Santana eyed Quinn as the blonde balanced precariously between the parallel bars at the rehab center. "You do know that if you fall over or something, I'm not gonna catch you, right?"
Quinn rolled her eyes. "Yeah, I think I got that."
"Don't worry, Q, I'll totally catch you," Brittany chimed in.
"Thank you, Brittany," Quinn said with a pointed glare at Santana. After letting Ryan in, Quinn had begun to let her other friends accompany her to her rehab sessions. Brittany and Santana had taken to coming with her every once in a while, most notably when Ryan couldn't come. He and Shelby were working on his audition pieces as well as the arrangements for Nationals, and Quinn understood perfectly. She could function perfectly well without him attached to her side, and she wanted him to do well at his auditions. Besides, it was nice to spend time with Brittany. And Santana too, in small doses.
Slowly she shuffled over to the bench, carefully lowering herself down. She could see Santana watching her out of the corner of her eye though, and she suspected that no matter what she said, her friend wouldn't really let her fall. Brittany grinned happily at Quinn's success, bounding over to sit next to her with an ease that sent a pang of envy through Quinn. She'd give a lot to be able to move like that again.
"I almost forgot," Brittany said excitedly. "Mrs. Doosenbury gave the Geography test results back!" She pulled a sheet of paper out, waving them in Quinn's face. "I got a B!"
"Britts, that's awesome," Quinn smiled at her.
"Yeah it is," Santana agreed, a proud smile appearing on her face.
"Plus I got a C plus in Chemistry and a B plus in Spanish," Brittany gushed. "So I'm totally gonna graduate with you guys!" She wrapped Quinn in an impulsive hug that almost caused her to lose her balance. "Sorry," Brittany apologized, before smiling shyly. "I totally couldn't have done it without you guys' help."
Quinn bumped her shoulder. "Anything for you, B." Santana just nodded in agreement. Quinn smiled at the idea that they would all be graduating together. It was only right, after all. They'd started high school as the Unholy Trinity, and while they'd had their fights, they should leave high school as the Unholy Trinity too.
"I kinda wish I could do something for you too," Brittany mused. "But unless you want in on one of Lord Tubbington's drug deals, I'm not sure what to give you."
"I think I'll pass on the drugs," Quinn said dryly. "But I do have something I think you could help me with."
"Oh?" Brittany immediately perked up.
Quinn took a deep breath. "Prom's coming up next week. And I'm walking. So maybe… you could help me start learning how to dance again. Nothing too fancy," she added hastily. She could barely walk ten feet after all. "Just… just enough for one dance. With Ryan."
Brittany squealed happily, hugging her again. "That's going to be so awesome! Of course I'll help you." She bounced up off the bench, holding out her hands. Quinn gaped at her.
"You… you mean now?"
"No, Lucy Q, she meant next week after prom," Santana snarked. "When else were you planning?"
Quinn scowled at Santana before looking up at Brittany. "I…" She hesitated for a moment. "Okay." She reached for Brittany's hands, carefully using the other girl's grip to leverage herself into a standing position despite the twinge of protest in her back.
"Awesome," Brittany grinned, putting her hand on Quinn's lower back, her other hand holding Quinn's. "Okay. So you remember how it goes, right? You just sort of sway to the music." She started swaying to an imaginary beat, causing Quinn to chuckle softly.
"Yeah, I remember." Unfortunately, while her mind remembered how to do it, her body didn't quite want to cooperate. She could manage the standing and swaying, but when Brittany started to move into actual steps, Quinn's legs protested and she would have fallen if it weren't for the taller girl's grip. Santana was there in an instant, steadying the two blondes. Quinn laughed breathlessly as the two Cheerios eased her back onto the bench. "Knew you weren't going to let me fall."
Santana rolled her eyes now. "Oh please. If it was just you, you'd be on the floor. I just didn't want Britts to get crushed under your bony ass."
Quinn just laughed at that as Brittany poked Santana reprovingly. "Be nice," she chided. "And Quinn, you said when you were tutoring me that practice makes perfect, right? So we're just going to have to practice some more."
"Practice a lot," Quinn corrected ruefully.
Santana finally relented, shooting her a small smile. "Don't worry, Tubbers. We'll have you up and dancing with the Hobbit in no time."
"Totally." Brittany held out her pinky, hooking it around Quinn's. "Pinkie swear."
"Good morning, McKinley High," Sue's voice boomed over the speaker system the next day. "First of all, to those thoughtful enough to leave maternity gifts outside my office, both I and my unborn child thank you for the lackluster Cracker Barrel meat and cheese medleys. I'm sure the trash can will find them delicious. Now it's time to find out this year's Senior prom court nominees. Your choices for Prom King are… Rick 'the Stick' Nelson… Ryan Corcoran… and also, Finn Hudson."
Sitting in class next to Quinn, Ryan's eyes widened as he heard his name read out. He looked to his side to see Quinn. There was surprise in her expression too, but it was mixed with a healthy amount of pride. He had never in his wildest dreams considered that he would ever be nominated for Prom King.
"And now, onto the category we all really care about," Sue continued. "Prom Queen."
"Becky for Prom Queen 2012!" Becky Jackson's voice broke into the announcement.
"Miss Gunderson," Sue read out, "… Santana Lopez… and Quinn Fabray. Congratulations to our prom nominees."
Ryan smiled proudly at his girlfriend, who wore a small smile of satisfaction. After last year, he knew winning Prom Queen wasn't quite as important to Quinn as it had been in the past, but he also knew that she was just vain and competitive enough to want to win. And in his mind, she deserved it. She was absolutely the most beautiful girl in the school after all, both inside and out. And she could use the confidence boost. He knew she sometimes still struggled with her self-image and still occasionally got depressed over the snail's pace of her recovery.
Then he was brought out of his reverie by the tinkling sounds of Becky Jackson demolishing her xylophone over the loudspeaker. "Becky, Becky, Becky, that's an antique!" Sue yelled just as the speaker cut off.
"I can't believe I got nominated for Prom King," Ryan said a bit dazedly after class as Quinn stored some books in her locker.
"Why not?" Quinn asked. "You deserve it."
"I just…" He ran a hand through his hair. "It's hard to believe, you know? I mean, I was a loser everyone dumped slushies on, remember? And I'm just… me."
