Author's Note: I don't know why I like making Rachel suffer, I really don't. But I just couldn't resist this idea when it popped into my head. The full title of this is actually The Sound of Your Heart Racing Faster for Me is What Will Save Me but the website has a limit on title length, apparently.
Night time was Rachel's favorite time. It had been since she could remember. Then again, she was only eight and couldn't remember much but she knew that night time was her favorite time. She especially loved night time in the summer and fall because it meant she could go out and catch fireflies. It meant she could go out, period. In winter it was always too cold, her Dad and Daddy said. In spring there was too much pollen (unless it had just rained). There was pollen in the summer, too, but not as much. Her fathers always checked the pollen counts before they let her go out but days when she couldn't were fewer and farther in between in summer.
The tiny, frail looking brunette always watched the TV in her room closely when it got close to dark. Her Daddy had put up the camera for her last Hanukkah so she could watch the back yard and watch the sun go up and down. She waited until she couldn't see anything before she smiled and grabbed her jar she used to catch the fireflies.
"Daddy, it's time!" she squealed as she bound down the stairs.
The pale man smiled and nodded. "Let's go, baby."
He slipped Rachel's boots on her and helped her out the back door. He walked around with her lighting up the various insect-repelling lamps positioned around the yard so the girl could see where she was going and not run as high a risk of getting bit or stung.
"Remember, no rolling in the grass."
"I know, Daddy."
Rachel ventured out into the enormous (well, it looked enormous to a tiny eight-year-old) back yard in search of the tiny bugs. She spotted one and snuck up on it, just as she'd been taught. She waited for it to come to her and then carefully trapped it inside of the jar and put the ring with mesh fabric instead of lid over the opening. She peered into the jar and smiled and moved to find another.
"Sarah!" Rachel stopped at a voice from the other side of the fence. "Sarah, I wanna look!"
"No, Quinn! It's my jar! Get your own jar!"
Clutching her jar, Rachel slowly walked over to the fence that reached the sky and peered through the space between the wooden slats. She saw two girls, it was hard to really see them because of the lack of light but she saw one big and one little. The little one was attempting to grab a jar of fireflies from the big one.
Rachel had heard her Dad and Daddy talk about the new neighbors and how they moved in after the school year let out. The words "school year" didn't really have any meaning to the young brunette. She knew it was almost firefly time when they'd talked about it, though.
"Fine, I'll get my own jar!"
Rachel turned her attention back to the fence and looked through. The little girl was coming closer. There was a firefly in Rachel's line of sight on the other side of the fence and she knew the girl was going to try and catch it. She watched quietly, as not to scare the insect, as the little girl jumped at it and missed. She sighed. Rachel opened her jar just a little and stuck her tongue out, waiting for it to come through the slats. It did and she successfully caught it.
"I got it," she said out loud.
The girl on the other side of the fence jumped.
"Rachel Berry. I'm eight."
"Quinn Fabray. I'm eight, too."
"How did you catch it?"
"My Daddy says you gotta wait for it."
"Oh. How come I never seen you before?"
"I don't go outside when the sun's out." Rachel sniffled a little and whimpered at the sensation of something trickling out of her nose. She whined when she wiped it away and saw red. "I have to go," she said quickly before dropping her jar and running to her Daddy.
They got the nosebleed under control fairly quickly, just like always. Her Daddy said maybe the pollen count was too high that day and he should've checked again before they went outside. Rachel just sighed and wished she could go back to talk to Quinn. It was bath time and bedtime anyway, he said. Rachel just sighed and nodded.
When she got up in the morning her Dad was home and she greeted him with a hug and he got her a bowl of chunked up fruit for breakfast. Rachel savored the taste of the fresh fruits while she watched her Dad measure out her allergy shots and get her vitamins sorted out. She sat patiently while he gave her the injections. She barely winced anymore. She took her pills like a good girl and finished her breakfast before settling down to read and try a little math.
