Chapter 1: Master Class
Kurt sat in the front row, his hands folded primly in his lap and his feet tucked neatly under the chair. He looked toward the front of the room with placid eyes, ready to assess Rachel's performance, which he assumed, despite what he had heard, would be simply spectacular. Whatever personal issues he might have had with her, there was absolutely no denying that the girl had talent in spades.
He had been surprised when Mister Schuester had contacted him at Dalton and asked him to attend one of New Directions' rehearsals. He had been startled and rather flattered when his former teacher confessed that he was in desperate need of Kurt's discerning ear. They had often disagreed over Kurt's ideas to push the boundaries of show choir, some of which perhaps bordered on inappropriate, but Mister Schuester knew that Kurt understood more about theatricality, staging, and musical interpretation than any other student, including Rachel; maybe even more than the teacher himself.
Schuester had explained that Rachel was having difficulty with her selection to fulfill the requirements of their most recent assignment, but nothing more than that, not even the nature of the assignment itself. Schue himself was at a loss to describe exactly what was lacking from her rendition, only that whatever spark she usually brought to her performance was missing. Even more stunning was that it had been Rachel herself who had asked Schuester about approaching Kurt for advice. That Rachel could not only recognize but admit she needed help was the primary reason Kurt had agreed. He might not have liked her, but he respected her ability and felt that, after their singular duet, he owed her. Kurt Hummel always repaid his debts, and he was not about to be beholden to one Rachel Berry.
After his arrival and receiving celebrated greetings from his former teammates, he settled in and waited for Rachel to begin. Mercedes and, oddly, Santana curled up next to him on either side, while an exuberant Finn sat behind him, all but bouncing in his seat like a hyperactive puppy, waiting to drag Kurt home for some quality Furt time before his brother had to return to Dalton.
Kurt knew Rachel was nervous and, despite his assurances, he could tell she was wary of placing herself in a position to be judged by him of all people. He certainly couldn't blame her. Finally, however, he had had enough of her prevaricating and told her flatly that he was here to help her at her own request, but that he had neither the time nor the inclination to placate her. He was more than happy to leave and fully expected her to reimburse him for gas and mileage for wasting his time.
That snapped her out of her pity party and she quickly set up her number.
Kurt created a new folder in his mental computer, viciously assigned it an icon of a falling gold star set afire, and sat at attention to catalog her deficiencies.
Almost immediately, he could see the problem and made note of it. He kept silent and let his face betray nothing as he patiently listened as she absolutely murdered what was once one of favorite songs. As she continued, he listed several more problems he planned to discuss with her after the conclusion of her performance. Her diction was slurred, her phrasing inelegant, and attempts at movement horrific.
It was obvious just how much Rachel was not invested in this, a fact which truly bothered him. No matter how many tantrums she threw, once Rachel Berry was at the front and center and the music had begun, she was the consummate professional. It made Kurt uncomfortable to realize just how uncomfortable Rachel herself was.
"Stop!" he suddenly called out.
"Oh, thank Christ," Santana muttered into his shoulder. Mercedes snickered, but sent up a quick prayer of apology to her god.
Rachel halted immediately and stared down at her shoes.
Kurt could tell from the way her shoulders were shaking that she was desperately trying not to cry, which unnerved him. He was now extremely reluctant to say anything about her number, as he was certain she had picked it apart obsessively for however long she had been rehearsing it. Still, he supposed she might have not yet stumbled upon the real crux of the problem, or she was trying to correct it in her own way and was thus vastly overcompensating.
An anxious Schuester looked at him as though he had all the answers in the world. Kurt wanted to kick him in the personals.
Really, this should not have been left up to him. It was apparent that Schuester knew what Rachel's problem was, but was either scared of confronting her about it or was unsure how. He was totally trying to pass the buck. What a worm.
"Rachel," Kurt said cautiously, "would you prefer if we spoke in the hall?"
She raised her head sharply and stared at him, gratitude shining in her eyes that he was giving her a chance to save face.
The others began complaining, but Kurt leveled an arctic glare at each one who had spoken. He was never the first to look away and their protestations died on their lips.
"No," Rachel whispered. "That…that wouldn't be fair. I've certainly…made my…opinions known before. I g-guess it's my turn now."
Mercedes and Santana grinned poisonously, and Kurt slapped both their thighs.
"Enough," he hissed.
"Harder," Santana purred.
He snorted, went to stand, and then viciously tweaked a nipple. She let out a startled shriek and then moaned with satisfaction.
"You're so easy," he smirked.
"That's always been the consensus," she agreed, winking.
He rolled his eyes and crossed the room to stand at Rachel's side.
"Are you sure about this?" he asked.
He exhaled softly. "Okay. Well, I think the difficulty you're experiencing with this particular song is that it's an extended metaphor for sex and it's making you uncomfortable."
She quietly gasped and nodded her head, once again staring down at the floor.
He laid his hand on her shoulder. "That's certainly understandable. It's one thing to sing a love song, but it's quite another to sing something so blatant, which this song most definitely is. There's no reason to be embarrassed."
She nodded uneasily but didn't speak.
"I think," he continued, "that we must first ascertain if you actually want to perform this song. If you do, I'm more than happy to help you, but there's no shame in scrapping it now and moving on to something more...palatable?"
She hesitated for a moment, and just when she went to open her mouth, she was cut off by Puck.
"Come off it, Duchess," he scoffed. "Like you could help anyone with getting their sexy on." He waggled his brows. "Unless you and the Hobbit stopped beating around the bush?" He snickered. "So to speak."
"Puck!" Schuester sharply admonished.
"Dude, shut the hell up!" Finn bellowed, rising to his feet. "Don't talk about my brother that way!"
Mercedes was also standing, her fingers curled into a mighty fist that would have made even Karofsky flee in terror. "Give me a reason, Kosher King. You know I've just been waiting for one."
Kurt's face slipped into his patented Ice Glare of Doom, which served to quell Puck the way his friends' defense had not. He involuntarily flashed back to the memory in which Blaine had told him explicitly just how unsexy he was. He growled and shook his head to clear it.
"It's terribly unsurprising that you were the first to voice that opinion, Noah. After all, who knows more about sex than you? At least, that is what you would have us believe. Of course, I'm betting half the women in this club would have a differing point of view."
Quinn and Santana wheezed with barely-suppressed laughter.
The sparkle in Puck's eyes dimmed considerably and he crossed his arms sullenly across his chest. "Whatever."
Lauren took the opportunity to reach over and hit Puck upside his head. From Puck's lack of reaction, Kurt assumed it was a regular occurrence. He resolved to give her his thanks and approval at another time and decided her nickname would be Gibbs. Tony DiNozzo was absolutely Noah Puckerman in ten years.
"Further," Kurt continued, "you all might as well be made aware of the fact that Blaine and I are no longer seeing each other."
"Dude," Finn said mournfully.
"What!" Mercedes screeched. "Why didn't you tell me?"
He cocked a brow. "Perhaps because I was unaware that I had to report to you absolutely everything in my life as it happens? Or perhaps it was because this is a very new situation and I needed some time to myself to process it before I opened it up for discussion?"
She winced, stung, but conceded his point with a sharp nod of her head before retaking her seat.
"I'm sorry, Kurt," Rachel whispered. She felt terrible for dragging him here to help her when he obviously was going through his own crisis.
He patted her hand. "Thank you, Rachel, but I'm going to be just fine."
"I never trusted him," Puck spat. "Way too smooth."
Quinn nodded. "Overly charming."
"Did he hurt you, Kurt?" Finn seethed.
The others began forming plans which included shovels, baseball bats, kerosene, matches, alibis, and Blaine's unconscious body. Kurt was touched, but also wary.
"While I appreciate the sentiment more than I could ever adequately convey, that won't be necessary. And, no, Finn, he didn't hurt me."
Santana had remained silent, preferring to stare at Kurt and assess this surprising bit of gossip. "You dumped his sorry wizard ass."
Kurt nodded swiftly. "Indeed."
Sam Evans suddenly felt a herd of fluffy bunnies scamper across his stomach.
"Why?" Brittany asked Kurt.
He shrugged. "We wanted different things. I wanted a boyfriend; he wanted a surrogate gay child to coddle."
