The bell's just rung for lunch, and Tina's fighting with the combination on her locker and its tendency to stick in the hot weather. Her arms are full of books, and she's tugging on the door when she hears heavy footfalls behind her.
Suddenly, a shoulder impacts her back, and she stumbles forwards. Her books go tumbling across the floor.
As she rights herself, the two jocks carry on down the hallway, acting as though nothing has happened, save the low, dirty laughs that mingle between them.
Sighing, Tina kneels down and slowly gathers her books in her arms.
She's only just left Mercedes with a promise to meet up for lunch when the slushy hits her square in the face. It's so cold it takes her breath away, and who thought this was *fair* when it's *November* and they live in *Ohio*. Her body shivers involuntarily.
Normally, when the jocks slushy her, they carry on walking and don't even look back at the carnage. But this time she feels a finger trace down her arm.
Scott Cooper, captain of the hockey team is standing over her, an empty cup in his hand.
" Like a wet t-shirt contest," he says with a leer, and Tina feels a blush spread across her cheeks, her skin flaming despite the ice. She doesn't even need to look down to know her white blouse is soaked through.
The hockey goons laugh and high-five, and Scott begins to walk away. He's about five feet from her when he turns around, and opens his mouth to say something, but instead he just snaps the empty cup towards her.
She flinches as it hits her in the arm.
Scott grabs his crotch, lewdly. " Suck it, Stutterfly."
They walk away, and Tina spends the next hour trying to rinse number 7 dye out of ivory silk.
She doesn't know why he's taken a specific interest in her. The jocks are all jerks - football and hockey alike - but Scott seems to be everywhere she is.
He trips her coming out of Geography, apologising when their teacher sees, saying it was an accident.
He does it again as she walks past him in the hall, but this time there is no one to make him say sorry. She goes sprawling down and her binder skids across the floor, coming to a stop against the opposite lockers.
She can feel her knee throb, and knows it's going to bruise. By the time she pulls herself up, he's gone.
" Dyke," she hears as she comes out of the locker room after gym class, her hair pulled back in a damp ponytail, Rachel walking next to her, clutching her notebook. She ignores the words, but they come again, louder. " Dyke!"
Rachel - realising what it is that's being spat at them - turns her head, her dark eyes flashing. A bank of jocks lean against the wall opposite, hoping to catch flashes of half-dressed girls as the door opens and closes.
Tina ducks her head, chin to her chest, but Rachel straightens up. " I'll have you know I have a close personal relationship with the Ohio chapter of the ACLU, and that kind of language is considered assault."
Rachel's small body is vibrating with rage, but Tina can't help but wish she could just disappear.
The jocks laugh, walking past Rachel so they cause her to stumble. One of them shoulder checks Tina so hard her gym bag falls out of her hands.
Rachel just tosses her long straight hair behind her shoulder. " Ignoramus," she throws after them, loudly, angrily.
Tina just leans down and picks up her bag. " Let's just go to History, okay?"
She's just put a quarter in the vending machine for a soda when she feels a body behind her. Tina expects it to be Kurt, or Mercedes, but as it gets closer she realises it's far too tall and far too broad and she freezes. A hand reaches over her shoulder, pressing a button - not the Diet Coke she was going for, but an orange soda instead.
Scott leans down to the vending slot as the soda falls, and reaches in, his hand brushing her bare leg. It makes her shudder.
" You don't mind if I have this?" he asks, straightening up, opening the can's tab with a hiss. He takes a long pull of the drink, and then grabs Tina by the shoulder, pushing her out of his way. The back of her head makes contact with the wall and she winces at the dull, thudding sound as she slides down to the floor.
He doesn't even turn around. He just walks down the hall, drinking his soda, whistling between his teeth.
It's raining and Tina's running across the courtyard, late for Glee rehearsal. Cold water trickles down her long hair and splashes her pale face. She's just begun to pull the heavy door open when someone pushes it from the other side. She waits for a second, and then blanches at the sight of the red and black hockey jersey blocking her way into the brightly lit, dry hall.
She presses herself against the wall, trying to make herself as small as possible, trying to make herself invisible. Her heart pounds in her chest.
Scott stops, seeing her there, and a dark, thin smile paints his lips. He reaches out towards her and she flinches. He fists a piece of her hair, tugging hard.
" You're all wet," he whispers, leaning in, their faces only inches away.
Tina feels her heart fluttering, her stomach rolling and nauseous. " I-it's r-raining," she stutters, and she can feel the tears pricking at the back of her eyes. She fights against them, clenching her fists at her sides, not wanting him to see.
There's a long pause, and his body is practically pressed against hers, and his breath is hot against her cheek. She trembles.
" You should get inside," he finally says, pulling himself back just enough that she can slide by him and through the door, their bodies pressed together from hip to toe. She's almost past him when he grabs her wrist. " Say thank you."
She bites down on her lip, feeling the tears begin to well against her eyelashes. She doesn't want to say it. She doesn't, she doesn't, she doesn't.
His fingers tighten around her arm. " Thank you," she whispers, and the words are sour and bitter like bile.
He lets her go, and she flees, and as her feet carry her through the halls, no one is around to hear her sob.
It gets better. For a few months, after she starts dating Mike and he reads the football team the riot act, and Kurt transfers to Dalton and then transfers back and he and Karofsky seem to come to some kind of...understanding...it gets better. The football team, at least, lay off.
But that makes the hockey guys worse. Like they have slack to pick up. Like for every person the football team *isn't* slushying, they need to swoop in there and get the job done.
Tina's binder is plucked from her arms in the hall, papers pulled out and strewn across the floor. She has to scrabble around for them, cursing under her breath as her Chem homework flutters in the breeze. They trample on her Lit essay with vigor.
She's almost pushed down the stairs (a body slam that catches her unaware as Scott shoves past her, almost blending in with the sea of other students but his dirty blonde hair standing out to her like a beacon) - only avoiding going flying by a well-timed grab from Sam as he happens to bound up next to her. " Whoa, careful Tina," he admonishes with a fond smile, waiting until she has her footing to let go of her arm. " Don't want to take a spill."
Sitting behind her in the cafeteria, Scott kicks her chair away as she's about to sit down, and Tina goes tumbling to the floor, her lunch hitting the ground with a splatter. " Oops," he throws out with a laugh, before high-fiving one of his idiot friends. " Sorry."
Artie and Mercedes help her pick up her stuff and Rachel offers to share some of her hummus on rye, but Tina just shakes her head, her appetite gone.
The radio in Mike's car is staticky, and tuned to an oldies station, but Tina's not really paying attention to the music. Mike's fingers trace up her leg, drawing patterns against her knee and along her thigh, making her squirm and giggle.
" Miiiiike," she squeaks as his lips brush across hers. " That tickles."
He doesn't stop, just chuckles into her mouth and continues his exploration. Her hands have just slipped under his t-shirt when his finger hits a spot on her hip and she gasps. She doesn't realise the sound is particularly audible until Mike pulls away. " What?" he asks, frowning, knowing Tina, knowing that was not her regular happy gasp but something else entirely.
She feels herself blushing, glad for the darkness of the car to covering her pinking cheeks. " Sore spot," she admits, quite happy to leave it at that, but Mike's pulling her closer, leaning over and tugging the skirt of her dress up towards her hip. She rolls her eyes. " Romantic Mike."
He ignores her. " What did you do?" he asks, earnestly, his eyes widening at the sight of her black and blue skin, his thumb brushing so lightly over the top.
" Gym class," she lies, quickly, avoiding his eyes, knowing that if he looks in them, he'll be able to see the truth. " Those girls get serious about volleyball."
It's better he believes that, better he can laugh about Quinn's competitive streak and go back to kissing her than have to worry. He doesn't need to know that her hip is at the exact same level as the tables in French class and Kurt had run from the room the minute the bell had rung, wanting to meet Blaine before next period. He didn't need to know that Scott had loitered afterwards as she buckled her bag, waiting until she had stood up to purposefully crash into her, sending her smacking into the hard wooden desk.
Better he can laugh about Quinn, and kiss her, and hum along with the crackly 80s power ballads.
Her stupid locker is stuck *again*, and seriously, Tina wonders how many times she's going to have to report it until something actually gets fixed. She tugs at the metal, cursing under her breath, her bag heavy with books (damn World History essay) and her hair falling in front of her face. Rolling her eyes, she pushes it back, tucking it behind her ears, and is about to go in for a renewed assault on her locker door when her bag is lifted from her hand.
Turning around, she sees Scott standing there, her messenger bag clutched in his fist. " Having trouble?" he asks lightly, and he's smiling, but the smile is small and cold and makes her stomach churn.
Tina eyes the other students milling around. Nearly everyone has gone - the bell for lunch rang almost a full five minutes ago - but a couple people are still wending their way outside or towards the cafeteria.
" I'm fine," is all she can say, and she finds herself wrapping her arms around torso. " Can I have that back?"
His thin, weasely face shows no particular sign that he's heard her or that he's listening. Instead, he unbuckles her bag and reaches inside. He begins pulling out books. " Germany in the 1940s? Bloodland? The SS?"
" They're for History class," she tells him, not knowing why, knowing that it doesn't matter what they're for. Tina watches as he tosses them aside and they land with heavy, dull thumps. " Please can I have my bag back?"
He makes a tutting noise; a strange, mother-hennish clucking that sounds so at odds with his twisted lip and dark eyes. " Now now, that's not a nice way to talk to a guy just holding your bag for you. You should be more grateful."
