Rachel has always known Artie had an impressive voice. It was just that she found he lacked presence, perhaps due to his lack of height while confined to his wheelchair. Plus, Rachel considered herself a multifaceted performer, and Artie was obviously at a severe disadvantage when it came to choreography, though she and the rest of Glee certainly did their best to incorporate his chair into their performances.
While she did think his disability contributed to her oversight (a fact she was not proud of), Rachel also had to concede that it was her own Finn induced blindness that was probably most to blame.
But now that she truly believed she and Finn would never be Rachel found herself paying more attention to the other members of Glee. Especially Artie. Because Artie was more than impressive, he was amazing.
One day, after he delivered a particularly moving solo Rachel found herself so flustered she missed her cue. The baffled look Artie directed her way made her blush, and they had to start the song again, meaning Artie sang solo again, leaving her more flustered than before (she did not miss her cue, but found her performance sorely lacking, knowledge that left her irritated for the rest of the day).
Having learnt much from the disasters with Finn and Mr Schuester, Rachel decided to go for straight forward honesty.
“I like you. You have a great voice and recently I’ve come realise you’re also very funny, even though in the past I was a frequent target for your less kind comments, but I’ve noticed you’ve stopped doing that, which I appreciate even if it does not as I hope imply that you may be receptive to my feelings. Also, you have a really nice smile.”
Artie looked at her for a full thirty seconds, mouth slightly agape before replying.
“This is... very unexpected. Very. I was not... expecting this.”
Rachel smiled hopefully, and Artie coughed uncomfortably before continuing.
“I’m sorry, I’m flattered, really, but I just don’t feel that way about you.”
Rachel held her smile, even though she could feel how fake it must look, thanked Artie for his honesty and then hurried from the room before she burst into tears.
She refused to be pathetic about her rejection, she showed up to the next Glee practice with her head held high ready to face Artie and anyone he might have told. But no one said anything, and Artie just greeted her with a kind smile that mostly hid his awkwardness.
It was uncomfortable for the next few weeks, especially since Rachel’s feelings were not fading, but she found that she could handle it well enough (she wondered if this was a sign of maturity?)
She still felt a shot of embarrassment when Mr Schuester paired her and Artie up for vocal exercises, but as she lost herself in the sound of their combined voices she actually managed to relax.
“Have you changed your mind?”
It took Rachel a moment to realise Artie had spoken, rather than sung.
Artie looked uncomfortable.
“I mean about liking me? Do you still... I mean...”
He sighed in frustration, before collecting himself.
“Would you like to go out some time?”
Rachel felt a solid thump in her chest, and hoped she managed to keep her smile from seeming manic as she gave an enthusiastic “yes”.
They went to the movies, which led to dinner, then another, then nights staying in watching musicals (and the occasional comedy after Artie teased her into broadening her cinematic tastes).
They kiss for the first time after they watch Rent (the reviews for which Rachel finds unnecessarily harsh). They’re at Artie’s house and as she goes to leave he grasps her hand and pulls her down until he can lean up to kiss her. She feels butterflies in her belly, and they seem to double when she pulls back to see Artie’s smile.
She decides they’re official when Artie shows up for Glee rehearsal and situates himself as close to her as her being on a school chair and him being in a wheelchair will allow, and then reaches out to rest his hand just above her knee.
While they’re waiting for Artie’s dad to pick him up after practice they laugh together over the wide range of facial reactions to the move (Kurt’s was their favourite for its hilarity, Quinn’s obvious happiness for them the most surprising and Tina’s the one they don’t talk about.)
They’ve progressed to pretty heavy making out on the couch, hands under shirts and some slight grinding from Rachel against Artie’s leg. It’s watching Artie move himself onto the couch that starts getting her going, the way the muscles tense in his arms as he lifts himself out of his wheelchair, bracing one hand on the arm of the couch.
She avoided looking at first, pretending to read the DVD case, or to be carefully examining the living room walls. She found this particularly ridiculous when they were in her own house, but she didn’t want to make Artie uncomfortable.
“You can look you know.”
Rachel whipped her head around to find Artie about to hoist himself onto the couch, offering her a warm smile.
“I don’t mind.”
And so Rachel watched him, and discovered her apparent arm fetish, and when she gets his shirt open for the first time she takes a moment to appreciate what the need for good upper body strength does for a guy’s torso.
After a couple of months Artie lets Rachel drive him to school. She has to help him get into her car, then fold his wheelchair into to the back seat, and Rachel figures this is why he turned down her offers before. It’s one thing for her to watch what he can do; it’s another for her to help with what he can’t.
After they arrived, and she’d helped him out of the car, Artie seemed to shake off his initial discomfort. He quickly rolled ahead and spun around to face her.
“Thanks for the ride. Now it’s my turn to give you one,” he patted his leg, “hop on, I’ll take you to class.”
They got more than one strange look as they rolled down the hallway, Rachel giggling from her place on Artie’s lap, her arms clinging tightly to his shoulders and Artie’s lips grazing against her cheek.
