Still off the Key of Reason
Chapter 8: Sing Me Sweet
"One Short Day" was one of Rachel's favorite songs from Wicked. It was just so jovial. It represented her mood perfectly as she bounced through the door to the apartment after work, which is why she was singing it out loud. Because when Rachel had a song in her head, she sang it out loud.
Unrestrained externalization. It's what she was known for.
"One short day in the emerald cittttttyyyyy!" she cried out, twirling around to shut the door behind her.
Rachel hung up her coat and then turned around to greet the animals. She never faltered in the lyrics as they descended upon her. She picked up a balled-up sock before she was mauled, and tossed it into the living room for Cloud, who spun on the spot to chase after it with Cornelius. They crashed into the back of the couch together, rolling into one fluffy white and black blur.
Rachel switched to humming as she was approached by her pride of lions, led by Butter. The fat, white cat sat right at the edge of the living room, glaring disapprovingly at the dogs with her mismatched eyes. When she was sure they weren't returning, she sauntered up to Rachel, winding her chubby body around Rachel's legs.
Or thumping into Rachel's legs because she lacked the agility to "wind."
Rachel bent down to scratch her back. She stopped humming to listen for activity in the apartment.
"Quinn?" she called, eyes darting around the living room. "I'm home!"
There was no response. Rachel finished with Butter, and then moved on to George, Jelly, and Benjamin. Once everybody had received their attention, purring and kicking happily, she stepped out of the foyer.
Ten minutes after she'd come through the door. It was actually a short entrance time. Not that she recorded them or anything. Two dogs had gotten distracted by an old, fuzzy sock, and the other two were missing.
Rachel dropped her bag on the couch, slipped off her shoes, and brushed away as much cat hair as possible before heading to the bedroom. She opened the door quietly and moved inside with an inaudible "awww."
There were three golden lumps on the bed. Quinn was lying with a fleece blanket over her, blonde hair visible out of the top. Barnaby lay in a ball at the foot of the bed, and Charizard, redder than the other two, was curled up by Quinn. She had her arms around him.
Rachel wanted to take a picture. She pulled out her phone and did exactly that. She could put it in the office next to the one Quinn had of Rachel sleeping and drooling in the passenger seat of their car, face pressed against the window on a trip down to San Diego.
It was charming. Quinn loved it.
Rachel made enough noise to wake the dogs up, and they clambered sleepily around on the bed trying to figure out what was happening. Barnaby bounced onto the floor and Char trampled all over Quinn to leap over the edge.
Rachel eyed her wife. Quinn whined, but didn't move. Rachel shut the dogs out and then climbed into the spot Charizard had vacated. It was very warm. Rachel put her head on the other half of the 101 Dalmatians pillow and watched Quinn blink at her.
"Are you okay, baby?" Rachel asked quietly. She brushed blonde hair out of Quinn's eyes.
"Sleepy?" Rachel continued sympathetically.
Quinn nodded again.
Rachel's lips quirked up. "Are you grumpy? Why aren't we speaking?"
Quinn heaved a sigh and pressed her face further into the pillow. Rachel frowned and inched closer.
"Why are you in bed? Did you get sick?" she pressed, running a hand down Quinn's cheek. She wasn't feverish or anything. But Quinn was not a napping type of person. She was unable to sit or lie still in the middle of the day. Why waste the daylight when she could be playing in the yard with the dogs? Running around with Rachel. Dancing. Trying to do a handstand in the living room and crashing into the fucking entertainment center.
There were so many better ways to spend her time than napping. Quinn sighed again. Rachel tapped her lips.
"I…did very badly on my exam." Quinn whispered.
Rachel's eyebrows shot up. She was glad it was nothing "serious." But she'd been expecting something like "I wanted to go to the waterpark this weekend, but they're closed for all of January." Or "We ran out of mint chocolate chip ice cream." Rachel kept her eyes locked on Quinn's, waiting patiently for her to continue.
Pharmacology. The first thing to take Quinn down. It was a worthy adversary in Rachel's opinion. No shame at all. Rachel wasn't even completely sure what Tylenol did.
"There's another one, right?" Rachel asked gently, playing with Quinn's hair. It was getting longer again. There was so much to run her fingers through.
Quinn nodded silently.
"Well, bear, you'll just have to study harder for that one instead of trying to teach Cornelius how to climb the tree in the backyard." Rachel said, lips quirked up. Quinn narrowed her eyes.
They'd seen a terrier climb a tree on America's Funniest Videos, and were now convinced that Cornelius possessed this ability. Despite his larger size and the fact that he was unwilling to do anything he was told.
