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Uranium in the Drinking Water

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Will Schuester is eternally thankful to be off the bus, but he’s not entirely sure the alternative is any better.

Shaking hands with Ms. Li reminds him a little of Sue and not in a good way. He follows the principal into the school with his glee kids trailing behind as she rants about the merits of Lawndale High. The words “drug sniffing dogs” gives him a pause, but Ms. Li is still charging forward, so he doesn’t get a chance to ask. They finally stop in front of a classroom.

“And here we are,” Ms. Li says. “Mr. O’Neill’s Language Arts class. I’m sure everyone is super excited to get this little meet and greet started, so you can just go right on in.”

Will nods and opens the door. One by one the kids file in and he follows, shutting the classroom door shut behind him.

When Figgins first mentioned this plan to Will, his first instinct was to blow him off. Going to another school with some of the kids to learn about other people, hardly seemed like a viable use of time or resources. Maybe if it was in another country, but another state? Absurd.

“It may sound absurd, Schue,” Figgins says. “But I’m being given a lot of money to participate in this program.”

“You can’t be serious,” Will sputters. “So what, you’re just going to keep sending us to various schools? That’s ridiculous.”

“Of course not,” Figgins answers. “We go to one school and another school comes to us.” Figgins shuffles some papers around. “We are to receive students from…Liberty High School in Pittsburgh.”

“Oh goody,” Will answers. “So why do I get to drag my glee kids to…” he pulls out the paper Figgins handed him earlier. “Lawndale High, a suburb and have them interact with kids that are probably remarkably similar.”

“If you do this,” Figgins says. “I’ll have enough in the budget to not only keep glee club going, but also give you a sizable budget, while still keeping Sue happy about her Cheerio’s need.”

Will can only stare.

Figgins nods. “I told you. It’s a lot of money.”

Will sighs. “Fine. But if you’re jerking me around about this budget thing, we’ll be having words.”

“I appreciate it, Schue. And McKinley appreciates it as well.”

Which is why Will Schuester and his glee club are standing in front of a classroom of bored 11th graders.

“Class,” Mr. O’Neill says, clapping his hands. “We’re in for a real treat today. As I mentioned last week, Ms. Li enrolled Lawndale High in this wonderful program that allows us to expand our horizons by interacting with students from other schools. I’d like to introduce you to the students of McKinley High.”

They each step forward (or in Artie’s case, wheel forward) and give their name. Rachel had wanted to do a song, but had been unanimously vetoed, even by Will. She’d been disappointed and had so desperately wanted to do her usual diva storm off, except they had been on the bus at the time. Instead she pouted in her seat for the rest of the ride.

Will then introduces himself once all the kids are finished. Mr. O’Neill then has all the students stand and say their names.

And then nothing. The McKinley kids stand awkwardly in the front while the Lawndale kids stare at them.

Finally Will says, “Someone must have a question. Kids?” He looks at New Directions. Nothing. He looks back at the Lawndale students, but it’s like looking at a sea of indifference.

Another minute passes before someone finally raises their hand.

“Go ahead Charles,” Mr. O’Neill says.

“I was just wandering how long our guests will be staying and if perhaps any of the lovely ladies would like a personal tour of Lawndale, Charles Ruttheimer style.”

“I hardly think that is appropriate Charles.”

“We’re not staying long enough for a tour,” Mr. Schuester replies.

Another hand shoots up.

“Yes, Jodie,” Mr. O’Neill acknowledges.

“I’m curious as to how students were chosen for this excursion. Who decided who from McKinley would be visiting us?”

“Uh, that would have been our principal,” Will answers.

“And he didn’t tell you?”

“Well, not exactly.”

“Because I’m curious about why these twelve were deemed right to represent your school. Nothing against any of you,” Jodie clarifies. “It’s just…you’re from the middle of Ohio. And yet, I feel like I’m looking at a Benetton ad. I guess I’m wondering if Ohio is more diverse than I realized.”

“I can’t really comment on Ohio in general,” Will begins.

“Mr. Schuester, if I may?” Rachel says stepping forward.

The rest of New Directions groan.

Will sighs. “Go ahead, Rachel.”