Tina feels angry then, feels something burning in her gut and zinging down to her fingers, and she takes a step forward, reaching out and snatching her bag back from him. The movement leaves her one step closer and she can read the honest surprise in his face. " Stop it," she growls, finally not feeling scared anymore, finally feeling angry enough that all she wants is for him to get the message that they're done.
But he only grins, lazily, and shrugs his shoulders. " If you're going to be like that." He reaches out, running his index finger along her cheek. " I'll see you later."
Tina bats his hand away, hard. The smack is audible. " *Don't* touch me."
" What? You think we don't see you and Chang in the parking lot? Or in the stairwell or behind the bleachers? Don't pretend you don't love it."
The words make her seethe. She can feel rage welling up in her, from her toes and coursing through her veins, and she clenches her jaw. " Shut. Up."
" Temper," he teases, his voice syrup and cloying, again reaching out to touch her face. " Not attractive Tina C."
This time she pushes him off, harder, and he stumbles a couple steps.
" Watch it," he says, and the faux-sweetness disappears. His words have a hard edge to them.
Reaching out, Tina pushes him again. " What, you don't like it?" she asks, her hands making contact with his chest, shoving him with all her might. " Don't like being pushed around huh? Or called names? Or tripped?" Tina keeps pushing him, one step forward, one shove, until he's almost backed against the lockers. " You don't like it *Scott*?"
" Step off," he growls, and his eyes flash darkly. His fists clench at his sides.
She knows she should probably stop while she's ahead, because maybe - just maybe - she's given him a taste of his own medicine, or at least an idea that she's no longer going to take his taunting laying down. But Tina's never known when to stop, and she reaches up and pats him on the cheek, hard. " Why don't you say please?"
The hands hit her shoulders like a canon blast, and before she even realises what's happening her body's half-flying, half-falling across the hallway. Tina can do nothing to catch herself. Her head slams into her locker door, and she feels the impact like a 2x4 to the skull. The next thing she knows, she's on the floor surrounded by her discarded books, and it takes her a minute to pull herself upright. When she does, her vision swims and her mouth tastes like copper. She reaches up to her head and her fingers come away hot, and sticky, and red.
Scott stands on the other side of the hallway, his hands still raised, and his face pale.
" Don't tell anyone about this," he orders, and then he runs down the hall.
Tina just sighs, and leans her forehead on her knees, and tries to ignore the blackness rushing up to meet her.
Mercedes and Sam walk out of the choir room, fingers intertwined, soft laughter filling the space between them as they wander towards Sam's locker. Mercedes pulls her phone out of her pocket as it buzzes, looking down at the screen, and then back up at her boyfriend who's studying her with curious eyes.
" Kurt. I said I'd meet him for lunch," she admits with a shy smile that Sam mirrors.
" Did I make you late?"
She shrugs, squeezing his hand lightly as she slides her phone back in her pocket. " I don't mind," she tells him, leaning in to press her lips softly against his. " That boy'll just have to wait."
They kiss again until the sound of footsteps pulls them apart, and they wait for a moment but no one appears. They kiss one more time, eyes bright and smiles wide, and then they step around the corner into the hallway and -
Mercedes feels her hand dropping out of Sam's and her feet running as soon as she sees the dark hair slumped against the locker. Books are still strewn around the floor and when Tina lifts her head at the sound of her name, Mercedes can see the blood running down her face. " Oh my God."
She's on her knees in front of her friend using her fingers to gently lift Tina's chin. A long gash runs along her hairline down towards her eyebrow, and blood trickles into her eye. At the sight of Mercedes, Tina grins. " Mercedes!" she greets, trying to hold her head up, but it sways as though her neck isn't strong enough to hold it up. " And Sam!"
Mercedes doesn't even realise Sam is right there until she hears footsteps behind them and then a gasp from the random Freshman who has stumbled upon the three of them and stands, gawping. " Get Coach Bieste," Sam shouts at the skinny boy, who nods his head and takes off at a run down the hallway, his sneakers squeaking on the linoleum. Then Sam turns to Tina, crouching down beside her. " Tina, do you know where you are?"
Tina frowns at him very seriously for a moment, and nods her head, but the movement causes her to wince and she puts a hand to her forehead. " I think I'm on the floor," she tells him in a stage whisper, and normally it would make Mercedes laugh, but seeing Tina's wide, dark eyes and pale face streaked with blood, humour is the last thing on Mercedes' mind.
" What happened?" Mercedes' asks, and she doesn't even hesitate as Sam reaches for the scarf around her neck, pulling it off – the soft material sliding against her skin - and folding it up before pressing it against Tina's head.
She winces at the pressure but then Tina's face morphs into a scowl. " He wouldn't give me back my bag," she says, and her voice is low and growling, but then a split second later she breaks into a large, wide smile. " You two are so cute," Tina beams. " You know that? You're a super cute couple. Not as cute as me and Mike. Or just Mike...Mike's so cute."
That seems to flick something in both Sam and Mercedes' mind, and they share a brief non-verbal conversation over Tina's head. " I'll call him," Mercedes murmurs, already pulling her phone out and scrolling down her contacts.
Neither of them really listens as Tina babbles. Mercedes counts the rings, hoping someone will answer and Sam is pressing the scarf harder and trying to ignore the blood that is seeping through onto his fingers.
Tina stares at Sam. " You have such trouty lips. Like the song! You know...Santana didn't mean to be mean... Your lips are awesome. But she loves Brittany. And Brittany's lips taste like cherry. You know what Mike's lips taste like? They taste like Mike." Suddenly she reaches up and touches her cheek, pulling her hand away and looking surprised to find her fingers sticky and red. " Why am I bleeding?"
" Someone wouldn't give you your bag," he offers, hoping it will prompt her back to some semblance of an explanation, but she just nods her head.
" He's always so *mean*," is all Tina says, sighing.
He's about to ask who, wanting to figure out exactly how his friend has come to this position, crumpled and bleeding on the floor, and the words are just about to leave his lips when he hears another voice.
Sam's never been happier that the Glee clubbers seem to travel in packs until he turns and sees Mike's face completely drain of colour in less than a second. Kurt on one side and Santana and Brittany on the other do a good job of holding him up until his heart seems to stagger back to a beat and he propels himself forwards.
" What the hell happened?" He crashes onto his knees next to Tina, reaching up, cupping her cheek, looking into her unfocussed eyes as she smiles, serenely.
" Still trying to figure that out," Sam admits, not moving, and he catches his friend's eye with an unspoken apology that he hasn't got any answers for him. " Tina," Sam prompts, patting her knee with his free hand - the one not already stained crimson down to the knuckles - " You want to tell Mike what happened?"
" Mike," she reaches out, and she misses his chest by inches, which makes Mike blanche and grab her hand in his instead. " I banged my head."
" Did you fall?" he asks, his voice thin and panicked, and they've only heard Mike like this one other time - over a year ago on a football field, but that time there were medics and he knew exactly what had occurred and Tina wasn't bleeding. " Did you trip or something? Tina?" he squeezes Tina's hand because her eyes aren't on his face and instead she's looking at the crowd that's huddled around her on the floor.
Tina's eyes light up when her gaze lands on the boy standing just behind Mike, and smiles, lopsided. " Kurt! We're meant to be in French! You're so good at French. Can I copy from you in our test? I can't remember any of the words."
Kurt's murmuring assurances when Mike turns to face Sam, his voice hard. " What the *hell* happened?" he asks, his voice low, desperate, angry.
All Sam can do is shrug his shoulders and it makes him feel terrible. " We don't know, we just found her like this," he explains. " She said someone wouldn't give her her bag."
They share a look then, because they both know that 'someone' probably means a jock, and they scroll through the list of potential candidates in their head, Mike's eyes narrowing further as he thinks of all the people who have ever made fun of the Glee kids or Tina in particular. Sam lays his free hand on his shoulder, trying to be supportive because, really, he knows nothing. Mike's body is taut and vibrating with something like terror or rage.
" You mean someone *did* this to her?" Santana asks from her position next to the lockers. She's been silent up to this point but now her dark eyes flash as she surveys the scene, her fingers laced with Brittany's. Brittany watches over her shoulder - her body trembling - as students start milling around. " Do I need to cut a bitch?"
They notice they're gathering a crowd - because it's High School, and it's drama, and someone's bleeding - and they ignore it until the first cell phone is pulled out of a bag and - 'click' - takes a picture. " Oh hell no," Mercedes frowns, jumping to her feet and approaching the girl, who cowers. " You are *not* turning my girl into a piece of gossip." She grabs the cell phone out of the girl's hand, deleting the image, waving it in the air for the others to see.
Most of the students grudgingly put their phones away - some of them quickly, because between Mercedes' obvious wrath and Santana's blistering glare from the side, it's not worth the risk - but one still hangs about as the others disperse.
Kurt's voice is a low growl. " Don't even *think* about it Jacob."
It's enough that the boy edges off down the hall, his Jew-fro bobbing.
Sam's cursing under his breath - trying to stop the bleeding, trying to keep Mike calm, to keep Santana cool or at least less blood thirsty - when finally an adult voice cuts through the conversation. Coach Bieste is running down the hallway, her whistle swinging against her broad chest, her face set.
" What happened?" she asks as she approaches, and her eyes are on Mike, but he's too busy brushing hair back from Tina's face to answer.
Instead, Mercedes' voice pipes up from where she now stands next to Kurt, the two of them patrolling the perimeter, forcefully shooing students who loiter and linger, staring at Tina's crumpled body. " Sam and me were just walking down the hall and we found her like this. She's not...she not making much sense."