"There's nothing you can do now." Rachel continued quietly. "So just…focus on the future. Get this course out of the way, and you'll be a vet in no time. A pharmacological expert!"
The corners of Quinn's mouth twitched. She fisted her hands in the pillow. "I'm only halfway through." She mumbled, staring at Rachel honestly.
Rachel smiled incredulously. Sometimes people just needed some encouragement. A smile. Some Pooh Bear quotes. A tummy rub. When Rachel's mind was overrun with dance steps or vocal anxiety, Quinn would do the same. Starting with cookies.
"Yeah, you're halfway through, Quinn!" Rachel pointed out, leaning up on her elbow to include hand gestures. "Only a couple more years until I can call you Doctor Fabray."
Rachel saluted, like that's what you would do with a doctor. She'd never actually seen anybody salute a doctor. She was living in the moment.
Quinn groaned and laughed, flipping onto her back and staring at the ceiling exhaustedly. Rachel watched her quietly, still playing with the loose strands of blonde hair. When Quinn started shaking her head around periodically, Rachel knew she was working herself up in her mind. Getting lost somewhere. Spinning away a little bit.
"I'm gonna sing to you." She told Quinn impulsively, putting her hands on Quinn's arm.
Quinn looked up at her with anxious hazel eyes.
Rachel hummed while she thought of a song. The students she was working with had been doing a Jack Johnson number. But it was depressing. Rachel needed sunshine. She rolled with that feeling and picked a Matt Nathanson song that made her think of Quinn.
"If the sun don't light, and the night won't turn," Rachel started quietly, having forgotten how the song actually began. She wasn't even completely sure this was the right chorus. "We'll get a room at the end of the world."
Rachel trailed off for a second and bent down close to Quinn's face, staring at her pointedly. Quinn cracked a smile and Rachel palmed both of her cheeks.
"And we'll rewrite all the wrongs we've learned, safe in our room at the end of the world." Rachel sang softly. She had slowed it down, mostly because the lyrics were just barely coming to her. Quinn bit her lip.
"Louder, please." She requested.
Rachel tickled her neck and raised her voice. Now there wasn't a doubt in her mind that these were the wrong words. But she plowed right on. "Come on and dance with me, love, just come on and dance with me, love."
Again, Rachel leaned down. Quinn was expecting it, and she kissed her sweetly on the lips and then pulled Rachel's ears.
"Okay, wait." Quinn said quietly, putting her hand over Rachel's mouth to prevent her from continuing. Rachel raised her eyebrows at Quinn's serious face. "Sing-sing the Queen one where you make all the funny noises."
Rachel laughed into Quinn's hand. "Under Pressure?"
Quinn pulled her hand away and sat up, nodding and tossing off the blanket. "I'll dance with you." She said, sliding off the edge of the bed and holding out her hand. "Love." She added with a smile.
Rachel had definitely succeeded in cheering her up. But why stop there? Especially when she was being handed the perfect opportunity to make a fool of herself. She scrunched up her nose trying to remember the lyrics once Quinn pulled her off the bed, and Quinn tried unsuccessfully to pat her hair down in the mirror.
Rachel had heard the song hundreds of times. Even if she didn't consciously know the lyrics, they were ingrained in her soul.
"Mm ba ba de." Rachel started with a smile. "Mm ba ba de…Um bum ba de. Um bub u bum da de. Pressure, pushing down on me, pressing down on you, no man ask for, under pressure, that burns a building down, splits a family in two, puts people on streets…"
Quinn grabbed Rachel's other hand and grinned expectantly. Rachel knew her sound effects were the best part. She liked to exaggerate them until they were ridiculous and both she and Quinn were crying with laughter.
"Um ba ba be, um ba ba be. Ee day da! Ee day da!" She cried shrilly. Quinn spun her around. Rachel increased her pitch even further for the next line, making sure to sound like a mad woman. "Chippin' aroooouuund, kick my brains around the floor, these are the daaaayyys, it never rains but it pours."
Rachel bounced on her toes and gestured for Quinn to sing with her. Any random noises would work. "Ee do ba be, ee do ba ba ba, um bo bo , be bap!"
Quinn swung Rachel back onto the bed and climbed over her, grinning down at her wife. Rachel kept singing, reveling in the loud, melodic laughter. "People on the streets, ee da de da de, people on the streets ee da de da de da de da…"
There was no anxiety left in those hazel eyes. Rachel finished her song for her almost-doctor wife in some sort of bat level of super pitch, shaking with barely-restrained laughter. Quinn did the same.
