Matty curls around her as a snow leopard, huge and beautiful, and growls at the doctor. Lucy pushes him off the table. He turns into a dragonfly on the way down and hides in her hair.
“Please.” He whispers. Lucy shivers. She can feel the word echoing in her bones. She pinches him out from behind her ear; he bites her savagely, but this time perches on the chair they set out for him. His wings glitter like jewels and she thinks her heart might explode with love. Her soul is so beautiful. She wants to be beautiful too. She’s just making her outside match her inside, she doesn’t understand why her daemon is so angry about it.
Matapane is an asp now, his eyes glittering as he coils in on himself. She can feel him pulling away from her, can feel a space she didn’t even know was empty inside her because it had always been filled with him. Lucy chokes back a sob, and shakes her head firmly when the doctor asks her if she wants to back out.
“Are you sure?” He asks. His monkey daemon is wearing a surgical mask too, she notes absently. “This is your last chance.”
Matapane hisses like a balloon with a leak. She closes her eyes and wishes she could close her ears too. Her voice is unwavering when she says, “I’m sure.”
“Alright then. Breathe in, slow and deep, and count to ten.”
She feels a rush of cold in her arm as they inject her with something, and then the answering heat of Matapane’s love flowing into her. It tastes sharp with anger, but that emptiness inside her is gone so she sucks in air through the plastic mask and counts.
She gets to seven before she passes out. Matapane drops to the floor with a tiny thud, a brilliant green cocoon.
The monkey rolls her eyes. “God, what a fucking melodrama.”
Her human nods, smirking, and begins the surgery.
Her aching nose wakes her up, and for second she’s terrified that one of the girls dropped her on her face during a routine. Then she remembers and breathes a deep sigh of relief. It hurts like a bitch, and she makes a mental note that until her nose heals she’s strictly in the botox set of emotions. She knows without saying anything that Matapane would say that she’s already put knives into her face, why not poison?
Matapane is lying next her. He’s some kind of big cat today, dappled and beautiful. When she goes to stroke his fur, her fingers sink into it to the third knuckle. She twines her fingers in the soft white of his ruff and waits for him to wake up.
Her parents aren’t there to wait with her. She’s not sure why she thought they would be, Daddy had already told her that he had in important business golf game scheduled today. Her mother’s probably with him, something pretty for all the other men to look at between tee offs.
Matty wakes up in increments. First a long slow yawn (and she can see his teeth now, dear god he’s a not a house cat this time, what is he?) and then full body shiver and finally his eyes flutter open. She smiles at him awkwardly. He gives her a once over, and looks extremely unimpressed.
“You look like someone dropped you off the top of the pyramid.” He sneers. “But I guess we’re stuck with it.” Something about the way he says it makes her heart turn over in her chest.
“You changed. I settled. Seems poetic enough.” His voice is hard, but she can feel the tiny tremors in the fine hairs in her hand.
“You’re beautiful.” She says fiercely, “I love it.”
He yawns again, this time deliberately. His predator’s teeth glint under the fluorescent lights. “I’m strong.” He corrects.
She doesn’t see the difference, but she trails her fingers over his back anyway, reveling in how luxuriously soft the fur is. She pauses at the base of his spine, at his tail, and can feel the bed tilting under her. It’s obscene, it’s wrong, it’s-
“It’s us.” Matapane whispers.
Her fingers dig into his back like claws but he doesn’t shake her off. His tail looks mutilated, like someone took a knife and cut it off. And then burned the pathetic piece that was left to black ash. She swallows down bile and hot hatred, her throat burning as they slide down. Panic hammers at her chest as she stares at the glaring red light of her daemon’s tail. Everyone will know, everyone will know what she’s done. It doesn’t matter how beautiful she makes herself, they can just glance at her daemon and know how she’d mutilated herself to get there.
For one wild second she wonders if there’s such a thing as daemon plastic surgery, if they can force Matapane to change.
