The first time Artie and Kurt ever really spent time together was after Kurt and Blaine's break up. Kurt was taking it pretty hard; Blaine just couldn't handle the distance from Kurt and called it off barely a few months after it had all began.
Artie had been wheeling down the hall at the end of the school day, the halls deserted and empty, when he'd heard it. Soft crying was coming from beneath the south stairs of the school. Confused, Artie peeked around the corner to see Kurt sobbing, teardrops dripping onto his iPhone that he held on his lap, a message still lit up on the screen. "Kurt? What's wrong?" Artie asked. "Did someone pick on you again? I can go get…"
"No," Kurt interrupted sadly. "I'm fine. It's just…"
He held out his phone and Artie wiped the tears from the screen to read the one lone text message Blaine had used to break up with Kurt. It hurt just to read it, especially after he'd seen how close they were and how happy Blaine made Kurt. "I'm so sorry, Kurt," Artie told him, his voice soft and full of sadness for the other boy.
Kurt sniffled and said, "I just…I didn't even see this coming."
Artie bit his lip and looked around. He was never quite sure what to do in situations like this where someone was crying, but his instincts told him that Kurt just needed to be held – he needed a friend just like anyone else. "Come here," Artie said gently.
Kurt looked up, surprised. He wiped away some tears from his cheeks as he thought about Artie's request. Artie's heart was pounding in his chest as Kurt considered what Artie had just asked. Finally, Kurt was standing and making his way over to Artie's chair. Artie moved his arms, motioning for Kurt to sit on his lap, and Kurt did so without question.
Instinctively, Artie's arms wrapped around Kurt's waist; Kurt slowly relaxed into the contact, a few more tears falling, landing dark circles on Artie's red vest. "It'll be okay, Kurt," Artie told him softly. "Breakups suck, especially when they come out of nowhere like that, but we're here for you. I'm here for you."
The words fell from Artie's lips easily, naturally. He didn't even have to think too much about them because he knew in his heart that everything would be okay for Kurt. Maybe not tonight, or even a week from now, but they would be. Kurt's arms wove around Artie's shoulders and he nodded. With a sniffle, Kurt said, "Thank you, Artie."
Artie just nodded and let Kurt gather himself before Artie wheeled them out to the parking lot, all the way around the school to Kurt's Navigator. "Do you want a ride home?" Kurt asked, wiping the last tear from his eye.
"My dad's waiting for me back on the other side of the school, but thanks though," Artie shrugged. "I'll see you tomorrow?" he asked hopefully.
With a sad smile, Kurt nodded and said, "Yeah, tomorrow."
"Good," Artie smiled brightly.
After Kurt's breakup with Blaine, Artie and Kurt were spending a lot more time together. Neither of them really cared for the summer pool-side fun that the rest of their glee club comrades were into. They were always invited to pool parties at Santana's house or grill-outs at Quinn's place, but most of the time they'd decline. Getting to and from places was difficult for Artie, especially with his dad working crazy hours at the hospital. Kurt just didn't really care to go; he was working in his dad's shop to earn some money, and he really didn't want to talk about the breakup with anyone else.
Sometimes Artie would show up at the garage and help Kurt with a tire change or something; it was easy work and Artie could do it from his chair. They'd talk about any old thing; music, movies, books – anything that came to mind, really. Kurt would vent about his breakup with Blaine and how it sucked to be blindsided with something like that. Artie would bring up Tina and how she left him without warning and the two of them really bonded over their past relationships.
"Okay, boys, we're done in here for the day," Burt said, wandering into the garage around one o'clock. "It's a scorcher and I don't want you two passing out."
Kurt had been getting dizzy but hadn't said a word. He just nodded as his father walked away, wiping his hands on an old rag. Artie turned to Kurt and must have noticed that he was paler than usual because he reached out and wove his hand in with Kurt's. "Come on, let's get you some water," Artie suggested, pulling Kurt down onto his lap.
Kurt nodded and let Artie wheel him into the back room where it was air conditioned. Once inside, Artie coaxed Kurt out of his coveralls, thankful that he was in a simple tank top underneath. He got him a glass of ice water from the fountain and put it in Kurt's hand. "Drink up," Artie insisted with a smile.
"Thanks," Kurt replied, taking a big gulp.
He looked over at Artie gratefully and pressed their foreheads together. "No problem," Artie smiled, running his hand along Kurt's back.
Slowly Kurt backed away and took another drink of water. He leaned his head on Artie's shoulder, marveling in the feeling of how easy it was to act this way around Artie, and how comforting it was, and how much he liked that Artie just always knew what to do. Kurt sighed in contentment as Artie finished off his own water. "Hey Kurt?" Artie asked.
"Do you want to go back to my place and watch a movie?"
Kurt looked up at Artie and smiled, "I'd love to."
