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Say Your Lines

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Santana, Rachel and Kurt were filling the condiment bottles and chatting as they watched while the group of 4 singing wait staff finished their last song. Or rather Rachel and Santana were chatting and Kurt was trying to ignore them while not letting them know he was ignoring them, or at least not letting Rachel know he was ignoring them.   He wasn’t incredibly happy with anyone that moment, although he was at a better place with Santana than with Rachel.  It could have been because he and Santana had had it out a bit earlier so the air was partially cleared, but not cleared enough for him to be helping her chat with Rachel. Santana didn’t seem to be having any luck directing the chattering, either. It was the same babble that they had heard almost all week with a bit of a variation which they had heard nonstop for the last two days. He couldn’t wait until work required Rachel to focus on something else.  Yes, Blaine and Sam were in town for Blaine’s auditions. Kurt was well aware as Blaine was sharing his bed, Santana was well aware as Sam was sharing with her (and wasn’t that a fun argument that first hour of them showing up when they were trying to decide where to put Blaine and Sam’s bags.  Blaine wanted KURT to move out to the pullout bed in the front room with Santana and share with her while he and Sam slept in Kurt’s bed…because he didn’t want Sam to feel uncomfortable. Yeah, so much for loving boyfriends and time together.), heck everyone who had heard Rachel’s screeching loud voice had heard it over and over and over again. No, that did not need to be the sole thing talked about, seriously.  Yes, he and Santana and everyone else in the whole freaking world, he was sure, hoped Blaine did well on his auditions.  That did not mean they had to sit and discuss what Blaine might at that moment be singing or doing or talking about.  Because frankly Kurt didn’t know, Santana didn’t know and neither had been spoken to by the man to give them any clue.  Rachel had talked more to Blaine about auditions than they had and so she had the best idea when he might be singing or what he might be doing or whatnot and therefore didn’t need to be asking and drilling them while chattering on and on and on about her thoughts on the matter. Kurt wasn’t even certain of the time for Blaine’s auditions that morning, just that his spot was after 10am but before 1pm.  He had listened to Blaine’s meltdown and seen his show of nerves, but even in the midst of that Blaine never spoke about what he had planned for his auditions, other than to tell Kurt he needed Rachel’s help with that decision, not his. Kurt had instead offered suggestions on how to take the other course ideas Blaine had mumbled about and still stay involved in the Musical Theater/Music scene Blaine generally indicated he wanted employment in while alternatively trying to convince Blaine to not be a chicken. (Not in those words, Kurt had some sense of self-preservation still.) Of course neither response was correct….Kurt would never understand how scary it was for Blaine and how many dreams he might be not meeting (dreams Kurt had never heard of…so they were obviously well spoken of and discussed and everyone knew of them…), Kurt was so simple compared to Blaine.  He was from such a simple family with simple expectations and simple ideas, not like Blaine’s well-off family with their complex needs and ideas. Kurt had snorted and replied that maybe that was why Kurt was offering ideas and possible answers and trying to HELP instead of just letting Blaine meltdown, he was just so simple that way.  Kurt knew his answer wasn’t right…there was no way it could ever have been; it hadn’t been completely focused on making Blaine feel like the most important person in the world.  Kurt had also listened to Sam’s worries about making it anywhere and finding work and his lack of smarts…to which Kurt tried to remind him that there was help if he wanted to go to university, even with his poor grades and help with keeping his grades up and overcoming his issues enough to succeed at college if he wanted to go, like he’d always mentioned before Kurt left. Blaine got upset at him about that. However, through it all, the name of Blaine’s audition song never came up.  Rachel spoke as if it had….as if simply because she and Blaine discussed it the rest of the world was privy to their discussions and should care as much as they did about it.

Rachel’s other topics of choice to natter on about- Her fabulous accomplishments in landing Fanny and getting asked by seniors to participate in their projects, her stunning performances during the showcase and throughout the spring, her stellar newer looks, her wonderful standing with all the professors at the school … even those she’d never taken a class from who of course loved her completely because they’d heard all about her from others- were no better for conversation. (Kurt had been asked to help with projects as well, and so had Santana and she didn’t even go to NYADA, but none of that mattered to Rachel, if she even heard them when they said anything about it.)  Nor was the topic of her landing a solo section at NYADA’s “Into the Summer Spectacular”…one of the only freshman to do so…and the bragging about how everyone she had met doing Fanny so far ‘loved her’ really welcome conversation topics. Mostly because Kurt and Santana were sick and tired of them.  At least she wasn’t screaming at him about ‘lack of support’ and ‘lack of empathy’ like earlier in the day…or nagging at him about spending too much time on his pursuits (he went to his dance class that morning while Blaine was still sleeping after being out late…Ms. July moved it to 6am so it wouldn’t be interfered with by auditions for the musical theater group, that was it…that was all in terms of classes for the day, voice was a trip to the recording studio Madame had set up for the next evening and script analysis was a paper due Monday. Kurt had the day off at vogue and was working while Blaine was supposed to be at NYADA…to which Kurt was NOT invited.) and not enough time with Blaine. Kurt reminded her he’d spent three weeks telling everyone Rachel pointed him to how wonderful Blaine was and talking him up like there was no one else in the world…at both her and Blaine’s insistence, and that HE still needed to stay in school because it would do no good at all to fail himself after putting so much effort in getting Blaine in. (Which he thought was ridiculous in the first place. Blaine should be able to get in without anyone there already knowing his name. Rachel might have mentioned his name once or twice, but he KNEW she hadn’t done for him what she was doing for Blaine, not even a fraction of it.) Rachel scoffed and reminded him that she had been doing the same for Blaine and she still was making time for her boys.  Rachel had skipped class to ‘hang’ with the boys, but unlike Rachel Kurt wasn’t everyone’s darling. He didn’t believe in skipping class anyway.  Kurt shook his head to bring his thoughts back to the here and now.  Rachel was saying something about it being a shame she couldn’t fit in a trip for Blaine to meet the cast of Fanny and sing for them.  Santana was talking over her about being recognized at callbacks last night by someone who knew her from the cheer team performances that had been broadcasted on TV.  Kurt sighed and breathed deeply, wishing that the performers would hurry up so they could start work…and have a reason to separate from each other and not talk to each other for the next several hours.

Santana kicked Kurt’s leg and rolled her eyes at Rachel.  Blaine and Sam’s appearance Tuesday morning with no warning had been what set Santana off and what their ‘discussion’ had been about earlier in the day, right before they headed to work.  It would have been an all-out fight, Kurt suspected, if Rachel had been at the loft at the time, but Rachel needed new tights for dance after nearly putting a run in her current pair and so had left early to go do that before her shift started.  As it was it took Kurt nearly an hour to convince Santana that he had no idea Blaine and Sam were going to be there…including letting her have access to his phone so she could see there had been no texts or discussion of it via any sort of messaging and that Blaine hadn’t even called Kurt for a week before he showed up. Kurt had been under the impression Blaine was going to the NYADA tryouts at Columbus last weekend…and his texts were proof of that idea. And Kurt had to bribe her with the promise of not only next Wednesday to be gone from the loft from 9am until 9pm at the very least, but the promise to clear out for several hours on Sunday as well, so she could get in her missed ‘free loft space’ time…which Kurt had been unable to give her because Blaine would not leave the loft until HE wanted to the day before…which meant when Blane needed to be at NYU for his campus tour and audition and interview there. Another foot nudge from Santana made Kurt deeply breathe again and roll his eyes back.

Considering how long the medley had been going on, Kurt figured the staff must be at the end of some sort of a party or something. Gunther tended to offer up options for large groups during the week when often the day would be slow.  Weekend parties had to ‘rent’ the upstairs conference room, which luckily had its own stage and jukebox.  It was usually closed during the weekdays daytime hours, although all the tables around the balcony area were open and had to be staffed.  The wait-staff was dancing to the music provided by those performing as they delivered food or cleared tables.  Rachel was actually supposed to be out bussing tables, but Rachel took this job about as seriously as she took classes lately; she loved it when she got to perform and she dismissed it as frivolous and beneath her wonderfulness when she needed to actually work, but she still did the work if she had to.

“Midget,” Gunther said as he walked up behind the trio. “You are already supposed to be out there. Cassie left 15 minutes ago and she stayed an extra 15 because you hadn’t shown your face yet and Leo has been covering your tables ever since.” He glared at Rachel who fluttered her hands and started to head off to the rest room to wash before waiting tables. “You two...” he said pointing at Santana and Kurt, “Either of you sing Madonna?  Macy will not be in today, she was hit by a bicycle as she dropped her tot at daycare. In fifteen we have a party coming in and they have requested Madonna.  I need this to happen.  These are important people.  To me, this is important.”

“I could do it!” Rachel shouted and turned around to plant herself right in front of Gunther.

“No.  You are still in time out.  You are in vocal time out for the rest of the week, until next Wednesday.  Maybe then you will learn to share time on the stage and share songs with others and that you are not my only singer on the wait staff. Considering you are NOT out there doing your job right now and are making someone else cover their space and yours a full half hour into your shift, I’m not inclined to reconsider either.”

“But, I’m the best for the job.” Rachel said.

“No!”

Rachel stomped off and Gunther looked back to the other two.

“Hummel does.” Santana said.

Gunther looked at Kurt, skepticism writing across his face. Kurt considered refusing. Rachel hated when he sang and had been at the other wait staff about not letting him sing often because it kept her from singing as often and he wasn’t sure he wanted the drama.  But then he saw Rachel pause and start to turn back to rush over and demand she sing.

“I would prefer not to sing anything like ‘Papa Don’t Preach’, though.  That would just sound silly.” Kurt said, with a shrug.

“The only sure requests are ‘This Use To be My Playground’ and ‘Cherish’.” Gunther said.

“I can do those. No key change needed, either.  Also, maybe have Santana or Sal do the songs with Spanish in them.”

“Sal is Italian.” Santana said.

Kurt snorted. “He might be, but he speaks fluent Spanish.  He tore into Gabby the other day so harshly, you’d have been worshiping the ground the boy walks on.”

“That boy is like 10 years older than you.” Santana said.

“No way, maybe five but that would be pushing it.” Kurt said.

“No, closer to ten.” Santana said.

“No…”

“Enough.” Gunther said. “If you know enough to tell he is fluent why don’t you sing the songs?”

“Because although I understand Spanish pretty well after all these years around Santana, I do not speak it well enough to not butcher the song.  French I can sing in. Latin I can sing in if I’m walked through it bit by bit.  Spanish I mess up the pronunciation in.” Kurt replied.

“All right, all right. Just be ready at two-ish.  I don’t know what else the group may want but it should be all Madonna. It is their theme this year.  We can mix it up a bit with lead singers, I guess.”  Gunther looked over at the group just finishing their last set.  “That party should pay extra, they’ve had their wait staff singing so much they couldn’t care for their tables.  I’d best go hurry them along. They’ve been here hours now. Some groups are hours long groups…others, not so much.”

Kurt and Santana watched as the grumpy man walked towards the full section near the stage.  He had a smile pasted upon his face and was smiling and joking with patrons who were watching the performers.  The performers finished up and hopped off the stage.  Jess came over to Santana and told her which tables were still full in her area.

“I just bussed the others before we had to get up there so they are ready for people to be seated at.  Enjoy!  We had two birthday parties today and I know Gunther has another party booked in just a few, and I think even another after that.”

Santana tightened the lid on the ketchup bottle she’d just finished and waved as she walked to the restroom to wash-up. Kurt sighed as he looked at the trays in front of him and started wiping down the area they’d worked at.  As usual he got left with the clean-up.

Rudy, who Kurt was to replace, came over as he was wiping down the counter. Santana had been none too careful while filling the ketchup bottles and Rachel had been even worse when she had been filling salt and pepper shakers.

 “I have tables left to buss and three tables who are almost done.  I need the tips, do you mind?”

Kurt smiled.  “Not at all. It will give me time to clean-up here and wash up and we won’t have any time without someone on the floor.”

“You are a doll.  I just sat two tables, swing by and I’ll make sure they know you are the staff they need to flag down.”

Rudy went off and started clearing the tables that needed bussing and Kurt finished wiping away the ketchup mess Santana had left and the spilled salt and pepper Rachel had left.

Gunther came up just had Kurt was loading the filled bottles on trays to take into the back.

“Shouldn’t you be out there?” Gunther said.

“Rudy wanted to buss the tables that had left while he was performing and finish serving three who were nearly done.  I let him finish up.  His girlfriend’s birthday is this week and he is saving for a nice night out. I can’t do anything terribly fun until finals are over, so he needed those tips more than me.  Besides, now I can clean up here and move this all to the kitchen instead of leaving it here for you to do if you get a chance or not have my area not covered while I clean-up.  I’m going to take this tray to the back, go wash up, meet the customers at tables 12 and 16, see if they need drinks or are ready to order, and then come take these next two trays back.”

“Then you’ll be out on the floor and ready to perform in about fifteen minutes?  The group should be all here by then.  They want ‘This Used To Be My Playground’ first.”

“That is sort of a melancholy song to start out with.” Kurt stated.

“Yes, well sometimes groups meet up for less than perfectly cheerful reasons.”

“Oh.” Kurt said.

“I thought you’d understand.”

“Recent?”  Kurt asked.

“Oh heavens, no.  Let me tell you a quick story, boy.  You and your little pals, you aren’t the first group in this city like yourselves.  They happen all over the city and they happen over and over again. Kids meet at a university or move here all together from home, sticking with each other through time. You know, back before you were probably even born this was a karaoke place, the stage an open mike on off nights.  This group met at a NYU freshman orientation and stuck together. The kid dragging them about campus brought them here one of the evenings during that orientation week and had them get up and sing with each other in different forms as a team building exercise. 20 ragged kids who were tired and unsure. It worked.  They were here for hours and hours.  There were kids in the group going into politics and theater and art and medicine and education and business and music.  There were kids from overseas and from such small towns in the USA that they’d never even seen a skyscraper. Some were terrified of getting up in front of everyone, some of singing because they weren’t good, some of the songs and people they were to sing with.  After getting each kid up and singing the kid in charge told them that this ability to face what made one uncomfortable and to help each other through it would be what saw them through life. These kids stuck it out. Helped each other out, had each other’s backs.  New kids were added…roommates, lovers, siblings, new friends… some moved or went back overseas. But most of those kids, they kept coming here every other week. And they kept each other sane. The group when together laughed and were silly, they sang and danced and those non artists kept the artists grounded.  Four years passed and most the original group was nearly ready to graduate. About this time their last year half the group were here, waiting for others when they found out a bunch of the others were involved in a bad traffic accident. They lost probably the brightest star of the group that day…their heart, so to say, and the little dancer was left with broken dreams and years of working to find new ones and kid who would have been our future president was left comatose for years before he died too.  But you know what; they had each other’s backs.  They rallied around each other and got themselves and the others through it. Not one of those kids ever stopped trying or gave up or gave in and when they seemed close to it, the others of the group picked them up and carried them along till they could do it all again on their own.  Watch them today, boy.  You all are a nice little bunch. However, as much as shorty would like me to believe, I don’t think you all have each other’s backs nearly as often as she goes on and on about. Most the time I don’t think I’ll be seeing you all here or anywhere more than 20 years from now, not together keeping each other going.  Most the 18 of the originals left make it here every year around this time, even ones who have to fly in from far away and half the others, the ones living around here still, they make it in every month.”

Kurt watched as Gunther strode back to the kitchen area and then looked over where several wait staff were pushing tables together to make a couple huge tables in the area in front of the stage that the other party had just cleared out from, right in front of their largest booth. A second smaller booth seemed to be blocked off as well. They didn’t usually move tables together, and certainly not right up at front.  The group coming in meant something to Gunther, obviously.  They must be worth the fuss.

 He wondered if Gunther was right.  Sometimes he could picture the New Directions group getting together years down the road, but other times he had huge problems doing so.  He also had a hard time picturing the new kids with the group, or Dani or Elliot being allowed to join the group…and definitely not Adam or any of the others he was allowed by Rachel to talk to at NYADA (and certainly not those he spoke with that he wasn’t supposed to speak with because they weren’t the right sort). And then there was that…the fact the just because Rachel started NYADA before he did and had a reputation there to protect, supposedly, that he’d already dented, she thought she had some sort of say in who Kurt could talk to and what sort of classes he ought to be able to take.  She’d already informed him earlier in the week that she had already signed him up for ‘appropriate second year classes’ that did not interfere with her classes, instead of letting him choose his own.  And Kurt wasn’t even sure how…he’d thought they were at least a week or more away from that even being an option.

Kurt sighed and took the tray full of ketchup and mustard bottles to the kitchen and then headed to wash up.

By the time he was done washing his hands, when he glanced over to see where Rudy was, he noticed the trays of salt and pepper shakers was no longer sitting at the counter.  Rudy waved him over to table 12.

“Hello, I’m Kurt and I’ll be your singing waiter for the rest of the afternoon.”  Kurt said with a smile.

Rudy was waiting again when Kurt was done taking the drink and food orders for table 12 and 16.

“You’ll have some of the large group coming in; tables 14 and 18 were pushed over to make one of the large tables.  I just cleared table twenty and you’ll have tables 22 and 24 and 26 as soon as I buss them.  They each finished and paid while I was bussing the other three.”

“Eight tables today?” Kurt asked.

“Macy isn’t coming in. We split her tables between three of us.  You and Santana will have eight, as will Sal.  Miss Berry, Julie and Cora will all just have their normal six.  Also Harry isn’t coming in, he has the flu, so Paul and Jude not only have counter but have three tables a piece a well. I think Jude has the large booth.  I’m not sure who is working the upstairs.”

“I hope some more ladies.  They want Madonna songs and Rachel is grounded.”

“Tani and Layla are at the bar as extra tenders. Julie can’t sing today, don’t know why but Gunther is in agreement.  Peter is the official bartender till about four, then Alex should be in. Oh, Jamie is working at seating, and she has a lovely alto voice, even if she doesn’t sing very often. Leo is here somewhere but only for another hour, he was called in as extra help. Your friend Rachel isn’t the only one who showed up late or left early today. Luckily most the others have valid reasons so Gunther isn’t getting ready to fire people left and right.”

“That will help.  Now go get those tables bussed before all your tips go to a taxi because you missed your next bus.”

Rudy took off with an empty tray and Kurt got to work, turning in the food orders and getting the drinks.

Kurt got lost in seating and taking orders, noticing that the large tables were filling up, usually in groups of three or four, but sometimes just a single person at a time. A pretty red haired lady in a wheelchair rolled by, a teen and a tall man accompanying her to table 15.  A shorter man in a nice suit swept into the diner and over to the group forming, shaking hands with several other people along the way.  A tall man who he suspected might be Hawaiian sat by where the red haired lady was being wheeled to.  An African American woman sat next to him, often leaning against him when she spoke and next to her was a woman who Kurt was pretty sure was the Hawaiian man’s sister.  Tucking in and out of groups and around the tables was a brown haired woman whose hair looked like she had stuck her finger in a light socket and who had some of the palest skin Kurt had ever seen.  She had a really nice camera around her neck and was juggling two little point and shoots as well, taking photos of different groups of people and making sure each individual had a photo of them taken.  Every time someone new would come in there were hugs and kisses all around. Cameras were out all over the place, sitting on tables when they weren’t in use capturing groups of people together in different combinations. A dark haired lady with a short bob cut seemed to be another main photo taker; although considering her long denim skirt had paint smears on it Kurt suspected that she was some sort of artist most of the time.  Most of the others seemed comfortable with their cameras as well though.

 As Kurt picked up the appetizer order for table 12, Gunther waylaid him.

“Ask the tall blond lady for a count, so we can have their traditional drinks ready. The one wearing red and black.”

Kurt headed over, dropping the appetizers off at table 12 and moving to get the attention of one of the people who seemed to be in the center of the attention.

The lady he was supposed to speak with was talking with a shorter dark haired lady who reminded Kurt a lot of Tina when she was in her Goth stage, at least clothing wise. Kurt smiled to himself thinking about Tina and Brittany and himself way back then dancing his basement.  He rather thought that Kurt would be OK with where he was now, at least school and job wise.  He probably wouldn’t be as OK with the rest of his life.

“…Believe it’s been 20 years. ‘Think about how far we’ve come’.” The dark hair lady sang the last bit.

The blond Kurt was supposed to talk to smiled and sang back, “Think of all we have shared, it’s a wonder we survive.”

But here we are and we’re alive.” They sang together and burst out laughing.  Their voices were clear and well trained and made Kurt smile.

“Do you remember Celia and Lloyd doing the little fight after that pyramid scene?” the dark one asked.

“I thought she was going to deck him when he grabbed her and accidentally wrapped his arms right across her boobs.  I still think Andy reproducing that final set of scenes was cheating. The class was screen to stage and those numbers were stage numbers.”

“But they were produced on screen!” The dark haired chimed in a sing song voice.  It was obvious that the phrase had been repeated over and over and that she was copying the way someone had said it before.  “What do you think Andy would have thought about all this?”

The blond looked around at the people gathering at the tables and booths, and Kurt waved trying to get her attention. He noticed for the first time the booth to the side of the largest was filling with several kids and an African American man who was corralling them in one spot and making voices to entertain them. The man made him think of Matt back in his first year of glee club.  He wondered if Puck or Mike still kept in touch with him. A pretty woman with long braids with beads woven into them had her hand on his back and was helping.

The blond smiled. “He would have loved it.  He loved seeing everyone and being together.  Remember the first time Li made it back after she left after her freshman year?   He was so ecstatic I didn’t think we’d be able to keep him on the ground.  Just think of all the people who he’d have had to act out his visions.  Remember how hard a time he had getting enough of us to agree to act out those parts of ‘A League of Their Own’ that summer before.”

The dark haired lady laughed. “Oh, God remember Terry being dragged into it…literally.  I’ll never forget Andy pulling him by the shirt while he kept trying to go the other direction. I can’t believe Andy dragged us all to the movie over and over just so we could all see it and know what our parts should be played like.”

“Or when he yelled at Angel for dancing at the plate.  ‘They play ball, Ang, they do not dance.’”

“And when she kicked the dirt at him and got it on his lens.”  The dark haired lady looked around, eyes landing on the red haired lady in the wheelchair. “I miss them.”

“Yeah, sometimes it just doesn’t feel like it was all that long ago.” The blond said.

Kurt waved in a larger motion, trying to get one of the women’s attentions.  The dark haired lady saw him. “Claire, I think someone I trying to speak to you.”

The blond lady turned to Kurt and smiled.  Kurt couldn’t help smile back.  He briefly thought of Adam and how whenever he smiled it had the same effect, just something about the smile made those around feel the need to smile too.  The woman was stunning.  Kurt could easily imagine her working for Vogue as a model. The dark haired woman turned to face him fully as well and Kurt was again stunned by the woman’s looks.  She had an Asian look about her but also an Italian look, it was an intriguing combination.

“Hi, I’m Kurt.” He said, his voice a bit high. He blushed and took a deep breath. “Gunther would like to know a final count for your party, please. Oh, um, I’ll be your singing waiter for the day, well one of them…I’ve got the front left table.”

Claire smiled. “It’s nice to meet you.  The count is fifty six, not counting the infants but counting seven younger children and the three teens that are under aged.  The rest of us left our sprogs at home or in school. Also, can you ask if it would be possible for Gunther to store some suitcases? We have a family that is coming straight here from the airport.  We might have more people come in before dessert, but I’m sure that will be fine.”

