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April 12, 2011
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"What exactly are we doing here?" asked Santana in a bored tone. She was sitting behind Brittany, braiding her hair idly, barely paying attention to Tina, who stood in front of the New Direction girls.

"I wanted to ask everyone something," said Tina, a bit nervously. She looked over at all the girls; most were quite listless. Rachel was sitting in the front, a blank look on her face. In fact, she had been quiet for most of the week and had yet to do her song for the assignment this week. Tina wasn't sure what that meant, since the girl almost always was first to perform.

Lauren looked bored, but then, she always looked bored, so Tina wasn't too worried about her. Quinn looked deep in thought and Mercedes was reading a magazine.

"Well go on then," said Lauren, gently prodding her. Since their performance, Lauren and Tina had developed a sort of friendship. It was strange and new, for sure.

"I know most of you haven't picked a song for our assignment this week," said Tina, causing a few of them to groan.

"I don't know how I'm going to top Kurt or Blaine," sighed Mercedes, closing her magazine. "Or you and Lauren, for that matter."

"I just really don't want to do the assignment," said Santana bluntly.

"That's why I propose that the girls all do their own song, together," said Tina quickly, before another girl could lodge a complaint. "Then you don't have to do individual performances."

Santana looked thoughtful, then nodded with a smile. "That's actually not a bad idea."

"A bouncer said I had a bad ID once," said Brittany out of the blue. "Why do they call them bouncers if they don't bounce?" she asked, turning to Santana; the Latino girl just patted her shoulder gently.

"You have a song in mind?" asked Mercedes, interested in the idea, too.

"Not really, no," said Tina, suddenly shy again. "I thought we could choice one together."

"I have an idea," said Quinn suddenly. The ex-head cheerleader had been quiet this school year, after losing both Sam and Finn last year, she hadn't attached herself to another boy yet. Mercedes secretly hoped she was taking some time to just be herself without a boyfriend.

"Do tell, mother dear," said Santana; Quinn pointedly ignored her, instead reaching into her purse for her iPod.

~.~.~.~.~.~

Will had been searching through his iTunes library for most of his lunch hour, trying to find a good song for the entire group to sing at the end of the week with no luck. Nothing seemed right. Usually, songs just jumped out at him and he couldn't find the sheet music for it fast enough.

This was much harder than he expected.

"Mr. Shuester?" came a voice from his office door. It was Quinn.

"Come on in, Quinn," he sighed, vetoing any song by Journey, finally.

The small blonde tip-topped in and sat delicately on the chair in front of his desk. "Do you have anything you need to talk about, Quinn?" asked Will, turning his attention to her completely.

"I just needed to ask if it was ok that the girls combine forces to do our assignment this week?" asked Quinn. "We picked a song and everything."

"That's completely fine," said Will, suddenly excited. "I'm sure it will be great."

"That's….good," said Quinn, slowly.

There was a tense silence. Will realized that there was something else that Quinn must have on her mind. If it was just that question, she would have been out of here by now. "Quinn," he said slowly. "Is there anything else you'd like to say?" Will tried to be as gentle as possible with his tone.

Quinn bit her lip and clasped her hands together tighter. "I just…" she sighed. "I've been feeling off since…" Quinn's eyebrows creased in thought. "I guess since baby-gate, honestly, but really since losing Prom Queen to Lauren."

"Quinn," said Will gently. "You know that Prom Queen doesn't make or break you. Losing isn't that big of a deal in the long run. You're a beautiful girl and that title doesn't define you."

The girl smiled tightly. "I know. That's what I tell myself. I really try to believe it, too." Quinn still looked trouble, but Will didn't push anymore. He waited for her to gather her thoughts for a few minutes in silence. "Mr. Shuester, when you broke up with your wife, how long was it before you dated Ms. Pillsberry?" Quinn suddenly blurted out. She blushed and started choking out her apologies for being rude.

Will brushed it off. "It's ok, Quinn. It wasn't very long at all. And honestly, I wish I could have taken more time to just…find out who I was, without a significant other in my life. I mean, I had been with Terry since I was in high school." Will's eyes became unfocused as he remember how…out of it he had been back then, after the divorce.

