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.
"Okay, I'm not ... really in a place to judge about this given our past, but ... what the hell is wrong with you?"
Sam lifts his head and looks over at Blaine as he steps into the classroom, arms folded and brows drawn down. And yeah, it's sort of a spooky place to hang out with the lights out, but at least it's quiet which makes it less likely for him to be tripped in the hallways. He'd almost forgotten how awful McKinley students could be as a whole, shoving each other into walls just to get to their classes. His heart still races at every locker slam and unexpected nudge, half-waiting for another shot to be fired (they all are, who are they kidding, they've been waiting for two weeks now and it's driving them slowly insane but no one's gonna say anything because that's bad bad bad).
"What's wrong with me?" Sam asks slowly, tone wary but careful, so careful, refusing to stir himself to anger. If he gets angry, then he'll start shouting, or saying things that he shouldn't say, and doing those things is bad. It's dangerous. He already put the Glee club in danger once, and now that things are finally settling back to normal (as normal as they can be, anyway), he's determined to keep it that way. He's supposed to be their leader, not an instigator. Someone that keeps a level head in explosive situations; not someone that ignites them.
Blaine's eyebrows are so low on his forehead that they make his eyes look black in the dim light, his jaw tight.
"Dude," Sam says, because it's sort of creepy when he does that, just looks at him like he can read what he's thinking and he doesn't like it. "Stop it. What's this all about?"
Blaine stares at him for another thirty seconds before making a soft, disgusted noise in the back of his throat and turning around, already bee-lining for the door. "Forget it. You're impossible."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Sam says, getting up and darting in front of him and they meet in the middle, Sam's hand slamming the door shut, his arm barring it even as Blaine reaches for it. They both flinch at the sound, Blaine's face pale and his throat working like he wants to say something but can't, suddenly, and Sam knows that he's crossed a line and he's sorry, he's so sorry, this is all so much and -
Blaine backs away from him slowly, bumping gently into the first row of desks. He eases back onto one, and for a moment Sam wants to tell him to sit down and stop looking at him, stop looking at him like he's actually done something horribly, terribly wrong.
He's not a bad guy. He's not. He was stupid in the choir room and he should never have jeopardized everyone's lives, but they'd forgiven him. They'd let him back in. They hadn't brought it up because they'd forgiven him, and that mattered, and this was -
This was way too much.
"Talk," Blaine orders, curt, tucking one arm under the other again. Sam doesn't miss the way his hands tremble a little, his expression hard and unyielding when he looks up and meets his eyes once more.
"Look, if this is about . . . about me and the choir room, then I thought we were cool with it," Sam blurts, stupidly, because it's all he can think to say and -
"It's not about the shooting, Sam, it's about what you said at Glee club practice today," Blaine says, stony and belligerent. Sam feels like he could sharpen swords with it, resolving not to kindle the flame any brighter as he stares at Blaine, letting his arm slide off the door and mimicking him, crossing his arms.
"So it's about Ryder."
Blaine nods his head once, jerkily, a frustrated sound catching in his throat as he says, "Yes," once, emphatically. "What you said was - completely out of line. Do you even know how much you hurt him?"
"Do you?" Sam retorts, because he's not a bad guy, he's not, and the way Blaine's talking, it - it makes it seem like he is. "I didn't see you sticking up for him."
"What was I going to say?" Blaine counters softly. "That I thought that what you two were saying was despicable and that Ryder's experiences were horrible?" He pushes himself up off the desk, holding up his hands before letting them drop back to his side. "Would you honestly have listened to me? I don't think - " And his throat works again and Sam can see the flicker of doubt in his expression, the sudden, claustrophobic feeling of What if I did something wrong? overshadowing his momentum. "I don't think that anything I would have had to say would have changed your opinion," he says at last, quietly. "But what you and Artie were doing was wrong."
Sam opens his mouth to respond - heated, agitated, he can feel it, crawling under his skin because this is why Blaine's giving him the death stare, this is what he's so hung up on? - but Blaine doesn't give him the chance. Of course he doesn't.
"I need you to understand that for Ryder, this was an incredibly painful and traumatic experience," Blaine says, measuring each word so that there's no way Sam can misunderstand it. "It's not something that you joke about. If someone - grabbed you during one of your strip shows and fooled around with you when you didn't want it, how would you feel?"
"Dude, there's - rules and restrictions about that stuff. Bouncers," Sam protests, because he's seen people try but it's never actually happened before. Not like . . . not like that. They pay for a show. And sometimes they think it means more than it does, but they're quick to back off on their own or with a little extra coercion. Nothing ever happens. "They keep things safe."
Blaine's expression softens, a flicker of something crossing over it before he shakes his head, grave and dark and disarming.
"And if it wasn't safe?" Blaine asks, quietly.
"It's safe," Sam insists, a bit more steel in his voice. "I thought we'd . . . sorted this out," he adds, because he and Blaine haven't argued about stripping in a long time and it's sort of unnerving to be talking about it again.
"Can you just . . . try and understand?" Blaine asks, closing his eyes and it's already dark but he doesn't seem to mind, tense as a rod but still calm, ever calm, a rock in the storm. "What if it was someone close to you? What if - what if you had a babysitter over one day and they - fooled around with Stacey or Stevie - "
Sam sees white. It doesn't last long, but he comes back and Blaine's against a wall, one of Sam's arms pinned against his throat and both of Blaine's arms around it, his gaze very, very serious. "If you don't let me go," he says, and his throat clicks as he swallows and Sam can feel it even if it feels like everything is farther away, tight and other worldly, "I'll break your arm."