He bares his teeth at the thought, and for a second he looks absolutely feral. They stare at each other, and she truly does not recognize her soul.
Then the doctor walks in and Matapane is sitting by her side, prim and proper as any well-trained house cat.
“Well, Lucy, I think-”
“Please,” She smiles up at him, and thinks of how Matapane can be as unremarkable as a tabby cat one moment, only to bare his teeth the next to be unmistakable as a wild predator. He can be whatever he wants to be, whatever he chooses to show the world. He is her soul, and he is beautiful. “Call me Quinn.”
Brittany’s the one who starts calling them the Unholy Trinity, but Santana dutifully picks up the name so Quinn rolls her eyes and follows suit.
The thing most people don’t realize about morpho butterflies, is for all that they look like bits of silk in the breeze, for all that they seem delicate, they are actually incredibly poisonous. Quinn can respect that. Beauty is power, and there’s nothing more powerful that something that doesn’t seem to be. She decided that she wanted Brittany as her second in command the moment she caught a glimpse of that daemon’s wings, glittering jewel-like in the sunshine of Brittany’s hair.
She would have preferred not to have anything to do with Santana, who wears her venom on her sleeve and her soul, but Brittany makes it clear that they’re a package deal so Quinn doesn’t say anything. She sees the way Angel sizes up Pane every so often, fangs shining with the venom that Santana’s supposed to milk out every morning. But Angel always falters in the face of Pane’s much bigger teeth, so Quinn knows that, for now, she’s still in control.
It works out in the end. Angel looks like she’s been smelted out of rubies and Ashley’s wings came right out of a Renaissance painting. And then of course, Matapane is Matapane. Strutting down the hallways, they all look so beautiful that you could forget how any one of them could kill you in the blink of an eye. Quinn smirks at the way people stare at them now. You can look, but you can’t touch~
(because if you do, you’ll lose that hand)
They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but Quinn doesn’t really see the difference between the two.
“He’s not just a cat is he?” It’s the first thing Puck ever says to her, besides the catcalls (and isn’t he funny) he makes every morning when she passes by him to get to Finn’s locker.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She snaps back, trying to ignore the way Matty’s fur is standing on end.
Puck actually addresses her daemon instead of her, and Matapane bares his teeth in response. “I know pussies real well, and I know you’re not one of them.”
Esther’s tongue lolls out as she grins, “People think I’m just a dog too. People are stupid.” She butts her head against Matty’s, and to Quinn’s horror Matapane rubs their heads together.
“So stupid.” He purred.
Quinn puts down the wine cooler and grips the table top to ground herself. She should go find Finn, and listen to him stumble over himself trying to tell she was beautiful while Sera tried to lick at Matapane and always ended up messing up his carefully groomed fur.
She can’t look away from where Esther and Matapane are twined together on the floor.
“You’re cooler than anyone else at this lame-ass school. Hell, in this lame-ass town.” Puck murmurs into her ear, and oh when did he get so close. “You’re gorgeous and you’re strong.” He cups her chin, and the fierce hungry look in his eyes sends shivers down her spine in a way Finn never did. She feels beautiful, in a way that usually only Matty can make her feel. “Come with me?” He kisses her softly, gently. She can feel herself trembling, and the obvious weakness should make her angry but she just feels so alive.
“Tell me I’m beautiful.” She whispers, as she twines her fingers into the hairs at the back of his neck.
“The most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.” He nibbles her earlobe and she gasps. “With the most gorgeous soul this world’s ever gonna see.”
“My tail-” Matapane moans, already on his back, Esther’s nose buried into the ruff at his throat. It’s the first time Quinn has ever heard him complain about his form and it almost shocks her out of her daze but Esther speaks before she can.
“It’s like a battle scar. It means you’re a badass. That you’re strong.” Esther grins, and she looks just as feral as she is. She is no dog. “That you’re not just a pretty face. You’re a king, Matapane. You deserve better than a common pup.”
Quin falls into his kisses, and feels so beautiful.
