Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Glee Universe. No copyright infringement intended.
AN: For the sake of this story, let's just pretend it's really difficult to get medical test results back in a timely fashion in sleepy towns such as Lima, Ohio.
Sometimes, I Wonder
One of Hiram Berry's favourite things in the world is Quinn Fabray's smile.
He doesn't see it often but, when he does, it makes his breath hitch immediately, and he's forced to stop everything for those few moments and take it in. The thing is that Quinn doesn't smile for nothing - not since he's known her, at least - but it's dazzling enough for the world to halt and take notice.
Like, right now.
Hiram's hand is still on the doorknob, his smile matching Quinn's as she stands on the Berry doorstep, all bundled up for the cold. Her nose is pink and her cheeks are flushed, with her long eyelashes dusted with the falling snow. She looks so… young, and it's refreshing. She's practically bouncing as she stands there, an odd hint of mischief in her eyes. It's the way he imagines she was as a child, pure and innocent and saved from the harshness of this terrible, horrible world.
"Well, are you going to invite me inside?" Quinn asks, running her hands along her coat-covered arms. "I kind of have a surprise for you."
Hiram's face lights up that bit more, and he forgets that she has her own key to the house. "You do?"
Quinn takes a small step back and reaches to her left with her hand. Hiram just watches with wide eyes as Quinn tugs lightly, and a miniature version of the smiling woman in front of him is revealed.
Four-year-old Mia steps out from her hiding spot and presses her tiny body to her mother's leg, suddenly shy.
"Oh my," Hiram says, practically vibrating at the sight of the little girl. "Well, who do we have here?"
Mia giggles sweetly. "It's me, Grampa Hilam," she says cutely, scrunching up her face.
"Who's me?" Hiram asks, bending slightly. He glances at Quinn. "Who is this stranger you've brought into my home?"
Quinn's laugh is practically angelic, and Mia's is a carbon copy. Just the sight and the sound of two of the most special girls in his life warms his heart, and he very quickly beckons them into the house and out of the cold.
Quinn gently nudges Mia forward, but the older Fabray takes only one step across the threshold. Instead of coming all the way inside, she glances at her watch and nervously nibbles at the corner of her bottom lip.
Hiram reads the action for what it is. "You're not staying, are you?" he questions, even though it's rhetorical.
Quinn grimaces, but quickly schools her features when Mia glances up at her in confusion. "Where you going, Mommy?" she asks, and that tone of voice has the power to break Quinn.
Quinn pulls on one of the knobs atop her winter hat and Mia giggles, shuffling further into the house to get away from the assault. "I have to go to work, baby," she says quietly before looking at Hiram with that pleading look he's never been able to resist. "It's my last shift at the hospital before I'm off for the holidays," she explains. "He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named dropped her off earlier than I expected, and I didn't have anyone else to watch her on such short notice. I don't want to take her all the way to Toledo."
Hiram shakes his head in amusement. "Quinn Fabray, are you actually asking me if I want to spend the afternoon with my favourite grand-baby?" he asks, dropping his hands to tickle Mia's sides.
"I'm your only grand-baby," Mia defends with an adorable pout.
Quinn looks sheepish. "I'm just glad you're home," she says.
Hiram nods once, knowing how finicky work and scheduling can be for a young, single mother with a demanding job. "So, does this mean I can expect you for dinner tonight?"
"Wouldn't miss it," she says, serious and confident. He has no doubt in his mind she'll be at the Berry House at exactly seven o'clock. "What time does Puck get in?"
Mia looks up at them again. "Unca Puck?" she questions, her eyes lighting up.
Hiram places a warm arm around her tiny shoulders and draws her into his side. "That's right, my sweets, your Uncle Puck is on his way home right now." He looks at Quinn. "Britt and San will get in a little later, and Sam's already here."
Quinn perks up. "He is?"
"I sent him out with S-squared to pick up a few last minute things from the grocery store."
She instantly deflates, and she looks so much like a child; it's difficult to tell who is mother and daughter between Quinn and Mia in this moment. "Well, I suppose I'll just see them all later, then."
Hiram can't resist tugging her into a tight hug. "I've missed them too, Quinn," he whispers into her hair before releasing her.
Quinn rubs her hands together. "I can't stop myself from missing all of them," she confesses softly, her eyes flicking towards Mia, who's suddenly very interested in Hiram's bed slippers. They're the pair she and Quinn gave him for his birthday: Minions.
He loves them, and Mia loves that he loves them.
Hiram presses his lips together. "Oh, Quinn."
She shakes her head, absently waving off his concern. "I'm fine," she says. "It's just - you know how it is… the holidays and all."
Hiram does know.
They go through this every December, and it's never become any easier for their little, makeshift family. It's not easy to ignore the very real truth that there is a missing member.
Hiram reaches for her hand. "I hate that you still blame yourself."
Quinn blinks rapidly.
"After all these years, Quinn," he presses, stepping forward ever so slightly. "It's okay to let it go. She clearly has."
Quinn's face pinches slightly. The words hurt, but they're the truth. And, frankly, Quinn has moved on, for the most part. She has a lovely daughter, born of love with a man she… can no longer care for. She has a wonderful, blossoming career, and she has an amazing family, even if they don't share any of the same blood.
"I know," she finally says. "You're right, Hiram. Of course, you're right. I'm just - this December feels different."
Hiram manages a smile. "Well, that's because we have our favourite little monster here," he says, injecting life into his voice and tickling Mia again. "Isn't that right, my sweets?"
Quinn just smiles, dropping to her haunches so she can look at her daughter properly. "Mommy has to go to work for a little while," she explains gently. "Grandpa Hiram is going to spend the day with you, okay? You have to promise to be good for him, okay?"
Mia nods sharply. "I promise," she says, severe enough to sound like an unbreakable vow.
Quinn kisses her cheek. "Maybe you can show him your drawings from Day Care," she offers, patting the little bag hanging off her tiny shoulders. "I put them in your backpack, and I will see you both later for dinner, okay?"
Mia just nods again, before kissing her mother on the cheek this time.
Quinn's smile is her lazy, Mia smile when she straightens and Hiram feels that warmth spread from his heart to the rest of his body. "I really should get going," she says. "Thank you so much for this."
"Anytime, Quinn, you know that."
She does, but it still feels wrong, for some reason. She should be able to take care of her own kid. She has to do better than her own parents. "Later," she says, and starts to go.
"Bring an appetite," he calls out.
"Please don't feed her sugar," she shouts back, and Hiram just closes the door. With a naughty grin on his face, he turns to look at Mia. "How's about you and I bake some cookies?"
