Let's get one thing straight: the only thing that was not unusual about Blaine Warbler's warbling to that awful Tom Jones song is that he chose to sing it. The fact that Santana had agreed to help him with the song? Completely out of left field. The piano going up at the end? Well, that hadn't quite gone according to plan, either.
Contrary to popular belief, when Blaine asked for some Cheerios to help him with his atrocious number, Santana couldn't resist offering her expertise. Mainly because Kurt's Wonder Twin was gullible and incredibly fun to mess with. It hadn't been like they rehearsed anything. It was more like she had encouraged him to follow her lead, and being naïve and desperate to fit in with the New Directions - for reasons Santana didn't know - Blaine had agreed.
"What do you know about Tom Jones?"
He had asked it in Spanish, when they were supposed to discuss asinine things like the lamest story ever, about a stolen boyfriend. Santana had read the whole thing already, and Blaine had covered it at Dalton. So, despite his just transferring, and being a year younger than most of the people in class, he was about as kick ass as she was in the Spanish department. Anyway, because of that, Professora allowed them to discuss whatever they wanted as long as it was in Spanish. It was definitely better to have someone at her skill level as a discussion partner than that stoner, Brett, who massacred every word he pronounced in every foreign language. And Spanish IV was way better than Spanish I and II with Schuester had been. What a joke.
"He's old and creepy. Why?" she demanded, covertly sending Brittany a text from beneath her desk.
"I'm thinking about doing one of his songs. If I did, would you help me?" he asked, his Spanish as effortless as his English. Then, he ruined everything by using that smile that worked on Hummel and no one else.
"Stop smiling at me. No, I wouldn't help you. I have a reputation to protect, unlike you," she snapped. Angry Spanish was her favorite.
"I don't mean with singing. Just dancing. I was looking up some old Tom Jones performances on YouTube and I was thinking how amazing my song would be if I had a bunch of cheerleaders backing me up. There's a piano out there and everything. It would be perfect."
"Hold up. Did you say a piano?" Santana demanded, forgetting her Spanish and slipping into English.
"En Español, por favor," Professora Wright said.
"¿Dijiste un piano?" she hissed.
"Yes. It's purple. So…you'll help?" he asked, never losing his confidence or his accent, which was far less offensive than most of her classmates'. Santana had to admit a grudging respect for him.
"Of course I'll help. Just show up and start singing. Leave the rest to me." Santana said in perfect Spanish.
"How will I know what to do?" he wondered, looking nervous as hell in those hideous red pants and fugly bowtie.
"Easy. Just find me. I'll be sitting at one of the tables. Oh, don't look so worried," she snapped, switching to English for his benefit and adding in a heated whisper, "Look. I get that you're new and outside of Warblerville, it's probably hard to dress yourself in anything other than that disgusting uniform. I understand your hair being gelled to the point of shellac, is probably affecting your thought process. But get one thing through your head: it's better to have me on your side than to piss me off. Got it?"
He blinked, switching to English because their ten minutes were up. "Yes. Got it. I'll find you. After lunch, correct?"
"Jesus, what era are you from?" Santana snapped.
He didn't flinch. Didn't even seem to register the insult. Instead, he said, "Thanks, Santana. This means a lot."
"Whatever. I've got stuff to do, so either show up on time or don't bother showing up at all."
"I'll be prompt. I promise."
Santana rolled her eyes. "Yeah, okay. What's your last name, anyway? Please tell me it's not actually Warbler or I might have to laugh my ass off."
"It's Anderson," he called over his shoulder.
"Bland name for an appropriately bland personality," she quipped got up when the bell rang. "See ya, Anderson."
It was harder than Santana anticipated getting all the Cheerios on board with her plan. Especially without Britt, who, after some thought decided not to participate on the grounds of her being a Pisces or something. It was ridiculous, but it was nothing Santana couldn't handle. Jackson wasn't participating because she claimed she already did her part to destroy one piano by starting the food fight, and two in a week wouldn't look like an accident at all. The rest were all busy with their pointless lives. However Santana threatened them with the wrath of Coach and then they fell into line.
She talked to the Skanks who supplied them with lighter fluid. Quinn, who was so far removed from the straight-A-earning-celibacy-club-wannabe-perfect-blonde-awesome bitch she had been gave a nod and a vacant smile to the idea of lighting up something on fire and offered to do the deed.
So when it came time for Blaine Anderson's performance, everything was in place. He was pretty good even if he was performing an idiotic song with sixties choreography he copied seamlessly from her.
Everything was perfect. She was sure to lead Anderson far away from the piano before she cued the backup dancers. Those dumbass Cheerios, though, with their sloppy prancing around, managed to splatter her. Santana had clearly told them to make it look accidental, not be a hazard. Even Quinn had the grace of a natural dancer and threw the cigarette exactly where she'd been told. These newbies, though. She would have to destroy them. Santana had also given the piano a good pre-soaking, so that when Quinn tossed the cigarette carelessly in that direction, the fireball that ignited was impressive. She watched the piano burn and thought of Sue's words about playing both sides. She felt vaguely sick.
This would help. It would have to help.
Blaine was thrilled.
