"I just hate them, I hate school, I hate everything!" Lucy's only twelve and she's having a breakdown. Life sucks, people suck, everything sucks.

Her dad sits next to her on the couch, the shoulder of his shirt damp where she's been crying on it. Her glasses sit on the coffee table, dirty and streaked with tears.

He's silent for a moment, as if he's not sure what to say. Which is weird, because he dad always has an answer for everything. "Well, kiddo, what would make you feel better?"

She wipes the back of a hand over her eyes. "Being able to kick them in the face."

Russell's arm tightens around her and his body shakes with what she eventually realizes is laughter.

"Daddy, I'm serious!"

That just makes him laugh even more. She squirms to break from his embrace, annoyed that he thinks this is all so funny. He lets go, but he snatches up her glasses before she can pick them up, and the he rubs away the streaks and smudges with a clean tissue.

"I know you are, Luce." He hands over the glasses and kisses the side of her head.

The next morning, after her dad's left for work, she finds half a dozen martial arts brochures sitting on the counter, along with a Post-It that says, "Pick one."

She's always been close with her dad and he's always been able to make her feel safe and special.

Which is why it will be incredibly devastating when he kicks her out on a cold November night during her sophomore year of high school.

Lucy's always been a loner.

It's taken her a while to embrace it, but she's more comfortable now that it's by choice instead of default.

When she looks at the rest of the student population, she sees people scrambling to fit in, to be part of something, which is totally human. But it's also kind of pointless, because in less than a year, she'll be gone and graduated from McKinley and dumped into a a bigger pool of people who have no fucking clue what they're doing with themselves or their lives.

People like Finn Hudson, who's good at football and playing the drums, but seemingly has no skills that will carry him outside the city boundaries of Lima.

People like Tina Cohen-Chang, who is probably good at a lot of stuff, but can't seem to stop staring at her boyfriend's body long enough to express an interest in anything else.

People like Noah Puckerman, who actually might get out of Lima, but only if the Allen county jail is overcrowded.

Actually, Puck has potential, but it's hard to see it. Especially as long as he has that stupid haircut. It's not that mohawks are bad, it's that his has gotten to the point where it looks like a dead animal resting on his head.

"'Sup, Fabray. Give any thought to my offer?" He drops his tray on the table and lowers into the seat across from her. This is weird, because he usually spends the lunch period with his friends and they're not really in that place.

"Declined." Lucy's hair hangs in her face as she continues to read her copy of Slaughterhouse-Five.

"Don't you need shit for college applications?"

"I do. I also have plenty."

"Does chess club even count?

"It actually does, even though I'm not in it." She momentarily gives up on reading the book and sets it on the table, pages splayed, face-down. "Not since freshman year, anyway."

He's been after her to join the stupid glee club, which she first thought was just one of his many attempts to flirt with her. It's something he does regularly, even though he knows she's totally into girls. And, at this point, it's just the way they relate. He's not the brightest guy, but he knows when he has a chance in hell with a girl, and Lucy's made it clear that he is not at all her type.

Even though she's not super social, there's no point hiding who she is, for a variety of reasons. But it's also kind of hard to hide something when it's the thing that left you homeless in the tenth grade.

Getting kicked out at least made her a blip on the McKinley High radar. Not that she wanted to be one. It was easier to get through the day when no one knew who she was, so they weren't able to make fun of her.

Though, by then, she was already distanced from that girl she used to be in middle school.

Taking tae kwon do had given her a physical activity, something to tone the baby fat. It also gave her focus for all her angry energy, so she felt better about, like, life. Her braces came off during freshman year and resulted in a makeout session with Brittany Pierce, which actually led to Lucy tutoring Brittany in Spanish the following year.

Her mother insisted she be fitted for contacts when she started high school, but Lucy rarely ever wears them. She's always preferred the bulky barrier of her glasses between herself and the rest of the world. The same goes for her clothes, the jeans and t-shirts, the plaid shirt like the one she has on today. She likes to be covered up, she prefers when people don't see her.

"Come on, don't you want to hang out with actual people?" Puck asks, through a mouthful of burger.

"You mean like you?" She pushes her hair out of her face (it falls forward a lot more, ever since she decided to go for a change and cut it shorter) and considers that he's actually being genuine and not asking about lesbian sex positions.

"Britt's in it, you know."

She knows. So is Santana. She can't stand Santana. She's head cheerleader and she's a total bitch. "Not really into the showtunes."

"We do a lot more than that."

"So, what. Did Rachel tell you she'd put out if you recruited more members or what?" Rachel's the captain or whatever, Lucy knows that much. She actually know a lot about Rachel, because she's on the school paper and it's kind of her job to know about the people who make up the population of McKinley. And Rachel's not exactly quiet about her involvement in school activities, particularly glee club.