At these words, Coach Bieste nods, kneeling before Tina and her comforting, no-nonsense presence means they all move back, just slightly, to give her room. Mike rocks on his knees and Sam squeezes his shoulder tightly. Mike shoots him a momentary look of thanks, but his lips are thin and he rakes a hand through his hair, leaving it sticking up and disheveled.
Coach Bieste slaps Tina's face lightly and Tina opens her eyes, wide and confused. " What's your name pumpkin? Do you remember your name?"
Tina nods her head, slowly, wincing. " Tina," she answers succinctly.
Coach Bieste nods her head, smiling encouragingly, keeping her hand against Tina's cheek to steady her. " And what about this hunky man, what's his name?" she asks, nodding her head towards Mike, who doesn't even break a smile.
" That's Mike," Tina grins, but then winces again and presses her hand against her head. " My head hurts."
" I know pumpkin, I know. Just hold still for a minute and keep your eyes open, okay?"
" Someone *did* this to her," Santana's voice is low and angry and at the sound of it Brittany clutches her hand harder, whispering words that none of the rest of the group can here, her other hand running up and down Santana's arm.
" Not *now* Santana," Sam tries, because he can see that Mike is holding it together by a thread, and he grips his best friend's shoulder tighter. " I mean, *I know*, but not now."
Sam probably would have been able to diffuse the situation if, at that moment, Blaine didn't come skidding around the corner, his usually quaffed hair looking distinctly rumpled. " I just heard," he explains, coming towards the group, to Kurt's free side, but it's Mike he looks at. " Has Principal Figgins got the guy in his office already?"
It's Mercedes who asks the question. " *What* guy?"
Blaine's face is startled, and confused. " The guy who did this. I just heard some people in the cafeteria. Scott said it was an accident - "
" Cooper?" It's Mike's voice and it's eerily calm, like the stillness before a hurricane or the silence after an earthquake. Mike lets go of Tina's hand, and unwinds his body from the floor, shaking off Sam's touch, standing up and beginning to walk down the hallway.
Sam, who is still pressing the scrap of fabric against Tina's head, calls after him. " Where are you going?"
The people gathered around Tina already know the answer, but the words burst out right as Mike breaks into a run. " I'm going to *kill him*."
There's barely a split second as Sam curses (not even caring that his teacher is *right there*) and lets go of the scarf, jumping to his feet and tearing down the hall in the same direction as Mike. The click-clacking noise behind him lets him know that Santana has followed a step behind, and for a moment - somewhere in the fleeting back of his mind - he's impressed that she can keep up with a Quarterback and a Running Back, and in four-inch heels.
In the hallway, Kurt, Blaine, Mercedes and Brittany stand, staring after them, and are only prompted to movement when Coach Bieste voice breaks through the stunned silence.
" We better call 911."
Still slumped on the floor, Tina begins to cry, and all four of them swoop in and grasp gently at hands and shoulders. " Where's Mike?" she asks, sobbing, even as Brittany feathers kisses against her palm and Mercedes loops an arm around her shoulder. " I want Mike."
Leaning over, Kurt whispers in Blaine's ear, " There's no way this ends well."
Puck is waiting at the door to the cafeteria when Mike reaches it, and he holds his hands up in a placatory gesture.
" You *don't* want to do this," Puck starts, his voice low and calm, but Mike just clenches his jaw.
" Move, Puck," Mike growls, already stepping up to him, pushing past him. " You know what he did."
" He's not worth it," Puck tries again, grabbing Mike's shoulder, trying to push him back, to calm him down, but Mike just shakes him off, anger giving him extra strength, and goes powering into the cafeteria.
It's only seconds before all hell breaks loose.
Mike storms over to the jock table and grabs Scott by the throat, pushing him down onto the ground. His fists explode against Scott's face and neck and body as he pins him against the floor. The punches come once, twice, three times and repeatedly until Scott's head is just smacking into the floor and Mike's knuckles are split to the bone.
Puck's voice is loud, and almost frantic. " Dude, stop! You're going to kill him!"
Sam and Santana arrive just in time to see Puck trying to pull Mike off and getting an elbow to the face as thanks. Puck's just pulling himself off the floor as Sam rushes to help, and the two of them try and grab Mike, but he's strong and angry and struggling and they're pulling him hard. They've just got Mike out of punching range - and the hockey players are helping Scott sit up, his face red and bleeding - when they hear a scream come from behind and Santana launches herself into the fray. Her fingers tear and scratch and punch at Scott's face and all the hockey guys let him go, retreating from the chaos, and Sam and Puck share a look because Mike's still flailing and one of them isn't enough to hold him.
One of Scott's hands comes up blindly and smacks Santana's face, hard and loud, and his ring leaves a cut on her cheekbone, but it just seems to spur her on. She slams him hard against the floor.
" Don't you EVER fuck with my girl!"
Puck and Sam both breath a sigh of relief when they see Kurt and Blaine arrive, because Mike's about to break out of their grip. Puck moves so he's in front of Mike, bracing him against his back. " Little help?" he yells over to the new arrivals who quickly rush into the scene.
Kurt's taller but Blaine is stronger - he manages to get his arms around Santana's waist and drag her off of Scott, her legs still flailing and her lips spitting Spanish and curses and threats.
" Watch the heels!" Kurt cries as they come within striking distance of his crotch.
They're all struggling, Scott's bleeding, Mike's bleeding, even Santana is bleeding and everyone else in the cafeteria is just standing around gawking and yelling, and Sam almost can't blame them because of all people to be beating someone to a pulp, the last person anyone would have suspected is Mike Chang. He's just about to panic when a voice cuts through the crowd.
" Enough!" It's yelled through a megaphone and it has them all stopping, cold. Santana presses a hand to her bleeding cheek as Sue Sylvester parts the crowd with her presence and a firm hand. She's scowling; her face taut with anger and it's enough to make everyone's collective hearts freeze. She points her finger at Kurt. " Porcelain, you and Frodo better get Boobs McGee out of my sight before she pops one of those sandbags." She then looks at the three boys, where Puck still stands in front of Mike, blocking him, and Sam's hands are gripping Mike's biceps. " Lips, Landing Strip. Take Dancing Jackie Chan here to the Principal's office and make sure he doesn't assault anyone else on the way."
For a moment, nobody moves. Then: " Now!"
Mike lets Puck and Sam lead him out of the cafeteria, his head hung low and his breath still coming in heavy pants. His hands are clenched in fists at his sides. Santana calms enough to be set down, but she gets one last kick to Scott's leg before Sue pushes her away. " Out Santana!" she orders, and her voice leaves no room for argument, so Kurt and Blaine bodily drag Santana out.
The rest of the cafeteria is silent for a moment, before everyone turns back to their lunches.
Artie wheels into the cafeteria just in time to see Coach Sylvester hauling a very bloody, very beaten Scott Cooper off of the floor. The rest of the hockey team stand around looking somewhere between terrified and cowed.
He feels his eyebrows creep up his forehead, and is just about to find someone to ask what happened when he runs - almost literally - into Finn and Rachel.
" What the hell happened?" is all that Artie can ask, the words falling out of his mouth like hot rocks, because the atmosphere in the cafeteria means that his fifteen minute library break had just meant he missed something *big*.
Finn looks equally confused and shrugs his shoulders. " We're not sure. We just came inside. We thought you might know."
" I just hope it wasn't Noah. He could go back to jail if he's caught fighting."
Artie's about to shake his head when he hears footsteps running behind him. A floral skirt swishes in his line of sight and then Quinn stands before them, breathless and pink-cheeked, her blonde hair fanned around her shoulders. " Did you guys hear?"
" What's going on?" Finn asks, his voice laced with curiosity, and concern, especially when Quinn's eyes widen and she rests a hand on Artie's shoulder.
" I just heard in the girl's bathroom - apparently Tina got attacked and Mike almost killed the guy who did it. He's in Figgins' office now - he might get expelled."
At once all three of them break into noises of disbelief.
" Is Tina okay? I mean - "
" He should claim temporary insanity, I know people have got off on - "
" Mike Chang? Seriously?"
Quinn nods her head at all three of them, reaching up to finger her gold cross in an absentminded habit. " I think we're lucky it got stopped when it did."
The four of them stand and stare at the large, bloody patch now marring the smooth tiled floor. There are no more words.
The Principal's office is small and cramped and now the adrenaline is beginning to wear off Mike's hand is *really* starting to throb. And his shoulder. And his ribs. And his cheek. But it's his hand that's dripping blood on the floor and he tries to cradle it against his body as much as he can, ignoring the way the hot, stickiness seeps through his striped t-shirt.
Puck and Sam had been sent away the moment they had reached the door and Figgins has been in the outer office on the phone since Mike came in and his head is *throbbing* but worse than that is that since tearing off down that hall he has *no* idea what's happened to Tina. Guilt bubbles up in his stomach.
When Principal Figgins re-enters the office, he isn't alone. Coach Bieste is next to him, looking serious and weary, a smear of blood on her polo shirt and an icepack in her hand, which she passes off to Mike with a weary half-smile.
Grateful, he presses it against his knuckles, wincing as the contact stings and burns, but doesn't drive him from his questions. " Is Tina okay?" Mike blurts before he even thinks it, and he's staring at Coach Bieste but it's Principal Figgins that answers.
" Miss Cohen-Chang has been taken to St Anne's for assessment," he begins, sitting down behind his desk and steepling his fingers. " Her parents have been informed but they are on their way here before they go to the hospital so I may speak with them."
