A/N: Last chapter! Thanks to everybody who's stuck with this, reviewed, made playlists, fanart, everything. You all are amazing. I don't think I've told everyone, but I have Asperger's, and I've dealt with social anxiety, and it's so great to hear that there are so many people who can relate. If you have any questions about it, I'd love to answer them. And hear your animal stories. Here or Tumblr. The follow-up will be called Still off the Key of Reason, and it'll cover the rest of their lives. Also, I hope you all find an animal to love. People count. They're animals too.
Just off the Key of Reason
Chapter 30: So Let this be the Chance, the Only One that Counts
Rachel! I went to get your favorite curry from The Green Mango. And Skittles. And a Peppermint Pattie. Also, bacon because the dogs are being good. I won't be long. I made you cookies, so you can have those while you wait. –Quinn
Also, I love you little bear.
Rachel smiled at the note. Two years, and the elephant at the bottom of the paper hadn't changed. This one was smiling just as brightly as always. Its trunk reached up and touched the wonky writing, happily looping under the "bear."
There were only five cookies left. Rachel took them all and moved to the living room to collapse on the couch, holding her treasures over her head and away from the animal swarm. She shoved a few fluffy faces away so that she could take a bite.
Or a mouthful. A whole cookie, because two years had not dulled her appreciation for them at all.
"You're such a mess, Cornelius." Rachel mumbled around her mouthful, spitting out crumbs and leaning forward to pluck some kind of stuffed animal fluff off the dog's head. She wondered what he'd destroyed. But she did not want to find out.
Cornelius sat back with both his paws on the couch, staring at Rachel with his little demon eyes. She looked away to do her quick head count.
Giant white ball of fluff? Check. Currently lying on his back, waiting for a belly rub.
Gigantic chocolate rabbit? Check.
Orange Jelly Bean? Check. Rolling dementedly around in the corner with a catnip toy.
Two chubby cats who like to climb things? Check. Currently halfway up the curtains.
Impossibly excited golden retriever with bright brown eyes? Check. He had gray hairs growing around his nose now. But they couldn't be seen at the moment through the mud on his face.
Huge fish tank, complete with a turtle called Franklin? Check. Any day where none of the other animals were found swimming in the aquarium was a success to Rachel. And finding no dead fish was just a miracle. Quinn had been horrified when she'd caught Rachel flushing both Splishy and Splashy down the toilet. At the same time.
Like a mass murder. Mass fish body disposal.
Rachel stuffed the rest of her cookie in her mouth and surveyed the living room, and what little she could see of the kitchen, for their latest addition.
A bright red golden retriever whose snout had been irreparably damaged after being forced to hold a fire cracker in his mouth. Quinn had named him, because he'd "harnessed the power of the fire" and overcome the whole ordeal. He was a sweetheart with kind eyes, but he'd rarely let anybody near him unless Quinn was in the room.
Rachel got up to find him after rubbing Cloud's tummy. She smiled, knowing exactly where he'd be. Quinn liked to sit with him in the cozy little office, rubbing the part of his nose that he still had and feeding him Sugar Puffs, telling him that he was perfect and handsome just the way he was.
Because Quinn knew they could understand her.
"Hey, Char." Rachel said softly, opening the door to the office and stepping inside. She let the other animals follow. Barnaby and Cornelius sauntered right up to the trophy cases like they had won the Tony that was inside. Charizard's tail thumped. He liked every single animal in that house. Sure, he was disfigured and his breathing sounded like a broken jet engine trying to take off underwater, but his heart worked just fine.
Rachel kind of wanted to put firecrackers in the mouths of the people who did it to Char. She didn't tell this to anybody, because she was almost intense enough to go through with it, but it was on her mind. Quinn agreed. Quinn would probably put a cannon in their mouths.
"Quinn is making you fat, bud." Rachel commented lightly. She waited until Char came up to her before petting him. She watched Cornelius out of the corner of her eye to make sure he wasn't knocking over any bookcases or eating any walls.
He was only chewing on the wheel of the office chair.
"You know Char, you're just like me." Rachel said absently, lightly scratching his back and holding Benjamin's scruff with her other hand to prevent him from initiating an overly enthusiastic, painful "play session" with his legs of fury.
