A/N: Written for the glee_angst_meme; the prompt: "Artie undergoes physical therapy weekly despite the irreversibility of his condition to prevent atrophy. His physical therapist begins to sexually abuse him. Artie breaks down and tells Will." AND THIS IS SO LONG. D:
Dr. Paul Brown is very annoying.
He either mumbles or screams everything he says, which plays havoc with Artie's hearing. He's constantly scheduling and rescheduling appointments, fucking up Artie's plans royally, and threatening to refuse to continue physiotherapy if the boy ever complains. He spends a lot of their appointments screaming that Artie's not doing well enough anyway, and Artie doesn't really know how he's meant to do better. Not that he cares what this crazy old guy thinks of him, it's just that getting yelled at all the time gets really old, really fast. And Artie's been dealing with it for two years now ,since this guy was assigned as his physiotherapist.
He's probably a terrible person for being a bit relieved when he is told Dr. Brown has had a heart attack – not fatal, but bad enough he can't continue working. So a new physiotherapist has to be assigned. Artie feels guilty, because even if Dr. Brown is angry and insane, he probably doesn't deserve actual physical health problems – however, Artie reminds himself that heart attacks are often triggered by stress, like the sort of stress that comes with pointlessly yelling at people all the time for no real reason. That makes Artie feel slightly better about his sense of schadenfreude.
He goes to his next appointment, mostly curious about who the replacement will be.
She's not what he expected.
He knows she knows that; knows she knows he doesn't look like she belongs here. Well, she doesn't. She looks much too young for any doctor he's ever had – late twenties at most. She must be older than she looks, because she would have barely graduated med school if not. She's pretty, with rich brown hair and a small frame. There's something nervous and twittery in the way she acts, something that kind of reminds him of Ms. Pilsbury.
"Hello, Artie," she greets him, voice soft and warm. "I'm Dr. Juliet Marlow. I'm your new physiotherapist."
He nods, reaching across to shake her hand. "Really. I thought you were the new football coach."
She laughs. "Maybe I'm that too. Maybe I'm all in your head."
Dr. Marlow is kind, but he still, honestly, fucking hates this. It's necessary to do these exercises – if he doesn't, the muscles in his legs with atrophy and possibly whither and die, or maybe fall off horribly and become zombie legs and kick him in the face. Wow, he's spent too much time with Finn.
But the thing is, he hates just being there. Hanging helplessly while someone twists and contorts his body, because he's just too pathetic to do it himself. He knows he's being irrational, but for now, who cares? Fuck what's logical and necessary; can he not be the victim now?
He's held in some kind of bar thing off the ground, while she does something with his legs. He's trying not to think about the whole situation, but he can't help this contraption reminding him of a medieval torture device, and wow, there's a confidence affirming comparison.
"Are you okay up there?" she says, looking up at him with big eyes, like a wounded gazelle.
"Yeah," he automatically responds, and she smiles sympathetically. Something goes still, and her hand starts lagging – he thinks she's tracing it over his thigh, lingering far more than she needs to be for her movements. Going a bit too high. He swallows hard, and shakes the thought away – she's the expert after all, she ought to know what she's doing.
A lot of the time, he and Dr. Marlow just talk. He never particularly wants to, but she says if she's to help him, she should know him. Given her role is just to make sure his useless muscles don't become outright harmful, he's not sure how well this logic holds up, but he guesses it's sweet she cares.
He talks to her after he's fought with Tina again – he's told her about his girlfriend before; how he loves Tina and she's amazing, how they both keep fucking it up and fighting all the time. "I am such an idiot. I was being totally unfair, and I'm lucky if she even talks to me again, but... fuck, this is unfair. I'm just sick of her feeling sorry for me, you know?"
Dr. Marlow nods. "Understandable. In your condition, pity just makes you feel worse and more hopeless–"
"You sound like a shrink."
"–but I don't think anyone can be blamed for being sympathetic."
He sighs and nods. "I know. I just wish I could be the strong one again, you know?"
