Mr. Shue could really use some anger management classes. The vein on his forehead was throbbing in a rather unattractive way, and his teeth were clenched. Did he know that these horrible habits now were going to destroy his health down the road? He would be much better off if he would just calmly explain what a Glist was. I didn't bother voicing that thought since he never listens to me anyway.
Luckily, Rachel doesn't have any problems getting in his face. "What's a Glist?"
"A 'Glist' would be a list of all of our Glee club members, ranking them in order of who is the most….prolific in bed, as well as the most creative. You're all on here. I don't know who did this, but this is serious, guys. Figgins is threatening to disband the club over it."
Now I really wanted to see that list. Where was I on it? Where was Finn? I didn't want to be known as a whore, but now that I had actually done something sexual, it would be embarrassing for that not to be acknowledged. I was no longer a complete prude.
"Does prolific mean slut?" Finn whispered in my ear.
"In this case, yes. It also means most visible. Think of high profile." I had found that if I related a word back to something Finn understood, he was much more likely to remember it later. He nodded.
Santana was still in bitch mode from earlier, so she had no trouble turning on someone else. "Why are we even playing this game? We all know it was Puck."
That would have been my guess as well. No one is prouder of their…prolific nature then Noah Puckerman.
"Back off. I didn't do squat!" He sounded pissed that anyone would even dream of accusing him. Please.
"Then why is your girlfriend first on the Glist?" Tina was close enough to read the thing. I cursed my predilection for sitting in the back.
"And why am I last? Aside from the fact that I refused to put out for you?" Rachel was, if possible, even more insulted then Puck.
I hadn't been aware that Rachel had considered putting out for Puck and, judging from the look of utter horror on his face, neither had Finn. But that was neither here nor there, except for the quiet snicker I got from knowing there was someone on the list lower then I was.
Mr. Shue held the list still for a second, and I was finally able to see it. Quinn +45. Santana +43. Finn +40. Kurt +40. Puck +38. I skimmed down the rest of the list until I saw Rachel -5.
Galinda broke into a rain of giggles. You ranked higher then Puck. Puck! The Man-Whore of McKinley High. Someone thinks very highly of your hotness quotient.
That made me a little suspicious of Finn, but, when I looked over, I could tell that he was genuinely reading the list himself, which knocked him out of the running. But who had it been?
Mr. Shuester tried to get order back. "Ok, enough. No one is accusing anyone of anything." Then she shot a sideways glance at Puck. "Puck, seriously. Did you do it?"
"I said no! I'm a delinquent, sure. I like setting stuff on fire and beating up people I don't know. I own that. But I'm not a liar."
That was debatable. There are lies, which, Puck was right, he didn't really tell. But there are also lies of omission, which are still lies. No, he had never come straight out and said the baby was Finn's. But he had let everyone believe that it was, and that was just as damaging.
But no one called him on it and continued on. "Ok, here's the important point. Between this, and posting Coach Sylvester's personal video on YouTube, you guys are getting a pretty bad reputation."
Hmm, if I had a bad reputation, maybe I could pull off some of the more daring leather outfits in my closet. Oh, who was I kidding? I had always been able to pull those off. Maybe Finn would appreciate seeing them on me.
Probably. For the 10 seconds until he ripped them off of your body and had his way with you against the nearest available surface.
I made a mental note to find those outfits with as much haste as possible. No time like the present.
"Why is that a bad thing? Maybe if we seem more dangerous, people would quit flushing my glasses down the toilet." Artie sounded a little depressed.
I sometimes forgot that things still weren't great for any of us. I got some protection from Finn, but a lot of my ability to evade consequences came from being quick and agile, and being able to outrun them in a fair fight. Artie didn't have that luxury.
But there wasn't much I could do about it, either. We were all drowning here, and standing up for him only guaranteed that it would be something of mine flushed down the toilet next. And since I didn't wear glasses, it would probably be my head.
This week's project was something about songs with bad reputations, which I could work with, given enough time to think. The problem with a bad reputation was the most of them were fairly earned, and everything that came off the top of my head, well, sucked.
To my eternal shame, though, I do have a sick fondness for "Ice, Ice, Baby", which was what Mr. Shoe had cued up. Ah, my youthful crushes.
