DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Everyday Would Be A Friday
By gilligankane


She's lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, smiling, because Rachel Berry has made it through her first week of high school and everything is shaping up to be perfect.

The windows are open – it's uncharacteristically hot for the beginning of September in Lima, Ohio and the nights are marginally cooler than the days and any cool breeze is welcome.

When the tree outside her window groans, she goes absolutely still. She should call for help; she should scream for her daddy, but before she can, there's an arm gripping the window sill on the inside and one jean-clad leg pushing through the small space.

A long, thin leg slides through the window effortlessly.

The girl stumbles in the rest of the way and stands, swaying in her heels – although, Rachel would probably blame the fact that she smells like a brewery.

She looks up into Quinn's eyes and barely has time to grab the trashcan sandwiched between her bed and her desk in time.

"Hey, Berry," Quinn says lightly, when she stands back upright, her grin lazy. "Whatcha doin' in my room?"

Quinn sways to the left and Rachel springs out of bed, wrapping her arms around Quinn's waist, the blond's weight falling forward. She almost takes them down, but Rachel hugs around Quinn's middle tighter and lets her body fall gently back to the bed.

"Quinn, you're at my house."

Quinn blinks a few times and looks around. "Well, whaddya know? I am."

Rachel's not sure why, but instead of hoisting Quinn to her feet, calling her dads and having them drive Quinn to her own house, she reaches forward to grab a tissue and wipe Quinn's mouth. When she turns back, though, Quinn is sprawled across the bed and her chest is rising and falling in a slow, steady motion.

"Quinn?" she whispers, poking at Quinn's side.

Quinn only pushes her hand away and curls onto her side and makes a noise that sounds like "go away."

She sighs and runs a hand through her newly cut hair – "something new for high school," she told her fathers when she did it without telling them – and falls back onto her pillow. When she turns her head, she gets a mouthful of blond, product-tasting hair.

"This isn't going to work," she says, speaking to Quinn's body. "You're going to need to…there." She grins at the small victory and lies back down in the space she's made herself, pulling the top sheet over both their bodies, ignoring that Quinn's heels are probably going to end up tearing her sheets.

She's too tired to really care, and Quinn's heels aren't really what she's worried about the moment.

It started there: Quinn staggering through her window after getting her first taste of high school – "Sprite and Sour Apple," she tells Rachel much, much later – and spending the night wrapped around Rachel.

A year later, Quinn is still climbing through her window and Rachel is still leaving it unlocked and the Friday nights they spend talking and listening to music – sometimes, Quinn plays guitar and sometimes Rachel sings – are the highlight of Rachel's week.

Not that she'd tell Quinn that.

School, though, is a different thing all together.

"Watch it, Man Hands," Quinn grumbles, knocking her shoulder against Rachel's.

Rachel barely manages to hold onto her books, but Quinn nods her head almost minutely and Santana reacts, slamming her hand down on the pile. The Cheerios trio – Quinn and Santana and Brittany – laugh, evil and low.

Man Hands, Rupaul, Stubbles, Treasure Trail – the insults roll off Quinn's tongue with ease, the way they have since high school started.

They seem to roll off Rachel with ease too, but everyone knows Rachel cries in the bathroom after homeroom nearly every day.

Everyone knows, but it's one of those things no one talks about.

Rachel thinks there are just too many things no one talks about these days.

Quinn always apologizes on Fridays anyway and Rachel never asks why she doesn't just stop because she's too scared of what talking about Fridays will mean.

She's not even sure when awe turned to fascination and fascination turned to crush and crush turned to something like love, but she thinks, if she had to try and pinpoint it, it might have been the first time Quinn climbed through the window and then reached back out into the night to grab her guitar.

They might have been in Glee together – and by together, Rachel thought, I mean that we just happen to be in the same room singing the same song at the same time – and they might have sang some nights when Quinn came over, stuff like show tunes and whatever random song Rachel knew as it played through the speakers of Quinn's iPod, but she never knew Quinn could play. She probably should have figured it out because she saw Quinn talking to Artie a couple of times and really, what else would they even have in common? It just never occurred to her that Quinn – besides her voice, which is clearly natural talent – was musically cultured.

She said so and Quinn laughed.

"Come on, Rachel. Don't you have any faith in me?" she asked, her eyes setting off her frown.

Rachel, because that's what Quinn calls her when they're alone.

"I do," she insisted, because she did and she does. "I just don't look at you and think 'guitar connoisseur'."

"Well I'm not Carlos Santana," Quinn huffed. "Maybe I shouldn't have brought it?"

Rachel slid forward quickly, almost falling off the bed but catching herself at the last minute. Quinn was standing in front of the window and she looked like she was going to climb back out and Rachel was really intrigued.

"No, no," she said, one hand reaching down and wrapping around the handle of the case. It was heavier than she thought it would be, but she lifted it and hoisted it onto the bed, immediately reaching back and grabbing Quinn's hand.

For some reason, that night, it felt different than the last time, or even the first time she grabbed Quinn's hand. There was a spark she felt from her hand sliding across Quinn's – surprisingly – rough palm and she knew it was the guitar, that it held a magic power she'd never been able to shy away from, but she smiled a little wider and a little brighter and noticed that Quinn's eyes sparkled and shined and her laugh was deep and sweet and her touch was light and electric.

It's guitar-worship; Rachel wasn't naïve enough to know it's anything more than that, but it didn't stop things from changing.

And then one night, it's something more. Quinn climbs through the window, eyes sparkling again, and she launches into a story about Sue Sylvester making Sandy Ryerson cry and Rachel let's herself get swept up in the ebb and flow of Quinn's voice and her inane hand gestures.

"She kneed him, right in the groin, and he dropped faster than Christina did off the pyramid last week at practice," Quinn finishes.

Rachel smiles from the desk, where she was doing her homework and nodding at all the appropriate places. "Sounds pretty cool."

Quinn, on the bed, rolls onto her stomach and gapes. "It sounds pretty cool? It was pretty awesome, is what it was." Quinn pauses and cocks her head to the side. "Why are you all the way over there? I thought we were watching a movie."

"You never said anything about a movie," Rachel argues, closing her math book anyway. "You just started talking."

"You're wasting time talking when you could be wasting time making hot chocolate," Quinn sings, smiling widely. She hops off the bed, skidding across the floor to grab the doorknob. "Race you downstairs?"

Rachel shakes her head. "Only one person can fit down those stairs at a time, Quinn."

Quinn is already gone and when Rachel makes it down to the kitchen, Quinn is pulling mugs out of the cabinets and she's already got the teapot on the lit burner.

"Do I actually need to be here for this?" Rachel asks, though not unkindly. Quinn smirks.

"Of course you do. I'm not pouring it when it's done."

Rachel sighs and hoists herself up onto a stool around the island in the kitchen. "Of course you aren't."

Quinn leans one hip against the lip of the counter and smiles brightly, her grin faltering slightly. Rachel catches it though and frowns. "What's wrong?"

"What?" Quinn looks around the room quickly and her gaze settles back on Rachel. "Oh, nothing."

"Quinn," Rachel says, her voice low. "What's wrong?"

"Did you ever notice how Santana and Brittany are really close?" Quinn asks abruptly.

Rachel nods. "Sure. They're best friends."

Quinn shakes her head though. "No, I mean, they're really close."

"Well, yeah." Rachel frowns. "But aren't all best friends like that?"

"We aren't."

Rachel blinks. Quinn frowns like her words just caught up with her. "Anyway," Rachel continues, giving a fake smile.

"I walked into the locker room today after practice," Quinn says distractedly, "and they were still there, but they weren't changing."

Rachel waits for the punch line, but it takes Quinn another minute before she speaks again.

"They were kissing," Quinn breathes out so quietly that Rachel is positive she didn't actually hear anything. But then Quinn's mouth twists into a frown again. "They were kissing," she repeats, louder.

"Like, on the-"

"On the mouth," Quinn says quickly. "Yeah. They looked," she trails off, "they looked like they've done it before."

Rachel shrugs. "What's the big deal?"

Quinn pales. "The big deal is that they were kissing, Rachel. Like, it wasn't even kissing, really. I'm pretty sure Santana was trying to suck Brittany's tongue out. I mean, they never told me they even wanted to do that," Quinn practically screeches.

"Do they run everything by you?"

"Have you ever kissed a girl?" Quinn asks suddenly.

Rachel pauses with her mouth open, but closes it and shakes her head. "Of course I haven't."

Quinn ignores her though. "Of course you haven't. Stupid question."


"Do you want to?"

Rachel chokes on her gulp of air. "Excuse me?"

Quinn shrugs like it's just another game of twenty questions but Rachel can see her knuckles wrapped around the rung of the stool she's sitting on: they're white and clenched. "Do you want to kiss a girl?"

"Are you offering?" Rachel jokes weakly.

Quinn doesn't answer because she's moving off the stool and coming to stand in front of Rachel and it's like all those stupid movies Quinn makes her watch; she knows that a minute or two from now, she's going to check girl-on-girl kiss off her "clichés" list.

"Don't do anything that will impair our friendship," she says, more out of necessity than anything, because she's kind of been thinking about this since the moment Quinn looked up from her guitar, in the middle of some awful John Mayer song, and smiled at her the way she always wanted Finn to smile at her; she's been thinking about this since Quinn climbed through her window completely sober with a grin on her face and some movies in her hand.

Quinn's face hovers over her own and Rachel closes her eyes when they go cross-eyed and then there's warm spreading across the bow of her mouth, static and firm pressure and she remains completely still.

She has a feeling Quinn doesn't really want her to do anything other than just be there.

The pressure is gone and she opens her eyes slowly, wishing she could close them again. Quinn is standing inches from her, an unreadable expression on her face, and her eyes are narrowed and Rachel wonders if she did something wrong; she must have, because Quinn is backing up and frowning.

"I'll see you later," she says faintly and before Rachel can stop her, the front door is opening and closing.

The kettle starts whining against the quiet of the house but Rachel just shuts the stovetop off.

Quinn cuts through backyards and jumps fences, going in the opposite direction of her house and she doesn't stop running until she hits the park by the elementary school.

She collapses by the swings, the chains cutting into her hands.

Kissing Rachel was a stupid idea.

Hanging around after Cheerios practice – even when she knew Brittany didn't need a ride home – was almost as stupid, but not quite.

Since then, though, she hasn't been able to get the image of Brittany pressed against the lockers, her head thrown back and her chin cutting through the air; of Santana, her mouth moving down Brittany's neck, her hand running over and up under Brittany's top, sliding against skin; of Brittany's eyes going wide as one of Santana's hands go higher while the other goes lower.

It's all she's been able to think about, and she wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

So she had leaned over and kissed Rachel – taken Rachel's first kiss with one simple second-long press of her mouth – and if she thought the image burned into the back of her mind would fade, she was wrong.

Because it's still there, only this time she's Brittany and Rachel is Santana and Rachel's hands are just whispering against her stomach and Quinn can't breathe.

Friday comes again and Quinn is pushing the window open, spilling in through the open space, drenched from head to toe. Rachel lets out a small scream – she didn't think Quinn would actually come in the thunderstorm, and the lights are off, so Quinn's profile against the streetlights streaming in is something frightening.

"I need a towel," Quinn says simply, pulling her t-shirt over her head, crossing her arms over her chest.

Rachel pulls a towel off her door and throws it at Quinn, busying herself with finding something that'll fit Quinn. She lays them on the bed and picks up the wet shirt and pants that Quinn tosses towards the door, putting them in her hamper in her bathroom. Quinn clears her throat and Rachel turns around, smirking at the too-short pants that Quinn is trying to roll up and the too-small t-shirt that practically shows the tops of Quinn's shoulders.

"Why are you so short?"

Rachel scoffs. "You're a whole four inches taller than me."

Quinn pouts for all of two seconds before she grins and just like that, the tension is gone.

Two weeks later, Rachel is sitting on her bed Indian-style, arguing the merits of using the word 'herpes' in a serious game of Scrabble, Quinn lifts onto her knees, tipping the board towards one corner so all the tiles slide off their spots and Rachel opens her mouth to protest and is quickly silence by Quinn's mouth.

It's chaste, like the one in the kitchen, but longer and Quinn's hands are holding either side of her face in place.

Quinn pulls back and looks down at her. "I'm sorry," she whispers, but Rachel doesn't think she looks too sorry at all.

Then Quinn is tumbling back out through the window and Rachel has to pick up the scrabble pieces on her own.