" Shouldn't they be going with Tina?" Mike asks, his face scrunched up in confusion, ignoring the way the frown pulls at the bruised flesh of his eye and cheek. " So she's not on her own?"
" It's important that we let them know exactly what happened son," Coach Bieste pipes up, lowering herself into one of the chairs, and then looking up at the lanky teenage boy, reaches over and pats him on the arm. " Chang, sit down before you pass out, please."
Obediently, Mike drops into the chair.
" Now, what happened?"
Most of the Glee club huddles in the hallway, just out of sight of the glass office walls, speaking in low voices. Fifth period has been completely abandoned, but they're fairly certain none of their teachers are going to come looking. Mercedes rubs Sam's shoulder, gently, Quinn leans against Puck's side and Blaine and Kurt hold each other's hands tightly. They all try not to notice that Kurt hasn't stopped shaking since leaving the cafeteria, and how Blaine keeps looking over with a worried expression at his pale, silent boyfriend. Rachel, Artie and Finn still all wear looks of confusion and surprise.
" I've *never* seen him like that," Sam admits, his voice hushed and he avoids making eye contact with the others.
Puck just nods his head, prodding at his cheekbone, which is rapidly turning purple. " Serious, I met some hard guys in Juvie but I really thought Mike was going to kill him." He prods at his nose again. " Good right hook though."
Heavy footfalls come down the hallway, and they see Lauren pushing her glasses up her nose. " I'm in the weight room for half an hour and I miss a beat down?" she starts in, and it's so sudden and crass that everyone looks a little taken aback.
" Tina's at the hospital," Kurt spits, his lower lips trembling, and Lauren looks surprised at the tone.
She takes a moment, takes a breath, and seems to sense the feeling of the group, because when she speaks again her voice is a shade less brash. " Someone should have come and got me. I could have helped…"
" Fight?" Puck suggests, prodding his nose. " Think we had enough with Mike going all Jet Li and Santana getting her Tyler Durden on."
Lauren looks around the group and crosses her arms over her chest. " I could have helped break it up."
" And got a couple licks in between rounds?" Quinn throws out, looking weary but almost amused as she studies the brunette.
Lauren simply shrugs. " So my fist might have slipped. I look after my people." At this, the blonde scoffs, but Lauren cuffs her around the shoulder, good-naturedly. " Even you, Lucy, so shut it."
They're all kind of standing around, silent and sad and just *waiting*, when they hear frantic steps coming down the hallway and they all turn to see a middle-aged Korean woman, with long dark curls trailing down her back and a face set to concern, followed by a tall man in a suit, and crisp shirt and tie, wearing a look of pure anger.
The woman looks over at the group and recognises the kids, her eyes settling especially on the young man in the tailored blazer and lace up boots whose eyes are suspiciously wet.
" Kurt," Tina's mom breathes, coming towards him, pulling him into a hug that is equal parts relieved and desperate. She pulls away, cupping his face in her hands, noting the shimmering tears. " Are you all okay? Did anyone else get hurt?"
Kurt's just about to answer when he's interrupted by the sound of loud, vehement cursing - in English and Spanish - and staccato boot clacks that signal Santana's arrival. " I will kill that mother-fucking psycho puck-head if it's the last thing I do. He fucks with my girl? I will MESS. HIM. UP."
Everyone flinches as the Cohen-Changs take in Santana - with her language and her cheek cut open and her fingers entangled with Brittany's – and waits for them to bristle, but Mrs Cohen-Chang just lets go of Kurt and moves to hug the dark haired girl. " Hi Santana sweetie," Mrs Cohen-Chang greets, and everyone is completely astounded by that, and even more when Santana hugs her back, fiercely.
" Hi Mrs Double-C," she greets, burying her head in the older woman's shoulder and ignoring the way Puck snorts at the nickname. Her fingers grasp hard at the material of the older woman's coat, and there's a long pause before Santana pulls back, her eyes notably red. " Is Tina okay?"
Mrs Cohen-Chang releases her, slightly, and nods her head, reaching up to run the pad of her thumb over Santana's wounded cheek. " She's okay. The doctors are just patching her up and we're going to go on and join her in just a second after we've spoken to Principal Figgins." She looks around the group, taking in the melancholy, the streaks of blood, the bruises. Kurt's shaking form and Brittany's tear-stained cheeks. Her eyes land on Puck and his purpling face. " Oh Noah, I hope you didn't get involved," she breathes. " You are much too smart of a boy to break your parole."
Eyes lowered, Puck shifts on his feet. " Just damage control, I swear."
Seemingly satisfied, Mrs Cohen-Chang looks over towards the office, and a frown takes over her face. " Why is Mike in the Principal's office?"
There's a long silence as all the Glee kids side-eye one another, and then Sam clears his throat. " Uh… he's in trouble."
" Figgins might expel him," Quinn adds from her place at Puck's side, sharing the gossip she's heard, but there's no happiness in her voice.
Mrs Cohen-Chang's eyes widen, and she looks so unerringly like her daughter that it's enough to make the entire huddled group flinch. " Does this have something to do with what happened to Tina?"
" Mike found out who did it and…he kind of flipped out," Mercedes admits, biting her lip gently, not wanting to see Tina's parents any more angry or hurt than they already are.
Tears well in Tina's mom's eyes, and she presses a hand to her mouth.
Behind her, Mr Cohen-Chang stands stock-still. He's tall, and so impeccable, and so the opposite of Mrs Cohen-Chang with her long curls and her rumpled red coat and mascara smudges around her eyes. He stares at the principal's office. When he speaks his voice is tinged with a mild accent, but his words are precise and crisp. " Do you mean to tell me that instead of taking Mike to the emergency room they have him in the Principal's office and are threatening to punish him for being violent towards this…other student?"
Everyone nods and there is a scattering of murmured agreement.
Holding his head up, Mr Cohen-Chang brushes off his jacket, and holds his hand out for his wife. " Gloria, I think we need to talk with Mr Figgins."
As soon as the Cohen-Chang's push the glass doors open, the band of Glee kids begins to disperse. Quinn and Rachel drag Puck to the nurse for an icepack, and he complains loudly but allows them to pull him by the hands.
Lauren, Artie and Finn wander off, primarily to head to Geometry but really to ask around for more information about what had led up to this.
Mercedes tells the others she's going to go collect Tina's things from the hallway, and make sure nothing's been lost, and Sam agrees to go and help her, their hands linked and their bodies close together.
That leaves Santana, Brittany, Kurt and Blaine standing in the hallway. There's a long pause before someone finally speaks. " I can't believe this is happening again." The words are Kurt's, and his body is shaking, and his eyelids when he blinks are notably red.
" Kurt…" Blaine's voice is soft and soothing but Kurt just shakes his head.
" I hate to make this about me - God, I *know* it's not about me, it's about Tina and I can't *believe* anyone would do this to her - but it feels like last year all over again."
Brittany's eyes widen and her lips downturn. " Is Tina going to have to go to Gay Hogwarts as well?" she whispers, and her lower lip trembles.
" No Brit," Santana assures, even as Blaine can't help but let out a small, sad chuckle at her words. " Tina isn't going anywhere. We're not going to let her, okay?" She holds Brittany's hand tightly as she turns to face Kurt and Blaine. " Look, Kurt, I know this sucks for you because Karofsky was a massive closeted asshole and he made your life hell. And I know you don't forget that kind of shit when it goes down. But we need to focus. Figure out how to make this better for Mike and our girl, 'kay?"
Taking a deep breath, Kurt nods, his face set and resolute. " What were you thinking? Talk to Coach Bieste? Coach Sylvester? Principal Figgins?"
Santana scoffs. " Sure, if you want to be a big girl. Me, I'm all about the vengeance. Scott Cooper is going down. Right now, I'm tossing up between arsenic in the mouthwash or just a good old fashioned wrench to the head."
" My dad has wrenches," Kurt smiles, complicit. " I'm sure he wouldn't mind loaning us one. He likes Tina."
Blaine laughs, low and soft and squeezes Kurt's hand gently. His voice is a whisper in his boyfriend's ear. " You're going along with one of Santana's plans. Really?"
Kurt's looks over at him, his blue eyes bright. " It can't happen again," he says simply.
Blaine squeezes his hand. " We won't let it."
Mike's sitting in a chair, his head bowed and wondering exactly how many ways his parents are going to eviscerate him and whether if he prays for it hard enough the floor will just open up and swallow him whole, when he hears Figgins gulp. Audibly.
Daring a quick glance over his shoulder - curiosity getting the better of him - Mike feels first relief, and then utter guilt when he sees Tina's parents standing at the door.
" Mr and Mrs Cohen-Chang," Figgins greets, standing up from his chair, his body language hesitant in a way that makes Mike frown. " Please come in."
They do, Mrs Cohen-Chang flashing Mike a small, concerned smile, and Mr Cohen-Chang standing with his hands clasped behind his back. Figgins gulps again and fiddles with the blinds behind him, adjusting them to allow more sunlight into the room. " Please sit down."
Mrs Cohen-Chang takes a seat on one of the low, squashy chairs, but her husband seems to ignore the invitation completely. " Is there a reason Mike is here?" His voice is hard, and impassive, and it makes Mike wince.
Coach Bieste is the one that answers, her hand on Mike's shoulder, firm and comforting. " We haven't been able to get a hold of his parents yet," she explains, her voice soft but direct.
