Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Glee Universe. No copyright infringement intended.
"I don't like it."
Rachel Berry's gaze drifts away from the scene playing out in front of her to the boy who's spoken and, somewhat rudely, broken into her thoughts.
Finn Hudson is scowling, his expression twisted into one of confusion and disdain.
"I don't like it one bit," he reiterates, and Rachel sighs. She doesn't want to be having this conversation at all, but Finn seems determined. "I mean, look at them."
Rachel has been looking.
It's the entire reason she initially chose this spot - it gives her a prime view of the two people she can't seem to stop looking at - and Finn just had to sit beside her. He's definitely less conspicuous than she is with his staring, and she doesn't want to have to explain her interest in getting to the bottom of why Quinn Fabray and Kurt Hummel have decided to launch a school club together.
Of course, she panicked when she first heard the rumours, thinking they were planning on starting another glee club but, thankfully, her fears were dashed.
It's much worse, in fact.
They're starting a Gay/Straight Alliance, and the very idea of it has just broken Rachel's brain. Quinn Fabray, former Head Cheerleader, former Celibacy Club President and - as far as Rachel knows - born-again Christian is starting a club with a gay/straight alliance as its main initiative. If it wasn't all so absurd, she would find it hilarious.
This must be some joke.
"I don't like it," Finn says again, shaking his head. "She's up to something. Quinn is always up to something."
Admittedly, Rachel may be inclined to agree with him. It's unlike Quinn to participate in anything this way. Even Santana seems wary of it, because Quinn has started their senior year with a bang. Really, she may as well have come to school with dyed hair and a tattoo for all the ways she's shaken things up in her own life.
The dresses she's always been known for wearing aren't exactly gone, but her wardrobe now includes some of the tightest jeans Rachel has ever seen and even parachute pants. She wears more vibrant colours, block and patterned, while carrying her patent elegance - how she manages that is beyond Rachel, truly. Her hair is actually shorter than it was initially cut in New York, and it definitely suits her. It makes her appear older, somewhat worldly.
But that's just her outward appearance. She's... softer now, almost reverent. She smiles more, talks to everyone, and even signed up at the Tutor Centre. It's not surprising that that resulted in an influx of students who suddenly wanted to be tutored. Quinn doesn't even look affected by all the attention she's receiving. It's almost as if she's immune to it somehow.
Or… she's just planning something.
"Somebody has to say something," Finn grumbles at Rachel's side. "I mean, this is Quinn we're talking about. She doesn't care about a gay/straight alliance."
Rachel wonders if that's true. "Her best friend is gay," she says, finding herself defending Quinn almost automatically, even if she's just stating a fact.
"Oh, please," he dismisses with a scoff. "As if she even cares about Santana. Quinn doesn't care about anyone but herself."
Rachel bristles at the sound of that, turning her gaze on him. "That's not a very nice thing to say, Finn," she says, glaring heatedly. "She is your ex-girlfriend."
"So?" he questions, frowning. "What does that have to do with anything?"
She gives him a withering look, choosing not to respond as she returns her attention to where Quinn and Kurt are bent over a notebook in the corner of the Choir Room, clearly discussing their new club. With the way Quinn is talking animatedly and taking notes; it's clear she's the driving force behind the initiative, which just confuses Rachel even further.
"I don't like it," Finn says again, folding his arms over his chest. "For all we know, this could be some elaborate ruse to humiliate Kurt."
Rachel doesn't even quantify that thought with a response. Despite Quinn's religious beliefs, Quinn has never been anything but supportive of - or, at the very least, apathetic towards - Kurt's plight of being openly gay. Rachel remembers approaching him once about this very idea back when they were sophomores, and she can't help feeling a little jealous he's decided to partner with Quinn rather than her.
But, then again, this Quinn is... different. More present; more involved. It's disarming and terrifying and still so very wonderful.
Rachel's always felt unstoppable under Quinn's gaze. It's difficult to explain, but having Quinn look at her and focus solely on her has always been one of her favourite feelings. Quinn's gaze is practically a caress. It's a rush.
Before Finn can repeat his famous words, the Choir Room starts to fill up with their fellow Glee Club members. Rachel notices a few of them casting curious, almost anxious, looks Quinn and Kurt's way, and she understands their wariness, but Quinn isn't doing anything untoward. She's openly supporting Kurt and, whatever her motives are, he looks happy about it. She assumes he'd been wary at first, but Quinn seems to have won him over, and that should mean something.
In fact, they both look happy.
Because, Quinn really does smile freely these days, turning bright and shining eyes on all of them.
It's a little disconcerting, but it makes the brunette feel… odd. A good odd, but still odd. She can't shake the feeling that Quinn's smiles towards her carry more meaning, for some ridiculous reason that her brain just refuses to compute.
When Mr Schuester arrives, the meeting is called to attention, and Quinn and Kurt set their conversation aside to focus on whatever he's saying. Rachel can barely hear him because Quinn is smiling, knowing and real. It's beautiful. She's beautiful, and Rachel has always thought this is a girl who deserves to smile.
The lesson itself goes quickly, with rehearsals for their upcoming group number going well. Quinn participates fully, in a way she never has before, and it's amazing to see her actually enjoy herself, even if she hangs back, as is her way in this room.
When Mr Schuester dismisses them, Quinn and Kurt leave quickly, chatting to each other with bent heads and excited smiles on their faces. Rachel watches them go, feeling that odd jealousy again, though she can't figure out exactly why or even at whom it's directed.
It's when Santana sends Brittany off with Blaine that Rachel realises that something is definitely going on. She slows her movements to watch as the rest of the Glee Club gather in a huddle on the risers.
Finn glances at her before waving her over and she approaches cautiously.
"What's going on?" she asks, watching as Finn pulls up a chair for her and prompts her to sit, which she does somewhat unsurely. "What's this all about?"
Santana slaps her hands on her thighs, making a few of them jump at the sound. "We're to talk about Q," she says. "Something is definitely up with her."
Rachel frowns. "Are you seriously having a club meeting about a certain member?"
"Two members, actually," Mercedes says. "We were going to leave Quinn alone but she had to drag Kurt into whatever she has planned."
"Definitely," Tina agrees.
"And what exactly are you planning on doing to Quinn?" Rachel asks, trying not to show how horrified she is. "Why would you even want to do anything?"
"We're worried," Puck says.
"I'm sure Quinn is fine," Rachel defends.
"I'm talking about Kurt," he says. "We're worried about Kurt because we all know how crazy Quinn is. She's up to something and we have to do something."
"But what?" Sam questions.
Rachel just stares at them all as if they've gone crazy. "Are you guys being serious right now?"
"Of course," Finn says. "I don't want her hurting my stepbrother."
