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I.

The first time it happens, Rachel is utterly confused.

And horny.

Like really horny.

Like really, really, super-duper, I’m-hot-all-over and I’m going to hump anything horny.

(But that’s not the point, so hush.)

It’s the start of junior year, and Rachel’s at her locker, getting her books, because after all, even though no teacher actually teaches on the first day, it’s always good to be prepared, and Rachel Berry is nothing but prepared, PowerPoints and itineraries galore.

At the corner of her eye, she spots Finn lumbering his way down the hallway, and he shoots her a dopey grin when he sees her, crooked in his typical fashion.

Rachel cringes when she realizes that she used to swoon over that very face, and she discreetly tries to find a way out of the no-doubt going to be awkward conversation, glancing sideways to see if Kurt or Mercedes is nearby.

Feeling Finn’s large stature towering over her with no way to escape the enviable encounter, she turns to the giant with a tight smile, fighting off the immense urge to grimace. “Hello, Finn. How may I be of service?”

“Um, I was thinking,” he starts, scratching his head. “Later, we could, you know, go to Breadstix for dinner?”

This time, Rachel can’t resist the wince coming out. God knows she loves the boy, insensitive and moronic as he can be, but she isn’t and probably isn’t ever going to be in love with him, and the idea that she would’ve dropped everything in a heartbeat to take him up on his offer a year ago sends an unpleasant shiver down her spine.

After regionals last year and with a clearer perspective on things, she had realized that rather, she was in love with the idea of him, her perfect leading man. Of someone loving her unconditionally and taking care of her no matter her faults.

Finn evidently couldn’t be that someone, only ever seeming to want her whenever it was convenient for him. He could be sweet when he wanted to be and Rachel knows that he would make some girl happy someday, but it wouldn’t be her. Her dreams lie with the shining bright lights of Broadway, and Finn’s small-town dreams have no place in New York.

She’s about to turn him down, hopefully as painlessly as possible, when a familiar figure slides in between them.

Rachel’s stomach drops, and her heart beats a little bit quicker at the sight of red, white and black over a once-again lithe body and a perfectly immaculate blonde ponytail. Quinn Fabray is at the top of the pyramid again, it seems like, which does not bode well for the diva at all.

Truthfully, a part of her thinks that whatever retaliation the reinstated Cheerio has in store for her is well-deserved, what with all the things Rachel had done to her over the past year, but Quinn isn’t facing her, so she supposes that the blonde is playing the ignoring game.

Somehow, it actually hurts more than if she had thrown insults at her, because the Cheerio has been a lot of things to Rachel, but never inattentive, and she’s a little bit ashamed of this part, but one of the only things that had kept Rachel from breaking down in the face of countless Slushies last year was the comfort in the fact that only she could draw evident emotion from the unflappable and ever-aloof Quinn Fabray during their confrontations. It felt like she held a part of the blonde that no one else had, and now it was being pried away from her.

Well, they’ll have to pry it from her cold dead body then.

She’s about to give the blonde a piece of her mind when Finn of all people speaks first, “Look Quinn, I know you still like me, but I like Rachel now, so can you like, move over?”

Rachel can’t see Quinn’s reaction, but then the Cheerio lets out a low growl from her throat, before relaxing, and the shorter girl just knows that Finn is going to get a severe tongue-lashing.

The blonde takes a few measured steps towards the boy, her perfectly white tennis shoes clacking against the floor. Somehow, Quinn still keeps her body poised in front of Rachel, effectively blocking Finn’s sight of her.

“Listen closely Finnsolence,” the blonde’s tone takes on a saccharine sweet hue, no louder than a whisper, as she leans in dangerously. “I’m going to say this very carefully, because I know that your idiotic brain takes a centillion more years than others to process things. Rachel’s not interested, get it through your thick skull. So. Stay. Away. From. Her.”

Every word is enunciated in a way to deliver as much subtle intimidation as possible, sending a rush through Rachel and making her heart quicken for a very different reason, skipping a few beats.

Quinn’s shoulder muscles flex as she corners Finn, and Rachel finds her mouth getting dry and her throat reflexively swallowing at the sight, a pool of heat suddenly gathering in her lower belly.

Now that she’s not at the terrifyingly terrifying receiving side of Quinn’s wrath, and instead an onlooker, Rachel can’t deny that Quinn in HBIC mode is hot, the diva hyperaware of every move the Cheerio makes. Even watching Quinn from the back makes her hot all over, and she can already imagine the taller girl’s flaring eyes and clenched jaw, having seen it too many times to count.

