Thanks for the reviews :) Sorry for the delay. Blame my birthday and Easter all happening in the same week. Anyway, here's the next chapter.
Remember Those Walls I Built?
On Monday morning there was another note in her locker, exactly the same as before, but that was the last communication she had with Quinn – they kept to themselves in American Lit, no words exchanged, no notes passed and kept their sidelong glances whenever they passed between classes to a minimum – until lunch time on Wednesday when she confronted the cheerleader for not showing up in Glee for the past two days.
"You went out of your way to get me to come back and then you just quit?"
"I haven't quit. I just need a break from you."
"Since when do I need a reason to not spend time near you, Berry? Now get away from my locker."
"No, you have to come back. The boys were really good and we need you to help us win. We're doing a mash-up of Walking On Sunshine and Halo and it's going to be really fun, Quinn. Please come back and help us be great."
Quinn looked at her from the corner of her eye and lowered her voice to a rough whisper. "They're talking about us!"
"I'm really not."
"Okay, so say they are? How is you leaving the second I return quelling any rumors?"
Quinn looked down for a beat and then slammed her locker door and walked away.
That afternoon she was back in Glee.
The only upside to the vitamin D debacle was that all of the Glee clubbers were feeling shame-faced and not really making eye contact with each other for a few days – well, with the exception of Puck who didn't care – so the renewed animosity between Rachel and Quinn just seemed normal to everyone else even if it felt awkward to the two of them.
It only became noticeable the following Tuesday after another completely silent American Lit. class.
A rumor began circling – outside of Glee club – that Rachel Berry had offered sexual favors to some hockey players in exchange for a slushie hit on Quinn Fabray.
Despite the fact that no slushie was ever thrown at Quinn and that Rachel had vehemently denied all knowledge of it, the following day she was attacked by two lime-flavored, ice-based projectiles. They were thrown simultaneously by Quinn and Santana and the cheerleaders' laughter followed her down the hall and into the nearest bathroom.
Rachel was just trying to dry her hastily washed hair with paper towels when Kurt, Mercedes, Tina and Artie came in behind her.
She was instantly suspicious, "What do you all want?"
"Team-Berry," Artie said, like it was some kind of sensible explanation.
"I don't understand."
"Obviously you and Quinn have suffered a terrible yet inevitable break up," Kurt began.
Rachel rolled her eyes and turned back to the mirrors. "You can't break up if you were never together to start with."
"Whatever," Mercedes shrugged. "You two fighting has split Glee club down the middle. It's cheerleaders and jocks versus us again."
"Really?" Artie asked. "When Quinn's pissed she seems to like to spread it around by preying on the weakest. We are the weakest and we're right there in her face every afternoon."
"And Puck and Santana have never even needed that much reason to torment us," Kurt remind her. "Now it's like they're on a mission."
"It's been one day! And I don't see any of you wiping slushie from your faces."
"They got me this morning," Mercedes said angrily. "I was hardly in the door."
"Santana . . . Santana! . . .tossed me in a dumpster while I was walking to third period," Kurt sniffed.
"And we're scared i-it's going to get w-w-worse."
"For you?" Rachel clarified.
"For all of us . . . but mostly us, yes," Kurt said smoothly. "But we named the team after you."
"Team-Berry?" Rachel laughed because the whole thing was ludicrous and yet the name did have a certain fantastic ring to it. "Okay, and what does it involve."
"M-mostly just s-s-sticking together."
"Strength in numbers, you know?" Mercedes agreed. "We'll just hang out at lunch and in the halls together so if one of us sees a Big Quench coming we can sound the alarm."
Rachel agreed for only two reasons – genuine friendships might grow out of a period of forced togetherness and it would really aggravate Quinn to see her surrounded by friends.
"Okay, I'm in. Can we get team t-shirts?"
"Only if we change the name," Kurt compromised.
Rachel sighed. She'd expected an answer just like that.
"So, Tina, Artie and I all have Chemistry now. How about you two?"
"French," Kurt said.
Mercedes had, "Home Ec."
"Well, they're in the same wing and if we leave now we can walk you both over there and still be back to the Chem lab before the period starts."
