ellydash: (gold stars for rachel)
[personal profile] ellydash
Title: A Scheme, Starring Rachel Berry, with Music and Lyrics by Rachel Berry (and Sam Evans)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] ellydash  
Pairing: Rachel Berry/Sam Evans
Rating: R
Word count: 9,351
Warnings: None
Spoilers: Through 2x16 (Original Song).
Note: Set during Original Song and just after. Written for the [livejournal.com profile] glee_rare_pairs exchange for [livejournal.com profile] lynnearlington. Posted in two parts due to length.

Summary: Rachel’s running after Finn. Sam’s running after Quinn. Eventually, they realize they’re running side by side.

Part One

<5:34> hey is this rachel

<5:34> Yes, this is Rachel Berry’s phone. Who’s texting, please?

<5:36> Its sam
<5:36> Sam from glee
<5:37> Sam w blond hair

<5:37> Of course I know who you are, Sam. How did you get my number? I don’t remember giving it to you.

<5:39> Puck gave it 2 m
<5:40> I let hi mbeat me at mario kart last nite so hed be in a good mood
<5:40> Otherwise hed give me a hard time for asknig
<5:41> It was rainbow road on the 150cc setting

<5:44> That sounds very impressive. Is there a reason you’re texting me? I don’t mean to sound suspicious, but usually when someone texts me it’s because they want to taunt me or say something hurtful

<5:44> Yeah theres somthing i want to ask

<5:45> just because they can. And you’ve never done anything to me that suggests you’re the kind of person who would be mean, but I think you’ll understand if I’m a little gun shy.

<5:47> No I wouldnt do any of that to u
<5:47> U really think I would do that bc I wouldnt
<5:48> Could I call u. I want to ask you a ?

<5:50> I think you forgot a word before the question mark. What do you want to ask me?

<5:51> Question
<5:51> I mean I want to ask u a question
<5:52> Its hard to do over txt
<5:52> I just wanted to make sure it was ok to call first

<5:53> It’s absolutely all right. You can ask me anything.

<5:54> K cool
<5:56> Im calling now
<6:01> K calling

It's been nearly a week since their encounter at regionals, but Sam's still inching through Rachel's thoughts during quiet parts of her day, not letting up. She’ll be sitting in history class, or standing at her locker, and he’ll sneak in off the edges of her memory, that smile of his lighting up parts of her brain she can’t name. What all this means she doesn’t want to know, and purposefully doesn’t spend time worrying about. There’s enough on her plate, what with thinking ahead to nationals and coming up with ways to get Finn to love her again.

It’s very inconvenient, then, that just the knowledge Sam’s going to call her makes her hands sweat and her chest ache. It’s a familiar, unwanted echo of how she’d felt last year, when Finn promised the same. K calling, his text says, and so of course she’s been staring at the screen of her phone for the last three minutes, each second stacking on top of the previous one like building blocks.

When her phone buzzes, she’s almost embarrassed by how relieved she feels.

“Hey,” he says, when she answers, and it might be Rachel’s imagination, but he sounds a little nervous. “It’s Sam.”

“I know.” Honestly, the list of people that would realistically be on the other end of the line is limited to a number that equals her shoe size. If she’s being generous. Maybe her shoe size in fourth grade. “Hi, Sam.”

“Hi.” There’s a brief pause. “Sorry it took me so long to call. I was gonna call, and then my dad came in the room and wanted to talk about something that happened on The Good Wife last night. I don't know. He’s gone now. I told him to go find my sister and tell her about it. She’ll be mad at me later, because my dad kind of goes on and on, but I don’t really care.”

Rachel has no idea how to respond to this information. “Okay,” she says, finally. “I’m glad he’s gone. I mean, I’m sure your dad is very nice, but – what I’m trying to say is that I’m glad you called.”

“Me too.”

Another silence.

