Disclaimer: I don't own them! Take no offense and hire no lawyers.
A/N Some things you should know before we start: this story is not for OTP shippers. This is a story about how people grow up, and about how relationships can change, and about how sexuality is fluid. The endgame is emotional maturity, and if you like Rachel, Quinn, and Sam as people, you'll like this. If you go in only looking for sweet lady kisses—or sweet het kisses, I don't know—you'll probably be disappointed. Here's hoping you can keep an open mind, and trust me.
"Dad? Daddy? I… we need to talk."
Leroy Berry puts down his book—Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, because Hiram is exactly the kind of bibliophilic freak who won't let him see the film unless he's read the novel first, and he has so little free time that he needs several months head start—to give his daughter his full attention. Because the last time she started a conversation like this, it was only a week ago, and, well…
He was making dinner with Hiram when they heard the front door slam.
"Rachel? How was your vocal lesson?" he called into the foyer.
"I didn't go," she said tersely, storming into the kitchen. She looked furious; her eyes were rimmed with red in a way that made him suspect she'd been crying, but he couldn't be sure. "I got—delayed—at glee."
"Did something happen?" Hiram asked, putting down his spatula to give her his full attention. "What's wrong?"
"Everything!" she cried, throwing her backpack on the floor and herself into a chair before burying her head in her arms with an air of total dejection.
Her fathers shared a mutely amused glance. "Would you care to elaborate?"
"Finn Hudson is the most disappointing person in the history of the world," she said into the dinner table.
Suddenly, it wasn't funny anymore. "Did you break up?" Leroy walked over and knelt next to her, rubbing her back.
"Finn outed Santana."
"Julio Lopez's girl?" He rarely ran into Dr. Lopez, seeing as plastics and pediatrics were on different floors, but still. He's a respected colleague, even if he was a conservative one.
Rachel nodded, which basically consisted of tilting her forehead deeper into the crevice of her elbow.
"How did Finn…?"
"A few days ago, at school. She was making fun of him about something and he made a comment back about… I don't even know, about how at least he doesn't hide who he is? He refused to give me the straight story, but whatever he said, it was incriminating. And he didn't see fit to tell me about it, only someone overheard him in the hallway and one of Sue's congressional competitors found out as a result."
"Sue?" Hiram asked, puzzled. "What does Coach Sylvester have to do with anything?"
"Santana was the captain of her squad. And now they're running a smear ad about how Sue's an ally. Or they're going to. And Santana is their poster girl."
Leroy swallowed hard, feeling like he was going to be sick. "So that poor girl just got outed to all of Ohio."
"She hasn't even told her parents yet. And the worst part," Rachel said, voice cracking so badly she had to clear her throat, "the worst part was that Finn wouldn't even admit he'd done something wrong. He had no idea why an apology wasn't enough, let alone why he should apologize in the first place. You'd think after what happened to Kurt, he'd—" She stopped, pursed her lips, and inhaled through her nose. "He got upset at the fact that I was angry at him, and we broke up."
"All of that, over this?" Hiram asked. "I thought you didn't even like Santana."
"No, I do," she protested, before admitting, "as much as I can like anyone who goes out of their way to be spiteful, petty and vindictive. But I know a lot of that attitude comes from her fears, and—and now they've been realized. No one deserves to be outed like that, Dad. And I don't know what her parents are like, and she could lose her home over this. It wouldn't be the first time it's happened in glee."
"Honey… I don't want to force anyone into anything, but if something terrible were to happen, we would always let her stay here. You know that, right?"
She looked up at him with her big doe eyes. "Are you sure?"
Hiram glanced at Leroy over her head, conversing with him silently. "Of course, sweetheart."
She laughed brokenly. "The funny thing is, I haven't even told you the worst part."
"Yes, you did," Leroy reminded her, "but you can tell us the worse worst part."
She picked her head up to give him a dirty look. "Coach Sylvester got Finn suspended for sexual harassment, which was, yes, supportive of Santana, but it also makes New Directions ineligible for competition. Sectionals are in two and a half weeks."
"Finn won't be back in time?"
