Singin' In The Rain

Chapter 5

Artie is very attentive during Tina’s sessions with him ever since their little sing-and-dance routine in the rain (and that very awkward compromising position which Tina is really not going to think about...), and Tina is very heartened by his progress. His eyebrows are furrowed deep as he listens to her go through appropriate conversation starters and fillers, then repeats after her and even attempts to modify them.

“Artie?” Tina finally asks one day, as she is filling in her report.

He looks up from the Singin’ In The Rain DVD on his lap. “Yes?”

“I think you’re doing really, really well.”

He dips his head slightly. “Okay. Thank you.”

“You took many years when you could have just taken a few,” says Tina, slowly.

“What do you mean?” Artie frowns.

Tina hesitates, then she puts down her pen. “Why didn’t you try hard last time? Rachel told me you didn’t really respond to her much. You hardly even called her name – but when I came, you kept asking for her.”

Artie twists his lips and looks away. Then he wheels himself towards the T.V. Tina follows him.

“Don’t move away from me,” she says gently. “Talk to me.”

“I did try,” he argues. “I tried.”

“But not as much as now,” says Tina. Then she decides to change direction. “Are you happy now, Artie?”

Artie looks up at her. Then he picks up the remote.

Tina takes it from him.

“Hey,” he protests, but it doesn’t come out quite as petulant.

“Are you happy, Artie?”

He remains silent for quite a while, but Tina patiently waits till he finally replies,

“Yes.”

“What makes you happy?”

Artie shifts his torso slightly. Tina knows he hates answering many questions, but she has to know.

“I can do something,” he says, at last. “I can’t walk, but I can use my hands and my mouth and my eyes and my ears.”

Tina wants to point out that many people have been trying to tell him that ever since his accident, but he continues,

“I can be a director. I can be a singer.” Then he looks straight at Tina. “I can be a dancer too.”

Tina opens her mouth, but nothing comes out.

“Rachel sings with me. She talks to me about West Side Story. But she knows more and she sings better. I feel like everybody thinks they know it better even though I have watched it so many more times. Quinn thinks I should stop being sad, but I can’t be happy when she’s angry with me and there’s nothing for me to do to make myself happy.”

She swallows instead, but the lump in her throat still remains.

Artie looks down at his fingers. “Only you made me feel like I am really good at what I can do. I can also do things in different ways and still be good at it. I feel...”

He takes a while to find the word, and even when he does find it, he doesn’t sound very convinced that it’s the right one. “...alive?”

The hills are alive... with the sound of my sniffling.

Stop it, Tina!

Tina blinks back the wet stickiness in her eyes. “Artie, you are an amazing, wonderful young man.” This sounds familiar. “You don’t need people to tell you how good you are, you know it yourself. Believe in yourself.”

Artie doesn’t have Sugar’s confidence to agree wholeheartedly, but when he immerses himself in an analysis of a new musical, The Wizard Of Oz, Tina knows that he is beginning to truly believe in himself.

At the end of the day, Tina follows Santana to the front porch where the parents are gathered to pick their children up. One of them has a strange habit of checking her daughter from head to toe as if to make sure no strand or fabric thread is out of place. Another asks a checklist of questions ranging from “What did you eat for lunch?” to “How many times did you go to the gents today?” – Tina’s not sure whether it’s because the son needs it as part of his routine before he can get into the car, or it’s the father who needs it as part of his own routine.

There’s a particular woman who irks Tina a lot because of the way she helps put on her son’s jacket, ties his shoelaces, smoothens down his shirt, takes his bag from him – and the son is taller than her, reads eloquently in Will’s therapy classes (though he’s dyslexic and stutters a little in conversation), plays a good game of football under Mike’s guidance, and is well over thirty years old.

It makes her wonder what Artie’s parents would have done for him had they still been alive.

“That’s just not right,” says Tina, fuming. “Sam can do all of those things by himself, and more!”

“I guess it’s hard to think your son’s all grown up when he still introduces himself to people, ‘Hi, I’m Sam, I like green eggs and ham... Sam, I am!’,” says Santana, nonchalantly.