“Thank you. Jodie, was it? First, I’d like to commend you on both your keen observation skills as well as your concerns in general about the lack of diversity we many times see surrounding us. I, myself, feel privilege to know that I meet many of the quotas that are being striven to be met. As someone who is not only a child of a bi racial couple, but also of two gay men, I feel diversity is something that must be embraced and encouraged. And while a large portion of our school are more akin to Finn here.” She points to Finn who is just behind her. “Or Brittany.” She points to Brittany who is on her left. “I do feel many minorities are represented and celebrated.” She turns around. “Anyone else have anything to add?”

She looks at Santana who growls at her. Both Mike and Tina shrink away from her gaze, though for different reasons. Matt hides behind Mike. Kurt has mysteriously disappeared and Mercedes just shakes her head. Rachel turns to Artie at the end of the line, but he’s refusing to meet her eyes.

“Apparently not,” Rachel says. “I apologize for my peers’ seeming inability to want to express their beliefs on such a vital, yet sensitive topic. I hope this won’t lower your opinion of us. Normally we are a rather verbose group; just not at the moment, apparently. But since they have chosen to keep silent, I think it would be best if I—”

“Actually, Rachel,” Will interrupts. “Why don’t we make this whole thing a bit more informal? Feel free to mingle and whatever. Okay?”

There’s a visible sigh of relief that runs through the room at that statement.

Brittney jumps up and bounds over to two of the McKinley cheerleaders.

“Hi, I’m Brittney,” she says.

“Really?” Brittany replies. “Me too.”

Santana just groans.

“Hey, S, her name’s Brittney too,” Brittany says. “And she’s a cheerleader.”

“Whoopee freaking doo, Brit.”

Santana already knew this field trip would be a waste of time. Surveying the room, she doesn’t see anyone worth bothering with. She sighs and leans against the wall, trying to ignore the ridiculousness going on next to her.

“My boyfriend Kevin is the quarterback,” Brittany tells Brittany.

Brittany nods. “That’s how it’s supposed to be. Head cheerleader dates the quarterback.”

“That’s what Kevin says too.”

Quinn really doesn’t want to be here. “Excuse me, Mr. Schue,” she says. “Is it all right if I go to the bathroom?”

“Of course,” Mr. O’Neill answers. “Would you like someone to show—”

“That’s fine,” Quinn assures him. “I’m sure I can find it on my own.” Scanning the room, her eyes fall first on Finn and then Santana. “S!”

Santana nods once, leans over and whispers to Brittany and then follows Quinn out.

In the hallway, Santana turns to Quinn. “Thanks for getting me out of there. “Where are we going?”

“Who cares?” Quinn replies. “Just as long as we’re out of there.”

They do end up going to the bathroom since they see one. There, in front of the large mirror, is Kurt.

“Hummel,” Santana growls. “I know you’re…a bit different, but I thought for sure you could read. Or are you trying to tell us something?”

“The mirrors in the boys’ room are actually worse than at McKinley, which I didn’t believe possible,” Kurt says as he refluffs his coif.

“Whatever, it’s a big mirror,” Quinn says.

The bathroom door opens and Quinn prepares herself to have to deal with some random bottom feeders.

“Excuse me,” a voice says behind her. “But this is our mirror.”

Quinn doesn’t turn around. “I don’t see your name on it.”

“Then you’re not really looking,” the voice continues. “Because it’s right there. Top right corner.”

Quinn sighs and turns around. She finds herself staring at four stylishly dressed girls who are most definitely not bottom feeders. “Oh?”

The brown haired girl is pointing to a small plague on the wall, next to the mirror. “As president of the fashion club, it was my idea to put up the plague. Thus, it makes this our mirror.”

“We were here first,” Santana says.

“You don’t even go to this school,” the other brunette points out.

“Quite right, Quinn,” the first brunette agrees. “I’m sure once these imposters realize the popularity they’re infringing on, they’ll simply move on.”

Santana smirks. Quinn shoots her a look.

“What? Her name’s Quinn too,” Santana says. “What are the odds we’d end up at a school with a blonde cheerleader named Brittney and a very popular girl named Quinn?”

“You’re school actually has a fashion club?” Kurt interjects.

“Um, what are you doing in the girls’ room?” the Asian girl asks.

“The mirrors are much better in here.”

“That’s true.”