He chuckled once, without real humor. "It was actually Shelby Corcoran that told me that I should fly solo for a while. She was very wise, actually. I wish I would have followed her advice more." Quinn looked surprised at Shelby being mentioned so unexpectedly. "Do you, well, talk to Shelby much?" asked Will awkwardly.

"Here and there," said Quinn, her face unreadable. "I asked her…I asked her to send me a photo of Beth a few times a year," she said quietly, but didn't elaborate.

"I'm assuming you're asking about my love life for a point of reference - which I warn you not to model your own after," Will said quickly.

Quinn nodded once. "After all the stuff with Puck and Finn two years ago, I was only single for the summer and then I was suddenly with Sam. And then I didn't have Sam and then I was with Finn. It seemed like…I didn't know who I was without someone else." Quinn paused and awkwardly added. "I sometimes feel like I still don't know who I am."

"That's normal, Quinn," reassured Will. "In high school, you're suppose to try to find out who you are as a person. You're becoming an adult and it's all very confusing." Will sighed and leaned back in his chair. "Honestly Quinn, you've had to grow up so much faster than your peers. You had so much responsibility for so many months, but then you suddenly didn't have it anymore. I think you made the right decision to give Beth to a mother who would be able to be just the thing she needed, but I think it was probably…confusing?" Will shook his head. "You grew up in 9 months, but then were suddenly a kid again. You didn't have another life to take care of and I think that's why you're lost."

Quinn was staring at Will, her eyes swimming with tears. She nodded, reaching up to wipe them away before the fell. "I guess," she sniffled. "I don't know what happened. Sometimes I feel like I'm more hormonal with the baby." She laughed through the tears.

Will stood and cautiously put a hand on Quinn's shoulder. "I think that maybe Shelby's advice could work for you," he said. "Just be by yourself and don't rely on another person to define who you are. Your relationship status doesn't make you Quinn Fabray, you make yourself Quinn Fabray. Once you're…at peace with being single, I think finding yourself will be easy."

Will reached over his desk and grabbed a handful of tissues, handing them to the weepy girl. She blew her nose and dabbed her eyes, taking a few calming breaths. "Thank you, Mr. Shue," she said, looking up at him with a watery smile.

"It's no problem," said Will.

Quinn stood and took a look at the door before reaching over to hug her teacher for a quick moment. "I never said it, but I'm sorry for making that deal with your ex-wife; about giving her Beth. I was really confused and…I guess if I was going to choose anyone to be a dad to my baby, it would have been you. Finn was a horrible choice and Puck wasn't much better." Quinn looked down. "Beth needed someone better than my dad."

"I don't blame you," said Will. "Terry is…persuasive." He shrugged.

"Thanks again," she said softly, before slipping out of the door.

Will sat back down at his desk, taking a few moments before returning to his song search.

~.~.~.~.~.~

For the girls' performance, the Glee club moved to the auditorium. The boys took seats a few rows back from the stage, talking loudly, save for Kurt and Blaine, who seemed to be absorbed in their own world. The couple had been inseparable lately, always huddled over each other and whispering (or stealing kisses when they thought no one was looking).

The group of girls walked on stage, matching with navy dresses, but each had their own cut and style dress. They formed a line on the stage, each taking a seat on a black stool, like the ones they used for their performance of "To Sir, With Love."

Quinn was in the center, Santana and Brittany on either side of her, with Mercedes and then Tina on Santana's left; Rachel and Lauren on Brittany's right.

"The girls of Glee decided to sing a song that shows that we're not happy with the pressures media and society give us," said Quinn confidently. She nodded to Tina, who smiled. "And that we'll try as hard as we can not to listen to them any more."

Quinn nodded to the band behind them to start playing, the light strumming of guitars playing with some help from the keyboard. After a few measures, Quinn began the song, her voice soft, with a rising power to it.

"I am moving through the crowd
Trying to find myself
Feel like a guitar that's never played
Will someone strum away?"

The rest of the girls hummed in the back ground as Quinn sang, before joining collectively for the chorus, their voices meshing beautifully in harmony.