“So I want your help to write a song,” Sam blurts out. “I want to write Quinn a song that convinces her I'm the right guy. Something romantic. You’d be good at that. Would you help me?”

She begins talking immediately, because it’ll keep her from feeling the full strength of that kick of disappointment low in her belly. What did she want, anyway? For Sam to declare some kind of undying affection? She doesn’t want that. She wants Finn. “I could do that. Are you sure that Quinn would like it, though? I mean, like you said, she wasn’t swayed by your Bieber tribute, even though all of – everyone else was completely charmed.”

“I thought about that. But I was also thinking I could make a list of everything amazing about Quinn, and put that into a song, and she’d be so impressed I paid that much attention to her that she’d want to be with me.” He pauses. “And then Finn would be single again.”

It’s so obvious she can’t believe she didn’t think of it first. The object to getting Finn back isn’t directly through Finn, it’s through removing Quinn. Once he’s deprived of her perfect features and lustrous hair, he’ll be so disoriented Rachel can just hold out her arms and catch him as he stumbles. (Metaphorically, of course. Maybe literally, considering his general lack of physical coordination.)

“We’d both get what we want,” she says, slowly. “Yes. Let’s try it. I’ll provide a woman’s perspective in addition to my trophy-winning writing skills and perfect pitch. With your boy-band good looks and presentation skills, we’ll make a formidable team.”

“All right.” He sounds like he’s pumping his fist. “You’re the best, Rachel. Thank you so much. After school on Monday? I could come over to your place.”

It still makes her buzz with happiness, hearing him say such nice things about her. She’d like to thank him, in return, for noticing, but doesn’t. There’s something to be said for a little humility every once in a while, especially when you’re planning to work towards becoming a more mature person.

Sam brings with him one of the rhyming dictionaries Mr. Schue had given them during rehearsal, before regionals; he lugs in his guitar, too, and tells her he’s got a few CDs in his backpack. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Vanessa Carlton’s Be Not Nobody. Jay Sean’s All or Nothing. “For inspiration,” he explains, unlatching the guitar case on the floor as Rachel sits carefully on her bed. “We might get stuck, and if we do we can listen to one of the CDs to get ideas.”

“I usually just look around my bedroom for things that inspire me,” she says. “Or think about myself. That can be very inspiring. Would you like something to eat or drink? My dads haven’t done the shopping for the week yet, so we don’t have much in the way of snacks, but there’s some leftover vegan lasagna in the freezer I could heat up. Or a nice glass of soy milk.”

“I’m cool.” He wrinkles his nose, and she tries not to be offended. “I’ve got some candy at the bottom of my backpack for later, I think. Hey, so I wrote up a list of things Quinn likes. What do you think rhymes better with bacon, achin’ or taken? Or breakin’? Something like you love bacon, so don’t you be breakin –” He stops, for emphasis. “My heart into pieces. I think that sounds good.”

“No,” Rachel says, quickly, as he sits next to her, cradling his guitar. “I mean, maybe you shouldn’t talk about bacon, Sam. I don’t think she’d be swayed by that lyric. What about her hair? She has pretty hair.”

He plays a chord, than another one. “Girl with hair like gold, don’t leave me cold.”

Well, Rachel thinks, it’s a start.

They work steadily for an hour, and by the time they take a break to dig out the crumpled box of Mike and Ikes from Sam’s backpack, they’ve written twelve lines that Rachel thinks are remarkably strong. Quinn, she knows, is greedy for any kind of reassurance that she’s pretty, even though Rachel can’t understand why the mirror isn’t enough for her, so the first four-line verse is dedicated to Quinn’s eyes and hair and the perfect symmetry of her face. (Not Quinn’s thighs, despite Sam’s enthusiastic suggestion. Rachel’s sure Quinn wouldn’t appreciate a reminder that her thighs actually exist, and anyway, just thinking about Sam having personal knowledge of Quinn’s thighs makes a knot form in her stomach.)

