cava·tina (kav′ə tē′nə; It kä′vä tē′nä)
A short, simple solo song or melody that is usually part of a larger composition, such as an opera or oratorio.
The Other Woman
"Hello?" Michael Kutner called, dropping his bag inside the door of his darkened childhood home. No one responded, save for the family's Golden Retriever, Sarge, who ran out from the kitchen.
"Hey buddy!" He smiled and ruffled the fur on the dog's head fondly. "I guess nobody's home, huh?"
He took a quick look around; there was definitely no one in the kitchen or the basement man cave, nor was there anyone in their small backyard. Not that it surprised him, of course. The Hudson family was a family of go-getters, movers and shakers, and none of them really sat around for long, but he had thought at least one of his parents or siblings would be home by now. He sighed and hoisted his duffle bag back onto his shoulder and ran upstairs to his bedroom.
He entered the room and flung his bag on the bed, trying to steel himself for the weekend ahead. He hadn't been home in over a month, which was reason in itself for his mother to let him have it, but he also had some news that he didn't think she would feel too kindly about either. His dad was pretty good at making her see logic, though, so he could only hope that they would see eye-to-eye on this new development.
He walked into the darkened bathroom that he normally shared with Andrew to freshen up a bit for his family got home. He was washing his hands when he noticed an eerie blue light from under the door that led to his brother's bedroom and tentatively pushed it open. He saw Andrew's profile as he sat hunched over in front of his computer monitor, typing away madly with a big smile on his face.
"What's up, Wolowitz?" he called, causing Andrew to whip his head to the side in surprise.
"Oh, it's you," Andrew grumbled and turned back to his computer.
"What are you doing home?" Michael asked as he stepped into the room. He picked up a Rubick's Cube and nonchalantly began fidgeting with it. "If I had known you were coming home this weekend, we could have hitched a ride together."
"Got home last night – classes were canceled for the rest of the week."
Michael squinted over at Andrew. He knew plenty of people who attended MIT and none of them had mentioned their classes being canceled. "Really?"
"Yes really. Now get out of here, HD," he snapped, using his acronym for "Harvard douche". "And stop touching my stuff!"
He left, wondering what had gotten into his usually good-natured younger brother and headed downstairs to scrounge up some food. He smiled upon entering his mom's large, well-decorated kitchen. The room had been a scene of many family moments throughout his childhood, from arguments about the benefits of beef versus soy, to awkward sex talks, to impromptu concerts put on by his parents.
He pulled a container of Chinese out of the refrigerator and sniffed it curiously. He wrinkled his nose and put it back just as he heard the front door open. He poked his head out of the kitchen and grinned upon seeing his dad, balancing a few boxes of pizza, with his youngest brother and step-cousin in tow.
"Hey guys," he called, rushing over to help Finn with the pizza.
Christopher looked up and smiled at him, and Michael had to do a quick double take. Not only had ten-year-old hit a growth spurt, but he was looking more and more like their father as each day passed.
"Hey!" Finn exclaimed. "We weren't expecting you this weekend!"
"I was able to get some time off work, so I figured I'd come into town and visit you guys. It's been a while."
"Five weeks," Christopher said and Michael reached down to pull him into a fond hug. Chris didn't usually speak a lot, but when he did, it was because he had something to say.
"Not that we're keeping track," Finn clarified, walking into the kitchen. "Your mother's just been lamenting your absence since the day you left." Michael chuckled; that sounded just like her, of course.
"Can we eat our pizza out here, Uncle Finn?" George asked. "So we can watch the baseball game?"
Finn nodded and threw some paper towels their way. "When Aunt Rachel's away, the meat-eaters will feast in her living room," he joked. Turning to them as an afterthought, he called, "Chris, make sure Andrew knows we've got him some pizza."
Michael took them out some plates and sat down at the kitchen table. "Where is Mom, by the way?"
"Oh, she took Lainey to a show. One of her student's is an understudy and the lead just so happened to lose her voice, so they've gone to lend their moral support." He rolled his eyes. "It's just an excuse to catch a show."
Andrew came in quickly and grabbed himself the box on the top before hurrying back out of the room.
"Hey!" Finn shouted after him. "At least take a napkin. And bring the box back down when you're done!"
He shook his head and opened the refrigerator. "I swear to God his room is like science experiment. Your mom and I have stopped going in there when he's home… beer?" he offered.
"You don't have to ask me twice," Michael replied. "So what's George doing here on a school night?"
Finn groaned as he took a seat across from Michael. "Vivien dyed her hair green so it's World War III over at the Hummel-Hebert household. I told Jer we'd take him until the dust settles."
"Oh yeah. Neon green."
"Poor Uncle Jer."
His dad shrugged and took a swig of his beer. "He's survived worse. Me on the other hand…" Michael looked over at him questioningly. "Your sister got into Juilliard."
"That's a good thing, right?"
"She also got into some program… in London."
Michael bit back a grin. "So I take it that's not a good thing."
"I'm proud of her, of course. I just think she's a little young to be living abroad on her own for a year." Then he sighed deeply and shook his head. "You'll understand when you have a little girl of your own."
"Maybe." Michael fidgeted with the beer bottle in his hands.
Finn sat and inspected his son for moment. "So, what's up with you, Mike? Everything going okay?"
He nodded slowly. "Yeah, everything's going great. Classes are going good, internship is a breeze… I met a girl."
