A Little Push
Tina Cohen-Chang stares down at the flat parcel in her palm, hesitant to relinquish it to its intended owner. She'd bought it over a month ago with the idea of it being the thing that would bring them together- an object that would express all her feelings, and make them leap over the "FRIENDS" line to spend the holidays happily, and together as a couple. But following her disastrous first date with him- the one where she confessed her stammer was a self-inflicted ruse to get everyone off her back. If her life was a TV show, sad music would have played in the background as she told the truth- she wasn't sure if she should even try to wish him a Merry Christmas. Never mind give him a gift. Even if that gift had been specially selected, and ordered with him in mind and heart the whole time.
She sees him- he has a name, Artie Abrams. It's burned into her skull so she might as well use it- at his locker, a mere few feet away from hers, collecting his books and shoving them into his bag with difficulty. She used to help him with that, as well as getting his coat on, but since their date he's been adamant about doing everything himself. After all, he doesn't specifically require her assistance, nor does he want it now that he knows who she really is.
But does a stutter really make a woman?
Tina's about to turn back to her own locker, content to grab her stuff for the holidays and just go. The students at McKinley have been granted their last class period off to clean out their classrooms and lockers so that everything can feel fresh and new when they return after the two-week stretch of holidays.
But it doesn't matter how long she stays away from the school, because whenever she returns, it always feels like hell. Especially now that Artie isn't talking to him. Damn, that boy can be stubborn when he wants to be!
A distraction from her misery, in the form of one impeccably-dressed Kurt Hummel, swoops next to her.
"You look like you've just had your moustache waxed." Tina's hand unconsciously travels to her upper lip before she slants the flaming soprano a look.
"Thanks Kurt. You really know just what to say to make a girl feel better."
"Yet another reason why I'm fond of males." Kurt sighs, leans against the locker next to hers as if he owns it (the freshman it really belongs to is glowering at him but he doesn't care). "What's that?" His blue eyes focus on the gift in Tina's hand, wrapped in funky orange paper with a purple flower imprint.
"Nothing." Tina shrugs. He quirks an eyebrow.
"Okay. One: you can sing but you're a terrible actress, so don't even try to pull that with me. Two: there's a little tag on it that says 'To Artie From Tina', which means it's definitely not nothing. Spill."
"Has anyone ever told you that you're like the gay equivalent of Rachel Berry?"
He holds a hand over his heart, mock-wounded. "Words hurt, you know."
"Yeah." She looks over at Artie. She knows all too well.
"So, I take it that this is Artie's Christmas gift?" She nods without a word. Talking to someone as high-maintenance as Kurt can be exhausting.
"But you're not talking to him right now, are you?" She shakes her head.
"Do you want to give him the gift?" She bobs her head, more than anything she wants to give Artie his present and patch up the nebula-sized holes in their friendship.
Kurt sighs, an exasperated 'pfft' that whistles out from between his lips. "God. You really need to learn how to take the initiative, Tina." And without another word, he steals Artie's Christmas gift right out of her hand, aims, and tosses it across the hall. It lands with a clatter next to Artie's wheel.
Tina stares, horrified. She'd go get it, but she's frozen to the spot.
"Look away!" Kurt commands, and her eyes jerk up to his face on cue. "Make it seem like we're having a cozy little conversation." She can see Artie through the corner of her eye, reaching down to pick up her gift. He stows it in his locker after glancing at it briefly- probably to see who its from- and her heart drops from her chest down to her stomach, and then right out of her ass. He doesn't even look at her, acknowledge her… nothing good will happen this holiday, she can feel it.
"Oh God." Kurt rolls his eyes, pulls some tissues out of his pocket. "Go to the bathroom and clean yourself up." He orders, "if you're going to be a heartbroken mess, at least do it with dignity."
Rather than fire off some snappy retort at the annoying diva, Tina simply grabs the tissues and runs off, headed for the girl's bathroom.
Kurt strolls across the hallway to Artie, who is just about done with cleaning out his locker, struggling to zip up his backpack.
"Need a hand?" He offers.
"No, I'm fine." Artie smiles that crooked little smile that suggests he's not fine and would love help, but he's too proud to ask for any.
"No you're not. One: you're wearing a sweater vest over a polo shirt tucked into a pair of tight jeans that are probably constricting your crotch. Even my grandpa has better fashion sense than that, and he can't even remember what year it is half the time. Two: you just received a Christmas present from the girl you love and you didn't even do anything."
"I don't-" Artie begins to refute the claim about loving Tina, Kurt cuts him off.
"Please don't deny it. Everyone at this school really needs to learn how to act. Did you even see what she got you?" He pauses, his lips sticking out in a pout when Artie shakes his head. "And you didn't put it in your bag, either. Which means you were just gonna leave it here for the nosy cleaning staff to take home." Everyone knows the custodians browse through the lockers during vacation, that's why students pack up their drug paraphernalia so they won't get caught.
"It's not like it matters." Artie lies.
Kurt eyes him with a deadpan look on his face. "What did I say about you and lying? Jeez."
"Fine. It might matter… a little bit." Artie doesn't want to admit just how much 'a little bit' is. Kurt holds his tongue on the issue, though. "But since she lied to me about who she is, I can't look at her the same way."
"Who she is?" Kurt recoils as if he's been bitch-slapped, narrows his blue eyes in disbelief. "You mean because she doesn't stutter anymore? Her speech impediment doesn't 'define' her as a person, it never did. Are you seriously judging her based on that?"
