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This was His Year.  Yeah, sure, Blaine’s parents had put their collective foot down on letting him transfer- (Think about Stanford, Blaine.  They don’t want to see public school with slim AP offerings, dear)

But College, New York, escape were all so close.  He sat in Glee the first day and filed his nails as the rest of the group filed in.  There were a couple of meek freshmen sitting in the back- they obviously hadn’t heard of Glee’s reputation yet.  Rachel, hanging onto Finn’s arm and babbling a million words a minute.  Asian Fusion came in and sat down next to Mercedes. 

Then Santana, back in uniform walked through the door.  Brittany was holding her left hand, Dave Karofsky the other.  She raised an eyebrow, daring them all to say so much as a word, even as Rachel got quiet.  She hissed loudly.  “Finn, do something!”

Finn shrugged, twisting around.  “Kurt, you cool?”

Kurt was surprised, sure, but Glee had always accepted everyone who wanted to join.  And- “A long as Santana keeps his leash short, I’m fine.”  Really, he was reformed, and Santana was unlikely to allow him to ruin her cover any time soon.

Rachel opened her mouth to protest, just as Mr. Schuester walked in, clapping his hands.  His vest had letters and numbers knit into it- it was burning Kurt’s eyes with every passing second, so he focused his attention on Brad.  

“Welcome, and welcome back! I’m happy to see some new faces- you guys freshmen?  Good, good.  We’ll get started in a second, but for the upperclassmen, we’ve got an assignment- duets.  But not a competition this time.  I’d like to show our new members the change that Glee can make in lives, so you and your partner will be doing two songs- one showing your past- how you felt or acted or treated each other at the start of the New Directions, two years ago, and one for the Future- from now on.”

Rachel stood up and turned towards them.  “Wonderful idea, Mr. Schuester.  Finn and I have the perfect set-”

“Not so fast, Rachel.  I’ll be assigning partners, because we keep on reprising the same combinations.  You can’t do two songs from the genre, and your voices need to be more or less equal in the arrangements.  Trade off, do harmonies, whatever, as long as it’s not one lead, one backup.  Understand?  Okay.  Tina, you’re with mike.  You’ve sung together before, but you don’t sing lead a lot at all, and you’re a good combination.  Brittany, Santana- Landslide was good, but I could barely hear you over Ms. Holliday.  Let’s get more of that feeling, okay?”  They grinned and linked pinkies.  “Mercedes, you’re with Quinn.  Finn, Puck.  Artie, Rachel.  I don’t think you’ve ever sung together, and that’s even though you’ve each had many, many, many leads.”  That’ll be a train wreck  “Finally Kurt, you’re with David.”

Wait.  Huh?  I have to sing with Karofsky, about feelings?

Mr. Schue seemed blind to the wave of discontent that spread over the room, chapping again and starting on warm-ups.

****

For all of his talk about changing over the past two years, Mr. Schuester seemed incapable of doing anything new.  Santana crossed her arms and glared as Schue passed out another Finchel showtune.  All they needed was some Journey up in here and it’d work as a time machine to sophomore year.  Karofsky shifted next to her, flipping through his copy.  

His baritone rumbled in her ear.  “Do we ever get to sing, or just sway appreciatively in the background?”

Santana snorted.  “First day, and you’ve already figured it out.  Bravo.”

While Rachel was pontificating about...something, Santana really just tuned her out after the first thirty seconds, Hummel pulled up a chair to face them.  He sat down on it backwards, nodding to them.  “Britt, Satan.  I look forward to your duet.  David.  Do you know Wicked?

Beside her, Dave sat up straight.  “I loved that book.  The political commentary was brilliant.”

Hummel’s jaw dropped as he blinked a few times.  “You’ve never even heard of the musical?”

Karofsky laughed.  “Dude, the only musical I’ve seen is The Sound of Music, and that’s cause it’s family tradition.  Every Christmas.”

Santana cut in.  “I hope you’re not planning on For Good for your ‘after’, Kurt, that’s a little sanctimonious even for you.”

Kurt smirked.  “Bitch, please.  For the Past segment, and What is This Feeling?”