Quinn closed her locker door, looking up at him. "Exactly," she told him. "You're you. You're awesome. You're the basketball captain, and you're captain of the Troubletones, which, let's face it, isn't anywhere near as uncool as the New Directions." Ryan let out a laugh. "You've got a killer voice, you're nice to everyone, not to mention you're devastatingly handsome. You're amazing, and you are an absolute shoo-in for Prom King."
Ryan's spirits lifted with every word Quinn said. Sometimes it was hard to believe just how much everything had changed. And it made him feel like he was on top of the world whenever Quinn said things like that. "Thank you." He bent down to give her a kiss. "So are you, you know. For Prom Queen, I mean."
"This is perfect," Quinn smiled. "We can campaign together."
Right, there was going to be a campaign involved. He'd never really considered it. "I didn't even notice it was prom week," he admitted. He knew prom was coming soon, but he'd been so busy, what with Quinn's physical therapy, the upcoming Nationals competition, his botched audition, and exams. He grinned for a moment before pulling a horrified expression. "I don't have a date to the prom!"
Quinn stared at him flatly. "Seriously?"
"Quinn, don't make light of this," he accused. "This is serious, I can't go stag to the senior prom!" He sighed theatrically. "I guess there's just one thing to do." He got down on one knee in front of her, taking her hand and looking up into her eyes earnestly. "Quinn, will you go to prom with me?"
She arched an eyebrow. "So I'm your last resort, am I?"
"Considering you're the first person I've asked, I don't think you are." He smiled charmingly up at her, seeing the laugh playing on her lips.
"Get up, you goof," she laughed.
"Not until you say yes." He gave her his best puppy dog pout. "Please?"
"I don't know, I don't think I can go out with such a goofball…"
She let out a laugh. "Yes. Of course I'll go to the prom with you." She reached out, pulling him into a kiss. Ryan smiled as he leaned forward, bracing himself against the armrests of her chair. "You know, for a second, it looked like you were going to propose," she teased when they finally came up for air.
Ryan chuckled. "I suppose it did look that way, didn't it?" He tilted his head at her. "Were you disappointed?"
"No." Quinn looked at him thoughtfully though. "Not yet."
For a moment Ryan let himself imagine what it would be like to actually propose marriage to her, getting down on one knee to present her with a ring, asking her to spend the rest of her life with him. He smiled gently at the idea. It felt right. He knew neither of them were anywhere near ready for a commitment of that magnitude, but, "Someday."
"Someday," she agreed. He smiled, starting to get back up. Quinn held him down though, leaning in close until her lips were ghosting against his ear. "I'd say yes."
"Good afternoon everyone," Shelby said as she strode into the Troubletones room later that afternoon. "Congratulations to all our prom nominees." She'd been slightly surprised to hear that Ryan had been nominated, but she was happy for him. After a quick round of applause, she broke her news. "Now, Principal Figgins has asked us to provide the music for prom this year."
The reactions were mixed. Most of the freshmen were interested, while the juniors and seniors were less enthusiastic. "Not that we're not flattered and everything, but this happened last year and we had to sit out most of the dances," Mercedes pointed out, receiving several nods.
Shelby could see her point. "I know, and that's why I've told Principal Figgins that we'll discuss it first. It would also mean less time to rehearse for Nationals." Figgins had offered to pay, but Al Motta was more than willing to cover all their expenses. "On the other hand, it would mean everyone here would get to attend, even the freshmen and the sophomores."
Ryan hummed thoughtfully. "Well, if we were going to do it, maybe we could fix it so that the younger kids do most of the songs. I mean, the seniors would sing too, of course, but as Mercedes has pointed out, we do want to be able to enjoy the dance."
"It could be good practice," Tina pointed out. "I mean, when you guys leave, we're going to be the ones singing next year."
"Exactly," Ryan smiled, pleased. "That's if everyone agrees, of course."
Shelby nodded. "All right. All in favor?" Everyone's hands went up, and she nodded again. "Okay then." Brittany raised her hand, and Shelby motioned for her come up.
"Hello, my fellow Americans," she said brightly. "The theme for this year's prom will be…" She paused for dramatic effect. "Dinosaurs."
"Sheer genius," Santana approved. She was the only one though, if the confused looks on everyone's faces were anything to go by. Shelby could relate, she'd never seen a dinosaur-themed prom before.
"I was inspired by the new girl Joe, who reminds me of a cavewoman," Brittany continued, "and the refreshments will be berries, meat, and rainwater. Also, as you are no doubt aware, the US elections are riddled with corruption. Therefore, to keep the prom elections completely aboveboard, I have appointed Santana and Quinn to count the ballots."
"What now?" Quinn asked, confused.
"That makes no sense," Tina argued.
"Um, Brittany, I think that's usually the prom committee's job," Ryan said.
"I have to agree," Shelby spoke up. "You should just get the prom committee to count the votes. Giving the job to Santana and Quinn would take time away from the prom."
"Not to mention it would ruin the surprise," Ryan added. Brittany seemed to ponder this for a moment before nodding.
"All right. The themes they suggested were ridiculous, but I'll give them another chance to prove themselves," she decided. "And last but not least, all hair gel has been banned from the prom."
Looks were immediately directed to Blaine, who laughed. "Right."
"I'm actually not joking," Brittany said seriously. "Hair gel was not invented until almost 30 million years after the Upper Paleolithic Stone Age." Now everyone stared at Brittany. "And frankly, I don't like the way you look. Therefore, anyone who shows up to prom wearing hair gel will be turned away at the door." She grinned happily. "I hereby decree this to be the best prom ever."
"So it looks like it's just down to the two of us to win Prom Queen," Santana said idly as she, Quinn, and Brittany were in the ladies' room the next day, fixing up their makeup.
"I'm pretty sure there's a third person," Quinn said dryly.
"Oh please, like Minnie Gruberson stands a chance."
"I think it's Missy Gunderson."
"No one cares."
Brittany just smiled quietly, letting the two of them bicker. Quinn knew Brittany would like Santana to win, but the other blonde wouldn't say so. Ever since the three of them had become friends, Brittany was sort of like the neutral one whenever Quinn and Santana would butt heads, never really taking sides. Quinn also knew Brittany wasn't bummed at not being nominated. She'd already asked. "Who do you think is gonna win Prom King?" Brittany changed the subject.
Quinn smiled. "Obviously I'm rooting for Ryan."