"We both have…odd noses." She said slowly. Her gaze drifted around to the pictures and posters on the wall. "Nobody has noses like ours, Char. But there's a girl…who loves both of our noses, just the way they are. And she knows you are the handsomest boy in this house."
Charizard's breathing doubled in volume. Rachel assumed he was agreeing with her. Who could possibly disagree? Barnaby and Cornelius sat in the corner staring at her blankly. They disagreed.
Rachel was making Char sit up so that he could breathe more easily when she heard the front door open.
The smile was automatic, and it grew with the squeal of excitement she heard coming from the entryway. Rachel was buffeted around as the dogs bulldozed out of the office to greet their master. Ruler. Their God. Rachel tapped Char's nose softly and followed right along.
"Rachel!" Quinn shouted breathlessly, trying to pet all the dogs at once, bent over and spinning around in the foyer.
Rachel walked up behind her before Quinn could yell some more. "Hey, babe." She greeted with a grin.
Quinn stood up straight and whirled around, surging forward to plant a nice, big kiss on Rachel's lips. Rachel's legs buckled with the force of it, but she gave back as good as she was getting.
Quinn pulled back and licked her lips, bouncing on the balls of her feet and tapping her fingers on her jeans. She put the bag of food on the entry table and looked at Rachel with bright hazel eyes. She looked like she was about to explode.
Rachel laughed. The enthusiasm was contagious. Quinn was contagious. Quinn was explosively contagious and it was infecting every warm body in the house. Even the fish were swimming faster. Or getting caught in the filter and fighting valiantly before dying.
It was probably the latter.
The excitement could stem from any number of things. It was spring break for Quinn, so…Sleep. Extra cookies. Working at the rescue. Swimming. Seeing a stripy dog on her walk home.
But Rachel thought she knew what this was about.
"What happened? What did you do?" she asked with a grin, tapping Quinn's cheeks. She was going to take Quinn's fidgety hands before someone's eye was taken out, but that was the kind of energy that couldn't be contained. She put her hands on Quinn's shoulders instead, looking up expectantly.
Quinn was blinking rapidly. Rachel waited.
"I was-I was on my way back from-from the restaurant," Quinn began breathlessly. She started bouncing up even more. Rachel applied more pressure to her shoulders. Quinn was about to fly away.
"And I got-I got-My phone-they-" Quinn exhaled sharply and shook her head around. Rachel tugged on one of her ears to give her something to focus on.
"Little slower." She said with a smile.
Quinn took a deep breath. Her grin was so big she could probably fit an animal in her mouth. Like a hamster. Which is exactly why Rachel didn't own any hamsters.
They would only end up in something's mouth.
"I got a phone call…on the-on the way home." Quinn said slowly. Rachel knew exactly where this was going. She bit her lip to keep herself from squealing in celebration, and allowed Quinn to finish.
"It was the Davis admissions officer."
Noises started coming out of Rachel's mouth before she had the chance to stop them. Whiny noises of self-restraint that wouldn't last much longer. Quinn put her hands on either side of Rachel's head and moved forward so they were only a couple inches apart.
Rachel could smell the Peppermint Pattie on her breath. She could see the Peppermint Pattie on Quinn's mouth, and wiped it off with her thumb.
"I got in."
Rachel screamed. She would've screamed even if Quinn had said "they rejected me," because it was just building up inside of her. Rachel just needed to scream sometimes. A lot of the time. Rachel actually spent an inordinate amount of time screaming.
But this time it was joy and excitement, and she bounced up and down with an equally delighted Quinn a few times before pouncing into her arms and clinging like a koala.
"You did it! You did it!" She squealed. The animals bumbled and danced around Quinn's legs like they knew exactly what was going on. They had known it the whole time, and they never had any doubts.
"I did it!" Quinn exclaimed, jumping around with Rachel in her arms. She tripped on a cat and caught herself by crashing into the wall. Very gracefully.
They'd gone two years getting multiple noise complaints from neighbors. They weren't about to stop now.
Rachel realized she was probably seconds away from some kind of head injury, so she squeezed her limbs around Quinn tighter to get her to slow down. Stand still. Quinn leaned back against the wall she'd crashed into, holding Rachel up and pressing her face into Rachel's hair.