Mia's immediate smile is beaming, practically splitting her face. "Chocca chip?"
"What else for my sweet little princess?"
Hiram and Mia are elbow deep in cookie dough when Sam Evans returns from the grocery store, practically sauntering into the kitchen ahead of his two younger siblings, Steve and Stacey. He visibly brightens at the sight of Mia, and immediately scoops her up into his arms, twirling her around the kitchen as she giggles helplessly.
Steve dumps two grocery bags onto the kitchen island beside Hiram, and the older man dusts his cheeks with flour in response. The teenager immediately ducks away, grumbling something under his breath, and then stalks out of the kitchen without saying a word.
Hiram quirks an eyebrow. "What's up with him?" he asks.
Stacey can't help her snort. "We ran into his crush at the store," she says. "Sam embarrassed the crap out of him."
"Stacey Margaret," Hiram bristles. "What did I say about using such language in this house?"
She flushes slightly, shrugging. "Sorry," she mumbles, and then turns her attention to Sam and Mia.
Hiram can only watch as the three of them interact, all of them blonde and wide-eyed in fascination as Mia attempts to explain just what she put into the mixing bowl. Sam listens with rapt attention, and Stacey just tries to swipe some batter.
Hiram loves his life.
It's been a good one, full of love and happiness and kids. As a man in Lima, married to another man; finding a way to have children was… difficult. Adoption agencies weren't exactly lining up to hand over perfect babies to two gay men, which was why they eventually had to settle for the route of a surrogate first, and ended up with the most wonderful little girl either of them could have asked for.
Rachel Berry was their entire world, their lives revolving around her silly tantrums and toothy smiles. She was everything, and they would have been content with just the one, right until the moment LeRoy Berry, Hiram's loving husband, encountered one Santana Lopez in the Emergency Room during one of his late night shifts at the hospital. She was only eight years old at the time, just a year younger than Rachel, and she was on the run from an abusive home.
It was… heartbreaking. LeRoy brought her home that very night because he wasn't sure what else to do, and she never left. Child Protective Services called it an emergency placement at first but, the second the two men were approved as foster parents, Santana was theirs. Forever.
Of course, it was an adjustment for all of them. Santana came with her own problems, distrusting and sometimes violent with the two men. Also, Santana and Rachel both had very strong personalities and they clashed more often than not.
It was tumultuous for the first few months, until something happened. To this day, Hiram still doesn't know what caused The Shift - as he and LeRoy like to refer to it - but he's never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
The two girls made up just in time to welcome their next child to the mix.
Noah Puckerman was older than them both and, for the longest time, Hiram was wary of him. He was a ward of the state, straight out of four months in a juvenile delinquent centre for joyriding. In the great scheme of things, it wasn't the worst indiscretion, but it still made Hiram nervous. But that was all until Hiram witnessed him interact with his two girls, taking on the role of an older brother with such ease that Hiram was forced to wonder if he had been an older brother before his family fell apart at the seams.
They went until Rachel turned sixteen with just three and, honestly, Hiram didn't want any more. Their children were perfect, well-rounded and growing into fine young adults.
But then Hiram met Quinn Fabray on a street corner, her hair a pink mess and her clothing ratty. She was… barely fourteen, homeless and family-less, dirty and messy and just angry. She had a history and a story that she kept close to her chest, making her cold and hard and cruel. But, beneath it all, she was probably the most beautiful person he had ever seen. Beneath it all, there was a softness to her that he and LeRoy have spent years trying to assure her it's okay to show.
It was easy - the decision - to bring her home. She was quiet, barely talked, and she was perfectly fine with having Noah, Rachel and Santana talk around her and over and under her. She's always been a gentle being, even though she sometimes forces herself to be hard and harsh. She's always been closest to Hiram, which was why he was the one who first noticed the shift in her; the shift in the way she started to look at… Rachel.
Hiram shakes his head.
Now is not the time to remember that, because Sam is here.
Who, in all intents and purposes was always going to be their last. Ever.
The boy was restless and unsettled when he arrived, unable to sit still. LeRoy believed that he was suffering from some kind of attention disorder, but Sam talked to Quinn about it, and Quinn brought it up to Hiram. Sam had two younger siblings and he had no idea where they were. It became a project for them all, searching and calling every group home they could until Hiram finally found them in Akron. It was almost a no-brainer for Stacey and Steve to come live with them, particularly with Noah already at college and Rachel headed to New York when she graduated. Soon it would be just Quinn, Santana and Sam, and Hiram loved a full house.
Which was why he was especially looking forward to this holiday season. All his children were coming home.
Well, not all of them.
"I think these are ready, Hiram," Stacey says, pointing to the tray of cookies she and Sam have helped Mia lay out. "How long has the oven been preheating?"
"It should be ready to go," he tells her. "We can put both trays in at the same time."
Out of everyone in the house, Stacey is the one most interested in baking. Quinn was always a fan of cooking, mainly, and the rest of the children just stayed out of the kitchen.
Some out of necessity, really. Rachel would have burnt the house down and Noah would have burnt himself.
Gosh, he misses them like crazy sometimes.
Once the trays are safely in the oven, they work on cleaning up, and they're done just in time for Noah's arrival. He's like a hurricane as he piles through the front door, suitcases in tow and towering over them all.
Mia goes running towards him as soon as she hears his booming voice, and she's the first person he would want to hug anyway, lifting her off the ground as if she weighs nothing at all. She squeals in delight, reaching out for him the way Quinn has been known to. It seems to be something Mia has inherited from her mother... besides the hair and eye colour, and general temperament.
Hiram watches the reunion from the sidelines, letting Noah get through each of his siblings until he finally pulls Hiram into his own embrace. Noah has always been big, tall and muscular, but Hiram can't stop seeing him as the little boy who cried himself to sleep for two weeks straight when he first arrived.
Hiram still sees the boy, man, who held this family together when Rachel's actions - and then Santana's - threatened to tear them all apart.
Hiram doesn't like to think about that time, but he has no choice in the matter sometimes. It creeps up on him, and his heart breaks for the fracture in the little life he and LeRoy built for themselves. He shakes his head. No. Not today. He's here with the family who wants to be here, and he isn't going to waste a second of it. Not on something over which he has no control.
"Where's Leslie?" Hiram asks Noah, referring to the only woman to whom Noah Puckerman has managed to remain faithful.
"She was visiting her family, but she should get in tomorrow," he explains. "We had to do a little trade-off, in order for us to spend Christmas and the tail end of Hanukkah here." He shrugs slightly. "We have to spend New Years in Wilmington with her grandparents though."
