Sometimes, Nursey comes to team dinner looking...not chill. His hat is still pulled down at a chill angle. The collar of his shirt is rumpled just enough to be chill and not to be trying to hard. But his face...look into his eyes and on those days it looks like he's frayed at the edges, like if you pulled at a yarn from his hat all the chill would would unravel before you knew what was happening.
On those days, Ransom gives Nursey's shoulder a squeeze when he come in, and the two young men nod at each other with a solidarity the others can't touch.
Not even Holster.
It's the same nod Nursey gave the girl in his poetry class, sweater pulled tight around her in an artificial hug, eyes fierce. It's the nod she gave the girl she passed in the dining hall, wearing a spiked collar and a grimace as she read tweets on her phone.
It's the nod she passed to the boy in her organic chemistry class.
The nod he passed the boy in his dorm.
It's the nod.
The protests are fewer now. There is still outrage, almost overgulfed by the raw pain in their chests, but Samwell is not Mizzou. They are sure that none of their classmates would use pick-up trucks to circle girls in a parking lot like they were herding animals to slaughter. Besides, when it seems like no one is listening it makes it harder to go on. They have no outpouring of support from allies the way the LGBT students do, and when they protest it often feels like they are invisible, like their classmates eyes just slide off them. So they choose their battles.
And somehow a 16-year-old girl dying in police custody isn't worth a protest, not after they screamed and railed because of Sandra Bland.
Today a professor told Nursey, "I know it sucks, but what can you do?".
There is a wound rubbed raw inside him, that he can ignore but will never go away. He heard once that the biggest factor for whether inner city black boys commit violence is respect. He believes it. If he thought violence could gain the respect for life that America lacks, then he would be tempted. But as it is violence is used to say that they are worth less. Worth less than the worthless they obviously already are.
That girl was worth something. That girl was worth so much. That girl was worth more than all the assholes with a hand in her death combined (including the ones who just sat there and let her die).
After dinner Nursey grabs Ransom. They each send out a text and a tweet.
At 10:00 pm there are twenty people on the quad with lighters, candles, books of matches, and bright cell phone screens. Twenty people saying Gynnya McMillen's life was worth something. And people join them.
11:00 pm and there are 200 people with them, more than they've ever had for any protest. 200 people attesting to the fact that Gynna McMillen's life was worth something. And their numbers continue to grow.
It takes silent tears rolling down the face of the girl from his poetry class for Nursey to realize he is crying, too.
It's like something has broken in all of them.
This is not a show of strength in the face of adversity, strength they are pressured into showing again and again. A strength that Samwell reporters have turned into it's own sort of minstrel show. This is catharsis. For the first time it feels like they have been given permission to show how they hurt.
Nursey knows that he has never been thought of as fragile, not even when the world considered him a boy—though that wasn't a long period of time. The first time a new security guard in his gated community asked him "where he belonged" he was eight.
Nursey looked at Ransom and wondered how long it had been since anyone other than Holster looked at Ransom and saw fragile.
Nursey looked at the wet cheeks of the girl in his poetry class and wondered how old she was when someone first expected her to carry the world on her back or labeled her a Jezebel.
But looking around Nursey knew that they were all just children. They hadn't outgrown the title quite yet, even though the label had been taken from them long ago.
And he knew they needed this, this chance to mourn, mourn the child who was killed. Mourn their childhood. Maybe even more their humanity, since the cops obviously didn't believe they had any.
They needed time to mourn, for each unnecessary death, for each worthless body that wasn't worth a protest but was worth the world.
He didn't leave the quad until after 3:00 AM, the few remaining mourners trailing towards their dorms at they slowly untangled their hearts from each other. They knew they'd meet again, in this place, with light in their hearts sooner than they liked.