I adjusted myself in Finn's lap, which was the most comfortable place in the room. He yawned and rested his chin on my shoulder, his eyes at half mast. He's been better about not falling asleep in class lately, but he needs an amazing amount of sleep to function the next morning. Sometimes I wonder if some of his school problems aren't from staying up to late the night before playing Halo. "Who do you think did it?"
I shot a quick look at Shuester, since he had been cracking down on whispering and not paying attention lately, but he was deeply involved in the song and ignoring us. "My money's still on Puck."
The music was getting louder, which meant we didn't have to whisper. "I don't think so. Not Puck, not Rachel, not you, not me."
"Maybe it wasn't anyone in the Glee club at all. I mean, Coach got caught with that ginger list last year." At least that was the rumor.
"No, it was. I know because-"
"Finn!" Mr. Shue had just realized that we weren't paying attention. "Can you tell me what the week's assignment is?"
"Find a song that has a bad reputation, even though it doesn't deserve one, pick the good points about it, and perform it for the club so that it can be redeemed." Finn recited the assignment dryly and correctly. For someone with the attention span of a tsetse fly, he's pretty good at multitasking, at least in short bursts.
"Good. Now, I'm going to set you loose with the music for the rest of the class period, so you have plenty of time to find your songs." He picked the Glist up off of the piano and waved it at us. "This matter isn't closed. I'm very disappointed that you would turn on each other like this. You all know what it's like to be singled out, and I can't believe that you would do this to anyone, but especially the people you've fought right along side with."
He had managed to make me feel bad, and I was in no way responsible for the thing. I snuck quick peeks around the room, but everyone looked equally guilty. I wasn't positive that it had been any of us, but Finn had seemed quite certain.
Everyone scattered, leafing through the filing cabinets of music and calling out titles and artists to one another. For the moment, at least, Jessie was forgotten. Finn nudged my side. "Guess what else happened that's kind of awesome?"
When it came to Finn, he had a rather skewed sense of what qualified as awesome. Let's be clear, Sweetie, nothing involving bodily functions is awesome, regardless of the size/volume of said function. Save it for your guy friends, not your boyfriend. Cursing myself even as I asked it, I turned to him. "What?"
"Mr. Shue knows about Coach Sylvester's video. That means that it's viral already! We totally rock."
"We do, don't we?" I gave him one final kiss and stood up. "Come on, let's find some songs."
The rest of the period passed happily, with Finn suggesting everything from Milli Vanilli to the Backstreet Boys. Funny how the worst assignments brought out the best, not only in Finn, but in the rest of the Glee club. We were working together and having a good time.
I chose a few likely contenders and sat down next to Finn, pressing closely enough that we couldn't be overheard. "What makes you so sure that the Glist came from someone in Glee?"
"Easy. You and me were numbers three and four on the list. The top two guys. We beat Puck and he's the sluttiest thing in the entire world. Whoever made that list knows about you and me. But the only people that do are in the Glee club, which means it was one of us."
This was exactly what I meant when I said that sometimes Finn could surprise you. I never would have looked at it like that. "Good thinking, Finn."
He smiled, just enough to show off a dimple. "Maybe it was Jessie."
I took a minute to consider that idea, then dismissed it. "Doubtful. What's in it for him?"
"He gets us all to turn on each other, then he swoops in and fills the power duster." Finn was nodding like he was making any amount of sense.
I mentally reran the sentence a few times before the light bulb came on. "Do you mean the power vacuum?"
"Oh, yeah. A vacuum. But I could still be right, couldn't I?"
"It's possible. But Rachel is pretty pissed off right now. You would think that he would put her higher on the list just so he wouldn't have to listen to her screeching. If it wasn't for that, though, I'd say you were right. What makes you think that it's not Puck?'
He considered and rejected two additional songs before shaking his head. "Not his style, dude. Besides, if Puck did make a list like that, he would put himself first. You and me and Quinn being on the list before him is killing him right now, trust me."
I was willing to concede to Finn's superior knowledge of Puck and his behaviors. "I guess I can see that."
"Plus…" Finn trailed off for a minute, his eyes darting across the room. "I don't think he'd put Quinn first. That was a really mean thing for someone to do. She only had sex with Puck one time, which isn't anywhere near as slutty as Santana, or Brittany, or Puck. Even you and me have done it twice, and a lot more stuff then she did. She just can't lie about it, because she got pregnant."
