Chapter 4: Conflict of Interest
Quinn Lucy Fabray, to her credit, had a very large heart. She held a surprising amount of love inside herself for nearly everyone. She was one of those daughters who made sure to give each of her parents a hug every night before going to bed, and she was the best friend in the world to those who managed to get close to her. She experienced her own emotions at a much more acute level than most people did, which made her sense of humanity far greater than anyone could have expected, which, despite her condemning and judgemental religious upbringing, made her view compassion and tolerance as two of the most important lessons the world needed to learn. She despised the way the group of people she hung out with singled kids out at school for being "uncool" or different. It pained her to watch the people she called her friends throw those ice cold, will-without-a-doubt-stain-your-clothes slushies, and it broke her heart to see that the recipients of the daily slushy facials just accepted it and moved on – they had given in to the idea that having freezing, artificially colored corn syrup tossed on them was their fate because they were in a certain club or dressed a certain way.
It tore Quinn apart a little bit more every time it happened. And that was a secret she held with an extremely tight fist.
She walked into school that morning in an uncommon, genuinely good mood. It was the last day of school before winter break, which meant that not a single teacher would be expecting any of their students to be paying attention in class, and that the following two weeks would be spent watching Christmas movies with Brittany and Santana, all snuggled up on the couch, stuffing her face with about three times as much turkey as Coach Sylvester had said the Cheerios were allowed to have, laughing at her mother as she sang Christmas carols off key with Franny accompanying her on the piano and rolling her eyes, spending an ungodly amount of time with her family in general, which she secretly loved because her sister was almost never home and her dad finally came out of his office-turned-batcave. She would not so sneakily have champagne instead of the sparkling cider on New Year's Eve, and just generally spend time soaking in the holiday spirit. It was the most wonderful time of the year, after all. It was the one part of the year when every member of her family was seriously determined to get along and be merry. Somehow they always seemed to manage it. Of course she would look forward to it.
Quinn was also in a particularly good mood because she was feeling good about herself as a person. A few weeks previously, Finn had confronted her and essentially told her that even though he knew it would get him knocked down several pegs on the social ladder, he wanted to join the glee club and would, whether she liked it or not. She had been rather taken aback, but at the time she had been feeling that since Finn was her boyfriend, it was probably in the best interest of their relationship if she encouraged him and the things he wanted to do instead of putting them down. So, with the preface saying she didn't think it was a particularly wise idea, she gave him her tentative blessing and sent him off to find the French teacher or Spanish teacher or whoever it was that coached the glee club with a somewhat forced smile and a quick peck on the cheek.
It eased the grip on her heart a bit to know that she did something nice for Finn. It would have been just as easy to put on an icy glare and essentially bully the tall boy into forgetting his plan and leaving the glee club to gather dust. It was what any other Cheerio in her position would have done. No, actually, any other member of the Cheerios would have first bullied him into submission then forced him to slushy one or two unfortunate members of the club he was almost a part of. Really, she was a saint among the cheerleaders of McKinley.
It was pleasant, if she was honest with herself, to know that she'd been able to grant someone else a bit of happiness. It helped to lessen the guilt that tugged on her heart strings every time she stood and watched every other member of her team torture, torment, and tear down the rest of the student body.
But Quinn wasn't thinking about that. In fact, she was actively focusing on anything else, because as soon as she left school that day, she'd have a full two weeks to forget everything that went on at her school.
She stopped first at her locker to put the books she'd needed to do her homework the night before away and collect the books she would be needing for her first couple of classes that day before slamming the door closed and strutting down the hallway, throwing a half-fake confident smile on her face when the mass of chattering students parted to let her pass. She met up with Brittany and Santana were murmuring to each other with sly grins on their faces at their lockers. Quinn still wasn't sure how they had managed to trade so that their lockers were next to each other. She did, however, know that Santana had quite the mean streak and that the two spent more time together than teenage boys spent thinking about sex.
She shook it off, and decided not to think on it too much. She approached her two best friends with a quirked eyebrow. "Hey you two. What's with the muttering? Scheming for your next evil mission?"
Brittany's face flashed an expression of momentary awe. "Yeah, how did you know? Are you like that psychic girl on TV? 'Cause I think you're supposed to have a bird name if you are. We could start calling you Quail…"
"Britt, no way is Blondie over there the next That's So Raven. And she was just joking." She turned back to Quinn. "We were just discussing who this morning's slushy should go to. I think it's an honor worthy of Wheels McFour-eyes down the hall," she gestured to a boy in a wheelchair who Quinn knew was named Artie Abrams. She'd seen him rolling around with those other glee club kids. Not that she'd been keeping an eye on them since Finn joined or anything. "but Britt wants to toss it on Aretha."
