The fluorescent lights glared down at her as she looked up at the ceiling, collapsed on the hospital bed like a wrung towel. Quinn stared too long directly at the bulbs and her eyes started to burn.
It was over.
Or had it just begun? Quinn couldn't tell.
Her bones had turned to gelatin, her skin was raw, and her brain had melted. But from beyond her exhaustion, her heart started thumping in an odd, new way: it craved.
So she knew then, after the nurse put the baby in her arms and it felt like home- Quinn knew, looking into Beth's eyes, that she wanted to keep her more than anything. Beth was perfect; Beth was hers.
Quinn desperately wanted to teach her to walk, jump, and ride a bike. To be able to kiss her head in the morning. She yearned for the heartbreak of saying goodbye on Beth's first morning at preschool, going off to college, getting married. To give her everything Quinn had (but didn't, really). Those lost moments seared across her heart and cauterized a wound that had barely opened. Quinn knew she'd regret it the second she let go.
But she'd never be able to live with herself if she didn't. The lies that had built her sham of a life were too numerous. She caved and was hollow under them. She hadn't earned the bundle in her arms. How was she supposed to raise someone without knowing who she was? With being too afraid to find out, never letting go?
She thought she told the nurse to take Beth away right after the birth. She didn't want to hold her and have to know what that emptiness would feel like later. Maybe the drugs had gotten to her and she only screamed the wish in her head. It was the mantra she thought as she pushed: please don't make me hold her, please don't make me hold her, please don't make me hold her.
But the goddamn nurse put Beth in her arms and now she never wanted to let go. It would be selfish, again, just like everything else in her life. So now there were two regrets she had, both as gapingly wide as the other. She'd have to live with that knowing, the ache in her arms and her breast. She couldn't be a mother. The most important lessons in life, she'd never be able to teach. She was too much of a fraud. And to take that risk with someone else's life, especially one she'd created and was responsible for….it would have been the worst thing she'd ever done.
There was the rational and practical side of her brain that had been whispering, "you can't possibly provide" for months. Money was the main issue. But moments like these, when a tiny fist is clenched in her own and the absolute wonder of a life she created is just beginning, it's easy to ignore mundane things like bills.
So Quinn makes the one truly selfless decision she's ever made in her life. Beth will be far better off being raised by someone who can provide for her in all the right ways; in all the ways Quinn isn't and all the ways Quinn can't.
When she raised her head and looked at Puck with a full heart and tears in her eyes, a silent understanding took place. He saw the pleading and gently took Beth away, cooing softly and bouncing all the way. If there were room left in her heart, Quinn would have remarked sadly that he would have been a good father. But instead she turned her head away into the lumpy hospital pillow and sobbed until her throat gave out, grateful only for the fact that Mercedes was there, stroking her hand.
The first hour afterwards was the worst.
But as the hours passed, she learned to cope with the ache inside, subduing it to a dull throb. After all, if there was anything she was good at, it was learning to adapt and adjust to whatever she'd been dealt. Today was no different, only worse.
Dealing with her mother proved a nice distraction. They had catching up to do, even if they both dreaded being alone together for too long. Her mother's fingers dug into the chair to steady her hands, Quinn's answers were mostly monosyllabic, and there was a tension that not even her missing father and months apart could erase. She felt much too old, lying in a hospital bed with an infant of hers somewhere in the building and a tense mother sitting across from her. She was seventeen and felt like forty.
The time gave her precious time to collect herself. Not that there was much left, just pieces. That's all Quinn was: scraps. But she could still build an impenetrable wall out of anything. This time, it'd just have to be big and strong enough to keep herself out, too. She couldn't break over Beth. She didn't deserve to.
Hours later, when she had enough strength in her legs to stand, she forced herself to go stand in front of that window. To stare at what she wasn't good enough to have but yearned for more than anything. She steeled herself as a test. She was good at those, because she wasn't allowed to fail. There was no failing for a Fabray. At least not where it really mattered.
Footsteps came from behind and Puck slid next to her silently. They stood for awhile, staring through the glass. Quinn felt empty again and craved something to hold to her chest, so she clasped her hands together, picking lightly at her cuticles. She hadn't done so in ages, her nails has been perfectly manicured for years. Lucy bit her nails because she was weak. But now Quinn knew she was too, so in the end it didn't matter. She allowed herself this one consolation.
So when Puck asked softly, "do you wanna keep her?" she's ready. And before she could even hesitate, (because that would have broken her) she answered, "no." It was the second biggest lie she ever told.
She can hear the regrets in the silence. But none are as big as her own.