Hiram grimaces in sympathy. It's not a secret to anyone here that Leslie's family don't believe Noah is good enough for her. Despite his success in his older years; the truth of his past is sometimes something people are unable to overlook. The wonderful thing about Leslie is that she doesn't seem to care. She recognises that Noah's made mistakes in his life, but he's learned and grown from them.
"San and Britt?" Noah asks Hiram, raising his eyebrows.
"Right behind you," he informs him.
"Working," he says, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. "You'll see her for dinner tonight.
This time, Noah is the one to roll his eyes. "Nothing ever changes in this family, does it?"
Sam claps him on the back. "Nope," he agrees. "I mean, you're still the ugliest one of the lot of us."
When they break out into a wrestling match, Hiram steps out of the way and takes hold of Mia's hand to lead her back to the kitchen so they can check on their cookies. She's already an animated child, and all this excitement is literally making her vibrate.
And, when Santana and Brittany arrive, she starts bouncing. She knows she's the apple of all their eyes, spoilt with love and adoration in a way none of them was afforded until they were brought into the Berry home. They found that in this house, and Mia will know it her entire life, the way Rachel did.
The house has come to life, and Hiram's joy rises with every increase in volume. He's always had a loud family, and having Noah and Santana together is a recipe for burst eardrums, really. They love to try to outdo each other, both of them competitive to a fault.
In fact, all the children have competitive natures, using them in sports and life.
It amazes him how successful they've all become because of it.
When LeRoy gets home, it's easy to see the sheer sight of them is overwhelming, but he just opens his arms as he's swarmed in the entrance hall, and they all fall into a long group hug.
Once they finally release him, LeRoy is able to greet his husband, easy smiles on both their faces.
"I have to spend a few minutes in my study," LeRoy says.
"I put Mia down to nap in there, so be quiet," Hiram informs him.
LeRoy's eyes dance. "Mia's here?"
Hiram nods. "I'm not sure what Quinn and the man worked out, but we're going to enjoy this time with them both."
With a kiss to Hiram's cheek, LeRoy makes his escape and the welcoming party hovers as if they're just waiting for the final member of their brood to show up. It's always bothered him a little that the linchpin to their little family is one person.
When they first started out, Hiram couldn't have guessed the glue holding this family together would be Quinn Fabray. It seems that rallying around her when the great big world fell out from under her for just the second time in her short life brought them all closer than any of them could have anticipated.
So, when Quinn does finally arrive, the collective greeting is borderline thunderous. One would think they haven't seen each other for years, but it's been a few weeks. Most of them came home for Thanksgiving and, well, Quinn is always here because she made the decision to live close to home. She says she wanted the stability of family for Mia, but Hiram figures it has a little bit to do with her as well.
This is the only home she's ever known.
While Quinn is making the rounds, Hiram's phone starts to vibrate in his pocket, and he immediately retrieves it. "Hello," Hiram says, not even looking at the Caller ID as his family's laughter fills his heart with replenished warmth.
The smile slips from his face instantly, and he turns away from the happy reunion occurring in front of him. "Who is this?" he asks, and it's a stupid question but he needs to be sure he's not actually dreaming.
The air freezes in his throat at the confirmation, and he forces himself to leave the room. He hasn't heard from her in… years. Why is she calling now? Not that he's complaining, really. It's just so… out of the blue. "Rachel," he breathes. "How are you? Is everything okay? Are you okay? Did something happen?"
"What? No," she says. "Everything's fine, Dad."
"Okay…?" He blinks a few times. "I'm sorry, umm, is there a reason you're calling?"
The question is met with silence.
"Are you at home?"
Hiram takes in a deep breath and releases it slowly. "Am I at home?" he echoes.
"I am, yes."
"Would it be all right if - if I stopped by?"
Hiram sucks in a shocked breath. "What?"
"Can I come home, Dad?"
To Hiram, she sounds small, and exasperated. Maybe frustrated, but just demure as well. "You're… in town?"
"Just arrived, actually."
He swallows audibly. "And you want to come… here?"
"It is my home, isn't it?"
Hiram forces himself not to react to those words because, really, this hasn't been Rachel's home in years, and he's not going to kid himself into thinking anything has changed since the night she… left. "Of course," he says anyway. "I'm at home, Rachel," he says. "We're all here."
"When can we expect you?"
Hiram isn't sure that's enough time. Frankly, he isn't even sure what to say or do right now. Should he tell the family? What are they going to think? What are they going to do? "Okay," he says.
"Oh, and Rachel?" he says.
"You won't be well received," he warns her.
Hiram doesn't think she does, but he won't say that. His daughter is coming home, and he's supposed to be happy about it, but he's… not, and he hates himself for it. "Until then, Rachel."
When Hiram hangs up, his entire body deflates. All the happiness of their reunion is going to be sucked right out of the air. She's going to ruin their holiday, and he's sure she already knows it. When Hiram spins around to return to the entrance hall, he's met with the piercing eyes of one Santana Lopez.
"San - " he starts to say, but she cuts him off.
"Was that - was that Rachel?"
Hiram hasn't really ever been able to lie to her, so all he does is nod.
"She - called?"
He nods again.
"She's coming home."
Santana's eyes widen slightly, and her ears pick up on the steady laughter of one Quinn Fabray in the background. She cringes automatically, just knowing this holiday is going to turn to complete shit. "Well, fuck."
Normally, he would chastise her for her language, but he actually agrees with her sentiment this time.
"We have to tell her," Santana says, hands on her hips and a scowl on her face. She's been pacing for the last ten minutes, muttering obscene things under her breath as she tries to wrap her head around the very idea of Rachel's return to Lima. "We have to prepare her, Hiram," she forces out. "We cannot let her get blindsided. She's been through enough."
Hiram still isn't sure what to say. What can he say? "Where is she now?"
"With Mia," Santana says. "I sent her into LeRoy's study. Quinn's missed that kid something fierce, and she was just itching to lay eyes on her Mini-Me."
Hiram just nods. "Quinn actually brought her up earlier."
Her eyebrows rise. "She did?"
"Expressed regret over... everything," he explains. "She said she had a feeling this holiday was going to be… different. It's as if she knew."
"But, she couldn't have, right?" she asks. "She would be a fucking mess."
Hiram presses his lips together, not responding.
They know far too much about Quinn Fabray's state of mind.
"Well, more than she is right now," Santana adds a beat later.
Hiram shakes his head. "I don't know what we're supposed to do," he says. "If we tell Quinn, we have to tell everyone. She's not the only one who's going to be caught off guard by this. I'm barely holding it together."
