A/N: Written for the glee_angst_meme; "Uhm.. The accident that put Artie in a wheelchair is the same accident that killed Kurt's mother. Kurt and Artie both find out (the rest of glee finding out is optional)." It may have escape a little, but I got it back in the end. This is compliant with my fic 'Another Brick in the Wall', but you don't need to read that first. Lines at the end of each section come from the fairy tales of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White; also The Wizard of Oz and Wicked.
When Artie was eight, he was such a happy kid. Everybody loved him.
When Artie was eight and lying in a hospital bed, he was so quiet. He had been stuck there for months, and every time his parents saw him, he looked a little bit worse – his mother was always panicking, terrified he hadn't made it. She would scream and shout until her husband took her firmly by the shoulders, and shook her gently (and God, how he wanted to yell at her and hit and slap her, kill her for doing this to his son), pointed out how he was just fine – he was probably sleeping.
He always said Artie was sleeping – the boy never spoke, or looked at them – and soon, she learned to believe it.
One night, Georgia Abrams sneaked into her son's hospital room alone. He was turned on his side, chest rising and falling evenly, and she decided he was asleep.
"This is so unfair," she whispered, tears in her eyes. "This isn't my fault! That woman, she was speeding! She was making mistakes all over the place! How was I meant to avoid her; the woman was clearly nuts! God, how could she do this to you? You're just a kid!"
Georgia sobbed for a few more hours, and Artie never appeared to surface.
But Artie wasn't asleep. He heard every word of his mother's breakdown, and eight years old, began to understand a word: Hate.
She left, and he did sleep. He had nightmares. An evil woman who hated what he had – his beauty, in a way – and tracked him down to his safe place (where tiny people were meant to protect him). She offered him things; not a poisoned apple, but gorgeous, sharp silk laces. She wrapped them tighter and tighter around his waist, until he could not breathe; until the laces cut into his skin and sliced his legs clean off. They dropped into the abyss and he fell to the ground.
(Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
who is the fairest one of all?)
When he was ten, he had questions. He had dealt with this affliction for two years, and it was unfair, because he was just an innocent kid. People always tried to convince him that the world was mostly good and just – the simple morality of fairy tales, where good people won and bad people paid for what they did.
Artie didn't believe it.
Still, it made him curious: every other wicked witch would walk in burning iron shoes, or drop off a cliff, or be stabbed through the heart, or be imprisoned in their own tower – so Artie had to wonder what happened to his.
He asked his mother. She looked so tired nowadays, and his father never met her eyes for more than a few seconds.
He took in a deep breath. "What happened to the woman in the other car? The one behind my accident?"
His mother gasped, and he swore he could see her tearing up. His insides twisted, because if there was one thing he wanted less than anything in the universe, it was to hurt his mother – he could see he was already a burden on her, in his 'condition', and he never wanted to add to it.
He begun to shake his head. "Forget it. It's stupid," he said, and began to wheel away, lump in his throat.
"No, Artie, wait!" his mother stopped him, and took in a deep breath. "Honey... she died that night. She's dead."
Artie bit his lip, and his mother's face hardened.
"Now, sweetheart, don't you dare go blaming yourself for this. We didn't do anything wrong. She caused the accident that night, not us – she was the one speeding, after all. I don't want you to waste a single second of your life feeling guilty over her – she may not honestly have deserved to die for her mistake, but she is still the one to did this to us, not the other way around. That woman has taken too much from you, and I won't let her make herself a burden like this."
Artie just nodded. "Don't worry Mom. I don't feel guilty."
And he didn't.
He felt a sense of relief, because that woman was the evil crone who robbed him of the things he never really thought he could be robbed of – and, just like a fairy tale, she died for her sins.
(Ding dong, the witch is dead!
Which old witch? The wicked witch!
Ding dong the wicked witch is dead!)
When he was twelve, his parents had given up all hope of pretending things are still okay between them. His dad blamed his mom for the accident and they all knew it; she blamed herself a little for it too. Hypocrite. She told him not to feel guilty, and he didn't, but she did and couldn't really hide it, no matter how hard she tried.
His parents fought a lot. On the 16th of April, he heard them screaming upstairs when he was meant to be asleep – yet again, he heard what he wasn't meant to because no-one checked whether or not he's awake.
"I can hardly look at you nowadays-"
"You know it wasn't my fault; I wasn't the one flouting the road laws-"
"And how much did you do to stop it, huh?"
