope for Sectionals, and I think with my creativity and initiative and your commanding presence, we could really make a great team."
Quinn smiles humorlessly.
"Everyone clearly respects you and responds well to you," Rachel continues, though she feels herself running out of steam in the face of Quinn's non-responsiveness.
That gets an unexpectedly strong reaction from Quinn, who frowns and inhales sharply. Rachel pauses and waits cautiously for her to say something. Finally, Quinn turns away, muttering, "Get in the car."
"What?" Rachel squeaks.
"Get in the car," Quinn says. "Captains meeting."
Frantically, Rachel texts her father that she won't need a ride and then slips into the passenger's side. Quinn waits for her to buckle her seat belt, but doesn't say anything before shifting into gear and starting to drive.
Ten minutes later, they still haven't exchanged a word, and they're at the outskirts of Lima. Rachel is trying to forget every movie and TV special she's ever seen about girls getting lured away from their homes and left for dead in the woods. "So, what's the agenda for this meeting?" Rachel asks timidly as they coast to a red light.
"Be patient, Berry," Quinn says, staring through the windshield.
Another fifteen minutes of frantic nail-biting and unsuccessful efforts to surreptitiously text her fathers go by, and Rachel is about ready to make the leap from the moving car when Quinn pulls into a parking lot - the visitor's lot for the Lima Reservoir Park - and cuts the ignition. "Get out," she instructs. "We're going for a walk."
Rachel meekly exits the car and decides that since Quinn has no obvious weaponry on her person, it's probably safe to follow. Rachel stays a couple steps behind her on the path anyway, though. They walk for a short distance before Quinn cuts off into the shrubbery, moving with a certain singularity of purpose, and Rachel has no choice but to go after her. They have to bushwhack their way through low-hanging branches and tall bushes, but before Rachel can express any concern as to the direction they're taking, the brush suddenly clears and they step out onto one of the tall granite boulders that surround the quarry. The water is calm and flat all the way to the other side of the reservoir, and it seems to appease Quinn, who sighs contentedly and sits down on the rock. After a moment's hesitation, Rachel joins her.
"It's beautiful here," Rachel says tentatively.
Quinn nods. "My daddy used to take me hiking here when I was little," she replies, staring wistfully over the water. "It's my favorite place in Lima."
Rachel senses that a contemplative silence might be called for, and she bites her lip against the questions she wants to ask.
"I can't be co-captain of the glee club," Quinn says after a moment. "It's not because I don't want to help prepare us for Sectionals, or because I care what other people think of me. I mean, I do, but that's not the reason."
Rachel frowns. "What is the reason, then?"
Quinn looks down at her hands and shakes her head faintly.
"You can tell me," Rachel assures her, scooting closer on rock. "And I promise not to be too offended if you say that it's because you don't want to work with me."
Quinn lets out a little half-sob, half-laugh, and it's just so tragic that Rachel wants to give her a hug, but she's pretty sure that hugging Quinn is still off limits at this point in their co-captaincy. "It's not you," Quinn murmurs tearily. "It's just - you know how you said that they respect me and respond to me, and all that?"
"They do," Rachel insists. "There's a reason you were captain of the Cheerios."
"There's also a reason I'm not captain of the Cheerios anymore," Quinn replies, looking down at her midsection. "Pretty soon, they're going to stop respecting me or responding to me at all."
"Quinn, your pregnancy doesn't matter. You know it doesn't change what we think of you, and we all support you, and -"
"Finn's not the father," Quinn says in a rush. "Puck is. And Mercedes knows, and soon everyone else will know, and that's why I can't be co-captain of the glee club."
Rachel, for one of the first times in her life, is shocked into silence.
* * *
They don't talk about it any more at the reservoir, and they don't talk about it on the ride back, and the next day in school, they avoid each other. Rachel completely flubs a Spanish oral quiz that should have been easy, and it's a good thing that the other glee club kids are still riding the memory of Quinn's scolding from yesterday because Rachel is barely able to concentrate enough to put them through their paces. "Good job," she says absently when they finish running "Somebody to Love" before letting them go fifteen minutes early. Finn gives her a weird look as he leaves, but doesn't comment. Quinn exits the room without so much as a glance at her.