“So you’re a QB too?” Kevin asks as he sits next to Finn.

Finn nods.

“How come you’re not in uniform?”

“We don’t really do that at our school,” Finn tells him.

“We don’t either, bro” Kevin replies. “But I’m the QB and it’s a really big deal. I’ve gotta show everyone I’m like a leader and stuff. ”

“Like we could ever forget,” Mack snarks as he walks by.

“Why would you want to Mack Daddy?” Kevin says.

“Don’t call me that.”

“You make a good point,” Finn says. “Maybe that’s what our problem is. I really need to step up as a leader. Maybe with that we can do better.”

“Whatever dude,” Puck says. “What we really need, is people who can play football well.”

“Yeah, that might help, too.”

“That’s my girlfriend,” Kevin confides, point to Brittney as she talks to Brittany. “She’s head cheerleader.”

“Yeah?” Finn replies. “Mine too.”

“Yeah! That’s how the QBs do it, bro.” He fist bumps Finn.

“How do you feel about ducks?” Brittany asks.

“Ducks? I love ducks,” Brittney says.

Brittany nods. “Good. Ducks are very important.”

Brittney nods. “For what?”

Brittany thinks a moment. “For everything.”

Standing eye to eye, the Quinns glare at each other.

“So your name is Quinn too?”

“It is. What are you doing at our school and in our bathroom?”

“Some sort of lame exchange program.”

The fashion club gasps.

“You mean you’re going to go to this school now?” Stacy asks.

Santana scoffs. “Hardly. We’re just visiting.”

“Good,” Quinn says. “This school isn’t big enough for two Quinns. I would know.”

“The horror,” Sandi gasps to herself. “The horror.”

“I agree,” Quinn says.

“And since you’re in my school, you should abide by our rules.”

“Yeah, good luck with that,” Santana says.

“I’m really very sorry about this,” Mr. O’Neill says. “I was really hoping that the students would see this as a chance to expand their horizons, perhaps see more outside their own little world.”

“That would be nice,” Mr. Schuester agrees. “Sometimes it seems like they’re completely unaware of anything outside their own little personal dramas.”

“I must confess that I find it increasingly frustrating. How do you deal with it?”

“I like to think we’ve broken through a bit through our glee club. Baby steps.”

“A glee club?” Mr. O’Neill muses. “Singing is a wonderful way to express one’s self and yet still have a slight level of anonymity.”

“I agree,” Mr. Schuester says. “There’s just something about letting go and belting out a song that relieves the daily stresses just a bit.”

“But why wouldn’t you put it in the wheelchair?” Brittany asks. “It’s got to be put somewhere.”

“I like to carry things myself,” Brittney says. “Then I always know where it is.”

“Why are you trying to carry the Jell-o? And to where?”

“Where ever it’s needed; especially if it changes color from its normal red to blue and yellow. Those are our school colors.”

“Ours are red and white,” Brittany tells her.

“Oooh,” Brittney claps. “I like those colors too.”

“How does one even start a fashion club?” Kurt asks.

“I saw a demand,” Sandi says. “And I filled it.”

“Really? How many members do you have?”

“Four,” Sandi tells him. “We have very high standards.”

“Still,” Kurt continues. “And what exactly does your fashion club, do?”

“We do our best to stop or fight crimes against fashion,” Quinn tells him.

“Okay, then,” Kurt drawls. “Anything else?”

“Walking the halls, sporting the latest fashions is our contribution,” Sandi tells him. “We are a visual reminder of what people in this school should strive towards.”

“Do you find that the administration sometimes…gets in the way of really connecting with the students?” Mr. O’Neill asks.

“Definitely,” Mr. Schuester answers. “They’re so concerned with budgets and appearances that they seem to forget our first goal is to educate and enlighten.”

“Exactly. Our Ms. Li rules with an iron fist,” Mr. O’Neill confides. “And even though the school does well, I sometimes feel like it’s too cold of an environment.”

“That is so true,” Mr. Schuester agrees. “There’s not enough nurturing. Instead it’s intimidation and trepidation.”

“We really need to get back to the education of our youth, filled with positive reinforcement and self esteem building.”

Quinn and Quinn are still squaring off. Santana leans against the mirror, chucking to herself. She kinda wishes she had a video camera, so she could mock Fabray later about being so uppity about a stupid name.