Finn smirked. "Oh really?"
"Yeah. She's working on her on her MBA. That's how we met, at this graduate mixer at the frat. She's funny… pretty. Really pretty. That's not all." He looked up at Finn, a slow smile creeping across his face. "We're engaged."
"No kidding?" Finn laughed, clapping Michael on the shoulder. "That's my boy! You didn't waste any time did you?"
Michael shrugged. "We've been dating for six months. I know it's a little fast, but she's the one, Dad. I just know. And it's not like we can get married right away, anyway. We talked to her parents and they agreed to pay for the wedding as long as we wait until we're both done with school and I can afford an engagement ring."
"That sounds reasonable to me," Finn said. "Does this dream girl have name?"
"Nya," Michael answered, a small smile tugging at his lips at the very sound of her name.
Finn grinned and held up his beer bottle. "Well then, to Michael and Nya!" They clicked their bottles together and lapsed into a companionable silence as they ate their pizza.
"So, when do we get to meet the famous Nya?" Finn asked as he finished off a piece of crust.
Michael cleared his throat and squirmed slightly in his chair. "Um… tomorrow."
Finn balked and stared at his son in bewilderment. "You're joking, right?"
"I know, I know –"
"You know I understand that you're an adult and I support you all the way. If you say that you love this girl and that she's the one for you, then I believe you. But your mother is going to flip her lid."
"No, Mike, I mean seriously. She's going to freak out. And you're only giving her one day to get used to the idea before you let that poor girl wander into her clutches. I'm just telling you now, there will be blood… and I will be hiding in the man cave."
"That's why I came home tonight, so that I could break the news and give her a night to sleep on it. How was I supposed to know she wasn't going to be home?"
Finn looked over at him incredulously. "It's called a phone, son. You got into Harvard Law how, again?"
"Okay, so maybe this wasn't my most thought out plan, but I kind of wanted to surprise everybody."
"Oh, they're going to be surprised."
Michael looked over at him pleadingly. "Well, maybe you could kind of tell her when she gets home tonight. Soften the blow a bit."
"Are you insane?" Finn asked. Then he sighed and shook his head. "Okay, here's what I'll do. I'll talk to her tonight, give her a heads up, and we can only pray that she doesn't go all Rachel Berry on us in the morning."
Michael heaved a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Dad. You're a lifesaver."
"Yeah, well you totally owe me. If Lainey goes bugging you about London, you're on my side, do you understand?"
He nodded enthusiastically. "She's much too young and inexperienced to live overseas. Got it."
"I'm going to need another beer or four." Finn stood up and made his way back to the refrigerator. "This weekend is going to be a shit storm."
Michael woke up early the next morning to the dull sounds of his family getting ready for the day. Normally he would sleep in a little on his day off, but the smell of breakfast wafting into his room was just too much to resist. So he got up and made himself semi-presentable and headed downstairs.
As he neared the kitchen, he could make out the familiar sounds of the radio and his mom singing along. Maybe she didn't take the news as badly as he thought!
"Morning, Mikey," Lainey called when he entered the room. She then popped an earbud back into her ear and resumed hollowing out a grapefruit.
"There he is!" Rachel cried, opening her arms wide to him and pulling him down for a wet kiss on the cheek. He caught Andrew rolling his eyes from his spot at the island next to their sister. "My Harvard boy! How are you, baby?"
"I'm doing well."
"I hope you're hungry. I made you a special breakfast! Cranberry and orange pancakes with toasted walnuts!"
"Aw, Mom," he said, leaning over to dip his finger in the bowl of batter, "you didn't have to do that."
"Of course I did! It's not every day that my oldest baby comes home!"
"Unlike Andrew here," Lainey commented, "who keeps coming home randomly when he's supposed to be in school."
"Mind your own business, prima donna," Andrew groused.
"Shut it, Wolowitz!"
"Knock it off you two," Finn ordered, not putting down his paper. Christopher and George sat next to him, a large stack of pancakes already between them, and giggled at the reprimand.
Michael chuckled and wrapped an arm protectively around Lainey. She was a pretty girl, and like Christopher, had Finn's features and height, standing at a leggy five foot eight, which was only a couple inches shorter than himself. From their mother, she had inherited her big brown eyes, loud mouth, and penchant for dramatics. Unlike their mother, though, she had a filter. "What are you listening to?"
"Just the Pas de deux from Don Quixote. Sebastian Fuller and I are dancing it for our end of year recital." She pointed her spoon at him. "You'd better come."
"I don't like that boy," Finn commented. "He smiles too much when he's hoisting you up."
Lainey rolled her eyes. "Daddy, Seb is gayer than this grapefruit. If he's smiling, it's because of Martin Hinckley, not me. Also, he just got his braces off." She turned back to Michael and smiled sneakily. "So, Mikey, did you hear the good news?"
"Nope, what news?" he asked, playing dumb as he poured himself a glass of orange juice.
"I got into a special program with the Royal Ballet School in London."
"Oh really? Don't you think you're a little young to live abroad alone?"
Lainey glared at him. "Daddy got to you, didn't he?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," he lied.
"Mama!" she cried, exasperated.
Rachel smiled sympathetically and patted her hand consolingly. "Don't worry, sweetie. You still have until next March to change his mind."
"No, she doesn't," Finn said, turning the page. "Because I'm not changing my mind."
