Author's Note: My rudimentary knowledge of paraplegia comes from a few Google searches and Joan or Arcadia. If I got something severely inaccurate, please don't hesitate to tell me. And while I'm not sure how it works exactly, I decided to have him regain feeling somewhere just above his hips.
He's not even entirely sure how it'd happened. He knew for a fact that alcohol was involved. How much, exactly, he couldn't be sure, but it was definitely a factor. His memory from a half hour ago was already getting fuzzy, but he knew they'd been at Finn's place and that there had been alcohol. (Had he mentioned the alcohol yet? Because there was definitely alcohol.)
Their Friday night rehearsal had run late, and all it took was a mention from Finn that his parents were out of town for Mercedes to suggest a "party at White Boy's." Within a couple hours, he was pretty sure he'd had several beers and however many shots Tina kept handing him. And then there was that one from Kurt. He's not positive, but he's pretty sure that may or may not have been a body shot. Either way, the outcome was that half of the glee club had ended up wasted, while the others had suddenly become designated drivers.
With an assist from Finn, who literally carried his ass to the car, Rachel was driving them all home. (Did anyone really think she'd be drinking?) Through the combined effort of Rachel, Tina and Mercedes, they'd managed to get him out of the backseat and into his chair, and Tina was now wheeling him as quietly as she could (which of course meant loudly), through the house. She broke into a fit of hysterics every time she wheeled him into something (a wall, a table, the stairs).
When she'd somehow managed to get him strapped into the stairlift, she'd insisted on hitching a ride up on his lap. He may have said something about her being too heavy, because he definitely remembers getting a quick, but hard smack on the head.
"You have to be quiet," he chastised her, faux-whispering and holding his finger up to his lips, as they passed his parents room. He also may have giggled. But that part's not as important.
"I am being quiet," she said, not at all quietly. And then she laughed. He reached around and tried to clamp a hand over her mouth, but that just made her laugh harder, causing her to double over and inevitably stumble over his chair. She ended up practically hanging over his shoulder and he grabbed her arms to steady her, sobered momentarily by the thought that she may have actually hurt herself. But, she merely let out a squeal of delight and wrapped her arms around his neck, turning her fall into an impromptu hug. He couldn't help himself – he laughed and held onto her arms as she awkwardly started moving them both forward, still draped over his shoulder.
She bumped him into his bedroom door to open it, throwing out a "Sorry!" as if he could feel it at all. She wheeled him right up to the bed and proceeded to fall on it immediately, dramatically sprawling herself out and yawning.
"What about me?" he whined.
She propped herself up on her elbows, eyeing him dubiously. "What about you?"
"I'm tired, too." And then, he's pretty sure he pouted. She sighed spectacularly and proceeded to let herself slide off the bed. He started to move his chair into a position where he could reach the bar above his bed and pull himself in, but Tina had landed at his feet, effectively blocking him.
"What are you -" he started to say, but stopped short when she reached for his legs. He would've recoiled. In fact, he did manage to press himself as far into his chair as possible, but his legs, his traitor legs, didn't budge. She reached around for the straps that held his useless legs into place and before he knew what he was doing, he was desperately grabbing at her arms, trying to pull her away.
"What -- what are you doing?" he cried, belatedly realizing that it may have been an overreaction. All he knew was that he really didn't want her touching him down there. He knew it wasn't rational, but it's like it was suddenly all too much. She was too much. Too close. Too intimate.
"I'm putting you to bed, silly," she laughed, oblivious to his discomfort. And then she was touching him again.
"Stop!" he yelled, forcibly grabbing her hands and moving them away. Her head shot up, and she stared at him in shock.
"What?" she asked, bewildered. And she stared at him with such confusion (and hurt?) that he had to look away.
"It's just … I can do it myself." He gestured to the bar above his bed, and she followed his gaze. And then she was laughing again.
"Don't be ridiculous," she told him. "It'll be easier if I help you." She reached for him again, but stopped when he tensed up.
"Artie," she said firmly. "Look at me."
He tried, he really did. But looking at her wasn't as easy as it used to be. He saw her move and glanced down, seeing that she'd placed her hands gently on his knees, leaning closer to him. He finally looked up at her face and she was serious now, staring at him intently. Her closeness made him uncomfortable, to say the least. Sure, she wheeled him around a lot, but they'd never really been in such close physical proximity. He tried to breathe. It was just Tina, after all.
The only thing was, she really hadn't been "just Tina" for a while now.
"Do you trust me?" she asked him innocently, batting her eyelashes up at him. He couldn't help it. He smiled at her, nodded without thinking. He trusted her with his life. She smiled, too. A brilliant smile that lit up her eyes.
