Title: Hit me with your best shot

Summary: Rachel has finally found a way to ease her pain and channel it into strength.

Disclaimer: I don't own glee.

Notes: Lauren isn't in glee club nor is she dating Puck. Finn and Quinn are together.

A bit AU.

Rachel holds in her breath, staring at the punch bag before her; the red dangling object teasing her to no end. She can hear the faint commandments of her coach instructing her to put a proper amount of fury in her strikes; think about somebody she hate, or least dislikes, somebody who has ridiculed her, made fun of her or belittled her because she was incapable to be what they wanted. To think about those people, standing right in front of her, provocative; uttering the same spiteful words just because they can. It's not the punch bag hovering right in front of her… but them. They're smiling while vicious words abnegate; there's anger shifting through Rachel's chest.

It makes her sick. And she feels like hurting them as much as they have hurt her. Their incomprehension of accepting her and treating her like a human been becomes a stain on her emotions. She wants them to suffer. They deserve to suffer. Think, fantasize and attack.

She thinks about Quinn's words, Santana's piercing stares, Finn's breakups, her mother's abandonment. And she sees all of them standing there, moving around, smiling, words falling of their lips; 'Nobody likes you,' Santana grunts out. 'Please get sterilized,' Quinn taunts. 'I never thought you could be mean, Rachel,' Finn whispers. 'This was a mistake.' Her mother says.

It reminds Rachel of what she cannot be, of what she is and who she has become; her flaws and mistakes and her infirmity to try and try and end up failing.

It's too much for her to bear.

She attacks.

Rachel plunges forward, allowing her rage and fury to take control while propping her fists to collide with the object. Sweat leaves her pores, trailing across her temple and wasting at her chin. Her right fist flings at the punch bag, hitting it on the left as it plunges with an immense force to the left. Her left fist imitates the attack, filling for the right side of the bag. The punches keep coming; faster and harder, leading the bag to fly high up in the air.

She hopes Finn feels the pain that Quinn realizes what she's doing, that Santana regrets the day she decided to cross Rachel Berry's path. That her mother becomes aware of the trophy she threw behind. All drowning in the realization; that they're too late to claim her as a part of them, again.

Her hands tingling; the dazzling faint of a blue skimping across her knuckles, but the need to prove her coach that she's worth more than her peers acclaim her to be, that she can be better; burns fiercely.

It feels like everything around her washes away, going through the streams of the moving sea.

Rachel feels relieved.

She gives the bag one last punch, hearing a loud thump as the object and her fist connect, before Rachel straightens her back. Releasing the tension that eats away her muscles, while unclenching her fists and holding the bag still with one hand.

Her heartbeat rages as her chest vehemently goes up and down. Inhaling one deep breath, Rachel shuts her eyes, searching for her serenity.

The moment she opens her eyes, she's as still as a silent brook.

It'sall good.

She performed outstanding.

A loud applause reflects over the gym walls.

''You seem to amaze me every time, Rachel!'' Coach Beiste says while walking up to her, placing a hand on her shoulder. ''You may have real talent for this.'' Beiste grins, placing her other hand on her bare shoulder as she turns to stand before her. ''How many talents can one person possible possess?''

She will be honest. Rachel enjoys the compliment, especially originating from someone like Coach Beiste. This woman has suffered horrible events, much like Rachel. And though the woman before her found her own relief in implementing football, teaching students to be kind to one another even though the sport itself is brutal; it's an honor to have someone that knows the resentment teenagers have, and grew above it, to look at a, perhaps, younger version of herself and see a prodigy.

Rachel relaxes her shoulders. ''Though, I appreciate your endorsement. I still have a lot to learn. The coming match will be brutal…'' She sighs, dreading a hand through her brown locks. A sting shoots through her hand. Rachel ignores it. ''I need to be the best if I want win.''

''And you will Rachel.'' Coach Beiste says with so much confidence Rachel actually starts to believe her. ''You will.''

A little smile gracing over her lips.

She can't help but think about the very first day she had caught sight of boxing. She had always told herself that revolving into violence to satisfy an impervious need, was something utterly dense. Yet her heart soon craved to feel the same kind of prestige many of the other fighting youths had.

If this was going to be illegal, then so be it.

