(Reposted because I just noticed that FFN didn't include my section breaks! Grr.)

Title: Way Things Should Be
Author:
Dream Writer 4 Life
Rating:
R/NC-17
Genre:
Romance, hard angst
Archived:
FFN, LJ, my site. Anywhere else, just ask and you shall receive!
'Shippers' Paradise: Finn/Rachel. Vive la Finchel!
Spoilers/Timeline:
Future fic; no specific spoilers.
Disclaimer:
I own nothing. Period. End of story. Wait, no it's not! Keep reading!
Summary:
"This is how things are supposed to go, he thinks. He has a job, a house, a wife — all of which he did not have the last time the baby bomb dropped." When Finn and Rachel start a family, they discover that scars run deeper than they thought. A DWE.
Suggested Soundtrack:
Let's be eclectic, shall we? "What Is and Never Should Be" by Led Zeppelin (for Finn, mostly), "You and Me" by Lifehouse, "Good Day" by Luce, "I Shall Believe" by Sheryl Crow, "Farewell" by Rosie Thomas, "Ooh Ooh Child" by Beth Orton, "Fields of Gold" by Eva Cassidy, "Heavenly Day" by Patty Griffin
Author's Note:
My Glee fic cherry is effectively popped. And, of course, I have to do it with a bang. I'm not for the faint of heart, kiddles! But I hope you enjoy all the same. Lemme know! Constructive criticism is always welcome. And since I speak French, vive la Finchel!


Way Things Should Be

It just feels different this time. Good-different (fantastically toe-tingling-different, if he's honest), but different all the same.

When he enters her like a pilgrim entering the Vatican, and she arches her back, pushing her breasts towards his gasping mouth, and — his brain pauses while he suckles — she pants a "Finn" with more breath than substance . . . He's not great with words at the calmest times, but he thinks even her vocabulary couldn't find a word for the overwhelming rightness coursing through his body. Sure, they've done this a lot: they have been married for two years, together for nearly ten, and there was that time when they were horny teenagers. But the way they fit tonight seems on another plane of existence.

And then Rachel tilts her hips just so, and he feels the tell-tale rush begin in his gut entirely too quickly; he slows and drops his forehead to her chest, scrambling for the shreds of control long ago lost. She must not get the message, because she tries to continue on her own, grinding up into his pelvis and ghosting her nails down his back. After ten years of this, he likes to think he can hold his own when he's inside Rachel, but when she pulls something unexpected, thinking about that damn mailman is only step one of the solution. He mumbles a reminder of his problem into her left breast, but then she clenches those muscles around him, and he swears his eyes roll back into his head as he actually hisses. She begins kneading him from the inside and whispers possibly the most erotic thing he's ever heard: "Fuck me, Finn. Hard. I want you to come inside me."

Suddenly he's pounding into her, and they're holding onto each other's shoulders from underneath like they do right before they shatter into a billion pieces, and the little sex goddess beneath him is growling.

He made his little sex goddess growl.

She implodes, and he explodes, and their breath shudders as they descend the slope towards normalcy. But he stays buried within her. He does not want to relinquish this different-but-awesome connection they have somehow forged this night.

Her heaving chest slows, and when he glances up from his niche between her breasts, he chuckles to see her already dozing. His own eyelids feel too heavy for prolonged consciousness, so he rolls them to their sides, tucks her head beneath his chin, and succumbs to Orpheus.


Finn thinks their sex-as-exercise-while-sick idea may not have been their brightest. (Alright, his brightest.) Now they're both achy and snotty and vomit-y instead of just him. It's not entirely bad: they get to cuddle between services at the porcelain god — at least until Rachel remembers who did this to her, and she punches his shoulder. Hard. But he can deal as long as she keeps lying on his chest while they watch re-runs of I Love Lucy for the hundredth time.

