Part Four: Begin the Dream Again
Her wedding is nothing like what she had planned when she was a little girl. For one thing, she'd always pictured a huge church wedding as opposed to a more intimate (if you can call one hundred and fifty-two guests intimate) ceremony in Central Park. She'd expected it to be performed by her pastor, not a non-denominational minister and a rabbi. Her daddy was supposed to give her away, not the man that she will be lucky enough to call her father-in-law. Most notably, however, she had always pictured herself marrying a tall, handsome, soft-spoken man, not a short, gorgeous woman with a huge voice.
Quinn Fabray couldn't be happier that her plans have gone so completely awry.
Of course, she hasn't always been able to say that—definitely not when she was sixteen and pregnant, losing the security of her home and the love of her father. Not at seventeen, losing prom queen to Kurt Hummel and getting dumped by her boyfriend at a funeral. Or at eighteen, losing her mind before getting her life back on track, only to end up in a car accident for her trouble. And not even at nineteen, losing all of her pretenses and finally accepting that she was in unrequited love with her (mostly) straight, more-than-kind-of friend.
Falling in love with Rachel Berry was most definitely not part of her plan, but Quinn can't imagine her life having turned out any other way.
They've been together romantically for almost exactly four years. Their very first kiss was in June, right here in Central Park on a bench at the Alice In Wonderland statue. It's Quinn's favorite spot in the park, made more so by the memory of that perfect moment. Rachel had been adorably nervous, rambling about attending her first Tony Awards later in the month and fretting that she didn't have a date, but she hadn't wanted anyone else to go with her because Quinn was her person. At first, Quinn had thought that Rachel was merely asking her to the award ceremony, but really, she'd been asking so much more. Quinn will never forget that kiss—soft and hesitant under the warm, afternoon sun on a day very much like today.
It's a perfect day to get married. The summer is still young enough that even New York City hasn't yet managed to bog it down with stifling humidity, hanging thick between the unforgiving insulation of endless concrete. A cooling breeze is circling through the park and making gentle ripples on the lake, and the beauty of this day can't be tainted—not even by the forty-five minutes that she spent stuck in traffic with Santana.
If anything, that little bump in the road makes today all the more special to her. What has her relationship with Rachel been if not filled with unexpected detours? It's the journey that's bound them together after all. Every stumble and misstep along the way had her colliding head on with Rachel until both of their paths had been altered and they were walking the same one together, side by side and hand in hand.
She glances down at her left hand as she stands in front of the doors to the Lake Room. The diamond engagement ring winks up at her, and she remembers the joy that she felt when Rachel had slid it onto her finger. She feels giddy now, knowing that in a few minutes, a wedding ring will be joining it—joining her with Rachel permanently and officially. She makes a silent vow to never take that ring off once it's in place. Her fingers tremble a little as she works the diamond down over her knuckle and carefully transfers it onto her right hand for safekeeping until she can return it back to its rightful position next to its mate.
Quinn's stomach flutters with excitement when Hiram takes her hand to lead her down the aisle. He smiles down at her and asks, "Are you ready?"
"Since I was seventeen," she tells him honestly. She might have taken a few years to fully accept her feelings for Rachel, but she can't ever deny when they began. Somewhere between a slap in a bathroom at Junior Prom and a hug in that same bathroom senior year, Quinn had fallen irrevocably in love with Rachel Berry.
The moment that she and Hiram step through the double doors, everything but Rachel fades away. Quinn's breath catches to the point where she actually has to remind herself to inhale and exhale because she's never seen anything as beautiful as Rachel Berry dressed in white and waiting for her with eyes full of love and devotion. Part of her wants to run down the aisle to meet her bride, but she forces herself to focus on the slow, measured steps that she'd practiced and prays that she doesn't trip and make a fool of herself.
The sunlight is streaming in through the ceiling to floor windows, illuminating Rachel from behind. She looks like some kind of ethereal woodland fairy, standing beneath a canopy that's overflowing with white gardenias and wrapped in green ribbons. Quinn's smile widens as she considers the imagery, because Rachel really is her very own Tinker Bell and her love makes Quinn believe that she can fly.