Her mind was clouded with the mere possibility of her being on a stage like that, between robes and lines with screaming fans and a hungry public as she aimed her fury to her opponent.

It started off with a Reality show; there was nothing to see on screen. Funny girl wasn't an option; she had watched it for far too many times to try it again. And for the first time since her diaper days, she was okay to put a halt on her habit. Rachel wanted to see a different program, something nice to ease her thoughts because since the break up that had transpired between her and Finn, her mind was relentless. Zapping through the TV shows and movies, she found that nothing on screen pleased her well.

Then she hit one channel, the sports channel, and she couldn't help but leave it there and look for just a minuscule second.

She had seen these types of shows during the week she had been dating Noah. He loved fighting shows. But she always cringed when one person was hit with what looked like a painful blow. Noah seemed unaffected, he even yelled for his 'guy' to get 'the fuck up' when his favorite player fell down, bleeding, seemingly giving up. It wasn't a surprise to Rachel though. That blow hit him hard. And as she hid behind the cushions, she could feel his protective arm around her shoulder holding her company and making her feel just a bit saver for the big boogie man hovering conquering over the unconscious body.

But now, she didn't really feel like holding onto somebody for fear, instead she felt the need to watch it and find out what was so admirable about shows like that where people got hurt. She wanted to analyze the little things and see what made it so amazing.

Soon enough, when her favorite player hit the floor, unconscious, she was screaming like Noah had once done, jumping on her couch and pointing at the screen accusingly. Her voice enlightening sentences along the line off: 'Foul play! Foul play! I hail dupery on this whole contest!'

From then on she got hooked to the everyday show. Soon becoming one of her guilty pleasures. She never told anyone. It was something she wanted to keep to herself. A secrecy she predicted, wouldn't be taken nicely with her peers.

Things escalated from there on. She wanted to hit things too (faces mostly), feel the power of fortitude going through her veins. It escalated to a desperate want, something she had to express; a burning need that vowed to bring all the horrible happenings in her life to a minimum.

One day, Rachel had stayed late at school, waiting for her dads to arrive. With the strutting cheerleaders leaving McKinley high, Rachel noted that the Cheerios had just finished practice. So, with nothing to do, she went to the gym. All in the hopes for it to be cleared out when she arrived.

Rachel was granted a delightful answer to her wishes when she arrived in an empty, smelly gym.

Being unable to help it, her eyes caught sight of the punch bag they had set inside the storage room; the door unlocked. This was too much of a coincidence. The universe was telling her something.

Biting her lip, she looked eagerly back at the object that turned out to be just slightly shorter than her. She knew that her school had one; it was mostly for the boys who wanted to train and work out. Rachel never dreamed of using one for herself. The Reality show was just what it was; entertainment. Not something she had to actually do.

Rachel was always the kind of person to do the unthinkable.

She headed to the storage, taking out the punch bag (one would say she was actually dragging it) and laid it in the middle of the gym. Her hand touched the object eagerly, pushing it ahead. It took her a lot of strength, but she managed.

Rachel never expected it to feel so heavy. TV made it seem so much lighter.

She looked around the gym, noting that nobody was watching, before acclaiming a steady position. Her right hand clenched into a fist as her left leg maneuvered a few inches behind her. Resembling somewhat of a karate position, but who knew? Biting her lip, and remising the countless of fights she had seen, Rachel stared at the punch bag, narrowing her eyes as if she tried to get an enemy to wither down.

Letting her imagination do wonders, she threw the first punch.

It took her less than a second to react as she winced. Muttering a concealed profanity while clenching her teeth.

But Rachel wanted this, and for the life of her, she couldn't give up. Perhaps it's because she started something and backing down wouldn't be very Berry-like. It's not something Rachel Berry does. Having already lost so much in her relationship with Finn, in her feared state of emotions to utter a response when Santana snarled, in her feeble attempt to become friends with the beautiful persona that was Quinn, she lost herself then. She couldn't lose this too. Not even if she wanted to.

Even if it broke her tender bones; the show must go on. That was what Queen once said. That ridiculous rock band Noah loves.

And thus, she kept throwing light punches against the bag, a soft sound reflecting over the walls.

Though she had expected the pain to become lesser, it really didn't. The cries for her to stop were loud – it ached.

