Will Schuester straightened a stack of sheet music, smiling as he watched a dozen students file into the practice room and take their seats. Fairness and the desire to avoid hurt feelings would never allow him to admit his preference aloud, but in his heart he knew that these twelve were his favorites among all the students at McKinley. They had come a long way together and he hoped that they would go farther still.
His brow furrowed a bit as he noticed how most of the twelve had chosen to partner off. Santana and Brittany, Matt and Mike, Tina and Artie, Kurt and Mercedes, Finn and Rachel, Puck and Quinn. There was rarely any variety unless someone was having a disagreement. When Jesse St. James had been present, he and Rachel had tended to pair up while Finn gravitated over to one of the other groups. With Jesse gone, the status quo had instinctively realigned. It brought back an idea that had been lurking at the edges of Will's mind for several weeks.
"Duets and trios," he said loudly, bringing everyone's attention to him as the bell rang. "That's going to be your assignment for this week. We will be putting together several songs that we might potentially perform at Regionals this year, but what I want from you is more than an exercise in vocal harmony. I want you to put some thought into finding personal harmony with your partner, even as you choose a song that you will perform for the group at the end of the week."
With the exception of Rachel, who was beaming with pleasure over this idea, every face in the room was pained.
"As in, can't we all just get along?" Kurt asked, rosy lips pursing as if he had just tasted something particularly sour.
"No, as in exploring what makes each of us who we are," Will clarified. "And you might be interested to know, Kurt, that you actually gave me the idea for this assignment."
The boy's eyes widened, and he quickly shook his head in denial when he received several unhappy looks from his fellow glee clubbers.
"A few weeks ago Kurt said something that I found interesting," Will continued. "He said, and I quote, 'I'm not a box. There are more than four sides to me.' That got me thinking."
"That somebody seriously needs to take Geometry next semester?" Santana tossed out, smirking when several people laughed.
Will laughed a little. "No. That all of us tend to take it for granted that we know everything we need to know about each other based on what we see on the surface. I, for one, have been surprised several times this year by the things I've learned about you guys, and I think you could stand to do some learning about each other." Seeing nervous expressions on several faces, he amended, "I'm not asking you to dig for dirt. Let's keep this friendly. You're going to partner up and your job will be to find out three things about a teammate that you never knew before. Spend some time with that person, get to know him or her a little better, and then later in the week, you'll reveal what you've learned."
"Will we get to choose our own partners?" Mercedes asked hopefully.
"No. Sorry, but I'm going to use random selection, like we did when you guys performed your ballads. I'm going to pull a name and that person will then choose another. Whoever they pull will be the person they have to learn about. Then that person will pull a name, and so on. The last person chosen will learn about the first person." He smiled. "That way nobody will be tempted to swap a few made up ideas with their partner, just to get it over with."
A couple of guilty smiles revealed that this idea had crossed more than one mind.
Quickly, Will tore up a piece of paper and wrote down all twelve names.
The singers watched him intently as he scrambled the scraps of paper in the hat that always seemed to be just lying around the choir room. "Ready?" Realizing the few unenthusiastic murmurs were all the response he was going to get on this one, Will reached in and pulled, "Mercedes! Looks like you get to choose first."
The girl made her way down to the piano and rummaged in the hat. "I got . . . Santana."
Ignoring the somewhat horrified expression on her face, the sassy cheerleader took her place in front of the piano. Santana wrinkled her nose in distaste as she in turn pulled, "Rachel."
Rachel practically exploded from her chair, excited to find out who she would get. "Mike!"
Mike Chang smiled a little bemusedly at her enthusiasm, giving her a nod as he selected, "Artie."
Artie exchanged a friendly fist bump with him as Mike went back to his seat. He wheeled his chair forward and Will helpfully lowered the hat so that he could reach inside. Artie looked just a little pained when he chose, "Brittany."
The vacant look on the blonde Cheerio's face made it clear that this assignment would be easier for her than anyone else. After all, Brittany never remembered anything about anyone. "Puck," she said, handing him the paper with his name on it as she pulled it out. "Keep this safe. Then you'll know who you are in case I forget."
"O…kay," he said slowly, exchanging a mute 'Whoa' with Finn as he reached into the hat and selected, "Kurt."
The smaller boy looked like he'd been sucker-punched as he descended the steps and changed places with the smirking jock. Rummaging among the few remaining names he quickly plucked one out and smiled. "Tina."
Tina gave him a small grin in return, one of the few people to look happy with both of their selections as she pulled, "Finn."
Despite the fact that there were only two names remaining in the hat, Finn squeezed his eyes shut and took his time shuffling the scraps of paper. He grinned when he chose, "Matt."
Matt did not waste time getting out of his seat. He just nodded to the pregnant girl next to him and said, "Guess that means I got Quinn and she got Mercedes."
Quinn glanced up at the girl in the back row and smiled. "I can handle that."
Rubbing his hands together in anticipation, Will smiled at the class. "All right then, you've got your partners! You can choose to perform a duet with one, or a trio with both of them. And yes, Rachel, that means you can perform twice if your partners choose to go different ways."
The girls' lead clapped her hands, beaming at this news and flashing a bright smile at Mike and Santana.
"Let's have some fun with this!"