A/N: This came about after a discussion with the lovely TheGleekFromDeathlyHallows and I couldn't get it out of my head. It turned out a lot more sad than I expected, but it was inspired by the Everybody Hurts video with a little bit of Mad World so I'm not surprised. It's more of a series of drabbles than a story, but oh well. I changed people's stories a little (like Ali and her wheelchair) but hopefully they line up with their cannon characterizations. The title is from a Superchick song I was listening to when writing it. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: If I owned it everybody would win and Michellie (or at least their characters) would be cannon.
The Glee Project: We Live
"I think I'm going to try out for the cheerios," Nellie Veitenheimer said out of the blue.
"Why on earth would you do that?" her friend and neighbor Lindsay Pearce asked. This was not a conversation she expected to be having.
"You know exactly why," the younger girl said. "It's the same reason you did."
"You're trying to spite Rachel Berry?" Lindsay joked.
Nellie sighed. "No. I'm just tired of being picked on. I'm tired of getting things thrown at me and having to pull spitballs out of my hair. I'm tired of everyone hating me just because I'm not one of you."
"People don't hate you," Lindsay told her. Then she realized something. "This is about that boy, isn't it?"
Nellie looked at her. "No, this isn't about him. This is about me and how I feel weak and there's an open spot on the cheerios so I have a chance to change that."
Well, there was no changing her mind. "Okay," Lindsay said, "but be prepared. Not everything is how it seems with them. Some people may surprise you."
She made the team and it was nice. It was like by putting on an outfit everyone's perspective of her changed. All those people that tortured her were now her friends. No one dared shoot a spitball at her or call her names for fear of repercussions. She was invincible.
But not everybody was. There was a reason a spot on the cheerios was open in the middle of the year. That reason was Ali Stroker. The former cheerio was in a car accident and paralyzed from the waist down. She went from the top of the high school pyramid to lowest place a teenager could be in a matter of moments. Even those who used to be her closest friends picked on her.
Ali was one of Nellie's biggest tormentors, so obviously she thought she could never feel sorry for the crippled girl. When she saw Michael Weisman grab the poor girl's papers and throw them all around she realized she was wrong.
She also realized she could never lose her spot on the team.
It was a Friday after practice when Nellie started understanding what Lindsay meant. All the girls were going to a party but Shanna Henderson forgot something in her locker. Because Shanna never picked on her before she was a cheerio and they had grown close in the few weeks since she joined the squad, Nellie offered to go with her. She was shocked by what she saw.
The inside of Shanna's locker was completely trashed. Everything was ripped to shreds and toilet paper was hanging from the top. Nellie didn't understand. Shanna was a cheerio, no one in their right mind would do something like that to her. She was untouchable.
Shanna just sunk to the ground, tears in her eyes. "I know what you're thinking," she mumbled, "and no, it wasn't anyone from our school."
"Then who was it?"
"My old bullies. There's a reason I transferred to this school halfway through freshman year. There's a reason I joined the cheerios."
Nellie was silent, not knowing what to say.
"They called me a crack baby," Shanna said after a moment of silence. "My mom got into the drug scene when I was little so growing up people called me a crack baby. They teased me until I couldn't take it anymore and left. That's why I joined the cheerios, so no one could ever make me feel like that again. No one at this school knows. I hoped to keep it that way." She was crying.
"Your secret's save with me," Nellie told her. "But I don't understand why you just allow the same thing to happen to other people."
Shanna's head snapped up. "Since I joined the cheerios not a single person has been bullied about something their parents have done. It may not be a lot, but at least it's something. Tell me Nellie, what have you done?"
It seemed that Nellie learned the most interesting things after practice.
One day after a particularly hard practice that made her just want to crash into bed, Nellie forgot her water bottle in the bleachers. She knew she had to get it immediately or else she never would. So, even though she was already at her car, she dragged herself all the way down to the field. She was about to leave when she saw movement under the bleachers. Knowing that everyone should have gone home, she went to check it out.
She found Marissa von Bleicken and Cameron Mitchell engaged in a passionate kiss.