"Daddy, don't you think you're being a little unreasonable?"
"Nope! End of discussion, Elaine."
"Hey, Rach, where are my pancakes?" he asked, ignoring her and finally setting the newspaper to the side.
Rachel plopped a plate down in front of him and turned back to Michael. "So, your father said last night that you have a friend coming to visit us this weekend!"
He had just taken the moment to bite into his food, which was entirely delicious, and stopped mid chew. Apparently this was his father's idea of giving her a heads up. "Uh…"
"Is he a law student too?"
"Um… no. Business."
Rachel looked at him expectantly. "Well, what's his name?"
Michael cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Her name is Nya."
Andrew's and Lainey's heads snapped in his direction and his mother raised an eyebrow. "Oh." She inspected him quietly for a moment before walking back to the stove. "I knew you'd bring a girlfriend home eventually. It was only a matter of time."
"About that, Mom…" he said. Andrew and Lainey leaned in closer, obviously interested in where the conversation was going, and things had gone still at the table behind them. The only sound in the room was Sarge's tail thumping the floor as he stared up at Christopher for a handout.
"She's actually my fiancée," he finally blurted, causing his brother's and sister's heads to snap in the direction of their mother.
Rachel stared at him blankly for a second before crossing her arms resolutely in front of her. "And I suppose you didn't know about this last night, Finn?" she asked her husband accusingly.
Finn paused, his coffee cup at his lips, and shrugged. "It wasn't my news to tell."
"Well, absolutely not."
"Excuse me?" Michael asked incredulously.
"I said no, Michael. You're much too young to get married!"
"Mom, I'll be 25 in a few months! That's six years older than you were when you married our dad," he argued, motioning towards Andrew.
"So, you're still in school."
"I didn't say we're getting married right away. She's got to finish her MBA and I want to pass the bar first. And hopefully have a job."
"Michael, marriage is a huge step. The responsibility for a family is tremendous. Have you even considered this?"
"Lainey, Christopher, George, why don't you guys run upstairs and change for school?" Finn suggested.
Lainey groaned, but stood to follow Christopher and George out of the room. Before she left though, she placed a placating hand on Michael's shoulder. "If you jump on the London bandwagon, I'll be nice to your fiancée," she said.
"Upstairs now, Elaine," Finn ordered.
It was quiet for a moment after the younger kids left and Andrew muttered under his breath. "Well," he said, "I think this is the perfect opportunity to tell you that I've been kicked out of the dorms for having pot in my room. But since you all have more important things to discuss, I'll get out of your way." He stood to leave, but Finn's stern voice stopped him.
"Stop!" Andrew froze and looked over at him, his face pale. "Basement."
"Nah, Dad, it's cool," he said, trying to sound nonchalant. "I understand you and Mom have your hands full with Casanova over here, so we can talk about it later. And didn't you say that you have that really important meeting this morning? I'd hate for you to be late for that!"
"Well, Andrew," Finn said, standing up. "That's the cool thing about being the boss. The meeting doesn't start until I get there."
Andrew gulped and met Michael's eye. "Good luck," Michael sighed.
"Yeah, you too." He turned on his heel and walked over to the basement door. "I'd just like to point out," Michael heard him say, "that Michael and I are the only Kutners left. If you kill both of us, you've effectively killed our good family name. So, I volunteer Michael as today's human sacrifice."
Finn sighed and turned to his wife. "If I'm not up in twenty minutes, call the cops because I've murdered your son. Any longer and I will have already gotten rid of the body."
Rachel shook her head and turned back to Michael once they were gone. "And I thought I had raised you two right."
"Mom!" Michael exclaimed. "I'm engaged! It's not like I just told you I've been prostituting myself on the streets for crack."
"You're right. But here I was thinking that I had raised a son that could trust me. A son that could be open and honest with me. Honestly Michael, how long have you been seeing this girl?"
Michael looked down at the plate in front of him. "Six months," he mumbled.
"What was that?"
"Six months," he said more clearly.
"Six months?" she cried, throwing her hands up in the air. "You really think you know a person after six months?"
"Um… let's think about this Mom. You married Dad after only a few months. You married Finn in even less time."
Rachel pointed at him warningly. "Finn was my boyfriend for two and half years."
"Yeah, with only an eight year break in between."
"Well this is about you, not me! What were you thinking throwing me into this position on such little notice."
"Mom," he groaned. "You're right, okay, I'm sorry. But we don't have to do anything fancy. I just want to bring home the girl I'm going to marry to meet my parents. I was just expecting a nice, quiet weekend so that you could get to know Nya. That's all."
"That's all, huh? You want to bring a total stranger into our home and treat her like family."
"That's the jist of it, yeah."
"Well, fine. Seeing as how I don't have a choice in the matter, I'll prepare the guest room today. There is no way you're sleeping in the same bed under my roof," she spat.
"And I'll pick up something nice for a nice, quiet family dinner." A sly look crossed over her face, but she hid it before he could say anything. He knew she was up to something, but there was no way he could prove it now. He could only hope that it wasn't too awful.
She sighed and massaged her temples between her thumb and middle finger. "Is there anything else you're not telling me? She's not pregnant is she? Her parents are okay with it?"
"No, she's not pregnant. And her parents are fine with it. I got to meet them over Spring Break."
"I thought you went to Cabo for Spring Break!"
He froze, knowing he was caught in a lie. "Um… no. They live Upstate."
