Even though Blaine was the one on the inside, Tina’s the one who clings like she’s drowning. Or maybe it’s because she was the on the outside that she clings to him. She can’t call it survivor’s guilt, because they all survived, but there is a huge part of her that wishes that she could have been inside that choir room. She knows she shouldn’t be jealous of them – god how fucked up is she? – but they went through something together that means that, no matter what she went through, she’ll always be waiting on the outside for them. She goes with Blaine to every single club, even though he’s so tightly scheduled now that she’s surprised he hasn’t started planning out his bathroom breaks. It’s exhausting, but Blaine seems to believe himself when he tells her he likes it, so she goes along with it.
Tina wraps her fingers around Blaine’s until both their knuckles are white. Tina tells herself that she’s holding onto Blaine’s hand because he went through something so traumatic, it probably set off his PTSD and he could use a friend to hold his hand. She tells him that the odds of a shooting happening ever again, especially with the new security, is totally zero. She tells him that she won’t let him go through anything alone. She tells him that she’ll always be there.
Blaine lets her. Tina nearly weeps with love for him. Instead she offers him a handkerchief.
Brittany stops going into girl’s bathrooms. She tells all the freaked out boys in there that she got confused and misread the signs. They yell at her sometimes, but they believe her.
Sam doesn’t, but whenever they’re walking together (and it’s almost all the time now, Sam can’t go to class unless he walks her to hers first) and she has to go he’ll scope out the room first. Just in case. For pervs, he says. She lets him, because she knows he needs to. People worry about her a lot, and usually that bothers her, but she’s worried about Sam too. So it’s only fair to let Sam worry about her. Relationships need to have a balance, otherwise someone tips off and falls and gets hurt. That’s what Lord and Lady Tubbington taught her on the teeter-totter. They’re the best couple she knows.
She holds her breath every time she walks into the stall. She tries just not going to bathroom all day, but the school gets scared when she doesn’t show up for classes now. She can’t just drive home every time she needs to poop. The first time, she holds Sam’s hand under the divider, even though she knows that should be gross. She cries a little, peeing, and she can hear Sam choke when she flushes. It makes her remember how, even though she didn’t know it, there were people standing exactly like her in the stalls right next to her. They were so close to her, and she had no idea. She doesn’t remember what they look like, because faces are hard, but she wonders if they can use the bathroom okay.
Brittany knows she’ll get over it, she knows she’s strong. She can use the bathrooms at McKinley by herself now, and sometimes she writes stuff on the walls because she knows the janitors will trip up guys in the halls instead of glaring at her. But she still avoids the girl’s bathrooms. There’s being strong, and there’s being cruel.
Sam still flinches every time he hears a locker shut too hard, or when a car beeps at him, or when someone drops something. It makes him so mad. Not at the person or the sound or anything stupid like that. It makes him so fucking angry that he’s still not okay.
He should be okay.
Sam remembers that last year, for a while, Brittany didn’t talk. He didn’t know her so well, and he hadn’t really been around for much of that year, so he hadn’t known what to do. And besides, he’d been busy trying to make Mercedes fall back in love with him. He hadn’t thought about it much, besides sometimes trying out all his different nerd languages on her to see if she’d respond in one. But he knows that she gets it, when he wants to curl up on her bed with her and not have sex, just wants to be next to her and not talk. Sometimes he’ll pet her hair and she’ll talk to him in Cat, because she doesn’t know Na’vi or Elven well enough yet to be fully conversational (he’s taught her the important stuff: dirty words and how to say my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father. Prepare to die)
Sam knows that he should reach out to Blaine, who spent the whole lock down looking like he was about to stop his own heart before the shooter could, and that he should talk to Brittany about he tried to get to her, and that he should make sure that all the people who hadn’t made it to Glee yet (Tina, Sugar, Joe, the band kids, Brad…) know that even if they weren’t there they were there you know? He knows he should.
But he still spends too much time sitting in his desk, his hands curling and uncurling as he stares at the wall until his eyes hurt. He couldn’t do anything back then. He’d always thought that, when the time came, he could be a hero. He should have been able to save Brittany. He should have been able to find the shooter and make them stop. He should have been able to make the rest of them in the room feel better, because heroes aren’t just the ones who charge into the burning building. He should have at least not put them in more fucking danger.
