Author's Note: Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed, alerted, and favorited! There are far more Hevans fans out there than I realized. W00T! In this chapter, there is some pretty heavy Finn-bashing, so if you feel that might bother you, it's best to avoid this. Please note that this is not my opinion on Finn (I'm rather fond of the loveable douche), but the opinion of one of the other characters. Last chapter saw some personal growth on Finn's part, but others have been watching him and his behavior and take issue with it. This chapter has Sam explaining why he likes Kurt. Admittedly, I no longer actively watch the show, so Sam could very well be OOC (this is why I love AUs!). Again, if this will bother you, don't read. I'm not interested in reviews about how Sam is not gay and Kurt belongs with Blaine, etc. This is a Hevans fic, so it's automatically AU. There's also some examination of the Kurtcedes friendship, as well as Kartie and Kurtana. I feel this need to make Santana more of an active observant catalyst than she is on the show, because there's so much more to her than what we get to see. If I wrote Glee, Kurt and Santana would be the stars, everyone would worship them, and they'd fuck their way through the entire male student body, with Brittany at their side just being awesome. Alas, I do not. Please remember that fanfic is all in fun and all about putting characters in situations they're not in canonically. /soapbox.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!

Mercedes, Sam, Quinn, Artie and Santana were slowly making their way toward the auditorium, each lost in their own thoughts about what had been happening to themselves and to each other, and what was about to happen now. Quinn and Santana kept shooting each other pointed glances, eyes roving over Sam's form as he stood between them.

Quinn and Santana were no longer the friends they once were, if they ever were even that, but they had been running in the same circle for years and could read each other well. Cheerios and then Glee had only deepened that connection, and they could communicate with their eyes almost as well as Mercedes could with Kurt; there just wasn't the deep-seated level of respect and admiration.

Santana raised an eyebrow. Sam is so gay. Like, super gay. Gay McGee.

Quinn rolled her eyes and sniffed. Bi, actually. Believe me, he's not good enough of an actor to have pulled off our relationship they way he did if he hadn't felt something for me.

Santana pursed her lips. I want Hummel to be happy. When the fuck is it finally going to be his turn?

Quinn scoffed. As if you care about Kurt.

Santana's eyes widened. Bitch, don't go there. You don't know crap about me and Hummel.

Quinn eyes searched hers. Apparently not. When did this happen? Why did it happen?

Santana sneered. Why are you all up in our grills? Like you can be bothered with anyone but yourself. I totally knew that you were cheating on Sam long before it came out. Like you cheated before and like you will again. And let's not forget how you totally dumped Mercedes even though she was the one to save your scrawny ass.

Guilt and fear lighted Quinn's eyes and she stared down at her shoes as she continued to walk.

Santana looked away and down at her hands, which she only just now realized were on Artie's wheelchair; she was pushing him. When the hell had that happened? She could tell by the stiff way Artie was sitting and the darting glances over his shoulder that he was equally confused and concerned.

"Brittany loves you."

"She loves you more," Artie said sadly.

"But she won't choose me, Wheels," Santana whispered.

Artie reached up behind him and laid his hand over hers. "And if Kurt were straight, she wouldn't choose either one of us."

They snickered, somewhat ruefully, before lapsing into their own private thoughts.

Mercedes too was in her own world, deeply regretting her faltering relationship with Kurt. She knew she bore equal if not greater responsibility for the rift. Tried as she had to get past it, she resented Kurt for leaving her. Oh, she had said all the right things: she wanted him to be safe, to have the right to be himself, that he had earned the chances Dalton could provide him. She had repeated them on a loop so often, that she could only guess that they had begun sounding as hollow to Kurt as they did to her.

He had tried to keep them alive. He texted, called, and Facebooked every day without fail, telling her all the latest about Dalton, the Warblers, and Blaine, but it was all surface information, pejorative ramblings which didn't interest her, as he knew they wouldn't, but he had made an effort. His verbal slap in the choir room had hurt, but that had been his intention and she had deserved it, so she held no anger.