She wishes she had a car of her own so she could go back to the reservoir to think, but she doesn't even have her license, so instead she climbs the tree in her backyard and rests in one of the forks. It's freezing out, but she just folds her hands into her sleeves and braves it until she's been up there long enough to decide what to do.
She dials Finn's cell phone as soon as she gets inside and crosses her fingers until he picks up with a happy, "Hi Rachel!"
"Hi Finn," she responds distractedly. "Is Quinn there?"
"Um, yeah. She's right here. Why do you ask?"
"Could I speak to her, please?"
"I have to ask her something," Rachel insists. "I don't have her number."
She hears crackling sounds as the phone is exchanged, and then Quinn's voice, neutral with a hint of fear. "Yes, oh captain, my captain?"
"I would like to invite you over for hot chocolate and cookies," Rachel says formally.
Quinn splutters in a manner eerily similar to that of Finn.
"It's clear that the resolution of your situation requires a strategic planning session," Rachel continues. "Also, I sense that you might need a friend."
All Quinn can manage to say is, "But we're not friends!"
"We became friends the moment you unloaded your baby drama on me," Rachel replies grimly. "Tell Finn I'm calling you to an emergency captains meeting. Also, I'm going to need your cell phone number."
* * *
Quinn is hesitant at first when confronted with Rachel's white board and her organized array of dry-erase markers, but a mug of hot chocolate and a plate of chocolate chip cookies within easy reach seem to relax her, and she starts getting enthusiastic about their brainstorming session. "- and I won't have a place to stay, because Finn's mom will kick me out," she says, as Rachel scribbles furiously. "And Puck will try to get together with me and that is the absolute last thing I want."
Rachel pauses and looks over her shoulder. "Really?"
"Would you want to raise a child with him? He's a philandering man whore with a mohawk and a nipple ring."
"I suppose," Rachel hedges, her lips pursed thoughtfully. "Noah's a good guy, though."
"Ugh, don't call him that. I'd forgotten that you two ever dated and never intended to remember."
Rachel sighs and tries again. "He cares for you a great deal."
"He cares for my boobs a great deal, that's all," Quinn snipes, smirking when Rachel's eyes instinctively flick down to her neckline. "Really, I cannot handle the stress of dating Puck on top of the stress of being pregnant. Being a single mom would be way easier."
"Have you decided to keep her?" Rachel asks, her marker hovering over the white board once more.
Quinn shrugs. "Terri Schuester is out of the picture, obviously. I guess I could find an adoption agency, but I'd like to make sure that she's going to good people, you know?"
Rachel nods noncommittally. Quinn groans and drops her head into her hands. "I really don't want to tell Finn the truth," she admits.
"You have to," Rachel insists. "It's not fair to him. And I know I'm your friend now, but I was his friend first, and I cannot let you keep lying to him about this."
Quinn shrugs sullenly and grabs another cookie.
"I know you think I'm just trying to steal him away, but I'm really not."
Quinn scoffs. "You'll pounce the second you can get your claws into him," she accuses. "That's what you've been up to this whole time."
"If you don't want my help, then you can leave," Rachel replies hotly.
"Fine!" Quinn exclaims, getting to her feet. "Whoever said I wanted your help in the first place?"
"You did, when you drove me out to your special place and told me all your secrets!" Rachel cries. "If that's not a cry for help, I don't know what is! I'm sorry you feel threatened by me where your boyfriend is concerned, but -"
"Don't flatter yourself," Quinn snarls. "As if I could feel threatened by you!"
Rachel throws her hands up. "Do you realize how irrational you sound? First you accuse me of plotting to steal your boyfriend - to whom you've been lying this whole time, I might add - and then you say that you don't feel threatened by me. Then you say you don't want my help when you are quite clearly desperate for it. You can't have it both ways, Quinn! If you hate me, hate me, but don't come to me for confession and then expect me not to do anything about it!"
Quinn opens her mouth to fight back, but then deflates a little, sagging against the door frame. "I don't hate you," she mumbles.
Rachel sighs and deflates a little herself, dropping onto her mattress. "Great," she huffs.