Santana scowled. Good. She was absolutely thrilled to see Blaine gone. Ever since Kurt had hooked up with him, he hadn't been, well, Kurt. Not that she cared, of course, but it had bothered Brittany. So…yeah.
"You were just too much dolphin for him to handle, Kurty," Brittany chirped.
He winced. Though she had meant it in the best possible way, there was some very real truth in her words. He had come to the conclusion a while ago that he was perhaps just too gay for Blaine. He stiffened. Whatever. He hadn't changed his behavior to please his bullying tormenters; he wasn't about to change it for his own damn boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend.
He turned back to Rachel. "I would prefer if we addressed the matter at hand. Rachel, I believe you're having difficulty relating to the material because it's so provocative." He raised a brow. "In fact, given that Mr Schue is such a moralistic prig, I'm stunned he agreed to allow you to sing it."
Schue blushed. "Hey," he weakly protested.
"That was the assignment," Rachel mumbled. She took a deep, cleansing breath. "We were supposed to pick a genre outside of our comfort zone, something that made us uncomfortable." She shook her head ruefully. "I thought that if I just practiced enough, I'd overcome this…this…whatever this is." Waves of frustration poured off of her.
Kurt nodded. "And I think that's the problem. You're vastly over-thinking the song."
She turned startled eyes upon him.
"Rachel," he continued, "you've been focusing so hard on interpreting the lyrics that you've failed to recognize that it's unnecessary; the lyrics are blatant and speak for themselves. All you have to do is give them a voice, to be the conduit. Sometimes, it really is just that easy. You're overanalyzing the subject matter and attempting to compensate for your discomfiture by pouring too much power into your delivery. Subsequently, you've stripped the song of any passion it once held." He paused. "Do you understand?"
She frowned. "I…I think so."
He bit his lip and pondered how he could make this more clear for her. "There is a distinct difference," he said slowly, "between being sexy and being sensual. Sexiness evokes a sense of the physical; it's visceral. Sensuality is concerned with both the physical and the emotional. With a song this…forward, you need to restrain yourself, to inject some vulnerability and introspection into it. Right now, you're projecting the contents as well as your unease onto the listener, thus divorcing them from any meaning it might hold for you. You're completely disconnected and it shows."
"I need to control the song," she said, "not let it control me."
"Exactly. Despite the content, you should treat this song as you would your favorite ballad from Spring Awakening," he smirked. "Be sensual. Don't worry so much about what you're singing, but how you're singing it and the reaction that feeling inspires within you."
She nodded. "I understand," she said quietly.
He raised an eyebrow. "But…?"
She flushed. "I'm still uncomfortable."
He sighed but nodded. "I don't blame you." He cocked his head. "But you're taking this much too personally, Rachel. The lyrics don't have to be about you if you can't identify with them. If that's the case, it's your job as the vocalist to make other people believe them; you have to be the bridge that connects the audience with the song. The lyrics are not necessarily a commentary on your own sexual behavior."
"Kurt!" she hissed.
He waved a hand dismissively. "Let's put our cards on the table, sweetie. There are more virgins in this room than you know. There is nothing wrong with wanting to wait for the right person or situation. I'm sure many of those who have engaged in such activity regret it for any number of reasons. I'm proud that I'm still waiting. There's no shame here."
Puck, Quinn, Finn, and Santana suddenly found various points on the opposite wall absolutely fascinating.
Mercedes nodded, though she was heavily blushing. "My boy's right, white girl."
Rachel sighed. She was embarrassed but still relieved. "So how do I do this?"
Kurt smiled. "First, I would suggest that you choose a person to sing to." He held up a hand. "Not necessarily now, but for future reference, when singing something which feels so alien to you, it helps if you focus on a particular person, even a stranger, or perhaps a construct. I can certainly understand why you wouldn't wish to do so in this room. That's too awkward even for me."
"Next, you have to think about what makes you feel sensual and concentrate on it. Forget about what or who you think is sexy; think about why they make you feel that way." He ground his teeth. "You are not…unattractive. You have, what I am told, is a good figure. For reasons I could never possibly understand, people find you sexy."
She glared at him, though her lips twitched.
Quinn gagged and Santana retched.
"But sexy isn't enough," he added. "It's just an autonomic response. So consider that which puts you in the mood. What makes you feel sensual?" He blanched when she opened her mouth. "Don't tell me! Keep that to yourself!"
She snickered, but nodded.
Kurt wrapped an arm around her shoulders, silently bemoaning what the artificial fibers of her hideous sweater would do to his delicate skin. "You need to connect with your inner vixen," he seductively purred, which caused several to gasp. "What gets you hot, Rachel?" he whispered. "Is it a particular song? A scent? An outfit? A place? A person?" He pulled away. "You need to hold on to that feeling and pour it into your performance. You need to feel sensual to perform a sensual song, even an overt one like this, otherwise no one's going to buy it." He ducked his head. "Believe me, I understand how difficult that can be."
She reached out with a finger and tilted his chin upwards so she could look into his eyes. "Thank you, Kurt. Truly."
He nodded, a beautiful flush spreading across his cheeks.
An enraptured Sam stared at Kurt and wanted to coo. He discreetly cleared his throat and crossed his legs.
Quinn and Santana noted this with no small satisfaction.
"Did you get over it?" Rachel asked Kurt, who shrugged a shoulder.
"It's a battle," he admitted. "It requires you to take a long, hard look at yourself, to recognize yourself as a sexual being and become comfortable that you have desires and that you yourself are desirable. It's not easy; it takes work." He cocked his head. "It's worth it, though. At the end of it, you come to know yourself better. You feel whole in a way you could never have conceived."
She toed the ground. "Could you show me?"
He paled and his mouth went slack.
"Go for it, Kurt!" Mercedes smirked.
He shot her his Glare of Malevolence, furious when it had no impact. That was okay. She would pay. They all would. His face turned blissful.
Mercedes then knew she was in for a world of pain when this was over.
Deciding to accept the challenge, for he would not allow himself to display any more weakness before them than he already had, he nodded, more to himself than anyone else.
"Mister Schue, is this permissible?"
Schue hesitated. He was frankly uncomfortable with the entire conversation and conscious of the eyes of the other students on him. The subject of teenage sexuality was anathema to him and he knew he had alienated some of his students because of it. He encouraged them to come to him when they needed guidance, but when the dialogue turned toward a sexual nature, he fobbed them off or sent them to Emma, who was equally ill-prepared. Still, he recognized the veracity of Kurt's arguments and realized he would be doing Rachel no favors if he said no. Regardless of his own personal feelings, this was about Rachel, not about him.
He nodded slowly at Kurt, who had a small smile on his face.
"I'll do my best to keep it somewhat appropriate," the boy drawled.
Santana leered. "Don't bother on our account."
Kurt rolled his eyes and then looked back at Schue. "If you would prefer, you could leave the room, or I could follow Rachel home after the meeting and work with her there."
Schue wanted badly to agree, but the protests of the other girls and his own survival instinct overwhelmed that desire. He could do this. He was not a prude!
"Go ahead, Kurt." He smiled. "I seem to have lost control of the room, not that that's anything new. Just consider yourself the teacher for the moment and me a passive observer."
Kurt nodded. Easier said than done, though, he thought. He had always suspected that his sexuality was somewhat of a thorn in Schue's side. He didn't believe the man was homophobic per se, but his stereotypical gayness stretched his idea of what Schue deemed acceptable. He was fairly certain that Schue himself had been marginalized in high school as a possible homosexual, and watching Kurt struggle with himself recalled some resentment and hurt. Not necessarily directed at Kurt himself, but at gay men as a group. To the man's credit, Kurt thought it was an issue of which Schue was aware and trying to address. That counted for something.
"Are you going to do what you suggested to me?" asked a curious Rachel. "Sing to someone in particular?"
Kurt momentarily debated before nodding. "I believe so; it would help me exponentially if I had someone on whom I could focus. I admit that I'm still uncomfortable with such material."
"And to whom will you be singing, Alabaster?" Santana queried, her eyes sliding in Sam's direction.
Kurt frowned and considered his options. Finally, he shrugged. "Sam would be the obvious choice."
Sam's eyes bulged.