Rachel huffed indignantly and took a seat at the kitchen table, forcing Michael to turn in his seat. "Well, what do her parents do?"
"Well, her mom's a homemaker and her dad's in politics."
"Politics?" she asked warily.
"He's a congressman." Rachel just looked at him. "Oliver Brennan," he clarified.
"Oh God!" she cried, burying her face in her hands. "They're republicans!"
It had been a stressful day to say the least. Once Finn left for work, and Lainey and the boys left for school, Rachel had effectively ignored her two oldest children. Not that Andrew seemed to want to talk too much anyway. He holed himself up in his room after being told off by Finn and hadn't been out since.
So Michael did what he could. His room was fairly neat and tidy since he hadn't been there in a while, so he caught up on some reading while Rachel stomped up and down the stairs all day. He breathed a sigh of relief when it was finally time for him to pick up Nya at Grand Central and ran out the door as quickly as possible.
He eagerly waited outside her platform and looked enthusiastically around for her as people rushed off her train. Finally he spotted her honey brown head in the crowd and hurried over to her. He scooped her up in an exuberance that stemmed from her absence at his side the night before (okay, it had only been one day since they had seen each other, but it was young love; he was allowed to be corny), and twirled her around in a circle, kissing her madly.
She giggled happily, her brown eyes sparkling, when he set her down. "Well, I missed you too!"
"You have no idea how much I missed you, hon. It was excruciating," he insisted as he stooped down to pick up her suitcase.
"Oh, don't be silly," she said, looping her arm through his and put her head on his shoulder as they walked out of the terminal. "It's only been one day. So… how do I look? Is this appropriate for meeting the in-laws?"
"You look beautiful!" he exclaimed, taking in her light blouse and flowy skirt. "You always look pretty, you should know that."
"Hm, maybe. But I would say you're a little biased."
"Possibly, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong," he murmured, leaning down to kiss her lightly on the lips.
"So, did you talk to your parents?" she asked when he pulled away.
She gave him a sideways glance. "…and?"
"And they took it well."
"Even your mother?"
"Yeah," he lied, his voice higher than he liked.
She laughed softly and squeezed his hand in hers. "You have a tell."
"What do you mean?"
"Your voice always raises an octave when you're lying to me. You're going to have to overcome that before you set foot in court."
"What for? All my clients are going to be innocent."
They were at the street now and he stuck out his hand to hail a taxi. "So, she wasn't happy?" Nya asked as one finally pulled up.
Michael knocked on the back to get the driver to pop the trunk and threw her baggage in. "She's my mom," he said, opening the door for her and sliding in behind her. "She'll get over herself eventually."
"Are you sure?" She looked so adorably concerned that Michael had to lean over and kiss her again.
"Of course, sweetie. You forget that I grew up with her. She throws her diva fits and then she gets over herself just as fast. It's just something you come to terms with when your mom's a big Broadway star!" He embellished the last bit with some jazz hands and a big, theatrical smile, causing her to laugh softly.
"So, is there anything I should know before we get there?"
He chewed the inside of his lip thoughtfully. "Well, Andrew's in trouble because he got kicked out of his dorm, so avoid bringing up any topics that may lead to discussions about illegal substances. And if my sister mentions anything about London or the Royal Ballet School, just change the subject, and you should be good."
She nodded, looking only slightly horrified. "Okay, so let me do the quick run through again…"
"Nya, you're just now meeting everyone, you don't have to know who everyone is by heart."
"It calms my nerves if I'm at least familiar with everyone," she insisted. "So, your mother is Rachel and your stepfather is Finn."
"Well, yeah. But he's just 'Dad'."
"I know. I'm just trying to keep everything straight. Anyway, from your mother's first marriage, it's you and Andrew, and your half-siblings are Elaine –"
"– and Christopher."
"That's everybody. Well, except for Sarge, the successor to our beloved Tank," he added.
"Labradoodle. But Sarge is a Golden Retriever. And my sister has a cat somewhere in the house named Tchaikovsky, but strangely enough, I haven't seen him since I've been home. I'm pretty sure he's a demon that only comes out at night."
Nya nodded. "And Demon Cat," she added to her list.
Michael grinned and kissed her on the cheek as they pulled up in front of the townhouse. "Here we are," he announced, paying the driver and hopping out of the ca. "Home sweet home!"
Lainey looked up at the house with big eyes. "This is where you grew up? It's amazing!"
"Says the girl whose family owns a country mansion in Upstate New York," he joked, taking her bag out of the trunk.
"Well, yeah, but this is New York City! And that's a real brownstone!"
He chuckled and led her up the steps to the front door.
"Is someone playing the piano?" she asked as he dug out the keys, the dull sounds of someone playing Beethoven reaching them on the front stoop.
"Yeah, it's probably Lainey. She's kind of the resident prodigy, although my brothers and I play some, too." He opened the door and stood back to let her walk in first. She stopped just inside the foyer and he took her hand. They walked into the front room where Finn was sitting with Chris on the couch, while the music in the alcove changed from Für Elise to a funeral dirge.
"Never mind," Michael mumbled into her ear. "It's Andrew."
"Knock it off!" Finn shouted. He started slightly when he saw Michael and Nya standing to the side, but quickly recovered. He stood quickly and nudged Christopher to follow suit. "Oh, hey! I didn't realize you two were there."