"And I ask myself
Who do I wanna be?
Do I wanna throw away the key?
and invent a whole new me
and I tell myself
No One, No One
Don't wanna be
No One
But me…"

As the voices of the group faded, the band continuing their jobs, if becoming louder as the music swelled, Santana sang next, smiling genuinely at the words.

"You are moving through the crowd
Trying to find yourself."

Brittany's voice came in immediately after Santana, who looked over across Quinn to smile softly at the innocent quality of her voice.

"Feelin' like a doll left on a shelf
Will someone take you down?"
Again, the girls joined their voices to sing the chorus. Quinn's eyes were already swelling with tears that she refused to let fall. Rachel had tears quietly running down her face already.

"And you ask yourself
Who do I wanna be?
Do I wanna throw away the key?
and invent a whole new me
Gotta tell yourself
No One, No One
Don't wanna be
No One
But me."

With her usual vocal power, Mercedes belted out the next two lines, causing chills for most everyone in the room.

"Your life plays out on the shadows of the wall
You turn the light on to erase it all."

Rachel had regained enough composure to sing her own lyrics. It was obvious from the look in her eyes that they actually meant something to her.

"You wonder what it's like to not feel worthless
So open all the blinds and all the curtains."

Rachel held out her last note as the other girls sang:

"No One, No One
Don't wanna be
No One
But me."

Quinn ended the song softly, as the others hummed together:

"We are moving through the crowd…"

The music faded and the boys in the audience applauded politely. "That was fantastic, ladies," said Mr. Shue, standing and walking up to the front of the stage. "I really felt it. Bravo!"

As the group walked back to the choir room, many laughing and still giddy from their performance, or swimming in compliments from the guys. Rachel trailed behind, her eyes trained on her feet.

"Rachel?"

Rachel turned to the other straggler. It was Artie, pushing his wheelchair up to her and stopping beside her.

"Hello," she said quietly.

There was a beat of silence, and then, "I noticed that you've been different lately," said Artie. The laughter from the rest of the group faded as they turned in the hallway, so the two were alone. "Not your loud controlling self, and I didn't realize that I would ever miss that…but I do."

Rachel frowned down at the boy. "I'm sorry that I'm not being my normal annoying self," she huffed.

"No - that's not what I meant!" said Artie quickly, rolling after her. She stopped and turned to face him again. "I just meant…there has to be a reason for the change in your behavior. And you seem really…well, sad. Sadder than usual." He frowned up at her.

Rachel sighed, but didn't say anything. "You can talk to me. I know we've never actually been close but, yeah, you can," he said quietly.

Rachel stared at him for a long moment. "Did it hurt when Brittany broke up with you?" she blurted. "For Santana?"

Artie was confused at first, how the subject had changed so quickly. He was caught off guard. "Uh, I guess, at first it did. It almost felt like Tina and Mike all over again…" he said, trailing off. "But then I stopped and really looked at them - Brittany and Santana."

He wasn't exactly sure how to explain it. When Brittany had broken things off with him a little bit after Prom last year, it had been heart breaking, no doubt. "I saw that they really care for each other…love each other, even. That makes it better. I know that Brittany doesn't hate me, she just loved Santana more."

Rachel stared at him, her eyes swimming with tears. "You don't feel…unwanted?"

"Everyone feels unwanted," said Artie. "You get over it, because you know that some time in your life, you'll be wanted by someone. It might take awhile…but yeah."

"I'm pretty sure no one will ever want me," sighed Rachel. She walked over to the wall, leaning up against it. Artie trailed after her, frowning.

"Is that what this is about?" asked Artie. "Rachel - sit down, you look like you're going to faint or something."

"I'm not sitting on the ground," muttered Rachel, a bit of her stubbornness showing.

"I'm open for business as a chair," said Artie, motioning to his lap. Rachel looked at him like he'd suddenly sprouted two heads. "Hey, it's this or you fall to the ground."

Rachel hesitantly stepped over to Artie and sat down as gently as possible. She wasn't heavy at all. "So you don't feel wanted?" asked Artie as he began to push them toward the choir room.