Quinn avoids her in school. Rachel's clothes stay Slush-free, but she's not as happy as she thought she'd be about it.

Every day without a Slushie, or an insult, is a day without seeing Quinn.

When Quinn comes over at the end of the week, Rachel's ready.

She's not sure what's going, but Quinn keeps kissing her and one thing Rachel has found in all of this sudden mess is that she doesn't want Quinn to stop; one thing Rachel has figured out in all of this is that she wants Quinn to do it again.

So when Quinn pulls her body through the window, Rachel is sitting on the edge of her bed and she's waiting, ready. Quinn stops short at the sill and stares at Rachel.

"You can kiss me, if you want to," she says, willing her voice to stay calm and even.

It must, because Quinn's shoulders seem to lose their tension and she's kind of almost smiling, crossing the few feet between them, and Rachel is standing to meet her and Quinn kind of stops, hesitating, so Rachel reaches up, loops her arms around Quinn's neck and pulls down.

It's just like the last two times: short and closed-mouthed.

Quinn pulls back, her face hovering over Rachel's and Rachel can feel her heart in her throat.

"Go ahead," Rachel whispers, answering Quinn's unspoken question.

So she watches Quinn nod and steels herself as Quinn tips her head back down, catching her bottom lip. She feels something warm and wet flick against her closed mouth and when she gasps a little, the sound is muffled and Quinn's tongue slides against her teeth and the only thing she can think – besides Oh my God, Quinn is kissing me – is Thank God I brushed my teeth.

Quinn pulls back again and smiles at her. Her hands flex against Rachel's waist and she smiles wide.

"I forgot," she says, breaking out of Rachel's grasp, moving back to the window, reaching over the ledge and grunting. "Brought my guitar," she says brightly. "I was thinking we could work on the song for Glee, and maybe watch a movie."

It's just like every other time Quinn's come over and the only difference is when she leaves, she kisses Rachel quickly before she shimmies down the tree.

Nothing except the kissing changes.

Quinn still treats her like a disease in school and Rachel still holds her head high because she knows as soon as Quinn comes through her window, as soon as Friday comes, not much else matters.

Nothing except the kissing changes.

It doesn't stop Rachel from wishing that more did.

Something grabs her by the arm – someone, she reminds herself, not something – and she finds herself pulled into a closet, the door shut quickly behind her.

The hand on her arm disappears instantly and clamps down hard against her mouth, stifling her scream.

"Rachel," she hears.

She immediately stops screaming and waits until Quinn pulls her hand away before she reaches up and swats where she thinks Quinn's shoulder is.

"Damn it," Quinn hisses. "What was that for?"

Aimed too high, Rachel thinks sheepishly. She doesn't let it show that she missed, though, and lowers her hand, poking Quinn in – definitely – the shoulder. "You can't kidnap me in the middle of the day and not expect me to hit you for it."

If there was a light on, Quinn would most definitely be glaring at her. "Kidnap you? I didn't kidnap you, you idiot. I pulled you into a janitor's closet."

Rachel wants to say something like "I'm not making out with you in this closet," but what comes out instead is: "Well, warn me next time."

Quinn snickers. "Will do."

"Why did you pull me in here in the first place," she asks hurriedly. She was already late to English class and had been hurrying through the hall, trying to get there before the morning quiz. She definitely wouldn't make the quiz today and she's oddly okay with it.

"I can't go out there," Quinn says.

Rachel feels Quinn take a step back and she really can't see a thing so she fumbles at the wall, finding the switch and flipping it up. The room bursts into light and Quinn is sitting on an old desk, her feet swinging loosely over the ground.

"Why not?"

Quinn looks around like someone is listening to them, then beckons Rachel forward.

If she automatically goes to stand between Quinn's knees, her hands resting lightly against the tops of Quinn's thighs, it's not her fault and Quinn doesn't push her away.

"Coach is trying to kill me."

Rachel thinks it's a joke, but Quinn looks serious.

"She needs you."

"She's angry," Quinn counters.

Rachel tilts her head to the side. "With you?"

"Indirectly," Quinn says, frowning. "According to my sources, Santana broke up with Puck yesterday, something about a credit score or whatever, but now she's dating Brittany and Coach, she wants me to break them up."

Rachel blinks. "Who are your sources?"

"Santana and Brittany."

"Oh." Rachel frowns deeper. "Coach Sylvester wants you to break them up?"

Quinn nods. "If I go out there and Coach finds me, she'll make me do it and I don't want to. Santana is less of a rabid dog lately and God knows everyone is benefitting from it."

"Everyone but Coach," Rachel finishes.

"And anyway, they're happy, right?"

Quinn's not looking for an answer, so Rachel doesn't offer her one. Quinn is still for another minute before she smiles brightly and pushes Rachel back slightly, sliding off the desk, brushing off her skirt. "Thanks, Rach."

Rachel nods and smiles. "Anything to help a fellow Glee member," she jokes.

She follows Quinn to the door but there's a hard hand against her sternum that pushes her back a few feet.

"Wait five minutes," Quinn commands in a hard voice. She looks up at Quinn's profile and sighs; this isn't her Quinn, its school Quinn.

So Rachel let's Quinn leave and she counts five minutes in her head – all three hundred Mississippi's – and she slowly pushes the door open, peering out into the hallway. She breathes a sigh of relief and slips into the hall, closing the door behind her.

She's so late for English that she decides to skip it all together.

Besides, she should probably practice her next solo anyway.

Quinn never shows up before ten o'clock, but is always slipping through the open window before midnight.

Some nights she smells like beer; mostly just the first couple of times she did, at least, back during freshman year but it happens every once and a while, if Quinn comes over after some obligatory stop at a party. The rest of the time, she smells like she just took a shower and her hair is slicked back in a ponytail and she's wearing sweatpants and funny non-Quinn t-shirts.

Rachel likes her best on those nights.

"Did that tree get bigger?"

Rachel rolls over on her bed and lifts an eyebrow. Quinn dusts her pant legs off and lifts her guitar case off her back, setting it down gently under the sill, kicking off her shoes.

"I think it got bigger," she continues, shedding her sweatshirt. "Because I definitely climbed that thing without breaking a sweat last week and now I'm out of breath."

"Maybe it's the Zebra Cakes you've been eating when you think no one is looking," Rachel deadpans.

Quinn pokes her hard in the side. "No, it's not."

If Rachel had said that same thing at school, her social status would drop somewhere below the cement of the streets, further down than Jacob Ben Israel's, and she would be sacrificed to the Slushie gods of William McKinley High School. Now, though, in their little bubble of Rachel's room, Quinn merely grunts and pushes Rachel over until there's enough space on the bed for both of them, except that she immediately climbs up over Rachel, smirking down at her for a moment before leaning down.

Rachel lifts up to meet her halfway and her hands slide against Quinn's waist naturally, pulling down. Quinn's mouth curves up and she rolls off to the side, propping herself up on one hand while the other one slides under Rachel's shirt.

She inhales and pauses. Her hands might be gripping Quinn's waist, but she's never put her hand against any skin covered by clothing and she's never had anyone touch her either. Quinn's hand stills by her belly button and she pulls out of the kiss, staring down at Rachel.

"Sorry," she whispers, retracting her hand.

Rachel shakes her head and grips Quinn's wrist, holding it in place. "Just tickled," she murmurs, placing Quinn's hand back.

Quinn doesn't smirk. "Are you sure?"

Rachel nods – even though she's not sure – and Quinn looks at her, eyes serious, for a minute and then smiles softly and leans back down, her fingers splaying against Rachel's stomach.

They make out for a bit, Quinn's hand static against Rachel's stomach, until Rachel can't breathe and Quinn's arm can't keep her up anymore so they lie in silence, Rachel on her back, Quinn's face in her neck and arm around her middle.

Rachel lies in the comfortable silence for a bit until she remembers that maybe the climb was difficult because Quinn brought her guitar. She lifts herself onto her elbows, her back arched off the bed and Quinn slides off to the side a bit more.

"You finally learned that song?"

Quinn grunts something that could be a yes.

"Well," Rachel says, her voice getting higher as she sits up and bounces lightly on the bed. "Play it for me."

Quinn protests – like she does every time she learns a new song – but her smile gives her away and by the time Rachel is sitting, Indian-style at the head of the bed, leaning forward on her elbows slightly, her smile wide, Quinn is shaking her head in mock annoyance, but settling on the edge of the bed with one leg tucked up under her, propping up her guitar.

"Which one was it?"

Quinn hums under her breath and adjusts the tuning. "What?" she asks distractedly.

"What song did you pick?"

"Oh. That 'Belle of the Boulevard' song you said you liked."

It's moments like this that keep Rachel awake on the nights Quinn isn't there; it's off-handed comments like this that makes Rachel wonder why they can't just be friends here and at school; it's little things like this that leave Rachel thinking about the person Quinn is on Friday nights, and the person she is the rest of the time, and why they can't just be the same.

It's these little sentences that fuels all the wrong feelings when clearly they're only just kissing to kiss and not for any other reason.

Rachel smiles wider and waits patiently while Quinn plucks at the strings, finding the chords she wants, and then she clears her throat and looks up. Rachel waves her on.

Sometimes, Rachel sings. Most times, really, but when Quinn finally gets a new song perfected, Rachel sits back and lets her sing. It's refreshing, hearing someone else's clear voice ringing through her room.

"Down in a local bar, out on the boulevard," Quinn sings softly, frowning. "Sorry," she breathes out, not looking up. "It's not," she trails off, turning the tuning keys. She pulls a string and her frown slides up into a smile. "Got it. Let me try it again."

Rachel hums the melody to herself while Quinn shifts in her seat, pulling the body of the guitar closer.

"Down in a local bar, out on the boulevard, the sound of an old guitar is saving you from sinking." Quinn lifts her head and flashes Rachel a cocky grin, getting fancy and throwing in a few extra chords Rachel knows aren't in the original arrangement. Rachel feels her body sag back against the headboard quietly.

"It's a long way down. It's a long way," Quinn sings, dragging out the syllables.

"Back like you never broke, you tell a dirty joke. He touches your leg and thinks he's getting close. For now you let him just this once, just for now, and just like that – it's over."

Rachel picks up halfway through the chorus, because she can't resist singing that long and because this is one of those songs she loves that she has to sing along with.

"When you fall apart dry your eyes, dry your eyes. Life is always hard for the belle of the boulevard," she hums behind Quinn's voice.

Quinn smirks again and looks down, focusing on her fingers sliding against nylon, pressing down on the right frets. "In all your silver rings and all your silken things, that song you softly sing – is keeping you from breaking. It's a long way down, it's a long way. Back here you never loved. You've shaked the shivers off. You take a drink to get your courage up. Can you believe it, just this once, just for now, and just like that, it's over."

She runs through another chorus and this time Rachel stays quiet, even when Quinn lets her hand leave the neck of the guitar and slap her lightly in the thigh, signaling her to sing along. She likes to listen to Quinn sing, especially when her voice is this soft and this slow, because in Glee, Mr. Schuester has her sing high and quick and it's really just an insult to Quinn's ability.

"Down in a local bar, out on the boulevard, the sound of an old guitar is saving you," Quinn finishes, playing a few more chords, letting the last one ride out until the strings stop vibrating. Rachel watches her fiddle with her bracelet – something Rachel has come to learn means she's nervous – and then Quinn is lifting her head, eyes hopeful.

"It was okay," Rachel says dully. She can't hide her smile, though, and Quinn leans forward to punch her weakly in the arm.

"Don't do that to me," she says faintly, lightly, but Rachel can hear the weight behind the words and knows that Quinn takes this thing seriously; Quinn is always afraid that she's going to fail and it's something Rachel doesn't understand, because she's not sure there's anything Quinn can fail at.

She still leans forward on her knees, arches her body over Quinn's guitar and kisses her quickly on the corner of her mouth.

It's hero-worship; Rachel isn't naïve enough to know it's anything more than that, but it doesn't stop her from smiling widely and asking Quinn to play it again.

Quinn wakes with a start and tries to catch her breath. She's been having "run-because-you're-being-chased-by-Sue-Sylvester-in-a-golf-cart" dreams lately – Santana just got over them – and they're disrupting her sleeping patterns.

She turns on her side and breathes an easy sigh of relief: she didn't wake up Rachel.

On the nightstand, her phone is blinking red. Quinn lifts her body up and over Rachel's, hovering above her, holding her breath. Rachel, she's learned, is an odd sleeper: there could be a marching band outside the open window and Rachel would simply roll over, but if someone touched her, even the slightest graze, she was awake and ready for the day.