Mike feels his stomach twist, because if he's expelled his parents are going to kill him. And even if he's not, he's pretty sure he'll never be allowed out of the house again. And certainly not within fifty feet of Tina. His heart beats harder at the thought of her, and he dares a peek at Mrs Cohen-Chang. She's practically curled in one of the chairs - uncharacteristically quiet, because she's usually all laughter and teasing and warmth - and her eyes are very bright.
" Obviously this is a very serious matter," Principal Figgins begins, and Mike's stomach twists and his hand throbs.
" Obviously," Mr Cohen-Chang spits back. " My daughter is in the hospital after being assaulted in *your* school."
" And the student in question will be appropriately punished."
" I think he already has been," Mrs Cohen-Chang's voice is barely a whisper, but it's vehement and gains her a look from her husband. Pushing herself up a little straighter, she adds, " I heard he's been taken to the hospital as well?"
It's a passing query from down-turned lips, and Coach Bieste answers. " He's pretty beat up." Her hand grips Mike's shoulder again, and he almost wants to tell her to let go because it hurts when she does that, but the comforting presence - and the feeling that someone is on his side - is too much to pass up. " But I think we have to keep in mind that Chang here was just protecting his girl," she hedges, trying to keep her voice gentle, reconciliatory. " He's a kid, he acted on instinct."
" Instinct does not crack skulls Shannon," Principal Figgins shoots back, his hands spread on the hard wood of his desk, his voice firm.
Mike curses in his head and clutches his fist tighter against his body. He can barely bend his fingers and he must gasp, because Tina's father shoots a look his way. " I think perhaps this is a conversation that should continue after Mike's been to the hospital," he suggests, firmly, and Mike's waiting to see if Principal Figgins will agree or whether he's going to have to continue sitting in bloody purgatory with his ribs threatening to cave in, when Figgins finally nods.
" I want you in my office tomorrow Mr Chang, 9am."
Mike nods, and the acceptance of his upcoming punishment seems to be enough, because Mrs Cohen-Chang is straight away pushing herself off the chair and coming to his side, cupping his face in her hand as she takes a better look at the rapidly blossoming bruise on his face. " You look a sight," she shakes her head at him, but her words are softened by a small, fond smile.
He leans into her touch, just briefly. " Is Tina really okay?"
Mrs Cohen-Chang wrinkles her nose, " A few stitches and a couple days in bed, she'll be right as rain."
Mike doesn't realise that Mr Cohen-Chang has moved until he is right by his side. His firm hand lands on Mike's shoulder, and this time Mike can't help but wince. " Come on Mike, time to go."
Standing up, gingerly, Mike's just about made it to the office door when a voice stops him. " Mr Chang?"
Principal Figgin's stands behind him, his eyes wide. He holds his hand out for Mike to take what's inside, and, confused, Mike does. He's even more confused when he finds a bulb of garlic sitting in his palm. He lifts his eyes to Figgin's face. " Uh…thanks?"
Mike's just about to put it in his pocket when a grip on his forearm stops him. Mr Cohen-Chang shakes his head, and Mike almost swears there's a twinkle behind his dark eyes. " He won't need that," he says, and his voice sounds even deeper than normal. His hand lands on Mike's shoulder, gripping tightly. " He's one of us."
There's a nod, and Figgin's gulps and pales, and Mike's amazed to see the Cohen-Changs sharing a small, knowing grin.
" Ready to go?"
The hospital is full of rhythmic beeping and cloying smells, and it instantly makes Mike nauseous. Mrs Cohen-Chang leads him down the hall with a hand on his elbow, and he's just about to ask if he can sit down (because his ribs are starting to *scream* in protest) when they stop at a door and he is met with the most beautiful sight.
Tina's sitting up on the bed, a large square of gauze taped over her forehead and her face washed clean of blood. She's still a little pale, and her gaze is still a little spaced, but the smile that lights up her face at the sight of him is real. " Mike!"
He's at her side in a second, arms wrapped around her, ignoring the way his body aches and throbs. " Are you okay?" he asks, pulling back, staring at her face, into her eyes, ignoring completely the fact that her parents are twenty feet away, filling in forms at the nurses' desk. His fingers ghost her cheek. " Does it hurt?"
" Mmmkay," she murmurs back, her hand mirroring his by pressing against his face. " What happened to you?"
He's embarrassed, almost, so he keeps his chin ducked down to his chest. " I kind of got in a fight."
Her eyes are wide. " Did Puck try and steal your french-fries again?"
He almost laughs, then, because he *wishes* all of this was a friendly dead-arming over a couple of fries. " No," he shakes his head, rubbing his hands up and down her arms. " No, T, do you remember what happened?"
Her head cocks to one side, and seems to be thinking about it, and he's about to prompt her further when a nurse bustles into the room. " Hello children," she greets, her red hair bobbing behind her in a sensible, short ponytail that wouldn't have looked out of place on a Cheerio. If a Cheerio was to gain fifty pounds and start wearing teddy-bear themed outfits. " I hear someone else in here has been in the wars?"
Mike allows her to fuss over him, making him sit still atop the scratchy white sheets. She carefully wraps his hand, checks his shoulder - " Not dislocated, but it's going to feel like hell for a couple days" - and prods his face enough to know that it's just bruised, not broken. She stands with her hands on her hips. " You know, we get enough people in here that get this way by accident, we don't need people to go *looking* for trouble." Mike feels himself blushing, shame faced, but then her words are softened by a gentle pat to the shoulder. " Let me see if I can find you kids some jello. You like strawberry?"
They both nod, and Tina grins somewhat absently, and Mike laces their fingers together. The nurse smiles at them knowingly before leaving the room.
Sighing, Mike leans his forehead against Tina's, careful of her wound and his growing black eye.
" I don't care if I get expelled," he says, only half meaning it, but fully meaning what he says next. " I'd do it again if someone hurt you."
By the time they both get released from the hospital it's late, and dark, and Mike's parents are waiting for him at home. Tina's parents have piles of papers about concussion and strict instructions to wake Tina every couple of hours, and come back immediately if she feels nauseous or blacks out. Mike's handed painkillers and told to rest.
They drop Mrs Cohen-Chang and Tina home first, and Mike helps Tina with the front step and up to her bedroom. By the time they get to the top, he's practically carrying her and she's giggling against his neck. " Stay?" she whispers against his skin as he settles her onto her mattress, but he pulls back, instead tugging off her shoes and tossing them aside.
" I can't," he tells her, rubbing her bare calf with his warm, large palm. " I have to go face my parents."
She seems to come to herself then, and pushes herself up on her elbows. " Will you be okay?"
He nods his head, standing up from the bed, leaning over for a moment to place a long, slow kiss against her lips. " I'll be fine. You just get some sleep and I'll call you in the morning, okay?" Cupping her face, he stares into her eyes. " Love you T."
" I love you, Mike."
The drive back to his house is silent and awkward and Mike's running through all the possible ways he might be disowned. Then he switches to running through all the curse words he knows and it makes him feel slightly better, but his stomach won't stop churning and he keeps his lips pressed tightly together because he's afraid otherwise he might puke all over the interior Mr Cohen-Chang's smart Audi.
He's barely through his Spanish list when the car pulls up the curb, and Mike realises they're outside his house. Absently, he remembers that his piece-of-shit Honda is still at school and he's going to have to walk tomorrow. Taking a deep breath, Mike's just reached for the door handle when a touch on his elbow stops him.
Turning, slowly, Mike finds Mr Cohen-Chang staring at him, his face set and serious. Mike quickens his recitation of inner-curses, and steels himself for the shouting to begin. But instead, Mr Cohen-Chang just leans back in his seat and sighs, deeply. " Mike…you know how important Tina is to me, yes?"
" Yes Sir," Mike nods rapidly.
" She's my only child, my little girl. And today...today I realised how important she is to you too." There's a long pause while Mike tries to let the words sink in, but then Tina's dad is speaking again and he just tries to concentrate. " I'm a peaceful man. I don't - I don't condone violence. But…there's a way to be a man, Mike. And… I just want you to know, when you're older, when you're ready to ask... you have my blessing."
It's not what Mike expected, it's so far from what he expected to hear right at that moment that he's pretty sure his mouth is hanging open. " Your…your blessing?" he echoes dumbly.
At this, Mr Cohen-Chang finally breaks into a smile, and it's the first time Mike's realised how much his daughter looks like him. " You do want to marry my daughter, don't you?"
" No!" Mike's reaction is automatic, and he curses out loud this time, and back pedals, and Mr Cohen-Chang is just grinning like he's enjoying Mike's complete and utter discomfort. Mike takes a breath. " I mean, yes, of course I want to marry her, but we're only seventeen, and I thought maybe…maybe you'd kill me if I asked her." His words tumble out of his lips, and he's unable to hold them back. " I mean…I have this ring but I was saving it 'til like, after college and oh, God," he realises. " You meant in the future didn't you?"
Mr Cohen-Chang just nods, amused.
Mike can't help but raise a hand to his face, feeling foolish, and weary, but somehow hopeful. " Yes," he says simply, gathering himself. " When we're both older…and if she'll have me…I want to marry her."
" And I don't have to ask if you'll protect her?" Tina's father asks, suddenly serious.
Mike shakes his head. " No Sir. I mean…I know Tina can look after herself but... I'd fight for her with my last breath."
There's a long stretch where neither man says anything, and they just sort of stare at each other, and Mike tries really hard not to move, not to spoil the moment. He realises he must have succeeded when Mr Cohen-Chang nods his head. " Right, get inside. This might take some explaining to your parents."
Surprise colours Mike's tone. " You're coming with me?"