"I would prefer to sing to a man," Kurt continued, "only because I don't know how convincing I could be, even to myself, singing sexy material to a woman." He smirked at her. "Well, excepting you, perhaps."
She licked her lips and sent him Puppy Eyes, which he ignored.
"Why Sam?" Finn demanded.
Kurt's eyes widened as he slowly turned toward his brother. "Finn." He rolled his eyes when the other boy ignored him. "Finn! Would you really prefer me to sing you a sexy song?"
"No," Finn mumbled, picking at a stain on his jeans.
A bewildered Kurt stared at him, shaking his head in confusion. He shuddered and turned away.
"I barely know Sam and, apart from our aborted duet, we've had no meaningful interaction." He nodded to himself. "We have no real history, good or bad, except of course for his willingness to defend me to Karofsky, which was incredibly noble of him.
"It would be entirely inappropriate and just wrong for me to sing to Mr. Schue; Artie and I are too good of friends and we would both burst out laughing; Noah and I barely tolerate each other." He blushed. "And thanks to Tina and our marathon gossip sessions, I know far too much about Mike."
Tina blushed and Mike released an embarrassed squeal.
Kurt cleared his throat and shrugged. "Besides, Sam is the hottest boy in this room. Not including myself, of course."
Sam flushed heavily and ducked his head. He knew there was no other way he could hide the emotion Kurt's statement had just unfurled within him.
Puck stood up and pointed at Kurt. "He is not! Take that back!"
Kurt quirked his lips and an eyebrow. "I don't think I will. Different strokes and all, Noah. You may be a stud, but not everyone wants to become overly familiar with your form."
Puck howled with rage. "Everyone wants me!" he insisted.
Kurt glanced around the room. "Show of hands?"
Only Brittany and a reluctant and blushing Lauren complied.
"But you'd like to become overly familiar with Sam?" a saucy Santana asked Kurt.
He whirled and glared at her. "Don't push it. All I said was that I consider Sam to be very attractive. This is not news and nothing which I have not freely admitted to in the past. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would say Sam Evans is anything other than gorgeous."
"Thanks," Sam mumbled.
Kurt frowned. "Sam, if this is going to make you uncomfortable, I'll simply select someone else or forego it altogether. I don't wish to offend you or upset you in any way. That is absolutely not my intention."
Sam forced his blush to recede. "It doesn't bother me, Kurt, but thanks for offering. I've told you before that I'm not bothered by or scared of you and your sexuality. I wish…I wish we could have been better friends before you left. I think, after watching you with Mercedes and Artie and the others, I probably lost out on a lot by that not happening." He exhaled. "I'm…really flattered actually, that you think I'm good-looking. Despite what you may think, that's not something I hear a lot, and if it is, it's usually for the wrong reasons. So, thank you."
Artie, Mercedes, and Tina looked at Sam with obvious approval. Finn and Puck immediately felt guilty that they sucked at being Kurt's friends, while Santana and Quinn independently schemed to get Sam and Kurt together and naked as quickly as possible.
Brittany blinked. Sam could be the right dolphin for Kurty! She would check with Sanny first to make sure she was right, but she was almost positive she was!
Kurt smiled and patted Sam on the shoulder. It was all Sam could do not to lean desperately into the touch.
"Do you need some time to prepare?" Schue asked Kurt while eying Sam with some speculation.
Kurt nodded. "Fifteen minutes for prep and costume…"
"Costume?" Puck asked.
Puck smirked. "Never you knew you were a Boy Scout, Duchess."
Kurt merely smiled. "Noah, what you don't know about me could fill several rooms."
Puck frowned and pondered that statement, but Kurt had already turned his attention to other matters.
"Brittany, Tina? Are you with me?"
Tina smiled and nodded. "Always."
Brittany bounced out of her chair. "Yay!"
Kurt smiled. "Routine Forty-Seven, I think."
The girls stared at him and then at each other.
"Really?" Tina asked.
He nodded. "Yes, I believe so."
Brittany licked her lips. "That's such a naughty song, Kurty."
He grinned. "Well, then it's a good thing you'll be with me to help me with my naughtiness."
She nodded seriously.
Quinn stared. "Just how many routines have you three worked out?"
Kurt blinked. "Independent of New Directions and Cheerios material?"
She nodded uneasily.
"I'd guess about five dozen."
Everyone stared at him, Tina, and Brittany.
"What?" he crossly demanded.
"Five dozen? You mean sixty?" Rachel repeated, her eyebrows hovering just beneath her hairline.
He nodded impatiently.
"Full routines?" Finn questioned. "I thought it was just Single Ladies."
Kurt shook his head. "Sixty songs, giver or take a few, complete with choreography, costumes, and makeup. Granted, many of the costumes and dance moves overlap…"
"Unbelievable," Schue whispered. "Why didn't I know this?"
Kurt shrugged. "Always prepared, and you never asked." He turned to the girls. "Shall we, ladies?" They giggled and joined their hands to his and skipped toward the door.
"Fifteen minutes in the auditorium," Kurt called out over his shoulder to the others.
They all stared at the now-closed door.
"The fuck?" Puck barked.
Chapter 2: On Pinns and Needles
Puck states what's obvious to everyone but Finn. Finn does some hard thinking and resolves to make changes.
Puck was many things, but stupid wasn't one of them. In fact, being thought of as such was one of his biggest pet-peeves. He might not have had the book smarts of those like Kurt or Rachel or Artie, but he understood people and their motivations, which he sometimes thought was more important. So he was watching Finn, who was genuinely dim, with a wary eye as they made their way to the auditorium.
"What's your problem, man?" he hissed at his former friend. He was surprised at himself for asking the question, considering they weren't on the best of terms, and was equally surprised when Finn deigned to answer.
"I don't want Kurt singing to Sam," Finn mulishly spat, pouting.
Puck rolled his eyes and shook his head. He knew where this was going.
"It's going to start all over again," Finn continued. "Kurt's going to start crushing on Sam like he did with me, and then Sam will be uncomfortable and he'll quit football and Glee and then we'll bomb at Regionals! How could Kurt do this to me?"
Puck stared at him with wide eyes. "Jesus, man. How the hell did your mom birth you with that enormous head of yours?"
Finn eyed him. "What are saying about my mom?"
Puck shook his head in wonder. "You know, just when I thought you couldn't get any more douchetastic, you go and surprise me. You're fucking unbelievable."
Finn frowned. "I don't understand."
Puck threw his hands up in the air. "Fine, let me bottom line this for you. First, if the Duchess likes Evans, there's nothing you can do about it. Second, even if that were the case, Evans is not going to quit football or Glee to avoid him. You know why? Kurt doesn't even go to this school, idiot! If Evans never wants to see Kurt again, he doesn't have to." He shook his head. "You know, after Sectionals and that stupid kiss with Rachel, the Duchess called me up and bitched me out for I don't know how long about hurting you."
"Kurt did that for me?" Finn asked in a small voice.
"He's your brother, dimwit. The thing is, he really believes in that, which means he feels it's his job to protect your dumb ass for whatever reason. Don't ask me why." Puck shrugged. "Whatever, he told me something that I didn't like, but I couldn't stop thinking about it and then I realized he was right. Turns out, it's true for you too."
Finn looked at him with questioning eyes.
Puck gave him his best side-eye, which he had copied from Aretha. "There are billions of galaxies comprised of billions of solar systems comprised of billions of planets circling billions of suns, all of which revolve around one single point in the universe. That point is not you. You need to get over yourself, dude, because the Duchess got over you a long time ago."
Finn flushed angrily and that's when Puck got down to the heart of the matter.
"I am not!" Finn protested. "Kurt liking Sam does not make me jealous."
Puck nodded. "Okay, but what if Sam likes Kurt back?"
Finn's mouth fell open and he halted in his tracks. His mouth moved soundlessly for several moments. Finally, he shook his head. "That would never happen."
Puck smirked. "Oh, it just might. In fact, it kind of makes you think, doesn't it?"
"Think about what?" asked a suspicious Finn.
Puck affixed a look of complete boredom on his face, one he had copied from Santana. "About the fact that Evans was more than happy to sing with the Duchess until you interfered. And it was Kurt who called that off, right? Because you totally manipulated his guilt and insecurities. He wanted to sing with Sam and Sam wanted to sing with him. You're the one who ruined that."