After the eleventh punch Rachel had more than enough. She couldn't take the stinging pain, TV made it seem so fun and painless.

Her little tender bones weren't made for a job like this.

(She couldn't shrug that little voice inside her head that said 'keep going' away.)

She kept on going, relentlessly, her inner monologue pushing her to her extremes. While unknown of the female that had just walked inside the gym to close it off.

That's how Beiste had found out about her efforts to become better, maybe it's for her peers, maybe it's for herself, she doesn't know. Beiste wanted to help train her. For what? That was then still unknown.

Rachel had eagerly agreed. Because hitting a bag, had done wonders.

xxx

She makes it to the competition after months of training, weeks of encouragement and endurance. After running up stairs that went on for ages, trying her new and improved skills on mats and punch bags, fighting against other females, and learning how to dodge and attack.

Today, is her time to shine.

Beiste was right, she is a talent.

When the day of the competition arrives, Rachel cladded in robes with stars attached to them and knee low shorts. She feels the nerves hit her. Trying to relax; breathing in and out steadily, while closing her eyes. Rachel tries to find a place where peace and happiness lies all the while chanting a simple motto; 'you can do this'. The hard massage Beiste is giving her issn't frowned upon either.

''You can do this!''

Yes she can. Breath in, breath out.

''Fight now and take the pain. And live for the rest of your life as a winner.''

She nods.

''You can do it.'' Beiste mutters in her ear.

She believes she can.

''Go on and show her what you've got!''

She stands up, watching Beiste walk before her and opening the cramped up room door.

She thinks for a moment about Santana, Quinn, her mother and Finn. She thinks about the ridicules and pain she had to take in. The bullying that was uncalled for, the treachery she had to endure during her short period as a teenager. She recalls everything she has had to go through in her life. And it angers her just enough for her to actually want to do this.

With one swift motion she pulls her hoodie over her head. It covers everything up until her lips.

She's ready.

xxx

She's positive after the third blow in her stomach that death was just seconds away. The girl before her was so strong. It seemed impossible to get her down. Not with those shoulders, not with that ripped stomach, or that enormous size that put Finn to shame. Rachel could hear the faint screaming of Beiste urging her stay awake. Keep her head above waters. But in a game like this, illegal so, how possible could she survive a place with no rules? This is too hard and too much for her to take in. It hurts and she's exhausted.

Another blow comes forward, catching her cheek, causing her to dangle back.

The yelling becomes faint; tainted with encouragement words, but mostly, mocks. Swear words.

She hears mocks.

And they pierce her just as hard as never before.

If Santana was here, she'd laugh.

If Quinn was here, she'd ask if she could assist in the demolition of the dense midget.

If Finn was here, he'd stand by and watch her lose.

If her mother was here, she wouldn't care what would happen to her.

Another blow comes her way, inching for her nose. Rachel sees the smirk on the taller red head's face: she's going to win.

Rachel dodges.

With a quick escape, she twirls to her opponents back, kicking her hard enough for her to lunge forward.

She doesn't give up there. It's her chance now.

Her fists move fast, attacking her opponents face vigorously. Right, left, up, down. Side kicking her hard enough to get the smirk to fall off completely, while she stumbles. With another quick turn around her ashes and her foot up in the air, Rachel uses her heel to hit her opponent against the temple.

That's enough, and the girl falls with a hard thump on the floor. The yelling is loud, the chanting of 'B star' a harmonic melody. Though feeling woozy, Rachel can't imagine what the girl on the floor might feel right now. Her opponent tries to stand up. Against her wobbling feet, she raises her arms as if she's ready to fight again. But Rachel sees the opening, the girl is not restored enough to cover her face.

Without another thought, Rachel strikes, ending it with one punch against the nose.

And the rest is history.

xxx

''Something horribly wrong's going on with Rachel.'' Puck tells the glee club minus Quinn, Santana and Brittany.

He doesn't think Quinn and Santana would care at all. And Brittany being their minion wouldn't have the brains to think for herself.

''Something like what?'' Finn asks confused, leaning inside the booth of Breadsticks.

Mercedes nods next to Puck, looking at Kurt situated at her right. ''He's right. I saw a bruise on her cheek.''

