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28 December 2014 @ 01:45 am
challenge #11: random madness  
Title: Crutches
Word Count: 2413
Rating: PG
Original/Fandom: Glee
Pairings (if any): Artie/ Kitty, Tina/ OC, ex Artie/ Tina (don't like, please don't read :S )
Warnings (Non-Con/Dub-Con/etc): none
Summary: AU: Artie is on crutches instead of in a wheelchair and how that affects his friendship with Tina.
Sentence: A Walk to Remember, p. 103 - “You’re welcome to visit Christmas Eve.”
Sentence included? Y/N: No

Artie shuffled over to the old wood bench next to the middle school wall. He slowly lowered himself so he was sitting, his legs stretched out before him. He took his crutches in one hand and put them off to the side. He sighed and looked back towards the baseball game that his friends had started. Even if he was in a wheelchair, he could have joined in. He could have held the bat and tried to swing. If he actually got a hit, he could have pushed himself around the bases. He’d seen kids who were pretty fast in their wheelchairs while he was in rehab. As it was, he was too slow to play any sports. He could never hold a bat, he needed all his strength to balance on his crutches.

He sighed and sat back. He knew he had to do this. His mom had cried the first time she’d seen him in a wheelchair. When the doctors said he could walk, he knew he had to try. It was hard and the braces made his legs hurt. The doctors said he might be able to go without the leg braces in a few years, if he could get enough strength. Artie didn’t know if that was possible.

Someone was sniffling next to him. Artie turned and saw a girl he didn’t recognize. He hadn’t even noticed her sitting there. He thought he knew everyone in his middle school. She pulled her arms across her chest as if trying to protect herself. She stared off at the blacktop, crowded with kids playing sports and just talking to their friends. Artie studied her for a long moment. She wore jeans and a t-shirt, but Artie, who had recently started noticing girls as more than just friends, thought she was pretty. “Are you OK?” He finally asked.

She turned towards him and just shook her head. She had her hair pulled back and it seemed accentuate her round face and almond eyes.

“What’s wrong?” He asked softly.

She shrugged, her eyes fell on his crutches and she studied his outstretched legs for a long moment. She finally seemed to decide he was OK. She sighed, “It’s just that I don’t know anyone here. We moved here last week. My dad got a great job and we couldn’t wait to move, even though it’s the middle of the year.”

“First of all, my name is Artie, so now you know me.” He chuckled. “And you are?”

“Tina, my name is Tina,” she smiled a little, but it quickly faded. “I don’t know what to make of this place. Everyone already has their friends and I already have all this homework. I have to give a speech about the Missouri Compromise in a few days, and I don’t know anything about it.”

“You have Mr. Watson?” Artie looked at her, she definitely wasn’t in his class. Tina just nodded. “Yeah, we have to do the same speech. I could help you with it.”

Tina just smiled shyly. “Thanks, I’d appreciate that.”

Artie shook his head and turned back towards the asphalt. “It’s nothing. It’s so different now that we’re in sixth grade. I can climb across the monkey bars, I can go down a slide and even swing a little, but no one cares about that now. They only want to play baseball.”

“That must be hard,” she said softly.

“Not really,” he just shrugged. “You do what you have to, you know? Anyway, you said what’s on your mind, so I figured I’d do the same.”

“Thanks,” she smiled again.

And to think, in another world, he’d be trying to play baseball.
==

It was snowing in Ohio, but Artie didn’t care, he just packed up and made his way to the airport. The cab driver stared openly as he pulled up in front of Artie’s apartment building in Brooklyn Heights. Artie pulled open the back door before the driver could even move. He climbed into the car and pulled his crutches in after him. “Could you get my bag? It’s on the sidewalk.”

The driver just grunted and threw Artie’s bag in the trunk. He got back into the car. “What happened to you?”

“Let’s just say the other guy looks worse,” Artie chuckled, because it was none of his business. “Aren’t you supposed to ask where I’m going?”

“Yeah, whatever,” the guy muttered. Obviously he didn’t want to be a driver.

“Well, I’m going to JFK, if my plane isn’t canceled.”

“Good luck. I heard there’s a big storm coming in.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve got a good reason to be going home.” He smiled, because after all this time, Lima was still the only place he could consider home.

“You sound like a lucky guy.”

Artie was still smiling. “You can say that again.”

They hopped on the expressway and thankfully, there wasn’t much traffic. He made it to the terminal just in time to hear the announcement that his flight was delayed. He pulled his bag up on his back, printed out his boarding pass and started towards security. It was a good thing that he had the extra time, because security was awful as usual. They had to go through so much extra because of the crutches. At least he’d finally gotten rid of the leg braces, because that made everything that much worse.

He made his way to his gate and slowly sat down. He could feel the eyes on him, but he didn’t care. He was already thinking about what would be waiting on the other side of that flight.

It was late before he finally got to Lima. The town was silent as he rode through in the back of a local cab. All the houses were lit up in Christmas colors. He loved this time of year. The cabbie met his eyes in the rear view mirror. “You’re that Abrams kid, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I am. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised. After all, everyone knows each other in this town, right?”

“Yeah, it’s true,” The cab driver chuckled. “I saw your last performance with the glee club, you know before you graduated. You were pretty good out there.”

“Well, it wasn’t just me. I had a lot of friends out there with me.” Artie shrugged. It wasn’t like he was dancing or anything out there. Sure, he dreamed about it, but it just wasn’t possible on his crutches. He’d seen a video on youtube once of a guy dancing on his crutches, but he wasn’t that guy. He was just the kid standing in the background, getting a solo once in a while. He did it for his friends, but more than that, he did it for the love of music.

