Chasing Fireflies
By: Arainia

For Violet-Shadow. Your comment about the Quinn/Artie pairing was interesting, and so I wrote this. I hope you like it.

A little known fact about Quinn Fabray was that she hadn't always been popular; she hadn't always been comparable to a toothpick in size, and from the way her school career had started, people certainly wouldn't have pegged her to be a future cheerleader, the girlfriend of a football star, no less! See, back before Quinn was a somebody- wait, not just somebody, she was the It girl of William McKinley high school- she was a nobody. A loser. The chunky blonde girl who sat at the back of the class (actually paying attention to what the teacher said), daydreaming about her life and what the future held. When she was thirteen, she had the crazy ambition to be a veterinarian. Well, she supposed it wasn't that crazy. But when she looked back on her life then, compared to her life now, she couldn't picture herself tending to sick animals. Now she couldn't stand animals- cats in particular- she avoided them at all costs.

There were a lot of things about her past that she avoided at all costs- Artie Abrahams being the number one thing, or rather, person, that she went out of her way to shun.

Another little known fact about Quinn was that, back in her life of obscurity and loser-dom, she'd had a cool best friend. A best friend that she'd been secretly in love with. A best friend who she- almost regrettably. But she'd taught herself not to have regrets- didn't speak to anymore. A best friend whose life she had ruined.

Artie Abrahams had been her best friend. And she was the reason that he was a paraplegic. It was her fault that Artie, once a happy, outgoing individual- "Artie! The life of the party!"- was confined to a wheelchair. Her fault that he was stuck in social obscurity, forced to turn to the members of the glee club for company.

It was so fucked up.

But Quinn had gotten over that long ago- really, she had. She didn't think about Artie at all anymore. He was the furthest thing from her mind. Haunting thoughts of the way he used to be didn't keep her up at night, tossing and turning in her bed, hating herself in the morning when she looked at herself, standing tall in the mirror.

Oh fine. She hadn't gotten over the incident. But really, how could anyone have expected her to? Granted, they all thought she was okay with it- how life had panned out. How she'd risen to the top of the food chain and left him to flounder with the bottom feeders- but for God's sake (sorry God) how could she ever be even close to normal after that?

Of course, if she ever told anyone how she really felt- her parents, Finn, the other "cheerios"- she knew what they'd say: "It wasn't your fault, Quinn. It's horrible that it happened, but it wasn't your fault." Not exactly comforting when Quinn knew that yes, it was horrible that Artie was in a wheelchair now and yes, in spite of what everybody told her following the incident, it was her fault.

She'd known him since the third grade, when his family moved into the house across the street. He was the same age as she was, seven, and he'd been insistently stubborn, trying to get to know her. Quinn, a butterball from her earliest days, hadn't wanted the neighbours to even see her. Everyone at school had started chanting "fatty, fatty!" recently, and she was convinced that now everyone thought she was a stupid cow. But Artie was different. Quinn's mother had forced her out of the house (but she could do nothing to stop the girl from hiding behind her legs) and across the street where Artie and his brother Benjamin were playing with a bottle of bubbles and a bubble wand.

Quinn's mother, a skinny socialite, had introduced herself to the Abrahams gracefully. "Say hi." She'd told Quinn.

"Hi." Quinn mumbled obediently, looking at her pink-and-white shoes. She couldn't face all of the eyes on her- two strange boys, their parents, and Mommy's- she bolted across the street like a jack rabbit on steroids. She'd thought she was safe, hiding on her porch underneath the overhang (she wasn't yet tall enough to reach the doorknob). Artie was the one who followed her.

"Why'd you run away?" He asked. She glared at him. She knew Mommy hated it when she gave people "the look" but she just wanted this boy to go away. He remained there, unaffected as he sat down a few feet away from her patiently.

"I didn't run away." Quinn finally said. "I just don't think you'd like me."

"How do you know?"

"Because I'm a fatty."

Artie looked at her seriously with a tilt to his head. "No," he finally declared, slowly. "No you're not a fatty."

"Yes I am." She tossed her blonde head. "Everyone at school says so!"

"An elephant's fat. You're not." Artie returned, shrugging. He stuck out his hand. "I'm Artie."

"Quinn." She reluctantly stretched out her own hand, but when they shook on their introduction, she couldn't help the smile that triumphed on her pretty face.

When Artie went to school (Red Apple Elementary, the same school she went to) he was instantly liked by everyone. He was smart, enthusiastic, athletic, and funny. Best of all, his qualities were contagious. Standing next to Artie, you felt as if you could do anything. He was just one of those boys. Quinn had expected that Artie would ditch her in favour of hanging out with the boys in the class, but he surprised her by sitting with her at lunch every day, trading his turkey and cheese sandwich for her peanut butter and jelly. None of the other kids could figure out why Artie wanted to hang out with "Fatty". Daniela Cooper even went up to him after a few weeks to inform him that "Quinn had special fatty cooties, and he'd better get away from him if he didn't want to catch them." Quinn had been upset by the comment, tears springing to her eyes as she pushed away from the desk (it was the start of winter so they ate inside). Daniela was right. Nobody wanted to hang out with her.

