So I had to write this in the week of last week's episode. I seem to find Artie is how its spelled everywhere except here so I'm sticking with that.
Oh and while I was writing this I was listening mainly to Friday Night Boys-Stuttering which is just the best song for this fic.
It seemed impossible to Tina that it had only been a week since she had spilled the beans to Artie. In that week, he had looked at her one, maybe twice the entire time. Even in Glee his eyes never quite went to her. Tina knew it was all her fault too. It was just she had such a good time with him and when he had looked at her, his face so innocent and honest, the truth had just sorted of spilled out. She hated herself for lying to everyone but she was known as Tina, the girl who stuttered. How was she supposed to get around that? She blurted out the truth to Artie's honest face and what had happened? It had come and bit her in the ass, that was what. The other kids could feel it too but thankfully between the far more dramatic members of the club it was not at the forefront of everyone's mind.
But it was definitely at the forefront of hers.
Every time he came down the hallway, every single time she heard the wheels of his chair, Tina felt her face get hot. He always just rolled past her, his eyes strait ahead. He had been through so much with the cruelty of kids that he knew how to ignore someone. Tina always managed to wait until he was too far away to look at him, her face hidden by the blue and black of her hair. She wanted to say something, desperately she wished she could. But it didn't happen. The girl who had faked a stutter since the sixth grade couldn't find a way to form a sentence around the boy she liked. Around the boy who liked her. Around the boy who she had betrayed.
Today it was no different. Tina stood with her face hidden in the confines of her locker, listening to Artie go by. Even the squeak of his wheelchair seemed to make her heart skip a beat. Tina didn't think that she was type to get the butterflies in her stomach but there was so other explanation for why she was feeling the way she did. Well, there was, but she hadn't eaten anything since breakfast If she was going to get sick form something it would be that stuff they served in the cafeteria. Food was an overstatement for what was given out there. No, Tina knew that the only reason she felt what she did in her stomach was because Artie had just rolled by. Nice, sweet Artie who would never hurt a fly. Artie who she had somehow gotten the courage up to tell the truth to. Who had pushed away from her after she blurted out what she was hiding.
Tina glanced out of the curtain of her hair to see him almost halfway down the hallway, well past her locker. Once again she had managed to be silent and not speak to him. She looked back at the depths of her locker. Maybe she could have just crawl in there and hide from the world--or, more specifically from the one boy in all the world she wanted to hide from. She closed her eyes and leaned forward, sticking her head in the locker. Groaning she felt the stupid locker beneath her. Half lockers, she had thought it was great that the school had half lockers so she wouldn't have gotten stuffed in them. But now, she wished that they were a bit bigger so that she could hide inside and not have to face the world.
But her locker remained the exact same size and she still didn't fit in it.
She went to lunch more because she didn't want to deal with the questions her absence would bring up. Sitting with the other Glee kids, she picked at her food, eating the bare minimum. Their conversation was lost on her as she played with her food, picking at the terrible stuff in front of her. With a sigh she laid her fork down, cradling her head in her chin as she looked past the kids in the cafeteria to the windows outside.
"Hey, Tina, you feeling okay?"
Tina jerked back at Mercedes' unusually quiet inquiry. She realized the rest of the Glee kids were staring at her, concerned. Though quiet, she wasn't the type to outright space out. Tina looked around, feeling her face burn. Suddenly she was the center of attention once more. She had fought so hard not to be the center of attention, to always have those words tattooed across her: don't look at me. But now everyone was looking at her. To her shame she felt her eyes sting unexpectedly at the attention. Everyone was looking at her. She didn't see the concern in their eyes, all she saw was that everyone was staring at her.
"I-I'm F-f-ine," she stuttered out, the habit coming as easily as it always had.
It was Artie's look that sent her over the edge.
He wasn't looking at her but down at his lap, as if he couldn't look at her. Before she knew what was happening, Tina swung her legs over the bench and jumped to her feet. She heard people open their mouths to ask her what was going on but she couldn't get her too-tight throat to work. Before anyone could say anything. she ran from the cafeteria as fast as her boot-clad feet could possibly take her. All that she left in her wake were the echoes of her boots and the barely touched lunch tray. Long after the sound had been lost to the din of the cafeteria, Artie heard it echoing in his ears.
