Hello. Yes, I am alive, and no, I will not give you any excuses for why this took so long. ;; This is a shorter chapter than the last, mostly to just get me moving forward again. You'll get to see some new characters! I hope you like how I've fit them into the story. In fact, I hope you like all of it. Yeah.

Anyway, this chapter is dedicated to all the reviews I kept getting, even after months of the second chapter going up, all encouraging me to continue. But it goes out especially to Chalcedony Rivers, whose kind words were really what pushed me to continue this. I hope this day is going better than the last time I talked to you, hun.

While Wendla stands, frozen in the music room, Ernst holds his breath and tries not to move.

He's chosen to hide in the boy's change room. Which is probably not the best choice, him crouched in a stall, wincing every time he hears footsteps.

He's only been here a week, and already it's as bad as the last school. Worse, because apparently he made eyes at the wrong boy on his first day, and most of the student body seems to have already decided he's a queer.

It's an hour after classes were let out, but he was met outside of his last class with a hard elbow to his eye, and raucous laughter.

And perhaps there had been better options than to push past the two muscular baboons, blinking back tears. Somehow, someone's books ended up on the ground, pushed by a fleeing body. There was an angry shout, and Ernst was off and running, heart in his throat as he listened to the heavy footsteps following close behind him.

They ran right by the change room door, but Ernst is sure he heard their voices pass by more than once.

It's been twenty minutes since he's heard them, and he is about to venture out of his stall when the door opens, and he freezes.

He is so screwed. His breath catches in his throat.

A boy he doesn't recognize walks in, already wearing his shoulder pads and jersey. One of the football players. Ernst's heart sinks. This is not the group he wants to run into.

Perhaps, if he acts as if he is just leaving, he'll be left to himself. He still has to go and grab his bag from his locker, but there was a door near there, one he can sneak out of and begin the walk home.

The boy's eyes widen as he spots Ernst's blooming black eye, but Ernst scurries past, hoping he's not stopped.

He isn't. A sigh of relief escapes his lips as he passes through the door. A few more football players are coming his way, but he walks further down the hall, and none of them notice him.

Ernst is almost at his locker when someone clears their throat behind him. He jumps, and turns around with his books raised over his face.

Nothing happens.

The books are lowered, and Ernst blushes.

The boy standing in front of him is cute. Cute is much more intimidating than handsome, especially in this case. Though he would be cuter if he smiled... Luckily for Ernst, he doesn't look like he smiles often.

The boy's eyes widen as he takes in the black eye and Ernst's terrified expression. Almost unconsiously, he takes a step back, arms crossed over his chest. He seems to have forgotten why he stopped the boy in the first place.

"You're new."

Ernst nods, biting his lips nervously. "Y-yes?"

"You're not sure you're new?" He looks behind his shoulder, eyes scanning the empty hallway. "Let me guess. The football team."

Ernst shrugs, trying to tug at his shirt and stand up straight, but knowing it will do nothing to change the air of helpless vulnerability that always succeeds in following him around. "I don't know..."

The boy's stare is bringing an uncomfortable heat to his cheeks, and he hugs his books closer to his chest, wishing that running away from an awkward situation was more socially acceptable.

"...do you sing?"

"Wh-what?" Thrown off by this, Ernst stared too long at the boy's pretty face, before looking away again, mentally chiding himself. First nice person to talk to him equals not the person to crush on. Or admire from a distance, or anything of the sort. "S-sing? Not really..." Not in front of people, that was for sure. "Why?"

The boy shrugs, and surely Ernst is imagining the disappointment that appears in his eyes for a second. "Glee club. New members, all that jazz."

All that jazz. Ernst giggles before he even realizes it might not be a joke, and his shoulders tense, ready to run or be hit or at least be shot down by a harsh glare. But instead, the boy's eyes widen, and he quickly turns away, though not before Ernst catches the sparkle of a small smile. Something like the first rays of a summer sun tickle his chest, and he summons his courage and doesn't try to hide his shy grin. It's still on his face when the boy turns back around, eyes catching Ernst's own.

There's an odd sort of fear in his eyes, but Ernst doesn't even notice it, because it looks so much like how his eyes do, and this look is too familiar to even register as abnormal in Ernst's eyes.

"I'm Kurt. Hummel." A pause. Every line of this boy- and they are all flat, straight, perfectly ironed and worn lines- is perfectly straight. Tense. "And you are?"

Ernst's eyes widen, and he can't help but stumble over his words in his hurry to get them out. "E-ernst... Ernst Robel! I just got here a week ago..." Swallow, lick of lips, wish his throat wasn't so dry. "Nice... nice to meet you, Kurt."