“It’s not just a name, S,” Quinn hisses. “It’s the meaning behind it.”

“A stuck up, frigid, calculating bitch?”

Both girls look insulted for a moment, before replying in unison. “Yes.”

“Least you agree on one thing.” Santana watches as they try to out bitch each other.

“I’m the most popular girl in school,” Quinn starts.

“So am I.”

“I’m vice president of the fashion club.”

“I’m head cheerleader.”

“I have guys asking me out constantly.”

“My boyfriend is the quarterback and the most popular guy in school.”

“I have guys that continually follow me around and try to please my every whim.”

“I’m so popular, even the teachers listen to me.”

While everyone else just keeps to themselves, Rachel attempts to talk to the Lawndale kids. She wants to get as much out of this experience as possible. The goth girl ignores her. She doesn’t even bother with the football players.

As she’s circling, Charles Ruttheimer grabs her attention.

“Feel free to sit here, my dear,” he says, gesturing to the seat next to him.

“Thank you,” Rachel replies sitting. She’s uneasy; Charles really reminds her of Jacob Ben Israel and not in a good way.

“You certainly seem to be the most…outgoing of the group.”

“I pride myself on my open and friendly nature,” Rachel tells him.

Charles smiles. “Then perhaps you’d like a smaller version of the Charles Ruttheimer tour where I show you all the dark corners where people can definitely become more friendly.”

“I hardly think that’s appropriate, so if you don’t mind, I’ll be talking to someone a little less creepy,” Rachel says standing.

“Oooh, feisty,” he calls after her. “I do so enjoy that.”

“Put a sock in it, Upchuck,” Mack says, who’s seated a couple seats over.

Thanking Mack for his assistance, Rachel sits and exchanges a few sentences with him and Jodie, but they quickly excuse themselves. Everyone else has their eyes firmly locked on their desks, so she drops eloquently into another empty chair.

Looking to her left, Rachel notices the girl next to her seems to be an artist. Rachel watches as she draws an excellent rendering of Mr. Schue being attacked by three Cheerio vultures. Rachel’s not sure what’s more impressive; the insight into the trio and their glee advisor or the very accurate drawings of Brittany, Quinn and Santana.

“That’s a lovely drawing,” Rachel tells the artist.

“Thanks,” she replies without looking up.

“You have a definite talent,” Rachel continues. “And surprisingly good insight into some of my peers.”

“Just working from experience.”

“I’m Rachel Berry.”

“I remember,” she tells her wryly.

“And you are?” Rachel asks after a full minute.

The girl sighs. “Jane.”

“It’s lovely to meet you, Jane. I had really hoped this excursion would be a chance to meet some new and interesting people.”

“Then you’re at the wrong school for that,” the girl in front of Jane quips.

Rachel turns slightly and finds herself looking at a brunette in glasses reading Jude the Obscure.

“I’m sorry and you are?”

At first she receives a long pause, followed by a sigh, before finally, “Daria.”

“Lawndale High’s resident ray of sunshine.”

Rachel looks at the girl, who is dressed in a green jacket, black pleated skirt and combat boots. “Your attitude and appearance suggest otherwise.”

“She was being sarcastic,” Daria says.

“Oh,” Rachel replies. “So, I take that to mean you’re actually not a bubbly and welcoming presence?”

“Bubbly is definitely not a word used in association of Daria,” Jane tells her.

“It’s why I’m so popular,” Daria adds.

“That’s more sarcasm, isn’t it?”

“That it is.”

“Far be it for me to stick my nose in where it doesn’t belong, but perhaps it’s your appearance. Your clothing choice. Everything about it screams, ‘Leave me alone.’ ”

“That’s the point,” Daria interjects.

Rachel continues, having not heard her. “Take my outfit, for example. Bright cheerful colors and a pleasing demeanor.”

“You’re wearing argyle,” Jane points out. “People under 20 do not wear argyle unless forced.”

“Just because the cretinous masses choose to dress like slackers and sluts, doesn’t mean that I should as well.”

“I didn’t think it was possible,” Jane says. “But I think she’s even more unpopular than you, Daria. Awww, you two can bond.”

“What makes you think I’m unpopular?” Rachel asks.