There are a couple of messages from Finn and one from Brittany and Santana each.

Quinn missed a party last night.

She closes the phone without checking the messages – she can already imagine what they say – but stares at the time on the front display.

It's five in the morning and she should already be gone.

She usually doesn't stay the night – her parents used to freak if she wasn't home by curfew, but they've already forgotten about her at this point in her life, and it's Rachel, so her self-control is already lowered to the point of being non-existent.

She slips out from under the comforter and finds her shoes. The window is shut, for some reason, and trying to crank it open would probably wake up Rachel's dads so she slips her jacket on and pulls the door open quietly, moving into the hallway. She leaves Rachel's door open a crack and slinks down the stairs shamefully.

"Morning," comes a soft voice from the general direction of the couch. An end table lamp flips on and Quinn winces at the sudden intrusion of light. "Sorry," Mr. Berry says sheepishly. "I forget how bright this lamp can be."

"It's okay," Quinn stammers, her feet rooted to the ground. She's unsure what to do now: leave, or continue talking.

Mr. Berry makes the choice for her, motioning towards the armchair by the couch. "Take a seat."

Quinn shakes her head softly. "I should get home. My parents are probably worried," she stammers.

He stares at her steadily before he nods. "Of course." He sips at the mug in his hand. "Drive safe, Quinn."

With shaking hands she opens the front door, finds her car keys, starts her car and turns onto Main Street. That's never happened before and she never wants it to happen again – sneaking down through Rachel's living room isn't something totally new, she's done it a few times before, but meeting Mr. Berry down there is not something that's ever occurred and she feels clammy all over and her hands won't stop shaking.

She wasn't doing anything wrong, she tells herself; but she wasn't doing anything right, either.

She never wants that to happen again because even in the dim light, Quinn could see the look in Mr. Berry's eye – it was the same look her father had when he met Finn for the first time and while Finn fielded all of Mr. Fabray's questions, Quinn wouldn't even know what to say if Mr. Berry asked.

Except, there's nothing to ask about, she reminds herself. Right?

Rachel hums under her breath at breakfast and when she can't take it anymore, she places her fork down firmly and looks her dad square in the eye. "What is it?"

He shrugs. "What are you talking about?"

"You've been staring rather curiously all of breakfast. Did you want to say something?"

Her dad seems to think about the question – too long, Rachel thinks – but after a minute he smiles softly and lifts his coffee cup to his mouth, speaking in between sips. "No, Rachel. I'm just watching."

Rachel frowns quickly before smiling brightly. "Soon, I'll be so much older. You might forget the little things," she agrees.

When his hand reaches across the table and brushes back a curtain of hair, tucking it back behind her ear, Rachel's smile widens. "I love you," he murmurs. "Always will."

Rachel picks up a forkful of pancakes. "I love you too, Dad."

She doesn't hear him sigh.


Rachel looks from her locker briefly and rolls her eyes. "What do you want, Noah?"

Puck winces because no one calls him Noah except for his mother. Then he puffs out his chest and smirks. "What are you doing Friday night?"

"Not you," she says automatically.

Puck's eyebrows lift and he snorts. Rachel sighs on the inside, cursing her lack of a filter, because if she had taken time to think about her answer, she wouldn't have sounded so much like Quinn; she would have sounded definitely more like Rachel Berry.

"I need to bring home a nice Jewish girl before my mom freaks out on me," he explains, putting up a hand, trapping her between his body and her open locker. "Sexing you up definitely would be an option too."

Rachel moves into his side, throwing her locker closed and turning wildly, pushing him against the metal of someone else's locker, poking him hard in the chest. "Listen to me, Noah."

"God, Puck," she hears from behind her. "Are you that desperate for ass that you're doing guys now, too?"

Rachel lets out a small exhale of air and turns, stepping away from Puck and crossing her arms over her chest.

"Is that an offer, Lopez?"

Santana scoffs under her breath the way girls do when boys ask stupid questions. "As if. You're a cesspool of STDs. I have standards now."

Puck smirks, one corner of his mouth lifting. "Clearly, your girlfriend doesn't." He pushes off the wall and runs his hand across Rachel's shoulders, leaning in close. "Let me know if you change your mind."

Rachel shudders and takes a step back. Santana growls low in her throat when Puck steps near her. He puts his hands up and smirks, winking at Rachel. "Later."

"Don't talk to him," Santana says tightly, hands on her hips, her face twisted in an odd expression. "In fact-"

"He came to me," Rachel exclaims, voice shrill. "I was just minding my own business and-"

Santana waves a hand at her. "I don't care. Don't talk to him."

"I won't," Rachel says firmly.

Santana looks down the end of her nose and after a moment, she nods. "Fine then."

"Fine," Rachel echoes, hugging the books in her arms to her chest.

"Santana," Quinn snaps, coming up behind the Cheerio. "What are you doing?"

The look on Santana's face – something Rachel would probably call soft, in Santana Lopez terms – hardens instantly and she sneers. "Lecturing RuPaul on the dangers of being a walking freakshow," Santana says coolly, turning to Quinn.

Quinn nods, smirking. "She brings it upon herself, doesn't she?" she asks, not even looking at Rachel.

Rachel waits. They won't make fun of her for long, and then she's free to do what she wants: cry in the bathroom, go to Spanish class, or leave school. She just needs to let Quinn get in her daily "berating Rachel" fix and then Rachel will get to lock herself in the last stall of the bathroom by the Glee room and take out her list to remind herself why she let's Quinn do this; remind herself why it's worth it.

"Right," Santana mutters, looking over Quinn's shoulder. Her eyes light up and Rachel smiles involuntarily. "Listen, I've got to go. Brittany is, and we're, so you know, I don't, bye," she says finally, her sneer widening into a smile as she pushes past Quinn's shoulder, sliding up next to Brittany, throwing her head back and laughing.

Rachel watches Quinn watching Santana slide her hand into Brittany's; watches Quinn watching Santana tug at the bottom of Brittany's top suggestively and Brittany shake her head and kiss the top of Santana's forehead; watches Quinn shake her own head and give a small smile.

"Those two are disgustingly cute," she says, turning back to Rachel, flashing a wide smile. "I know for a fact that they see each other from sun up to sundown, pretty much, and they're still all over each other. I hope I'm never that, that dependent on someone else. It's unhealthy." Quinn frowns, crinkling her nose.

Rachel can see Karofsky turn the corner, his big feet slapping against the floor loudly and she watches with a mix of disappointment and awe – because it's Quinn after all, and she's always sort of intrigued Rachel – as Quinn changes: her shoulders stiffen and she stands taller and the friendly hands on her hips sharpen to pointed elbows and Rachel looks up at Quinn Fabray, Head Bitch in Charge and waits for the insult.

"So when I say 'move,' Manhands," she hisses as Karofsky gets closer, "you move, got it?"

Rachel doesn't nod; she won't give Quinn that satisfaction.

Quinn flicks her ponytail over her shoulder and glares at Karofsky, but as soon as he turns another corner, Quinn sags and Rachel looks up at Quinn Fabray, Ordinary Girl.

"See you in Glee," Quinn says softly.

Rachel decides that today wasn't so bad. Maybe she'll go to Spanish class.

There is a list. It's in the bottom drawer of her nightstand, underneath her journals.

Rachel can't remember when she started it – it's long and mostly superficial – but she still reads it to remind herself that dealing with Quinn in school is worth it, because, like her list says, Quinn isn't that bad when she's with me.

She likes to think that she makes Quinn a better person; that Quinn wants to be better, for her.

She's sure that someone, somewhere, is laughing at her for it.

Puck won't leave her alone.

She thought he'd hit on her and let it go, but when she gets to Spanish class, the seat Finn usually sits in is filled with the same jacket and a different face.

"Noah," she says tensely. "That seat is already taken."

Puck jerks his thumb over his shoulder. "Hudson and Quinn took the back table and I definitely don't want to be near them if they're going to make out all class." He frowns. "Hudson slobbers."

Rachel resists the urge to shudder and instead, plants her hands on her hips and does her best to attempt a glare. Judging by the look on Puck's face, she's amusing him more than anything. "Why are you even in class?"

"Felt like showing up," he shrugs. "Deal with it."

Halfway through class, when he drops his arm across the back of her chair, she turns to glare at him but he just laughs at her, loudly, and doesn't stop until Mr. Schuester tells him to take a hike.

"I'm not sure I can come over this Friday," Quinn says quietly, even if they're the only ones in the Glee room. Rachel pauses in the middle of her piano chords and waits.

"It's Finn's birthday and-"

Rachel presses hard on the keys, cutting off Quinn's words. She plays a few bars of Chopsticks before Quinn's hands stop her.

"Come on, Rachel."

She looks up at Quinn and smiles. "What?" she asks innocently. "I want to practice before my Dad comes to get me."

Quinn goes pale at the mention of her Dad, but Rachel ignores it. "I'll make it up to you."

Rachel is sure Quinn doesn't hear her mutter "I won't hold my breath" because she leaves anyway, not looking over her shoulder.

It's moments like these that Rachel wonders why she even gets her hopes up.

Friday is Finn's birthday and she's his girlfriend, so she should do something for him.

At least, it's what she keeps telling herself as Finn bowls another strike, fist-pumping when he turns around.

He slides across the plastic seats and slings an arm around her shoulder. "Having fun?"

Quinn puts on her best fake smile and nods. "Of course I am," she says, leaning up to kiss his cheek. "Are you? it's your birthday, after all."

Finn nods enthusiastically and dips his head down, kissing her, his tongue pushing past her lips and into her mouth. He pulls back with a self-satisfied smile while she tries to discreetly wipe her mouth with the back of her hand. Finn leans back in the seat, thrust his hand out and waves it across the bowling alley.

"I'm seventeen, I have the best girlfriend in, like, all of Ohio, and I'm winning at bowling. It doesn't get better than this, right?"

"Right," she murmurs, just low loud for him to hear.

She nods and buries herself against his side so she won't see the guilty look she knows is on her face.

Because better than this is probably sitting alone in her room, playing Scrabble and waiting for Quinn; because better than this is Rachel.

"Cool," Finn says. She can hear his smile in his words. "Hey, it's your turn."

When she breaks out of his hold, she can breathe again.

Finn drops her off and she indulges in a quick make-out session, gagging as soon as she stumbles through the threshold of her door. The lights in the house are off so she climbs the stairs to her room in the dark and changes her clothes quickly, slipping off her dress and sliding into a pair of jeans.

She thinks that she could probably walk out the front door, but scaling down the side of the trestle under her window is a good warm-up for when she gets to Rachel's; the tree isn't the easiest thing to climb.

When she gets to Rachel's, though, she can't get herself to move past the lawn. Quinn stands on the sidewalk, her hands in her hoodie, looking up at Rachel's dark, closed window.

So she turns back around and goes home and tries to pretend that the closed window doesn't bother her as much as it does; tries to erase Rachel's voice from her mind and the words "I won't hold my breath" because Rachel has no right to say something like that and Quinn doesn't care that much anyway.

She tries.

Another Friday comes and everything is like nothing happened. Rachel decides not to be bitter – because she has no real claim on that kind of feeling, after all – and Quinn has apparently decided to act like Rachel's little hissy fit never existed.

At least, that's the way it seems when Quinn shows up at exactly eleven fifty-nine, just as Rachel is crossing the room to close the window. She had figured Quinn wasn't coming, and it's been cooler, and just before she reaches up to slam the window down, Quinn's face was on the other side of the glass, smiling widely at her, easing the half of the window back up.

"Punctual," Quinn notes, glancing at Rachel's alarm clock. "I had to entertain my parents before I could sneak out."

Rachel wants to say something like "Oh, you didn't have to go suck face with Finn?" but that's bitter and she's actually really happy to see Quinn, so she shrugs her shoulders and says, "It's cold out."

Quinn nods. "I can understand that."

One moment of tense quiet and then Quinn rolls her eyes, pulling Rachel towards her body. Rachel holds back her squeak of surprise as her hips bounce against Quinn's because Quinn is resting her forehead down so that if Rachel looks up, she's looking into hazel eyes. Quinn smiles softly and Rachel's eyes drift closed just as Quinn kisses her.

It's been two weeks since she lasted kissed Quinn and but it feels like longer and she thinks that Quinn must feel the same way, because there's a level of intensity in this kiss that there's never been before. Quinn's hands grip her waistline a little tighter than usual; her tongue pushes a little harder; her teeth bite down a little more.

