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The Subtle Art of Conducting a Triad, or Brittany's Psychic Cat

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PART ONE. IN THE BEGINNING

 

Puck looked pissed when Quinn and Finn became Prom King and Queen, and Quinn looked pissed when Puck grabbed Santana’s ass that one time after Rachel’s Nationals victory after party, and Mercedes looked pissed as hell when Brittany asked her if cats were psychic, because her cat had totally just had a vision the other day that Quinn liked Josh, and she’d just seen them making out in the old photography club room. So yeah, trouble in paradise.

-Matt Rutherford

 

Their high school senior year wasn’t shaping up to be what they’d imagined it would.  Their unorthodox relationship had begun in sophomore year. Two years later, the magic seemed to be gone. The psychic cat debacle was the last straw.

*

“Brittany, are you hearing what you’re saying right now?” Mercedes slammed her locker shut and turned to her best friend. “Kurt, did you hear what she asked me?”

Kurt nodded. “Well, you’d better answer her,” he said slyly.

Mercedes groaned, and refocused her attention on the happily oblivious cheerleader. “Brittany, cats aren’t psychic.”

“Are you sure? Because my cat totally had a vision last night—“

“Um, Brittany?” Kurt interrupted her. “How do you know that your cat had a vision?”

“You’re encouraging her,” Mercedes muttered under her breath. Kurt grinned.

“You guys know my cat’s been reading my diary, right? Well, last night I knocked over my tube of mascara and some of it spilled on the floor and my cat stepped in it and then he…or she…hmmm…I don’t really know. Is it a boy or a girl? Didn’t it have kittens last year? Or maybe that was the neighbor’s—”

“Britt! Focus!” Kurt clapped his hands in her face.

“Oh, yeah. So my cat stepped in the mascara and then he stepped on my diary, and then I had to wipe his paws off. But then, after, I looked at the print on my diary, and I totally palm read it. The paw print, I mean. Because, y’know, I’m really in tune with my cat. And that’s how I knew he had a vision. Or she.”

“Okay, fine. So your cat is psychic and it had a vision. What was the vision about?” Kurt asked. Mercedes looked at him, incredulous. He shrugged.

“My cat had a vision that Quinn was drawing hearts around Josh’s name in her math notebook—”

‘Hearts?’ Mercedes and Kurt mouthed to each other simultaneously.

“And I just saw them making out in that room next to the teacher’s bathroom,” Brittany finished.

“The photography club’s old room,” Kurt said automatically. He placed a hand on Mercedes’ arm. “Mercedes…”

“Oh, there’s Tana! See you later, guys!” Brittany bounced away.

“Mercedes,” Kurt said again. “You know that Brittany is not really the best person to listen to about, well, anything.”

Mercedes looked directly into Kurt’s eyes. The anger and hurt he saw in her eyes was unmistakable. He squeezed her arm.

“I’m fine,” she muttered.

“You’re not fine.”

“I’m fine,” she said again. “I’m fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. This is high school. Two years is a long time to be in any relationship, right? And, and…” she trailed off.

Kurt took it for what it was: a sign that his friend was either going to flip the hell out, or start crying.  “Talk to her,” he urged. “And Pu—Noah. You guys can work it out.”

“Yeah,” Mercedes said calmly. “C’mon, let’s find Tina and buy lunch outside today.”

“Mercedes,” Kurt said. “Don’t you think—”

“Kurt.”

He shut up and they went off in search of Tina.

*

3:32pm. Mercedes: Can we have dinner somewhere? 7:30?

3:35pm. Quinn: Okay. Where?

 

3:37pm. Noah: New Thai place near rt. 81 pick up?

4:00pm. Mercedes: No that’s fine.

4:01pm. Quinn: No, I’ll get a ride.

 

4:05pm. Mercedes: See you two then.

*

“What’s up, Quinn?”

“I’m okay, you?”

“Oh, fine. Glad we’re almost done with high school.”

“Right? These last two weeks are kind of a waste of time.”

“You’re telling me. Kurt and I are thinking about—”

Noah tossed his car keys on the table. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Quinn said.

“Outdoor table, nice,” Noah said.

“Yep,” Mercedes said.

They looked through the menu and placed their orders with the waitress. An awkward silence fell.

“So, Quinn,” Mercedes began.

Quinn immediately picked up on Mercedes’ tone. “Yes, Mercedes?” she asked, just a bit frostily.

“Brittany told me that she saw you making out with Josh today. Weird, huh? Especially seeing that, last time I checked anyway, you’re dating two people!”

“Um, I think you should be more pissed about Noah grabbing Santana’s ass two months ago after that glee rehearsal when we were practicing lifts. Besides, this is Brittany you’re talking about. How do you know she even knows what she’s talking about?”

“Two months ago?!” Noah exclaimed. “Christ, talk about holding a grudge! We were practicing lifts, how else was I supposed to lift her up? And you still haven’t said anything about this Josh dude.”

“Excuse me?” Quinn looked affronted. “I’m not holding a grudge. And anyway, it’s called a waist, you—”

“Forget Santana,” Noah interrupted. “Why don’t we talk about you and Finn at prom last week? They don’t crown people king and queen unless they’re fucking each other, Quinn. Even Jewfro knows that. Anything you wanna tell us? And please, don’t leave out the Josh story.”

Quinn started to speak but Mercedes beat her to it. “Am I the only person in this relationship who’s been faithful?”

Noah looked incredulous. “You think grabbing someone’s ass is cheating?” He took a gulp of his drink.

The arguing came to a halt as the waitress brought their orders. The moment she left, Quinn started up again.

“Don’t even go there, Mercedes. And none of you will even listen to me explain about Finn and Josh.”

“I’m not ‘going’ anywhere, Quinn! I’m just saying that it’s a problem when two out of three people in a committed relationship are going around grabbing cheerleaders’ asses, and making out with Josh Ackles!” Mercedes stabbed her fork in her noodles for emphasis.

Quinn nearly choked on her chicken. “So you’re the perfect one? I know for a fact that you…you…well…”

“Can’t think of anything, right?” Mercedes asked. “Because I haven’t done anything but be faithful to you two. Forgive me for assuming you’d both be the same! I mean, damn—”

“It’s not like people are knocking down your door to—” Quinn shut up, mostly because of the horrified look on Mercedes’ face.

“That is really fucking low, Quinn, and you know it.” Mercedes’ voice was low and steady, which Quinn knew meant she was extremely pissed.

“You know what?” Noah said. “Fuck this. Fuck it. I didn’t sign up for this shit.  I feel like I’m on a fucking reality show.”

“A reality—” Quinn couldn’t even finish, she was so upset. “Two years and you’re throwing it away?”

“I think you already threw it away by letting stupid Josh what’s-his-face stick his hand up your shirt,” Noah said.

“Oh, fuck you!” Quinn said vehemently, which shocked Noah and Mercedes. “I’m done with this, too. We’re about to graduate, anyway. We’ll be going to different schools. There’s no point. Mercedes?”

“If you both want to say ‘screw it,’ then there’s no one left for me to date, is there?”

“Oh, God, enough with the martyr shit,” Noah said.

“You know what?” Mercedes started. “I’m sick and tired of being criticized for being the only sane one in this relationship. I can’t deal with this. I’m done.”

“Fine,” Noah said.

“Fine,” Quinn said.

“Fine,” Mercedes said. “Let me get the waitress to wrap this food up.”

They sat in silence until the waitress returned with the carryout boxes, and the bill. They each paid their share before rising to leave.

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

Noah walked to his truck and drove away without a backward glance. Quinn and Mercedes waited in silence for their respective rides. Finn arrived first, and Quinn left without a word. Kurt pulled up to the restaurant a few minutes later. Mercedes climbed into the passenger seat.

“Well?” Kurt asked.

“We’re through.”

“Oh, ‘Cedes…”

“It was bound to happen eventually, right? Although…”

It was a quiet drive to Mercedes’ house. Kurt stopped in front of her house and turned to face her.

“I know I loved them,” Mercedes said quietly.

Kurt squeezed her hand. “I’m sorry, sweetie.”

Chapter Text

PART TWO. FIVE YEARS LATER

 

I’m as pessimistic as Ted Nugent’s stylist, and even I knew they had something special. They were the New Directions power…triad, and it was a little disheartening to see how fantastically they broke up.

-Kurt Hummel

 

One of the worst feelings in the world was swearing that the car keys were on the kitchen table (or somewhere), but finding them under a pillow on the sofa (or someplace else). Quinn Fabray was currently experiencing that feeling. Frantically, she ran around her tiny apartment trying to find her car keys. She overturned a stack of mail — bills, mostly, and a letter from Ohio State’s Alumni Association, asking her to donate to something or other. “Maybe when I’m making more than twelve dollars above minimum wage,” she muttered.

She’d gone to Ohio State University and changed majors about seven times before finally settling on psychology. Her mom thought it was a silly degree to spend 20 grand a year on, which was partly why she’d done it. What had solidified her decision, however, was a summer internship at a foster care agency in Cleveland. Surrounded by children who had had an appalling start to life, she had finally realized something, something that everyone in Glee Club had told her, and her parents had told her, and Noah and Mercedes had told her: she had done the right thing by giving Beth up for adoption. Granted, Shelby Corcoran was a little weird, (and thinking about Rachel being a sort-of sister to Beth was even weirder), but she genuinely wanted and cared for Beth. Ms. Corcoran was able to provide for her in ways that sixteen-year-old Quinn and Noah had been unable to.

It was more than ironic, Quinn thought, that she felt such a strong compulsion to do social work. The pay was abysmal and the work more than a little depressing, but she loved it. Her sister thought that she was trying to compensate for not being able to keep Beth. Quinn rolled her eyes at the thought of her sister’s bogus psychology…

…And found her keys! They were in the medicine cabinet, of all places. Quinn sighed. It was already shaping up to be a long day.

*

“I went to the home. The mother wasn’t there, and the grandmother doesn’t speak English.”

 

Ms. Ross, Quinn’s supervisor, looked up from a case file, a harried expression on her face. “Well, what does she speak?”

 

“I think it’s Portuguese.”

“Eh, that’s close enough to Spanish. Why didn’t you bring Rosa along to translate?”

Quinn sighed. “I asked her and she told me that she would be in family conferences all day.”

“Look, Quinn. Work it out. We need to have a statement from someone in that house before the court date.”

“I will,” Quinn promised. She started heading back to her cubicle on the other side of the office space.

“And for Christ’s sake,” Ms. Ross yelled at her retreating back. “Find the most recent folders for the Williams kids! No one knows where they are.” She returned to her case file and muttered, “No one knows where anything is around here.”

Quinn returned to her desk and contemplated what she’d have for lunch. It was another day at the Cleveland Agency for Child Welfare.

*

“I’m placing my keys on the kitchen table,” Quinn said aloud to herself. “On the kitchen table. My keys are on the kitchen table.” This was her latest technique in remembering things — constant repetition. She had just arrived home from a longer-than-usual day at the agency. Some of the girls had invited her out for drinks, but she’d declined. Tonight she wanted to stay in and watch bad TV.

She half-heartedly flipped through the channels until she landed on what seemed like the millionth cycle of “America’s Next Top Model.” It reminded her of Mercedes and Noah. She vaguely considered changing the channel, but didn’t.

In high school, Mercedes and Kurt had started a glee club ritual of watching ANTM nonstop during the summers. It was the only reality show they could all decide on. Rachel was entirely opposed to “American Idol” (“I refuse to support a pop culture phenomenon that has popularized the entirely false notion that the American public can accurately judge talent of any kind on any scale!”), Santana nixed “19 Kids and Counting” (“All I can think about is how she managed to push nineteen kids out of there. How those people are even allowed to have more kids is a crime.”), and Mike and Matt were the only ones interested in watching “Mantracker” (“It’s really good! Seriously! It’s this Canadian reality show where this guy tracks these random people by, like, sniffing footprints. You can’t say you don’t want to know how to do that.”). So “America’s Next Top Model” it was. All twelve of them holed up in Kurt’s basement and watched season after season.

It reminded Quinn of Mercedes and Noah because she would sit on the floor between them, leaning against a bookshelf, while Mercedes snarked about every challenge, hairstyle, and clothing choice. Noah would inevitably start comparing the models and their issues to Grand Theft Auto. (And to be honest, his comparisons usually had some valid points.) And she would sit between them and laugh when Rachel began berating Noah for comparing women to cars, and when Artie and Mercedes tried to out-snark each other. Kurt would usually jump in with a perfectly timed criticism and everyone would acknowledge that he was the Queen (King?) of Snark.

“Ladies,” Tyra was saying, “It’s not only about what’s on the outside. I want to see the beautiful you on the inside. Because it’s what’s on the—”

 

Quinn abruptly changed the channel.

*^*^*

“I had Bill look up Georgetown on the net – you know I’m terrible with computers – and it costs a fortune to go there! Don’t you think so? There are more than enough lawyers around, don’t you think? You must think about what you really want to do with your life…you have such a lovely voice, maybe you should…”

Mercedes Jones rolled her eyes and switched her cell phone to the other ear. As a first year law student, she’d had plenty of WTF moments, the most obvious of them being: WTF am I doing here? Some days, she was excited about learning torts and, yes, even contracts. And it was nice to be studying law in the nation’s capital; Georgetown Law School had accepted her, and she’d gone right after undergrad at NYU. But sometimes there were days when nothing went right. Today was one of those days.

She woke up late because, the night before, she’d decided to reward herself for studying three straight days in a row. She’d YouTubed random videos for an hour. Then she’d discovered that, in fact, Masterpiece Theater wasn’t so bad — but not before finding a blog with working links to “Supernanny” episodes, which she’d watched to make her feel better about her life. All in all, it had been a long night.

After skipping breakfast, she spent a good ten minutes looking for her favorite grey sweater, until she realized that she’d left her laundry in the basement of the student condominium she lived in. Great.

Mercedes lugged her laundry upstairs, ironed the sweater, and threw it on. It was a fifteen-minute walk to campus, twelve if she hurried. And she hurried, because she was late, late, late, late!

She slid into the back row of her Contracts class and proceeded to scribble copious notes for three hours. Then she walked back to the pizza restaurant near her place to get lunch. The line was about a million people long. While she waited, her aunt called and began – as usual – berating her about her life choices.

“If you must go to law school, and spend a fortune doing so, you could at least go to, well I don’t know, Ohio State or somewhere. Someplace close by so that your parents won’t worry. Then maybe I could see you more often than every other Christmas,” Mercedes’ aunt continued.

Mercedes rolled her eyes again. She was twenty-three years old, her parents didn’t worry about her anymore than usual, and why the hell would she go to Ohio State if she could go to Georgetown? Did Ohio State even have a law school? She made a mental note to Google that. And then she made a mental note to ignore the first mental note.

Sometimes she wanted to strangle her aunt. Or do some serious damage to her wigs.

“You could audition for that show. What was it? Star Search? American Idol? Something like that,” her aunt continued. “Why are all these shows so similarly named? It’s confusing, don’t you think?”

Oh my God, Mercedes thought. But she didn’t say anything. It wasn’t as if she could get a word in edgewise. She finally got up to the counter and placed her order. “Chicken parmesan with pasta, please.”

“Speaking of names, how on earth will you get any clients with a name like Mercedes? I told your father, I said ‘Don’t let your wife give my niece a frivolous name. Please give my niece a nice, solid name like Hilary, or Regina, or Elizabeth.’ Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the hospital and saw the little bracelet around your wrist. Mercedes! You’re not a car. And it’s not as if your parents have a Mercedes, anyway. What on earth your mother was thinking I will never—”

 

“Your name is Geraldine,” Mercedes burst out. She’d heard this particular rant so often she didn’t get angry anymore, but that didn’t make it any less annoying.

“And what’s wrong with—”

“You’d rather see me on the 300th cycle of American Idol than getting a law degree? You realize that’s completely crazy, right?”

“Well, I—”

Mercedes decided to cut the conversation short. “I have to go, Aunt Geraldine. I’ll talk to you later, okay? Bye!” She quickly hung up and tossed the phone into her purse.

Lunch was fast. She headed from the restaurant to the Alumni Office, where she stuffed envelopes for quick cash. Then she studied for an hour. She stopped after realizing that she wasn’t even sure she was reading the right law journal. (She checked later that evening. Right journal, wrong volume.)

What she really needed, Mercedes decided, was shopping therapy. Just a little bit. It would have to be window-shopping therapy, anyway, because broke law school student was broke.

Rockland Mall was out of the way, but it was the one place she could definitely count on to get her mind off of Aunt Geraldine, and school, and forgotten laundry, and Aunt Geraldine.

Mercedes walked around for a few minutes, taking note of a few window displays she wanted to mention to Kurt, who was kind of on his way to fashion stardom.

She saw a teal sweater that practically screamed Quinn, and it was so eerie she decided to go to another store. And then she saw a picture of a Led Zeppelin tattoo in a kiosk, and that reminded her of Noah. Mercedes decided that maybe she should go back to studying.

So she did.

*^*^*

“Hey, can we get more drinks over there?” Rob Sussman slid Joe the Bartender a twenty and pointed to a corner table.

“You got it.”

Rob slid back into the booth. “Okay, boys. More drinks coming up!”

Sean Maher looked up from his Blackberry. “Was Johnson’s quiz hard or what?”

Jamal Williams groaned. “Hard? That shit was impossible. ‘Discuss Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence on modern housing architecture’ is not a three-paragraph prompt. Dude designed over a thousand projects!”

“Johnson has nothing on Sacco, though,” Rob said. “I heard she failed an entire class section last semester. One hundred people had to retake Drawing I.”

“No shit!” Sean breathed. “Is that even legal?”

Rob shrugged. “Admin said there was nothing they could do. No one signed up for her class this semester, though.”

 

The arrival of a waitress bearing drinks halted conversation. She was a slim brunette, tallish, with grey eyes and a smile that was just a bit too bright.

“Hi guys, how are you all tonight?” She bent over to place the drinks on the table. The view did not disappoint.

“Great,” the guys chorused.

“And how are you?” the waitress asked the clean-shaven man who was intently focused on his iPhone. He didn’t notice that she was talking to him.

“Noah! Yo, Noah.” Jamal banged on the table in front of him.

Noah Puckerman looked up with the tiniest of a start. “What’s up?”

Sean jerked his head toward the waitress, who looked slightly amused.

“Hi,” Noah said.

“How are you?” she repeated with a smile. “Anything special I can get you?

Noah shook his head and pocketed his phone. “No thanks.”

She moved in closer. “Y’sure?”

He rebuffed her without even realizing it. “Yeah.”

The waitress straightened her spine and admitted defeat. “Okay. You guys enjoy.”

“Thanks,” Rob said. He watched her go. This time the view was mildly disappointing.

“And this, my friend,” Jamal started with all the gravity of a philosophical drunk, “this is how I know something is wrong with you!”

Noah laughed and wrapped a hand around his cold glass, feeling the iciness sink into his fingers. “What are you talking about, man?”

“I mean,” Jamal continued, “she was kind of hot. A little too skinny for me. Brothas like a little meat on the bones, you know. But white guys dig that kind of girl.”

“Gee thanks,” Sean said. “That sounded like an insult.”

Jamal shrugged.

Rob sighed and turned back to Noah. “She was flirting with you, mate.”

“No she wasn’t.”

Yes, she was,” Jamal said.

Rob snorted and looked at Noah. “How would you know about flirting anyway? You haven’t been on a date since Will Ferrell was still relevant.”

 

Noah looked confused. So did Jamal. “Uh,” Noah began. “I don’t…. So…what? When?”

“Five years ago!”

“I date,” Noah argued, somewhat feebly. “I do!”

“When was the last date you were on?” Rob countered.

“Um, there was…wait, no…before the thing with…brunette?” Noah downed the rest of his drink. “Okay, a year ago. That’s not that long.”

“As the only married guy here, I’m telling you Noah. You need to start looking. Being in a committed, monogamous relationship with Emily has been the most rewarding—”

Jamal coughed. “Did someone pay you to say that, Sean?”

“Fuck you,” Sean said without animosity.

Jamal grinned.

“Look around,” Rob said to Noah. “Half the women in here are staring at you.”

Noah opened his mouth, then shut it. Then opened it again. “I was going to leave that alone, because it makes me sound like a total baller, which I am, but you guys are sitting at this table too. How do you know they’re not staring at you?”

“I’m not saying we’re not all completely dashing,” Rob said. “But—”

Dashing? Jamal mouthed to Sean and Noah.

“Shut the fuck up, I’m Australian.” Rob continued talking to Noah. “But, when you walked in twice as many heads turned. You need to get out there! Surf the waves. Check out the fish in the sea. Look—”

“The water metaphors? Annoying as fuck. Dude, I know you’re Australian, but, seriously, branch out.” Jamal said.

“What, should I use some metaphors from the ‘hood?” Rob snarked.

“Bring it on, Steve Irwin.”

“Guys, guys. Emily wants me home before 1am. Can we save the xenophobic and ethnic jokes for tomorrow?”

Noah suddenly spoke up. “My last two years of high school I dated a blonde chick. A black chick.”

“First, random. Second, a blonde black chick?” Jamal asked. “You know that wasn’t her real hair, right?”

Noah grinned and held up two fingers.

Two blonde black chicks? I’m not knocking my sistahs – ya gotta love ‘em – but— “

Sean finished munching on a pretzel. “I think he means he was dating two girls — a blonde one and a black one.”

 

“At the same time?” Rob looked incredulous. “And they didn’t find out about each other?”

“We were all…together,” Noah admitted.

“Wait,” Jamal said.

“You had a threesome?” Sean finished.

“An honest-to-god threesome. Jesus Christ,” Rob said.

“Yo, in high school?” Jamal was wearing his patented I-know-you’re-bullshitting face.

“Yeah,” Noah admitted.

“You must’ve gone to the most liberal high school in the country, man.”

“Actually, it was pretty repressed, conservative, and stratified. The only controversy happened when the cheerleading coach led disturbing crusades against PETA after it criticized her for using an endangered tiger cub in her routine for nationals my senior year. No, McKinley was your average high school.”

“Complete with two girls who were willing to be in a committed relationship with a guy for two years. Yep, sounds just like my high school.” Sean shook his head in disbelief.

Rob couldn’t escape the main point. “Holy fuck, a threesome. A ménage a fucking trois. The sex—”

“Hey!” Noah interrupted.

“Sorry mate,” Rob said without sounding the least bit apologetic.

Sean groaned. “Can we talk about something other than Noah’s pitiful lack of a love life?”

“Or a sex life,” Jamal said.

“Or a sex life,” Sean agreed.

“How about those Colts?” Rob said, with all the air of someone who didn’t actually give a shit about American football.

Conversation became progressively louder, then, as they all argued about which player was the most useless, before agreeing that – in fact – it was the coach who was a moronic dick.

It was then, sitting in the only decent bar near Columbia University’s School of Architecture, listening as the guys debated the aesthetic merits of Monica Bellucci, and why those would influence whether the Colts won the Super Bowl again (Personally, Noah couldn’t see the correlation. Rob’s argument was the most convincing though, which was surprising considering that – in Australia – what they called football was actually soccer, and anyway, you had to practically bribe Rob with pizza and beer to get him to watch a football game {a real football game}) — it was then that Noah Puckerman came to the realization that he was still in love with Quinn and Mercedes.

Chapter Text

PART THREE. LATER THAT YEAR

 

Quinn still insisted on calling me, even after I told her that I was trying to widen my friends circle. (And by that, I meant I wanted to finally shake off every last person from glee.) Quinn kept calling though. So did Kurt, and Tina for Christ’s sake, and Mike, and…okay, every last geeky gleek insisted on keeping in touch with me — five years after high school. I gave up and stopped blocking their calls. I even convinced Quinn to go on that weekend trip to New York. Maybe then she would get out of her miserable little apartment and have so much fun she wouldn’t call.

-Santana Lopez

 

 

Autumn seamlessly gave way to winter. In Ohio, Quinn was severely feeling its effects, which was why she jumped at the chance to go away for the weekend to the Regional Foster Care Conference in New York. The city was cold of course, but not as cold as Cleveland. According to weather reports, it hadn’t even snowed yet and it was three weeks to Christmas. The tinny sound of a track from Norah Jones’ latest album jolted Quinn from her thoughts.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Quinnie. How’s it going?”

“Good. I’m almost done packing. Do you think I should carry two bags?”

“That’s great,” the person on the other line barreled on, oblivious. “Listen, I was wondering. Do you want to move in?”

“Uh…with you?”

“Yes, with me! Do you have another boyfriend I don’t know about?” Harry James laughed.

“I think—”

“Great! I’ll call you later to arrange the details.”

“No, wait!”

“Bye, Quinnie. Have fun in D.C.”

 

Quinn tossed her cell on her bed and promised herself she would break up with Harry when she returned from New York. She had started dating him three months ago. The state of their relationship could be summed up by one rather unfortunate fact: Quinn never thought about him unless he was right in front of her. It was a relationship totally based on convenience, as well as the fact that she wanted to do something besides work all the time. Apparently, Harry felt differently about their relationship, if he wanted her to move in with him. Or maybe he didn’t. Harry was the kind of person who – although nice and generous and kind – only thought about himself. He wasn’t selfish, per se. He was simply self-centered, and it wouldn’t occur to him that that could be a problem. He thought only about things that affected him, and didn’t worry so much about how anything he did affected others. That’s why he interrupted her when he had something to say, and why he didn’t realize that she hated to be called Quinnie, and why he didn’t remember that she was going to New York, not D.C, even though she’d been talking about the trip for a good two weeks.

Quinn sighed and decided to bring along a second bag.

*^*^*

Noah was debating whether he wanted to order takeout, cook, or eat out. It was a Friday night, which he usually spent fielding phone calls from his mom (who was so proud of him she cried whenever he mentioned school at all) and watching horror movies with his roommates. Tonight, though, Jamal was in Jersey for the weekend and Rob was probably at MOMA. The museum had free first Fridays of every month. Rob claimed he went to pick up intellectual chicks, but they all knew that he mostly went for the art.

Noah ordered Chinese takeout and turned on the TV.

*^*^*

As a rule, conferences are tedious and boring. The workshops are useless, the speeches are long, and meal tickets are usually for unappetizing bag lunches.

This conference was the exception to the rule in every way. The psych workshop (somewhat disastrously titled “So You Think Your Child is an Emotional Hypochondriac”) was nonetheless helpful and unpretentious. The opening speech by the director of St. Vincent’s Home in Brooklyn was short and interesting. And the meal tickets were vouchers to a local restaurant called O Salad Mio. Quinn was glad she’d decided to come.

“C’mon, Quinn. Let’s go to lunch now.”

Quinn looked up from her brochure. “But I wanted to wait till the Q&A session.”

Her colleague, another caseworker named Rhonda, rolled her eyes. “I don’t know about you, but I didn’t come here to go to a boring ass conference. We’re in New York on an all-expenses-paid trip, and I’m gonna see as much as I can before we leave. Which is why you and I are going out tonight. Now come on!”

Quinn looked longingly at her brochure, but followed Rhonda. They were the only caseworkers allowed on the trip; the other three people were supervisors. At first Quinn thought it was based on merit (not to brag, but her cases were usually resolved quickly and positively), but now she wasn’t sure. Rhonda obviously had no interest in learning anything new, and clearly did not come to New York with the conference in mind.

“O Salad Mio. Weird name for a restaurant, but whatever. I hope the food is good.”

 

Rhonda held the door open for Quinn before stepping inside behind her.

*^*^*

Meanwhile, Noah was finally buying new pairs of jeans. It was a task he had put off for three weeks, and two months before that, but when even Jamal noticed that his distressed jeans were actually distressed, it was clearly time for a new pair or two.

Saturday afternoon, then, found him braving the cold (and the tourists) to stop at American Eagle. He looked for ten minutes, found three pairs of the same style, and decided that was good enough. In and out, just how he liked it.

Hungry, he mentally considered the restaurants nearby. There was an Au Bon Pair nearby, and a Chipotle, and a Gray’s Papaya. Oh, and there was O Salad Mio, which was decent. He thought about going to O Salad Mio – he even started walking there – but decided to go to Taste of Tandoor, an Indian restaurant downtown, instead. 

*^*^*

After lunch, Quinn headed back to the conference, much to Rhonda’s dismay. Technically, they were supposed to stick together and report their activities to the supervisors. Neither party was interested in giving or hearing reports, so Rhonda walked into the nearest Strawberry while Quinn — feeling like a stick-in-the-mud — went back to another five hours of workshops and raffles, because the conference was really worthwhile. Besides, she wasn’t as obsessed with New York as Rachel Berry or Kurt Hummel. She would be back some other time, maybe, and she could sightsee then.

