They were best friends. They'd been that way since the first week of grade nine- back when the upperclassmen were going through the routine of picking and choosing which freshmen were fit to eventually become "cool" and which ones were losers. Obviously, both of them were cast aside like black-and-white TVs. It was to be expected- she was a wallflower with an obvious stutter and he was shy and physically handicapped, which meant he was virtually useless as a sportsman, a partier, and a thug- but the rejection and the ostracism still hurt.
He still remembered when they first started talking. He'd been eating lunch alone at his usual corner table, thinking of how badly he wished he was home so he could play his guitar. It seemed like she came out of nowhere (actually, she'd run over to the table after being taunted by the cheerios) but at first he was oblivious to her presence. She shifted from foot to foot, scratching the back of her neck, wondering how best to initiate a conversation and ask for help from a complete stranger.
"E-e-excuse me." He'd glanced up, more than a little surprised to see an actual person talking to him (and when he registered that it was a girl, he looked around to see if maybe she was talking to someone else in the vicinity).
"Uh, hi." He smiled unsurely, not sure who she was or what she wanted. For all he knew she could've been commissioned to play a prank on him by her borderline evil friends- handicapped kids weren't above tormenting. In fact, they got it ten times worse than anyone else- but she was staring at her shoes, red colouring her cheeks.
"D-do you m-mind if I s-s-sit here?" She had trouble getting the words out, and when she looked at him, her face the shade of a fire truck- he'd never seen such a vivid blush before!- he had to smile at her.
"Sure!" He said cheerily. It made him feel good to know that he was doing something nice.
"T-thank you." She sighed in relief, dropping her paper lunch bag down onto the table across from him. He couldn't help but watch her (not in a creepy stalker way) as she ate; it was a little known fact, but kids with disabilities, no matter what kind, observed others, picking up on their auditory and facial clues well before anyone else. Artie knew this because his physical therapist had told him so. At first he'd been resistant to the whole idea (watching people? Psht, he did not) but eventually, when he discovered it to be true, he'd come around to it. Most of the time he was invisible anyway, so it wasn't like people noticed.
And what did Artie observe about this girl? She was Asian (even a total moron could have figured that out. Actually, maybe not) she wore a faded green sweater two sizes too big for her, which suggested that either she didn't care about being cool or she didn't have the money to buy clothes that fit her (he later found out that it was the former). She wore jeans with paint spatters on them and a giant (unfashionable) hole right below her left knee. When he saw the paint spatters, his eyebrows rose involuntarily; was she artistic? There was an orange (crayon-induced) streak in her black hair. Hmm, yes, definitely artistic.
And quiet, too. She hadn't said "boo" since sitting down.
"I'm Artie," he decided to be brave and speak up first. Maybe she was just shy. She glanced up with big brown eyes, looking at him like an abandoned puppy might look at its owner.
"T-T-Tina." She returned, blushing. "I'm s-s-sorry about my s-stutter. It h-happens a lot."
"Don't worry about it, I didn't even notice." He said generously. It was the first lie he'd ever told her but it would not be the last. She finally raised her eyes to his face, and a thin ghost of a smile curled her lips. He knew right then that she was beautiful.
He was in his sophomore year when he broke his nose- actually, Puck broke his nose. The football player had never paid much attention to him before but then, why would he? To Puck, Artie was just a faceless guy in the crowd. Puck had a bit of a reputation for beating people up- there was no specific person he went after. It was all random. On that particular day, Puck had failed his math test (and that was Artie's fault how?) the kid in the wheelchair just happened to be the first one he saw. It wasn't as if Artie could out-wheel him, manual chairs were about as fast as a grandma with bunions trying to cross the street during rush hour.
Puck had grabbed Artie from behind and wheeled him out behind the school, to the football field. The teachers that he did encounter (Mr. Schuster being one of them) gave him a few questioning looks, but didn't think much of it. If Puck decided to do a good deed and push a crippled kid around, who were they to question his motives?
In any case, after the beating was over, Artie's nose was throbbing and the pain was so intense he thought he was seeing stars (he actually couldn't see much of anything… Puck had broken his glasses too). Artie, nearly sick with pain, wheeled himself back into the school and stopped by the washroom, pulling out his cell phone. He skipped straight past 'ICE' on speed dial and called Tina.
She'd been looking for him (it was their routine to go home together after school, being that they both lived within walking distance) but when she ran up to him, her eyes widened in horror and a hand moved to cover her mouth.
"Artie!" That was another thing. Thanks to their closeness, Tina no longer stammered around him- she could articulate herself perfectly, in his opinion. She still stuttered in front of strangers or when she was nervous, overwrought, or angry, but when her impediment happened to show itself Artie didn't mind. He actually found it quite humorous.
"Hi, Tina." He tried to sound casual. Tried to pretend his nose wasn't swollen up to twice its normal size (and it was only getting bigger as the seconds ticked by).
"Artie, what happened?" She knelt down next to him, concern shining in her eyes.
"Nothing." The lie was out before he could stop it, but regardless she was dubious.
