When the secret comes out, you feel like the whole world hates you. It's public knowledge now, thanks to Jacob Ben Israel's stupid blog. "Not only is Quinn Fabray, the formerly chaste Cheerio, pregnant," it reads, "but several sources confirm that the father is Noah Puckerman, linebacker of the football team, card-carrying cougar hunter, and former best friend of Fabray's boyfriend, Finn Hudson."
Now everyone at McKinley High thinks that you're not only a hypocrite, but a slut as well.
Mrs. Hudson doesn't kick you out - she's too nice a woman, she'd never do that - but the temperature in the Hudson household drops uncomfortably. The truth is that you'd packed your things before you'd even told Finn, knowing that you couldn't stay there much longer after shattering his heart so violently. Everything you own fits in a duffel bag that you leave in the music room, where you know it won't be disturbed.
You don't go to glee practice that day. You're already overwhelmed by the hatred and derision you've been getting from classmates and in the hallways, and you don't think you could take getting it from people you once thought could be friends. You linger in the hallway, trying to remain out of sight, as you count the gleeks leaving the room until you're sure they're all gone. Now's the time to get your bag, even though you're not sure where you're going to go from there.
When you enter the room you're surprised to see Mr. Schuester's still there, leaning up against the piano as he sorts through some sheet music. You hesitate at the doorway, knowing that he's been Finn's primary confidante since he joined New Directions. There's no way Mr. Schue's out of the loop. When the door closes behind you, he looks over his shoulder. On seeing you, he straightens up - and he smiles. "Missed you at practice today, Quinn," he says, and he genuinely means it.
"I came to get my bag," you explain, and you walk over to where you'd left it, on the other side of the piano. It's just the two of you in the room. It occurs to you that this is probably the perfect opportunity - no, not perfect, that's not the right word - the only opportunity you might have, and perhaps you should use it wisely.
You already let the first secret out, but with this one you're not so sure. It's not really your secret to tell, but you've been so caught up in this for so long that doubt and guilt and all sorts of terrible feelings have started to eat away at you. You don't want to ruin his life, but you can't imagine what kind of life he has if his wife has been lying to him about something so huge all this time.
The problem is the truth. It hurts so much to know it, to share it, but you know now that the longer it's hidden, the more pain it's going to cause when it becomes known.
"Yes, Quinn?" he says, meeting your eyes.
You look at your feet instead, nervous. "I need to tell you something. I think you need to know."
"What's that, Quinn?"
There's a lump in your throat, but you persevere. "Mrs. Schuester asked me," you stammer, "if she could adopt my baby."
Mr. Schue tilts his head, confused. He reminds you a little of Finn when he does that, and something stings you in your chest when you think that. "My wife?"
You nod your head solemnly.
"But..." he says, "we're already expecting." He's looking right at you, but you get the sense that he's not even seeing you, that he's staring through you instead. It's like you can see the gears in his head turning, getting his mind around what he's hearing and what it means. It's like suddenly he can put all the clues together, and the picture on the jigsaw puzzle is much worse than what the box made it look like. He practically falls onto the piano bench, his jaw hanging open, as he tries and fails to blink back tears.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Schue."
It's hard to watch him cry without hot tears springing to your eyes as well. He lets his head fall into his hands while he mutters "Oh my god, oh my god," under his breath. You're not sure what to do, so you sink into the open seat beside him, the bench creaking beneath your combined weight. He's facing away from you, so you set your hand on his shoulder, just to let him know you're still there, as tears roll swiftly down your own cheeks.
It takes him a while to get a hold of himself, but eventually he reaches up and pats your hand. When he turns toward you, he's serious and stone-faced. "Quinn, I'm so sorry," he says, but you're not sure why he's the one apologizing. "Do you need a ride home?"
The question takes you off-guard, and before you can think, you can hear yourself saying "I don't really have one."
"A ride?" Mr. Schue asks. "Or a home?"
Suddenly you can't stop crying.
"Hey, honey, how was your day?" Mrs. Schuester's voice is treacly sweet coming from within the apartment. You follow Mr. Schue in, shaking a little in spite of yourself. You know you don't have anything to worry about, that this is not your battle to fight, but your involvement in this stupid baby plot has already worn you thin. "Quinn," Mrs. Schuester says breathily, her voice tinged with fear.
Your face is red and puffy from crying, and though you haven't looked more than askance at Mr. Schue since leaving school, you're pretty sure that it's clear from his expression what's going on.
"Now, wait a minute, Will, don't jump to conclusions," Mrs. Schuester starts, holding her hands up in a gesture meant to calm. "What has she told you? What's going on?"