Rhonda returned near the end of a seminar on better record keeping. “Quinn, this is the last workshop for you, okay? It’s past six o’clock and we’re going out tonight, remember?”

Quinn wondered why she let herself be bullied by Rhonda, but didn’t think too much on it. Rhonda was nice, for the most part; she just had her own set of priorities and she liked to be in charge. So if she said Quinn was going out that night, then Quinn was going out that night.

“Quinn?”

“Yeah, okay. Let me just hear the last five minutes.”

*

“This better be fun,” Quinn muttered. She tugged on her little black dress.

“It will be, girl! Lighten up!” Rhonda pulled Quinn into Fiery Nights, a bar in Tribeca. “Oh, it’s a little crowded.”

That was the understatement of the year. The bar was packed, even with people spilling out to an outdoor patio. Quinn groaned. A preppy guy caught her eye from the bar counter and smiled. Quinn groaned again.

“Look, that table over there just opened up.” Rhonda pushed her way through solid blocks of people before just barely claiming the table. She and Quinn squeezed into their seats and motioned for a waiter. “I’ll have a Mojito to start, and she’ll have—”

“A strawberry daiquiri,” Quinn said.

 

“You know I’m judging you, right?” Rhonda winked at Quinn.

Quinn smiled and felt herself relaxing. She gossiped with Rhonda for a while. Then they people watched. In the two booths near the window alone, a guy was clearly being dumped, another guy was making out with his boyfriend, and a girl was knocking back more than her weight in drinks.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” Quinn said suddenly. “Be right back.”

Rhonda nodded absently. She was preoccupied with trying to interpret the signals she was getting from the sexy brotha two tables across the room.

*^*^*

“I didn’t know married couples even went to bars,” Noah said.

“You have a lot to learn, my friend,” Sean said. “The trick is — wait, hold on…. Emily says not to tell you our trick until you get here.”

“And you do everything Emily says? Man, you are whipped.”

“I’m not whipped, mate. I’m married. There’s a difference.”

Noah grinned into his phone. “Yeah, what’s that?”

“When you get here.”

“Where is here, again?”

“Tribeca. Nights of Fire. Murray Street.”

“What?”

Sean yelled, “Nights of Fire!”

“What?!” Noah cursed his phone for acting up at the worst possible times. “I heard night and I think I heard fire. Murray Street? Okay. Later.”

Thirty minutes later, Noah found himself in front of Fiery Nights. He walked in and scanned the crowded room as best he could, looking for Sean and Emily. After a few minutes, he decided to step outside and call his friend.

“Hey, I’m at Fiery Nights. Where are you sitting?”

“Wait, what?

“I’m at Fiery Nights,” Noah repeated impatiently. “Where—”

Sean laughed. “No, no, I said Nights of Fire. On Murray.”

“Are you kidding me? I am on Murray.”

“It’s next to Starbucks.”

 

“Sean, this is Manhattan. Everything is next to a Starbucks! What’s the cross street?”

“Em, what’s the cross street?” Noah could hear Sean asking his wife. “It’s West Broadway.”

“Only two blocks away. See you.” Noah ended the call and started walking toward the correct bar.

*^*^*

 “I was just about to send out a search party. What, did you fall in?”

 “Very funny,” Quinn muttered. She squeezed back into her seat and ordered another drink.

“This really hot guy just walked in and out a few minutes ago.”

“Yeah?” Quinn said, with zero interest.

“He was definitely your type,” Rhonda continued.

“How do you know my type?”

“Tall, dark, handsome, and brooding. Am I right?”

Quinn gained a newfound respect for Rhonda. “I’m not looking.”

“You don’t have to marry anyone. Just be open to possibilities.”

“Thanks, Oprah.”

“Well, damn.”

*

“I need coffee,” Quinn said two hours later.

“Didja know,” Rhonda began slowly, “didja know that coffee is the most racist beverage out there? Think about it. No one likes it black except for…except for…”

Quinn maneuvered Rhonda out of Fiery Nights. “I think you shouldn’t have had that last drink.”

“Two,” Rhonda said clearly. 

“Last two drinks,” Quinn self-corrected. “Come on. We’ll find a coffee shop before we head back to the hotel.”

“Coffee,” Rhonda said. She stumbled a little. Quinn gripped her arm tighter. “Didja know that coffee is—”

“Racist? Yeah, I got it. You told me already.”

“I did?”

“Yes, Rhonda.”

 “’Kay. Just so you…just so you know.”

 

Quinn sighed and stopped in front of a Starbucks. “Here we go. Now come on and…don’t say anything about…anything. Okay?”

Rhonda nodded meekly. “Okay Quinn. Quiiiiinn. Quuuuuinn. Qu—”

“Rhonda!” Quinn settled her friend at a table near the entrance and gave her a stern look before going to the cash register.

*^*^*

Emily was trying to tell a funny story about a job gone wrong last week, but she kept laughing before she could get to the point. Sean laughed along with her as they exited Nights of Fire. Noah let the sound of their laughter wash over him. He wasn’t drunk. He was just enough buzzed, though, that – at first – he didn’t recognize her. Then he did a double take, stared at the back of a small blonde woman half a block in front of him, and said, “Quinn?”

Emily looked at him oddly. “Actually, her name was Sarah, but…”

“No, I mean…” Noah shook his head and shouted. “Quinn!”

The blonde woman turned around. Hazel eyes met brown ones. Quinn and Noah walked toward each other. Sean, Emily, and Rhonda scrambled to catch up.

“Hi,” Quinn said.

“Hi,” Noah said.

They stood in silence. It was cold outside. Quinn was still clutching a cup of coffee. Noah stuck his hands in his pockets. Sean and Emily, and Rhonda eyed each other a little warily. 

Two minutes passed in complete silence. Quinn and Noah studied each other. ‘He’s still hot,’ Quinn thought to herself. ‘She’s thinner, but still sexy. That dress!’ Noah thought to himself.

“I don’t want to be that person,” Sean began, “but who are you? And if you’re going to keep staring at each other can we at least get out of the cold?”

“I’m—” Quinn said.

 “She’s—” Noah started simultaneously.

“Go ahead,” Quinn offered.

“She was my…my—”

“A friend from high school,” Quinn said. “We haven’t seen each other in five years.”

“Great!” Sean said. “Nice to meet you. Noah, Em and I are going to go home, okay?”

“Yeah, sure,” Noah said absently.

“Oh, Rhonda!” Quinn exclaimed. She linked arms with Rhonda. “This is Rhonda. We work together. We should probably be getting back—”

 

“I’ll take a cab,” Rhonda said promptly. She nodded. “I’ll take a cab.” 

“I’ll get one for you,” Noah offered. He walked over to the curb and tried to flag down a taxi.

Quinn fussed over Rhonda a little. “Are you sure you’re okay to go alone?”

“Yeah! Cold air and coffee…I’m so sober now I could…do something really difficult. Fly a spaceship or something." 

“Okay,” Quinn said doubtfully.

“You know that’s the guy I was telling you about, in the bar.”

“Wait, really?" 

“Yeah. Get it girl!”

“Rhonda!”

Rhonda shrugged. “Told you he was your type. And you know him, so it’s all good.”

Quinn groaned.

“Cab’s here.” Noah motioned to Quinn and Rhonda. 

Quinn gave the taxi driver the hotel’s address and waited till he pulled into traffic, Rhonda in tow. 

“So…”

“So…”

Noah ran a hand over his head. “Wanna talk in Starbucks?”

Quinn pulled out her cell phone. “It’s already 2:30am. Won’t it close soon?”

Noah pointed to the large sign in the window. “It’s open 24/7.”

“Oh. Okay.”

*

They settled into the same table Quinn had sat with Rhonda thirty minutes earlier. Noah polished off a danish while Quinn occasionally sipped at her coffee.

“You don’t live in New York, do you?”

Quinn looked affronted. What was he trying to say, anyway? “Why do you think I don’t live in New York?”

“If you did, I probably would’ve heard about it from Berry,” Noah explained.

Quinn’s jaw dropped. “You kept in touch with Rachel?” And not with me?, she wanted to continue, but didn’t.

 

“Hell no! I mean, it’s not like I wanted to. Finn and I still talk sometimes, and he still has a thing for her — dude needs to let it go already — so he gets news from her. Berry is the same, maybe a little less neurotic. Maybe. I think she keeps tabs on all of us from glee.”

“But…I don’t talk to her. I haven’t even seen her since graduation. How would she know where I live? Or what I’ve been doing?”

Noah shrugged. “Do you talk to anyone from glee?”

“Uh…Santana. And Mike and Matt, on and off.”

“Yeah. That’s how Berry knows. What have you been doing, anyway?”

“I’m a social worker in Cleveland.” Quinn looked annoyed. “It’s like Big Brother.”

Noah shrugged again. “Berry is insane.”

An awkward silence fell. Quinn wanted desperately to be real with Noah, to talk about the elephant in the room: their relationship. But she didn’t have the courage. “So you live in New York,” she said instead. ‘Stupid, stupid, stupid,’ she thought. ‘Of course he lives in New York. What else would he be doing here?

“Yeah. I go to Columbia. Sean — that’s the guy I was with — goes there, too. So do my roommates; that’s where we met. Sean’s wife works at a catering company.” Noah knew he was rambling, but he wanted to fill the silence with something.

“Columbia, wow!” Quinn said, impressed. “Not that I’m surprised. Merc — um…you really pulled it together senior year. But you went to Notre Dame, right? So you’re in grad school?”

Noah didn’t want to think about Mercedes, because that would force him to think about the relationship they’d all had, and he definitely didn’t want to think about that. “School of Architecture,” he said tersely.

Quinn picked up on his tone and frowned. She took another sip of her cooling coffee and gathered her thoughts. “You’ve really changed, Noah,” she said quietly.

He looked her dead in the eyes. Quinn tried not to squirm. “Yeah?”

“For the better. I mean, not that—”

“Yeah, I get it,” Noah saved her. “School, you know. Either you grow up or you drop out. Especially since it’s so fucking expensive.”

Quinn nodded.

“What are you doing in New York?”

“There was a foster care conference this weekend. Closing ceremony is tomorrow. It was good.”

“So you’re leaving tomorrow." 

“Yeah.”

Noah finished his muffin. “Huh.”

 

Huh?’ Quinn thought. “It’s getting late,” Quinn said.

“Oh, yeah. Right.”

They walked out of the Starbucks and awkwardly stood together outside. Quinn pulled her scarf up to her earlobes.

“Maybe we should—”

“Don’t you think—” Quinn said simultaneously.

 “You first,” Noah said generously. He could see his breath in the cold air. 

“Um,” Quinn began. “Uh. Um….phone numbers?” she squeaked out. It was hard to be so forward.

“Yeah,” Noah said quickly. He got out a piece of paper and scribbled on it. “Here’s my email address, too.” He pulled out his iPhone. “You?”

Quinn recited her cell number and email address.

“Let me get you a taxi,” Noah offered. He walked to the curb where he had hailed a cab for Rhonda.

Quinn was struck by his chivalry. Her mind immediately flashed back to a conversation she’d had with Mercedes after their fourth date with Noah, sophomore year. Their relationship was still very new then.

Mercedes peeled open a fruit cup. “Quinn, you were about to jump him!”

“I was not,” Quinn protested half-heartedly.

“Face it, girl. He called you ‘Q’ and you nearly threw yourself at him.”

  Quinn groaned. “You’re right. But don’t you find it hot when he calls you ‘mama?’ You can’t tell me you don’t want to grab him and…you know.”

  Mercedes grinned. “Hell yes. But it’s called self control, dear.”

  Quinn groaned again. Mercedes peered at her. “You actually get turned on by, like, chivalry?”

  “Don’t laugh,” Quinn said.

  Mercedes was already laughing.

  “Stop laughing, Mercy!”

Mercedes’ laughter was uncontrollable.

“You’re crying!” Quinn said in disbelief.

  Mercedes gasped for breath. “I’m-I’m sorry.” She giggled. “Oh God.” She tried to calm herself down, and ate the last of the diced peaches. “So if I treat you like a princess will you make out with me?”


  Quinn leaned in and whispered in her ear. “I thought you’d never ask.”

“Quinn. Quinn!” Noah’s voice broke her out of her reverie.

“Yeah?”

“Taxi’s here.” Noah looked at her curiously.

“Thanks.” Quinn wanted to hug him. Or touch him in some way. But she didn’t make a move to, and neither did he.

“So…I’ll call you,” Noah said.

“Okay.”

“’Bye.”

“’Bye,” Quinn whispered. She slid into the cab. Noah shut the door behind her and watched the car pull away.

Chivalry,’ Quinn thought.

 

Chapter Text

PART FOUR. COMMUNICATION INTERLUDE

 

When I finally realized what was going on between Mercedes, Puck, and Quinn, I went to Emma for advice. “They’re not hurting anyone, right? Maybe it will blow over,” she said. I nodded. Two years later, they each had solos in “Let the River Run” for our sectionals performance their senior year, and the amount of emotion they infused into Carly Simon’s Oscar-winning song told me that they were still going strong. The three of them. Together. Sue Sylvester never let me forget it; if I had a nickel for every Utah-polygamy-Mormonism quip she told me…

-William Schuester

 

December 25. 2:34pm.

Merry Christmas

*

December 25. 4:01pm.

Thanks, Happy Chanukah!

*

January 3. 11:42am.

From: npuckerman@gmail.com

To: qisaletterofthealphabet@yahoo.com

Who the fuck is Harry?

Hey Quinn

I got an email from some guy named Harry James two days ago. He bitched a little about you, and me, and this mythical “us.” How did he get my email? What the fuck is his problem? And why is he named after a fictional character? I was going to tell him to shove it—

Okay, you called while I was typing this. Glad you dropped him. He sounds like a real creep, especially since he looked through your phone to get my email address.

Yo change the locks on your door.

Later

Noah

*

January 17. 6:07pm.

“This is Noah. I’m not here. Leave a message, unless you know I don’t want to hear from you.”

Hi Noah, it’s Quinn. You’re probably studying or something. I wanted to know if you got the invitation to Mike’s wedding? Mike Chang? I know it’s not for a few months, but are you planning on going? Let me know. Okay. I’ll talk to you soon. ‘Bye. 

*

January 20. 7:35am.

“This is Quinn Fabray’s phone. I’m unavailable right now. If you need to reach me urgently, try my work phone: 216 568 2047. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks. ‘Bye.”

Sorry it’s so late, I’ve been busy. I can’t believe Mike’s getting married. I’m going. It’s in July right? I talked to him yesterday. He invited the whole glee crew.

*

 January 31. 2:21am.

From: qisaletterofthealphabet@yahoo.com

To: npuckerman@gmail.com

It’s like watching a train wreck…you know you should but you can’t look away.

I started talking to Rachel again. You were right, she’s basically the same. A little nicer, I think, but still crazy. I think we’re all drawn to her in a weird way. Anyway, she keeps going on about this Off-Off-Broadway production she’s in. You’ve probably heard about it from Finn. You should go see it! Lucky me, I’m in Ohio so she knows there’s no way I can go see it.

I attached an mp3 of Rachel’s solo in the play.

Quinn

This_Burden_is_not_Mine_Alone

*

February 3. 12:45pm.

“This is Quinn Fabray’s phone. I’m unavailable right now. If you need to reach me urgently, try my work phone: 216 568 2047. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks. ‘Bye.”

Hey it’s Noah. Listen, I’ll be in Chicago two weeks from now for a few days. Maybe we can meet up? Let me know. Oh, and I was forced to see Berry’s show last night. I think Finn’s seen it seven times already. She was good; I’m not going to lie. Don’t tell her I said that though. I told her she was crap. But I know she saw through it because she smiled and grabbed the flowers I’d brought. Whatever.

Call me back. 

Chapter Text

PART FIVE. EARLY FEBRUARY

 

I couldn’t see how my annoying older brother got two girls to be with him. I liked them both. Sometimes Quinn told me about Beth, but mostly we talked about my friends and she gave me advice. And Mercedes took me shopping with her boy friend who was just a friend who was a boy. Best of all, they both got mad at Noah when he was mean to me. He hated that! But then he would smile at them, which was confusing.

-Sarah Puckerman

 

Law school was taking over Mercedes’ life. She couldn’t say when she’d last talked to anyone about something that wasn’t the United States Constitution, or property rights in Washington D.C. She’d done great last semester, two A’s and two B’s, but she was still scrambling for a decent summer internship. She had to work her butt off this term, and that left no room for a social life. Or any life, for that matter. She was seated at her desk, hunched over a seventy-year-old, three-hundred-page commentary on the constitution. She looked longingly at her computer (even a lame YouTube video would offer a much needed distraction), but shook her head. “Focus, Mercedes,” she said to herself.

“Sweet Thang” blared from inside her purse, providing a distraction anyway. Mercedes looked at her phone. The number on the screen was unknown to her, so she didn’t answer. The phone rang again. She picked up on the second ring.

“Hello?”

“Mercedes?”

Mercedes nearly dropped the phone. “Quinn?”

“Yeah. Um, how are you?”

“Fine. How did you get my number?”

“Kurt.”

“Kurt gave you my number?!”

“I mean, indirectly. I got it from Rachel who got it from Finn who got it from Kurt. Rachel likes happy endings.”

Mercedes smiled unwittingly. Then she frowned. “Why are you calling, Quinn? It’s been five years.”

“I know. I…well, I don’t know what to say. Two months ago I ran into Noah in New York, and we started talking again.”

“And?”

And, I miss you.”

Mercedes sighed. “Quinn—”

“No, hear me out. I’m still in Ohio, Noah’s in New York, and you’re — Rachel said you’re at Georgetown, so you’re in D.C. Noah and I have been talking for two months now. And we haven’t mentioned you once, Mercedes, because it, well, it fucking hurts.”

“Quinn—”

Quinn barreled on. “We broke up for the dumbest reasons. I miss you. I think I’ve been missing you for five years, and I didn’t realize it until I saw Noah and realized how much I’d been missing him. I miss your laugh, your style. I miss your clothes—”

“My clothes?”

“Your clothes. I miss listening to you and Noah argue about video games. I miss the way you called me ‘babe.’ I miss…” Quinn gave a low laugh. “I miss your breasts.”

God, Quinn!”

“Noah’s going to be in Chicago in a week and a half, Friday the 17th to Monday the 20th. I’m going to meet him there. Please come. He doesn’t know I’m calling you, but—”

“Quinn,” Mercedes began.

“I understand if you’re pissed,” Quinn went on. “When I think about that stupid argument we had at that restaurant…oh, it was so stupid. We’re all adults now, right? And I want to feel… I need you, okay? And Noah. I feel like I loved, really loved, in high school. And I’ve been trying to feel that love ever since, but I’ve been failing miserably, because you and Noah are the only people that made me feel that way and I was an idiot for thinking that I could find that with someone else.”

Mercedes gripped her phone tighter. “Quinn—”

“I’m sorry, Mercy,” Quinn said. She used her nickname for Mercedes without thinking. “I told myself I would call and keep it together. Invite you to Chicago and talk about the weather and be calm, but everything just spilled out. I’m sorry.”

“Babe!” Mercedes shouted.

“Yeah?”

“I’ll think about it. Okay?”

“Oh, sure. Yeah. That’s fine.”

Mercedes quit playing with the cap of her pen. “It’s just that I’m really busy with school and…”

“No problem. Really. Just…let me know.”

“Sure, okay.”

“Great. And Mercedes?”

Mercedes pictured Quinn on the other end, most likely fiddling nervously with her ponytail. Quinn had a thing for ponytails in high school. That probably hadn’t changed. “Yeah?”

“You sound really good. I mean, you sound like you’re doing well.”

Mercedes smiled. “So do you, Quinn. I’ll let you know about Chicago, okay? ‘Bye.”

“Okay. ’Bye.”

Mercedes slammed her textbook shut and paced around her room for a few minutes. Then she made a phone call. “Hi, Kurt. First, let’s talk about how you managed to give Quinn Fabray my phone number.”

Three days later, Mercedes was taking a much-needed break from studying. She watched lame YouTube videos. She talked to some of the people on her hall. She called her mom. Through all of that, she tried to decide whether or not she would go to Chicago.

Yesterday, Rachel had called her, spending just over fifteen minutes persuading her to go. (“Mercedes, you simply must try to rekindle the obviously bright and effervescent flame you once had for Quinn and Noah. Granted, it was an unorthodox relationship, but you were all so happy! And, along with successful – though not as successful as me, of course – and healthy, I would love nothing more than to see my fellow glee clubbers happy! I’ve talked this over with Finn and Artie and Tina, oh and Santana and Mike and Matt, and Kurt and Brittany — we all agree you should go to Chicago. Naturally, I’ll expect a full report when you return.”)

Mercedes was still unclear of exactly how she’d managed to stay in touch with the diva. 

Then she’d received a phone call from Kurt. (“Don’t kill me, ‘Cedes. Just check your Facebook. And keep an open mind. You know I want you to be happy, right? You need a vacation, anyway. And there’s a new boutique in Chicago that my design professor has been raving about. Take pictures for me, okay? Maybe get some contact info? I’ll talk to you before you go. ‘Bye sweetie.”)

Mercedes logged into Facebook somewhat warily. There was a message in her inbox from Kurt. She clicked on it…

…And vowed to spam Kurt’s Facebook inbox with pictures of fashion faux pas.

 

Mercedes Jones’ Facebook Inbox

Between You and Kurt Hummel

Kurt Hummel February 9 at 2:24pm Report
‘Cedes, you can get mad at me about this later. But Noah persuaded Finn to persuade me to let him use my facebook to contact you. I’m sorry, but this is for your own good. Love you!

Mercedes Jones February 9 at 5:03pm
Kurt Hummel, I’m going to kill you and hide your body in a hideous sarcophagus. You will be wearing a white polyester suit, and your hair will be a mess, if I don’t cut if off. Is that what you want? I know you’re avoiding my calls, dammit!

Kurt Hummel February 10 at 1:56am Report
Hi Mercedes, it’s Noah. Don’t delete this.

It’s fuckin weird to be talking to you with Hummel’s face staring at me like that. But he won’t change the damn picture.

That’s not why I’m writing though. You never were one of those girls that wanted me to talk about my feelings…and that’s one of the things I loved about you. Love about you. maybe you were just really confident and you didn’t need me to reaffirm how I felt about you every two minutes. Or maybe you know that dudes don’t talk about feelings. Anyway, you never asked me to give you that crap, which means I’m five years overdue. So here goes.

I miss you. I want you in my life, in my bed. I want you as a fucking facebook friend. 

I saw Quinn in New York two months ago and we’ve kind of kept in touch since. I can’t tell if she misses you too. Maybe she does. We haven’t talked about you at all. But I think about you. A lot.

I’m at Columbia now, at the architecture school. Yes, I’m doing something with my life.

You and Quinn never gave me shit about going to class or not being a Lima Loser, but you still made me want to be better.

We were fuckin stupid to break up over the dumb shit we did. Five years later, though, I’m saying it:

I loved you then, and I still love you now. Yes, even though I haven’t seen you in five years.

I’m going to be in Chicago on the 17th. That’s a Fri.; from the 17th to the 20th. I invited Quinn, too. Can you come? I’ll be driving up…if you come up to NY from DC we can ride together. Let me know, mama. My number: (917) 532-1289.

Noah.

Mercedes Jones February 11 at 7:41am
I’ll call you.

*^*^*

 

Noah pulled up to the storefront of the Chinese bus company in Chinatown and cursed. There was a small crowd of people standing on the sidewalk; clearly, the bus from D.C. had already come. He parked and got out, scanning the crowd for her. He spotted her near the back, in jeans and a blue winter coat. He tapped her arm, and she spun around.

“Noah!”

“Hi, Mercedes." 

They stood in silence for a minute. Mercedes tightened her hold on her weekend bag. “Let’s go,” she said.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll put your bag in the trunk,” Noah offered.

She nodded. “Lead the way.”

Noah dropped the bag in the trunk, slammed it shut, and opened the passenger door for Mercedes. She raised a brow, and slid in. Noah started the ignition and fiddled with his iPhone. “You can switch in your iPod when you want.”

Mercedes nodded. “How long is this ride again?”

Noah eased into the lane leading to the Holland Tunnel. “About thirteen hours. Factor in traffic, and stopping to pick up Quinn…fifteen to sixteen hours.”

“Wonderful,” Mercedes muttered.

Noah shrugged.

They didn’t speak again until two hours later, when Mercedes switched in her iPod, tired of listening to indie rock. “Your taste in music is still crap.”

The sound of something soulful filled the car. “And yours is still stereotypical,” Noah shot back.

Mercedes was amused. “Oh, I’ve got a few surprises on my iPod.”

“So do I.”

“I’ve got Metallica.”

Noah looked impressed, but determined. “I’ve got Aretha,” he countered.

Everyone has at least one Aretha song,” Mercedes said. “Doesn’t count. I’ve got Zeppelin.”

“If it’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ it doesn’t count.”

“Crap,” Mercedes muttered. 

“I’ve got Floetry,” Noah continued.

“Well, I’ve got…wait, what?!” Mercedes turned to stare at Noah.

“Floetry,” he said with a triumphant grin.

“No, you don’t!”

“Yeah, I do.”

Mercedes stared at him in disbelief. “Which song?”

“’Say Yes’.”

“No way, Noah!”

“Don’t believe me? Play it from my iPhone.”

“I’m not gonna play it. That song should be rated NC-17. She moans for half the damn track!” Mercedes shook her head and smiled. “I taught you well.” She leaned back in her seat. “But do you listen to it? It doesn’t count if you don’t listen it.”

Noah glanced at her quickly. “How often do you listen to ‘Stairway to Heaven’?”

“Touché. But, seriously. Do you listen to it?”

“Not since high school. It reminds me of you.”

“Don’t say that.”

“It’s true.”

“It makes me sound like a slut, Noah. 

“That’s not why it reminds me of you.”

Mercedes didn’t want to ask him why the song reminded him of her. He told her anyway.

“I was pissed when Quinn invited you on our date that one time, remember?”

“That one time that turned into two, three, four times,” Mercedes said.

“Yeah. But after we all got together, and I realized the more awesome perks of being with two fucking sexy girls—”

“Noah!”

“And you played the song while you took off your—”

“Noah!” Mercedes was blushing. Blushing. She couldn’t remember the last time she had.

“It’s reminded me of you ever since,” he finished.

Mercedes shook her head with a fond smile.

Noah honked his horn at the SUV that had just cut in front of him. “Asshole!” he griped. “Ever hear of a fucking blinker?”

Mercedes rolled her eyes.

*

Ten hours, two pit stops, and seven iPod switches later, Noah perked up at a sign that read: Cleveland 22 miles. They were about two and a half hours away from Quinn. He pulled into a rest area and shook Mercedes awake. She’d been asleep for the past three hours. “Mercedes.”

“Hmmm,” she said, half asleep.

“Mercedes, wake up! I need you to drive.”

Mercedes sat up and pulled on the lever that made her chair resume its upright position. She nodded and rubbed her eyes. “Okay. Let me grab something to eat first.”

Mercedes returned from the convenience store with a bagel and orange juice for Noah and herself. “Thanks,” he muttered from the passenger’s seat.

Mercedes drove back onto the highway. “Stay awake long enough to read me the directions to Quinn’s place, okay?”

Noah pointed to the GPS he’d set up on his phone. “It talks,” he said.

“Never mind, then. Get some sleep.” Mercedes fiddled with her iPod and started a gospel playlist.

“Mercedes,” Noah mumbled, half-asleep.

“I need to listen to something! It’s low, it won’t disturb you.”

Noah shrugged imperceptibly and shut his eyes.

*

Mercedes lowered the window and gave Quinn a small smile.

“Hi, Mercedes!” Quinn greeted her happily and kissed her cheek.

“Um, hi Quinn. It is way too early for you to be this happy. I popped the trunk for your bag.”

Quinn dropped her bag in the trunk. “Hey, has Noah been sleeping long?”

“About two and a half hours. Why?”

“No, I thought I would wake him and get him to sit in the backseat, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll sit in back.”

“Great. Let’s go.”

Quinn settled into the back seat, wrapping herself with a blanket Mercedes had tossed there earlier. “It’s really good to see you, Mercedes, after all this time. I’m so glad you decided to come.”

Mercedes smiled. ‘Oh, what the heck?’ she thought. “It’s nice to see you too, babe.”

Quinn blushed.

“If you ask me, I think Noah’s hoping to have us back in his bed by tonight, but—”

“Let’s take it step by step, right? We don’t need to rush into anything. Maybe that’s why we screwed up last time,” Quinn said.