Santana examined her mascara. "I could take it if Ryan won. I'm pretty sure that's the best possible outcome. But I could probably dance with that puck-head Nelson. I'd have to wash my hands afterwards to get rid of that crap he rubs in his mullet, but I could do it. But I swear, if Finnept wins, I am going to straight-up slap him."
"You and me both." Quinn nodded. If she won Prom Queen and Finn won king, there was no way in hell she was dancing with him. She'd resort to using her injury to get out of it if she had to. "So how are the preparations going, B?"
"Oh, they're great," Brittany answered. "There was a landslide in the gym earlier, but the rocks are really light, so no one was hurt."
"They were Styrofoam," Santana supplied.
"Is everyone okay with the whole dinosaur theme?" Quinn asked.
Brittany shrugged. "They can't do anything about it since I'm the president."
"Well, I for one think the dinosaur prom theme is pure genius," Santana announced, starting to reapply her lipstick. Brittany smiled sweetly, gliding behind Santana to wrap her arms around her girlfriend's waist, her chin resting on the Latina's shoulder.
"That's why we mash up really great together," she stated matter-of-factly, pecking Santana on the cheek. Santana just smiled widely, finishing powdering her face.
Quinn meanwhile was silent, mood falling suddenly as she watched her two friends interacting. She missed that kind of easy physical contact with Ryan, just moving up next to him and pressing a kiss to his cheek. Or just walking arm in arm with each other. Or even just holding hands. It was impossible to do in a wheelchair after all, and frustration started to bubble up inside her, because why was getting better taking so long? Even with Brittany and Santana's help, she was starting to doubt that she'd be able to dance with Ryan at prom.
"You okay over there, Tubs?" Santana asked suddenly. Quinn blinked, surprised to find her friends already at the bathroom door, ready to go. She shook her head quickly.
"Yeah, no, I'm fine." She made a shooing motion. "You should go, I'll be out in a minute."
Santana shrugged. "If you say so." She and Brittany left the ladies' room arm in arm.
Once alone, Quinn took a deep breath, trying to control her emotions. She was getting better. She was. She could walk a few feet now, and she could stay upright with a bit of support for some time. But it wasn't enough. Her back started to ache if she stayed up for too long, and making actual steps took so much effort that sometimes she wondered if it was worth it.
No. She wasn't going to do this. She was going to walk again, and she was going to have one dance at her senior prom with her boyfriend. Resolutely she locked up the wheelchair, grabbing onto one of the sinks to pull herself upright, finally able to see her reflection in one of the school mirrors for the first time since the accident. She smiled grimly. She was going to succeed. She wouldn't settle for anything less. Slowly, she let go of the sink, careful to keep her balance before attempting an unassisted step.
Unfortunately, luck – and her leg muscles – weren't on her side today. Her right knee gave out, sending her crashing to the floor. She managed to soften the fall by grabbing onto the chair, but the blow to her pride hurt worse than the fall itself.
"Oh my God, Quinn!" An instant later Tina was by her side, helping her into a sitting position. Quinn hadn't even noticed her come in. "Are you okay?"
No. No, she wasn't okay. She was just so damn sick of the stupid chair. Tina seemed to understand her silence, and simply assisted her back into the wheelchair. "Thanks," Quinn muttered.
Tina gave her a small smile. "It's fine." Nodding, Quinn exited the restroom, Tina following after her. "Are you going to be okay?"
Quinn nodded, unable to meet her eyes. "Yeah."
Tina gave her a small smile, touching her gently on the shoulder. "Okay. I need to get to glee, but you if you need anything just text, okay?" Quinn nodded silently, and Tina left. Slowly she started to wheel her way towards her locker, only to be impeded by Finn, who was putting up one of his prom campaign posters. Quinn sighed. It was very much not her day today. She didn't even have any of her friends to keep Finn away from her since they were all at glee.
Finn glanced down at her. "Aren't you putting your own posters up?" he asked.
Quinn frowned. Finn had hardly bothered her the entire school year, he shouldn't start now. "What do you care?" she snipped. Finn always did bring out the worst in her. "I'm surprised you're putting them up, I didn't think you knew how to make them."
Finn bristled. "Kurt made them for me."
"You're lucky he skipped the unicorns this time around." She ignored Finn's glare. It was pretty weak anyways. "Looks like we've come full circle." They'd started out their high school careers at the very top of the food chain, and if anyone had asked her back then, she'd have been absolutely confident that she and Finn would graduate as Prom King and queen. But everything was different now. She was different now. And she couldn't be more thankful for that.
Suddenly another student rounded the corner, stopping in her tracks when she saw them. "Oh my God. Quinn Fabray." Quinn arched an eyebrow, not recognizing the girl who was now staring at her in awe. She was a chubby brunette with glasses, and since she was neither on the Cheerios nor in the glee club Quinn had no idea who she was. She seemed to know who Quinn was though. "You're so brave to be doing this."
"Yeah, the atrophy in my leg is a constant reminder of the slow, withering remnants of my past life," Quinn replied, a touch of sarcasm in her voice. Yes, it was bitchy, but she wasn't in the mood for people's pity right now. She hated it at the best of times, and this was not the best of times. "I suppose the toll can be physically and emotionally hard, knowing that I may never walk again."
A moment later she sighed though, feeling a bit of remorse for being a bitch. She knew the girl probably meant well. "Sorry," she murmured. For a moment, she looked longingly at the girl's functioning legs. The girl was chubby, and her legs were far from shapely, but they were working. "Honestly, right now, I envy you."
The girl bent down, putting a hand on her shoulder. "You deserve this," she said sincerely. "You've got my vote." She left with another pat on Quinn's shoulder, and Quinn watched her walk away.
Finn looked at her sideways. "… That was super creepy."
Quinn stared up at him for a moment before shaking her head. "Whatever, Finn." She didn't have the time or the energy to deal with him and his idiocy right now. Maybe taken in a different context, what she'd said could have been creepy. But she didn't care right now as she started to wheel away.
Finn seemed to though, and he followed her easily. "Don't you feel weird, using your injury to get votes like that?"
She spun around abruptly and shot Finn a glare that got the tall quarterback to step back a bit. "I don't have to justify myself to you." She didn't care what he thought. And it wasn't like she was trying to gain a sympathy vote. She was just honestly envious of that girl's ability to walk. "Go away, Finn." She wheeled away to the exits.
