Author's notes: A little something to make up for the fact that it's going to take me a bit more time than I expected to get the next chapter of Visions of Rain posted. It's for an amazing prompt that was extremely well thought-out, but was about Artie and thus less likely to be filled. So I took it. It's sort of different, but I kind of like it. Hope y'all do too.
Some kids wanted friends. Others, relationships. Some wanted to be popular and well-liked. Some kids just wanted their parents back together or to have their parents there at all. Not Artie. Nope. He had most of those things already. Why ask for more? No, what Artie Abrams wanted most in the whole wide world, more than money, more the friendship, more than fame, more than love, was to be punched square in the face. Right in the kisser. Bam! Just like that.
The obsession had started after he'd stood up to those dunderheads Karofsky and Azimio, placing himself and the clunky wheelchair that was his legs between them and Finn. They wouldn't hit him. They had every right to, every opportunity, but they just couldn't do it. It was an ethical thing, he supposed. You just don't hit cripples. The thought made him long for Puck to regain his full level of asshattery. He'd never had any qualms about picking on the kid who couldn't walk.
He still hadn't touched him, though, if he really thought about it.
It wasn't like he smelled or was terribly repulsive, like that Jacob Ben Israel kid. Hell, even that guy had been tossed in the garbage a time or two, which meant that there had to be something fundamentally wrong with Artie.
Why the hell wouldn't anybody touch him?
Tina had barely touched him when they were dating, though she seemed to have no problem with that at all now with Mike watch-me-dance Chang. Sure, she'd kissed Artie when they were together, had held his hand every now and again, but he'd initiated most everything there, and she hadn't been anywhere near as hands-on with him as she was with Chang. Some girlfriend.
Even his parents, his loving mother and father, who tried their best to support him and love him and not treat him any different than a normal kid his age, had trouble touching him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been hugged without asking for one first, could barely recall the gentle pats on the head from his dad or his mom's comforting hand covering his own.
Well, if no one would touch him, then why not use it to his advantage? Dumb and Dumber didn't look to be letting up on their harassment of the glee kids anytime soon, so why not use himself as a roadblock? They couldn't (wouldn't) touch him, so what did it matter? And it was pretty freakin' hard to move a wheelchair unless it was shoved forward or back. He could protect his friends and antagonize the enemy at the same time. Win-win scenario. And maybe, just maybe, if he got one of them worked up enough (Karofsky, most likely; Azimio seemed to have more reservations about beating on a cripple kid), he could get that punch to the face. Hell, even a shove would do, if they just touched him and not the stupid chair, like everyone always did.
So he put himself in harm's way time and again, as often as he possibly could. There were even times when he followed Karofsky and Azimio around in hopes they would spring on one of his unwitting classmates. He was helping his friends, keeping them safe, while moving ever closer to his goal, that ever-elusive punch in the face.
He wasn't expecting them to lash out the way they did. He wasn't expecting them to track him down after school, wasn't expecting them to corner him alone in the locker room after football practice and push his chair down the hallway. He wasn't expecting their hard, quiet faces as he badgered them about bullying the legless wonder.
"You think you're more of a man because you can take on a guy who can't walk? Does it make you feel big and tough? You don't even have the nerve to lay a hand on me, do you?"
Silence met him. They just continued down the hallway, Azimio pushing him, Karosky walking alongside. He caught them shooting glances at one another, but neither said a word.
He filled the silence with jabs and taunts, hoping, praying that this next insult would be the one to set them over the edge. That maybe this time would be the one he'd been waiting for.
They rounded the corner to the gym and they wheeled him inside, moving to the far end of the room. He could feel the wheels of his chair sticking and catching on the scuffs and gouges raked across the rubbery surface of the floor. What were they doing?
Suddenly, the chair was tipped forward and he spilled onto the ground like a rag doll, his hands splayed out in front of him to brace himself for the fall. His palms smacked loudly as he hit the floor, the sound echoing off the high ceiling. He could hear the pair laughing as they walked away, taking his chair with them.
"Have a good weekend, freak!" one of them called. Deeper voice. Azimio, most likely. And the gym door slammed shut. All of the classrooms in the school could be opened from the inside, even the gym, so they must have chosen the largest room they could think of and dumped him on the far end of it. He'd have to drag himself to the door and find some help. Fun. The auditorium would have been a better choice. There were stairs there. He raised his head and looked toward the exit. So far away.
He laid his head back down on the floor. It wasn't as cool as he'd expected and almost soft. Karofsky and Azimio. It was obvious they weren't used to picking on a kid who couldn't walk. They hadn't even bothered to take his phone. He could call his dad. The school hadn't closed up yet. He was supposed to pick Artie up from practice soon anyway. He'd know something was up when Artie wasn't outside waiting for him, but he just couldn't bring himself to reach into his pocket and call for help. That would be admitting he needed it. It would mean he couldn't fend for himself.
He was sick of being helpless, sick of depending on everyone else to help him 'overcome' his disability. Well, he didn't need to overcome, didn't need to be anything more than what he already was, no matter how much he dreamed of getting up out of his chair one day and dancing his heart out. He sighed and dug his fingernails as deep into the floor as they would go.
It wasn't that they'd finally decided to retaliate—he'd expected it, encouraged it, even. It wasn't that they'd taken his chair—he didn't want it anyway. It wasn't even that he most likely had to pull himself across the wide expanse of the gym to escape this prison in which he'd been dumped. It was that even though he'd pushed and pushed, waited eagerly for them to strike back, fight back, hit back, they'd taken the easy way out. It was that if he were any other kid in the world, he'd be laying in the parking lot bleeding from the nose with fresh bruises on his jaw.
But he was Artie freakin' Abrams and they still hadn't touched him. You just don't hit cripples. He tucked his head into his arms and lay there in the empty silence of the gym, waiting for his dad to realize he was missing. At least his dad would have to touch him then, would have to lift him into the chair that pushed everyone so far from his reach.