One chance to prove to everyone that they were the best.
This year, McKinley High's glee club was not fooling around.
A month before the competition, they came up with a set list. The group number featuring Reliant K's Must Have Done Something Right would give everyone at least one line to shine. Then they all agreed that Mercedes and Santana's Rumor Has It/Someone Like You mash-up was incredible, a great choice for day two, when they'd made it to the finals.
Which left the duet.
As Rachel was their strongest singer, she was going to take the female lead and it was assumed that she'd sing with Finn. At least it was until Santana opened her mouth.
"Look, we need to face facts here," the Latina said, jabbing a finger in Finn's direction. "Okay, so you don't always suck, but most of the guys in here are better singers. And they're all better dancers. Including roller boy."
The ensuing argument had been settled by Mr. Schuester, who suggested a secret ballot. Everyone wrote down what boy they thought should sing opposite Rachel and dropped it into a bowl. Shue then counted the votes.
He counted three times before saying, "One vote for Blaine, one for Sam, one for Artie, one for Finn and 11 for Puck."
"What?" Finn said, almost drowning out Puck's own startled, "The fuck?"
Despite Finn's grumbles that the vote must've been rigged, Shue insisted on sticking to the verdict.
Lady Antebellum's Run to You was selected for the pair of them to perform.
And perform they did.
The entire group performed exceptionally well during the Reliant K number, but Rachel knew it wasn't just her ego that told her the standing ovation was for Noah and herself. It was just a fact.
Over the course of the previous month, they had practiced until it was second nature. The words, the music, the dance were all nailed and they even found a place to showcase Noah's exceptional guitar skills.
Though she knew Finn was less than pleased with her performing a number with Noah, Rachel had to admit it was exhilarating. The spark between them ignited on stage and their chemistry sparkled, though they refrained from any untoward actions, as she was engaged woman…sort of.
She'd accepted Finn's proposal, not knowing how to say no without hurting him. It was something she was trying very hard not to think about and prep for nationals was a wonderful distraction.
As was seeing the ranking list that placed them in second as they headed into the finals.
The entire club had devolved into a screaming, jumping ball of joy, hugging and kissing and generally making fools of themselves, but Rachel didn't care. She laughed, tumbling from Finn's arms, to Kurt's, to Mike's, to Brittney's (the blonde kissed her) and finally to Noah.
He picked her up and gave her a squeeze, breathing into her ear, "Already kicking ass in New York, Rach. Knew you could do it!"
She smiled into his eyes for a moment before Finn pulled her back to his side and said, "We're gonna bring that first-place trophy back home with us, Rachel."
Even the distressing undertone of that comment and couldn't dull the elation Rachel felt and she just grinned.
There would be time to work everything out later.
"Excuse me!" A strong voice cut through the crowd and Rachel turned to see two people approaching their celebratory huddle. A small, thin man dressed all in black was standing beside a tall woman wearing bug like glasses. The man was pointing emphatically as he said, "That's the girl!"
Rachel's heart skipped a beat. Ever since she was a little girl, she'd dreamed of being discovered, of impressing someone important with her talent and having them point to her and declare that she would be the next big thing. Was it really happening?
The woman stepped forward. "Naomi Cole," she said and Rachel numbly shook her hand, knowing what the woman was going to say next. "Cole Talent Agency."
A legend among Broadway agents.
"Rachel Berry," Rachel managed, as the short man elbowed his way closer…towing a very disgruntled Noah by the collar.
Shoving Noah beside Rachel, the man nodded. "I'm Henry Armstrong and I'm staging an American Idiot revival on Broadway. You two are my Tunney and The Extraordinary Girl. Tell me your both 18."
"I'm willing to sign you both," Cole said. "From what I saw today, neither of you will have trouble finding work."
You could've heard a pin drop. Everyone in New Directions (as well as the other clubs within earshot) were silent, knowing the enormity of what was happening. Waiting to hear their answers.
As though there were any doubt.
"Yes!" Rachel practically shouted, leaping up and throwing her arms around Noah's neck.
"Hell, yes," he echoed, spinning her around.
Cole looked at them approvingly and held out two copies of her card. "Call me tomorrow after your competition. We'll set up to meet."
With that, she and Armstrong swept off.
"Oh my God," Kurt breathed, giving voice to what everyone was feeling. "That actually happened."
