Slamming a Revolving Door
He really, really wants her to be okay with this.
"Tina, I kind of need to tell you something," he says, and she looks at him in confusion.
"What is it, Artie?"
Oh fuck, he can't do this. "I... I'm sorry, this..." He laughs. "This shouldn't really be a problem. I mean, I'm really hoping it won't be. It shouldn't be, if I know you the way I think I do. I actually feel kind of stupid, making this whole moment to tell you the way I am right now, but at the same time it feels really unfair on you to for you to not know, and I'm left with this whole Catch 22 where it seems too important to not tell you, but it doesn't seem important enough to make a big deal out of it, and that's kind of unfair, especially because I'm not actually sure what's the PC option there, so I'm just going with the former because–"
"Can we start at the beginning, please?" Tina asks. She's smiling sweetly, but her eyes betray her concern. "Oh god, this isn't about..." she vaguely indicates the chair, "...is it?"
Artie inhales deeply. Guts, dude. "No," he says. "Tina, I'm... I'm bisexual."
"Oh," she says.
It's a bit anticlimactic, to tell you the truth.
He looks at her wearily. "You're not going to freak out, are you?"
She shakes her head. "No," she says. "Although it is a bit of a surprise."
He shrugs. "Well, that makes sense. I probably don't fit the usual idea of bisexuality, given the only portrayals you see in the media tend be either, uh, evil, or hot chicks making out; not that I have any problem with that bit, but it's not really a fair... I'll shut up now before I turn into Rachel."
Tina laughs. "Okay," she says. "So, um, is this... new? I mean, did you just figure it out or..."
He shakes his head. "No. I've known since I was like, twelve. It basically kind of sucked, but I was already one of Lima's resident freaks, so I guessed, it didn't change all that much when it came down to it."
She nods. "Oh. So, have you, uh, told anyone else?"
He shakes his head. "No. It's never really come up, you know? And when I say 'never come up', I mean it's come up quite a few times, but I have always manipulated myself out of the situation because I'm a freaking coward."
Despite herself, she chuckles. He smiles.
"Speaking of which... mind keeping this under your hat for a while?" he says. "I mean, I told you because you're my girlfriend and I felt like you needed to know, but I'm not really ready for anyone... you understand, right?"
She nods. "Of course," she says, and she takes his hand. "Thanks for telling me."
"Uh... You're welcome?"
"So... you're definitely not freaking out?" he asks. "Because, I mean, I guess I could kind of understand if you were. I mean, it would probably hurt but... I could understand, if you needed some time to deal with this. I did just drop a bombshell on you out of nowhere, after all."
She shakes her head. "No. It doesn't matter which ways exactly the doors swing... You're with me now, and that's the important thing. I get it, really," she says. "It shouldn't matter. It doesn't matter."
She leans in to kiss him, and she thinks it's true.
You could call the whole thing Mr. Schuester's fault, but that would be pretty unfair. It would have happened one way or another eventually.
It's Glee and Artie and Tina are holding hands, while Mr. Schue puts something up on the blackboard.
"Uh, Mr. Schuester," Rachel interrupts, "Not to undermine your authority, but we have already covered the area of duets one way or another – I mean, most of us have sung a duet at one point or another, yes?"
Mr. Schuester gives her his Patronizing Teacher Smile. "Ah, but Rachel, that was just the result of how the songs naturally panned. We've never specifically covered the area of duets, and in a club with as many... intense interpersonal relationships as this, I think you'll all have a good time."
Rachel nods. "Oh. Alright then."
"Okay, good," says Mr. Schue. "Now, I'll be drawing your names at random, in pairs, out of this hat..." he holds the hat in front of him.
"Isn't this exactly what we did for the ballads last year?" asks Artie, and Mr. Schue glares at him.
"Well, you all definitely didn't sing in twos then. So we'll do it now. And stop undermining my assignment," says Mr. Schue, and he's honestly pouting.
"You're pouting, Mr. Schue," Finn points out this (fairly obvious, if you couldn't tell by the fact it was Finn doing the pointing out) fact.
"Am not," but he furthers his pout to make them laugh. He succeeds. "Anyway..."
After three draws have occurred – Rachel has completely warped Brittany's brain with her excited yammering about their potential performance, Mike and Mercedes have shrugged at each other, and Finn and Santana have shared some seriously awkward looks – that Mr. Schue draws Kurt and Artie together.
Kurt looks terrified.
"But – oh god, the costumes!"
Artie laughs evilly. "Mwahaha; I shall destroy your fashion-conscious ideals!"