"I don't like needing people," Quinn continues softly. "And I've been feeling recently like that's all I do. Nothing I do is on my terms anymore, and I need help with everything, and I am having a hard time with that. Okay? I am having a hard time. I am sorry for taking it out on you."
Rachel can't help but stare at Quinn a little incredulously.
"God, what else do you want?" Quinn exclaims, crossing her arms across her chest. "I said I was sorry. Is that not enough? Do I have to bake you a cake and write you an apology note too?"
"No, no," Rachel hastens to assure her. "It's just - you just apologized. To me. Are you feeling okay?"
Quinn frowns, but the corners of her mouth quirk upwards, and Rachel finds herself starting to smile too. "No, actually, I think I have a fever," Quinn says, going for solemn and failing. "I'm probably delirious."
"Hallucinating, even," Rachel giggles.
"I'm feeling faint. I'd better have another cookie."
"Maybe you should sit down and watch a movie with me. I hear that does wonders."
Quinn's laughter halts abruptly, and for one heart-stopping moment, Rachel fears she's gone too far. But then Quinn's smiling and laughing again and flopping onto the mattress. "Only if you don't make me sit through a bootleg version of Evita," she teases Rachel.
"Sorry, that was the only option," Rachel deadpans. "I guess we can dig out my dad's copy of Oklahoma, if you're really dead set against the other one."
"Nice try, but I think I see 10 Things I Hate About You proudly displayed on your bookshelf, and I will vote Heath over Curly any day."
"A legitimate preference," Rachel allows, getting of the mattress to set up the movie.
They watch it side by side on Rachel's twin bed, arms brushing and feet bumping together. Rachel can scarcely contain herself, having never had a friend like this who would just stay in and watch movies and gossip with her. From the look of nervous excitement on Quinn's face, it seems she hasn't had one in a while either.
* * *
The next day, Rachel has Mr. Schuester call Finn and Puck into his office, and walks a visibly terrified Quinn there herself. She still isn't sure if she's allowed to comfort Quinn, or how much, so she just pats Quinn's shoulder awkwardly as they approach Mr. Schue's office. Quinn grabs her hand and squeezes it hard before walking into the office.
Rachel watches through the window as Quinn settles into a chair and looks up at a very grave Mr. Schuester. Finn asks something and Mr. Schuester points at Quinn, who glances between Puck and Finn before bursting into tears. There's a flurry of movement as both boys move to comfort her, but then Finn jerks backwards in his chair and stares at Quinn with something akin to horror. She turns to him, reaches out pleadingly, but he shakes his head violently and pushes his chair backwards further, looking over her head at Puck and screaming something at him. Mr. Schuester stands up and moves around to the front of his desk. Quinn sobs into her hands. Finn looks like he might go for Puck, but then turns on his heel and storms out, looking around wildly. He spies Rachel and makes a beeline for her, red-faced and shaking. "Did you know?" he bellows. "Did you?"
"Finn, calm down," Rachel tries.
"No!" he yells, shoving her backwards so that her back hits the lockers with a clanging thud.
She wraps her arms around herself protectively. "Finn, stop, you're scaring me," she pleads.
He looks at her with wild eyes and she thinks for a moment that he's going to hit her, but then he reaches for a nearby trash can instead and smashes it against the wall, sending the contents everywhere. The few other people moving through the hallway scream and duck for cover. Mr. Schuester runs from his office and grabs Finn's arm, yelling, "Finn! Stop it! Calm down!"
His voice seems to get through to the angry boy, and Finn lets his upraised arm drop slowly before releasing the trash can. "It's okay," Mr. Schuester says quietly, taking Finn by the shoulder and leading him away. "Come on, we'll walk it off. Let's go."
Rachel exhales and slides down the lockers to sit on the floor. Quinn races over to her. "Are you okay?" she asks anxiously. "I was so scared."
"It could have gone better," Rachel allows before bursting into tears.
Quinn is kneeling next to her immediately, gathering her into an awkward hug. "I'm so sorry," she murmurs. "I never should have dragged you into this. I'm so, so sorry."
Rachel rests her forehead against Quinn's collarbone and cries.