After lunch consisting of a fresh vegetable medley, a soynut butter sandwich on organic bread, an apple, and a glass of soymilk, Rachel's Daddy came home and greeted her and her Dad with a kiss. Rachel giggled as he tickled her stomach and took her to the living room to get her settled on the couch for a nap.
"Can I go out tonight, Daddy?" she asked him with her bottom lip stuck out, pouting.
"We'll see, baby. Quiet time now, okay?"
Rachel nodded and the man kissed her on the forehead before she drifted into sleep. When she woke she yawned and smiled at her Daddy who was napping in the recliner. She grinned and crawled up onto his lap. His mouth twitched, trying to hide a smile, and he let out a loud snore. Rachel giggled and poked his cheek.
"Daddy, nap time's over!"
"Five more minutes!"
Rachel giggled again and bounced a few times. "Piano time!"
The man smiled and sighed. Rachel squealed as his eyes fluttered open and he took each of her tiny hands into his own.
"Is it that time already, monster?"
Rachel nodded. Her Daddy smiled and picked her up to take her to the upright piano settled against the wall. The girl sat up straight and put her hands on the keys to go through her simple scales. Her Daddy praised her good work when she didn't make any mistakes and he walked her through a few simple songs. Rachel let him take over and she sang along as his fingers danced along the keys.
"Perfect pitch, as always!" he said.
Rachel grinned and furrowed her eyebrows at the rumbling of her stomach.
Rachel nodded and bounced to the kitchen. She pointed to an orange and her Daddy peeled it for her and took the slices to the living room and settled Rachel on the couch watching The Disney Channel while he went upstairs to clean her room and change the filters on the multiple air purifiers placed around the house.
When the filter in her room was changed, Rachel bounced into her bedroom to check on the happenings in the back yard. She turned on her TV and studied it. There was a squirrel bouncing around and a few birds flittered across the screen. She spotted the jar she'd left next to the fence. She grinned at a rabbit that hopped slowly across the yard and stopped to eat a few blades of grass. From outside her window she heard a squeal and she jumped a little and looked even though she knew she wouldn't be able to see much of anything through the darkened window. She squinted hard as she walked close to it and could barely make out the house next door.
Her Daddy helped her with a little math lesson that day, insisting she needed to keep her brain going even though it was summer. Rachel obliged and sat with him in the kitchen as they counted various things and put them together and counted some more. Rachel started getting restless, knowing it was almost nightfall. Her Daddy sighed and took her into his den and they sat at the computer to check the pollen counts. Rachel bounced a little when he said they were low enough that she could go out.
The first thing the young brunette did was run to retrieve her jar. She shook it a few times but the fireflies didn't move. She shrugged and dumped out the jar.
"Rachel?" Quinn's voice came from the other side of the fence.
"How come you ran away?"
"I had a nosebleed 'cause of the pollen."
"Oh. How come you don't come out in the day?"
"Polymorphous light eruption," Rachel stated.
"It means the sun hurts me. I'm allergic to it, that's what the doctors say."
"My sister's allergic to peanuts."
Rachel sighed. "I'm allergic to everything."
"Yeah, everything. How come I never saw you before?"
"We just moved here from Cleveland."
"I went there to the doctor a couple times. It's the only time I get to go anywhere."
"You don't go to school?"
"No. My two dads teach me. They're doctors, too."
Rachel fidgeted with her all organic cotton shirt and tucked her lower lip between her teeth.
"What's school like?" she asked, effectively getting the topic away from her familial situation.
"I've only been to school in Cleveland but it was fun. There's lots of kids and teachers."
"Do you learn about music?"
"My Daddy is teaching me to play the piano and he says I have a voice like an angel."
"Will you sing…"
"Quinnie! Quinnie, it's time to come inside."
Rachel sighed and even though she knew Quinn couldn't see it she gave half a smile.
"I have to go. Will you come back tomorrow?"
"Depends on the pollen count."
"I guess I'll talk to you whenever."
"Yeah. Bye, Quinn."