"And love dares you to care for, the people on the edge of the night, and loves dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves, this is our last dance, this is ourselves, under pressure."
When Rachel walked through the door the next day, it was after her first doctor's appointment of the new year. Quinn came barreling out of the hallway and into the living room wearing her reindeer pajamas and an NYU hoody. One of Rachel's.
She stumbled on Barnaby and caught herself on the kitchen counter before hurrying over to Rachel.
Rachel smiled. "Is there a spider in the bathtub?" she asked, letting her wife greet her with a kiss. Quinn put her hands on top of Rachel's head and stared down at her, unamused.
"How did it go? What did they say?" Quinn questioned, lolling Rachel's head from side to side.
Rachel sighed and put her hands in Quinn's hoody pockets. "He said…that I am doing fine, bear. Perfectly normal. Blood pressure is normal, heart is normal. I am the picture of health."
Quinn exhaled in relief. Her breath smelled like Sunny Delight. Delight just spewed out of Quinn at all times. Rachel knew she was healthy. Quinn had been feeding her bananas like a monkey, and they'd been doing "yoga" on the giant balls every morning.
"Good. Good, good good." Quinn commented, shaking her head around.
Rachel smiled and steered her over to the laptop in front of the couch. They had a Skype session with Tom in a bit. It was a weekly thing now. Unless somebody had a breakdown.
"Have you been studying?" Rachel asked, settling back into the cushions and leaning on Quinn's shoulder. George leapt lightly up into her lap and Charizard settled on the floor in front of Quinn's feet, breathing like a jet engine.
Quinn nodded determinedly, rubbing the dog with her toes.
"Yeah?" Rachel checked with a smile. "Can Cornelius climb a tree yet?"
Quinn's face fell a little bit. She puffed her cheeks out and stared at the kitchen where Seal was sleeping in front of his food bowl. "I don't think he will." Quinn said seriously. "He has no incentive to do so."
Rachel nudged her in the ribs. "We'll get him there."
That dog could fly if he put his mind to it. Rachel would teach him to climb a fucking tree. He'd probably do it if she put a fence around it and told him not to.
Quinn accepted the call from Tom a minute later, and they both smiled when they saw his sparkling green eyes on screen. Henry the octopus sat next to him.
"Hello, Quinn!" He greeted brightly. "And…George. Is that Rachel behind you, George?"
Rachel pulled the cat against her chest and stuck her head around him, right as Jelly landed in her lap. She was a cat magnet. "Hello, Tom! How are you?" she called. She maneuvered around until she had one cat on each thigh, both of them staring at the computer screen.
"Well, I'm fabulous!" Tom proclaimed. "Do you know where you'd like to start today, Quinn? Or shall we just talk in general."
Quinn hummed. She glanced at Rachel for a moment to see her wife watching her, as well as two cats with matching facial expressions on her knees. She looked at Tom and shrugged easily.
"I had a dream I was a triceratops last night." She stated.
Okay. So, not starting with the test failure or health check-up or school happenings. Starting with dinosaurs. That was good.
Rachel bit her cheek and watched Tom. He seemed completely unsurprised, and he smiled knowingly.
"Do you think that means something?" he asked, eyebrows raised.
Quinn shook her head immediately. "No. Of-of course not. Dream analysis is ridiculous. I just thought it was interesting because no one else has ever had the experience of being a dinosaur."
Rachel had to let some of this laughter out. "Bear, you haven't had that experience either." She reasoned.
Quinn turned and stared at her. "I did. It-it was a dream, but that doesn't mean it wasn't real. I was a triceratops, Rachel. In the Mesozoic era. It was-it was very realistic."
Rachel trusted this. Quinn knew her dinosaurs. It was completely feasible that she'd assessed how historically accurate her surroundings were during a dream where she turned into a triceratops. Rachel didn't even know what a triceratops looked like, aside from the yellow one in The Land Before Time.
"That sounds like an awesome dream to have, Quinn. Do you have any others?" Tom moved the conversation forward.
Rachel leaned back against Quinn's arm and kissed her shoulder.
"I-no." Quinn hesitated. "I dream about riding various animals. And about Rachel, but when I wake up she's still there, so that's better than-I don't know, any other dreams…"
Quinn trailed off and Rachel pressed her face into her shoulder. She heard Tom laughing while Quinn kissed her head. When Rachel looked back up, Butter pounced into her lap and settled right between the other two cats.
"I have other things to talk about." Quinn remarked. Tom nodded, and she licked her lips. Rachel ran a finger up the seam of her jeans.