"He will, but with things the way they are… I just can't imagine we could welcome him back. Not without a period of reflection, and a chance for him to redeem himself."
"You'll figure something out," Hiram said, rubbing her shoulder. "You always do."
He'd been hoping that would be enough drama for the month.
"What's going on, baby doll?" Leroy asks, bracing himself.
"You know how you said that if the Lopezes kicked Santana out, you'd let her stay here?"
"Of course we remember. Has the commercial run? Did something happen?"
"No. Well, yes, something's happened, but not—it's something else. Someone else. And I… may have made a mistake."
"Would that mistake have something to do with why the school called my office this afternoon, informing me that you've received a week's suspension?" Hiram asks.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close drops to the floor with a thump. "You what?" Leroy gasps, before whirling on his husband. "She what? Why?"
"She tried to fix the school election in Kurt's favor."
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"Because I wanted to give Rachel the chance to explain herself. Which she's going to do, right now," Hiram says, before turning his serious gaze on their daughter.
Rachel palms the hem of her dress nervously. "I know that cheating is wrong, and we can talk about that later, but right now there are more important things going on. The future of the glee club is at stake!"
"No, Rachel," Leroy grits out, still feeling angry, caught off-guard and very much out of the loop, "we are not going to talk about it later. We are going to talk about it now."
"You got suspended, sweetheart. We can't just ignore that. It's going to go on your permanent record. How are we supposed to explain this? The admissions people at NYADA are going to see it; all of your safety schools are going to see it. And if you think stroking Kurt Hummel's ego is worth jeopardizing your future, then we really need to talk about your priorities—both for yourself and as a friend."
"I did this to be a good friend! I don't want to—I can't go to New York without him! It wouldn't be fair."
"Life isn't fair. It's not your responsibility to get Kurt to New York, Rachel—it's Kurt's. And I know he's important to you, but when you talk like that, you make it sound like you don't think you'll ever make a friend like him again. And that's simply not true."
Rachel's bottom lip quivers for a moment before she collapses into the couch, holding her head in her hands.
"I know. I know all of that. I'm so sorry. It was so stupid."
"Then why did you do it?" Leroy bursts out, frustrated. Hiram shoots him a look and holds out a placating hand before turning back to Rachel, expression morphing into what Leroy had long ago dubbed his Parenting Face. The one that says we're not looking to punish you; we just want to understand.
"I just wanted him to have something. I got Maria and I've always been meticulous about fostering a strong extracurricular background, but Kurt's application just seemed so empty and he's so spectacular, and I didn't—I don't—" She stops for a moment to collect herself, catching her breath. "It's not that I need to have Kurt with me; it's that Kurt belongs there and deserves it just as much as I do. And I know that you raised be to believe in the inherent goodness of people, and I know that stuffing the ballot box wasn't just wrong because I cheated. It was an insult to Kurt for thinking he couldn't get the votes on his own, and an insult to my peers for not giving them the benefit of the doubt that they would do the right thing, but how can I? How can I believe that, when the bullies at this school forced him to transfer last year? How can I believe that the people who voted him for prom queen six months ago would vote to make him class president now? I'm sorry, but I just… can't lie to myself like that anymore. Maybe I used to be able to, but I can't. It hurts too much to be disappointed all the time."
Wordlessly, her fathers move off their recliners to sit down next to her, sandwiching her on the couch. She sniffles and buries herself in her Daddy's shoulder as her Dad comfortingly runs his hand up and down her arm.
"Then that's what we'll tell NYADA," he says.
"About the suspension. We're going to write a letter to Admissions explaining what happened, and you're going to tell them what you just told me. Leaving out the part about how you wouldn't trust them to take someone as talented as Kurt without padding his resume, of course. But about what they did to him at prom, and how this wasn't about winning, but about making a social statement, and about Kurt's self-esteem. None of that's not true, sweetheart, and they just can't ignore someone with a heart that big."
She sniffles and turns to face him. "I hate it when you go all lawyer-y about things."
"Making your future possible is my job, Rachel," Hiram says, staring her in the eyes. "And so is being a lawyer. I can't help it when the two overlap."