He didn't know why he was acting the way he was. Maybe because the idea that someone would willingly fake something like a stutter to push everyone away was just impossible for him to understand. Everything he had ever dreamed about being as a kid, it all required the one thing he didn't have: use of his legs. But Tina, Tina didn't have anything going against her except what she made for herself. The idea that someone would create a disability was just unfathomable to him. He couldn't believe that it would be possible for someone to do such a thing. And yet amidst that hurt and anger, the fact of the matter was that he hated not being able to say anything to her.
When he had first gotten into the accident, when he first was wheelchair bound, his parents had told him that the rules hadn't changed. Just because he was suddenly the butt of everyone's jokes didn't mean that he was allowed to be mean to everyone. They had ingrained him with the idea that 'if you cannot say something nice, don't say anything at all'. That simple phrase, it had gotten him through that first ride down the impossibly long hallway to his eighth grade class the month after he'd been released from the hospital. It had gotten him through every slushy, every callous, every everything. And yet now when he didn't want to be silent anymore, he couldn't think of a single nice thing.
To Tina of all people. She was his first crush, his first kiss, his first--well his first friend even. Everyone had looked at him so weirdly after the accident that he had decided to try and find the one girl who didn't look at him weirdly. Tina was the new girl and she was pretty much the bottom of the social hierarchy--where he suddenly found himself. Still his parents had taught him to be nice and so when he rolled up to her and introduced himself, she had all but hidden behind her hair. But when she peered out and introduced herself as T-tina, he had realized that she was just shy, not weirded out by his wheelchair. She never had been either. Not when people threw remarks at the both of them, not when they joined Glee Club and the few newbies looked at him and wondered 'how is he going to...'. She'd always been there.
Now it was his turn.
Slowly Artie backed away from the table and moved his wheelchair out of the cafeteria. He knew where he would find her too. It took him a bit to get to the Glee classroom but he could see her inside. She was sitting at the piano with her face buried in her hands. Artie winced, seeing the trembling in her shoulders. She was crying. He had made her cry. Suddenly he felt like the jerk, even if it was her that had lied to him. Reaching up he pulled the classroom door open and wheeled himself inside. From the way her back stiffened, he knew she heard him coming but it was too late for her to get out of it. Slowly Artie rolled himself forward until he was level with the piano where she sat, her face still buried in her hands.
"When I was six," he began, "I wanted to be a Ninja," Artie looked at his hand, "when I was seven, I wanted to be a Firefighter for the first half of the year. Second half, I wanted to be a Fighter PIlot. Right before the accident, one of my Uncles got me a police car. I was playing with it and the last thing I said to my Mom before we got in it was that I wanted to be a Policeman."
Tina slowly lowered her hands, sniffling as she looked over at him. Her eyeshadow had smudged and she knew her face was all blotchy like it got whenever she cried. Still, Artie was at least talking to her, even if she didn't want him to see her cry. He scooted a bit closer, his wheelchair squeaking against the floor.
"After that accident, after the physical therapy, I remember going down that hallway the first day back to school. I knew people would treat me differently but I didn't know how differently," he looked at her, "but you, you just treated me like any other kid. I thought it was because we weren't so different--"
"We aren't!" she cried. Tina looked up into the ceiling, praying her eyes would at least stop watering before she looked back at Artie, "don't you get it, we aren't different at all. So you're in a wheelchair. Even without the stutter, I'm still me, still the same girl."
"Were you ever going to tell us?" he asked looking at her.
"Yes--maybe--" she stopped, "I don't know. I didn't think it would matter," she looked at her boots, "and I thought people might react like you did."
Artie stared at her, wondering how it had suddenly became that he was the bad guy. He thought his reaction was perfectly normal, but he wasn't the one sitting at the piano with tears running down his face. Artie sighed and looked around before his eyes went back to her. One foot was swinging against the floor. He looked down at the boot, his eyes watching the path it made. That was the funny thing about Tina. Stutter or no, she never could seem to sit still for any reasonable amount of time. Tina looked at her shoe and then at his face. Slowly she smiled, just a little one, but Artie couldn't help but return the smile.
