Title: Standing on a Precipice
Author:Sio (thelastpen) & Maura (aeval)
Rating: Up to NC-17 for later chapters
Spoilers: Possible mentions of up to Season 2 finale
Pairing: Rachel/Santana, Rachel/Jesse, Santana/OC
Summary: From a prompt given via Sio's tumblr ask box. Rachel and Jesse are married with children, but Jesse is slowly dying from cancer. Enter Santana, lonely and divorced but highly successful and willing to befriend the beleaguered mother. When Jesse passes and Rachel starts depending more and more on Santana's friendship, will they stay just friends or can it blossom into something more? Future!Fic.
Warnings: Pregnancy, character death, angst, children,
Chapter One: Rachel and Jesse
The alarm rang, rousing her from sleep.
She reached over and turned it off, rolling over with a sleepy smile. "Good morn-"
The words trailed off as her smile dropped. There was no one there on the other side of the bed. The same as it'd been for the last couple months. Her lips tightened at the familiar pang of recognizing reality after waking from the pleasant memories of her dreams. She sighed softly, finally turning away from the empty side of the bed and pushing the blankets off.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed and sat up. For a moment, like always, she just sat there, hands resting on the swell of her stomach, breathing slowly, deliberately. It took a moment to get past the desire to cry waking up alone in the big bed always gave her. Her hands drifted over her stomach, being reassured by the feeling of movement inside.
A foot pressed against the palm of her hand, drawing a tired smile from her. "That's right, baby boy," she whispered softly, "we're going to go see Daddy today."
Wiping the remaining traces of sleep from her eyes, she pushed herself up from the bed with a soft grunt of effort. It was getting harder to do so. She missed the support Jesse'd provided during her other two pregnancies, especially now. Even on her third pregnancy, her small frame made things difficult, especially during the third trimester like she was entering. She wasn't sure how she'd do it alone, but she'd smile the same as always when she brought the two little ones to see him. He didn't need to worry about her any more than he already did.
She made her way to the closet, selecting her clothes for the day with an eye to cheering her bedridden husband. Selection finally made, she headed for the bathroom for a morning shower, confident of another hour of peace before little Kayla and Cale would wake. As she disrobed and stepped under the warm spray, she wondered - as she always did - how things had come to this.
Things had always been a little stressful, but that was normal for a newly wed couple. But they'd weathered the trials and tribulations of college together - Jesse finally getting his act together enough to attend NYU while she'd been at Julliard following her graduation and the subsequent final sundering of her relationship with Finn - and she was confident they could survive being married and in the same industry as well. Jesse had done well, as they'd both expected, landing roles first off-off-Broadway, then getting a surprising shot at Broadway. She hadn't done poorly herself, getting a few minor roles off-Broadway her senior year of college and a well reviewed lead role after graduation. Then Jesse had proposed, they'd married the next year in a small ceremony keeping it to close friends and family, and 2 months later she'd received the surprise of her life.
She was pregnant.
She'd always thought more planning and preparing would go into her first pregnancy, but instead it'd been a complete surprise. But she couldn't say she regretted it and Kayla was the best surprise she'd ever gotten, in her opinion. Their daughter was a sweet, gentle child - though she despaired of ever getting her to show an interest in music - and the most helpful little five year old she'd ever met.
She scrubbed her hair, chuckling softly as she remembered how anxious Jesse had been when he'd first found out about her being pregnant the first time. He'd treated her like she was made of cut glass and hardly allowed her to do anything until she'd blown up at him that women had been having babies for centuries and if she wasn't allowed to do something she'd smack him. Then her face fell and tears mingled with water streaking her face as she muffled a sob against her palm as she thought about his weaker but still enthusiastic response to finding out about her being pregnant with their first son shortly after Kayla's third birthday.
They'd first found out he was sick maybe three weeks before she'd learned she was pregnant with Cale. It'd made the announcement rather bittersweet, since Jesse was already undergoing chemo treatments and was rather ill at the time. But he'd been so excited he'd actually tried to pick her up and spin her around like he had when he'd found out about Kayla. It'd given him hope for the future she liked to think, enough to get through the intensive treatments and push the cancer into remission.
She felt the baby in her stomach kick and rubbed it reflexively as she shut off the water. "It's okay, little one." She whispered, getting out of the shower and drying off before proceeding to get dressed for the day.
It's what made her so angry about all this. They'd beaten the cancer. Done everything that they were supposed to. It wasn't supposed to come back! He was supposed to be better! They had a little boy coming. It just wasn't fair!
She smacked her hand into the counter trying to get control over herself. That was the part she hated about pregnancy. Her emotions were all over on top of everything else. She didn't have time for this. She needed to be in control of herself. She had to be strong. Kayla and Cale needed her to be strong. So did Jesse. She couldn't afford this weakness.