It didn't take long for Kurt to lift Artie into the front seat, his wheelchair folded up in the back. They went over to Artie's and sat down on the couch, Kurt leaning against Artie like he always did. He'd conceded and let Artie choose the movie (Iron Man), and Kurt had really made an effort to stay awake, but in the end he wound up sleeping on Artie's shoulder, his breathing just barely tickling Artie's neck.
It was a week before school was going to start and Kurt was trying not to be depressed this year like he usually was. Most people would forget about his birthday in the hustle and bustle of getting ready for the new school year; either that, or his friends were still gone because it was summertime.
That's why it was so surprising when Artie showed up at Kurt's house on his birthday, a gift on his lap and a smile on his face. Confused, Kurt helped Artie get his chair inside the house and into the living room. Finn was gone at football practice and Burt and Carole were at work, meaning Kurt had been home alone before Artie had showed up. "Hey," Artie smiled. "Happy Birthday."
Kurt stared at him, confused, as he made his way into the living room. "But…nobody ever remembers my birthday," Kurt trailed off.
"Until now," Artie finished for him. "I brought you a present."
"Artie…I…" Kurt stammered through his words. "You didn't have to."
Artie looked appalled and said, "Seriously? We're like, best friends. It's your birthday so I got you a gift. It's the way these things work."
Overwhelmed, Kurt sat down on the sofa, Artie sitting across from him, as he accepted the present. It was a small box wrapped in shiny silver paper. A bright blue bow adorned the top, and as pretty as it should have been, Kurt could tell that Artie had wrapped it himself. The art of wrapping a box properly was lost on most people, but Kurt was too surprised and overjoyed at the thought of actually getting a gift that any scathing remark he could have made was lost. Inside was a plain gold Visa card. "It's not like a credit card or anything," Artie said quickly. "But…I know you like shopping for designer stuff online so I figured a Visa gift card was easier than a card for a store. That way you can get that scarf you've been looking at for ages."
"You could have just bought me the scarf," Kurt teased.
"And get the wrong one on accident because I can't keep track of all those designers you love? Are you kidding me!" Artie asked incredulously.
Kurt laughed and looked up at Artie earnestly. "Thank you," he said insistently. "This is the first time in a while that one of my friends has remembered my birthday."
"You're welcome," Artie nodded with a smile.
Kurt leaned forward and pulled Artie into a strong hug. It really meant a lot to him that someone actually remembered his birthday and gave him a gift. Kurt smiled into Artie's shoulder before slowly breaking the hug, planting a gentle kiss on Artie's cheek as he backed up.
Artie felt like he should have been more grossed out or shocked by the gesture, but it fit. It was just the way their friendship was and it made sense. Kurt liked being shown attention, and Artie liked affection. They gave the other what they needed because they could, and it worked.
Kurt beamed and suppressed the urge to run upstairs to get his laptop and order the scarf he'd been eying up. Instead, he asked, "Want a birthday muffin?"
Artie looked confused and Kurt explained with a laugh, "Muffins are healthier than cupcakes and you can still put a candle in them."
Leave it to Kurt to have a healthy birthday treat. Artie nodded and said, "Oh hell yes. It's not a birthday until you've blown out a candle."
As it turns out, Kurt had splurged on his birthday and instead of his usual blueberry bran muffins, he made chocolate chip muffins. He blew out a candle after Artie had sung the most ghetto version of 'Happy Birthday to You' to date, and they dug in.
Whoever gave Mr. Schuester the idea to up the difficulty on their choreography needed to die, Kurt decided. Their first day back to school they stood on the stage of the auditorium, learning a double step kind of move from Mike. Brittany caught on right away, as did Santana and Quinn, but the rest of them were kind of struggling with it. Poor Finn kept tripping over his feet and Kurt was practically drawing blood from his lip as he bit it in concentration. Artie copied the arm gestures and waited for a moment when he could do a spin.
That came next, and everyone handled that pretty well. Finn fell over and almost pushed Brad off the piano bench, Lauren punched Puck in the face (his nose bled, but it wasn't broken), and Kurt fell over all on his own. Kurt never fell when he was dancing so it was rather embarrassing. Mr. Schuester looked frustrated and told him to just get up, the same as he'd done to Finn and Puck, but when Kurt tried to stand, he stumbled over.
Sam caught him, thankfully, but he definitely wasn't going to be able to stand. Sam helped Kurt sit down on the stage and Kurt instantly pulled off his boot, nursing his sore ankle. He frowned as he noted that it was already swelling. "I should get to the nurse," he winced, barely touching it.
"Okay," Mr. Schuester nodded, disappointment on his face. "Sam? You want to help him?"
"Actually, I can, Mr. Schue. I'm not doing much right now anyway," Artie offered from the other side of the stage.
Kurt visibly relaxed at the sound of his best friend's voice and was thankful that Mr. Schue agreed. Not that Kurt didn't like Sam, but it was just easier if Artie rolled him there. Kurt had gotten used to getting around places that way, not to mention it would save Artie from the intense boredom that was dance boot camp for everyone else.