Santana laughed.  “Dear Lord, that’s perfect.”  She turned to Dave.  “You can pick the other song.  I need to see you sing that song.”

He grimaced, clearly imagining what kind of song Kurt would choose.  “Let me listen to it first, at least”

Kurt grinned, messing with his iPod.  “I’d obviously have to rearrange it to suit your voice.  Just- listen to the entire song before you make any judgments, and remember this is us, last year or the year before.  Not now.”  He handed Dave an ear bud, looking on calmly.  

Okay, watching Davey’s face as the song played was, like, all the entertainment.   In the world.  First confused, then his face went through ten different emotions before grinning and laughing as he tapped his fingers on his knee.  “I don’t know how you’ll get that to work for two dudes, but if you can make it work, I’ll go for it.”

    Kurt looked both relieved and excited as they planned rehearsals, and Santana settled back into Space-Heater Brittany, who sighed happily and leaned her head on the other girl’s shoulder.

    **********

    Linda Karofsky was surprised to hear her piano as she stepped into the entry hall.  A high, clear, melodic voice sang,

    What is this feeling, so sudden and new?

    I felt the moment, I laid eyes on you.  That line, that was Dave’s voice.  Wow, someone got him to sing.  She hadn’t heard her son sing since the last time they went camping as a family, back when he was in middle school.

    My pulse is rushing

    My head is reeling

    My face is flushing!

    And a love song, too.

    Loathing.  Unadulterated loathing.  Or…not a love song.  Linda leaned against the door and eavesdropped.  They harmonized well together, and the other kid played the piano deftly, never missing a beat.  As they released the last note, they started laughing and Linda stepped through the door, applauding.  They stopped laughing and spun around.  Dave went pale, like he’d been caught doing something wrong.

    “Afternoon, boys.”  She was, okay, really surprised to see Kurt Hummel, of all people, sitting in her living room.  Although that explained the song choice.  “Hello, Kurt.  What are you kids up to?”

    “Glee project.” Kurt smiled.  “It’s lovely to meet you, Mrs. Karofsky.  We’ve been given a ‘then-and-now’ assignment this week.  That was the ‘then’”.

    “I didn’t know you’d joined glee club, David.”  He shot her a pleading glance that said, ‘ask later’; so she looked back to Kurt.  “What do you have for the now?”

    “Nothing, yet.  Dave’s given me a one-show-tune limit-”

    “-and none of my songs make good duets.”  Her son interjected.  “And all of Kurt’s duets are...not really appropriate.”  He grimaced as Kurt bit his lip.  

    “How so?” Linda asked.  Really, what could this boy have in his repertoire that was inappropriate?

    “Love songs.” Kurt said, bluntly.  

    “Ah.  And what are you trying to convey?”

    That got silence, then Davey looked down at his hands.  “I...admire you.”

    The smaller boy looked up at him.  “I respect you, now.  And-”  He flitted a nervous look towards her- “I’m grateful to have you as an ally.”  

    Dave raised his eyes.  “You know that I’d do anything to keep you, keep you safe.”  His voice was low and rough.  

    “It goes both ways, David.  I would help you, anytime.  All you have to do is ask.”

    They stare at each other for a second before awkwardly turning towards the piano.  

    Linda broke the silence.  She didn’t know the full circumstances, but she knew there was something going on here beyond a reformed bully and his primary victim.  There was knowledge, understanding, some subtext she wasn’t getting behind the forgiveness painted on every word they said.  But... “I think I know a song that could work.  Carole King wrote it, but James Taylor made it famous.  

    She flipped through her CD case.  “Here it is.  You’ve Got A Friend.  With your range, Kurt, you should be able to do it without transposition.”

    She excused herself as the song played.  David has slowly gained stability since Kurt Hummel returned to McKinley, and though her son was acting far from normal, and he sometimes looked tempted to have a Tortilla Soup moment at the dinner table, she wasn’t going to stop a good thing.  

