AN: This chapter is a little bit lighter than the past 2, but there is a lot more darkness ahead. A few people mentioned that I should provide a note of warning about Rachel's actions, and I agree. So, here's my PSA: Self-mutilation is a very serious addiction and action, and I do not condone it, nor do I recommend it anyone under any circumstances. I struggled against this addiction for years and I have the scars (both mental and physical) to prove it. If you are in pain, please do not attempt self-mutilation as a way to release it. It doesn't work. It doesn't help. If anyone wants to talk to someone with experience in these matters, while I am in no way a licensed professional, I would be happy to share my experiences with you. Even if you don't talk to me, please talk to someone. There, PSA over. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Disclaimer: You and I both know I don't own this.

This was her moment; she could feel it. She was beginning to regain some of the power she had once held in the palms of her hands; the chords of her throat. She was beginning to regain some of her confidence, and the energy that this confidence created buoyed her up above the slushies and the Myspace comments. She was getting herself back.

The first step had been to regain music. She had always known she would be a star; that she would burst onto Broadway and take the world by storm. She had been preparing for her entire life; voice lessons, dance lessons, acting coaches. Everything she had done was in preparation for the moment when she finally left Lima (and all it represented) behind her.

Mr. Ryerson, freak that he was, had tried to take that away from her. When he hadn't even let her audition for the glee club and earn the solo that was rightfully hers, she had slunk away to lick her wounds, adding another line to the checklist of things to sit in the bathtub and sob about. Now that she was finding her way out of the tears, she was looking for an opportunity to fight back; reclaim her star. Sandy Ryerson handed her the key to her coup d'etat.

She had sat in Principal Figgins office and choked out the words, "it was so wrong!" and cried crocodile tears (which were not cathartic at all) and implicated Mr. Ryerson in participating in pervy debauchery. Despite her victory and the elation it brought with it, that night she lay in her bathtub and stared at the red line on her shoulder. She fought the pressure on her chest as long as she could, but in the end she still picked up the razor blade and made another slash mark on her skin.

Now that Ryerson was gone, Mr. Shuester, a Spanish teacher, had taken over the club. When she had seen the sign-up sheet in the hallway, she had been thrilled to add her name to the audition slots. She had pressed that gold star sticker firmly in place, and was barely dazed (though fully frozen) when that miscreant Puck had tossed a strawberry-lime slushy into her face.

Mr. Shuester, of course, had seen the star quality in her and had accepted her into the club without a moment's hesitation. She had come home that afternoon, beaming, and her fathers took notice of her change in demeanor.

"Rachel, what's gotten into you?" her daddy asked her, his mouth curving into a smile.

"Just excited about glee club, Daddy!" she tossed back at him as she pulled a bottle of water from the fridge.

"I take it your audition went well, then?" asked her dad as he walked into the kitchen.

"Yes, I performed 'On My Own' from Les Mis, and I didn't miss a note," she replied cheerfully.

"Well I hope that glee practice doesn't interfere with your other activities, Rachel," her father warned her. "You already have voice lessons, ballet, modern dance, acting class, all of your school clubs, your commitment to the JCC, and remember, you start Driver's Ed courses tomorrow after school."

"I'm sure it will be fine, Dad," she responded, and left the kitchen to start her homework. For the first time in weeks she felt as if she had something good in her life; something to look forward to. Her sense of purpose was returning to her and it impacted everything she did.

Later that night; however, in the quiet stillness of her room she could feel the darkness begin to creep in on her; the pressure slowly building in her chest. She lay flat on her back and stared up at the ceiling gasping for air, trying to push away the suffocation with thoughts of glee rehearsals and gold stars. The weight descended ruthlessly upon her and before she knew it, she was running to the bathroom and filling up the bath.

Once the tub was full she stripped off her clothes and stared into the mirror. Her left shoulder was crisscrossed with a web of red lines. Some of them had begun to scab over and (sometimes when she was unable to breathe at school) she would pick at the scabs until they began to bleed again. These tiny bloodlettings didn't ease the pressure the way the razor blade did but they were enough to make it so that she could inhale again.

She scrutinized the web of lines on her shoulder, searching for room to make one more. Just one. That was all she would allow herself tonight. Too many good things had happened today to allow for more than one. More than that would just be gluttonous, and she would not take more than she needed.