When he recovers enough to crawl out of their bedroom and slink into work and she still holds daily vigils in the bathroom, he attributes it to the order of things. But when a week passes and she still cannot hold down anything more substantial than Saltines, he goes out of his mind with worry. Did he create some super mutated flu bug to which only he's immune? How could he give her the Finn Flu? Damn his penis for coming up with sick sex-cum (gah!)-exercise!

A week and a half after his miraculous recovery from the Finn Flu epidemic, he decides he will drive her to the emergency room when he gets home from work if she isn't up and jazzercising on the kitchen table. He's willing to risk an outbreak of Finn Flu if it means his soul mate might have a chance.

But he arrives home to find Rachel sitting cross-legged on their bed (above the covers and dressed!) surrounded by pastel books and reading a pamphlet with a hand perched lightly over her stomach.

The Finn Flu is worse than he thought.

His briefcase makes a thud on the carpet, and her head perks up as her hand hides behind her thigh. Not even bothering to loosen his tie, he crosses to the bed in three strides and kneels beside her, hands plaintively clasped on the light blue bedspread. "Feeling any better today, baby?" Even to him, his tone sounds more like a prayer than anything else.

She shakes her head slowly and opens her mouth to respond, but he's already to his feet to retrieve his car keys from some godforsaken pocket in his briefcase.

"I can't believe we waited this long. By now it's probably too late to do a full genetic panel on me to see why I'm immune—"

"—Finn—"

"Should I pack a bag? I should pack a bag: they'll want to contain you and observe me—"

"—Finn! —"

"Does our insurance cover newly-discovered plague-like illnesses?"

"FINN! I'm pregnant!"

He knows clichés are bad, but his heart really does stop beating. Only for a second, though, because then it's beating super fast, and he feels out of breath and dizzy and like he doesn't understand English anymore. He blinks long and hard while his tongue works to push out a thick, "Huh?"

She would not be Rachel Berry-Hudson if she did not roll her eyes and sigh, so when she does, he knows that at least she's not at Death's door. "I didn't plan to tell you like this — in fact, I was planning a homemade candlelight supper with champagne for you and sparkling grape juice for me, and between the entrée and dessert, I would give you this tiny red box with a pair of your old baby booties, and then we would have the most intimate sex of our lives on the cleared kitchen table, but I guess this'll do." She inhales, holding up the pamphlet, and spears him with her gaze. "I'm pregnant. We're going to have a baby."

Silence.

The words make sense by themselves, but when strung together in a sentence, he feels like he needs a decoder ring. "P-pregnant? With a baby?" he stammers.

The beginnings of a smile flicker around her lips. "Yes. And before you ask, yes, it's one hundred percent yours." The smile makes her bite her lower lip.

A bubble blooms deep down and expands to fill his whole torso, making him feel light and airy and giddy. Her smile is contagious, and soon he finds himself grinning like an absolute idiot. He drops to his knees beside the bed again, noticing for the first time the title of one of the books that surround the love of his life — What to Expect When You're Expecting. A decidedly unmanly laughgaspgiggle escapes from his throat, but he's too over the moon happy to care. He snatches up her hands, knocking most of the books to the ground in the process. "Seriously? You're not kidding?"

She shakes her head, and the grin she has been holding back envelops her entire face. "Seriously." She reclaims a hand and trails it from his temple to his cheek, tears forming in her eyes. "You're going to be a daddy."

The words burst out before he can stop them. "So the Finn Flu hasn't hurt the baby?"

Her brow furrows in confusion, but he's already toppling her backwards onto the bed, elbowing off the rest of the pregnancy books.

They have the most intimate sex of their lives on the bed instead.


This is how things are supposed to go, he thinks. He has a job, a house, a wife — all of which he did not have the last time the baby bomb dropped. This time around, he's somewhat prepared. That fact alone calms him more than a little bit, and calm is in short supply in the Berry-Hudson household.

The morning/all the freaking time sickness lasts longer than Finn feels is necessary, and the first day she goes through without feeling even a little bit nauseous, he does a mental jig. She was getting super skinny, and he doesn't think that's supposed to happen when a girl gets pregnant.

