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The Highway Of Regret (1/?)

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Title: The Highway Of Regret
Author: Troubadette
Pairing,Character(s): Eventual Artie/Tina, Brittany/Santana, mentions of Sam/Santana, Brittany/Artie, Tina/Mike
Rating: M
Word Count
Spoilers: 2x14 promo - Speculation Fic
Summary:
"Why doesn’t she love me, Artie?” When a drunken Brittany makes her feelings for Santana known at Rachel's party, it forces Artie and Tina to look back on their broken relationship.

The storms are raging on the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
Though winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain't seen nothing like me yet

Bob Dylan - Make You Feel My Love

-----

Trying to steer a wheelchair down a deceptively narrow hallway after 5 Rum and Cokes is harder than Artie anticipated. Firstly, his hand/eye co-ordination is more or less shot and secondly, he isn’t exactly sure where Rachel’s bathroom actually is, so right now it was more a casual wandering. It seemed like only moments ago an enthusiastic Brittany was all but giving him a lapdance in what was probably her underwear but she’d muttered something about not feeling well and taken off like a rocket, toward what he assumed must be the bathroom. And he guessed it must have been awhile, because he’d realised she hadn’t come back and is following after her, except he isn’t sure where he was going and he isn’t exactly sure what he’d do when he got there anyway. Helping his drunk girlfriend isn’t exactly a wheelchair friendly activity. Still, he figures he’d better play... shining knight in armour? On wheels? Shining armoured wheels on knight?

Whose idea was this party anyway?

Above the constant sound of the karaoke machine going full blast, he’s suddenly aware of what sounded like sobbing from a room to the... left. Or right. Rolling himself in what he assumed was the right direction, he pulls open a door to find himself face to face with Puck and Lauren Zizes, doing things he really didn’t need to see on a bed he hopes for Rachel’s sake isn’t her dads. Hastily murmuring an apology, he shuts the door quickly and tries to remember how to reverse. Damn it. Cannot be unseen.

Rolling down the hall, he turns again, idly hoping he’d have more luck behind curtain number two. He pushes open the door and rolls in. This room is clearly a bathroom and curled up in the corner is Brittany, sobbing. His heart wrenches a little at the sight. Sunny, happy Brittany wasn’t supposed to be crying. It just wasn’t how the universe worked. Damned universe. Not a big fan. He rolls closer to approach her.

“Brit, hey, are you okay?” Brittany looks up at him with hazy, unfocused eyes and Artie figures she must be drunker than he was. She is pretty little. Thin, and mostly all muscle, so there isn’t really anything to soak up the alcohol and... why is she crying? Had he done something? He doesn’t remember doing anything. He reaches out to pat her on the head awkwardly, trying to be comforting. “Come on. You can talk to me.”

“Sam’s gonna eat her face off, he’s got such a big mouth,” says Brittany through her tears. “And then she’s going to have an eaten face like the cover of that book you let me borrow that was so much better than the one my English teacher wanted me to read... but she’ll still be so hot.”

“Sam’s going to eat whose face?” Artie asks, slightly confused. He thought he had a better grasp on Brittany-speak by now.

“Santana. They were all over each other,” says Brittany, with a loud choking sob. “First it’s Puck, then it’s Finn, now it’s Sam... and I know sex isn’t dating but sometimes, it’s not sex and it’s not dating, it’s something else.”

Artie vaguely recalls a phone conversation where Brittany told the other Gleeks that “if it were, then Santana and I would be dating”. Oh yeah. He kind of knew that. It isn’t something he thought about much, mostly because Santana is kind of evil and Brittany is... well, his girlfriend. But here she is, crying because Sam was going to eat Santana’s face and... wait, what?

“I’m sorry this is making you sad,” Artie says, not really knowing what else to say. “But I don’t think Sam’s really going to eat Santana.”

“I don’t want him to,” replies Brittany, who has by this stage all but wrapped herself around Artie’s legs, sobbing into... what looked like his knees, it isn’t like he can feel them. “I don’t want Santana to get eaten by Sam. Or Puck. Or Finn. Or anyone.”

“Cannabalism isn’t exactly the next big fad sweeping Ohio,” Artie points out.

“Why doesn’t she love me, Artie?”

