Just off the Key of Reason
Chapter 19: You Knew Me Better than I Knew Myself
It was May Day when Rachel's fathers were due to fly in to JFK. What May Day was, aside from the first day of May, Rachel didn't have any idea, but she liked to say it over and over again because it just rolled wonderfully off the tongue. And Quinn said it made her think of spring and rabbits. And chocolate eggs.
Rachel was currently swerving through traffic, trying to get to the airport arrival gates an hour late because she and Quinn had gotten distracted that morning. Quinn sat in the passenger seat, grasping the door handle and bracing against the dashboard, swatting Rachel's thigh every time she yelled "May Day!" out the window at some asshole driver.
They really needed to move. Fuck the law. Rachel Berry was never late.
Cornelius had his head out the backseat window, just egging her on to go faster. Yeah. Cornelius was in the fucking car. Quinn had been cuddling him and Pongo and Barnaby all morning because they kept her calm. Cornelius was just lucky to be the smallest and most portable, so he got to ride along.
He'd tried jumping out the window, but Quinn had rolled it up after overcoming her horror so that only his head would fit out.
"Rachel!" Quinn shrieked, as Rachel came to a heart-stopping halt centimeters away from rear-ending a taxi cab.
This was thrilling!
Quinn stared at the side of Rachel's head with wide eyes. Rachel figured she was probably having second thoughts about being her girlfriend right now. How had Quinn never seen her drive?
Rachel stared straight ahead, bouncing her knees restlessly. She got this. She wondered if her car would sound cool if she revved it, and then stopped that train of thought because Quinn would probably slap her or something.
God, yeah right.
Rachel turned to look at Quinn with an innocent smile.
"Do you want to drive on the way back, baby?"
Quinn's horror and fear for her life and exasperation faded into that sweet, shy expression Rachel loved.
"I can't drive." She mumbled, grip finally loosening on the door handle. Good. Now Rachel could be sure she wouldn't accidentally fling herself out as they barreled down the highway. At five miles an hour.
"You mean you don't have a license, or-"
"No, I don't know how. Nobody taught me."
Well. Rachel had a new goal. Pass on her wonderful driving skills to her girlfriend. It would be so much fun! She could-
"Hey, ass! May Day! Asshole!" Rachel yelled out her window when yet another cab cut her off. They were going fucking five miles an hour right now. It wouldn't get anybody anywhere faster. The driver flipped her the bird.
"Don't call them names." Quinn said quietly, frowning at the gesture, and untying the air freshener from Rachel's rearview mirror so that she could smell it. She scrunched up her nose at the strong, tropical scent and hurriedly put it back.
God. This girl. Rachel almost accelerated into the back of the cab she was so smitten. Rachel reached over and took Quinn's hand and kissed it with an apologetic smile.
"You're right, bear. Sorry."
Sure, the guy was an ass. But telling him that would only turn him into an assier ass when all Rachel wanted was to get to the damn airport.
Quinn smiled at her.
Rachel got distracted when she went on a passing spree, and missed the turn for the parking garage she needed. After doing three more loops of the goddamned huge airport and wasting about twenty minutes, she pulled in and found a space.
It would cost a fortune, but Rachel refused to do curbside pick-up. It seemed soulless. And less fun.
They made it. They were stationary. Quinn let out a huge breath and Rachel narrowed her eyes at her. Well, don't seem too relieved, woman. Cornelius stayed in the car since it was cool outside and the window was half open, and they'd probably be arrested if they brought him into the airport.
Or he'd end up on a flight to Timbuktu.
Because Rachel would put him on a flight to Timbuktu.
The airport was as crowded as ever, and Rachel pulled her Yankees cap down so the brim covered her face. She didn't want people to recognize her, but she also didn't want to come off as a sketchy airport creeper. It was a fine line.
Rachel searched hurriedly for an arrivals screen, and when she found it, it said her dads' flight had been delayed two hours and was still in the air.
Well, shit. Rachel Berry was on time. She smiled smugly and glanced at Quinn next to her.
Like, right next to her. There was no space between them. Quinn's eyes were darting around, and she was anxiously pulling the rubber band around her wrist. She closed her eyes and shook her head as Rachel watched.