Rachel turns incredulous eyes on her boyfriend because he barely even acknowledges Kurt as his family on most days, and now he's suddenly claiming him because someone else is paying attention to him. "Are you serious?"
"It's why we're here, Berry," Santana says. "Are you in or what? Because I know Quinn, and there's something she's not telling us, so we have to get it out of her somehow, before this gets out of hand."
Rachel honestly can't believe anything she's hearing. "Have any of you actually tried asking her?" she asks.
"As if she would tell us," Santana scoffs. "It'd have to be a collective effort. She's too slippery for a handful of us."
"So, then, we should have one of those, uh, meetings," Finn suddenly suggests.
Mike frowns. "Meetings?"
Finn nods. "Yeah, those meetings that people have for, like, alcoholics and drug addicts and stuff."
"Do you mean an intervention?" Tina questions.
Finn's face pinches in thought. "Uh, yes...?"
"But Quinn isn't an alcoholic or a drug addict," Artie points out, and then frowns. "At least, I don't think she is."
"Don't be ridiculous, Artie," Rachel practically snaps.
He looks suitably chastised. "All I'm asking is what would we be intervening?"
Mercedes speaks next and, initially, Rachel thinks it'll be in defence of her blonde friend, but she can't even be surprised when it's not. "She's up to something, definitely," she says. "The girl doesn't even count her calories anymore."
"She doesn't even get mad when I call her 'baby mama' anymore," Noah adds.
"Quinn lets me borrow her Biology notes now, when she never used to," Tina says.
"She doesn't get as riled up when I insult her these days," Santana adds her two cents, looking particularly miffed about that truth.
"She's stopped coming to church," Sam mentions, which actually piques Rachel's interest.
"She joined the calligraphy club," Mercedes says. "Calligraphy."
"And the photography club," Mike says. "And Red Cross, and the Model United Nations."
"How do you know all of that?" Tina asks him.
"I work in the reception, remember?" he replies with a shrug. "She's definitely filled up her roster."
"Do you think it's all to do with college applications?" Artie asks.
It's definitely the one thing that could make sense because colleges do look at that kind of thing, but it would still look suspicious signing up for all of them in her senior year. Quinn must know that.
For whatever reason, Rachel thinks Quinn decidedly doesn't care what other people think anymore, and that's the difference.
"Quinn also rejected James Barkley when he asked her out," Mercedes says, adding to the list of things that have supposedly changed about Quinn since school started up again for their senior year.
Okay, so, rejecting James Barkley is kind of a big deal. As the school's best basketball player; he has the kind of popularity at which the old Quinn would jump. It also helps that he's wildly good looking.
Rachel casts incredulous eyes on Mercedes. "What does that have to do with anything?" she asks, ignoring the odd feeling of... no. Just, no.
Mercedes shrugs. "Look, I'm just saying that something is up with Quinn and, given her history, it can't be anything good. I don't want Kurt to get caught in the crossfire of whatever crazy Quinn Fabray is currently wearing."
Rachel's frown is heavy with disdain. "You guys are unbelievable," she says darkly.
Santana barks out a laugh. "Be serious, Berry," she says. "Quinn is being nice to you. When has that ever happened, without there being some ulterior motive? Especially after all that shit at Prom and in New York."
Rachel doesn't have a response to that, which makes her feel uncomfortable. But, before, she'd sensed Quinn's insincerity. It's different now. It's been different since Prom, when things got so out of control that she's ashamed for the both of them; for all of them. They're actually trying to be friends now, and all of this is just going to derail that.
"Exactly," Santana says when Rachel is silent too long, sounding entirely too smug. "I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I think Finnept is right. We should have an intervention before this all gets out of hand."
Rachel shakes her head. "I don't think that's a good idea," she says.
"When?" Finn asks, ignoring her.
"Preferably as soon as possible," Mercedes says. "Kurt's on the line here, remember?"
"We can have it at my house," Finn offers. "She sometimes comes by to see Kurt."
Now, that piece of information also interests Rachel. She hasn't seen the blonde there before, not when she's visiting Finn or Kurt. Even though she wants to argue this plan more, she knows it'll fall on deaf ears. She needs to come up with another way to get through to them because they seem determined, and she just knows it's going to end badly. They clearly don't know Quinn at all. Her hackles will rise, she'll deny, and then she'll lash out.
Sighing heavily, she gathers her things to leave.
Finn puts a hand on her arm. "Where are you going?"
"Home," she says. "I don't want any part of this."
Santana rolls her eyes. "Of course."
Rachel rounds on her, her eyes narrowing slightly. There are so many things she wants to say: like, instead of cornering Quinn, they should rather try to support her and help her, because it's obvious she's turned over a new leaf - for whatever reason - and that should mean something. But it's pointless. Engaging with Santana is meaningless, so Rachel just huffs out a breath, and then leaves.
With the Choir Room occupied, she goes to the auditorium with the intention of getting in some much-needed practice before she does go home. It'll help calm her; settle all her whirling thoughts and feelings that she can't even begin to understand.
What she doesn't expect to find is Quinn Fabray casually playing a complicated Bach piece at the piano.
Rachel doesn't announce her presence immediately, choosing rather to hang back and listen. She even chuckles to herself when Quinn makes a mistake and mutters 'Fudgesticks' instead of a curse word.
See, the girl hasn't changed that much.
Her form is almost perfect, back straight and her wrists lifted. Quinn's fingers practically float over the keys, dancing reverently, and it's suddenly obvious she's well-trained. Rachel can't help finding everything about Quinn Fabray in this moment simply endearing.
When Quinn gets to what must be the end of the piece, she runs her hands through her short hair and sighs heavily, as if she isn't at all impressed with what she's just played.
"You're really very good," Rachel says, breaking into the eerie silence.
Quinn whips her head around, almost sliding off the piano bench in her surprise. "Rachel," she squeaks, hand over her heart. "You scared me."
"Sorry," she says, even though there's a part of her that isn't really. She quite likes the deer-in-headlights look of Quinn Fabray. "But you are, you know? Good, I mean. I didn't know you were so well trained."
Quinn shrugs, absently tapping a rhythm with her fingers on her denim-clad thigh. "I'm a Fabray. Piano lessons are kind of a given."
Rachel nods in understanding as she makes her way towards the stage. She has a vague idea about Quinn's family life, but she can't actively recall the blonde actually talking about it or them or even other parts of her childhood. Rachel finds herself more interested than she'd like to admit.
"I learned only the basics," Rachel says, climbing the steps to be on the same level as Quinn. "I usually just keep up with what is required for my vocal work. Matching pitch and my aural training. I suck at scales."
Quinn's face spreads into a smile, and it's probably one of the most genuine smiles Rachel has ever seen her wear. She's been doing it a lot these days: smiling real smiles and allowing her emotions to show. It's lovely, really, and Rachel finds the openness of this new Quinn to be both fascinating and breathtaking.
