Rachel's hold tightens around Quinn's hand. "Quinn, you do not have to do this. You owe her nothing. I know that she drew the short straw in your situation and I know that you feel that it's your fault that she was dealt such a rough hand but that isn't the case. This was not your doing."
Quinn let out a long sigh and turned to her girlfriend, "I know that. I know. But she's my sister. And somehow she isn't holding a grudge against me for everything and somehow she is a good person even with all that she's gone through. I want to meet her."
Rachel let Quinn finish before giving her a nod and rising to her tippy-toes to press a kiss to the pale cheek, "She has no reason to hold any kind of a grudge against you." The nod Rachel receives at that is simply to placate her but she decides to accept it anyway, squeezing Quinn's hand again and following the girl's lead to the front door of the small ranch-style home. Quinn looks to Rachel and some of the weight lifts from her shoulders when she sees the small, encouraging smile cross her lips.
Quinn's unsteady knock is answered almost immediately. Rachel is taken aback by the woman who answers the door. She knows from what Quinn's told her that Frannie has a stepsister around her age but there is no doubt in her mind that this is the one that they came for; her girlfriend is the spitting image of her big sister, both reflecting the gorgeously elegant features of Judy Fabray. The only major difference being the slightly darker shade of blonde on Frannie and Quinn's lack of the stress lines creasing Frannie's features. Frannie and Quinn breathe identical sighs of both astonishment and relief, their faces splitting into wide grins as they take each other in. Rachel notices the tightness of the smile lines around the older Fabray's eyes in contrast to the familiar, well-used and relaxed ones around Quinn's. She must not smile like this very much.
"Quinn. I'm so glad that you came," Frannie says. Her voice is different than Quinn's. It's lacking the authority and husky rasp of her younger sister's. Rachel thinks that Frannie's voice reminds her more of Judy's: soft and warm with a tinge of something that sounds almost like hope.
"Of course I came. The internet is good for a lot of things but I don't think it could have sated me forever."
The sisters laugh lightly and Rachel recognizes the nervous edge to the sounds. The younger girls follow Frannie in and take a seat in the parlor, declining the offer of drinks. "Oh!" Frannie says suddenly, "I'm so rude, this must be Rachel." The brunette nods, shaking the outstretched hand. "Quinn's told me so much about you. I'm glad you came with her today."
Rachel smiles politely, "I am too. However, no matter how much I simply wanted to accompany her for this emotional meeting, I couldn't possibly have let her come alone. Not that I questioned your integrity or honesty in your desire for this meeting but there was always the chance that you could have had malicious intentions or have even been an imposter. And Quinn, much like you are, is a very pretty girl, the world can be so unsaf-"
"Rach," Quinn breathes in almost a whisper, the hint of a laugh hidden behind her raised eyebrow and wide eyes. Rachel's face turns crimson as her own eyes widen and she leans back against the loveseat, hoping that it somehow swallows her whole.
Frannie stands before her with an eyebrow raised, not quite leaving the same effect that Quinn's perfected eyebrow-raise does, and busts out into a fit of giggles. Rachel sees Quinn's grin but it only embarrasses her further despite the bubbly feeling she gets when she hears her girlfriend let out an airy laugh. "Quinn you weren't kidding, she definitely loves to talk," Frannie says as she sits in the armchair near the loveseat.
Quinn looks at her girlfriend with nothing but love in her eyes and Rachel's cheeks return to their normal color as the bashfulness fades. "Yeah," Quinn takes her girlfriend's hand and holds it tightly, "that she does." Her hand is lifted to feel the press of soft lips and butterflies batter her stomach as Quinn smiles against her skin. For a moment the girls are lost in each other's gaze but the gravity of the situation brings them back to earth.
Frannie sits in her chair patiently, waiting for their interaction to end naturally with a warm smile gracing her features. "You two are adorable."
This time it's Quinn who blushes and Rachel has to bite back a grin, her heart warming when she sees the tint to the pale cheeks. "So, Frannie, how are you?"
The day isn't easy. It's filled with hard truths and cutting stories. Rachel's heart breaks each time tears gather in Quinn's eyes as she spills emotional confessions or listens to a particularly trying tale of Frannie's. But each time, Rachel ignores her own tears and simply rubs her girlfriend's back or squeezes her hand. As hard as it is and as much as she feels for both girls, it isn't her time to cry over a past that isn't even her own. She's there to support Quinn and that's exactly what she does. There are more than a few times when Rachel wishes that someone was holding Frannie's hand as well.
The hardest point of the visit is when they talk about the day that everything changed. Frannie was only four, Quinn was an infant. Judy had recounted the event any time that Quinn asked. She never hid it from her daughter and she always promised that if Quinn ever wanted to meet her father or her sister, Judy would swallow her pride and her hurt and she'd take her to them.
Frannie remembers that day. It's her first memory.
Frannie Fabray is four years old when it happens. She's in preschool, drawing a picture of her family, adding little hearts around her new baby sister and even drawing Mr. Bubbles, her goldfish, swimming in the sky. She knows that snack time has just ended and she knows that she'll only have to wait a few more hours to see her mommy and Quinnie. Daddy won't be home until late.
