Pairing: Kurt/Blaine, Finn/Rachel, Sam/Mercedes, Mike/Tina, Artie/Brittany, background Brittany/Santana,
Genre: Romance/Drama/AU, Slash (obviously)
Rating: eventual NC-17
Spoilers: Up to Season 2 Episode 22 (New York)
Summary: What Blaine Anderson wants, Blaine Anderson gets and from the moment he meets Kurt Hummel on the stairs at Dalton Academy he's determined that the beautifully broken boy will be no exception. When lust turns to love and Kurt becomes more than a conquest, Blaine shows just how far the boy who has everything is willing to go for love- the one thing he's never had.
A/N ~ I am humbled and blown away by the response to the last chapter. You guys rock and I am awed by how many of you were still waiting on this to update and still faithful readers. This story means a great deal to me personally and it means so much to me that so many of you have taken my vision and my story into your hearts as well. So thank you and I only hope that I continue to put out a story that stays true to my vision and that you guys enjoy the almost 23,000 words I pumped out for this chapter. It's a doozy :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee. If I did Blaine wouldn't have cheated on Kurt with a lighthouse.
Overall Story Warnings: Violence, Strong Language, homophobic and biophobic language, explicit sex, underage drinking and drug use, high risk sexual behavior, emotional manipulation, bullying, racial slurs, implied suicidal thoughts...will add appropriate warnings for individual chapters
Chapter specific warnings: This chapter is my take on some of the events in NBK so it will contain non consensual sexual contact (the kiss between Kurt and Dave) and as well as general references to consent issues and the effects non-consensual forced physical contact can have on a victim. There are also references to PTSD and physical reactions to emotional trauma (panic attacks and flashbacks) as well as fat shaming, the discussion of internalized homophobia, discussion of conversion camps and homophobic ideas and attitudes, victim blaming, manipulation, blackmail, certain dramatic license for plot purposes (suspend some belief for me pls), brief mention of sexual harassment, and canon typical physical violence.
Previous Chapters start here: Chapter One: Maybe We're Victims of Fate
Chapter Twenty-Two: Sympathy for the Devil
Blaine spent most of the morning in his dorm room going over the events of the previous two days and figuring out what his next move would be.
Blaine had kept quiet and remained in the background during the majority of his time at the Hudmel home. On the surface it seemed he kept quiet out of respect for the family but in reality Blaine's silence had been for his own benefit. One of the first lessons Jasper had ever taught him was that it was far easier to make observations as a spectator than it was to do as a participant. Blaine had learned early on the value in keeping his mouth closed and his ears open.
As he'd listened to everyone lay out their concerns and air a bit of their dirty laundry Blaine had been forced to concede that Burt and Carole, despite some of their missteps, had Kurt's best interests at heart. Their reaction to getting a few, but thankfully not all, of the details regarding the bullying their sons endured at school confirmed Blaine's initial impression of their good intentions but he'd been wholly unimpressed with how they planned to confront the issue.
At first glance it seemed like a good idea but Blaine doubted gathering a group of largely uninformed and apparently uninvolved parents would merit out the kind of results they were hoping for.
For one thing Kurt and Finn had inadvertently weakened their own parents' position. Blaine had noticed that the boys had left out important details-such as the existence of Jacob Ben Israel's blog or the fact that Kurt had actually been physically assaulted by both Karofsky and Azimio. Whether it was due to misguided protective instincts such as in Kurt's case or a desire to save face such as in Finn's, Blaine suspected that all of Kurt's friends would opt for a similar method of blending confession with discretion when confronted by their parents. He doubted that any of the adults, Burt and Carole included, would be given a complete picture of what was actually happening to their children and since knowledge is power, their lack of it would automatically put them at a disadvantage and allow Figgins to downplay the severity of the situation since they'd all be none the wiser.
The second, and far higher hurdle in Blaine's estimation, was that fighting the system was never quick and seldom easy. Blaine suspected that neither Burt nor Carole had ever played the type of politics required to bring about substantial changes in school policies. Talking to a teacher one on one and coming with a plan of action about your specific child was one thing; attempting to institute a change that would impact every single member of the student body-some in initially negative ways-was quite another.
During the course of the conversation Blaine got the distinct impression that Burt and Carole imagined they could storm the castle with their group of angry villagers, hand over their list of demands and negotiate the terms of Figgins' symbolic surrender. Blaine knew from his experience at Anderson International that changing the culture of an institution-any institution-required a combination of time, influence and most important of all-leverage. In order for the kind of changes in policies and procedures that would need to take place for Kurt and his friends to enjoy harassment free school days, their parents would have to play the long game and Figgins would merely be the first of many obstacles that would need to be overcome. Given that Figgins only had so many disciplinary options available to him that couldn't be overturned if a student appealed to the school board, Blaine was relatively sure that any solution the man would have to offer would be akin to putting a band aid on a bullet wound.
And all of this was just fine by Blaine.
It wasn't that Blaine didn't want Kurt to have a safe learning environment; it was simply that he wanted Dalton to be the school providing it.
The way that Blaine saw it Kurt attending Dalton was best for everyone. Kurt would no longer be in physical danger so Burt would no longer have to worry about his son's safety and in turn Kurt would worry less about his father's stress levels. Kurt's absence would benefit Finn because for most bullies out of sight was out of mind. Without Kurt's presence as a visual reminder the second hand harassment Finn got over Kurt's sexuality would most likely decrease dramatically, resulting in a much happier Finn and thus a much happier Carole.
