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powergrapes wrote
on June 1st, 2010 at 04:55 pm

A Family of Trees

Title: A Family of Trees
Fandom: Glee
Pairings: Rachel/Quinn
Spoilers: Through "Theatricality".
Rating: PG
Word Count: 7,135
Description: Rachel is the only person that Drizzle seems to like, and thus becomes the babysitter by default.
Note #1: Two prompts in one! Written for this angst prompt and this fluff prompt. (With apologies to the prompters for my arbitrary decision to combine them.)
Note #2: I had to seriously futz with the timeline in order to have it make sense that Drizzle's old enough to be babysat during the summer. So either Quinn gives birth in early spring, or their summer vacation lasts six months. Choose the scenario that is least painful to you, and suspend your disbelief... which you probably were already doing in order to make sense of Glee's own timeline. But anyway.




Control yourself.
Take only what you need from it.
A family of trees wantin',
To be haunted.


"Kids" - MGMT




The baby looked like an alien experiment gone wrong.

At least, that seemed to be the general consensus among the glee club members who were currently gathered around Quinn's bedside. They (with the exception of Quinn) were all still dressed in their Regionals outfits, a welcome splash of sunny yellow in the otherwise dull and colorless hospital room. Quinn had started having contractions halfway through their second number, and collapsed in pain right on stage.

"Why couldn't you hold it in for one more minute?!" Rachel shrieked in the car on the way to the hospital. Quinn just screamed nonsense gibberish at her, too enraged and in pain to come back at her with a proper insult.

The glee kids all hung around the hospital waiting room while Quinn was in labor. Mr. Schue repeatedly offered to drive them back to the motel. He was met with vehement protests.

"We need to be here for Quinn," Kurt declared.

"That, and the motel is really depressing," Artie added. "And scary. It's like a trashier version of the Bates Motel."

"I think someone was watching me pee," Brittany said.

They were finally allowed in to see Quinn and the newborn baby - "they" in this case meaning every member of New Directions except for Puck and Rachel. Puck was already there, having stayed with Quinn throughout the delivery. He did surprisingly well throughout the whole ordeal, and only threw up once. Rachel was momentarily preoccupied with making phone calls to GROG (the Glee Regionals Officials' Guild) and OGAY (the Ohio Glee Alliance of Youths), complaining about how unfair it was for New Directions to lose the competition simply because one of their members went into labor in the middle of a performance.

Quinn gazed down at the little swaddled bundle of a reddish-pink newborn human in her arms; the infant was nearly bald, her tiny, angry face was bunched up and her eyes were shut tight. Some people say that there's no such thing as an ugly baby. Those people would be wrong.

"Wow," Finn said softly. "It's, um - I mean, she's um... pretty. Yeah. Pretty."

"So beautiful," Mercedes commented, utterly failing at her attempts to gush.

Brittany stared blankly at the baby. "She looks like a blind baby rat."

"I think she looks exactly like her mom," Santana smirked. That earned her a glare from Quinn.

"You gave me an ugly baby!" Quinn wailed at Puck, who only shrugged helplessly.

With a loud bang of the door against the wall, a seething Rachel burst into the room, completely oblivious to what was taking place, and ranting away to no one in particular.

"They're being utterly unreasonable! They won't even let us perform the number again! Those fascists! They just wait until my fathers and the ACLU hears about this. This is an outrage! This is discrimination at its apex! Fellow glee clubbers, as your captain, I give you my word that I will not eat, drink or rest until this injustice has been rectified."

"Rachel," Finn said gently. "Um, can this wait? We're kind of all busy meeting the baby."

"Oh," Rachel replied stiffly, casting a sideways glance at the foolish being who had the audacity to pick the most inopportune moment ever to enter the world. "Very well." She reluctantly moved to Quinn's beside, muttering something about the birth of the Anti-Christ beneath her breath.

"May I hold her?" Rachel now asked politely, more out of a sense of obligation than anything else. It just seemed like something people did. Quinn hesitated. It crossed her mind that Rachel might have actually lost her mind upon losing Regionals and was planning on tossing her baby out the window. And now that Quinn had finally decided to keep the baby- well, that would just suck. But in the end, Quinn passed the baby into Rachel's arms.

Rachel cradled the baby in her arms, one hand gingerly supporting the weight of the newborn's head. She stared down at the tiny human with the weird little face. She didn't realize that everyone was waiting for her comment. A soft, astonished exhale escaped Rachel's lips.

"God, Quinn, she's beautiful."

Puck quirked a brow. "Seriously?"

Rachel nodded enthusiastically. They could all see the clear expression of awe on her face. It was baffling.

