Title: Winners Never Quit

Author: msathenaxf

Disclaimer: Neither Glee, or any of its characters, belongs to me. But I really love them and am borrowing them for my own amusement.

Author Notes: I have notebooks and random Word documents full of half finished Glee fan fiction. I've been writing for months, and this is the only thing that seems to have turned into anything. I have no idea where it came from. Maybe it will get those creative juices flowing. Or something.

Winners Never Quit

Rachel would always be grateful to Jesse St. James for one thing in particular. And it had nothing to do with her mother. He reminded her of a fact that in the mess of high school she had forgotten. Between unrequited love, slushy facials, and teenage pregnancy, it apparently slipped her mind. But Jesse brought it back.

Rachel was going to a star. Not wanted to be a star, but would be a star. Inevitable was the word he used. Which is why, when she virtually threw away Regionals, and therefore glee club, she couldn't bring herself to regret it.

The day began normally enough. Up early, an extra long session on the elliptical—nervous energy was not a factor, of course—a breakfast of toast with tea and honey, then off to school for the bus ride to the competition. All of her teammates arrived promptly, garment bags slung over their shoulders. They were ready to crush Vocal Adrenaline-more than ready.

Upon their arrival, however, things started to go awry. It was little things at first. In the mad crowd of backstage, a girl from one of the other schools pointed and laughed at Tina's hair. Easily ignored. When Mercedes walked by a snack table, the boys around it laughingly gathered the doughnut box to their chest. For protection, they said. Nothing new. Mercedes kept walking.

But after a few hours of this kind of treatment, the entire group was very, very on edge. Rachel didn't know if it was a concerted effort by other teams to ridicule New Directions into a loss, or if they were all just more sensitive today. Mike walked away from Brittany when she tried to dance with him. Quinn jumped from teary to scary in the span of seconds. Kurt even snapped at Mercedes.

Mr. Schuester, of course, hadn't seen anything, and was at a loss to explain his team's bad attitude. They spent lunch at the diner next door, grabbing some fresh air and sunlight. Everyone felt better after eating. Rachel decided the group was simply stressed out and needed a breather.

Except things didn't get better. The student usher checking re-entry cards asked for a ticket from everyone but Santana. Unfortunately for him, Mr. Schuester happened to be a Spanish teacher, and knew that 'tarjeta verde' meant green card. On the other hand, the boy was very lucky Puck was strong enough to hold Santana back.

Kurt asked a theatre attendant for directions to the restroom. The other teenager's response was to jut out a hip in a decidedly effeminate manner, and point to the ladies room. Kurt just rolled his eyes and walked away. A stagehand carrying costumes stopped in front of Matt and held out a large Afro wig with a smile. The entire team just glared back.

Finally, Mr. Schuester gathered all twelve of them into a corner. "Guys, I know this has been a rough day, but you're going to own this competition. I'm going to talk to someone in charge about getting the usher up front thrown out. Just…just stay here and lay low for a bit, all right?" He looked pointedly at Puck and Santana; they only returned his gaze with fake smiles. Not feeling particularly reassured, Will took his leave.

Standing in a tight circle, New Directions hummed through warm-ups calmly. They were due to go on in fifteen minutes. Finally-yet all too soon-one of the emcees came to collect them. Leading her team to stage right, Rachel was closest to their guide. She was the only one to hear what he said and that's when things went haywire.

Stopping abruptly, she grabbed the man's arm, turning him to face her. "Excuse me, what did you just say?"

The man smiled and shook his head. "I didn't say anything. Come on, we need to get you guys in place."

But Rachel didn't move. "Are you sure you didn't say anything? Because being a very talented singer, I have excellent hearing. And I could have sworn you referred to my friend here," she gestured to a visibly pregnant Quinn, "as Jezebel."

The man narrowed his eyes. "I don't know what you're talking about. Let's get going."

A quick glance at Quinn revealed how ashamed this complete stranger had made her feel. Mike and Matt tensed, waiting to grab a red-faced Puck. Rachel could feel Finn shaking behind her. And she made a decision.

"Yes. Let's."