Some part of Sam's brain must still be functioning because he lets go.
They're quiet, then, Blaine reaching up to rub his neck with both hands, Sam sinking back against a desk as he tries to process it beyond no. No one gets to hurt them. No one.
"I'm sorry," Sam says, watching Blaine, the anger deflating out of him heavily, making his stomach twist as he realizes how bad that was.
How bad everything he's been doing lately is.
Sure, the whole "let's focus on the positive!" motto seemed to be working for them. They seemed normal.
But nothing's normal, and the fact that everyone's just - acting like everything is the same and nothing happened when everything changed is driving him out of his mind. He knows he's been snappy and not on the mark like he used to be. He hasn't even reconvened with 'Nightbird' at all in spite of Blaine's continued attempts to coax him back into the role of right hand man, of the silent but unyielding force that drives them along.
And now he's tearing them apart.
"I'm really sorry," he repeats, and it's hollow, his own shoulders hunching inward. "I . . . I wasn't thinking, and - "
"Don't apologize to me," Blaine says, quiet and irrefutable, as he pads over to the door and turns the handle, pulling it open.
Sam nods, watching him go, wondering how many walls he's forced back up between them. Between himself and everyone.
He manages to flag Ryder down in the hallway the next day, the lights thankfully restored, making it easy. "Hey," he says, a little breathless because he was pretty sure he knew where Ryder was walking to but then he forget and had to backtrack halfway across the school just to make it here, "Can I talk to you for a second?"
"I'd rather you didn't, actually," Ryder says, pace brusque and unforgiving. Sam has to walk quickly to keep up with him, navigating the more congested hallways alongside him. "If you insist, then I suppose there's nothing I can do to stop you, is there?"
Sam halts, then, and almost forgets that Ryder hasn't stopped, too, before hurrying to catch up with him, saying sternly and a little too loudly, "I'm not one of them."
Ryder pauses, half a dozen eyes straying towards them briefly before returning to their own tasks. A bitter smile is on Ryder's face now, bitter and unforgiving and broken, his eyes a little red around the edges as he quips softly, "Could have fooled me."
Sam wants to grab his arm and drag him somewhere private and explain to him that he's not like that, that he would never force someone into that position even if he - basically gave the all clear yesterday, assuring that it only made a difference if it was a guy doing something to a girl and -
I'm so fucked up.
"I was wrong," he says, and Ryder doesn't move, watching him warily, half-expecting the punch line. "I was wrong to . . . to marginalize what happened to you because it . . . seemed like something - acceptable. To me." He looks at him, dead in the eye, and insists, "It's not acceptable to me. It's not."
"And what does that make me?" Ryder asks, walking again but more slowly this time, approaching a locker and leaning against it. "A pariah? I let this happen, I'm clearly to blame."
Sam tastes bile in his mouth at the thought. "What I said yesterday was probably the shittiest thing that I've ever said to anyone in my life," he responds. "And I . . . I honestly don't know how to make it up to you, other than to say that I was wrong."
"What about Artie?" Ryder asks, deferring, keeping his emotions carefully under lock and key.
"I haven't talked to him about it yet," Sam admits, because he wanted to, he did, but then he was busy after school and he wanted to just get home and sleep but he had work and when he finally did walk in Stacey and Stevie were asleep, curled up and vulnerable, and he couldn't breathe when he thought about someone hurting them, about someone coming in and molesting them, and it didn't matter if it was Stacey or Stevie, it didn't matter at all, it was -
And he pictured Ryder, then, a terrified kid with a fucked up babysitter, and he spends half the night sleepless and sick to his stomach, twisting around and trying to blot the thoughts from his mind long enough to sleep.
Coming back to the present, he can see adult Ryder - but he's not there yet, he's still a kid, and Sam forgets that, sometimes, forgets that not everyone is nineteen like Blaine or eighteen like Tina and Artie, ready to face the world and well past their high school prime - and it sucks every ounce of fight from him, his hands sliding into his own pockets helplessly.
"I'm sorry," he repeats quietly. "I was wrong. I fucked up. I should never have said that. I didn't understand it then but - I - I'm starting to understand it now and I - " He swallows. "I can't imagine. What it was like."
"You don't want to," Ryder says, almost gently.
Sam nods, looking anywhere but at his gaze as he says, "I should never have said anything."
Ryder nods, turning to open his locker. "You shouldn't," he agrees. "But you did."
Sam meets his gaze, then, and says, "I'm sorry."
"So you've said." Ryder looks back at him, letting his hand rest on the locker almost absentmindedly as he stares at him. Quietly, he asks, "Does it really make a difference anymore? It happened. And, yes, now that we're in agreement - it was shitty. But why are you saying this? I don't see how it changes anything."
"When something terrible happens to you, you don't just turn around and say everything's fine," Sam retorts. "You . . . you accept that it was terrible. You learn to cope. But you don't treat it like it was . . . like it's nothing. And I'm sorry because I was the least supportive of you out of everyone in that room. And I don't want to be that guy."
Ryder doesn't say anything for a long time, peeling his books out of his locker and checking his face in a mirror before shutting his locker and slinging his satchel a little higher over his shoulder. His eyes are tired but there's something there, some unspoken okay that makes a bit of the tension coiling in Sam's spine ease.
It's not acceptance. It's not even acknowledgment yet, but when Ryder walks away, he thinks that maybe, maybe they can fix this.