"I think that we sounded really good together yesterday," Sam said, trying to distract Quinn from the conversation the others were having about how they were totally going to lose Sectionals. She was nervous enough as it was without the others feeding her insecurities.
"Me too," Quinn agreed, mustering up a big smile and trying to ignore what Brittany was saying about throwing possums at the Warblers.
She and Rachel had spent so much time rehearsing together that they'd still been going by the time Sam's football practice had finished. He'd shown up in the auditorium looking for her and been roped into a few quick run-throughs of their duet and then promptly given a list of things he wasn't allowed to eat or drink until after Sectionals so he didn't compromise his voice.
"I-Oh my God," he gasped as Rachel came striding through the doorway with a piece of duct tape across her mouth.
"What?" Quinn turned in her seat, curious to see what had made Sam go all bug-eyed. Which incidentally was not a good look for him, with those lips he kinda looked like a goldfish.
Her jaw dropped and her thighs automatically squeezed together. Oh sweet Jesus!Not that she'd ever have admitted it at the time but a gagged Rachel Berry was one of her top 5 fantasies during her sophomore year.
"Rachel, what are you doing?" Mr. Schuester sighed in annoyance. As if he didn't have enough problems to deal with already.
Rachel rolled her eyes and carefully peeled the tape partially off. "I'm not doing anything. You've silenced my talents, I'm merely protesting." The tape went back on then came off again just as quickly."My talents are wasted in this club. My star shines too bright and I think you're threatened by it."
Rachel had hit a nerve, Quinn knew it even before Mr. Schue slammed his sheet music down on the piano and whirled around to scream at her.
"Take that off!"
Everyone jumped in shock at his sudden and uncharacteristic change demeanor.
"I'm tried of this Rachel," Schue said as he stalked towards Rachel, his body language far more aggressive and threatening than a teacher's had any right to be. The rest of the club squirmed awkwardly in their seats and looked away. As annoyed as some of them were with Rachel, none of them took any pleasure in this, it was like watching their mom and dad fight. "You have a terrible attitude, you're a lousy sport and it is not okay any more!"
"Well I'm upset!" Rachel gave back as good as she got, standing up and getting in his face. "I'm furious about this. About a couple of things actually," she added with a pointed look towards her boyfriend.
"Well, I'm sorry you're disappointed," he growled.
No, he wasn't. He wasn't sorry at all. He was enjoying this, Quinn realized as she watched him verbally abuse Rachel. A shiver went through her, she never thought that Mr. Schuester would ever remind her so much of her father.
Sam looked over at Quinn, waiting for her to do something. He wanted to stand up for Rachel -what Mr. Schue was doing to her wasn't right and he was pretty sure that if a teacher had singled a student out and talked to them like that at his old school they would have been fired- but he didn't want to step on Quinn's toes if she was gearing up to have a big heroic moment where she swooped in and saved Rachel from their teacher's beratement. So he just kept his mouth shut and waited.
"But, you know, you could also make the choice to be happy." Mr. Schuester continued in the same ugly tone. Taking all his frustrations -with Rachel, with the rest of his students for being such bad sports, with himself for ever thinking that changing things up would be a good idea, with Emma for planting the idea in his head in the first place- out on the difficult diva.
"That we're a part of a glee club that's bursting at the seams with talent," he continued and then went on to lecture them about all being selfish and poor sports. The words pot, kettle and black sprung to Quinn's mind.
Then Puck walked in with Lauren Zizes, of all people, on his arm and things just got weirder.
Finally the glee practice from Hell was over.
After Mr. Schue's angry outburst everyone was so afraid of being yelled at they all mostly kept their mouths shut and unenthusiastically rehearsed the dance steps that Mike and Brittany had come up with for them for Valerie while Santana sang. Basically they were all just counting down the seconds until practice was over and they could escape the stiflingly tense atmosphere of the choir room.
As soon as the club was dismissed, Rachel was out the door. Quinn quickly started gathering her things, intent on chasing after the girl but Mr. Schuester quickly threw a wrench in those plans.
"Quinn, Sam, I need you two to stay back a moment."
Quinn rolled her eyes and threw her bag back at her seat, making her displeasure clear. Not that their teacher noticed or cared.