As for Kurt, Dalton would be better for him for a variety of reasons. Kurt's future would be more secure because a Dalton education was an impressive feather to have in one's cap when it came time to apply to colleges. Dalton had influential and active alumni at almost every major university in the country as well as some in the UK and Europe. Kurt's social life wouldn't suffer as a result of a transfer. While he might miss his friends at first, Kurt had already forged bonds with David, Wes, and Jeff and he was sure that the rest of his friends would take to Kurt just as quickly, plus Kurt's peer group would be upgraded from future fast food workers and latchkey kids to the sons of some of the most powerful men not just in Ohio, but in the country and that could only bode well for future endeavors. And there was always the weekend if Kurt absolutely had to maintain contact with his friends from New Directions. As far as future endeavors went, Kurt could nurture his interests in both fashion and performance as Dalton had both top rated drama and art departments.
There was also the fact that Kurt at Dalton was far better for their relationship than Kurt at McKinley. They would finally have time, proximity and privacy- three things that were sorely lacking at the moment and desperately needed for the two of them to move in the direction that Blaine wanted them to go.
And last but not least, it would be better for Kurt if he were as far from the fall out as possible when Blaine released the hounds.
Blaine had begun sowing the seeds of revenge when he had instructed Evan to dig up any information Blaine could use against Kurt's bullies and hired Cass to look into whether or not the school district could face legal repercussions for failing to take any measures to put a stop to the bullying. Evan had uncovered many a dirty little secret that gave Blaine a tremendous amount power over several of Kurt's tormentors. In some cases Blaine could destroy their futures, in others he could tear apart their families and for others he had the ability to even take away their freedom if he chose to make certain information public knowledge. Azimio, Lewis, Karofsky and several of the bullies were firmly in his crosshairs and he couldn't wait until it was time to start taking headshots.
As far as the school went, Cass had concluded that actually winning a lawsuit wasn't a guarantee but they certainly had the grounds to file one. Thanks to Jacob's blog and McKinley's very own school sponsored newspaper there was written, photographic and videotaped proof that a culture of verbal, physical and emotional intimidation was allowed to run rampant on campus and that the offending students had very little, if any, fear of being disciplined or punished for their actions.
The fact that the lawsuit wasn't a slam dunk wasn't an issue. Blaine hadn't really been concerned with whether or not a lawsuit was winnable, only that it was viable. Truth be told, Blaine had no intention of encouraging Kurt to file suit; in fact he had no intention of Kurt ever finding out that he'd even looked into the possibility of filing a suit. Going to court meant dealing with the school board and their attorneys and neither the school board or the taxpayers had the power to give Blaine what he wanted. No, the only one who could do that was Principal Figgins.
While it was true that in the grand scheme of things Figgins was the low man on the totem pole he was the one that Blaine needed to deal with for his plan to work. As the Principal, Figgins was the school's first line of defense against angry parents, disgruntled faculty and anything that might damage the school's reputation or negatively impact its bottom line. He was also the scapegoat and sacrificial lamb should the school receive any bad publicity or be found to be failing in any way. It was precisely because of this that Blaine was betting that Figgins would do just about anything to keep the contents of Jacob's blog from becoming Plaintiff's exhibit A or the feature story on the ten o'clock news. Figgins had to balance his sense of self preservation with his obligation to protect the school's reputation and that was a weakness that Blaine intended to exploit for all it was worth.
He was betting it worth enough to get Kurt out of McKinley and into Dalton.
Being allowed to sit in on the Hudmel family meeting had not only given Blaine the opportunity to know firsthand what Burt did and more importantly didn't know about Kurt's school life, but it had also given Blaine a unique opportunity to bond-sort of-with the elder Hummel afterwards.
"You cannot be serious," Kurt moaned as Burt placed a stack of pamphlets down on the coffee table in front of the two boys.
"I'm as serious as my heart attack. Now, these are some pamphlets I picked up at the free clinic. I was planning on having this talk with you one on one and thought it might help the process along because this is something we need to discuss," Burt responded.
Kurt shook his head rapidly. "Oh no it's not."
"Safer Sex Can Be Fun," Blaine read aloud. "Um, Mr. Hummel I don't really think I need to be here for this so-"
"Look, I know I'm not your father but judging by that hickey on the side of Kurt's neck and that bite mark on your collarbone, I kind of think you do," Burt snapped.
Kurt blushed and Blaine fiddled with the collar of his shirt. "Dad, we really do not have to do this."
"Oh yes we do," Burt disagreed. "You told me to educate myself and-"
Kurt stuck his fingers in his ears and began singing loudly and shaking his head. Blaine shifted uncomfortably on the sofa, torn between the urge to laugh and the instinct to do the same.
"Hey no," Burt said leaning over and gently removing Kurt's fingers from his ears. "You think this is easy for me? It's not, believe me. I want to do this even less than you do."
"I really don't think that's possible," Blaine muttered.
"Look this is gonna suck for all three of us," Burt announced. "But we're all gonna get through it and we'll all be better men because of it."
"My s-sex life is none of your business," Kurt said boldly. "Not that I have a sex life," he added quickly. "But if I did it wouldn't be any of your business."
"That's where you're wrong," Burt said. "I mean, you're right in that your body is your own and you get to choose who you share it with and I don't get to say anything about that-as long as you're both able to give consent and nobody's being taken advantage of. But it is my job as your father to make sure that you have all the information you need to keep yourself safe physically and emotionally if you're gonna be…," Burt faltered for a moment but pushed on, "If you're gonna be having sex."
"Okay," Kurt said, nodding rapidly. "This was a good talk. Thanks for the pamphlets," he said as he rose to his feet and pulled Blaine up with him.
"Sit down," Burt said, pointing to the sofa.
Both boys' shoulders slumped forward and they took their seats again.
"First of all," Burt began, looking from Kurt to Blaine, "Most of the uh, mechanics of what you're gonna be doing is covered in the pamphlets-"
"Mr. Hummel, I really don't need this talk," Blaine interrupted.
"Is that your way of telling me you're not a virgin?" Burt asked.
"Is that a problem?" Blaine fired back, defensive. "Am I unworthy now? Used goods, and all. You want to know how many people I've been with, maybe you want a list?"
