Puck tried to keep a neutral expression on his face through Rachel's statement. She had looked his way several times and he had offered what he hoped was a convincing smile. He kept his hands at his sides and when she got to the part of the story where she was stabbed, he clenched his hands into fists. He heard the gasps of the gleeks behind him and he knew they were shocked. Rachel hadn't told them the whole story and they hadn't asked, but now they were getting all the details. He heard sniffling, from more than one person, if he was correct and he heard Finn mutter a brief "Son of a bitch".
His heart broke a little as he watched her break down on the stand but he was proud of her when she pulled it together. He was so glad when they finally let her step down. She was upset, he could easily see that. She was shaking like a leaf and he saw her make eye contact with that bastard. He saw her chest rise and fall rapidly.
"Be calm, baby," her Dad urged quietly beside him. "Breathe, baby."
She stumbled as she came around the table and he saw her eyes roll back in her head. He leapt forward, catching her as she fell, cradling her in his arms.
Her dads were beside him instantly and he was aware of Clare yelling for an ambulance.
He tuned them all out and focused on Rachel. She was breathing; he could feel her breath against his cheek. He stroked her hair back from her face. "Wake up, Rach," he told her softly. "It's over now, babe, you're done. Wake up."
Her eyelashes fluttered against her cheeks and the bailiff came over with a glass of water. Her Daddy took her hand in his lap, fingers checking for a pulse. "I think it was too much for her," he announced. "I think she just passed out."
Rachel stirred and moaned a little, a hand coming to rest on her forehead. She opened her eyes, squinting against the overhead lighting. "Noah?" she said wearily.
He smiled down at her, feeling the relief spread through his body. "Yeah, babe. I'm right here."
"How are you feeling?" Daddy asked her anxiously. "Do you need to go back to the hospital?"
She blinked quickly and shifted. Puck helped her into a sitting position. "No, of course not," she said. "I'm fine."
Puck rubbed her back gently. "Babe, you passed out."
"I'm fine," she insisted. She took the glass of water from the bailiff and sipped slowly.
Her Daddy had his fingers pressed to her wrist again. "Your pulse is normal," he said, worry still evident on his face.
"Of course it is," Rachel said. "I told you, I'm fine. Noah, help me up, please."
It was against his better judgment, Puck knew, but he saw the stubborn look on her face and knew there was no arguing with her. He took hold of her arm and pulled her gently to her feet. "You ok?" he murmured.
She glanced at them all in irritation. "I am fine," she insisted.
The judge banged his gavel. "Miss Berry, are you all right?"
She nodded sheepishly. "Yes, Your Honor."
"Do you need an ambulance?"
"Perhaps some air, though," her Dad suggested.
The judge nodded. "Court will recess for ten minutes." He banged his gavel and disappeared into his chambers.
Puck took Rachel's elbow and steered her toward the door before she could glance back at Ford. He heard her dads behind them and he knew the gleeks would follow them out as well. He urged her down the hallway and out the front door, pausing only when they were on the courthouse steps. She turned to him and he pulled her into his arms, kissing her gently on the temple.
"You scared the hell out of me," he murmured into her hair. "I'm so proud of you but you scared the fucking hell out of me."
She giggled, wrapping an arm around his waist. "Sorry." She pulled away and tilted her head back to look at him. "I'm really ok," she said. "I think it was just too much."
He nodded, pushing her hair back from her face. "You were amazing up there, babe." He leaned down, brushing his lips across hers. He heard someone clear their throat behind him and he realized they weren't alone.
They turned to see her fathers and the gleeks. Daddy stepped forward. "Sweetheart, are you ok? Do you need to sit down?"
"No, Daddy, I feel better now. I think the fresh air helped."
"Fresh air, my ass," Santana mumbled, but everyone heard her. Quinn nudged her sharply but Rachel just smiled.
"You did really good, Rachel," Tina said. "Was it horrible?"
"It was hard," Rachel said honestly. "Just tell the truth, go over everything just like Clare told us, and don't look at him."
Tina nodded, taking a deep breath. "Ok. I think I can do that."
Rachel stepped away from Puck, pulling her friend into a hug. "You're going to do great," she told her.
"Group hug!" Brittany yelled, and all the gleeks pressed in around Rachel and Tina. Puck held them tight, wanting to protect them from the horror they had experienced.
"It's almost time," Tina's mom spoke up. "Tina, are you ready?"
The gleeks separated and Tina stepped forward. "Let's go," she said in a determined voice.
Rachel was pretty sure she had never been so embarrassed in her life. She hadn't meant to pass out in the courtroom, especially not in front of him. She didn't want him to have the satisfaction, didn't want him to see that his mere presence upset her. But she had and she was absolutely mortified. Sure, she was having some nightmares and sure she was afraid of the dark, but she was not a weak person and she refused to let this break her. She was a star, with big dreams, and she was going somewhere and she'd be damned if she let this man and this incident break her.
She sat alone at the table in the front of the courtroom, watching Clare pace back and forth in front of Tina as the girl gave her statement, much as she had done with Rachel. Tina was calm and composed, only faltering a little. She started to stutter a bit when she detailed how Rachel had been stabbed and how her wrist had been hurt and Rachel knew the stutter was completely real. Tina kept her eyes on Clare, avoiding looking in Ford's direction and Rachel was proud of her shy friend.
She could feel Noah and the others behind her, could feel their support and love almost as if it were a physical thing touching her. She kept her eyes straight ahead, using her hair as a curtain to block her peripheral vision. She noticed several times the judge and bailiff glancing in her direction and she just offered them a tight smile and continued watching Tina.
When Tina was done, the judge turned to Clare. "Ms. Scott, is there anything else?"
"Yes, Your Honor. I have several images of the victims taken at the hospital when they arrived. I'd just like to show you the state of the victims after their captivity at the hands of Mr. Ford."
Rachel clenched her jaw and felt Tina's hand slip into hers. They had known this was coming, Clare had warned them, but they had specifically kept that to themselves, not telling their families. As the pictures were projected onto a screen, she could hear the gasps of their friends and family behind them. She knew no one, not even her fathers, had seen these yet.
There were a few pictures of her, dirty and covered in blood. Pictures of her stab wound. Pictures of Tina's wrist. There weren't many, but Rachel could tell from the judge's face that they were effective. Clare had been right to use them.
After the pictures were viewed the courtroom went absolutely silent. The judge asked if Clare had anything else.
"No, Your Honor," she said. "We're done."
He banged his gavel. "All right. Mr. Ford, please rise." The police escorts helped him into a standing position beside his lawyer. "For the two counts of kidnapping, I sentence you to the maximum penalty of ten years apiece. For the charge of aggravated assault, I sentence you to the maximum penalty of eight years. Total sentence of twenty eight years, with a minimum of six served consecutively." He banged his gavel again. "Court is adjourned."
Rachel sat in shock as she watched Ford being led from the courtroom by the two police escorts. She kept expecting him to turn around and glare at them or have an angry outburst, or something. But he didn't. He walked with his head down and she watched him until she couldn't see him anymore.
She became aware of the noise around her, the celebrating, the cheering. She felt hands on her shoulders and looked up to see her dads gathered around her.
"Are you all right, darling?" Dad asked, worry lines showing on his forehead.
She smiled. "I'm fine," she told them. She spotted Noah hovering behind them and sent a bright smile his way. "I'm absolutely wonderful."