"Quinn, where are you going?" Artie stared up evenly at Daniela, big eyes stern. "Elephants are fatties. Quinn isn't."

Daniela huffed. "Yes, she is!"

"No she isn't. And she doesn't have cooties."

"Yes she does!" Quinn was frozen, standing beside her chair, neck and cheeks cherry red.

"No, she doesn't. You have cooties!" At this, the entire of the third grade class gasped. Nobody told Daniela Cooper she had cooties. Not even Artie, the cool new kid. Daniela had been so upset she'd burst into tears and told the teacher about Artie's comment after the lunch hour (she "forgot" to mention anything about taunting Quinn). Artie apologized. The teacher forced them to hug.

But Quinn was in awe for the rest of that day- heck, the rest of that week! Nobody had ever defended her like that before. Artie was the only person she knew of who would dare to speak up against Daniela. She knew, as they scrambled into Mrs. Abrahams' car- Artie's mom picked them up from school since Quinn's mom had to work- that she was in love with Artie, her knight in shining armour.

As the years went on, things changed. Quinn hated change. It never worked in her favour, and it always seemed to happen when she was least ready for it. In grade four, Artie started hanging out with other people- really hanging out with them. Sometimes, he'd even forget about Quinn (something he apologized for profusely when she admitted that it upset her). In grade five, Quinn's father died in a car accident. She hadn't gotten to see him much because he was a travelling business man and his trips rarely accommodated her, but he was her father and she loved him. In grade six, her mom started dating someone new (who Quinn actually liked and looked up to). The summer before grade seven, Quinn's mom broke up with her boyfriend Rex, and in September of that year, she learned what a "cheater" was. Apparently Rex had been sleeping with someone else behind her mother's back.

But Artie was there for her through everything. It didn't matter how big or how small, how dumb or important, he was always by her side as soon as she needed him. Sometimes he didn't have to say anything- him just being there was more than enough of a comfort to her.

Grade eight came. Artie became more aware of girls. Especially Daniela, the girl had hit puberty at the age of eleven and now boasted shiny hair, big breasts and supermodel legs. It hurt Quinn whenever she watched Artie and Daniela interact- Artie had grown and filled out, he was easily one of the best-looking boys in the class.

Quinn hated herself during grade eight. Every night she'd stare in front of the mirror, wishing that her rounded cheeks and puffy waistline would somehow magically morph into Daniela's flawless, socially-accepted body. On New Year's Eve, when she found out that Artie had asked Daniela to be his "girlfriend" (elementary school relationships were so juvenile, but they were undeniably messy for everyone involved), she made the resolution to go on a diet. Well, something of a diet. She remembered starving herself and waking up one day a few weeks later, passed out in the school nurse's office.

It was all for nothing anyway. She was just a blubbery girl and nothing (not even denying herself food) would change her shape. Her mother kept her home from school for the next week and prayed for her. Artie came to visit her on Friday night, and surprise, surprise, he was angry with her for being so careless.

"Why would you do that, Quinn? You could've died!" He'd never been angry with her before, she chose to get angry right back.

"Because I'm ugly, Artie! Okay?"

"How many times do we have to go over-"

"No!" She'd cut him off, slamming down her fork. Her mother had made her ham and mashed potatoes for dinner, and after ensuring that she ate a first serving, heaped a second one onto her plate. "I'm not beautiful! Take off your stupid fucking rose-coloured glasses, because you need to see the real me! The real, fat, ugly, disgusting me!" Quinn remembered shaking, she was so pissed off. She was mad at herself for believing that a crash diet would be successful, she was mad at her mother for hovering over her now whenever it was time to eat. She was mad at Artie for falling for Daniela, and she was mad at Daniela for just being so perfect.

"The only ugly thing I'm seeing right now," Artie said in that same, calm, Artie voice that he always used. She waited for the verbal slap. He was going to tell her how much of a whale she really was. "Is your attitude."

Artie took the seat beside her after that, waiting until she was finished to suggest that they watch movies and eat ice cream. Mrs. Fabray let him stay the night (sleeping on the couch. Quinn was even surprised that she let him sleepover, she was ultra-conservative). Quinn knew that she looked awful, but it had been one of the best nights of her life.

For her thirteenth birthday in February, Artie got her a kitten. She was a beautiful tortoiseshell, named Sky for her bright blue eyes. Quinn had never loved something so much- but she would soon learn to hate Sky. Hate the cat with an overwhelming passion that was definitely "seven deadly sins" worthy.