"Just look at her. She's perfect. Look at her little fingers, her little toes. She's adorable and- oh!" Rachel broke off into a sudden squeal as the baby's eyelids fluttered open. Her eyes were hazel, like Quinn's. She looked straight at Rachel with a glazed stare. Rachel felt the prickling of tears behind her eyes. It was incredible. Here she held in her arms all the limitless potential of new life in a tiny little bundle, the baby's dazed and unfocused eyes a portal into the very essence of innocence. Looking into that portal, Rachel felt a sharp tugging at her heartstrings. Suddenly, she no longer cared about Regionals or glee or even any of the other people in the room.

"I think she's imprinting on the baby," Tina muttered quietly. When Artie gave a puzzled glance, Tina explained, "It's when you see your soulmate for the first time. Jacob did it to Bella's baby in Twilight!"

"That's about the creepiest thing I've ever heard," Mike said.

"Her first exposure in this world is to Rachel Berry and Twilight," Santana said to Quinn. "Your baby is doomed to suck."


***


A couple of months later, Quinn couldn't help but recall Santana's words in the hospital and think that maybe she had a point.

"What do you want?" Quinn cried out in frustration. She was standing over the crib where the baby lay crying. "I fed you, I changed you, I held you. Why can't you just go to sleep?!"

As a new teenage mom, she was starting to feel a little overwhelmed. As it turned out, taking care of a new baby was hard. There weren't any peaceful moments of Quinn basking in the sun in the rocking chair by the window and holding her sleeping infant. Even though she was living in Puck's house, it seemed as if she was always the only one around to take care of the baby. The sleep deprivation and exhaustion was starting to get to her.

"Raising your voice is counterproductive if your goal is to get her to sleep." The annoying, familiar voice rang out unexpectedly, and Quinn startled. She turned around to see Rachel Berry standing in the doorway.

"What are you doing here? How did you get in?"

"The door was open." Rachel stepped into the room, approaching the crib. "Mercedes said that you were having a hard time with the baby. I came to see I could be of any assistance." She peered into the crib at the infant. "Hello, Drizzle," Rachel cooed happily, and Quinn rolled her eyes. The name on the birth certificate said Beth Fabray Puckerman, but thanks to Finn and Brittany, everyone kept on calling her Drizzle. Except Santana, who insisted on referring to her as "Demon Spawn". Rachel leaned over and picked up the fussing baby. Quinn gawked in amazement as Drizzle's wailing tapered. The baby now stared up at Rachel with a blank curiosity.

"How did you do that?"

"I've been told that I exude warmth."

"I'm warm!" Quinn snapped.

"Clearly," Rachel remarked dryly. She frowned as she looked Quinn over. "You look horrible." Quinn was too tired to feel insulted.

"I'm exhausted," Quinn moaned. "It's hard to take care of a baby by yourself."

"What about Puck and his family?"

"Puck's mom works all the time. His little sister is a child. And Puck... he's just never around. When he is here, all he wants to do is play videogames and sleep," Quinn said bitterly. "So much for wanting to raise this baby with me."

Rachel looked momentarily troubled, but in a moment, the expression passed.

"She's calm now. You can go take a nap if you want. I'll look after her."

Quinn looked at her warily. She wasn't worried about Rachel not being able to look after Drizzle. She was worried about Rachel subjecting Drizzle to showtunes. But she was really tired, and so with a reluctant nod, she left the baby with Rachel and went to take a well-deserved nap.

That night, Puck came home and sat Quinn down for a talk. It seemed as if he had gotten an earful from Rachel about "shirking your parental duties". Puck was apologetic about sleeping through the 3 a.m. feedings and complaining about Drizzle cutting into his Call of Duty time. Then he pointed out that he's gone all the time because he's cleaning pools all day.

"Babies are expensive," he explained. "I'm just trying to provide for her." Then it was Quinn's turn to feel horribly guilty.

"I'm sorry. I know that you're trying." She clasped her hand over his. "Maybe I could get a job to help out with the bills."

"Yeah, but who's going to watch her? We don't have any money and our kid's a hellion. Who's going to be stupid enough to look after a whiny, hyperactive baby for free?"


***


"Yes yes yes yes yes!" Rachel squealed enthusiastically, taking Drizzle from Quinn. Drizzle, who had been crying non-stop since she woke up that morning, instantly quieted. Quinn glowered at that. "Of course I'll babysit! I'm honored that you asked! We are going to have so much fun together."

"It's just for a little while," Quinn cautioned. "Until we get enough money together for a real babysitter." But Rachel wasn't paying attention. She was taking Drizzle over to her DVD collection, showing her the movies that they were going to watch together, even though the baby was far too young to comprehend anything at all. Quinn just sighed, left Rachel with the bag of diapers, toys and bottles, and went to her first day of work.