Rachel immediately took Quinn's clammy, shaky hand and pulled her over to a quieter area near the wall. She grabbed Quinn's other hand and held them both still, waiting for Quinn to look in her eyes.
"Do we need to wait outside, Quinn? Or in the car?" Rachel asked quietly.
Quinn shook her head vigorously and blinked exaggeratedly. "No. I'm-we can-I'm okay."
Rachel just watched her. "Are you sure?"
"Can we explore?" Quinn blurted, and then shook her head around. Rachel reached up and patted the blonde hair back down.
"Like, explore the airport?" she asked with a raised eyebrow. She'd been to this airport too many times to count. She knew every inch of it. She fucking lived here sometimes. There was a security guy who drove a golf cart who'd given her an insane ride once when she'd been late for a flight.
She was pretty sure it was against the law, but he must've been starstruck by her talent, and she'd made the flight, because Rachel Berry was never late. Breaking the law always seemed to work out for her.
Quinn nodded slightly, stepping closer to Rachel as a surge of people brushed by. Quinn might shed new light on this airport. Turn it into a wonderland, instead of a place where Rachel spent excessive amounts of time searching for the right terminal or a bathroom or a place that sells coffee amidst mobs of strangers, fighting a deadline and trying to find her lost bags.
Rachel smiled and nodded, looping one of her arms with Quinn's, and allowing her girlfriend to cautiously lead the way. Quinn's hand was still quivering and a little clammy, but she looked around and seemed to decide where to go first.
And then led Rachel straight to a damn vending machine.
Rachel couldn't blame her. They hadn't eaten breakfast that morning because they were so crushed for time. And because Quinn had fed the last of their waffles to the dogs.
"You need to stop eating this junk, Quinn." Rachel remarked, even as she inserted a couple dollars in the machine, holding a fidgety Quinn by the hand.
"I'll have that one, please." Quinn requested, kissing Rachel on the cheek in thanks and pointing at D4.
A huge ass Mrs. Field's chocolate chip cookie. Rachel rolled her eyes.
"You can have half." Quinn offered, and then frowned, taking the wrapping off the cookie and stuffing about a quarter of it in her mouth. "Well, no, it's not vegan, but you can have…We can get you…What do you want?"
She looked at Rachel expectantly, wiping the crumbs from her mouth and leaving streaks of chocolate behind.
"I'll wait 'till we get home." Rachel said, pointing at her own cheek with a smile. Quinn got the chocolate off, but it made no difference when she stuffed over half the cookie in her mouth.
Rachel bit the inside of her cheek. God, what a slob.
Quinn bought Rachel some Starburst anyway, and then ate about half of them herself as they strolled around the airport. Or stealthily slithered along the walls of the airport avoiding the crowds. Quinn plopped down in a comfy chair away from the masses and pulled Rachel onto her lap, wrapping her arms around her stomach. Rachel put her hands over Quinn's and leaned back.
She could smell the Starburst on her girlfriend's breath.
Quinn's hands were shaky again, and Rachel pulled them closer to her stomach.
"You're okay, Quinn. They'll love you."
She felt Quinn nod against her shoulder.
"Do you wanna play the horse game?" Quinn asked quietly a few moments later.
Uh-oh. Rachel had never heard of this. And some of Quinn's games were…well, they were in an airport. And she didn't want to be arrested.
"What's the horse game?" she asked warily.
Quinn straightened underneath her and held Rachel's hands out in front of them. And then she started bouncing her legs up and down, making Rachel bounce around. Like a horse. Or an earthquake. Or-oh goodness.
Oh God. Quinn was smiling delightedly, completely oblivious, but Rachel was having some serious issues. With this position. And the movement. She reached down hurriedly and stilled Quinn's legs, and twisted around to face her.
"Maybe at home, honey."
When her dads were gone.
Because it was actually a fun game. So much fun.
"Did you know rabbits can jump higher than thirty-six inches?" Quinn asked as Rachel dragged her to stand by baggage claim because the flight should have landed by now. Quinn shifted nervously from foot to foot.
Rachel smiled up at her.
"They have really str-strong legs." Quinn stuttered.
Well. Time to get a rabbit and test this out. Except Rachel was bound to end up with some weirdo rabbit that could only jump an inch or two. She was wondering where to buy "super jump" rabbits when she heard her dads.
Yeah, she heard them. Fumbling around by the baggage carousel looking like super alert meerkats and speaking unbelievably loudly.
"Where are they, Hiram?"
"I don't-Are we going the right way?"
"Oh! Oh! Over there! She's gorgeous!"
Oh my God. Rachel was face-palming before she even saw her dads.
They had apparently already caught sight of Rachel and Quinn, because they were bulldozing their way through the crowd as politely as possible and waving like excited children. Rachel pulled away from Quinn to greet her fathers with a hug, and they both lifted her off the ground amidst unintelligible exclamations of glee.
When they put Rachel down, they turned to Quinn excitedly. Her daddy Leroy had an almost manic smile on his face. Hiram seemed to be restraining himself a little better. Rachel rushed to stand next to Quinn because she looked a little terrified.
Like she was being charged at by a rhinoceros.
"Dad, Daddy, this is Quinn. My girlfriend." Rachel leaned up and kissed Quinn on the cheek, smiling at the flush that appeared when her fathers awwed.
"Quinn, my dads. Leroy and Hiram."
Leroy surged forward immediately, and Quinn took an abrupt half-step back. Rachel put a calming hand on the small of her back.
"It's wonderful to finally meet you, Quinn. We've heard so much!" Leroy stated brightly, extending his hand. It looked like it was taking everything he had to not give Quinn a hug.
Quinn met his eyes carefully and gave him a small smile, shaking his hand. "You too, um, Mr. Berry." She said quietly, and then turned to Hiram. He was taller, and probably more intimidating, like an actual rhinoceros, but he smiled warmly down at her as she met his eyes.
"And, you…Mr. Berry." Quinn said.
"Oh no, Leroy and Hiram, please!" Leroy exclaimed entirely too loudly. Okay, calm down. We got the first names. All of New York did.
Quinn nodded. "Um, Hiram and Leroy, you raised such a beautiful daughter." She said seriously, eyes flitting between the men.
Rachel almost laughed, but Quinn had made the sound stick in her throat again. Her dads would eat this up.
"Would you like some-some Starburst?" Quinn asked with a small smile, pulling the packet out of her pocket and offering them hesitantly to Rachel's dads.
There were two red ones left. Quinn's favorite flavor.
God, did they have tears in their eyes? Rachel sure fucking did. They needed to pull themselves together. It was fruity, gummy candy, not gold. Rachel hugged Quinn around the waist proudly. Yeah, her girlfriend was sharing her candy. Her dads must be important people.
"Would the owner of a blue Audi sedan with license number UFR7G9 please report to the parking authority desk immediately. That's license number UFR7G9 to the parking authority desk immediately."
Rachel stopped smiling and looked up at the intercom.
Rachel finished heating up the vegan dip for her chips, which she'd accidentally done for six minutes instead of sixty seconds in her stupid damn microwave that she was not familiar with, and she took the whole platter of food out to the group in her living room. She had carrots, cucumber, ranch dip, salsa, Ruffles, and, of course, peanut butter cookies.
Always peanut butter cookies.
Quinn had even added chocolate chips to them for Rachel's dads.
Rachel set everything on the coffee table, and then plopped on the loveseat with her feet on Quinn's lap. Her fathers shared the couch with Puck, who was violently playing the Rock Band drums, trying to keep up with Santana and Brittany.
It wasn't that hard. Santana was "singing" through moans and screamo yells, trying to see if the game would recognize the pitches without the words. Apparently it was working.
And Brittany seemed to be under the impression that she was playing Dance Dance Revolution with Barnaby, her guitar long forgotten.
Cornelius had been locked in the bathroom after his escapades that morning. Rachel had been so sure he wouldn't be able to fit through the half-open car window…but, well, somebody had seen him leap out of it with their own eyes. And it's not like he was actually being punished. Quinn kept sneaking in every twenty minutes with treats and squeaky toys that everybody in the building could probably hear.
