Title: Duets Part Deux – Chapter 3.
Started: 6/6/11 3:30 p.m.
Disclaimer: I don't own Glee or its respective characters.
A/N: Yay! In chronological order this time!
Santana shoved her hands into the back pockets of her skirt as she combed the halls. Glee practice was about to start and nobody had seen hide nor hair of Artie since before last period. And since she was his duet partner Mr. Schue told her that it was her job to go find him. Normally she would have refused, especially since she was trying to get Brittany's attention for two freaking seconds, but she figured she owed the little twerp a favor since he was good to his word and told everyone that they made the beast with two backs in the library.
And so far it seemed to have worked. Not one whisper had been uttered today about her being a lesbian. Instead the boys were shamelessly ogling her and the girls were gushing with envy over her outfit. And damn well they should: tight denim skirt with brown boots and a lacy yellow top under a faux-fur shrug. She was a knock-out.
But it still irked her a little that Artie had been so nice to her. His first girlfriend broke up with him for another boy, and his second girlfriend broke up with him because…well, because of Santana. And as depressed as he had been since school started back up it clearly affected him. But for whatever reason he wasn't angry at anyone, or bitter. He was just sad. A sad and pathetic loser. Well, more than usual.
She was so lost in her own musings she almost missed the faint sound of someone tuning an electric guitar. She stopped for a second so she could pinpoint where it was coming from, but the music had stopped abruptly, leaving the hallways barren and silent again. The Latina turned around, and her eyes caught the door to the auditorium. The guitar wasn't playing anymore, but she decided to check anyway, making purposeful strides to the door.
She quietly opened it and looked towards the stage. There was a faint silhouette framed in the darkness and she squinted, trying to make out what it was until a spotlight suddenly came on, illuminating the figure of Artie Abrams. He was staring with intense focus at his guitar, plucking the strings anew as he sat in his wheelchair, all alone in the middle of the stage, looking more sad and pathetic than ever.
He stopped playing suddenly, and looked into the light. She was about to yell at him to get his ass into glee, when he began to sing.
"Have you heard about the lonesome loser, beaten by the queen of hearts every time. Have you heard about the lonesome loser, he's a loser but he still keeps on tryin.'"
He looked down at his guitar and began expertly playing the opening notes while Santana stood awestruck in the back of the auditorium.
"Unlucky in love, least that's what they say. He lost his head and he gambled his heart away. He still keeps searching, though there's nothing left. Staked his heart and lost, now he has to pay the cost.
Have you heard about the lonesome loser, beaten by the queen of hearts every time. Have you heard about the lonesome loser, he's a loser but he still keeps on tryin.'
'It's okay', he smiles and says. Though this loneliness is driving him crazy, he don't show what goes on in his head. But if you watch very close you'll see it all."
Santana had moved to the front row by now, keeping as quiet as possible so she didn't disturb the performance. As Artie started playing the guitar portion of the interlude she thought to herself that he was definitely showing what was going on inside his head. His face was a portrait of anguish as he strummed the contrastingly cheerful notes, and the upbeat lyrics sounded unusually woeful and lost. She felt the twinge of guilt from yesterday metastasize from her stomach into her chest, giving her an unfamiliar ache that most people knew as pity.
"Sit down, take a look at yourself. Don't you want to be somebody? Someday somebody's gonna see inside. You have to face up, you can't run and hide!
Have you heard about the lonesome loser, beaten by the queen of hearts every time. Have you heard about the lonesome loser, he's a loser but he still keeps on tryin.'"
The song slowly faded out, and Artie sighed, setting the guitar upright in his lap so he could wipe his eyes. The Latina fought back her own tears, clearing her throat around a lump and unknowingly alerting Artie to her presence.
"Oh, hey Santana. What's up?"
She put her hands on her hips and quickly turned away so he couldn't see how emotional she had gotten. "You're late for glee practice," she said defensively, trying to sound irritated that he had wasted her time, and not so miserably heartbroken by his song that she was moved to tears. "Quinn and Britt are performing today. They're doing Can't Hurry Love and they want to start, so just get a move on, would you?"