"Artie," she looked at him, "I'm sorry I lied," she said.
"Its okay," he said quickly, "I shouldn't have just gone like that."
"Why did you?" she asked softly.
"Because," he said, shifting uncomfortably.
"Because?" she prodded, her smile slipping.
"Because now I'm just the guy in the wheelchair!" he cried. Tina's eyes widened, "and you're normal. I'm just the pity case," he gave a bitter laugh, looking at his legs, "I gotta get to class."
He might have been the guy in the wheelchair, but Tina was fast when she needed to be and before he could fully even turn around she jumped in front of him. He looked at her. What he wasn't prepared for was the anger he saw in her eyes. The slight girl bent down and grabbed his shoulders, holding him firmly in place. Artie felt his eyes widen as she locked her gaze with him. Their faces were inches apart and Artie could smell the food she'd picked at during lunch on her breath. But more than that he could smell the faint scent of whatever she'd used to put blue in her hair. Even fainter than that he could smell the oddest touch of jasmine perfume on her skin. But mostly he was taken over by the anger he saw in her eyes.
"Don't you ever say that!" she told him furiously, "you're not 'just the guy in the wheelchair'," she straitened up and dug around in the pocket of her hoodie, "here," she said pulling a piece of paper from her pocket.
"What's this?" Artie questioned.
"I wrote it after our date. I couldn't give it to you---just read it," she said finally, "I'll see you at Glee."
Artie looked at the paper in his lap. Quickly picking it up, he put it in his pocket as he wheeled off to class. The moment he was inside at his special desk, he pulled out his notebook and his pen, he pulled the note out of his pocket as well. Glancing to either side, he unfolded it on his lap. The moment the first words hit his eyes, everything the teacher said was lost on him.
Things Artie and I have in Common:
-We both like colors.
There was no denying that. She had her streaks and the other violent sweeps of color in her predominantly black outfits. He had his colored shirts and the lights on the wheels of his chair.
-We have the same taste in music, even though sometimes the other kids don't get what a truly awesome guitar solo is.
Artie smiled at that. It was true. Most of the Glee kids liked show tunes or rap music but he and Tina understood what a good guitar solo was. They understood what a strong baseline was. The mechanics, the little pieces that made a good song truly great, they got it.
-We both like to laugh....even at the stupid jokes and the Slurpees.
Well that was true too. The first time they got slurpeed they had looked at each other and cracked up, both wiping the gunk out of their faces. In a way it had been kind of comforting to know that they mattered enough to be hit with the cold stuff.
-We both like Slurpees, the kinds in cups, not on our faces
-We both know that Sloppy Joe Day is the best day in the Cafeteria
Both of those were true. They did both like slurpees and Sloppy Joe Day. Even when they weren't racing in wheelchairs, they definitely raced to lunch on that day, just to make sure they got their share before the jocks devoured them all.
-Even if it hurts....we still want to let the world in
He knew they both tried to do that. Even if it hurt and even if people kept pushing them away they tried to let people in. Especially now that they had the Glee. But he had done nothing but push her away since he had told him the truth.
-We know everything will be okay....as long as we have each other.
Corny but true. they had always stood together, ever since that first day when he'd wheeled up to her and she'd stammered out her name, they'd had each other. That week when he'd sprained his wrist, she'd pushed him to class--even the ones they didn't have together. And when she'd taken advanced bio and algebra II at the urging of her father, he'd carried her two huge books around on his chair.
-We've liked each other for a long time...but we've been too shy to tell each other.
Artie felt his face get hot. She'd liked him too? Well, he'd known since he asked her out that she at least liked him a little. But apparently she'd liked him more than that.
A squiggly line stopped one part of the list and started the next.
And a few things you don't know:
-I don't have a stutter, but sometimes I stutter when I'm nervous...which is a lot. And when I'm really nervous? I feel like I can't speak at all.
Artie found himself nodding, he knew that about her. But what person didn't sometimes mess up what they said? Especially when they were nervous.