Santana practically growls. "All the progress she's made is just going to be derailed," she says coldly. "Like, why would she choose now to come home, after she's just been living it up without us for so fucking long?"
Hiram suspects she has her reasons, and he's sure none of them is going to like them. "Maybe we should tell Noah," he says. "I should tell LeRoy. We should - " his sentence is cut off by the sound of the doorbell, and he freezes.
Santana just stares at him with wide eyes before she's suddenly moving, intent on getting to the door before anybody else, but she isn't quick enough and she walks into an odd scene that probably would have made her laugh on any other day.
Instead, it kind of makes her want to cry.
Standing in the open doorway, dumbstruck and mouth hanging open, is Sam, staring helplessly at a very put-together Rachel Berry.
The entire entrance hall has fallen silent, just staring, and Hiram feels his skin crawl with just how wrong this is. It should never have come to this. Gosh, why was everything so difficult? Why had they made it that way?
Why had she?
"Oh look," Santana drawls, filling the silence; "the prodigal daughter returns."
Rachel barely looks at her as she searches all their faces - looking mildly disappointed - and settles her eyes on Hiram. "Dad," she says and, someone help him, she's still his baby girl. He can't resist taking steps towards her until she's in his arms, wrapping her in the first hug they've shared since… forever. He can hear Santana make a disgusted sound and he immediately releases Rachel, looking a little sheepish.
"Come in," he says strongly. "Let's close the door. All the cold is coming in."
There's shuffling and awkwardness and nobody's really sure how to act right now because they know it would just be buckets worse if Quinn were here.
Santana shakes her head, grabs for Brittany's hand, and then storms into the kitchen, barely glancing at Rachel.
Hiram flinches as the door slams, and he looks to Noah for something, anything.
All he does is shrug and say, "Welcome home, Berry."
Rachel offers him a tight-lipped smile. "Thank you, Noah. It's nice to see you."
He grunts something unintelligible, and then pushes off the wall and heads into the living room. The rest of them follow, unsure and hesitant. Hiram shuffles slowly behind them, wondering if this evening can get any worse.
Which, in hindsight, is probably the worst thing to think because it does.
They've just settled down in the living room, Noah and Hiram in armchairs; Rachel, Sam and Stacey on the three-seater couch and Steve sprawled out on the floor - his preferred position, despite the various furniture - when the world comes crashing down all around them.
"Hiram, I told you not to feed her any sugar," Quinn calls out from somewhere in the house, and everyone instinctively tenses, just waiting. "How on earth am I supposed to get her to eat anything, let alone sl - " Quinn stops dead in the archway, her eyes immediately settling on the petite brunette sitting between Sam and Stacey.
Hiram can practically see the cogwheels turning in Quinn's head, her jaw setting and her eyes turning cold right before their eyes.
They've just taken a hundred steps back, he's sure.
Quinn rolls her shoulders once, almost as if she's steeling herself for what's to come.
Maybe she can be the bigger person.
Maybe she can force out a greeting and settle the rest of them.
Because, really, if Quinn is going to be hostile, then the rest of them are as well, and Hiram really doesn't want to have that kind of Christmas celebration.
It looks like it pains her, but Quinn does open her mouth to speak, only to have her words stolen by the sound of the tiniest of voices.
Quinn's attention is immediately diverted to Mia at her side, and Rachel gasps audibly, her eyes trained on the little girl tugging on Quinn's slacks. Quinn, to her credit, ignores Rachel's reaction and scoops the four-year-old into her arms, lifting her up to settle her on her hip. "Did you say hi to everyone?"
Mia nods glumly, her eyes still clouded with sleep. She napped for too long, and Hiram knows Quinn is going to have a word with him about afternoon nap etiquette. It's going to take ages for her to get to sleep tonight... or Quinn hopes Mia will hold onto the tiredness for just after dinner and pass out once she's eaten.
Mia rubs at her eyes before they focus, and her eyes snap towards Rachel. "Not everyone," she says simply. "Who is she, Mommy?"
Quinn blinks in rapid succession, but she can't bring herself to explain.
Noah, thankfully, saves her. "That's Rachel, honey," he says, his voice taking on the smooth, almost musical, quality it does for only Mia.
Mia looks at her mother. "Is she the Wachel Auntie San says is a bad word I'm not s'pposed to say?"
Despite herself, Quinn chuckles, which allows some of the tension in the air to dissipate. "Yes, baby," Quinn says; "she's the one."
Quinn glances over the room, taking in their rigid postures and general discomfort. Oh, well. "LeRoy's starving," she says. "Are we having dinner or what because I have to get this bambino to bed in the next hour or we're all going to have a problem."
Mia folds her little arms over her chest. "I'm not a bambino," she says hotly, which is just all kinds of adorable.
It prompts Noah out of his chair, and he immediately grabs a squealing Mia from Quinn's arms. "To the dining room," he calls out, lifting her above his head and giving everyone a heart attack.
"Puck," Quinn screams, following after him. "Don't you dare drop my daughter."
"When have I ever dropped her?" he shoots back, and Hiram can only smile fondly. Their easy banter is enough to get the other children moving, and everyone but Hiram and Rachel gets up from his or her position and heads toward the kitchen or dining room. Hiram trusts them enough to get the food safely on the table because he suspects Rachel has questions for him, and the first one she asks isn't a surprise at all.
"Quinn has a daughter?"
Hiram blinks once, twice, before slowly nodding. "She does," he says. "Her name is Mia, and she'll be turning five in May next year."
Rachel's eyes give nothing away, but he's always been able to read his daughter. She might be an award winning actress, but her little subtleties have always given her away to him.
It's always made it difficult for her to deceive him, until, well, she deceived them all.
"She's beautiful," she says, almost whispering in awe, and he can tell she means every word.
"That, she is," he agrees.
"I've - I've missed so much."
Hiram isn't sure how to respond to that, and he's saved from having to come up with something by LeRoy's arrival. The much taller man practically lopes into the room, unaware, and halts at the sight of the daughter they haven't seen since she decided her career trumped family. LeRoy does a comical double take, and then smiles.
It's almost a… knowing smile, and Hiram files that away for another day.
He and Rachel have always been closer, which has usually been a topic of contention between the two men. Unbeknownst to the rest of the children, LeRoy harbours very little to no resentment toward Rachel for the decisions she's made.
Hiram doesn't understand how that could be… when her decisions almost tore this family apart.
All Hiram can do is watch their reunion, LeRoy's hug considerably warmer than his own. While they 'catch up,' he rises and leaves the room in the guise of supervising the final dinner preparations.