* * *
Finn finds her before glee practice that afternoon. Rachel flinches involuntarily when he taps her on the shoulder and he looks crestfallen. "I owe you an apology," he says solemnly. "I'm so sorry, Rachel. I don't know what got into me. I don't blame you if you hate me."
"I don't hate you," Rachel replies quickly. "I was scared, is all."
Finn nods and sighs. “I was just so angry, you know?” he says.
“It’s okay,” Rachel replies softly.
He casts his eyes downward and mumbles, “So you knew? About the baby, I mean?”
Rachel hesitates before responding, “I encouraged Quinn to inform you as soon as I found out. I’m sorry Finn, but it wasn’t my place to do it myself.”
He nods halfheartedly. “How could they do that to me?” he mutters. “How could she do that to me? I mean, it’s one thing to cheat on a guy, but this…”
“You should probably talk to her about it,” Rachel replies carefully. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think she ever meant to hurt you.”
Finn finally looks up again, and his expression is full of so much disappointment that Rachel feels it like a physical blow. She reaches out, wanting to reassure him of her loyalty, but he pulls away abruptly and goes into the practice room.
Rachel is still loitering outside the door uncertainly when Quinn arrives, looking thoroughly miserable. “You look about as excited about this whole ordeal as I feel,” she tells Rachel, eyeing the practice room door distrustfully. “Still think I should be co-captain?”
Rachel’s first instinct is to comfort her, put an arm around her and tell her that everything will be all right, but then Finn’s sad, betrayed expression crosses her mind, and she turns away from Quinn and enters the practice room without another word.
* * *
After that afternoon, Rachel focuses all of her energy not devoted to singing on sucking up to Finn and avoiding Quinn. The first part is easy. Finn is hurt, and upset, and angry, but he can’t hold a grudge to save his life, and when Rachel makes it clear that she’s not going to stand up for Quinn again, he starts talking to her again immediately.
Trying to stay away from Quinn is the hard part. The ex-cheerio is eerily gifted at materializing in Rachel’s general vicinity at random times throughout the day. It’s all very casual, saying hello in passing while Rachel is gathering books from her locker or offering a half-wave from across the hall when they pass each other on their way to classes, but Rachel can’t shake the feeling that Quinn in maybe putting in some special effort in order to cross paths. She starts taking different routes to class, and doesn’t return any of Quinn’s waves. If it bothers Quinn, she doesn’t show it.
Doesn’t show it, that is, until she calls Rachel’s cell phone late on a school night. Rachel, who is in the midst of prepping for her nightly MySpace video, lets it go to voicemail. She tries to record the song, but after four takes, decides that she cannot do her best work while distracted, and checks the message. It’s Quinn, distraught and in tears, telling her, “I know he’s important to you, and I know I’m the one who screwed up, but you were right when you said that I might need a friend.” She sobs and takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry, this is ridiculous. I’m – never mind. Sorry.”
Rachel saves the message and puts the phone down slowly. “Daddy,” she calls out after a long moment of contemplative silence. “Can you come here?”
She hears footsteps on the stairs and then her father appears in the doorway. “What is it, honey?” he asks.
“I’m pretty sure I’m an awful person,” Rachel replies slowly. “Can you get me that Patty Griffin album that you used to play for me before I rejected folk as a genre?”
His brow furrows and he walks over to sit next to her on the bed. “Honey, what’s this about?” he asks gently.
“I’ve been selfish, and a bad friend,” Rachel says solemnly. “But I think I can fix it. Can you get me that CD?”
Her father looks like he wants to continue the conversation, but he just sighs and stands up and goes downstairs to retrieve the album. “’Forgiveness’ is a good choice,” he tells her as he hands the CD to her.
Rachel nods and he gives her a pat on the shoulder before leaving the room.
She listens to the song over and over again, then practices it several times, then records it in one take and posts it. An hour later, she checks for comments. She grins at the first one: “shut up you ugly slutbag, you sound like a dying camel. jk jk can you help me with my solo tomorrow? mr. schuester says it ‘needs work,’ which actually means that it sucks. xoxo santana”
The second one is from an anonymous poster, and it says simply, “Beautiful.” Rachel’s chest tightens and she bites her lip, because it could be anyone but she knows it’s Quinn.