She traces delicate feathery ferns on her notes during the math classes on fractals. She wryly admits to her soul that the idea of scale invariance, of permanence no matter the scale or situation, is an appealing one. She likes that they hold their shape, their self, no matter what she puts them through.
She doodles silly little love notes like 9x-7i > 3(3x-7u) to Matapane and Matapane whispers back formulas for the dappled pattern across her own back. They compete to see who can come up with the cleanest proof, and no matter who creates the simple, starkly beautiful lines of the best one Quinn glows with pride because either way she’s won.
In a world where she can’t seem to find her feet, when even her (beautiful, beautiful) body is betraying her, it’s nice to know that math will always be there. Math follows rules, math is tricky but fair in a way that life isn’t. Even when her whole life is falling apart, she still has this private little world of numbers and equations to wrap herself in.
(Although she thinks Mike Chang knows. But she hears him swear “Oedipus” under his breath whenever he stubs his toe so she knows he understands)
Quinn holds Matapane to her chest, their hearts thumping together as they stare through the glass.
She’s there. She’s so perfect.
Quinn clenches Matapane’s fur so tightly she can hear her knuckles creaking. Matapane lets out out a low groan of pain but she knows it’s not because of that.
Beth has a tiny furball of a kitten curled up next to her, and Quinn loves her so much it feels like her heart is breaking. Because it’s still not enough.
(She thinks she understands now how her father could have loved her so much and yet not at all. This baby will be a person one day, is already a person, and all she can see is her own ripped out heart.)
“Did you love me?” She asks Puck, because she can’t ask her father, can’t ask Beth, can’t ask any of the people she wants to ask.
“Yes.” He tells her.
Yes, Matapane tells her.
Quinn once read that daemons were your heart outside your body. She’s read children described the same. She’d never understood that before now.
She clutches her heart to her chest, and walks away from the window (from her baby, from Puck, from that life) and back into her old life.
Back straight, she tells herself.
Chin up, Matapane reminds her, elongate your neck.
Murder, they think.
Quinn Fabray is not a teenage mother.
Quinn Fabray is a queen.
Matapane snarls at all the laughing girls, makes aborted leaps and shreds Quinn’s-Lucy’s fat face with popped out claws.
But in the end, he runs too.
They run past Lauren and her warthog, who just crosses her arms in the judgement of someone of someone who has never had to change to be exactly who they are. Matapane nearly leaps at them, but Lauren’s Ziraphel lowers his tusks and snorts.
So they just run.
Like just another couple of dirty (ugly) alley cats.
(Maybe that’s all she ever was)
“I didn’t want you to get the nose job.” Matapane rumbles from where he’s lying in her lap, curled up like just another cat daemon.
“I remember.” She says, lips quirking up in a half smile.
“It felt like giving in.” He rubs his head against her thigh. She scratches him behind the ears. “Like you were saying there was something wrong with us.”
There was something wrong, but not with them. Just with her. “There’s nothing wrong with us.”
“I’m glad Rachel didn’t get a nose job.”
“Me too.” It feels like she had to pull it out of her with pliers to admit it, but she is. Rachel is so much more than she is. Quinn doesn’t know why she feels so betrayed.
Matty rubs against her fingers. “Ms. Pillsbury is taking medication now.”
“Oh?” The daemon grape vine is even better than the human one. She settles back down. Quinn hadn’t even realized how tense she’d been until Matapane (finally, finally) absolves her. She toys with his ear, and he gives her his best cheshire grin. “I’m glad.”
“So she can be better.” Matapane baits her.
She laughs, and feels buoyant with happiness and her daemon’s love. “No, so she can be her.”
Matapane thrives as a skank. He is finally the feral, wild animal she was always meant to be. You would never look at him and see a prim, proper house cat. He doesn’t need to hide. He is a true predator, and the (weak, pathetic) daemons of the girls they hit up for their lunch money know it. Even the skanks bow before Pane’s teeth.