As she steps under the chuppah, Quinn gazes at Rachel and sees the amazing, talented woman that she loves with all of her heart, but she can also still see that fifteen-year old girl that had so endearingly held out her hand to Quinn in friendship on her very first day at William McKinley High School. Quinn had refused that hand—too many times—but today she takes it eagerly, tangling their fingers together with a wide smile when Hiram places her hand into Rachel's.
There was a time in her life when Quinn believed that she'd never have this—that she didn't even deserve it—not love and certainly not Rachel. She's not a fool. She knows how lucky she is to have been given this gift, in so many ways.
That Rachel Berry loves her.
That she's standing here about to marry her best friend and the love of her life.
That she's standing at all.
That she's alive.
That she was late for another wedding, once upon a time.
And that Rachel always, always waits for her...
The moment of impact wasn't memorable, mostly because Quinn was completely unaware when it happened. She didn't remember the truck, or the stop sign. She remembered driving, eyes still gritty and red from the unexpected and inexplicable tears that she'd cried as she'd changed into that awful, pink bridesmaid's dress. She remembered feeling tense and on edge as her foot pressed into the gas pedal. And she remembered the incessant buzzing of her phone and instinctively knowing that it was Rachel, even as she reached for it.
She'd woken up with a head full of fuzz and a persistent, throbbing ache across most of her body. Prying her eyes open had been a battle that she'd nearly lost, and it was only the intense, twisting fear that clawed at her belly and lungs that forced her to keep fighting the darkness. She was confused and disoriented, and her heart rate spiked into a panicked gallop, echoing in her ears with an electronic ping. She'd felt something tighten around her right hand, like a vice, and heard the whisper of her name.
When her eyes finally cracked opened, the world revealed to her was blurry and painfully white, and Quinn was terrified. She tried to turn her head, but she couldn't manage the motion, and the attempt caused her throat to constrict until she felt as if she was being strangled. Tears spilled down over her temples, and she tried to call out for help, but the only sound that came out was a wheezy cough that burned her lungs and sent a lance of pain into her left side.
"Quinnie, honey, it's okay. You're okay, sweetie." She recognized her mother's quivering voice, and flexed her right hand, feelingt the responding pressure of Judy Fabray's familiar touch. Quinn began to calm. Her eyelids fluttered, and she sucked in a painful breath as she tried to focus on the hazy halo of blonde hair hovering over her. "I'm so happy to see those beautiful eyes again," Judy whispered with a tremulous smile.
"M-mom," Quinn rasped, feeling the single word claw at her throat. "Hurts."
Judy pressed trembling fingers to her lips and nodded. "I...I know, sweetie, but you're going to be okay. The doctors are taking really good care of you."
"You...you were in a car accident, honey. Do you remember?"
Quinn closed her eyes and tried to call up the memory, but it just wasn't there. "N-no," she managed to croak and then tried to swallow, but it felt like there was sand in her mouth. "Water?"
Her mother quietly gasped and fumbled at Quinn's bedside until she came back with a glass and gently placed the straw between Quinn's lips. Quinn greedily sucked down three gulps before she let the straw fall away. She swallowed again, relieved that the action was a little easier.
"I'm going to call the nurse," her mother told her, and Quinn's eyes drifted closed again. Her awareness was spotty, but she managed to process words like accident, doctors, and nurse well enough to draw the natural conclusion that she was in the hospital. She didn't have the mental capability or the energy to think beyond that point.
Minutes bled into each other while nurses and doctors appeared and disappeared between the still revolving door of her consciousness. Snapshots of images appeared in flashes—a bright light shining in her eyes, the ripping of Velcro, warm fingers probing her neck, the icy press of metal against her chest, a dim tickle on her right foot, and a voice asking her to wiggle her toes. She tried to comply, but her legs felt heavy and useless.
"Good. That's very good, Quinn," a woman said, but the words sounded far away. Quinn didn't understand what it meant—what any of the poking and prodding meant. Her mind was foggy, and her sense of time and space slipped sideways, sliding back into nothingness.
The next thing that she became aware of was the rhythmic stroke of gentle fingers through her hair. She turned her head toward the sensation, but the intense pounding that answered the movement made her immediately wish that she hadn't. A whimper slipped out, and her mother's hand stilled.
