Unique was in the Glee choir room, looking through the dresses to decide which one she would wear at the prom.
She heard a male gasp, and turned to see Ryder standing at the door. They stared at each other for a few moments, then he blurted out: “So what you gonna do with all the stuff you know about me?”
“Nothing,” she said.
“But you know all my secrets. Why were you trying to find out stuff about me? It can't be just ‘cause you liked me.”
“Well it was. Why’s that so hard to understand? I thought we were friends online. I knew you wouldn't like Unique how I am, so I pretended to be that blonde cheerleader, but we still know each other.”
“But I don't feel safe. You know all this stuff about me. Are you just gonna tell everybody everything?”
“Why the hell would I? You told them what happened when you were eleven, and I’d never tell them all the other stuff. I promise. You can trust me.”
“How can I trust you after you said you were someone else? Isn’t there a law against that?” He stepped forward, looming over her a little and she backed into the rail of dresses, her eyes wide.
Ryder realised he was threatening her and moved away to sit down on the nearest chair. “Sorry but see why I’m upset with you? What if you thought you were chatting with me and it was really Principal Figgins, or someone?”
Unique considered this for a moment. “It would be…horrible.”
“Yeah and what if they went round telling everyone your secrets—”
“I never would—”
“No, but what if they did? Can you see why I hated you for a while?”
Her bottom lip trembled for a second and Ryder hoped he hadn’t gone too far. “Anyway,” he said. “I figured it out and I don’t hate you, I just got used to the idea of Katie being you, or you being Katie, or—”
“That’s so great,” interrupted Unique. “I couldn’t handle it when you hated me. It was like I lost you.”
“Yeah. That’s how it was when Katie turned out to be you. I used to have two friends, Unique and Katie, then I just had one friend, Unique, who made Katie disappear. Now you see why I was angry?”
She stared at him with round eyes. “I never thought of that. I k-killed K-Katie.”
“It felt like that.” He smiled faintly. “I mourned her. But then realised I was mourning you…but you’re not dead. It’s messed up.”
“No, I’m not dead. I’m still here.” She sat down one chair away from him.
“So that’s why I told the kids about what happened when I was eleven. ‘Cause I didn’t trust you, I still thought you’d tell everyone.”
“I’d never do that! Believe me.” She gazed into his eyes until he looked away.
“I’m going to yell at Sam and Artie.” Unique tried to change the subject.
That made Ryder turn back to her. “Why?”
“When you told them? Sam and Artie laughed and said you should enjoy it and it was every kid’s dream. Mr. Schue should have yelled at them but he didn’t. So I’ll do it instead.”
“You don't have to. I'm OK with it now.”
She held up her hand to him. “Sorry, I’m gonna tell them, because with Unique as I am—” she gestured to herself “—I don’t take no crap from no-one.” She was getting animated about the subject, flapping her hands and talking louder and louder. “They need to know it ain’t right to treat you like that. Like everyone said to me: ‘Oh you’re really a boy, you can't be a girl, yadda yadda.’ That's not right. The same as it ain’t right making fun when you been abused.”
Ryder just sat back, watching her with amazement and a little bit of admiration. After some time, she talked herself out, and he managed to get a word in.
“You're right. I told everyone what happened and how I felt about it and those guys just laughed. What if it happened to an eleven year old girl, with an older boy?”
Unique stared at him, thinking about what he had just said. She moved into the chair next to him.
He continued. “I know a girl that happened to and kids bullied her for it, and that's not right. It's sexist isn't it? They bully a girl when she tells them she was abused, but they’re jealous of a boy.”
They nodded to each other in agreement.
“So what we gonna do now?” asked Unique. “I’m real sorry I lied to you. Please be sure I'm never gonna tell anyone all the other stuff you told me. Of course you told them the worst one already, but I mean what you like and dislike and what you do and what you think about stuff and oh!” She paused and looked away. “Those shirtless photos you sent me. I’m real sorry I asked you to do that. What was I thinking? How do you feel about those?”
Ryder paused for a long time, looking at his feet. “Well…it's all on me,” he finally said. “I didn't know who you were and I was kind of bragging sending shirtless photos to an unknown person. You could have been an eighty year old man. Or…the janitor. Or…the bus driver. Or—or—Sue Sylvester.” He stopped because he was laughing, and Unique laughed too at the idea of Sue Sylvester drooling over Ryder’s naked chest.
“So we learned a lesson didn’t we?” he continued. “I learned not to tell people stuff when I don't know who they are. How about you?”
“I learned…um…not to lie to people and pretend to be someone else,” said Unique thoughtfully. “I'm a proud black woman and that's who I am. I'm not a blonde cheerleader. If I wanna make friends with anyone, online or offline, I have to be myself, no faking and no lying.”
They smiled at each other. Ryder held out his hand to shake Unique’s hand but she did the feminine thing of presenting it to him palm down. So he took it as a prince would, and half bowed over it, which made them both giggle.