A/N: Hey guys. So, I wrote this originally as a oneshot for a prompt. But then once it was written, I thought it might be interesting to explore this further. Falling in love with a woman who has no concept of social etiquette or how the world works, who you can't even converse with seems like an interesting story. So I kept the first half of the prompt and changed the second half and embellished. More to follow. I hope you like it.
Based on fiercezucchini's lion!Quinn.
Rachel is halfway through a Portobello burger at her desk when she gets the email from her editor, Jerry. It just says: Delta 1131 out of LaGuardia. Tomorrow, 2:49pm to Nairobi. Subject: Lion prides. Better fucking be good, Rachel.
She packs in an hour and spends the rest of her time researching: Nairobi, Sub-Saharan Africa, habits of lion prides.
The flight is a full day, and at some point, she has to tuck everything away and pretend to relax. She never has been able to sleep on airplanes, and by the time they touch down in Nairobi, all she wants is a hot bath and to sleep for at least a day.
The Jeep takes her into the Sahara, and her guide Adan is giving instructions. These are not tame lions. They are unpredictable. They are primal. Rachel has heard this before, she's been in nature all her life, so she's really not worried. She can handle anything nature can throw at her.
The first day goes by without incident. Adan doesn't have to tell her that they might have a hell of a wait before she gets any pictures—lions can sleep up to twenty hours a day. She perches on the rollbar of the Jeep and tucks her camera into her neck to wait.
It's hot, and her tank is soaked with sweat by the time she gets any shots of the lions. She finally just tells Adan to take her back to the hotel.
Day two is almost completely done when she sees—something moving in the tree. The sun is sinking, and Rachel can't even be sure, but—"Hey Adan, do you see..." she starts to ask, but he's clearly seen something, and now he's shouting to the driver in a language Rachel can't even identify, let alone understand. Rachel squints against the sun, and finally brings the telephoto lens up, and focuses. A hand flies to her mouth.
It's—it's a woman.
There is a woman crouched on the lowest branch, and she's looking right at them.
"Oh my god..." In nearly ten years of field experience, Rachel has never... "Oh my god. Adan, we can't just leave her out here!"
When she swings herself over the side of the Jeep and lands in the dust with a thud, Adan tries to pull her back in. "Let me go to her," she says softly, and he does.
She moves very slowly, approaching the pride. A few lions lift lazy heads and yawn at her, but most of them ignore her completely. The woman in the tree watches her intently.
"Hello," she says as gently as she can. She's close enough that she can see the whiteness in the woman's knuckles, can hear fingernails scratching against bark. "I'm Rachel." She's left her camera in the Jeep and fuck she could kick herself now because this is the stuff International Photography Awards are made of.
In the end, the woman scampers back into the shadows, and Rachel has no choice but to leave her for the evening.
It takes Rachel the whole week to build enough trust to get the woman to climb down from her tree, and when she finally does, Rachel gasps. Even with matted, filthy hair and mud streaked across her face, she's gorgeous.
She holds up her hand in greeting, and when the woman just tilts her head, she drops it again. Rachel has watched this woman run and wrestle and sleep with a pride of lions, and now that she's standing in front of her, close enough to touch... Rachel feels completely lost.
What she does next, she doesn't think about. She reaches out a tentative hand—so slowly, there is no threat here—and grazes her fingers lightly up a smudged arm. Rachel's eye flick to that beautiful face, and—my god, is she purring? Rachel smiles softly, never takes her fingers off of skin, all the way up, up to that perfect face, and cups it gently. The purring revs, and Rachel knows for sure.
She rubs her thumb lightly across a surprisingly soft cheek and feels that face press into her hand more fully. She shouldn't be surprised when a tentative tongue peeks out and licks Rachel on her cheek, just to the side of her nose. She's seen lions do it plenty of times.
This woman stinks. She's covered in filth, her breath is foul. And yet Rachel is so drawn to her that she leans in further, accepts the advance, and nuzzles into the wild woman's neck. She's not stupid. She can recognize this for what it is. But she's not sure she can explain why she's just let herself be claimed by a lion woman.
She calls Jerry to ask for an extension, which she's lucky to get because she can't really say why she needs it. The only thing she can come up with is, "I've been presented with a fortuitous opportunity, and it would be foolish of me not to take it."
He isn't happy about it—his exact words are, "Time is money, Rachel," but in the end he just says, "this better be fucking brilliant stuff," and grants her another week.
It takes another four days of nuzzling and face licking to get the wild woman into Adan's Jeep, and when she finally does, it's by carrying the woman on her back, while she paws at Rachel's hair like she's looking for lice to eat. Rachel hasn't left her camera in the Jeep once since that first day in the tree, and by now she has thousands of shots of this weather-hardened thing that falls somewhere in the middle of the line between human and animal.
The Jeep ride is a disaster. When Adan's driver starts it up, the lion woman stands straight up and actually roars. Rachel has never heard anything like it. It's powerful and primal and... strangely arousing. Her arms are around the woman in a second, and when the Jeep starts moving, Rachel flexes and barely prevents her from jumping off the side.
