"This is what we've been working towards for the last 3 months, and we will not slack off now. There have been bumps in the road, namely Sweater Vest and Jewish Ursula, but we ran right over them and got to the top. So here we are, in New York City, a place I liked for two minutes before having to take out a gang of mobsters with my bare hands after they tried stealing my bullhorn. But all theft and fights aside, Nationals has arrived, no matter what happens now we must come at the other teams with everything we've got and take them to the floor.
I've said some bad things about you guys before, most insults completely justified and very cleverly put together, but now you've all gotten rid of that disgusting mop of hair of an instructor, I can see real winners here. Champions, even. And if you prove me right then you would have done something nobody has ever done before: Make me proud. And if you fail then I will not stop until you get to the top again take everyone down even harder, even more viciously, perhaps blood will be shed.
So to answer your question... No, we are not nearly there, we left five minutes ago." Sue finally answered, walking alongside the group towards the Nationals competition. "Don't be lazy, perk up."
"But my legs ache." Finn complained.
"You're the goddamn quarterback dude, this is just embarrassing." Mike laughed.
"I'm tired, okay? Leave me alone."
"Tired huh? Up all night?" Santana winked.
"You saw that food truck girl, Finn would break her." Lauren said.
"Yeah..." Finn smirked with a bright blush.
"Wait." Puck gawked, slapping Finn on the back supportively. "You dog, nice one!"
"Puck!" Kurt reprimanded.
"What? He totally hit that."
"I thought hitting women was bad." Brittany mumbled.
"Only if they aren't into it." Mercedes joked, and Sam raised an eyebrow at her seductively. "Don't make that face, I'm joking."
"It's true though." Artie grinned.
"How on Earth is this a genuine topic of conversation?" Quinn muttered disappointedly.
"How is it not?" Tina bounced. "Oh my God, let's discuss the logistics of prostate stimulation next."
"Prostates are awesome." Puck said under his breath.
Everyone slowly turned to look at him, with either amused expressions or mortified ones. Kurt slapped him on the arm again in warning as Santana wolf whistled the statement.
"What is a prostate?" Sam asked.
"Hmm... Another word for vocal chords." Santana suggested.
"Does that mean I have a prostate?"
"You certainly have."
"You're all children." Kurt shook his head.
"And children are disgusting parasites." Sue added. "Nevertheless, I expect your attention to redivert to more important issues, such as victory."
"I was victorious last night." Finn blushed proudly.
"Same." Puck chuckled, high fiving his best friend before Finn could understand what he'd just high fived.
"Wait... Gross! That's my brother!"
This very sophisticated level of discussion continued until the centre for Nationals came into view. That's when it stopped, because the group were rendered utterly speechless. What exactly took their breath away wasn't too clear, it could've been fear or ambition or concern, maybe a mixture of all three. Either way, it was difficult to speak.
There were still a few people going in and out of the building with speakers and instruments in hand. Alongside the backstage crew were the competing show choirs, including Vocal Adrenaline, of course. They were getting insanely pumped up as they ran into the doors, and Jesse seemed to be eating Rachel's face against a wall.
Well, that wasn't something anybody wanted to see.
"Well, that's something nobody wants to see." Mercedes sighed.
In agreement, everyone nodded as they walked towards the center and, therefore, towards Rachel and Jesse. They prepared themselves for something intense, because that's what always happened with Vocal Adrenaline. They'd had a few more standoffs in the hotel, though most had ended with obnoxious cackling or pathetic insults. In one case it did end with a food fight, which the New Directions totally won by the way.
They were reminded of their victory as they walked past the infuriating couple, waving passively. Rachel removed herself from Jesse's grasp long enough to glare at her former teammates sourly, Finn in particular. The silence that followed was... Interesting.
Finn and Rachel were just staring at each other. Not with fondness or with resentment, with something indescribable as they feigned friendliness. A polite smirk that quickly morphed into simultaneous scowls. The rest of their respective groups nearly choked on the thick tension clogging the air.
