A/N: I started this story after a really rough time in my life and it was originally supposed to be a one-shot. I figured that about three people would read it, and it was literally just written to get me through some of the stuff that had been happening to me. What was supposed to be a one-shot was published in October 2010, and the response was overwhelming.
On the 24th of August 2011, I begun the editing progress, changing those little errors that cropped up due to the story being unbeta'd, and I felt like I had to mention just how much this story has meant to me. My tiny one-shot expanded until it ended in March, 2011, with 16 chapters, over 300 reviews and over 60 personal messages at the end of the story, asking me what I believed had happened next.
I just wanted to take a second to thank you guys for being such amazing readers, and to tell you just how much this story meant to me. Thanks for the amazing journey guys! Thanks to everyone who added this story to their favourites list or their story alert list or added me to their author alert or favourite authors list, and an even bigger thank you to those who PM'd me or reviewed. You've been the best readers I could have ever asked for!
It doesn't happen often but there are moments when her steps falter. No one notices them because everyone falters from time to time, but for Rachel Berry, it's a big deal. She prides herself on being confident and proud – for believing in herself – because that's what's going to get her out of Lima... her unwavering belief that she can succeed.
But after two years of people putting her down, after two years of being forced to doubt everything she loved about herself (her voice, her clothes, the body she works so hard for... her personality)... after two years of complete emotional torture, it becomes hard to ignore the things that they say.
She starts to believe them.
It's after Quinn gives birth, after they lose, after Shelby adopts Beth (despite the fact that she didn't want a daughter) that everything hits her. They're supposed to be a team, but she's the only one standing in that auditorium watching Vocal Adrenaline perform, partly because she wanted to see it – needed to see Jesse one last time – and partly because no one thought to invite her to the hospital.
She only found out Quinn was in labour when she went into the dressing room to rally everyone's spirits and the room was empty.
She's the only one that promotes team spirit – the only one who desperately needs this club to be her family, who loves them all with every single part of her – but they still find it so easy to leave her behind without a glance or a note.
It's Finn that hurts the most this time though. He said he loved her, but he still left her behind when she needed someone to hold her hand, just so that he could be around Quinn and the baby girl that wasn't his.
So just for a second, she sits on the couch, and cries. Cries for the fact that Vocal Adrenaline is doing an amazing job out there, cries for the eggs Jesse smashed on her face, cries for the boy that will never love her like she loves him... cries for the team that will never want her the way she wants them.
But only for a second, because she's Rachel Berry and she's nothing if she's not in control.
It doesn't really hit her until a week later, when finally someone thinks to tell her that Shelby adopted Beth. She knew that someone would adopt the baby, and she knew that Noah would be struggling with it, but she had no idea it'd be Shelby because Shelby had made it very clear she didn't want a daughter.
No, she didn't want Rachel as a daughter. That's the difference.
That's what hurts the most really... that Shelby is so desperate for a daughter that she'll adopt the child of two high school students from an opposing choir but despite all that, Rachel still isn't good enough.
Quinn acts like Beth never existed, dropping all of her baby weight amazingly fast and falling back into step with Santana and Brittany like nothing ever happened. She leaves Noah in the dirt and although no one was ever sure just what was going on between them, she knows that Noah will be struggling.
Her world is changed on the seventh day of the summer holidays when Finn shows up on her doorstep with Noah in tow.
"I figured we could hang with you Rach", Finn says as soon as she opens the door.
He has that puppy dog look in his eyes, and who is she to say no? After all, she has no other plans and there's a part of her that knows not to say no to Finn Hudson.
That's how her summer begins.
Her summer makes her happier than she's been in a long time. She loves the feel of the sun on her skin and the ice cold slushy in her hand as they hang around the edge of the pool.
She and Finn aren't together, not officially, but he'll hold her hand when Noah's not looking, and when he's feeling especially sweet, he'll open the car door for her.
And Noah... well, he's different than anything she's ever known. He's blatantly sexual, and arrogant, and a bit of a jerk, but when he smiles, his eyes crinkle and light up, and it may just be the most beautiful thing she's ever seen.