    ****

    The rest of the week was a rush of preparations.  Kurt got the Left Out Freshmen to sing the chorus parts for him- they were so excited to get to sing that he didn’t have to use the Bribery Brownies in his locker.  Finn appreciated them late last night, when Kurt came up to his room with warm milk and found Puck leaning against the headboard, guitar sitting on his indecently spread legs.  Finn was sitting at the foot of the bed, one leg stretched out as he wrote on a notebook on his other knee.  Kurt set the mugs on the nightstand, smirking.  Finn didn’t even look up, but Puck grunted a “thanks”, nodding as he worked on a fingering.  

    Kurt shook his head and sighed, going back downstairs for another cup of milk.  

    On Thursday, Mike and Tina did the Ben Folds/Regina Spektor arrangement of You Don’t Know Me, followed by some love song the rest of them had never heard of.  Puck and Finn sang two mellow original songs, the first about betrayal and forgiveness, the second about loyalty and friendship lasting forever.  They could barely keep it together through the second number, so Mr. Schue ended up dismissing early, before Rachel and Artie could go.  

    Kurt thinks everyone was grateful for that small mercy.

    All in all, it went much better than expected.  None of the freshmen tripped or fell off the stage during What Is This Feeling?, and were all pretty much on key.  Kurt played up the drama to the max, funneling all his anger and frustration from the last two years, hell, his entire life, into one song about loathing.  He had merely sketched out the plan in rehearsal- now he was performing.  And David was giving as good as he got.  He did the swagger and mock-shoves and threatening glares.  When they sang “We’re all on your side!”, Dave just looked devastated.  But for all that it was, perhaps, a bit too close to home, they nailed it.  Pitch perfect, flawless choreography, magnificent blending.    And it was exhilarating.

    Breathing hard and pointedly not looking at their audience, Kurt and Dave sat down at the edge of the stage, knees touching as they angled towards each other.  Puck, sitting in the front row, started playing guitar at Kurt’s nod.

    After much deliberation, they’d decided to sing the entire song together, trading off who carried the melody but keeping the harmony going.  By the time they sang the final chorus, they were both fighting off tears and they weren’t holding hands, or anything, but their pinkies might have been accidentally overlapping.  Well, maybe more than pinkies.

    Kurt slid down off the stage, sniffling a bit.  Hey, allergies.  Dave’s eyes were definitely not red as he jumped down, either- that was just a trick of the stage lights.  They walked up to take their seats, smiling weakly at Mercedes and Tina holding hands, Brittany in Santana’s lap, and Finn looking wistfully at Puck, who was wiping away tears as he put his guitar away.  

    They sat down, shifting uncomfortably.  Everyone who wasn’t crying was staring at them, twisted around in their seats and whispering.  Dave Karofsky and Kurt Hummel!  Singing about friendship!   Santana tapped the mike, and everyone looked back up.  “You needs to fix your eyes up here, okay?”  Bless you, Santana Lopez.  “This is our past”  She pulled it out of the mike stand and started singing, slinking down the stage.


      This was never the way I planned, not my intention

      Brittany pirouetted out of the wings as the band started playing at the end of the first verse, second microphone in hand.  

      I kissed a girl and I liked it, the taste of her cherry chapstick

      I kissed a girl, just to try it.  Hope my boyfriend don’t mind it

      Santana sang the next part It felt so wrong; It felt so right, don’t mean I’m in love tonight

      Then in unison, I kissed a girl and I liked it, I liked it.

      The song lost all resemblance to innocence then, as they danced and ground up on each other and totally rocked the song.  In a way that made every straight boy watching drool.  Once the sang the final note, Santana stepped forward, taking Brittany’s hand and turning to look into her eyes.  

      Perhaps I had a wicked childhood

      Perhaps I had a miserable youth

      But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past

      There must have been a moment of truth

      Brittany joined her, singing a higher harmony

      For here you are, standing there, loving me

      Whether or not you should

      So somewhere in my youth or childhood

      I must have done something good

      Nothing comes from nothing

      Nothing ever could

      So somewhere in my youth or childhood

      I must have done something good

      Once they sang the final, sweet note, they turned to face the audience and bowed.  