As expected, Quinn has whipped them into shape, and she's trying to get everyone to settle while casually dishing some food into Mia's favourite bowl. The little girl is hell spent on eating out of bowls these days, and Quinn has decided to indulge her… after a handful of tantrums.
"Do we really have to put up with this shit?" Santana asks, moving to stand next to Hiram. Her voice is low enough for Quinn - and Mia - not to hear her. "I mean, she can't just show up here after ten years and expect everything to be fine."
"I don't think she ever expected that," he says, watching as Quinn carefully keeps an eye on Mia as she attempts to feed herself with a spoon that's much too big for her.
"Then what did she expect?"
"A bad reaction," he says; "but she came anyway."
Before Santana can respond, LeRoy enters the dining room, gently tugging Rachel behind him. The atmosphere shifts again but Quinn barely glances up from Mia, and it's a dismissal if Hiram's ever seen one.
Surprisingly quietly, the family settles around the large dining table that LeRoy and Hiram invested in, in order to accommodate their forever growing family. They can all sit at the same table now - even with Rachel in attendance.
And Brittany, who joined their family only recently by being the one person Santana has allowed herself to love truly and show it.
LeRoy makes sure to sit Rachel beside him, and she's almost sheltered in a corner, flanked by Noah at the head of the table and LeRoy sitting beside Mia. It's a prime position for Quinn, really, because then she doesn't have to see Rachel whenever she looks up.
Before they start eating, Noah leads them in prayer. They've always been a religiously - and sexually - fluid home, so they accept all the religions represented, and saying some form of Grace is just something that's been adopted over the years. Noah, thankfully, keeps it brief and succinct, even though Hiram is sure the man wants to throw in a jab or two.
"Let's eat," Hiram finally declares, and they do.
Quinn doesn't immediately dish out food for herself. She's never been one to do that and, during her teenage years, Hiram and LeRoy had to deal with her having quite a few issues with food and body image. She's doing better now, of course, and he reasons that Mia helps with that. By ensuring that her daughter is being properly fed, she has to pay attention to her own nutrition as well.
"Oh, everything but the roast is vegan, of course," Hiram quips, and Noah huffs as Santana rolls her eyes.
"Bunch of - " Santana starts to say but Quinn's sharp look cuts her off. Whatever dirty thing she had planned dies on her lips when she remembers Mia is sitting right there, looking all kinds of cute as she spoon-feeds herself some mashed potato, broken chicken and gravy.
When everyone's dished, Quinn finally sees to her own plate. She never eats much, but her locker at work is full of protein bars, which are mainly used to supplement the vegan diet she adopted when she started medical school. Hiram always frowns at the protein bars but she's always been a bit of a shortcut taker… Even in her own career. He supposes that graduating from medical school at just the age of twenty-four would give her a complex, but she's had her eye on the prize from the moment she decided it was what she wanted.
Even Rachel couldn't derail that.
Conversation is slow, mainly consisting of compliments to the food and the occasional backchat between Noah and Sam, who are alike in ways even they don't understand. Nerds, really, and fiercely loyal and protective of their families. It's probably why they've always been so conflicted about the entire Quinn/Rachel situation, because it never quite occurred to any of them that they would have to protect their family from… their family.
"Anything interesting happen at the hospital?" Steve asks Quinn because, out of all of them, he's the only one showing genuine interest in following LeRoy and Quinn into medicine. And, with his senior year coming up and college applications expected to go out soon, he's obviously been weighing his options.
"Not really," Quinn answers, always happy to indulge him with the day-to-day of her chosen career. "I did have a teenager throw up me, though."
Stacey pulls a disgusted face, and Noah guffaws.
"Definitely not the first time that's happened," Santana says.
Quinn just smiles at her before looking at Steve. "We do have a patient with almost as big a Star Wars obsession as Sam though," she says.
"No ways?" Noah says, at the same time Sam says, "It's not an obsession."
There's a bout of laughter, right until the moment Rachel says, "Well, this family is all about denying obsessions, isn't it?" and all sound is sucked right out of the room. She looks perfectly poised, just sitting there as if she's said nothing.
But, they all know.
Quinn shifts awkwardly, her jaw clenching and her eyes narrowing. It takes everything she has not to say anything, and it's only Mia's presence that keeps her from flying off the handle.
LeRoy clears his throat and gestures for the bowl of peas. "Stace, can you please pass the peas?"
Carefully, the bowl is sent his way, and still nobody says anything.
Quinn just keeps her head ducked, watching Mia finish up with her food. She's made a mess, of course, but it's considerably less than it could have been had she been younger or Quinn wasn't supervising. Quinn uses a napkin to wipe at her mouth and hands when she's done, and then sends her off to watch cartoons while she finishes her own dinner in complete silence.
Noah manages to get conversation started again, bypassing Rachel's awkward comment… right until she makes another one. Quinn's back straightens at the words: at least I got out of this hellhole, and Hiram watches as her features settle into a mask she hasn't worn in years.
Santana was right.
All that progress, just, gone.
Quinn gracefully wipes at the corners of her mouth with her own napkin before she gently rises to her feet. "Thank you for dinner," she says to the table, but her eyes are on Hiram. "I think it's best I get Mia home before she can fall asleep on your couch. You know how my back acts up in the cold."
It's an excuse to leave if ever they've heard one, but nobody will tell her to stay, even if they want to.
With one last, tight smile, she lifts her plate and Mia's bowl, and then disappears into the kitchen.
Almost as if a switch has been flipped, the entire table rounds on Rachel. "What the fuck is your problem?" Santana asks, furious. "It's barely been an hour and already you're on about that. Jesus Christ, are you actually that fucking stupid?"
Brittany places a soothing hand on Santana's arm and it's enough to have her calm a little, but she does track the movement of Rachel's eyes as they stare at her and then Brittany and then at the contact they're sharing.
Slowly, a smile spreads across her face.
"Oh, yeah," Santana says, not bothering to hide her own disgust. "Some of us aren't repressed in this house," she says. "We also aren't fucking bigots, and we sure as hell don't run out in the middle of the night like the little fuckers we are."
"San," Brittany says, and that makes Santana jump to her feet.
"Fuck this," she huffs. "I did not come home just to watch this bitch tear Quinn apart again. LeRoy, Hiram, control your child before I break her face." It's the kind of threat they haven't heard in years, but it carries meaning. She may be a happily-married Assistant District Attorney now, but that ruthless fighter is still inside of her, ready to attack if prodded.
It's all she says, though, as she too leaves the room, Brittany trailing behind.
"Well," Noah says, burping. "I should probably check on my favourite blonde."