Michael grinned proudly and placed a hand at the small of Nya's back. "Dad, this is Nya Brennan."
"Hello, Mr. Kutner!" she said confidently. As soon as the words came out of her mouth, though, she realized her faux pas, and turned bright red. "Oh no! Mr. Hudson! I am so sorry!" She looked up at Michael frantically. "I told you I was going to make a mistake."
True to form, Finn took her hand and clasped it firmly in his. "It's fine, Nya. You can call me Finn, I don't like being called Mr. Hudson, anyway," he said with a warm smile. "And it's very, very nice to meet you."
"Oh, thank you, Mr – Finn! Thank you so much for having me in your home."
"And this is Christopher," Michael said, placing a hand on his brother's shoulder.
"Hi, Christopher." She leaned over to look into his face. "You're very handsome, aren't you?"
Chris's ears turned red and he looked down at the floor, shuffling his feet. "Nah…"
Nya straightened back up, but Michael caught Chris looking up at her with the smallest of smiles on his face.
Suddenly there was a commotion at the top of the stairs, and Lainey ran down with a grace that only she could carry off. "Hello, Nya!" she said, enveloping her in a big hug. "I'm so glad you're here!"
Nya looked shocked for a second, but quickly returned the hug, grinning brightly at Michael. He knew he could always count on Lainey to make everyone feel special. "Hello, Lainey."
"I can't tell you how honored I am to meet you," Lainey continued. "I've always wanted a sister, and I can hardly express how incredibly excited I am that my brother has finally found himself a woman that is worthy of his love and affection."
"Overkill, sweetheart," Finn said, taking her by the elbow.
"Why, Daddy, I'm ashamed at you. Can't I express my sincerest delight at finally meeting my future sister-in-law?"
"You're still not going to London."
Lainey's face fell and she scowled up at him. "I'll go get Mama from the kitchen," she said, turning indignantly on her heel.
"And that was my sister," Michael said as they watched her leave.
"I gathered that," Nya giggled.
"Is this her?" a voice came from the doorway.
"Don't be rude, Andrew," Finn admonished. "Come introduce yourself."
Andrew stepped in and grinned goofily at Nya. "Michael didn't say you were hot."
"Hey!" Michael and Finn snapped in unison.
"Well… um, thank you, Andrew."
"No thanks required," he said. "I like to appreciate beautiful things."
Michael groaned. "Will you cut it out?"
Andrew just laughed good-naturedly and held his hand out to Nya. "I'm just messing with you! I promise that I'm not a complete creeper."
"Yeah, he's just a little unhinged," Michael amended, shoving Andrew by the shoulder.
"Well, you know how it goes. You got all the looks and I got the brains."
"That's right," Nya said with a smile. "Michael told me you're studying to become an engineer."
"A software engineer. I'm working on a code now that, when complete, is going to make me totally rich."
"Is that what you've been doing?" Michael asked. "I thought you were hacking into the CIA."
"You cut me deep, HD. That's small fish compared to what I'm frying."
Finn rolled his eyes and motioned for them to sit down. "That's if you don't get kicked out of school first," he groused as he took a seat.
"The degree's just a formality, Dad. I can do what I'm doing without it."
"Oh, I'm sure Maura and Ben would love to hear that," Finn said, crossing his arms, "considering they're paying for your education."
Andrew shrugged it off just as Lainey reemerged from the kitchen, Rachel following behind her. Michael felt Nya tense up beside him, and he squeezed her hand reassuringly. "It's go time," he muttered, standing up with his fiancée.
"Hello," Rachel said grandly, shaking Nya's hand daintily. "You must be the famous Nya!"
"Yes, ma'am. It's lovely to meet you, Mrs. Hudson."
Rachel smiled up at her, but did not return the sentiment. "Please, have a seat."
She walked over and took a seat at the arm of Finn's chair and Michael saw them exchange a meaningful look. He had long since given up on trying to decipher what his parents' secret looks meant, but if he had to guess, his father was trying to convey, "Please behave yourself," the best way he could.
Rachel's look, on the other hand, was scarier. "Don't bet your life on it," she seemed to say.
"Forgive me for making you wait, I was checking on the quiche," Rachel said aloud. "It's vegan. I do hope you like tofu."
"Of course," Nya exclaimed. "I'm surprised Michael didn't tell you. I don't eat meat."
"Is that so? Well it seems as though we have something in common already. While the men in this family still choose to feast off the remains of innocent animals, Elaine and I are both vegans."
Finn made a face at her description of his eating habits, but said nothing.
"I'm afraid I'm not that daring. I'm just your regular, run-of-the-mill vegetarian." Nya smiled over at Michael. "I still like my dairy products."
"Oh," Rachel said, looking down at her hands. "We don't believe in doing things half way."
"Ah." Her smile slipped a notch and Michael winced as the barb visibly hit home.
"So, how was your trip?" his mother asked, changing the subject.
"That's good, traveling can be such a hassle sometimes."
Nya nodded and exchanged a glance with Michael. He had warned her about this; it was time to switch tactics. So, she switched to what Michael had told her was a fool proof method to get his mother to warm up to her. "Mrs. Hudson," she said. "Forgive me for a moment if I gush, but I must say that I am more than a little star struck. Yours was the first show that I ever saw here in New York."
"Yes, my parents brought me when I was twelve. I thought you were absolutely amazing. In fact, I still have the original cast recording. It's a shame you didn't do more shows!"