"Quinn," she says breathlessly, pulling back. "Slow down."

Quinn dips her head apologetically. "Sorry," she mumbles, followed by a muffled "I missed this."

Rachel beams. "I missed you."

She did; she missed her Quinn with her goofy one-liners and her propensity to cheat at every board game they've ever played and her secrets and her hair down.

"I missed you too," Quinn says, even more quiet than before, her hands unclenching the bunched fabric of Rachel's sweater, sliding under the garment and pressing against the bare skin of Rachel's lower back. It makes Rachel's body arch into Quinn's and the blond smiles lightly before turning them and taking a few steps back until Rachel feels her knees hit the edge of her bed.

They go back and Rachel is trapped under Quinn's body. When long fingers graze the clasp of her bra, she arches into Quinn's body and blushes but Quinn grabs her by the chin and kisses her hard.

Three hours later, Quinn pauses at the window, one leg over the sill, and smiles at her, waving a little.

Rachel holds her t-shirt over her bare top half and takes a deep breath, staring at her ceiling and laughing a little to herself because she just rounded second base with Quinn Fabray and her sophomore year is going even better than her freshman year.

She has Glee, a strong male lead vocalist, some type of friendship with the glee kids, and Quinn Fabray.

"So much better," she sighs, rolling over to smile into her pillow.

"Hey, Berry."

Puck leans up against her locker, leering down at her Oxford blouse. She frowns up at him and grabs her Spanish book, pulling it against her chest.

"What do you want?"

He smirks. "Besides you and me in my truck with no clothes on?"

"You're disgusting."

"I'm honest," he counters. She can't say he's wrong; Puck doesn't try to be anything else than the disgusting pig that he is. "Seriously, though. You, me, and a handjob. It'll take thirty minutes, at most."

She snorts a little. "I think you might be giving yourself too much credit."

Puck leans a little closer and Rachel holds her breath because he put on too much aftershave. "You'll never know unless you try."

"Listen," she says, launching into the speech she attempted to give him last time before Santana cut in. "I don't know what juvenile prank you're trying to pull here, or what you're trying to achieve, but I am not sleeping with you or engaging in any type of sexual activity with you."

"So," he drawls out, "was that a 'no'?"

Rachel almost laughs. "That was a definite no."

"I'll try again later, then," he says, winking at her before turning and sauntering down the hallway.

She shakes her head and gags a little, returning her attention to her locker, pulling at her Spanish notebook in the back of the metal contraption. A tan hand slams against the door, almost catching her fingers.


"I thought I told you to stay away from Puck," Santana growls.

Rachel goes on the defensive, because Santana is towering over and that uniform is really intimidating. "Why? You want him back?"

Defensive was the wrong way to go, her mind screams at her, because Santana leans down real slow until she's eye-to-eye with Rachel, her teeth bared. "I'm more than happy with Brittany, thank you very much," she hisses. "Not that it's any of your goddamn business."


Rachel's head snaps up and she smiles reflexively because it's Brittany and everyone smiles at Brittany.

She looks back at Santana who is still glaring at her and immediately turns towards Brittany again. "Hi, Brittany."

The blond waves. "Hi," she says, wrapping her hand around Santana's arm, sliding down until their fingers are tangled. Rachel feels her stomach flop, because they're here, standing in front of her and she looks at their hands and Santana's scowl fading and she wants to be them; she wants her and Quinn to be them. "Ready?" Brittany asks Santana.

Santana nods slowly, her gaze still on Rachel. "Yeah, I'll walk you to Math."

Brittany smiles at Rachel and tugs Santana's hand.

The brunette Cheerio doesn't take her eyes off Rachel until she rounds the corner at the end of the hallway and Rachel doesn't like the feeling she gets in the pit of her stomach.

Quinn looks up when Santana slams her locker closed, the noise echoing through the empty locker room.

"Hey," she says evenly, because Santana is staring at her with a look she can't really name, and so she fumbles a little faster, trying to unlace her sneakers. It's Friday and she wants to get home to tune her guitar because she finally nailed the last chord progression of "Dancing in the Dark" and she can't wait to play it for Rachel.

"You need to be careful."

Quinn's head snaps back up – she can't untie her shoes without looking, for some reason – and she frowns. "Excuse me?"

"You need to be careful," Santana repeats slowly. "You're playing with fire, Quinn."

"If I had any idea what you're talking-"


Quinn's mouth closes soundlessly.

"I see the way you look at her and God knows everyone can see the way she stares at you and you need to be careful, Quinn," Santana continues, crossing her arms over her chest. "People haven't said anything yet, but soon, they will."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Quinn hisses.

Santana rolls her eyes and sits down gently, her eyes softer than before. "Someone is going to get hurt if you keep doing whatever it is you're doing and it won't be you. It'll be her."

Quinn's retort dies in her throat, because Santana is right: Rachel wouldn't be able to survive the social fallout if word ever got about how Quinn spends her Friday nights; she'd be sacrificed to the horrors of high school and she'd never make it out, for all her brash and confidence.

Santana shifts, clearly uncomfortable. "And then there's Finn you have to think about too. He's your boyfriend, Quinn. If Brittany's taught me anything, it's that it's not fair to other people," she trails off.

"S, I-"

Santana puts her hands up, physically blocking Quinn out. "I don't want details. I don't even want to continue talking about this. I'm just telling you what you won't tell yourself."

She watches Santana stand up and the brunette reaches over and pats her quickly on the hand, frowning as she does. "Be careful," she says again.

Quinn's fingers are heavy as they wrestle with the knots on her shoes, but she has them off and the drive home is a blur of passing cars and stoplights.

She can't tune her guitar right away, because she can't seem to remember the chords she needs and the pitch she wants, but she puts the guitar down and lies back against her bed, staring up at her ceiling. When she finds herself counting down the hours until she can sneak out her window and into Rachel's, she chokes back a sob.

Santana is right: someone is going to get hurt eventually; it's going to be Rachel.

Rachel checks the clock again and sighs. It's been two minutes since she last looked and Quinn still isn't here.

At eleven forty-five, she rests her head back on her hands, telling herself she'll only close her eyes for a few minutes, because time might go faster that way and Quinn might come quicker if she's not getting up to check the window every thirty seconds, so she holds back a shiver at the cool air coming through the open space and lets out a slow breath.

When she wakes up, it's two-thirty and there's a hand, warm and heavy, on her stomach, pressing down but not quite.

"Quinn," she whispers, turning her head.

Quinn is staring back at her, eyes wide and unblinking.

"What are you doing here?" Rachel rolls onto her side, Quinn's hand sliding around and clutching the fabric of her sweater on her back. "It's really late."

Quinn shifts a little towards her, her leg moving to rest against Rachel's and then she's leaning in, her breath hot against Rachel's face for a moment before Rachel feels chapped lips against her own, a tongue sliding seamlessly into her mouth.

Quinn rolls until Rachel's back is pressed into the mattress again and blond hair is hanging like a curtain around their faces. She thinks she hears Quinn whisper "I won't let you get hurt" when the kiss breaks, but she's not sure because her shirt is being lifted and she barely gets her arms up before Quinn is pulling it over her head, kissing a line down her torso, hands moving across her chest softly, kneading. Rachel arches and then pulls back because there's an intensity in Quinn's movements, something she can't name and doesn't like.

"Quinn," she urges, pulling at the hands on her body. "Stop."

Quinn's head lifts from Rachel's neck. "What?" she asks breathlessly.

Rachel stares, trying to find a hint of anything in Quinn's eyes, or the thin line of her mouth, but she can't. "What's wrong?"

"I could fall in love with you," Quinn whispers.

Rachel's question is forgotten and her breath hitches. "What?"

Quinn doesn't repeat herself though; only leans back down and Rachel lets Quinn's hands slide lower, tugging at Rachel's skirt.

They've never done this before, but Quinn is panting into her neck and biting at her skin and her hands are so soft, like whispers, that Rachel isn't sure what's happening until Quinn's hand pauses and her head pulls up and she's looking into hazel eyes, wide and shining.

Rachel nods and Quinn kisses her slowly and it's a different kiss; different than the first chaste ones, or the deeper ones that followed, or even the hard and heavy ones the first time Rachel let her hands slide against Quinn's bare stomach. There's something more to it that Rachel doesn't have much time to think about, because Quinn's hand moves and fingers press and she's arching off the bed.

All of romance novels she read never told her it would feel like this.

Right before her eyes slide closed, Quinn's half-clothed body wrapped around her naked one, she can't help but notice that Quinn has been a lot of – all of, almost, she thinks – her firsts and she leans up, kissing Quinn's jaw, feeling the muscles clenched under her mouth, before she lets herself fall asleep.

Quinn waits until Rachel's breath has evened out and then she's gone, sliding out the window and down the tree. She hits the ground running and she's not sure where she's going, but the sun is starting to rise and she can at least see the sidewalk out in front of her and two hours later, panting, she's standing in front of Santana's house, hand hovering over the doorbell.

The door swings open before she can finally push it.

"You're scaring my mother," Santana says quietly, grabbing her hand and tugging her across the threshold. "She thought someone was casing the house."

Quinn makes a noise that could possibly sound like "sorry" and follows Santana through the living room where she nods politely at Mrs. Lopez, who glares at her, and then she's being dragged up the stairs, her feet catching on the carpet.

Santana ushers her into her room and closes the door behind them. Brittany blinks sleepily from the bed, smiling when she looks past Quinn and sees Santana.

"Come on," Santana says quietly, pulling Quinn towards the bed by the wrist. Brittany slides to middle, tossing back one side of the covers and Quinn feels Santana's hands maneuvering her until her shoes are off and she's staring up at Santana's ceiling, one of Brittany's arms low around her waist.

She feels the bed dip again and out of the corner of her eye, she can see Santana's head on Brittany's shoulder.

"I'm breaking up with Finn," she says. Her voice is loud in the quiet room.

Brittany nods, her chin bouncing against Quinn's shoulder. Santana blinks.

"Not because of Rachel," she says, voice breaking, because it's a lie. "It can't be because of Rachel."

"Why not?" Brittany asks just as quiet.

Quinn swallows heavily; she's been asking herself the same question over and over for longer than she wants to admit. "She's just Rachel," she says weakly. "She's Rachel Berry. I can't break up with Finn Hudson for Rachel Berry."

Santana shrugs and Brittany's entire body moves against Quinn. "I broke up with Puck for Brittany."

Brittany rolls her eyes. "That's different, because you love love me."

"I do," Santana agrees. Quinn looks across Brittany's body at Santana and wonders who it is she's been looking at for the last ten years, because six-year-old Santana Lopez was all attitude and hidden emotions, but this Santana Lopez is all soft eyes and smiles.

She doesn't tell them what she said, about how she could fall in love with Rachel, because they're looking at her like they already know and because she's sixteen and love isn't real; it can't be.

Except Quinn watches the way that Brittany's free hand runs along Santana's arm, tracing the contours of her elbow, their fingers tangling together and Santana's forehead bumping against Brittany's chin and she knows that love is real and sweetly unconventional and maybe it's just her that can't have it.

"Do you love love Rachel?"

She thinks about Brittany's question and eventually shakes her head.

No, she tells herself, turning over with her back to Brittany. She doesn't love Rachel. She can't love Rachel.

It's something Rachel has never done before, actively seeking out any Cheerio who will tell her where Quinn is.

She's done a lot of things lately that she's never done before and all of them stem back to Quinn Fabray, who's ducking corners and avoiding her; Quinn Fabray, who won't take her phone calls or answer her texts or respond to her emails.

"Berry," she hears from behind her on her way to Glee, Puck's voice cutting through the frantic whispering in her head that's telling her Quinn is never going to talk to her again.

She turns angrily and growls at him. "What do you want?"

Puck smirks. "You're pretty hot when you're all frustrated, although I'm not sure what you're pissed off about now that the Golden Boy is yours for the taking."

"The Golden Boy," she repeats, frowning. "What are you talking about?"

"Finn," he prompts, waving his hand around. "He's free game now. I thought you'd be on that," he says, shrugging.

"Free game," she says quietly.

Puck groans. "Are you just going to repeat everything I-"

"What do you mean he's free game?" she asks abruptly.

Puck doesn't miss a beat. "Quinn dumped him after lunch today, practically in the middle of the cafeteria. Actually, it was pretty funny. I thought he was going to cry. That, or blow his load. His face was all-"

"Shut up," Rachel says dismissively, turning on her heel and marching down the hallway. She glides into the Glee room and looks around but can't find Quinn.