It's also a little heartbreaking that it's taken her seventeen years to allow herself just to be.
"I hate scales," Quinn says. "I think most people do, to be honest. And, those who say they don't are just liars."
Rachel walks towards her, just wanting to be closer. There's always been something magnetic about Quinn, attracting all sorts, but this is different. Quinn is different, and it's as if she's switched poles, and is now attracting a different sort. A specific sort. "Do you mind if I sit with you?" she asks.
Quinn's smile slips for only a beat. It's as if she's psyching herself up for her response. "Sure," she says, shifting on the bench to make space for Rachel. "Maybe we can play something together," she offers. "Or, I could play and you can sing."
Rachel absolutely loves the sound of that idea, and she practically skips the last few steps before settling beside Quinn. Only their knees touch, but Rachel can't shake the notion that she can feel the blonde everywhere. She's very warm, radiating heat in a way the old Quinn never did. "What should we sing?"
Quinn visibly thinks, the tip of her tongue absently poking out of her mouth in a way that Rachel finds wonderfully adorable. "What about Emeli Sande's Next To Me?" she finally suggests.
Rachel takes a moment to recall the song, and then nods enthusiastically. Even as Quinn begins to play, Rachel knows there's something inherently important about this moment.
It's as if it's a beginning.
For Quinn, for Rachel; for them both.
She can't be sure why or how, but this Quinn, she's sure, is the real one.
And, she's beautiful.
Rachel doesn't hear word about the intervention until the next week Monday when Mercedes asks her if they should make a banner.
"A banner?" she questions, somewhat stupidly, because they can't be serious.
"Like in How I Met Your Mother, you know," Mike elaborates from his position across the table in the cafeteria. "They have an 'Intervention' banner. We're thinking of making one."
Rachel glances across the cafeteria to where Quinn is sitting with Kurt, Blaine and two other students she doesn't recognise. They're probably from a younger year. The blonde's posture is relaxed and she's talking with her hands. She looks animated and... stunning.
"Please don't do that," Rachel finally says, dragging her eyes away from Quinn and looking at the handful of Glee members with whom she's sitting. "This intervention is already a bad idea without adding a tacky banner to it."
"It's not going to be tacky."
"It's not a bad idea."
Rachel rolls her eyes when Mercedes and Tina talk over each other. "If you don't think it's such a bad idea, why haven't you told Kurt, Blaine or Brittany about it?" she asks pointedly.
Mercedes scoffs, crossing her arms over her chest. "Kurt is too involved - this is for him, remember? - and Blaine can't keep a secret from his boyfriend. Brittany can't keep a secret, period. Gosh, what is your problem?"
Rachel's eyes narrow. "My problem is you all conspiring behind Quinn's back because you have it in your head that there's something wrong with her, just because she's deigned to show support to Kurt in a way none of us have in the past."
Mercedes regards her for a moment, before making a decision. "Oh, I know what this is," she says, suddenly looking smug. "You're jealous, aren't you?"
If Rachel was drinking anything in this moment, she's sure she would spit it out in surprise. She actually sputters; she's so caught off guard by Mercedes' assessment of the situation. "What?"
"Oh, come on, Rachel," Mercedes says. "You're just jealous that you can't be the one to save Kurt."
Her jaw drops open. "Save him from what?"
"Whatever Quinn has planned for him."
"Are you even listening to yourself?" she asks, incredulous. She looks around the table, taking in the faces of Artie, Tina, Mike, Sam and Finn. "Are you all hearing what I'm hearing?"
"I think you are jealous," Finn suddenly says, and Rachel turns surprised eyes on her boyfriend.
"What?" she asks, her voice low and laced with warning.
Which, of course, he doesn't heed. "I'm the one who suggested we have an interv - interve - a meeting, and you're jealous you didn't think of it first."
Rachel doesn't even know what to say to that, so she says nothing. She just packs up her untouched lunch and leaves the table, all the while shaking her head in disbelief and disgust. These people are supposed to be her friends. They're supposed to be Quinn's.
Frustrated, Rachel dumps her food forcefully and mutters obscene words under her breath. She's just setting down her tray when she feels a hand on her shoulder. Sufficiently riled up, she whips around to unleash words on whoever thought approaching her was a good idea, but she instantly deflates at the sight of perfect blonde hair and piercing hazel eyes.
"Quinn," she breathes, risking a smile.
"Sorry to startle you," Quinn says, her own smile sheepish. "You looked pretty deep in thought. Is everything okay?" Her sincerity catches Rachel off guard and she has to force herself to breathe.
"Oh, you know, just trying to get people to stop doing stupid things," she attempts to joke.
Quinn grins knowingly. "It's an infinite endeavour, I'm afraid."
Rachel's own smile is a little lopsided, and she feels oddly giddy. "Tell me about it." Then, when Quinn is silently continuing to look at her, she says, "Was there something you wanted?"
"Oh, right," Quinn says, her cheeks tinting a lovely shade of rosy pink. "I was just wondering if you, maybe, wanted to meet up in the auditorium after Glee like we did last week Wednesday?"
Rachel frowns at the way Quinn won't meet her gaze, but she still finds herself nodding. "Sure, Quinn," she says. "That sounds lovely."
Quinn looks up, hopeful. "Really?"
"Cool," she says brightly, absently squeezing Rachel's forearm before spinning on her heel and walking away. Rachel doesn't miss the slight spring in her step, and she finds herself smiling even wider.
How could anyone think this was all a front for something sinister?
Can't they see the genuine happiness?
Can't they see it in her eyes?
Have they even bothered to look?
Sighing heavily, Rachel leaves the cafeteria with the intention of finishing this day without snapping at anyone else about this ridiculous intervention. It's just going to end terribly. God, it's going to be horrific and she doesn't even know how she's supposed to stop them. She has to try, because there's a part of her that's sure they're going to end up losing Quinn if they go through with it. She doesn't know how or why she thinks it, but it's a thought that plagues her.
Glee is tense for her because she sees it all. Quinn and Kurt are oblivious, cute in the way they're lost in their own little world, while nearly everyone else watches them with suspicious eyes.
Even Mr Schuester keeps a little too close an eye on their interactions.
As the lesson draws to a close, Rachel finds herself growing restless with excitement at the prospect of singing with Quinn again. She's always wanted to be her friend, and it finally feels as if Quinn wants it too.
Quinn hangs back after they've been dismissed, chatting to Brittany for a moment before she looks at Rachel.
"I have to get something from Britt's locker," she says. "Meet you in the auditorium in a few?"
"Sure," she replies brightly, and watches as Quinn leaves the Choir Room, her own heart rate picking up. She feels... excited, in a way she hasn't in a long time.