Rachel absently dunked a chip in her dip and bit into it, registered that it was lava hot, made a few unintelligible noises of alarm, and spat the whole mouthful back out into her hand.
"Aaarlllghghblagghh." There was spit running down the side of her mouth.
God, even Quinn grimaced. Quinn, who had a massive splotch of spray cheese in the middle of her shirt, from when she'd gotten a little too enthusiastic with the bottle and her Animal Crackers. Rachel composed herself and Quinn patted her feet sympathetically. And laughed.
"Quinn! How's Pongo settling in?" Hiram asked loudly, blocking his daughter out of his vision.
Quinn immediately slid off the couch and onto the floor by the coffee table, right next to where her polar bear was lying. His tail thumped at the mention of his name.
"He's a big softy." She said with a smile, leaning over and burying her face in his fur. Deep into his fur. She essentially vanished.
Rachel tried not to stare at her ass because her fathers were right there. She failed, and accepted their pointed amusement with nonchalance.
And Jesus Christ, Santana needed to shut up.
Quinn re-emerged from Pongo's fur and found the people who weren't taking Rock Band far too seriously staring at her.
"He likes-he likes Froot Loops." She said with a flush, climbing back onto the love seat and rubbing Pongo's back with her foot. She grabbed Rachel's feet and put them back in her lap.
"How old is he?" Leroy asked curiously. "He looks…Well, he's certainly not a puppy."
"Sixteen." Quinn said, her face falling a little bit.
Rachel nudged her in the ribs with her foot until Quinn looked at her. "And he's happy. And he has a wonderful life." Rachel said encouragingly.
A wonderful life where he gets fucking Froot Loops for breakfast, apparently.
"Fabray! Get the guitar!" Santana ordered suddenly, taking a break from her wordless singing. Or wailing. Like a cat. She was breathing quite heavily. Maybe she'd lose her voice soon. Rachel was hopeful.
Quinn looked hesitant.
"Come on Q, we're doing some Flaming Lips." Santana urged.
"Um." Quinn glanced at Rachel hesitantly. "I don't know what that means."
Rachel smiled at her and rubbed a foot along Quinn's thigh.
"It's a band, Q. But don't worry, Mr. H got this. You can have the next one." Puck handed the guitar to an eager Hiram, who seemed far too familiar with it for his age. Quinn watched his actions with it carefully. She'd be a pro by the end of the day.
"Rachel!" Brittany exclaimed suddenly, having given up on dancing, and now playing with Jelly and one of her own shoelaces instead.
Santana had started up her singing again. Rachel was ready to throw Quinn's PS3 off the balcony. No, actually, she was ready to throw Santana off the balcony.
Rachel raised her eyebrows at Brittany and allowed Barnaby to jump up on her lap.
"Are you going to Quinn's open house?" Brittany asked, chasing Jelly around. Jelly was probably terrified right now. Rachel silently urged her kitten to run into the bathroom and hide. Not the one with Cornelius. He'd convert her to his demon ways.
And then Rachel realized what Brittany said, and she looked at Quinn questioningly. Her dad asked the question forming in her mind.
"Is that for the animal rescue? An open house?"
Quinn was looking at Rachel, but dropped her eyes down to Rachel's feet, where her hands started tapping, and nodded. "Yeah."
Brittany plowed right along. "Yeah, she said they have all kinds of animals. Like ducks. So I'm going too."
Rachel stared at Quinn, who stared at Rachel's feet. Her dads took one look at Rachel's face and started stuffing mini carrots in their mouths and pretending they were bunnies with big teeth. Good Lord.
Rachel pulled her feet out of Quinn's lap and sat cross-legged facing her. "Hey." She said quietly.
Really, Rachel's feet were not that interesting. Nobody's feet were. Unless they were, like, webbed or had extra toes or something.
"Bear." Rachel said. Quinn shifted her gaze and looked at Rachel's lips instead. Rachel looked at her for a moment, and then stood up and grabbed Quinn's hand, gently pulling her off the couch and into the hallway to their bedroom.
"We'll be right back." Rachel called to her dads, doubting they could hear her over Santana's racket.