Why would he tell her he had broken up with Blaine? She had never expressed any real interest in their relationship, mostly because she had been jealous that Kurt had found someone while she was still alone. She had truly believed they would have each other, and only each other, until they left for college. She had almost planned her life around that idea. But then Blaine had appeared, and stayed, and looked so perfect on paper that she thought of him only as a construct and not an actual person. Her envy had blinded her to the reality that he was human and that just because he was gay, it didn't mean he was right for Kurt.

She didn't know if they had kissed, or had gone further, and she wondered if Kurt would ever tell her. She wondered if he had tried but been put off by her disinterest, which had been growing more and more difficult to conceal. She had been content to hold Blaine responsible for Kurt's defection, but now she was realizing that they had slowly been growing apart even while Kurt was still at McKinley.

She had been hurt by Quinn's abrupt dismissal of their friendship, a friendship Mercedes thought was solid. Had she misread the signs? Had Quinn just been using her? She couldn't believe that. Were it the case, why would Quinn have wanted her in the delivery room when she had Beth? Finally she figured out that Quinn was trying to distance herself from everyone and everything that reminded her of her daughter. It was a coping mechanism, and while Quinn was being selfish, all of them were selfish. They were like teenagers that way.

After Quinn had departed with nary a word and Kurt had left, she had thrown herself into growing closer to Tina and Artie, and thereby to Mike and Brittany as well. She hated being the third wheel. She supposed she'd hate being a fifth wheel, as well, but it wasn't like the two couples went out of their way to interact with each other. Tina and Artie were her last links to Kurt; they had been his friends long before they were hers. Of course, that begged the question of why she didn't go to Kurt directly.

He would never reject her, she knew. He continued to make time for her and she had proceeded to throw it back in his face. Sorry, K, can't make the mall. Tee and I are going to the movies. There was always some excuse, some reason she left him behind, and never once did she stop to consider how badly it must have hurt him. She was so concerned with avoiding hurt herself, she had alienated the best friend, the best man, she had ever known. She had justified it with the presence of Blaine, but she failed to consider that Kurt was a minority now surrounded by nothing but teenage boys, most of whom weren't gay. Dalton's zero-tolerance policy covered slurs and actions, but what about looks? Coldness? Contempt? Kurt might have been even more alone with only Blaine to keep him company. She knew the Warblers weren't overly fond of him, and he had looked so lost and confused at Sectionals.

She had told herself that sometimes friends just grew apart, like she and Quinn had, but she knew it was a weak excuse at best. She and Kurt weren't just friends; they had a soul-deep connection and she had been systemically trying to sabotage it because it was easier to feel abandoned than lonely. He often returned to Lima to renew the strength of their bond, but she had never visited him at Dalton. Finn had. Brittany had. Rachel had. Hell, even Schue had. Fuck, Sue had! So why had she been surprised when Kurt turned up to help Rachel?

She looked ahead of her and saw Rachel excitedly chattering to Mike, who looked desperate for an escape. She wondered how she had missed that Rachel, for all her bluster, genuinely liked Kurt. She didn't even know if it was mutual. Maybe Rachel was his new BFF. She couldn't blame him were it true. Well, she could question his taste and sanity.

She hated that she was so jealous of him, but it was true. She was jealous of his beauty. She was jealous of his skin color and the privilege it afforded him, even though his sexuality had brought more harm upon him than being black ever had to her; Lima was just fucked up that way. She was jealous he had found someone to share his life with him, even if it was only for a time. She was jealous that he had stuck with the Cheerios and led them to a win at Nationals, which had led to Sue openly respecting him and his abilities. She was jealous of his vocal talent, because there were millions of girls across the country with voices like hers and Rachel's, but no one sounded like Kurt Hummel. And she was jealous that he had found someone to love him, the way she feared no one would ever love her, the way she could never love him.

There were a lot of benefits to having a gay best friend: the fashion and makeup advice; the way he understood and spoke the secret language of women; the way he anticipated her wants and needs before she knew them herself. But in a very real way, he had ruined her for other men. He was closer to her than any best girlfriend could ever be, and having Kurt at her side had skewed her perception of men, of how they behaved and how they would treat her. From her observation of teenage relationships, leaving sexuality aside, she had gleaned that most guys were more like Puck and Finn than they were like Kurt, and that had been a harsh blow.