Finn raises his eyebrows, obviously shocked. ''You did?''

Kurt confirms her words. ''I saw it too.'' He fumbles with his manicured nails. ''We asked her how that happened and she said she fell. She fell.'' He utters exasperated. ''Does she think I'm stupid? Who falls on their cheek?'' He rolls his eyes. ''At least have the dignity to use a proper lie.'' Kurt mutters. ''It's just strange.''

''It's Rachel.'' Artie pipes up. ''Everything about her is strange.''

Clicking his tongue, Puck utters with agitation: ''She's clearly hiding something.''

''How do we know that for sure?'' Tina shrugs, looking at Mike for help. He nods gently back at her. ''I mean… It was just one bruise, right?''

Puck shakes his head. It wasn't just one bruise. ''Remember that week that she didn't come to school?'' The glee club nods, remembering the day that Rachel Berry hadn't come to school. Some were certain that the apocalypse had arrived. Overcome with the idea that something like that couldn't have happened on any ordinary day. It was Rachel after all, her missing school was just wrong. ''I went over to her house on the third day.''

''W–wait you went to her house?'' Finn splutters out.

''I cared enough to check up, how 'bout you? Besides, I just visited her 'cause we're friends.''

''You are?'' Mike asks. ''No shit.''

''We Jews have to stick together.'' He tells simply. ''I went over, and when she opened the door she had a freaking black eye. It looked fresh, a few days old, tops. I'm saying,'' he throws in lightly, ''If someone's hurting her, I'm definitely going to be assassinating the perp. Just a fair warning, if the cops end up coming to school looking for the Puckmeister, you know why.''

Finn purses his lips. ''I don't get.''

''My gaga, Finn. Someone is physically hurting your ex-girlfriend. What is there not to understand…? Ignore my brother's stupidity if you will.''

''Brittany told me that she tried to hug her,'' Sam tells them, wiggling on his seat. ''And when she did, Rachel flinched.''

Kurt shakes his head, looking pointedly at everyone in the tiny cramped booth. ''Something is going on with her. I knew it.''

Mercedes swallows. ''You guys don't think… You don't really think she's being abused, right?''

They all look at each other, eyes full of concern. Uncertainty.

''I don't know,'' Puck says holding Finn's stare; who seems to be putting the pieces together. ''But you better be sure that I'm gonna find out.

xxx

Her hands are aching from her latest fight where she had gone full out on her opponent, gaining another victory. After her first match, things had gone very well for her. She had taken in Beiste yelling after the match, her wise words, her advice, her obvious worry, because though she won, Beiste was not at all happy at how close she was to serious injury. She had to uphold more control, stand her ground. Never give the opponent the chance of striking.

Because next time, she may not be so lucky.

(She was internally screaming victorious words in her mind, though.)

Beiste was right, and therefore her schedule for training had become longer and much harder. It was all worth it in the end, even when she felt like giving up, even when her arms and legs were tired. She kept on going. Remembering Beiste's simple words; 'Fight now and take the pain. But live for the rest of your life as a winner.' In the end it would all be worth it. Winning all of her current matches (which were five), made her feel like more of a winner indeed.

However, holding her dirty little secret in Pandora's Box grew harder these past few days. Rachel doesn't exactly know why she wanted to keep it a secret, except for the fact that what she was doing was illegal; just that it had to stay a secret.

She still put in a hundred percent inside glee club, beheld her position as female lead. Her grades had not suffered because of her endeavors, and she proved to be a model student day in and day out. It's not like she had changed at all except of the black and blue bruises on her skin.

She is still Rachel berry.

Somewhere deep inside her heart, she has made a new place for boxing. Even if school was suffering because of her newly found hobby, she's not sure she would stop.

She opens the choir room door, greeting her glee clubbers with a megawatt smile.

''Hello, my fellow glee clubbers.'' She hears faint hellos and sees eye rolls from her tormentors.

She walks up to her seat in the middle of the class room, her hands tucked neatly in her lap. Rachel has a few songs selections to suggest and she can't wait before glee club is set in motion.

It surprises her that Mr. Schue hasn't arrived, is that even common?

It surprises her even more when she sees Noah walking to the choir room door as he closes it off with a chair he has dragged along.