It's sad really, how happy she is with so little. No one else would be satisfied with just one smile from Noah, and they definitely wouldn't feel incredibly happy for an hour after seeing it. No one else would feel on top of the world if Finn Hudson opened a door for them.
She thinks it comes from having so little most of the time.
Finn's eyes are looking across the room, and even though she can't bring herself to see what he's staring at, she instinctively knows that it's Quinn.
She feels out of place standing in Quinn's living room, a glass of water in her hand, but the blonde had thrown a Glee catch-up party and Finn and Noah had pestered her until she agreed to attend.
She won't admit it because the boys will assume that they've won, but it feels nice to be included for once. Of course, things don't work out like that.
"What the fuck are you doing in my house?" Quinn hisses when she finally notices that the brunette is at the party. "Only my friends are allowed here"
"It's a glee club party, and I'm part of the glee club"
"Not if I can help it. Everyone here hates you Berry, especially me, so get out before you ruin the rest of our party", the blonde says violently, before turning on her heel and walking towards the kitchen to get another drink.
She obeys – her head held high as she walks out of the house. Her embarrassment soars when she realizes that Finn and Noah are standing side by side laughing, their shoulders almost touching, completely covering the space she usually occupies.
It's like she never existed.
It's crazy; really, that she thinks going back to school will be different. It's crazy that she thinks Finn and Noah will be her friends like they were all summer, because Noah has a reputation to uphold and Finn has never been the most loyal person in the world.
It still hurts when she walks into McKinley on the first day back and Finn avoids her eyes, choosing to stand with Brittany and Santana.
It hurts even more when Noah walks past and throws a slushy in her face.
Glee has always been the best part of her life and she never tried to hide the fact that she lived, breathed and loved Glee with every single part of her.
So when she walks into the choir room for their first practice and listens to them announcing that they don't believe she should be their captain anymore, she can't deny the fact that it felt like her heart had been ripped out of her chest.
She looks round at their faces, at Finn, Noah, Brittany, Santana, Quinn, Kurt, Mercedes, Artie, Tina, Matt, Mike and Mr. Schue – her family.
Finn's avoiding her eyes, Noah has his hand on Santana's back, but both of them look disinterested. Brittany's not paying attention to anything, but Quinn, Kurt and Mercedes have these smug smiles on their faces, like they're pleased to see her in pain.
They may be the only ones showing their pleasure, but the others aren't defending her. Not one of them stands up and says that she's the best captain they've ever had.
In fact, they decide to vote for the new co-captain on the spot, and it's given to Quinn... Quinn and Finn: Co-Captains of Glee.
She can see where this is going.
It surprises no one when Finn and Quinn get back together. After all, no one can deny the blonde cheerleader anything, even if she lies about the paternity of her baby, and leaves people behind as quickly as the weather changes.
It's ironic that Quinn finally gets the undivided attention of the quarterback, the one thing she's always wanted, when in reality, she's never been so far away from her goal.
He chose Quinn but that doesn't stop him from kissing Rachel when no one can see. That doesn't stop him from leaving marks on her skin when his hands grip at her a little too tightly.
(She'll never say no to Finn Hudson).
The first time there was a secret in Glee, she was the one that came forward, spilling the true paternity of Quinn's baby without thinking twice. This time, Santana is the one that comes forward.
The look of smug satisfaction on her face assures the rest of the club that Santana was sleeping with Finn just to annoy Quinn, but as soon as the secret is out, Finn decides to come clean with the full truth, admitting that he's slept with Rachel too.
Quinn can't take on one of the other cheerleaders – a former head-cheerleader at that – and live to tell the tale, so she tortures Rachel.
She turns it into a game.
McKinley High has always loved games.
There's a slushy to the face every morning, outstretched legs every time she walks through the hallways, pornographic pictures drawn on the bathroom walls and hateful messages scrawled across her locker.
There's never been a person hurt this badly without the bruises to prove it.
The Glee club, her family, doesn't come to her rescue. Quinn presides over the club with an iron fist, Mr. Schue handing over the reins without a second thought. It isn't long before Quinn's punishing her in Glee club too – her leads are taken away, then her position at the front of the group, then even the back ground harmonies... everything is snatched from her.
