Written for the prompt "MARRIED Quinn and Artie picking out their first pet together" by DryadSpeaks. I just got back from an awesome retreat and I'm in a super pumped mood, so I uploaded this for you to enjoy.
Quinn held one hand over her crinkling nose. There was a pungent odor in the air; it attacked her sinuses forcibly, working its way up her nostrils in a disgustingly putrid journey. There was one downside to pet shopping.
It seemed Artie, shown by his awed grin and lowered hands, didn't detect the scent of cat litter and puppy breath, or was ignoring it better than she. It was expected he'd find the pet shop visit more enjoyable than his wife, since he'd been the one to drag her here. Similar to the couple's differing opinions on children, Artie was eager for furry companionship while Quinn was not. However, Quinn's four-month-old baby bump proof enough, her opinion had changed after some expert wheedling. At first her husband had thought asking for a pet along with a child would be pushing it, but Quinn had relented.
She coughed as they neared a cage of rabbits nuzzling each other. "I hope they don't smell this bad all the time. Do they have non-smelly animals here?"
"Yeah, they're called humans." Artie replied, but his nose scrunched in a manner like Quinn's as one employee staggered past, his tawdry nylon vest ravaged with stains. "Never mind."
Quinn giggled, but it didn't last long as she backed into a glass wall, causing it to tremble. She turned round, and nearly toppled over Artie as she flung herself into his lap. Staring back at her from the plate-glass was a scaly serpent, oilspot eyes scrutinizing her from above a forked tongue slithering in and out of its mouth.
"Ah, cool, a snake." Artie said calmly, though holding one hand on Quinn's knee and the other on the small of her back as if the glass wasn't there to shield them. Quinn fixed one strand of hair that had flown astray in the excitement.
"'Ah, cool, a snake!'" she responded in a mocking tone, determinedly not returning the snake's black stare. "We are so not getting one of those."
"Oh, come on, baby." Artie said, grinning amusedly at his wife's terror.
"No." Then she scoffed. "And don't call me baby." Artie shrugged.
"'K," he replied, "dude." Quinn shot him her signature I-am-not-Puck look (a look she hadn't expected to give more than once, or really ever). "Look, how 'bout we just ask a worker to help us? They could help us get a dog"—Quinn sighed; Artie had refused to buy a cat after expressing his cousin's newfound allergy, despite Quinn saying they just wouldn't ever invite her over—"that would be good with kids, and our personalities."
"I still want a kitten." she mumbled, but Artie seemed not to hear her.
They scoured the small shop for a free employee to consult; many of them were cashiers, others caring for the animals, and there was no chance in hell they'd ask for assistance from that one worker with the incomprehensible stains on his uniform. Eventually they found a young girl, no older than fourteen (their town's small businesses tended to ignore child labor laws), who perkily bounded over to them. Thankfully she didn't smell.
"Hello, and welcome to Paw Pals Pet Shop, where we work to help you find your perfect puppy, kitty, reptile, and/or large rodent. We have a sale today on grubs—thirty-percent off—for your amphibians or birds if you're inter—"
"Yeah, er, no." Quinn said, not quite in the mood for sale scripts being read off memory by a girl half her age. The girl's teeth moved like a typewriter as she pounded words into their brains at twice—no, thrice—the speed of light. She clamped her lips together firmly then, a light pink hue washing over her face. She was not an ugly girl, Quinn noticed; just rather dowdy as a hazel-eyed, light brown-haired, bespectacled teen. She most definitely hadn't accomplished making the cheer squad at her school, that was certain—Quinn tried not to smile at the thought of Sue Sylvester accepting such an awkward girl for her team of short-skirted champions.
Quinn cleared her throat, all memories of her bullheaded coach dispersing. "Um, we're looking for a specific pet—"
"Yes," Artie cut in, "one that would get along well with children and fit in a relatively large apartment. Oh, and no cats." He shot Quinn his own look, and she rolled her eyes.
"Well, okey-doke." the girl said, smiling one exceptionally pert smile, "I'm Lisbeth, by the way. Come!" She enthusiastically waved them to go with her like a child beckoning its parents to see a discovery in the backyard. Artie smiled as Quinn removed herself from his lap to walk alongside him.
"Very…chipper." he said. She shrugged.