      Santana whispered something in Brittany’s ear before raising her voice.  “In case anyone missed the meaning, Jewfro in the back, I’m in love with this girl.  Deal.”  And then she, well, kissed the shit out of her girlfriend, who wrapped a leg around her waist and ran her fingers through Santana’s hair, kissing back and not stopping until they had to come up for breath.

      David leaned over to Kurt.  “Well, at least no one’s gonna talk about our duet, after that.”

      [This is what Kurt didn’t know about that: Santana Lopez twisted on her plastic-covered chair in the office of Coach and Congressional Candidate Sue Sylvester, and said “No”.  

      “Excuse me?  I must have misheard you, Silicone Girl.”  

      “I said no, Coach.  I won’t be blackmailed by you.”

      With a glare at Becky, she stormed out of the office and went to find Brittany, holding her tight and mumbling, “We need to do different songs than what we had planned.  Do you think we can do some choreography during lunch?”

      Brittany pulled away, looking at her with concern.  “Of course we can, San.  What are we going to sing?”]

      ***

      By Monday, the entire school knew.  “Brittana” wasn’t exactly subtle, they were kissing sweetly and sharing a plate of fruit and celery sticks in the cafeteria at lunch.  The school also knew better than to say anything on threat of death, except, well...the freshmen.

      One particular group of idiots thought it prudent to insult “those shameless dykes” within Kurt’s earshot during lunch.  He smirked and sat down at the table across from them.  

      “Allow me to give you some free advice, shrimplings.  You’re at the bottom of the food chain, and the losers at McKinley tend to get Slushies in their faces, so I’m taking pity on you to inform you of the way things work here.  Unless less you want to get patriotic wedgies and tossed in the dumpsters, I’d suggest you listen up.”  He leaned in conspiratorially, making eye contact with each of them.  “Homophobia?  Isn’t accepted here.  The quarterback’s brother is gay, you know.   That girl you were calling a dyke is the co-captain of the cheerleading squad and the fiercest bitch in school.  She keeps razorblades in her hair.”  Kurt took a breath and felt the bench shift.  

        “We talking about Lopez?”  Dave said, stealing one of Kurt’s cookies.  “Chick is scary, yo.”

        Now the freshmen looked confused.  “You’re a football player, and you’re down with all this faggy shit?  Princess here-” he gestured at Kurt, talking to Karofsky now. “-was telling us that the whole school’s cool with the gays.  I don’t get that.”

        Dave actually growled a little, leaning into the table.  The table bowed under the pressure.  “For the record, we seniors are cool with all this gay shit, and you’ll learn to be if you want to keep your life.  And your balls, if you’re around Lopez.  Her girlfriend?  Has the highest-rated web show in the state of Ohio.  If you piss them off, the entire state will know you still wet the bed, and that you-” he points at the next one “-still carry your blankie around.  Secondly, half of the football team is in Glee club, so don’t go ragging on them, either, if you ever want to play sports here at McKinley.  Finally, I expect you to treat your Queen- not Princess, idiots, Prom Queen- with a little more respect.  He won the title by a landslide, and that means something here.”

        Kurt released a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.  That’s an interesting take on it.  “Perhaps I should wear my tiara to class, David.  Start a new trend.”

        “You do that, Hummel.  Say ‘hi’ to your boyfriend for me; I’ve got to see the Bieste about training.”  Snatching another cookie off Kurt’s tray, he stood up, scowling at the freshmen.  “Watch your steps, midgets.”

        Since the freshmen were still shell-shocked by The Fury (Kurt knew the feeling), he took advantage of their silence.  “Just stay on the good side of the glee club, and you’ll be fine.  Freshmen are usually beneath our notice, so unless you’re particularly proactive idiots, you won’t get slushied more than once a week.”  He picked up his tray.  “Ciao!”

        He walked out of the cafeteria, ditching his tray and making it around the corner before leaning against the lockers, laughing hysterically as he slid to the ground.  

        With great power comes great responsibility.  Spiderman had no idea.

        The next day, Coach Sylvester congratulated him on his guile and intimidation tactics.  It was quite the compliment, coming from her.  He heard from Santana later that she’d kept her Captaincy, that Sue had ‘needed to ensure her Cheerio Captain wouldn’t cave under pressure, or have any exploitable weaknesses.’   

