Disclaimer: I don't own Glee.

Note: Sorry it's been awhile between updates. I've been busy with schoolwork, work work, and campus events. I'll try my best with this one, though.

Chapter Twelve—Mercedes

Hey boy,

So, how's my homeboy Artie doing in Heaven? How is it up there? Are there really angels and choirs? I'm sure in your Heaven there's video games and those weird science movies you'd always watch with Sam. It's hard to think that it's been nine years since we lost you. You were always so fun to hang out with. You were an outcast, just like the rest of us, and we loved you no matter what. We didn't see the chair; we just saw the boy in the chair, you know?

Mercedes's story was more or less that of Rachel's. The duo of divas had been in the auditorium, practicing a new song for the upcoming Regionals competition. Well, "practicing" would be the nice word for it, as it was more like "arguing". She demanded that they work some Aretha Franklin songs into the mix to try and change things up, maybe do a little R&B instead of the pop standards they usually did. Rachel had said no, they must pay homage to her idol, Barbra Streisand, as her music translated to show choir easier and was more accessible to the panel of judges.

"Look, homegirl, you only want Barbra so you can get lead vocals, as always, because you know you're the only one who can sing her songs."

"Mercedes, if you remember, I did not receive a solo at Sectionals due to an unfair-"

"You cheated with the election, Rachel, and you got the punishment you deserved. And I think the group did just fine without your screechy vocals drowning them all out."

Rachel narrowed her eyes. "Screechy?"

"All I'm saying," Mercedes stepped back from the shorter girl, knowing that Rachel could become a giant when she was angry enough, "is that other people enjoy getting solos, too. I mean, what about our new members? Don't you think they want a little recognition, too? I think Rory has a nice voice. Maybe he wants that solo."

"Rory," Rachel tossed her hair over her shoulder, "would be happy to give me a solo, as he is fully aware of my talents and how far they will get us."

"Why do I bother trying to reason with you?" Mercedes threw her hands in the air.

"Because you know I'm right," Rachel said smugly.

"Okay, that's it," Mercedes moved to take her earrings off, ready to bitch-slap the Jewish girl with the overinflated ego, but a noise from outside stopped her. Shit, she knew that noise, and it was not good. She immediately dragged a hysterical Rachel to the wings, reassuring the brunette that they weren't going to die. No matter how much she told Rachel that they would be okay, she wasn't entirely sure if they would be. School shootings didn't happen in places like Lima, Ohio. The lights out on the stage suddenly seemed too bright, like they were blinding her. She closed her eyes, willing for it to be over, praying to God for a miracle. A familiar male's voice caused her head to snap up, and the next thing she knew, Finn was pulling her and Rachel towards the back exit and outside to safety. "Praise Jesus," she whispered.

"Mercedes," Tina came running up to her.

"Tina," she hugged her best friend. "I'm so glad you're okay." She took a step backwards; something was off with the Asian girl. "What is it?"

"I…I'm just shaken up, you know?" Tina was trembling.

"Well, do we know who's shooting in there?" Mercedes dared to cast her eyes over to the school, where the screams appeared to be dying down, although students and faculty were still streaming outside.

"No," Tina whispered. "And I don't know where Artie is."

Mercedes looked confused. "Artie? Are you two back together or something?" Tina usually told her everything, but in the past couple of weeks, she had been strangely distant and secretive.

"I…oh look, there's everyone else," Tina said lamely, trotting over to the rest of their friends. Mercedes stared after her for a moment; what was up with that? She joined the group of boys and girls, all talking at once, their voices overlapping in confusion, until Mike staggered up to them and pronounced that Artie was dead.

Mercedes couldn't believe it; Artie, dead? How could God be so cruel? How could He first take away a boy's legs, and then take away his life? How could only one fatality come of this horrible event, and it was one of her good friends? Try and pray as she might, she couldn't find the answers, and she never would.

She packed her bags and moved to L.A. upon getting a recording contract, although she wasn't sure it was the best of ideas, especially seeing how Tina had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl. She had been upset that Tina didn't tell her who the baby's father was at first, but when the girl broke down and finally told her the truth, she'd been understanding and sympathetic. Tina told Mercedes to go live out her dreams, since she couldn't live out her own. And so she left. It took awhile, but eventually, her career took off. She was even in an L.A. production of Dreamgirls, starring as Effie.

Mercedes did marry in her early thirties, and had a child a couple years afterwards. Occasionally, though, she would have flashbacks when she was in a room or a place with very bright lights. In her mind, she would hear the gunshots from outside the auditorium, her heart beating faster, Rachel's hysteric cries for help. She would feel dizzy, as if the lights were blinding her and she might pass out. She learned to cope with it, telling whoever was nearby that she just needed a moment to sit, where she would step aside and pray for strength to make it through rehearsals or the shopping trip or whatever she happened to be doing at the time.

And although she was living out in California, she'd take bi-yearly trips back to Ohio. Once in late summer, for Tina's daughter's birthday, and once in February, for the anniversary of Artie's death, where she'd go with Tina and Sunny to Artie's grave to lay a flower in his memory and to reflect on the times they spent together. She'd always remember how they'd goof off in the choir room, and how she'd joke that Artie was secretly black. And she'd never, ever forget the boy in the wheelchair.

I always thought you were cool, you know that. You wait for us now, you hear?

Your sassy friend always,