“Really? So their children will always be that dependent for the rest of their lives? If a college football recruiter were to come and watch Sam play, he’ll be glued to the boy’s game!”

“Tina?” Santana arches an eyebrow. “Sam’s way too old for college. Also, your I-want-to-do-something-about-it tone is not going to get you anywhere.”

“And your I’m-gonna-crush-your-hopes-and-dreams tone is extremely encouraging.”

“Hah. Sue can give you a triple dosage of it. Nourishing.”

“What if I say, we do it the right way?”

Santana narrows her eyes. “There’s only one way in Lima Autism Center. The Sue Sylvester Way.”

“A workshop,” says Tina, firmly.

“No shit. Those things knock me out like a baby.” Santana waves her hands. “No way...”

“Listen! A workshop teaching parents how to handle the maturity of their kids. You know it takes two hands to clap and for every ounce of effort we put in to make these young adults believe in their own abilities, it needs to be reinforced with the same amount or even more at home. We don’t say what they’re doing is wrong, but what they can do better.” Tina folds her arms. “How’s that sound?”

“Oh.” Santana looks away. Then she looks back at Tina and frowns. “That... actually sounds great.”

And so Tina brings it up to Sue and Emma the next day. Both of them make approving noises and assign her to take charge of the project. Blaine chips in enthusiasm and ideas, while Santana offers her daily dose of sarcasm. It gets on Tina’s nerves at first, but when Santana eventually dumps a stack of prototyped invitation letters with various beautiful designs for the parents on her desk, Tina can’t help smiling.


Tina has just finished her reports and is about to drop off the bunch of finalized invitation letters at the reception when the receptionist directs her to Sue’s office instead. Feeling slightly paranoid, she tells the receptionist to hold off posting the letters till she’s done meeting with Sue.

“I’ve already fully liaised with the panel of experts,” says Tina, the moment she sits down before Sue. “They are truly supportive of this and have promised to even do follow-up liaison with any parent who wishes to know more. I think that –”

“Hold your high horse, lady,” says Sue. “Are you ready to receive your imperial edict or are you going to babble your butt off in front of the empress?”

Tina raises a skeptical eyebrow.

“Well, that’s the appropriate first response when sitting in that chair,” says Sue, simply. Then she clasps her hands together as she looks straight at Tina. “I called you here, Tina –”

Tina stiffens.

She just called me by my first name.

Oh. My. God.

“ –to congratulate you on a job well done on your first few months here.”

Huh?

“As much as it’s really against my conscience to feel good about anything to do with an wheelchair-bound boy with autism, the fact that he is showing significant improvements in his attitude and behavior can really be credited to your hard work.” Sue nods. “Emma was telling me about how he has been focusing on other musicals and has been diligently filtering his Simon Cowell stings into Paula Abdul honey.”

“He’s no Paula Abdul,” says Tina, laughing. “But writing his comments down does take it a notch down, yes.”

“I’ve also been informed by Holly that Levington & Kewell’s Designs have made a formal request to feature Sugar’s works in a local fashion show next month. And it’s interesting to note that there had been a specific note that this show would comprise both non-autistic and autistic designers, although Sugar’s designs are the only one they’re accepting at the moment.”

Tina has trouble trying to hide her grin; not only because of the design company’s recognition of Sugar’s designs, but also the design company’s name always made her think of how Kurt swore that one day it would be Levington & Hummel’s (because Kewell was a huge-ass diva)... and eventually just Hummel’s, of course.

“With this workshop idea, I can tell that you are not just a dedicated worker, but also someone who truly cares for these young men and women,” says Sue, and her gentle voice is jarring but not entirely unpleasant. “So, I am suggesting that you expand your scope a bit and move on to another mentee.”

Tina stares at Sue.

“Arthur Abrams –”

“Artie,” corrects Tina, automatically.

“Well,” Sue frowns, “Artie Abrams will now be focusing on his duties as director of the musical that Anderson and his team are working on, so I think there’s not much that you can work on for now. Whereas I think that someone like Jacob Ben Israel needs –”

“But Miss Sylvester,” says Tina. “I feel that there’s a lot more that I can do with Artie. He still lacks... it’s the details. Really, if I just have time to tease out...”

Sue flips through a few files, then she takes the whole stack and slams it down in front of Tina, startling her. “Miss Collie-Chang...”

“Cohen-Chang,” says Tina, immediately.

“...you are a behavioral therapist who has the potential to bring these young adults to a greater level, I’m sure you understand where I’m coming from when I ask you to look into the needs of the others.”

Tina feels the heat of embarrassment rise in her. “I’m sorry, Miss Sylvester, I didn’t mean to –”

“Many of them don’t have much time left before the society deems that their biological clock has run out of time and they are no longer productive people. Artie already has a lot on his hands that will validate him in society, that will ease his way through in the real world, where his autism, physical disability and lack of a family would have gotten him no headway.”

It’s arguably the most sensible speech Sue Sylvester has made, but also somehow the most offensive to Tina. She knows that Sue is right, but she can’t help feeling upset that just because Artie has been given something to do, it’s assumed that he is going to make it in the cruel world out there. What happened to moderating changes in their lives for the sake of their development? Artie has been progressing very while because of the consistent environment he’s been given – if things change, wouldn’t it make him regress?

As if to read her mind, Sue continues, “To make sure the changes aren’t too drastic, you will take one hour out of your session with Artie to work with Jacob for the next two weeks. Jacob has become increasingly handsy of late – he’s very sensitive to touch and keeps wanting to hold onto something, which is a regression in the independence unit. Work some of that Asian magic and prove to me you can handle diversity.”

Tina knows there’s no use arguing with Sue when she can’t seem to find the right words to express herself, but she stays back just to type out her frustration into paragraphs of her report for the next day. In fact, she winds up staying back every single day churning out paragraphs and paragraphs of material for the workshop, and reads pages and pages of research as well as Artie’s and Jacob’s case files.

She has the heaviest workload of all the staff members now (Santana would have shared the load, except that she has come down with a timely case of rashes after Brittany presented her with a flower of unknown origin). She just doesn’t have time to reciprocate Mike’s dinner offers or even chip in ideas for the musical Blaine has been meticulously planning for. Worst of all, she has no energy to make Artie’s sessions livelier. She ends up having to let him spend most of the time in front of the T.V. once again because her brain feels like mush.

And she feels like crap for letting that happen.

Her first session with Jacob in Therapy Room No. 1 a few days later starts off fine, and she’s thankful. She’s been fretting about it for a long while because she really wants to keep Jacob’s hands in place with a simple reward system. However, it falls to pieces within the next half an hour when his attention starts to wander. He’s no longer interested in whoever just entered the room. He’s now more interested in the fact that there seem to be a lot of colors about the room.

“...deep breath and hold your fingers like this... Jacob?”

“Blue and red,” says Jacob. “Purple’s a great color for the sides.”

“Jacob,” repeats Tina, sternly. “Over here.”

“I’m going to write about purple and how it’s great for the eyes.”

Tina has no choice but to use the visual cues; Jacob is especially spacey today. Jacob blinks as he takes in the word and picture of ‘Listen’, then Tina draws the card near to her and flips it down. “Jacob, are you listening?”

“Yes,” he says automatically.

“Take a deep breath.”

He follows instructions for a while, only to get distracted by the long silver necklace Tina is wearing.

“Purple and silver go very well,” announces Jacob. Then he leans forward and reaches out to touch the necklace. Tina doesn’t react in time and Jacob’s fingers brush against her chest. She tries to keep calm and not overreact because he didn’t mean to. But when his fingers start to wander beyond the necklace, she stands up immediately and backs away.

“Jacob! You should never touch a woman like this!” Tina can’t help sounding really frustrated. From Jacob’s case file, he has been taught many times never to touch a woman in the chest region, but apparently his logical mind fizzles out when his sense of touch is activated.

Jacob looks woefully at her. “I wanted to see the necklace. It’s a very pretty silver. Girls like to read about necklaces.”

His hands are still making little grabby motions and Tina is fairly sure if she sits down again, he will somehow reach out to touch her. For the moment, she doesn’t quite know what to do.

Until a knock on the door shakes her out of her helpless state.

Artie?” Tina’s eyes widen.

“Go away!” Jacob says loudly. “We are having a session.”

Artie’s gaze is fixed on Tina. “Did he touch you?”

Tina’s jaw drops. Then she recovers and shakes her head. “Artie, I’ll go over to Room No. 3 soon, just wait for me there...”

Artie looks at Jacob, then back at Tina. “He touched you. He’s always touching girls when they don’t want to be.”

“Go away!” repeats Jacob, and flicks his hand for effect.

“Were you watching us?” Tina wonders aloud, but Artie is already wheeling himself towards Jacob. Then to Tina’s utmost surprise, Artie reaches out for Jacob’s hands.

Even more surprisingly, Jacob complies and takes Artie’s hands. Artie grips them tightly so they can’t move. It almost looks like a scene out of a slapstick comedy, except that Artie starts to speak in a very serious manner,

“Jacob, before you touch people, you must ask for their permission.”

Jacob stares at him.

“If they say no, then you cannot touch them. Especially girls,” says Artie. “Girls are not for boys to touch unless they agree to it or are in a committed relationship with the boy.”

Tina opens her mouth to say something, but Artie looks at her and she shuts it.

“Okay,” says Jacob. “You’re hurting me.”

Artie stares down at their hands, then lets Jacob’s hands go.

“I’m sorry,” says Jacob to Tina, but his hands are reaching out towards her again. Tina instinctively puts out her hand to show rejection and Jacob shrinks back. His fingers are still twitching though, so Artie wheels towards a box in the corner and rummages through it.

“Artie, it’s okay, I can manage this,” says Tina. She looks at Jacob with her hands still outstretched and says, “Jacob, I don’t like you touching me like that. We can shake hands and you can hold onto my hand or shoulder if you want to get my attention.” She demonstrates promptly and Jacob mimics her. “But you cannot touch anywhere...” She gestures to her torso and bottom half of the body. “...here. It’s not right and it makes me feel uncomfortable.”

“I’m sorry,” repeats Jacob. But Tina knows that even though he is truly sorry, he can’t help wanting to touch. His eyes are still concentrated on a part of her body that she’d really like to hide from him at the moment.

Good God, Tina Cohen-Chang, you’re a behavioral therapist and you’re just standing there like a willow about to break...

Artie is back with a rubber ball in his hand. He stuffs the ball into Jacob’s hands before Tina can react and says calmly,

“Squeeze it.”

Jacob does, and to Tina’s surprise, he looks rather intrigued by the ball. He squeezes it methodically for a few more times, then gazes at Artie in wonder. “What is this?”

“A stress ball,” says Artie. “It’s for when you are stressed.”

Jacob spends the rest of the session squeezing the ball in his hands as he answers Tina’s questions. Tina is slightly worried that he will be a little too obsessed with it, but when he stuffs the ball into his pocket at the end of the session and walks off, she can’t help but be a little relieved.

Artie has been in the corner all this while (she really doesn’t have the energy to re-direct him outside) – reading a book. Tina identifies it immediately asThe Great Gatsby.

“Really?”

“What?” Artie looks confused.

“You read that?”

“I’m not reading,” he clarifies, and puts the book aside.

“So if you’re not reading... what were you doing?”

“I was watching.”

“You were watching Jacob and I?”

Artie’s eyes become a little unfocused; he turns and begins to wheel himself away.

“Artie!”

He stops. Then turns to look at her, his expression blank.

Tina can’t help smiling a little. “You can be a psychologist too, you know.”

Artie blinks, then the ends of his mouth quirk up before he wheels out of the room.


It will not be the only time Artie makes his way to Room No. 1 before his session with Tina.

Jacob has improved considerably given that his attention is easily directed to the stress ball which he takes out during his session. Tina figures out that because he types so much on his online blog, he gets very edgy when he has nothing to do with his fingers. When he gets distracted by something, he will want to touch it regardless of the context. She gets him to set aside time to do outdoor activities, which will teach him when and how to use his hands much more easily. Mike coordinates this perfectly and Tina feels much happier working with Jacob.

For one whole week however, Artie has been wheeling back and forth outside Room No. 1. Tina can’t help noticing even though she’s shut the windows because the shadow of his wheelchair beneath the door is so obvious. She’s attempted to shoo him back to his own space once, but he nonchalantly adds that he was looking at the scenery.