Everyone agreed with her – which was a nice change of pace – and Kurt strode ahead to open the door. When it didn't immediately swing open he pulled the handle harder.
Mercedes bumped him out of the way. "Here, let me try."
From the muffled sound of Santana's cackling Rachel knew it would be a fruitless effort.
"They locked us in?" Artie sounded like he couldn't believe it.
Having once been locked out on the roof for almost an entire night by Quinn and her henchwomen, she could only too well believe it.
"We're all g-going t-to be late for class!"
"I'd prepare yourselves to be late for dinner too," she told them, "and missing whatever curfews you might have."
"Oh, hell no!" Mercedes pulled on the door handle even harder but of course it didn't budge.
Principal Figgins was irrationally paranoid that a violent student riot could break out at any moment and last year he'd deemed that the ability to lock down sections of the school like a prison was a necessary financial outlay. Now every door could be locked from the inside and the outside if you had the means to do so. Rachel didn't know how the head Cheerio and her sidekick had procured the Janitor's master key once again, but evidently they had.
The five of them stood around dejected for a few minutes.
"We're on the ground floor," Kurt remembered. "We can just climb through the window."
"I won't fit through that tiny thing," Mercedes said.
"And I can't wheel up walls."
"Only o-o-one of us has to g-go through the window and find a t-teacher."
They all turned to her and as the smallest person there, Rachel couldn't really argue.
Once they were all finally out of the bathroom things only escalated.
Kurt was slushied by Puck on the way to fifth period while Tina caught a slushie facial actually in fifth period.
Mercedes' locker had been glued shut. Rachel found that the entire contents of hers had been stolen – text books, class work and personal items – with only a note left in their place.
You'll find your garbage where it belongs. x
A kiss? She'd actually added a kiss!
Incensed to a level she could never remember being before, Rachel stormed down the corridors, finding her property outside the cafeteria in the third trash can she checked. Unsurprisingly it was already underneath leaking drink cups and cans and sticky food containers. What was a little surprising was that everything had been placed in a thick clear plastic bag before being dumped. Had it just been easier to transport it that way or had the plastic protection been intentional? She'd probably never know and it was still so gross having to reach in there and pull the slimy bag out.
Rachel had assumed Artie was the only one of them who escaped the afternoon's bullying, until Kurt received a text in the sixth period class they shared.
"Artie's in a dumpster," he whispered. They didn't normally sit together, but today was different.
Kurt showed her the text. Puck and Matt had lifted him in between periods, chair and all.
"We have to go and get him out!"
Kurt held his hands up in a frustrated gesture. "And how do you suggest we do that? Between us we could barely lift just his chair out."
He had a point even if it was slightly exaggerated. Making up her mind, Rachel stood up and approached the only other Glee member that shared this particular class with them.
The teacher turned from the board to glare at her but she held up a hand before he could speak.
"I'm extremely sorry for interrupting your lesson, Mr. Matthews, but this is an emergency. Finn, Artie is, at this very moment, languishing in a dumpster. We need you to help us save him."
To his credit, Finn didn't even hesitate. "We'll be right back, Mr. Matthews."
The three of them hurried from the room before the teacher could stop them.
"How could you help them?" Quinn hissed as she dragged her boyfriend by the arm to the Choir room.
"How could you make them put Artie in a dumpster?" he shot back. "What's he ever done to you?"
He succeeded in making her feel guilty, but it didn't last long. "I didn't make Puck and Matt do anything. They acted on their own."
"Oh please, Quinn, you are the only person at this school who has enough pull to make the football players and the cheerleaders do what you want."
That was true.
"If it was just Artie I might believe they'd acted alone, but everyone's being targeted. I've been expecting my own slushie facial all day!"
"Yeah, well if you help Manhands out again, you might just get one."
"What is wrong with you? Is it, like, baby hormones making you crazy or something? If I get you some peach ice cream will you chill out?"
She made a grrr sound in her throat. He just didn't understand anything!
"Just get inside."
She held the door open for him, but only because she'd spotted what was coming down the corridor behind them. Once he was out of the way she acted, her timing perfect as she slammed the door closed.
She laughed as she heard the thud of Berry walking into it.