"It wasn't like that Gregor; what exactly do you think you could have done better?"
"I could have not turned our son into a cripple!"
"So what, he's not worth anything now, thanks to what happened? Great to see your unconditional love!"
"Don't you make me the bad guy in this, don't you dare!"
"Well sorry, but maybe we ought to face the facts that it's not about us! It's about Artie, and what that bitch-"
"Oh god, shut up about the other woman already! You never knew her; you can't just say this is all her fault! And don't you brainwash Artie into it either; you think I haven't seen the things you say to him? That was not some monster, Georgia, that was an actual person with a life and a family, and probably a hell of a lot more soul than you!"
"You didn't know her either! And apparently, I'm a perfect target, while the one who actually screwed up must be treated like a saint?"
"Well, given what a bitch you are, I think it would be hard for her not to be better than you."
"God, look at yourself Greg! Look what's happened to you; I am your wife and you are going to throw it all away because you're too pathetic to deal with not having someone to hurt for what happened!"
"No, I'm going to throw it all away because that's what you do with garbage like you!"
"Oh, I'm garbage? I have tried for four years to make things okay, to help Artie face what happened – you barely even look at him anymore!"
"Oh please!" Gregor laughed bitterly. "You are so self-righteous. You and I both know the only reason you want to help him is to make your guilt go away – if I had been at the wheel that night, you would have been out the door at least three years ago!"
"Wow, projecting much? Come on Gregor, it's been four years – if this was really about Artie, no way it would have taken this long. So why don't we have the truth, huh? Is it someone else? Wouldn't surprise me; getting distracted and trying to guilt trip me into not being pissed."
"Yet again, just go blaming it on some other woman – have to give you points for consistency. Although this time she doesn't even exist, so you're being impressive, even for you!"
"Well, it's not hard to imagine – you've always been weak. You'd be the exact kind to run off with some slut when, shock horror, you may actually have to deal with a problem!"
"Which is not the least bit like blaming everything on some poor dead woman because you're too much of a coward to face up to your part in what happened!"
Artie couldn't help it – he'd have run for the bathroom, but that would require the ability to run, so it wasn't going to happen. He threw up on his sheets, covering himself with foamy yellow vomit.
His stomach rolled as he realized he couldn't clean himself up – he wasn't in the chair. "Mom, Dad!" he called out as loudly as he could, feeling pathetic – how many people needed parental help just to clean up after puking? It wasn't fair. His parents were too involved in their own screaming match to hear him – he called out at least a dozen times, and they didn't hear him once. But the time he heard his mother packing her bags and storming out the front door, he had given up.
He fell back asleep in a bed that smelled like his own insides, and dreamed of being diced and shredded, then taken apart cell by cell – a wicked witch stood above him, and yanked his DNA out. Unraveled it all, until everything about him was lost.
It didn't take that long for the divorce to be processed – his parents somehow managed to agree on joint custody, which surprised the hell out of him, given how they seemed to despise each other, and he blamed her for Artie's condition.
The boy decided the whole thing was unfair, because it was all about what that woman had done to him, just by making a mistake – the bitch was dead, and somehow, she was still managing to take things from him.
(And this curse will make him sleep
for one hundred years...)
He was hanging off the banister at school, about two inches from plummeting God-knows how many feet to his death. He felt a little woozy. Along with terrified; don't forget that.
Artie took in several deep breaths – he had been scared before (a hell of a lot, really), but he hadn't been so scared for his life in... Christ, it was really five years now, wasn't it? The sickening realization was cut off by the return of the incoherent panic – he really didn't want to die. He had to get off this thing; had to get back in his chair and regain some control (and yes, he hated what the damn thing signifies, but he needed it).
He weighed up the pros and cons of trying to shuffle off this ledge – it would, one way or another, he would no longer just be hanging here. If he did it right, he would be off and free to crawl around looking for help (God, how pathetic). If he did it wrong however, he would tumble to a horrible messy death (and he wasn't going to acknowledge the split-second where he considered doing it just for that).
"Help!" he bellowed. "Help!"
All went quiet again and he accepted that no-one was going to come and help him – no-one could hear him. He breathed shakily and decided if he was going to get down, he would have to do it himself – the rush of blood to his head was going to make him pass out at some point, and if he did, that would lose him all control and probably cause his messy death. He wasn't even sure it was really that high, but he was not taking a chance on it.
Eyes shut, he wriggled his torso down, off the ledge until he fell, dead weight legs dragging behind him. They would be twisted uncomfortably if he could feel them. For a stupid moment, Artie scanned the room desperately, looking for his chair – then he remembered. The bastards had taken that with them after leaving him there, just to make everything worse – idiots. He should have just wriggled himself off and fell; made it look like an accident that happened while he was trying desperately to escape – how would the morons like that?
Wait, what the fuck did I just think?
He tried to shake off his own emotions and fear of new-found suicidal tendencies, because he really had more important things to do. "Help!" he cried out again, knowing it was hopeless – people weren't magically going to start being there to hear. Without his chair and without anyone to get him anywhere, he knew he needed to get help – he didn't want to crawl, but he didn't have a choice.
He slowly forced his body along with his arms, dragging the weight of his lower half behind like it was made out of led. He barely kept back sobs all the way, out of the sheer humiliation – he couldn't believe they had managed to do this. They had made him crawl pathetically, and beg whoever may hear for help – it wasn't fair.
It felt like an eternity before someone found him: Mrs. Purchase, one of the math teachers. She was an oldish woman, and plump; sweet but neurotic. When she saw him she scurries towards him, and Artie couldn't help but think she looked like a mouse.
"Artie, what happened?" she squeaked, fretting and fussing, and he just felt his mouth go dry.
They all got sent to the office – Artie's wheelchair was recovered, and the bullies all got suspended. Artie's mother was called. He wore the sting of red hot shame for the rest of the day, feeling as his peers all laughed and pointed: stupid little cripple got himself in trouble again; doesn't he know he's not meant to exist?
When Artie got home, he wasn't thinking at all rationally – that was his excuse. He was so sick of letting everyone control him; of how it had all been ripped away by that woman he didn't even know, and everyone else was just taking advantage after the fact. He forced his wheelchair outside, towards the brick wall that was part of the fence – he wasn't even really sure what he was doing, but the concept 'pain' was somehow connected, and he was so sick of letting everyone else cause it.
The wheelchair went crash as it collided with brick. The texture was rough and stung as he leaned his head forward to make better contact – he wanted it to hurt. The wall grazed his face, leaving it covered it red scratches and making him hiss in pain, but that didn't make the reality of what he was doing sink in – he just threw the chair forward, again and again, getting blood on his face and not minding. Eventually the chair collapsed under the pressure – it was just metal; how was it meant to support the rest of his life? He fell on it uncomfortably. He just lay there in the dirt, almost falling asleep.
His mother found him, jolting him back to consciousness. "Artie!" she shrieked, "What the hell are you doing?"
"I... uh... uh..." he stammered, suddenly realizing what the hell he had actually been doing – his mother's eyes were so wide, so fearful, angry. At him. "I was... I ran into the wall?" he offered pathetically, giving his token smile with it. She didn't buy it, not that he expected her too.
"No way. No way would the chair collapse, would your face look like... that, if you had just ran into the wall by accident!" she yelled, arms flailing around wildly. "God, have you gone insane? How can you let them do this to you? You are better than this!"
He took in a sharp breath and his stomach clenched. You're a hypocrite, he thought, too quickly to hush it down. This is all your fault. You did this to me.
He couldn't say that, of course – he didn't even really believe it. His mother ran out of emotion eventually, and dragged him back inside in the chair. He shut himself away, and let himself sleep.
He woke up to find his face turned purple and puffy, scratched and bruised. The sight made him feel sick, as he realized with a start, what a mess he was becoming. He couldn't let that happen. The villain lost and died, and the hero lived happily ever after – he was the hero, wasn't he?
His mother winced when she saw him, but she didn't say anything about it. He kept waiting for her to, but it never happened.
His mouth dry, and sick of waiting for the second shoe to drop, he did it himself: "Mom, about yester-"
"I don't want to talk about it," she blurted, cutting him off as quickly as she could. He nodded. That was probably for the best – the incident of yesterday was not going to happen again; he was not going to let any of this make him self-destruct. The sight of that brick wall made him flush with shame and confusion, but it wasn't going to happen again, so he did not have to think about it.
He was done being the victim.
(And the all lived happily ever after.)
Glee was something new. He knew he was going to face hell for joining it – it was Glee Club after all – but he already faced hell on a regular basis, so he was okay with that. It felt a little like freedom, as corny as that may sound.