"There's no baby, is there, Terri?" he asks.
There's a harshness in his tone that you've never heard before, and for a moment your blood runs cold with memories of your father. You don't want to be here for this, to watch someone else's world fall apart, but it's too late now. You press your back against the wall.
"You haven't let me touch you, or see you, or come to any more of your doctor's appointments..." Mr. Schue has a litany of evidence against her, and his wife has no defense when he reaches beneath her shirt and comes away with a nude-colored pregnancy pillow. He holds it for a tense moment, turning it over and examining it before he tosses it aside.
"Listen, Will," Terri cries out in desperation, grasping his shoulders, "I only did it because I love you. I want to have a family with you..."
"You lied to me." He's not even looking her in the eye, and his voice is low and laced with anger. "You lied to me about a child that doesn't exist."
"But... but Will..." Mrs. Schuester's panicky now. Like a cornered animal, she tries to attack. "Quinn!" she screeches, turning on you. You flatten yourself against the wall, frightened. "I thought we had this worked out! I thought you wanted a good father for your child. You've ruined everything!"
"Leave her alone, Terri," Mr. Schue says calmly, stepping between the two of you. "I think maybe you should go."
Her eyes look crazy right now, but her sneer disappears when she speaks next. "I was already leaving," she huffs, and she storms away dramatically, slamming the front door behind her.
Mr. Schue brings his balled-up fist to his lips as she leaves, like he's thinking intently. "Quinn," he says, "have a seat. I'll be right back."
You sink into the couch in the living room as Mr. Schue's disappears out the front door, and you feel out-of-place and more alone than you'd ever thought you'd be. You let your mind wander a bit, losing track of how long he's gone. You wonder if he's found his wife, if they're still fighting outside somewhere, or if she's run him over with her car or something. You don't think it's outside the realm of possibility. She was already swinging by one hinge when you first met her, and now she seems completely crazy.
When Mr. Schue returns, un-run-over, he has your duffel slung over his shoulder and your backpack in his hands. He sets them gently down on the coffee table before sitting down on the couch beside you. There's a period of silence as you avoid eye contact with each other. He's sitting with his hands on his knees, and that's what you focus on instead.
"I'm sorry you had to see that, Quinn," he says finally.
"I'm sorry, too," you say. You've regained your composure and, even though you're emotional right now, you manage not to cry. "I'm sorry about everything."
"It's starting to get late," Mr. Schue remarks. "When's the last time you've eaten?"
"Not since lunch."
Mr. Schue rises to his feet. "I'll heat up some leftovers. You better work on your homework if you haven't started it yet."
You're dumbfounded by the way this entire day has unfolded. Homework hadn't even occurred to you, much less dinner. "Sure thing, Mr. Schue," you say lamely.
"Quinn," he says, and just the way he says your name makes you listen intently. "If you don't have somewhere else to go, you can stay here for now. For as long as you need."
There's no reason for him to be so nice to you, especially considering all the heartache he's got to deal with now. "Thank you, Mr. Schue," and you mean it, you really really mean it.
"Let's not tell anyone about this, though," he adds, forcing a laugh. "I could lose my job."
You try to smile, but it seems too false, so instead you nod solemnly. If there's one thing you're good at, after all, it's keeping secrets.
You're still shunned by most of McKinley. Even the gleeks are cold, though they're at least a little more tolerant than your classmates. It hurts a little to see Finn sit next to Rachel during practice, sometimes holding her hand (her mannish hand, you say in your head, to make yourself feel better).
Puck confronts you once, and only once, before you put him off for good. "So we can be a family now that you and Finn are done?" he asks.
"I don't think that's ever going to happen," you say, an edge of malice in your voice. You've gone through so much lately that you can't help but take it out on the only target you have left. "Maybe you can be a dad, but we're never going to be a family."
After that he starts avoiding you altogether.
It's okay, though, because at the end of the day, you know you're going home with Mr. Schue. "You can call me Will, as long as we're not at school," he's told you time and again, but you can't really kick the habit.
The two of you eat breakfast together in the morning and dinner together at night, taking turns cooking and cleaning up afterwards. It's weird at first, especially when Mrs. Schuester drops by with her sister to pick up some of her stuff, or when she calls at strange hours to beg her husband's forgiveness, but you and Mr. Schue get used to each other.
Gradually, it starts feeling a little like being part of a family again. You complain to him about your classes (except Spanish, of course), and he opens up to you about everything in his life, his dreams, his disappointments. He tells you about his own high school experiences - why he joined the glee club, or how he fell in love with Terri.
Sometimes he asks you about your plans for the future, college and stuff like that, but that's too far away for you to think about realistically. You try to dodge these questions, answering as vaguely as possible. You really can't focus on anything that's going to happen past your due date.
"Are you still thinking about adoption?" he asks one day. "There are still a lot of couples out there who I'm sure are better suited for parenthood than me and Terri."
You sigh. It's not that you haven't given much thought to adoption lately, it's that it's consumed your thoughts. You know you're not in the right position to raise a child, since you've screwed everything up, but you think you could at least love a child the way it's supposed to be loved. When you speak, you can hear your voice waver. "It's just that..." you begin, "I'm sixteen years old. I know I can't do it on my own." You pause and inhale. "As much as I think I want to."
"A baby is a lot of responsibility," Mr. Schue agrees, but there's a dreamy quality to what he's saying that makes you wonder what he really means.
"To be honest, Mr. Schue," you add, "I really thought you would make a great father." That had been the one reason you'd ever really considered giving your baby to Mrs. Schuester; you could see his kindness and devotion balancing out her instability. You could tell by the way he handles glee club - sometimes through misguided trial and error, but isn't that what parenting is, too? - and by the way he runs his classroom.
He's touched, you can tell, because his eyes are glistening and he's staring into space with a small smile.
You look down at your plate, shuffling green beans around with your fork. "I kind of wish you were my dad," you mutter, certain he's not listening, and when you look up again he's clearing his plate and vanishing into the kitchen.
Sectionals, midterms, Christmas break - they all go by in a blur. Both of you are so tired and jaded by recent events that everything else seems low-key in comparison. Before you know it, the weather is getting warmer and you've lost sight of your feet.
You're not struggling in school or anything, but you have to start sitting a little further from the desk. You're still able to keep up with homework and tests and everything. What's getting tougher, though, is glee practice. By the end of the day you don't have the energy to devote to learning new dance moves, not to mention the grace to pull them off. You find yourself sitting out more and more often, just watching the others without joining in.
"Come on, guys, I know we made it through sectionals, but really, we just squeaked by those other schools," Mr. Schue says by way of encouragement.
"We'd really like to, Mr. Schue," Puck replies, "but I don't think all of us are pulling our weight."
It's an obvious barb, and worse than the jackass remark are the suppressed giggles from some others that accompany it. You suck in your breath and your hands go protectively to your stomach. Glee club has been one of the only places you feel safe anymore, but now you realize you're just as vulnerable here as you are anywhere else.
"Puck, that's completely inappropriate," Mr. Schue says fiercely. "How do you expect to function as a team if you're going to tear each other down?"
Puck rolls his eyes and looks towards you, but you can't bring yourself to look up. Instead you study the back of your hands, folded across what used to be your waist, and you think up terrible names to call him. Lima loser is a reliable standard, but you know you can do better than that.
"It's true, though, Mr. Schue," Santana adds. "The choreography isn't working because we don't have, like, symmetry and stuff. I think it's time to trim the fat."
There's another wave of laughter among the glee club members, subdued but unmistakable. You haven't felt this awful since your parents threw you out. At least then you had Finn to fall back on. Now you don't have anyone on your side. It seems like an entirely different group of people than those that once sang "Lean on Me" to you, and you know it's all your fault.
But while you're sitting alone and feeling sorry for yourself, Mr. Schue is rising to your defense. "Detention, for all of you," he tells the entire club. "For the rest of the week. This is more than disappointing behavior - you're being downright cruel."
Suddenly the kids are all excuses and apologies, but Mr. Schue isn't hearing any of it. He's coming towards you, reaching out. You put your hand in his, and he helps pull you to your feet.
"You know, a little compassion would go a long way," he tells them, and then he puts his arm around you as you exit together.
The next day when you get to school, Mercedes and Kurt are waiting by your locker.
"We're really sorry that we laughed at you yesterday," Kurt admits.
"We weren't really thinking about how hard everything's been for you," Mercedes added.
"It's okay," you say, faking a smile, but you can see they aren't fooled.
"Can I ask you something?" Mercedes says. You nod. "I have some old clothes that I don't wear anymore - like, t-shirts and stuff. They aren't maternity or anything, but they might fit. You interested?"
You don't know that you'll look good in animal print or sequins, but you're moved by the thought and say yes.
With everyone in detention, glee practice is cancelled for the rest of the week, but it gets easier after that.
Well, except for the dancing.
Mr. Schue has a meeting in Columbus about the state show choir competition - going over rules and regulations, stuff like that - and even though your due date looms every closer, he's going to be gone all day.
"You have my cell phone number already, but here's the number for where I'll be, and here's my parents' number, and here's Miss Pillsbury's number, just in case."
"Sure thing, Mr. Schue." You wonder briefly what Miss Pillsbury would do if you needed to call her - no matter how horribly you can picture the scenario, imagining Miss Pillsbury's trying to deal with it brings a smile to your face - and you tell Mr. Schue that there's nothing to worry about, you'll be fine, and the baby's not supposed to come for another week or two anyway. He's reassured, but that doesn't erase the worry lines from his forehead.
He also leaves you a little money to order pizza or Chinese, but being by yourself makes you feel restless. Instead, you figure you can kill time by going to the nearest Meijer and picking up something to make at home. It's not a far walk, after all, and you could use the exercise.
Once there, you pile a few items into a basket - a half-gallon of ice cream, a two-liter bottle of regular soda (not diet, the kind you grew up drinking, because you can hear Mrs. Schuester's voice in the back of your head still sometimes, harping about phosphoric acid and male-pattern baldness). All told, it's not too much, so you get in line at the express lane without realizing that someone is already holding up the line.
"No, see, these limes were on sale," she's insisting, and your heart starts racing when you recognize the voice.
It's your mother's.
"You're not ringing them up correctly," she continues, and you quickly scan for an escape route. There's a customer in between you, and a customer behind you, and you've gotten too big to try to squeeze past in either direction. You wish you could vanish completely before she notices you're there.
And she doesn't. She pays for her limes and hurries out without even seeing you. For a split-second you're relieved, but it's a short-lived satisfaction when you realize that her perfect life is going on perfectly without you. She probably doesn't even miss you. She's probably forgotten all about you.
You've completely lost your appetite and you're angry with yourself for not just ordering Chinese. When you pay for your items you don't say a word, biting your lip the whole time. As you leave the store, your cell phone rings; it's Mr. Schue. You bit your lip and sigh, trying not to sound emotional as you answer. "Hello?"
"Hey, Quinn, I just wanted to know that you're okay."
"I'm fine," you tell him. "Everything is fine."
"Okay," he says. He's either distracted or a little oblivious, or you're just that good at suppressing your feelings, or perhaps a combination of both. "Just checking in. I'll be home in a few hours. See you then."
At least there's one person who cares.
It's almost three a.m. and you've been timing the contractions since midnight at least. But it's a school night, you think to yourself, wishing to postpone this until the weekend at least. You've got an AP test coming up, and you don't want to miss more class than you have to. It doesn't occur to you until the next pain hits you in the gut that babies don't really care about the day of the week. You're pretty sure, too, that your water just broke, and there's really no turning around after that, is there? You opt to get dressed before waking Mr. Schue, stripping off your now-soaked pajamas and reaching for whatever clothes are nearest before the next contraction strikes.
You clutch your belly as you stagger out of your room, knocking gently at first at the entrance to Mr. Schue's room, but then your guts twist again and you hit the door so hard it flies open. Mr. Schue had already leapt out of bed and thrown his robe on, and now he's got his hands beneath your armpits, pulling you back up and supporting you.
"Jesus, Quinn," he utters. He sounds just as scared as you are. He takes your hand in his, asking "How far apart are the contractions?"
"Like, every five minutes," you reply breathily.
He mutters a few choice words beneath his breath as he leads you into the living room. "Sit down here for a minute," he tells you. "I'm going to start the car and pull it up front. Do you have a bag packed?"
"It's in my room," you tell him. By "your room" of course, you mean the half-nursery half-craft room that Mrs. Schuester never finished, and Mr. Schue hurries there and snatches the bag you'd left by the bed before vanishing out the front door with it. While he's gone, there's a few brief minutes of calm, and you rub the tears from your eyes and inhale deeply, trying to convince yourself that you're ready for this.
"Come on, Quinn, let's go," you hear Mr. Schue calling from the front door, and you rise to your feet to meet him at the door.
She's a round, pink little thing, with a face like a doll's and a dark head of hair, and she's curled up against your bosom like she was born to be there. Eight pounds, two ounces, they told you, but she feels weightless in your arms. Her tiny fists pound ineffectually on against your chest as she stretches and yawns, and you're transfixed. Every move she makes is fascinating to you; when she opens her eyes, it's electrifying.
You're not sure how you're supposed to let go.
"Quinn." Mr. Schue's there, still in his pajama pants and robe. It's apparent that he hadn't gone back home in all the time you were in labor.
