Quinn barely remembers when it started, because it feels like they've always had it. She'd been crying outside the school the day after her mother let her father back in, which forced her out again. Mercedes's mother hadn't hesitated to let her move back there, but the shock of losing her parents all over again was too much. When Mr. Schue and Ms. Pillsbury found her, she'd been too upset to feel embarrassed about throwing her arms around Mr. Schue's neck and crying for her daddy. They'd brought her home with them to calm down, babied her and took care of her all weekend and she hadn't wanted them to stop.
She couldn't move in with them, but she could spend one weekend a month with them. The first Friday of the month, school let out early for students and non-teaching staff. Mercedes and her mom always went to visit her grandmother in Cincinnati, and Quinn went to Will's. She loved being the center of her new parents' world those three days. She didn't know what they got from it, but those three days kept her going all month long.
When she lets herself in, her mommy is dusting the TV shelf.
"Hey, sweetie," Emma says, coming over to give her a hug. "How was school?"
"It was okay," Quinn squeezes her back. "My science test was hard."
"I'm sure you did fine," Emma says, encouragingly. "Did you get your history test back yet?"
"I got a B+!" Quinn tells her happily, pulling it out of her bag and beaming.
"Good job," Emma says, hugging her again. "Your daddy is going to be so proud. Why don't you change into your play clothes and I'll fix your snack?"
"Okay, Mommy." Quinn heads into her bedroom. It's decorated just like she had always wanted - blues and greens and no frills anywhere. Nothing white to spill on, either. The shelves are lined with stuffed animals, toys, games and kid books and her artwork dots the walls. She loves it.
She changes into a Mickey Mouse t-shirt and her overalls, pulls her hair into pigtails and heads back to the kitchen. Her mommy is scrubbing grapes and placing them in a bowl for her. She walks right over to the sink to wash her hands, singing Twinkle Twinkle twice to herself to make sure that they'd be clean enough. Mommy was very particular about that.
The afternoon passed quickly - after snack, Quinn helped plan and start dinner. She was a good helper for the icky dirty parts her mommy hated so much.
"We've got half an hour before your daddy gets home," Emma says now, scouring the counter where some sauce had dripped. "Why don't you go pick out a book for us to read? We finished Anne last time."
Quinn runs off to her bookshelf. Emma finds her there a few minutes later, still trying to decide.
"How about this?" she suggests, pulling out a copy of A Little Princess.
Quinn frowns at the pink cover. "No, Mommy," she says, batting it out of her hand. "I hate princesses."
"Quinn!" Emma says, shocked. "That isn't how little girls should treat their books. That's strike one. Put it away nicely, please."
Quinn pouts, but obeys.
"Good job," Emma says, stroking Quinn's hair. "Now, how about The Secret Garden? Mary is definitely not a princess."
"Okay," Quinn agrees grudgingly and follows Emma to their oversized chair in the living room. She is still pouting as Emma begins, but relaxes and inches closer page by page until, when Will gets home, her head is nestled onto Emma's shoulder.
"There's my girls," Will says, and the happiness in his eyes is hard to miss.
Quinn jumps off the chair and Will swings her up easily. "How's my favorite little girl?"
"I got a B+ on my history test," Quinn tells him proudly. "Mommy has it on the fridge."
"Way to go, baby," Will says, spinning her around until she is giggling. 'I knew you could do it." He gives her a quick kiss on the nose. "Any strikes today?"
"Just one," Quinn tells him.
He lets her slide down. "Let's keep it there," he says, tugging on a pigtail. She nods as he steps over and kisses Emma hello.
"Dinner's nearly ready," Emma says, smiling at them. "Wash up and set the table, please."
Quinn obeys and soon they are seated around the table. Quinn is wiggly on the thin booster they have on her chair as Will cuts up her dinner. She chatters on about her afternoon as they eat, about helping with dinner and the story of Mary Lennox so far while Will and Emma trade amused looks over the table.
After dinner, Emma lets Quinn go play in her room instead of cleaning up, as a reward for her good test.
"Bath time at 7," she calls after Quinn.
"Okay!" Quinn's voice comes floating back.
Pretty soon, she has her ponies out and is engrossed in their story. Mommy calls out her ten and five minute warnings, at which point she is supposed to start cleaning up. She tells her okay, but she isn't really paying any attention - the toys are too much fun. Emma finds her there, several minutes after 7, surrounded by a mess of toys.
"Quinn Marie, what are you doing?" Emma has her hands on her hips and looks angry. "You haven't even started cleaning up!"
"Five more minutes?" Quinn asks, smiling as prettily as she can.
"You had extra play time already," Emma tells her. "You're five minutes late for bath. That's five minutes earlier for bedtime tonight. Start cleaning up right now and you won't lose any more minutes."
"NO!" Quinn shouts and throws her pony down in frustration. "I don't wanna go to bed early!" She grabs and throws another toy down as Will comes up behind Emma.
"What on earth is going on here?" he asks. "Quinn!"
Quinn stands up and folds her arms. "She's being mean! I just want five more minutes and she won't let me! I don't want a stupid bath right now." She is practically shaking and she doesn't even know what has brought this on. She is thoroughly and irrationally angry. She kicks at another horse and glares at them.
"It's time to clean up," Emma repeats, ignoring the flying horse.