"Stop this, Rachel," she muttered, staring into the mirror over the sink at herself, before starting to put on the makeup to conceal the dark circles under her eyes and her general tiredness, "you have a son and daughter and a husband who need you. You are not going to break down and blubber like a child because things are hard. What would Barbra think!"
Finishing applying the concealer, she put it away and straightened up the bathroom before making her way out and down the hall to the kitchen. As she set about making an organic vegetarian - a compromise she'd eventually come to terms with after developing an intense craving for real cheesy omelets during her pregnancies - breakfast for her family. She was reaching into the refrigerator for the eggs when the memory of Jesse wrapping his arms around her and kissing her neck like he used to do when he was healthy hit her.
She barely had enough control to set the carton on the counter as she struggled with the realization that he would never do that again. She knew - they both did - that the struggle was taking too much out of him this time. They knew it was only a matter of time before the end. Every day she took the children to see him in the hospice facility, Jesse seemed more accepting of it. But every day just broke her heart a little more because it was one less she would have with him.
She prayed every night and every spare moment that God would let him stay a little longer. She knew he hurt, that he was in pain she wasn't sure she'd be able to bear every moment he lingered with them, but she couldn't help but beg for more time. Her hand stroked over her swollen stomach, asking again of a God that didn't seem to be listening to let Jesse stay, to make him better. To let him know his youngest son.
Her legs trembled and her arms rested on the counter, barely holding her up as the tears streaked her face. She needed him. She needed his arms around her at night, the comforting warmth of his solid strength at her back. She needed him to cheer her up when she felt blue, to show up with flowers and vegan lasagna when she was lonely, to hold her and sing her to sleep when she was tired. She needed him and she didn't know how she'd go on after he was gone.
"Don't cry, Mama." The voice was soft, unlike the fierce hug wrapping around her leg."It's okay, please don't cry."
Rachel blinked, wiping tears from her face with the palm of her hand - realizing she'd have to go fix her makeup again before they left - and looking down to stroke the tousled brown hair of the little girl clinging to her leg with a sad expression on her face. She smiled softly at her "little surprise" and gave her a slightly awkward one-armed hug. "It's okay, Kayla. Mama was just a little sad for a moment." Crouching carefully in front of her eldest, she pecked her on the forehead and asked, "Do you know what I think would cheer me up, little star?"
"What, Mama?" Gray-blue eyes - so like her father's - blinked hopefully at her.
Rachel smiled, reaching up to brush some hair off Kayla's cheek. "A big hug and kiss from my best girl, that's what."
"Of course, really! Come here, you." The little girl bounced forward, throwing her arms around her mother and planting a wet sounding kiss on her cheek. "See?" She smiled brightly with a little laugh, "Much happier. Now, go get your brother up and dressed while Mama makes breakfast, okay?"
"Okay, Mama!" Giving her another kiss, Kayla scurried off on her task, vinyl soles of her footie pajamas slapping across the linoleum of the kitchen before shuffling off down the carpeted hall.
Rachel watched her go with a smile before turning back to the counter and beginning to set about making omelets for her children. She chuckled as she cracked eggs into the bowl thinking she'd come a long way from the girl who'd been haunted by the idea of baby chicken ghosts coming to get their revenge on her for being egged. Adding milk, salt and pepper, she whisked it together before adding it to the hot pan with the veggies and mushrooms already frying inside it.
She was just pulling the omelet out of the pan to divide amongst three plates when the dark haired yawning form of her son stumbled in rubbing at his eyes. She couldn't help the astonished laugh that burst from her lips when she saw the wild ensemble he was wearing. "Oh my. Sweetie, what are you wearing?"
He had a dark blue t-shirt on with a bright yellow bat logo across the chest, tucked into a pair of navy tights she was fairly certain belonged to Kayla a couple years earlier, a pair of Batman Underoos over the tights, a pair of bright yellow rain boots on his feet, and a dark blue bath towel tied around his neck. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and smiled sleepily up at his mother. "I'm Batman, Mama!"
She chuckled, finishing transferring the omelet to a plate, "I can see that, sweetie. Are you sure you should go see Daddy as Batman though? A supervillian may find out your secret identity, after all."
Cale's eyes got big, "Oh no, Mama! I don't want that!"
"Guess you should go change back into Cale then. And hurry up, young man, I'm serving breakfast!" She chuckled softly at the sound of him storming down the hall to change. She couldn't wait to tell Jesse what his son had gotten up to this morning when they got to the hospice center. Hearing about the kids' antics always seemed to brighten him up.
"Kids, come on! Breakfast is ready! We need to eat so we can catch the train in to go see Daddy!" She called down the hall as she put the three plates on the table with glasses of juice - Cale's still fitted with a sippy lid. She could hear the happy cries of "Daddy!" echoing down the hall as they finished dressing and came tumbling down the hall.
She loved her children. People who'd known her in high school may have been surprised to see how easily she'd left the stage for them, but if it wasn't for them she wasn't sure she'd be able to handle Jesse's illness as well as she was. So she smiled and sat with them as they all tucked into their breakfasts.
"Hey! Not so fast, Cale! Take your time or you'll choke. Kayla, don't tilt the glass so far, you're dribbling." Reaching over with a napkin to catch the drips before they can fall from her chin to her light pink sundress, she tilted the glass down towards the table again. "You don't want to get messy before we see Daddy, do you?"
"No, Mama." Kayla replied, carefully setting the glass back down before taking her fork and scooping a bite into her mouth.
"That's my little star."
The joyful cry of his son woke him from his uneasy sleep.
It took him a moment to open his eyes. Everything took longer these days. Everything hurt a little more with every movement. But he still smiled when he saw his son in dressed in a yellow polo and navy slacks clambering up on to the chair beside his bed and climbing in the bed to hug him. He raised arms far more slender now without the strength of his youth and health and wrapped them around the boy with only a faint tremor in his smile to indicate how much effort and pain the gesture took from him.
"Hey there, tiger." His voice was a frail imitation of once powerful tenor, colored with weariness along with the pleasure of seeing Cale. "Where's your mama and Kayla?"
The boy sitting beside him - he'd learned that sitting on his daddy hurt him and he hated that - grinned, revealing a bright baby teeth. "I ran head!"
Jesse smiled indulgently, "You got here fast, but you know your mama doesn't like it when you run in the hospital."
Cale frowned, pouting, "But I want see my Daddy."
"I know you did, Cale." Jesse raised a slender hand to tousle his son's hair lightly, keeping most of the pain from showing so to not distress the boy, "But you need to listen to your mama. She wouldn't ask you not to do something unless it was for your own good. You need to be good for her for me, okay?"
"Okay." Cale crossed his arms over his chest, pouting in a excellent imitation of the woman just coming through the door.
Rachel leaned against the door frame slightly out of breath from chasing the two year old boy down the hall, one hand resting protectively on her stomach. "Oh my gosh, Cale! I told you not to run off!"
"Yeah, Mama told you, Cale!" Kayla piped in, peeking around Rachel's leg, to stick her tongue out at her younger brother.
Jesse turned his best smile on his two favorite girls - thought Rachel could see the pain in his eyes the effort took him, "There's my two best girls! Come give me a hug!" Kayla squealed delightedly and scurried over to the chair to replicate her brother's actions from a couple moments earlier. As she did, Jesse smiled a bit softer at Rachel who'd come over to hug him gently, whispering in her ear, "Don't be too mad at him, love. He just wanted to see me."
"I know he did." Rachel replied as she pulled back, a sad, careworn smile on her face, "I'm not mad, Jesse. I was just worried, he's so tiny still."
He patted her cheek gently with a hand that barely trembled from the pain and she closed her eyes, losing herself in the memories of him doing that when he was still healthy for a moment. "He'll always be tiny, Rachel. He's your son. But he's mine too, so you have to let him take risks sometimes. Let him be a boy. Rachel," He smiled, a shadow of its former brightness but still his smile, leaning up slightly to brush cracked lips against her full ones, "he'll be okay."
She knew he wasn't talking about the running in the hall and she had to fight to keep the tears that brightened her eyes from falling down her cheeks. "I know he will." She whispered, smiling bravely as Kayla finally made it on the bed and threw her arms gently around her daddy.
She went over and sat in the chair their children had used as a ladder, pulling her iPod and the notebook for her transcription work out of her bag to work as her husband bonded with their children. She listened to her work with one ear as she jotted down what was being said in her shorthand. She'd type it up later while the children were sleeping, right then though she wanted to give them as much time as possible to spend with their father. And him as much time with them.
There wasn't much left after all. Her hand drifted to her belly as she prayed once more that Jesse be allowed to see his newest son, hold him in his arms, before passing from their lives. Jesse glanced over at her from where Kayla had her latest drawings spread out on his lap and smiled sadly.
He knew what she was doing. Knew she was praying for what they both wanted, what he was fighting so hard to try and get to do. He wanted to know his youngest son. He wanted to teach him to play baseball and sing and dance on a stage. He wanted to walk Kayla down the aisle at her wedding - when she was fifty, of course - and watch Cale's first rehearsals and see all of his children graduate high school and college.
And he knew he wouldn't.
So he just clung to the hope that he could at least see the boy currently hiding under his mother's heart before he had to leave. He hugged his son and daughter, kissing their heads gently as he blinked back tears. He didn't want to leave them. Didn't want to leave any of them. But he'd been forced to admit that some things were beyond his power, and this was beginning to feel like one of them.