It doesn't surprise her as much as she sees her fellow glee clubbers walk to the front of the class room, arms crossed, while piercing her with null stares.

Now that's strange.

''Enough, Rachel.'' Kurt is the first one to talk, gaining many nods from his sides. ''You need to spit it out or I will make you spit it out.'' She swallows, intimidated. And to think of the many large and athletic women she has had to deal with during her matches, Kurt seemed to be the worst. ''And you know I can… Mercedes, tell her what I did to Kevin.''

''Oh girl, you do not want to know what he did to Kevin.'' Mercedes shakes her head. As if the thought about this Kevin person is horrid.

''You don't want to know what I did to Kevin.'' Kurt mimics.

''Who's Kevin?'' Finn asks

''Is it that guy who lived around my block?'' Brittany wonders out loud from her seat in the corner of the room, Santana and Quinn sitting next to her. ''He had a cat too; he and Lord Tubbington were best friends.''

''No Brittany, I don't think he means them.'' Sam says. ''Or do you?'' He looks at Kurt questioningly. Receiving an eye roll and a glare.

''No seriously guys, who is Kevin?'' Artie asks.

Santana sighs, loudly gaining everyone's attention. ''I thought that this shit was going somewhere. I needz to see the madness involve; not bullshit take place.''

Kurt grunts. ''My Gaga, Mercedes, tell them about Kevin.''

''Who is Kevin?'' Mike wonders now, staring at a spot on the wall.

Mercedes nods. Like that explains everything. ''Exactly…''

''I'm so confused right now.'' Brittany looks at Santana for confirmation, only to receive a pat on the hand.

''Can we just stop the Kevin thing and talk about the reason why we're here?'' Noah exclaims as he holds his hands up in the air. ''Let's just cut it to the chase.''

''We're having a chase?'' Brittany asks, but Noah completely ignores her.

''Tell us what the fuck is going on with you Rachel! 'Cause Mercedes is pulling her weave out of her head trying to come up with reasons why you're acting strange.'' Mercedes nods. ''And believe me… Shit's scary.'' He shudders for a moment.

Rachel laughs. ''Nothing is going on with me.'' Her acting skills dripping off. ''I think all of you are highly mistaking my lack of attendance for something imaginative.''

''This is boring.'' Quinn moans, holding her head in her hands. ''Can we just leave it that man-hands is having one of her crazy spurts and go on with glee club? Mr. Schue won't be gone forever.''

''Yes he will.'' Sam tells her. ''At least, for a while.''

Santana's eyes widen. ''What..''

''Let's just say that a certain red haired woman loves to help us. She doesn't mind keeping Schue company.'' Noah fills in. ''Point is,'' he puts his focus on Rachel, willing her to listen closely. ''Rach, we're your friends… We want to help you. Don't leave us hanging in the dark.''

Kurt backs him up. ''You can't deny the bruises on your skin, Rachel. And you can't say that you fell, because the places your bruises are situated are hard to reach.''

She thinks a little harder before giving them a proper answer. ''Thank you for your concern. All of you. But I can assure you, nothing is going on. I've honestly only bruised myself by falling. Not because the bruises seem hard to reach, means it's impossible to reach. And my dance routines often require a lot of strength and patience. It wears me out. Nothing is going on, other than that… Have I, anyhow, acted differently?''

They can't answer that. ''See. You have got it all wrong.'' She smiles.

She hears slight moans, disappointment about the mere fact that nothing exciting is going on with her.

She feels relieved that she could lead them around the garden so easily. But even still, when she averts her eyes back at all of them walking to their seats. She can't ignore the piercing glance of Noah's hazel eyes looking at her.

Maybe her acting skills aren't that terrific.

xxx

She kicks the punching bag. Her fists balled up before her face as she directs a few light punches that hit the target purposefully.

''How can I keep it a secret any longer?'' She asks Beiste, as she kicks the bag another time with her left feet. Harder. ''I can't tell them.'' Her right fist flings the punch the bag. After three punches she resolves back into kicking it with her foot. ''Don't you have any suggestions?''

Beiste holds her notebook in her hands, her whistle dangling along her neck. ''Sorry, no.'' She walks around Rachel and the punch bag, looking intently at her posture. ''There are far more important things to think about Rachel. Like wining that medallion, and going from then on after gold. The real deal. After a few years, when you're legal, can you imagine? Gold.''