An hour later she sat down on a bench at the rehab center in Lima Memorial, tired after her exercises. She'd pushed herself before, but today she just felt incredibly restless and had poured most of her frustration into her PT. It was just her today, since Judy had gone back to work after dropping her off at the hospital, and Ryan and the others were busy with glee rehearsals. She wasn't quite sure if it was good or bad; on the one hand she preferred to wallow in self-pity alone, but on the other, there wasn't anyone there to pull her out of her self-pity. But a moment later, she looked up to see James coming towards her, a small smile on his face. "Hi Quinn."
"You look tired," he commented lightly. She shrugged noncommittally. "Anything you want to talk about?"
She shrugged again. "Just… just really tired of this chair, I guess."
James hummed. "Understandable." He quirked a smile at her. "So prom's coming up, huh? I saw Ryan brushing his tux off yesterday."
Quinn smiled faintly. "Yeah." The smile fell after a moment, her thoughts returning to her wheelchair. She'd been able to stand up for ten minutes earlier, and she'd managed to make it from the parallel bars to the bench without assistance, but she really wished Brittany were here so she could practice her dancing too. She looked at James suddenly…
"What?" he asked.
"Maybe you could help me with something…"
Quinn explained her idea, and James grinned. "That's an awesome idea. Of course I'll help."
A minute later she was standing shakily in front of her boyfriend's dad, one hand in his and the other on his shoulder. James' hand rested securely against her back, providing some much-needed support. "Is this okay?" James inquired.
"Yeah, that's great," Quinn smiled. Brittany was a good dance partner, and her help had been invaluable, but she couldn't quite give Quinn the support she needed, and the two girls had wobbled and fallen every once in a while. James, with more experience in her type of injury, was more stable. Plus he felt really safe… almost like a dad. She felt a slight pang in her chest when the thought crossed her mind, because she missed having a dad. Slowly they started to sway, and Quinn laid her head against his shoulder. He felt really comfortable, similar to the way Ryan felt, but at the same time incredibly different. She let out a soft sigh.
"Are you okay?"
She nodded. "Yeah. I'm okay." She took another moment to get used to standing, before asking James to lead them around. He obliged, carefully adjusting his movements to accommodate her. She lasted another five minutes before she had to sit back down, rubbing ruefully at her back. "Do you think Ryan's going to be happy?" she asked hopefully.
"I think he'll be ecstatic," James promised, sitting down next to her. "I think it's great that you want to do this. Not just for him, but for the both of you. He's going to be so proud of you, I just know it. We all are."
She laughed sharply. "I can still barely walk, not much to be proud of."
"Not true," James disagreed, sitting down beside her. "You were in a car accident less than four months ago, Quinn, and you had an SCI. You have no idea how many people would have just given up on walking entirely. But here you are, you can stand, and you're starting to walk again. You should be proud of what you've been able to accomplish."
Quinn smiled a bit sadly, once more wishing that Russell Fabray had been even a little bit like James Walker. "Thank you."
"Are you feeling any better now?"
She considered it. "Actually, yes." Her melancholic mood had faded, and she was feeling much better about things, because dammit, he was right. She'd made great strides, both physically and emotionally. She did have something to be proud of. She leaned towards James tentatively, smiling when he pulled her into a hug.
"Come on," he finally said, standing up. "I'll take you home with me, and you can have dinner with us. I'll even invite your mom too."
"Okay," she agreed easily. "But no more embarrassing stories, okay?"
He smirked. "Oh, I can't promise that."
Before anyone knew it, the day of the prom was upon them.
"You look amazing, sweetie," Shelby smiled proudly, giving Ryan a hug as he approached her in their living room, fully dressed in his tuxedo with a white flower pinned to his chest. She quickly pulled away though, straightening his jacket and adjusting his tie. "So handsome."
"You think so?" he asked hopefully. He was going to be escorting the most beautiful girl in school, it only made sense that he look his best.
"You'll have all the girls swooning," Shelby promised.
He smiled faintly. "I just need one."
Shelby smiled, patting him on the cheek. "Good. Now let's get going." She was taking him to the Fabray house to pick up Quinn, and they'd go their separate ways. Shelby would also be attending the prom, having been tagged as aa chaperone. Ryan looked at her suspiciously.
"You're not riding with us to the prom, are you?" he double-checked. The last thing he needed was his mom cramping his style.
Shelby sighed dramatically. "It looks like the day has come. My son is ashamed to be seen with me in public. I'm devastated, I truly am."
"Mom." Ryan rolled his eyes. "Come on, we're going to be late."
It took twenty minutes for them to get to the Fabray house, and once Shelby stopped the car, Ryan gave her a big smile. "Okay, thanks, you can go now." He leaned over to give her a kiss on the cheek. Shelby laughed.
"Not so fast," she teased, getting out of the car. "I didn't get to take the embarrassing prom pictures last year since you were in that snit about Jesse –"
"– it was not a snit –"
"– so I am going to take this opportunity to snap as many pictures as I possibly can," Shelby finished, striding up to the Fabray's front door. Ryan sighed. It would take twice as long to get to the prom now that there were two mothers intent on preserving the moment for posterity. Oh well, it would be good practice for handling paparazzi at the very least. He knocked on the door, which was promptly opened by a beaming Judy.
"Hi Ryan, Shelby," she greeted. "Oh, you look so handsome," she gushed, lightly touching Ryan's shoulders. Ryan smiled at the compliment, amused at the similarity to Shelby.
In her bedroom, Quinn was putting the final touches on her hair and makeup, looking at herself critically in the mirror set up to accommodate her and her wheelchair. This was her senior prom after all, and she wanted to look her best for Ryan. The notion that she'd be up on stage to win Prom Queen was only secondary in her mind.
"Quinnie, Ryan's here!"
She glanced towards the door at her mom's call, her heart fluttering. One more patdown of her hair, one more smoothing out of her lavender dress, indulging in a moment of vanity as she looked in the mirror with a smile. She looked amazing. With a final nod, she picked up her purse and wheeled out of her room. Last year she'd been able to make her entrance into the foyer from the top of the staircase, but that was obviously out of the question this year.
Still, the effect she had on her boyfriend was the same.