Santana stares at her evenly as she lingers in the doorway and Rachel is about to go sit down on the end of the row but a flash of red catches her eye and she looks back towards Santana who's beckoning her over with one finger.

Cautiously, she sits down on the seat usually reserved for Brittany, perched on the edge, should the need to run arise. Santana rolls her eyes and grabs the sleeve of Rachel's sweater, pulling her back into the chair.

"I'm not going to hit you, if that's what you're worried about," she almost doesn't hear Santana say.

Rachel turns a little in her seat and frowns. "You're not?"

"Why would I do that?"

Rachel shrugs. "You have a reputation."

Santana scoffs so lightly under her breath that Rachel is sure she's the only one who hears it. "I have a reputation because it's convenient. And because people tend to piss me off a lot," she adds. She shifts in her seat, sliding towards Rachel who doesn't move an inch. "Also, relax. Because if you go catatonic on me now, I will punch you. Just for the hell of it."

Rachel lets out a breath and Santana smirks. "Okay?"

Santana nods. "Okay." Rachel watches as Santana's eyes go dark and her mouth sets into a firm line. "Listen, Berry. I don't know what's going on. I mean, I know the basics, and that's as much as I want to know, because I have enough drama in my life without you and your stuff and-"

"Who said you had to care about 'my stuff'?" Rachel hisses.

"When it starts affecting my life, it's officially time for me to caring about your stuff," Santana snaps. "And with Quinn moping about all the time, she's slacking off in practice and when she slacks off in practice, we start to suck. And if we start to suck, I'll never get out of this hellhole. And if I never get out of here," she says, leaning close, her teeth bared, "then you're going to have to worry about me hitting you."

Santana sits back, pulling her skirt over her knees and nodding curtly at Matt and Mike, turning back to Rachel as soon as the boys sit down. "So whatever it is that's going on with Quinn, do everyone here a favor and fix it."

"I didn't do anything," Rachel protests.

Santana eyes her evenly for a minute, so intensely that Rachel feels like squirming in her seat, but Santana finally sighs and nods. "Yeah, I figured."

"You figured what?"

"I figured that you didn't do anything. If you were the one who messed up, Quinn would be angry and on a warpath. But she's-"

"She avoiding me," Rachel finishes.

"Right. Damn. What is it about you that's got everyone all tangled up?"

Rachel finds herself smirking. "Wouldn't you like to know."

A slim, pale hand slides across the back of Santana's shoulder blades. "No, she wouldn't. I like her when she's tangled up with me," Brittany says decisively.

"I like that too," Santana says quietly, smiling.

Brittany smiles brightly and then frowns a little, looking sad. "You should go out into the hallway. Some of the Cheerios are kind of ganging up on Quinn. I tried to stop them, but they told me to leave, and then Quinn told me to leave, but she didn't really want me to leave." The blond looks down solemnly at Santana. "She just wanted me to get you."

Santana is already out of her seat, Rachel one step behind her, but when they reach the door, Quinn comes barreling through, eyes hard and distant.

"Quinn," Rachel says quietly, reaching out.

Quinn slaps her hand away. "Don't touch me," she hisses. "And you," she says, rounding on Santana. "You and Brittany? You're done. Either break up, or turn in your uniforms. Coach's orders."

Santana's fists clench, but Quinn doesn't wait around for an answer.

Quinn marches back into the hallway and down the hall, into the locker room before she lets her body drop, sliding against the lockers.

They had cornered her outside of the band room and demanded to know why she broke up with Finn Hudson and what she thought she was doing letting Manhands look at her the way Rachel looks at her.

She knew Coach Sylvester had sent them; knew they were there to test her loyalty to the squad and she passed with flying colors, giving it back to them just as good as they gave it to her; they won't challenge her again, no matter what Coach says to them.

The locker room door slams open and Santana is standing there, chest rising and falling heavily.

"You bitch," she says low in her throat. "Who the hell do you think you are?"

Quinn could tell Santana – who really is her best friend, her only true friend since the start – what just happened, but Sylvester has moles everywhere and Quinn knows they're not the only ones in this locker room.

She's already sacrificed too much to lose everything now.

"The captain of a National cheerleading squad," she sneers. "Who are you?"

Santana's mouth hangs open for a moment before she violently pulls her top over her head and slides her skirt down, kicking it off her ankle when it catches, standing in the doorway in her spankies and her bra. "I'm Santana Lopez," she says, her voice calm even as Quinn watches the muscles in her jaw crinkle. "And you're pathetic."

Santana pushes the door back open and disappears into the hallway. Quinn thinks she hears Mr. Schuester let out a loud shriek and through the window of the door, she watches Mike take off his long-sleeve t-shirt and Matt step out of his sweatpants, leaving him in shorts, and Brittany scoops them up, pulling the shirt over Santana's head.

She catches Rachel's eye through the glass, but Quinn looks away first.

On Friday, when Quinn gets to the top of the tree, Rachel is standing in the window, watching her.

She smiles charmingly – as charmingly as she can manage with a guitar on her back and bark cutting into her hands – and hoists herself up another branch, but as she reaches for the sill, to pull herself into Rachel's room, the window slams shut.

Rachel stares down at her, eyes hard and cold through the glass before she pulls the shade down.

Rachel doesn't care about closing the window.

At least, for the first ten minutes, she tells herself she doesn't care about closing the window. After those first minutes, the old lady across the street calls – and thank whoever is up there that her dads are out on their date – to say that there is a girl sitting in the tree outside her window carrying something large and dark, and then Rachel is worried that Quinn will sit out there all night and she might catch a cold.

The concern lasts until her cell phone rings and it's Santana on the other line.

"Berry," Santana says cordially.

Rachel frowns, pulling the phone back to look and make sure she's actually talking to someone and not just dead air. "Santana? How did you get my number?"

"Does it matter?" Rachel hears a sigh and then hushed whispering. "I'm calling," she says in a monotone, "to make sure you're okay."

Despite herself, despite Quinn sitting in her tree outside, she grins. "Brittany made you call me, didn't she?"

There's an even heavier sigh and then, "So what? Answer her question or I'll be the one sleeping on the couch."

"Is that so?" Rachel asks shyly.

"Berry," Santana growls.

"I'm fine," she says. It's a lie and Santana has to be deaf not to hear the way her voice cracks, but Santana takes it in stride and probably even rolls her eyes.

"Great. Now, aren't you going to ask how I am? I mean, I'm the one who stripped down in front of Glee, after all."

Rachel doesn't know what to say and there's an awkward pause before Santana sighs again. "That probably won't be funny for a little bit, right?"

Rachel nods even if Santana can't see her. "I think you need at least a week or two before you start using that as a punch line."

"I figured," Santana says flatly. "Anyway, Brit just wanted to-"

There's a clattering noise and then Brittany is chattering into the phone and Rachel finds herself curling up on the left side of the bed – her side – with the phone pressed to her ear, laughing at Brittany's jokes and stories and Santana yelling in the background about how Rachel is preventing her from getting sex and she better be willing to suffer the consequences.

So this is what having friends is like, she thinks tentatively as her eyes slide closed and the battery in her phone dies.

Quinn never even crosses her mind as she falls asleep.

The first thing Rachel notices when she steps into school on Monday is that people are lining the hallways like they're unsure what they should be doing. Finn is leaning up against his locker by the main entrance and she sidles up next to him.

"What's going on?"

He shrugs. "Something about Quinn picking someone to takes Santana's place."

As if on cue, Santana saunters through the door in jeans and a hoodie and Converse that look just like the ones Quinn borrowed from Rachel once and never gave back, and the hall goes quiet. Dark eyes scan the faces before finding Rachel's and then Santana is standing in front of her, looking up and down the hall, brow quirked in amusement.

"What's everyone staring at?" she asks loudly. "Clearly, I know I'm hot, but honestly people." Santana turns to Karofsky and glares. "Close your mouth, you oaf. You're spreading your diseases." She grins when his mouth snaps shut. "Now, what's the big commotion about?"

"Quinn's picking your replacement," Finn repeats.

Santana snorts. "As if she could ever replace me," she says, looping one arm through Rachel's. "Come on, Berry. I'll let you walk me to class."

"How nice," Rachel hums, smiling reassuringly at Finn as they start down the hall. When they're out of his earshot, Rachel slows her pace and leans in a little. "Where's Brittany?"

"Only one of us had to quit," Santana says just as quietly. "She's still a Cheerio, so she still has to follow Quinn's orders."

That makes Rachel stop short in the hall, Santana stopping half a step after her. "You gave up your spot on the Cheerios for her? But, but," she sputters, "You'll never get out of Lima then."

Santana shrugs. "I'd rather get out of here on my own terms, instead of subjecting myself to scraping the gum and shit off of Quinn's shoes for the next two and a half years. Besides," she adds, grinning, head tipped down towards Rachel, "I finally get to wear real clothes and I have a hot cheerleader girlfriend who said she wouldn't go anywhere without me."

Rachel can see how Santana would think she didn't get the short end of the proverbial stick.

"And," Santana continues, "You benefit from this too."

"How so?" she asks, turning a corner and stopping at her locker.

"Well, no one would Slushie me, whether or not I'm in that hideous uniform, so you can stop wearing raincoats on sunny days."

Santana has a valid point; a very valid point.

"Great," she hears Santana mutter under her breath as she reaches into her locker for her books. "Horndog at three o'clock."

She has no time to ask what that means before Puck's body is practically pinning her to the lockers. "Hey, Berry."

Santana gags. "God, Puck. Lay off the aftershave."

Puck looks over Rachel's head and sneers. "Suck mine, Lopez."

"You first."

Rachel tosses a look over her shoulder and Santana rolls her eyes but pantomimes a zipper closing over the seam of her mouth mockingly, pretending to look away; she even moves a few feet away when she catches sight of Brittany at the end of the hall, walking towards them, a step behind Quinn.

"What do you want, Noah?"

"We've done this a few times," he says, smirking and leaning closer. "I think you already know the answer."

Santana pokes her hard in the back and whispers something that sounds like "Mayday!" fiercely. Rachel frowns a little; she always thought Santana's "cool factor" was a little higher than that.

"Just come on a date with me," Puck says, his voice bordering on a whine. She almost expects him to stomp his foot if she says no.

She's about to turn him down, again, when someone clears their throat indelicately behind her. Puck's frown grows deeper and Rachel can feel Santana's hand, still on her back, tense. She turns slowly and keeps her facial expression under control, but her eyes still narrow slightly when she finds Quinn there with her hand on her hip.

"You're in my way," Quinn snaps.

"I'll be done in a minute," Rachel says slowly.

Quinn's eyes narrow and she takes a threatening step forward. Rachel searches her eyes, trying to find any sliver of her Quinn behind the wall of hatred and self-loathing, but she doesn't.

"Move it, Freak."

Santana pushes off the lockers, but Brittany's hand stops her, and Rachel turns from them back to Quinn. The cheerleader snarls and cocks her eyebrow – a challenge – but Rachel shakes her head sadly and finds her body turning towards Puck; finds her mouth opening.

"Friday good with you?"

Puck blinks a few times, his jaw hanging open, finally snapping it shut. "Friday," he repeats smoothly, winking. "Friday sounds great."

Rachel doesn't watch him saunter away, but she looks back at Quinn briefly as her gaze moves in a circle, back to Santana. Brittany's hands are cupping her face and the blond is whispering in her ear and Santana's body seems to be relaxing against the lockers and she can't help but think – not for the first time – that they work well together.

Quinn sees it too. "God, Brittany. Can you keep the gay to a minimum? It's disgusting."

"Listen here, Blondie. I can knock you off that high horse you're-"

"Santana," Brittany says quietly, firmly. She lifts onto her toes – not that she needs to, Rachel notices – and presses a soft kiss to Santana's forehead before she adjusts her skirt and turns back to Quinn, a hard gleam in her eyes that Rachel has never seen before. "Let's go."

The two of them move down the hall, and Rachel lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding.

"Shit," Santana swears. "I liked her better when she was repressed and secretly sleeping with you. At least she didn't have a stick up her ass."

Rachel doesn't say it, but she liked Quinn better that way too.

"Not that one," Santana says again, not even bothering to look up from her magazine.

Rachel huffs at her own reflection. "I should just wear my normal clothes," she says for the tenth time.

Santana shakes her head, her eyes leaving the page briefly. "He likes looking at your legs and that's too easy. Make him work for it."

