Chapter Four: What You Need
The wait for the judges to announce the winner of Sectionals was one of the longest in many of the New Directions glee club's lives, despite trying to hear what they had decided before... It was barely audible and all Artie could make out was that it 'didn't sound good', which did nothing to ease the club's tautly stretched nerves. It had become so hectic that, if you were standing next to Rachel, you could hear her muttering about 'not every casting call is a sure win' and 'this won't be a black spot' because she knew her song was 'pitch perfect'.
Finally, the judges came up to the podium, a interpreter signing for the Haverbrook School for the Deaf Choir just a few steps behind them. They gave the customary speech thanking everyone for coming and showing their appreciation for the arts, somehow squeezing in the fact that Rod Remington was at some show or the other and had been a large contribution to music himself. All in all, the entire collection of show choirs were grateful when they finally came around to announcing the winner(especially Haverbrook, considering their interpreter stopped signing about halfway into Mr. Remington's speech).
"And, in third place in a truly unique show," Rod Remington intoned, somehow pulling off a smile while trying to sound ominous and strict, and failing at both, "is, in their own right, a truly inspirational group of singers, showing all of us that you can overcome obstacles that many would be unable to conquer! As a matter of fact, it reminds me of my own battle with a demon that had defeated lesser men-"
Thankfully, one of the judges cleared her throat at this, saving everyone from would have been an hour long speech about Rod Remington and his fight against his 'demon'. There was a reason that the news was one of the lowest rated shows in Lima, Ohio, even after 'Sue's Corner' had been added to the lineup. "A-hem, perhaps that is a story best keep for another time. We still need to announce the winners of this contest after all!"
"Now, where was I? Ah, yes... In third place at the 2009 Show Choir Sectionals... Haverbrook School for the Deaf Choir!"
There was cheering and applause from the audience, New Directions remembering the sign for 'applause' just half a beat behind as the director for the group walked up and accepted their bronze ribbon, looking a bit sullen at the turn of events but still being a good sport about it. He exchanged a few words with the judges and led his kids off the stage and out a side door, gaining a standing ovation as they made their way out, heads high.
Now Rachel wasn't the only muttering fanatically under her breath-Puck looked like he was mumbling a spastic prayer-and the muttering varied from 'Do not puke in front of everyone, do not puke in front of everyone...' to 'Please let us win, please let us win, please let us win...!' to a combination of the two that varied from 'Don't puke when we win' to 'Please let us win before I puke!' At almost the same time, both Tina and Joy, who were standing on either side of Artie, reached down and took a hold of one of his hands, surprising the boy so much that he completely forgot to worry for a full three minutes, and Finn looked like he was about to faint dead away and probably would have if Mercedes wasn't using him as a support...
As a matter of fact, The Jane Addams girls were the only ones that looked like they had absolutely nothing to worry about, and that the entire proceedings were one big bore. One would wonder how they managed to stay so calm if one hadn't looked at the slightly guilty expression on their Choir Director's face as they just stood there, silent and sullen to a member, as the judges finally gathered themselves and went on with the announcing:
"Now this was a tough decision, as we have two truly remarkable groups of singers," Remington went on, grinning widely as he turned and winked at the Jane Addams girls before giving New Directions a simple nod, letting all and sundry know what his opinion of the groups was..."Yet, after some careful deliberation we have all agreed-" There was a dirty look at one of the judges, a look that not many were interested in, as focused as they were on his next words, for they would be the most important they heard in the next several seconds. Now Puck wasn't the only one praying... "-and we were able to come to a decision that we think is best, that we believe reflects the best of the groups left. So, without further ado, the winner for this year's Sectionals is...!"
Will Shuester was alone.