"I-yesterday I failed a test. In pharmacology." Quinn stated, staring at the screen. Tom stayed quiet, listening intently. "I mean, I don't-I already-I already talked to Rachel, and I've been studying today, but I just-it's never happened before. I thought you should know."
Quinn finished talking and her knees starting bouncing. Rachel pulled on the rubber band around her wife's wrist.
"Well, it sounds like you've got a pretty good handle on it, Quinn." Tom observed, smiling as he tried to spy Rachel through the screen of cats. "Were you distracted? Did you just not know the material?"
Quinn hummed. She nodded sagely. "Yeah, I thought I knew it, so I was trying to teach Seal how to climb a tree."
Again, Tom was unsurprised. He laughed this time. "And how did that go? Is he stuck at the top of a Redwood?"
Quinn's eyes widened. Rachel knew exactly what she was thinking. What if they could get Cornelius to climb a Redwood tree? It was completely fucking ridiculous, but Rachel was intrigued. Her dog could be like a superhero. And then he'd get distracted by a squirrel and fall to his death.
Quinn shook her head absently. "I think…it takes momentum to get to the top, so he'd get halfway up and just…" Now Quinn looked horrified. "…plummet."
Rachel grimaced. Benjamin bounced up into her lap and stared at the screen with the cats.
"So aside from…that," Tom continued, tapping a pen against his desk, "how's school? Are you speaking up? Getting along?"
Quinn scrunched up her nose as she thought. Charizard stood up and blocked the screen with his face, startling Tom for a moment. Char's nose always startled people. But then they saw his eyes and his red fur and got sucked in and loved him forever.
"Whoa, there's Char boy." Tom said with a smile. He could probably only see a black screen right now because the dog's face was pressed into it, but Quinn gently shoved him away and he ambled into the kitchen to wake up Cornelius.
Rachel handed Benjamin to Quinn because there wasn't enough room in her own lap. He kicked Quinn in the chest until she set him free.
Quinn shook her head and focused back on Tom. "There's-there's a girl in my class who won't leave me alone."
Rachel laughed immediately. "Ah, yes. Kelly." She said, twisting around the cats like a python to nod at Tom. "She has a crush on my wife."
Quinn frowned. "No she doesn't."
Rachel just looked at her. Seriously. Quinn furrowed her brow, probably replaying every conversation she'd ever had with Kelly.
"What do you mean she won't leave you alone?" Tom asked, folding his arms and leaning into the computer.
"She just…talks all the time." Quinn stated emphatically. "She says-she says I'm a good listener, but, I mean, it's just…It's exhausting being-being around other people for me already. I don't-she gives me headaches."
Rachel frowned. She might need to beat somebody up. She rubbed Quinn's thigh until George snagged her arm with his claw. Rachel shoved him off her knee because she wasn't going to act as his throne while he assaulted her.
"I can't-I can't-people don't…I don't-" Quinn stammered.
"Hey, bear." Rachel interrupted. She leaned over Jelly to catch Quinn's eye. She tugged on the neck of her NYU hoody until Quinn looked at her. Then she attempted to wink. "Nice sweatshirt."
Quinn nodded, flushing red. She took a breath. "People-people make me…I mean, she makes me feel like I'm trapped. Like I have to hold still and-and listen to her, and then it's always like we're on different pages of different books…on separate planets. And it happens with everybody. And…I just don't…understand." Quinn finished quietly.
Rachel watched her carefully. "Because they don't know you." She whispered. "You should enlighten them."
Quinn chewed on her lip. She pulled Butter out of Rachel's lap so she could run her fingers through her fur.
"I agree with Rachel, Quinn." Tom commented, watching them seriously. "Maybe start with Kelly. Tell her you have Asperger's, and see how it goes. It might lead to a better understanding."
Rachel smiled knowingly at her wife. "If they behave derogatorily in any way, you'll have an excuse to ignore them, bear. Because I know you're a sweetheart and you'll listen to them until they drive you crazy."
Quinn sighed. Her lips quirked up. She probably knew she was too kind for her own good.
"I kind of want to punch Kelly anyway for flirting with my wife." Rachel stated, not knowing if she was speaking to Quinn or to Tom. But it was something that needed to be said.
Tom laughed. "That sounds about right."
"I'll tell her." Quinn stated abruptly.
Rachel eyed her. "That I want to punch her?"
"That-that I have Asperger's." Quinn corrected, shaking her head.