Before Rachel can even lift her bag, Santana has moved to stand in front of her.
"What's that all about, Berry?"
Rachel sighs. "What's what?"
"You and Q?"
"We're practicing," she says in response.
Santana blinks slowly. "Oh, I see, you're getting close to her so you can figure out what's she's up to."
"No," she says, sternly. "I'm not participating in your schemes, and I implore you to stop with your plans."
"No way, Berry," she says. "That's not happening. I'm going to figure out what she's hiding whether she likes it or not."
Rachel just shakes her head, disappointed but not surprised. "Well, then, if you'll excuse me, I have somewhere to be." She doesn't wait for a response as she moves past Santana and makes her way to the auditorium.
Quinn is already sitting at the piano, looking wonderfully relaxed and lost - in the good way. Her fingers are dancing over the keys, playing a lovely melody that Rachel doesn't recognise.
There seems to be a lot about the blonde that Rachel doesn't recognise these days, and it both intrigues and irritates her. She just wants to figure her out, but then she's also enjoying this new mystery of her. Rachel's not naive enough not to realise there is something going on with Quinn. A change has occurred, sure, but she doesn't understand why everyone is so concerned with how Quinn is living her life. They didn't seem to care before.
Rachel supposes Kurt is more their friend than Quinn is, which is probably fuelling all this sudden interest.
But they're supposed to be Glee; they're supposed to be a family.
Quinn smiles widely when she spots Rachel, and the brunette's traitorous heart skips a beat at the sight. "So, Miss Berry, what are we playing today?" she asks, practically singing the words and, if Rachel were any other girl, she might have swooned.
Well, actually, she does swoon slightly, her steps faltering.
Quinn doesn't seem to notice. "I was thinking maybe some Sam Cooke."
She recovers well enough to frown at the suggestion. "Really?"
"Don't you like the oldies?"
"Quinn, everyone loves the oldies," she says.
"But you look skeptical," she points out, and then, more playfully, she asks: "Have you ever sang Sam Cooke before?"
"Don't judge me, Quinn."
Quinn's smile fades. "I'm never going to do that again, Rachel," she says seriously. "I never want to be that kind of person ever again."
Rachel takes in a slow, deep breath before she moves to sit beside Quinn, closer than normal. "You know, even when you were that kind of person, I always knew."
"That it wasn't actually you."
"But, this is, isn't it?"
Quinn smiles weakly, bumping her shoulder against Rachel's. "I'm trying."
"It's all any of us could ever ask for," Rachel murmurs, leaning against Quinn. "Now, are we going to sing Sam Cooke or what?"
For the longest time, neither of them makes a move. They just sit and enjoy the physical contact in comfortable silence until Quinn unexpectedly yawns, and they both giggle. "Sorry," she says, flushing slightly.
She shakes her head. "Just been busy."
Rachel can only imagine, given all the new clubs she's joined. She wonders how Quinn has time for this, but she's definitely not complaining. She's going to hold onto these moments with everything she has.
"There's still so much I want to do, though," Quinn softly admits. "There isn't enough time in the day."
"I know," Rachel grumbles. "At least one extra hour."
Rachel giggles. "For sleep, definitely."
Quinn's smirk isn't the sinister kind, and Rachel can't help thinking she wouldn't mind seeing this smile more often. Feeling the shift in the mood, Quinn lifts her hands and starts to play the first bars of A Change Is Gonna Come.
Rachel straightens and, just like that, the music takes over.
There's something profound to be found in moments like these, Rachel thinks, when music transcends everything that's come before and is still to come.
Rachel Berry makes sure to pay attention.
Quinn doesn't even bother to ask Rachel to meet her in the auditorium on Wednesday. She just does and, this time, when Quinn suggests something from Faith Hill, Rachel just stares at her.
"What?" she asks, blushing under her scrutiny.
"Are you a closeted country fan?" she asks.
Quinn rolls her eyes, muttering: "I'm a closeted something," under her breath. Louder, she says, "I do love country. We never sing any in Glee."
Rachel pouts. "We don't, do we?"
"We'll sing it here, then," she says, shrugging slightly in resignation. "There You'll Be? Breathe?"
"Both," Rachel squeals. "All."
They've already fallen into a routine, and Rachel eventually stands to expand her diaphragm and belt out the notes. It's odd, standing there and feeling Quinn's eyes on her. She barely looks at the keys as she plays, her gaze rarely straying far from Rachel's form, as if she's worried the brunette will disappear if she looks away for even a second.
Rachel isn't going anywhere.
She doesn't think she can.
She doesn't want to.
When they've exhausted themselves with music, they talk about nothing. Rachel finds that she enjoys just talking to Quinn, even if it's about the nothings of this world, such as brands of sunglasses and how long human beings can hold their breath.
Eventually, Quinn asks a question even she wasn't sure she would.
Not today, at least.
"Do you, uh, want to get some coffee?" Quinn softly asks, her eyes unable to meet Rachel's, and it's actually rather adorable the way her face flushes.
Sighing in disappointment, Rachel glances at her watch. "I can't tonight, Quinn," she says. "It's kind of my night to cook, and my dads will probably start a riot if I don't feed them on time."
Quinn nods. "Oh, uh, yeah, of course," she says softly. "It is late."
"Another time, maybe?"
"Sure," she says, ducking her head slightly to hide her disappointment. "Have a good night, Rachel. I'll see you tomorrow."
Rachel regards her carefully, suddenly feeling as if they've taken a step back, but she can't be sure why. "Hey, Quinn?"
She looks up, schooling her features and smiling at Rachel. "What's up?"
Rachel bites her bottom lip, suddenly feeling nervous. "Same time on Friday?"
Quinn's face splits into a grin. "Definitely."
By Sunday, Rachel is desperate.
She threatens and begs and continually tries to tell them to stop. She sends text after text, calls them all at various times of the day, but they all plan to meet up at Finn's house under the ruse of a small get together. At least, that's the way they spin it for Kurt, Blaine and Brittany. Somehow, Kurt is getting Quinn to the house, according to Mercedes, and Rachel just has the most uneasy feeling about it all.
They're - they're going to lose her. She just knows it.
Which is the only reason she even bothers to show up. She has to be here to try to stop them one last time. Maybe she should just text Quinn and tell her not to come, but then she'll find out about the gathering from Kurt, and then it will be an even bigger mess.
She arrives at the Hudson house early enough to get Finn alone. They're having the intervention in the basement and, mercifully, there's no sign of a stupid banner.
Rachel corners him in his chair, standing over him and practically pleading with him to do something about this. They'll probably listen to him because they're obviously not hearing her. "Finn, please," she says, sounding desperate. "Stop this now. Call this entire thing off."