But they just couldn't make the damn thing work – Mr. Schuester was trying, but they were being overruled by Rachel the crazy diva, and no-one really would just suck it up long enough to get along with her. The group was a mess and Artie knew it – they only had five members, Rachel kept pissing everyone off, most of them were terrified of being here, and that guy – the token 'just come out of the closet already, you're not fooling anyone' guy – kept making his stomach clench for reasons he didn't know. He felt like the damn thing was going to fall apart, and that wasn't fair either, because this was just one thing he wanted.
He wasn't going to tell them about his dream – he'd never dance and he knew it, and even before his accident, it was kind of a silly dream for a guy, so he kept his mouth shut. He knew that they already wondered what he was doing there, even if they wouldn't admit it to themselves. He was the resident cripple; what the hell did he think he was doing, trying to perform like he was normal in some way?
But Artie was not going to listen to that. He was nobody's victim, and that dead bitch couldn't take any more from him – hence the word dead.
But the girl – Tina – was different. People felt the same way about her as they did about him; she couldn't speak properly, how could she sing? Yet she did. She sung for them all, and in his (admittedly possibly slightly biased), she was amazing. She was fighting this thing like he was – she was brave and strong and sweet and funny; the more he talked to her, the more he felt for her. They were slipping into the background to the rest of everyone, but that was okay. Because they were still there; the Glee club was finally working-ish (somehow all the jocks and cheerleaders joined, which was really just confusing) and he was nobody's victim. That dead woman didn't have him.
(And true love's kiss
will break the spell.)
The aftermath of Tina's lips on his was so soft, and so perfect, it took him a few blinks to comprehend what she was saying. "I've been faking it," came out of her mouth so gently, like something mundane.
"Faking what?" he asked, like an idiot.
"I don't have a stutter," she admitted and he felt himself be torn to pieces. He heard her go on about her stupid reasons – something that happened in sixth grade? – and tried to understand the situation. She lied to him. She pretended to be something she wasn't – it was sickening, to think of her choosing to be like this; didn't she know what he would give just to have his normal life back? Why would she give that away?
"I don't want to push people away anymore. I think you understand that, right?" she said, like she honestly expected him to empathize – he just didn't get it. He didn't get her.
"No. I wouldn't understand what it's like wanting to push people away. Because being in the chair? Kind of does that for you," he says with as much bitterness as he can muster. "I thought we had something really important in common."
He started to leave and she wanted to stop him; called out "Artie, wait."
He waited. Don't ask him why.
His insides twisted, because she just didn't get it, did she? She lied to him. She acted like she was like him; like she could understand him and maybe he was sick of people giving him false hope. "So am I," he said, and he could see the disappointment on his face was killing her. He didn't care. "Because now you get to go be normal... while I'm going to be stuck in this chair the rest of my life, and that's not something I can just turn off."
He got home, angry and irrational. His mother was out. His stomach felt like it had been torn to shreds and filled with gravel; both at the same time. His jaw clenched and unclenched like he couldn't keep it still; he needed to do something. He was going insane again and he knew it, but he didn't really care.
He hadn't done this in three years; not really – sometimes he'd punch a wall if he was stressed, until his knuckles turned red and broken, but nothing like the massive meltdown he'd had at thirteen. Well, Tina was changing things – love hurts. He found the wooden fence; old and slightly rotten – he wondered if he might break it. May as well find out. His head made a different sound this time; hollower. Wood meant something else. He got splinters in his face and his shirt got torn; he got tired so quickly. He couldn't bother to work until the chair collapsed again.
He let his head fall back in his chair, and he just wanted things to be okay again. He was so sick of carrying this around – in a perfect world, this wouldn't matter. He would be a decent, normal guy with no real reason to take this mess personally – Tina would reveal what she did and he'd feel sorry for her; so desperate to avoid human contact she'd fake disability. Somewhere he knew that was what he should be feeling, but he couldn't, not with the ache of betrayal and the anger of powerlessness sliding through him yet again.
He knew he couldn't blame this one on the accident – on the crazy woman who did this to him – not really. He and Tina screwed this one up, not the dead witch he'd spent his entire life blaming things somewhat irrationally on. But he tried. He had to.
He went back inside, sticks and rocks fucking with the mechanics. He didn't meet his mother's eyes, not that it mattered – she could see what happened all over him. The disappointment etched on her face damn near killed him, and he really just wanted to know why he was like this. Why he took what Tina did so personally, why he needed to hate a dead woman he never knew, why was he covered in scratches and splinters again?
Because he had been in this chair half his life. And he still wasn't fucking used to it.