Well, not completely; there was that girl who was cleaning the floors and the other girl who was putting away the food before it could spoil-both of which were throwing him a pitying look every now and again, as if it had been his wedding that had been ruined-but this was the loneliest he had ever felt since his disaster of a marriage finally fell apart... and that was saying something! He was wandering from table to table, trying to grasp onto the simple and inescapable fact that continued to refuse to settle in his brain; not that he really wanted to admit what was staring him in the eye, more that he needed to accept it and come to terms with it before he went back to his empty house and his now less bright, less full, life:
Emma Philsberry was leaving, not just from his life, but from Lima as well; Monday was going to be her last day and then he was never going to see her face again, never going to have her smile that shy, half hesitant smile in his direction as she helped him balance a life full of drama queens, contradicting personalities and Sue Slyvester. Part of him wanted to race after her, even though he knew it was too late now, and try to find some way to make her stay; whether it was for the kids, for the stable job that she was so imperfect for, or for him... Anything that made her stay in Ohio, stay at McKinley High, and stay near him... as her friend, if nothing else. As much as that would hurt, he would do it, if only she would stay...
He walked from table to table, looking at all the decorations for a wedding that was no longer going to happen, a wedding that many believed would end up right where it was as soon as they were told that Emma Philsberry, a germaphobe, was marrying Ken Takanawa, the sweaty, messy gym teacher... a wedding that Will was ashamed to admit that he had a hand in ruining...
I couldn't stand seeing him and feeling so ashamed... and I couldn't stand seeing you and feeling so heartbroken...
Pulling himself back into the present, Will made his way out of the reception area, having already paid the bill for the space and giving them an extra tip for holding it open an hour past the time allotted, in an almost desperate hope that he was wrong, that Emma was wrong, and that Ken would be his normal overbearing self, show up and marry the girl that Will now knew he loved. It wasn't the best idea, but it was the only way he knew how to keep Emma in Lima...
Ken did not show (not that anyone could rightfully blame him) and Will was dreading, absolutely dreading, seeing him at school on Monday. He knew that, by word or deed, he would painfully learn just how truly pissed off he had made the man.
Monday... He was starting to see why the kids hated that particular day so much; not only was Emma leaving, Ken was probably going to find him and chew him out for ruining his life-if not just straight out beating the hell out of him-and he was also going to have to act like nothing was wrong and teach a bunch of kids who had no intention of learning Spanish, not to mention Sue was going to make some comment that would make the day even more wonderful (probably something to do with his hair). The only thing that kept him from phoning Principle Figgins and calling in sick right then and there was the fact that he wanted to see Emma on her last day... and that his Glee kids would need to be consoled if they lost and congratulated if they won. He wasn't the only one that was dealing with insurmountable odds today, and he loved those kids, they were the only bright spot in an otherwise bleak day...
Given the completely morbid direction his thoughts were taking him, Will was completely taken off guard when, as he walked out to his truck, he saw someone standing beside it. Now that in itself wasn't very earthshaking, yes, but that person was actually standing there grinning and it was such a wide grin that Will's cheeks hurt just looking at the man. This also was totally unremarkable; the thing that had thrown Will off was not that the man was smiling, it was that the man was smiling at him!
"Are you William Shuester, Choir Director for the glee club New Directions of McKinley High?" The man had the unusual talent of being able to stay smiling while he spoke; he reminded Will of a character in a cartoon he saw as a child: the cat had the same unnerving smile and gave him the exact same uneasy feeling, almost as if the man wasn't sure just yet whether he was the scratching post or the sunbeam...
"Yes...?" Will wasn't sure he wanted this strange man knowing who he was; with the way his luck was going, the man could be from Sue, saying that she had found some way to get his car impounded or to gloat that Emma was leaving and he was losing nearly everything he cared about, or that Ken was suing him for 'emotional distress' or something like that... Yeah, knowing his luck, it was definitely something from Sue...
"May I be the first to congratulate you, sir?"
McKinley High had the best gossip mill in the state; most attributed it to Sue Slyvester and her need to spread anarchy and ruin wherever she went, others believed that, in a school where over sixty percent of its attendees were female, it just went with the territory that they would want to know who was doing what, with whom and when, and others still attributed it to being such a small town that no secret was going to be kept long. Whatever the reason, the entire population of Lima, Ohio knew that Ken had been dumped on his wedding day and that the guidance counselor was leaving, and that Will Shuester was depressed about something. Many speculated that it either had to do with the gym teacher's wedding or the counselor leaving, since he had been seen in their company a lot in the past couple of weeks...
Depending on who asked these questions also depended on what the answer was; many of the Cheerios-lead by none other than (you guessed it!) Sue-claimed that the two events coincided and the reason that Will Shuester was so depressed was that he was the catalyst for both of them, much like Benjamin Franklin posing as a woman was the entire cause for the downward spiral that led to the Revolutionary War.