Finn shoved his hands in his pockets and said nothing.
"And let's not forget that Evans was one of the first to rush off and attack Karofsky in defense of the Duchess." Puck raised an eyebrow. "But you weren't, were you? Evans came out of that looking like a blond panda all because he wanted to protect Kurt, which is supposed to be your job."
Finn hung his head.
"So let's put the pieces together," Puck suggested. "Evans and the Duchess wanted to sing together. Evans came to the defense of the Duchess, a kid he barely knew and had no reason to protect, unless he genuinely liked the Duchess or he's just that kind of standup guy. Maybe both." Puck nodded to himself. "See, if Sam actually does like Kurt, that means that you're partly responsible for keeping them apart. If they had been together, would Kurt still have transferred to Dalton, or would he still be here, bitching at Rachel, fighting with Schue, and making sure that we kick total ass at Regionals?"
Finn made some strange clucking noise, which vastly amused Puck.
"And if they do get together," Puck continued, "Kurt would still be at Dalton, which means his visits home would be all about Hevans, not Furt."
Finn's eyes widened in dismay. "Not Furt?" he softly repeated. He then frowned. "Hevans?"
Puck sighed. "Hummel plus Evans equals Hevans." He grinned lasciviously. "Or we use their first names and call them Kum."
"Let's not," Finn begged, his mind racing with the thoughts Puck had put there.
Meanwhile, Puck was considering Kum and whether it was an apt metaphor, picturing Evans blowing a load all over the face of the Duchess. It wasn't that off-putting. Huh. Maybe he should think about why that was. Or perhaps he shouldn't think about it at all.
He was, in the privacy of his own mind, secure enough in his masculinity to admit that certain guys were hot. The Duchess certainly was. It just couldn't be denied. He'd heard some of the jocks talking in the locker room, admitting that if Hummel were a chick, they'd be all over him. Thing was, Kurt wasn't a chick; he was just a really hot guy who happened to dig other guys. That wasn't Puck's scene, but he could understand it, at least on an instinctual level. The cock wanted what it wanted and there was little you could do about it. It's not like it was Kurt's fault he was gay, he hadn't chosen it; it was just how he was made. He was never bothered by the gayness, but by Kurt's superior attitude.
And, okay, Evans was a stud. He could acknowledge that. Plus, he was actually a decent guy and the Duchess deserved nothing less. Blaine had set off all kinds of alarms because, when he looked at Kurt, it was like he wasn't seeing Kurt but the person he could make Kurt become. That was some not right shit.
He'd eavesdropped on a conversation between Brittany and Satan, in which the blond had lamented that her dolphin was still sad even after switching schools, but sad in a different way. He had watched Satan's eyes darken as she put the pieces together, unsurprised that she held Bland responsible. He was, however, startled by how furious she had become, like she and the Duchess were actual friends. It wasn't out of the realm of possibility, of course; Puck knew Kurt had more friends than most people realized, but he was just quiet about it. As much as people compared Kurt and Rachel, Puck himself had always seen the parallels between Kurt and Santana; but where Santana was obvious and overt, Kurt was more cunning about getting what he wanted. It was kind of cool, really. Sneaky gays.
He didn't really know Kurt, but now he was wondering if Sam had been right in rehearsal: that he might have lost out on something by not having Kurt as a friend. He had witnessed how loving and fierce Kurt's friends were toward him. Aretha was pretty chill unless a solo was involved, but when someone threatened her boy, all bets were off and that someone would be cut. And the Duchess always – always – had his girl's back. They might have their disagreements, but they were there for each other when it counted and often when it didn't. Puck had thought he and Finn had been like that once, before girls and sports had come between them, but now he wondered just how close they had really been.
Brittany was utterly devoted to Kurt and he to her, and he was just as much a bitch as Santana when people were mean to her. Puck had seen firsthand some of the vengeance Kurt had wrought on Brit's behalf, stuff which no one knew about, including Brittany or Santana. He'd seen the quiet conversations between Kurt and Tina, and Kurt and Artie, and, unlike Puck's own friends during Babygate, when Tina and Artie had split up, Kurt hadn't sided with either one of them, remaining friends with them both. Shockingly, neither Artie nor Tina had resented him for that.
Rachel and Kurt would never get along, but Puck remembered with vivid clarity how it had been Kurt who was the first to stand in outrage after that dick St. James had egged Berry. Sometimes he wondered about the revenge Kurt would have plotted against that hairball. He was pretty sure it would have been fucking epic, much better than slashed tires, and Kurt would never have gotten caught.
The Duchess even had some weird bond with Quinn, the only person who could be considered as cold as Kurt himself. Whenever they'd start talking, no one understood just what the fuck they were saying, and not only because they were saying it in French. He'd never seen Kurt interact with Mike, or Matt when he had been there, but the three of them had some sort of mutual admiration society, at least as far as dancing was concerned.
Kurt's relationship with Finn, whatever the fuck it was, was just too strange even to contemplate.
That's when Puck realized that Kurt was, in some way, a true friend to everyone in the Glee Club – well, not including Lauren, who he didn't really know, and Sam, who Kurt at least respected – except him. And, wow, that fucking hurt, even if he didn't understand just why it did. And it certainly said more about himself than it did about Hummel.
Most of the time, the Duchess grated on Puck's last fucking nerve, but now he was thinking that might have been because he didn't really know Kurt; he knew Hummel, the kid he had bullied since elementary school, the one who had all kinds of defenses where Puck was concerned. The kid who had actually feared him. But he had always admired Kurt's strength, the strength that Karofsky and Puck himself had tried to beat out of him.
Those memories filled Puck with shame. After he had held his daughter in his arms, he thought about how he would feel if, one day, Beth came to him and told him she liked girls and that kids at school were harassing her the way he had once bullied Kurt. That had been pure fucking agony, so he had tried to quell some of his more asshole-y ways, but he was pretty sure that, where Kurt was concerned, it wasn't enough. There wasn't much he could do about that, really; it was a fuckup of his own making. But there was one thing he could do.
If the Duchess and Evans got together, he would support them. He wouldn't be marching in any pride parades, but he'd do his part to make sure Evans didn't suffer for being happy, and that included making sure Finn didn't interfere with their relationship. Puck nodded to himself, pleased with that decision, declining to acknowledge that little voice inside his head which insisted he himself was jealous that Kurt had never crushed on his own sexy ass.
That lapse in judgment on Hummel's part aside, Evans was definitely a step above Bland and so far above Finn that it didn't even bear mention.
Finn was horribly confused and really upset that there might have been some truth in Puck's words, so he decided to do something that he usually avoided: think.
Despite what some people believed, he was fully capable of thinking. It was just that usually when something required thinking, it ended up hurting him. He had thought a lot about Puck and Quinn after Babygate; about what his relationship with Quinn had really meant, which he had decided wasn't much, and whether or not Puck had ever been his friend. He was still unsure about that one. Sometimes he thought Puck really loved him, like a brother, like it was always supposed to have been. Like his relationship with Kurt should be now.
Thinking about Rachel hurt a lot more, because he was pretty sure he was in love with her, but was also fairly certain that they weren't right for each other. Everything with Quinn had been easy, like they had been following some kind of guide or rulebook which he'd never read but nevertheless understood. It hadn't worked out too well. And everything with Rachel was constant work. He wasn't afraid of hard work, but he liked to have something to show for it. It seemed like every time he and Rachel worked out some answer about why they were together, more questions just appeared and they had taken three steps back. It wasn't that he didn't love her, because he did. He just wasn't sure that having to fight everything to be with her was worth it in the end.
He shouldn't have lied to her about Santana, he knew that now – well, he had known then, too – but Rachel had lied to him about Jesse and never apologized, even though she knew how badly that had devastated him. It was like Rachel had two sets of rules: one for everyone else and one for herself. It was fine for her to play by her own rules, but she got upset when people didn't follow the rules she had laid out for them. And that just wasn't fair.
He tried not to think about Santana too much.
He thought about Kurt a lot, probably more than was healthy. Most of the time, he didn't even know why he was thinking about Kurt, which just made him think about Kurt all the more. It was like some vicious crop circle or something. Cycle? Icicle? Kurt would know.