"Hey," Sam, Steve and Stacey all say at the same time.
"I mean Mia, obviously," Noah says, rolling his eyes. "Jeez." And then, he too rises and disappears.
Sam waits a moment before following, and Stacey goes as well, but Steve lingers, his eyes on Rachel. Even though he's 'obsessed' with Quinn's job, he's always looked up to Rachel, and it hurts to see her like this: bitter and angry and lost.
Quietly, so quietly, he says, "Whatever you came home for; I hope your intentions are pure." It's not a threat, but more of a plea. "Quinn didn't leave us the way you did. She went to college just like you did, and she came back because she wanted to. We won't push her out of our lives the way you pushed us out of yours."
Rachel's eyes are pooling with tears when she finally looks at him.
"Stop with this," he says, sounding much older than his seventeen years. "Because we both know which way we'll swing if ever we're forced to choose." And that's all he says, finally rising and leaving the dining room to Rachel and her fathers.
"Well," LeRoy says, scratching the skin of his cheek. "That went… well."
Hiram shakes his head in disapproval. "Now isn't the time for your jokes, LeRoy," he admonishes. "Somehow, if we're going to survive these holidays, we're going to have to be civil."
LeRoy sobers instantly, nodding his head. "Of course. You're right, Hiram."
"That is, if you intend to stay," Hiram ventures to say, looking at Rachel. He won't be naive enough to think she'll actually stay for any amount of time, or even in this house, but he can dream, can't he?
"I'm staying," she finally answers, voice shaky. "At, umm, the hotel on Vermont Drive."
Hiram doesn't offer her to stay in her old room because it's no longer her room. It hasn't been for a while now, and he doubts it ever will be again.
Stubbornly, LeRoy tried to preserve it.
Quinn used it for her... mourning process, and then nothing.
Hiram rises to his feet and abandons the table like the rest of his family. He goes in search of Quinn, almost desperate to ask her to stay. At least long enough to have some coffee and dessert with them. His words fall dead on his lips though, when he spies Quinn standing in the living room with Mia wrapped around her and Mia's backpack hanging off one of her shoulders.
Her face is set.
She's ready to go.
Hiram sighs heavily, and she shoots him a sheepish, somewhat apologetic look. She knows she's just ducking out unnecessarily early, but she needs some time. Rachel is here, and it's such an adjustment. She needs to get a hold of herself, and then reevaluate.
"You know you don't have to leave," he says anyway, because he would be remiss if he didn't. This is her home, even if it's turned a little toxic tonight of all nights.
"I know," she says softly, running a gentle hand over Mia's soft blonde hair. "But I am pretty tired, and the rascal can barely keep her eyes open. What did you two do today that has her so tuckered out?"
"I think it's all the excitement," he says, scrubbing his face. "Did you at least take some cookies?"
She nods. "Stacey packed some for us, and we've got them right here." She pats her own shoulder, indicating Mia's tiny, pink Barbie backpack. "Mia's already talking about the cookies you're going to be baking for Santa. I haven't yet decided if he's vegan though."
Hiram chuckles lightly, and Quinn uses the opportunity to take in the various people sitting in the living room. She's already said her farewells, so she just smiles reassuringly, just to let them know she's okay even though she's not.
She's literally the furthest thing from okay.
"Goodnight," she says. "Say goodnight, Mia."
Mia mumbles something against Quinn's neck, and they all smile in response.
"Well, you heard her," Quinn says with a shrug. "Open the door for me, will you?"
Hiram nods, stepping into the entrance hall with Quinn following behind. "We're seeing you tomorrow, right?" he asks, just as he opens the door… to find a man standing there with a finger poised to press the doorbell. "Oh."
The man bristles slightly, tugging on his jacket and offering such a fake smile that Quinn actually shudders. Neither she nor Hiram recognises him, but that doesn't deter him in any way. "Good evening," he says, his voice layered in superiority. "I'm looking for Rachel."
Hiram blinks. "Who are you?" he asks.
The man looks mildly put out by that, as if they're expected to know who he is. "I'm Jesse St James," he says proudly. "Rachel's boyfriend."
Hiram feels Quinn stiffen at his side, and that's another thirty thousand steps back. The air seems to have left her body, and she blinks repeatedly. Of course, this man is Rachel's boyfriend. He's practically the poster boy for the ideal partner she told Quinn she wanted out of life: handsome, ambitious and a strong presence.
Quinn is all of those things, bar for the fact that she's a woman.
Hiram isn't even sure what to say to the man or to Quinn, but she saves him by reiterating her goodbye, and then pushing past the man standing in the doorway. All Hiram can do is watch her go and hope she'll come back to the house before the new year. She's been known to disappear from time to time, and they've had to send search parties to her house in Claremont. It's not all that far away, but it's far enough from this place that now contains one Rachel Berry.
The man in the doorway, Jesse, clears his throat, drawing Hiram's attention. "Are you going to invite me inside?" he asks.
"Well, you're a stranger, so, no," Hiram says.
Jesse frowns. "But I'm her boyfriend."
"And, for all I know, you could be a stalker," he counters. "She's very famous, you know."
"I do know," he forces out, and Hiram's protective instincts kick in. Who is this man?
"Jesse?" Rachel says from somewhere behind Hiram. "What are you doing here?"
Jesse peers over Hiram's shoulder, looking equal parts relieved and annoyed. "Well, I'm freezing my ass off out here and this man won't let me in."
"This man is my father, Jesse," she says tensely, as she moves to stand beside Hiram, merely aiding him in blocking the entrance. "And I'm quite certain I made myself explicitly clear to you. Why are you here?"
Jesse exaggerates a shiver, but neither Rachel nor Hiram makes a move to let him into the house. "I wanted to see you."
"Was that before or after you discussed what we talked about with your publicist?"
Jesse, wisely, doesn't respond.
"Go back to New York, Jesse," Rachel says, sounding more tired and defeated than Hiram has ever heard her. "There's nothing for you here." And, with that, she closes the door right in his face and sucks in a shuddering breath.
Hiram takes a moment before he places a gentle hand on Rachel's shoulder in comfort. If it wasn't obvious she was running from something before; it's very clear now.
Rachel takes another deep breath before she straightens her spine and slips the mask onto her face. She looks as pristine as ever when she turns to look at Hiram. "So... that was Jesse," she says softly. "My... boyfriend."
Hiram says nothing; just waits.
"Did - umm - did she see him?" she asks, her voice barely a whisper.
He nods in response.
"Oh." She blinks. "I didn't - he wasn't - I never intended to bring him here." She drops her head in defeat. "I don't want to keep hurting her."