Without taking her eyes off his face, she reached down and fumbled with the straps around his ankles. He had the sudden urge to reach out and touch the streak of blue in her hair. He didn't. He never did.
She finally looked away when she had to untie his shoes. She lifted his foot away from the chair and he felt something in his chest tighten. His foot would be dead weight. Surely, it must be heavy. He didn't want to look at it. At her, handling his dead limbs. He tried to swallow, but there was an uncomfortable lump in his throat. He sort of wanted to be sick.
She tossed his shoes over her shoulder, one by one, shooting him a coy smile. Like they were sharing some kind of secret, only she wouldn't quite let him in on it. He smiled at her tightly, part of him wishing she'd just leave him alone. He didn't want her to see him trying to hoist himself into his bed. The way his body would twist with the effort, how his lower half would hang uselessly. How he'd have to drag his legs into place, breathing heavily with the effort.
No, he didn't want her to see any of that. Sure, he trusted her. Knew she wouldn't think less of him. But, somehow, he'd think less of him. He was too vulnerable like that, too ashamed. He knew he shouldn't be, but he couldn't seem to make it stop.
Suddenly, he felt her hands at his waist, right where he started to get feeling back. He looked down, panic stricken, as she reached around his middle, trying to release the strap that held him there. He really tried not to react. Not to act like a childish freak, but his body betrayed him. Again.
He tensed, flinching away from her. She glanced at his face quickly, her hands stilling on his hips. She stood up slowly, placing her feet carefully on either side of him, and leaned down closer, continuing her work. He leaned as far away from her as he could, her face uncomfortably close to his neck. She was practically straddling him and her hair was brushing along his jaw line and oh God, she was just too close. He twisted his head away from her, but he could still smell her shampoo, or perfume, or whatever the hell it was. It was a heady scent, vanilla or cinnamon or something, and it made him dizzy. He couldn't breathe. He wanted to push her away, shove her away, but he clasped his hands tightly in his lap.
He instructed himself to calm down. Breathe slowly. Just relax. She'd be done in a second, and then he could tell her he had it from there. Only she wasn't done. She leaned over him even more, her chest pressed against his and she wrapped her arms, her tiny arms, around his waist.
Oh God. She was going to try to lift him. His stomach plummeted and his chest tightened painfully. No. Nononono.
"No! Stop!" He was panicking. He knew he was panicking, but he couldn't get a hold of it.
"I've got you," she assured him, either not noticing his impending anxiety attack, or choosing to ignore it.
"No," he said again, not as strongly as he wanted, given that his throat had decided to constrict itself. He swallowed painfully, trying to gain control of this situation. But, she only repositioned herself, bending her knees so that she would lift with her legs, just like they tell you to.
"Please," he begged her, but his voice wasn't working anymore. How did this happen? How did he get himself in this mess? He was surely too heavy for her. She would hurt herself and it'd be all his fault and she'd realize how difficult this whole thing was. That it wasn't worth it. That he wasn't worth it. (He never was.)
"Just push yourself up and I'll have you," she told him smoothly, calmly. It was then that he realized she knew he was freaking out, and she just didn't care. She wasn't going to leave, even if he was crying and screaming and pleading.
He closed his eyes tight, took a couple deep breaths. This was not a big deal, he told himself. If they ever got together like he wanted, this was bound to happen eventually. The thing was, he'd never really thought they'd get together.
He felt her touch his face hesitantly, just her fingertips on his cheek. And then she pressed her forehead lightly against his.
"It's okay," she whispered. He nodded his head against her and opened his eyes. She was staring at him, making sure he was okay. God, she was beautiful. She was too beautiful. His eyes started to sting and he blinked, turning away from her once again.
She leaned down, placing her arms tightly around his middle. He braced himself on the arm rests, ready to lift when he felt even the slightest bit of pressure from her.
"On three," she said softly into his neck. For the first time that evening, he didn't tense up at her closeness, her breath on his skin. He shivered. He's pretty sure she felt it, because he thinks she smiles against his throat.
"One," she says, and she's the closest she's ever been, pressing her entire torso against him. He's pretty sure her hips are pressed into him as well, but since he can't feel it, he can't be sure. Still, just the thought of it has his breath hitching.
"Two." He stops breathing all together at that point, his arms already aching from the stress. Her body tenses against him and if possible, she presses herself even lower into him.