There's that smile again, and Mr Cohen-Chang laughs as he opens his door. " Do you really want to try and explain that eye to your parents on your own?"
The next morning is painful, literally and figuratively. Mike hauls himself out of bed with a curse - his shoulder and ribs seem to have stiffened up overnight - and dresses slowly and carefully. Tying his sneakers is enough to make him break into a sweat.
His mother, taking pity on him, lets him collapse into one of the kitchen chairs while she makes him his morning oatmeal, and then drives him to school, dropping him off with a perfunctory kiss to the cheek and the simple words: " No more trouble Michael."
He spends the first fifteen minutes of the day in Figgins' office, being berated for his behaviour, but Figgins stays on his side of the desk and watches Mike warily, all the while fiddling with a beaded rosary. Mike just nods his head at the right moments and somehow manages to get off with a week of detentions instead of expulsion. He can barely breathe with relief and thanks God for his unblemished record up to this point.
Mike's barely left the office when it occurs to him that people are giving him a wide berth. Some of the less popular kids - including Jacob Ben-Israel - actually press themselves up against the lockers when they see him coming, and cower. It makes Mike feel terrible, and he hunches his shoulders, wanting to make himself small, wanting to make himself invisible.
He realises, however, that his plan hasn't worked when he hears his name being yelped with excitement. The next thing he knows, there's a flurry of blonde hair and red-and-white uniform, and he's tangled in a hug, long bare legs wrapped around his waist and arms around his neck. Cherry lips press against his cheek and Mike tries not to curse out loud as his shoulder and ribs scream.
Luckily, Santana is running up behind her - cheek beginning to scab and bruise - and peels Brittany off gently. " Brit, no." Brittany looks confused for a moment as she steps back, but Santana just rubs her arm. " I think Mike's still a little sore from yesterday."
Mike watches as Brittany nods, her ponytail swishing around her shoulders. She hugs him again, desperately but gently. " I was scared," she admits, and he feels terrible because he can see the tears burbling at the corners of her eyes. " I didn't even know your hands could DO hitting… it didn't even look like you." She wipes at her eyes with the back of her wrist, the other hand fingering the collar of his plaid shirt. " You *can't* be bad Mike, you *can't*. Because if you go off to Juvie like Puck then who's going to teach me how to find the space inside the circle? I can't even remember the song…"
She hiccups a sob, and Mike freezes. Santana just watches her with sad eyes, sympathy written all over her face. She reaches out a hand and brushes Brittany's elbow. " Brittany - " she whispers, but there's something about the breaking of the silence that spurs Mike into action.
Reaching out, he grabs Brittany, pulling her towards him. " Come here." Carefully, he wraps his arms around her again, and sings the song into her ear. " Fiddle de dum, fiddle de dee, the ring round the moon is pi times d. If the hole you want repaired, the formula is pi r squared." He pulls back from her just enough to see the watery smile break over her face, and he wipes away her tears with the pad of his thumb. " I'm not going anywhere Brit, I promise. I mean, I've got detention all this week but… please don't think I'm bad now."
There's pleading in his tone and Santana tangles her fingers with Brittany's, tugging gently. " Someone messed with his girl B. If it was you, I would have bounced that guy's head off the floor too."
Mike and Santana share an understanding smile as Brittany nods her head, pushing a loose tendril of hair back from her face.
" To be fair, I think you got a couple good licks in as it was," Mike murmurs softly, allowing the two girls to loop their arms through his, one on either side.
Santana pats his bicep. " No one messes with us, okay? I'm the only one allowed to make your life hell."
As they escort him through the hall, he suddenly doesn't feel so bad that the other students won't meet his eye. He has everything he needs.
By the end of the day and Glee rehearsal, Mike's fading. He has to stop on his way, pulling out a packet of pills, swallowing two of them and chasing them down with water from his bag before his body gets the energy to move again.
When he enters the choir room, everything falls silent, and he knows he's just been the topic of conversation. Sam looks up him with guilt fleeting across his face, watching as his friend gingerly shuffles towards one of the last empty chairs, in the corner of the room.
It's strange, feeling their eyes on him, feeling himself as almost an island in the room, and it takes him a few minutes to figure out why. Other than a couple days here and there, like when Tina got strep and had to stay in bed for three days or the week he had to go back to San Francisco for his grandfather's funeral, he's not used to he and Tina not being in Glee together. And with everyone sneaking glances his way (and trying to pretend they aren't) he feels her absence acutely. Unable to keep a scowl from his face, he stares at the floor, keeping his gaze from his teammates until the door opens and Mr Schuester finally steps in.
From the way his eyes go automatically to Mike, they all know he must have heard about the previous day's happenings, despite his absence. Surprise registers on his face – at the cuts and bruises, the clear signs of how visceral and violent the fight had been – but he quickly swallows the look, instead clearing his voice, clapping his hands together, and dragging everyone's attention to the front of the room.
For once – for probably the first time in Glee – Mike is immeasurably grateful that they don't practice choreography. They look over sheet music and Mercedes and Rachel practice runs at the piano while Blaine accompanies them, laughing and adding his own voice. In the corner, Santana and Quinn help Brittany read the notes and the lyrics, and Artie, Sam and Puck sit in a triangle, picking on their guitars. At the front of the room, Mr Schue and Finn run through a harmony line for one of their contenders for Sectionals.
Mike's wondering if anyone would notice him slipping out when he's suddenly aware of a presence next to him; looking up from his music, he finds Kurt, who is fiddling with cuff of his sweater, looking unusually unsure of himself.
" Can I sit down?"
It's an unusual question, because this is the choir room, and they're always moving about and – in Mike and Blaine's case, especially – jumping on and off the furniture. There's never been any sense of propriety or permission. But Mike just nods his head, " Sure."
Kurt takes the seat, crossing his legs, and for a long moment doesn't say anything. He just looks across the room at Rachel and Mercedes, who are laughing hard, holding each other by the arms as Blaine croons a melody that Mike vaguely recognizes. Mike's just beginning to relax – because maybe all Kurt wanted was a good vantage point to study his boyfriend – when the smaller boy clears his throat.
" I want to thank you."
It's not what Mike is expecting, and he sits up straighter, despite his body's protests. " Thank me?"
Large blue eyes turn his way, and Mike is surprised to see Kurt looking serious, and sad in a way he hasn't for months. " You stood up for Tina. And I know you did it because… because you love her. But… I know how hard it is. To stand up to someone like that."
Uneasy, Mike just shrugs. " I'm not proud of myself. For hurting him. Scott."
A small smile breaks over Kurt's face, and he pats Mike's knee. " That's what makes the fact that you did it okay."
The sense of understanding, of vindication almost, prompts Mike to clear his voice. He glances briefly at Kurt before staring firmly down at his hands. His bandaged knuckles seem glaring and ungainly.
" You know...there should have been someone there...for you. Then. Someone who would willingly get suspended because those assholes hurt you."
He realizes just how vehement his words sound because when he dares a glance up, he sees Kurt's face twist in something a little like embarrassment and a little like gratitude. " They never gave me a concussion Mike," he hedges, shrugging his shoulders, and Mike can feel him pulling back, folding himself away like he did during those months of Karofsky's terror.
It prompts Mike to clench his fists, his words firm. " That's because you were lucky. And that doesn't mean… What they did was just as bad. Worse." He can hear his voice harden, and he remembers Kurt's terrified, pale face and feels the guilt well up inside of himself. " Someone should have stood up for you then. And…I'm sorry I didn't."
When he finishes speaking he finally looks up, and Kurt is staring at him, his mouth hanging slightly open, working silently, as though lost for words. Finally, Kurt just nods his head, and his fingers ghost Mike's injured shoulder. " Thank you," he whispers. He shakes his head, just slightly, and shoots Mike an honest smile. " You know Tina is a lucky girl."
Mike feels a smile break over his lips for the first time that day. " I know."
They fall into comfortable silence, watching the others around them, until Blaine seems to get over-excited in his playing and jumps up first so he's standing on the piano stool, and then climbs onto the lid of the piano. Rachel and Mercedes scream with laughter, and they watch as Mr Schue notices and rolls his eyes with a sigh. Blaine doesn't seem to notice Schue's unhappiness – instead he stretches his hand out to Quinn as she passes by, pulling her up onto the piano next to him – and she blushes but lets him spin her around and the other two girls grin and whoop.
" Good Lord," Kurt mutters, under his breath, covering his eyes with his hand, looking equal parts amused and embarrassed at his boyfriend's antics. " I should - " Kurt waves his hand in the general direction of the piano. " Before this gets out of hand and he starts swinging from the lights."
Mike laughs, and nods, and Kurt has just pushed himself up from the chair when he stops, abruptly, as though just remembering something. He looks awkward for a moment.
Kurt doesn't answer, but just holds his hand out, gingerly, his fingers curled towards his palm. He looks at Mike expectantly.
Mike's confused, and he sees Kurt falter for a second, before glancing over his shoulder. " Puck…mentioned this was customary when having a 'bro' moment. Please don't leave me hanging." Mike follows Kurt's gaze to where Puck is sitting, his guitar on his lap. Puck mimes bringing his fists together and Mike finally understands.
Lifting his own hand, he bumps his fist against Kurt's, who looks pleased, and embarrassed, and a little proud. With a small smile, he shakes his head, " Boys," before heading towards the piano.
Across the room, Puck gives his own nod of acknowledgement, and when the bell rings and Mr Schue finally calls time on rehearsal, he's the first guy holding out his own fist for a bumping. As though planned (and knowing the Glee club, Mike's almost sure it is), each guy approaches him, arms outstretched. The girls look on with amused eye-rolls, but all find a moment to press their hands in his or their lips against his cheek.