"I know that we didn't get a chance to work your duet today guys-"
"That's okay," Quinn interrupted, wanting to get this over with as quickly as possible so she could go and find Rachel. "We've been practicing in our own time."
"That's great!" The teacher exclaimed happily, relieved that the blondes were actually taking the initiative. Maybe he hadn't made a colossal mistake in choosing them to perform the duet. "Let's just quickly run through it, I want to hear how you guys are doing."
Resigning themselves to the fact that they weren't getting out of their without singing the song that they both had already grown to despise, Sam and Quinn made their way over to the piano where Brad was waiting and ready to play.
"Okay, guys, from the top," Mr. Schue instructed, clapping his hands together.
Sam cleared his throat and began to sing. "Now I've had the time-"
"Whoa!" Schuester immediately interrupted. "Hold up, Sam, you're in the wrong key, that's way too low."
"Oh yeah," Sam said, sheepishly scratching at the back of his head. "Rachel changed it, she said the key you had it in was too high for me and that it sounded better this way."
And she was right.
"Yeah, she's been helping us out a lot, actually," Quinn said, practically daring Mr. Schuester to have a problem with it.
Will's jaw clenched. Were there any lengths that Rachel wouldn't go to to undermine his authority? "Well, I don't care what Rachel said. I'm running this glee club and I arranged the song in that key for a reason and that's the key that you're going to be performing it in."
"No buts, Sam! I don't want to hear it! Now let's try this again in the original key."
The Mission Impossible theme played in Sam's head as he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his letterman jacket and weaved through the maze of discarded props and scenery that littered the backstage area of the auditorium.
Quinn had been unavoidably detained by Coach Sylvester during their lunch period, so she'd sent him on a mission to ask Rachel if they were still on for their practice session that afternoon. Well, actually it was more like a mission to make sure that Rachel was okay after everything that had happened yesterday, under the guise of making sure that their practice session was still on.
After Mr. Schuester had finally let them go, Quinn had failed to be able to locate Rachel in any of the girl's usual haunts and when the texts she'd sent -all two of them, anything more would've come off as desperate, she explained to him- went unanswered, she'd become almost frantic and he'd spent half of yesterday's afternoon trying to talk her down.
So when Quinn had sent him a text message telling him to go and find Rachel, Sam didn't even think twice about changing his course to cut across the football field and enter through the back door to the auditorium.
"Sam Evans, your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to locate one Rachel Berry and covertly assess her physical and mental state," Sam said softly to himself, doing his best Jim Phelps impression. "This message with self-destruct in-"
Sam slowed down, hearing two very familiar voices coming from the stage up ahead of him. What was Kurt doing there and why were they talking about Celine Dion?
"Do you ever fantasize about your own funeral?" Sam frowned as he heard Rachel ask. What the actual hell?
"No." Kurt sounded like he was on the same wavelength.
"I do. Finn throwing himself into the grave out of grief and the heartfelt speeches and the regrets."
On that, Sam didn't agree with Kurt. He didn't think it was insane. He just thought it was really, really sad. Their own funeral is not something a sixteen year old should even be thinking about, let alone fantasizing about.
"Clearly no one in the glee club appreciates me, is it so wrong for me to fantasize about them finally realizing how amazing I am but it being too late?"
Sam worried his plump bottom lip between his teeth, did Rachel really think that nobody in the glee club appreciated her? That wasn't true, Quinn did, for one, and so did he and he was sure that the others did too, even if they didn't exactly go out of their ways to show it a lot of the time...or most of the time...or pretty much all of the time.
Obviously, he and Quinn were just going to have to pick up their game.
He inched out from where he was mostly hidden in the wings as Rachel sang some song about Argentina crying. Wow. She was really, really good. If she sang that at Sectionals they would win for sure.
As Rachel's final, pitch perfect note rang out through the empty auditorium, Sam couldn't help but start clapping. Rachel and Kurt both jumped, startled by the sudden and unexpected applause.
"Sorry," Sam apologized, stepping forward to join them. "It's just...that was really awesome, Rachel."
"Thank you, Sam." Rachel blushed and ducked her head as she wiped her eyes. "But what are you doing here?"
