Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or any of its characters; Ryan Murphy and Co. hold that honor. I'm simply writing this for fun, not profit.
Sam, stop screaming.
Please stop screaming, Sam, you're going to get us all killed, I don't want to die, I don't want to die, Sam, please -
He closes his eyes and holds his head against his knees because he's already so close to tipping over the edge and losing it, bursting into noisy tears in the middle of the choir room and ruining everything, that he can't stand to look at Sam as he breaks down. He yells and lashes out, drawing more attention than a siren would have as he tries to escape. Blaine wants to tell Mr. Schuester to just let him go, let him go and then maybe he would be quiet and everything would be quiet and everything would be okay.
Except then Sam might not be okay because Sam isn't superman, he isn't invincible. He could be shot and killed just as easily as Marley or Jake or Kitty or Unique. They're so young that it makes Blaine's heart ache. He can't look at them and realize that any of them - all of them - could die.
I don't want them to die. I don't want anyone to die.
I don't want to die.
He's close to hyperventilating and Sam's close to breaking free when Sam finally stops screaming. It isn't enough - Blaine's heart is still racing and he's fairly certain that he's never going to feel calm again after that, that the tightness in his muscles is a permanent feature - but it's something.
Slowly, slowly he comes back, and he's almost floating because he doesn't want to be near any of it. He doesn't want to think about hallways and shootings and death. He doesn't want to think about years untouched and unworn and unbroken. He doesn't want to think about his life ending.
He - he loves this. He loves being with these people, being a part of this group, this life. He loves waking up at five thirty every morning and getting a coffee before his first class and maybe chatting with Kurt briefly if he's lucky. He loves reading in the library between classes, loves sitting out in the courtyard and basking in the spring sun, tilting his head back and closing his eyes and listening to the symphony of the auditorium around him. He loves making people smile, even if they're the same people every day and the rest regard him with passive disdain, neither engaging nor putting down.
He loves singing and dancing and performing, loves being a leader.
Looking around, forcing himself to take it all in, he realizes just how much he has to lose.
Four years ago, he didn't want to die because it seemed painful and terrible and he had just enough to live for that it kept him from entertaining the thought. He didn't want to die because life always seemed like a 'great beyond,' as if there was always some goal to strive for, some ambition to attain. He liked the idea that the grass was always greener and that there was something to work towards, regardless of whether or not he was actually able to achieve that particular desire. It was the idea of the unknown that kept him in motion then, that kept him from sinking into melancholy.
Now he knows what it's like, to have it all for a change.
And he can't lose it.
When Artie pulls out his phone, he looks up, because there's a bright white light in his face and don't they understand that they need to be quiet, so quiet, but the light isn't noisy, just prevalent, there and unyielding.
"Anyone have anything they wanna say?" he breathes, barely above a whisper.
Blaine chokes a little, but thankfully it's noiseless, because he can't speak because if he does then they're all going to die. He can't protect anyone, he can't stop the shooter from barging in and slaughtering them, he can't save Brittany or Tina or anyone.
Thank God Kurt isn't here, he thinks, shaking his head at Artie's query and ducking his head, resting it in the safe cradle of his arms.
This way, at least, he doesn't have to look. He doesn't have to watch as the door eases open, gun poised, shots firing, bang, bang, bang, bang, one for everyone, a half dozen more before it's over. And then quiet, harsh footsteps, clacking around the piano where he's huddled and a click and then -
It'd be over.
He breathes in deep, shuddering, trying to recall what a dozen other students in his position did to survive. How victims of other school shootings made it, lived to tell the horrific tale of their peers, their friends, their siblings' downfalls. It makes his stomach twist to think about Cooper being there. He looks over at Marley, briefly, and she's - restrained, now, calmer than before but not calm at all. She's trying hard not to lose it in front of everyone, but tears continue to make their way down her face, her breath hitching every few seconds or so.
Blaine wants to get up and comfort her, but he can't move, every muscle locked into place, screaming at him that this is the safest place, that he has thick wood and a heavy door between him and the shooter and he can't abandon it for the open floor. It's perhaps five feet of semi-exposed area between Marley and he, but he doesn't move, because five feet is enough for a shadow to pass across the door, pause, turn, and fire.
He shivers a little harder and clings to his knees, willing the bile to stop rising in his throat. If he gets hysterical now, then he knows those few still clinging to theirs won't make it. Kitty already broke down, sobbing wretchedly as she crawled across the room and flung herself at Unique, burying her face against her shoulder and crying as though they really were going to die, but no, no, no, they couldn't, they can't, they're safe here, Mr. Schuester says they're safe and -
Mr. Schuester hasn't said they're safe at all.