Until someone decided to finally interrupt the... Moment? Was it a moment? Maybe something else. Maybe a... Glare off? Who knows? It was a bizarre situation. They hadn't even discussed what exactly happened when they broke up. Everyone just kinda assumed they'd ended on the stage, maybe there was more.
"Say hello then, Finn." Kurt teased with a forced smile.
"Hello... Rachel." Finn said.
"Finn." She spat back.
"What a pair you two make." Jesse smiled mockingly as he slipped a hand into Rachel's, squaring off against Finn. "Makes me wonder why she ever felt the need to-"
"Jesse, don't." Rachel hissed.
"Don't what?" Finn frowned. "She felt the need to what?"
"It doesn't matter man."
"Yes it does, what is it?" Finn raised his voice.
"Drop it Finn." Rachel scalded.
"Yeah, drop it Finn, it doesn't matter." Puck comforted slyly. "Afterall, you got a new girl now." He saw Rachel's face drop and grinned knowingly. "He banged her last night."
"What!?" Rachel squealed.
Puck cackled obscenely at her expression and dragged Finn into the center in front of her, pulling the others with them. There you go, first standoff complete.
"Dressing room? More like... Huge room." Sam exclaimed as they walked into their... Huge room.
"Clever." Lauren scoffed.
"Get dressed, dorks." Sue announced.
"Why bother? We're last." Puck said as he collapsed into a chair. "Let's not bother watching the others, it'll throw us off game."
"You just don't want to risk sitting near gel boy." Santana mocked.
"Hey, in my defence, gel boy sucks."
"I thought that was Sebastian." Brittany mumbled, followed by a chorus of laughter and an intense, embarrassed blush from Kurt.
"Yeah, you're all funny." He muttured.
"None of you are funny, what you are is slow!" Sue corrected. "Get ready and rehearse!"
Obediently, the group stopped joking around and started to prepare their costumes. For this competition, they were wearing a surprisingly gorgeous ensemble of gold, black and white. It worked unbelievably well, and Kurt simply had to congratulate Sue on her impeccable taste.
He also had to laugh at his boyfriend's lack of knowledge on suspenders, which he had somehow put on incorrectly. Puck simply let the golden bands hang around his waist as he munched on Finn's crisps. Kurt quickly fixed the outfit by snapping the bands over Puck's shoulders, causing a humiliatingly loud gasp of pain to slip from his lips.
Finn giggled at his friend's pain before working on fixing Brittany's dress. For some reason, those two always struggled with costumes the most. They fixed that problems by helping each other... No wait, that just made it worse. Because now, Brittany tied Finn's bowtie wrong and Finn forced Brittany's head through the arm hole. What an extraordinary pair.
After they'd gotten changed, the group vacated the dressing room to make their way to the empty dining hall to rehearse their number. It was big enough for all the tricks they'd included, but small enough for no other group to intrude. They were all by themselves, which was perfect.
Beyond those walls, the stage stood with the first group preparing to perform. As Puck had suggested earlier, they did not watch any performances from other groups. It would simply throw them off and they honestly had a lot to pin down before they went on. That's why they did not move from the hall when the 'Party Pipes' began to perform the first song of the night.
Now, I'm not saying that singing an acapella version of 'Smack That' by Akon didn't sound awesome, but it certainly wasn't show choir material. Well done 'Party Pipes'.
Every now and then the music sinking through the plaster from the stage reached the hall and taunted the New Directions. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, but one performance in particular was difficult to ignore. Because it was Vocal Adrenaline, and in typical Vocal Adrenaline fashion they went full out.
It was goddamn opera. No, not rock opera or pop opera or any variation of opera; it was just opera. In Italian. And judging by the cheers from the audience, there were probably plenty of cool flips and tricks thrown in there for extra marks. Finn had to fight off an infuriated scream when he heard Rachel hit that final note. It was just so good... Damn her!
"Opera." Artie breathed. "They sing opera in fluent Italian for a show choir competition, and they still get the loudest applause of the night."