"Oh, um, just wanted to make sure that you were still cool to help me and Quinn rehearse our duet this afternoon."
Rachel scowled at Kurt, who's eyebrows had raised at this new information -Despite their tenuous new friendship, she still didn't quite trust him not to relay this information back to his Warbler friends at Dalton-, before plastering a wide smile on her face for Sam. "Of course I am, Sam."
"Awesome." He grinned at her.
"Rachel." Kurt stepped forward, stereo in hand. "Thank you for all your help but I'd really better get going before Karofsky gets back."
They shared a farewell hug that was only slightly awkward.
"I'll walk you out," Sam offered. "You know, just in case."
If only there were a few more boys like Sam Evans at McKinley, Kurt may never have left.
Sectionals was turning out to be a complete disaster and they hadn't even performed yet.
The bus ride there had been even more morose than last years, if that was possible. Rachel sat up the back, as far away from Finn as possible, with Sam and Quinn -which would have been a good thing if Rachel hadn't insisted that the pair remain silent to preserve their vocal chords before their big performance- and there was a weird tension going on between Tina and Mike and Artie and Brittany that nobody could quite figure out.
There had been a brief conversation amongst the group who weren't banned from speaking, lamenting the fact that they were almost certainly going to lose the competition but that was cut short when Mr. Schue started yelling at them and berating them for being bad sports again. Of course, that had put them all in an even fouler mood and nobody felt much like speaking at all after that.
The team was gathered in the lobby, impatiently waiting for Mr. Schuester to come back from getting them signed in with the officials, when Rachel started rooting around in the large bag she had slung over her shoulder.
"Here," she said, passing a bedazzled thermos to Quinn. "It's lukewarm pineapple juice. During my many years of performing, I've found that it lubricates the vocal chords far better than just warm water or tea. Trust me, there's nothing more detrimental to a performance than a dry throat."
Quinn nodded dumbly, clutching the thermos to herself as Rachel once again reached into her bag of tricks, quickly producing a small jar of honey and a teaspoon and handing them off to Sam.
"And this is Manuka honey, Mariah Carey swears by it. Just take a spoonful of this a few minutes before you go on and let it coat your throat, it'll help."
"Why are they getting special treatment?" Lauren Zizes enquired sardonically.
"I-Well," Rachel stuttered as she turned and found Lauren's imposing form to be closer than she'd expected. "They're our star performers. We need them at the top of their game." She would've offered Santana the same assistance, except she was fairly certain it would've just been thrown back in her face...also, she kind of hated her.
Lauren's eyes narrowed behind thick lenses as she loomed over the smaller girl. "I want Rasinettes."
"You heard me. If I don't get them, I don't go on."
Rachel was flabbergasted. "But we need you to compete!"
"Then I guess you'd better hurry up and get me my candy," Lauren said with a sickeningly sweet smile.
"Hey," Quinn tried to interject but was quickly shushed by Rachel.
"Fine," Rachel reluctantly backed down, not wanting to start yet another fight. "You'll get your damn candy."
Lauren smirked triumphantly and moved to rejoin Puckerman, who was leaning up against a pillar and glaring at some random Warlbers, hoping to intimidate them into messing up their performance with his badassness.
Rachel let out a distressed squeak and headed in the opposite direction, making a beeline for Mr. Schue to inform him of this latest setback.
Unfortunately, their teacher wasn't nearly as sympathetic to her latest problem as she'd expected him to be. "Well, what did you expect by giving Sam and Quinn special treatment in front of the others?" the harried teacher questioned.
"I was trying to help!" Rachel insisted.
Help? Will eyed the ambitious girl suspiciously. He wouldn't have put it past her to have put something in the juice she'd given the blonde couple that would render Sam and Quinn unable to perform, just so she could swoop in and save the day at the last minute. Compared to sending a foreign exchange student to a crackhouse, that kind of sabotage was child's play. "Look, Rachel, I have a million things to do right now. You're going to have to handle this yourself."
Rachel gaped at him. She couldn't believe he was being so spectacularly unhelpful. "What am I supposed to do?"
"Well, Rachel, if I were you, I'd get the lady her candy."