“Call it intuition.”

“What she means,” Daria says. “Is that you don’t act like a typical high schooler.”

“Thank you,” Rachel replies, primly. “I could say the same to you.”

“Understatement,” Jane mutters.

“Yeah, well, this place doesn’t exactly foster individuality.”

“That is true at McKinley as well. I think it’s typical of most high schools.”

“Of course,” Daria agrees. “You just need to keep your head down and plow through the best you can.”

“I find it more productive to stroll through with my head held high. One day when I’m a huge Broadway star and they’re still living in their parents’ basements, I’ll know it was all worth it.”

“Hmmm. And how well does that work for you?”

Rachel sighs. “Not so well. The Neanderthals in my school are simply incapable of any sort of maturity or appreciation of someone who doesn’t feel the need to pander to popular opinion.”

“Typical.”

“I suppose,” Rachel allows.

“So, bro, as a fellow QB, what are your thoughts on Gatorade verses Yoo-hoo?” Kevin asks.

“Gatorade? Gotta have it. Helps with hydration or whatever,” Finn answers. “And Yoo-hoo? What’s not to love?”

“Totally. Can’t be a good QB without the Gatorade. And that bulk up powder.”

“Yeah, that helps too, I guess,” Finn replies. “Don’t need it too much anymore.”

“Me either,” Kevin says. “Some of the underclassmen use it, but as QB, I don’t really. Just the Gatorade. And Yoo-hoo after.”

“You would be a perfect candidate for the fashion club,” Sandi tells Kurt. “Except that you’re a guy.”

“You wouldn’t let me join because I’m male?” Kurt asks.

“It’s one of the fashion club by laws,” Sandi continues.

“I didn’t know we had fashion club by laws,” Stacy says.

“Me, either,” Tiffany adds.

“Oh yes,” Sandi replies. “It’s a well known fact that the male half if the species lack several essentials to be a proper member of our elite fashion club.”

“That’s sexist,” Kurt points out.

“So?” Sandi doesn’t seem to care.

“Even though I’m more impeccably dressed than you?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Sandi answers. “Even though I’m president of the fashion club, I can’t just go changes rules on someone’s whim—”

“But Sandi,” Stacy interrupts. “You change the rules all the time—”

“Especially if that person doesn’t even go to this school,” Sandi continues.

“Maybe he could be an honorary member,” Stacy suggests.

“That’s all right,” Kurt replies. “I don’t need your pity membership.”

“Good,” Sandi says. “Because we weren’t offering.”

“But if the dolphins are gay,” Brittney says. “How do they have babies?”

“Fish can…repreduce by themselves,” Brittany informs her. “It’s called being unisex.”

“Oh. So does that include jellyfish?”

“My family is one of the most prominent in the community.”

“My parents buy me whatever new trend that happens.”

“I can ruin a person’s reputation with just a look.”

“I can make being a brain seem cool.”

Santana’s stopped paying attention. She’s decided the only thing that’s been figured out is that both Quinns are annoying as hell and deserve a good old fashioned ass kicking from Santana.

She turns her attention to Kurt and the rest of the fashion club.

“You’re just mad that Hummel’s dressed better than you,” Santana points out.

“Oh yeah?!” Sandi says. “Well, we don’t have to stand here and take this…abuse. C’mon girls, we’re out of here.”

Sandi stomps out of the bathroom. Stacy and Tiffany meekly follow.

“Sandi,” Stacy says when they reach the door. “What about Quinn?”

“What about her? She can find her own way out of the bathroom.”

“Do you get bullied a lot?” Rachel asks.

“Not too much,” Daria replies. “Mostly I’m ignored.”

Rachel sighs. “That sounds lovely. Even though I enjoy the spot light and my eventual goal is to be the center of attention on Broadway, I would really prefer to be ignored by my classmates.”

“Whadda they do?” Jane asks.

“Name calling: ManHands, RuPaul, Stubbles, Treasure Trail, just to name a few,” Rachel tells them. “Though really, it’s the slushies I’m done with.”

“Slushies?”

“Yes,” Rachel replies. “A slushie to the face. I still can’t decide what’s the worst, the cold iciness sliding under your clothing, the sting of dye as it hits your eyes or the sticky wetness that just seems to seep through everything.”