If Quinn could've done something differently- rewound time, changed just one aspect of her life- it would have been getting that cat. She would have told Artie that she didn't want it (who buys their best friend a cat as a present, anyway? She would've been just as happy with a book or even a card). But as it was, life is one of those non-refundable rip-offs that cheat people out of happiness. So Quinn had no idea that by taking Sky home that night would forever change the course of both her and Artie's lives.

Sky was a rambunctious kitten, always getting into a new kind of trouble. Quinn found her mischievous nature amusing- she and Artie would laugh every time Sky did something new, which was nearly every day.

The thing about Sky was that she also seemed to have some weird sort of sixth sense- whenever an impending visit to the veterinarian was near, she would claw her way up to a high, hard-to-reach place (like the kitchen cabinets, one day she ended up curled on the fridge) hiding from her mistress.

On that dreadful day, Sky had let her paranoia take her to the roof of Quinn's house (aided by the open window in Quinn's bedroom. She usually kept it closed, but fate had a way of mixing things up). Quinn's mother hadn't been home (she, too, had a doctor's appointment. But as soon as she got home, she wanted to take Sky to the vet's). With no one else to turn to, when Quinn found her precious kitten with a death grip on the roof, she'd called the one person who'd always been there. Artie.

If he'd said no- God, if he'd said no!- things would have been different. But like the best friend he was, he came over anyway, armed with a ladder and a cat treat to coax Sky down.

She'd simply stood there, outside in the front of the house, wringing her hands, a niggling feeling in her gut. Quinn had never thought much of "gut feelings" until that moment, and she only started believing in them when the situation was over, in hindsight.

She'd watched as Artie climbed up the roof, relaxed (as he always was). Sky had waved her tail, purring happily when she recognized him. She loved Artie, especially his epic belly rubs.

"C'mere Sky." Artie cajoled, now fully up on the roof. Her tail continued to wave, she moved back, it was almost like she was smiling.

Stupid fucking cat from hell.

It was fruitless to try and catch her. As she watched them, Quinn was reminded of the time she'd gone camping with Artie's family in the fifth grade. She and Artie had spent their days in the lake, and their nights were occupied with the frustratingly impossible task of catching fireflies. Sky was just like a firefly. Quick, fleeting, never to be captured by human hands.

Their movements were almost like a dance; Artie would go forward, Sky would dart back. Artie would lunge for her, Sky would pounce away. Except, the third time he lunged, she fell right over the edge of the roof, and he, having nothing to grab onto, went with her.

The whole thing was a blur. Quinn remembered watching, mouth open in horror, as Sky shrieked, hitting the ground, splayed out on her stomach. Artie fell on top of her with a sickening thud! sound.

"Artie!" She screamed.

"Go… get… Mom." He gasped, through the- Quinn imagined- unbearable pain. Quinn nodded stupidly and took off, the only thought registering in her shocked brain was: I thought cats were supposed to land on their feet.

She'd been crying and out of breath by the time she'd sprinted the twenty nine steps it took to get to the Abrahams' house. Artie's mom answered the door, and Quinn had blubbered and cried. The woman seemed to recognize that something awful had happened, and she hurried over to where her son now lay, unconscious from the fall.

Quinn had always wished that the day had turned out differently. Artie's mother had called the paramedics, who arrived and rushed him away. Sky was already dead by the time they came for Artie- a combination of her fall and being suffocated by Artie's back. Quinn hitched a ride to the hospital with Mrs. Abrahams and Benjamin, who called his father at work with the devastating news.

Quinn could never remember praying so damn hard in her life. She just sat in a hard plastic chair in the emergency room and prayed to God for a miracle- she wanted, no, needed Artie to live. How would she get by without him? How would everyone else cope? He wasn't meant to die, he was only thirteen!

Quinn had also never seen someone be treated to so quickly in the hospital. Sure, she'd witnessed it on TV, but she'd always thought that trauma victims being swarmed by concerned doctors and nurses was a dramatic thing to boost ratings. When Artie was brought in, she saw a whole surgical team in green scrubs surround him, speaking with medical dialect and looking grave as gargoyles.

It might have been cool, if Artie wasn't on his deathbed.

Seven hours later, when Artie's attending doctor, one Dr. Lionel Sanchez, came out to reveal the condition of his patient, he spewed a whole bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo that Quinn couldn't even begin to understand. The rest of the family looked just as hopeless. He put it in plain terms for them:

"Basically, your son's alive…" Quinn had never been so fortunate at that time. He was alive, thank you God! "But he's paralyzed from the waist down." What the fuck?! Quinn's eyes misted over with a fresh batch of tears. So much for miracles.

I'm not sure if I like this. Props for a new pairing, though? There will be a second part, and any feedback is appreciated, just to let me know how I'm doing, what could be changed, etc. thanks in advance. I know it doesn't have a very romantic tone to it yet, but it's coming (maybe). I originally started out with a different idea for this story, but this is what came out. Anyway, please click the review button and let me know what you think =)