"Three." She squeezes her arms around him and he pushes up with all his strength, his body leaving the chair with considerably less effort than he was imagining. He wraps one arm around her shoulders, feels his body slump against hers once he has no support to hold himself up. She shakes a little under the pressure, and he's terrified that she'll crumble beneath his weight, but really, he's not that much bigger than her. She leans back slightly, pushing her hips into his waist, and he can just feel the contact above his hip bones, but he's really trying not to focus too much on that right now.
"I've got you," she grunts out, letting out a puff of laughter, presumably at the ridiculousness and general awkwardness of this whole situation. Once she's steady, he reaches out quickly t grab the bar above his bed, and both of them jerk forward at the movement. He can tell when her legs hit the bed and she stumbles, because all of a sudden, he's the one holding up their combined weight. She grabs onto him instinctually, and he loses hold of the bar, and then they're both tumbling onto the bed in a heap. Her elbow hits him painfully in the jaw and his legs must've not made it, because he's sliding off the edge of the bed, about to take her with him.
"Oh, no you don't," she laughs, and at this point, he really can't help himself. He laughs, too. She reaches for him quickly, grabbing his belt and bracing her legs against the edge of the bed. He reaches around her, grasping at the other side of the bed and pulling with all his might. He sees her disappear briefly over the other side, and then she's hoisting one of his legs up. Still holding onto the edge of the bed, he reaches down and grabs his pant leg, dragging it up higher as she ducks over the edge one more time to retrieve his other leg. All limbs accounted for, she collapses against him, breathing hard and laughing hysterically.
He wraps an arm around her, covering her mouth with his hand.
"Parents. Sleeping," he reminds her and she twists in his arm, covering her own mouth, eyes wide. He's twisting his neck awkwardly to look at her, so she sits up quickly, propping herself up on her elbow and looking down at him. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see that her legs are twisted with his, but since he can't feel it, he's not sure if that counts.
A streak of blue falls onto his face and he sputters at it, making her giggle, but she doesn't try to move it. She just looks at him. He reaches up slowly, snatches it between his fingers. It's soft and silky, just like he'd imagined. He twists it behind her ear, fingers lingering longer than they should on her neck.
She's not laughing anymore.
She twists her head around, leaning into his touch, and then he's winding his hand through her hair at the nape of her neck. Her eyes fall shut and she makes a noise in the back of her throat that makes his heart just about stop. Her hand rests softly on his chest, but then she's winding it upward, stroking his neck. His body tightens for a completely different reason this time.
With his hand wrapped around the back of her neck, he pulls her closer. She opens her eyes, looks at him timidly as she brushes her nose against his. He feels her eyelashes on his cheek, feels her smile against his chin. And then her lips brush against his, but she's gone before he can react. She presses feather-light kisses along his jawline, and his breathing becomes embarrassingly erratic. Her hand finds its way down his stomach and then she's reaching up under his shirt, cool hands sending shivers all over his upper-body.
He closes his eyes, searches for her mouth and is rewarded when she presses a light kiss at the corner of his. He holds her tightly in place then, done with the teasing. He kisses her softly, hesitantly. Lets her adjust to the feel of his lips on hers. Feels her smile against his mouth, and he captures her bottom lip quickly. She giggles again and he swears he could listen to that sound all day.
She opens her mouth then, slowly kissing him, sucking his lower lip into her mouth. His tongue darts out quickly, tasting her for the first time. She tastes like the White Zin she'd been drinking all night, and something sweet, too. Cookies? No, cupcakes. She'd insisted on buying some cupcakes on the way to Finn's. They were her favorite.
Now, it was like he couldn't be close enough to her. He props himself up now, pulling her down under him. She squeals softly, and he sees more than feels her leg move up onto his hip. He feels her knee brush against his waist and he tries to twist his body around as much as he can, wanting to be closer. He reaches down with the hand that's not supporting him, grabbing his pant leg and pulling it so that he's fully on his side. He pulls something in his back in the process, his body twisted in an unnatural way, but he hides the wince by shoving his tongue in her mouth.
She reaches up, winding her arms around his neck, pulling him down further on top of her. He reaches across her with his free hand, trying to hold himself up over her, despite his legs lying uselessly to the side. His back screams in protest at the awkward angle, but all he cares about is kissing her and feeling her on him. She's running her hands all over his back, hiking his shirt up as she goes, spreading her hands over his bare skin. He can tell from the way her body moves, the way her back arches, that she's pressing herself up into him, hips involuntarily rubbing against his. He's never wished to feel anything more in his life.
She's twisting beneath him, sucking on his neck as she does something to his legs that throws off his balance. He locks his arms on either side of her and they start to shake with the effort of holding himself there. His breathing is getting quicker and more ragged, and he glances down to see that she's twisted one of her legs around his. She doesn't even know how hard this is for him.