* * *
The next day, Rachel marches up to Finn’s locker and announces, “I know you’re still angry at her, and I think you have every right to be, but I also think that you should talk to Quinn. I’m not taking her side, but I believe you would both benefit from a constructive conversation about what happened between you.”
Finn looks up and says, “Okay.”
“Also, I don’t belong to you, and I can be friends with whomever I want, and that includes – wait, what?”
“I said okay,” Finn replies, putting his hands up defensively. “I’ll talk to her. I’ve been meaning to anyway, but I haven’t been able to make myself. I will, though. Today.”
“Um, great,” Rachel says, the wind going out of her sails completely. “That’s all.”
“Cool,” Finn says, nodding. “Ready for Spanish?”
Rachel shrugs and falls in step with him, hoping against hope that the rest of her day will go as smoothly.
She finds Quinn at lunch, sitting alone and humming to herself. Rachel recognizes the tune immediately and sits down across the table, grinning. “Are you a Patty Griffin fan?" she asks lightly.
Quinn sets down her chocolate milk and blushes bright red. “Hi,” she mutters, in a most endearing and uncharacteristically flustered manner. “Um, I guess?”
Rachel smiles encouragingly. “I used to listen to her all the time. My fathers have a rather unfortunate affection for folk music, and my early childhood was dominated by Lizzie West and Crosby, Stills, and Nash. ‘Forgiveness’ is one of my favorites by her.”
“I really like the song,” Quinn agrees. “But there are other, um, versions that I think I like better.” She blushes again.
Rachel blinks in astonishment. Quinn smiles shyly, and Rachel is suddenly overwhelmed by an odd, fluttery feeling in her chest. “Great,” she stutters idiotically.
“Rachel, I really – thanks, I guess,” Quinn murmurs, her eyes soft and a little anxious.
Rachel shakes her head and waves her hand. “You were right,” she tells Quinn. “I – I told you I would be there and then I wasn’t. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Quinn protests. “Just – thank you.”
Rachel nods and looks at her hands, feeling unaccountably timid. “So, um, you have somewhere to stay?” she asks.
“I’m crashing at Brittany’s,” Quinn replies. “It’s fine, but Santana is there all the time, and I think she’s still quite upset with me. Also, I keep walking in on them making out, which is, you know, awkward.”
“What?” Rachel exclaims. “Brittany and Santana? You can’t be serious.”
“You didn’t know?” Quinn responds incredulously. “Rachel, they’ve been hooking up since freshman year.”
“I thought Santana was with Puck!”
“I mean, occasionally. And occasionally she’s with Brittany. It’s not like they’re dating exclusively or anything, but it’s kind of an open secret that they’re involved.”
“Not open to me!” Rachel exclaims.
“Well, it is now,” Quinn reassures her, smirking a little.
Rachel huffs and crosses her arms, but soon enough she’s smirking back at Quinn. “This explains so much,” she giggles.
“I know, right?” Quinn snickers. “You think they’re just unusually close friends, and then you realize that they’re doing each other, and then everything makes way more sense.”
Rachel nods, laughing, and that’s when Finn comes over to their table. “Um, hey guys,” he says hesitantly.
Rachel and Quinn both shut up abruptly and look up at him. He raises his eyebrows and half-smiles. “Hi Finn,” Rachel mutters quickly, praying that all her hard work getting back into his good graces hasn’t been completely nullified.
Instead of rebuking her, though, he turns to Quinn and asks politely, “Could I talk to you before next period?”
Quinn glances at Rachel fearfully. Rachel nods her encouragement.
“I’m not mad,” Finn assures her. “I just want to talk.”
“Um, yeah, sure,” Quinn agrees in a small voice. “Just let me throw this away.”
She stands up and Finn follows her over to the cafeteria exit, only glancing back at Rachel once. She gives him a thumbs up.
* * *
They both call her that night, Finn first. “You were right,” he gushes. “It made everything better. I mean, it was really hard, but it was worth it. She said she got drunk and made a mistake, and she only lied because she really did want me to be the father, which, you know, makes sense considering that Puck isn’t exactly responsible, monogamous material. And she told me that she definitely wants me to be a part of the baby’s life if she keeps it, because she thinks I’d be really good at it.”