“Thank you, I’ll ask.” Kurt said.

Kurt headed back to tell Gunther about the count and ask about the bags being stored in back. Gunther went out and talked to the woman himself.  Gunther was greeted with kisses to his cheeks and hugs from probably half the group and Kurt had to smile.  Gunther was often grouchy but Kurt was already forming a soft spot for the man because as grumpy as he was sometimes he was also honest and decent when you did what you were supposed to and did good work.  Kurt worked his other tables and thought about the conversation the women had been having and about New Directions…and Finn and what Gunther had said earlier and their first song request. What would Finn have had to say about things and how they were right now? About how Kurt was living his life?  Rachel? Santana?   What would he have said in a few years?  What would Puck have to say?  Or Mike?  Or Matt?  What would Kurt who had just led the football players to a win have to say about everything? Where was Finn’s playground? At first he thought about the football field, but then Kurt reconsidered.  Yeah, Finn loved football…but his playground was more likely the auditorium or the classroom and the drum set.  What would Finn have to say about the band?  He thinks Finn would have liked Dani, and maybe Elliot and he would have liked to have introduced Finn to Adam…and Finn would have had so much fun with the Apples.  He would have hated how Rachel spoke about them.

Chapter Text

Kurt looked up when the bell rang to signal someone had come into the store and saw an oriental family come in, with suitcases in tow.  Gunther was at the door to greet them and took the cases to the back while the family went over and sat amongst the large group.  He signaled Kurt, Santana and Jude to come help him carry out trays of drinks.  They passed around Shirley Temples and Virgin Daiquiris.  A few other waiters followed with trays of appetizer sample platters.  Then Gunther motioned for Kurt to go sing.

Kurt hoisted himself up to sit on the space between the booths where the dancers often danced. He leaned back with his hands behind him and listened as the opening notes on the piano played.  He closed his eyes and thought of Finn and the choir room and the auditorium. He thought about Pavarotti and Blackbird. He thought about Karofsky.  He thought about Finn’s jacket.  He could hear a few whispers here and there, the sound of cameras being used, but most the diner had quieted as the music started. He tilted his head, opened his eyes and gazed around at the walls and ceiling of the restaurant as he started singing, focusing on different pictures and albums attached to the walls, catching the eyes of costumers when they met.

This used to be my playground
This used to be my childhood dream
This used to be the place I ran to
Whenever I was in need of a friend
Why did it have to end
And why do they always say

Don't look back, keep your head held high
Don't ask them why because life is short
And before you know, you're feeling old

And your heart is breaking
Don't hold on to the past
Well, that's too much to ask

Kurt hopped down and slowly walked his way up the stage, winding in and out of tables as he sung the next parts of song, slowly trailing his fingers along the edges of booths and counters and empty chairs.  He nearly choked up when he sang ‘No regrets but I wish that you were here with me’, struggling through the next bit of lyrics to bring his voice to whimsical and not on the verge of breakdown.

He made his way to the stage and sat down on the stool there to deliver the final bit of the song, smiling at the two women he’d heard speaking earlier. The blonde had just set her camera down by her plate as he focused their way.

This used to be our playground
This used to be our childhood dream
This used to be the place we ran to
The best things in life are always free
Wishing you were here with me
.”

Kurt sat for a few moments after the final note died, before he stood and bowed, surprised at the applause.  He looked out over the audience, and noticed more than just the group the song was for drying their eyes and smiling sad smiles…the type he used to call ‘ rememberin’ smiles’ when he was young. It was odd, being able to effect so many. He wasn’t used to it. There was a time he had been, long before glee and McKinley High, when his mom had been alive still, but it had been so long since that time. He was used to singing in ensembles here, not on his own. Other than that, he’d sung mostly in classroom settings and for his peers. He felt elated and a bit out of it, the emotions from the song making him feel disconnected a bit from right then and there. He waved and stepped back down to go see if anyone at his tables was ready to order or needed food brought out to them.

He didn’t get too far.  In fact he got as far as moving towards table 26 to see if they were ready to order yet about six steps before he was grabbed by the arm and pulled away.

“Kurt, are you purposely ignoring me?”  Blaine said.

And Kurt’s elated feeling started to disappear, rapidly.  Sam stood behind Blaine, waving.

Kurt sighed.  “Hi, Blaine.  I was singing.  I am working.”

“You didn’t acknowledge me when I walked in Kurt!”

“I was singing. I didn’t see you walk in, Blaine.  You are supposed to be at NYADA today.  Didn’t you have your audition?”  Kurt asked.  He pulled at Blaine’s hand grasped around his arm until he was free.  Blaine hadn’t even seemed to notice he’d still had hold of Kurt.

“And I nailed it!” Blaine exclaimed with a bounce.

“He totally aced it.  He was the best…I swear.” Sam added. “I bet no one has ever given as good an audition as he did.  Never.”  Blaine turned and hugged Sam and then did fist bumps and high fives and grunted at each other.

“Hi, Sam.” Kurt said. “So, why are you here?  There were tours and informational lectures on housing and meals and performances to see from different clubs all afternoon.”

“And I have Rachel to show me all that,” Blaine said.  “Oh, and you.  Why would I want to watch performances from clubs all afternoon? The people in them probably won’t be the same as when I’m there next year and I don’t see the point in watching what they are doing now. It would have been boring.  I figured since you were here, I’d come and sing again, instead.  You can introduce me as the newest NYADA rising star.  Obviously they really need me today. I mean they had you singing up there, so…”

“Gee, thanks Blaine.” Kurt said. All the warm fuzzy feelings from his performance were fading fast as Blaine’s dismissal cut deep.

“That’s not what I mean, Kurt.  Not really.  It’s just…they have access to Rachel here, an up and coming Broadway star. Why waste that?  You’re the best choice?  And that was a terrible song.  Why on earth would you make such a poor choice?  I mean you sang it OK, I guess, but it was so gloomy.  You didn’t even try to make it more cheerful and happy.  Were you trying to put everyone off their food?  I mean, I understand that maybe you’re still grieving, but really you should be getting over it sooner rather than later.  Especially if you have to be in public. No one else wants to see or hear it anymore.  The girls should have sung the song.  They are more likely to be appreciated look wise and they would have least made it more upbeat. Of course, Rachel would never have sung such a drag-you-down song, anyway.  And what song was that even?”

“’This Used To Be My Playground’? Madonna?” Kurt asked, looking at Blaine like he was nuts and hoping to jog some sort of recollection from the boy’s head.

“Don’t be silly. Madonna never sang anything like that.”

A League of Their Own?” Kurt asked.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You seriously need me to take control here. I mean, you’re just making stuff up now, or dragging out stuff so old nobody knows it.” Blaine said.

“The ‘Piano Man’ was from 1973, Blaine.” Kurt said dryly.  Blaine didn’t even notice Kurt had said anything, though.  He just continued on, talking right over him. He usually did.

“I could sing something newer and upbeat and get everyone cheering and rocking out! It would be awesome.  And Rachel and I could sing a duet, show off what star power NYADA will soon have to offer.  And then Sam and I could sing a duet and show off how great a pair we are!  And you wouldn’t have to sing anymore and be put in the spotlight.  Rachel says you hardly ever take the opportunity to sing solos in your music workshop, so you can’t be comfortable at all.  She said something about realizing your beating her in the song thing was a fluke or something and not wanting to risk everyone knowing.  Especially after she got Fanny. Besides, Rachel really wants to sing with me again, since our voices sound so good together. Everyone would love it. Since you know, we would be better.”

“Yeah, no.”  Kurt struggled to keep a neutral face. The comments hurt and Kurt knew Blaine didn’t really mean them, not really, but he was tired of Blaine and others just never seeing him as an option that would ever be desired.  It always dragged him back to Dalton and only getting to sing for competition because Blaine wanted an excuse to spend time with him.  As quickly as the Dalton thought flit across Kurt’s mind, his Le Jazz Hot performance also flit across his mind and the reactions of the Apples when Kurt showed it to them after trying to describe the costume.  The sting of Blaine’s comments still lingered though.  Not to mention Blaine’s comments about the avoidance of anything blue hurt, and Kurt was tired of trying to keep a stiff upper lip and all that.  He sighed, annoyed that just thinking that phrase had brought his mind to Adam again, and how Kurt was sure Adam would have understood the performance and appreciated it.  And let Kurt sing sad songs and dance sad dances and watch sad movies and just be bloody sad and gloomy if he bloody well felt like it.  Kurt closed his eyes and refocused on Blaine and Sam again when he opened them, pushing anger back as it tried to creep forward.

“But Kurt, I sang yesterday!” Blaine whined.  Sam patted Blaine on the shoulder in a comforting manner as Blaine got his intense pout ready.  Blaine reached up and patted Sam’s hand, holding it down on his shoulder.

“And it was a special circumstance for which I traded work hours to offer you the privilege to do so. I work an extra shift next week, for free Blaine, so you could use the piano and sing.  This is not an open mike bar and not a karaoke bar.  You are not a waiter or any other staff.  Until you are, you are just going to have to sit and eat like all the other visitors.”

“Kurt, you are being unfair.  You know everyone will love it.  Look at yesterday.  It is certainly a better choice than you and that.”

“Doesn’t matter if they would, it isn’t happening. If you did it, then everyone else would want to and have to be allowed to, so no.  Now, if you are staying, go stand and wait to be seated or you could head back to NYADA for the afternoon activities or even go back to the loft, but I have to go do my job -  buss tables, take orders and be a singing waiter.”

“Fine, I’m going to go talk to Rachel.”  Blaine said.

“Rachel is working, too.  But you could go wait to be seated and hope you are seated in her area.”

Blaine huffed at him and stomped off and Kurt finally managed to make it to the tables which were waiting for him to be able to do his job.

Kurt was busy enough for the next twenty minutes or so to be able to toss Blaine’s little fit to the back of his mind.  Table 26 had finally managed to decide on their food order, as had table 22.  He took those orders to be placed just in time to pick up and deliver the food to tables 12 and 16 and then appetizers to 20 and 24.  He noticed Rachel and Blaine and Sam chattering every time Rachel passed by, and Gunther glowering at them. Finally he got back to the big tables to ask if they were ready to order yet or if they needed new drinks.

He walked to the table under his charge, which had both Claire and the dark haired lady sitting at it.  The occupants were laughing at something a really handsome buff man was saying and then the impression he did afterwards.  The man was seriously like someone out of one of the magazines Ms. Rhodes had brought him. Kurt dragged his eyes from the man’s arms, just to find himself caught in the gaze of a women who he thought had to be Australian Aboriginal, because pictures of from Australia were the closest he’d seen to anyone looking like her. There were so many beautiful people in the group, Kurt thought.  He seriously thought not a single person looked homely or plain or just normal.  Looking again at them though, he considered that maybe many did, but they just seemed to radiate a beauty about them all because they smiled and laughed and were joyous.  He blushed and noticed the lady he’d caught the gaze of was still looking at him. She smiled and waved.  The others looked at him.

“Hi, I’m Kurt and I’ll be your singing waiter today.  Are you ready to order?”  He asked. He took the orders, including meals for three of the kids in the smaller booth, who seemed to be being entertained with some sort of magic tricks while he was speaking.  As he walked by to go put the order into the kitchen the man he’d been admiring earlier called to him.

“Hey, Kurt was it?” 

“Yes, did you need something more?”  Kurt asked.

“No, not really.  Just, are you all right?  It looked like you were struggling there for a moment when you were singing for us earlier…which was incredible by the way.  You hit the mood of the song perfectly and your voice is amazing.  Oh, I’m Alonso.”

“Oh, um…thanks.  And I’m fine…it’s just a hard song, you know.  And somethings make it harder.”  Kurt said, a flush to his cheeks.

“Songs of loss tend to be hard if one understands them.  Is it recent?”

Kurt nodded.  “About 6 weeks, no time at all most days and yet so much time other days.  My step-brother.”

“And Gunther had you sing?” Alonso asked, incredulous.

Kurt smiled. “He really likes you guys. I think he wanted someone who would do it right, be respectful…understand. And his normal Madonna singer could not make it today.”

“Well, thank you.  You did an extremely wonderful job.  It was striking and very powerful. You were stunning.”

“No, thank you.  I’ve got to go. I’m sure you all would like to eat at some point today.” Kurt waved and walked to the back, checking to make sure the other tables had spoken to their wait staff to order already.

The irritation and hurt from Blaine’s dismissal of the song and him singing were eased a bit after Alonso’s comments and he was feeling less emotionally fragile when he got to the back with the table’s orders.

“The only other song they asked for by name is ‘Cherish’, but they want at least four to six more songs, mostly from her early years.”  Gunther told Kurt as he caught up to him as he was placing the orders.

“Faster or slow?”

“Probably faster if you can or a mix.  I’ve talked your roommate into ‘La Isla Bonita’, with Sal as a dancer with her.”

Kurt smiled.  “You will want to see that, I’m sure.  Santana can dance.”

“Well she should be starting just about now.”  Gunther said.  “Can you be ready in another 10 for another song?”

“If I stick with ones I don’t even have to really review…yeah, I can. It should be fine. How about ‘Beautiful Stranger’, then ‘True Blue’…very bouncy…, then see if you can get Santana or someone on something, then ‘Cherish’ and finishing off with ‘I’ll Remember’?”  Kurt said.  “I’d like others singing with me on ‘True Blue’ and ‘Cherish’.”

“Harry can play for ‘Cherish’ and ‘I’ll Remember’ and we have tracks for the others you mentioned.  Those will work.  I’ll go talk to the girls and see what they’d like to do. Can you do them in 10 minute intervals?”  Gunther asked.

“I think so if you get someone to do that middle song and I go tend to my tables now while Santana is singing.”

“Go!”

“Don’t forget to come out and listen to Santana sing this.”  Kurt replied as he scurried off back to the floor, hitting the floor just as Santana started singing.  He paused long enough to look at her and smile.  It was a less dance club version of the version she had sung their senior year, but still the primarily Spanish version with the incredible dancing.  Sal met her step for step and lyric for lyric, weaving in and out just as she’d done with Mr. Martinez.

Kurt couldn’t help dancing a bit as Santana and Sal sang and danced on the stage.  His first tables were nearing finishing their meals and he was expecting the food for the next set of tables to be ready anytime now.  He checked if anyone needed refills or anything else.  He was just bringing out the dishes for table 20 when Santana walked by.

“I hope I have time for to grab a drink.  Can you check if the other big table needs refills?  Five minutes tops and I’ll be back.”  Santana said.

“Sure. You were great.  You two looked like you were having so much fun.”  Kurt said.

Santana smiled.  “He’s no Mr. Martinez but Sal sure knows his stuff.  That man can move.  I’m sorry Kurt, I think he’s straight, though.  It was fun… I’d forgotten how much fun dancing like that is.  I think I need to go find a Latin club.  Salsa, Samba…get some serious dancing done.”

Kurt laughed.  He got the food to table twenty and stopped by Santana’s large table to ask if anyone needed their drinks refilled or other drinks.  He’d picked up orders for just two new drinks and was about to leave when the red haired lady in the wheelchair called him over.

“Do you need something?” Kurt asked.

“I don’t, but see the teen over there at the kid’s table?  The sullen one with his arms crossed?  I know he hates fruity drinks like we were served earlier, but since he didn’t drink his he won’t ask for anything new. Could you bring him a cola…doesn’t matter which brand, he likes both the main ones.”

“Certainly.” Kurt smiled.

Kurt noted Santana was dealing with her other tables, so got the drinks for the table himself, stopping by to drop off the drink to the sullen teen last.

“I didn’t ask for anything.” The teen said.

“Your mother sent it over for you.” Kurt said, motioning towards the lady in the wheelchair.

“Angel?  She’s not my mother. She’s my step-mom.” The teen said, a bit bitter sounding.

“New?” Kurt asked.

“Pretty much.  Since Easter.  It went from just me and my dad to her and dad and an older step-sister and three little step-siblings.”

“Ahh.  New house so that you had to leave your old one and new school?”

“Yeah, how’d you know?”

“Been there.  Went from me and my dad to us and a step-brother who my dad could connect with and a step-mom except my stepbrother and I were in the same grade and we didn’t have to change schools because the town was so small. It was very difficult for a while.”

“But it got better?”

“Yeah.  I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”

The kid looked at where his step-mom was chatting with who Kurt assumed to be his dad.

“You know, it was your step-mom who asked me to bring over the cola.  She said you didn’t like fruity drinks.”

The teen looked at Kurt and gave him a half smile before asking, “She did?”

“Yep.”  Kurt waved and got back to work.

 

Chapter Text

Kurt managed to get food out to two more tables and check out two tables before Gunther waved him down.    He passed him a note, with several numbers on it.

“The numbers to get to the music tracks for your next songs.  You are up now.”

Kurt entered the numbers listed for ‘Beautiful Stranger’ into the jukebox as he moved to the front. 

He stood for a few seconds listening to the music, so that he wasn’t all the way to the front when he started singing.  He walked forward in a prowl, stopping at a booth with his hand out for the first line.

Haven’t we met? You’re some kind of beautiful stranger. You could be good for me. I have a taste for danger.”

After the hand shake he pranced and prowled through the tables, stopping now and then to wiggle his hind end or roll his shoulders or shimmy and shake. 

To know you is to love you…” Kurt sang as he stepped onto the stage. “You’re everywhere I go and everybody knows to love you is to be part of you. I pay for you with tears and swallow all my pride

Kurt raised his arms in a manner reminiscent of the Born this Way performance and then as the “dah dah dah de dah” part played he circled his hips as he spun, singing “beautiful stranger” looking at the audience again.  He repeated it again. A few side steps with body rolls during the slight break between singing that were straight from Apples performances and Kurt was facing his audience again.

If I’m smart then I’ll run away…” Kurt sang, looking out at the audience. He saw Rachel glaring at him and Sam laughing at something Blaine had said.  He felt like he was back at McKinley for a few moments…always fighting for acknowledgement.  Then he saw Gunther. Gunther was at the back dancing along, as was most the other staff.  The group he was technically performing for were all smiling and a few were singing quietly along with him or snapping photos. 

But I’m not so I guess I’ll stay. Haven’t you heard? I fell in love with a beautiful stranger.”

Kurt danced about as he sang, trying to keep his face expressive and fun and avoid the over the top ‘force you to see it my way’ or ‘force the feelings’ faces his professors harped on (and he was so never telling Rachel that her faces during the weekly vocal workshop were often used as what not to do).  He went down into the audience again, dancing around the tables, finishing the last “Beautiful Stranger” right in front of Alonso.

The applause was huge.  Kurt again smiled and bowed and then ran off to get his job done. He had food to bring out to the tables he was covering.  He did the orders for the smaller tables first and by the time he had those four orders on the table and drink refills filled, Gunther was motioning for him.  All the dishes for the table full of kids were finished and Kurt took those out, as the other two were busy.  Trying to figure out who had which order of Mac and Cheese or which cheese sandwich was a bit of a trick, but he finally got the smaller children settled with the right meals and went back to get the other five meals, as the two adults who’d been entertaining them earlier were seated with them as well.  Kurt had to chuckle at the 10 minute interval concept Gunther had been aiming for was well shot by then. When he walked back to the counter the orders for his large table were starting to come up. He hadn’t thought they’d be done for a while longer, but Gunther just snorted and informed him he had much started before the orders came in because most of the orders had been what certain people always ordered, at least for Kurt’s table and Jude’s booth. Santana’s table apparently livened things up and many orders were different than usual, so they’d have a bit more wait. Kurt laughed. Kurt had Sal and Tani help bring the dishes out to the large table as they were set out to be retrieved, generally about two or three at a time.  It took Kurt three trips back and forth and Tani and Sal two trips back forth each to get all the dishes delivered to the table.   He hadn’t stopped moving since he got done singing.  He was very relieved when everyone’s dishes were correct and still hot.  He took drink refill orders and was getting ready to head back to fill them when he felt a hand on his arm.

“Kurt, isn’t it?”  The dark haired lady who had been speaking with Claire earlier asked.

“Yes, did you need something more?”  Kurt asked.

“No, I just wanted to tell you how much I’ve been enjoying the performances so far.  Please tell Gunther thank you for us.  This is proving to be an excellent afternoon.  I can’t wait to see what else you all are bringing us.”

Kurt was delighted with the compliment. “Thank You, Ms…”

“My name is Lorelei, but everyone here pretty much calls me Lori.”

“Oh, thanks.  Lorelei is a beautiful name.”

“Why thank you.”

Kurt headed off to refill drinks at all his tables and buss the two tables he’d checked out before he’d sung.  He was pleasantly surprised with the large tips left.  He looked to see if anyone was waiting to be seated and saw Santana off to the side.

“Santana, is there anyone here you’ve sung with enough to do an unholy trinity style backing with, you know like you did with Quinn your very first performance for glee?”

“Pretty much everyone here except Rachel.  She just doesn’t understand the concept of backup singer.  Even when she is supposed to be one she pushes her way to lead.”

“Have you ever seen the ‘True Blue’ video?”

Santana smiled. “Layla and Tani, we won’t even have to pull any servers.  We did a version a few weeks ago with Macy.  It was fun.”

“I want to do the whole making hearts with our hands and jazz sun and pointing at the word you.  Things like that for every word you can think of. Over the top winking and eye batting and sweetie facial expressions, like Toddlers with Tiaras. I want it almost cartoonish.  Fun!”

 Santana smiled, and Kurt knew she understood his vision. “Let me go tell the girls then and we’ll meet you out front in 10?”

“Make it five, we’re supposed to be trying to make the performances about 10 minutes apart and we are already pushing a half hour, but like all my food orders came out.” Kurt said.

“You’re kidding me. You’ll have to help me carry food to my large table as soon as we are done singing then.  We decided on a song for the one after ‘True Blue’, so we’ll be ready.  We are going standard Madonna.”

“’Like Virgin’?”  Kurt squeaked.

Santana through her head back and laughed.  “Oh, I wish I’d thought of that first but No.  ‘Material Girl’.”

Kurt smiled.  “I can’t wait to see you guys. Oh…gotta go.  New Customers and Jamie’s already seating someone else.”

Kurt made it to the door and sat the couple that had come in at a booth near the bar, in Rachel’s section, since it had been empty longer than any of the tables in any of the other sections.

He quickly wished he’d just sat them in his own section, courtesy be damned.

“Kurt, what was that?” Blaine stopped him from going back to work by grabbing his arm, again.

“I was talking to Santana about the next song.”  Kurt replied, confused.  He once again pried Blaine’s fingers off his arm.

“Not that.  That!” Blaine nearly shouted, waving his hand towards the stage.

“A song?”

“That was not singing a song, Kurt.  That was flirting.”

“No. That was performing.” Kurt said, rolling his eyes.  “How in any way, shape, or form was that flirting?”

“You took someone’s hand, Kurt!  You looked at a man, looked him straight in the face and called him a beautiful stranger!”

“I offered my hand for a hand shake and I made eye contact with many people throughout the course of the song. I also looked a woman in the face and called her a beautiful stranger.  Are you flirting with everyone you touch or make eye contact with when you sing, Blaine?” Kurt asked in a bit of an icy tone.