Rachel has always been rather level-headed about everything non-musical (in comparison to scary diva Rachel); intense always, but still logical even while passionate. So he thinks mood swings might be a moot point. And they were, until one night he comes home to see her slumped over the kitchen table, sobbing inconsolably into her arms, dinner still bubbling away on the stove. Through violent hiccups, she explains that she couldn't reach the second in the cabinets without standing on a chair, and did he really want to have children with someone who hasn't grown vertically since fourth grade? When even a Frankenteen reference does not banish the sobs, he hoists her to her feet by the elbows and tries his damnedest to kiss the sadness from her.

She still cries at the drop of a hat, and someone from the theatre calls his cell phone regularly about her "extreme diva fits," but now he knows how to calm her down.

The sex? Hot. Damn. He has half a mind to keep her continuously pregnant just so they can have really hot pregnant sex.

He didn't get to experience much the last time around (and definitely not the boundless joys of pregnant sex). She just hounded him about money and support and then hit him a lot. He didn't get to discover the exact day her stomach began curving. He didn't get to notice her areolas darkening and then ask what the hell that was about. He didn't get to feed the food cravings — except for the occasional ice cream. And the one week where she ate his pudding cup with more gusto (and pepper) than necessary. He didn't get the little, everyday things that make him really, truly believe that this is happening, that he is going to be a father. Only glimpses through a clouded windowpane. Now he understands just how much he missed.

But on the flip side, he knows Rachel compares herself to . . . Quinn. She makes comments about being too skinny and then too fat, and when he asks, "Compared to who?" she doesn't even correct his grammar. Instead, she gets all shifty-eyed and bites her lip before darting to the nearest bathroom, pretending to puke again. She asks strange but carefully-worded questions like, "Have you ever seen mood swings as dumb as mine?" or "Are pregnant women really supposed to avoid fish? Because that would seriously mess with my weekly lunch menu."

Like Quinn actually cared enough to talk about those types of things with him.

He wants to scream that this pregnancy with her is, like, five billion times awesomer than that pseudo first time, but he figures this goes on the long list of things he shouldn't blurt out.

But when she wonders aloud about her ungainly breasts, it's the last straw. He lovesworships — those boobs! The plate he's been washing crashes to the bottom of the sink, and she glares. "What's up with you, Rach? You're never this self-conscious! Or, at least, not out loud."

The fact that she doesn't immediately break into tears tells him that these are not hormones talking. She twists a dishrag in her hand, nearly snapping the soaked fibers. Her mouth opens and closes, and if it were any other time, he would pat himself on the back for making his wife speechless. He wants to supply her with what he's thinking, but he needs to hear it form her lips. When a soapy hand gravitates to the small of her back, she forms a sentence. "I am insanely jealous of the fact that Quinn got to do this with you first." He does not think she has ever sounded so small and vulnerable.

He shifts them to lean against the counter, and he dips his head to meet her eyes. "Even if you weren't my first baby mamma, you're my first real baby mamma." Wow, this sounded a lot better when he rehearsed it in the shower. "Yes, we went to doctor's appointments and ultrasounds and sonograms, and hers was the first baby I'd seen that hadn't already popped out yet—" his grave is getting deeper, if her grip on the towel means anything "—but it wasn't real. I didn't care — well, I did care, but I didn't care. . . ." Oh man, he wishes the earth would just swallow him now, because this word diarrhea could win a Darwin Award. Closing his eyes and taking the deepest breath of his life, he begins again.

"What I'm trying to say is, she chose me. And I chose, choose you."

Her grin starts small, but soon it's rivaling the lights in wattage. She throws her arms around his neck and peppers his throat with tiny kisses. "I knew you had it in you, Finn," she whispers to his Adam's apple.

Good, 'cause he sure didn't.

She pulls back far enough to look in his eyes, and he just lets the joy he sees wash over him like a balm. "One more question, and I promise I'll shut up." He nods, more than slightly wary. "When did Quinn feel the baby move?"