"Wow," Ryan breathed, eyes soft and wide as they took her in, a dreamy smile appearing on his face. Quinn's smile widened at the effect she had on him, pleased that that the wheelchair did nothing to detract from her beauty in his eyes. She wheeled up in front of him, smile softening. "You look gorgeous," he told her.
"Thanks." She looked up, aiming a smile at his mom. "Hi Shelby."
"Hello Quinn," Shelby greeted. "Ryan's right, you look very beautiful."
Shelby smiled knowingly. "Judy, why don't we go into the living room for a moment?"
Judy nodded. "That's a wonderful idea." The two women left the teens alone for the moment, and Quinn turned her attention back to her boyfriend, who held out a box with a grin.
"Is that for me?"
Ryan nodded. "For the most beautiful girl at the prom." He opened the box, producing a corsage. Quinn thought her smile was going to be permanent for the rest of the night as he tied the white gardenia with its green ribbon to her wrist. "There," he squeezed her hand. "Something simple to accentuate your radiance."
"Smooth," Quinn chuckled, reaching up. "Come here." She pressed her lips against his, eyes fluttering shut as her lips glided against his, sending a tingle through her body. "I love you."
"I love you too," Ryan responded sincerely, producing another box from his jacket, flipping it open to reveal a silver necklace with a crystal pendant, matching beautifully with the accents on her dress. "Brittany helped me pick it out," Ryan elaborated as he motioned for Quinn to brush her hair aside, slipping the necklace around neck.
"It's perfect," she smiled, making a note to thank Brittany. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome." He quirked an eyebrow at her. "Shall we get the pictures over with so we can get to the prom?"
"Let's." Quinn and Ryan spent quite a few minutes indulging Judy and Shelby in their mad quest for prom pictures, until finally, Ryan checked his phone before slipping it back in his pocket.
"Okay," he said, "we really should get going." After a final round of pictures, he led her outside. Her jaw dropped when she saw a sleek black limousine idling outside. Ryan hopped down the walk, standing next to it with his arm held out, grinning broadly.
"So, what do you think?"
Quinn's stared at him. "Where did you get that?"
"Mike's dad knows a guy, and he and Santana and I pitched in to rent it for the night." Ryan bounced back up towards her, smiling hopefully. "Do you like it?"
Quinn pulled him down for a deep kiss. "I love it," she told him, excitement for what was starting out as a wonderful evening growing. "Let's go. Bye Mom!"
The gymnasium was completely unrecognizable when Ryan entered it with Quinn, Santana, Brittany, Mike, and Tina. Lights hung in strings from the ceiling, with dinosaur-themed backdrops and decorations scattered around. A stage was up in the middle of the gym, and countless students were already milling around.
"This is awesome," Mike enthused. "I actually really love dinosaurs." His eyes brightened at the refreshments. "Whoa, triceratops!" He quickly dragged Tina towards the tables.
"I have to say it," Ryan nodded appreciatively. "This prom is amazing, Brittany. I'll admit, I had my doubts about the theme, but it does seem to be a hit with the student body."
"Of course it is, dinosaurs are awesome," Brittany grinned.
"I told you, pure genius," Santana said proudly, kissing Brittany on the cheek.
Ryan smiled down at Quinn. "May I have the first dance?"
She smiled back at him coyly. "Why yes you may."
Half an hour of dancing later Quinn entered the bathrooms, needing a bit of a break from the excitement. She was have an incredibly good time with Ryan and the rest of her friends. Obviously dancing with the wheelchair was wildly different from real dancing, but Ryan was doing a very good job of drawing her out and making her feel normal.
They had danced to almost every one of the songs, except for the ones Ryan had sung in. Shelby had arranged it so that the newbies were mostly the ones singing, but Ryan had gone up to sing That's What Makes You Beautiful with the other boys, and then had gone on to sing a solo before coming back to join her on the dance floor. Quinn had of course been watching during both performances, and was so incredibly proud of her boyfriend. He was so talented, and she was pleased that other people were now seeing that, if the countless swooning girls were anything to go by. Yes, she'd felt some jealousy, but she was working on it and it didn't bother her as much as it had before. Besides, she knew Ryan was all hers.
But she couldn't wait to surprise him later tonight. She wheeled up to the sink, carefully pulling herself upright in front of the mirrors, testing her body for any twinges. Fortunately it was cooperating with her for now, and she was optimistic that she could make it through one dance, maybe even two. She had it all planned out. She'd surprise Ryan after the announcement for prom court. Whether or not they won, she'd have her dance with him then.
She shut her eyes, letting herself imagine both of them winning. That would be all her childhood dreams come true – the Prom Queen tiara, the admiration of all her peers, and most importantly, the perfect partner who loved her.
Lost in her thoughts, she didn't notice Finn standing in the doorway behind her, and she didn't notice him leaving with a scowl on his face.
It's been said and done
Every beautiful thought's been already sung
And I guess right now here's another one
So your melody will play on and on, with the best of 'em
You are beautiful, like a dream come alive, incredible
A centerfold, miracle, lyrical
You saved my life again
And I want you to know baby
Quinn smiled happily at Ryan as he led her off the dance floor as Santana took her turn on the stage. "Are you having a good time?" he inquired.
"The best," she assured him. She'd had fun dancing with him, even with the wheelchair. "Kind of thirsty though."
"One glass of punch coming right up," Ryan grinned, hopping up and slipping towards the refreshments table. He was glad she was having fun, he'd been a bit worried about how she'd feel about dancing with the wheelchair, but it was working out. He was waiting in line for the punch when he caught sight of something that sent him into a fit of laughter. "Oh my God, Blaine!"
"It's not funny," Blaine whined, running a hand through his hair. Due to Brittany's 'no hair gel' ruling, Blaine had been forced to let his hair back into its natural state, which was, to put it in one word, bushy.
"You look like a piece of broccoli," Ryan giggled as his friend pouted. "Come on, it's not that bad," he smiled. "It's kind of cute."
Blaine sighed, taking the glass Ryan handed him. "Whatever. I can't believe I'm not allowed to use hair gel. It's barbaric."
Ryan let out another chuckle. "Sure it is."
Meanwhile Quinn arched an eyebrow in amusement as Marley and Kitty approached her table, plopping down into the seats. "I'm kinda jealous of your chair right now," Marley sighed. "These heels are killing me."