"What I want is for you shove the attitude and dial it down a few notches," Burt said. "I don't know what you think I'm gonna say here Blaine but virginity, or the lack there of, doesn't determine your worth." At Blaine's surprised look, Burt continued. "Whether you've slept with one person or one hundred the only thing that I care about is that you kept yourself safe."
"I don't have unprotected sex," Blaine mumbled.
"I didn't just mean physically," Burt answered. "Kurt-"
"Total virgin," Kurt blurted out. "Thanks for the pamphlets, I think I'm gonna just go read this-"
"You're not going anywhere son," Burt sighed.
"Dad, Blaine and I aren't having sex and we're not planning on having sex anytime soon," Kurt stated.
"That's up to you and Blaine," Burt grit out, clearly not happy with the possibility. "But listen, both of you. I realize you may think I came into the world a fully formed adult but the truth is I was your age once. I know what it's like to be a teenage boy and be in a new relationship with somebody that you really like and I know how easy it is for emotions and hormones to get the better of you and end up doing things that you didn't plan on doing and maybe weren't ready for."
"Things like sex," Kurt said.
"Yeah," Burt nodded. "Things like sex. For most guys sex is just, it's this thing we always wanna do. Its fun, it feels great, but we're not really thinking too much about how it makes us feel on the inside or, you know, how the other person feels about it," he said looking briefly at Blaine.
"And women are different?" Kurt asked.
"Only because they're taught that sex is supposed to be about something more than the physical. See, girls get told that they're supposed to wait, that it's supposed to be special, that they're supposed to hold out for someone who loves them, respects them, and makes them feel valued. They get taught that sex and love should be one in the same and that creates a whole different set of problems but the point is guys don't get that. We get taught that it's okay to do it as often as we can, with whoever will let us and that there's something wrong with us if we don't want it or we're not ready. Girls get taught they should say no and guys get taught they should say yes and the truth is it's more complicated than that," Burt explained.
"What do you mean?" Kurt asked.
"When you're intimate with somebody in that way you're exposing yourself," Burt revealed. "You're never gonna be more vulnerable and that scares the hell out of a lot of guys. Believe me, I can't tell you how many buddies I've got who have gotten in way too deep with a girl who said she was cool just hooking up, when she really wasn't."
Blaine winced because yeah, been there.
"But that's not gonna happen to me Dad," Kurt said softly.
"No," Burt agreed. "It's gonna be worse. Because it's two guys, now most of the time you got two people who think that sex is just sex. It's gonna be easier to come by and once you start doing this stuff you're not gonna wanna stop. You gotta know, both of you, that sex means something. It's doing something, to you, to your heart, to your self-esteem. Even though it feels like you're just having fun."
"What if you are just having fun?" Kurt asked, surprising both Blaine and Burt.
"I'd rather you didn't," Burt said bluntly. "But if you're choosing to have sex for purely physical reasons then be sure that everyone's on the same page. Sex feels good and there's no shame in wanting it but if that's all you want then be upfront about that. Be honorable about that. Be a man about that. Don't manipulate someone else into it or take advantage of someone's feelings for you to get it. And if someone tells you all they want is sex, believe them. Don't sleep with them hoping they'll change their mind or believing that you can make them fall for you. Don't put yourself in a position to be hurt or to hurt somebody. Be honest with yourself and be honest with others."
"I can do that," Kurt said.
"You okay over there? You still with us, Blaine?" Burt asked.
"I um, I didn't expect…I thought this was gonna be you bringing out your shot gun and telling me to keep my filthy paws off your baby boy," Blaine admitted.
"Yeah well, if it was up to me Kurt wouldn't have sex until he was thirty," Burt confessed. "But it's not up to me. And even though I don't feel like either one of you should be… it's not my choice to make."
"So if I choose to have sex with Blaine-"
"You'll be putting me in an early grave," Burt quipped.
Burt laughed. "Look kid, I can't…I can't give you the all clear here because I'm your father and part of me is having a real hard time admitting that you're even old enough for this conversation. What I can do is respect you enough to trust your judgment. From what I can see, Blaine's a good kid. You could do a hell of a lot worse than him. And if, at some point in the far distant future, you feel like you're ready I want you to be able to do… everything. But when you're ready, I want you to use it as a way to connect to the person that you're with. I don't want you, either of you, to throw yourselves around like you don't matter. 'Cause you matter, both of you matter and I don't want either of you to lose sight of that."
Blaine felt unexpected warmth spread through his body at the sincerity in the older man's voice. For the first time since they'd met he felt like he and Burt had actually connected.
Burt cleared his throat. "Unless you boys have anything you wanna talk about that's pretty much it."
"I think…I think we're good," Blaine answered.
"We're good," Kurt confirmed. "Thanks Dad."
"You're welcome," Burt said, as he stood up. He motioned to Kurt and the boy rolled his eyes but stood up and gave his father a hug. They broke apart after a few moments. "I'm gonna go see if Carole needs any help with those calls," Burt said.
Burt nodded and started to walk out of the living room. On his way past Blaine he stopped and gave the other boy an affectionate squeeze on his shoulder. "Thank you for being there for Kurt and taking care of him when I couldn't. I ah, I look forward to getting to know you."
"You don't have to thank me," Blaine answered. "I look forward to getting to know you too."
Burt nodded and then left the room.
"Twenty years from now when my therapist asks me where my issues with intimacy began I'm going to tell him it was the day my father sat my boyfriend and I down, talked to us about gay sex and gave us illustrated pamphlets," Kurt declared, sinking into the seat next to Blaine.
"Don't leave out the packets of lube and the day glo green condoms," Blaine joked.
"Oh my God," Kurt moaned as he buried his head in Blaine's shoulder and laughed.
A knock on his door took Blaine out of the memory. "Open up and let me in," Jeff hollered.