As he thinks about it, his face slumps. "The week before Sectionals, before I found out. . . ." The rest of the sentence isn't necessary, and she re-jumps into his embrace, hugging him to her like she wants to crawl inside his chest to soothe the pain.

But he doesn't feel any pain, hasn't since he proved his feelings for Rachel by kissing her on-stage in the middle of a showcase, definitely not since he came home to find her buried in pregnancy books. Something sticks in his throat, though: Quinn had been four months pregnant when they felt that first kick.

Rachel is nearly five months, and nothing.

Should he be worried?


Decision Baby Name, as Finn calls it, is getting out of hand. They decided to hold off with official names until he/she is born, but they both drop hints at their choices the size of elephant poop at every opportunity. He, himself, has pages and pages of names, some taped with scrap pieces of paper he swiped from the school at which he teaches. Thinking back to "Drizzle," he scoffs: the name of an amateur namer, the name of sixteen-year-old boy not ready to drive a car by himself let alone father an actual, real-live child. His new names are so much cooler, like Sunshine (what he thinks of when Rachel sings) or Shue (for Mr. Shue; Will is way too obvious).

And trying to fit that second one into an everyday conversation would stretch even Rachel's imagination.

So mostly Finn just stays silent and lets her drop the elephant poop-sized hints about names like Emma and Judith and James (after his father) before dropping a hand to her rounded belly, sentences trailing off into thought.

Still no movement, and now he's super worried. Maybe she simply has not told him about it. Maybe she thought it was just gas the first time, and didn't want to alert him to something so un-Rachel-like as farting. Yes. Yes, that sounds like Rachel.

Since it's nearing opening night for the show she most recently choreographed, she has been banned from the theatre ("'Too stressful,'" she had screeched, mocking the director), and they can cook dinner together all the time. He's in love with this domesticity. Making dinner; doing dishes; folding clothes; sweeping the (miniscule) patio in back of their townhouse.

It's the way things are supposed to be.

She stirs the pasta sauce at the stove while he chops vegetables for a salad and tells her about his day. Being the only Spanish-speaking math teacher at Cincinnati's P.S. 34 can be difficult, but today he's got some real knee-slapping stories. He's working his way up to this kick-ass punch line when he notices she has stopped stirring and merely stares at the backsplash, the one she designed herself that shows a stage lit by a brilliant sun.

"Rach? Rachel? Baby, what's wrong?" She doesn't respond verbally, but she drops the spoon with a muted thunk, and he notices that she's suddenly whiter than their cabinets, and her jaw goes slack, and then she drops.

Then time seems to play a game of keep-away.

He catches her — barely, but she does collapse into his arms instead of on the cold tile floor. Her eyelids are fluttering, and he's sputtering words that seem more like letters, trying to wrap his brain around what the hell is going on, when he notices the red: the red that stains the hem of her yellow skirt and forms perfect orbs on the tile. The red smeared on the side of her calf and delicate foot. The red that is all he can see.

He can't th — How — What — What's he supposed to do? Her arms hang slack, and her palms face him, completely at his mercy and begging him to do something fast. But the love of his life, his soul mate, lays limp in his arms, bleeding from the—

Oh God.

The baby.

No.

He may have whispered it, he may have screamed it, but the word echoes in his brain, and it somehow gives him the cajones to jog his body into action. Without relinquishing his hold on her still-unconscious body, he gropes for whichever phone is closest. Fingers stumble upon her pink sparkly iPhone on the butcher's slab next to the stove, calls the ambulance. Must have said something coherent, because the 911 operator hangs up at one point, and he realizes much too late that he's still holding the pink sparkles to his ear. Throws the phone down like a hot pan.

With his heart in his throat, he settles against the cabinets with her back against his chest, stroking her shining hair and willing everything to go back to the way it should be.


Rachel delivers, red and pained, in a pristine hospital room with Finn beside her gripping her hand and wiping their tears.