Everyone cracks up, and Artie doesn't even notice how much harder Tina squeezes his hand.
"I am not letting you design the costumes," Kurt says. "That much is certain."
"Uh, not to burst your bubble of fashion intoxication, but I don't think we actually wear costumes. It's not a big production, Kurt," says Artie. Kurt just rolls his life.
"Artie, every performance we do has a costume. Everything is a costume. You have a lot to learn about the theatrical arts," he says. Artie nods.
"I wasn't thinking something big and flashy, though. You did look damn fine – and I mean that in a way to avoid straight-boy drama – in that get-up from our mash-up last year, maybe we'll go with that kind of look."
Artie is a little uncertain of Kurt's threshold of 'big and flashy', which, given the way he dresses every day, may be... different to Artie's. However, he does bite his lip at the 'straight boy drama' comment.
Hey, Kurt is hot, in a girly way.
"Eh, maybe," says Artie. "I don't really care."
"That much is obvious."
Artie smacks him on the arm, and suddenly Kurt's face clouds with worry. "Oh no."
Artie looks where Kurt is, and sees neanderthal jocks headed straight towards them. Crap! Instinct! Survival instinct, where are you?
"What are you doing, Hummel?" says jock one, a big black guy (Artie's never bothered to learn their names). "The fag and the cripple? It's like the most retarded sitcom in history. We know you're desperate, homo, but do you really have to go after the guy who can't even fight back?"
Kurt's jaw clenches and Artie's stomach rolls. This is the bit where one of them has to say something.
"Don't worry. He's made it perfectly he won't touch me, based off my fashion sense if nothing else," says Artie, making Azimio glare at him.
"Yo, Stephen Hawking, someone ask you to talk?"
Artie clenches his jaw.
"Well, no, but if speech was based off what was actually asked for, I'm fairly sure you two would have been effectively mute past your first sentence or so," says Kurt, staring them down. "Now leave, walking anachronisms."
Azimio and Karofsky clearly don't understand what that means, but equally clearly don't care. "Whatever. Later, faggot," says Karofsky, shoving past Kurt. The two jocks are gone and Artie lets out his breath.
"You okay?" he asks Kurt, who smiles and shakes his shoulders like he doesn't even care.
"Just dandy. You?"
"Never better," Artie says. "Seriously, though, they shouldn't say things like..."
"Those words?" Kurt asks. "Doesn't matter. Not from primordial soup like those two morons. And they were offensive to both you and Stephen Hawking, so..."
Artie feels a slightly sick taste at the back of his throat. "Seriously, how does that not bother you?" he blurts out before he can stop himself.
Kurt looks a little pensive. "Well... you get used to it after awhile," he says. "I mean, I no those neanderthals' opinions on me, as the have reiterated many a time for the years we've been forced to know each other. It sucks, but you get used to it sucking, and go on because that's your lot in life. I could not care less what they think of me. The emptier I let those words sound, the better. I mean, it's different when someone you care about says something like that..." Kurt trails off, biting his lip, and Artie blinks.
"Okay," he says. Kurt shakes his head and snaps back to reality.
"So. To the world of the living, aka our performance..."
She hears laughter coming from the choir room. She's a little confused, and enters to see Artie and Kurt sitting there, providing the laughter, and for some reason Artie has Kurt's silk scarf wrapped around his neck.
Something in Tina's mind, something she doesn't even recognize, starts short-circuiting.
"Hey," she says, walking into the room hesitantly. "What's up?"
Artie looks a little surprised at her presence. "Oh, Tina, hey. We were, um, working on our performance. Which is meant to be a secret, so go away. Although he was mostly just bitching me out for the way I dress and I was saying his style wouldn't suit me – hence, the scarf – so you wouldn't have been spoiled for much.
"Oh," she says and sits down next to them. She tugs lightly at said scarf, and feels an odd empty, light sensation when it comes away to reveal Artie's pale, bare skin.
"It's not my fault," chimes Kurt. "While I'll admit the nerd chic thing can work fairly well in some cases – especially with a boy as attractive as Artie – there are boys that cannot be defined; such as thou shalt not wear suspenders and sweatervests.
Artie laughs, but Tina's grin makes her face feel uncomfortable. "Never change, Kurt," she says. "But, uh, Artie, we have that... English project we have to do. I was looking for you. I know the performance will be awesome, but can you reschedule the brainstorm session? Especially given he's just bitching at you anyway?"
Artie looks a little uncomfortable – he knows she's bullshitting about the English project; they're not even in the same English class (luckily, Kurt is in a different one himself) – but he goes along with it anyway. "Alright. Sorry, Kurt."