“That is beside the point.” Blaine snorted. “You were behaving like a ….a….a hussy!”

Kurt just smiles coldly.  “Well then, you are really going to hate the next one.”

Kurt turned and stalked off.   Blaine was having a negative effect on his blood pressure today and he’d just about had it. Although, Kurt guessed he’d watched the performance more than it had seemed while he was up there and Blaine had been whispering with Sam and seeming like he was ignoring Kurt.  But honestly…a hussy? Kurt wasn’t sure how offended to be, really, considering.  However annoyed was perfectly reasonable even with stupid words.  Even Blaine’s terms were driving him batty.  He pasted a smile on his face and went to seat another set of customers who’d just walked in.

He’d managed to get back to his tables, dropping the check off at 20 and 24 and promising to be back to finish them off as soon as he was done singing again and told them that if they didn’t want to wait they could take it up to the cashier themselves, he wouldn’t mind and that he hoped they’d enjoyed their time at the diner.  He noticed a couple, male, coming in as he walked towards the front of the diner.  They were holding hands and whispering to each other. Both had large cameras and smaller cameras hanging around their necks. They waved down Gunther and were guided towards where the large group was sitting.  Claire’s face lit up as she saw them and Gunther pulled two chairs to the table, squishing them in.

Kurt stopped at the Jukebox and nodded to Santana, who dragged Tani and Layla up to the stage.  He set the song to play and started skipping towards the stage.

Hey” Kurt sang.

What?” Santana and the girls sang back.

He ran and jumped to the stage and spun just into to come in with “Listen”, the girls standing behind him right off his left shoulder but off to the side far enough for Kurt to see them.

I’ve had other guys, I’ve looked into their eyes.” Kurt sang.  Kurt and the girls fell into the iconic shoulder wiggle and side step and butt wiggle from the video.  He smiled as he watched them wag their fingers when he sang ‘never knew love before’ and do a little dance walk in place matching his when the joined him as he sang “Til you walked through my door.” 

Santana and the girls had the motions perfect and knew what he’d been after. They sang background. They matched him with the fingertip to his lips and the pointing to the audience and then to himself and even the fingertip to the head for the word know during the rest of the verse.  Kurt knew they’d match him well enough for the rest of the song and just relaxed into the music and cheesy hand motions worked in with the bobble wiggle.

True Love, You’re the one I’m dreaming of, your heart fits me like a glove and I’m gonna be true blue. Baby I love you.”   Kurt sang and batted his eyes.

During the next verse, Santana and the girls pony stepped their way over to Kurt, patting his back when he mimed crying and grasping their hands together as he sang of being excited about being best friends.  They then pony stepped their way back into their line in time to mime remember and whispered.

Kurt sang the chorus again, Santana and the girls dropping out the first time through the chorus and then coming back in the second time singing what he’d sung as an echo.

They joined in again when he sang “No more sadness, I kiss it goodbye. The sun is bursting right out of the sky. I searched the whole world for someone like you, don’t you know, don’t you know that it’s”…complete with finger wagging and overly sad face, and blown kisses, and jazz arms sun and hand above the eye and arms out to the audience. He shared smiles of joy with Santana and Tani and Layla, who all seemed to be having as much fun as he was with the song and the over the top motions.  He was having a lot of fun and wished he’d managed a song with the unholy trio to see if it would have been as fun.

They did the rest of the song very closely to the dancing in the video, lots of spinning and pony stepping and shoulder shimmies and arm motions. Santana and the girls danced with him in a train type form for the last verse leaning on each other and whispering together. Kurt made heart motions and pointed and made heart faces and batted his eyes, towards several tables in the audience, but avoided even glancing towards Blaine and Sam, and Rachel…who actually moved to the other side of the diner to give him and Santana stink eyes.  He was getting glee club flashbacks with her behavior.

They hit the end of the song, and Kurt signaled to Santana that they’d end on the third ‘true love, oh baby’ after the lalalala chorus.  They bopped and wiggled to the side with each “true love, oh baby” and then sang True Love one more time before each jumping a half turn so the backs were facing the audience and  dropping the head down to rest, waiting out the section of the song where the singing on the video faded out.

The applause was wild and Santana, Tani, Layla and Kurt turned around to people all over the diner standing while they clapped.  Kurt and Santana looked at each other and started laughing, hugging the other girls and each other before taking bows and heading off to work.  Kurt was giddy with how much he’d enjoyed performing that song and how much fun it had been.

He and Santana left to one side and the other girls headed off the stage to the other side. 

“We have got to find someone on the staff that has that recorded.  I’ve got to show that to Dani and Elliot. That has potential.” Santana said. “By the way, you are being glared at.”

“Rachel?”  Kurt asked.

Santana looked over. “Well, yes actually, but I wasn’t talking about her.  Your soulmate is trying to set you aflame, and not in a sexy way.”

“And I don’t care right now, I’m working” Kurt said in a sing song voice, waltzing past Santana to check on his tables.

 

Chapter Text

Kurt rang up the two tables that’d been finishing as he sang, enjoying the praises they gave him on the performances they’d seen.  He saw Santana’s wave and helped her and Tani and Layla bring food dishes out to her large table, taking compliments for ‘True Blue’ and the other songs from those whose food he handed out.  He then introduced himself to the customers who’d just been seated and was just heading to place their orders for drinks when he heard his name called.

“Kurt, over here!”

“Maxi!” Kurt called out.  He dropped off his drink orders and quickly ran over to where two boys were standing after coming down from the upstairs area, meeting them with a hug and kissed cheeks.  Maxi and Ty were Apples and also in his script analysis class and drama class.

“You’ve been utterly brilliant today!  I can’t believe we never thought to do early Madonna, it would so be Apple’s style.” Ty gushed.

“Make notes when you get home, because the Apples would be brilliant with classic Madonna.” Kurt replied.

“Soooo, we were sent to invite you to sing with us next week.  We’ve got that Sondheim mash-up together and we need you to sing with us on it, after all it was mostly your doing.  And we want you to come watch Adam’s senior project.  You were so instrumental in it coming together; we all think you need to see it.” Maxi said.

Kurt looked over his shoulder to where Rachel was once again talking with Blaine and Sam.

“That’s why they sent us. We know what message you sent with her, but it’s been long enough that no one is upset anymore.  Hurt still a bit, yes, but no one is mad. ” Ty said.  “We are not incredibly well known Apples and we are in your other classes.  To Little Miss Queen of the World over there, it’ll look like you are just connecting with classmates.  No one has to know you are singing with us and no one has to know you went to see Adam’s senior project; in fact, I really suggest you go see several of the senior projects.  Her ilk rarely goes and sees any of them, unless it is one of the thoroughbreds’ projects or they are in the project, but you can learn huge amounts by watching the projects of seniors in different programs than your own and definitely within the same program.”

“Wait, what? What message?”  Kurt asked.  He had a sinking feeling that Rachel had done something akin to the whole sending Sunshine to the crack house episode. “I thought you guys asked me not to come back because you didn’t want me to be a painful reminder for Adam after I crushed his soul and were mad about how I broke him and hated me for it.”

Ty and Maxi shook their heads. “We were there when she came with the massage from you.” Maxi said.  “And no one sent a message with her to anyone.”

“Well, I didn’t send a message. I was going to go to practice right after I got back and explain, but Rachel told me the message you all supposedly sent with her to give to me.”

Ty and Maxi and Kurt looked back to Rachel, who was waving her arms around as she and Blaine spoke, pointing and gesturing to the other girls who were serving.  Blaine kept patting her back in a comforting manner.

“Message me under the Apple codename.  I’ll be there.” Kurt said, turning back. He knew he was glaring.  He thought about how Finn would have reacted to Rachel’s interference. He wasn’t happy about Sunshine and Kurt doubted he’d be happy about this. Of course he also thought back to times when Rachel sabotaged others for solos and the spotlight…and back to the whole blowing the audition thing. Kurt shook his head and forced a smile. Heck, elections for class president came to mind as well.  Kurt wasn’t going to take it quietly like he’d done before this time…or rather he was going to do what he wanted despite her interference. “Actually, can you make me a list of all the projects you recommend seeing and the time for the Sondheim performance and email it to me, under the vogue email, please.  Thank You.”

“Not a problem Kurt,” Maxi said, kissing his cheeks again.  “I’ll see you in class.”

Kurt waved and the turned back to pick up the drinks for his tables.  He knew he was stalking about. He could feel the ice prince armor up and in full force. He didn’t realize how much others were looking at him as he swept through the diner, because he made a very striking image.

Gunther caught him as he was heading back to the tables with drinks, adding two more drinks onto the tray.

“The Shirley temples go to the two men added to your large table.  See if they would like some food.  You’ve been a treat out there today, boy.  Keep up the good work.”

Gunther’s praise had done little to soothe Kurt’s ire at finding out how Rachel had been meddling.  However he found that it had soothed him enough so that he wasn’t glaring when he delivered the drinks to his customers, thank goodness.

He dropped off the drinks at his newly filled tables and took orders and was heading towards where the two new men were seated next to Claire.  He could overhear them speaking as he neared the table.

“…sure you don’t mind us being here?” the man with the dark red halo of curls asked.  Kurt was certain he’d seen the man somewhere before and he could tell the man’s clothing was high end, but not necessarily designer. 

“Drew, I would not have invited you if I minded. Andy was as important to you as he was to all of us.”

“But we’d only been together half a year, you all had known each other years more.”

“But he was your partner.  It was you who he spoke of and adored with every breath.” Lori said. “Now introduce us to your new darling.”

Kurt cleared his through behind those speaking but they didn’t hear him and kept talking.

“He is not only my ‘new darling’ as you put it, but also works at the company.  He’s one of the best. This is Hawk.” Drew said.  He laughed at Claire’s raised eyebrows.  “No, seriously, his mother named him Hawkins.”

“What was she thinking?”  Lori asked.

The other man, a tall man with golden hair and a smile that rivaled Adam’s for lighting up a room, laughed as well.

“She wanted us to have unique names.  My sister’s name is Legend.   My mom is a Jane, and insisted that one simply could not be anything of note if one was just plain old Jane.”  Hawk said as he rolled his eyes.

“Nonsense.” Claire said. “A name is just that.  What you do with you is only limited by your imagination and willingness to work.”

“She must be pleased, though, I mean look at you.”  Lori said.

Hawk tilted his head and laughed.  “Oh no, she still isn’t happy.  We didn’t do it right.  Legend is the name of one in the entertainment industry.  Hawkins was supposed to be the name of a hero.  I was supposed to want to be police chief or fire chief or a famous lawyer or a brain surgeon.  And Lee’s only goal in life right now is to have and raise as many little rugrats as humanly possible and when she is done with her family to take care of others in need.  I find her the hero. Right now they foster babies.  You know, the ones with medical needs or issues right off the bat.  Luckily she married into money, they’ve fostered as many as five at a time, although just two were in their home.  The others were still in NICU.”

Kurt cleared his through again and Alonso and the lady near him noticed Kurt but not those he was trying to get the attention of.  They just smiled and waved and snickered at his predicament.

“Ugh, I still don’t understand why some parents do that and I am one now!” Lori exclaimed. “They always said, ‘you’ll understand when you become a parent’, but I don’t. I just don’t.”

“None of Andy’s siblings came?”  Drew asked Claire.

“Sofia is going to try to get here at around 3:45.”  Claire said.

“Not Issy?” Drew asked, placing his arm around Claire’s shoulders in a short hug.

“Excuse me” Kurt said.  He still wasn’t noticed and several others at the table were hiding giggles as he shifted his feet and swayed back and forth.

“Issy won’t risk her parents’ wrath. 20 years and she still won’t come.” Claire said.  “I guess I ought to feel lucky she will call once a month, even if she will not speak of Andy at all.”

“Maybe it is too hard for her to come here and remember Andy when she still lives so near home and has to only recall Andrew while there.” Drew said.

“It might be some of it.” Lori said. “I mean, that is part of the point.  We gather here and remember Andy, his brilliance and zaniness and loving nature and his fierceness in all his glory. They buried Andrew Pantella, accounting major and good obedient son.”

“Accounting major?”  Drew asked.  “I never knew they went that far.  I just knew that his father threatened my whole future if I didn’t stay away.”

“Charles was the only one of us invited.  The rest of us didn’t have the right image.”

“Even Bart?”

“Bart is not the right race.”

“But he was already into politics and making a great name for himself.”  Drew said.

Claire rolled her eyes.

“Um, excuse me?” Kurt spoke up louder. “I have drinks for the two gentlemen and would like to ask if you would like something to eat?”

“Oh, dear.  Were you there long?” Claire asked.

“Oh, not too long.” Kurt replied, to which those on the other side of the table laughed.  “It was fine.” Kurt insisted.

Kurt placed the Shirley Temples in front of the two men. “Shirley Temples?” Hawk asked.

Drew laughed. “Andy’s favorite.  He also drank virgin daiquiris if we were out.  Some cousins got him drunk once when he was way little, like twelve. He threw up on his grandmother, his grandfather beat him with a belt until he couldn’t sit and he had been drunk enough to have a four day hangover. He never touched the stuff again.”

Hawk looked horrified before laughing.  “His grandmother? Oh God.  That is so awful.”

“I threw up on my baby sister once.” Claire said.  “I was grounded for three months and my brother, who had brought the alcohol into the house was grounded till he graduated.”

“I threw up on my pastor.” Lori smiled.

Hawk laughed harder.

Kurt snorted.

“Let me guess, you never did anything of the sort?”  Drew asked.

“No, I did.  I threw up all over the shoes of my guidance counselor.  She suffers from extreme OCD. They had to take her to the ER, she was so distressed. I also called her Bambi and told her how sad the hunter shooting her mother was.”

Kurt thought Hawk was going to fall out of his chair, he was laughing so hard.

“God, I needed that today.” Hawk said as he caught his breath.  “At school?”

Kurt nodded.

Hawk smiled.  “I hope you don’t mind me picturing that when I need a laugh.”

Kurt smiled. “Not at all.  If it helps, she has bright red hair and huge eyes, like bush baby eyes and still looks perpetually terrified about most of life and I had much rounder cheeks and looked like a twelve year old milk maid, according to half my glee club.”

“Heavens, how old were you?”

“I was 16, a very young looking sixteen.” Kurt said, with a sigh.  “Puberty was slow to come and never did seem to do a whole lot of good.  Although the growth spurt was nice.  I do appreciate the added height. Oh, um…did you want something to eat?”

Drew chuckled at Kurt’s reddening face.  “Do you still serve the steak fries with the creamy cheese sauce and grilled onions and bacon?  Not the nacho cheese fries or the chili cheese fries.”

“With Mozzarella melted on top as well?” Kurt asked.

“Yes, those!” Drew exclaimed.

“Yes, do you want the garlic butter drizzle on the fries before the cheese?”  Kurt asked.

“Oh God yes.” Drew moaned. “We’ll share a large order of those.  We ate lunch early, since we didn’t know how long the afternoon session was going to go.”

“What are you getting for us?”  Hawk asked, slightly wide eyed.

“Only the best cheesy fries in the world.  And no one say anything.  These are not on our diets, at all.  Not even our indulge ourselves diets.”

The women giggled and Kurt just smiled.  He didn’t know why anyone would fuss.  “It’ll be out in a few.  Would you like any other drinks?”

He asked the rest of the table as well if anyone needed anything.  As he left, he heard Hawk speaking about him.

“God, he is adorable. He’s the one that sang earlier isn’t he?”

“I’m not sure adorable is the word I’d use, too cutesy,” Claire said.  “He is very stunning though.  Beautiful.  As for performances, you missed something else earlier.”

“He’s gorgeous. I swear I’ve seen him somewhere before,” Drew said.

“I swear he’d better be doing something that’s aiming to put him on stage” Alonso joined the conversation.  “It would be a tragedy if he wasn’t.”

Kurt smiled.  Between Gunther and his customers, his ego was having a good booster day.  Screw the ones trying to make it a bad day.  He went and placed the food order and did drink refills.  Then he decided to take the shortcut through the area Rachel was manning to get to the two tables that needed bussed.  She was busy and Blaine and Sam were over talking to Santana.

He made it nearly to the end where he’d exit the seating by the bar into the open seating area to the right of the stage when he was stopped, by a hand grabbing his arm, yet again, and pulled back.

“What was that?” Rachel hissed.

“What was what?”  Kurt asked. He briefly wondered if there was some Drama Queen guide that handed out Drama Queen flash cards because he was getting tired of that question.  Maybe it was a guide to being a Narcissist instead, since he was sure he’d have rated the Drama Queen guide at various points in his life.

“That!  Are you trying to make me the laughing stock of all of NYADA?  Are you trying to paint me a fool? Kurt, I am important here.  Your actions here reflect upon me.  When you look the fool, I will be looked down upon.”

“Rachel, people loved it.” Kurt said.  Rachel was sporting her crazy eyes and Kurt seriously almost expected her to either get up on stage and push people off or walk out after yelling at everyone in the diner, she was acting so much like her younger self.

“No. They just felt sorry for you for looking so stupid.  That was pity applause.  I know, because I have been given true applause here and so I know the difference. You were so bad that everyone here thought you needed to hear applause so you wouldn’t break down crying for not getting any.  Same for the girls.  No  one really liked it, I’m sure. They couldn’t have. Why?  Because you were up there looking stupid and being stupid and doing stupid things. And people will KNOW you are from NYADA and that you are friends with me and they will LAUGH at ME, Kurt!  God, you and Santana are just trying to make all of us here lose our jobs.  Between her dancing like a slut with that Sal earlier and you either lounging about or bopping about, the diner will be a laughing stalk! It will be in ruins, Kurt! And with what they were doing earlier?! No one will come back to the diner after days like this!  Does NO ONE understand true artistry?  You don’t get up there and bop around!  Who does that?  No One.  I swear I need to come in here and teach EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU how to properly perform in a venue like this! This is not show choir, Kurt. That’s why I’m the head singer, and why I’m the one who gets all the solos and main lines.” Rachel’s voice got louder with utterance.

“Lower your voice.  And WHO is going to be looked down upon and laughed at, Rachel? I’m not the one making a scene here.  And guess what, YOU aren’t the head singer.  There is not a head singer and if there was a head singer, it would NOT BE YOU.  It would be someone who has been working here a hell of a lot longer than you have and working in this town a hell of a lot longer than you have. That attitude right there is why YOU are in time out.  Face it Rachel, you are grounded. You have been grounded like a little toddler. You’ve been told why but apparently, you haven’t been listening, so I’ll explain it to you in very simple words, nice and slowly.  You …are… a …song… hog.  You take other people’s lines, you take people’s songs which were assigned to them by Gunther, who is the boss, and when they won’t let you take them…you sing…no you SHOUT…over them, often no longer on key. You FORCE others out of YOUR way when it wasn’t even supposed to be YOU there in the first place. And no one likes it.  You have upset enough people with your behavior that lots of people complained. Customers have complained, Rachel.  Not just staff. If people stop coming to the diner, it is more likely because they are tired of your behavior, hence why YOU are GROUNDED, than they don’t like the rest of our performances.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you remain grounded even after your time is up because you don’t seem capable of understanding WHY you are grounded.”

“How dare you!?” Rachel stomped her foot and balled up her fists, including the one still gripping Kurt’s arm.

 “And right now you are just sore because someone else is getting attention.  Someone not you is getting the applause. You know what?  Tough Luck. Now let go of my arm.  I have work to do and I actually do my work.  By the way, your tables are a mess.”

Kurt tore his arm from Rachel’s grasp and stalked off.  Luckily bussing tables took no cheerful social skills and wiping down tables could be a harsh activity.  Great tips didn’t hurt.  By the time the two tables were clear and clean, Kurt was once again capable of smiles…and he could see Santana and pretty much all the other female wait staff getting ready to sing.  Julie had taken over Jamie’s spot seating people while Jamie joined the singers.  He picked up the bin of dishes and waved as Jamie punched in numbers on the Jukebox.

If he was mostly smiling at Rachel’s fury at not being able to sing with Santana and the other girls, well…no one needed to know why he was smiling.

He checked on his tables, dancing around the girls as they sang and danced throughout the whole diner.  They had split the song up in a way that reminded Kurt of how the TroubleTones used to sing together. It didn’t surprise Kurt that Santana took the first part. He loved hearing Jamie take the lead for the “They can beg and they can plead but they can’t see the light” verse, as she was about the least money obsessed person he’d ever met. She worked at the diner because she loved working at the diner and loved her job.  She often gave her tips to others who needed them.

When the girls worked together they blended so well, Kurt thought as they sang the chorus together.   He hoped he was blending with the girls as well when he was singing with them.

He gave Layla a quick hug as she draped herself across his back as she sang “some boys try and some boys lie, but I don’t let them play.  Only boys who save their pennies make my rainy day…”.  She spun off with a kiss to his nose. Kurt smiled and laughed.

Kurt laughed as Mack, Jude and Peter came sweeping in to provide the male voices and twirl around the girls, lifting and moving them about one by one as they swept through the group.  He moved his way to the kitchen area to pick up the fries for Drew and Hawk and pretty much danced his way back out to the large table.  The two men were ecstatic as they started to eat and the moan from Hawk’s mouth as he tasted the cheese fries for the first time was near pornographic.  He waved as he danced over to check to see if food for either of his other two tables waiting for their orders to be up were ready yet.

Kurt laughed at Cara as she sang the last verse, hanging on Jude and Sal and stroking along their faces as she batted her eyes their way.  She even reached out and trailed a hand down Kurt’s arm as he passed by with one of the orders for his tables.

He laughed even harder when one of Santana’s tables handed her money as she danced by and she did the whole fingering through it like was done in the video.  Again the applause at the end of the song was loud and long.  The girls had definitely deserved it as well.  Kurt was still chuckling after handing food around and listening to Santana talk to the people who’d passed her the money, who kept insisting it was a tip, even though they were nowhere near done eating yet.

The mood in the whole diner was cheery and happy and almost all the wait staff was smiling and laughing as they went about their jobs.  Kurt wished everyday could be so good.

Of course, as usual for the day, his good mood was halted. The emotional ups and downs of the day were starting to induce a migraine.  Blaine had come to fetch him.

“Kurt, Sam and I would like some dessert.” Blaine said, pulling at his arm again.

“Blaine, let go.” Kurt said.

“But Kurt, Sam and I would like some dessert!”

“You are sitting in Rachel’s realm of responsibility.  Go ask Rachel.”

“But Rachel is ignoring me.  She won’t listen to me about me singing and just wants to rant about herself not getting to sing today.  And why are you being so unfair to her anyway? She keeps complaining to me about you taking all the songs in here away from her.  Kurt, you know she would do better than you on these don’t you?  How could you lie to your boss about you being the better choice and that Rachel shouldn’t sing right now?”                                                                                                                

“Blaine, if you want dessert, go sit down and I will get to you two after I’ve finished with MY space. As for the rest, I am singing because I have been asked to. By my Boss. That is all you need to know and if you want to know why Rachel hasn’t sung at all today…or yesterday or even a few days before that…ask her, and if she doesn’t mention the words time out or grounded, then ask Santana. Now, go sit and let go of my arm.”

“But I’m not done with you!” Blaine stomped his foot as he shouted, but at least he let go of Kurt’s arm.