"Keep your pants on," Blaine yelled back as he got up from his desk.
"Keep my pants on? Why don't you ask me to spin straw into gold while you're at it," Jeff complained.
"You are truly terrible," Blaine announced as he swung open the door. "What do you want hooker?"
"Rude," Jeff replied, shoving Blaine aside and barreling his way in. "You ditched all your morning classes. I wanted to make sure you hadn't OD'd or something," Jeff said.
"Nope still alive and kicking," Blaine replied, flopping down next to Jeff on the bed. "Just had a lot on my mind."
"And by a lot you mean Kurt?"
"Look at you, having emotions like a real boy," Jeff joked.
"Shut up," Blaine groused. "I miss him."
"Then let's go," Jeff said hopping up.
"Lima," Jeff said rolling his eyes.
"In case you haven't noticed it's a school day," Blaine said dryly.
"You've already skipped your morning classes and you aren't in uniform so you weren't planning on going today anyway. If we stop for lunch by the time we get there Kurt will be getting out," Jeff reasoned.
"Okay," Blaine said slowly. "I know why I would go to Lima, but why would you?"
"I'm bored," Jeff replied. "It's either tag along with you or see if the Lockhart twins wanna make another movie."
"You realize the fact that you're all under eighteen doesn't make it any less illegal and that someday one of your sex tapes is gonna end up all over TMZ," Blaine cautioned his friend.
"Then maybe Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton will teach me the secret handshake," Jeff grinned.
"Shut up and sit quietly while I grab a shower and change."
"And then," Blaine said patiently, "If you've managed not create any chaos we'll hop in the jag and head down to Lima. But we're not stopping for lunch; I want to see if I can get Kurt to skip his last class for me."
"You're a horrible influence on that boy," Jeff said mockingly. "Luckily I think those are the best kind. So, old buddy old pal my bff bro 5eva…can I drive?"
Blaine gave Jeff a look that could have melted the flesh from his bones. "Do you want to lose testicles left and right?"
Jeff gave Blaine a dazzling smile. "I call shotgun."
The next morning everyone in the Hudmel home was slightly on edge. There had been so many witnesses to his meltdown in Breadstix that Finn knew the story had spread and the second he walked through the doors Jacob Ben Israel would be on him like polyester on a leisure suit and that everyone would be watching to see how he'd react. He also knew if the phone conversations they'd had were any indication, he was going to be facing the collective wrath of the members of New Directions.
In addition to all of that, he was worried about what the outcome of the parents meeting with Principal Figgins would be and whether or not it would have a positive effect on the bullying everyone endured or just make everything worse. Puck had once told him that high school operated by street gang rules, the most important one being "snitches get stitches." While Finn wasn't prepared to go quite that far, he did concede that there was an unspoken agreement among the student body to leave their parents out of the loop whenever possible that went a little beyond the normal teenage code of silence. Kids got tossed in dumpsters, pelted with slushies, tagged with 'kick me' signs, shoved into lockers and rolled in the port-a-potty's and everyone, including most of the faculty, just accepted it as the natural order of things at William McKinley High School. With very few exceptions no one really bothered to complain because that's just the way things were and complainers only got a bigger bullseye placed on their backs.
Even he and Kurt hadn't entirely come clean with their parents and he doubted anyone else had either. After comparing notes with both Kurt and Puck the night before he knew that none of his friends had said a word about Jacob's blog and they'd all left out some of the more embarrassing things that had been done to them.
None of them were so naïve that they didn't understand that the blog could back up everything they were saying but they would all rather protect their parents-and themselves-from seeing the worst of what they'd gone through-or in some cases put people through-in pixel perfect 1080 HD. Part of Finn knew that withholding information was defeating the whole purpose of complaining but the idea of his mom or Burt being able to go online and see him being trapped up against a locker helpless to stop Karofsky and Azimio from ripping his letterman jacket in half or watching him try to scrub his face clean after he'd been held down and drawn on by the duo just filled him with an overwhelming sense of shame that he just couldn't deal with on top of everything else and he suspected that everyone pretty much felt the same. He knew Quinn still hadn't opened up to her mother about just how viciously her peers had turned on her during her pregnancy. He knew that Puck's mom was aware that he used to bully other kids but knowing it and seeing it were two different things and Finn understood that Puck didn't want to give her any more reasons to be disappointed in him. He knew that Rachel had told her dads that Jacob had a crush but not that he basically sexually harassed her and had a segment of his blog titled "Berry's Booty" that he dedicated to nothing but pictures of her from behind. And he knew that despite Burt's insistence that he was the parent and his job to be the protector, Kurt would do anything to keep from worrying his father-including keeping him in the dark about just how bad things for him really were. He knew Kurt hadn't told Burt about being attacked at school by Azimio and had purposely left out a lot of the details about what he'd been through and continued to go through.
A gentle knocking on his door frame startled him out of his thoughts. "Carole sent me to get you," Kurt explained standing in Finn's doorway looking as cool and collected as ever but the slight shake in his voice betraying his nerves. "She made-"
"Pancakes," Finn interrupted with a smile. "It's her good luck breakfast. Whenever something major is happening that might not go well, like a test or a big game she makes pancakes."
Kurt smiled. "It could go well," he said.
"Yeah, it could," Finn agreed half heartedly.
"But it probably won't," Kurt sighed.
"Not even a little bit," Finn nodded.
"Finn," Kurt said stepping into the room. "You and I have a lot of work ahead of us before we're anywhere close to okay but today is going to be hard on both of us. There's gonna be a lot of gossip and a lot of anger and maybe even retaliation depending on just how badly things go. It would be nice if we were able to at least have each other's back."
"Yeah it would," Finn agreed. "That would be really awesome."
Kurt gave Finn a tight smile. "Well, then I guess we should go eat what could metaphorically speaking be our last meal."