I'm certainly not a fan of Quinn Fabray, but Finn was right. It's one of the things that I like best about him. Quinn had screwed him over the worst of anyone, and he still managed to feel badly that she was being mistreated. "You're right, it's not fair. But you're a sweetheart for worrying about her."
"I'm not worried, exactly, but I am kind of sad." He finally chose a song. "I think this one sucks enough."
I looked over it. "I think the assignment was to find a song that has a bad reputation, but at least one redeeming quality to it. I think this song just plain sucks."
"Yeah, I guess." He tossed the music back into the folder. "What about something by Disney? I mean, people hate it just because it's Disney and it's totally not cool, but they have good songs sometimes. I liked The Lion King and its songs were pretty good, right?"
"I think you have a winner." I was dying to talk more about the Glist, but Finn needs to come around to things in his own time, so I let him pick quietly through the Disney files, humming a few bars of each song before rejecting it. "Most of these are for more then one person."
"I'll back you up if you want. Or I can get one of the girls to do it if you would be more comfortable with that." Even though Finn had never acted like it was a problem, I couldn't help but feel like he was still ashamed of me, and what I was in front of other people. I never initiated anything in public, always waiting for him to signal that it was alright.
He grabbed some more music. "What about this one?" He held out the music for Circle of Life.
"Probably not the sort of song that Mr. Shue had in mind, but I think it fits the parameters nicely."
He carefully put the folder back before settling with his back against the file cabinets. "Ok, we can talk now."
"About what?" Apparently I had missed something.
"About the Glist. I know that you're dying to gossip and play Sherlock Holmes."
I didn't bother trying to deny it. "If you don't think it was Puck, then who do you think it was?" I really had no idea.
He started ticking off on his fingers. "Not me, not you, not Puck, not Jessie. We decided all of that already. Not Brittany, because she's not that mean, and she doesn't know how to use a computer. Not Mike or Matt, because I don't think they care that much. Not Quinn, because who wants to be the biggest slut in Glee club? Not Rachel, because she wouldn't give herself a negative hot number." He mentally went back over what he had said. "I guess that leaves, uh, Artie, and Mercedes, and Santana, and Tina, right?"
"Well, I know that it wasn't Mercedes." Habit had me defending my best friend, even if there was a part of me (one that sounded suspiciously like Galinda) that said I didn't know her as well as I once had. Hadn't she told me that just last night? I could actually see her making a list like this for fun. But not putting it up for everyone to see and laugh at. And I hated to think she would do it on her own, without at least consulting me to giggle over it.
I knew Finn well enough by now to know that he had read the doubts in my eyes. But he knew me well enough to not try and challenge me on it. "Ok, not Mercedes either."
That left Artie, Santana, and Tina. "I can't see Artie or Tina doing it. Neither one of them wants to draw any attention to themselves or the club. Like you said, what's in it for them? Nothing except utter humiliation."
So he and I were at the same conclusion, then. "So, Santana?"
It had to be, but something about that just didn't sit right. She was mean enough, for sure. I could also see her being proud to be in second place, instead of ashamed. So why did it just feel wrong?
"She's the only one left for it to be." Finn sounded as troubled as I felt. "But she doesn't act like she cares very much. If it was her, I would expect her to be gloating all over the place."
"So either its Tina or Artie, or we've accidentally eliminated the real suspect." Maybe I wasn't as good as a detective as I liked to think I was.
Finn twirled the ends of an imaginary mustache. "Not so elementary, my dear Watson."
I couldn't help but kiss his goofy self. "Watson doesn't have a mustache, Finn. You're thinking of some evil supervillian."
His eyes rolled. "I know that. But I'm Sherlock in it this, and he did have a mustache."
I looked him up and down. "I love you."
"Love you, too. I think that maybe we should-"
What Finn thought we should do would be forever lost, though, because Mr. Shue was calling his name. "Finn?"
Finn looked up curiously, one eyebrow quirked. "You have an early dismissal. Grab your stuff and meet your mother in the office."