“You would be,” Rachel agrees, settling back onto her bed. “I’m glad it went well.”
“It’s just a huge weight off of my shoulders,” Finn continues. “Closure, you know?”
There’s a pause, and then Finn says, “She told me that you’ve been, um, a really good friend to her during all of this.”
Rachel cringes. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that.”
“Well, I was just going to say that I think it’s good. I mean, I don’t know why you’re being nice to her, considering how awful she’s been to you, but I’m glad someone has been there for her. She seemed really grateful.”
Rachel feels choked up all of a sudden, and she swallows against the lump in her throat.
“You’re a good person, Rachel. Really. Anyway, I should go, but thanks for listening and helping me out. It means a lot.”
“Anytime,” Rachel says faintly before hanging up.
She’s just about to return to the task of making her MySpace video when Quinn calls. This time, she answers.
“I think it went okay,” Quinn says in a rush. “I mean, he didn’t punch any walls or anything, and that’s a good sign, right?”
“I just talked to him,” Rachel assures her. “He seemed really positive about it.”
“Oh thank God,” Quinn mutters.
There’s a crackling noise on the line, and then Rachel hears Brittany’s voice. “Hi Rachel!” she exclaims. “Want to come over and hang out?”
Rachel hesitates and looks longingly at her video camera.
“Oh for God’s sake, Berry, chill out.” It’s Santana. “We can do your stupid MySpace video over here.”
Quinn gets back on the line and adds, shyly, “I’d really like it if you came.”
Rachel gets that odd, fluttery feeling again, and she agrees readily, almost without thinking.
* * *
Upon further consideration, Rachel decides that it is probably for the best to leave her video camera behind, and she brings over a plate of cookies instead. Quinn seems supremely pleased by the offering of baked goods, but Brittany is almost inconsolably put out. "Why didn't you bring your camera?" she whines. "I wanted to do 'Lady Marmalade' and be the four bad-ass chicks from the Moulin Rouge!"
"Sorry," Rachel apologizes, not very regretfully.
"I had the choreography worked out and everything!" Brittany continues, unappeased.
"Maybe next time, Britt," Quinn assures her in an uncharacteristically gentle, patient tone. "Why don't you show Rachel what you came up with?"
That puts a smile on Brittany's face, and she winks at Rachel before dancing suggestively over to Santana, singing, "Voulez vous couchez avec moi ce soir? Voulez vous couchez avec moi?"
Santana blushes and pushes her away and mutters, "Stop it, Britt."
"Oh my God, Lopez, stop being such a closet case," Quinn snipes. "Everyone here knows."
"Yeah!" Brittany agrees brightly, clambering onto the couch and wrapping her arms around Santana's neck. "Everyone knows, S."
Santana eyes Rachel suspiciously, but she lets Brittany kiss her cheek and snuggle into her side. Rachel smiles and glances at Quinn, who rolls her eyes affectionately and says lightly, "Aren't they gross?"
"So cute it's disgusting," Rachel agrees, reaching for a cookie.
"Quinn's just bitter because she's the third wheel," Santana interjects smugly. "Single, lonely, pregnant..."
"Hey," Rachel says warningly. "That's enough."
Santana's mouth curves into a vicious smirk. "How cute," she simpers. "Are you going to be her knight in shining argyle now?"
"S, I told you not to be mean," Brittany mumbles, covering Santana's mouth with her hand.
"It's okay, Britt," Quinn says softly, but Rachel can hear the tension in her voice. "Santana's just pissed off because she got my sloppy seconds."
That clearly strikes a nerve, and Santana hisses, "At least I remembered to make him put on a fucking condom. I'm not the one who's going to be saddled with some bastard kid, like a white trash whore."
Quinn bares her teeth, but it's Rachel who's out of her seat in a flash, crossing the room in two steps and slapping Santana across the face. Santana cries out in shock and brings her hand to her cheek. Silence falls heavily over the room.
"I'm sorry," Rachel says finally in a tight, restrained voice. "I do not customarily resort to physical violence."