Yeah right, Artie Abrams, since when did you start appreciating scenery?

Tina tries to ignore his presence and work on Jacob, but things don’t really work out that perfectly when she eventually has to prepare him for her having full-time sessions with Jacob.

When she first tells him at the end of that first week, Artie just stares at her. “Does Santana take over again?”

“You’ll be on your own,” says Tina, gently. “But you’ll be busy. The script for the musical is already out and Blaine needs you to make corrections and add your own directions for him to approve.”

Tina had already read the first draft and had spent the night laughing out loud and moaning appropriately at angsty parts. It was a clever spin-off from Great Expectations, a back-story about the icy-cold girl whom the protagonist had fallen in love with. Tina had been completely enthralled by the plot and the lyrics were equally gripping. Once Artie’s stage directions were added, it would be an amazing piece of work, she was sure of it. She couldn’t spare any time to be really involved in it, but she had promised Blaine she would come down for as many rehearsals as possible.

“I’m going to do it on my own?” Artie still can’t seem to believe this is happening.

“Yes, Artie. You’re really good at this and you’re going to make this musical amazing.”

He doesn’t really seem to address the issue of her not being around him anymore; she can’t help feeling a tinge of disappointment at his lack of reaction but is still comforted that he is appropriately excited about his directorial debut.

At the beginning of the second week, he talks nineteen to the dozen about how he spent the entire weekend on the Internet reading up on scriptwriting and what he can correct, the various productions of Singin’ In The Rain and West Side Story and its relevant reviews...

“You read all of that in two days?” Tina gasps. “Wow, Artie. That’s really dedicated of you.”

She’s not just impressed with that. She’s extremely amazed by how a project can transform Artie into somebody with a narrow focus to somebody who actually does diverse research.

This momentum is halted temporarily when Santana comes over to Room No. 3 one day with Brittany in tow complaining that she’s bored and wants to go for a walk – so would Tina and Artie like to come along? Everything has been cleared with Sue, which makes Tina suspect Santana has concocted her own boredom. Artie grumbles a bit, however, and that’s enough for Tina to say, “Sure!”

“Why did you agree?” Artie demands as Tina tidies up the room. “You know I don’t really like the outdoors.”

“All the more you should –” Tina begins.

“Because I’ve got her under my little thumb,” calls out Santana.

“That means something else, doesn’t it?” Artie asks, frowning.

Tina pumps her fist in triumph as Santana stares, open-mouthed. “Told you he’s getting the hang of things. One day he’ll throw those cryptic phrases back in your face with their literal meanings and you’d be bowing to him as the God of Sarcasm.” To Artie, she explains, “Santana thinks I listen to everything she says. That’s not true.”

“But it might be,” muses Artie. “She asked you to leave my room when I was sick and you did.”

Santana guffaws as Tina glowers at her.

“You would have stayed, right?”

Both Tina and Santana’s heads snap towards Artie.

“Are we going?” Brittany whines from outside the room. “The butterflies are all going to be melted under the sun!”

Tina ignores Santana’s piercing gaze, gathers up the files and gestures to the door. “Let’s go.”

And they do, Artie’s question never answered.


Santana and Brittany split from Tina and Artie the moment they get to the park. They move away so quickly and stealthily that Tina doesn’t even know where they’ve headed to. With a deep sigh, she wheels Artie towards the flower gardens.

“Isn’t it nice?” she says. “To come out and breathe good, fresh air?”

Artie doesn’t respond; he merely gazes around.

He’s observing once more.

Tina keeps quiet for the next five minutes, then eventually stops him near the rosebushes. “Are you thirsty?”

He still doesn’t respond; his gaze is fixed on a couple nearby, who are teasing each other with scoops of ice-cream.

“You want ice-cream?” Tina grins.

Before Artie can respond, one-half of the couple – the man – calls out, “Hey, young man, haven’t seen a love affair before?”

Tina stares at the man, then looks down at Artie, who looks confused.

“Then stop staring!” yells the man. A couple of people nearby have stopped jogging or walking just to see the commotion.