Rachel smiled. "Yes, well, it was a personal decision. I decided my time was best spent at home with my family. We probably wouldn't have had Christopher, otherwise. Besides, one Tony is enough for anyone."
Nya nodded in agreement. "I certainly can't blame you for that."
"Now, Nya, Michael tells us your working on your MBA."
"Yes ma'am. I'm in one of the executive programs."
Finn raised his eyebrows, obviously impressed. "Wow, a Harvard lawyer and a Harvard businesswoman. You two are going to have it really tough," he teased.
"And do you plan on working after you have children?"
Michael and Nya froze. "Well, Mom, we haven't really gotten that far. I mean, we're both still really young…"
"That's right," Nya agreed. "We want to be well on our feet before we even discuss babies." Michael nodded enthusiastically.
"Are you Jewish?" Rachel asked point blank.
"What? It was simple question, Michael."
"Um, no. My family is Methodist," she said quietly.
"You know, Rach," Finn announced. "That quiche is smelling delicious. Is it going to be done soon?"
"In about twenty minutes, yes."
"That's what I thought! You know, Nya, if you'd like, Lainey can show you up to your room and you can freshen up a little before dinner," he suggested.
Nya nodded. "That would be lovely."
"I'll help with your bag," Chris said, jumping up and surprising everyone. Usually he kept to himself around strangers. "Girls are no good with that kinda stuff anyway."
"Well, thank you, Christopher, that's very gentlemanlike of you."
"Come on then," Lainey said, looping her arm through Nya's. "I'll give you the grand tour! You'll be staying on the third floor with me. Second floor is boy zone and, believe me, you don't want to be anywhere near there."
Michael waited until they were upstairs before turning to Rachel.
"Well, that wasn't so bad," she commented.
Michael scowled down at her. "Can you maybe try to be a little nicer?"
"I am being nice!" she insisted. "Finn, wasn't I being nice?"
"You were polite enough, but I think Michael means you could be a little warmer."
Rachel rolled her eyes just as the doorbell peeled loudly. Michael and Finn exchanged a worried look.
"Oh good, they're right on time!" Rachel giggled.
"Mom," Michael said, dread washing over him. "Who is that? I thought we agreed to a quiet family dinner."
"But it is family. Andrew, can you get the door?"
"Rachel," Finn said lowly, "what are you up to?"
He didn't have to wait long for his answer. "We're here for the party!" Kurt announced from the foyer, trouncing in with his children and husband in tow.
"Crap," Michael muttered, falling back on the sofa, his head in his hands. "Crap crap crap!"
"I brought the alcohol," Jer said dully, holding up a bottle of scotch.
"Awesome," Andrew laughed, trying to swipe it from his hands, but Jer lifted it out of his reach.
"Not you. Unless you're going to share some of that pot they found in your dorm room."
"Damn it, Mom," Andrew hissed. "Do you have to tell everybody everything? It wasn't even mine. I was holding it for a friend!"
"And O.J. didn't do it," Kurt commented. He turned to Michael. "So, where's the little woman?"
"Upstairs," Michael mumbled into his hands.
"Hey, did I hear the doorbell?" Lainey called, running back down. She stopped when she saw her uncles and her jaw dropped. "Oh shi-oot. Shoot."
Nya followed cross behind, a confused look plastered on her face. Thankfully Finn jumped on it, and took care of the introductions. "Nya, this is my stepbrother, Kurt, and his… Jeremy. The little one is George, and the one with green hair is Vivien."
"Oh, it's, um, very nice to meet you all," she said, polite to a fault.
"They're gay," Rachel said, smiling up at Nya. "And I don't know if Michael's told you this, but I have two gay fathers. We're a very gay-friendly household."
"Did she really just say that?" Jer asked, looking at Finn.
Finn took a deep breath and nodded slowly. "I think so."
Jer shook his head in disbelief and held the bottle out to Nya. "Would you like a drink?"
"Oh, no thank you. I don't drink."
"Are you sure you don't want to start?" Kurt asked.
Nya laughed and shook her head. "Vivien, I must say, you have your hair done very uniquely. Green is my favorite color."
"Do you think so?" Vivien asked. "My dads hate it." She turned to where Jer and Kurt where standing. "Because they're fascist dictators!"
"On that note," Jer said, heading to the kitchen, "I'm going to start drinking."
"I think I'll join you," Finn grumbled, following him.
"Vivien, if we were fascist dictators," Kurt snapped, "we would have already killed you and hung your body up in a public place as a warning to those who disobey us."
"I swear," Michael heard Jer yell from the other room, "sometimes there is absolutely no question in my mind who her sperm donor was!"
"Shut it, Jer!" Kurt yelled back.
A timer went off somewhere in the kitchen and Rachel stood, looking pleased now that the damage was done. "Quiche is ready," she called.
Michael gulped and prepared himself for the dinner from hell.
Fortunately, dinner wasn't as horrible as he thought it would be. After the initial blow up, Jer and Kurt turned out to be fairly entertaining and were able to keep the flow of conversation going throughout dinner. Unlike Rachel, they reached out to Nya and had her laughing and carrying on like her usual self in no time. They didn't stay too long afterwards, Vivien spouting on about her lack of civil rights in a patriarchal society as they walked out the door.