"There will be no 'it' going on," Rachel says firmly, turning on her heel and glaring at Santana.

The ex-Cheerio snorts. "Sure there won't be."

"I'm not a slut, Santana."

Santana looks up from some stupid article – the cover says "40 Ways To Please Him and Eat Healthy" – and stares at Rachel evenly before she nods slowly. "I know you're not."

"Well, I don't appreciate the innuendo," Rachel says, her sudden flare of indignation fading as Santana continues to stare at her. "Quit it. You're making me uncomfortable."

Santana shrugs and checks her cell phone. "This extra practice is crap. B's going to be wiped."

"Afraid you won't get sex?"

"No. But if I don't, it's your fault. If you hadn't agreed to go out with Puck, this never would have happened."

Rachel frowns. "It was a moment of pettiness. Also, is that the only reason you're with Brittany?"

Santana looks up again. "No."

"I didn't mean-"

"Do you think I would give up my spot on a nationally ranked cheerleading team for sex?"

"Honestly? Maybe," Rachel admits, biting her lip.

Santana snorts loudly and Rachel's eyes widen with the response. "Maybe I would, actually." Santana's face grows serious. "But that's not why I'm with her. I love her."

Rachel swallows heavily. "I love Quinn."

"I noticed."

Santana stares at her until Rachel feels her face growing hot and she turns away first, catching the time on the clock by her bed as she spins back towards the mirror.

"I'm going to be late."

"God forbid," Santana deadpans.

"Less snarking and more approving of my outfit," Rachel instructs, holding up two different choices.

Santana sighs, starts flipping through her magazine and gestures vaguely towards Rachel, not lifting her head. "I told you: make him work for it."

After their fourth complete run-through, Quinn hunches over, trying to catch her breath and when she looks up, still bent at the waist, Brittany is towering over her, arms crossed.

"Need something?" she pants.

Brittany looks over her shoulder at the other girls sprawled across the gym and steps a little closer. "We're done for today."

Quinn straightens up. "I'm the captain-"

"And as captain," Brittany cuts in, "you're supposed to understand our limits. This," she says, gesturing to the rest of the girls, "is our limit."

"Since when do you tell me what to do?" she asks as Brittany turns back towards the girls.

Brittany snaps back around."Since you stopped being Quinn and started being some awful, robotic version of who Quinn used to be," she hisses.

Quinn's mouth drops a little and her glare falters, drawing her face blank. "Brittany-"

"You're my friend, Quinn, and I love you. I don't know what happened with you and Rachel or you and Coach but whatever it was isn't," she trails off, frowning heavily. "Quinn," she says again, softer, stepping towards her. "You can fix whatever you broke. I can lend you Santana's superglue."

Quinn lets out a choked sob, smiling as Brittany's fingers rub across her cheeks.

"Is that what you two use?"

Brittany smirks. "Santana likes to think so. Really, it's me that keeps us together. She can't resist my feminine wiles," she says in an accent Quinn can't place, batting her eyelashes. "So use yours. Get back whoever you want to get back."

"I've been treating her like some dirty little secret."

"So show her she's not one."

Quinn shakes her head. "It can't be that simple."

Brittany smiles a little wider, nodding over and over again. "It should be that simple. It shouldn't be hard."

"But you and Santana aren't easy."

Brittany snorts. "That's because Santana is an idiot and she likes to complicate things. Listen: do something spontaneous. Sing her a song. Oh!" Brittany's eyes gleamed. "Play her a song on your guitar."

Quinn's mouth drops a little more and she gulps air nervously. She's never told anyone about the guitar thing – only Rachel – because when they all got be a certain age, people didn't expect her to play an instrument; they expected her to cheer and smile and be smart, but not much else.

"Yeah, I know about that," Brittany says, chuckling. "Did you really think you could hide it from us, stud?"

She feels her face flush. "I just never told anyone I could play."

"Besides Rachel."

"Besides Rachel," Quinn repeats. "You really think that playing a song will win her back."

"No," Brittany says seriously. "But it's a good place to start."

Things are working in her favor: the window is open when she gets to Rachel's – after a shower and a mirror pep talk and tuning her guitar – and Rachel's dads are away for the weekend – or, the note on the counter with the money taped to it says so – and she's got time to set up before Rachel gets back from her date.

Quinn shudders at the idea of Puck's hands on Rachel's hips and tries to busy herself with simple chord progressions.

It's not until nearly midnight that Quinn hears a car pull up and Rachel's laugh filters through the open window.

"Great," she says to the empty room.

The front door opens and there's a set of feet stomping against the carpeted stairs and her heart is slamming against her rib cage so violently that when the door opens and Rachel is biting her bottom lip, one hand caught in Puck's larger hand, Quinn is genuinely surprised.

Rachel jumps and shrieks a little and even Puck starts before his face twists in confusion.

"Quinn," Rachel hisses, taking a step forward.

Quinn can hear words being said; can see Rachel's hand – her one, solitary hand – flying around in enunciation, but all she can focus on is Rachel's other hand still tucked inside Puck's hand and the way the hair around Rachel's neck is mused, like someone has been grabbing it while kissing Rachel, tugging each strand out of it's perfect position.

She knows, because when she kisses Rachel, the same thing happens.

"You're with him?" slips out of her mouth before she can stop it.

Rachel pauses, mid-rant, and frowns, straightening her shoulder. "As a matter of fact, I am."

Her gaze cuts hard to Puck and he looks like he wants to protest, but he's also staring at Rachel's legs, so he just nods and takes a tentative step back.

"Fine," she spits out, swinging her guitar up off the floor, knocking the case against the frame of the window. "I hope you're happy."

"I will be as soon as you get out of my house," Rachel snaps back.

As she's climbing down the tree, she thinks she hears Puck say something like "what was that about?" and she stops to wait for an answer, but it never comes.

She let's Puck feel her up, under the shirt but over the bra – and the whole time, she feels like she's standing in the middle of the hall, at her locker and Quinn's voice is in her head – and while he's got his hand against her stomach muscles, his body moving against hers, he looks up at her seriously and tells her that whatever is going on with her and Quinn, he won't be a part of.

"Crazy girls and their crazy triangles," he murmurs. "I won't-"

"Noah," she gasps, her body arching into his cupped hand warm over the fabric of her bra. "Either kiss me or shut up."

He smirks and leans back down.

Rachel lets him take her bra off, but she makes him leave after an hour or two.

When she still can't sleep, she sits at the window, even though she knows Quinn isn't coming back.

Puck meets her outside of the school on Monday, smirking in a way that tells everyone "he tapped that" or at least got a head start.

"What?" she asks tiredly, dodging his attempt to sling an arm across her shoulder.

"I was thinking about you and Quinn," he says, his smirk growing deeper. "And it's hot to think about."

"You're such a pig," Rachel murmurs.

Puck pulls her back to his side when she takes a giant step forward. "You didn't even hear my proposal."

She lifts an eyebrow curiously. "Proposal? I didn't know you knew a word that big."

"Har, har, har," he deadpans. "Listen, Berry. You're hot. I want to be able to say that I did something with every hot girl here. And even if you're annoying and you wear things that hurt to look at, you're on that list. And so is Quinn, but she refuses to come near me, like she thinks she can catch something."

"Can she?"

Puck sneers. "I'm clean, thanks. Anyway, you're, like, a proxy, or something, right? I mean, you got with her-"

"I did not get with her," Rachel hisses. Puck frowns at her. "Okay, well I did, but it's not like that."

"I don't want the sappy details, okay? I'm not some mushy chick. The thing is, getting with you is like getting with her. And that's awesome for both of us."

Rachel laughs humorlessly. "How is that 'awesome' for me?"

"You get the Puckerone any time you want, Berry. Keep up, would you?"

Rachel looks up to snap at him, but sees Santana crossing the parking lot in long strides and spares a glance at Puck, knowing that someone is going to get hurt if they collide.

Her odds are actually on Santana.


Puck stops, mid-step. "Fine what?"

"Whatever half-thought out plan you have, fine. Just make sure you at least kiss me in front of Quinn, okay?"

Puck frowns and shakes his head. "I told you, I'm not getting in between your crazy girl drama."

"You want this?" she asks, motioning to herself. He smirks and nods. "Then you're going to get between it. And you should probably go, because Santana has that look on her face."

Puck sighs, but doesn't look over his shoulder where Rachel is looking. "That 'crazy-bitch-on-the-prowl-for-someone's-ass-to-kick' look?" Rachel nods and Puck sighs again. "This shit sucks," he growls. "Whatever. I'm going to kiss you and Santana can suck it."

That's all the warning she has before he bends her backwards and kisses her. It's too hard, too heavy and his hands around her waist and against the small of his back are too big and she didn't do her morning workout, so her muscles pull with the movement, but he straightens her up before it hurt too much and she tries to regain her balance as he moves away abruptly. She feels someone on her side and when Santana growls in the direction of Puck's retreating back, Rachel's hand finds Santana's arm reflexively.

"Quit it."

Santana shrugs. "Guess he worked hard enough, huh?" she asks, smirking.

"Be quiet," she instructs.

Santana keeps smirking. "Not a chance. What was that all about?"

Rachel turns on her heel and marches towards the school. "Noah and I have planned on dating, officially."

The footsteps behind her stop abruptly and Rachel takes a few more steps before sighing and turning back. Santana is frozen in place, mouth open in disbelief and when she tries to close it, it flaps uselessly.

"Use your words."

"Are you stupid?" Santana explodes, her hands clenched in fists by her side. "I get it, okay?" she continues, her hands relaxing. "Go out with Puck once, make Quinn jealous, yadda yadda ya. But dating him, for real? No. Absolutely not." She crosses her arms over her chest. "Over my dead body."

"Why are you dead?" Brittany asks, skipping and stopping at Santana's side, tugging her stiff posture loose and lacing their fingers together. "You'd be kind of boring dead, I think."

Santana's firm-set glare almost breaks. Rachel giggles a little.

"I'd also probably dump you," Brittany continues, pulling Santana towards the school, catching Rachel's elbow. The tall blond practically manhandles them to the doors. "Because I'd be dating a dead girl. And since vampires aren't real, you wouldn't even come back. Although if they were, and you did, I'd have to stake you. Then you'd be dust. And I'm sorry, but I have a reputation to protect. I can't date a pile of dust."

Rachel can't hold in her laugh and when she lets it go, Santana glares at her a little more, but Brittany's eyes light up.

"Oh, a frown," she says excitedly. "Better kiss it away."

Rachel takes that moment to slip away and she reminds herself to avoid Santana today, if she can help it.

Puck meets her at her locker after school and leans up against the metal until she physically pushes him off to the side, spinning the dial. She pulls out the books she needs to do her homework later and looks expectantly at Puck.

"What?" he finally asks. "I'm not carrying those for you."

Rachel sighs. "Of course you aren't."

"I just came to walk with you to Glee. So people know you're with me."

"Whatever," she says under her breath, shouldering her backpack. Puck falls into step next to her and when they enter the Glee room, there are varied reactions.

Santana tenses and lifts off her seat a little; Brittany sits her back down. Finn's eyes go a little wide, from confusion, Rachel would guess, but she quickly scans the room for Quinn.

And doesn't find her.

"She told Mr. Schue she had Cheerios," Brittany says cheerfully.

"Why aren't you there?"

Santana growls at Puck when he sits down and Brittany leans a little closer to Rachel, lowering her voice. "I told her not to make me choose between her and Santana, because she wouldn't like my choice."

"And she just let you do that?"

Brittany nods seriously. "She doesn't have very many options. Or friends. She knows what battles she can win." Brittany's face brightens. "But she definitely wanted to come. To see you. She misses you."

Rachel feels her throat go dry. "She does?"

"Of course she does. But she's, like, super sad." Brittany motions to Puck making faces at Santana. "Because of that."

She straightens up in her chair and steels her shoulders and grabs Puck's hand firmly – he squeaks rather girlishly and covers it with a cough – and stares defiantly, her gaze drifting from Brittany to Santana and back again.

"Well you tell her," she says lowly, "that this is her fault."

Puck's kisses are different than Quinn's and every time he leans down, she can't help but hold in a shudder as his facial hair scratches against her cheek.

"Relax," he always tells her. "Kissing someone who isn't into kissing you isn't fun."

Rachel wants to tell him that maybe he shouldn't be kissing her then, but Quinn will walk by, usually, and Rachel will remember that Puck is just a means to an end and that if she has to kiss him to make Quinn feel the way she felt, then she'll do it.

