She'd never really thought much about the new kid. Well, she thought, I guess he's not the new kid anymore.

Sam was nice. He smiled at her when he saw her during passing period, and he'd defended her a couple times when someone called her Columbo or Sheniqua. But other than these few interactions. all she knew about him was based on what other people told her. Mostly Kurt, from those first couple months when the boy was practically in love with him. She had felt for him, really. Because she knew how it felt to love someone who wouldn't love you back. It was practically her whole life, wanting and not receiving. It was a big contributor to her attitude about solos. Singing was the one thing she truly owned. It was hers, she was the best at what she did, so yeah, it pissed her off when she didn't get the solos she should get. She wasn't trying to be a diva, it just happened that way, because she was defensive when someone tried to take away one of the few things that was hers.

Back to the point, though. She didn't really know Sam. She would guess she could call him her friend, if she had to call him anything, but that was really only because they were both in glee club.

But friend or not, when she sees someone in trouble, Mercedes is the type of girl who acts.

That's why when she saw Sam that day with that upset look on his face, she followed him, and found him sitting on the floor of an empty classroom with his face in his hands, she knelt down and lay her hand gently on his shoulder. "Do you wanna talk about something?" she asked.

He looked up at her, face crumpled in a deep frown, his cheeks wet, and she worried that she shouldn't have bothered him, maybe he wanted to be alone. He looked surprised she was here, trying to comfort him even though she barely knew him, but he let her. He didn't really have the strength to tell her to go away. He didn't really want to, either, he kind of did want to talk. But for several minutes, he couldn't, so he let her hold him and cried into her shoulder, embarrassed, but glad someone cared.

Mercedes rubbed circles into his back, making shh noises, because her mom had always done that to calm her down, and slowly his sobs were subsiding.

"Now," she said, pulling back and looking into his eyes - and wow, they were a pretty muted green color... She mentally shook the thought from her head. "You gonna tell me what's got you so upset?"

His voice was a croak, rough from crying, but the pain in his throat was starting to ease off. "My uncle," he said, and cleared his throat, wiping his face on his sleeve. Then he told her about the call he'd gotten at lunch. It had been his mom, and she'd had some really horrible news.

"He had cancer... I've been trying to hold it together all day, but..." Mercedes gave his shoulders a little squeeze. "I understand," she said. "My Grandmother died of breast cancer a couple years ago. It's not easy."

His tears were gone, he didn't feel like he could cry anymore. He blinked a few times, staring at the wall, and then hung his head, staring at the crack in the tile on the floor. "I'm sorry," he said.

She shook her head, smiling sadly. "Nah, she wouldn't want you to be sorry. She had a good life, and I bet your uncle did too."

Sam nodded. He sat for another moment, just taking in the feeling of being held. It felt good. And then he wiped his face and neck again and stood up, offering Mercedes a hand up, too. "Thanks," he said, eyes downcast. "You probably missed most of your last class," he said, biting his lip. She shrugged. "It ain't no thang," she said, and he grinned at her swagger.


"So," she said, "we should do something some time." She smiled. "We could go to the mall. I know retail therapy probably isn't your thing, but ice cream therapy's just as good."

He grinned again. "That sounds awesome. Tomorrow, after school?"

Mercedes tried to look like she was thinking before nodding.

"It's a date," he said.

"A friend date," she clarified.

He laughed. "Way to shoot a guy down."

She could tell that it helped him to have someone to talk to. He was smiling now, telling her about how close he and his uncle had been in between licking his ice cream cone. They walked around the mall, arm-in-arm, their conversation halted now and then with little jokes about the mannequins and comments about the TV shows and movies advertised in posters everywhere.

"My sister watches Hellcats," he said, pointing to a picture of a scantily clad cheerleading squad. Mercedes shrugged. "I watched a couple episodes, but it's not really my thing." Sam smiled that adorable half-smile and took another tongue-full of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

She knew she was supposed to be playing the role of supportive friend, but damn, boy was fine. Why hadn't she noticed before?

"I'm really going to regret eating this," he said.

Mercedes turned to look at him, raising an eyebrow. "You don't seriously still think you're fat, do you?"

Sam gave a hesitant half-smile. "I...that's not what I meant," he said. "I just mean, I've got a really strict diet to keep me looking this good." He ran a hand over his torso, really smiling this time.

"Sweetie," Mercedes said, "I've seen that sick pack you're rocking and that little ice cream cone ain't gonna do you no harm." She smiled, too, and Sam kind of regretted saying anything.

"I don't mean to say I have anything against...heavier people." This was so going down a wrong road. He ran over the back of his neck, wishing he could just swallow his words back. "I just...have to work really hard to keep myself at a place where I can be confident about myself..."

Mercedes didn't take any offense, she knew what he meant, but she disagreed. "Did you ever think maybe that barely-there bit of softness might make you more attractive?"

He shook his head, smiling a little. "What?"

She shrugged. "I definitely wouldn't want a man with nothing but skin and bone and sinew. That's all."

He laughed and threw his arm around her shoulders, walking on and taking another lick at that delicious ice cream cone, and Mercedes couldn't help but take a little thrill at the feeling of wrapping her arm around his waist. "You know," she said, a few minutes later as they neared the little carousel at the end of the mall, "I think things would be easier for you if you just expressed your emotions."