Rachel was the child of two gay men. She knew hate. Rachel was overbearing and bossy; she knew contempt. Rachel made mistakes and knew regret. But Rachel knew Finn, too, and witnessed forgiveness. She knew Artie, and saw determination. Under Mr. Schuester's tutelage, she beheld compassion at its best. There was no telling why her team in particular was being harassed, but she'd be damned if she allowed them to endure one more minute of this treatment.

At the curtain, she unceremoniously grabbed the microphone out of the emcee's hand. Then she marched on stage. A collective gasp rose behind her. Someone hissed her name; Kurt groaned. A chorus of stops, noes, and curses followed her out. Stopping center stage, she set the mic in its stand and faced her audience.

"Ladies and gentleman, I would appreciate your full attention. My name is Rachel Berry, lead and captain of William McKinley's glee club, New Directions. Your programs no doubt indicate that we are set to take the stage in just a few moments. It is a rousing performance, I assure you.

"However, I feel compelled to inform you of the treatment my team has endured today. Poor sportsmanship is expected from other teenagers; but throughout the day people employed by this very competition have belittled us. We have endured comments and jokes about our appearances, our sexuality, our morals, and our ethnicities. These taunts were deliberate and obviously meant to be hurtful."

Squinting slightly through the stage lights, she could see Mr. Schuester standing frozen in one of the aisles. Shock shone clearly on his face. Rachel hoped that he would understand; she would hate to disappoint him. Her gaze swept over the seats, landing on her fathers. Rachel smiled.

"Glee club is meant for singing; music is supposed to be inspirational. There is nothing inspiring about this competition today." She paused briefly; when she spoke again, her voice held strong conviction. "I was raised by two gay men. I live to sing. And I refuse to compete in such a blatantly prejudicial environment."

Then she exited stage left, leaving behind a bewildered audience, a terrified school board, and a shocked New Directions. A charged silence echoed throughout the huge auditorium; no one knew what to do next. Quinn was pale; Kurt looked as if he'd been electrocuted. Finn looked lost, and Tina looked like she could start crying any second.

It was Brittany, of all people, who acted first. She took a deep breath, smiled at the remaining members, and then marched on stage herself. Coach Sylvester had taught her Cheerios well—look after yourself, unless your team needs you. Then you do whatever you have to do, including selling body parts, to back them up. It was also because of Coach that she knew just what to say.

She steadied the mic in place, speaking clearly. "I'm Dutch, blonde, and I like birds!" Brittany followed Rachel off stage.

Santana just stared incredulously. She felt someone push by her, and watched as Matt also walked on stage.

"I'm black." It was a simple statement. He heard Artie sing "Shaft!" from the side and smiled. Then he, too, left.

Artie rolled onto stage, followed momentarily by Kurt. After that, the entirety of New Directions walked out. Unsure, but determined, half smiles graced their faces.

"I can't walk." Artie paused, deliberating. "And the men's handicapped stall needs some serious work."

"I'm gay."

"I'm a big black woman, and I'm beautiful."

"I'm a Christian, I'm sixteen, and I'm pregnant." Quinn's voice shook but she smiled for what felt like the first time all day.

"I'm Jewish, and I'm the baby daddy." Quinn rolled her eyes, then she and Puck walked off stage.

"I'm Asian."

Mike's statement held more enthusiasm than Tina's timid declaration. "Other Asian," he exclaimed into the microphone, thumping his chest. His teammates laughed.

"I'm Puerto Rican and," Santana glanced at Mr. Schuester with a devilish smile. "And I like sex." Puck whooped from backstage.

"I'm the quarterback—and I love being in glee."

When it was obvious that no other students would be walking out, a visibly shaken host proceeded to the microphone. A very determined Spanish teacher intercepted him, however. Will had rushed toward the stage steps as soon as Santana was finished. It was his turn now.

"I'm Will Schuester, coach for McKinley. And I think you should know that by walking out of this competition today, those kids have just ended New Directions. You see, without a win today, our budget is gone and glee club is over." He paused, taking a steadying breath. His eyes stung with tears. "And I have never—never-been more proud of them than I am right now."

As he followed his students, some of the audience started clapping. He glanced up briefly and grinned. It wasn't everyone, but it was close.

Standing ovation.