Now, it wasn't surprising finding a couple making out under the bleachers. That happened all the time. What was surprising was who she found. Marissa was a cheerio. Not only that, she was a cheerio who turned down everybody who asked because of her impossibly high standards. Cameron was a nerd. He was the type who got shoved into dumpsters on a regular basis and had to bring a change of clothes to school because of regular slushy facials. It made no sense.
Honestly though, it was none of her business who they decided to swap spit with. That was why she had every intention of walking away and forgetting it ever happened when her phone rang.
Immediately their heads snapped toward her.
"Uh…hi…" she said in an attempt to break the tension. "Funny seeing you two here. Lindsay's probably looking for me, so I better run."
"Wait," Marissa stopped her, looking panicked. "Please don't tell anyone."
"None of my business," she responded.
"Thank you," she heard the other girl whisper as she got away from them as fast as humanly possible.
Blake Jenner was a strange boy, Nellie noticed. He had absolutely no problem picking on kids that were weaker than him, calling them names and trashing their stuff and even tripping them on occasion. But, he never physically hurt someone. When all the other boys would gang up on a defenseless nerd he was nowhere to be seen and if he ever heard about it before hand he would stop it. "We don't do that," he always would say. She didn't understand him.
One day, she finally got up the courage to ask him about it.
"You know, I don't think anyone's ever asked me that," he laughed. "They mostly assume I'm trying not to get arrested or something."
"So why do you do it? Why will you do everything except physically hurting someone?"
He looked around and pulled her into an empty class room. "Okay, you need to swear you will never tell a soul."
She nodded. "I swear."
"I'm only telling you this because for some reason Shanna really trusts you."
Nellie nodded. She never understood why someone as sweet as Shanna was with an asshole like Blake.
He sighed. "Well, when I was in middle school I was weak. I was the kid being pushed around. One day I walked into some kids beating up this smaller kid and there was nothing I could do to stop it. So, I became this. I may have to pick on a few kids, but at least I can stop that from happening. It may not be much, but it's something."
She understood. "You know Blake," she said as she left, "you and Shanna are really good together. You may be the only semi-decent human beings at this school." They were the only ones who even tried.
"Why do you put up with it?" She asked Cameron one day in math.
"Huh?" He was confused.
"Why do you put up with Marissa? You're dating aren't you?"
"Yes," he confirmed.
"Well, why do you let her do that to you? Call you her boyfriend in private and ignore you in public?" She was honestly curious. "Aren't you worried she's ashamed of you?"
"It's not me she's ashamed of," he told her. "It's the fact that I'm in my position and she's in hers and there's nothing we can do about that. It's better one of us has to put up with it than both of us. The people that matter know"
Nellie really didn't understand their relationship.
Naturally, she couldn't leave it alone. If Cameron wasn't going to tell her why he put up with everything then Marissa was.
"Why do you do this to Cameron?" she demanded.
Marissa raised an eyebrow. "By that I'm assuming you mean keep our relationship a secret. Cam told me you interrogated him."
"Well I want to know. Why would you, who turns every single guy who asks you out down, go out with a boy like him and then not even let anybody know?"
"Because I love him," the ginger answered mater-of-factly.
"That doesn't answer the last part of my question."
Marissa sighed. "I would love to let the entire world know exactly how much it means to me, but do you know what happened to the last nerd who dated a cheerio? He was beaten so badly that they couldn't even identify him when he reached the hospital. I am not letting that happen to Cam, so if I have to deny a relationship I will."
"Oh," Nellie didn't know what to say.
"The people who matter know," Marissa told her. Then she smiled. "But it's nice to know you care."
"So, everyone seems to love you new girl." Those were the first words Damian McGinty ever said to her. This was after a few months of her being a cheerio. She knew she was moving up in the social ladder if the most popular boy in school was acknowledging her existence. "So how is it that after only a few months of being in this crowd everyone seems to think you're God's gift to our school?"
"I highly doubt that's true," Nellie told him.
"Nope, it's true. Blake, Shanna, Lindsay, Marissa, Michael, even Cameron, all adore you. Seriously, how did you pull that one off?"
"Michael? But he hasn't said a word to me since- Wait, did you say Cameron?" Her eyes popped out of her head in shock. "Why would you be talking to Cameron?"