She smiles, and runs a hand through his hair. "Then do so, Artie. You're an incredible young man, and she's lucky to have you."
There's something it her tone, in her touch that gives him pause. But he appreciates the compliment – incredible, without one hint of patronizing pity. So he lets it slide, like an idiot.
It happens around December, his last appointment before Christmas. They're sharing small talk – presents, vacations, the like.
And she kisses him.
It takes him a few seconds to piece together what's going on, at least partly because his head is screaming about how horrible and immoral this is. Once he regains his bearings, he pushes her away and backs up slightly in the chair. "Dr. Marlow," he says, coming out choked.
"Yes?" she practically cooes. He tries to avoid his stomach coming up out of his body, which seems against the point of physical therapy.
"Look, you're my doctor," he says, trying to sound a lot more calm and composed than he is. He's pretty sure he's failing. "You're my doctor, and I'm not even seventeen yet – I'm not even legal in a lot of this country. This is immoral and illegal in a lot of ways, and I'm not interested, so just... don't do that again?"
She honest to god rolls her eyes. "Wow. I mean, I guessed the sweater vests equaled boring, but damn," she says, and he flinches. This doesn't sound like her. She walks over to him, sashaying her hips in a move that reminds him of a lot of bad pornography (not that he's particularly familiar with that or anything. Okay, not the point). He tries to back away further, but he doesn't get far before she sits herself down on his lap. "Come on – here's a hot chick, way out of your league, offering herself to you for nothing."
He shakes his head as she stretches and squirms, as if she can't get comfortable – he's ashamed to realize that movement is stirring the same reactions in his body as you'd expect. "I have a girlfriend," he protests weakly. She laughs.
"What? That Asian cunt?"
"Don't call her that!" he barks.
"Whatever! Please, you think some bipolar virgin bitch will do this for you like me?" and she's pretty much grinding now, and that, combined with the horrible way she keeps talking about the girl he loves most of all, overrides the well-established don't-hit-a-girl mentality – he reaches out and slaps her.
She pulls back in surprise, but doesn't seem that hurt. She quickly regains her smug grin, even as the red handprint spreads across her face. "Wow. Someone seems to like it rough. You know, I could be good with that," she says, leaning in closer as he desperately presses himself against the back of his chair, wanting to be anywhere but there. "I could suck you off, baby. Let you fuck my mouth – well, if you could. I could ride you like a fucking bicycle; squeeze you tight and hard, pull off tricks that chick who's always about to kill you would probably never even understand. You like that?"
She sounds like some kind of fucking porn star, and he can only shake his head, looking down. "I want to go home," he insists, sounding like a pathetic little kid, but maybe at heart he is.
"Uh, well, your parents aren't showing up to collect you for another hour or so, and it's not like you can get out of here on your own, is it kid?" she says, very pointedly reminding him off his own incapability. "I'm not sure why you're complaining. Take what you can get, that's my advice."
Something inside him snaps and he starts to push back, wrapping his arms around her wrists and trying to shake her off. "No, get off me, I want to go home!" he says, his fingers digging into her skin as his body twists, trying to force his useless legs to kick up and push her off, but, um, that would be a miracle, and god doesn't like him that much.
She sways, but she doesn't fall off, eventually tearing her wrist from his grasp. "Ow! Fuck it, what is wrong with you?" she asks, and he can see the fingershaped bruises forming on her skin. A closer, slightly less hysterical look proves she is certainly worse off appearance wise in this situation. Fuck.
She pulls back slightly – not far enough for him to push her off his lap – and suddenly lunges at her own arms, digging her long manicured nails in and leaving scratches.
"What the fuck are you–"
"Let me break this down," she says. "Look at me, Artie. I'm bruised. I'm scratched. You're looking just dandy. Now, you're starting to piss me off – if you don't stop bitching at me, I might just have to call out for help. I'm respected, liked in this down – if I told them how you had grown obsessed with me, your poor innocent doctor, one of the few people who was actually kind to you? They'd be outraged, of course. If they found out how you had tried to force me into having sex with you, physically attacked me when I refused? Why, you'd probably be lynched."