“Hmmm,” Mercedes said.

Quinn couldn’t help becoming defensive. “What does that mean?" 

Mercedes nearly rolled her eyes. “It means ‘hmmm,’ Quinn! Can we not do this right now?”

“Mercedes, I just asked a simple question!”

Mercedes reined in her temper, bit her tongue, and listened to her music for a few minutes. Then, “Let’s start over, Quinn, okay? After five years of nothing, let’s not start arguing immediately.”

Quinn sighed. “You’re right. Hi, Mercedes. How are you?”

“I’m a little tired, Quinn, but it’s all good. How are you?”

“Better now that I’m with you and Noah again.”

This time, Mercedes rolled her eyes and smiled. “How long have you been waiting to say that?”

Quinn grinned. “Five years. Did it come off right? It sounded kind of trite, right?”

“No, no. Maybe a little soap opera-esque, but no, it was good. Slightly desperate, but I guess we all are if we’re on this trip.” 

Quinn smiled at Mercedes and fondly caressed Noah’s cheek. “Yeah, I guess we are.”

*

They arrived in Chicago around noon on Friday. Noah had been awake for two hours by then, and conversation had centered around:

(1) Noah’s Floetry confession

(“Remember when Mercedes took off her—”

“Yes, Quinn, we all remember,” Mercedes interrupted. “Don’t think I’ll do it again, either, because I won’t.”

“Give it time, mama.” Noah and Quinn grinned at each other, partners in crime.

“And don’t think I didn’t see the looks you gave each other!” Mercedes said. “Just wait till I’m not driving, Mr. and Mrs. Can-You-Really-Use-Whipped-Cream-There—”

“Okay, okay,” Quinn said hurriedly.);

(2) Rachel’s successful campaign to keep in touch with all the glee members

(“I heard she offered to sing at Mike’s wedding,” Quinn said. 

“No, actually,” Noah began. He winced.

Quinn and Mercedes caught each other’s eyes in the rearview mirror. “Oh God. Noah, what did she do?” Mercedes asked.

“She offered on behalf of New Directions.”

Quinn frowned. “Wait. She wants us all to sing at Mike’s wedding?” 

“Mike, too,” Noah said. 

“Hold up a damn second,” Mercedes said. “I’m going to Mike’s wedding as a guest, not as a performer. And she can’t make Mike perform at his own wedding!”

“Tell that to Berry,” Noah said. “Finn’s been trying to talk her out of it but he can’t control her.”

No one can control her!” they said in unison.); and

(3) The cost of living in New York, D.C., and Cleveland, respectively

(“I budget every time I walk into Starbucks!” 

“At least you go to Starbucks. I’m paying so much for law school; I need to get my money’s worth. I only leave my room for class and food. I mean, I brought a copy of the constitution with me on this trip!”

“Social workers still get paid less than Wal-Mart greeters, and social workers in urban areas are at the bottom of the ladder. My studio apartment used to be a maid’s room!”).

They were feeling congenial and relaxed when they finally reached the hotel. Noah checked in and returned with a parking slip. “Apparently, there’s a lot a block away where we can park for free.”

Mercedes looked skeptical, but she drove to the lot and showed the parking attendant the slip from the concierge. He waved them through.

*

“Noah,” Mercedes said with exasperation.

“It’s huge, Mercedes! We could fit two more people on it.”

“I really hope this isn’t a completely unsubtle way of asking for some,” she replied. She re-pinned a stray curl of hair and frowned at the king-sized bed in their hotel room.

“Mercedes, I’m hurt! What kind of guy do you think I am?” Noah joked.

Mercedes shook her head.

“It’ll be fine,” Quinn spoke up. ‘I’ll sleep in the middle, as usual.”

“As usual? We only fell asleep together twice!”

“Can you not jump down my throat every time I say something?”

“Can you not assume that I came here to start screwing you two again?”

“Can you stop being such a bitch?!”

“Can I—” Mercedes looked like she was about to cut a bitch. “How dare you—”

“Hey! Hey!” Noah said. “Are you guys gonna argue for the whole weekend? Because we didn’t have to drive all the way here for that, you could do it over the phone.”

They both ignored him.

“I am so sick,” Quinn began, “of Mercedes pretending that she’s been fine without us, that she doesn’t want this as much as we do."

“Who says I don’t want this as much as you do? I’m sick of you putting words in my mouth!”

“Putting words in your mouth?! You got upset about a fucking bed, Mercedes! We had to convince you to even come on this trip!”

“Oh please, Quinn. I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t want to. I hate feeling pressured to—”

“Goddammit, Mercedes! No one is pressuring you! Last time I checked, we spent two years doing more than fucking! I love you! Yes, even when you’re being a bitch, which you are right now. Yeah, I said it ‘ cause it’s true. I love you, not only because I want to screw you. I love you for you. And you, Noah,” Quinn said as an afterthought.

Noah nonchalantly shrugged from his seat on the bed.

“It hurts when you make it seem like our relationship was built on nothing but sex. That wasn’t the case.”

“I’m sorry,” Mercedes said. She sank onto the bed next to Noah. He placed an arm around her shoulders. “I know I haven’t said it…but I love you both. I do. Still. And you were right, babe. I never stopped. I guess, after all this time, I still can’t believe that you want me. I could barely believe it in high school, and then we broke up, and it kind of verified…” she trailed off.

Quinn sat beside her and held her hand.  She cupped Mercedes’ chin in her other hand and gently turned her face towards her. She leaned in and kissed her lips. Mercedes’ grip on her hand tightened. Quinn pulled away and said softly, “Okay?”

Mercedes nodded. “Okay,” she whispered.

Noah kissed her then, his arm now around her waist. “Okay?” he asked. 

Mercedes nodded.

Quinn and Noah leaned across Mercedes to kiss each other. After, they pressed their foreheads together for a moment. “Q,” Noah breathed.

Quinn smiled at him before leaning back again. 

“Um,” Mercedes began.

“Yeah, mama?”

“I’m hungry.”

Quinn laughed. “Let’s eat, then.”

*^*^*

Saturday morning, Noah awoke early. He scribbled a note to Quinn and Mercedes and left to work on his project.

Mercedes awoke slightly disoriented, because she could feel someone sleeping beside her. She turned to see a blonde head peeking out of the blankets, and she remembered that she was in Chicago with Quinn and Noah. Mercedes smiled fondly as she gently extricated herself from Quinn’s tight hold. Clearly, she still had a tendency to latch onto the person sleeping next to her. 

A quick glance at her phone told Mercedes that it was just after half past ten — too late for continental breakfast. She groaned. By the time Quinn woke up and showered it would be time for lunch.

A piece of paper lying on Noah’s side of the bed caught her eye. She read: Working on my project. Will be out for most of day. Call about dinner plans around 7. Noah.

“What project?” she said to herself, then shrugged. He had to have come all the way to Chicago for a reason, and anyway, it didn’t matter. Mercedes busied herself with deciding what to wear, verifying the address of the boutique Kurt wanted her to check out, and showering. She was unselfconsciously pulling on her bra as she listened to the ladies on The View argue about politics, when a sleepy Quinn clapped her hands and said, “Oooh, turn around!”

Mercedes clasped the hooks on her bra as she looked over her shoulder at Quinn. “Shut it, you.”

Quinn laughed. “Morning, Mercy.”

“Morning, babe. Think you can be ready by noon? I want to eat something and go check out a boutique Kurt’s been raving about.” Mercedes pulled on a pair of purple jeans and turned to face Quinn. “Or did you have something else you wanted to do?”

Quinn shook her head. “Nope. Where’s Noah?”

Mercedes pointed to the note on the bed. Quinn scanned it. “What project?” she asked.

Mercedes shrugged. Quinn tossed the note aside. “Looks like it’s just you and me, then. I’ll go get ready.”

*

Mercedes couldn’t see anything unique or spectacular about the boutique. It was a cozy storefront with a glass façade, airy and bright inside. Headless mannequins were arrayed in tiny clothes for tiny people, and the salespeople ignored her while falling over themselves to assist Quinn in any way she desired. Quinn redirected them to Mercedes with a frown. Mercedes felt uncomfortable, and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She reeled off the obligatory questions Kurt had given her. She knew enough about fashion to engage in a conversation with the least antagonistic salesperson, who – after a few minutes – stopped looking faintly surprised and wholeheartedly threw himself into the conversation. Meanwhile, Quinn walked around the store and pretended to be interested in a few dresses. 

They left the boutique twenty minutes later. Mercedes was more knowledgeable (she grudgingly admitted to herself that the boutique was more cutting edge than it appeared), and Quinn was short twenty bucks.

“It’s just that I feel bad about looking around a store for twenty minutes without buying something!” she said.

“Quinn, that is the most expensive hairpin I’ve ever seen. You’d better wear it at least twice a week!”

“It was the cheapest thing in the whole store!”

Mercedes linked arms with Quinn. “Poor Quinn. Babe, you should never feel guilty about leaving a store without buying anything.”

“I know, but… And anyway, it’s your fault we were in there so long. Did you get whatever info you wanted?”

“Yeah. And technically, it’s Kurt’s fault.”

Quinn sidestepped a small mound of dirty snow. “Let’s be tourists! We’re meeting Noah for dinner at seven, right? We’ve got a few hours to kill.”

“Okay. Let’s try to find a restaurant, too, and let Noah know which in time for dinner.” 

“Great.”

*^*^*

Bon Appétit was a nice enough Italian restaurant that Mercedes dressed up her jeans with heels, and Quinn wore the hairpin. They were late, and met Noah at a round corner table in the back. He was studying intricate drawings of houses and other buildings. 

“Hey,” he greeted them. Mercedes and Quinn gave Noah quick kisses before sitting.

“You’re really into architecture,” Quinn commented. “What were you doing all day, anyway?”

A waiter stopped by with menus just then and asked for drink orders. The conversation picked up after he left.

“Drawing these.” Noah gestured to the sheaf of papers.

Quinn picked them up and looked through them, giving Mercedes each sheet as she finished with it. “Wow, you drew these? They’re perfect! Look at the details!”

Mercedes nodded in agreement.

Quinn handed the last sheet to Mercedes. “Wait,” she said to Noah. “Was that…was that your project? Drawing buildings all day?” 

Noah nodded. “Yeah.”

Mercedes was wearing an expression that could only be described as wtf? “I’m confused,” she said.

“The drawings don’t tie together, right? I was worried—”

“No, no,” Mercedes said. “I’m just wondering…I mean, I don’t understand…”

“What?” Noah asked.

The waiter interrupted their conversation again, with a request for their dinner orders.

“I think I know where Mercedes is going with this,” Quinn said after the waiter strode away. 

Mercedes winked at her and turned to Noah. “You drove all the way to Chicago to draw?!”

Quinn burst into laughter. “Sorry,” she mumbled after seeing the expression on Noah’s face. 

“I’m doing a project on pre-World War Two urban construction,” Noah said a little defensively.

Mercedes looked incredulous. “Noah. You live in New York.” 

“I’m focusing on more than one city, Mercedes!”

“Sweetheart, New York is four hours from D.C. Two hours from Philly. Minutes from Jersey City. Two hours from—”

“Mercedes,” Noah interrupted her.

“Yeah?”

“I picked Chicago because I wanted us to get together somewhere neutral, somewhere close to Quinn because her schedule is tight, and somewhere nice. We could’ve gone to Cleveland, but Cleveland is a pretty shitty city. No offense, Quinn.” 

Quinn waved it off. “None taken.”

Mercedes’ lips curved into a soft smile. “That’s sweet, Noah. Chivalrous, even.” She kissed his cheek.

Quinn bet anything that her own cheeks were reddening.

Mercedes noticed Quinn blushing. “So, you still get turned on by chivalry?”

Quinn groaned. “I’d hoped you’d forgotten that.”

“Never.”

The waiter returned with their food and a salad bowl refill.

“Thank you,” they said in turn.

The waiter nodded imperceptibly. “Bon appétit.”

“I wanna hear more about this chivalry thing,” Noah said. He twirled pasta onto his fork.

“It’s a little quirk of mine,” Quinn said. “Not a big deal.”

“Whatever you say, Q. So if I hold a door open for you, or a pull a chair out, you’ll seriously get hot?”

“Yeah, she will,” Mercedes offered.

“Mercedes!” Quinn forked a bite of her lasagna in retaliation.

Noah grinned. “So my Ma was right when she said women like gentlemanly shit like that.”

“I’m never going to live this down, am I?”

“Nope,” Mercedes said.

“Now I know,” Noah said. “Q gets turned on by—”

“Shhh!” Quinn said. She looked around anxiously.

Mercedes patted her hand.

“Are we going to talk about high school?” Quinn asked. They’d moved away from discussing Quinn’s chivalry fetish to listening as Noah recounted how his roommates had nearly gotten them all evicted a few months ago. The waiter had brought the dessert menu just as Noah had finished the story. (Mercedes had been laughing so hard she hadn’t gotten any input in the dessert choice: three orders of tiramisu.) Quinn had broached her question during a lull in the conversation. “That’s why we decided to meet in the first place, isn’t it? So…why did we break up?”

Mercedes frowned. “You mean, besides you and Noah cheating? Well—”

“Grabbing someone’s ass isn’t cheating!” Noah interrupted.

Mercedes gave him a stern look. “Do you still believe that? Honestly?”

“…Okay, I can see how that might not be, uh, kosher.”

Quinn spoke up. “I remember you saying Brittany saw Josh and I making out. We kissed. That’s it. And while we’re on the subject, Finn and I never slept together, Noah." 

“What?”

“You said something about how people have to be sleeping together to be crowned prom king and queen.”

“I stand by that.”

God, Noah! I just said—”

“Look, if you say you and Finn didn’t sleep together, I believe you. It would be stupid to lie about that now. But back then, can you blame me for thinking you were screwing each other? You called me a fucking Lima loser! You told everyone that Finn was Beth’s dad!”

Quinn looked ashamed. “I’m still sorry about that.”

“I know,” Noah said.

The table was silent for a few minutes.

Mercedes broke the silence. “When I think about it now, all I can think is: it was the cat.”

“What?” Noah asked.

“I’m sorry?” Quinn asked simultaneously.

“Brittany’s cat,” Mercedes explained.

Noah looked at Mercedes in disbelief. “You’re blaming Brittany’s cat for ruining our relationship?! That’s, like, a new level of low, mama.”

“Just hear me out, Puckerman.”

Quinn rolled her eyes. “Please stop with the name calling, children!”

“She likes it when I call her ‘mama,’ Q,” Noah whined.

“And he likes it when I call him Puckerman,” Mercedes said. “Makes him feel more masculine.” She dug her fork into her tiramisu. “As if he doesn’t feel masculine enough,” she mumbled. 

“The cat?” Quinn reminded her.

“Right. So…” and Mercedes told the story.

*

They settled in bed that night. Noah switched the TV on; Quinn watched with him. Mercedes sat cross-legged and leaned against the headboard, making a half-hearted attempt to study. She quit after half an hour. On the TV screen, Bruce Willis was fighting crime, and the sound of gunfire had been distracting her. 

“Can we make this definite?” Quinn asked.

Mercedes looked at her expectantly.

“Just so we’re clear. We’re together. Again.”

“Yeah,” Noah said distractedly.

“Long-term?” Mercedes asked.

“Let’s take it day by day,” Quinn said.

“We need guidelines,” Mercedes said.

Noah peeled his eyes away from the screen. “Can we talk about this tomorrow?”

Mercedes shrugged. “Okay.”

Quinn nodded.

Bruce Willis said, somewhat fittingly, “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!”

*^*^*

Sunday was spent lazily watching TV, eating, and occasionally making out. Mercedes interrupted one of the evening make out sessions by restating her desire for relationship guidelines. Noah groaned. Just as he was about to join the action, too. Quinn had finally unclasped Mercedes’ bra, while Mercedes was running a hand through Quinn’s hair in the most fucking erotic way imaginable.

“Worst timing ever, mama,” Noah griped. “And that includes that time when we went to Breadstix and—”

“I know, and I’m sorry. But I’ll make it up to you, hon. I promise.”

“How?” Noah leered at her.

Mercedes whispered something in his ear.

Noah kissed her. “I won’t forget,” he said.

Mercedes whispered the same thing in Quinn’s ear. She raised a brow in a perfect arch.

“Okay, so. Guidelines. Or logistics. Whatever. My first point is: we’re all in different cities. We won’t get to see each other much.”

“We’re all going to Mike’s wedding,” Quinn pointed out.

Mercedes nodded. “That’s five months from now.”

“And you and Noah are close by,” Quinn pointed out again.

“True,” Mercedes said. “I guess my main thing is we should try not to get jealous if two of us want to spend time together without the third person. Like sometimes I’ll want us to have girl talk without Noah rolling his eyes, and I’m sure you two want to be together sometimes without me. Although I suppose this isn’t really relevant because we’re so far apart anyway, but…yeah. Did that make any sense at all?” Mercedes finished.

Noah and Quinn nodded.

“It sucks that I’m all the way in Cleveland,” Quinn complained.

“I wouldn’t worry about it, Q. Judging by the size of the books Mercedes brought with her, she’ll be so busy I won’t see her, anyway,” Noah reassured her. He snaked an arm around her bare waist.

“Damn straight,” Mercedes said. “You are the world’s biggest distraction, Noah.”

“Yeah?” He kissed the base of her neck.

Mercedes smiled unwittingly. “See, there you go distracting me.”

“You’re welcome,” he said. “Now can we get back to what we were doing? Quinn was about to take off your bra, and you promised me some action, remember? C’mon, Q.” Noah squeezed her waist and bent to place kisses on her shoulder.

Quinn pointed down at Noah’s bent head. Such a slut, she mouthed to Mercedes.

Love him. Love you, Mercedes mouthed back. She gestured to her bra.

Quinn grinned.

*^*^*

No, we’re not going to Rock, Paper, Scissors this! What are we, in middle school? And anyway, you’re not even a part of this conversation, Noah!” Quinn turned to Mercedes. “Okay?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Quinn slid into the passenger seat, probably more pleased than she should be. But who didn’t enjoy sitting up front?

“You know,” Mercedes said from the backseat, “whenever we go somewhere one of us will always be sitting in the back.”

Quinn contemplated that. “Unless Noah buys another truck. You can fit two passengers in the front of those things.”

“Not happening,” Noah said. “Where would I put it?” He triumphantly selected a song on his iPhone and adjusted the volume on the radio. “Listen up, mama.” He gave the parking slip to the parking attendant and headed toward the I-90.

The song innocuously drifted from the speakers:

See I been watching you for a while, and your smile and style

Wanna know if I can be with you for the night, all right?

Is that all right, baby?

Quinn’s brow furrowed. “Is that—”

“Yes,” Mercedes said. “Noah! I can’t believe you’re actually playing it!”

“Believe it,” he said. He caught her eye in the rearview mirror and grinned.

I’m about to let you know

You make me so, so, so, so, so…

The singer trailed off into unintelligible moans.

“Oh,” said Quinn. “Oh. Oh.”  

“Exactly,” Mercedes said from the back.

Noah drove up the ramp to the highway. He turned up the volume. “You know I’m picturing you taking off your—”

Mercedes pouted. “I hate you so much right now.”

*^*^*

7:45pm. Noah: Dude I am a baller.

7:56pm. Finn: What?

 

7:58pm. Noah: A badass. Got my 3some…again.

8:02pm. Finn: Dude you r never gonna see them. M is in DC and Q is in OH.

 

8:05pm. Noah: Details, man, details.

*

Noah pushed open the door to his apartment, exhausted. He dropped his bag on the floor, tossed the car keys on top of the bag, and sank onto the couch next to Rob.

“How was Chicago?” Rob asked. “Can you even see the goalposts?!” he yelled at the screen. “Moron.”

“Windy,” Noah said. He still couldn’t understand how worked up Rob got over soccer.

“Okaaaay,” Rob said.

“No, I mean…. It’s called the windy city. It was a joke? Whatever.”

“I’m Australian. How would I know Chicago’s nickname?”

Noah shrugged.

Jamal emerged from his bedroom and spotted Noah. “Hey man, how was...wow!”

“What?” Noah asked. He tried to ignore the sports announcer’s annoying habit of saying “so to speak” every other sentence.

Jamal dropped onto the couch next to Rob. “He got laid,” he said to him.

Sean shouted from the kitchen, “Speak up, I think you said something crazy!”

Noah rolled his eyes. Last he checked, Sean had a kitchen of his own twenty blocks away.

“Noah here got laid,” Jamal shouted back.

Rob snorted. “He wishes he got laid.” He took a closer look at Noah. “On second thought, though… I think you’re right.”

“He had to go all the way to Chicago to get laid?” Sean shouted.

“Guess he doesn’t like New York girls,” Jamal said.

“New York girls are the shit, my man. Trust me; I crossed a damn ocean and this whole continent to sample the goods.”

“Well, Noah came from Ohio, which – relatively speaking – is not that far away,” Sean yelled. “Nothing like coming from Australia.” 

Noah used Rob’s distraction as an opportunity to lower the volume on the TV. “Okay, first: this place is not that big, so why the hell are you shouting? Second, I didn’t get laid. Christ. Third, why the fuck are you here, Sean?”

Sean ignored his question. “You got something.”

“A little somethin’ somethin,’ if you know what I mean.” Jamal and Rob clinked beers.

Noah felt a headache coming on. “We didn’t…but… Anyway, I’m in a relationship. Pass the chips.”

Rob handed him the bag before turning the volume back up.

Noah rolled his eyes. “Great,” he mumbled.

Sean finally left the kitchen and leaned against the wall near the TV. “You went to Chicago for three days and you’re already in a relationship?" 

“Yo what did I say?” Jamal said. “Chicago girls are fast.”

“Why am I even having this conversation?” Noah muttered. “They aren’t Chicago girls!” He ran a hand over his head and sighed. “Remember when I said that I was dating two girls—”

“In high school. Yeah,” Rob interrupted.

“Well…’’

“You guys are together again?!” Sean gestured for the bag of chips.

Noah nodded.

“But you said they aren’t from Chicago.” Rob said. “They just ‘happened’ to be there the same weekend as you, right?”

“We made plans to meet up.”

Sean swallowed and said, “And after all these years, they said yes?”

“What can I say? I’m hard to resist.”

“So hard to resist that you didn’t get laid,” Rob quipped.

“That wasn’t the point of our meeting!” Noah protested.

“Yeah. Uh huh. Keep telling yourself that.”

“They must really like you to ... after five years? They’re hot, right?” Sean asked.

“Hell yes.”

Rob mock coughed. “Of course they’re hot to him. But can we trust a guy who had to go all the way to Chicago to finally get some?

“I didn’t—”

“Yeah, we got it. You didn’t get some.”

“Shut the fuck up. Here’s a picture.” Noah pulled his phone out and gave it to Rob. Sean and Jamal peered at the screen as well.

“Damn,” Rob said.

“Damn,” Sean said.

Damn,” Jamal said.

*^*^*

 


Kurt Hummel just saw Kelly Ripa in the Starbucks near my school. She was rude to the cashier. 6 hours ago



Wall Info Photos Boxes

Mercedes Jones I’ll call you later, but I just wanted to say thanks for the facebook intervention. I love you.
Yesterday at 4:35pm

Kurt Hummel, Noah Puckerman, Quinn Fabray, and 8 others like this.

Kurt Hummel :)
10 hours ago

Mercedes Jones Is there a reason why *every single person from Glee* knows about the facebook intervention? [Also, they need italics on fb.]
7 hours ago

Rachel Barbra Berry We’re all family, Mercedes! Naturally, I took it upon myself to inform everyone.
6 hours ago

Mercedes Jones Don’t make me take you to the carpet, Rachel! ;)
4 hours ago

Rachel Barbra Berry I love you, too! Rachel ★ ← (pretend it’s gold!)
3 hours ago

Santana Lopez My email inbox hates you both right now.
2 hours ago


*^*^*

9:38am. Santana: U n Puck n Jones together again?

9:42am. Quinn: Um.

 

9:47am. Santana: it’s on Tinkerbell’s facebook. AND Manhands told everyone.

9:49am. Santana: And by that I mean everyone

9:51am. Santana: I got a tweet from coach Sylvester

 

9:54am. Quinn: Wait seriously?

 

9:55am. Santana: GET UR LIFE TOGETHER!

 

10:01am. Quinn: Can we talk about this later?

10:03am. Santana: Better! U know I hate hearing stuff like this last!

10:05am. Quinn: Call u later.

10:06am. Santana: Bye.

 

Chapter Text

PART SIX. THREE YEARS AND EIGHT MONTHS LATER: A DAY IN THEIR LIFE

 

Their relationship improved Glee rehearsals, which is one of the reasons I was supportive of it. (Also, I wanted my fellow gleeks to be happy! But I wanted to win Nationals, too. More, to be honest.) Noah was less of a delinquent, Mercedes was less antagonistic, and Quinn was less passive-aggressive. All in all, the perfect recipe for smooth and productive rehearsals.

-Rachel Berry

 

Some people stand in the darkness

Afraid to step into the lights

Some people need to help somebody

When the edge of surrender’s in sight 

“Mercedes,” Noah groaned.

Don’t you worry; it’s gonna be all right

‘Cause I’m always ready, I won’t let you out of my sight 

“Mercedes.” 

I’ll be ready. Never you fear

I’ll be ready. Forever and always, I’m always here 

“Mercedes!”

Mercedes snaked a hand out from under the blankets, hit the snooze button, and spun the volume wheel down — all with amazing accuracy, considering her eyes were still closed. Noah would’ve been impressed, if he wasn’t pissed that he was waking up to the fucking theme song from fucking Baywatch.

“Mama, you can’t tell me it isn’t disconcerting as hell to wake up to the theme from Baywatch. Even if it does provide some awesome imagery of Pamela Anderson in a red one-piece. Hmmm…”

Mercedes opened her eyes then and turned to face him, propping herself up on one elbow. Between them, Quinn snored softly, oblivious to their conversation. “Compromise, Noah. Tomorrow Quinn gets to choose, and the day after that, you do.”

“Whatever happened to ‘ring ring fucking ring?’”

“‘Ring ring fucking ring’ doesn’t inspire me to wake up in the morning,” Mercedes grouched. She sat up in bed, jostling Quinn as she did so. The woman made an unintelligible sound, and remained asleep. Mercedes patted her back in apology.

“And Baywatch does?”

“Yes. Anyway, don’t you have somewhere to be? Wake Quinn before you shower.”

Noah was already headed down the hall to the bathroom. “No can do,” he called to her.

“Dammit,” Mercedes muttered. Waking Quinn was a chore that she and Noah split between them — rather unevenly, Mercedes thought. It made sense that she would be left with the task more often than not though, since it wasn’t as if she had anything to do with her days. Mercedes sighed and shook Quinn. “Quinn. Babe.”

Quinn muttered something that vaguely sounded like, “Fuck off.”

Mercedes frowned and decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. She probably didn’t even know what she was saying. “Quinn, wake up!”

Quinn batted at Mercedes’ hand and mumbled, “I’m sleeping, asshole.”

Okay, that was perfectly intelligible. Mercedes pulled the covers off of her.

“Dammit! It’s freezing!” Quinn folded her arms across her chest and glared at Mercedes. The glare wasn’t as indignant as Quinn probably imagined it was. Actually, it was kind of adorable because she still looked sleepy.

“Serves you right,” Mercedes said without much pity. “This is getting ridiculous, Quinn. How old are you again? One day I’m gonna let you oversleep, and you’ll miss work, and those poor kids will wonder where you are, and your supervisor will—”

Got it,” Quinn said testily.

“You awake now?”

“Go away,” Quinn muttered. She yawned.

Mercedes rolled her eyes and left. In a few minutes, Quinn would be her normal self. Every morning was generally a variation of Noah or Mercedes (usually Mercedes) shaking Quinn awake, Quinn cursing in creepily creative ways, Noah or Mercedes getting impatient and doing something drastic (once, Noah held the alarm clock just above her ear as it blared the Kidz Bop version of “You Raise Me Up.” Quinn had leapt out of bed immediately, intent on bodily harm.), and Quinn telling them – essentially – to go fuck themselves. At least today she was nicer about it.

Noah and Quinn would want breakfast. Matt probably would, too. Mercedes sighed and made her way to the kitchen. She needed to get a damn job already; she hoped her interview today would lead to employment 

*^*^*

Noah ate on his feet. He always ate breakfast that way, even when he wasn’t in a hurry, like today. 