Tom nodded proudly. Rachel leaned over and kissed Quinn's cheek, ignoring Jelly's yowls of protest. Quinn could talk to Rachel all day. Or listen all day. Which was good, because it was Rachel. That was all she needed. People like Rachel and Sam who'd take her as she was and amplify all the ideas and bears and pictures right back to her.
Rachel spent that night amplifying the bears right back to Quinn. While they were naked, of course.
"They can run forty miles an hour, Rachel." Quinn explained excitedly while Rachel straddled her hips. "I mean, they-they could catch you easily. If I had treasure on my property, I'd have bears guarding it."
Rachel laughed. What property? God. If Quinn had treasure, Rachel would guard it. She nodded interestedly. "And…would these bears be trained, or would they attack you as well?"
Quinn opened her mouth and froze, rethinking her plan. Rachel pitched forward and kissed her while the opportunity was there. She sucked on her lip and then pushed her tongue into her mouth.
Quinn moaned lightly. She gently pushed Rachel back by the shoulder, looking up at her with dark eyes. "They-they would be trained. Because they'd live with me in my house."
Rachel snorted into Quinn's shoulder. Quinn rubbed her back, laughing along. She trailed her fingers down Rachel's sides and settled on her thighs.
"Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears." Rachel observed. Quinn nodded immediately, pulling Rachel back down.
"You'd be the smallest bear. I'd need two others." Quinn whispered. She arched her back until Rachel's breasts were pressed against hers, smiling devilishly. Her favorite toys.
Rachel chuckled and it rumbled in both of their bodies. She kissed a trail from Quinn's jaw to the hollow in her neck. "And you'd be Goldilocks." She murmured. She moved a hand up to tug on Quinn's hair, smiling at the grunt it elicited.
"And what treasure are the bears guarding?" Rachel continued, whispering in Quinn's ear. Quinn breathed exaggeratedly deeply so that Rachel would be lifted up and down. Rachel closed her eyes and rested her chin on Quinn's chest.
"Does it feel like you're on a boat?" Quinn asked quietly, exhaling heavily. "On the ocean?"
Rachel snorted into her neck when Quinn tried to roll her body like a wave. It was sort of like a waterbed. Quinn was just so soft. "You didn't answer my question." Rachel reminded her.
Quinn hummed. She seemed to have lost focus on their conversation. It was probably for the best, seeing as it was completely absurd.
"Sorry." Quinn said bluntly, eyes focused on the ceiling. "I was thinking how otters hold hands to keep from drifting away in the ocean. Or the river, I guess. I'm not as well-informed about river otters."
Well. Rachel wasn't either. She smiled and kissed Quinn's chin.
Quinn scrunched up her nose. "I think people hold hands for the same reason. They don't want the other person to drift away. They want to keep them close and safe, and say 'I'm here with you. We're in this together.' Even if they're just crossing the street. I think that's love."
Rachel was melting. "You think?"
Quinn hummed. "One of many ways to express it." She looked back down at Rachel's awed brown eyes and grinned. "You hold my hand like an otter."
Rachel kissed the skin where her chin was resting. "Well, you just need help crossing the street."
Quinn bounced herself on the bed. "Shut up." She said with a laugh.
Rachel sighed happily. "Hold my hand." She closed her eyes and held both her hands out, waiting for Quinn to take them. When nothing happened, Rachel opened one eye and stared at Quinn's suspicious face.
"You're my otter, bear. I need to keep you close and safe." Rachel murmured through her smile. "Hold my hands, please."
Quinn contained her smile by pressing her lips together. She took Rachel's hands and kissed them both. "Otter bear." She muttered.
Rachel could only imagine the sort of pictures she was seeing.
"You know, I'll listen to you talk all day, big bear." Rachel assured quietly. Quinn probably knew this. Rachel just felt like saying it. And whatever Rachel felt like saying, she said. "You can always tell me what's on your mind. No matter how weird."
Quinn took Rachel's hands and pressed them against her own cheeks. "I don't think anything we talk about can be considered weird anymore."
True. Overexposure to "weird" had made it "normal." What the hell had happened to Rachel's life?
"You know…bears can have four babies at once." Quinn murmured into Rachel's hair.
"If I had four bear cubs…none of them would be as cute as you." Quinn continued. Rachel smiled sleepily.
"I could be their leader." She mused.
Rachel Berry, leader of the bears. There was another ridiculous conversation waiting to happen. Or currently in progress. But it was sweet, and she was tired, and octopus-trapped by her warm wife, so she reveled in it. It was her favorite part sometimes. She could only do this with Quinn. And maybe other people wouldn't understand, but she loved doing this with Quinn.