"We can't," he replies. "It needs to be done."
"No, it doesn't," she argues, shaking her head. "Please."
"I'm sorry, Rachel, but we - "
"I swear, Finn, if you go through with this, then we're breaking up."
He sputters, clearly surprised. "What?"
"You heard me," she says tensely. "Now, call this thing off right now if you don't want to end up single by this evening."
Before he can even say anything, Glee members are streaming into the room and finding their seats for the upcoming intervention. Rachel waits for Finn to say something.
And waits and waits.
The boy doesn't even look fazed by her threat, which means that he doesn't think she's being serious.
Well, he's in for the shock of his life.
She's certain they all are.
Brittany asks questions about the 'impromptu' gathering but Santana just distracts her with talk of ducks at the pond in the park on Blind Road.
It's when Kurt finds them that things get tricky. Blaine is with him, and they both look confused.
Rachel tries to meet Kurt's gaze but it's moving around too much to latch onto.
"What is this?" Kurt asks, glancing at Finn. "I mean, I know you said you were having a few people over, but I didn't think you meant the whole of Glee." He pauses, pressing his lips together as he takes in the room. "Well, except for Quinn."
Rachel visibly tenses at the mention of the blonde.
"But she's on her way," Kurt says happily. "Are we watching movies? Discussing Sectionals?" He grins. "Actually, it's good you're all here right now because Quinn and I were going to schedule a time to pitch our new club to you guys. We're pretty excited about it."
"Okay, yeah, just sit down, Lady Hummel," Santana says. "Let's wait for Q."
Kurt looks suitably put out, and he pouts as Blaine pulls him into an armchair.
Rachel feels uneasy and her palms are starting to sweat. She runs them over her thighs, trying to find an outlet for her nervous energy.
They need to stop.
This isn't right.
It's just going to hurt Quinn.
It's going to hurt all of them.
Rachel opens her mouth to speak... at exactly the same moment Quinn enters the room.
As expected, she looks shocked at the sight of all of them, and her eyes immediately seek out Kurt, searching for a... friendly face.
"Hey," she says, taking a calming breath, despite her obvious confusion. "What's going on?"
"I have no idea," Kurt replies. "I'm just as surprised as you are."
Puck rises to his feet and directs Quinn to a chair they've reserved for her. It's placed directly in front of the television and everyone else has clear view of her. "We're actually here for you, Quinn," he says and, if Rachel didn't know better, she would believe his sincerity.
"For me?" Quinn asks, her voice surprisingly shaky.
Puck nods slowly as he returns to his seat.
"Why?" Quinn asks.
"Because we know what's really going on," Mercedes says.
Quinn sinks into the chair behind her, as if her legs have just given out. "You do?" She sounds breathless, surprised and frightened. She looks at Kurt, who looks equally scared.
Rachel sees him shake his head, which does nothing to quell Quinn's panicked expression.
"We do," Mercedes says soothingly. "And we want you to know this is a safe space to talk about things." For a moment, Quinn looks relieved, which quickly disappears when Mercedes keeps speaking. "So, there's no need to keep up with whatever you have planned."
Quinn's previously relaxed expression gives way to a confused frown. "Wait, what?"
"We know what's going on, Quinn," Artie says, and her hazel eyes turn on him, still clouded with confusion.
"Do you really?" she asks, hesitant. "Because you're not exactly reacting the way I thought you would. And, how on earth did you find out, anyway?"
"We figured it out," Santana says, sounding smug. "You've never really been able to hide anything from me."
For a moment, Quinn's eyes flash with something dark, and even Santana's smirk falters. "Okay," the blonde eventually says. "So, what is all this then?"
"We're here to get you to stop," Sam says.
Quinn blinks. "To stop?" she echoes, looking bewildered. "It's not exactly something a person can typically stop, if I'm not mistaken."
"Of course, it is," Tina says. "Think about all the people you're going to end up hurting if you keep going."
Now, Quinn looks positively shocked. "What the - "
Kurt clears his throat. "If I may, this all seems - "
Finn rudely interrupts him, his eyes on Quinn. "Just save us the drama, Quinn," he says, somewhat harshly. "We all know you're just faking all this interest in Kurt's gay agenda because you want to hurt him. It's what you do, isn't it? Manipulate and lie and hurt people."
Quinn freezes at the same time Kurt's eyes bug out of his head in surprise.
Rachel feels two feet tall and she subtly distances herself from Finn.
"Is - is that what you all think?" Quinn asks, her voice small.
"Come on, Quinn," Puck says. "You have to admit your sudden interest in all this other shit is a little weird. What else are we supposed to think?"
"What else are you supposed to think?" she echoes softly, sounding like a child.
"We're just looking out for Kurt here," Mercedes says. "You understand, right? Don't you think he's been through enough at this school without your dragging him into whatever scheme you must have planned?"
Quinn's eyes snap towards her in an instant, and Rachel can see the complete and utter hurt in them as clear as day. Rachel lets out a small whimper at the sight, but Quinn just sets her jaw. "And you all think this?" she asks again.
Brittany shakes her head, and Rachel follows suit, but it's as if Quinn doesn't see any of it. She just adjusts her jaw, her eyes darkening as she works through everything that's been said.
They're all just waiting.
Because Rachel ends up being wrong.
Quinn doesn't react in any way they expect her to.
Her hackles don't rise, she doesn't deny anything and she definitely doesn't lash out.
In fact, she says nothing for the longest time, just looking at each of them in turn. Her hazel eyes linger on Mercedes, and then on Rachel. They're almost pained, and Rachel drops her gaze when it becomes too much.
"I see," Quinn eventually says as she gracefully stands and, for the first time this school year, the group is awarded with the cold exterior they came to expect from the Quinn Fabray of old.
It sends a ripple of anxiety through all of them.
Kurt rises to his feet as well. "Quinn," he whispers, sounding defeated.
"It's okay, Kurt," she says, her expression dangerously passive. "They were just looking out for you. I can't fault them that. I mean, I am a raging bitch most of the time, cruel and calculating and manipulative. It's expected that they'd be wary."
"Quinn," he says again, stepping towards her.
She steps back, shaking her head. "I - I tried, you know," she whispers.
"I know," he says, stepping towards her, only for her to move away again. "Quinn, please."
All the rest of them can do is sit and watch as the drama unfolds. Quinn resembles a caged animal searching for an escape, and Rachel is five seconds away from bursting into tears. It sends a shiver down her spine when Quinn manages to pull herself together. Her back straightens, the smile is gone and the HBIC is back.
Still, Rachel can't take her eyes off her.
Even like this, she's stunning.
"I won't lie and say this doesn't hurt, because it does," she admits, losing some of her bravado. "I shouldn't be surprised. I mean, what was I supposed to expect from my friends when I finally started to act the way I've always wanted to, right?"