"Of the night so far." Tina corrected as the cheers from the stage died down.
"I really hope they're cheering because the girl with the annoying voice broke a bone." Quinn smirked.
"No, they cheered because we crushed it." Rachel said, waltzing into the room.
Jesse grinned at her side as their arms locked together, stopping face to face with the New Directions. The couple glared and batted their eyelashes as if they'd already won the competition. Maybe they had, maybe they'd bribed the judges. It certainly wouldn't be surprising.
Kurt rolled his eyes as the rest of Vocal Adrenaline stood behind the two in matching poses: hand on hip, cocky smile, weight all on one leg. They genuinely looked like a dance gang from a cheesy 80's movie about to challenge another group to a dance off. If that's what it took so be it, Kurt had his finger wag and shoulder shimmy very much prepared.
Let standoff two commence.
"Seriously, why do you always make such weird entrances?" Mike asked. "No need for so much flamboyance, leave that to Kurt."
"Yeah, we don't care what you have to say." Sam spat.
"No? Well then, I suppose you won't mind that one of the judges is someone that certainly won't be letting you win." Rachel crossed her arms arrogantly. "Not in a million years."
"Maybe not in a million years, but definitely today." Kurt retorted.
"You don't even care who-"
"Couldn't care less." Finn said. "We'll win because we're better, not because there's a bias."
"Bias, I'm surprised you know that word." Jesse huffed. "Since there's so much you don't know."
"Stop with the cryptic crap, Jesse St Sucks a lot." Santana mocked.
"Yeah, your games got old a long time ago." Artie added.
"Exactly. And opera?" Lauren laughed. "Are you kidding me?"
"Are you really going to try and tease us when you look like a black, white and gold painted whale?" Rachel said to Lauren, who clenched her fists in reponse. "Oh look, you're balling your hands into fists!" She giggled. "Will you use it to punch me or sexually assault me, because looking at you I'm assuming you already have a penis to do the latter."
Vocal Adrenaline cackled at Rachel's insult as the New Directions had to physically restrain Santana from causing some serious retinal damage to the Berry bitch. Lauren nearly knocked her out right then and there, but Quinn managed to step in front of her.
"If you insist on discussing male body parts, then maybe you should be referring to your own hands and hips, which are disturbingly similar to Puck's." Quinn remarked.
"Yeah, bet you know all about his hands... And hips... Don't you?" Jesse smirked. "Considering what a slut you are."
"You call her that again and I will tear your stupid little head off your shoulders." Tina shouted, flecks of spit landing on Jesse's face.
"Wow, so much violence." Rachel spoke softly. "That won't look good for your group, will it?"
"The law says violence is okay when hunting animals." Brittany smiled. "So it's okay now."
"Amen, you wanna go, we can go!" Puck threatened.
"The only place you're going to go is prison, by the looks of that trailer trash haircut." Jesse insulted.
"Better to be trailer trash than actual trash." Kurt interrupted. "And for the record, he-"
"We're on next." Sue announced through her bullhorn as she entered the room. "Get your asses onto that stage!"
"Mummy's calling." Rachel teased.
"Screw you, Berry." Santana added as she forced herself to leave the hall without ripping someone's eyes out. Lauren followed suit, still balling her fists by her sides as Mercedes calmed her.
Sam, Mike and Brittany glared the opposite team down as they walked off as well, Puck and Kurt flipping Vocal Adrenaline off behind them. Then Quinn and Tina left, leaving Finn to walk the futhest behind them. And that's when Jesse decided to reveal his last card, the final trick to distract the dopey, hopeless romantic.
"Oh, and Finn, in case you were wondering." Jesse started, watching Finn slowly amble towards the backstage. "That thing Rachel did... Was me." Finn froze. "While you two were still dating." Jesse could basically see the fury radiating from the taller boy as Rachel tightened her grip on his hand to stop him. Jesse did not stop. "It went on for about three months, I'd guess. She said I was better at everything." Finn slowly turned to make eye contact with him. "Every. Thing."