"And I said no!" Quinn says. "Ugh, I hate you!" She regrets it as soon as the words leave her mouth, and even more so when Will strides towards her and delivers a smack to her bottom.
"That is not the way we talk to people here," he says sternly and Quinn starts to cry. "That's your second strike today."
"I'm sorry," she whispers. She looks over at Emma. "I am. I don't-I'm sorry. I'll be a good girl." She bends over to clean up her mess and feels Emma's hand on her hair.
"You are a good girl, Quinn," she says, "Always."
"You just need to make good decisions, too," Will adds.
Quinn nods and continues to collect her toys. She finishes quickly and Emma smiles at her. Quinn doesn't feel like smiling back but she does reach for Emma's hand and lets her lead her into the bathroom.
When she's in the bath, buried under bubbles, Emma opens the taps for some more warm water and starts to gently detangle and wash her hair. As always, Quinn relaxes under her hands. With her eyes shut tight and Emma rinsing the shampoo out, she says, "I love you, Mommy."
Emma's hands still and she kisses Quinn's cheek. "I know, sweetie. I love you, too."
Quinn smiles. Emma pulls on a spa mitt and gently continues to wash her with her favorite minty soap. "I bet you were studying a lot for your test today," her mommy says.
Quinn shrugs. "Yeah. I wanted to do a good job."
"Did you study for a long time yesterday?" she asks.
"Yeah," Quinn admits. She has an idea of where this is going and frowns, but Emma doesn't ask any more questions. She lets Quinn play with a few of her water toys while she continues to bathe her. After she's finished, she sits back on her heels.
"Quinn, look at me, sweetie," Emma says. Quinn looks up. "You did such a nice job in your bath tonight. I think that we should get you in your pjs, find your daddy and read another chapter or two in The Secret Garden before bed."
Quinn frowns. "But I can watch TV and read past 9 on Fridays."
"Tell me what time you went to bed last night," Emma says.
Quinn looks down. "I don't know," she says.
"Yes, you do, Quinn. No lying, please."
"After midnight, I guess," Quinn mumbles. She looks up. "But I'm not tired! I'm not. I wanna watch TV with you and Daddy like always!" She blinks back tears of frustration.
"I know, but I think tonight bed is at 8. It's been a long day and we want to have fun tomorrow," Emma reminds her.
"No," Quinn says stubbornly. "No! Why don't you listen to me?" She slams her hands down on the water and then, before she can think it through, swings her hands across the water and sends over a tidal wave of bubbled water that soaks Emma and the rug. She freezes immediately, staring at her mommy with wide eyes, as water drips down Emma's face and Emma starts to shake.
"I am listening," Emma says, sounding tense. "We will watch TV tomorrow, after you have gotten a good night's sleep, which you clearly need. That was strike three. Out of the bath, please."
Quinn silently obeys. Emma towels her off and begins brushing and braiding her hair. Quinn usually loves this, but now her tummy is full of butterflies. She knows she's gone too far and wishes she hadn't lost control again.
Emma is still quiet as she helps Quinn step into her thin cotton Muppet pajama shorts and top. She traces her hand along Quinn's face and sighs. "I need to change. Will!" she calls as she opens the door.
Will comes over and his jaw drops as he sees Emma looking far more wet than Quinn.
"I hit strike three," Quinn says softly.
"What happened?" he asks as Emma pushes past him.
"I lost my temper again," Quinn says. "I'm sorry."
"Oh, baby girl," Will sighs. He takes her hand and leads her back to the living room. He sits on the couch and tugs her down next to him. "We love you so much, Quinn, but we want to see you make good decisions. We're glad you feel comfortable enough here to tell us how you feel, but you need to remember to do it with respect."
"I know," Quinn whispers over the lump in her throat.
"Come on, now." He leads her over his lap and she's starting to tear up before she's even settled.
The first swat lands unexpectedly fast and Quinn gasps. It's followed by several more and she gives into her tears as the stinging intensifies. She tries to twist away from Will's hand, but he holds her firm and continues to spank her. He varies the speed and location of the swats until her whole bottom has been covered and all she feels is a blur of heat and ache.
Her tears are coming with shudders and sobs when he finally lands one last smack to the seat of her pants. She stays limp over his lap as he rubs comforting circles on her back and croons nonsense sounds. She's still crying hard after a minute, so he lifts her up and settles her on his lap. Her tears are falling far out of proportion to her spanking, and Will just holds her and rocks her gently until she calms back down.
Quinn feels exhausted, physically and emotionally, but more at ease than she has all afternoon. "I want to tell Mommy I'm sorry," she whispers into Will's ear.
He helps her stand and they find Emma waiting in Quinn's bedroom. Emma opens up her arms and Quinn falls into them. "I'm so sorry," Quinn tells her.
Emma squeezes her tightly. "I know, and I forgive you," she says. "It's a clean slate." She takes a wet cloth from Quinn's nightstand and clears away her tears. "You're just not getting rid of us, so you better get used to it."
Quinn nods and remembers a line from a book her mommy read her. "Why do I feel so much nicer after I've been spanked?" she asks with a little smile.
Emma laughs. "The eternal mystery, sweetie. Come on. Let's snuggle up for one chapter and start over tomorrow. Sound good?"
Quinn nods and climbs carefully into her bed. Will tucks her in and he and Emma take their places on either side of her. Snuggled in between the comforting warmth of her parents, Quinn is asleep before the chapter is even half over.