Author's Notes: Written for the ArTina Ficathon on Tumblr, for which my prompt was: " Tina and Artie, Bonnie and Clyde? Let's see them pair up to start a life of crime. It can be silly or serious, whatever you like, but as canon as possible. (Glee club exists/existed, Artie is still in his wheelchair, etc.)" Epigraph is from Dollhouse.
Bonnie and Clyde
"Bonnie and her gun-crazy beau – you know what they wanted? It wasn't to be the best ... No, Bonnie and Clydie – they wanted fame. Notoriety. And boy, did they get it. They also got dead."
It starts when they're twenty, and have moved away from Lima, Ohio. They're still in Ohio, though. They live in the outer suburbs of Cincinnati, which are better than Lima was, but still not the stuff of dreams. It doesn't matter that much though.
However, they're still struggling. They're trying to put her through college, after how her parents reacted to her decision to stay with him past high school, when it would impact her life for good. Her dad said she was 'weighing herself down and wasting her money', and said they wouldn't let it be theirs as well.
They try. She works two jobs when she doesn't have class, and his parents send them what money they can. He keeps trying to work, but, in his words:
"No-one wants to hire the cripple."
It's not fair, and they keep trying to make it fair, but it never works. They even call up Rachel a few times (because she was always threatening legal action at the slightest hint of discrimination, and she is an old friend), but every time they lose. People make excuses and Artie just has to suck it up and deal.
"Way of the world," he says.
He's bitter, but she can't blame him.
She doesn't feel that guilty when they start it. They're just applying their skills – they've both always been good at math and logic – to get what they want. They're stealing from faceless institutions renowned for ripping people off anyway; it doesn't matter. They're not even really stealing. They make cards and live off them.
Besides, the first thing he buys with their first fake card is an engagement ring.
They're twenty-three when it becomes a way of life. They've both graduated college by this point, which means money spent is reduced, but they're still trying to live in the world and it costs a lot. He still can't get regular work, because people still don't want to 'hire the cripple'.
He's the one who suggests it, of course. The way he says it, he makes it sound like chemistry. Easy.
"But that's... it's illegal, Artie," she says.
"I know. Not for the first time," he says. "Come on, Tina. You said you don't believe in the legal restrictions on drug use anyway. People should have freedom to do what they like. Right?"
She nods. She had said that, and she genuinely believes it – all prohibition does is criminalize innocent people, make things less safe, and create a thriving black market.
Except that thriving black market is what they're trying to be a part of, so she really shouldn't complain.
"Okay," she says.
It's his project, not hers; he does all the mixing and producing and chemical stuff that makes her head hurt. She helps him sell it, finding customers and the like, and everything seems pretty okay. She gets used to it, in time. Really, people make their own choices and they're not changing anything.
They're twenty-six when they cross the line.
They're minding their own business and sitting at home when it happens; she's two months pregnant, the cops don't know a thing, and basically all is right with the world. The last remnants of her guilt are more or less buried – she understands the new world order now.
Of course, she doesn't expect a pissed off member of their clientele to break in while they're having.
The guy is at most nineteen; he's ranting and raving, a humble knife in his hand. Still, he throws Artie out of his chair and she panics.
She grabs the knife. Stab. Twist.
Her jeans are black but her top is pale pink, and that's going to be harder to wash out.
They watch as the boy twitches and dies, and some part of her is screaming Call the fucking ambulance, but they can't do that. They're criminals, and she doesn't expect this guy to be grateful anyway.
He's gone in a few minutes anyway. She and Artie just stare at the body (holy shit how did it become 'the body' that fast?), while her hands are shaking and little blood drops fly everywhere.
"Tina. Chair," he chokes out, and she's shocked. She can barely remember how to move. She manages to put him back in, and then she just goes back to staring at the body, hands shaking.
"What are we going to do?" she asks quietly.
"Call the cops? No."
"Was self-defense, I know. They'd probably believe that too. But then we'd have to explain who he was and why he was here, and then we'd be doomed," Artie says, and she nods. It makes sense.
"So what do we do?" she asks. He sighs and stares at the body.
"I have a friend. He can take care of this. Make sure we wind up okay," Artie says. "Hey. This wasn't your fault. He attacked us."
"I know that," she says. Then she leans down to kiss him. She gets some blood on his clothes, and face, and body, but he doesn't seem to mind. She kind of does, but she doesn't mention it.
When a man in a police uniform shows up, her first reaction is blind panic. She thinks he's lied to her. Betrayed her. It turns out to be nothing of the sort; that's the 'friend' Artie was talking about, who happens to be a corrupt cop with a history of showing them discretion.
Artie explains the situation and the man nods like he believes it; he helps them clean up, he shows them how to get rid of the evidence (well, maybe 'them' is an overstatement. He doesn't acknowledge her with more than a nod). He bundles that boy's body away in his neat black plastic, and he gives them the stuff that, apparently, will get the blood out of her clothes.
Then he's gone. Artie and Tina are left with their unnatural looking room; the stench of chemical over the faint smell of blood. Tina thinks she's going to be sick.
Artie grasps her hand. "Come on," he says. "Let's go get you cleaned up."
They're twenty-nine when they have the conversation.
"Do you ever think about what we do?" she asks. She's smiling slightly, but she doesn't mean it. "I mean, we have a life of crime, but we refuse to be flashy about it. We're like the suburban Bonnie and Clyde."
He seems to see through her. "We're not Bonnie and Clyde, Tina," he explains. "They wanted to be outlaws. Famous. They wanted to make everyone know their names. They wanted to change the world. We just want to live in it."
She can't help but feel the room is flooding with a dead boy's blood, just for a second. She smothers her gasp.
"Makes sense," she says calmly. "We're just making things fair, after all."
He nods. "Yeah."
She leans over and kisses him on the lips. "Sleep now. If we wake up Hannah I will cut you."
She's thirty-one when she realizes. She's on the couch semi-late at night, and Hannah is cuddled up to her, sleeping on her arm. The Tony Awards are showing on the TV, and she's only half paying attention.
Still, when she sees the award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical go to a breakthrough Ohio girl named Rachel Berry, she can't help but gape.
With shock, she looks around herself. She looks at her engagement ring, the phone, those spots where you can still see blood on the wall if you squint (she refuses to look at Hannah, because she wouldn't give up her daughter for anything. Even the sake of her conscience). Then she looks back at Rachel beaming at her from the TV. Rachel who she knew well; Rachel whose solo she 'stole'.
In that moment, she has her epiphany:
She never wanted to be this person. And she still doesn't.