"Bless you, sweetie," her mom called from the other side of the attic.
"Thanks," Quinn said, rubbing her nose. The two of them had spent the better part of Saturday afternoon sorting through dusty boxes in the storage space. Judy wanted every last item of Russell's out of the house, now that the divorce was final. Quinn thumbed through some old vinyls, making a mental note to come back and look the records over for Glee club inspiration, before setting them aside. Underneath, she found a box labeled, "Judy, HS," in fading marker. "Hey, Mom, come check this out."
"What is it?" Judy wiped her hands on her housework jeans and stood up from where she was crouched over a box full of golf tees and blank scorecards.
Quinn held up an old Polaroid of her mother in a cheer uniform, "Blast from the past."
Her mother laughed, taking the photo in-hand as she knelt down. "My goodness, I had forgotten just how short that skirt was. Of course, nothing as short as what they have you girls wearing now."
Quinn rolled her eyes before turning to pull out an old yearbook, "Class of '84" was embossed along the spine and the front cover. "Senior year?"
"Yep," Judy motioned for her daughter to look through the book. It fell open at a two-page spread of the prom, with an elegant, beaming Judy front-and-center next to a handsome blonde boy with serious eyes.
Quinn frowned, "You and," she hesitated, "Daddy?"
Judy traced the faces in the photo and sighed. "Yes, your father and me."
They sat in silence for a moment, Judy seemingly deep in thought and Quinn struggling to find something to say, not wanting her mother to focus any more on the pain of the divorce than she already had. "Well, you look beautiful, Mom."
That seemed to do the trick, making Judy smile and shake her head lightly. "I'll always remember that night—one of the best in my life. Up until my girls were born," she wraps an arm around Quinn's shoulders. "It was such an amazing feeling. Accepting that crown—it really meant something to me. Your grandparents were so proud. I had worked so hard for that title. It was like being a princess, even if just for one night." Reaching across with her other hand, Judy shut the book. "I hope you have that experience, too, Quinnie." Giving her daughter a quick kiss on top of her head, she adds, "I know even after everything that's happened, you can still earn it."
Quinn looks off to the side, trying her best not to grimace. She gives a lukewarm smile and nods with more confidence than she feels, "Of course, Mom. I got my place back with the Cheerios. I'm a shoo-in for prom queen."
Judy squeezes her shoulder and stands up, making her way back over to the abandoned sporting goods, leaving Quinn to stare blankly at the rest of the memorabilia spread out in front of her.
I hope I can do it. It would break Mom's heart if I didn't win.
Quinn dug her hands a little deeper in the pockets of her letterman jacket and scowled.
Why do more than half of my most uncomfortable confrontations happen in the ladies' room?
Reflexively, her hands were coaxed back out when Coach Sylvester offered her a sheet of paper—a resignation form for Glee. She stared, appalled, as the older woman also handed Brittany a crayon drawing "from" the human cannon.
If Santana isn't going to stick up for Brittany, than I will. I can't believe this.
"Coach, that cannon is going to get Brittany killed. Is that really worth it just to win a stupid national championship?" Quinn gestured angrily with her form.
"Seventh consecutive stupid national championship."
"This is ridiculous."
Coach Sylvester flicked her eyes up and down the head cheerleader, "You had quite a year last year, Q. And as I recall, you didn't have such a good time out of that Cheerios uniform." Quinn swallowed thickly as Coach turned to include the other two in her ultimatum, "Girls, I am giving you the chance right now to choose once and for all where your true loyalties lie. Choose the Cheerios or choose the Glee club."
Later, Quinn put on the toughest face she could manage to cover her guilt and sadness as she placed her signed form, along with Santana and Brittany's, onto Mr. Schuester's desk. She turned, with the other girls following suit, and walked out in silence. Her stomach was in knots. She lost her patience with Finn when he tried to confront her in the hallway and even pushed Sam away afterward, when he asked her if she wanted to talk about it.
I can't afford to lose my spot. None of them understand. It doesn't matter what Glee means to me, I can't risk it. I can't.
She refused to let herself look or even slow down as she passed the choir room door on her way out of the school.
The next few days were awful for Quinn. She couldn't stand the curious, hurt looks of the Glee clubbers in the halls. In fact, she had taken to simply not making eye contact with them at all. It only served to torment her conscience more, knowing that many of them probably perceived her avoidance as rejection instead of regret and shame. Puck shot her exasperated glares in class; Finn was always trying to catch her alone to berate her again about quitting. Tina actually did an about-face in the cafeteria line just so they didn't have to stand together. Quinn couldn't even bring herself to reply to a text from Mercedes begging her to reconsider.