I hadn't known anything about this, and judging from his face, neither had Finn. He faltered. "How come? I don't have a doctors appointment or anything, so why is she getting me? Did someone die?"
Mr. Shue softened. "I don't know, Finn. The only message I got was that your mother was here to pick you up."
Finn looked over at me, but there was nothing I could do for him. If Carole wanted Finn, then she had the right to take him, period. "Call me, Cowboy."
The rest of the Glee club watched in silence as Finn gathered his things. Usually that meant someone was in trouble and suspended, but I knew that Finn hadn't done anything wrong. He came back over to give me a quick kiss. "See? This is karma biting me in the ass for putting that video of Coach Sylvester on line."
He worried about everything. "You tell karma that I'm the only one allowed to do that."
"Ok." He lumbered out of the room, looking resigned to whatever his fate might be.
I spent the rest of the day looking for Finn, but he never came back. For the first time in anyone's memory, including the faculty, Cheerios practice was cancelled, while Coach Sylvester licked her wounds in private. Call me overly sensitive, but I couldn't help but feel a little bad for her.
However, I couldn't begrudge Finn his moment of revenge, either. What Coach had done to him was the cruelest thing I had ever witnessed, and I've been the victim of a lot of cruelty. What made it worse was that she been willing to devastate Finn just to hurt a third person. Finn himself didn't figure in except as a prop. So I was willing to let his bad behavior go.
Since practice was cancelled, I called Mercedes for a girl's day at her house. She seemed a little distant when she answered, though. "Don't you have plans with Finn?"
"No. He never came back to school, and I don't know where he is. Besides, I wanted to spend some time with you, doing Kurt and Mercedes stuff." Why was this so hard and awkward? "Unless you have other plans, of course."
"I don't. Cone on over, and you can catch me up on the latest developments in your love life. I have ice cream."
Neither one of us was supposed to be eating ice cream, but something told me not to press the issue.
That something would be me, you idiot! Quit acting like a moron and go over there to your girl. Try a little listening to her side of things, instead of making her do nothing but listen to yours.
I was nervous on the ride over, which was unusual. I had only been nervous in front of Mercedes one time in my entire life, and that was the day that I came out to her. This was nothing compared to that, but my heart was thumping painfully hard in my chest.
The feeling didn't go away as I stood on her porch, one finger resting on, but not ringing the bell. I just needed one minute to gather myself and calm my nerves.
The door flew open and I found myself staring at my best friend's familiar face. "Boy, why in the world are you just staring at my door? Sometimes I wonder if Finn isn't rubbing off on you."
Impulsively, I threw my arms around her neck and squeezed her as tightly as I could. For some reason, it was like I was seeing her for the first time in forever. Her return hug was just as tight, and I realized how much I had missed her, even though she had always been right here. She rubbed my shoulder. "You want some ice cream?"
Just like that, I knew. "You're quitting the Cheerios, aren't you?"
"Yes." Her voice was stronger then I had heard it in a long time. "I'm telling Coach Sylvester in the morning."
Once Mercedes makes up her mind, there's nothing for anyone else to do but get out of her way. I couldn't help but be curious, though. "Can I ask why?"
"It's not for me." She pushed me inside. "Now do you want a snack or not?"
"I'm ok." One of us still had to watch our calories. "You were doing so well, though. Mercedes, you were really good."
It was the truth. Mercedes is strong and has no trouble tossing any of the other girls. She also had a better memory for both the cheers and the moves then I did. I was in better shape, and more physically capable, but she was still better then a few of the girls who had been there since the beginning of the year.
She dished herself some orange sherbet and shook her head. "No, I wasn't. I let someone else tell me what I should do and how I should live my life, and that just isn't me."
I tried to school my voice so it didn't come out in a whine. "But I thought we agreed to give it an extra week. It's only been three days."
"I passed out in the cafeteria today." Her eyes were locked on mine.
"What? Are you alright?" How had I not known about this the minute it happened?
"Yep. I fainted because I've spent the past three days living on celery, diet Coke and some creepy drink that made me throw up constantly. I'm not going to ruin my health just so I can be on a cheerleading squad. Screw her."
"Why didn't you come get me for help?" My brain was still spinning.