Sam bites down on the handful of candy he’s just shoved in his mouth, handing her the box as he sits back down on the bed. She takes it, hunting for the cherry-flavored ones, grabbing two.

“I think we’re getting somewhere,” she says, pleased with their progress. “I think she’ll especially like the lines about her intelligence in the second verse. Quinn’s very smart, but I don’t think a lot of people recognize it.” It’s how she’d made Finn want her, last year: given him a complimentary view of himself nobody else had ever offered. If Quinn’s anything like Finn, she’ll fall head over heels for an ode to that part of her few people seem to notice.

“She’s going to love this.” His zeal is muffled by the wad of candy, and he takes a few seconds to swallow. “Like that part where we rhymed 'Quinn, you live on Dursley Street' with 'pearl that forms in shells elite'? I can’t believe how good that sounds. The chord progression there’s pretty awesome, too.”

“It sounds wonderful,” she says, meaning it, “you sound wonderful,” and when he grins at her she leans over, impulsively, and kisses him lightly on the mouth. There’s a little tang on her lips from the Mike and Ikes he’s just been chewing.

“Oh,” he stammers, as she pulls back, cheeks red. “Uh, thanks.”

Rachel’s immediately positive she’s made a terrible mistake. “I’m sorry,” she bursts out. “I’m so – I shouldn’t have done that, Sam. I’m really sorry.” He might not understand the way she’s meant the kiss, as an expression of her immediate, too-strong joy for his enthusiasm. She really needs to learn to contain herself, Barbra-style, by lacing her fingers, to keep her emotions safely and appropriately inside until they're ready to be released through a show-stopper.

“No, it’s – it’s fine. It’s like –” He smiles, then, and the smile tells her that they’re all right. “Like a reward. For a job well done.”

“Yes,” she says, feeling relieved, and looks down at her lap. Close enough. “That’s exactly what I meant by it. Should we get started again?”

Finn. She wants Finn. She trains her mind’s eye on him, trying to keep him present. He’s her goal, after all, not anyone else.

Sam performs their song for her, once they’ve added another verse; he performs it a couple times, experimenting with different chords and transitions, dancing a little around her bedroom as he sings. He’s not, she has to admit, the greatest vocalist, but what he lacks in quality he makes up in sincerity and energy. It’s incredibly endearing, and she’d be shocked if Quinn doesn’t respond to his performance by immediately throwing herself into Sam’s arms. Any girl would, if she had enough sense.

“Can I give you some feedback?” she interrupts from her seat on the bed, as he’s entering the bridge, and doesn’t wait for a response as he stops mid-line. “Your singing would be so much stronger if you focused on your breath.”

“What do you mean?” He looks a little wounded, but lowers the guitar, just the same. “I thought I sounded pretty good.”

“You do. Honestly, you really do. But you could sound even better. I just want this to be the best performance it can be. Who knows, maybe it’ll be the improved quality of your voice that tips Quinn over into choosing you over Finn.” This likely isn’t true – Quinn definitely doesn’t share Rachel’s high performance standards – but Rachel wants his performance to be as perfect as it can be. She won’t settle for anything less. She wants to watch during rehearsal as Quinn’s hand falls from Finn’s arm and her eyes widen with appreciation from Sam crooning. She wants to see Finn’s grateful expression as he realizes Sam’s freed him to reunite with Rachel; see Finn turn back towards her, desire written all over his face. (It shouldn’t take more than two verses for Finn to come to his realization. Maybe three, if he’s being especially obtuse that day.)

Sam shrugs his agreement, placing the guitar in its case. “Sure,” he says, straightening. “You’re the expert on this stuff. How do I make my breath better?”

“Well. First, you have to use your diaphragm.”

He looks confused.

“Like this,” Rachel clarifies, and rises, crossing the room to stand in front of him. She places a steady hand flat against his lower abdomen, over the button and fly of his jeans. Sam inhales through his nose, a sharp, quick sound. “No, not with your lungs. It’s a little like breathing through your stomach. You expand and contract your stomach muscles. Go ahead, try it.”