"Yeah," Kitty agreed. "Whoever invented these things should be given to Coach Sylvester so she can make them run laps. While wearing them." Quinn just chuckled lightly. Portable seating was one of the few perks the wheelchair had.
"Aren't you up for the next number?"
Kitty rolled her eyes. "Yep."
Marley sighed, smiling nevertheless. It was obvious that they were having fun, in spite of – or maybe because of – them doing most of the musical numbers. Even Kitty was. "Yeah, we're up next. Come on, Kitty." Marley stood, dragging Kitty along with her. Quinn smiled, glad that the two had somehow become friends.
Her next visitor however, was much more unwelcome. Finn stood in front of her, a hard look in his eyes. "What do you want now?" Quinn huffed.
"I saw you standing in the bathroom."
Quinn was startled for a second, before frowning. "First, I don't think I want to know why you were peeking in the ladies' room," she said icily. "Second, that's none of your business."
"I was looking for someone," Finn claimed, turning red. "And second, it is my business, since you're using your fake injury to win votes, and it's not right!"
Quinn glared at him. How dare he call her injury fake? He wasn't the one who had to put up with every day unable to walk. But she didn't want to let him ruin the night. "Finn, just leave me alone."
He shook his head. "Yeah, I will. As soon as you stand up and show everybody how much you deserve this, how much you deserve to be Prom Queen."
She stared at him in disbelief. "Are you really doing this right now?"
"What, making you walk?" the quarterback challenged as Quinn looked around quickly. His stance was bordering on aggressive, and it was making her a bit nervous. "Making you stand up and show everybody how much of a crazy liar you are? Yeah." He nodded, voice rising. "Come on, stand up!"
Finally, Quinn heard Ryan come up next to her. "Finn, what are you doing?" he asked angrily.
"Did you know she can walk?" Finn asked accusingly. "Yeah, of course you know, you're fucking her, aren't you?"
"Excuse me?" Ryan scowled at him, voice raised above the loud music. "This is highly inappropriate, not to mention incredibly crude. That information is absolutely none of your business. I think you should leave, Finn." Finn didn't make a move though other than to glare at Quinn.
Quinn just glared at him angrily, furious that he was making a scene and that he was blowing her surprise for Ryan. "Finn, just back off!"
He shook his head. "No, stand up! Stand the hell up!" He moved forward, Quinn's alarm rising as a hand shot forwards as if to physically drag her out of the wheelchair. She froze, suddenly realizing he might actually hurt her.
Ryan immediately reacted, violently shoving Finn away from her. "What the hell is wrong with you?!" he bellowed, a frightening expression on his face. "How dare you put your hands on her?" He lunged forward only to be caught by a pair of arms.
"Ryan, that's enough," Shelby barked, pushing him back and away from Finn. Ryan barely registered it though, utterly fixated on the fact that this giant man child had actually tried to hurt Quinn. He lunged forward again, only to be held back. "Ryan, stop," Shelby ordered, struggling to keep a firm grip on him.
"You stay the fuck away from her, Hudson!" he snarled angrily, his pulse almost drowning out the music in his ears as his mom tried to hold him back. He could shove Shelby off, because if it came right down to it he was much stronger than she was. He forced himself to back down though, because even as angry as he was he couldn't risk hurting his mom, even accidentally.
That would make him just as bad as Finn.
But that didn't mean he wasn't absolutely furious. "He was going to hurt her," he growled, every instinct still completely primed to protect Quinn.
"We saw," Sue said brusquely. "All right Hudson, out."
"What?!" Finn yelped. "This is senior prom, you can't kick me out!"
"Watch me," Sue shot back, grabbing the boy by the arm and dragging him towards the exit. As soon as they were out of sight, Shelby released her grip, and Ryan was immediately kneeling down in front of Quinn, anger forgotten in his concern for his girlfriend.
"Are you okay?" he asked anxiously. "Did he hurt you?"
Quinn shook her head rapidly. "No, no, I'm fine." Ryan could see she wasn't though, not completely, which only added to his anger.
"Both of you come with me," Shelby instructed. "Let's get some air." She led the two agitated teens out through another exit to a deserted corridor, the music immediately muted to background noise. "Quinn, are you sure you're okay?"
The blonde nodded shakily. "Yeah. I just… I just need some air."
Meanwhile Ryan had started pacing, trying to work off the angry energy that had built up. Shelby turned to him. "Hey, look at me." She put her hands on his shoulders, forcing him to look her in the eye. "Calm down. You're okay." After a moment the fire drained out of his gaze, and he nodded, finally starting to calm. Finn wasn't here anymore, they were fine. Shelby nodded back in satisfaction. "Take a minute before going back there, okay? Get your heads on straight."
Ryan nodded again, and she stepped back. "Thank you," he said. Shelby just nodded, leaving to return to the auditorium. Ryan turned to Quinn, crouching down again. "Are you really okay?"
"Yeah." She took a breath. "He just scared me for a second there."
His anger spiked again, wanting nothing more than to hurt Finn because he'd tried to hurt Quinn. Finn could have seriously hurt her, he knew she couldn't stand well by herself yet, and violent movement like getting yanked out of the wheelchair could have set her back indefinitely. Just the thought of it made him furious, and he reached out, pulling her into a hug. "I'm sorry he got that close. I –"
"He saw me standing in the bathroom," she cut him off, looking down. "He said I was lying to everybody, that I was using my injury to get sympathy votes." She laughed humorlessly. "He wanted me to get up so everybody could see what a crazy, manipulative bitch I am."
"Don't." His jaw clenched, and he pulled her into a hug again. Looking around quickly, he pushed her towards a small alcove near the trophy cases, sitting down in front of her. "Don't say that. You are none of those things, okay?" he told her sincerely, seeing the conflicted look on her face. He hated that Finn had caused her to doubt herself, to doubt the new person shed grown into. He met her eyes. "When he looks at you, he just sees the old Quinn, and yes, she was kind of a bitch. But he doesn't see what I see. I see the new Quinn, the still-beautiful, but humbled and inspiring Quinn." He looked down for a moment before looking up at her with a small smile, reaching out to brush his fingers against her cheek. "A lot of things have happened to me these past four years, both good and bad. But when I look back on my high school career, one of the accomplishments I'm going to be most proud of is the fact that I found a way to be worthy of your attention and your love."