“Yes, you are, at least for now, because I am at work and I have at least a half hour to forty-five minutes to go before I can even THINK of taking a break.”  Kurt said, rubbing over his eyebrows.  He ran through places he could go other than the loft where there would be quiet when he got off work later, at least until the headache that was building had eased. 

“But Kurt, you are supposed to stop and listen to me when I’m trying to talk to you. Remember?  That is how it is supposed to work.  You aren’t being a good future husband at all right now. I say ‘Pay Attention To Me’ and you pay attention to me, that is what you promised when you said yes. Otherwise you will just ruin our relationship again.”

“And I will comply with your demand to pay attention to you. After work!”

“But Kurt…” Blaine started in a whine.

“Blaine. If you want dessert, go sit down.  If you don’t, pay your bill and go back to the loft.”

“But…you kissed a guy!  And even before that your performance was embarrassing!  How could you act so…so…so…” Blaine sputtered.

“I am working. Go sit now!”

Kurt turned and walked off, Blaine following him and calling his name.

Kurt veered off, stalking over to Sam.

“Keep him at the table or go, somewhere…but this needs to stop Sam. I am working and I have to work to be able to pay rent, buy groceries, and exist in this city. Now, what type of dessert would you like?”  Kurt ended with a smile.

Sam pulled Blaine down.  “Two slices of your very berry cheesecake, please and two cups of coffee.”

“I’ll be right out.”  Kurt turned and stalked off again, listening to Sam hiss at Blaine as he left. He put in their order and went and washed his hands and splashed water on his face.   Then Kurt waited at the bar for the coffee and cheesecakes, letting Peter ease his temper.  He just needed a few minutes to get his mood back to an even keel.

“You’ve had some absolutely brilliant performances today.  You are so lucky to be showcased right now,” Peter said, after a few minutes of just telling Kurt about the more nutty costumers he’d had so far.

Kurt shrugged.  “I’ve had a great deal of fun performing and people seemed to like them, but I’m not sure about lucky.”

“You are wait staff for Gunther’s group there.”

“That makes me lucky?”  Kurt asked.  “Is it because they ask for wait staff they like to be their servers next time they’re in?”

Peter looked at Kurt with wide eyes and then tilted his head. He was aware Kurt was pretty new to the diner and hadn’t been in the city all that long, but Rachel Berry had not much more time in either place than the young man before him and she was always asking about names and trying to understand who was who in order to make an impression, in an aggressive and nearly violent manner often. In fact Peter had often caught her walking around looking at the photos up on the walls repeating names to herself and typing those names into her phone to see why they were important enough to be up on Gunther’s walls.  Everyone knew not to tell the girl that only photos at least 10 years old were displayed in the dining area and some people’s photos never made it out of Gunther’s office area…the people in them were too important and no one wanted them harassed in the diner. Kurt’s nonchalance was confusing, almost. He looked at the coffee which was almost ready, pulling out cups. “So, I know that you attend NYADA with Miss Berry and that you have another job as well, right?”

“Yes.  I have an internship at Vogue.com, very low paid right now. We thought it would be unpaid after the New Year, but Ms. Wright managed to get it to be a low pay plus credit.  I just started at NYADA in January.”

“Have you done any auditioning around town yet?”  Peter asked.

“Oh, no.  I understand they prefer freshman not to anyway, at NYADA at least. Unlike Rachel I didn’t win the Winter Showcase, so I don’t think I have much chance of getting a pass. And you know…I know I need my acting classes and dance classes and voice classes before I really have any chance of getting a part in anything. I wouldn’t mind auditioning for the practice, though…for the experience of doing so, but I also understand waiting until I really have something to offer if I get a part.  I can sing, well, I think I can sing and I beat Rachel out at Midnight Madness, which is like NYADA fight club. But Broadway needs more than that, I think. Even off Broadway and all the smaller professional options. I don’t want to ever be a burden for a producer because I wasn’t prepared enough for the reality of putting on a show, you know?”

Peter poured the coffee into two cups and turned to grab cheesecake slices.  

“That is a very mature attitude. And do you think you are learning that at NYADA?”  Peter asked.

Kurt smiled.  “Definitely. Well, most of the time. Mainly in classes where Rachel’s toadies aren’t present and NYADA’s weird high school-esque status strata isn’t so much in play.  I mean, I might think half of first year acting is ridiculous, but acting big enough but not too big and speaking loud enough to carry and putting words into actions and how just changing the actions changes the whole tone…I never had the opportunity in High School to learn that, not really. Not more than wearing a day to day mask to keep people from behaving like sharks after blood. And reading a script and bringing that to life, bringing words from the page into something living and breathing like a good show…the need to show not just tell…that is something we never did in school. And it’s not just the on stage part I want to know, you know.  I want to learn about it all…lighting and stage design, music inclusion in non-musicals, everything.  I love make-up and costumes and want to learn more about doing them for theater, and not just glee club competitions.  And script analysis has been fascinating.”

Peter smiled as he handed Kurt the desserts and coffees.  “I think at the rate you are going you will someday be a force to be reckoned with.  Definitely on stage, and probably even off.”

Kurt felt his face heat.  “I hope so, thanks for the encouragement; it is nice to hear someone who thinks going about it slowly and this way might be worth it. And thanks for the break, I needed it.  I’d better get back out there though.”

Kurt delivered the desserts to Blaine and Sam, and Blaine just glared at him. Sam smiled and said thanks. Then Kurt went back to his tables and essentially started over, stopping at each tables to see what was needed and taking care of it immediately when he could do so.  He got drink refills for most and took dessert orders for two, while handing the check to another.  Finally he was back to the large table.

“Can I get anyone here anything?”  Kurt asked. “Drink refills?  More food?  Coffee? Desserts?”

“Gunther should already have our dessert order, we turned that in with the appetizer order weeks ago.” Claire said.  “However, I would like a banana split milkshake, with the strawberry ice cream and strawberry on top instead of a cherry and hot fudge topping.”

“Milkshakes?”  Alonso asked.  “I want one. I’ll have the peach melba.”

“I want the banana split shake with pineapple topping and hot fudge topping, vanilla ice cream and a cherry on top.” Lori said.

Kurt took six more milkshake orders, including Hawk and Drew’s caramel apple milkshake.  He was writing down an order from one of the other men at the table, who had ordered a peanut butter with hot fudge milkshake when the other table decided enough was enough. Kurt looked towards the pretty Aboriginal lady whose face scrunched with annoyance when a shrill voice from the other table spoke up.

“Milkshakes?  Milkshakes!” a dark haired lady spoke-up with a very New York accent.  “That is blasphemous!  Cheesecake is the only option at Gunther’s!”

“Celia, we are having cheesecake for dessert…these are just drinks.” Lori said.

“No, you are cheating.” Celia said.  “I get to pick the dessert because it is almost my birthday, and the dessert is cheesecake.  The only other option at here is pie.  You know this Lori.  I bet this was Claire’s idea.”

“Celia, ease up,” said a man at the large booth, who was holding an infant who was nearly asleep against his shoulder.

“I’m not talking to you Lloyd,” Celia said.  “In fact I have nothing to say to you at all.”

She then went on a rant at the poor man, which had everyone else rolling their eyes.

The women Kurt was waiting on spoke. She had the loveliest Australian accent. “Don’t mind them, in fact don’t mind Celia.  She thinks she rules the hive, but she hasn’t really ever done so.  I’m Sheila, by the way, and I would love one of the berry milkshakes, with whichever type of fresh berries Gunther has in the back today.”

Kurt smiled.  “You ARE Australian!  And you parent’s named you Sheila?”

“It was my grandfather’s choice, actually.  He thought it was hilarious.”

Kurt looked over to where Celia and Lloyd were still arguing, or rather Celia was chewing him out and he was rolling his eyes and replying in a manner that didn’t let what she was spewing at him stand alone. “Um, think I should do something?”

“Nah.  They were married for seven years, got married their second year of university. Her family wasn’t happy about it.  She was supposed to have married some kid from the neighborhood and it had been planned that way since she was in diapers. Then they moved to Celia’s neighborhood, at Celia’s demand, where all Celia’s family lives, and where the man the family wanted her to be with lived.  Lloyd took a job managing an old theater, but it was falling apart and the building owners finally decided to sell.  Celia had wanted kids right off so there they were, married for five years with three tots under age 4 and Lloyd out of work and not long out of university and Celia just verily taking her last two courses to finish up her degree.  Celia was furious, not at the building owner or anyone she should have been, but at Lloyd.  Celia got a job with her family, who ran a tailor and seamstress type business.  But the whole time she worked her mother fed into her fury.  Then Lloyd got a job working at an off Broadway theater as assistant manager, since the manager managed three or four other theaters at the time as well it was a big job.  Celia then flipped out about all the women he worked with, who he was obviously cheating on her with. They were divorced within a year.  Celia married the man her parents had planned on her marrying within six months after that.  Lloyd finally did marry one of those actresses who worked in the theater…three years ago. But over fifteen years of working a good job with only himself and child support payments to take care of left Lloyd time and money to have a bit of fun before he married again. Celia isn’t happy that Lloyd is living this life that she dreamed of and she is still living in her old neighborhood, with a man who adores her but who also is very old fashioned in his views about women and how marriage works and she is ‘just a mother’. They’ll argue for five to ten minutes, and then someone will distract her. If she stands up and starts looking like she is about ready to hit or tart throwing things, Bart will pull her off for a chat about the unions involved with her family’s business and she will go off on that until she is calm again. Gunther always shows up at about that time and seats them off somewhere else for a bit. I would advise the next song very soon, that should help.”

Kurt looked again.  In a way she reminded him of Rachel.  It was scary.

 

Chapter Text

Kurt went and turned in the Milkshake orders and asked Gunther about the desserts.

“I’ll have you do the next number and then we’ll bring the cheesecakes out.  By the way, the girls have decided they want to do a number in between your last two.  Not Santana at the moment, she decided to do her tables during the time, but the rest.  I’m sure she’ll be joining them though; Tani hasn’t stopped asking her to join them since they decided to sing. They are jealous you’ve been getting to have so much fun today.  I hope you don’t mind waiting a bit more to finish up and before you can take your break.”

Kurt laughed. “Not at all, watching ‘Material Girl’ was a blast.  Did they tell you what number?”

“They will surprise me.  They were still discussing it last I knew. I trust them; they are good girls and know how to keep to a topic when given one.  Now, start taking the first four of your milkshakes out to your table, they should be done soon, and then be ready to sing. You should be singing in less than three. I don’t think we’ve hit an every ten minute goal yet…maybe between Santana and Sal and your ‘Beautiful Stanger’ we were close.  I should have rearranged the tables better, so my main singers didn’t have a larger than normal table load.  Anyway, I’ll have Sal take anything else out to your tables and the next round of milkshakes.”

Kurt took two milkshakes, which were the only ones done yet, out to his table. The lady who had been upset was acting as if she hadn’t been fighting with anyone just moments before, laughing at something the man sitting next to had said in response to the man sitting about five seats down had said in a very heavy Jamaican accent. Kurt was taken aback just second later when the gentleman spoke again in a very bland American accent. Kurt smiled and marveled at the skill shown with the accent switching, it was something he was hoping to learn.  Kurt headed back to the counter to grab two more milkshakes.  He was ambushed halfway to the counter by his name being called from the doorway.  Elliot was coming through, holding the door for another group to pass into the diner as well. He was dressed more as Starchild than the usual Elliot attire.  Kurt waved for him to follow him.

“Elliot, what are you doing down here today? I thought you had classes?” Kurt asked.

Elliot went to hug Kurt, who looked over his shoulder before shaking his head and side stepping the hug.  Elliot tilted his head in questions and Kurt rolled his eyes.  “Sorry. Blaine’s here for his NYADA audition and is already in a snit.”

Elliot and Kurt looked over at Blaine, who had pulled his chair around to the other side of the table and who was leaning up against Sam as they shared an ice cream sundae.  He raised his eyebrows at Kurt.

Kurt sighed. “I swear.  They just had cheesecakes!  Boys! Don’t ask.  Anyway, why are you here? We rarely get to see you on class days.”

Elliot shook his head, he had been looking at the fact Kurt’s Blaine was nearly seated in the lap of another guy so Kurt’s comment on their dessert threw him off a bit. “Dani was inundated with texts telling us to get down here to watch some vids from earlier and to hopefully catch some stellar performances. One of the girls said something about Gunther’s favorite group being in and him allowing something neat later.  I just followed orders to get down here, so I’m not sure what all is up. I’d just got done with a presentation, hence the costume, and the rest of my classes are canceled. Auditions and such are happening at NYU. Of course they couldn’t bother telling us before we got to campus. Anyway, Dani’ll be here in a few.  She sent me to get a table or space at the bar.” 

“I’d advise the second floor at the moment, unless you’ll be more than two.  Rachel is no happier today than Blaine and has taken to complaining to people she knows.”

“Sore about being in time out?”  Elliot asked.

“How did you know?” Kurt said, grabbing two more shakes that were waiting.  He waved to Sal and pointed to the stage, and Sal nodded.  Kurt figured Gunther had already asked him to take the other milkshakes out to the table.  “Walk with me and I’ll find you a seat either near my section or upstairs before I need to be on stage.”

“Dani was working with her and Santana when Gunther put her in time out Saturday.  I don’t blame him.  I was here a few days before during Rachel’s shift. I could not believe what she pulled. I think she shoved that one little dark haired girl, you know, the one who looks like the girl from Twilight, into the piano.  It was insane.”

Kurt rolled his eyes, “You know Rachel. She shoved one of the other girls the day before she got grounded as well, and pulled Layla up to sing with her when one of the men who works with the producer of Funny Girl walked in.  Layla had a tray FULL of dishes she was trying to take to one of her tables and Rachel nearly made her spill it all.  Luckily Alex managed to get to her before it all crashed down.”

“I do.” Elliot said. “I take it she doesn’t think she did anything wrong?”

“Yep.”

“Oh My God, we love your jacket!” Drew exclaimed and Kurt turned to look at the table and the shakes in his hand.  “Where did you find it?”

“These are the two banana split shakes, so,” Kurt said. “Claire and Lori.”  He placed the shakes in front of the two women and turned to Elliot.  “Well, aren’t you going to answer?”

Elliot chuckled.  “I made it.  Costume and design project. Oh, Kurt. I’ve got a quick cash job if you have some extra hours within the next week.  Some grad students royally dropped the ball in the department and Rosie needs people who can sew badly.  She said to ask you if you’d be willing.  She was very impressed with that emergency vest you put together for Jasmine.  She is taking help from tonight until the sewing is done.”

“I can’t tonight, but the out of town guests leave at 6 tomorrow morning and I don’t have my first two classes because tomorrow is Dance and Drama auditions, so I won’t have to be to campus until almost one.”

“Wait, Rosie, as in the head of costuming at NYU?”  Claire asked, and then took a bite of her shake and moaned.

“Oh, um, yes,” Elliot said.  “I’m a student there.”

“Very nice,” Lori said.  “Most of us here at the table were, too.  Is that where you know Kurt, our adorable waiter, from?”

“No.  I joined the band he was starting a bit ago.”

“Really?”  Claire asked, sounding as if she’d just found out a very tasty bit of gossip.

Elliot nodded.

“Oh, look! Gunther is signaling that it is time for me to sing again.  Elliot, let’s go find you someplace to sit.”  Kurt said, his cheeks heating up.  Kurt pulled Elliot’s hand and led him towards the stairs.  Elliot waved to the group as he was dragged off. As they left Kurt heard Hawk say to Drew, “Oh, look at those britches, I need pants like those!”

“Huh? What?”  Drew asked.

“The pants he was wearing.”                                                                           

“I didn’t notice.  I was a bit distracted.”

“Distracted?  You were looking the same direction I was! Oh!”

Elliot must have heard as well as he laughed.

“They seem a very friendly lot.”  Elliot said.

Kurt smiled.  “They really do, but I do not want Gunther to have any problems with me and think I’m like promoting myself or anything.  I actually really like this job and I’d like to keep it.”

Elliot chuckled. “Somehow, I doubt he’d ever think that about you.”

Kurt shrugged and waved down Mack.  “Mack, do you have room for at least two?  Dani will be joining Elliot and we are trying to keep him out of someone’s complaining space.”

“Miss Berry at it again?” Mack asked.

“You know it.” Elliot answered.

“I have got to go,” Kurt said.  “Gunther will start growling soon.”

Kurt ran off and up onto the stage, waving down Layla and Santana.

Harry was on stage with them, with a guitar, which was not what Kurt had expected.  He played a few measures though and Kurt smiled.  It was the perfect accompaniment. Kurt sang “Cherish” to the girls and they echoed it back to him. He smiled and waved at Dani as she entered the diner and headed up the stairs towards Elliot.  Another lady came in right after her, with light colored hair and freckles, holding the hands of two kids.  She walked towards the NYU group.  Claire smiled and waved to Gunther, who pulled a chair up to the table Santana was in charge of. The two kids, a young boy who strongly remind Kurt of himself when little and a slightly taller girl with big green eyes, were tucked into the booth the other kids. He looked over and saw Rachel ‘discussing’ with Peter over something, complete with large hand movements or her hands on her hips.  Blaine was glaring at him again and Sam was whispering to Blaine.  Kurt focused again on those seated right in front of the stage.

So tired of broken hearts and losing at this game before I start this dance I take a chance in telling you I want more than just romance. You are my destiny, I can’t let go. Baby can’t you see?”  Kurt sang, motioning for the girls to come in on the next line and smiling when they did join him in “Cupid, please take your aim at me.

Kurt danced around the girls, leaning up against them or grabbing and squeezing a hand, as the sung the chorus together, the girls joining on each line that started with Cherish, and Kurt finishing the phrase. Santana took the “I’m always singing it” line, skipping up to Kurt, who was leaning on Layla at the moment and bopping him on the nose as she skipped around to the other side of Layla again.

Luckily Kurt’s giggle was done before he and Layla sang “Cherish the strength”, and no one came in breathless. 

Kurt looked up to see Dani and Elliot leaning on the half wall and Kurt smiled as they waved.  He focused on them as he sung the next section, smiling when he saw Dani singing along when he hit “Romeo and Juliet, they never felt this way I bet, so don’t underestimate my point of view.”

He smiled at Dani as she made heart signs to him and he returned her heart sign and blew her a kiss before starting the chorus with the girls again.  He noticed cameras out all over the diner and smiled. If people were taking pictures or videotaping the performances, then Rachel was most certainly very wrong. Kurt and the girls switched it up the next little bit, with him singing the “Cherish the thought” and the girls joining on “Of always having you here by my side” and keeping that pattern and the girls danced around him, leaning on him and patting his cheek and making him dance tiny sets of cha cha or swing with them.

He jumped off the stage for the next part, stopping at the nearest table he was server for and singing “Who? You! Can’t get away, I won’t let you.”  The elderly lady sitting there batted her eyes at him and patted his cheek.  He blushed but went to the next table he served at and sang “Who? You! I could never forget you.”  It held a group of teen girls who were there with a school group, who all rose their hands to the hearts and sighed. Kurt turned then and sang to the whole front section, but mostly to the large tables “Cherish is the word I use to remind me of your love.”

Santana and Layla sang the bridge and Kurt dance around the floor some more, joining three of the little children who’d been sitting at the NYU group’s kids’ table dancing in front of their table.

He was there when the next part started, so while he sang “Romeo and Juliet, they never felt this way I bet, so don’t underestimate my point of view,” he let the kids use his hand to twirl under.  Then he dropped to his knees so he was about their height and sang the “Who? You!” section repeat.

He stood again and danced back to Santana and Layla as they sang “Cherish, Give me faith, Give me Joy, my boy, I will always cherish you,” and was back onto the stage when the finished the second round of it.  Layla continued singing the “Cherish give me faith, give me joy, my boy” and Santana and Kurt sang the chorus again once through, ending with a hard stop and their heads dropped.  It wasn’t quite like the ending to the song normally, but it was much tidier without having a fade. 

Elliot and Dani were standing and whistling at them, but it was hardly even noticeable in the applause that was filling the diner.  Kurt waved and hopped of the stage, stopping at the large table before completely getting back to work.

“Did everyone get their milkshakes?”  Kurt asked.

“We did. Thank-you for checking up on that.” Claire said.  “Have you sung that before with the girls?”

Kurt shook his head.  “No, but they have both done that number with Macy, who is the one who usually sings Madonna here.  The closest I came to singing it in public was singing along with a mash-up of that ‘Cherish’ song and the Association’s ‘Cherish’ song that a bunch of kids in my high school glee club put together for a Valentine ’s Day serenade, for one of the singers up there and her girlfriend at the time, actually.  I’ve always sung along to it in private though, no one to stop me or complain then.”

Lori looked at him surprised. “You’ve had people stop you or complain about you singing?”

“I grew up in Ohio, almost rural Ohio it was such a small town type mindset.”  Kurt said. “I sang in glee clubs, but I was not right for any solo work so was usually told No when trying to get a part.  Of course, most people were told No in order to constantly showcase the same two or three people, even though several singers in both the glee clubs I sang for were superior to those showcased. We just weren’t the right look, I guess.”

“So, let me get this straight,” Alonso said. “Kids would try out for solos or parts and no matter how well they performed; the part would go to the same people anyway.”

“Yeah, pretty much. Often the ones to get the parts wouldn’t even have tried out.”

“It sounds to me you had very unprofessional directors.” Alonso said.

“Well, the acapella glee club I was a member of briefly didn’t have a real director, it was student managed and I don’t think I ever saw an adult with us.  I assume they had someone help with the arrangements, but maybe not. It was definitely a popularity contest, whether certain people like to admit it or not.  And I think the sole bit of qualification my teacher had for teaching glee club at my other school was that when he was in high school he sang in the club and they went to nationals and won.  I am certain part of his choices were based on reliving his dream through his chosen leads.  C’est La Vie.”  Kurt shrugged his shoulders.

“It doesn’t upset you?”

“It used to, but the more students in the business that I’ve talked to…real people, not golden children for whom everything just happens and who somehow exist separate from reality…the more I realize that it’s actually prepared me.  People will tell me no and it might just be because they need their actor to be a foot shorter that run or blond and not brown haired. But they should also tell me why they said no and what I did right and wrong so I can become a better option for the next time around.  It’s like at Vogue…sometimes what is the hot thing right now is beyond silly, but it’s a fickle world out there and it’ll change the next time around. Because I can deal with the word No better than some, I’ll probably be able to withstand being told No without having a meltdown.  And I’ve already learned to just keep getting up there and try again.”

“That’s a healthy attitude.” Claire said.

“A bit of advice,” Alonso said. “If you go to an audition and they do not tell you why you didn’t get that part and give a reasonably detailed sheet on what you did well and what you needed to work on, get in touch with the producer or someone at the theater and inform them of that. A manager or someone like that. Not only do those trying out rely upon those critiques, but agents and professors do as well.  Someone can then make the changes necessary to have those critiques more complete the next time.”

“Thank you.” Kurt said.  He saw a woman at one of his other tables trying to get his attention.  “I’ve got to go…a singing waiter still must do the waiting part sometimes.”

 

Chapter Text

Kurt went to find out what the lady waving him down wanted (the check, they only came in for drinks and appetizers) and then got waylaid on his way to the kitchen by the table of girls.

“Can I help you?” Kurt asked.

