Author Note: For a request.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
"This. Look. What's this word mean?"
"I don't know. It's some stupid word Shakespeare made up."
"He's really bad at insulting people."
"He is, isn't he?"
"Yeah. Is Macbeth like McDonald's?"
"Yes, Brittany. Macbeth is like McDonald's."
Tina closes her eyes, breathing in deep and holding it before letting it out slowly. It only makes her lightheaded instead of calming her down, and she opens her eyes again, vision swimming before the textbook lying in her lap comes into focus. Sitting next to strangers in the school library while trying to study is not easy because of all the distractions. Tina only likes to read around people who know how to keep their mouths shut. But even worse, she's sitting at the end of the table in one of the few empty chairs left, and Santana and Brittany have taken the one next to her and the one opposite it, an open book lying on the table between them.
Brittany's giggling now, a hand over her mouth to—ineffectively—muffle the noise, and with a brief look up from her book, eyes flicking over them before staring at the text again, Tina can see that Santana's leaning across the table on her elbows, smiling and holding open the book.
Part of the nervousness keeping Tina from getting any studying done is all the distractions, but a larger part is that she doesn't have Artie to sit with. He still hasn't apologized, and Tina made a personal vow to herself the day Mr. Schuester told them they were going to be doing Madonna songs that she wouldn't talk to him unless he apologized, because she deserves at least that much. At least, she's pretty sure she does.
But it's also that the two Cheerios are sitting right next to her—Brittany's elbow slides against the tabletop and pushes Tina's opened binder closer to the edge of the table—and Tina's waiting for them to notice her, maybe with an insult or two about her artfully ripped stockings or glow-in-the-dark nail polish ready. But it's been ten minutes since they took the seats, and it's almost disappointing when they just ignore her instead.
At least Rachel registers enough to actually get insulted. Tina shifts in the hard, wooden chair, moving the textbook from her lap to the table and squirming uncomfortably until she finds a position that's a little less painful. Brittany giggles again, the heavy feet of her chair smacking against the ugly carpet as she drags the chair closer to the table, probably to look at the book.
Or maybe it's just to flirt with Santana because Tina's pretty sure they've just started playing footsies.
She could get up and leave, but that would draw attention to herself, probably negative and probably all from Brittany and Santana. It'd be like a little baby gazelle running out in front of two hungry cheetahs—and they are hungry. Mercedes can vouch for it. And Tina is really trying to study. When she ditches her last period, the one place she blends into is the library, which is already full of kids waiting for school to let out or ditching class like her. She can't wander the halls because Coach Sylvester's stalking them with a pair of scissors instead of detention slips, and the library's all the way on the other side of the school from the glee room.
She's stuck, but Tina's jerked out of her thoughts when someone mumbles a greeting to Santana and Brittany and the chair across the table from her is pulled back. She nearly knocks the textbook off the table just trying to sit up, a hand latching onto the table edge as she pulls herself out of a very unattractive slouch. Mike drops down into the chair across from her, and when he catches her eye as he lays his backpack on the table, he lifts up a hand in a small wave.
"Asian," he says cordially, a corner of his mouth turning up in a wry smile, and Tina smiles back before she realizes what she's doing.
"Other Asian," she says quietly before looking down quickly at her book again, biting her bottom lip to get rid of that smile.
There's shuffling and scraping as Mike settles into his seat, dragging his backpack closer and rummaging through it noisily before pulling out a book. Tina tries to concentrate on studying again, but Brittany seems to lose her brief moment of focus, and she sits back in her chair, feet planted against the ground as she starts to rock it back and forth silently.
"Santana, can we really go to McDonald's?" she asks quietly, and if Tina swung that way—which she thinks more and more that she might, because I Kissed A Girl is racking up an inordinate amount of plays on her iPod—and Santana didn't have scary-possessive dibs on Brittany, she'd totally volunteer to take Brittany to McDonald's because that girl knows how to pout. "I'm starving."
"Coach will kill us if she finds out," Santana says, and Mike takes that moment to clear his throat softly as he flips a page in his book.
"She won't," Brittany whispers loudly. "I'll buy you a McFlurry if you come with me."
"Duh. And we can split it."
Santana makes a noise of agreement, but Tina doesn't get a chance to hear the rest of the conversation, even if it is loud and right next to her, because all of a sudden, her book's being pulled across the table. She looks up and then winces, shutting her eyes and expecting Karofsky to hit her in the face with a slushie once he has her attention, but nothing happens. After a few seconds, Tina cracks open one eye, only to see Mike reading her textbook.
His brow's furrowed and he's got a hand on his chin, stroking an imaginary beard as he reads, the index finger of his other hand trailing under the sentence he's reading. Tina sits there, watching him with both eyes open, until he looks up, and Tina flushes, caught, until he looks to the side. Mike puts his hand on his book where it's lying on the table and slides it slowly across to her. Tina's pretty sure that there's a lull in Brittany and Santana's conversation as it happens, but she only looks down at the cover, careful to keep her fingers from accidentally brushing against Mike's as she picks up the book.
Brittany laughs and she and Santana start talking again, voices only a murmur, Mike goes back to reading her textbook, and Tina slowly opens a lovingly battered copy of Watchmen.
The silence that falls over the two of them as they read isn't awkward or uncomfortable. It just is, and Tina can appreciate that—that someone knows the difference between the two and can enjoy a good silence—as much as Mike's taste in books, even if comics are kind of pushing the definition of literature. Mike leans forward, the book laid spine-down and flat and his feet crossing the halfway mark under the table as he stretches out. Tina mirrors him, propping her chin up with a fist, and rests her feet on top of his.
She gets less than a quarter of the way through Watchmen before the final bell rings. There's a clatter around her as people put away their things, push back their chairs, and leave, but Tina only gets to look up and shut the book before there's a hand cupped around her ear and Brittany's practically nuzzling the side of her head as she leans over.
"You should totally ask him out," she whispers, and she laughs as she pulls back, holding out a hand expectantly to Santana. It's not exactly how Tina expects that particular situation to happen, because in her daydreams the library's usually strategically deserted and it always ends with her and Brittany slowly losing articles of clothing, but their exit makes up for it. They walk off with pinkies linked, and Tina and Mike watch them go, smiling as Brittany holds the library door open and Santana tugs her out after her with a blink-and-miss-it kiss to her cheek.
"Do you want to go to McDonald's after practice?" Tina asks suddenly, looking at Mike. It's out of her mouth before she can realize what she's said, which seems to be an unfortunate theme in her life, but Mike only smiles as Tina feels her cheeks grow warm.
"Like, a date?" he asks, closing her textbook and sliding across the table to her. Tina does the same with his book, and she shakes her head as they pack up and get ready to leave.
"Just to eat," Tina says as they exit the library together and head for glee. Mike reaches up and strokes his chin again, a look of intense concentration on his face before he breaks into a smile and nods.
The McDonald's is a quiet respite after glee and Rachel and the customary once-a-week club meltdown. They buy their food and sit down across from each other, and they can hear Brittany chattering away about lay-ups three booths down and Santana loudly agreeing that they're torture, but neither of them says a single word, and it's not awkward at all.