Finn only catches a quick glimpse of it as they take it away. About as long as the span between his thumb and pinky and fully resembling a human baby, not body parts as he had feared. (Even though Rachel avoided the gloomy research, he couldn't bone up enough on what black things might befall his family.)

Body parts would have made an already shitty situation downright unbearable.

He feels this strange tug, a yearning to memorize this . . . thing that almost brought so much joy to their lives. At one level, he knows that it's weird and more than a little gross, but he wants to know what it — she — looked like. A perfect little girl with arms and legs and eyes that they created out of their endless love — perfect except for the fact that, like both her parents, she was a bit overeager to meet the world. So, see, he needs to see her if only to then let her go forever. But one of the nurses hurriedly buses the tray out of the room, and he tosses a bucket of ice water on that freaky desire.

The numbing fog enveloping his brain makes him feel queasy, like he's going to hurl all over the newly-cleaned floor. Emotions he has no interest in naming poke at the edges of his consciousness, but for the moment, shock seems to have a firm hold on all bodily functions, pulling his strings in slow motion.

Movement around him cuts through the fog, and he gradually becomes aware of the nurses still bustling around his wife, and then a pain slices through him so sharply that he gasps aloud and has to turn away before he really does hurl.

There's still red.

And now that the fog can't cushion the blow, he's not sure he can watch.

All that's left is cold, sadness, and air. Lots of air. But not light, fluffy air — more like air that's made of anvils, so not really air but this heavy feeling like a sumo wrestler is sitting on his chest, but that image is just nasty, so he turns back to the hospital bed and his wife.

The nurses have finished attending her . . . down there, but their doctor lingers awkwardly at the foot of the bed, still in red-smeared scrubs, shifting his weight side to side like some adolescent Angel of Death. But now his eyes can't stray from his wife. Like his gaze alone can protect her from this despair that has no words. Like he couldn't protect her, them. He knows he's being mass-o-kiss-tic, but it feels like something he should be thinking, and anything resembling what should be is good, right? As their doctor tries to shift into his eye line, Finn feels something fierce and hot bubble up from his gut, but before he can name it, their doctor nods towards the door. They file out into the corridor, Finn still facing the window into the room.

The doctor's speaking, but Finn's thoughts are whirling too quickly to understand why it happened when he's still stuck on that it happened. He stares through the window, through the open blinds to the love of his life. She looks like she could be sleeping, but he knows better; even though her back faces him, he can see her shoulders shaking with silent sobs. He wants to dart in there, drag her to his chest, and murmur that everything's going to be all right, that things will get brighter. Be the knight on a white horse that she needs right now.

But all he can see is red and black, and he's in way too much shock to be riding anything at the moment.

So he does what he can.

Ducking back into the room without noticing or caring it their doctor is finished, Finn softly approaches the bed barely big enough for one normal person and clambers on behind her. At first, she doesn't acknowledge him, but when he gently turns her into his chest, he feels tiny arms meet around his middle, squeezing with strength belying what her body just went through. She's shaking, and he's shaking, and then they're vibrating to the same inner despair without words. She lets out a strangled sob into his shirt, and he loses it. His hands cradle her broken body as he weeps into her hair.


This is not how things are supposed to go, he thinks. He's done his research (very un-Finn-like, but when it comes to Rachel, he'd walk through fire), reading up on what happens when . . . something like this happens. He learns what signs to watch for, what to do when he sees them.

And then . . .

Nothing.

Nothing.

Sure, they grieve together: making the phone calls, sending back early gifts, cancelling registries, crying a lot. Mostly that. He's surprised he has any tears left to cry, especially after that first night at the hospital, but they bubble up at the oddest times. He finds himself tearing up looking at the empty driveway; waking up in the middle of the night with salty cheeks, holding Rachel tightly enough to cut off circulation; literally sobbing over a spilled glass of milk. And when he finds her crying as she changes a light bulb, they cry together for a solid hour.

So yes, there is sadness. And a lot of snotty tissues.