          ************

          It was kind of like the Twilight Zone.  You intimidate one group of freshmen and get half of the school believing that Glee is the top of the social ladder.  He hadn’t been slushied once this year, but when Tina came in with a cup from 7-11, a huddle of sophomores squeaked and practically ran away.  Sure, the one veteran Puckhead who hadn’t graduated protested loudly in the halls, but people looked at him like he was crazy.  

          So things were changing at McKinley High.  Most of that was superficial- the jerks who voted Kurt Prom Queen were still here, but they were cowed into silence and the next group up wasn’t being poisoned with their hatred.

          Other things started changing, too- they all stood up to Mr. Schuester more, running their glee club more like a club, a democracy, and not a class or dictatorship.  This basically meant that Rachel was in charge of warm-ups and vocal training, as she had actually taken lessons.  Brittany and Mike kicked their butts in dance practice, everyone split solos and leads, and they worked with Brad on arranging songs, instead of leaving it up to Mr. Schue.  Mike and Brittany essentially hijacked the set list for Sectionals, calling on Puck and Kurt to arrange a song in late September so they had plenty of time for choreography.  And to make Finn learn the steps.   Before they knew it, it was December.

          ****

          Backstage at sectionals just wasn’t right for them without drama, Rachel pondered.  Artie was sulking (again), but the biggest problem was Karofsky’s little crisis in the corner.  

          Heads bent in, he was speaking to Kurt in hushed tones.  “I can’t, Kurt.  I can’t sing with you.” The entire football team is out there, Kurt!  It doesn’t matter what I’m singing- a duet with a guy is as good as coming out to them.”

          “Would that be so bad?  I know it’s not ideal, but it’s not confirmation, David.  It just their assumptions.”

          “I’m not...brave, like you, Kurt.  I can’t risk it.  Not right now.  Not like this. If I come out in high school- and that’s if, Hummel, stop looking hopeful- it’ll be on my terms.”

          “Oh, Dave.”  Kurt sighed, and then said, “Rachel, I know you’re eavesdropping behind that curtain.  Get out here, Elphaba.  Do you need to practice our alternate ending?”

          She walked around the corner. “You’re not going to ask if I’m prepared to sing a duet; if I’m willing to perform?”

          “Darling, it’s you and me and Wicked.  We could do this cold any day of the week, flawlessly.”  He turned back to Dave.  “Now, you go get Mike to teach you the ensemble choreography; it’ll be fine.”

          Rachel felt the sudden need to hug Kurt.  So she did, squeezing her arms around his lean frame.  “Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I’ve wanted to sing Wicked my whole life, and to do so here, at Sectionals?  I can never repay you, Kurt.  I’m such a terrible friend to you, and you’re so good to me.”  She said into his chest.

          She felt his arms around her as Kurt pressed a kiss into her hair.  “I wasn’t always a good friend, remember?  Mad makeover, trying to steal Finn...”

          Rachel stepped back and looked at him.  “We really are a pair of witches, aren’t we?”

          “So that’s a yes?”

          “Of course, silly.  Let’s get out there.”

           

          ******

          Burt had been to all of these Glee things so far, and as he settled in a cushioned seat in the auditorium, he prepared himself for a boring night.  Yeah, sure, that Berry chick was a good singer, and Finn sounded okay, but his kid was better than all of them put together, and Schuester never even gave him one of those one-line solos that Puckerman and Lopez usually got.  Kurt never got a competition solo at McKinley, where Dalton only had him for a couple of months before he got a duet.  Kurt always justified it was Schuester wondering what the judges would think about him singing a girl song, but Burt called B.S. - this was show choir.  It’s the one place where Kurt was more normal than Finn, so he figured it was just that stupid teacher’s own ideas.  

          So basically, he came to these things to make Kurt happy.  He couldn’t really hear him, but Kurt would be disappointed if he wasn’t there, so he sighed as the lights dropped out.  From the direction of the stage, a pair of high voices came out of the dark.  

          “There’s been some confusion over rooming for New York...”