"It's not just that. It's…"
"Oh, I know." Kurt interjects, "you found a kindred spirit in Tina because you thought she suffered from something she couldn't control, just like you. Too bad, she doesn't. Can you please get over yourself, now?"
"Has anyone ever told you that you're really annoying?"
"Join the club." Kurt rolls his eyes, undeterred. "I just can't believe that you of all people would be the one to make a snap judgement without knowing all the facts."
"I know the facts!" Artie protests. "She pretended she had a disability, she told the truth, and now I feel betrayed."
"And the fact that you're in love with her, does that count for anything?" Kurt inspects his cuticles. "Look, I'd love to stand around here and try and make you listen to reason, but we only have half an hour left of school. You should at least open her present." He nods, reaches up and grabs the gift from the shelf where Artie has shoved it, and hands it to him.
"Well, go on." Kurt encourages. "I haven't got all day, and I want to see what's in it, too."
Artie unwraps the gift, if only to silence the taller, more persistent male, and his eyes pop behind his glasses. A copy of Mcfly's Radio:Active CD is now in his hold amidst the torn wrapping paper. He loves McFly- a fact that Tina must have taken note of- but the music stores in Lima don't even know that the British band exists. His heart squeezes painfully and he pushes his glasses up on his nose.
"Well, thank goodness it wasn't something chintzy like a homemade clay heart." Kurt snorts, ruining the moment. "Now, are you going to go thank her?"
Artie's eyes dart across the hall, but Tina's not by her locker, which remains open.
"She went to the bathroom, dear." Kurt explains. "You can probably catch her if you take a shortcut." He nods curtly, and before Artie knows what he's doing, he's wheeling himself off in the direction of the girl's bathroom, hoping against hope to catch up with Tina. The girl he loves. His best friend.
"People these days." Kurt sighs and takes off for the same destination- he has a feeling that McKinley's resident punk-rock princess and paraplegic will need more than just themselves to finally get together and put the past where it belongs. Behind them.
He finds Artie on one end of the hallway and Tina on the other, the latter just coming out of the girl's bathroom, smudged makeup ringing her eyes and obvious tear streaks staining her face. The two are staring at each other, Tina looking like a deer caught in headlights, mortified that she should be seen in such a vulnerable state, and Artie looking beyond perplexed because he knows Tina was crying.
"Oh for crying out loud." Kurt swears under his breath and changes directions, moving so that he'll be on Tina's side of the hall. If they're not going to do anything but stand there, he will have to be the one to put on his Big Boy pants and make things happen. He passes Tina casually, but too closely, and gives her a hard shove with his hands. Just because he applies skin cream, doesn't mean he's not strong. The slight girl goes tumbling, and Artie, in spite of his useless legs, wheels forward to try and catch her.
How romantic. Kurt rolls his eyes but rounds the corner and pokes his head around the wall to see how things are progressing. Adding to the distance of her fall, Tina had tripped on the laces of her black chucks (the only time she didn't wear combat boots was when she donned her black chucks) and she was now on her knees, her face situated quite awkwardly in Artie's lap.
Kurt stifles a mischievous giggle. Oh, this is good. This is better than watching a Reese Witherspoon marathon on Boxing Day.
"S-sorry." Tina manages, then gasps because she just stuttered. "I wasn't- I'm not- I mean, it's just-"
"It's alright." Artie chuckles, trying to allay the awkwardness. "Thank you… for the gift, I mean. It's really…"
"Thanks." She's all flushed. "I was hoping you'd like it."
"I love it." Artie corrects her, smiling down at her. She looks up, at first focused on his lips, but then she gets a crease in her forehead and she points upward. "Hey look," she says. "Mistletoe." And she's right; hanging from a delicate string atop the ceiling is a sprig of mistletoe, the universal excuse to play kissy-face with people.
Kurt feels a thrill of happiness. This is so cheesy, it's making his day! He thinks he remembers Puck saying something about prank mistletoe, but the jock's words are the farthest thing from his mind at the moment.
Until Artie and Tina lean forward, their lips only inches apart, and they get soaked by water falling from said mistletoe.
"Gack!" They jump apart, Tina accidentally elbowing Artie's junk (she screams an apology, he assures her he can't feel it as he wheels backwards). The spooked duo bursts into laughter once they realize how silly the whole thing is and Tina stands, tying up her shoes and smiling sheepishly at Artie.
"So… do you wanna come over to my house after school and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas?"
"Of course." Artie smiles amicably and the two gallivant off into the sunset (really, they just go down the hall). Kurt grins, a warm and fuzzy feeling related to love and the holidays bathing him all over in a warm glow.
He thinks he rather enjoys being a matchmaker, now if only Santa would place Finn Hudson under his tree wearing a strategically-placed red ribbon and nothing else…
Ah, well, Kurt thinks, brushing the fantasy aside. At least one couple will be merry this Christmas. I suppose all's well that end's well… or some cliché nonsense like that. But seriously, Santa, can I have Finn Hudson for my good deed?
Fat chance. Kurt sighs and strolls back to his locker, passing a jovial Artina (his new name for the couple) on his way; they're perfect for each other, he muses, all they needed was a little push to reconnect.
And there it is! This almost came out as an angst-ridden oneshot, but I restrained myself and wrote something... happyish instead. I know I'm cutting the deadline close, as it's Christmas Eve, but I still got it in. Aha. Hopefully you guys enjoyed it, please let me know what you think =) and I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday!