Singin' In The Rain

Chapter 2

One day, Tina is surprised to see a young lady with shoulder-length blonde hair standing outside Room No. 3, peering into the window.

“Umm, excuse me...” Tina begins, and the lady turns to reveal a rather cold glare, startling her. “Are you – are you here to see Artie?”

“I had no idea Rachel Berry was a Korean girl,” says the lady, in a clipped tone.

It has been one month. It’s bad enough that Artie still uses that name against her every now and then, but it’s really annoying that everyone else is still talking about Rachel Berry. Tina grits back a choice word and holds out a hand with a tight smile.

“I’m Tina Cohen-Chang, Artie’s behavioral therapist. Rachel left the center a month back.”

“I see,” says the lady, taking Tina’s hand stiffly. “I’m Quinn Fabray, assistant director of Lima Central Orphanage. Artie was one of our kids after his accident and I haven’t seen him since he transferred here. Sue’s too busy to talk to me, so I just came over myself to see how he’s been progressing.”

She says the last word with a knowing look in her eyes and Tina feels a twinge of discomfort. Nevertheless, she invites the woman in, only to have Artie switch off the television immediately and roll backwards.

“Why are you here?” he demands, rather loudly.

Quinn frowns. “That’s uncalled for, Artie.” She turns to Tina. “Don’t you all teach manners here? I thought that would be the first step to working on socializing skills.”

Tina’s face heats up. Well, I’m sorry if he’s not that sociable towards you.

“Tell her to go,” says Artie, curtly.

Gladly. “Artie, she’s here to pay a visit,” says Tina, evenly. “Please have a proper talk with her.”

“Oh, don’t mollycoddle him,” says Quinn, sharply. “He knows very well what he’s doing. And what he’s not doing.”

“Don’t tell me what to do,” says Artie, his teeth gritted. “I don’t want to listen.”

“You never do anyway. But I’m not here to argue with you, Artie. I just want to –”

“I don’t want to argue too,” says Artie. “Now go.”

He looks straight at Tina instead. “Tell her to go.”

“I think –” But Tina is interrupted once again by Quinn, who glares at Artie and continues, “Don’t keep pushing people away, Artie. Just because you’ve lost your family doesn’t mean you have to lose other people too!”

Artie’s eyes are suddenly blazing with rage. “GET OUT!”

Even though Artie has gotten angry on occasion, Tina has never really heard him yell so loud before. Afraid that Sue may come by, Tina opens the door and looks sternly at Quinn.

“Please,” says Tina, her voice trembling, “please leave. I’ll meet you in the next door room if you like, but I’d rather you not disturb him like this.”

“You’re new,” says Quinn, coldly. “The way to handling him is not –”

“I think I can pick up tips from you later,” Tina cuts in, her face now burning. “Now if you please.”

Quinn leaves a lingering glare at Artie, then storms out. Tina stares back at Artie, who is shaking. She steps towards him, but receives a furious look and retreats.

Tina leaves the room and finds Quinn seated next door, idly toying with a few colored blocks on the table. When Quinn sees her, she smirks.

“Don’t try so hard, young lady. People like him are only attention-seeking. He can help himself if he wants to, not because you make him.”

“I’m not going to make him,” says Tina, highly annoyed now. “I’m going to encourage him to want to help himself.”

Quinn rolls her eyes. “All this step-by-step progress thing? It’s been a couple of years since you all have been trying. Has it worked? No!”

“He’s not going to respond well if you do things the hard way,” says Tina, curtly. She shouldn’t be so rude, but this woman really grates her nerves. Who does she think she is? Just because she knows Artie well doesn’t give her the right to –

Something clicks in Tina.

“...yeah,” Quinn is talking, “Whatever it is, you shouldn’t be letting him have his way every single time ‘cos he’s just going to abuse it!”

“When... did Artie get sent to the orphanage?” Tina asks, more quietly now.

Quinn rolls her eyes again and turns her attention to the blocks on the table.

“When he was eight,” she says. “He was still in shock after the car crash and didn’t talk for a whole year.”

Tina blinks. “Was he, you know, reclusive or something?”

Quinn pokes one of the colored blocks. “It wasn’t even that. He just didn’t respond to anything. We tried to give him books, TV shows, games... all kinds of people tried to talk to him. Nothing worked. He just sat in his wheelchair.”

“What made him finally respond?”

“Can’t you guess?” Quinn smirks, but it’s not cruel. “We slotted in West Side Story one night and the whole orphanage was brought to the hall to watch it.” She stacks a red block above a blue one. “He just kept staring at the screen even when it was done and everybody was heading back to their beds.”

Quinn pauses, then she looks at Tina. “He spoke after that. But all he spoke were angry words. He would punch his legs and scream about being a useless cripple. He would roll himself into the wall repeatedly. He pushed people away and the only thing that could calm him down was if somebody played West Side Story for him. We had to give in to his obsession back then, but you know something?”

Quinn stands up and her gaze turns piercing. “You don’t have to give in anymore. He shouldn’t be stealing a yard every time we offer an inch. He’s grown up now and we should stop treating him like a damned retard!”

Tina stares at Quinn in surprise. Then she says slowly, “I don’t get it. Artie was at the orphanage for over ten years. You... you don’t look much older than either of us. You weren’t working there when he was eight, were you? How did you –” She pauses as Quinn’s eyes flash. “You were once part of the orphanage too?”

Quinn purses up her lips.

“Sorry,” says Tina, humbly. “I didn’t mean to overstep.”

She hesitates, then looks thoughtfully at Quinn. “And you know what? You’re right. We shouldn’t be treating him like a retard. But I’m not treating him like one. I think he has great potential and it can be developed through harnessing that passion for musicals. It’s just that we need to get him to embrace diversity. That would be progress. We can’t just switch off the TV and force it the hard way, that won’t work for him.”

“All you psychologists,” says Quinn, sneeringly. “Think you all know best because he’s medically certified to have autism. That young man there isn’t abnormal at all. He’s just broken.”

Tina lets the last word sink in.

“I’ve seen enough,” says Quinn. “I wish you luck with him.”

Tina walks her to the entrance of the center. Before Quinn steps out, Tina blurts,

“Then why did you come? If you thought we are all useless at dealing with him. He’s so angry when he sees you. What did you hope to accomplish?”

Quinn doesn’t speak for a while.

Then finally, she grips the gate and says, “I just hoped there would be a miracle, maybe. I saw something in him when I was there. Underneath that angry exterior is somebody good and kind. He cares. When they pronounced him with autism, I wanted to laugh. It was ridiculous. I thought people with autism didn’t give a damn about anything, they were in their own world, they were ill. Artie wasn’t anything like that, he was just angry and hurt that his loved ones had left him behind so he put his all into embracing music. It was like his cover.”

Before Tina can say a word, Quinn continues, “He was just like me. My parents had left me behind; they didn’t want me anymore. I was angry and I hated the world. But I broke out of the shell and I know that he can too.”

When Quinn chooses to use the appropriate term 'with autism', instead of purely labelling Artie as 'autistic', Tina knows that she cares.

“It’s not so simple,” says Tina, quietly. “I know it’s not an illness, but technically, it’s a lot harder for him to express himself and –”

“I know,” says Quinn. “But honestly? He’s not that different after all.”

With that, she leaves Tina at the gate, staring after her in wonder.

Quinn’s visit leaves Artie moody for the next couple of days. He doesn’t watch West Side Story at all and although he never really mentions Rachel anymore, he remains unresponsive. He stares into space, even though Tina is fairly sure he has heard every word she says and every note she sings. She tries to take out the umbrella again in hope that it might even elicit a snarky response of sorts, but he just fiddles with the tape cover in his hand.

“Artie,” she says, feeling horribly embarrassed about the note of desperation in her voice. “I know you don’t like to be reminded about the past, so you’ve got to focus on the present instead. Look at me.”

But he doesn’t. The clock strikes five-thirty and he wheels off.

Back in the office, Santana is waxing lyrical about how she’s getting Brittany interested in newspapers, which doesn’t help matters.

One night, as she is aggressively attacking a tub of ice cream in bed, Tina gets a call from her long-time best friend Mercedes, who tells her that both she and Kurt have gotten tickets for them all to a musical production by the Lima Young Theatre House the next night.

“Aw, that’s amazing!” Tina beams as she clutches the phone. “Thank you guys! Just what I needed.”

“We’ve gotten a fourth ticket as well,” says Mercedes, and Tina can almost hear her grinning at the other end. “Bring that hot dude you went on a dinner date with.”

“What –” Tina splutters. “It was just a friendly date! With a colleague!”

“Whatever, girl, you don’t want the other ticket to go to waste, do you?”

Tina relents and texts Mike, and feels a tinge of disappointment when he replies that he has a family event to attend. But he is appropriately apologetic, and she shrugs off the feeling.

The next thing that comes to her mind is, it’s a musical. And who appreciates musicals best?

“That’s a stupid idea,” says Santana, the next morning. “We all know what outdoor activities does to him. Stubbles is going to pelt the stage with the acid from his tongue and the whole place will spontaneously combust.”

“Stubbles?” Tina stares at her.

“Short for –” Santana pauses. “Never mind. Bottom line is, Abrams doesn’t pull off ‘appreciative musical connoisseur’ anymore than he can pull off those grandpa shirts and sweaters on him.”

“The themes of that musical are similar to West Side Story,” argues Tina. “I think he would really enjoy it. The Young Theatre House has put up pretty solid performances before.”

“I think it’s worth a try,” says Blaine, coming by with a mug of hot coffee.

“Sue will never agree to it!” retorts Santana. “And unless that rickety chair of his turns out to be a stealthy Transformer who can actually transform him into Cinderfella, you’re gonna dream on.”

To Tina’s surprise, Sue is pretty okay with the idea. Despite his previous record, she admits that Artie hasn’t been out for a long while, and at least it’s to watch something he would most likely enjoy. Furthermore, Tina’s report suggests that Artie can handle himself (although she never added in the bit on Artie shoving her to the ground, and she feels a little guilty when Sue thinks everything looks fairly positive).

Along with peppering her agreement with off-hand remarks about Tina’s clothes (“they look like they belong to a geometrically-uninclined and color-blind doll”) and her appreciation for local musicals (“that theatre house should have been burnt down thirty years ago, when it committed the blasphemous act of supporting a creative actor to be a boring head of the whole damn world”), Sue insists that somebody else go along (a male, preferably) just in case there are physical issues involved (like the wheelchair).

The only person Tina can think of that could help and enjoy the show is Blaine, so he chirpily agrees to get a ticket and to pick her up at six in his family’s SUV. He’s all dapper in a long-sleeved shirt, waistcoat, bowtie and tailored pants, but he beats Tina to the style compliments by being most appreciative about her little black dress. He drives them to the LAC and helps Artie and his wheelchair into the backseat and boot respectively.

Artie is appropriately excited; his eyes have been wide ever since Tina invited him, and he’s talking nineteen to the dozen about going to a staged musical. Considering that he hasn’t been watching West Side Story for almost a week, Tina thinks this is a huge achievement.

“It’s right before your eyes!” Artie had exclaimed. “The quality’s not grainy and I can see from the central perspective. That’s perfect!”

Tina could only thank her lucky stars that their seats were fairly central.

“Is it okay that it’s not – you know – West Side Story?” Blaine asks softly, as he pulls into the theatre parking lot.

Tina gives a quick glance to the backseat. Artie’s wearing Blaine’s old suit; not quite as dapper, but smart all the same. He shoots her a look that conveys anticipation, making her smile.

“He seemed okay about it,” Tina whispers, as she turns to the front. “I asked him a lot of scenario questions earlier and he was very level-headed about it.”

Is he really that rigid after all? Does he really use music as a cover, like what Quinn said? Who is he...?

“That’s... wow, okay, that’s great,” says Blaine. “But just keep a lookout.”

Tina stares at him in surprise, because he has been so encouraging about this trip so far. But Blaine is already out of the car and getting Artie’s wheelchair out.

Mercedes and Kurt are waiting at the theatre entrance for them. Both have been very skeptical about bringing Artie, but when Tina assures them that she and Blaine have it all under control, they relent. Kurt in particular looks like all his doubts have dissipated when his gaze lands on Blaine. Tina and Mercedes exchange knowing grins as Kurt babbles his name when shaking hands with Blaine, whose impeccable manners are on full display.

Artie, on the other hand, is now impatient.

“It’s starting soon,” he says, crossly. “Let’s go.”

Artie gets a special seat where he can park his wheelchair at. He clutches at his armrests as people stream behind him.

“Why are there so many people?” he grumbles. “It’s too loud!”

“It’s okay, Artie,” says Tina, patiently. Even though she’s not feeling very patient because she has already schooled Artie about etiquette. She hopes the etiquette clicks on the moment the curtain draws open.

“I think he’s pretty loud too,” says Kurt, two seats away. But Artie can also hear him, and he scowls.

“People with autism are very sensitive to sound,” explains Blaine, who is seated in between Kurt and Tina. “Don’t take it to heart.”

Kurt doesn’t get to respond, because the emcee immediately kicks off the show. When the lights dim, curtains rise and applause dies down, Tina is not looking at the stage but at Artie. He is on full intense focus mode.

She bites back a smile.

The lead actor walks out and does a monologue. As he speaks, a girl twirls out and begins to sing softly. Her voice is pleasant and lilting, but it doesn’t really seem like she is in love with the man, when the story clearly means for her to be right from the start.

As Tina thinks this, Artie voices it.

“That’s all wrong,” he says. “There’s no feeling.”

The problem is that Artie voices it in his normal voice, which is fairly loud in a setting where the only sounds are coming from two people on stage. He immediately gets shushed by a couple of people in front of him. Tina immediately puts her hand on him and frowns. He looks at her and shoots her back a similar look.

“Hold the note longer!” Artie continues to say.

Another round of shushing, along with a death-glare from an old man.

Tina shoots a desperate look at Blaine, who taps his lips with a finger. She looks back at Artie and whispers, “Artie, you need to lower your voice. It’s not appropriate.”

Artie glares at her sullenly, then folds his arms. He doesn’t speak again – the rest of the first act goes smoothly – until the end when the actress becomes a little too melodramatic, and Artie fiercely proclaims,

“Feel it! That’s not real, you need to feel it!”

“Artie!” gasps Tina, as a dozen heads turn. An usher is approaching them, but she holds her hand out to stop him in his tracks.

“Take him out!” says the woman in front of them, angrily. “He’s spoiling the show!”

“But –” Tina begins, but Blaine whispers, “You need to talk to him, Tina.”

“I don’t want to leave!” Artie tells Tina, annoyed.

“Oh my God.” Tina can hear Kurt whisper.

“Artie, let’s just go out for a while...”

“It’s not intermission!”

A man suddenly stands up and before Tina can react, he rounds the aisle and grabs hold of Artie’s wheelchair, unlocks it and starts pushing him away.

“Let go!” Artie struggles to twist and shove the man off, but Tina is there first. She snatches the handles of Artie’s wheelchair, glares at the angry man who is now spewing profanities at them, and wheels Artie out.

“Let go!” yells Artie, as she pushes him out to the lobby area. The front-of-house staff stare at him, but Tina waves them away and kneels before Artie, ready to chide him appropriately. She knows she looks angry, but she can’t help it because she is. It’s supposed to be a good night where he can learn more about another musical and that he can breathe some fresh air, but no, he has to get all critical and she knew it was coming, so why did she even think of bringing him out –

“Tina!” Blaine calls out before Tina can say anything to Artie, who in a fit of anger, shoves her backwards.

She hisses as her back hits the ground. The bruise on her tailbone has just recovered, and now she’s feeling that sharp pain again.

Blaine rushes to her, then looks back at Artie. Kind, gentle Blaine looks extremely angry now.

“Artie,” he says, in a low, icy voice. “Hands to yourself!”

Artie blinks, then scowls as he folds his arms. “Why did you all push me out? It’s very rude.”

“Oh, so you know it’s rude to come out during a play, but not rude to watch one?” Tina almost shouts as she blinks back her hot tears while Blaine helps her sit up.

“I’m giving them feedback!” Artie retorts. “Theater is a two-way thing, isn’t it? They feed off the audience’s reactions. I’m reacting honestly to what I think is wrong. What’s wrong with that?”

The problem is that his logic was faulty only because of the social context, and that irks Tina more than anything. But before she can retort, it’s Blaine who speaks first.

“Artie, you’re being unreasonable, and you know it. You know that was inappropriate behavior.” Tina stares at Blaine in surprise, but Blaine continues coldly, “You abused your right to be here and you have disappointed both Tina and I. We’re sending you back.”

“I want to watch the second half!” Artie glares at him, but Blaine gets up, puts one arm against Artie’s chest to prevent him from falling off and starts pushing him away.

“Blaine...” Tina protests.

“Tina, stop it,” says Blaine. “It’s your first month working at the center, I can give you that much. But we are here to help them develop, not to indulge them. We gave him a privilege and he’s abusing it.”

With that, he wheels Artie away despite the latter struggling and yelling fruitlessly. Tina watches on in perplexity, while Kurt and Mercedes are running over; it’s intermission, the people are starting to stream out, and they’re here to get Tina out of the way. In fact, they all decide that it’s best that they abandon the show and make sure Artie gets back to the center while Tina gets back home safely. Not to mention the fact that everybody has crowded around in over-dramatic whispers about the commotion.

“That was stupid.” Kurt, of course, has to rub it in, once they are bundled up in his car. “You knew that he’s hyper-critical and hyper-sensitive, but no, you had to decide it was a great idea to –”

“Kurt,” says Mercedes, warningly. “Drive and shut up.”

“Drive to the center please,” says Tina, in a small voice. “I need to make sure he’s back there safely.”

“Blaine is with him!” Kurt retorts, exasperatedly, but eventually, he gives in and drives to the center. Unfortunately for Tina, Kurt is right about everything that she does being a bad idea, for Sue is standing outside the office, looking black as thunder.

The torrent of spicy, cutting words hits Tina in the face as she clambers out of Kurt’s car. She apologizes repeatedly as Sue yells about how irritating it is to be interrupted from her nighttime virtual WWF routine by an irate theater director who claims that the behavior of her staff and center participant had ruined their opening night. She barks about irresponsibility and lies by omission (Tina’s report, of course) and various other things that make Kurt and Mercedes’ jaws drop with the sheer amount of offensiveness.

But Tina isn’t really concentrating on Sue. She makes a meek request to make sure Artie’s in bed, and Sue throws her hands up. Tina takes it as her cue to press on; she makes her way to the dormitories, and the security guard shows her the way to Artie’s room.

Blaine is there, helping Artie out of the wheelchair and into bed. Tina feels tears welling up in her eyes as she steps inside. Artie sees her and immediately scrambles for his blanket. Blaine looks at her sympathetically.

“He’s tired,” says Blaine, quietly. “But better. I guess there won’t be any outdoor activities for him anytime soon though.”

“May I?” She cocks her head to the side.

“Of course.”

Blaine steps outside, while Tina goes to Artie’s bedside. He’s huddled under the covers, and she peels it away gently.

“Go away,” he mutters, squeezing his eyes shut.

“I just wanted to say goodnight.”

“But you’re disappointed in me,” he says, though it’s less angry – more resigned.

“Yes,” says Tina.

“Thank you for bringing me.”

Tina stares at him in incredulity, though she knows better than to throw ‘Thank you?’ with a full dose of sarcasm back to him, since it’ll simply get lost on him. “Why are you saying that now?”

“Because I forgot to thank you for bringing me to the show.”

“Okay,” says Tina, even though she is struggling to keep calm. “You’re welcome. But that’s not why I’m disappointed in you and you know it.”

Artie opens his eyes, and with the dull beam of moonlight threading through the door, the brilliant orbs of blue are captivating. “I didn’t like the show.”

“You wanted to keep watching it.”

“Because you wanted me to.”

Tina stares at him in surprise. Then it gives way to unhappiness. “That’s not going to make me feel better. If you really wanted to do what I wanted, you wouldn’t have been so rude. Now I’m very disappointed in you.”

"I'm sorry for pushing you too. Two times."

The fact that he kept count makes her even more irrationally displeased despite his apology.

She gets up and tucks him under the covers properly, ending with a clipped, “Goodnight, Artie.”

He doesn’t say anything until she is about to close the door. Later that night, she replays his very soft ‘Goodnight, Tina’ in her head until she’s fairly sure it was all a dream when she wakes up the next morning.

Tina has to endure another torrent of Sue’s Snarky Speeches and Santana’s ‘I-told-you-so’ smirk throughout the next morning, so she’s thankful that Blaine doesn’t bring up last night’s debacle during lunch. She monitors Sugar’s progress on her upcoming bag line and tries to coach another individual to be more relaxed in the event of a routine break. It’s all good for the day.

Until she approaches Room No. 3. She can feel the knot in her tightening as she knocks on the door.

Artie has learnt to respond to her knocks by switching off the T.V. and wheeling himself to the table. A week ago, he was still demanding that Rachel had to come back, but today he just folds his hands on his laps and stares at Tina. If it was any other person, Tina would have been able to pretend like nothing had happened. But as Artie’s therapist, there is no way she can let yesterday’s behavior pass. The strangest thing is that it seems like Artie had known what he was doing was wrong, yet he had thrown a tantrum anyway.

She frowns as she approaches the table.

“Are you still angry with me?” asks Artie, quietly.

Again, that urge to throw a sarcastic ‘What do you think?’.

“Yes,” says Tina, although she sounds anything but.

He lowers his head. “I was just giving feedback. It’s even worse in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, they throw things at people.”

Tina stares curiously at him. “You know The Rocky Horror Picture Show?”

“Rachel made me watch a video of how it’s staged.”

Now Tina’s eyebrow is quirked, her anger all forgotten. “And you watched it? I thought you don’t like to watch anything else on T.V. other than West Side Story.”

“I don’t. I yelled at her.”

But you still watched it. Tina’s mind suddenly churns with all kinds of possibilities, including The Making Of Singin’ In The Rain, if there was even such a video.

“There are some musicals where it’s appropriate to give feedback, but there are some like yesterday’s, where you can’t,” says Tina. “And I told you about etiquette.”

“I know,” says Artie, his head still hanging low. “But I didn’t remember anything when I was watching.”

“Also, this is their first time putting up this musical. They’re not extremely professional, it’s okay if they make mistakes.”

“But it’s the foundation of acting,” argues Artie. “You need to feel what you’re saying.”

“Not everybody’s great at that. If you think it’s so easy, show me what ‘sad’ looks like.”

He stared at her blankly.

Tina makes a ‘sad’ face at him, and he attempts to mimic her, but ends up with a horribly lopsided expression. Tina holds back her giggles watching him attempt to contort his face.

“Now you know it’s hard?” Tina tries to maintain a straight face.

“But I’m not an actor!”

“Yes, you’re like a director. But you have to know that your actors are human and can be tired, or upset, or just not really that great at their skill. It takes time, and you need to understand that not every musical will be perfect.”

“None of them are,” says Artie, with a frown.

“Exactly. So you need to have reasonable expectations. In this room, you can be critical all you want in front of a television screen, nobody will hear you but me. But in front of those actors? You need to think about how they feel.”

“That’s just troublesome,” mutters Artie, but Tina can tell that he’s understanding because he isn’t making eye contact with her.

She spends the next few days working with him on how to give appropriate feedback to people and a more comprehensive understanding of etiquette at events such as theater shows. There are days when he just gets frustrated by all the words and images she presents to him, and spends half the time sulking in front of the T.V. Once, he lost his temper again and she had to fight hard not to cry. The worst was when he mentioned Rachel again, and she really, nearly lost it.

“You’re always making me think about what other people would think!” Artie had yelled. “Rachel told me to think for myself, to be myself! All of you are confusing me!”

Just because you have a socially awkward condition doesn’t give you the right to be a spoilt brat!

She wishes she can just say that out loud. She’s even fairly sure it might shut him up. But she doesn’t need a black mark on her report should Sue Sylvester choose that opportune moment to walk by, so she tries hard to remain patient.

It just isn’t easy.

Eventually, the mysterious Rachel proves too much for Tina, who decides to pay a visit. Santana has her contact, and it turns out that Rachel is now a performer with her husband at a Cleveland theater, performing sell-out shows.

Not surprising.

When Tina pulls up at Rachel’s house on a Saturday afternoon, she is appropriately tired from the drive and regrets not bringing somebody along with her to perk her up. Now she’s going to look haggard and pathetic in front of the all-brilliant Rachel.

She presses the doorbell, only to be greeted with a startlingly cheerful voice,

“Welcome to the humble abode of the talented Broadway-to-be couple Rachel Berry and Jesse St. James! Should you like to be flattered with our company, please ring the bell one more time. If you are here to present your earnest feedback about our latest show, please...”

Tina pressed the bell again, clearly getting the snark behind that last sentence.

The door opens to reveal a girl with a red headband – are those knee-high socks in flats? – all posed and poised.

“Can I help you?” The girl flashes a wide smile. “Are you here to offer me another lead role? Also, if you want to offer my husband one, I’ll gladly work out the terms and conditions with you during his absence, we always –”

“Uhh, hi!” Tina rubs her hand together. “I’m Tina... I’m from the Lima Autism Center.”

Rachel’s wide beam dissipates almost immediately. “Oh! Is... is everything okay?”

“Yeah!” Tina smiles faintly. “Or at least, mostly. I’m the behavioral therapist who took over your mentee Artie Abrams.”

Rachel breaks into a fond smile. “Oh, Artie. Hmm.” Then she narrows her eyes. “Do you have a certification of sorts? I just need to be sure.”

Tina is thankful that she has her working pass in her bag, so when Rachel identifies it, she flashes a more brilliant smile. “Oh, how rude of me to keep you standing out there, please come in!”

She unlocks the gate and ushers Tina into the hall, serving her with appropriate amounts of tea and biscuits, then sitting most poised before her. “I suppose Santana showed you the way here?”

“If tossing me a piece of paper with a hyperlink to the address instead of the address itself counts as help, then yes.”

Rachel huffs. “Never could really stand working with her.”

“She’s okay after a while,” says Tina, slightly amused by Rachel’s irritated expression. She can already envision all the insults Santana would be throwing the way of Rachel’s upturned nose. “So... you have been working as a theater performer all this while?”

“Yes, and I love it,” says Rachel, brightly. “I mean, I belong on the Broadway stage, but you know, it’s pretty easy when you’re young to talk about dreams, but not so easy when you uh, actually have to work on it.”

She says the last bit a little despondently, but two seconds later, she perks up and asks, “So what is it about Artie?”

“Well...” Tina tucks her hair behind her ear. “He’s been asking for you ever since you left.”

Rachel brings a hand up to her cheek and her eyes are wide. “Really? He misses me that much?”

“It’s a little unhealthy, to be honest.”

Rachel looks indignant, but Tina hastens to add, “It’s hindering his progress because I’m supposed to help him now, and he keeps saying how ‘Rachel wouldn’t have done this’, ‘Rachel said that’... and it’s quite problematic because I think he has so much potential but he’s just not listening.”

When Rachel doesn’t respond, Tina decides to try the ‘bomb’ method. “Did you... did you find him difficult or something? That’s why you left?”

“Oh no! Definitely not. I just found my calling elsewhere, that’s all.”

Rachel folds her hands primly on her lap and shifts about uneasily. Tina raises an eyebrow, but waits patiently anyway.

Finally, Rachel says, “You know, the reason why I’m surprised he misses me is because he never seemed to be very close to me when I was his therapist. We did bond over musical theater, but most of our sessions were really bitching about the actors on West Side Story. I always did think I would have made a better Maria, but it seems a little disrespectful to Natalie Wood if I really articulated it.”

Tina blinks. “Wait, what?”

Rachel shrugs. “He hardly ever called me by my name when I was there. I didn’t really know how to help him because I thought his interest was fairly healthy, just a tad too obsessive, and Sue thought I wasn’t doing my job. So I figured I had greener pastures elsewhere and I can only be thankful to Sue for helping me unearth that.”

