All The Reasons
There's something up with Tina. Artie watches her as she shifts in her chair, concentrating on something so deeply that a line forms between her eyebrows and her lips pull into a tense frown. She hasn't been paying very much attention to the conversations going on around them, so finally Artie decides to speak up.
"Tee?" Tina doesn't even blink, still staring thoughtfully at a spot on the floor. "Tina?" Artie reaches out and touches her arm, and she jumps like she's been shocked. It takes a moment before her eyes finally fix onto his face. "Tee, you okay? You were sort of spaced out there."
Tina just licks her lips and nods, the look in her eyes saying her thoughts are still somewhere else. Artie glances around them to check that none of the other Glee kids are listening. "What's on your mind?" he asks once he's sure that the others are leaving them alone.
For a long time it doesn't look like Tina will answer, and then, "Artie, do you think I'm lame?"
"What?" The question springs out of him without thought, so stunned by what she's asked. He shakes his head and looks up at her again to see she is finally really looking at him. "No, why would I think that?"
Tina shrugs, frowning again. "I dunno, but everyone here has something really cool about them. You can play guitar, and so can Puck, and Finn's got the drums. And then Rachel and Mercedes both have those killer voices, and Kurt's got his fashion thing. And Brittany and Mike and Matt and Santana are all really good dancers. And me, I'm sort of just Tina."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Artie says. "What's wrong with being Tina?"
"There's nothing wrong with being Tina," she says. "Just with being just Tina. I don't feel like I'm really adding anything to the team."
"That's not true, Tee," Artie says quickly.
"Do you remember way back when we first started Glee and Mr. Schue had left, and Finn came back and gave everyone jobs to do? He gave everyone one except me. He couldn't think of anything I could do."
Damn you, Finn Hudson, Artie thinks bitterly. "You're not lame, Tina," Artie says firmly, "I think you're amazing." She smiles but he doesn't get the time to elaborate because at that moment Mr. Schuester comes in to start rehearsal. Tina is smiling all through practice, but it doesn't reach quite to her eyes. When Artie's dad comes to pick him up early, Artie doesn't get the chance to talk to her. He flashes her a smile as he leaves and she returns it, but he can see she's still thinking about it.
That night as Artie is sitting in bed trying to do his homework, he can't stop thinking about Tina. It seems like such a strange thing for her to be so worried about, but he can see that it's really bothering her. He tries to think of some way to make her feel better, because there has to be something he can do. She's his best friend, after all. And it's killing him to think that she's so upset.
After a few minutes of thinking, he grabs his notebook and turns to a blank page. Finding a pen, he starts writing feverishly.
The next morning at school, Tina is standing alone at her locker before class. Someone tugs on her sleeve and when she looks down she sees Artie smiling up at her.
"Hey, Artie," she says, smiling too. She's always thought it's hard not to smile when he is, and this time isn't any different.
"Hey, Tee," he replies. "Look, I was up all night thinking about what you said yesterday at Glee." If the shadows under his eyes are anything to go by, it's no exaggeration. "So I came up with this." Artie pulls a folded piece of notebook paper out of his shirt pocket and hands it to her. Tina takes it curiously, but before she can ask what it is, the bell rings. "Read it," Artie insists before turning and heading off to class.
Sitting down in the back of her English class, Tina unfolds the paper Artie'd written, spreading it out on her desk. It's some sort of list, written in Artie's neat slant, and she glances at the heading.
All The Reasons I Think Tina Cohen-Chang Is NOT Lame, And Is Actually Amazing
Tina smiles. The words 'Not' and 'Amazing' have been underlined multiple times. She tries not to be too focused on the way that her name looks in his handwriting, or the fact that even though the rest of the sentence looks rushed, her name is written slowly and deliberately. Her eyes move down to the list below.
1. Well first off, she's in glee club, which means she's pretty much made of awesome.
Tina tries not to laugh. Typical Artie. She's only read one line and he's already making her smile.
2. She's an amazing singer, and deserves a lot more solos than she gets.
3. She doesn't freak that she doesn't get many solos, although I have to admit seeing her doing a Rachel Berry diva storm-out would be funny.
4. Right now she'll be agreeing it would be funny.
5. And now she's thinking I know her too well.
Tina smiles, because it's all true. He really does know her too well.
6. She's the only person I know who can make wearing chains and giant safety pins look not only cool but cute.
7. On that note, she's also the only person I know who can wear fishnet anything and still look modest.
8. She wears those clothes no matter what anyone else thinks of her.
9. She gets a private pleasure from the fact that no one else in McKinley dresses like her.
10. The fact that she's the only one just reinforces my opinion that she's one in a million.
11. Her hair is blue, which is just cool.
12. Even though everyone thinks it's just rebellion, her hair's really blue just because it's her favorite color and she likes to express herself.