It was into this cheery atmosphere that the New Directions walked into school, elated over their win at Sectionals and eager to see if that win would somehow boost their standing within the school hierarchy. It went without saying that their elation did not last; the entire school population was either talking about the broken nuptials, the reason behind Mrs. Philsberry leaving or how jazzed they all were that spring break was at the end of the week.
"Are you kidding me?" Kurt fumed, glaring at a group of girls that walked past, giggling over the fact that someone was actually going to marry 'the gross gym teacher' before they finally 'regained their senses... especially their sense of smell!' "Do we not even exist for these people, except for when they need someone to ridicule and torment? Here we are, one of the few winners in this stupid school-no offense, Finn-and they still treat us as lepers!"
"No, I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't toss lepers in the trash," Joy sighed as she joined them, completely covered in pieces of rotting fruit and some of the lunchroom's 'mystery meat', "Or go through all the trouble of walking all the way to the one behind the cafeteria because 'they knew it would still be full'... Does anyone have a pair of extra clothes I could borrow? I'll give them back at the end of the day..."
The fact that all of this was said in a deadened, dispirited voice was not lost on the other glee members and Joy was immediately offered clothing from three of the girls and Kurt-despite the fact that half of them were the wrong size for her-and the boys offered to walk her to class to make sure that she didn't get ambushed again, which quickly became a general consensus that they should all start traveling in groups to each class to avoid further 'accidents'.
"Did you at least see who did this to you, so I know who to pound?" Puck asked, not cool at all with the fact that a bunch of dudes threw a girl in the dumpster. Sure, it was alright for them to throw a guy in there, and he would even admit that it was a pretty shitty thing to do in the first place, but to do that to a girl? Uh-uh, way not cool.
"No, they jumped me from behind," Which scared her more than the actual dumping, but she wasn't going to tell them that, "They said that they thought it wasn't fair that everyone had got their 'special treatment' and that I had been avoided, then they argued for a bit about getting Slushies. I tried twisting around to see who was there, but they were too strong... Anyway, I think my struggling made them nervous, so they just hauled me off to the dumpster and threw me in." There was a rustling sound from the girl's locker room, then Joy's voice came and she sounded as if she had swallow one of those helium tanks, "Kurt, do you think you could let me borrow something else? Not that I'm ungrateful, just... do you have something that doesn't cost hundreds of dollars?"
"This sucks, man! You think they'd be happy we at least won or something!" Finn fumed as he and Joy made their way to Mr. Shue's Spanish class, Joy now cleaned and dressed in the latest Daisy Furentes. They had finally convinced her to wear it as it was the least expensive thing in Kurt's locker and the only reason Joy would wear it in the first place was because she didn't want to risk getting anything on any of his more expensive outfits... and it was only when Kurt accepted her offer to get what she was wearing dry cleaned as soon as she went home that finally got the clothes on her, and it was the way everybody mentioned that they were the easiest to clean that got her out of the girl's locker room.
Finn thought it was awesome that Joy was being so careful about Kurt's clothing, but the way she moved now, it was like she was scared she get a dust bunny on it or something. It reminded him of Mrs. P and that made him feel bad for some strange reason and he was even more bummed for Mr. Shue. He had seen the two teachers talking a couple of times and had heard the girl whispering about the fact that Mrs. P was the perfect person to help Mr. Shue get past his marriage problems or something like that. Why they were whispering and giggling about it-not mentioned they stopped when they noticed he was listening-confused Finn, but then again, most everything about girls confused him these days...
"Buenos Dias, kids. Good Morning." Mr. Shue smiled as they repeated the greeting, but there was something that made him seem a little sad too... It was weird, Finn would never have noticed that before, but the man had helped him when he thought he was going to be a father and Mr. Shue did it without judging him. He wished sometimes that Mr. Shue was his dad, but always felt kinda guilty about that and hoped his real dad didn't think he didn't love him or something...
"-inn? Finn? Finn!" A hand was waving in front of his face and he jerked back, which caused the rest of the class to laugh at him, but he was more interested in the fact that Mr. Shue was pointing that sort-of sad smile in his direction. Did he say what he was thinking out loud again? He never knew when he did that, but it was always embarrassing...