Sam flinches at loud noises and stares at his wall and tucks himself into Brittany’s arms like maybe if he tries hard enough he can hide in her bones. He throws out his Blonde Chameleon costume.
(Months later, he finds out his mom saved it and he breaks down crying all over again. Not because he’s happy, although he is, or because he’s remembering, although he is. But because he’d forgotten that he’d done that, and he’d forgotten how he’d thought that he would never ever be better again as he stuffed it in the trash. And there is something magical in being able to realize that he was able to forget)
Blaine starts going back to all his clubs. He’d petered out, after breaking up with Kurt, until Glee was the only thing keeping him from lying in bed every second he wasn’t in class. When he realized he might not even have that, he joined the Cheerios in a fit of panic, but that had…not turned out like he hoped. He’s not sure whether he still has to stay, now that Sue’s gone. He’s been avoiding thinking about it.
But after that – that day, Blaine rejoins them all with a vengeance. He gets up early to run track before classes; during lunch he has the Legion of Superheroes on Monday, Zombie Survival Club on Tuesdays with Sam, Sewing Club on Wednesdays with Tina, Advanced D&D with Artie and Brittany on Thursday, and Friday is devoted to Student Council meetings; and then of course after school he has Glee. The first weekend after… that day, he finds Brittany and joins her motocross class. He signs up to help beautiful the neighborhood by planting flowers on the weekend, digging in the dirt and muttering the latin names for flowers under his breath until all he can see is the dirt under his nails and all he can feel is the ache in thesmall of his back from crouching over for so long. He does ever single piece of homework that he can find, and then does some extra – if he wants to get into a good college then he’ll need the best grades he can, he tells his mom, extra credit is never something to overlook. He bakes cookies and then doesn't eat them, ties them up in little plastic baggies and donates them to shelters. He keeps himself busy.
He’s so exhausted that he falls into bed every night and passes out before he has more than a few seconds to think. And then as soon as he wakes up, he has to get moving, he has things to do. There’s no time to just sit around and think.
It’s okay, he tells Tina, after she tries to ask him what it was like. He was scared, the most scared he’d ever been in his whole life, but he’s okay now and he’s really sorry but he has to get to a club meeting so he can’t talk right now. Really, he smiles, it’s over now and he’s just so glad to be alive. That’s why he rejoined everything; life is short, you have to pack in what you can!
“I just like being busy”, he tells Tina, and then has to run to get to Home Ec Club before he can think about it any more.
Kitty’s meaner to all the boys in Glee Club, even traps one of Joe’s dreadlocks in a locker so that he has to call maintenance to get him free. But she hugs Marley when she thinks people aren’t looking, and she walks Unique to and from school every. Single. Day. She helps Brittany go to the bathroom and cries when she watches Lilo & Stitch with Tina. She does her level best to ignore Blaine, and she can’t decide whether that’s the most insidious punishment of all (Tinkerbell needs applause after all) or her being kind.
Life exists in balances. Kitty knows she has to balance the scales somehow. She just doesn’t know how. But she’s trying.
The next day when some meathead laughs at her for wearing a dress, Unique punches him in the face. It feels really really good, and she has to skip French to go sit on the toilet with her feet pulled up off the floor, trying not to vomit.
Marley finds her after class and they eat cookies in there. Sugar cookies, light and bland enough that they can both crumble them up and pretend they’re just swallowing back tears. They bake together every day for weeks, in the cafeteria kitchen so Mama Rose can help them (and also so neither Mama nor Marley have to spend an afternoon not being able to see the other) and Unique goes home with a Tupperware full every night. Whenever she sees that asshole flinch away from her, she eats one. It means she has to up her dance work out routine to an hour and a half a night, but it’s worth it.
She sells some of her nicest clothes to Sugar, and hides the money under her bed. Gender reassignment surgery will cost thousands (tens of thousands) of dollars, but she has to start somewhere. When she dies, Unique decides, she's going to die as the girl she really is.