"I'm so proud of you, bear." Rachel proclaimed, kissing on Quinn's face. Hair, cheeks, neck. Wherever she could reach. Quinn was vibrating with excitement. Rachel switched tactics and started kissing Quinn's neck, sucking right below her jaw.
Quinn tilted her head, smiling off into space, thinking about God knows what. Dolphins. Penguins. Whether she'd ever be able to saddle and ride a zebra.
Rachel squeezed tighter with her legs and Quinn whined and ran her hands under Rachel's shirt, pushing off the wall and moving to the bedroom. She accidentally kneed Barnaby in the face, and he gladly took it as an invitation to waltz into the room after them. It was playtime!
Quinn deposited Rachel on the bed and locked the animals back out. Then she ran back to it and pounced lightly on top of her. Rachel laughed and mussed up Quinn's hair while she kissed her.
Quinn ducked away and put an elbow on either side of Rachel's head, staring down at her and smiling softly.
"I got into Cornell and Davis." She said quietly.
"Of course you did." Rachel murmured, brushing the hair out of Quinn's eyes. Quinn reached down to untie Rachel's sweats, so Rachel started unbuttoning her girlfriend's shirt. It smelled like dog.
"I'm going to be a vet." Quinn said in her husky voice. The voice didn't match the bright red face and puffed-out cheeks and innocent eyes, and Rachel loved that. She didn't know how the hell they were still carrying on a conversation.
"Of course you are." She said, slipping the shirt off of Quinn's shoulders and reaching for her belt.
There was never any doubt in Rachel's mind that Quinn would get into vet school. There was a bright red dog with a mangled nose sitting in the office to prove it. Plus seven other animals on the other side of the bedroom door, waiting to be let in for playtime.
"I didn't get Skittles." Quinn lamented, plopping back on the bed with a tray of re-heated food from The Green Mango.
Dumping half of it over the blanket and then scrambling to clean it back up.
Rachel was too busy watching the show on the TV to notice. Or answer. It was about people with strange addictions. Like eating toilet paper. Glass. Chalk. Fucking hair. People who ate their own goddamned hair. Extra points for follicles.
God. Just the word follicle made Rachel want to vomit.
The episode on right now was about a woman who treated her twelve teddy bears like children, and believed they returned her affection, prioritizing them above her family and friends.
Rachel glanced at Pooh Bear lying face down at the foot of the bed with Quinn's bare feet on his head, a plastic bag covering his body, and spilled curry on his leg. That was not how you would treat a child. Rachel was in no danger here.
She gladly took the food Quinn offered when the show went to a commercial.
"Where should I go?" Quinn asked bluntly, dumping a pile of cheese onto her food and watching Rachel earnestly.
Rachel narrowed her eyes. She was still thinking about teddy bears coming to life. People eating hair. Teddy bears eating peoples' hair.
She shook her head clear it of all that. "What do you mean?"
"Cornell or Davis." Quinn stated. "Where do I go?"
Rachel laughed softly. "Baby…wherever you want."
Quinn scrunched up her face and shoveled some food into her mouth. She dropped a few stray pieces of chicken in Charizard's mouth, slowly, because it took him a while to chew, and sent all her green beans in Cornelius's direction. Quickly, because Seal was a vacuum.
"I'd like to…go somewhere."
Rachel wasn't sure she was on the right page of this conversation. She waited to see if Quinn was just having problems phrasing what she wanted to say. Quinn was mid-swallow when she shook her head and looked at Rachel again.
"I mean, go somewhere. Like get out of…New York." Quinn scooted forward while she spoke, maintaining eye contact, and accidentally letting Barnaby stick his face in her food. Rachel shooed him away.
"The vet school at Davis is in a redwood forest." Quinn stated, obviously still in awe.
Rachel smiled. Visiting the school for Quinn's admissions interview had been an adventure. They'd flown in to Sacramento on a Friday morning, interviewed Saturday morning, and then left Saturday night. Rachel knew that Quinn couldn't wait to get on a plane again. She hadn't been nervous at all after their mini vacation to Hawaii two years ago. She'd been thrilled.
Take-off was the highlight of her life.
Excitement had definitely overridden anxiety in the airports. And Rachel had a day off from the animals, leaving that mess to Brittany and Santana to deal with. They'd come back to find the dogs locked in one bathroom, the cats in another, and Benjamin winning a fight with Flappy the duck.
It was all worth it for the redwoods. And Quinn's face when the plane landed in California.
"And it's-I'd get to work at the zoo in a couple years. I mean, there's-there are zoos here, but…there's no guarantee with them." Quinn continued. "And Davis was so…relaxed."
Rachel nodded. It was like a different world. Laid-back. Easygoing. Vet school might be an energized hellhole, but the redwoods and open spaces would balance it out. Plus, the students went around riding red double-decker buses. Rachel would pick Davis for that experience alone.
Rachel would apply to vet school if she got to ride around in double decker buses all day.
"You sound like you know exactly where you want to go." Rachel stated softly, tapping Quinn's wrist with her fork.
Quinn just looked at her for a moment. Rachel turned the TV off because it was distracting even though it was muted. This was an odd conversation to be having when both she and Quinn were half naked, and there was a woman on TV having a breakdown because her stuffed animals didn't love her enough.
Rachel put her food down and placed her hands on Quinn's knees.
"Funny Girl's ending in four weeks." She said, making sure Quinn was focused on her eyes.
Quinn nodded slowly.
"I don't have any plans to start anything new here."
Again, Quinn nodded. She hadn't even blinked yet, she was so focused. Rachel smiled at her.
"Tina's looking into movies. Television. Any upcoming projects around northern California. Teaching opportunities at the UC drama department. Performing arts academies." Rachel squeezed Quinn's knees. "I could spread my glory and star power to the west coast, Quinn. Those poor people have been deprived of my talent for far too long."
Quinn finally laughed, and Rachel ruffled her hair.
"I don't want to drag you away from anything." Quinn said, ducking away.
Rachel tapped her cheeks. "You could never drag me, babe. Just say the words and I'll follow you anywhere. Because I love you, and this is what I want too."
Literally, Quinn could drag Rachel anywhere. Anybody could drag Rachel anywhere. A fucking child could drag Rachel anywhere. But she usually wanted to go where Quinn was concerned.
Quinn bit her lip, head tilted down at her lip. Her face was bright red, and Rachel bounced them around a little waiting for a response.
Quinn looked up with a smile. "Love you too. So much." She murmured. Then she grasped both of Rachel's hands and grinned widely.
"Let's move to California."
Quinn was in the front row on closing night. Along with Brittany, Santana, Puck, Kurt, Blaine, Tina, and Sam. Two years of shows hadn't done anything to lessen Rachel's nerves or excitement. She was bawling by the time the curtain closed. Partly because of the twelve minute standing ovation, and partly because she could see Quinn crying and clapping the loudest front and center.
"You're the brightest star I've ever seen, little bear." Quinn proclaimed, bursting into the dressing room after the show. "You're perfect!"
She picked Rachel up and spun her around while their other friends filed in, slightly more in control of themselves than Quinn was. And Rachel. Rachel was very rarely in complete control of herself.
"You didn't forget the words, Berry." Santana stated with an appreciative nod. It was probably supposed to be a compliment. A Santanified "good job. You rock."
Brittany and Sam plopped down on the couch and dug through a bag of Starburst that was a permanent fixture of Quinn's on the coffee table.
"Except for that time a couple months ago when there was a drunk lady in the audience singing the wrong lyrics, and Rach decided to join her." Kurt added helpfully.
"Accidentally." Quinn defended, putting a hand on top of Rachel's head like a puppy. "And that-that drunk lady sounded really good. I would've started singing her-her lyrics as well."
Rachel would agree. Except she'd sang "come blow my horn" instead of "I'll blow my horn," and blanked on "who is the pip with pizazz? Who is all ginger and jazz? Who is as glamorous as?"
All of the words she had used rhymed, so…At least nobody who wasn't familiar with the show knew she'd messed up. And she'd won a Tony anyway.
She was a fucking star.
Rachel watched Santana pick random cosmetic products off her dresser like she was shopping in a store. She grimaced at a particular shade of lipstick and threw it in a drawer like it was toxic. Rachel didn't stop her because they'd have to clean out the dressing room tomorrow anyway.
And Santana had already stolen half of everything that had ever been in that dresser.
"How do you feel? Do you miss it already?" Blaine asked with a smile.
Rachel looked up at Quinn, who was watching quietly, hand still atop Rachel's head.
"I feel…Yes. I miss it already." Rachel admitted. She still had the tear tracks on her cheeks. "But…I'm so proud of this show. It's really-It's something the cast and everyone involved can be proud of forever. Tell our children about."
Rachel reached up to take Quinn's hand off the top of her head. She squeezed it. "And now I'm ready for something new. Whatever it is, wherever it is. I'm ready."
"You should become a professional surfer in California." Sam suggested through a mouthful of Starburst.
That was one option.
Blaine smiled. Kurt looked a little anxious next to him. Santana dropped a couple nail polishes and one of them shattered on the floor. Brittany laughed.
"But you'll be back to Broadway, right?" Kurt checked.
Quinn answered immediately, hugging Rachel into her side. "Of course she will. Broadway needs Rachel Berry. It's where she belongs."
Quinn graduated, with honors, on what had to be the hottest day of the year. Rachel really couldn't complain though, because she was in a light dress while Quinn was in some kind of torturous, velvety black robe of death that acted as a giant insulator. An oven. Quinn was being roasted in an oven.
Santana, however, had no qualms about complaining and informing everybody around her that she was sweating her ass off. Repeatedly. Loud enough for anybody she'd ever met to hear.
"I'm so. Damn. Sweaty." She groaned, fanning herself uselessly.
Rachel was sure NYU had plenty of auditoriums. They did not need to hold graduation outside where it felt like they were standing on the surface of the sun.
"It's so fucking hot." Puck moaned for the fourth time, waving his limbs around for some kind of relief.
Rachel ignored him and fanned herself with her program, eyes focused on Quinn as she got nearer to the front of the line. The paper was coming apart in her hands. She was a little disgusted.
"I'm getting sweat stains on my new shirt." Kurt complained, holding his arms out to the side. Blaine hummed sympathetically.
"Guys, shut up." Sam said, pulling out Rachel's video camera and trying to figure out how to turn it on. Tom leaned over next to him and pointed out the right buttons.
Rachel kept her eyes on Quinn. She wouldn't be surprised if her girlfriend tripped going up or down the steps to the stage. Or fell off the stage in her excitement. Or in some kind of heat-induced-body-shutdown issue. Rachel could see that her face was bright red already.
"I am sweating my ass off." Santana whined. Brittany shoved her in the shoulder and she just toppled over into Puck's lap. The heat was sucking the energy out of everything.
"Shut up." Sam repeated. "I'm recording this. Be civil, dudes."
Santana rolled her eyes, but straightened up, along with everybody else, when Quinn got up to the stage. Rachel balled up her hands and put them on her knees to force herself to stay seated.
"Quinn Fabray." The man in purple robes called out. His looked thicker than everybody else's. How the fuck was he still standing?
The other thing going through Rachel's mind was "don't fall, don't fall, don't fall." It's probably what went through everybody's minds at any kind of graduation. Rachel stood up and whooped and clapped as she watched Quinn shake the dean's hand, look him straight in the eye, and receive her degree. Santana and Puck wolf whistled. Kurt was shrieking in the background.
Hopefully it wasn't caused by some sudden onset health issue.
Quinn turned to them and smiled widely. She stumbled on the last step coming down from the stage because she wasn't paying attention, but collected herself nonchalantly and managed to swagger away. Yeah. She'd done that on purpose.
Rachel laughed. Her girl was a college grad.
Now Rachel had to force herself to stay seated for the other two thirds of the fucking alphabet. She was melting in the sun, and her hair felt like it had been set on fire. It might be on fire for all Rachel knew. Maybe if somebody set a fire they would end the ceremony early.
Unfortunately, none of her friends smoked. Or wore glasses. Or carried around magnifying glasses.
The sun was fucking setting by the time Marcus Zipperer graduated.
"Hey smarty pants!" Puck greeted Quinn when it was all over, giving her a big hug while everybody else slithered their way through the crowd of hot, sweaty people. It was like a rave. Plus black gowns. Everybody was bonding over sweat and tears. The sweat caused the tears.
There would be about five hundred people who would find some very unnatural tan lines at the end of the day.