“Are you on Broadway?” one of the girls asked rather breathlessly.

“Um, nope.  I’m a student still.”

“See, I told you he wasn’t as old as you thought he was,” a blonde with a two ponytails said.

“What?  He could have been 22 or 23?” the one who first spoke said.

Kurt laughed.

“So, what school do you go to?” A dark haired girl with glasses asked, staring at him from over the top of her glasses.

“I attend NYADA.”

“Oh My God! Do you just love it? Is it as awesome as I’ve heard?  Do you just sing and dance all day?  Do they really drive you to hand-picked auditions and introduce you straight into jobs? I mean I’ve heard it is really the only school for musical theater there really is.”  The girl who gushed on and on had frizzy light brown hair and very intense eyes.

“Um…it’s is a good school, but there are several other excellent schools for artists in New York, like NYU and Columbia and Julliard.  I do more than sing and dance, there is more to performing than that.  There are theory classes and acting and lots of lit type classes, languages. I’ve never heard of anyone being handed jobs, sorry.  We get training but the rest is pretty much up to us and involves auditions with the masses that audition.  I do know some courses help with some roles, though, so I guess that might be a leg-up. Umm…is there anything you wanted?”  Kurt asked.

“So, how old are you?” the one with glasses asked.

“Um, not quite 20, would you like something?”  Kurt asked again.

The adult with them sighed and spoke, finally. “The girls would like milkshakes, but we eat with our group in a few hours and I don’t want them too full to eat dinner.  Do you have smaller milkshakes?”

“We have small child milkshakes and medium child milkshakes.” Kurt answered.

“We’ll have five small child milkshakes, do you do those with the hot fudge and caramel for kids?”

“Yes.”

“Then we’ll have two hot fudge, two caramel and one just plain vanilla.  All with vanilla bases.”

“All right, those will be out in a few.”

“Will you be singing more?”

“Um, later, but there is at least a number between now and then.” Kurt said, backing slowly away.

“Girls, leave the poor boy alone.”

“But he’s so dreamy,” the first girl said.

“He is a fountain of knowledge.  I need to know about that school. How did he get in? Was it a certain song type?  Was it by acting?  Do I need in more activities?  Should I do more community theater or focus on school plays or go to official drama camps?”

“Casey, shut up.  He is so not going to want to hear you yap on and on.” The blonde said.

Kurt escaped to put their milkshake order in and Gunther met Kurt with Jude, Santana and three more people, each with full cheesecakes in their hands.

“Grab the last cheesecake, Kurt and take it to your table.  I have your second.  Jamie, you have the mixed flavors that each piece is cut in half?”  Jamie nodded. “That is for the table full of kids.  Peter, follow Jude and then you are off.  Alex is in back, washing up.   Sal has the second cake for Santana’s table. Layla, grab the tray full of syrup bottles.  There is a set of syrups for each table.”

“After this I need to talk to you for a few,” Peter said to Gunther.  “We’ll talk in back after we take the dessert out to Claire and her crew.”

Kurt grabbed the cheesecake and carried it to his table, setting his down in front of Alonso.  Gunther was by Claire, who’d stood up and was greeting him by kissing him on the cheeks.

“Gunther, today has been wonderful.  Thank you so much.  I do think you have really gone out of your way today.”

“Nonsense, Darling.  I have done very little today.  It has been others who put on the show.  Really, I just gave them a theme and the two songs you requested and Kurt and the girls have come up with the rest.”

Claire laughed.  “Then you have brilliant people working for you and you shouldn’t ever let them go.”

Gunther chuckled.  “I have recently lucked out with some gems. They haven’t been working here long, but I certainly hope to keep most of them.”

Claire and Gunther kept talking but Kurt was distracted by Alonso. “Escaped the young teens, I see?”  He asked.

Kurt shivered.  “I am trying to figure out if we were ever like that…hoping we never were.  Then I remember who I room with now, and realize some of my friends are still like that sometimes and really haven’t grown out of it at all.”

“Kurt!” A voice called out and Kurt looked up.  Blaine was standing by their table and Sam smiled and just shrugged.  Kurt groaned and rolled his eyes.

“Enjoy your dessert.  I’ll be by in a few minutes to check and see if you all need anything.  I’ve got to go deal with something.” Kurt said.

He could feel several people’s eyes on him as he stalked off, hands on both hips. He heard Gunther say something to Santana, and then thought he saw Peter leave towards his direction as well, but Kurt’s focus was on Blaine, who was trying to break free of Sam’s grasp.

Kurt waited until he was in front of their table before saying anything.  Sam took one look at him and let go of Blaine’s arm and sat down, looking awfully interested in the ice cream dish.

“Blaine Anderson, what is your problem?” Kurt said quietly. He folded his arms across his chest and drummed his fingertips against his elbow as he waited for Blaine to answer.

“Who was that Kurt?  What was that?  Are you cheating on me with even more people?” Blaine hissed loudly.  Kurt was grateful he chose to hiss instead of screech.  As it was Kurt was lost.

“What was what?  Whatever did I do now to irritate you?” Kurt asked.

“You made a heart shape with your hand and blew someone a kiss!” Blaine squealed.

“Oh for God’s sake, Blaine, stop howling. Do you want everyone to hear you?”  Kurt asked, his voice still low and soft. “Dani is sitting on the second floor.”

“Who’s Danny?  The guy you’re cheating with?  The one making you all flirty and bringing out the hussy in you?” 

Kurt rubbed his hand over his eyes and counted to twenty.   It hadn’t helped enough so he counted to twenty in French…and then Spanish…and then English again.  He was pretty sure his look still said “You are a total moron” when he brought his hand down.  He mind flashed back to the whole Chandler incident and it was all adding to his growing headache.

“Dani is Santana’s girlfriend. Remember when I told you I started a band?  You do remember that, don’t you? I told you about the band members? You fussed about there being another guy in it?  Is this helping you recall any conversations we’ve had in the last three weeks or so yet? Dani is in my band.  She came in right before I started singing so didn’t have a chance to say hello.”

“Oh.” Blaine said sitting down.

“No, there is no “oh”.” Kurt growled, keeping his voice quiet enough that people around them couldn’t hear him very well.  “I have not been acting flirty. I have never acted like a hussy…which is an absolutely stupid thing to call me.  I am NOT a girl.  There are parts of me that prohibit being a hussy even if I was acting as if I had low moral standards…which I was not.  You have been nothing but ridiculous all day and I have had it.  So stop!  The fact is Blaine; I did NOT cheat on you…you cheated on me.  And after we broke up...I waited MONTHS before doing anything that could even remotely be considered even thinking about being interested in someone else.  Can you say the same?  I doubt it.  Would you like me to start calling up other glee club members and asking?   Other old warbler friends?  Again, I doubt it because I doubt you’d like what they said.  Furthermore, here is another fact, Blaine.  I have to live a life.  That involves speaking to other people, smiling at other people, looking in the direction of other people, being in the goddamned room with other people. Another thing, I’m allowed to have friends…people other than you who I do things with…like sing in a band or go to class.  Doing so does not constitute cheating on my part.”

Blaine glared for a moment before setting his face into poor puppy pout number six.

“But Kurt…that’s not what I mean. You know that isn’t what I mean.  God, I don’t see why you don’t just tell your boss that you can’t do that anymore because you need to pay attention to your fiancé. It’s just, I came out here to see you and you have spent NO time with me at all. You’ve been ignoring me all day.  You didn’t do anything to support me in my auditions.  You have done nothing to help me in anything the whole time I’ve been here!”

“You came out here to go to college interviews and we spent all day yesterday together except for three hours when I was in class and you were interviewing at Columbia! I begged and pleaded and TRADED favors for time off yesterday, last minute, so I could spend the whole day with you except when you were interviewing and I could not be with you. I skipped class to be with you while you weren’t busy.  I saw no reason to miss classes during time that I could NOT be with you, and I see no reason now for you to think I ought to have.  I offered up a whole shift for free at the last minute to get you the chance to come here and sing when you were feeling upset and nervous. I went on a tour of a school for you so you wouldn’t have to be alone on the tour and possibly be bored, during which you spoke to Sam and that guy named Wayland and that other guy named Zeke and the guide but not to me. On Tuesday…last minute…I skipped two out of four classes to hang with you and do things with you and Sam. And you slept most of that time because the bus you took to get here wasn’t easy to sleep on. I would have skipped the third but Vocals with Madame T isn’t a skippable class if one wants to stay in school! Sam at least stayed awake and kept me company when I was skipping classes to be with you guys. I took you to work with me, I let you hang out and got Sam set up with people to talk to while I worked so you wouldn’t have to be bored while I worked. And when you got in touch with Rachel-not me, mind you, but Rachel- about coming and staying while you did interviews and auditions, she told you we had class and work.  At least she said she did.  Did you forget?  You didn’t get in touch with me and ask if I could take a few days off or anything. IF you had I probably would have done so.  You just came and then seemed to expect me to drop everything.  I can’t Blaine. I have to work to pay rent, to eat, to get to school, to go to school. My dad isn’t paying for everything, unlike some.”

“There you go again.  That’s not what I said.” Blaine whined.

“You said I was ignoring you and spent no time with you and did nothing for you.  Like less than a minute ago.  Would you like to rethink that?  I am not in the mood to play that game right now.” Kurt said.  Although Blaine’s voice often was a bit loud Kurt kept his quiet, even if it got harsher sounding.

“But I just meant right now…today…” Blaine said. “Yesterday doesn’t matter anymore because right now today you have done nothing for me and you are ignoring me.”

“I am working!” Kurt said. “My job is to ignore you while I focus on everyone who is sitting at the tables that are my responsibility.  I am supposed to pay attention to them and to do whatever it is my boss asks me to do.  That is my job.  My job does not involve sitting here waiting hand and foot on solely you.  You are sitting in Rachel’s area, she is the one who is supposed to wait on you and even she can’t wait on you the whole time because she has other tables to take care of as well.”

“But…” Blaine started.

“But nothing.” Kurt said firmly. “You had a full day scheduled and I figured you would take full advantage of it.  You signed up for things after all.  You would not be bored and feeling ignored if you had remained on campus like you were supposed to and gone to all the tours and activities offered up.  You would be touring the different stages and learning about the sound and lighting options.  You would be getting the chance to sing in the round room.  You would be exploring the costume and prop departments and different smaller music halls tucked about the place. You would be touring housing and eating at the dining hall and learning all about meal plans. Then you would have been able to go to a number of short performances until late evening…from all sorts of different clubs and classes.  I thought you would spend a half hour to hour at most after you were done taking as much advantage as possible at NYADA to see how classes and clubs and the whole shebang worked and how best to make it work best for you. I would have killed for the opportunity to see how the school worked prior to getting there. At that point of the evening, you two could have had a snack or dessert and we’d have been off and ready to head out by the time you were done.  There would have been no need to feel ignored.  This is not my fault.  I was not the one who chose to skip out on everything and spend all afternoon waiting on someone who had just got to work and had to work their full shift.”

“But Kurt…”

“No.  I have HOURS left of my shift Blaine, and I am working them. Deal with it.  If you two are done here, go explore Central Park or go back to the loft…or go do anything really.  But I am not responding to anymore outbursts from you. You want to know what being ignored is?  Try me.”

“I can’t believe how unfair you are being.  I can’t believe how you are treating me…”

“Really?  That is where you are going with this?”

“Kurt….”

“I’ll see you at the loft later Blaine.  Bye and have a great afternoon!” Kurt said loudly and forced a smile on his face as he turned and walked off.  He watched as Sam put his arm over Blaine’s shoulder and rubbed up and down his arm comfortingly. Kurt walked over to see if the milkshakes for the teens were ready and set out to deliver them and check and see what his other tables needed.  Another was ready for their check and one wanted coffees as they sat and chatted for a bit longer.  He figured the girls would be ready to do their next number soon and so Kurt focused on bussing the tables that needed it because that was the one thing he hated trying to do while people were performing.

He’d just finished wiping down the table when he saw Jamie and Layla waving to someone over by the bar. He briefly glanced towards where Sam and Blaine were still sitting, sipping coffees again, while looking up to where Dani and Elliot were sitting, talking with Julie, who seemed to be on break.  Cora joined them, in street clothing, so she must have just gotten done with her shift.  Kurt looked around to figure out who’d taken over for Cora and saw Martin talking to Alex and Peter, who were both behind the bar for some reason.  Kurt liked Martin, he was hilarious and he had a lovely tenor voice.

“Kurt,” Tani called to him as she came rushing towards him.  “Do you know the whole of the spoken section of ‘Vogue’?  Cora is off, and I supposed we could get her to do it, but it would look weird and Julie can’t sing and isn’t even supposed to speak too loudly.  She strained her voice in a class last week.  Macy isn’t here and Santana said no.  She agreed to something else but said no to that. Please…we’re doing a medley.  You wouldn’t have to be up there the whole time…I’d signal for you when we start the ‘Vogue’ section.”

Kurt laughed. “I do.  I doubt I’ll ever forget it.  We recreated the Video with our Cheer coach as Madonna when I was a sophomore.  I bet that is still out there somewhere.  We had to watch that video so many times to get it close enough.  Then the coach went and switched words in that section and we nearly screwed up the recording by off facial expressions and moving out of pose.  I’d love to!”

“You know the poses?”  Tani smiled and looked at him with puppy eyes.  He liked Tani’s puppy eyes better than Blaine’s.

“I’ll think about.”

“You have probably two minutes!” Tani said dancing away; she headed back towards the bar instead of towards the stage.  Harry was the keyboard, but none of the girls were up there.  He started playing and Kurt figured out why.  Santana’s voice came from the back of the diner.

When you see her, say a prayer and kiss your heart goodbye. She’s trouble, in a word get closer to the fire. Run faster, her laughter burns you up inside. You’re spinning round and round, you can’t get up, you try but you can’t…Quien es esa nina” Santana sang.

The other girls sang “who’s that girl”.

After the chorus, Tani’s voice started from over by the bar.

You think that I can never laugh again, You’ll see.  You think that you destroyed my faith in love. You think after all you’ve done I’ll never find my way back home, you’ll see somehow some day.”

The music changed again and Jamie sang from the stool by the door where she sat as a greeter when the day was slow and she wasn’t in constant motion.

Never forget who are, Little Star, shining brighter than all the stars in the sky, never forget how to dream, butterfly…never forget where you come from, from love.  You are a treasure to me, you are my star, you breathe new life, into my broken heart…”

The music changed again and Layla’s voice came from the stage “ Take a bow, the night is over. This masquerade is getting older. Lights are low, the curtains down, there’s no one here.” The other girls sang the “There’s no one here, there’s no one in the crowd’, their voices coming from all sections of the diner.  Layla smiled and continued singing. “Say your lines but do you feel them, do you mean what you say when there’s no one around.  Watching you, watching me, one lonely star”.

The rest of the girls, minus Santana, sang “one lonely start, you don’t know who you are.”

Harry somehow transitioned from the slow songs he’d been working on to a fast beat in a manner Kurt envied.  It was one of those things Kurt wished he knew how do to.  Kurt smiled as customers took photos and whispered back and forth.  The table he was standing closest to was trying to name each song and place each song’s year.

Santana sang as she moved through the crowd towards the front of the diner. “Hey Mr. DJ put a record on, I want to dance with my baby. And when the music starts, I never want to stop, it’s gonna drive me crazy.

Zephyr in the sky at night I wonder, do my tears of mourning sink beneath the sun? She’s got herself a universe gone quickly for the call of thunder threatens everyone” sang Layla.

When you call my name, it’s like a little prayer. I’m down on my knees, I wanna take you there, in the midnight hour, I can feel your power, Just like a prayer, you know I’ll take you there.” Jamie sang. 

Kurt saw Tani wave to him and he moved towards the stage area where she pointed.  “Music can be such a revelation, dancing around you feel the sweet sensation. We might be lover if the rhythm’s right, I hope this feeling never ends tonight.

The music changed again.  Kurt knew what they wanted him to sing, but he wasn’t sure where in the song they were starting.

Harry played a few measures of music, the girls all coming up to the stage striking poses on the way, before playing the music section right before the girls decided to pick up the song.   Layla took lead. “Beauty’s where you find it, not just where you bump and grind it, Soul is in the musical, that’s where I feel so beautiful, magical, life’s a ball, so get up on the dance floor. Come on vogue, let your body move to the music….”

Kurt moved onto the stage to join the girls who were posing as they sang.  He waltzed into their midst during the last “Vogue, vogue, beauty’s where you find it” posing as Santana and Jamie sang “go with the flow”.

 “Greta Garbo, and Monroe, Deitrich and Dimaggio” Kurt sang with his head titled up and looking to the ceiling.

 He changed pose and sang. “Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean, on the cover of a magazine.”

Every two line was a change in pose, while the girls behind him danced and posed themselves.

When he got to “Ladies with an attitude, Fellows that were in the mood” Tani danced in front of him and held up two fingers.  Kurt hoped she meant what he thought she did.  He finished “Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it, Strike a pose there’s nothing to it.”  Kurt posed.   The girls sang “vogue, vogue” twice and the posed and everything was still…until the applause started and Gunther could be heard whistling at them.  All the girls kissed Kurt on the cheeks as they waved and ran off.  Kurt followed quickly, not quite believing that he’d just done vogue poses at work, of all places.

Gunther met them as they stopped by the bar. 

“I knew you ladies would not let me down.  Excellent number. And Kurt, thank you for making the girls happy.” Gunther said.

Kurt rolled his eyes. “I’m sure I did no such thing.  They’d have been just as happy if I’d said no.”

“No we wouldn’t,” Tani said. “We really wanted to do that song but no one else had that section memorized.”

“Tani said something about a video out there in the internet world?” Jamie asked.

Kurt laughed. “I don’t even know how to find it.  It might be under Sue Sylvester Vogue cover…or maybe even McKinley High School Cheerleaders Vogue.”

“And you were in it?” Jamie asked.

“Yes.” Kurt said.

“Did you cheer?” Layla asked.

“He did.” Santana said. “I’ll send you all some links.”

“Santana!” Kurt hissed.

Santana laughed and danced off towards her tables before Kurt could say anything more.

Chapter Text

Kurt headed towards his tables, stopping last at the large table to see if they needed anything.  He took some drink refills orders and coffee orders and headed to the bar to start filling them.

“Kiddo”, Alex said. “Someone’s trying to get your attention.”

“Someone from one of my tables?’ Kurt asked.

“No.” Alex answered.

“Then they can wait.” Kurt answered. “I need to get another pot of coffee going and get these refills to a table.”

“I’ll get your pot of coffee going; you take those drinks and then answer the person trying to get your attention so things can get done around here properly.” Alex said.

“Are they short and dark haired?” Kurt asked.

“Yes.”

“Then I’m not talking to them.” Kurt said.

“You’re not talking to Rachel?”

Kurt turned and groaned.  Sure enough it was Rachel hopping about trying to get Kurt’s attention.

“Fine.”

Kurt took his refills out and told those that had ordered coffee that it would be out in a few moments.

Then he walked over to Rachel, who was hopping about like some sort deranged bird at the far end of the bar. Not for the first time Kurt regretted never asking Finn how he dealt with Crazy Rachel…Kurt was losing his ability to stay calm.

“Rachel, aren’t you supposed to be waiting tables?  I am supposed to be waiting tables.”  Kurt said.

“Kurt, you’ve got to let me sing the next song.  I have got to have a grand solo.  If you give it to me, I’m sure Gunther will let me do it even though he hates me and won’t let me sing.”

“No.”

“But Kurt, you don’t understand.  People at one of my tables were talking and they said Reese Overton is here in the building.”

“And?”

“Do you know who that is Kurt?  Don’t you know anything?”

“I’ve heard the name but what Reese Overton is connected to is not ringing bells right now, so I guess I don’t. Do you? Or more important did you more than fifteen minutes ago.”

 He wasn’t lying to Rachel, really.  The only Overton Kurt could think of right off the bat was Harrison Overton, who was one of the top producers for off Broadway shows which then moved onto Broadway with regularity.  He was known for seeing diamonds in the rough and shining them up to be major hits and award winners. He also produced several other things.  He had met the man once at one of the Vogue gatherings and Isabelle had had to drag him away from the little circle of people hanging on his every word so he could do his job. The man had been fascinating.  He was also in his late 60s or so and not in the building.  Even if he was Kurt would never let Rachel know.

Rachel huffed and grumbled.  “Fine, I heard Sidney and Peter mention the name about a week ago while tucked away in Sidney’s office, but I didn’t hear what they had been talking about because someone came by and I didn’t want them to know I was there.  But if they are talking about them then I need to perform in front of them.  It is imperative I sing.”

“No.”

“But Kurt!  It could mean life or death!” Rachel squealed.

“Rachel, don’t be silly. You have your part right now.  Even if you didn’t, it would not mean life or death.  If Reese Overton, whoever that is, is in the building, they are here to eat and watch whoever is singing and dancing.  They aren’t here for any particular person.  IF they wanted to hear a particular person they would have asked Gunther and Gunther would pull that person to the side and have them sing.  In fact, since they did not come in and announce to the whole of the diner ‘Hello, I’m Reese Overton and I am famous for whatever reason Reese Overton is famous for’, it probably means they do not want to be noticed or have attention drawn to them.  So you are going to deal with the fact you got yourself put into time out and do not get to sing today and I am going to go do my JOB! And if whoever Reese Overton is sees the performances today and likes them, hopefully they will leave a nice tip.  If any single one of us made a good impression, well then maybe they’ll come back.  Our job is to serve our customers here, Rachel, not to get noticed.”

“You’re going to fail in this business, Kurt.  You are going to fail!  You don’t even have the same sort of star quality I have and if you aren’t willing to make yourself seen at all times then you will get nowhere!”

“Rachel stop screeching. Do you even know what Reese Overton looks like?  Or who they are or what they do?” Kurt asked.

“They are someone important enough for Peter and Sidney to mention and for someone to say ‘Oh My God, Reese Overton is here’, that is all I need to know!”

“If you don’t know who they are, how were you going to know which table you should have been singing your most intense to, if you’d have been able to sing?” Kurt asked.

Rachel stomped and glared.

“You know Rachel, if this is the theory you work with…that anyone with a famous name has to be pounced on…I will not be inviting you to any Vogue.com gatherings.  It is not worth my job to do so. Also, if it takes listening in on conversations and being an insane stalker to get far in this business, well…then I’ll just be happy with what I get being responsible, courteous and some semblance of sane. I don’t need or want to be a star so badly that I’m willing to act like a complete jerk.” Kurt turned and walked away, leaving Rachel sputtering.  Kurt waved at Peter, who’d been restocking the beer glasses at the end of the bar.

“Aren’t you ever getting off today?” Kurt asked.  Peter snorted and Kurt realized what he’d said and turned a bright red. “Sorry. Just a little stressed.  That was rude of me and nosy to boot.”

“I am off work now, but the group that is here usually does a closing number of their own and Gunther always lets them.  I’d love to be here for that if I get the chance, so I stayed for a while.  Besides, everyone seems to be behind on their tables today.”