Quinn hurried into the kitchen pulling on a cardigan. “Have you seen my hairpin? The one I bought in Chicago.”

Mercedes’ brow furrowed. “Um…the last time I saw it, it was on the bookshelf near the weird bookend.”

“Lemme look.” Quinn hurried back into their bedroom.

“Relax,” Mercedes called after her. “You won’t be late.”

Noah put his coffee mug in the sink. “She’ll be late,” he said to Mercedes.

“I know.” Mercedes sighed. “She always has a million random things to do before she leaves.”

“Morning, Matt,” they heard Quinn say in the hallway. She hurried into the kitchen on his heels.

“Good morning,” Matt said to Noah and Mercedes.

“Morning,” they chorused.

“I’m ready,” Matt said to Mercedes.

“Have some breakfast first,” she offered.

He shrugged and sat with her at the kitchen table. Mercedes fixed him a plate while he and Noah struck up a conversation about his job.

“I found it. How does this look?” Quinn asked Mercedes.

“A little to the left." 

Quinn moved the hairpin.

“No, your left."

Quinn moved it again.

“C’mere.”

Quinn squatted beside Mercedes, who arranged the hairpin to her satisfaction. “Okay,” Mercedes said.

“Thanks.”

“…So celebrities actually care about shit like that?” Noah asked.

Matt shrugged. “Yeah. Crazy, right? Anyway, it’s whatever the client wants.” Matt co-owned (with Santana) an upscale party planning company in Santa Barbara. Santana worked the business end while he handled the artistic side.  Recently, they’d started getting celebrity clients, due to some name-dropping by Rachel and Kurt. Matt had flown to New York for the weekend to secure a job from an up-and-coming film producer, and asked to stay with the trio. Naturally, they’d welcomed him. 

“Weird,” Noah said.

Matt shrugged again.

“Gotta go,” Noah said. He and Matt went through an uncomplicated handshake-and-a-pat-on-the-back maneuver — the male equivalent of a hug. Mercedes just barely restrained her eye rolling. 

“It was good to see you, bro,” Matt said. 

“You too, man. Have a good flight.”

“Thanks.”

Noah kissed Mercedes cheek. “Good luck with the interview.” 

“Thanks.”

Quinn quit rummaging in the fridge to offer her cheek to Noah. “Try not to be late,” he said dryly. If she didn’t leave in ten minutes she would be.

“Go to work,” Quinn said in response.

“Going, going.” The front door to their condo slammed behind him.

“Thanks for breakfast, Mercedes,” Matt said.

“No problem. We’ll leave in ten minutes, okay?” Mercedes began clearing the table. “Babe,” she said to Quinn, “you’re leaving with us. I can give you a ride to the subway.”

“Okay.”

Twenty minutes later, Mercedes pulled up to the train station’s entrance. “Here you go.”

Quinn kissed her cheek. “Thanks. Good luck today. Oh, and can you drop the car off at the agency after your interview? I’ve got a ton of home visits to do today.” 

Mercedes nodded. “Yeah, sure.”

Quinn kissed Matt’s cheek. “Nice seeing you again, Matt! Tell Santana I said hi.” She climbed out of the backseat and ran down the station’s steps.

Mercedes shook her head fondly. “She’ll be late again.”

“Seems like you guys are doing really well. Together, I mean,” Matt commented.

“Yeah,” Mercedes said. “It’s funny. Everyone says relationships are hard work, and because we’re doing this with three people instead of two, it should be really difficult, right? But it isn’t. Obviously, it isn’t perfect. But for the most part, it’s fun and…easy. It’s as if we’re…”

“In synch,” Matt finished.

Mercedes raised her brows and glanced at him. “Yeah.” She headed toward the Conduit. On a good day, JFK was thirty minutes from their Brooklyn home. In serious traffic, it could take up to two hours. Today was a good day. 

“How did your parents take it?” Matt asked. 

Mercedes glanced at him again.

“It’s just that…you know Mike’s parents had a problem with his wife in the beginning, right?” 

Mercedes nodded. Mike had married an Indian woman about three years ago, and his parents (and hers too, for that matter) had given them hell.

“Now they’re finally starting to come around.”

“‘Course, it helps that she just had a baby,” Mercedes said cynically.

“Of course,” Matt said wryly. “But the situation revolved around their parents being racist. At the end of the day, it’s not like he was in a relationship with Inara and another woman.”

“Like us.” 

“Like you,” Matt agreed.

Mercedes was silent for a few minutes. The metro area’s “all day, every day” news radio station was currently fixated on economic news. She turned it down when the newscaster began addressing the weather.

“Quinn’s mom was – amazingly enough – easygoing about it. I think it’s because she already knew about Quinn and Noah’s connection — Beth, I mean — and when Quinn went into labor she found out that Quinn had been staying with me. She was probably more confused about the relationship that existed between Noah and me, but…whatever. She accepted it. Accepts it. I don’t know if Quinn’s dad knows. He probably does by now; it’s been a few years.

“Noah’s mom found out by accident. He was home for Chanukah the year before we moved in together. He was writing an…explicit email to Quinn and me, and left it open on his computer in his room for a few minutes. She came in and read it.”

“How did she take it?”

“Um…not well. Let’s just say he went back to New York early. She’s still not one hundred percent about it. Actually, I don’t think any of our parents are. Now she can talk to Quinn and me without going off on a you’re-corrupting-my-only-son-you-nymphomaniac-whores tangent, so that’s something. You would think she’d get the Quinn and Noah part of our relationship because, I mean, they had a baby together! But she was pissed for a while about the baby father drama.”

“How did she even hear about that?” Matt asked.

“Mr. Schue and his thoughtful, yet meddlesome self. He spotted her in the audience after our Regionals win and they got to talking. Apparently she started cursing in…Yiddish? Hebrew? I didn’t even know they had Hebrew curse words. I suppose every language has some.

“As for my parents, they were the last to find out. I put it off for a long time…I told them a few weeks after I graduated.”

“That was five months ago, Mercedes! You guys have been together for years!”

Mercedes looked a little sheepish. “Yeah. It was mostly so they would stop bugging me about where I was living. You know I moved in with Quinn and Noah right after graduation. I think my dad tells himself that I’m just living with two roommates, but my mom doesn’t delude herself. She likes Quinn, liked her when she was living with us during high school, but I think she still sees Noah as the douche he was for most of high school.” Mercedes shrugged. “None of them really understand it.”

“That’s understandable.”

Mercedes made a noise of affirmation. “It’s kind of late for you to be asking this.”

Matt chuckled. “I honestly figured I would hear about it from Rachel at some point. But now that Mike’s parents have finally stopped bitching about Inara, it made me wonder about how your parents…deal.”

“Not great. But at least they all know by now.”

They listened to the radio for a few minutes. The station kept recounting the story of the death of a little girl at the hands of her uncle. (The tragic story was correlated with the similar story of another girl named Nixzmary Brown. It had apparently been big news more than a decade ago.) It was depressing her, and anyway, Quinn ranted enough about it that Mercedes knew the whole story. She changed the station.

“You sacrifice,” Matt said randomly.

“Come again?”

“You made breakfast. And you cleaned up. And you’ll probably make dinner too, and do whatever other domestic things you do.” 

Mercedes flushed. “Sometimes I feel like a trophy wife, except I’m not slim, blonde, and white. But…things have to be done. And since I don’t have a job right now, I’m the likely candidate to do them. I don’t mind, most of the time. It isn’t as if Quinn and Noah don’t help out, too. It’s just that I do the bulk of cooking and cleaning.” She shrugged. “It is what it is.”

Matt nodded. “It seems like a lot of marriages fall apart because one member of the couple, or both, isn’t willing to…pick up the slack, I guess. Or care enough about the other to do things like take on an uneven amount of chores because you know your partner has a long workweek. But you care, and you’re willing. And I know Quinn and Noah are, too. I’m glad for you guys.”

Mercedes was speechless for a few moments. Then, “Wow, insightful much?”

Matt laughed.

“We’re not married,” Mercedes said.

“You might as well be.”

Mercedes mulled that over in her mind. She changed the subject. “Which airline are you taking?”

“American.”

“It’s Gate 4.”

Mercedes pulled up to the drop off point. “Be safe, Matt. Call one of us when you land.”

Matt nodded and pulled her into a hug as best he could, with the gearstick in the way. “You have an interview today, right? Good luck.”

“Thanks.” She kissed his cheek.

He grabbed his book bag (Men, thought Mercedes. Travelling with only one small book bag for an entire weekend.), and slammed the car door shut behind him. Mercedes waited till he entered the automatic double doors before driving away.

 *^*^*

Noah shoved aside the blueprints and stretched. It seemed every profession required some form of research; architecture was no exception. The firm at which he worked specialized in urban planning and historical preservation consulting. As an associate to a junior designer (You’ve gotta start somewhere, Noah kept telling himself) his job consisted of looking through blueprints of buildings similar to the current project, and noting anything interesting, unique, standard, etc. He was also allowed to submit his own ideas for consideration. All in all, it wasn’t exciting, but definitely not as dull as studying NYC building codes, which was what the other associate regularly got stuck with. 

“Find anything interesting?” his boss asked.

Noah reached for the blueprints he had just shoved aside. “Nothing yet.”

“Keep looking. It might help if the blueprints were nearby.” Martin Newquist disappeared back into his corner cubicle.

Asshole, Noah thought. He might’ve been an associate to a junior designer, but at least he had the talent to move up the ladder. Martin was a junior designer who wasn’t good enough to be a junior designer, much less become a senior designer. It was a mystery that he’d made it as far as he had.

The other associate, Kevin, sat in a tiny cubicle next to his. He wheeled his chair back to get a view into Noah’s cubicle. “How’s it going?”

*

“Okay,” Quinn responded to her coworkers’ question. She looked up from her paperwork. Half of social work was writing reports, filing reports, and crosschecking everything.

“I meant to ask you,” the petite Hispanic woman continued, “are you still in the MSW program at Fordham?”

Quinn nodded.

“Is it worth it? It seems everyone has a master’s degree in social work.”

Quinn nodded again. “That’s true. It is worth it, though, as long as you have at least seven or eight years experience to go with the degree. The more the better. By itself, an MSW is essentially worthless. With experience, though, you can become a supervisor or even director of an agency.”

“Maybe I’ll do it. I don’t know…it costs a lot of money.”

“St. Vincent’s will pay for most of it. And the rest isn’t that much.”

Arianna nodded. “Oh, by the way. Shanice is looking for you. I told her we’re going to lunch right now.”

Quinn grinned. “Thank you! Let’s go now before she decides to stop us.” Shanice reveled in relaying bad news, which usually centered on misplaced documents, and was typically a result of her screw up. Quinn had been waiting weeks for a marriage certificate connected to one of her cases. Something told her Shanice would have a long and pointless story about its disappearance.

“What are you having for lunch today?” Arianna asked her.

*

“Sweet and sour chicken, please. And vegetable fried rice.”

Mercedes had gone home after dropping Matt off at the airport. She’d finished cleaning the kitchen, chosen an outfit to wear to her interview, changed the sheets in the spare bedroom Matt had slept in, and sorted the dirty laundry. She would finish the laundry after lunch; today, it was takeout from the Chinese food place near their condo. She sat in a booth and waited for her order. 

She couldn’t stop thinking about her conversation with Matt. She didn’t resent her current role in the relationship, but at the same time, five months of housewifery – for lack of a better term – were more than enough. Even after getting through her daily routine of domestic chores and after looking for a job, she still had a decent block of time to kill each day. It was pathetic.

Mercedes sighed. Today, she was interviewing at a medium-sized firm, hoping to get a job in her area of expertise (wills and estate planning, and family law) — but at this point, anything would do. Within reason, Mercedes amended to herself. She wasn’t totally desperate. But it would be nice to have money of her own, and not just generous allowances from her…from Noah and Quinn. She never knew quite what to call them, and usually introduced them by their names, not their relationship to her. 

“Miss,” the man at the counter said to her. Mercedes nodded. Her lunch was ready.

*^*^*

4:15pm. Mercedes: Got it!

 

4:20pm. Noah: My girl. U know what this means?

4:22pm. Mercedes: Lol yeah I know.

4:23pm. Mercedes: So mean of u to bet me 50 bucks I would get this job!

4:25pm. Mercedes: Especially since I don’t have any money.

 

4:27pm. Noah: U will soon. Pay up 1st paycheck! I’m splittin the money w/ Berry.

4:29pm. Noah: Guess she *is* psychic. Congrats mama!

4:31pm. Mercedes: Omg Rachel is crazy! Later.

 

4:34pm. Noah: Later. 

*

“Hi, Mom.”

“Hi, sweetheart. How was the interview?”

“I got it!”

“Thank God! I knew you would get it.”

“You and Rachel both,” Mercedes muttered.

“Hmmm?”

“Nothing. Listen, Mom, I’ll call you later.”

’Kay. ’Bye dear.” 

“’Bye Mom.”

*

Mercedes waited for Quinn on the sidewalk outside of the agency. Quinn hurried through the door, cell phone at her ear.

“Look, Mr. Santiago. The best thing you can do for Yesenia right now is what’s in your service plan. Show up to your randoms. Go to the counseling ses—”

Quinn stopped in front of Mercedes and rolled her eyes. Mercedes mouthed, “Angry dad?

Quinn nodded and started to mouth something back to Mercedes. “He—” Quinn jumped back into her conversation. “That’s what I’m telling you!” Quinn said into the phone. “If you don’t go to counseling, and you don’t show up for your random drug screens, and you don’t come to the agency to visit your daughter more than twice a year, then there’s nothing I can do to help you. Okay?”

Quinn held the phone away from her ear. “Hi,” she said to Mercedes.

“Hiya back,” Mercedes said amusedly.

“There’s no reason to start cursing! I…” Quinn rolled her eyes again. Mercedes rubbed her back to calm her down.

Goodbye, Mr. Santiago. Call me back when you haven’t been drinking … yes I can tell you’ve been drinking … no, I’m not a doctor … or a … what? Look, I will call you in a few hours. Okay?”

Mercedes held the car keys out to Quinn. Quinn nodded her thanks and dropped them in her coat pocket.

“Now you don’t understand English? ¡Yo te llamo más tarde! Adios.” Quinn forcefully hit the end button.

“Tough job,” Mercedes commented. 

“Don’t get me started,” Quinn said. “I don’t even know how he got my cell number. Speaking of jobs, how did it go?”

“Good. Really good. He asked the salary question.”

“And?”

“I asked for five grand more than we talked about.”

Quinn’s jaw dropped. “That’s a lot, Mercy!”

Mercedes shrugged and grinned. “He said yes right away.”

Quinn squealed and hugged her. “Yes! I’m so happy for you!”

Mercedes squeezed her tight. “I start a week from now.”

“I guess we need to talk about how to split up chores more evenly now. I know you’ve been doing a lot…”

“No worries.”

“You’re great, hon.” Quinn stuck her hands in her coat pockets. “Hey, doesn’t this mean you owe Noah fifty bucks?”

“Yes, as he so nicely reminded me. I parked the car around the corner in front of the deli. There’s no meter.”

“Okay, thanks. I’ve gotta get back.”

Mercedes squeezed her hand. “See you later.”

“Likewise, you rich woman you.” Quinn’s phone rang again. She looked at the caller ID and groaned. “Him again. Shoot me, will you?”

“Then who would call me an asshole in the mornings?” Mercedes quipped. 

“I’m sorry about that,” Quinn said contritely. “You know I’m not myself at 7am.” 

Mercedes waved it off. “Better answer the phone. Mr. Santiago might decide to fill your voicemail box with creative Spanish insults. And English ones.”

Quinn blanched and answered her phone with a sigh. She waved to Mercedes and disappeared into the building.

*^*^*

Mercedes clicked on the small kitchen TV and changed the channel in time to hear the last few strains of “Killing Me Softly.” “Crap,” she muttered. Anita Baker’s “Body and Soul” started up next, which brought a delighted smile to Mercedes’ face. She liked to cook dinner while listening to (and singing along with) the R&B music channel. Today was no exception. The outcome of her interview had put her in a good mood, and she danced around the kitchen as she gathered ingredients. She was in the middle of mincing garlic when the front door opened.

Noah tossed his coat on the back of a chair, grabbed the stack of mail from the hall table, and entered the kitchen. “Hey.”

“Hi.”

He wrapped his arms around her from behind. “We should eat out tonight to celebrate.” He kissed her cheek.

“Quinn's getting home a little late today. By the time she comes…let’s just stay in.”

“Your call,” Noah said. He kissed the base of her neck and started working his hands under her thin chemise. He hit a ticklish spot and Mercedes giggled and jerked reflexively. She tried to elbow him off of her.

“Noah! I’ve got a knife in my hands! Get off of me!”

“C’mon, mama,” he said in his best bedroom voice. 

Mercedes did her best to keep herself under control. After all these years, it was kind of amazing that she still experienced a distinct lack of willpower around him. “Noooah,” she moaned softly. “I can’t…you can’t keep doing…dinner! Dinner,” she repeated more firmly. “Don’t you want to eat sometime soon?”

Noah grinned.

Mercedes rolled her eyes. “Don’t answer that.” In the background, Janet Jackson began singing about nasty boys. “The song says it all.”

Noah ceased his ministrations and leaned against the wall. “Fine, fine. Can’t blame a guy for wanting to feel up his sexy girlfriend.”

Mercedes blushed. It wasn’t that she didn’t have a decent amount of self-confidence. She did. She knew how to choose clothes that looked good on her, and enough guys tried to hit on her that she felt kind of desirable. But it still made her feel good to know that Noah found her attractive and sexy.

“Matt got back okay,” Noah said. He shuffled through the mail.

“Oh, good.”

“Dammit, I thought I paid this already.”

Mercedes turned away from the stove to glance at the cable bill he showed her. “You did. Quinn sent it in last Friday on her way to work. Better check online.”

Noah cursed. “We should switch companies.”

“We should,” Mercedes agreed. “Or maybe we should get rid of our cable altogether. I mean, do any of us watch TV that isn’t news anyway? I watch shows online. And Quinn never has the time or the energy to watch much TV.”

“I watch ESPN,” Noah pointed out.

“Hardly,” Mercedes countered. “Anyway, at some point they show those games on the regular channels.” She took his silence to mean he wouldn’t refute that.

“We’ll talk about it,” he said. He disappeared into their bedroom, presumably to use his laptop.

Mercedes started singing along to the TV again.

*

Quinn arrived home a little after 7pm. By that time, everything was almost ready. Noah was finishing up the task Mercedes had given him: putting together a small salad. Quinn snagged a cherry tomato from the salad bowl and popped it in her mouth. She kissed Noah and smiled. “Where’s Mercy?”

“Here,” Mercedes called from the bedroom.

Quinn appeared in the doorway. Mercedes offered her cheek, and Quinn obliged with a kiss on the lips. “You made baked ziti.”

“You and Noah are obsessed with it, for some reason.”

“It’s good.” Quinn leaned against the doorjamb.  “Remember my friend Rhonda?”

“Yeah.”

“She’s having a baby.”

“What is it?”

“A boy.”

“Good luck to her,” Mercedes said. 

“She and her boyfriend are excited.”

“Babies,” Mercedes said.

“Yeah,” Quinn said. “They’re so…”

“Dependent.”

“Cute too.”

“Yeah.”

“I did it,” Quinn said.

“What?" 

Quinn lifted her shirt.

Mercedes gaped. “That is…” She swallowed. “Let me…”

The doorbell rang. Quinn pulled her shirt down and hurried to answer it. Inside their bedroom, Mercedes cursed.

“Hello, Quinn!”

“Hi, Rachel,” Quinn said with much less enthusiasm. By this time, they were all resigned to being friends with Rachel. Deep down, the gleeks all considered each other family, in an undefined way. Rachel was just so…exhausting. And she tended to invite herself places (like their home) without at least calling ahead. She was a force of nature and quite unstoppable. Finn had given up trying to rein her in. Speaking of… “Where’s Finn?”

“Overtime.” Rachel pushed past Quinn and entered the kitchen. “Hello, Noah!”

“Berry. Just who I wanted to see today,” Noah deadpanned.

Quinn closed the door with a sigh and followed Rachel into the kitchen. Mercedes exited the bedroom.

“Hello, Mercedes!”

“Hi, Rach,” Mercedes said. The diva had grown on her. “Apparently,” she glared at Noah, “I owe you 25 bucks.”

“You received the job!” Rachel exclaimed. She hugged Mercedes. “I knew you would. I have a kind of sixth sense, you know.”

“Yes, you do,” Mercedes agreed. Quinn was standing behind Rachel, rolling her eyes. “Why are you here?”

Rachel sat at the kitchen table. “As you probably know, after much hard work and persistence, I have finally received a part in a Broadway production. It isn’t the lead role, but I am confident that my performance in ‘A Bed of Pearls’ will lead to several offers for compelling lead roles.” 

“Um, that’s great, Rachel,” Quinn said. A Bed of Pearls?, she mouthed to Noah and Mercedes.

“I have several playbills with me, and I would appreciate it if you left some at your workplaces, and told your friends to support the show. It will be very good. In fact, my character – although not the main one – is pivotal to the story and, dare I say, the sole reason for the climactic ending.”

“You want us to promote your play?” Noah asked incredulously. “I’m pretty sure there’s someone already getting paid for that.”

“It’s a musical,” Rachel corrected. “And I have one solo. Did I mention that? Naturally, it’s amazing.”

“Naturally,” Quinn muttered.

“Of course there are publicists and PR people attached to the musical. But there is nothing quite like mouth-to-mouth advertising.” Rachel smiled at the trio.

Quinn took the playbills Rachel offered her. “Thanks for dropping by, Rachel,” she said completely unsubtly. “We’ll talk again soon, okay?”

“You won’t mind if I stay for dinner,” Rachel stated.

“YES,” Quinn mouthed to Mercedes. “I MIND.” She frantically made the cutthroat symbol.

“Of course not,” Mercedes said. Quinn glared at her. Mercedes smiled.

“Don’t you have some adoring fans to flash?” Noah griped.

“Don’t you have brain cells to be lost somehow?” Rachel shot back sweetly.

Quinn and Mercedes laughed. Noah glared at them.

“Mercedes owes me money that I might decide not to split with you, Berry. Think about that,” Noah said.

“It’s twenty-five dollars,” Rachel said. “My wallet costs more than that.”

“So you don’t want it? Okay.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Rachel protested. She and Noah continued their conversation. Mercedes listened, smirking in all the right places. Quinn had just decided to interrupt when her cell phone rang. She groaned.

“Hello? ... Hi, Shanice … You don’t know what happened to the marriage certificate? Of course … No, I meant … Can’t you resubmit your request and get another copy?” Quinn watched Mercedes dish out the baked ziti.

“I’m not asking for … what does that have to do with anything? That’s … how did we get from the Wingfield case to … I’m not gonna talk about this, I’ll see you tomorrow … no, it’s none of your goddamned business!”

Mercedes looked at Quinn worriedly.

"Look, I'm not a Mormon, I'm just horny. Goodbye." Quinn tossed the phone into her purse.

Rachel piped up, "I believe that relating Mormonism to being in a polyamorous relationship is not only incorrect, but religious discrimination and bigotry, even. Quinn, you can’t just—”

“Oh, just shut it, PC police,” Quinn said more harshly than she’d intended. She made a face, then frowned. “Sorry, Rachel. Shanice is kind of a…”

“Bitch?” Noah said.

Quinn nodded. “She is always losing important documents and then being.... Anyway, I don’t want to talk about her. Or work. It was a long damn day.”

“You wouldn’t believe who I received an email from,” Rachel said.

“Do we care?” Noah asked.

Rachel ignored him. “Jesse St. James. It was a long message, too. He…”

*^*^* 

By the time Rachel left, it was 10 o’clock. Quinn and Noah were cleaning the dishes as Mercedes saw Rachel to the door. “The next time I see you, you’d better be wearing an engagement ring. Tell Finn I said that he needs to get it together and put a ring on it before Jesse what’s-his-face does.”

“Oh, Mercedes!”

“Night, Rachel.”

Mercedes headed to the fridge for cranberry juice.

“You look as exhausted as I feel,” Quinn said to her.

“I love her, I’ll admit that, but…I’m good for at least a month now.”

“A month? If I see her three months from now it’ll be too soon!”

Mercedes chuckled. Noah put the last pot away. “Never thought I’d say this, but Finn is a fucking saint.”

“It helps that he’s kind of oblivious,” Mercedes commented.

“Time for Firefly!” Quinn said happily. She clapped her hands.

“Are you sure I’ll like it?” Mercedes remained suspicious of Quinn’s enthusiasm about some old, western-sci-fi-spaceship-whatever TV series. 

“I still can’t understand how you haven’t seen it by now! If you don’t like it — if you both don’t like it,” Quinn amended, “then you’re both humorless zombies and we can’t be in a relationship anymore.”

Noah laughed.

“I’m serious,” Quinn said seriously.

Noah stopped laughing.

“Put it on,” Mercedes said.

*^*^*

Noah looked gratified. “That was the most seriously awesome shit I’ve ever seen.”

Quinn turned to Mercedes. “Well?”

Mercedes surreptitiously wiped at her eyes.

“You’re crying!" 

“I don’t know why!” Mercedes moaned. “It was…I can’t explain. It…”

“That’s just the pilot. If you’re crying now, wait till we finish the series. And watch the movie.”

“There’s a movie?” Noah asked.

“Hell yes,” Quinn said. “Told you you’d like it. I’m glad we can still be together.” She patted Mercedes’ back. “It’s okay, Mercy. Firefly tends to have that effect on people.”

*^*^*

It was bedtime. Mercedes stood beside the nightstand and fiddled with her iPod. “Quinn, what’ll it be?”

“Christina Aguilera, I think. Fighter.” 

“Christina Agui — Christ, Quinn!” Noah exclaimed.

“It’s very loud,” Quinn said placidly.

“That’s my point. Anyway, you don’t even wake up to the alarm clock! You shouldn’t get a choice.”

“Don’t discriminate against me,” Quinn said.

“Discrimination? I think that’s Mercedes’ card to play.”

“Very funny,” Mercedes said.

“Fine,” Noah said. “Wait till you hear which song I pick tomorrow.”

“Noah,” Quinn said.

“You’ll probably want to kill me,” Noah continued.

“Noah. Honey,” Quinn said. She kissed his shoulder. Mercedes looked on amusedly.

“It won’t work,” Noah said. “So don’t even—”

Quinn sat on his lap and wrapped her legs around his waist. She kissed the base of his neck, sucked on an earlobe. She whispered something in his ear.

“Not working,” Noah said in a singsong voice. 

Mercedes’ phone rang. “Hey Kurt. Thank God. You saved me from…you don’t even want to know. Hold on a sec.” Mercedes covered the base of the phone with a hand. “Babe, good luck. Noah, stay strong.”

“Damn right, mama.”

“Thanks, Mercy.”

Mercedes left their bedroom. “What’s up?” she said into the phone.

“Now, where were we?” Quinn made an elaborate show of pulling off her nightgown. “Surprise!”

Noah stared at the glinting gold bars through Quinn’s nipples. “Shit,” he said.

*

Thirty minutes later, Quinn murmured, “So?”

“Whatever you want, Q,” Noah said. “Whatever you want.”

Mercedes walked in just in time to hear him surrender. “You are such a pussy, Noah.”

Noah cupped Quinn’s right breast. “Did you know about this?” he asked accusingly.

Mercedes tried not to laugh and failed. “I knew she was thinking about it. When she came home today, she told me she’d done it. You didn’t stand a chance.”

Noah groaned. “Why am I even here? You guys are crazy. Why did I decide to—”

“Because you love us,” Quinn said.

“Because you love us,” Mercedes agreed.

Noah didn’t refute that.

Chapter Text

PART SEVEN. TWO-AND-A-HALF YEARS LATER

 

To be honest, I tuned out when Rachel tried to explain their relationship to me back in high school, so I’m still waiting for Puck to decide between them. I asked Quinn and Mercedes the other day what was taking him so long. Quinn started laughing (okay, so she laughed so hard she was, like, gasping. Why?), and Mercedes gave me a book (which I didn’t read) called “Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits.” And then Rachel heard about it all and tried to explain their relationship again using puppets (“Very Avenue Q, Finn”), but I totally tuned out again. I still don’t get it.

-Finn Hudson

 

“I’m going in an hour later from now on,” Quinn announced at breakfast that morning.

Noah shrugged. “Okay.”

Mercedes was curious. “Why?”

Quinn murmured something about new child visitation schedules and issues with overtime. “So I’ll be home later than normal,” she finished. 