She had gotten a job at the Banana Stand. For six hours a day, she stood in a hot, miserable, claustrophobic enclosure shaped like a giant banana (or a big yellow joint, depending on how you looked at it), dipping bananas into chocolate and nuts.

At the end of her shift, she went to Rachel's house to pick up Drizzle. Rachel answered the door with Drizzle in her arms, and Drizzle was clean, content - and quiet. Quinn felt a sharp pang of jealousy. It seemed like Rachel took to this naturally.

"Look, Drizzle, it's your mommy!"

"She doesn't understand what you're saying," Quinn said sharply, taking the baby from her. Then reluctantly added, "Thanks for looking after her."

"Anytime!" Rachel said eagerly. "I mean that, Quinn. Should you ever need any-"

"Yeah, we'll see," Quinn muttered even as she silently vowed to never let Rachel near her baby again.


***


Quinn called Rachel at 2:15 a.m. Rachel answered the phone with a sleepy grunt.

"She won't sleep," Quinn said miserably. "And she won't stop crying. What did you-"

Rachel was suddenly wide awake. "I'll be right over."

"No, Rachel, I just wanted to-"

But the line went dead before Quinn could explain that she had only wanted to ask Rachel for tips. Twenty minutes later, Rachel was at the Puckermans' front door. Puck answered the door with the wailing baby in his arms and a pair of foam earplugs in his ears. Quinn stood behind him, her arms folded across her chest, looking worried and resentful. She looked at Rachel helplessly, and said,

"She's not hungry, and she's clean and we held her, and I just- I don't know. How did you get her to stop?"

Rachel took Drizzle, who then promptly stopped crying.

"That's amazing," Puck said, slack-jawed.

Rachel swayed Drizzle gently as she stepped into the house. She walked slowly as she sang a low, sweet lullaby that her daddies used to sing to her. Puck and Quinn trailed behind. By the time they reached the baby's room, Drizzle's eyes were fluttering shut. Rachel continued singing until the infant slipped into slumber. She gingerly lay the baby down in her crib. The three of them, very quietly, retreated from the room. Once outside the closed door, Puck pulled Rachel into a bear hug.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Looking over Puck's shoulder, Rachel saw Quinn, glaring at her, full of resentment and reluctant gratitude.


***


At first, Quinn thought that maybe it was her. Maybe her baby just hated her. But Drizzle was the same way with everyone else. The baby was crabby and whiny with everyone but Rachel. As a result of that, and coupled with the fact that she didn't have the money for a real babysitter, Quinn was forced to leave Drizzle with Rachel while she went to work.

They had been doing this for about a week when Quinn stopped by to pick up Drizzle and found Rachel answering the door with red, puffy rims around her eyes. Quinn immediately tensed at the sight.

"Is Beth okay?" Quinn asked, stepping inside.

"She's fine," Rachel replied as she sniffled. "She's sleeping."

"What's wrong then?" She probably shouldn't have asked because she'd just be inviting Rachel to talk more, but her curiosity got the best of her.

"My dads are antiquing enthusiasts, so naturally they went to St. Louis last week."

"Well, naturally," Quinn responded sarcastically.

"It's St. Louis. Everybody knows that St. Louis is the antiquing capital of mid-central United States, although there has been some controversy over the fauteuils-"

"Not important, Berry."

"Right. Anyway, they were supposed to come home today, so I made all this food for them. They just called and said that they missed their flight. They won't be back until tomorrow." Rachel shyly tugged at the edges of her apron, looking forlorn and embarrassed. "I- I know that probably doesn't seem like a big deal. It's just that I don't get to spend a lot of time with them, so..."

Quinn noticed that the house smelled like good, homemade food - pork chops, maybe. It's been a while since Quinn's had that. The Puckermans were firmly committed to TV dinners and Chinese take-out; besides, they usually weren't home when Quinn got back, and she usually resorted to cold sandwiches and salads she could throw together quickly. Now, with the smell and warmth of home cooking wafting about, Quinn felt her stomach rumbling.

"Well," she said slowly, hesitantly. "I'm kind of hungry."

Rachel's eyes lit up like the star on top of a Christmas tree.

"I'm making brownies. You can help!"

"Ooh, can I?" Quinn replied facetiously, although there was a glint of amusement in her eyes.

"Yes! It's perfect!" Rachel's enthusiasm was starting to make Quinn nervous. No one should ever be this excited about making brownies. Eating it? Sure. Making it? Nah. Rachel dashed forward and seized Quinn by the hand, dragging her into the kitchen. Upgrade that "nervous" to "terrified". Then Quinn entered the kitchen, and saw why Rachel was so excited to have a companion. There was a chair by a very tall cabinet; on top of that cabinet was a sack of sugar. There were various lengthy objects lying nearby - spatulas, a baseball bat, an egg beater, even a clarinet. Quinn could only guess at how long Rachel had been trying to reach that sack of sugar.