She thunders and roars in Rachel's arms, splitting Rachel's lip and knocking the wind out of her. She manages to subdue the woman before they get to the city, and by then her pride is swelling right along with her lip. After all, it's not every day she's gotten to wrestle a lion with her bare hands.
Rachel assumes that a bath at the hotel will be out of the question, but when she takes her clothes off, there's a fascination boring into her from intense green eyes, and when she sinks into the water, she's not alone for long.
The woman lets Rachel wash her, all over, and she tries to be as clinical as possible, but it needs to be done, and when she gets to certain private areas, the lion woman tenses, rolls, and there's a very definite growl in Rachel's ear. Before Rachel knows what's happening, the water is sloshing, and she's being pinned in her own hotel bathtub.
And then, there's licking and hands and rubbing and oh!
When the bath is over (Rachel had to refill the tub with hot water three times), she helps this new (whatever she is, subject? Project? Force in her life?) out of the tub and she barely has time to reach for a towel before there's a dripping, naked woman running through her hotel room, roaring and shaking out her wet hair all over.
Rachel has no choice but to dart from the bathroom and catch her by the waist as she streaks by, twirling her back into Rachel's body, where slick flesh slaps against slick flesh. Dark hazel eyes are so tuned into Rachel that she shivers, and when she brings a hand up to a mudless, beautiful face, there is nuzzling and purring and grinning, that last one on Rachel's part.
She's finally asleep. Rachel remembers her training and is thankful that lions sleep for twenty hours a day. She still sits gently on the edge of the bed and runs a hand through thick blonde hair with one hand while she uploads photos to her laptop with the other.
By the time she's done, she has decided that she's going to name the lion woman 'Quinn.' She has no idea why, but she can't wait to teach it to her.
Before Quinn wakes up next, Rachel has already received a text from Jerry that just says: "I think I came," and she smirks. If she doesn't win an IPA for this, she never will.
When Quinn does wake up, Rachel takes her downstairs to eat. She turns up her nose at absolutely everything set out for breakfast, and when Rachel tries to feed her anyway, with an actual fork, Quinn literally snarls, and Rachel drops her fork to the table where it clatters against the plate. The noise clearly startles Quinn and she stands up so fast, she sends her chair tipping backward, but Rachel is on her feet as well, trying to catch Quinn by the arm.
Quinn snarls again and smacks at Rachel's hand. Her nails catch skin and tear and fuck if Rachel isn't gripping her wrist where blood is dripping down from three vertical marks. The worst part is, Quinn doesn't even know enough to be sorry, and even if she did, she wouldn't be able to tell her.
And now she's running out into the street before Rachel can stop her.
"Fuck!" She grabs a linen napkin, wraps it around her wrist, and dashes out the front door after Quinn.
Rachel runs a half a block, and thank god Adan has the Jeep and Quinn is running right for him. There is no way Rachel can keep up with her; she's fast.
Quinn takes one step wrong, and Adan sees Rachel's panic. Before Quinn can dart out into traffic, he's unloaded a tranq dart right in the top of her thigh. Her head flops back like it's on a rubber band and she buckles, goes down hard.
By the time Quinn wakes up this time, Rachel's photographs are all over the international news circuit. Absolutely everyone in the world is talking about the Lion Woman from Kenya. How did she get there? How did she survive? What is going to happen to her now that she's been rescued?
Quinn is a household name worldwide, just like that, and she's not even aware that there are people besides Rachel and Adan in the world.
Over the next few days, Rachel teaches Quinn a few words, including her own name, but the one Quinn seems to take a certain affinity to is "no." She's not sure that Quinn fully understands the meanings of any of the words she's learned or that she actually is this thing called "Quinn," but it's bound to sink in sooner or later, so Rachel continues with her lessons.
The cuts on her wrist heal over by the time Jerry calls her and says, "Time's up, Jane Goodall. Get your skinny ass back here and get the fuck back to work. I don't give a good goddamn who you found in the Serengeti."
Rachel is presented with a whole new set of problems regarding Quinn, and she vocalizes it out loud in her hotel room one night while Quinn is curled up and purring in the center of her blanket on the floor. She refused to sleep in the bed.
"How the hell am I going to get you on an airplane?"
She's not surprised that there is no response. After all, Quinn has no idea what an airplane even is, so how should she be expected to care about how to get on one?
The photographs she took are amazing. She looks at them sometimes, when Quinn is sleeping during her twenty hours. She and Quinn haven't done anything physical since that first night in the bathtub, and she wishes she could kiss her just once more.
She touches her laptop screen, follows the edge of Quinn's jaw with her thumb.
Sometimes, she wishes that these photographs had been just for her. Only ever just for her. But they're not.
They don't even belong to Quinn, not anymore. These photographs, and Quinn's privacy, are now the property of the whole world.