“Wanna take on an extra day or two of breakfast duty?” Mercedes asked. “Since you’ve got extra time.”

Quinn hesitated before agreeing to Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“You don’t have to,” Mercedes said. “It was—”

“No, it’s fine.” 

Mercedes gave her a searching look. “Everything okay?”

“Fine,” Quinn said shortly.

“Gotta go,” Noah said. He kissed Mercedes and Quinn. “Later.”

“Can you — never mind.” Quinn clutched her glass of water.

Noah glanced at her. “You sure?”

Yes,” she said testily.

He shrugged and glanced at Mercedes, who raised her brows. He shrugged again and left for work.

“You’re not eating,” Mercedes commented.

“Nope.”

Mercedes sighed. If Quinn wanted to be sulky — because she was being sulky, no doubt about it — there was nothing she could do about it. “See you tonight.”

“’Bye.”

Mercedes sighed again and left. 

Quinn carefully took a sip of her water and stared at the kitchen calendar. She sighed.

^*^*^

Two Sundays later, Quinn and Noah were sitting in their living room watching a political-pundit-roundtable-discussion show, something along the lines of Meet the Press, except less interesting. Noah was actually getting into it, though. People do tend to become more interested in politics when Uncle Sam begins to take a serious chunk of their biweekly paychecks. Quinn was half-heartedly following along with the discussion, but she was mostly focused on Nora Roberts’ latest crappy novel. Mercedes was at church, and Quinn was waiting for her to come home. 

At last, Mercedes came home. By that time, Noah had switched to ESPN. (As it turned out, they’d cut off the cable for two months before going stir crazy and renewing their contract.) Quinn was lying on the sofa, still plugging away at the novel. (Literally, it was a tome of crap. But she was holding out until the first {quite possibly disastrous} sex scene.) Mercedes walked in and tossed her purse on the sofa, barely missing Quinn’s toes. Quinn laid her book on the armrest and sat up. “How was church?”

“Great!” Mercedes said. “Good sermon, good music. You’re welcome to come whenever you want, you know.”

Quinn made a noncommittal noise. She was a lackluster Catholic who only went to mass on Christmas and Easter. Noah was a lazy Jew who barely went to temple. Mercedes faithfully went to church on Sundays, though. And she almost always came home in a good mood. 

Today was no exception. Mercedes was currently dancing in front of the TV and pissing Noah off. He pulled her down onto his lap and began a mock, stern talking-to. Mercedes looked properly chastised and kissed him deeply…before dancing in front of the TV once more. Noah grabbed for her and missed, as she danced away, laughing. She sank onto the sofa next to Quinn. “How’s the book?” Mercedes asked.

“Absolute crap. I’m pregnant.”

“That sucks — what?!”

“Preggers. Me. I am. Baby. You know, the result of—”

“Yeah, I got it,” Mercedes said. “Noah!”

Noah was engrossed in the IndyCar race.

“Noah!” Mercedes shouted.

“Mama,” Noah said. “Still trying to watch TV here, I know you—”

“Quinn’s pregnant.”

“Holy shit!” Noah stood up, looking foolish, and quickly sat back down. “You have to build up to news like this, Mercedes.”

“Yo, blame baby mama here,” Mercedes said, pointing to Quinn. “She’s the one who blurted it out like it was nothing.”

“Q?”

“Three weeks, I think.”

“Oh, that means it was when we…”

“Yeah.”

Mercedes crossed her arms over her chest. “Um…I don’t remember discussing this.”

Quinn frowned. “Remember? A few months ago we were at that awful hotel in Atlantic City, and we started talking about maybe having kids—” 

“Yes, I remember because we said maybe. So all this time…you two have been trying?” 

Noah frowned, too. “We weren’t trying. We were just…” 

“Having sex,” Mercedes finished. 

“Yeah,” Noah said.

“Without birth control or condoms,” Mercedes continued.

“Well, yes,” Quinn said.

“Sounds like you were trying to me,” Mercedes said.

Quinn turned to face her girlfriend. “What are you saying, Mercedes? I’m NOT…it’s a baby…our baby. I thought we agreed…”

“I’m not saying to…I would never suggest that! I’m just saying that it wasn’t a clear discussion. For starters, we were in frickin’ Atlantic City.”

“True,” Noah said.

“And Noah was slightly drunk.”

“Also true,” Noah agreed.

“Well, this is where we are now,” Quinn said.

“We need to talk about this,” Mercedes said.

“We are,” Noah said. He looked less shell-shocked. He moved to sit beside Quinn, sandwiching her between himself and Mercedes.

“Seriously, I mean.”

“Okay,” Quinn said. “Let’s.”

“Not now,” Mercedes said. “Let’s give ourselves a week or two to…think.” She smoothed out her skirt. “I need at least a week, anyway,” she added.

“Okay,” Quinn said. “But I’ll say now that I know this will be…weird for you. Noah and I having a baby, I mean. Another baby,” she murmured. 

Mercedes placed an arm around her shoulder. “We’ll talk about it, babe.”

“You know, normal people don’t do this.” Noah said.

“What?” Mercedes asked.

“You know, plan serious discussions.”

“Actually, they do. Haven’t you ever watched Oprah?”

“My point exactly.”

“Anyway, we’re a legit ménage a trois. Clearly, not normal.”

Noah shrugged. “This is going to be awesome!”

“You’re…really excited,” Quinn said warily.

“You were a MILF back then, and you’ll be even more of a MILF now. Besides, everyone knows preggos get crazy horny!”

Mercedes reached across Quinn and hit Noah with her purse. “Let’s wait a bit before we start talking about molesting Quinn." 

“We?” Quinn asked with a faint smirk.

“You can’t seriously believe that Noah’s the only one who’ll be getting all up on that!” Mercedes laughed, then sobered. “We’re having a baby,” she said. “This is…serious, then. Us, I mean.”

“It’s been serious, mama,” Noah said. “I’m a fucking reformed sex shark.”

“Reformed my ass,” Quinn muttered.

“You know I like it when you talk like that. If you keep it up,” Noah said, “we won’t ever leave our bed, capiche? Except for food breaks. And bathroom breaks. And work, I guess.”

“So, kind of like our life now?” Mercedes asked with a smirk.

“Doesn’t Jesus have something to say about being sarcastic?” Noah retorted.

“Not as much as He has to say about people who call themselves sex sharks,” Mercedes said sweetly.

Quinn laughed. “You two…”

“Can we keep the baby news to ourselves for a while?” Mercedes asked.

God, yes,” Noah said. “I know my Ma will be down here the moment she hears. And she won’t leave till the kid’s 18.”

Quinn shuddered. She would definitely be eating bacon through this pregnancy.

Mercedes grinned at her. “Okay, then.” She sat on the sofa, watching TV with Noah, who returned to his chair. Quinn lay her feet across Mercedes’ lap and returned to Nora Roberts’ Dancing with Faeries.

*^*^*

Two more weeks passed before they were able to start their discussion. Meanwhile, Quinn went to her doctor, who confirmed the results of the home pregnancy test and gave her brochures reminiscent of those in Ms. Pillsbury’s office back in high school. (Quinn thought “So You’re Having a Baby, and Thus Adding to the World’s Population, Which Means Less Food and Space for the Rest of Us. Thanks” was disturbing, while Mercedes thought “Help! I Can’t Stop Eating Pickles and Ice Cream!: Hormones and You” was oddly similar to the premise of a new reality television show. Noah laughed nonstop at “How Not to Bite Off the Head of the Hundredth Person Who Asks to Touch Your Belly” and, for days after, went around requesting to touch Quinn’s still flat stomach.)

It was a rainy spring Saturday afternoon, and they were all unexpectedly available. Noah had mixed up the date for plans with his grad school friends — they were meeting next Saturday, not this one. At the last minute, Quinn’s sister had changed her mind about coming down for the weekend. And Rachel had felt the beginnings of a cold and decided to skip her brunch date with Kurt and Mercedes to self medicate with honeyed tea and antibiotics. The trio found themselves home that afternoon, and Mercedes suggested they finally have the Discussion. Quinn agreed. Noah shrugged; it wasn’t as if he could get out of it.

They sat in the living room. Noah sprawled on the couch; Quinn lay between his legs, her back against his chest. He instinctively wrapped an arm around her waist. Mercedes leaned against the other armrest, her legs tangling with Quinn’s and Noah’s. Comfortably squished, and armed with a few snacks on the table nearby, they began.

“I’ve got a short list,” Mercedes said.

Quinn smiled fondly. It was little things like that that gave her a glimpse of Mercedes the Lawyer, not Mercedes the Lover/Girlfriend.

“I’ll start,” Noah said, tone serious. Mercedes deferred to him.

“I’ve been thinking about doing this since last year. A few months ago – before we went to Atlantic City – I, well—” He opened a concealed drawer beneath the table and pulled out two small velvet boxes.

“Oh!” Quinn gasped.

“I bought these,” Noah continued. “I wanted to wait for…anyway, I think this is the right moment. I’m not on my knees or anything—”

“That’s fine,” Mercedes said softly.

“And obviously I can’t marry you both, but, um, I…really fucking love you, okay? And I really love fucking you—”

“Noah!” Quinn predictably exclaimed.

“Seriously, though. I like coming home to my best girls, knowing that you mostly don’t bitch and get on my case about shit, and knowing that I’m guaranteed crazy hot, awesome sex with crazy hot, awesome ladies. And knowing that we’re all in this together, to be Zac Efron for a minute. So…here.”

Noah opened the boxes. The rings were identical white gold bands, except for a single marquise-shaped gem. He slid the ring with the ruby on Mercedes’ ring finger and said “Ani ledodi v’dodi li, haRo’eh baShushanim. Ani ohev otkhah.” He slid the ring with the emerald on Quinn’s finger and whispered the same phrase. She smiled at him teary-eyed, and thought that this was what her life was now, what it forever would be: living with her best friends and lovers, raising a child and daily finding something new to love about her…about her family.

“What does it mean?” Mercedes asked huskily.

“It’s a text from Song of Solomon. I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he feedeth among the lilies. And then I said I love you.”

“It’s beautiful,” Quinn whispered. She kissed him, after some slight maneuvering. She now sat on his lap. Mercedes kissed Noah next. He could feel her lips curve into a smile before she pulled away. “We have to get you a ring,” she said.

“Yes,” Quinn agreed immediately. “We’re going to claim you as our own and break the hearts of women everywhere.”

“Or at least women in the tri-state area,” Mercedes said.

“At the very least, in Brooklyn.”

“Our neighborhood?”

“Surely our building!”

“Thanks,” muttered Noah.

They sat in companionable silence for several moments.

“It feels almost wrong to continue our discussion after this,” Mercedes said.

“Well…” Quinn said.

“I agree,” Noah said immediately. “Let’s do it later.”

Mercedes rolled her eyes. “You just don’t like discussions.”

“I’m a dude. Can you blame me? Here, take Q.” He lifted Quinn and dumped her into Mercedes’ lap. “See ya!” Noah ran into their bedroom for his jacket and car keys and left their condo.

Quinn looked bewildered from her place on Mercedes’ lap. “What just happened?”

“I think he’s going to call up a friend and drink to the fact that he narrowly escaped an overflow of estrogen.” 

“Huh. Wanna make out?” 

“Yes. Yes. Okay!”

Mercedes’ phone rang.

“Ignore it,” Quinn said. She was playing with Mercedes’ gold necklace and tracing designs on the upper curves of her breasts.

“My clients are mostly rich old ladies who still haven’t decided whom to leave their money. One of them could be dying! Or pulling a Helmsley!”

“I’m sorry?”

“Leona Helmsley? She left twelve million to her dog? News?”

Mercedes grabbed her phone and batted at Quinn’s hand. Distracting, she mouthed. Quinn stuck her tongue out and decided to straddle Mercedes for easier access.

“Hello? ... Rachel … uh huh … I’m glad you’re feeling better … no, now is not a good time … IT’S NOT A GOOD TIME, RACH! ... I’m not sorry for shouting.” Mercedes exchanged knowing glances with Quinn. “Look Rach, right now Quinn is about to do something really wonderful to the R-rated portions of my body, would you like to listen in? ... yeah, I didn’t think so … ’bye, Rach.” Mercedes tossed her phone on the table.

Get it, babe!” Mercedes cheered.

“Oh my God,” Quinn said. “I don’t think you’re supposed to urge someone to ‘get it’ when you’re talking about yourself.”

Get it!” Mercedes repeated.

“If you insist.”

*^*^* 

Tuesday was Quinn’s day off from work. She went to class in the mornings (this was the last semester of her MSW program), and usually spent the rest of the day rivaling June Cleaver in domesticity. This particular Tuesday, however, Noah and Mercedes had decided to meet on their lunch breaks, and Quinn had decided to join them. She was picking the restaurant, on one condition:

“I need real food, Quinn.”

“What does that even mean, Mercy? Where would they sell fake food?”

“You know what I mean. I’m not into sandwiches.”

“I still don’t understand that. Sandwiches are lunch food. They’re what make lunch lunch! I mean, Subway!”

“I need food. Like rice. Or pasta. Just think dinner leftovers. Okay?”

“Noah. Any requests from you?” Quinn asked him sarcastically.

“I really need the sun to be shining through the windows on my right, and the waiters all have to be Ecuadorian. But, like, not young Ecuadorian. Middle-aged Ecuadorian. And if the chairs weren’t those deceptive-lightweight-metal-looking ones, that would be awesome too. And the bottled water has to be Poland Spring, not Aqua-fucking—“

“Oh, shut up Noah! I wasn’t being that picky,” Mercedes protested. “I have a legitimate request. You’re bitching about sunlight angles and Ecuadorians."

Quinn debated hanging up on them.

“Okay, babe? Thanks a lot. See you around 1:30-ish. Let me know where by…noon.”

“Me, too,” Noah said.

“’Kay, ‘bye,” Quinn said, and hung up. Sometimes Noah and Mercedes could be such children.

*

“Good choice, Quinn. I approve.” Mercedes sank into a seat next to Quinn. They were sitting in the outdoor garden of a Thai restaurant on the East Side. 

“I’m so glad,” Quinn said sarcastically.

“I’m loving this sarcasm thing you have going on, too. Is it one of those pregnancy hormonal things?”

“Don’t think so,” Quinn said. 

“And the terseness is good, too,” Mercedes said.

“Is it really?” Quinn asked.

“Oh, definitely. It’s really…inviting. Makes me want to do naughty, naughty things to you. Like back you against the wall with the…vine things—”

“Wisteria,” Quinn said.

“Against the wall with the wisteria and…how do you know that?”

“One of my foster mothers has flowerpots on the windowsill."

“Oh, okay. Back to the wisteria and the making out that would occur as a result of your terseness. It’s really sexy, babe, honestly! I can’t resist—” Mercedes couldn’t hold back any longer and burst into uproarious laughter.

Quinn pouted and tried to look upset, but failed. She burst into laughter as well. “When did you figure out?”

“That you were pretending to be an ass and hoping I wouldn’t notice? When I realized that we’re sitting outside of a Thai restaurant.”

“Damn, you really are good. Yeah, maybe we should recreate our fight. How did it start again?”

Mercedes forehead wrinkled in thought. “Something something Josh…Josh? James? Something Santana’s ass something Brittany’s psychic cat.” 

“Silly cat, mindreading is for people.” 

“…Seriously? Trix?

Quinn frowned. “It doesn’t work, right?” 

“No, it definitely does not, babe.”

“It’s hard to be clever on the spot!”

“No kidding.”

Quinn stuck her tongue out at Mercedes. “Oh, there’s Noah.”

Noah slid into the last seat. “I’m fucking starving. Where’s the menu?”

“Hello to you, too,” Quinn said. She winked at Mercedes.

Noah glanced at Mercedes and turned to Quinn. “Are you okay?” 

Quinn rolled her eyes. “Fine.” She turned to call over a waiter.

What’s up with her? Noah mouthed to Mercedes.

Tell you later, Mercedes mouthed back with a smile.

The waiter (who wasn’t Ecuadorian) dropped a few menus on their table and hurried away. Mercedes frowned at his back. Quinn placed a hand over hers. Noah didn’t notice, as he’d already begun scanning the menu.

“I like Pad Thai, don’t I?” he asked.

“Yes, Noah,” Quinn said long-sufferingly.

“Great. Where’s the waiter?”

“Mercedes and I haven’t decided yet!”

“Then let me get a drink while I wait.” Noah signaled for the waiter. “A root beer for me. Thanks.”

“Can I get a cranberry juice?” Quinn asked. 

“Make that two,” Mercedes said.

The waiter nodded and hurried away.

Quinn frowned. “He’s…”

“…busy,” Mercedes finished. “Kind of weird.”

“Yeah,” Quinn said. “Why’s he in such a hurry?”

“Why do you care? And Quinn, he isn’t Ecuadorian,” Noah said.

“You’ve got sunlight,” Quinn responded.

“It’s not coming from the…which angle did I say?”

“The right,” Mercedes helped him.

“Yeah. It isn’t coming from the right.”

“I swear I’m going to push you both into the Hudson,” Quinn said.

Noah and Mercedes laughed. “You’re just so easy, babe,” Mercedes said.

“Ha ha,” Quinn said, pouting. “Last I checked, I was carrying your baby and—”

“Oh, you’re good, Q,” Noah said. “I feel serious guilt now.”

“That’s exactly what — oh, you are definitely being dumped in the Hudson, mister!” Quinn glared at Noah, who had started laughing.

The waiter came for their orders then. Mercedes waited till he left to broach one of the topics on her ‘Things to Discuss’ list.

“Let’s say you and I have a baby,” Mercedes said to Noah.

“Um, hypothetically, right? Because, yeah, this is a very bad way to tell me you’re preggers.”

“I’m not pregnant, Noah!”

“Great! Not that…I mean, one at a time, right?”

“Yeah. So let’s say that you and I have a baby sometime in the future. The not so near future, Noah. Focus!”

“Okay.”

“The baby will be black.”

“I’m not black." 

Mercedes looked up to the sky and sighed. “I know you’re not black, Noah.”

“The baby will be mixed. He’ll be half-Jewish.”

Mercedes shrugged. “He’ll be black.”

“You can’t discount my half of—”

“I’m not, Noah. I’m just sayin’…no one calls Obama or Halle Berry half-white. They’re black. And don’t you think it’ll be weird for our kid to have a white sibling?”

“What can we do about that?”

“Nothing, but—”

Relax, mama. I’m not saying shit won’t be…shitty sometimes—“

Mercedes looked like she was seriously rethinking her decision to be in a committed relationship with Noah.

“Yes, shit can be used in many different ways, Mercedes.”

“Please, continue.” Mercedes glanced at Quinn, who shrugged and took a sip of her cranberry juice.

“But the kid isn’t gonna get a fucking complex. The baby we’re really having hasn’t even been born yet! Let’s take it slow, okay?” 

“People will think I’m the baby’s nanny!” Mercedes burst out.

“Where is this fucking coming from?” Noah asked. “Q? Help?” 

“First,” Quinn said, “our kid is going to come out swearing like a sailor.”

“Sorry,” Noah said, without sounding the least bit sorry.

“Second, Mercy, I know…well, I don’t know how it feels to be black. Because I’m not black. And it’s probably kind of hard for you to be in a relationship with two people who won’t ever really understand that. But…if someone mistakes you for our baby’s nanny…curse ‘em out in legalese. Then we’ll make a voodoo doll or something. Or not,” Quinn amended at the look on Mercedes’ face. “Shit happens. And people are shitty—”

“Sailor,” Noah said.

“Noted,” Quinn said. She continued to Mercedes, “but…love conquers all?”

“Is that a question?” Mercedes asked incredulously.

“Love conquers all,” Quinn said. “Final answer,” she mumbled.

“Babe, that was…that was…have you ever heard of the term ‘after school special?’”

“Bite me,” Quinn said.

“Where?” Mercedes asked with a grin.

Quinn grinned in return. “This baby is all of ours, not just mine and Noah’s. We’re all in this together — damn, we’ve really had High School Musical on the brain lately. Why?”

“People Magazine. Vanessa Hudgens just had a baby,” Noah spoke up.

“How do you know that?” Mercedes asked.

“Creepy guy at my job is obsessed with her.”

Anyway,” Quinn began. “You won’t be a nanny. Or a glorified aunt. You’ll be his mom, too. Or her mom. Obviously, the dynamic will be different, but…I’m going to shut up now.”

“No, you’ve redeemed yourself,” Mercedes said. “Thanks, babe.”

“Anytime, Mercy.”

“Did our fucking waiter go all the way to fucking Thailand to get our food? Asshole.”

Quinn glared at Noah. “The baby—”

“Is a fucking embryo right now, Q. It can’t hear a damned thing. Yes, I paid attention in biology.”

“Noah’s got a point,” Mercedes said.

Quinn glared at her.

“About the food, I mean,” Mercedes said hurriedly. “Noah and I have to get back to work.”

The waiter appeared just then with their dishes. Mercedes distracted Noah so he wouldn’t be rude.

“Thank you,” Quinn said, smile firmly in place.

The waiter hurried away once more.

“He’s so fucking busy,” Noah said. “What the fuck—”

“That exactly what we were saying!” Quinn exclaimed. “You see? Admit it, we’re brilliant.”

“Food is calling,” Noah said.

Quinn whispered something in his ear.

“You’re both brilliant,” he said.

Mercedes shook her head. “It’s so sad that we can still bribe you with sexual favors.”

Noah shrugged. “It’s a win-win.” 

Privately, Quinn and Mercedes agreed.

*^*^*

A few nights later, Quinn cornered Noah. “Mercedes raised some good points, didn’t she?”

“Q.”

“She did.”

Noah looked up from his computer. “I agree. We talked everything to death. Now I want to read about how the Knicks might actually get into the playoffs, okay?” He returned to the Internet page he was reading.

“I think we should talk about—”

Noah slammed the laptop shut. “You wanna talk?”

Yes."

“Fine. Let’s talk about Beth. Our first kid, remember?”

Quinn looked away from his stare. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Q…”

“Don’t want to talk about it!”

Noah sighed. “Then talk to Rachel.”

“What does Rachel have to do with anything?”

“Shelby’s her mom. She can get in touch with her. Then maybe we can—”

“I’m not calling Rachel!”

Fuck, Quinn! She’s my kid, too. You act like you’re the only one who—”

Quinn left the living room, shouting behind her, “I’m not calling Rachel! And I’m not talking about…I’m not talking about it!”

“So now you don’t want to talk?!” Noah shouted at her back.

Quinn disappeared into the kitchen and switched on the television. Noah muttered a string of expletives before opening his computer.

“And I don’t act like I’m the only one who misses her!” Quinn reappeared in the living room, still angry.

Noah didn’t even look up. “We’re not talking, remember?”

“Fine!”

“Great. ‘Bye.”

Quinn threw up her hands and marched off.

Mercedes came home a few minutes later, armed with client folders and grocery bags. “Hi, Noah.”

“Hey. Talk to your girlfriend.”

“Um, okaaaay. Where is she?”

“Kitchen.”

Mercedes kissed his lips before warily entering the kitchen. “Quinn? Babe? Are you okay? How was—” She glanced at the TV, and turned back to Quinn. “You’re watching The Magic School Bus?”

Quinn viciously hit the remote’s buttons and changed the channel. “It’s very cute.”

Mercedes raised her eyebrows and sat across from Quinn. “Let’s talk.”

Chapter Text

PART EIGHT. SEVEN MONTHS LATER

 

I wasn’t able to make it to Mike’s wedding, so I hadn’t seen most of my fellow glee clubbers since high school. At Quinn’s baby shower, though, we all picked up where we left off — and it wasn’t weird. I’ve always thought childhood friendships were the ones worth keeping, and it’s true. Because a childhood friend is someone who’s seen you grow up and become the adult you are, and still wants to be your friend. I know I’ve found that in my New Directions friends. And Mercedes, Quinn, and Noah definitely found that in each other.

-Tina Cohen-Chang

 

“I still think you should’ve gone with red and orange,” Rachel said.

“Quinn’s favorite color is green, and that’s what we’re working with, okay? And besides, it’s too late to change the color scheme.” Mercedes vacillated between the green round and square paper plates. She was in Target with Rachel, and regretting her decision to bring her along.

“Yes, but it’s autumn. And red and orange are the perfect colors for an autumn event.”

“It’s a baby shower, not an event.”

“Yes, but—”

“Rachel. Round or square?”

“Square, of course.”

Mercedes shrugged and dropped a few packages of the plates into her shopping cart. She had no choice but to bring Rachel along, though, because she had reminded them to throw the shower in the first place.

 

“When’s the shower?” Rachel asked them.

“What?” Noah asked.

“The baby shower,” Rachel said. “You are having a baby shower. Aren’t you? It’s September! Quinn’s already in her fifth month! You should have started planning at least two months ago!”

Noah and Mercedes looked at each other. “Did you?”

“Did you?”

Mercedes shook her head. “We haven’t even thought about it! That’s what I was trying to remember!”

“Leave it to me!” Rachel cried.

“We’re not going to leave it to you,” Mercedes said.

“Aren’t you a fucking Broadway star? What the fuck are you really doing that you have so much fucking time to plan shit like this?”

“I will ignore that expletive-laden question, and say that I am an expert at planning—”

“Matt and Santana plan parties for a living,” Mercedes said. “We’ll ask them for a few tips. It isn’t going to be a big deal. It’s a baby shower.”

Rachel looked sadder than a kicked puppy.

“You can help,” Mercedes offered with a sigh.

Rachel perked right up.


So began Operation Plan-A-Baby-Shower-Without-Quinn-Finding-Out-and-Oh-Crap-How-Many-Things-Does-One-Baby-Need. Noah had called Matt for helpful tips, which he provided. (They included: create a baby registry {at Target, not Babies ‘R Us}, and make sure someone enthusiastic {Rachel} would lead out in the weird baby shower games.)

“Also,” Matt had said, “if you want it to be a surprise, tell the guests to keep their mouths shut. Otherwise you’ll get someone calling Quinn to ask her what time the shower is.”

Noah and Mercedes had spent two months keeping Quinn sufficiently distracted enough to overlook both the dramatic increase in telephone calls from Matt and Santana, and the accidental subscription to Party City’s catalog. They had had several close calls. One of them involved stuffed bunnies:

 

It was a mild evening in mid-September, and Quinn was sitting on the floor at the foot of their bed.

“Quinn, what are you…how did you get down there?”

“I sat, Noah. I’m pregnant, not handicapped.” Quinn reached under the bed. “I’m looking for my green flats. With the white and green polka dot bow.” She pulled out a pair of black pumps and sighed. “I’m sure you don’t know which ones I’m talking about.”

“Nope,” Noah said cheerfully. “C’mon, lemme help you up and I’ll look under the—”

“What’s this?” Quinn pulled out a plastic bag and reached into it. “Is there a reason why we have a bag full of pink stuffed bunnies? They’re so cute!

“Quinn, c’mon,” Noah urged.

She continued to rummage through the bag. “Candy-filled baby bottles?”

“Aaand, it’s time for you to get up.” Noah lifted Quinn and placed her on the bed.

“Nooaah!” she whined. “My shoes!”

“I’ll find them.”
 

“And what’s with the bunnies and the candy?”

Noah thought fast. “The receptionist at the office is pregnant, and I’m in charge of buying random crap for the baby shower.”
 

“What’s she having?”

“Um, twins.”

“Oh, that’s nice!”

Noah shrugged. “Yeah, I guess.”

Quinn fluffed the pillow behind her. “My shoes?”

“Right.” Noah bent to look under the bed.

*

“The receptionist at my office is having twins.”

Mercedes didn’t look up from her computer. “Um, that’s great?”

“That’s our story for Q, okay?”

“Oh, okay,” Mercedes caught on.
 

“She found the bunnies. And the candy.”

“Under the bed? What was she doing on the floor?”

“That’s what I said.”

Mercedes shook her head fondly. “Girl needs a babysitter.”

“Girl needs a hobby.”

 

Rachel insisted on a rigid RSVP system, which — on Santana’s advice (“It’s a baby shower. Invite people and see who shows up! This is all your fault for getting Manhands involved.”) — Mercedes and Noah didn’t implement.

It was the weekend before the shower, and Mercedes, Rachel, and Noah were at Target. Mercedes and Rachel had moved on from choosing plates to arguing about cake flavors. Predictably, Noah was on the other side of the store, ostensibly looking for balloons but more likely than not walking around the electronics department. He returned with a video game in hand, his phone pressed to his ear.

“We don’t have the space.” Noah tossed the video game in the shopping cart. “Ma, I’ll pay for a hotel, okay? It’s a mess here. With the baby on the way, painting the nursery, uh…Mercedes’ Avon stuff—”

Mercedes smacked his arm. He grinned at her.