Rachel loved sleeping in Quinn's room. Her bed was like a marshmallow. And all her books and trinkets and games made Rachel feel like she was sleeping in a fairy tale. With a puppy night light that Cornelius liked to pull off the wall.
"You didn't tell me you have an open house." Rachel said gently, shutting the door softly and turning to face her girlfriend.
Quinn was running her fingers along her palms rapidly. She swallowed but didn't respond. She was still fixed on Rachel's feet.
"Bear, look at me. Think in pictures, remember?"
Rachel smiled softly when nervous hazel eyes met her own.
"The-the rescue's having an open house." Quinn said quietly.
Well, yeah. Rachel got that part. She waited patiently for Quinn to continue, and tapped her on the cheek with a raised eyebrow when she didn't.
Quinn sighed. "They want-they want me to give a speech."
Rachel's eyes widened and her mouth dropped open ready to grin. Speeches could only be good things in Rachel Berry's world. Mostly because they involved accepting awards or stellar performances.
"Barry says I'm the-the best with the animals, and I'll-I don't-they want-"
"Bear." Rachel placed a steadying hand on Quinn's shoulder, and Quinn took a breath and blinked.
"They think people will-will see how much I care about the animals if I give the speech and they said I've been doing really well, and I'm…If I told you, then you'd want to-to come, and you'll see how I'm gonna… I'm not good with lots of eyes on me, or public speaking, and then people will be mean, and-"
"Quinn." Rachel said softly, stepping closer and gazing into frantic hazel eyes. She would've gone straight for the hug, but the spray cheese on Quinn's shirt didn't look too appetizing.
"What if you could help one dog?" Rachel asked, stilling Quinn's fidgety hands. Quinn looked confused. And sad. Rachel kept her gaze.
"What if, by standing up and saying a few words about these animals you love, you could help one dog? Save one animal? Like Pongo."
Quinn just watched Rachel.
"You can do that. People will listen to you like I did." Rachel leaned in until she was inches from Quinn's face. "Quinn, when you moved in, I had Barnaby, and that's it."
Quinn nodded, listening carefully.
"Now I have a bear, a demon, and an orange Jelly Bean as well. Do you think I would've gotten them by myself?"
Rachel smiled at Quinn's expression. It seemed to be dawning on her that, no, Rachel wouldn't have gotten any of those fucking animals if Quinn hadn't persuaded her.
"You can help these animals, bear. You make them impossible to say no to, and I'll help you , okay? I'll help you with your speech, and give you some tips, because I'm a star and all." Rachel winked. "And you can talk to Tom if you need to, and…You'll be okay. You're okay. And we can save some puppies!"
Quinn flushed and smiled. "Yeah. I can do it."
Rachel chuckled. "Yeah, you can." She pulled Quinn into a hug. A quick hug, because she caught a whiff of Easy Cheese and almost vomited down Quinn's back. Rachel took the liberty of pulling Quinn's shirt off herself, and replacing it with a new one, being as "accidentally" handsy as possible and turning Quinn into a giggling strawberry.
"All good?" Hiram asked as Rachel and Quinn sat back on the loveseat, eyeing Quinn's new shirt and red cheeks, and raising his eyebrows.
"We had a good talk." Rachel said, registering that it was actually quiet. It was quiet. Santana had stopped her experimental wailing and was smirking in Rachel's direction. Rachel rolled her eyes.
"Would you like some chocolate milk, Leroy? Or Hiram? Or some…uh, beer?" Quinn asked nicely. Rachel noted that Quinn's ears were still crimson and smiled to herself.
"Oh, darling, yes, chocolate milk please!" Leroy replied. Hiram nodded as well, and Quinn vanished into the kitchen with Barnaby at her heels. Rachel would probably find chocolate milk in his water bowl later.
It was better than the Juicy Juice she'd found that one time.
"Is she alright?" Hiram asked concernedly.
Santana snorted. "Girl just had herself a nooner. Of course she's alright."
Santana's eyes widened comically quickly as she seemingly remembered she was speaking to Rachel's father, and she sputtered out a "sorry" before turning quickly back to goddamned Rock Band.