There are worse things, she thinks.

She just can't remember any of them.


She stops at the base of the stairs and sighs. She knew slamming the door was a clear indication that she was home, but she was hoping to get up the stairs before her dad could catch her.

"Hey, sweetie, come on into the kitchen."

Her dad looks up from the peppers he's chopping and smiles. "Well, there you are. I almost forgot what you looked like."

She grins despite herself. "Daddy," she whines.

"Sit down," he says, gesturing towards the island stools. She climbs up on one and busies herself, pulling a cutting board in front of her. "I just mean that I hardly see you anymore. You're always busy with one thing or another."

Rachel smiles sheepishly. "Sorry. Glee is time-consuming."

He nods like he understands and they cut in silence. Her dad turns towards the stove, dropping the peppers into the pot there and when he turns back, he shrugs a shoulder and asks, "How's Quinn?"

The knife slips off the onion she's slicing and hits the cutting board with a dull thud.


He dad shrugs again but continues chopping peppers. "I haven't seen her around lately. Almost a month or so. I was just wondering how she is."

"You, you knew she was-"

"Rachel," he says quietly. "I'm not as dense as you'd think. I hope you give me more credit than that. At first, I didn't know she was here, but then she started staying later, and then spending the night? Of course I knew she was here." He puts his knife down and Rachel suddenly wishes he wouldn't look at her. "So, how has she been?"

Rachel tries to get her vocal chords to work, but the most that comes out is something akin to a squeak.

Her dad laughs a little, but he's still waiting for an answer.

"I don't know," she finally says, honest.

Her dad frowns, but nods. "I figured." At her blank look, he gives a small smile. "Mrs. Wexler across the street said that there's been a car just sitting outside the house these last couple of Fridays and that the driver just sits in the car, looking at the house."

"She's been coming over to sit outside?"

Her dad gives her an "I guess so" look.

"Why would she do that?" she breathes out.

"You've been closing your window at night," her dad notes quietly. "You two get into a fight?"

"A fight," she echoes lamely.

"It's a shame," he continues, chopping again. "You two seemed like you really liked each other. And Quinn is an excellent guitar player." He looks up and must see her wide eyes, because he chuckles a little. "Your father and I came home early from our date one night and someone was playing guitar. Since you don't know how to, we figured it out. She's really, really excellent at it."

"You knew," Rachel says almost inaudibly, catching up the unspoken words in the conversation.

"I'm not dense, Rachel," he says again, looking at her evenly. "Do I wish you told us? Yes. Do I wish you didn't think you had to sneak her in and out? Of course. Do I wish you-"

"We're not together," she cuts in.

He looks up curiously. "You're not?"

She shakes her head. "We never were." At the look of disappointment, she rushes on. "I mean, I wanted to be with her, and we were, sort of, on Friday's at least, but she, well she was with Finn and I'm not the most popular kid in class and I understand, I mean I understood that we couldn't just, but then we, and she dumped him and I thought, maybe, but we-"

Her dad's hand drops over hers and she stops speaking abruptly, letting the silence calm her down.

"She didn't want me," she says eventually.

Rubbing warm, smooth circles across her hand, her dad asks, "What do you want?"

"I want every day to be Friday," she manages to say as she chokes back a sob. "That's what I want."

Quinn pauses before opening the bedroom door and when she does, she wishes she had stayed in the car and not even come inside.

Santana, lounging on the bed, lifts her head at the intrusion and her face instantly hardens. "What is she doing here?"

Brittany looks over her shoulder, and smiles. She waves the DVD in her hand around and motions for Quinn to come further into the room. "She's watching the movie with us," Brittany says to Santana. "Come on, we don't bite."

"I will," Santana says instantly.

Quinn cringes. "Santana, I-"

"You what?" Santana asks, cutting in angrily. "We're done, remember? Or did you conveniently forget that? Do you remember when you threw me off the squad because I was dating Brittany? Or how about when you took our friendship and threw it back in my face. Remember that?"

Brittany crosses the room to her bed, reaching out, but Santana bats her hand away. "Santana-"

"Don't. She made her decision and she chose them. She chose the Cheerios. So forgive me," she sneers, sarcasm so heavy Quinn imagines she can see it hanging in the air, "if I'm just a little pissed off that you invited her over here."

The room is heavy and silent and Quinn is desperately trying to get her feet to listen to her head – which is screaming "go back now!" loudly – but she can't do anything but stare at the menu screen on the television, noting that Brittany picked "The Brave Little Toaster" again.

Brittany doesn't seem bothered by the tension. "Done now?"

"No," Santana snaps. The brunette sighs and lies back on the bed, throwing her arms over her face. "Yes."

Brittany claps her hands excitedly. "Good. Because after we watch the movie, we're going to make a 'How To Get Rachel Back With Quinn So Everyone Is Happy Except For Puck' plan."

Quinn stares; Santana snorts.

"We'll need to work on that name, babe, but I can get behind a plan like that," she agrees, looking over at Quinn, eyes still hard. "As long as The Screw Up here actually wants to be with Rachel."

Quinn shouldn't be surprised at Santana's use of Rachel's first name, but she can't help frowning as she hears it coming from her mouth, and Santana must see it because she's rising off the bed again, glaring.

"You do want to be with her, don't you? Because while I don't approve of whatever she's doing with Puck, I also don't approve of you thinking you can use her whenever she's convenient."

She stares at Santana, mouth open. "You care?" she manages to ask.

Brittany smiles widely. "Isn't it cute? She cares about Rachel," Brittany sings. Santana grumbles something that sounds like "I don't" but Brittany laughs even louder and rolls over, burying her face in Santana's neck. The brunette smiles and relaxes and says, out loud, "So what if I do."

"It's cute," Brittany repeats. "And it's nice. She needs friends. I can be her friend too."

"Yeah," Santana says slowly. "But only her friend."

Brittany frowns. "I'm ignoring you, because I know you were making a joke, and it wasn't funny."

Quinn smiles involuntarily and then Brittany is pulling her down onto the soft comforter, rolling her eyes at Santana and settling down to watch the movie.

"You're a bitch," Santana grumbles.

She nods. "I know."

"Well," Santana huffs, "as long as you know, you can fix it. Because really, Puck is gross and Rachel could do better. Not that you're better," Santana adds quickly. "You're just, you're what she wants. And if that's what she wants, that's what she deserves, you got me?"

Quinn nods over and over again.


Brittany giggles on the other side of Santana, her arm slung low around the brunette's waist. "Isn't she fun when she uses her feelings?"

Santana growls a little, but let's Brittany snuggle closer.

"Yeah," Quinn breathes out, consciously making an effort not to get to close to Santana, for fear that she'll lose a limb or finger.

The movie ends and Brittany blows her nose a few times before she grabs a piece of paper off her desk and looks up at Quinn seriously.

"It's list time."

Santana rolls her eyes, but scoots closer and scribbles something down.

Quinn watches Brittany frown. "That's not going on the list."

Santana smirks and Quinn is glad when Brittany crosses it off.

Step One: Get rid of Puck.

Technically, as the list says – because Brittany did a terrible job scribbling over Santana's proposed first step – step one is really: Get Quinn's head out of her ass, but Quinn thinks she likes the amended Step One better.

Rachel drops into her seat in Spanish and groans when someone else sits next to her.

"Noah, I really don't-"

Santana grimaces. "Did you just call me Noah?"

Rachel's eyes widen and she shakes her head nervously. "Of course I didn't."

"You did," Santana accuses.

"I didn't mean to."

Santana frowns for a second then shakes her head and her expression clears. "I'm ignoring it and moving on. Actually," she says, sliding the chair a little closer, "that's what I wanted to talk to you about."

"Me calling you Noah?"

"What? No. About Puck. I wanted to talk about Puck."

Rachel narrows her eyes and leans forward accusingly. "You're not dumping Brittany for him."

Santana recoils. "What? God, no," she hisses, glancing around the room before leaning back in. "Are you insane? I just dumped him to be with her. I just," she shudders, "don't ever say anything like that again."

"Sorry," Rachel murmurs.

"Anyway," Santana continues, "I wanted to know when you're going to get over your little act of rebellion and get rid of him so you can focus on Quinn."

Rachel narrows her eyes, noticing, for the first time, that Santana is glancing to the back of the room every other second, so she turns and sees Brittany by the window, leaning against the glass with Quinn at her side. Quinn lifts her hand in a small wave and Rachel bites down hard enough to grind her teeth together.

"I don't believe you," she says through gritted teeth. "She kicked you off of the Cheerios. She made you choose between your girlfriend and cheering. She made you strip down in the middle of the hallway. And now you're on her side."

Santana holds up a hand to stop the tirade. "First of all," she says, putting one finger down, "Yeah, she kicked me off, but it's not like I didn't always think about quitting. Anything that doesn't let me eat ice cream during a sad movie isn't worth it. Secondly," she continues, dropping another finger, "it was never a choice. It was always Brittany. Cheering didn't stand a chance. Third, I stripped down, because I was all caught up in the moment, and because I have a great body and wanted to show it off in my fit of anger. And lastly," she says, her voice low, leaning even further towards Rachel, "I'm on your side. It just so happens that you two want the same thing, so it looks like I'm on her side."

"I don't believe you," Rachel says again, softer and sadder.

Rachel tries to take a deep breath, but it makes her entire body shake and once the air is in her lungs, she can't make it go away. Santana's hand on her knee is heavy and on fire, burning her skin.

"Calm down," she hears Santana whispers, the words hard and cutting.

The command grounds her. "Sorry," she says, catching her breath. "I don't want you on her side."

Santana shakes her head. "I'll be on your side. I just think that-"

"Thinking isn't your strong suit," Rachel says bitingly, shifting gears. If Santana is on Quinn's side, then Rachel doesn't need her around anymore, because another rendition of "Quinn Is Sorry" isn't what she wants.

Santana rocks back in her seat. "Low blow."

"Well, it's the truth," she continues, her voice devoid of emotion. "You're a follower, a sheep. You're not a thinker."

When Santana smiles, Rachel frowns. "And you're," she tries, but trails off as Santana's smile grows wider. "What?"

"You need to work on that."

"Work on what?"

Santana smirks now. "The whole 'pushing people away' thing. I mean, you're really bad. Your initial comment was good. Caught me off guard, too. But the follow-up was weak." She cuffs Santana on the shoulder. "A plus for effort, though."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Rachel tries.

"I'm ignoring you now and moving on, because I have a schedule to stick to. You need to dump Puck. Today. Now. Before class starts."

Rachel opens her mouth to say "no" but Santana holds her hand up again, stopping her.

"No. Do it. We both know you want to. And anyway," she says, dropping her voice to a whisper, "we both know he's not that good of a kisser. I mean, too much tongue." She makes a face. "Too much promise and no delivery."

Rachel really tries to protest, but she can't, because Santana is right: she doesn't even want to be kissing Puck, so she sighs and nods shakily and Santana grins brightly.

"Awesome. I'd like to see them do their job as quick as I can do mine," she boasts.

Because Santana would make this into a competition, Rachel thinks, amused.

Santana crosses her arms over her chest and Rachel can't help but laugh as she gloats for the rest of class.

"You're breaking up with me? You're breaking up with me?"

Puck looks amused and it makes Rachel frown a little, arms crossed over her chest, staring up at him defiantly. "You heard me, Noah."

"I think I may have something in my ears though. You're breaking up with me," he repeats.

"Yes," she says, trying to be patient.

"You're breaking up with-"

"Noah," she growls, "listen to what I'm saying. You and I are over with. I want other things, and frankly, I don't see us going anywhere."

"Other than my backseat," Puck says, smirking.

Rachel sighs and bows her head. "Noah, you drive a truck. It doesn't have a backseat."

He frowns as if she's suddenly realizing that, but shrugs anyway. "Your loss, Berry. You'll be missing out on prime Puck time."

For one of the first times in her life, she's glad she has no gag reflex when he grabs the front of his jeans and rocks his hips forward, smirking and winking. She rolls her eyes instead and looks at Santana who is standing a few feet away, waiting patiently for her to be done so they can get to Rachel's in time for the dinner her dad is making.

Puck struts away, immediately veering off towards a blond in a Cheerios uniform and Rachel exhales heavily.

"How did you break up with him?"

Santana doesn't look away from Puck hitting on what looks to be a freshman. "He took it a lot harder than you would think he did. I think it broke him," she says as if she's not talking to anyway, gaze focused on the back of Puck's head. "He was really, he was really hurt, especially when I told him that me and Britt had been together for a while," she says, trailing off.