“No, Ma, I was joking. No, she doesn’t sell Avon … she should? Ma … I’m gonna hang up now. ‘Bye … No, no, I’ll call you back in a few. Shalom.” Noah shoved his phone in his jeans pocket.

“Your mom thinks I should sell Avon?!

Noah shrugged. “She gets catalogs.”

“Do people still sell Avon?” Mercedes wondered.

“More importantly,” Rachel cut in, “why would Quinn want a carrot cake? I think we should get a nice lemon cake. I know a place in Midtown.”

“Rachel, she’s my girlfriend. I know what she likes. And I’m telling you that she wants a carrot cake. There’s a bakery in Park Slope that she likes; we’ll go there. Now, let’s please get out of here before Noah finds more video games to buy and/or I kill myself.”

“You like video games!” Noah protested.

Mercedes sighed. “Is it wrong that I want this baby shower to be over with already?”

Noah wrapped an arm around her waist. “Fuck no. It’s gonna be torture.”

“It will be fun, Noah!” Rachel frowned at them both. “And you’ll love the surprise I have for the three of you!”

Mercedes and Noah groaned in unison. “Rachel,” Mercedes began, “what did I tell you?”

Rachel pretended not to hear her.

“What did I tell you?” Mercedes pressed her.

Rachel sighed. “You said that I could help.”

“If?” 

“If I promised not to go crazy and do my own thing.”

“A surprise, Rachel? That’s called doing your own thing, dear.”

“But, Mercedes! You’ll love it!”

Mercedes crossed her arms. “Is it an all-expenses-paid trip to the Caribbean?”

“No.”

“Is it a million dollars?”

“Of course not, Mercedes!”

“Is it—”

“You’ll love it,” Rachel promised. “Let’s go to the checkout line! 

Mercedes sighed.

*^*^*

It was a slightly chilly Sunday afternoon. Noah was driving, Mercedes was sitting in the passenger seat, and Quinn was complaining about being in the backseat. 

“You’re pregnant,” Noah said, as if that explained it all.

“So I can’t sit in the front?” 

“Well, I don’t want to sit in the back,” Mercedes said.

“Why am I even going with you guys?” Quinn griped.

“Noah and I both have things to do today and we didn’t want to leave you home alone.”

Quinn crossed her arms. “I’m twenty-eight! I can be home alone!” 

Noah quickly glanced back at her. “Q, you look like you’re about to have the baby any day now.”

“I’m only seven months!”

“Better safe than sorry,” Mercedes said unsympathetically.

Quinn muttered a few expletives, and then scowled. “Look what you made me do!”

Mercedes and Noah ignored her.

“His first word will be a curse word,” she continued.

“Then stop cursing,” Noah suggested.

Quinn latched onto his comment with the gusto of someone who was itching for a fight. “You’re the last person—”

Mercedes turned around in her seat and looked at Quinn. “Babe. Relax.”

“I am relaxed!”

Mercedes and Noah exchanged glances. He pulled into the parking lot behind the bank. “Be right back.”

Mercedes and Quinn watched him enter the bank. “You know, the passenger seat is safer than the backseat.”

Mercedes fiddled with the radio tuner and settled on an R&B station. “Yeah?”

“Yep. Side airbags. Where I’m sitting now, if we were in an accident, I would go flying through the windshield.”

“That’s because you’re sitting in the middle. If you sit directly behind me or Noah, you won’t go flying through the windshield." 

Quinn scoffed. “No, I’ll just hit the backs of your seats, which will probably be flying through the windshield.”

“Are you okay?” Mercedes sounded genuinely worried.

“Fine,” Quinn muttered. “Hungry.”

“We’ll stop by my church to drop off the clothes for the women’s shelter, and then we’ll get something to eat, okay?”

“I feel like a kid being dragged around by my parents,” Quinn muttered.

Noah opened the car door in time to hear her. “Get used to it,” he said. He pulled his seatbelt on and placed the car in reverse. “Where’s your church, mama?" 

Mercedes gave him directions. “It’s a damn shame. You two really should come with me one day.”

Noah and Quinn made noncommittal noises. Mercedes shook her head.

The church was thirty minutes away, and by the time they arrived, Quinn was complaining again. “Why is your church so fucking far away?!”

“I think I miss your sarcastic, terse phase,” Mercedes commented. She climbed out of the car as Noah popped the trunk.

“I need food!” Quinn said. “And I need to get the hell out of this car!”

“You’re in luck,” Noah said. “I’m helping Mercedes with the bags and you’re coming with us.”

Quinn climbed out of the backseat and slammed the door behind her. “This overprotective shit is getting on my fucking nerves!”

“She’s losing it,” Noah whispered to Mercedes.

I’m losing it,” Mercedes whispered back.

“Same here,” Noah muttered. “These mood swings are fuckin’ legit.”

“Well?” Quinn asked. “Let’s hurry up."

Mercedes and Noah carried two bags each into the church building. Quinn trailed behind them, looking thoroughly miserable.

“Where?” Noah asked.

“Basement,” Mercedes said. “In the hall. C’mon, Quinn.”

Quinn followed them down the stairs, a hand protectively on her protruding belly.

“In here,” Mercedes said. “Let me just turn on the lights.” She felt along the wall and flipped the light switch.

“SURPRISE!”

The look on Quinn’s face was all Noah and Mercedes talked about for days after.

*

Quinn pulled Noah and Mercedes out of the hall. “I can’t believe you two!”

“Surprise, babe!” Mercedes kissed her lips. Noah followed suit.

“We’re gonna have a serious conversation about this,” Quinn continued.

Noah placed a hand on the small of her back. “Later.” He steered her back into the hall. Mercedes followed behind them and detoured to find either Rachel or Kurt, both of whom were in charge of the general program.

Rachel found her first. “Mercedes! Great! Where are Noah and Quinn? She looked truly surprised, didn’t she?”

Mercedes nodded. “I think she’ll have fun. They might be with Noah’s mom…”

“Well, come on. I want to give you your surprise now!”

“Uh…”

“You’ll like it! And so will Noah and Quinn. Come on!” 

Rachel pulled Mercedes through the crowd. “There they are!” Quinn was seated in the special chair designated for her, an assortment of work friends, first cousins, and her parents surrounding her. Noah was nearby, talking animatedly with his sister. Rachel motioned for Noah to join Mercedes and Quinn. He rolled his eyes but went over, pulling his sister with him.

“Berry.”

“Time for your surprise!”

Quinn looked up at Mercedes and Noah, an eyebrow raised. They shrugged, and a worried look crossed her face.

“Okay,” Rachel said cheerfully. “Surprise!” The crowd had quieted. Noah, Mercedes, and Quinn stared at Rachel in anticipation.

“Um,” Quinn began. “Am I missing something? Nothing happ—”

The door to the kitchen at the other side of the room opened, and Santana walked out. Quinn smiled. “Oh, that’s so nice of you, Rachel! All the way from California!” 

Mercedes glanced at Noah. “I mean, I like Santana, but…a trip to the Caribbean this is not.”

Noah grinned at her. Santana bent to hug Quinn. “Hi, mami chulo. Sheesh, how many babies are in there, octomom?”

The kitchen door opened again. Matt walked out.

“Matt, my man!” Noah grinned.

Matt was followed by Mike, Kurt, Tina, Brittany, Artie, and Finn.

Mercedes was speechless. Rachel beamed at her. “I told you that you would like your surprise! We haven’t all been together since graduation. And I decided this was the perfect time to reunite!”

Mercedes surprised herself by grabbing Rachel into a tight hug. “You’re really a psychic,” she said.

Rachel squeezed her back. “My sixth sense, you know.”

Noah was laughing with the guys near the food table, and Quinn was goggling at Brittany’s jet-black hair. Kurt came to stand next to Mercedes. She smiled at him, and he wrapped an arm around her waist. “Rachel, you’re a force of nature. When you’re not being a self-indulgent diva, that is.” He winked at her. 

Rachel beamed at him in turn. “Thank you, Kurt. Now, I think we should officially get this baby shower started.”

*

Right away, all of the men present (with the exception of Kurt) hurried to the other side of the room, where — on Matt’s advice — Noah had set up what he unimaginatively called “The Man Corner.”

Rachel was disappointed and displeased, both in Noah’s defection and the faint hints of misogyny in the name of the aforementioned corner. “Noah Puckerman!”

He looked vaguely apologetic. “Baby showers are for women.”

Kurt looked affronted.

“Sorry, Hummel,” Noah said.

Rachel placed both hands on her hips, looking equally affronted. “It’s your baby!”

“It’s fine,” Quinn interjected.

“It’s not fine!” Rachel said.

“It’s fine,” Mercedes said.

“I’ll go back and forth, okay?” Noah stroked Quinn’s cheek with his thumb.

“Hey, Puckerman!” Mike called from across the room.

Noah went over to join the other guys. Rachel turned to Mercedes.

“Let it go,” Mercedes said.

Rachel muttered something unintelligible before resuming her role as coordinator. “Hello everyone, and welcome to Quinn, Noah, and Mercedes’ Baby Shower! All gifts go on the gift table, which is along the back wall. Snacks are on the food table near the kitchen. We’ll play a few games and break for refreshments and cake. Then Quinn will open gifts! And then we’ll play one last special game, which is a surprise!" 

Mercedes and Quinn groaned.

Rachel fixed them with a glare before addressing the crowd once more. “All right! Let’s get started!”

*

Rachel had barely finished explaining the first game before Quinn’s mother volunteered to participate, much to her daughter’s dismay.

“You’ll need a partner,” Rachel said.

Quinn’s sister, Frannie returned from the restroom. Her mother pointed to her. 

“What?” Frannie asked warily. 

“You’re my partner!” Judy Fabray said.

“What are we playing?” 

Rachel explained the game again. “There are three baby dolls on this table. Beside each doll is a diaper, baby wipe, and powder. We need two people to remove the diaper, and then wipe, powder, and re-diaper the doll. Let’s take Mrs. Fabray and Frannie for example. Frannie would stand behind her mom, with a blindfold on. Mrs. Fabray would put her arms behind her back, while Frannie slips her arms through. As a result, Mrs. Fabray would be the sight, but Frannie would be the arms. Understand?”

The group of women murmured affirmation.

“We have one pair so far; we need four more volunteers! The winners receive a prize!”

Rachel’s enthusiasm was infectious. Tina and Brittany, and Mercedes’ mom and her Aunt Geraldine volunteered to play.

Chaos ensued almost immediately. Mrs. Fabray was awful at giving instructions, which had Frannie swearing to give up every other minute. Tina was good at giving instructions, but Brittany was terrible at following them. Santana snickered to Kurt, who was providing commentary with the straightest face he could manage.

“And Mrs. Jones is trying to tell Aunt Geraldine where the baby powder is, but Aunt Geraldine is having none of that and…she’s found the baby powder!...And she just knocked it over…Brittany is trying to convince Tina that the doll doesn’t really need a new diaper, while Tina looks like she’s about to screw the rules and change the diaper herself…poor T. Her hair looks good, though. Kind of a strawberry auburn. Hey, Tina! Which brand hair dye did your….oh, sorry. Back to the game. Mrs. Fabray is trying to tell Frannie that she’s holding the wrong end of the baby powder bottle, but…yeah, those instructions are awful. I mean, if I weren’t looking myself, I would think she was talking about — turn the bottle upside down, Frannie!”

Santana whispered something to Kurt. He whispered back. They conversed in whispers for several minutes, until he laughed. “I’m never having kids. And not just because I’m gay. Sorry Quinn, Mercedes.”

They shrugged.

“Children are really quite worthwhile, Kurt,” Rachel spoke up. She was monitoring the game with a fruit smoothie in hand.

“Tell me more when you’ve got one, Rachel,” he responded. He continued with his commentary before she could respond with a spiel on the benefits of child rearing. “Aunt Geraldine has finally managed to powder the doll’s butt, and now she’s trying to find the clean diaper. Looks like they might win this thing. Brittany and Tina have dropped out due to ‘irreconcilable differences’…a maternity test may be necessary. Mrs. Fabray and Frannie have switched places. It turns out Frannie is worse than her mom at giving instructions. Rachel, can we just call this a win for Mrs. Jones and Aunt Geraldine? Mercedes is laughing her ass off and Tina is clearly trying to decide when to hack off Brittany’s hair with a nail clipper. Yes, Britt, your hair. You might want to find another seat.”

Santana joined Mercedes in laughing uncontrollably. Rachel was giggling into her fruit smoothie.

“And now Rachel Berry is giggling. Someone get my camera. And Rachel’s psych meds.”

Rachel fixed a glare on him and quit giggling long enough to say, “Mercedes’ mom and aunt win! Kurt, get the prizes.” She sank into a seat next to Quinn and beamed at her. “This is so exciting!”

Quinn patted her hand. “Okay, Rach.”

“You called me Rach!” Rachel’s smile grew brighter.

“Evidently, my hormones are totally out of control. When the baby is born I’ll go back to wishing we didn’t live in the same city.”

“Oh, that’s just the hormones talking, Quinn!” Rachel patted her hand in return and stood. “Okay, ladies! Kurt will present the prizes.”

Quinn sighed and smiled. The idea of Rachel being a permanent fixture in her life was not nearly as unpleasant as it had once seemed.

*

Meanwhile, the men had moved from arguing about the World Series to organizing a game of Taboo (for money). They formed two teams: Noah, Mr. Jones, Mercedes’ brother Justin, and Artie were one team. Mike, Matt, Noah’s friend Rob, and Mr. Fabray were the other. Finn and a few others decided to sit the game out.

“What are the stakes?” Artie asked.

Noah downed the last of his drink. “Anytime someone guesses the word, everyone tosses a dollar into the pool. The first team to get to fifty points wins. And they split the pool.”

“Fifty bucks?” Rob said incredulously. “That’s not bad, but…”

“No, I get it,” Artie jumped in. “It’ll be more. A lot more. Because we’re all trying to get fifty points. So, if my team gets 43 and your team wins with 50, then that’s 93 bucks.”

“Split four ways,” Rob said.

“…Yeah,” Artie conceded.

“Maybe we should split into smaller teams.”

“Greedy,” Noah mock chastised. “Anyway, we’re already gambling at a baby shower in a church.” He turned to his friend Jamal, who had decided not to play. “Hey, Jamal. Keep track.” Noah pushed a pencil and paper across the table.

“Yeah, sure.”

Artie subconsciously reached to push his glasses up before remembering that he was wearing contacts. “Technically, we’re not gambling. Because we haven’t placed any bets and—”

Noah quit shuffling the cards. “Abrams.”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“Okay, let’s start! Coin toss for who goes first. Call it, Mike.”

“Heads,” Mike called. 

“And we’re tails. Let’s see.” Noah flipped a coin in the air and watched it land on the table. “Heads.”

“All right!” Matt said. “Who’s doing clues?”

“Wait, wait,” Finn interjected. 

Mercedes’ brother frowned. “What?”

“I don’t know the rules.”

Noah, Mike, Matt, and Artie exchanged glances.

“Bro,” Matt began.

“You’re not playing,” Noah finished.

“Well, yeah, but I’m watching. And it’s boring to watch a game unless you know the rules.”

Mercedes’ dad looked amused. Quinn’s dad looked as he had since arriving: slightly angry and vaguely confused. Noah sighed and gestured to Artie, who once again resisted the urge to push up his phantom glasses. He cleared his throat, grabbed a card from the deck, and explained the game to Finn (and Mr. Jones and Mr. Fabray, as it turned out).

The game began. Twenty minutes later, Noah’s team was up by seven, and Matt’s team was hoping for a comeback. It was Rob’s turn to give the clues. Mike, Matt, and Mr. Fabray were guessing the taboo word. (Actually, Mr. Fabray was abysmal at the game, so mostly Mike and Matt were guessing the taboo word.)

Rob: Why are we here?

Mike: Meaning of life!

Matt: Cars! Transportation! Yo, I think you mean circle of life.

Mike: No, I meant meaning of life. Like, why are we here? Life’s biggest question?”

Rob: GUYS! I mean, why are we here here?

Mike: Oh.

Matt: Baby!

Mike: Baby shower!

Rob: Okay, and why is there a baby?

Matt: Sex.

Mike: Lots of sex.

Matt: Lots of unprotected sex.

Mike: Actually, it only takes the one time. Trust me. Inara and I—

Jamal: For fuck’s sake, just skip it!

Rob: First of all, you’re not playing. Second, HELL NO, this is easy! And if we skip it, Noah’s team will get the point. Okay, guys. Think! What is Quinn?

Mike: Blonde. 

Jamal: Hot. (Noah glared at him.) What? It’s true!

Mike & Matt: YOU’RE NOT PLAYING!

Rob: No, CHRIST! Hello? Baby, sex, what is Quinn?

Matt: Oh, pregnant!

Rob: FINALLY!

Mike: You could’ve said, “Dakota Fanning is what?”

Rob: Oh, sure. And then I would get “blonde,” “hot,”—

Matt: No way, dude. I still think of her as, like, five years old.

Rob: Okay, well—

Mike: You do realize time is going, right?

Artie: Time!

Rob: Shit! Seriously, one point? We’re talking about cash here!

Mike and Matt shrugged and assumed ashamed expressions. Mr. Fabray took the opportunity to share something that had evidently been on his mind. He turned to Noah.

“So.”

Noah stared at him without much expression.

“You’re the guy who’s with my daughter.”

“Yes.” Noah resisted the urge to tap his can of soda. “Sir,” he tacked on as an afterthought.

“You’re not married to her.”

“No.”

“And she’s having your baby.”

“That’s right.”

“You’re Jewish.”

“Yep.”

“Who’s the black woman in the purple dress? She hasn’t left Quinn’s side all afternoon.”

“Our girlfriend. Partner.”

“Our?”

“We’re all in a relationship together.”

Mike leaned over to Matt and whispered, “Did he not know this before he showed up?”

“Apparently not,” Matt whispered in response.

Mr. Jones looked like he would rather not be hearing about his daughter’s relationship with Noah and Quinn; it was so much easier to pretend they were long-term roommates. Although the fact that he was at the baby shower of a baby that wasn’t technically his grandchild poked a few holes in his bubble.

Mr. Fabray took a controlled gulp of the beer he’d brought. “She was pregnant in high school. I kicked her out. And now she’s gone and done the same thing again.”

Noah glanced at Mike, Matt, Finn, and Artie who were frantically waving their arms and mouthing variations of “No, no, God no.” Rob and Jamal looked at them, confused.

“That was my baby, sir,” Noah admitted. Mike, Matt, Finn, and Artie shook their heads and reached for their respective drinks in unison. Rob and Jamal exchanged what-a-fucking-soap-opera-damn-Noah-already-has-a-kid? glances.

“Huh. What ever happened to it?”

“Her.”

“What?”

“What ever happened to her. It was a girl. We named her Beth. She was beautiful; ask Mercedes, she was in the delivery room with your daughter.”

“Ask your car?

“Mercedes. Our partner.”

“My daughter,” Mr. Jones cut in, giving Mr. Fabray a severe look.

Noah stood and looked down at Quinn’s father. “It’s been almost fifteen years, and you haven’t once thought to ask about your granddaughter?”

Mr. Fabray stood as well. “She’s not my granddaughter.”

“Wonderful,” Noah said sarcastically. Quinn and Mercedes appeared at his elbow.

“What’s going on?” Quinn asked. “Dad?”

“That baby was conceived out of wedlock, and so was this one. I tried to raise Quinn properly. Took her to church. Supervised the movies and TV she watched. But she got pregnant. I don’t even know where she went after I kicked her out—”

“She stayed with me,” Mercedes said fiercely. She had an arm wrapped around Quinn’s waist.

A small crowd was gathering around them, but Noah and Mr. Fabray were oblivious to it. Santana unabashedly pulled out her video camera.

Mr. Fabray continued his spiel. “But I didn’t want to have her in the house. And now, now, she’s done it again. Living in sin with a Jew and a Black. And having another baby.” He turned to Quinn. “You remember the story of Mary Magdalene, don’t you Quinn? She was a whore, too. And Jesus still—“

Noah punched Quinn’s father in the face. He staggered backward.

“Noah!” his mother cried. Mrs. Fabray looked on blithely. The guys all stood and tried to talk down Noah.

Noah punched Mr. Fabray again. He fell to the floor with a groan.

Noah’s voice was steady as he said, “You are the biggest son of a bitch I know, you motherfucker. If you say that about Quinn again I will kill you.”

“He will,” Brittany piped up.

“Shhh!” Tina hushed her.

“Noah,” Mercedes said. 

“Fuck you, Mr. Fabray. Sorry, Quinn.”

Quinn waved it off. “Baby’s gonna cuss. What can I do?”

“I don’t want to hear you talking shit about your own daughter. Or Mercedes. Or me. Got it? And if you feel like talking so much shit, I don’t mind taking a long drive to Lima, or wherever the fuck you live now.”

“Neither do we,” Finn said. Mike, Matt, Artie, Jamal, and Rob nodded their agreement.

“Noah,” Mercedes said.

“Okay,” he said. He allowed Quinn and Mercedes to lead him away.

Mr. Fabray stood and wiped at his cheek. Mrs. Fabray looked at her ex-husband with disgust. “I’m still not sure about their relationship, but our daughter is not a whore, you pompous asshole!” 

Mercedes’ mother, Cheryl, led her away. Noah’s mother followed them to a table in the corner, where they began honestly discussing their kids’ unorthodox relationship for the first time in years.

Kurt and Rachel tried to regain control of the situation. “I think we all need to eat!” Rachel said. “Right now. Food is at the back table, help yourselves.”

The crowd dispersed to the food table, chattering about the fight:

“Do you really think they all…you know? Do it? Together?”

“Ew, gross!” 

“Noah seems like a loyal young man.”

“They’ve got their heads on their shoulders. What the hell, right? Didja hear about the lady who wanted to marry her dog? It doesn’t get weirder than that. At least they stuck to humans, right?”

“He fell. They could hear the thud all the way in the Bronx.”

Rachel turned to Santana. “Did you really get all that on tape?”

Si, mami. I bet Puck will want to see it in a few days.”

Mr. Fabray slinked out of the hall.

“Good riddance,” Kurt muttered.

“This can still be the best baby shower ever!” Rachel said.

Santana rolled her eyes. Tina took pity on Rachel and linked their arms. “C’mon, Rachel. Take a break. Grab some cookies."

“I did make them myself,” Rachel said.

“Then you’ll definitely want some,” Tina said.

Rob looked at the Taboo score sheet. “Um, can we finish the game? There’s money involved!”

*

If anything, the baby shower was more fun after the altercation. Everyone seemed to feel united by a mutual dislike of Mr. Fabray, and the afternoon flew by smoothly. The games were fun. (Rob’s team won the Taboo game, and due to Mr. Fabray’s abrupt departure, they split the money three ways instead of four.) The gifts the triad received included diapers, children’s books, and baby clothes. Kurt gave them a few baby outfits, and attached a lengthy list of baby-clothing faux pas. “Because if I’m going to go outside with him, then he can’t look like he spends his days eating and sleeping.”

“He’s a baby!” Quinn said. “After he’s born, all he’ll do is eat and sleep!”

“Well, that doesn’t mean he has to look it.”

Mercedes agreed, and said as much to him later.

It was almost five pm, and most of the guests had left. Only the gleeks and the grandparents-to-be remained. They were helping to clean up. Quinn sat in her chair of honor, forbidden to move by both Mercedes and Noah. Cheryl Jones kept her company.

“We haven’t had a chance to talk at all, honey. How are things?”

“Good, Mrs. Jones.”

“I’ve been telling you to call me Cheryl since you were in high school.”

Quinn smiled. “Cheryl.”

Cheryl smoothed out the front of her skirt. “Your dad will come around.”

“I don’t think I want him to.” 

“That’s understandable.”

They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes and watched the merriment around them. Someone had turned on the radio, and the gleeks were all singing along to Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” The song ended too soon. Finn grinned and said, “From the top, guys!” mimicking Mr. Schuester with remarkable accuracy.

Rachel jumped in. “I truly believe I deserve the solo for this song, Mr. Schuester.”

Mercedes grinned and played along. “Seriously, Mr. Schue, can we sing some black songs? And can I do something other than wail on the last note?”

“This isn’t the Rachel and Finn Variety Show, Mr. Schue,” Kurt said. “Without the rest of us, there’s no glee club.”

Artie wheeled himself over to the food table. “It’s more than a little prejudiced that we can’t have some choreography that doesn’t highlight my disability, Mr. Schue.”

“Y-y-yes,” Tina mock stuttered from her place on Artie’s lap.

“Whatever,” Santana said. She tossed her head. “We all know I’m just here to look good.”

“What she said,” Brittany said. “What’s going on?” she whispered to Santana. The other gleeks smiled fondly.

“Can I get a solo that has nothing to do with being pregnant?” Quinn spoke up from her seat.

“Can I get a solo? Any solo?” Mike asked.

“Can I say something?” Matt asked.

Noah provided the finale. “How about we end practice early so I can get a head start on cleaning Mrs. Grafton’s pool?”

They all burst out laughing. Noah, Quinn, and Mercedes’ parents looked confused.

“I really love you guys,” Tina said.

“We love you, too!” Rachel said. “That was so much fun!”

“I wanna get out of here before midnight, Berry,” Noah said. “Let’s finishing cleaning up.”

Fifteen minutes later, the hall was back to its original condition. The grandparents-to-be left after hugs and admonitions to Quinn about keeping off her feet and eating the proper amount of fish. The gleeks were left.

“Let’s go over to Mercedes and Noah and Quinn’s place!” cried Rachel.

“Do you see this?” Mercedes said to Kurt. “Do you see how she invites people to someplace that isn’t hers?”

“Seen and noted, girl. You don’t mind, though? Us coming over?”

“No, of course not. It’s just…”

“Yeah.”

They were already making transportation arrangements, so Mercedes’ opinion was beside the point. Noah volunteered one space in his car. Rachel and Finn said they could fit two more people in theirs. Tina told the triad to go ahead, promising to squeeze everyone else in the van she and Artie drove.

Mercedes, Quinn, and Noah were the last to leave the hall. Mercedes and Noah held her hands as they climbed up the stairs.

“Think they’ll leave before morning?” Quinn asked.

“I think they’ll sleep over,” Mercedes said. “And I have work tomorrow.”

“So do I,” Noah said.

“Me too,” Quinn said.

They were silent for a few moments.

“We’re not going to do shit at work tomorrow,” Noah said.

“True story,” Mercedes agreed. 

“Yeah,” Quinn said.

They headed down the sidewalk to their car. Noah laughed.

“What?” Quinn asked.

“My sis stayed with a friend in Queens, so that wasn’t a problem. But I told my Ma there wasn’t any space at our place for her to stay. And now we’ve got nine people coming over.”

“There isn’t any space!” Mercedes said. “I don’t want to think about where they’ll all sleep.”

“Our bedroom is off limits,” Noah said.

“Naturally,” Mercedes said.

“Absolutely,” Quinn agreed. “I’m curious to see how many people can fit in the spare bedroom, though. And the living room.”

“Do we have enough food?” Mercedes mused.

“We’re ordering in and splitting the bill, okay? Dammit. I signed up for glee club to get closer to Quinn, and fifteen years later I’m fucking surrounded.”

“And you’re living with two of them,” Quinn added with a grin.

Noah fastened his seatbelt and started the car. “Let’s get home before crazy shit happens.”

Mercedes frowned. “I really don’t think—”

“Brittany,” Noah said. “Santana.”

“Let’s get home,” Mercedes said.

*^*^* 

When Noah pulled up to their building, everyone else was loitering outside. He dropped Quinn and Mercedes off at the front door and tried to find a parking spot. “Don’t you have your key?” Mercedes asked Rachel. Rachel had a spare key to their condo, for emergencies.

“I left it at home,” she responded. 

Mercedes opened the door to their building and gave the key to Rachel. “Go ahead.”

Rachel led the way into the building. Mercedes and Quinn lagged behind everyone else.

“They all have weekend bags,” Quinn said.

“Yep.”

Noah came up behind them. “What?”

“They all have weekend bags,” Quinn repeated.

“C’mon,” Noah said.

*

“You’re sleeping over?” Quinn asked Rachel.

“This is the first time we’ve been together since high school!”

“So…that’s a yes,” Quinn said. She rolled her eyes and made her way to the kitchen.

Mercedes opened the door to one of the spare rooms. “You ladies can have the guest bedroom and the guys can sleep in the living room, okay?” she instructed. “We have two air mattresses and extra blankets.”