"Of course I do. Her name should be Hot Chocolate." Brittany stared down the other end of the hallway, and Quinn followed her gaze until it landed on Mercedes Jones, who looked like she was gossiping away with that Asian girl who stuttered and barely spoke loud enough to hear. Quinn hadn't caught her name yet.
Santana's voice interrupted her thoughts. "Or we could always share the magic of slushy facials with Frankenteen, otherwise known as Mr. Q Fabray, since he so willingly signed up to be among the biggest losers at this school."
Quinn whipped around to see her boyfriend walking casually down the hall with that guy Puck, who had his arm slung lazily around the shoulders of, of all people, Rachel Berry.
She tried not to scowl and huffed internally when she remembered that Puck too had joined the glee club. She still didn't understand why they were so eager to stomp all over the lines that divided the students at McKinley. It was a lovely notion, to be sure, that anyone from any clique could go off and be friends with anyone from any other clique, but it was an idealist's dream. They were only asking for disaster.
"No, don't. He is still on the football team. That still makes him one of us. Go for the chess club nerds. They're easy pickings." Her voice came out only slightly panicked, and she felt that beautiful, gratifying wave of relief wash over her when the dark-haired girl nodded her consent. Who knows what people would start saying about her if her boyfriend became one of the victims of morning slushies?
Quinn walked out of Cheerios practice in one of the best moods she could remember being in in her entire life. Coach had spent the entire time telling the rest of the girls that she could replace them all with monkeys and they would give a better performance, while the only criticism she got was that she needed to get herself a show smile and stop looking constipated when the really strenuous parts of the routine came about. She was practically guaranteed the role of head Cheerio for next year.
Bringing home news like that was something she knew her father would be happy about. She'd probably even get a toast at the dinner table.
Being done with her cheerleading practice also meant that she was free and clear for winter vacation. There was nothing keeping her from going home, changing into her favorite pair of worn out sweats, and lying on the couch in front of the television with a bowl of popcorn for hours on end. If she was lucky her mom might have one of her fits of nostalgia and put on a Disney movie marathon like they did when Quinn was little. She stopped herself from physically crossing her fingers.
She walked her usual path through the school to get to the parking lot. She had to backtrack a bit when she heard familiar voices emanating from the choir room. She thought the glee club would have gone home by now.
She peered through the skinny window in the door, bending down so her eyes only just came above the bottom of the glass.
At first she was confused, because as far as she could see, the room was devoid of any human life. She almost jumped out of her skin when two bodies came spinning out of nowhere into her line of vision, one ridiculously tall, the other looking like a dwarf next to him.
Finn and Rachel circled each other and sang at each other with surprisingly fierce intensity. They paused and both stood on either side of the piano that stood just off the center of the room. The song reached a climactic point, and they both closed their eyes and bent their knees in order to belt it out.
Quinn was trapped in a state of embarrassing admiration. She never knew her boyfriend could sing like that. His voice was actually pretty fantastic. But as much as she was impressed by this newfound talent of Finn's, it was the petite girl across from him who really grabbed her attention. There was no way to deny it. Rachel Berry had the voice of a damn star.
As the song came to an end, Rachel and Finn walked around the piano toward each other. They spun around a few times and finished with each of them having one arm around the other's back.
And that was when Quinn snapped.
The loose embrace was certainly chaste enough, but the sight of Finn with his hand on Rachel's hip sent a hurricane of what she could only assume was jealousy surging through her body. Quinn had never been jealous when it came to a boy before. Her nostrils flared and she dug her fingernails into her palms as she fought to suppress her sudden urge to kick the door open police-style and confront them.
She didn't know what was happening. Envy was one of the seven deadly sins, and she'd always prided herself on never feeling the demonic pangs of jealousy. She chose to ignore the irony. Until just then, she'd kept a spotless personal record of always being the calm and reasonable one.
When the initial shock of realizing that she actually felt jealous of Finn and Rachel subsided, Quinn was only left with irrational anger and a bitter taste in her mouth. She would have tried to spit it out if she hadn't been taught from the day she was born how ladies were supposed to act. In her house, improper etiquette was right up there with sex before marriage.
Quinn's first instinct was to barge in and blow up at Finn, but the part of her brain that still functioned like a person who wasn't fighting a boiling temper told her that it probably wasn't an intelligent idea. Storming in and screaming her lungs out over something that really wasn't anything would only make her one of those clingy, bitchy girlfriends who everyone rolled their eyes at. So she stayed put.
She couldn't dispel the angry fire still roaring in her stomach, though. She decided her best option was to just aim her rage at the pretty little thing her boyfriend was currently joking around with and throwing shy little smiles at when her back was turned. It made her skin crawl. She knew as she fumed silently out of the school that when everyone came back from break and she saw Rachel Fucking Berry again, she would throw her first slushy.