Daddy has been sad lately. Ever since Quinnie came home, he's been tired and it's making him sad. He's been drinking more and more of his special juice that she's not allowed to try. Frannie knows that it isn't Quinn's fault. Her best friend Amanda Pierce's mom just had a baby too. She knows that baby's are supposed to cry a lot and it isn't their fault that they don't know how to do anything else yet.
Frannie doesn't blame Quinn for making daddy sad.
She's surprised when Mrs. Davis comes up to her as she's finishing her picture. She says that her daddy is here to pick her up early. Frannie almost jumps with excitement. Daddy hasn't picked her up early to go get ice cream in months.
Frannie hoists her backpack on her shoulders and tightly grips her picture before waving goodbye to her friends and her teacher, meeting daddy at the door. She doesn't realize that something's wrong until they're in the car. Daddy still hasn't said anything to her.
"Daddy where are we going?" when a few minutes pass and he still hasn't answered her, she tries again, hope lacing her tone, "Are we getting icey?"
"No, Frannie." Daddy's voice is cold and she doesn't know why but it makes her eyes water.
"Be quiet, Frannie."
She does as he says.
When the get home, mommy is in the kitchen feeding Quinnie her bottle. Frannie bounces with excitement over to them, grinning as she hugs her mommy's leg and pats her sister's belly. She doesn't see the tears in her mommy's eyes or the trembling hand patting her sister's bottom.
"Frannie go upstairs. Pack a bag."
Frannie turns to face her daddy, confused, "Where we going?"
"We're going on a trip, just you and me. Go get ready."
Frannie does as her father says. She's excited. Daddy's taking her camping again. Last time they went camping was when she got to go swimming for the first time. She doesn't turn around to see her mother putting Quinnie in her bassinet. She doesn't see the fear in mommy's eyes. She barely hears mommy begging daddy, "Russell what are you doing? Where are you taking her? Russell I know about Claire and it's okay, we'll work it out, just don't take my baby from me! Please Russell where are you going?!"
Mommy is still pleading with daddy as he picks Frannie up and carries her out of the house. Frannie yells to her mommy, "It's okay! Mommy we're just going camping! We'll be back in five days just like last time! I love you mommy, tell Quinnie I love her too. I'll see you soon!"
Judy Fabray is broken with tears as Russell takes Fran away. She knows that he'd never hurt Fran, not like he hurts her, not like he threatened to hurt Quinnie if she couldn't keep her quiet. She's sure that he'll take care of Frannie but she still prays that he'll come back. Prays that he'll bring her little girl back. She wants to chase after him. She wants to steal her girls away and run as far and as fast as she can. But she's afraid. The bruises on her neck are still tender and the threat of her baby's life his prominent and screaming in the back of her mind.
When daddy takes her to a woman's house instead of camping, Frannie is confused. But Claire is nice and her daughter Meghan is only a year younger than Fran is, and she likes princesses too.
When five days pass, Frannie asks her daddy if they can go home. He tells her to shut up.
When seven days have passed, Frannie asks her daddy if Quinnie and mommy can come and visit. He yells at her and sends her to her room.
When thirteen days have passed, Claire throws out Fran's favorite princess toy because she forgot to make her bed. Frannie cries and tells daddy and Claire that she misses her mommy and her sister. Claire smacks Frannie and tells her that she and Meghan are her mommy and her sister now. Daddy watches and then tells her to go to her room. Frannie does and she cries as she scribbles daddy out of the picture that she drew after snack time.
All three girls were in tears by the end of Fran's story. Quinn rose from her seat, crossing the floor to sit beside her sister, the two girls collapsing into each other's arms. Rachel ached to join them, to comfort her girlfriend and her sister. But she knew that they needed this. And so she simply sat back and watched with a proud smile as the girls bonded.
Frannie was only home for the summer. Russell and Claire had run off two weeks after Meghan turned eighteen. Fran had started at Columbia University the year before as a med student. Meghan, having just finished her senior year in high school, needed help selling the house and so Frannie came home to help her sister. They weren't blood but they were close enough, neither had ever gotten any special treatment from either parents, they had gone through it all together.
As the girls were leaving, Frannie promised that as soon as she could, she'd invite them to stay in New York with her, Rachel had nearly jumped through the roof with excitement, agreeing without even a glance toward Quinn. That was fine though, she wouldn't have said "no" anyway.
As Rachel and Quinn walked away from the house and towards the bus station, Quinn pulled Rachel against her. A brown eyebrow rose in a pathetic imitation -which Quinn found adorable- for just a moment before soft lips presses together and a contented sigh was breathed against her mouth.
"What was that for? Rachel asked as Quinn pulled back.
"For today. For standing by me, for supporting me," Quinn laughed lightly, "for rambling adorably and breaking the ice."
Rachel simply grinned. "It was my pleasure," she said before pulling her girlfriend the rest of the way to the station, hands tightly entwined and broad smiles across their faces.