She let out a disbelieving chuckle. "I think you've got that backwards. I'm the one who wasn't worthy of your love."
He shook his head, smiling. "Then we've both got something to be proud of. I am so proud of you. You inspire me. You make me want to be a better person."
She laughed again, this time a bit watery as she wiped at her eyes. "Good thing I used the waterproof mascara."
"Don't worry, I still think you'd be beautiful if you looked like a racoon." He leaned forward, pressing his lips against hers, his hand coming up to cup the back of her neck. He smiled at her. "And you should know, I voted for you for Prom Queen."
"Good, because I voted for you too."
"For Prom Queen?" he asked impishly. "That's strange, but okay."
Quinn rolled her eyes. "For Prom King, you doof." He laughed as he stood up. "Just take us back to the gym."
Several songs later, Shelby was on punch duty when Ryan came over, eyeing the punch. "Where's Coach Sylvester? I was under the impression that she was keeping the punch on virtual lockdown since she's afraid that someone will spike it."
"Oh, she went to the bathroom," Shelby smirked as Ryan picked up the ladle, starting to fill a cup. "Maybe that Visine she says she put in has finally taken its effect."
He dropped the ladle. "There's Visine in this?"
"I highly doubt it."
"Oh." Ryan took a sip of his punch. "I sure hope there isn't." Soon the band started up another song, a slower one this time. Ryan tilted his head. "Would you like to dance with me?"
Shelby looked at him in surprise. "What about Quinn?"
"She's with Santana and Brittany, she said she needed a break. I've already danced with all the Troubletone girls." He smiled at her. "I saved one dance for you."
"Hmm." Shelby spotted Sue returning to the punch bowl out of the corner of her eye. "I suppose one dance wouldn't hurt." Her son's smile widened, and he took her hand as he led her out to the dance floor. She smiled back at him as they fell into step. "Are you having fun?"
"Most definitely," Ryan agreed. "Thanks for stepping in earlier, you know, with Finn," he said after a moment.
Shelby nodded, a frowning creasing her brow. "I'm glad you were able to get there in time." She and Sue had hurried over as soon as they noticed the altercation. She'd seen Finn almost grab Quinn but had been too far away to intercede. Ryan was quiet.
"I really think I would have hurt him if you hadn't stopped me."
"Oh, sweetie." Shelby pressed a kiss to his cheek. "I know you know that wouldn't have helped anything."
"I suppose." He flashed her a small smile. "Well, at least I didn't get kicked out of prom, that would have been terrible."
"Well, you are running for Prom King after all," she teased him. Well, so was Finn Hudson, but she didn't care. He deserved it. Fortunately Will wasn't in attendance tonight, he surely would have had something to say about his prize pupil being kicked out. Ryan laughed ruefully.
"I still don't really know how that happened," he admitted.
"Well, it doesn't really mean that much in the real world," she conceded. "But it's just for fun."
"Were you nominated for Prom Queen when you were in high school?"
Shelby laughed. "God no. I wasn't exactly the most popular kid around back then. I mean, I had friends, you know, but I wasn't like the head cheerleader or anything like that." She hummed thoughtfully. "At Junior Prom I was mostly upset because your dad was leaving. Then at Senior Prom… I don't know, I guess I didn't really care all that much."
"I'm mostly doing this for Quinn," Ryan said. "Winning Prom Queen was one of her childhood dreams. She says she's grown out of it, but I think it would be a nice memory for her, don't you think?"
"I do," she said lightly. "I think you would make a very striking King and Queen."
"Thank you," Ryan grinned.
Soon the song came to a close, and the two of them returned to the punch area. "So, did you have fun twirling around under the meteors?" Sue asked rhetorically.
"Yes we did, actually," Shelby smiled at Ryan. "Thank you for the dance, sweetie." She tipped up to give him another kiss on the cheek.
"Well, I figured if you had to spend your evening watching a bunch of teenagers flailing around, you should probably get one dance out of it," Ryan deadpanned. He smiled a bit mischievously at Sue. "Would you like a dance as well?" he offered, holding out a hand. Sue looked at him flatly.
"Don't touch me, Liberace."
"Suit yourself," Ryan shrugged, heading back to his friends with one last smile at Shelby.
"Drop that ladle, Cohen-Chang!" Sue barked, causing Tina to turn around, eyes wide. "Ooh, I'm onto you, lady. You're trying to spike my punch!"
"No I'm not, I'm just thirsty," Tina protested. "I'm dehydrated from all the crying."
"Okay, Sue, you can't just go around accusing students of spiking the punch," Shelby intervened. "Tina, did you spike the punch?" Tina shook her head immediately. "There you go, the punch isn't spiked."
Sue looked balefully at Tina, eyes narrowing. "I know someone's going to try and spike the punch. It's the perfect opportunity since I can't taste the punch in case it is spiked due to my current condition."
Shelby rolled her eyes, taking the ladle, pouring some punch into a cup and then exaggeratedly taking a sip. To be fair, someone always spiked the punch at Camel, and if the punch was spiked she could hardly make a pregnant person taste it. Thankfully she couldn't detect any alcohol. "Happy now? Go on, Tina." Tina hurried off towards Mike.
"There's two tablespoons of Visine in that," Sue stated.
"No there isn't."
"No there isn't," Sue rolled her eyes. "You're no fun."
"I'm a chaperone, I'm not supposed to be fun."
"Quiet please, children," Figgins announced from the stage, causing the students to pay attention. "First I have an announcement to make. There are reptiles living in the McKinley toilets no more. The family of snakes has been removed to the zoo, and they can live out their lives in the toilets there!" Cheers greeted this news. "And now, this year's Prom Court." He paused for effect. "Nominees for Prom King are… Rick 'the Stick' Nelson." The redheaded hockey player swaggered onto the stage, arms raised arrogantly as the crowd cheered. "… Finn Hudson, who has unfortunately been ejected from the premises," Figgins frowned, "… and Ryan Corcoran."
Ryan glanced around a bit nervously as he stepped onto the stage, part of him still unsure as to why he was up here. It was one thing for Quinn to think that he deserved his nomination, but it was another to consider that other people thought he did too. Honestly, he wouldn't be entirely surprised if this turned out to be some kind of prank. To his surprise though, people were actually cheering, and he smiled, instinctively soaking up the applause.