Blaine lifts his head slowly to look at him. The fear exposes the whites of his eyes more prominently, pupils dilated but eyes wide as he looks around. Everyone that he can see has the same spooked, disbelieving look, a stark combination of reality and fear. They're not safe here, not safe at all, they'd be cattle in a lineup, helpless to stop the shooter if he entered before it was too late.
He almost gets up, then, almost lurches to his feet and bolts, because running is what he does best and sometimes he needs to run, and once he's far, far away he'll feel a little safer again. He doesn't feel safe, here, and suddenly it's the most suffocating feeling in the world. It's intolerable.
Sam drops to the floor beside him, thumping back against the wall - Shh, Sam, shh - and staring blank-eyed ahead of himself, and for one terrifying moment Blaine is convinced that he's dead, that the listless expression on his face is real and that his hand will be cold if he reaches for it. Sam's head tips towards him, staring at him, demanding, pleading, and Blaine knows that he isn't dead but he isn't there, either, and Blaine needs him, everyone needs him, and this isn't fair, Sam, now's not the time to fall apart.
Now's the perfect time to fall apart, he thinks, listening to the loud creak of the door as Mr. Schuester eases it open and slips outside.
He tries to force the words past his throat, the Oh my God I can't believe this is happening, I don't want to die, please don't let us die, littany, but nothing comes out. His breath heaves and he thinks for a moment that he really is going to have a panic attack, and maybe it won't even take the shooter to kill him, maybe fear alone will be enough to do it.
Artie squeezes his ankle once, hard.
"We're okay," he mouths, because they can hear footsteps again, slow and steady, and Blaine's never felt less okay in his life, but he doesn't dare speak because if he speaks then they're all going to die.
The footsteps are brisk and methodical, tap-tap-tap-tap, and the doors jingle once, twice on both sides before the person moves on. Blaine's breath catches and sticks in his chest, not releasing until Sam claps him on the back and he wheezes, a harsh, terrified sound that he muffles and buries against his sleeve, curling in tighter on himself as he tries to brace himself for impact.
It's impossible, though, because he doesn't want to die, he doesn't want to have to think of his last words. He doesn't want to think that these last pinched seconds of his life are how he chose to spend it, that these are the last few seconds of his life. The sudden, irrepressible urge to call his parents to tell them everything, they're trapped and he's terrified and they're terrified and I don't want to die, Mom, please.
Instead, he stays silent. Artie turns off his camera wordlessly - he leaves the phone on, though, all of them do, even though Blaine knows in the back of his mind that that's dangerous, too, that any vibration or noise at the wrong moment - at any moment - could bring disaster down on their heads.
He stays quiet, hugging his knees. Breathe, he tells himself, because Sam slapping him was too loud and his breathing was too loud, and he can't be too loud or he'll kill them. He was already too loud, once, seconds after the lights went out - Mr. Schuester, Mr. Schuester, it's okay, it's not the shooter, it's just Mr. Schue - and now he knows better. He knows not to ask "Are we sure it was it even a gunshot?" because he knows.
It was real. It was always real. The first shot was real, and the second, but it took two to spur them into action, and that terrifies him, too.
If the shooter had been right outside the door, then, looking in on them, one of them might be dead or dying right now.
Blaine's jaw clenches hard.
We didn't die. We're not going to die. We're going to be okay.
Somehow, he reigns himself under control again, enough so that he can even lift his head and look around, staring at the huddles as they stare back, wide-eyed and wordless.
We're going to be okay, right? they ask, desperate for a response, for one that they can believe in.
Blaine looks back at them and says simply, wordlessly, I don't know.
His heart skips a beat when someone knocks on the door, once, twice, four times, and then it's opening and Blaine feels like his entire world tips over the edge briefly, blackness edging out his vision and a loud, ringing white noise filling his ears.
It's hard to come back, biting hard into his own sleeve to keep from crying out, because he doesn't want to die screaming but he's so scared, and God, I don't want to die.
There's shuddery, heaving breaths, and Blaine's vision comes back to him enough that he can see Brittany and Sam hugging - Brittany, Brittany's here, Brittany's alive but she shouldn't be here, because then she could be killed, too -
The first cry makes him jump, his heart beat shuddering and kicking up another notch before he hears the next one, a third quickly following as doors open - not safe not safe not safe none of it's safe - and voices, low, murmuring, sussurus sounds drifting to them past the doors, through the walls.