Kurt groaned. “Don’t remind me.  I need to take 8 coffees to the large table and then buss at least one table and see if others need their checks yet and see if anyone has been seated and…”

“You take the cups and I’ll pour your coffee.  Then I’ll bring back the pot while you get started directly with your other tables.  There are a few empty tables in the diner still, leaving the bussing for a round of care will be fine.  See if you can’t get a table or two more out the door before you worry about bussing it, if you have tables at the check stage. Did you ever do this type of work before this?”

“No,” Kurt said, grabbing the amount of cups and saucers he needed and the jug of creamer and bin of sugar packs. “I worked as a barista for a few months last summer but very little of that was bussing, not like this.  It was go wash the tables down when the line at the counter was cleared, instead.  I worked at a pancake place right after I got here, but that was behind the counter only. Before that mostly I worked as a mechanic.”

Peter grabbed the coffee pot and followed Kurt out to the large table. “A Mechanic?  I don’t believe it.”

“Why does no one ever believe that?” Kurt said.  “I swear, even when I was working at the shop every single day, I’d offer to help fix a car or something and no one would believe I could do it. I mean I know I’m not huge and buff but still, I’m not that weak looking am I?”

Peter laughed. “Weak looking?  Have you looked in a mirror lately? No, it’s your hands.  No one would look at your hands and think they’ve ever done that type of work.”

“Well, there you have it; Proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover…or a person’s job by their appearance.”  Kurt said. “The true key though, is that I have always had a very intensive skin care regimen.”

“True key to what?” Claire asked, catching Kurt’s comment as they had reached the table. “Life?”

Kurt laughed.

“Sometimes, if your skin care regimen is relaxing enough, it might be, but no…nice well-kept hands.” Kurt said.

“I told him no one believed him when he told people what his main means of work had been because his hands were too nice.” Peter said.

“And what was you former main source of income?” Lori asked.

Kurt laughed.  ‘My main source of income was my dad…but most my work experience until last summer was as a mechanic at my dad’s garage.”

“No way.” Hawk said.

“Yep.  I’m certified and everything…at least in Ohio.  I probably should see what is required here although I don’t even own a car at the moment so I’m not inclined to work on something I shouldn’t.”

“When did you start working at your dad’s garage?”  Drew asked.

“Officially, my dad hired me in some sort of apprenticeship thing when I was 14 and I was certified as soon as I was old enough to be able to.  But I’d been working hours as family since I was 8…my dad needed somewhere for me to be after my mom died and the garage where he could keep an eye on me was it.”

Claire patted Kurt’s arm and he smiled down at her.

“By the end of that summer I could check the oil and change the oil and change tires and was learning to change spark plugs and fuses and deal with dead batteries. And my dad wasn’t quite as nervous being the only parent anymore.”

“Did you enjoy it?” Lori asked.

Kurt laughed. “I did, but I want to do other things, too. Of course there were times, when like most kids, I hid my head a bit at working at the family business, but I look at it now and…I’m proud of my dad. I am really proud of my dad.  I am proud of what I can do, but I still don’t want to be stuck doing it just because…you know.  I mean I actually love this job and if I’d just stuck with being a mechanic because I knew how and could work it I would have never branched to do this.  If I hadn’t been able to find any other work in New York, I probably would have turned to working in a garage somewhere, but while I can I’ll do something else.  It isn’t my passion like it is my dad’s.”

Kurt saw several people nodding around the table.  Kurt made sure everyone had their coffee and was good.  “I’m going to be doing the last song in a few, was there anything particular you wanted that hasn’t been done?” Kurt asked.

Claire shook her head. “You’ve covered our requests and have done so superbly.  I’m very glad you agree to take up the mantle today.  Gunther said you were a last minute replacement and we couldn’t have been happier with it.  I’m sure whatever you have chosen will be wonderful.”

Kurt blushed and thanked her before heading off to work his tables.  He had three which were actually at the check stage, so he got those taken care of and cleared four tables before heading to the back to wash up before singing again.   He was rethinking his song choice as the time to sing drew closer.  He’d sung it before and he knew he could do it justice, that wasn’t the problem.  The problem was…he’d sung it before.  He sung it to Finn and the glee club.  He had started the set thinking about Finn and life as he was living it and had been thinking about Finn and his thoughts on life and how Kurt was living it all afternoon. It wasn’t a peppy song, or a happy song.  Blaine was going to hate it and be furious. But…Claire and her friends were gathered to remember Andy, and Kurt had a feeling they would appreciate this more than something else.  With each issue with Blaine and Rachel and each piece of information he found out he thought about what Finn would have thought, but even more important at points what his sixteen yr. old self would have thought and his pre-Dalton taking care of dad and holding it all together self would have thought, heck what his dealing with Karofsky self would have thought. With it all in mind, Kurt headed to the stage to sing.

Harry was waiting behind the piano.  Kurt pulled over the stool that had been pushed aside for the more active numbers and say down, nodding to Harry.

As he hummed the first part, Santana stopped what she was doing and stood off to the side where he could see her.  Her expression was first of surprise and then shifted to concern.  Kurt smiled at her though.  He looked to see where Rachel was.  She was glaring at him but didn’t seem to have any reaction to the song itself.

Say good-bye to not knowing when
The truth in my whole life began
Say good-bye to not knowing how to cry
You taught me that

Santana smiled back and went to lean up against one of the booths as she watched.  Peter and Alex had both come over to the end of the bar closest to the stage, near to where Rachel was standing.  Kurt closed his eyes briefly and thought back to the choir room and those sitting before him back then.  He thought about Joe and Sugar and Brittany grooving as he sang.

And I'll remember the strength that you gave me
Now that I'm standing on my own
I'll remember the way that you saved me
I'll remember

Sam had come down to stand beside Santana, a contemplative look on his face.  Blaine was sitting up at the table they’d been sharing, pouting and glaring.  He didn’t show any response to the song either.  It was like he didn’t recall it at all. 

Inside I was a child
That could not mend a broken wing
Outside I looked for a way
To teach my heart to sing

Kurt saw the moment Sam realized where and when he’d heard Kurt sing the song before.  His eyes grew large and he scooted closer to Santana and whispered in her ear.  She nodded and Sam grasped hold of her hand.  Elliot and Dani shot him concerned glances after watching Sam and Santana’s interaction.  Kurt gave them all a small smile, trying to be reassuring.  He would make it though.

And I'll remember the love that you gave me
Now that I'm standing on my own
I'll remember the way that you changed me
I'll remember

The smile Sam gave Kurt was so reminiscent of the one he gave Kurt in the choir room at the same moment as the one in the choir room that Kurt nearly missed coming in on the next set of lyrics. He looked towards Claire and Lori and the rest of the table he’d been serving all afternoon.  Most of them had tears in their eyes and wistful smiles.  Most of the group as a whole looked the same.

I learned to let go of the illusion that we can possess
I learned to let go, I travel in stillness
And I'll remember happiness
I'll remember, I’ll remember

Kurt closed his eyes as he started the next chorus, thinking of Finn and glee club…and thinking about Claire and Lori and everything he’d heard about Andy and wished that both of those lost were still there.

And I'll remember the love that you gave me
Now that I'm standing on my own
I'll remember the way that you changed me
I'll remember
.”

He knew there were tears on his cheeks when he opened his eyes and looked at Santana and Sam. Santana had tears as well and Sam was misty eyed.  He gave them a small shrug and smile as he sang the last few lines…ending it as he had done in Glee Club nearly a year before.  He thought that had someone recorded the performance, it would have been nearly identical to the one in the choir room; he just had more tears this time around.

 

No I've never been afraid to cry
Now I finally have a reason why
I'll remember

No I've never been afraid to cry
Now I finally have a reason why
I'll remember”

I’ll remember” Kurt whispered, ending the song.

He bowed and walked off the stage into Santana’s arms.  Sam hugged him as well.

“My voice didn’t crack.” Kurt said, his voice cracking then.

“I can’t believe you sang that.” Santana said.  “I wouldn’t have been able to.  It was beautiful.”

Kurt smiled.  “I’m sure you would have done fine.”

“Finn would have loved it.”

“Do you think so?  I’ve been thinking about him the last few days…today especially.”

 “I’m not an idiot.  I know…and I know he would have loved it.” Santana shook her head.  “I’ll go tell your tables that you’ll be right out.  You go wash your face.  You were incredible, Kurt.”

Kurt smiled at Santana and squeezed her tight and then turned and hugged Sam just as tight.  He walked back to the kitchen area and over to one of the sinks, splashing water on his face and re-grounding himself.  He was sure Finn would have been proud of him...and he rather thought Claire and Lori’s friend Andy would have been as well.

Chapter Text

Kurt dried his face and headed back to tend his tables.  Peter met him at the door.

“You all right?”  Peter asked.

Kurt nodded.  “I am. Actually, I might be more all right than I have been in a while.”

“Let me help you with your tables and then you can take a little break.” Peter said.

Kurt nodded.  He hit the four tables that had been seated as he was singing, getting their drinks and food orders and apologized for not being around earlier.  Peter helped by getting the drinks out to each table while Kurt went and asked what the next table needed.  Peter covered the large table himself and then steered Kurt to end of the bar area nearest the kitchen, where he and the girls had started of the afternoon.

“You are certain you are all right?” Peter asked.  “Those were tears up there.”

Kurt nodded.  “Do you remember when I first started working here?  I had to call in for a day off just about two weeks after I started?”

Peter nodded. “You, Ms. Berry and Ms. Lopez were all gone that day.  You and Ms. Lopez made up the day without a problem and Ms. Berry never did and then threatened to have her dads sue us for not paying her the missing time.  Something about a funeral?  She also skipped work because her soul was crushed and she was in the depths of despair for the next week.”

“My step-brother Finn.  She had dated him off and on throughout high school.  They had not been dating for almost 9 months or so…at least according to Rachel.  Finn thought they were still together until like Octoberish.  Santana also dated him...somewhat.  We all went to the same high school, in case you hadn’t figured that out.  Three weeks after he died we were gone to a memorial held at the school. Between the moment Rachel was told Finn was gone and that memorial, my job was to comfort her. It would have been annoying enough if it had been my job as per instructions of Ms. Berry herself, but seriously…my dad and step-mom were constantly asking how Rachel was doing and telling me to help her through it, her dads called three times a day to make sure I was helping her cope and keeping things together, my fiancé only ever called to ask me if I was helping Rachel through her heartbreaking trials and to listen to him talk about how crushed he was and how much Finn had adored him, all our mutual friends called me to make sure I was taking care of her.  Not once did anyone ask how I was doing.”

“I remember that.  You and Santana were gone like three or four days and Rachel was gone one.”

“Rachel said she couldn’t handle it.  I suppose I get it.  For her every moment in that classroom revolved around him in some way for three years.  Either she was chasing him, dating him, pining after him, or hating on him because he was dating someone else.  She came for the last day and sang her song and then left. The others sang their songs over the days and were done, except a few…who didn’t sing in protest because focus wasn’t given solely to them or because they didn’t think they knew Finn enough and a certain someone…not Ms. Berry…insisted only those close to Finn should be able to sing.  Mourning was over, it was time to move on and focus on their issues and problems and needs and wants and whims.” Kurt said.

Peter looked at Kurt with a questioning face and Kurt chuckled.

“I know, right.  Like, I spent the week helping pack his room up, watching his mom lose it, watching my dad lose it.  I spent the week being strong for everyone around me.  I didn’t sing. I wasn’t given time in the memorial or class and I was informed that I had like all the time in the world to sing about it because I could do so whenever I felt like it and was in Lima because his ashes were put up next to his fathers on the mantle.  Except…not really.  Because the ashes are up on the mantle next to his dads in a house that his mom is constantly in, because she hasn’t been able to cope well enough to go back to work yet and my primary job at the house was to be strong and not to make it any more difficult on her.  I came home…back to New York and was expected to be done with the whole grief thing.  Rachel was finished grieving, she had Funny Girl she needed to focus on and she could not afford to let blue feelings get in her way. Not hers or anyone else’s. Santana might not have been done but no one was going to see her being vulnerable.  No one wanted to hear any more.  It was NOT allowed.  All calls from my fiancé were about his interests and dealings and what he had going on, and any mention of Finn had him hanging up the phone. Of course, I doubt he actually listened to anything else I had to say either.  Instead I started a band, did all my school work that had been missed and then any extra anyone would give me, worked over time...and spent my time doing whatever it took to keep people off my back, be that smiling supportive strong friend when I didn’t feel like it…letting others direct who I talked to and what I did.  Rachel even went to Madame Tibideaux and signed me up for classes she approves of for next year, and I haven’t fussed.”

“Why?” Peter asked.

“Because I am not done grieving.  I haven’t been able to sleep properly.  I have nightmares every night.  I haven’t been able to eat well, food tastes like ashes. I got a tattoo, for heaven’s sake. I want to listen to sad songs and watch sad movies and cry and cry and cry until I cannot shed any more tears.  I want to scream and shout and throw things. I am tired.  I am weary.”

“You didn’t have the oomph needed to fight them.” Peter said.

Kurt nodded.  “And I did fight some.  I refuse to let Rachel take over the band.  I will not miss school just because and miss work without making sure someone can cover for me. I got the tattoo fixed instead of just ignoring it and wallowing.  I almost kept the tongue piercing but then I hurt myself with it and kept biting the inside of my cheeks in an effort to not bite my tongue and enough was enough.  But I got a different piercing instead when I went back to ask the best way to let the tongue piercing heal…and I didn’t tell Rachel.   Just…all that is so very minor considering what I need to fight.”

Kurt ran his hands through his hair and Peter turned around to grab Kurt a glass of water.  Kurt smiled and thanks him before he continued.

“When Gunther asked for singers and I agreed, I made a comment on the first song they wanted.  It is a bit melancholy. He told me a brief story about the group and it made me think about our glee club and because of that about Finn…and about how we all were way back at the start.  It wasn’t like he hasn’t been on my mind for days…but it had been fleeting before.  It was really the first time I have sung since a few lines in a song at the memorial with Finn on my mind.  The last song…was sung for Finn.  The last time I sang it was the last time I sang in glee club as a class member, the week we graduated.  It was to the whole club pretty much, but today it was to Finn and to Claire’s Andy, and to whoever else needed it.  God, it was hard.  I almost didn’t sing it; I almost changed my mind and asked for a few more minutes to think of some other Madonna song to sing. But honestly…I feel better for doing it.  I feel more…oomph…to deal with things today after singing all the songs than I have felt in a while.”

Peter smiled.  “I’m glad.”

“And it wasn’t just the first and last song.   I have had so much fun today, Peter.  I don’t know if you can even understand how much fun this day has been so far.  Seriously, we’ve come close to having fun like this with the band, but haven’t been able to yet…certain people are too involved.  I came close with Elliot the other day, but I was too stressed over things and ideas; ones I am sure have been planted just to get me to not trust anyone around me. I even came close to having fun like this singing with Dani the other day, but again, I was too much in my mind about everything else.  I couldn’t let go to have fun. I haven’t had this much fun with music…or anything…in over eight weeks.  The last practice I went to with Adam and his Apples, they are like a NYADA show choir, was the last place I had FUN singing.  Most of my singing at NYADA is so solemn, even if it should be a fun song…and Rachel makes it even more soul zapping.  To her everything is done to showcase herself and to make a good impression so people will think she is wonderful.  It is never just to have fun or find enjoyment.  And all songs must be treated with the upmost decorum and with seriousness. Intense can be done, yes, but not frivolity.”

Peter laughed. “She had a problem with ‘True Blue’ didn’t she?”

“Oh, yes.”  Kurt grabbed the glass of water and downed it, before sighing.  “I’d better get back to work.  Thank you so much for letting me dump all my woes on top of you.”

“I’m a bar tender, darling,” Peter said. “It is my job.”

Kurt laughed and headed back out, picking up the appetizers for one of his tables on the way.  He delivered those and wandered through his tables asking if anyone needed refills on the way to get the next order and bring it back to its waiting table.

After getting the second bunch of appetizers out Kurt headed to check if the large table needed anything.

He didn’t expect to be hugged when he got there.  The moment he started to speak and Claire noticed him she was standing and hugging him. He was then passed around the table, hugged by people he hadn’t even really interacted with.   Kurt was very stiff for the first few; being hugged on the job by people he’d just met by being their server was just plain weird.  After the ‘thank-yous’ whispered to him though, he realized that those hugging him seemed to need it and really, it wasn’t something he felt like fighting.  No one was being inappropriate with their hugs; it felt like the people who’d hugged him after Finn’s funeral.    He was passed to the other table and then to the booths where the adults and even a few of the kids hugged him as well.  He even hugged a few back with a tighter squeeze, like the lady in the wheelchair and women who had come in half way through and Drew, people who he could tell just needed it.

He ended up back in Claire’s hug and was directed to standing beside her as she sat down again and others took their seats again.

“I know that Gunther told you a little bit about us, and why we are here today,” Claire started. “But I don’t think he told you what was going to be so special about this gathering.  It is the first time in ten years all of us have been here together.  Of that original group, all 18 of us are here.  We managed that the first anniversary of Andy’s death, we managed the year Terry died, and we managed it ten years ago.  One of Andy’s sisters even managed to get here.  Drew made it.  It was…an important day for us all.  We are gathered here to remember Andy and in a celebration of life.   When Shelia, Lori and I were discussing themes for this year’s gathering, we almost didn’t go with Madonna.   But one of the last big projects we did for Andy was remaking huge chunks of A League of Their Own and he was obsessed with Madonna that last year, so we went with it, requested the song from A League of Their Own to sort of set the mood and then Andy’s favorite Madonna song at the time.  We then hoped Gunther would come through for us.  He insists that you are responsible for the program.  Thank You.  It was perfect. Even though you didn’t know him at all, you made the prefect choices all the way through.  But that last song was inspired.  I don’t think there were many other songs in existence that could have been so perfect a memorial.”

Kurt blushed.  “Thank you.  But really the girls should be given just as much praise for song choices.  They probably had an even more difficult time with it, since I got to tell Gunther my song choices first.”

Claire laughed.  “I will make sure to tell each of them how wonderful they were and how much we enjoyed the performances today as well.  Now, you came over for a reason…”

Kurt smiled.  “I wanted to make sure everyone was good and see if anyone needed anything?”

Claire looked around and no one gave her any hint that they needed anything else.  “I think we are all doing fine right now, however, it is getting late and our party here needs to be breaking up soon.  Several have places they need to be tonight and a few have kids they need to spring from afterschool programs or lessons.  Can you tell Gunther we are nearly done?  And then please come back with him.” Kurt nodded. 

 Gunther smiled at Kurt when he found him in his office and patted his cheek, dragging Kurt with him back to the group.  Peter and, oddly enough, Cora came and stood off to the side as well, leaning against one of the booths.  Kurt hovered nearby those two as Gunther want up to the stage.  Cora took his hand and pulled him close.

“Dani has been fawning over you since she joined your little band, but I did not realize how truly gifted you are until today, Kurt Hummel.  We need to get you out there singing on your own and with groups more often, I think.” Cora said quietly as Gunther tweaked the microphone a bit.

Kurt blushed. “Thank you, but you girls really are the stars here.  Although I’d love the chance to sing with each of you more often, sometimes people find me distracting in duets and such.”

“Nonsense. Anyone who does needs their head examined.” Cora told him.

Chapter Text

Gunther finally had the mike like he liked it. “I know most of the time people don’t want to hear from me, I am not a beauty anymore and it’s been a long time since I sang on stages…but it is my diner and today you get to hear me for a few minutes. I want everyone to sit and think for a few minutes about their pasts and futures, today and tomorrow.  Think of friends old and new, near and far, here and already passed on.  Take a moment to remember and to celebrate life. To Absent Friends!”

More than half the diner shouted in reply.

“Claire…to you.” Gunther said, nodding to Claire.

Claire stood and walked to the microphone.  “Gunther has given this ragtag group of friends shelter and support for over two decades and he spoils us, we know.  We always end with this…join in if you know it.”

Claire nodded to the floor area and the lady with the beads in her braids, who had sat with the children the whole time, stood and started to sing.

We share the days of laughter, we share the nights of sorrow,”

“Oh My God!” Kurt whispered to Cora. “I know that voice, she sings in Lion King!”

Peter just laughed as he overheard Kurt.

Others started to join in with “And in the morning after, we face a bright tomorrow.”

“Do you know it?” Cora whisper to Kurt.

Kurt nodded.

“Then join in.” Peter said.

“Side by side we’ll always stand, Spirits flying high, long as I can hold your hand, we’ll never say goodbye.”   Kurt joined in with those singing.

Kurt looked around the diner as people joined in the song.  People from tables not connected to the group sang, other members of the wait staff sang.  By the time they had reached “look at how the future gleams gold against the sky. Long as I can share your dreams, we’ll never say goodbye,” Elliot and Dani had joined in the song.  He had NEVER been somewhere with the type of energy that was in the diner at that moment.  Never sang with so large a group and so many voices.

Kurt had just sung “there’s little to be sure of” when he caught Peter’s eye and couldn’t stop the beaming smile that he had to give into.  Peter tilted his head back and laughed, missing the line “But we will last forever”. Peter was right in with them all with them all when they sang ‘for now we know the pure love we feel when we’re together.’  Claire held her hand out to Gunther and to Kurt, who walked over to take it.  “Then if someday we should part, we will not say die.  Long as you are in my heart, we’ll never say goodbye.”

All the voices ended and the same voice that started the song finished with a final repeats of “as long as you are in my heart, we’ll never say goodbye.”

Claire squeezed Kurt’s hand.  Alonso looked at Kurt’s face and then at Claire, who nodded to him.

Don’t look back, don’t be scared” Alonso started to sing. He nodded to Peter who sang the next few lines.

We’ve got dreams and we’re still young.”

Just think about how far we’ve come.” They sang together.

Think of all we have shared,” Claire sang.

It’s a wonder we survived.” Lori picked up.

But here we are and we’re alive!” they sang together.

Can we hold on, hold on, take a moment to celebrate,” Voices from the other two tables sang.

 “We’ve got to Celebrate! Celebrate,” the girl who sang the first few lines of the song before came in in counter.

Now before we are gone, take a moment to celebrate.” Most the other two tables sang.

Celebrate,” Alonso sang.

There’s a music in the wind,” the man who’d entertained the kids sang.

Let’s dance one more time.” The rest of the group answered.

There’s a rhythm deep within” he sang.

Let’s dance one more time.” The group sang.

“Do you know it, Kurt?” Claire asked.

“I do.”

“You’ve got it after one more time…”

One more time.” Alonso sang.

One more time, sing the song. There’s a power in our voices hopeful and strong.   Years from now somewhere down the line, we’ll remember and we’ll all sing, one more time.” Kurt sang, his voice felt like it soared through the diner.

The group joined as Kurt sang the chorus again. “One more time, sing the song. There’s a power in our voices hopeful and strong.   Years from now somewhere down the line, we’ll remember and we’ll all sing, one more time.”

“One more time” Alonso sang alone.

People cheered and clapped.  The group was hugging each other and Gunther again.  The diner was loud, with a buzz of excited voices as costumers started to settle back to their meals and own groups.

“That was amazing.” Kurt told Claire.

Peter laughed from behind Kurt.

“It makes you feel alive, doesn’t it?” Peter asked.

Kurt nodded.  “I think I’m going to just bounce away…and I just want to keep smiling.  It was...just…wow.”

“Kurt!” Elliot called.

Dani reached Kurt before Elliot and swept him into a hug, passing him to Elliot when she was done.