Hesitantly, Rachel touches Santana's elbow and the taller girl whips back around, eyes clear again.

"Right," Santana says, stalking off towards the parking lot, leaving Rachel alone in the hall. "Your dad promised me food. No one promises me food and fails to deliver."

Sometimes, Rachel wonders if she likes having friends after all, but when Santana doubles back and grabs her by the arm, she decides it's better than being lonely.

Quinn looks at the paper in her hand and frowns; she doesn't remember making Step Two: corner Rachel and force her to take Quinn back.

Santana smirks. "I wrote that."

Brittany snatches the paper back out of Quinn's hands. "When did you write this? This isn't step two."

"It is now."

"It's not," Brittany argues. "We can't do that. We have to get her to agree to it."

Santana groans. "Babe, she dated Puck. She did something crazy and stupid and agreed to that."

Brittany crosses her arms over her chest defiantly. "Exactly. This whole thing is crazy and a little stupid, she she'll probably agree to it, too, and we won't have to physically force her into it."

Quinn opens her mouth to interject, but Santana throws her arms into the air. "That won't get anything done. We need action."

"We won't get anything don't by making her do it," Brittany says, closing her eyes against Santana's pout.

"B," Santana whines.

Quinn puts a hand up. "Uh, don't I get a say in this?"

Santana's head snaps around and Brittany opens her eyes. "Of course you don't," Santana says, clearly amused. "You can't be trusted to not mess this up. Leave it to the experts."

Quinn wants to laugh, but Brittany beats her to it. "You think you're an expert, huh?"

"Well, I got you, didn't I?" Santana asks, pushing her chest out and grinning.

Brittany rolls her eyes. "And that certainly makes you an expert," she says, winking at Quinn. "Here's the plan: we get Rachel to agree to talk to Quinn, but if she won't, then," she says with a pointed look at Santana, "then we can corner her."

Quinn rolls her eyes when Santana grins even wider and jumps forward, kissing Brittany sloppily on the mouth.

"My girl," Santana boasts, arms hanging loosely around Brittany's waist, "is a genius."

Brittany blushes and punches Santana weakly in the shoulder. "Neanderthal," she murmurs, smiling.

Quinn thinks they're so disgustingly cute she can't decide whether to smile back or gag.

When Brittany comes for her, Rachel is ready.

"No," she says as soon as Brittany sits down next to her in Glee. She can feel Quinn's eyes on her and she refuses to turn around.

Brittany pouts. "But I didn't say anything."

Rachel smiles wryly. "You were going to. But my answer is no."

"You don't even know what I was going to ask," Brittany argues.

"Yes I do."

"No you don't. I was going to ask if you," the blond trails off, biting her bottom lip before her eyes light up. "I was gonna ask if you had the school lunch today."

Rachel rolls her eyes playfully. "That's not what you were going to ask me."

Brittany sighs. "You're right. Man, I suck at this."

Rachel holds back a smile and pats Brittany on the hand. "You did good."

"Santana was better."

"Santana was abrasive. And forceful."

Brittany perks up. "I could do that if it'll work."

"It probably won't."

Brittany's shoulder's slump again. "Darn it." She shrugs her shoulders. "Just watch out," she warns, getting up. "Santana wants to go all Ziva on you and kidnap you and force you to love Quinn again."

"I never stopped," Rachel whispers to Brittany's retreating back.

Rachel sighs again and finds herself checking the clock, even though she knows it's stupid.

What else is stupid, is that she cracked the window open just a bit, like Quinn will magically come through and sing her a song and they'll be fine, because Quinn will talk to her in school and hold her hand in the hallways and sit with her at lunch.

"It'll be perfect," she says out loud, smiling a little bit.

"It could be," Quinn's voice agrees.

Rachel nods. "If you stopped being afraid of everything, it could be."

"What if I'm done being afraid?"

Rachel opens her mouth to answer and pauses, eyes going wide. She spins in her desk chair, her silent scream caught in her throat.

Quinn is standing in the frame of the window, head tilted down, holding her guitar in her hands. "Sorry," she says sheepishly.

Rachel clutches the place where she thinks her heart is and feels it pounding against her hand. "What are you doing?"

Quinn shrugs. "They made a list. Santana and Brittany made a list, with steps on how to get you back-"

"Who says you even had me to begin with?"

The blond pauses and closes her mouth, frowning. "Fair enough."

"You can't just sneak in through someone's window, Quinn."

"You never minded before."

"Yeah, well, before," Rachel starts, trailing off.

Quinn moves further into the room, sitting on the corner of the bed furthest from the desk and pulls at one of the strings on her guitar, the nose echoing off the walls around them. "Remember when we were friends?" she asks quietly, not looking up or waiting for an answer. "I told you everything. I told you things I never told anyone else. I've never had a friend like that. You were easy." Rachel sees Quinn frown then rush on. "Not easy in a bad way. Easy in a good way. I didn't mean that-"

"Quinn," Rachel says quietly, saving Quinn the explanation.

"I just mean that Brittany told me that things like this, they should be easy."

Rachel snorts. "Easy? Brittany thinks things should be easy."

Quinn smiles dryly. "I said the same thing. Those two, though, they're different. Like, I can't imagine being them."

"They work, though."

"If they can work, why can't we?"

Rachel looks away, focusing on the wall by her desk, reading over her life plan stapled to the corkboard above her lamp. At quick glance, she has the perfect future, and it's reassuring, but she knows she left no room for a social life on her plan, and definitely no room for someone to love, and now, she has both of those things, right within her reach.

"On this list," Quinn says, pulling Rachel out of her head. "On this list, there are all these stupid little steps where Santana gets to beat someone up and Brittany gets to do something else and at the very bottom of this list is finally something like 'Have Quinn Talk To Rachel' and that should have been step one. I should have just talked to you." Quinn sighs and plucks at another string. "You're the only person I can talk to anyway."


"But every time I try to talk to you, I can't, because I want to tell you things you don't want to hear."

Rachel straightens up in her seat. "How do you know that?"

Quinn ignores her though. "Remember how we were friends, and I played songs for you? I learned a song for you, because the first thing on that stupid list should have been me talking to you."

"You don't have to play me a song."

Quinn's gaze snaps up and locks with Rachel's unerringly, hazel eyes dark and heavy with something Rachel has seen before in movies; something like desperation.

The first chords sound familiar, but then Quinn's fingers slide against the nylon and Rachel doesn't know the song anymore. She settles back in her chair and watches, because Quinn playing fascinates her: delicate, pale fingers against the dark, heavy nylon; the cherry wood body small with Quinn's body folded over it; the look of concentration on Quinn's face, her tongue peeking out of the corner of her mouth as her hands move and strum and pluck.

Watching Quinn play, it's almost too easy to forget all Quinn did to her, lifting her up and knocking her back down just as quickly.

"Loving you is easier than breathing baby. Loving you is all I do," Quinn practically whispers, her words almost softer than the chords. "I can never stop thinking about you baby, loving you the whole day through."

Quinn's head lifts up, her fingers still moving. "Pardon my stare deep into your soul, where your grass is green, and your garden grew." Rachel glances away and when she looks back, Quinn is looking back at the neck of the guitar. "And the more I see the more I know; I'm in love with you."

"And I hope you feel the same way too," she continues in an even softer voice.

There are no fancy chord progressions this time; Quinn isn't showing off for her anymore.

Its simple notes and simple words.

"Loving you is easier than walking baby: I don't even have to think. Loving you is easier than even being. Honey you're my meaning," Quinn sings. "Pardon my stare deep into your soul. How your grass is green, and your garden grew."

Quinn looks up again quickly before turning her head down at an angle, one eye on the chords, the other on Rachel. "And the more I see the more I know; I'm in love with you. I'm in love with you. I'm in love with you. I'm in love with you. I'm in love with you. I'm in love with you," she sings over and over, drawing out the last line before she puts the guitar down, the last chord still ringing through the room, her voice clear and louder over it. "I'm in love with you, and I hope you feel the same way too."

Rachel watches her take hesitant steps forward, pausing before each one.


The blond stops halfway between the bed and the desk, hands hanging by her side, hair in her face, hope in her eyes.

"Singing a song doesn't-"

"I know," Quinn cuts in. "But it's a start and that's what we need. We need a start. A real start. And it's a Friday."

The corners of Rachel's mouth quirks up a little. "What does that have to do with anything?

"Friday is our day. It's always been our day. And we can start over on a Friday, because it's our day, it's our thing and I like Fridays." Quinn blushes. "I love Fridays."

"Friday's used to be fun," Rachel agrees. She frowns. "But Noah-"

"Friday's can be fun again," Quinn cuts in. "We can stay here, or we, we can go to my house. Or we can go out. We can bowling. Or on double dates with Brittany and Santana, which might not be a good idea, actually. Or the movies? We can go to that diner on Main that we both wanted to go to but I never offered to take you. We can ice skate, or go to some ridiculous karaoke night, or, or, or-"

"Or we can be friends," Rachel suggests quietly.

Quinn's mouth snaps closed inaudibly and she was quiet for a few minutes before she said, "We could do that," she says, her voice shaking.

Rachel swallows heavily. "We started as friends," she says.

Quinn nods. "I know. I know, I just, want more."

"And if I," Rachel trails off, swallowing dryly, "if I can't?"

Quinn knew this was an option. Quinn knew that Rachel could give her an ultimatum and that she might have to choose between being friends or nothing, but now that the offer is in front of her, hanging between them, Quinn doesn't know if she can pick.

"I'm always going to want more," she admits quietly.

"What if we meet other people? What if you meet someone else and I find someone? What if-"

"What if," Quinn proposes, cutting in gently, "you tell me you love me? What if I don't go looking for anyone else, because you're kind of enough of a handful for me?" she asks, smiling a little. "What if all your 'what if's' never happen and we find a way to get over my fear of letting everyone who doesn't matter down and focus on how I want to never want to let you down? What if it works?"

"Quinn, it doesn't just-"

"You'll never know unless we try."

Quinn is right. Quinn is right and she knows it because she's stepping back towards the bed, lifting her guitar off the comforter and placing it under the window, slipping her shoes off and pulling her Cheerios hoodie up over her head.

"What if we just sleep now, and try being together on a Saturday?"

Rachel smiles to herself and shakes her head as she stands up and pulls her pajama top down self-consciously. "I guess we could start there." She slides under the covers on the left side of the bed, hand curled up under her chin, staring at Quinn mirroring her position. "Hi," she whispers.

"Hi back," Quinn says just as quietly, her free hand reaching up and brushing a loose strand of Rachel's hair back. "I missed this."

Rachel bites her lip and looks away. "I missed you."

Quinn's smile widens. "I missed you too."

"You're talking to Santana and Brittany again?" Rachel asks after a few minutes, breaking the oddly-comfortable silence.

"They kind of ambushed me."

Rachel slides a bit closer to the middle of the bed and pretends to ignore the light in Quinn's eyes. "Are you going to let Santana back on the squad?"

Quinn smirks. "I told her I could get her the spot back, but she said she didn't want it." Rachel watches Quinn's nose wrinkle in amusement. "She said she's going to join the track team."

Rachel laughs, but clamps her hand over her mouth, her fingers grazing against Quinn's nose as she does. "She runs?"

"I mean, she's always good at the mile, when Coach makes us run it. So, I can see her running. It's just, different, I guess."

"Different isn't always bad."

Quinn nods, her forehead bumping lightly against Rachel's. "No, it's not."

Rachel pulls back a bit and rolls her eyes at Quinn's immediate frown. "This isn't going to work."

Quinn's frown drops into shock and her eyes go wide and her mouth goes slack, opening and closing uselessly and Rachel can't help but chuckle under her breath and grab Quinn's hips, pulling the taller girl closer, legs tangling instinctively.

"You going to need to…there," Rachel whispers, grinning and pressing her forehead firmly against Quinn's, feeling arms wind around her waist. "Better?"

"Better," Quinn breathes out.

Rachel smiles at the small victory and pulls the top sheet tighter around their shoulders, letting her eyes slide, breathing in the clean scent of soap and shampoo.

When she wakes up, one hand caught under her stomach and the other tangled unceremoniously in Quinn's hair, Quinn snoring lightly in her ear, and she slides down, burrowing further into the covers against the cool air coming through the open window, she decides that Friday nights will always be her favorite, but Saturday mornings could be just as good.

The End

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