Disclaimer: The characters of Glee don't belong to me.

A/N: As much as I enjoyed watching the Yankees lose last night, I like Glee better, so I'm writing this to while away the time. All 5 parts are outlined and will be posted as I finish them. Enjoy!

I: Love is a Battlefield

"To victory!" Matt Rutherford says, raising his mug of hot chocolate. "It's so funny that you go to McKinley too. We must be some of the youngest people here."

Rachel looks around at the rest of the diner, which is in Lisbon, Ohio, right near Salineville. Matt says it's tradition to come here. Every customer in every booth is wearing a dirty blue uniform, and he's right – aside from a handful of guys in their twenties and thirties, most of the crowd is middle-aged. She wonders what the waitstaff must think of them all.

It's totally surreal. After hours spent out in the mud, cold and tired and practically fighting for their lives, it's over, and she is sitting on a cushy vinyl-covered bench across from a very cute boy who would not have given her the time of day two months ago, about to share a conversation and a piece of apple pie a la mode. And Pat Benatar is on the jukebox. It's almost too good to be true.

"Victory," she echoes. "Isn't it weird, though?"

"Definitely!" Matt laughs. "I guess the outcome was sort of a foregone conclusion, but I'm not used to winning at anything. I played football for two years, and our placekicker couldn't even get the ball through the posts at practice."

"No, I mean, being an African-American, this must be sort of strange, for you especially. Those people on the other side just charging at us -- " It might not be tactful to bring this up, but she needs to know how he feels about it. Her parents were certainly upset when she tried to explain her weekend plans. "Where do they come from, anyway?"

"The Confederate dudes? Oh, they're in the West Virginia Reenactors Association. They're really nice though – not what you'd think. I went to Dairy Queen with a carload of guys from the Upshur Grays last time. They're real badasses, crazy about authenticity." He tilts his head toward their neighbor at the next booth, who is cutting a stack of pancakes into neat squares, his belly straining against the buttons of his blue jacket. Matt lowers his voice. "You've got to be skinny to play a Rebel. Starved-looking."

He's leaning toward her, his face animated, and Rachel feels an excited fluttering in her stomach. It would be nice if she wasn't dressed like a dirty boy-soldier.

"Black men fought in Lee's army too, actually," Matt tells her. "Some slaves, some free." He breaks off. "I don't want to bore you with stuff you already know, though. You must be pretty into Civil War history, to be doing this."

"I'm still learning. I come from a performance background, actually -- dance, theater, music." Matt probably doesn't even know about glee club, or about what happened after Mr. Schuster left and she tried to take over rehersals and everyone quit. "I got to feeling like it would be better for me, mental health-wise, that is, to try something that's not so competitive."

Great, Rachel admonishes herself, now she sounds like a crazy person. Matt doesn't look put off, though. He breaks off a piece of pie crust, pushing it through the ice cream toward her side of the plate with his fork, and smiles at her.

"Anyway, I loved doing this today," she says. "It's surprisingly satisfying. After the drilling and the practice, we just got out on the battlefield and we did everything right – I mean, just like it really happened."

Matt nods. "The details matter, but it's not all about ego – who's starting, who gets thrown the pass. Even if my character gets shot and I have to lie on the ground pretending to be dead for hours, I still go home happy."

Rachel wishes she felt that way, but if she's honest with herself, she still longs for the solo, for center stage. Still, there's something about being part of an ensemble where each member cares enough to try his or her best. "It's so great to be a part of something where everyone is working together," she says sincerely. "It makes all of us special. You know?"