She shrugged. "No one could find you. Quinn and I ended up having a talk, and a chocolate bar, and I realized that I will never be good enough for Coach Sylvester, not if I lose 10 lbs, not if I lose 100 lbs. I'm Mercedes Jones, and I'm not going to be some other woman's bitch."
"Do you want me to quit, too? We could present a united front." I would do this for her if she asked, just like I would have quit for Finn if he had done so.
"Whatever you want. You aren't my bitch either, you know." She put the bowl in the sink and gestured for me to follow her to her bedroom.
She sat on the bed. "Where were you at lunch, anyway? We always eat together."
"I was probably on my way. I had to sneak out to the car to see if I could call Finn."
"Figures." Ice had entered her voice. "It's always going to be Finn Hudson, isn't it?"
I didn't like where this was going, but I couldn't honestly say that it hadn't been headed here for a while now. "He's my boyfriend and I'm worried about him. I have no idea where he is."
"I'm your best friend. Sometimes I'm your only friend. Ever since you got Finn, he gets all of your attention." She wasn't angry yet, but it wouldn't be too long.
I tried to keep my own temper under wraps. If we both started screaming, this would end miserably. I repeated myself as calmly as I could. "He's my boyfriend, and I love him. You're my best friend, and I love you. It's not a contest to see who gets me in the end."
"I know. It's just that we never do anything any more. Even today, you're just here because you can't find Finn."
"That's not true."
That's kind of true.
Ok, maybe a little. But not because I loved Finn more or favored him so much! It was just that things with Finn were so new and special, and I couldn't help but feel like I had to be with him every second or miss something great. Mercedes was…comfortable. I knew exactly what to expect with her, and it was always awesome.
Only I guess that I didn't know her that well after all. I leaned back against the bed. "Maybe I would like some ice cream after all."
She snorted. "You couldn't have asked for it while we were still in the kitchen? Come on, you staller."
I had to remember that Mercedes isn't as easy to fool as Finn. She would see right through any bullshit I could throw her way. "Thank you."
Since my mouth was occupied with eating, I couldn't answer back when she started talking again. "I know that I'm acting like a jealous bitch, but I can't help it. You and I used to do everything together, and now I can barely get your attention. It should have been you and I giggling about the Glist today, but it wasn't. No matter what we try, there just isn't enough time for us anymore!"
I set the spoon down. "Don't blame this all on me! Doing Cheerios was something we were supposed to do together, too, and you backed out! You never ask me to come over either. How can you complain that I never spend any time with you, when you never want to spend any time with me either?"
"I hate being on the Cheerios!" Her eyes went narrow as she studied me. "Why should I have to do something I can't stand just so I can spend some time with my best friend? You want me to be on a team that could have killed me. And don't pretend that that's about us being together because it isn't. It's about you getting some popularity, and don't pretend anything different. Is that what Finn is for, too?"
I might have been able to acknowledge that truth to myself, but it really hurt to hear someone else say it. It made me sound really….shallow, and I hated being thought of that way. And no, Finn wasn't for the popularity, thank you very much. I was with Finn because I loved him.
So naturally I responded in a calm and collected manner, letting her know that my feelings were hurt, and that I had wanted us to spend time together. The popularity boost was a bonus, but the main thing was being with her. Also, that what Finn and I had wasn't up for debate.
And I actually liked it. When I was practicing, I felt strong and capable. I didn't exactly feel smart, since Coach could cut through any ego like a laser, but I liked it. And Finn didn't exactly like what I was doing, but he did appreciate watching me do my stretching exercises.
At least I wish I had responded like that. Instead I jumped up got my face in hers. I was very seldom outright aggressive like this, but there are very few people that can get under my skin the way Mercedes can. She knew exactly what to accuse me of, and which buttons to push to guarantee the biggest explosion.
"How can you even say that! I would never deliberately put you in danger, especially not for Coach Sylvester." My voice was high and cracking, the result of being forced through way too tight vocal cords.
"Kurt, you looked me dead in the face and told me to eat Splenda for a meal. How is that not putting me in danger? That's beyond weird, and Coach Sylvester has you so spun around that you don't even notice. She's already in your head, Kurt, and she's making you do things that are wrong."