The cab driver looked like he wanted to say something else, but he was just silent. The cab finally pulled up to his house, the only dark one on the block. His mom had said that with no one at home, it wasn’t worthwhile to turn on the lights. His mom was in for a surprise, but right now it looked like she was asleep. Artie sighed, wrestling with his stuff for a long moment. The cab driver smiled as he drove away.

By the time Artie got up to his room, he was exhausted. He fell into his bed and was asleep within minutes.

He woke up to his mom staring down at him. She smiled a little. “What are you doing here?”

He blinked rapidly, trying to wake up a little. He shrugged. “You said you were lonely.”

“That didn’t mean you had to come home! Don’t you have to work?”

Artie sat up a little. “I took off. We’re not filming anything this week, so it’s a little slow anyway.”

“Still, it’s your first year… This is a great opportunity, Artie. I think you should be a little more careful.”

“It’s fine, mom,” but he was smiling. He knew she had every right to be worried.

She sat down on the bed. “So why are you really here? I know you didn’t come all this way just to keep your dear old mom company.”

He shook his head. “Am I really that obvious? Actually, I have some friends to see. You know, some unfinished business to attend to.”

His mom studied him for a long moment. “Just don’t do anything stupid, OK? You would talk to me about anything serious, right?”

“Yes, mom,” he shook his head. “Don’t worry, it’s not that. I just need to go talk to someone. That’s all.”

“Alright. Let me know if you need a ride or anything. I didn’t see a car outside.”

“Yeah, I didn’t want to rent one. Don’t worry, I’ll call a cab.”

“OK,” His mom shrugged. “Oh, by the way, your father won’t be here for Christmas. He’s still in LA, he said he has to work.”

Artie just sighed. It wasn’t exactly the news he’d wanted to hear, but he wasn’t surprised. His parents had been having problems for years. They told him it had nothing to do with his accident, but he knew that’s when it started. They weren’t officially separated or anything; they stayed together for Artie. But his father was gone on trips for work for months at a time. In a way, that was even harder. Artie finally nodded. “I promise I’ll be back before tonight, in time for Christmas Eve.”

“Thanks, Artie. I’m glad you came.” She leaned down and kissed his head.

Artie quickly ate a bagel and grabbed a cab to go across town. He knew this might be a mistake, but he needed to see her, to explain everything in person. He sighed as the cab sailed through his hometown, bringing back so many memories. Here was the cafe where they’d always hung out in high school, the field where he’d stupidly tried to play football one year and the team had actually won.

FInally, the cab pulled up to the familiar house. He paid and he slowly got out of the car. He walked up to the house, as slow as ever. He had to smile to himself. She’d been there through everything. He honestly wasn’t sure how she’d react today.

He paused in front of the door for a long moment before he knocked. Her mom answered the door after a long moment. “Artie, what are you doing here?”

He chuckled, “It’s a long story. Is Tina here?”

“Yeah, but-”

“It’s OK, if she’s still sleeping, just go wake her up.”

She shook her head, “I couldn’t do that. She’s been so busy lately.”

“Trust me, she’ll want to know I’m here.”

“Trust me, I do want to know!” She burst out from behind her mom. “Artie! What are you doing here?”

He chuckled. “Why is everyone asking me that? Am I not allowed to visit my home town?”

“Of course you are,” Tina smiled. “Come in. It’s freezing out there.”

Artie chuckled and made his way into her living room. They sat down next to each other on the couch and her mom left them alone. “I’m glad you came, Artie,” Tina was smiling widely. “It’s been so long since we’ve talked. I have so much to tell you.”

“Yeah, about that...” Artie sighed. “I think I should go first. I met someone, Tina.” He didn’t mean to blurt it out like that, but he figured maybe it was for the best.

“That’s great, Artie,” but she was oddly quiet.

“Actually, I shouldn’t say I just met her. I met her a long time ago. It’s Kitty. I ran into her in the city, do you know she lives in New York now? Anyway, we started talking and something just clicked, you know? We just started going out again, but I really think it could work between us this time. It’s not like high school anymore.”

Tina nodded and sighed. “I’m really happy for you, but there’s something I should tell you.”

“Look, I don’t know if I want to hear it. We tried going out, remember? We’re great friends, but that’s it.”

“No, it’s not that. I know we work best as friends. I’m gonna be honest. I just feel like I’ve been leaning on you for so long. Sometimes I feel like I need those crutches more than you do,” she sighed, looking down at the metal sticks that were always by his side. “I’m so glad you’re my best friend and that I could come to you all those times I needed help.” She sighed and looked right at him. “There’s something I need to tell you. I’m getting married, Artie,” she blurted suddenly.

“What? Who is he? Why didn’t you say anything before now?”

She just chuckled. “I met him in Cleveland. It’s been so fast, but we’re really in love. We don’t want to wait, so we’re getting married in the summer. I haven’t had time to think or breathe, let alone spread around the news. I’m sorry to ambush you with this. He’s from New York. We were gonna come in the new year to tell his relatives... and you.”

“But you didn’t even post anything on facebook.” Artie was kind of hurt that she’d been so secretive about the whole thing.

“You know I’ve never been into the whole PDA thing. Anyway, like I said, I just haven’t had a chance. It’s only been a few weeks.”

Artie sighed. “I’m really happy for you, Tina.”

She smiled. “You know you’re still my best friend right? You know how you’ve said things would be different if you were in a wheelchair? I think you’re right. Maybe we wouldn’t even be friends, maybe we never would have joined glee club and had all those crazy times.”

Artie just chuckled. “No, I think we would have joined, no matter what.”

She just shook her head. “Anyway, I never realized it, but you were my crutch and maybe I was avoiding real life, but you’ve helped me so much. I appreciate that you were there for me all the time.”

“Yeah well, did I ever tell you about the day we met? I could have been anywhere else and we would have been on our own.”

“Well, I’m glad you were there, even if we are going our separate ways now.”