Puck, Finn, and even Artie and wishy-washy Schue had pretty much decimated her belief in romance and true love. From them, she had learned that men lie, cheat, and were inherently misogynistic. Her crush on Kurt had never been as severe as many believed, and was less about Kurt himself than it was the way he treated her, like an equal, not as an inferior or a trophy. Not that Kurt was without flaws, but when he loved, it was without restraint and without regret.

And that made her desperately worried about what had happened between him and Blaine. She was sure that Blaine hadn't forced Kurt into anything. Kurt was not the victim people believed him to be, and while his skin might have looked like porcelain, he was not made of it. Besides, Kurt was deceptively strong and Blaine was a midget. Still, Blaine was older, had been out longer, and had actually been in relationships before. Kurt, while relatively strong of mind, was easily emotionally manipulated. If you understood his insecurities, it was not difficult to prey upon them.

Suddenly, it was like a cloud lifted, and all Mercedes knew was to protect Kurt, like she knew he would protect her. This wasn't about weakness or strength, or gay or straight, or anything other than Kurt is my boo and I will gut a bitch. Which meant Blaine might have to die. She was okay with that.

But then, Quinn opened her mouth.

Quinn bumped Sam with her shoulder. "What are you going to do?"

Santana slowed, Mercedes turned, and Artie peered up.

"I'm going to tell him that I'm in love with him."

Santana smirked, Artie gaped, Quinn gasped, and Mercedes shrieked.

"What?" she barked.

"I'm in love with him," Sam repeated, "and I have been ever since that day he found me in the shower in the locker room."

Mercedes crossed her arms over her chest and huffed. "So why didn't you say anything?"

He bristled. "It's really none of your business, and if I thought you were doing anything but looking out for him, I'd tell you to back the hell off."

Santana smiled. This was interesting. Maybe the dude's nuts had finally dropped.

Mercedes opened her mouth, but Sam cut her off.

"I don't owe you anything, Mercedes, least of all an explanation of my feelings. That's between me and Kurt, not you."

She closed her mouth with an audible clack of teeth. She knew he was right, and she might have respected him just a little for calling her out.

"I didn't really date anyone before Quinn," he mumbled. "Not exclusively. I mean, sure, there were random hookups and stuff, but nothing committed."

He turned to face Quinn. "And I was committed to you. My feelings for you were real. We might have only gotten together to boost our reps, but the more time I spent with you, the more I came to love you." He sighed. "I just wish you had come to me and told me that you weren't interested any longer, rather than cheating on me." He blushed. "Was I that bad of a boyfriend? Did I really deserve that?"

Her eyes filled. "No, you didn't. There's no excuse for how I treated you, Sam." She laughed bitterly. "You'd think I would have learned my lesson after Puck, but I guess not. And Finn certainly didn't."

"I thought he was my friend," Sam whispered.

Mercedes snorted. "Finn can be a nice guy, but he's also selfish and not as dumb as he lets people think he is."

"But if you liked Kurt from the start," Artie asked Sam, "why aren't you with him now?"

Sam was silent for a long moment. "You know why I started liking him? Because when he found me in the shower, he didn't look. I knew he was gay the moment I saw him and I sensed that he was attracted to me, probably because I was new more than anything else, but he was respectful. There I was, standing butt-ass naked in front of him, and he didn't look. He could've. I couldn't have stopped him. But he looked me straight in the eye when he spoke to me. He had character."

He ran a hand through his messy hair. "He wanted to sing with me. Maybe it was because he thought I was cute. Maybe it was because he hoped I was gay. But when he asked me, there was never a doubt in my mind that he was asking because he believed that we would win. He was confident in that. He didn't brag about what he could do, but he didn't discount his abilities either, and he believed I was good enough to sing with him. That mattered to me."

He chuckled. "And then he sent me those files, and when I listened to him, I knew I was so far out of his league vocally that it was ridiculous. But he still believed we would make a good team, he took a chance on me when most other people wouldn't."