He frowned. Maybe that was the problem. Kurt knew too much, about everything and everyone. He had this really freaky ability to look at someone and know everything about them, like what made them tick and stuff. It was scary. At least Kurt mostly used his powers for Good.
But Kurt confused him, more than Finn thought it possible for him to be confused. But why?
He thought some more, specifically about Kurt and how he felt towards Kurt.
He definitely felt protective, which was both good and bad. It was good because Kurt was his little brother and he should protect him. It was bad because he failed so often at doing that. It wasn't that he didn't want to protect Kurt, but that he was scared of what others would think were he to do so.
And that was…pretty lame, actually.
If Kurt was his brother now, not just his friend or someone who used to have a crush on him, what did it matter what other people thought about their relationship? He knew the truth: Kurt was his brother. That was all that was important.
He blinked slowly.
Okay! So he had to apologize to Kurt for failing to defend him from Karofsky. That was no problem, because he actually was sorry. It would be hard and he would be embarrassed, and Kurt would wave it off like he always did with Finn's apologies, and nothing would be solved. Huh.
This was going to be harder than he thought. He sat down on one of the benches in the hall, unsurprised when Puck smirked at him and kept right on going. By now, he was used to Puck leaving him for something better.
Kurt was better. He got that now. Not that Kurt hadn't pulled some shady things, but in reality, they were fairly minor compared to what had been done to him. Rachel's Extreme Ho Makeover had been mean, but could have been a lot worse. She had even laughed about it not long ago.
And though his mom might have only started dating Burt because Kurt had manipulated their first meeting, it's not like Kurt had planned for them to fall in love and get married. No one was that good, not even Kurt. And it had worked out for the best, because his mom was happy and Burt was happy and he was happy and Kurt was…unhappy.
It hurt to see Kurt unhappy. Now that he was thinking about it, it hurt him whenever Kurt was upset. Because Kurt shouldn't be upset. Kurt should get to be happy, just once.
He didn't remember elementary school that well, mostly because it wasn't worth remembering, but he did remember that Kurt used to be a lot different. Not with the little stuff, like his clothes; he was always…something…fast and furious?...no, fastidious…about his clothing. He was always shiny and bright. Kurt actually had been one of the most popular kids, because he was smart, before being smart was considered weird, and he helped the teachers and the other kids with their homework. Everyone liked him, even the guys. But then it all changed.
Kurt's mom died. Puck's father left. Artie's accident. All in one summer.
When the next school year started, Kurt was different, more than he usually was, and by then the other kids had realized he was different in more than one way.
Suddenly, Kurt only played with the girls. They loved him because he was always happy to play House, like with Tina, or Doctor, with Santana. And Santana had always wanted to play Doctor. Puck became a bully and Artie had closed himself off from everyone. And it had just gotten worse as the years went on.
And he was really getting away from the point of all this thinking.
Kurt's crush had scared him; like, really scared him. But why?
Finn wasn't gay. He knew that and had never questioned it, and it wasn't like someone could make him gay, so why had he been so afraid? Was it really just because he was scared of what other people would think of Kurt's crush? Why did he care so much what other people thought?
And in the middle of that crush, Finn's world had imploded. He'd been betrayed by both his girlfriend and his best friend, all of that confusion with Rachel, and Kurt had been right there to pick up the pieces. And Finn had let him do just that.
He felt he was on the verge of an epitome.
He threw a weak smile at Schue when he passed him, leveling a questioning gaze his way.
If he was being honest with himself, which he guessed was the whole point of all this thinking, he had known about Kurt's crush for a very long time. He knew before anyone else did, Kurt included. And as long as it had been a secret, he had been okay with it. Because for once, he had been someone's entire world. Kurt had loved him, would have done anything for him, had humiliated himself for him even, more than once. And part of Finn had really liked that, had loved the attention and the worship and the lust-filled gazed focused only on him.
He had used Kurt. He had used Kurt's love for him to help move past Quinn and Puck's betrayal. He had used Kurt's love for him because it proved that he was still loveable.
That was just sick.
How could he do that? He wasn't that kind of person!
He sighed and glared down at the tiled floor as if it had all the answers and was mocking him with its silence.
It had been Kurt who listened with a patient ear as Finn vented his frustrations about Quinn and Puck and Drizzle. It had been Kurt he had run to with his problems about Rachel, all the while knowing how much Kurt loved him. It had been Kurt he had approached with every little Glee issue, from vocals to choreography to costumes, because he didn't want to embarrass himself in front of Rachel and because he knew Kurt would help him.
And Kurt had helped him, no questions asked, and, with the gift of hindsight, he now realized Kurt had expected nothing in return. He would have done the same for anyone he considered a friend. It was Finn himself who had read too much into their relationship.
And then that horrible night in the basement.
Finn felt his eyes begin to water as he remembered that scene.
He wasn't that person, that hateful, vicious person he had allowed himself to become that night. The person he was terrified still lurked within him somewhere.
And Kurt had been so sad, so disbelieving that he could say those words to him. But the worst was that, in the middle of it, Kurt's eyes began shining with the one thing Finn had never wanted to see: fear. Fear of him.
After that night, whenever Kurt looked at him, Finn saw that fear, the fear he had put there. It had never truly gone away, and he was disgusted with himself because he was pretty sure it never would, not entirely. He has killed something within Kurt that night.
How was he supposed to apologize for that?
He wanted to barf all over that stupid, mocking floor.
Kurt had made mistakes and had been man enough to admit to them. Finn had apologized and tried to make amends, but his efforts had been weak and more compelled than not. Kurt was trying to be a good brother to him, helping him with his homework, though Kurt had more than enough of his own now. Kurt had blown off dates with Blaine to give him advice – good advice – about his romantic entanglements. Kurt had stood up for him against Puck – Puck! – of all people.
But what he had done for Kurt lately? Pretty much nothing. Hell, he hadn't even known Kurt had broken up with Blaine. Apparently it wasn't a secret, as Kurt had just announced it to all of New Directions. When had it happened? Had Finn completely missed the signs? Was Kurt hurting and he had just ignored it?
Puck was right. He had interfered with Kurt's relationship with Sam, whatever that was or would become. He had bullied Kurt, manipulated him as Puck had said, into dropping Sam as his duet partner. He had never even considered that Sam might just have wanted to sing with Kurt. He had said horrible things about Kurt to Sam. He had played on Kurt's deepest fears and regrets regarding Sam. The things he had said…
His stomach roiled as bile splashed the back of his throat.
Stalking. Restraining order. It was all so stupid, he now realized.
Kurt had never stalked him. Hell, if anything, he had been the one to seek out Kurt, to inflict more damage to Kurt's heart, just so he could feel better about himself. Because it had been easy and because Kurt had been available.
No means no.
Jesus. Really, Hudson? He had all but called Kurt a rapist.
As if Kurt had physically assaulted him. As if Kurt had the physical strength even to attempt it.
What the hell had been thinking? How could he have said that to his friend? His brother?
No means no. Physical assault. Hearing. Expulsion. School transfer.
Oh, god no.
Please let that not have happened. Not to Kurt. Not to anyone. But not to Kurt.
Finn closed his eyes as hot, bitter tears spilled over.
He had failed.
He had failed to protect his brother. He had promised to do so and had bailed, leaving others – Puck, Mike, Artie, Sam – to do it for him.
Sam, who had wanted to sing with Kurt. Sam, who had defended Kurt. Sam, who had been upset that Kurt had transferred. Sam, who had broken up with Quinn. Sam, who appreciated that Kurt thought he was handsome. Sam, to whom Kurt would be singing momentarily.
Sam, who would take Kurt away from him.
Finn gasped sharply, as though someone had socked him in the gut.
There it was.
There was the answer for which he had been looking, why he had started thinking. And, once again, thinking hurt.
Blaine had been one thing. Blaine mostly had been confined to Dalton, so Finn hadn't needed to see him other than to say a polite hello or throw a menacing glare. It had been so easy to believe that Blaine was the happiness for which Kurt had been so desperately seeking. Dapper, charming Blaine, who would take care of Kurt…at a place where Kurt required no protection. Blaine, who was older and wiser and understood more about gayness than even Kurt himself. Blaine, who looked at Kurt as though he were something precious, something to be cherished. Blaine, who held Kurt's hand and gave him hugs and soft kisses on the cheek and pats on the head, just like you would a little brother.