"Yes, Mr. Shue?"
"I know you had a hard weekend, and I understand if you are still tired from it, but please refrain from daydreaming in my class," Mr. Shue's smile spread a little, making him look a little more happy, a little more... Mr. Shue-y. It made Finn want to smile back at him, to tell him about their win even though they had promised to do it together when they met up for Glee club... "You never know when knowing Spanish might help you one day..."
"Does that mean you're finally going to teach us to curse in Spanish?" A voice in the back called our, causing the class to laugh a lot louder than they did at Finn, and to draw Mr. Shue's attention to the back of the room and off the quarterback.
"No, Mr. Karloff; for the last time, I am not going to teach you to curse in Spanish. I happen to like my job and doing so will no doubt get me fired..." Mr. Shue turned back to the board and began muttering under his breath, but there seemed to be less weight on his shoulders and Finn was glad for that. He knew how it felt walking around like you had all your textbooks crammed in one backpack... Mr. Shue had helped him with that, maybe he could return the favor... the only problem now was that he had no idea how...
"Hey, Finn," It was Joy who called his name this time, tapping on his hand to get his attention. When he turned to look at her, her brows drew together in a way that he knew from watching his mother. It was her 'I'm worried about you' look. "Are you alright? You were spacing out again... Did those football guys do something to you, too? Do you need to go to the nurse?"
Finn shook his head, images bouncing around his mind so fast it was hard to hold onto one of them. Joy's brow's fused even closer together as the minutes wore on, but stayed silent as the images finally slowed down and allowed Finn to get what his brain was trying to tell him. When it finally all came together, Joy was looking like she was going to haul him off to the nurse whether or not he wanted to, so he gave her a grin to show that he was fine.
It didn't seem to reassure her as much as he had hoped; if anything, Joy looked even more worried than before and was just about to raise her hand again when Finn covered it with his own, and bent toward her as she looked up at him, whispering, "I have an idea..."
La, la, la, la, la-la
La, la, la, la-la
La, la-la, la, la, la
La, la-la, la~
Guess this mean you're sorry
You're standing at my door
Guess this means you take back
All you've said before...
She could hear them singing as she packed up the few things in her office that where hers: cleaning supplies, a few photos, and a couple of how-to books that hse never read. It was barely enough to fill a box and the thought saddened her that every mark she made on this school (not that she was a very mark-making type of girl) could be erased so easily...
Like how much you wanted
Anyone but me
Said you'd never come back
But here you are ag~ain...
Emma thought about the fact that she was leaving a lot since she went home, took off the beautiful wedding gown that made Will stare for so long, the gown that she spent so much time fantasizing that Will was going to be the one waiting for her at the alter in, and fell into bed weeping about the harsh, ugly reality that was her life: Will wasn't the one she was marrying, she had hurt Ken deeply by trying to postpone their wedding and should never have agreed to marry him in the first place... it was selfish and thoughtless and he deserved so much better than her. Emma really hoped he'd find someone who would really love him someday... Someone would didn't unreasonably demand that he never touch her, wear special shoes in the house or that he simply live in a completely separate house to begin with...
'Cause we belong together now, yeah!
Forever united here somehow, yeah!
Cause you got a piece of me
Emma loved listening to New Directions sing; it was as if they could take the moment, a feeling, and pour it into every word they sang and almost give it a life of its own. Even now as she was as she was closing the door on this chapter of her life and moving on, she felt as if she was leaving a part-a rather large part-of herself behind; with those kids, with this school... with Will. It was almost as if it was a physical pain stabbing at her chest and it was amazing how much her life right now was in tandem with what those kids were singing! That was how she knew she had to leave, that she needed to leave; the glee club were much more important than whatever it was that was going on between her and Will, if there even was anything, if there even could be anything... the glee club had a future, a bright one if you asked her, and she wasn't sure if Will and her had anything...
Turning off the light as she locked the door behind her, Emma made her way down the empty hallway after only a few seconds' hesitation and just listened to the children that Will gave such time and attention to, the children that she was sure he felt like they were his very own, sing a song that saw into the deepest secrets of her heart and pulled it into the light... As they sang the words she was afraid to utter, even now when she had nothing to lose anymore...