"Oh, honey, I've been so scared," she confessed.
Quinn squinted, straining her dry, weary eyes as she took in her mother's drawn, exhausted face. Judy Fabray suddenly looked so much older than her forty-three years. "H-how bad?" she pushed out hoarsely, dreading the answer.
"Nothing that won't heal, sweetie," her mother promised with a tearful smile.
Quinn slowly rolled her head back on the pillow, hissing softly at the way it throbbed. She glanced down her body as best she could and noticed her casted left arm secured to her side with a sling and her leg wrapped in plaster and hanging suspended from a traction frame over the bed. She registered the dull pain in her arm, chest, and side, but except for an unpleasant prickling in her left shin, her leg mostly just felt numb. Both of her legs felt a little numb, and she worriedly recalled being asked to wiggle her toes. She tried again, concentrating on curling them down and back. The toes on her right foot barely moved—but they did move—and Quinn felt a rush of relief at the sight.
"You...you had some swelling around your spinal cord," Judy told her when she noticed what her daughter was doing, "so your motor control is...is very limited right now, but Dr. Stewart believes that should improve over time. You…you'll need physical therapy though, once your leg heals."
Quinn squeezed her eyes shut, caught between immense gratitude that she could move at all and a shallow, selfish despair that her triumphant return to the cheerios was over before it had the chance to begin. A memory of the last time she'd worn that uniform took shape, and her eyes flew open. "H-how long?" she asked, as the tempo of the heart monitor beside her bed increased.
"Oh, honey, I…we don't know yet. You'll have to wear the cast for at least six weeks, but it really depends on how well the bone mends."
"No…h-how long have I been here?" she demanded unsteadily.
"Since yesterday," Judy said, stroking her hair again. "You woke up much sooner than the doctor anticipated."
Yesterday? Quinn felt a wave of nausea roll through her. She'd missed Rachel's wedding. She didn't know why that mattered so much to her. She hadn't even wanted to go in the first place, but she'd…she'd promised…she'd told Rachel that she'd support her, even though Rachel was making the biggest mistake of her life. Had made, Quinn realized dizzily, and she hadn't been there to...to...
"Oh, Quinn. I know, sweetie. I know you're hurting and…and this is all really overwhelming right now, but honey, you're alive…and you're going to get better," Judy whispered as she brushed away the moisture from Quinn's face.
Quinn hadn't even realized that she was crying until her mother wiped her tears, but once she did, she also noticed how tight her chest felt under the effort of shallow, sniffling breaths and the sharp, unrelenting pinch in her side. She dragged her right hand across her body toward the source of her physical discomfort, but her fingers caught on some kind of tube and sent a spear of pure agony cutting through her.
She cried out, and her mother gasped, wrapping her hand around Quinn's wrist and gently untangling it from its position. "Careful, honey. You…you have some broken ribs too and…and a punctured lung. They had to put in a chest tube." Judy leaned away and pressed the call button while Quinn gritted her teeth and whimpered through the ebbing tide of pain.
Was there anything that wasn't wrong with her?
The nurse rushed in and asked what happened before peeling back Quinn's hospital gown to check on the chest tube. Quinn felt the nausea return full force when she saw the mess that used to be her body, and she turned her head away, gagging—which only caused the pain in her side to intensify. The nurse fiddled with Quinn's IV until the fire in her side dwindled into an uncomfortable burn and she started to feel kind of floaty.
She welcomed the blissful oblivion that the morphine brought her—the forced vacation from her own troubled and confusing thoughts. She didn't want to think about the map of swollen bruises and bloody incisions crossing her torso or the broken bones or the fact that she could barely move her legs or how long she'd have to be in the hospital or...or Rachel's wedding and the dangerous thoughts that had been circling in her mind while she'd been on her way there.
The pain medication flowing through her system made Quinn uncertain of how much time was passing. She thought that, at some point, her mother had taken her hand again and said something about her friends waiting for something, but it was only when Santana and Brittany hesitantly stepped into her hospital room that Quinn really put any effort into staying conscious and focused. She did her best to smile, but she suspected it appeared as more of a grimace.