A handful of them flinch at the word 'friend.'
"I know I've made mistakes in the past; made choices I'm not proud of, but to think you'd assume this about me because of it..." she trails off, and she catches a surprising tear on her cheek. She laughs humourlessly. "And to think you were the ones I was planning on telling first." She shakes her head, looking at each of them in turn. Her gaze looks especially pained when it lands on Rachel, but she keeps going regardless. "I'm sorry to disappoint you all, but there's nothing sinister going on here. I'm actually more insulted for Kurt; that you would think I would need some ruse to want to befriend him. God. For the first time in my life, I'm doing things for myself and I had no idea it bothered you all so much that I was finally being nice; that I was finally figuring out how to be happy. But, no worries, all right? You no longer need to worry about that."
It's a thinly-veiled threat but Rachel knows exactly what she's saying without her actually saying the words.
Quinn looks at Kurt, smiling sadly. "See you tomorrow?"
"Of course," he chokes out, wanting desperately to make this all better but unsure how to do that.
She doesn't say anything else as she spins on her heel and leaves the room without once looking back.
Rachel can't shake the feeling they may never see the girl who first walked in again.
When Quinn is out of sight, Kurt rounds on them, looking accusatory and hurt. "An intervention?" he shrieks. "Are you actually kidding me right now? Whose stupid idea was this?"
Trust Finn not to own up to his supposedly brilliant idea now.
Kurt shakes his head in disbelief. "You guys have no idea what you've done," he says hauntingly. "You have no idea." With that, he stalks out of the room.
After a beat and another accusatory look shot their way, Blaine follows after him.
It's silent for a full minute before Santana breaks it. "Well, that went well," she says.
"Shut up, Santana," Rachel snaps.
"You wait just a minute, Hobbit," she snarls back, but Brittany stops her with a hand to her arm as she stands and gives them all a thorough once-over.
"Why did you do this?" she asks nobody in particular. "Q was almost ready. She was almost there."
"What are you talking about, B?" Santana asks, sounding as confused as the rest of them.
Brittany shakes her head. "If you had told me, I would have said this was a bad idea."
"We already had enough of Berry telling us that," Puck mutters, and Brittany's eyes snap towards Rachel.
"You tried to stop them?" she asks curiously.
"From the very beginning," Sam answers for her.
"Why?" Brittany asks Rachel, ignoring everyone else.
Rachel blinks. Why did she want to stop them so badly? "I don't know," she admits.
Brittany shakes her head. "I think you do," she says, and that's all she's going to say on the matter. "You shouldn't have done this," she says again. "San, can you take me home now? I no longer want to be here."
Hurting Quinn is one thing, but hurting Brittany is an entire other thing. Hurting her is a cardinal sin, and they've managed to do it.
Silently, Santana gets to her feet and holds out her hand for Brittany, but the blonde doesn't take it. Well well. They leave together and, before anyone can say anything, Rachel gets up too.
Finn grabs hold of her wrist. "Where are you going?" he asks.
She ignores him, shaking her arm out of his grip and leaves in a storm-off of epic proportions. It's only once she's upstairs that she sucks in a painful breath. Oh, Quinn. It takes everything she has not to break down at the memory of witnessing Quinn's pain. It was as clear as day in her perfect eyes, and Rachel honestly feels like the worst friend on the planet.
Taking deep, calming breaths, she slowly makes her way to Kurt's bedroom and knocks once. After a quiet 'come in' from Blaine, she opens the door to find Blaine perched on the edge of the bed and Kurt pacing. He barely registers her.
"She's not answering her phone," he says to nobody in particular. "Did you hear what she said? Did you hear her? God, what were they thinking?" He suddenly turns on her with heated eyes. "Did you know about this the entire time?" he asks.
Rachel swallows nervously. "They talked about it around me, yes," she admits. "I'm afraid I failed in my attempts to stop them."
He frowns. "You tried to stop them?"
She nods solemnly. It means nothing now because Quinn still ended up hurt.
"Because their theories are insane," she says, scoffing slightly. "It's obvious Quinn cares about you. Anyone can see that. They just wanted to believe whatever they wanted to because they couldn't accept that Quinn has finally changed for the better without having some secret agenda to ruin someone else's life."
Kurt and Blaine exchange a brief look that's a little more knowing than it is questioning.
Rachel can be very... passionate.
"Do you think she'll be okay?" Rachel eventually asks, quiet and shy.
Kurt sighs. "It's not a question of if she'll be okay," he says. "I'm more worried about how she intends to deal with all of this to make sure she is."
Rachel has plenty more questions but Kurt already looks rundown enough, which makes her hold her tongue. What can she say anyway? As innocent as she likes to think she is, she was still sitting in that room, saying and doing nothing.
So, stepping back, she quietly tells them she's expected at home, and leaves.
Thankfully, she doesn't see anyone else on her way out of the house to her car, her destination already in mind.
The Fabray house.
Rachel doesn't consider this could be a monumentally bad idea until after she rings the doorbell. She starts to back away immediately, her brain screaming for her to abort, but the door opens before she can get far enough away.
"Hello," a voice says, and Rachel sets eyes on a woman she's seen only a handful of times but never actually met.
Her upbringing sends Rachel forward, hand outstretched. "Mrs Fabray, hello, my name is Rachel Berry," she says politely. "Quinn and I go to school together."
There's a small beat of nothing before recognition hits and Judy Fabray smiles widely, channelling her daughter in some cosmos way. She shakes Rachel's hand firmly. "It's nice to meet you properly, Rachel," she says. "I've heard a lot about you."
Rachel blinks in surprise. "You have?"
"Oh, yes," she says. "Quinn talks about her friends all the time."
Rachel can't decide if she's ecstatic or disappointed with that piece of information. She's happy she's considered one of Quinn's friends, but oddly dejected that she's just lumped in with everyone else. Still, she smiles politely. "Is Quinn home?" she asks.
The smile on Judy's face dims considerably, but she holds it in place as best as she can. "Actually, no," she says, her brow creasing. "She tore in here a few minutes ago, raced upstairs to change into her running gear, and shot right back out. She's probably running past Blackman Park as we speak."
Rachel reads her facial expression for what it is. "You look worried," she points out.
Judy forces a wider smile. "I'm sure it's nothing," she dismisses, not wanting to worry Rachel with whatever thoughts she's having about Quinn's dramatic switch in moods.
Rachel could probably feel the lie, even if she wasn't certain something was wrong with Quinn. All her supposed 'friends' essentially just accused her of having some sinister plot to hurt Kurt in some way. Rachel reasons she would be pissed off enough to go for a run as well, but she can't shake the uneasiness she feels at Quinn's mother's worry. It's obvious and palpable, and Rachel knows she has to stay.