Quinn probably didn't even know what a nooner was. Rachel shook her head and smiled reassuringly at her dads. "She's fine."
Leroy grinned at her and leaned halfway across the coffee table. "She's a sweetheart, Rach. Does she take care of you? Because if she does, we approve." He whispered, as if they didn't already.
But God, they'd been home three hours and were already offering approval. That had to be a record. Of course they'd really known Quinn for three months. Rachel could talk a lot in three months. A lot.
Rachel pictured Quinn happily piggybacking her for the last half of the dog run, and giving her coloring books when she was sick, and cookies just for fun. She smiled off into space.
"She definitely takes care of me."
"God, you're disgusting." Santana stated, throwing a carrot in her vague direction and selecting a song to "sing" to.
"I think it's sweet." Brittany commented. Jelly was nowhere to be seen. Rachel hoped she'd escaped.
"I think it's hot." Puck spun the drumsticks around, dropping one when he caught Hiram's eye. Rachel needed to teach her friends some self-control. Well, no, that would go horribly, seeing as Rachel barely had any. Somebody else needed to teach Rachel and her friends self-control.
They were interrupted by a banging on the door, and Rachel got up to answer it as Quinn sat back down with glasses of milk. Rachel's eyes widened when she saw the building's security officer on the other side, and she rushed back into the living room.
"Okay, everybody calm down!" she said loudly. "Pretend to be normal!"
Her fathers had carrot teeth in their mouth again, Santana was wailing into the microphone, Puck was about to break the drum set in half, and Barnaby was on Quinn's lap being fed yellow gummy bears.
Fuck. Fuck. See, this is what you get when you break the law, Rachel. It was bound to happen eventually. Were they coming after her for speeding? Oh God. She was going to jail.
Rachel gathered herself and opened the front door, trying to look overly nonchalant and accidentally flipping on the foyer light switch.
"Hello, Ms. Berry. We've gotten a couple noise complaints, so I'd just like to ask you to try to keep it down. If you get another one, you have to pay a fine."
The wailing in the background stopped immediately. Or Rachel finally went deaf.
Rachel was surprised this hadn't happened when she was teaching Barnaby how to sing. Or blasting music and playing on her yoga balls. Or every single day when she sang just for fun. In the shower. While she was cooking. While she was cleaning. When she sang to Quinn to educate her on Broadway classics.
There were just so many opportunities. And, wow, Rachel did have neighbors. Unfortunately, this didn't mean they weren't serial killers.
"Of course, sir. We'll keep it down." Rachel said politely, letting out a deep breath and shutting the door.
The living room was eerily quiet when she sat back down. Rachel wondered how much her neighbors could hear, and how much they just ignored. Maybe Santana's wordless wailing had just driven them over the edge.
Quinn pressed a gummy bear to Rachel's lips, and Rachel smiled and opened her mouth, and then tilted her head up and kissed Quinn on the mouth. Her dads awwed again, and choked on their carrots.
"You know, Quinn, the first conversation we had was about Barnaby." Rachel said quietly into Quinn's ear, making sure her friends were distracted with pressing their ears up against the wall to see if they could hear the neighbors.
They wouldn't be able to. They were like ninja serial killers, if they existed at all.
"I think you should talk about that. How animals open up new worlds, provide outlets, you know…Bring people together." Rachel leaned her head on Quinn's shoulder. She didn't really know what she was saying, but…It seemed to fit Quinn. Whatever was coming out of her mouth. Animals. Worlds. Her fathers watched them with small smiles.
"And you can talk about how we got Pongo and Cornelius and Jelly."
Quinn pressed a gummy bear to Rachel's mouth, but Rachel was still talking and wouldn't let it in.
"And about what your plans for the future are."
Quinn smiled and pressed more forcefully. Rachel batted her hand away.
"And we can-"
"Little bear, eat my gummy bear." Quinn said plainly, smiling triumphantly when she was able to put it in Rachel's open mouth. Rachel rolled her eyes and stopped talking. She checked the bag Quinn was pulling the candy out of and smiled.
Yep. Half yellow, which were being fed to Barnaby, and half blue.
Which was Rachel's favorite flavor, and which would be fed to her for the rest of the night.