The others nodded.

"His taste in music isn't mine," Sam continued, "but when I heard him sing, all I heard was him. The words didn't matter, because I only heard his voice." He shook his head. "It was amazing. I don't understand why more people don't appreciate what he can do. Sure, Rachel has the power and Mercedes belts better than anyone currently under contract, but Kurt…he's more subtle, you know? He…he croons. When he sings, you feel like he's singing only to you."

Mercedes and Santana nodded.

"Absolutely," Quinn said.

Sam shrugged. "The other guys tease him or dismiss his talent, but they're just hating. Puck's pretty much a countertenor too, and Kurt's range is like, so insane that he can drop into tenor and even some baritone notes. The control he has over his voice is amazing. I mean, look at Rachel when she sings. Yeah, she's awesome, but when she goes for the power notes, her face looks like she's constipated or something. Then look at when Kurt did Le Jazz Hot. That final note was crazy! Must have been three octaves, all in one breath. He should have won."

"You voted for him, didn't you?" Quinn shyly asked.

He grinned at her. "So did you."

She nodded and ducked her head.

Sam sighed. "I don't get why Schue didn't capitalize on what Kurt can do, or why the Dibblers or whoever they are don't put him front and center. Blaine might be smooth, but he's kind of, I don't know, boring. Yeah, he hits all the notes and everything, but he doesn't make you feel it. Rachel doesn't either. They sing like they care, but it's really all about their own performance. Kurt makes the music matter. And isn't that the point?"

"It should be," Artie said.

Santana rolled her eyes. "Let's cut to the chase, Biebs. Are you a homo?"

Sam snorted. "I don't know what I am, and that's the problem. I didn't try anything with Kurt because I was too confused. If I was going to have some identity or sexuality crisis or whatever, I wasn't going to drag him along with me. He didn't need that. He knows who he is, and why should he waste his time trying to help me figure out who the hell I am? What if I had tried and then realized I was straight? I could have really hurt him, and even then I cared too much about him to let that happen."

"You're not answering my question," Santana barked.

He frowned. "I'm still working it out for myself. I guess if you insist on a label, I'm bi. I mean, I've noticed guys, but I never really thought of them as an option before, you know? I've always liked girls and I probably always will, but I don't really feel comfortable with them. I don't feel comfortable with most people. But I do with Kurt."

"Why?" asked a curious Mercedes.

He shrugged. "I don't even know. I just think that he would never hurt me, not intentionally. That he wouldn't ask me to be anyone other than myself; he'd just accept me as I am, faults and all. He wouldn't try to change me. I think that's what bothered me so much about that Blaine dude. He was trying to change Kurt, and Kurt didn't even realize it. Maybe Blaine didn't realize what he was doing either, and that actually makes it worse."

Quinn nodded.

"Well," Mercedes drawled, "he'd probably force you to have a makeover."

Sam laughed. "I can deal with that. I meant that he wouldn't try to change the big stuff, you know? Like my personality, who I am. He'd probably get me a new wardrobe and tutor me until I was pulling straight As, but that's cool. That's about improving me, not changing me." He shrugged. "And I'd teach him guitar and all the rules to football he still doesn't understand, the ones Finn won't explain to him."

"Okay," Santana said slowly, "but where does the fucking come in? So far, you're talking about some lame epic bromance, not hot homo lovin'."

He turned to her, lips quirked. "What do you want me to say, Lopez? That I want to fuck him into the mattress, then through the mattress, the floor beneath it, and all the way to China? Because, yeah, I totally want to do that."

Her eyes lighted as the others blushed. "Tell me more," she purred.

"Kurt's hot as hell," Sam said. "He's gorgeous, and I don't just mean the pretty eyes or the perfect hair or the flawless skin. I mean those lips that are begging to be bruised with some hardcore kissing. I mean that tight little body he hides beneath all the fancy clothes that I want to run my hands all over. I mean the big dick I know he's sporting just from the fit of those fucking skinny jeans. I mean that he has ass for days and I just want to sink my teeth into it. How's that? Was it Puck-ish enough for you?"

"It was pretty good," she allowed.