"Well talking to you has definitely helped," he said. He'd worked his ice cream down to the cone and took a bite of it, and when he'd chewed it up and swallowed, he added a "Thanks," and a smile.

"You should sing, Sam."

"What, about my uncle?"

Mercedes smiled. "You could do it during glee club. It'd be good for you."

A brown-haired boy poked his head into the doorway of the choir room, and Sam cleared his throat and stood up. "Um, Mr. Schue?" he said, gesturing for the boy at the door to come in. He did, followed by a girl who looked about thirteen with long blond hair and lips almost identical to Sam's.

"Yeah, Sam?"

"I um, I need to express something going on in my life right now," Sam said, picking up the guitar and slipping the strap over his head. "If you don't mind."

Mr. Schuester shrugged and shook his head.

"So, um, I invited my little sister and my cousin Blake, cause they need to hear this too."

Mercedes watched as the blond girl sat next to Quinn and the boy, Blake - who, now that she thought of it, also looked strikingly like Sam - hesitantly took a seat at the edge of the room, away from everyone else. Everyone was watching Sam intently. He cleared his throat again.

"When I was growing up," he said, "I was really close with my uncle Melvin, and my cousin," he gestured at Blake. "We used to go fishing and camping and stuff together, with my dad, and...about a year ago, he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer." His voice broke and he had to take a pause for a minute, but he cleared his throat and started up again, making eye contact with Mercedes and smiling weakly.

"He didn't handle it the way I think he should have," he said. "He couldn't afford chemo, and he didn't want to spend the rest of his days in a hospital bed, so he lied to his family. He told us all that he felt so much better and that it was a miracle, and God had healed him because we'd all been praying." His eyes connected with Blake's for a moment and he gave an apologetic smile. "I knew...that it wasn't true. And that in the end it would turn out badly, but I guess he did it so his family wouldn't have to be sad for the rest of his life."

The too-familiar pain was back in his throat, and he was blinking back tears that he really didn't want to spill in front of his whole class. "He passed away a couple days ago, and there's a lot of pain in our family because of it, but I wanted to do something to celebrate his last year, because I think that's what's important. So..." He cleared his throat again, and started strumming the guitar.

He said, "I was in my early forties,
With a lot of life before me,
An' a moment came that stopped me on a dime.
I spent most of the next days,
Looking at the x-rays,
An' talking 'bout the options an' talkin' bout sweet time."
I asked him when it sank in,
That this might really be the real end?
How's it hit you when you get that kind of news?
Man whatcha do?

It started with one tear, falling down his cheek, and then it was like the floodgates had opened and he couldn't stop.

An he said: "I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying."
An' he said: "Some day, I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin'."

He said "I was finally the husband,
That most the time I wasn't
An' I became a friend a friend would like to have.
And all of a sudden goin' fishin'
Wasn't such an imposition,
And I went three times that year I lost my Dad.
Well I finally read the Good Book,
And I took a good long hard look,
At what I'd do if I could do it all again,
And then

I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying."
An' he said: "Some day I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin'."

Like tomorrow was a gift,
And you got eternity,
To think about what you'd do with it.
An' what did you do with it?
An' what can I do with it?
An' what would I do with it?

He was a little surprised when Blake and Marissa joined with soft voices as the key changed, but he kept on playing.

"Sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
And I watched an eagle as it was flyin'."
An' he said: "Some day I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin'."

And he was even more surprised when the whole glee club started singing the last verse, over and over, and he saw that some of them were crying, too, and Quinn was holding Marissa's hand, and Kurt was wiping his eyes, and he remembered that thing he'd forgotten. He remembered that this was his family, and that these people would be with him no matter what he went through in his life, and suddenly he was ashamed for not having trusted them with his feelings from the beginning.

"To live like you were dyin'.
To live like you were dyin'.
To live like you were dyin'.
To live like you were dyin."

an: Okay guys, I'm so sorry for keeping you all waiting for this update, and I hope I got it right! I really wanted more Mercedes and I was listening to the radio (yes, I listen to country music sometimes, so sue me) and this thought just struck me, and I know I've been looking for ways to stretch out these last few chapters and this was it :) I wanted things to get a little more personal for Sam. I also wanted you to see a softer side of him, and I also felt the need to address his body issues from The Rocky Horror Glee Show last night. The song is Live Like You Were Dying by Tim McGraw, and yes, Sam is a country boy at heart!

So let me know what you all thought, I'd love to hear any opinions, suggestions, comments, whatever. There's also plenty of room for plot ideas and song suggestions, because I have to make this story last to the end of their school year, so let me know, seriously! You have no idea how lovely and motivating a good review can be, it seriously brightens my day. I'll try to update again soon, and, you can expect to see more Mercedes in upcoming chapters! :)

oh, one more little thing: if you want to know where the idea for Sam's cousin came from, google Blake Bashoff :) he was in the Broadway musical Spring Awakening, and a friend of mine said something about how remarkably similar he looks to Chord Overstreet, so I knew I had to bring him in some how. :)