“Three air mattresses,” Noah corrected her. “I found mine last week.”

“Okay, three.”

“Can I get some water?” Brittany asked.

Mercedes, Quinn, and Noah exchanged glances.

“Sure, Britt,” Quinn said. “In the fridge. Glasses are in that cupboard.”

“Hey guys,” Mercedes said loudly. “If you want something, just take it. If you all keep asking, it’ll get really old really fast. But please don’t clean us out.”

The gleeks settled in. Soon they were all sprawled around the living room. Santana had once again pulled out her video camera and was taking an uncharacteristic pleasure in working her way around the room with the thing. Mercedes and Tina were sitting on the couch, giggling over photos on Tina’s phone. Quinn and Brittany were seated on the couch as well, discussing bad hair dye jobs. Rachel sat on the carpeted floor, leaning against the base of the couch and talking on the phone. Artie and Kurt were sitting along the wall. Kurt was trying to convince Artie that sweater vests went out ages ago, along with pocket protectors and the first generation iPod. Mike, Matt, Noah, and Finn were arguing about why their high school football team was never any good. Santana was walking around with the camera, shamelessly eavesdropping on the multiple conversations transpiring in the room.

“Paparazzi,” Tina muttered.

It was really sad how half of them broke into the Lady Gaga song.

“Hey, do you have a cord to connect your computer to the TV?” Kurt asked Noah.

“Yeah.”

“I want to show you guys something,” Kurt said. “Although it’s mostly for Artie’s benefit.”

“No offense, Hummel, but I don’t want to watch Oz.”

“Go to hell, Noah.”

“Hey, that’s my hubby,” Mercedes protested.

“Sorry, ‘Cedes. Shut up, Noah.”

That’s much better,” Noah said sarcastically.

“Oh, stop bitching.”

Noah turned to Mercedes, who shrugged and tried to hide a smile. Noah pouted. He set up the computer/TV connection and Kurt started the video.

“Yo, Tinkerbell,” Santana said. “Commentary?” She gestured to the video camera. “You were pretty good at the shower.”

“You want commentary of the video?” Kurt asked.

“No, our reactions.”

Kurt moved to stand beside Santana. “Okay, here goes. We’re watching a YouTube video about why sweater vests are ugly and evil, much like Voldemort. Britt looks pleased, if confused.”

Santana zoomed in on Britt’s face.

“Finn looks about the same. ‘Cedes looks like she’s reconsidering our fabulous friendship—”

“You know me so well,” Mercedes commented.

Kurt continued. “And now we’re getting to the climax of the video and…Mike and Matt are laughing so hard they’ve hit their heads on the wall. Are you okay? Rachel looks like she’s gearing up to deliver a lengthy spiel on the inhumanity of sweatshops — I agree, but please don’t start, Rach. Please. Noah has pressed the replay button — don’t ever question my judgment again, Puckerman! And Santana’s about to drop the camera, she’s laughing so hard. Just give it to me! Go sit down, San. Quinn has The Eyebrow raised; it never gets old. Artie agrees with me on that—”

“I’m convinced,” Artie said. “I’m tossing my sweater vests tomorrow. You got me with the Voldemort analogy.”

“And he’s convinced,” Kurt finished.

“I saw the best video the other day,” Mike said.

“Go for it,” Noah said.

They spent more than three hours watching random YouTube videos. They moved away from sweater vests, to clips from Scrubs, to TV theme songs from the shows of their childhood, to random rants, to scenes from Fight Club, to babies dancing to pop music.

“I’m starving,” Finn announced. “What’s open now? Do you have any menus?" 

Quinn slowly rose from the couch.

“Where are you going?” Mercedes asked.

“Sit back down,” Noah said simultaneously.

Quinn rolled her eyes. “Mom. Dad. I’m going to the bathroom. Wanna follow me? Make sure I don’t injure myself? Because there’s no way I can go anywhere without—”

“Okay, okay,” Noah said. Hormones, he mouthed to everyone.

“Sorry,” Mercedes muttered.

Quinn shook her head and headed to the bathroom. Noah and Mercedes’ eyes followed her.

Matt, who was holding the video camera, was having a field day with the triad’s interaction. “This is a fucking soap opera, dude,” he said to Noah.

“Bet you ten bucks this video will be fucking awesome,” Mike said. 

“Twenty,” Santana, Kurt, and Tina said.

“Forty,” Rachel said.

Everyone turned to look at her.

“What?” she asked. “I have a sixth sense.”

“She does,” Noah said.

“Who could forget?” Kurt mumbled.

“Can we get back to the food issue?” Finn asked.

“Today’s Sunday,” Mercedes said. “The only food we can get delivered is Chinese or pizza.”

Noah rose to get the menus.

Artie grabbed the video camera from Matt. “Let’s get both,” he said.

A thirty-minute conversation ensued, in which Brittany changed her order every five minutes, Rachel commented on the unhealthy nature of everyone’s orders, and Quinn disgusted everyone with her insane combination of curried chicken and anchovy and pineapple pizza. Finally, Mike placed the orders and everyone sat in rather pathetic anticipation. Artie happened to be sitting beside Rachel and Mercedes, who were discussing their joint dislike of Feist’s latest single. He angled the video camera toward them and hoped he looked unobtrusive.

General conversation soon turned toward the sweet sixteen party Matt and Santana had just orchestrated for Apple Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter. “What’s she like in real life?” Tina asked, curious. 

“A bitch,” Santana said bluntly. “Nothing like her mom.”

“I wouldn’t say that…” Matt tentatively disagreed. 

Santana turned to him in disbelief. “She demanded a Porsche for her bday, got a Jag, and keyed it in a hissy fit! Damn thing had to be repainted. And then her dad replaced it with a Porsche. Spoiled brat,” she muttered.

Reactions were immediate and similar.

“Really?”

“No way!”

“She’s a psycho. I want a Jag!”

“Okay, I agree,” Matt conceded.

“Oh, I almost forgot!” Santana exclaimed. “You guys know how I follow Coach Sylvester on twitter, right?”

“Um, no,” Mercedes said. “Why the hell would anyone want to do that? You might as well ask her to tag you in screwed up tweets.”

“That’s true,” Brittany agreed.

“Come to think of it, I have been getting these weird ass messages from Principal Figgins,” Santana mused. “I need to do something about that. But anyway, listen to this. Remember how she had that Sue’s Corner segment on the local news channel back in high school?”

“Yeah. It was pretty good,” Kurt said. “If, you know, you like sarcastic and judgmental rants about everyday inanities.”

“Which you do,” Mercedes pointed out.

“It’s like we share a brain, sweetie.”

Noah glanced up from his phone. “Please don’t ever say that again, Hummel. Mercedes and I sleep together, for fuck’s sake.”

Mercedes blushed. “Noah!”

“Seriously, mama? Everyone knows. We’ve been living together for years. We just came from Quinn’s baby shower!”

“Yes, but…”

Quinn rolled her eyes. “News alert! Noah, Mercedes, and I are fucking. Everyone clear? Great. I want to hear about Coach Sylvester now.”

Mike and Matt exchanged glances. Tina collapsed against Rachel’s shoulder in a fit of giggles.

“Did you get that?” Finn asked Artie. 

Artie patted the video cam. “Yes. Really good delivery, Quinn. Stellar. We even got a hint of The Eyebrow, which—”

Quinn threw a pillow at him, laughing.

“Coach Sylvester?” Santana reminded everyone.

“Yeah. Continue,” Mike said.

“So Sue’s Corner is becoming a nationally syndicated newspaper column starting next month!”

“That’s amazing!” Rachel exclaimed.

“Meaning?” Finn asked.

“Meaning ‘that’s amazing,’” Kurt deadpanned. 

“No, I mean, Coach Sylvester’s column being nationally syndicated or whatever. What does national syndication even mean? I thought it was just for, like, TV shows.”

“It means,” Santana said, “that her column will be in a lot of different newspapers nationwide. Like the LA Times and the Washington Post.”

“I really want to read her column,” Tina said.

“Me too,” Kurt said.

“If she writes in a reference to Mr. Schue’s hair, I’ll follow her on twitter, I swear,” Artie said.

“I would like to hold the camera now, Artie,” Rachel said.

Artie passed the camera to her. She moved to find a better vantage point to film everyone.

“Is it just me,” Mercedes asked, “or is this whole video camera thing still creepy?”

“It’s still creepy,” Quinn assured her.

“Thanks, babe.”

“No problem, hon.”

“You’re both so cute!” Rachel squealed.

Mercedes rolled her eyes as the doorbell rang.

“Yay! Food!” Brittany cried.

Finn jumped up to answer the door. The smell of Chinese food wafted into the condo. “It’s Chinese,” he called to everyone else. He paid the delivery guy and toted four bags into the living room.

“Dammit! Fucking Papa John’s,” Noah muttered. 

The doorbell rang two minutes later. “Speak of the devil,” Mercedes mumbled.

Mike answered the door this time, and carried in two pizzas and an assortment of drinks.

The arrival of the food put everyone in even better moods. Brittany swallowed her sweet and sour shrimp and poked her chopsticks into her takeout carton, a thoughtful expression on her face. “What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had? And I don’t mean, like, food poisoning or something. I mean, the worst combination of ingredients on a plate.”

“I’d definitely have to say a lobster I had three years ago at a client meeting,” Matt shared immediately.  “The lady wanted…well, actually, she wanted pretty much what we’re doing right now — a get together with friends. I still don’t see why she needed our help. She could’ve planned it herself.”

“Oh, I remember her,” Santana said. “Shirley something or other?” 

“Yeah.”

“She needed our help because she was a fucking moron.”

“Don’t you like any of your clients?” Noah asked.

Santana shrugged. “I like making money.”

“There’s a reason why I interact with the clients, and Santana does the bookkeeping,” Matt said dryly. “Are you getting this, Rachel?”

“Yes, Matthew,” Rachel said, camera in hand. She took a sip of her apple juice. 

“Anyway,” Matt continued, “She ordered before I got there, and I was sort of forced to eat a lobster with this really strong barbecue sauce.”

“Oh my God,” Tina gasped. Everyone agreed with her, based on the myriad of nauseated expressions. Everyone except Quinn, that is. 

“Actually, that doesn’t sound too bad,” Quinn said.

Everyone turned to look at her, incredulous.

“Ignore her, she’s pregnant,” Mercedes said. “That is seriously disgusting, Matt. I feel a little sick right now." 

“Thanks so much for starting this, Brittany,” Kurt said sarcastically.

“You’re welcome, Kurt!” Brittany said, oblivious to his sarcasm.

Santana sighed and ran a hand through Brittany’s jet-black curls.

Mike volunteered his worst meal ever: an eggplant soup he’d eaten on a dare. Artie followed with a coconut chicken dish gone horribly, horribly wrong. Tina and Finn commiserated over the atrocity that was the Number 4 at Denny’s.

“My turn,” Noah said. He grabbed the camera from Rachel and returned to his seat next to Quinn.

“Why are you still such a Neanderthal?” Rachel griped.

“My hubby,” Mercedes said to her.

Quinn shrugged. “Rachel’s kind of right.”

“I know,” Mercedes said with a sigh. “It was worth a shot, though.” She turned to Noah, who was gripping the video camera. “Please don’t be a predictable asshole, sweetie.”

“Oh, you mean this?” he asked. He zoomed in on her breasts.

Mercedes sank her head into her hands for a few moments. “We’ve been together forever. These are old news.”

“Blasphemy, mama,” Noah said. He whispered something in her ear. She tried not to smile and failed.

Soon, everyone except Noah, Quinn, and Mercedes had shared their worst meals ever.

“Well?” Finn prompted.

“Actually,” Quinn started. “This isn’t what Brittany was looking for, I think, but… my worst meal ever was at a Thai restaurant, senior year of high school. The food itself was good, but—”

“That’s when we broke up,” Mercedes finished.

“You guys are sickening,” Santana said.

Noah remained silent. A look of comprehension dawned on Mike’s face. “You were going to say that, too?”

“Shut up,” Noah said.

Mike started laughing. “You are such a pussy, Puckerman.”

“Shut the fuck up, Chang.”

“Yo, man,” Matt said to Mike. “That was alliterative.”

“Thanks. I think,” Mike responded. 

“Why did you guys break up?” Tina asked. “No one really seemed to know back then. Also, can I get the camera now?”

Noah gave it to her, but not before showing her how to work the night vision function. “In case we turn out the lights,” he said with a leer. Tina thanked him, bewildered. Mercedes and Quinn hit his arms.

Ignore him, Artie mouthed to Tina.

Quinn answered Tina’s question. “Santana’s ass.”

“Wait, what?” Santana asked.

“Josh Ackles,” Noah shot back.

“You still remember his name?” Quinn asked in disbelief.

“Can we get back to the part about my ass?” Santana asked.

“Later!” Noah and Quinn shouted.

Santana raised her hands in mock surrender. “Whoa! Christ. Forget I ever asked.”

“Aside from Santana’s ass and Josh what’s-his-face,” Mercedes said, “I still blame Brittany’s cat.”

“Oh, Alfred!” Brittany exclaimed. She furrowed her brow. “Or was it Angelina? I still don’t know if it was a boy cat or a girl cat. I miss him! … Or her,” she conceded. “The cat died the year after I started using green ink to take notes in college. Good for the environment, you know.”

Artie stared at her blankly.

“Sophomore year,” she explained.

Artie nodded slowly and exchanged glances with Kurt.

“But what did Brittany’s cat have to do with anything?” Rachel asked.

“Well, she claimed her cat had a vision because it was psychic, and the vision kind of led to our breakup,” Mercedes explained. 

“Oooh, was your cat really psychic, Brittany?” Rachel asked. “I never knew you had a psychic cat. We could have communicated on a higher plane.”

Even Finn had a wtf look on his face after Rachel’s statement.

“Of course her cat wasn’t psychic! It’s a cat!” Mercedes said.

“But, you see,” Brittany began, “my cat is the reason why you guys are together now!” 

Mercedes nearly choked on her Hawaiian pizza. “Um, no, Brittany. Your “psychic” cat is the reason why we broke up!”

“Yes,” Brittany agreed hurriedly. “But, because you broke up, you had a chance to realize that you really love each other, and you got to work out your jealousy issues, and when you got back together you worked really hard at keeping your relationship healthy and happy. And you wouldn’t have had all that extra wisdom is my cat weren’t psychic. So there!”

The rest of the gleeks let her comment sink in for a minute. 

“Wow, Brittany,” Artie said finally. “That’s the most insightful and intricate thing I’ve ever heard you say. For that, I’m going to agree with you.”

“Thanks, Artie!” Brittany said happily. “Is there a reason why you’re still in a wheelchair?” 

Kurt groaned.

Brittany barreled on, oblivious to the incredulous expressions on everyone’s faces. “I mean, it was fun that time in high school, until I lost mine.”

“I still have no fucking clue how she did that,” Mike whispered to Matt.

“Probably left it in her Narnia-accessible wardrobe,” Matt whispered in return.

“But it’s so much more fun to walk, Artie!” Brittany finished.

“Oh my God,” Mercedes muttered to herself.

Tina shook her head in utter disbelief.

Rachel opened her mouth to make a diatribe she’d no doubt been saving for an appropriate moment, but found that she couldn’t. She shut her mouth and gave Santana a pleading look. 

Once Santana got over the fact that Rachel was begging her to do something, she sprang into action. “Britt…just…c’mere. Let’s go into the kitchen for a while.”

The room was silent as they left. 

“And there that goes,” Noah muttered. Quinn tried, and failed, to hide a smile.

“I think she needs to talk to someone,” Finn said.

Quinn cleared her throat. “I assumed she wasn’t still, um—”

“Crazy?” Tina volunteered. 

Quinn nodded hesitantly. “How has she even, um, survived so long being, um—”

“Brittany?” Artie finished.

Quinn nodded again.

“I want to apologize on behalf of Brittany,” Rachel said. “Although I cannot see how that’s my responsibility,” she muttered. “But someone has to!”

“It’s okay, guys,” Artie said. “It’s Brittany,” he said, as if it explained everything. The sad thing was, it totally did.

“It’s Brittany, bitch,” Kurt said absently.

Everyone turned to look at him.

“You have no idea how much I want her to say that one day.”

“You could just ask her to say it,” Mercedes suggested.

“No, she has to say it spontaneously or it’ll be stupid.”

Mercedes shrugged.

“What time is it?” Rachel asked. 

“Twelve oh three,” Matt said.

“I’m tired,” Rachel declared.

Tina nodded. “So am I.”

“God, we’re old,” Mike said.

Noah scoffed. “We’re not old.”

“We’re almost thirty.”

“…We’re old.”

“Bedtime, kiddies!” Mercedes said. “Especially you, Quinn.”

“Oh, Mercedes,” Quinn whined.

“Bed, Q,” Noah ordered.

“Do you see what I go through?” Quinn asked everyone.

“Hot threesome sex on a regular basis, a decent job, a nice place to live, fucking pregnancy glow — yeah, your life is just so rough,” Santana joked.

Quinn stuck her tongue out at her. “Goodnight, everyone.”

Everyone murmured “goodnight” in return. Noah followed Quinn into their bedroom to help her settle in.

Tina, Santana, Rachel and Brittany went into the guest bedroom to start getting ready for bed. Brittany snuck back out, camera in hand. Mercedes was pulling blankets out of the hall closet, and looking for the air pump for the mattresses. “Aha!” she exclaimed triumphantly. “Here guys, have fun.”

“Dibs on one of the mattresses,” Artie said.

“Yeah, sure bro,” Matt said.

Mercedes headed into the kitchen. Brittany followed close behind. “Brittany, would you put that thing away?!”

“Sorry,” Brittany said. “Just till everyone goes to bed?” 

“Whatever,” Mercedes muttered. “I swear, it’s like we’re on a reality show.”

Noah knocked on the door to the guest bedroom. “Yo, Berry!” Brittany appeared over his shoulder with the video camera rolling. He sighed.

“Yes, Noah?” she called.

“Mercedes, Quinn, and I all have work tomorrow. You and Hummel are in charge of making sure everyone wakes and leaves on time, okay? You’re the last to leave. Lock up behind yourself.” 

She opened the door enough to poke her head through. “Not to worry! I have a list of everyone’s flight and driving plans.”

“Ooookay. Great. Night.”

“Good night, Noah.” She closed the door. Brittany returned to filming the scene in the living room. One mattress had been blown up so far, and Artie was getting settled onto it. Kurt had opted for the couch. 

Mercedes bustled around, making sure everyone would have a place to sleep. Matt and Finn helped her clear away the takeout cartons and pizza boxes. Matt caught her eye, and Mercedes knew that he was remembering their conversation from a few years earlier, the one about sacrificing. She sometimes indulged her maternal instincts; tonight was one such occasion. Noah finally convinced her to go to bed. He stayed up with the guys for another hour.

Mercedes awakened when Noah crawled into their bed. Quinn remained asleep; she was sleeping like a log as usual.

“Noah?” Mercedes murmured sleepily.

“Yeah.”

“Okay?”

“Everything’s fine. Get some sleep.” He reached over Quinn to kiss Mercedes’ cheek. She sighed sleepily and rolled over. He checked his email on his phone before falling asleep.

Chapter Text

PART NINE. TWO YEARS LATER

 

I was the official manager of all New Directions-related betting pools. Ever since Quinn’s baby shower, we had all agreed — without ever really discussing it — to keep one going. It was fun, and we kept the wagers reasonable. The current list included: the chances of Rachel and Finn ever getting married (the odds were 7 to 4, in favor of marriage) and the odds of Santana releasing the video from Quinn’s baby shower that she was still holding hostage before the end of the year (Matt refused to bet on it).

-Artie Abrams

   

“I’m just saying. He’s turning into a whiny, spoiled brat,” Mercedes said.

“Can we not do this right now?” Quinn asked. She bent to pick up the spoon Adam had knocked to the floor. “Amelia is coming soon and we haven’t got enough time to talk about this properly, anyway.”

“Noah,” Mercedes appealed to her other partner.

He leaned against the kitchen counter, drinking a mug of coffee. “Mercedes…”

“We’re going to talk about it now, okay?” Mercedes glanced at her phone for the time. 

Quinn turned away from Adam’s high chair to face Mercedes. “Mercedes. Adam is two years old. Have you ever met a two-year-old who wasn’t a whiny, spoiled brat? And, no, we’re not talking about this now. Especially not in front of him.” She turned back to convincing Adam to finish his breakfast. “Where on earth is Amelia?” she muttered to herself.

“Gotta go,” Noah said. He dropped his mug into the sink. “Don’t give Amelia hell, kid,” he said to his son, ruffling his hair. He kissed Quinn’s cheek. He kissed Mercedes cheek and whispered in her ear. “Later, mama.” He placed a hand on her belly — she was four months along.

But Mercedes was not done with her spiel. “Quinn, you have no sense of discipline. You’re spoiling Adam rotten. ”

Noah sighed and sat down. There was no way Mercedes or Quinn would let him leave now, even though he’d be late to work.

Quinn gave up trying to feed Adam and lifted him out of his high chair. She settled him into the portable baby swing set up in the living room, and returned to the kitchen. “Okay, Mercedes. You really want to do this?”

“Dammit, Quinn! I’m not trying to do anything! I’m just saying that we need to seriously talk about discipline because at the rate Adam is going, it’ll be hell raising him even three years from now.”

“Mercedes, he is two years old. I’m not spoiling him rotten. He’s a baby.”

“Toddler,” Mercedes corrected.

“Like there’s a big difference,” Quinn said.

“Actually—” 

“Ladies,” Noah interjected. “We all have jobs to be at, remember? Can we pick this up some other—”

They ignored him. “He’s my son,” Quinn continued. “And I know what I’m doing. For Christ’s sake, it’s not like he’s running around cursing and hitting everyone.”

“First of all,” Mercedes started, “he’s our son. We said we wouldn’t play sides like this, remember?”

“Well, it’s hard not to when you’re practically calling me a terrible parent,” Quinn shot back angrily.

Noah rose from his seat. “I’m just gonna go and—”

“Sit!” Quinn and Mercedes ordered simultaneously.

Noah sat.

“Second, I’m not calling you a terrible parent. But Adam throws tantrums whenever Noah or I say no to him, and then you give in to him anyway. He’s becoming a brat, and it’s got to stop. I mean, tantrums? I never even thought about throwing a tantrum when I was a kid. I never even knew what a tantrum was. Remember that scene in Target three weeks ago?”

They all winced, even Quinn.

“He fell out,” Mercedes said. “Because Noah told him he couldn’t have that truck, which you bought him anyway even after his bad behavior. He needs to learn to be obedient, and we need to discipline him properly. And by that I mean we have to actually start disciplining him.”

Quinn frowned. “We’re not spanking Adam!”

“I never said that!” Mercedes protested.

“You were thinking it!”

“Look. I know…okay, let me just say it, ‘cause it’s mostly true. I know white people have a thing against spanking kids, and I’m all for timeouts or whatever — well, actually, I’m not. I think timeouts are absolute crap. Spanking isn’t a bad thing. I got spanked when I was kid, and I’m not psychologically damaged or anything.”

Quinn opened her mouth to speak. Mercedes barreled on. “Something has to be done. We’re having another kid in five months; we need to present a united front. Because tantrums are never cute, no matter what anyone says, and they become downright disgusting the older the kid gets. We need to stop undermining each other.”

“I’m not spanking Adam, and neither are either of you.”

“Do something! He needs to learn that no means no, not ‘wait until Mommy gives you what you want anyway.’” Mercedes said. She glanced at the microwave clock. “Dammit, I’m going to be late to work.” 

Now you’re worried about that?” Noah asked her.

Mercedes glared at him. “Where is she?”

The doorbell rang. “Finally!” Quinn exclaimed. She hurried to answer the door.

Mercedes turned to Noah. “Mr. Puckerman.”

He raised his hands in mock surrender. “I agree with you, mama. A few swats on the hand won’t hurt the kid. But Quinn’s being an overprotective mom. It’s hard for her to—”

“You’re always agreeing with Mercedes,” Quinn said.

“That was fast,” Noah said, biding the time till Quinn’s blow up.

“Amelia knows where everything is by now,” Quinn said.

“Q, I don’t always agree with Mercedes,” Noah placated her.

“Discipline? You agree with her. Vacationing in Williamsburg? You agree with her. New sweaters for Adam, of all fucking things? You agree with her.”

“To be fair, that last one was Hummel’s bright idea,” Noah pointed out. “Also, they’re sweaters! Q, now is not the time to be—”

“What, Noah? Hormonal? You two really don’t value any of my opinions, do you?”

What? Quinn, listen to yourself. Of course we value your opinions! Christ!”

“I am fucking sick of feeling like the idiot child in this relationship!” Quinn exclaimed.

Amelia wasn’t even trying to hide the fact that she was eavesdropping. It couldn’t be helped, given the small size of the condo.

Mercedes sighed. “Babe.”

“No,” Noah interrupted her. “Look, Quinn. We’re all late for work by now, so whatever right? Yeah, I agree with Mercedes on some things. Just like I agree with you on other things. Don’t play this game now.” 

“This isn’t a game I’m playing, Noah. This is exactly what I’m talking about! You’re trying to placate me and—”

Noah grabbed her by the waist and pulled her close to him. Their faces were barely inches apart. “Quinn. Listen to me, for fuck’s sake. I have loved you since we were sixteen years old. I never stopped loving you after the Babygate drama, after you decided to give Beth up for adoption, after we broke up senior year. I’m not going to reaffirm that every time we have an argument, or whenever you think I’m taking Mercedes’ side over yours, or when you think I don’t give a shit about what you’re saying.”

He stepped back and pulled Mercedes to him as well. He looked at his phone, sighed, and addressed the two women. “Yeah, our relationship is getting more complicated now that we have a kid. And we’re about to have another one. But I don’t want to hear this bullshit about taking sides. We are fucking sticking this thing out, okay? I love you both, and I know you love me and each other. I am done with being stuck in the middle of the random and pointless arguments you guys have sometimes.”

Noah ran a hand over his head. “Now. I am going to work. When we get home today we will seriously talk about this discipline thing, all right? Think about whatever issues you want to get out there, because this is the last time I’m volunteering to have a discussion, got it?”

Mercedes and Quinn were quiet.

“Got it?” Noah asked.

“Got it,” Quinn said. “I know you love me, but sometimes, I just feel…”

“I know,” he said to her. “Mercedes?”

“I’m contemplating how much later to work we’ll be if you take us hard, here and now. I’m partial to that wall.” She pointed.

“That speech was kind of hot,” Quinn said.

Mercedes smiled at her. Quinn kissed her cheek, her lips. She whispered something in her ear, which made Mercedes giggle.

Noah groaned. “I can’t believe I’m turning down the opportunity for makeup sex, but I need to get paid.”

“Right, right.” Mercedes and Quinn pulled apart. The triad hurried toward the front door.

“Amelia, Noah should be back first, around five, okay?” Quinn said to the nanny. Quinn bent to kiss Adam’s head. “Bye, baby. Be good.”

“Mama,” he said in return.

Mercedes lifted Adam’s chin. “We’re having a serious talk when I get home.”

“’Cedes!” he exclaimed happily.

“You’re a charmer,” she said with a smile.

“Your moms are crazy, kid” Noah said to his son. He kissed his head.

“Cwazy!” the toddler said. He banged a toy against his swing seat.

*^*^*

4:33pm. Noah: Picking up Indian for dinner.

 

4:42pm. Mercedes: K. Xtra black chickpeas for me. Thanks

4:47pm. Quinn: Great. Samosas pls.

*^*^* 

After a quick dinner, Noah and Quinn settled on the carpeted living room floor to play with Adam. They were going through the alphabet, and finding objects around the condo to match each letter. Quinn was sticking to the tried-and-true basics: A is for apple, B is for ball, C is for cat. She had just gathered a toy dinosaur, an egg, and a fish-shaped magnet. Noah was actively combating her choices with his own. “F is for field goal, Adam.”

“Seriously, Noah? That’s the only word you could think of,” Quinn said for the fifth time.

“He’s not too young to learn about football,” Noah responded. “Say field goal, Adam,” he prompted.

Quinn shook her head.

Mercedes was seated on the couch, trying to reason with one of her clients. “Mr. Castorini, you called me to ask my opinion. And I’ll tell you again: I just don’t think it’s wise of you to place that kind of clause in your will … yes, I know it’s your money, but you hired me to … sure, I understand that…” Mercedes sighed. “Mr. Castorini, I’ll be blunt. If you write that clause into your will, you’re practically inviting half of your relatives to murder you!”