He had been replaced. All of the longing and desire for acceptance and the physical contact and the reassurances and the hugs that would somehow make everything okay, Blaine had provided.
Kurt had replaced him with Blaine.
Kurt didn't need him now and, apparently, no longer needed Blaine.
Kurt might want Sam, and Sam just might want Kurt back, and that meant Finn himself would just be pushed even further to the back of the line.
Because Kurt had friends now, real ones, other than Mercedes.
Brittany would marry Kurt if she could and then birth a school of glittery dolphins.
Tina was closer to Kurt than she was to anyone else in the club, save Mike and maybe Artie.
Artie was Kurt's only real male friend at McKinley, or at least the only one man enough to proclaim it loudly and with pride.
Mike respected Kurt for his abilities and showmanship.
Quinn doted on Kurt like she would a baby brother.
And Santana…well, that was just plain weird, but apparently Kurt and Santana were very close. No one knew why or when it had happened, and no one questioned or discussed it, too fearful of knowing the answer. But watching Kurt and Santana giggle and whisper together was absolutely frightening to behold.
Rachel liked Kurt, and he her, though neither would ever admit it.
Kurt had good friends. Kurt didn't need him.
But he needed Kurt, and it was only now he realized just how much. He knew it was selfish and he didn't care. Because Kurt was his best friend.
Wow. Why hadn't he realized that sooner?
So if Kurt liked Sam and Sam liked Kurt, then Finn was going to make sure Kurt had Sam.
Because he was Finn Hudson, and Finn Hudson loved his friend, his brother.
Chapter 3: Truth and Consequences
Mercedes, Sam, Quinn, Artie and Santana were slowly making their way toward the auditorium, each lost in their own thoughts about what had been happening to themselves and to each other, and what was about to happen now. Quinn and Santana kept shooting each other pointed glances, eyes roving over Sam's form as he stood between them.
Quinn and Santana were no longer the friends they once were, if they ever were even that, but they had been running in the same circle for years and could read each other well. Cheerios and then Glee had only deepened that connection, and they could communicate with their eyes almost as well as Mercedes could with Kurt; there just wasn't the deep-seated level of respect and admiration.
Santana raised an eyebrow. Sam is so gay. Like, super gay. Gay McGee.
Quinn rolled her eyes and sniffed. Bi, actually. Believe me, he's not good enough of an actor to have pulled off our relationship they way he did if he hadn't felt something for me.
Santana pursed her lips. I want Hummel to be happy. When the fuck is it finally going to be his turn?
Quinn scoffed. As if you care about Kurt.
Santana's eyes widened. Bitch, don't go there. You don't know crap about me and Hummel.
Quinn eyes searched hers. Apparently not. When did this happen? Why did it happen?
Santana sneered. Why are you all up in our grills? Like you can be bothered with anyone but yourself. I totally knew that you were cheating on Sam long before it came out. Like you cheated before and like you will again. And let's not forget how you totally dumped Mercedes even though she was the one to save your scrawny ass.
Guilt and fear lighted Quinn's eyes and she stared down at her shoes as she continued to walk.
Santana looked away and down at her hands, which she only just now realized were on Artie's wheelchair; she was pushing him. When the hell had that happened? She could tell by the stiff way Artie was sitting and the darting glances over his shoulder that he was equally confused and concerned.
"Brittany loves you."
"She loves you more," Artie said sadly.
"But she won't choose me, Wheels," Santana whispered.
Artie reached up behind him and laid his hand over hers. "And if Kurt were straight, she wouldn't choose either one of us."
They snickered, somewhat ruefully, before lapsing into their own private thoughts.
Mercedes too was in her own world, deeply regretting her faltering relationship with Kurt. She knew she bore equal if not greater responsibility for the rift. Tried as she had to get past it, she resented Kurt for leaving her. Oh, she had said all the right things: she wanted him to be safe, to have the right to be himself, that he had earned the chances Dalton could provide him. She had repeated them on a loop so often, that she could only guess that they had begun sounding as hollow to Kurt as they did to her.
He had tried to keep them alive. He texted, called, and Facebooked every day without fail, telling her all the latest about Dalton, the Warblers, and Blaine, but it was all surface information, pejorative ramblings which didn't interest her, as he knew they wouldn't, but he had made an effort. His verbal slap in the choir room had hurt, but that had been his intention and she had deserved it, so she held no anger.
Why would he tell her he had broken up with Blaine? She had never expressed any real interest in their relationship, mostly because she had been jealous that Kurt had found someone while she was still alone. She had truly believed they would have each other, and only each other, until they left for college. She had almost planned her life around that idea. But then Blaine had appeared, and stayed, and looked so perfect on paper that she thought of him only as a construct and not an actual person. Her envy had blinded her to the reality that he was human and that just because he was gay, it didn't mean he was right for Kurt.
She didn't know if they had kissed, or had gone further, and she wondered if Kurt would ever tell her. She wondered if he had tried but been put off by her disinterest, which had been growing more and more difficult to conceal. She had been content to hold Blaine responsible for Kurt's defection, but now she was realizing that they had slowly been growing apart even while Kurt was still at McKinley.
She had been hurt by Quinn's abrupt dismissal of their friendship, a friendship Mercedes thought was solid. Had she misread the signs? Had Quinn just been using her? She couldn't believe that. Were it the case, why would Quinn have wanted her in the delivery room when she had Beth? Finally she figured out that Quinn was trying to distance herself from everyone and everything that reminded her of her daughter. It was a coping mechanism, and while Quinn was being selfish, all of them were selfish. They were like teenagers that way.
After Quinn had departed with nary a word and Kurt had left, she had thrown herself into growing closer to Tina and Artie, and thereby to Mike and Brittany as well. She hated being the third wheel. She supposed she'd hate being a fifth wheel, as well, but it wasn't like the two couples went out of their way to interact with each other. Tina and Artie were her last links to Kurt; they had been his friends long before they were hers. Of course, that begged the question of why she didn't go to Kurt directly.
He would never reject her, she knew. He continued to make time for her and she had proceeded to throw it back in his face. Sorry, K, can't make the mall. Tee and I are going to the movies. There was always some excuse, some reason she left him behind, and never once did she stop to consider how badly it must have hurt him. She was so concerned with avoiding hurt herself, she had alienated the best friend, the best man, she had ever known. She had justified it with the presence of Blaine, but she failed to consider that Kurt was a minority now surrounded by nothing but teenage boys, most of whom weren't gay. Dalton's zero-tolerance policy covered slurs and actions, but what about looks? Coldness? Contempt? Kurt might have been even more alone with only Blaine to keep him company. She knew the Warblers weren't overly fond of him, and he had looked so lost and confused at Sectionals.
She had told herself that sometimes friends just grew apart, like she and Quinn had, but she knew it was a weak excuse at best. She and Kurt weren't just friends; they had a soul-deep connection and she had been systemically trying to sabotage it because it was easier to feel abandoned than lonely. He often returned to Lima to renew the strength of their bond, but she had never visited him at Dalton. Finn had. Brittany had. Rachel had. Hell, even Schue had. Fuck, Sue had! So why had she been surprised when Kurt turned up to help Rachel?
She looked ahead of her and saw Rachel excitedly chattering to Mike, who looked desperate for an escape. She wondered how she had missed that Rachel, for all her bluster, genuinely liked Kurt. She didn't even know if it was mutual. Maybe Rachel was his new BFF. She couldn't blame him were it true. Well, she could question his taste and sanity.
She hated that she was so jealous of him, but it was true. She was jealous of his beauty. She was jealous of his skin color and the privilege it afforded him, even though his sexuality had brought more harm upon him than being black ever had to her; Lima was just fucked up that way. She was jealous he had found someone to share his life with him, even if it was only for a time. She was jealous that he had stuck with the Cheerios and led them to a win at Nationals, which had led to Sue openly respecting him and his abilities. She was jealous of his vocal talent, because there were millions of girls across the country with voices like hers and Rachel's, but no one sounded like Kurt Hummel. And she was jealous that he had found someone to love him, the way she feared no one would ever love her, the way she could never love him.