"Yes," she said in a small voice. "Finn…well, you know."

"I'm sorry," said Artie. "I know how that is."

Rachel believed him.

"I just wish I could find that person who wants me, like you said," Rachel said, looking down at her hands.

"What if that was me?"

Woah, where the heck did that come from? Artie asked himself. Sure, Artie thought that Rachel was a good looking girl, and if not for her sometimes overbearing personality, she was nice. And then there was the fact that Artie had actually missed hearing her voice in Glee club over the pass few weeks. She had been so quiet; as if she wasn't really there…

But did he really like her?

Rachel was staring at him, well, gaping really.

"What?" she asked.

Artie's face tinged pink. "I don't know…I just…maybe we can…" Suddenly Artie was more embarrassed than anything else. Finally he stopped talking. They were a few doors away from the choir room and could hear Mr. Shue talking. He lifted one gloved hand from his chair and put it on Rachel's face, leaning over to kiss her lips quickly.

It was a short kiss, nothing particularly long or romantic.

It was sweet, however. It felt nice, for both parties.

"Oh," said Rachel when they parted.

"Yeah," said Artie, claming up. Finally he said, "I can still talk to you about anything, if you're having problems. I'm a way better listener now."

Rachel stood slowly, nodding. "I'd…I'd like that, Artie." She smiled down at him and before running back to the choir room, she leaned down to kiss him again.

~.~.~.~.~

Will looked around the class as he leaned up against the piano, smiling with pride. Sometimes, Will felt like he made a difference in his students. Other times, he knew that they were really the ones making a difference in themselves. Even in himself.

Will's eyes settled on Kurt and Blaine, who was sitting close together, Blaine with his head on Kurt's shoulder and looking down at a book in Kurt's hands. Will had called Blaine into his office yesterday, after giving him a few days to cool off from his emotional performance. Will was glad that Blaine reported good things; he glossed over what happened with his dad, not wanting to go into details. Will could see that he was more carefree now, lighter.

Blaine's good mood had inevitably affected Kurt's. This was probably the happiest Will had ever seen Kurt. The kid deserved it, with all the crap that had gone down last year.

Next he looked at Tina, who was bent over a magazine with Mercedes, talking about dresses for Homecoming. He thought he heard Mercedes mention shopping, and after a moment of panic on Tina's face, that disappeared. She nodded, then leaned over to invite Lauren along with them. Then Kurt called from a few chairs down that there was no way they were dressing themselves without him.

Will laughed, shaking his head, eyes landing on Quinn. She was writing in a small blue journal, a small smile on her face. The front of the journal held a place for a photograph. Inside it was a photo of a small toddler, dressed in pink.

Will was sure that Quinn would do fine, in anything she wanted.

Puck, Finn, Sam and Mike talked about plans for this weekend. Sam mentioned that they should see the new action flick that had just come out, then maybe go out to eat. Finn agreed quickly and then Puck joked about an all you can eat buffet and how that might satisfy Finn for a few hours. The taller boy elbowed Puck, but laughed along with him.

Brittany and Santana, much like Kurt and Blaine, were caught in their own world. Er, one Will probably should pull them out of soon if he wanted to keep the classroom PG…

Finally, one of the strangest developments of the week. Will's eyes settled on Rachel and Artie, who sat next to each other and were speaking in intense tones. Artie sat, nodding and listening intently, while interjecting something every no and again. At these points, Rachel nodded frantically.

Most notably, Rachel was smiling for the first time in weeks. She had actually spoken up in class today, offering a song choice for Sectionals. It seemed like she was getting back to her old self, abet less intense, which could be a good thing.

The shocking and most strange thing about this picture, however, was Artie and Rachel's locked hands and Artie's moonstruck expression.

At this point in their conversation, Rachel laughed, then leaned over to kiss Artie on the cheek.

In the weirdest way, Will was sure that this relationship had staying power, however random and unlikely it seemed.  

Will was sure that this assignment on perfection affected all the members of his Glee club. He was glad.

"Ok everyone," he said finally. "I have a group song for us to perform to wrap up this assignment." All the eyes turned toward him, looking genuinely excited. Well, except for two. "Santana, Brittany, please move to separate chairs," he said with an almost exasperated sigh.