Santana's face was stony and tense while Brittany looked sad and uncertain. She was holding a stuffed animal and shifting her weight back and forth, like she didn't know whether to run forward and hug Quinn or turn and run out the door. Quinn lifted her right hand off the bed, silently inviting the other blonde with a hoarse, "Hey, Brit."
Brittany smiled a little and glided forward, taking Quinn's hand firmly and surprising her by leaning down and kissing her cheek. "I'm so happy you didn't die."
Quinn huffed out an amused breath and then hissed as her ribs pinched again. Brittany's hand tightened around hers, and she frowned in concern, but Quinn forced a crooked smile and said, "Me, too."
"If you ever fucking scare us like that again," Santana threatened heatedly, but the tears were already falling and her face crumbled. Brittany dropped the stuffed animal onto the bed and held out her hand to Santana. She came flying to the bedside, curving into Brittany's side and curling her hand over Quinn and Brittany's joined ones. "Y-you…s-suck," she wailed brokenly. Brittany pulled Santana tight and allowed her girlfriend to sob on her shoulder. Glancing back at Quinn, the blonde grinned and rolled her eyes.
Quinn smiled, grateful for the temporary distraction from her problems and glad to have her friends here with her. "Love you, too, Santana," she rasped.
Santana shuddered, sniffling several more times before she lifted her hand to wipe angrily at her face. "God, I'm probably more of a mess than you are right now," she complained.
Quinn closed her eyes. "Don't think so," she whispered.
Santana shrugged. "You look pretty damn good to me, Q. I mean, you're breathing." She seemed to be aiming for blithe and unaffected, but her eyes raked over every broken inch of Quinn with such glittering intensity that she couldn't disguise her genuine concern.
Quinn hummed in agreement. "More or less."
An awkward silence filled the room until Brittany picked up the stuffed mouse again. "We brought you a little friend." She walked it along the mattress until it was tucked under Quinn's hand. "To keep you company while you're stuck here."
Quinn ran her fingers over the soft toy and lightly hugged it to her side. "S'cute. Thank you."
"So, your mom said you're all drugged up, but you seem pretty lucid to me," Santana commented.
Brittany rolled her eyes. "Well, obviously. Lucy's, like, her real name."
The comment struck Quinn as funny, and she laughed for the first time since waking up. Her ribs immediately punished her for her carelessness, and her laughter transformed into groans and gasps. "Not enough drugs apparently," she bit out between gritted teeth.
"Shit," Santana hissed with wide, worried eyes. "Do you need a doctor or something?"
Quinn shook her head, keeping the rest of her body very still and slowly let the tension ease out of her muscles. "Only hurts when I laugh," she lied.
Santana nodded. "Well, I guess it's a good thing you generally have, like, no sense of humor."
"We'll tell everyone else to be really boring so they don't hurt you," Brittany promised solemnly. "It should be really easy for them."
Santana snickered. Quinn wouldn't let herself make the mistake of laughing again and instead asked, "Everyone?"
"The hospital has really lame rules about how many visitors you can have at a time, otherwise the whole freaking glee club would be squeezed in here, singing out our feelings or some shit. Britt and I can only stay another five minutes before we get kicked out," Santana regretfully told her. "I think your mom might be getting a little more leeway, but she went home for a while to take a shower and change her clothes."
"She was kind of ripe," Brittany agreed with a crinkled up nose.
"S'okay. 'M'pretty tired anyway," Quinn reluctantly admitted. She'd only been awake for maybe ten minutes at a time so far, and talking to Brittany and Santana was taking a lot out of her. Her eyelids were beginning to droop, even though she fought to keep them open.
"Do you...do you remember...any of it?" Santana asked her hesitantly.
Quinn shook her head as much as she could without causing too much pain. "Jus' driving," she mumbled as she let her eyes fall closed, but there was something niggling at her brain—something that she needed Santana to do for her. "Tell...tell Rachel...'m'sorry. Missed...her wedding."
The room fell silent after that, and Quinn felt herself begin to drift, so she couldn't be sure if she was already dreaming when she heard Santana sigh and mutter, "You didn't."
