Summary: After the Invitational, Rachel isn't anywhere to be found. When Will finds her, she has a lot of things to tell him.
Author's Notes: Here's a fun fact; I'm not a fan of student/teacher ships. But even the blind and hearing impaired can see the tension between Rachel and Will, so who am I to argue with canon? :P This fic is more angsty than shippy, IMHO. Thanks to Anita for the beta. I don't own Glee or any of its characters, etc.
The night was a rousing success.
With a final congratulations to his Glee club (and a thankful hug from Finn), Will was ready to head home to relax with Terri. But there was one last thing he needed to do before he left; a certain student had been mysteriously absent from their post-performance celebration.
Walking through the darkened corridors, he eventually found her, sitting on the ground in front of what he could only assume was her locker. In her hands was a notebook, covered page to page with a solid block of writing. She didn't look at him as he approached, just closed the notebook slowly. He was about to ask her why she had run off after their last song, missing out on the excitement of a job well done, but she spoke first.
"Did you know Finn and Quinn are having a baby?" She didn't look up at him.
"I... that- how did you find out?"
"Everyone in the Glee club knows. They figured it out, apparently. When did you know?" She still wasn't looking at him, hands folded neatly on top of the notebook, but he could hear the accusation in her voice.
"I'm a teacher, he confided in me." Will said defensively, knowing it was silly to get defensive when he was the adult, not the other way around, but unable to stop himself. Rachel always brought out that part of him, the part that wanted to push back and argue. "That's what teachers are there for."
"Right." She didn't say anything else. The gears in Will's mind began to turn and suddenly it was clear why Rachel was feeling so down.
Will cleared his throat cautiously. "You know, Finn sure did a good job of helping you out for the second half. You were great out there. You should be proud of yourself."
"Thanks. But this doesn't mean I'm still not mad at Finn for lying to me." Rachel finally lifted her head and looked straight at him, like she was daring him to convince her otherwise.
Will found himself wondering if it was just a trick of the weak light or whether her eyes were really as watery as they seemed, on the brink of tears. As easy as it was to fight with Rachel, he didn't want her crying on his watch. He had to reassure her; it was sad seeing her dispirited like this after such a powerhouse performance.
Will knelt down to the ground so that he was at her level. "Just remember that Finn really helped you out there tonight; you were great, you know. I'm glad you decided to come back."
"Mr. Schue?" She took a deep breath, frowning and turning away from him. "Don't treat me the way you've been treating me ever since I first joined Glee. Please?"
Will shook his head, confused. "What are you talking about, Rachel?"
"Don't act like you haven't noticed." She replied, still turned away and staring off into the distance. "You and I don't exactly get along."
"Well, it's something for us to work on while in Glee." Will replied reassuringly.
Rachel's entire body language suddenly shifted, jaw set and eyes aflame as she turned to face him. "How can you possibly think it's that simple? You and me not getting along is a big freaking deal!"
Will was agape for a moment before recovering from his continued confusion. "And why is that?"
"Because you get along with everyone."
"Now that's not true, not everyone."
"Do you remember Jason Marshall?"
Will paused to think. "The troubled student who graduated two years ago?"
"Yes, the one who failed two grades and called all the teachers by their first names."
"He really was a nice kid deep down, you know, albeit misguided. But what does he have to do with-"
"Jason Marshall was crazy! He was the one who started the fire in the back of the gymnasium in the tenth grade, even though the police found no evidence pointing to his criminal actions."
"He peed on your car! Twice!"
"That was just-"
"You're making excuses for him and he was a nobody." Rachel suddenly scrambled to her feet and Will did likewise, not knowing what to make of her impassioned diatribe. "You never make excuses for me, you never give me a break, never overlook any of my perceived flaws. Why not? Why me?"
"Rachel, you don't need a break. With or without me, you're going to be a star."
Her mouth was pressed into a thin line. "I know I come off as someone bursting with confidence and self-assurances, but believe me when I say that you're giving me way too much credit. I don't have anything but my dreams, Mr. Schue, and unfortunately I can't make them happen on my own. I need you to believe in me. I need you to be there for me. When you brought April to Glee..."
"It hurt." She sighed, clenching her fists as the tears she had been holding in finally trickled down her cheeks, never breaking her gaze. "It hurt so much and I'm so angry at you because you went and replaced me so quickly when just a week before, you had told me you were my biggest fan." Her voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. "How could you?"
Her words were like an arrow striking him directly in the heart and before he knew it he was holding Rachel as she struggled not to let the rest of her tears spill on his shirt, her breath trembling and shaky.
"I'm sorry." He said quietly as he stroked her hair. "I'm sorry that I hurt you."
"It's okay." She mumbled against him, laughing a little. "I'm sorry I left. I never should have."
"I don't think you would have if I hadn't been so stubborn." Will admitted. "It's obvious that we both are and maybe that's why we keep fighting with each other."
She finally pulled away, wiping away the last of her tears with an embarrassed look on her face. "Or it could be something else."
"Like what?" Will asked slowly, feeling a strange nervousness prickle at the back of his neck.
"Nothing, it doesn't matter." Rachel smiled a little, stooping down to pick up her notebook and putting it back in her locker."Think there's still time for me to join everyone celebrating our breakthrough performance?"
"For our star? Absolutely." He offered his arm to Rachel and after a moment of hesitation she took it, holding on tight as they marched down the hall, determined to get through the future together.
- - end - -