And Kurt nods, looking a little more than stunned as he takes in the details of how Ernst's eyes light up when he forgets to be nervous. "Nice... To meet you, too."

He turns around quickly, and once more he walks away. Ernst watches him go, sad to see that he's moving fast to get away from their stumbling meeting. A little hurt.

And the figure that stands around the corner from the two boys raises a confused eyebrow, mouth in a blank line. That was... Telling, he thinks. He imprints the two voices in his mind, the proud, annoying one that he's heard in the halls once or twice before, and the soft, almost puzzled tone, the one that was new. Ernst Robel, Kurt Hummel. Two names to put faces to, as soon as possible. In fact...

Smoothing the non-existent wrinkles out of his immaculate shirt, he rounds the corner and takes in this boy. He is small, but taller than he expected, not quite the meek picture he is expecting. The boy isn't facing him, so he reaches out and taps one bony shoulder.


The boy flinches hard enough to make his approach worth it, even if nothing else goes his way. And he very much doubts that. He refrains from letting a large, self-satisfied smile spread across his lips. Gloating before winning is... In bad taste.

When the boy, Ernst, turns, he slowly takes in the details of his delicate face without bothering to disguise his actions. And the fact that this Ernst shifts under his gaze, eyes wide and screaming naiveté, makes it all the more satisfying.

"Hello," he says again.

This seems to snap Ernst out of his shock.

"...hello." He looks so thrown, and Hanschen knows, as clear as if he were wearing a sign, that this boy is going to be his next game.

How exciting.

He needs something to take the edge off of his AP classes, anyway.

"You're new?"

A nervous but earnest nod.

Hanschen clears his throat and puts on his best ice smile. No warmth, just cold calculating.

"I'm your student council-ordaned guide. Welcome to McKinnley High." He sticks out a hand, and as the boy takes it, gives a firm pump, but let's his grip linger a few moments longer than would be typical. The resulting blush makes his crocodile grin grow. "I'm Hanschen Rilow."

...oh, you're gonna be wounded...

This could so not be happening to him.

"You're... Excuse me?"

Principal Figgins rubbed at his forehead, and thought longingly of the advil in his top drawer.

"Look, George..."

"Ah, it's Georg, sir." The correction is a reflex. Not that it seems to help.

"...yes. Well, we simply cannot afford to transport the piano to concerts anymore! If you were to move to a portable keyboard, say, I'm sure the jazz club would be happy to have your talent-"

He bristles, and feels his back go ramrod straight. It is proper recital posture. It is fighting posture. Keyboard? Not a chance.

But Georg doesn't quite know how to fight, just yet. "Mr. Figgins, please-"

He's already shaking his head. "My decision is final! Although, if you really are desperate, the Glee Club may be in need of a new pianist-"

The Glee Club? The lowest of the low, but he doesn't really care. He's tried to avoid all of that, as much as a band geek who plays no sports can. And anything is better than simply not playing. So he stands up, an excited glimmer behind his (often ridiculed) glasses. Already, he is thinking of melodies and riffs and blending his soft notes with beautiful voices...

"The Glee Club? Thank you, Mr. Figgins! Thanks!"

The principal watches the boy tuck his folder underneath his arm, and mentally deducts the cost of New Direction's pianist from the budget. He leaves for lunch whistling.

Georg spends his lunch outside the staff lunch room, sheet music folder held tight to his chest. He is breathing slowly to calm down, though the nerves are familiar ones, almost comfortablly so. This won't be any different from all of the performances he's done before.


He knows Mr. Schuester by sight, though never really having talked to the man. But you'd have to be deaf, blind, and dumb not to know that he had taken over Glee Club. Even Brittney knew.

So Georg waits, pushing his glasses up his nose every once in a while, just to have something to do with his hands. Th bell rings five minutes before afternoon classes are set to start, but Georg stands his ground. He can afford to be late... And he needs to play. Needs to.

"Mr., ah, Schuester?"

The man turns around, obviously not expecting to be hailed as soon as he exited the break room.


Georg straightens his shoulders. Recital posture. Always. It gives you a strong base, says his teacher. "I was wondering if perhaps the Glee Club needed a new pianist."

Mr. Schuester doesn't have too much time to debate the idea. Instead, he just nods, and points at Georg. "After school!" He's walking backwards so as to still face the inquiring boy. "Music room! Trial run!"

And then he's gone and Georg bites back the huge grin that threatens to split his face in two. He gets to play. Life is good.