"The nominees for Prom Queen are…" Figgins continued, "Missy Gunderson." A brunette girl Ryan vaguely recognized climbed onto the stage. "Santana Lopez." Santana walked onto the stage, smiling and waving. "And… Miss Quinn Fabray." Ryan smiled as Joe wheeled Quinn onto the stage, Quinn smiling up at him briefly before he hopped back off. He hoped she won, he knew she wanted this. He shot her a smile across the stage, and she winked back.
Figgins waited until the applause died down before continuing. "I would like to invite last year's Prom Queen, sassy male student Kurt Hummel, to crown this year's winners." Kurt took his time going up to the stage, clearly displeased about this duty. As soon as he was up, Figgins opened his envelope. "And the winner for Prom King is…" The drummer started up a drumroll. Figgins held his hand up, smiling slightly. "Mr. Ryan Corcoran."
Ryan let out a surprised, disbelieving huff of laughter as the crowd cheered. His eyes immediately sought out Quinn's. She gave him a wide smile, mouthing, 'I told you so' as she clapped the loudest. He stepped forward in a bit of a daze, Kurt placing the crown on his head as Figgins waved a scepter around before handing it to him. Ryan smiled at the principal, stepping back. This was just so weird.
"And now," Figgins said, "the winner for Prom Queen is…" The drummer started another drumroll, and Ryan smiled as he saw Quinn and Santana sharing a secret handshake. "… Miss Quinn Fabray!"
The crowd burst into enthusiastic cheers as Quinn wheeled forward. Ryan whistled loudly, far more excited for her than he'd been over winning Prom King. Soon the silver tiara was on her head, and Ryan couldn't help his broad smile. She truly was the prettiest girl he'd ever met, and she looked absolutely beautiful right now. He moved to her side, leaning down for a quick kiss.
"Congratulations," he whispered into her ear. "You deserve it."
"Right back at you," she returned, smiling up at him. Ryan caught her hand, lifting it to his lips to press a kiss to the back.
"McKinley Titans," Figgins intoned, "bow down to your new leaders!" The crowd cheered once more, and Ryan took a second to look out at the other students cheering him and Quinn on. It was surreal. He never in a million years would have thought that he would ever earn the approval of his peers like this. Figgins cleared his throat. "And now, the first dance of this year's Senior King and Queen."
The music for Take My Breath Away started to play, and Ryan looked down at Quinn, who gave him an excited smile. He returned it, guiding her wheelchair down the stage before turning it so that they were facing each other. "Ready for our dance?" he smiled.
"Not yet." Her smile turned a bit nervous, and she glanced around for a moment before reaching down to lock her wheels. Ryan frowned.
"What –" Anything else he had to say caught in his throat as Quinn set her legs on the floor, looking at him in determination before hauling herself into a standing position. Murmurs rose all around them, but Ryan didn't care, wide eyes fixed on the girl standing in front of him. Quinn reached out, her hands landing on his shoulders for support, and Ryan immediately stepped forward, steadying her. "Quinn…"
"I wanted it to be a surprise," she said, smiling shyly up at him. "I've been practicing, and I can do this. Will you dance with me?"
Ryan nodded dumbly, struck silent for once. Up on the stage, Santana started to sing. He shook himself out of his daze, taking Quinn's hand in in his left, the other around her waist, bolstering her up. Their eyes locked again, and he almost teared up as they started to dance. She was dancing with him, and if it was a bit shaky, it hardly mattered. Applause rang out once more as the student body expressed its congratulations, and Ryan smiled adoringly at Quinn, holding her close as they swayed together.
"I was supposed to sing," Quinn admitted lightly as Ryan guided them in a slow dance, other students swaying around them. "If Santana won, you know."
"What if Missy Gunderson won?"
"Oh, that wouldn't have happened."
Ryan laughed. "Confident."
"Of course." Quinn stumbled a bit, but Ryan caught her automatically.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah." Quinn tilted her head up, placing a kiss on his lips, and they continued their dance.
"Maybe you could sing it for me," Ryan suggested hopefully. He loved it when Quinn sang for him, and it would make everything even more wonderful. Quinn smiled, laying her head against his shoulder as she started to sing.
Watching I keep waiting
Still anticipating love
To become the fated ones
Turning and returning
To some secret place to find
Watching in slow motion
As you turn to me and say
Take my breath away
True to the song, Ryan lost his breath as his girlfriend sang to him in his arms, her voice low, meant only for him to hear. She truly took his breath away, overwhelming him with emotion. Gently he pulled her closer to him, careful to support her weight as she draped her arms over his shoulders. "I am so proud of you, Quinn," he breathed out. "I love you so much."
Quinn smiled shyly as she tilted her face up, whispering, "I love you too," as she pressed her lips gently against his. The two of them danced, unmindful of the crowd around them, completely lost in each other.
Off in the distance, Brittany smiled happily as she watched two of her best friends dance together. She was so happy for them, they'd been through so much and they totally deserved this. She looked up on stage, smiling at Santana as she made a heart symbol with her fingers. Santana winked back, never breaking her song, and Brittany's smile widened.
Totally the best prom ever.
Hello everyone! My apologies for the wait, life's been incredibly busy and I've been feeling a bit out of sorts. But anyways, here's the next chapter. I hope you guys enjoyed it. Thank you so much for your kind words from last time, they never fail to inspire me to keep writing. I'm slightly amused and incredibly pleased that I'm still picking up readers this late in the game; when I started out this fandom was starting to die down after all. But of course, I'm very glad that people are enjoying my work.
As to how I come up with these ideas, I don't know either. I have friends who inspire me with their ideas, and I guess I come up with a lot of them when I'm staring into space during class. Heh. They're mostly driven by my frustrations with the canon plots, as are most fanfics, and most of my ideas are what I wish would have happened.
As for my future directions, this story will likely come to a close in a few more chapters. I have my other story for the Glee fandom, which I'm working on, and I have several other plot ideas that I write out occasionally, there are actually six of them percolating in my hard drive right now. I don't know if they'll ever be published, but we'll see. I'm also open to writing for other fandoms, but I don't know, most of my stories seem to be based on Glee. I'm also thinking of writing a continuation of this AU, going into Ryan and Quinn's college years and beyond. On that note, I'm looking forward to seeing how Ryan reacts to S5's Toxic too!
So I think that's all for now, sorry for any typos, and I'll see you next time!