"Right. Did someone hurt you? Because I swear, if they did I will find them and kick their a-"
"I fell!" Artie blurted, desperate to conceal the truth. He'd also learned that Tina was incredibly brave, and though she probably wouldn't succeed, she'd definitely make an effort to hunt Puck down and get even with him. He knew that if she ever did, Puck would torment her- worse than he'd tormented Artie- and Artie didn't want that. No, he couldn't have that. "I was in the washroom and I fell on my face. It really hurts, I think I broke my nose."
"I think you did too." Tina said, half of a laugh somewhere in her voice. Artie smiled through the pain, relieved. "Come on," she stood up from the floor. "Let's get you home." She accompanied him all the way to his house and not once did she press him for details (she did, however, glance at him, laugh, and look away every few minutes). Artie realized how lucky he was then. If Tina had known just a little bit more about his personal routines- including his toileting needs- she would have known that, thanks to his paralysis from the waist down, he needed a catheter to go to the bathroom. And there was no way he would have been able to insert a catheter by himself.
The second time he lied he did it to protect her. He didn't want to see her get hurt trying to fight for him. Besides, he could win his own battles.
Around the time he started junior year, his feelings for Tina began to change. He himself hadn't changed that much, and neither had she, but somehow his feelings for her had morphed from platonic to something more. He supposed in a way, he'd always liked her, but it flared up in junior year when they both joined the Glee Club (a lacklustre enterprise put together by Mr. Schuster). Artie and Tina both joined, of course, harbouring the same passion for music and expressing themselves through song (Tina's audition piece was I Kissed a Girl, his was Confessions) and everything had gone smoothly (fine, starting Glee Club had been a nightmare, especially with that snoot Rachel Berry flaunting her talent in everyone's face) until Finn Hudson had joined up. How or why Finn Hudson, the quarterback of the football team, was drawn to Glee, Artie could not fathom. But when he opened his mouth to sing it became clear that he was more than just a sport's buff, and it had been Finn who saved the Glee Club when Mr. Schu had been ready to abandon it in favour of a stuffy accounting job. Finn had taken over as the leader temporarily, giving the club new direction and purpose, assigning each member a specific task that played to his or her strengths. Except for Tina, who was too nervous to do much of anything in front of these new people other than sing. Still, Finn seemed determined to make sure that everyone had an active role in the forging of the club and he stayed after school with Tina for almost a week straight to figure out what she could contribute.
When Finn decided that Tina would be an excellent dancer, she was thrilled. Artie, personally, had known that his friend's unique style would best suit dancing, and he'd always told her that. But suddenly validation from Finn Hudson was so much more significant than sure fire proof from your best friend. At first Artie tried to ignore it- her constant gushing about how great Finn was, and how kind it was of him to find a spot for her in the club.
"You make it sound like your defective, Tee." Artie kidded. She jokingly tried to tip him over the sidewalk curb.
No, in all honesty, Artie kind of understood Tina's admiration for Finn (the guy was decent enough to rescue Artie from a locked porta potty and some cruel jocks) but as the days passed her Finn rants became more lengthy and more lovey-dovey than anything Artie had ever heard before.
"He's so nice," became "he's such a sweetheart!"
"He's awesome," became "he's gorgeous!"
And Artie's personal favourite, "I think I did well." turned into "Finn says I was perfect today!"
It wasn't normally Tina's style to turn into a silly teeny bopper, and Artie just figured she was sharing her emotions with him because he was close to her. Closer than Finn would ever be, at any rate.
During rehearsals, Tina makes it a point to stand as close to Finn as she can (without getting knocked over by Rachel, who also wants Finn for herself). Artie sat back with Kurt and Mercedes, watching Tina stammer and trip and be clumsy (as a way to get Finn's attention?). He ignored the jealous stabs in his gut and tried to focus on something else- as long as it was not related to Finn Hudson in any way shape or form- Artie thought he was doing a good job of concealing his feelings (Tina sure didn't see them) but that illusion was shattered when Mercedes confronted him about it.
"Y'all got a thing for Lucy Liu?" She asked, hand on her hip. Mercedes was naturally a big girl (both height and width wise) and she towered over the poor, scrawny Artie.
"Uh…" they were in the auditorium, listening to Rachel and Finn rehearse Don't Stop Believing.
"You know," Mercedes jerked her head in Tina's direction. "Your shortie." Tina was staring at Finn with stars in her eyes, chin propped on her fist, allowing her daydreams to carry her away.
Artie blushed. "I- I… I mean, she's not my-"
"Oh don't try to fool me!" Mercedes rolled her eyes at him. "You've got the hots for Miss Tina C, but 'chu can't say nothin 'cause she likes White Boy, or whatever his name is."
"Finn." Artie supplied quietly, though he wasn't sure why he did. Mercedes was just going to keep referring to him as White Boy, as she referred to Tina as Lucy Liu, Rachel as Diva (with a negative connotation), and Artie as Wheels. Suspiciously, Kurt was the only one whose name remained intact.
