It kind of starts when Rachel suddenly decides she needs to be nicer to people. It takes a bracing of her shoulders and a swallow to down all her pride, but she manages to say, "I really like your voice, Tina."
The other girl gives her somewhat of a confused stare, and she frowns a little before she says, "Thanks."
"Your rendition of Dog Days Are Over was excellent, and though you lack some of my strength due to vigorous years of practice, I prefer your version to the original." Rachel beams. "I just — well I thought you'd like to know."
Tina's lips curl into a tiny smile. She can't tell if she was just being insulted or not, but she decides to roll with it. "I like your voice too." She pauses. "When you aren't being annoying or taking the leads."
Just like that.
Rachel doesn't have many friends.
In fact, Rachel doesn't have any friends.
Mr. Schuester hands out music sheets to the club. They're going to be singing Starry Eyed, a personal favorite of Tina's, but at the very top of the page, Rachel's name is in bold. Of course.
"Mr. Schue?" Rachel's hand flies in the air.
"Rachel, I gave you every solo in the song — "
"Actually," she interrupts, "I think the solos in this song should go to Tina."
All at once, the club turns to Rachel. Tina can't help but stare, a flush creeping up her cheeks. She can feel Mike squeezing her hand.
At everyone's surprise, Rachel says defensively, "It would much better fit her dulcet tones. I appreciate your insistence to challenge my range — and I'm sure I could rise to the challenge — "
"— but I just want this song to go to Tina."
Mr. Schue gives her a look, but with a shrug, he nods. "Alright. Tina, it's all yours."
Rachel turns imperceptibly and grins widely at her, and Tina shakes her head in response. "Thank you," she mouths, and Rachel nods.
Tina spends the better half of second period scrubbing the pornographic pictures of Rachel off the bathroom stalls. For some reason, she can't bear to see them anymore.
You guys are pathetic, she writes in place of the pictures.
Mercedes huffs and raises her hand in the air. "Mr. Schue, why is Rachel getting the solo again? Look, she's not the only one who can sing."
Santana nods, crossing her arms and shooting Rachel a look. "Some of us have talent."
"Some of us have more talent." Brittany beams.
It's been weeks since Rachel has had a solo, but no one seems to notice. No one seems to get past it — favoritism has always bothered Tina, but so has irrational bias.
"Leave her alone," she snaps, uncharacteristically raising her voice. "Let her sing."
Even Mike gives her a look, but Rachel, at the front of the class, smiles gratefully back.
Somewhere along the way, Rachel thinks Tina is her friend. Somehow that happened.
It's nice to have someone to go to.
Rachel sits alone at lunch, at her own island in the middle of a sea. She doesn't seem to care, but there's something in her eyes that Tina can see — a loneliness that refuses to be voiced.
Tina rises from her seat and goes to sits down with Rachel. The other girl looks up abruptly, blinking in surprise. "Oh, hello Tina. I can't say this is much of a shock, though it is surprising, considering we have been closer barely in the past few weeks —"
"You should come sit with us." Tina blinks over at her table with Mike, Mercedes, and Sam.
Rachel bites her lip. "I don't want to be a bother to people who don't like me."
Tina shakes her head. "I like you."
It takes her a moment, but finally Rachel nods thankfully and follows Tina back to the table. Even Mercedes gives Rachel a smile, and Mike says, "I like your sweater. Kittens are cool."
Rachel laughs. "I love kittens."
Mr. Schue writes Friendship on the board and circles it importantly, instructing the class to do a duet with someone they consider a friend.
Rachel looks at Tina, warmth and fondness in her eyes, and Tina nods. "I pick Rachel."
"Our contrasting vocals will blend excellently," Rachel agrees.
"When the road looks rough ahead, and you're miles and miles from your nice warm bed."
"Just remember what your old pal said. Girl, you've got a friend in me."
"I haven't tap-danced since I was seven," Rachel admits nervously as Tina hands her a pair of tap shoes. "My dads put me in there for a competitive edge, but now as I grow older, I am more in tune with my vocal range and less with what my feet can do, which I should probably change if I ever want to be a star on —"
Tina interrupts with the music. "Let me show you."
Tap-dancing is something Tina has done since she was a child, and she's never known anything different. Each move is precise and effortless, and, forehead wrinkled with concentration, she ends the number with her hands raised in flourish.
Rachel stares in awe. "You should dance more."
Tina dips her head shyly. "No, I don't think —"
"And you should sing more." Rachel hesitates a little before putting a hand on her shoulder. "Actually, I think — you should just talk more. You have a lot to say."
Tina blinks at her. "But no one wants to hear it."
"It feels good to —"
"Have a friend." Tina smiles a little.
Rachel smiles back.