Artie gapes. "They'd never believe you," he tries to insist, sounding less than certain. "I'm in a wheelchair. I'm not physically..."
"No-one ever said you succeeded. No-one ever said anyone was going to think it through rationally – we live in Lima; you're a freakshow and I'm Missing White Woman bait. Who do you think they'll believe?"
He can't believe this is happening – she cannot possibly do this to him! What is it, hasn't he had his share of fucked up shit already? "Please, Dr. Marlow, I just want to go home," he repeats.
"You can't always get want you want," she dismisses him, reaching for zip on his pants. He hits her hand away automatically, but she grabs his wrist tight. "Do that again, and I will scream rape."
She guides his hand back down, and he doesn't raise it again. He understands this – if she accuses him of anything, he's done for. They'll all believe her over him. He doesn't think he's going to be able to talk her out of this; there's no escape. He just has to sit there, not lose his head, and wait for it to be over. He withdraws, and squeezes his eyes shut when she reaches for the zipper. "Don't worry, baby," she mutters, "I'll make it good for you. From the looks of it, you may be playing a little hard to get?"
He gulps and opens his eyes again, watching her smirk at him. Yes, she has noticed that hardness in his pants that refuses to go down, despite the fact he's terrified and barely resisting the urge to throw up – he's not going to waste time denying her claim, even though he knows enough about the human body that he knows it's not true. At least, he can be thankful for that.
He shuts his eyes tight again as she closes a hand around him, and he tries to block out the indistinct, approving mumbling she's making. He tries to think of something else. He tries to thing of Tina wrapped around him like this, like something normal; but mixing her image with this just makes him feel sicker – like he's soiling her. His head hurts. His eyes hurt with the pressure of keeping them shut, but he can't open them, because if he looks at her doing this... okay, he's not sure what happens then. But he just... can't.
Dr. Marlow keeps her palm rolling steadily over him, working him ever so slightly faster, and with a burst of nausea he realizes she wasn't kidding about knowing what she was doing. Something is building up inside him, and he's not naive enough not to recognize it – that familiar pull stings; he doesn't want it to happen, but he doesn't think he has much of a choice. At least when it happens, this should be fucking over.
She tightens her grip, and that's it, it's done – he can feel it when he comes on her hand, orgasming with no actual relief. Her weight pulls back a little, and he feels safe to open his eyes again – he is breathing a little fast, still squirming.
"There," she says, pulling herself back up and adjusting her skirt, "Was that so bad?"
His first impulse is to break down right there and then and cry. He resists it, instead balling his fists and gritting his teeth at her.
She rolls her eyes again. "Whatever," she says, leaning down to slide him back into his clothing. He flinches, but lets her. "Your dad will be here soon, make sure we don't look bad."
White noise of radio station news fills the air. Artie sits in the back seat, like he always does, just because the front seat isn't adjusted for the chair. He's okay with it. He's worried about more important things, after all.
He shouldn't be thinking about this. Yes, what Dr. Marlow did wasn't right, but it shouldn't be some kind of permanently traumatic event. It has only happened once, and it didn't even go that far – he was scared of a lot more. He's not physically hurt in any way, and he doesn't think she'll do it again. Some of the stuff she said was about as hurtful as what she did, and he doesn't think–
Okay, he'll cut the crap. He feels terrible and he one hundred percent deserves to. He was just sexually assaulted by one of his doctors; someone in a position of authority, someone he thought he could trust. He did trust her, more than he had trusted a lot of different doctors/specialists/advisors/therapists/etc. over the years. He had, after all, told her about his life. He thought she was sweet.
He fidgets uncomfortably with his hands. "Dad?" he asks – he can't let her get away with this, and he's not stupid enough to believe he can handle this alone.
His father sighs. "What is it, Artie?"
And then, as if on cue, the item on the news changes.
Local Lima teacher Georgia Packer appeared before court today, under charges of sexually harassing a fifteen year old male student...