"Mr. Schue!" You've never been so happy to see someone in all your life. But your gladness is tainted; there are tears rolling down your cheeks as he pulls a chair up beside your bed.
"She's beautiful," he tells you. "May I hold her?"
"Sure." You're new at this, but you're careful and he's careful and the baby gurgles a bit during the transfer but otherwise doesn't complain. In fact, when he holds her, she seems to fit naturally into his arms, and she opens her eyes and stares up at him, waving her tiny baby fists in the air.
His face changes as she coos quietly. He's completely taken with her, this little girl, and his eyes start to glimmer with tears. When he speaks, he doesn't look at you - he's too captivated. "I don't want to pressure you either way, Quinn," he says. "I just want to let you know, whatever you decide, you're always welcome to stay with me." He pauses. "Both of you."
"They asked me for her name," you tell him.
He sighs, and without turning his head, he raises his eyes to meet yours. "Does that mean you're going to keep her?"
You swallow back a lump in your throat. "If I do," you start, but you have to pause for a moment. This is the most important decision you know you'll ever have to face, so you want to make sure you know what you're doing. "If I keep her," you begin again, "will you be there for her, like you've been there for me?"
Mr. Schue starts crying, and for a moment you think you've scared him or something. "It would be an honor," he says soberly. "And a pleasure."
You're not expected to come to school at all that week, but by Friday you're feeling better and think that you could at least make it to glee practice.
You bring her with you.
From outside in the hallway you can hear their idle chatter with one another. Someone's tinkling on the piano, and Rachel Berry's voice, clear and distinct, rises above everyone else's, even though her words are incomprehensible on the other side of the door. When you walk into the music room with the baby resting in a sling against your chest, you freeze. There's silence like you've never heard from these kids, and you wonder for a brief moment if it's because they all still secretly hate you. But Mr. Schue's beaming in the front of the room, and he strides over to you with pride as he places a hand on your shoulder and pulls you into the class.
"Guys," he says. "Let me introduce you to the newest member of New Directions."
The infant squirms in her sling and coos at him as though she'd been waiting for this, her cue. Suddenly everyone in the club is on their feet, and you finagle her out of the sling so everyone can get a closer look.
"Quinn," Finn begins, hesitant but smiling. He knows the child isn't his, but you know that didn't mean he'd stopped loving her. He's earnest and goofy as he turns to you and asks, "Can we call her Drizzle?"
"She totally looks like a Drizzle," Brittany agrees. "She's got a Drizzle face."
"Her name is Sarah," you tell them, but you can't help but laugh. "Maybe she can be Sarah Drizzle."
"She kind of looks like a human raisin," Tina remarks. "I mean that in a good way."
"She's got Drizzle hair," Brittany adds. "And Drizzle eyes."
Mercedes and Kurt are staring wide-eyed at her, ooh-ing and aah-ing and waving at her. Artie's wheeled himself underneath, joking about catching the baby if anyone drops her. Santana hangs back, a little wary but intrigued, while Rachel seems absolutely mesmerized by the tiny little form. "She's so beautiful," she tells you, sincere.
Puck comes up behind you, looking at the baby over your shoulder. He'd come once to see you and the baby in the hospital, all tearful and apologetic, and even now he's struggling to keep from getting emotional. "Listen," he says quietly, meant only for you to hear. "I know I've been kind of an asshole, but I really do want to be there for the kid."
You nod. "It's okay. I know."
"I'm really sorry, Quinn," he says. He reaches around you and cups your infant daughter's head, running his thumb gently through her hair. "I mean it. Like, really sorry. I can be more than good dad. I can be good to you, too."
Mr. Schue's standing beside you; you hadn't even realized he was there. "If you want to make that happen, Puck, you better not hurt her. She's like a daughter to me."
"Sarah is?" Puck asks.
"Quinn," Mr. Schue clarifies. "Quinn is like a daughter to me."
In that instant, you feel more loved than you have in your entire life. You can't deny that it's a little weird - a year ago you were complaining about Mr. Schue's Spanish final, and now he's the second-most important person in your world. Thanks to him, you've stopped thinking of your life in terms of how it's been ruined, and start thinking about all the possibilities that have been opened.
There's more fussing over the baby, before Mr. Schue decides to call it a day. "All right, guys, might as well end here. Have a great weekend, everybody." Even after they've been dismissed, they leave slowly, each one hugging you and kissing Sarah's head before they go. Eventually it's just the three of you left behind - Sarah, you, and Mr. Schue. "Ready to head home?" he asks, slinging his briefcase across his shoulder.
"Sure thing, Mr. Schue," you reply.