His left arm gives out then, and he doesn't have time to catch himself before his chin crashes into her shoulder. She cries out at the contact and he feels his own teeth sink into his bottom lip. And then he sees the blood on her shoulder and he wants to die. Or cry. Or maybe both.
He tries to regain his balance, but she's moving under him now, grasping at his face.
"Oh my God, are you okay?" she asks, voice full of concern. She reaches for him, tries to touch his mouth, but he jerks his head away. "Let me see."
"No, it's fine," he tells her sharply, steadying himself over her and wiping his mouth. He can't face her yet, so he closes his eyes, ducks his head so she can't see him. He can't look at her right now. Doesn't know if he can ever look at her the same way again. She's kissing his throat now and he shakes her off. She's too close again and he can't get enough air through his tightened throat. His eyes sting painfully and he squeezes them shut as tightly as he can. He can't cry in front of her, too.
His arms are shaking again, but he stays there, still and quiet, trying to get control of his breathing. He feels her shift underneath him and then she's touching his face. Trying to make him look at her. But he can't.
"Artie, it's okay," she whispers. She flutters her fingers across his eyes and he feels the wetness spread across his cheek. Damn it, he's fucking crying.
"It's okay," she coos, like she's talking to a little kid.
"No, it's not okay!" It's her body tensing up that makes him realize he said that out loud. His eyes snap open and he looks down at her quickly. She looks like she's been slapped. Like he slapped her. He feels his face crumble and he just really can't be touching her anymore. He rolls away from her, lying beside her on his back for a moment. Lets out a couple of embarrassing noises (he won't call them sobs) and feels his shoulders shaking the bed. He takes a couple ragged breaths and manages to pull himself to his other side, reaching down and grabbing his legs along with him. And then he hears the small squeak from behind him, knows that she's crying and trying to do it as quietly as possible.
God, he hated himself. He groans painfully, shoving his face into the bed and feeling his face contort as he tries to fight the tears that are threatening to do him in. His chest heaves and he thinks that dying would have been easier than all of this. (It's not the first time he's thought that.)
He feels her softly touch his back then, just her fingertips barely touching him. He shrinks away from her and he feels her hand drop to the bed, hears the small intake of breath.
He wants to explain. To tell her that when she touches him, it makes him want to die. That it can never be what they need (what she needs). That it hurts. But, he doesn't say any of that.
"Please don't touch me." He whispers it because it's all that his throat can muster. His voice cracks in the middle like a little boy's.
She doesn't say anything at first and he desperately wants to turn around and look at her face, while at the same time, he wants to run out of the room. (That thought almost makes him laugh.)
But then, so quietly he almost doesn't catch it, she asks a single question.
"Do you want me to go?"
Did he want her to go? Never, in any scenario, would he ever want her to leave. He was too selfish to not want her near him. Always. It was she who should want him gone. Couldn't she see that he was no good for her? That he wasn't what she needed? That he was damaged goods?
"No," he hears himself say. And really, there was no other answer. He hears her sigh of relief and it lets him breathe again. But then he feels her move and he briefly thinks that she just might be deciding to leave after all. Instead, he feels her slowly press herself against his back. First, her face nuzzles into him, her lips whispering over his shoulder blades. He tenses for a moment, but as she winds her hand across his back and over his waist, he feels the tension leaving his body. She rubs circles into his chest, pulling herself tightly against him so that her chest is flush against his back. His hand finds her arm, runs along it until his hand grasps hers. He holds it against his chest, against his heart. Leans down and kisses her fingers, pulls her further around him.
He's startled when he suddenly feels something above his hip bone, but a quick glance down shows that she's hitched her leg up over his hip, twisting her foot between his wasted legs. She's molded herself into him and with every movement of her chest, he times his breathing to hers. Lets her be calm for the both of them. He can feel her lips dancing quickly and softly across his back, leaving kisses all over him, and he doesn't think he's felt this kind of peace since the accident. It was then that he knew he loved her. That he knew he could spend every night for the rest of his life happily wrapped in her embrace. That his life wasn't over and that he could be saved.
Every night, she would save him.
And the moment would have been even better if he'd realized she wasn't kissing him at all. Her lips were moving quickly and silently against him, repeating the same thing over and over again. She'd tell him one day. When he wasn't so damaged. When he'd believe her, and not think it was just pity.
So, she merely whispered it into his back, hoping it would sink him into him and make him stronger. Make him whole.
"I love you, I love you, I love you."