~.~.~.~.~.~

They found themselves in front of the school a week later, ready to perform. Mr. Shuester had run the idea by Principal Figgins and that everyone could benefit from hearing that they were perfect as they were. So Figgins fit in their performance in the Homecoming assembly.

For the performance, they guys were dressed simply in black slacks, long-sleeved, button up blue shirts with black ties. The girls were wearing different styles of blue dresses with black tights. They got into a loose formation behind the black curtain on stage, Puck standing center with his guitar.

As the curtain parted to reveal the somewhat bored audience, Puck strummed his guitar, beginning the song in his soft and dreamy tones.

"She's so big hearted
But not so remarkable
Just an ordinary humble girl
Expecting nothing as we're made to think
It's a pretty person's world."

The rest of the band, set up off to the side of the stage struck up, joining Puck in the music. Artie rolled up as the rest of the Glee club partnered up, dancing a simplified tango.

"But you are beautiful
And you better go show it
So go look again
You gotta be true to your own
If you really wanna go to the top
Do you really wanna win
Don't believe in leaving normal
Just to satisfy demand."

The others joined together to sing the next part as the boys sent their partners spinning away from them in their tango.

"Well if you wanna get free
And if you wanna do the passionate thing
And if you wanna get smart
For the sake of your heart and all
You should own your name
And stand up tall and get real
And see the beauty in ugly."

Artie, who had been staying up from away from the dancers, sang again, smiling out at the enthused crowd, who were clapping along with the beat. A few partners met up again to dance, including Brittany and Mike, who started to incorporate moves from last year's Sectionals.

"Well you are fresh
Your face is fabulous
Don't forget you're one of a kind."

Blaine, who had been partnered with Quinn, spun her, leaving the skirts of her dress fluttering as he took a step next to Artie. His eyes sparkled, singing his heart out in a solo for the first time as a member of New Directions.

"When nobody's checking the deeds you've done
And nobody's hearing your cries
You make all the fashion statements
Just by dressing up your mind."

Blaine lead the group in the chorus, owning the stage that was put in front of him.

"And if you wanna get free
And if you wanna do the passionate thing
And if you wanna get smart
For the sake of your heart and all
You should own your name
And stand up tall and get real
And see the beauty in ugly
See the beauty in ugly."

Blaine let his last note hold out as long as he could. Behind him, the group partnered up again as the music swelled faster. Mike and Brittany shown as they did their famous flip in the instrumental break, earning a raucous applause.  

As a group, New Directions sang out the last verse, their voices building in power over the moving beat.

"Well if you wanna get free
And if you wanna do the passionate thing
And if you wanna get smart
For the sake of your heart and all
You should own your name
And stand up tall and get real
And see the beauty in ugly."

Breathless, New Directions paused in their final poses, some of the male leads dipping their partners or lifting them up. They smiled out at the student audience as the applause filled the air. It seemed like for the first time since Glee club performed at an assembly, nothing had gone horribly wrong.

Or caused a sex riot.

New Directions skipped off the stage, laughing and high on the performance. They went back to the choir room, passing on the rest of the assembly so they could change back into regular clothes for the rest of the day. Kurt kissed Blaine and congratulated him on a job well done. Rachel sat on Artie's lap on the way back, giggling and making an excuse about her aching feet.

When the loud group was back in their classroom, Will arrived a few minutes after them.

"That was great, you guys," he said. The group wooped and hollered. "I'm really proud of each and every one of you for the work you've done lately and I'm proud that you took this assignment seriously. I know for a lot of you, it was hard." Will could see Kurt squeeze Blaine's hand out of the corner of his eye. "And so I just want to thank all of you, because you taught me something important in the last two weeks. I want you to remember that I'm learning this stuff with you and I really love every minute of it." Will laughed, a huge smile on his face, and then sighed happily.

"Get dressed, all of you, and enjoy homecoming!" The group began to move around the room, grabbing their bags and clothes. "And be safe! Call me if anything happens; my phone will be on all night, no matter what it is."