Finn visibly recoils, taking a step back, but then he regains some of his boldness and surges back forward again after a moment, a petulant frown on his face. Quinn is not impressed, and Rachel can just picture her raising a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. “Are we done here?”           

Seeming to understand that he wouldn’t be winning against Quinn, Finn turns his attentions to elsewhere with a poor imitation of a scowl. “Rachel wants to go out with me, don’t you Rach?”

Almost instantly, Quinn spins around to gauge the brunette’s reaction, making her Cheerio’s skirt fly up, and Rachel’s eyes trace the movement with fervor, darkening at smooth pale legs.

She doesn’t even notice she’s staring until she sees the wry smirk on Quinn’s face, and Rachel jerks her eyes away immediately, blushing like a tomato.

“Finn, while I do appreciate your gesture,” she says finally, and when the blonde’s eyes narrow and Finn starts to smile smugly, she rushes to explain, “I don’t think that we work well together, and I believe that it would be much more beneficial for us is we stayed as comrades.”

The giant boy frowns, the gears in his head slowly moving, and Rachel’s about to give him a little push, but Quinn beats her to it, albeit blunter than she would’ve liked to.

Hazel eyes still locked with hers, the blonde doesn’t even turn to look at Finn as she orders in her HBIC voice, “It means that she’s telling you to fuck off, Hudson.”

Finn scowls, and it’s clear that he’s not happy about it, but really, no one can go up against Quinn Fabray and come out on top, much less Finn Hudson, so he storms away, with a look in his eyes that tells Rachel that he’s not giving up any time soon, and it makes her groan internally.

Meanwhile, Quinn is still staring at her eyes, as if she’s trying to figure something out, and without the distraction of Finn, Rachel suddenly feels self-conscious, and she darts her eyes away, unconsciously shrinking into herself.

“Eyes up, Berry,” the taller girl suddenly commands, snapping her fingers to force chestnut brown to meet hazel.

Rachel is breathless.

She’s always thought Quinn to be the prettiest girl she’s ever met, but before, she was only able to admire her from afar, and now that she’s face to face with the blonde girl, she seems even more stunning, every ridge and curve on her face toned to perfection.

Enraptured by the swirling pools of golden in Quinn’s blazing eyes, Rachel can’t bring herself to look away, absolutely captivated by how the cheerleader’s eyes light up with passion, beaming with life.

She really ought to break eye contact now, lest someone think that she’s being creepy as fuck, but she can’t.

Quinn studies her meticulously, and the brunette forces herself to meet her hot gaze evenly, even though her insides are probably mush at this point, and her heart is beating ferociously, not letting up no matter what.

Just when she thinks that her legs are going to give out from the blonde’s intense look-over, said blonde’s brow furrows, like she’s trying to figure out a puzzle, and she stands up straighter, before turning away without a word, skirt flying up at the same time.

Rachel’s left leaning against her locker, breaths heavy and blood pumping loud as she wonders what the fuck just happened.

And desperately in need of a cold shower.

Very desperately.

 

X-X-X-X-X

 

She doesn’t see Quinn until Glee comes around, and her mind is still restless at what had occurred earlier, her numerous theories driving herself crazy.

Quinn had never warned Finn off before, always choosing the petite diva as her target, but this time, she had channeled nearly all the HBIC she had to deal with the giant boy, and it was a relieving and startling surprise to Rachel all at once.

Like, what if the blonde’s planning to murder her, and this is the start of whatever plot she’s whipped up? What if Quinn got abducted and brainwashed, and now she’s going to take over the world? What if she got bitten by a vampire and-

It’s at that point when Rachel forces herself to stop overthinking everything, and she settles down on her usual seat at the first row, waiting for the others to trickle into the choir room.

Soon enough, Quinn enters, Santana and Brittany flanking her sides in their perfect Unholy Trinity fashion, and she doesn’t even look the diva’s way, simply walking to claim their seats at the back corner.

Rachel knows that she should be counting herself lucky that she didn’t get insults hurled in her face instead, but somehow, she feels almost…disappointed that Quinn didn’t acknowledge her, and the feeling sits on her chest uncomfortably.

But it’s not long before she feels a familiar gaze piercing through the back of her head, and she tries to inconspicuously sneak a peak at Quinn, only to find her staring back with a perfectly sculpted eyebrow quirked.

Well, that certainly is a new development.

Before, during sophomore year, every time Rachel would catch the cheerleader looking at her, Quinn would quickly look away with a few choice derogatory words thrown, but now, the blonde meets her eyes steadily, unwavering in her heated gaze.

Rachel feels a slight shiver roll through her at the sight, and her throat suddenly feels parched, the room somehow hotter than it was before.