As soon as Rachel fought her way out from behind a family of twelve over-enthusiastic redheads, she pushed Puck out of the way and grabbed Quinn's flushed cheeks, leaning up and planting a kiss on her lips. She held it there until Quinn started laughing into her mouth.
Rachel pulled back and held tightly onto Quinn's gown instead.
"We brought you some water." Brittany stated helpfully, holding out a bottle. Sam nodded. He held out a cup of ice to go with it and fanned Quinn's face with his program. Rachel was ready to dump the water over her head.
She managed to control herself.
"Quinn." Tom said, emerging from the sweaty mass, panting a little bit. Eyes sparkling. Quinn turned to him and smiled, one arm around Rachel's shoulders.
"Hi, Dr. Madison!"
Tom smiled and winked at her. "I'm not supposed to have favorites in my profession. But I just want to say, you are one of the most special people I've ever met."
Quinn turned even redder and looked down at her feet, and Rachel poked her in the ribs.
"And it has been a pleasure talking to you every week. You and Rachel. And I won't be able to see you in California, but, girl, I'm expecting lots of calls." Tom raised his eyebrows and Quinn nodded vigorously.
"I just wanted to give you this before you go." Tom held out Henry, the octopus Beanie Baby, and Quinn took it like it was the Holy Grail.
Rachel laughed at Santana's expression. Classic "what the fuck is wrong with these people?" Or "fuck, I'm about to pass out."
Quinn gave Tom a hug. And then everybody else a hug. And then Rachel again, because Rachel would always get more hugs.
"So, are we celebrating?" Kurt asked, obviously eager to be inside a building.
Quinn glanced around at all the red faces and rocked back on her heels. "Um. I-I want to take Rachel somewhere. Just the two of us, but we could-we could celebrate tomorrow. Right? I'll make lots of cookies."
Because celebrating had to involve cookies. Cookies were the definition of a celebration.
Quinn and Rachel said goodbye to their friends, who were gradually stripping as they made their way out of the courtyard. Sam had lost his shirt. Santana lost her heels. Blaine and Kurt's ties had been lost for hours. Rachel helped Quinn take off her gown, and straightened the small bow on the side of her summer dress.
"Where are you taking me?" Rachel asked as Quinn led her along the sidewalk, avoiding all the cracks and swinging their hands between them. Rachel loved Quinn's surprises, but they usually involved an inordinate amount of physical exertion, and/or making a fool of oneself.
Quinn put an arm around Rachel's shoulders and kissed the side of her head. "You'll see." She said quietly.
Rachel had an inkling of where they were going when she saw that Quinn was heading for Central Park.
But the sun was going down. And she really hadn't worn the right shoes to waltz around a zoo for several hours. Rachel had never worn the right shoes to the zoo.
They reached the front gates about ten minutes later.
If Quinn wanted to go see some bears on her graduation day, then Rachel was gonna go see some fucking bears. No doubt about it. Feet be damned. She raised her eyebrows at her girlfriend and smiled.
"We won't be here for long. I just wanted to… see the polar bears." Quinn explained hesitantly. Like she was afraid Rachel would say no. Rachel chuckled and nodded, gesturing for Quinn to lead the way.
They went straight to the polar bear enclosure. To the same bench where they'd said "I love you" for the first time. Where Rachel had given Quinn her bear charm necklace. Where Rachel had sat because her feet had been destroyed.
The polar bears were eating carrots, like always, and Quinn just watched them for a few minutes with one arm around Rachel, the other nervously tapping against the bench.
"You okay, bear?" Rachel asked once she noticed it. She tickled the back of Quinn's neck to get her to look at her.
Quinn took a breath and sat up, turning her body to face Rachel.
"When-when you are a bear of very little brain, and you think of things… you find sometimes that a thing which seemed very thingish inside you, is-is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."
So. Was that a…yes? Rachel narrowed her eyes in confusion. Quinn rocked to the side a little bit.
"You…are a bear of…big brain." Rachel said stiltedly, and then chuckled because it was ridiculous.
Quinn shook her head and tapped Rachel's thigh, and Rachel focused on what she was saying. Fucking focus. Quinn was serious here.
"I mean, Rachel, you…brought everything out of me. You started a couple years ago, and you're still doing it."