Sam does. His abdomen rises and falls under her palm.

“Good. Now, try singing middle C.”

“I don’t –”

She sings it for him, the note a little low for her range, but strong and clear nonetheless. (Rachel isn’t sure she’s capable of singing a note that isn’t pleasing to the ear; even when she isn’t at her peak, she’s still better than just about anyone she’s ever heard.) “Sing that note. Breathe in through your diaphragm first.”

Her palm follows the taut press of his belly as it rises with Sam’s inhale, and then he’s vocalizing, the middle C ringing out with a new strength, denim flattening against her hand.

“See? Did you hear how much better you sound?”

“Yeah,” he says. “That sounded a lot better. But what you said about the diaphragm – you breathe in through your chest, when you sing. I’ve seen it.”

“You’ve been staring at my chest?” she asks, before she can stop herself. “I’m – of course there’s a certain amount of lung expansion. Regulating all your breath control to the diaphragm is impossible.”

“Can I, can I see?” He lifts his hand, palm facing her, and she realizes, with the low shock that comes with new understanding, that he’s asking permission to touch her chest. Her own hand’s still resting on his lower abdomen. She doesn’t seem to be able to pull it back.

“You could sing a note,” he continues, “and I could, uh, check?”


She stares at his hand and feels the quiet scratch of arousal inside her skin.

“If it would be helpful,” Rachel tells him, trying not to squeeze her thighs together in response, and her fingers on him curl a little, digging at the fabric of his jeans as he rests his palm over her sternum. Sam’s own fingers are hot, nestling between the v-cut of her blouse, and, oh, his forearm’s grazing her breast. “What note do you want me to sing?”

“Anything. I don’t – you can sing whatever note you want.”

She takes a deep breath, forgetting to expand her diaphragm in favor of her lungs. Her breast pushes back against his forearm with the expansion.

Sam’s hand stays flat on her chest, but his forearm moves, just slightly, the back of his wrist brushing over the tip. That’s intentional, she thinks, as her nipple tightens from the friction. That can’t be anything but intentional. Need swallows the note she’d planned on singing.

“Rachel,” he murmurs, looking closely at her, and when her name sounds like that in someone’s mouth she can’t imagine ever wanting to be anyone else.

She answers him by slipping her fingers below his abdomen, just a few shaky inches. It’s scarier than being on stage. She guesses this is a kind of stage, in a way; they’re acting in their own play, working out the script until it feels right. Thinking about it that way gives her the rush of courage she needs to glance down and see the erection she's guessed he might have by now. If she’s feeling this aroused, maybe he is too.

There's a noticeable swelling inside the thin fabric of his jeans. The sight of her hand, right next to it, so close, maybe an inch away, kindles another rush of heat between her legs. That’s real proof he wants her. She could touch it, if she wanted to. He’d let her. He’d like it.

“You’re still breathing through your lungs,” he says, but there’s no real bite to the accusation, and he closes his mouth on a groan as her fingers outline the edge of him, exploring. “You’re breathing really – it’s fast.”

“I’m not performing right now.” That’s sort of a lie, because there’s a little bit of performance in what she’s doing, the way she’s tilting back her head like she’s seen in movies. There’s commentary running through the alleys of Rachel’s mind: this is incredibly erotic. He wants you. Don’t do anything to ruin it.

His hand slips down over the curve of her breast, cupping it through the fabric, and it doesn’t feel like Finn when he’d touched her, with his fumbling gratitude or Jesse’s swagger, or even Puck’s earnestness. She can’t put a label on Sam, not yet, but she’ll think about it later, when she’s not squirming from the track of his fingertips over her nipple.

“Can I kiss you? I mean a real kiss, not a reward one.”