Artie's dad snorts. "Sexual harassment, huh? Yeah, where was that when I was going to school? This shit confuses the hell out of me; I mean, give me one teenage guy who wouldn't jump at the first chance to get laid, huh?"
There's a pause, and Artie's mouth goes dry. His dad sounds like he's forgotten that whole bit. "What were you going to ask me?"
Artie shakes his head. "Nothing. Forget it, I'm fine."
Yes, it's humanity's most obvious lie. He's not fine. His head hurts. His eyes hurt. His heart hurts. But oh well; he's just going to have to suck it up and deal.
He spends the day after Christmas with Tina; her parents have gone out on some romantic date – apparently, it's their tradition for the 26th. So she invites him over, and they watch a range of movies, pausing them intermittently to make out.
He wishes he could respond more enthusiastically. They're between some so-bad-it's-good sci-fi movie and a musical; she's on his lap and he just freezes. Tina pulls back, concerned and biting her lip. "Artie? Are you okay?"
He nods automatically, not quite looking at her face – he focuses on a spot on the wall. "Yeah, I'm fine," he lies, somewhat unconvincingly. She tilts his head up and looks into his eyes.
"If there's something wrong, you can tell me," she says.
He probably should tell her. He knows her; she's too good not to understand. But if she understands, she will feel yet more sorry for him, and he can't deal with that again. If he tells her, she will somehow convince him to do the right thing – put Dr. Marlow away, stop her from hurting anyone else – and the whole thing will come out; police and trials and the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and everyone looking at him, weighing up who to believe; a constant judgmental or sympathetic gaze and he just couldn't do all that. Screw what's logical and right, and likely to help in the long run – he cannot do that. Yes it's a cliche, but he doesn't care.
Something at the back of his mind is whispering that's it's not about that – he just can't make Tina hurt like that, even for his sake. He won't pollute her mind with it.
He does the only thing he can think to do – he pulls her in and kisses her as enthusiastically as he can muster. If there's one thing he can hold onto in this situation, it's this: he is the victim here, and Dr. Marlow is a predator. He does not have to change a single thing about himself, and he will not let her win.
His next appointment for physiotherapy is the day before Winter Break ends – as his dad drives him, his stomach feels like a colony of cockroaches are crawling around in there; climbing up the walls and gnawing on insides of his stomach. And like cockroaches, they will not die.
Ew, that's a disgusting image.
When he sees Dr. Marlow, she seems as uncomfortable as he feels. She is dressed very conservatively – black pantsuit, buttoned up to the neck. She looks like she's going to a funeral-cross-meeting-for-the-fashionably-challenged (okay, A) he sounds like Kurt, B) pot, kettle, black, C) has she not done much worse?).
"Artie, hey," she says quietly when he rolls in, fidgeting with her hands. She's not looking him in the eye, and her body posture really does remind him of Ms. Pilsbury – he feels a lurch in his stomach when he thinks of the sweet, naive guidance counselor doing and saying the sorts of things Dr. Marlow did.
"Hey," he says, avoiding her eyes as well. This room makes his head spin and his stomach flip – PTSD, some part of his brain offers unhelpfully. He thinks there may be some kind of minimum amount of time to have passed before you're allowed to be suffering that, a minimum amount that he hasn't passed yet. So his brain is just being an idiot.
"Listen, Artie," she finally looks up at him. "I want to apologize, for the way I acted last session. It was... unprofessional, and inappropriate."
She sounds like she made a few thoughtless comments or something. He wants to scream at her, rage, break things – but he finds himself nodding along dumbly. "Okay," he says.
She sighs and gets up out of her chair, walking closer to him. "I just... get so lonely sometimes, lonely and scared. And it makes me get mad, makes me do things I regret," she's crouching beside him now, and she reaches out to hold his hand. "You get what that's like, right?"
