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"The Missouri Compromise," Tina/Artie, PG-13
Title: The Missouri Compromise
Author: Lady Chronic
Pairing,Character(s): Tina/Artie
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 1,200
Spoilers: 1.09
Summary: Tina knows she has no right to be frustrated, so she's listening to Artie's music and hoping he gets over it soon. (Tag to "Wheels".)

Tina has “The Queen Is Dead,” Artie's third favorite album of all time, on repeat on her iPod. She is not listening to “Revolver” because she already knows the Beatles backwards and forwards; she is not listening to “Surfer Rosa” because Black Francis and Kim Deal give her a headache. She may be feeling guilty, but she's not a masochist.

She doesn't understand the Smiths any better than she understands the Pixies, really, but they're a lot more accessible. For instance, the lyrics to the sixth track, the one she's playing now, go “I've got no right / to take my place / with the human race.” That, she definitely gets.

The burned CD is at her house, in a stack of others that she keeps in a shoebox balanced on the lowest shelf of the bookcase next to her bed. The music has already been transferred to the computer her parents got her for her Bat Mitzvah; she keeps them because she likes his handwriting, the black marker scrawled perpendicular on top of the silver “Compact Disc Recordable” logo and the word “Supremas” and the number 700 MB. He never writes in the blank space where you're supposed to write. Maybe when she gets home, she'll spread them out on her bedspread, all the CDs he's ever given her, just to look.

She told him once that if he was ever in a boy band, they should be called the Supremas. He laughed. Most people don't think Tina's funny the way that Artie does.

What hurts most is that he's not not talking to her. He still says hi when he sees her in the hall, and he asked her how she was doing before Glee on Thursday. He wasn't faking it – he wanted to know – but she could feel a change, like when the regular lightbulb in the bathroom gets replaced with one of those twisty energy efficient compact florescents and you can see the cold difference when you look at your reflection in the mirror. He doesn't mean to punish her, or if he does, he doesn't realize it, but the thing that was growing between them is dead, as far as he's concerned.

She doesn't know what to make of him, sometimes. This is a kid who never acted like he was sorry for himself, but he listens to a band with song titles like “Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now” and “Last Night I Dreamt That Someone Loved Me.” Tina is only fifteen and she's goth and she writes poetry in a black and white composition book sometimes, but even she knows that's pretty self-indulgent.

She lied to him, though. She lied to everyone – her mom is the one who paid good money for all that extra speech therapy – but her lie wounded Artie in a way that no one but him could ever understand.

One time for fun, Mercedes and Tina made up a list of qualities a potential boyfriend would need to have a chance with them. They decided that he would have to be conversant with the Billboard Hot 100 and able to list at least half of the Top Ten at any given time, and also that he would have to dress cool. (“Timberlands. Clean beige Timberlands,” Mercedes specified; Tina imagined faded jeans and beat up Adidas Sambas, the classic black kind.) And he would need to be a good dancer.

Artie's only got one out of the three and it's not the one you would guess.

For a while now, she's been thinking maybe he liked her, and it used to scare her. There was this one day last winter when his dad was driving her home. Artie was in the back seat next to her, like Mr. Abrams was their personal chauffeur or something, and it was dark outside, even though it was only six o'clock. Artie moved his hand so that it brushed her pinky finger, and she put her hand in her lap, wondering if it was an accident, and she was so afraid that he might kiss her then. She wasn't sure if he didn't because he didn't like her that way after all, or if it was because his dad could look in the rearview mirror any time.

In the hallway, leaning in to him, their lips about to touch, she remembered that night in the van. Was he remembering it too? When she thinks about it, Tina isn't surprised that things worked out how they did. There's how the world should be, and then there's how the world is.

You could never dream up the boy you'll fall in love with, in all his wonderful individuality. Just like Mercedes broadened her male fashion criteria to include fuzzy sweaters when she fell for Kurt, Tina has made some accommodations, and she's proud of that. Artie too. They compromise. Artie normally listens to college radio and his grandfather's collection of scratchy blues '45s. He hates Chris Brown and thinks the Black Eyed Peas were better before they got Fergie. He's not a snob, though. He'd never heard of Katy Perry, but when Tina told him what she was going to do for try-outs, they listened to all of her singles on YouTube together and all the parodies and laughed until their ribs hurt, and then he said, very seriously, “I like her, Tee.”

Artie is always honest with her. She hasn't shown him the notebook yet – she won't, not until she writes something better. Except now, maybe she never will.

She always thought her made-up stutter was like her Hot 100 or the way she dresses – something he wouldn't have looked for that turned into something he didn't mind. That's how she feels about the chair. She didn't think it was a big deal to him. But it's not the stutter that's the issue. It's her luxury to choose when he never had a chance. She gets that.

It's just, he was the first person since sixth grade to make her want to take her place with the human race. Or whatever.

In principle, he's right about everything. Tina wishes he would grow up a little though, and get over it, or at least stop acting like everything's fine, because the limbo between fighting and friends is worse than either. Keeping this up isn't like him. It's not honest.

She has this fantasy that if she keeps listening to this stupid album, if she keeps her headphones in her ears 24/7, Artie will eventually give in and ask her what she's listening to, and she'll get to say the name of the sixth song: “Bigmouth Strikes Again.” She'll look down at the floor, but she'll speak extra-clearly, so that he will know she's aware of the irony, and he'll laugh. He will let himself. He is stubborn, but she believes he knows what is important. And that will be the beginning of things again.

I've got two more stories over at that I'm probably going to post here too, just to keep track of.

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