The words chased Quinn into unconsciousness, filling her dreams with jumbled images of pink satin and shattered glass. She was driving down an endless highway, her car echoing with an unrelenting buzz. She felt desperate to find the source of that sound and make it stop, but when she looked away from the road in front of her, the car suddenly disappeared and she was standing back in the dress shop, staring at Rachel Berry in her wedding dress. Quinn opened her mouth to speak, to tell her again that she wasn't going to stand by and watch her ruin her life by marrying Finn Hudson, but instead, she heard herself say, "I want to support you, Rachel, and Finn, and come to the wedding if it's not too late.¹"
Quinn felt her heart squeeze tight as she tried to call back the words, but Rachel was smiling gratefully, and Finn was suddenly right there towering over her, taking Rachel's hand and leading her away. A sense of panic rushed over Quinn, and she took a step forward, reaching out to try to stop them, but pain tore through her leg from the sole of her foot to her thigh. When she looked down, she saw that the floor was covered in shards of glass, and blood was pooling under her bare feet.
"I'm so sorry, Quinn," Rachel's voice whispered through her dream. Quinn frantically looked around the empty shop, desperate to find Rachel. She couldn't move her legs or call out for help, and her chest felt tight and heavy. She became aware of a weight in her right hand, and she glanced down to see her cellphone with the screen flashing the words where are you?
"This is all my fault," Rachel whimpered.
The images began to melt away into darkness, and Quinn gradually became aware of the warmth surrounding her hand where the cellphone had been. She had a strong sense that she wasn't alone and turned her head to the right as she fought to lift her heavy eyelids.
"Rach," she breathed, half-thinking that she was still asleep, but the Rachel at her bedside looked nothing like the one in her dream.
Sad, worried, brown eyes met hers, and Rachel immediately lifted her hand away from Quinn's and hastily wiped at her cheeks to remove the evidence of her tears. "I'm sorry," she murmured softly. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"S'okay," Quinn said sleepily. Her fingers twitched from the sudden absence of warmth, and she frowned. She wanted Rachel's hand back in hers, but she didn't know how to ask. Bits of her dream filtered back, and she remembered things that she'd rather not.
"How are you feeling?" Rachel asked and then shook her head dismissively, closing her eyes in shame. "God, that's a ridiculous question. You don't...I'm sorry," she repeated, opening her eyes. "I'm so sorry, Quinn," she said again, and the anguish in her voice made it clear that she was referring to the accident.
Quinn's stomach twisted. "Can you...not?" she begged, squeezing her eyes shut so that she wouldn't have to see Rachel's sorrowful expression. "It happened. We can't...change that. I don't..." Want your pity. She sighed sadly. "No more apologies, 'kay?" She attempted a weak smile as she looked at Rachel again.
"Okay," Rachel echoed meekly.
Quinn's head was still thick with sleep, and she wasn't really feeling any pain, so she suspected that her morphine drip had released another dose not long before Rachel had woken her. She didn't know if she was more afraid of falling asleep on Rachel or staying awake and saying something that she might regret.
"I just...I want you to know that I'll be here for you, Quinn. Whatever you need. Until you're...until you back on your feet," Rachel promised with conviction.
Quinn's lips quirked into sad smile. "Could be a while."
"However long it takes," Rachel insisted.
She ignored the weird flutter in her stomach and hazily reminded herself that Rachel's pretty promises wouldn't really change anything. Quinn had a long, painful road ahead of her, and Rachel would be walking a different path. "Wish I'd...made it to your wedding," she mumbled.
She felt Rachel's fingers hesitantly brush over her hand until the tips settled over her pinky. "We...we didn't get married," Rachel told her quietly, and Quinn met her eyes with confusion. "It's...I wanted you to be there, Quinn," she explained. "So we waited, and then," she took a breath, nervously licking her lips. "You were right...a-about us being too young, and...well, we just need to wait."
"You...you waited. For me?" Quinn verified, a little concerned that she might have fallen back to sleep and was dreaming again.
Rachel nodded. "Of course. I'll always wait for you, Quinn," she said, as if Quinn should have known this already, and for a moment, she felt as if she were floating, only to crash back down when Rachel added, "When Finn and I eventually do get married, I want you to be standing right there beside me."