"C'mon man it'll be rough but nobody's gonna murder us," Finn laughed, slipping a flannel shirt on over his graphic tee.
"It must be nice to be able to be so sure," Kurt murmured as he turned to leave.
"Hey," Finn said reaching out to grab Kurt's shoulder to stop him. "Dude. Seriously? Is that something you seriously worry about?"
Kurt gave Finn an unreadable look. "Our pancakes are getting cold," he said sidestepping Finn's question. "Come on, I need to make sure dad doesn't drown his in butter and syrup."
Finn quietly followed Kurt down the stairs, hoping that the day wouldn't go as badly as he thought it would and afraid that it might, in fact, be worse.
"They've been in there an awfully long time," Tina said, leaning her head on Mike's shoulder and peering through the window into Figgins' office where the parents of the members of New Directions, Mr. Schuester, Coach Sylvester and Ms. Pillsbury were all engaged in what looked like to be a heated discussion.
When they'd arrived at school, instead of going to class Finn and Kurt had followed Burt and Carole into the office to await the arrival of the rest of the parents. Once everyone had arrived there had been a few moments of controlled chaos where every single parent threatened to withdraw their child if they didn't get a meeting with Figgins that very moment. Ms. Pillsbury was called in to try to keep everyone on an even emotional keel, Mr. Schuester's presence was demanded because every child in question was a member of his glee club and Sue bullied her way in when she realized that she was facing not only the loss of her head Cheerio, but her second and third in command as well.
The students had been left outside, their parents refusing to allow them to be sent to class until some type of resolution had been reached. It had been two hours so far and the meeting didn't seem to be winding down in the slightest.
"They have been going at it all morning and they don't look like they're leaving anytime soon," Mercedes noted.
"I hope not," Puck smirked. "I'm kinda hoping this lasts long enough to keep me out of chem class. I've already missed homeroom and history; I say we go for the hat trick."
"Noah," Rachel admonished sharply. "This isn't about getting out of class. Our parents have banded together to confront Principal Figgins and demand that he provide us with a safe and harassment free environment and I for one-"
"Could not be any more annoying," Santana interrupted with an eye roll.
"Hush Chandler Bing," Mercedes told Santana. "For once Rachel's right. This is serious. My dad was supremely pissed when he got off the phone with Burt last night."
"My mom was so mad she said some words that I didn't even think she knew," Mike winced. "I've never seen her so angry."
"I had to talk my dad out of transferring me," Artie added. "He's usually the first one to tell me how my chair can only limit me if I let it but when he found out what was going on, he went into protective overdrive."
"Can't blame the dude," Puck shrugged. "I know firsthand how rough some of the guys get with you."
"That's 'cause you used to be the ringleader," Santana mumbled.
"If that ain't the pot calling the kettle black," Mercedes sniffed.
"You heard me."
"You know what-"
"Mercedes is right," Quinn interrupted. "Our parents are all in there demanding that Figgins do something about the bullying but the fact is that not too long ago Puck, Finn, Santana and I were some of the worst offenders."
"But you guys changed," Tina argued.
"Some more than others," Rachel added primly, glaring at Santana.
"I'm a work in progress," Santana said, folding her arms over her chest.
"Same here," Finn said.
"Oh nuh uh Poppin Fresh, don't agree with me. You're still on my list," Santana snapped.
"Mine too," Tina added.
"So much same," Sam agreed.
"Never left mine," Mercedes mumbled.
"I don't have a list," Brittany shared.
"Neither do they," Kurt sighed. "I was hoping that we could do this later, in the choir room but now's as good a time as any I suppose."
"Nope," Mercedes cut him off holding up her hand. "I know you, Kurt. You're about to tell us to back off of Finn and I'm sorry but after what he did to you I just can't."
"Yeah," Sam chimed in. "What he did was majorly uncool and I'm sorry man but I'm just not okay with it."
Kurt gave his friends a small smile. "I'm not asking you guys to be okay with it. But Finn and I talked things out with our parents and we're gonna try to work through things like a family. I appreciate the support-more than you know-but it would be easier on me if you guys backed off and let us work this out ourselves."
"Unbelievable," Santana huffed. "Do you have an invisible Teflon suit?" She asked Finn.
"Um, no," Finn responded with a confused look on his face.
"You must," Santana sneered. "It's the only possible explanation for all of the crap you pull to just keep sliding right off of you."
"Seriously Kurt you can't expect us to just let it go," Tina said.
"Actually he can," Rachel said quietly. "This happened to Kurt. He gets to decide how to deal with it and if he wants us to back off then-"
"Of course you're all for everybody backing off your boyfriend," Mercedes huffed.
"It's not about me," Rachel said earning several sideways glances. "Well it's not," she insisted. "It's about Kurt."
"But Finn hurt him," Brittany argued.
"Finn's not the only one," Quinn pointed out. "A lot of us have hurt Kurt."
"I haven't," Sam said defiantly.
"Not like that," Mercedes denied as she shook her head.
"Maybe not," Quinn conceded, "But I seem to remember someone throwing a rock through the windshield of his car last year."
"And I seem to remember you orchestrating that entire episode," Mercedes fired back.
Quinn flushed. "Yeah, we did," she said, indicating herself, Brittany and Santana. "And it was wrong and it was hurtful, not just to Kurt but to you too."
"I was awful to him-to most of you," Puck spoke up. "I'm the one who started the dumpster tosses, the Monday Morning Swirlie and the slushie facials."
"You really were a special kind of vile," Tina muttered.
"And I'm sorry for it, for all of it. I know I don't say that much but it's true. You guys gave me, Quinn, and Santana a second chance,"
"Don't put me in this," Santana interrupted. "I know that I-"
"Have aimed your share of offensive, homophobic insults at Kurt too," Rachel finished. "Because you have. You take every available opportunity to make his sexuality something he should be ashamed of. Just because you can't deal with the fact that you're-"
"Shut up Berry," Santana hissed. "Look, I say some foul stuff, okay? You guys should know by now that's just how I am and half the stuff I say isn't meant to be taken seriously. I don't think there's anything wrong with Kurt being gay." Santana turned and looked at the brunette. "I don't have a problem with you being gay," she repeated.