It was like that all summer. As soon as the sun went down Rachel hurried to the fence, learning to bring a sheet with her to spread out on the grass so she could sit down. They would talk until their parents called them in. Quinn asked if she could come over and Rachel asked her dads. They shook their heads.
"I don't think her parents would let her, sweetie."
Rachel told Quinn this and the blonde asked her parents and they did indeed say no but refused to give any kind of explanation. So the girls continued talking through the fence. Rachel would talk about her allergies and the doctors she'd seen and sometimes she'd sing to her new friend. Quinn talked about going to Disney World and playing with other kids and having a dog and an older sister.
"Will you ever get better?" Quinn asked one night after Rachel had spent thirty six hours in the hospital and another week inside thanks to three wasp stings. Her epinephrine shot hadn't done the trick that time.
"The doctors say I might grow out of it. Nobody really knows."
"I wish I could save you."
Rachel sighed. "Me, too."
"I start school next week. I'll tell you everything, I promise. I even got a notebook to write everything down."
True to her word, every night the week after school started Quinn would sit and read out of her journal and Rachel would listen with excitement as she talked about music, art, gym, library, recess, and everything else Quinn could think of to write down.
"I made new friends," Quinn said a few weeks after school had started. Rachel could hear the excitement in her voice. "Santana and Brittany. Brittany invited me to a sleepover on Friday. I'll write everything down!"
Rachel didn't even ask to go outside on Friday night. She waited until Saturday and took her sheet out. Quinn talked about the movies they watched and how they stayed up late and ate lots of junk food, most of which Rachel had only seen on TV commercials but never tried thanks to her all-organic diet.
"I invited them to my house next Friday. You can talk to them."
Rachel beamed at the thought of more friends. "I can't wait!"
Friday night the brunette slipped a jacket on before she went outside with her sheet. She waited by the fence until she heard voices and she grinned.
"Why can't we stay inside?" one voice whined. "Britt, don't you want to stay inside?"
"I don't know."
Finally, a familiar voice.
There was an audible gasp that wasn't Quinn's.
"You talk to the freak?" the voice Rachel had first heard echoed loudly. "Why would you talk to her?"
"Shut up, Santana! Rachel's nice!"
"My brother said she's a freak and they only let her out at night 'cause she's deformed or something."
"I can't go out because…"
"My cousin said he saw her once," the other voice, Brittany, said. Rachel waited for the follow-up but there wasn't one, just silence.
Rachel sniffled but this time, it wasn't because of a nosebleed.
"Come on, Britt, we're going back inside."
"I'm sorry, Rachel. I'll come back tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay," Rachel whimpered.
For the first time in her young life, Rachel almost didn't want to go outside the next night. But she could and she knew she needed to soak up what little outside time she had left before it got too cold for her to handle. She spread out her sheet on the grass and waited quietly until she heard the soft voice she'd grown to love so, so much.
"I'm sorry about yesterday."
"I'm not a freak, am I?"
"No. Santana's just mean."
"Are you still friends with her?"
Quinn sighed. "My mom said I should be because they go to our church. But…I still want to be your friend."
Rachel smiled a little at this. "I want to be your friend, too. You're…you're the only friend I've ever had."
"I won't bring them back, I promise."
Rachel heard her Daddy call at her that it was time to come inside.
"I'm really glad you moved here."
"Me too, Rachel."
The brunette crawled into bed that night, uncharacteristically solemn. Her Daddy took notice and rubbed her back as he sang to her.
"Is everything okay, sweetie?" he asked after he finished "Butterfly Kisses".
"Daddy…am I a freak?" Rachel's voice cracked on the last word and her Daddy gasped.
"You most certainly are not, baby girl. Did that Quinn girl say that to you?"
Rachel shook her head. "It was another girl she brought over."
"You're not a freak, baby. You're special, okay? Never let anyone tell you any different."
In just a few short weeks, Rachel's dads deemed it too cold for her to be outside anymore. She wrote a note and politely asked them to stick it in the fence. Her Daddy came back and told her that Quinn said she'd be waiting for summer.