BLACK FICTION

He watches as she nervously taps on the sheet music Mr. Schuester has assigned for them, black nail polish shining a bold, stereotypical contrast with the off-white paper. She keeps ducking and avoiding his eyes, which is good, because he still really doesn't want her to see him staring at her, and he never did, even if it's now angry glares instead of bashful, lustful glances.

"Mr. Schue, D-d-do you think, I can really, c-carry this?" she asks, and he feels his insides twist. She's still faking it, despite the shit she fed him about not wanting to push people away anymore – she can't just come clean, after all. He really doubts that his fellow glee clubbers would react to the fact she's been lying to them the whole time much better than he did, even if it would be less personal.

"Tina, you are an amazing singer," Schuester says sympathetically. "Have some belief in yourself."

She tries to smile, but it comes out as more of a nervous grimace. He feels slightly sick – he can't help but wonder what stupid, passive-aggressive stunt she'll pull to get out of being part of the world this time. He can't understand her – he has to try so hard just to get anyone to see him as anything more than the Token Differently Abled Boy (oh you poor thing; does it hurt? Do you need me to tie your shoelaces like a baby? Oh, you're adorable, you pathetic cripple you), and he can't believe she has the choice to be seen for herself, and chooses against it.

She tugs on the arm-warmers she always wears, and he notices a few of his fellow glee clubbers' faces falter for less than a fraction of a section. He resists the urge to laugh. Nobody really thinks they know she would hurt herself, but none of them can say they haven't considered it. She's all black on her hair, body, nails; all quiet and seeming-broken. It would be like her; to embrace that gothic, quiet, damaged archetype and do it. Maybe the arm-warmers are meant to make them think she does – or maybe it really is true. He doesn't know.

He knows that if it's true, he should feel bad for her. He just feels annoyed, because what exactly is she meant to be complaining about again? She has good parents (as far as he knows, anyway), she's making friends, the only real problems she has are the ones she's forced on herself. But no, she just wraps herself in the Goth Girl mask, fashioning her whole identity into being this quiet, depressive, damaged-looking thing.

Everything about her comes from a stupid cliched young adult novel.

Including him, probably. He bets she liked him because she was meant to; there was always meant to be that pretty, special girl who saw through the wheelchair for the guy inside. He reckons that would be the sort of thing she would do; forcing herself into that 'special outcast' role.

He hears her let out the first few notes of 'True Colors' – she can still sing, he'll admit it. The song choice strikes him as ironic, because she's all black fiction and the song is... well, look at the title. She sings soft and sweet and it's all kind of corny, but kind of beautiful too, and crap, he's falling for her mask again.

The song concludes, and the Glee club starts shuffling out with the usual murmuring. Tina takes two steps towards him, biting her lip nervously.

"Hey Artie," she says, reaching across for the handles on his chair. He wheels away abruptly.

"Hey, T-t-tina," he says, with a sardonic smile it physically hurts to keep plastered on his face. He watches her face scrunch up in pain. "What's the matter? Oh, I get it. Faking it is your niche, sorry, my bad."

He starts to wheel his way out of the room, but she calls out from behind him, "Artie!"

He turns around and says, "Don't." He sees her eyes all full of hurt, and suddenly feels a massive surge of guilt. He's overreacting and he knows it; she never wanted to hurt anyone, only wanted to protect herself, and treating her like this is only going to make her more likely to try and hide. He'd kick himself for what he's doing, but he's paralyzed from the waist down, so y'know, he can't.

He just can't.

The guilt dies as quickly as it was born.