As soon as they left, Rachel threw up her hands and stood up from her seat. "Well, that was enjoyable," she declared, although she had been quiet almost all evening when she realized her plan had blown up in her face. "I guess I'll go clean up the kitchen."
"Would you like any help?" Nya asked helpfully.
"I got it," Michael said quickly before Rachel could answer. Rachel just shrugged and left the room.
"Me too," Finn added.
Michael was seething with irritation by the time he followed his mother into the kitchen, Finn following close behind. "Don't think I don't know what you're doing, Mom!"
"What?" she asked, blinking innocently up at him.
"God! I knew you could be ruthless when it comes to getting what you want, but this is ridiculous! I thought Uncle Kurt was lying about the time you sent an exchange student to a crack house, but after the extremes you're going to make Nya feel unwelcome, I almost believe him!"
"That's actually true," Finn chimed in.
"Really, Michael," Rachel said, ignoring her husband. "I have no idea what you're talking about. In all honesty, I think you're being a little dramatic."
"Oh, please! I told you to keep it simple tonight, that I wanted a nice family dinner so that everybody could get to know her, and what did you do? You invite Uncle Kurt and Jer over!"
"Michael, I'm surprised at you! They are a part of this family."
"Extended family. I'm sorry, but they're also the most dysfunctional family ever. And what was the with the 'gay friendly' stuff? I know we're open-minded, but you were one rainbow flag away from a full blown gay pride rally in our living room."
Rachel crossed her arms and glared at him. "Since when has this been a family that's ashamed of what we believe in?"
"It's not that, Mom! It's the fact that you're shoving all this stuff down her throat in hopes that it'll be too much and she'll call off the engagement. That's not going to happen! Can't you just be happy that I'm happy and try and get to know her instead of acting like a complete psycho?"
Rachel's jaw dropped and she turned to Finn in shock. "Michael Aaron Kutner! Did you hear what he just said to me, Finn? Are you going to just stand there and let him talk to me that way?"
Michael looked to Finn, knowing if he lost him now, he lost the only person who would help him talk some sense into Rachel. "Maybe 'psycho' was a little much," he said, quickly, noting the wary look in Finn's eyes.
"Maybe," Finn agreed before turning back to Rachel. "But he's right."
"Excuse me?" Rachel asked, her eyes flashing dangerously. Michael's eyes darted between his parents; it was a rare day indeed when they didn't form a united front in front of the kids.
"Michael's right, Rachel," he said again. "You're totally bullying that poor girl. Don't you think you at least owe it to our son to give the girl he loves a chance?"
"You know what? I don't have to put up with this! You two can clean up without me. I'm going upstairs." At that, she performed a legendary Rachel storm out, leaving Finn and Michael in the kitchen alone.
Michael groaned and leaned over the island. "This is a disaster."
"It ain't over until the fat lady sings," Finn commented as he picked up a pan and started scrubbing with a look of distaste on his face. "Or in this case, your mother… not that she's fat, she just likes to sing… you know what I mean."
"Either way, Nya thinks Mom hates her. Why can't she just be normal for once instead of acting like the entire world revolves around her?"
"You know that's not true," Finn chastised. "She's always done a lot for you and your brothers and sister."
He sighed. "I know."
"She just doesn't like change unless she's the one who initiated it, you know that. And you're her oldest; she's always had a soft spot for you." Finn looked down and smiled a little sadly. "She always depended on you a lot, Michael, especially after your dad died, so it's hard for her to let you go."
"Just like you and Lainey?"
"That's different. Lainey really is just a kid."
They were quiet for a few minutes, Finn washing and Michael drying in turn.
"Don't worry about your mom," Finn finally said. "I'll talk to her tonight."
The next morning, Michael slept in and trudged down the stairs, dreading an entire day of putting up with his mom's particular brand of torture. He was surprised upon entering the kitchen though; instead of finding everyone in a state of awkward silence, Nya was seated happily between Rachel and Lainey who were chattering gaily. Chris sat across from her, looking at her with puppy dog eyes.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"Well, you missed breakfast," Rachel said, "so it looks like you're going to have to settle for cereal."
"Your mother made stuffed French toast," Nya commented, smiling over at Rachel. "She's going to give me the recipe."
"Really now?" he grumbled, pouring himself a bowl of Frosted Flakes.
"Mhmm. And we're going shopping in a little while, so you'll have to fend for yourself today."
Michael froze and looked over at his dad. Finn didn't return his gaze, just set his mouth in a thin line and stared down into his coffee.
"Lainey and I are taking her to check out Fifth Avenue," Rachel clarified. Well, that explained Finn's demeanor. "You know, a regular girl's day out. And I've made reservations downtown at that Italian restaurant your father likes. Just for the four of us."
"What about them?" Michael asked, nodding to Lainey and Christopher.
"Please, Mikey," Lainey scoffed. "I'm more than capable of taking care of Chris for one night. Besides, I'm getting paid!"
Michael squinted at Rachel, but she only grinned brightly in return. She didn't seem like she was up to anything, but there was no guarantee she wasn't contemplating pushing his fiancée in front of a bus.
"Well, we better go get ready!" Lainey said, taking Nya by the hand. They giggled together and rushed out of the room, Rachel following close behind.
Michael looked over at his father and raised an eyebrow. "Do you think this is safe?"
"Yes," Finn sighed. "The only permanent damage today will be done to my credit score."
"Thanks, Dad. You're taking one for the team."
"Yeah, well now you really owe me."