But zero other signs of grief from her. He expected at least some thrown plates or calls from mangled performers, but no. Nothing.

That's another thing: she goes back to work too quickly for his taste. She doesn't even finish out her maternity leave; just gets up with his alarm on a Wednesday morning, shares his shower, and heads off to the theatre like she had done the same thing Tuesday.

He's not asking for much. He doesn't want her immobile in their bed. But he wants a little bit more than this . . . blah-say brush off.

It pisses him off.

But he says nothing, telling himself that maybe she regressed to denial. Yeah, maybe that's what happened. The chick with the über German last name never made a rule against regression.

He clings to that thought like he clings to Rachel at night.

So when he hears her laugh for the first time since since, and it's coming from the nursery, he thinks actual steam pours from his ears. He's not even ready to think about laughing again! And she's in the nursery: the one place in their townhouse they have yet to cry in since since. He tried to enter once when Rachel was still at work, and he couldn't even get the door completely open before another sumo wrestler sat on his chest and he could not breathe.

And she is laughing in there.

His shoes, coat, briefcase, blazer, and tie mark his furious path from the front door to that damn laughter, and despite Sumo Wrestler Guy threatening his lungs, he throws open the door and bursts into the room, chest filled with bubbles of boiling anger.

She sits in the middle of the nearly-empty room surrounded by boxes that have seen better days. One lays open, vomiting pastel fabric, and she has another pile on her lap. Something pink and sparkly perches on one of the boxes, and he realizes it's her phone when a tinny laugh floats from it.

So she's folding baby clothes while laughing on the phone.

The. Hell.

"Rachel." His tone scares even him, and she jerks as she looks up.

"Finn? Is that you? You home?" A familiar voice giggles from the pink sparkles, and it somehow adds to his fury.

He marches to the box it rests on, snatches it, and snaps, "Rachel's gonna have to call you back, Mercedes." He ends the call and slams the phone back down with way more force than necessary. His chest is heaving, now, and he's shaking, and he doesn't know where all this red is coming from, but it starts coloring everything he sees.

"Finn? Baby, what's wrong?" Her voice sounds more worried than anxious, and that last thread of control snaps. He can only see red.

Rounding on her, his face contorts like it's only contorted once before. "What's wrong? What the hell are you doing in here, laughing and-and-and touching her things, and wait — are you packing them up? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with you?"

She finishes folding the sleeper in her lap and carefully places it in the open box before deigning to stand as well. "Baby, we've talked about this: in order to fully recover from this miscarriage, we have to go through all of the belongings. I was hoping we could do it together. It would be cathartic." He can tell she's keeping a tight hold on her emotions, but he doesn't care.

Usually he tries to negate their height difference, but this time he exploits it. Stepping towards her, he broadens his shoulders and sets his jaw. She looks like an ant from way up here. "How could you even think of doing that? How can you touch her things and put them away like she's—"

"She's not coming back, Finn. We will always love her, but she's dea—"

He punches the wall.

Like, not a closes-fist, hole-in-the-wall punch, but an open-palm, scary-sound-making punch.

He didn't think he had it in him anymore.

His entire hand burns, but it's nothing like the inferno blazing in his spine and singeing his heart. Some part of his brain registers Rachel's startled but in control expression. He ignores it, and when he speaks, he barely recognizes the clipped words and frigid tone. "Don't say that."

"But it's true!" He hears the sting of a steel-hard core within the gentle plea to see reason, but he doesn't face her. So she forces herself into his eye line, thrusting her face up at him, her gaze still soft. "We can cry and scream and yell all we want, but it can't change the fact that she's never coming back—"

"But that's just it! You don't scream and yell! You cried for a bit, and now you're over it. How can you ever be over it? You don't seem to care at all!"

Suddenly she's across the room, miles away, looking like he had smacked her instead of the wall. Her gaze hardens as he watches her close off from him. "How dare you." Not a question: an accusation. "Just because I'm handling this in my own way doesn't mean I'm not grieving."