Santana bit her lip at the acid in her voice, knowing that came off far angrier than it needed to be, even by her standards. Artie didn't reply though. The only sound was the easy glide of his wheels across the stage, and she took that as complying with her demands. She speed-walked out of the auditorium, and once outside she leaned against a row of lockers, taking a second to compose herself. She was rarely moved by music in such a way, but Artie's performance almost had her openly weeping. And if I'm bawling like I just watched Bambi's mom get shot from only watching him I can't imagine how he must be feeling.
Santana huffed out a breath and wiped her eyes. First glee practice. Then time for feelings.
Puck groaned and jammed his temple against his palms. "Okay," he said with exaggerated patience. "We've been at this for two hours and you've nixed Bon Jovi, Seger, Clapton, Pink Floyd, Poison, Styx, The Eagles, AC/DC, Rush, Tom Petty, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Zeppelin, Skynyrd, Springsteen, Deep Purple, Foreigner, Zappa, Kiss, and The Rolling Stones! I-I…Dude, do you even know what rock is?"
Kurt fidgeted uncomfortably on Puck's couch and tried to maintain eye-contact. He had to; it was either look at Puck directly, or face any one of the bizarre-looking stains around the room and fearfully speculate what each one might be. There was a particularly bright orange one right next to him on the couch cushion that he was trying to scoot away from. He'd never been to Puck's house before, for many obvious reasons, and now that he was there all he wanted to do was leave. And take a shower. A really hot shower.
"Yes, Puckerman, I am aware of what rock is! Most of those people are in my dad's collection. Except for Zappa…which ones are they again?"
Noah's head plunked onto his TV tray with a long-suffering groan. Kurt flinched as his mohawk got dangerously close to a congealed red puddle of something that in the prime of its life might have been ketchup. "Puck, don't get discouraged. I'm sure we can still come up with a suitable duet."
The older boy looked up, narrowing his eyes at Kurt disbelievingly before he suddenly brightened. "Oh! Dude! I've got it! Bowie! David Bowie! He's popular, he kicks ass, and he rocks! Plus he used to dress like a chick, so you'll relate to him or something!" Kurt's eyebrow rose in response, but Puck didn't notice; he had stood up and began pacing excitedly. "What's that song he did with Queen? Damn, damn, damn, what is it? I used to love that song, and I can't even remember the name of it now! Let's check Google!"
He was halfway to his laptop (with a skull-and-bones lid) when Kurt halted him. "No Puck! What did I tell you?"
Puck flinched and whipped around. "Oh come on Hummel, nobody's gonna—"
"For the last time, we are not doing a song by Queen! My God, the gay jokes Santana would pummel me with…"
Puck shrugged. "Well okay, he did a duet with Mick Jagger too, we can do—"
"No Mick Jagger either! I told you, I hate The Rolling Stones."
"How can you hate—"
Puck groaned and flung himself back on the couch. "You're killing me Hummel. Can't we please do something else?"
"Absolutely not! I said that I could rock, and I have every intention of doing it." Kurt shifted and hesitantly reached for a paper resting on the coffee table. Lines of red and blue ink were drawn across dozens of rock musicians and song titles, each suggestion vetoed for one reason or the next. "Okay, um…how about REO? Can't Fight This Feeling sounds perfectly charming."
"Yes!" Puck held out his hands in relief and quickly sat back up, scooting closer to Kurt like he was beginning to see the light at the end of a tunnel. "Yeah, dude we can totally sing—"
"Ugh. Wait, never mind," Kurt said flippantly, letting the paper slide from his fingers onto the couch.
"Wha…wha…why?" Puck demanded feebly, looking so utterly crest-fallen Kurt almost changed his mind. Almost.
"I don't like the romantic connotations. If I were to do a song like that, I'd have to sing it with Blaine."
"But Blaine's not your—"
"Exactly. Moving on."
Puck grabbed a cushion from behind Kurt and buried his face in it, letting out a muffled scream into the cheap cotton padding. The countertenor rolled his eyes, unimpressed. And people thought he was a drama queen?
Rachel smoothed her skirt, fixed her hair, and set her smile to Charming Young Lady as she waited for the Changs to answer the doorbell. She brought over a pink briefcase filled with music sheets in preparation for their duet, all of the songs heavy on a female lead.
Normally the poster-child for punctuality, she found herself at Mike's house ten minutes earlier than planned thanks to the Superstar CD that Kurt had given her, filled with all of their favorite Broadway songs. He had warned her that it would probably make her drive faster than she normally would, and it turned out he was right. The more dramatic part of Rachel wanted to believe that it was her subconscious mind telling her that to be singing alongside such greats and finally realize her dreams all she had to do was drive a little faster, a little farther, all the way to New York City. But her more realistic side understood that she was just tapping the gas in rhythm to the beat.