Michael didn't know what Finn had done to convince Rachel to lighten up (or maybe he did; either way, that was something he did not want to think about), but she was like a whole new person for the rest of the weekend. Apparently she and Nya had really bonded during their day out, and during their fancy dinner downtown, they monopolized the conversation, leaving him and Finn sitting at the table like two awkward bumps on a log.
He didn't know what worried him more, the fact that Rachel may hate his fiancée or that they may become best friends and Nya would never have time for him again. He didn't rule out that it could be another one of his mother's grand plans to control his life, but that was something he would worry about when the time came.
On Sunday, Rachel prepared another big breakfast for the departing college students. Andrew had weaseled his way back into their good graces somehow, and they had convinced Michael to let him bunk on his sofa for the remainder of the semester. He agreed reluctantly under the provision that Andrew started looking for another place to stay as soon as classes were through.
They had just finished packing up and were bringing their stuff downstairs when Rachel cornered Michael and Nya. "Do you two have a moment before you take off? I'd like to speak with you."
Michael looked over at Nya, who only shrugged, and they followed Rachel into the small alcove where she kept her piano.
"First of all," Rachel began as soon as they were all settled, "I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed getting to know you this weekend and that I truly hope that we can get together again soon. I would also like to apologize for my behavior when you first arrived here, Nya. I was inexcusably rude and I never should have treated you that way."
"Oh, that's al-"
Rachel held up a hand. "I'm not finished yet." She looked down into her lap and cleared her throat. "I just want you to know that it wasn't out of any dislike for you. Michael… has always been very special to me. I just want to make sure that the girl he marries knows that and realizes what a gift he is."
Michael felt a lump in his throat begin to form and he tried to tramp down the emotion boiling within in him as Rachel continued. "When my first husband died, Andrew was very little and he didn't understand, so that was a pain that Michael and I shared together." Her voice cracked and it took her a moment to regain her composure. "Since then, I've always depended upon him a little more than my other children. Probably a little too much."
Nya sniffled and took Rachel's hand. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that it makes me very happy that he found you, Nya. And I know David would have loved you."
Michael looked away to give himself a moment to fight back the tears he felt welling up. When he looked back at Rachel, he tried his best to give her a smile, but it came out shaky at best, and his bottom lip trembled slightly. Finn was his dad in every sense of the word, and he knew he would never be able to choose between the two men, but his heart still ached for the father he hardly knew.
"I would like to give you both something." She reached into the oversized pocket of her dress and pulled out a little jewelry box. "Finn told me that your parent's agreed to help pay for the wedding, but you both had to finish school first, which I agree with entirely. And that Michael had to be able to afford to buy you an engagement ring first. I know how expensive these things can be, so I thought… I thought that you should have this."
She handed the box to Michael and he opened it to find a ring with a large diamond flanked by several smaller ones. "That's the ring David gave to me. I know it's a little flashy and may not be what you're looking for, so if you'd like to sell it and purchase another, that's perfectly fine with me. Either way, you need to get this girl a ring."
Michael chuckled and held it out to Nya, whose eyes were as round as saucers. "No, Mrs. Hudson! It's beautiful… I wouldn't trade it for the world."
"Call me Rachel," she insisted, giving Nya a hug. Then she turned back to Michael. "Baby, what are you waiting for? Put it on her!"
Michael slid it onto the ring finger of Nya's proffered left hand, expecting it to be too small, but to his amazement, it went on very easily. "Well, would you look at that?" he commented, admiring the way it sparkled on her finger.
"Aw, we have the same ring size!" Nya cried.
Rachel chuckled and shrugged. "Well, that was before I had four children," she commented wryly.
"Oh, do you mind if I go show it to Lainey before we take off?" she asked, her voice laced with excitement.
"Go for it," Michael laughed. After giving Rachel one last hug, she hurried from the room, leaving him alone with his mother.
"Thanks, Mom," he finally said. "That really means a lot to both of us."
"You deserve it."
"And you really like her?" he prodded.
"Of course I do! She's a little like me, don't you think?"
"Yeah," he squeaked, hearing his voice rise. Damn, Nya really was right about that tell. Fortunately, Rachel didn't seem to notice and looked at him forlornly.
"You won't wait so long to come home next time?" she asked hopefully. "You can bring Nya whenever you'd like."
"I'll be home in a couple of weeks," he promised with a smile. "Thanks for being so mature about all of this."
Rachel stood and rolled her eyes. "Oh, sweetie, this was a walk in the park compared to what you're going to go through when you tell your Bubbe. I'm going to tell you right now, I don't want to be within a three block radius when that goes down."
Michael watched as she walked out of the room, his smile drooping as her words dawned on him. "Crap!"
Author's Note: I hope everyone enjoys this first AT one-shot! It's much longer than I anticipated it would be, but I assure you that the rest will not be nearly as lengthy. The second onesie is almost complete as well, and I should have it posted at the beginning of next week. I know there are a few hanging plot points, (i.e. Lainey going to London), but don't worry, those will be addressed later on.
And, for those who know her, Nya is named for the daughter of a wonderful friend I've made through the Glee fandom, MaraMac! She was patient enough to help me edit this sucker, and for that I will be eternally grateful! :-P
Disclaimer: Glee is the property of Ryan Murphy and FOX. I'm just manipulating it for my own nefarious (and strictly nonprofit) purposes.