He feels the slippery slope beneath his feet, but he keeps sliding. "I don't think you're grieving at all. I don't think you get it."

She throws her hands in the air. "What do you want? Rending garments, sack cloth and ashes? That's not me, Finn, and you know it. I'm not going to lock myself in the bathroom and cry for days just because it's what you think I should do."

"Well, you certainly shouldn't be laughing like this is some sort of-of joke!"

Her eyes widen. "You think I'm not taking this seriously enough? Do you know how many times I berated myself for not being able to carry a baby to term and Quinn could? I'm a twenty-six-year-old woman, and I couldn't accomplish what a sixteen-year-old girl could do!"

"Rachel—"

"But then I realized that all my old high school insecurities were not going to do me any favors now, and I might as well resolve them before they become detrimental to our relationship. When something hurts too much, it must be triaged. I'm done comparing myself to Quinn. I'm done. It won't help me; it won't help you; and it most certainly won't help us."

"This isn't about Quinn," he grunts through clenched lips.

"Then what is it about? You haven't really talked to me since the hospital! I've gone through the denial, bargaining, and whatnot, and I'm working at the acceptance; I really am. And I know you're trying, but you should know by now that you can't handle this on your own, and that's what I'm here for, but you're not using me, so I have no idea how to help you. How to help us. What we think should happen clearly isn't happening, so we need to adapt. I think we need to communicate. What do you want?"

"I want you to grow a soul. You're fucking heartless."

The silence stretches like an ocean between them that neither knows how to swim. And despite the stunned hurt swelling in her eyes, words tumble forth without censor, fingers tearing at his hair. "You don't get it. The first one, I fell in love with her and swore to protect her. I sang to her; I gave up you for her! But she was taken away because she wasn't mine. And the second one was ours and perfect and everything she should be! I did everything right this time, and she was taken away for no reason at all!"

"What do you—"

"I lost two baby girls! Two! Do you have any idea the amount of pain I'm in right now?"

The rest of what he wants to say (scream) is lost in wrenching, body-wracking sobs. His knees buckle, but instead of landing on the floor, he collapses into the circle of her arms. His huge body completely wraps around her tiny frame, and he drags her to the floor with him, a tangled mass of shaking, snotty flesh.

He doesn't storm out.

She doesn't pack her bags, write a note, and leave the state.

They don't gradually drift irreconcilably apart.

They do sit against the wall of the nursery, talking of what is, what isn't, and what will be.


The next time 'it just feels different,' he can't help but get his hopes up.

When she announces, he is cautiously optimistic, so cautious that he starts padding corners, and she throws a diva fit when he tries to carry her up the stairs.

When she reaches eighteen weeks and feels the baby move for the first time, he immediately runs around the school, shaking hands with everyone he meets and grinning like a fool.

When they're in the delivery room, he's too grossed out to watch, and so rides it out up by Rachel's head, still grinning like a fool while she curses his fully-grown Frankenstein's monster frame.

When she comes out screaming, he releases a breath he didn't know he was holding (probably for nine months), and merely nods dumbly as the doctor comments on her strong set of lungs.

When the doctor hands her over, he thinks two things: one, 'We're a real family,' and two, 'Ohmigod, I'm gonna break her!' But Rachel cradles her with such poise and calm that he allows himself to stroke her (very healthy) head of dark hair, and as nothing falls off, he considers it a successful first impression. The kiss he shares with Rachel over their daughter immediately rockets to number one on his list of Most Kick-Ass Moments of All Time. (He should rename that list.)

And later, when he loiters outside the nursery with his hands shoved in his pockets, and stares at her nameplate, he smirks with no small amount of self-satisfaction. Evelyn Bliss Berry-Hudson: Evie, his little Bliss Berry. (She's hours old, and she already has two nicknames! He's going to be the best dad.) It's no Drizzle, or even Sunshine Shue, but as she yawns and jabs at the air with curled fists the size of one of his knuckles, he just knows. Sadness and all, this is the way things should be.

END