It hurt—worse than the punctured lung or any of her broken bones. Quinn closed her eyes and turned her head away, inching her hand away from Rachel's fingers on the mattress. "I'm really tired," she whispered harshly.
"O-oh," Rachel stuttered, "of course. I'll just...come back later?" Her voice crackled with uncertainty.
Quinn nodded tersely, keeping her eyes shut, and eventually she heard the rustle of fabric as Rachel stood. She silently cursed herself, but she didn't open her eyes or call out to stop Rachel from leaving. She couldn't allow herself to care that much anymore. Where had it gotten her? Stuck in a hospital bed with a broken body and a broken—no! God was obviously punishing her for all of her past indiscretions and her confusing, sinful thoughts. She needed to take the damned hint. Tears slipped from the corners of her eyes and fell down over her temples, so she lifted her right hand to brush them away.
She promised herself that this would be the very last time that Rachel Berry would ever make her cry.
Quinn brushes away a few happy tears, grinning as she squeezes Rachel's hand. Rachel is battling her own tears, and it's ridiculous and perfectly them that they're both crying messes. Rachel's lips are curved into a soft, contented smile. This is the smile that Quinn loves best—the one that's real and genuine and just for her. The one that says I love you and you make me so happy.
Her eyes dance over Rachel, committing every detail of this moment to her memory. She glances away just long enough to pass her bouquet back to Santana, whose own eyes are glistening suspiciously. Kurt is unabashedly dabbing at a tear, and Quinn giggles, because her perfect, fantasy wedding also never included a flamboyantly gay best man and a bitchy lesbian maid of honor.
Rachel bites her lip in that way she does when she's trying not to laugh, and Quinn suspects that her thoughts are running down a similar path. They've known one another too long and too well, and Rachel Berry is an open book to her now. As much as they want this, and for as long as they've waited to get here, the fact that they're actually getting married is still surreal when they stop to think of where they started. Quinn remembers Rachel telling her once that she wanted Quinn to be standing beside her at her wedding, but at the time, neither of them of could have imagined that it would happen this way.
I love you, Quinn mouths silently, and Rachel raises their joined hands and presses a kiss to Quinn's fingers before she repeats the silent vow. She turns to the minister and the rabbi and nods to indicate that they're ready to begin.
Rachel had been adamant about including at least a few Jewish traditions in the ceremony, and Quinn had happily agreed. She'd also teased Rachel pretty mercilessly about the distinct lack of consideration to her religious beliefs to be found nine years ago in the Allen County Courthouse and then proceeded to remind her what an awesome fiancée Quinn was compared to her previous one. Rachel never once tried to argue the point. In fact, she'd blissfully conceded, thanking Quinn thoroughly and repeatedly for being so good to her in the most pleasurable way imaginable. That particular memory is probably best left for the honeymoon though.
The minister that Rachel found is non-denominational. She's a short, plump woman in her early thirties and is one of the kindest people that Quinn has ever met. The rabbi, also a woman, has performed more than two hundred same-sex wedding ceremonies since the law passed in New York. They have a strange sort of chemistry, even though this is the first wedding that they've officiated together.
Rabbi Lerner smiles at both of them and begins the ceremony by welcoming their family and friends. "Quinn and Rachel are happy that all of you have come here to share and celebrate this day with them. We welcome you and bless you. From two separate and rich traditions, Quinn and Rachel have come together to share the best of what each has to offer, to value their differences and affirm that being together is far better than being apart from each other. And we bless this marriage under a chuppah, the Jewish symbol of the new home being consummated here.²"
The rabbi's words settle into Quinn's heart, and her eyes grow moist again. Rachel is her home, and over the years, they have built their lives together, patiently fitting every colorful brick into an unbreakable foundation.
"We are gathered here today because love gathers us," Reverend Scaparotti adds. "Love has woven Quinn and Rachel together with a ribbon made strong with faith and understanding, and it is within the loving circle of family and friends that we join their souls together. We wish you strength in adversity, laughter in joy, compassion in grief, and trust in each other. We offer blessings over all beginnings you ever choose together and all things lasting that you embrace. For your willingness to journey together on the path of love, we give thanks. And for this circle of family and friends with open hearts and loving spirits, we give thanks. Amen.³"
"Amen," Quinn whispers in heartfelt agreement.