-But when I sing I don't feel shy or scared at all.
He didn't think any of them did. The couldn't while they were up there. It was all about performing and all about showing what they could really do. It was ironic really but when you knew the reason all the eyes were on you and it was something good, suddenly it wasn't quite so scary to have the whole word staring.
-When I see you, I see the wheel chair because its part of who you are....but I see your smile more.
Artie hated how warm he felt at the sight of those words. He hated it when people said they didn't see the chair. He knew they were lying. It was pretty damn impossible not to see the chair considering he wasn't really ever without it. But Tina hadn't ever claimed not to see it. She had just always seen more than that. Quickly Artie glanced up at the class, just to make sure that no-one was looking at him. The last thing written there made him smile.
When the class finally ended he couldn't get out of the classroom fast enough. Wheeling down the hall he tried to find Tina but for the life of him he could not remember what class she was going to be coming out of. With no other option, he wheeled himself towards the lockers where she would go before her next class. Sure enough as he rounded the corner, she was coming towards the locker, fingers clenched around the bag slung over her shoulder. He rolled forward, using the berth that people gave him to get close enough to her. She glanced at him as he rolled towards her.
"You're wrong," he said rolling down the hallway pulling next to her, "your last thing on the list, its not quite right," she looked at him, puzzlement in her eyes, "its gonna take you way more than one more race to beat me. I've been in this chair for a long time, I've got the advantage."
Tina blushed furiously as she looked at him, her fingers hesitating on the book she held in her hand before she picked it up and closed her locker. She turned to him, the action taking the most nerve racking 30 seconds of Artie's short life. But when she fixed him with a smile, he never felt lighter.
"Okay," she said, her voice soft but no longer stuttering, "how long?"
"Oh I'd say a few dates at least," he said, feeling a bit more confident, "if you're up to the challenge."
She bobbed her head quickly, unable to stop smiling as she hugged her book to her chest. Artie smiled back up at her, also feeling surprisingly happy at the prospect of wheelchair racing with her once again. Shyly she looked up at him through the blue streaks in her hair.
"You wanna go to class?" she asked.
"Sure," he said pushing himself down the hall as she walked alongside him, "listen, I was wrong to say that about your stutter. Its not everything you are--its not even the first thing I noticed about you," she looked at him curiously. Artie shoved down the feeling in his stomach and told her the truth, "you were the first kid to smile at me. Not that pity smile that everyone was giving me either. You smiled at me like I was just another kid."
"You were the first boy to say hi to me," she said looking down.
They made a strange sight, the goth girl and the wheelchair kid, walking side by side towards their next class. But if anyone had gotten close enough to listen, they would have heard the oddly happy tone in Arties voice. They would have heard that though her voice was soft and shy, Tina certainly wasn't stuttering. If they had looked close enough they would have seen how they found a perfect pace, as if they had been walking and wheeling side by side for years. It wasn't perfect, not by a long shot, but it was them and both would choose it over perfect any day of the week.
"Well, we're here," Artie said, stopping at the space between their two classrooms, "so, Glee?"
"Glee," she replied, as if it was some perfect answer, "hey, um, Artie?" he looked at her, "I'm sorry I lied."
"I'm sorry I wheeled away," he said.
"Me too," she said, "um, Artie?"
"Yeah?" he looked up at her.
Tina ducked down and swiftly pressed her mouth against his. Artie's eyes widened for a moment before it really sank in that he, Artie, was being kissed in front of the entire school. The last time Tina had kissed him too and he'd been too frozen to do anything. This time, he at least got aware of himself to kiss her back. Her hands remained around her books, his on the wheels of his chair, but their kiss was gentle--almost chaste. Still when she pulled back, Tina looked down at him with her cheeks stained pink and Artie was sure his heart was going to beat right out of his chest with sheer joy.
"See you at Glee," she said.
"Y-yeah, at Glee," he said as they both turned and went to their respective classes.
-Next time we race wheelchairs, I'm going to win....but even if I don't, I'm still going to kiss you when you do.
Okay so this was my first (but doubtfully last) Artie/Tina fic.