"Then stop saying hurtful things about it," Kurt said quietly. "You were mocking me before I even came out, Santana-not that you were the only one- but you were and continue to be one of the worst offenders."
"You really don't have any room to judge Finn," Artie added. "You're just as bad if not worse. The stuff you say about Kurt being gay, about me being in my chair, fat shaming people…you living large up in your glass house and if you keep throwing those stones you gone be homeless, girl."
"Thanks Artie," Finn began.
"Hold 'em up," Artie said as he shook his head. "That wasn't me defending you. That was me calling a spade a spade. Finn, you're an okay guy a lot of the time. Most of the time really. But I can't count of the number of times the football team would slushie me or shove me around or give me crap about my chair and you'd be right there. Even if you didn't say anything to me you didn't say anything to them either. That makes you just as guilty, yo."
"And I'm sorry Puck but you can't ask us to compare you and Finn either. Yeah, a lot of the time you were right there, egging everybody on, making it ten times worse than it had to be," Artie admitted. "But you know the difference between you two? You own your crap. You've apologized, not just in word but in deed. You've picked us, every single time there's been a choice to make between us and football or us and popularity, you've picked us. Finn talks the talk but he never walks the walk. Every single time he picks the easy road and we're not easy so we end up in the dust."
"I'm sorry," Finn said.
"You've said that," Artie told him. "But then you keep doing the same things."
"This isn't just about what you did to Kurt," Tina added. "It's about the fact that we can't trust you to have our backs. Every single one of these guys stood up for Kurt and you, the guy who's supposed to be our leader, were nowhere to be found."
"I know and I regret that," Finn said. "I regret a lot of the choices I've made and I know that I need to do better."
"Then do better," Sam said. "Look man, I don't know you as well as the others do but I'm gonna be blunt: I don't like a lot of what I've seen. It's like you're two different people sometimes and I never know which one I'm gonna get. Kurt's my best friend and if I have to pick between you two I'm picking him all day, every day. I don't have to question his loyalty but I find myself constantly wondering about yours."
"Finn's loyal," Puck broke in. "You're new Sam so you missed the clusterfuck last year was but when Finn has your back man he has your back, even when you mess up so badly that he shouldn't."
"I can only go off of what I've seen," Sam shrugged.
Kurt smiled gently at Sam. "Thanks Sam," he said softly. "You're my best friend too."
"Excuse me," Mercedes and Tina yelped in unison.
Kurt flushed then shrugged. "My best guy friend," he amended.
Finn leaned forward. "Look guys, I know that I have a lot of work to do to earn back not just Kurt's trust but yours too and I'm willing to do it. I just need a chance."
"You guys gave me a chance when it would have made more sense to form an angry mob and beat me with sticks," Puck added. "Give Finn the same shot."
"I don't want to do this feelings crap," Santana grumbled, "But it's not about second chances or whatever. We've all screwed each other over at some point. From Kurt giving Rachel her hooker Barbie makeover to me climbing over Quinn's still warm corpse to claim head cheerleader to Girl Chang letting Mike sample her pupu platter while she was still rolling with Wheels, we've all done each other dirty at least once. But me taking shots at Berry's enormous beak in the choir room is different from Finn breaking Kurt so badly that he's afraid to go home. That's a whole 'nother level of not okay right there."
"I'm not any more okay with what happened than you are," Mike spoke up, causing everyone to look at him. "But it happened to Kurt. And if he's the one asking us to back off then we should back off. We say all the time that New Directions is a family but guys, Kurt and Finn are gonna be family for real. And this is between them to work out and we shouldn't do anything to make that harder."
"Finn fell down," Quinn said softly. "Are we really gonna kick him while he's lying on the ground."
"Yes," Mercedes mumbled.
"No," Sam smiled, gently nudging his girlfriend with his shoulder. "But we aren't going to just say no harm, no foul either."
"I don't expect you to," Finn replied. "I know I have a lot of stuff to make up for. I have a lot of changes I need to make and I just need for my friends not to hate me while I'm doing it."
"I'm not asking you guys to pretend nothing happened," Kurt added. "Clearly some of you have your own issues with Finn. I'm just asking you guys not to shun him, to give him a chance to prove himself. If you can," he said looking at Puck, Quinn and Rachel, "give him your support and if you can't," he said glancing at the other members of the New Directions, "just give him a chance to try and do better."
"I can do that," Tina sighed. "I won't pretend nothing happened and I won't pretend we're okay but I won't demand a pound of flesh either."
"You're on probation," Mercedes told Finn. "If Kurt so much as sneezes and you don't say 'bless you' I'm gonna be on you like white on rice."
"And she won't be alone," Sam added.
"Fair enough," Finn nodded.
"You already know where I stand," Mike stated. "We've been friends since we were seven and I know what an amazing person you can be. I'm gonna choose to believe that you're gonna be that person all the time now, even when it's hard and even when it costs you. Don't disappoint me again, man."
"I'm gonna do my best."
"You've done your best," Mike told him. "Now you need to do better."
"You know I got your back bro," Puck said. "From the sandbox to the cemetery, it's you and me."
"I don't have anything to forgive you for," Brittany said. "But don't make my friends sad again," she looked at Finn and gave him a small smile. "Don't make yourself sad again either."
"You have a rough road ahead of you," Quinn told Finn softly. "I'm not gonna bail but don't expect me to carry you either. I meant what I said. You want this second chance, you prove you deserve it and you fight for it."