See? Quinn tells herself. You were always meant to be this.
She makes herself look in the mirror until she doesn’t flinch away from what she sees.
Beth’s daemon is afraid of Matapane, can instinctively feel the predator, the desperate want, coiled behind the sweet housecat veneer. Shelby throws that back at her, asks her how can she be a good mother when her own child is afraid of her?
“You need to grow up Quinn.” Shelby says. Her heron daemon eyes Matapane’s teeth but takes a menacing step forward anyway. “Lynxes kill their family. Don’t kill Beth’s.” Shelby looks back at the door that Matapane is straining against their bond for. “If you really love Beth, you’ll do what’s best for her.” She looks sad, and old, and Quinn has never hated anyone more than her at this moment. “If you’re really her mom like you say you are, then do that for her.”
For the first time in her entire life, Quinn hates her soul.
She doesn’t mean to go. Well, obviously she means to go because she’s there, but she didn’t...she didn’t plan on it. She hopes Ms. Stellarski doesn’t give any pop quizzes today.
“Just knock on the door.” Matapane whispers, winding around her legs. She raises an eyebrow at him because he could just as easily knock too. God knows he scratched the hell out of Shelby’s door after it got closed in their faces. He hisses back at her.
Finally, she lifts the elaborate door knocker (even her parents hadn’t had door knockers like this. Matty hisses at the sudden sharp pang of pain for Blaine they feel) and bangs on the door.
She waits there for a very long time. Long enough that Matapane is starting to slink back towards the car when Blaine’s ungelled curls appear in the door window.
The amount of time it takes Blaine to look at her, look at her daemon, look back at her and then say “...Quinn?” tells her far more about the amount of pain killers he’s on than she ever wanted to know. The way Mal was hanging out of the breast pocket of his pajamas like a plushie was kind of a clue too.
“I’m here to look after you.”
He tilts his head to the side and the slight movement almost dislodges his daemon. Quinn almost reaches out instinctively to catch her, but manages to stop herself just in time.
“Did Kurt send you?” He asks finally. There’s a wrinkle between his brows, like thinking is much too hard right now. She itches to reach out and smooth it with her fingers. It’s all the worse because she knows that the way Blaine is right now, he’d let her.
He didn’t, but she nods anyway. It seems to do the trick, because Blaine face instantly clears and he smiles at her in befuddled happiness.
Her heart aches for how very young he looks. Matty presses up against her, and for the first time her daemon is not enough to fill the gaping void inside. Maybe because it’s inside him as well.
“Come on then.” She smiles and bustles him inside and back into bed. She’s never been to his house, but she knows it all the same. All houses like theirs are the same. Even down to the stark walls, devoid of pictures or childish drawings.
(She remembers the first time she went to Rachel’s house, the first time she saw crayon drawings framed and class pictures displayed on macaroni frames. Even if the girl wasn’t her enemy, Quinn would have hated her after that)
“Why are you here?” He asks blearily, already snuggling down into the covers she tucked up around him. “Have we...” His eye rove over her face. “Have we ever talked before...?”
“No.” She says shortly. Matapane is gentle as he strokes Mal though, the very tip of his tongue peeking out to smooth her rumpled feathers. Quinn blushes slightly, and is suddenly very glad that Blaine almost definitely won’t remember this in the morning.
“Why don’t you like us?” Mal asks suddenly. She hops away from Matapane and curls into Blaine’s clavicle. Blaine raises a hand to cup around her. Quinn eyes the tiny feathered ball of misery and wonders what it’s like to have such a tiny daemon. She can’t protect him at all. Blaine is so vulnerable. Matapane butts his head against her side, nips gently at her hand to remind her that he has never needed protecting. She buries her fingers into his fur and digs into the powerful, ropey muscle there.
“Does it really matter if we like you?” Matapane whispers, head just inches away from Blaine’s.
“I want you to like me.” Blaine’s eyes are huge and wet now. “I want you to be proud of me.”