"He was my host brother when I first came here as an exchange student," he explained. "We've been close ever since. How did you think he even met Marissa? "
"I never expected… You know you're a lot cooler than I thought." Maybe Lindsay was right.
"What did Lindsay say?" He asked.
"Did I seriously say that out loud?"
"Nope, I'm a mind reader," he joked.
"Oh haha. Nothing really, she just said you guys might surprise me."
"That girl," he sighed, "I don't know what to do with her sometimes."
"It's like, one second we're close and it's awesome, then the second I ask her out she wants nothing to do with me. You know?"
"I understand." Nellie told him. She had known Lindsay most of her life, she knew what was going on.
He smiled. "I think I get why people like you so much now."
"Why aren't you and Damian dating?" Nellie asked Lindsay on their way home that day. Lindsay almost swerved off the road in shock. Maybe she should saying things like that when they were driving.
"Well?" Nellie asked again when they were safely parked.
Lindsay just looked at her. "You know exactly why."
"Remind me why I'm here."
"Because you made me do this so you need to be emotional support," Lindsay explained. "Wish me luck."
"Break a leg," Nellie told her as she pushed the older girl into the classroom where Damian was waiting." She just sat down on the ground, listening through the door.
"Lindsay, why did you call me here?" She heard Damian ask.
"Because Damo," Lindsay said, "Nellie and I were talking and I feel I owe you an explanation."
"I can't believe she told you." Nellie felt bad for violating his trust, but it was all for the better.
"She did the right thing. Honestly, I was a bitch about it. When you asked me out I was scared. I really like you, but my first instinct was to run."
"That makes no sens-"
She cut him off. "I was abused."
There was a moment of silence. "What."
"My last boyfriend. He abused me. Verbally. Physically." She hesitated. "Sexually. I know you're nothing like that, but when you asked me out I didn't know what to do so I ran and I'm-" Lindsay was cut off.
Nellie decided she should give them a little privacy.
Her and Damian's talk got her thinking. There was one person she really needed to talk to. "Hello Michael."
The jock turned to her. "Nellie, what can I do for you."
"You can give me an explanation," she told him. "What happened to you? What happened to that cute math nerd I met years ago who was my best friend."
"He grew up. He got sick of being picked on and everyone hating him so he took charge."
"And bullied other people! And left his friends in the dust!" She yelled at him, letting all her anger out for the first time since he ditched her.
"You don't know what it was like!" He yelled right back at her. "Sure you got a few names, but I got beaten up on the basketball court! You got off easy and you still ran to popularity the first chance you got!"
"I got off easy? My sister died! And where was my best friend when I needed him? He was calling me names and throwing things at me because he was too scared to stand up to some of the bigger kids and be there for me! And I didn't run to popularity! I did this to make a difference! Because maybe I could get at least one person to stop all this! Maybe I was just being stupid, because you will definitely never change!" She stormed away.
"Nellie! Wait!" He called after her.
She didn't look back.
"Fight! Fight! Fight!" The crowd was chanting. Nellie ran toward what was happening. Lily Mae Harrington, one of the junior varsity cheerleaders, was beating up another girl. Aylin, Nellie thought her name was, she didn't know the last name. People were gathered around, just watching as a poor girl got the shit beaten out of her.
"Blake! Help me!" she called. Together they managed to drag Lily Mae off the smaller girl. "What the hell was that?" She demanded to know. "You don't just start beating up an innocent girl."
"Check your phone," Lily Mae spat.
Nellie did. One message from Aylin Bayramoglu. It read: Lily Mae is a SLUT!
"Oh." Maybe the rest of the student body wasn't as innocent as she thought.
Nellie was home alone one day when she heard a knock on her door. She wasn't expecting anyone. All her close friends, the ones she deemed decent human beings, were occupied with each other. Sometimes she hated being the only single one. Still, she opened the door.
It was Michael. For the first time since he joined the football team he was out of his uniform and in a nerdy t-shirt, just like old times. She recognized it as the Captain America shirt she got him for his birthday freshman year. "Can I come in?" he asked.
"What do you want?" she demanded.
"I just want you to know, I'm sorry.
A/N: Well, what do you think? I was originally gonna have some Quinn in there too, with the whole Beth thing, but I think it's more complete this way.