Rachel slumped back as if she was embarassed. Or ashamed. She and Finn let their eyes meet for just a moment, both adorning the darkest of frowns and the saddest of expressions. Until Finn's lips gradually curled into a tiny smirk and his eyes continued to bore into his ex girlfriend's soul.
"You know when I found out about Puck and Kurt, I was hurt. Puck was my best friend, Kurt was my brother, I still had some issues with gay stuff, it weirded me out." He explained with a shrug. "It stopped hurting when I realised what they had was real, not some kind of way to punish me. I saw how selfish and ignorant I was, so I left them be." He sighed. "But you, Rachel. You know why finding out about this doesn't hurt as much as finding out about them?" She shook her head and looked shamefully to the floor, as his smirk grew wider. "Because I realise what we had wasn't real. I also realise something else." He pointed at her smugly. "You're a bitch."
With that, he walked away, leaving Jesse and Rachel gobsmacked and ashamed. But Finn, he felt better than ever, greeting his teammates with a wide smile as they prepared to start their set. It was only a matter of time before the thing this had all been leading to finally happened:
They were gonna break Rachel Berry.
"Now welcome to the stage..." The overhead speakers announced. "The New Directions!"
The audience erupted into applause as the dark stage recieved a downpour of light, revealing the bodies upon it. Finn, Sam and Artie stood in the middle with microphones in their hands, looking out at the crowd. The rest of the group were behind them in complicated poses, ready to blow the roof off this center with their sick dance moves.
As the music came in, the dancing set off and the boys began to sing 'Runaway Baby' by Bruno Mars, crushing every goddamn note. Sam spotted Blaine and Sebastian in the audience, getting a good eyeful of Blaine's lonely disappointment staring at Kurt and Sebastian's leer at Sam. It was quite nice, so Sam made sure to put on a good show for the boy, just for fun.
Finn could see Rachel look at him sadly, apologising with her eyes. Yeah, bit late for that sweetheart. As she mouthed the words 'I'm sorry' to him, he mouthed the words 'Your poor little heart will end up alone' to her. The perfect sign off for a less than perfect relationship, only amplified when Finn saw Dalia Food Truck in the audience. That was definitely enough to get his performance looking even better.
Artie saw someone else in the audience, a judge to be exact. It explained why Rachel and Jesse had said they wouldn't win, because they were right. There was no way that person would vote for them after everything, it had been a real trainwreck. Though, they did seem to be enjoying the show. Who could blame them? It was awesome.
When they finished in their final poses, the crowd went wild for them. It would've been no surprise if a girl or two threw their panties at the boys after that! The group rushed off the stage to prepare for their next performance, Quinn and Tina panicking over their duet quite impressively. Artie turned to everyone worryingly.
"Be warned, one of the judges is Mister Schuester."
"What?" The rest asked in surprise, a little too loudly.
"I know." Artie whispered. "But we can't let that distract us. He might not be fair, but if we're good enough we can sway the other two. That would be enough to win."
"I can't believe it's him!" Quinn hissed.
"I don't think I can do this, he'll just be glaring the whole time and-"
"T, you are the baddest bitch I know." Puck said. "You can do this, both of you can."
Tina slowed her breathing and nodded, looking to her girlfriend for confirmation. Quinn simply smiled back, leading them both onto the stage to their starting positions. They stood in the centre of the stage, backs pressed against one another and heads just touching, as the lights changed to look down upon them. The audience waited as the first few notes of 'Set The Fire To The Third Bar' by Snow Patrol began to play.
Quinn felt Tina's hand brush hers, felt her body move with every heavy breath, and heard nothing but the soft music echo through the room. It was time to sing, and the lump in her throat felt as though it would prevent such an action. Three seconds before she had to say the first word. Two...
"I love you." Tina whispered, and just like that, the lump in Quinn's throat disappeared.