"It was never that I didn't want him," he continued. "It was that I'd never had a reaction like that before. Not to anyone, girl or guy, and I had no idea what to do or how to handle it. It was the way he looked into my eyes, like he wanted to know who I was, not who I was pretending to be. It was how he would actually listen to what I was saying and then think about it before he replied. It was the way he made me feel like I mattered to him. And that was just in a handful of brief talks that didn't even amount to much."

"Whoa," Artie breathed.

"Coming here was hard," Sam said, "but it was a chance to reinvent myself. I haven't done that great a job, because it's still pretty obvious that I'm a huge dork and awkward as hell. I made quarterback, but then I lost it. I almost blew my chances with Glee. And then Kurt dumped me as his duet partner." He heaved a sigh of frustration. "I don't even know why, just some bullshit about setting me free, whatever that means."

"He was probably trying to protect you," Artie said. "He knew you'd get crapped on for singing with him. You saw how he was treated here. He just wanted to spare you that."

"But I didn't give a shit," Sam countered, somewhat heatedly. "I even told Finn that when he came and got in my face about how it was 'dangerous' it was to hang with Kurt or whatever, and how it was their world and we're just living in it."

"Cracker said what?" Mercedes thundered.

He nodded. "Seriously, what the hell? He basically made Kurt out to be some kind of predator trying to steal my soul or something. Then he goes all feral and brother bear when Kurt is threatened, but doesn't do shit to try and help him. And what was with him yelling at Kurt when Mr. Hummel had the heart attack? Why the fuck would Kurt call him? It was his father, not Finn's."

He shook his head. "I don't get that dude at all. He acts like he's the Moral Police, but he's a total homophobe and misogynist. He breaks up with his girlfriend for kissing another dude, yet he lies about who he sleeps with and that's okay. From what I've heard, he was chasing Rachel when he was still with Q and thought the baby was his. He tells me he's my friend and he's so happy to have me on the team and in Glee, but doesn't have a problem switching plays that get me injured or stealing my girlfriend. Yet he can't forgive Puck for doing the exact same thing? He's dated or slept with half the girls in New Directions, but somehow Kurt is some promiscuous slut who is out to violate the virtue of any boy who crosses his path? The guy's a complete dick."

Mercedes wanted to kiss his big-ass lips. Quinn looked embarrassed to be associated in any way with Finn. Santana wanted to inform Evans of how Hudson had bullied Hummel into dropping him, just for the chance of seeing Evans kick Hudson's ass. Artie thought perhaps Sam might be the real deal and right for Kurt, but how to know for sure?

"You're not just saying this, right?" Artie asked. "You're not just telling us what we want to hear? Because if that's the case and you end up hurting Kurt, you're going to have deal with a lot of angry people, not just us. And trust me, Brittany and Tina can be absolutely vicious when they want. Even Puck has some weird need to protect Kurt."

"What's your point?" Sam asked.

"Are you really into Kurt, or is it just that he's the most appealing option for you right now, especially because he's available?"

Sam looked down at him. "Since when are you comfortable with this?"

"Kurt's my friend," he replied, glowering.

"Really? Then why'd he tell me that even you flinch when he touches you?"

Indeed, Artie flinched. "It has nothing to do with him being gay. Honestly, I could care less. Kurt just makes me feel…very insecure."

Mercedes widened her eyes. This was news to her. "Why?"

He looked away. "He can walk. He's a better singer than I am. The way he plays the piano…he's truly gifted. Most of you don't even know what he can really do with it. He's better looking than me. If he were straight, he'd have girls literally fighting over him. He was always close to Tina. When we broke up, she ran to him and he helped her through it, but he didn't choose sides. I was so sure that he would, but he surprised me. He usually does."

He stared down at his hands. "Brittany's in love with him. I don't think she realizes it, but it's true. She talks about him constantly. She compares everyone, not just other guys, to him. She doesn't do it to be hurtful, that's not who she is, but it's hard to hear sometimes. And I don't mean a physical love, although she certainly goes on enough about his eyes and his skin and his hands. They have a real spiritual connection, some kind of emotional intimacy that she doesn't have with me or Santana, and it's different from the one he has with Mercedes. I think if he ever had an exception, it would be her."