"Will she be gone long?" she asks. "I don't mind waiting."
Judy regards her carefully, as if she's making a decision about her. "I don't know how long she'll be," she confesses, sounding oddly despondent.
"I'll still wait," Rachel says, because she'll wait as long as necessary. She has to see Quinn today, even if she has to camp out on the front lawn. Quietly, she starts to back away. "Thank you."
"Wait," Judy says. "You're not going to wait out here, are you?" she asks, her eyebrows rising.
Rachel blinks. "I was," she says softly. "Quinn would be able to see me when she gets back but, umm, if you don't want that, I'll just wait in my car."
"Nonsense," Judy says, waving a hand. "I mean, you should come inside, dear."
"Oh, no, I wouldn't want to intrude. You're probably really busy and I wouldn't want to bother you."
"Rachel, please," she says, and she sounds so much like Quinn that Rachel practically lurches forward. Judy smiles gratefully and closes the door behind her. "If you're worried about bothering me with my oh so busy life, you can help me in the kitchen and tell me all about your plans for after graduation." She walks further into the house, expecting Rachel to follow.
Rachel stumbles over her own feet to keep pace with the woman while still trying to take in everything she can about the Fabray house. It's masterful in its simplistic yet fanciful interior, touching on Victorian themes and dimly lit. There's music coming from somewhere and, as Rachel walks, she realises the - is that classical? - music is in the kitchen.
The wonderful, gorgeous, amazing kitchen that Rachel could only dream of. It's obvious this family is wealthy but the many facets of Quinn's personality have never screamed snob. Other things, sure, but she doesn't own her wealth the way others would. Rachel finds the blonde actually tries to hide it.
Rachel stands awkwardly as Judy retrieves two aprons for them. She smiles when Judy hands one to her that reads: 'World's Greatest Mommy.' "Thank you."
"Quinn painted that for me when she was in the sixth grade," she explains, a hint of nostalgia lacing her tone. The apron is pretty, with an assortment of fruits lovingly painted on white fabric, and Rachel can't help smiling at the mental image of an eleven-year-old Quinn Fabray. "Back when everything was much simpler and she still looked at me with stars in her eyes."
Rachel doesn't know how to reply to that, so she doesn't. Instead, she just puts on the apron, loops the strands around her back and ties a knot at her front. She can't remember the last time she even wore an apron. "I should warn you, Mrs Fabray," she says; "I'm not that good in the kitchen."
Judy arches an eyebrow in a Quinn-like way. It's decidedly less intimidating on her, though. "Is that so?"
"The best I can do is pasta, cooking-wise," she admits. "But I am a brilliant baker."
"Well, we're in luck then," she says, brightening considerably. "I have to bake cookies for the bake sale at the hospital fundraiser," she says. "And you're just the person for the job."
Rachel doesn't know how to tell her she's more of a vegan aficionado when it comes to baking, so she decides to say nothing. She bakes plenty of non-vegan items for her fathers anyway, even though she's convinced they wouldn't even be able to tell the difference. "I'll do my best," she says.
"It's all we can ask, dear."
They chat quietly as they gather the ingredients for both chocolate chip and oat cookies. Rachel is in charge of the latter, and Judy claims she's a sucker for popping the chocolate chips into her mouth as she works. "It should probably be the other way round, shouldn't it?" she teases. "I'm trying to watch my figure."
Rachel shakes her head. "You look great," she assures her.
"For an old lady."
Rachel doesn't think the woman is all that old but she's definitely not going to comment on age.
Judy shoots her a grateful smile. "Thank you, Rachel," she says, anyway. "So, Quinnie tells me you're headed to Broadway."
Rachel's eyes widen, half caught off guard by Quinn's nickname. "She did?" she questions, surprised.
"Oh, yes," Judy says. "She says you're the one who's definitely going to make it out of here because you're the most talented. And, you are, dear. I've heard you sing, and, wow. Amazing."
Despite herself, Rachel blushes. "Thank you, Mrs Fabray."
"None of that," she admonishes lightly. "Please call me Judy."
Rachel just smiles in response.
"I only wish Quinn was as sure about her future as she is yours," Judy says, breathing a sigh. "She's smart, you know? I don't know where she gets it from because Russell and I were never good students, but Quinn's always been a diligent worker. Even with everything she's been through. I just wish she'd dream bigger than this place."
Rachel can't help feeling Judy's concern - particularly after a certain conversation she once had with the blonde in the auditorium - but she does think Quinn will figure it out. "I think she's starting to," Rachel finds herself saying. "Dream bigger, I mean. I don't know what it is, uh, Judy, but it's almost as if her eyes are finally open to all the possibilities."
Judy can't hide the small smile on her face. "Oh, yes, Quinn's eyes are definitely open now," she says, and Rachel can hear the cryptic tone, but she's at a loss as to why or from where it's even come. They continue to work in amiable silence, only speaking to instruct each other and ask questions about their respective batters.
"I think this needs more chocolate chips," Judy says, adding way more than the recipe requires. "These are Quinn's favourite."
"I thought she liked red velvet," Rachel says, and then baulks at the very idea that she even knows that.
Judy gives her a curious look before she responds. "As cakes and cupcakes, sure, but she's always loved choc chip cookies from small. I think she'll appreciate them today, especially."
And, there's the first sign that Judy knows far more than she's letting on. She clearly knows something of significance happened today, and the mere fact that Rachel is standing in her kitchen compounds that. Quinn obviously hasn't gone for an angry run in quite some time.
Rachel clears her throat. "What are Quinn's thoughts on oat cookies?" she asks.
Before Judy can respond, they hear the distinct sound of keys in the front door, and Rachel freezes. "Well, I suppose you'll be able to ask her yourself," Judy says easily.
"Hi, Mom," Quinn's disembodied voice sounds from near the front of the house. She sounds breathless, and Rachel's unsure why she suddenly feels hot. It's the heat of the preheating oven, she determines. "Is it all right if Kurt comes over for dinner again?"
"Sure, Sweetie," Judy calls out, sharing a mischievous smile with Rachel. "So, I'm setting for four people, then?"
"No!" is Quinn's passionate response. "Three, Mom."
"But I also have a visitor," Judy says, and there's a childishly teasing lilt in her voice that prompts Rachel to smile.
The smile, however, slips off her face when she hears approaching footsteps. She suddenly feels deathly nervous. What if Quinn doesn't want her here and asks her to leave? What if Quinn walks right back out of the room when she sees her? What if Quinn doesn't even allow her to apologise?
"You have a visitor?" Quinn asks, her voice getting closer. "Who is - " she stops suddenly when she enters the kitchen and spies Rachel in her apron and flour dusting her cheeks. "Oh."