Santana stares at her disbelievingly.
"I apologize for hitting you," Rachel continues in a calm, formal tone, though her hands have started trembling. "I'll call my dad and have him pick me up."
"I'll drive you," Quinn says quickly. "Britt, can I borrow your car?"
Brittany nods wordlessly. Quinn takes Rachel's arm and steers her out of the room, down the stairs, and out the door. They walk to the vehicle in silence, but Quinn grabs Rachel's hand to keep her from going over to the passenger side. "Hey," she says softly, putting her hand under Rachel's chin and making her look up. "Are you okay?"
Rachel shrugs miserably. "Can you just take me home?" she asks.
"Yeah," Quinn says. "Yeah, I can do that."
The ride back is short, and Quinn pulls up in front of the Berry household in no time at all. She puts the car in park, but Rachel doesn't move. "Want me to come in?" Quinn asks after a moment of silence.
"I got in a fight once, in fifth grade," Rachel says faintly, staring through the windshield. "Bobby James called my dads a couple of faggots and I gave him a bloody nose. My dad came to pick me up in the middle of the day. He was really mad. He told me that if I ever used my fists instead of my words to settle an argument again, he'd take away my Barbara Streisand discography for a week."
Quinn, to her credit, doesn't laugh. Instead, she replies, "My dad taught me how to box when I was ten. He said that I should know how to protect myself, should I ever need to."
Rachel smiles a little at the mental image of a young Quinn Fabray throwing one-two punches. "I don't know what came over me," she admits. "I don't think I realized that I was planning to hit her until after I did it."
"I think it threw all of us for a loop," Quinn replies dryly. "Did you see the expression on Brittany's face? She didn't know where to look."
Rachel sighs. "She's going to tell everyone, isn't she?" she mutters. "Brittany can't keep a secret to save her life. All anyone is going to talk about tomorrow is how I clocked Santana Lopez and lived to tell the tale."
"You'll be a hero," Quinn tells her, smirking. "Rachel Berry: defending the honor of single, lonely, pregnant teenagers since 2009."
Rachel smiles despite herself and reaches across the center console to brush Quinn's hair behind her ear. "I wish you didn't feel lonely," she murmurs plainly.
"I don't, really," Quinn replies, closing her eyes and leaning slightly into the touch. Rachel inhales at the sudden and overwhelming intimacy of the gesture, and draws her hand away. Quinn's eyes flicker open. "Are you going to be okay, or do you need company?" she asks.
"I'll be okay," Rachel says. "But you can come in if you want. I don't blame you if you don't want to go back there tonight."
Quinn shrugs. "Santana and I fight all the time, so I'm pretty used to it by now. I mean, I appreciated you sticking up for me, but the things she said tonight were really nothing unusual."
"Still, even if you're used to it, it can't be fun."
Quinn hesitates, but then nods, shutting off the ignition. "They're probably having sex right now anyway," she says, getting out of the car. "I wouldn't want to interrupt them. If you thought Santana got mad when I needled her about Puck, you should see her when I prevent her from getting laid by Brittany."
Rachel snorts with laughter. "I can only imagine."
* * *
Rachel wakes up the next morning with her cheek pressed against the hard plastic of a DVD cover and Quinn's elbow jutting into her side. She inhales sharply and sits up. "We fell asleep during the movie last night," she says to no one in particular.
Quinn shifts and blinks awake, looking up at Rachel with a sweet, sleepy smile that is very much unlike her usual demeanor. Rachel feels something in her chest catch, and she averts her eyes. It feels intrusive, somehow, to look at Quinn like this - half-awake and gentle and vulnerable. Rachel isn't sure what to make of it, nor is she sure what to make of the steadily increasing pace of her heartbeat.
"Good morning," Quinn mumbles. "Did we fall asleep during the Princess Bride?"
"Somewhere around the ROUS's, I think," Rachel replies, keeping her gaze to the side as Quinn stretches and yawns squeakily.
"Are we late for school?"
Rachel glances at her alarm clock and sighs in frustration. "We've only got half an hour."
"Mmm," Quinn sighs, wrapping her arms around the pillow and burying her face in it again. "Five more minutes, then."