And sure, he knows he’s drunk and she’s drunk but at that very moment, something snaps absolutely into place, with a clarity he doubts he’d have been able to accomplish sober. Santana and Brittany. Brittany and Santana. Brittany is in love with her best friend. And Santana... well, Santana’s a complete bitch but she loves Brittany. Maybe not in the same way... maybe in the same way? Maybe she’s scared? Artie knows it isn’t easy to be gay in conservative Ohio - people being homophobic assholes is what made Kurt leave McKinley, everyone can see that. Santana’s smart, she wouldn’t want that if she could help it. Maybe that’s why she slept with... well, everyone. Except him. The idea of sleeping with Santana terrifies him. Sure, she’s smoking hot but she’s also terrifying and terror isn’t exactly conducive to...

It takes him a minute to realise Brittany is actually waiting for an answer. “I don’t know, Brit,” he says, feeling a little bit pathetic. “But you’re awesome. It’s her loss.”

“You’re the best boyfriend ever,” says Brittany, bursting into tears all over again. “But I want Santana. I want her to love me like I love her but sex isn’t dating and we’re not going to have lady babies because she doesn’t love me.”

She keeps sobbing and Artie just sits there, feeling like an absolute idiot. Not only because he physically can’t actually reach down and hug her like she clearly needs but also because he has no idea what to say. Here is his girlfriend, crying more than he’d ever seen anyone cry (and that includes that song Tina sang to Mike on Valentine’s Day), clearly needing comfort because she’s in love with someone else. It’s... a little hard to figure out. He idly assumes that maybe he should be mad or something and maybe when he sobers up, he will be, but right now with Brittany so sad, sympathy kind of takes over every other emotion. And it isn’t like she’d cheated, because Santana’s too busy getting Sam to eat her face. It’s just... really sad.

“It’s okay,” he murmurs softly, trying to comfort her. “It’s gonna be okay.”

It takes a few moments for him to realise someone else had come into the room. He looks to the door to see a wide-eyed Tina, staring at them both in shock. Tina is looking really pretty tonight. Her hair so dark and shiny, with the blue streaks poking out like bits of the sky... he’d always loved her hair. It was like her, because it was dark and beautiful but then there were bits that were bright and light and colourful and they snuck up on you and surprised you, because with all that dark, a colour is a big change. He realises that his thoughts are all over the place but with Tina there, looking as beautiful as ever, it’s a bit easier to focus. She’s still just so pretty.

“Is she okay?” Tina asks softly, gesturing to Brittany. “Do you want me to help?”

He notices then that Brittany is still kind of slumped against his legs and he guesses it must look pretty bizarre from where Tina’s standing, so he nods. “Maybe we should see if we can find a spare bedroom or something and get her to lie down,” he suggests. “Do you want to help get her onto my lap and maybe you can push us.”

“Okay,” she agrees readily, moving toward them. “Hey Brittany,” she says cautiously as she approaches. “You wanna climb onto Artie’s lap? We’ll go for a ride and find somewhere more comfortable, okay?”

“It’s nice to have a boyfriend who has wheels,” says Brittany, with a watery smile. “It’s so much cooler than a car, because you can’t drive a car in the school, but Artie can drive the wheelchair everywhere and it’s so cool.” Tina takes one arm, Artie grabs the other and together, they hoist Brittany onto his lap. Her breath reeks of tequila and she clings onto him desperately. “Santana couldn’t do this for me. She doesn’t have wheels. If Santana and I have lady babies, one day, if there’s magic and one day she loves me, can you still wheel me to class? Sometimes?”

“Sure,” replies Artie, not sure if he’s agreeing because he actually would or because it’s something to say. Tina looks over at him, her expression difficult to read. He isn’t sure if that was because he’s drunk or because really, when it comes down to it, he kind of sucks at figuring out girls.

As Tina pushes them out of the bathroom and down the hall to a spare bedroom, Brittany keeps talking. “You always have to believe it’ll happen, because sometimes there’s magic and you get what you want, even though we sang that song in Glee that said you can’t always get what you want but sometimes you get what you need. Do you think you need love? There’s a song that says you need love. I heard it. Or lots of songs that say you need love. I think I love Santana. Maybe she’ll love me one day. Even though she said she doesn’t love me. Do you think she loves me?”