“Tad too obsessive?” Tina chuckles bitterly. “Artie would be such a great director if only he would be more open to other things... speaking of which,” she looks curiously at Rachel, “he mentioned you showed him The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He never likes to watch anything else.”

“If it’s from a different angle, something that’s not so produced like a film, he’ll be interested,” says Rachel. “He likes things from different perspectives.”

That would explain why he had been interested in watching a staged musical live. “So it’s that specific? He can only watch one type of film, but anything to do with musicals that are not films, he’d go for it?”

“Something like that,” says Rachel. “I hadn’t really tested out everything. But yeah, he tends to be quite specific.”

“Does he have any other interests?”

Rachel purses up her lips. “He really only spent his time watching musicals. If he wasn’t, he would just be singing in a corner. Blaine tried giving him a guitar once and he was actually interested for a while... he actually learnt the chords and all. But later on, he got bored and complained that it hurt his fingers. So it’s either more television after therapy or he just hides in his room. Nobody knows what really goes on in his room.”

Tina has no idea either. The last time she was in it, it had been dark and she was more concerned about the person in the bed than anything else.

“To be honest, I can’t really help you because I really didn’t connect with Artie the way I did with...” Rachel trails off, her eyes locked on something in the distance.

Who? Tina wonders, but immediately, her next question is: But then why would Artie keep calling for her then?

She doesn’t realize that she voiced that second question out loud until Rachel replies, “I think... that there is a possibility that Artie is using me as an excuse. He really likes his comfort zone and hates to be told otherwise. Like it confuses him; he’s always been very straight-talking – knows what he wants, and wants to get it.”

Tina, who has just picked up her tea, freezes for a moment. Artie’s suspicious glance at her when she had first met him. His insistent calls for Rachel had also been when she wanted him to do a new activity or answer a new question. Finally, Blaine’s words about Artie knowing full well what wrong he had done at the theater.

Artie Abrams. What are you up to?

Rachel looks at her intently. “You really care for him, don’t you? That you drove all the way here just to find out more about him.”

Tina smiles. “I really think he can be a very capable young man. I just want to help him, that’s all.”

Rachel still has a funny look on her face as she says slowly, “Just. Be careful though. I know what it’s like to want something so badly for a mentee and try to do my best for him, but in the end, sometimes they can’t achieve it and we feel like we’re so responsible. And then we try to pay even more attention to them and...” She trails off once again, face twisted in discomfort.

“I think your message is not to get too attached to them?” Tina arches an eyebrow. “Don’t worry, I know.”

Rachel mutters something under her breath, then smiles. “Okay then. Good for you. Would you like some more tea?”

“No, I’m good,” says Tina. “And Rachel? Thanks so much for your help.”

When Tina is driving back home, she can’t help feeling a little more buoyant to know that there can be a way to deal with Artie. She needs to make him feel comfortable and secure about changes and different opinions, so that he won’t keep using Rachel and old times as a defense for not trying. The more she thinks about it, the happier she gets. She realizes she’s singing the chorus of “America” and almost laughs out loud. But when she’s back on the roads of Lima, she knows that her parents will ask her at dinner if it was worth sacrificing a day of her weekend making the trip to Cleveland for this boy. They had been skeptical about her taking on such a tough and thankless job, although they did not make a huge fuss about it.

A week ago, she had been telling them happily that Artie was responding better to her lesson plans and was rambling non-stop about the pros and cons of bringing him to the local theater. When she had come home dejected that night of Artie’s failed etiquette, her mother had thankfully not said anything along the lines of ‘I told you so’. Instead, she had said,

“When you signed up for this, you knew that not everything would go smoothly. So you have to hang in there. But if it becomes too much for you to take, you have to know when to let go.”

Tina had protested immediately, but then her mother continued, “You’re a sensible girl, Tina. We trust you.”

The word ‘sensible’ replays in her mind, along with Rachel’s words and then Mike’s. And then Blaine’s sharp words about not indulging Artie at the play. She starts to wonder if she’s really caring a bit too much.

Then she decides that it’s just one day and it’s really for the better, and now she’s singing “Tonight” like a cheerful lark and briefly wonders if Artie will like this re-interpretation.

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