Puck laughs. "No. But that's a good idea." He chugs down half a bottle of orange Gatorade. "We just need a certain number of members if we want to compete. And I think you'd be good."

"Desperate, you mean." Lucy picks at the macaroni and cheese on her own tray.

"Just come check it out. And if you hate it, I'll leave you alone."

Lucy's seen the club perform at assemblies. They're not bad. They're actually pretty good. And Rachel's really talented. Like, she'll definitely get out of this crap town. "Swear?"

"Yeah." Puck nods.

"Whatever." Lucy picks her book back up. "When?"

"After last period, in the choir room." He's actually grinning at her, like he's accomplished something.

"Fine. One time."

"Cool." Puck rips open his bag of chips and holds it out to Lucy. As she takes one, he asks, "So, made out with any hotties, lately?"

Despite Puck's constant inquiries about her personal life, Lucy's not any kind of lesbian stud. She's only made out with a few girls and had exactly one girlfriend. The relationship began and ended at computer camp, meaning it lasted exactly two weeks and consisted mostly of conversations over lunch about the latest World of Warcraft expansion pack.

It doesn't matter, anyway. This is her senior year and she's not about to waste time worrying about something that's so unnecessary. Would it be nice to have a girlfriend? Definitely. Is it likely? Not really.

She just wants to make it through to graduation so she can move on to college, hopefully in New York, if she gets either of her top two choices. Lima's already in the rear view and she's not about to actively change that course for anyone.

When she gets to the empty choir room, she's early and she considers bailing, because this whole thing is so stupid. She doesn't sing, she doesn't perform in any capacity. Not in public, anyway. She does know how to play piano, because she's taken lessons and, outside of tae kwon do, it's a way she's learned to express herself. But it's something that only ever happens at home, in her room, with her keyboard.

Ever since she moved back home, after her parents divorced, her time there is almost always spent in her bedroom. Her mother doesn't make any extra effort to talk to her and she doesn't really care about conversing with her mom when the woman is drunk, which is most of the time.

She's accustomed to the plastic keys of her Casio, so when she presses down on the keys of the piano in choir room she has to compensate for the change in pressure, but it's a quick adjustment. Her fingers work out the chorus to the most recent Dresden Dolls song she's learned and she smiles a little at the rich sound of the instrument.

Halfway through the first chorus of Good Day, she realizes she's kind of singing along and abruptly stops everything she's doing to look behind her. No one's there, but then the door opens and Rachel Berry enters.

The girl stops in the doorway for a moment, then continues toward the piano. Her fashion sense this year a little more mature than the first three years of high school. Lucy notices, because she's also on yearbook staff and she's taken plenty of pictures of Rachel (as well as other people, she's not a stalker). She kind of misses the familiarity of the knee socks and plaid skirts, but Rachel looks good in the dresses and skirts she's been wearing this year. Then she wonders if it's weird that she knows so much about this girl's clothes when they've never really had a conversation.

"I'm sorry to interrupt your practice time, but glee club has this room for the next hour." Rachel places her books on a chair near the piano.

"I wasn't practicing. I mean, I'm here for... I told Puck I'd come by."

Rachel straightens up and smiles. "Are you considering joining the New Directions?"

"I..." Lucy isn't. But with the way this girl is looking at her, it kind of makes her want to reconsider.

"You'll have to audition." A paper with assorted rehearsal times is shoved in Lucy's face. "But as long as you can successfully carry a tune, we can find a place for you."

"I was really just planning to sit in today." Lucy senses the slight disappointment that rolls off of Rachel.

"Sure, of course."

For some reason, she wants Rachel to smile, so she says, "I thought I'd do an article on New Directions."

That does the trick. "Really?" Suddenly, Rachel's sitting next to her on the bench. "What do you need to know?"

Crap. Now she needs an angle.

Fortunately, she's saved by Puck, who slaps her on the back. "Sweet! You didn't bone out on me."

"Lucy's doing an article on us for the school paper," Rachel says, turning to face Puck.

"Is she?" Puck looks down at Lucy, but she rises from the bench and evens out his glare.

"I'm just going to go sit in the back."

"Let me know if you need anything," Rachel calls after her.

"I'm sure she will," replies Puck.

Lucy doesn't have to turn to look at him to know there's a huge smirk on his face. This is so stupid. She should have just gone home.

Now she has to sit here for an hour and watch Rachel boss around a group of amateur performers and pretend like there's a story in it.

It's not the absolute worst. She could be watching the football team bash each other's heads in. Or the Cheerios sweating until they pass out (which is not as appealing as it sounds).

At the end of the rehearsal, she's not obligated to join anything and she's holding a piece of paper with Rachel's phone number on it and explicit instructions to call her if she needs any further information for her article. The one that she now has to write and convince her editor to put in the paper.

Not the worst. Maybe not ideal. But definitely not the worst.