Just one is okay she thought. Just one to ease the stones off of her chest so that she could sleep tonight. She sank into her bathtub and let the hot water wash over her body. Sometimes when she emerged from the bath after letting the blood flow she felt almost as if she were emerging from the womb – she was fresh and new and real.

Tonight was not one of those nights. She sliced quickly across her skin with the blade and felt the cleansing thrum flow through her veins. She watched as the blood beaded and ran down her arm to swirl into the water. After the blood stopped flowing, she stood up and felt slightly…disappointed. It didn't feel the same. It wasn't as purifying, as cleansing, as it used to feel. But it was enough. It was enough for tonight.

She had lain in bed and stared at the ceiling until she was able to fall asleep. Tonight, she dreamed of him, and when she woke up with her fist in her mouth, she was angry with him for invading her dreams and trying to take her happiness away from her. He had taken too much already.

The next day passed quickly by: workout, car ride, slushy shower, costume change #1, class, class, class, slushy shower, costume change #2, lunch, class, class, class, class. By the time the day was over, she was sort of looking forward to her drivers' ed class. It felt right to be learning how to do something that would signify her independence and her place in the world as an adult.

She walked into the driving school classroom filled with confidence. That confidence quickly fled from her when she found herself nose-to-tile with the floor. She could hear people snickering at her misfortune, but slightly behind her people were outright laughing. She struggled not to cry as she tried to push herself off the ground. Never let them see you cry she scolded herself.

She glanced behind her and felt the breath leave her lungs. Of course she groaned inwardly.

"Dude, did you see that shit? She totally didn't even see my leg, and when she fell, I got a sweet look at that Berry ass of hers! Damn, Berry, why you hidin' that ass with those skirts of yours?"

"Hello, David," she responded, her voice ice cold. "I wasn't aware that you would be attending this driver's education course with me. What an unpleasant surprise."

"Yeah, Karofsky, I thought that your parents weren't going to let you get a car until you went to college, like your bro," one of the laughing boys said.

She was forgotten from the moment his friend called for his attention, but she continued to listen to their conversation as she walked over to the seat farthest away from their group.

"Yeah man, they were, but then they got pissed about dropping me early for detention and taking me to and from hockey practice. It wasn't like I could just take the bus like Mike did, so they put me in here. When I get out I get a sweet ride!" Karofsky cheered.

She was chilled by the mention of his brother. His vision swam before her eyes whether they were closed or open; even though she knew it was Dave speaking, she heard his voice. She could feel the pressure mounting in her chest and she automatically pushed her right hand under the collar of her shirt. Nails scrabbling, she picked furiously at the scabs until she could feel the blood begin to flow and the pressure begin to recede.

At that moment, the door to the classroom closed and an older man with a football player's build walked to the front of the room.

"Good afternoon kids, my name is Ed Freeman and I'll be your course instructor for the next few weeks. We'll do our in-class sessions together, but all of your real-time instruction will be conducted individually throughout the course." His voice was warm and welcoming and she could feel herself calming down faster due to the soothing nature of his voice.

"Now, I'm a good ol' southern boy at heart," Mr. Freeman continued, "and my mama raised me to always make sure that the ladies go first. So when you sign-up for your driving times, the girls will sign-up first; then the boys. Let's do that first, okay? We'll go in alphabetical order." There was a brief pause as he shuffled through his paperwork to find the roll.

She knew she would be called soon; the last name of "Berry" didn't afford her much preparation time. She glanced down at the puffy cap-sleeve of her navy blouse. Good. None of the scabs had bled through.

"Rachel Berry!" the instructor called, and she stumbled out of her seat and moved towards the desk. Karofsky's group of puck-heads laughed again, and she ducked her head down as she walked to the front of the room.

"You doing alright today, Rachel?" he asked her, and once again, she was calmed by his voice.

"Sure," she replied, and quickly scribbled her name in the first available time slot on each sheet. That way she could get this over and done with and not have deal with yet another reminder of him.

"You sure, honey?" Mr. Freeman questioned her, and she could hear the disbelief in his voice.

"I'm fine," she replied softly, and walked back to her seat. The boys in the back of the room laughed again, and she felt her neck get hot and itchy. Once again, she scratched at the marks on her shoulder. Tonight…tonight she felt she deserved more than one.