Kurt shrugs. "It's okay."
"Have mercy while planning on your own, okay?" Artie teases. Kurt smacks him on the arm.
"Do you want to know what I could do to you?"
Tina bites her lip. "Here, Kurt," she says. "Take your scarf back."
He takes the piece of silk back, and Tina wheels Artie out.
He waits until they're a good distance away before he starts talking again. "So, uh, what is this magically appearing English project? And for which exactly of our separate classes is it?"
Tina goes still. "Artie..."
He narrows his eyes in concern. "Tina, are you okay?"
She really should be okay with–
She is okay.
"Of course," she says, tossing her hair over her shoulders flippantly. "Okay, I confess. I was being selfish. I wanted to drag you off for myself in spite of you having actual stuff you need to do. Damn what you do to my hormones."
He smirks. "Well, I'm famously irresistible, so..."
She smacks him on the arm.
"Ow! Why does everyone keep doing that to me?" Artie cries, but he's grinning.
"Because we hate you, duh," Tina says, laughing. "Now, impromptu date. I demand it."
It comes to a head when Kurt and Artie are meant to have their performance. Artie texts Tina and asks her to come to the choir room a few minutes early. She says she will do so, and adds a smiley face for emphasis.
She keeps her word, entering the room to look around in confusion. "Artie?"
"Boo!" he makes her jump.
"Artie!" she says. She looks down at him, and his rather uncharacteristic outfit – tight black jeans, tight black T-shirt. He looks uncomfortably exposed, given the contrast between this and the way he usually dresses. "Hey, what's with the all black look? Because you know I wouldn't ask you to change to fit in with me, right? Besides, the last guy who did the dark colors thing turned out to be an evil spy, so..."
Artie laughs. "Relax, Tina, it's just our sort of costume. The all black thing was pretty much all Kurt and I could agree on."
Tina swallows. Kurt. "You're bothering with costumes?"
Artie shrugs. "He insisted. It's Kurt; you know the way he gets about clothing."
"Oh, I do," she says, and looks down at him closer. He looks good. Like, really good. She can see how his clothing sticks to him, emphasizing his natural sexiness underneath the nerd persona everyone takes at face glance, and yeah, she thinks it's hot but there's a sick taste at the back of her mouth again, and she doesn't know why.
"So... did Kurt pick out the clothing?" she asks awkwardly. "Because it's... fairly tight."
Artie shrugs. "I know. We knew it would take too much time to actually try things on in the dressing rooms, with my chair and all, so I just said my size and trusted to blind luck – could have gone worse. I look like I'm meant to look this way."
"You look good," says Tina. Artie smiles. "Like, really good."
"Thanks. You know, if the costume is getting this reaction out of you, I'm a little concerned about what our actual performance might make you do..."
She laughs. "I can take care of myself, Papa Bear. And if you get any dirty thoughts, I will hit you."
He raises an eyebrow. "I'm sixteen, Tina."
"Eh, fair point," she says. Then she swallows deeply. "Look, Artie... the Kurt thing. You sure the tight clothes weren't on purpose?"
He frowns at her. "One, what do you mean? Two, I picked out the sizes."
That doesn't make her feel any better, but she tries not to point it out. "I know, it's just... he's been pretty flirty with you lately. Are you sure he isn't...?"
Artie gapes at her. "You're jealous."
"You're paranoid and theorizing on how one of friends is trying to steal your boyfriend; that falls pretty soundly under my definition of 'jealous'."
She bites her lip. "I'm sorry, I just can't... Kurt's been..."
"...No more flirty with me than he always was, or more than he is with everyone else I know," Artie says. "Seriously, I'm not sure what your point is. Except that... oh."
She looks away, embarrassed. "It's not–"
"Don't, Tina," he cuts her off. There's an angry look settling in his eyes now. "Okay, yes, I like guys too. And no, Kurt isn't unattractive. But I'm with you now, and besides, I don't act much different around him than I do around, uh, my female friends... Don't you trust me?"
She doesn't have an answer. "You know what? I was being stupid. We're not talking about this," she says, and she's panicking now. Panicking and... something else.
She's getting mad now.
"No, let's talk about this," says Artie. "I mean, I asked you if you were okay with this, you said yes. I don't understand why you feel the need to–"
"Okay, let's talk!" she yells, cutting him off mid-sentence. She's officially snapped now. "Because you're such a victim and everything. Okay, I tried being okay; I told myself I was again and again, but fuck it, I don't care anymore. Why am I meant to be? You're using me!"