There were a lot of benefits to having a gay best friend: the fashion and makeup advice; the way he understood and spoke the secret language of women; the way he anticipated her wants and needs before she knew them herself. But in a very real way, he had ruined her for other men. He was closer to her than any best girlfriend could ever be, and having Kurt at her side had skewed her perception of men, of how they behaved and how they would treat her. From her observation of teenage relationships, leaving sexuality aside, she had gleaned that most guys were more like Puck and Finn than they were like Kurt, and that had been a harsh blow.
Puck, Finn, and even Artie and wishy-washy Schue had pretty much decimated her belief in romance and true love. From them, she had learned that men lie, cheat, and were inherently misogynistic. Her crush on Kurt had never been as severe as many believed, and was less about Kurt himself than it was the way he treated her, like an equal, not as an inferior or a trophy. Not that Kurt was without flaws, but when he loved, it was without restraint and without regret.
And that made her desperately worried about what had happened between him and Blaine. She was sure that Blaine hadn't forced Kurt into anything. Kurt was not the victim people believed him to be, and while his skin might have looked like porcelain, he was not made of it. Besides, Kurt was deceptively strong and Blaine was a midget. Still, Blaine was older, had been out longer, and had actually been in relationships before. Kurt, while relatively strong of mind, was easily emotionally manipulated. If you understood his insecurities, it was not difficult to prey upon them.
Suddenly, it was like a cloud lifted, and all Mercedes knew was to protect Kurt, like she knew he would protect her. This wasn't about weakness or strength, or gay or straight, or anything other than Kurt is my boo and I will gut a bitch. Which meant Blaine might have to die. She was okay with that.
But then, Quinn opened her mouth.
Quinn bumped Sam with her shoulder. "What are you going to do?"
Santana slowed, Mercedes turned, and Artie peered up.
"I'm going to tell him that I'm in love with him."
Santana smirked, Artie gaped, Quinn gasped, and Mercedes shrieked.
"What?" she barked.
"I'm in love with him," Sam repeated, "and I have been ever since that day he found me in the shower in the locker room."
Mercedes crossed her arms over her chest and huffed. "So why didn't you say anything?"
He bristled. "It's really none of your business, and if I thought you were doing anything but looking out for him, I'd tell you to back the hell off."
Santana smiled. This was interesting. Maybe the dude's nuts had finally dropped.
Mercedes opened her mouth, but Sam cut her off.
"I don't owe you anything, Mercedes, least of all an explanation of my feelings. That's between me and Kurt, not you."
She closed her mouth with an audible clack of teeth. She knew he was right, and she might have respected him just a little for calling her out.
"I didn't really date anyone before Quinn," he mumbled. "Not exclusively. I mean, sure, there were random hookups and stuff, but nothing committed."
He turned to face Quinn. "And I was committed to you. My feelings for you were real. We might have only gotten together to boost our reps, but the more time I spent with you, the more I came to love you." He sighed. "I just wish you had come to me and told me that you weren't interested any longer, rather than cheating on me." He blushed. "Was I that bad of a boyfriend? Did I really deserve that?"
Her eyes filled. "No, you didn't. There's no excuse for how I treated you, Sam." She laughed bitterly. "You'd think I would have learned my lesson after Puck, but I guess not. And Finn certainly didn't."
"I thought he was my friend," Sam whispered.
Mercedes snorted. "Finn can be a nice guy, but he's also selfish and not as dumb as he lets people think he is."
"But if you liked Kurt from the start," Artie asked Sam, "why aren't you with him now?"
Sam was silent for a long moment. "You know why I started liking him? Because when he found me in the shower, he didn't look. I knew he was gay the moment I saw him and I sensed that he was attracted to me, probably because I was new more than anything else, but he was respectful. There I was, standing butt-ass naked in front of him, and he didn't look. He could've. I couldn't have stopped him. But he looked me straight in the eye when he spoke to me. He had character."
He ran a hand through his messy hair. "He wanted to sing with me. Maybe it was because he thought I was cute. Maybe it was because he hoped I was gay. But when he asked me, there was never a doubt in my mind that he was asking because he believed that we would win. He was confident in that. He didn't brag about what he could do, but he didn't discount his abilities either, and he believed I was good enough to sing with him. That mattered to me."
He chuckled. "And then he sent me those files, and when I listened to him, I knew I was so far out of his league vocally that it was ridiculous. But he still believed we would make a good team, he took a chance on me when most other people wouldn't."
The others nodded.
"His taste in music isn't mine," Sam continued, "but when I heard him sing, all I heard was him. The words didn't matter, because I only heard his voice." He shook his head. "It was amazing. I don't understand why more people don't appreciate what he can do. Sure, Rachel has the power and Mercedes belts better than anyone currently under contract, but Kurt…he's more subtle, you know? He…he croons. When he sings, you feel like he's singing only to you."
Mercedes and Santana nodded.
"Absolutely," Quinn said.
Sam shrugged. "The other guys tease him or dismiss his talent, but they're just hating. Puck's pretty much a countertenor too, and Kurt's range is like, so insane that he can drop into tenor and even some baritone notes. The control he has over his voice is amazing. I mean, look at Rachel when she sings. Yeah, she's awesome, but when she goes for the power notes, her face looks like she's constipated or something. Then look at when Kurt did Le Jazz Hot. That final note was crazy! Must have been three octaves, all in one breath. He should have won."
"You voted for him, didn't you?" Quinn shyly asked.
He grinned at her. "So did you."
She nodded and ducked her head.
Sam sighed. "I don't get why Schue didn't capitalize on what Kurt can do, or why the Dibblers or whoever they are don't put him front and center. Blaine might be smooth, but he's kind of, I don't know, boring. Yeah, he hits all the notes and everything, but he doesn't make you feel it. Rachel doesn't either. They sing like they care, but it's really all about their own performance. Kurt makes the music matter. And isn't that the point?"
"It should be," Artie said.
Santana rolled her eyes. "Let's cut to the chase, Biebs. Are you a homo?"
Sam snorted. "I don't know what I am, and that's the problem. I didn't try anything with Kurt because I was too confused. If I was going to have some identity or sexuality crisis or whatever, I wasn't going to drag him along with me. He didn't need that. He knows who he is, and why should he waste his time trying to help me figure out who the hell I am? What if I had tried and then realized I was straight? I could have really hurt him, and even then I cared too much about him to let that happen."
"You're not answering my question," Santana barked.
He frowned. "I'm still working it out for myself. I guess if you insist on a label, I'm bi. I mean, I've noticed guys, but I never really thought of them as an option before, you know? I've always liked girls and I probably always will, but I don't really feel comfortable with them. I don't feel comfortable with most people. But I do with Kurt."
"Why?" asked a curious Mercedes.
He shrugged. "I don't even know. I just think that he would never hurt me, not intentionally. That he wouldn't ask me to be anyone other than myself; he'd just accept me as I am, faults and all. He wouldn't try to change me. I think that's what bothered me so much about that Blaine dude. He was trying to change Kurt, and Kurt didn't even realize it. Maybe Blaine didn't realize what he was doing either, and that actually makes it worse."
"Well," Mercedes drawled, "he'd probably force you to have a makeover."
Sam laughed. "I can deal with that. I meant that he wouldn't try to change the big stuff, you know? Like my personality, who I am. He'd probably get me a new wardrobe and tutor me until I was pulling straight As, but that's cool. That's about improving me, not changing me." He shrugged. "And I'd teach him guitar and all the rules to football he still doesn't understand, the ones Finn won't explain to him."
"Okay," Santana said slowly, "but where does the fucking come in? So far, you're talking about some lame epic bromance, not hot homo lovin'."
He turned to her, lips quirked. "What do you want me to say, Lopez? That I want to fuck him into the mattress, then through the mattress, the floor beneath it, and all the way to China? Because, yeah, I totally want to do that."
Her eyes lighted as the others blushed. "Tell me more," she purred.
"Kurt's hot as hell," Sam said. "He's gorgeous, and I don't just mean the pretty eyes or the perfect hair or the flawless skin. I mean those lips that are begging to be bruised with some hardcore kissing. I mean that tight little body he hides beneath all the fancy clothes that I want to run my hands all over. I mean the big dick I know he's sporting just from the fit of those fucking skinny jeans. I mean that he has ass for days and I just want to sink my teeth into it. How's that? Was it Puck-ish enough for you?"