(And on his sixteenth birthday,
he will prick his finger on the spindle,
He was having a really bad day – the nine year anniversary of having your entire life changed forever, for the worst, kind of sucked. Nobody knew it was the anniversary, and he wasn't going to talk about it. Tina seemed to be guessing something was up – he still hadn't told anyone else the story of how it happened – but she stayed quiet about it. He was thankful for that, even though he felt a little bad – she had told him more than once he needed to open up to her more, but this... he couldn't just talk about it. Call him crazy (God knows he said it to himself enough).
He wasn't the only one in Glee to be taking the day badly, though – Kurt seemed like a mess, and no-one would say why. Artie probably should have found some comfort in that, but really, it just irritated him – what right did Kurt have to be losing his mind today?
Still, when Artie found him curled up and crying in the auditorium after rehearsal, he kind of had to ask. "Kurt? Are you okay?"
Kurt looked up, eyes still full of tears. "Do I look okay?" he snapped. "Leave me alone, Artie."
Artie didn't pay attention. "Hey, what is it?"
"Nothing. Just, you know, the nine year anniversary of my mother's death – nothing that would justify some alone time or anything, oh no."
Artie's jaw gaped open a little, immediately letting go of his annoyance – that was why Kurt had been acting like this? "I didn't... know. I- I'm sorry?" he offered, and something prickled at the back of his neck. Nine years to the day since it happened... nine years to the day since Kurt's mother died... nine years to the day that the witch died...
Said boy sniffled. "Yeah?"
"Do you want... to talk to me about it? You know; when, where?"
Kurt seemed confused. "I... uh..." he took in a deep breath. "Nine years ago, today... about 3 PM. My mom forgot to pick me up for a piano lesson; she was rushing home..."
Kurt looked a little taken aback. "Uh... yeah."
"And she was at Rosetown Street, right; around number 34? It had this fence covered in white roses."
Kurt gaped. "Artie, you're freaking me out," he said, obviously not connecting the dots in his mind.
Artie had. The witches cackling laughter in the back of his head was changing; morphing into cries, complimenting the echoing sounds of Kurt's sobs from before. Oh god... Kurt made him freeze when they met, and he didn't know why, but Kurt was the remnant. What was living of the witch. He didn't want to think about this; this broken, grieving son destroying the image he'd tried so hard to maintain for nine years – the monster, the crone, the one woman who ruined him. He couldn't help it – he managed to back away a little from Kurt before he threw up all over the floor.
"Ew!" Kurt yelled, and Artie would have laughed if this situation wasn't so insane. "What is wrong with you?"
"Come on, Kurt, I'm the cripple, not you, and even then it's not mental or blindness! What's wrong with me? Look at me."
Kurt just stared a few seconds. Artie swallowed the lump in his throat; tried not to let tears fall or the stench of his own puke get to him. "Rosetown Street, nine years ago, 3:35 PM? I remember that moment, Kurt. I remember your Mom's car speeding in right the fuck out of nowhere; I remember tires skidding and metal crashing. I remember my mom passing out. I remember the pain in my back; I heard a crack and I thought I might die. But I didn't."
"Oh god," Kurt whispered.
"Yeah," said Artie. "So, your mom's dead? Good."
Kurt flinched as if Artie just punched him. "How can you- that was my mother!" He sounds furious.
"So? She ruined my life!" Artie yelled.
"She made a mistake! Because of me!"
"Same difference, Kurt! Because I'm going to be paying for that mistake for the rest of my life, and I was just an innocent kid. Makes sense she had to pay too. Christ; knowing that's been the only thing that kept me going at times."
Kurt scowled. "Oh really? Because if you were an innocent kid, what was I? She was my mom."
"It doesn't work that way!" Artie practically screamed. "She's the bad guy here, not me."
Kurt almost laughed while he shook his head. "Yeah, because it's that simple. Good guys and bad guys; we're the nasty witches and you're the poor, oppressed hero."
Artie swallowed. "Exactly," he said, trying desperately to shake the image of an eight-year-old Kurt sobbing over his mother's body out of his head. He couldn't think about that; he couldn't afford to think about that. He needed this simplicity, needed someone to blame, or else it was going to kill him.
He stormed out as dramatically as the wheelchair would allow – which isn't very, given how human life was not planned to be performed in a chair – leaving Kurt with a pile of his vomit and a lot of anger. He didn't want to think about this.
He couldn't see a witch anymore, just a mom saying sorry and begging to see her son again.
(No-one mourns the wicked.)