Quinn looked up at her in alarm.

“That’s a good word for M,” Noah mused. 

“Oh my God,” Quinn said. She covered Adam’s ears. “You’re not going to tell our son that M is for murder. M is for music, right baby?” she asked the toddler. “M is for…macaroni, mountains, milk, and…um…. Wow, this is harder than I thought.”

“Mama!” Adam said happily. 

“Yes!” Quinn exclaimed. “My smart, sweet boy.” She kissed the tip of his nose. “M is for mama.”

“Fine, Mr. Castorini,” Mercedes said into her phone. “It’s your money. We’ll meet tomorrow at three? ... Okay, good. Yes, bring your wife. I’ll see you then. Goodbye.” She dropped the phone onto the accordion folder beside her. “He’s gonna die,” she said bluntly.

“Mercedes!” Quinn said, appalled. Noah had pulled Adam onto his lap, and was pretending to bite off his fingers, which – in Adam’s opinion – never got old.

“It’s true,” Mercedes said. “With a clause like that, and a family like his, I wouldn’t be surprised if his wife offed him. If it weren’t totally immoral I’d place money on it.”

“I’d join you,” Noah offered. Quinn glared at him.

“If it weren’t totally immoral, Q!” he hastened to qualify.

“You know that you jumped from F to M, right?” Mercedes asked her partners.

“Yeah, we’ll go back and go in order,” Quinn said. 

“I’ll help!” Mercedes volunteered. “You’re doing the basic Sesame Street theme, Noah is going with manly stuff. I’ll think I’ll be “that person” and do black history stuff.”

“Okay,” Quinn agreed. “But not like, you know, um…L is for lynching. Sorry. You know what I mean."

“Babe, I’m not Noah. I know what’s appropriate for a two year old.” 

“Watch it, mama,” Noah said to her. 

Mercedes rolled her eyes. “Let’s finish before his bedtime.”

She joined Noah, Quinn, and Adam on the floor, where they proceeded to continue through the alphabet. They rounded out with X is for xylophone and Malcolm X (Noah blanked on a football-related word); Y is for yo-yo and yard (Mercedes blanked on a black history-related word); and Z is for…

“I can’t think of anything but zygote,” Mercedes said. “Which has nothing to do with black people.”

“Wow, that’s the same word I was thinking of!” Quinn said.

“Are you serious?” Noah asked them both.

“What?” Mercedes said. “I’m trying to think of—”

“Z is for zebra, Adam,” Noah said to his son. “Sometimes I wonder about your moms.”

“Thank you, Noah,” Quinn said sarcastically. She hoisted Adam up and balanced him on her hip. “Now that you’ve managed to corrupt our child—"

“Educate,” Noah corrected.

“If you say so. It’s time for his bath.”

Forty minutes later, an exhausted Quinn dropped onto the couch and propped her legs up on Mercedes’ lap. “Nixay on the bubble bath. Adam kept trying to pop the bubbles with his tongue, even after I told him to stop. And now he’s miserable because he can’t get the taste of soap out of his mouth. Poor baby.”

Mercedes patted Quinn’s legs sympathetically. “I’ll keep that in mind tomorrow. Anyway, now we can talk!”

Noah groaned.

“It was your idea!”

“Don’t remind me.”

Quinn sat up and placed her feet on the floor. “Here’s the thing. I agree that we need to start on discipline, okay? Especially with another baby on the way. But we are not spanking our child. I don’t agree with it. Can we…maybe we can watch Supernanny reruns and see how the timeout thing works?”

Mercedes looked skeptical.

“I know you’re skeptical, Mercy, but let’s just give it a try.”

Mercedes shrugged and sighed. “Okay.”

“Quinn, find the reruns with the really badass kids,” Noah instructed. “The ones who run around cursing and hitting their parents.”

Mercedes laughed. “Confession? I used to watch Supernanny reruns on Hulu during law school. Wanted to see people in more hell than I was.” 

“Poor baby,” Quinn said.

“So that’s it?” Noah asked.

“Yeah. I’ll look for some episodes online and we’ll watch one ASAP.” Quinn rose and stretched. “I think I’ll get a load of laundry done. And you will fold the clothes when I’m done, Noah!”

Noah absently agreed, his attention focused on the TV he had clicked on.

Quinn kissed Mercedes. “Go to bed.”

“Not yet. I’ve got to write in that stupid clause for Mr. Castorini. It won’t take long. Don’t stay up too late.”

Quinn disappeared into the bathroom to grab the clothes hamper and detergent. Mercedes bent to kiss Noah’s forehead. “Night.”

Noah tilted his head back to look at her. “Night, baby mama.”

“I hate when you call me that,” Mercedes griped.

“You’re having my baby,” he sang.

“Shut up, Puckerman.”

“You’re the woman I love and I love what it’s doing to you,” he continued to sing.

“Shut up!”

Noah laughed.

Mercedes gathered her documents and entered their bedroom. She sank onto her side of the bed, a hand on her belly. As stereotypical as it was, she could sense that there was something a little out of the ordinary about the baby she was carrying. It wasn’t anything bad, that much she knew. She sighed and opened her laptop. A few minutes later, Quinn appeared in the doorway, crying. Noah was behind her. 

Mercedes jumped up and wrapped Quinn in her arms. “Babe, what happened? Shhh. It’s okay,” she murmured. She led her to the bed. Mercedes looked at Noah for an explanation. He shrugged and awkwardly patted Quinn’s back.

“I’m going to do it,” Quinn said between sniffles. She wiped at her eyes. Noah held out a tissue, which she gratefully accepted. “I’m going to call Shelby, I will. I-I…oh God,” she moaned.

“It’s okay, Quinn,” Mercedes murmured. She gently pulled Quinn’s hair out of her face. “Okay.”

Quinn turned her head to look at Noah. “I was sorting Adam’s clothes when I just…I-I mean, I gave birth to…to Beth, and never saw her again! I just gave her away!” 

“Babe, you know you did the right thing for her,” Mercedes said.

Quinn crumpled the tissue between her clasped hands. “I can’t, I can’t…”

“Okay, Q,” Noah said. “We’ll call Berry and see if she has Shelby’s number.”

“I miss her!” Quinn continued with a faint note of surprise. “I barely even know her; how can I miss her?”

“She’s your child,” Mercedes said. “Of course you miss her.”

Noah was standing next to the nightstand, talking on his phone. “Berry, do you have Shelby’s number? ... Your mom? As much as it would explain a hell of a lot, you weren’t bred in a Petri dish ... Spare me the theatrics, crazy. You got it or not? ... I want to prank call her pretending to be a sex line operator. For fuck’s sake, Berry! Q wants to talk to her about Beth … Yeah … Uh huh … 9821? Yeah, okay … ’Bye.”

Quinn and Mercedes looked at Noah expectantly.

“Got the number,” he said. 

“Is it too late?” Quinn asked. “I want to call her now.”

“It’s 8:30,” Mercedes said. “Give it a shot.”

Quinn nodded. Noah handed her the cell phone. 

“Here goes,” she muttered. She dialed the number and waited. “Hi, Shelby? This is Quinn. Quinn Fabray … Yes, it’s been a long time. How are you? ... Good! Listen, I was wondering…”

Chapter Text

PART TEN. THREE YEARS LATER: PARTY

 

Matt called me to tell me that Noah, Quinn, and Mercedes wanted to have a party and invite everyone again, for a repeat of the baby shower five years ago. Only without the whole Mr. Fabray punching thing. And less hands-on involvement from Rachel. So, what the hell. I helped Matt and Santana get everyone else on board to go to New York. I joked that the next time we all met up would be at Matt and Santana’s beach wedding. Matt blanched and Santana said something in Spanish. I Googled it, later. She’d threatened to cut off my balls. Huh.

-Mike Chang

 

“I want to propose a toast to my wonderful niece and her…partners.” Aunt Geraldine turned around to look at her brother, Mercedes’ father. “That’s what she calls them, right?” 

Mercedes, who was sitting beside Artie, groaned and sank her head into her hands. “Why, why, why—”

Artie awkwardly patted her back. “Um, there-there.” 

“Anyway,” Aunt Geraldine was continuing, “They’re celebrating their fourteenth anniversary, which, now that I think about it, means…” she counted on her fingers. “Um, how old are you again, Mercedes dear? I lost count after thirty.”

“Somebody, please, shut her down,” Mercedes muttered. Artie looked like he was considering taking up the task.

“But anyway, that’s beside the point. Her partners are quite nice, and my niece does seem to be happy with her life, and God knows her babies are adorable! Still though, with her beautiful voice, I can’t help wishing she had at least auditioned for American Idol, or Star Search, or…”

Quinn paused beside Mercedes and Artie on her way to the back door of their home. “Your aunt just can’t let that go, can she?” 

Mercedes shrugged. “There’s a reason why I only see her at Thanksgiving. I don’t know what my dad was thinking, inviting her.” She blew kisses at the bundle in Quinn’s arms. The four-month-old baby girl wrapped a small fist around Mercedes’ finger.

“Going to change her diaper,” Quinn said. She fondly smiled down at the baby.

Mercedes sniffed the beautifully dressed baby, courtesy of her mama and Kurt, and made a face. “Better get to it!”

Quinn stuck her tongue out and continued inside the house.

Mr. Jones decided that everyone had had enough, and quietly convinced his older sister that, yes, Mercedes and her partners appreciated the kind words, but it was time to give someone else the chance to say something, if anyone else wanted to.

It was a muggy summer evening in late July. Standing bamboo torch lamps were strategically placed around the backyard of the triad’s new-ish Brooklyn home. They had been thinking about buying a house ever since Adam was a year old and they’d decided to have more children. They had moved in the month before Mercedes’ twins were born: a boy and a girl. She swore up and down that she’d known there was something different about the baby she was carrying. Quinn had just given birth to a girl four months ago. They all agreed she was the last. Even with three parents, four children were more than enough.

Rachel joined Mercedes and Artie in the corner, and expressed disbelief that there wasn’t even a slapdash program to the party.

No, there’s no program, Rachel,” Mercedes said. “We didn’t want people to feel obligated to listen to random performances, eat at a certain time, whatever. And yet, my aunt managed to be her usual self.” She sighed. “We just wanted to have a regular summer party. It just so happens to coin

cide with our fourteenth anniversary.”

Rachel gamely changed the subject. “I really think we should sing something. Especially since Mr. Schuester is here!”

“No, Rachel!”

“Mercedes! This is…this is downright unfair! I wanted us to sing at Mike’s wedding, we didn’t. I wanted to sing at my own wedding, but Finn wouldn’t let me.”

“Finn didn’t let you do something? I need to go give him a twenty,” Artie quipped.

Rachel frowned at him and continued her spiel. “You guys didn’t even get married…this is seriously our only chance. Now come on!" 

Mercedes and Artie sighed.

Quinn exited the house with a freshly diapered Julie in tow.  She was headed to her mother, who couldn’t stop exclaiming over the baby, when Aunt Geraldine found herself directly in her path. “Hi, Aunt Geraldine,” Quinn said. “Thank you for the, uh, toast.”

“Is this the baby I’ve been hearing so much about? Mercedes swears her eyes are gray-green, which if you ask me doesn’t sound all that—”

Quinn nudged the baby with a sigh. Julie opened her eyes with a disgruntled whimper.

“Oh, how beautiful!” Aunt Geraldine exclaimed.

Quinn felt a smug sense of satisfaction. Then she noticed Noah’s friends Sean, Jamal, and Rob standing by the cake table, talking. Rob was holding Adam, who looked slightly wary. She excused herself from Aunt Geraldine, and went over to where Noah was crushing ice for do-it-yourself slushies. “Noah.”

“Yeah, Q.” He dropped the ice pick and turned around.

“Go talk to your friends.” She gestured to them.

“I’m trying to—”

“Go.”

He raised his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay.”

“Daddy!” Adam shouted at the approaching figure.

Noah grabbed his son from Rob. “I think Quinn is convinced something’s going on over here.”

“Funny,” Sean said. 

“Um,” Jamal said.

“Is there a reason why Adam looks,” Noah peered at the five-year-old, “terrified and intrigued? What have they been telling you, kid?”

“’S a mud cake, daddy!” The boy pointed to the chocolate cake.

Jamal grabbed his drink. “Yeah, I’m just gonna—”

“Go to Uncle Finn, Adam.” Noah placed his son on the ground. The five-year-old ran off toward Matt. Close enough.

“You told him the cake was made of mud?” Noah asked.

“He’s a kid,” Rob said. “Kids love that stuff.”

“That’s why he might eat it!” Noah said angrily.

Sean’s brow furrowed. “I’m confused. What’s wrong with that? It’s cake! Unless…don’t tell me you’re becoming one of those parents that don’t allow their kids to eat candy and junk food and stuff like that. Because, let me tell you from experience, they just eat it without your knowing. My mom tried to do that to me for like a week when I was ten. It did not end well.”

“The cake has peanut butter icing!”

“Yeah, you announced that already,” Jamal said. “By the way, peanut butter icing sounds gross, man.”

“Nah, it’s kind of like eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup,” Rob told him.

“Oh, cool,” Jamal said. “Kinda misleading, the whole peanut butter icing thing.”

“Yeah, Hilary ordered a cake like this for—”

“Adam is obsessed with peanut butter!” Noah exclaimed.

“Maybe I’m missing something,” Sean said to Jamal.

“Yeah, me too,” he replied.

“So what if he’s obsessed with peanut butter?” Rob asked Noah.

“Because Adam is obsessed with peanut butter, he would eat the cake and love it, so he would think that mud tastes good, and then he would probably start eating mud in the future, which – just a hunch – would be fucking bad for him!” Noah growled.

“Shit! Sorry dude,” said Jamal.

“Yeah, sorry,” Rob and Sean said.

“You owe me,” Noah responded.

“Um...”

“I was crushing ice for the slushies over there. Can you finish up? There’s one block of ice left.” 

“I think Jamal would be good for that,” Sean said.

I think your punk ass should stop volunteering other people to…”

Noah walked away with a sigh, momentarily feeling his thirty-four years. Dammit, he was getting old. He noticed Tina sitting with Beth, who had re-entered their lives just a few months after Quinn’s phone call to Shelby three years ago. She was surprisingly amicable about the whole scenario; turns out Shelby hadn’t been bad-mouthing her biological parents all that time. Beth was curious about the relationship her parents had with Mercedes, and she had heard just enough about the members of New Directions she hadn’t met to decide to attend the party. Noah resisted the urge to go over to them. Tina was easy to be around, and he figured she’d explain the various relationships between everyone present.

As it turned out, Tina was doing just that. “That’s Mike and his wife Inara. They have two kids. He owns a chain of spas along the West Coast. Yes, I know,” she said at the look on Beth’s face. “In high school, we all figured he would win a dance competition on TV and make a lot of money promoting stuff. Anyway, we sometimes get vouchers for spa days so…. And that’s Brittany, who is…currently, she’s working for Matt and Santana as a secretary, and apparently she’s good, which is kind of amazing. She’s been with them for two months now, which is the longest she’s held a job. She likes to, uh, switch things up…. And you remember Kurt!” Tina grabbed his hand and pulled him over to them. “And his boyfriend, Jason.”

“Hi Beth. Lovely scarf,” Kurt said.

“Thanks!” she said. She fingered the blue-green scarf around her neck.

Tina grinned at Kurt. “He owns a boutique in the city, and keeps us all from committing fashion faux pas.”

“All except Rachel,” Kurt amended. “I’ve been telling her to fire her stylist for years! Have you ever seen anyone wear a mauve and orange pleated skirt?”

“Um, no?” Beth said tentatively.

Kurt shuddered. “One day I will drown Rachel’s stylist in a bin of Vogue magazine issues, and take over myself. At least then she won’t look like Liza Minelli’s even more backward cousin on the runway at the Tony’s. Anyway, Jason and I are going to get a slushie. It’s nice to finally be able to drink one without having slushie facial flashbacks. Ciao, ladies.” He and Jason walked away. 

“Slushie facial flashbacks?” Beth asked. 

“Ask your dad.”

*

“Why is this song a staple at every party I go to?” Matt groaned. 

“Come on!” Brittany pulled Matt up and started dancing with him. Santana joined them two minutes later, tightly sandwiching Matt between herself and Brittany. Brittany’s ass was grinding against Matt’s groin while Santana’s pelvis occasionally pressed against his butt. Matt was not complaining.

Tina’s mouth fell open. She vaguely registered Mike nudging Artie and saying something that made him laugh. Artie wheeled over to Tina and whispered in her ear. Tina sighed at the thought of the money she’d just lost in the betting pool. Dammit, Billie Jean!

Billie Jean is not my lover

She’s just a girl who dreams that I am the one

But the kid is not my son

Mr. Schuester pulled his wife, Emma, onto the dance floor when Prince’s “1999” started up. He had just finished talking with Finn, and still had that teary-eyed look he was famous for.

By that time, Mercedes and Quinn had joined Tina and Beth, bringing over slushies for the four of them. Tina and Beth thanked them. They sat, staring at the dancing couples.

Mercedes smiled and took a sip of her cherry slushie. “No more slushie facial flashbacks, right girls?”

Tina turned to Mercedes. “Funny, Kurt said the same thing.”

“Great minds,” she quipped.

“Ms. Pillsbury…Mrs. Schuester…Emma’s not nearly as robotic as I thought she’d be,” Quinn commented.

“Robotic?” Beth asked.

“OCD,” Tina said.

“Terrible OCD,” Mercedes added.

“Once, when we were in high school, Kurt puked on her shoes and she went to the hospital to have, like, three full body sterilization showers done,” Quinn shared.

They winced.

“Why does Mr. Schue look like a proud papa?” Mercedes asked.

“He was talking to Finn,” Tina informed her.

Mercedes rolled her eyes. “He always looks like he’s gonna cry whenever we do anything even remotely amazing.”

She turned to Beth and said confidentially, “He has the track record for ‘Most Likely to Get Teary-Eyed for Absolutely No Reason.’ I mean, every week, he tore up when we sang. We were in Glee Club for two years! It was a running joke by the end."

“That’s why we should sing!” Rachel said, popping up out of nowhere.

“RACH! Could you not pop up like that, like, ever? I nearly spilled my slushie!” Tina exclaimed.

“Sorry, Tina,” Rachel said.

Quinn raised an eyebrow. “You’re saying we should sing because Mr. Schue’s teary-eyed mess was a running joke at the end?”

No, Quinn. Don’t you know how happy it would make him if we sang tonight?”

“We’re already making enough noise as it is, Rach. Our next-door neighbor is still pissed about the time Adam threw that wiffle ball through his window.”

“He threw a wiffle ball through a window?” Tina asked, interested. “Wiffle balls weigh next to nothing! What kind of window—”

“It was open,” Quinn said. “The ball sailed into the kitchen and knocked over his apparently priceless vase.”

“I still have doubts about that,” Mercedes interjected. “The value of the vase, I mean.”

“So now our neighbor hates us even more than he did when he realized that we all screw each other on the regular. Oops, Beth.” 

Beth waved it off.

“We will sing,” Rachel said. She stomped off to corral Finn.

“I’ll be back,” Beth said. She headed into the house.

Mercedes, Quinn, and Tina looked at each other.

“I am not a singing whore,” Mercedes said.

“Neither am I,” Quinn and Tina said in unison.

They meditatively sipped on their straws. Mike and Inara had joined the other dancing couples, who were currently swaying to Chicago.

Tina pushed a loose strand of hair out of her face. “Who are we kidding? This is Rachel. We’re singing.”

God, I know,” Quinn agreed.

“Yep,” Mercedes said. The beginning beats of “Baby Got Back” made her groan. 

Noah appeared in front of her and pulled her to her feet. “C’mon, mama.”

No, Noah, we’re not—”

“Yes, we are.” He plucked the slushie out of her hand and gave it to Quinn. “My baby’s got back.”

“I hate you,” Mercedes said.

“I like big butts and I cannot lie,” he responded with a grin.

Adam had fallen asleep in his paternal grandma’s arms. She sat beside Aunt Geraldine, who had persuaded Mrs. Jones to let her watch Mercedes’ twins for a few minutes. Aunt Geraldine was sharing her interest in choosing the right name for a child. “To be honest, I’m so happy my niece didn’t name her babies something obnoxious, like Francesca. As a matter of fact, I’ve always found all derivatives of that name – Frances, for example – to be obnoxious.”

“Frances is my middle name,” Mrs. Puckerman said.

“Oh. Well, I’m sure,” Aunt Geraldine fumbled.

“I hate it,” Mrs. Puckerman offered with a smile.

“Oh! Good. I believe names are truly important. They can shape a child’s character.”

“I agree. I named Noah and Sarah after the biblical characters. They were strong characters, don’t you agree? After the whole handmaiden mess, I mean.”

“I agree,” Aunt Geraldine said.

*

“It’s your turn,” Artie told Finn.

“All right. Okay. Um, ‘I never tasted a cough medicine I didn’t love.’”

“George. ‘Sometimes the road less travelled is less travelled for a reason.’”

“Jerry. ‘Did you ever notice a lot of butlers are named Jeeves? I think when you name a baby Jeeves, you’ve pretty much mapped out his future.’” 

“Jerry. ‘Alright, alright, look, I don’t have grace, I don’t want grace, I don’t even say grace, okay?’”

“…Shit!”

“It was Elaine. Drink up!”

“Artie? Finn? What is going on here?”

Finn turned to his irate wife. “Honey, Artie and I are…um…”

“You’re playing a drinking game,” she accused.

Finn raised a finger. “Actually, uh, actually…”

“Yes, we’re playing a drinking game,” Artie admitted. “One of us says a Seinfeld quote and the other person says who says that quote on the show and then adds another quote, and whoever blanks drinks and then we switch places and then it’s the opposite person’s turn. So whoever was saying the quote before now waits till the other person says the quote and then—”

“I get it,” Rachel said testily. “I can’t believe you guys! Especially you, Finn! This after I told you that we’re all singing tonight!”

“Wait, what?” Artie asked.

Rachel barreled on. “Have you any idea what alcohol does to your vocal chords?”

Artie raised his hand. “Nothing; it screws up your liver. I believe dairy does some degree of damage, though.”

“Take it from someone who is starring in a musical The New York Times calls ‘a tour-de-force of almost immeasurable proportions.’ Alcohol is no good for your voice.”

“Jeez, Rachel, conceited much?” Artie said.

Self-confident, Artie. After we sing you can go back to scarring your liver.”

“So what you’re saying is you care more about our vocal chords than our livers,” Artie deadpanned. 

“Artie!”

“Rachel. Sweetheart. Why don’t we…” Finn rose and grabbed Rachel’s hand. “Why don’t you talk to Brittany about the song you want to choose, okay? She was just telling me that she has a few ideas of her own.” Finn maneuvered her toward Brittany, who had quit dancing moments earlier. He gave Brittany an apologetic look that she either overlooked or didn’t understand.

“Hi, Rachel!”

“Brittany, you don’t mind if I run some song ideas by you,” Rachel stated.

“Of course not, Rachel. My iPod is inside the house! I sometimes like to listen to the Backstreet Boys while I practice my Cheerio routines.”

“Brittany? You haven’t been a Cheerio for almost fifteen years.”

“You just never know, Rachel,” Brittany said. “Coach Sylvester still checks up on me,” she confided.

Rachel tightened her lips to keep from bursting into uncharacteristic, riotous laughter. “Okay, Brittany. Let’s head inside.”

*

Rachel managed to gather everyone into the living room. “Okay guys! We’re singing You’ve Got the Love.”

Mercedes spoke up. “A: We’re not singing. B: You’ve Got the Love is not a group song. If you want to sing so badly, why don’t you sing it? That was not a suggestion, by the way.”

“We’re singing. I was thinking the guys could sing the second verse, and us ladies can harmonize on the first – with adlibs by yours truly, naturally – although we can all decide.”

“Um,” Matt began. “Isn’t this Mercedes, Noah, and Quinn’s anniversary party? They can decide what they want to do, right? And they don’t want to sing.”

Rachel fixed him with a thanks-for-not-helping look. 

“Just sayin’,” Matt said with a shrug.

“Thanks bro,” Noah said. 

“No problem.”

Mr. Schuester wandered in early enough to hear the gist of the conversation. “You guys are going to sing?” He had the teary-eyed look again. Mercedes, Tina, and Quinn exchanged amused glances. 

Rachel gestured to her former teacher. “See? Now we have to!”

“We should sing!” Brittany cheerfully agreed.

“Thank you, Brittany.”

“Oh my God,” Tina said. “Britt’s the last person you need to convince to do anything….” She deliberately trailed off.

“Come on guys! Take it from the top!” Mr. Schuester said, completely serious.

Mercedes, Artie, Quinn, Tina, and Santana all groaned.

“We’re all adults here,” Kurt said. “So I speak for all of us — except for Rachel. And, apparently, Brittany — when I say that I want to kill you right now, Mr. Schue.”

“That sounds like a yes to me!” Rachel said. “Let’s practice it for a few minutes before we go out.”

They were all powerless to resist, and grudgingly managed to put together a decent group version of “You’ve Got the Love,” which reduced Mike’s wife, Inara, to tears. He moved to her side immediately after the song ended (to enthusiastic, if slightly perplexed applause), and she informed him that they were having another baby.

“Am I the only person here who doesn’t want kids?” Santana asked upon hearing the news.

“No,” Tina said.

“Just checking.”

*

Three hours later, the gleeks (along with Mike’s wife and Kurt’s boyfriend), gathered in the living room to finally watch the video from Quinn’s first baby shower five years ago.

Noah looked around the room with (mostly mock) disgust. “I had to sing at my own anniversary party. Artie and Finn drank all my beer. Brittany instigated a Soul Train Line. And now I might have to pay Santana for a bet I made, like, five years ago! I am fucking sick of you guys. I need to move to…I don’t know where. Michigan.” 

“Oh, please,” Rachel said. “You love us.” 

Quinn smiled at Noah, who raised his eyes heavenward.

Mercedes and Kurt returned from lightly cleaning up. “Rach,” Mercedes began. “I still can’t understand how you’re a big time Broadway star and yet have so much time to come to these things.”

“Family comes first!” Rachel said brightly.

“That’s why your agent is the first number of your speed dial?” Kurt asked.

“So why is your agent your number one contact?” Mercedes asked simultaneously. She and Kurt wiggled their fingers together.

“Okay, it’s about to start,” Santana said. “After this, you’re all paying up.”

“This is so wrong, Santana,” Finn said.

“Did none of you hear me when I said I like money? I still do." 

Beth poked her head into the room. “Um…hey. Can I…grandma is kind of tipsy and trying to convince everyone else to watch Schindler’s list instead of The Ten Commandments next Easter.”

“She’s watching the children!” Mercedes exclaimed worriedly.

“No, your aunt is watching them now,” Beth said.

“That’s even worse!” Mercedes started to get up.

“No, I mean, your aunt is watching them with your mom and my other grandma.”

“Oh, okay.” She sat back down. Kurt patted her hand sympathetically.

“Come on in, Beth,” Quinn said. “We were just about to watch the video of the first baby shower your dad and Mercedes surprised me with.”

“And Rachel and me,” Kurt said.

“Rachel and Kurt helped too,” Quinn agreed.

Beth settled on a spot on the floor between Tina and Brittany.

Noah threw an arm behind both Quinn and Mercedes. “Never thanked you for inviting Mercedes on our date back in high school, Q.”

“You’re welcome, Noah,” she said with a smile.

“So this means you loooooove me?” Mercedes teased.

“I already say it way more than I ever thought I would.”

“You do,” Mercedes said.

Quinn nodded. “That’s true.”

Santana paused the DVD. “Okay, we get it. You love each other. We all love each other. We’re gonna be singing Kumbaya together until we’re wearing dentures and those creepy orthopedic shoes. And probably after that. Whatever. Can we please watch the video so I can get my damn money?”

“Okay.” 

“Yeah.”

“Sorry.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

“’K, ‘Tana.” 

Santana hit the play button. Noah, Quinn, and Mercedes grinned at each other. 

*

“Six hundred bucks! Pay up, bitches!”

 

 

THE END

Rachel also tried to give me the puppet lesson on Noah, Quinnie, and Mercedes’ relationship, but I didn’t pay attention. It didn’t matter, anyway. Because they had somehow become, like, the backbone of the family-friendship between the twelve of us. Their house was open whenever any of us didn’t want to pay for a hotel in the city. We kept in touch through them. And they remained solid proof of what New Directions meant to us then and now. And to think, it all started with my psychic cat, Alfred. Or Angelina. I never could remember his name. Or her name. Its name?

-Brittany S. Pierce