"I'm not gonna make things harder on you than they need to be," Artie started, "But I'm rolling out the red carpet either. You want my trust back? You earn it."
"I'm gonna work really hard to earn your trust back," Finn promised.
"I'm gonna hold you to that."
"What you said was narrow minded, hateful and hurtful," Rachel stated. "And there is a part of me that keeps imagining one of my dads' in Kurt's place and that part of me is really angry and disappointed and wants to write you off," she said tearfully.
"And then there's the other part of me," Rachel continued. "That loves you so much it feels like my soul opens up when you smile. And that part of me is convinced that you can come back from this. It won't be easy for either one of us but I think if we try really hard we can make it through this together."
Rachel slowly slid her hand off her lap and into the space between their seats. Her fingers brushed over Finn's cautiously and then loosely entwined with them. When Finn met her eyes she gave him a small smile and tightened her grip.
"Santana, it's your turn," Brittany said.
"To do what?"
"To tell Finn how you feel."
"I don't remember agreeing to sit in the circle of feelings and share," Santana sniped.
"Don't," Brittany said softly. "Don't act like you don't care when you do. This is important."
Santana and Brittany shared a long look and then the brunette sighed heavily. "Look Man Boobs McGee, I don't care that Kurt has decided to impersonate Gandhi and encourage us all to be forgiving and hand out redemption like Halloween candy-"
"Santana," Brittany said sharply.
Santana rolled her eyes and took a deep breath. "I'm a bitch, okay? But I don't pretend that I'm not. You guys know that I'm gonna insult you and you know that I'm gonna enjoy it. But it's not like before," Santana blinked back the sudden wetness in her eyes, "Things are different now. Yeah, I'm still awful to you a solid ninety percent of the time but the thing is now that I know you all, I wouldn't let anyone else treat you like that. I wouldn't just stand silently by while someone else gave you guys crap. Last year, yeah but not now. And I get how messed up that sounds but it is what it is. You're losers but you're my losers."
"Gee thanks," Mercedes said drily.
"Shut it Tots I'm not done yet," Santana snapped. She leaned forward and pinned Finn with a cold, steely-eyed glare. "You hurt my losers again and I will make it my mission to end you. I will leave no stone unturned. From vengeful Cheerios and angry jocks to disenfranchised band geeks and Jacob Ben Israel, I will pull from the cream of the crop and scrape from the bottom of the barrel gather an army, whip them into a Finn Hudson feeding frenzy and send them after you. Hurt my losers again and not even Britts will be able to save your sorry ass, got it?"
"Got it," Finn nodded.
"Well that was sufficiently terrifying," Kurt said.
"I try," Santana sniffed inspecting her nails.
"Guys," Tina said, looking towards the door. "Burt's coming out."
"And he does not look happy," added Mike.
"You kids can come in now. Your parents and I have talked to Principal Figgins and he knows where we stand. He has some things he needs to say to you all."
Finn and Kurt hung near the back of the group and shuffled in quietly behind their friends.
"Why do I have a feeling this didn't go so well," Finn whispered.
"Because it didn't," Kurt whispered back. "I know my dad and if things had gone the way we wanted them to he would be all smiles right now instead of looking like-"
"He's five seconds away from whipping out his flame thrower and burning the entire place to the ground?" Finn finished for him.
"With Figgins inside," Kurt confirmed as he stepped inside and Burt closed the door behind him.
"Children," Principal Figgins began, "your parents have brought it to my attention that you all feel you have been-"
"My daughter doesn't feel like she's been harassed," Evie Jones cut in sharply. "She has been harassed."
"And Tina didn't imagine being shoved into a locker by a boy twice her size," Karen Chang added furiously.
"Of course not," Figgins said placating. "I merely meant that your parents have explained that your experience here at William McKinley High School is not altogether positive-,"
"I got one kid who gets thrown into dumpsters on a regular basis and another who's getting frozen drinks thrown in his face in the middle of the hallway," Burt interrupted. "You bet your ass they're not having an altogether positive experience."
"Sam got a black eye defending his friend because neither you or your incompetent staff saw fit to rein in the letterman jacket wearing terrorists you call student athletes around here," Dwight Evans thundered. "What the hell is there to be positive about?"
"I understand that are issues," Figgins tried again. "And you have all made your positions crystal clear-,"
"Did we?" Carole asked bitterly. "Because the way you started off your apology to our children makes me wonder if you need things explained to you again. Perhaps with smaller words and brightly colored illustrations."
"The more you talk the more I'm convinced that you didn't hear a word we said and the better looking Brittany's transfer papers get," Marilyn Pierce snapped.
"I assure you my comprehension is impeachable," Figgins stated, earning an incredulous look from all. "I truly understand and sympathize with what the children have been going through."
"Do you?" Mike Chang Sr. demanded. "Because I meant what I said. I will pull Michael out of here so fast your head will spin. If I can't trust that he's at the very least being kept safe, then I can't trust that he's getting anything he needs-including a quality education."
"We'll all pull our kids out of here," Leroy Berry threatened.
"You think this is a game," Maribel Lopez hissed. "You don't wanna play with me when it comes to my kid. I married a doctor but I grew up in the hood and I'm not so bougie that I've forgotten how handle my business."
"Don't make me take off my earrings," Evie Jones added.
"Quinn has been put through enough. Now, Misery is one of my favorite movies and I will hobble you if I have to," Judy Fabray added.
"Ladies, while I understand your frustration I think we should explore options that allow us to um, 'handle our business' while leaving Principal Figgins unhobbled and our earrings on our ears," Emma piped up.
Principal Figgins cleared his throat. "Thank you Emma. As I was saying, I realize that things have not been satisfactory and it is my sincere desire to provide every student here at William McKinley High School a safe and happy learning environment."
"And that means what exactly," Kurt asked. "Because I remember being in here with Mr. Schue not too long ago and you telling me how your hands were tied."