“Did you feel that?” Kurt asked them.

Dani laughed.

‘It was…electric.   It is still in the air.” Dani said.  “That was such awesome energy; I can’t wait to come to work tomorrow.”

Kurt laughed. “I’ll do my best to maintain it, but I guarantee nothing.”

Dani smiled.  “I noticed you have some people glaring at you.”

“Hopefully I’m down to just two.  I think Sam is back to neutral land again.”

“He the blond who was standing by Santana during your last number?” Dani asked.

“He is.” Kurt said.  “He came to keep Blaine company while Blaine went to auditions for college here in wonderful NYC, and to put some feelers out for modeling jobs.  I haven’t been encouraging enough, though, apparently….towards either of them. Rachel’s first beef with me today.”

“You don’t think he could model?” Elliot asked.  He took note of the interest the two men who’d complimented him on his outfit earlier took in the conversation, as well as the blonde lady and her dark haired friend.

“He could.  He’d be great at it, I’m sure.  He has a wonderful amount of control of his body and when he tries is very graceful and can follow directions on how to move. He’s just not what I’ve been seeing at Vogue right now.  I mean, I know that doesn’t mean anything, not really, and he could be just what a company needs for a different feel or to break out of a rut.  However…it will be more difficult and I just don’t know how badly he really wants it and why.  It’s not like I have been unhelpful, either. I took him and Blaine to Vogue on Tuesday and had them shown around and had Sam talk to a few people about modeling. I got Isabelle to let him and Rachel have a half hour in the vaults yesterday and Lola Rodriguez, who is one of the new photographers just starting out there that I think will go far if she gets a break…she did a photo shoot for trade for three outfits she wants made. It’s just…he’s like a brother.  I mean I spent nearly as much time with Sam living with us as I spent living in the same house as Finn and even this year he lived at the house with Carole and Dad until Blaine talked him into moving in with Blaine.  He never mentioned even thinking about modeling until after he got close to graduating and was looking at not graduating on time. I don’t want him to get hurt and feel like a failure at it, too. I’m being silly…I know.”

“Ah, I can see your point there then. Modeling is as hard as Broadway. Who’s complaining about your lack of support, other than Rachel?” Elliot said.

“Blaine.” Kurt said.

“Enough said then.” Dani added.  “You do so much and worry about never doing enough.  Let me be the one informing you of how supportive you are.”

Kurt chuckled.

“So, you work another job as well?” Claire asked.

Kurt blushed, as he’d forgotten they were standing with Claire’s group still.  “I do.  I work at Vogue.com.”

“That’s it!” Drew shouted.  “You worked closely with Isabelle Wright in the fall, didn’t you? I am not going crazy.”

“I did.  I thought you looked a little familiar as well.  You were coming into one of the evening meetings as I was on my way out, I think.  You had on the grey Armani pin stripe with the terrific untied turquoise crushed velvet bowtie.  I had to go hunt for some stock photos for an article.”

“You were wearing fabulous white and black striped pants that looked painted on.”

“And the red jacket and black hunting boots.”

“Yes!”

“Oh!” Hawk said. “I remember now.”

Kurt tilted his head. “Were you there?”

Hawk chuckled.  “No, I came in about a half hour later.  Drew kept hoping you would show back up…he was intrigued by the outfit and had noticed some accessories that he didn’t get a good enough look at.”

Kurt blushed. “I think I had added the horseshoe fake tie and the fox tail.”

“Fake tie?” Hawk asked.

“The horseshoe sat on my throat where the knot of a tie would.  It was on a black velvet ribbon.”

Hawk nodded.  “I can see it.  Very nice.  Do you play with accessories like that often?”

Elliot laughed. “Kurt is who we go to when we need a little extra something to make an outfit.  He has a sixth sense for it.” Elliot said.

“My mom taught me when I was just tiny.” Kurt said. “And my dad just never had the heart or guts to tell me no about that.”  Kurt heard a huff and stomp and looked up and over to where Rachel was standing with her hands on her hips and looking like she was going to explode, and Blaine was standing right be her looking just a furious.

“Well, I am sure I need to get back to work,” Kurt said quickly.  “I can’t thank you enough for your business today and for the opportunity you have given me by simply being here and requesting what you did.  It has been a joy to be of service today.  I know that you all have made a lasting impression...indeed, I would go far enough to say that you have all been written on my heart. I seriously can’t thank you enough. I needed this badly.  Peter, thank you.  Elliot and Dani, I’ll see you later. Call me or text me if you need to leave before we can talk.”

Kurt swept over to the opposite side of the diner than Rachel and Blaine and started working his tables. Several times Rachel and Blaine tried to get closer and Kurt would move farther away.   Elliot and Dani watched as he kept the whole of the diner between Rachel and Blaine and himself, at one point even dodging upstairs to take a tray of drinks for one of Mack’s tables upstairs while Mack took drinks out to one of Kurt’s tables. Kurt waved each time he passed.  He settled nearby the group which was still hanging together to buss a table, close enough to hear them faintly…and kept the group between him and Rachel and Blaine.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Peter exclaimed. “You would think they would get the message.”

Elliot snorted. “Rachel?”

Peter nodded.  “I don’t know who the guy is, but Kurt’s been dealing with him all day as well.”

Dani grumbled.  “Blaine.  His boyfriend.”

“You have got to be kidding?” Peter said.

“I second that.” Drew added.

“Nope.  To be fair, I think the guy took advantage of Kurt when he was in a bad place and then Kurt’s life got worse and he just hasn’t been able to…deal with things.” Dani said. “And Kurt literally hasn’t had to deal with him in person since they got back together.  Just calls where he just lets Blaine chatter on.  Seriously, sometimes Kurt just puts the phone down and lets Blaine talk and talk and talk and the guy never notices.”

Peter nodded.  “Yeah, yeah…I can see it a bit better.”

Elliot grumbled. “I’d go make them back off, but I sort of want to not meet the guy.  Something Kurt said during practice once just makes me think it would make things worse.”

Dani nodded.  “I am sure it would.  Santana says he is insanely jealous of people Kurt talks to.”

“If I need to, I’ll go do something.  Or get Gunther to.  He’s already caused a few scenes, it wouldn’t be hard.” Peter said. He waved and headed off towards the bar area again, pausing just long enough to give Cora a fist bump as she darted back towards the group standing there.   Kurt was touched someone had noticed and cared, even if it was just because it was affecting his work.  Drew and Hawk sat back down and started chatting with a few others still at the table, although many had left.  Kurt slid over, watching to see what Blaine and Rachel were doing, to ask if they needed anything.

“Do you guys need anything else? Refills on your sodas or more coffee?” Kurt asked.

“Another coffee would be nice,” Drew said. “I want to wait a few more minutes before trying to talk to Sofia.  She’s talking with Jill and Candy right now and I’d hate to interrupt.  They have always been close.  Sofia dabbles in painting as well.”

“Sofia was Andy’s sister?” Kurt asked.

“One of three, Issy won’t come and Roz is living in Alaska and hasn’t been back since Andy died.  She had a huge fight with her family.  She was older than Andy, the other two younger.”

“I can’t decide if that is sad or not,” Kurt said, thinking about his own desires to avoid Lima.

“I can never decide either.” Drew said as Cora’s voice got louder and they could hear it more.

“Dani, between us all we’ve got all the performances we did today during Claire’s gathering.  Now you can see why Kurt’s original idea of a Madonna cover band was so right up his alley!” Cora rushed over.  “We’ll meet up at you guys’ table.  It’ll be a few because they are spread over several phones.” Cora turned to Claire, who hugged her. “Thank You for such an inspired theme!  We had so much fun this year! It’s too bad Dani wasn’t working today.  She so missed out.  Of course, she gets to sing with Kurt all the time, so fair is fair. Their band is starting to come together so well, so maybe they’ll be doing gigs soon.  Maybe they’ll invite guest singers!”

Dani laughed. “We have some feelers out and hope to have a few gigs within the next week, or so.  After that we’ll have to cut back gigs until finals are over, but we hope to pick up more this summer.”

“I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or not,” Kurt muttered as the others continued talking.

 Claire smiled. “School does come first sometimes.  The entertainment was delightful, Cora.  I am so glad to see you and Julie still working here, and seeing Jamie was such a surprise.  I am so glad she agreed to sing.  I have been worried she’d never get back into it.  I was also delighted to see Alex and Peter.  Tell Martin to come say hello before we leave, I did miss him today.  Do Louie and Payton still work here?”

“Payton doesn’t but Louie still does.  He is off completely today, though.  Payton landed himself a role in the traveling ‘Wicked’ cast, so he had to quit.” Cora said.

“Oh wonderful!”  Claire said. “I’ve got to go talk to Gunther.  Can you relay to Kurt, Jude and Santana that their tips will be left with Gunther?  As well as other tips for those who helped and performed?”

“I will.  I hope I am able to catch you the next time you are in.” Cora said.

“I’d go with not being embarrassed myself,” said Hawk.  ‘It’s great that you’ve put together a band and that they seem to be doing well.  Why be embarrassed?”

Kurt shrugged. “I don’t know about doing well, we haven’t done a gig yet. We’ve haven’t been together very long.  But we are hoping to find something in the next two weeks. I think we are ready and I think we are good.   But…I don’t like to seem like I’m being pushy about it here.  This is my place of work and not someplace to broker business, you know.  And poor Gunther has had my band pushed on him more than once…one member had problems with boundaries…has problems with boundaries.  So I try to keep it in the background.  It’s hard when more than half of us work here, though.”

Claire waved to the guys and Kurt as she left the group.  She wandered towards Gunther, chatting to others on the way and stopping to hug people who seemed to be getting ready to leave.

Cora took hold of Dani’s hand and dragged her back towards the table Dani and Elliot had been sitting at.  Kurt waved as they passed and headed back towards the bar counter.

“Go sit and I’ll be right back.  I want to talk to Kurt quick.”  Cora said and darted off, leaving Elliot and Dani to go sit.

Kurt was picking up an appetizer order when Cora caught up to him.

“Kurt, just wanted to catch up and tell you that your tip from Claire’s group will be with Gunther.  They don’t like leaving it on the tables.  They tend to leave substantial tips and it makes them uncomfortable leaving too much cash lying around like that.  Just go see Gunther at the end of your shift and he’ll hand you your envelope.”

Kurt smiled. “Thanks for telling me, Cora.  I hope you had a fun day today.” Kurt said.

“I always love when Claire and her group come in.  They are a fun crowd.  Usually more upbeat, but I know this is a hard time of the year for them.” Cora said.

“Anniversaries are always hard, especially big ones, but it was nice they could all be together.  I am amazed at their friendships.  That is definitely something worth aiming for.  And they are all such beautiful people.”

Cora chuckled. “They are a very delightful bunch to look at.  You seemed surprised when LeeAnn sang.”

“The girl from Lion King?” Kurt asked. “I hadn’t connected her with the actress.  I try not to.  I mean, I learned quickly at Vogue that I would be meeting important people and there are certain reactions that shouldn’t be indulged in.  Fanning over someone in an embarrassing manner is one of those.  So…I read and listen and learn what I can about important people around but I try not to put names to faces until introduced and I also try to save the whole fanning behavior until on my own in private.  The second week there, I made arrangements with my boss that if I thought I could not manage to hold in my fanboy needs I would signal to her and she’d let me go off somewhere where I could squeal and happy dance until I could maintain a dignified air again. I’ve only had to do so a few times. I’d feel worse about that, but I have seen my boss do her own little private fangirl dance more than once as well and she’s been in the business for a while, so…I don’t feel too bad about it.   I figure if I’m introduced I have been given permission to recognize them later, that it is important for me to do so.  Also…it is just rude to be so stalker-ish to people.  Are there people I would love to meet?  Of course.  Am I going to hunt them down and follow them about so they notice me? No.   Rachel says I’ll never get anywhere thinking like this, but being around her lately just makes me more determined to live in NYC like this.  If someone famous wants me to acknowledge them in that manner, then they’ll introduce themselves loudly and clearly for everyone to see and hear and if they welcome a bit of fanning, well then they’ll ask if I would like to ask them anything face to face when we meet.  Until that point of time, I will smile and treat everyone I meet the same…or at least do the best I can to do so.”

Cora smiled at Kurt. “I love how you put your philosophy of living in New York.  I don’t find it as difficult, I think, because I grew up here and around the theater.  My mom acted a bit, mostly chorus parts, but often if we were between childcare providers we’d spend time backstage.  We just never really saw people we interacted with there as special…however when my sister and I were young teens we were obsessed with America’s Top Models and models in general.  One afternoon we were at Central Park with the whole family and ended up near where the taping of an episode was taking place.  We started squealing and jumping around and my mom was livid about our behavior.   ‘What if our squealing had ruined filming? Or caused a model to lose concentration and look the wrong way?’  She made us list all the reason we shouldn’t act like that. She made us write an apology note to the producers of the show. It was a lesson well learned.   I’ve since worked Broadway myself…as an older teen; I currently prefer off Broadway and   independent theater productions. I don’t mind fans squealing at me…at the stage door. I don’t like it when someone charges at me screaming in the street.  I don’t even mind calm fans elsewhere…but there is a limit.”

Kurt smiled.  “Can I ask?”

Cora smiled. “I did a year in Les Mis, but never during a cast recording period. I played in Into the Woods, again, never during a cast recording period.  Nothing else you’ve probably heard of, yet.  And I was lucky.  I got my first part because I had been in the right place at the right time and was pretty much a body double for the girl cast and the producer and director of the show knew I could sing and dance and memorize lines quickly.  That gig was only a week while the girl who was cast languished from food poisoning.  I made a good impression on the casting director though so when I wanted to try ‘for real’ I had an in.”

Kurt chuckled. “I bet you had a magical childhood. I can only imagine seeing shows from backstage and watching all the magic take place at big productions like that…even now the experience would simply be amazing to have. I did a summer theater camp one year, just a week, but then my mom died and my dad never managed to get me signed up after that. It was incredible…even if it wasn’t that big of a show.”

Cora cocked her head at Kurt and looked at him. “It was.”

“My mom went to school and studied music…amongst other things.  She played in the orchestra at her university…piano. They played with the National Symphony once.  She always said that was the fourth most magical experience in her life.  The first was having me…and the second and third were moments with my dad. I wish I had asked more about all of them.  I was little though, and of course it never occurred to me.  I’d better get this order out before the next one comes up.  Have fun with Elliot and Dani.” Kurt said, heading over to the table that the appetizers were for.  He felt Cora’s eyes on him even after he’d moved on to the next table.

Chapter Text

Kurt got caught up in his job for about a half hour and didn’t even look around to see if Blaine and Sam were still at the diner.  He got everyone settled and then informed his tables he was taking a break and to flag down one of the others if they needed him in the next 10 minutes.

Kurt went to the bar and Alex placed a drink in front of him.

“Gunther was worried you wouldn’t break.  He said to tell you to take the full 10 and then to take another ten in about an hour.” Alex said.

“I feel like I’ve been on break half my shift so far,” Kurt replied.

Alex chuckled. “Big performance days do seem that way.  I am sorry I missed so much, I heard you gave some epic performances.”

Kurt blushed. “I guess.  I had fun.  I don’t know if any were necessarily epic.”

“Kurt, I saw Vogue…it was epic.” Alex said.

Kurt laughed. “You would have liked True Blue then. Rachel hated it.”

Alex laughed.  “There is a ringing endorsement for something if I’ve ever heard one. Has she been bad today?”

“She’s been in a snit due to her status as grounded.  I’ve heard from her about it and I’m pretty sure Santana and the other girls have as well.  She isn’t used to anyone telling her no or punishing her in any way, shape, or form…she isn’t handling it well. It’s good for her.”

“You have someone trying to get your attention.” Alex told Kurt.

“Rachel?” Kurt asked.

“No, a blond guy.”

Kurt dropped his head back and closed his eyes and groaned.              

“So Much for a peaceful break…honestly.” Kurt muttered.  He pasted on a smile and took his drink with him over to Sam…and Blaine.

“Hey Sam,” Kurt said. “Did you need anything?”

“Not really.  It just looked like you were on a break and we wanted to talk.” Sam said. “We haven’t had a chance to just chat today, really.”

“I’ve less than ten minutes,” Kurt said, sliding into the smallish booth next to Sam and across from Blaine.  “So Blaine, what was your favorite part of NYADA today? Sam?”

“Are you just going to ignore that you told me no and then let strangers sing today, Kurt?” Blaine said.

“I didn’t let them, Blaine, Gunther did.  You know, the man who OWNS the diner and is the BOSS.  He can do whatever he wants.  And YOU are the stranger in this case.  Gunther’s known the people that sang today for over 20 years.   Anyway…although I love the round room where the showcases generally take place and where Madame teaches, my favorite part of NYADA is all the little tucked away stage areas…there are like four concert halls and four auditoriums and the round room and two ballroom type areas  and they are all just tucked about.  I find it delightful.”

Blaine was sputtering still, but Sam joined in. “I liked that big auditorium.  It reminded me of the one we performed on when we were here in New York for nationals.”

“Kurt, I don’t want to talk about NYADA, I want to talk about your behavior today.” Blaine said.

“Blaine, I work until 8.30 pm.  After that we can go home and you can talk to me about my behavior, whatever that means, until your voice goes away.  Until then…well, I have about 6 minutes left of my break.  What was your favorite part of NYADA?”

“Don’t you ignore me, we will talk about what I want or we won’t be talking at all.” Blaine snapped.

Kurt sighed. “Then I guess I should be getting back to work.  I guess that means you’re heading back to the loft?”

“Oh No you don’t, you are going to apologize for telling me no and then going and letting a bunch of strangers get up and sing ill-chosen songs.”

“I am not and they were perfectly chosen songs.” Kurt said.

“Kurt, you’re supposed to listen to me at all times, remember?” Blaine insisted.

“You know what?  I don’t recall promising that.  Furthermore, I listened.  Then I told you what was wrong with your assertion.”

“That’s not how listening to me works.”

“It is today.”

“But Kurt….”

“Blaine.” Kurt snapped.

Blaine started working into a huge pout.

Kurt sighed and softened his tone. “Blaine, I am at work. I did not make the choice of letting the group that sang today sing.  Gunther did.  He has known them a long time.  It is tradition.  You got more than 90% of costumers ever get coming in here just yesterday. You did get to sing and perform yesterday.  It was a one-time thing unless you take a job here when you move here.  Maybe you’ll get another chance another day, or be invited into a group sing…those sometimes happen.  However, not today.  I already traded in all the favors I could to get you what you got yesterday.  IF you want to sing, go back to the loft and sing there. Or go get ready and we’ll go out to Callbacks or someplace like that later. Or go ask Santana or Rachel for the names of karaoke bars around here that start early and go head there now.”

“You should totally come with us!” Blaine exclaimed.

“No, I can’t.  I am at my job.” Kurt said.

“It wouldn’t matter if you left early.  Someone else could take over for you and we could go out and I’ll show you some real performances. You won’t even need to sing at all.” Blaine said.

Kurt sighed.

“Sam, when you worked delivering Pizzas, could you just leave early?” Kurt turned and asked Sam.

“No.” Sam said, unsure of why Kurt was asking.

“How about when you worked at the Club?” Kurt asked.

“No…unless my boss told me to go early.” Sam replied.

“And when you worked for my dad?  Even though he knew you and was housing and feeding you so you were basically his kid?” Kurt asked.

Sam laughed. “Oh, no.  You did not leave early working for your dad.  If you did, you found yourself not only in trouble at home but working unpaid time for a while.”

“Exactly.  See Blaine.  When one works a job, one works their full shift.  That is how working at a job generally works.  Certainly you have had jobs before.” Kurt sneered at Blaine.

“Well, I guess,” Blaine said.  “I mean…none of my jobs were ever like that.  I just had to show up for the performances and then make sure people could take pictures with me if they wanted afterwards.”

“You never worked anything other than performing at the amusement park?” Kurt asked.

“No, why would I?  And that was hard work, Kurt.  Two one hour long performances three days a week, Three on Saturdays and one on the other days…some weeks I only had one day off. But, if we missed a performance it wasn’t that big of a deal…so long as we weren’t one of the leads for that performance.  One day I missed all three shows because Monty spiked the punch at the staff dance the night before…but I was actually only sick for the first show.  Instead me and Terrance stayed in and play video games. Julie complained but Terry’s dad called and got it all straightened out. I didn’t even have to call my dad about it. ”

“Didn’t you have to also like man the ride controls or lines or anything?” Sam asked.

“No.  I was just a performer.  There were about eight or nine of us each year who just performed.  My dad got me the job.” Blaine said.

“OF course he did.  Anyway…I can’t leave. MY dad didn’t get me this job…and I’m not going to go begging him to get me a different job if I lose this one because I decided to be a jerk by leaving others in a bind.   So go talk to Rachel and find something fun to do.  Text me when you decide.  Have fun.  I will not be done until 8:30 pm. That’s another several hours away. If you want my company then, make sure you text me where you are at. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon.  You two should go out and see and watch and explore and live New York.   My break is almost over; I’ll see you both later.”

“But Kurt…” Blaine started.

“See you later Kurt,” Sam said over Blaine’s complaint.  Then he pulled Blaine forward and started whispering to him over the table.

Kurt heard mention of karaoke and a bar Rachel spoke of that was open for under 21 until 7pm and that they should totally go check out.  Kurt couldn’t recall her mentioning it but then she was all upset about them not being able to go out somewhere the night before, so that was probably when she had.  Kurt got up, took his glass with him, and left.  He rather hoped they actually would leave…as it was he was going to have to ignore Elliot and Dani who were waving from their table. He made an overly sad face and pointed to his wrist to show he had no time.  Elliot nodded and gave him a thumbs-up.  Kurt washed up just in time for his break to be over.

Claire’s party grew small enough to separate the tables again, even though quite a few were still hanging out and talking.  They had moved to the big booth and Kurt didn’t expect to interact with them anymore since they were in Jude’s jurisdiction.  He’d checked out the table of girls, whose chaperone had to physically pull out two of them.  The tip wasn’t very big, but Kurt was impressed they’d left one at all.  He knew how much the kids from McKinley who went on their ‘History Alive!’ tour generally had to spare and it wasn’t much.  He had had the option of Nationals or the ‘History Alive!’ tour and chose glee club, and he wasn’t sorry he had, but he knew he missed out and would probably never see half the places the tour had traveled to.

He’d bussed the girl’s table and the two tables which had made up the big table and one other.  Things were slowing down, although the dinner rush was about to start soon.  Elliot and Dani were still up sitting with Cora, but all were now eating so Kurt hoped maybe they would be there long enough to talk to later.  Rachel was over trying to talk to Santana, who kept ignoring her as she served.  However as the attention was no longer on him, Rachel was no longer willing to come fuss at him, either.  If things could just stay as it was and Blaine and Sam actually left, Kurt might be able to finish his shift and loose the headache.

Kurt didn’t have a long enough pause in making sure those in his section were cared for and the tables in his section were ready for the evening rush to do much more than pause for a drink of water which Alex brought to him for the next half hour.  Then Alex made sure Kurt took a break.  They had another good sized party coming in during the evening and Gunther wanted Kurt able to sing again.  Kurt looked around.  Sam and Blaine had gone and Rachel looked like she was getting ready to head out.  Kurt had forgotten her shift was a small one, but he’d thought she worked a bit longer than being able to get ready to head out.  He looked up and noticed that Dani and Elliot were still seated, this time talking with one of the other waitresses that Kurt didn’t know, because she always worked mornings. Kurt pointed out to Alex where he’d be.  He returned waves from those left over from the NYU group as he went to chat with Dani and Elliot.