"I find a map and draw a straight line." Quinn sang. "Over rivers, farms and state lines, the distance from A to where you'd B." They girls pushed off each other and started to walk in opposite directions. "It's only finger lengths that I see."
"I touch the place," Tina continued, both still walking slowly in opposite directions. "Where I'd find your face. My fingers in creases, of distant dark places."
"I hang my coat up in the third bar," The girls sang as one, stopped and spun around to look at each other, a whole stage width apart. "There is no peace that I've found so far." They stared. "The laughter penetrates my silence, as drunken men find flaws in science." The audience was deadly silent, enamoured with the performance.
"Their words mostly noises." Quinn sang.
"Ghosts with just voices." Tina added.
"Your words in my memory."
"Are like music to me."
"And miles from where you are," They walk towards each other, singing in unison. "I lay down on the cold ground, and I," They circled each other in the middle, dead eye contact. "I pray that something picks me up and..." Tina cupped Quinn's face with both hands. "Sets me down in your warm arms." Quinn pressed their foreheads together.
"After I have travelled so far." Quinn soloed.
"We'd set the fire to the third bar." They sang together, as Quinn held Tina's forearms loveingly.
"We'd share each other like an island." Tina continued.
"Until exhausted close our eyelids." They finished together again, closing their eyes and enveloping one another in a meaningful hug.
The music ended when they embraced, but the sound did not. The audience got to their feet and started to manically applaud the girls' performance, cheering and wolf whistling and even crying. Schue would never admit it but even he was tearing up a little, as was Sue from backstage.
The rest of the group allowed the girls to have their moment in the spotlight before leading out onto the stage to begin the group number. Before the lights flooded the stage and the music began again, Quinn and Tina reluctantly parted and bowed politely. Once the girls had joined the others, they all took a few steps forward as the first notes began to play.
And together they sang 'Lean On Me', a song that took them back to the first few months in Glee. They'd sang it to comfort Quinn and Finn through the baby trials, a moment that they were now able to look back on and laugh at. As they looked out to the crowd they could see a ghost of a smile on Rachel's lips as the nostalgia settled into her too. Then Will smiled at them like nothing had ever happened in the group.
A lot had changed, but the meanings behind those words did not. They would always be there for each other. And despite the fact those on the stage were different to those in the choir room all that time ago, they all still felt the same way. They'd come together as a group and done something amazing as one ambitious unit. It was perfect.
When the song finished the audience found themselves on their feet again, cheering for the New Directions deafeningly loud. Puck and Kurt held hands; Quinn and Tina hugged again; Santana and Brittany locked pinkies, Mercedes and Sam linked arms; Lauren ruffled Finn's hair; Mike spun Artie in his wheelchair with a chuckle; together they accepted the applause and bowed a final time.
The last time they went to Regionals with Rachel and Schue, the New Directions had lost. They'd lost hard. They'd tripped and fallen and massive truck had squashed their bodies and dreams in one foul swoop. It was catastrophic and nearly destroyed the entire Glee club's future.
The first time they'd gone to Regionals without them, they'd won. They'd won't fantastically. They'd recieved three sets of standing ovations along with some serious bragging rights and an awesome trophy. Then they'd been shipped off to Nationals for an outstanding week in New York.
In New York, they'd conquered and seen all they wanted to: they'd expressed love, they'd found love, they'd stolen art, they'd made art, they'd slushied monuments, they'd eaten tots and they'd ridden coasters. It was an incredible week, and all because they got to do it together. Even the bitch outs with Rachel were fun.
Now they were there, standing on the Nationals stage with each other's hands in their grasps and their heads down, praying for a win. The other four groups stood around them in similar positions, all awaiting the upcoming results.
Lady Belinda Tubbington, Rainn Belintrophy, Prince Rodriguez, Caspian Arabella, Sir Francis Gethsmane, Lotus Gustavio Boshwain, Audrey Hickerlow, Bez, Barry Jenimay, the Innsbruck family and their daughter. The weirdest group they'd ever had the pleasure of being involved in, ready for anything.