“Come on, Artie, let’s just move on,” mutters Tina, but Artie refuses to budge.

“Hey, lady, take your boy away, those huge-ass nerd glasses ain’t covering up his old grandpa’s lusty eyes!”

The woman beside him sniggers.

Tina shoots the man an icy-cold glare. “Please be more respectful. He didn’t mean to.”

“Oh, he didn’t mean to, does he? What, he some idiot?” The man snorts. “He don’t listen when you talk to him, so I suppose he is, ain’t he?”

The woman now looks uncomfortable. “Darling, let’s just leave.”

“I’m not an idiot,” says Artie, stiffly. “I’m sorry for staring, but you were wrong to call me names.”

The man stares. “He really is one.”

Furious, Tina moves to stand in front of Artie. “I think you’ve had your fill of sinful name-calling and labelling for today. Any further and you might just rot in hell, so you really should go.”

“And I listen,” says Artie, from behind her. “I listen to everything Tina says. I just want to finish thinking.”

The man mutters something under his breath as he glares at Tina, then leaves with the woman.

“I think you’re keeping your temper down really well,” says Tina, as she turns back to Artie. “I would have slapped him hard if I didn’t know better.”

“I would have if I could reach,” offers Artie.

Tina snorts. Then she grins. “I shouldn’t be encouraging you, should I?”

“This is why I don’t like coming out.”

“It’s a bright and sunny day. Let’s enjoy it while we can.” She raises her arms out and does a little twirl.

“Then will you sing and dance with me? It will make me feel better.”

Tina stops twirling around and nearly trips over her foot. Before she knows it, he has already wheeled forward, taken her hand and started turning around. She nearly trips again, but catches herself before she can and reluctantly obliges him by pulling him towards her and pushing him out again. They do this a few more times and the cheer on Artie’s face is so palpable that Tina’s laughing once again.

“Everybody in this park should do this too,” Artie declares.

“They should,” says Tina, grinning, but she isn’t prepared for what Artie does next. He breaks away from her and rolls up to a bright-eyed man with his daughter. Tina is perplexed because Artie doesn’t speak; he merely moves his hands slightly. He clearly wants to say something though, but it’s not coming out.

Thankfully, the cheerful man is unfazed and bends down. “You want something, young fella?”

Artie looks back at Tina, then at the man again. He’s nervous.

Tina goes up and places a hand on Artie’s shoulder. He relaxes slightly, then says,

“Dance.” He points to the man’s little girl. “Can – can she?”

“You want to dance with her?”

Artie’s face lights up. “Can I?”

“Sandy, do you want to dance with this young man here? He’s a charming one.” The man winks at Tina just before he looks at his little girl.

“He has wheelies!” the girl exclaims. “Yes, please!”

That’s how Artie ends up twirling around with the little girl. The man cheers for them, then a woman comes up from behind – his wife. Without warning, the man dips his startled wife and begins to twirl her too. The adorable couple start to dance along with Artie and Sandy, and Tina’s clapping in delight. An elderly couple start to spontaneously waltz at the side too, and more and more people are gathering and cheering the little dancing troupe along. Then a few more people join in, and suddenly there’s a mass dance – set to absolutely no music except for rustling leaves and footsteps and laughter.

Tina’s heart swells just watching Artie be in the middle of it all, his eyes shining. He was just afraid five minutes ago that nobody likes him when he’s outside, but now, everybody loves him. It’s most obvious when the crowd starts switching partners and Artie’s twirling with a freckled, braced young girl with flaming red hair.

“What the...” Santana has come up from behind with Brittany and stares in complete bewilderment.

“Y’know,” says Tina, meeting Artie’s delighted gaze at that very moment. “Just an average day in the park.”


“I had fun today.”

Tina chuckles as Artie is still phantom dancing in the room. “I can tell.”

He gives her a rather shy smile, then stops dancing and moves towards the table. His clipboard is lying there in plain view, so he gets distracted by it as he flips through the papers. Then he picks it up, stares at it for a long while before proceeding to scribble down on his own analytical table for the musical.

“Artie?”

“Yes?” He stops writing.

“I will not be working with you next week,” says Tina, deciding that being extremely direct might get him to respond accordingly.