Hiram bristles at the sound of that. "Well, you sure have a wonderful way of showing it," he says. "What was that at the dinner table?"
"I wasn't expecting her to be here," Rachel meekly defends. "I didn't react well."
"And why wouldn't Quinn be here?"
"I don't know, Dad," she says, exasperated. "I haven't seen her in ten years. There are a long list of reasons for her absence that I probably couldn't even come up with... Like, I don't know, maybe, she has a kid."
Hiram sighs heavily.
"She has a kid," Rachel repeats in wonder.
Of all the things she was expecting to find when she finally made her return to Lima; it was not Quinn Fabray with a daughter. It's almost surreal, out-of-this-world, and it makes Rachel feel even worse whenever she thinks about everything she's missed. She wasn't kidding when she said she's missed so much: graduations and birthdays and weddings and funerals.
"That isn't all she has," Hiram finds himself saying, flushing slightly with sudden anger. "She also has a wonderful job and her own home. She has a future that she's spent years building for herself and she's finally at a place where she can consider herself happy. So, for what it's worth, Rachel, honey, whatever you're here for; be here. Just, please don't leave the kind of destruction you left the last time you decided Quinn Fabray would amount to nothing."
It feels like a slap to the face, and Rachel knows she deserves it.
Hiram offers her a last, almost sympathetic, look before he goes to the kitchen to oversee the packing away of the food and possibly eat a cookie or twelve.
Rachel remains where she is, her mind spinning. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same. It's unnerving, terrifying and comforting all at the same time. She's aware enough to acknowledge her antics at dinner definitely haven't earned her any brownie points, but she was only reacting.
"So, you brought the boyfriend to meet the family, huh?" Santana drawls, getting Rachel's attention as she strides purposefully into the entrance hall. "Did you conveniently forget about Quinn?"
Rachel, to her credit, doesn't take the bait.
"Why are you even here?"
It's silent for another full minute before she finally speaks. "I needed to come home."
"Needed, huh?" Santana questions. "So, it was a necessity. Not a desire." She shakes her head. "Why are you here? I mean, did you come just to mess her up, because you're already doing a fantastic job at it."
"That's not why I'm here."
"Could've fooled me."
"Well, I've been fooling many people for too many years, Santana," she says. "I'm rather good at it."
"Believe me, we know."
They glare at each other for the longest time, neither one willing to back down.
"Why do you even care?" Rachel finally snaps. "If I recall correctly, you never even wanted us to be together."
Santana takes a menacing step forward, and Rachel forces herself not to react. She doesn't want to give Santana the satisfaction of seeing her falter, even though all she wants to do is cower, curl up into a tight ball and have someone hold her.
"And do you know why?" Santana asks, menacingly. "Because I knew. I could see it in your eyes, Berry. Quinn was blinded by what she felt for you, but I could see it as plain as day. The hesitancy; the apprehension; the fear. I didn't want you to give in because I knew you would run, but even I didn't know you would end up doing it so spectacularly."
Rachel clenches her jaw.
"I hope it was worth it, you know?" Santana continues. "I hope you have everything you ever wanted; really, I do, because it would be even worse for her if you didn't. Because then it would make everything she's ever been through when it comes to you amount to nothing."
At the sound of that, Rachel's gaze does drop, and Santana practically growls.
"Oh, fuck," she says, scrubbing her face. "You're not even fucking happy, are you? What is wrong with you?"
Rachel isn't sure how to answer that, and hearing Santana practically spit on her perceived success makes her irrationally angry. Which is the only reason she ends up saying what she does. "At least I'm happier than I would be if I were stuck in this stupid, damn town; being a nobody just to be with - "
"How dare you?" Santana practically barks, interrupting her. "You don't get to talk about her, okay? You don't. Not today. Not ever."
Rachel's jaw clenches, unwilling to back down.
"You still don't get it, do you? You don't even know what you did because you weren't here for the aftermath. You didn't have to see her and hear her and try to explain what nobody could understand. You have no idea how you broke her, Rachel, and now you're back, floating right in with your snippy remarks, as if she owes you a damn thing! I won't have it, okay? We've worked too damn hard to put her back together, just to have you waltz in and fucking ruin everything again!"
Before Rachel can even think to respond, their argument is interrupted by Noah, sounding as unimpressed and disappointed as any older brother can manage. "Could you two please stop?" he says, shaking his head. "Arguing isn't going to help anyone; least of all Quinn." He runs a hand over his short hair. "Rachel, you did a shitty thing, and you're not helping yourself. Santana, stop antagonising her. This is our home, okay, and I for one would love to enjoy the holidays without wanting to off the lot of you."
Santana's eyes narrow.
Noah just looks bored. "Do you think this is what Quinn wants?" he asks gently, knowing that brining Quinn into the mix will make them both back down.
Even though Rachel has proven time and time again that she has a one-track mind, Noah's still convinced she cares about Quinn.
She has to.
"Whatever," Santana says, stalking out of the entrance hall past Noah and into the living room where the rest of the family has gathered.
Noah looks at Rachel for the longest time. "It's good to see you, Rae," he says, his voice soothing. "But it's enough now. Quinn is as much a part of this family as you are, perhaps even more, and you're going to find a fight everywhere you turn if you keep this up." Offering her one last, tight smile, he turns and walks into the living room, just in time to catch Sam checking his phone.
"She just texted," Sam says. "She and Mia are safely at home, she's fine and the little blonde is halfway to asleep already."
Quinn's message gives them little relief, and Stacey is the one to ask the question they're all thinking. "She is coming back, right? It's not like she's going to stay away or something like that, right?"
Hiram clears his throat, pasting on a smile. "Of course, Stace," he says. "Rachel isn't enough to keep her away. She wasn't back then, and she's definitely not now."
Despite the text she sends to Sam, Quinn is decidedly not… fine.
And, despite her sugar rush, Mia does fall asleep during the short drive to their home, and Quinn is forced to carry her up the stairs. After trying to get a half asleep Mia to use the toilet - Quinn really doesn't want any nighttime accidents - she lays Mia down on her Barbie comforter, and slowly strips her of her day clothes. It's much easier to do while she's sleeping, of course, and Quinn even braves wiping her down with a damp cloth before dressing her in her fuzzy pink pyjamas and dousing her in way too much baby powder.
Once Quinn deems her ready, she shifts the covers out of the way and tucks Mia's tiny body into bed. Mia doesn't sleep well without her stuffed lamb, so Quinn places it in her arms. It's nights like these that she's certain she's made all the correct decisions in her life. There are times when she questions everything but, sitting on the edge of Mia's bed and being able to look at her, Quinn knows it's all been worth it. Every high and low; every success and failure; every happiness and sadness. All of it.