She hits the bag with her left fist, thrice after each other. The sounds reflecting over the walls. ''Gold?'' She wonders out loud before kicking the bag with her right leg. ''Doesn't that take countless years to achieve?''

''With proper training, it might not be for so long.''

She kicks the bag three times, turning swiftly around and kicking it with her heel. Leaving the bag to tremble, the iron attached singing a sweet melody.

''What about afterwards? Can I go professional?''

Beiste laughs, shaking her head. ''You've got a long way for pro, Rachel…'' She looks at Rachel pointedly, holding the notebook between her fingers before crossing her arms. ''Do you want to do this for living?'' Shrugging, Rachel looks at the wobbling bag. ''What about Broadway?''

''I can still do that.''

''You're sure 'bout that?''

She shrugs again. Lately she's been questioning too many things. Like her dreams, the people whom she thought only cared about her talent may care about her self-worth too. The places she has seen herself go to may have to change directions.

Life's twisting in so many different ways, there's so much she can do.

''Don't make decisions you're not sure about, 'kay?''

''What do you think I should do?''

Beiste shrugs. ''I honestly don't know, Rachel. You' good. For someone as small as you, you' great. Like a fairytale come to life. There's… there's a lot of potential in you. But singing has always been a dream of yours. And you're amazing when it comes to busting a tune… It's gon' be a tough decision for you. I can't make it for you.''

''Can't you push me into the right direction?''

''It's not that easy, B Star.'' She refers to her boxing name. ''Nothing worth having is.'' She plants a soft and gentle hand on Rachel's shoulder, squeezing it for a little bit, before walking to the punch bag and standing behind it. Firmly holding on to the hard material. ''Now, hit me with your best shot.''

Taking in her position, Rachel obeys

xxx

They find out during the halve finals. She's been training for this day. She only needs to beat one female before reaching the finals. She heads there right after school. Throwing out a few punches at the punch bag before clothing into her attire.

With a few words of encouragement and trust worthy sentences from her coach, she heads out to the ring to meet her opponent for the first time.

She's big and muscled and wears a death glare like no other. But Rachel has had many opponents just as big and just as scary, and she has proven them every time she went into that ring that size didn't matter. It was about the strength entangled within a body. And Rachel knows the way she has lived and experienced mocks and name callings, there's enough strength in her to feed a hundred of teenagers like her. Edifying all the spiteful words and nasty glares, into anger and focus.

She waits for the start sign. She hears her boxing name being called from the stands. Thousands of unnamed faces watching her, eagerly encouraging her, somehow believing in her more than her friends could have ever done.

The robes drip away from her body ensuring her to meet the eyes of her opponent. And when the start sign reveals itself, she releases her anger and build up rage at the female before her. Rachel dodges the first attacks, taking the occasionally blows in like a champ. Gradually managing to get in a few punches in when it seems like she's slipping away; a little bit tired.

Her opponent tells her that she's small, when another blow hits her cheek, ''you can't do squad midget.'' And it reminds her of Santana calling her a midget and Quinn taunting her about her size. It reminds her about the people who hurt her just because they can. The girls that Rachel meets in the ring are the same as the bullies in her school. There are no escaping mean people.

She doesn't let another punch hit her, contrary, when Rachel's hands decided to stop barring her face; she extends her fist hard enough to hit the female's mouth.

She hears a crack.

(One may even say that she looks like a short mad man on stage.)

More blows follow as the blood seeps past her opponents mouth. Rachel doesn't stop until she hears the body falling on the stage and she's left as the winner.

''B Star, indisputable, succeeds again!''

It's all she needs to hear.

Her body is raised from the ground.

She can't explain the happiness she feels. The sting in her cheek doesn't do anything to keep her from smiling.

Beiste puts her down when they walk off the stairs, and are off the stage. She can feel people breathing down her neck. Others trying to take photos, all about obstructing her way.

She can hardly see, but she does feel Beiste's hands drag her away. Telling the bystanders that she will come later out for photos.

As the little dots finally clear away from her vision and she looks up, she feels the victory smile on her face vanish. Her eyes meeting the sight of the glee club, even Santana and Quinn, standing ahead. And none look too happy at her accomplishment. Maybe they weren't there to see it. The way Noah's jaw seems to tick proves her allegation.