It strikes her as a weird question, because why wouldn’t she say yes to kissing him when their hands are already in very intimate places? Rachel nods, not trusting whatever might come out of her mouth and accidentally spoil the moment. Sam leans in. She remembers to close her eyes just in time, pushing down the surge of accomplishment she’s feeling in favor of focusing on the blunt pulse between her legs. 

He steps towards her as they kiss, and she strokes him through his jeans in response as they move together, Sam warm and thick for her under her hand. He groans into her mouth, and she breaks away from him, overcome; says, head tilting down with embarrassment, because she can’t believe she’s voicing this to him, “Sam, I need, I’m so – please.”

His thigh, nestling just slightly under her skirt, is the answer to the question she can’t articulate, and she bends her knees a little, rubbing down against it, hoping it doesn’t come across as too desperate. They haven’t removed any of their clothes, and already this one action feels to her more intimate than just about anything she’s done with anyone, with the possible exception of that one time Jesse licked the inside of her thigh, just inches – inches! – away from there.

“I’ve thought about this, us,” he says, into the top of her head as she presses into him, pushed up against his chest, finding a rhythm for herself on his jeans. “I’ve thought about it a lot. I felt guilty about it, because Quinn and all, but I couldn’t help it. You talk to me about things, and you get excited when you do, and you said once that you think Sigourney Weaver’s cool.”

“Sam, I really don’t want to talk about Sigourney Weaver right now,” she interrupts, a little more strident than she’d meant to be. He laughs a little, tells her he gets it, and then he’s gripping her ass in both hands, under her skirt. She moves her hand away from his groin, reaching up to grab the back of his neck.

“You – God, Rachel, you’re really warm." He lifts his thigh, pressing it firmly against her, and she moans. "I can feel you –”

She can feel him too, pressing into her hipbone, and it must feel as good to him as it does to her, because he’s making small muffled sounds into her hair, again and again. They talk in broken phrases to each other, short clauses that stop just before the explicit language Rachel wants to say, but can’t bring herself to actually voice out loud. His rapid breathing feeds the heavy throb of her clit, and she ruts wet onto the denim, panting a little.

“Tell me,” she gasps. There’s that familiar shudder coiling low in her belly and groin; she knows what it means, and she knows what she needs to make it come unraveled. “Sam, tell me I’m beautiful.”

“You’re beautiful,” he repeats, immediately, and Rachel grabs onto that word, stammering, “Okay, I think I’m going to – ah – ”

It’s not the first time she’s climaxed with a partner. That one time with Jesse, the time he’d licked her leg, she’d let him do other things to her, too; she’d clenched around those talented fingers of his, seeing Walk of Fame stars. This, though, this feels different. It feels secret, and impulsive, and she thinks as she rides his thigh and pushes her mouth into his chest that even though he’d wanted to write the song for Quinn, it’s Rachel that’s made him hard. It’s her flesh that’s filling his hands.

Rachel breathes against his body as the wave of her orgasm thins out, and Sam says, shakily, “You just, wow, Rachel, did I just make you, holy shit, that’s like the hottest thing I’ve – ” He jerks, suddenly, cock pressing hard into the slight curve of her belly, and there’s a spread of warmth across the denim pushed against her skin.

His apologies mix with his groans. She manages just in time not to say, it’s okay, it happened to Finn a lot. Right now she wants Finn to stay away from whatever this is, and she doesn’t think Sam would like to be reminded of Finn at this particular moment. “Sam,” she says, instead, because it’s what she likes to hear, her name tucked away in his voice, and maybe he wants the same from her.

She’s not sure what to do once he’s finished. Would pulling back be rude? She’s a little sore, and she’d like to sit down, but she hasn’t figured out the rules for this sort of thing, and anyway, it’s nice being close, even if she’s a little self-conscious about what’s just happened. Rachel hides her heated face in his chest.

“Wow,” he says, again. It’s quiet, and he slides his hands up from her behind to push against her back, keeping her against him. “Oh, wow.”