She couldn't help it. Quinn burst into a hysterical fit of laughter, doubling over as she clutched her side as if it was going to burst wide open. Rachel looked quite cross.

"It's not funny, Quinn."

"Oh, yes, it is," Quinn managed to gasp out between giggles.

"You're going to wake Drizzle up."

At that, Quinn reluctantly quelled her laughter. She gave Rachel a patronizing pat on the head before getting up on the chair, reaching for the sugar and taking it down with ease.

"Here you go, short stack."

Rachel threw Quinn a dirty look.

"You can set the table while I put the brownies in the oven."

"I can't take orders from people who aren't tall enough to ride rollercoasters," Quinn retorted even as she started rummaging through the drawers from utensils.

"I'll have you know that being of short stature can be extremely advantageous in life. I strongly recommend that you read the book Short: Walking Tall When You’re Not Tall At All, which will detail the cultural and social benefits of not being a giant."

"Do any of these benefits include being able to reach the top shelf?"

Rachel huffed indignantly. "Just for that, I'm giving you the burnt pork chop."


***


Just like that, they fell into an easy pattern. In the mornings, Quinn dropped Drizzle off. In the evenings, she went to Rachel's house and stayed for dinner. Rachel's dads were never there, and Rachel was only too glad for the company. Quinn was happy to have a hot dinner waiting for her at the end of a trying work day. Besides, Quinn quickly discovered that it was beneficial to watch Rachel interact with Drizzle. Part of her resented having to be taught how to interact with her own baby - by Rachel Berry, of all people - but the rest of her was just glad that she learned how to hold the baby without making her cry. For Quinn, this arrangement was a win-win situation.

For Rachel, it was nothing so simple.

She had always found Quinn Fabray attractive. That wasn't so bad though, because Rachel found a lot of people attractive and as long as Quinn continued to be a bitch, she could never like Quinn. She wasn't really into that whole masochist thing. But the more time she spent with Quinn, the harder it became not to like her. Underneath that cold, pristine veil, there was a genuinely kind and tender person. Rachel watched as Quinn held her daughter while sitting on the couch in a serene scene of mother and child. Then Quinn was soft, maternal, and difficult not to like.

As Quinn's hostility toward her gradually dissipated, her mean-spirited snipes turned into good-natured teasing. Now when Quinn called her "Smurfette" or "Weirdo", it was with a gleam of slight affection in her eyes, followed by a quirk of the lips. Then Rachel would pout, or toss back a retort, and Quinn would laugh. When Quinn laughed, she laughed uproariously with her thin frame quivering and a spark in her eyes no less brilliant than the shine of the sun itself. Rachel watched her, and felt an odd little sensation in her chest.

With every passing day, she felt herself falling deeper in love with Quinn. And that was really bad.


***


It was 3:02 a.m. when Quinn called.

"It's the baby," she said.

"Give her the phone," Rachel mumbled sleepily. There was brief rustling on the other end. Rachel yawned, then began to sing. "Hush, little baby, don't say a word. Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird."

When she finished the song, Quinn came back on the line.

"Thanks, Rachel," she whispered. "She's asleep now."

"Anytime."


***


Weeks later, Quinn now waltzed right into Rachel's house as if she belonged there. When Rachel heard the front door, she rushed from the kitchen into the living room to meet her, drying her hands on her apron that said Star Chef! Seeing Quinn walk through that door was the favorite part of Rachel's day.

"Honey, I'm home," Quinn greeted in a mocking sing-song voice. It took all of Rachel's self-restraint not to run over and kiss her on the cheek. Quinn went into the living room and looked in on Drizzle in her crib. "It smells good. What's for dinner?"

"Spaghetti and meatballs, with apple pie for dessert."

"Can't wait," Quinn said as she went upstairs to change. She kept a change of clothes at Rachel's house so that she didn't have to sit through dinner in her ugly Banana Stand uniform. After changing, she went back downstairs to spend time with her daughter. She sat on the living room sofa, holding Drizzle as she talked softly. The infant was always relaxed and not fussy after a day with Rachel. And after a day with Drizzle, Rachel was slightly less nutty. Quinn theorized that their hyperactive energies wore one another out.

Rachel watched them from doorway. Her fathers were attentive, yet constantly absent. They worked long hours and traveled often. They were a family, but one that was chiefly maintained through phone calls. But here was Quinn and Drizzle, and they were present. They were the faces around the dinner table, and they were the voices in the living room.