He wants to pull away – her presence makes his skin crawl. He tells his hand again and again to move, but it doesn't move, just shakes a little. For a stupid, hopeless second, he's terrified that's been paralyzed as well. He can just see the remains of bruises on her wrists – did he grip her that hard?
"Yeah," he says. "Dr. Marlow."
Her gaze falters, looking ashamed, and she drops his hand. "Sorry," she says. "That was... never mind," and she shakes her head. "Let's get started, shall we?"
He returns to school for the second semester, and nothing much seems to have changed. Teachers, students, Glee club getting slushied and people's bags hitting his face when they walk – same old, same old.
At Glee club, people enthusiastically share their gossip of what they did over the (fairly short) break. They even listen to Rachel – and usually, no-one listens to Rachel unless she does something insane. He feels a little bad for her.
They try talking to him, but he doesn't say much. He's not even all that sure why – he's not really thinking about her, it (apart from the odd nauseating flash), but he just feels... distant. People look a little concerned, but they don't ask questions.
He overhears Puck gloating that he picked up some new cougar - "smoking hot, but kinda crazy bipolar."
Artie isn't really thinking about her, it, so he can't explain the bile in his throat.
She's drunk and not even trying to hide it, a bottle of vodka in plain view. It makes him feel even more anxious than he already was, it that's even possible. "Dr Marlow...?"
She blinks like she's surprised he's there, which is stupid, given it's his therapy session. "Hey," she eventually says, slurring the word.
"Hey," he responds, grimacing. He looks at her boozed up state, and considered that this a perfectly valid reason to get her fired – or at least suspended – without saying... what happened. It's probably one they're far more likely to believe. However, after a little reality catches back up with him – the threats she made before will probably apply if he does anything to get her fired, and he doesn't really expect to be sided with over her.
"Listen, don't tell anyone about this, mm'kay?" and she raises the half-empty bottle of vodka in her hand, so he knows what she's referring to. "Our little secret. We've got a few of those, hmm?"
He flinches. "Yeah, sure." He's really trying not to think about the implications of that statement.
"I'm sorry, it's just... There's a boy."
"Why do I care?" he asks, cuttingly. He's not going to let her forget she betrayed him, and hurt him, so even if he can't do anything, they are not friends. Plus, he's pretty sure he wouldn't care about her romantic troubles anyway.
"Whatever. It's just... He thinks I'm hot, but he thinks I'm crazy. I want him for him, but he just wants... fuck, I don't know. I'm such a mess," she punctuates this with a swill of her vodka, and he can't help but nod voraciously.
"You really, really are."
She snorts, but he sees a flash of pain in her eyes. Good. He wants to cause her some pain, anything. Yeah, maybe it's a cliche, but: he wants to hurt her for hurting him.
He is so screwed.
"I know. God, look at me. I can't snare dream pool boy; so-wrong-it's-right barely legal, walking right out of the perfect romantic cliche. I can't even get a cripple to fuck me without him freaking."
He grimaces at everything she just said: her callous dismissal of what she did to him, calling him a 'cripple', and that niggling familiar sensation when she refers to that cliche pool boy. "Boo hoo, poor you," he spits out. She looks up at him, tears brewing in her eyes.
"I know, it's just..." she starts walking closer to him, and his whole thought process – such as the parts of him that were trying to figure out what was annoyingly familiar about her story with the 'pool boy' – is cut off in the desperate attempt not to panic, and not to cry. "I need... I want to be loved. I want to worth something. You understand what that's like, don't you?"
She's kneeling down before him now, eyes wide and pleading, and he takes advantage of the only bit of power he has. He spits at her face. "You're not worth anything."
In a split-second, her expression changes, as she reaches up and slaps him across the face. It doesn't hurt that much, but it doesn't do much to soothe the churning in his stomach. He forces himself to smirk at her regardless. "Wow, I hit a nerve."
And her face crumples again, as she reaches for the zip of his pants. He squeezes his eyes shut. "I just – let me – god, you're in a wheelchair, I should... Let me be good enough for you."
