Written for glee_fest on lj, using the prompt #82. 'Rachel finds out what really happened in the diva-off against Kurt.'
Summary: 'Rachel pulls into the garage with a minor oil leak and ulterior motives in mind.'
It's a grey, overcast Saturday morning when Rachel pulls into the garage with a minor oil leak and ulterior motives in mind. Right on cue, she sees Mr. Hummel making his way towards her, wiping his hands on what's probably an oil rag. She kills the engine, puts on her brightest smile, hops out and exclaims "Hi, Mr. Hummel!" (A small voice in the back of her head mutters 'Full marks for effort', and she resolutely ignores it).
"You're the Berry girl, aren't you?" he asks, making rapid strides across the cement floor towards her. She nods enthusiastically, and gets a terse nod in return. A man of few words, Burt Hummel.
"There's a problem with my car - we think it's an oil leak," she says, and gets a grunt for her trouble as Mr. Hummel walks past her to check her car over, heavy workboots thudding on the concrete. It only takes a minute, and when he's done he turns to her briefly to say:
"Gearbox." Rachel nods, still doing her best to radiate friendliness and approachability. Her mind is working furiously; she knows what she came here for, and it wasn't to have her car fixed - it's only an oil leak, and there's a mechanic who's an old family friend; he could have done it. She's here to talk to Kurt's father.
"Hey, Mr. Hummel?" He's already working on the car; he should be done in about ten minutes. There's not much time. So she tilts her chin up and goes for it:
"Mr. Hummel, I was just wondering..."
Monday, she corners Kurt.
"We really need to talk," she says, pulling him into an empty classroom near the beginning of lunch. He lets her manhandle him with a faint sniff, and when she moves back to fix him with what she hopes is a serious look, he tilts his chin up and gives her a cool, level stare. He's been like this all week; not overtly unpleasant, but standoffish nonetheless. He probably thinks that she's going to rage at him about the make-over incident again (and she would, but right now this is more important; it's an issue of artistic integrity).
"Last Saturday, I went to your Dad's garage," she says, because she may as well disclose her methods upfront; wouldn't want Kurt to think that she was hiding anything if she wants him to be honest with her in return.
Kurt's shoulders tense a little, she thinks, and he says in a carefully neutral tone:
"And, he told me some very interesting things." Now it's definitely not her imagination; his eyes narrow and his mouth purses, the bridge of his nose wrinkling in the beginnings of a scowl. She realises abruptly that she's coming off as threatening; he probably thinks that she's trying to blackmail him. Hastily, she backtracks: "I'm sorry, I didn't meant that the way it came out. I just - " Pause. "I heard you singing," she blurts out, then adds as Kurt's expression turns confused: "At the start of Glee practice, before everyone else was there. You hit that note fine."
Kurt's face goes blank and he says, stiffly:
"It was an accident." She can't tell whether he's lying, so she asks him outright:
"I want to know, did you blow the note on purpose, in the audition?" She's biting her lip slightly as she waits for the answer, body thrumming with tension. Kurt looks away, eyes lowering and lower lip jutting slightly to give the impression of what is probably meant to be a scowl, although from Rachel's perspective it looks more like a pout.
"Does it matter?" The tone is sullen, and he doesn't look at her when he says it.
"Yes." Kurt looks up now, startled at her vehemence. "It matters to me, as a performer and as a person - look," she continues, slightly more calmly, "I'm not going to make a big deal out of it." Kurt snorts, but she goes on: "I just want to know if you deliberately blew the audition and if you did," - she takes a breath - "I want to know why."
For a moment, Kurt is silent. Rachel can see how he bites his lip, worrying it between his teeth. Then he says, quietly:
"I couldn't have my Dad hurt."
And it slots into place.
Because Kurt is good at pretending that what people think doesn't matter to him, what they call him. He can deal with it, even it hurts to be called 'fag' and thrown into dumpsters, which Rachel knows it must. But she also knows how much he values his family; a faint glint of something that might be pride in his voice when he mentions his father.
(He never mentions his mother, and for all her brashness, Rachel has enough tact not to ask).
Now it's her turn to chew her lip as she considers what to say. She knows that she's too loud, too obvious, too insensitive, but this matters. So she takes a breath and says, with as much conviction as she can put into her voice:
"I think -" She clears her throat. "I think that makes you a good person." Here she has to pause again, swallow for a moment the pride that keeps her afloat. "It might well make you a better person that me."
Kurt's face, previous turned away to study the (obscene) graffiti on the whiteboard, snaps up to stare at her, eyes almost comically wide. But she's already leaving.
"It was nice talking to you," she says, with an ease that she doesn't feel. "I'll see you at Glee practice, yeah?"
Kurt still doesn't say anything, but as she opens the door to leave the stuffy classroom, out of the corner of her eye, she catches a glimpse of what might be a smile.