"I love all you guys, no homo." Artie whispered, causing the others to lightly giggle as the announcer on stage opened the envelope in her hands.
"In third place: Party Pipes!" She said, as 'Party Pipes' were awarded their third place trophy and the audience applauded.
"That's a good sign, right?" Kurt asked.
"Really good or really bad." Tina answered.
"In second place..." The announcer continued. "Jumping Beans!"
'Jumping Beans' - awesome name - started bouncing in their places and happily accepting their second place trophy. They all hugged and smiled and even waved at the other groups, leaving the stage behind 'Party Pipes' with dignity and kindness.
"They seemed so nice." Brittany muttered.
"Oh well, at least we're closer to winning now, look at them." Santana whispered, nodding towards the nervous Vocal Adrenaline.
"They are shaking in their little boots." Lauren mocked.
"We should be too, we're either gonna win or come last." Mike shrugged.
"Wow, this is a crushing reveal system." Quinn shook her head.
"I know, isn't it brilliant?" Mercedes quietly chuckled.
"You know what's not brilliant? This tension." Sam said.
"I know, why is there so much of a pause? Like, just get on with-"
"And now..." The announcer interrupted Puck. She looked side to side, from Vocal Adrenaline to the New Directions.
God, it really was intense. All the bad blood between the groups just showed so clearly, it was insane. They knew this was it, whoever won was better and more worthy of the title, whoever lost was not. If the New Directions lost, that would mean they were wrong to do what they did to Rachel, right?
Afterall, they'd completely reinvented Glee.
"The winners are..." The announcer continued at an agonisingly slow pace. "The New Directions!"
At the announcement the group went absolutely mad. Quinn leapt upon every member she could get ahold of, Kurt and Puck squeezed the life from one another as Finn, Artie and Sam piled into a huge hug. The teenagers didn't release one another until they had successfully punctured at least one lung in each body with a bruising embrace, and the massive trophy came towards them.
Sue took the golden statue at first, but then passed it to Tina, who passed it to Quinn, who passed it to Artie, to Finn, to Sam, to Mercedes, to Mike, to Lauren, to Brittany, to Santana, to Kurt. Then Kurt placed it into Puck's hands and the rest of the group smiled at him expectantly.
"You want me to hold it?" He asked.
"Of course we do." Quinn scoffed, like it was obvious. "You're the reason we did this."
"We'd all wanted to ditch Berry for ages, but you were the only one to really make it happen." Santana smiled genuinely, a rare occurance.
"Yeah, remember, this all started because you actually picked up a book." Tina teased.
"And got us all to band together." Artie added.
"And encouraged us to remove toxicity from our lives." Finn nodded.
"And somehow turned Finn into a person who knows what toxicity means." Lauren chuckled.
"We're all better because this club is better." Sam stated.
"It's better because of you and your awesomely badass ways." Brittany smirked.
"So yeah, you should definitely carry it for us." Mike agreed.
"This trophy wouldn't belong to any of us were it not for you." Kurt claimed, pressing a quick kiss to Puck's jaw.
"Wow..." Puck breathed, smiling at all his friends lovingly. "That's... So cheesy." He laughed, along with the rest. "But I like it, I love it." He raised the trophy over his head and shouted. "The New Directions!"
"The New Directions!" The others cheered afferwards, giggling together as they basked in the wonderful afteglow of victory.
"You got lucky." Rachel spat, walking past them. "But we'll be back, and we will be the toughest challenge you have ever faced off against."
The New Directions all exchanged amused glances before resting their eyes upon Rachel again, glaring her down fiercely before stepping closer. Puck waved the trophy in front of her face and smirked wickedly at the girl who awaited some kind of insult.
Instead, she got one united shout from every member of the New Directions shouting in perfect unison "You lost, man hands!", before laughing uncontrollably once again.
Man hands left the stage with an annoyed huff as the New Directions stayed stood upon it. They embraced in one massive group hug, jumping on the spot through joyous fits of happy giggles.
The lights faded out.