“I don’t know,” Artie replies honestly. “I don’t think you can really believe in love, anyway. I mean, maybe you think you love someone and they love you and that it’s all good and then they go off and find someone else, because you did something stupid, because you always do something stupid and things always go wrong, you know?”

“Maybe Santana doesn’t love me because I’m stupid.”

“You’re not stupid, Brittany,” Artie argues. “You see things that we don’t see sometimes and that makes you special. And if Santana doesn’t get that, then she doesn’t deserve you.”

“People always say that,” says Brittany. “But it doesn’t mean you don’t want them anyway.”

Tina takes in a sharp intake of breath. Artie turns to look at her and thinks he sees something like understanding in her eyes. “Do you think you can get onto the bed, Brittany?” Tina asks instead. It’s only then Artie realises they’ve actually reached their destination.

Tina reaches down to help Brittany off Artie’s lap and within moments. Brittany is safely curled up in a ball on an already extremely rumpled bedspread (Artie doesn’t really want to think about how it got that rumpled too much). The sounds of her snoring quickly follow. Artie looks at her for a long moment before switching his attention to Tina.

“Thanks for the help.”

“No problem,” says Tina. She looks at Brittany again. “How much did she have to drink?”

“A lot?”

Tina raises an eyebrow. “How much did you have to drink?”

Artie thinks about it. “Five Rum and Cokes.”

Both eyebrows raise. “And who made the Rum and Cokes?”

“Puck.”

Tina rolls her eyes. “It’s a wonder you’re capable of speech.”

“Hey, I can handle my liquor.” He gestures to his lower half. “Hollow leg. For the rum. I’m actually a pirate.”

Tina laughs. “Sure you are.” She gives him a sympathetic look. “Are you gonna be okay?”

“I guess so,” he answers honestly. “I mean, I wasn’t expecting that but at the same time, I was. I mean, it never seemed like it was going to last, you know? Brittany was a cheerleader. Why on earth would she be dating me? It didn’t make sense.”

“You’re an awesome guy, Artie,” says Tina sincerely. “And I saw you two together... you were good. You were sweet with her. You did everything right.”

“Not like when we were together when I did everything wrong, you mean.”

Tina sighs. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I’m not mad,” he clarifies. “I’m just saying, I learned a lot from you. Mostly what not to do. And then with Brittany, it was this chance to be a good boyfriend - did you know I’m her first real boyfriend? She’s slept with half the school... well, pretty much all of the school... but I’m her first actual boyfriend. And that’s kind of cool. We got to learn together and... I’m really going to miss her.”

Tina’s eyes widen. “So you’re breaking up with her, then.”

“I don’t know,” he says honestly. “I don’t want to. I like hanging out with her. I like being with her. But she doesn’t love me.”

“Do you love her?”

Alcohol seems to have some amazing effects because he has yet another moment of absolute crystal clarity: the answer to this next question is really important and he shouldn‘t enter into it lightly. Which is why he goes straight for his gut feeling. “Not like I loved you.”

Tina stares at him for a long moment. “Why couldn’t you have been this honest with me when we were together, Artie?”

“Probably because I wasn’t drunk then.”

She sighs. “You might not even remember this tomorrow.”

By this stage, Artie figures there’s no point holding back anymore. “That won’t make it not true.” He takes a deep breath. “Do you love Mike?”

She looks at the door, looks at Brittany asleep on the bed, then finally looks at him. There’s something in her eyes that he hasn’t seen in a long time and it’s so heartbreakingly familiar that it’s actually like a physical pain inside of him. It seems like an eternity before she actually replies.

“Not like I loved you.”

The words hang in the air for awhile until Tina herself breaks the moment by heading to the door. “I’m going to get some asprin and water for Brittany when she wakes up. And some water for you. Then I can find Mike and we can take you home, I know he’s your ride and he hasn’t been drinking.”

Mike’s definitely a name that makes the whole previous moment seem more bitter than sweet. “Thanks,” he replies, biting back to urge to say something snarky about Tina’s Boy Scout of a boyfriend. Because really, Mike is his friend, and he doesn’t want to cause problems. He just... needs a bit of time to process what on earth’s been going on tonight. Because his head is starting to hurt, his girlfriend is in love with another woman, his ex-girlfriend potentially still has feelings for him and he’s pretty sure he remembers the openly gay lead singer of the Dalton Academy Warblers making out with Rachel Berry.

Seriously, whose idea was this party?

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