When he leaves the room, Mike feels like he's been re-built from the scraps of the man who entered.
Mike has detention after school, but he feels as though someone has been pulling strings for him (or listening to his prayers), because he gets to serve it with Coach Bieste and she leads him into her office without preamble or berating.
She stares, her arms folded across her broad chest. " You know fighting isn't the smart thing to do, right Chang?"
" Yes Coach," he replies, softly, looking down at his hands, feeling guilty, feeling pain lance through his fingers as he acknowledges the bandages.
Coach Bieste perches on her desk. " And you won't do it again, will you?"
He shakes his head, assuredly. " No Coach."
She stares at him for a long beat, and then pushes herself up off her desk and nods her head. " Right, I have plays to plan. If I leave you here I can trust you not to make trouble can't I?"
He nods his head, eyes wide. " I…I have homework," he offers quietly, indicating his backpack. He had imagined a punishment far worse. Potentially scrubbing the shower floors with a toothbrush. Or hand-washing jockstraps.
" Get on it then," is all she says before exiting the office, and Mike sighs with relief as he drops into her chair. He pulls out his World History notebook and begins reading the scrawl there, his eyes focused on the text.
He's so intent on his work – feeling like if he's going to serve a punishment he might as well make the time worth his while, and Charlemagne is pretty demanding – that he doesn't hear Coach Bieste returning. " Chang," she prompts, looking almost amused at the sight of him up to his elbows in screwed up notes and abandoned pens. " Time's up, you're a free man."
Mike scrabbles, picking up his things, his body protesting as he stands up from the chair, hoisting his backpack to his shoulder.
Watching him gather his things together, Coach Bieste folds her arms across her chest. " Tell your girl I hope she feels better. She's a pretty spunky kid."
Mike coughs a laugh, smothering it quickly, but when he catches Bieste's eye, she's smiling. " I will," he promises. " Thanks Coach," he adds softly, and he means for more than just her simple words. He's pretty sure she knows that too, because she regards him with a small smile and a hand lands on his shoulder – just fleetingly – as he reaches the door.
He knows he should go home – his body is heavy and aching and in fair amounts of agony – but as he gets into his car, he finds himself driving the familiar route to Tina's instead. She's been texting him throughout the day, but words on a screen are not the same as seeing her face, and so he's parked outside of her house in a matter of minutes.
Mrs Cohen-Chang doesn't even look surprised to see him on the other side of the door when she opens it. She greets him with her familiar smile, tinged with amusement, and just cocks her head towards the stairs. " She's in her room," she states without preamble. She ducks into the kitchen briefly, and returns, holding out a purple plate with a couple slices of toast sitting on top, freshly buttered. " Could you get her to eat this please? She's been refusing all day and the last thing we need is for her to pass out from hunger."
Mike nods his head, taking the food, and bounding up the stairs two at a time. He knocks, gently, before pushing the door open. " Tee?"
Huddled on her bed, blankets pushed down her legs and a book open in her lap, she looks fleetingly guilty for a second, but when she realizes it's him she breaks into a smile. " Mike," she greets, tossing the covers aside, easing herself out of bed with a wince and stumbling towards him. He barely has time to set the plate down on her desk before her arms go around his neck, holding him tight, and even though it hurts, he folds her into his arms, breathing in the scent of her hair.
" I missed you," he whispers against her skin, running a thumb along her jaw-line, watching as her eyes crinkle in amusement.
" In one day?"
" Yes. You're not allowed to be off any more, okay?"
He guides her towards the bed, Tina collapsing against the mattress with a groan. " Believe me, I would rather have been at school. My Mom's kept me a prisoner in my bed all day." She presses a long kiss to his lips, careful of both of their poor, bruised faces. " And if I'm going to be in bed all day, I'd rather not be on my own," she grins. " Feel like joining me?"
He nods his head, but reaches out, grabbing the plate from the desk. " I will if you eat this. You Mom said you haven't eaten all day?"
Rolling her eyes, Tina flops back against the pile of fluffed pillows. Her tank top creeps up her body, showing a sliver of skin at her stomach. " I'm not hungry and suddenly she's making a big deal?"
He holds a piece up, near her lips. " It'll make her feel better," he prompts, waving it around. " And it'll make me feel better. Come on…open up for the airplane…" He makes engine noises, and she laughs, reaching out for the toast.
" Fine," she relents, taking the plate from him. " If I eat it, will you stay?"
Her eyes are wide, and hopeful, and even if Mike had planned on leaving he knows he wouldn't be able to say no to that face. Kicking off his shoes, he scoots up the bed, laying next to her and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. " Course I will," he promises, pulling her so their bodies are flush together. He takes a small bite of the toast she holds out for him. " I'm not going anywhere Tina."
She snuggles against him, munching her food, and he tells her a little about the day without her, about the classes that she missed, and all the messages her friends had sent for her. He hums her the song they were learning in Glee and they're talking softly, eyelids growing heavy and heads pillowed on crooked arms when there's a soft knock.
Groaning, Tina pushes herself up. " I ate my toast Mom," she calls out. " And if we were having sex I would have shut the door."
Mrs Cohen-Chang's face peeks around the slightly open door and she smiles at the sight of the two of them rumpled and sleepy. " Glad to hear it sweetie, but I was actually coming to tell you that you have visitors. Should I send them in?"
Tina's curious, but she nods, and then a broad, bright smile breaks across her face as one brunette head and one blonde bursts through the door.
" Santana! Brittany!" Tina greets them with an excited smile, as though she hasn't seen them for months instead of just a day.
" Hey Loser," Santana greets, hugging her gently but firmly. " You look like shit." In her hand she holds a small cup with a bright green straw. " Ice coffee," she explains, thrusting it towards Tina and shrugging her shoulders. " It's Thursday. And I didn't feel like skipping our coffee date just because your boyfriend had to do detention instead of math."
Sipping the drink once – and ignoring how the ice gives her an instant and fairly painful brain-freeze - Tina grins brightly. " Thank you."
Brittany jumps on the balls of her feet, hugging Tina fast and fierce, pressing a kiss against her cheek. " You need purple streaks in your hair," she says, pulling back and fingering one of Tina's loose curls. " To match your eye." She then seems to remember something, and reaches into her purse, pulling out a carefully folded sheet of blue construction paper. " I made you a card!" she explains, almost needlessly, thrusting it towards Tina. " To make you feel better."
The front is covered with tissue paper flowers and artfully painted rainbows, and opening it, Tina recognises Brittany's distinctive, careful penmanship: 'I hope you feel better and your brain didn't get squashed'.
" We signed it with kisses," Brittany smiles, looking between herself and Santana and pointing at the bottom of the page, where one pink and one scarlet set of lips are pressed against the paper in perfect SWAKs. " The cherry one is mine."
Mike's reading over her shoulder, and Tina and he share a small smile. " I love it," Tina says honestly and pulls Mike with her as she scoots up the bed, making room for the two other girls to pile on next to them.
The covers rumple and float under their limbs as they settle. " Are you okay, really?" Brittany asks, cocking her head so her ponytail flips over her shoulder. " We were worried about you."
Reaching out, Tina squeezes Brittany's hand. " I'm really okay Brit. Kind of a headache, but I'm fine. I'm just glad *somebody* didn't get in more trouble." She shoots a glare to Mike, but he just holds his hands up in submission before wrapping his arm around her.
" I'd do it again," he murmurs against her shoulder, kissing the skin left bare by the strap of her tank top.
" You do, and that black eye will pale in comparison to the one I'll give you."
He barks a laugh, throwing his head back. " Who says chivalry is dead?"
" Mike. You almost killed someone. It's the single most ridiculously stupid thing you've *ever*done. Ever. And that includes the month you tried to grow a beard. You think I would let anyone else get away with pulling that shit?"
" Tina," his voice is small, and somewhere between apologetic and soothing. He rakes a hand through his hair.
She just frowns at him, but doesn't move away as he cups her cheek, feathering a kiss against her bandaged wound. " Don't…" she grumbles. " I should be mad at you. And I'm mad at myself because I can't help but find it horrifically romantic. And I'm not the kind of girl who needs saving."
There's a small smile on his face as he leans in and presses his lips against hers. " I know you don't," he promises, pushing her hair behind her ears. " You're amazingly kick-ass. Even when you don't really make any sense," he teases.
Sticking her tongue out, she rolls her eyes. " I blame the concussion."
From the other end of the bed, a small voice pipes up. " Sometimes people say I don't make sense. Does that mean I have concussion?"
" Brit, shhh. They're having a moment." Santana pats Brittany's denim-clad knee, her other hand idly flicking through a magazine. " We're supposed to be quiet."
Brittany watches as Tina and Mike whisper to each other, smiling and sharing light, short kisses. " Like we have our moments?" she asks curiously, leaning into Santana's warm body, watching as the dark haired girl nods her head.
" Sort of. Just with more clothes on."
" Wait 'til you leave." Tina's voice is suddenly loud, and amused, and as she and Brittany make eye contact she can help but wink. Mike shakes his head next to her, embarrassed, but squeezes her shoulders.
Santana laughs loudly, stretching her legs out in front of her with an exaggerated toe flex. " Aren't you supposed to be resting or something? Not getting your freak on?"
Shrugging, Tina leans against Mike's strong chest. " Eh, so I'll let him be on top for a change." She pats his leg affectionately. " Think you're up for that?"