Sugar goes to expensive therapists every day, and her daddy pulls her out even more often to on little trips with him. Sometimes just to sit in on meetings or ride around in his limo. Just to keep her in sight. She doesn’t mind too much, even though it’s super boring, because she knows that one day everything will be hers and she learns a lot going with him to do business. She has to learn how to rule the world early. Besides, her daddy always buys her a new wardrobe whenever she’s good and doesn’t whine too much. She’s angling for a diamond tennis bracelet, so she doesn’t fight when he keeps her out of school for a whole week, or even when he takes her to a firing range so she can practice how to protect herself.
But when he tries to send her away from McKinley, to “somewhere safer, without psychopath teachers” she refuses, even when he offers to buy her a whole dress made out of diamonds. She may bail often enough when she doesn’t feel like going, but she knows that choir room is her own. Family doesn’t abandon each other.
Marley sleeps a lot. Sometimes she even falls asleep during class, even though she slept fine the night before, and then feels so awful when the teacher has to wake her up. She brings more than one teacher cookies to try and apologize. None of them believe her when she tells them that no, she’s been sleeping just fine, and no, she hasn’t had any nightmares.
But the thing is, she hasn’t. Had nightmares that is. It feels weird to feel guilty about that, but she does. She just sleeps, and when she wakes up she just wants to sleep some more. Jake’s really amazing, even when she’s too tired to do anything. They stay in and watch movies while they eat the cookies she made. Marley knows she’s okay, because it’s not like she’s having flashbacks or nightmares or even crying very much. She’s just tired.
Jake avoids sitting in his usual seat. He knows its ridiculous, but he can’t help it. He throws out the clothes he was wearing, then takes them out of the trash and cuts them up before throwing them out again. Then he takes the pieces out and burns them with the engraved lighter Puck gave him. It’s stupid, and he accidently sets off the smoke alarm, but he can’t sleep until he does. After that he manages to sleep through the night, except on the days that he doesn’t.
Becky bookmarks the www.thinkcollege.com site that Coach Sue emailed her.
Ryder makes a game. He has a medal from back in 6th grade, from when he was the fastest runner in the class. He takes off the ribbon and slips it in his pocket. The next day he tries in the upturns of his jeans. The day after that he puts it under his tongue and pretends he lost his voice so he doesn’t have to open his mouth. He hasn’t managed to get it past security yet, and he can tell he’s really pissing them off. But he can’t stop himself from trying, and inventing new weird ways to try to sneak that medal in.
He just needs to know that he can’t, okay?
Joe quits the paintball league. He starts up the school’s first Interfaith capture-the-flag league, where Muslims, Jews, and Christians can battle for territory safely. Aamir is hesitant at first, but after the first time he gets to throw Eli into jail he’s converted. And of course, where Aamir goes the rest of the league follows.
He thanks God every day for the safety of his friends. He did that before, but it feels different now. Aamir and Eli even go with him to church to pray on Sunday, after he goes to the mosque on Friday and the synagogue on Saturday with them. They all get weird looks, and give plenty in exchange (the imam glares at Joe’s piercings and Eli nearly bolts when the priest tries to make him eat the flesh of Jesus) and they all know it was definitely a one-time thing. But still. It’s one of the best weekends of Joe’s life. He never felt more connected.
Artie skips school the next day to spend the day with his parents. They spend most of it messing around with his chair, attaching awesome new spinning rims that he’d been begging for all year. It doesn’t feel as good as he’d thought, which isn’t really a surprise since he knows it’s only because of the whole shooting thing. His dad oils it every few hours, so that if he needs to use his chair to get away quickly anyone looking for him won’t be able to follow the squeaks. He packs a spare oil can in Artie’s backpack every morning, just in case. Artie jokes with Sam about how he’s going to have an oil slick behind him soon, and how he just needs to add a tack dispenser to be a real Mario Kart.
At night Artie edits the footage he took that night and adds in clips from videos he’d taken ever since his first day of high school, back when Puck was lowering him into dumpsters. He spends every night doing that, staying up in front of his computer until he passes out and dreams about computer code. When he’s away from his computer, he plans out what he’s going to do when he’s back. He carefully boxes up his feelings about it, transmutes them until he can work with them. He cuts and re-edits and splices, because here he can control the story.