Rachel still held the stinging tip of her nose in one hand as she listened to Mr. Schuester give them that week's assignment. Luckily it hadn't started bleeding but she was sure it was swelling to twice its normal size, and really, even she knew it was large enough already.
"So I want you to split up into boys and girls again but this time you're to pick a singer or band, of your gender, and each of you choose one song from that artist's back catalogue to sing as a solo."
"What are you hoping to achieve from this lesson, Mr. Schue?"
Oh Barbra, was her voice sounding nasal all of a sudden. If her singing ability was compromised in any way because of this she was going to hunt Quinn down and . . . and . . . do something the blonde wouldn't appreciate, that was for sure.
"I want to assess your ranges and learn what you're all most comfortable with. Limiting you to one artist will provide a better oversight of that."
"Give us an example," Puck asked.
"Well, okay, say you boys chose . . . Bon Jovi again. If one of you decided to sing Keep the Faith and someone else picked Always I'd know what kind of pacing and lyrical dexterity you feel most at home with. This is mostly just an exercise in learning your current aptitudes but I also want you to pick songs that mean something to you, that speak to you, because that way you'll really feel it when you're singing and that's when your talent will shine. Sectionals will be here before we know it and . . ."
Rachel tuned him out as she started coming up with a list of female singers that would best showcase her range and talent. Obviously one name rose to the top.
"Okay, get into your groups."
As soon as all the girls were sat together, she began. "Okay, I think it's obvious to all of us that Celine Dion should be our female artist of choice. Her vocal range alone . . ."
"She sings mostly love ballads and that's not what we're supposed to be doing," Quinn said, her voice withering.
"Yeah, we need someone who mixes it up a little," Santana agreed. "Or else we're all going to sound exactly the same."
Rachel deflated, annoyed that they had a point. "Okay, then I think we should choose . . ."
"Nobody cares what you think, Manhands."
She glared at Quinn before looking from Mercedes to Tina for support. "What do you ladies think?"
"Well, I'd suggest Aretha but you white girls couldn't cut it."
Rachel watched Quinn bristle. "Really? Do you really want me to embarrass you by performing Aretha Franklin better than you?"
"Oh, I'd like to see you . . ."
"What about K-katy P-p-perry?"
"W-w-what about her?"
"Enough," Rachel snapped when Tina shrank in on herself at Santana's mocking. "This is Glee club and whatever animosity may lie between us in other areas of our lives, it should stay at the door of this room."
She was surprised and yet not when Quinn spoke up. "Treasure Trail is right. Glee is about expressing ourselves musically, not through insults. But . . ." She glared right at Rachel. " . . . you better be sure that I intend to express myself all over you when I sing my solo."
Santana was laughing even before Brittany said, "That sounded really dirty."
Quinn went red and Rachel ducked her head to hide her smirk.
"It came out wrong. Just shut up, Britt, and pick a singer."
"How can I shut up and pick a singer?"
"Just do it."
"Wait, why does Brittany get to choose?" Mercedes asked, annoyed.
"Because I said so."
Brittany had been staring intently at the floor but now she looked up with determination. "Elton John!"
Rachel rolled her eyes. "A female singer!"
"Watch your tone, Stubbles!" Santana snapped.
"Oh, then Kelly Clarkson."
"Seriously?" Mercedes asked.
Rachel noticed that not only her, but Santana and Quinn were also giving Brittany disappointed looks.
"Yeah, she's like America's idol. That makes her awesome, right?"
"Seriously?" Mercedes asked again.
"Yeah, why not? She's really hot."
"Isn't there anyone else you'd rather sing?" Santana asked.
"No, and Quinn said I got to pick."
There was a collective sigh, but then Rachel said, "Kelly Clarkson it is, then. Unfortunately I'm not familiar with much of her work. I have a feeling I'm going to be spending most of this evening on iTunes."
Quinn nodded, "Me too."
Their eyes met in mutual commiseration and Rachel almost smiled. She was pretty sure that Quinn almost did too.
They didn't though.
Rachel was the first one to start a dialogue the following morning in American Lit.
I get why you are picking on me, actually I don't, but then you've never needed a reason before. But why bring everyone else into it?