Rachel was probably the worst, though. The girl had always worn her heart on her sleeve, which had made her an easy target in Quinn's bullying prime. But now? Now it was just excruciating. She'd promised herself she was going to stop channeling her frustrations into the shorter girl and had even been modestly successful in recent months. If Rachel's face expressed anything, though, it was that quitting Glee was just as hurtful for the tiny singer as any remarks made about her animal sweaters or jabs aimed at her femininity.
Quinn glanced past her locker door as she swapped out textbooks. Across the hall, leaning forlornly and staring intently back at her, was Rachel. Quickly, she snapped her eyes back to the contents of her locker, cursing herself.
This sucks. Everyone is mad at me. If they only understood the kind of pressure I'm under... .
The girl closed her eyes and leaned her head against the frame of her locker. After a few seconds spent collecting herself, she straightened and pushed the thoughts from her mind. Snapping the metal door shut, she turned and gave a startled yelp.
"Berry!" Quinn clutched at her heart, "What do you think you're doing sneaking up on someone like that?"
"Quinn, you could hardly say what I did was sneaking. I merely crossed the hallway and approached you. Although I was momentarily out of your line of sight due to the locker door, I never-"
The blonde growled, "Get to the point."
Rachel made a disapproving face, but changed tracks none the less. "I wanted to talk to you about your decision to quit Glee club."
"Save it," Quinn stepped past the other girl and started walking purposefully toward her next class.
Rachel, however, wasn't about to be ignored. She trotted a little to fall in step, "I understand that Coach Sylvester has put you in a compromising situation, but I must appeal to your-"
Quinn's stride came to an abrupt halt, causing the brunette to bounce lightly off her shoulder, which she ignored. "Listen, Berry, you don't understand a thing—not about me and not about my decision. Nothing you can say will convince me to rejoin that stupid club. Do you hear me? Now get lost!" The cheerleader stormed away, leaving Rachel clutching her textbooks to her chest in the middle of the hallway.
Rachel retorted under her breath, "I understand more than you think, Quinn Fabray. If you were less stubborn, and just listened to me, you'd know that." She shook her head and walked the other direction.
I can't believe I'm doing this.
Quinn is with Santana and Brittany, standing by the human cannon as Finn stares down at her in disbelief.
"Okay?" he asks, clearly shocked by how easy it was to convince her to quit the Cheerios.
"Okay," Quinn reiterates with a small nod and a smile.
It's probably kind of mean to let him think I'm doing this because of him, but now isn't really the time to talk about it.
Finn smiles at her and then shoots a glance to the side, "What about you, Santana?"
"Screw her, she put me on the bottom of the pyramid."
The boy was grinning now, "Come on, we've only got a few minutes."
They all turn to head toward the football field when Coach saunters over from the charter bus, "No time for a foursome, ladies, bus leaves in five."
The small group stops; Quinn shoots up an eyebrow, "We quit Cheerios."
"No, you can't quit Cheerios. It's blood in, blood out. Now get your sweet little cans on that bus."
Santana chimes in, "But we still quit."
"You're my stars; if you leave, I have no performance."
The teens smile at one another and turn away again, Brittany calls over her shoulder, "Sucks for you."
Quinn shrugs, "Sorry," and joins her friends.
I can't believe I'm doing this. I can't believe I just did that. Breath, Fabray. You will come up with something to stay on top. Just breath. This is the right thing to do. You've been depressed and angry all week. This is the right choice. Not just for you. You're saving Brittany, you're helping the football team. Helping Glee. Rachel. Rachel? I mean, well, yeah. She's part of Glee.
As they arrive at the field, Puck runs over and catches Finn by the elbow.
"Dude, I tried. I got Fritz-Mueller and Adams to come back, but the other guys weren't buying it. That ass Karofsky wouldn't keep his damn mouth shut. Hey, what are they doing here?" Puck gestured at the cheerleaders with his helmet.
Finn smiled at the girls, "Doing the right thing."
Puck looked from Finn to the girls, not exactly following, but Brittany delivers a surprisingly appropriate, if non sequitur, comment, "Nobody in Glee club would shoot me out of a cannon, right San?"
Santana smiles softly at the tall, blonde girl, "Course not, B."
"'Kay," Brittany nods resolutely, apparently having fully come to terms with their decision.
Quinn's eyebrows are threatening to creep up to her hair line, she interjects for Puck's sake, "We quit."
"Quit Cheerios?" he asks, half smirking, half in awe.
"Yeah, now what were you talking about? Only two guys?" Quinn pressed.
Finn wrinkles his brow, "Didn't Sam tell you?"
"Tell me what," frustration was leaking into her voice.
"Well, when the guys on football wouldn't do the halftime show, Coach Beiste said they couldn't play. We were gonna have to forfeit, but then... ."
"The girls sort of joined the team."
"What?" Quinn put a hand on her hip and gestured for a better explanation.