"To some extent they still are," Principal Figgins conceded. "But at the next school board meeting your parents will bring their concerns before the board and then-"
"That's a week away," Rachel interrupted.
"What are we supposed to do in the meantime?" Mercedes demanded.
"And in the meantime," Principal Figgins continued, "Mr. Schuester, Ms. Pillsbury and…Coach Sylvester have agreed to reach out to members of the staff and encourage them to take a more active role in maintaining order and security in the classrooms and hallways."
"I'm gonna do my best to be out there in the hall between every class change," Will promised. "If I see or hear anything, I'll intervene. I'm sure I can get Coach Bieste and some of the other staff members to do the same."
"I'm going to be out there too," Emma added. "And my door is always open to any of you if you need to talk or if you just need a safe place to be during the school day. You can come to me, all of you, and I will do everything in my power to help you."
Sue pushed herself off the wall. "I normally make it a habit not to concern myself with my student's well being because it's a colossal waste of my time," she began. "Unfortunately for me in this situation I have no choice. Earth, Wind and Fire over there are threatening to remove my Cheerios so your collective failure at clawing your way far enough up the social ladder so that your peers don't find pleasure in your pain has now become my problem-"
"Sue, that's victim blaming," Emma interrupted quietly.
"No Barbara Gordon, that's what my good friend Al Gore and I like to call an inconvenient truth," Sue corrected. "Since your inadequacy is now my problem, I'm going to take care of it. Each of you will be given a taser and a baton by the end of the school day. I expect to see you all in the gym bright and early at four in the morning for training-,"
"Sue we aren't going to arm them," Will objected.
"Fine William, if you're just going shoot down my ideas there's no reason for me to be here," Sue sniffed and stalked towards the door. "But know this: If I lose Q, Lady Ta-Ta and Tweedle Dumb because you chose to MLK when we should have Malcolm X'd, I will destroy you and all the tiny little woodland creatures who nest in your ridiculous hair," she announced as she swept from the room.
"Okay," Emma said brightly, "Now that it's a little calmer-"
"You mean now that everyone left in here is mentally stable," Tina muttered.
"We can finish explaining to you kids what's going to happen," Emma continued.
"Nothing's going to happen," Kurt shook his head. "With all due respect Ms. Pillsbury we already know we can go to you. The reason we don't is because we know you can't really do anything. And Mr. Schuester, you've already been out in the halls a lot more lately and nothing's changed."
"We may be kids but we're not stupid," Artie said. "You're stalling," he accused Figgins. "You tell our parents you can't do anything but you'll bring it up to the school board at the next meeting, hoping that in a few days they won't be so angry and in the meantime the teachers that already do what they can to help us keep on doing what they're doing and the rest of you keep pretending that you don't see corn syrup all over the floors in the hallway or hear bodies being thrown into lockers between classes."
"I assure you that we take bullying very seriously. Any student seen participating in the physical or verbal harassment of a classmate shall be dealt with most severely," Principal Figgins insisted.
Puck laughed. "Most severely?" he scoffed. "I've been in this office so many times my name should be on the door. And most of those times were for bullying and you know what you did to me? Nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero. Maybe a detention every once in awhile and that was after you were kind enough to let me know which kid ratted me out so I could go back and get revenge."
"Oh Noah," Dana Puckerman sighed.
"Ma, it's the truth," Puck shrugged. "I'm not bullying anybody now but this time last year I would have had almost all of these guys running for cover and I wouldn't have cared if I'd gotten caught because I knew nothing would happen to me."
"Doesn't sound like much has changed," Sam said.
"That's because it hasn't," Santana told him. "This is all lip service. You'll all be wearing the frozen ice and Eau du Humiliation by the end of the day per the usual."
"Dad, Carole thanks for trying," Kurt said as he adjusted his messenger bag over his shoulder.
"Hey buddy, we're not done here," Burt said.
"Actually Burt, I think we kinda are," Finn said. "We're not gonna get any real help, at least not today. Maybe next week you guys can get the school board to do something but for now it's just business as usual."
"No it's not," Will protested. "I promise you guys that things will get better."
"You shouldn't make promises that you can't keep," Brittany said quietly.
"Its lunch time," Quinn sighed. "Can we go?"
"Don't worry mom," Quinn said then smiled thinly at Principal Figgins. "I'm in my Cheerios uniform. Nobody is going to slushie me. Funny how that works."
"Coach makes us wear our uniforms every day. Is that why I've never been slushied?" Brittany asked.
"Yes," Mercedes and Tina answered.
"Guys," Mr. Schuester said helplessly.
"It's alright Mr. Schue," Rachel said. "We know you care and we know you're trying."
"You kids are talking like this is over," Burt said.
"It is for today, Dad," Kurt said. "We heard what Principal Figgins had to say loud and clear and I think we're all just kind of ready to go to lunch now."
"We will be at that school board meeting," Mike Chang Sr. promised.
"I know you will Dad," Mike said softly. "It's just that meeting isn't until next week so for now I'm just gonna go to lunch."
"Mom its okay," Tina said, leaning into Mike. "We're not giving up we're just accepting that nothing more is gonna happen here today."
"Mom its fine," Sam said.
"No it isn't, son," Dwight said. "But I promise you that it will be."
Sam nodded and he and Mercedes laced their fingers together.
"Why don't you guys head on out," Mr. Schuester sighed. "Your parents and I will stay here and iron out some of the finer details."
The students filed out silently, resignation written across every one of their faces and their shoulders slumped in defeat.
"Our kids deserve better," Burt said, turning to Principal Figgins. "And I'm not going anywhere until you convince me that they're gonna get it."
"That goes for all of us," Hiram Berry announced, coming to stand beside Burt. "So Principal Figgins, one more time, from the top. Our children have subjected to organized, prolonged, systematic harassment and…"Chapter Twenty-Two Part II