Leroy wraps his arm around her and squeezes. "Now that that's out of the way, how about we talk about saving glee club?"
"Really?" she asks tearfully.
"No, Rachel, I'd rather yell at you all night," he says sarcastically, with a soft smile. "I'm dying of curiosity here. Why does glee need saving? And why did you ask us about Santana?"
"It's… sort of a long story," Rachel says, before sitting up straighter and taking a deep breath. "The short version is that I can't sing at Sectionals because of my suspension, so I want to see if I can convince Sam to come back to McKinley."
"His family moved for financial reasons; you can't just expect them to—"
"I don't," she interrupts. "I don't expect them to move back here. That's why I asked you about Santana. Because I was thinking… I was thinking maybe just Sam would transfer, and he could live with us."
"No," Leroy says.
"Rachel, that's insane."
"Hold on, Lee, let's hear her out," Hiram soothes. "Rachel, I don't want to reject you out of hand, but I have to admit, most of me agrees with your father. Isn't that a bit… drastic?"
"Desperate times call for desperate measures."
"There's a difference between desperate measures and being unrealistic," Leroy says as calmly as he can. "I understand that you need to fill out your ranks in order to be able to compete, but there's got to be another way. You got the Ben Israel boy to do it a few years ago; why not try that again? Or, um, what about What's-Her-Face? … Splenda? Didn't you say she tried out for glee?"
"Her name is Sugar, and she was… terrible isn't even a strong enough word, Daddy. She's tone deaf. And she pretends to have Asperger's in order to get away with being rude; it's abhorrent."
"Beggars can't be choosers, sweetheart."
"I refuse for us to be beggars. Desperate, yes, but not beggars. We need another chance at Nationals, and if we're going to have a serious shot at it we can't try and get by on substitutions. Otherwise we'd just, I don't know, pack our numbers with the guys from jazz band or something. We need strong voices, not people to sway in the background. And adding my suspension to Finn's, we have a two-person deficit to fill."
"No luck talking to Quinn, huh?"
"Not… as such, no," she sighs. That encounter really hadn't accomplished anything.
The McKinley High football stadium had never really been Rachel's turf. The field was the property of the jocks and the Cheerios; the stands for their adoring fans, and friends with whom Rachel never quite managed to belong. And under the bleachers?
"Are you lost, Tinkerbell?"
Well, that was for the criminal element.
"Thank you, um, The Mack, but I'm not lost. I was wondering if I could talk to Quinn?"
"Ten bucks she'll ask Q to rejoin glee club," Ronnie stage whispered to Sheila. "Again."
They all laughed; Quinn looked up at her over the top of her sunglasses. "Why are you here, Berry? Doing damage control for your boyfriend?"
"He's not my boyfriend." Quinn raised an eyebrow, and Rachel sighed, wrapping her arms around her midriff. "I broke up with him."
"Good for you." Her cigarette bobbled with every syllable; Rachel tried not to stare at the movement.
"But, um," Rachel shifted uncomfortably, "because of what he did, New Directions is short a member, and I was hoping that—"
"No," Sheila said, and Quinn gave her a dirty look.
"I can do that myself, Sheila, thanks," she muttered, before turning to Rachel. "No."
"Not my problem, Berry."
"But glee needs you."
"Needs my voice, you mean," Quinn corrected lazily. Rachel wished Quinn weren't wearing sunglasses; it was that much harder to read her when she couldn't see her eyes.
"This isn't about collecting warm bodies; it's about doing this right. It won't be the same without the original members. You're a part of what makes glee club great."
She laughed. "Go hunt down Matt Rutherford, then, if you want founding members so badly. He's a lot more likely to join up than I am."
"Quinn, please. This isn't funny."
"Looks pretty hilarious from where I'm sitting," The Mack quipped, and Rachel's shoulders hunched in on themselves.
"I know we all haven't always been the best of friends, but Santana needs you. If you won't do it for me, do it for her."
"And where was Santana when I needed her?" Quinn asked, tapping her cigarette to get rid of the buildup of ash.
Rachel winced. "I… I wish I had an answer for you. I'm sorry that things have been so hard for you, Quinn, and I know that has to be painful. But if you hold onto that forever, how will anything ever get any better?"
"That's an excellent question. It's too bad Oprah's not on the air anymore; it would have made a great episode."
"Nice one, Q," Ronnie snorted, reaching out to bump fists.
(It wasn't even that funny, in Rachel's opinion. Skank culture eluded her completely.)
"Look," Quinn sighed, "It's cute that you're so blindly devoted to glee club that you would come to me, of all people, for help. Really. It's like… I don't know, watching a puppy repeatedly run into a glass door. But eventually, you've got to get a clue. I'm not your girl, okay? Find someone else."
"She's usually much harsher in her rejections, so in a way it's progress," Rachel muses, "but I just don't know if I can change her mind in time, even if I do stand a chance. But she was right about one thing—she's not the only ex-New Direction in the world. Of course I can't get Matt back, but that doesn't mean it's such a ridiculous idea at its core. And… and maybe I can get Sam."
"Pretending, for a moment, that this isn't the most…" Leroy frowns, struggling to come up with the right word.
"Meshugge?" Hiram suggests.
"I was going to go with ass-backwards—"
"—but meshugge works too. What, are you going to make me put a quarter in the swear jar?"
Rachel grumbles to herself.
"But really, baby doll. If we were to tell you it's okay, how would this even work?"
"Well, my, um… my suspension is effective immediately, so I was thinking that tomorrow I would get up early and drive down to Florence, so I could meet him at his school. I would wait and try and catch him at home, but I don't have his personal address, and he'll probably have an after-school job of some kind."
Hiram frowns. "Rachel, that's—"
"A straight shot on I-75, only two and a half hours if there's no traffic—"
"Which there will be, 'cause you'll be passing through both Dayton and Cinci on a Friday afternoon," Leroy interjects.
"It's not a question of whether we think you're capable of making the drive or not. Couldn't you call him? Or contact him on Facebook?"
"That would make it too easy for him to say no. If I put in the effort, he'll feel much more guilty about it, and therefore more likely to agree."
Hiram turns to Leroy with a funny smile on his face. "We've created a monster."
Leroy sighs, and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Why do you always make me be the bad cop? I'm not doing this to be mean. And under different circumstances, I wouldn't have a problem with it. I really wouldn't. But we said Santana could stay here if her parents kicked her out; if she had nowhere else to go. Sam… Sam has a life, Rachel. You can't just take him out of it. He's happy where he is."
She leaps up from the couch without warning, spinning to look down on him with wide, manic eyes. "What if he's not?"
"… Are we going to sit here and play Hypotheticals all night?"
"No, I mean it. What if he's not happy where he is? What if he misses us like crazy and only needs an opportunity?"
"You can't know that."
"No, I can't," she agrees, with a gleam of triumph in her eyes. "Not unless I drive down and talk to him. And if you're right, you're right, and all I've done is waste some gas. But if I'm right… please, Daddy?"
He turns to his husband to get out of the way of her Care Bear Stare. "What do you think, hon?"
Hiram's already smiling in defeat, the traitor. "I think we'll never hear the end of it if we don't let her have her way."
"Aren't we supposed to be punishing her or something?" He turns back to Rachel. "Forgive me, maybe I'm getting senile in my old age, but I thought you came in here all suspended and crazy. Why do you win?"
"Because you raised me to be a winner," she replies with a show smile.
"Monster," Hiram mouths again, grinning.
"Okay, fine. Fine. Go on your road trip of madness and bring me back a Bieber impersonator. See if I care."
She squeals and hugs him tightly. "You're the best, Daddy."
"Yeah, and don't go forgetting it, Bane Of My Existence."
"I don't get a hug?" Hiram pouts.
She smiles softly and embraces him. "You're the best, too, Dad."
"But I was the best first, so I make the rules," Leroy says. "Go… I don't know, go to your room or something."
She smirks. "Am I grounded?"
She shrugs. "That's fair. I guess I'll…" she pauses contemplatively. "I was going to say I guess I'll go do my homework, but gosh, I suppose that won't be a priority for the next few days."
Leroy groans. "Out of my sight, demon child."