Accordingly? Tina Cohen-Chang, what kind of response are you expecting?

Well, the according response is silence because Artie’s more interested in filling up his table. She has to tip it down slightly so that he meets her gaze as she continues,

“I will be working with Jacob during these hours.”

“I know,” says Artie. “You told me last week.”

“But...” Tina stares at him incredulously. “You’re okay with it? The last time I wanted to switch with Santana for a day, you were so unhappy.”

“I’m not okay,” says Artie. “But I need to be. Otherwise, I won’t get to do this musical. You’ll be upset with me. Jacob won’t improve. I weighed the benefits and the losses.”

Tina is flabbergasted. “You – you did a table?”

He shakes his head. “I didn’t draw it. I thought about it.”

“O-okay...”

That certainly wasn’t a response on the cards. Tina has absolutely no idea what to do now. Since when did Artie Abrams become so mature and start working things out so rationally in his mind? How did he progress from yelling for Rachel the moment Tina had stepped into his therapy room for the first time, to accepting a change in his schedule so calmly?

“You’re very good with Jacob,” says Artie. “He’s much better now.”

“I think you deserve some credit for that,” mutters Tina.

“I think it’s because you make people feel like they’re understood,” says Artie, matter-of-factly. “I feel comfortable talking to you because you don’t make me feel stupid or crazy or anything that people think people with autism are.”

“That’s very sweet of you, Artie.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

Tina has to literally cup her chin to stop her jaw from dropping. “Excuse me?”

“You need to stop making me repeat my questions,” says Artie, his voice now laced with annoyance. “I asked, do you have a boyfriend?”

“Umm...”

Nope. Yeah, even though some super-nice guy often sends you flowers and takes you out on dinner dates. No pressure. Not a date at all.

“Is there a reason why you’re asking me this question?” asks Tina, slowly. “It’s a very personal question.”

“I’m sorry,” says Artie, immediately. “I was just curious. As I said, you make people feel understood. You’re a nice girl.”

His hands are fidgeting though, and Tina knows it’s a sure sign that he wants to say something but can’t seem to express himself. So she hums “Singin’ In The Rain” in hope to calm him down.

Finally, he says quietly, “It’s very strange. I think this is what it feels like, but I’m not sure and it’s very strange to ask you about it.”

“Ask... what?”

“Whenever I want to say something, I feel funny in the tummy, like here,” he points to the exact spot, “and my heartbeat becomes faster. I can hear it pumping in my ears.”

“Are you ill?” Tina is alarmed.

“I feel like I want to smile more. Sometimes it’s because I’m happier, sometimes it’s because it makes other people happier.”

Tina is seriously confused at this point. “That... that’s great, Artie. It’s good to be happy.”

“But I don’t always feel this way.”

He hesitates, then looks straight at her.

“Do people feel this way when they are... attracted to somebody?”

Tina’s eyebrows shoot up immediately. Artie is looking rather frustrated, so she has to answer him. “Quite often, yes. So who makes you feel this way?”

The way his eyes widened slightly when she asked that made her regret leading him up to this point. She should have seen it coming. She should have known when he had asked that first question.

Damn it, Tina!

“You.”

Her palms feel clammy. This is what everybody has been warning her about. This is what she had convinced herself would never happen – and has happened.

“I have a boyfriend.”

Really? That’s the first thing you say? How about letting him down – gently?

“Artie, you are my mentee,” says Tina, although her tongue feels thick and her words feel garbled. “I care for you because it’s my job. Maybe what you’re experiencing is commonly known as...” She can’t help blushing. “...a crush.”

“It feels heavy,” Artie concurs. “Have I been crushed by something then?”

Tina winces. “A crush is... an attraction to somebody at a certain point in time. It... happens very quickly and is usually based on... just very simple, erm, superf- I mean, like appearances, or that the person has been very concerned about you. Well, erm –”

She takes a deep breath. “Artie, we don’t know each other well enough. I only see what is written on your reports and what I see on a daily basis, but you might be a different person inside your dorm room. You only see the side of me that’s here for my work, that’s here to help every one of you in this center, but you don’t know who I really am. So this is just a crush, please don’t take it seriously – because you can’t.”