"It was pretty good," she allowed.
"It was never that I didn't want him," he continued. "It was that I'd never had a reaction like that before. Not to anyone, girl or guy, and I had no idea what to do or how to handle it. It was the way he looked into my eyes, like he wanted to know who I was, not who I was pretending to be. It was how he would actually listen to what I was saying and then think about it before he replied. It was the way he made me feel like I mattered to him. And that was just in a handful of brief talks that didn't even amount to much."
"Whoa," Artie breathed.
"Coming here was hard," Sam said, "but it was a chance to reinvent myself. I haven't done that great a job, because it's still pretty obvious that I'm a huge dork and awkward as hell. I made quarterback, but then I lost it. I almost blew my chances with Glee. And then Kurt dumped me as his duet partner." He heaved a sigh of frustration. "I don't even know why, just some bullshit about setting me free, whatever that means."
"He was probably trying to protect you," Artie said. "He knew you'd get crapped on for singing with him. You saw how he was treated here. He just wanted to spare you that."
"But I didn't give a shit," Sam countered, somewhat heatedly. "I even told Finn that when he came and got in my face about how it was 'dangerous' it was to hang with Kurt or whatever, and how it was their world and we're just living in it."
"Cracker said what?" Mercedes thundered.
He nodded. "Seriously, what the hell? He basically made Kurt out to be some kind of predator trying to steal my soul or something. Then he goes all feral and brother bear when Kurt is threatened, but doesn't do shit to try and help him. And what was with him yelling at Kurt when Mr. Hummel had the heart attack? Why the fuck would Kurt call him? It was his father, not Finn's."
He shook his head. "I don't get that dude at all. He acts like he's the Moral Police, but he's a total homophobe and misogynist. He breaks up with his girlfriend for kissing another dude, yet he lies about who he sleeps with and that's okay. From what I've heard, he was chasing Rachel when he was still with Q and thought the baby was his. He tells me he's my friend and he's so happy to have me on the team and in Glee, but doesn't have a problem switching plays that get me injured or stealing my girlfriend. Yet he can't forgive Puck for doing the exact same thing? He's dated or slept with half the girls in New Directions, but somehow Kurt is some promiscuous slut who is out to violate the virtue of any boy who crosses his path? The guy's a complete dick."
Mercedes wanted to kiss his big-ass lips. Quinn looked embarrassed to be associated in any way with Finn. Santana wanted to inform Evans of how Hudson had bullied Hummel into dropping him, just for the chance of seeing Evans kick Hudson's ass. Artie thought perhaps Sam might be the real deal and right for Kurt, but how to know for sure?
"You're not just saying this, right?" Artie asked. "You're not just telling us what we want to hear? Because if that's the case and you end up hurting Kurt, you're going to have deal with a lot of angry people, not just us. And trust me, Brittany and Tina can be absolutely vicious when they want. Even Puck has some weird need to protect Kurt."
"What's your point?" Sam asked.
"Are you really into Kurt, or is it just that he's the most appealing option for you right now, especially because he's available?"
Sam looked down at him. "Since when are you comfortable with this?"
"Kurt's my friend," he replied, glowering.
"Really? Then why'd he tell me that even you flinch when he touches you?"
Indeed, Artie flinched. "It has nothing to do with him being gay. Honestly, I could care less. Kurt just makes me feel…very insecure."
Mercedes widened her eyes. This was news to her. "Why?"
He looked away. "He can walk. He's a better singer than I am. The way he plays the piano…he's truly gifted. Most of you don't even know what he can really do with it. He's better looking than me. If he were straight, he'd have girls literally fighting over him. He was always close to Tina. When we broke up, she ran to him and he helped her through it, but he didn't choose sides. I was so sure that he would, but he surprised me. He usually does."
He stared down at his hands. "Brittany's in love with him. I don't think she realizes it, but it's true. She talks about him constantly. She compares everyone, not just other guys, to him. She doesn't do it to be hurtful, that's not who she is, but it's hard to hear sometimes. And I don't mean a physical love, although she certainly goes on enough about his eyes and his skin and his hands. They have a real spiritual connection, some kind of emotional intimacy that she doesn't have with me or Santana, and it's different from the one he has with Mercedes. I think if he ever had an exception, it would be her."
Santana swallowed heavily.
Artie paused. "You know, before he transferred, he was first in the class? I was first in math and computer science, but he always bested me in languages, literature, and the natural sciences. Now I'm first, followed by Quinn, and then Rachel. Kurt does everything better than me, but he's never tried to make me feel less because of it. He doesn't even know how awesome he really is; he's been beaten down too much. He's been a true friend to me. He's always been there, he's always supported me and cheered me on."
He removed his glasses and wiped at his eyes. "It's very hard to be friends with someone who's better than you but who never sees it. He's got so much going on for him, but he still thinks of himself as the creepy, awkward gay boy. It hurts me to see it, and I know there's nothing I could ever do or say to make him see what I do when I look at him.
"I know he considers me his best guy friend, and that means a lot, but I don't mean to him what Mercedes or Brittany does. I've always known that he'd make it out of this town, that he'll be a success at whatever it is he wants to do, but I also know that he'll outgrow me. It's easier for me to distance myself from him now than to lose him later."
He sniffed loudly, scrubbed his face with a hand, returned his glasses and stared down the empty hall.
"I don't think you're giving yourself or Hummel enough credit, Wheels," Santana said, not unkindly. "He isn't your friend because he's better than you, which, by the way, he's not. And he's not your friend because you see in him a lot of things most other people don't. Hummel may not have been very popular, but he was always picky. If he considers you his friend, it's because of what he sees in you, and I'm pretty sure if we asked him just what that was, he'd be able to write a book about it. Because that's who Kurt Hummel is. Above all else, he's a good friend. And he takes care of his friends. At the end of the day, he's one of the few people I'd want unquestionably standing at my side, that I would trust to do so."
Quinn and Mercedes stared at her.
"What?" she snapped.
"When the hell did you and my boy get so damn tight, anyway?" Mercedes demanded. "This has all come out of nowhere."
Quinn nodded. "It's very strange, and I don't believe it. I don't trust you, not with Kurt."
Santana threw back her head and laughed. "You're hysterical, for an absolute hypocrite. You cheated on your boyfriend with his best friend and got pregnant, and then lied about who the father was. You sold me out to Sylvester to get your spot back. You ditched Jones for the sake of your popularity. You cheated on Evans with Hudson. Yet you have the balls to stand there and tell me you don't trust me? I think the better question is why the hell should anyone trust you?"
Quinn reeled back as if struck. She instinctively looked to Mercedes for support, only to find it missing, for which she couldn't blame the other girl.
"You're alone, Quinn," Santana said. "Sure, you have Hudson right now, but how much longer do you think that's going to last? I'm betting not even until the end of the semester. Jones was a better friend to you than I've ever been, and I'll admit that. You're friends with Hummel and he'd probably do anything he could to help you with whatever you needed, but can you honestly say you'd do the same for him? You're not a victim, regardless of the fact that you've cast yourself in that role. Yeah, I'm a total and complete bitch, but I admit it. No apologies and no regrets. The few friends I have know that going in, and they accept me for it. So you better believe that I've got their back when it counts. I'm evil, but I have a conscience."
"And Kurt is one of your friends," Quinn said, mockingly.
Santana stalked forward. "You don't know dick about me and Hummel, Fabray."
Quinn scoffed once more, but Sam scrutinized Santana more carefully.
"You know, don't you?"
"What are you babbling about now, Captain Clorox?" she barked, though her eyes were guarded.
He stared at her. "You know about whatever Karofsky did to Kurt that drove him away, what really happened. Because there's a lot more to that story than we know." He inched toward her. "We know Karofsky threatened to kill Kurt, but not why. But you know. You're one of the few who weren't upset when Kurt transferred. You're one of the only ones who hasn't tried to convince him to come back. You were relieved when he left. Why?"
Mercedes, Quinn, and Artie stared at her in shock.
Santana looked into Sam's eyes, but gave away nothing. "That's not my story to tell."
None of them noticed Sue Sylvester lingering at the end of the hall.