"Into this holy union, Quinn and Rachel now come to be joined. If any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now or forever hold your peace."
Quinn sucks in a breath, anxiously waiting through the agonizing seconds of silence, unable to shake the lingering fear that someone will object and ruin her happiness. Rachel smiles reassuringly, giving her hand a quick squeeze while the room remains quiet. Quinn's momentary tension falls away.
Rabbi Lerner holds up the Kiddush cup. When Rachel first told Quinn about this particular Jewish wedding tradition, she'd instantly known that she wanted it included in their ceremony. "This cup of wine is symbolic of the cup of life," the rabbi explains. "As you share it, you share all that your future may bring. All the sweetness that life holds for you will be made sweeter because you drink from it together. Whatever drops of bitterness it may contain shall be less bitter because you share them."
Quinn's eyes lock onto Rachel as she accepts the cup from the rabbi and lifts it to her lips, loving the symbolism of the gesture. Rachel takes the cup from her with a trembling hand and drinks from it, sealing their promise to share all the good and bad that may come.
"Quinn has asked to say a few words before the vows," Reverend Scaparotti announces, and Quinn feels the butterflies in her stomach go crazy. Rachel's eyes widen in confusion, because she didn't have a clue that Quinn was planning to do this. They'd agreed on the traditional vows, but somehow, that didn't seem enough to Quinn. She's a writer by profession, and her first book has been riding on the bestseller list for nearly a year. Her second is in the final stages of editing and is scheduled for release in the fall. She's good with words, although it comes as a surprise to many who used to know her but only because they never really knew her at all. Rachel, though? She's always heard the words that Quinn has kept buried deep in her soul. Now she wants to share them with everyone that they both hold dear.
She takes both of Rachel's hands in hers and smiles down at her bewildered bride. "Rachel, I know you're standing here right now, mentally working on a strongly worded rant because I didn't tell you that I was going to do this." There are some quiet chuckles throughout the room, and Rachel bites back a smile, shaking her head in amused agreement. Quinn grins as she continues. "But for once, I'm going to steal your spotlight. I promise you can have it back everyday after this for the rest of our lives." And there's more laughter now, Rachel's included as happy tears sparkle in her eyes.
Quinn takes a breath and grows serious. "Before I met you, I was so...lost," she confesses, feeling tears gather in her own eyes as she remembers the lonely, angry girl that she used to be. "I thought that the only way I could ever be happy was by changing myself to fit into the slots that everyone else had carved out for me; perfect daughter, model student, prom queen. I cut away huge pieces of myself to fit into those molds, but I could never quite manage to make it work. It pinched and itched and made me miserable.
"Then I met you, and even though it took a long time for us to become friends," she says, grinning mildly at the understatement, "and even longer to be standing here, pledging our lives and our hearts to one another...you changed me, Rachel. You helped me find those forgotten pieces of myself and glue them back together. You showed me how to close my eyes and open my arms and welcome life with all of its imperfections. I learned patience because you were patient with me. I learned compassion because you were compassionate. I learned forgiveness because you forgave me." Her voice catches with emotion, and she has to pause to compose herself, smiling through her tears. Rachel is crying openly as well, and Quinn squeezes her hands in affection. "I learned to hope because you have faith in me. I have strength because you hold me up, and I know love because you love me. And I'm standing here today, promising you that I will spend the rest of my life loving you."
Rachel sniffles, shaking her head in stunned wonderment, and her expression is worth a thousand of Quinn's words. "You know I'll have to serenade you at the reception now," Rachel jokes through her tears. She frees her right hand from Quinn's grasp, only to reach up and gently, reverently wipe Quinn's tears away before cupping her cheek. "You're the music in my heart, Quinn," she says simply, and it's everything.
"And now the formal vows," Reverend Scaparotti announces after a moment, and she turns to Quinn with a smile. "Will you, Lucy Quinn Fabray, take Rachel, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until parted by death?"
It's the easiest promise that she will ever make. "I will."
"Will you, Rachel Barbra Berry, take Quinn, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until parted by death?"
Rachel doesn't hesitate, and her voice is strong and confident when she says, "I absolutely will." Quinn's heart swells with happiness.
