A.N: Hey guys! Sorry if this is late, I got busy creating gifts for my two friends who were having birthdays on the same day. Before I launch into something, let me just say thanks again for everyone's great response to the last chapter! It really makes me happy knowing that there are still people who read and love this story, despite it not being updated for a long time.
Before the chapter starts, I'd just like to warn you that my version of Regionals will be quite different. For one thing, the judges will not be celebrities (because no offense, I didn't really find them appropriate for a show choir competition. And also, as great as it was for dramatic effect, I didn't agree with having Rod Remington and Sue Sylvester being judges, Sue especially. To anyone who didn't know about Sue's hatred for the club-especially for the show choir committee who selects the judges-, it would seem biased and unfair to have a judge who was an educator at one of the competing schools.) As to who wins…I'll leave that question for the next chapter to answer.
There. Explanation over. Read, review, and have fun reading!
For quite possibly the first time since this whole mess started, Rachel's life is…well, pretty much perfect.
She has friends now—friends who, after finding out the whole story, apologized to Rachel and assured her that they were going to be supportive no matter what she decided. Her fathers still aren't completely happy, but they honor the arrangement and allow Rachel to have a relationship with her mother. And Shelby (she cant bear to call her 'mom' just yet, it's still too weird) is, for lack of a better term, awesome.
And to add to it all….Regionals are here.
It's the day she's been looking forward to since they won Sectionals. A chance to perform in front of a large audience, going toe-to-toe with two other schools who were also the best in their area, an opportunity to show everyone how talented everyone in New Directions is…it's definitely exciting.
"You guys are going to do great, Rachel," Shelby had told her one night as she was driving Rachel home. "But don't think I'm going to go easy on you during Regionals," she'd added in a teasing tone.
"Bring it," Rachel had replied with a smile, and honestly, the challenge only makes her more determined.
The day before Regionals, Mr. Schue reminds them that the agreement between him and Principal Figgins unfortunately still stands: they have to place at Regionals, or Glee club is over. But Rachel isn't worried. (Okay, maybe she is, but she swears it's only a little bit.) They've decided to do a Journey medley for the competition, and not meaning to brag, but Rachel knows it's going to be a good show. They sound amazing, and the energy during practice is always top-notch, and those who get solos sing them wonderfully. After weeks of practice, New Directions is pretty much spot-on and pitch-perfect.
(Rachel's had training since she was a little girl, so she's pretty sure she knows what she's talking about.)
After running through the numbers one last time, Mr. Schue finally dismisses them, reminding them as they leave to be here bright and early tomorrow. Rachel waits patiently by the doorway for Quinn, who's having a bit of difficulty standing (which is understandable, considering she's like, eight months pregnant now.) When she finally manages to get up, her bag falls from her lap and on to the floor.
Rachel's about to go and help her when she watches Finn, who was still packing up his things, immediately rush over and help her with her bag. "Thanks, Finn," Quinn tells him with a small, shy smile, and doesn't protest when he walks beside her as she starts to leave the room.
She leans against the wall and shuts her eyes briefly, opening them again when she realizes that she feels…absolutely nothing. The last time she'd seen Finn and Quinn together, it more or less broke her heart but now…there's nothing there, perhaps except for a tinge of happiness at seeing them on good terms again. There's no hurt, no jealousy, no wanting-to-sink-into-the-floor-and-cry feelings…just a strange sense of freedom, like this is the first time she's been able to breathe in so long.
And that's when it hits her.
Maybe the attraction she'd held for Finn had waned by itself after she'd realized that she would never really have him fully. Or maybe being with Jesse, and now those confusing…feelings she's having about Noah had helped in getting rid of it. Whatever it is, the point remains that as of right now, she is fully and completely over Finn Hudson.
Before she knows it, Rachel starts to smile.
"Rachel!" Quinn says suddenly with a raised eyebrow, causing Rachel to crash down to earth. Beside the blonde, Finn's staring at her oddly too. "Sorry I took so long. We'd better go—Puck's waiting in the parking lot."
As she nods, Finn jerks his thumb in the direction of the hallway. "I gotta go. See you tomorrow, guys!" he says with his usual charming smile (and her heart doesn't jump when she sees it. Yep, definitely over him now.) He waves at them as he begins walking away, and as he disappears down the hallway, Quinn turns back to Rachel.
"You okay, Rache?" the blonde asks as they begin walking to the parking lot.
Rachel considers the question for a moment before giving her friend a large smile. "You know what? I've never been better."
It's today. Regionals are today.
Rachel doesn't know whether to scream from nervousness or jump from excitement.
They're in the dressing room, all gussied up and ready to perform in their black and gold outfits. The group's set to perform second, and as they listen to the competition over the speakers, Rachel can see their faces beginning to fall and the excitement slip.
Okay, so Aural Intensity is pretty good. There's no use denying it.
"Look, you guys, can't get distracted by what the other teams are doing," Rachel says, trying to reach up to turn the speaker off (and this is one of the times she hates being so small.)
"We just gotta keep our heads in the game and focus," Finn adds, although it's clear that he's bothered too.
"Even though we know we can't win?" Santana asks.
"Yes," Mr. Schue speaks up suddenly, going over to Rachel and turning the speaker off for her. As she takes her place beside her teammates, he adds, "If this is all about winning for you, then I owe you all an apology, because I failed you. We should all just go home, because we've already lost. Besides," he says with more emphasis in his voice, "we have got something that the other teams don't."
"Finn's dancing!" And just like that, the tension dissipates and they all break into smiles and laughter."Now come on, we've got two minutes. Aural Intensity's almost finished, let's go!" And with a rousing cheer and a chorus of 'break a leg's, they all head out.
"Hey, Rachel," Noah calls out as they move, causing her to look at him. "Good luck out there, okay?"