"I don't have time for the elliptical now," Rachel grumbles. "I should have set an alarm."
"Shut up," Quinn mutters, tugging at Rachel's arm. "Let's sleep more."
Rachel tugs her arm out of Quinn's grasp and stands up. "There's no time for that," she replies irritably. "I'm going to take a shower."
She stalks into the bathroom and brushes her teeth cursorily before stepping into the running water. She's in the midst of her first rinse when she hears the door creak open and the water in the sink turn on. She freezes. "Quinn?" she asks.
"Mmhmm," Quinn hums.
Suddenly extremely aware of her own nakedness and the very thin curtain that is the only barrier between her and the rest of the bathroom, Rachel says firmly, "I'm showering."
"Yeah, I'm brushing my teeth," Quinn replies. "Do you have a spare, or should I just use yours?"
"Quinn. I am showering."
"Right, yeah, so you said," Quinn responds nonchalantly.
"Do you want to maybe give me some privacy?" Rachel hisses.
"I - what?"
Rachel grinds her teeth. "Often, when one person is utilizing the bathroom, other people can be expected to wait their turn."
There's a pause, and then Quinn (sounding much more like her usual self) mutters, "Okay, whatever, I get it."
The door opens and closes again, and the bathroom is silent. Rachel finishes bathing herself quickly and dries herself off with shaking hands. She wraps the towel tightly around her body and steps out into her bedroom. Quinn is perched on the bed. Rachel goes over to her dresser without making eye contact. Quinn shifts around a little before saying quietly, "Sorry if I, um, made you uncomfortable or anything."
"Do you make a habit of intruding on other people like that?" Rachel asks sharply.
"Um, yeah, actually," Quinn replies. "That's how it works at Brittany's. Well, unless she and Santana are having sex in the shower, in which case I just don't brush my teeth in the morning."
Rachel can't shake the sensation that she's being made to feel unreasonable, and she bristles at it.
"Maybe it's a locker room thing," Quinn suggests. "I've just never thought it was a big deal to be brushing my teeth or washing my hands near someone taking a shower. Anyway, it's not like there wasn't a curtain."
Rachel grits her teeth and grabs some underwear and a shirt. She slams the dresser drawer and stalks across the room again.
"Why are you so worked up about this?" Quinn asks, sounding mostly curious. "Are you just really self-conscious, or something?"
Rachel whips around, clutching the towel to her chest. "I am not self-conscious," she hisses. "In fact, I have an unusually positive body image for a female of my age. I might not be a perfect cheerleader with perfect legs and perfect abs and perfect everything, but I am satisfied with my own physical condition. Why do you ask? Should I not be?"
Quinn's expression, already disarmingly soft, gets even gentler. "Rachel," she says quietly, lifting her arms and indicating herself. "I'm pregnant, not perfect."
Rachel sighs as the fight leaves her rapidly. "You're beautiful."
"You are too," Quinn replies evenly.
Rachel exhales and walks over to the bed, sitting next to Quinn and holding the edges of the towel together. "I didn't freak out because I was self-conscious," Rachel admits. "That's not the reason, I mean."
"Why, then?" Quinn asks.
She's so calm, so prepared for whatever is going to happen next that Rachel feels even more on edge. "Did the pod people kidnap and brainwash you last night?" Rachel jokes, stalling. "Since when are you this chilled out?"
Quinn just looks at her, quiet and patient, until Rachel has gathered herself enough to take a deep breath, clench her hands into fists, and lean in for a kiss that Quinn returns without hesitation. "Sorry about the morning breath," Quinn says when they break apart. "Someone didn't let me brush my teeth."
"How did you know?" Rachel asks.
"You hit Santana," Quinn replies simply. "For me. Also, you were staring at my tits all through the movie last night."
"You took off your bra," Rachel grumbles defensively, before blushing profusely once she realizes what she's said.
Quinn just smiles and runs her hand over the bare expanse of Rachel's shoulder, making her shiver. "We're going to be late for school," Quinn whispers.
"Worse things have happened," Rachel muses, eyeing Quinn's lips.
"Yeah," Quinn agrees, cupping Rachel's cheek and leaning in again. "Yeah, they have."