“Wow,” she agrees.

They’ve spent all their words on Quinn, apparently, but Rachel doesn’t mind. She doesn’t need words for what this is, for what she’s feeling. His hands on her back are enough. The feel of his t-shirt against her mouth is a kind of sentence.

<9:32> hey thx again 4 evrything
<9:34> I mean 4 helping me write that song tonight
<9:35> just thx 4 the help is what I mean
<9:36> I dont remember if I said thx at your house so I wanted to make sure I did

<9:38> You’re very welcome. And you did say thank you.

Cool. c u 2mrw in school?

<9:45> See you then.

She sees him first when she walks into third period geometry, eyes immediately training on the seat she knows he always takes. He lifts his hand off the desk in recognition, lips curling in a lopsided smile. Hey, he mouths.

“Hi, Sam,” she whispers, only she says it out loud, and the girl passing her to grab a pencil off the side table snickers, just a bit. It’s the kind of giggle Rachel’s had to fold into her days for most of her school career.

Her assigned desk is three rows over and one ahead of Sam’s, so she isn’t able to watch him during class, but it’s not like she can concentrate, anyway. Mr. Weber goes over the statement and reason columns for proofs, and Rachel dutifully writes down in her notebook what’s on the board, but the back of her neck’s tingling with what she hopes is the pressure of Sam’s stare.

Segment BC bisects segment AD, she writes, and wonders if she’ll ever look at this notebook again, when she’s older and accomplished; if she’ll remember the way she’d knit her invisible excitement into these dry words. Rachel hopes so. She’d like to think she’ll grow up into the kind of person who doesn’t forget.

“Why did you cheat on Sam?”

It’s one of those questions she doesn’t know she’s going to ask until it spills out of her mouth, hot and fast. Rachel curls her toes, trying to root herself into the hallway linoleum.

Quinn turns slowly away from her open locker, staring at Rachel, who manages to stand her ground even in the face of Quinn’s obvious annoyance. “Excuse me?”

“I want to know why you cheated on him. Sam cared about you. Cares about you. I don’t understand why you would leave that behind for Finn.”

“Look, Granny deVito,” Quinn sighs, one hand on her hip, ”that’s personal. I don’t have to defend myself to you or anyone else. And why are you asking why I’d leave Sam for Finn? Haven’t you been pining after Finn since December like some sick puppy who should be put out of its misery?”

Rachel blanches a little. “Yes,” she says. “That’s a very cruel analogy, and you don’t have to be so mean about it, but yes, I’ve been in mourning for Finn. It doesn’t mean that I can’t be confused about why you’d cheat on a really good guy.” She ignores, for the moment, her own indiscretions with Puck. They don’t seem to her to apply to the situation.

“You know what? I'm not going to do this with you.” Quinn presses her hands together, and Rachel wonders if it’s to stop herself from showing something Quinn doesn’t want Rachel to see. Maybe Quinn knows what Rachel knows, about hands and what they’re capable of revealing. “You might be under the impression that I'm okay with sharing my feelings with you on a regular basis, but think again, Rachel. I don’t like you, and you don’t like me. Don’t try and force us into something we’re not.”

“I’m not doing that,” Rachel says, quietly. “You’ve made it perfectly clear that you’re not interested in being a real friend to me, and frankly, Quinn, even if you were, I don’t know that I’d want to have someone in my life whose favorite pastime is tearing down others to make herself feel better.”

“Oh, come on.” She slams her locker shut, and the rattle of the door underscores her emphasis. “You’re such a hypocrite. Rachel, your entire life is based around doing exactly that, and the fact that you don’t realize it makes you pretty much the most intolerable person I know. At least Santana's honest about being a bitch. What do you think your constant self-promotion is? Every time you raise your hand and force yourself into whatever discussion is going on, you push down everyone else.”