But they weren't hers. That much was evident every night, when she walked them to the door, then watched them get into Quinn's car and drive away. Then Rachel had to control herself; she told herself that what she had with them now was enough.

That was always the least favorite part of Rachel's day.


***


When Quinn walked through the door this time, Rachel was waiting there with a videocamera in her hands.

"You have to see this!" she said excitedly, but in a low voice, because Drizzle was asleep in her crib. Rachel grabbed Quinn's hand and dragged her over to the couch.

"Okay, you're being weird. Well, weirder than usual."

"Just watch." Rachel pressed play on the camera's monitor and gave it to Quinn. Drizzle appeared on the small frame, lying in her crib. Rachel's voice could be heard on the camera, prompting, "Come on, Drizzle. Do it again. Do it again for your mommy." Even though there was no way the baby actually understood her, she obliged. Drizzled rolled over onto her back. There was a sharp squeal (from Rachel on the camera) and a surprised gasp (from Quinn).

"Oh, my god. She rolled over." Quinn was grinning widely. Involuntary tears were coming to her eyes. It seemed stupid to be crying over something as simple as this, but she couldn't help it. "Is that- is that normal? I mean, isn't it too early for her to be doing that?"

"No, no, it's all right," Rachel reassured. Her eyes were a little bit misty too. "She's fast with her motor developments, but it won't hurt her."

"You're sure?" Qunn couldn't take her eyes off the screen. "S- she's going to be okay?"

"Yes. She's fine. In fact, she's perfect, our baby's absolutely perfect." Our. Shit. The word had just slipped out, and Rachel cringed at her mistake. But Quinn, enamored with the footage, only nodded.

"Perfect," she echoed breathlessly.


***


At Finn's summer BBQ party, Drizzle was passed around the glee kids like a hot potato. Nobody held on to her for more than a minute.

"I think she ruptured my ear drum," Artie said, his ears still ringing from when Drizzle cried into his ear.

"She inherited Puck's right hook." Finn rubbed at his jaw from when the baby smacked him while squirming in his arms.

"She ruined my ascot!" Kurt eyed at the spit-upon ascot with mournful disdain.

When Drizzle got to Rachel, she was quiet, peaceful and not spitting up on anything. The teenagers gawked at the pair.

"It's an unholy union," Kurt proclaimed.

"It makes sense," said Santana. "Of course the Demon Spawn would take to a gargoyle."

"You have to admit that she's gotten really cute," Tina commented.

"Yeah, Rachel's kind of hot when she's not dressed in vomit."

"Um... Brittany, I meant the baby. Drizzle's gotten really cute."

"Oh. Yeah, I guess her too," Brittany replied without a hint of embarrassment. "She's not hot though. Because she's just a baby. That would be weird."

All of the above was true.

Drizzle had grown out of her wrinkled-newborn phase. She was an adorable baby. Unfortunately, she was also a terrifying baby - which kind of made sense, given her parentage - so everyone only admired her from afar. They fawned over her as long as none of them had to be the one holding her.

They started taking pictures. They took a few group shots and everyone shuffled around. Rachel always stuck close to Quinn and Drizzle.

"Hey, lemme get one of Drizzle and her beautiful family," Mercedes said. Everyone stepped away from Puck, Quinn and Drizzle to give them room for the picture. Everyone, that is, except for Rachel, who was too busy cooing to Drizzle.

"Um, Rachel?" Finn said hesitantly. "They want to take a picture."

"Oh?" Rachel looked up, completely oblivious.

"A family picture," Finn said, and received nothing but a blank stare in return. "Just the family."

"Oh!" Abashed, Rachel quickly stepped away, going to Finn's side. She watched as Puck put his arm around Quinn's shoulder, and they posed for the camera with their child. Puck, Quinn and Drizzle: daddy, mommy and baby made three. Rachel forced a sweet smile even as the sharp pangs in her chest pulverized her insides. They were a family, and she had no part in it.


***


Rachel's dads weren't around often, but when they were, it was a lot of fun. They cooked, they sang, they put on impromptu skits with funny hats, they showered Rachel - and now Quinn and Drizzle - with gifts they had accumulated on their trips out of town. Drizzle didn't like to be held by them either, but they adored her nonetheless.

"She's such a beautiful baby," Hiram fawned over the baby at the dinner table. "Almost as beautiful as when Rachel was a baby."

"Hiram! That's so rude," Leroy scolded.

"It's okay," Quinn said. Now that she was a mother, she easily understood the rose-tinted glasses parents had on for their own children. Not her, of course. Quinn was perfectly rational about her own child; it was just a fact that Drizzle happened to be the most perfect human being ever to be created in the history of the universe.

"She's so delicious. I wish I had a grandchild," Hiram sighed.