Puck held up a hand to Finn, who was obviously trying to work out what to say. "Look, Rachel, Mercedes, Tina and Lauren have been filling in so we have enough men on the field to play. I tried to get the team to do the show so Beiste would let them back on the team for the second half. They're not going for it, except the two guys I mentioned. We're gettin' it handed to us out there. Hard. But maybe with our a tackles back on and the smaller girls off the field, we've still got a chance."
Santana and Brittany exchanged a somewhat bewildered look. Quinn still wasn't sure what she thought of the girls playing football. It didn't seem like it should be permissible, but that wasn't the most immediate concern.
"Well," Quinn started, "we still have to get our zombie makeup and outfits on. Let's get going." With that, she marched along the side of the stands towards the locker rooms and everyone else followed her.
Despite the smaller group, the half-time show was still a success. The crowd loved the mash-up and Coach Beiste let Fritz-Mueller and Adams onto the field. Quinn had watched, slightly amused, as Finn tried to convince Rachel she should be one of the two girls to leave the game. The brunette had shouted at him profusely with her mouth guard in, occasionally pushing a finger stiffly into the boy's chest, despite his towering appearance. Beiste had to break them up, and from what Quinn could see from the sidelines, Mercedes and Tina had offered to resign from the game, which meant Rachel and Lauren were both mandatory to keep a full team. One of the refs approached the circle and made a hand signal, indicating it was time to get the game back on. The coach gave a firm stare to Finn and pointed him back out to the green, a triumphant Rachel Berry flaunting past him to join the huddle. Quinn turned her head to let out a little laughter, which was cut short when the whistle blew for the first snap of the second half.
Quinn cheered along with Brittany, Santana, Mercedes and Tina as the first few plays earned the Titans some yardage. Puck had been correct, having their tackles back was making a big difference. Every time a new scrimmage started, the former cheerleader watched anxiously as the tiny figure of Rachel Berry would drop to the ground as huge boys stampeded and collided around her. Even in all the padding, the girl was still ridiculously tiny.
Having her out there is almost as dangerous as putting Brittany into that cannon. She's going to get crushed.
Luck seemed to be with the star performer that evening, as she made it to the last few moments of the game and had only endured grass stains. The Titans were down by a field goal, but mere seconds remained on the clock. Finn had called for a timeout. Quinn and the rest of the girls shifted nervously, feeling the sense of loss creeping into the back of their minds.
Mercedes shook her head, "Well ya'll, it was a nice try. Just too bad."
"Yeah," Tina agreed, "it was pretty exciting to be out there playing, though."
Quinn was surprised when Santana cut the pair off, "You two would make the worst cheerleaders, I swear. It ain't over 'til it's over." She shook a pompom at them, menacingly so.
Only Santana can make pompoms intimidating.
Quinn rolled her eyes and brought her gaze back to the field. The huddle had just broken and Finn was shooting glances at Rachel every few seconds, to the point of distraction. As everyone took their positions, the Titan players began to groan. The Glee girls exchanged looks before realizing what was happening—psychological warfare. Coach Sylvester would have been proud, if she weren't screaming and knocking mp3 players and books out of the hands of a bus-full of terrified Cheerios, as she was likely doing at that exact moment.
Turning to the crowd, the zombified cheering section started a groaning chant for brains, attempting to help intimidate the team on offense. The clock started counting down again, the center hiked the ball, and then, well, a miracle happened.
The moment played in front of Quinn in slow motion. The quarterback, distracted by the inhuman howls from the Titans and the stands, fumbled the ball. Chaos ensued, as timid, confused wide receivers and guards starting getting creamed left and right by McKinley's players. In the madness, Quinn spotted a tiny red body crawling over crushed boys and between feet toward the stray ball, still going unnoticed by the opposition.
She can't possibly be planning to... .
But she was. Rachel scrambled onto her feet while scooping up the ball and took off at a run. An impressive run, in fact. Puck was shouting something to Adams and Lauren, both of whom started tailing Rachel, knocking down anyone who got within striking distance. Quinn covered her eyes as a particularly large player, number 59, barreled down the field toward the petite girl. It briefly crossed her mind that Artie might have a spare wheelchair for Rachel in the aftermath. Earsplitting cheers erupted from behind her and someone started shaking her shoulders. When Quinn looked up, she saw every player in red flocking to Rachel, hoisting her up in the air.
"We won!" Brittany screamed in Quinn's ear.
"W-we won?" Quinn looked around and saw everyone screaming, hugging. "We won! Go Titans!" She grinned back at Brittany and they, along with the other girls, ran out onto the field to join the team in celebration.
I can't believe she did it, Quinn mused, yelling herself hoarse and watching as Rachel dramatically alternated between blowing kisses and throwing up victorious number-one hands, while being paraded around on Puck's shoulders. Rachel is amazing. Crazy, but amazing.