Artie was at Kurt's side almost instantly and he helped Kurt clamber onto his lap. Kurt looked relieved and wrapped an arm around Artie's shoulder without a second thought. They wheeled away, leaving the rest of the glee club watching them curiously. "Wait…are they dating?" Puck asked.
"Artie's not gay," Tina said matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, but they spent like, all summer together," Finn pointed out lamely. "Like, he was at our house all the time."
They group exchanged confused glances for a few seconds before Mr. Schue interrupted them and made them get back to dancing.
It was a few weeks into the school year and Artie and Kurt were still hanging out all the time. The rest of the club had made it Finn's job to watch them while they were home; they needed to know what was going on with those two.
They were watching a movie in the living room, Kurt lying casually on Artie's shoulder as Artie sat on the corner of the couch, his chair off to the side, long forgotten. It was weird for Finn to see Artie somewhere other than his chair, and it was even weirder for Finn to see Artie and Kurt so obviously snuggling on the couch. Artie's arm was draped lazily around Kurt's shoulder as they watched Singin' in the Rain.
Finn sat at the dining room table with his homework, trying (and succeeding, surprisingly) to convince them that he really was working, not watching them from the corner of his eye. When the movie ended Kurt shut it off and they got Artie back into his chair. "See you Monday?" Artie asked as they made their way to the front door.
"Yeah," Kurt smiled. "Thanks for tonight."
"No problem," Artie waved it off. "It was fun."
Kurt nodded his agreement and leaned down to give Artie a hug goodbye. Finn was practically falling out of his chair he was leaning over so far so he could see. Artie and Kurt had gotten used to their customary hug and then kiss on the cheek goodbye, so much so that they did it without even thinking.
This time though, as Kurt pulled out of the hug, he leant down and connected his lips to Artie's for a fleeting second. Artie didn't even bat an eye at the contact, even though it was a new step for them. "I'll see you later, Kurt," he said, smiling, a faint blush crossing his cheeks.
"Goodnight," Kurt said, waving to Artie as he wheeled down the mini ramp Burt had made for Artie.
Kurt watched for a moment as Artie got into his father's van and they drove away before he shut the door and turned back into the house. Finn stood with his arms crossed, looking at Kurt with an almost disappointed expression.
This wasn't going to be good.
Kurt showed up at Artie's the next day, nervous and a little uncomfortable. Artie must have picked up on it because he closed the door when they got to his room and he had a steely expression fixed on his face. "What's going on?" he asked.
He could tell something was wrong the minute Kurt had come over. Kurt was never an unannounced visitor; he liked planning and schedules and never dropped in like this. "It's been brought to my attention that people in the glee club don't…understand us," Kurt said, annoyance in his voice.
"What do you mean?" Artie asked.
Kurt sighed as he sat down on the end of Artie's bed and said, "They think we're dating."
"We're not though," Artie replied quickly. When Kurt didn't instantly nod in agreement, Artie panicked and added, "Right? We're not dating, are we? I mean, we're friends, and that's cool, but…oh god was I leading you on, Kurt?"
Artie watched Kurt nervously. "No, you didn't lead me on, Artie," Kurt replied softly. "I know you're straight and I'm fine with that. We're friends."
"Are you sure?" Artie asked. Kurt wasn't smiling and he looked kind of upset. "I mean, I haven't seen you like this since…"
He didn't dare say it, though. Kurt looked genuinely sad and Artie couldn't handle the fact that it might be his fault. "Artie, I want to be your friend. That's all," Kurt said simply. "Stop freaking out. I'm just annoyed with the glee club. They don't get it."
"I know what you mean," Artie agreed. "Like, Santana and Brittany can be so close but not a couple and they're cool with it, but the minute you and I were hanging out, it's so wrong."
"Yeah, but I'm gay," Kurt pointed out.
"So is Santana," Artie countered with a shrug.
He knew she wasn't out, but it was obvious. The way Santana would stare at Brittany, it was hard to miss. Kurt nodded as he mulled it all over in his head. "So what do you want to do?" Artie asked.
Kurt paused to think for a moment before smirking and saying, "We're not going to change anything. We can be friends and show it however we want to. They can just deal with it."
Artie nodded and smiled in agreement.
At school on Monday, Artie purposely sought out Kurt before glee club. "Would you like a ride?" Artie asked teasingly.
Kurt grinned and said, "Of course."
He sat down on Artie's lap and allowed himself to be wheeled down into the choir room where most of the club already sat. Their eyes landed on Artie and Kurt before several people glared at Finn. "Hey guys," Artie greeted them.
He and Kurt were acting like nothing was wrong, because it was true. Nothing was wrong with their friendship, and if they thought differently, then screw them. "You guys, Kurt's the only dolphin here," Brittany said to them simply. "I would know. Artie's definitely a shark."
Santana stifled a laugh from beside Brittany as Kurt burst into laughter, burying his face in the crook of Artie's neck as he did so.