Even though Santana and Brittany are laughing, hard, Mike just raises his eyebrows at her. " You know I'm meant to be resting too? And I'm going to have to do *all* the hard work?" he teases.
Huffing, exaggeratedly, Tina tosses her hair behind her shoulders. " Fine," she agrees. She pouts her lips, almost pathetically, and opens her eyes wide. " Brit? You think you could reach under the bed for me and get the big black book with the red writing?"
Nodding, Brittany barely waits a second before she leans across Mike's lap, reaching under the bed. He has to grip the waistband of her jeans pants to keep her balanced.
" Britbrit," San laughs, her hand sneaking up the wiggling denim-clad calf. " Don't fall off."
" Ah ha!" Brittany's body jerks, and then Mike is pulling her up, and Santana seems to just get her hands out in time for them all to collapse backwards in a big tangle. " Found it," Brittany grins, grasping a large black book in her arms. She holds it out to Tina, who takes it with a grin and flips the pages, and Santana's eyes light up at the illustrations.
" Karma Sutra?" she asks, surprised.
Tina just shrugs her shoulders. " Should be something in here that Mike and I can enjoy without pulling anything." Looking up, her eyes meets Santana's curious, enthusiastic gaze. " Want a look?" she asks, holding the book out, which Santana takes eagerly.
For a while they sit, the book between the four of them, turning the pages and throwing comments out.
" Seriously, Tina, you've been holding out on me. I'm reconsidering our friendship." Santana's eyes are wide and round, and as she flicks through the pages she looks suitably impressed. Turning the book upside-down, and then righting it, she tries to gain a purchase on the illustrated figures' centre of gravity.
Rolling her eyes, Tina pokes Santana in the side, causing her to laugh and wriggle away, but instead of a rebuttal, Tina turns to her boyfriend. " Think you could hold me up like that Mike?"
" Sure, when my shoulder's better… hey, have we tried this?"
Santana smirks. " Ooh, feeling ambitious Chang? Or just try to impress me?"
She says it with a flirty wink, reaching over to grab Tina's iced coffee from the nightstand, her red lips sucking on the straw in an exaggerated manner, and it makes Mike blush, just lightly. " San."
" Trust me, Santana, he could impress you. I promise." Tina pats Mike's shoulder reassuringly.
" Says the girl who fucks him on a daily basis."
" Yeah, and for good reason. Hey! What about that?"
" Tee, last time we tried that you couldn't wear heels for a week. Remember?"
Brittany's voice is bright and honest. Her finger trails over one of the naked women sketched on the page. " Santana likes it when I wear heels. Sometimes they're all I wear."
There's a pause as they all look up from the book. Brittany's legs are flung over Santana's lap, Mike's eyebrows rise, and Tina can't help but chuckle behind her hand.
Santana just tosses her dark hair behind her shoulder. " You blame me?" she shoots back, reaching over just enough to smack Mike on the thigh. " Besides, like you two don't get up to kinky shit. Or have you forgotten I'm your girlfriend's go-to gossip partner?"
Mike has enough sense to duck his head at that, shooting Tina a glare, but she just breaks into another peel of giggles. " What? I'm a girl. We like to talk. And besides, it's not like you're not sharing all of this with Sam anyways."
" Not the details!" he shoots back, almost scandalized. His voice soars higher than normal and he clears his throat. " I don't tell him like…what, or how. Just usually where…and that's for his own good. He was really embarrassed when he walked in on us in the choir room."
Remembering, Tina nods her head. " He couldn't look me in the eye for a week."
" Yeah… I think the fact he had to sit next to you for an hour with the fresh mental image of your lips around his bro's co - "
Santana throws her hands up, ignoring Tina's part-scandalized, part-exasperated expression or the way Mike buries his head in the pillows. Brittany pats his hip, fondly, and he shifts around just enough that his face is pillowed in the soft material covering Tina's thighs. " She's mean," he mumbles into her hip. " Do we have to be friends with her anymore?"
Tina strokes her fingers through his hair, all the way down the back of his neck, and it leaves him boneless and pliable, like a satisfied cat. He practically purrs as he curls his long legs up, and Tina can't help but look down at him fondly. " She gives us much needed badass points," she grins, and Santana shoots her a thumbs up before returning her hands to their previous position, tracing abstract patterns on Brittany's ankle as they peruse the book's illustrations.
Tina can see Mike's fading – she can feel herself fading as well, the slow, inexorable tug of sleep creeping upon her – and so is almost relieved when she hears her Mom's voice once again at the door.
" Kids?" Mrs Cohen-Chang peeks her head around, curls pulled up and secured in a bundle on the top of her head, her cheek blackened with a streak of charcoal. " I hate to be a buzz-kill but I think maybe Tina needs her sleep." It's bad timing, but as she says it, Mike can't help but be taken over with a huge yawn; he can hear is jaw crack in the quiet. When he covers his mouth, embarrassed, Mrs Cohen-Chang is looking at him with quiet amusement. " Obviously Mike does too. Are you staying here tonight sweetie or heading home? I can call your Mom."
Santana glances down at the book in her hands before shooting Mike a wicked grin. " Oh, I think he's probably staying Mrs Double-C," she teases, leaping up from the bed and pulling Brittany with her. Slipping her feet back into her shoes, she lets the older woman wrap an arm around her shoulders. " There's been some discussion of them trying 'page twenty-seven'."
Mrs Cohen-Chang presses a kiss to Santana's proffered cheek, and then to Brittany's, and stands between the two girls as she studies her daughter. " Page twenty-seven huh? Well, I hope Tina's been saving. Last time they tried something that energetic she had to pay $300 for a new dining table."
Santana breaks into laughter, Tina eye-rolls, and Mike just curls further up into a ball. Brittany tugs Santana's hand. " Can we get a book like that San? The pictures make it all much easier…"
A blush colours Santana's face, just briefly, but then she lifts her chin up and kisses Brittany square on the mouth. " We'll look online," she promises. Then, turning back towards her two friends on the bed, she raises her hand in salutation. " Later Losers," she grins, blowing Tina a kiss. " Don't do anything that'll land you back in the ER."
Brittany blows kisses too, and the two of them exit the room with Tina's Mom. Mike and Tina can hear their giggles all the way down the stairs.
" I hate them," Mike murmurs, allowing Tina to pull off his t-shirt, dragging the material up and over his arms. He winces as it pulls his shoulder, but she kisses him softly.
" You love them," she corrects, concentrating hard – and squinting – as she undoes the button fly on his jeans. He wonders if her head is hurting more than she'll admit. " Believe me, I could tell you some things about their sex life…"
Mike actually whimpers. " Tina, Brittany is like my sister."
Amused, she helps him tug his jeans down his legs, leaving him in simple navy boxers. She lifts the blankets up, allowing him to slide his legs in next to hers. Lying down on the pillows, their foreheads almost touch and their breath mingles in the space between. " That's why I don't tell you," she murmurs, trailing a hand up his chest, to his bruised shoulder, and then up to feather along his cheekbone. The bruising there is dark and mottled. " I should have talked to you."
" About what?" Mike roots into the pillows, his arm going around her waist, their legs intertwining.
Tina licks her lips, slowly. " About Scott."
" Tina - "
" No, I should have told you that he was bothering me," she continues, cutting him off, because she knows if she doesn't say it now, she never will. " I thought I could handle it by myself…"
Mike takes a pause, and a deep breath before answering. " You shouldn't have to."
" I know." Tina can feel tears pooling at the edges of her eyes, and curses softly as she reaches up to brush them away. " Why do I always cry?"
" Because you care," he murmurs, kissing the salty water from her eyelashes. " Because he hurt you, and made you feel bad, and made you feel like you were all alone." Following the path of the tears, he kisses her cheek, and the corner of her mouth, and then her lips. " You're not though, for the record." He kisses her again. " You've got me, and your parents, and – Lord help us – Santana all ready to go to bat for you. And you've got San, so you've got Brit, and hell, Puck would have broken his parole for you. And Sam swore in front of Coach Bieste – she made him run wind sprints for that you know?"
Tina can't help but giggle. " Really?"
" Yep. But she also put him in as QB on Friday's game, so I don't think she's too pissed. And Kurt told me that Mercedes sacrificed an Alexander McQueen scarf for you. I take it that's a big deal?"
Tina nods, her fingers trailing over his torso. " I should pay her back. They're like $200." Her voice is very small.
" I don't think she minded," he assures her, his hands running up and down the skin of her back, under her tank. He can feel her muscles are tight and her body tense, so he leans down and kisses her shoulder. " We'll save up. Pay her back together."
She nods then, snuggling up to him, her forehead finding the crook of his neck. " We should buy something pretty for Sam too. It's a little blurry…but I'm pretty sure he deserves it."
They share a kiss, long but light, and even as he's pulling away from her lips Mike can hear Tina's breathing evening out. Her eyelashes flutter against her cheek. " Love you Mike."
" Love you too Tina. Sweet dreams."
The next day, they walk into school with their hands clasped together, matching black eyes worn on heads held high.
When he sees them, Puck can't help but grin.
" You two are, officially, the most badass couple in McKinley."
Lauren quirks her lopsided grin at them. " I have to agree, and since Puckerman and I were obviously the most badass couple here when we dated, I would consider this a unanimous vote."
Puck tips an imaginary cap to them. " We pass the torch," he grins. " Use it well my badass friends."
Sharing grins, and squeezing each other's hands (and knowing that why they didn't have the energy the night before, page twenty-seven had been a delightful way to start the morning), they absolutely feel it.