She's ordered to stand at the back and sway, and she's just not strong enough to fight back.
Swaying at the back is where she falls for Santana.
Santana stands at the back too because Quinn hates her for sleeping with Finn. She doesn't care about her punishment though because she's grown to hate Glee with every fibre of her being.
She refuses to sway like she's supposed to and rarely does anything except stare at the back of Brittany's head, which she can just see moving around in her spot in the front row next to Quinn.
"She's my best friend, the only person who truly saw me, and she's back at Quinn's side without a backwards glance", the cheerleader says. "Coach told Britt that if she didn't cut all ties with me then she'd be kicked off the squad. Guess I wasn't worth it"
It's not love or even lust she feels for Santana. Its acceptance and relief that someone else feels this way too... that someone else may be able to help her.
She falls for Santana in a way she's never fallen for anyone else – she falls in love with the idea that they're the same person – that despite being worlds apart, they are going through the same things.
So when Santana kisses her after practice one day, she doesn't hesitate to kiss the Latina back.
They're barely friends most of the time. Santana is still a cheerleader and Rachel's still a loser and they can't speak during school hours because Rachel's terrified that Santana will pay the price for associating with such a freak.
But after school, and on weekends, they're together all the time. Her steps stop faltering and her confidence grows, and she feels more and more like the Rachel Berry she lost along the way.
Her life has never worked that way though because she's not that lucky, or talented, or beautiful, or enough for anyone. Her walls came crashing down around Santana and by the time Brittany comes bouncing back into their lives with a cheerful "Hey S", they're in millions of pieces and she doesn't know how to protect herself.
As the blonde pulls away the only person holding her together, and as that person doesn't even apologize as she's dragged away, Rachel realizes that she isn't strong enough to get through this. She's not strong enough to be alone again.
She sees Mercedes stealing her clothes from the change room after sport one day and she can't raise enough energy to stalk after the diva and demand her skirt and sweater back. She's left sitting in the change rooms all day in just a towel, waiting for someone to take pity on her and give her some spare clothes.
No one gives her anything, so she has to text her dad's and ask them to bring something when they pick her up, because someone "accidently" took her clothes with them when they left the change rooms.
Her dad's are naive enough to fall for it, and they bring her the clothes before telling her that they'll wait in the car.
As she's walking out of McKinley High, she hears a group of people laughing. She'd completely forgotten they had glee practice today.
"So you burnt her clothes?" a voice that she's come to know as Quinn's asks.
"I burnt them", Kurt laughs, "Mercedes just stole them from the change room. I've got to admit, I've wanted to burn those ugly things for a long, long, long time"
"Stick with me and you can do whatever you want to Rachel Berry", Quinn replies.
She stops eating regularly, and when she does eat, it's not enough to sustain her, just a few pieces of lettuce and some vegetables. It's not because she doesn't want to eat, it's because she's just not hungry.
And while the weight's dropping off of her, and she's desperately trying to rebuild her walls, Noah walks back into her life. She still has enough faith left to believe that he's there because he wants to be, not because Quinn doesn't want him, or because Santana is with Brittany now, in an honest to god, real relationship.
That belief that he might be the one to save her, the one who can help pick up the pieces of her that are scattered everywhere... well, that's what destroys her.
She promised herself (after Santana), that she'd never give so much of herself to someone who wasn't completely hers but Noah's smile is still the most beautiful thing in the world, and his smirk is so enticing that she finds herself handing over tiny pieces of herself – parts of her body, parts of her heart, and parts of her soul.
He never realizes that he has a part of her in his hands, and when Quinn finally decides that she's ready to be with him, he smashes all her hope in a few quick seconds and walks away without a backwards glance. After all, he doesn't have to explain himself. They aren't boyfriend and girlfriend, and they weren't friends before.
She's getting used to watching people turn and walk away from her but it doesn't hurt any less.