"May I have the rings?" Rabbi Lerner asks, and Kurt fumbles in his pocket for a few seconds before triumphantly pulling them out and handing them to the rabbi. "These rings are a symbol of eternity. They are an outward sign of your eternal love and commitment. Quinn, you may place the ring on Rachel's finger."
She passes the ring to Quinn, and Quinn accepts it with shaking hands. She lifts up Rachel's left hand and slides the sparkling band of diamonds onto her finger. "With this ring, I join my life with yours," she vows.
Rabbi Lerner hands the second ring to Rachel, repeating her instruction, and Quinn watches the ring slip into place with a watery smile. "With this ring, I join my life with yours," Rachel promises softly, with that voice that Quinn so adores.
And then Reverend Scaparotti is speaking the words that Quinn has been waiting to hear. "As Quinn and Rachel have made promises to one another and sealed them by the giving of rings in the presence of God and witnessed by family and friends, we declare them joined together in holy matrimony. Those whom God has joined, let no human being divide."
Quinn has to restrain herself from celebrating with a triumphant cry and kissing Rachel for all she's worth, because there is one more tradition to observe.
"We conclude the ceremony with the traditional breaking of the glass," Rabbi Lerner announces, holding up the glass before passing it to Kurt, who takes it with a smile and wraps it in a handkerchief. "The fragility of the glass represents the frailty of human relationships. The glass is broken to protect this marriage and keep it strong." Kurt ducks down to place the glass on the floor between them. "May your bond of love be as difficult to break as it would be to put together the shattered pieces of this glass." Quinn grins at her wife—her wife!—and Rachel grins back, and hand in hand, they each bring their right foot down onto the glass, shattering it inside the handkerchief.
"Mazel Tov!" Rabbi Lerner shouts, along with more than half of the guests. Somehow, Noah Puckerman's voice is the loudest of them all, and Quinn and Rachel both laugh joyfully, until Quinn pulls Rachel into her arms and kisses her soundly.
Quinn is distantly aware of the applause and the cheers and maybe a wolf-whistle or two, but she couldn't care less. She's kissing her wife for the very first time, and it's better than any kiss they've ever shared because of what it signifies. Rachel Berry is her wife—no, that's not quite right. Quinn reluctantly slides her lips away from Rachel's and grins softly, "Hello, Mrs. Fabray."
Rachel blushes pink, smiling shyly. "I really, really love the way that sounds," she whispers.
"I really love you," Quinn tells her, brushing another kiss across those tempting lips.
Reverend Scaparotti formally introduces them as Mrs. Quinn and Rachel Fabray, and Rachel hums in delight at hearing her new name again. She kisses Quinn with relish, naughtily teasing her lips with the tip of her tongue before she pulls away with a satisfied smile.
Quinn groans lowly. "I don't suppose we could skip the reception and start the honeymoon right now?"
Rachel's laughter rings out through the room, and she squeezes Quinn's waist. "Are you kidding me? We have to go make everyone we know outrageously jealous with how incredibly happy we are. I mean, I just married Quinn Fabray. I think I've earned some bragging rights."
Quinn laughs, hugging Rachel to her and nodding her agreement. She can't wait to show off her wife. She gallantly holds out her hand to Rachel in invitation. "Mrs. Fabray," she says again, loving the way those words roll from her tongue. Rachel accepts her hand with a smile and together they take the first steps into their future.
¹Glee, 3x14, On My Way
²credit to Jewish Interfaith Ceremony, Rabbi Devon Lerner
³credit to Non-Denominational Ceremony, Reverend Joanna Scaparotti
A/N: And so ends this installment of the Don't Blink series. I may revisit this 'verse in the future with some more one-shots, provided my muse cooperates. I hope you enjoyed the story.
Credit for the marriage ceremony goes to the above listed, real life officiants who posted samples of their ceremonies online for public consumption. I stumbled over them when researching, and thought some of their words were lovely and fit nicely with Quinn and Rachel, so I wrote them into the story even though neither of them are ordained in New York. Sincerest apologies to them if they ever happen to read this. Quinn's vows are entirely mine, however.
Thank you all for reading and taking the time to comment.