She snorts. "What? You actually like guys, but of course, you still are into the opposite sex so it shouldn't change anything? Yeah, that makes sense. And there you are, just... going around with our resident gay guy, and I just get to sit here waiting for the bomb to drop and you to tell me I was just your beard all along, and why can you just grow some balls and say it and not give me this on the fence crap?"
She's yelling by the end of it and Artie looks like he's on the verge of tears. "Wow. Good job with the keeping it secret like I asked you," he says, and she's confused. He shoots a look behind her, and she turns around to see the rest of the Glee club – including Mr. Schue, and Kurt who semi-started this – standing in the doorway.
"Wait," says Puck. He sounds confused. "Wheels... is gay? Swings both ways? What?"
"The latter," says Artie in a choked voice. "Although apparently, she doesn't buy it. And I was really not wanting anyone other than her to find out yet, so... surprise."
Tina turns back to him. "I – I didn't mean–"
"Don't tell me what you meant!" Artie barks, making everyone jump. He manages to calm himself down, and forces a mocking smile. "After all, it's not like that's nothing I haven't heard before. It's not like it's not the exact reaction I was terrified of when I decided I had to tell you in the first place. It's not like most of the world doesn't thinks in that binary way, straight or gay, and I'll have to force them to acknowledge my category for the rest of my life. I'm not gay, and really I'm quite sick of the automatic assumption that 'not straight' means I am... no offense, Kurt, it's just not even being a valid option is very annoying."
"None taken," Kurt whispers, still trying to understand what exactly is going on.
Tina just stares at Artie. With a sinking feeling, she starts realizing exactly how badly she just screwed up.
"Tina. Don't," says Artie. He glares at her witheringly, and this is the moment where she feels something die. "I thought you were different."
And with that, he wheels himself out, pushing himself past the rest of the club. Nobody has the heart to try and stop him. Tina is just left staring at her fellow Glee clubbers, looking at her with various expressions that really hammer her soul-crushing guilt home. Mercedes looks so disappointed. Santana looks absolutely furious, and when Santana Lopez thinks you were a total bitch just then, you've fucked up big time. Rachel is even worse, as Finn's holding her shoulders as Rachel clenches and unclenches her fists, like she could actually physically hurt Tina if not stopped. That's not encouraging. Finn himself, however, she can't really interpret – he looks disappointed, sure, but he also looks at her more compassionately than the rest of them put together. Including Mr. Schue.
And as for Kurt? He looks as mad as Rachel and Santana, but he looks even more disappointed than he does angry.
"Mr. Schuester," says Kurt, "I think, in light of the circumstances, it would be a good idea for me and Artie's performance to be postponed for a little."
Mr. Schue nods. "Good idea, Kurt," he says. "Tina, I think it might be a good idea if you take this practice off. Think a little about what just happened."
She nods helplessly. "Okay," she says. She walks out.
She prays like hell that the "Bitch," she hears on her way out doesn't actually come from Mercedes like it sounds.
Kurt finds Artie hiding in the auditorium after rehearsal is over. "Artie? Hello?"
Artie looks less than thrilled to see him, but Kurt tries not to take it personally. "Kurt, hey. Did practice end?"
Kurt nods. "Yeah. We didn't get much done; we were all a bit... distracted?"
"Mr. Schue sent her home; told her to think about what she said."
"Oh," says Artie. It becomes uncomfortably silent.
"Are you... okay?" asks Kurt. Artie snorts.
"Uh, no. I'm humiliated and mortified, and I hate that she'd do that to me, and I hate that she thought all that," Artie says, and Kurt flinches. Artie notices this. "Uh, sorry. Shouldn't have... vented at you there."
Kurt shakes his head. "It's okay. It was a fairly stupid question," he says.
Artie smiles slightly, but it soon fades. "This sucks," he murmurs.
"I rather noticed, actually," says Kurt.
"It's just, like... I wanted so badly for her to get it. I love her, you know? And I just wanted to feel like... Like it could be normal," Artie says. "Even when I could sort of tell she was probably being jealous and paranoid, I just did not want to admit it, because I wanted her... well, in general, but I also wanted her..."
"To understand," Kurt concludes for him. "It makes sense. I never thought Tina'd be the kind to think... I'm pretty disappointed, all in all."
"Yeah, how do you think I feel?" Artie asks, but he doesn't sound angry. "It's just... I want to get in the door, right? And there's a particular way I have to get in the door, and it seems like the door's revolving and I'm trying for a handle, but I'm not, the door isn't built like they think it is. And that's the only way I can get through the damn door."