"Could be worse." she responded
They caught up with "Lisbeth" soon after; she gave them a glorious tour of the cages, introducing all of the puppies. Quinn had never said "ooh" and "aww" so often in her life. Their bristly fur coats flattened whenever they passed by, and they licked their wet black noses happily as Lisbeth's fingers went into the cage to scratch their heads. A lot were snuggled against the corner dozing, and a lot were jumping up and down, barking or howling. However, with each and every puppy that poked its nose between the metal bars of its cage, Quinn started to feel more doubtful. Cute—well, yes, they were all cute. You couldn't find a non-cute puppy dog…but none of these were able to produce a…a click, if you will. A click—that instant knowing that it was the one. You could feel it with people too. It took awhile for Artie and Quinn to see it in each other (it took a few other boyfriends and girlfriends to see) but once a chance was taken, that click sounded in their minds, and they knew. But none of these puppies had the click.
"Well then!" Lisbeth cried after showing them their wide collection of dogs, "Any fit your fancy?" Quinn bit down on her lip, looking to Artie. It was obvious he too hadn't felt a click. Lisbeth's smile faltered. "Um…well?"
"My apologies, er, Lisbeth," Artie said, running one hand over his head, "but we just don't feel anything…for the puppies." Lisbeth's brow scrunched momentarily before she nodded.
"Oh," she said, "I understand. I suppose." She smiled again. "If there's anything else I can—oh my gosh!" Artie wheeled backwards as Lisbeth pointed at something on the ground. Quinn also let out a girlish shriek, jumping with Lisbeth behind Artie's back and shakily pointing at the monstrosity crawling rampant on the ground. Artie expected some sort of constrictor snake to slither up to his knees, calculating evil in two beady black eyes as it sized him up, preparing to strike—
Instead, something furry with eight legs and eyes waddled up to his tennis shoe, pincers clacking in a babyish manner. Artie smiled; the fuzzy brown being was just a harmless tarantula accidentally separated from its plate-glass cage. It peered up at him with its eight eyes, some large and some small, but all giving him a helpless look that simply pleaded for some guidance as it was lost suddenly in this colorful world with shelves stacked with huge objects it had never before imagined.
"Oh, man!" Quinn squealed, her nails digging deep into Artie's shoulder, her teeth dug so hard into her lip squirts of blood dripped off her chin. "It's…oh, it's ugly…monstrous…ugh, it's disgusting!" Artie continued to smile, and leaned down to scoop the creature up. It shifted, its legs tickling his palms, but its eyes never wavered from his, still showing that hopeless, unspoken plea.
Two young boys waddled over to them then, looking jittery as they spied the treasure Artie had found, and they hung their heads in shame under the hazel-colored glare of Lisbeth, who had stepped triumphantly from behind Artie's chair after he scooped up the tarantula. Her hands were grasping her hips; her left shoe tapped the ground in irritation.
"What," she snapped, "in blue blazes is this? How do you misplace a spider? I'm here, working with customers, and a spider just crawls on up! This could screw up business if animals get out! Jim, Murray, I demand you—"
"We'll take it." The words silenced the girl; Murray and Jim, the boys, rose their heads; and Quinn gasped in shock. Artie looked back at them all, blue eyes calm and serene as he stroked the little needles of stiff fur on the spider's back.
"Take…take what, hon?" Quinn commanded. "Take…that?" Artie nodded, reaching out to take Quinn's hand. He found the tired despondency in the spider's eyes too depressing to refuse—who else would come around and desire a pet spider other than a five-year-old boy whose parents wouldn't allow it anyway? Besides, none of the puppies sparked anything, and no kittens were allowed if he liked his cousin Mara at all. This spider needed a home and, who knew, it could be the perfect fit.
Quinn tentatively let her husband's fingers curl around hers, and drag them over the creature's exterior. She cringed in disgust—perhaps dating Artie helped her rather nerdy side come out, but when it came to creepy crawlies there was no wavering. However, the fur was strangely…soft. Prickly in some areas, yes, but overall it was about as smooth as a beagle's; and those eyes, goodness, they were heartbreaking. They stared up at her, begging her to love it, the prickly-skinned, eight-limbed arachnid. As Quinn thought more about it, she realized a dog might've been too wild or big for their apartment anyway—a tarantula like this was perfect size, and it wasn't as off-putting a critter as beforehand now that she had touched it like this. Artie's eyes never left hers, and as she locked their gazes, they both had made a mutual decision.
In a matter of minutes Quinn had a plastic bag with water and dead grubs packaged inside while Artie rode into the parking lot, the cage on his lap thumping along with a tiny spider inside. Quinn bent down to say "You owe me" in Artie's ear, and he knew that he did but he just laughed. Along with him, Quinn laughed, fingertips tenderly rubbing her stomach, and in the back of their minds as their stares flickered to their pet, they knew by the shiny eight pupils of the spider that it had been smiling too.