"Don't get any ideas," Leroy quickly said to Rachel. "Your Daddy and I can wait a good, long while. A good, long while. Understand?"

"Of course. You and Daddy know that I don't plan on having children until I have my EGOT."

Her daddies beamed proudly.

On evenings when they were here, Rachel found it easier to say goodbye to Quinn and Drizzle at the end of the night. Then she could remind herself that she didn't need Quinn and Drizzle to be her family, because she already had one.

But then her fathers would be off on a business trip, or an antique-hunting mission, and Rachel would be left alone in an empty house after Quinn and Drizzle went home. Then she wondered why she couldn't have both.


***


After dinner, they fell asleep on the couch while watching Moulin Rouge. Rachel's dads were in Pittsburgh that night. Quinn woke up when her phone rang. It was Puck, wanting to make sure that she was okay. Quinn apologized, explaining to him what had happened. Rachel woke up too, and glanced at the clock. It was a little after midnight. She tugged at Quinn's sleeve, and mouthed the word "stay". Quinn hesitated.

"Drizzle's already asleep," Rachel whispered. Taking Drizzle back to the Puckermans' house now meant that Quinn would risk waking her up. Quinn would end up calling Rachel at 2 a.m. to get the infant back to sleep.

"Hey, I think we'll just stay at Rachel's tonight," Quinn said to Puck over the phone. "Yeah, I'll see you tomorrow." She said goodnight and hung up the phone.

"That was a wise decision," Rachel said with a yawn.

"I thought that I'd spare you a 2 a.m. phone call tonight." Quinn grinned. "You can get the 3 a.m. feeding."

"You're too kind, Quinn."

"I have my moments."

Rachel slept in her fathers' room while Quinn and Drizzle took her room. At 3 a.m., the ever-punctual Drizzle started crying. Rachel heard her over the baby monitor. She sleepily got out of bed, went downstairs to grab a bottle, then went to her room. When she opened the door, she found Quinn sitting in bed, her breasts bare, nursing Drizzle. Rachel certainly wasn't sleepy now. Maybe it was the shock, or the late hour, but Quinn didn't think to cover herself up when she saw the brunette in the doorway.

"Rachel? What are you doing up?"

"I- I, um..." Rachel swallowed hard, trying to avert her eyes. "I heard Drizzle crying. I believe that you had earlier mentioned something about a 3 a.m. feeding?"

"I was kidding, Rach. I don't expect you to wake up in the middle of the night to feed my baby! Like you don't do enough for us as it is?"

"Well," Rachel answered with a light shrug. "I'm already up."

"Want to keep me company?" Quinn asked. She finally had the sense of mind to cover up her breasts, which left Rachel more than a little disappointed. But she was happy for the offer, and she readily climbed into bed beside Quinn. She lay down in bed, feeling warm and comfortable. She should - it's her bed, after all.

"You know," Quinn started with some hesitance. "You've been really great to us. You look after Beth, you cook for me, you let us stay over. Most people wouldn't have done what you're doing. I know I wouldn't have."

"It's nothing. It's important to lend a helping hand to those in need. Besides, I very much enjoy Drizzle's company - and yours too."

"I'm serious, Rach," said Quinn quietly. "You're amazing."

Rachel couldn't think of anything to say besides a shy "Thank you."

Drizzle finished suckling, and she was now falling back asleep. Quinn readjusted her wardrobe, and lay down in bed with Drizzle tucked against her chest. Almost instinctively, Rachel scooted closer, gently brushing her hand over the baby's back. Quinn, in response, moved closer so that Rachel didn't have to reach. They lay close together in the dark, the slumbering child safely nestled in between them. After a moment, Quinn spoke again.

"When I think about all that stuff I used to say to you-"

"We shouldn't dwell on the past. What's done is done. There's no use in rehashing past mistakes. Unless of course you're reviewing your videotaped performances and evaluating its strengths and weaknesses, which would be very beneficial indeed."

"Berry, stop being a freak for thirty seconds and shut up," Quinn said with no small amount of exasperation. "I'm trying to tell you that I'm sorry about all the mean things I said."

"You still say mean things," Rachel pointed out.

"Yeah, but now I say it with love."

Rachel forcibly reminded herself that Quinn didn't mean it in that way. Not the same kind of love that Rachel felt for her.

"Apology accepted," Rachel replied. Quinn moved closer. Her hand found Rachel's in the dark.

"I don't know how I would have made it through this summer without you," she said softly. "You're been a great friend." She leaned forward, and her lips brushed against Rachel's cheek. Then she lay back on her pillow, shut her eyes, and went to sleep.

Rachel, however, lay awake for the rest of the night, tortured by a rollercoaster of wishful thinking and self-instated reality checks.