"So did we really do good?" asked Rachel before everyone had left. For some reason, everyone paused, falling silent as they looked at Mr. Shue.

"Perfect," Will said with a genuine smile.

FIN
The final chapter is here! I had so much fun writing this and thank you for all of your feedback and just thanks for reading. It means a lot to me!

Songs used:
"No One" by Aly and Aj
"Beautiful in Ugly" by Jason Mraz

Let me just say, the Rachel/Artie thing...yeah. That surprised me, too. They hit me over the head, stole my keyboard and wrote it themselves. But I feel like they could be good for each other! :)

For giggles, here is the girls' dresses for "No One"

Brittany: [link]
Rachel: [link]
Tina: [link]
Lauren: [link]
Quinn: [link]
Mercedes: [link]
Santana: [link]
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:iconnicole-la:
Nicole-la Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
Okay, so, excuse me for not reading this as soon as this was submited. xDDD But DUDE. Brilliant as usual! You gave me HUGE chills during the girls' preformance, (I like listening to the song while reading it. :giggle: ) I LOVED how you included Beth!! And I was suprised about the whole Rartite (or Artchel =p) deal! But you know, it could actually REALLY work! And Artie is just so cute! I JUST WANNA HUGGLE HIM.

Greatgreatgreatgreatgreatstory. :heart:
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:iconphantomofarose:
PhantomOfARose Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2011
Thanks so much! :D
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:iconaulophobia:
aulophobia Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2011
so amazing
I've never thought of Rachel/Artie before, but I think they'd make a good pair!
Reply
:iconforever---young:
forever---young Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2011
This is amazing. A lot of the songs and stuff really hit home, and just... wow. good job :)
And I need it to be an actual episode.
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:iconanimatedspider:
AnimatedSpider Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2011
Awww this was totally awesome. And I mean that in the most sincere way possible. And Rartie.....Artchel? Yeah, that made me jump, cuz I've always thought Rachel and Finn should be together...but you might just convert me. And you have a great eye for the girls' individual fashion styles, I could totally see those dresses on each and every one of them. So to wrap this little ramble up......you are amazing. Or should I say......perfect.....?
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:iconphantomofarose:
PhantomOfARose Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2011
It was such a weird pairing that jumped out at me and fit for the story. Normally, I love Artie/Brittany, but I feel like sooner or later, they'll have to break up. Then I've started to ship Artie/Mercedes...don't ask! lol
Thanks :D IT was fun to google "navy dresses" and pick out styles for the girls.
Thank you so much! You're flattering!
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:iconanimatedspider:
AnimatedSpider Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2011
Oh pshhh.....you deserve all the flattery you get. And I agree, Artie/Brittany is SO ADORABLE but seriously, Brittany will probably end up with Santana, because they're amazing together. And I can't believe you think Artcedes would work, I actually started thinking they should be together like JUST YESTERDAY. So that was weird telepathy. But yeah, the dresses, the story, the ships were all so good. I loved it.
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:iconphantomofarose:
PhantomOfARose Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2011
I seriously only thought of it a few weeks ago. I mean, it makes sense. Not only would Artcedes be adorable together, they would be like, the most HILARIOUS couple. They already work well together: such as Blame it, and other songs they've sung together. And Artie is like, gangster already. I just have yet to find a well written fanfiction for them! :(
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:iconanimatedspider:
AnimatedSpider Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2011
They WOULD be like the best couple ever!!! Kevin McHale said that Amber Riley teaches him how to say all of his ghetto lines and that's why he does so much finger-wagging like Mercedes, and so the chemistry is definitely there. And it was actually a song they did that made me think, "Artcedes would be SO legit". Well...actually, it was just that one line in "Forget You" that they did together. Like that part was stuck in my head for the whole day and it made me realize what an awesome couple they'd be. It's always duets that make me ship people; I shipped Klaine because of 'Baby It's Cold Outside' before I'd actually seen the show.

.....that was a long ramble......sorry about that.....
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:iconphantomofarose:
PhantomOfARose Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2011
No, it's fine! It's a long ramble about Artcedes! :D
It's official. When Brittany and Artie break up, he HAS to end up with Mercedes!
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