He was enveloped in a hug from Dani as soon as he neared the table they were seated at.  Elliot took the absence of Blaine and Sam as an excuse to pull Kurt onto his lap, since there were no empty chairs.

“Oh My God…You were awesome today.  Next time we work together I am totally pulling you up to sing with me.  I don’t care.  Gunther will let me, I am certain. This is Luna, she attends NYU with Elliot, although her focus is history and art.  They took acting 101 together, though.  She has a lovely soprano voice.” Dani said.

Luna waved and took a huge bite of her burger, before holding out her hand for one of the phones on the table.

Dani smiled and started the video on the phone for her since her hands were messy.  Then she turned her attention back to Kurt. “So…what was all that fussing about?”

“Rachel or Blaine?” Kurt asked. “They were the only fussers.”

“I can guess Rachel’s.  She still doesn’t even understand why she was grounded.  She just keeps whining that Gunther hates her.  I’m not even entirely sure she KNOWS what she did.” Dani said.

“I’m still not sure what she did.  Santana said she pushed one of the others so she could have the center stage and sang over everyone else?  That is all she could explain, she was in the other room dealing with that party so not there.” Kurt said.

“Oh, I’d forgotten Santana was back there with Alex and Tory. She literally pushed Mack off the stage.  Mack fell from the stage onto the floor. It would have been worse but two customers caught her enough to break her fall.  She told Gunther not to fire Rachel, because she was certain Rachel didn’t mean it and that she wouldn’t have fallen if her balance hadn’t been off.”

“Her? As in McKenzie Mack? Not Mack who is your current server? Like McKenzie who is pregnant?” Kurt asked in disbelief.

“Yes. Rachel didn’t even notice her go down.  McKenzie and Gunther both put that fact as a positive towards her, but I’m not so sure it should have been.”

Kurt just shook his head.  “I would not put that on a positive side of a list either. Especially because she pushed others before she was grounded as well. She has become utterly ridiculous about it. I mean, it was bad enough when she used work to ‘re-audition’ and ‘prove’ she was right for Fanny, but this pushing others and pulling them away and taking the lead constantly has become a problem. I just think it’s going to take more than one time for it to sink in.  Maybe Gunther should write her some rules and guidelines, above what he usually has to do and then ground her every time she oversteps.  She’d probably quit before ever learning her lesson, though.”

“And Blaine’s problem?” Elliot asked.

“Blaine’s fussing was about how I was ignoring him…and not handing over the stage to him for him to perform on all afternoon, which he thought he should be able to do.  He did NOT approve of any of the music, although the girls did a much better job than I did the whole afternoon.  OH…and I should not have dared to let strangers sing when I told him no.”

“How did he figure you had control over that?” Dani asked.

Kurt shrugged. “He was unhappy and didn’t get his way.  It doesn’t matter if I can control it or not, I’m just supposed to make sure he gets what he wants.”

“Does that often happen in his life?” Dani asked.

Kurt nodded. “Oddly enough it does.  Blaine just seems to always get what Blaine wants and everyone adores him and the ground he walks on…it is actually rather spooky at times.”

“I suspect a Mob connection.” Elliot said, straight-faced. “Or demonic possession.”

Kurt wasn’t sure if he was joking, either.

“I doubt that extreme, but days like today I wouldn’t completely count it out.” Kurt sighed. “I suppose I ought to check my phone before I head back to work and see if they have at least told me where they were going.  Or a time they will be home…”

“Why?” Dani asked.

“So they can be at the airport in time to leave.” Kurt answered. “I need them to leave on time.”

Elliot snorted.

“No, seriously.  I need them home before I can concentrate on everything else that needs fixed. Like…what classes I’m taking next semester.” Kurt said. “Elliot, can you remind me on Monday to go talk to someone about my schedule? I need to talk to my professors first, so maybe text me a reminder in the early afternoon. I’d do it tomorrow but with the auditions going on I figure everyone would be too on edge to help me out. I don’t plan on staying for any length of time past my class.”

“I thought NYADA was like NYU and freshmen got to sign up last of those already at the school.” Elliot said.

“Rachel somehow managed to sign up for her classes…and signed me up for classes as well, especially picked to not interfere with hers.” Kurt said. “A few of which I am currently taking, since I am carrying a full and heavy load and not a light load designed to showcase star qualities. Her wording, not mine.  I had…I don’t know…assumed she knew what I was actually enrolled in, but apparently not.  Anyway, she informed me of that like…Tuesday-ish, right before Blaine and Sam showed up…but I have simply not had time to deal with it.”

“Aren’t your classes listed on your schedule by name?” Dani asked.

“Yeah.”

“Then why?”

Kurt shrugged.  “Probably because if I get credit for the classes I am able to by token of finishing the classes I’m taking this semester, and if I take summer classes like I plan to when I enter NYADA in fall I will be in classes with a higher standing than Rachel…and thus have a higher standing than Rachel and god knows that isn’t allowed.”

“What do you mean?”

“Professor Haines worked it out so if I finish Drama One with him with a B or higher I’ll get credit for both this second semester and the first.  I had two extra projects to do and a test that proved I had read and understood the skills taught the first semester and a paper I had to write for that. I had all that done before spring break.  The rest of what was learned we are building onto and using now so as long as I show I got those building blocks down I will be fine. Likewise, Ms. July worked it out that if I agreed to take beginners dance and not try to test in to anything above it and worked hard at it and passed it she would give me credit for both semesters.  If I then took whatever dance she recommends over the summer, I will be in intermediate year 2 next year.  And she’ll sign off on more credits than usually allowed in summer IF her classes are what make me go over and I wouldn’t be over without her classes.  I took a musical theory test and tested out of first year musical theory, and tested well enough to get the full three credits for it. I put in 6 hours of work on props and stage construction between spring break and last week to finish the requirements for my online Math For Theater class. That is six credits done, and a potential 8 more if I do well enough in classes that are ‘make-up’ credits.  I carried 22, which is one over a full load but was easy to get signed off for. I get three from Vogue, which wasn’t calculated into my 22 at the start because we weren’t sure it was an option, but which was signed off on as well because I’d been working without it negatively impacting my classes.  I pass just this semester and I’m at 39, even without summer classes. I’ll have earned my class ranking, dammit!  Rachel has taken First year Drama, her Dance course and just the required vocal and workshop, not even the recommended amount … So three credits of voice instead of five. Madame T only teaches one section of Vocals for each year and she is who Rachel needs to be noticed by, after all.  Taking the other vocals section as well as Madame T’s might strain her too much, or confuse her with dueling techniques. She took musical theory last semester, but only took a one credit drama workshop this semester…so she could spend time doing things that would showcase her talents, not just sit in a classroom. That gave her 14 credits last semester and 12 this semester…just enough to be full time.  It leaves her well under the 30 needed to be considered a sophomore. She was planning to do the Math course, English, and a history course online this summer, but with her Fanny rehearsals and such, I doubt she will.  In fact I know she is already trying to figure out how to get her ‘summer’ vacation still with Fanny in rehearsal.  The two official summer break weeks they get is ‘just not enough’.”

Elliot snorted.

“What is she thinking is going to happen?  The producers are going to just say ‘Oh, you are a student as well? Of course you can be off from the middle of May to the second week of September!’ Have you had her checked for drugs lately?”

Kurt laughed.

“About half the cast aren’t even fully available for practice until the 15th of June.  Sure it is mostly chorus and such, but still…they have been working with them on Sundays and half days on Mondays. That isn’t enough to get the large numbers down and everyone firmly in their proper place, apparently.  The rest of the week they work small groups of people who are here in the city and they have been trying to find all their needed understudies, which has become a deceptively difficult task. It is mostly Rachel’s fault. They are going to need all summer.  The producer wants the show to go upstate to workshop the second week of August, as a fully formed show that just needs some tweaking. They will have a two week break the first part of June and a week break after they workshop, so the tweaks could be made and the rest of rehearsal to opening planned. But Rachel is furious that none of that is ‘really’ a summer break.  She isn’t even going to have to cancel her 10 day cruise with her fathers! I can’t even figure out what she wants as a break!”

Dani started laughing.

“And I’ve just spent the greater part of my break complaining about Rachel!” Kurt groaned.

Elliot rubbed his back soothingly. “You’ve still got a few minutes.”

“No he doesn’t” Mack said. “I hate to be the bringer of bad news but Rachel has left the building and she still had time left.  Her tables have to be covered until Diane gets in and that is at least a half hour.”

“Please tell me Gunther fired her!” Kurt begged.

“No, but she is now grounded until next Friday.  She got a call, called Diane asking her to come in early because she needed to leave early and when Diane explained she couldn’t get in for a half hour at least Rachel almost seemed to accept being here at least that long, but then she got another call and left.  Gunther can’t prove it isn’t an emergency. Jude took care of the tables with people at them but there are three that need bussed.”

“Ugh!” Kurt exclaimed as he got off Elliot’s lap. “Would anyone be terribly upset if I just shaved her bald one night?”

The rest laughed as he waved as he went back down stairs.

Chapter Text

Bussing Rachel’s tables took the remainder of his break.  She had taken the tip off the one table but not the second.  Kurt tucked that tip into the jar up by the bartenders.  Considering how many glasses he cleared from the table, they worked the hardest for it.   He looked around and realized that only three of the other tables Rachel was in charge of had people at them and two looked like they’d just been served their meals.  He looked over to his tables and saw that none were empty or looked near to done.   He stopped by the other table’s Rachel had been in charge of to check if all was well before he started on his tables.

Work was pretty much a solid steady flow.  He waved at Diane when she came in and nodded at those who left.  Sal slipped him a piece of paper which Kurt didn’t get a chance to look at as he headed out, and each of the girls Kurt sang with came over to hug him before they left.   The people who’d been in Claire’s group came and thanked him as they left as well. It gave Kurt a chance to tell LeeAnn how much Kurt admired her work, and tell the man she was with how much he enjoyed his voice.

Several members of Claire’s party were still hanging out at the diner when the evening parties arrived.  A birthday party of 11 was kept on the main floor while the retirement party of 20 was set up in the large conference room upstairs.  It was a good thing because they got drunk quite quickly. There were two extra bartenders and two extra wait-staff that came in to deal with the area so Kurt only had to withstand the groping that seemed to accompany drunk patrons a few times when he was asked to sing upstairs.  The extra staff were from a temp agency, so Kurt didn’t know any of them. The birthday party was bad enough to deal with.

The first problem was that the birthday party consisted of a bunch of wealthy enough kids to consider the diner to be ‘slumming’ and who considered the wait staff toys.  They were rude and handsy and more than a bit offensive.   Their second problem was the birthday party was a “Happy 21st”.  Before their appetizer course was even out to them, they had gone through two rounds of drinks and were on their third…and Mack had been reassigned to the lower floor to help Kurt serve them.  The girls had been moved to other areas of the diner and they performed on the stage and didn’t wander off.

Mack and Kurt smiled and served the birthday party and made sure they stood between the worst of the handsy kids and the girls when they performed.  Luckily, the birthday party was full of handsy kids who kept their touching to running hands over arms and backs.  It was annoying at most.  Their drunken comments were more of the cat calling kind and the speaking too loudly about how hot someone looked and complaining too loudly that they were stuck with guys as servers.  They used offensive language about servers and women and other patrons…but Kurt suspected it was mostly being used in the ‘rich and spoiled’ and ‘need to look even more rich and spoiled’ manner.

They were annoying and headache inducing but just irritating, nothing worse.

On the other hand, the retirement party was full of full out groping adults who were well old enough to know better and often done in front of the men’s wives and sometimes even children.  And they were drunk enough up there to grope guys and girls.  They pinched rear ends and tried to touch all the untouchable spots on the front side. The first time Kurt went up to sing, singing with Diane and Chloe, the bunch had just started getting really rowdy.   He didn’t see how ‘Manic Monday’ could generate a grabby feeling in people, but it seemed to do so.  Of course their behavior could have also stemmed from the fact that the majority of the party was already so drunk it didn’t matter the song at all.  His hind end had been pinched and patted twice, and both girls had been groped as well.  They swore and made vulgar comments and sung loudly off key with performers and any music they could hear.  The bartenders told Kurt and the girls that they had things under control at that point.  Kurt and Diane went back up almost 45 minutes later to sing again.   They sang ‘Hello Goodbye’, another song that Kurt thought ought to have been groping free. Kurt was certain his rear end had bruises after he sang up in the conference room the first time but he informed Gunther the group was a sexual harassment charge waiting to happen after his bits were grabbed during his second song, regardless of the bartenders’ assurances that really all was well.  Diane was grabbed more than once as well, and nearly pulled of the stage by her leg.  Kurt escorted her out by physically placing her against the wall and him in front of her and even then men tried to grab at her around him. Gunther took up the specialty ordered dessert after Kurt and Diane came down with their report. Kurt hoped those who had let things get so out of hand got in trouble.

Kurt managed about two tables before the birthday party was waving him down.  One of the kids had called their parents to send cars for them as they headed to next section of the party and they wanted their special cake order brought out.

There was no please…or even civility in the order, but at least one of the brats had sense enough to get them a ride to their next destination and they wouldn’t be freeing drunk kids into the wild.

“Alex, make a note for me to call Zalanka’s Temp Agency and report those bartenders they sent. Another day like today and we will not use them at all any longer.  This has become ridiculous.  Twice in two weeks they have let things get completely out of control.” Gunther was yelling on his way towards the kitchen.

Kurt was reluctant to bug him, but he was eager for half their troubles to go away.

“Sir, the Birthday Day party is ready for their specialty dessert.”

“It is the Ice Cream cake in the walk-in.” Gunther said. “It has been paid for already.”

Kurt had to chuckle when he found it. Of course it was a Chad.  He hoped Chad was aware enough to enjoy it.

The cake cut just perfectly, really.  The party of 11 were all happy.  Birthday boy Chad got the extra piece.  Three town cars showed up right after the bill had been paid.

They actually left a really nice tip.  Kurt turned 1/3 into the bartender jar and took 1/3 to Gunther to be split between the performers who’d had to deal with them.  He spilt the other third with Mack.

Kurt still had an hour to go.  He was short two breaks, but the evening was busy and there hadn’t been time.  Santana’s shift was nearing an end as well and she came down to ask if Kurt planned on going out after his shift.

“Not if I don’t have to.” Kurt said. “Did you want the loft?”

“Dani said I could hang at her place tonight and stay over.  I think I might take her up on that if you aren’t heading out with Rachel and the boys.” Santana explained.

“Santana, I don’t even know where they are at. I’ll text again right before I leave, but unless they answer before I get home, so I can just change and head right out, I’m staying home. I’ve texted twice already asking where they are or where they’ll be at nine or so and I’ve heard nothing back from anyone.  I’ve a headache that could use the quiet anyway.”

“What do you mean you don’t know where they are?  They have been sending out location texts all evening.”  Santana said. “It’s a group text?”

Kurt shook his head. “I’ve got nothing.”

Santana made grabby hands and Kurt fished his phone out of his pocket and handed it to her.  Her look got more and more confused as she pursued it.  She gave him his phone back and pulled out her own.

“Rachel has sent texts to Dani and Elliot and the rest of the band members, her toadies, and half a dozen other NYADA students she would like to think she is ‘friends’ with.  Your name really isn’t on this list. Blaine has sent his out to all the other New Direction kids, several names I recognize as Dalton boys and about six names I do not recognize at all.  But not you.”

“Sam?” Kurt asked.

“Sam has been sending no texts.  He left his phone at the loft charging.” Santana said.

Kurt sighed.  He hated when they did this…when Rachel and Blaine played their little punishment games.  He is pretty certain he got his dislike for the whole ‘silent’ treatment things from his dad and the whole silent treatment and retaliation thing was beyond that.  Kurt found it juvenile and irresponsible and trite.  But…he had proof he never got texts…and seriously he wasn’t afraid to use it after the afternoon they had dealt him and the day he had.  He could go home.

“Don’t tell me where they are. I am not asking where they are. I don’t want to know where they are. I am going to go home.  I am going to take a nice long hot bath. I am going to listen to either classical music or rain on Rachel’s sound machine.  I am going to take pain meds.  I am going to lie on my bed, spread out, with a heat pack on my back and neck.  I suggest you take Dani up on her offer.  It will be much more peaceful and we have had a long day.”

Santana looked at Kurt.  “I’m not even going to stop at the loft.”

Kurt smiled.  “Perfect. Have fun and be safe.”

“You should use those bath salts that Rachel says makes the loft stink.”

Kurt snorted. “I think I will.  I am also going to burn very fruity smelling candles.  Blaine hates that.”

Santana waved.

Kurt headed back out to buss several of the tables he was looking after.  People coming in at this point mostly came for either appetizers or desserts.  Those who wanted a meal were hungry and not too interested in entertainment.  Kurt actually got his break during the last hour.  He watched Gunther go up and escort the retirement party to taxis he had waiting during the break.  It was entertaining.  Kurt wondered how well the credit card pay slips were signed…Gunther helped each meal ticket sign except for one.

Kurt was back at work when Gunther escorted the extra bartenders out.  Alex said he missed quite a show.  Kurt was fine with that, though.  He was feeling tired and achy and he was certain he wouldn’t feel any better tomorrow. He still had to share his bed one more night, after all.

Right before his shift was up, Gunther grabbed him.

“You are the last one I needed to catch-up with.  Everyone else has been sent home.” Gunther said.

“It is a little early for some of us to go. Will you have enough servers for the rest of the evening?” Kurt said. “I could stay if you needed me.”

“I closed the upstairs.  I had to call in a cleaning service to deal with the conference room and so decided to have them do the whole upstairs and closed it early.  I will not make my staff deal with mess.  I have called again on the issue.  I have warned that company for the last time.  They have one more chance and then I am going to talk to other businesses about them.  If I hadn’t needed need the extra bartenders over the next two or three weeks, I wouldn’t have even given them another chance…but we are short.”

Kurt looked puzzled. “I thought you had enough normally to cover extra parties?”

“Grayson is out for a while.  His wife had their baby on Monday.”

“But wasn’t she due after McKenzie?  That’s like way early.”

“Two and a half months early.  He called to tell us that the baby is stable and they think he will be fine.  Everything but his breathing is good and his breathing is getting better.  His wife was able to see the baby today.  They were in a car wreck coming home from her folks last Sunday, which started her labor.  They were rear ended, and the doctors made her stay in bed until today because they were worried about neck and head injuries. Alvin just left for his job in Boston, he got a lead role in a play up there and we hadn’t a chance to replace him yet.  And Ginger is out on sick leave…until she can stop barfing.  It was three months before she could come back with her last kid, but only a month with her first, so wish for a month.”

“If you need extra help, let me know…I mean I’ll do what I can.”

“Maybe in a year I’ll train you as a bartender, but for now you are too young.  If I need to, though, I’ll call you in to fill in while one of the older servers helps tend bar.  Thank You for offering. I know you have classes and another job to work around, but even if you could just cover an hour or two in the evening or on weekends it would probably help.  Let me know hours you can do and I’ll mark you down.  It takes you how long to get here?”

“I can get in in 15 minutes from the school if I take a taxi and a half hour to 45 minutes from home.  I am willing to come in just for an hour or so as well, if you just need me that long.”

“In emergencies, I pay for taxis, mind you, so you wouldn’t be out pay for those.  Now…I want to thank you for the job you did with the NYU group today.  I am so proud. I’m a silly old man, I know, but that group of kids came into my life at a time when I needed them, so I’m a bit attached.  You made their get together something special and did a great honor to a friend.  I could not have asked for something better. Macy wouldn’t have been able to give them what you did today.  Don’t get me wrong, she would have put on a great show and everyone would have loved it. But you gave them and a whole lot more of us, something we needed and so I am deeply grateful that you stepped up.”

Kurt smiled. “The opportunity gave me something I needed as well, so thank you very much for taking a chance with me. I know I wasn’t your first choice…probably not even your third or fourth.”

“I came to you and Ms. Lopez for a reason.  I knew you could handle it.  Both of you are hard workers. You make sure you take care of your customers and you don’t let performing overshadow everything else.  And you were both fresh. Today was a hard day. By the time you got here we’d had one official party, which you got the see the end of, but four other large groups that could only classify as parties. Macy was the most dramatic of the missing wait staff, but she was one of five. Several of the others who sang with you were on their second shift, even though I managed to keep the second shifts all half shifts. So you were not as far down on my list as you might think. However, you will be much higher on my list from now on. I hope you are ready.”

Kurt smiled. “I had fun today.  I wouldn’t mind.  I was reminded why I came to New York and I was reminded that music should move people, and I am here to learn to do that but I can only do that if I haven’t forgotten how that feels myself. And I was reminded that I can have fun with Music and preforming.  I sometimes forget that I can do that with all the pressure at school and such.”

“I’ll remind you often if you seem to need that, because you have promise.  You have more promise than I’ve seen in a long time.  Now, Claire and Lori left your tips in three envelopes because they didn’t want you traveling home with too much money on you…they said to either give it to you over your next few days of work or for me to call you a cab and send you home with it all tonight. I’ve called you a cab, it is on me. Frankly you look beat and you’ve gone far and above what your job calls for today and I’ll feel better about it anyhow.  They’ve also left notes, but I think I’ll give those to you next week, except for one.  You done good, kiddo.”

Kurt smiled. “Thanks. And remember, if you need me…”

Gunther pressed three very thick envelopes into Kurt’s hands, a thinner one Kurt couldn’t recall hearing about, and two empty envelopes. “I suggest you tuck the rest of you tips for the day into the empty envelopes.  Keep out enough to maybe tip the taxi.  The skinny envelope is a share of the tips and the extra they were charged for what it ended up looking like from upstairs. I know you weren’t up there much, but you did your best to protect your coworker in a bad situation and that deserves a reward.  Tuck them all in against your skin, I’ve tape if you need it, and visit the bank tomorrow.  Take a taxi there as well. Your cab should be out there soon.  I’ll see you later.”

Kurt nodded and followed Gunther directions, including about taping the envelopes to him, before heading out into the diner again. The bartender handed Kurt a to-go cup and pointed him towards the door.  Kurt grabbed his satchel from the employee room, shoving his street clothing into the satchel, before taking a long swig of the drink. The diet coke was flavored with berry syrups and just what he needed.  His cab pulled up two minutes after he hit the front of the diner.

The cab ride back to the loft was decent.  The cabby was chatty, but he liked to talk about his cab and other cabs and Kurt knew enough about cars to ask about makes and models and discuss the pros and cons between them. He gave the driver a note to have someone look at his exhaust system as it was sounding not at its top, but that it wouldn’t be a problem really for a year or two, even though it was costing him already.  It wasn’t a bad ride.  In fact it was a rather nice ride, all things considered.  Kurt left a tip when he got out and told the driver to keep the extra from the prepay, but had him mark down the exact fare if he could so Kurt could give it to his boss for the next time it might be needed.  With the note in hand Kurt headed up to the loft and prayed it was still empty.