An aging Asian woman, presumably Mrs. Chang, opened the door, and Rachel was privately giddy to find they were the same height.
"Yes ma'am," she replied, using her most polite voice.
"Oh! Please come on in. I'm sorry dear, you're a little early so I wasn't expecting the doorbell."
Rachel obediently stepped inside. "Oh there's nothing to apologize for. It's lovely to meet you Mrs. Chang." She offered her hand and Mrs. Chang took it with a wrinkled smile.
"You too darling; I've heard the nicest things about…I've heard a lot about you!"
Rachel almost frowned at the amended sentence, but she managed to hold her tongue. "Thank you, ma'am; I've heard a lot about you too. Is Mike ready?"
"Oh I'm not sure. But you're welcome to check! I think he's in the music room. It's just down that hall, third door on the right."
Rachel nodded in appreciation and started towards the door, a little puzzled at the idea of Mike Chang being in a music room. He was most likely practicing his latest dance moves. But, perhaps he was just being courteous and waiting for Rachel to arrive. It was actually turning out to be rather nice to have Mike as a duet partner. He lacked any vocal talent, but he was very compliant to her leadership, he was willing to get a head start on practice, and as a dancer he outperformed everyone. Yes, I can make this work.
She didn't even consider knocking, blowing past the closed door and taking light, speedy steps to the center of the room when she was stopped cold by the sight of Mike.
Not Mike doing a stellar dance routine, not Mike rocking out to Guitar Hero. But Mike, Mike Chang, sitting in the corner of the room, playing a high-glossed cello that rested between his knees as he sang a slow, melancholy tune.
She didn't recognize the song, but she believed that was because he was singing in Chinese. His pitch was just slightly off, and he sounded shaky, but that probably stemmed from a lack of confidence in his own voice. All in all though, it was much better than his performance of Sing. For this song he was singing properly, through his diaphragm and not his nose, and she could almost feel his soul reverberating through his voice. His fingers were steady and sure as they pulled the bow over the strings, like he had been practicing since he was young.
Rachel placed her hand over her heart, feeling it flutter in response to the music, and she felt humbled by his skills with the graceful instrument. For all their work with dance and vocal lessons, her dads had never been able to teach her how to play an instrument properly. And here was Mike Chang, whom they had all written off as lacking any musical aptitude, playing a cello with all the expertise and precision of a professional. As he drew the song to its presumed close she couldn't help bursting into applause, balancing her briefcase under her arm.
Mike jumped in surprise and leapt out of his chair, his face bright red and a loose fist hovering at his side while his other hand still forcefully clenched the bow.
"Oh Mike, that was lovely! You can play the cello? Why didn't you tell me; we can utilize this for the duet com—"
"Rachel you're not supposed to be in here!"
Rachel paused, a little taken aback at his irrational anger. She'd never seen Mike mad before.
"I-I'm sorry, I didn't know—"
"The door was shut; you could have at least knocked!"
"Alright, I'm sorry! Your mom said you were in the music room. I'd be happy to wait outside while you—"
"Actually, Rachel, I'd really like it if you left."
Her eyes widened. "Wha…left?"
He set the bow on a nearby desk and turned around. "Yes, please. Please leave."
Rachel took a breath, confounded by his strange reaction, but better than anyone, she knew a dramatic demand when she saw one. "Okay." She slowly backed away, un-tucking her briefcase from her arm as she reached for the doorknob. But ever one to try and get the last word, she stopped just before she was out the door. "But just for the record, Mike…I think you're very talented."
She slipped out of the room.
"So I had to take a shower the minute I left. I swear, Noah Puckerman has the least hygienic house I've ever been to. I'm lucky I got out of there free of diseases."
"Poor baby," Blaine said with a grin, sitting on the bed as Kurt worked on the beginnings of a duet costume at his sewing machine. He wanted to get started on it early so he decided to bring his sewing supplies to Blaine's house. He was wearing a pincushion on his wrist and measuring tape around his neck as he hunched over his work.
Kurt held out the panel of fabric and smiled approvingly. "How about you," he asked, getting out of the chair and moving to his dress-maker's mannequin. "How's the duet with Finn coming along?"