They tend to stick to their respective living rooms when at each other homes. Rachel’s house isn’t particularly wheelchair friendly, and Rachel suspects Artie has had an ongoing cleaning project in the works to make his room appropriate for female company.
It’s not long after she starts driving him to and from school that he leads her into his room to play some music and make out (the last bit is implied, especially after they were walked in on by his mother two days before just as Rachel was about to press her hand against the bulge in the front Artie’s pants.)
They were on his bed, Artie slightly propped up against the headboard while Rachel lay half on top of him, her left leg slung across his. She gets his shirt off, runs her hands over his chest and Artie pulls back with a gasp. He smiles and tangles his fingers into Rachel’s hair.
“I love your hair.”
Rachel surges forward again, recapturing his lips as she climbs up to straddle his waist. He’s already hard, she can feel him pressed against her and she resists the urge to push down.
He gets her top off, unclips her bra with minimal fumbling and stops to stare at her breasts like he’s seen the holy grail (he’s actually seen them before, a couple of times, but he always has the same look on his face.)
He kisses her again, more demanding this time, one hand still in her hair, the other brushing over her nipples. He kisses his way down her chest and as his attention is focused on her breasts Rachel takes her turn to run her fingers through his hair.
Rachel jumps off the bed suddenly, leaving Artie looking rumpled, flushed and concerned. He seemed to understand seconds later when Rachel’s skirt hit the floor and she slipped her shoes off. Artie quickly removed his shoes and pants, but hesitated at his boxers. Rachel lowered her panties, desperately trying not to blush, and then knelt on the edge of the bed. She rested her fingertips on the waistband of his boxers.
Artie nodded, and Rachel pulled them down his legs, smiling when he lifted himself slightly to help her. She climbed back over his lap, and they kissed again. Artie rested his hands on Rachel’s hips, softly stroking her skin with his thumbs, until one of his hands slowly made its way between her legs. She jumped away at the first brush of his fingers, but then quickly kissed away his look of concern and murmured against his lips.
“Sorry, bit nervous. Don’t stop.”
His fingers returned, pressing firmly against her, dipping inside slightly and Rachel let out what she felt was a highly unflattering moan but that Artie seemed to appreciate if the way he jerked against her was any indication.
Rachel stopped again.
“Do you have condoms?”
“Oh. Oh yeah, of course.”
“I think now would be a good time to get them,” Rachel knew she sounded breathless and needy, but she figured that was fine, since it was exactly how she felt.
Artie reached into the drawer of his nightstand and pulled out the foil packet. Rachel quickly snatched it out of his hand and shuffled back a bit to give herself room. She looked at him for a moment, then ran her finger gently up his length. Artie let out a high pitched squeak then slapped his hand over his mouth.
“Don’t be. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who’s going to be making noises... I didn’t mean for that to be as suggestive as it came out as.”
“I think it’s okay to be suggestive at this point.”
They smiled at each other again until Rachel decided it was time to get back to work. She rolled them condom onto Artie, grinning at the way his hands clenched at the sheets, then once again returned to his lap.
She pressed a firm kiss to his lips, maintaining it as she reached between them, grasping him and moving into position. She barely paused before she began pushing onto him.
It hurt, in a different way than she’s been expecting. She had to stop, her fingers digging into Artie’s shoulders as his hands rested on her hips, steadying her. She bit her lip and waited for the pain to fade.
“Are you okay? Should we stop?”
“No,” Rachel shook her head, gave a quick kiss to the worried crease of his forehead just above his glasses, “It’s okay, just need a second.”
She wasn’t lying; soon she was able to lower herself the rest of the way and settled against Artie’s hips. Artie’s eye’s were squeezed shut, a bead of sweat trailing down his temple and it occurred to Rachel that a boy’s first time was not usually known for its longevity, and that to get the most out of this for both of them she should probably get a move on.
She started rocking her hips slowly, still a bit uncomfortable, but it was getting better. And when Artie’s eyes shot open and one of his hands went between them, his thumb moving against her in a perfect complement to her thrusting, it got a lot better.
She felt herself getting closer, started lifting herself up and down, felt Artie’s hand moving with more urgency, heard his desperate grunting and then his hands were both on her hips again pulling her against him almost roughly, once, twice and then he let out a strangled cry and stilled.
Rachel was still rocking only moments away from coming, and Artie suddenly seemed to realise he’d come first, hastily moving his hand back between her legs, flicking against her just once and it was Rachel’s turn to cry out.
She collapsed against Artie’s chest and felt his arms wrap around her, pulling her closer.
“Are you okay?”
Rachel smiled at the tender concern in his voice.
“I think for our first time that went extremely well, and imagine with some practice we will be rather fantastic.”
Artie pressed a kiss to the top of her head, “I’ve always admired your commitment to self improvement.”
Rachel moved off him, kissed his shoulder as he leaned over the edge of the bed to get rid of the condom and then settled with her head resting on his chest.
When Artie spoke again she was sure she could hear his smile.
“I think I’ll be able to go again in about twenty minutes.”