Quinn bends to kiss Mia's forehead, switches on her night light, and then leaves her baby girl to sleep with the door slightly ajar. Mia needs to be able to get to her quickly if she wakes in the middle of the night.
But, right now, Quinn needs a stiff drink.
Rachel is back.
In the kitchen, Quinn pours herself two fingers of Bourbon. She remembers it being one of her father's drinks of choice and, as much as she'd like to hate the taste; she's rather fond of it. She doesn't appreciate the memories attached to the smell, but there's an odd amount of comfort to be found in the act of sipping at the brown liquid. It makes her feel melancholy; nostalgic for a relationship that barely had a chance to be anything.
She thinks she was naive to think Rachel would even have considered more. It was a childish notion that only a sixteen-year-old would dream up. Rachel, at eighteen, was more realistic. She knew what she wanted from life, and it was far more than what Quinn could even dream about. Because, really, at the time, Quinn couldn't see much past the Rachel Berry-sized future she wanted, and she missed the signs that Rachel's future was miles bigger than what Quinn could ever dream of offering her.
Rachel knew it then and Quinn knows it now.
She's spent years coming to terms with it, but it doesn't make it hurt any less. Still, to this day, waking up to nothing cuts through her in a way that is almost paralysing. Even years later, through endless hours of therapy; it still hurts. The trauma of the realisation she was used; she wasn't believed to be enough. It hurts in ways she's never known before and, until tonight, she was convinced she had a handle on it.
Rachel is back.
Quinn downs her drink and goes upstairs. Maybe she needs sleep. She goes into her bedroom and strips ungracefully. She throws on sweatpants and an old Harvard hoodie because it's unnaturally cold. When she's done in the bathroom, she stands in the middle of her room and stares at her bed as if it's insulted her in some way.
Making the decision, Quinn goes to Mia's bedroom, scoops the girl into her arms and brings her into her own bedroom, settling them both under her heavy covers. Quinn just wants her baby close, and she isn't even ashamed. Having Rachel back has brought up painful memories of days she's tried desperately to forget.
She should know better.
There are just things that can't be forgotten.
Rachel Berry is one of them.
So is the pain of heartbreak.
Thoughts of those last few days prior to Rachel's departure are also plaguing LeRoy Berry as he lies in bed. Like Rachel - and Quinn, to some extent - he made decisions that have affected them all, and he's worried it's all going to be revealed with the way things are going this particular holiday. He doesn't believe he played that big a role in the trajectories of their lives, but it was significant.
Everything would be different if he stayed out of it.
He knows that.
He's always known that, and now they're all going to know it as well.
When she leaves her childhood home, Rachel doesn't go straight to her hotel and its foreign comfort.
Instead, she goes for a drive through Lima just because she can. So much has changed in the ten years she's been gone, and yet so much is still the same. It's disconcerting, but still rather comforting. She goes past her old high school, the breeding ground for some of her worst and best memories. She's not naive enough not to know her school career was altered in so many ways because of Noah... and eventually because of Santana.
They offered her the kind of protection that saw her through her four years with little fanfare.
Then there was Quinn, who, quite simply, took to the role of Head Cheerleader like a fish in water. Santana grumbled during her sophomore year that Quinn would probably usurp her and take the Captaincy the moment the current Head Cheerleader graduated. And, she wasn't wrong. That in itself gave Rachel a different kind of protection, because it was obvious to nearly anyone who bothered to look that Quinn Fabray was quite smitten with Rachel Berry, a girl two years her senior, who she happened to live with.
There were so many things wrong with it.
Rachel shakes her head of the thoughts. As much as they plague her, she forces herself not to think about that time.
It's another life.
She's a different person now, and what's past is past.
It's clear they've moved on as well.
Quinn definitely has.
She has a daughter, for Christ's sake.
When Rachel finally makes it back to her hotel, she's tired and freezing. She knows she hasn't helped herself, given the way this evening's reunion went, but it couldn't be helped. She... reacted, rather than responded, and now Quinn is... well, she doesn't even know what Quinn is.
That much, Rachel does know, and it seems she has a hell of a lot more to figure out.
Making her way to her room, all Rachel can think about is crawling into a bed and trying to get some sleep. Things have to be better in the morning, so all she has to do is get there.
She sighs heavily when she sees him, his form camped out in front of her hotel room door. She's tempted to ignore him completely, but he's literally in the way. "Jesse," she exhales. "What are you doing here?" she asks tiredly, fishing for her room key in her handbag.
At the sound of her voice, Jesse scrambles to his feet. "I had to see you," he says. "Kurt told me I could find you here."
She makes a mental note to kill Kurt. "I thought I told you to go back to New York," she says.
"Rach, come on, I couldn't just leave."
"Why?" she deadpans; "you did it the other day."
Jesse grimaces. "I was… shocked," he says. "It was a surprise."
"I'm sure it was," she says haughtily. "It was for me too, you know? But, unlike you, I don't get to run from this."
Jesse drops his gaze. "I'm here now, aren't I?"
"Wow," she says, shaking her head. "Do you want a medal or something?"
"Why are you being like this?"
"Like what, Jesse?" she asks, glaring at him. "Truthful? Realistic?" She sucks in a breath. "For once, can you please just do what I ask and leave me alone? I'm tired and I've had a shit day, so, please, just go." She doesn't wait for a response as she finally gets her door open and disappears into the best hotel room Lima has to offer.
It isn't the worst room she could be in, but it feels... empty.
Painfully slowly, she gets ready for bed, running through her nighttime routine and finding comfort in all the things that haven't changed. She misses New York. She misses her friends and her safety, but she knows she had no other choice than to come home. She wasn't kidding when she told Santana she needed to come home.
It was a necessity, because there was nowhere else for her to go.
This is her home, despite her feelings towards New York.
This is her home, despite the way she ran out of it some ten years ago.
She barely looked back, determined to reach stardom regardless of the destruction she left behind. Quinn. Her family. Her fathers.
There wasn't a fight.
There wasn't even a discussion because, like the coward she is, Rachel blindsided them all.
She left in the middle of the night, leaving the warmth of her bed and packing her things in silence. She left letters trying to explain, but even she knew they would mean nothing. She was taking the easy way out, but she knew she would never be able to leave if she were to look into Quinn's hazel eyes and see all the love and adoration.
It would have… broken her.
It would have kept her here. Which would have broken her in the end.
It would have broken them all.