I know that I've got issues
But you're pretty messed up too
Either way I found out
I'm nothing without you~
She was halfway down the hall when the thought struck her that she hadn't said goodbye to Will yet; she said it to Ken and he barely acknowledged it, much less her, but she had expected no less. Sue didn't even wait to for her to leave before she started measuring Emma's room for a couple of new trophy cases, making comments about the fact that since Emma wasn't going to be around anymore, the glee kids wouldn't have anyone to tell their 'silly little problems' to and the club would collapse like 'a house made out of paper cards'.
Emma had been quick to interject that just because she was leaving didn't mean that Mr. Figgins wasn't going to get another counselor, and she was sure that the new one would be even better equipped to deal with the kids' problems. Sue had just given her a look like she seriously doubted Emma's intelligence before setting down her measure tape and looking Emma square in the eye, which almost immediately make her pull out her hand sanitizer, something she only did when she was nervous.
When Sue began to speak, it was in a tone Emma had almost never heard her use; it sounded almost human, but still had that edge of boastful assurance. It almost made Emma want to hear what was being said, despite the fact that every other word out of Sue's mouth was an insult:
"I'm gonna level with you, Strawberry Shortstack. We both know the only reason William even started his little glee club is because you went all Florence Photoshop and showed him a time when having enough butter in your hair to grease a sumo wrestler was sexy. The only reason he stayed at it is because you reminded him of a dumb, faithful dog, yapping at his heels. Now that you are leaving and taking all of your misplaced optimism with you, it will only be a matter of time-well, only a matter of hours, I do believe-before I once again reign supreme at this school and once more have the funding I so richly deserve... you know, I'm almost sad that you won't be here to see the Year of Sue."
And then she just walked out, and Emma was left alone to deal with the fact that Sue Slyvester had almost-but not quite-admitted that she was going to miss Emma when she left, even if it was purely to gloat over her supposed 'win'. It was mind-boggling and left Emma in a stupor until the last bell for the last class rang and she could no longer put off the inevitable.
'Cause we belong together now, yeah!
Forever united here somehow, yeah!
Cause you got a piece of me
It was almost as if thinking about him summoned the man; something had told her to turn back, one last glimpse of the place she worked so hard at or something, and there Will was... He just exited her office and she felt a sudden thrill that he had looked for her, not caring if it was simply to say goodbye or not, and that thrill turned into a full on body shiver when he started to walk toward her, eyes completely intent on her face. It was all she could do to just remain upright...
Then he was in front of her, taking the box that was her focus point from her hands and making her put them on his chest to make sure she didn't fall. She tried to speak, but all that got out were his name and the first syllable of the word 'what' before he placed a finger on her lips, causing all of her nerve endings to go on alert... Yet, this wasn't the crawling, anxious itch that always sprang up when someone touched her; this feeling was warm, comforting, and she could sense it all the way from where he touched her to the very tips of her toes.
Praying that what she believed was happening was really happening, Emma slowly closed her eyes, even though she was half scared to; there was this bone-deep, gnawing fear that all this was another one of her vivid dreams and that she would wake up in her bad, jobless and alone... and that fear disappeared as soon as Will's lips touched her own.
There was no way that this was a dream; never in all of her slumbering moments had she ever felt more aware of her surroundings, of the feeling of Will's lips pressed silk-soft against her own, of his hands holding her, gentle but firm. It was as if he was just as scared as she that this was all going to disappear in a puff of smoke and he thought that if he just held on, just felt her rapidly racing heartbeat underneath his fingertips, it wouldn't go away this time...
The need for oxygen became pressing matter after a few seconds, but Emma would have oh-so-gladly suffocated if it meant the moment between her and Will could last forever. However, Will either could tell that she needed to breathe, or needed to breathe himself, and pulled away to look at her in that way that had frozen her to the spot in the first place. There was another few seconds were Will just stared at her and didn't say a thing, as if he was as shocked as she was at what just happened between the two of them.
Then he smiled.
'Cause we belong together, now, yeah!
Forever united here, somehow, yeah!
'Cause you got a piece of me