Judy was startled when her daughter slipped through the front door, holding her duffel bag.
"Quinn, honey, why aren't you on the bus to nationals? What's going on?" Judy set aside the novel she'd been reading and hurried over to her daughter.
"Mom, nothing's wrong, okay? I just, I just... ." Quinn felt a lump rising in her throat. Her energy from the win was mixing with her apprehension, "We won the football game," she tried.
Judy put her hands on Quinn's shoulders, but the concern didn't leave her face. "That's great news, sweetie, but why aren't you on the bus with the rest of the Cheerios?"
Quinn visibly sagged at the name of her former cheer team and hot tears started to spill over her cheeks, "I—I quit." She couldn't look at her mother anymore, so she dropped her eyes to the floor.
"But you were so excited to be captain again. Quinn, did something happen?"
Quinn was fully crying now, "I don't want to talk about it, please?"
Judy frowned, but saw that this was one of those moments she had failed at in the past. Her daughter needed support, needed to be a teenager entitled to confusing feelings and she didn't need someone to force her back into a statuesque doll. So she did what Russell would never have approved of—she wrapped her arms around her daughter and let her cry. "It's okay. I'm here, it's okay."
Quinn dropped her bag and returned the hug, thankful she didn't have to hash over the events leading up to the game. Despite the comfort, she felt guilty. She would have to explain eventually and explaining meant facing her mother's disappointment.
How will I ever be prom queen now?
She cried harder.
Thankfully, Quinn's mother didn't bring up cheerleading again for the rest of the weekend. They had gotten lunch out and gone shopping, which had helped to mask a lot of the foreboding Quinn felt. After dinner Sunday night, she retired to her room and tried to puzzle out what she could do about prom.
Okay, think Fabray. Prom is a popularity contest. Other things must be able to make you popular. What else have you got besides splits?
She cupped her chin, elbow on her desk.
Well, cheer is a sport. Maybe if I joined a different sports team... .
Her thoughts wandered to images of softball players and girls in basketball jerseys.
Actually, she frowned, maybe not. Girl athletes, that has a bit of a … a stigma attached to it. What else? Being in clubs doesn't really do it, otherwise Berry would be prom queen.
She scoffed at that thought, wondering idly what it would take to make Rachel Berry the prom queen. Her subconscious filled in some images from Carrie, leaving her with a little shudder.
Definitely not a pleasant thought. Rachel is crazy enough, with her schemes on stardom and other people's boyfriends... . Wait, that's it! Her eyes lit up. We just won the championship game—if I'm dating the quarterback on a championship winning team, I can still be prom queen. Yes!
Quinn pushed back from her chair and began pacing her room.
Rachel and Finn have been split up for a while. Santana wasn't interested in Finn to begin with, so no competition there. I can just...oh. Sam. She glanced down at her hand, at the promise ring he'd given her. This is going to hurt him. It was silly of me to accept the ring. But the status was so useful and he's a nice guy. A doofus sometimes, but a nice guy. Her pacing slowed, she twisted the ring on her finger. I guess I'll have to talk to him this week. Maybe we can still be friends. He can't have been very satisfied. I mean, with my chastity rules and everything. It's probably for the best anyway. She paused in her pacing in front of her mirror.
Who am I kidding? It's the best for me because that's all I ever think about—me. I have to do this for mom. She's all I have left and if I disappoint her again, then where will I be?
She gazed at herself in the mirror. "Where would I be?"
Sam didn't have time to chat with her on Monday between classes and he had football right after school. It was Tuesday morning and Quinn was craning her neck, trying to spot her blonde boyfriend in the halls before first period. He came around a corner, waving to Mike who split off to go to his own class. She made meaningful eye contact with him and he grinned, heading her way.
"Look, I need to talk to-" she began, but was interrupted.
"Did you hear?" he asked with a little glint in his eyes.
She shook her head, confused, "Did I hear what?"
Just then, a modest bang rang out in the hallway and the two of them turned to see Finn walking away from a former football player, whom he had apparently shoved into a locker.
Quinn scrunched her eyebrows and turned back to Sam.
"Finn's pissed," he said.
"What's going on?" she looked from her boyfriend to the back of the boy glowering his way down the hall.
"At practice after school yesterday... ." Sam tried to inject a dramatic pause, which earned him a withering gaze from Quinn. He pressed his lips together into a half smile shrugged, resigning to her lack of playfulness. "Coach Beiste made Rachel the quarterback."
Quinn's eyes were as wide as saucers and her mouth fell slightly open, "She what?"
"I know, right? Lekye'ung." Her mouth snapped shut and the corners turned down. Sam sighed, "It's Na'vi for 'crazy.' Hey, we better get to class. Talk to you later, okay?" He swooped in and planted a kiss on her cheek before walking away.
"Crazy," she muttered.
What am I going to do now?