"Whatever." Mercedes snorted. "The end of the year dance is coming up. Why don'tcha ask her?"
"Unless you'd rather have White Boy take her."
Artie swallowed. He definitely didn't want that.
It took him several days to work up the nerve to ask her to the dance, and when he finally does, it doesn't go the way he planned. They were walking home from school on Monday and Tina was rambling on about Finn again and Artie was just so sick of her blabbering that he blurted it out without thinking.
"Want to go to the dance with me?" She stopped to look at him.
"The dance… the last one of the year. You know," he added, to save face, "as friends. Unless of course someone else already asked you."
"Mr. Schu asked me." Tina said.
"What?" Artie nearly choked on his own spit- Mr. Schu was probably twice their age, he shouldn't be hitting on his students!
"Uh huh. And he asked you and Finn and the rest of the club, too."
"He did?" Artie frowned, trying hard to recall a dance invitation.
"Yeah, we're singing at the dance, remember?" Tina slanted him a weird look. "He told us that on Thursday. Weren't you paying attention?"
"Uh, no. I must've been distracted."
You. "Oh, nothing in particular. So…" he clenched his hands tighter on his wheels. "Uh, do you think Finn likes you?"
"Probably not." Tina answers sadly, the change in her demeanour obvious at once. "I'm not pretty like Rachel, and I can barely talk when he's around."
No you're not pretty like Rachel. You're beautiful. "Oh."
They went on in silence for a little while and then suddenly Tina asked him, "Do you like anyone?"
She laughed, probably at the mortified expression on his face. "Do you have a crush on anyone?"
"Are you actually being a girl?" Artie knew how much being compared to her gender got on Tina's nerves. From the start she'd always been anti-girly, preferring to set her own trends, project her own style and express her own thoughts. But lately, Tina's inner feminist had been shining through (once again, a by-product of Finn's arrival into her life).
"Artie," she frowned. "I'm serious. Because if you like someone, I think you should tell them… you deserve some happiness."
"Romance doesn't always equal happiness." He reminded her. She scowled. "… No, I don't like anyone." He tacked it on just to satisfy her. I love someone.
The third time he lied, he lied because he loved her.
The dance and performance was on Friday. Artie was dreading it all week. Most of the school was rigidly against anything that had to do with glee (its popular nickname was "Homo Explosion", made up by some creative football player, no doubt). Unexpectedly, though, the performance at the dance was a success (only one paper cup was thrown at them at the start of the show, and it was empty) and when they were finished they were left with an hour of free time to kill.
Artie couldn't- in truth, he didn't want to- stay for the remaining hour because he'd made prearrangements with his mother to pick him up when he called. He wheeled himself out, unseen by everyone. Or so he thought.
He was waiting by the curb when Tina came up to him.
"You alright, Artie?" She asked, resting a hand on his wheelchair handle.
"Yeah," he nodded. "You look really good tonight." He slipped it in casually like it was some sort of innocuous remark about the weather, she really did look stunning. Her black hair (streaked with bright blue) was half-up, half-down, and she wore a white dress with dark blue stripes that only served to compliment her highlights. The dress was a tad short, revealing her seldom-seen legs, and the plunging v-neck of the outfit showed just enough cleavage to prove that it was there.
"Thanks," she smoothed the skirt of her dress unconsciously, tugging it down, trying to cover up her modest legs. "So, why aren't you staying?"
"I just don't feel like it is all. Dances aren't really my thing." Artie turned to look at her, seeing the soft glow in her eyes, the brief pink flush on her cheeks. "What's got you so happy?"
"Finn promised to save me a dance." She explained, her voice climbing a few notches. "I just hope I don't v-vomit on him or something."
Artie sighed. "You won't." He assured her dutifully, if not dully.
"Do you like Finn?"
"I think he's got a good voice, but I prefer girls."
"Smartass." Tina punched his arm lightly. "I mean, if I dated him, would you have a problem with it? Finn's a pretty cool guy, right?"
"Yeah. Yeah he is."
The last time he lied to her, he lied because he loved her enough to let her go. He lied because it was clear to him that she'd never reciprocate his feelings, she was firmly attached to the male star of the glee club.
Artie's mother drove up onto the curb just as Finn poked his head out of the door, calling for Tina to come back inside because the DJ was about to pack up and he still owed her a dance. Tina spun around to run back inside but Artie touched her hand before she went.
"Yeah?" Her attention was focused solely on the jock poised in the doorway of the school, she probably wouldn't hear a word Artie said.
"Good luck, Tee." Artie heaved one last sigh and rolled himself onto the ramp that his mother lowered from their huge van. He only lied to her because he loved her.
First off, I hope you enjoyed this (I wrote it instead of doing my media studies report) I watched the pilot and loved it (I didn't think I would). I know there are a lot of people saying that Tina's a lesbian and Artie's gay, but I didn't get that vibe from either of them (the only clue would've been Tina singing "I Kissed a Girl" but it's a popular song and lots of people sing it). In any case, this is just a work of fanfiction, and I really liked the bond between Artie/Tina.
Feedback is always amazing (: