A.N. This glee fic says everything I wanted to say about the way Shelby treated Rachel as well as the whole Beth-adoption-solution. It was kind of cathartic to write (even though I have a lovely mother who would never sell me to finance a career on Broadway). Let me know what you think. Also, don't own Glee etc., etc.
NO IS NOT AN ANSWER
It was the day after Vocal Adrenaline's victory at Regionals. Although scuttling the competition at every such event was usually enough to keep Shelby Corcoran on a high for at least a week, this particular occasion saw her collapsed on her couch draining a bottle of red. It was not a particularly productive activity for the dynamic choir director; ordinarily she would be brainstorming bizarrely innovative routines for Nationals (although it was hard to top a dance routine performed solely by her show choir walking on their hands). But this time she just could not summon the desire to give a damn.
As she sipped her wine, she tried to pinpoint the exact cause of her ennui. Was it her still unfulfilled desire for a family that she had had such high hopes of achieving, only to throw away her own efforts? Was it the angry look of disgust from her most gifted protégé, Jesse St James, after he had passed Rachel in the hallway at Regionals after she had been spurned once again in her last futile attempt to reach out to her mother? It was painful to see the respect bordering on awe Jesse had held for her die from his eyes as he had hardened his jaw and walked away from her, walking in the same direction as her daughter, now she thought of it. Most likely the hollow feeling in her heart had much to do with the loss not once but twice of the daughter she had felt connected to since she had first turned somersaults in her belly when Shelby had played her Best of Barbra album to her unborn baby. The worst part was that each time it had been Shelby's choice to walk away. At least the first time she could put the blame on her youth and that rather inhumane contract the Berry men had made her sign. That was not the case this time.
It was not until last night that she was really called to account for what kind of mother she was. Who would have thought that the one to hold the mirror up to her would be a teenage delinquent baby daddy?
"Which one is yours?" she had asked. "Does she have a name?"
"No," the girl had said. "Beth," the boy contradicted.
"Pretty," Shelby judged, smiling at the beautiful infant. "I like that name." She had then turned her beaming smile on the exhausted pair of teenage parents and offered their daughter a home with her. She had overheard the blonde admit that she did not want to keep the baby so as she promised to love and cherish their little girl and give her everything a child could want, she did not believe they would be too difficult to convince. They probably couldn't wait to unload their awkward teenage blunder onto whatever grown-up was willing to shoulder their burden. Training pubescent performers for the last 10 years had made Shelby an expert in directing young people to do exactly what she wanted. As the young blonde listened consideringly to Shelby, it was obvious that she would not present a problem; probably could not wait to sign this tiny life away and get back to her campaign for prom queen. But the young man with muscles the size of bowling balls was not such a quick sale. It was when she got to the part about how she had always longed for a daughter and what a wonderful mother she would make that he cut across her self-testimonial with
"Are you for fucking real?"
"Puck!" the blonde reprimanded, frowning at the boy.
"What?" he responded. "You aren't actually buying this crap? Have you forgotten whose mother this is? After the way she fucked over Rachel, you can't seriously be thinking of giving her our daughter?"
Shelby was taken aback by his bluntness but quickly recovered. "What happened between Rachel and I is very complicated. I assure you it has no bearing on my fitness as a mother."
"Oh really? So playing at being a mother for a couple of days and then saying, 'sorry, I'm just not hearing violins playing like I expected so run along now' is your idea of good parenting? And how the hell did you even know that Quinn had her baby anyway?" Puck read the truth in the guilty flush on Shelby's skin. "Let me guess, Rachel told you. And you just came trotting right along as soon as you heard. And I thought only lawyers were ambulance chasers."
"You don't understand," Shelby had cried as the couple started to turn away from her, "I had no choice! I never had a choice. I just wanted another chance. That's all I've ever wanted – to do it over again."
"Then why didn't you take it?" Puck countered. "One thing you can say about Berry is she's forgiving like crazy – she once told me if she carried a grudge against everybody who'd been mean to her, she wouldn't have anyone to talk to. So if there's anyone who would have given you a second chance, it's her. Lady, if you can't be a halfway decent mother to your own daughter, there's no way in hell I'm giving you a shot at being one to mine."
With a groan, Shelby dropped her head into her hands. She had thought that moment when she had packed up her apartment in New York and admitted to herself she was never going to make it on Broadway was the most like a failure she could possibly feel.
She was getting so tired of being wrong.
It was just as Shelby was debating opening another bottle from her wine cellar that she heard a knock on her front door, a sharp, repetitive machine gun burst of sounds that demanded entrance rather than requesting. Probably one of the parents of my bratty team, all bent out of shape because their little Suzy wasn't given a solo, Shelby thought as she shuffled to the door, dragging her hair into some kind of order.
Shelby opened the door and found the last person she expected to be standing there, carrying one suitcase and dragging a pink trolley-bag behind her. Wrong again.
GLEE / GLEE / GLEE / GLEE / GLEE / GLEE / GLEE / GLEE / GLEE / GLEE /
"Rachel?" Shelby gasped, with a theatricality that would make her daughter proud. "What are you doing here?"
"Good evening, Shelby," Rachel replied, putting her bags down so they were lined up neatly against the wall. "I hope you don't mind but I have decided to address you by your Christian name. 'Miss Corcoran' sounds too formal and 'mother' or any such equivalent word would be overly familiar at this point in our relationship." Shelby stared at her daughter, not comprehending a word falling out of the composed brunette's mouth. "You may call me Rachel, of course," she finished helpfully. "You wouldn't happen to have any honey and lemon tea, by any chance? I find it both a soothing blend mentally as well as beneficial to my vocal chords."
"Rachel, I don't understand… I thought we agreed… why do you have your luggage with you?"
Rachel sighed. "Well, I really was hoping we could have the tea first before we broached that particular topic, but if you insist…"
"Consider this insisting," Shelby replied with a most credible impression of a mother. "Give me an explanation for this home invasion. The short version, please."
"I'm moving in," Rachel answered, as one stating a simple fact.
"Alright, slightly less short than that." But Rachel was too busy poking her nose into the surrounding rooms to attend. Her mother had no choice but to follow her petite daughter down the hallway.
"Is this the guest room?" Rachel asked, opening the door on a room decorated in pale blue and silver. "This would be perfect for me! I see the window is surrounded by enough foliage so that it should sufficiently absorb the sound of my voice, thus preventing my singing practice from offending your neighbours. We have had some issues at my fathers' – I mean, the Berrys' house in that regard. I had not thought of it till now but not being threatened with law suits will be a major advantage to my living with you."
"Rachel, will you slow down for one minute," Shelby commanded in her most authoritative teacher's voice. It never failed to have its effect and Rachel obediently turned her large brown eyes on her mother. "Now, what is all this talk about you moving in with me? You must realise how impossible that is. Even if we had not decided it would be a mistake for me to be involved in your life, you must know your fathers would never allow it."
"Actually, we never decided your involvement was a mistake." Rachel clasped her hands together in front of her. It was the only sign that she was not in complete control of her nerves as she held her mother's gaze. "You were the one who came to that conclusion. I just agreed so you wouldn't think I was too needy."
Her words tore at Shelby's conscience, stinging those fresh wounds Rachel's shaven-headed friend had inflicted with his harsh accusations. She had painted walking away from Rachel as self-sacrifice, but was it really abandonment?
"Rachel, sweetheart, you are a strong, amazing young woman," Shelby said gently, reaching a hand out towards her daughter, then dropping the hand as Rachel shied away from her touch. She persevered, "You already have two loving parents who would move heaven and earth to make you happy. You don't need me in your life – it would just be confusing for everyone involved. You don't need – "
"Don't tell me what I need," Rachel lashed out, finally breaking character from the confident girl she had been portraying and lapsing back to her true self; an angry and hurt teenager. "You've spent 4 hours and 27 minutes with me in total so don't you dare presume to tell me what I need. Or don't need." She swiped furiously at the errant tear that escaped her eye as she glared at the woman who had repeatedly walked away from her. "Even from that limited amount of time, you should have been able to see how much I do need a mother." When Shelby continued to look helplessly at her, she elaborated. "The dress. Those stories I told you about my childhood. And about my feelings for Finn and then… Jesse. I was trying to show you how much I needed you. But you had your mind made up about me 15 minutes after we met so naturally you couldn't see what was obvious to a blind person."
"But your dads – "
"My dads," Rachel repeated, rolling her eyes. "My dads may adore me and dote on me, but they have about as much knowledge of my inner workings than if I was a cocker spaniel. I tried to hint at that when I told you how they would bring me glasses of water when I was upset so I now confuse sorrow with thirst. You chose to see that as a charming anecdote of how caring they are instead of a picture of two men who are utterly hopeless at providing comfort and understanding for the kind of issues a young girl growing up in a town as harshly close-minded as Lima has to face. In the end I gave up going to them for consolation when I needed it as it only ended in them feeling badly for not being able to give it and then I would feel even more miserable for making them feel bad. I was hoping I finally had someone in my life that I didn't have to wear a showface for all the time, someone who was so much like me that she would instinctively understand. But you didn't want me." The tears were coming faster now. As Rachel dug a clean handkerchief out of her cardigan pocket, Shelby sat down lifelessly on the guest room bed.
"Rachel, it's not that I don't want you," her mother attempted to reason, while not confident in her own defence. Why had she walked away from Rachel when she had worked so hard to get to her? What had she been afraid of? Was she so scared of failing at being a mother that she had quit before she tried?
Her daughter cut her off. "It doesn't matter anyway. I don't care if you didn't want me then. I don't care if you don't want me now. I'm still moving in."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You owe me, Shelby. Jesse told me everything."
"Everything?" Shelby could have sworn her heart stopped beating.
"The contract you signed me away with. The way you used Jesse to get to me. How you made him go back to Vocal Adrenaline at the critical time when it would hurt me and my glee club the most. Everything." Before Shelby could scrape together some kind of response to this bombshell, Rachel retrieved her calm and collected persona from her actor's bag of tricks and made her way to the bedroom door.
"Well, I suppose I should really unpack before my clothes start to wrinkle, folded as they are in my cases. I do hope that closet is a walk-in – I have quite a large collection of skirts and dresses."
"Rachel, wait." Shelby stood up, regarding her daughter with a kind of horrified fascination. "If you truly believe I am such a terrible person, that I don't even want you, then why on earth would you want to live with me?"
Rachel gave an almost imperceptible shrug. "Perhaps because I just walked out on my dads after the first fight we have ever had where I didn't put their hurt feelings before my own. Perhaps because even if you are a poor excuse for a mother, you still are my mother and I can't walk away from that as easily as you can. Or maybe I just consider it good training for when I am climbing that path that will eventually make me a shining star on Broadway. After all, if I give up each time I am rejected, how will I ever achieve my heart's desires?"
It was the last reason Rachel gave which would have seemed completely insane to anyone else (but made complete sense to her mother) that brought home to Shelby that this truly was her daughter. With that realisation, a tiny hope flickered that maybe sometimes second chances did come, even to people who didn't really deserve them. As she wandered into her kitchen, wearing that shell-shocked expression that people often wore after an encounter with Rachel Berry, she mused I wonder if I have any honey and lemon tea in the cupboard.
Not sure if I should continue this or leave it as a one-shot. I'll see what kind of response I get and then decide (hint, hint).