13. She goes along with the tough girl stereotype she's been cast in, but she's strong in a totally different way than most people know, and it has nothing to do with whether or not she can take you down.
14. She's one of the most caring people I've ever met.
15. She will give a chance to the people no one else looks twice at.
16. She gave me a chance.
17. And then gave me another when I blew the first one.
18. And even though I hope to never do something stupid so I need it, I know she'd be good enough to give me a third one too.
Tina can't really argue with that one; she has a hard time saying no to those blue eyes and that goofy smile, no matter how stupid he is sometimes. Because at the end of the day, he's still her best friend.
19. She owns even more CDs than me, which is quite an achievement.
20. She knows about more independent labeled bands than just about any person on the planet.
21. Even though she looks like she'd be pretty exclusive in her music genres, she has one of the widest and most random collections I've ever seen outside a music store.
23. She can respect the true awesomeness of a wicked guitar solo.
24. She's as good a dancer as a singer.
25. She can be graceful even in those huge boots she wears that look like they weight more than her entire leg.
At this Tina has to bite down on the inside of her cheek to stop herself from laughing out loud. Artie never stops going on about the boots she wears, and he does a good job of bringing it up at the most random moments.
26. She's modest, so while most people could write a list like this about themselves, she'll be impressed anyone could think of so many nice things to say about her.
27. She's so nice she could write a list like this about almost anyone – Even Puck.
28. She doesn't talk much, but when she does, she always speaks her mind.
29. Except for that one time, she always tells the truth.
Tina blushes in embarrassment, knowing what one time he's referring to. They had moved past it, but that didn't mean she doesn't still feel ashamed. If there had been any question to what he meant, it was answered in the next one.
30. Even though it was fake, her stutter was kind of cute.
31. It also taught me a lesson that will stay with me my whole life: that music is a place where disabilities don't matter, and it's really all about your soul.
32. She has a beautiful soul.
33. She can look at me and see everything except the chair.
34. When she does see the chair, it doesn't change what she thinks.
35. She could do this with anyone with a disability, no matter what it was. Even if it was just a serious case of stupidity.
36. She could have chosen to be normal and gotten away from all the slushies and dumpster tossing, but she didn't.
37. Her reason was that she liked who she was and wouldn't turn her back on that just to avoid a slushie, which is about as noble as it comes.
38. She's one of the only people who really understands that having good friends and being happy with yourself is more important than your social status.
39. Which is impressive since she's got high society parents.
Tina chokes back another laugh, making it sound like a cough. Her teacher casts her a curious glance but goes back to the lesson. Artie has always thought it's hilarious that she is full of attitude and loud music and passion, and her parents are respectable business people with suits and ties and dinner parties. He tells her constantly that he still can't understand how she came from them.
40. She has two last names.
41. Those two last names are because she's proud to be multiracial, both Korean and Texan. (Yes, I would consider Texan a race of its own, I've been there.)
42. Even though she has two last names, she still uses just one C when she writes her initials.
43. Those initials spell 'TIC' (Initials spelling the names of cheesy cartoon superheroes is cool. My list, my rules.)
44. Her name has exactly twenty letters in it, (not counting the hyphen as a letter) which is exactly how many letters are in my name.
Tina can see the spot where he'd written out 'Arthur Benjamin Abrams' and 'Tina Isabel Cohen-Chang' in the margin of the page and then scribbled them out. The similarity was something she's never noticed before, but it makes her smile.
45. Even though 44 is pretty much irrelevant to her coolness level, she'll still have thought it was interesting.
46. Because she's amazing like that.
47. She's amazing enough that I can think of this many good things to write about her.
48. And if it weren't three in the morning already, I would stay up and write a hundred more, to hell with sleeping.
49. Because seeing her smiling after reading this will make me happy.
50. And because she's worth it.
Tina feels her eyes getting moist and she quickly pulls herself under control before it smears her make-up. The bell rings five minutes later and she isn't at all surprised when Artie rolls up to her in the hall between classes. "Did you read it?" he asks.
"Thank you," she says, nodding. And then she smiles and adds, "But you skipped number twenty-two."
"Really?" Artie asks, taking the note back from her and scanning down the list. "Wow, I did. That's embarrassing." They start heading for their next class and Artie looks deep in though. "Okay, how about this one," he says, stopping his chair and spinning to face her. "Twenty-two: She doesn't realize it but," he pauses, looking up and meeting her eyes, "she's perfect."
In an instant, she bends down to hug him. "Thank you."
"No problem, Tee, that's what best friends are for," he says into her shoulder, hugging her back. Tina pulls back slightly, meets his gaze, and then, without thinking about it, kisses him. Artie stiffens for a second, and then she can feel him smiling against her lips. When they break apart, Artie is blushing but he says, "And I just found reason fifty-one."