Kurt blinks. "Okay, yeah, this metaphor totally lost me."
Artie laughs. "I don't get it either; I'm being pretentious and self-pitying."
Kurt nods. "That explains it," he says. Then it goes serious again. "Remember what I said, about how I didn't let it – the things they said about me – hurt... but it was different when the words came from someone I cared about?"
Artie nods. "Yeah. I usually get hurt whenever anyone says anything about it, even though this is the first time it's been directly in relation to me, but... yeah, it being Tina... it makes it worse."
Kurt smiles sympathetically and nods. "How much do you think she meant it?"
Artie shrugs. "I don't know. It sure sounded like she meant it."
"I know, but I want an excuse to forgive her," says Kurt. "I've done it before. I mean, that incident I was talking about... it was an emotion-fueled outburst which was not in any way thought through, and it damn near killed me, but I wound up forgiving him anyway. Neither of us are all that sure how much he meant it at the time, and maybe we just don't want to ask the question. Admittedly, the saving my life in a red shower curtain Gaga dressed helped a little with the forgiveness thing, and I'm not sure if Tina would suit one of those."
Artie blinks. "Wait. Finn?"
"Huh," says Artie. "You know, I've always wondered what that whole incident was about."
"Well, now you know."
"And knowing is half the battle."
Tina really, really isn't expecting anyone to call her at home. She's in her room, brooding and feeling guilty, when her cell phone does ring, however unexpectedly.
"Hello?" she answers.
"Cohen-Chang, hey," she hears the haughty, bitchy tones of Santana Lopez ring out. Oh God. "Just wanted a word about that stunt you pulled on your boy today."
Tina sighs. "Fine. Go ahead. I know what I did; I deserve it."
There's an awkward pause. "...Okay," Santana says. "Thing is, T, from the look on his face? You don't know what you did; not really. I mean, neither do I, but... I don't think you can get it until you've been through it. But from the looks of it, he was pretty heavily relying on you to support him through this, and you epically fucked that one up. I mean, come on, have you seen anything about the way people think about bi people? Gay and lying – like you said – or evil, or just those hot chicks who make out with other girls to get guys hot and aren't really bi... and I'm kind of one of those chicks, so I'm probably not his favorite person in the world, but whatever. Fact is, reinforcing those ideas like that? Yeah, way not to fuck him up for like, ever. I would be even more pissed at you for spilling everything to us when he outright said he wasn't ready for anyone but you to know, but given us all finding out is his best chance of not taking that shit you said to heart, I can only complain so much. So congrats, Tina Cohen-Chang. You made even me think you were a crazy bitch."
Tina exhales. "Are you finished?" she asks, her breath shaky.
"Yeah," says Santana. "See ya, Tina."
Santana hangs up. Tina does like wise, and bites her lip.
She is so screwed.
It doesn't take her long to find him the next day at school.
"Artie, hey," she says, smiling at him slightly.
He looks at her in confusion. "Um, hey?" he asks.
"Look, I want to say – I am so sorry for yesterday; I didn't mean–"
"I don't want to hear it, Tina," he says.
"Tina, I just..." he trails off, breathing heavily. "I don't know if you meant it. I don't know if you didn't. I don't know if you did mean it but you're desperately trying to have not. And I... can't afford to care, okay? Maybe at some point, I'll forgive you. But not now. Right now, I just need some time to self-righteously complain and wallow in self-pity. So could you please just leave me alone?"
She feels like she's on the edge of tears. "Artie, won't you at least talk to me?"
He shakes his head. "No. I can't. And it would be against the point. So bye," he says, before wheeling around and catching up to Rachel, of all people, who makes sure to turn around and glare at Tina as they go. Tina slumps against the lockers in defeat.
"Well. That went well."
Tina looks to her left in surprise, and realizes who it is. "Hey, Finn. Are you actually talking to me? I thought I was a social pariah. Not that I don't deserve it, but..."
Finn frowns. "Don't exactly know what a pariah is, but... yeah. You were kind of a crazy, prejudiced bitch."
"I... I screwed up, Finn. So bad."
He nods. "I know. You were all emotional and nervous breakdown-y, and you wound up taking it out on someone's sexuality and saying shit you didn't mean. And I've been there. He forgave me pretty quickly, actually, but I did kind of save his ass."
Tina nods. "Okay," she says. "I don't know what to do now," she admits.
Finn shrugs. "You got a red shower curtain you can make into another Gaga outfit?"
She frowns. "No."
"Well, you might be kind of screwed for a while."