Quinn grabs at the tissues by the bed to keep from crying herself. She dabs at his eyes carefully. He leans into the touch like he’s starved for it, fingers spasming around his daemon as though he can’t decide whether to hold on or reach for her. She curls her fingers around his other hand, and he relaxes again.
“We love you.” Matapane whispers. Quinn can’t help the shudder that goes through her as Blaine stares dazedly at her heart. “You’re our family.” She starts to tell him about Santana, but he starts looking scared when she mentions underboob so she has to stop.
“You’re one of us.” She says finally, after she’s managed to convince him that Santana doesn’t have secret attack boobs and thus can’t kill him with them (which she’s not actually sure is true). “It doesn’t matter if we like you all the time. You’re...” She hesitates.
“Family.” Matapane finishes, because he’s always been so much stronger than her.
“Oh.” Blaine blinks up at her. He smiles, and he looks so young her heart aches. She wonders if Beth will ever look at Shelby like this, dozey and happy.
“I understand.” Mal states, her voice heavy with self-importance. Matapane grins, with just a little too much teeth from trying not to laugh. “Family doesn’t have to like you. They love you even when they don’t like you.” Blaine taps at the pill bottle, and for a second Quinn is confused. Then she sees that it was picked up by a Mrs. Anderson. “They don’t have to like you to take care of you.”
Quinn’s heart clenches, but she smiles and combs her fingers through his curls. She’s never seen him without gel before. He looks so young. Even without any pictures around the house she can imagine a tiny baby with big eyes and dark curls. It’s a stark difference to the blonde cherub she sees when she closes her eyes, but the soft hair under her fingers feels right so she doesn’t stop.
“I want my Mom.”
It’s more a sigh than a sentence, Blaine’s eyes sliding shut as Mal burrows under his shirt to lay over his heart, a quivering lump.
(I needed my mom)
Blaine whines with pain. She slowly loosens each white knuckle from where they’re clenched around his curls.
She sings to him, because she doesn’t know what else to do. He’s in Glee. He’ll understand. She keeps her eyes open, because he is not her perfect thing. She very gently folds up the image of Beth’s dozey happy face and tucks it into her heart. If she lets herself see Beth everywhere then she’ll break, go track down Shelby and steal her baby back.
Blaine doesn’t deserve yet another person looking at him and just seeing what they want to see, making him be what they want him (need him) to be. She doesn’t deserve it either.
(Beth doesn’t deserve it)
She watches Blaine sleep. She gently unclasps her hands and releases her dreams, with not a little sorrow. Matapane lays his head in her lap, so she holds him instead. Her Yale acceptance letter burns hot in her pocket, the blue of the crest a slightly different shade from Beth’s eyes.
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy
Are drifting through my opened mind
Possessing and caressing me.
Three weeks later, Blaine’s the one singing to her in the hospital. She wakes up to him holding her hand, Mal on his shoulder, lit up as golden as the bird of Christ himself by the harsh glare of hospital lights.
“Salvation.” She whispers. Mal soars down to alight on Matapane’s chest. Her love hits them both like a blow.
Blaine shakes his head. “Endurance.”
“Surviving long enough to save yourself.” Mal confirms, and Quinn can feel her like a tiny flame against Matapane’s heart. She wonders at the strength it takes to be so vulnerable. For one hot, painful moment she envies him that nature.
She rolls her head to the other side and sees Rachel, her dress stained with dirt and tears, crumpled where she’d been fisting it.
“Why are you here?” Why aren’t you getting married?
Rachel, for the first time in Quinn’s memory, can’t say anything. She just shakes her head and goes back to crying. Apollo flutters down from her shoulder to envelope Matapane in pearly white feathers. She can barely see him, but she can feel the two bird heart beats fluttering against him through their bond. It feels like a drumming song against her soul, like love in 4/4 beat.
“You’re family.” Blaine answers.
He pretend not to notice when she cries, but Mal presses against Matty’s heart and she feels so so loved.