Catching Up to the Girl Behind You

"Hey."

Artie turns around to see Rachel walking behind him, long brown hair swishing over her hair.

"Hey Rachel."

"So, uh..." she bites her lip nervously. "I noticed you back there. When they were dancing. You looked... pretty upset."

Artie sighs. "Little bit. You know me – inspirational cripple depressed by his situation; perseveres and overcomes the odds. This is just a depressing plot point, relax."

"Artie–"

"Look, Quinn already gave me the big speech, okay? I'd rather not talk about it."

Rachel sighs, and sits down on the bench they are suddenly standing in front of (when did they get here). "Fine," she says. She smiles slightly. "From the sounds of it, your week sucked as much as mine did?"

He wheels towards her. "Your week sucked?"

"Yeah," she says. "Sort of, anyway."

"I'm officially declaring this unfair. I was just going to ignore you and wallow in self-pity for awhile, but then you made me curious. Damn you."

"I'm not all that sure why you'd care," she says. "My life is being a bit... complicated, right now, but it doesn't affect you."

He shrugs. "We're friends. Spill."

"We are?"

He blinks. "...yes? Didn't you notice?"

"I thought I was irritating."

"A lot of the time, you are. I probably am too. However, you are pretty cool most of the time too, so yeah, we're friends. And you're avoiding answering," he says. She stares at him.

"Well..." she takes in a deep breath. "It started with that dream thing. And Jesse; he got me thinking about my mom; you know, who she was, is, what she thought about me. So we did a bit of a hunt, and I found this tape... she was singing to me. And now it hurts, because I realized I still don't know who she is and I have no way of finding her, and since thinking of it, it just feels like I have this gaping hole in my chest."

She bites her lip after her rant, as he takes some time to understand what she said. "Okay. That sounds... vaguely soap opera-ish."

She laughs. "Yeah."

"However, I've spent the last week searching for some kind of miracle cure to my disability, so I'm not sure I have any right to talk."

"...Really?"

He sighs. "...Yeah. All that 'follow your dreams' stuff again. Didn't work out so well."

She winces. "I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault," he says. "At least, not to the best of my knowledge."

"While admittedly I have some flaws, I don't see how I am responsible for your condition either," she says. He nods.

"You know, I should probably go find Tina..."

"You're not mad at her for that whole dance with Mike, are you?"

"What? No!" he says. "Actually, it was my idea that they do the whole dance."

"It was?"

He shrugs. "The dance number thing was originally her idea. Part of the following your dreams thing. I kind of gave up and told her to pick another partner – admit it, they were pretty damn amazing."

"Their dancing was impressive; maybe not technically perfect, but impassioned." From the look on his face, Rachel can tell he really didn't need to hear that. "Um. But you did perform the song well. Admittedly, I got a little distracted by how damn depressed you looked..."

"Crap, was it really that obvious?"

"In a word? Yes."

"Well, I guess... I wish I could have performed with her. But I couldn't. I 'can't keep up.'"

"Hey, that was ages ago!" she defends herself. He shrugs.

"Well, so was me calling you irritating," he says. "Besides, it's relevant, and not exactly the most sensitive you've ever been."

She winces. "You've been waiting for an opportunity to call me out on that for months, haven't you?"

"More or less, yeah."

"...It was fairly insensitive, wasn't it?"

"The word 'duh' springs to mind."

"Sorry," she says. "I just... I get so worked up about things, and focus so much on having a perfect performance... I forget about things like, well, human decency," she says the last bit with a wry smile. He shrugs.

"I know. It's okay."

"Liar."

"You want me to be mad at you?"

"No, I just... I don't know."

"Your goals and motivations are very obvious. Surely no-one will ever struggle to please you when your that clear about what you want," he says. She glares at him.

"Thanks a lot," she says sarcastically. "I thought we were commiserating; shouldn't we be nice to one another?"

He's chastened. "Sorry, I was kidding."

"I'll live."

"Good, because it would be very strange to explain you killed someone with sarcasm. That, and I'd probably feel guilty."

She smiles. "Well, obviously, their would be grieving hoards pledging their eternal dedication to me, so maybe it wouldn't be so bad."

"Yes, but they'd probably kill me in revenge, so..."

"That's a bad thing?"

"Hey!"

She laughs. He laughs in turn.

"Maybe I did it in a jealous fit over your talent?" he asks. She looks concerned.

"Am... I allowed to laugh at that? Or are you calling me out for being an insensitive bitch again?"

He's confused. "Uh, you were meant to laugh. But, if you really want to feel bad, I can't really stop you..."

"Sorry," she says. "You might notice this with me. I'm either completely brash and tramble over someone's feelings, or I'm hypersensitive, which comes out condescending and not all that much less offensive."

"You deprecate yourself a lot more than I noticed," he says. "I'm okay with it, Rachel. Since I don't actually dislike you, take it as a cue that you're not that bad."

"'Not that bad'. What a compliment."

"Well, you're not that accomplished at them either."

She sighs. "True. Well, I'll try. You're a very accomplished singer, for one thing. My 'he can't keep up' thing... I don't know. I was being irrational."

"Um. Thanks?"

"You're welcome?"

They laughs. She starts to play with her hair. "So, you feel any better about this week now?"

"Not really," he answers. "Still got my dreams crushed, after all. Do you?"

"No. My dreams... aren't so much crushed, but highly unlikely."

He nods and accepts this. He's surprised when she starts to sing – although given she's Rachel Berry, he's not that sure why he's surprised.

"I dreamed a dream in time gone by..."

"When hope was high and life worth living," he automatically joins in. She suddenly looks ten times more upset than she did before.

"I dreamed that love with never die..." she continues, and her voice sounds slightly choked.

"I dreamed that God would be forgiving," he sings, and pauses. "You know, if we're trying to cheer each other up, maybe we shouldn't be singing one of the saddest songs in the history of theater."

"It was on my mother's tape," Rachel explains, and Artie is suddenly hit with a wave of guilt. "And are we trying to cheer each other up, or are we just whining together?"

He frowns. "Not all that sure. Can we do both?"

There is a pause.

He sings again. "When I was young and unafraid..."

"And dreams were made, and used, and wasted."