It hurts. It’s the kind of sharp, serrated hurt that only comes with self-recognition.

“I just want to understand,” she repeats, trying to keep her voice steady, “what it is about Finn. Why do you want him more than Sam? What’s better about him? Why would you leave Sam?”

“Why do you even want to know?” Quinn counters. “God. Just leave me alone.” She stalks off, clutching her textbook and purse, and Rachel’s left standing next to Quinn’s locker with her unanswered question still sitting in the air.

She can’t explain, exactly, why she’d pressed so hard for an answer, but it’s got something to do with her own jumbled thoughts. Something to do with Finn, and Sam, and Finn wrapping his arm around Quinn’s shoulder. Finn hugging Rachel without really touching her. The way Finn’s been slipping out of Rachel’s mind, lately, even though Rachel’s been trying to keep him there, out of habit.

Rachel waits, during rehearsal, for Sam to raise his hand and ask Mr. Schue if he can perform for them. She refrains from looking at him, bracing herself for the grin he’ll send Quinn’s way and the sighs of annoyance from Santana and the pinch in her stomach she’ll have to ignore. This is what they've both wanted, after all: Sam gets his girl, Rachel gets her guy, and they head off into their own sunsets, without ever looking back. They'd shared something physical, and that exchange didn't have to mean anything, not really. Teenage hormonal indulgence. She'd let her body get the better of her goals, momentarily.

(It's not the sexual feelings, though, to which Rachel keeps returning, when she thinks about the previous night. It's the press of Sam's hands on her back and his reasons for thinking about her: you talk to me about things, and you get excited when you do. She hadn't really thought it was possible to be liked for her excesses, not in spite of them. She thinks about Sam's smile, too, and his own infectious excitement, and the way he'd texted her to say thank you, tripping over his words even through the phone. We did it, he'd said at regionals, and that we was so beautiful to her.

Oh, Rachel, why do you do this to yourself, how do you get yourself in these situations, she wonders, and curls her hands into fists, waiting miserably for his arm to go up.)

But Sam doesn't raise his hand. He doesn’t raise it after Mr. Schue's lecture about personal responsibility, or after Mercedes's suggestion that they avoid the Frank Sinatra cliche at nationals, or after Brittany and Mike show off the new number they've been rehearsing, and before she knows it, Mr. Schue's telling them all he'll see them next time. She can’t believe it.

“Sam,” she says, pulling at his arm as he heads towards the choir room door. The others file past them; only Quinn gives them a second glance, her suspicion resting briefly on Rachel before she pulls it back, walking out. “Sam, I thought you were going to sing. What happened? Are you waiting for the next rehearsal?”

He’s probably just waiting. Or he’s thought of another verse he wants to add. Or Quinn’s dumped Finn and taken back Sam in the few hours between Rachel’s conversation with her in the hallway and rehearsal. All of this seems far more plausible than the alternative she can’t bring herself to consider.

They're alone now. He turns to face her, adjusting his backpack strap, biting briefly on his lower lip. She can feel the rush of nerves coming off him like sound. 

“It didn’t feel right,” he says, finally, and oh, she can't jump to conclusions, not yet.

“What? Performing the song? Why?”

Sam shrugs. “It just didn’t. I was looking over at Quinn while Mr. Schue was going on about coming up with cash that wasn’t drug money for nationals, and she didn’t look back at me. Not once. And then I thought about you. I’ve been thinking a lot today.”

He reaches out for her hand and takes it, folding it inside his.

“And what I've been thinking,” he continues, “is that maybe we don’t need a scheme after all.”

The suggestion makes something bloom in her, some quick sprout of joy. Rachel looks down at the place where her wrist ends and his fingers begin, feeling the warmth of him press against her palm. She's suddenly grateful to Quinn for what seems, now, like extraordinary short-sightedness on her part. 

“You know, maybe you're right,” she says, smiling up at him, and when she squeezes back, it feels a little like letting go.
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