          Wait, he knew this song!  Kurt played that soundtrack on repeat, their last trip to see his parents for Christmas.  

          “But of course I’ll care for Nessa...” Yep, he called it, Rachel Berry, lead part.

          “But of course I’ll rise about it...” That sounded like Kurt.  

          For I know that’s how you’d want me to respond

          There’s been some confusion, for you see my roommate is...

          Exactly like Kurt, Burt thought as the lights came up to focus on Rachel.

          Most unusually and exceedingly peculiar and altogether quite impossible to describe...

          A second light popped on, and HOLY COW.  “Her.” Kurt drawled, and Burt danced a little on the inside, sitting up straight to watch his boy sing.  

          Kurt and Rachel sang some really high and fancy parts while prancing around the stage, singing about loathing in the most melodramatic way possible.  And they owned it- he didn’t know anything about judging, but their voices were much better than those other schools were.  When the rest of the kids came in, lead by Finn and singing about being on Kurt’s side, all their steps were together and they weren’t all singing the same note, like they did for You Can’t Always Get What You Want two years ago.

          It got everyone sitting up straight. But at the end, they slowed down and changed the words.

          Loathing you my whole life through....but who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

          I do believe I have been changed for the better.  Burt was surprised he noticed the swap, but again, repeat all the way to Grandma’s house.  And all the way back.  

          Because I knew you.  Kurt sang, taking Rachel’s hands as they faced each other.

          Because I knew you, because I knew you,

          I have been changed

          For Good.

          As the audience exploded in applause, Burt jumped to his feet to see Kurt and Rachel take a bow and run back to the rest of the group.  The band started playing a jazzy beat and the kids all sang together.  

          Never know how much I love you

          Never know how much I care

          When you put your arms around me

          I get a fever that's so hard to bear

          For the second verse, they traded off lines, Quinn to Puckerman to Abrams to Mercedes.  Then, those two cheerios- Santana and Brittany- spun out of the snap-and-sway line, singing, Oh, honey, light’s on, but your mom’s not home, I’m sick of laying down alone, baby.  With this fever fever!  I wanna get home, I wanna get you alone...give you a fever, fever!  

          They were dancing together, like a couple, and it was fancy stuff.  The kids went back to the first song, and then another fast interlude, this time with Mike and Tina.  Their dance was more dance-y and less sexy.  The kids sang a little bit about Romeo and Juliet(Sam and Mercedes) and then the whole group sang about Pocahontas.

          Captain Smith and Pocahontas, had a very mad affair

          When her daddy try to kill him, she said,

          Kurt stepped out, hand on his hip.  “Daddy-Oh, don’t you dare!  He gives me fever!”  

          The last note was really high, and Burt pretty much ignored the rest of the group finishing the song in favor of mentally cleaning his shotgun.  

          The audience liked it, though, and the noise was deafening as soon as they sang the last “What a lovely way...to burn.”

          Two solos!  Decent songs, not really ones he knew,, but still nice.  Schuester was finally appreciating his son’s talent.  But still...he would have to reiterate the Open Door Policy and especially the No Boys When Dad’s Not Home policy on the drive home.  Burt Hummel was a smart man, and you didn’t sing about ‘fever’ unless something was going on.

          ****

          It came down to this: One judge had a bad experience at an all-girl’s school, the school for the deaf was inspiring but still couldn’t sing on key, and the New Directions were pretty good.

          “For being ambiguously gay, they weren’t too sexy or too boring.”  The failed pop star said.  “I liked them.  Kinda cute.”

          The Lieutenant Governor shrugged.  “Wicked is my wife’s favorite musical.  I think that song might have been better than the original, and I should know- she’s only dragged me to seven different showings of it.  Plus, I liked the Peggy Lee song.”

          The third judge was an Olympic figure skater, who thought he was going to be judging something relevant, and really would rather be in training.  “Those New Directions had the best choreography and dancing, and didn’t sound awful.  The Crawford girls were boring and pitchy and only swayed from side to side.”  He yawned, and cast his vote.

          Thus, for the third year in a row, McKinley High won sectionals.