He hand is squeezing and stroking him through the fabric, horrifyingly making him hard, no matter how he tries to avoid it – he hates being sixteen. He keeps his eyes closed and breathes in deeply, resolute not to let her see him cry. He is better than that.
"Well, I don't think I can stop you."
He curls up in bed that night, unable to sleep and fairly certain nothing is going to make it happen. He doesn't want to cry – he's mostly avoiding it, but a few choked sobs slip every once in a while. Hey, he's only human.
It's a cliche and he knows it, but he feels... dirty. He crawled into the shower and just sat there for hours, but he still feels like he's got her on him, in him – which doesn't make sense, when technically it was him inside her, oh god – and he's still trying to understand what happened. That it went that far. That he just sat there this time, and let her do it.
He stares at his phone, obnoxiously within arm's reach. Tina. He wants to call her, but he can't. For one thing, it's three AM. More importantly, he knows without a doubt that he can't let her find out about... This. Not that she'd ever judge him or blame him – she's amazing like that – but if she knew, god, she would feel so sorry for him and sometimes he feels like he's suffocating under the weight of her pity already. He doesn't want to seem even more broken, and if/when they actually do sleep together properly (as he always imagined his first time; oh god), he doesn't want her to feel like she's lumped in with anything ugly, with his pain and bad memories. Tina is perfect and he wants to keep himself perfect for her.
Somewhere he knows that's really stupid. He doesn't really care.
Still, the phone glares brightly at him and he can just make out the fingernail marks on his wrist. Something inside him snaps and he frantically reaches for the phone, shakily dialing her number. No, he can't tell her what happened, but he needs to hear her voice right now.
"Artie?" she answers gruffly. "It's three AM. Why are you calling now?"
"I – I..." and there's that watery part of his voice at the back of his throat; yeah, that's not pathetic. "I wanted to talk to you."
He can practically hear her frown. "About what?"
"I... nothing," he says, semi-defensively. "I don't know. I just really wanted to..." his voice catches. "Hear you."
"Artie, is something wrong?"
His heart starts beating in overdrive as he panics. "What? No, of course not!"
Yes, he wants to say. Yes.
"Good night, Tina!"
And he hangs up abruptly switching the phone off before she has a hope of calling back. As per his expectations, he doesn't sleep at all that night.
The day after, he winds up in the auditorium after practice. Tina hasn't said a thing about his crazy phone call all day – although she looks damn near terrified – for which he's grateful. It takes him a while to realize he's not alone in the auditorium, which is weird, but once he does, he realizes Puck is jabbering quite loudly on his phone.
"Bitch was fucking crazy, you know? Like, throwing broken bottles around crazy – I don't care about the stupid freaking money; the chick could kill me! She kept yelling about how she wasn't good enough or I wasn't good enough or some shit; I don't know, then she started with the sharp edges. And she kept going on about some cripple kid she fucked, but for some reason she wasn't good enough for him either, and that's really fucking creepy because the bitch is a doctor, so most of the disabled people she meets would be like, patients, and there are rules against that sort of thing. Really, this kid sounds like one unlucky bastard. Anyway, she was fucking crazy so I ran out of there, and by the way–"
Artie's not stupid. He doesn't want to, but he makes the connection in his head pretty easily: I can't snare dream pool boy; so-wrong-it's-right barely legal, walking right out of the perfect romantic cliche. He remembers Puck's 'crazy bipolar' cougar.
He winds up throwing up all over his lap, which draws Puck's attention – Fuck.
"Dude, gotta go," the jock says into the phone, hanging up and walking over to Artie. "Gross. You okay, Wheels?"
"I hate people calling me that," Artie says, "but yeah, I'm fine."
"You just upchucked all over yourself, dude."
"I'm fine," Artie insists, even though he can feel the lump in his throat again.
"Okay, I know my story about that crazy bitch was pretty bad – dude, seriously, that sucked – but I'm not sure why it should fuck you over, dude."