Artie isn’t looking at her anymore. He’s just staring at the wall, his lips moving subtly without sound.

“Artie?” Tina bends down to his eye level. “Artie, look at me. Tell me what you feel.”

“I’m tired,” he says quietly. “Can I go back to my room early?”

“Of course you can,” says Tina, but tears are coming to her eyes. “Artie, don’t be sad, okay? I’m still your therapist, your – your friend. You can still talk to me.”

“Not today,” is all he says, before his customary “Goodbye”.

Once he’s gone, Tina sits down by the table, head in her hands.

To think that things had been going quite well with her switch to Jacob.

She lets out a frustrated growl, but doesn’t let herself sit still for long. Right now, she needs to get back to her report, finish it and go home. She can think about all this tomorrow.

It’s just that the universe doesn’t let her shove those thoughts aside. At the end of the day, she meets Mike and they have a chat and somehow, there is that awkward pause in a conversation which Tina knows is going to lead to something. All the flowers and dates had to taper to a single point of resolution.

Sure enough, it does.

Tina has dated once or twice, casually, in high school. Both started with awkward conversations too, but often she’s so touched by their declarations of attraction (not love, she insists) that she’ll cry. This time, she can’t tell if it’s because she’s older or that she’s just too damn distracted by Artie’s earlier confession, but...

Mike’s confession goes by in a blur.

What remains is the sincerity and hope in his eyes. That alone touches her, and she opens her mouth to say ‘yes’.

She can’t.

All that comes out is, “Could you give me some time to think about it? Mike, it’s not about you, it’s me. You’re an absolutely wonderful guy and I really want to give this some thought because... because I want to take anything between us seriously.”

Mike immediately understands and smiles brightly, telling her she can take all the time she needs.

Why couldn’t she have been more eloquent, like this, in front of Artie? That would have saved her all the distraction and worry.

She knows the answer, but she’s afraid to say it.


“Mercedes?” Tina clutches the phone as she curls up on her bed in comfy PJs. “I’m in some big-time deep shit.”

“Whoa,” says Mercedes, on the other end. “That sounds serious. What’s up, homegirl?”

“Umm... Mike just told me he liked me.”

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” Tina has to hold the phone away from her ear as Mercedes yelps. “THAT’S AWESOME NEWS! Lady, it’s about damn time! That boy’s been having heart eyes for you all the while, if those pretty roses and romantic dinners are anything to go by.”

“They’re just gestures, Mercedes...”

“Wait, hoooold up. Don’t tell me you’re stringing that boy along, ‘cos you seemed well into him.”

“I’m not! I think he’s the perfect gentleman! And... and he does make me feel something. Nice.”

“So what’s this deep shit you’re purportedly in, huh? Looks more like a clear, shining infinity pool to me.”

“But...”

“You got yourself some good lads before, Tina Cohen-Chang, but that was high school and those just break up with a little fall. Maybe you’re scared of those falls, but with all that cooing you did previously, this Mike guy sounds like he’d catch you before you fall, so there’s no break in sight. I say just go for it.”

“You haven’t even met him yet and you’re singing his praises?”

“Well... Kurt and I might have seen him before...”

“No, I’m pretty sure you – wait a minute.” Tina sits up straight. “Oh. My. God. Have you been stalking us?!”

“We were just having a dinner at Breadstix! We just – you know, happened to be there.” Mercedes stifles a giggle. “He even helps you cut up your meat! That kind of guy is an endangered species and you know it.”

Mercedes rattles on about little details of the dinner, as well as other things that she and Kurt have noticed about Tina since she’s been going out with Mike (“...smiling more! And even more giggly, which makes Kurt thinks your coffee is getting spiked”). But Tina still doesn’t have an answer. She’s not even sure what kind of advice or answer she’s looking out for; she just feels unsettled. When she hangs up, she is tempted to call someone else.

Santana would only make snarky comments along the lines of “I-told-you-so” and tell her to bang Mike Chang immediately to take her mind off anything else, while Kurt would be half the crudeness and three times the snark.

That’s how Tina finds herself in a late-night diner with Blaine.

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