"So far so good. It was a little awkward at first, but I think we've picked a fun song to compete with. And practice is going really smoothly."
Kurt grinned and set about pinning the fabric to the mannequin. "Ooh, do I get a preview?"
Blaine grinned back and leaned back on the bed, crossing his arms confidently. "Now how is that fair, you guys haven't even picked a song. Why haven't you picked a song yet, anyway? I thought you said Puck was cool with whatever you wanted to perform."
The countertenor sighed and plucked a ball of lint from the fabric. "Well, he was. But I amended what type of music I thought we should do, so choosing a new song has become a bit…taxing."
He had stayed at Puck's house for four hours, combing through different songs, and they still weren't able to come up with a song that suited both their voices. He finally had mercy on Puck when the older boy collapsed onto the floor in frustration and banged his fists into the carpet. Kurt was trying not to get equally discouraged, but he was quickly realizing how fruitless it was to try singing a genre where his options were so limited. He was beginning to consider relenting, and letting Puck choose whatever genre he wanted.
"What type of music did you have in mind," Blaine asked innocently.
The brunette braced himself, adjusting a stitch on his shirt to avoid looking at his boyfriend. "Rock n' roll," he mumbled.
The older boy hummed thoughtfully and the Kurt heard the mattress shift next to him. "Well that's a pretty good idea."
Kurt paused and looked into hazel eyes with a hopeful smile. "You think so?"
"Sure," Blaine agreed amiably, and scooted off the bed to wrap his arms reassuringly around Kurt from behind. "I think this will be a great opportunity to stretch your vocal abilities."
"Okay Rachel," he said jokingly, leaning back into the touch as his boyfriend started kissing his neck.
Blaine laughed and nipped at his shoulder as a retort. "I'm serious. I don't think I've seen you take the lead on a rock song in all the time I've known you, so I'd love to hear you sing something different."
The ex-soloist continued, but with the absence in his voice it almost sounded like he was thinking out loud. "Although, maybe you might want to try doing it when there's not a competition assignment. You know, nothing riding on your performance."
"…And why is that," he asked suspiciously.
He felt the slightly shorter boy shrug and squeeze his waist a little tighter. "Well, like I said, I haven't heard you sing something like that before, and if you want to win, you'll want to go with your strengths."
Kurt tensed as he heard the words leave Blaine's lips, and that defensive fury came back in droves, like an irritating mosquito bite he'd just remembered was still itching. He released his shirt and stepped out of his boyfriend's arms, turning to face him slowly and calculatingly. He raised an eyebrow almost dangerously high, and asked in a deceptively sweet voice, "What are you saying, Blaine? That rock can't be one of my strengths?"
His boyfriend seemed to realize that somewhere along the line he'd said or done something wrong, and he held out his hands in apology for his unknown offense. "No, not at all. It's just…you remember last year when you said I'm usually top 40? Well, you're usually…Broadway."
"So what, I'm a one-note performer? Or are you just calling me a hypocrite?"
Blaine's eyes widened and he looked around the room, then back at Kurt in disbelief, probably wondering just how in the hell he had come to that conclusion. "Wha…no! No, I wasn't saying that at all, Kurt."
"Mmm…if you don't mind I think I'll finish this at home."
Blaine floundered, his mouth hanging open. "A-Are you sure? I wo—"
"Yeah, yeah, it's fine," he said, his voice about an octave higher than usual. He quickly folded up his costume and unplugged his sewing machine. "I should probably be helping Carole with dinner anyway. My dad's getting better at coaxing desserts out of her, so they need me to supervise."
"Don't worry about it," Kurt told him, and he was about to storm out of the room, Rachel Berry style.
He clenched the handle of his sewing machine case, and in a brief moment of maturity leaned over, and kissed his boyfriend's cheek. "See you at school."
Yeah, totally laughing my ass off that after I start writing this a whole bunch of possible spoilers get leaked about another duet episode. Loving life! :) Thank you guys for all the encouragement, and an even BIGGER thank you for your patience! For some reason my confidence took a big hit when I started my Creative Writing class, so I hope that doesn't affect my writing too much. Also, I took some lyrical liberties; I figure if the show does it, I can do it. This one was written in a SLIGHT rush, so I hope it turned out to your liking. I love you all, and thank you again!