His performance had gone better than he could have imagined. Well, except for that unforeseen moment when half a dozen Cheerios encircled the piano and tossed lighter fluid on it. And then, Quinn Fabray tossed a cigarette that way and the entire thing had ignited. Blaine had been more confused than anything. Confused and terrified, because was this kind of thing really allowed at McKinley? He knew they were incredibly lax about bullying, but Blaine couldn't comprehend a school where such disrespect for property was overlooked. Then again, if the administration had no problem with disrespect for people, maybe lighting pianos on fire was okay?
Still, Blaine was confident that the New Directions would want him now. Certainly, Mr. Schuester did. He introduced himself nervously, a smile plastered on his face, doing a poor job of masking just how nervous he was. He tried to cover it with excitement.
He wasn't anticipating Finn's animosity or blame for the piano in the courtyard. That had not been his fault. He locked eyes with Santana.
"Actually, doorknob, that was an act of political protest."
Blaine was distracted, feeling oddly touched that Santana, who had done nothing but insult him since he started today. And then, everything changed.
Because Mr. Schuester kicked Santana out due to lack of loyalty. Blaine stared open-mouthed after her. If anyone deserved to have disciplinary action, it was Quinn for tossing the cigarette, but because she was already alienated from them, Blaine guessed punishing her would have far less impact on the rest of the club as losing one of their strongest vocalists.
He poured himself into the first group performance - You Can't Stop the Beat from the musical Hairspray - but his mind was elsewhere. He caught a glimpse of Quinn watching from above. He wondered if she noticed Santana's absence. If she cared.
When the song was over, he told Kurt he would meet him at the Lima Bean at their usual time and took off to find Quinn. Find Quinn and he would find Santana. But she had all but disappeared. He stopped outside the auditorium and turned a complete circle, in case he missed her. That was when he caught sight of Brittany.
"Brittany! Hey! Do you know where I can find Santana?" he asked, feeling more than a little silly in their purple outfits.
She studied him warily. "Are you going to yell at her?"
"No, I wanted to thank her actually. Do you know where she is?" he pressed.
"She always goes to the bleachers when she's upset. Coach puts us there when we're not pulling our weight. I can totally pull my own weight, though. I go to Motocross practice," Brittany added.
"Great. Thanks, Brittany," he called and took off toward the doors of McKinley.
"What do you want, Anderson?" Santana spat, taking a deep breath. She was glad to have grabbed a jacket from her locker before she came out here.
"I would have taken responsibility for how that all played out if I'd known what Mr. Schuester planned to do. I'm so sorry you got kicked out…"
Santana looked out at the field. Cheerios practice didn't start for a half hour. She crossed her arms and winced. "I said I could use a break, didn't I?" she demanded, still not meeting his eye.
"Yes, but I don't believe you. You like glee club. You wouldn't have helped me out otherwise."
"Yeah, you have me all figured out, don't you, Warbler?" Santana snarled. "Why don't you do me a favor and disappear."
"Has anyone ever described you as intensely hostile?" Blaine asked calmly. "I'm trying to be a friend here."
"And I'm trying to chill out. Your guilt is messing that up," she said, with less heat this time.
"Okay. I'll leave you alone," Blaine agreed. He stood and took all of two steps before he turned around. Santana could hear his breathing go from moderately annoying to crossing the line. "I can't go back in there. Back to the New Directions! Finn thinks I'm an arsonist! I made a terrible first impression."
"Oh, settle down, Anderson! Finn's a total Lima loser-"
"He's also the leader of the glee club, on the football team and he's my boyfriends' brother!" Blaine insisted, looking panicked.
"Stepbrother! And like I said, he's an asshole and his opinion doesn't count. Know whose opinion does?" she asked easily, forcing a smile.
"Yours?" Blaine asked, offering a tiny smile in return.
Santana nodded, pressing her lips together. "You're learning. I'm straight up honest and I'd be the first to tell you if you were totally horrifying. Besides, I make awful first impressions all the time. It's not the end of the world. You'll get over it."
She wasn't expecting it when he reached out and put a hand on her arm. If she was, Santana could have prepared herself. She could have steeled herself and not reacted. But as it was, she flinched. Hard.
"Hey… Are you okay?" Blaine wondered, his eyes full of concern.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Santana insisted, but she couldn't stop biting her lip.
"Here. Let me see. Take your arm out of there."
Santana bristled, shaking her head. "Chill out, Blaine. It's fine."
"You…called me Blaine," he said, looking panicked. "Not Warbler or Wonder Twin... Okay, this is serious. Come on. Take your arm out," he insisted. This time, he ignored her protests and took the cuff of her sleeve, easing it over her hand.
Blaine winced as he took in the handful of small burns on Santana's left arm. They fell in the category of minor only due to their size. They were easily second degree. Blistering and clearly through a layer of skin. He knew she had likely wanted to hide the evidence but covering the burns with a jacket was the least helpful thing she could have done.
"Come on. You've got to take care of these," he insisted, taking her hand gently. "We're going to the nurse."
"No way!" Santana grimaced, jerking her hand away.