So many people, Blaine thinks, stomach roiling, as he tries to imagine what it looks like out there, if he's going to step out and find bodies, if there will be a trail of blood or spatters of it, if someone is going to be dead or dying in the fresh, open air outside - and it's a beautiful spring day, warm and sunny and so nice for a change - but he can't think about it too much, or he's going to lose it and he can't or they're all going to -
He's on his feet as soon as the rest are, shaking and barely able to keep himself upright as his stiff legs threaten to give out on him. Something nags at him, some core need to speak, to tell them that everything is fine now, that they're going to be okay, that it's time to come back to normalcy and realize that nothing has changed, really, except -
Everything's changed. They know it, he knows it, and as he pulls in a deep, almost strangling breath, he realizes that he can't speak at all, that he can't even breathe, and then there are firm, warm arms around him and it'sokayit'sokayit'sokay, and he's sobbing into Sam's shoulder because he doesn't know what else to do, and I'msosorryIdidn'tdoanything, I'msosorryIdidn'tsaveBrittany, I'msosorryIalmostgotusallkilled.
The words never make it past his throat, though, choked, noisy sounds as he tries to bring himself back under control. He fists the back of Sam's shirt in his hand, needing it, needing him, needing anything to ground him, and his unyielding presence is almost enough, almost, but then he's pulling away and they're huddling together, and Blaine can't help it, he can't stop it, really, clinging to Sam and Jake and anyone that he can reach, we're alive, we're alive, we're alive.
He doesn't know when they separate, or even how. He doesn't want to let go, doesn't want to float in that terrible space between fear and certainty, between anticipating death and knowing it is coming. He wants to live within this little huddle, safe and comforted and protected, offering as much as he can and letting himself sink deep into the embrace, surrounded on all sides as they close in tightly, holding on.
It's not claustrophobic or too-much-too-soon-too-close. It's exactly what he needs, and he doesn't know why or how or when they let go, but eventually he's standing in the middle of the choir room and Marley wordlessly wraps her arms around his neck, holding on too tightly and not tightly enough because I can't lose you, I can't I can't I can't, as he clings back, a few muffled, wrenching sobs forcing their way past his throat, his arms slipping around to hug her waist, pulling her as close as he can and feeling her tremble against him.
I need you, please, I need you to tell me it's okay.
It's okay, he tries to say, but he can't, and so he holds on and doesn't let go, doesn't even think about it until at last they slip quietly away from the choir room, not even bothering to replace the piano and all the other displaced items, only turning on the lights and opening the shades. He's caught between Marley and Kitty, then, who doesn't want to let either of them go, and Blaine doesn't mind it when she latches onto his right arm, holding on with both of hers and walking steadily beside him.
Outside is - manic. Chaotic. Loud.
Blaine shrinks back from it, not wanting to look at all the bright lights, both emergency lights and news' cameras, on-the-scene journalists and reporters already talking a mile a minute in front of their blank, uncaring screens. Blaine stares at the camera lens, stares at what must be millions of Americans already, out for lunch or browsing the web when the live updates start pouring in, and suddenly there's dozens of people getting emails and text alerts about it, friends and family pointing out the horrific in the midst of the mundane, and Blaine's chest tightens all over as he thinks that all of this is -
It's nothing to them.
Not like it is to him.
He doesn't know where he's going once Marley and Kitty let go. He lurches along, ignoring the bright spotlights, the loud mill of students passing by. Once or twice, he startles when a police door slams shut, his heart stuttering in his chest as it beats out a soft, uneasy tattoo, I'm alive, how am I alive?
His feet know more than his mind does, because suddenly he's standing in the student parking lot and it's still chaos, but it's centralized chaos, because they're there, right next to his car, and as soon as he spots them he moves. He'd run if he could, but he can't, because running is loud and he doesn't want to be careless in all the open space, he doesn't want to be cut down. The thought spurs him into a clipped, haphazard jog, and he hugs his mother so tightly that he almost knocks the breath out of them when he finally reaches her.
"Mom," he chokes, but it doesn't matter because she's holding him and shushing him and telling him everything he needs to hear, and he can't stop shaking or crying yet, that will come hours later once it's four in the morning and, dry-eyed and dazed, he realizes that he's almost tired enough to sleep, but he can't then, and he can't stop crying now, anyway. "Mom, I - I love you so much."
"I love you," she echoes, kissing his hair, his cheeks, and he's bent slightly just to reach her but it's comforting, so comforting that he'd suffer a permanently hunched back if it meant that he could stay in her arms forever, safe and warm and loved.
His father slips his arms around them both, and it's their own huddle, and the constant, inane chatter of the media doesn't matter in the distance because this is theirs, their tragedy to bear, their suffering to witness. As soon as the news' reporters realize that no fatalities - or even casualties - were reported, they'll lose interest. It'll become a statistical argument, used to support gun control and oppose gun violence, the story itself lost in the constant re-telling.
Blaine doesn't care about any of that, though, breathing deeply and clinging to them and savoring the reality that he's alive.
And it's a glorious, terrifying thing.