Thankfully, she’s saved by Mr. Schue coming in the choir room – late as always – and clapping his hands together excitedly as if that would motivate them, and she turns back around to face their teacher quickly, still feeling Quinn’s eyes burning through her head, and she fights not to let her goosebumps show.

Throughout Glee, the gaze never wavers far from her, and Rachel can admit that it makes her feel a little bit giddy, knowing that she has Quinn Fabray’s attention solely focused on her.

And maybe just a little bit terrified.

 

X-X-X-X-X

 

When Glee finally ends, she breathes a sigh of relief and readies her song arrangements, waiting by the piano so that she can rehearse when everyone’s gone.

…Everyone except Quinn apparently, because even ten minutes after Mr. Schue had dismissed them, she’s still in her chair, looking at the brunette with an indecipherable expression.

Rachel can’t muster the courage to make an enquiry as to why the girl’s still here and not at Cheerio practice, so she only watches as Quinn slowly stands up, still with an unreadable look in her eyes, and she walks towards the singer with careful, measured steps, causing her heartbeat to spike with each one.

“Hello, Quinn,” Rachel finally brings herself to say, trying not to let her nervousness show. “Not to be rude, but why are you still in the choir room?”

It’s as if the Cheerio doesn’t register her words, because Quinn just takes another step closer, so close that their noses are almost touching, and she narrows her eyes a tiny bit.

“Are you dating Finn now?”

Oh.

So this is what this is about.

Rachel can’t help but feel a slight upset in her stomach, though she has no idea why, and she swallows. “Quinn, if your unusual behavior is because you want Finn back, then by all means, you can have him. As I said earlier this morning, I have no interest in taking him back, so you can pursue him at your wishes.”

It’s probably the wrong thing to say, because the next thing she knows, Quinn’s eyes narrow further, lighting up with something, and she growls, low and husky. “I don’t want a stupid boy, Berry.”

And with that, she turns away and leaves, the steps of her tennis shoes reverberating throughout the choir room.

Is this what Rachel’s diva storm-outs felt like? If so, she really needed to write a letter of apology to the Glee club.

But then again, there’s no way she can compare to Quinn’s ass swaying deviously, because damn, that’s a-

Wait.

Straight thoughts, Rachel. Straight thoughts.

(She ignores the fact that she’s identified as bisexual her whole life.)

It’s not like the blonde beauty would ever want her anyway, even if she did say she didn’t want a boy-

Oh shit.

She’s screwed. Rachel’s so screwed.

(She wishes, actually.)

 

X-X-X-X-X

 

Quinn doesn’t initiate contact with her again for a while, granting her a reprieve from the rollercoaster of emotions that come with their every encounter, and Rachel’s not sure what the sinking feeling in her chest is at that.

But whenever Finn would walk her way after Glee, the head Cheerio would shoot him a warning look, warding him off, and for that at least, Rachel’s grateful, even though she knows that she’ll have to shut him down completely eventually.

It’s not until next Tuesday, when she looks down at her Pre-Calc test and frowning at the big red C at the top right corner that she notices Quinn walking past, staring with her in interest.

Rachel waits for the inevitable verbal abuse to come, but it never does.

The Cheerio merely lets a small smirk appear, and continues on her way, hips swaying dangerously as usual.

Quinn hasn’t done anything to her ever since school started, but the singer still feels surprised when she doesn’t take perfectly good opportunities to take shots at her. Hell, the blonde’s even been nice to her sometimes, smiling slightly at her in the hallways.

The first time she had done that, Rachel had looked behind her to see if she was just in the way of Quinn’s gaze, but there was no one.

The entire hallway had frozen in shock at the gesture as well, but the queen of Mckinley High didn’t react at all, simply moving along as the crowd parted for her like the Red Sea.

Rachel can’t contain her grin at the memory, but then she sees Sam, the new kid, looking Quinn’s way with a dreamy and wistful look on his face.

Rachel shoves the test in her locker as far as it will go, and slams it shut.

 

X-X-X-X-X

 

It’s not like she doesn’t like this Sam guy.

It’s not like she doesn’t like his stupid haircut, and his goddamn trouty-mouth, and his fucking moon-eyes at-

Look, she’s perfectly fine with him, okay? Perfectly fine.

But when he walks into the choir room with his swagger walk that makes her irrationally want to punch him, shooting love-eyes at Quinn during the entirety of his introduction, she maybe snaps her pen by gripping it a little bit too hard.

(Or a whole fucking lot.)

She’s almost tempted to use her Glee captain rights to somehow veto him, but she knows that they need him, like it or not, so she crosses her arms and looks away with a huff, before raising her hand to sing a moving ballad about overcoming adversary that will definitely bring everyone to tears.