Santana swallowed heavily.

Artie paused. "You know, before he transferred, he was first in the class? I was first in math and computer science, but he always bested me in languages, literature, and the natural sciences. Now I'm first, followed by Quinn, and then Rachel. Kurt does everything better than me, but he's never tried to make me feel less because of it. He doesn't even know how awesome he really is; he's been beaten down too much. He's been a true friend to me. He's always been there, he's always supported me and cheered me on."

He removed his glasses and wiped at his eyes. "It's very hard to be friends with someone who's better than you but who never sees it. He's got so much going on for him, but he still thinks of himself as the creepy, awkward gay boy. It hurts me to see it, and I know there's nothing I could ever do or say to make him see what I do when I look at him.

"I know he considers me his best guy friend, and that means a lot, but I don't mean to him what Mercedes or Brittany does. I've always known that he'd make it out of this town, that he'll be a success at whatever it is he wants to do, but I also know that he'll outgrow me. It's easier for me to distance myself from him now than to lose him later."

He sniffed loudly, scrubbed his face with a hand, returned his glasses and stared down the empty hall.

"I don't think you're giving yourself or Hummel enough credit, Wheels," Santana said, not unkindly. "He isn't your friend because he's better than you, which, by the way, he's not. And he's not your friend because you see in him a lot of things most other people don't. Hummel may not have been very popular, but he was always picky. If he considers you his friend, it's because of what he sees in you, and I'm pretty sure if we asked him just what that was, he'd be able to write a book about it. Because that's who Kurt Hummel is. Above all else, he's a good friend. And he takes care of his friends. At the end of the day, he's one of the few people I'd want unquestionably standing at my side, that I would trust to do so."

Quinn and Mercedes stared at her.

"What?" she snapped.

"When the hell did you and my boy get so damn tight, anyway?" Mercedes demanded. "This has all come out of nowhere."

Quinn nodded. "It's very strange, and I don't believe it. I don't trust you, not with Kurt."

Santana threw back her head and laughed. "You're hysterical, for an absolute hypocrite. You cheated on your boyfriend with his best friend and got pregnant, and then lied about who the father was. You sold me out to Sylvester to get your spot back. You ditched Jones for the sake of your popularity. You cheated on Evans with Hudson. Yet you have the balls to stand there and tell me you don't trust me? I think the better question is why the hell should anyone trust you?"

Quinn reeled back as if struck. She instinctively looked to Mercedes for support, only to find it missing, for which she couldn't blame the other girl.

"You're alone, Quinn," Santana said. "Sure, you have Hudson right now, but how much longer do you think that's going to last? I'm betting not even until the end of the semester. Jones was a better friend to you than I've ever been, and I'll admit that. You're friends with Hummel and he'd probably do anything he could to help you with whatever you needed, but can you honestly say you'd do the same for him? You're not a victim, regardless of the fact that you've cast yourself in that role. Yeah, I'm a total and complete bitch, but I admit it. No apologies and no regrets. The few friends I have know that going in, and they accept me for it. So you better believe that I've got their back when it counts. I'm evil, but I have a conscience."

"And Kurt is one of your friends," Quinn said, mockingly.

Santana stalked forward. "You don't know dick about me and Hummel, Fabray."

Quinn scoffed once more, but Sam scrutinized Santana more carefully.

"You know, don't you?"

"What are you babbling about now, Captain Clorox?" she barked, though her eyes were guarded.

He stared at her. "You know about whatever Karofsky did to Kurt that drove him away, what really happened. Because there's a lot more to that story than we know." He inched toward her. "We know Karofsky threatened to kill Kurt, but not why. But you know. You're one of the few who weren't upset when Kurt transferred. You're one of the only ones who hasn't tried to convince him to come back. You were relieved when he left. Why?"

Mercedes, Quinn, and Artie stared at her in shock.

Santana looked into Sam's eyes, but gave away nothing. "That's not my story to tell."

None of them noticed Sue Sylvester lingering at the end of the hall.