Without realizing it, Mercedes was saying the same things that Finn had. If they had both said them, did it make them true? But Coach had always been kind to me. She had stuck up for me when no one else would. And sometimes she did nice things, like when she bought those wheelchair ramps for Artie. If she did that for him, she couldn't be all bad, could she?
You shouldn't need me to answer that. No one is all bad; probably not even Ted Bundy or Charles Manson. But would you trust either one of them with your life or happiness? Of course not. I don't know how much more evidence you need that that woman is a danger to you and everyone else.
That only made it worse. Now Mercedes and Finn and Galinda were all ganging up on me. Ok, so I was a selfish asshole, guys, thanks a lot. But why wasn't I allowed to be selfish every once in a while. Why couldn't I join the Cheerio's just because I wanted to, and screw everyone else?
Ok, sensitive flower, calm down. That's exactly what you did, and I don't recall anyone actually trying to tell you what to do. Both Finn and Mercedes have told you to do whatever you want, so get over yourself.
That was true, and it might have ended things right there, except for one small detail. I wasn't the only person in this fight, and Mercedes doesn't let things go like Finn does.
"Are you even listening to me? Jesus Christ, Kurt, you're thinking about Finn right now, aren't you? You and I are supposed to be having a talk, and I can't keep your attention for even five minutes."
This was the point where I did something shameful. Mercedes might know how to push my buttons, but I knew how to push hers just as hard. "Well maybe if you said something that was worth listening too, I might pay more attention. But all I here is bitch, bitch, BITCH!"
She loomed up, and I realized that I was in serious danger of getting my face broken. Even now, though, I had too much pride to back down or apologize. So I held my ground and glared.
But she didn't lash out at me, even though a part of me wouldn't have blamed her. She didn't scream, and she didn't swear. She pointed at the door. "Get out."
"Excuse me?" I couldn't possibly have heard her correctly.
Her eyes blazed. "You heard me. Get out. I'm not going to be treated like shit in my own house. Get out and I don't want to see or talk to you again."
Now I wanted to back-pedal, but my voice was stuck. I had never had a fight with Mercedes. Except for that one time when she bashed the windshield out of my car for flirting with Finn in front of her, we had never had a misunderstanding between us either.
You aren't having one now. You, my friend, just got called on your bullshit. There's no misunderstanding here at all.
"Mercedes." My anger had vanished, leaving me shocked at my own behavior.
If my anger had cooled, hers hadn't at all. She pointed at the door. "Go. Or do I have to call the cops?"
I had no doubt that she would do exactly as she was threatening. "Ok, I'm going. I'm…I'm sorry."
She was completely unmoved, her arms crossed over her ample chest. One finger pointed at the door and I slunk out of it like a beaten dog. Despite everything, I half expected that she would call after me, telling me that she was sorry and wanted to work things out. Then I could tell her how sorry I was, and everything could go back to normal.
But that didn't happen. She watched me go, a certain sadness in her eyes, but she wasn't going to back down. I took a deep breath and started the engine, backing up slowly. If she wanted to talk, she could call my cell.
Except she didn't. I made it back home, and she hadn't called and neither had Finn. Dad wasn't there either, so it was just me and my thoughts, none of which were flattering to me.
Why did I have to act like such a jerk towards my best friend? Had she started it? Had I? Which one of us was the bad guy here? Or was it both of us?
I needed someone to help me sort this out, but I was realizing that I had no one. Normally I would go to Mercedes, but obviously that was out. I had no idea where Finn was or what e was doing. This wasn't something that Dad could help me with, even though I knew that he would try if I asked him to. It was just me and Galinda, and if she could have helped me, I wouldn't have been in this situation to start with.
The tears hadn't started yet, but I knew that they weren't too far off. I changed out of my school clothes, folding them neatly and mechanically. I slipped into an old T-shirt of Finn and lay down in bed, pulling the covers over my head.
This was exactly how things had been before Glee. I would come home and curl up in bed, quietly nursing the emotional (and sometimes physical) wounds of the day. Once I had managed to pull myself together, I would make dinner or go help Dad at work, putting on my happy face for him.
But I couldn't do that any more. Now that I knew what it felt like to have other people who cared about and supported me, I couldn't pull myself together on my own. Even though things were a million times better for me then they had been at the beginning of the school year, I had never felt so alone and miserable in my life.