Artie shivers and looks away, the smell of vomit starting to get to him. Puck frowns and reaches a hand across to pat him on the shoulder (in a manly way, of course). "Dude, are you–"
"Don't touch me!" Artie bursts out, violently wheeling away from Puck's hand. He pauses for a second, and is struck by an urge to laugh – god, he really is a picture-perfect image of the Obvious Victim.
Puck looks uncomfortable, but shrugs nonchalantly. "Um. Okay. Do you need me to help you clean yourself up, then?"
Artie looks at him with as much contempt as he can muster. "I'm fine, thanks. Why don't you go back to knocking up your best friend's girlfriends and spreading STIs through the population of Lima, okay?"
Artie wheels himself out. He knows that wasn't really fair, but as he goes into the bathroom, coated in sick, he doesn't really feel like he had another choice.
Contrary to popular opinion, Noah Puckerman is not a dick. Well, he kind of is. But he's not enough of a dick that when a guy he knows, who is actually pretty cool for a dork in a wheelchair, winds up puking and generally freaking from some story about this crazy bitch he met, he's going to do nothing about it. Even if said guy was kind of douchey about said freakout.
However, Puck's pretty sure trying to talk to the guy again won't go well, so he does the next best thing. He goes to the guy's girlfriend.
"Hey, Tina," and he feels like he should have some kind of nickname for her. "We need to talk."
She looks confused. "Um. Okay. That's surprising, given I'm pretty sure you have never directly said anything to me before, ever."
"Well, ah, it's about your boyfriend."
Tina frowns. "What about him?"
"I... I was on the phone yesterday, like, talking about this thing that happened with this crazy bitch I know. And Artie overheard. And like, freaked out. He barfed and totally freaked when I tried to help him out."
Tina sighs deeply and closes her eyes, looking sad. "A couple of days ago, Artie called me at three AM," she says, opening them again. "He sounded so hurt. He said he wanted to talk to me, but he didn't really have anything to say, and when I asked him what was wrong... he freaked and hung up."
Puck nods. "So. Wheels is losing it. Fuck."
"Don't call him that."
"Sorry," Puck says, then he thinks. "Hey, you know how he's in the wheelchair?"
Tina stares. "No, I never noticed," she says, voice dripping in sarcasm.
"Does he go to any kind of like, exercise-y thing for the thing? Like, physiotherapy?"
Tina frowns. "Yeah, he does. Does it matter."
"...Crazy bitch was a physiotherapist," Puck says. "And she kept going on about some cr- disabled guy she..." he cuts himself off then, because Tina is kind of scary, and if he's trying to help Wheels step one might be not getting him killed.
Tina's mouth forms a silent 'oh'. "So... you think that woman did something?" she asks, and he thanks god she didn't ask him to finish his sentence.
"Yeah. I mean, when I say crazy, I mean crazy," he says. "So what do we do?"
Tina shrugs. "I don't know. I mean, most of the time, this is the bit where we talk to Mr. Schue and everyone ends up singing out the pain."
Will looks up at Puck and Tina, who are not usually people who hang out, admittedly. "Hey guys, what's up?" he asks.
They share a glance. "We're worried about Artie," Tina blurts out. Will frowns.
There's an awkward pause. Tina shrugs. "He's been acting weird for a while. Like something hurt him."
"A few days ago, I was on the phone, right? Talking about like, this crazy woman I... met," Puck says. "And, when he overheard all I was saying? He totally freaked."
"This woman was a physiotherapist. Artie goes to physiotherapy to prevent the muscles in his legs from atrophying," Tina explains. "We think this woman is his physiotherapist, and she... did something, that is making him act this way."
Will nods. "And you want me... to talk to him?"
Puck and Tina share a shrug. "I think... he wouldn't react well, if we tried to talk to him," Tina says. "And your the kind of teacher people actually do rely on."
"Finn says he did a lot of venting to you when he thought he was Quinn's baby daddy," says Puck with a little flinch of guilt.
Will nods again. "I'll talk to him. Thanks for telling me."