***


Summer was almost over. In a week, they would be back in school and Rachel's daily babysitting/dinner with Quinn routine would come to an end. For the first time in her life, Rachel dreaded the start of the school year. Normally, she was the only kid on the block enthralled with the prospect of going back to school. Having to deal with the dregs of McKinley aside, it was important to have a well-rounded education. But Rachel didn't care so much about that anymore, if it meant spending less time with Drizzle and Quinn.

On this day, Quinn looked particularly excited as she walked through the door.

"I have something for you," she told Rachel as she sat brunette down on the couch.

"Oh? What is it?" Rachel asked, remaining calm even as her imagination ran wild with thoughts of a kiss! and a marriage proposal! Quinn pulled out a thick envelope and handed it over. Rachel still crazily hoped for tickets to a romantic getaway as she opened it to find it full of cash.

"I've been saving up, putting a little aside everyday. I know that it's nowhere near what I should owe you, but it's the best I can do right now." Quinn's voice was satisfied and proud. Rachel's face was just the opposite. There was a lump in her throat as she willed herself not to cry.

She shouldn't be upset. She had known all along what this arrangement was. She wasn't family. She would never be family. As desperately as she wanted to be, she was just the babysitter. The truth was that Quinn wasn't hers. Drizzle wasn't hers. And no amount of wishing and hoping was ever going to change that.

"Rach? What's wrong?"

"I can't take your money, Quinn." Rachel stiffly held the envelope out, but Quinn didn't take it.

"Why not?"

Because I love you and I look after Drizzle because I want you and her to be mine so I can't ever take anything from you for that.

"I just can't."

Quinn's proud delight faded into a disgruntled scowl as she scoffed with derision at the brunette.

"I'm not a charity case, Berry."

"And I'm not the help," Rachel returned with uncharacteristic rancor. Quinn froze, the confusion and pain evident.

"Rachel, that's not what I-"

"Nevermind," Rachel interrupted quickly. "I need to finish making dinner. You better go get changed and look in on Drizzle."

Leaving the envelope on the couch, Rachel got up and headed into the kitchen. She wanted that to be the end of the conversation. She only had a week left with the girls; she didn't want their last moments to be tainted by arguments. She stepped to the counter and resumed chopping up carrots for the stew she was making. She tried to distract herself by contemplating what flavor of ice cream she should serve with her brownies.

"What is your problem, Berry?!"

Rachel sighed heavily. Of course Quinn would follow her into the kitchen. Quinn was not someone who just let things go.

"I really don't want to talk about it." She struggled to keep her hand steady as she sliced through the carrots, but she faltered. Damn. Now the pieces won't be of equal proportion.

"That's too bad. I do. So spit it out," Quinn demanded. "What unraveled your crazy this time?"

Rachel brought the knife heavily down on the unsuspecting carrot, splitting it unevenly. Now the pieces really won't be proportional.

"Leave it alone, Quinn."

But Quinn just stood there, staring at her imploringly. Rachel knew from experience that Quinn could do this for a long time. She grabbed another carrot, continuing in her absent-minded movements. She gave a soft sigh of resignation.

"Look, please understand that it isn't you. I don't regard you as a charity case. I'm the one prone to foolish ideas and silly daydreams, and I know that they only ever disappoint me in the end, but that's just the way I am."

Quinn said nothing. So Rachel continued on.

"I suppose that I have this vision of us that's incongruent with reality, this vision where I'm not just a daycare center for you to drop your kid off. I suppose that I started envisioning a bond between us - you, me and Drizzle - and that our time together couldn't be measured in dollars and cents because we mean more to each other than that. I had somehow deluded myself into thinking that I was someone important in Drizzle's life - in your life. I felt like I meant more. And I'm sorry to subject you to all these things, but I can't help myself. I know that I shouldn't feel these things, but..."

The knife slowed to a rest.

"I feel a lot of things for you that I shouldn't feel."

It was quiet. Pin-drop quiet. Quinn was still silent. Rachel didn't turn around. She couldn't bear to see the skeptical ridicule in Quinn's eyes. Then she felt Quinn's hand upon her shoulder, and the weight of realization came crashing down. She couldn't believe that she'd told, and now all she wanted to do was take it back. She twisted herself away from Quinn's reach, and busied herself by the sink.

"I'm sorry- you know, I don't quite feel up to dinner tonight. I think perhaps it would be best if you'd just left."

The ensuing pause wasn't long, but it felt like an eternity.

"Okay," Quinn whispered quietly.