Judy beams. "Look who stopped by to see you," she says brightly. If she picks up on the tension between the two girls, she doesn't mention it. "We're making cookies, oats and choc chip. But that's dessert... what would you like for dinner?"
Quinn looks both wary and weary, and the sight breaks Rachel's heart. She's sweaty from her run, hair sticking to her forehead and her skin glistening over defined muscles. The kitchen gets just that bit hotter for Rachel, and she swallows audibly.
"Say hello, Quinn," Judy says, frowning at her daughter.
Quinn's smile is forced. "Hello," she says patiently. Then: "what are you doing here?"
"Quinn," Judy reprimands, even though Quinn's tone is nothing more than just flat.
Both girls ignore her as Rachel takes a hesitant step towards the flighty blonde. "I was wondering if we could talk," she says gently, wary of spooking her.
"I think you all said more than enough today," Quinn mutters, unable to look Rachel in the eye. She wouldn't ever admit it, but all of it hurt that bit more because Rachel was sitting right there in the very middle of it.
"They did, yes," Rachel says. "They said a lot, Quinn, but I didn't."
"And that just makes everything better?" she asks, snapping. "I asked if everyone thought that, and you said nothing. Twice." She runs a frustrated hand over her damp hair. "Jesus, Berry, what are you even doing here?"
Rachel glances over her shoulder at Judy at the same time Quinn lifts her gaze to her mother. "Look, can we - " Rachel ventures.
Huffing in annoyance, Quinn spins on her heel and walks out of the kitchen. Rachel looks helplessly at Judy, who just shrugs. "Are you coming, Berry?" Quinn yells from somewhere in the house and Rachel jumps in surprise.
Judy can't help her laugh. "I wouldn't keep her waiting, dear. She inherited her temperament from her father."
"Wish me luck," Rachel grumbles, and then follows after Quinn. Well, she tries to, because she's lost sight of her. Why is this house so damn big? "Quinn?"
Rachel follows the voice into a large study that is home to the most beautiful, white, baby grand piano she's ever seen. Rachel barely even sees the floor to ceiling bookshelves, her eyes zeroed in on the beauty that is ebony and ivory.
Quinn is already sitting on the bench but her hands are resting in her lap, fidgeting nervously. As quietly as she can, Rachel moves to sit beside Quinn, careful not to touch her. Even though Quinn's just been on an hour-long run, she still smells like… powder, and her skin has lost some of its flush. Rachel loves that Quinn doesn't seem to care what she looks like in this moment, even though Rachel would argue that she always looks stunning.
"I'm sorry," is the first thing Rachel says. "I am so sorry, Quinn."
Quinn shakes her head as if she's refocusing on the conversation at hand. "You didn't have to come all this way just to tell me that," she dismisses.
"Yes, I did," she argues. "It was - it was just awful, and I'm sorry. Of course, I had to do it in person. There's no other way to deliver this kind of apology."
Quinn's bottom lip quivers. "Do - do you actually believe all that stuff?" she asks, her voice barely a whisper. "Because, I mean, I thought we were becoming better friends, with all the practicing and the talking, and I - "
Rachel takes hold of both of Quinn's hands and drags them into her own lap. Quinn's skin is warm and her hands are baby soft. Rachel doesn't actually want to let go any time soon. "Of course, I don't believe any of that drivel," she says heatedly. "I know we're still getting to know each other, but I know you wouldn't hurt Kurt."
"Just everyone else, though," she says darkly.
"Hey," Rachel says, running her fingers over Quinn's right wrist and feeling the girl shiver under her touch. "I want you to know that I see you," she says. "I see the way you're changing; the way you're trying. I see the way you want to be better, and I never thought anything they talked about was true."
"Then, what were you doing there?" she asks, as if she hasn't heard half of anything Rachel has said.
She sighs. "Well, I went to try to knock some sense into them," she says. "I've been trying all weekend to get them to abandon what was always going to be a stupid idea, but, ultimately, I failed to protect you from their hurtful theories." She shakes her head. "Can you believe I even threatened to break up with Finn if he didn't put an end to it?"
Quinn tenses slightly, and Rachel looks at her face. "You weren't serious, were you?"
"To be honest, I kind of think I was," she confesses with a slightly furrowed brow. "But, look, I just - I want you to know I'm sorry. I'm sorry we ambushed you and accused you of such awful things. That's not you."
"No," Rachel says, almost forcefully. She needs Quinn to believe her. "No, Quinn. Even the old you wouldn't have put on such an elaborate ruse just to hurt Kurt. I know your bullying technique was... odd, but I know you wouldn't have picked on him for his sexuality. Despite your upbringing, the struggle of being openly gay has always been something you've stayed away from whenever it came to your unfortunate targeting." Rachel presses her lips together. "Is that why you're starting this club with him?"
"I don't know," she quickly says. "I believe your sincerity. I just don't understand why."
"Why am I suddenly so interested in the integration of gay and straight teenagers in a school where Kurt was bullied so much that he was forced into moving schools?" she asks pointedly, and Rachel just nods once. "I want it to be safe for everyone. I guess I want other gay students to feel safe enough to be themselves, if they so want to. They shouldn't live in fear of the judgment of their peers, and the club is a way to support them." She sighs heavily. "I don't know, Rachel. Maybe, this way, we can avoid another Karofsky and another Fabray."
"Quinn," Rachel whispers.
"I know I've done horrible things in my past, but..." she trails off, her eyes darting to the side as she gathers her words. "Have I been so awful that they're justified in thinking those things about me?" she asks and, ignoring all the drying sweat, Rachel wraps her arms around Quinn, hugging her tightly. "Are they? Are they justified?"
"No," Rachel says strongly. "I've seen you acknowledge your mistakes and try to grow from them," she tells Quinn. "I mean, it isn't as if the rest of us are saints. We've done questionable things too, and they have absolutely no right to judge you for trying to be better; trying to live the life you want to."
"Is that what you think I'm doing?"
Rachel's mouth opens, and then closes as she pulls back to look at the blonde's face. "Is it not?"
Quinn smiles slowly, her mouth stretching into a perfect curve. "Sure, Berry, that's exactly what I'm doing."
"I honestly can't tell if you're messing with me or not."
Quinn laughs lightly. "I like to think of it as... I'm finally being true," she explains. "To myself, I mean. Does that make sense?"
"It makes a lot of sense."
"Good." She sighs heavily. "Now, can we please stop talking about this?"
Her eyes widen. "But, wait, I have one last question," Rachel says, and Quinn rolls her neck to settle her piercing gaze on Rachel's face, causing the brunette to lose her train of thought for a moment. "Uh," she sputters.
"What is it, Berry?"
"What - what are your thoughts on oat cookies?"
And, really, all Quinn can do is laugh.