A/N: Written for the glee_angst_meme; the prompt: 'Artie/Tina, "Aren't you tired of pretending you love me as much as I love you?"'.
The first time it happened, they were fighting about something stupid (as they often were). What exactly wasn't the important part.
"Artie, just stay still and talk to me!" she yelled as he wheeled away.
"What do you think I'm doing, signaling ships at sea?" he asked, turning around to face her again, and she shook her head.
"Oh no, don't do that. Do not make your sarcastic comments and ignore the whole thing, again," she said.
"Then what do you suggest I do? Become all hysterical and shriek about it like you are?" he said, voice scornful and judgmental, but she seemed to take the attack on board.
"Yes! Lose your mind, scream and shout, call me a bitch, I don't care, just be honest for once! You never tell me anything! You always act like the happy-go-lucky comedian, making sarcastic comments wherever he goes, and we both know that's not how you really feel. You're angry and scared; you're always angry and scared! Do have any idea how much you piss me off like this?"
"Well, sorry if my personality doesn't fit into your soap opera guidelines, but I'm never going to change."
"So I have to, just to compensate? Because that's what you're always telling me to do."
Artie recoiled slightly. "Okay, I fuck up, I say stupid things. Like you've never done something dumb when you were scared, T-t-tina?"
"That's not fair," she whispered darkly. "And why exactly do I scare you?"
He didn't have an answer for that one.
"If you're so scared of being with me for me, just go, because I'm not going to change either. I am better than that."
"Please, Tina," he practically laughed. "You've spent your entire life trying to change yourself just so knowing can possibly hurt you – well, it doesn't work that way!"
"Yeah, I was a stupid shy kid! But I am trying now; I don't spend my entire life pretending not to hate the entire world for something, what, two other people were actually involved in?"
"It's not all about that."
"Yes it is! You pretend to be just fine with it, but you've got so much rage just under the surface, and funnily enough, I always wind up on the receiving end."
"Well, okay, I don't want to be complaining about it every second of the day, but yes, I get mad about it sometimes! I wouldn't expect you to u-understand."
"Do not try to guilt trip me!" she screams. "I stopped faking that months ago; you just can't let it go. Was that the whole reason you liked me in the first place? Because I had a stutter?"
"No. I liked you because you were strong and brave – the stutter proved that. You put up with the weird looks you got all your life. You joined a singing group, despite the fact you could barely talk! What kind of bravery was that? Oh, wait, whoops, the whole thing was a lie. Sorry about that."
They paused, her looking down.
"I thought you knew what it was like to be me. You didn't," he said sadly, and she shook her head.
"And hence, you need to punish me for it for the rest of our relationship?"
"I didn't say that Tina. I'm okay with it now."
"Then why did you bring it up? That's just it with you: you're okay and have forgiven everything, until you actually get mad about something! You don't let things go, and you don't stick to the point! How much are you used to losing arguments, with this constant ad hominem?"
"Latin. Impressive. I don't care," he said. "Would you stop attacking me, raising my flaws?"
"Yeah, because I do that more than you do."
"I'm not trying to fix you all the time! I love you for you, even if I say stupid shit!"
Tina snorted. "Sure."
"Would you stop treating me like I need to be made better; that you need make me more open, more honest, more whole before you can really love me? I am just fine, and I am not your pet project! I'm not going to change for you, and as much as I'd like it, this," he indicated the chair, "cannot change."
"I never said I wanted that!"
"Cut the crap, Tina!" he yelled. "We both know you don't want me like this; you were the one you set up my hopes to be crushed with all that new research, remember that?"
"I was trying to help you! Anyway, that was months ago; you weren't mad at me then."
"How would you know, if I'm never honest?" he sneered. "And yet again, I need to be helped and fixed. Tell me something, Tina, aren't you tired of pretending you love me as much as I love you?"
She practically gasped, and he grimaced. "Has anyone ever told you how paranoid you are?" she asked, and he shrugged.