Rachel stared down at the stainless steel sink, listening intently as Quinn retreated from the kitchen and gathered Drizzle from the living room. She listened as the front door open and closed, and the sound of footsteps faded as the pair made their way down the path. She listened to the sound of car doors opening and closing, the engine turning over, then roaring dully as the vehicle pulled out of the driveway and drove off. Then finally she heard nothing at all. Nothing except for the sound of her own sharp, unrestrained sobs.


***


Quinn called her at 2:47 a.m.

"Give her the phone," Rachel said groggily by way of greeting as soon as she picked up.

"No, it's not Driz- Beth. She's sleeping." Quinn took a deep breath. "It's me. I can't sleep. I just- can I come over?"

"It's really late, Quinn."

"Just for a little bit?"

"Fine," Rachel sighed.


***


Rachel left the front door unlocked and went into the kitchen and made two cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows. As if knowing that was exactly what Rachel would do, Quinn entered the house without knocking and went straight into the kitchen. She paused in the kitchen doorway as the two girls made eye contact. After a brief moment, Quinn approached cautiously and sat down in the seat across from Rachel. She picked up the mug set before her and took a delicate sip. A white-and-brown mustache remained above her lips as she set the cup down. A pink tongue darted out and licked away the residue, and Rachel silently cursed Quinn for being so unconsciously sexy at a moment like this.

"It's delicious," Quinn said.

"It's just Swiss Miss," Rachel answered flatly.

"Tastes better than when I make it."

"I use whole milk. It's an essential step that many seem to gloss over."

"So do I. It just tastes better when you make it."

Rachel wasn't sure what to make of that compliment, so she just took it in silence.

"So..." Quinn began slowly. "I've been thinking about what you said."

"Oh?" Calm. Neutral. Detached. That was Rachel's mantra.

"We can't go on like this," Quinn said gently. "We need to make some changes."

Right. Screw calm, neutral and detached. Rachel could barely hear as Quinn's lips continued moving. Having your heart shattered tended to overwhelm the senses. Rachel struggled to listen over the sound of blood rushing in her head.

"...Puck has grown so much these last couple of months, and I don't have anxiety attacks about leaving Beth with him anymore..."

So no more looking after Drizzle. Of course. Rachel could understand that. Why would you want a crazy woman who's in love with you looking after your baby?

"...there's going to be a period of adjustment..."

Somehow, Rachel knew that "period" would be longer for her than anyone else. She wondered whether she would ever be allowed near Drizzle again.

"...I know how much you love Beth, and I know that it'll be hard for you..."

She wondered how long it would take for Drizzle to forget her.

"...it's going to be hard for me too..."

But probably not half as hard as it was going to be on Rachel.

"...but it really wouldn't be appropriate to bring a baby along on a first date."

Wait.

"What?"

Quinn grimaced. "I know, I don't like it either, but it's true. And I know that you're already completely comfortable with her so it wouldn't be weird, but I just think that if we're going to give this a try, we need to have time to ourselves outside of the baby, and..." Quinn caught on to the bewildered expression on Rachel's face. "...and you haven't been listening to a word I've been saying, have you?"

"I... caught the highlights."

"But apparently not the main point."

"I'm listening now," Rachel said quickly. "You have my full, undivided attention."

Quinn sighed, but she was smiling.

"Next Friday night, I'll have Puck watch Beth so that you and I can go out. I know that it'll be hard for us to spend the evening away from her, but I think it's important for us to just be with each other."

"So... um. Y- you want to- um... well, I- ah."

Quinn looked positively amused.

"Words, Berry. I know that you know how to use them."

Rachel cleared her throat and tried again.

"Are you asking me out on a date?"

"No," Quinn answered pointedly. "You're asking me. I'm accepting."

"I don't recall doing that."

With a mischievous smirk, Quinn rose from her seat and rounded the table until she was by Rachel's side. She fell into the brunette's lap, wrapping her arms around Rachel's neck. She waited until she held Rachel's full attention, then she leaned in, pressing her lips to Rachel's mouth. Rachel closed her eyes, and damn near melted at the contact. She parted her mouth, and felt Quinn's tongue work its way in. Her body quivered slightly as their tongues met; a tingling jolt coursed its way through her body, emanating from the top of her head and tip of her toes, then ending in a pool in the center of her body. Eventually, very slowly and with great reluctance, Quinn pulled away. Rachel slowly opened her eyes and found the most beautiful woman in the world gazing back at her with want and longing. There was only one thing she could say.

"Quinn, will you go out with me?"

The blonde grinned victoriously.

"Yes."

And even though she already knew what the answer was going to be, Rachel heaved a sigh of relief.

"Thank you."

As she took a fistful of Rachel's pajama collar to tug the shorter girl back in for another long, searing kiss, Quinn muttered softly against Rachel's eagerly awaiting lips,

"Anytime."

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