“Jesus,” Daria says. “And I thought Highland was bad. This is just a new level of pathetic. Does your city have Uranium in the drinking water as well?”

“God, I hope not.”

“Sometimes I think it’s already too late by the time they reach high school,” Mr. Schuester says.

“I agree,” Mr. O’Neill replies. “The society that surrounds today’s youth is just so fast and full of change.”

“It’s all the technology,” Mr. Schuester adds.

“Too much, too fast and whenever they want it,” Mr. O’Neill agrees. “I blame the interweb.”

“Internet,” Mr. Schuester corrects. “I think it’s the combination of everything. It’s why I really believe in the glee club; something to distract from the fast pace for a little bit. Make them pause and take it all in.”

“Yes, exactly,” Mr. O’Neill agrees. “They just need to stop a moment and smell the roses.”

“And they made me talk to Ms. Pillsbury about it,” Brittany says. “Except she washes her hands a lot. And her office smells like pine trees and bleach. It gives me a headache.”

“Maybe if you kept the bird in your backpack, they wouldn’t notice.”

“Yeah, maybe. But what if he starts chirping or singing?”

“Say it’s your iPod,” Brittney tells her.

“Hmmm. I don’t have an iPod,” Brittany replies.

“Just pretend you do. It’s fun.”

“Jeez, you’re both pretty,” Santana tells the Quinns as they continue to glare at each other. “Don’t you even care that your posse left, other Quinn?”

“I have more important things to worry about,” she replies, eyes still locked with Quinn’s.

“Yeah, I can see how out staring Fabray here is of top priority.”

“Shhh, Santana,” Kurt whispers. “It’s like poking a bear with a stick; dangerous and suicidal. Can you imagine if they both turned on us?”

“Wuss.”

“We can hear you, Hummel,” Quinn says.

“Then tell me I’m wrong.”

“You’re not,” the Quinns reply in unison.

“See,” Kurt says to Santana.

“It’s not my fault you’re scared of two little girls called Quinn.”

“Hey!” The Quinns once again speak in unison. Santana’s finding it very creepy.

Thankfully, the bell rings. Neither Quinn breaks the stare, so Santana grabs her Quinn and drags her out of the bathroom. Hummel trails after.

“Nice outfit,” Quinn calls after Kurt.

“Thanks.”

The bell rings, signaling the end of the period. The Lawndale kids shuffle out towards their next class, while the McKinley kids who were elsewhere, make their way back to Mr. O’Neill’s class.

Mr. Schuester and Mr. O’Neill are still chatting quietly, so the McKinley kids sit in various desks around the room. They mostly sit in silence, though Santana and Brittany are whispering to each other as they text.

It’s only when Rachel suggests a sing along that Finn jumps up and gets Mr. Schuester’s attention.

“Oh, it seems the period is over,” Mr. O’Neill says, unnecessarily.

“So it seems.”

“Well, it’s been a pleasure meeting you,” Mr. O’Neill says shaking Mr. Schuester’s hand. “All of you. I hope you’ve learned a bit from this experience.

“That’s it?” Santana asks. “We came here to talk to one class? I’m fine, getting the hell out of Lima once in a while, but this is ridiculous.”

“Well, I’m sure Ms. Li would gladly have an assembly so you can interact with the entire school. It could be quite beneficial, actually,” Mr. O’Neill says, excitement building.

“It could be fun,” Mr. Schuester adds. “Maybe we could perform a song. Don’t Stop Believing, maybe.”

“No!” Everyone, but Rachel shouts.

Both Mr. Schuester and Rachel pout.

“Just ignore Santana,” Quinn says. “Her ponytail is pulled too tight and I think it’s causing her to get irrational. We have no problem leaving right. Do we guys?”

Everyone, but Rachel, murmurs in agreement.

Mr. Schuester sighs. “Fine. Back to the bus, everyone.”

Everyone happily tramples to bus, relieved there won’t be an impromptu performance. The bus ride back is much more subdued; the excitement of the unknown replaced with the knowledge of disappointment.

Mr. Schuester is the only one pleased with the excursion since it ensures that his glee club is safe. He decides not to mention it to the kids, hoping the threat of cancelation will continue to motivate them. He settles in for the ride back with a small smile gracing his lips.