Will manages to get the boy alone after Glee practice, unable to help but notice how uncomfortable he looks in his own skin. He hadn't seen anything before Puck and Tina says they were worried, but now they have, Will can't stop seeing things – he's an idiot.
"What is it, Mr. Schuester?"
Will sighs. "Artie, a couple of your fellow club members – including your girlfriend – have talked to me recently. They're worried about you. They think something might have happened to you recently; they say you've been behaving strangely, and the more I look at you, the more inclined I am to agree."
Artie looks away, his mouth going dry and his hands twisting around each other in his lap. "I'm – I'm fine."
Will bites his lip. "Artie... Puck says you overheard a conversation he had on the phone a few days ago, about a woman he met. A physiotherapist. I know you attend physiotherapy, and Puck said this woman was... unstable. He and Tina think she was the one who did something to you. Artie... if she hurt you, you have to tell me."
Will manages to catch Artie's eye, and he notices that they're now glazed with tears. "Artie... did she do something to you?"
Artie's whole inside system just snaps under the weight of trying to keep this inside. "Yeah," he whispers, face crumbling. "Yes, she did."
And then he just descends into sobs. Will wraps his arms around him, holding on until those cries subside.
Artie, his parents, Principal Figgins and Will all sit in the principal's office, as Artie looks down and Will tries to explain what happened; what Artie told him about – Dr. Marlow, the assault, Puck's phone call. Principal Figgins looks a little sick. Mrs. Abram's face is blank, but Mr. Abrams actually laughs.
"Uh huh, sure," he says, looking at his son. "So what is it really, kid? You got a crush on the pretty doctor lady, so turned you down and you started spreading rumors? Because surely you could come up with something more believable than this."
Artie somehow looks even worse when he hears those words, and Will sees red. He's not a hundred percent sure how it happens, but somehow, he winds up having knocked Mr. Abrams to the ground with one hard, swift punch.
"Schue!" Figgins cries out, aghast.
Will stares and stutters. "I – that–"
"Never happened," interrupts Artie's mother, cool and calm. "And if you," she indicates her husband, "Try and make a big deal out of it, and play the victim out of this man actually sticking up for our son, I will destroy you."
Figgin still looks angry, but like he's going to let it slide.
"Mr. Schuester, Mr. Figgins," she says, "With all due respect, I think it would be best if we took our son home now. This is something important to be dealt with."
Will can't help but think she sounds disturbingly clinical. Principal Figgins nods anyway. "I think that would be a good idea. We have already contacted the relevant authorities about Dr. Marlow's... actions."
She nods, as she and he husband stand and start walking, while Artie wheels himself out. Will gives Artie a comforting clap on the shoulder, but can't think of anything to say.
As Artie's parents are dragging him out, he hears his girlfriend's voice calling after him. "Artie!"
The second voice is less expected. "Yo, Wheels!"
They all turn around, and Tina and Puck walk up to him. For a few seconds, everyone just stares at each other.
"Mr. and Mrs. Abrams, do you mind if we talk to Artie alone for a little?" Tina asks politely.
Artie looks back at his parents. "Could we...? Could you just go out to the car; I'll catch up?"
His mother nods, whereas his father just looks sulky – Artie feels his insides twist a bit at that. They disappear from vision, and Artie turns back to face his girlfriend and... whatever-Puck-is-in-relation-to-him.
Tina takes a deep breath. "Look, Artie, I know you might be angry, but we were really worried and really wanted to help you; we're still not entirely sure what happened but–"
"I'm not mad at you," Artie cuts her off. "Seriously, thank you. I didn't have the guts to tell the truth. I thought it would hurt everyone – it probably will, but... well, I won't have to feel guilty about it."
Puck blinks. "Dude, we still don't know what actually happened.
Artie winces. "Yeah, I know. Can I explain that later? It might be on the news and stuff, I don't know, but..."
Tina nods. "Okay," she says. "Just... call any time, okay? I love you."
"I... don't love you, but the point remains: whatever this is, you need us, we're here. Okay?" Puck says.
Artie actually smiles. "Okay."