Quinn’s eyes never stray from her during her song, and she nearly forgets the lyrics, because has the blonde always looked at her like that, with her eyes lighting up?

The honor-roll student focuses on her with a soft smile, head slowly swaying to the piano arrangement Brad is playing, and Rachel’s heart beats a few beats quicker, sending flutters to her stomach.

When Rachel belts out the last closing note, she resists the urge to scream “Ha, take that!” to Sam’s fucking face.

The ugly feeling in her stomach isn’t jealousy, alright? Sam can go after Quinn if he wants to, she’s just…looking out for a friend, that’s all.

She’s determined to befriend the cheerleader this year, so naturally, the first step is to background-check said cheerleader’s potential love interests. A relationship between Quinn and Sam would practically be incestuous, like Barbie and Ken or something, so really, she’s just helping them along from a lawsuit in the far future.

Ignoring the weird feeling in her chest at the thought of Fabrevans – ugh, even their would-be ship name sounds bad – together, she pushes it away and instead directs her attention to Mr. Schue, plotting ways to convince the teacher not to wait till the last minute for once to prepare for sectionals.

She manages to get through the rest of Glee, though she frowns every time she spots Sam smiling at Quinn – you can’t judge her, it’s just that the image of them together is unappealing, okay?

Sam starts to walk in the blonde’s direction after Mr. Schue dismisses them, and Rachel can’t help her instant petulant scowl, resisting the urge to stomp her foot as she determinedly looks the other way.

The football player can do whatever the fuck he wants, and if he wants Quinn, then good for him, who wouldn’t really, she’s like the catch of the century, what with her delicious ass and-

Straight thoughts, dammit!

Look, bottom line is that Rachel knows these things, and Fabrevans will never fit together, so she’s just doing them a favor by stopping their disgusting mating dance.

But when Quinn brushes Sam off to instead walk in the brunette’s direction, she can’t reach a decision on whether to feel fearful or triumphant.

Judging by the way she internally cheers at Sam’s puppy face as he leaves, and the way shes gulps at Quinn’s purposeful strides, it’s probably both.

The head Cheerio comes to a halt in front of her, and Rachel tries her very best to conjure up some false bravado. “Good day, Quinn. Is there anything you need?”

Of course, like usual, the taller girl doesn’t directly respond. Tilting her head a slight bit with a perplexed look in her eye that really shouldn’t be as cute as Rachel finds it, Quinn hums, a low purr from her throat.

“Friday after school. My place. I’m tutoring you in pre-calc.”

The blonde’s tone is to-the-point and blunt, and Rachel blinks twice, not quite processing the string of words that Quinn had said. “I’m…sorry?”

“Pay attention, Berry. You clearly need help with that ugly red C, so I’m offering it to you, Friday at my place,” Quinn drawls, sounding both intense and bored at the same time, hazel eyes boring into the singer’s with a gleam in them. “I’m taking AP Calculus BC this year, and I’ve kept Brittany on a B+ average in math, if you think I’m not up to it.”

“No, I- of course I don’t doubt your ability – you are on the honor-roll, after all,” Rachel stammers her way through, mind reeling with thoughts. “I just- well, we’ve had a rather…tremulous history, so forgive me if I’m quite skeptical of this being some sort of prank device to humiliate me once again.”

Softening, Quinn’s face twists in something akin to remorse, making the small brunette even more surprised, and Quinn sighs.

“Look Rachel, for what it’s worth, I- I am sorry, for…for everything,” she speaks softly, meeting Rachel’s eyes with such sincerity that it almost knocks the diva off her feet. “I’m trying to be better this year, and I’m starting by attempting to make amends with you.”

Rachel doesn’t quite process the words for a moment, running through her head uselessly, but when she does, all the air leaves her lungs at once, leaving her breathless and enamored and weak at the knees, because this side of Quinn Fabray is one that she’s only caught a rare glimpse of, one that is genuine and warm, and Rachel finds that she quite likes it, if not a bit scared at the same time.

“I- I’m sorry too,” she says when she feels like she can finally function again, still not believing that this is actually happening. Blinking once again, she tries her best to clear her head, intending on using this opportunity to get rid of the weight on her chest. “I shouldn’t have gone after Finn when he was your boyfriend, and I definitely shouldn’t have told him about the baby’s true father so hastily in my convoluted attempt to win him over. I admire how you sucked it up and lived with Noah afterwards though; your decision to move out certainly made things less awkward.”

For a second, Quinn looks heart-warmed and amused, but then her expression changes into one more conflicted, debating if she should say something. “Rachel,” she says, before wincing as if she’s bracing herself. “Finn kicked me out.”