The first time a razor blade catches her eye, she throws up for even contemplating hurting herself. It's dangerous she reminds herself, and so incredibly stupid and she feels like an idiot for even entertaining the idea, but when twelve members of the football team form a circle around her, each with a different coloured slushy in their hand, and douse her with the ice-cold liquid, that razor is the only thing she can think of.
The first cut she ever makes is a shaky, wonky, tiny line, and it disappoints her. She wanted her first cut to be something meaningful: she desperately wants a little star carved into her arm, because if that's there, she'll always remember the Rachel with dreams of stardom.
So partly because she's a perfectionist, and partly because the first cut felt so much like salvation, she picks up the razor and cuts again.
There have been times before when she's been depressed, times when she felt like she couldn't get up in the morning, but during those times, she had a safety net, something that caught her before the depression took control.
The safety net used to be glee.
But now, she stands in the back, swaying by herself, because Quinn has complete power over this club and the only person she truly hates is Rachel. Santana, the person Rachel thought understood her, is standing behind Quinn, her hand holding Brittany's tightly. And Noah, the person Rachel thought would put her back together again, is standing next to Quinn in the front row.
The rest of the club is fanned out around those four, purposely designed that way to hide the fact that Rachel Berry is standing at the back.
Glee is no longer her safety net.
The razor is.
It hits her one morning when she tries to get out of bed. She finally recognizes how far she's sunk. There are cuts up and down her arms – some still fresh, some in various stages of scarring. Her body is drastically thin – her clothes are hanging off her frame – and there are huge bags under her eyes.
It should be a warning sign, a giant flashing sign warning her that she's going too far down the road of destruction. Instead, she runs a finger over the cuts, and a rare smile spreads across her face. Everyone thought she was so perfect, so untouchable, so indestructible.
If only they could see her now.
It's Santana that leaves her vulnerable and Puck that tears her into pieces but Quinn is the one that spreads those pieces so far apart, she'll never be able to put herself together again.
"Puck told me what happened between the two of you", the blonde hisses when she manages to corner Rachel in a bathroom. "I can't believe you were desperate enough to go after a guy who was clearly already in love with someone, but that's you, isn't it Man-Hands? You just have to go after things that belong to me... first Finn, then Santana, then Puck... did you really want them or was it me you wanted all along?"
By the end of that day, everyone in the school knows that Rachel Berry is madly in love with Quinn Fabray, that's she's a raging lesbian who will do anything to have the blonde beauty, including alienating all of Quinn's friends and boyfriends.
That night, there's a hate crime reported in Lima, Ohio, at the residence of a Jackson and Damien Berry. No one notices the tears running down the daughter's face because no one checks on the daughter, shut up in her room as part of her self-prescribed exile, a razor blade ferociously making its way up and down her arm.
After the hate crime, she honestly tries to get her life back together. Her arm is a mess of scars and cuts, and it shows that this has been going on for too long. It was ok to do it when she was still in control but that night she was out of control. She couldn't stop herself.
She tries incredibly hard. She throws away her razors, and anything else that can be used as a potential weapon. She Rachel-proofs her room.
It lasts a whole week.
It's a Tuesday when she cracks. It's Finn, and Santana, and Noah, and Quinn, all rolled into one, and it's just too much.
Finn has that smile on his face that she's always loved, the smile that isn't a full smile, and it's slightly crooked and it's oh so perfect. For the first time in a long time, that smile is directed at her and she feels her heart grow just a little bigger and she thinks that his smile might be enough to keep her safe this time. The smile isn't directed at her though and he walks straight past her without a backwards glance, his eyes on Quinn – Quinn, the girl who lied to him, who cheated on him, (who he cheated on), and who is now dating his (ex?) best-friend.
She thinks that she's survived without Finn for this long and that maybe she can survive just a little bit longer, but that pang in her heart, the one that won't stop hurting, tells a different story. When Santana walks past, her hand in Brittany's, and doesn't even acknowledge her, she realizes that this pain in her heart is never going to go away.
She's not even seventeen years old, and it hurts everywhere. The pain is so intense she doesn't think she'll be able to live through it, and she knows that even if she does, there are going to be horrendous scars that will follow her everywhere. She'll never be able to escape the torture this school has inflicted on her.