For a moment it looked as though Quinn wasn't going to respond, but then she tapped her pen on the desk a few times before sighing and giving in.
I overheard Mercedes and Kurt talking a few days ago, about making you their scapegoat
Quinn crossed the last word out and wrote in sheild instead and then with a frustrated shake of her head drew a line through that too and wrote safe-goat!
Rachel's lips quirked in a confused but amused expression as she wrote: I don't understand.
Do you seriously believe they only started getting slushied and thrown in dumpsters yesterday? You're an idiot. They thought that hanging out with you now would keep them safe.
I know, safety in numbers, not that it's working.
No, not safety in numbers! They think they're safe because we're dating or something. They think if they pretend to be your friends that they'll stop getting bullied.
But we're not dating!
I'm pretty sure I'm already aware of that.
But it has intensified for them since you declared war on me.
Maybe I just don't like their attitudes.
Rachel actually smiled at that. She thought she'd hidden it pretty well until she saw the smiley drawn on Quinn's notepad. The blonde quickly scribbled it out though.
You know they're not your friends. They're just using you.
Something I'm used to, thanks to you. And at least they're on my side.
Rachel went back to not concentrating on the lesson. It was becoming a habit. She was probably going to fail American Literature at this rate.
Anyway YOU declared war on me.
I did no such thing.
You tried to get me slushied, Berry.
Rachel laughed under her breath at the absurdity of it.
You don't honestly believe that I offered David Karofsky my body in exchange for that? If I wanted you slushied, I'd do it myself.
Sure you would. You'd never have the guts!
Five minutes into the lunch period Quinn was trembling, or shivering, as a slushie dripped down her face. She was grateful that Rachel had at least given her enough time to clean up before class started again, and that she'd bought raspberry flavor. It was the only one that didn't make her nauseous. In fact, after Rachel's neck it was the second best cure for actually settling her stomach. She wondered if Rachel knew that somehow or if it was just a fluke.
Not that she was feeling queasy just now so much as furious and, oddly, kind of thrilled by Berry's audacity. While getting a slushie in the face was the exact opposite of hot, clashing with Rachel, however disturbing it might be, really was. When the fire rose in Rachel's eyes, and Quinn knew it was burning because of her, for her, oh yeah, that was . . . hot.
Still, she thought, wiping a hand down her sticky face and accidentally forcing slush to slide over her chin and down her neck in icy trails, it might be a good idea if the two of them made a pact to leave the slushies out of their flirting in future.
Santana was primed and ready for the kill but Quinn caught her arm before she could race after Rachel.
"We'll get her later."
"But . . .!"
"She's surrounded by losers right now. We'll get her when she's alone."
"Yeah, okay," Santana smirked viciously. "That works."
It was only minutes later, as she was heading to the locker rooms to shower and change into a clean uniform that her thoughts caught up with her. She grew hot under the collar, melting the flavored ice clinging to her neckline. She had to duck her head; suddenly unable to make eye-contact with anyone as she cringed in dismay.
Fighting! She'd meant, leave it out of their fighting, not . . . not . . . !
Oh, God, her entire life was a nightmare.
Rachel found a note in her locker after school.
Congratulations, you do have guts. Stupid, idiotic guts that are going to get your ass kicked, but still, I'm vaguely impressed by them. If you know what's good for you you'll keep your merry band of user losers around you at all times for the next few days. x
New rule: No more slushies – they take too long to clean up and they're really cold, Rachel! Did you know that? ;) And they're not exactly original either. I think we can both do better, don't you ;) x
Multiple winks, multiple kisses? Rachel was beaming by the time she'd read the note for the second time. Folding it up carefully, she pushed it into her bag – this one was going in the yearbook (her yearbook at home, not the school's next addition due out in a few months) with the letter.
Of course, the threat at the end was a little disconcerting, she wasn't sure she wanted to find out just how creative Quinn could get, not like this. Then again, by her own wording Quinn was granting Rachel the chance to join her, match her, best her if possible, in a battle much more stimulating than throwing drinks at each other would ever be.
Naturally she was going to rise to the challenge, if only to turn Quinn's vaguely impressed into very impressed. So really, the only question she had about it all was:
What did the winner get?
Rachel couldn't wait to find out.