The blonde’s eyes flick down as she says it, looking like she’s ashamed or embarrassed. Rachel notices the way that her shoulders almost imperceptibly hunch in, though it’s clear that Quinn is doing her hardest to put on a poker mask, her famed ice queen look.

The petite singer feels a pretty large range of emotions at once at the revelation.

Guilt for putting the taller girl in that position, anger at Finn, irrational disappointment that Quinn didn’t come to her for help, more anger at Finn, hurt for the blonde, even more anger at Finn, and well, anger at Finn.

“He did what now?”

Okay, maybe she can understand where he’s coming from, and she even sympathized with him for his grief and loss, but all that went out of the window once Quinn let that particular piece of information slip. The boy had every right to feel hurt and scorned, but to kick a pregnant sixteen-year-old out?

Well, let’s just say that she had not just a few, but a whole diatribe of choice words to say to him.

Quinn doesn’t see the fury on her face, mistaking her scoff as shocked laughter, and she curls deeper into herself, staring at her tennis shoes. “At least he gave me an hour to pack,” she lets the corner of her mouth curl self-depreciatingly, before adding, more like an afterthought, “Russell only gave me half that time.”

Maybe it’s the way the blonde’s eyes hold a resigned look, as if she’s accepted the fact that she’ll never be wanted. Maybe it’s the way that she calls her father by his first name, but yet her voice cracks a little when she says it.

Either way, Rachel’s rage at everything evaporates immediately, saved for another time, and it’s replaced by an ache in her heart. “Oh Quinn,” she breaths out, hands itching to reach out to the head cheerleader, to comfort her and to do something to make her look less sad.

The brunette doesn’t apologize, knowing that Quinn won’t take it well, so she settles on restraining her tactile nature by gripping her sweater, and she continues gently, “You know I would’ve taken you in in a heartbeat, right?”

Quinn straightens, her face a blank mask now, and Rachel knows that her time is up, that she’ll have to slowly have the taller girl let her in one day at a time.

She almost sighs; finally getting a look into Quinn’s mind was all she’s wanted since freshman year, but now that she’s had a real glimpse of it, she’s starting to realize that it’s not all she had chalked it up to be.

Rachel had known that it would never be sunshine and rainbows under that cold and jagged exterior, but before, she had selfishly wanted to be the one who had saved Quinn Fabray, like it was some kind of revered title.

Now, she’s beginning to think that she wants to care for the girl instead. Quinn doesn’t need saving, but Rachel still wants to give her a hand, because the blonde matters, and she doesn’t have to do it alone all the time.

The singer tries to convey that message into her gaze, pouring her heart into her emotions, and it seems to work, to her great delight.

There’s a determined shift to Quinn’s eyes, and Rachel realizes that the cheerleader is trying to let her walls down, to let the brunette see.

Her heart lifts in a pleasant flutter, and warmth spreads to her entire body.

Is this what it feels like? To be possibly cherished by Quinn Fabray?

She feels floaty, as if she’s walking on air, and it warms her heart that Quinn deems her important enough to do this.

This isn’t the result of Rachel’s hard work of coaxing the Cheerio’s defenses down. This is simply the result of Quinn trying, with the diva just giving little pushes of encouragement along the way.

Rachel knows that she won’t be able to crack the blonde in a few weeks, or even months, but she’ll keep trying. Quinn is beautiful and extraordinary and worth it, so she’ll keep trying until one day, the blonde is able to share a part of her little world with her.

And if she gets the benefit of scoring Quinn as a friend, or dare she say it, best friend, then that’s even better.

The taller girl seems to struggle at figuring out what to say, until she gingerly takes Rachel’s hand into her own and rubbing her thumb over the tanned skin. “I go to therapy,” she admits, “I won’t say that I’m fine – who is, honestly – but I’m…coming to terms with my issues, and Judy- Mom, she’s…she’s really trying to make us an actual family.”

It’s clear that Quinn’s done for now though, as Rachel can feel the blonde’s hand slightly shaking in hers, but it’s more than she would’ve ever imagined getting, so the brunette exhales a light breath and shoots a proud smile at the Cheerio. “I’m glad,” she says and leaves it at that, before her smile turns bashful. “Quinn, if your offer still stands, I’d- I’d very much like it if you would tutor me.”

“Sure,” the blonde shakily replies, and her lips quirk up in a returning small but real smile. “I’ll drive us after Glee. See you tomorrow, Berry.”

When Quinn pulls away to shoulder her bag and leave, Rachel can’t quite deny the feeling of loss at the soft and weighty hand gone too soon.

She doesn’t know what to make of that.