Rachel nodded slowly. This seemed sort of random. She put a hand on Quinn's thigh to stop her from rocking.
"You and your dog, um, inspired me, I guess. Made me want to be better for you. Because-because you just make everything better." Quinn said softly, and then bit her lip.
Rachel smiled. This was a wonderful heartfelt conversation occurring next to some bears stuffing themselves with vegetables.
"You've made me see…um…" Quinn scrunched up her face for a second. "That I'm…odd. But, in a good way. Weird. But you love me for it. And you're a little odd too, but I love you all the more. And together, I don't know…we're a little off the key of reason, but…hippos are born underwater."
What? Had Rachel blacked out again? Her heart was beating faster now, because she felt like this was leading somewhere, but that threw her. Quinn could work hippos into any conversation. Maybe not smoothly, because Rachel was still wondering what had happened, but she'd squeeze 'em in there.
"And then they grow up, and they can live on land as well. And-and they can open their mouths four feet wide. Top to bottom. But they have to get out of the water at some point. And I think…" Quinn sighed. "I think it's probably really scary. When you're just a little hippo and you have to get out of the water where you were born."
Rachel was fucking lost. Quinn was leading her through her head right now, and it was like a confusing wonderland. But she was overheating, and her heart was thudding like crazy because Quinn's eyes just looked so intense.
"You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes. And you…taught me that too. So now I'm coming to you with a question, and I kind of-I wanted to ask you on-on closing night of your show, to make it more special for you, but it was really loud, and-and crowded, and I didn't…"
Quinn shut her eyes and shook her head around. Rachel was frozen. She kept her eyes locked on Quinn's face, trying to restrain herself. It was unbelievably difficult. Quinn was probably about to ask her if they could get another fucking cat. She really shouldn't jump to conclusions.
"You make it better. And I love you so much." Quinn said slowly and quietly, shiny eyes fixed on Rachel's. Then she moved off the bench and got down on one knee, pulling a small box out of the pocket of her dress.
The wall containing Rachel's emotions was fucking coming down and there was nothing she could do about it.
"Rachel Barbra Berry…Little bear." Quinn said with a nervous, smile, opening up the ring box with shaky hands.
"Will you please marry me?"
Rachel crashed through the wall.
She didn't even know what came out of her mouth. Some sort of garbled affirmation amidst the tears. Quinn had said please. Quinn had proposed. And she'd said please. And Rachel was having trouble processing.
She wasn't aware of what her emotions were doing. All she could do was keep a hand clamped over her mouth, tears running down her face, trying to prevent herself crying out too loudly. Startling the polar bears.
Because everybody knew polar bears were very easily startled by young women.
She nodded vigorously and slid down in front of Quinn, burying her face in blonde hair. Laughing now.
Quinn held her tightly and whispered in her ear. "Words, little bear."
Rachel laughed louder. She was losing control of herself. Going round a bend and never coming back.
"Yes. Yes! Of course, yes. Always, yes." Rachel proclaimed, pulling back to kiss Quinn's delighted smile. Over and over. Quinn grabbed her hand and slid the ring on to her finger, having some difficulty because both of their hands were shaking so much. It was beautiful. A classic princess cut diamond ring. With no animals on it. It was Rachel's new favorite thing in the world.
Aside from her fiancé. Her fiancé, Quinn Fabray.
She sat, basically in Quinn's lap, in front of the bench, letting Quinn wipe away her tears and letting Quinn whisper happy things in her ear. Like, they should get married in a bear enclosure. And they could invite Barbra to the wedding. Quinn stood up when her legs fell asleep, hair mussed, face red, and tear tracks on her cheeks, and held out her hand for Rachel. Rachel's legs weren't really working. Nor were her eyes. She couldn't tear them away from Quinn's face.
She couldn't reach out her arms, and she couldn't control her face.
Quinn grinned and turned around, bending over a little. "Come on little bear, I'll carry you."
Rachel didn't even hesitate. She wrapped her arms around Quinn's neck and buried her face in gummy bear-scented hair. She was never letting go. Quinn would have to pry her off when they got home.
And then Quinn started walking, and Rachel held on tighter. And it was truly the happiest moment of her life. She was taking it all in, and it was overwhelming.
Rachel said goodbye to the polar bears, and let her own big bear carry her home.