If this were any other person, she would've gasped indignantly and reprimanded him or her, telling them that saying 'good luck' before a performance was actually bad and the customary thing to say would've been "Break a leg." But it's Noah, it's one of the rare times he's called her by her first name, and honestly right now, she can't really bring herself to care about what's 'customary'.
(Cue butterflies again. She really needs to figure out why this keeps happening.)
"Thanks," she tells him with a big smile. "You too!" she manages to say before they part ways and she follows Finn. The smile doesn't leave even when she reaches the lobby and stands in her proper place, her body humming with excitement.
Rachel and Finn are standing in front of the auditorium doors, ready and waiting for their team to be announced. Her heart's hammering wildly in her chest, but it's a good kind of nervous, the same kind of energy that she knows she'll need once she starts to sing.
She turns her head, and she and Finn lock eyes. They stare at each other for a moment before meeting each other at the center of the room. "Break a leg," Rachel tells him with a smile.
"Friends?" Finn blurts out. Clearing his throat, he adds, looking a bit nervous but still smiling, "Look, I know you've got something weird going on with Puck, and I've got to fix things with Quinn, and that's cool. But I don't want us to be weird around each other, Rachel. So…friends?"
The opening strains of Journey's Faithfully suddenly resound, and they quickly go back to their original places. But before Finn enters and starts to sing, Rachel gives him a huge smile, and he nods with a grin of his own—and just like that, nothing more needs to be said.
Restless hearts sleep alone tonight…
As Rachel enters the auditorium, the spotlight and how many pairs of eyes are immediately turned to her, but she hardly notices it over the thumping of her heart. She's happy—happy that she's here, happy that she and Finn are friends again—and she pours that emotion into her singing as much as she can. This is her chance—their chance—to shine, and she's going to make the most of it.
They sound great together. Their voices blend perfectly, and as they're singing, she sees what attracted him to her in the first place. But it's not like before—now, she understands that yes, they have chemistry, and yes, he might be the more appropriate choice, but the only time they ever really work as a couple is when they're singing together.
When the rest of New Directions joins in, the crowd starts applauding wildly. When they start their mash-up of Anyway You Want It/Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin', the crowd jumps to their feet. It's energetic and fun and they sound really, really good, even better than the first group. Rachel feels great—she's always loved the rush of performing, especially high-powered, jump-around-and-dance numbers like this. It was the most fun song to rehearse, and later she will tell you that it was the most fun number they did.
And then they launch into Don't Stop Believin'. Faithfully was their introduction song, to show their skills and ability to sing with emotion. Anyway You Want It/Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin' was their middle song, to show their boundless energy and to get the crowd fired up. But Don't Stop Believin'…this is their song, the one that best embodies their group, the one that started it all and most importantly, the one that shows just how far they've all come.
The first two songs were about skill and energy. This one is all about heart, and that, Rachel knows, is exactly why it is the perfect song for a show-stopping finale.
And judging by the audience's response, they seem to agree as well.
When it's over, they're met with a standing ovation and an almost deafening volume of cheering, and they're all so happy that they can't stop themselves from hugging each other on stage. Finn hugs her because they're standing beside each other, and while it's a nice hug, it definitely doesn't spark anything.
It makes her happier.
And at this moment, right here, she's not even thinking about what mistakes they might have made, or if they stand a chance against the other teams. She's far too happy to know that they're really here, they've really done it (and fantastically well, if you ask her).
That already seems like a victory in itself, and as the crowd continues to clap and cheer, she beams, knowing that this is one victory no one will be able to take away.
They skip and jump all the way backstage, the adrenaline rush from performing still in them, firing them up with a joyous kind of energy. They did it—despite all the odds, they were able to perform at Regionals, and judging from the crowd's reaction, they were able to perform amazingly.
It sure feels amazing, Rachel thinks. Seeing the group like this, all pumped and excited together, just goes to show how much closer and united everyone has become.
"We've got second place in the bag!" Tina says with a huge grin as they step down a small flight of stairs leading back to the dressing room.
"Screw that, we are gonna win this!" Rachel exclaims, feeling too happy to be negative. They step into the dressing room and everyone immediately launches into what seems to be a thousand conversations at once, all grinning and laughing.
This kind of high is so much better than Vitamin D.
As she looks around the room, she pauses once she notices something: Quinn's not here. That's odd, she was right behind them when they left the stage. Frowning, Rachel walks toward the entryway, deciding to look for her blonde friend.
She pauses in the entryway once she realizes that Quinn's right outside….with Mrs. Fabray. Rachel has half a mind to just leave them be—it is a private conversation, after all—but the temptation is too strong. So she rationalizes that she's just looking out for Quinn's well-being when she hides behind the wall and strains her ears to listen to their conversation.
"I left your father," Mrs. Fabray is saying. "Well, I kicked him out actually." Then her voice gets a little more choked up. "He was having an affair with some…tattooed freak."
Rachel doesn't even want to imagine how Quinn must look and feel right now.
Quinn's mom steps closer to her, looking at her daughter imploringly, and Rachel is surprised and relieved to see that she does look sincere. "Oh, Quinnie. I want you to come home with me. We…we can turn the guest room into a nursery." When Quinn doesn't say anything, Mrs. Fabray adds, looking even more pleading now. "Oh honey, say something."
Rachel waits for Quinn's response with bated breath. What will she say? Will she decide to go back to her mother, or stay with the Berry's? Quinn's wanted this for so long, acceptance from her parents, and now that she has it….come on, Quinn, Rachel thinks. Say something.
She's so curious that she has half a mind to go over there and demand the answer herself, but before she can, Quinn finally speaks up and says the one thing Rachel never expected to hear (at least, not at this moment.)
"My water just broke."