"Why not?" Blaine asked, trying to be patient, but watching someone - especially someone he considered a friend - in pain was not his strong suit.
"Because! Sue will figure it out," she gasped. "I have practice in an hour and the number one rule of being a Cheerio other than knowing how to do a round off is that we are never allowed to disable ourselves during sabotage. I've already had a taste of life at the bottom of the pyramid. I've just been named co-captain with that bitch, Jackson, and damned if I'm going to be demoted over something this stupid!" she seethed.
Blaine squinted. He might have been new to the New Directions but he wasn't new to the kind of anger Santana was feeling - or, he suspected - the panic lurking beneath it. He didn't know what caused it, but Blaine was going to do his best to ease it.
"Don't worry about it," he shook his head. "Forget the nurse."
"Forget you," she spat. "Just leave me alone. If Sue catches me making nice with the enemy I'll lose co-captain status," Santana bristled, nudging him away with her other hand.
"Come with me," he encouraged. "If she asks, you can just tell her it was your idea, and you were using me to search out more purple pianos to destroy. We'll be quick," he promised.
By the time he had convinced Santana to get in the car with him, Blaine knew where they were going. He'd already ruled out his own house. Hers was also out, because no one but Cheerios and football players were allowed to know where she lived. He pulled up in front of Hummel Tires & Lube and walked around to open Santana's door.
She rolled her eyes. "I can't afford this getting around school. If you Pretty Ponies talk about this, I'm nothing. Off the Cheerios. And I don't have glee either, so…"
"I understand. I won't say anything to Kurt. And Mr. Hummel's honorable," Blaine promised, walking into the garage ahead of her.
"Whatever," she scoffed, but her entire being changed at the thought of Burt Hummel. She stood straight and strong, not giving the appearance of weakness or attitude. Blaine was impressed. She clearly knew how to compartmentalize. It was a skill he admired, and one he'd mastered early on. They had more in common than he thought.
"Mr. Hummel?" Blaine called out.
"Blaine?" a voice called from beneath a car.
"How'd you know it was me?" he asked sheepishly.
"You're the only person who calls me Mr. Hummel," Burt reminded him, sliding out from beneath the car. "What can I do for you?" he asked. "Hey, Santana," he greeted belatedly.
She only nodded once, succinct and to the point.
"I was wondering if I could borrow a few things from your first aid kit?" he asked hesitantly. "I can replace everything. It's just that, we're in a bit of a rush."
"Sure. Take what you need. Are you kids okay? Need anything?" Kurt's father pressed, concern in his gaze.
"We're fine," Santana answered for both of them. "Thanks for letting us borrow this stuff," she said smoothly, no trace of pain in her eyes.
"No problem. I'm around if you need me. Ah, go inside and fix whatever needs fixing, though. It's filthy out here."
"Thank you," Blaine answered. "And, sir? We would appreciate your discretion in this matter, if possible."
Mr. Hummel snapped to attention then, and Blaine could hear Santana groan in frustration.
"Did someone hurt you?" he asked, his gaze intense on Blaine first and then Santana.
"No, sir," Blaine answered. "It was just an accident, but Santana doesn't want her cheer coach to find out because she's afraid she'll be kicked off the team," Blaine explained.
"Awesome, Anderson, thanks," Santana muttered. Clearly, explaining things hadn't helped in the way Blaine hoped.
"Sylvester?" Mr. Hummel asked. "Well, if she does that, you come to me. As long as your injuries are minor and you wouldn't be hurt more by performing, she has no right to bar you from participating."
Blaine watched Santana's eyes widen, a little shocked. "Okay," she managed.
"And don't worry. Shop talk stays in the shop," he reassured.
Santana cringed as Blaine set to cleaning the burns on her forearm. There were five of them. Each indescribably painful after being untreated for so long and baking under her jacket. But she schooled her face and focused on a point on the wall over Blaine's shoulder.
"I could do this myself, you know," she complained.
"I have no doubt," he said calmly, even though she was left handed and it would have been damn hard.
She breathed and tried not to curse him out through the soap and water, the cooling down, the antibiotics and the layers of gauze he secured gently to her. "Do you have a shirt or something you can wear over this?" he asked. "Under your uniform?"
"In my car," she breathed, blinking back tears and refusing to look him in the eye.
"All right. I'll drive you back to school and you can give me your keys. I'll get it and you can change without anyone knowing. I'll keep watch," he assured.
She nodded, swallowing. He had no idea what he was really protecting her from. Santana still felt the subtle pressure of Sue's threat. She knew if Coach found out, more would be at stake than just her position on the pyramid. Sue had dirt on her, just like she did on everyone. Santana knew Sue wasn't above blackmailing students. It sucked. But Anderson treating her like a human being sort of helped.
Since she couldn't say what she was thinking, Santana waited, until they were parked in front of McKinley again. As she handed her keys over, she forced herself to say the words, "You're not entirely hideous..."
"Thank you?" Blaine answered, confused and taking the keys from her.
"And if you go poking around my car, I will end you. Understood?" she growled, for a good measure, and because she was too close to crying for comfort.
"Perfectly," he reassured, and disappeared to do what he promised.