And when she sees Noah holding Quinn's hand, with that beautiful smile that still makes her catch her breath, and when she sees Quinn ordering someone to scrawl yet another hateful message across her locker, she knows.
No one would even care if she was gone.
She's happier that day than she has been in a long time. Now that she knows what she's going to do, she's at peace with it all.
She doesn't care when Santana presses her lips to Brittany's, and she doesn't care when Quinn goes out of her way to push her into a locker. She doesn't even cry when she's locked in the janitor's closet for three periods, because she's done.
After tonight, Rachel Berry won't exist anymore.
Because there are still parts of the old Rachel Berry in there, parts of the girl who wanted desperately to be on Broadway, to conquer the local choir region, to become the most famous actress/singer of all time, her suicide is planned. Everything is planned, because tonight, she is finally regaining the control she lost so long ago.
She has a playlist that she spent hours creating just for this event. She has French vanilla candles, because candlelight has always been more magical and beautiful than regular, florescent lights. And in the centre of her desk is a pile of envelopes, with names written on them in the calligraphy she spent hours perfecting (Dad, Daddy, Finn, Noah, Santana, Quinn, Mercedes, Kurt, Brittany, Tina, Artie, Matt, Mike, Mr. Schue... Shelby...).
When she's sure that everything's perfect (because if she wasn't perfect in life, she has to be perfect in death), she pulls out that little blade that's been her safety net.
She wishes it was something more dramatic, that she'd stand out in her death, and at least achieve part of her dream of being recognized, but instead, she'll join one of the many statistics about teen suicides. Maybe, though, being normal will be the best thing that ever happened to her because being different and unique was what drove her to this point.
She presses play and makes the first cut when the first song starts to play. After so many practices, after so many dress-rehearsals, this is it.
This is Rachel Berry's final performance.
It crosses her mind after she's made the fifth or sixth cut that maybe she shouldn't be doing this, because no matter how much the kids at school hate her, her father's love her.
But then "Everyone here hates you Berry, especially me" runs through her head, and there's Finn's hand clenching too tight on her wrists, and Santana's kisses which had incredible healing powers, and Santana walking away, and Noah using her until Quinn was ready for him, and Kurt burning her clothes and those horrible, horrible messages (home wrecker, slut, lesbian, transvestite, whore).
It's all too much, and it hurts so bad and it consumes her body and she can't breathe, and why should anyone have to go through this? What did she do to deserve this?
She's losing her grip on the world, but not on that razor, and by the time her fingers finally loosen up, she notices there's a cut for every single person that destroyed her.
Finn (who never loved her, who used her, who turned her into the other woman)...
Noah (who made her believe that she was good enough only to turn his back on her for the former chastity queen)...
Santana (who built her up just to break her back into pieces)...
Brittany (who stole the one good thing in her life, without even knowing what she'd done)...
Mercedes (who should have loved her more than anyone but instead made everyone hate her that much more)...
Kurt (who hated the fact that she had Finn, at least for a little while, and who thrived on the emptiness in her eyes)...
Mr. Schue (who stood back and let the others destroy her so that he could have a stronger club)...
Matt (who had stood there, time and time again, and let the others rip into her)...
Mike (whose eyes begged her to understand why he didn't help, but whose mouth stayed firmly shut)...
Tina (who had stood next to Kurt and Mercedes while their words tore at her heart)...
Artie (who had been everyone's rock, time and time again, but had never made the effort to help her)...
Shelby (who was supposed to love her unconditionally but had turned her back at every possible opportunity, before adopting another girl, a baby girl, because she could love anyone but her biological daughter)...
And Quinn, who had done so much for no reason that it was impossible to even dwell on.
Thirteen cuts, up and down her arm, opening up the old wounds that had only just started to heal, until the cuts stopped feeling like salvation and perfection and more like darkness and relief.
Thirteen cuts, is what it took to physically break Rachel Berry, although truthfully, she'd been emotionally broken for such a long time.
Thirteen cuts, and she's done. It's over.