"Don't really, no. Though if no-one else has, that may say something about why you're saying it," he said, and she bit her lip. "Forget it all, Tina. It doesn't matter."
It did all matter, but she let him storm out in his chair as if it didn't. When she was sure he was gone, she slowly sat down, and let herself cry a little. She wasn't even sure why she was crying.
Elsewhere, he did no such thing.
When they met each other at school, the next day, it was slightly awkward, but they weren't angry anymore.
"Hey Artie," she said when she saw him.
She took in a deep breath. "Look... about yesterday... I'm really sorry."
He nodded. "Me too. The things I said to you... Look, I was being stupid, I didn't mean it all."
She shook her head. "Me neither. What were we even fighting about anyway?"
He furrowed his brow. "I don't actually remember."
They both laughed at that, and she took his hand and squeezed gently. "I do love you," she said.
His mouth went dry for a moment. "I know," he whispered.
She leaned down grinning, and kissed him softly. "Can we just forget the whole thing then?" she asks, and he nodded.
"Yeah," he said, and she kissed him again.
Neither of them noticed but they let themselves fall back into the habit at that moment. They pretended to have forgiven each other; he played the happy cripple, and let her pick up his slack. Neither of them could remember that they meant what they said.
The second time it happened, they were fighting about something equally stupid and pointless and unmemorable. Nothing had really changed.
"Why does this keep happening Artie; why do you always need to be fighting with me about something? Can't we just deal already?"
"Um, I'm not doing it on purpose. Think about it Tina. If we're fighting, then I can't actually be the only person responsible, can I?"
She rolled her eyes. "That's not the point."
"Then what is the point?"
"I don't know! I'm just tired of having you at my throat all the time!"
"Again, this entire situation is entirely my fault and you must be some innocent newborn lamb?"
"Oh god, will you shut up? I never said that, so stop trying to twist everything until you look like a victim."
"I am not doing that."
"You're always doing that!" she yelled. "Every time I try and talk to you, call you out when you act like a douche, it suddenly becomes about how horrible your life is, boo hoo, poor y–"
"You have no idea–"
"What it's like for you; yeah, I know. I don't care. I am sick of having to compensate for the fact you can't just accept the way things are."
"I have accepted that. Is it really so bad that, I don't know, every once in a while, I get pissed about the whole thing?"
"No, it's not. But you do not get to take it out on me!"
"Wow, overreaction much? We fight. It's what couples do! I am not some monster oppressing you, Tina; if it's really a problem you can just go."
"I love you," she said. "I don't even know why anymore, but I do. But you piss me off like I can't even say, and I am so sick of trying to be good enough."
"I have never asked you to be any better! I want you, when you're not screaming my head off."
She shook her head. "Artie, all you have ever done is ask me to be better – be honest, be bolder, be more attractive, blah blah blah."
"Because you have never asked me to change, be things we both I know I can't; like the dancing thing?"
"That was something you wanted Artie; whether I change or you change, it's always about what you want, not me, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of trying to be better."
"Then just stop it!"
"I can't, because I know why you want me! You went after me in the first place... because you could get me. I was low enough back then. Then you try and build me up, make me something you can hold yourself against; something it's impressive that you're 'good enough' for, just to make you feel better about the fact that no,you are never going to be normal again!"
He recoiled as if she slapped him. "Thanks not tr–"
"Tell me something, Artie," she cut him off, her eyes glazed with tears. "Aren't you tired of pretending you love me like I love you?"
He gaped, speechless, as those tears in her eyes grew closer and closer to falling. She gave a humorless half-smile.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," she said, then drew in a deep breath. "Tell you what Artie. Go find some self-respect, and then you can come crying to my door, but until then... I'm through."
She stormed off then, pulling her arms in closer and trying to control the flood of tears that was threatening to break. He just buried his head in his hands, and for the first time in years, didn't feel angry at anyone but himself.