A new round of celebration broke out and Rachel found herself being passed around the group again, smothered in kisses and hugs. She was on the top of the world.
"I can't believe you!"
Finn's voice snapped her back to reality and Rachel blinked up at him. Unlike everyone else, he was frowning, arms crossed over his chest, clearly angry.
"What?" She asked, truly confused. "Finn, I'm going to Broadway!"
She thought maybe he hadn't followed what had happened, as things are moving rather quickly.
"No, you decided to stay in Lima with me," Finn said, voice climbing is his face reddened. "Now you're just gonna run off to New York without even asking me? God, think about someone other than yourself for once!"
At his words, a ball of ice formed and Rachel stomach. "Finn, you know I…."
"Was I just something to occupy you till something better came along? Were you just using me to feel better about yourself, cuz you didn't get into NYADA?"
As Mercedes might say, oh hell to the no!
"How dare you!" Rachel shouted, knowing they were making a scene and not caring. "I only think about myself? I'm using you to feel better about myself? I think you'll find the reverse is true. You were the one to propose, though you knew I wanted to leave Lima and had already told you I would be going after graduation." Waving her left hand, she continued, "I accepted this because I didn't want to hurt you!"
He scowled and spat, "Great job on that. You have to choose. Me or New York."
She was stunned. Everyone was. It seemed inconceivable that Finn didn't know how that ultimatum would work out.
Without a word, she yanked the ring for finger and flung it into his chest before turning on her heel and running from the lobby.
Once upstairs, she flung herself onto her bed and took several deep breaths. She thought perhaps she should cry, but she didn't feel sad. Mad seemed to be her prevailing emotion, warring with the remains of her earlier joy.
A few minutes later there was a knock on the door, followed by it swinging open.
"We have the key," Santana said as Kurt sighed.
"I was trying to be delicate," he replied, immediately holding up a hand. "If you comment on that, I'll be disappointed. It's far too easy."
"True," Santana agreed, as the entire club spilled into the room…well, except for Finn.
Seeing her gazing around, Mercedes said, "Mr. Shue told Finn to go to the guy's room and think about what he did. Finn doesn't seem to get it, but Shue did that whole 'I'm so disappointed in you' face, so he knows he did something wrong."
"I think you dodged doughy, white bullet," Santana said, sprawling gracefully beside Rachel. "I mean, did you seriously see yourself living in Lima, married to Finn and raising 2.5 midgit/sasquatch, borderline special kids?"
Santana did have a way with words.
"No," she admitted and Kurt patted her knee.
"To be honest, we were just waiting for you to realize he was never going to New York," Kurt said, then grinned. "And you are!"
"You and Puck both," Quinn added, nodding as she decreed, "Tomorrow, we win nationals. Tomorrow night, we celebrate everything!"
"We want tickets for opening night!" Tina said excitedly.
"Don't forget to remember us when you win a Tony," Sam added an everyone began talking, planning a trip to see Rachel and Noah's debut.
Sugar even promised to talk her dad into flying Rory back into the country for a visit.
Sure, it had been an emotional roller coaster of a day, but surrounded by her friends, Rachel met Noah's gaze and smiled.
They were going to Broadway. Together.
It wasn't something she'd ever considered, but somehow it felt more right than anything she had imagined.
How everyone Voted:
Kurt ~ Voted for Blaine
Rory ~ Voted for Sam, cuz he's his buddy
Puck ~ Voted for Artie, cuz he's his bro
Finn ~ Voted for himself
Rachel ~ Voted for Noah because she knows they perform well together
Quinn ~ Voted for Puck, remembering the Need You Now duet.
Sam ~ Voted for Puck, remembering the Need You Now duet.
Mercedes ~ Voted for Puck, remembering the Need You Now duet.
Santana ~ Voted for Puck. She knows chemistry when she's been stuck seeing it for 3 years
Brittany ~ Voted for Puck because Puckleberry was so cute!
Sugar ~ Voted for Puck cuz she likes to hear him sing.
Artie ~ Voted for Puck, cuz he's his bro
Tina ~ Voted for Puck, because he and Rachel always make each other shine
Mike ~ Voted for Puck, cuz he thinks the two of them are good for each other.
Blaine ~ Voted for Puck, because he knows talent and chemistry when he sees it.
Comments, pretty please?