Beiste pulls her away to the locker room, unknown of the piercing stares.

She can't do anything but follow and do as is told.

She's too shocked to say anything.

(How did they find her? Hidden so far away, how did they find her?)

xxx

She arrives home without ever having to see the glee club's faces. She knows that she will be hearing from them the next day. But now it's her alone time and she feels the need to sleep and heal the pain she has received.

She doesn't get the chance though, because right after she has arrived home and settled herself down on the couch, her bell rings. And after the fifth ring, she's positive that the person behind the door won't leave until she opens it.

Forced to do this simple task, she shuffles to the door, a hand on her cheek to suppress the pain.

She's going to have to put ice on that.

When the door opens, she's too shocked to speak.

The person in question walks right past her.

She turns around, scoffing, and closing the door with her heel. Arms crossed and eyebrow raised.

That wasn't at all polite.

''You have to stop that shit you're doing.'' She breathes out a laugh, shaking her head stubbornly. ''I mean it Berry, you could get killed. That's… that there… that there was… it's illegal! I've done my fair share of shit, yeah, but you… no cops can protect you, okay? You can get killed.''

She throws her hands up, and soon stops because that was too much effort to do after just fighting. ''You can't tell me what to do, Noah, you're not either of my fathers.''

He has seen her cringe just seconds ago, and it only fuels his rage even more. ''I bet your dads don't even know.'' He clenches his jaw, a frown firmly on its place. ''I swear Berry, I'm going to tell them.''

''What?''

''Yeah, you heard me. I'm going to fill your dads in that you're busy trying to commit suicide. Don't you know you can't quite earth? God has to decide if he wants to fire you or not.''

She shakes her head, completely caught off guard. ''Noah… Just, don't. I am going to keep on fighting and there's nothing you can say or do to stop me.''

''Heck there is.''

''You have to bring me down if you want that. And clearly you have just seen my moves, you dare to hold me still?''

He thinks for a moment. Not ready to answer it.

''Thought so.''

''That doesn't mean anything.'' He walks forward, placing a hand on her cheek. He feels her flinch. ''See that shit. Look what it's doing to your hot ass face.''

She sighs, slapping his hand away. ''Why do you care?''

''Why shouldn't I?''

''It's none of your business!''

''The hell it is, everything that happens to you is my business!''

She's once more caught by surprise, but soon recovers from it. ''I'm this close…'' She uses her index finger and thumb to draw out how close she is. ''To get to the finals… I – I'm indisputable. They love me, Noah. I'm loved. I'm a winner… I've found a way to… to stay strong.''

''No shit. I've seen you there. You should've seen everybody's face. They looked like they'd just witnessed the birth of a star.''

If she is honest, they kind of did.

He shakes his head, moving just a bit forward so their bodies are barely apart. ''I'm just… scared, okay?'' Noah, revealing his feelings to her… Is that even possible? ''I care about you… A lot.'' She can't help the smile from spreading. ''And I don't want to see you get hurt.''

''I already got hurt… plenty of times… But, I'm still standing.''

He sighs, cupping her bruised cheek. ''I can't say anything to stop you, can I?''

She shakes her head. Determined that she will see this to the end, perhaps even look at where it may lead her.

''Well shit…'' He holds her stare, gulping. ''If you're continuing this, I need to be there.''

She raises her eyebrows, about to speak, but he beats her to it. ''And I will be like your fan or something.'' He shrugs. ''Not that that's anything new.''

''Are you trying to imply that you've always been a fan of mine?''

He grins. ''Well yeah. Who isn't?''

She doesn't stop herself as she moves in to kiss him softly. She wants to pull apart right after, but he holds her steady and deepens the kiss. Then, she would have stopped it. But now, she's not so sure. She loves the familiarity and the comfort he sheds. The way her heart flutters just the slightest bit when he trails his thumb across her cheek.

Rachel wants to withhold the mere feeling of it. She can't help but think that Noah can provide for that.

He's going to stand with her during the rest, she knows he will. And she's going go to the finals and win, she knows she will.

Because Rachel Berryalways ends up as number one.

Fin